Fantasy Book Review: Shadow of the War Machine

Shadow of the War Machine by Kristin Bailey

Synopsis:
Meg has come a long way from her days as a lowly housemaid, driven to learn the truth behind her parents’ murder. She’s since discovered that they were part of the Secret Order of Modern Amusementists—an underground society of inventors. Determined to reclaim her heritage, she joined the Amusementists as an apprentice, but that hasn’t brought her closer to the man responsible for the loss of her family: the man in the clockwork mask.

Now the man in the clockwork mask is coming for her. But Meg is tired of being hunted and she intends to become the hunter. The truth about her family is out there, and she will find it. With Will, the boy who holds her heart, Meg embarks on an adventure that takes them far from the cold London winter and into the heart of France.

But the City of Light is filled with dark shadows. There’s a plot afoot that could turn the tides of a terrible war, and cost the lives of millions—that is, if it doesn’t take the lives of everyone Meg holds dear, including her own.

Review:
Meg has found a clue to where her grandfather may have gone. She and Will secretly venture to France and follow an old trail to a surprising end.

Shadow of the War Machine is the final installment in The Secret Order trilogy. Events from the previous novels have all led to this. Meg is still pursued by two young men, though her preference for Will is obvious and not surprising. There are some new characters who are introduced that make for a spell-binding read. I loved the conclusion of this series, though I’m sad to see it end. I loved every bit of the steampunk gadgets, fascinating characters, suspenseful mystery, and engaging plots.

SciFi Book Review: Alive

Alive by Scott Sigler

Synopsis:
A teenage girl awakens to find herself trapped in a coffin. She has no idea who she is, where she is, or how she got there. Fighting her way free brings little relief—she discovers only a room lined with caskets and a handful of equally mystified survivors. Beyond their room lies a corridor filled with bones and dust, but no people . . . and no answers.

She knows only one thing about herself—her name, M. Savage, which was engraved on the foot of her coffin—yet she finds herself in charge. She is not the biggest among them, or the boldest, but for some reason the others trust her. Now, if they’re to have any chance, she must get them to trust one another.

Whatever the truth is, she is determined to find it and confront it. If she has to lead, she will make sure they survive. Maybe there’s a way out, a rational explanation, and a fighting chance against the dangers to come. Or maybe a reality they cannot comprehend lies just beyond the next turn.

Review:
Em (as she calls herself after seeing the name on her coffin) wakes up with very few memories and no idea where she is. She quickly becomes the leader of her small group of survivors, as they explore their surroundings. The group of kids vary in their vivid and engaging personalities.

Alive is a science fiction thriller for young adults. It’s compelling and completely unpredictable. It has the feel of a futuristic Lord of the Flies surrounded in mystery. I can’t talk too much about the setting, character, or events without giving away large spoilers. But it was fast-paced, captivating, and very hard to put down. I highly recommend this compelling and intense story.

SciFi Book Review: The Machine Awakes

The Machine Awakes by Adam Christopher

Synopsis:
In the decades since the human race first made contact with the Spiders–a machine race capable of tearing planets apart–the two groups have fought over interstellar territory. But the war has not been going well for humankind, and with the failure of the Fleet Admiral’s secret plan in the Shadow system, the commander is overthrown by a group of hardliners determined to get the war back on track.

When the deposed Fleet Admiral is assassinated, Special Agent Von Kodiak suspects the new guard is eliminating the old. But when the Admiral’s replacement is likewise murdered, all bets are off as Kodiak discovers the prime suspect is one of the Fleet’s own, a psi-marine and decorated hero–a hero killed in action, months ago, at the same time his twin sister vanished from the Fleet Academy, where she was training to join her brother on the front.

As Kodiak investigates, he uncovers a conspiracy that stretches from the slums of Salt City to the floating gas mines of Jupiter. There, deep in the roiling clouds of the planet, the Jovian Mining Corporation is hiding something, a secret that will tear the Fleet apart and that the Morning Star, a group of militarized pilgrims searching for their lost god, is determined to uncover.

But there is something else hiding in Jovian system. Something insidious and intelligent, machine-like and hungry.
The Spiders are near.

Review:
Agent Kodiak is put in charge of finding out who is behind the Fleet Admiral assassination(s). And it looks like an inside job. Meanwhile, Caitlin Smith is trying to evade capture, after she decided not to pull the trigger on the Fleet Admiral. Kodiak wants to bring her in for questioning. But he’s not the only one after her. It’s seems she’s a more powerful psi than even she knows.

The Machine Awakes is a science fiction adventure set in a far future, where humans are at war with a machine race called the Spiders. We only get a glimpse of the Spiders at the end of the novel however. The novel is set in the same universe as Christopher’s space horror novel The Burning Dark but it’s wholly standalone and a space opera with a different feel. Fast-paced and action-packed, this reads like an action movie. Events build to a climactic, exciting, and surprising finale that does not disappoint.

*Republished with permission from Bookspan. Originally published at http://www.sfbc.com/

Fantasy Book Review: A School for Unusual Girls

A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

Synopsis:
It’s 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England’s dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don’t fit high society’s constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje, the original unusual girl, has plans for the young ladies-plans that entangle the girls in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.

After accidentally setting her father’s stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House. But Georgie has no intention of being turned into a simpering, pudding-headed, marriageable miss. She plans to escape as soon as possible-until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads-or their hearts….

Review:
Georgie is a bright girl who has a penchant for science, much to the chagrin of her parents. The would rather she behave like a lady, instead of burning down their barn while trying to develop an invisible ink. The Stranje House is no finishing school, as her parents believe. Instead, it caters to remarkable young women who don’t necessarily fit into society’s conventions.

A School for Unusual Girls is a brilliant series debut set in Regency England. This first installment revolves around political intrigue and drama. It was nearly impossible to put down. The characters are as fascinating as the time period. And the plot is full of danger, suspense, mystery, and a bit of mysticism. And the ending only left me wanting more. I look forward to the next in this impressive new series.

Fantasy Book Review: Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel

Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel by Megan Morrison

Synopsis:
In all of Tyme, from the Redlands to the Grey, no one is as lucky as Rapunzel. She lives in a magic tower that obeys her every wish; she reads wonderful books starring herself as the heroine; her hair is the longest, most glorious thing in the world. And she knows this because Witch tells her so—her beloved Witch, who protects her from evil princes, the dangerous ground under the tower, even unhappy thoughts. Rapunzel can’t imagine any other life.

Then a thief named Jack climbs into her room to steal one of her enchanted roses. He’s the first person Rapunzel’s ever met who isn’t completely charmed by her (well, the first person she’s met at all, really), and he is infuriating– especially when he hints that Witch isn’t telling her the whole truth. Driven by anger at Jack and her own nameless fears, Rapunzel descends to the ground for the first time, and finds a world filled with more peril than Witch promised … and more beauty, wonder, and adventure than she could have dreamed.

Review:
Rapunzel lives a happy, secluded life. And she has no desire to stray from her tower. Witch loves her and gives her everything she could want. But when young Jack climbs up to her and claims he’s been there before, Rapunzel realizes some of her memories have been erased. She thinks she’s protecting Witch, when she follows Jack back to the fairies. But along a necessary quest, Rapunzel discovers the truth about Witch and her life.

Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel is the first in a new, fairy tale series, called Tyme, for middle readers on up. Rapunzel is annoyingly ignorant as the story begins, but she grows wiser as she meets new people and learns more about the world around her. The other characters are clever and fun. Full of suspense, mystery, danger, drama, and a bit of humor – Rapunzel’s adventure is captivating from beginning to end. And there is a wonderful twist ending that will fairy tale fans will love. I look forward to the next in this promising series with plenty of heart.

Fantasy Book Review: Five Kingdoms: Crystal Keepers

Five Kingdoms: Crystal Keepers by Brandon Mull

Synopsis:
Cole Randolph ventures to a new kingdom as he continues his search for his friends—and also pursues his quest to mend what has gone awry with the magic in The Outskirts. Can he overcome the challenges ahead, or will he be stranded forever in a world between reality and imagination?

Review:
Cole and his companions travel to Zeropolis, a land where technology has overcome magic – very similar to our world. In fact, they have stolen a lot of our technology and adapted it. And in some areas they have exceeded ours. This kingdom is very different from the previous, and the characters are as well. Since there is little magic, the technology shines – especially in the case of some strong IA characters.

Crystal Keepers is the third installment in the Five Kingdoms series. Cole and his friends are trying to helm Mira find her sisters, while Cole also searches for his friends from back home that were sold into slavery. This latest kingdom was very engaging – with plenty of mystery, intrigue, drama, and surprising twists I didn’t see coming. This series just keeps getting better. I eagerly await the next in this magical series.

Book Giveaway: The Originals: The Resurrection

Courtesy of the Harlequin Teen, I have a copy of The Originals: The Resurrection by Julie Plec for one (1) lucky winner!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends June 12. I’ll draw a name on June 13, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

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