Review: Silent Blade (Kinsmen, #1) by Ilona Andrews

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
Date Read: August 14 to 15, 2016
Recommended by:
Recommended to:

Liked it. Interesting world/universe, interesting factions, interesting back stories, interesting power dynamics. Looking forward to reading more of this world/universe and hoping there’s more in the work.

This is a light futuristic sci-fi novella that feels otherworldly, yet familiar somehow.

Some time in the distant future, corporations run by wealthy families will dominate a whole planet–think of it as each family is its own country–and there will be no governing bodies to keep them in check, though what does keep them in check are the other families, their holdings and vast array of weapons and assassins. It’s like an arms race, but between the families.

Meli Galdes is from a middling family with some important corporate ties, but not enough and they’re on the brink of bankruptcy. She has known her whole life that she would have to marry Celino Carvanna to secure their families’ alliance and help move her family up the social ladder. But when he breaks off their engagement abruptly, he not only severs those ties, but he also ruins her whole life. Because the Carvannas are rich and powerful, no suitors, even ones actually interested in Meli, would want to cross the Carvannas, even though Celino Carvanna had already set her aside.

So what does she do? She leaves her family and train to be an assassin. Not just any assassin though. She becomes one of the best. And then she plots her revenge, slowly and meticulously. And then she sets the plot in motion all the while playing innocent.

I liked this story, especially this planet and its strange corporate-run culture. There’s something brutal and brutally honest about how the families off each other, all in the name of business and turning a profit, and no one bats an eye. Literally no one.

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* * * spoilers below * * *

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Review: Origins (Alphas, #0.5) by Ilona Andrews

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
Date Read: August 09 to 14, 2016
Recommended by:
Recommended to:

I quite enjoyed this intro to a relatively new series by Ilona Andrews, and I should mention this is not the kind of thing I thought I’d like.

It starts with a kidnapping… :/

And it’s billed as a paranormal romance… :/

But after picking up and putting down countless books in an attempt to find something good that could hold my attention for more than a page or two, I finally had to return to Ilona Andrews, knowing that they never fail to deliver. I decided to go with this one for the simple reason that its cover looked interesting.

Overall, I think it’s a bit too rushed, and so much of the world(s) is either hastily explained (without giving you a good grasp of the existence of these worlds) or not explained sufficiently. Maybe if this book was a full-length novel, these strange alien worlds would develop gradually along with the plot and characters. I think if this series continues, it would definitely improve because the writing has all the familiar signs of a pair of authors who know their audience and know what to deliver and how to do it. They just need more room to expand on their ideas.

All through the read, I got the sense the Andrews wanted to test some limitations of the genre and take this story down a darker path that’s just as psychologically challenging as it’s physically challenging. And one of the things they put to the test was the romance starting off with a kidnapping, followed by imprisonment. I know… :/. So then how could this be a “romance,” right? I was unimpressed myself and had to make an effort to keep reading, but then the thing at end happened which made me think well, different. It was pleasantly different, as well as unexpected, and I thought it tied the story together really well. I trust the Andrews enough to not royally screw this up, whatever the tenuous “this” is.

The tone for much of the story is tense with some humorous moments in between to break up the hostility, and sometimes there’s sexual tension that borders on being unbearable due to the kidnapping and imprisonment–’twas a tad uncomfortable during those moments–but both main characters seem to have enough sense and chemistry to make their interactions interesting, and they seem grounded in reality enough to keep their budding whatever from becoming too cringe-worthy. The strength lies in these two holding the story together, and for me it worked.

Other than that, I think this story is a fun read and I’m cautiously optimistic of this series’ prospects, but maybe that’s because I’m so used to these two authors by now that entering a new world of theirs and encountering hostile natives is just another adventure.

* * * mild spoiler * * *

Oh, and I really could do without the kid–famous last words?–not that there’s much that could be done about it since she’s already embedded too deeply in the story.

Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1) by Sarah J. Maas

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Rating: (DNF)
Date Read: August 04 to 05, 2016
Recommended by: the Vaginal Fantasy Group’s alt pick
Recommended to:

DNF @ 38% because slow and boring.

I don’t think this book would have worked for me in any mood. There’s just too much that bothered and not enough to entice. Not even the fae “mythology” was interesting enough to pull me in. Not to mention the meandering writing featuring a young “feisty” protagonist and her long-suffering POV were a huge hindrance.

Plus, there’s an overwhelming “YA-ness” to the writing that irked me: lots of self-evaluating inner monologues; lots of discussion of good vs. evil; lots of self-righteousness; lots of characters to hate; lots of descriptions of lavish clothing and decor; lots of ridiculous “logic.” And to top it off, the “beast” wasn’t a beast but a beautiful cursed fairy lord in a mask–OMG, so frightening–and the heroine was an overly self-righteous, self-sacrificing caricature. It’s hard for me to believe this book isn’t a parody of high fantasy YA.

I completely lost interest around 15% when the main character Feyre killed a fairy lord in wolf form and wasn’t punished for it–because a life for a life made too much sense in this world? Instead she was offered a chance to live out the rest of her life in leisure in the opulent fairy realm. As punishment. That’s her “punishment” for killing a fairy. Rolled my eyes so hard I sprained a muscle.

But I pressed on anyway to no avail. Finally had to give in when it looked like nothing was happening and that Feyre and the beast were just frolicking through the fairy countryside for a couple hundred pages.

Review: Chosen (The Warrior Chronicles #1) by K.F. Breene

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Rating: (DNF @ chapter 3)
Date Read: June 24 to 26, 2016
Recommended by: DJ
Recommended to:

This book came to me highly recommended by a friend who loves the Kate Daniels series, so of course I had to give it a try.

She described it as high fantasy with a kickass heroine, and she’d read all the books in the series several times. I’m always looking for a new series to get into, so I was very interested.

Unfortunately, it’s not for me. But this time, I think it’s the book’s fault for the simple fact that the writing is just not… any good. I found it a struggle to get through, even just the first chapter. The writing comes off as awkward and juvenile and blunt, not unlike the style of a first draft and not unlike an exercise piece you’d see in creative writing classes. Not a diss, just pointing that this book reads like a work in progress.

Here’s what I mean by the writing being awkward. The sentence structures are weird and full of cliches.

His cruel smile winked out as confusion stole his countenance.

[…]

Her empty stomach sucked the ribs into the middle of her body, trying to fill that void. Her brain thumped against the inside of her skull with dehydration.

[…]

She didn’t have long. She had to find something to eat and drink or her journey would end right here, in this crypt that used to hold a forest.

[…]

She was in the last leg of her journey, nearing the Great Sea, and instead of fulfilling her supposed destiny, she was knocking at death’s door.

[…]

Her brain pounded so hard it felt like it was trying to rip out of the casing of her skull.

This is just from the first chapter. And there are 50 more chapters presumably just like it.

I went on to finish the second chapter, but it was a real struggle. Definitely not better and desperately needed an editor. I got the sense there was an attempt at humor, specifically “edgy” humor, but the execution of it seems forced, like it’s trying too hard, and kind of embarrassing to read. Moreover, the addition of more characters to build up this fantasy world didn’t improve it–they’re more like caricatures than characters. And the writing’s still very much the same, still a pain to read.

Though to be fair, I should add that the friend who rec’d this book to me said the story gets much better and that later books are significantly stronger and more interesting. Shanti, the main character, is a kickass heroine with kickass powers and there’s lots of action throughout the series. If that’s what you’re interested in, this book might be a good fit. However, the writing style remains the same because it’s the author’s thing. It either works for you or it doesn’t.

I don’t read SF/F for the writing (obviously), and I used to think I could put up with pretty much anything, that it wouldn’t matter much if the story and characters are okay, but this book, or rather what little I’ve read of it, is making me reconsider my standards for “good enough.”