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)

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

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.

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.

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.


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

Review: No Limits by Lori Foster

no limits by lori fosterFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, mass market paperback, audiobook
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: Ultimate, #1
Length: 432 pages
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Date Released: September 1, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Cannon Colter is quintessential hero material: chiseled jawline, shredded body—the works. He’s also the guy who rescued Yvette Sweeny from kidnappers, only to put an end to her romantic dreams. These days, she’s older, smarter, determined to face whatever life throws her way. Even the prospect of sharing a house and business with Cannon.

Cannon knew Yvette wanted him three years ago. But she was young—and some things are worth waiting for. Thrown together by her grandfather’s legacy, he realizes how deep Yvette’s scars really go, and how much danger lurks in their quiet town. As pent-up desire explodes between them, protecting her becomes the only fight that matters. And he’ll break all the rules to do it….

My Review:

No Limits is a Lori Foster story that ties together the alpha romance of her SBC Fighters series with the romantic suspense of her Love Undercover series.

dash of peril by lori fosterIn fact, the beginning of Cannon and Yvette’s relationship, including the horrific event that sent Yvette running to California, is part of the case that Dash and Margaret finally solve in Dash of Peril (reviewed here).

The way that Cannon and Yvette’s story begins in Dash of Peril, Cannon helps the police solve a serial rapist/murder case by trying his best to protect Yvette from the perpetrators. Although the bad get their just desserts, Yvette still suffers the terrible trauma of being kidnapped and doused in kerosene, threatened with rape and immolation, and forced to watch as another woman is raped.

Cannon is angry with himself because he wasn’t able to protect her, even though he was merely a neighborhood do-gooder, and not a police officer.

Yvette has always had a crush on Cannon, but he’s sure she’s too young for him. But she’s 20, not 18, and he never knew. She also throws herself at him, just before she leaves town to heal.

He never forgot her. He also kept kicking himself for thinking she was younger than she was. In three years, he’s been hoping for a way to start over, or to start where they didn’t quite leave off. Her grandfather’s death gives him that opportunity. Grandfather left his property in equal shares to Yvette and Cannon, not because Cannon needs it, but because Yvette’s grandfather is certain that Yvette needs to find a reason to come home to stay, and that Cannon will provide that reason if he ties them to each other.

Cannon’s perfectly willing to get with that program, its Yvette who balks. Everyone in their small Ohio town knows exactly what happened three years ago, and Yvette hates being the center of everyone’s attention, and especially their pity.

In California she can be exactly who she wants to be, and has carved out a life that allows her not to lean on anyone. She hates feeling like she’s still a victim.

Unfortunately for Yvette, there is more than one person in her town who is all too eager to make her a victim, yet again. But this time, she definitely has Cannon in her corner, and moving in to her life.

It’s up to her whether her inability to let herself lean on anyone will keep her from relying on Cannon and his friends when she really needs them, or whether she can finally let herself live her life.

hard knocks by lori fosterEscape Rating B: No Limits is the first full-length novel in Foster’s Ultimate series, after the short and sexy novella Hard Knocks (reviewed here).

No Limits does a terrific job of filling in the stage and providing further background and setup for the characters, while letting long-term readers get a glimpse and what our old friends are going from the two previous series.

Cannon is definitely an alpha hero in Foster’s marvelous of pattern of strong, sexy men who can’t help their protective instincts, while still believing that the women in their lives have agency and control over their actions. He’s there to keep Yvette safe because the things that are after her are beyond any single person’s control. She’s being stalked by an ex who has lost his marbles and really wants to hurt her.

It’s not that she’s not capable, but that there is more going on than any one person can handle. She’s willing to let her friend Vanity look out for her, but it takes her longer to accept that she’s become part of Cannon’s inner circle, and that all the guys want to watch out for her.

She has a huge chip on her shoulder about the attack from three years ago. It’s a small town, and everyone knows what happened. Her desire NOT to be the center of any more attention is understandable, even if she does take it way too far.

That there is someone in town who seems determined to both attack her and make her the center of even more negative attention adds suspense and makes Yvette want to retreat back into her shell.

Everything that happens gives Yvette further reasons to doubt herself and any relationship with Cannon. His patient but relentless pursuit is surprisingly sweet, while his eventual “catching” of her provides some serious heat.

I really enjoyed Cannon’s character and all the guys at the rec center. It was fun to see where the next relationships are going to be, and who is getting involved with whom often in spite of themselves.

I wish that the chip on Yvette’s shoulder hadn’t been quite so large. I wanted to shake her and get her to wake up and smell the proverbial coffee pretty often. Still, it’s obvious at the end that she realizes both how lucky she is, and what a close escape from danger she had. Again.

She gets by with a little (sometimes a lot) of help from both her own and Cannon’s friends..

***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.

Review: The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne

The Girl in the Road by Monica ByrneFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, paperback, audiobook
Genre: science fiction, literary fiction
Length: 337 pages
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Date Released: May 20, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

In a world where global power has shifted east and revolution is brewing, two women embark on vastly different journeys—each harrowing and urgent and wholly unexpected.

When Meena finds snakebites on her chest, her worst fears are realized: someone is after her and she must flee India. As she plots her exit, she learns of The Trail, an energy-harvesting bridge spanning the Arabian Sea that has become a refuge for itinerant vagabonds and loners on the run. This is her salvation. Slipping out in the cover of night, with a knapsack full of supplies including a pozit GPS system, a scroll reader, and a sealable waterproof pod, she sets off for Ethiopia, the place of her birth.

Meanwhile, Mariama, a young girl in Africa, is forced to flee her home. She joins up with a caravan of misfits heading across the Sahara. She is taken in by Yemaya, a beautiful and enigmatic woman who becomes her protector and confidante. They are trying to reach Addis Abba, Ethiopia, a metropolis swirling with radical politics and rich culture. But Mariama will find a city far different than she ever expected—romantic, turbulent, and dangerous.

As one heads east and the other west, Meena and Mariama’s fates are linked in ways that are mysterious and shocking to the core.

My Review:

This relatively near-future piece of literary fiction was recommended to me because I generally like SF. After having finished, I’ll say that the near-future post-global warming setting does not an SF novel make–at least in this case. What the changes in climate have done to alter living patterns in Asia and Africa is futuristic, but I think this story could have found other ways to present the journeying aspects of the story that didn’t require climate change.

It felt like the SF elements were a bit of a gimmick.

What we have is a tale of two journeys; Meena travels from Mumbai to Djibouti, and Mariama travels west-ish across Africa to Ethiopia. Even though the two women’s journeys are a few decades apart, it’s seems clear that they are going to meet in the end. Actually also in the middle, but we don’t know that until the end.

As we learn from their alternating first-person perspectives, both women are fleeing something. And the event that they are fleeing is so terrible that they each obscure the triggering event in myth and metaphor.

Mariama has an excuse for not being able to deal with what she saw. As her story begins she’s only 8 or so years old. Running away from witnessing her mother’s rape and not being able to admit to herself what exactly she’s running from is a kind of mental self-defense.

Meena won’t let herself remember what happened to her because she committed a crime that she can’t bear to face. But she is an adult when it happens.

Meena doesn’t just retreat mentally, she takes herself on a physical journey of nearly mythic proportions. She walks from Mumbai to Djibouti on a construct called “The Trail”, a series of blocks resting on the ocean and harvesting energy from wave-power. There are no mapped communities on the Trail, it is illegal to walk on it. Meena thinks that she has undertaken the 6,000 kilometer journey to reach Ethiopia and find the woman who killed her parents.

Of course, it’s not quite like that.

Mariama is just fleeing the scene of her mother’s rape, and running from the otherwise certainty that she will be enslaved exactly like her mother was, and eventually suffer the same fate. Mariama runs to save herself, and she mostly succeeds.

Until the future catches up with her, and with Meena, in a way that rewrites both of their journeys.

Escape Rating C-: Because the ending is intended to be shocking, the history and background of the main characters is fairly obscured. Also, they are each narrating their own stories, and they are both extremely unreliable narrators; Mariama because of her youth and inexperience, Meena because of her incredible self-deception.

And Meena spends a chunk of her walk along The Trail pretty much out of her head. The reader is never quite sure whether the story she tells is actual experience, metaphor or the ravings of a madwoman.

The Trail itself, and the changes in world climates that make it possible, sound really cool. I would love to have seen more about the way that the world has come to be. The coping and lack of coping, and downright crazy that have manifested in the world’s people would make an interesting story.

The Girl in the Road just wanders around the edges of possibilities, but doesn’t ever get there.

***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.

Review: Lock In by John Scalzi

lock in by john scalziFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, audiobook
Genre: Science fiction
Length: 337 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Date Released: August 26, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Not too long from today, a new, highly contagious virus makes its way across the globe. Most who get sick experience nothing worse than flu, fever and headaches. But for the unlucky one percent – and nearly five million souls in the United States alone – the disease causes “Lock In”: Victims fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. The disease affects young, old, rich, poor, people of every color and creed. The world changes to meet the challenge.

A quarter of a century later, in a world shaped by what’s now known as “Haden’s syndrome,” rookie FBI agent Chris Shane is paired with veteran agent Leslie Vann. The two of them are assigned what appears to be a Haden-related murder at the Watergate Hotel, with a suspect who is an “integrator” – someone who can let the locked in borrow their bodies for a time. If the Integrator was carrying a Haden client, then naming the suspect for the murder becomes that much more complicated.

But “complicated” doesn’t begin to describe it. As Shane and Vann began to unravel the threads of the murder, it becomes clear that the real mystery – and the real crime – is bigger than anyone could have imagined. The world of the locked in is changing, and with the change comes opportunities that the ambitious will seize at any cost. The investigation that began as a murder case takes Shane and Vann from the halls of corporate power to the virtual spaces of the locked in, and to the very heart of an emerging, surprising new human culture. It’s nothing you could have expected.

At the publisher’s request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.

My Review:

The summary from Goodreads above should have been the summary for the prequel, Unlocked (reviewed here). Reading Unlocked first truly immerses the reader into the world of Lock In.

But Lock In isn’t so much about how Haden’s developed or the way that the treatment unfolds, it’s much more a story about the way that the world has changed in the years since Haden’s exploded, and how humans, in their myriad ways, manage to adapt, explore and exploit this brave new world.

At heart, it felt to me as if Lock In was a detective story, almost a police procedural, complete with the traditional buddy relationship between the new FBI partners. The difference is that all the crimes involved deal with Haden survivors, and the crime itself could only take place among, with, by and to the Haden community.

Rookie FBI agent Chris Shane is a Haden. He contracted Haden’s as a child, and became literally the poster child for the disease. But now it is 20 years later and the world has adapted, and so have the Hadens. His brain may not be communicating much with his body (the condition known as “lock in”) but technology along with a lot of research dollars have created a way for Hadens to communicate and interact with the outside world.

Chris uses a “threep”, and it is named for that beloved robot from Star Wars, C3-PO, because that’s what it looks like. With a threep, a Haden can go to work, travel, talk, and do anything that anyone else can do. Even better, since they can use any threep made available to them, a talent which Chris uses as the case evolves from a relatively simple looking murder in Washington D.C. to a cover-up in the Four Corners of the Navajo Nation.

His veteran partner Leslie Vann is also part of the Haden community, but a very distinct part. A relatively small number of the people who contracted Hadens survived with their body and brain connection intact, but with a critical difference; their brains were altered enough by the disease to allow them to become Integrators, people who let “locked in” Hadens piggyback into their brains and use their bodies for a while. Although Vann trained as an Integrator, the experience scarred her in ways that she still can’t handle well.

But she does know the Haden community, so she and Shane investigate crimes that involve that community.

At first, the crime seems relatively straightforward; a man is dead and another man is found at the crime scene covered in the victim’s blood. And the local cops hate the FBI agents, but that’s nothing new.

Into the mix we add elements that move it from simple crime to extraordinary discovery; the supposed perpetrator was an Integrator who was acting for a client. The definite victim was secretly implanted with the neural net to make him an integrator, an illegal and highly dangerous practice.

And somewhere in the mix, we have the government shutdown and withdrawal from all Haden’s research, along with the greed and scrambling that is inevitable when the government pulls the plug on a massive-scale program.

There’s more than enough billions involved for lots of people to invent new ways to commit murder.

Escape Rating A+: I’ll say upfront that there seem to be two schools of thought about Lock In–that it’s marvelous if you’ve read Unlocked, and that it doesn’t make a lot of sense if you haven’t. Since I read Unlocked, I’m not sure about the second camp. Read Unlocked.

unlocked by John ScalziLock In starts with Shane being assigned to the first case in the chain of events. The story is from his perspective, both as a new FBI agent and as a Haden operating a threep. The post-Hadens world is the only life that Shane remembers, he was too young to remember much of “before”. For him, this is the way life IS. As we don’t explain to ourselves the entire history of computers every time we hit the power switch, Shane doesn’t brood over the history of Haden’s or Haden’s research; he just lives with the result.

Chris makes an excellent point-of-view character, as the new detective often is in a certain kind of mystery. The procedures are new to him, so they do require a certain amount of natural explanation. We get to see what is different in this futuristic mystery, and what is the same.

Internecine warfare between competing investigating agencies, along with the negotiation of rights and responsibilities (and blame) between the Metro Police, the FBI and that Navajo Nation police are not just familiar, but they ground the story in relatable patterns. The corporate greed and corruption that turns out to be at the heart of the case is something that we are all more than familiar with.

What’s different here are the means and opportunity. The world that Haden’s has created has added whole new ways of committing murder. Almost unthinkable means. But the story works because we are all too aware that human motives haven’t changed one damn bit.

Chris makes us see both the continued humanity of Hadens, and the crime makes us aware that even adapted people can be all too human in their very inhumanity.

***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.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 8-24-14

Sunday Post

I’m trying to avoid all the spoilers for the Doctor Who premier last night; we have tickets to see it at the movies tomorrow, so I’d like to be surprised. A bit. I’m hoping for good things with the new Doctor–I’m a long-time fan but I’ve lost interest in the last couple of seasons.

Speaking of being a fan, Monday’s review is for John Scalzi’s latest, Lock In. Not to spoil the review, but the book is absolutely awesome. And I’m looking forward to his tour stop next week at the University Book Store. We have a fairly representative collection of Signed Scalzis, and I know we’ll be adding to it next week.

Current Giveaways:

$25 Gift Card to your choice of eBook Retailer courtesy of Alibi Publishing

Winner Announcements:

The winner of 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas is Cindy R.
The winner of the Heather Graham Krewe of Hunters title is Selenityjade.

long way home by louise pennyBlog Recap:

C+ Review: Black Ice by Susan Krinard
B- Review: Left Turn at Paradise by Thomas Shawver + Giveaway
B Review: Take Over at Midnight by M.L. Buchman
A- Review: Phantom Evil by Heather Graham
A+ Review: The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
Stacking the Shelves (101)


miniaturist by jessie burtonComing Next Week:

Lock In by John Scalzi (review)
The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne (review)
No Limits by Lori Foster (blog tour review)
Her Last Whisper by Karen Robards (review)
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (review)

Stacking the Shelves (101)

Stacking the Shelves

My only excuse this week is that Tule Publishing seems to have offered up their entire catalog on NetGalley this week. I simply couldn’t resist.

For Review:
A Fair to Remember (Summer Fair #5) by Barbara Ankrum
After the Rain (River Bend #4) by Lilian Darcy
Close to Her Heart (Carrigans of the Circle C #2) by CJ Carmichael
Doctor Who: Engines of War (Doctor Who: New Series Adventures Specials #4) by George Mann
Duke City Hit (Duke City #2) by Max Austin
The Honeymoon Prize (Honeymoon #3) by Melissa McClone
Make-Believe Wedding (Great Wedding Giveaway #9) by Sarah Mayberry
Once More with Feeling by Megan Crane
Pick Me (Magnolia Bay #3) by Erika Marks
A Seductive Melody (Kelly Brothers #5) by Crista McHugh
The Sweetest Thing (River Bend #1) by Lilian Darcy
Tease Me, Cowboy (Copper Mountain Rodeo #6) by Rachael Johns
Wanted: Wild Thing (Midnight Liaisons #4) by Jessica Sims
Yours to Command (ES Siren #2) by Shona Husk
Yours to Desire (ES Siren #3) by Denise Rossetti
Yours to Uncover (ES Siren #1) by Mel Teshco

Purchased from Amazon:
No Good-Bye by Georgie Marie

Borrowed from the Library:
The Cursed (Krewe of Hunters #12) by Heather Graham
The Kill Switch (Tucker Wayne #1) by James Rollins and Grant Blackwood
The Night is Forever (Krewe of Hunters #11) by Heather Graham
Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Uninvited (Krewe of Hunters #8) by Heather Graham