Review: Unborn

Posted on November 23rd, 2014 @ 01:17
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Unborn (Unborn series)Unborn by Amber Lynn Natusch

My rating:


Born into mystery. Shackled to darkness…

Khara has spent centuries discovering everything about the Underworld―except her place in it. But when she’s ripped from her home, solving the riddle of her origins becomes more important than ever. With evil stalking her through the dark alleys of Detroit, she finds salvation from an unlikely source: a group of immortal warriors sworn to protect the city. Khara needs their help to unravel the tangled secrets of who and what she is—secrets many seem willing to kill for. But time is running out, and the closer she gets to the truth, the closer necessity binds her to an arrogant fallen angel.

Can their shaky alliance withstand that which threatens her, or will her soul fall victim to the unholy forces that hunt her―those that seek the Unborn?


(I got a copy courtesy of NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

I shall be honest and say that I was one inch from DNFing this one. About four or five times. I trudged on because I felt I owed the book a review, since I had requested it, but I just can’t recommend it. Instead, I shall thank the local bus system and this past week’s early work shift, because they provided me with reading time at something-too-early AM, which made itall the more bearable.

I seriously wanted to like this. Roots in Greek mythology. A ward of Hades, snatched from the Underworld. The idea behind the treaty between Hades and Demeter, providing an interesting diplomatic explanation to Persephone being allowed to go back to her mother for six months every year. Khara’s origins, being the daughter of a kickass god, in spite of his usual shortcomings. Well, grantd, Detroit was kind of cliché—it seems like the Bleak City of Bleakiness of Doom for anything horror or supernatural—but hey, whatever, as long as it works!

Only it didn’t.

My very first gripe, and unfortunately one that lasted for the whole novel, was Khara’s narrative style, which I can only decribe as stilted and “trying too hard”:

Our destination was on the far side of the mob before us, and I cringed at the thought of having to navigate through them all, their sweaty stench already offending me from where I stood. Without time to relay those concerns to Kierson, he took my hand and pulled me behind him as he cut his way through the mass with ease. Though I was loath to admit it, there was something strangely appealing being surrounded by the dancing horde, swallowed up in their debauchery. I had not expected to find it so amenable.

I’ll acknowledge it tried to stray from basic, bland prose (because a book is urban fantasy, paranormal, young adult, etc. doesn’t mean its writing has to be dumbed down, for sure). However, by doing so, it achieved the contrary, making everything feel heavy-handed—all the more because dialogues, too, were in the same style. All the characters spoke in very similar ways, at odds with their surroundings, their usual places of dwelling, the kind of lifestyle they lived. I just can’t envision any son of Ares speaking like this:

“No,” Drew replied with an ounce of hesitation. “I have made the decision to hold off on that for now. He has his hands full out east. I see no reason to burden him with this as well, especially when there is nothing to report other than her existence. What he is dealing with has potentially far more disastrous implications than learning he has a sister. I do not think he needs a distraction to derail his focus.”

And Khara’s narrative remained like this all the time, even during fight scenes. So maybe, just maybe, her upbringing in the Underworld would have made her a wee mite uptight, but… No, not even that would really justify it.

I also couldn’t bring myself to care for Khara. Making her the a daughter of a war deity could at least have warranted a few nice traits. Natural ability for fighting, a mind cut for strategy, being world champion at chess… Whatever. But mostly, she remained passive and useless, observing everything, barely feeling a thing (well, that’s how her narrative made me feel, that is). The girl standing in the middle, the one that has to be protected and saved because she barely fends for herself, in spite of claiming she has spent centuries in the Underworld surviving her lot of blows. The one all the guys around fight for—thankfully not as a love polygon, since most of them are her brothers, but they still came off as “you’re the girl and so you stay here and when we tell you not to move, you don’t move.” She alleges her ability might actually be to “stay out of trouble”. Then here’s what she does:

“Stay close, and always behind me.”
I walked toward the voices, wanting to see just how the situation would play out. Would whatever creature Kierson pursued let her go, or would he face the wrath of my brother? Furthermore, I had a strange desire building within me that demanded to see just what the assailant was. I had not seen the evil that I had been so constantly told of since meeting Drew and the others. Curiosity got the better of me.
Just as I rounded a thick concrete pillar, I could see the three of them, though light was still scarce. A thin and sickly looking man held the young girl, her face cupped in his hands, mouths nearly touching. The second I stepped into view, his hollow, empty eyes snapped directly to me.
And they never left.

Excuse me for not quite believing that, Khara. Also, for questioning centuries’ worth of understanding ability:

“You are not going anywhere, especially not until we know more about why you came here in the first place. [...] If you’re finally feeling rested, you should join us.”
“But you said to stay right where I am…”
He laughed heartily.
“Not literally right where you are. I meant I would feel better if you stayed with us.”

I just… I just can’t. Sorry.

I’m not even going to touch the romance here; no chemistry whatsoever between Khara the Bland and typical Tall, Dark and Dangerous Guy. Or how the psychopath who’s been trying to own Khara for centuries is brushed aside as a threat from the beginning, before someone finally starts to remember that maybe, just maybe, he should be kept in their computations. You know, just in case.

This novel was definitely not for me.

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Review: The Blood Cell

Posted on November 21st, 2014 @ 21:36
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Doctor Who: The Blood CellDoctor Who: The Blood Cell by James Goss

My rating:


 ”Release the Doctor – or the killing will start.” 

An asteroid in the furthest reaches of space – the most secure prison for the most dangerous of criminals. The Governor is responsible for the worst fraudsters and the cruellest murderers. So he’s certainly not impressed by the arrival of the man they’re calling the most dangerous criminal in the quadrant. Or, as he prefers to be known, the Doctor.

What does impress the Governor is the way the new prisoner immediately sets about trying to escape. And keeps trying. Finally, he sends for the Doctor and asks him why? But the answer surprises even the Governor. And then there’s the threat – unless the Governor listens to the Doctor, a lot of people will die.

Who is the Doctor and what’s he really doing here? Why does he want to help the Governor? And who is the young woman who comes every day to visit him, only to be turned away by the guards?

When the killing finally starts, the Governor begins to get his answers…


(I got a copy courtesy of NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

Third 12th Doctor novel I read, and this one was quite surprising, in a way I hadn’t expected.

It’s narrated from the point of view of a secondary character, and not in the usual third person POV I’ve seen used in the other DW novels I read (granted, they don’t amount to a lot, as previously mentioned). It was a bit disconcerting, and for some time I questioned that choice; however, after a while, I decided it wasn’t so bad. On the one hand, the Doctor and Clara aren’t so much the focus which can be seen as a problem. On the other hand, it allowed for a Doctor as seen by other people around him: how they perceived him, how he might come off to those who had no idea who he was, what kind of lasting impression he may leave on them. Because no matter what, the Doctor comes and go, and once he’s gone, well, what’s left behind? How is he going to be remembered?

Somehow, this novel provided the beginning of an insight into that, in a different way from what the new series has made me used to. It’s not distinctly Whovian, which isn’t exactly great, but somehow, it still kept me interested. I also liked Clara better here than I usually do, with her happy petitioning and picketing and her own antics (the cake, her pupils…).

The plot itself was OK: not the best I’ve seen, but not the worst either. It had more of a political bend, something I don’t see that often in DW, so here, too, the change can be seen as refreshing, or as annoying. It’ll all depend on the reader.

Conclusion: a novel I quite liked, though I could reproach it not to be “Whovian” enough.

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Chamber of Music:

Posted on November 20th, 2014 @ 12:04
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Violins, pipes and cellos,
Orchestras, choirs and solos,
Songs to remember,
Songs to forget,
Songs to unmake the universe…
And songs to put it all right.

Have a seat in the Chamber of Music. These thirteen stories will take you to distant lands of faerie lords, lovelorn angels, plucky skyship pilots and plague-ravaged scavengers. They will guide you through our dark histories, our heartbreaks, our losses and revenges; our triumphs, escapes, recoveries and redemptions. No matter where, when, or whose story is being told, this collection will inspire and thrill you with the transformative power of music.

That’s right, here’s a new PSG Publishing anthology, following the theme of “music” in many variations.

Also, look at that cover!

Music is the one thing every human community on earth has in common. It is so fundamental to human experience that it is part of everything we do: music is part of our entertainment, or therapy, our expression and our ritual. We send it into space to someday meet distant life and we play it for our livestock to improve their produce, we use it seduce our lovers, to inspire our troops, to carry our messages and to ease our passing. It is part of who we are.

This, the second annual short story collection from PSG Publishing, contains the work of thirteen authors from seven countries writing in a variety of genres and styles. Featuring new stories from Charlotte Ashley, J.D. Carelli, Emerald Delmara, Dorchi Dreen, Kim Fry, Yzabel Ginsberg, Tim McFarlane, Ken Magee, Miloš Petrik, J.B. Roger, C. M. Rosens, Natasha Rowlin, and Adam Sigrist.

The proceeds from sales of this collection will be donated to Musicians Without Borders, a global network organization using the power of music for healing and reconciliation in areas torn by war and conflict.

You can buy Chamber of Music worldwide:

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Review: Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy

Posted on November 18th, 2014 @ 22:53
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Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of AnonymousHacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous by Gabriella Coleman

My rating:


Here is the definitive book on the worldwide movement of hackers, pranksters, and activists that operates under the name Anonymous, by the woman the Chronicle of Higher Education calls “the leading interpreter of digital insurgency” and the Huffington Post says “knows all of Anonymous’ deepest, darkest secrets.” Half a dozen years ago, anthropologist Gabriella Coleman set out to study the rise of this global collective just as some of its adherents were turning to political protest and disruption (before Anonymous shot to fame as a key player in the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street). She ended up becoming so closely connected to Anonymous that some Anons claimed her as “their scholar.” Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy brims with detail from inside a mysterious subculture, including chats with imprisoned hacker Jeremy Hammond and the hacker who helped put him away, Hector “Sabu” Monsegur. It’s a beautifully written book, with fascinating insights into the meaning of digital activism and little understood facets of culture in the Internet age, such as the histories of “trolling” and “the lulz.”


(I got a copy courtesy of NetGalley, in exchange for a honest review.)

An interesting read, but one that I found rather hard to read all at once—probably because it felt pretty dense and dry, with a lot of information that seemed to meander at times. I guess this was kind of unavoidable, because there is just so much to learn, to research, to take into account when studying such a broad subject, involving so many people, whose approaches and means of actions are as different as each individual in the lot. Nevertheless, I only managed to read it little bits by little bits.

The book allows for a better understanding of some of the best known cases in which Anonymous (as various groups) was involved, like Chanology and WikiLeaks, among others. This is a double-edged sword, though, in that it is useful if you know at least little… but if you know nothing at all, it’s going to be very confusing.

On the other hand, the author appeared as genuinely fascinated by her research. She made a point of trying to get in (well, as “in” as possible—clearly she couldn’t “get” everything, especially not what predated the 2006-2007 years) to get a better understanding of her topic, and to cast a more critical eye on a lot of tricky aspects surrounding Anonymous as a whole: people who got access to sensitive data and exposed it, people who dabbled on the fringes, people who supported the actions labelled as “Anonymous”, etc. I was expecting more bias, but she also took care of mentioning some of the (official, governmental) moves made against certain participants in the movement, without necessarily endorsing them as “the thing to do against the Bad Hackers (because that’s what I’m supposed to say to be on the right side of the law)”. Granted, she didn’t avoid all the pitfalls; however, her research in general could have been much more biased, and fortunately wasn’t.

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Review: Stormdancer

Posted on November 17th, 2014 @ 22:00
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Stormdancer (The Lotus War, #1)Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

My rating:


One girl and a griffin against an empire.

Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shõgun, they fear that their lives are over – everyone knows what happens to those who fail the Lord of the Shima Isles. But the mission proves less impossible and more deadly than anyone expects. Soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. Although she can hear his thoughts, and saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her. Yet trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and the beast soon discover a bond that neither of them expected.

Meanwhile, the country around them verges on collapse. A toxic fuel is choking the land, the machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure, and the Shõgun cares for nothing but his own dominion. Authority has always made Yukiko, but her world changes when she meets Kin, a young man with secrets, and the rebel Kagé cabal. She learns the horrifying extent of the Shõgun’s crimes, both against her country and her family.

Returning to the city, Yukiko is determined to make the Shõgun pay – but what can one girl and a flightless griffin do against the might of an empire?


More like 2.5 stars. Very, very mixed feelings here. I sort of enjoyed it, but…

I liked the second part better, in part because I’m not too fond of treks in the wilderness/mountains, and also because of the more complex political layers I could sense in it. Also, Yukiko had to grow up, from the sulking girl of the beginning to one who finally understood that things weren’t always what they seemed—and grow up she did.

More problematic was the balance when it came to the Japanese influence: I constantly felt it was either too much or too little. The first 100 pages or so contaid a lot of exposition/descriptions, clearly intended for people who don’t know that culture; however, as soon as you know just a little, it’s already too much. It’s worth for the language as well. My knowledge of Japanese is very limited (2 hours/week for, what, two semesters?), but it was enough for me to notice all the glaring mistakes and weird approach. For instance, “shima” means “island” (among other things—you can’t tell without the kanji), so “the Isles of Shima” is, uh, “the Isles of Island”, which is definitely weird. Another example: when characters, who’re supposed to speak “Japanese” (and we’re made to feel like they do, it’s too close in influence to pull the “it’s only inspired by it” card), end up translating expressions. There’s no way Buruu, linked to Yukiko’s mind, would need her to translate an expression like “arashi no ko”. So, for me, it was really troubling, and I’m positive such words could have been translated for the readers without having to resort to such devices.

My other problem with the novel came from some of the secondary characters, who weren’t given enough spotlight, or were given too much for plot-device reasons. First, Aisha, who looked so promising, looked like she could’ve done and been so much more, and then… nothing. Second, Hiro, whose part was important, but whose influence in the firs two thirds of the novel sprung just out of nowhere. I would wonder: “Why is Yukiko thinking of that guy with green eyes? She only talked to hime for five seconds at the beginning of the book.” It was like insta-love fuelled by nothing.

On the other hand, there’s ground for a lot of interesting things in terms of world-building, and in how the blood lotus flower and the environmental problems play a part in Shima’s setting. I may pick the second book at some point after all, to see what becomes of this world.

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