Sunday 19 May 2024

CBR16 Book 21: "Role Playing" by Cathy Yardley

Page count: 331 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars

CBR16 Sweet Books: Cozy

48-year-old Maggie's son has recently moved away to college and now she's stuck in the big house she got in the divorce some years earlier, in a town where she barely knows anyone. She's unapologetically grumpy and doesn't actually want to expand her social circle. She worries about her son in college, however, and keeps trying to challenge him to socialise and make friends. He turns the table on her and demands that she do the same. She has absolutely nothing in common with the women her own age, but reluctantly goes to a couple of parties to be able to send her son pictures as "proof."

50-year-old Aiden moved back to his home town to take care of his ailing father, and now that his father has passed, he is trying to care for his demanding mother, without much help from his brother (who also happened to marry Aiden's ex-fiancee after dumping Aiden rather spectacularly once she discovered some things about him that she didn't like). Aiden blows off steam by running a guild in an online roleplaying game, and when Maggie joins, they strike up a friendship. Due to a series of misunderstandings, Aiden thinks Maggie is a senior citizen (it doesn't help that she keeps saying she's old enough to be his mother). Maggie does think she's old enough to be Aiden's mother, since she believes him to be a twenty-something community college student. 

Because of this misunderstanding about their respective ages, even when their online chats take a more flirty direction, neither are seriously considering actually doing anything about it. When they eventually do meet, and realise that they're age-appropriate for one another, there is still complicated emotional baggage in both of their pasts that make taking a new chance at love and a relationship a very tricky thing. 

This book came highly recommended by two people whose opinions about books I always trust, narfna and Emmalita, because they rarely, if ever, steer me wrong. Both were very complimentary about this book, and they were not wrong. Both Maggie and Aiden are great characters, and now that I'm a lot closer to 50 than to 30, it's not the norm to find romance novel progagonists my age. It's nice to read about people who have actually lived a little before finding their HEAs.

I almost wholeheartedly loved this, but the whole complication surrounding Aiden's ex-fiancee, now sister-in-law just got a bit too melodramatic. The whole thing felt too over the top, and hence I am withholding half a start. That's not to say that I might not upgrade the book upon a re-read (that frequently happens). This is my first Cathy Yardley novel, but it clearly won't be my last (for one thing, I own several of her earlier books, and do need to keep chipping away on that TBR list). 

Judging a book by its cover: I'm sure Leni Kaufman might make bad romance covers, but I have yet to see one. This cover is so pretty, and she's captured the characters so well. Everything about it screams cozy. I also really like using the full moon as the O in the title. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

Thursday 2 May 2024

CBR Book 20: "The Prisoner's Throne" by Holly Black

Page count: 496 pages
Rating: 4 stars

CBR16 Sweet Books: Excited (this is one of my most anticipated releases in the first half of the year)

This book really doesn't stand alone. It is the second half of a duology that started with The Stolen Heir, which came out last year. If you haven't read that one, it's probably best to skip this review and return once you've caught up. 

Prince Oak, heir to the throne of Elfhame, finds himself a prisoner in the dungeons of Queen Suren (or Wren, as he prefers to call her), and knows that if he doesn't get himself out quickly, his temperamental sister Jude and her husband Cardan, the High Queen and King of Elfhame will react very badly indeed, and probably obliterate anyone standing in the way of their army on the way to retrieve Oak. 

There's also the pesky complication that Oak truly loves Suren/Wren and understands entirely why she feels betrayed by him, and like she can't trust him. Nevertheless, he wants to prove himself to her, and make sure she's not being taken advantage of by the wicked hag who has appointed herself Suren's chief advisor and clearly has some sort of very devious revenge plot against the royal family of Elfhame brewing. 

Can Oak escape Suren/Wren's dungeons, prevent a war, convince his beloved that he truly would like to spend the rest of his days with her (but he'd rather not have to be king of anything, please, how are they going to square that with her now being Queen of her own realm?) and prevent wicked forces from using Suren/Wren for their own ends, possibly destroying her in the process?

I love Holly Black. She has yet to write a book that I didn't at least enjoy. Are Suren/Wren and Oak's courtship and journey towards their eventual happy ending as twisted and at times exhausting as Jude and Cardan's in The Folk of the Air trilogy. Thankfully no, those two psychos are their own special brand of crazy (and I love them so), but that doesn't mean that their relationship doesn't face formidable challenges. 

The storytelling in this book was a bit messy, it's a rather convoluted plot, and I'm not sure it was a great idea to have this be single POV. I get that it's all about secrets and deceptions, and plot twists throughout, but I think both this and The Stolen Heir might have been better with dual POVs, this one in particular. 

Black's world-building is excellent and it's always a joy to see how her fertile imagination depicts the intricacies of the various Faerie kingdoms. Suren/Wren's wintery northern kingdom is a very different place to where Oak has grown up, and as someone from a Nordic country, it's fun to see references to more of the Norse fae. 

While we got a small cameo from Madoc in the previous book, but only mentions of Jude and Cardan, so it was great to get more of Oak's family this time around, to see Jude, Cardan, Taryn and even Oriana and Madoc in a different setting and situation than in the previous books. They deeply care for one another, but have such trouble expressing those feelings. There's rich potention for some really juicy group therapy sessions in the Greenbriar line, and among Madoc's three daughters. 

This book seems to end on a fairly closed note, but if Black wants to revisit her characters further, a novella from Jude and Cardan's possibly expedition to the Undersea realm could be a lot of fun. 

Judging a book by its cover: Like the cover for the previous book in the duology, this cover is dominated by white. There's a lot of icicles, considering Wren's wintery home, and the ring plays a prominent role in the story. I'm generally not as big a fan of these as the ones for the Folk of the Air trilogy about Cardan and Jude. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

Tuesday 30 April 2024

CBR16 Book 19: "En enda hemlighet" (Falling) by Simona Arhnstedt

Page count: 509 pages
Rating: 4 stars

The readers met both the protagonists in this novel briefly in the first book in the series, En enda natt, which is also where they first ran into each other. 

At the beginning of this book, idealistic doctor Isobel Sørensen is angry and stressed because the organisation she works for most of the year, Medpax, is struggling for funds, and she's becoming convinced that it's her fault. On the previous occasions when she has run into Alexander de la Grip and he's tried to flirt with her (he seems to attempt to charm and flirt with every woman he meets), she has been very rudely dismissive of him. Now she's worried that the pampered playboy has decided to withdraw the annual contribution he used to give Medpax. Her boss doesn't really care what reasons Isobel might have for disliking Alexander, or frankly whether he's the devil himself. She orders Isobel to arrange a meeting with him, and be polite, pleasant and make sure he starts donating money again. 

As it turns out, Alexander de la Grip has not stopped the money because he feels insulted or snubbed by Isobel, he's just been dealing with his personal demons by trying to drown them in alcohol and casual sex, and he hasn't been monitoring his many business ventures very well for the past six months to a year. He's rather amused at Isobel's sudden change in behaviour towards him. He promises to make sure his money people start paying the organization again, and tempts Isobel to go on a date with him by promising an additional (ridiculously large) donation. 

Once Alexander decides to clean up his life and make something of himself to be worthy of Isobel, he does so very quickly indeed. Once Isobel actually gives him the time of day and starts talking to him, she discovers that her snap judgements of him have been unfair, and that there is a lot more to Alexander than his looks, wealth and seeming carelessness. Once she starts uncovering the real man, she can't help but be drawn to him. But Alexander isn't the only one with emotional baggage, and strong mutual physical attraction isn't going to be enough for them to build a lasting relationship. 

As I'm sure you can tell from my rather uninspired plot summary, there is a lot of 'come here, go away' (thanks, Mrs. J) in this book, and both protagonists have a lot of emotional baggage that makes it difficult for them to trust, commit, or believe themselves worthy of love. 

Alexander deals with his terrible parents' coldness by being an international playboy/manwhore and being seen publicly drunk in the press as often as possible, preferably with one or two socialite bimbos surrounding him. Nevertheless, he is also revealed to be extremely intelligent, able to read up and learn about pretty much any subject very quickly when he sets his mind to it. He's also apparently a gazillionaire, having invested early in tech and app development, not to mention his best friend's restaurant ventures, and now he can just keep raking in cash (and spending it . Due to his many trust issues, and his self-esteem issues, he doesn't want anyone to know about this side of him, not even his sister whom he loves and respects, and certainly not the clever doctor he's falling for. Just like no one suspects charming and slightly indifferent to anything serious billionaire Bruce Wayne of being dour vigilante Batman, absolutely no one would suspect international playboy Alexander de la Grip of being extremely clever and a secret philantropist. 

Isobel has severe mommy issues, having been raised by her grandmother while her narcissistic mother and withholding father were off doing their own things. Since both her grandfather and her mother were skilled doctors who devoted their lives to foreign aid work and rescue operations in far-flung places, Isobel was never going to be able to choose another career, but nevertheless defied her mother by joining MSF and working for a pittance most of the time, doing a lot less of the schmoozing with rich people to collect funds and a lot more of traveling to dangerous places to provide medical assistance to those who have nothing. She also secretly dreams of kinky things like BDSM, but feels like a freak for wanting what seems to be fairly low-level kink stuff. Being tied up and spanked isn't that far off the vanilla path, but from her reluctance to share her fantasies, you'd think she wanted something much more unusual. 

This book is long and meandering and also deals with Alexander's depressed older brother's atonement for the bad shit he did as a teenager and his possible redemption. He is falling in love with his family's former cleaning lady, who also happens to be much younger than him and a very hard-working immigrant, so there's an age gap and a massive class difference to consider. Åsa and Michel, who spent most of the last novel avoiding one another before suddenly realising their feelings for one another towards the end, are now getting married in a massive society wedding in Stockholm (Alexander brings Isobel as his date). We also get to see more of Natalia and David, and what seems to be their ridiculously happy home life. This book is over 500 pages long, and could have benefitted from an editor to trim some storylines. 

Spoiler! Skip this paragraph if you want to remain unspoiled

What this text certainly did not need was a last-minute (like last 40 pages or so) kidnapping drama with Isobel in danger and Alexander throwing tons of money at mercenaries to get her rescued (and getting himself shot in the process). Not sure that was the best way to resolve their final act breakup.

End spoiler

This is my second Arhnstedt novel, and I'm enjoying it. There's only one book left in this series, and it seems to focus on the security expert who helps Alexander towards the end of the book (and who's believed to be dead by everyone), so it's going to be interesting to see how that plays out.

Judging a book by its cover: While the green colour of the dress is lovely and the model has a wealth of red hair that makes it obvious that this is supposed to be Isobel, I hate the partially-cropped head view, and there's something about the torso on the woman that just looks awkward to me. Not sure why. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read 

Monday 29 April 2024

CBR16 Books 17-18: "The Kingmaker" and "The Rebel King" by Kennedy Ryan

Total page count: 711 pages
Rating: 4 stars

CBR16 Sweet: Binge

Kennedy Ryan's All the Kings Men Duet, as she calls it, spans more than a decade and contains a lot of passion, danger, and drama. I'm reviewing both at the same time since they don't really stand alone. The Kingmaker ends on one heck of a cliffhanger, and The Rebel King would not be a satisfying place to start the series. 

Maxim Cade is still just in college when he travels with his father to the location of one of their planned oil pipelines, which just so happens to be on the land of an indigenous tribe. They are naturally less than thrilled about the destruction of some of their sacred lands, and there's a massive protest that Maxim's father wants to stop. One of the leaders of the protest is a young, beautiful native woman whose rousing speech and fierce defiance take Maxim's breath away, to the point where he runs to save her when the police arrive with tear gas and very aggressive dogs. He even gets bitten trying to protect her and spends some time in jail with the other protesters after being arrested with them. The passionate young woman is Lennix Moon Hunter, whose mother mysteriously disappeared some years earlier, after organising a different protest. Lennix is half Apache but lives with her white father, a college professor. He might be smitten, but once he discovers that Lennix is only seventeen, he wisely tamps down any amorous thoughts, even after being bailed out of jail, he can't forget her and her cause.

Maxim was never enthusiastic about taking over his father's giant oil company in the first place, and after the protest, he refuses to listen to his father and cuts ties with him entirely. He puts himself through college on money he inherited from a relative and barely speaks with his family, even years later, when he and Lennix meet again by chance in Amsterdam. Lennix is there for a week with her best friends from college, and Maxim is about to embark on an expedition to Antarctica for his post-grad work. He knows that Lennix will never speak to him again if she discovers his father's identity, so Maxim uses his middle name to introduce himself to her (he never told her his name while they were bonding after the arrest). Lennix is no longer a teenager, and the two of them spend a few days together, giving in to all the sizzling chemistry between them before Maxim needs to leave for his months-long stay on the South Pole.

By the time they meet for a third time, Lennix is working on the campaign of a liberal politician and has discovered who Maxim really is. He and his expedition mates ended up in a horrific storm in the Antarctic, nearly dying, and had to be rescued by Maxim's father. The news of the dangerous rescue is widely broadcast worldwide, and Lennix discovers that the handsome and charming young man she thought of as Maxim Kingsman is, in fact, the son of a man she hates. Despite all of Maxim's attempts to persuade her that he is nothing like his father and wants nothing to do with his family legacy, Lennix tells him to f*ck off and never darken her door again.

A decade later, Lennix Hunter is known as the Kingmaker. She and her best friend Kimba are among the best political consultants in the United States and have ensured victories for a large number of progressive political candidates. When Owen Cade, Maxim's older brother, runs for president, there is no one else he wants organising his campaign, but if they take the job, Lennix won't be able to avoid Maxim any longer. Having completely broken ties with his father, Maxim has achieved a lot of the goals he set himself in his early 20s. He's a self-made man, having pioneered a lot of technology to limit pollution and save the environment, and he's rich enough that he never needs to rely on his father's money ever again. There is only one more thing Maxim has left to achieve, winning Lennix back and getting her to forgive him. 

These two books are intense, people. There is so much stuff happening here. The epic love story of Maxim and Lennix is told in three distinct acts, where the third one, while they're fully adult and very successful in their own fields, is obviously the longest. Did the sometimes sprawling story need to be more than seven hundred pages long, split into two books? I'm not really sure it did, although I respect Ms. Ryan's sense of the dramatic. By ending The Kingmaker where she did, she guaranteed herself another sale. I thought I owned both books in this series when I started reading. It turns out that the other book I had was Queen Move, which is about Kimba, and takes place after these two. As a result, I went online to purchase The Rebel King immediately after finishing book one (of course it turned up in an e-book sale only a couple of weeks later - isn't that always the case?)

There's so much plot here, though. Lennix' mother disappearing, the oil pipeline protest, their chance to take their relationship to a new level when they meet again in Amsterdam, Maxim's expedition in the Arctic and the dramatic conclusion to it. The fraught meeting between the two of them once Maxim's lies of omission have been exposed by the media coverage of the rescue mission is short, but significant. By the time we meet them again for the third act, the stakes are high and it feels right that Maxim has to work hard to convince Lennix that he's worthy of her. 

The path to their Happily Ever After isn't without further obstacles, involving Lennix in a very dramatic and dangerous situation and the lengths Maxim is willing to go to get her out of it. Even once they have decided to make their relationship work, their path isn't smooth. There are personal losses and grief, and both of them have to reconsider their priorities and dreams for the future. I can't go into more specifics, because I don't want to spoil all the twists and turns this story takes.

I'm adding these books to my CBR16 Sweet "Binge" category, because I originally planned to read these AND Kimba's book, which is a sort of unofficial third book in the series. I binged these two books in a very short space of time, but once I was done, and even began Queen Move, it turns out I was all Kennedy Ryan'd out for the time being. So that book will have to wait until sometime later this year.

Judging the books by their covers: I chose two covers that match each other for my image, despite the fact that only my copy of The Kingmaker has that cover. Since I got the first book in the series (free e-book, if I recall correctly), the covers have been redesigned, and instead of black and white images of people who are probably meant to be Lennix and Maxim, the books now have a completely different font, which looks hand-written and images of flowers on a black background. They seem very wistful and romantic, and don't really fit the dramatic, fairly high-spice and frequently rather angsty tone of the duology. At least they're not cartoony cutesy covers in pastel. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

Saturday 30 March 2024

CBR16 Book 16: "Butcher & Blackbird" by Brynne Weaver

Page count: 360 pages
Audiobook length: 8 hrs 43 mins
Rating: 5 stars

CBR16 Sweet Books: Excited (I love this book and would like everyone I know to read it, but also understand that it's very much NOT for everyone).

Spoiler warning! I will do my best to review this without major plot spoilers, but if you want to experience this book without any prior knowledge of the contents, possibly skip this review until you've read the book.

Sloane "Blackbird" Sutherland and Rowan "Butcher" Kane have a rather unusual meet cute. He finds her locked in a cage, starved and desperate, and a decomposing corpse on the floor just outside the cage door. Sloane and Rowan are both serial killers, but only murder other killers. Obviously, they don't meet a lot of people who share their unusual hobby, and once they establish that they know of each other's reputations, end up having lunch and agreeing to a friendly competition. Once a year, they'll meet up to hunt the same killer. The first to five kills gets the honour of killing a particularly infamous one. 

Rowan is smitten with Sloane from their very first meeting, and Sloane certainly finds Rowan attractive. She's just so shy, paranoid, and socially awkward that she cannot imagine what a handsome, charming, outgoing, and flirtatious man like him might see in her. So they develop a friendship, which clearly starts developing into more with each meeting, but it takes more than four years before Sloane actually dares believe that Rowan likes her as more than just a like-minded friend. Can the two of them, restless, dark-souled, murderous, and obsessive, actually make a relationship work? And will they survive long enough to enjoy a HEA? It's not like their recreational activities are risk-free. 

There is a LONG list of trigger warnings at the very start of this book. If you find eyeballs and the removal of them unpleasant, then this book is probably not for you. These people are murderers, and there are graphic depictions of both a violent and sexual nature (there's a lot of mutual pining until about 60% into the book, and then they really make up for lost time and things get very 18+ afterwards). I tend to find suspense novels stressful, I don't really like horror. I never understood the fascination a lot of people have with True Crime. This book is basically what you'd get if Hannibal had a baby with a snarky romantic comedy. It's adorable, laugh-out-loud funny, very romantic, extremely spicy, and very very gross in parts. Both protagonists kill without remorse, and experience some pretty dangerous situations over the course of their strange murder quests. Yet I absolutely adored this book. 

Sloane is so shy, dorky, and socially awkward. She literally has one friend in the entire world, no siblings, and doesn't seem to talk or interact much with her parents. Since she seems to be bad with people in general, it's no wonder that she's intimidated and a bit confused by Rowan at first. He's outgoing, gregarious, charming, and very good-looking. He seems to flirt with everyone, so for a while, it's understandable that Sloane doesn't clue into the fact that he's clearly completely obsessed with her. 

I was completely hooked by this almost instantly. I bought the audiobook in an Audible sale in early January and thought it might be a fun and unusual read for Valentine's Day this year. I started listening in the morning on my way to work and stayed up late so I could actually finish the audiobook the same day. While I don't have as much time as I used to just for reading, I do occasionally finish a book in a day. But I can't remember the last time I finished a whole audiobook the very same day I started it, even listening at x1.5 speed.

I had a major book hangover and kept thinking so much about the book and the characters that I had to just start the audiobook all over again. That level of obsession only happens every few years for me, and should tell you something about how much I loved this book. The list of content warnings for this book is on the author's website, so if any of these seem like dealbreakers to you, it's probably best to skip it. On the other hand, I also have two friends who were disappointed that the book didn't go enough into detail about the planning and actual murdering, so that's also worth bearing in mind. 

Judging a book by its cover: The neon pink and purple against the black background is eye-catching even before you see the details, like the chainsaw, cleaver, axe, and obviously all the bones. It's sort of cute and sinister at the same time, which pretty much perfectly sums up this book. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

Friday 29 March 2024

CBR16 Book 15: "The Write Escape" by Charish Reid

Page count: 291 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars

Nowhere Book Bingo: A book with a BIPOC author and main character
CBR16 Sweet Books: Cozy

In very short order, Antonia Harper has lost her job and discovered that her fiancée was cheating on her, very shortly before the wedding. The honeymoon was supposed to be in Ireland, and Antonia decides to travel there by herself. Her spiteful ex has cancelled their original reservations, but she rents a cottage to stay in instead. With nothing else to distract her, Antonia decides to make a stab at writing more of the romance novel she's been dreaming of completing (but never had time for, what with her busy job as an editor and trying to plan a wedding). She isn't exactly happy with men in general at present, but the handsome professor in the cottage next door is making her reconsider her wish to be alone.

Aidan Byrnes is a literature professor who is finding his job difficult at the moment. He's rented a cottage in the little town of Tully Cross to get some peace and quiet and to finally have the time and focus to complete an important academic paper. He first runs into Antonia in the tiny supermarket nearby and is both surprised and delighted to discover that she is staying in the cottage next to his. Still slightly weary of romantic entanglements after his girlfriend dumped him a year previous, Aiden nevertheless can't stop thinking about Antonia, who he discovers is not only gorgeous but clever, educated, and funny as well.

What starts out as a bit of a holiday fling begins to turn serious pretty quickly. Neither Antonia nor Aidan were expecting to meet anyone, let alone start falling for them in the sleepy village of Tully Cross. Yet Aiden has a job at an Irish university, and Antonia's life is back in America. Can their fledgling romance turn into something more permanent, with an entire ocean between them?

This is my first novel by Charish Reid and it was fun, but not exactly a perfect read. I really liked Antonia and Aiden as characters, both apart and together. Both are hard-working and devoted to their jobs (but obviously Antonia is unemployed for much of the book since she loses her job early on). Antonia is also very close to her family, especially her sister, which made it difficult when they clearly weren't enthusiastic about her upcoming wedding. I would love to read a sequel novel about her sister.

The majority of the book is set in Ireland, and while I'm sure Irish villages are very quaint and welcoming, it seems like a slightly exaggerated ideal of the place. No one is unpleasant, racist, or rude. I understand that those aren't exactly things that you would want in a fluffy escapist romance, but from my experience, not all small-town folk anywhere are open-minded and whole-heartedly welcoming to any strangers, certainly not those with darker skin colours. 

This was a quick breezy read, and I liked it a lot. There were a few things that annoyed me a bit, but nothing serious enough for me not to want to read more of her books. Firstly, Antonia is obviously using her vacation in Ireland to work on her romance novel. At one point, Aiden uses her computer and can't help himself from reading what she's written. Considering how unsure she is of her writing and how personal a book manuscript can be, this felt like he was reading her journal. When she eventually discovers what he's done, she seems to forgive him very quickly. SPOILER! Antonia also seems able to relocate her entire life to Ireland on very little notice, to be with a guy whom she's known for less than two weeks. Good to know that it's that easy to make a major life change when you finally meet the hot guy you decide is Mr. Right.

Judging a book by its cover: I really like the visible joy on the faces of both of the cover models here. This is exactly the sort of novel that would have a jewel-toned cover with cute cartoony characters on it now, and I'm not sure that trend is as great as publishers think it is. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

Saturday 23 March 2024

CBR16 Book 14: "Illuminae" by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Page count: 602 pages
Rating: 5 stars

Nowhere Book Bingo: An epistolary novel
CBR16 Sweet Books: Binge (I have already bought the next two books in the series in paperback, so I can read all of them as soon as possible.)

Official book description:
Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the worst thing she'd ever been through. That was before her planet was invaded. Now, with enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra are forced to fight their way onto one of the evacuating craft, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But the warship could be the least of their problems. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their biggest threat; and nobody in charge will say what's really going on. As Kady plunges into a web of data hacking to get to the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: Ezra.

Kady is a talented hacker and is fully aware that the evacuated passengers aren't being told much of anything. She is determined to find out the truth of what is going on, especially after the AI of the leading evacuation ship, AIDAN, blows one of the other two up unexpectedly. Naturally, the remaining ship's crew are rather nervous about the incident being repeated and the AI needs to be shut down until they can figure out why it acted so erratically. Ezra is recruited as a fighter pilot, working to defend the evacuation fleet, not exactly a job without significant risks.

As Kady becomes more and more isolated, and the losses really start affecting her, her illegal communication with Ezra becomes one of the things that keep her going. Neither of them has anyone else significant left in their lives, and it becomes clear that the reasons why Kady dumped Ezra in the first place become very insignificant in the grand scheme of things, and now they would just like to be reunited, before they quite possibly die. 

As the back of the book says, the novel is "Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more". I am very glad I got the paperback from the library, I'm genuinely not sure how in the world this book would work in audio, and I don't think I would have found it as engrossing a read on an e-reader screen. There were sections where I literally had to keep turning the book sideways or on its head to be able to read everything. It's a very interesting take on the epistolary format. 

I can absolutely see why this book wouldn't be a 5-star read for some people. It was a bit slow to catch my interest in the beginning, but since it's not divided into chapters like a traditional book, but interview transcripts, memos, chat logs, and the like, it's very easy to get tempted to read just a little bit more, since each individual section is so short. Once things really started escalating, I had trouble putting the book down. I stayed up until far too late o'clock on a work night just to finish it (and had to actually peek at the ending about halfway through the book because all the tension was going to kill me if I didn't know how it all turned out). So to me, this was a five-star read, even though some of the characterisation probably could have been deeper, and parts of the book were pure horror, and really upsettingly graphic when it came to the violence perpetrated by those afflicted with the virus. 

I have now bought this book for my keeper shelf, along with the two sequels, if they're even half as gripping as this one, I want physical copies of them for my very own. Also, having read the first one in a physical format, I'm not even sure it would be possible to get all the necessary information if you read them as an e-book or listened to it in audio. 

Judging a book by its cover: The reds and oranges are very eye-catching and I'm not entirely sure what the cover is supposed to show, but I think it might be a firestorm, suggesting either the original attack on Kady and Ezra's home world or the subsequent explosion of one of the evacuation ships. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read