Received in May

The following are the books and movies I received in May for review and/or giveaways:

Movies:
Jupiter Ascending Blu-ray
Project Almanac Blu-ray

Ace:
The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence

Amazon Publishing / 47 North / Skyscape:
The Banished of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler
Infinity Lost by S. Harrison

BBC Books:
Doctor Who: Engines of War by George Mann

Daw:
Nova by Margaret Fortune

Del Rey:
The Shadow Revolution: Crown & Key by Clay Griffith
Zero World by Jason M. Hough
The Darkling Child: The Defenders of Shannara by Terry Brooks
Lightless by C.A. Higgins

Disney Hyperion:
Project Paper Doll: The Trials by Stacey Kade
Daughter of Dusk by Livia Blackburne
Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert
The Second Guard by J. D. Vaughn
Glittering Shadows by Jaclyn Dolamore
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

Gallery Books:
Dawn of the Dead by George A. Romero

Harlequin Teen:
The Originals: The Resurrection by Julie Plec

Harper Teen:
The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:
Con Academy by Joe Schreiber
NEED by Joelle Charbonneau
Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers:
The 100: Homecoming by Kass Morgan

Paizo:
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Pathfinder Unchained by Jason Bulmahn
Pathfinder Tales: Forge of Ashes by Josh Vogt
Pathfinder Tales: Firesoul by Gary Kloster

Pyr:
Supersymmetry by David Walton
Earth Flight by Janet Edwards

Scholastic Press:
Wings of Fire Book Seven: Winter Turning by Tui T. Sutherland

Simon & Schuster / Saga Press / Sterner Books:
The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris
Snatched by David Saperstein

Subterranean Press:
Stinger by Robert P. McCammon

Titan Books:
The Knight of Swords by Michael Moorcock

Tor:
Forbidden by Cathy Clamp
The Iron Assassin by Ed Greenwood
Blood of the Cosmos by Kevin J. Anderson

WMG Publishing:
Tiffany Tumbles by Kristine Grayson

Fantasy Book Review: Illusionarium

Illusionarium by Heather Dixon

Synopsis:
Far, far north, in the cold aerial city of Fata Morgana, apprentice scientist Jonathan is preparing to leave for university. He doesn’t know about fantillium, the newly discovered chemical that allows people to share hallucinations—sometimes wondrous ones, sometimes appalling. He doesn’t know he holds the rare skill to control the hallucinations—to become an illusionist. He doesn’t know that fantillium can also open gateways to parallel worlds. Or that he will soon begin an epic journey, crossing cities and worlds, to save his family, his friends, and his very reality.

He doesn’t know any of that . . . yet. And when he does, will his compass continue to point true north? Or will it break apart?

Review:
Jonathan doesn’t think that he has the moral compass his father is always talking about. And his morality is put to the test as Jonathan is willing to do what his father wont in order to save his sister from a deadly disease.

Illusionarium is a unique story that spans dimensions and incorporates steampunk and fantasy. It’s certainly an unpredictable, wild ride. With plenty of drama, suspense, mystery, and humor – this is an intriguing story. The author skillfully blends science and magic, in an alternate reality where “illusions” are more than a form of entertainment. This dark fantasy for young adults wasn’t at all what I expected, but very enjoyable just the same.

Book Review: Elementary: The Ghost Line

Elementary: The Ghost Line by Adam Christopher

Synopsis:
Summons to a bullet-riddled body in a Hell’s Kitchen apartment marks the start of a new case for consulting detectives Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson. The victim is a subway train driver with a hidden stash of money and a strange Colombian connection, but why would someone kill him and leave a fortune behind?

The search for the truth will lead the sleuths deep into the hidden underground tunnels beneath New York City, where answers—and more bodies—may well await them.

Review:
Fans of the show Elementary will enjoy this new tie-in series. The characters are spot on, as the eccentric Holmes does is crazy “research” and investigates complex crimes. This latest crime involves a murder that leads to an underground trail to a museum exhibit. But it’s not a straight-forward heist.

The Ghost Line is a solid and intriguing story with colorful characters and plenty of humor. Christopher does a great job of developing vivid characters that are familiar and keeping true to the series. I’m a sucker for a good murder mystery, and you can’t beat Sherlock Holmes in any incarnation.

Blu-Ray Review: Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter Ascending (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet Combo Pack)

SYNOPSIS:
Jupiter Jones (Kunis) was born under a night sky, with signs predicting that she was destined for great things. Now grown, Jupiter dreams of the stars but wakes up to the cold reality of a job cleaning other people’s houses and an endless run of bad breaks. Only when Caine (Tatum), a genetically engineered ex-military hunter, arrives on Earth to track her down does Jupiter begin to glimpse the fate that has been waiting for her all along—her genetic signature marks her as next in line for an extraordinary inheritance that could alter the balance of the cosmos.

REVIEW:
Mila Kunis plays Jupiter Jones, a humble housecleaner from a close-knit family of immigrants. Somehow, the galactic royal family discovers that Jupiter is the genetic successor of royalty. And her life is in sudden danger. Channing Tatum is Caine, a genetically spliced human with a wolf hybrid, has been hired to protect Jupiter and get her to safety. The two have a cute, easy camaraderie that is fun to watch. I really enjoyed Sean Bean as well. The only person I couldn’t stand was Eddie Redmayne as Balem Abrasax, the main villain. He had an annoying, whispery voice that was hard to hear and just over-done. His character was a corny, one-dimensional villain.

I did enjoy the universe and special effects of Jupiter Ascending, however. The visuals were spectacular. The story was unique and full of suspense, intrigue, drama, and humor. It was fairly predictable, but still a fun science fiction adventure that was very entertaining.

Continue reading Blu-Ray Review: Jupiter Ascending

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/

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