Lock In by John Scalzi

21418013. sy475 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.


Lock In is my sci-fi book club pick for the month of August. I had never read anything by John Scalzi, and I wasn’t very sure where I was getting my self into. I was hooked right from the first pages. The premise that a highly contagious virus, worse than the flu, rendered its victims in a state of “lock in,” where victims are fully awake and aware but unable to move or respond to anything, was an absolutely horrifying concept. Victims of this virus are affected with Haden’s Syndrome, named after Margaret Haden, the first lady of the United States of America. In a way, this book reminded me of the board game Pandemic.

What I found to be a great thing about this book was the fact that this is much more than just a great sci-fi story. I have noticed a trend in mix genres, and I personally love it. However, if you are a hard-core sci-fi fan looking for a typical sci-fi book, Lock In might not be for you.

One of the great things about this story is that it reads much like a crime novel. We follow Chris Shane and Leslie Vann as they investigate what appears to be a Haden-related murder. The suspect is called an “Integrator” — someone who lends their physical bodies to locked in victims.

Part sci-fi and part whodunnit, Lock In is a fast-paced novel that will undoubtedly entertain the fans of both genres.


Format: Paperback336 pages
Published: August 4th, 2015 by Tor Science Fiction
ISBN: 076538132X
Source: Library Loan
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Sci-fi/Crime/Mystery

Death in Kew Gardens by Jennifer Ashley

41867421In return for a random act of kindness, scholar Li Bai Chang presents young cook Kat Holloway with a rare and precious gift—a box of tea. Kat thinks no more of her unusual visitor until two days later when the kitchen erupts with the news that Lady Cynthia’s next-door neighbor has been murdered. Known about London as an “Old China Hand,” the victim claimed to be an expert in the language and customs of China, acting as an intermediary for merchants and government officials. But Sir Jacob’s dealings were not what they seemed, and when the authorities accuse Mr. Li of the crime, Kat and Daniel find themselves embroiled in a world of deadly secrets that reach from the gilded homes of Mayfair to the beautiful wonder of Kew Gardens.


Death in Kew Gardens is Jennifer Ashley’s third book in the Below Stairs Mysteries, featuring the fantastic Kat Holloway. The book starts with Kat, a cook who works for a wealthy family in Victorian England. One day Kat receives a gift from a mysterious Chinese man in return for an act of kindness. It is a rare box of tea, and that same night Kat’s next door neighbor, Sir Jacob Harkness is found dead. The secret Chinese man becomes a prime suspect, and now Kat and Daniel must run against time to find the murderer.

I did not read book one or book two and some of you, who have followed my reviews, know that I don’t particularly enjoy reading books that belong to a series I’ve never read before. Let me tell you that Death in Kew Gardens is an exception to that rule. Although it would’ve been lovely to know more about Kat and Daniel, I felt this story holds on its own just fine. Kat is such a robust character that I was able to get a sense of her even though I barely knew her background.

Death in Kew Gardens reminded me of both Downton Abbey and Grand Hotel, with a touch of Agatha Christie. I will definitely be reading the forerunners in this series and anxiously await for book number four.

I would like to thank Berkley Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Format: e-ARC
Published: Expected publication June 4th, 2019 by Berkley
ASIN: B07H73KSQT
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction

The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

82192Fifth century Britain is a country of chaos and division after the Roman withdrawal. This is the world of young Merlin, the illegitimate child of a South Wales princess who will not reveal to her son his father’s true identity. Yet Merlin is an extraordinary child, aware at the earliest age that he possesses a great natural gift – the Sight. Against a background of invasion and imprisonment, wars and conquest, Merlin emerges into manhood and accepts his dramatic role in the New Beginning – the coming of King Arthur.


The Crystal Cave is book one in the Arthurian Saga by Mary Stewart. Written in 1970, this is a book about Merlin. The famous wizard who played a crucial role in the birth and legend of King Arthur. I have been a fan of Arthurian stories for quite some time, and I was surprised that it took me so many years to read this book.

The book starts in Wales with Merlin still a child and the illegitimate son of a Welsh princess who refuses to name his father. Merlin grows up being ostracized for being a bastard, for having dark features (dark eyes and dark hair), and precognition abilities. All of these characteristics fed the myth that Merlin was the son of a demon. A claim that Stewart addresses later in the book.

The structure of the novel follows a first-person narrative told by Merlin and covers Merlin’s life from age six to when he becomes a young man. The book is divided into five parts. A prologue, part one (The Dove), which covers Merlin’s childhood, part two (The Falcon), a description of Merlin’s escape from his family, and his introduction to his magical studies by the hermit Galapas. Part three (The Red Dragon) relates to his time working with the High King Ambrosius and his rebuilding of Stonehenge. Part four (The Coming of The Bear) is the final part that relates to Merlin’s helping Uther Pendragon to seduce Ygraine, leading to the birth of King Arthur.

I truly enjoyed this novel and Stewart’s take on Merlin’s life. I look forward to reading more books in this series.

As to how this will be, it is with God. I can only tell you what I know. What powers is in me now is from him, and we are in his hands to make or to destroy. But I can tell you this also, Ygraine, that I have seen a bright fire burning, and in it a crown, and a sword standing in an altar like a cross.


Format: Hardcover, 527 pages
Published: June 1970 by William Morrow & Company Inc. (NY) (first published January 1st, 1970)
ISBN:0688013988
Source: Library loan
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Fantasy

Review: Young Love by Janelle Stalder

Honor Jacobs has a dream, and she won’t stop until she achieves it. Dancing is her life, which means she has no time for men. Especially not tattoo artists with hard eyes, and a mouth that has her thinking things she shouldn’t be. Staying as far away from Grey Anderson as possible is the solution to all her problems. Except that’s easier said than done. And no matter how much space she puts between them, it’s never enough. He might think she’s too young, and she might think he’s not the one for her, but their hearts think differently. It’ll all come down to will and determination…she just needs to decide which path she’s destined to take.

 

Review

I loved Young Love by Janelle Stalder. This is actually book number four in the Bloomfield series. I thought this book was great as a stand alone, and I didn’t feel the need to read the other books to have a better understanding of this one. The story starts with Honor, a ballet dancer whose focus in life is her dancing career. Grey is the hot tattoo artist who she meets when Grey tattoos her friend. Grey also happens to be her neighbor as well as the uncle of one of Honor’s ballet students. So as you can see, they were destined to meet. The chemistry between these two is undeniable and off-the-charts, however, neither one wants to admit it. Grey is not interested in anything serious and finds Honor way too young. Honor thinks she has no time for men because of her dancing career. Fortunately for us, they do end up together and the result is scorching hot. I really liked the easy flow of Janelle’s writing despite the fact that the characters are a bit stereotypical, good girl/bad boy duet. You need to take this book for what it is–a sexy romance between two gorgeous people who fall in love and the hurdles to stay together. Although the characters are pretty young and the story is geared towards a younger crowd, I would throw a word of caution to readers under age due to the mature subject and language. Overall, a hot and steamy  romance.

***This book is intended for mature audiences due to strong language and sexual situations***

I’d like to thank Word Slinger for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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Review: First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

 

Growing up, Josie and Meredith Garland shared a loving, if sometimes contentious relationship. Josie was impulsive, spirited, and outgoing; Meredith hardworking, thoughtful, and reserved. When tragedy strikes their family, their different responses to the event splinter their delicate bond. Fifteen years later, Josie and Meredith are in their late thirties, following very different paths. Josie, a first-grade teacher, is single—and this close to swearing off dating for good. What she wants more than the right guy, however, is to become a mother—a feeling that is heightened when her ex-boyfriend’s daughter ends up in her class. Determined to have the future she’s always wanted, Josie decides to take matters into her own hands. On the outside, Meredith is the model daughter with the perfect life. A successful attorney, she’s married to a wonderful man, and together they’re raising a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Yet lately, Meredith feels dissatisfied and restless, secretly wondering if she chose the life that was expected of her rather than the one she truly desired. As the anniversary of their tragedy looms and painful secrets from the past begin to surface, Josie and Meredith must not only confront the issues that divide them but also come to terms with their own choices.

Review

I feel the need to start this review by explaining how I managed to give this novel 4-stars when I completely disliked every character in this book. I am usually drawn to a good family drama, especially stories about siblings. So, the premise of this book was a huge selling point. Another reason that brought me to this novel was the author. I really enjoyed Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed and Something Blue, and I was already familiar with her style of writing. Indeed, I think Giffin really shines in family drama and the description of everyday life in a way that’s interesting and smart.

This book surrounds the story of this family, the Garlands, who after losing their oldest son in a car accident become extremely dysfunctional. There is something to be said about grief and tragedy. It either brings out the best out of people, or it brings the absolute worst out of them. In the case of the Garlands, it certainly brought out the worst.

Although this story does not really have a plot, Giffin still manages to make the narrative engaging and the dialogues dynamic. The format of the novel is set up with alternating chapters between Josie’s accounts and Meredith’s accounts of their life. Josie is reaching her late 30s. She is an elementary school teacher, self-absorbed, and selfish. Meredith’s not much better either.  She is an OCD type lawyer who, although she doesn’t see it, is also extremely selfish. Both sisters, together with the father and the mother have never truly processed the death of Daniel fifteen years earlier and somehow those scars have dictated their lives, their choices, and the relationship (or the lack of) they have with each other.

I really tried to sympathize with these sisters, but I just couldn’t. I believe Meredith’s complete ungratefulness and inability to see anything beyond her belly button had me brace myself not to slap her in the face a couple of times. And that is one of the reasons this novel deserves 4-stars. Although parts of the story are predictable and even impossible, Giffin’s character development was so good that I had a very clear idea of the voice and mannerisms of these characters by the time I was done with the book. This is an emotional and well-written novel with themes of grievance, forgiveness, friendship, and love.

I received an early copy of this book for free from Penguin Random House First To Read in exchange for my honest review.


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