Saturday, August 12, 2017

Mountain of Shadows (City of Words #2) by Steven Carroll

*I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review*

First Impression: I really liked the first book, looking forward to seeing what happens to Alpha and his friends!

Characters: The hallmark of good character development is how much I end up caring about them as actual humans. I cried and was scared, was happy and hopeful, and rooted for my new friends throughout this second installment.

World Building: Fully realized dystopian is not easy, but Mountain of Shadows pulls it off. Without giving too much away, I could fully imagine the scenes unfolding in all their intensity.

Writing Style: Carroll weaves a story for all ages, with the natural ease of a true writer.

What I Enjoyed: Whenever I leave my surroundings and fall into the pages of a book, I know I've found a new favorite. The scene descriptions are palpable and the tech is believable, something I don't always feel in these kinds of books.

Deal Benders: I would like to see the relationship unfold between the main characters Alpha and Theta at this point in the series. I think the YA crowd calls for a bit of romance and hope to break up the bleakness. I would also like to know more about the "why" at this juncture. The inevitable part in every dystopian tale when we find out what made humanity turn on itself.

Overall Rating: 5 stars because it was far beyond the first book, and I wish book #3 was already out so I can see what happens!

For Fans Of: The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Giver

City of Words by Steven Carroll

*I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review*

First Impression: Brilliant cover, and a dystopian/post-apocalyptic society? Yes please.

Characters: The children of the future have no parents. They are bred to serve a purpose, and are just as disposable. Alpha and Theta have a charming friendship with a hint at the possibility of blooming love.

World Building: Step into the future in a world that is immersive without being overly so. Sometimes it's nice to know enough about the scene to push the story along, and not get bogged down in pages of new science and inventions.

Writing Style: Carroll certainly has a voice for young adult fiction. My inner teenage girl was intrigued while my adult mind looked back with nostalgia to times of simple friendships and moral absolutes. I adore works that can turn back the clock on growing old.

What I Enjoyed: Moments of surprising insight will encourage young minds to think about the dangers of controlling society. Not just a tale for youth, I found the writing engaging enough for adult minds as well.

Deal Benders: City of Words was a solid first installment. I would have liked to see more back story on Alpha and Theta, to give their connection more feeling.

Overall Rating: 4 stars, and I look forward to reading the next book!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Hurst (The Hurst Chronicles #1) by Robin Crumby

*I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review*

First Impression: Dark days of a pandemic apocalypse - this should be good!

Characters: This is an action driven story in the aftermath of a plague, so the characters are appropriately world-weary with a twinge of hope. They are all distinct and unique in my head, which makes them believable.

World Building: Crumby has a knack for painting the scene. From the crumbling castle fortresses to deserted towns, the reader is transported to a bleak future Earth.

Writing Style: Relatable. Relevant. Riveting. The three R's of an excellent read. From pop culture references to vivid descriptions, Robin Crumby quickly became one of my favorite authors.

What I Enjoyed: Hurst is fast-paced and sometimes even humorous. Levity in dark places is a perfect break for enjoyment. This book has something for everyone.

Deal Benders: It is rare that I can't find much to improve upon, but honestly cannot think of anything I didn't care for in Hurst.

Overall Rating: 5 stars, all the stars! Cannot wait to read Hurst Chronicles #2!

For Fans Of: Post-apocalyptic action, suspense, and a little mystery.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Paradox: The Alien Genome by H.S. Rivney

*I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.*

First Impression: I'm a sucker for space travel and futuristic science.

Characters: The astronauts contrast in a natural way with the other world species. Relationships between the two tribes of people develop towards an interesting surprise or two!

World Building: Little touches like flora and fauna on a new planet paint a vivid picture in Paradox. The science and medicine are intriguing to contemplate, and I really enjoyed understanding Earth's biology while being transported elsewhere.

Writing Style: Rivney has great imagination and an understanding of giving characters backstory. The dialogue is sometimes lacking, but the characters communicate and grow in other ways...much like learning a new language. This isn't always easy to accomplish in sci-fi.

What I Enjoyed: I would like to spend some time on Beta Hydri IV, to get away from Earth awhile. Hopefully I could come back with something wonderful to share. I also enjoyed the science and genetics discussions.

Deal Benders: Sometimes the alien language was a bit distracting. It seemed like the author was trying too hard to make the villagers different. I would have liked more description of Beta Hydri IV - not only the villagers and plant life. The moons and other scenes were a good start in that direction, but were over too soon.

Overall Rating: 3 stars because I liked the science and characters.

The Laptev Virus by Christy Esmahan

*I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review*

First Impression: Virology and pandemic fiction is very interesting and scary in a good way!

Characters: Characters mainly unfold through dialogue, and are more archetypes than fully developed.

World Building: The focus here is viruses and how they work. This book offers a backdrop for what could plausibly happen in the future. I appreciated the political pulse of global warming and fracking awareness, and one of the possible side effects.

Writing Style: Esmahan writes from a scientific perspective - very educational and thorough. If you have a teen or young adult interested in science, or you want to get them interested in science, this might be a great read.

What I Enjoyed: The Laptev Virus made me think...about the state of our world and the natural consequences of unnatural progress. If you want to understand bacteria and viruses, how they work, and the study of virology this is a good anecdotal read.

Deal Benders: I wanted to like this book, but at my level it was just okay. Certain repetitions to remind the reader of something stated earlier were unnecessary. I enjoy hard science with my fiction, but am going to need a little more story and fiction to keep my attention.

Overall Rating: 2.5 stars because there is nothing outright wrong with this book. It just wasn't what I thought, and I didn't catch the bug.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Aries by Lara Giesbers

*I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review*

First Impression: Such a magical cover and intriguing premise about supernatural gifts bestowed on mankind by God.

Characters: Connected families, their relationships, and their enemies are all unfolded in a tale that evokes Downton Abbey crossed with the Salem Witch Trials. The characters are simple in nature, yet rich in spirit. I found myself wishing for a simpler time when people had convictions.

World Building: I imagined scrolling castle hills and markets of time gone by. I appreciate the character driven story line as the scene.

Writing Style: Giesbers writes with ease and wistful dialog. Bible verses are quoted throughout in character conversations, which is great for anyone interested in real world application of biblical passages.

What I Enjoyed: The heartbreaking tension between grief and joy was displayed with innocence throughout Aries. I adored the relationships and social commentary warnings hauntingly appropriate for today's climate.

Deal Benders: Although the characters were drawn in a simpler time, I would have like to see more depth. Sometimes it felt they were a little one-dimensional, even if each in their own dimension.

Overall Rating: 4 stars because I appreciate well-done historical fiction and whimsy.

For Fans Of: Downton Abbey, any historical or christian fiction.

The Tethering (Bound by Blood Book One) by Jeremy R. Strong

*I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review*

First Impression: I have run into some beautiful covers lately, and they really make me want to know more about the story inside.

Characters: Humanity has evolved and devolved sometime in the future. Mystical creatures with distinct and imaginative personalities are ready to meet the reader. I really rooted for Tiger and her brother, just as the reader should for main characters.

World Building: A dark world full of danger and despair pairs well with beautiful prose in this first novella installment.

Writing Style: I read this in a few sittings, which probably took a total of a few hours. The narrative and dialogue left me wanting more. Much of this book reads like a Shakespearean dream or a fable.

What I Enjoyed: Strong doesn't reveal everything, but gives enough clues for the reader to follow along on the journey. I could imagine the new world around me as I read about the flora and fauna of the future.

Deal Benders: Some details were confusing, but still enjoyable. I would like to know more about how humanity got to its present state, and what the heck are Watchers?

Overall Rating: 4 stars for a delightful adventure and excellent writing. (less)