Extreme Medical Services by Jamie Davis

Read the book described by one reader as “Like Grimm With Paramedics.” Follow the exploits of new paramedic Dean Flynn as he gets assigned to a backwater station no one has ever heard of, Station U. He soon learns that his unusual patients are far from normal. They are the creatures of myth and legend. His tough, experienced paramedic trainer Brynne is determined to teach him everything she knows. With vampires, werewolves, witches and fairies as patients, will he survive? Will they?

Ever since he was a teenager Dean Flynn has wanted to be a paramedic. Working hard and graduating top of his class, Dean is sure he’ll have his pick of posts. Instead, he’s assigned to Station U – a tiny station at the edge of town that practically no one knows about. Dean thinks he’s being punished until he learns about the unique patients Station U treats.

Extreme Medical Services is one of those books that doesn’t fit neatly in to any one category. It’s not quite a medical style novel nor is it completely fantasy based – it is instead a mish mash of the two. It does rely quite heavily on medical jargon however if the reader has seen even one medical drama (ER, Chicago Hope, The Good Doctor, etc.) they shouldn’t be to lost.

This overabundance of jargon and procedure comes at a price though, and that price is the characters themselves. There just isn’t enough given to create a connection between the reader and the characters. Everyone sounds quite interesting yet as there is so much emphasis put on the actual emergency procedures themselves, no one character is allowed to develop any depth.

I am also rather confused by the picture on the cover. None of the paramedics show even a hint of supernatural abilities.

As someone who has enjoyed the occasional medical drama in the past, I was rather looking forward to reading Extreme Medical Services. Especially as it was combined with another genre I enjoy – fantasy. I was however sadly disappointed. The premise itself was quite promising but the execution was sorely lacking. Readers who prefer a book that focuses on actual medical procedures albeit in a fictional setting might enjoy it. Other readers might want to look somewhere else.

Extinction Reversed (Robot Geneticists #1) by J.S. Morin

A.I. didn’t destroy humanity. It didn’t save us, either.

Charlie7 is the progenitor of a mechanical race he built from the ashes of a dead world—Earth. He is a robot of leisure and idle political meddling—a retirement well-earned. Or he was, until a human girl named Eve was dropped in his lap.

Far from a failed genetics experiment, Eve is brilliant, curious, and heartbreakingly naïve about her species’ history. But Eve’s creator wants her back and has a gruesome fate planned for her. There is only one robot qualified to protect her. For the first time in a thousand years, Charlie7 has a human race to protect.

The result of 1,000 years of genetic engineering, terraforming, and painstaking toxic cleanup has resulted in the ultimate achievement of the Post-Invasion Age: a healthy human.

Her name is Eve14.

Don’t ask about the 13 Eves before her.

Humanity as we know it is no more and the robots have taken over. But the robots are not quite as unfeeling as one would think. Before the end of everything, twenty-seven of the most brilliant minds were scanned as part of a project known as Project Transhuman. Every robot that now exists is made up of an amalgam of those human minds. Everything those humans knew and thought and felt are a part of the robots – all of their jealousies, their ambitions, their hopes and dreams. All were saved and used to create a whole new world.

Extinction Reversed is a unique take on the whole ‘robots taking over after the end of the world’ trope. At one point in time it was a popular story idea and was explored in numerous different ways before eventually falling out of public consumption. J.S. Morin has brought it back in a way with his six part series titled Robot Geneticists with Extinction Reversed being the first in the series.

The characters that Morin has created for the series are an interesting bunch. The robots are all based on the same twenty-seven individuals; depending on what kind of a person is needed, pieces of three minds mixed together using a process that is never quite fully explained. This creates an individual who is both unique but also has a known quotient about them. They are human in that they have feelings and emotions yet they are in metallic bodies.

The few humans that we meet on the other hand are quite diverse. Eve, the main female character, is more like a robot than the robots she encounters. Born and raised in a lab, at 16 years old she is experiencing everything for the first time. The robot who created her made her perfect in every way and raised her in a very sterile environment. Having never been exposed to anything such as movies or books or art, she is almost akin to a living, breathing, computer.

On the other side of the human coin is Plato. The main male character, he too was created by a robot in a lab somewhere. He, however, is the complete opposite of Eve. He is temperamental, gets angry quickly, and while he is quite smart he often rushes in to situations head first. He is far from perfect and only when it is revealed that while physically he is an adult male, his mind is of a 12 year old boy, does some of his actions make sense.

Overall, I liked reading Extinction Reversed. It was interesting watching the dichotomy between robots and humans play out. Especially as it was the robots who were acting out the most. The writing can be a bit awkward at times and while the first half of the book was a little slow, it definitely picked up in the second half. I especially liked the short story at the end that revealed exactly how humanity met its end and the robots came to be.

Readers who enjoy stories based around robots taking over will likely also enjoy Extinction Reversed. Personally, I’ve already added the rest of the series to my To Be Read list and will slowly but surely be making my way through them.

No Man Can Tame (The Dark-Elves of Nightbloom #1) by Miranda Honfleur

After a failed courtship in an ally kingdom, twenty-one-year-old Princess Alessandra returns home to a land torn apart by mutual hatred between the humans and the dark-elves. The “Beast Princess,” as Aless is known by courtiers, confidently sets her mind to ways of making peace, but her father has already decided for her: she is to marry one of the mysterious and monstrous dark-elves to forge a treaty, and go on a Royal Progress across the kingdom to flaunt their harmonious union. While she intends to preserve the peace, the Beast Princess has plans of her own.

Prince Veron has been raised knowing his life is not his own, but to be bargained away by his mother, the queen of Nozva Rozkveta, to strengthen the dark-elf queendom. When his mother tells him he is to marry a self-absorbed, vile human, he is determined to do his duty regardless of his personal feelings. After arriving at the human capital, he finds the “Beast Princess” rebellious and untamed—and not to be trusted.

Aless and Veron face opposition at every turn, with humans and dark-elves alike opposing the union violently, as well as their own feelings of dissonance toward each other. Can two people from cultures that despise one another fall in love? Can a marriage between them bond two opposing worlds together, or will it tear them apart for good?

The idea behind an arranged marriage to secure peace between two families/countries is one that is not just based in reality but has been used in fiction numerous times. Often times the two individuals who are having to get married come to some kind of agreement. In romance novels the two usually fall in love and live happily ever after. And usually the reader is drawn in to their story and is rooting for them by the end.

I came across No Man Can Tame in an ad on Facebook. There was a small snippet of the book as well as the description above. I was intrigued, especially by the words “Beast Princess”. Would this story be a kind of reversal of Beauty and the Beast? Just what about Aless makes her so beastly?

In the blurb above, Aless is described as “self-centered” and sadly these two words could not be more accurate. She is so completely self absorbed in building a library like her mother wanted that she makes plans to run away after marrying Veron. It doesn’t occur to her that in doing so she would shatter the peace treaty her father and Veron’s mother have agreed to. It doesn’t occur to her that her actions would doom his people to starvation and ruin. All she sees are the things that she wants.

Veron, at least tries. He is not perfect either, but he at least has an understanding of the consequences. He is flexible and willing to change some to make a better impression on the humans. Something Aless has difficulty doing.

The world and backstory of No Man Can Tame is sadly lacking. Very little time is spent on describing events that happened either to certain characters or to certain whole races. Brief mention is made that the Dark Elves and other mythical creates fell in to a kind of sleep for over 2000 years. What caused the sleep? What caused them to wake up?

The same can be said for Aless’ nickname of “Beast Princess”. What garnered this nickname? Again, brief mention is made of her being forced to wear a brace of some kind, but it’s almost treated like a throwaway line. Considering so many know of this nickname, what happened?

As much as I was looking forward to reading No Man Can Tame when I first heard about it, when it came to the actual book I was sadly disappointed. There is so much potential and it could have easily been something excellent. I honestly cannot recommend this one my dear readers; skip it and move on.

Provided for Review: A Different Time by Michael K. Hill

While searching through a pile of old VHS videos, comic book collector Keith Nolan comes across one with a hand written label. With only the number “3” on it, Keith has no idea what is on the tape in his hand.

When he plays the tape he sees Lindsey Hale. Enamored, Keith talks to his television screen. And somehow, despite the tape being from 1989, Lindsey answers back.

This book was provided for review by the author. Thank you!

A Different Time by Michael K. Hill is one of those books that I could easily see being made in to a movie. Either for the big screen a la The Lake House or in to a Hallmark movie; either way I think it would translate to that format quite well.

Switching between the two characters, Lindsey and Keith, we are introduced to them separately and follow the sequence of events that leads one person to make the video tape and the other to find it.

The love story in A Different Time is very sweet. Keith falls hard for Lindsey and she in turn falls hard for him.

Because of the vast time difference between when Lindsey makes her tapes and Keith sees them, there is really only one way for their story to end. Still, when we learn what happens it comes as a shock just as it does for Keith. Knowing how it will end does not make it any easier.

And for any reader, once you reach the end of the book and know what happens with Lindsey and Keith – I advise them to go back and re-read the beginning. And smile.

Many thanks to Michael for contacting me and asking me to read his book. I sincerely enjoyed it and can easily recommend it for any one who enjoys a bittersweet romance.

Provided for Review: The Die of Death (The Great Devil War II) by Kenneth B. Andersen

Philip’s adventures as the Devil’s apprentice have changed him—in a good way. Although he misses his friends in Hell, he has made new friends in life.

But when the future of the underworld is threatened once again, Philip’s help is needed. Death’s Die has been stolen and immortality is spreading across the globe.

Philip throws himself into the search—and discovers a horrible truth about his own life along the way.

This book was provided for review by the author and The Write Reads. Thank you!

The Die of Death by Kenneth B. Andersen is the second book in his very popular The Great Devil War series. Picking up roughly six month after the events of the first book in the series – The Devil’s Apprentice – we are once again reunited with the main character Philip.

Much has changed for Philip since his time in Hell. No longer the ‘goody two shoes’ that he was in the first book, he has made new friends from old enemies. He still remembers his old friends from Hell though and after a terrible storm one night, he is reunited with them on an all too familiar staircase.

As in the first book, the majority of the story takes place in Hell. And again, as with the first book, Andersen has out done himself in bringing the place to “life”. His descriptions of the places Philip and Sabine visit make it quite easy to picture. The addition of the lands of Purgatory and of Death’s domain also serve to expand this particular universe.

While the actual setting of The Die of Death is wonderfully rounded out further in this second book, it is the changes that the actual characters go through that truly help move the story along. Mortimer – aka Death – is better rounded out and as the book goes on we truly see the kind of person he is. And we come to realize, just as Philip does, that death is a part of life and is not something to be feared.

Sometimes, the second book of a series is not as strong as the first. This is simply not true with The Die of Death. It easily holds its own and is as enjoyable as the first book. I loved reading it and look forward to reading the rest of the series.

The Watchmaker's Daughter (Glass and Steele #1) by C.J. Archer

India Steele is desperate. Her father is dead, her fiancé took her inheritance, and no one will employ her, despite years working for her watchmaker father. Indeed, the other London watchmakers seem frightened of her. Alone, poor, and at the end of her tether, India takes employment with the only person who’ll accept her – an enigmatic and mysterious man from America. A man who possesses a strange watch that rejuvenates him when he’s ill.

Matthew Glass must find a particular watchmaker, but he won’t tell India why any old one won’t do. Nor will he tell her what he does back home, and how he can afford to stay in a house in one of London’s best streets. So when she reads about an American outlaw known as the Dark Rider arriving in England, she suspects Mr. Glass is the fugitive. When danger comes to their door, she’s certain of it. But if she notifies the authorities, she’ll find herself unemployed and homeless again – and she will have betrayed the man who saved her life.

The Watchmaker’s Daughter is the first book in C.J. Archer’s Glass and Steele series. Like most first books in a series, it’s primary purpose is to introduce the readers to the characters of the series as well as give them a feeling for the universe they live in. For Glass and Steele, on the surface the characters reside in Victorian era London. But further reading shows that there is more beneath the surface.

Like in her other books, Archer has done a good job in creating a universe that is both familiar and new. As this particular series is to be set in Victorian England, not as much time is spent world building as Victorian England is already a fairly well known time period. What was disappointing though was that while there is supposedly magic in this universe, it is hardly mentioned.

Another thing I found disappointing was how little time was spent on some of the characters. More than enough time is spent on Mr. Glass and Miss Steele; not surprising since these two are the main characters of the series. But as far as the rest of Glass’ crew – these individuals that are his close friends and that he supposedly trusts with his life? Very little is given on them aside from physical descriptions and barely a hint towards any kind of back story. It is my hope that in future books this is rectified and these incredibly interesting characters are given more page time.

For the first book in a series, The Watchmaker’s Daughter does pretty well. It offers enough story to stand alone while hinting at possible future plots. The main characters are interesting without being too cliched and the slow burn romance between them is a nice treat. At current count there are over 10 books in the series and I’ll slowly but surely be making my way through them.

Provided for Review: Our Dried Voices by Greg Hickey

In 2153, cancer was cured. In 2189, AIDS. And in 2235, the last members of the human race traveled to a far distant planet called Pearl to begin the next chapter of humanity.

Several hundred years after their arrival, the remainder of humanity lives in a utopian colony in which every want is satisfied automatically, and there is no need for human labor, struggle or thought. But when the machines that regulate the colony begin to malfunction, the colonists are faced with a test for the first time in their existence.

With the lives of the colonists at stake, it is left to a young man named Samuel to repair these breakdowns and save the colony. Aided by his friend Penny, Samuel rises to meet each challenge. But he soon discovers a mysterious group of people behind each of these problems, and he must somehow find and defeat these saboteurs in order to rescue his colony. 

This book was provided for review by the author. Thank you!

In 2153 cancer is cured, and every disease known to man follows shortly thereafter. This allows the human population to skyrocket even though the cost is unknowingly high. When scientists find an earth like planet, it is deemed as humanity’s savior and those who are sent to the distant planet are tasked with bringing about a new age.

Our Dried Voices poses an interesting look in to the idea of ‘What happens next?’. What happens when a virtual paradise is established on a faraway planet? What happens when every need is met and the struggle to survive is taken away? What happens when we no longer have to think for ourselves?

The answers are both frightening and enlightening. With nothing to worry about the people of Pearl live a carefree life. They are perpetually children, never having to worry about a thing. As everything is completely automated, their largest decision is which of the meal halls will they go to that day. It is both a utopia and a dystopia.

I found Our Dried Voices to be a very interesting read. There are parallels with our own society in that every day more and more of our lives are becoming automated. To have an individual thought, to not ‘go with the flow’, is seen as strange.

There is very little dialogue save towards the end; something that adds to the otherness of the book. Most of the story happens in action, in thoughts and deeds. At times I found things teetering close to purple prose in terms of description. Yet again that also adds to the strange planet and unique lands the colonists reside in.

For readers who wonder “What if…?” or would be interested in seeing what could happen when the idea of a utopia is taken to the extreme, Our Dried Voices should be added to their reading list. If nothing else, it gives a frightening look in to a future that could possibly occur.

Provided for Review: Kingshold (The Wildfire Cycle #1) by D.P. Woolliscroft

Mareth is a bard, a serial under achiever, a professional drunk, and general disappointment to his father. Despite this, Mareth has one thing going for him. He can smell opportunity. The King is dead and an election for the new Lord Protector has been called. If he plays his cards right, if he can sing a story that will put the right person in that chair, his future fame and drinking money is all but assured. But, alas, it turns out Mareth has a conscience after all.

Neenahwi is the daughter to Jyuth, the ancient wizard who founded the Kingdom of Edland and she is not happy. It’s not just that her father was the one who killed the King, or that he didn’t tell her about his plans. She’s not happy because her father is leaving, slinking off into retirement and now she has to clean up his mess.

Alana is a servant at the palace and the unfortunate soul to draw the short straw to attend to Jyuth. Alana knows that intelligence and curiosity aren’t valued in someone of her station, but sometimes she can’t help herself and so finds herself drawn into the Wizard’s schemes, and worst of all, coming up with her own plans.

Chance brings this unlikely band together to battle through civil unrest, assassinations, political machinations, pirates and monsters, all for a common cause that they know, deep down, has no chance of succeeding – bringing hope to the people of Kingshold.

This book was provided for review by the author and The Write Reads. Thank you!

Kingshold by D.P. Woolliscroft is the first book in the Wildfire Cycle series, and from what I understand his first published book as well. And oh my goodness dear reader, what a beginning! Centered around a country’s transition from monarchy to democracy, for me this book has it all. Fantasy, intrigue, sword fights, wild chases, interesting characters…it’s all there.

Like any large city, Kingshold has its fair share of characters. And we are fortunate that we are given a fair slice of them. From poorer individuals who work every day for a living like Alana and her sister, to those a little higher up the ladder like the wizard Jyuth. From assassins to merchants, Woolliscroft does a good job of peopling the city.

One thing that I thought was handled well was how back story and character information was presented. Many times an author will simply tell the reader pertinent information about a character, acting as a kind of omniscient storyteller. In Kingshold it’s done a bit differently. For example, in one early scene Mareth is sitting at a bar and he hears (eavesdrops on) a conversation between two merchants. The merchants are discussing potential candidates, so while Mareth is gathering information for a song, we the reader are given information about important characters as well.

There are also times when one character or another will remember a conversation or think back on a moment from their past that also gives the reader background info. It helps to fill out the characters and makes them more believable.

Because Kingshold is the first of the series, it’s only natural that it has an open ending. Yes, a Lord Protector is elected by the end of the book, but it’s also made clear that this is just the beginning. Questions raised throughout the book are either answered only partly or left unanswered. Likely to be taken up anew in subsequent books.

I personally enjoyed reading Kingshold and am grateful for the opportunity to do so. I highly recommend this book to my readers and I am eager to see what unfolds next.

Provided for Review: Soul of the Sword (Shadow of the Fox #2) by Julie Kagawa

One thousand years ago, a wish was made to the Harbinger of Change and a sword of rage and lightning was forged. Kamigoroshi. The Godslayer. It had one task: to seal away the powerful demon Hakaimono.

Now he has broken free.

Kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko has one task: to take her piece of the ancient and powerful scroll to the Steel Feather temple in order to prevent the summoning of the Harbinger of Change, the great Kami Dragon who will grant one wish to whomever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. But she has a new enemy now. The demon Hakaimono, who for centuries was trapped in a cursed sword, has escaped and possessed the boy she thought would protect her, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan.

Hakaimono has done the unthinkable and joined forces with the Master of Demons in order to break the curse of the sword and set himself free. To overthrow the empire and cover the land in darkness, they need one thing: the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. As the paths of Yumeko and the possessed Tatsumi cross once again, the entire empire will be thrown into chaos. 

This book was provided for review by the kind folks at NetGalley. Thank you!

Trigger Warning: Blood and violence. Like, a good deal of it. Also, human death and mentions of animal death.

Soul of the Sword is the sequel to Shadow of the Fox in the series of the same name. The story picks up almost immediately after the events in the first book with Yumeko and her friends trying to reach the Steel Feather temple. They also are searching for a way to defeat the demon Hakaimono without having to kill the young man, Kage Tatsumi, that he has possessed.

In my review of Shadow of the Fox, I praised Kagawa in her world and character creation. My praises continue for in the second book she builds on what she established in the first one. Characters and places that we were introduced to in the first book come back and play a part in continuing the narrative. Characters with small parts in the first book are brought back to play a larger part and become more important.

Like in Shadow of the Fox, Kagawa peppers Japanese words and terms in her prose as well as in characters’ speech. It seems to be a bit more prevalent in this book and while I didn’t mind it, some readers could find it irritating. Thankfully, for those who are not familiar with the terms, a small dictionary was provided at the back of the book.

While the first book seemed to be aimed at all readers, Soul of the Sword had a darker feel. Considering some of the subject matter older, adult readers will likely enjoy it more. I am not saying that younger readers can’t or won’t enjoy it, I’m only saying that some readers (whether young or old) might have a difficult time.

As with Shadow of the Fox, I highly recommend Soul of the Sword to my readers. Especially my manga and anime loving readers. Hopefully they will enjoy this series as much as I have and will join me in awaiting the third and final installment.

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) by Robin LaFevers

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Grave Mercy is the first book in Robin LaFevers’ His Fair Assassin series and it is a thrilling start to what I hope will be an equally thrilling continuation.

Set in an alternate universe that is based on a real point in time in our own, Grave Mercy takes place in a time where old ways and new ones often butt heads. Where women are seen more as a commodity then as a person and if a woman wants to live her life on her terms, she has to make her own way. And oftentimes that way comes in to conflict with those around her.

Like some reviewers, I have mixed feelings when it comes to this book. There were points where I was just tearing through the book, eager to know what happens next. While there were other passages that I found incredibly tedious or the characters boring. That is not to say I didn’t enjoy the book, I did, but there are portions that I wish LaFevers had either pared down or omitted completely.

What I can say is that LaFevers does an incredible job of taking a real moment in time and giving it just the tiniest of alterations to create something new. The time period Ismae lives in and many of the people she encounters were real people. A good deal of the events she is witness to did indeed happen. And while LaFevers fudges timelines a bit for dramatic effect, she does so in a way that is completely believable.

Unfortunately, while there were a good deal of strong points in Grave Mercy, there were several weak points too. For me, many of them center on the character of Ismae herself. According to the book, she is trained as an assassin and as such has the ability to get close enough to her target without them suspecting her. And while we do not see much of this training and what it entails, on more than one occasion Ismae finds herself in a situation that is obviously over her head. She flounders in ways that bring attention to herself when she is trying to keep attention off of her.

The romance angle was also a bit off-putting, if only that if felt forced at times. When Ismae first meets Gavriel it’s obvious that these two end up together and it comes as no real surprise when they eventually do.

Overall, I really liked Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers. Like I said at the beginning, it is an exciting start to a series and I am eagerly looking forward to eventually reading the rest.