The Merciless (Merciless #1) by Danielle Vega

 

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Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank ba sement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.
 
Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.
 
Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .
 
In this chilling debut, Danielle Vega delivers blood-curdling suspense and terror on every page. By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us?

(via Goodreads)

Mean Girls meets The Exorcist, The Merciless looks at the evil within everyone, and the nature of evil.

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Throughout this entire book, I kept wondering ‘why?’. Why did no one report this? Why did no one thinks this weird? And it was frustrating. The main character of Sofia moves between likable and unlikable. She seemed too naive to be real.

I wanted more from this book. I felt all supporting characters were cardboard cut outs and I wanted to see something more from them too.

2/5

 

 

 

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Shovel Ready (Spademan #1) by Adam Sternbergh

 

Shovel Ready (Spademan, #1)

An addictive genre-blend of a thriller: the immersive sci-fi of Ernest Cline; the hard-boiled rhythms of Don Winslow; the fearless bravado of Chuck Palahniuk; and the classic noir of James M. Cain

Spademan used to be a garbage man. That was before the dirty bomb hit Times Square, before his wife was killed, and before the city became a bombed-out shell of its former self. Now he’s a hitman.

In a New York City split between those who are wealthy enough to “tap into” a sophisticated virtual reality for months at a time and those left to fend for themselves in the ravaged streets, Spademan chose the streets. His clients like that he doesn’t ask questions, that he works quickly, and that he’s handy with a box cutter. He finds that killing people for money is not that different from collecting trash, and the pay is better. His latest client hires him to kill the daughter of a powerful evangelist. Finding her is easy, but the job quickly gets complicated: his mark has a shocking secret and his client has an agenda far beyond a simple kill. Now Spademan must navigate the dual levels of his world-the gritty reality and the slick fantasy-to finish the job, to keep his conscience clean, and to stay alive.

Adam Sternbergh has written a dynamite debut: gritty, violent, funny, riveting, tender, and brilliant.

(via Goodreads)

I could take or leave this book. The blurb on the cover promised a white hot ride of a story and it fell far short (for me). I didn’t connect with the main character at all, even when his back story is revealed. I just did not believe he could go from a mild mannered joe to an assassin. And how are people getting his number if he is constantly throwing out sim cards and phones?

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The world of the story is set in New York after a series of bombings. Residents who remain immerse themselves into the ‘limnosphere’, a virtual reality world where they stay for days, months or years. Nurses attend their withering bodies and give them liquids, meds etc.

 nurse GIFThe more money you have, the more decadent your VR bed, and the more security you have on your detail. The tourist meccas are the worst hit and appear to require a Geiger counter to enter, but no one seems to really care if it’s causing them harm.

Our female lead Persephone/Grace, is an evangelist’s daughter who runs away from home, her path crossing with our assassin. I found their connection a little odd, forced somewhat. I don’t know if that was intended, but I felt it an awkward pairing. I also didn’t really understand how everyone is so quick to kill. It was almost as if no one really knew what world they lived in.

This is the first in a series and, although a relatively short book, I’m not going to actively seek out book two. I don’t really know where else you could go with this story.

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2.5/5

 

 

Perfect (Flawed #2) by Cecelia Ahern

28116714Celestine North is Flawed.

Ever since Judge Crevan declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been a ghost, on the run with Carrick, the only person she can trust. 

But Celestine has a secret—one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground. A secret that has already caused countless people to go missing. 

Judge Crevan is gaining the upper hand, and time is running out for Celestine. With tensions building, Celestine must make a choice: save just herself or risk her life to save all Flawed people.

(via Goodreads)

Perfect is book two in the Flawed series by Cecelia Ahern. Directly following on from book one, Perfect rejoins Celestine on her mission to have her brands removed and sentence overturned. There is not much telling when catching us up on the story, which was good. Despite the events of the first novel, I feel like Celestine is still naïve. She is still relying on others to tell her what to do. And it takes until two thirds of the way through the book before she starts relying on herself.

Celestine’s feelings for Carrick are slightly obsessive. And her feelings for Art interfering in her relationship with Carrick just turned it into a somewhat love triangle, which I loathe. I got tired of her constantly saying Art was a good person, when his actions consistently showed he wasn’t. The last minute turn in his character was too convenient. I think Celestine would have grown more as a character if Art had been a bad guy.

During the book we meet a number of evaders who are in hiding from the Whistle-blowers. I got a ‘Stepford Wives’ vibe from them. The confessions of the flawed, and Carricks’s parent’s admission that they were found flawed because they were anti-vaxxers, I didn’t feel endeared to them or sympathetic. I perceived the author put this in there to make a point about accepting people’s different opinions, but it failed for me. It is a stupid and dangerous thing to even be perceived as supporting.

I felt the end was too neatly wound up. For something so big, it just seemed to end with a wrap up and it was over. With that said, I don’t think there would be enough material for a third book, unless the guild kept going, or there was an uprising. Although, I did like Celestine in the last quarter of the book. I liked that she marched to her own drum and did what her gut told her. It made for a much better character.

3/5

Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh

23308087The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

(via Goodreads)

Despite its size, Flame in the Mist was a quick read. Mariko was an interesting character, but I found her to be quite naïve – to the point of distraction on some occasions. She is described in the book as being a careful study and knowledgeable, but I didn’t really see this play out in the novel. I felt Mariko to be a slightly ‘feminazi’ character in places, especially when she’s punching the soldier. It was just a little too much rage against men in general, rather than directing it to where it’s called for.

It was never really clear why they wanted her dead (to me). No spoilers, but there is an attack on her convoy and she is forced to go into hiding, to hunt for those that tried to kill her. But even when the perpetrators are revealed, there is no clear reason why. I wonder if book two will be a little clearer. There was some great supporting characters that live in the background, Prince Wu and the consort were a couple that I wanted to know more about. I hope they expand these characters in the next book.

SPOILERS BELOW

I had two problems with the book. The first, when Okami realises Mariko is a girl, why did he not wonder where she came from and put two and two together, and realise she was the princess that was attacked? It takes him ages! Also, when she falls out with the Black Clan and returns to the forest to find them, they just accept her without question. There was no bridge. She wasn’t there, and then she was. And it was just accepted.

END SPOILERS

Mariko’s brother was a little misguided. I felt like his chapters slowed the book down. He seemed to intend to find her, go out, not find her and then come home. I would have believed it more if he had gone on without the soldiers to find her. That would be a more believable character action of a brother. And as an aside, funny that Prince Raiden was this strong cute guy until the very end and then all of a sudden he’s a jerk?

Overall, it was a good read, and I am hopeful that book two will answer questions and bring these smaller characters into play.

3/5

The Dry by Jane Harper

Image result for the dryLuke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well…

When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is loath to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge.

And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, old wounds start bleeding into fresh ones. For Falk and his childhood friend Luke shared a secret… A secret Falk thought long-buried… A secret which Luke’s death starts to bring to the surface…

(via Goodreads)

Set in a small country town, The Dry is the story of Aaron Falk, Australian Federal Police Officer who is drawn to investigating the mystery of his childhood friend’s death. What seems a cut and dried murder suicide, becomes a mystery Falk cannot walk away from.

This is a powerful debut from Jane Harper. The story telling is tight and the imagery of this dry and hot town is palpable. Characters are compelling and well thought out. I found the mystery to be engaging and not an easy guess. Coupled with our main story is a mystery from Falk’s childhood, a death that has tainted his life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It keeps the reader’s interest and the page turning. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a mystery novel.

4.5/5

Gemina (Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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The saga that began with breakout bestseller Illuminae continues aboard Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of BeiTech’s assault. Hanna is the station commander’s pampered daughter, Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station crew one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon, Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

Told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

(via Goodreads)

I really enjoyed this book, as much as Illuminae. I think it has a lot to do with the female leads in the stories. Not to say the men aren’t entertaining and relateable, but these books have such a strong female lead that is refreshing compared to some other YA novels I’ve been reading of late (I’m looking at you, Lily from Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares!).

Onto our main Image result for gemina hannah donnellycharacter Hannah Donnelly. The daughter of the Captain, she is thrust into saving her world from infiltrators and a wormhole with it’s own issues. I was very pleased she wasn’t a carbon copy of Kady  Grant (Illuminae). Where Kady was tech-savvy, Hannah has a physicality about her that makes her actions in the book believable.

Her counterpart, Nik Malikov, is an alleged gangster who is always in trouble. But as we expect, there is more to him than meets the eye. Gemina does a good job of unravelling his back story slowly. And I liked the outcome. It wasn’t a cop out, or frustrating.

Kaufman and Kristoff have built an amazing and intricate world for this series. Gemina and Illuminae, though focusing on different characters and ships, do tie in to one another.  And we can’t have a review without mentioning the original text layout, the art work, the dossiers. It makes a very large book a quick read. And it’s always fun to have to turn the book upside down to read the next line 🙂

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I recommend this to lovers of YA and Science Fiction. A well written ‘space opera’ and I am looking forward to Obsidio (what’s going to happen??!!).

4.5/5

Star Wars: Lords of the Sith by Paul S Kemp

When the Emperor and his no23346660torious apprentice, Darth Vader, find themselves stranded in the middle of insurgent action on an inhospitable planet, they must rely on each other, the Force, and their own ruthlessness to prevail.

Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight, is just a memory. Darth Vader, newly anointed Sith Lord, is ascendant. The Emperor’s chosen apprentice has swiftly proven his loyalty to the dark side. Still, the history of the Sith Order is one of duplicity, betrayal, and acolytes violently usurping their Masters—and the truest measure of Vader’s allegiance has yet to be taken. Until now.

On Ryloth, a planet crucial to the growing Empire as a source of slave labor and the narcotic known as “spice,” an aggressive resistance movement has arisen, led by Cham Syndulla, an idealistic freedom fighter, and Isval, a vengeful former slave. But Emperor Palpatine means to control the embattled world and its precious resources—by political power or firepower—and he will be neither intimidated nor denied. Accompanied by his merciless disciple, Darth Vader, he sets out on a rare personal mission to ensure his will is done.

(via Goodreads)

Lords of the Sith is set after Revenge of the Sith, and is one of the first missions Vader and the Emperor embark on together. This is also where we see the first rumblings of the resistance.

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I really enjoyed this story for two reasons; we see the struggle between the Emperor and Vader, and the struggle within Vader himself.

When we were first introduced to Vader he was a robotic arch-villain. It was not until Return of the Jedi that we see his human side. He is redeemed, but there was this disconnect of sorts (for me, anyway) as to how he reached this decision to kill the Emperor. With that said, when the prequels were released, we could then imagine. But this story was great to see such human struggles within him. I really enjoyed it.

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The Emperor and Vader don’t have the tight relationship that it seems to be. The Emperor baits Vader, tests him, tries to trick him throughout the whole book. I imagine it will continue throughout the remaining books and into the original movies.

I wanted to see Vader rail back at him more. It made sense why he didn’t, he was new as a Sith, but it would have been good to see some more of that Anakin-esque rebellion come out of his character.

 

I also enjoyed a glimpse into the beginnings of the rebellion in the story. The character of Cham Syndulla was well written and you could really see his influence beginning to trickle down to the others. Very good choice for the story.

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What didn’t I like? Not much, some of the battle scenes were a little drawn out, but that might be just me. Overall, I really enjoyed this story.

4/5