Review – Red Rising

Red Rising by Pierce BrownDarrow is a driller, a Red — a member of the lowest class of humanity — living below the surface of Mars toiling in hot tunnels all for the greater good of human civilization. A displaced person of a conquered Earth, he’s among the settlers mining the precious minerals that will be used to make the surface habitable for future generations. He’s always stretching the limits of what he can do, knowing he’s the best driller in his group and wanting to prove it. What he really wants though is to win the laurel and be able to provide more food for his family.

Just when Darrow thinks he’s won the laurel, everything changes. His wife opens his eyes to another world — a world he didn’t know existed and one he wishes he could instantly forget. When his wife is sentenced to death for showing Darrow the surface world, and the truth about class distinctions, his life shatters. Sentenced to death days after his wife’s public hanging, Darrow finds death isn’t so easy to come by. Taken in by a rebel group, he becomes part of the revolution — transforming into a Gold, the highest class of society on Mars, to infiltrate and bring down the system from the inside. With his wife’s death as motivation, Darrow assimilates into Gold society learning to live among the decadent and immoral people he didn’t know existed, and couldn’t even imagine in his previous life. He’s physically changed through surgery, learns a new language, and becomes, for all purposes, a new person — a person who must now win a game to find revenge for his wife, and his family.

When children are of age, the Golds enroll their children in an institute where survival is more than just an academic term. In order to earn sought after positions in society, the Golds fight their way through a game of life and death, all striving to be at the top. Darrow understands very little about the people and situation he’s been thrown into but quickly takes to the game becoming one of the most conniving and fierce players the institute has ever seen. His unpredictable nature works for and against him propelling him to an end he seeks but doesn’t necessarily want.

Darrow understands the game better than any of the other students and has much more at stake. He’s also slightly unlikable and unreliable. He knows who he is at heart but he also knows he needs to be a killer to survive. He has no problem holding himself above the others believing that what he’s doing is for a greater good. Darrow is now a man with a purpose even if he’s a man who no longer recognizes himself. He’s internalized being a Gold — he’s dark, cold, and mysterious to those around him.

This game that’s being played among the students, and the Gold society in general, is just brutal. You quickly understand the players and what they need to do to survive and even though some are thoroughly unlikable, you like them anyway because the situation is absolutely vile. Reading this book is like watching a fight to the death cage match. Brown’s Mars is a dark and unforgiving place where death is always close, especially for Reds like Darrow.

It happens but I wish it wouldn’t — book comparisons. This book is a mix of things — The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, and The Lord of the Flies. There’s a competition among the students, it takes place on Mars, and well, in the end, it is mass chaos; students killing students all in the name of winning a game that can’t be won. What that means for the reader is that time will disappear as soon as the first page is read, because once you start, you’re not going to put this book down until the end.

Red Rising is the first book in a planned trilogy.

In addition to this blog, I also do reviews for The Book Reporter website. The above review was done for the Book Reporter which can be found here. The book was provided to me by the publisher.

Red Rising

Pierce Brown

Del Rey

ISBN: 9780345539786

 

Review – The Descent

The Descent by Alma KatsuThe Descent is the third book in The Taker trilogy. If you haven’t read The Taker and The Reckoning yet, you need to fix that in 2014. This trilogy is certainly one of the more interesting ones to come along. There are some great characters and plot lines that keep you guessing — even after you read the ending first, like I do.

Lanore McIlvrae, Lanny as she’s known, spent years living in fear of Adair, the man who made her immortal. Their relationship, while heated and insanely passionate, is not a stable one by any means. The things these two have done to each other — both mentally and physically — are horrific, and yet, they can’t seem to escape each other. Beyond the immortal bond the two share, there’s something else that keeps them returning to each other even after all the hurt they’ve caused.

After Lanny’s current partner, Luke, dies of cancer, she begins having nightmares about her former lover, and one could say, the great love of her life, Jonathan. Believing the nightmares are more than just guilt induced dreams, Lanny goes looking for the only man she knows who can help her — Adair. She knows he possesses the power to alleviate her nightmares and find answers to her questions. Unfortunately, she’s not sure how well she’ll be received, especially coming on business concerning Jonathan. While Lanny and Adair’s relationship has changed significantly over the intervening years, Jonathan is very much a sore spot between the two. There are things in life that are constant and Jonathan is that one thing for Lanny and Adair.

When Lanny finds Adair, she finds a changed man. He’s living on a deserted island in the Mediterranean and is a much calmer person but she knows there’s still much to fear from Adair and the power he can yield. She comes to an understanding of her feelings for him but knows she must still help Jonathan if possible and that’s when things get complicated.

My dilemma — how do I tell readers about this book when it’s the third in a series and I don’t want to give anything away? Instead, I’m going to talk about a larger theme in the series — love. I’m not one for love stories, especially ones that get wrapped up all nice and neat in the end. But, I liked that love had such a large and messy role in this story, and let’s not forget the mess the mere thought of the word brought to Lanny, Adair, and Jonathan and the catastrophe that is their relationship. Don’t get me wrong, for a long time I didn’t like Adair at all. He’s cruel, hateful, and isn’t much for honor or respect. Jonathan, while Lanny can’t help but love him, isn’t exactly a loveable person either leaving a trail of heartbroken women in his path. In fact, Lanny, while she obviously loves the idea of love, gets burned so many times it would be easier for her to just walk away from everyone. Maybe her willingness to keep believing that love can work is what makes her likable after all.

It’s always difficult to come to the end of a series especially one that was so good. Alma Katsu gave her characters immortality, beat them up and teased them with death, and in the end, threw in love and let everything fall to the ground in a gigantic messy heap of humanity. At certain points, you won’t like any of the characters — who can all be crazy, manipulative, sad, and demented — but you’re rewarded with a tale that’s full of the supernatural. What’s the good news about this series coming to an end? New readers get to read from start to finish getting wrapped up in Lanny’s strange and enticing world without being left to wonder what will happen next. For me, there’s a satisfaction in finally getting the chance to see what becomes of Lanny, Adair, and Jonathan.

In addition to this blog, I also do reviews for The Book Reporter website. The above review was done for the Book Reporter which can be found here. The book was provided to me by the publisher.

The Descent

By Alma Katsu

Gallery Books

ISBN: 9781451651829

Those Mountains of Madness

I read H.P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountains of Madness (my review), and while it was interesting, it left me wanting. I didn’t love it, but I wanted to. I was sad it didn’t happen that way. This was a story I should love, or at least, that’s what I thought.

Then came along Tales to Terrify which was featuring the story. Audio books aren’t my thing but why not give it a go. It’s three podcasts and I could stop listening at anytime. Since I was already familiar with the story, it should work out fine.

Can I tell you how happy I am that I gave it a try! I *happy dance* was so happy and totally creeped out. It was everything I wanted from this story which I didn’t get from my reading experience.

I came to love the words used by Lovecraft: ‘purposeful malignancy,’ ‘morbid survival,’ ‘from nightmarish antiquity,’ and ‘cosmic octopi.’

Part one of the story is all about the staging of the expedition. Generally, I enjoyed this part of the book in both reading and listening forms. For some reason I can’t understand, I liked the lists of needed materials for the expedition. Part two was lost on me while reading but not listening. It’s an exploration of the dead city of a once thriving civilization that inhabited Earth long before humans. Shoggoths of the sea with accidental intelligence, cthulhu spawn — seriously, let those words sink in and you’ll be checking under the couch for monsters too. As part three begins, and it comes to a close, it’s pure dread mixed with remorse and a hint of foreboding — all in the name of science.

If you listen, you’ll be rewarded by the wonderfully creepy voice of Bob Nuefeld. Actually, his voice isn’t creepy at all but the perfect choice for this tale. He reads Lovecraft’s words with an incredible voice that warbles in all the right places. Also, in part two, there’s a great discussion of horror works that is absolutely worth listening to.

Go listen. Then hide from the shoggoths.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Let me tell you about a place

The Black Fire ConcertoA post-apocalyptic place unlike the world we know. Where people eat the flesh of ghouls under the misguided belief it will prolong their lives. Where magic, light and dark, exist. Where machines are a thing of the past but knowledge of their misuse has shaped the sad state of the present. A place where humans hide not wanting to live out a half-dead fate if bitten by a ghoul. A place ruined by storms that scorched the land and transformed its people. A place where music can shape destiny. A place of creatures shaped by magic. A place full of fantastical landscapes. A place to instill wonder and fear.

This is the world of The Black Fire Concerto.

Erzelle is 12 years-old and a captive on a riverboat called the Red Empress. Imprisoned when she came aboard with her parents — musicians invited to play for guests  —- Erzelle waits, knowing she will one day meet the same horrible death. While she waits for that day to come, she plays her harp while guests feast on the flesh of ghouls. When a new guest, a fellow musician named Olyssa, befriends Erzelle, her life changes forever. Once they escape the Red Empress, Erzelle accompanies Olyssa on her journey to find her sister. Along the way, Olyssa teaches her new music — music fueled by magic that can tame ghouls and kill their enemies. Music that will forever change, not only Erzelle, but their world.

I listened to the first part of this book when it was featured on Tales to Terrify. It was wonderfully creepy and I had a picture of this world in my head so when the book arrived I was anxious to get started. The world of Erzelle and Olyssa held true and I found myself rushing through this story full of ghouls, flesh eaters, magically driven harvesters of the dead, and creatures in hiding from a terror that will bring on a long and sad death.

One thing I wanted more of, well, was more of the story. At less than 200 pages, The Black Fire Concerto packs a lot into it’s few pages. I was satisfied by the end but I wanted more. It was just that good and I was so sucked into the story by this point that when the end snuck up on me, I wasn’t ready for it. That’s a good thing.

If you’re the type of person that likes to hoard creepy books for October, this is one more. I should caution though, reading this book during lunch will probably make you want to stop eating. Descriptions of stretched sinew and joints popping aren’t conducive to eating. Just a warning.

Thanks to the author, Mike Allen, who sent me a copy of this book for review.

If you’re interested, some other thoughts on The Black Fire Concerto:

Little Red Reviewer

Lynn’s Book Blog

Lynn also asked Mike a few questions too.

Are you listening?

Statement of fact — I rarely listen to audiobooks or podcasts. (My husband would agree on the non-listening part no matter what it referred to though…)

Why? I’m a visual person and a writer. In order for me to remember something, I need to see words on paper, and in some cases, write words on paper. Hence, the not listening to books part. (Fun fact about me, I’m an excellent list maker.)

I decided I’d try a podcast though. Ya know, new things and all. Of course, I needed it to be interesting for this experiment to work.

My choice? Well, as the fates would have it, a tweet came across about a podcast with potential. It was part one of a book that I’m really looking forward to reading — The Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen. The first part of the book, The Red Empress, was being featured on Tales to Terrify, an audio horror fiction magazine.

So, I pull it up on my phone and curl up on the couch to do this thing.

Let me tell you. The narrator, CSE Cooney stuck the perfect tone. Her voice a perfect fit for the story, which takes place on a riverboat named none other than The Red Empress. The Empress is inhabited by a cast of creeptastic ghouls that feed on the flesh others in their quest for immortality. A young girl named Erzelle, whose family was murdered on the doomed Empress, lives out her numbered days playing the harp while the elite feast. When a newcomer, Olyssa, arrives her life changes dramatically.

It’s creepy. It’s got some interesting magic which I want to hear more about. And as it turns out, I get can with the ghoul thing. The first part sets the stage for more to come and I want more of this broken and deranged world.

In fact, I’ll fess up now. The author, Mike Allen, was nice enough to offer me a copy of the book and I can’t wait. It’s going to be perfect fall reading.

To listen to the podcast, and you should: Tales to Terrify No 85 Mike Allen.

Go to Tales to Terrify for a longer list of podcasts.
I think I might give Nos 82, 83, and 84 a try. It’s At the Mountains of Madness by HP Lovecraft. I didn’t love the book like I wanted to but having it read to me might do it. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Reading much?

It’s hard to believe I managed to accidentally take off almost all of August. It’s even harder to believe I’ve had this blog for four years now. Time does go by quickly anymore.

So, I thought I’d do a quick re-cap of what I’ve been reading this summer, and for the most part, not talking about. What do I see in my future? Plans for some regular blogging…

I finally, finally gave in and read A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin. It took me forever to finish (my copy is 1100 pages) but I didn’t mind at all because it was all the characters I like, unlike the fourth book which was all characters I could do without. Although, I was left wondering who he’d have left to talk about since he kills almost everyone in this book and there are two more books left in this series. I’ll guess I’ll have to wait and see.

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon was another good book. I’m torn about all the comparisons she’s getting to The Hunger Games and the Harry Potter series though. This is the first book in a seven book series and the setting is a bit Panem like but this is the first book and I think we need to give her time to sort it out. I did a review for The Book Reporter if you’re curious.

I have this huge stack of books staring me down (in a good way!) and I decided to finally give in. I was also in a read all the fantasy mode and went with Sabriel by Garth Nix. A good choice it was. Can I tell you how happy I am to find out this is a trilogy!? The dead, necromancers, old kingdoms, dark magic, free magic. Yes, please.

Kindred by Octavia Butler has been on my list forever. Elizabeth at Dark Cargo was nice enough to send this one to me. Actually, she sent me a ton of awesome books! Sabriel was also in that stack. She’s been keeping me in fantasy and science fiction lately. Time travel with an historical fiction take — it’s amazing. I think I might read it again because I know I missed so many details because I was rushing through to make sure a character lived.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. I could go on and on about the wonderfulness of this book. There are so many great reviews out that I don’t think my telling you to go and read it will matter much. If you love Gaiman, you’ll love this. What everyone has been saying about this one is true.

Right now, I’m reading Broken Harbor by Tana French. It’s her fourth book and I’m still impressed, even a mere 50 pages in.

I think I’ll do another wrap-up in the next few days because as it turns out, I read several more books I do want to talk about.

Tell me what you’ve been reading. Anything good?

Review – Advent

AdventGavin Stokes is an awkward teenager. In fact, he’s always been awkward. He talks to people who aren’t there, see things that aren’t there, and has parents that want him to pretend everything that happens to him, doesn’t. When the opportunity comes to visit his aunt in the country, the only person he ever thought understood him, he jumps at the chance. One strange things after another happens to him and he starts to think that maybe he isn’t so awkward after all and there are a lot of things in this world that can’t be explained.

I don’t know what to make of this book. On one hand, I really liked it. On an entirely different hand, I didn’t really think much of it. Sadly, I’m having trouble pinpointing why this is so. Here’s the thing, the story has a bit of a time slip thing going on. So, when you’re not in the present watching a teenager make a total mess of things, you’re back in the 1500s with a magician who is also making a mess of things. I liked both stories. Each had their strong points. It was when the stories merged that I had trouble. Here’s the thing — the two timelines fit well together, character and plot wise. But I didn’t really care for them meshing. Does that make sense? Ignore me if it doesn’t, I won’t be offended.

One of the reasons I put this book on my list was because I knew it had a few Arthurian legend references and as we all know, (I’ve repeated it often enough) I’ll read anything that has Arthurian elements. That aspect of this book kept me reading and I liked the rather subtle way in which it was introduced. Although, I didn’t like when Gavin’s name went from Gavin to Gawain. It annoys me when characters change names halfway through a book. It was necessary and certainly made sense within the context of the story but it just doesn’t work me. I’m all for people (re: characters) finding themselves but, again, annoying for me. You may love it. Again, ignore me if needed.

The good thing and why this book is worth a try. It’s a book about magic! The magic follows traditional rules, there’s nothing wrong with that, I’m just pointing it out. And I liked that it was dark and sinister, the way I think magic should be. The way the magic is tangled throughout the centuries is great too. The estate, Pendura, in Cornwall that Gavin retreats to where his aunt is living, is an interesting place as well. It’s almost suspended in time and home to creatures that are only known to exist in the imagination.

Advent is the first book in a trilogy, and according to the author’s website, the second book, Anarchy, it will be out in September in the US. After writing this review, I think I might have talked myself into looking at the second book after all.

Advent

By James Treadwell

Emily Bestler Books/ATRIA

ISBN: 9781451661668