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Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Hidden Gems


Welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday! Once hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, it is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. It’s a weekly book feature where a topical list-prompt is posted and readers respond with their top ten for that prompt! Yours truly tends to go over ten, but hey, what can a passionate reader do?
This week’s topic is: Hidde Gems
Or, what books are completely underappreciated in every way, shape and form, which is not only sad because they are such good books to devour, but also because, how are you supposed to talk to others about these books if everyone else hasn’t read them and obsessed over them like you have!?
Ahem.
Yes, I have the books for you:


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Soul of the World by David Mealing

This is honestly one of the better books that I’ve read recently (and I’ve read some really kickass books). The sequel just came out last month (and I’m pretty dang stoked to read it), but the first book has been out for over a year, now, and I’ve found that not a lot of people I know I have read it. I’m over here quite confused by that, because it has everything I want in an epic fantasy, except that Mealing just seems to do all those elements better? I just don’t get it, how has everyone not devoured this debut yet?


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The Twelve Houses Series by Sharon Shinn

Now, I may be completely out of tune and these might be super popular books, especially after they first came out, but I don’t remember them being super popular. And, to be completely honest, this series is on my To-Reread list (hopefully this year, if I can manage it) because while I remember falling head over heels for this series, I can’t exactly remember all what goes on.


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The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica by James A. Owen

If you know me, I have probably preached this series to you. It floors me how everyone hasn’t read this series and it isn’t a childhood classic. It’s just a positively fun book with a twist at the end of the first book that completely changes the entire series and sets the tone for the rest of the books that, honestly, amped it up for me. I recently reread the first five (still need to read the last two for the first time) and truly, I don’t understand how everyone isn’t as obsessed as I am.


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The Bloodbound Trilogy by Erin Lindsey

I powered through this trilogy so quickly and I’ve been waiting for Lindsey to return to a medieval fantasy setting ever since. You can check out my reviews if you want to read the full raves, but I just couldn’t get enough of her characters and her world, but especially Alix. She was an inspiration when I needed one most and I think more people, but women especially, should be reading about her.


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The Scorched Continent Trilogy by Megan O’Keefe

Ahhhhh, give me Detan and Tibbs forever and always. Not only did this series have a completely unique and interesting premise, but the characters drew me in and didn’t let me go (even if they broke my heart a little bit in the process). Another trilogy you’ll fly through, so go ahead and buy them all at once and save yourself the pain, yeah?


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Epic Failure Series by Joe Zieja

If you like to laugh and you want to do it thinking about space, do I have the books for you. Another series I’m not sure how it hasn’t taken the world by storm, this series I look forward to in order to not only escape reality, but know I’m going to have a good time while doing it. It’s lighthearted and hilarious, but also has heart and characters you can’t help but root for (Deet forever <3).


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The Chaos Queen Quintet by Christopher Husberg

I think this is one of the more popular books on this list, but it still isn’t Brandon Sanderson or Brent Weeks level popular and that just leaves me…confused. Husberg’s worldbuilding is enough alone to get me to read everything he ever pens and publishes, but then you add in the fantastic characters, the engrossing plot and the intricate world, and your question shouldn’t be why you waited so long to read this series, but why isn’t it next summer yet, because FEAR THE STARS is coming and I’m so ready.


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Bloodsounder’s Arc by Jeff Salyards

Such a gem of a series that I am so thankful I stumbled upon. It’s dark, it’s gritty, but it’s so visceral and real, told through the eyes of a scribe, which was just so freakin’ neat and such a different way to tell these stories. If you’re a fan of fantasy, you’ve got to read these books.


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The Cal Leandros Series by Rob Thurman

This is urban fantasy at it’s finest. If you’re a fan of Supernatural, then you’re going to fall in love with Cal and Niko just as hard, but falling for them is going to be just as dangerous.


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Shattered Kingdoms by Evie Manieri

So, full disclosure: I haven’t actually finished this trilogy yet. In fact, I’ve only read the first book and it’s been so long since I’ve read it, I can’t remember too much about it (it’s another series on my reread/to finish list). HOWEVER, I remember being positively floored and desperate to read the next one (thanks for messing that up for me, life).


There you have it! A list of incredible books and a now even heavier TBR list. A lot of women on this list, too, which is a bit sad, because it just shows how much we need to support our female authors, because they are damn good storytellers. But regardless, let me know if you decide to check out one of these books! Obviously, I’m dying to talk to others about their awesomeness. And please, share your links to your TTT lists down below, so I can be sure and check them out, too!
Read on!
 

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Books

Nanoshock

The Nitty-Gritty Details 

Title: Nanoshock
Author: K.C Alexander
Publisher: Angry Robot, Nov. 2017
Blurb: As Riko works to rebuild her shattered cred, following the events of Necrotech, she’s stuck fighting off every jerk looking to raise their standing on the streets. But when a corp with some serious influence ups the stakes, Riko’s going to have to take the fight to them, put this nonsense down for good. Nothing is what it seems when corp politics are in play, and another necro blight right where her answers are buried might very well be the end of the life she didn’t know she’d borrowed.

The Experience
(This review hints at spoilers)

Friends, do I have some thoughts I need to get out about Nanoshock.
This review is coming a little late, considering I hammered out the last, eh, 200 pages or so within 24 hours, right before I was leaving for vacation, so it’s been a few weeks since I experienced all the feels this book caused. That doesn’t mean they’ve become any less potent, thinking about them now.
First, I need to call attention to one thing in particular.
That first line.
Ladies and gentlemen, if you want to know how to write a bloody brilliant first line that causes your readers to go around and show it to everyone in the near vicinity (and then more people later), just so they can be caught off-guard and as floored as you were when you first read it (okay, almost everyone; not showing my boss/parents that line…), then look no further than Nanoshock.
You wanna know what it is, don’t you?
Good. Go read it and find out.
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But what I really want to talk about is that ending. Because I need to process, people. You see, I feel into the classic blunder. I got comfortable. This is after Riko fought so hard for redemption. This is after the major fight, the “boss battle,” if you will; the point in a video game where you’re warned that you won’t be able to complete any side missions if you push further, so your choice better be f-ing solid. Yeah, this is after that, in the bar. I think I was feeling slightly akin to what Riko felt; relief, comfort, acceptance, even if it wasn’t fully there yet. At home. I honestly thought the book would end there and I was totally content with that.
I was completely, totally and utterly blindsided by what happened next.
I won’t actually say what it was, because I don’t want to ruin this book for you, friends. But my jaw dropped and I stilled (I usually rock when I read) and I just set the book down in complete disbelief. As a writer, I was applauding, because of course this is what Alexander would do next. Of bloody course. But as a reader?
Fucking hell no.
How could you?
And honestly, there isn’t a better compliment than I can give than that.
Read on!
PS: Alexander, tell me: is there a book three? Please tell me there is.

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Books

Inherit the Flame

Holy shit.
I don’t think I’m going to do this book review justice, because…wow. Talk about a way to end a trilogy.
I’m actually at a loss from words, here. To the point that, I’m not exactly sure what to even talk about, this book was that good. Should I mention that I read it in a span of, what, three days? Two days? That the plot took twists and turns that I absolutely did not see coming, yet were the epitome of brilliance? Should I discuss how utterly and completely satisfying the last, eh, I’d say 50 pages were? Especially that second to last chapter, I mean, damn. 
Except for one very particular thing that absolutely shattered my heart.
You know what I’m talking about, O’Keefe.
You’re merciless.
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It’s the kind of end of the series that, when you’re 50 pages from the end, you have no idea how everything’s going to get wrapped up, because there is still so much going on and there is no possible way it’s going to get wrapped up and all those threads tied with so little page space left. Yet you close the book and you’re content. You have (mostly, see above accusation for clarification) those warm, content butterflies fluttering in your stomach, completely satisfied with the ending.
Oh, you have questions, still. And you want to see more of this world, continue to be a part of the lives that you’d grown to adore so fondly. Yet, for this trilogy? You’re very content how things ended, especially considering it went down not at all like you expected (but, looking back, in exactly the way it needed to, for your desired ending to be possible at all).
It’s also the type of ending that, as soon as you finish the book, you may rush to check the author’s website (and maybe also her Twitter) to find out when the next book penned by her hand is meant to be published. You’ll be dismayed to realize that there is something in the works, but it’s probably not going to be in your hands anytime soon. Because you’re selfish and you want to escape into worlds told so beautifully, with charming, complex characters and complicated conflicts, as O’Keefe has with the entire Scorched Continent series.
It’s the type of ending that leaves you in a book hangover so the review you write isn’t as polished as it should be or praise the book or it’s author as much as they deserve–and O’Keefe and this series deserves the best of the best.
But, perhaps, experiencing that hangover from her stories, getting as invested in her characters as you did and being disappointed you have to wait for more; perhaps that praise speaks volumes for itself.
So go check out the Scorched Continent series for yourself.
Trust me, you’re going to love it.
Read on!
PS: To O’Keefe directly, here, if she reads this. These three words: “I promise it.” Holy shit, talk about the chills you caused from that. I mean, I’m getting them again just thinking about that scene. Whoa.

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Waiting On Wednesday

Waiting for Wednesday: Nanoshock

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine where we readers salivate over the books we wish were on our bookshelves yesterday.
This week’s victim: Nanoshock by K.C. Alexander
Publication Date: November 2nd, 2017 by Angry Robot

As Riko works to rebuild her shattered cred, following the events of Necrotech, she’s stuck fighting off every jerk looking to raise their standing on the streets. But when a corp with some serious influence ups the stakes, Riko’s going to have to take the fight to them, put this nonsense down for good. Nothing is what it seems when corp politics are in play, and another necro blight right where her answers are buried might very well be the end of the life she didn’t know she’d borrowed.

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Nanoshock is a sequel to Necrotech, a book that I reviewed and was positively awed by. It was a book that wasn’t necessarily within my comfort zone (i.e., it dealt with some tech that was a bit over my head, being that I’ve just recently gotten into the science fiction genre, and the main character was completely my opposite in every way, yet I still sympathized with her) yet I still enjoyed the hell out of it. So needless to say, I’m pretty stoked to see what happens in the next installment of Riko’s adventures and who else (foolishly) tries to get in her way. Also, it gets published a day before my birthday, so that’s pretty freakin’ neat.
Can we also just adore that cover for a second? If that doesn’t scream badass motha-fucka coming through, I don’t know what does. And personally, I could use a few more badass women in my life.
Read on!

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Waiting On Wednesday

Inherit the Flame

waitingonwednesday
Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine where we readers salivate over the books we wish were on our bookshelves yesterday.
If you’ve read my recent book review, it comes to no surprise that I am anxiously awaiting Megan E. O’Keefe’s third installment in The Scorched Continent series, Inherit the Flame. Luckily, I don’t have to wait too long, as it is slotted to come out from Angry Robot on April 4th, 2017. And it’s a good thing the wait is short, because the ending from Break the Chains…that ending…
*starts sniffling*
However, despite the surprising and painful ending of the previous book, the blurb for Inherit the Flame actually gives me a strange amount of comfort that things might be okay.

After Detan retrieves the renowned engineer Nouli from the clutches of the empire, he returns his aunt’s city to find it under siege by Thratia’s army. With Nouli’s help, they turn back the tide – ­until imperial forces show up, prepared to hammer Thratia’s army against the anvil of the city’s walls. Worse yet, the imperial advance is aided by an elite force of deviant magic users.
His aunt is forced to forge an uneasy alliance with Thratia to keep the city from falling back under imperial control – but Detan’s wary. While Thratia and his aunt bring their forces to bear against the imperial threat, Detan puts his own plans into motion, scheming to ensure that when the final blow is dealt, Thratia and her army find themselves on the other side of the city’s walls.

Then again, Detan is involved, so that comfort is probably misplaced (sorry Detan, you know I love you. Even if it’s difficult, after what you did. AND YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID). Regardless, I want–no, I need–to know what happens next. I feel like everything previously has been building up to this. And I’m ready for it. Oh, so ready.
Also, can we pause for a moment and just stare at this gorgeous cover?
Inherit the Flame by Megan E O'Keefe
Seriously. Whoever does the cover art for this series is top notch.
*goes back to flipping days on the calendar, hoping the gesture might speed up time*
Happy Waiting!

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Books

Break the Chain

If you read my review over the first book in The Scorched Continent (which, can we just say how fantastic of a series name that is?), Steal the Sky, it comes to no surprise that I was really, really excited to read the next installment. Unfortunately, I’m in a financial situation where buying books isn’t a luxury I get to partake in. Thankfully, I have within my grasp the glorious power of a library card. As soon as I realized that Break the Chains was already published (which was actually realized in the middle of writing that review; seriously, it’s the section in all caps), I immediately went to my library’s catalog to request it.
I’m sure you can imagine my disappointment when none of Megan E. O’Keefe’s works were there.
I’m also sure that you can continue to imagine my sheer and utter elation when I got an email saying that Break the Chains was on hold for me, because the library had bought it.
I just started using this library as my main hub for my book addiction, so I just discovered that you can request up to three books a month to be bought by the library and added to their catalog. So I requested O’Keefe’s second novel, but honestly, I didn’t really expect anything to happen. That just seemed way too good of a deal to be true.
Yet it did happen (and very quickly after I put in the request, too!) and I’ve read it and got completely floored by it and now I’m anxiously awaiting the publication of book three. So shout out to LPL for making that experience happen. And I apologize formally for all of the book requests you’ll be getting from me every month (I’m not even kidding, I’ve already maxed out this month’s request availability…).
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But now, the real reason we are all here: to rave about Break the Chains. Mostly, though, I’m going to freak about the last…eh, I’d wager ten pages.
Because holy.shit.
Don’t get me wrong: the entire book was lovely and lived up to the expectations that the first one set. Slipping back into cahoots with Detan and Tibs felt like returning into the familiar, warm embrace of a loved one. Seriously. I just want to third wheel it with those two, because I’m sort of in love with them? Then, Ripka’s journey in the prison with New Chum had some of my favorite chapters in the book. The characters they met and the situations they got themselves in were intense and also slightly heartbreaking. It was hard to watch Ripka have to restrain her actual personality through a mask, making herself lesser, in my opinion. Once again, the dialogue was awesome, the details were everything I wished all books would include more of and I continue to be fascinated by the harsh setting and great worldbuilding.
So yeah, the entire book was really, really good.
But those last ten pages, y’all.
Ten is a rough estimate, as I had to return the book to its proper home at my kickass public library. But there I was, just reading my way innocently along (translation: actually home sick and feeling utterly miserable, Break the Chains being the only thing powerful enough to help me forget for a moment that I felt like death). And then suddenly, a certain character reappears. She has…done things. And then Detan…freaking Detan…
I couldn’t believe it. I actually got pissed. I’m no genius by any means, but usually, I can pick up a feel for a book’s momentum and not guess the ending, necessarily, but nine times out of ten, I’m not caught off-guard. I know where the book is headed. This ending? Completely caught off-guard. And not in a good way. Not at bloody all (which, actually, is a great thing, because O’Keefe masterfully manipulated my emotions and completely shredded my heart and, as a writer, I am so impressed; as the heartbroken reader, I’m anxiously awaiting for April 4th so I can read Inherit the Flame, with the full expectation that O’Keefe will FIX THIS. Because you can’t just ends things like this. You just can’t).
Ahem.
Obviously, you’re annoyed right now, because I have detailed you nothing about what actually ripped my soul to shreds. I’m not kidding–my chest physically hurt after I put the book down, floored (and I really don’t think the coughing my lungs out was the sole cause). But just as obviously, I can’t tell you what happens. It’d spoil everything. And this is not a series to be spoiled. It is a series to be read and enjoyed and then discussed with me, because none of my friends have read it yet and it’s driving me nuts having no one to talk to about this.
So what are you waiting for? Go. Invest your heart into fictional characters only to have it broken, which still hurts even though you know the pain is going to happen. Read. That’s what I meant. Go read O’Keefe’s The Scorched Continent. 
Read on!

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Books

Steal the Sky

** Copy of Steal the Sky by Megan E. O’Keefe gloriously given by Agent Sam Morgan of Jabberwocky Literary Agency in exchange for an honest review**
I did this book the greatest disservice I think you can do to a book: start it right in the middle of the holidays.
I began reading Steal the Sky on December 12th, 2016 (thanks go to Goodreads for the stats). I finished it on January 13th, 2017 (curses go to Goodreads for that realization). Sure, a month isn’t really a long time to finish a book. Especially when you add in going home for Christmas plus New Years, trying to balance two jobs and getting a PS4 for Christmas and rapidly playing catch-up on all of your favorite games. But for me, a month, no matter if it is December or May, is a really long time to finish a book.
Especially a book of this caliber.
I can think of two main elements that made this book positively fantastic; made it to where I actually read a solid 250+ pages last weekend, thus proving how quickly I could have (and should have) devoured it, had I not given in to other delights; made it to where I just stalked O’Keefe’s website AND SAW THE SECOND BOOK IS ALREADY OUT AND I’M TRYING NOT TO HAVE AN AUDIBLE FREAK OUT MOMENT BECAUSE I’M WORKING AT A LIBRARY AND WE’RE SUPPOSED TO BE QUIET HERE.
Ahem.
The first aspect that clued me into knowing I was going to fall in love with this book was not just the characters themselves–which, honestly, would still be enough–but their interactions with one another. Detan and Tibs deserve to see their friendship portrayed on screen, simply so I can listen to their witty banter and see their hilarious facial-expression-exchanges somewhere else besides my head. They had me laughing from the start, pulled at my heartstrings on numerous occasions and from the very first page, felt so utterly natural; so real. Add in New Chum, Ripka Watch Captain (oh, I could write pages upon pages about the badassery and favoritism I feel towards Ripka Watch Captain), the dopple and the slew of other characters that you interact with in this creative, unique steampunk universe and my friend, you will be hooked. So utterly hooked.
Yet that wasn’t even my favorite aspect of the book.

I know, right? How could I fall so in love with the characters, be so drawn into their relationships, be utterly convinced at their reality that my own moods were affected by what they were going through (particularly on the Black), and yet that isn’t my favorite aspect of the book? What could possibly top that?
The details, friends. The details.
I grew up on Tolkien, so there isn’t any surprise that I have a fondness for details (but details that matter, details that entice and excite me, unlike the pages of details I’ve been forced to suffer through in works by authors like Steinbeck). O’Keefe’s work was special to me because I was constantly noticing the details, but not in an overbearing way. And in noticing them and being impressed with not only how they were written, but also what they were describing and how in-scene they brought me, I found myself craving more. I wanted paragraphs, page upon page, of detail. But, like I said, we weren’t onslaughted with description and backstory and the inner workings of the mind. They were sprinkled in, expertly woven into the narrative to the point that you can’t imagine reading this story without them.
Personally, I feel like that mastery–and risk–over detail is a lost art.
Technology has forced us to live life fast-paced, expecting everything instantly, where we just want to go, go, go. In talking with a lot of readers, I’ve found that many don’t appreciate a solid paragraph or page of description like readers once did. In turn, I think authors and their books run the risk of choosing to cut those details or hell, not even writing them in the first place, trying to appease the shortened attention spans and increased need to keep moving without pause of modern day readers.
Yet not O’Keefe. Not Steal the Sky. We get into the nitty-gritty of the world. We are given the extra details. We are allowed to pause and soak it all in–and with so many elements incorporated into this novel, there is plenty to soak in; plenty that deserves our pause and attention. And though I can never know if O’Keefe was purposeful in how she used detail in her novel, if there was any ulterior motive in being a more descriptive writer (in my opinion) or if she just writes this brilliantly naturally, I am so thankful for it. I am so thankful for the reminder that detail can be incorporated and it can be enjoyed and written in ways that make you smile, nod your head or cringe.
Detail is the biggest reason why I would label Steal the Sky as utterly refreshing.
Notice how I gave you no examples of what I was talking about above? No witty banter exchanges between Detan and Tibs? No paragraph showing exactly what I mean by expertly inserted and gloriously refreshing detail? I can’t know O’Keefe’s inspiration or process (but damn if I wouldn’t love to find out), but I do know my own and I’m not afraid to admit that I purposefully left any examples out, upping your curiosity and causing an itch for you to know exactly what I’m talking about; an itch that can only be sated by procuring a copy of Steal the Sky yourself. If my not-so-cleverly-disguised-or-executed tactic didn’t work, then you should just take my word for it and hop on down to the library. This is a writer–and a series–you are not going to want to miss.
Read on!
PS: Biggest missed opportunity of the year last year? O’Keefe was at WorldCon last year and I distinctly remember seeing her standing across from me in this epic writers circle I’m still baffled that I somehow was standing in the shadows of…and I didn’t say hello. I’m still pissed at myself for it, especially now that I’ve read her work and just want to nerd out/fangirl with her about it. UGH.

Categories
Books

Necrotech

**Copy of Necrotech by K.C. Alexander graciously sent in exchange for an honest review by agent Lisa Rodgers of Jabberwocky Literary Agency**
And honestly, I think the best summation of this book is simply this: holy shit. What a whirlwind of emotions this book takes you through. Though I didn’t empathize with Riko–and gladly didn’t, because I can’t imagine surviving the hell she went through in my own life, nor being as much of a hard-earned badass that she is–I sympathized with her the entire time. The blows she was dealt, no one should have to endure. I was frustrated when she was frustrated, just wanting to know what was going on–but memory loss has a bad habit of making that near impossible. And then as the situation continued to deteriorate to the point of where I had no idea how Riko was staying sane, let alone surviving and continuing to push forward, my sympathy skyrocketed. And then the book ended and I just stared at my hands, wondering why the sequel didn’t magically appear within them. Isn’t that how books work?
(Hint: that’s not how they work. Dammit.)
(Second hint: notice how purposefully vague I’m being about what Riko is actually dealing with and what she actually goes through? Yeah, I’m giving away nothing. Go read it for yourself. You won’t regret it.)
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Since I’m not going to tell you anything about the plot or give away any truly juicy details, I will share the main aspect that of the book that I thought made it such an interesting read: Riko herself and her personality and how she juxtaposed to me. Which is to say, we are the exact opposite in practically every regard. Riko is a badass. I’m lame. Riko is sexually experienced and enjoys it. I’m a virgin and absolutely terrified to experience sex for the first time. Riko puts a sailor’s vulgarity to shame. I actually get slightly uncomfortable when a person’s vocabulary consists of using “fuck” as a noun, adjective and verb. Riko is dealing with the complete and totally ruining of the harsh life she’s built for herself within an even harsher world. I’m just a kid struggling to pay bills and chase writing dreams at the same time. Riko’s greatest strength is her toughness, her perseverance, her cold calculations. My biggest strength is my positivity. Riko is fit as hell. I’m will go to my grave attempting to run off all the second helping I eat. She has a metallic arm. I have a metallic screw that holds my elbow together.
We are both tatted, though, so there are similarities.
What I’m getting at,  though, is usually, I enjoy a book so much because of how invested I get into the characters. And that investments stems from forming connections with those characters, usually through seeing pieces of myself within them. I don’t think I’ve ever read about a character like Riko, who was so totally and utterly different from me, yet still found myself drawn to her and invested in her story, in her life, even though I couldn’t connect with her in ways I usually hope to connect with characters. I still rooted for her, even though sometimes her mannerisms or choices made me uncomfortable or how negative her outlook could be made the positive soul in me feel both foolish and defensive. But the most amazing part that happened, after I closed the book and waited for the second book to suddenly appear, to no avail?
I still feel like I understood her.
And I think that is just really impressive.
Necrotech is a thrill ride. You got action, you got advanced tech, you got vibrant, fearless, reckless, intriguing characters (though I didn’t talk about him here, I really, really loved Indigo). Akin to Rob Thurman’s Cal Leandros series (one of my favorite series), this is a book you should be reading for both pure fun yet also so your emotions are pulled a little bit. Because it’s impossible not to both feel for Riko, yet at the same time, eagerly await whatever shit she has to go through next, if only so you can watch her kick ass one more time.
Read on!