Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Born to Be Badger by Shelly Laurenston: review

4/5 stars on Goodreads

Born to Be Badger by Shelly Laurenston

Born to Be Badger is the fifth book in the Honey Badger Chronicles that follow a group of basketball playing honey badger shifters who moonlight as thieves, killers and rabble rousers. They’re borderline sociopaths and a reader can never be sure how they react in any given situation (other than with violence.)

In this book, the playoffs that brought the girls to New York in the first place are still going on, but while it’s mentioned several times, not a single game is played. Instead, the group learns of a new poison that might be the only thing in the world that can kill them. Not that it worries them long. The story progresses to a violent ambush and a declaration of war among shifters. All in a day’s work for the girls.

The romantic (sub)plot is between Tock Meyerson-Jackson, the bomb expert of the group (not that she blows anything up in this book), and Shay Malone, a tiger shifter footballer. Like in previous books, the romance is sort of in the background, isn’t terribly romantic or emotional, and kind of just happens. There’s no inner monologues or other indications about why they like one another, let alone love, so it’s mostly about attraction and lust until it isn’t. The best interactions by far and scenes where both characters come to life are when they deal with Shay’s daughter Dani. In the end, she’s as good a reason as any for the two to become a pair.

Like always, the cast of characters is large and the reader never really knows who is important. Some appear for a scene, others clearly have elaborate backstories and might show up again. Some are characters from author’s earlier series that were given more than necessary airtime, but since I haven’t read those books, their appearance and tendency to take over wasn’t so much nostalgic as it was annoying.

Still, I would’ve like if the main pair was given as much space and as good descriptions as the guests. Now it wasn’t until half-way to the book that I realized that Tock is Black and Shay—the guy with Irish name—is Asian. Maybe earlier books brought that up, but I can’t remember things from that far. Their ethnicity doesn’t play a role in the story, but details like this are what bring these stories alive.

Compared to earlier books, the story advanced in a rather straightforward way. Like always, events and violence sort of spring up, and the plot happens in the background, moved by forces that aren’t shown, and the girls simply react to events. But side-plots were kept to minimum, and we sort of finally know who killed Shay’s father, so that’s progress. The ending promises more violence to come. I don’t really read this series for the romances, so I found this entertaining in a totally bonkers way. I’ll likely read more.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, November 03, 2023

System Collapse by Martha Wells: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

System Collapse by Martha Wells

System Collapse is the seventh MurderBot diaries book and it continues right after the events of the fifth book, Network Effect (book six, Fugitive Telemetry, was a skip back in time). SecUnit, ART the highly autonomic AI ship (or Asshole Research Transport), and their humans are still orbiting the planet that suffered from alien contamination. This time they’re trying to convince the colonists to evacuate—or at least not to accept the offer made by one of the horrid corporations, Barish-Estranza, as that would lead to slavery for them.

The story starts with SecUnit being in a funk of some sort, but it keeps redacting the explanation, like it often does with memory files it doesn’t want to handle. But the reader soon figures out it’s suffering from some sort of episode that is compromising it and its ability to make decisions, which isn’t good in a highly volatile situation where everyone relies on its ability to react fast. It takes a while before it’s ready to share with the reader what’s wrong with it.

SecUnit needs to pull itself together though, when it accompanies two of ART’s humans and Ratthi to an isolated colony they knew nothing about, hoping they get there before Barish-Estranza. They don’t. It’s time for SecUnit to save the day again, with the most SecUnit way so far.

This was a great book. SecUnit’s struggle to understand what is going on with its systems was real and relatable. The cast was small and things were kept tight, and while there were some action scenes, they didn’t take over. I had some trouble remembering who was who at the beginning, as no handy hints were given to the reader; I especially struggled to remember who Three was. But it didn’t matter for long. The ending was good, as SecUnit finally figured out what it wants to do next and who with. I simply must have more.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.