Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn

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From indie horror author and bestselling sensation Ania Ahlborn, this brand-new supernatural thriller questions: how far would you go for success, and what would you be capable of if the promise of forever was real?

With his marriage on the rocks and his life in shambles, washed up crime writer Lucas Graham is desperate for a comeback. So when he’s promised exclusive access to notorious cult leader and death row inmate Jeffrey Halcomb, the opportunity is too good to pass up. Lucas leaves New York for the scene of the crime—a split-level farmhouse on the gray-sanded beach of Washington State—a house whose foundation is steeped in the blood of Halcomb’s diviners; runaways who, thirty years prior, were drawn to his message of family, unity, and unconditional love. Lucas wants to tell the real story of Halcomb’s faithful departed, but when Halcomb goes back on his promise of granting Lucas exclusive information on the case, he’s left to put the story together on his own. Except he is not alone. For Jeffrey Halcomb promised his devout eternal life…and within these walls, they’re far from dead.

 

I picked this up last year at NYCC.

I enjoyed Within These Walls immensely. At 447 pages and taking me only 5 days to read, it’s a true page turner.

It stirs up all kinds of emotions. I was nervous, spooked, annoyed, angry, and saddened.

The f—ed up mentality, abuse, and manipulative behavior of the cult is really well developed; as was the loneliness, desperation, and vulnerabilty of the victims.

The story goes back to 1982/83 and forward to present day with some inclusions of articles, incident reports, and paranormal reports – which I really enjoyed. It connected everything really well.

This is one of those books that will keep me thinking for a few days. I have a book hangover. I even thought of a playlist that would go well with it:

-“Father Figure” by George Michael. The whole song is Jeff Halcomb.
-“Big God” by Florence + the Machine. “You need a big God. Big enough to hold your love.”  and “You always were my favorite ghost.”
-“”Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Eurythmics. The whole verse about wanting to use and abuse and be used and abused.

There are some issues though which made me decide to downgrade it by 1 point. While I really liked the way it ended because it remained true to the powerful and ominous direction it was headed all along (and I think leaves it open for a sequel) not everything is answered and they are pretty important plot holes.

4 out of 5 Ornate Crosses.

These are major spoilers so enter at your own risk!

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DNF: A Crucible of Souls and The Abyss Beyond Dreams

These are both books that I picked up at NYCC 2016 and the last two from that pile. I am sad to say I couldn’t get through either one.

A Crucible of Souls (Sorcery Ascendant Sequence) by Mitchell Hogan

When Caldan’s parents are brutally slain, he is raised by monks and taught the arcane mysteries of sorcery.

Vowing to discover for himself who his parents really were, and what led to their violent end, he is thrust into the unfamiliar chaos of city life. With nothing to his name but a pair of mysterious heirlooms and a handful of coins, he must prove his talent to earn an apprenticeship with a guild of sorcerers.

But he soon learns the world outside the monastery is a darker place than he ever imagined, and his treasured sorcery has disturbing depths.

As a shadowed evil manipulates the unwary and forbidden powers are unleashed, Caldan is plunged into an age-old conflict that brings the world to the edge of destruction.

I feel horrible saying this because I wanted to like this story. It is in a genre I love and the synopsis sounds really intriguing. But there was something about it that was not clicking with me and I can’t even identify what it is.

When I was nearly 100 pages in I had to give in and give up. I am not even sure if I will pick it up again one day and try again. There are just too many books on my TBR.

The Abyss Beyond Dreams (Commonwealth: Chronicle of the Fallers 1) by Peter F. Hamilton

The year is 3326. Nigel Sheldon, one of the founders of the Commonwealth, receives a visit from the Raiel—self-appointed guardians of the Void, the enigmatic construct at the core of the galaxy that threatens the existence of all that lives. The Raiel convince Nigel to participate in a desperate scheme to infiltrate the Void.

Once inside, Nigel discovers that humans are not the only life-forms to have been sucked into the Void, where the laws of physics are subtly different and mental powers indistinguishable from magic are commonplace. The humans trapped there are afflicted by an alien species of biological mimics—the Fallers—that are intelligent but merciless killers.

Yet these same aliens may hold the key to destroying the threat of the Void forever—if Nigel can uncover their secrets. As the Fallers’ relentless attacks continue, and the fragile human society splinters into civil war, Nigel must uncover the secrets of the Fallers—before he is killed by the very people he has come to save.

I could not even get through the first chapter. I thought it was just me so I went to read some of the 1 star and 2 star reviews on Goodreads. I found that a big reason I couldn’t get into it was that this is sort of a side story to another series. So the world building it already there and I was feeling a bit lost, no matter how much the author briefed the reader.

I kept reading reviews to see if maybe it got better and was worth going further, but many reviewers didn’t like how it switched stories and felt like a book within a book. Others said it started out exciting and then became boring. There was also a few complaints how it became too political in the middle. So I would have to be dealing with politics in a universe I am not familiar with.

Some fans of Hamilton’s even said that this was not the best of the series set in this universe.

Also, seeing a timeline of the history of the Commonwealth in the beginning was a bit intimidating.

In the end I decided have way too many other books to read. I can’t get involved in another series. Especially when they are long books. I saw one reviewer mention that at 640 pages this was one of his shorter books.

So I am moving on. Into the donation bag these go!

 

Star Wars: Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn, narrated by Marc Thompson.

Star Wars: Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn, narrated by Marc Thompson. 13 hours 21 minutes.

Grand Admiral Thrawn and Darth Vader ally against a threat to the Empire in this new novel from bestselling author Timothy Zahn.

“I have sensed a disturbance in the Force.”

Ominous words under any circumstances, but all the more so when uttered by Emperor Palpatine. On Batuu, at the edges of the Unknown Regions, a threat to the Empire is taking root—its existence little more than a glimmer, its consequences as yet unknowable. But it is troubling enough to the Imperial leader to warrant investigation by his most powerful agents: ruthless enforcer Lord Darth Vader and brilliant strategist Grand Admiral Thrawn. Fierce rivals for the emperor’s favor, and outspoken adversaries on Imperial affairs—including the Death Star project—the formidable pair seem unlikely partners for such a crucial mission. But the Emperor knows it’s not the first time Vader and Thrawn have joined forces. And there’s more behind his royal command than either man suspects.

In what seems like a lifetime ago, General Anakin Skywalker of the Galactic Republic, and Commander Mitth’raw’nuruodo, officer of the Chiss Ascendancy, crossed paths for the first time. One on a desperate personal quest, the other with motives unknown…and undisclosed. But facing a gauntlet of dangers on a far-flung world, they forged an uneasy alliance—neither remotely aware of what their futures held in store.

Now, thrust together once more, they find themselves bound again for the planet where they once fought side by side. There they will be doubly challenged—by a test of their allegiance to the Empire…and an enemy that threatens even their combined might.

 

My wish came true! I had mentioned in my review of the prequel that I wanted the story of when Thrawn met Anakin Skywalker and would he figure out that he became Darth Vader?

I don’t think one has to read Thrawn before reading this sequel, but it sure would help to know his background. That said I was reading some reviews on Goodreads and some people mentioned that they missed Eli Vanto. I honestly did not. Though knowing the outcome of Thrawn: Alliances I wouldn’t mind seeing what he is up to with the Chiss Ascendancy.

I listened to this story on audible and once again Marc Thompson is a fantastic narrator. I did laugh at his voice for Padmé, but what can you do? He’s not Natalie Portman, or Catherine Taber.

I also bought the Barnes and Noble exclusive edition, only because I wanted the poster of Padmé. (Side rant: why must they put that ugly sticker on the cover? It’s hiding Vader’s buttons. And it is already printed inside that it’s a B&N exclusive. I pealed it off but there will always be a sticky residue.)

Ok, so back to the review.

I like that we have a time frame. The past is set after Ahsoka has already left the Jedi Order. The present is set after the Battle of Atollon on Star Wars: Rebels. So between seasons 3 and 4.

I’ll start with some critiques and then end on the positive. This is going to get spoiler-y.

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Radiate by C.A. Higgins (Some spoilers)

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In the follow-up to Lightless and Supernova, C. A. Higgins again fuses science fiction, suspense, and drama to tell the story of a most unlikely heroine: Ananke, once a military spacecraft, now a sentient artificial intelligence. Ananke may have the powers of a god, but she is consumed by a very human longing: to know her creators.

Now Ananke is on a quest to find companionship, understanding, and even love. She is accompanied by Althea, the engineer who created her, and whom she sees as her mother. And she is in search of her father, Matthew, the programmer whose code gave her the spark of life.

But Matthew is on a strange quest of his own, traveling the galaxy alongside Ivan, with whom he shares a deeply painful history. Ananke and her parents are racing toward an inevitable collision, with consequences as violent as the birth of the solar system itself and as devastating as the discovery of love.

 

Radiate was a great and satisfying conclusion to the Lightless trilogy. I loved how each book focused on different important characters. The construction was really well thought out and executed. Lightless sets up the story and is linear. Supernova and Radiate move back and forth in time, (fits the theory of time travel) and does it in a really organized way.

In Radiate each Part starts with Ananke and Althea’s POV, then the chapters focus on Ivan and Mattie through flashbacks to set up some history and the development of their friendship while also showing us their present story. It’s all spelled out so there is no way to get confused when what scene takes place. I do have one critique and though it didn’t ruin the book it does really annoyed me. I really wished we got to see a flashback of how Ivan and Mattie found out about the Ananke and why they decided to go investigate her. I thought we would get one towards the end where it would have fit in perfectly.

Most of Radiate focuses on what Mattie and Ivan were up to for the time period of Supernova, which they were only mentioned in. Both men are dealing with and learning to face the consequences of their actions. I also felt Ivan’s PTSD was handled really well. His time in captivity and Ida Stays still haunts him.

Like I said, Ananke and Althea don’t appear much in this book, but I feel that that’s ok because their scenes would have been very redundant. We already know what havoc Ananke has been up to, so now we got to see the consequences of her actions.

I also want to give a shout out to the cover designs. I love the faces with the stars and how each book has one of Ananke’s parents. Ivan, Althea, then Mattie. (At least that is who I think they represent.)

I am very glad I decided to read them all at once so that the details were fresh in my mind. It was like binge watching an awesome sci-fi mini-series.

Radiate4.5 out of 5 Con Men
Lightless Trilogy4.5 out of 5 A.I. Spaceships.

Favorite quotes below:

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Top Ten Tuesday – July 24: Books with Sensory Reading Memories

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Updates are now at That Artsy Reader Girl.

July 24: Books with Sensory Reading Memories (where I was, what time of year it was, who I was with, what I was eating, etc.)

This is an interesting topic but there are only so many places I can list without it being repetitive. Mostly I read either during my commute, or at my grandma’s house on the weekend; and if it’s an audiobook I am either commuting, cleaning, or drawing/coloring. I feel this is going to be a short list of books that stand out the most, and it’s categorize by location or activity.

 

Grandma’s house:
I have read countless books at grandma’s house but these are two that really stand out to me.

1. The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsle.
Ironically I was reading this in August and I remember sitting in my grandmother’s yard on a beautiful day. I was crying as I was reading the end.

2) Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire.
I remember going to read in one of the bedrooms because my family was so loud that I couldn’t concentrate. There is world building and politics involved and I was just like, “SHHHHH!”
It has been over ten years since I read this and would love to reread it.

Coloring in my Johanna Basford 16 month planner:

3) The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas, Narrated by B.J. Harrison; 52 hours; February 11-April 24, 2018
Most of those hours were spent coloring.

4&5) The Tell-Tale Heart & The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe, Narrated by B.J. Harrison. Each story is 15 minutes. Great when you want to be creative but are on limited time. Listening to these stories is like a set timer.

Cleaning:
Sometimes you need to kill two birds with one stone.

6) Catalyst: A Rogue One Story, by James Luceno, Narrated by Jonathan Davi; 11 hours 15 minutes.

7) Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story, by Jewel, Narrated by Jewel; 10h 21m.

8) Thrawn by Timothy Zahn, Marc Thompson (Narrator); 17 hours.

In my bed:

9) Morning Star, by Pierce Brown.
The night before the book signing I was 50 pages away from finishing. I read 100 pages on Sunday and another 100 pages on Monday. By Monday night my right eye was blood shot.

10) Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austin, Narrated by Rosamund Pike; 11h 35m.
Sometimes I just want to lie in bed and do nothing but relive a lovable classic story.

Wolf’s Mate (Wind Dragons MC No.5) by Chantal Fernando

Wolf’s Mate (Wind Dragons MC No.5) by Chantal Fernando

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I don’t feel like uploading a new photo so here’s the one from NYCC 2016. You can see the cover middle row, far left.

Vinnie – or Wolf, as he’s known now that he’s no longer a prospect but a full-fledged member of the Wind Dragons MC- has always been a man of his word. So when Talon, the leader of a rival MC, calls in a favor, Vinnie must respond, even if his fellow Wind Dragons aren’t too keen on it. Little does Wolf know that the “favor” is babysitting Talon’s cousin Shayla, who’s know to be a spoiled princess whose daddy embezzled his way into the slammer.

But when he meets this damsel in distress she’s far from spoiled- in fact, Shayla’s pretty amazing. But her security is crap, and Talon’s guys don’t know what they are doing. It’s up to Wolf to take matters into his own hands, and not even his brothers at the WDMC can help with this one. Shayla’s all his-if he can keep her alive.

For starters this is not a genre I typically read. I picked it up at NYCC 2016 not knowing it was part of a series and thinking it was about werewolves.

Spoiler alert – it’s not about werewolves.

Anyway, I am waiting on my order Radiate, the third book in the Lightless trilogy, to come in. As I do that I am reading some other books from my NYCC 2016 pile.

What I liked about Wolf’s Mate was that it was a really fast read. It took me three days. It’s like reading fan fiction. It’s amusing. Also, you don’t have to read the previous five books to be caught up. This can stand on its own.

Once I read the book jacket and realized it was not about werewolves, but a bad boy romance novel (think the tamest version of Sons of Anarchy meets erotic fan fiction), I knew what I was getting into. So it was exactly as I expected. The storyline follows a typical formula and is a bit silly and not very deep with lots of typical tropes.

But that’s fine. If I am going to eat fast food at least I know I am not eating a healthy meal.

Somethings really made me roll my eyes, but you have to look past it when this book is just meant to be fluff. For example, like not using condoms with someone you just met – so idiotic. And if you really never wanted kids – get a vasectomy.

Oh, and one more thing. He’s called Vinnie by his MC family. His name Wolf is mentioned once or twice! False advertising!

Anyway…this book served it’s purpose as a quick filler while I am waiting for another book.

3 out of 5 Motorcycles.

Supernova by C.A. Higgins (with some spoilers)

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C. A. Higgins’s acclaimed novel Lightless fused suspenseful storytelling, high-caliber scientific speculation, and richly developed characters into a stunning science fiction epic. Now the dazzling Supernova heightens the thrills and deepens the haunting exploration of technology and humanity—and the consequences that await when the two intersect.

Once Ananke was an experimental military spacecraft. But a rogue computer virus transformed it—her—into something much more: a fully sentient artificial intelligence, with all the power of a god—and all the unstable emotions of a teenager.

Althea, the ship’s engineer and the last living human aboard, nearly gave her life to save Ananke from dangerous saboteurs, forging a bond as powerful as that between mother and daughter. Now she devotes herself completely to Ananke’s care. But teaching a thinking, feeling machine—perhaps the most dangerous force in the galaxy—to be human proves a monumental challenge. When Ananke decides to seek out Matthew Gale, the terrorist she regards as her father, Althea learns that some bonds are stronger than mortal minds can understand—or control.

Drawn back toward Earth by the quest, Althea and Ananke will find themselves in the thick of a violent revolution led by Matthew’s sister, the charismatic leader Constance, who will stop at nothing to bring down a tyrannical surveillance state. As the currents of past decisions and present desires come into stark collision, a new and fiery future is about to be born.

Supernova picks up right where Lightless left off. I’m glad I went right into it after reading Lightless because there are lots of details to remember. (My review for Lightless.)

Some spoilers below:

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