Category Archives: Book Reviews

[REVIEW] Artemis – Andy Weir

[NOTE: I originally published this at Speculative Chic.]

Andy Weir
Artemis
Penguin Random House (US & CA: 14th November 2017; UK: 5th July 2018; AU: 16th July 2018)
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This was one of my few new reads of the year. Fans of Mark Watney will love meeting Jazz Bashara and encountering life on the moon. In the domes of the city Artemis, Jazz dreams of getting rich, and a wealthy investor gives her an opportunity to make it happen. At first the plan seems to be going along swimmingly. But soon it’s not only Jazz’s life on the line.

Jazz’s vibrant personality may seem over the top at times, but it covers a deep pain. She’s a smart, skilled, and sassy heroine to cheer for, and the perfect person to form a team to tackle a major task. From mobsters to politicians to the problems of living on the moon itself, Artemis is always engaging with plenty of science and high stakes afoot.

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[REVIEW] Love Is the Drug – Alaya Dawn Johnson

[NOTE: I originally posted this review on Speculative Chic]

Alaya Dawn Johnson
Love Is the Drug
Scholastic Arthur A. Levine (US & CA: 30th September 2014)
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Emily Bird is a scholarship student in a prestigious DC school, but her future is uncertain when she awakes in the hospital unable to remember why she’s there. But there’s more trouble to come: a deadly virus is spreading, putting the school in lockdown, and a Homeland Security agent is far too close for comfort. Bird’s only solace is the school’s conspiracy theorist and resident drug-dealer as they investigate what’s happening around them. But there are those who’d rather Bird NOT remember what she knows…

Love Is the Drug is like Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s The Fixer meets Malinda Lo’s Adaptation. I so hope Alaya Dawn Johnson writes more young adult novels, because this one and The Summer Prince are great reads. I particularly like her use of settings, which are thoroughly explored.

[REVIEW] The Summer Prince – Alaya Dawn Johnson

Alaya Dawn Johnson
The Summer Prince
Scholastic Arthur A. Levine (US: 29th July 2014)
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[NOTE: I first published this at Speculative Chic.]

June lives in futuristic Brazil, where she creates amazing art – including installing lights under her skin. But her best work is a secret project she’s collaborating on with Enki. They’ve known from the start that their time together is fleeting, so their deadline is tight. Like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is scheduled to be sacrificed.

The vivid lights and imagery should inspire some awesome fan-art by readers. Art, life, death, and the future combine in this memorable setting, as their society grapples with deciding how far they should take technology…and how much they should pare it back.

[REVIEW] Starfall – Melissa Landers

Melissa Landers
Starfall (Starflight, Book 2)
Hachette Disney Hyperion (US: 9th January 2018; AU: 27th February 2018)
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[NOTE: I first published this at Speculative Chic.]

I read four Melissa Landers novels in 2017, but this was my favourite. Book 2 in the Starflight duology, Starfall focuses on Cassia and Kane this time, though of course Solara and Doran are around. After years on the run, Cassia has been apprehended and dragged back to her home planet. Now the queen, she may lose the planet to war unless she can stop an uprising. Meanwhile, Kane’s mother is ill and it seems like a plague could be spreading. Kane plans a rescue effort and uncovers a massive secret. But one wrong decision could damn him for good.

Starfall genuinely surprised me, and the plot twist enriches the story tremendously. It’s a risky topic, but Melissa Landers writes it with respect and empathy. This could probably be read as a stand-alone, but you may want to read Starflight first.

[REVIEW] Infected – Sophie Littlefield

Sophie Littlefield
Infected
Penguin Random House Delacorte (US & CA: 6th January 2015)
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There are times when characters in love are necessary to the story. This is not one of those times. Carina unknowingly infected Tanner via saliva with a killer illness. The plot does not require them to be in love. Carina could have gone on the run with anyone she may have kissed.

This takes place BEFORE the book begins, so we’re told right from the start that Carina and Tanner are in love. And we’re repeatedly reminded throughout the novel, often bordering on border prose. It’s TELLING, rather than showing. Because we haven’t seen them face struggles hooking up, it’s hard to care for their love. I don’t ship it. Neither of the characters stands out on their own, or together. Which means you’d hope to be invested in the plot instead.

Alas, no. The thing with thrillers is that you can change location, and go on the run as many times as you want. But if the story doesn’t advance, and it’s just an extended chase sequence… *shrug* Albanians are the antagonists here, so it’s not sterling rep for that country’s people.

I’m not sure how a story with a dangerous, life-threatening infection could be so shrug-worthy, but here we are. I’ve read much better books by the same author – try Garden of Stones instead.

[REVIEW] Three Strikes – Kate Kessler

Kate Kessler
Three Strikes (Audrey Harte, Book 3)
Hachette Redhook (US: 24th October 2017; UK: 26th October 2017; AU: 12th December 2017)
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I rate this book 4 stars (out of 5), which may not be apparent from the rest of this post. Also, I read this during summer, which is my worst time of year.

Three Strikes is not a thriller, but there are three mysteries to solve:

-Who’s Mackenzie Bell’s biological father, and who’s warning her away from finding out?
-What were the circumstances surrounding Mike LeBlanc’s death?
-Who’s responsible for the recent dead body?

One of the things I appreciate most about this series is that Audrey Harte killed someone when she was about thirteen, and actually faced consequences: time in a juvenile correctional facility. Vigilante murders are common in fiction, but the perps aren’t often held to account. That may be part of wish fulfilment on the part of the author, and maybe readers. So I have a lot of respect for characters – and the authors who write them – who don’t just do the crime but also do the time. Even another character in the series commits murder, and is also sent to a correctional facility.

But apparently that all changes if the person committing the crimes is an adult. Then the person covers their arse, or other people cover it for them. That happens in Three Strikes:

-A character erases security footage, planning to claim it’s a “glitch”
-When a character is attacked, the police immediately want to view security footage, but another character claims that they need permission from the attacked person first
-A character promises not to tell a secret, but then quickly after tells someone because “they won’t tell anyone”

There’s even possible statutory rape (or gross sexual assault) that happened nineteen years ago, but the police aren’t told so no charges are laid.

And it pisses me off that Detective Neve Graham is treated like the enemy because she’s competent at her job. She also grew up biracial in very white Edgeport, so she was already an outsider and not part of the Harte/Tripp family unit.

It’s also annoying how Jake pretty much owns everything in town, and is noted as a “real estate mogul”. It would be interesting to see how Edgeport would survive without him if he died, but for better or worse (worse, in my opinion) I predict a happy ending to the series. Which is NOT WHY I READ CRIME.

All grumbles aside, Three Strikes is another instalment in a series I always look forward to reading. Though only one novel and one novella are scheduled to follow, I’d happily read more crime fiction by Kate Kessler. Edgeport comes alive with all its small-town secrets, and there are likely countless more yet uncovered.

[REVIEW] Emma in the Night – Wendy Walker

Wendy Walker
Emma in the Night
HarperCollins HQ (AU: 20th November 2017; UK: 8th February 2018); Macmillan St. Martin’s Griffin (US: 7th August 2018)
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Wendy Walker’s All Is Not Forgotten is a great psychological thriller, but Emma in the Night exceeds even that. It’s wonderfully gothic, starring missed-up families with hidden agendas. The big reveals, along with the attention to detail (the counting!), make this a thriller not to be missed. I’m eager to read whatever Wendy Walker publishes next – two five-star novels in a row make her a must-read author.