notsonabooreamo update, as of 10/27/14:

  1. The Evolutionary Void (★★★★★): 692 pages
  2. The Abyss Beyond Dreams (★★★★☆): 640 pages
  3. Loving You Is Easy (★★★☆☆): 276 pages
  4. The Glass Magician (★★★★☆): 222 pages
  5. My Sister’s Grave (★★★☆☆): 416 pages
  6. Obsidian (★★★☆☆): 400 pages
  7. Girl on a Wire (★★★☆☆): 375 pages

Total: 3021 pages

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Twenty years ago, Tracy Crosswhite lost her sister Sarah. A young man was found guilty of her murder and sentenced to life in prison, but something about the story never seemed right to Tracy, and with the body never found, there was little to be done. She investigated on her own for years, pushing away everyone who cared about her in the process. She quit her job as a teacher to pursue a career as a detective, starting first in sex crimes and then moving over to homicide. When Sarah’s body is finally found, twenty years after her death, Tracy pushes to reopen the case.

I received my copy of My Sister’s Grave through Amazon’s Kindle First program. My first thoughts mostly centered around the cover and how gorgeous it is, and also the fact that it had been a really long time since I’d read a good mystery. I liked the book a lot more than my rating might imply, but I couldn’t give it more than three stars because of the two major problems I had with it.

First, it was really hard to get a sense of the story at the beginning with how much the narration jumped from present to past and back again. I understand that it was necessary for the reader to know how Tracy’s current life ties into what happened to her when she was younger, but every time I felt like I was getting to know Tracy, the narration jumped back twenty years and I kind of lost my footing.

The second major issue was with the pacing. Some chapters flew by as one thing happened right after another, and other chapters dragged as one conversation (or line of questioning) spanned several more pages that I felt it had to.

These two things added up to one sad conclusion for me: I thinkMy Sister’s Grave would make a better movie or miniseries than book. The plot is excellent. I didn’t expect the twist at the end. It just felt more like it belonged on a screen than in a book. And that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy reading it, because I did, and I would recommend it to mystery fans.

Final rating: ★

Book review: Obsidian by Jennifer Armentrout

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Three years after the death of her father, Katy’s mother decides that it’s time for a fresh start.  They pack up and move from Florida to a tiny town West Virginia, where everybody is weird and rude.  The first person Katy meets in West Virginia is her neighbor Daemon.  And Katy hates Daemon.  In fact, during their first meeting, she says he’s acting like “the son of Satan.”

But don’t worry, because the feeling’s mutual.  Daemon can’t stand Katy either:

“She’s not welcome in our house,” Daemon snapped, turning to his sister. “Seriously.”

He smirked as he watched me. “I don’t like that you’re friends with my sister.”

“Actually I was being serious.” He leaned over the table, staring up at me through thick lashes. “You’re not wanted here.”

“Dee deserves better than you, people that are like her.  So leave me alone. Leave my family alone.”

Why does Daemon hate Katy so much?  Oh, just because she’s a human and he’s a Lux, an alien, and nobody can ever find out his secret.  Katy might be scared off by Daemon’s weird, unfounded hatred of her if not for one thing – Daemon’s sister Dee is Katy’s new best friend.  She encourages the two of them to hang out to get to know each other better, inadvertently causing Daemon to mark Katy with a “trace” that will lead the Arum (enemy of the Luxen) straight to her.

The rest of the book is filled with some pretty intense sexual tension as Katy and Daemon do the whole I-hate-you-but-I’m-so-attracted-to-you dance for about 200 pages.  There are some conflicts and some weird otherworldly stuff happens, but nothing of too much substance.  The book is clearly setting up for several follow-up novels, which I may or may not read – I have no burning desire to pick them up right now.

Honestly, the most frustrating thing was the writing.  Aside from the typical YA/paranormal suspension of disbelief (Why are aliens attending high school?), the writing was weaker than I expected.  I was disappointed to find several typos and continuity mistakes in a book that’s so well known.  For example, Katy notes that Ash, one of the Luxen, is just as gorgeous as all the other Luxen she’s met.  She marvels at this fact, wondering “what was up with alien DNA” to give them all perfect bodies.  This, just shortly after Daemon tells her that they are able to choose the human form they take on.

My final rating hovers somewhere around 2.5 stars, but I’ll round it up because I’m feeling generous.  If you’re into paranormal angsty romances, you’ll probably like this one.  It’s a fun ride, but it won’t be the best book you read this year.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

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Let me preface this review by saying that you should not believe anybody who tries to tell you that The Abyss Beyond Dreams is a standalone novel. While yes, I suppose that you could read it without any prior knowledge of the Commonwealth or Void, I can’t imagine that you would enjoy it very much. Once I received the notification that I’d won a free advance copy of the novel (thanks, Netgalley!), I went back and borrowed the Void trilogy from my boyfriend for a little background information. (Just a little, at nearly 2000 pages.) As I said in my reviews of those three books, I probably should have gone further back and read the Commonwealth books for an even stronger foundation. Hamilton really does weave together a lot of elements from his previous works.

In The Abyss Beyond Dreams, Nigel Sheldon, the infamous founder of the Commonwealth, is asked by the Raiel to enter the Void and search for lost ships. Upon his entry, he finds himself on Bienvenido, which is both similar to and different from Querencia, the part of the Void that we came to know in Hamilton’s previous books. In Bienvenido, telekenesis is still possible. Animals can be modified to assist with everyday tasks. But while Querencia’s citizens lead relatively safe lives, concerned mainly with political rivals, Bienvenido’s residents must deal with Fallers crashing down from the sky.

Fallers are enormous eggs that can absorb and morph into both humans and large animals. The Fallers then lure in unsuspecting humans, creating well-hidden nests within cities. Oh, and they’re also cannibals. So far, Bienvenido has been fairly lucky in resisting the Fallers, but there have been a few nests discovered, and a few close calls. Lieutenant Slvasta is one of the new humans lucky enough to escape a Fall – a team of Marines found him in time, and he only lost an arm, though he did have to watch his best friend be consumed by an egg. Now Slvasta is consumed by a desire to end Fallers, and his dedication helps him quickly move up the ranks… until his supervisors no longer approve of his actions and he’s put into an administrative position in the capital.

Meanwhile, Nigel takes a young woman named Kysandra under his wing as he researches the Void. Nigel and his ANAdroids rebuild Kysandra’s family farm (and her life) as he attempts to find a way to make Commonwealth machinery work inside the Void, which notoriously messes with any and all technology. In the process of studying the Void, Nigel is mistaken for a Faller by Slvasta, and their paths intertwine on many occasions.

I did really enjoy this book, and I think I devoured it faster than any of Hamilton’s other novels. Nigel’s sections were my favorite, as I found Slvasta’s to sometimes drag and be repetitive. (This is my only qualm with the book.) I liked that the Void was so similar to what Hamilton had written in his previous books, but also so different, in both the language and the society. What residents of Querencia call a “third hand,” Bienvenido refers to as “teekay.” Those sculptable eggs are known in Querencia as “default genistars,” but in Bienvenido, they’re “neuts.” “Longtalk” becomes “‘path.” Even that dark red nebula that everyone’s so afraid of ending up in has a different name – Querencia’s “Honious” is Bienvenido’s “Uracus.” And while Querencia lives in a fairly simple society (albeit with complex politics), Bienvenido seems much more advanced. Even with all the changes, the Void is still recognizable.

The Abyss Beyond Dreams includes many twists and turns, including one pretty big one at the end. I was satisfied with the ending of the novel, but I’ll be happy once the second installment comes out!

Final rating: 

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The Glass Magician picks up a few months after the conclusion of The Paper Magician, as Magician Emery Thane has healed from his brush with death and Ceony happily continues her apprenticeship. All good things must come to an end, though, and Ceony soon discovers that not everyone in the magic community is pleased with her for putting an end to Lira, Emery’s ex-wife and a well-known Excisioner. Meanwhile, Magician Aviosky grows suspicious of Ceony and Emery’s newly formed bond, created when Ceony was plunged into the depths of Emery’s heart in The Paper Magician.

I loved the Ceony’s magical world in The Paper Magician, and with the introduction of glass magic in The Glass Magician, I love it even more. It becomes clear that not only paper has surprising uses – glass can be quite useful as well. Mirrors aren’t just decorative in this world. Glass magicians, or Gaffers, are able to use mirrors in a number of ways – as distractions, transportation, communication, and even weapons. Paper magic expands as well, and it seems that there’s no end to its usefulness.

As in The Paper Magician, Ceony gets up to some very avoidable shenanigans as she attempts to thwart her rivals. There were points in the novel where I just shook my head at her, but I also couldn’t expect her to just sit at home waiting for somebody else to solve all her problems. Above all, Ceony is incredibly innovative, and always finds new and exciting ways to use her magic to her advantage.

I was eagerly anticipating the release of The Glass Magician, and it lived up to all of my expectations. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read it early. I can’t wait for the release of the next book.

Final rating: ★