Category Archives: Book Reviews

[REVIEW] Rolling in the Deep – Mira Grant

Mira Grant
Rolling in the Deep
Subterranean (US: 6th April 2015)
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NOTE: I first published this on Speculative Chic.

Climb aboard the SS Atargatis for a fantastic journey exploring the Mariana Trench. But beware of what lies beneath the surface…

The scientists want to research, but are forced to share the ship with a TV crew filming a pseudo-scientific documentary about possible sea monsters. The network has also sent along professional mermaids to swim in the shadows on camera.

Don’t get too attached, though. We’re warned upfront: no one returns home.

Mira Grant’s Rolling in the Deep is a killer adventure at sea – and below. The large cast of characters are sometimes hard to keep track of and their department, though my favourites are David and Jessica.

And good news, everyone! Into the Drowning Deep, a companion novel, will be published in November, so there’s more “aquatic horror” to anticipate.

[REVIEW] The Thousandth Floor – Katharine McGee

Review originally published at Speculative Chic.

Katharine McGee
The Thousandth Floor (The Thousandth Floor, Book 1)
HarperCollins (UK: 30th August 2016; AU: 1st September 2016; US & CA: 6th June 2017)
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In Manhattan 2118 stands a thousand-floor building, kind of a city within itself. It contains homes, schools, parks, clubs, and plenty of futuristic goodies. Welcome to the vertical urbanism of Katharine McGee’s The Thousandth Floor.

The prologue shows a girl in a dress plummeting to the ground outside. Who is she? Did she jump, or was she pushed? The series is marketed as the new Gossip Girl, but once I put away notions of who represents Serena and Blair, I was able to appreciate these new characters for themselves. Leda is fresh out of rehab. Eris loses her wealthy lifestyle and is forced to move way down the Tower. Watt is hired as a hacker, but the case turns personal. And then there’s Nadia, who’s altogether awesome.

The drama is contemporary, but the extravagant futuristic setting adds delightful spark. There’s life outside the Tower, too, including travel to other continents in just a few hours. Not all of the sub-plots appeal, but there’s an undeniable addictiveness to The Thousandth Floor that’s left me impatient for more. Book 2, The Dazzling Heights is scheduled for publication later this year.

[REVIEW] Metaltown – Kristen Simmons

Kristen Simmons
Metaltown
Macmillan Tor (US: 20th September 2016; AU: 11th October 2016)
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NOTE: I first published this review as part of the group “My Favorite Things” column on Speculative Chic, 6th February 2017.

Some stories have more resonance if you read them at a particular time.

I didn’t plan for Kristen Simmons’s Metaltown to be my first read of 2017, but that’s when my library copy arrived. The novel felt instantly familiar, as it fits the classic underdog plot. But instead of a feel-good story, Metaltown is dark and dystopian – and not everyone gets a happy ending.

Mostly the story rings true because it shows how to create change.

Ty and Colin work in the small parts section of a manufacturer. There are no health benefits, and they often aren’t paid in a timely manner, enough, or at all. A workplace accident leads to acid burns and a lost job. Ty has nothing left to lose – she’s now an unemployed, homeless orphan, and even her best friend Colin seems to be slipping away from her. And so Ty does what she can lead a “press”, a workers’ strike, against the manufacturer.

But she can’t do it alone. One person can’t be the entire movement in order to create real change. Ty needs the entire small parts section – and other sections, too – to band together in the press. If everyone stops work, the manufacturer will be forced to employ and train more workers. That will make it more difficult for the company to fill the order for their products. This will be bad for business, so the manufacturer has something to lose unless they agree to the workers’ demands.

Can one person make a difference? Maybe. But there’s strength in numbers, and we can’t expect one person to shoulder all the responsibility. We each need to find our personal tipping point; what we’re willing to risk for the greater good. We must PRESS BACK.

Metaltown is a timely read that I won’t soon forget.

[REVIEW] Whitefern – V. C. Andrews

V. C. Andrews [also published as Virginia Andrews]
Whitefern (Audrina, Book 2)
Simon & Schuster (US & CA: 26th July; UK & AU: 20th October 2016)
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SPOILER WARNING: This review consists only of spoilers. Can’t discuss the book without them. Read on at your risk.

Continue reading

[REVIEW] Sage’s Eyes – V. C. Andrews

V. C. Andrews [also published as Virginia Andrews]
Sage’s Eyes
Simon & Schuster (US & CA: 26th January 2016; AU: 11th February 2016; UK: 2nd June 2016)
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That I barely remember anything from this book is likely a blessing, because what I do remember of it is terrible.

Put short, this novel would’ve fared better had it been written in the 1990s. That it’s been published twenty years later does not serve it well. V. C. Andrews is not good at writing paranormals, as evidenced here in Sage’s Eyes.

But worse than the pitiful attempt at supernatural activity is…the self-referencing. The characters go to see a movie adaptation of Ruby – yes, based on the V. C. Andrews novel. I can handle shoddy writing, but this wankery was too much.

Skip Sage’s Eyes. It’s not even “so bad, it’s good”. It’s just bad.

[REVIEW] Ruthless – Carolyn Lee Adams

Carolyn Lee Adams
Ruthless
Simon & Schuster Pulse (AU: 14th July 2015; US, UK, & CA: 12th July 2016)
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NOTE: You may want to skip the interlude between Chapters 5 and 6. Piglets, their mother, and a dog all killed. The violence is implied, but nonetheless hard to read.

Serial killer novels are tricky, especially when written from the POV of a potential victim. You know there has to be reason why this character is the protagonist, rather than any of the previous victims. You know there’s something different this time around – because Ruth Carver is ruthless.

This is uncomfortable, because it relies on the trope of “she’s not like other girls”, which compares girls instead of appreciating them on their own merits. I had a similar problem reading Cheryl Rainfield’s Stained, also from the POV of a serial killer’s captive, which implies that the previous victims “didn’t try hard enough” to save themselves.

In short, this is an awkward situation that I’m not sure any author can get right. But Carolyn Lee Adams does include the previous victims in a spiritual sense, having them work together with Ruth. She wasn’t around to save them, but they’ll do what they can to help her. After all, they’ve all been targets of Wolfman.

It’s so hard to write antagonists. If you write them as too obviously evil, they lack nuance. But if you give them back-story, it’s like humanising them. It’s kind of no-win in this aspect. Ruthless gives Wolfman a history and reasons why he kills, but there’s no excuse for murder. I particularly dislike the trope of “this person bullied me, so I’ll kill everyone who reminds me of them”. Is this how anti-bullying is taught in the US? “If you bully someone, they’ll bring a gun to school and shoot you”? Are we supposed to feel sorry for Wolfman? I don’t. But maybe if he’d received better mental healthcare, he may not have become a killer. Who knows?

Ruth Carver’s persistence in surviving takes her from Wolfman’s cabin to out and about in the Blue Ridge Mountains – hiking, hiding, and hunting. Nature is both a help and a hindrance, while the kindness of strangers can’t be counted on at all. A spooky, atmospheric read, Ruthless isn’t easily forgotten. At first, Ruth just wants help. But then she wants revenge.

Wolfman must be stopped before his misogyny kills again.

Recommended listening: Kings of Leon’s “Trunk” played in my head during the driving scenes.

Quote of interest: “You ever heard of trich? It’s not even a bacteria or a virus; it’s a protozoa. A little animal.”

[REVIEW] The Dirt on Ninth Grave – Darynda Jones

Darynda Jones
The Dirt on Ninth Grave (Charley Davidson, Book 9)
Hachette Little, Brown Piatkus (UK & AU: 12th January 2016); Macmillan St. Martin’s (US: 31st May 2016)
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WARNING: Chapter 9 includes finding the corpse of a murdered dog.

I preferred this series when Charley Davidson was just a reaper. But when the true nature of her heritage was revealed, as well as celestial names and everything else I’ve forgot…Charley became a bit too “special snowflake”. And Eighth Grave After Dark totally jumped the shark with the birth of her daughter, followed by Charley’s amnesia.

The Dirt on Ninth Grave picks up where the previous episode left off. Charley is now a Jane Doe, working as a waitress in Sleepy Hollow. While the book has been described as Charley – and readers – falling in love with Reyes all over again, Ninth just goes to show that their relationship’s not based on much substance. It’s incredibly superficial, and they can’t seem to have any conversation without going on about how attractive the other one is, and it’s too over-the-top and boring. Reyes always has come across as a stalker, and this book does nothing to change that.

Meanwhile, Garret Swopes has a genuine friendship with Charley – I ship THEM together. Reyes is too obvious, but Garret is real and has a lot more going for him than just good looks and sexual prowess.

The book is at its best when Charley investigates the mystery of her co-worker’s daughter. But this unfortunately takes up very few pages in comparison to the rest.