Audiobook Review: American War by Omar El Akkad
4.5 Stars , Reviews / February 12, 2018

American War is one of the most striking and visual books I’ve read in quite a while. It creates an almost palpable atmosphere and setting, and really immerses the reader in this world of war and plague. The writing is just absolutely beautiful, even if the world is not. The premise is America is being ravaged by a second Civil War, triggered by an oil shortage and some southern states refusing to adhere to new regulations designed to curb global warming. At the same time, the population is also being decimated by a plague. We learn about it all through the story of Sarat who is living in a camp for displaced people after her father was killed. Sarat is a very interesting character, she has a strong spirit and is not one to conform easily. She does not necessarily fit in easily, but she finds her own place and purpose and journey makes a great read. I found every page immersive and the world was quite frankly too easy to relate to or envision. This is a book that is a bit of a slow burn, but for those that appreciate a strong setting and a book that makes…

Review: The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones
4.5 Stars , Reviews / October 2, 2017

I’ll cut straight to it: The Salt Line is one of my favorites for the year. The entire concept of killer ticks sounds like it could be campy or over the top. That is not at all the case. The ticks are described in such a realistic and terrifying way that it truly becomes plausible. Or at least feels plausible. The author is able to use enough facts grounded in science to create this terrifying epidemic. This book did remind me a bit of Joe Hill’s The Fireman in that way. It depicts a world that has been ravaged by some disease, where people’s ways of life are altered because of them. I suppose there are a number of books that could fit this, but the over all tone and presentation and just the quality of writing put me in mind of Hill. That is a huge compliment from me as Hill is one of my favorite, must read authors. Honestly, there is not much that I did not love about this book. This is a book that you can read at surface value for the compelling story and intriguing characters, both of which are  well developed. But you can…

Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James
3 Stars , Reviews / January 30, 2017

In an atmosphere somewhat reminiscent of  Hunger Games and Red Rising (and many other dystopian novels), the world we encounter has a stark division between the classes. There are the elite Skilled, who though fewer in numbers, control Britain. The Skilled, as you may guess, have magical skills that allow them to do extraordinary things, such as heal themselves, repair broken objects and enforce the Silence (which ultimately means, messing with peoples brains to prevent them from speaking about things that the Skilled person does not want to be discussed). The general masses of normal people usually have little or no contact with Skilled, who are perceived as untouchable, unknowable things. People are not real sure how much of their fabled powers are truth versus exaggeration. I found in this book neither side sees a humanity in the other group.  Through one POV we get an inside look at Millmoor, a slavetown. We also get to see that some slaves are able to find ways to rebel, and I found this to be exciting and fun. These sections were hands down my favorite within the book. We also get perspectives from a family living within a Skilled household, serving their…

Review: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
4.5 Stars , Reviews / October 5, 2015

Review first appeared on The Speculative Herald The Heart Goes Last is a dark and yet humorous vision of a dystopian future where the world has lost social order. Life is hard, money and resources are incredibly scarce and people fear for their safety as there is no longer police or social justice to keep people in line. Charmaine and Stan, a young married couple, are lucky, for while they have lost their home and have little to their name, they have managed to hold on to their car, a safe haven from the streets. As they put it, their car is “the barrier between them and gang rape**“. Pretty much, this world is frightening and shows no mercy. To be fair, there are areas further west where things have not become quite so desperate. But without the means to pay for gas for such a journey or any other way to get across the country, this haven is just mere fancy, a nice hypothetical “what if we could get out there”. In reality, it is nothing in the realm of possibilities, as the west may as well be located on the moon for all the good it does them….

Review: Alive by Scott Sigler
3 Stars , Reviews / July 6, 2015

Alive is a hard one to review. I really hate spoilers and try to be quite conservative in how much information I put in my reviews. So a book that begins with mysterious circumstances, where the story is really revealed in a way where the characters are discovering at the same time as the reader is a book where I really can’t comment much on events. If it’s not in the blurb, I am considering it off limits. So, as you can gather form the blurb, a group of teenagers awaken with no memories of who they are or how they got to this place. There’s no one “in charge”, there is no one to help or answer questions. These kids are completely on their own as they try to determine who they are, where they are, and why they are unable to remember anything. It is a tense and intriguing opening, you can’t help but want the answers to these questions. The style of narration took a little bit for me to adjust to. The narration begins with a 12 year old girl awakening to a confusing and disturbing situation.  It’s different, and I noticed the style in the…

Audiobook Review: Firefight by Brandon Sanderson
4 Stars , Reviews / June 9, 2015

Firefight is a good follow up to Steelheart and I think has a great set up for the next book. There’s more great action that gives you that Hollywood blockbuster movie type of feel. But I have to be honest, I just didn’t enjoy it as much as Steelheart. One of the largest problems was that it just took me a while to get into the story. Even though it ended quite strong, I have to acknowledge that, as a reader, I wish this book had grabbed me earlier. I’ve thought a while on why I enjoyed Steelheart so much more than I did Firefight. Honestly, I think it comes down to I the fact that I enjoyed David’s backstory and how he grew into the the Epic hunting person he is more than the actual Epic fighting parts of the story. So, when this book opens with fighting an epic with kool aid filled water balloons (that’s so early in the book, I’m going to count it as a non-spoiler), I just really didn’t care. I often felt with Firefight that I was just not the target audience, which is true. It’s YA, and I historically don’t engage as well with…

Audiobook Review: The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
4.5 Stars , Reviews / June 8, 2015

The Water Knife is set in a harsh dystopian world that is just as violent, gritty and grim as any grimdark fantasy I have read. It’s a near future where water has become scarce and is now the ultimate commodity. Towns have been shut down and cleared out. There is a dark underworld with a gang or mafia type of style to it. The way water was handled reminded me of how oil and gas can be viewed. What we fear will happen with oil has happened in this world, but with a much more critical resource. Water. What do you do when the very thing you need to live is so scarce? The book shows a stark contrast between the people still living in luxury and those that that have do things like sell their bodies to survive. It is unsettling and violent. Lucy, our main protagonist, is a journalist who went to Arizona specifically to show the disparity, to find the real story, not just “collapse porn” or  graphic images meant more for shock value than for real journalistic value that most reporters are going for. Maria is a bright teenage refugee from Texas, struggling to survive in a way she can live with. Texas refugees do…

Golden Son by Pierce Brown
5 Stars , Reviews / December 24, 2014

Bloodydamn! This is one hell of a second book, it’s just as dark and deadly and addictive as Red Rising. This is turning out to be a hard review to write because I can’t stop thinking about the ending. I wouldn’t say it eclipses the rest of the book since the rest of it is what brought about the ending, but it certainly makes it harder for me to focus (in a good way). And just to give an early heads up, this is not a cleanly closed, happy rainbows type of ending. The beginning definitely felt reminiscent of Enders Game, more so than anything in Red Rising. Darrow is entrenched in battle that will determine the course of the book. Since most of the battles in Red Rising were on the ground during their time at the Academy, the opening battle in space just felt different. I’m not saying that because it’s a negative point or even something unexpected (I mean, we knew he would be commanding a fleet). This book carried the strengths of the first book onward. Once again, Darrow examines the cost of both life and the quality of life, the option of free will/choices for…

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
2.5 Stars , Reviews / July 29, 2014

The premise of this book is quite intriguing. A boy wakes up, no memories of who is, where he came from much less where he is now. Perplexed by the nature of memory loss that allows him to remember mundane details, but not important things, he has to just go on, and figure out a way to live in the bizarre world he has found himself a part of. Sounds cool. Then you learn a bit about the world he lives in, and it sounds promising. But then you read, and nothing just ever seems quite as exciting as you think it should. So what is this world like that he wakes up in? It seems to consist of pretty much just teenage boys. They have broken themselves into group to perform all the tasks that need to be done to keep their society running. Oh, and everyone here suffers from the same type of memory loss he has. They wake up one day in what they call The Glades, and its like their life starts fresh from that moment. I also expected to be more taken by The Maze or the monsters (Grievers) that roam it, but honestly, I…

The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey
5 Stars , Reviews / June 3, 2014

  If the blurb isn’t enough, here’s the trailer. It gives quite a good feel for the tone of the book: [video src=””]   I just loved this book. I don’t want to say too much about the plot because I think it is better to go into this one knowing as little as possible. But as you can likely gather from the blurb, it starts by introducing the reader to Melanie. She is a young girl who is raised in a environment where kids are kept in individual cells. When it is time to go to class, three soldiers come into her cell. One to point the gun at her, two to restrain her to the wheelchair. That is just the way things are done. Melanie is an exceptionally bright child and loves to learn. She has a particular fondness for one her teachers, Miss Justineau. Seeing Melanie’s bright and inquisitive nature within the stark, sterile conditions is quite a contrast. But, Melanie has never known any different, so to her, this is normal. We are introduced to a number of the adults in her life. The soldiers who strap her down and wheel her to class each day, and the the group…