Book #65: Our Only Chance by Ray Else

A different kind of Frankenstein.
Einna is a lot like other teenage girls, naive, idealistic, secretive, disobedient and interested in boys. Only Einna is not human, she is an A.I. android. Her creator, her mother, is Manaka Yagami, the first female tech billionaire. Einna has a plan to make herself human, if she can keep Mother in the dark and avoid the clutches of the notorious Yakuza.

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley for an honest review. What follows is my opinion. I was not compensated in any way.

I’ll be honest, this was one of those cases where the blurb sounded interesting, but the book failed me. I honestly didn’t care for Our Only Chance. 

The book is written in third person with the three main players, Manaka Yagami, Einna, and Professor Aragawa. The story started off interesting enough with a professor looking for a protegee’, someone who was interested in biology and robotics. The plan was to make a viable android, one with a human brain. Sounds interesting enough?

What bothered me was the writing style. I couldn’t get into any of the characters. By 25% in, I was trying to scrape any kind of empathy for someone so I could continue reading. There was nothing for me to find.

The book itself felt like a homage to Japan, but not so much in the culture or making the characters human like. The human characters felt like anime characters. And I mean, anime made for a younger audience where there really isn’t much tension. I didn’t feel tension when the Yakuza came along. I didn’t feel the urgency Aragawa had about making the androids.

It just was.

Book #64: Waking Hearts by Elizabeth Hunter

When everything you’ve longed for is standing right in front of you, would you find the courage to chase it when you’ve given up on dreams?

Fox shifter Alison Smith gave up on happy endings when her ex-husband walked out, but that didn’t mean she was allowed to give up on happiness. With four growing kids, Allie is determined to look on the bright side and carry on, even when life seems to keep kicking the girl who’s fallen down.

Four kids, two jobs, and a pile of debt left over from her ex seem overwhelming most days. Luckily, Allie has the best friends a girl could ask for. Especially a certain quiet bear who’s always been her rock.

Patient. Oliver Campbell knows what it means to be patient. But twenty years of wanting one unavailable woman may have pushed him to the edge. With Allie working every night at his bar, their friendship has begun to fracture.

Then old ghosts offer one more kick to the little family that’s already down, and patience is a virtue Ollie can no longer afford. Allie’s ex-husband may be gone, but his actions are haunting his family. With danger licking the borders of Cambio Springs, the bear and the fox will have to work together. And twenty years of unspoken truths may finally come to light.

WAKING HEARTS is the third paranormal romance novel in the Cambio Springs Mysteries series.

Waking Hearts is the third book in the Cambio Springs series and probably my favorite so far. Like the two previous books, this one is a romance twisted with a murder mystery (it goes along with a mystery romance series).

I loved the romance in this book. Ollie has to be my favorite male lead in this series. He’s like a big cuddly teddy bear. One you don’t want to mess with. Allie is an equally awesome female lead. She reminds me of my own mom, large number of kids and all.

Their main conflict is Ollie’s anger and possessive nature and his fear of rejection. The possessiveness isn’t one that is normal in alpha male leads. He isn’t buckling Allie’s seat belt and he doesn’t mean to tell her what to do. He just wants to protect and isn’t able to do it with finesse.

On the other side, Allie is trying to be a single parent with a load of debt. She does have an attraction, but doesn’t want to add on to her troubles. The two of them have a strong insecurity that I can understand completely.

The mystery was equally as interesting. It ties in the second book’s events and brings an overarching plot for the series. This new development not only strengthens the world, it also adds a new predicament for the residents of Cambio Springs.

It excited me enough to see if Hunter was planning a fourth book, which she is! I am also bummed to say that she is planning on putting the series on hold after book 4. So, if you want to try out this series, do it! The hold might not be long if there are other Elizabeth Hunter fans.



Book #63: Normal by Warren Ellis

A smart, tight, provocative techno-thriller straight out of the very near future—by an iconic visionary writer

Some people call it “abyss gaze.” Gaze into the abyss all day and the abyss will gaze into you.
There are two types of people who think professionally about the future: foresight strategists are civil futurists who think about geo-engineering and smart cities and ways to evade Our Coming Doom; strategic forecasters are spook futurists, who think about geopolitical upheaval and drone warfare and ways to prepare clients for Our Coming Doom. The former are paid by nonprofits and charities, the latter by global security groups and corporate think tanks.
For both types, if you’re good at it, and you spend your days and nights doing it, then it’s something you can’t do for long. Depression sets in. Mental illness festers. And if the “abyss gaze” takes hold there’s only one place to recover: Normal Head, in the wilds of Oregon, within the secure perimeter of an experimental forest.
When Adam Dearden, a foresight strategist, arrives at Normal Head, he is desperate to unplug and be immersed in sylvan silence. But then a patient goes missing from his locked bedroom, leaving nothing but a pile of insects in his wake. A staff investigation ensues; surveillance becomes total. As the mystery of the disappeared man unravels in Warren Ellis’s Normal, Dearden uncovers a conspiracy that calls into question the core principles of how and why we think about the future—and the past, and the now.

This is one of my Nocturnal Readers box books. It is also a very disappointing read.

The blurb says it all. If you read it, that is the only sense you will get versus reading the book. The book is filled with commentary about surveillance and other things people are paranoid with today. The fact that the book is set in a mental hospital doesn’t surprise me. Are they crazy or is it the author commenting on how crazy people get over their own societal fears?

I have no idea. In fact, the book confused me so much. The mystery involved isn’t really in the forefront. I . . . I just can’t grasp what this book was supposed to be about. I’m so confused, that I don’t think I could write a longer review unless it was with a bunch of random words. Like right now. That’s technically what I’m doing.

So, yeah, not a book for me and I wouldn’t recommend it.

Book #62: The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett

In a breathtakingly vivid and emotionally gripping debut novel, one woman must confront the emptiness in the universe—and in her own heart—when a devastating virus reduces most of humanity to dust and memories.

All Jamie Allenby ever wanted was space. Even though she wasn’t forced to emigrate from Earth, she willingly left the overpopulated, claustrophobic planet. And when a long relationship devolved into silence and suffocating sadness, she found work on a frontier world on the edges of civilization. Then the virus hit…

Now Jamie finds herself dreadfully alone, with all that’s left of the dead. Until a garbled message from Earth gives her hope that someone from her past might still be alive.

Soon Jamie finds other survivors, and their ragtag group will travel through the vast reaches of space, drawn to the promise of a new beginning on Earth. But their dream will pit them against those desperately clinging to the old ways. And Jamie’s own journey home will help her close the distance between who she has become and who she is meant to be…

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way.

To start, I have mixed feelings about this book. I do. I’m not a huge science fiction fan, but when I read the blurb I liked the idea enough to want to try it out. I wanted to see how the other planets and interplanetary travel worked with the end of the world motif.

Unfortunately, I felt it didn’t hit a good mark. There is no great description about the different planets and the conflicts involved were fairly easily taken care of. It might have been better if everything was set in Earth. It was that uninteresting.

On top of that, The illness that took over was a bit convenient. The explanation on how it came to be is an obvious sci-fi trope that I felt it would be better if it was related to the space travel itself.

It may seem that I have no real positive thoughts on this book, but that’s not true. I did like the writing. The author is a good writer. I do like the concept of the book as well. I just wish it was put together a bit differently.

Book #61: Desert Bound by Elizabeth Hunter

Can you turn the clock back on your first love? Would you even want to try?

Alex McCann and Teodora “Ted” Vasquez left Cambio Springs together. Ted came back. Alex didn’t.

Now, years later, the future alpha of the McCann wolves has returned with plans to bring new life to the dying desert community. Plans that could change everything for the isolated enclave of shapeshifters in the California desert. Some love the plan. Others hate it.

As the town’s doctor and one of the strongest daughters in the cat clan, Ted has her own concerns about exposing her community to outsiders. The two former lovers are at each other’s throats. And everyone is watching to see what happens.

But when murder once again strikes Cambio Springs, can they overcome their past to help the community they both call home? And can the love they shared once burn again when so many stand against it?

DESERT BOUND is an adult paranormal romance in the Cambio Springs Mysteries series.

Desert Bound is the second book in the Cambio Springs series. I jumped on this book right after reading the first one. It is another murder mystery inside a romance only this time, the romance is Teodora Vasquez and Alex McCann.

Ted and Alex’s relationship is a rocky one. They constantly argue and their history together is filled with leaving one another. On paper, they would seem like a very unhealthy couple. However, they work.

In fact, their main issue with each other is resolved close to the beginning of the book. Don’t get me wrong, they don’t start off right away. There is a conversation and a meeting of minds that allow them to see their relationship. The main conflict of their relationship is actually their parents.

The murder mystery didn’t have a big position in this book, though it is prevalent to the story. I found it easy to figure out who it was, like the first book, but I loved the resolution of the murder. It was filled with tension, action, and had a shapeshifter quality that was interesting.

In all, this one wasn’t my favorite between the two, but it was entertaining. I bought the third book and am currently listening to it as I am writing this. It makes concentrating difficult.

Book #60: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Eighteen-year-old Eliza Mirk is the anonymous creator of Monstrous Sea, a wildly popular webcomic, but when a new boy at school tempts her to live a life offline, everything she’s worked for begins to crumble.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, smart, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of a popular webcomic called Monstrous Sea. With millions of followers and fans throughout the world, Eliza’s persona is popular. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community. Then Wallace Warland transfers to her school, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart. With pages from Eliza’s webcomic, as well as screenshots from Eliza’s online forums, this uniquely formatted book will appeal to fans of Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.

There aren’t many books that induced me to tears. Eva and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia is one of three books to have done that.

Eliza is famous. She created a webcomic that has inspired many to write and do their own artwork. She had inspired tattoos and people. And yet . . . no one knows she is who she is.

I found Eliza to be highly relateable. She was the girl I was in ninth grade. Her peers disliked her and bullied her. They didn’t understand her. She would rather be alone and invisible than talking to people. Her anxiety is close to what I had to deal with in ninth grade that, I think at moments, I was pulled back into that time.

It didn’t take me long to read the book. I think I basically vegged out on my couch and read the day away. I do know that Bug asked me to put it down. Which I did . . . until commercials came up.

I nearly threw my book close to the end of the book and even had to post something online. I needed fellow readers to join in on the moment. I needed to know I wasn’t the only one upset. It also didn’t take long for me to start crying.

I’m not sure what else I could say without giving away what happened. All I know is that this was a perfect book that pulled me in. I’m a Zappia fan now. I want to consume other books by her.

Book #59: Shifting Dreams by Elizabeth Hunter

Somedays, Jena Crowe just can’t get a break. Work at her diner never ends, her two boys are bundles of energy, and she’s pretty sure her oldest is about to shift into something furry or feathery. Added to that, changes seem to be coming to the tiny town of Cambio Springs—big changes that not everyone in the isolated town of shapeshifters is thrilled about.

Caleb Gilbert was looking for change, and the quiet desert town seemed just the ticket for a more peaceful life. He never counted on violence finding him, nor could he have predicted just how crazy his new life would become.

When murder rocks their small community, Caleb and Jena will have to work together. And when the new Chief of Police isn’t put off by any of her usual defenses, Jena may be faced with the most frightening change of all: lowering the defenses around her carefully guarded heart.

Shifting Dreams is the first novel in Cambio Springs, the new paranormal romance series from Elizabeth Hunter, author of the best-selling Elemental Mysteries series.

Shifting Dreams is the first in a paranormal romance series written by Elizabeth Hunter. I originally found Elizabeth Hunter from her Elemental Mysteries series and fell in love with how she writes her characters. The Cambio Springs series only solidified my love for this author.

I’m not a big shifter community reader. A lot of urban fantasy books with shapeshifters, in my opinion, tend to have all shifter main characters and don’t deal with the idea of keeping a secret. We aren’t given much in that kind of tension with the main plot device.

For instance, the last book I read with shapeshifters, there was only a brief mention of normal people and even then there wasn’t a feeling that something could go seriously wrong if the secret was blown.

Elizabeth Hunter fixes that up with Caleb Gilbert, a man with a dark secret who unfolds secrets for his job. He’s the new police chief of Cambio Springs and has his eye on Jena Crowe. He was a male lead that had me smiling and getting excited.

Jena Crowe, is an equally strong female lead. She is a widowed mother of two and runs a business. She is stubborn and very loyal. She is an equal in every sense of the world for Caleb. They even have similar insecurities.

Hunter’s romantic leads aren’t your typical tropes. They feel real. That feeling helps make the shapeshifting be a possibility.

Another aspect that I loved about the book is that the shapeshifting has a mystical and Native American feel to it. There is a mythology in the book that even the town doesn’t completely understand. We may not get everything as readers, but we have the information that the town has and that makes the world have more substance.

The romance isn’t the only focus for the book, there is also a murder involved. Though I figured out who the killer was very quickly, I did enjoy how the investigation goes. The mystery strengthens the romance and the romance strengthens the mystery.

I enjoyed this book so much that I bought the next two and jumped on listening the second book.