Photo Review – Blood for Blood (Wolf by Wolf #2) by Ryan Graudini

Blood for Blood (Wolf by Wolf #2)

By Ryan Graudin

Summary: There would be blood. Blood for blood. Blood to pay. An entire world of it.For the resistance in the Third Reich, the war may be over, but the fight has just begun. Death camp survivor Yael, who has the power to skinshift, is on the run: the world has just seen her shoot and kill Hitler. But the truth of what happened is far more complicated, and its consequences are deadly. Yael and her unlikely comrades dive into enemy territory to try to turn the tide against Hitler’s army, and there is no alternative but to see their mission through to the end, whatever the cost.But in the midst of the chaos, Yael’s past and future collide when she comes face to face with a ghost from her past, and a spark with a fellow rider begins to grow into something more. Dark secrets reveal dark truths and one question hangs over them all—how far can you go for the ones you love?

Source: I purchased a hardcover

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Review – Warcross (Warcross #1) by Marie Lu

Warcross (Warcross #1)

By Marie Lu

SummaryFor the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

Source: I received a signed hardcover from an Uppercase subscription

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Warcross was great!

Side note: If you’re expecting Ready Player One, it’s not the same thing, though similar, and it’s probably not as good because it doesn’t drawn on the nostalgia of the 80’s. I liked Ready Player One for different reasons than I like Warcross. 

Warcross was set in the future with a large virtual game for millions of people. There are glasses that connect people to Warcross and combine the real world with the virtual. Emika was a struggling poor bounty hunter who also knew a good bit of code and frequently hacked into various aspects of Warcross. As her situation became more serious, she made a judgement call that brought her to the attention of millions of people watching the Warcross Opening Ceremony.. and the game’s creator.

She had a new target straight from the game’s creator: find Zero, the hacker messing with security measures.

Warcross was fun and adventurous. I loved Emika’s personality and her desire to do the right thing despite all consequences. She seemed like a truly loyal person. She was a bright and unique person who defied stereotypes and it made her a strong character. I liked Hideo, the tortured and private billionaire and creator. I felt like I wanted to know more about him and was intrigued by the mystery of him. 

My only real issue was with the other characters. I felt like the world building was great along with Emika and her feelings, motivations, surroundings, purpose, job, abilities, etc. Even Hideo, as mysterious as he was, seemed to be fleshed out rather well. The rest of the cast was not nearly as well developed and I wished the book focused more on the members of Emika’s team in the game and their banter. Some of the training was highlighted, but I felt like it was just a small slice and I would’ve preferred a longer book that featured the side characters a bit more. Because of this, when Emika really needed to trust them and needed their help, the fact that they jumped in and helped her seemed kind of weird, as their relationship was a bit strained due to her skipping out after trainings completed. 

Warcross was a diverse book, which added to the world-building because I’d hope a futuristic society would be a bit more open minded. There was a bit of a romance in Warcross, which was surprising and welcome. I did not expect it for some reason. I loved the adventure and Emika’s ability to bounce back, figure things out, and maintain a positive attitude.

I definitely recommend Warcross. I didn’t read a lot of reviews and had no real expectations, so I think that helped. It’s hard to top Ready Player One in the cyberpunk genre, but I didn’t expect Warcross to do that for me, so I’m not upset that it didn’t. I think many negative reviews are simply from those who were super hyped up and expected something else.

Another Side Note: The author does use the “I let out a breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding” a few times. If this is a deal breaker, don’t read it. Other than that, the writing was pretty engaging. 

Star 4


Review – Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher


Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1)

By Jim Butcher

SummaryHarry Dresden — Wizard

Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or
Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things — and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a — well, whatever.

There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get… interesting.

Magic. It can get a guy killed.

Source: I received a paperback as a gift for Secret Santa

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I’ve heard of The Dresden Files, but it never really showed up on my radar as something I might enjoy. When I got the first book from a coworker in my secret santa gift, I looked at the synopsis and realized it was the kind of book that would be perfect for me. I love science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, mysteries, and thrillers and The Dresden Files is a mash up of all of those things in one book. It’s more closely related to an urban fantasy, but Harry Dresden was basically a wizard P.I. so there was definitely the crime/mystery element as well. (I mean, if you were shopping for a book for me without knowing the specific books I’d want, this is honestly the best pick because it’s bound to appeal to me on some level! So genius!)

I loved Storm Front! It was so much fun and I really liked Harry’s POV. I loved the way the book kind of threw me right into this world where wizards were a thing, but like most urban fantasies, it’s not a big deal for the magical part of society to exist, but it’s still something that most people don’t deal with. I feel like Storm Front set the reader up for the rest of the series and wasn’t necessarily the strongest book as a standalone, but yet I also feel that there were some obvious conclusions so that, if I really wanted to, I could stop reading right now and feel like I read a book with a regular story arc. 

I definitely recommend Storm Front and I’m thankful that my gift giver person at work seemed to know me well enough to pick it out for me. It was right up my alley and a good mix of everything I love in my fiction and I don’t know that I would’ve picked it up otherwise. The urban fantasies from male POVs can be hit or miss, but much like the Iron Druid Chronicles, The Dresden Files seems to be a solid book with likable characters and a plot that just keeps grabbing me. I think I’ll definitely pick up the other books in this series!

On a side note, I am a huge fan of table top gaming and I noticed there is a board game for this book. This isn’t something I see a lot of with the fiction I read, despite the games I play and the books I read having many similar themes. Games are usually based on classic D&D or classic literature (like Lovecraft) or cult classic tv shows/movies… and the fact that there is a board game for The Dresden Files makes me hopeful that this is a world with some really solid plot/world building with a ton of fans, which makes me even more eager to read the rest of the series.

Star 4



Review – Jurassic Park/The Lost World by Michael Crichton

Jurassic Park/The Lost World

By Michael Crichton

SummaryFrom master thriller writer Michael Crichton: Two imaginative masterpieces of speculative science, full of adventure and larger-than-life characters. In Jurassic Park, scientists of today clone dinosaurs of the prehistoric past to serve as attractions in a modern theme park. When a rival biogenetic firm attempts to steal the scientists secret, the stage is set for a nightmare of science and dinosaurs run amok. The Lost World picks up the story six years later, with scientists scrambling to find the jungle island that served as the dinosaur production factory for Jurassic Park. Once again, rivalry and subterfuge combine to create life-threatening dangers for the scientists, who must contend with the rampaging dinosaurs as well as their cutthroat competitors.

This volume contains the full text of both of Michael Crichton’s bestselling novels. Featuring a beautifully stamped bonded leather cover, gilt edging, colorful endpapers, and a satin-ribbon bookmark, this collectible edition is a fine addition to any home library.

Source: I purchased a copy.

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I’ve grown up watching Jurassic Park and I’ve probably seen the film at least 20 times in my lifetime. When I was a kid, dinosaurs were super popular and at the time, the movie was considered to be pretty decent in terms of being realistic, so I remember watching it in science class on substitute teacher or fun days. Being the bookworm that I am, I’m actually shocked it took me so long to read it!

Jurassic Park was definitely a good novel and I found that I enjoyed it as much as the movie. I think it’s actually better, but there’s something nostalgic about the movie that makes it seem better in my mind. For most people, I’m sure they feel the book is better than the movie. 

I loved getting the various points of views in the book. The movie felt very much like Dr. Grant was the main character and the book wasn’t really like that. Many pivotal scenes and dinosaur knowledge tidbits were in the book from Grant’s POV, but the book followed a lot of the other characters and many of the scenes took place before the famous tour even began, from the investors in the park to the setup behind Nedry stealing embryos. 

As much as I love raptors, I was glad to see the book explore some of other species while still giving me those raptor scenes I know and love. I felt like the book was just more well rounded as a whole and I got to see the full picture. And it was much more obvious to me that the park’s creator was absolutely insane and selfish and completely oblivious to the issues of creating such a park. I think I fell for the smoke and mirrors a bit more in the movie as a kid.

Still, the movie was more.. dramatic and scary. It hit you in the gut a bit more and the book pokes more at your brain and is much more thought provoking, especially in terms of ethics in science. 

Dr. Malcom was equally annoying, though.

I don’t have as much to say about The Lost World with comparisons because I can’t recall the movie very well and have confused it with parts of Jurassic Park III. I remember the T-Rex in California thing and I’m happy to report that the book was not that dumb! I enjoyed The Lost World, but I have to admit that I’m partial to Dr. Grant and can’t really stand Dr. Malcom, so I found the book to be slightly less enjoyable than Jurassic Park, especially having read it directly after it. 

I think The Lost World did a better job of exploring the dinosaurs themselves as so many scientists were weighing in on what they were observing and asking themselves whether observing a thing changes it or if you can be impartial. It was much more of a commentary on science and processes than it was anything else, but I liked that aspect quite a bit. 

Still, Dr. Malcom annoys me and I couldn’t done without his smartypants interruptions on every page because he thinks he knows everything. 

Star 4

Review – 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami


By Haruki Murakami

SummaryThe year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo.

A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled. 

As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector.

A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s — 1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers. 

Source: I purchased a paperback

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I enjoyed 1Q84 to some degree. It was written beautifully and held my interest, despite its size, for quite some time. I liked the characters and the way their fates aligned. I enjoyed the alternating points of view and not really knowing what was happening.

1Q84 was definitely weird, but I was on board with the strange plot for the majority of the novel. However, I began to get frustrated towards the third book because, while the author was giving me some answers as to what was happening, overall, I wasn’t getting answers to most of my questions while simultaneously having a ton of useless information shoved at me, like the most mundane tasks and random passing thoughts of the protagonists. I’m not opposed to excessive detail, but when it came in place of things I actually wanted to know, so much so that the book ended without me truly getting any answers to any of the questions I had, I realized just how frustrated I was by it all.

The thing I dislike the most about literary fiction is that when you criticize it, hoards of fans come at you just to tell you that you must not have interpreted it correctly. And maybe that’s sometimes true to some degree, but I still feel like this book lacked direction overall and could have been chopped down and been just as good, if not better. I also, having never read any Murakami’s novels, perhaps don’t necessarily get the appeal. I also don’t have the best knowledge of Japanese culture to help me fill in the blanks as to why some things happened the way they did. The book was a bit over the top with the strange sexual aspects, which didn’t bother me, but I wished there weren’t so many scenes and references that just had zero purpose. I have burning questions about so much, but yet I know way too much about how Tengo felt about Fuka-Eri’s breasts and how Aomame thought her own were lacking and how each encounter made them feel or what deeper connection was happening at the time.

1Q84 can be best described by using the word vague. I can’t really describe it, but everything was a puzzle, mystery, or concept, from the way the characters interacted to the strange sex scenes. Some of it was brilliant, some of it was useless, and I’m just not quite convinced I read a good book.

Star 3

Review – The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey


The Girl with all the Gifts

By M.R. Carey

SummaryMelanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.

Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy.

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The Girl with all the Gifts was a unique and somewhat terrifying novel. It’s hard to really explain how and why without throwing out a few spoilers. Although the world was unveiled rather quickly and it didn’t take long for the reader to get a full grasp on what was happening and who Melanie was, I still feel like the story is best read without knowing too much about it.

In many ways, The Girl with all the Gifts is like Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Something strange was happening, the POV was from a child in the school, and they didn’t know a whole lot about their world. I think this is the best comparison because it hints that things aren’t what they seem, that the book may fall into a sci-fi spectrum, but it’s kind of subtle and not quite expected. Still, it pains me a little to compare the two because, though TGWATG was good, it will never be as good as Never Let Me Go.

I think we can all agree that some genres are beat to death and overdone. Still, there is always room for stories to be told within a genre that gives it a fresh perspective. TGWATG is not the first book to give us a unique perspective in an otherwise run-of-the-mill genre fiction, but it does it well. I felt for Melanie and wanted to see how it would all unfold. The way it unfolded honestly surprised me and I think it was worth the read. I enjoyed the adventure. It was a unique book that I feel gave me something new in an otherwise overdone genre, but it’s still just a [insert spoiler-y genre name] book when it’s all said and done and I am always 100% disappointed when I realize that’s the kind of book I’m reading. 

It was well done, though, which is why I’m still giving it 4 stars.

Star 4


Review – Scythe (Arc of Scythe #1) by Neal Shusterman


Scythe (Arc of Scythe #1)

By Neal Shusterman

SummaryThou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own. 

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Source: I purchased a hardcover


I bought Scythe because the premise seemed a bit intriguing and it was a signed copy. Mostly, I wanted to know if it would be decent. I wasn’t a fan of the Unwind Dystology after the first book because things just got to be too crazy and out there to be remotely plausible. I know that not all dystopian books will be plausible, but I feel like there should be some degree of “what if?” in order to be scarier and more thought provoking. But I loved Challenger Deep by the author, so I know that he’s 100% capable of some really amazing storytelling.

I enjoyed Scythe. It was thought provoking and a tad more believable than the Unwind Dystology, enough to where I felt more invested in the story and the society it took place in. It was still a bit far fetched and I wished that it was a little more grounded in reality.

The Scythe Commandments left WAY too much room for error and there are a handful of ways to ensure completely fair methods of population control while not leaving so much room open for the wrong sort of people to take advantage and still technically follow the rules. I hate when I see glaringly obvious ways to turn the dystopia back into a utopia, but I enjoyed the scythe way of life so I just ignored the obvious solution and kept reading. It didn’t bother me nearly as much as the whole premise of Unwind (like what parents would or could actually unwind their kids? It’s so far fetched that it made it impossible to be as thought provoking as the premise would initially sound.) But the bit plot hole was a tad bit frustrating.

I feel like the series has a lot of potential, but it could just as easily turn into a completely insane, too far from reality, type of story. Still, I flew through the pages and cared about the characters, so I had to give it four stars.

Star 4