Tag Archives: teens and young adult

Kid Lit Blog Hop #32

5 Feb

It’s time for one of my favorite times of the week (well, every other week)–The Kid Lit Blog Hop! It’s always such a treat to see what books have gotten other people excited. Will I discover something new and amazing? Will I get to share in a moment of “I love that book, too!”?

As for me, I’ve been busy with family, health, and housekeeping. But I’m still finding plenty of time to read with my 2-year old. We received a present from her great aunt a couple days ago titled Max Makes a Cake, which is a sweet story about a little boy who gets impatient while waiting for his father and decide to make his mother’s (Kosher for Passover) birthday cake all by himself. Daughter memorized the character’s names after a single reading and seems pretty enthused. I like the themes of problem-solving and independence. We’ve also been reading One, by Kathryn Otoshi, which is absolutely charming. I love the minimalist watercolor illustrations, strong anti-bullying message, and incorporation of color and number concepts. My daughter likes it when it’s time to take a stand and she gets to say “NO!” to bullying. We’ve got a pile of 10 library books in our current circulation, as well as selections from her ever-growing personal library.

As for my blog–I’ve got the following reviews coming up in my queue: White Spaces: Book One of the Dark Passages, Secrets Underground, Good Crooks Book One: Missing Monkey, Suitcase of Stars, Starring Me and You, How to Make a Planet, Ava and Pip, and more! Right now I’m in the position of having so many wonderful sounding books to read that I’m never sure where to start. I can think of worse problems to have.

So, that’s where I am this week. How about you? Please, take a moment to link up to the hop and comment on some of the awesome posts I’m sure you’ll discover.


Welcome to the 32nd Kid Lit Blog Hop where twice per month (the 1st and 3rd Wednesday) we continue to develop a dynamic and engaged community of children’s books bloggers, authors, publishers, and publicists. So, you are always more than welcome to join us by popping in a post and hopping around to meet some of your fellow Kid Lit bloggers and authors!

We are pleased to welcome with us this week a new full-time permanent hostess on the Hop, Maria from the blog Music Teaching and Parenting is joining us. Plus, we are also happy to have Savannah Mae from the book blog Say What? Savannah Mae Book Reviews. Big welcome to Maria and Savannah Mae!

Happy Hopping everyone and enjoy the Hop!

Kid Lit Blog Hop
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Kid Lit Blog Hop Rules *Please Read*

1. We ask that you kindly follow your hostesses. You can follow us any way you choose (Email, GFC, Twitter, Facebook, G+, Pinterest, etc.), but we’ve added our preferences below. If you could just give us a quick “follow” or “like” that would be much appreciated! Make sure to leave us a message if you are following us (i.e., on Twitter or Facebook or on our websites) and we will be sure to follow you back. Thanks! 🙂

Hostesses:

Renee @ Mother Daughter Book Reviews Facebook * Twitter

Jaymie @ Snacks for Max Twitter * Facebook

Katie @ Youth Literature Reviews Twitter * Facebook

Julie Grasso, Author/ Blogger Twitter * Facebook

Cheryl Carpinello, Author / Blogger Twitter * Facebook

Reshama @ Stacking Books Twitter * Facebook

Stacie @ BeachBoundBooks Twitter * Facebook

Destiny @ Reading and Sharing Twitter * Facebook

Maria@ Music Teaching and Parenting Twitter * Facebook

Mia @ Pragmatic Mom Twitter * Facebook

Co-Hostess:

Savannah Mae @ Say What? Savannah Mae Book Reviews Twitter * Facebook

2. Link up any Kid Lit related post. This can be a link to a children’s book review, a discussion about children’s literature/literacy, or a post on a recently-read children’s book or one that you love from your childhood.

* Don’t link directly to your blog, it must be a specific post.*

* For Authors, we prefer you to link to your blog if you have one. Please link unique posts each time ~ no repeats please. *

* Make sure you include an image relevant to the POST (e.g., book cover), not your blog button or photo of yourself.*

* Feel free to link more than one post.*

3. Please visit AT LEAST the TWO LINKS directly ahead of your own and leave them some love in the form of a comment. We are trying to build a community of bloggers, readers, parents, authors, and others who are as passionate about children’s literature as we are so please CONNECT and follow any or all of the blogs that interest you! 4. If you like, grab the button above and put it somewhere on your blog, preferably the post you’re linking up. If you’d prefer, you can just add a text link back to this Hop so that others can find it and check out all these great book links! 5. It would really help us get the word out about the Kid Lit Blog Hop if you would be so kind as to tweet, share, and spread the word about the Hop!

Interested in co-hosting the Kid Lit Blog Hop? Please email renee @ motherdaughterbookreviews (dot) com and put Co-Hosting Blog Hop in the subject line.

Happy Hopping!

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The In-Between

9 Jan

Today’s book review is for The In-Between, by Barbara Stewart, published by St. Martin’s Press. I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

The In-Between book cover

Elanor Moss is a 14-year old girl moving to a new town with her parents for a fresh start after a suicide attempt. On the way she’s in a terrible car accident that nearly ends her life once more. Her near death experience opens a door to a world inhabited by bold and beautiful Madeline Torus. Madeline is everything Elanor has wanted in a best friend–and most of all, Madeline needs Elanor just as much as Elanor needs her. But Madeline isn’t like other girls and if Elanor talks about her, she could be labeled as crazy. Soon, Elanor finds her life spinning out of control. Is she having a paranormal experience, or is her damaged brain having a psychotic break?

As a middle grade student, paranormal and psychological thrillers were a staple of my literary diet. Hauntings, mediums, astral projection, dissociative personalities–I couldn’t get enough of this stuff. Reading The In-Between felt like a return to those roots. It was a wonderful reminder of how gripping a well-written thriller can be. Once I got into the story, I couldn’t stop reading.

Stewart does an amazing job at keeping her writing ambiguous. There is always the question of whether Madeline is a ghost or a construction of a damaged mind. This question builds amazing tension throughout the book. Even when you’ve convinced yourself that one answer is true, something will happen which throws all your assumptions into question. It’s surprising to discover, that with this amount of skill, this is Stewart’s writing debut.

Probably my favorite part of the book, though, was the narrative discourse and structure. I loved that it was written as though it were Elanor’s journals. This lent itself well to a variety of chapter lengths, including one-liners or the obsessive repetition of Madeline’s name. It felt authentic as a result. It reminded me a little of my own journal-writing as a teenager–the reflection, the self-absorption, the addressing of an imagined audience. I liked how it gave such rich psychological insight to the protagonist.

I’m giving this book 4 stars. It was creepy and captivating. One star is held in reserve because I wanted the “in-between” to be developed a bit more clearly. Still, that’s a pretty minor quibble. This is a great book for teens who like paranormal fiction or thrillers. It’s also excellent for anyone who has felt like an outcast, who has questioned their sanity, or is curious about what it might feel like. Since the book does discuss suicide, sleeping pill abuse, and self-harm, it is recommended for mature readers.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

Kid Lit Blog Hop #30

8 Jan

I am thrilled to announce that I am the newest addition to the hostess team for the Kid Lit Blog Hop! When I was just getting started with this whole blogging thing last year, I stumbled upon this event and fell in love. Not only has it given me a great opportunity to discover more wonderful children’s books–it’s also introduced me to some lovely fellow bloggers in the Kid Lit sphere. One of my blogging goals for 2014 was to get more involved with the hop. And I decided that instead of waiting around, I might as well jump in and ask. I’ve realized the past few months that being successful at blogging requires a lot more than generating quality content–for example putting yourself out there to network with others. That means I’ve had to get over some of my hang ups about approaching people. Sometimes that means I ask for a review copy and get turned down. Other times it means that I nervously ask to become a hostess on a blog hop and get a warm, enthusiastic welcome to the team. So, on the balance, I’d say it’s worth it.

And, now, I encourage you all to Read more and Share more.


Welcome to the 30th Kid Lit Blog Hop. This is our first hop of 2014! In 2013, we have welcomed so many wonderful people and we are very excited to continue to develop a dynamic and engaged community of children’s books bloggers, authors, publishers, and publicists. So, you are always more than welcome to join us by popping in a post and hopping around to meet some of the new bloggers who have joined the Hop. If you are one of our regulars – thank you so much!

Happy New Year!!

Happy Hopping everyone and enjoy the Hop!

Kid Lit Blog Hop

Kid Lit Blog Hop Rules *Please Read*

1. We ask that you kindly follow your hosts and co-hosts. You can follow us any way you choose (Email, GFC, Twitter, Facebook, G+, Pinterest, etc.), but we’ve added our preferences below. If you could just give us a quick “follow” or “like” that would be much appreciated! Make sure to leave us a message if you are following us (i.e., on Twitter or Facebook or on our websites) and we will be sure to follow you back. Thanks! 🙂

Hostesses:

Renee @ Mother Daughter Book Reviews Facebook * Twitter

Jaymie @ Snacks for Max Twitter * Facebook

Katie @ Youth Literature Reviews Twitter * Facebook

Julie Grasso, Author/ Blogger Twitter * Facebook

Cheryl Carpinello, Author / Blogger Twitter * Facebook

Reshama @ Stacking Books Twitter * Facebook

Stacie @ BeachBoundBooks Twitter * Facebook

Destiny @ Reading and Sharing Twitter * Facebook

2. Link up any Kid Lit related post. This can be a link to a children’s book review, a discussion about children’s literature/literacy, or a post on a recently-read children’s book or one that you love from your childhood.

* Don’t link directly to your blog, it must be a specific post.*

* For Authors, we prefer you to link to your blog if you have one. Please link unique posts each time ~ no repeats please. *

* Make sure you include an image relevant to the POST (e.g., book cover), not your blog button or photo of yourself.*

* Feel free to link more than one post.*

3. Please visit AT LEAST the TWO LINKS directly ahead of your own and leave them some love in the form of a comment. We are trying to build a community of bloggers, readers, parents, authors, and others who are as passionate about children’s literature as we are so please CONNECT and follow any or all of the blogs that interest you!

4. If you like, grab the button above and put it somewhere on your blog, preferably the post you’re linking up. If you’d prefer, you can just add a text link back to this Hop so that others can find it and check out all these great book links!

5. It would really help us get the word out about the Kid Lit Blog Hop if you would be so kind as to tweet, share, and spread the word about the Hop!

Interested in co-hosting the Kid Lit Blog Hop? Please email renee @ motherdaughterbookreviews (dot) com and put Co-Hosting Blog Hop in the subject line.

Happy Hopping!

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Dark Spell

17 Dec

Today’s book review is for Dark Spell, by Gill Arbuthnott, published by Floris Books. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Dark Spell book cover

Callie Hall has always felt a bit like a misfit. She has few friends other than Josh, whom she met when he was vacationing in her village last summer. However, she’s still not prepared to find out that she’s a witch. She struggles against her new-found identity. But when Callie and Josh decide to explore the old tunnels beneath St. Andrews, she brings a darkness back with her–and soon she can’t deny who she is. If she’s going to defeat the darkness, though, she’s going to have to figure out what it is and embrace her witch heritage. Will she be able to master her powers before the people she cares about are placed in mortal danger?

The thing that bothered me most while reading this novel was that the Kindle formatting was terrible. Even though formatting is a cosmetic issue rather than a style issue, it can still impact one’s reading. At times it was difficult for me to follow the dialogue, because there needed to be line breaks which weren’t there. There were also places where cut scenes weren’t delineated which also got to be a bit confusing. This was a big problem, because every formatting issue pulled me out of the story.

It wasn’t the only problem, though. Even though the story was interesting and creepy, the pacing was far too slow. There were too many moments where I found myself wondering when we’d get back to the interesting bits–it wasn’t a building of suspense, but rather too much of Callie’s inner monologue. Her inner monologue was pretty predictable. She’s worried that her friend is going to freak out and stop being her friend. She can’t deal with her mother. She’s not sure she’s strong enough to handle the task at hand. Sound familiar to anyone else?

And it’s too bad, because I actually found a lot of the story quite compelling. I absolutely loved how local history was woven into the plot. It made the haunting seem all the more plausible because the history had actually happened. It also made it easier to imagine a lot of the locations, even though I’d never been to them. I could picture St. Andrews with all the tunnels, the unremarkable Dane’s Dyke, the ocean of Pitmillie. All of it felt vivid and alive. The characters were also fairly likable. I loved grandmom Rose and her circle of friends. And I liked Josh and Callie, too. Sometimes Callie irritated me, but I think that nearly any teenage girl would.

So, it’s kind of a wash. It has all of the elements for a great novel, but the pacing and atrocious formatting prevented it from attaining that status. If you’re the kind of person who is into the creepy YA paranormal genre, it could be worth checking out (particularly if formatting issues don’t bother you as much as they do me). I’ll give it 3 stars since I cared about what was going to happen in the end. But that might be a little bit generous.

You can find out more about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

Defy

11 Dec

Today’s book review is for Defy, by Sara B. Larson, published by Scholastic. It is scheduled to be released January 7, 2014. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Defy book cover

Defy is a thrilling YA fantasy debut from Sara B. Larson. It follows young fighter Alexa Hollen, who must disguise herself as a boy, Alex, when raiders come to her village and kill her parents. Alex and her twin brother, Marcel, work their way into the palace guard for Prince Damian of Antion. It’s not easy hiding her true identity, but she’s doing pretty good. That is, until a powerful sorcerer breaks into the palace and turns things upside down. Alex, her fellow guard Rylan, and Prince Damian are abducted and transported to a neighboring enemy kingdom. Amidst all of this, Alex’s true identity is found out–and she finds herself faced with Ryland and Damian both vying for her affections. Soon she discovers that she’s not the only one harboring dangerous secrets, and not everything is as it seems in the kingdoms. Will she have the strength to sort out her feelings and save the kingdom before it’s too late? Only time will tell.

I’ve long loved stories of women who feel compelled to live the lives of men. Part of it is because the women are able to demonstrate that, despite social opinion to the contrary, women are every bit as capable as men. Another part is the tension that it creates. As the audience is in on the secret, we can see the dangers threatening to expose our protagonist lurking around every corner. Moreover, we can laugh at the awkward moments and mis-communication that occur as the true identity struggles to assert itself once more (sometimes subconsciously) despite all the risks. Larson was able to deliver all of these things in her story. It was a real treat to see a female protagonist who was so strong, courageous and quick-witted, but also vulnerable and plagued with uncertainty.

Although the character development was strong, what I really enjoyed were the interpersonal dynamics between the characters. There was complexity there. Loyalty to a fellow guardsmen can overcome personal competition. Enemies can become allies, but maybe not friends. Love, no matter how strong, doesn’t have to be acted upon. It was refreshing to see so much nuance and ambiguity in the relationships between characters. People are complex. It felt true to life.

I also loved that even though the love triangle is a major storyline in the novel, there is still a lot of action. There are thrilling battles, ingenious escapes, and troubling treks through the jungle. For readers who don’t feel invested in the romance element, the political plot is equally engaging–and even more complex. The world that Larson has created is fascinating, broad and deep.

Once I started reading this book, I couldn’t put it down. I stayed up into the wee hours of the night because I jut had to know what was going to happen. My biggest disappointment is that now I’m going to have to wait for a sequel. For that reason, I’m giving it 5 out of 5 stars. If you’re looking for a gripping fantasy with a side of love triangle, you should definitely consider picking up this book. It won’t disappoint.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

The Severed Tower: Review and Giveaway

26 Nov

Today’s book review is for The Severed Tower, by J. Barton Mitchell, published by St. Martin’s Press. I received this book directly from the publisher, for free, in exchange for an honest review. I also received an extra copy, which I’ll be giving away in a raffle. Keep reading after the review for details on how to enter to win.

The Severed Tower book cover

The Severed Tower is the second novel in J. Barton Mitchell’s Conquered Earth series. Earlier this month, I reviewed the first book of the series, Midnight City. The second installment didn’t let me down.

The book picks up with Holt, Mira, Zoey and Max journeying to the the Severed Tower in the center of the Strange Lands so that Zoey can fulfill the prophecy revealed to her by the Oracle. They know that reaching the tower will be difficult, but it proves to be more than they expected. To begin with, the Strange Lands, a dangerous region where the laws of physics don’t always apply, seems to be expanding. Then, the Assembly aliens, who usually avoid the Strange Lands, continue their pursuit of Zoey. At the same time, the pirate group that has a bounty on Holt arrives on the scene. And as the team gets closer to the tower, Zoey grows progressively weaker. Fortunately they’ll find unexpected help along the way: Mira’s old Freebooter associates, the White Helix (a cult that reveres the Strange Lands), a reluctant Menagerie team, and even a mysterious Assembly walker who has been stripped of its colors. Will it be enough? Holt and Mira don’t know, but they’re willing to sacrifice everything to ensure that Zoey reaches the Severed Tower–not just to fulfill their promise to her, but because they’re starting to believe that she just might be the key to overthrowing the Assembly once and for all.

As before, Mitchell has crafted an action-packed novel that keeps you on your toes from beginning to end. Since that was one of the things I loved about Midnight City, I was pleased to see that the pacing didn’t suffer from the sequel slump. Instead, he presented even more sources of danger to keep readers on the edge of their seat. I especially loved the introduction of the Anomalies in the Strange Lands, which were presented as puzzles that could kill. They definitely added a new level of suspense, especially since their appearance was unpredictable.

I also liked how Holt and Mira were forced to confront their pasts–and how it brought old weaknesses and self-doubt to the surface. They could easily have ridden high on the confidence of their victory at Midnight City. Instead, we were given more opportunity to see complex emotions and character development. By introducing people from their pasts, Mitchell also provided the audience a window onto why they behave as they do. And I especially liked the parallel development, that Holt and Mira are both confronting their issues at the same time.

Most of all, I enjoyed getting some more points of view in the narration. The first book was mostly from the perspective of Holt and Mira. Technically, this one might have been, too. However, this time we got much more from Zoey, as well as sections told from the perspective of the Assembly Hunter, Avril (from the White Helix), and an Assembly walker called “Ambassador”. This inclusion of more perspectives helped to flesh out Mitchell’s Conquered Earth world even more.

There were a couple of minor issues with the book. First, there were some flashback chapters that I found a bit jarring. The first time that I encountered one, I wasn’t sure what was going on–if it was the result of a Strange Lands anomaly or what. They could have been set up a little more effectively, so that readers didn’t have to expend so much energy trying to figure it out (since there are so many more interesting things to speculate about). Second, I was a little unsure about how well the book stands alone. As someone who enthusiastically read and enjoyed the first novel in the series, I was able to follow along with no problem. Names, place, and terms specific to the series were already familiar. I do think that people who haven’t read the first book will be able to read and enjoy this one; I just wonder if it might be a bit confusing at times. It’s always a challenging situation, though. Too much rehashing alienates established fans, too little alienates new readers.

Overall, I loved it. I’m a fan of the blending of dystopia, sci-fi and fantasy elements. I like the themes of alien invasion, survival, friendship, social organization, and morality. It’s not only one of the most unique stories I’ve read, it’s also one of the most exciting. The Severed Tower earns 4 stars and my enthusiastic encouragement that you get out there and read it, so I have someone with whom to discuss it!

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads. And, if you have a US or Canadian shipping address, you can enter to win a copy of your very own!

Click the following link to find out how to enter: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Contaminated

21 Nov

Today’s book review is for Contaminated by Em Garner, published by Egmont USA. I received an electronic copy of this text from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Contaminated book cover

Contaminated is a novel for young adults and teens, set in a dystopian near-future. When a trendy diet drink started to turn people into shambling, murderous creatures unable to control their impulses, society starts to crumble. Luckily the government is able to step in to round up those who have been contaminated and neutralize the problem–the first step to getting back on track. Since the contamination, 17-year old Velvet Ellis has been juggling school, work, and parenting her little sister, Opal. Then, after months of searching, Velvet finally finds her mother at one of the “kennels” for the contaminated, and her life is turned upside down again. She’s told that her mom will never recover from what happened, but it’s not long before Velvet starts to question that assertion. Is it just foolish hope, or can the contaminated improve? And will she be able to hold her family together when the world seems to be doing everything in its power to tear them apart once more?

I have to say, Garner has come up with an incredibly compelling plot. As soon as I read the book synopsis I was eager to request a review copy. Not only was it an interesting twist on the zombie trope, it also pulled in the moral questions of dystopia. Heck, there was even a little jab at diet culture and consumerism. What’s not to love? Unfortunately, quite a lot.

First, the pace was ploddingly slow. From the description, it sounds like the sort of book that would have a lot of action and intrigue–but it doesn’t. Very little actually happens. I was halfway through the book when I had the realization that nothing really significant had happened. Then, I realized that all of the cool-sounding plot stuff wasn’t the primary story. The primary story was the story of an adolescent, Velvet, having to grow up before she was ready–learning how to navigate the world of adulthood. She spends most of her time worrying about laundry, the food budget, keeping her sister in school, how to support her family, all while caring for a mother who has essentially the same problems as a patient recovering from a major stroke. It wasn’t a bad story–it just wasn’t the one that was advertised.

Then there was the problem of Velvet. The entire story is told in first person from her point of view. The problem with this is that Velvet isn’t all that interesting or likable as far as narrators go. She’s too flat, too catty, too irritating. Fortunately I liked Opal and I was interested to discover what would happen with their mother. Otherwise, I’m not sure I could have tolerated the narrative voice. Velvet’s inner monologue is incredibly redundant and exceedingly boring. That’s because, as mentioned earlier, she spends a lot of time thinking about mundane things. She’s also so judgmental and catty that when other characters are hostile toward her it’s hard to feel much sympathy. I think it’s supposed to be an indication that she’s hardened by the trauma of her experiences, but it read as mere pettiness.

Here’s the thing, though. In the last hundred pages or so, stuff started to get interesting. New cases of contamination started to appear. The media started to shut down. Soldiers and police started asserting more control. And even though Velvet was still focused on her family, it raised a lot of questions for the reader. Then, it ended before any of those questions were answered.

So, even though there were some problems with this book, I’m hoping that there will be a sequel. I don’t really care about what happens to Velvet, but I do want to know more about the world she’s living in. Which means I’m giving Contaminated 3 out of 5 star rating. Because, for all that I didn’t like about it, I still liked it enough to want to read more.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

Will O’ The Wisp

18 Nov

Today’s book review is for Will O’ The Wisp: An Aurora Grimeon Story, written by Tom Hammock, illustrated by Megan Hutchinson, published by Archaia Entertainment. It is scheduled to be released on December 10, 2013. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Will O' the Wisp book cover

Will O’ The Wisp is a wonderful graphic novel debut from Tom Hammock and Megan Hutchinson. Aurora Grimeon finds herself orphaned after her parents accidentally ingest death cap mushrooms. Having no other family, Aurora is sent to live with a grandfather she has never met, on Ossuary Isle–deep in the swamps of Louisiana. Ossuary Isle is a strange place: there are more graves than people, no other children around, and the locals seem to all adhere to Hoodoo. Aurora doesn’t feel like she belongs in her new home. But when mysterious deaths start plaguing the small swamp community, she can’t help but investigate. Will Aurora get to the bottom of things before she ends up at the bottom of the swamp?

Hammock does an excellent job at crafting a story full of intrigue and suspense. His descriptions and characters make Ossuary Isle come to life. As someone who has never been to the swamps of Louisiana, I felt like I could picture this place and feel the other-worldliness of it. One thing in particular that I thought Hammock nailed was how Aurora is initially skeptical about Hoodoo, but quickly embraces it–because young adolescents often are more open and flexible in their beliefs. She’s rounded out by being curious, resilient, and independent. In short, she’s a pretty cool protagonist.

Hutchinson’s art is fabulous. The entire book has a heavy, muted, dark feel to it, due to Hutchinson’s color palette. Even the gutters (the space surrounding individual panels) are black. She also uses a lot of strong, angular lines in her work. All of these elements work together to create a sense of mystery and foreboding. I enjoyed the stylized rendering of people–everyone has exaggeratedly long legs and short torsos. It’s especially noticeable on Aurora, who is often wearing skirts and knee socks–and generally dresses like a goth.

It’s been a while since I read a great comic with a paranormal story–so this left me excited. Due to the number of dead bodies encountered in the story, it’s not recommended for readers under the age of 12, unless they are exceptionally mature. I can’t really speak to the accuracy of the depiction of hoodoo or swamp life, but I can attest that it’s an excellent work of speculative fiction for middle grades and teen readers. That’s why I’m giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

External Forces First Chapter Reveal

8 Nov

Today I am pleased to have the opportunity to share the prologue and first chapter of External Forces, by Deborah Rix. Last month I posted a 4 star review of the book. Since then I’ve been talking with the author about her research, her publishing experience, publicity, and life in general. One of the things I love about reviewing books is that sometimes I stumble upon a work that I really believe in–and I can help to share it with the world. If the chapter reveal piques your interest, keep watching the blog for a follow-up interview with the author, and information about a giveaway.


Treason, betrayal, and heartbreak.

A lot can happen to a girl between her first kiss and her first kill.

It’s 100 years since the Genetic Integrity Act was passed and America closed its borders to prevent genetic contamination. Now only the enemy, dysgenic Deviants, remain beyond the heavily guarded border. The Department of Evolution carefully guides the creation of each generation and deviations from the divine plan are not permitted.

When 16-year-old Jess begins to show signs of deviance she enlists in the Special Forces, with her best friend Jay, in a desperate bid to evade detection by the Devotees. Jess is good with data, not so good with a knife. So when the handsome and secretive Sergeant Matt Anderson selects her for his Black Ops squad, Jess is determined to figure out why.

As her deviance continues to change her, Jess is forced to decide who to trust with her deadly secret. Jess needs to know what’s really out there, in the Deviant wasteland over the border, if she has any hope of making it to her 17th birthday. Because if the enemy doesn’t kill her first, the Department of Evolution probably will.

External Forces book cover Title: External Forces
Author: Deborah Rix
Publisher: Dime Store Books
Pages: 268
Language: English
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Format: eBook and Paperback

Purchase at Amazon

Prologue:

I haven’t slept in forty-eight hours.

It’s part of the Special Operations Assessment and Selection course, twenty-eight days of grueling work. The two days of no sleep are meant to disorient us, part of discarding our former selves. There are three hundred of us trying to figure out how to do what we’re told, when we’re told to, and how to do it correctly. Jay and I weren’t assigned to the same platoon, which was unexpected. I’m in the “civilian” platoon; we’re the ones with skills that don’t generally require brute force. I think Jay is in some kind of elite group because I haven’t seen him, I’ve only seen the G-men platoon. They are all about brute force; they’re the ones that opted for genetic enhancement at age thirteen without the supervision of the Devotees. But Special Forces is, well, special, so they have to prove they’ve got more than muscle and I’ve gotta prove I’ve got more than a quick mind.

If I don’t make it to Special Forces, my life expectancy in the regular army could be pretty short. And if I’m a complete washout, I’ll have to go to my assessment with the Devotees and they’ll find out about me, making my life expectancy even shorter. I seriously need to pass.

Zero dark thirty is when I have to haul myself out of bed in the so-called morning. My drill sergeant has been yelling at me for most of the past two days. The word “why” has been surgically removed from everyone’s vocabulary. Any individual hesitation in following orders means at least one private is getting smoked, if not the whole platoon, which usually means push-ups. We’ve done a lot of push-ups. I stare straight ahead as the drill sergeant walks by me and continues down the row of privates. I made the mistake of “eyeballing” him yesterday.

Never. Eyeball. A drill sergeant.

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Midnight City

6 Nov

Today’s book review is for Midnight City, the first book in the Conquered Earth series by J. Barton Mitchell, published by St. Martin’s Press. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, through the Goodreads First Reads program, in exchange for an honest review. The second book in the series, The Severed Tower, is scheduled to be released later this month.

Midnight City is a science-fantasy novel set in a dystopian future where aliens have conquered earth. When the aliens invaded, they were able to subdue the human population through the use of a strong telepathic signal called the Tone. However, the signal only works on people once they’ve reached adulthood. The result is that children have organized themselves into a new society, doing what they can to survive until they finally succumb to the Tone. The story follows Holt Hawkins, a loner bounty hunter, whose only companion is his dog Max. But when Holt and his target, wanted treasure hunter Mira Toombs, discover a young girl in a crashed Assembly ship, his life is turned upside down. As the three companions make their way to Midnight City, they must evade feuding alien armies, deal with pirates, and escape mutants. Meanwhile the mysterious young girl, Zoey, starts to display amazing powers that just might be the key to defeating the Assembly once and for all. Holt must decide: is he going to continue to go it alone–or will he work with his newfound companions for something greater than mere survival?

Mitchell’s debut novel starts in the middle of action and never relents. It is a fast-paced and gripping story that I didn’t want to put down. The plot and pacing were both masterfully executed. And, yet, for as much action as there is, there are some wonderfully executed characters. Not only do they feel dynamic and real, but they also grow over the course of the story. It’s nice to see that sort of development in a work that is so heavy on plot and action.

I was especially drawn in by Mitchell’s world building. I loved the empty landscapes, the crumbling remnants of civilization, and the strange new settlements built by the surviving children. I liked the descriptions of the Assembly, cloaked in spindly-legged walkers, true forms always obscured. Even the descriptions of the Strange Lands, which are never visited in the course of this novel, still pop with life and energy. This world is broad and complete–especially the descriptions of the expansive cave metropolis known as Midnight City.

This is a compelling young adult read with elements of dystopia, science fiction, and fantasy. It explores themes of alien invasion, survival, friendship, social organization, and morality, among others. Although the descriptions of the aliens were reminiscent of War of the Worlds, the overall story is refreshingly original. I give it 4 out of 5 stars for being such a strong and engaging novel. I can’t wait to read the sequel.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.