Monday, October 16, 2017

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

Title: Autonomous
Author: Annalee Newitz
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: N/A, Standalone

Hardcover, 300 Pages
Publication: September 19, 2017 by Tor Books

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.


Autonomous features a rakish female pharmaceutical pirate named Jack who traverses the world in her own submarine. A notorious anti-patent scientist who has styled herself as a Robin Hood heroine fighting to bring cheap drugs to the poor, Jack’s latest drug is leaving a trail of lethal overdoses across what used to be North America—a drug that compels people to become addicted to their work.

On Jack’s trail are an unlikely pair: an emotionally shut-down military agent and his partner, Paladin, a young military robot, who fall in love against all expectations. 
Autonomous alternates between the activities of Jack and her co-conspirators, and Joe and Paladin, as they all race to stop a bizarre drug epidemic that is tearing apart lives, causing trains to crash, and flooding New York City.

Like the title suggest, the main theme of the novel is autonomy. Autonomous features AIs, some born autonomous while other works towards that end goal. This idea doesn’t apply just to robots, as many humans find themselves indentured whether it is to people or corporations. Some humans find themselves unable to break free of the contract and live out their lives chained or worst (however you may look at it) death. Autonomous begs the questions, what is freedom and for those that have autonomy; are we truly free? Readers explore this question as we follow a pirate/smuggler named Jack who sells reverse-engineered pharmaceutical drugs on the black market for the low-income sector. And Paladin and Eliasz, IPC agents tracking Jack because they believe her black market drugs are the cause of hundreds of death across the U OF S.

The concept of the novel was interesting and I liked how Newitz incorporated so many themes within the story-line. And the pacing was great as there was never a dull moment. As far as world building goes, it wasn’t as developed as I liked. Newitz used a lot of fancy science terminology but never elaborated on the whole servitude issue with humans and AIs. I wished the author went more in-depth, on the world and its characters. One of the most important quality I look for in a book is whether or not it’s character driven. And sadly, Autonomous isn’t one of those novels. I never once connected or invested into the characters. The tag-line said Jack was a modern day Robin Hood, but I never got that impression. She didn’t steal from the rich to give to the poor. Yes, she did things that would benefit the poor but it definitely wasn’t a selfless act. And monetary gains was still one of the contributing factors if not notoriety.

Autonomous had some intriguing ideas and an array of important themes integrated into the plot such as equality, sexuality, ethics, 1st Amendment rights, cultural and societal issues but poor execution of world building and characters made for a problematic debut novel. I wished Autonomous lived up to the hype. I cannot recommend Autonomous, there are far better Sci-Fi novels that touches on the same themes, if not all.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Devils & Thieves by Jennifer Rush

Title: Devils & Thieves
Author: Jennifer Rush
Genre: Paranormal, New Adult
Series: Devils & Thieves # 1

Hardcover, 336 Pages
Publication: October 3, 2017 by Little Brown BFYR

Source: I received a review copy (arc) from the publisher in exchange for a honest review. 


Power corrupts. Magic kills.

Eighteen-year-old Jemmie Carmichael is surrounded by magic in the quiet town of Hawthorne, New York. In her world, magic users are called “kindled,” and Jemmie would count herself among them if only she could cast a simple spell without completely falling apart. It doesn't help that she was also recently snubbed by Crowe—the dangerous and enigmatic leader of Hawthorne’s kindled motorcycle gang, the Devils’ League.

When the entire kindled community rolls into Hawthorne for an annual festival, a rumor spreads that someone is practicing forbidden magic. Then people start to go missing. With threats closing in from every side, no one can be trusted. Jemmie and Crowe will have to put aside their tumultuous history to find their loved ones, and the only thing that might save them is the very flaw that keeps Jemmie from fully harnessing her magic. For all her years of feeling useless, Jemmie may just be the most powerful kindled of all.

Devils and Thieves is what you’d get if you mixed Sons of Anarchy and The Covenant. Has anyone seen the show or movie? It’s pretty good. I loved the SOA show and all things witches, so I was more than eager to read this new series. But to be honest, I had some trepidation before starting Devils and Thieves. There were more negative reviews than positive, and I had such high hopes for this new book…I mean, come on, magical biker gangs?! How awesome does that sound?

The world of Devils and Thieves is comprised of multiple motorcycle gangs, all with their own powers that’s past on from one generation to the next. The ability ranges from locating/hiding animate and inanimate objects, controlling peoples’ feelings and thoughts, talking to animals, visions and communicating with the dead, to changing peoples’ perception, etc. The world set-up was interesting but it was poorly developed and executed. There were twelve different types of magic and the author just rattled them off and went in to a very basic and brief explanation of each which left me lost and confused for half of the book. The author tried to distinguished each set of magic with smells and colors, which can only be seen by Jemmie…but all of it still got lost in the shuffle. Another issue I had was there were way too many characters. With the annual kindled festivities, all the MCs came into town and it was difficult to remember which person belonged to which charter. I think the information would’ve felt less chaotic if there were only 1-3 types of magic and charter, because sometimes less is more.

Jemmie took awhile to grow on me, it wasn’t until the end that I found her less annoying. She came off as whiny and clingy at the start of the book. And for the majority of the time she was constantly moping about Crowe; all because they shared one kissed and he dismissed her right after. It’s been a year…she should of moved on. But she didn't. Jemmie isn’t the greatest of female leads, but she definitely redeemed herself in the end. Many also complained about a love-triangle in the book…I’m not a fan of those either. However, it oddly didn’t bother me like it normally does. Probably because it wasn’t really a love-triangle. There was never a doubt who Jemmie loved and wanted to be with. Sad to say but other guy was just a rebound/distraction, she barely interacted with him beside face-timing  and seeing him at the festival for 3 days.

Devils and Thieves is a flawed New Adult (not sure why it’s labeled as YA since the characters are 18 and over) but it still provided a quick, engaging and good read. For the most part, I enjoyed it. Yes, the romance aspect was predictable, but the mystery surprised me. The kidnapper in the book was the last person I’d suspect! The ending was a game changer and has me curious to see what happens next with Jemmie and Co. With that said, it you like witches, or the show SOA; I suggest checking out Devils and Thieves…you might enjoy it!

Friday, October 06, 2017

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

Title: An Enchantment of Ravens
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Genre: Fantasy
Series: N/A

Hardcover, 300 Pages
Publication: September 26, 2017 by Margaret K. McElderry Books

Source: I received a review copy (Arc) in exchange for a honest review. 


Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized among them. But when she receives her first royal patron—

Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes – a weakness that could cost him his life.
Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. There's only one way to save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless.

Isobel has a choice: she can sacrifice her art for a future, or arm herself with paint and canvas against the ancient power of the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

An Enchantment of Ravens has probably one of the most stunning book cover I’ve ever seen. I was already intrigued by the beautiful cover but what sealed the deal was the synopsis; I’m a sucker for anything faerie related. The book is centered around 17-year-old Isobel, a renown portrait painter in Whimsy with clients to die for…The Fair Folks. Isobel paints portraits for faerie patrons in exchange for enchantments to protect her and her family, whether it be to protect their selves from harm from The Fair Ones or something useful such as a chicken, guarantee to lay 6 eggs per week, forever. However, things get dangerously complicated when she is whisked away by the Autumn Prince for painting him with human emotions, a treason in Faerie.

An Enchantment of Ravens
started off pretty good. Whimsy, the place in which Isobel and her family resides is neither here nor there…it was like limbo, a place like our own but not…Whimsy was trapped in eternal Summer, fitting as it is the Summer King that currently reigns. The initial encounter between Isobel and the Autumn Prince had me smiling, because within the first couple of chapters I already knew they adored one another, they had the whole star-crossed lover vibe going on. But once Rook kidnapped Isobel from her home, the story went in a direction that I didn’t see coming. Well, a direction I had hoped that I was wrong about. Turns out I wasn’t and the direction was not for the better.

I get that Isobel has been sheltered all her life, so when Rook, a boy and a prince nonetheless entered her life he was more than appealing. But as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a fan of insta-love. And this was like Insta-love to the max. Yes, teenagers often fall in love hard and quickly but it wasn’t realistic in this case. Isobel has grown-up to be careful and mindful of everything around her, especially when it came to dealing with The Fair Folks. But being around Rook had her throwing caution to the wind. Years of acquiring enchantments and stepping on eggshells around The Fair Folks gone down the drain in a blink of an amethyst eye. It made me like Isobel less and less as the story went on. And even though in the end she out witted the Summer King, she changed and more or less stayed in the lovey-dovy doe eyed state.

The world-building was great. I loved seeing the Faerie world that Rogerson created. But the plot itself wasn’t as enjoyable as I hoped. At the core, this is a romance and journey story. More romance though. There wasn’t much substance. I often found myself bored as Rook and Isobel ran from The Wild Hunt and as they transversed the different courts. The reason behind Rook and Isobel running to Faerie and running away is because they were about to break The Good Law and then they actually broke the law…I just found the whole thing kind of silly. I was expecting more societal and political intrigue but instead I got two love sick teenagers running to and fro causing a mess wherever they went.

An Enchantment of Ravens had so much potential to be a great novel, and it saddens me to say this but it didn’t meet my expectations. The words written within the book didn’t live up to the beautiful cover, the promise of a captivating read. The writing was done well but the plot itself was poorly executed, lackluster and somewhat predictable. The characters were underdeveloped and I had a really hard time connecting with anyone. I never felt invested in the story or the characters, and felt myself being a bit relieved that I managed to finish the book (I don’t like DNF-ing a book). This book has gotten a lot of rave reviews, so while I didn't like it you still might! I can’t say I’d recommend this book but if you’re still interested, perhaps checking out a sample before purchasing?

Monday, October 02, 2017

Fireblood by Elly Blake

Title: Fireblood
Author: Elly Blake
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Frostblood Saga # 2

Hardcover, 416 Pages
Publication: September 12, 2017 by Little Brown BFYR

Source: I received an review copy (arc) from the publisher in exchange for a honest opinion.


All hail the Fire Queen.

Against all odds, Ruby has defeated the villainous Frost King and melted his throne of ice. But the bloodthirsty Minax that was trapped inside is now haunting her kingdom and everyone she loves. The answers to its demise may lie to the south in Sudesia, the land of the Firebloods, and a country that holds the secrets to Ruby’s powers and past…

Despite warnings from her beloved Arcus, Ruby accompanies a roguish Fireblood named Kai to Sudesia, where she must master her control of fire in a series of trials to gain the trust of the suspicious Fire Queen. Only then can she hope to access the knowledge that could defeat the rampaging Minax—which grows closer every moment. But as sparks fly in her moments alone with Kai, Ruby no longer knows whom to trust. The fates of two kingdoms are now in her hands.
I read and loved Frostblood when it came out earlier this year. I was even more excited when I found out Fireblood was coming out a few months later in the same year! In the first book, Frostblood, the majority of the novel took place in Tempesia, the land of the Frostblood; so naturally Fireblood, took place in Sudesia, Ruby’s homeland. After the events of the last book, the Minax is still on the loose and there is a lot of unrest upon King Ramus’s death. People are weary of their new king, especially because of his affection for Ruby. To help with the situation in Tempesia, Ruby travels with a mysterious Fireblood named Kai to Sudesia to broker a peace treaty with the Queen in hopes of uniting the two Kingdoms back to a time when they lived side by side.

I devoured Fireblood in a day! The Frostblood Saga is seriously like crack candy for the brain. I really enjoyed the latest installment in the trilogy, but it isn’t without flaws. So I’ll start with what I liked. I liked that we got to see where Ruby came from and the Fireblood Court. There isn’t much difference between the Fireblood and Frostblood Court though. The only difference I saw was that the Firebloods had a trials that anyone could take if they wanted to be a Fireblood Master. Which was an equivalent to being a solider/teacher because it showed how strong a Fireblood was and that they’d have to plead loyalty to the queen. I also liked how action-packed the novel was and how Blake kept me glued to the pages. I’ve gotten finicky when it comes to book. If a book doesn’t capture my attention within the first few chapters, I usually move on.But Blake certainly knows her ways with words.

While I found Fireblood engaging and enjoyable for the most part, it read like the first book and was way too predictable. For example, Ruby and Arcus training for the attack on the Frostblood King and Ruby and Kai training for the Fireblood Trials. Secondly, the closeness and attraction Ruby felt while training with both princes. Then the whole Minax trapped in the Fireblood Throne and it affecting the queen. Sound familiar? The big scene at the end felt like an identical representation from the last book with Arcus and Ruby using their ability to destroy the throne. I mean, yeah, Blake added another player into the mix, but again it bugged me how nothing truly changed from the first book. I never been so bored during one of the most (supposedly) important scene in the entire book. As predictability goes, I think the readers knew Ruby was going to crush on Kai. She kept saying over and over how she missed and longed for Arcus but that didn’t stop her from making out with Kai. Then of course, she had to be a long-lost princess and the cherry on top…she’s not only a Fireblood but something entirely special! I won’t spoil that for people that haven’t read it yet. I know the first book was full of the usual tropes, but this sequel just made everything more evident. Oh, and let’s not forget about the trials. The trials were made to sound dangerous and daunting but I gotta say, I thought they were plain ol' silly. I never felt like Ruby’s life was in danger, and the last trial test was the lamest of the three. Like really?

My review sounds like I disliked Fireblood more than I liked it, but that’s not the case at all. I enjoyed it and the point of reading any book is for a person to escape reality for a moment and be caught up in another world and experience another person’s life…and Fireblood did that for me. However, I wished I saw more character growth and plot development but Fireblood didn't deliver that. I will be reading the third and final book, Nightblood to see how everything ends…but I probably won’t run out and read it right away. I still recommend this series because like I said it candy for your brai