5 star review, Challenge

#TBRChallenge 2017 -Theirs Not to Reason Why & First Salik War by Jean Johnson

 

Cantankerous and contrary, those are the watch words for this year. The first TBR Challenge of 2017 is short story. Yeah, that ain’t happening. The only thing I have really read, and consequently re-read since the end of December has been Jean Johnson’s space opera series. What we have here EIGHT books, the first five written are one series, and then the second 3 are a second series set in the past explaining the circumstances that lead up to the first series. These books come in at least 3,200 pages depending on which way you count them.

There are two ways to read them. One is to read them in the order they were published, as recommended by the author. The other, the way I did it, is to read them chronologically. There are things you get I am sure from reading them the way the publisher intended, but I am going with chronological.

I suspect though I am going to struggle to articulate precisely what captured my attention and imagination in these books, despite just how deeply I was captivated. I mean seriously, I read them in one great gulp, turned around and immediately started back over, finsished, read one other book, and then started all over again. That puts them in the same camp as Dred Chronicles, Linesman, and Class 5. But oddly, I can not so unreservedly recommend these as I do them. Don’t get me wrong, I DO recommend them, but there are some caveats on this one.

First Salik War describes our world several hundred years into our future. A time when the planet Earth has joined together as one government and essentially one people. We’ve united as one with no differentiation in race, color, creed or religion into one people, a bit pompous and honor bound but essentially well meaning. Psychic abilities have been proven as just another form of energy and can be documented and used in an efficient manner. Which is helpful since it turns out that all those claims of alien abduction were quite true and we have a great an highly technologically advanced enemy in space, the only way which we can counter is through the use of psychics. Meanwhile we are taking our first steps into space outside our own solar system. And the precognitive Psy are ready with a doozy-we are about to meet a whole bunch of aliens, some friendly and some not so much.

Meanwhile in a galaxy far, far away, we meet a people very like our own who have not only their own precognitives, but also a religious icons; The Prophet of a Thousand Years- who foretold this meeting and many other events with directions to save all people as much as possible, and The Immortal-the first Empress of the V’Dan who saved them from a disaster on Earth and brought them to a new planet ruling the under her directions and with directives from the aforementioned Prophet.

So we have Jacaranda MacKenzie, an earth military veteran, politician, and Psy at the head of things for our side. And on the V’Dan side we have Li’Eth, a soldier and Psy for his own people. And when these two meet, sparks fly, worlds collide, and events few could have foreseen (more on that in a bit) unfold.

The V’Dan are not the only aliens out there though. Most of them are friendly and allies, so I am going to give them short shrift in this review because I have a lot to cover, and though they are well done and interesting, I could send a ton of time describing it and not really give most readers anything that tells them whether or not to read these books or not. The one notable exception are the Salik, a creepy frog like carnivore race with a taste for eating sentient species. And that is where most of the conflict comes  from.

There is really only one notable thing that needs to be stated up front about the V’Dan, due to the ecology of their world, The Immortal-to save her chosen people used gene therapy in order to keep them well which resulted in them developing colorful spots. In their culture these spots which come with adulthood are what denotes maturity. This obviously creates a great deal of cultural conflict when they meet the people from their motherworld who have no such marks, and furthermore a people who fought long and hard to NOT judge people based on appearance.

So overall it was very interesting the way Johnson handled first contact. The difficulties in communicating, the cultural SNAFUs, the risks inherent micro-biologically when meeting people from different worlds, all fantastically done. This is where I have my hesitation in recommending. While Johnson includes a variety of POC in her books as a matter of course and the people on Earth and her United Planets tend to treat each other as equals, when it comes to how the respond to the other peoples they meet, even counting in the extreme amount of disrespect they are obviously getting, well there was a slight grating colonialist superiority attitude that on occasion made me uncomfortable with the story in the way that I sometimes get reading historical fiction with a Brit in some foreign clime. It was a very similar pompous attitude of bringing enlightenment to the backwards natives vibe. And it is odd, because I even agreed in this case that the V’Dan were in the wrong, but something really rubbed me wrong in how it was written.

But besides that one thing, the stories themselves were fascinating.The way ALL these different aspects were interwoven, the love story, the intriguing hints to the future (or nods to previous events depending on which way the series have been read), the building conflict and eventual (albeit unstable) resolution made for a very satisfying read. And I genuinely like Jacaranda despite finding her a bit pompous.

In fact this has come the closest to reading as “real” to me when it comes to a first contact, building of relationships, and climax of interspecies alliance of probably any space opera/science fiction I have ever read. Frankly, it was that thing I didn’t even know I was looking for and now don’t know if I could live without.

Which brings me to the first five books, 200 years after the First Salik War:

…What if you could see the future? What if you foresaw that, three hundred years from your time, your entire galaxy would be destroyed in an overwhelming invasion? What would you do to stop it, when it would all happen long after you were dead and gone?

These are the questions that Ia must face, and the obstacles she must overcome. Spurred by her teenaged visions of an apocalyptic future, the young heavyworlder woman seeks to set up a series of events, a domino-chain of actions and repercussions that will hopefully stop the coming invaders long after her time has passed. But in order to do so, she must enter the military and engage in a four-front war: an old, barely contained enemy whose twin goals of galactic conquest and lunch terrify all sane sentients; an ancient foe whose technology vastly outstrips anything the Alliance can fling at it; a fanatic, xenophobic religious movement on her homeworld which Ia dares not stop; and her ongoing battle against Time itself.

If Ia fails, the stars and planets of the Milky Way will cease to exist, and so will the countless lives that depend on them. But the odds of her winning the ultimate battle are very, very small, when even the slightest, most innocent-seeming misstep could domino down through time in the wrong way, and doom untold septillions of sentients to a dark and terrifying fall. Bound by the ice of her duty, burned by the fires of her conscience, driven by what she foresees, Ia must become the herald of death herself:

The soldier known as Bloody Mary.

It is so dramatic and teenagery and sumptuously angsty. A fifteen year old girl comes into a blazingly powerful precognitive gift that shows her the end of the universe, with one slim hope of forestalling disaster. And she throws herself into this with all the strength she can muster and develop. A fifteen year old girl forced to grow up overnight in horror…and then really never able to grow up or develop any further, held in personal stasis to this grand and impossible hope as she races against literally Time itself to set up a future that will progress long after she has died.

And that is where I can see this being difficult for some people to get into, because really Ia doesn’t grow or develop as a character, it is definitely a function of who and what she is at the outset…who and what she HAS to be, but it can be a little disconcerting to spend that much time with a character that really doesn’t change.

Nevertheless, I could have hated her, I honestly didn’t expect to like her because on the surface she is the epitome of the special snowflake YA heroine. But it didn’t take too long until I was firmly on her side and completely rooting for her to win. Johnson did a wonderful job of making the special all powerful snowflake a character that for all her powers had flaws that she recognized and owned up to, making her human and thus a character to care about.

The story itself is this pageantry of warp and weft, a breathtakingly complex tapestry woven into the past and present and a future I literally beg Johnson to write, because Ia is the Prophet of a Thousand Years, the one who set The Immortal into play and everything.

On the face of it, the stories are simple, we follow one character’s life as she tries to save the universe, a story that has been told probably a hundred times. But it is just so fascinatingly complex and mind bogglingly complex that it is far away from simple. And the character, I rooted for her, and I hurt for her, and I WANTED her to get more, but knew as well as she did the consequences. Just…damn. It got to me. With a heartbreaking ending. One I keep going back to even knowing what I will be getting.

The author has made some noises that she will write the Fire Girl Prophecies, which would take us further into the future to see how Ia’s carefully laid plans play out, and honestly I need this the way I needed Alexandra Ripley’s abomination of a Gone With the Wind sequel, because I pine. I don’t expect to get a different ending for Ia though, I just really want to read and see the results of her sacrifices, that they were worth it and they mattered. But even if I never get that, I am glad to have read the ones that are here, they moved me.

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5 star review

Review – Beyond Surrender by Kit Rocha

Beyond Surrender.jpg

The final book in the bestselling, award-winning series…

She’s the heart of O’Kane liquor.

He’s the brains of the revolution.

They’re facing a war that could end their world. Again.

On December 13th, the Beyond series comes to its climactic conclusion with Nessa and Ryder’s story–and the final battle between the sectors and Eden.

I received an ARC of this book from the author, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

This is book 9, and the final book in this remarkable, dirty filthy beautiful series. The first 8 books in the series are only 0.99 as a bundle for an extremely limited time. SO pick it up NOW.

Like many I was late to the party on this series, two years late to be precise. And I only picked it up on accident because I was picking up lots of anthologies early in my blogging hobby trying to broaden my reading horizons and book 4.5 was in it. I liked it so I went back and picked up the first book and proceeded to devour 1-4 in the course of a couple of days and after that I was a devoted Sector 4 junkie jonesing for the next hit. Fortunately for me, while my reviewing skills needed work (so very much work), the books were fantastic and only got better with a new one coming every few months. Beyond Addiction, Beyond Possession, Beyond Innocence, Beyond Ruin, and Beyond Ecstasy.

It was (if you’ll excuse my truly awful play on words) beyond anything I had ever read before. All the sex and kink I could possibly want, without the woman being powerless or overpowered. And all the freaking consent, consent is so sexy and this series proves the hell out of it. Plus menage that felt equal and balanced.

And the world building is truly excellent. I felt immersed in this world that took all the things I had been enjoying with YA/NA post apocalyptic dystopian, without the insipid things I couldn’t stand.

As each book has followed a particular relationship to further the overall plot arc, so too this one did. We FINALLY get the Sector Four princess, sweetie pie Nessa’s story. And her and Ryder are smoking hot together, even with the fact that objectively their relationship is the most vanilla of any in the series. I guess you could call it spare, or basic, but it fit them. They didn’t need the trappings of power and submission, they each hold their own shares of power albeit in different spheres.

More important than the relationship though is the conclusion of what has been a massive undertaking: war. The war that was ramping up in the last book culminated in this book, and the results are dire and heartbreaking. Not everyone got out alive and it effing HURT. We also got some background or a behind the scenes peek at some of the subterfuge that shaped the events in Dallas’ life, and a distilling of all the relationships in the Sector. When everything is destroyed, what you have left are the people, and that is the real strength in Sector Four. And in that, even with the individuals who died, the core of Sector Four endures. It is a bittersweet ending, but the sweet makes it worthwhile.

And while I don’t want to leave them, it is good that Kit Rocha is leaving them to live out their lives in what happiness they have found. I really do hate when authors keep jerking around beloved characters just to keep drama high enough to continue a series.

Fortunately, we don’t have to leave the Sectors. Kit Rocha will be returning next year, only this time to Sector One, and the writing duo heard my (and probably everyone else’s) pleas to give us more Ashwin Malhotra. The icy cold Makhai soldier is up next. Every time I saw Makhai I read it Maiko, and that is what Ashwin is, my cuddly wuddly little Maiko shark (sue me, I looove the damaged ones), and I so want to see him got his happily ever after. Ashwin can’t come soon enough for me.

Beyond Surrender (Beyond, #9)

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4 star review

October TBR Challenge 2016 – Undead and Done by MaryJanice Davidson

TBR Challenge 2016

Topic: Paranormal or Romantic Suspense

undead-and-done

This month’s review is of a book that JUST came out. But, it has been on my TBR ever since I read the first book in the series, if you know what I mean. I got into MaryJanice Davidson a bit late, but by 2008-2009 I was hooked and was raring for more. Betsy, and the Wyndhams, and Fred the Mermaid had my heart and I simply couldn’t wait to see how their stories would play out. It was a long and maddening time coming. This review is going to be ridiculous, and I can’t promised there won’t be series spoilers.

Vampire Queen Betsy Taylor continues her rule in Hell in the scorchingly funny finale to the Undead series from New York Times bestselling author MaryJanice Davidson.

It had been a well-kept secret for centuries, but now the existence of vampires is all over the news, thanks to Betsy Taylor’s half sister (and frustrated former Antichrist), Laura. Life for the undead will never be the same, and it’s up to Betsy to do some damage control. But her interview on the local news doesn’t exactly put out the fire. It more or less pours kerosene on it.

With all the added attention on supernatural beings, the werewolves are more than a little agitated (never a good thing) and demand that Betsy gets her interview skills, and her family, in order. And while things go from bad to worse in the world, Hell continues to be hell—especially when Betsy’s new parole program gets about as complicated as you’d expect.

With a PR team launching a vampire-friendly campaign, the Devil at large and out to make trouble, and mermaids on hand to see who falls—and how hard—the end isn’t just near. It’s here. And if anyone knows how to go out with a bang, it’s the Queen of Hell.

Book 15, oh parting is such sweet sorrow! MJ and Betsy, we’ve been through it, huh? A) I didn’t know a series this ridiculous could actually jump the shark. And B) I didn’t know how we were ever going to come back from the events of Unfinished and Undermined. The time traveling and the loved ones made into a creepy skin book with an Evil Betsy Taylor was just too much for me and many other readers. I am not ashamed to admit, I kind of quit this series. It has been 15 books and 8 years or so, and while it hasn’t always been great, it has been, something…

When I heard that she was wrapping up though, I caught back up and gave her another chance. And I am glad I did. I rarely quit series, and don’t do it lightly, and this is the only one I have ever come back to. I had missed the lightheartedness, the ridiculous humor, and the antics of friends I would never, ever want to hang out with. Seriously, it was like a train wreck.

What we have is my favorite designer shoe loving, airhead almost heroine vampire. She…kind of…grows up. Resolves some stuff, messes some more stuff up, and in general just takes us on a ride. Par for the course and almost like old times. A number of mysteries were solved/resolved, the vampire nation AND Hell are humming along on a fairly even keel, and the gang all comes out on top. There was one death, which was something of a deus ex machina, but honestly I can’t say I could see another way out either, so it is getting a pass from me.

I don’t know. How do you explain the end of a ridiculous series that made you laugh, and cry, and actually hand-to-heart set a book on fire and vow to never read another thing from this author again…but then you do anyway? I guess the best way to explain it is that I enjoyed it but am glad it is over. AND FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS UNHOLY AND DESIGNER SHOE RELATED, MARYJANICE DAVIDSON, you had better not come back here ever againAll that can happen by adding to it is making it worse. The only thing permissible would be short stories to fill in the gaps of things that have already happened (see below). Don’t screw this up like the nameless horrors.

I am not unequivocally satisfied with the series. There is a major series plot hole regarding Boo, Rachel, and Edward from Wolf at the Door that I find maddening. And little inconsistencies and discontinuity that may or may not be explained by the time line shift. And Liam and Sophie were never resolved. And I don’t know if I would necessarily recommend someone who hadn’t read the series to start (too much baggage in the middle). But if you used to love this series and stopped, it might be good to peak out and maybe ease any lingering irritation and finish it on a high note, I know I am glad I did.

Undead and Done (Undead #15)

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5 star review

Review – Dark Minds by Michelle Diener

Dark Minds

The mind is the most powerful weapon of all . . .

Imogen Peters knows she’s a pawn. She’s been abducted from Earth, held prisoner, and abducted again. So when she gets a chance at freedom, she takes it with both hands, not realizing that doing so will turn her from pawn to kingmaker.

Captain Camlar Kalor expected to meet an Earth woman on his current mission, he just thought he’d be meeting her on Larga Ways, under the protection of his Battle Center colleague. Instead, he and Imogen are thrown together as prisoners in the hold of a Class 5 battleship. When he works out she’s not the woman who sparked his mission, but another abductee, Cam realizes his investigation just got a lot more complicated, and the nations of the United Council just took a step closer to war.

Imogen’s out of her depth in this crazy mind game playing out all around her, and she begins to understand her actions will have a massive impact on all the players. But she’s good at mind games. She’s been playing them since she was abducted. Guess they should have left her minding her own business back on Earth…

So this is another one where I received an arc (this time from the author directly-this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review) and bought it anyway- because this author gives me great joy and I am pleased to throw the money at her. Not knowing where she lives and thus being unable to properly stalk and throw money in person, Amazon shall have to do.

I am both saddened and joyful to report that this is the completion of the Class 5 trilogy. I mean I adore series that complete, but I kind of want to stay here forever. But considering how much I complain about series that draggle on poorly forever, I’ll gladly take an author who leaves me wanting more over one who leaves me wishing I never started. So to briefly recap, the discovery of Rose and Sazo in Dark Horse alerted the Grih to the duplicity of the Tecran, and then the events of Dark Deeds alerted the United Council to just how far the treachery went bringing to light two more earth women and a greater scope of misdeeds.

So now we finally have the missing Isobel, and the final two enslaved thinking systems are in play in ways that no one could have expected. And I can’t rightly express how fascinating I find the culture Diener has built, or how impressed I am by how varied the characters are, especially the thinking systems. And the way the women have related to their experiences and associated with the Grih have been wildly different too.

Isobel actually spends the least time with Grih society as a whole, and the most time with her partner in a sort of enforced proximity compared to the other heroines, and that changes the dynamics of how she is perceived (by me at least) as a character. She is quite fatalistic, and angry, so angry at times. And Cam was such a suspicious blighter that you really can’t help but like him. Of course as satisfying as I found their relationship (and I did find it more satisfying than Fiona and Hal’s though slightly less so than Rose and Dav’s-if you want to keep score), for me the stars in this one were more the thinking ships. They played a much bigger role than they did in the last book, and I really felt I got to know Paxe and Oris to a significant extent. They are young so their personalities are still forming, but I KNEW them.

I am just gushing here, but I can’t help myself. I want to squee and scream, and laugh and cry, and accost people I don’t even know to MAKE them read this series. And here, I don’t even know where to go with this review, how to explain why it is such magic for me, but it is. Despite sadness and loss and cruelty, this series is pure magic for me, and I can’t recommend it enough.

While the Class 5 series is finished, I truly hope Ms. Diener chooses to keep writing science fiction, because I will continue to snap it up.

Dark Minds (Class 5 Series Book 3)

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3 star review

Review – Mine to Protect by Cynthia Eden

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He agreed to protect her…not love her.

Victor Monroe left behind a brutal past when he decided to become an FBI Agent. He knows that other agents think he’s too cold, that he has ice in his veins, but he doesn’t care what folks say about him. He gets the job done–always. No matter the cost.

Then he’s blackmailed into guarding…her.

Zoe Peters, ex-showgirl, daughter of a mob boss and drug dealer, a witness who wants to vanish. Zoe is wild, beautiful, and on far too many hit lists. It’s now Victor’s job to keep her safe–a job that Zoe makes damn difficult. But keeping her alive is his mission. It’s supposed to be strictly professional between them. Just another case. Only…

He never counted on falling for her.

Zoe is not the woman he expected. She isn’t cold or hard. She lights up the room when she walks into it, and despite the hell surrounding her, Zoe is good. Probably too good for Victor because Zoe doesn’t know about the secret deal that Victor worked out with her father. Zoe doesn’t know that Victor intended to use her for information and then turn her over to waiting operatives.

Desire wasn’t supposed to enter the equation. The white-hot lust he feels for Zoe should have never threatened Victor’s legendary self-control. But she’s under his skin…melting his ice…getting to him… Soon Victor doesn’t care about the law or about the lines he has to cross for Zoe. She is his priority. Victor will not rest until every threat to her has been eliminated. And then…

Zoe will be his.

I have been waiting for Victor’s book for what seems like forever. He actually crosses between Eden’s Mine series and her Dark Obsession series. As I have said most of these could be read as stand-alones but really, this is sort of a saga of the most villain-beleaguered group of friends and family you will  ever read. Just action packed soap opera and Victor seemed set to be the crowning touch as he’d previously stole the show.

Turns out he’s an effing snake in the effing grass. I could hardly believe it. Sure, he was conflicted about it and all, but he sure wasn’t clearing his mess up any time soon.

Zoe on the other hand, she absolutely rocks, she’s as one character put it, “one hell of a woman”. Kind, compassionate, moral, and a spitfire who rescues herself and others. Probably she’s one of my favorite Cynthia Eden heroines in a while.

Victor though, he’s a snake in the grass almost to the very end. The mystery was nice and twisty though, the story was action packed, and the chemistry between the two of them was fairly combustible. And it was really nice to get updated on some of my old favorite characters. Life is peachy for this villain beleaguered group, and it was lovely to see. It also prompted a re-read so that was nice to.

All in all, I enjoyed it, it wasn’t my absolute favorite in the series, I think I might have built Victor up a little too much. But it was a solid story and a good entertaining read.

Mine to Protect (Mine, #6)

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3 star review

Review – The Twisted Souls Series box Set by Cege Smith

Twisted Souls Box Set

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

The complete Twisted Souls series is available in this box set collection:

The Soul Ripper (Twisted Souls #1)
In a post-apocalyptic world known as the Territory of Malm, infants are born soulless. With a hideous appearance and unquenchable hunger, they are kept out of sight until they are Chosen.

Long ago, the residents of Malm placed their faith in the Office of Souls to lead them and keep them safe after the human race was almost destroyed in the time known only as “Before”. But someone long forgotten has other plans, and that means unleashing unspeakable evil into their world.

Soul Implantation Day 3675 starts out like any other, and follows the paths of six people who are destined to meet in the courtyard of the Fountain of Souls. They bear witness to a soul implantation ceremony gone terribly awry.

Not all of them will survive, and some will suffer a fate far worse than death.

*This novella was previously released under the title “The Soul Garden”.*

Twisted Souls (Twisted Souls #2)
The epic collision of good and evil that began in The Soul Ripper (Twisted Souls #1)

continues in Twisted Souls (Twisted Souls #2), the second installment of Cege Smith’s Twisted Soul series…

The survivors of Soul Implantation Day 3675 went into hiding as the rest of the Territory of Malm was ravaged by an old foe hell-bent on total domination of their world. As the focus settles on the last untouched outpost of humanity, Samuel, the new Head Master of the nearly annihilated Office of Souls, knows that something must be done in order to bring the human race back from the brink of total extinction.

Samuel’s secret weapon is Cameron, the last recipient of a soul from the Fountain of Souls. Cameron’s destiny has set her on a path to face down the ultimate evil and hopefully save mankind. Time is against them as the survivors discover that nowhere is safe from their enemy’s reach, and they must rejoin the outside world and fight before it is too late.

Soul Cycle (Twisted Souls #3)
The line between good and evil blurs even further in Soul Cycle (Twisted Souls #3), the third installment of the Twisted Souls saga…

Cameron, Samuel, and Malcolm survived the trap in the Office of Souls compound. Their goal is to reach Outpost Alanstown where they know they will have to confront their enemy. But as their journey begins, an encounter with a group of bloodthirsty Soulless Ones separates the group on the outskirts of West End, the capital city of the Territory of Malm.

In the meantime, in Outpost Alanstown, Chim retrieves Marius from the edges of madness. Marius finds himself in the difficult position of helping Chim in order to help himself.

What no one knows is that someone has been behind the scenes pulling the strings like a skilled puppet master, and that person is someone they never expected.

Answers from the past must be found before Cameron and Samuel’s true destinies can be revealed. The journey to the final battle is coming, but who will be there still remains a mystery.

A Soul to Settle (Twisted Souls #4)
A new evil rises as Samuel and Cameron race toward to Outpost Alanstown in the thrilling conclusion of the Twisted Souls series…

Facing a moral dilemma, Samuel realizes that everything he believed was right is wrong. He is confronted with the devastating truth that to save the Territory of Malm, he must first remove the stain of the treacherous legacy of the one who ruled before him.

Cameron teeters on the cusp of discovering her purpose.

This was just so trippy sounding I couldn’t resist. I am such an unreasoned fan of post-apocalyptic dystopians. And man, trippy doesn’t even begin to cover it. Babies in this world are born soulless, and it is creepy, not like Gail Carriger’s version of soulless at all.

So at first it is kind of mysterious, it is interesting and maybe even a bit frightening. And the end of the first story has quite a bit of action and a heck of a cliffhanger. I would NOT have liked to have been following along before everything came out. But when the second novella in the series starts up, it get a little… well it gets a little weird. And I don’t mean weird in a friendly nice sort of way. I get why the author made the choice she made. It truncates things in a way that makes her plot work the way she obviously intended. I just found this one aspect a bit offputting.

Honestly, the romantic elements of this story were the weakest elements in what is otherwise an interesting sort of sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal (honestly I don’t know quite what it is, it is a mashup) dystopian story, and while that takes up a significant portion of the plot, I think it may have been a stronger and better story without it, or at least done differently. Or that may be my particular bias, because this turned out to be a new adult in disguise.

On the other hand, that may not have helped, as I found Marius, one of the bad guys, the most likable and sympathetic out of the whole cast for most of the book. Chim was unmitigated one-dimensional evil. Cameron was stunted and one-dimensional for the vast majority of the book, though that really wasn’t her fault. But Samuel was the piece de’resistance, a man so willfully blind for so long is almost unbearable.

And for then first 98% of the book, the ending of my review had a very different angle. But the authors ending vompletely changed mine. It is hard to describe, but I vacillated between being almost too frustrated to continue, and being helplessly mesmerized by the events taking place. This thing twisted and turned on itself so many times it was impossible to know where it was headed. But that last 2% of the book, in a series full of twists absolutely turned me on my head. Absolutely nothing was like I thought, and that ending was nothing that I could have expected.

As far as editing goes, the first two appeared very well-edited, or if there were any errors I simply didn’t note them. The third book saw a variety of small errors that caught my attention, like please instead of pleas. But overall for a self published book it is actually quite good.

So final analysis? Did I like it? I don’t know. I think I liked the premise of it better than the execution. I was honestly all set to give this thing 2 stars and be done with it. Is it really fair to change a rating based on such a small section of the book? Probably not, but the author did something so unexpected that it completely subverted my expectations, such that I can’t quite help myself from adjusting my viewpoint, and my rating. Do I wish the author had handled the main relationship differently and that more of the questions were answered? Absolutely, like I said this is better in theory than in execution. But there was just something about the way she stayed true to what is not precisely a happy ending in a way that fed into the world she built without shoehorning in the perfect happy ending, that it felt like a rewarding read in the end. I just couldn’t help upgrading my rating.

So I am giving this a generous, conditional 3 stars. Very generous considering it was only the last 2% of the book that bumped it up for me (though some of that initial low score was likely from previous admitted biases). Conditional on what I can’t quite express without entirely spoiling the ending. Closest that I have is that you should probably like new adult, not mind that the boundaries of science and magic are unclear, not mind that all the questions aren’t answered, and not need a complete happily ever after. Which all sounds rather grim, except it isn’t.

On a completely unrelated note (to the story itself), what I found myself feeling slightly curious about as I read through this serial compilation, is that when people put these together they don’t edit out the recap transitions. I know those are necessary and/or helpful when people are reading the various entries separately because of time lags or because people skips books or jump into the series randomly, but when they are all bound together in one book, I’d almost think you’d want to clean them up since they aren’t really necessary anymore. It just makes me wonder why people don’t. So that is my odd musing for this one.

The Twisted Souls Series (Box Set: The Soul Ripper, Twisted Souls, Soul Cycle, A Soul to Settle)
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4 star review

Review – Manners and Mutiny by Gail Carriger

Manner and Mutiny

This is the 4th and final book in Carriger’s Finishing School Series. So this is in a way a prequel series to the Parasol Protectorate, as timeline wise it is earlier in the same world, just as The Parasol Protectorate is a prequel to the The Custard Protocol series. And if you haven’t read either of those, you can absolutely start with this series even though Parasol Protectorate came out first. Just not with this book. This series needs to be read in order to make sense. But it is a fun, and mannerly steampunk world that I enjoy very much.

So since this is the series finale, let me introduce how the series starts:

It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners–and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage–in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.

See? Adorable. I had to have it. And subsequent books deal with Sophronia growing up, as a lady who finishes…everything. I think I was on to something previously when I posited that New Adult really only works well for me when it isn’t contemporary. Plus, the covers are simply gorgeous. But now we are in Sophronia’s final adventure.

Lessons in the art of espionage aboard Mademoiselle Geraldine’s floating dirigible have become tedious without Sophronia’s sweet sootie Soap nearby. She would much rather be using her skills to thwart the dastardly Picklemen, yet her concerns about their wicked intentions are ignored, and now she’s not sure whom to trust. What does the brusque werewolf dewan know? On whose side is the ever-stylish vampire Lord Akeldama? Only one thing is certain: a large-scale plot is under way, and when it comes to fruition, Sophronia must be ready to save her friends, her school, and all of London from disaster—in decidedly dramatic fashion, of course.

What will become of our proper young heroine when she puts her years of training to the test? Find out in this highly anticipated and thrilling conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Finishing School series!

And I’ll admit to having some trepidation over how everything would be wrapped up. But I was soon sucked back into this world where espionage is the rule, disguises are de rigueur, etiquette is cutting (both figuratively and literally) and where plot-pets are delightfully mechanical.

It is oh so bittersweet to find everything finished. There isn’t much I can relate regarding the plot, besides the the aforementioned general description about the genre mashup and the book blurb, without spoiling either this book or previous ones in the series.

So I guess I’ll focus on Sophronia, a lady I enjoy tremendously. She’s intrepid, resourceful, and smart. It has been a delight following her adventures in this madcap steam punk world. I can’t say how much I enjoyed this final adventure focusing on her, and her growth, rather than so much on her feelings for boys. Don’t get me wrong, we get a satisfactory happily ever after, but that wasn’t what this book was about.

I wish I could find more steam punk or gas lamp stories like these, Meljean Brook‘s, or Cindy Spencer Pape‘s. So I highly recommend this series for lovers of those genres, whether they like new adult fiction or not. I also recommend it for those who enjoy new adult, so long as they don’t strenuously object to steamp punk/gas lamp. And if you are a new adult fan who wants to dip their toes in steam punk, this is probably the place to start. It is also an appropriate selection for teens, there isn’t a thing a parent would object to, that would simply be unmannerly.

And as an aside, one of the things that fascinates me is how very much I now want to go back and reread The Parasol Protectorate and look for all the tiny little linkages. That series is completely unneeded for this series, nor is this one needed for P.P., but for people who are interested in both, the little connections are just so fascinating. It is excellent world building in my opinion.

Manners and Mutiny (Finishing School, #4)
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