Thursday, July 31, 2014

Blind Sight (The Celadon Circle #1) - Nicole Storey

How about a demon or two for your Lammas celebration?

Seventeen-year-old Jordan is a seeker -- one of a handful of humans tasked by angels to root out and kill evil creatures. It's a family business; she works with her older brothers, who are fraternal twins, and their uncle -- the kids' parents are dead.

We're introduced to Jordan's special powers as soon as the book opens. She's in the grip of a horrific vision about a monster that is terrorizing a small town in Tennessee. Soon, she and her family have moved into a camping cabin in the town, where they are set to go to work.

But all is not Good vs. Evil in this book. The monster is a bad guy -- that's for certain. But the angels have their own agenda. And as Jordan discovers, even seekers may not be completely free of the taint of demons.

Jordan is a complex character, and Blind Sight is a fine beginning to her story. It will be interesting to see where Storey takes her characters next.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Name Is Hardly (My Temporary Life #2) - Martin Crosbie

That was a short dystopian summer...although I imagine the Troubles in Ireland were a sort of dystopia for those who lived there when they were going on.

Readers were introduced to Gerald "Hardly" McDougall in Crosbie's first novel, My Temporary Life (which itself will be a Rursday Read, by and by). But you don't have to have read the first book to figure out what's going on here.

Hardly is the son of an alcoholic father, and a short kid who fought off his share of bullies while growing up in Scotland. When he comes of age, he enlists in the British Army, and finds himself stationed in Ireland during the Troubles. Owing to his size, he's often placed with a comrade in some British sympathizer's cramped attic, where they gather intelligence about the movements and plans of the Irish Republican Army. As the book opens, Hardly and one of his pals is holed up in yet another attic, in what they hope will be their final mission. And when he gets out of there, he plans to help his buddy track down the man's sister -- a woman who Hardly has fallen in love with through his brother's descriptions of her.

My Name Is Hardly packs love, hate, suspense, and adventure into its pages. It's a great book. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Life First (Life First #1) - R.J. Crayton

Apparently it's Dystopian Summer here at Rursday Reads, or at least Dystopian July.

Life First follows the story of Kelsey Reed. Her father is a politician in this post-pandemic version of America; her mother died of pre-eclampsia while pregnant with a second child. The fetus also did not survive. In this America, where Life First is law, fetuses are never sacrificed to save the mother's life, and all good citizens are required not only to give blood, but to be organ donors whenever they are a good match for a person who needs a transplant. Refusal to donate when marked is punishable not only by prison, but by a horrible death: the prisoner is killed by having all his or her usable organs taken at once.

Kelsey is marked for a kidney donation. Her best friend suffered serious complications during her donation, and is now in a wheelchair. Kelsey no longer believes in Life First. So she and her boyfriend, with the help of a doctor, hatch a plot for her escape to Peoria -- another country, in what used to be Florida, where no one is forced to give up any body parts to save a stranger. But the plan fails; Kelsey is captured and sent to prison, where her life hangs in the balance.

I found Crayton's plot compelling, and I could imagine America turning into this parody of itself if certain political factions had their way. I wished the writing were a bit smoother, and that Kelsey and Luke didn't feel compelled to call each other by name so often when they're the only two people in the conversation. But those are quibbles. Life First is a fine start to what looks to be an interesting series.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Rook (Allie's War, Book One) - J.C. Andrijeski

Allie's War is dystopian sci-fi, an alternate-Earth series in which humans only think they're the dominant species.

The main character is 28-year-old Allie Taylor. She works as a waitress in San Francisco, where she grew up as thoroughly human, although she was a foundling and her birth parents are unknown. In this America, humanity looks down on the seers -- another race of beings which humans have essentially enslaved. Or at least, humans think the seers are enslaved.

Then one day, a man named Revik walks into the restaurant where Allie works, and mayhem ensues. He encourages her to come away with him, and for some reason, she does.

It doesn't take long before she discovers that there's more to the seer-human dynamic than meets the eye, and that she's special to both races -- perhaps even humanity's salvation.

Andrijeski has an easy, fluid writing style, and she reveals just enough as the story progresses to keep her readers along for the ride. She has written a number of volumes in this series -- Goodreads shows twelve, including a compilation and three spinoff novels -- but if you're into dystopian sci-fi, Rook is the place to start. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Forevermore (Pat O'Malley Mysteries) -- Jim Musgrave

Edgar Allan Poe has always been one of my favorite authors. He is probably best known today for writing "The Raven." But his horror stories are classics, and deservedly so; my all-time favorite is still "The Masque of the Red Death."

Poe is also credited with creating the genre of detective fiction, and it's on this particular hook that Musgrave hangs his hat. Forevermore is narrated by Pat O'Malley, an acquaintance of Poe's, who takes it upon himself to investigate the mystery surrounding the author's death in Baltimore in 1849. But instead of traveling to Baltimore, O'Malley confines his search to the area around New York City, where many of Poe's acquaintances lived. He begins to suspect that Poe was killed in connection with the murder case that Poe used as the basis of one of his detective stories, "The Mystery of Marie RogĂȘt."

The real-life murder victim, Mary Cecelia Rogers, may have had an abortion prior to her death. Musgrave runs with that, and further emphasizes the Victorian-era discomfort with bodily matters by giving O'Malley an odd sexual dysfunction -- he is unable to be intimate with a woman. It's when he begins to make progress on this problem that he begins to find his way to the truth about Poe's mysterious death.

Musgrave appears to be aiming for a steampunk vibe. I found it only partly convincing; sometimes O'Malley's voice dropped out of the Victorian vernacular and used modern phrases, and sometimes the prose was even more overwrought than a real Victorian would write. Still, Forevermore was worth a look.