The Martian by Andy Weir

Apollo 13 meets Cast Away in this grippingly detailed, brilliantly ingenious18007564 man-vs-nature survival thriller, set on the surface of Mars.

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he’s stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive–and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills–and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit–he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Completely.  Amazing.  I bought this book the day it came out and why I waited until just now to read it is unfathomable and totally my loss.

If everyone had the optimism of Mark Watney, no doubt the world would be a better place.  I just loved this guy and if I’m ever stranded on Mars – or just stranded on an interstate somewhere – I’d want Mark with me.  His humor, intelligence, indomitable spirit, and ingenuity got him through a situation in which most people would have just asked for the Kool-Aid and called it a day.  If something had the potential to go wrong, even a fraction of a percentage point, it would happen to Mark.  One of my favorite quotes in this book that made me laugh out loud – “Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped.” Tell me you can’t identify with that statement to some capacity.

Yes, there was a lot of science in this book and no, I certainly didn’t understand everything, but that had no bearing on enjoying this novel.  Between Mark’s journal entries and a glimpse into what was going on with NASA on Earth, the reader is given better insight into Mark’s situation and the dangers he faces, whether he is aware of them or not.  I’m not exaggerating when I say my heart rate was above normal for the last thirty pages or so of this book – it was that good.

Read this book.  I can’t recommend it enough.

 

 

The Rose Master by Valentina Cano

The day Anne Tinning turns seventeen, birds fall from the sky. But that’s hardly the 21566652most upsetting news. She’s being dismissed from the home she’s served at since she was a child, and shipped off to become the newly hired parlor maid for a place she’s never heard of. And when she sees the run-down, isolated house, she instantly knows why:

There’s something wrong with Rosewood Manor.

Staffed with only three other servants, all gripped by icy silence and inexplicable bruises, and inhabited by a young master who is as cold as the place itself, the house is shrouded in neglect and thick with fear. Her questions are met with hushed whispers, and she soon finds herself alone in the empty halls, left to tidy and clean rooms no one visits.

As the feeling of being watched grows, she begins to realize there is something else in the house with them–some creature that stalks the frozen halls and claws at her door. A creature that seems intent on harming her.

When a fire leaves Anne trapped in the manor with its Master, she finally demands to know why. But as she forces the truth about what haunts the grounds from Lord Grey, she learns secrets she isn’t prepared for. The creature is very real, and she’s the only one who can help him stop it.

Now, Anne must either risk her life for the young man she’s grown to admire, or abandon her post while she still can. – Goodreads.com

Curling up with a gothic horror/paranormal novel is one of my favorite things to do and while this book had no shockers or twists, it was an enjoyable read.

The writing was very descriptive and flowed throughout the story, making it easy to visualize the setting, and feel like a part of it at times.

Anne’s backstory was woven into the first several pages, but I felt like I never had a good grasp on who she really was – more facts about her than her own thoughts.  That being said, I knew far more about her than Lord Grey.  I would have liked to know more about him to fill in some blanks.  By the end of the book, he was still a mystery to me for the most part.

The slow reveal of who/what was in the manor with them kept me turning the pages and I appreciated the fact that romance wasn’t the central focus of this story.  Although the ending was exciting, it felt a little rushed and I would have liked more details.

I would recommend The Rose Master to fans of paranormal/gothic/light horror novels as this was a welcome escape from reality for an afternoon.

This review is based on a digital copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

A Gift of Shadows (The Light-Bringer Series #2) by Stephanie Stamm

Some Gifts come in Dark packages.  23566948

The Making gave her wings, but two months later, Lucky’s Gift has yet to appear. When it finally does, she’s in Lilith’s Dark world, and the Gift comes as a deadly power that causes Lucky to question everything she thinks she knows about herself. Her only support is her boyfriend’s brother. While Lucky struggles with her Gift and her feelings for Kev, tensions escalate between Dark and Light, and the barriers between worlds start to fail. Can Lucky and the Fallen find their way through the deepening shadows? – Goodreads.com

Sometimes after reading so many YA books, readers begin to see a pattern repeated several times over.  Every now and then, a YA book comes along that doesn’t follow that pattern and takes an unexpected path.  This was one of those books for me.

I have to admit, in the first part of the book, Lucky’s lack of judgement and impulsiveness frustrated me; then again, she’s an eighteen-year-old teenager, and those characteristics are entirely realistic for that age group.  She was struggling with quite a few life-altering changes and discovered a dark, unknown side to herself but, with counsel from some wise friends, was operating on a more mature level by the end of this book.

The characters are so well-developed and distinct and possess such depth they seemed to take on a life of their own.  A few new characters were introduced that may play bigger roles in the next installment.  The world-building is top-notch and fascinating, making it easy to become immersed while reading.

Lucky’s conflicting feelings about Aidan and Kev are resolved in this book, but that was only part of the story.  There are hints of a war to come, with power shifts and the uncertainty of who to trust.  I’m curious to see exactly how Lucky’s G-Ma fits into the overall picture because, in her moments of lucidity, she seems to have some knowledge of future events.

This is one of the most enjoyable and captivating NA/YA urban fantasy series I’ve read and I highly recommend it to fans of this genre.  If urban fantasy isn’t really your thing, but maybe you’re just a little curious, this would be a great place to test the waters.

This review is based on a digital copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

 

 

Blockbuster by Lisa von Biela

In the year 2025, survival of the fittest takes on new importance. Hungry for market 23551225share and driven by greed, BigPharma companies battle to produce the next blockbuster drug. And they will go to any length to win—and survive.

Dan Tremaine has found the secret to success for Denali Labs. Phil Horton is desperate to save his family firm, Horton Drugs. When they’re put in a head-to-head competition to find the cure for a deadly flesh-eating disease, who will win?

And at what cost?

The clock is ticking. The body count is rising.

And someone has created a monster. – Goodreads.com

Everything I’ve read from DarkFuse has been enjoyable, but this one had its ups and downs – mainly downs.

The story lacked a real protagonist.  There were no moral compasses among these characters, their behaviors muddied with varying shades of gray and black.  The dialogue felt very stilted and unrealistic much of the time.  The technical jargon wasn’t the problem – it was more of the routine conversations between people that didn’t ring true for me and sounded awkward.

On the other hand, the pace was great and more than anything, I was interested in seeing just how far these loathsome BigPharma people would go to make money.  The ending just kind of fizzled out – no earth-shattering moments or twists in the story.

Overall, I thought the idea was intriguing, but the characters and dialogue didn’t pull this story together for me.  Blockbuster is scheduled for publication January 6, 2015.

This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.

 

The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

Four hundred years in the future, the Earth has turned primitive following a nuclear 18109771fire that has laid waste to civilization and nature. Though the radiation fallout has ended, for some unknowable reason every person is born with a twin. Of each pair, one is an Alpha—physically perfect in every way; and the other an Omega—burdened with deformity, small or large. With the Council ruling an apartheid-like society, Omegas are branded and ostracized while the Alphas have gathered the world’s sparse resources for themselves. Though proclaiming their superiority, for all their effort Alphas cannot escape one harsh fact: Whenever one twin dies, so does the other.

Cass is a rare Omega, one burdened with psychic foresight. While her twin, Zach, gains power on the Alpha Council, she dares to dream the most dangerous dream of all: equality. For daring to envision a world in which Alphas and Omegas live side-by-side as equals, both the Council and the Resistance have her in their sights.

I had high expectations for this book.  It doesn’t come out until February or March 2015 (I’ve seen both dates listed) and it’s already been optioned for a movie.  The beginning of the book was fascinating, and this is a unique concept for a dystopian novel, but some things just didn’t gel for me.

The pacing during the first half of the book was pretty good, but the second half seemed to drag on.  The characters traveled a good bit in the story and much was written about the hardships of that travel – many times.  I found it very repetitive and skimmed through those pages.

Cass’s voice pulled me in immediately and I was anxious to learn more about her, but by the end of the book, I felt like she hadn’t undergone much of a transformation – which was disappointing, because so much more could have been done with her character.  She repeated the same mantra over and over and it grew tiresome.  I’m hoping she’ll have a stronger presence in the sequel.

There were some wonderful plot twists toward the end, but I have to admit – I guessed what they were before the halfway point of the book and they seemed a little obvious.  The actions of some characters were inconsistent and, consequently, I didn’t feel the same about them as Cass.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad I read this book because the premise is unlike anything else I’ve read and the ramifications of both twins dying if one is killed is very thought-provoking.  Maybe I set the bar too high, but The Fire Sermon just came up a little short for me.

This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.

The Telepath Chronicles – An Anthology of Sci-Fi

In THE TELEPATH CHRONICLES, fourteen of today’s top sci-fi writers share stories of the uncanny and 23266312unexpected.

Telepathy. Just a far-fetched bit of science fiction “hocus pocus.” But is it? With today’s giant leaps forward in technology and biotechnology, with people constantly surrounded by sophisticated yet invisible communication networks, and with a rapidly increasing understanding of the brain’s inner workings . . . is it so hard to imagine that we might be able to develop direct mind-to-mind communication?

Or might it not be the case that evolution alone, in the right circumstances—if not on this planet, then on others—could give rise to creatures with telepathic abilities?

This collection of fourteen stories explores the ramifications of a future where telepathy is real. From that first glorious moment of discovery, to the subsequent jealousies and class divisions, to the dangers of weaponization and the blessings of medical miracles, The Telepath Chronicles promises to take you inside the creative minds of some of today’s top science fiction authors.

What a fascinating collection of short stories this was – all about the same concept, but so many different interpretations.  Among my favorites were:

Venus in Red by Therin Knite – I’ve read two books by this author, Othella and Echoes, and know I can always count on supreme world-building, kick-ass action sequences, and snarky dialogue and this short story wasn’t an exception.  A women with a grudge tries to break into a seemingly impenetrable fortress – something that may not be quite as difficult with her newly acquired neural enhancements and power to manipulate the minds of others.

The Locksmith by Susan Kaye Quinn –  The idea of mindjacking pulled me into this story immediately, and I clicked with the MC, Zeph, right away.  I was thrilled when I read in the author’s note at the end that Mindjacker is a series, so now I have more books to add to my towering TBR pile!

Trauma Room by Samuel Peralta – Probably the shortest story in the book, but the ability to get into person’s mind has huge ramifications in this story about an assassinated senator.

This anthology includes some very talented and imaginative writers and I enjoyed reading their varied takes on the same theme.  A real treat for sci-fi lovers!

I received a digital ARC from one of the authors in exchange for an honest review.

The Telepath Chronicles is available on Amazon today – you can buy the book here!

 

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.17378508

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

I can always count on the books in The Raven Cycle series to take me on an exciting adventure, spend some time with wonderful characters that feel like friends, have some laughs, and be completely enchanted by the writing.  As I finished this book I was beyond excited to realize there would be another!  Guess I got so used to trilogies, I just expected The Raven Cycle would be also, but as long as Ms. Stiefvater keeps wring these books, I’ll be there to read them because I’m totally enamored with every character in this series, not just the Raven Boys.

Our characters are still continuing their quest for Glendower, with the help of Gansey’s friend, Malory,  and dealing with the disappearance of Blue’s mother, while Ronan and Adam learn more about their ‘abilities’.  Mr. Gray, easily the most charming hit man I’ve ever come across, is also there to lend a hand when needed and provide Blue with some emotional support.  Gansey’s fate is still uncertain, as is his relationship with Blue, and the two share some intense moments, but that wasn’t the primary focus of this story.

As always, the newest book in this magical series completely captivated me and The Raven Cycle is something I’m sure I’ll eventually go back and reread because with at least a year between books, I forget some things; however, I know there will always be an emphasis on friendship, family, loyalty, mystery and wonder – but also a car named Pig, a raven named Chainsaw, and now, a dog named Dog.

This review was based on a digital ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.