Review: King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry

Title: King of Plagues

Author: Jonathan Maberry

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Genre: thriller, plagues, action, suspense, adult

Source: shelf

Publication Date: 2011

After a catastrophic bombing of a London hospital, Joe Ledger comes out of his grief vacation to investigate. It is quickly determined that the bombing is the work of the Seven Kings, a shadowy organization that led by the Goddess , whose purpose is to spread discord around the world. Now, they have released a weaponized version of the Ten Plagues of Egypt, and the Department of Military Science must scramble all their resources to take them down.

I cannot believe I almost got rid of this book. I did a massive unhaul last year, and I almost got rid of this book, and that was ridiculous. I love this book. It’s so incredibly good. Jonathan Maberry is such a good writer.

Let’s start with Joe Ledger. Joe is a smart ass, confident, a little arrogant, He’s very good at his job, which is to lead Echo Team, a group of elite men and women who fight all the strange stuff the world puts out. What I love about Joe is that he’s deeply vulnerable, not afraid to admit when he’s scared or upset or, in this book, grieving. He’s a very real character and I couldn’t love him more.

The Seven Kings organization is terrifying. We’re brought into it through Sebastian Gault, one of the villains in the first novel, Patient Zero. Here, Gault is damaged, bruised, and reeling and oh so very ready to take revenge on the world. He’s quickly drawn into the mystique of the Seven Kings and falls into adoring worship of the Goddess, a woman named Eris.

And then there’s my favorite character, Toys. Toys is Gault’s assistant, the power behind the throne, which is a trope I love. He’s ruthless and heartless, but inconveniently starts growing something like a conscious during this book and becomes conflicted. He alone can see that the Goddess is just an aging woman who wants to destroy for destruction sake, but he can’t break the bonds he has with Gault.

The book is a very fast read. Maberry writes incredibly short chapters that entice you to keep reading, and I tore through it in a couple of days. I thought that right now this book would be too heavy, but it turns out to be just what I needed: an action packed, suspenseful thriller with great characters and a twisting plot that kept me reading.

If you like action, suspense thrillers with great character, yes, read this book. But, before you read this, go back to where it all started with Patient Zero.

Review: Starcrossed by Allie Therin

Title: Starcrossed (Magic in Manhattan #2)

Author: Allie Therin

Publisher: Carina Press

Genre: m/m historical romance, paranormal romance

Source: NetGalley

Publication Date: May 18, 2020

Arthur Kenzie has devoted his life to procuring and protecting supernatural relics from those who would misuse them. But now, his life has a new purpose: loving Rory Brodigan, the cranky and irascible psycometric with phenomenal powers that he doesn’t understand. Rory love Arthur, but he can’t help be confront the truth of their disparate social status and despair over their relationship in the long term

Now, a new relic threatens New York and the safety of not only Rory, but Arthur and his family. Rory and Arthur must use every bit of magic at their disposal to counter the new threat, where old enemies become uneasy allies and Rory and Arthur’s love is put to the text.

I absolutely adored this book! It was wonderful from start to finish. Like last book, Arthur’s uprightness, honor, and love bowl me over. I love a man who is protective of his loved ones while being sensitive and honorable at the same time. However, I must admit, I wanted to shake him a few times. There’s a point where honor begins working against happiness, and he hit it. But even that was fun to read. I just love him.

My love for Rory is no less. Quick to anger, quick to defend himself, and overly humble at times, he’s just easy to relate to. I love his explosive temper and the way he’s willing to fight for himself and his loved ones. I also like that, although he’s afraid of his power, he’s curious about it, too, and can’t help but explore it. His heart is in the right place and he loves and cares for others so much. He’s a perfect match for Arthur.

The plot was intriguing as well. There’s a powerful new relic in town. People are dying, magic is being used to hide the perpetrators, and Arthur seems to be the target. Or is he? I loved the twists and turns the book took, and the ending was very exciting.

The strength of this book is the characters. All of them are well done and intriguing in their own right. I would happily read a book about Jade and Zhang. I would also really like to read about Arthur’s adventures prior to meeting Rory, during the war. Everything sounds so intriguing. I love this book.

I definitely recommend this book and series. It’s especially good for people new to the genre. It’s sexy without being overly explicit, and focuses more on romance and intimacy than sex. The characters are wonderful and the plot is action packed. Get Starcrossed immediately when it comes out; I know I will!

Review: Archenemies by Marissa Meyer

Title: Archenemies
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Genre: YA, action, superheroes, scifi
Source: library
Publication Date: November 6, 2018

Nova is living a double life. In one, she’s Insomnia, a Renegade superhero dedicated to protecting the weak and maintaining order in Galton city. In the other, she’s Nightmare, and Anarchist determined to bring down the Renegades who once failed to protect her family.

Adrian is also living a double life. In one, he’s the leader of his Renegade patrol group, son of the leaders of the Renegades, and upstanding citizen. In the other, he’s the Sentinel, a vigilante determined to do good even if it means breaking a few rules.

Nova, Adrian, and the crew are faced with problems beyond secret identities as crime escalates in Galton City. They also have to deal with a new secret weapon being rolled out by the Renegade scientists, one with horrifying ethical implications. To top it off, Adrian and Nova’s feels for each other deepen, blurring the line between good and evil even further.

Oh, man, was this book a lot of fun. Nova is such a great character. Raised by evil super villains, she’s concerned with justice and integrity even more than the so-called superheroes. She isn’t blinded by her powers and and the idea that good is always right. She’s concerned with the people of the city, with ethics, and has a clearer picture of how power can be perverted. That’s not to say that she doesn’t have blindness of her own. Her uncle, Ace Anarchy, and the other villains, clearly don’t care about the people as she does. They want power for power’s sake, to be able to do what they want, and the freedom they enjoyed during the Age of Anarchy, when lawlessness ruled. But Nova, of course, is too young and naive to see that, which makes her story a tragedy.

I like Adrian well enough, but he’s not as interesting to me as Nova is. His power is the ability to bring drawings and paintings to life, and he’s used it to tattoo modifications on himself to turn him into the Sentinel. He’s willing to break the rules of that his parents follow, and he does have a point, but ultimately, he’s more of a child in his thinking. I do like the way he cares about everyone, especially Nova. His and Nova’s relationship is very cute and I like the way the came together.

I wish, though, more time had been spent on developing the “bad” Renegade patrol unit. They are exactly what Nova fears: superheroes that abuse their power and authority. I have no t trouble believing that they exist, but I would have liked them to be more complicated and less cartoonishly villainous. I would have liked to see some nuance. But, on the other hand, they contrasted with Adrian, who as Sentinel is abusing his powers and breaking the rules, but following a code that keeps his conscience clear, unlike Geinessa and her crew. So, maybe that’s where the nuance lies.

I highly recommend this book. It’s a great read on what the world might be like with superheroes where the world doesn’t fall apart like in Watchmen by Alan Moore. If you’re looking for an exciting escape from the world, this series is for you.

Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young People

Genre: YA, contemporary, coming of age, queer lit

Source: library (audio)

Publication Date: February 21, 2012

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison and an uncommunicative father who suffers from PTSD. Dante is a smart kid who is crazy about his parents. When they meet at the pool one summer, they soon become best friends. But where life and tragedy doesn’t separate them, Ari’s anger and uncommunicative nature may do it for them. They must learn to trust one another and themselves in order to discover the secrets of the universe.

This was a super sweet book, which is funny because the main character, Ari, is not a super sweet character. He’s very angry and closed off. Even though the book is told in his first person voice, he doesn’t share a lot about himself and his feelings. The entire book is very sparse and short in the way it’s written, echoing Ari’s nature.

But the relationship between the boys is magical. They are drawn together like magnets and their joy at being with each other just bubbles over. I loved watching them navigate their relationship and growing was wonderful. While there are definitely fits and starts and places where they stumble, but it’s a great journey that they make.

I read this book for two reasons. One, I knew it was queer literature and that’s my special interest. Second, the audio book was read by Lin Manuel Miranda. And both were great. Okay, I’m getting into kind spoilery territory, so if you don’t want any spoilers, don’t read below.

spoiler break

Reading this, I began to think that this was going to be a one sided love story. One of the characters falls in love with the other, but the other didn’t reciprocate. And that was disappointing to me, because I don’t like reading stories like that. I’ve been in that situation, and I want happy endings. But, in the end, it turned out the way I wanted, so it made me happy.

And, as always, Lin Manuel Miranda was great.

Yes, I recommend it. It’s a great coming of age story and a really good love story. I was almost in tears at the end. Happy tears. It’s a great book.

Review: The Toll by Neal Shusterman

Title: The Toll (book 3 in the Arc of the Scythe)

Author: Neal Shusterman

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Genre: YA, dystopian

Source: library

Publication Date: November 5, 2019

It’s been three years since the sinking of Endura. Scythe Goddard is now in power, influencing and encouraging scythes all around the world. The Thunderhead has declared everyone as unsavory save for Greyson Tolliver. Rowan and Citra remain locked in the vault at the bottom of the sea.

And then, despite Goddard declaring the sea around Endura a sacred space, a salvage begins that will change everything.

This book was amazing. From start to finish, it had me mesmerized. The main action is three years after Thunderhead, but there are parts that take place before. It took me a bit to figure out what was happening “now” and what happened in the past, but that’s fine. It didn’t distract me.

I continue to love the Thunderhead with the fire of a thousand suns. A benevolent AI who has humanities best interest at heart is not something I run across a lot. Usually, AIs are evil (shout out to AIDAN–I still love you), but the Thunderhead isn’t. It’s complex and thoughtful and terrible and just.. wonderful. I was so interested in what was going on and I love what happened at the end.

The only part of the book that felt weak to me was Rowan and Citra’s relationship. I really like Citra and Scythe Anastasia, but I never have really been invested in her and Rowan’s romance. And I wasn’t here. There was some stuff that was supposed to be gut wrenching, but it just never managed to move me. I was more invested in Greyson’s relationship with the Thunderhead. Now that was gut wrenching and well done. It was perfect.

Overall, this book was very well done. It was intricate and complex and had a lot of threads that were tied together well by the end. It needed to be as long as it was, and maybe could have been longer (I really would have liked to know more about some of the things that were uncovered by Citra) Despite its length, the pacing was tight, the plot moved along, and I didn’t feel there was any filler in it.

Yes. Wholeheartedly. I want everyone to read these three books and love them as much as I did.

What was your favorite moment in The Toll? Let me know below!

Review: The Chosen by Chaim Potok

Title: The Chosen

Author: Chaim Potok

Publisher: Fawcett Crest Books

Genre: fiction

Source: Book Outlet (or Thriftbooks)

Publication Date: 1967

After a bad meeting over a baseball game, Reuven Malther and Danny Saunders become the best of friends. Both boys are Jewish, but Danny is from a Hasidic sect. His father is not just a rabbi, but a tzaddik, a righteous person to be revered. Danny knows that one day he’ll take his father’s place and doesn’t want to. Brilliant and inquisitive, he’s interested in psychology and the human mind. He and Reuven grow together spiritually and emotionally, learning to navigate the ever changing world around them.

A week ago, I honestly thought I was going to DNF this book. It just wasn’t working for me. But then, I saw down in the middle of the day, instead of right before bed, and gave it another chance. I’m really glad I did.

Danny and Reuven meet during a baseball game between their schools.Danny, one of the only good players on his team, hits a ball that Revuen stops with his face, sending him to the hospital. I’ll tell you, that game almost made me stop reading. I cannot stand poor sports, and everyone on Danny’s team was one. It really ticked me off and made me hate everything, but once I got past it, things took a turn. Danny turned out to be a sensitive, thoughtful boy with a lot of emotional maturity (which was surprising considering his upbringing). Revuen was very thoughtful and kind, too. He and Danny formed a deep connection and I liked watching it grow.

The one place I felt the book was a little week was the style. There was a lot of summarizing what was going on instead of showing. There were pages where the dialogue was described, but not directly spoken. A lot of stuff was repeated, as well. Or, Reuven would talk to his father, who’d stop every few lines to ask if Reuven was tired and if the father should stop. It made thing unnecessarily long. However, I think it’s a time period thing. I haven’t read a lot of books from the sixties (except Rosemary’s Baby) and it might just be how books were written then. Coming from a modern view, it was a little tedious.

But, man, did it pack and emotional punch. This book takes place at the tail end of World War II. The scenes of both fathers discovering what happened to the Jews in Europe during the Holocaust was gut-wrenching. Trying to imagine what they felt… It was hard.

I was very pleased with the ending. It took me by surprise, but in a good way. It made me feel warm to a character I was cold to the entirety of the book. I still don’t like him, but I like him better than I did.

This is a tough one. Yes, I recommend it, because it’s a very good book. However, unless you’re interested in Jewish history and religion and the different sects, you might not be interested in it. But, at its heart, it’s the story of friendship and how friendships survive in adversity. If that’s your interest, then, yes, you should read it.

Review: A Heart so Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer

Title: A Heart so Fierce and Broken

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Genre: fantasy, fairy-tale retelling

Source: Barnes and Noble

Publication Date: January 7, 2020

The curse has been broken and Prince Rhen is finally free. But trouble looms for Emberfall. People have heard of the rumored true heir and Karis Luran is threatening the kingdom again. Worse, Grey, Rhen’s loyal guardsman, has gone missing.

After killing the enchantress, Lilith, and discovering that he is the heir, Grey has gone into hiding. With no desire to challenge Rhen, all he wants is to live his life in peace. But when he’s discovered, he’s forced to make a choice that he doesn’t want to make. With new friends by his side, he must ally himself with Karis Luran’s daughter, Lia Mara, who is desperate to convince him to make his rightful claim to the throne not just for justice, but for the good of Emberfall itself.

I loved this book. When I read A Curse so Dark and Lonely, my two favorite characters were Harper and Grey, and I was thrilled to have a book all about Grey. I continued to love him through the whole of this book. Grey has been a royal guardsman for hundreds of years at this point. He’s loyal through and through, strong and steadfast. He has a hard time letting go of that identity once he’s free. He’s also been trapped by magic for time untold and is, understandably leery of magic. Through the book, he goes through a journey from being afraid of it to embracing his identity as a magic user. I loved every moment of his journey.

Lia Mara was also an instant love for me. She’s the eldest daughter of Kari Luran, but has been passed over to be queen in favor of her younger sister. She’s accepted it, but feels that she still has a lot of offer. Lia Mara is smart, practical, and a bit impulsive. She’s a little desperate to prove herself and make her ruthless mother proud. I really related to her and loved her POV chapters.

My only slight stumbling block was the romance. Now, I liked the romance and was glad when it advanced, but while I felt all the tension and excitement with Lia Mara, I was less sure of what Grey was going through. Now, part of it was the nature of the beast: Grey is more reserved and careful. But, honestly, I felt his battle with getting himself to drink was more explored than his feelings for Lia Mara. The little hints we got at the beginning, like him noticing her eyes or her figure, were amazing. But it felt like it went from 10 to 100 without a lot of struggle. One of the things guardsmen were denied were family and love, so I’d have like to see him struggling more.

Overall, I loved this book. I liked the journey they all took to get from the beginning to end. I liked the romance, even if I wish there was more or deeper exploration on Grey’s side, and I loved the characters. Kemmerer wasn’t afraid to go to some dark places to show the trauma that Grey, Lia Mara, and Rhen have suffered and have to deal with. It was great and I can’t wait for more.

I highly recommend this book. If you liked A Curse So Dark and Lonely, I think you should read this book ESPECIALLY if you liked Grey more than Rhen. This is not a kind book for Rhen, and while I hope he gets his redemption in the next book, if you like him best, you might not like this book. But read it anyway. 🙂

Review: A History of Madness by Rebecca Crunden

Title: A History of Madness

Author: Rebecca Crunden

Genre: dystopian, sci-fi

Source: author

Series: The Outlands Pentalogy (#2)

After coming back to the city for a cure to the sickness he and Catherine Taenia had contracted, Nate is now imprisoned, facing execution, and ignorant as to the fate of the rest of his friends. But, after a strange and unexpected meeting with the king, Nate’s sentence is commuted and he’s sent to a work camp for five years. After learning the fate of his beloved Kitty, Nate breaks out of prison and rescues her, deciding that five years is too long to late. Together, with Zoe and Tove, they escape to the Outlands, where their adventures only just begin.

I highly enjoyed the second book in this series. Questions that I had about the world started to be answered, although I suspect there are more answers in the rest of the series. I loved getting to know the people in the Outlands who call themselves the Radiants and see themselves as being chosen by God. And I loved to death reading about how they viewed the people who lived inside the kingdom. Engus is probably my new favorite character and I loved his interactions with everyone.

I wish there had been more Kitty in this book, although she was the star of the last one, so I understand why there wasn’t. It liked getting into Nate’s head and seeing how he viewed things. I did feel like I never quite broke through the exterior of him, though. I know he things and feels very deeply, but the writing didn’t quite make me feel what he was. I wish there had been a more visceral connection between me and him, if that makes sense. But I still really like him and love the way he talks and interacts with the other characters.

My only disappointment was what happened to Kitty. What happened to her was realistic and totally believable, but I was just sad about it. My last memory of her from A Touch of Death was one of strength and defiance, and it was disappointing to see that she wasn’t able to keep up that defiance. However, despite all that happened to her, she’s still so incredibly strong and fierce. I love that she goes after what’s right for her, even when it’s a difficult decision. I can’t wait to read more of her.

I would recommend this, especially if you like dysoptian worlds. The characters are likable, the writing is engaging, and the ending of this is fantastic. It’s a great cliffhanger that will make you want to keep reading. So, I recommend that you give it a try!

Review: Crashing Upwards by S.C. Wynne

Title: Crashing Upwards

Author: S.C. Wynne

Publisher: Wynne Wynne Publishing

Genre: m/m contemporary romance

Source: Amazon

Publication Date: October 2, 2018

Harper Jones is a bike messenger, a profession he enjoys except for his jerk of a boss. His apartment is in shambles and inhabited by mice, he’s barely scraping by, but he’s proud that he doesn’t have to rely on anyone. He’s independent and likes it that way.

Sam Foster is the affluent son of a conservative senator. He’ll be allowed to come out… some day when it won’t affect his father’s campaign, but that day isn’t today. He has a little crush on Harper, who has delievered packages to Sam’s father’s office before, but he can’t get up the guts to talk to him.

And then, he accidentally hits Harper with his car. Now, Harper is banged up and not able to take care of himself. Sam takes it upon himself to make sure Harper gets the care he needs… and, in the process, falls in love.

Now, the two need to navigate the rocky road ahead of them and Sam needs to find the courage to stand up to his father and live life on his own terms.

So, this is a perfectly serviceable contemporary romance, which, granted, is not my go-to genre. But it was sweet and cute. But not much more. I liked Sam lot and really enjoyed the way he moved into Harper’s life and took care of him. Harper was okay, but he was kind of a stereotype of a touch, independent man. I never felt like I knew him very well. But, honestly, the book was largely forgettable to me. It was cotton candy: sweet while reading it, but dissolves immediately when finished.

It’s not by any stretch of the imagination a bad book. It just didn’t wow me or stick with me very long after I read it.

Yes, I would recommend it. If you like sweet, light, fluffy romances that pass the time in an enjoyable way, this is a good book for that.

Review: Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come by Jessica Pan

Title: Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come: One Introvert’s Year of Saying Yes

Author: Jessica Pan

Publisher: Doubleday

Genre: Non-fiction, memoir

Source: library (Hoopla Digital)

Publication Date: May 28, 2019

Jessica Pan is a shy introvert- a shistrovert, as she calls herself. But, after having a breakdown in a gym sauna, fully dressed and crying over an issue of Men’s Health, she decides it’s time for a change. She’s jobless and all her friends have moved away, so she makes a list of things to do that will break her out of her shell: solo travel, improv, a public speech, and talking to strangers on a train. Before long, she’s afraid that’s she’s taken on too much, but, determined to see it through, continues on with her plan. She really wants to find out, is life easier for an extrovert? And how will she survive this year?

This was an enjoyable read. I liked Jess’s journey from being incredibly shy and withdrawn to learning to expand her boundaries. Her various experiments were fun to listen to, although I do wish she’d slowed down her speech a couple times. She’s a very fast talker, a fact she acknowledges in her book, and a couple times it was hard to understand her. Still, that didn’t detract from the book overall, and even added some character.

I had hoped the book would give me some advice on how to meet more people and make deeper connections with them. I’m fairly withdrawn even when I’m with people, more of a listener than a talker, which is odd, because I love to talk. In the book, there’s advice on some questions to ask and how to make deeper connections, but I can’t really remember them and am a loss on how to do it in my life. Still, the sense I got was that this was less self-improvement and more memoir, so there really didn’t need to be actionable steps. I just wish there had been.

Overall, I enjoyed listening and looked forward to my drives so I could listen to the next part every day. Looking forward to it definitely means the book did something right.

If you, like me, enjoy reading about people as they tackle one year challenges, this is a good book to add to that collection. If you’re an introvert looking for reassurance that extroverting isn’t that bad, give it a try. And if you’re an extrovert looking to understand what’s going on in a introvert’s head, this is an excellent book to read.

How do you identify: introvert or extrovert? Let me know in the comments!