Awaken – Spotlight + Giveaway

AWAKEN

Good morning! Good morning! I am so happy to be a part of the Rockstar Book Tours blog tour for Awaken! Be sure to check out the rest of the tour, (links found below), or click the banner above for their website. They have amazing tours happening all the time. And don’t forget to scroll down for an awesome GIVEAWAY!!!!!

In the city of Daventry, citizens live without question of authority, liberty or even the ability to dream. Your purpose is determined by your placement within the Sectors of Society. 16 year old Ethan Drake is quiet and awkward without a lot of friends. Plagued by nightmares of people and places he doesn’t recognize, he struggles to fit in. Much to his classmates surprise, he is placed in the esteemed Technology Sector alongside the city’s top leaders. Soon his vivid and frightening dreams consume his life. He turns to his mentor, Dr. Godrik Stevens, a geneticist and the holder of many secrets to help him figure out what’s wrong with him. In their search for a cure, they uncover a secret about their beloved city so horrifying, it could change their lives forever. Of course, there are those who want the secret to remain hidden and soon Ethan finds himself in the middle of a war. Will he be able to find the answers he so desperately seeks before its too late?

Does that sound intriguing or what?! Awaken goes on sale December 5, links are below!

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Title: AWAKEN

Author: Georgina Kane

Pub. Date: December 5, 2017

Publisher: Fierce Girl Publishing House

Pages: 278

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Find it: AmazonGoodreads

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Georgina Kane – I graduated from St. Cloud State University with a BA in English Writing and Literature. I’ve been writing since childhood but I’ve recently started writing full length novels and short stories.

My first book is called Awaken – a YA scifi dystopian story of a 16 year old boy who finds out the secret his society has been keeping for hundreds of years.

I’m currently working on my second novel, Midnight Wolf – a YA supernatural thriller that follows three caster brothers who are sent to a high school to investigate supernatural attacks.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

DID SOMEONE SAY GIVEAWAY???

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Click the giveaway photo above for a chance to win:

3 winners will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card, US Only.

3 winners will receive a signed finished copy of AWAKEN, US Only.

And don’t forget to check out the awesome blogs below for more reviews, interviews, guest posts, and amazing excerpts for this upcoming book!

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

11/13/2017- The Desert Bibliophile– Review

11/14/2017- Life Within The Pages– Interview

11/15/2017- Jrsbookreviews– Review

11/16/2017- Jena Brown WritesSpotlight

11/17/2017- PC Book Reviews & Book Tours– Guest Post

Week Two:

11/20/2017- Bibliobakes– Review

11/21/2017- BookHounds YA Interview

11/22/2017- TeacherofYA’s Book Blog– Review

11/23/2017- Wonder Struck– Excerpt

11/24/2017- Owl always be reading– Review

 

The Nine – Review

“It was a bloody awful way to die. It had been a bloody awful way to live.”

The Nine is a debut fantasy novel and what an incredible debut it is!!! Townsend has built an incredible world, full of interesting species and a plot with enough twists and turns to make the read feel like you’re on a roller coaster. And the characters!

Rowena Downshire is a young girl trying to make it in a cutthroat world. Her mother, and only living relative, is locked in a debtors prison. Everything she earns, and most of what she steals, goes to paying down that debt. But, with new charges always being added, the battle feels never-ending to her. Her job as a courier for a black market delivery boss is the best life she can hope for, even if he is cold and brutal and unforgiving.

When Rowena is robbed delivering a mysterious book that seems to write itself to the even more mysterious and feared Alchemist, Rowena is terrified Ivor is going to kill her for the blunder. Deciding to risk going straight to the Alchemist instead, she finds herself in the middle of a complex and deadly mystery.

“It was the question Rowena had been dreading. She’d been under the Alchemist’s roof for nearly an hour and barely had anything been said of the package.”

Revered Phillip Chalmers didn’t intend on being part of anything historical or groundbreaking. His research with his partner Doctor Revered Nora Pierce was exciting, but he should have known she would push boundaries. Now, days before they are give the keynote speech in front of their peers, Nora has gone missing. When a young girl courier delivers a note from Nora making him fear the worst, he insists on giving the girl the book that started it all. Except, when the door to his office shatters later that night, he realizes that he should have known it wasn’t going to be that easy.

Rowena and The Alchemist, also known as The Bear, turn to Anselm Meteron, former mercenary and all around nefarious character for help. They have a history extending far back, though how exactly they are intertwined comes much later in the book.

“Something in the cold calm of Anselm Meteron’s voice told Rowena there were very few games he played that were at all fair to his opponents.”

Rowena, The Alchemist and Meteron must figure out who took the book and why, and how the missing Reverend Chambers fits into the puzzle. Of course, that isn’t easy with bribed officials trying to put you in jail, along with the deadly aigamuxa hunting down anyone even loosely associated with the book.

There is a lot happening within these pages. It isn’t just the primary mystery driving the plot forward, but also the smaller mysteries within the characters. The Nine is an amazing blend of both plot and character driven momentum and each page demands to be turned so that you can be closer to unraveling the answers to all the questions presented. It is complex in all the very best ways!

The world building is fascinating. It feels as if it could be our own world propelled far into some distant future, but the addition of the species the lanyani and the aigamuxa makes it clear it is a world far different from ours. With nods to steampunk, this world is detailed and unique.

One of the most fascinating parts of the plot was the blending of religion and science. In fact, this is one of the key tenets of the plot, the book that God wrote to keep track of his experiment, The Nine.

“Magic was just what the ignorant called systems they couldn’t understand in an organized universe.”

It was very interesting to read how they veered from the Old Religion to incorporate religion and all it’s tenets into a pillar of science. The tenets of the science was well done as well. Not overly explained, but not vague and uninteresting. I actually really liked how it was presented, examined and how it tied into the plot. Not to mention the Grand Experiment, which I won’t get into for fear of spoilers.

We get many more characters sprinkled throughout these pages, and even the more minor characters are very fleshed out. Rare was one of my favorites, although, she did drive me crazy with some of her decisions. City Inspector Gammon, Beth and Lord Regenzi were some of the more notable side players, and it was very interesting how their importance was woven in. But none of them quite weaseled their way into my heart the way Anselm did.

“My name is Anselm Meteron, and I’m a villain with a penchant for self-aggrandizement and a portfolio of maladjusted habits.”

I mean, come on! How can you NOT love someone who introduces themselves like that?! I want to be friends with Anselm and all his maladjusted habits. Also, is it bad form to steal that line for all future introductions?

In all, this was a very fast, very enjoyable read. The Nine is a first in a series, and I know I am dying for book two! The ending isn’t quite a cliff hanger so you do feel satisfied, but there are enough loose ends that when you start thinking about the book, you get questions bubbling to the surface. Amazing debut and I am thrilled I was able to read this!

The Nine is released TODAY! If you love complex fantasy with amazing characters, awesome world building and a ton of mystery, this book is definitely for you!

Thank you Prometheus books for sending me a copy to read and review!

Sip – Review

“The sun was up, so the dark could start. All about the ground, all in the same direction, shadows sprawled. And this is what he was after.”

Oh how deliciously dark Sip is! A novel where we find ourselves 150 years in the future. A future where people can drink their shadows and change their bodies to float and distort in ways not possible before. But there is a heavy price. Once you drink, you must always drink. And if you drink too much, you are lost forever.

We follow two main characters, Murk, a shadow addict, and Mira, a girl who can hide her shadow. Mira’s mother is a shadow addict herself, but her fate is far worse than Murk. For when an addict sips your shadow, if they don’t stop they can steal the entire thing. And you are left the shell of who you once were, forced to sip shadows or face the madness beyond.

Of course, Murk doesn’t have life easy either. His leg was stolen from him. Chopped and taken, sold to the black market to be kept alive for a time on a machine invented for creating shadows. But he lost his leg before he lost his shadow, which offers him some protection as his shadow will never be whole.

This world is dark and gruesome, full of violence,  and run wild with madmen. But within this world are pockets of people trying to live normal lives, away from these addicts. Called domers, for they live beneath a dome. Blocking the sunlight and moonlight so that the addicts can’t steal their souls. The perimeter blocked by a perpetually running train and guarded by soldiers trained to shoot if anyone gets too near.

“Bored soldiers slaughtering innocents predates the naming of war, will go on after the words we call it are broken.”

Mira’s ability to control her shadow catches the interest of a domer, Bale. But his interest is expensive, and he gets thrown out of his dome as a penalty for not shooting her on sight.

Now the three of them, an unlikely trio, set off to test the theory that if you kill whomever stole your shadow before Halley’s Comet appears again, after the comet passes, you will return to normal. Mira desperately wants her mother back, and so she sets off on her quest. Time running out, since the comet is due within days.

Sip does not hold back on the brutal reality of a world overrun with addicts. I actually found the use of shadow addicts an interesting way to show the desperation and extremes addicts will go through for one fix, for one more high, for just one more. In a world where they are the majority, things can become chaotic and bleak very quickly.

We don’t see the world outside of the rural Texas area that Mira, Murk and Bale live, but we hear hints of other dome communities scattered about. All with trains running in circles to protect them. I thought it was fascinating how the addiction was also like a virus, contagious and rampant, and hit before people knew how to fight it. It is a unique dystopian unlike anything I’ve ever read before.

This book is dark in nature but shines bright within the characters it creates. Mira and Murk, unlikely friends, but friends all the same. And even Bale, with his knowledge of nothing but life within the dome will cause you to root for them, to root for their success. Because the journey is difficult, and filled with unexpected stops and obstacles along the way.

If you can’t stomach gritty, raw violence or the stark yet simple brutality of an apocalyptic future dominated by ruthless addicts, this is not a book for you. It will make you cringe, and your stomach turn, for death and violence is simply the way of life in this world, and Carr does not shy away from immersing the reader into the full experience of it.

“Some madnesses are so bizarre that they entice witnessing. Those in the bar who had been preoccupied with debauchery, who had been lost in the melee of drinking and lustful deeds, tapered their pursuits in order to watch this grimy operation.”

It is a book that requires you simply accept things as fact without necessarily understanding them. I didn’t ever get the full sense of why people could drink their shadows, or how it made them addicts. It isn’t that Carr doesn’t offer a brief history through the characters eyes, he does. But it is done in the way you would expect stories to be told. Vaguely, details lost or misunderstood with each telling, the decades between the event and the present altering it, diminishing it, leaving only what they deem important. You don’t get science, or factual information. However, not understanding didn’t take away from the rich narration of this world, or make it’s reality any less detailed.

The before and the after are less relevant to this story than the here and now. Which, if anyone has ever dealt with addiction, first hand or otherwise, it felt like this focus on the present story was a nod to the adage ‘One Day At A Time’ that you hear in meetings and therapy over and over. For addicts, there is only today, and so in that same way, we get the present. It felt poetic to me.

If it feels that perhaps the book may be ‘too out there’, or ‘weird’, I assure you it’s my own reluctance to delve into too many details. The world sounds difficult to picture, and the concepts may be hard to envision, but once you dive into this world, as gruesome and violent as it is, it is worth the journey. Once you begin, the characters pull you in and the sheer determination they have to move forward will move you forward too. It is a dark world. A violent one. Full of mayhem and criminality that makes the Wild West look like playtime in preschool. But you still can’t help but hope with the characters that life can always get better.

For my dark readers out there, this is a novel you do not want to miss! I will be reading Carr’s short stories and will for sure read anything he puts out next. I am a fan!

Thank you Soho Press for sending me a copy to read and review.

Daughter4254 – Review + GIVEAWAY

Daughter4254 used to think life in a community where art, music and names are outlawed would suffocate her creative spirit. Now that she’s rotting in a prison cell, she’s not sure her dying mother made the right choice when she entrusted her with the secrets of rebellion. Prison has given her plenty of time to relive every mistake and lose all hope.

Then she meets Thomas, a fellow inmate, who tells her stories of the mythical mountain colonies where people have names and the arts thrive. Together they plot an escape, knowing if they fail, they will die. Or worse, their consciousness will be taken by the MindWipe, leaving their bodies free for the government to use. When nothing goes as planned, Daughter4254 must choose between using her mother’s secret to better the world she hates, or following Thomas to the quiet life of freedom she has always craved.

DAUGHTER 4254

Welcome to November! I am so thrilled to be kicking off November with this book! thank you Rockstar Book Tours for letting me part of this awesome tour. Click the photo above or click HERE for more information about them and upcoming tours. And be sure to check out the links below for the rest of the tour for Daughter 4254.

“My mother’s words come back to me: “Beware of beauty in this life, child. It will break your heart.”

Daughter 4254 is a haunting dystopian set in a world far in the future. A world where only things deemed “useful” are legal. Beauty, art, love, color, compassion, laughter. These are not useful. They do not feed the population or help them fight illness, or live. so they are illegal. Forbidden. Names aren’t useful, so citizens are given numbers instead.

We meet Daughter 4254 as she struggles in a prison. We don’t know her crime, only that she fears having her mind wiped. Her very essence wiped from her brain, leaving her useful (and compliant) body in return. The days progress miserably, and we see that while positive emotion is frowned upon, absence of it doesn’t make people kind or tolerant. It leaves them harsh and sterile instead.

“Our civilization cannot survive if we don’t all comply. We have limited resources and must make the best use of everything, including our time.”

Statham alternates each chapter to be a Before and an After. Before prison and after. The tension in seeing what life is like between these two timeframes is incredible. Each reality holds its own horror, and the entire time you are wondering what could she have done to have landed in prison. And, even more importantly, what will happen next. In this way we get a lot of backstory for this society without losing the tension or fast pacing of the plot. It is quite remarkable to write a story where I want to know both what happened, what’s happening and what’s going to happen all at the same time!

Life for 4254 gets interesting when for reasons unknown to her, she is moved to a new cell block. One where she can hear and see other prisoners, though she is ordered to not speak to them. One prisoner in particular, Thomas, with a name not a number doesn’t listen to rules though.

“He smiles at me, an irresistible grin filled with mischief and mayhem.”

I loved this book! Dystopian novels always hold a special place in my heart, especially when they examine the dark underside of humanity. I found this society fascinating. Every detail that emerged made complete sense in the construct of their logic, and yet was just as horrifying to imagine. Even worse, (or better, for dystopian sake), was that it was easy to see how a society like this could emerge. There are some very famous psychological experiments that this society felt very similar to. It was chilling how similar they felt.

Daughter 4254 ends with the possibility of more to come, and I do hope this story continues! I need to know more, and am looking forward to exploring this world outside of the confines of a prison or strict community structure. More exists, and I can’t wait to unravel it. I am especially excited to see the development of 4254 herself. She was already pushing boundaries within herself, but was still stuck within the logic of how she was raised. It will be interesting to see how freedom truly helps her evolve into a more developed person.

Even the nature of the rebellion itself felt like there was more to them than we initially saw. Are they actually good, or not? Its an interesting question that I’m dying to learn more about! I also hope we see more of 4254’s roommate, 0203. She was a fascinating character, curious and smart, and I really hope she plays a larger role in upcoming books.

This is my first novel by Statham but I am already a fan! I will be dying to read the next book and will be looking up her other books in the meantime.

Anyone who loves good dystopian fiction needs to read this book! It is a fast read that will simply leave you breathless in it’s pages. You’ll love getting to know these characters while reviling the society they live in. Dystopian at it’s best, if you ask me. Daughter 4254 comes out November 7, and the links for purchase can be found below (none are affiliate links).

Be sure to enter the GIVEAWAY for your chance to win a finished copy or a $25 Amazon gift card! AMAZING!!!

Once again, thank you Rockstar book Tours for sending me a copy to read and review for this tour!

 

D4254-CoverTitle: DAUGHTER 4254

Author: Leigh Statham

Pub. Date: December 5, 2017

Publisher: Owl Hollow Press

Pages: 286

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Find it: AmazoniBooksThe Kings English (exclusive signed copies)Goodreads

ohp-LeighStathamLeigh Statham was raised in the wilds of rural Idaho but found her heart in New York City. She worked at many interesting jobs before settling in as a mother and writer.

She now resides in North Carolina with her husband, four children, eight chickens, a fluffy dog, and two suspected serial killer cats.

Leigh is currently working on an MFA, has written countless short stories, and is the author of lots of mediocre poetry. She is also the winner of the 2016 Southeast Review Narrative Nonfiction Prize for her short story “The Ditch Bank and the Fenceline.”

Website |Twitter |Instagram | Facebook | WattpadGoodreads

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card, US Only.

2 winners will receive a finished copy of DAUGHTER 4254, US only.

Click below to enter!

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Tour Schedule:

Week One:

10/25/2017- BookHounds YA– Interview

10/25/2017- Fan-Girl-Tabulous– Review

10/26/2017- Reese’s Reviews– Excerpt

10/26/2017- Caffeine and Composition– Review

10/27/2017- Hooked To Books– Guest Post

10/27/2017- YA Obsessed– Review

Week Two:

10/30/2017- Maddie.TV– Interview

10/30/2017- The Desert Bibliophile– Review

10/31/2017- Wandering Bark Books– Excerpt

10/31/2017- Kindle and Me– Review

11/1/2017- Wishful Endings– Interview

11/1/2017- Jena Brown Writes– Review

11/2/2017- Stuffed Shelves– Review

11/2/2017- Life of A Simple Reader– Review

11/3/2017- Books, Vertigo and Tea– Excerpt

11/3/2017- Savings in Seconds– Review

Week Three:

11/6/2017- Two Chicks on Books– Interview

11/6/2017- Cindy’s Love of Books– Review

11/7/2017- Captivated Reading– Review

11/7/2017- Bookalicious– Review

No Plain Rebel – Review

“I only recently discovered that what we have here is no more peace than death. Silence is not peace.”

No Plain Rebel picks up right where No Ordinary Star left off. Felix and Astra in the cabin at the North Pole, trying to unravel the mystery the Clockmaster left in their hands.

We get more information in the second installment, answering questions of both Felix and Astra’s past. They uncover diaries and letters left to Felix from the Clockmaster, that he prepared in the event of his death. These letters help guide Felix and he learns the real purpose of the Clock leading up to the year 2525. Let’s just say, it isn’t good.

“People get dangerous ideas from books, ideas about how to fight and how to be cleverer than their enemies.”

We also get more information about the years leading up to the present. What happened to cause this society to diverge so far from the utopia it was trying to be? Finally getting some answers felt enormously satisfying and rather than feeling satiated by the knowledge, you simply want to know more of what happens next. As with any good dystopian, the more you know, the worse things seem to get.

“Chaos haste ceased to exist. It still existed all this time, he was just isolated from it. And along with the chaos, he was kept away from life.”

I am also happy to start seeing more of the world outside of the shack. While I adore the shack, (and the gorgeous library in the basement), we need to start seeing some action in the outside world. We don’t see as much action in this installment, but the plot is set at the end for an explosive ending filled with action. Or so I hope.

This book is definitely focused more on Felix than Astra. She is really only heard in her voice in a handful of chapters. I understand that Felix is the one who is tasked with fixing the Clock and the one who the letters are directed to, but I do feel like Frank could have balanced between the two a bit more. In a society where women are brushed away as second class (or worse) citizens, it felt symbolic to want Astra more involved in her own story, using her own voice.

I also think it’s important, as Astra is the one who can really give us the sense of what is hanging in the balance. Women like her being propped in laboratories against their will, being powerless and voiceless. Even as a solider, Felix never lived a life like that, so to diminish her voice diminishes that harsh reality as well. This book is focused more an bigger picture world, but we need to remember the details. It’s Astra that gives the book heart, so I wish there had been more of her.

Christmas again is a heavy theme in this book, and it does turn a bit slanted towards the religious. Some may argue that Christmas is religious, but in my opinion, that’s debatable. Here it becomes less about the holiday and more about the religious undertones, and the religious history of the holiday.

Book two does have an info-dump feel to it, even though the author attempts to break up the monologues with thoughts and ideas as they read. But, still, there is a lot of the Clockmaster talking and only snippets of actionable plot happening. I’m hoping that now that we have that out of the way, the third book is action packed. I would have loved to have gotten to know several characters introduced in this book much better, and hope we get the chance in the next installment.

There is quite a lot to enjoy from a political standpoint in the book. Philosophy and how good ideas can turn bad are presented towards the end. We have already seen the results of these ideas, so it was interesting to read how they came about.

“Power will always pollute things. The world’s entropy will always increase and man carries the source of the pollution within himself. He carries the seed of redemption as well, but it’s not as simple as you’f think to find it. It’s certainly not as simple to redeem as it seems to be be to destroy.”

The Greek philosophers are mentioned quite a bit by the Clockmaster. It would have been a bit well-rounded to have included other philosophies, especially given how he had three hundred years and isolation to build his education, it feels a bit narrow to only focus on one set of philosophy.

Again, this is a short book, leaning towards a novella, so it’s a fast read. The third book comes out at the end of the year.

Thank you to the author for sending me a copy to read and review.

The Salt Line – Review

“The burn was the first rite of passage.”

Man! Strap in when you open this novel, because you are in for an intense ride! The Salt Line is everything a solid dystopian novel should be.

We learn that the burn referred to in the first sentence, is the burn of a Stamp. A small device that kills the lethal female miner tick and any disease or eggs she has implanted in your body. Kills it, as long as it is administered in time.

This is presented to us through a class, given by an outdoor extreme trainer, getting ready to take a small group of wealthy adventurers beyond the Wall and out of their safe zone. Exciting right?

As the training unfolds, we get to know the characters and through them a picture of the society we are in begins to emerge. We know that what was once America is now divided into zones. Currently, we are in the Atlantic zone, one of the more stable and thriving zones. We learn that other zones are not faring as well. These zones were put into place after this miner tick and the outbreak of a deadly disease began to run rampant.

“The thing was, you hoped like hell to be in a zone as clean and safe as Atlantic, and if by birth or luck or talent you got in one, you stayed put — because the rules kept changing, the quarantines and security measures kept getting revised.”

There is an art when writing dystopian, to drawing your reader into the new world while also giving them some idea of why it emerged. Sometimes books can get too bogged down in the history, making them feel clunky and bloated. And other times, we don’t get enough of a sense of the past to make sense of the future. This novel; however, gets that balance absolutely right.

Jones gives us the history of the society while also introducing us to each character. And some pieces of information are done within dialogue, so the effect is so subtle, I found myself flipping back to make sure I didn’t miss these details. While I can appreciate that perhaps this isn’t a style some readers enjoy, for me, it added a rich texture that made the novel completely suck me in. Each character was able to add context through their own experiences, and so Jones was able to really provide a lot of depth to not just their individual past, but the overall zones as well.

The other thing I loved about this novel is that there are so many strong women! Evie and Marta are the first main characters we meet, and though they are presented as a rockstar’s girlfriend and a mobster’s housewife, their strength and vibrancy go far beyond their societal descriptions. We also meet Wes, a young CEO, arguably the wealthiest and most influential man in the Atlantic zone. He seems to be at odds with himself to participate in this excursion, and yet is driven to succeed. It is through their eyes that we see the training and the initial moments of the excursion unfold.

This isn’t simply a dystopian where a group of adventurers has to survive the harsh wild. It isn’t a typical things go wrong and they have to make it through. Even though they deliberately set out beyond the Wall to attempt to survive a three week adventure, the things that go wrong are all provoked and planned by humans. The group is taken hostage by a group of people who have been waiting for a group like this to fall into their hands for a long time.

The political undertones written in the plot are very smart, and add a touch of realism. It is easy to imagine a group of people operating like this, both in zone and out. And as each hostage faces shifting alliances and new information, they have to decide which truth they believe, if any.

“There’s this assumption that most people, if you strip society and its laws away, are capable of evil.”

If I had a complaint, it would be in June, leader of Ruby City. I wish I had gotten to see a little more of her and what she was capable of. We saw glimpses, but never the in depth reveal that would have made her character more satisfying. She was a complicated character, impossible to tell if she was a victim of circumstance caught up in a game she lost control of, or a very tightly controlled manipulator who knew exactly what she was doing. I have my opinions, but they are built on shaky ground, and I would have really loved to have been given more in either direction.

In all, there is so much to like about The Salt Line. In all directions, there is danger lurking. You get the sense that there is more to the story in any direction you look. And, for a dystopian, thats exactly how you should feel. Uneasy. A society that has changed for logical reasons into something illogical. And we get that here.

Beyond Marta and Evie, we get June and Violet, all strong female characters that are so varied in not only age, gender and race, but in personality and motives as well. We are given things to like and things to dislike in each of them, but they are true to themselves throughout it all. And yet, it isn’t a book that forgets the men. We get to know Wes, and Andy, their guide and betrayer. They are just as flawed and varied and diverse as the women. In all, each character, no matter how large or small their role, is balanced and real.

I don’t know if there is a sequel to this book. The ending was satisfying as a stand alone, but could lead to future books. I would really enjoy more from these characters and this society. In fact, I will be reading previous books from this author, I enjoyed her writing so much.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves dystopian fiction. There is intensity and mystery and suspense, and refreshingly, no romance or other silly distractions to take away from the heart of the plot. Very enjoyable.

The Salt Line goes on sale TOMORROW!!! Don’t miss it!

Thank you to Penguin Random House and Putnam Books for approving me through the First To Read program in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

 

Arena – Review

“This wouldn’t be the first time I died.”

Welcome to the future. The year is 2054. Virtual gaming has swept the world and virtual gamers are the celebrities of the time. And the RAGE tournaments in the Virtual Gaming League are where the worlds best face each other to fight to the death. Digital death, that is.

Kali Ling is a player on Team Defiance. She has everything she thinks she could want. Playing professionally in RAGE is her dream. She has fame, fortune and loves every moment in the Arena.

But life isn’t as predictable as it is in the virtual realm, and quickly everything Kali thought she had becomes unravelled. When Nathan, one of her teammates overdoses, she realizes that everything she worked for could be slipping through her fingers.

“Funny thing about being on top: It’s a long way down when you crash.”

This book is such an interesting concept. Gaming is something that is evolving as fast as all other technology. Using virtual reality as a way to propel sports into the gaming world is incredibly creative. And plausible. I can picture tournaments like this somewhere in the future, and scary enough, this book is realistic enough to be frightening in that aspect.

There are a lot of good themes in the book. Drug use is the main one, obviously with Nathan’s overdose driving some of Kali’s struggle. But her own reliance on not just drugs and alcohol but virtual reality itself was very insightful. I suspect that having the ability to escape reality could, and probably would be, just as addictive as any other substance.

For Kali, the real world seemed more fake to her than the fake world. In reality, men and women bought fake bodies, had fake features, presented fake personalities. In her own world, she was forced to maintain an image based on what the team owner and sponsors wanted. They created relationships, rivalries, whatever would push viewers and increase ratings. So to her, the Arena was realer than reality.

“Reality was more programmed than the virtual world.”

It’s only when the newest team member, and replacement for Nathan begins to break through her walls, that she starts to realize maybe she has been trying to escape for longer than she cares to admit. With his help, she starts to find her way back, not just to the top of the RAGE scoreboards, but to herself.

“The virtual world is just for fun, and reality is the place worth living.”

As she fights her way back from the bottom, Kali begins to notice things in the VGR world aren’t as great as they seem. VGR controls their lives. If they want them to go out, they have to go out. If they want them dating someone, they have to make the appearances look legitimate. Yet, for all that is expected of them, the relationship is very one-sided as they can be dropped with one loss.

To top all that off, Nathan’s death is getting not just swept under the carpet, it is flat out being erased.

Kali has to figure out how to turn her team into a team, what her feelings actually are towards Rooke, and keep her own struggles at bay week after week. Oh, and they can’t lose a single tournament or they all go home.

This novel was amazingly complex. The idea of using virtual reality along with actual substance abuse and addiction is brilliant. To further drive the appeal, gamers are celebrity, the most envied people in the world. Combine these addictive components into one, and you have a sure-fire path to an all encompassing addiction. Already we struggle with people, especially children, becoming dependent on technology and social media. What could happen if we ramp that up to a subversive, completely interactive environment? I think something like this book, is what.

The other really smart thing is how Jennings used corporate greed, in the form of sponsors and owners to highlight how profits can easily trump everything. They sidestep drug testing, push their gamers beyond reason and when they die or go crazy, they simply replace them and move on. The allure of fame and fortune is enough to entice gamers to play, but is it really worth the risk?

Kali is a strong character. But, she is also flawed enough to be believable and realistic. She doesn’t always make good choices, and the road back to redemption is really tough for her. But she does find a way to put the team first and to find her way forward. She even figures out how to play the corporate game so against both the team owner and their sponsors.

I think that anyone with a love of gaming, or even an interest in gaming would enjoy this book. It is a smart and creative approach to how gaming could evolve in the future. Jennings has created a world that ties celebrity, corporate greed and virtual reality. The effect is fun but also sobering. We see the highs and we see the lows.

I loved the battle scenes. The writing is fast paced and intense, keeping you on the edge of your seat. Each scene within the Arena plays out so vividly, you can hear the swords and smell the blood.

All the characters are very fun to read as well. Hannah and Lily are wonderfully complex, Jennings doesn’t go for easy lesbian stereotypes in her depiction of them. Their relationship is one of the sweetest I’ve read, especially given the scenery. All of the characters are complex, nuanced, flawed but extremely likable. And the writing is filled with tons of gaming references and sarcasm that it stayed fun, even though it is also violent and brutal. There are very funny moments written into what is otherwise an intense non-stop action book.

This was a solid 4 stars. I devoured this book in a day and cannot wait to dive into the sequel.

Thank you to Blogging for Books for sending me this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Nyxia – Review

“Unlearn your idea of impossible.”

Five words that summarize the incredible ride this book is about to take you on. To call this debut stunning doesn’t feel impactful enough. This book is nuclear in it’s impact!

Emmett finds himself about to board a spaceship. A winning ticket to a life he and his family have only dreamed of. A lottery he never entered, that he never knew existed. He and nine other kids are offered money they can’t fathom, benefits they’ve only dreamed of, a life that they never thought could be theirs.

Their mission is to go to a new planet. A habitable planet.  Eden. Where a new substance has been discovered, and it’s unlike anything found before. Nyxia.

“It has secretly become the most valuable resource in the world.”

Babel knows about it. Has been studying it. And wants more of it.

Except. There’s always an except. Except, there is a species already living on that planet. A species stronger than we are. The Adamites. They tore through a platoon of heavily armed and trained military personnel. Humans are not welcome. But even the Adamites have an except. They revere children.

Babel, a corporation powerful enough to swallow Google whole. A corporation to end all corporations is determined to mine Nyxia and profit from it. Even if they have to turn children into miners. No matter the risk, and regardless of the consequences. So they offer these ten poverty stricken young adults the opportunity of a lifetime.

Of course, there’s a catch.

Too late, they all learn that not all of them will be chosen. That two of them will be given consolation prizes and sent home. Wealthy, but not the riches they’ve already begun dreaming about.

The scoreboard becomes Emmett’s constant companion. Following him day and night, reminding him of what he has to lose. The scoreboard turns his companions into competitors. People he cannot trust, people he cannot rely on.

“Competition. Supply and demand. Cage-style.”

I love the discussion of corporate power in this book. The blatant manipulation of these kids by a powerful corporation is very compelling. The idea that profit supersedes everything. These kids are employees on one hand, and commodities on the other. The end goal for every person on that spacecraft is to prepare them for mining Nyxia, and nothing will get in the way of that goal.

Emmett knows that Babel is lying to them. Giving them half-truths and just enough information to motivate them, but never enough to dissuade them. Each step in the competition unfolds, drawing them deeper and deeper in the web, until they can’t see the way back. Emmett sees this, but his families needs outweigh what his instincts scream at him. He can’t afford to see the truth.

Emmett and all the other kids are pawns in Babel’s chessboard. They know it, yet their desperate need to escape the hell of poverty is so great, they are willing to do anything to make the top spots. No matter the obstacles. No matter the consequences.

There is a danger when people’s basic needs reach such desperate levels that they become willing to do anything in order to meet them. Desperation is always present on the edges of this competition. Two kids will go home with a small sum of money. They will go home knowing they held the keys to the kingdom of their dreams and let them slip through their fingers. Desperation is used against them by Babel, keeping them on edge and focused.

All the kids are chosen from poor families. It isn’t just the money that is is the carrot dangling in their faces. The promise of healthcare and access to doctors and treatments is just as alluring as hard cash. Emmett’s own mother fights cancer. Access to treatment, to doctors, to medicine is immediate. Cash is a fleeting dream. Something desired but now known. Whereas treatments, medicine, doctors. Those are life. Those are now. Those are what they fight for.

The theme that stood out the most for me in this book is power. Money is power. Babel is the money. They are the boss. They hold all the cards. The scoreboard holds power over all of the kids. Who stands the most to gain, who stands the most to lose. Babel uses the prize money as their way to retain control and power over each individual on the ship. There is too much to lose and nothing to gain by not following their rules.

Babel wants to tear them down. “Babel’s plan is to make us numb. Execute the task without emotion. Complete the mission.” They want to build them up into the perfect workers. Compliant and ruthless, with the sole focus on completing the job no matter what.

And then there’s the struggle for power within the self. Emmett battles with becoming who he wants to be, versus who Babel wants him to be. One side wanting to embrace the dark side that will lead him to victory. The other side demanding that he not lose himself to that darkness.

This struggle is one I think so many of us can relate to. Sometimes we are put in situations in life where we see how easy it would be to comply. To just do what our boss wants, or our spouse, or our friend. But, sometimes, that isn’t always the right thing. Being aware of that, and facing that dilemma is never easy. I was glad to see the struggle happen in Emmett. It was honest and real, and I think readers will relate to that.

Finally we have the timeless divide between the rich and the poor. Money always equals power, and in this society that fact also remains true.

“It’s hard to tell the difference between rich and wrong.” This quote is so stunningly simple and staggeringly true. Rich is always seen as right, while poor is always seen as wrong.

All of these struggles and fights for power all play out in simulated training. Each player fighting for a position within Babel. This book is a survival of the fittest in a high-stake corporate game. In space.

Absolutely amazing.

File this book under M for Must Read. Under D for Do Not Miss. Under E for Epic. Under H for Heart pounding.

I cannot wait to see what happens next. This series is already moving it’s way into my top five favorite series. It’s going to kill me waiting for the next installment.

Nyxia comes out September 12, 2017. If you love science fiction and suspense, order this book! It is stunning.

Pre-Order Link

Thank you Random House Kids, Crown Book for Young Readers and NetGalley for the ARC!!!

Review: The Rebellion’s Last Traitor

The Rebellion's Last TraitorThe Rebellion’s Last Traitor by Nik Korpon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Whenever I get the chance to read a post-apocalyptic Science Fiction novel, I am all in. Add in a gritty noir vibe reminiscent of a 1940’s detective novel and there’s absolutely no way I can say no.

We find ourselves in a future version of our world. I’m not sure where the exact setting is supposed to be, but I suspect Scotland or thereabouts. Knowledge of the location isn’t a requirement to enjoy the story, or at least it wasn’t for me.

And its a good story. Dark but compelling, with a plot that pulls you into turning page after page needing to know what happens next.

We alternate between two main characters, Henraek and Walleus. They both used to fight for the rebels and now work for a group, the Tathadann, who overtook the area years back. Henraek is a broken man, forced to work for the people he hates, after losing his wife and son to the war.

Walleus is a bit more complicated. He has secrets, dark secrets, that leave you guessing his true loyalties and motivations all the way to the end. More on him later.

I really liked how creative the story was, and how complex the characters were. I imagine in any place taken over by a regime that rules in ruthless and totalitarian ways, the day to day lives of those citizens would be anything but black and white. People are never all good or all bad, or at least, rarely. The author does a good job capturing the complexity of this struggle.

If you love a gritty, dark novel you will enjoy this book. I think if you like anything 1940’s detective noir, you will also really enjoy the narration.

I give the book 3 out of 5 stars.

This book was provided to me via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

**POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD! If you haven’t read this book yet, DO NOT READ FURTHER**

I gave this book only three stars, because while I was gripped by the story, it could have been stunning.

There were two pieces of the plot that I wish had been developed a bit more. The first is what really drew me in to the book. Memory theft.

Henraek’s job in the Tathadann is stealing memories from people. You can then insert these memories into various viewers and watch them. He’s given a list daily and he goes about his job trying not to think about what he’s actually doing. He must not feel too bad though, because he always take an extra vial to sell to the black market.

This is an interesting side plot. The people who buy memories on the black market and become addicted to them. These junkies are mentioned multiple times throughout the book, and one junkie in particular comes back again and again, but there isn’t any discovery over who he is or why he’s relevant. I think maybe he was just an example of how desperate and alone these people can become chasing lost memories, but this leads me to more questions not answered. Why do they become addicted to the memories? What memories are they chasing? How could anyone’s random memories lead to such addiction, especially people who want to relive memories of lost, loved ones? It wasn’t exactly clear to me and I would have LOVED to see this more developed.

Back to the memory theft. These memories are drained and the people are left as empty shells. Alive but gone. Which raised some questions. There isn’t really any mention of what happens to these shells after they’ve been robbed. We witness him engaging in this theft twice, and he simply places coal over their eyes, and leaves them. The coal is mentioned as important, a signal of something, but again, I have no idea what. Maybe it isn’t important, but it felt like a loose end to me.

The memories are stored by the Tathadann, but we don’t really see why, what they’re looking for, or even why specific people are targeted. I also would think if there was still a rebellious faction in this city, that the outrage of people hollowed out and stolen would cause more of an outrage than the book implied. There really is no mention of it, other than the disgust generated towards addicts. If the addicts themselves are so repulsive, shouldn’t the creators of the addiction also be reviled? ESPECIALLY if it left these shells of people all over the place?

This underdeveloped piece of plot is even more important because of Henraek’s girlfriend, Emeriann. Her husband was also killed in the last rebel battle. And we find Henraek stealing the memories of her dead husbands grandfather in the beginning. He then goes BACK and steals the fathers later on. He is conflicted about this, but takes them anyway. Fine, he’s doing his job, but what about Emeriann? She’s part of the new rebellion and expresses disgust over addicts, yet nothing is EVER mentioned about her in-laws or her new boyfriend’s role in creating these addicts? Or again, these shells of people left all over the city? I just didn’t buy it. She is willing to die for the rebel cause, yet loves a man who is responsible for so much that she hates?

The second piece of plot I wish was developed more was Walleus himself.

Walleus was the original traitor. He’s the one who we are led to believe gave the Tathadann the information they needed to take down the rebels. This information led to massive deaths, including the death of Henraek’s wife and son. I felt it was a stretch that Henraek continued to view Walleus as a friend. He knew of his betrayal, knew that he was forced into submission, and yet still continues to view the guy as his friend? Because they grew up together? I don’t buy it. I would have liked a more treacherous relationship with both of them scheming to undo the other. That would have felt more realistic to me.

The other issue with Walleus, is why he turned in the first place? We find out that he actually has Henraek’s son, and is raising him, telling the boy his parents are dead. His desire to keep the child as his own plays a major role in why he stays, but why turn in the first place? Other than belief that the rebellion was doomed and he needed to survive. Henraek himself, eludes to Walleus’ confusing nature, but the narration doesn’t really give us more depth in that regard.

We also learn that Walleus has a mutated son, born with deformities including scaled skin, flippers for hands and the inability to talk in more than clicks. I found it odd that mention of this defect or mutation wasn’t examined more. This seems like something major. Is this the only child like this? Where did it come from? Again, why don’t we see more mention of other characters with these issues?

There were other things about Walleus I didn’t like. He’s described as being fat, his large stomach is mentioned multiple times, in various ways. Yet this guy is also then described as being able to take out men younger, stronger and more in shape because he has field and fighting experience? Skills like that don’t just happen because you could once do them. And, yes, experience will work in your favor in any fight, but it doesn’t guarantee it.

Overall, I felt that as one of the two main protagonists, he needed development and consistency. I felt like the author was trying to make him more human, more relatable, more sympathetic. Instead, we was a confusing character.

My other issue, and it is mild, was the language. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a reader that frills at the presence of a curse word in a book. I think swearing, especially in a society like this, often needs to happen to make the characters and dialogue believable. My problem is that the swearing itself is what usually felt unbelievable.

Do you remember when you were young, and swearing was new? So you did it all the time? Or when you thought it would make you seem tough, or angry, or grownup? I do. And that’s how the swearing felt to me. New. Or, like it was added in because it should be there. Not because it naturally belonged. A few times it felt like it was there for pure shock value alone. A minor complaint, I know, but I consider myself a refined user of explicative words, and hate to see them mistreated in any way.

I will say, the strength of the plot made me overlook these complaints. I did roll my eyes a few times at repetitive phrases (I could never read the words ‘reptilian part of the brain’ again and be completely happy), but I continued to turn the pages. I genuinely wanted to know what happens next. There was tension and unsolved mystery. I love when authors add a bit of a Shakespearean twist of ‘information known too late’, and this was blended in towards the end.

In all, I enjoyed it, but it didn’t blow me away. Which is disappointing, because honestly, I feel like this book had major potential to be a show stopper. A few developments and details would have easily taken it from three to five stars.

View all my reviews