Review: Zombie Abbey

Posted on April 21st, 2018 @ 20:28
Filed Under Books | Leave a Comment

Zombie AbbeyZombie Abbey by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

My rating:

Blurb:

And the three teenage Clarke sisters thought what they’d wear to dinner was their biggest problem…

Lady Kate, the entitled eldest.
Lady Grace, lost in the middle and wishing she were braver.
Lady Lizzy, so endlessly sunny, it’s easy to underestimate her.

Then there’s Will Harvey, the proud, to-die-for—and possibly die with!—stable boy; Daniel Murray, the resourceful second footman with a secret; Raymond Allen, the unfortunate-looking young duke; and Fanny Rogers, the unsinkable kitchen maid.

Upstairs! Downstairs! Toss in some farmers and villagers!

None of them ever expected to work together for any reason.

But none of them had ever seen anything like this.

Review:

[I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. ]

A story with Austen undertones… and zombies. (I’ve seen it compared to ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’, but not having read that one, I honestly can’t tell.)
At Porthampton Abbey, a couple of years after World War I, the Clarke family has to contend with the problem of the entail, just like in ‘Pride and Prejudice’—meaning that if one of the daughters (preferably the elder, Kate) doesn’t marry very soon and has a male heir, their family will lose their estate after the death of Earl Clarke. Which is why the latter has invited a couple of potential suitors to stay for the weekend, including an older businessman from London, a duke, and a recently discovered cousin who’s very likely to inherit anyway, considering he’s the only male heir (but here’s to hope he’ll marry Kate, and all will be well in the world). And the story would go its posh, merry way, if not for the strange death of a villager, found half-devoured… A villager whom his widow has to kill a second time with a bullet to the head.

The beginning of this story definitely has its appeal: the Clarkes display a comical mix of common sense (Kate when it comes to hunting, for instance) and quirky, whimsical inability to grasp that other people are not only their servants, they’re, well, human beings with their own lives, too. This was a conflict in itself in the book, with the ‘Upstairs’ people having to realise that they have to pay more attention to the ‘Downstairs’ people. The build-up to the part where zombies actually make an appearance was a little slow, but in itself, it didn’t bother me, because discovering the characters (and rolling my eyes while trying to guess who’d kick the bucket) was quite fun. Granted, some of the characters weren’t very likeable; the earl felt too silly, Kate too insensitive… but on the other hand, I liked where Lizzy and Grace started and how they progressed—Lizzy as the girl whom everyone thinks stupid, yet who turns out to be level-headed when things become dangerous, and Grace being likely the most humane person in her family. The suitors, too, looked rather bland at first, however a couple of them started developing more of a (pleasant) personality. And I quite liked Fanny as well, the quiet-at-first but assertive maid who refuses to let ‘propriety’ walk all over charity.

After a while, though, the style became a little repetitive. The way the various characters’ point of views were introduced at the beginning of each chapter or sub-chapter, for some reason, tended to grate on my nerves, I’m not exactly sure why; and while I don’t have issues with casts of more than 2-3 POV characters, here the focus regularly went back to some action already shown in a previous chapter, but this time from another character’s point of view, which felts redundant.

I also thought that while there -were- zombies, I’d have liked seeing a little more of them. There was tension, but I never felt the story was really scary (for me and for the characters both), and the moments when a character got hurt was usually due to their being too stupid to live and doing something that no one in their sane mind should’ve done anyway.

Finally, I’m not satisfied with the ending: I don’t know it there’ll be a sequel or not, but if it’s meant to be a standalone, then it leaves way too many things open.

Conclusion: 2.5 /3 stars. I’m curious about how the situation at Porthampton Abbey will unfold, and if there were a sequel, that’d be good, because it’d mean the characters could finish growing, too.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Review: The School for Psychics

Posted on April 18th, 2018 @ 20:19
Filed Under Books | Leave a Comment

School for Psychics (School for Psychics, #1)School for Psychics by K.C. Archer

My rating:

Blurb:

Teddy Cannon isn’t your typical twenty-something woman. She’s resourceful. She’s bright. She’s scrappy. She can also read people with uncanny precision. What she doesn’t realize: she’s actually psychic.

When a series of bad decisions leads Teddy to a run-in with the police, a mysterious stranger intervenes. He invites her to apply to the School for Psychics, a facility hidden off the coast of San Francisco where students are trained like Delta Force operatives: it’s competitive, cutthroat, and highly secretive. They’ll learn telepathy, telekinesis, investigative skills, and SWAT tactics. And if students survive their training, they go on to serve at the highest levels of government, using their skills to protect America, and the world.

In class, Teddy befriends Lucas, a rebel without a cause who can start and manipulate fire; Jillian, a hipster who can mediate communication between animals and humans; and Molly, a hacker who can apprehend the emotional state of another individual. But just as Teddy feels like she’s found where she might belong, strange things begin to happen: break-ins, missing students, and more. It leads Teddy to accept a dangerous mission that will ultimately cause her to question everything—her teachers, her friends, her family, and even herself.

Review:

[I received a copy of this book through Netgalley.]

An enjoyable fast-read when it came to the ‘psychic powers’ theme. I really liked the premise: a young woman who’s been making questionable decisions, and gets a second chance in a school for people with psychic abilities, where they’re trained to protect and server… but a few people on the inside have different agendas, and it’s a constant game of trying to figure out what’s at stake, and if it’s going to be a bunch of revelations, or something much more lethal. The powers the students have are varied, ranging from precognition to telepathy and even pyrokinesis, and I liked how the novel tried to bring a scientific approach to it: after all, they’re training people who’re going to end up working for the FBI or NSA.

The first scene also engaged me from the beginning, what’s with Teddy being banned from Las Vegas casinos, but still sneaking into one, disguised as a different woman, to hopefully win the money she owes a Russian crime boss, because otherwise her own parents will be targeted. Well, OK, nevermind that she should never have let things go that far, all the more if she’s so good at reading people at the poker table, but ‘questionable decisions’ being a key here, alright, I can go with that.

On the other hand, I never really got a good feeling for Teddy, or for the other characters. Some of them had a sort of ‘larger than life’ vibe, with their quirks (the animal medium who likes doing yoga naked, the ex-cop who’s a charmer and can literally set things on fire, the hacker who’s also an empath…); but they remained fairly one-dimensional. Teddy barely thought of her family except in the beginning, we know nothing of the others except for a couple of things like ‘his family’s rich and he has a boat’, and so when the story took a more action/heist-oriented turn, it was hard to root for them.

The other thing I didn’t like—and which contributed to my not enjoying the sotry as much as I hoped—was the globally juvenile aspects. These people are 20-something (Teddy’s 24, and Pyro must be at least 25 considering he served in the police for some time, and I doubt you just start there at 15 or so), but the whole Whitfield academy had a strong high school feeling, and I constantly thought I was reading a YA novel when in fact it was marketed as geared towards adult, with adult characters. I don’t mind YA in general, even though I have my gripes about a lot of books; I don’t think that ‘because it’s YA, it’s necessarily stupid and uninteresting.’ This said, the aforementioned gripes involve a certain number of tropes that I find cringe-worthy, such as the mandatory romance and love triangle, the professor who immediately favours certain students and begrudges the heroine and her friends, or the whole ‘school stars vs. misfits’ aspect. And those tropes were clearly present here, to the point of making me forget that those characters were, uh, two years from going to work for the FBI? Suspension of disbelief was then shattered every time forensics or the shooting range was mentioned; it’s like the story couldn’t make up his mind about whether it was meant to be about teenagers or about adult people.

Not sure if I’ll be interested in the sequel.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Review: Paris Adrift

Posted on April 15th, 2018 @ 12:56
Filed Under Books | Leave a Comment

Paris AdriftParis Adrift by E.J. Swift

My rating:

Blurb:

Paris was supposed to save Hallie. Now… well, let’s just say Paris has other ideas.

There’s a strange woman called The Chronometrist who will not leave her alone. Garbled warnings from bizarre creatures keep her up at night. And there’s a time portal in the keg room of the bar where she works.

Soon, Hallie is tumbling through the turbulent past and future Paris, making friends, changing the world—and falling in love.

But with every trip, Hallie loses a little of herself, and every infinitesimal change she makes ripples through time, until the future she’s trying to save suddenly looks nothing like what she hoped for…

Review:

[I received a copy of this book through Netgalley.]

I love myself a time travel story, and both the premise as well as the cover here caught my eye. Unfortunately, even though ultimately it was a quick an easy read (as opposed to a book I trudged through), I wasn’t sold on the story or the characters.

I think this is due to the prologue letting me expect a more ‘targetted’ time travel story: a group of time travellers (called ‘incumbents’) holed up in a bunker in Prague, the world dying around them due to a nuclear apocalypse. This war having been triggered by a speech made at the Sacre-Coeur in Paris, the group decides to send one of them back in time in order to prevent that man’s lineage from ever starting. But there’s a catch here: these incumbents can only travel using ‘anomalies’ to which they’re attuned, and since they can’t use someone else’s Anomaly, in this case they need to send someone with an Anomaly in Paris. Which turns out to be Léon, an incumbent with too many travels under his belt, who may or may not be able to perform -all- the time jumps needed to alter the past. Léon does jump, but his aim tis to find a budding traveller in 2017 Paris, and guide them to discover their Anomaly, then to perform the required jumps while they’re still ‘fresh’, so to speak. Along with Léon comes the chronometrist, a former traveller who lost her body (and probably her sanity, too), and whose task is to guide the new incumbent.

…And that’s where it started to turn wrong, because for most of the book, the plot felt only remotely touched, with our new incumbent, Hallie, being guided in such a circumvented way that from beginning to end, I’m not sure she really got what she was doing. And I’m not sure why that was, considering one of Léon’s directives (stated in the prologue, no spoiler here) was to guide her once her ‘mission’ was accomplished, but that… didn’t happen? It was weird. It mostly consisted of Hallie stumbling through her Anomaly, ending up in a different period, bumbling around trying not to get in trouble, with the chronometrist taunting her now and then. It tied up in the end, yet I never got rid of the feeling that plot-wise, the book was plodding rather than making progress.

Character-wise, too, I believe that time spent on stumbling around was meant for character development, but in the end, I didn’t get that much of a feel for Hallie and the people around her, and they end up rather boring to me.

Now, to be fair, I really liked the way the novel approached solutions to ‘prevent a person from being born’. In a lot of time travel stories, the usual approach is to kill them (the Sarah Connor effect), which obviously raises its lot of ethical questions. Here, Hallie found (well, was pushed to) other ways, and that was refreshing to see.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Review: Wendigo Rising

Posted on April 12th, 2018 @ 20:00
Filed Under Books | Leave a Comment

Wendigo Rising (Yancy Lazarus #3)Wendigo Rising by James A. Hunter

My rating:

Blurb:

Bigfoot is real. Yancy Lazarus—mage, bluesman, and rambler—knows because there happens to be a nine-foot-tall, walking myth standing in the road, flagging him down.

Yancy just can’t escape his reputation as a supernatural Fix-it man even when cruising through the forgotten backwoods of Montana. Turns out Bigfoot has a serious problem on his hands: one of his own has gone rogue, developing a taste for the flesh of humans and Sasquatch alike. A greater Wendigo has risen for the first time in thousands of years and if Yancy can’t stop the creature it could be a slaughter for the residents of a rural Montana town.

But even with the monstrous threat looming on the horizon, Yancy has bigger fish to fry. He’s working as an agent of Fate, attempting to put the kibosh on a nefarious scheme, aimed at upsetting the tenuous balance between the supernatural nations. When your boss is Lady Luck, however, nothing is ever left to chance, and his two cases may have more in common than it appears. If he can’t figure out the missing link it could usher in a new world order: an age of inhuman creatures and walking nightmares … one where Yancy Lazarus doesn’t exist.

Review:

[I received a copy of this book through Netgalley.]

Still an original setting, one that makes use of less known supernatural/folklore creatures (such as Sasquatches—I don’t think I’ve seen a single vampire yet in this series, and this is refreshing). We also find again some of the previously involved characters, such as agent Ferraro, Yancy’s old Vietnam comrade Greg, and James from the Guild, along with unlikely allies in the person of, well, Bigfoot and his daughter (he’s not named Bigfoot, although Yancy keeps calling him Kong, for want of being able to remember his full name). To be fair, at times I preferred these two Sasquatches, once they got past their tendency to refuse to explain their real reasons.

Some of the action scenes were pretty interesting. There’s a curious ‘battle of the bands’ at some point, mixing music with combat, and that isn’t something I’ve often read. Other such scenes left me quirking an eyebrow, though, like the one with Cassius. I quite dig Cassius, but I’d like to know more about him, apart from the little Yancy tells us about him, and the fight scene I’m thinking about, the one at the end, was… OK, I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to make of it. It was fun in a WTF way, but it jarred with the rest of the UF/supernatural-oriented action. I think a little less action in parts would’ve been good here.

This book tended to annoy me more than the previous ones when it comes to Yancy’s personality, though. I’m all OK for the grumpy, no-strings-attached guy who prefers to live in his car, but the way he acts at times is much too childish for someone with so many years of experience, and especially so many battles and betrayals behind him. I guess this is why I particularly appreciated the moment when ‘monsters’ put him back in his place regarding ‘all the people they had killed’ vs. ‘did you ever wonder if the monsters you killed had friends and families?’

Conclusion: 2.5 stars, there are good things in this series, and the end paves the way for more, since part of the threat is gone, but not fully… and things could still go terribly wrong.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Review: Flip

Posted on April 8th, 2018 @ 16:21
Filed Under Books | Leave a Comment

Flip (Slip, #3)Flip by David Estes

My rating:

Blurb:

In a scared and broken world where someone must die before another can be born, one family has been torn apart by fate and a ruthless government, only to find themselves suddenly thrust back together with one chance to save their struggling nation.

Benson and Harrison Kelly and their newfound allies within the rebel consortium are finally fighting back, but the Department of Population Control and its ultimate weapon, known as the Destroyer, won’t rest until they’re all dead. The task will take them into the belly of the beast and force them to face a secret about their past that will change everything.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Lifers, Jarrod, has a new weapon, in the form of an angry, desperate twelve-year-old boy, and he won’t hesitate to use him to destroy an entire city as part of a hidden agenda only just starting to be revealed.

The fate of humanity hinges on a series of impossible choices made by those with nothing to lose. One family. One chance to flip everything they know on its head. One action-packed finale that will leave you breathless.

Review:

[I received a copy of this book through Netgalley.]

The conclusion to this trilogy, and a satisfying one, although I found the ending a little too quick and predictable.

One of the things I liked here is that we got more information about the world around the RUSA. Not a lot, of course, the trilogy’s aim wasn’t to paint a full geopolitical portrait; nevertheless, I always appreciate it when sci-fi/dystopian settings take into account not only to focus country, but also the others. This shakes off the ‘pocket universe’ feeling that is very often prevalent in this genre. In fact, it’d almost deserve a spin-off so that the author can have fun with what’s happening around and outside the RUSA.

Like in the previous books, I also enjoyed the family relationships. Benson and Harrison could’ve been awful to each other, even when thrown in the same predicament, with constant jealousy and resentment. While there were some tensions (it was unavoidable), though, they embraced each other’s respective existences, as a discovery of the brother they didn’t know they had, instead of embracing negative feelings. Which was great. And which leads me to another aspect I enjoyed: the toned-down romance. Yes, there is a romantic subplot, however:
- It’s not the main focus;
- It doesn’t cause the characters involved do stupid things and make stupid decisions because LUUUUURVE (I’m so tired of those silly romance plots where the world is ending but the main character is still too busy pondering which of the guys/girls s/he’s in love with);
- I mentioned this in my review about volume 2 already: when Benson is concerned, I liked seeing such a predictable romance -not- happen. Having everyone find their Twue Wuv or whatever would’ve been too saccharine for me. The focus here is FAMILY, not romantic love, and especially not romantic love as the be-all and end-all and the Highest Form of Love Ever.

Bonus point for Jarrod’s arc. That character was a POS and I hated his guts, but you know what, that’s GOOD, because it means I cared. He helped emphasize one end of the spectrum (the other end being the corrupt government), with his ‘a means to an end’ attitude and terrorist ways, including what he roped Geoffrey into doing. Who does that to a kid, spewing BS such as ‘your sister would be so proud of you’? Yeah. Exactly.

Now, to expand a little on my comments about the ending:

- ‘Too quick’: that is, compared to all the reversal of fortunes previously encountered.
- Predictable: there were quite a few more twists in this instalment, with the last secrets being revealed. However, as a result, the ending felt somewhat… uneventful? As if it was indeed the last sprint, but one that led to no more surprises. Don’t mistake me, it’s a good conclusion, only just a little too well packaged and ‘clean’ and neatly tied, for a series that was grittier than a lot of YA series out there… so I guess I expected something more bittersweet, with some last twist, maye?
- Some parts were anti-climactic, like what happened with the president.
- I gather that the Destroyer is gone, buuuuut… Like THAT? Now that was disappointing, all the more since we didn’t get to see him do much in the first half of the novel. Alright, as a villain, he was ‘too much’ anyway. Yet that end felt almost… comical? And it jars with the darker tones of the trilogy, because deep down, Domino is a broken human being—he was already deranged before, but he was also treated like an object, stuffed with mechanical parts, brought back from the brink of death instead of being let go with dignity, and generally it was as if everybody discarded his humanity from the beginning, never giving him any chance at all. (I’m not saying a redemption arc would’ve been good here—he was too far gone. Just… not -that- kind of ending.)

Conclusion: 3.5 stars. In spite of my criticisms, I did enjoy this last volume.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Older posts »
Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: