'Crownchasers' is the first book in a brand new duology by Rebecca Coffindaffer that is billed as being perfect for fans of The Hunger Games, Aurora Rising, and Three Dark Crowns.
Alyssa Farshot, explorer extraordinaire and Captain of the worldcruiser.. The Vagabond Quick, is our main character. Paired up with 'Hell Monkey,' the sweet, sarcastic engineer on her ship, Alyssa's spent years trying to escape her family legacy and responsibilities.
Having left behind the Kingship, her uncle.. the emperor, she's forced to return when news of his rapidly declining health reaches her.
When the dying emperor announces a crownchase, an event the kingdom hasn't seen in 700 years, she's thrust full on into the race whether she wants it or not. The prize? Rule of their world as the next to sit on the throne. All she has to do is find the royal seal hidden on one of the 1,001 planets within the empire. Sounds easy enough, right? The first problem is.. she doesn't really want it.
I was waffling back and forth on this one for awhile.. but hear me out.
When I first saw the book pop up on a friend's Instagram stream (thank you @gingerly_reading for bringing it to my attention), I was really excited. The cover art has an almost classic Star Wars feel, though that imagery is sunken into the character portrayal and the tagline is the kind of gold this rebellious-natured reader is a sucker for.
"They can make the rules...but they can't make her follow them."
Upon starting to read the book, initially I thought I was going to be disappointed. The wild streak feels a little forced, the sarcastic comments a little cliche, and the engineer's name seemed ridiculous. It was very hard to take him seriously at first, but as I proceeded.. I realized there was a reason for this funny, carefree outer shell and in time the name actually grew on me.
The innocuous looking design of the chase from clue to clue is far more dangerous than it's meant to be.. and that's saying something, because it does seem to be made to really challenge the competitors with hopes of finding the right person to lead. And while all they're chasing all over the empire, there are indications of sinister machinations elsewhere, making you wonder what the real outcome is going to be.
I will say, I saw a couple of major plot points coming early on, but that's normal for me as a seasoned reader and I didn't mind at all. There are plenty of surprising moments spread throughout the story along the way and Coffindaffer did make me tear up a couple of times, especially in a certain inhospitable atmosphere.
From my perspective, the author felt heavily influenced by Star Wars and Aurora Rising. In particular, in the way the characters interacted with each other and the ambitious attempts at steady banter in the dialogue. This is the one thing I think could have been improved upon. Sometimes, whether or not you intentionally draw comparisons between your own writing and such distinctive works from other authors, if it happens.. you have to work twice as hard to pack the same punch.
In this case, the dialogue just felt a tiny bit too much like mimicry for probably the first half of the book or so. But as the tale evolved, so did these exchanges.. and by the middle of the tale.. the author was coming into her own.. or perhaps.. I was settling into the story. Either way, I expect the second book will be even smoother.
That's really the only small criticism I have. Overall, it's a relatively fast-paced story that I didn't want to put down. I read it nearly straight through in just over 3 hours and I really enjoyed it.
Both the space battles (even the more complex ones) and the personal altercations were exciting and easy to visualize, the characters were distinguishable from one another.. generally likeable where they were meant to be, and I was fully invested in how things were going to go down.
I cannot wait for book two.
'Block Seventeen' by Kimiko Guthrie is a story about a young woman named Jane who's struggling to build a life with her fiancé, Shiro, all while things seemingly grow more chaotic and discordant around them.
After a strange car accident, it's almost as if they're in the eye of a storm. Someone rifles through their apartment, taking nothing.. but leaving behind strangely stacked towers of items. Shiro's distrust of the government and his employers misdeeds continues to grow.. becoming a veritable force of its own. And to top it all off, her mother seems to have disappeared.. leaving only traces of existence through online locations.. the woman becoming increasingly more difficult to track down in the real world.
While Jane searches for her mother and struggles to manage the stressors of her environment, she delves into her family's history through the incarceration of Japanese Americans, exploring the effects.. both directly and indirectly, that have rippled ever outward from those moments of loss, fear, and humiliation in a country they called home.
As a woman with mixed Asian heritage, I really wanted to love this story.. but despite it's lofty goals, it just never reached me deeply.
Guthrie certainly has a way with words and does a lovely job telling the story of these lives as they're spiraling outwardly, but ultimately it just ends up feeling a bit pretentious. I get the impression the author is heavily inspired by Murakami. She seems to like to play with surrealism and parallel worlds.. and I did enjoy the way they appear to exist side by side for Jane, neither more important or more real than the other.
The story definitely deals with some terrible things. From the internment of our own citizens simply due to race, a distant war, and out of control paranoia.. to the breakdown of mental and emotional capacity.. to the tragic losses and decisions made in times of desperation, there are plenty of important topics covered here.
Structurally, though there's a non-linear aspect to the storytelling, the book moves fluidly and the prose is eloquent. The author does a wonderful job connecting her characters to the reader through what they're feeling even if there isn't necessarily a lot of common ground to draw upon. Jane and Shiro experience a uniquely situational journey that I think few of us could really relate to in all its sensationalism.. though I'm sure there are pieces here and there.. a bit close to our hearts.
At the end of the day though, the story feels as if ultimately it goes nowhere. We traverse the history of the family, watch as Jane explores the limits of her own ability to cope, but the end falls rather flat for me. There is no real sense of closure on any of the topics and I found myself feeling nearly as adrift as I did at the beginning.. only with a bit more understanding of those involved. I will say, I feel like this was the intention. I believe the author was writing far more about the journey itself than any destination and if that's the case, well done.. but if there's meant to be a point, it isn't clearly defined.
Despite the fact this story is intriguingly dark at points, it reads to me like someone's grand idea of what deep literature might be.. but in that sense.. it feels half-formed. Even the emotion, while likely muted to match the self-repressive nature of the main character.. comes across like fingertips skirting the edge of a wound.. never daring to dip into the center of the pain while practically telling us at every turn that she's drowning in it.
Did I enjoy it? Yes.. actually. But it's still a tale that plateaus. I think the author could have literally chosen just about any chapter to signal the end of the story and I wouldn't have felt any more uncertain that it had been told to its conclusion.
I think it's worth a risk for those interested in exploring a little taste of the effects our internal political choices as a nation can have on our own people, the way our personal life decisions can affect us long term as individuals, or for those who just enjoy sort of.. meandering writings with little sense of direction. As I said, it's pretty enough.. I just like a bit more substance if an author chooses to take on a tougher subject, than this one provides.
Look at this beautiful cover! I'm so excited to be sharing the reveal with you today!
Title: 'The Other Side of Magic'
Author: Ester Manzini
Publication Date: April 6th, 2021
Publisher: Parliament House Press
In a world inspired by 16th century Italy, magic is a common occurrence. Everyone in the realms of Epidalio and Zafiria is gifted with it at birth, but with every spell casted, their power wanes.
Gaiane Aspares is the result of an accurate selection by her mother, the queen of Zafiria: she’s infinitely powerful, a weapon of mass destruction kept segregated in a tower and used against her will to conquer Epidalio.
From the author of 'The Jealousy of Jalice,' one of the best indie surprises of the year for me, comes a brand new short fiction standalone novel.
Author: Jesse Nolan Bailey
Cover Artist: Rena Violet
Publication Date: September 24th, 2020
Genre: Fantasy (New Weird)Adult
Keep reading to get a FREE copy for a LIMITED TIME only! The link is below!
Rashell’s brother has vanished. When the local villagers express no concern, she enlists the help of a stranger from a faraway city to find Teth.
Investigator Derrik discovers the people worship a massive stone known as the Amethyst. Even more bizarre, an ancient relic of a mummy fuels their reverence.
Given limited time, Rashell and Derrik confront these mysterious elements at play, all the while striving to uncover what happened to Rashell’s brother.
Enthralled by the magic that written stories contain, Jesse Nolan Bailey has always wanted to be an author.
With his debut novel, THE JEALOUSY OF JALICE, and his shorter fiction, AMETHYST, released to the masses, he can now claim such title with relief.
He lives in Durham, North Carolina, where he has embraced the equally gratifying lifework of hosting a trio of spoiled cats and two mini-Aussies.
'The Broken Raven,' book two in the Shadow Skye trilogy by Joseph Elliott, mainly follows the journeys of three characters.. Agatha and Jamie of the Clann-a-Tuath and Sigrid a girl hailing from a far away group they refer to as 'deamhan.'
After having barely escaped Norveg after a vicious war, Agatha and Jamie return with their clan to the Isle of Skye to find their enclave lost to the people of Raasay. Temporarily taking up with another clan they freed in the process, their welcome is unstable at best. The leader and other elders openly debating whether or not they should be allowed to continue staying, aided in a bid to recapture their home, or just pushed out to fend for themselves.
Deception leads to the escape of dangerous shadow creatures called sgàilean from their magical prison, leaving everyone in Skye at risk of death. As Agatha and Jamie take different paths in hopes of saving lives, the stakes are rising elsewhere.
Sigrid, a girl with a wildly independent streak and a seemingly eidetic memory who's sold off by her mother to the cruel king of their lands, finds herself in the neighboring court of King Edmund of Ingland. Witness to the intricacies of a deadly alliance as it's birthed, she agrees to try to stop what's coming.. the genocide of those residing in Skye.
Admittedly, I felt like this story started out really awkwardly. After reading for awhile, I understood it was the author's way of infusing the characters not only with their distinguishable personalities, but also defining the people they came from. He was establishing a complete culture from their traditions to their social structures to their languages.
Truth be told, I even adjusted to them all bit by bit, but some were more difficult than others. Created languages sometimes just mess with my immersion, but that's a personal thing and I can't take away from the author for using them where they work well to indicate education levels, ages, and in this case even a wonderfully neuro-diverse heroine.
As for the story itself, I'm a bit conflicted. I think there were things the author did really well, such as the management of multiple narrators and the visual construction of the region of the world where the people lived. I could see it all mapped out so clearly, even with the travel across the seas connecting their villages.. and mad dash across vast lands to the Isle of Skye.
The main characters are all likeable enough. I was kind of fond of Jamie and definitely had a grudging respect for Sigrid and Agatha. I even rather liked one of the villains, the king of Norveg.. though I know I shouldn't have, still.. I enjoyed the fact he was multi-dimensional in nature.
Overall, though a lot of little things occurred, it just didn't feel like the scope of the tale was that broad. I would have liked to see more development with Jamie and the Bo Riders.. one in particular. And I think resolutions were sometimes had with a proverbial flick of a wrist, despite the length of time they might be spread over.
Certainly worth a read just for the more unusual elements alone.
A Game of Fate
It’s time for terms, Hades.”
He scowled and sat back in his chair, glaring. Aphrodite threw her head back in laughter.
“Someone does not like to lose.”
Her words were like a poker in his side. Hades did not actually mind losing. He lost all the time when he bargained with mortals, but he had not wanted to lose to Aphrodite.
The goddess pressed a finger to her chin and offered a soft hum, as if she did not know what to ask of him. She was wasting his time. She knew what she wanted, but just as he was about to bark at her, she spoke.
“Fall in love, Hades. Better yet, find a girl who will fall in love with you.” Then Aphrodite clapped and exclaimed, “That’s it! Make someone fall in love with you!”
Hades’ jaw tightened, and Aphrodite stared back as if she wished to see to his soul in turn. Her terms were insulting. If it were that easy to fall in love, he would not be alone now.
“Is this your idea of a joke?” he asked, his voice quiet and calm, despite the anger twisting his insides. He was going to have to torture someone just to release the tension in his body.
“Not a joke,” she said, raising a thin blonde brow. “You’ve offered love advice. Follow it.”
Not a joke then, but retribution. She was frustrated with him for offering his opinion on her marriage.
“And if I can’t meet those terms?”
Her smile cut across her face wickedly.
“Then you will release Basil from the Underworld.”
“Your lover?” Hades could not keep the disgust from his voice. They’d just spent the last few minutes discussing her love for Hephaestus, and here she was asking for a man—her hero, to be exact. Basil had fought and died for her in The Great War. “Why? Don’t you want Hephaestus to admit that he loves you?”
She glared at him. “Hephaestus is a lost cause.”
“You haven’t even tried!”
“Basil, Hades. He is who I want.”
“Because you imagine yourself in love with him?”
“What do you know of love? You’ve never loved in your lifetime.”
Those words did not hurt, so much as embarrass him. He leaned toward the goddess.
“Basil loves you, that is true, but if you don’t love him in return, it is meaningless.”
“Better to be loved than not at all,” she countered.
You are a fool, Hades wanted to say. Instead, he asked, “Are you sure this is what you want? You have already petitioned Zeus for a divorce, now you have asked me to resurrect your lover in the event I cannot meet the terms of your contract. Hephaestus will know.”
Aphrodite was quiet, and he recognized her uncertainty in the way she toyed with her lip.
Finally, she answered.
“Yes. It is what I want.” She took a deep breath then and managed a smile. “Six months, Hades. That should be enough time. Thank you for the entertainment. It was…invigorating.”
With that, the Goddess of Love vanished.
I don't know what drew me to 'Mathematics for Human Flourishing' by Francis Su.
If I'm being completely honest, I think I found the title intriguingly unusual. Without actually paying attention at the time to who the author might be, the cadence of the title had a very eastern feel to it.. and being of mixed Asian and Native Hawaiian descent.. sometimes my eye has a tendency toward those fluid sort of word dances.
Perhaps, not so ironically.. in hindsight, as a student I was incredibly bored by mathematics and science. Not initially of course, in grade school instructors often seem to have a different approach to learning than in later grades. Not simply because the age of the students is younger, but in my experience most of them seemed to be in it for the kids and often genuinely liked them. As an adult, I know several people who teach junior high or high schoolers and none of them like their students as a rule.
Likewise, I didn't much care for the instructors who wanted me to fit in a convenient box. And if I didn't like them, I didn't work well for them.. add to that.. the curriculum of math and science in traditional schools.. and I didn't even want to be there. Amusingly enough, I understood it fine. I could teach others, even those in college classes above me. Though I was a student who strongly disliked those classes, as an adult.. some of my favorite casual reads are books on quantum physics and quantum mechanics (science).. and what must you have for those? Mathematics. There's the irony for you.
It probably seems as if I'm off on a tangent here and not reviewing the book, but bear with me.. my apparent tangent relates. What I expected from the book was for it to be heavily focused on mathematical theory and possibly full of formulas and problem solving.. the latter of which I love.. with a few anecdotes which might be interesting.
Don't get me wrong. Sprinkled throughout the book there is some of that, but it's much more than it might seem.
Su actually spends much of his time discussing the ripple effects that mathematics and the attitudes we're unintentionally groomed to have towards them have on our lives. He talks about how differently we might take to the topic if the focus was on learning and exploring, rather than ultimately on the grade and the correct solutions. The experience of exploration in mathematics leading students to find it more fun.. more engaging.. rather than turning away from it because it's shoved at them with a set of hard rules and expectations for results.
There's some discussion on the fact mathematics are used more frequently in our every day lives than we understand. That there are algorithms choosing what we'll see, what opportunities we'll get, who or what we might make contact with and how a deeper understanding of all that might benefit us.
He talks a great deal about spotting patterns (which are my go-to in just about every setting), and how our unknown inherent biases affect our decision making. There was a story in fact.. about restaurants with different menus that was surprising to me at first.. but when I got to thinking about what lead them to this method.. I began to see how it might happen more regularly than people realized.
Certainly, there are assumptions made upon every interaction.. be it personal or professional. We judge, if not by race or common stereotype, at least by our own experiences. And that can lead us to approaching the same situation in an entirely different way, simply because we perceive a certain level of understanding within the other person. It's fascinating really.
In addition to the things I mentioned, I genuinely enjoyed his reflection on letters sent to him by Christopher Jackson.. a man who discovered mathematics as an inmate in a federal prison. Christopher shares some truly introspective self-assessment with the author during the exchanges and the two seem to have forged quite a friendship over the years.
The author touches on a lot of topics that are afflicting us currently and I highly suggest giving this book a try. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the content and his insight.
"Despite her bare skin against mine, she wore secrets like armor, and she shed them for no one. Not even me."
'Blood & Honey,' the sequel to Shelby Mahurin's 'Serpent & Dove,' has been on my absolute must read list for this year.
Though I never got around to reading the first book, the series came with so much fan hype and so much love that well in advance I'd ended up ordering 5 book boxes for the title.. 3 of which include copies of the book. Then when release date arrived and all the boxes were slow to arrive, I purchased a 4th.. an e-book copy so I could read it sooner.. rather than later.
Book two in the Serpent & Dove Series, follows our main couple.. Lou & Reid.. along with their closest friends, as they run from those who want them dead or captured. After a desperate escape from death at the hands of the Dames Blanches, that's pretty much everyone who isn't in their group.. the coven, kingdom, and church are all out for their pound of flesh and their friends are few.
Coco and Ansel are the only ones who seem to be all in, though the group is filled out by Beau and Madame Labelle. Mostly these two add bits of conflict or scheme for whomever's 'own good,' or offer aid in pivotal moments. Lou and Reid know they need strong allies, but for the possibility of securing them, time is short and they must split up. As they attempt to reach out, a nasty fissure grows between them and Morgane toys with them.. their lives and their emotions, as they make their journeys.
"..when a person brings you more hurt than happiness, you're allowed to let them go. You do not have to follow them into the dark."
I did really enjoy the book, it moved at a great pace and was full of plenty of heartache, drama, and harrowing moments. In fact, the opening was great.. one of the best starts to a book I've come across all year. It alerted me easily to the lay of the land, what to expect, what they were up against, and updated me on some of the history I missed by not reading the first of the series. But I also felt like there were a few issues for me personally, though they didn't cause me to withdraw from reading it at all. It was immersive and I consumed it with urgency.
While I enjoyed some of the banter amongst the group members, sometimes it also felt a little forced. I don't know, the emotions in general in the book felt that way. From Lou's hard-headed urge to pick fights to Reid's self-righteous indignation, it just didn't feel genuine all the time.. though to be fair.. most of the party members are emotionally stunted do to their upbringing or experiences and I believe the awkwardness I struggled with was intentional. That being said, though there were moments I liked them both or felt sorry for them, I only really felt attachment to the main couple at the beginning and the end.
There's so much back and forth, especially between Lou and Reid, but amongst the others as well. There's just a lot of unnecessary posturing, often in cases where it just feels token. People making what I would characterize as thoughtless decisions left and right, that harm others or their relationships with them. The relationships themselves cycled frequently and I believe what Mahurin may have meant to convey with this, was the depth of harm their decisions were having on them.
Unfortunately, to me.. what it felt like was a very immature co-dependent fearful attachment between characters. They were close one minute and at odds the next, then back to being close again.. constantly almost looking for reasons to fight about the same things they'd been over and over. It didn't feel as if it happened organically, but it's also not unrealistic. I used to know someone who picked fights with their significant other just because they were bored. Go figure.
"I'd never met a person so attuned to melancholy; at the first sign of introspection, he seemed to just appear like a starving man before a buffet of pastries and sweets."
Ansel is a sweet cinnamon roll and my absolute favorite character in the book. Those of you who have read it, probably have a pretty clear read on my feelings, though I won't spoil here with details. I also absolutely loved Claud and honestly, his character actually is the most interesting in my opinion. Nicholina, mad as a hatter.. but twice as fun, precocious Gabrielle, and Beau.. eventually, also became characters I really liked.. though the reasons couldn't be more different.
From a world-building perspective, there's a lot to see. Mahurin did a fantastic job of creating dynamic regions for the different beings inhabiting them and distinctive ways of life for each. Truth be told, there was one more possible group of allies mentioned at the beginning as being too far away.. and those we saw were so intriguing, I'm kind of hoping they might yet make an appearance in book three.
"Magic didn't rot. It cracked, like a splintering mirror. With each brush of magic, those cracks in the glass deepened. The slightest touch might shatter it."
What I think Mahurin did best, is the crazy magic system. Though some of it is almost difficult to visualize with the emergence of patterns, I loved the way magic wielders connected to their abilities and I loved that there was a scaling cost for using them. Periodically, I do see other authors employ this kind of structure as a way to limit what can be done and keep the conflicts challenging, but the specifics in relation to life and memory especially were fascinating. Were there moments of convenience where even hard answers could be made okay with a little magic? Yes. I also didn't really mind.
I'd like to see those prices paid a bit more. I learned very quickly that though the risk might be great, there was usually some quick fix around the corner.. and that takes a bit of the strength out of them. Not that the author is afraid of gutting the reader a bit with her choices.. just that the story could benefit from more very real consequences that can't simply be magicked away.
"What you are now is not what you've always been, nor is it what you will always be. You are a snake. Shed your skin if it no longer serves you. Transform into something different. Something better."
All in all, I'm eager for the next book. There certainly was a lot to be considered as to the future of this small found family by the time I reached the end pages. Not quite a cliffhanger, the bulk of the plot is wrapped up, there's just a bit of foreshadowing for the continuation of their story.
Continue below to read my review of the book and be sure to check out the rest of the stops on 'The Raven' blog tour brought to you by Random Things Tours, Flame Tree Press, and Jonathan Janz! The complete schedule can be found at the end of the review!
'The Raven' by Jonathan Janz is a gritty, post-apocalyptic story that follows the path of Dez McClane.
Considered a Latent, in the days after the event some call The Shift, he's a man with no special abilities trying to survive in a world full of mythological monsters.
Having believed mankind to be barreling toward the ultimate nuclear stand-off which would result in human extinction, a group of geneticists discover that werewolves, vampires, witches, satyrs, and many other creatures of legend.. really were once real. Additionally, they realize the genetic strands for these creatures are still present in human DNA, lying dormant.. and hatch a plan to trigger their re-emergence into the world.
Picking up about 2 years after the scientists make their move, the opening pages explain that the event has resulted in the deaths of most humans anyway and the transformation of others into nightmarish monsters of lore.
Janz has written a well-paced horror novel with plenty of page-turning action. From the get go, Dez's situation is dire and it really never lets up. He's survived, but lost a lot along the way. Not just those he loves, but also any real sense of self-worth due to the guilt he carries and the notion their deaths were his failures.
Despite the every human for themselves circumstance, he manages to be pragmatic.. while not really giving up hope. Constantly on the move, both to avoid predators and in search of someone he's determined to help, he runs across some of the nastiest antagonists you can imagine. Not all of whom are what one might expect.
Though the journey is mostly that of a lone wolf type character and the monsters far more varied, both genetically and psychologically, the story feels heavily inspired by The Walking Dead. Likely, if you enjoyed either the comics or the tv series, you'll also enjoy this.
It boasts a broad base of supporting characters strewn throughout the story.. some I liked and some I didn't. The author did a fantastic job of picking and choosing those for me, as some of the worst felt absolutely unredeemable, and some of the best.. still gave me conflict in many cases. Enough so, that I.. like the protagonist.. found myself scrutinizing even those who seemed to have good intentions.
All in all, it's a very fun read. The world is a brutal one, so if you're bothered by gore or references to intimate violence, you might steer clear. Otherwise, it's worth a read.
Jonathan Janz is the author of more than fifteen novels and numerous shorter works.
Since debuting in 2012, Jonathan’s work has been lauded by Booklist, Publishers Weekly, The Library Journal, and many others.
He lives in WestLafayette, Indiana, with his amazing wife and three incredible children.
'Misfits' by Hunter Shea is one of those stylistic cult classics in the making.
A horror folklore novel originating from a local legend about the Melon Heads, this is a wonderfully disturbing story that may even leave you feeling unsafe down those eerie, isolated roads that most small towns have hidden away.
Though folk tales of the melon heads in general have roots in a handful of states, Shea credits Michigan lore for his story. Despite that inspiration, he focuses around the mythical street, Dracula Drive.. which is part of the Connecticut-based legends.
Ultimately, the legends have a few things in common. They're nearly always a revenge story and even if they don't begin that way, they often evolve into it at some point. Likewise, the melon heads typically have large, bulbous heads and misshapen bodies, a tendency to feral behaviors, and a fondness for forested areas with lonely roads. All things the recipe for this type of creepy horror might need.
Set in the 90's grunge era, the plot follows a group of high school friends who are arguably already outcasts. They're stoners, some of which have pretty horrible family situations and really only each other to count on. They exist mostly on the edges of society, sometimes they're a bit vicious even with each other, but they also have a bond. They look out for one another.
When one of their friends suffers a brutal sexual assault, refusing to report it out of fear of humiliation, the group decides to handle things themselves. They get the idea into their heads that the melon heads might be real and that maybe they're the answer to their problem.
Up front, this is a rough story and it opens with a bit of a bang. If you're sensitive to violence or sexual assault, gory scenes, or easily frightened, it might not be the book for you. That being said, if none of those things is a trigger for you and you're looking for a good horror tale, look no farther.
Interestingly enough, the character I didn't really think I was going to like.. Mick, won me over. Don't get me wrong, he's not a nice guy. There's no question about that. But he absolutely has justifiable reasons for being who he is.. and what he lacks in kindness and what most would call.. general morality.. he more than makes up for in loyalty and fierceness. I ended up really feeling bad for him actually and rooting him on.
The girls, Marnie and Heidi, are also incredibly close. It was nice two see a couple of female characters that genuinely cared about one another and would go to whatever lengths to help each other. They held each other up, rather than letting the need to compete drag them both down.
Rounding out the boys, Chuck and Vent are actually both kind of sweethearts. Chuck is a big kid with a bright future and a good head on his shoulders. Right from the start, I found myself what had really even drawn him to the group.. but it was easy to see what made him stay.
Atmospherically, it's very heavy. Shea did a great job of conveying the constant dread the group was suffering as the story moved along, the toll it took in that bone-deep exhaustion of too much fear and not enough time to recuperate, and there are some very unnerving scenes.. not all of which are even due to the melon heads themselves. I'm telling you, Mick's circumstances are bad.
If you're a fan of films like Pumpkinhead, Jeepers Creepers, or The Hills Have Eyes.. you're going to love this book. I know I did. It's definitely going to be in the running for best pure horror title of the year for me. We'll have to see if anything can beat it.. I have serious doubts.