May 28, 2018

Book Review: LIFEL1K3 (Lifelike) by Jay Kristoff

On an island junkyard beneath a sky that glows with radiation, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap. Seventeen-year-old Eve isn’t looking for trouble–she’s too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she spent months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, she’s on the local gangster’s wanted list, and the only thing keeping her grandpa alive is the money she just lost to the bookies. Worst of all, she’s discovered she can somehow destroy machines with the power of her mind, and a bunch of puritanical fanatics are building a coffin her size because of it. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it. The problem is, Eve has had a worse day–one that lingers in her nightmares and the cybernetic implant where her memories used to be. Her discovery of a handsome android named Ezekiel–called a “Lifelike” because they resemble humans–will bring her world crashing down and make her question whether her entire life is a lie. With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic sidekick Cricket in tow, Eve will trek across deserts of glass, battle unkillable bots, and infiltrate towering megacities to save the ones she loves…and learn the truth about the bloody secrets of her past.

I don't normally go for post-apocalyptic novels but something about the almost frantic opening action in the middle of some gladiator-style battle between robots just grabbed me.  Eve is a whip-smart toughie living in a dystopian Kalifornia wasteland who has a smart ass robot for a best friend and blitzhound for a dog.  The future is a bleak desert with robots everywhere and humans have mechanical parts. There is a lot going on in this novel but setting aside the overstimulation of futuristic Mad Max-style trappings, there is good, old-fashioned heart, with friendship, an unusual romance and a remarkable heroine.

May 21, 2018

Book Review: The Darkling Bride by Laura Andersen

The Gallagher family has called Deeprath Castle home for seven hundred years. Nestled in the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland, the estate is now slated to become a public trust, and book lover and scholar Carragh Ryan is hired to take inventory of its historic library. But after meeting Aidan, the current Viscount Gallagher, and his enigmatic family, Carragh knows that her task will be more challenging than she’d thought.

Two decades before, Aidan’s parents died violently at Deeprath. The case, which was never closed, has recently been taken up by a new detective determined to find the truth. The couple’s unusual deaths harken back a century, when twenty-three-year-old Lady Jenny Gallagher also died at Deeprath under mysterious circumstances, leaving behind an infant son and her husband, a renowned writer who never published again. These incidents only fueled fantastical theories about the Darkling Bride, a local legend of a sultry and dangerous woman from long ago whose wrath continues to haunt the castle.

The past catches up to the present, and odd clues in the house soon have Carragh wondering if there are unseen forces stalking the Gallagher family. As secrets emerge from the shadows and Carragh gets closer to answers—and to Aidan—could she be the Darkling Bride’s next victim.

This book has so many elements that make for an entrancing reading experience: an ancient, haunted castle, the wild Irish countryside, unsolved murders, an Irish/Chinese heroine brought in to catalogue the magnificent library, and a mysterious yet haughty lord of the manor.  Added to this is the historical fiction timeline from the 19th century of the tragic love story of the haughty lord’s ancestors. The writing is evocative and the slow reveal of the mysteries that ensnare our heroine is a pleasurable one. A perfect wintry novel for fans of Lucinda Riley.

May 14, 2018

Book Review: Keeping the Castle by Patricia Kindl

Seventeen-year-old Althea is the sole support of her entire family, and she must marry well. But there are few wealthy suitors--or suitors of any kind--in their small Yorkshire town of Lesser Hoo. Then, the young and attractive (and very rich) Lord Boring arrives, and Althea sets her plans in motion. There's only one problem; his friend and business manager Mr. Fredericks keeps getting in the way. And, as it turns out, Fredericks has his own set of plans...

Charming and cute - a pleasant trifle with witty observations.  Pride & Prejudice Lite.  I was having a very bad afternoon and after a couple hours with this book, I was in a happy mood again. Made me smile and laugh.  The reader knows how it will end but the journey is worth it.  The romantic denouement was not unexpected but ***SPOILER ALERT*** the two lovebirds spend most of their time vehemently disagreeing, which left me unconvinced of their future happiness.

May 7, 2018

Book Review: The Burial Society by Nina Sadowsky

Catherine, no last name, doesn’t bury the dead. She rescues the living—from intolerable, abusive, dangerous lives. Her darknet-based witness protection program, the Burial Society, is the last hope for people who desperately need to disappear. Catherine takes care of them and provides new identities. She is effective and efficient—until she discovers that her slipup may have compromised a client, maybe even killed her. Powerless to help without exposing her shadowy profession, Catherine makes a drastic move.

With her covert service relocated to Paris, Catherine’s done her best to move on. But when a dark part of her past suddenly appears in the City of Light, she refuses to run—and her life takes a harrowing turn.

Using all the tricks of her unusual trade, Catherine weaves her way through a dangerous landscape of treachery, infidelity, paranoia, and secrets that bind as deeply as blood. But the evil of the enemy she’s pursuing runs deeper still—to the bone. And even Catherine’s most cunning skills may not be enough to save herself.

The Paris setting and the premise of a “burial society” aiding in the escape of abused women from their abusers immediately attracted me to this novel.  The narrative is structured cinematically, with short chapters alternating between multiple characters to further the plot. The multiplicity of POVs disoriented me quite a bit, making it difficult to attach myself to any one character for long and to keep track of who is who and what was happening exactly.  There are rescue attempts disguised as kidnappings, mysterious murders and glamorous international settings.  If you hang on to this roller coaster of a novel, it does get better and more coherent.