The Murder Complex (The Murder Complex #1) by Lindsay Cummings #bookreview #YA #dystopian

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.

I’ve had this in my TBR for far too long, and after finishing it, I’m sorry I didn’t get to it sooner.

When another author friend recommended this book, I looked it up and loved the premise.  Having La Femme Nikita as a comp title was just icing on the cake.  Trained assassins, a government who tracks population numbers, a fierce female protagonist, and family secrets – what’s not to like?  Be warned – this is a dark storyline with violence and some graphic deaths, so it may not be to everyone’s taste; however, if you enjoy thrilling plot twists and outstanding action sequences, this could be for you.  I felt like the romance happened at the speed of lightning (literally love at first sight for one of the characters), but it didn’t really overshadow the plot.

Several reviewers have commented on the violence, but I felt it was comparable to The Hunger Games.  I’ve already downloaded the next book, and I guarantee it won’t take me so long to read this one.

The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones #bookreview #YA #fantasy#TuesdayBookBlog

Seventeen-year-old Aderyn (“Ryn”) only cares about two things: her family, and her family’s graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scraping together a meager existence as gravediggers in the remote village of Colbren, which sits at the foot of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to the fae. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don’t always stay dead.

The risen corpses are known as “bone houses,” and legend says that they’re the result of a decades-old curse. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker with a mysterious past, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with new ferocity. What is it about Ellis that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they be stopped for good?

Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will take them deep into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the long-hidden truths about themselves. 

Besides the dazzling cover, this intriguing description caught my attention.  I’ve read numerous stories about risen corpses, but they were usually zombies.  Bone houses are a unique take, and I had to know more about them.

Characterization is strong in this novel.  From the main characters, supporting characters, and down to the loyal, territory-defending goat, I enjoyed all of them.  Ryn is a take-charge, driven main character and as a gravedigger possesses a strong sense of compassion and respect for the dead.  After losing her parents, providing for her brother and sister is her priority.  Ellis has a mysterious past, and it’s refreshing to see a male character who knows his strengths and limits and isn’t afraid to let a female take the lead.  Their relationship develops naturally with occasional sarcastic banter that gave me some laughs.

It’s difficult to put a new spin on zombies, but this author manages to do it.  Bone houses aren’t the typical risen dead – no spoilers – and they provide some nail-biting moments.

This isn’t really a fast-paced novel, and some parts are predictable, but the story pulls you in and makes it difficult to put down the book.

Because it features risen corpses, don’t think The Bone Houses is a horror novel – it’s far from it.  The overriding themes are the importance of family and learning to move on after a loss.  It’s an unusual story I’d recommend to fans of supernatural tales.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

 

The Warehouse by Rob Hart #bookreview #thriller #TuesdayBookBlog

Cloud isn’t just a place to work. It’s a place to live. And when you’re here, you’ll never want to leave. 

Paxton never thought he’d be working for Cloud, the giant tech company that’s eaten much of the American economy. Much less that he’d be moving into one of the company’s sprawling live-work facilities. 

But compared to what’s left outside, Cloud’s bland chainstore life of gleaming entertainment halls, open-plan offices, and vast warehouses…well, it doesn’t seem so bad. It’s more than anyone else is offering. 

Zinnia never thought she’d be infiltrating Cloud. But now she’s undercover, inside the walls, risking it all to ferret out the company’s darkest secrets. And Paxton, with his ordinary little hopes and fears? He just might make the perfect pawn. If she can bear to sacrifice him. 

As the truth about Cloud unfolds, Zinnia must gamble everything on a desperate scheme—one that risks both their lives, even as it forces Paxton to question everything about the world he’s so carefully assembled here. 

Together, they’ll learn just how far the company will go…to make the world a better place. 

Set in the confines of a corporate panopticon that’s at once brilliantly imagined and terrifyingly real, The Warehouse is a near-future thriller about what happens when Big Brother meets Big Business–and who will pay the ultimate price.

I’ll be honest – although this book description intrigued me, it was Blake Crouch’s recommendation that made me want to read this novel.  After finishing, I had to sit with it a few days because I honestly didn’t know how I felt about it.

Few people will read this description and not immediately think of Amazon.  The Warehouse is a cautionary tale, albeit extreme, that paints a harrowing futuristic picture.  Cloud controls or has influence over nearly everything – the business environment, laws, politics.  Seemingly nothing is out of its reach.

I didn’t particularly care about these characters, but their moral ambiguity was intriguing and held me enthralled.  Paxton harbors feelings of anger and retribution after his small business is crushed by Cloud – and yet he finds himself working for the tech company.  Zinnia will sacrifice anything or anyone to accomplish her goals.  And Gibson Wells, the multi-billionaire owner of Cloud, truly believes everything he’s done has made the world a better place.

This is a well-paced thriller with some suprising plot twists, and the sections showing the monotony of Paxton’s and Zinnia’s lives are brilliant.  The Warehouse is undoubtedly one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve read this year.  It will leave you feeling unsettled, and I guarantee you’ll still be thinking about it days after reading.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

Containment (Sanctuary #2) by Caryn Lix #bookreview #YA #scifi

They may have escaped Sanctuary, but Kenzie and her friends are far from safe.

Ex-Omnistellar prison guard Kenzie and her superpowered friends barely made it off Sanctuary alive. Now they’re stuck in a stolen alien ship with nowhere to go and no one to help them. Kenzie is desperate for a plan, but she doesn’t know who to trust anymore. Everyone has their own dark secrets: Omnistellar, her parents, even Cage. Worse still, she’s haunted by memories of the aliens who nearly tore her to shreds—and forced her to accidentally kill one of the Sanctuary prisoners, Matt.

When Kenzie intercepts a radio communication suggesting that more aliens are on their way, she knows there’s only one choice: They must turn themselves in to Omnistellar and destroy the ship before the aliens follow the signal straight to them. Because if the monstrous creatures who attacked Sanctuary reach Earth, then it’s game over for humanity.

What Kenzie doesn’t know is that the aliens aren’t the only ones on the hunt. Omnistellar has put a bounty on Kenzie’s head—and the question is whether the aliens or Omnistellar get to her first. 

I read the first book in this series, Sanctuary, last summer and referred to it as a mixture of Alien and X-Men.  I was thrilled to receive an ARC of book two.

First, I have to comment on the book covers – they’re beautiful, bold, and completely eye-catching.  It’s easy to tell they’re part of the same series.  To say this diverse cast of characters experienced traumatic events in Sanctuary is an understatement.  Because of what happened to them, some are understandably suffering from PTSD – which is something you don’t see addressed very often in YA novels and is handled very well.

This author is brilliant at ending chapters on exciting cliffhangers.  I’d plan to read a couple of chapters before bed, then wind up going through two more because I had to know what happened next.  Character development is also a strength, and it’s easy to see how these characters have evolved from the first book.

Pacing was a bit of an problem for me.  This book sits at around 500 pages, and I felt it could have been tightened in some areas.  Kenzie is dealing with a lot of issues – guilt, relationship woes, death of a parent – and her internal thoughts about this take up a chunk of the first 50% of the book to the extent I felt it overshadowed what was happening in front of her.  I read an ARC, so this may change with the final version.

Containment ends on a cliffhanger (just like most of the chapters!), so I’ll be anxious to read the next book in the series.  If you enjoy high stakes sci-fi that ventures into the horror arena, I’d recommend this series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

 

Soul Swallowers (The Shattered Sea #1) by D. Wallace Peach #TuesdayBookBlog #bookreview #fantasy #NewAdult

When swallowed, some souls gift insights, wisdom, a path to understanding. Others unleash power, proficiency with a sword, and indifference to death. One soul assimilates with ease. But swallow a host of the dead and risk a descent into madness. 

Estranged from his family over the murder of his wife, young Raze Anvrell wields his fists to vent his rage. Then a chance at a new life beckons, and he retreats to the foothills of the Ravenwood, the haunt of unbound ghosts. He and his mentor build a freehold, a life of physical labor and the satisfaction of realizing a dream. They raise horses and whittle by the fire until the old man dies, and Raze swallows his first soul. 

When his brother reaches out, open wounds begin to scar. But the tenuous peace won’t last. While those who rule the Vales yield to the lure of their ambitions, slavers of Ezar roam the countryside, hunting for human chattel. While one man manipulates the law, another heeds the souls of violence howling in his head. 

Raze too listens to his soul’s whispers, and as danger intrudes on his quiet life, he has no choice but to return to his father’s world and join the fight.

This is my first D. Wallace Peach book, but it certainly won’t be my last.

As a regular visitor to her blog, I’m familiar with Peach’s lyrical poetry that carries readers away to unexpected places – and this novel is no different.  The world-building is magnificent, and the premise of people swallowing souls to absorb their characteristics is mesmerizing.  With political maneuvering, power plays and alliances, arranged marriages, slavers – this is a complicated, dangerous world, and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.  Which was hard sometimes, because I wanted to linger over some of the beautiful writing.

This author has a gift with characterization.  From the main characters to those who only survive a short while, all are so well-developed.  I especially enjoyed the children.  As with most tiny humans, their actions and comments are humorous and unfiltered, and I chuckled several times.

Soul Swallowers is an easy 5 stars for me – I finished the second half of the book in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down.  Now to download the sequel!

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.

I don’t remember the story of Grimm fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, but the cover and description were compelling enough to draw me to this book.

This novel is very atmospheric, and leans toward the Gothic side.  It’s an engrossing blend of mystery, secrets, magic, and gods, with a tinge of horror.  When the ghostly visions began, I was all in, and the imagery is spectacular and chilling.  I could easily picture Highmoor manor perched atop a steep cliff overlooking the churning sea below.

When Annaleigh sets out to prove her sisters’ deaths were no accident, the author provides a long list of suspects, all with motivation, and plenty of red herrings for distraction.  Although the hints were there all along, I was a bit disappointed at a turn the story took, but near the end, along with Annaleigh, the reader isn’t sure what’s real and what isn’t.

With a suspenseful mystery, excellent characterization, and a Gothic atmosphere, House of Salt and Sorrows is a perfect book to curl up with on a stormy night.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

The Diviners (The Diviners #1) by Libba Bray #bookreview #YA #historicalfiction #supernatural

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

I’ve had this book in my TBR for quite a while and even started it a couple of times, but then had to drop it for other reading commitments.  When it fit the monthly category for my book club last November, I vowed to finish it.

The hidden secrets and supernatural powers thrilled me, and there are some chilling moments that may cause you to look over your shoulder.  A whirlwind of energy, Evie is the driving force of the story and occasionally charges into situations before considering the consequences of her actions.  She can be a bit annoying at times, but her heart is usually in the right place.  There are numerous other characters, but Jericho is a standout for me.  He begins the story as a bland character taking up space, but the gradual reveal of his backstory is both riveting and heartbreaking.  The characters’ paths intersect over the course of the story – and no doubt they’ll find themselves together again in future novels.

I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, but this is a highly atmospheric novel.  The author did an exquisite job with researching this time period from the language to the clothing styles, and I felt immersed in the 20’s.

At over 500 pages, this is a long read and the pacing wavers, but I definitely plan on continuing with this supernatural series.