I don’t read a lot of thrillers, but I do enjoy them occasionally. This particular psychological thriller is more about keeping secrets: secrets of infidelity, of addiction, of unhappiness, of the lengths people will go to in order to keep something, or someone, they think is theirs. Sophie Knight is unhappy, she’s depressed and turns to alcohol and smoking as a way to drown out her pain. She has an older husband who, while he loves her and will give her any worldly possession Sophie could want, doesn’t offer emotional support. He wants his younger wife to put on a happy face and not talk about her demons. Then, while out with her girlfriend, Sophie meets Michael. An incredibly pretty young man who makes Sophie feel seen, and less lonely. But even the affection of this handsome man can’t stave off Sophie’s demons, and soon the demons don’t stay in her head. Sophie is tormented by something very real, and the life she has built for herself and her husband is now at stake. It sounds really thrilling, but there are some pretty big content warnings that I feel compelled to mention.
The second book in the “Broken Gears” trilogy, “Into the Fire”, picks up seamlessly from where the first book left off, with only a few reminders of what had occurred in the previous book. This is definitely one of those series that you 1. Need to read in order and 2. Have to pay attention to as the author weaves sub plot atop sub plot while showcasing her lovely prose style writing. Which fits perfectly with this Victorian style book with mild steampunk flavors. I say mild mainly because these books tend to spend more time on the etiquette of the Victorian-like society then the technology, for example. That being said, it reads like a historical fiction with how Fraedrich shows the reader more of Lenore’s home nation, the societal rules, and the tropical island of Bone Port, where more than one discovery is made!
“Parting Shadows” gets its initial spark from the character Estella Havisham from “Great Expectations”, however, as someone who fails at reading classics, I can confidently say you don’t have to have read Dickinson’s novel in order to understand, or appreciate, the world that Swed presents. Ultimately, this is a story about the layers of a person, of nurture vs. nature almost, and overcoming what you were raised to do in order to live the life of your choosing—without a murderous AI in your head. Which Astra has. Did I forget to mention that? Well, there it is: Astra was raised by an advanced AI—almost think Hal from 2001 Space Odyssey—all because a human man used her programming against her, he manipulated her, had her heart broken, and then abandoned her. I may not have read “Great Expectations” but I’ve seen things like the Terminator often enough to know you don’t do that sort of thing to an advanced AI and expect things to just be swell after. In retaliation, the AI adopts a daughter, Astra, and from the moment Astra is able to walk practically, her AI mother is training her to be heartless, to pick out a person’s mental weaknesses, and to destroy the man who hurt her most.
There are very few nonfiction books I like to read, but true crime is always the exception. So, of course, when I found this beauty about the first American serial killer, one that occurred just before all the Jack the Ripper Killings—and had some people across the pond believing these fiends were the same perpetrator—sign me up! I was a little leery though, mainly because after reading “Devil in the White City” I was, frankly, a little disappointed. That book was mainly on the Chicago World’s Fair, not so much on Henry H. Holmes and how he committed his murders, or what really happened in his murder hotel. This book didn’t have THAT problem. Oh no! Hollandsworth scoured old newspaper reports, police statements, and death certificates and was able to present his readers with the utter brutality of this killer. Unfortunately, however, that was about all the author could give.
One of my favorite things in sci-fi is the question of what it means to be human, and when do machines cross that line into being truly alive, capable of free will, of questioning their makers, of wanting to be a part of this thing called “life”. “Urban Heroes” leans hard into that question and I love it. You have the main character, Calista, who is on the run from the uprising between man and machine she was accidentally a part of. Calista is a pilot, which means she has an almost symbiotic relationship with her ship all for the low, low price of trading her arm for a robotic one. Calista runs in with people who have more machine parts then actual machines, and yet they are offered more rights than the true robotic AI populating their world. Which is occupied by floating cities now that the world has kind of crumbled away, or something. With Calista is Axton, who pretty much everyone and their mother wants to get their hands on. Why? That is slowly teased out over the course of this very short book, and I loved the tragedy that was Calista and Axton. This book makes you think, question what is truly alive, breaks your heart, and leaves you wanting more. Maybe too much more?
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