The Rising (The Alchemy Wars Book 2) by Ian Tregillis

Jax, a rogue Clakker, wreaked havoc upon the Clockmakers’ Guild by destroying the Grand Forge. Reborn in the flames, he must begin his life as a free Clakker, but freedom proves to be its own burden.
Berenice, formerly the legendary spymaster of New France, mastermind behind her nation’s attempts to undermine the Dutch Hegemony — has been banished from her homeland and captured by the Clockmakers Guild’s draconian secret police force.
Meanwhile, Captain Hugo Longchamp is faced with rallying the beleaguered and untested defenders of Marseilles-in-the-West for the inevitable onslaught from the Brasswork Throne and its army of mechanical soldiers.
The Rising picks up almost immediately where The Mechanical leaves off. Only a few weeks have passed since the ending of book one and the beginning of book two, meaning the characters have had some time to adjust to past events but not much. Like the first book, the pace is fast and furious, moving from one story line to the next. Again, each story runs separate of the others only intertwining at the end for a dramatic finish.
One thing The Rising is missing is the gore factor. In The Mechanical, there were several scenes that were a little dark; there were numerous character deaths and none were pleasant. There weren’t nearly the same amount nor was their description as lurid in The Rising, which personally made it a more pleasant read.
Like The Mechanical, I enjoyed The Rising a great deal. Tregellis has once again done an amazing job of creating a world of characters, some to hate and some to love. He makes us question our own humanity and what it truly means to be human. Those who loved the first book definitely need to read the second. It was an excellent read.

Mozart’s Blood by Louise Marley

Octavia Voss is an up and coming operatic soprano; with an ethereal voice, poise, and talent that belies her young age. The young woman, however, has a secret – she is a vampire and she is over 200 years old. To protect that secret, Octavia relies on her friend Ugo, her friend and assistant who goes out every night to procure the precious ‘elixir’ she needs.

When Octavia is cast in La Scala, she and Ugo look forward to returning to Rome. When Ugo disappears not long after their arrival, Octavia finds herself in a bind. She has not had to hunt in years and to do so now could risk exposure. Yet with Ugo gone, Octavia knows the show must go on – both on and off stage – even at the risk of her friend’s life as well as her own.

I will admit, dear readers, to being a bit disappointed with Mozart’s Blood. Listed under ‘historical fiction’, it unfortunately isn’t one. The majority of the story takes place in modern day Rome with only the occasional flashback to either Octavia’s or Ugo’s younger days.

The portray of vampires is interesting, Marley’s vampires are able to walk in the daylight and are able to go several days without blood. For all intents and purposes they appear human, even being able to eat and drink without suffering any ill effects. This is reminiscent of the original Dracula who was able to do some of these things.

The pacing of the story is also reminiscent of Stoker’s classic; being rather slow in some parts with the occasional flurry of action. The Italian sprinkled throughout is probably meant to add authenticity to the tale but I found it somewhat irritating.

Mozart and his opera La Scala play a large part in the story and it’s evident Marley did her research. She also did a good deal of research on Italy and Rome itself as her descriptions of the areas evoke a sense of being there.

As someone who enjoys classical music and the opera, I enjoyed Mozart’s Blood. I wouldn’t recommend this to every one, but those who are like me might give this book a try. I found it to be a fairly quick and enjoyable read.

Infected by Scott Sigler

In a time where diseases and epidemics seem to be an almost daily occurrence, a new virus begins to sweep the country. Those who become infected become paranoid and eventually turn in to raving murderers, inflicting brutal damage to those around them and finally themselves.

While the CIA and the CDC try to find out who or what is behind this strange new illness, ex-football star Perry Dawsey has developed odd welts all over his body. Perry is infected and as his sickness progresses he soon begins to think and act strangely and to hear voices that no one else can hear. What’s worse is what the little voices want from Perry…

Is is rare, dear readers, for a book to grab my attention from the first paragraph and not let go until the final page. Infected did just that. So much so that I finished the book in just under two days. If it weren’t for my regular job and other necessities like eating and sleeping, I’m fairly sure I would have finished Infected in one day – it was just that good.

The narrative of Infected moves between two separate voices – one being the CIA/CDC tasked to find just what exactly this new virus is; the other being Perry Dawsey, one of the infected. We see Dawsey’s slow descent in to madness as the virus grows, just as we see the CDC’s struggle to identify just what the virus is and where it possibly could have come from.

Sigler does an excellent job of handling both story lines, weaving them together for the climactic finish.

Some passages were truly disturbing and yet I found that I could not look away; I had to read the next paragraph, read the next page, to find out what happens next.

This book is definitely not for the squeamish. Horror and thriller fans however will quite likely love this book, I certainly did.

Feed (Newsflesh Book 1) by Mira Grant

In the very near future, everything from cancer to the common cold has been cured. But in doing so a new infection was created – one that there was no cure for and could not be stopped. This new disease was unlike anything any one has seen. It took over the body and mind, the infected with only one thought on their minds; to FEED.

Twenty years after the original outbreak, now dubbed the Rising, sibling bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason have uncovered the biggest story of their lives – the dark conspiracy behind the infected. They are determined to find the truth and publish it, even if it kills them.

I have to admit, dear readers, I was a bit put off when I first started reading Feed. It was touted as a zombie novel but as I read I quickly realized that it was any thing but. Yes, zombies are a part of the plot but only minimally. They are more of a background set of characters, there to help move the story along and to sometimes give the main characters something to react to.

In truth, Feed is more a political drama. Georgia and Shaun Mason, two of the main characters, have been picked to follow Senator Ryman; one of the presidential candidates as he moves from winning his party to hopefully winning a spot in the White House. Tragic occurrences however follow the Senator and that is where the story really picks up.

At times Feed is fast and furious, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat. Other times it is heartbreaking, as some learn that doing the right thing isn’t always the easiest thing and not every one makes it to the end. While I don’t normally cry over a book, Feed is one of the few occasions where I actually did, several times.

Grant has done excellent work in writing a tense nail biter of a novel. While it is the first in the series, it can stand alone fairly well.

It’s not a zombie novel, it’s not a horror novel, but it did keep me up at night. I definitely recommend this one!

License to Quill by Jacopo della Quercia

Remember, remember,
The fifth of November…

License to Quill is a page-turning James Bond-esque spy thriller starring William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe during history’s real life Gunpowder Plot. The story follows the fascinating golden age of English espionage, the tumultuous cold war gripping post-Reformation Europe, the cloak-and-dagger politics of Shakespeare’s England, and lastly, the mysterious origins of the Bard’s most haunting play: Macbeth. You won’t want to miss this fast-paced historical retelling!

For as much as we know about William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, there is even more that we do not know. Records weren’t kept with the meticulous nature that we see now, so for every fact we have there are a dozen blank spaces. It is with this lack of information that della Quercia weaves a fast paced and fun tale built around real people and a real event.

I really enjoyed License to Quill, not just because I am a fan of Shakespeare and Marlowe. It was fun reading these different characters and matching them up to their James Bond type counterparts. The gadgets that Bond is famous for make their appearances here too, from horses that are like sports cars (including the name) to a pocket watch that is also hand grenade.

At times funny and fast paced, at others a bit slower but no less intriguing, License to Quill is an enjoyable read. I found it very difficult to put down. While for the most part it is historically accurate, those who are absolute sticklers for accuracy might want to give this one a pass. Those who are looking for an enjoyable romp through one of history’s most interesting eras should definitely give this one a try. I absolutely loved it and would love to see more.