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!
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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?


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

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!