Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Review: A Soldier's Duty (Theirs Not to Reason Why #1) by Jean Johnson


4 stars for A Soldier's Duty (Theirs Not to Reason Why book 1) by Jean Johnson.

As the book title dictates, this is the story of a soldier, that of Ia, an 18-year old girl. Surprisingly, it does not feel like reading a young adult novel in the least even though the protagonist is an adolescent. I think bulk of the reason lies with the theme. Afterall, the career of Ia revolves around military, combat, weaponry training and topics related to fighting, tactics, strategy, logistics, motivation and most of all, leadership.

I am particularly impressed by the author’s introduction to the arrays of military weapons. I may not know if the armaments are for real or purely fabricated out of imagination, but I do know that either the author has done a very detailed job of research or she has an ingenious mind when it comes to inventing munitions.

Having travelled almost seven hundred light-years from her mother world, Sanctuary, an independent colony world which is also the heaviest of the heavyworlds, Ia chooses to serve in the Terran military so as to enjoy all the rights and privileges that come along as a converted Terran citizen. To see her plan through, Ia signs herself up at the Recruitment Center in Melbourne, Australia Province, Earth, to join the TUPSF-Marine Corps.

In my opinion, a good science fiction story is almost always enhanced by the element of fantasy. In A Soldier’s Duty, it comes in the form of psi powers, commonly known as psychic abilities. Yes, our heroine Ia is gifted with an inherent talent to skim timestreams, to dip into waters of the past or future, though her skills are more skewed towards precognition than postcognition.

Alas, following the future is not always like following a script. Not only is the future fluid, every so often, there are simply too many just-as-good options to pick out the absolute best. So it is of utmost importance that Ia navigates all of the possibilities with much accuracy instead of counting on luck to steer the currents. Because if Ia plays her cards right, some of those who train with her will end up helping her career. However, if she plays them wrongly, they can turn into a hindrance. Nevertheless utimately, it is not about Ia; it is about the whole galaxy and its existence where in the future, lives will depend on her precognitive psi ability to concentrate in chaotic combat conditions, where split-second decisions can mean life or death.

The story is well balanced on how Ia begins her military career with the first half of the book focusing on her training to graduation from the Basic Instruction requirements of the Space Force Branch Marine Corps. The rest of the book concentrates on Ia's service assignment to her official first duty post: life on board a military starship, a modest sized battleship TUPSF Liu Ji which is home to Ia for 2.5 years.

As much as I enjoy this book 1 of the Theirs Not series, there are two things which I do not quite take pleasure in and see eye to eye with. The first is where Ia meets a certain Captain James Silverstone, a paraphysician, a human-shaped Feyori. Those sections involving Doctor Silverstone are rather distracting and confusing, and I find myself reading those parts more than once to get the author's intended meaning across. Next is the long chapters. It makes for a challenging break when I want to pause for a breather in-between chapters.

All in all, I have a good time with this space opera novel which is not only well written sequentially but also one which brings across the message that with power comes responsibility, with destruction comes restitution, and with crime comes punishment.

Publisher: Ace Books
Publication date: 31 Jul 2011

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Ia is a precog, tormented by visions of the future where her home galaxy has been devastated. To prevent this vision from coming true, Ia enlists in the Terran United Planets military with a plan to become a soldier who will inspire generations for the next three hundred years-a soldier history will call Bloody Mary.

*Blurb from Goodreads*

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Review: Visions of Sugar Plums (Stephanie Plum #8.5) by Janet Evanovich


2.5 stars for Visions of Sugar Plums (Stephanie Plum book 8.5) by Janet Evanovich.

There is always a first for everything, in this case, the first between-the-numbers novel for the Plum series. Unfortunately, it is also the first time I experience a plunge in the enjoyment factor while reading on Stephanie and gang. Reason being the storyline is too far-fetched. Right from the beginning, this series pride itself on being a romantic suspense genre with none whatsoever of the supernatural or preternatural or paranormal stuff, so the sudden change in tune makes it hard to swallow. Indeed.

It is four days to Christmas. Stephanie is all set to apprehend a FTA, Sandy Claws (not Santa Claus) who has broken the law and failed to appear for his court hearing. She is determined to get her body receipt which will convert into pay check before Christmas day itself so that there is time enough for a last minute shopping.

With Christmas just round the corner, there is plenty of talk and action directed towards Christmas tree, cookies, fruitcakes, presents, toys, toy makers, toy shops and even elves for hire. Then out of the blue, Stephanie has a visitor, a visitor who in all sense of the world, is not your usual man in the street...

This novella with a festive theme makes for a relaxing read towards feeling happy, peaceful and joyful cheer. Though I do not enjoy it as much as the earlier books in the series, I am glad the humor and light-hearted style is still inherent in the author's writing.

Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication date: 30 Oct 2007

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In this story, Stephanie Plum has bigger problems than the usual thugs, thieves and hoodlums - this time, there's someone in her apartment who just won't leave. We - and Stephanie - meet a character as mysterious as Ranger and as sexy as Morelli.

*Blurb from FantasticFiction*

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Review: Hard Eight (Stephanie Plum #8) by Janet Evanovich


5 stars for Hard Eight (Stephanie Plum book 8) by Janet Evanovich.

One will almost never go wrong with author Janet Evanovich and her Plum series. Eight books in tow and I am still loving it and enjoying every moment of my time spent with Stephanie Plum and her business with fugitive apprehension.

We know from past cases that the people Stephanie tracks down are in violation of a bail bond. This time round however, the search for missing persons involves child custody bond. Though it is something totally new to Stephanie, it never fazes her a single bit as she goes about doing her best in skip tracing. This is what I like a lot about our heroine which the author creates in Stephanie and her attitude to work and life - when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.

As always, there are dangerous men in Stephanie's life, some more so than others and some with a different meaning to the word dangerous. In this book 8, Stephanie is being stalked. Her emotions are being manipulated. Above all, her security is jeopardized to the extent of life threatening. But of course, nothing is as it seems and I am not sure which is worse, getting her heart ripped out of her body by the dangerous men or getting her heart broken by the other dangerous men in her life.

In Hard Eight, the author continues to deliver humor and punch-lines that make me double up with laughter each time. The introduction of new character, Albert Kloughn is the ultimate kick off. Spelled K-L-O-U-G-H-N but frequently made a laughing stock as C-L-O-W-N, this lawyer makes for an excellent add-on as a comical character to the story.

To reiterate, I really really adore the Plum stories. Reading on Stephanie Plum and family, Joe Morelli, Ranger and his bat cave, and partner-in-crime Lula feels as if I am watching a prime-time long-running sitcom, one which I hope from the bottom of my heart will never ever come to a close.

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press; 1st edition
Publication date: 1 Apr 2010

*** Favourite quote 1 ***

"Sure. No talking. My lips are sealed. Look at me, I'm locking my lips and throwing the key away."

*** Favourite quote 2 ***

"She used to be so smart," Grandma said. "And then she moved to California. Think all that California sun dried her brain up like a raisin..

~ Hard Eight
Janet Evanovich

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Stephanie can’t say no when a neighbor begs her to find a missing family member— not even when local mob man Eddie Abruzzi becomes linked to the disappearance, and threatens to end Stephanie’s search by ending her life.

Stephanie is going to need help and someone to watch her back. Since she’s on the outs with cop Joe Morelli, that leaves mentor and tormentor, Ranger. And that could be the most dangerous thing of all…

*Blurb from author's website*

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Review: The Violets of March by Sarah Jio


2.5 stars for The Violets of March by Sarah Jio.

It is never my intention to read stories written along the same line two in a row, one right after the other. But as fate has it, I have an affinity lately with tales involving departing husbands, resurfacing postcards and visiting great-aunts, and it is tough pushing away what comes on its own volition. The story outline is so startlingly similar that I cannot help but gasp at the familiarity of it all with the exception of one major difference: Lost Lake is written in third person point of view while The Violets of March is in first person account.

The Violets of March is narrated by Emily who happens to be a writer. For the past eight years, right after her best-selling novel, she has been hit with what her therapist terms as clinical writer's block. With a plan to write a story that grows out of her life and experiences, Emily pays a visit to her great-aunt Bee Larson who lives on Bainbridge Island, in Washington state.

Emily's decisiom to stay with her great-aunt Bee for the whole of March leads to discovery of events past in a small island town in the year 1943 and also that of the story of a mystery woman totally unknown to Emily.

Emily’s return to Bainbridge Island after ten years is like a walk down lane memory where sights and smells simply transport her back to the good old days. The author does a pretty good job describing the island as a marvellous place for healing. As good as it gets, unfortunately there are also the less enjoyable aspects to the story. It becomes increasingly frustrating reading on Bee drifting off and retreating into her memories and refusing to divulge further by way of her promise not to speak of past events when prompted repeatedly by Emily. While I understand the author’s intention to hold back secrets to keep the story intriguing, overdoing it is definitely a put off. This together with the occurrence of too many coincidences between the past and current generation make for a relatively fair story only.

Publisher: Plume; 1st edition
Publication date: 26 Apr 2011

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In her twenties, Emily Wilson was on top of the world: She had a bestselling novel, a husband plucked from the pages of GQ, and a one-way ticket to happily ever after. Ten years later, the tide has turned on Emily’s good fortune. So when her great-aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily accepts, longing to be healed by the sea. Researching her next book, Emily discovers a red velvet diary, dated 1943, whose contents reveal startling connections to her own life. A mesmerizing debut with an idyllic setting and intriguing dual story line, The Violets of March announces Sarah Jio as a writer to watch.

*Blurb from author's website*

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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Review: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen


5 stars for Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen.

Good news come in pairs. Following the 5-star rating of Seven Up by Janet Evanovich, I am thrilled to present and share another 5 stars review here.

Lost Lake, a mix of old world charm set in the outback of time lost, gives a nostalgic magical feel as I read along. The main characters are obviously Kate and her great-aunt Eby who makes a living next to a lake by renting out cabins. Even so, the author takes time to carve out each of the characters in the book, dedicating attributes to suit the various personalities regardless of their ranking in appearance. The author also provides concise yet sufficiently detailed background history to account for the way the characters think and behave as they do in present day. On top of these, the author successfully places a fine balance between the good and bad with a hint of contrast to bring out the sympathy and empathy in the reader.

I love it that the characters have their own stories to tell:-

(1) Kate, Matt and their 8-year old daughter, Devin
(2) Eby and her husband, George
(3) Marilee (Eby’s sister)
(4) Lisette (Eby’s friend)
(5) Wes and his younger brother, Billy (Eby’s neighbours)
(6) Cricket (Kate’s mother-in-law)
(7) Lazlo (Wes’s uncle)
(8) Bulahdeen, Selma, Jack (the faithful trio who spend every summer for the past thirty years at Lost Lake)

For generations, the Morris women are never able to get out of this curse that runs in the family. The women fall in love, get married and rely on their husbands for each and every need. So utterly dependent on their significant other that when their husbands leave for the greater beyond, all if not most of the Morris women fall prey to that dark place filled with grief and are never the same ever again.

In present day Atlanta, Georgia, 27-year old Kate, one of the Morris women finally wakes up from her one-year slumber to start life anew. In the middle of house moving, she finds a postcard; a postcard that prompts a road trip to Lost Lake, in Suley, near the Florida border. Little did Kate know that her impulsive decision for an adventure to Lost Lake sets off a chain of events and turns her into a harbinger of the lake house belonging to her great-aunt Eby.

On a final note, I am relieved to learn that the author has emerged the winner in her battle against advanced stage breast cancer since her diagnosis in 2011. And I am very glad that the coming and going of it all has not dampened her writing spirit and stopped her from continuing to spin such beautiful, mesmerising tale - Lost Lake.

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication date: 21 Jan 2014

*** Favourite quote ***

There was no going back after that. There was nothing to do but let those words sweep them through the years and land them solidly back in the present, older, wiser, different.

~ Lost Lake
Sarah Addison Allen

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Sometimes you find the things you've lost in the most unexpected places. But sometimes you find them exactly where you left them. Welcome to magical Lost Lake, Georgia.

*Blurb from author's website

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Review: Seven Up (Stephanie Plum #7) by Janet Evanovich


5 stars for Seven Up (Stephanie Plum book 7) by Janet Evanovich.

Sometimes it pays to procrastinate reading the books of a tried and tested author. More importantly, it pays have an emergency stash of such authors. The trick is to hold off the urge to devour their books at one go. Now my list comes in really handy after weeks of reading books which I am inclined to rate no more than 4 stars. It is high time for me to be dazzled by writings of a different calibre.

It has been quite a while since I read the last Plum book, I suppose it is welcoming to have a brief recap on our female protagonist.

Here we go.

Stephanie Plum works as a bond enforcement officer aka bounty hunter for Vincent Plum Bail Bonds in Trenton, New Jersey. Her job is to find those FTAs (Failure to Appear) and get them to reschedule their court date.

In so far, Stephanie has earned a reputation for either getting cars blown up or finding dead bodies. It is so established that when she calls in to the station, the police know without a doubt that it must be Stephanie on the other line. Taking verbatim from cop Carl Costanza “It's been almost a month since you found a body. I knew you were due.”

So that just about sum it up for our heroine.

In this latest instalment, a simple task of looking for semi-retired old man, Eddie DeChooch to reschedule his court date spirals out of hand into a case of homicide. Just when I think the plot of chasing after the FTA is getting old, the reappearance of the mysterious man in black keeps me on my toes. And the best part? Well, the deal he strikes with Stephanie on the capture of DeChooch is worth every bit of my fingers turning the pages. There you have it, the author certainly knows when to strike the chord and keep the reader going.

As always, we have our regular bad-boy-good-cop-guy, Joe Morelli. It is always a delight to see Morelli on the scene with Stephanie. The highlight here is the light-hearted banter on gown, flowers, reception hall and - ahem - state of the mind.

To add on to the excitement, Stephanie’s older sister, Valerie finally makes an appearance with her two daughters in tow. Though her presence is sudden, Valerie falls into her place pronto to squeeze yet more humour into the story.

Once again, the story ends with a huge cliffhanger. Though I am not a big fan of such ending, the way the author rolls it out is so totally cool that it makes my heart flutter with anticipation for the next book.

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press; 1st edition
Publication date: 1 Apr 2010

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What Stephanie Plum loves about being a bounty hunter: it annoys her mother and she can wear jeans to work. What Stephanie Plum hates about being a bounty hunter:  she has to bring in her grandmother’s geriatric, mobster boyfriend who has been leaving dead bodies in his shed… if she can find him.

On top of that, she’s got a missing misfit to find, the dog is eating everything in sight and master bounty hunter, Ranger, wants one night with Plum from dusk to dawn.  She might want to rethink the whole bounty hunter thing…

*Blurb from author's website*

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