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Tez Miller

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The Invisible (Brokenhearted)
The Invisible (Brokenhearted)
by Amelia Kahaney
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Stunning imagery, 18 Sept. 2017
Amelia Kahaney's THE INVISIBLE does what you hope all sequels will do: improve upon the predecessor. If THE BROKENHEARTED is the origin story, then THE INVISIBLE is where the series-proper starts. (Unfortunately, a third novel wasn't contracted.)

Anthem Fleet's chimerical heart and ballet skills are well needed to defeat The Invisible, a secret organisation kidnapping children from rich families in order to raise money for the poor part of Bedlam. The wealthy side of town was built to literally raise them above the damaged side, so that flooding wouldn't inconvenience the cashed-up.

THE INVISIBLE sees Anthem confronting her own economic privilege. The well-off have to actually lose something, such as a child, before they'll consider donating half their fortune to aid worthy causes low down.

Amelia Kahaney writes THE INVISIBLE with stunning imagery. The scene where Anthem watches skyscrapers collapse, not knowing if her Tower will fall next, is genuinely thrilling.

I was surprised to discover that I'd rated the first book in the series only two stars. THE INVISIBLE is worth double that.


Hold Back the Stars
Hold Back the Stars
by Katie Khan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Fraught and fascinating, 15 Sept. 2017
This review is from: Hold Back the Stars (Hardcover)
I've never been interested in book clubs, where everyone reads the same thing at the same time like assigned homework. But in the case of Katie Khan's HOLD BACK THE STARS, I definitely would recommend it to book groups. Having read it, I want to discuss spoilery things and ask questions!

This literary sci-fi tells the tale of Carys and Max, the supposed utopia they're from, and why they're stranded in space with only ninety minutes left of oxygen and no help in sight. The space scenes are fraught and fascinating as the duo does what they can to avoid drowning in their own tears. (Yes, that's a thing that could happen inside their helmets.) Communication - or lack thereof - is challenging enough on its own, but also they battle to create propellant and avoid asteroids. Hopefully film rights will be snapped up, because the ever-present danger and uncommon setting would make for a spectacular cinematic experience. This novel likely involved a heck of a lot of research, and Katie Khan's work pays off big-time.

Though I wouldn't recommend anyone removes their glove in space. Creative licence there, I'm guessing.

But Carys and Max's time on Earth doesn't grip like the space scenes. It's a relationship drama with a whole gamut of obstacles to overcome, and refreshing that they argue like couples in real life. Ultimately I didn't cheer for their relationship, but that's not unusual for me as a reader.


Rolling in the Deep
Rolling in the Deep
by Mira Grant
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars A killer adventure at sea - and below, 18 Aug. 2017
This review is from: Rolling in the Deep (Hardcover)
Climb aboard the SS Atargatis for a fantastic journey exploring the Mariana Trench. But beware of what lies beneath the surface...

The scientists want to research, but are forced to share the ship with a TV crew filming a pseudo-scientific documentary about possible sea monsters. The network has also sent along professional mermaids to swim in the shadows on camera.

Don't get too attached, though. We're warned upfront: no one returns home.

Mira Grant's ROLLING IN THE DEEP is a killer adventure at sea - and below. The large cast of characters are sometimes hard to keep track of and their department, though my favourites are David and Jessica.

And good news, everyone! INTO THE DROWNING DEEP, a companion novel, will be published in November, so there's more "aquatic horror" to anticipate.


The Thousandth Floor
The Thousandth Floor
by Katharine McGee
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Delightful spark, 11 Mar. 2017
This review is from: The Thousandth Floor (Paperback)
In Manhattan 2118 stands a thousand-floor building, kind of a city within itself. It contains homes, schools, parks, clubs, and plenty of futuristic goodies. Welcome to the vertical urbanism of Katharine McGee's THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR.

The prologue shows a girl in a dress plummeting to the ground outside. Who is she? Did she jump, or was she pushed? The series is marketed as the new GOSSIP GIRL, but once I put away notions of who represents Serena and Blair, I was able to appreciate these new characters for themselves. Leda is fresh out of rehab. Eris loses her wealthy lifestyle and is forced to move way down the Tower. Watt is hired as a hacker, but the case turns personal. And then there's Nadia, who's altogether awesome.

The drama is contemporary, but the extravagant futuristic setting adds delightful spark. There's life outside the Tower, too, including travel to other continents in just a few hours. Not all of the sub-plots appeal, but there's an undeniable addictiveness to THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR that's left me impatient for more. Book 2, THE DAZZLING HEIGHTS, is scheduled for publication later this year.


Metaltown
Metaltown
by Kristen Simmons
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.38

4.0 out of 5 stars A timely read, 8 Feb. 2017
This review is from: Metaltown (Hardcover)
NOTE: I first published this review as part of the group "My Favorite Things" column on Speculative Chic, 6th February 2017.

Some stories have more resonance if you read them at a particular time.

I didn't plan for Kristen Simmons's METALTOWN to be my first read of 2017, but that's when my library copy arrived. The novel felt instantly familiar, as it fits the classic underdog plot. But instead of a feel-good story, METALTOWN is dark and dystopian - and not everyone gets a happy ending.

Mostly the story rings true because it shows how to create change.

Ty and Colin work in the small parts section of a manufacturer. There are no health benefits, and they often aren't paid in a timely manner, enough, or at all. A workplace accident leads to acid burns and a lost job. Ty has nothing left to lose - she's now an unemployed, homeless orphan, and even her best friend Colin seems to be slipping away from her. And so Ty does what she can lead a "press", a workers' strike, against the manufacturer.

But she can't do it alone. One person can't be the entire movement in order to create real change. Ty needs the entire small parts section - and other sections, too - to band together in the press. If everyone stops work, the manufacturer will be forced to employ and train more workers. That will make it more difficult for the company to fill the order for their products. This will be bad for business, so the manufacturer has something to lose unless they agree to the workers' demands.

Can one person make a difference? Maybe. But there's strength in numbers, and we can't expect one person to shoulder all the responsibility. We each need to find our personal tipping point; what we're willing to risk for the greater good. We must PRESS BACK.

METALTOWN is a timely read that I won't soon forget.


Whitefern
Whitefern
by Virginia Andrews
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2.0 out of 5 stars SPOILER WARNING, 15 Dec. 2016
This review is from: Whitefern (Paperback)
SPOILER WARNING: This review consists only of spoilers. Can't discuss the book without them. Read on at your risk.

CONTENT WARNING: Racism, sexism, abuse, rape, and SO MUCH ABLEISM. Ableism in almost every chapter.

Whatever Simon & Schuster paid for this book, it would be a miracle if WHITEFERN earned out its advance. Even if you loved reading MY SWEET AUDRINA, I don't wish its sequel upon anyone.

Remember Audrina Adare's younger sister, Sylvia? Her condition hasn't been specified, but pretty much is never described without a slur or ableist speech against her. Though Audrina narrates, WHITEFERN's plot is very Sylvia-focused.

And it's bad. Really bad. Sexual abuse, rape, and impregnation. But it's presented as if "sweet Sylvia" consents to it all, even though big sister Audrina can see the abuse and exploitation. Outside of the novel, there may be discussions regarding people with an intellectual or developmental disability and consent, but V. C. Andrews is definitely NOT the author to explore the issue in a respectful manner. Far from it.

Why did the publisher think this was a good idea?!


Whitefern
Whitefern
by Virginia Andrews
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.95

2.0 out of 5 stars SPOILER WARNING, 15 Dec. 2016
This review is from: Whitefern (Hardcover)
SPOILER WARNING: This review consists only of spoilers. Can't discuss the book without them. Read on at your risk.

CONTENT WARNING: Racism, sexism, abuse, rape, and SO MUCH ABLEISM. Ableism in almost every chapter.

Whatever Simon & Schuster paid for this book, it would be a miracle if WHITEFERN earned out its advance. Even if you loved reading MY SWEET AUDRINA, I don't wish its sequel upon anyone.

Remember Audrina Adare's younger sister, Sylvia? Her condition hasn't been specified, but pretty much is never described without a slur or ableist speech against her. Though Audrina narrates, WHITEFERN's plot is very Sylvia-focused.

And it's bad. Really bad. Sexual abuse, rape, and impregnation. But it's presented as if "sweet Sylvia" consents to it all, even though big sister Audrina can see the abuse and exploitation. Outside of the novel, there may be discussions regarding people with an intellectual or developmental disability and consent, but V. C. Andrews is definitely NOT the author to explore the issue in a respectful manner. Far from it.

Why did the publisher think this was a good idea?!


Sage's Eyes
Sage's Eyes
by Virginia Andrews
Edition: Paperback
Price: £1.68

2.0 out of 5 stars Just bad, 12 Dec. 2016
This review is from: Sage's Eyes (Paperback)
That I barely remember anything from this book is likely a blessing, because what I do remember of it is terrible.

Put short, this novel would've fared better had it been written in the 1990s. That it's been published twenty years later does not serve it well. V. C. Andrews is not good at writing paranormals, as evidenced here in SAGE'S EYES.

But worse than the pitiful attempt at supernatural activity is...the self-referencing. The characters go to see a movie adaptation of RUBY - yes, based on the V. C. Andrews novel. I can handle shoddy writing, but this wankery was too much.

Skip SAGE'S EYES. It's not even "so bad, it's good". It's just bad.


Ruthless
Ruthless
by Carolyn Lee Adams
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.33

4.0 out of 5 stars A spooky, atmospheric read, 11 Dec. 2016
This review is from: Ruthless (Hardcover)
NOTE: You may want to skip the interlude between Chapters 5 and 6. Piglets, their mother, and a dog all killed. The violence is implied, but nonetheless hard to read.

Serial killer novels are tricky, especially when written from the POV of a potential victim. You know there has to be reason why this character is the protagonist, rather than any of the previous victims. You know there's something different this time around - because Ruth Carver is ruthless.

This is uncomfortable, because it relies on the trope of "she's not like other girls", which compares girls instead of appreciating them on their own merits. I had a similar problem reading Cheryl Rainfield's STAINED, also from the POV of a serial killer's captive, which implies that the previous victims "didn't try hard enough" to save themselves.

In short, this is an awkward situation that I'm not sure any author can get right. But Carolyn Lee Adams does include the previous victims in a spiritual sense, having them work together with Ruth. She wasn't around to save them, but they'll do what they can to help her. After all, they've all been targets of Wolfman.

It's so hard to write antagonists. If you write them as too obviously evil, they lack nuance. But if you give them back-story, it's like humanising them. It's kind of no-win in this aspect. RUTHLESS gives Wolfman a history and reasons why he kills, but there's no excuse for murder. I particularly dislike the trope of "this person bullied me, so I'll kill everyone who reminds me of them". Is this how anti-bullying is taught in the US? "If you bully someone, they'll bring a gun to school and shoot you"? Are we supposed to feel sorry for Wolfman? I don't. But maybe if he'd received better mental healthcare, he may not have become a killer. Who knows?

Ruth Carver's persistence in surviving takes her from Wolfman's cabin to out and about in the Blue Ridge Mountains - hiking, hiding, and hunting. Nature is both a help and a hindrance, while the kindness of strangers can't be counted on at all. A spooky, atmospheric read, RUTHLESS isn't easily forgotten. At first, Ruth just wants help. But then she wants revenge.

Wolfman must be stopped before his misogyny kills again.

Recommended listening: Kings of Leon's "Trunk" played in my head during the driving scenes.

Quote of interest: "You ever heard of trich? It's not even a bacteria or a virus; it's a protozoa. A little animal."


All in ((the Naturals #3))
All in ((the Naturals #3))
by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.33

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jaw-dropping, 16 July 2016
The Naturals series is brilliant, with each book even better than the previous one. Jennifer Lynn Barnes cements her place at the top of YA fiction with the multi-layered, complex, and jaw-dropping ALL IN. Though Sloane has an obvious connection to this Vegas-based mystery, the decades-long serial killer case also draws in the history of both father figure Judd and series narrator Cassie. Too bad we have to wait until November for Book 4, BAD BLOOD. P.S. Lia continues to be the most awesome character that deserves her own book. Each new thing we learn about her makes her even more fascinating.


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