Review: The Bees by Laline Paull

bees by laline paullFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook, hardback, paperback, audiobook
Genre: fantasy
Length: 357 pages
Publisher: Ecco
Date Released: May 6, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, a member of the lowest caste in her orchard hive where work and sacrifice are the highest virtues and worship of the beloved Queen the only religion. But Flora is not like other bees. With circumstances threatening the hive’s survival, her curiosity is regarded as a dangerous flaw but her courage and strength are an asset. She is allowed to feed the newborns in the royal nursery and then to become a forager, flying alone and free to collect pollen. She also finds her way into the Queen’s inner sanctum, where she discovers mysteries about the hive that are both profound and ominous.

But when Flora breaks the most sacred law of all—daring to challenge the Queen’s fertility—enemies abound, from the fearsome fertility police who enforce the strict social hierarchy to the high priestesses jealously wedded to power. Her deepest instincts to serve and sacrifice are now overshadowed by an even deeper desire, a fierce maternal love that will bring her into conflict with her conscience, her heart, her society—and lead her to unthinkable deeds.

My Review:

I’m not so sure about the comparison in the blurb to either (or both) The Handmaid’s Tale and The Hunger Games, but if it gets people to read this marvelous book, well, it’s done its job.

The Bees is the story of a rigorously structured society where the obedient survive, everyone has their own place, and deviation, or even curiosity, is usually rewarded with death. And while the author sets the story in a beehive, among, naturally, bees, she’s really talking about us.

People.

Of course, Flora 717 and the other bees in her hive think of themselves as people, too. Everyone else that impinges on their world is either an enemy or a myth. Occasionally both.

Flora 717 is different from the other bees in her hive, who are all her sisters, daughters of the Queen, except for the very few male drones. More on them in a bit.

In a hive, only the Queen can breed. For Flora 717, it is both law and religion, and rigorously enforced by mind-numbing scent trails as well as power-hungry priestesses and ruthless Fertility Police. Flora 717 bumps and bumbles her rather large way into every rule and precept of her restrictive hive.

The hive is a place where the needs of the many are paramount, and the needs of the few or of the one have no meaning at all. There is only supposed to be the hive, and service to it.

Flora 717, as our point of view character, is different from her sisters. Something either went right or wrong in her creation, and she is larger than her sisters, and also more capable. Floras are the lowest of the low, they are the sanitation workers of the hive. They aren’t supposed to think, they aren’t supposed to be able to talk, and they are not supposed to be capable of ANY of the higher functions of the hive.

Flora 717 can not only talk, but she can sense the hive mind directly. She also has the capacity to feed the larvae in the nursery, and she is strong enough to fly out of the hive and forage for food.

The hive is in danger. Not just from possible direct attacks, but also from the changing world outside. Pollution reduces their foraging grounds. Rain makes it impossible for the foragers to even go out and find food. Life in the hive is changing, and not for the better.

As Flora 717 finds herself the object of an experiment (and not killed out of hand as an outlier) she is able to view all of the strata of life in the hive, from her lowly roots as a sanitation worker, to the dangerous and desperate freedom of the foragers.

She even briefly ascends to the heights of attending the Queen.

All of the knowledge and experience she gains makes her a leader among her own lowly Flora sisterhood. And gives her the courage to foment her own, quiet and inexorable, rebellion.

Escape Rating A: The way that the author portrays the hive’s institutions works well both as an explanation of bee behavior and as an ironic send-up of human behavior. The priestesses exploit their religious positions to accumulate power. The fertility police are brute enforcers and thugs.

And the drones, “Their Malenesses” are both funny and tragic. Their purpose in life is to die for the good of the hive. Or some other hive. But until their last, tragic flight to create a queen, they are indulged in their every whim, and their very essence makes the female bees swoon at every turn.

Yet their self-indulgence is so often their undoing, as well as the hive’s.

You wouldn’t think that you could be absolutely riveted by the supposedly proscribed (and short) life of a bee. But the story so cleverly couches real (and bloodthirsty) life in a hive into human terms that we can’t help but root for Flora 717 to survive and find a destiny that seems to be outside the proscriptions.

It both is and isn’t, in the end, but the way that it works provokes satisfaction, the sense that things change, but that it is part of the greater whole. Which for Flora 717, turns out to be as it should be.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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Labor Day 2014

In the U.S. the first Monday in September is designated as a holiday. For Labor Day, a whole lot of us get the day off from, well, labor. Or at least the kind that generates a paycheck.

681px-LABOR_DAY_1942_-_NARA_-_535654

The image above is from Wikimedia Commons, and was created by the Office for Emergency Management, Office of War Information, Domestic Operations Branch for Labor Day in 1942.

Which makes it both a terrific poster and domestic war propaganda at the same time.

Also very apropos for today, over the weekend we went to MOHAI, the Seattle Museum of History and Industry. While we went for the tasty Chocolate exhibition, MOHAI has many marvelous exhibits about the industrial history of Seattle, including galleries devoted to the Seattle General Strike of 1919. Fascinating!

 

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The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 8-31-14

Sunday Post

To everyone in the U.S., happy 3-day weekend! It’s marvelous to think that there’s a whole other day before it’s back to waking up to the alarm clock and having to get ready for work. It’s a whole ‘nother day to read.

Preview of upcoming events, so far, this week’s books are fantastic!

Current Giveaways:

No Limits by Lori Foster (U.S. only)

lock in by john scalziBlog Recap:

A+ Review: Lock In by John Scalzi
C- Review: The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne
B Review: No Limits by Lori Foster
Q&A with Lori Foster + Giveaway
B- Review: Her Last Whisper by Karen Robards
A- Review: Doctor Who: Engines of War by George Mann
Stacking the Shelves (102)

 

light up the night by ml buchmanComing Next Week:

The Bees by Laline Paull (review)
Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb (blog tour review)
The Bully of Order by Brian Hart (blog tour review)
Light Up the Night by M.L. Buchman (review + giveaway)

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Stacking the Shelves (102)

Stacking the Shelves

So, I didn’t actually purchase the Humble Bookperk Bundle from Amazon, but Humble Bundle uses Amazon Payments, so it sort of counts. The current Humble Bundle includes a LOT of science fiction/fantasy/paranormal titles. So even though I already have copies of a few things in print, like American Gods and The Curse of Chalion, I couldn’t resist getting the whole thing in ebook, especially at the lovely Humble Bundle price. Check out the Bundle before it goes away!

For Review:
Ada’s Algorithm by James Essinger
Beauty’s Kiss (Taming of the Sheenans #2) by Jane Porter
The Cat, The Devil, the Last Escape by Shirley Rousseau Murphy and Pat J.J. Murphy
Flirting with Forever (Island Bliss #1) by Kim Boykin
High Moon (F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad Investigation #4) by Jennifer Harlow
The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs by Greil Marcus
The Innovators by Walter Isaacson
Pie Girls by Lauren Clark
So We Read On by Maureen Corrigan
Tinseltown by William J. Mann

Purchased from Amazon:
Humble Bookperk Bundle

Borrowed from the Library:
Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb
Glamour in Glass (Glamourist Histories #2) by Mary Robinette Kowal
Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch
The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons by Sam Kean

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Review: Doctor Who: Engines of War by George Mann

doctor who engines of war by george mannFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: Paperback, ebook, hardcover, audiobook
Genre: science fiction
Series: Doctor Who New Series Adventures Specials #4
Length: 322 pages
Publisher: BBC Books (U.K.); Broadway Books (U.S.)
Date Released: July 31, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

“The death of billions is as nothing to us Doctor, if it helps defeat the Daleks.”

The Great Time War has raged for centuries, ravaging the universe. Scores of human colony planets are now overrun by Dalek occupation forces. A weary, angry Doctor leads a flotilla of Battle TARDISes against the Dalek stronghold but in the midst of the carnage, the Doctor’s TARDIS crashes to a planet below: Moldox.

As the Doctor is trapped in an apocalyptic landscape, Dalek patrols roam amongst the wreckage, rounding up the remaining civilians. But why haven’t the Daleks simply killed the humans?

Searching for answers the Doctor meets ‘Cinder’, a young Dalek hunter. Their struggles to discover the Dalek plan take them from the ruins of Moldox to the halls of Gallifrey, and set in motion a chain of events that will change everything. And everyone.

An epic novel of the Great Time War featuring the War Doctor as played by John Hurt.

My Review:

day of the doctorAfter watching the new Doctor’s first episode, I simply couldn’t resist reading this War Doctor adventure. Of course, now I want to go back and watch The Night of the Doctor and The Day of the Doctor, just to put everything into its proper context.

And besides, those stories were just plain fun, and so is this one.

Engines of War takes place late in the War Doctor’s time period, probably not long before (possibly JUST before) the events in The Day of the Doctor.

Those “engines of war” have been in development for centuries, and the Doctor has reached the point where this regeneration looks pretty darn worn out, but still with that spark of humor that we saw in Day of the Doctor.

Engines of War seems to be the point where the Doctor cries “a plague on both your houses” at both the Daleks and his own people, the Time Lords. Because the events in this story show him that the war has made the two opposing forces in equally degenerative and destructive forces. The war has made the Time Lords into a race that has used the weapons and methods of the Daleks in their attempt to defeat them.

Pogo was right, “we have met the enemy and he is us”.

As with so many Doctor Who stories, we see the action through the Doctor’s Companion. Cinder is human, but from a far future where humanity has colonized the stars. Her planet was once a great civilization, but the war has reduced the population to slaves, victims and guerrilla warriors just barely keeping one step ahead of their oppressors.

The Daleks are using the place for experimental research on yet more ways they can create Daleks, including Daleks with time-erasure weapons. Their victims not only cease to exist, they cease to have ever existed.

The new Dalek master plan is to use the power of time reversal on the Time Lords. Until the Doctor crash lands on the battle-heap that was Moldox, and falls in with one plucky warrior just about at the end of her line.

But it isn’t the Dalek’s destruction of her planet that moves the Doctor beyond his ability to make excuses for his people’s behavior, it is the way that the Time Lords abuse Cinder herself that bring him to the brink of despair and disaster.

Escape Rating A-: In the episode The End of Time, the Time Lords attempt to come back, and the Doctor stops them at the cost of his regeneration. In Engines of War, we get a pretty good idea of why the Doctor is willing to keep them out at all costs. It’s said that if you use the methods of your enemy to defeat them, you are already lost. The Time Lord Council had gone way too far down that road for the Doctor to want them back.

five doctorsIf you are a fan of both the classic and the new adventures of the Doctor, this story is a special treat. It not only bridges a bit of the gap between The Night of the Doctor minisode and The Day of the Doctor, but it also gives us a glimpse into the rot in the Time Lords that leads the Doctor to even think of using “The Moment”. And as an added treat, the story takes us back to the Death Zone, the scene of The Five Doctors. We see more of Gallifrey than we ever have before, and it’s plenty ugly.

But it makes a terrific adventure.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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Review: Her Last Whisper by Karen Robards

her last whisper by karen robardsFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, audiobook
Genre: paranormal romance
Series: Dr. Charlotte Stone, #3
Length: 353 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Date Released: August 26, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Madness and murder invaded Dr. Charlotte Stone’s life when she was just a girl—and made her a woman determined to save others from the horror she survived. An expert in the psychology of serial killers, she’s faced down more than her share of human monsters. But Charlie can also communicate with the spirits of those who die violently, an extrasensory skill that has helped the FBI bring lethal predators to justice. Now, after narrowly escaping death a second time, Charlie’s ready to step away from the edge . . . before her luck runs out.

Too bad Charlie is too dedicated for her own good—and too devoted to federal agent Tony Bartoli to say no when he asks her to ride shotgun on yet another risky mission. Of course, she already has her hands full with Michael Garland: the handsome, roguish ghost with whom she’s hopelessly in love—a spirit who depends on Charlie to keep him from slipping forever into the dark side of the afterlife. But in the mortal world, beautiful single women are vanishing from Las Vegas hotels at night. All signs indicate that a psychopath is on the prowl in Sin City, and Bartoli’s FBI colleague Lena Kaminsky has reason to fear that her missing sister may be just the killer’s type.

In a town full of fast players and few rules, flushing out a smooth-talking stalker like the Cinderella Killer might be a loser’s game. But for Charlie, the only way to cage her quarry is to plunge back into the homicidal hell she vowed to leave behind—and may not leave alive.

My Review:

I can definitely say that Karen Robards Charlie Stone series makes for compelling reading. I started Her Last Whisper in the morning, and couldn’t keep myself from grabbing it at every opportunity; breaks, lunch, bus rides, making dinner, eating dinner, (taking the book to the bathroom with me…) etc. I finished before bedtime, because I couldn’t wait that long to wrap it up.

But there are definitely points where it’s compelling like watching a three-car pileup on the expressway. It’s horrific and you can’t turn your eyes away. It’s a train-wreck book.

First, Charlie falls in love with a ghost. It’s not the first time I’ve read this particular trope, and it can work. Stacey Kennedy’s Supernaturally Kissed is a great example of a story where this trope does work.

But, Dr. Charlie Stone is also a psychiatrist who studies serial killers. She went into that particular line of work because she survived a serial killer when she was a child. But then she goes and falls in love with one of the serial killers she is studying. OK, that actually happens, sort of.

But Charlie goes the “falling for an inmate” trope several stages further. Charlie also sees dead people. And the serial killer that she has fallen for is the aforementioned ghost. She knows this whole scenario is too stupid to live, she even calls herself out on that, but she continues anyway.

And for the cherry on the sundae, Charlie works with an elite FBI unit that chases serial killers, and one of the very much alive FBI agents wants to make their relationship personal. But Charlie is way too hung up on the gorgeous dead guy to give the equally gorgeous living one a chance.

Into this mess we throw the hunt for another serial killer. In this case, the case gets much too close to home, as the serial killer has kidnapped the sister of one of the other FBI agents, and eventually grabs Charlie’s friend as well.

So Charlie keeps dividing her attention between the sexy ghost that follows her every move, and the serial killer that she needs to find before he kills again.

Her Last Whisper should be a thriller about the serial killer. The case is plenty gruesome, especially with the personal angles thrown in. Whoever this guy is, he’s been kidnapping women off the very busy streets of Las Vegas for two years, and it isn’t until the FBI shows up that anyone even figures out that there IS a serial killer.

But the focus, instead is on the relationship between Charlie and Michael Garland, her drop-dead-sexy-but-mostly-just-dead convicted serial killer. Charlie spends most of her energy trying to determine whether Garland was really guilty, and figuring out ways to keep his ghost from going to Spookyville, because whatever he did it made him ineligible for heaven. After six weeks of Garland hanging around, Charlotte has come to rely on his help in her cases, and has fallen head over heels for a man she absolutely can’t have.

Which doesn’t keep her from trying (and occasionally briefly succeeding) through each twist and turn of a very nasty case.

Escape Rating B-: I have to give points for extreme readability. This series is addicting, quite possibly in the way that chocolate is addicting. Or maybe like some kind of drug. Once you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole, you absolutely have to keep going. Just when you’re sure it can’t get any crazier, it does.

last kiss goodbye by karen robardsUnlike the previous book in the series, The Last Kiss Goodbye (reviewed here), the hunt for the live serial killer carries equal weight with the angst about keeping her dead serial killer attached to this world. The case that she and the team are trying to solve is chilling, thrilling and disgusting in equal turns.

But Charlie involves a friend who is also psychic in her increasingly desperate attempts to keep Michael Garland around. That involvement makes her friend a target for the live serial killer, just upping the ante on how crazy things get.

As the story progressed, I thought I figured out how the author was going to manage to pull a happy ending rabbit-trick out of relationship-with-the-dead hat. But as the story ended (on a horrific cliffhanger) I decided that I had been on the wrong track.

How many live serial killers can Charlie survive while she continues to be distracted by her feelings for a dead one? Tune in next year (I hope it’s next year and not longer) to find out. I know I will. I’m compelled!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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Q&A with Lori Foster + Giveaway

Lori FosterPlease enjoy this Q&A from Lori Foster, who recently published No Limits (reviewed here).

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest release, No Limits?

This is Cannon’s story, a character that readers met in my last series, Love Undercover. From the second Cannon showed up on the page, I knew he’d get his own story. He’s that kind of guy, the guy who steps up and takes notice and gets a lot of notice in return.

In No Limits, Cannon reunites with Yvette, another character from the previous series. They parted under strained circumstances, with Cannon just heading into professional MMA and Yvette young and traumatized from a horrific threat. Cannon saved her then, but he was noble because of her age and what she’d been through.

Now she’s older, more independent, and he’s ready to make up for lost time.

What was it like getting inside the mind of a mixed martial arts fighter?

no limits by lori fosterI’ve interviewed a few fighters over the years, chatted with others while getting promotional photos and during before and after “meet and greets” while at live events. Every single fighter I’ve met has been extremely nice, unassuming, dedicated to fans, and (though it sounds silly) very sweet. It took only a few questions to see how much they give to the sport they love, the discipline it takes to stay in training, and the confidence they gain from having extreme ability.

Since I’ve never asked a fighter about his love life, that part of the story is pure imagination on my part. But then I only write good guys, and talented lovers.

What is your process for choosing names like Cannon Colter?

I’m a terrible cheat when it comes to names. More often than not I see a name on Facebook or Twitter that I like. I never, ever use a first and last name together, but I do pick and choose and mix and match. When I see a unique name, or a name that resonates with me, I grab it up.

When I’m writing, I’m far less focused on names than I am on personality. Names for me are an afterthought, so stealing from my social media sites makes it easy.

What music did you listen to while writing No Limits?

I have a long playlist of about 150 songs. Much of it is from KORN and Kid Rock and Marilyn Manson, but I’ve also really gotten into Disturbed, The Pretty Reckless, Papa Roach, Skillet and Puddle of Mud. Oh, and Cage the Elephant. I like loud, strong music that I can sing along with while I’m writing.

Can you tell us about the process behind the cover artwork?

Ooooh, I LOVE getting new covers. So exciting. The way it works is that I give my editor an idea of what the characters look like. Usually this means emailing her my own character sheets – notes I keep on the characters to detail (and help me remember) height, eye and hair color, body type, etc… I usually include any and all info like the car he/she drives, job description, age and any other pertinent information that I might need to recall from book to book.

My editor also asks for a synopsis, but since they usually start working on covers long before I know what the story is about, it’s a guessing game on my end. I know there’ll be a hunk, a heroine, some suspense, hot sex, lots of emotion, and a happy ending. The how’s and why’s are often not clear to me at that point.

Then the publisher has a meeting with the art department and they all brainstorm cover ideas and come up with a concept that I get to see.

The concept is just an idea. It’ll show a model, but not THE model. It’ll show a pose, but not THE pose. I see where the placement of my name and the title will appear, along with any quotes.

Once that’s approved, the art dept does a photo shoot and from those images they choose the once they like best. I weigh in with pleas of chest hair.

Chest hair is always my #1 requirement if they show the model with his shirt off.
Understand, this is for new novels, not novellas or reissues. For those they generally use stock art.

It’s all very fun and I can honestly say I’ve loved the artwork so far.

Have you written an outline for the No Limits series or do you make it up as you go?

hard knocks by lori fosterI totally make it up as I go along. Or I should say my characters make it up. I never try to figure things out in advance because as sure as I do, the characters will have a different idea and they’ll rebel, making it difficult to write until I give them their way. Fighting it is futile. But since they’re seldom wrong, it works for us. (And yes, I’m nuts. I don’t fight that either.)

Usually the characters will give me enough clues along the way to keep the writing flow steady. For instance, while I was writing No Limits, Denver stepped up and talked about Cherry and made it clear his book needed to be next. Now while I’m writing Holding Strong (Denver’s story) Stack is giving me nudges, saying, “Me next, me next. And I’m going after Vanity… whether she or I know it yet or not.”

So that’s how I know Stack’s story will be after Denver’s.

Armie has said he wants to wait, stew on things a while, come to grips with his future… so I’m letting him get used to the idea of what is to come. ;-)

What are you working on next?

I’m writing Denver’s story right now, titled Holding Strong. It’s due out in spring 2015 and I’m loving Denver and Cherry together – and them as a couple with the rest of the fighters around. It’s a very fun dynamic.

After that I’ll do another benefit novella for June 2015. It’ll be part of the Buckhorn family and all proceeds from sales of the book will go to a charity. I’m not yet sure which of the Buckhorn clan will be featured, but I’m sure it’ll all come to me in plenty of time.

And then I’ll jump into Stack’s story. He should be ready by then – which means I’ll also be ready. Luckily the characters keep me writing. In fact, if there were more hours in the day, I’m not sure they’d ever let me stop.

~~~~~~GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

Lori is kindly giving away a copy of No Limits to one lucky winner (US only)! To enter, use the Rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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