Dieselpunk, WWII, Historical Alternate Worlds, Female Pilots, Adventure
DragonFly is a wild AU WWII adventure that takes the British Navy, Air Force, and Hitler himself from our own history and throws in heavy doses of Hitler’s mysticism and army of talented humans and genetically modified monsters along with some pretty impressive British forces of sassy ladies (including Princess Victoria), powerful crystal-harvesting druids, and fantastic diesel punk aircraft. It is a refreshing break from the over-saturated market of WWII fiction that focuses on true events and lets the reader experience the war as it could have been under futuristic circumstances, and its wonderful female pilots do a great job of showing that women in the air are just as tough as men without taking away their femininity. Ronnie is a smart-mouthed pilot who is a delight to read, and it was fun to watch her interact with her fellow pilots and the DragonFly scientists and mechanics. I loved the way the illustrations and photographs displayed the characters; it added a lot to the story for me to be able to see the aircraft as well as I have no background in it. Would recommend to people wanting a grown up version of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan, a new take on historical fiction, some fun diesel punk, or a good action story.
(Gifted from the author for review, review cross-posted at Goodreads.)
War, Family, Friendship, Nephilim, Love
From introducing new characters from the Institute of Los Angeles to destroying some relationships while building others up to war that ravages the entire planet and the next dimension, Clare has built the perfect ending to her Mortal Instruments series. The book is very long, but it never feels slow because Clare packs it full of adventure, humor, and love so that by the end you are satisfied that there is nothing left that needs to be said. If you liked the rest of the series, you will love this one.
Previous books: City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls
Love Affairs, Friendship, Longing, Loss
Bendrix had an affair with the married Sarah and never recovered emotionally from her inexplicable breakup with him. When he runs into her husband a few years later, who is still oblivious, he desperately tries to rekindle their relationship. It is a tautly written novel with the saddest of undertones — Bendrix is a successful author and bachelor whom no one suspects of being so heartbroken. The interactions between the characters seem realistic which makes the events all the worse to bear. Would recommend to anyone looking for a good old-fashioned tale of love ending poorly, and I especially recommend the audiobook because Colin Firth is the flawless narrator of the first person tale.
Los Angeles, Werewolves, Internet Culture, Love, Friendship
Stiefvater’s magical way with words and her love of love take center stage in this companion novel to the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy that follows Cole St. Clair and Isabel Culpepper to Los Angeles where Cole is filming a reality show and Isabel is trying to keep herself on track to be a doctor with no time for love. The language alone is worth reading it for, and Stiefvater makes you feel as if you really are in Los Angeles with Cole and Isabel, living beside them. My only complaint is that I felt there wasn’t enough struggle—that may sound weird, but Sam and Grace had to fight to stay human and keep the rest of the pack safe and this book lacked that tension that an external force provided. All of the tension comes from Cole struggling to overcome his addictive personality and Isabel struggling to overcome her own fear of intimacy—both valid and honestly depicted, but I would have liked to see them more at odds with the world.
Classic Vampires, Health Epidemics, Horror
The Strain brings back the fear that must have been felt when Stoker wrote his original vampire — it takes the horror of the vampire myth and rebuilds it for a modern audience by letting us see what would happen if the virus was introduced to American soil and the CDC could not even broadcast a warning in time for the collapse. It is a classic style horror story, heavy on the gore and the inevitability of disaster and low on character development. It is an exciting read and I would recommend to anyone looking for a good dose of scary modern vampires and dangerous health crises.
Later books: The Fall, The Night Eternal
WWII, Internment Camps, Japanese-Americans, Family, Graphic Novel
Despite his white mother, Koji is set to an internment camp after Pearl Harbor. His mother joins him, and he tries to make a life by helping an older man garden and avoiding the wrath of the gang of Japanese boys who hate him for being half-white, an outsider. It is a heartbreaking tale that describes the horrible time in American history when Americans were treated as monsters simply for their skin — an appalling trend that still rings true today. It is a story of history but it is even more a story of mankind.
Fantasy, Death, Romance, Village Life, Black Plague
Keturah has known Lord Death since her mother died giving birth to her, but when she is a young woman she is dying and Death comes for her—but she steals herself time by telling him a story, Scheherezade-style, and promises to tell him the end if he gives her another day. Keturah is a delight: she tricks Lord Death, after all, and she knows what she wants and spends her final time on earth helping her friends and her village. But she is not enough to make up for angsty Death and a predictable ending. Leavitt writes neatly crafted sentences but the story as a whole lacks the depth it needed to make this story ring true.
Crime, Serial Killers, Detectives, Seattle, Graphic Novel
A true-crime graphic novel by the son of the detective who found and interrogated the Green River Killer, a man who murdered women for over two decades. After recently watching True Detective this struck a chord, and I would recommend it to those interested in serial killers or the hard parts of the lives of detectives. It is the kind of story that ended successfully but can never be happy—too many lives were lost and too many were ruined, and the book does a fitting job of telling the story honestly without becoming overly excessive in its depiction of gore. The book switches between the past and the present which does a great job of keeping you invested in the slower-moving present day while not throwing everything from the past at you at once.
Birds, Love, Belonging, Self-Worth, Family
An undeniably creepy tale about a postman who falls in love with a raven and raise a child who is shaped like a human but only speaks raven and dreams of wings her entire life. It is illustrated and feels like a fairy tale, but is is full of dark science and bad men and people who do not understand. It struck me as an allegory for transgenderism—a girl born to the wrong body who gives up so much to be in the right one.
WWII, Poland, Ghetto, Family, Survival, Graphic Novel
Misha and his family have been moved into a ghetto—he helps keep them alive by stealing food, but when his sister goes missing, he joins forces with the revolution inside the walls. The art is rough and fits with the subject matter. It is laid out to give the most impact to every picture and every sentence and the result is an emotional and haunting volume. Would recommend to readers of history, lovers of the last stand, and those looking for a powerful story.
Myths, Canadian Wilderness, Isolation, Fear
A horror novella about a handful of men who are camped in the wilderness to hunt. They split up even though one man is unexplainably afraid, and his fear affects his hunting partner as they stay up far too late into the night sitting around the fire telling stories. When the partner is awoken by the fearful man running screaming off into the woods—well, that is when the scary part begins. A nicely frightening tale about true isolation and superstition and how men react when the supernatural infringes on the logical world.
Fairy Tales, Mythology, Russia, Communism, Love, Revolution
Marya Morevna is the girl you know from the fairy tale — but she is more: Valente’s Marya sees the patriotic Communist domovoi and birds who turn into men, and when Koschei the Deathless arrives to take her away, she is waiting for him. In this tale, Ivan is not the husband who comes to save Marya—he is Koschei’s enemy, the man who always takes Marya away from their marriage. This is a spellbinding tale that combines history with mythology and in so doing makes the two more than they could be on their own. It is strange and wild and exactly what you might expect when a fairy tale like this comes to life. Would recommend to anyone looking for a different kind of fantasy, or anyone who loves fractured fairy tales.
Isolation, Wilderness, Family, Greed
The story has two parts that alternate between chapters: Alaska ten years ago where Sig’s father went to hunt for gold, and present day Arctic where Sig has just found his father’s frozen body and a stranger has come demanding his father’s gold. It is a very slow-moving atmospheric story that lets the tension build around Sig and his father’s past, the stranger and Sig’s revolver. It felt very real and present, but the characters were a little too stock and the story a little too perfectly tied up. Would recommend if you want a simple but powerful novella.
Mystery, Teenagers, Army Towns, Drugs
When a girl is found dead in the woods, Emily’s father is arrested—he can’t remember committing the crime, but his counselors and the police are blaming a PTSD-related flashback. Emily is blaming Damon, the dead girl’s boyfriend and the last person to see her alive—but when she starts to have feelings for Damon, she wonders if she is crazy or if there is another killer out in the woods. None of the character relations are very realistic; Damon was too drugged up to remember what happened to his girlfriend the night she dies, he and Emily have inexplicable feelings for each other, Emily’s mother doesn’t defend her jailed husband, Emily’s friends are pretty creepy and not fleshed out, and this pretty much kills the character-driven story. I was looking for a murder mystery but was handed a sad (but not insightful) look at the aftermath of war and a bunch of screwed up kids. The writing was not particularly skilled and overall it was a very forgettable story.
Epic Quests, Everyman Heroes, Friendship, Family, Honor, Good vs Evil
Fifty years after the first book, Shea’s grandson Wil is assigned as the protector of the girl who must revive the tree that stands alone to keep demons out of the world. The stakes are high because the rest of the realm does not believe in the demons that are about to burst into the world, and Wil and Amberle are racing against time to save the tree before the entire Elven army is slaughtered and the demons take over the land. Brooks is skilled at building a detailed world and creating interesting characters without ever spending too long on descriptions. The tale is a splendid one of good and evil, friendship, and sacrifice.
Previous book: The Sword of Shannara
Later book (in this trilogy): The Wishsong of Shannara