Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Every Other Day


Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Chalk another one up on the list of Books that Hooked Me by the First Page. Actually, this one hooked me by the first line. Let me show you why: 

"The decision to make hellhounds an endangered species was beyond asinine . . . " 

I'll stop there for a moment. (Don't worry, you'll get more in a minute.) In those few words, I knew this book was going to be awesome. A world just like ours, but where all of the creatures from your nightmares are real. Then humans, being the odd creatures we are, decided that every species should be preserved—including those that will rip you to shreds and munch on your spleen while you try to "protect" it. Case in point: 

(still within the first paragraph) "[These were the same people] that thought you could train a horde of zombies just as easily as Pavlov's dogs. 
"'When I ring the bell, you will cease tearing the flesh from my bones.' 
"Yeah, right." 

So whose fault is it that humankind are the supposed protectors but really just prey to the paranormal world? Darwin. Yup, that Darwin. Charles and his Beagle stumbled upon not only evolution, but paranormal life as well. The implications of a world like this, where a single moment altered history to the point where the modern era is almost the same, yet completely different, is fascinating. Even more so when the author does a good job of fleshing out the world and the compounding impacts such a change would have upon it, which Barnes does fairly well. 

I won't tell you about the plot (which you can find by reading the flap copy) or the creatures (which would get a bit spoilery) that, by itself, isn't what drew me in. Really, it was the way in which Barnes takes traditional notions of werewolves and zombies and vampires (yes, even sparklepires), et al., and twists them in such a way that their paranormal existence kinda makes sense, especially within the variables of this alternate world. Maybe that's why I enjoyed Every Other Day so much: the mythos is almost logical, which is rare for paranormal stories. 

Even more important, she takes that one tiny little moment in history and explores the resonance over time and how people and governments change and cope with this new world. 

This probably seems like a rather odd review to not even mention the plot or characters, but honestly, you'll find that in just about every other review. Instead, I've discussed the parts of this book that made me read it so quickly, and also want to dive immediately into the next book. 

*A note on the rating: While I loved the world-building, some parts of the story fell a little flat for me. So though I really enjoyed the book overall, it didn't quite feel like a 5-star. Here's to hoping that improves in the next book of the series. 

**Also, a note on the cover: Gorgeous doesn't do it justice. While the main image might not give a clue as to what the story's about, who cares? It's pretty to stare at.

If you like that cover, take a peek at The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison, another title from the same publisher (Egmont). Wouldn't they look so pretty sitting together on a shelf? Sadly, you'll have to wait for Valentine's Day before you can reunite the pair as The Butterfly Clues releases that day.


Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy of the book.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Touch of Power


Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

There is a certain type of book that I seek every time I'm at the library or bookstore, a kind of story with a quality I can't quite describe but will pulls me in so completely that I get lost in their worlds. There's something in them that calms me when my life is full of stress and I just can't deal with any more of it. 

It's somewhat tricky to explain what kind of book fits my criteria; instead I'll offer a list of titles that encompass it:

Now there are many more books with this same feel, but discovering stellar examples can be tough. So many times an upcoming book will sound like it has the same qualities but ends up lacking the essential elements that so appeal to me. (Don't ask me what they are, as I have yet to figure out exactly what draws me to them.)

One very long intro later, we get to the heart of the review: Touch of Power launched itself smack dab onto this list and is one of the best books of this type that I've read in quite a while. It probably isn't too surprising, considering her Poison Study made the list several years ago. In all honesty, I like this one so much more than Poison Study, which is saying a lot.

The basic premise is this: A horrific plague decimates the populace of Avry's world, leaving survivors beleaguered and wary of another outbreak. Avry is a Healer, and while normally this would be a good thing, people blame the Healers for causing the plague and take to executing every Healer they find.

With practically nowhere to hide, Avry is constantly on the move. Without getting into too much detail, she ends up the captive of a band of rogues who drag her across the world to have her heal someone. Adventures, danger and romance ensue. 

It isn't the plot that's so incredible about this book; it's the world-building. My favorite has to be the giant lilies that can swallow a man whole. While there are two varieties, there is no way to tell them apart: the Peace Lily is a beautiful sight while the Death Lily is a danger to every creature that wanders by. I found it fascinating to see how the Lilies and other unique elements developed and added to the story.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed this book, even though I read it through the night and finished bleary-eyed at 5 am. That's probably another indicator of how much I liked Touch of Power.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy of the book.