Book of the Week
Every Saturday I will talk about my favorite book that I read during the week, whether it be a review or a spotlight, or maybe having the author over to talk about it. Who doesn’t want more happy bookish goodness? ^.^
This week I’m gushing about: The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings
Summary from Goodreads:
An action-packed, blood-soaked, futuristic debut thriller set in a world where the murder rate is higher than the birthrate. For fans of Moira Young’s Dust Lands series, La Femme Nikita, and the movie Hanna.
Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision.
The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn’t know it—one of the MC’s programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?
Action-packed, blood-soaked, and chilling, this is a dark and compelling debut novel by Lindsay Cummings.
The Murder Complex does live up to its name. It is full of violence, of gore, dead bodies, and killings galore. The book is pretty action packed while keeping a steady, sometimes even methodical pace, as the main characters strive to learn more about themselves and the world they live in. It’s dystopian meets thriller in the best of ways.
Meadow is a young bad-ass that is all about survival and fighting through any obstacles she believes are in her way. She’s ruthless when she has to be, a protector of those few she holds dear, and a sweet big sister to Peri. I will say that I found Meadow to be a bit slow on the uptake in certain situations and also very quick to believe large shifts in her reality without a second thought. She doesn’t waver, but she doesn’t really question much either, choosing to attack first and worry about the rest later. She kind of reminds me of someone…
Zephyr is a very intriguing character because of how different his world view and perspective is from Meadow’s. He’s been in the slums all of his life, living under the boot of authority, and despite that he is quite the funny guy and usually has a positive and light outlook. He’s just as devoted to those he cares about as Meadow, but he’s better at expressing those feelings in a seemingly normal way. Watching him learn more about who and what he is really was fascinating, even if it was pretty obvious.
That obviousness carries through the entire book. The Murder Complex isn’t going to surprise you very much in terms of plot, it is straightforward and fine with that being the case. However, luckily it doesn’t need to be shocking or incredibly innovative because it takes those dystopian tropes and uses them extremely well. The book is good at what it wants to do, and shock and awe simply isn’t it, but there is enough substance for it not to be needed.
The romance in the book is rather insta-love for my taste and I’m not sure how much it adds, if anything. Perhaps in the future books for this series there will come a time when the way the romance is set up will work to its benefit, but for now there just wasn’t a lot of depth there, or reasoning behind them falling the way they did. It was a little disappointing, but romance isn’t why you’re getting The Murder Complex anyway.
The action scenes and the descriptions of bodies and weapons are excellent. The banter between characters is solid and the familial bonds are strong. I was left wanting for more information about what happened to the world and why things got to be so bad so quickly, because the brief bit that this book described wasn’t enough. I’m hopeful that the character development and the bonds they create will improve in the coming sequels. Thanks as always for reading.
Summary From Goodreads:
For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.
Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.
But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.
As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.
Stolen Songbird was nearly a DNF for me a few times over, and had I not received an eBook copy in exchange for a review I likely would have done just that. However, I decided to give the book the full run through, but unfortunately it really doesn’t get any better.
To start off, the writing is poor in many parts of the book, most notably at the beginning. The word choice is simplistic when it should be complex, the characters are inconsistent and tend to change based on what the story needs at the time, and the “funny” parts feel forced at best. The romance makes no sense, feelings spike for no apparent reason and then drop off just as suddenly, and don’t get me started on the potential Stockholm syndrome vibes, blah.
The main character, Cécile, was one of the least likable and inconsistent characters I’ve had the misfortune of coming across. Toward the beginning of the book she is naive yet is prone to bullheadedness, is said to be well read but often comes off as a dimwit, and has seemingly no capability or desire to be courteous. At best she was play-acting, going off of fairy tales she had read in order to get by, resulting in her being arrogant, pompous, and irritating.
By the end of the book she has somehow convinced everyone that she’s their savior-to-be, a princess in not only name but in her actions, and a friend to all of the downtrodden. The problem is she didn’t do much at all to cause people to change their opinions of her. She is still a human in a troll world, has made remarks that are plain rude, and yet they come to love her. This isn’t a magical turnaround of character, it is simply weak storytelling. The effect is without cause.
Tristan is just as bad and inconsistent. Some of it is supposed to be written off by him “acting” a certain way because he had to keep a “persona” of sorts. I didn’t buy it and no one else around him should have either. He falls for Cécile even though there is little to see why he would besides his remarks of her looks (more lust than love) and voice (appreciation of a gift) which left a bad taste in my mouth.
I’d tell you about the plot, but the summary for this book gives away any possible twist or turn that could have occurred. The magic “displays” are not descriptive enough, the “battles” (if you can call them that) get all of a sentence or two, and the drama feels forced and weak.
Overall there just simply wasn’t anything I found redeeming about Stolen Songbird. I know that this review was harsh and incredibly negative, but the writing was maybe MG level while trying to discuss YA topics, and it failed on both fronts. Avoid this one if you still can and thanks as always for reading.
Fade to Black
Summary From Goodreads:
From the depths of a valley rises the city of Mahala.
It’s a city built upwards, not across—where streets are built upon streets, buildings upon buildings. A city that the Ministry rules from the sunlit summit, and where the forsaken lurk in the darkness of Under.
Rojan Dizon doesn’t mind staying in the shadows, because he’s got things to hide. Things like being a pain-mage, with the forbidden power to draw magic from pain. But he can’t hide for ever.
Because when Rojan stumbles upon the secrets lurking in the depths of the Pit, the fate of Mahala will depend on him using his magic. And unlucky for Rojan—this is going to hurt.
When I decided to buy Fade to Black it was for a few reasons; I really liked the cover, the idea of the city built upward to a greater extent then even what we have today outside of perhaps some Asian countries, but most of all I thought this would be a really interesting and fast-paced action story with some magical elements. I certainly got what I bargained for with the first two areas, the cover is still a really nice design and looks great on my shelf, and the descriptions of the city were excellent and gave me a vivid depiction in my head as I went through the adventure.
However, the aspect I had been looking forward to most, the action story with magical powers, was not quite what I had in mind. I knew with a title like Fade to Black that the odds were this story would have a darker edge to it, and I was actually quite pleased to find that was the case, but it was the action parts that were somewhat lacking.
The beginning of the story is very slow and Knight is incredibly methodical in how he sets up the later stages, and while he does a good job in foreshadowing, there is almost too much build up and not enough substance to keep me going save for my desire to see where this went based on my feelings prior to reading. The characters are somewhat interesting and the world itself is certainly intriguing and I wanted to know more, but I didn’t feel a tie to anything that was going on. Simply put, I had very little emotional investment for the first third of the book or so.
Rather than having the reader organically develop feelings and connections with the characters as they go along, it seemed like Knight felt or understood that there was little there to create any empathy, and so instead they threw a very disturbing and gut-wrenching scene in and figured that would do the trick. I can’t say that it did, all it achieved was ensuring what I already had assumed, this book is dark at its core.
While it may seem like I didn’t like Fade to Black, and for quite a while that was the case, toward the latter half of the book I did finally connect with some of the characters and when the action picked up I was swept up and brought along for the ride. The displays of magic near the end of the story were great and the tension was very real and impactful. The romantic aspects as well as the fear and hope concerning the people of the Pit were excellent and their agony became my own.
“What about the main characters?” you might ask. Rojan is kind of a sleaze-ball, and only the horrible things he sees first hand were able to bring any kind of good character out of him, but he sticks to character and there is something to be said for that even if he isn’t someone you really root for or like. Jake is a traumatized woman who turned to weapons and the classic icy exterior in order to cope. She also has the stereotypical softer core, but I guess there are stereotypes for a reason because it works for the most part.
Pasha is the last “main” character, but I don’t want to say too much about him because it would give a lot away. Unfortunately, Pasha does bring the religious undercurrent that permeates the book, and not in the best of ways either. I couldn’t tell if Knight was on a particular side when it came to that, and maybe there wasn’t a specific religious message given, but the way it was done felt slimy and not at all satisfying (Lion King anyone?).
Overall the book was alright, but nowhere near meeting my expectations for it. The beginning was too slow, the characters too often were stereotypes and cliches and little else, and by the time the action and magical elements picked up most readers will probably have checked out from boredom or the seedier bits that weren’t expressed in the summary. It isn’t one that I would recommend, but not a “don’t read” either. Thanks as always for reading.
Into the Icebound
Summary From Goodreads:
In the fourth “Accidental Sorcerers” story, Sura, Mik, and Bailar set sail for the Northern Reach, with Lord Darin in pursuit. Their journey is anything but smooth, with storms, raiders, and the prince of Westmarch standing in the way.
Joining an expedition to the ruins of Isenbund, Bailar disappears in the night. Now, Mik and Sura must help rescue their mentor from a legendary foe thought long extinct.
It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews on Mini Review Monday! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!
Into the Icebound, the fourth book in the Accidental Sorcerers series, is a fun and easy YA read that could even appeal to MG audiences. This continuation of the exciting fantasy series that I have come to enjoy incorporates a few more classic elements, including goblins and northerners that might as well be cut-outs of vikings or Norse mythology.
Another enjoyable change from previous entries in the series is that it has far more action in it and doesn’t focus as much on the romance. While I like the pairing of Mik and Sura just fine, Into the Icebound is certainly the most entertaining read because of that change.
Displays of magic are plentiful, adventures are undertaken, and history is told in a grand fashion, but in such a way that even younger readers will enjoy. What makes Into the Icebound stand apart the most, however, is that the danger factor is cranked up a few notches. Where as in the first books in the series it felt like the characters were invincible, here this is not nearly the case as many of them encounter real threats to their lives. It isn’t that I want to see Mik or Sura hurt, but having godlike main characters isn’t desirable either, and Kollar manages to balance that aspect the best in this entry to the series.
If you enjoy sorcery, young love (in moderate doses and not graphic), great adventures, and/or great MG/YA style storytelling then this series, and this book especially, is one I’d recommend. You can pick it up on Amazon for a mere dollar here, it’s well worth your time and a fast read to boot. Thanks as always for reading.
Summary From Goodreads:
Scott Wagner is used to coasting through life as a nobody. His adoptive parents don’t expect anything from him, but they spend more time inebriated than they do being a family. He is invisible at school, and no one talks to him besides his pothead wingman Aaron Marshall. His only other friend Emily Barnes makes up the better half of his gaming club, and he’s not proud of the fact that a girl in junior high can beat him up digitally.
It’s a safe but dull life, a holding pattern of smoking joints and playing video games until a series of chance encounters strips Scott of his invisibility. Forming a band with Emily and some new friends, Scott gains much needed approval from his parents while at the same time coming under scrutiny from Emily’s father, a hard-nosed cop who thinks Scott is a bad influence on his daughter.
Scott’s stumbling path to adulthood is a journey of self-discovery, offering him new friendships, a closer connection to his family, and a taste of young love. But it also brings painful lessons about dealing with prejudices, making sacrifices, and dealing with tragic losses. Between the emotional highs and lows, Scott learns how even a nobody can be special to somebody.
Nobody Special is an interesting read, especially for those that have read Whitten’s work before. Normally there is some sort of taboo involved, regardless of the book is contemporary or supernatural, and that is what sets it apart and makes it unique. However, Nobody Special is far more of what I dare to call a “mainstream” book, but that does not mean it suffers because of it.
Issues are tackled, from homophobia to racism, age gaps in relationships to control and even suicide. The difference is that Nobody Special does it in such a natural way that you can hardly tell you are dealing with some of the issues until either the characters make it obvious, or you reach the end of the book and realize, “Hey, that sure covered a lot of interesting points.” All of these concerns that are so prevalent in society today are looked at and examined, but while often there isn’t an incredible amount of detail so as not to take the focus away from the story, the book as a whole gets you thinking. I imagine that was Whitten’s goal, and if so she succeeded with flying colors.
As far as the main story goes, there are a few minor issues I had, mostly to do with some info dumps in the beginning, and a few sections that felt repetitive. Despite those small problems, the music aspects were great, the romances sweet as can be, and the entire thing had a feel of innocence and wonder about it. The main character, Scott, learns what it takes to step out of his comfort zone and anxieties and how to find self-worth and confidence. He learns that even minor achievements can be fulfilling and hard work really can get you very far, no matter what you end up pursuing as your goal.
Emily, the best friend (or at least one of them) in this story, is a fabulous character. She’s funny, a bit of a goof at times, and brilliant without being in your face about it. Emily was one of the most enjoyable characters I’ve read about in some time, and incredibly easy to fall in love with. She’s a sweetheart with a backbone of steel, and what better combination is there than that?
Much of Nobody Special is introspective and serious, and certainly there are very grim moments in the story, but they are well balanced with witty dialogue and budding young friendships and romances. I would recommend this to anyone wanting a good contemporary read. I think it would be categorized as YA based on the character’s ages, but adults will enjoy this title as well, I know I did. Thanks as always for reading.
Another Full Moon: Deadly Liaisons SCD #1 (Werewolf Detective Story)
Summary From Amazon:
This is a 7,000 word SHORT story.
Detective Julie Nova’s life was ruined three years ago when she was bitten by a werewolf. Now she’s the lead detective in New Franklin, Pennsylvania’s Supernatural Crimes Division.
A vamp tramp (someone who enjoys being bitten by vampires) is found ripped to pieces after a full moon. It’s up to an exhausted Julie Nova to fight her urges for a snack and a nap, and bring the wolfish killer to justice.
This is a companion story to the Deadly Liaisons paranormal romance series. It can be read as a stand alone story.
It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!
While Another Full Moon may be set in the same world as the Deadly Liaisons main series, this first entry into the Werewolf Detective Story arc is far from the same kind of content. I would definitely consider this a mature read still, but because of a violent and graphic nature to some of the story, not anything sexual. There are some sexual tones that might lead to something later on in this new short story series, but it isn’t really the case here.
Another Full Moon, unsurprisingly, brings the focus to the werewolves as opposed to the vampire one of the Deadly Liaisons main series, and that brings a refreshing change of pace. Wilder’s werewolves aren’t like others you might have encountered though, with a darker, harsher side being unveiled that I urge you to take a look at. These aren’t Jacob clones, nor are they the somewhat over-sexualized ones of series like Jessica McClain, but hardier folk that have to go through some hardships because of their way of life.
This story, while it may be short, is well worth the read, and Wilder’s talent shines through as they often do with her vibrant characters and vivid, unique worlds. Click the link or cover above to get a copy on Amazon, it’s only a dollar, and if you like what you find check out the main series, it’s naughtier but just as exquisitely told. Thanks as always for reading.
Summary From Goodreads:
Alyssa Gardner has been down the rabbit hole and faced the bandersnatch. She saved the life of Jeb, the guy she loves, and escaped the machinations of the disturbingly seductive Morpheus and the vindictive Queen Red. Now all she has to do is graduate high school and make it through prom so she can attend the prestigious art school in London she’s always dreamed of.
That would be easier without her mother, freshly released from an asylum, acting overly protective and suspicious. And it would be much simpler if the mysterious Morpheus didn’t show up for school one day to tempt her with another dangerous quest in the dark, challenging Wonderland—where she (partly) belongs.
As prom and graduation creep closer, Alyssa juggles Morpheus’s unsettling presence in her real world with trying to tell Jeb the truth about a past he’s forgotten. Glimpses of Wonderland start to bleed through her art and into her world in very disturbing ways, and Morpheus warns that Queen Red won’t be far behind.
If Alyssa stays in the human realm, she could endanger Jeb, her parents, and everyone she loves. But if she steps through the rabbit hole again, she’ll face a deadly battle that could cost more than just her head.
Unhinged…was not what I expected. Splintered, book one in the series, showcased this dark and edgy depiction of Wonderland that I fell in love with. The humor, characters, and style that were used fascinated me and had me hungry for more, instantly I pre-ordered Unhinged.
The characters are there. Morpheus is shown in all of his glory and mysteriousness. Jeb is still loyal, in love, and the kind of knight in shining armor that I expected him to be. Alyssa is conflicted, but slowly finding herself; magical, but wild and unsure.
Danger is lurking with the Red Queen once again causing all sorts of chaos, as well as the turmoil of the heart as Alyssa has to decide who she wants to be with and the life that they can offer her. Drama, magic, and incredible displays of artwork fill this story and make it wonderful with the same dark overtones that I enjoyed so much in the first book.
What’s the major difference? While many of the magical creatures of Wonderland make an appearance, my favorite being that of the White Rabbit (or Rabid White as he is known in this series), the shock to me was how much of this story took place in the “real world” rather than the magical Wonderland I had fallen so in love with. After giving it a fair bit of thought I can understand some of the reasoning for why Howard wanted to do this as there were many issues that needed to be taken care of there, but it caught me off guard.
What Howard did manage to do by keeping the majority of the focus on our world is make it seem magical in and of itself. She makes it so we question our surroundings, second guess preconceived notions of the way things “work” here, and I certainly don’t look at bugs or flowers the same anymore. She made reality wondrous and that is no easy feat.
So did I enjoy Unhinged? Yes. Was it the story I thought I was going to be getting? Nope. Does it really matter? Not really, I enjoyed the tale and I am just as excited, if not more so, to read book three in the series (even though I have to wait a year to do it) which I will likely pre-order as soon as possible. If you liked Splintered, especially the cast of characters, then you will enjoy Unhinged as well. Oh, and if you haven’t read Splintered yet, please do so, it is absolutely amazing and one of my favorite books that I read last year. Thanks as always for reading! ^.^
Goodreads 2014 Reading Challenge #12/365