Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Audiobook Review: Think of a Numb3r (Dave Gurney, #1)

Think of a NumberAuthor: John Verdon
Narrator: George Newbern
Series: Dave Gurney, #1
Published: July 6th 2010
Publisher: Random House Audio
Lenght: 13 hrs and 30 mins
Buy: Audible

An extraordinary fiction debut, Think of a Number is an exquisitely plotted novel of suspense that grows relentlessly darker and more frightening as its pace accelerates, forcing its deeply troubled characters to moments of startling self-revelation.
Arriving in the mail over a period of weeks are taunting letters that end with a simple declaration: “Think of any number…picture it…now see how well I know your secrets.” Amazingly, those who comply find that the letter writer has predicted their random choice exactly.
For Dave Gurney, just retired as the NYPD’s top homicide investigator and forging a new life with his wife, Madeleine, in upstate New York, the letters are oddities that begin as a diverting puzzle but quickly ignite a massive serial murder investigation.
What police are confronted with is a completely baffling killer, one who is fond of rhymes filled with threats and warnings, whose attention to detail is unprecedented, and who has an uncanny knack for disappearing into thin air. Even more disturbing, the scale of his ambition seems to widen as events unfold.
Brought in as an investigative consultant, Dave Gurney soon accomplishes deductive breakthroughs that leave local police in awe. Yet, even as he matches wits with his seemingly clairvoyant opponent, Gurney’s tragedy-marred past rises up to haunt him, his marriage approaches a dangerous precipice, and finally, a dark, cold fear builds that he’s met an adversary who can’t be stopped.
In the end, fighting to keep his bearings amid a whirlwind of menace and destruction, Gurney sees the truth of what he’s become – what we all become when guilty memories fester – and how his wife Madeleine’s clear-eyed advice may be the only answer that makes sense.
I’ve been successfully cured of my addiction to mysteries and thrillers year ago, but when Audible dangled this lovely carrot right in front of my nose in the form of their Audible daily deal, I simply couldn’t resist. John Verdon has been receiving a lot of praise from those far more familiar with the genre so of course I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

Think of a Number starts off very strongly, with a seemingly unsolvable puzzle in front of our retired detective. Dave Gurney has been retired not too long ago, but he’s having a hard time adjusting to his new country life, feeling disconnected from his day to day obligations and his lovely, brilliant wife.

Dave and Madeleine don’t have an easy marriage and we can’t help feeling that it’s entirely his fault. He is a puzzle solver, a famous detective whose job defines him, but in his personal life he is prone to hiding from his problems and not facing things that are painful for him to deal with. Dave feels responsible for the loss of their 4-year-old son 15 years ago, and as hard as Madeleine tries, she can’t force him to deal with his pain and say goodbye.

The mystery is very well thought through, especially in the first half. The tiny inexplicable details make us doubt even the possibility of solving it. But as the story progresses and things start coming to light, Gurney is sometimes painfully slow on the uptake, which is a big source of frustration for the reader.

George Newbern is a fantastic narrator, his voice well suited for the calm and collected detective. His voice characterization is excellent and his sense of pacing practically flawless. I’m sorry to say that he doesn’t narrate other books in this series, which stopped me from buying Shut Your Eyes Tight in audio format.

Overall, though, this is a series worth continuing, despite the risk of falling back into my mystery addiction. The quiet emotionality of it, the complex and flawed characters and very impressive murder cases are all too alluring to pass up.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Audiobook review: City of Heavenly Fire (Mortal Instruments, #6)

City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments, #6)Author: Cassandra Clare
Narrators: Jason Dohring, Sophie Turner
Series: Mortal Instruments, #6
Published: May 27th 2014
Publisher: S&S Audio
Lenght: 20 hrs and 38 mins
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Audible

Sophie Turner of Game of Thrones and Jason Dohring of Veronica Marsread the long-awaited conclusion to the Mortal Instruments series!
Darkness has descended on the Shadowhunter world. Chaos and destruction overwhelm the Nephilim as Clary, Jace, Simon, and their friends band together to fight the greatest evil they have ever faced: Clary’s own brother. Sebastian Morgenstern is on the move, systematically turning Shadowhunter against Shadowhunter. Bearing the Infernal Cup, he transforms Shadowhunters into creatures of nightmare, tearing apart families and lovers as the ranks of his Endarkened army swell. Nothing in this world can defeat Sebastian—but if they journey to the realm of demons, they just might have a chance…
Lives will be lost, love sacrificed, and the whole world will change. Who will survive the explosive sixth and final installment of the Mortal Instruments series?
I guess everything in this world can be fixed if you wait long enough. I am not known for my patience, I’m afraid, which means I’d given up on this series somewhere around City of Fallen Angels, but Clare has come a long way since then, and it would seem that so have I. City of Heavenly Fire is a worthy finale to such a long and well-beloved series.

Clare’s novels are always emotional roller coasters, even more so when it’s the last installment. If there’s one thing the woman knows how to do extremely well, it’s writing these long, emotionally draining endings. The Clockwork Princess nearly killed me, and I fared no better with City of Heavenly Fire. I didn’t cry as much, but boy, did it hurt at times.

There were so many loose ends to tie, so many impending disasters, so much to fear and even more to root for. Clare handled it all seemingly with ease, the good moments and the bad, the joy and the loss. None of it, not even the extended epilogue, seemed like fan service, and yet I was completely satisfied with how we left Clary, Jace and the gang.

The romance, at least the main one, takes a back seat in this one since these two pretty much know where they stand. Other things are more important, as well it should be, but we get plenty of time to enjoy Clary and Jace as a couple. It’s nice to see them working together, understanding each other perfectly and trusting one another implicitly.

There were plenty of broken hearts to fix in this final installment, though, and it just wasn’t possible for everyone. Some couples found their way, some were left with nothing but loss and pain, but there was a great balance to it all which I couldn’t help but admire.

There’s something to be said about a great villain, and Sebastian Morgenstern is one of the best. His cruelty is chilling, his actions completely unpredictable, and his heart, no matter who his family may be, is well beyond redemption.

Of the two narrators, I much preferred Sophie Turner’s parts. Jason Dohring’s narration seemed a bit unnatural and his inflection was oftentimes odd. I also didn’t understand the purpose of Turner’s British accent since most of this series takes place in New York, but then again, who in their right mind complains about a British accent? From where I stand, it’s always a win. Overall, more than 20 hours of audio seemed pretty short with these two and I wouldn’t hesitate to buy something narrated by either of them.

I realize I was pretty vague in this review, but honestly, I see no way to review this more directly without spoiling things for someone, which is something I’d hate to do. I had my ups and downs with the Mortal Instruments series, but in the end, I’m more than happy with the journey in its entirety.

A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinion expressed in this review.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Review: Fireborn (Souls of Fire, #1)

Fireborn (Souls of Fire, #1)Author: Keri Arthur
Series: Souls of Fire, #1
Published: July 1st 2014
Publisher: Piatkus
Format: Paperback, 400 pgs
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository

From New York Times bestselling author Keri Arthur comes a brand-new series featuring heroine Emberly Pearson—a phoenix capable of taking on human form and cursed with the ability to foresee death....
Emberly has spent a good number of her many lives trying to save humans. So when her prophetic dreams reveal the death of Sam, a man she once loved, she does everything in her power to prevent it from happening. But in saving his life, she gets more than she bargained for.
Sam is working undercover for the Paranormal Investigations Team, and those who are trying to murder him are actually humans infected by a plaguelike virus, the Crimson Death—a by-product of a failed government experiment intended to identify the enzymes that make vampires immortal. Now all those infected must be eliminated.
But when Emberly’s boss is murdered and his irreplaceable research stolen, she needs to find the guilty party before she goes down in flames....
Fireborn is not my first book by Keri Arthur, but it’s the first one I truly liked. It’s neither paranormal romance nor urban fantasy in their purest form, but a successful blend of the two, with strong UF elements and plenty of romantic interests.

Emberly Pearson, our heroine, is a phoenix, which is certainly new and interesting in both these genres. She is basically immortal. She burns once every century and is reborn from the ashes, free to continue her existence any way she pleases. With each new rebirth she is destined to fall in love just once, but never with Rory, another phoenix and her counterpart, who keeps her grounded and alive.

The thing with me, however, is that I’m a one-man-one-woman kinda gal. I don’t do love triangles, squares or any other shapes or forms, I don’t do multiple love interests and I most definitely don’t deal well with jealousy. It is, therefore, too bad that I constantly get jealous on behalf of my characters. So when my heroine has one counterpart she doesn’t love romantically but has to have sex with in order to survive, one lost-but-never-forgotten love who abandoned her because of said counterpart and one hot, practically irresistible silver-tongued fae vying for her attention, I’m bound to get more than a little uncomfortable. But that’s just me.

The urban fantasy elements however, are very well done, and the plot is extremely tight. Keri Arthur is a seasoned author, and her vast experience shines from every page. She never once loses control of her many characters or her plot and she knows exactly how to steer the reader through her rich and complicated world.

And let me tell you, with vampires and werewolves out in the open and plenty other creatures still hidden from the world, Arthur had a lot to keep track of and it’s very fortunate that she was up to the task. I loved seeing this dark side of Melbourne and I’ll enjoy going back to it every single time. I just hope the romance will be more focused in future installments.

A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Blog Tour Review: The Queen of the Tearling

The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #1)Author: Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen of the Tearling, #1
Published: July 8th 2014
Publisher: Harper
Format: Hardcover, 448 pgs
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

On her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, raised in exile, sets out on a perilous journey back to the castle of her birth to ascend her rightful throne. Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa. But though she may be inexperienced and sheltered, Kelsea is not defenseless: Around her neck hangs the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense magical power; and accompanying her is the Queen’s Guard, a cadre of brave knights led by the enigmatic and dedicated Lazarus. Kelsea will need them all to survive a cabal of enemies who will use every weapon—from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic—to prevent her from wearing the crown.
Despite her royal blood, Kelsea feels like nothing so much as an insecure girl, a child called upon to lead a people and a kingdom about which she knows almost nothing. But what she discovers in the capital will change everything, confronting her with horrors she never imagined. An act of singular daring will throw Kelsea’s kingdom into tumult, unleashing the vengeance of the tyrannical ruler of neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. Now Kelsea will begin to discover whom among the servants, aristocracy, and her own guard she can trust.
But the quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun—a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend…if she can survive.
The Queen of the Tearling introduces readers to a world as fully imagined and terrifying as that of The Hunger Games, with characters as vivid and intriguing as those of The Game of Thrones, and a wholly original heroine. Combining thrilling action and twisting plot turns, it is a magnificent debut from the talented Erika Johansen.
There’s something to be said about books that take you completely by surprise, grab you with their first few words sometime late in the evening and refuse to let go until the very last page, when you, bleary-eyed but elated, finally go to sleep already thinking about the next installment. The Queen of the Tearling came to me in a month when I had little time and even less patience for fiction, and yet it held my attention from start to finish, leaving me thrilled and completely breathless in the end.

The pacing was a bit slower than expected, but I for one thoroughly enjoy a worldbuilding well thought-out, even when there were things I wished were done differently. Queen of the Tearling is high fantasy with roots in modern society, which makes it unique but also a bit confusing. It’s an interesting blend of old customs and new technology that sometimes worked and sometimes bothered me greatly. I would have preferred a simple historical fantasy, or even some straightforward futuristic world, but this blend of the two didn’t always sit well with me.

Johansen took her time with Kelsea and her closest companions, giving them layer upon layer of complex personality, but at the same time she completely neglected her villain, Kelsea’s uncle, who was almost cartoonish in his heartless stupidity. Truth be told, a villain can make or break a book, but in this case, with everything I admired about Queen of the Tearling, I found that I didn’t mind this fault too much.

I did feel that Kelsea’s physical appearance was somewhat exaggerated in the attempt to give more weight to her inner strength. Something similar was initially done to Elisa in The Girl of Fire and Thorns but to an even larger extent. Kelsea constantly struggles with her looks and her weight, which I suppose adds a layer to her character and makes her seem more human, but it’s something I could have certainly done without. A girl can be smart and brave and resourceful and be quite ordinary on the outside, not too pretty and certainly not quite so unattractive. And it wasn’t just Kelsea’s distorted self-image we were dealing with; other people never hesitated to tell her that she looks nothing like a queen.

Queen of the Tearling has no more than a hint of romance, a stray thought here and there, an occasional yearning for someone completely out of reach. As a romance girl through and through, I would normally be very bothered by this, but this fabulous story, well plotted and nearly flawlessly executed, left no room for wishes and regrets.

This is a story I’m quite eager to continue. Even with a few faults that I’m sure will be fixed later on, it’s the best fantasy I’ve read in a good long while. The second book hasn’t even been properly announced and I’m already impatient to get my greedy little hands on it.

A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Review: Push (The Game, #2)

Push (The Game, #2)Author: Eve Silver
Series: The Game, #2
Published: June 10th 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Format: Hardcover, 352 pgs
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository

It’s either break the rules or die.
Miki Jones lives her life by her own strict set of rules, to keep control, to keep the gray fog of grief at bay. Then she’s pulled into the Game, where she—and her team—will die unless she follows a new set of rules: those set by the mysterious Committee.
But rules don’t mean answers, and without answers, it’s hard to trust. People are dying. The rules are unraveling. And Miki knows she’s being watched, uncertain if it’s the Drau or someone—something—else. Forced to make impossible choices and battling to save those she loves, Miki begins to see the Committee in a glaring new light.
And then the Game crosses a new boundary, pushes harder into Miki’s and her friends’ lives, and there’s nothing in the rules that can save them now.
Push is the sequel Rush fans will be screaming for.
Just like its predecessor, Rush, Push is very appropriately titled. In this sequel, which is perhaps a bit slower compared to the previous book, our heroine Miki Jones learns how to push through her anxiety and be the fighter she needs to be in order to survive.

Miki’s father still drinks to cope with her mother’s death and she’s still having a hard time finding the balance between her old life and her new, secret one. Her problems haven’t magically disappeared overnight; if anything, they’ve increased. But Miki is learning that, while she can’t change or control the world, she can change how she approaches it, and the progress she’s made in Push makes me so very proud of her.

Miki is devastated after all the losses she’s suffered, and the final battle in Rush cost her far more than she can stand. But there is some hope still, and she’s not one to wallow in despair. She is a true fighter, our Miki, whether she fights the Drau or the Committee itself.

I lunge, thrust, making up moves as I go because this sure as hell isn’t anything I learned in kendo. This is a miserable, wretched slaughterhouse where I hack at limbs and chests and heads, stab at torsos – anything to hold them off.

In Push, Miki finally gets some much needed downtime, which allows for a sweet and believable development of romance, but which also gives her a chance to work on herself and the issues she has with her loved ones. Through it all, the good and the bad alike, Miki is almost impossible not to like, the strength of her character and her determination making her completely unforgettable.

The worldbuilding is intentionally vague and we’re limited to knowing only what Miki knows, which isn’t much at all. Their reality is constructed of false information and wrong assumptions, and we as readers sense and share their frustration while they try to untangle the truth from all the lies. Going along with everything the mysterious Committee instructs is no longer an option for Miki’s team, but knowing the truth might be even more difficult than lining with the lies.

While I resent yet another cliffhanger, my love for this series could make me forget far greater sins. Waiting a whole year to reunite with Miki and her team will be hard, but I’m sure Silver will give us a spectacular finale when the time comes.

A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review pusposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Review: Sixth Grave on the Edge (Charley Davidson, #6)

Sixth Grave on the Edge (Charley Davidson, #6)Author: Darynda Jones
Series: Charley Davidson, #6
Published: May 20th 2014
Publisher: Piatkus
Format: Paperback, 352 pgs
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository

Charley Davidson—part-time P.I. and full-time Grim Reaper—is back in this new novel from the New York Times bestselling author
Sometimes I wrestle my demons. Sometimes we just snuggle.—bumper sticker
Most girls might think twice before getting engaged to someone like Reyes Farrow—but Charley Davidson is not most girls. She’s a paranormal private eye and grim reaper-in-training who’s known to be a bit of a hell-raiser, especially after a few shots of caffeine. Her beloved Reyes may be the only begotten son of evil, but he’s dark and sultry and deeply sexy and everything Charley could hope for. Really. But when the FBI file on Reyes’s childhood happens to land in her lap, she can’t help herself: She opens it...and then the real fun begins. First, Charley finds a naked corpse riding shotgun in her car. Then, a man loses his soul in a card game. Throw in a Deaf boy who sees dead people, a woman running from mobsters, and a very suspicious Reyes, and things can’t get any worse for Charley. Unless, of course, the Twelve Beasts of Hell are unleashed...

Holy cliffhanger, Batman! Darynda sure knows how to end a book with a jaw-dropping moment. It may take my poor heart a good long while to recover from this one, but seeing as the next book comes out in October, I suppose I'll recover soon enough.

At this point, picking up a new Charley Davidson book feels a lot like coming home after a long and rather painful absence. Darynda’s characters have such strong personalities that it’s almost too easy to imagine them having lives beyond these pages. Getting a glimpse of their hilarious existence is very much an honor and a privilege.

It’s not all sunshine and roses, though. Truth be told, Sixth Grave seems to be a bit of a rush job. I was disappointed by the lack of structure in this plot, some conversations that lead absolutely nowhere and more than a few loose ends. I realize that unfinished storylines can be expected this late in the series, but some of them seemed forgotten rather than left purposely for later installments. It’s not something Darynda normally does and while I enjoyed Sixth Grave overall, I felt just a little bit let down.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that this is a series one can count for fabulous entertainment, sizzling hot romance and too many sidesplitting one-liners to count. Charley herself takes few things seriously which makes her different from every other UF or PNR heroine out there.

I’ll keep this short because, at book six, there’s little to say I haven’t said before: the Charley Davidson series has hordes of fans for a reason. I suspect Darynda Jones might have a hard time moving on from this series because there’s too much of her in Charley, but as long as she’s writing these, there’s not much to worry about. If making people laugh and swoon at the same time were a sport, Darynda would be a multiple Olympic gold medalist.

A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Review: Meridian (Arclight, #2)

Meridian (Arclight, #2)Author: Josin L. McQuein
Series: Arclight, #2
Published: May 27th 2014
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Format: Hardcover, 458 pgs
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

Marina thought that she had solved all of the Arclight’s mysteries. She had found her own history—that she was one of the Fade, that she never should have been human. She knows that the Fade who surround the Arclight don’t want to be the humans' enemies at all. She knows that the leader of those inside the Arc, Honoria Whit, never told the whole truth. But there is so much more that Marina is just discovering. There are more survivors out there. Only Marina—and her friends, all of whom have connections to the Fade they'd never known about—can lead her people to them. But there are also darker dangers, things that even the Fade fear. And Marina slowly realizes she may never have been “cured,” after all. The sequel to Arclight, Meridian is an intense, action-packed page-turner about the lines we draw between right and wrong, light and dark . . . and the way nothing is ever that black and white.
Meridian resumes where Arclight left of, with a newly established, fragile peace between humans and Fade and with Marina right in the middle of things as an ambassador of sorts. However, it is a weaker book than its predecessor, somewhat aimless and heavily burdened by the infamous middle book syndrome.

Meridian’s biggest flaw is that it doesn’t have a clear story arc. It’s a series of fast-paced events that can (and often do) become extremely confusing. However, even with all those random, loosely connected events, not much actually happens in this book. There are so many characters to keep track of in this claustrophobic world, and the amount of information we get on each page is quite overwhelming, but the actual story is insubstantial at best.

Splitting the novel between Marina’s and Tobin’s points of view was certainly part of the problem. For one, their voices were far too similar, so much so that I had a hard time telling them apart. What’s more, two perspectives made the narrative seem choppy and disorganized, which certainly didn’t work in McQuein’s favor.

What did work in her favor was the new enemy she introduced. McQuein is surpassingly good at writing extremely creepy scenes. The new enemy of humans and Fade alike is absolutely terrifying.

The romantic situation wasn’t my favorite at all. Marina’s Fade self, Cherish, has strong feelings for the Fade boy Rue, while Marina still feels plenty for Tobin. It’s more than just a love triangle, it’s a torturous mess with seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel. And yet, the whole thing doesn’t really go anywhere, not in this book at least. It’s an awkward, mostly silent tug of war between Rue and Tobin, with Marina (or Cherish) as the prize.

I was quite ready to hate Rue for the disruption of our “first” romance (which, if you think about it, really wasn’t first at all), but that boy is all sweetness and self-sacrifice, completely impossible to hate. In fact, I find myself far more interested in his story and other good Fade, than Marina and her human friends and enemies.

I’m still hoping for a satisfying conclusion to all this, although I’m not even sure how I want it to end. I suppose I’ll just relax and wait for the next book to come out.

A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No consideration, monetary or otherwise, has influenced the opinion expressed in this review.