Tagged: book 2

Lifemaker by Dean F. Wilson

Lifemaker by Dean F. Wilson(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

The Regime is on the hunt, forcing the Resistance to take refuge aboard the Lifemaker, an advanced submarine that houses a special cargo: a handful of women who are can give birth to human children.

To evade the Regime’s own submersibles, all parties must work together, but tensions are high, and not everyone on board is looking out for the greater good.

As they descend into the deeps, they quickly learn that not all monsters work for the Regime.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook in conjunction with the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]

Lifemaker is the sequel to Hopebreaker, a steampunk novel featuring a smuggler named Jacob as he navigates a world essentially controlled by demons.  I had given the first book 4 stars in March and was eagerly awaiting this second installment.  So when I saw the blog tour for it, I signed up immediately.  Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed with Wilson’s second book in the Great Iron War series.  Not because the characters had truly gone downhill or because he world-building suddenly tanked, but rather because of the plot.

Despite all of the good things that do happen in Lifemaker, I was a little disappointed in the plot.  It was predictable in comparison to the first book and not more than a little boring around the halfway point of the book.  There are characters interacting, sure, but there’s not really all that much for interpersonal conflict.  And until the end there’s really not all that much for action either.  It was essentially just Jacob and Whistler having a sweet sort of father-adoptive son bonding time and occasionally being interrupted by Taberah.  Oh, and playing cards with Rommond.  Compared to the sheer action of Hopebreaker, this second book was a bit of a letdown.  It does set things up nicely for the third book but at the same time I did have a little trouble getting through it.

Jacob is still a decent enough character although I’m still having problems relating to him on an emotional level.  It’s much better than my struggle to relate at all with him in the first book but it’s definitely still there.  He’s not a bad character and he’s more of an ambiguous figure than a bad or good person but I found that because he wasn’t really doing anything that I got bored.  Essentially he skulks around the ship and bonds with Whistler, occasionally running into members of the crew.  I liked that he’s finally attempting to woo Taberah back to him and is trying to mentally prepare himself for fatherhood, though.  In that respect, Jacob has certainly improved.

The world-building was still good here in Lifemaker.  It didn’t expand all that much, but we learned some fascinating things about Rommond’s background, Taberah’s past and the history of demons taking over.  The submarine everyone is staying in doesn’t exactly make it easy to expand on a whole world but Jacob’s exploring does lead him to some interesting new discoveries.  Was I absolutely as blown away in this book as I was in the first one at the world-building?  Not really, but it was still very solid and despite the somewhat boring tone of the book you can feel Dean F. Wilson’s enthusiasm for the world he’s created shine through.

So overall, Lifemaker was not a bad book, but it was definitely not as good as its predecessor, Hopebreaker.  The plot got a little boring and I definitely predicted the ending but it was not a book that I actively disliked.  I even enjoyed some parts of it.  Really, the main problem is that it suffers from Book 2 Syndrome: its trying to set everything up for the super exciting third book.  Still, if you loved Hopebreaker, you’re going to want to read this book.  The little cliffhanger for Skyshaker will ensure that and there’s still many things to enjoy about Lifemaker.  It’s just that an exciting plot isn’t one of them.

I give this book 3/5 stars.

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Keeper of the King’s Secrets by Michelle Diener

Keeper of the King's Secrets by Michelle Diener(Cover picture courtesy of Michelle Diener’s site.)

A priceless jewel. A royal court rife with intrigue. A secret deal, where the price of truth could come too high . . .

The personal artist to King Henry Tudor, Susanna Horenbout is sought by the queen and ladies of the court for her delicate, skilled portraits. But now someone from her past is pulling her into a duplicitous game where the consequence of failure is war. Soon, Susanna and her betrothed, the King’s most dangerous courtier, are unraveling a plot that would shatter Europe. And at the heart of it is a magnificent missing diamond. . . .

With John Parker at her side, Susanna searches for the diamond and those responsible for its theft, their every step dogged by a lethal assassin. Finding the truth means plunging into the heart of the court’s most bitter infighting, surviving the harrowing labyrinth of Fleet Prisonand then coming face-to-face with the most dangerous enemy of all.

[Full disclosure: I received a free print copy from Michelle Diener in exchange for an honest review.]

After the awesome novel that was In a Treacherous Court, I decided that I desperately needed to read the rest of Susanna Horenbout and John Parker’s story.  After all, there’s still plenty of intrigue coming up in the court of Henry VIII at this point in time.

Michelle Diener didn’t disappoint with this sequel.  Compared to her debut novel (which was good) this one is even better simply because of the quality of the writing.  She slows down a little to describe things like how Susanna illuminates manuscripts but not too much so that the plot is any slower than the first book.  The extra descriptions are relevant and on the whole just make the story better, not slower.

The characters are, as always, fantastic.  I enjoyed seeing Susanna and John working together to find the Mirror of Naples because you can really feel their love for each other.  They work well together as a team and even though they don’t always agree on things their love shines through and they’re able to reconcile.  Compared to a lot of YA I’ve been reading lately, this adult historical fiction novel was a breath of fresh air because of the stable, loving relationship Susanna and John have.

One thing I was surprised at was how fleshed out King Henry VIII was in this book.  We get to see a lot more of him this time around and you kind of see both the good and bad sides of his character.  I don’t want to give too much away, but I’m sure I’m not the only Jean fan in this book because he truly is a fascinating character.

As with the previous novel in the series Keeper of the King’s Secrets kept me guessing right up until the very end.  It was well researched and well plotted; you really couldn’t ask for more in historical fiction.  There’s also a very interesting little cliffhanger at the end that will make you very, very eager to get your hands on the next book In Defense of the Queen.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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The Defiance by A. G. Henley

The Defiance by A. G. Henley(Cover picture courtesy of Bookworm Confessions.)

It hasn’t been long since Fennel, a Sightless Groundling, and Peree, her Lofty Keeper, fell in love and learned the truth: the Scourge, and their world, are not what they seem.

Fenn and Peree are determined to guide their people to the protected village of Koolkuna, but first they must convince them that everything they believe is a lie. An impossible task, especially when someone seems hell-bent on trying anything–even animal sacrifice and arson–to destroy the couple’s new bond and crush the frail truce between the Groundlings and the Lofties. Not everyone wants to uproot their lives in the forest, and those who stay behind will be left terribly vulnerable.

Fenn and Peree’s resolve to be together, and the constant threat of the Scourge’s return, push both groups to the breaking point. Unable to tell friend from foe, Fenn must again decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice to ensure the future of the people of the forest.

Only this time, the price of peace may be too high to bear.

[Full disclosure: I liked the first book so much that I asked A. G. Henley for an ebook copy of The Defiance in exchange for an honest review.]

Oftentimes series with great first books never really measure up to the potential that I see in the first book.  Usually the second book lets me down in what I like to call Book 2 Syndrome.  Fortunately, The Defiance didn’t suffer from this at all.  In fact, it should probably be held up as an example of how second books should be written.

The Defiance starts off pretty much where we left off: with Peree and Fenn back in their respective tribes, trying to tell people that the Scourge are really just sick people and not real zombies.  Trying to tell someone something that would change their entire worldview is very difficult and that fact is reflected in the slower pace of the story.  Even though her very life is at risk, Fenn tries so hard to convince everyone that they should go to Koolkuna when she and Peree leave.  She wants everyone in both tribes, even the truly horrible people, to go and live a good life.

I’m not someone who is big on romance, but I love how Fenn and Peree’s romance has progressed.  It’s gone from a sweet, budding sort of young love to a more mature, secure love.  You can tell that these two people love each other no matter what, even though their respective tribes will do practically anything to keep them apart.  What’s so interesting about the whole Brilliant Darkness series is the fact that Fenn is blind and yet we get such a vivid picture of the characters and the surroundings.  It’s sort of refreshing that the main character isn’t constantly describing how perfect her love interest’s looks are.  No, Fenn focuses on who Peree is as a person and that is just what I like to see in YA.

The plot starts off a little slow like it did in The Scourge, but things quickly heat up.  The mysterious threats about Peree and Fenn’s relationship, the plotting of several community members as well as the impending move to Koolkuna made me read The Defiance all in one sitting.  It really was that good and I hated it when I knew the book was about to end.  And on such a cliffhanger!  I can’t wait for the third book, The Fire Sisters!

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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The Grass Crown by Colleen McCullough

The Grass Crown by Colleen McCullough(Cover picture courtesy of The Incurable Bluestocking.)

Throughout the Western world, great kingdoms have fallen and despots lay crushed beneath the heels of Rome’s advancing legions.  But now internal rebellion threatens the stability of the mighty Republic.  An aging, ailing Gaius Marius, heralded conqueror of Germany and Numidia, longs for that which was prophesied many years before: an unprecedented seventh consulship of Rome.  It is a prize to be won only through treachery and with blood, pitting Marius against a new generation of assassins, power-seekers and Senate intriguers—and setting him at odds with the ambitious, tormented Lucius Cornelius Sulla, once Marius’s most trusted right-hand man, now his most dangerous rival.

It goes without saying that we get to see things from the POVs of our old favourite characters Marius and Sulla but I for one welcomed the introduction of other characters.  Livia Drusa was a fantastic female character and her situation really gave me more insight into the plight of aristocratic women in Rome.  And of course who can forget the precocious young Gaius Julius Caesar, who is feared by Marius because of old Martha’s prophecy that he would surpass his uncle?  As with how it actually happened, Marius’s declining health and mental state led to Sulla’s meteoric rise up the ranks of the Roman hierarchy.  The way Colleen McCullough chose to tell the story was very telling: Marius, whose star is fading, receives very little page time while Sulla takes the main stage.

While I can see where this new expanded set of characters might confuse some readers, if you’ve read The First Man in Rome you’ll have no trouble following the many intrigues of The Grass Crown.  The Social War is sort of the main war in this book and it’s certainly not simplistic.  What fascinated me the most was the different approaches the many Senators took to the war and how they proposed to stop the Italian rebellion and discourage future rebellions.  Pompey Strabo Carnifex, true to his name (‘Pompey Cross-Eyed Butcher’ in English) was a truly horrible character that demonstrated the worst the patrician class had to offer.  There are just so many different, complex characters that if I start on them now this review will turn into an essay.

In essence the characters drive the story, whether they’re Roman or not since we get to see things from all points of view.  The plot is not fast-paced by any stretch of the imagination and yet Colleen McCullough’s writing is just too good to put down.  She truly cares about historical accuracy and her writing immerses you in the cutthroat world of ancient Rome.  From the halls of the Senate to the blood-soaked streets of Rome all the way to the far east of the empire, you’ll feel like you’re really there with the characters watching the events play out.  And that, my friends, is a special talent very few writers possess.

With the end being such a cliffhanger I had no choice but to dive straight into the next book, Fortune’s Favorites.  Truly, Colleen McCullough has an addictive writing style.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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Desired by Shadow by Cynthia Luhrs

Desired by Shadow by Cynthia Luhrs(Cover picture courtesy of Paperblog.)

Betrayed…A modern-day ghost story with a twist.

Kidnapped on her way home from work, Maggie is thrown into a terrifying world of shadow. Narrowly escaping death, she flees her kidnappers only to come face to face with her greatest fear.

Helping a dying stranger, Maggie unleashes a terrible curse when she saves Robert. Now with only a week to break the curse, time is running out as they are locked in a deadly fight with forces that will stop at nothing to destroy them.

Intensely romantic and thrilling, Desired by Shadow portrays the struggle between redemption, retribution and the desire to find a love that transcends time.

If you enjoy persnickety gods, supernatural creatures and ghosts with the ability to manifest physical bodies, then Desired by Shadow is for you.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

What I found interesting about Desired by Shadow is that it continues on where Lost in Shadow left off by telling the story of someone else.  That someone else is Maggie, a woman who can see Shadow Walkers and is kidnapped by the Day Walkers to spot them so they can be hunted down and killed.  She already knows a little about this mysterious world when she accidentally saves Robert, the charming pirate from the last book, on the anniversary of his death while trying to escape from the Day Walkers.  As for Robert, he is a typical playboy and doesn’t want anything to do with the whole soulmates thing his friend Colin and Emily went through.

Maggie is a very different woman from Emily in the first book.  She’s spent most of her life out on the streets and things are finally starting to look up when she’s kidnapped by the Day Walkers.  Maggie is a very capable woman and successfully escapes from the clutches of the Day Walkers all on her own, which was quite impressive.  However, what I like the most about her character is that she learns to trust again.  She learns to trust people in general, but more importantly she learns to love and trust Robert when circumstances bring them together.

The romance between Robert and Maggie develops similar to Colin and Emily’s but there are some nice, notable differences so it doesn’t feel like a complete repeat episode.  The only thing I can really criticize is that the proofreading doesn’t seem to be as good as it was in the last novel.  I caught way more typos than before and I’m not sure if it’s because I just noticed more or that there were actually more.  None of them really take away from the story, but it’s certainly worth mentioning.  They may have been corrected in the actual ebook now that it’s been out a few weeks and I was reading an ARC through NetGalley.

If you liked Lost in Shadow, you’ll probably like Desired by Shadow even more.  It expands on the world-building from the first book, the characters are believable and the plot is fast-paced if a little predictable.

I give this book 4.5/5 stars.

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Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe by Sandra Gulland

Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe by Sandra Gulland(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe is the much-awaited sequel to Sandra Gulland’s highly acclaimed first novel, The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. Beginning in Paris in 1796, the saga continues as Josephine awakens to her new life as Mrs. Napoleon Bonaparte. Through her intimate diary entries and Napoleon’s impassioned love letters, an astonishing portrait of an incredible woman emerges. Gulland transports us into the ballrooms and bedrooms of exquisite palaces and onto the blood-soaked fields of Napoleon’s campaigns. As Napoleon marches to power, we witness, through Josephine, the political intrigues and personal betrayals — both sexual and psychological — that result in death, ruin, and victory for those closest to her.

After hearing about her incredible early years, in Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe  focuses on Josephine’s most well-known years.  And although she has gained a sort of infamous reputation from her supposedly numerous affairs while Bonaparte was in Egypt, this is not the way Sandra Gulland portrays her.  You know what?  This portrayal feels much more real, more authentic than the typical ‘immortal cheating harlot’ angle that Josephine is always portrayed from.  In Gulland’s portrayal, we get to see how Josephine gradually does begin to care for Napoleon, how she soothes over the men in power so her husband may succeed and how she does her best to take care of her only two children by her first husband.

Although I think pacing isn’t as important in historical fiction, this second book in the Josephine B. trilogy is more fast-paced than the first.  Perhaps it’s because I actually know a little about the events that occur in the novel or perhaps it’s because it was Gulland’s second book and she got a better feel for pacing.  Who knows?  All I know is that the pacing and even the quality of writing, which was already high, has improved.

Not only does Josephine come off as an incredibly strong woman, the other characters in the novel really popped out of the pages as well.  Napoleon Bonaparte is portrayed in many different ways in movie, television and books but I’ve never really seen this portrayal of him: the awkward, graceless (yet handsome) Corsican who has no time for the nonsense of high society and who is oddly paranoid about poisoning.  Having him around is a huge contrast to Josephine, who is graceful and takes to high society, even if she isn’t comfortable with it deep down.  Bonaparte’s bizarre, ruthless family definitely doesn’t make it easy on poor Josephine or even Bonaparte himself!  Having them around definitely added drama, but it’s not like they were the stereotypically evil in-laws because they had depth.  They had real reasons for their actions, thank goodness.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa

The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Allison Sekemoto has vowed to rescue her creator, Kanin, who is being held hostage and tortured by the psychotic vampire Sarren. The call of blood leads her back to the beginning—New Covington and the Fringe, and a vampire prince who wants her dead yet may become her wary ally.

Even as Allie faces shocking revelations and heartbreak like she’s never known, a new strain of the Red Lung virus that decimated humanity is rising to threaten human and vampire alike.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ARC ebook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Well, I must say that I enjoyed The Eternity Cure even more than the first book in the Blood of Eden trilogy, The Immortal Rules.  And considering how much I liked the first book, that’s really saying something.

The Eternity Cure includes betrayals, new revelations, old friends (and enemies) and one of those villains that is just unable to die.  Julie Kagawa never was one for sparing her characters any pain, but wow, poor Allie really does go through a lot in this second installment.  This is definitely not a case of Book 2 Syndrome.  Allison has matured quite a bit and become more accepting of her life as a vampire when the story starts out and she has changed even more by the time it ends.  Her search for Kanin certainly isn’t an easy one and it brings her into contact with an old friend and more than a few old enemies.

As for the plot, all I can say is that it takes more than a few twists and turns.  There were even some I didn’t see coming, especially that heart-wrenching cliffhanger ending.  It was incredibly difficult for me to tear my eyes away from my computer screen the whole time, even for nourishment or sleep.  If you loved The Immortal Rules, I guarantee that you’ll like The Eternity Cure even more.  So go ahead and pre-order your copy!  It releases on April 30 of this year.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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