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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Melanie's Week in Review - August 17, 2014

Melanie's Week in Review - August 17, 2014

Well after the embarrassing events of last week (only having finished one book) I stepped it up a bit this week by reading 2 and one short story. The short story was so short its not worth telling you about so I will focus this week's WIR on full length novels. So what did I read?

Melanie's Week in Review - August 17, 2014Qwill very kindly pointed out that Engraved, the 5th in the Cherry St Croix series was available on NetGalley. Needless to say I dropped everything else and rushed off to request it. I will be writing a full review of Engraved (Carina Press, 8/11/2014)  so keep your eye out for it. It has already been released so if you are a diehard fan of the series then its available at all good retailers (and perhaps some not so good ones!) - eBook format only. I can't say too much other than I really enjoyed it and, despite all the action, Engraved has some relatively pleasant moments for Cherry who seems to go to hell and back (and then back again) during every book.

Melanie's Week in Review - August 17, 2014Next on my list to read was Blightborn by Chuck Wendig (Skyscape, 7/29/14). This is the 2nd novel in his dystopian YA Heartland Trilogy. Both my husband and I really enjoyed Under The Empyrean Sky. This trilogy is no less harrowing than many of Wendig's other books but he can really write convincingly from a teenager's POV.

Cael is back and still on the run with his friends Rigo and Lane. Cael is determined to rescue his sister Merelda and his girlfriend Gwennie who has found that life as a lottery winner on the flotilla isn't as glamorous as it was made out to be. Chasing Cael are Boyland Jnr, his obligated Wanda, Rigo's father, as well as, a mysterious hobo who is out for revenge. The story is told from several different POVs including those of Cael, Gwennie, Merelda, Cael's friends Rigo and Lane plus a few scenes with the misfit Wanda. This works well as the action occurs both on the flotilla and in the Heartland where Cael and friends have been caught up in a terrorist group called the Sleeping Dogs. Action and different shades of friendship are all mixed together with the folklore, mythology and religion of the Heartland. The Maize Witch is introduced who is the Heartland's version of the bogeyman. She is used to scare young kids into thinking they will be turned into 'the blighted' those poor individuals who are part human and part plant. Is she myth or is she real? Well you will have to read it to find out.

This series is another great example of Wendig's prodigious imagination. In Blightborn we learn more about the engaging characters from book 1 along with some new characters who vacillate between being bad and not so bad or bad and very very bad. You are always kept guessing what will happen next to this plucky group of teenagers who are tied to one another through bonds of love and friendship. This is a great series and even if you aren't a fan of books aimed at younger readers. There is really something in this series for everyone.

Well that is it for me. One more book than last week and hope to keep whittling down my TBR. I wish you all a happy week in reading.

Review: Tempered by Karina Cooper

Author:  Karina Cooper
Series:  The St. Croix Chronicles 4
Publisher:  Carina Press, February 10, 2014
Format:  eBook,
List Price:  $3.99
eISBN:  9781426897924
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher via NetGalley

Review:  Tempered by Karina Cooper
Forced out of London's coal-blackened streets, Cherry St. Croix is faced with her most difficult undertaking yet: sobriety.

At long last, my guardian, the enigmatic Mr. Oliver Ashmore, has revealed himself-and his order is clear: I am to be dried out at once, regardless of my wishes.

I loathe the country estate I am imprisoned within. Footsteps follow me, voices call for me, and my sanity wavers. In my fevered dreams, I am haunted by those I failed, while waking proves no protection from the ghosts of my reckless past. The craving for laudanum plagues me. I require a distraction.

To unravel the alchemical mysteries of my mother's family, I must rely on Ashmore's tutelage. I am lured to the art and drawn by the secrets my guardian possesses. Yet the deeper I delve, the more I believe that something dreadful disturbs these haunted corridors. In my madness, I fear that what it wants me.

Melanie's Thoughts:

*This review contains spoilers*

Tempered is the fourth instalment of the Cherry St. Croix Chronicles and starts immediately after book 3, Corroded. Cherry has been rescued from The Menagerie by her guardian, Oliver Ashmore. He is taking her to the family estate to recover and to dry out from the opium that has ruled her life for years. Cherry's withdrawal from the drug is a living hell with the inevitable physical pain but also with nightmares that force her to relive the multitude of horrific events in her past. Cherry's drive and fight is whittled down during this period and it is a life or death struggle for sobriety. Cherry only has to pull her way through the pain and the fugue left by her drug addiction in order to learn about Ashmore, her mother and the alchemical arts studied by both her parents. Secrets are lurking at every turn and it will take everything Cherry has and more to fight her addiction and find out who she really is and what she is capable of.

I was really looking forward to Tempered as Cooper managed to leave us with such a huge cliff-hanger at the end of book 3 even after wrapping up so many plot threads from the previous books. Tempered almost felt like a stand-alone book as Cherry's story is told at her family's cold and crumbling estate and far away from London and the Menagerie where the last three books have been set. The story focused mainly on Cherry and Ashmore's relationship. He becomes the tool for her to learn about her mother. The chapters of the book involving Cherry's withdrawal from opium were particularly harrowing due to the realistic and believable way they were written. It was almost like you were there, suffering along with Cherry.

I didn't, however, warm to Oliver Ashmore as a character. I thought it was a bit odd how often comparisons where made to the colour of Cherry and Ashmore's hair and I thought that he was going to end up being related somehow. However, later in the novel I thought it even more unusual when these comparisons continued even after he becomes a romantic interest. I wasn't sure if I was 'reading' too much into this or I was missing the point. I also thought that given Cherry's character that she would have been less likely to pursue a romantic relationship with Ashmore given the disastrous way her first sexual encounter with Hawke ended. She was going through opium withdrawal so I will let her off with bad choices at this point. It felt in parts that the story is moving more towards PNR rather than its beginnings in steampunk or noir. I hope this isn't the case.

Cooper manages to wrap up yet another plot line that started back in book 1. It feels like she is really tying up loose ends. But what of the enigmatic Micajah Hawke?  He is mentioned but does not play a part in this instalment, much to my dismay. Hopefully, book 5 will see more of the Menagerie's bad boy ring master. I didn't enjoy Tempered as much as the others books in the St. Croix Chronicles. I thought it was quite similar in some respects to Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. In Wilde's story the young Dorian's life is linked to his portrait which stores his sins while he leads a life of debauchery and vice. In Tempered however, Ashmore stores the 'life force' of his victims in their portraits and fuels his immortality from them. Perhaps it was this similarity that helped me to predict what would happen next, something that I hadn't been able to do so far.  I do really enjoy the series though and I like the way that Cooper deals with a character that is so flawed and with such a debilitating addiction. I am looking forward to see what Cherry is up to next. Bring on book 5!

Review: The Furnace by Timothy S. Johnston

The Furnace
Series:  The Tanner Sequence 1
Author:  Timothy S. Johnston
Publisher:  Carina Press, December 23, 2013
Originally self-published September 19, 2011
Format:  eBook, 115,000 words
List Price:  $2.99
eISBN:  9781426897689
Review Copy: Provided by the Author

Review: The Furnace by Timothy S. Johnston
Dead Space, 2401 AD

Kyle Tanner is about to die. Alone, floating in a vacsuit only a few million kilometers from a massive, uncaring sun, he has barely enough time or juice to get out a distress signal before either his oxygen runs out or he succumbs to the radiation.

When the CCF sent investigator Kyle Tanner to SOLEX One, a solar energy harvester past Mercury, he thought it would be an open-and-shut murder case. A crew member was found dead, minus his head and hands. Not the worst Tanner has ever seen, but the deeper he delves, the more nightmarish it becomes. A shadowy figure, bleeding from his hands, assaults Tanner in his quarters. Then two more turn up dead, missing their heads and hands as well.

With no one to trust and everyone a suspect--even the intriguing chief engineer, Shaheen--Tanner must navigate a crew on the brink of madness to uncover a conspiracy that could threaten the whole of the human race. Even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice...

Brannigan's Review:

The Furnace by Timothy S. Johnston is set in a future ruled by an all-powerful military power. Each of the planets in our solar system have a military settlement. Kyle Tanner is a military crime investigator who has found success and unwanted fame for his ability to solve some of the most high-profile crimes across the known universe. It's his record of success that sends him on his current assignment to a space station orbiting the sun with a skeleton crew of scientists and military officers. When one of the men dies during a spacewalk, and has his head and hands cut off before an autopsy could be performed, Tanner is sent to the space station to investigate. While he thinks his job is to figure out if the man's death was an accident or a murder, he soon discovers there's much more going on than a single murder and it's up to him to not only stop the murder, but to also save the galaxy.

The Furnace is a fast-paced, science-fiction/thriller that takes you for a ride from the first page to the last. I've never read a book that uses so many different genres in such a skillful way. The Furnace could have been just a mystery set in a space station orbiting the Sun, but Johnston makes it much more by using aspects from military and medical thrillers to give the novel a fresh approach that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The mystery/crime in the story is just as fascinating as the characters. It evolves as the story progresses, which left me changing my mind as I learned there was so much more going on than I could have ever suspected at first. That said, there are a few events that take place that made me wonder why the characters chose to do certain things, but the ride is so enjoyable I didn't get thrown out of the story. In the end, The Furnace is a great ride that keeps you entertained and wanting more, while also planting very interesting ideas in your mind about future possibilities.

Because of the nature of the story and the military influence, there is descriptive violence and strong language, so I would recommend this book to adults who enjoy Science Fiction/Thrillers, Medical Thrillers or anyone who likes a quick, easy read. I look forward to reading Johnston's next book.

Read an interview with Timothy here.

Review: Corroded (The St. Croix Chronicles 3) by Karina Cooper

This review discusses plot points in previous novels of this series. There are SPOILERS!

Author:  Karina Cooper
Series:  The St. Croix Chronicles 3
Publisher:  Carina Press, September 23, 2013
Format:  eBook, 264 pages
List Price:  $3.99
ISBN:  9781426896392
Review copy:  Provided by the Publisher via NetGalley

Review: Corroded (The St. Croix Chronicles 3) by Karina Cooper
Hungry for vengeance, Cherry St. Croix is forced to the fog-ridden streets of Victorian London. My rival, a collector of bounties like myself, has murdered one of my own. In consequence, I have been removed from my house, my staff and all who would support me. I have nowhere else to turn, so I beg asylum within the Midnight Menagerie, London's decadent pleasure garden. Micajah Hawke's dominance there will not tolerate my presence for long. I am fixated on revenge, but I walk a razor's edge under his scrutiny. His wicked power is not easily ignored, and I must not allow myself to submit--no matter how sweet the sacrifice. Challenging my rival to a race is the only way to end this--no small task when the quarry is the murderous Jack the Ripper. As my enemies close in, I fear the consequences of this hunt. I am trapped between two killers, and what doesn't kill me may leave its scars forever.

Melanie's Thoughts:

The third in the Cherry St Croix series adds a new dimension to dark and foreboding. Cherry continues her search for both Jack the Ripper and the 'sweet tooth' who murdered her husband on their wedding day. She barely escaped being locked away by her vindictive mother-in-law who has always thought Cherry was not good enough to marry her son. Determined to find justice for her husband, her friends and the murdered sweets Cherry continues her search in the underbelly of London.  Luck is definitely not on her side as time has run out and The Veil wants the concoction that her father had poisoned her with in book 1. Cherry neither has the serum or the desire to give it to them but her hand might be forced as no one betrays The Veil and goes unpunished. The future looks as bleak as the landscape for the reluctant heroine.

Cherry's addiction to opium completely takes over her life and becomes more than just a crutch. The focus of her every step is dependent on when or how much resin she has to consume. Through her dependency we get an insight into her life before she was rescued as a young girl. Her time in the circus was truly horrific and it is plain to see how she came to be addicted to laudanum in order to escape the nightmare of those years. Despite this Cherry still manages to stay true to herself and to her mission despite the fact that most of it is seen through the fugue of a heroin high.

The enigmatic Micajah Hawke is ever present in Cherry's life as she uses the Menagerie as her base. Rather than learning more about Hawke I was left with ever more questions although there was plenty of development of his character during their interactions. Very few of the other characters from Cherry's life are present in this installment but this makes complete sense as she is hiding away from them in order to find the sweet tooth. Her sense of loneliness is palatable as is the sense of loss and regret for the life she never really fit into. She doesn't have too much time to feel sorry for herself as her personal mission to find a killer keeps her more than busy.

I found this review very difficult to write. Not that I didn't enjoy the book because I did. Cherry's life is so bleak and has been since book 1. It keeps getting darker and darker without much of a reprieve in sight. I was quite maudlin at the end of book two when Lord Compton died. I didn't think it could get more depressing but it seems to. Cooper is a master at creating pathos and has developed an environment that lends itself to conveying this feeling.

Cooper resolves the sweet tooth plotline in such a perfect and subtle manner. After so much focus on this plot throughout the series the resolution just seems to pop in, almost to fuel the action in later scenes. Cooper creates a mystery within a mystery in Corroded and leaves the reader with a magnificent cliff hanger. She certainly does know how to tease as I thought the ending of book 2 was cruel enough to my already frayed nerves but Cooper does it again. I am more than eagerly awaiting book 4 but I beg of Cooper...please, please, please have something nice happen to Cherry!  Maybe she finds a penny on the street or she gets a hug from a stranger or she gets to play with some kittens or puppies.  Its almost getting too dark and I need a tiny little light at the end of the Cherry St. Croix tunnel.
Melanie's Week in Review - August 17, 2014Review:  Tempered by Karina CooperReview: The Furnace by Timothy S. JohnstonInterview with Timothy S. Johnston, author of The Furnace and Giveaway - December 23, 2013Review: Corroded (The St. Croix Chronicles 3) by Karina Cooper

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