Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars – “Action-filled and suspenseful start to a new spinoff series set in the Allie Beckstrom universe. Looking forward to more!”
Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars – “Series gets better the more I read; emotionally impactful and filled with suspense, this book kept me on my toes by raising the stakes and taking things to the next level”
“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that lets us feature upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!
When the mission is to extract a high-level rebel spy from the very heart of the Empire, Leia Organa knows the best man for the job is Han Solo—something the princess and the smuggler can finally agree on. After all, for a guy who broke into an Imperial cell block and helped destroy the Death Star, the assignment sounds simple enough.
But when Han locates the brash rebel agent, Scarlet Hark, she’s determined to stay behind enemy lines. A pirate plans to sell a cache of stolen secrets that the Empire would destroy entire worlds to protect—including the planet where Leia is currently meeting with rebel sympathizers. Scarlet wants to track down the thief and steal the bounty herself, and Han has no choice but to go along if he’s to keep everyone involved from getting themselves killed. From teeming city streets to a lethal jungle to a trap-filled alien temple, Han, Chewbacca, Leia, and their daring new comrade confront one ambush, double cross, and firestorm after another as they try to keep crucial intel out of Imperial hands.
But even with the crack support of Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing squadron, the Alliance heroes may be hopelessly outgunned in their final battle for the highest of stakes: the power to liberate the galaxy from tyranny or ensure the Empire’s reign of darkness forever.”
While I’ve been known to enjoy an element of romance in my reading, I’m not sure if the actual Romance genre is my cup of tea. Harlequin novels or the type of books featuring their heroines’ steely-eyed, bare-chested and six-pack-bedecked love interests on their covers just aren’t generally my thing. But then, I stumbled upon Master of Crows.
I read this one last year and I was surprised at how good it was, especially since it appears to be a self-published indie. Okay, so maybe indulging in a steamy Romance novel can be fun once in a while, but it’s still gotta be science fiction/fantasy-related or else I don’t know if it’ll hold my interest. Master of Crows sure fit the bill, taking place in a world of mages and magic and all that good stuff. Sure, it’s not without its cheesy parts (but then again, I’m also a firm believer that any good Romance must have its fair amount of cheese), with its rather standard master-apprentice love story and the archetypal tall, dark, handsome, sexy, broody, mysterious and misunderstood and privately tortured lone-wolf male protagonist. Still, I liked this one. Never once did we lose the fantasy element, even amidst the lusty passion…
Which I’ll admit was kind of hot.
With three hours left on the audiobook and constant interruptions at work where I usually listen to my audiobooks, this happened:
I got through the work day, running home to read the rest because the narrators just weren’t reading fast enough, dammit! I now am suffering from severe book hangover, knowing that I have to wait until March 4, 2014 to find out what happens next in Words of Radiance. You’d think with all this, that I’d throw all the stars at this book, but I had to deliberate on that a bit. My bookflail showed up in the last 200 pages of a massive book. But I’m just not sure I could have made it through the first 3/4 if I’d not opted to listen to the audiobook.
The world Sanderson has built is immense and his lore covers everything from fashion, to theology, to weather, to magic, to politics, and more. A lot more. A. LOT. MORE. It is incredibly impressive, but the interjection of lore building exposition and flashbacks became disruptive after a while. It is evident that Sanderson has this entire world perfectly detailed in his head, and he seems determined to make sure the reader sees it exactly as he does by including full descriptions of even the smallest element, rather than allowing the reader to use a bit more of their own imagination.
Considering the intended length of the series, weighing in at twenty books, I assume the information dumps will become less of an issue as it progresses (save it for the wiki, please). And fortunately the lore influx is also balanced by the depth of the characters, which is what helped me pull through. In other epic fantasies, you don’t really get to know the characters, and in some cases you can’t even tell them apart. Here, there is as much time spent with the development of the major characters and the supporting cast important to them. Perhaps more of Kaladin’s backstory is told than is necessary, but I can excuse this because of how vivid and interesting the character is, such that you actually come to care about him and the others, rather than merely liking him because he’s cool.
The audiobook was read by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading, the same people who narrated Robert Jordan’s unimpressive The Eye of the World, which inspired my post on epic storytelling for the sake of epicness. With this in mind, I should have been daunted by this book’s information overload and the twenty book series, but this is Brandon Sanderson. I’ve actually only read 2.1 books by him (though I own several) and completely subscribe to the well-earned hype. His world building *is* truly amazing. His unique and varied approach to the use of magic in each of his stories is fascinating (in the case of Warbreaker, it’s specifically what attracted me). And his characters are very real and very endearing. If Sanderson gets carried away sometimes with too much lore, I can forgive him because it feels like him eagerly inviting you into his head, rather than him just unnecessarily padding out a book and/or killing time till he figures out what the story is supposed to do next.
As for the story itself, it was really impressive. A pointless war for vengeance is at the heart of everything, with mysteries stemming from this core in all directions. The last 200 pages of the book are so intense because those vines of mystery, along with all of these intriguing characters, start to come together in the end, creating all new mysteries that demand that you continue the journey.
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: The Academy
Date of Publication: November 5, 2013
Author Information: Website
Jack McDevitt has been writing books for a long time, but it wasn’t until Starhawk that I finally got a taste of his work. I was initially uncertain about jumping on board with this one, seeing how the book’s main character as well as the setting have been established for a while in McDevitt’s The Academy series. However, after discovering that Starhawk is actually a prequel of sorts, I took the opportunity to use it as a starting point. How happy I am that I did! Starhawk is amazing, introducing me to a whole new world of space exploration and adventure.
A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Genre: Historical Mystery
Series: Book 1 of Finley Jameson and Joseph Argenti
Publisher: Exhibit A
Date of Publication: September 24, 2013
Author Information: Website
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars – “Some surprises to be found amidst an exciting mix of mystery and suspense, in this novel reminiscent of classics like Sherlock Homes”
Angry Robot may be one of my favorite speculative fiction publishers, but when it comes to their Mystery/Crime imprint Exhibit A, I have to say I’m pretty much clueless. Naturally, I was curious about their books, and Letters From a Murderer immediately caught my eye. After all, historical fiction is one of my favorite genres after science fiction and fantasy, and Jack the Ripper is the subject of another great book I read recently, and for that reason my interest in Ripper stories was still very much piqued.
However, there is one notable aspect about this Ripper story — it takes place in New York, 1891. This was around the time when the string of brutal murders in Whitechapel and east London seemed to have stopped, leading authorities to speculate that the killer must have died, gotten arrested, or moved on. So when the book opens with a prostitute in New York found murdered in a similar way, uncomfortable questions are raised about whether or not the Ripper might have crossed the Atlantic.
While I know it’s not exactly new, this idea is something I’ve personally never encountered before in a Jack the Ripper related novel. There are whole new dynamics at work here, admidst the complexities of the city’s criminal underworld as well as dark secrets in the main character Finley Jameson’s past. As one of the original English pathologists on the Ripper case, Jameson is teamed up with New York detective Joseph Argenti, and together they try to catch the murderer before he can claim more victims. The “Letters” in the book’s title have a two meanings, referring to the messages the killer sends to the press taunting the police, as well as the symbols found carved onto the victims’ bodies.
I enjoyed this, even though I’ll admit I didn’t fully appreciate the cleverness of the story until well into the book, when the major “twist” was revealed to shake things up. Before this, the book held my interest but did not exceed my expectations; the plot held a lot of the usual elements I would expect from a novel of this genre and type. In this historical mystery, the “history” takes more of a backseat as this is a mystery-thriller first and foremost, complete with gang violence and corruption, conspiracies and lies. Some of the characters fell into familiar archetypes, like the mob boss Tierney (evil and insane) or Jameson’s assistant Lawrence (the troubled but brilliant intellectual). On the other hand, this can be seen as a postive if you prefer books that are reminiscent of classics like Sherlock Homes, as this one definitely has that vibe.
The best part, however, is something I can’t really talk about much in my review for fear of spoilers, but the aforementioned dark secrets in Jameson’s past have a lot to do with it. Suddenly, everything that came before in the novel held more significance and meaning, including the details I thought were just par for the course in Jameson and Argenti’s investigation. For a book that I didn’t think was going to surprise me, it sure threw me for a loop there, keeping me guessing and wondering and beating myself up for not realizing before that this was where the author was going.
Alas, that little side plot in the story was over all too quickly, but the remainder of the book set a much more rigorous pace, with an exciting mix of suspense and mystery as our investigators have to try and solve the puzzle and deal with Tierney’s men at the same time. I thought everything unfolded naturally and came together very well at the end, and fans of crime fiction or historical mysteries will probably find lots to like about this one, especially if you have an interest in Sherlock-Holmes-style books or Jack the Ripper stories.
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy
Series: Book 1 of The Skyscraper Throne
Publisher: Jo Fletcher
Date of Publication: August 2, 2012
So, on my ongoing quest to read more original and offbeat Young Adult titles, my journey has led me to The City’s Son by Tom Pollock. I’d heard great things about this book, along with some descriptions of it that are just way in the realm of the bizarre and uncanny. In other words, it sounded right up my alley.
Genre: Science Fiction, Gaming
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: October 2013
Author Info: www.ramseyisler.com
ARCADIA is the most advanced video game ever created, going well above and beyond the concept of virtual reality by reading the users neural signals to create an impossibly real world. Millions donned the system’s technologically advanced headsets and stepped into ARCADIA, some even creating proxies to handle game play and interactions during their absence. But when ARCADIA is hacked, resulting in the slow leak of roughly twenty million dollars, the system becomes anathema.
The drama has died down since the hacks, but Unwired tech journalist Miguel Naciamento is certain there is a deeper story that others have overlooked. Determined to earn himself another Pulizter, Miguel pursues a few leads, including his former professor, now an FBI consultant on the case, Ivy Yuen, the game’s brilliant creator, and a gray hat hacker still devoted to the game.
As a gamer, ARCADIA’s concept appealed to me, though I would have loved to experience, through Miguel, some of the more involved games the story implied existed (… okay maybe it didn’t imply it… I just want to go virtual reality questing, okay?). The concept initially made me think of Ready Player One, where a similar system exists (though more easily accessible to the 99%). While I was initially disappointed that the ARCADIA system didn’t seem to involve more elaborate games, I came to appreciate the more Facebook/app like games that it employed. Considering how popular these games and apps are in our current reality, Isler’s implementation of them within such an innovative system makes sense as the focus.
Another major concept in ARCADIA that I liked were the proxies. My pixel people have come to mean a lot to me and many of them do reflect me in many ways. Imagine if you could truly create a character within a game system that *was* you! With this in mind, Isler’s prologue immediately grabbed me, beginning at the end of Miguel’s memoir as he says good bye to his proxy.
I think there were certain aspects of the proxies that could have been explored more, but everything still worked well within the story. My preconceived notions about this book continued to be derailed as Miguel explored more and more of ARCADIA and got to know the personalities involved in its creation and continued existence. This ended up being a very sweet, very human story that I really enjoyed.