Blackout by Mira Grant – Book Review

Blackout by Mira Grant
Published by Orbit Books, an imprint of Hachette

Blackout is the third book in the Feed trilogy and, as such, this review contains spoilers for the previous books in the series, Feed and Deadline.

Everything started going wrong when After the End Times followed the Ryman presidential campaign. Now they’re on the run, hunted down by the CDC. Actually, Shaun and his team are being hunted. His sister, Georgia, is dead. Well, she was dead. Now she’s alive again in a CDC facility. Sort of alive. Actually, she’s a clone, and not the first one they made of the original Georgia Mason, just the most realistic one to date. Can the After the End Times team reunite and break the biggest story of their lives before being take down by the CIA – or by zombie bears?

You GUYS. I preordered Blackout on my Nook. PREORDERED. And then I waited six months to read it. WHY? WHY I ASK YOU? WHY? Okay, but seriously, Blackout was perhaps my favorite of all of the books in the Feed trilogy, despite the fact it had been 18 months (and, oh, 300 books) since I had read any of the previous installments in the trilogy, so I had forgotten things.

But really, this is quite possibly the best book in the Feed trilogy. I adored the first one for the world building more than anything else (well, that and the politics and blogging angle…okay, I really just liked it a bunch in general), but even though Grant plays with her reader’s brains and sense of right and wrong, Blackout is just amazing. It all works, it all comes together. It also makes me want to go back and reread this entire series from the beginning, including the prequel novellas and the novella that is chronologically between Feed and Deadline. And then I want to sit patiently at Mira Grant (a pen name of Seanan McGuire)’s feet and wait for her to write more zombie things.

I love when the end of a trilogy validates my having started the trilogy in the first place, and Blackout does that in spades. Very highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Personal copy.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell – Book Review

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
Published by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House

So, everyone’s all, “Jesuits in space! How can you not love The Sparrow?” Here’s my problem, every time I ever heard anyone mention Jesuits in space all I heard in my head was “Jesuits…. In…. Spaaaaace…” like that old pigs in space sketch from The Muppet Show. As a result, it seems that I imagined that The Sparrow was going to be a comedy.

Uh, yeah, no. That assumption got pretty awkward pretty fast. The Sparrow alternates between two time periods, the first is leading up to and during the mission to Rakhat – a recently planet recently discovered to have intelligent life – and the second is after the return to Earth of Jesuit priest Emilio Sandoz, sole survivor. Almost immediately the reader learns that things went very, very wrong on Rakhat. Not only did the entire rest of the crew die, but Sandoz has been accused of something heinous – and initially fairly vague – by the secular mission from Earth to Rakhat that rescued him.

There is a lot going on in The Sparrow and it took me some time to find my way into the story, although this might have been partially because I was expecting something quite different than what I was actually going to get. Once I became fully immersed in Russell’s story – and it didn’t take very long – I was completely hooked. You might think that knowing from the get-go that these characters with whom you are connecting will not make it back from Rakhat would detract from the suspense and the sense of urgency of the novel, but this turns out not to be the case at all. Despite the fact I knew I was going to lose these characters, Russell still made me care about them, and as the mission arrived on Rakhat I began to get very nervous for all of them, wondering when exactly the other shoe was going to drop.

It is difficult to believe that The Sparrow was Mary Doria Russell’s debut novel, because she teases out the story of Emilio Sandoz and what happened to him and his friends on Rakhat with absolute mastery. She also does not default to the easy, cliche themes and conclusions, either. Everything is complex and realistically messy. The Sparrow is a wonderful novel, and one I can definitely recommend.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Personal.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Changeless by Gail Carriger – Book Review

Changeless by Gail Carriger
Published by Orbit, an imprint of Hachette

This is the second book in the Parasol Protectorate series, I have previously reviewed the first book, Soulless.

Just because Alexia is now the Lady Woolsey, wife of Conall Maccon, Earl of Woolsey, doesn’t mean that Conall necessarily bothers to tell her much of anything. When Conall marches out of the house yelling at the top of his lungs, he neglects to tell Alexia anything that is going on, leaving her to discover for herself the regiment of werewolves camped out on their front lawn. In addition to the soldiers, it seems that the British Isles have suddenly been plagued by something that is negating the powers of supernaturals, including exorcising ghosts. As an adviser to Queen Victoria, Alexia is tasked with uncovering the secret behind why everyone is Changeless.

I thoroughly enjoyed Soulless, the first book in this series. Changeless, however, held a bit less magic for me. Part of the issue, I think, is the lack of interplay between Conall and Alexia. The two spend much of the novel apart, and the frolicking fun of Soulless, which depended so much on their tumultuous relationship, is much less evident in Changeless.

Overall, Changeless just really failed to grab me. For most of the book I was planning to give up on the series here, although some events at the end of the book do have me tempted to go on to Blameless. Still, I think I need some convincing from those who have read this series as to whether or not it is worth continuing.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Personal.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel – Audiobook Review

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, narrated by Simon Vance
Published in audio by Macmillan Audio, published in print by Henry Holt & Co, both imprints of Macmillan

Bring up the Bodies is the sequel to Wolf Hall.

Synopsis:

His attempt to marry Anne Boleyn irrevocably changed England, but now Henry VIII is growing disenchanted with his wife. Her one living child is another mere girl, like his child with his first wife, Katherine, and although Anne has conceived since she has failed to carry any more babies to term. In addition to feeling cheated in the return on his investment, Henry also finds himself increasingly intrigued by shy, quiet Jane Seymour. There is only one man who the king trusts to do his bidding and make sure that his ends are achieved: Thomas Cromwell.

Thoughts on the story:

In Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel continues telling the story of Cromwell and his machinations on behalf of Henry VIII. She clearly took to heart the criticisms of Wolf Hall, particularly that it is at times difficult to follow in the myriad of “he”s. In Bring up the Bodies, Mantel frequently clarifies when talking about Cromwell, the phrase “he, Cromwell” is sprinkled liberally throughout the text. It is actually present to the extent that it seems a bit overdone, almost as if she was attempting to prove a point about her choices in Wolf Hall. Bring up the Bodies is shorter and, in general, much more accessible than Wolf Hall while still being incredibly well-written.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Simon Vance was ON with his vocal differentiation and accents in Bring up the Bodies. I was initially put off by his voices for both Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, but shortly after each of them first speak, Mantel describes their voices/accents and Vance’s interpretations match perfectly.  The audio format does bring out Mantel’s “he, Cromwell” more prominently to the point where it is almost annoying, but Vance’s appealing narration smooths over that minor textual irritation.

Overall:

As much as I enjoyed Wolf Hall, I found Bring up the Bodies to be even better. I highly recommend it in general, and even more highly recommend having Simon Vance whisper Mantel’s fascinating words and stories into your ears.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

Source: Personal.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd – Book Review

A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks

This is the third book in the Bess Crawford series. I previously reviewed the first two books, A Duty to the Dead  and An Impartial Witness.

Newly home on Christmas leave, Bess finds a woman huddled on her doorstep, a huge bruise spreading across her face. Bess is not one to ignore anyone in trouble, so she invites the woman – Lydia – in and even agrees to return home with her, to act as a buffer between Lydia and her husband. While staying with Lydia’s husband’s family, a family friend also staying at the house is found mysteriously dead after accidentally spilling a huge secret. Suddenly everyone, including Bess, is a suspect and Bess’s involvement in the case could make her a potential victim as well.

Bess always seems to get herself in these situations in a slightly improbable manner and this is no exception, but the plot of A Bitter Truth actually seemed more plausible than the first two. Certainly the appearance of Lydia on Bess’s doorstep is quite coincidental, but Bess’s actions from that point on are all completely in character and believable. Who, when under suspicion for a murder, would not look further to try to clear their own name and determine the true culprit?

The Bess Crawford series continues to be one in which I gobble down each book as I get to it and look forward to the next book. The sad thing is that after the next book, I’ll be all out of Bess for the time being.  Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Purchased.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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