Review: Time Riders by Alex Scarrow

Review: Time Riders by Alex ScarrowTime Riders by Alex Scarrow
Series: Time Riders #1
Published by Puffin
Pages: 432
Genres: Science Fiction YA
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Liam O'Connor should have died at sea in 1912. Maddy Carter should have died on a plane in 2010. Sal Vikram should have died in a fire in 2029. Yet moments before death, someone mysteriously appeared and said, 'Take my hand ...'

But Liam, Maddy and Sal aren't rescued. They are recruited by an agency that no one knows exists, with only one purpose - to fix broken history. Because time travel is here, and there are those who would go back in time and change the past. That's why the TimeRiders exist: to protect us. To stop time travel from destroying the world...

Thoughts: This book has two things that usually make me stop reading: short chapters and Nazis. They are serious pet peeves of mine because a) I am capable of an attention span greater than 5 minutes, thank you very much, and b) haven’t you heard the war is friggin’ over???

And yet… TimeRiders was awesome. Awesome in that kind of action-packed, bad-ass, yes-we-may-kill-off-your-favourite-character sort of way. This book felt like a blockbuster movie – but with a superior script. Alex Scarrow writes action scenes with handful of main characters and ten dozen extras zooming across the page without breaking a sweat – a talent I seriously admire.

Scarrow also created some fantastic villains. I read an interview of his where he described his desire to make 3D characters who – one could argue – were merely misguided. He lived up to his claim in TimeRiders, writing a villain with pure intentions that became twisted by circumstance and insanity. A villain who is trying to save the world, just in a somewhat psychopathic way.  It is a welcome relief from the typical twirling-moustache villain!

However, I found the main characters a bit flat. Although perfectly enjoyable, they were rather secondary to the plot. So much crap happened to them, but there is very little emotional payoff. I also found a couple of the time-travel sequences rather… convenient. The sequences that took place over two times – but appeared in the book simultaneously – felt somewhat contrived. Just one of the many dangers of time-travel, I guess!

Bottom line?  TimeRiders is a fun, action-packed, addictive book.  Will likely appeal to teenage boys as well as girls – just don’t expect too much emotional depth.  I think Scarrow is saving it all for the sequel.

Review: Grimspace by Ann Aguirre

Review: Grimspace by Ann AguirreGrimspace by Ann Aguirre
Series: Sirantha Jax #1
Published by Ace/Roc
Pages: 320
Genres: Science Fiction
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Wanderlust, Doubleblind, Killbox

As the carrier of a rare gene, Sirantha Jax has the ability to jump ships through grimspace—a talent which makes her a highly prized navigator for the Corp. Then a crash landing kills everyone on board, leaving Jax in a jail cell with no memory of the crash. But her fun's not over. A group of rogue fighters frees her…for a price: her help in overthrowing the established order.

Thoughts: I loved Grimspace so damn much, which obviously made this review nearly damn impossible to write!

Let’s start with the lead character, Jax.  Jax is seriously kick-ass, but God, is she far from perfect. We meet her at her lowest: she’s grieving, vaguely suicidal and – unknowingly – a bit spoiled.  Jax is the corporate-gal who needed to lose everything to see what assholes her employers are.  So while she goes through some pretty horrific trauma in Grimspace, it helps her “grow up”.  She doesn’t doesn’t truly change, per say, it’s more like she grows into herself.

It is fabulous to read, because honestly, who doesn’t love some good old-fashioned character development in their fiction.

Grimspace is filled with non-stop twist and turns.  Space battles, crazy alien planets and new enemies at every port – kicking ass and running like hell.  I am in love with the verse.  I’m also in love with Aguirre’s writing style.  She managed to turn the whole tale around half a dozen times without making the book bi-polar.  In retrospect, it was one of the most coherent novels I’ve read – although it seemed out of control (in a “Dude, that’s crazy awesome” sort of way) while I was reading it.

I also want to go on a fangirl rant about March, who was one of my all-time favourite male characters.  Ann Aguirre writes what I consider the ideal “bad boy”.  I use that term lightly, because what I actually mean is this:

Bastard. But I don’t mean it. […] I wouldn’t trade March for someone nice. Well, I don’t mean that like it sounds. March is a good man, just not a nice one. Does that even make sense?
Chapter 33 – Grimspace by Ann Aguirre

March is a good man but he can be cruel.  In fact, he is constantly struggling to keep from letting his cruelty take him over.  And that ever present instability?  It is exactly what makes him exactly the kind of hero you love to learn to love.  He isn’t easy and he isn’t kind, but he always has his heart in the right place.  There’s a fine line between a honest and cruel, and Aguirre straddles it perfectly.

Grimspace is labelled “Sci-Fi Romance” by some, and while it has a seriously epic romance… I think I’d keep it off the romance shelf.  Grimspace follows zero romance rules: it does not centre around a single relationship, has a heroine with more than one “tru wuv” and forgoes the whole dual-POV.  And considering the strong, mystery-filled, dangerous world Ann Aguirre creates in Grimspace – I think it would be a shame to read it solely for a romance.

Bottom line? READ THIS BOOK.  It has intergalactic global corporations and human trafficking, lesbian mechanics and scarred strippers, adorable bog aliens and unionised!bounty hunter aliens.  It’s brilliant.

Review: The Line by Teri Hall

Review: The Line by Teri HallThe Line by Teri Hall
Series: The Line #1
Published by Dial
Pages: 220
Genres: Dystopian YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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An invisible, uncrossable physical barrier encloses the Unified States. The Line is the part of the border that lopped off part of the country, dooming the inhabitants to an unknown fate when the enemy used a banned weapon. It’s said that bizarre creatures and superhumans live on the other side, in Away. Nobody except tough old Ms. Moore would ever live next to the Line.

Nobody but Rachel and her mother, who went to live there after Rachel’s dad died in the last war. It’s a safe, quiet life. Until Rachel finds a mysterious recorded message that can only have come from Away. The voice is asking for help.

Who sent the message? Why is her mother so protective? And to what lengths is Rachel willing to go in order to do what she thinks is right?

Thoughts: The Line is an odd book. It has a universe with real potential, filled with political, social and (perhaps) magical intrigue. There’s no zombie apocalypse, but something peculiar sure is going on.

But The Line also has some rather significant problems.

For starters, the writing just wasn’t that great. I had to reread chunks of text just to work out what was supposed to be going on. As for the story, it featured a lot of telling and little showing. The characters were little more than plot devices – albeit a very interesting plot. Without exception, I found them extremely one-dimensional and often outright illogical. View Spoiler »

But despite my rather take-it-or-leave-it opinion of the characters, I enjoyed the politics enough to continue reading. Luckily, Hall dials up the tension for the last 1/4 of the novel. The action started rolling, whole new mysteries were presented, and the characters started seeming less like plot devices – I actually wanted to find out what happened next!

And then it was over, and I went back to being rather blasé about the whole thing.

Bottom line?  Not the best book, but it is set in a fascinating universe. Hall’s writing is less than stellar, but I genuinely believe it will improve with her next novel.

Cover Note:  This book is gorgeous and has a relevant cover. Honest!  That beautiful greenhouse on the cover? It actually exists in the novel. Hell, if you need reason to get this book after reading my review: Get it for the cover!

Review: Betrayals by Lili St. Crow

Review: Betrayals by Lili St. CrowBetrayals by Lilith St. Crow
Series: Strange Angels #2
Published by Quercus Books, Razorbill
Pages: 308
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Strange Angels

Poor Dru Anderson. Her parents are long gone, her best friend is a werewolf, and she’s just learned that the blood flowing through her veins isn’t entirely human. (So what else is new?)

Now Dru is stuck at a secret New England School for other teens like her, and there’s a big problem— she’s the only girl in the place. A school full of cute boys wouldn’t be so bad, but Dru’s killer instinct says that one of them wants her dead. And with all eyes on her, discovering a traitor within the Order could mean a lot more than social suicide. . .

Can Dru survive long enough to find out who has betrayed her trust — and maybe even her heart?

Thoughts: I have such mixed feelings about the Strange Angels series. Don’t get me wrong, I love the books. Dru is probably the most depressing teenager ever, but her stubbornness and strength are really inspiring. I love how she is still grieving her father’s death from the first book – and her mother’s death as a child. I love the universe, filled with werewolves, dhampirs and vampires constantly at each other’s throats.

St. Crow’s universe is violent and gothic, and utterly immersive. I read this book in a single day – I just couldn’t put it down.  We learn so much more about the dangers Dru is facing – from enemies she didn’t even know she had. We also find out a lot more about her troubling new powers, how Graves is dealing with his new transformation and we get a bit of Christophe’s fascinating background.

But I have some trouble with the love triangle. When it comes to the whole Graves/Dru/Christophe thing, I have a feeling that I’m on the losing side of the love triangle a.k.a. the “I don’t want to see Dru with either of them” side.

Okay, sure, if I had to choose: Team Christophe all the way. But that’s because I find him hot – seriously hot – and not because I think he is right for Dru. As for Graves, I really have trouble seeing him as anything more than just a friend. A totally awesome friend, but just a friend.

Unfortunately the non-epic romance and the shortage of Christophe meant Betrayals lost the edge that Strange Angels had. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to read Jealousy (which has an epically terrible cover) and hope to get some bloody answers in it!

Bottom line? Filled with supernatural violence, a grieving teen, and a serious ammount of political intrigue – Betrayals is a great book. And hopefully you’ll find yourself choosing sides in the romance – I’m sure the book is more enjoyable when you aren’t trying to fasten a chastity belt onto the heroine.

Review: Frostbite by Richelle Mead

Review: Frostbite by Richelle MeadFrostbite by Richelle Mead
Series: Vampire Academy #2
Published by Razorbill
Pages: 336
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Vampire Academy, Blood Promise

It's winter break at St. Vladimir's, but Rose is feeling anything but festive. A massive Strigoi attack has put the school on high alert, and now the Academy's crawling with Guardians--including Rose's hard-hitting mother, Janine Hathaway. And if handto- hand combat with her mom wasn't bad enough, Rose's tutor Dimitri has his eye on someone else, her friend Mason's got a huge crush on her, and Rose keeps getting stuck in Lissa's head while she's making out with her boyfriend, Christian! The Strigoi are closing in, and the Academy's not taking any risks....This year, St. Vlad's annual holiday ski trip is mandatory.

But the glittering winter landscape and the posh Idaho resort only create the illusion of safety. When three friends run away in an offensive move against the deadly Strigoi, Rose must join forces with Christian to rescue them. But heroism rarely comes without a price...

Thoughts: Frostbite is a fantastic follow-up to Vampire Academy. The second book in a series is usually filled with flaws, but not in Mead’s case.  Action-packed, and emotionally gut-wrenching, this series is a definite must for YA and Vampire fans.

Rose does not have the ideal life by a long shot. Her gender and genetics give her limited options in the vampire world. Rose can’t be with the man she loves without sacrificing her best-friend, and even if she makes the “correct” choice she won’t ever have anyone of her own to love. It’s all very depressing, but she does the very best to make the most of bad circumstances.

Rose really matures in Frostbite, but not by choice. After the trauma she is put through in this book leaves her no choice but to make the “grown-up” decisions. In a way, I miss the more naive Rose from the first book, the one who looked forward to being an adult and fighting the Strigoi. Watching Rose lose that optimism was terribly tragic.

Wow, I have made this sound like the most miserable book in history. READ IT ANYWAYS. What I love about Mead is that she never introduces her characters fully formed – they always have plenty of room to develop. And watching that process? Heartbreakingly brilliant.

In retrospect, I am amazed how much Mead fit into such a small book. Compared to the rest of the Vampire Academy series, Frostbite is a sliver of a book. But so damn much happens in it! Mead deals with the epic Dimitri/Rose tragedy, Rose’s addiction to being bitten, Lissa’s ever worsening condition, the introduction of Rose’s mother, and a whole new (vaguely Chuck Bass-like) character. It’s actually quite impressive.

Bottom line? The Vampire Academy series just keeps getting better. Mead actually seems to have a plan for these characters, and I really can’t wait to see how it ends!

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