Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Vicious Vicious
by V.E Schwab

ISBN-13: 9-780765-335340
Publication: September 2013 from Tor
Source: BEA 2013
Rating: 5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I loved it!
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates — brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find — aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge — but who will be left alive at the end?

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Vicious by V.E Schwab is fantastic. One of the best books I’ve read lately, different from my current usual, it was just what I needed. Sometimes a nice break away from the young adult and middle grade is just what the doctor ordered. Sci-fi/fantasy with a superhero twist and unreliable heros and villians (heros who ARE the villians!), Vicious delivers amazing characters, world-building and writing.

Our cast of characters is few, but oh man. They are large! Victor and Eli are our two main hero/villians. Friends from university, everything starts to go pear-shaped when research into the relationship between EOs (ExtraOrdinary people) and near-death experiences results in, well, near-death experiences. In the end, Victor goes to prison and Eli doesn’t. As the story progresses, we pick up Mitch and Syndey on Victor’s side, and Serena on Eli’s. All of them with secrets, four of them with powers, and some really crazy views on what makes a hero or villian. Told in alternating past and present chapters, we see how Eli, Victor, Sydney and Serena wind up connecting and colliding in a show down that is both awesome and frightening.

5 heart

I am completely enamoured with V.E. Schwab’s take on superpowers. She has created a world in which EO’s exist, but not because of radioactive spiders, or meteors, or mutant genes, etc. Instead, they’re gifts come from a flirt with death and having their body completely traumatized. So what begins as a fascination for Eli and Victor, turns into confusion, a little hatred and a sense that really, EOs are wrong and unnatural (on Eli’s part, anyway). The present story in Vicious takes place over two days, while the past talks about events ten years prior. I would love to read more in this world; to know what happens after the end – because oh, what an end! – and get another glimpse into the characters lives.

ARC received at BEA 2013 through an author signing.

“Waiting On” Wednesday: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Waiting On Wednesday

“Waiting On” Wednesday is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine.

A Darker Shade of Magic big A Darker Shade of Magic
by V.E. Schwab
Publication date: February 24, 2015 from Tor Books

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London – but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped.

Review: Laddertop vol. 1 by Orson Scott Card & Emily Janice Card

Laddertop vol. 1
by Orson Scott Card & Emily Janice Card,
illustrated by Honoel A. Ibardolaza

ISBN-13: 9-780765-324603
Publication: September 2011 from Tor
Rating: 3 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I liked it

Twenty-five years ago, the alien Givers came to Earth. They gave the human race the greatest technology ever seen – four giant towers, known as Ladders, that rise 36, 000 miles into space and culminate in space stations that power the entire Earth. Then, for reasons unknown, the Givers disappeared. Because of the unique alien construction of the Laddertop stations, highly skilled children must perform the maintenance necessary to keep the power flowing.

On Earth, competition is fierce to enter Laddertop Academy – an honor few will achieve. Robbi and Azure, two eleven-year-old girls who are best friends, are promising candidates. They becomes entangled in a dangerous mystery that may solve the riddle of the Givers…if it doesn’t destroy the Earth first!

Laddertop vol. 1 by Orson Scott Card & Emily Janice Card is a fun foray into sci-fi graphic novels. If you’re a fan of Orson Scott Card it’s definitely worth picking up.

Robbi is chosen to go work in The Ladder, a structure left by aliens that extends up into space. Only children can fit into the webbing-like tubes in order to do maintenance and keep the Ladder in working order. Anyone who’s read the Ender books will definitely start feeling nostalgic in reading Laddertop. Though different aliens and plot, the idea of children being trained for a specific task, in space, is very familiar. It makes me wonder what the story would have read like if it was written in traditional novel format rather than as a graphic novel.

The artwork and layout of Laddertop reminds me strongly of manga and without the different hairstyles I would have found it difficult to keep the kids apart. The build up to the beginning of the mystery that Robbi finds herself a part of is interesting, and there’s enough information presented that I’m curious about what the aliens (the Givers) are up to and why they left the Ladders on Earth. One thing I chuckled at, there’s this one panel near the beginning of the book that has some drawings of different spaceships, and I’m pretty sure I saw not only a Borg cube and the Enterprise, but the TARDIS as well. So very neat.

Paperback copy received from Tor in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

Review: Earthseed by Pamela Sargent

Earthseed
by Pamela Sargent

ISBN-13: 9-780765-332158
Publication: this edition, February 2012 from Tor Teen
Rating: 2.5 ♥ / 5 ♥ (close to a 3) – I basically liked it

The ship hurtles through space. Deep within its core, it carries the seed of humankind. Launched by the people of a dying Earth over a century ago, its mission is to find a habitable world for the children — fifteen-year-old Zoheret and her shipmates — whom it has created from its genetic banks.

To its inhabitants, Ship has been mother, father, and loving teacher, preparing them for their biggest challenge: surviving on their own, on an uninhabited planet, without Ship’s protection. Now that day is almost upon them…but are they ready to leave Ship? Ship devises a test, and suddenly, instincts that have been latent for more than a hundred years take over. Zoheret watches as friends become strangers — and enemies. Can Zoheret and her companions overcome the biggest obstacle to the survival of the human race — themselves?

I have mixed feelings about Earthseed by Pamela Sargent. I enjoyed the story and main character Zoheret well enough, but there were parts that just did not mesh well with me as the reader. I do have to say that the story holds up well to the test of time and does not seem dated at all (despite being written in 1983, and the rollerblading in the beginning). This review may be a little longer than my usual, as I’m going to try and articulate my thoughts as clearly as possible, and I may run into a few spoilers though I will try my best not to.

First of all, the concept and idea behind Earthseed? Love it. Zoheret and her fellow passengers were all born and raised aboard Ship, an AI spacecraft that is on its way to settle a new planet. Ship was probably my favourite part of the story – the AI is both mother and father to these teens living on board, and tries its best to prepare them for what they will face by settling an unknown world, but to also pass on the history of Earth so that they will remember where they came from, and their mission’s purpose. Even Ship is not perfect, though, and things don’t go completely to plan all the time. Ship is a bit mysterious, too, and you can’t help but wonder if it has hidden commands it is following.

I enjoyed Zoheret and the other teens, though they often had me exasperated (especially Zoheret). Zoheret is a pretty independent girl with a smart mind, but she makes some crazy choices. At one point she thinks to herself that she cannot trust Ho, and then not even a minute later, trusts him! Of course it gets her in huge trouble. I found her to be a bit naive and fickle in the beginning, but as she goes through the experience of learning to survive on a planet and the major twists that occur in the plot, as well as not knowing who to trust, she does a lot of growing up and really comes into her own. Ho is definitely one of the “villains” of the story and I quite disliked him. He would threaten others, steal, do things that would get others hurt and could not be trusted.

I think one of the major reasons I didn’t mesh quite so well with the book is the fact that many of the characters, like Ho, Manuel and the group they run with become fairly violent and dangerous (Ship does little to stop it, too) and I just don’t like to believe that our default as humans is to be aggressive, despite the desire to survive. One would think that cooperation and kindness would go a long way in making sure everyone survives on the new planet – not fighting and dissent. But even though I would have wished for a more happy outlook on how we could turn out stuck in space, I appreciate that Pamela Sargent did a great job of using growing up on a spaceship to showcase human nature, and to present the idea that maybe violence and negativity will always be present in us as parts of our personalities. Every one person is different and with unique views on how best to survive and adapt, even if that means stealing, kidnapping and general mayhem.

It seems like everything that could go wrong (or at least make things difficult) does, and Pamela Sargent does not shy away from the violence or tough stuff. And don’t take me the wrong way from my remarks above, I don’t object to the violence being present in the book – not everything is puppies and roses, no matter how much we (I) wish it to be, and violence can be a fact of life. There’s frank talk of sex and partnership (they are colonizing a planet after all), alcohol use (one of the teens makes his own still, but Ship even provided beer at a party) and the teens are faced with the deaths of friends, and I’m glad to see these things not being glossed over to save sensibilities. There were a few huge twists that while they are awesome and made me go “holy crap” also made me go “what, really?” (you’d think that growing up, at least one person would have stumbled across the secrets on board).

There’s a bit of an odd romantic arrangement between Zoheret and Manuel that I did not agree with, but suppose fits into the feel of the story. We don’t get to see much of Manuel’s character, but what we do see is generally thrown in with Ho, causing nothing but grief for Zoheret and the others. Zoheret and Manuel have such an abrupt get-together once in the new settlement, it took me by surprise. I did really like the descriptions of the new settlement and how they set up their governing, and there is a lot of action in the last third of the book before they reach the planet that really drives the ending.

But, despite all my quibbles over characters and decisions, I basically enjoyed Earthseed by Pamela Sargent. If you like sci-fi I definitely would recommend picking it up, since not everyone is going to have the same reading experience I did. Also, I’ll be looking to get my hands on the sequels. I’d like to see how the new colony/planet is turning out, and to see if Ship has any more surprises for the new characters we’ll be introduced to, and the old ones.

Paperback copy provided by Tor in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

This has no baring on the story at all, but I did want to mention the cover. In the book, Zoheret is described as having black hair and olive skin, as is Manuel. Gowon is described as having worn “a brown shirt almost as dark as his skin” (page 26), Lillka’s parents lived near the Black Sea (page 22), “Ho’s parents were from the south-east part of the Asian continent” (page 65), Anoki is Native American (page 65), Kagami is Japanese (page 65) and Arabic is often used throughout the story. I don’t see the cover as representative of the wonderful diversity present in Earthseed.

Review: Wide Open by Deborah Coates [blog tour]

Wide Open
by Deborah Coates

ISBN-13: 9-780765-328984
Publication date: March 2012 from Tor
Rating: 4.5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it!

When Sergeant Hallie Michaels returns home to South Dakota from Afghanistan on ten days’ compassionate leave, her sister Dell’s ghost is waiting at the airport to greet her.

The sheriff says that Dell’s death was suicide, but Hallie doesn’t believe it. Friends and family think Hallie’s grief is interfering with her judgment. The one person who seems willing to listen is the deputy sheriff, Boyd Davies, who shows up everywhere Hallie goes and helps her when he doesn’t have to.

As Hallie pushes for answers, she attracts more ghosts – local women who disappeared without a trace – and discovers a disturbing patter. Now she needs to not just figure out what happened to Dell but to make sure no one else shares her fate, even as it becomes clear that someone who wields an unimaginable and ancient power is working against her, and will stop at nothing to prevent her from finding out the truth.

Deborah Coates’ debut novel Wide Open will leave you rushing to turn the pages too fast as you try to work out the mystery surrounding Hallie Michaels’ sister Dell’s death. This book was un-put-downable. Not a word, I know, but I devoured this chilly ghost story in one sitting and was constantly kept on the edge of my seat trying to put all the pieces together.

Hallie has arrived back Stateside on compassionate leave from the army after learning of her sister’s death. She exits the plane with ghost in tow, and is soon joined by a second – the ghost of her sister, Dell. Rumoured to be suicide, Hallie is stubborn and clings to the belief that her sister would never commit suicide. She has only ten days to figure out her sister’s death, and there are more threads to the case than she thinks she can ever put together. Add to that the strange storms and lightening that are plaguing her Prairie home, the ghosts of missing girls that keep appearing, and a handsome Deputy Sheriff that has the knack of popping up in the right place at the right time (or the right place at the wrong time, if you ask Hallie), and Hallie feels her ten days slipping through her fingers.

Hallie is stubborn, capable and determined. She doesn’t need to rely on anyone else to do what needs doing, but she’s not too proud to eventually accept help when she needs it. Her sister has died and she’s determined to figure out what happened, and she keeps that determination throughout everything that happens to her over the course of the book. Deborah Coates’ writing drags you into the story with vivid description and emotion. The descriptions of the cold ghosts, the fire that’s plaguing the prairie and Hallie’s thoughts at these times are tingling and so vivid. And our deputy sheriff! Deborah does a great job in keeping you wondering if he’s involved or not. He’s so mysterious!

Wide Open by Deborah Coates is a murder mystery with ghosts and magic wrapped up in it. I loved working through the mystery of Dell’s death with Hallie. Though it’s one of those book where you’re pretty sure you know who done it, the little details and clues that Hallie finds along the way pointing her in the right direction were often complete surprises – until she finds it, and you’re like “ohhh, should have seen that coming!” Although sometimes it felt like she found her clues a little too easily, the end result is that there are people involved that were a bit sloppy, and Hallie is a smart woman that takes everything she’s given and runs with it. Wide Open is a wonderful debut that will keep you ready long into the night and checking over your shoulder for ghosts every time you feel a chill in the air.

Find Deborah:
Website | Goodreads | Twitter

Hardcover copy provided by Tor Books as part of a blog tour in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

Review: Arctic Rising by Tobias S. Buckell [blog tour]

Arctic Rising
by Tobias S. Buckell

ISBN-13: 9-780765-319210
Publication: February 2012 from Tor Books
Rating: 3 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I liked it

Global warming has transformed the Earth, and it’s about to get even hotter. The Arctic ice cap has all but melted, and the international community is racing desperately to claim the massive amounts of oil beneath the newly accessible ocean.

Enter the Gaia Corporation. Its two founders have come up with a plan to roll back global warming. They plan to terraform Earth to save it from itself — but in doing so, they have created a superweapon the likes of which the world has never seen.

Anika Duncan is an airship pilot for the underfunded United Nations Polar Guard. She’s intent on capturing a smuggled nuclear weapon that has made it into the Arctic Circle and bringing the smugglers to justice.

Now Anika finds herself caught up in a plot by a cabal of military agencies and corporations who want Gaia Corporation stopped…by any means necessary. When Gaia Corp loses control of their superweapon, it will be Anika who has to decide the future of the world.

It is all to easy to imagine the near-future world in Tobias S. Buckell’s Arctic Rising. The Polar ice cap has all but melted and the Arctic has opened up as a shipping lane, place to live and work, and of course – oil. Anika usually has a fairly easy job of monitoring shipping through the Arctic waters from her airship, until the day she looks a bit closer at a ship showing radioactive readings and is shot out of the sky. What follows begins as a simple need to find out why and quickly becomes a rush to save more than just herself, but the Arctic and the world.

Arctic Rising is almost non-stop action from the beginning to the end. Spanning only a few days, Anika’s airship is shot out of the sky, she finds herself in a fight for her life, flees her home and work, is captured, escapes engages in numerous shootouts and oh yea, is entirely too close to a nuclear bomb for her comfort. But even with this amount of action and running around, Tobias S. Buckell still manages to flesh out his characters and allow you to connect with them. I think the main aspect I really liked about this book is Anika. She’s a strong, capable, independent woman. She fights for what she believes in and those she loves, and can handle her own when it comes to the tough stuff. At any time she could have easily given up and given in, but she doesn’t. She keeps going and sees it through to the end. Oh! And, Anika happens to be a lesbian. Best part? She just is. There’s no big reveal or major plot revolving around this fact, her orientation is just one more aspect to her character and it’s wonderful.

I do have to admit that I was a little confused at times as to who were the bad guys and who were the good guys, but I’m thinking it’s supposed to be that way. Anika herself is often unsure as to who’s on her side, and whose side she’s on, and the plot reflects that, though it can be distracting trying to keep it all straight. I think I may have also enjoyed the book more (though I did enjoy it quite a bit) with a different writing style. The writing is good, don’t get me wrong, there were just some turns of phrase and sentences that seemed a big awkward to me, although they may not to another reader.

Arctic Rising is a fast-paced fire fight through the Arctic ice and cold. Books that have a plot rooted in possibility are always a bit more heart-pounding than complete science fiction, for the simple fact that such a future is scary to imagine and yet may very well be reality and sooner than we may think. The ideas presented by Tobias S. Buckell for reversing global warming are intriguing and I can’t help but wonder if, it ever came down to such a drastic change in weather and climate, would something like it be attempted? While Arctic Rising may be an intense action-adventure, it’s completely thought-provoking as well, and a science fiction that takes place in a not so distant future.

Find the author:
Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Blog (LJ)

Hardcover copy provided by Tor Books as part of a blog tour in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

 

Anna Dressed in Blood
by Kendare Blake

ISBN-13: 9-780765-328656
Publication: August 2011 from Tor Teen
Source: publisher
Rating: 4 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: he kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead – keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but not stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed and and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian house she used to call home.

But she, for whatever reason, spares his life.

So ever since I watched The Sixth Sense back when it was first released and had nightmares for two weeks, I have tended to avoid ghosts. But then Supernatural came along and I fell in love with the series so I decided to give ghosts a try again. And now there is Anna Dressed in Blood and I am hooked on ghosts! And they who hunt them, of course 😉

Theseus Cassio Lowood – Cas for short – has taken up the family job of hunting ghosts. Just him and mother, they move from town to town hunting ghosts who are killing. Ghost serial killers, really. After being tipped off to a ghost in Thunder Bay, ON (yay Canada!) called Anna Dressed in Blood who haunts her old house and violently kills (read: rips apart) anyone who steps foot inside. Cas takes the tip and it’s not too long after settling in to his school in Thunder Bay that crap hits the fan. Cas is immediately dragged in to the mystery of Anna Dressed in Blood after she brutally kills a fellow student and yet leaves Cas alive. It-girl Carmel and magic-talented Thomas – and his grandfather Morfran – join Cas as he tries to figure out Anna, why she spared his life and why this ghost hunt is so different from all his others.

I actually really enjoyed Cas’ character. At the beginning, he’s a bit of an arrogant I-can-do-anything teenager who you kind of want to hate for being so good at everything but Anna is a bad-ass ghost and knocks him down a few pegs. Once he realizes Anna is a bit more than he can handle on his own, and that Carmel and Thomas are not going to go away, Cas does some quick maturing. I think he starts to understand that just because he has the athame that kills ghosts doesn’t mean he has to go through life alone with just his mother and cat for company and support. Cas is a strong main character with imperfections, emotions and a will to succeed – very much a teenage boy, albeit one who hunts ghosts. Carmel and Thomas are amazing secondary characters and I have so much love for them. Kind of geeky Thomas and most popular girl in school Carmel just work so well together that I just wanted to lock them in a basement until hooked up. Cutest couple ever, hands down, and they compliment each other so well. Heck, they compliment Cas! Cas is the one that just wants to jump right in and kill ghosts immediately, while Carmel and Thomas are the more cautious but yet still fierce duo. Thomas has the magic aspect and Carmel has confidence and connections galore.

And while I think Carmel and Thomas are meant to be, I wasn’t so sold on the Cas/Anna romance aspect of this gory and creepy ghost story. I don’t know if I just didn’t connect enough with Anna, but I don’t see the draw for Thomas. Yes, she has that uber creepy all dripping blood and dark eyes and the ripping people apart until she’s with Cas and then she is presumably very similar to when she was alive thing going on, but still. I almost feel like Cas was just so lonely before, had no one who really understood him, and was so caught up in the ghost goings-on around him that he just went for it, you know? But maybe others will see something there that I didn’t. But where I didn’t see her good side and the romance, Anna Dressed in Blood as a scary ghost? Amazing. So good! Kendare Blake does not shy away from the ghostly death and dismemberment. No half-done descriptions of shadowy figures in this book. We get the ghosts with all their dripping blood, missing parts and grotesque figures.

4 heart

Anna Dressed in Blood is a great book for people like me who want spooky and creepy without being scared our of their wits. Characterization and language is engaging and keeps you wrapped up in the mystery – cause you know there’s more to the Anna case than just a ghost who kills people that invade her home. Kendare Blake’s debut is a ghost story that drags you inside and keeps you reading long into the night – perfect atmosphere for a story that tries to scare you. But it’s the character interactions and action parts amongst the scary that keep the book really interesting – who knew there could be so much life in a ghost story!

Hardcover copy provided by Tor Teen in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!