Review: A Torch Against the Night

A Torch Against the Night

by Sabaa Tahir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This sequel does not disappoint!

I was eagerly waiting for this sequel to come out, having been delighted with An Ember in the Ashes. I knew in my bones what was coming would be heart wrenching and difficult but I trusted in Ms. Tahir. I was not disappointed. I held my breath and hurried through the chapters needing to know what came next. In her world that is intricate, complicated and brutal, you grow to appreciate each of the three characters,. You want to hate some, to say this one is good and this one bad, but you can’t. An expert at the gray area, Tahir sneaks them into your heart with their hopes, their dreams, their virtues and their flaws.

As for the narration, the voice actors reprised their performances from An Ember in the Ashes and I felt like I was meeting old friends after a lengthy absence. The continuity in the voices, in the characters felt like coming home. I don’t normally like present tense, but the reading here was so smooth, that even when I transitioned to the page for a time, I didn’t even notice until I was done.

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Review: An Ember in the Ashes

An Ember in the Ashes

by Sabaa Tahir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had not heard anything about this title or author when I bought the audiobook. I eventually also bought it in paperback because I needed the consummation of actually turning the pages at times. Sometimes, the audio read felt too slow because I just wanted, no needed, to know what happened next.

In a world where the Martial Empire has spread to most of the continent, disobedience is brutally punished and those from subservient nations are turned into slaves. Laia, a scholar girl, must face her fears and risk death to save her brother while Elias Veturius, a member of one of the most respected Martial families, despises what he has become and longs for freedom. Their paths are destined to cross and cross again as they battle to stay alive and find what matters to them most.

I was surprised at the ease with which I became engrossed in the story, rooting for characters, feeling their pains. I was hooked from the first page. I love Ms. Tahir’s writing though I’m not sure I could say what is different about it, just that it resonates with me.

The narrators also were perfect fits for their characters, Mr. West in particular. Told from the first person viewpoint with a full cast, I felt like I knew Laia, Helene and Elias by the end of it. This book deserved its accolade of Best YA Book of 2015. Definitely worth a read or a listen.

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Review: The Immorality Clause

The Immorality Clause

by Brian Parker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bladerunner in the Red Light District.

This title is a bit outside my usual fare. I’m not a huge fan of noir or crime novels but it looked intriguing. Unfortunately, it turned out not to be my cup of tea. (I rated it as if it was the kind of book I would like, personal prejudices aside.)

It was a cliche in a slightly over the top kind of way. And though, that is not to my taste I’m sure many would love it. It was very tactfully written for the subject matter, neither too gory nor too timid. It was moderately well-paced but I felt, at times, the clues didn’t quite follow; coincidences were too pat. Otherwise, it was enjoyable.

As for the narration, it was the bright spot in this book for me. Mr. Pena sounds just like you’d expect a rough around the edges cop to sound. A likable jerk. He did a good job with the acting, this being entirely from the 1st person perspective which is a tough job. And though he did a wonderful job altering his voice to perform the voices of the robots and other characters, I felt that at times the story let him down.

If you like noir crime, I predict you will really enjoy this book. For those of us who don’t, you may want to pass.

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Review: Tower of Thorns

Tower of Thorns

by Juliet Marillier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Enchanting characters that will win you over.

A medieval mystery series, Blackthorn and Grim are two dispossessed souls trying to do go in a world they no longer believe in. Blackthorn because of a deal made with the Fae, and Grim because he’d follow her anywhere. I have enjoyed the mysteries, though at time I felt they could move on a bit faster. Nonetheless, I enjoy the language and the characters enough to be content.

I’d listened to the first Blackthorn and Grim book by Marillier a while back. It is done with a full cast and when I heard Grim for the first time (though the voice actor is delightful) I cringed. I didn’t think I’d like him enough to stand a whole book with him. But thanks to Marillier, by the time I was done with that book, I liked Grim. And a third of the way through this one, I loved him. The relationship between stubborn Blackthorn and her “lump of a man” is something you find yourself rooting for, though her obtuseness about his feelings at the end was a bit unbelievable. After all, she is supposed to be wise.

Nonetheless, I am looking forward to the next installment to see what trouble they can get up to now. If you like fantasy and a bit of romance, you’ll love these books.

This was not actually read but was an audiobook. I do love being read to! ┬áThere was a full cast and they did a lovely job, as they did in the previous book. I’m buying book 3 now and hope the same actors will be doing that one too. ┬áDefinitely worth a listen.

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Review: Love, Rosie

Love, Rosie by Cecelia Ahern

I read this book because I saw the movie and totally loved it. It’s the story of star-crossed best friends and would-be lovers – Rosie and Alex. Friends since childhood, they manage to stay closer than usual despite the Atlantic ocean, three children, three marriages and a few funerals. The story is delightfully tense, full of missed opportunities and the frustrating miscommunication that arises from NOT saying what you think. And yet at times the characters are too honest with each other, leading to rifts and misunderstandings.

Of course, we all know the problems inherent in seeing a story before reading it. But in this case, I liked the movie adaptation better. Still, the book was good and I was not as bothered by the odd structure as I thought I’d be. (The entire book is written as emails, texts and letters between the various players). But, perhaps because I had seen the movie, it felt that the resolution to their story took too long in the book. The wrap up at the end less romantic than I’d hoped, though still good enough to warrant four stars. I did enjoy it but I’d rather see the movie again.

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Review: Unveiled by A.D. Trosper

Unveiled by A.D. Trosper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A.D. Trosper “unveils” another engrossing and delightful story. (See what I did there.)

I have enjoyed other books by this author and I am always struck by the ease with which Ms. Trosper creates her worlds. Her language is unadorned and straightforward. The prose itself quickly slips into the background as the setting she creates fills your imagination. The world-within-worlds reality of Unveiled is truly fascinating and I can’t wait to see what further lands are explored in the sequel(s) to this book.

Moreover, Trosper manages to put us smack dab inside the heroine’s head and never lets it slip. Jo, short for Josephine, is an ordinary if extremely stubborn young woman who has never suspected anything supernatural about her life. But when her mother dies, she discovers just how wrong she was. From her unusual parentage to her decision to join the ranks of Reapers (guides who help souls to the appropriate afterlife), she has to embrace a new worldview which she does with a only a smidge of kicking and a good dollop of sarcastic snark. She is tough and vulnerable at the same time; you can’t help but love her. As for her counterpart and reluctant partner-in-crime Caius, he has a Darcy-like haughtiness that just begs for a comeuppance. The two mains play well off each other, with a great deal of enjoyable spark. I bet their relationship will bear further watching.

Trosper’s mix of angels, demons, and older gods is fun and fresh. If you love paranormal romances with a strong sense of snark and humanity, Unveiled should definitely be on your TBR list.

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Review: The Crown’s Dog

The Crown’s Dog by Elise Kova
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To be honest, I didn’t read this but listened to it. A tale of pirate curses, missing treasure and murder, it was nonetheless a fairly light read and quite enjoyable. Though it was odd that a convicted criminal would be sentenced to serve a Prince so closely, I’m sure there is more to the story of how Jax came to be Baldair’s man than just those simple facts. Obviously, Jax’s traumatic past will be further discussed in later stories and I am eager to unravel it.

The humorous banter and camaraderie between the characters is, I think, the highlight of this tale (brought into sharper focus by excellent narration). I normally don’t choose pirate stories but this was well-executed and fun. I’d read (or listen to) more of Ms. Kova’s tales.

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Red Rising Review

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well written and well paced, I did enjoy this book though I’m not sure I want to read the rest of the series. It’s hard to watch the unmaking of someone when they are pressed into service by an ideal, pushed into making themselves more like their enemies to “win.” This keeps good company with the new gritty dystopians like Hunger Games and even the classic Lord of the Flies in places. It is wrenching and grim and shows how thin the line can be between right and wrong. I felt it was a good read if a little heartbreaking for softies, like me.

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