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I did not expect to like this book as much as I did. The first couple of chapters showed me that it wasn't the kind of book I usually read, and very often don't enjoy. For starters, it is written in "Third person omniscient" - which is just a fancy way of saying that the reader gets to see inside everybody's head - their thoughts, opinions, and motivations. I generally prefer a strong, limited P.O.V. - inside one character's head at a time. Secondly, I usually prefer more traditional genre novels to literary fiction, and this very much fits into the literary fiction mold. Yes, there is a bit of mystery, an anxiousness to discover what happened, but this novel is essentially a character study wrapped inside a mystery. And the character being studied isn't all that appealing (to start).

But. I was given an advance copy in return for an honest review, so I pressed on. And I'm so glad I did! The more I read, the more I wanted to read. I wanted to know, yes, what happened to Carrie, but also, I wanted to follow this unlikable woman, Hyosun Park, on her journey. A journey that leads her to not just find Carrie, but also to understand her son and his love for Carrie. A journey that takes her into herself, and through the blockade of her upbringing to a richer, more complete understanding of herself, and the world around her. Oh yeah, and she also solves the mystery of Carrie's disappearance!

The Tree Of After Life is the debut novel of new author J. S. Vaughn. Based on this book, I am quite sure I will be reading more from this author.

Neal Asher's Dark Intelligence is the start of a new series (Transformation) set in the "Polity" universe of most of his previous books. You need not have read those to enjoy this book, though. This book takes place about a century after the Polity-Prador war ended. While readers of his previous books will recognize references to characters and events in those books, they are mentioned as more of an "in joke" than information crucial to the plot of this one. I've read some of those books, but not all of them, and I had no trouble understanding the plot and characters of this one.

Neal Asher is not a "favorite" author, but he is a good one. He misses the "favorite" mark mostly because his books are not always easy to follow, and Dark Intelligence is no exception. In this book, there are time shifts and flashbacks, and inclusions of seemingly unrelated events and characters that only later (in some cases, much later) become relevant to the plot. The pacing is also somewhat uneven, sometimes zipping along, other times getting bogged down in technological details. (Asher's work - both this and previous books I've read - is definitely hard science fiction!) There is also more violence and gore than I generally enjoy. Finally, the characters are not particularly appealing. They're cynical, ruthless and sometimes cruel or bloodthirsty. All of which gives them depth and dimension, but still, they're probably not people (to use the term loosely) you'd want to hang out with for any length of time. Or even meet, in Isobel's case!

All that said, the story/plot is engaging, the concepts involved are complex and intriguing, and I enjoyed the book. I'll probably read the next in the series, but I'll wait until the price comes down to "paperback" levels.


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My newest discovery: I "discovered" - Ilona Andrews (actually, a husband and wife team using her name as a not-exactly pseudonym) through a listing for "Clean Sweep" on either BookBub or BargainBooksey (don't remember which). This is a novella that's the start of a series called "The Innkeeper Chronicles" and I've already bought and read the next one. The good news for some, is that the next book is being written as a serial on the web. (Not my preferred style of reading - I hate waiting on installments. I prefer to fly through a book and get right on to the next one!).

Paranormal and/or SciFi (you'll see what I mean), lots of action, just a touch of romance in these first books, strong female protagonist, equally strong male characters. Best of all (for me) they've already written many books in a couple of other series, so I'll have lots to read in the coming weeks. From the descriptions, the other series also have strong female leads and strong male characters, with paranormal action adventure. Anyway, check out their website or Facebook page, or buy this book at any major retailer:

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