A Vision of Fire

A Vision of Fire (The Earthend Saga #1)
Authors ~ Gillian Anderson & Jeff Rovin

As probably most people who will have randomly come across A Vision of Fire, I picked up this book because of Gillian Anderson.

If you've never heard of Gillian Anderson before, well you are definitely not a child of the 90's with a nostalgia of The X-Files

I live in Vancouver, BC, where The X-Files was originally filmed and I distinctly remember watching the show with my mom and on nights when I was babysitting.   So yes, an old love of Dana Scully and Fox Mulder is what propelled me to read this book.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Renowned child psychologist Caitlin O’Hara is a single mom trying to juggle her job, her son, and a lackluster dating life. Her world is suddenly upturned when Maanik, the daughter of India’s ambassador to the United Nations, starts speaking in tongues and having violent visions. Caitlin is sure that her fits have something to do with the recent assassination attempt on her father—a shooting that has escalated nuclear tensions between India and Pakistan to dangerous levels—but when teenagers around the world start having similar outbursts, Caitlin begins to think that there’s a more sinister force at work. 

In Haiti, a student claws at her throat, drowning on dry land. In Iran, a boy suddenly and inexplicably sets himself on fire. Animals, too, are acting irrationally, from rats in New York City to birds in South America to ordinary house pets. With Asia on the cusp of nuclear war, Caitlin must race across the globe to uncover the mystical links among these seemingly unrelated incidents in order to save her patient—and perhaps the world.

A Vision of Fire isn't a great book, but neither is it a bad book.  It's mediocre in everything it does.  From combining Norse, Voodoo and Aliens, to Caitlin O'Hara having a deaf son who provides her with the ability to understand unspoken languages, A Vision of Fire tries to do to much and doesn't really succeed with anything.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy reading A Vision of Fire, I did, but it isn't a great book, it's just middle of the road, something to read in-between other more exciting books.  

 

Is Death Really the End?

A Review of Afterlife
Author ~ Marcus Sakey

There are some books that you just read that have no effect on you, there are some books you read that make you cry, other books that make you laugh, and then there is Afterlife, which makes you think about life and death.  

In Marcus Sakey's new book, Afterlife, he explores life after death and a love that transcends both.  Not only does Afterlife make you ponder the meaning of life, but it is also filled with pop culture references that made me chuckle every time I came upon them.  I found that it made the character of Will Brody more relatable, despite actually being dead for most of the story (don't worry, that's not a spoiler). 

When FBI agent will Brody tries to stop a serial sniper form terrorizing Chicago,  little does he know that the sniper is possessed from an evil from beyond the grave. When Will loses his life to the sniper he discovers that there is more after death then he ever believed.

Claire McCoy, FBI task force leader, and secret love of Will Brody, is devastated by the loss of her agent and lover. She becomes even more consumed with discovering the snipers identity and walks herself into a dangerous situation, subsequently loosing her life, but taking the snipers life with her.

In the afterlife, Will and Claire find each other and are horrified to discover beings that devour the souls of the dead, some of these beings are so powerful the can "ride" the living.

It's up to Will and Claire to lead the other souls in the Afterlife, standing up to these beings so called gods before they can continue killing the living.

I have to admit, it took me quite a long time to write this review, I found myself struggling to articulate how I felt about this book.  I really did enjoy it, and at times I found it hard to put down, which for me is the sign of an good story, but it was almost like there was so much going on, I didn't know how to write about it. 

At a certain point, all I can do was to write down a few thoughts and press the publish button.  Would I recommend this book to someone else, yes, and I would tell them that it was an interesting and enjoyable read.  Am I excited about the prospect of Afterlife becoming a movie, I sure am.  I think that it could make a stunning movie and provide a lot of interesting discussions about the meaning of life and death.

4 Penguins

I received an free ARC of Afterlife from Thomas & Mercer via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review ~ Pandemic (The Extinction Files #1)

Pandemic (The Extinction Files #1)
Author ~ A.G. Riddle

Desmond Hughes,  awakens in a hotel room in Berlin, with no memory of how he got there and a dead body on the floor.  The only clue to his past is a hidden phone number with the message “warn her” to Dr. Peyton Shaw, leading epidemiologist for the CDC.  Meanwhile Peyton is on a plane to a small village in Kenya to investigate an Ebola-like outbreak.  

 As the outbreak spreads across the world and Peyton searches for the it's origins, she begins to believe that there is more to this disease than meets the eye and that Desmond may just hold the key to saving millions of lives across the globe.

 I really enjoyed Pandemic,  A.G. Riddle’s most recent novel and I'm looking forward to the upcoming sequels.  This is quite the complicated plot filled with tons of conspiracies and coincidences, but if you can overlook all the coincidences that keep happening it is actually an enjoyable read.  I’ve always enjoyed a good biohazard/pandemic story, even having mild thoughts as a child that maybe one day I'd work for the Canadian equivalent of the CDC or USAMRIID.  

I was engaged with the mystery of the story from the initial prologue right to the last sentence.  Parts of the mystery of the story I was able to figure out prior to the big reveal and other parts of the mystery remained as such until A.G. Riddle revealed them to me. My only major complaint about the story is that there are a ton of characters, and I felt that their stories were sometimes lacking in development despite the fact that Pandemic is 696 pages.  I also felt that then ending seemed a bit rushed, however that didn't disuade me from placing a pre-order for the second book of the series, Genome.

Ack! Apologies are in order

Hello everyone!  I wanted to send out a quick apology that my next book review is taking so long.  I'm actually almost finished writing it and I'll have it posted shortly.  

The reason for the delay is that I found myself getting a little overwhelmed trying to write a long and detailed review of the books I've been reading.  It it started feeling like is was a chore instead of something fun to do and as I read more and more books, the thought of writing long reviews of them became something I was dreading.  I didn't want to give up doing the book reviews, but I also needed to figure out a way to continue to enjoy reading and not dread writing the review.  

It took me some time to finally decided what I wanted to do with the book review section of my website.  In the end, I came up with the idea to write the reviews in a different manner than I had started out with, the biggest change is that I'm not going to worry about how long they are.  Some books I just really don't have anything to say and others I have a tone of stuff to say and those books that I didn't really have anything to say about them were incredibly stressful to write "enough" words about them.  So from this point forward some of my reviews might be short and to the point while others will be more detailed.  I'm going to let the writing just come and not pressure myself to reach a specific word count.  I feel that this will be a good compromise between continuing with the reviews and not overwhelming myself with trying to become a wordsmith.

You may be wondering what I have read in the meantime since my last review. Well I've read twelve and a half books between May and June.  Eleven of those books you'll find  have a short review in the post, with a fuller review of the book Pandemic (The Extinction Files #1) by A.G. Riddle as my next "full length" review.  I hope you enjoy reading the mini-reviews.

Mini Book Reviews

#1) The Seventh Plague by James Rollins
A pandemic style story with ancient Egyptian origins.  The member of Sigma Force have to discover who is trying to unleash a plague straight out of the bible.  This isn't one of my favourite of the Sigma Force stories.  I've been finding that each story seems to be getting a little bit more and more ridiculous as  this series has been going on.  I also found that The Seventh Plague seemed to be action scene followed by action scene without a ton of character development.  This being the twelve book in the series (with a bunch of novellas too) I wonder if James Rollins is getting tired of Sigma Force.  I hope the next book is better.

2.5 Penguins

#2) Syndrome E by Franck Thilliez (translated from French into English by Mark Polizzotti)
The North American debut of Frank Thilliez will provide you with one of the best murder mysteries I've read.  The story starts off with an old-film connoisseur who ends up blind after viewing his most recent acquisition, an odd film from the 50's.  While his ex-girlfriend investigates his blindness, she discovers that the film is connected with 5 bodies that were recently discovered in the woods.  This murder-thriller is filled with shocking plot twist that will have you travelling from France to Canada, Egypt and Rwanda and keep you guessing right until the very last sentence and beyond.

5 Penguins

#3) Bred to Kill By Franck Thilliez (translated from French into English by Mark Polizzotti)
The sequel to Syndrome E.  While investigating the brutal animal attack of a graduate student, it is discovered that she was actually murdered.  The investigation leads us into the Alps only to discover that a thirty-thousand-year-old virus has been discovered and their are plans to unleash it on the world.    

Bred to Kill picks up about a year after the events in Syndrome E.  While the murder mystery of Bred to Kill isn't quite as gripping as Syndrome E, the personal development of the police detectives more than makes up for it.  I wish that I could either read French or that more of Franck Thilliez's novels were translated into English.

5 Penguins

#4) American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The main idea behind American Gods are that gods exist because people believe in them.  American Gods centres around Shadow and his work as an errand boy for Mr. Wednesday.  

A cross between fantasy, fiction and ancient mythology American Gods is Neil Gaiman at his best.  It's a real shame that I just don't really like Neil Gaiman.  I read the book because the show was coming out and I wanted to see what it was all about.  For 3/4 of the book, I found it just barely interesting enough to keep reading and it wasn't until the last quarter of the book that I was final hooked.  This book took be 12 days to read, which may not seem like a lot to some, but when I finish a book on average every 2-3 days, this was an extremely long time for me.

1 Penguins

#5) Snapshot by Brandon Sanderson
This short novella is a science fiction detective mystery.   At some undetermined point in the future we gain the ability to produce a "snapshot" of the day.  An exact recreation of any given date.  Detectives use the snapshot to help solves murders.  

I really enjoyed this novella.  The idea of a snapshot was quite creative.  I'm not a huge fan of short stories or novellas because just as I'm really getting into them, the story is over.  I felt that Brandon Sanderson did an excellent job of balancing the shortness of Snapshot while still providing the details needed for me to enjoy.

4 Penguins

#6) The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Some point in the future, after a great tribulation, earths humanity only has a dim relocation of humanity before, a small village roots out "deviations" and destroys them as abominations.  The Cyrysalids focuses on one boy, who hides that he his a deviation.  

I enjoyed reading The Chrysalids.  This is one of the books that tends to be on the high-school syllabus, but I always had the English teacher that taught the "other" books on the syllabus, so I never read this in school.  I was entertained throughout, my only complaint being that the ending of the book seemed a little rushed and I would like to have know what happens afterwards.

4 Penguins

#7) Thrawn by Timothy Zhan
Grand Admiral Thrawn was first introduced in Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire Series.  Now considered to be Legends and no longer cannon in the Star Wars world, many believe that it was this series and it's captivating antagonist that brought Star Wars back into mainstream and paved the way for the re-releases and prequels, and now an entire world of movies.  Disney was very smart to bring Grand Admiral Thrawn into Cannon and they were even smarter to have Timothy Zhan write Thrawn's history.  I grew up reading the now legends Star Wars novels, and while a lot of them were and are quite terrible stories, there were also a ton of them that were quite amazing, including the Heir to the Empire Series.  Thrawn is the first book in the new canon that I have really enjoyed.  It reintroduces us to the blue skinned, red eyed Chiss commander and documents his rise through the Galactic Empire to become a Grand Admiral.  If you've only ever seen the movies, you can easily read Thrawn and be captivated by this master of military strategy.  

4 Penguins

#8) Calamity (Reckoners #3) by Brandon Sanderson
The third and final book in the Reckoners Series by Brandon Sanderson, and my favourite of the three.  The professor has gone rogue and it's up to David and the rest of the Reckoners to save him from himself.  These stories are about the corruption that the people who've gained special powers have to face.  

I found the first two books in this series filled with a lot of teen angst, and if put me off reading the final book for a long time.  The teen angst is gone from this book which I was very relieved.  Overall, it's a good wrap-up for the series, although the ending and final climatic event felt a little rushed.

3.5 Penguins

#9) Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton
During the late 1800's while the gold-rush towns are popping up everywhere, two rival palaeontologists, Marsh and Cope, are on the hunt for dinosaur fossils.  William Johnson, a Yale student with more privilege than common-sense makes a bet with one of his school-mates and finds himself in the West assisting on a dig.  When he is abandoned by the paranoid Marsh he joins forces with Cope and discovers a grave of huge historical significance.   With this find comes grave danger and his life is on the line.  

This is Michael Crichton at best, blending history, science and fiction flawlessly.  The palaeontologists, Marsh and Cope, are based of real people and the history of finding dinosaur fossils in the West are loosely true.  William Johnson is the fictional made up character that allows Crichton to blend history and fiction together in a cohesive story.  

4 Penguins

#10) Spin (Spin Saga #1) by Robert Charles Wilson
When the stars disappear, replaced by a black membrane, three friends will be forever changed once it's discovered that the black membrane has placed the Earth in a temporal stasis.  

With a cast of well developed characters, I was drawn into the story right from the get-go.  The narration takes place in both the past and present.  The present day narration takes some time before you understand what's going on and only until the past narration catches up do you fully get the scope of the story.  I very much enjoyed this science fiction story and at the time of writing this review I'm currently reading the second one in the series, Aixs.

5 Penguins

#11) Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn
Human Martian, Polly Newton, is sent to her with her brother Charles to the pretentious Galileo Academy on Earth.  While there Polly and Charles struggle to fit in with the privilege Earth teenagers as strange accidents start to happen.  

I really wanted to enjoy this story as it seemed very intriguing, a fish out of water type story, but I didn't.  I hated the main character, Polly.  I found her to be a whiny person filled with teen angst and never learned from her mistakes.  The story itself was well written though, which is why I was able to finish it and not give up half way through.

2 Penguins

Review ~ Company Town

company-town

Company Town
Author: Madeline Ashby

In Madeline Ashby’s ambitious cyberpunk novel, Company Town, we see a futuristic Canada, where living on an oil-rig off the coast of Newfoundland, is part of everyday life. Entire towns have been created on these gigantic oil-rigs and the people who live there either work the oil-rig or support it in some way.  Augmenting yourself with the newest bio-tech is just one way to pass the times, the other major pass-time is securing the services sex-workers, who are now unionized and come with bodyguard protection.

When the company town of New Arcadia is purchased by the Lynch Family, Hwa, former bodyguard to the sex-workers, is manipulated into becoming the personal bodyguard and trainer for the youngest Lynch member, Joel.  As the heir to the Lynch Company, Joel’s protection is paramount to the prosperity of New Arcadia, and now his protection falls to Hwa, one of the last un-augmented humans in the world.

When a friend and former sex-worker of Hwa’s turns up dead, and an attempted murder on her own life, Hwa realizes there is more to the Lynch family than meets they eye.  As she delves into the murder, she discovers that more than one friend has ended up dead.  Who is this killer that seems to be extracting revenge on sex-workers?  Is she also a target of the killers ire? Is the Lynch family somehow involved with this killer?  As Hwa gets more involved, she discovers that time isn’t linear and that the killer can be anywhere.

The pacing of Company Town is a little odd, with what feels like entire sections of the story left out.  For example as a bodyguard, Hwa gets knocked around a bit during her duties.  There are multiple scenes where she loses consciousness at the end of a chapter, with the next chapter starting out a few days later with Hwa in another location and talking with different characters, and no mention of how she survived the last encounter.  The entire third act of the story was also incredibly rushed.  Ashby spent a great deal of time during the first and second acts setting up the world and her characters, and just as the big boss-battle happens, Hwa gets knocked about again and loses consciousness.  When next we see Hws, the battle is long over, months having passed.  No mention what happened or how she survived.  It seemed like Ashby was afraid of running out of room on the page to write, so just skipped over parts to advance to the final chapter, leaving out some stuff in the middle.

Up until the ending of the story I was really enjoying the world, the tech, and the characters that Ashby created.  The third act is the downfall of this novel, leaving you questioning what really happened during the final boss battle.  Company Town is an enjoyable read as far as plot and world building are concerned, but the pacing leaves little to be desired.

2 Penguins

Review ~ The Wizard Killer: Season 1

The Wizard Killer ~ Season 1
Author: Adam Dreece

Prepare yourself for an adventure in this post-apocalyptic futuristic fantasy story penned by indie author Adam Dreece. The Wizard Killer ~ Season 1 is written in an episodic, serialized style that makes this a quick and engaging read.  Each chapter is a little adventure in of itself, will all the chapters making up the overall story arc.  From the opening sentence when the protagonist wakes up in the forest, discovering that he has been impaled with a sword to the final passage where...well I won’t tell you since that would be a spoiler, needless to say I was thoroughly engaged.   

The protagonist, whose name you never do find out in Season 1, wakes up with a cloudy memory of who he is and what has happened to him.  As he sets out to find some semblance of civilization among all the desolation of this world, memories start to come back to him.  When he encounters a commune of people that have a hidden agenda the action really starts to take off.

My only real complaint with The Wizard Killer ~ Season 1 is that I can’t help but be disappointed that this story is written in an episodic serialized style.  This world that Decree has created is so fascinating.  I was so intrigued that I really wanted a longer story with more character and world development, and where I wasn’t left with quite so many questions.  What happened to this world?  Who is this protagonist?  What kind of powers does he have?  Where is everyone? Magic guns powered by mana?  Levitating Cars that no longer run?  So many questions and definitely not enough answers.  Even with my complaint of The Wizard Killer ~ Season 1 not being long enough I can’t wait to read Season 2.  Hopefully my questions will be answered, while also providing new questions to ask.  Think of The Wizard Killer ~ Season 1 as a graphic novel without the pictures and you will thoroughly enjoy it too.

4 Penguins