The Nine – Review

“It was a bloody awful way to die. It had been a bloody awful way to live.”

The Nine is a debut fantasy novel and what an incredible debut it is!!! Townsend has built an incredible world, full of interesting species and a plot with enough twists and turns to make the read feel like you’re on a roller coaster. And the characters!

Rowena Downshire is a young girl trying to make it in a cutthroat world. Her mother, and only living relative, is locked in a debtors prison. Everything she earns, and most of what she steals, goes to paying down that debt. But, with new charges always being added, the battle feels never-ending to her. Her job as a courier for a black market delivery boss is the best life she can hope for, even if he is cold and brutal and unforgiving.

When Rowena is robbed delivering a mysterious book that seems to write itself to the even more mysterious and feared Alchemist, Rowena is terrified Ivor is going to kill her for the blunder. Deciding to risk going straight to the Alchemist instead, she finds herself in the middle of a complex and deadly mystery.

“It was the question Rowena had been dreading. She’d been under the Alchemist’s roof for nearly an hour and barely had anything been said of the package.”

Revered Phillip Chalmers didn’t intend on being part of anything historical or groundbreaking. His research with his partner Doctor Revered Nora Pierce was exciting, but he should have known she would push boundaries. Now, days before they are give the keynote speech in front of their peers, Nora has gone missing. When a young girl courier delivers a note from Nora making him fear the worst, he insists on giving the girl the book that started it all. Except, when the door to his office shatters later that night, he realizes that he should have known it wasn’t going to be that easy.

Rowena and The Alchemist, also known as The Bear, turn to Anselm Meteron, former mercenary and all around nefarious character for help. They have a history extending far back, though how exactly they are intertwined comes much later in the book.

“Something in the cold calm of Anselm Meteron’s voice told Rowena there were very few games he played that were at all fair to his opponents.”

Rowena, The Alchemist and Meteron must figure out who took the book and why, and how the missing Reverend Chambers fits into the puzzle. Of course, that isn’t easy with bribed officials trying to put you in jail, along with the deadly aigamuxa hunting down anyone even loosely associated with the book.

There is a lot happening within these pages. It isn’t just the primary mystery driving the plot forward, but also the smaller mysteries within the characters. The Nine is an amazing blend of both plot and character driven momentum and each page demands to be turned so that you can be closer to unraveling the answers to all the questions presented. It is complex in all the very best ways!

The world building is fascinating. It feels as if it could be our own world propelled far into some distant future, but the addition of the species the lanyani and the aigamuxa makes it clear it is a world far different from ours. With nods to steampunk, this world is detailed and unique.

One of the most fascinating parts of the plot was the blending of religion and science. In fact, this is one of the key tenets of the plot, the book that God wrote to keep track of his experiment, The Nine.

“Magic was just what the ignorant called systems they couldn’t understand in an organized universe.”

It was very interesting to read how they veered from the Old Religion to incorporate religion and all it’s tenets into a pillar of science. The tenets of the science was well done as well. Not overly explained, but not vague and uninteresting. I actually really liked how it was presented, examined and how it tied into the plot. Not to mention the Grand Experiment, which I won’t get into for fear of spoilers.

We get many more characters sprinkled throughout these pages, and even the more minor characters are very fleshed out. Rare was one of my favorites, although, she did drive me crazy with some of her decisions. City Inspector Gammon, Beth and Lord Regenzi were some of the more notable side players, and it was very interesting how their importance was woven in. But none of them quite weaseled their way into my heart the way Anselm did.

“My name is Anselm Meteron, and I’m a villain with a penchant for self-aggrandizement and a portfolio of maladjusted habits.”

I mean, come on! How can you NOT love someone who introduces themselves like that?! I want to be friends with Anselm and all his maladjusted habits. Also, is it bad form to steal that line for all future introductions?

In all, this was a very fast, very enjoyable read. The Nine is a first in a series, and I know I am dying for book two! The ending isn’t quite a cliff hanger so you do feel satisfied, but there are enough loose ends that when you start thinking about the book, you get questions bubbling to the surface. Amazing debut and I am thrilled I was able to read this!

The Nine is released TODAY! If you love complex fantasy with amazing characters, awesome world building and a ton of mystery, this book is definitely for you!

Thank you Prometheus books for sending me a copy to read and review!

Perfectly Undone – Review

“Dad always told me, “People should never forget where they come from,” as if it’s possible to erase it from memory. Maybe if I could forget my past, I’d finally get a hold on my future.”

Dr. Dylan Michels has it all. A fantastic job doing what she loves, the chance to further her career and her research to help save women, and an amazing boyfriend who is there for her no matter how hard she works. So, when he proposes, why does she go running into the rain?

We know up front that Dylan is obsessed with her grant research, and her career, because of her sister’s death. We don’t know how exactly she died, only that Dylan somehow feels responsible for it. And her entire family relationship is centered around this loss. She is distant from her mother, who also holds on to Abby as much as Dylan, but they can’t grieve together. Her father and brother share their grief, but only on the anniversary date, so while on the surface they seem close, it also feels more frail than it appears.

And then there’s Cooper. Her boyfriend of 9 years. The man who loves and her accepts her and is always rooting for her. Even when her life hasn’t settled into the one he hoped for. He has the family she wants, and couldn’t think of life without him. Which is partly why she drove me a little crazy.

Here’s the thing about Dylan: I didn’t particularly like her. Don’t get me wrong, I understood her, where her character was coming from, the determination to right a perceived wrong. But she drove me crazy.¬†She was so unaware of herself and her actions. I found it maddening that she expected everyone to be so understanding of her actions, even when she did nothing to explain them, but then refused to give other people the same courtesy. I found her to be a little self-absorbed and very immature, the her hypocrisy made me want to throw the book more than once.

If turmoil and bad choices aren’t your thing, you’re probably going to be in for a disappointment. These characters are a symphony of poor communication. Of assuming that the choices you make in order to protect other people, or because you think you know what they’re thinking, are always the right choices. This dance of missed opportunities is done throughout the book in multiple relationships, and really drives home the important of being open and honest with the ones you love.¬†There is a certain Shakespearean elegance, (or perhaps it’s more Greek tragedy), to the relationships and how they develop (or fall apart) in this novel.

In this regard, it struck me over and over, how unfair and immature Dylan was being. She listens to people complain about people behaving a certain way in their lives, and even has those same issues with others, but completely fails to recognize it in her own self. And, when it comes to one rough spot, albeit a very bad rough spot, she simply shuts down and freezes everyone out. It’s difficult to go into the specifics without giving away spoilers. But, I can say, for a character who is told how perceptive she is to the needs of her patients, it’s amazing how little she lacks that same ability in her personal life. Or rather, she has it, she just simply doesn’t want to face it.

“I realize I may have pushed things too far. Maybe I didn’t want to hear his side, because it would bring me to this moment: facing the ugly truth. I’ve always known I was keeping Cooper at a distance, but I hoped he didn’t notice.”

Maybe that’s the point. Maybe that’s how we are in real life. We all probably have the most difficultly seeing how we truly behave with others. And it’s hard to face the ugly truths about ourselves. When things aren’t personal, we are able to relax and follow what we know to be right and true. But when our hearts get in the way, our heads seem to short-circuit.

Of course, unlike Shakespeare, or the Greeks, this story doesn’t end in tragedy, or, at least not the tragedy you expect. This story is more about forgiveness, and all that word encompasses. Forgiving others, but especially forgiving our selves. And I did like how the author led the conclusion of that forgiveness down several different paths for the characters. Sometimes forgiveness means letting go. And sometimes it doesn’t.

Not liking the main character aside, I did enjoy this book. I find that books that make me really think and identify with what makes me uncomfortable are often some of the most satisfying books. I also find that people aren’t always likable, so why do we always expect that of the characters within our books? Even if I don’t want to be BFF’s with the characters in the pages, it made me think and feel and examine my reactions deeper than just the surface. And that’s worth reading.

This complexity makes it, I think, the absolute perfect book for the November book club pick. There is substance and depth to each of the characters. Not to mention, quite a few issues to keep conversation interesting; such as guilt, lies, secrets to just name a few.

If you’re interested, BookSparks is having an all day event with the author tomorrow! They will be updating their stories all day and having a Facebook Live chat with the author tomorrow at 10amPST/1pmEST. Join by clicking the links below!

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Thank you to BookSparks for sending me a copy to read and review as part of FRC2017!

Containment – Review

“When it comes to contagious diseases, it’s a pretty small world.”

I knew by the synopsis that this book was going to be a terrifying ride. I knew going in, and yet somehow I was still unprepared for the terror this book brought!

Mariah Rossi studies viruses and works to make sure that in the event of a breakout, it can be easily and quickly contained. Curt Kennedy, scientist and covert CIA agent, also works to ensure containment of outbreaks. But when a lethal virus begins to kill people outside of Philadelphia, time is not on their side. They need to work together to figure out what this virus is, and how it can be contained.

Told from multiple perspectives, we get to watch this terrifying virus reveal itself. We see it through Mariah and Curt’s eyes, but also Doctor Vector, the terrorist developing the virus to be even deadlier than it was originally. Using ticks as its carrier. While the outbreak is happening in Philadelphia, the conspiracy that unleashed it ends up taking Curt and Mariah all over the globe as they race to stop Doctor Vector from releasing havoc onto the world.

“Doctor Vector smiled. Soon his soldiers would be ready for battle.”

The twists and turns this book takes you on are as exhilarating as a roller-coaster. The plot builds and builds, and just when you think you have a grasp on what’s happening, the floor plunges from out beneath you. Over and over again, until your heart is pounding in your ears and you’re breathless with the intensity of it all. There were twists I never would have guessed that completely blind-sided me. And yet, each turn the plot took, each twist that presented itself, all made sense in a very real-world setting. Which made the entire thing even more chilling than if it remained in the realm of fiction.

Most thrillers and suspense novels borrow from real life. They take a ‘what if’ and explore the dark underbelly of possibility. What could happen? And even though we know these things could happen, we take comfort in knowing they probably won’t.

With Containment, the details hit a little too close to home. They unravel with breathtaking speed, and every event makes your stomach queasy. Even more disconcerting is finding out that the author has studied and lectured on these exact topics. The book is fiction, but the ideas within the pages are all too real. As you read you can hear the reality a little too clearly.

There is a lot of “shop talk” within these pages. A credit to the strength of writing and story-telling of Parker in how he manages to make them seem natural to the reader. There is a glossary in the back, but I never felt the need to look up a term or felt confused in reading. He doesn’t work it into the dialogue, or place an awkward technical explanation in the writing, he simply is able to describe what he means without dumbing it down or calling it out. By the time I reached the glossary, I realized that how elegant these work-ins were. I didn’t even realize I needed a glossary.

It’s strange to think, but most plots, whether fictional or real life, truly only impact a small number of people. A person gets murdered, and while the effect on their friends and family is deep and profound, the tragedy is contained. Part of what makes Containment so bone-chilling, is the sheer idea of how many people can be impacted. A virus can kill millions in the blink of an eye. People, wildlife, pets, infected and killed, sometimes within hours or even days. The sheer volume of casualty is shocking, and the speed in which it can occur even more horrifying.

The title eludes to more than simply finding and stopping a virus. Containment zones need to be put into place, and the extent of those zones will vary by threat. It was chilling to read how quickly you could lose your rights in the event of a tragedy or emergency. How fast law-abiding citizens turn rogue as fear and panic set in. How little control we end up having in the face of disaster. The idea of containing not just the virus, but the fallout as well. I love a title that has multiple layers of meaning hidden within it.

I will caution sensitive readers going into this book. While there isn’t graphic violence, there are disturbing ideas discussed and presented. Parker doesn’t shy away from giving a direct understanding of what lethal viruses would look like in a human and animals, which is unpleasant to read about. There is a trigger scene involving a sexual assault. Again, nothing graphic or explicit, but the detail is realistic and can be disturbing.

This book is a thriller in the most strict of definitions. I found myself having to put it down and breathe through my unease. It is realistic and terrifying. Like any thrill ride, you’ll put the book down feeling shaky; adrenaline having spiked through your muscles leaving you exhilarated and shocked, but stronger for surviving the ride.

Thank you Touchstone Books for sending me a copy to read and review!

Slipsliding by the Bay – Review

“We can’t stay locked in the past. That’s one of the temptations of the ivory tower, to fall into the trap of complacency.”

Slipsliding by the Bay was a fun, quirky read. The book follows the trials and tribulations of a struggling Lakeside University in the 1970’s. Lakeside has been struggling for a few years, and a new President, John Gudewill, is determined to set things right. But no matter what he does, it seems that both students and faculty alike are determined to have things go their own way. Even if their way leads to the continued failures of Lakeside.

“Do you ever have the feeling we’re merely rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic?”

Each chapter is short and follows one of the characters. We hear from Eliot, the snobby English professor determined to Unionize the University, regardless of the consequences. Lucy, the sexy librarian who has her own agenda regarding Lakeside. Stein, Gudewills assistant, who does his best to keep tabs on all the plots and scandals. Along with a handful of students, some of which aren’t really worried about the future of Lakeside or the dysfunctional happenings of the campus.

Setting the book in the 1970’s gives it a unique flavor, and really makes the politics of the campus interesting to read. After the rebellious 60’s, there are many people, faculty and alumni alike, who are hoping that the protests and social justice movements become a thing of the past. But the students realize that going backwards isn’t the answer, and do everything they can to help move the campus forward.

I really liked the way McDonald framed the larger social issues of society at the time within the framework of the college campus. The book actually covers a lot of ground and gives a good perspective of the social unrest of the time. It also gives a good feel for how the issues and ideals that triggered the sixties formed the framework for larger change.

McDonald captured the contentious relationship that every generation faces with the past. Here, you have young idealists, who see the power of social revolution, wanting only to have a voice in their own futures, battling an older generation who simply wants to go back to the way things were when they themselves were young. While previous generations may not remember their youth as being quite as rebellious or contentious, I think in their own way, youth always rebels against the norms of their parents. The seventies were no different.

With the short chapters and the diverse cast of characters, this book reads like a fun caper. Each miscommunication and mishap unfolds like a comedic tragedy. The comedy isn’t just in the quirky characters, but in the irony of the results. McDonald captures the stubbornness of human nature, and our sheer refusal to sometimes step back and see the bigger picture. Lack of willingness to communicate leads to an outcome that could have been avoided. The lesson is that this is true in many facets of life and continues to unfold in similar ways over and over and over again in current events.

The politics of academia was also really well done. It wasn’t surprising to read that McDonald had been employed by a University, because she does seem to really understand the dynamics that each individual and collective group brought to the campus. Reading on the impact that Unionization could have, and the arguments for and against the changes were interesting and very well done.

“There comes a time in the economic life of an institution when it must become pragmatic and ruthless.”

I found that quote to be at the heart of not just the politics of this campus, but probably many campuses everywhere. Where do you draw the line between providing a good education and maintaining profit? Looking back on how colleges have changed over the years, it was compelling to read about a campus in the midst of that transition and crisis.

Slipsliding by the Bay was a joy to read. I read the book in a day. Again, it was a fast and fun read. My one downfall with the book is the ending felt a little abrupt and several characters were sort of quickly faded out, so it felt rushed. But, I suppose that in the spectrum of life, the ending wasn’t the point. This book was more about the journey than the destination.

Thank you to BookSparks and She Writes Press for sending me a copy of this book to read and review as part of their pop up blog tour!