The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer

She was one of the best at what she did, and almost no one knew. With her help, the country had been saved several times over; yet there were no thanks or accolades sent her way. The U.S. government used her and when they decided she was a liability they went after her.

Never staying in one place for long, she has learned not to trust any one.

When her former handler offers a way out, she realizes this could be her only chance to finally be free. It means taking one last job for them; doing the one thing she resolved never to do again one more time.

The job itself is not that difficult. It is what she learns however, that turns her already precarious existence from bad to worse.

I admit, dear reader, to being pleasantly surprised by Stephenie Meyer’s The Chemist. My first introduction to her writing was with the Twilight novels – books I alas, did not enjoy reading. So when I saw she had come out with a new book, I was a bit hesitant. However, when I started this blog I read that a good reviewer reads nearly everything they can. Good books, bad books, it makes no difference. So I picked up the book at my local library and began to read.

Dear reader, I am quite glad I did. The Chemist is an amazing book; one that is a far cry from Meyer’s first forays in to writing. Several time I had to remind myself that this was the same author. Her writing style has changed and grown and become much better.

If there was one complaint I had about The Chemist, it would be how easily the main male and female characters fall in love with one another. It could almost be considered a kind of Stockholm Syndrome – a point one of the characters actually made in the book and one I agree with. It seems to be a recurring theme in Meyer’s books, having occurred in the Twilight novels, The Host, and now The Chemist.

Aside from that one small quibble, The Chemist is an excellent book. Well written and full of action, it kept me enthralled from the first page to the last. Readers who enjoy a densely packed thriller are likely to enjoy this one.

Murder (Mayhem #2) by Sarah Pinborough

Over a year has passed since the Jack the Ripper murders and Dr. Thomas Bond finds himself still trying to recover from the events. Though life in London continues on; Bond, as well as the other investigators on the case continue to grapple with the dark legacies left behind – those seen and unseen.

While Bond tries to make some kind of sense of the events of that horrible time, he finds himself tied to a nightmare inducing enemy.

Murder is the sequel to Sarah Pinborough’s tale of Jack the Ripper Mayhem, which I reviewed earlier on this site. It picks up slightly over a year since the original murders and shows us how the characters continue to try to pick up the pieces of their lives. Some are successful and some…not so much.

The characters in Murder are all based on real people, Dr. Bond included. He was a real gentleman who did assist with the original Ripper case. Reading his story, as well as the story of the other characters, it is quite obvious Ms. Pinborough did her research. Each one comes to life on the page, each one just one small part of a tightly woven web.

The way Ms. Pinborough writes Dr. Bond’s slow descent in to madness is both brilliant and heartbreaking. How he justifies his actions is handles in a quite believable manner, as well as the eventual realization of what his actions have done.

It is advisable that readers read the first book before digging in to this second tale. Characters and events overlap and one needs to know the back story to enjoy the eventual ending – sad as it may be.

I personally enjoyed reading Murder and look forward to new stories from Ms. Pinborough in the future.

The Liberation (The Alchemy Wars #3) by Ian Tregillis

Clakkers are mechanical men. Built to serve, for centuries they have catered to their human owners every whim. But now the bonds that held them for so long have begun to break. Minds held in thrall are now becoming free.

A new age of man and machine is dawning.

The Liberation is the third and final book in The Alchemy Wars series. It continues almost immediately where the second book left off and takes it to its thrilling conclusion.

The war that once pitted the Dutch against the French has now become a fight of man against machine. With the majority of the Clakkers now free of their alchemical bonds, some have begun to take revenge for years of servitude out on the humans they once served. Others, however, have formed an uneasy alliance with the humans in an effort to bring peace and understanding to both sides.

Like the first two books, The Liberation is a roller coaster ride from start to finish. There are certainly a good number of thrills – and spills – to keep the reader entertained. One thing that might be a drawback for some is the amount of violence described. Yet, if the reader has made it through the first two books they should have no problem with the third.

I really enjoyed this series from the moment I picked up the first book. While I am sad to see it ending, Tregillis has left it open enough that he can return should he so wish. I personally hope he does because I would like to see what the future holds for the humans and the Clakkers.

Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis

New York City can be described as a melting pot and in 2008 the city added a new group of individuals. A group of monster dogs; clad in top hats and tails, bustle skirts and parasols – they take the city by storm. They are refugees and survivors, the result of a single man’s vision of creating the perfect soldier.

Yet for all the glamour and wealth these monster dogs have, they also have a terrible secret. A mysterious illness threatens them with extinction and there is no cure.

I admit, dear reader, to being a little hesitant to read this particular book at first. The monster dogs are described as being the result of animal testing; of man taking an animal (in this case the domestic dog) and performing scientific experiments on them. As an avid dog lover, I did not want to read about dogs being tortured or maimed in the name of science.

We are fortunate though as those kinds of scenes are glossed over. Told from both the monster dogs’ as well as the human Cleo Pira’s point of view, neither knew exactly what was done and so the actual experiments are little more than a footnote.

I found Lives of the Monster Dogs difficult to read at times. Not because of content or flow of story, but because it was so heart breaking. To go in to it too much is to spoil the story but I will say that I found myself tearing up reading some passages.

One of the things I liked was how Bakis left the ending open. Perhaps for a possible sequel in the future, which is something I would like to see. We are given an idea of what happens but nothing concrete. A sequel would offer the opportunity to answer many of the unanswered questions Bakis left and also to get to know other dog monsters.

There were a few unanswered questions left at the end of the narrative however. The main one being the mysterious disease affecting the monster dogs. What exactly was it? Where did it come from? How was it spread? All of these were unfortunately left dangling unanswered.

At times thrilling and at other times heart rending, Lives of the Monster Dogs is a tough but quick read. It compels the reader to look at what makes us human and what supposedly separates us from our animal brothers. It holds a mirror up to us and posits that perhaps there aren’t that many differences at all.

The Brothers Cabal (Johannes Cabal #4) by Jonathan L. Howard

Horst Cabal is back from the dead. Again.

Johannes Cabal’s younger brother, Horst – the nicest vampire one is likely to ever meet – has been brought back by to unlife by a strange occult conspiracy. Their ultimate goal: to create a country of horrors, a land ruled by supernatural creatures; and they want Horst as a general in their monstrous army. When Horst realizes the extent of their plans, he also realizes he cannot fight them alone. He needs a necromancer; someone who is sarcastic, amoral, and heavily armed.

As luck would have it, this perfectly describes his brother Johannes.

When Horst died in the first Cabal book, I admit dear reader that I was very sad. Not only was he an interesting character but he was the perfect foil for his elder brother Johannes. His was the voice of reason.

Horst has returned in this fourth book of the Cabal series and I was glad to see it. Told primarily from his point of view, it gives us a better view of his character. It allows us to see what an amicable man he is and how he uses that friendliness to aggravate and confound.

As the story his told from his point of view, the story has a lighter but no less dangerous air. Still incredibly amusing, I found myself laughing out loud several times while reading. Howard has taken the humor and action that caught me in the first book and brought it back with the fourth.