Windswept by Adam Rakunas

A nicely dystopian sci-fi future; it harnesses corporations’ flaws and projects them forward for an authentic feeling.

Padma’s an excellent character with a bit of mystery to her past. She’s solidly connected to the other people of Windswept, and has strong motivations and responsibilities that get her interacting with everyone in a more than plausible way. She’s also damaged by an experiment, and it’s interesting to learn how it came about in parallel to her world going to shit. Which, of course, it does from a few pages in.

I really like the truths about Windswept that are revealed, slowly but steadily. The plot has a lot of action, but not a lot of deadly violence, which feels right for a world so in need of people.

Mystic by Jason Denzel

A good turning of age fantasy book, in a less glossy world. I liked the assumed privileges of the nobility (and their secret stressors), and the conflict with Pomella. The petty revenge of her Lady (and the surprising solidarity she found from her peers) felt like good world building.

Her relationships are strong and interesting, including her mistakes. I’d like to see how the story continues.

While You Were Gone by Amy K. Nichols

Be careful what you ask for…

I was mildly interested in the mirror image story from the other Duplexity novel. This one tries the star-crossed thing with much less interaction, making it a greater strain to believe.

If you enjoyed the first book, this one is an enjoyable continuation. If the first seemed like a stretch, this doubles that feeling. But it’s a quick read with a mostly charming, balanced pair of POV characters. The biggest problem comes from the social strata differences–the governor’s daughter circulates in very different circles, and it strains credulity when they cross paths. (Well, even more than the “wrong universe” thing would make you think!)

Anyway, for me it was fine because it was quick, but I doubt I’ll reread either of the pair.

EXHeroes by Peter Clines

A fun mashup of heroes and zombies, just like the back of the book says. The heroes are pretty heroic, and the zombie plague is horrific and fits the setting.

It’s a well written apocalypse, with a collapsed society and tightened boundaries that felt realistic. The book falls into a focus on the supers, with everyone else more an abstraction–people to save, protect, but not really interact with.

I’m mildly curious about other books in the series.

The Stillness in the Sky by Starla Huchson

While this is sub-titled “A Flipped Fairy Tale”, and it begins with elements that resonate with Jack in the Beanstalk, this is a full novel that’s done with the initial premise by 1/3rd of the way in.

It turns out that where the book goes next is great; the book is a solid fantasy novel, and even the parts that overlap the traditional myth get twisted a bit. It’s never predictable, even when it’s on “fairy tale rails” to start; there’s often a bit of a twist to the fable. The rest of the book does flow out of the beginning–it’s not like the beanstalk is tacked on–but it delves into corrupted talents, a romance, wanderlust, a relationship with a long absent mom, and more.

It’s really well written and fun. I’ll pick up more of her flipped fairy tales going forward.

(I bought the book at Zappcon, where she gave out a tin of tea matching the book’s name with the book purchase. Her tea blend was also tasty.)

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway

A pretty good story after a slow start. It has two POVs that are strictly separate for the first half of the book.

Joe is well drawn; he feels authentic but a bit dull for a long while. Edie begins odd and through flashbacks becomes interesting–but also over the top. Eventually Joe goes over the top (of course someone who was peripherally involved in crime as a kid and hasn’t done anything with it in 10+ years proves to be a great criminal now, cold).

The book felt slow to start–not with events, but with bloated prose and stylistic observations of everything. At 25% slimmer, or a quicker pivot into the action and criminal underworld, it’d have been a book that I’d recommend. As it is, I don’t mind having read it, but probably won’t read it again.