Sunday, March 12, 2017

REVIEW: Virals #4 and #5 by Kathy and Brendan Riechs

Let's recap...

Tory Brennan and three of her friends who live on a secluded island off the coast of South Carolina were exposed to an experimental strain of canine parvovirus when they rescued a dog caged for medical experimentation. Calling themselves "Virals," they have heightened senses and animal quick reflexes that help them solve crimes but also cause them to keep secrets from those closest to them.

Exposure is book 4. Twin classmates from Bolton Prep are missing, appearing to be kidnapped and held for ransom.  Tory Brennan and her 'pack' of Virals decide that they are the best equipped to solve the case.

However, there are more problems to consider:

 1) Their powers are growing harder to control

2) Chance Claybourne continues to investigate Tory, her friends, and the medical experiment that went awry.

Tory are crew save the day using a mix of their abilities, science and some good old fashioned sleuthing.  This is an action packed mystery/thriller great for fans of the genre, Bones, Maximum Ride or who want a fun read.

Final rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Terminal is the final full length novel of the series.

The Virals are back—but they’re not the only pack in town anymore. Tory and the rest of the Morris Island gang track a pack of rogue Virals who call themselves the Trinity. The new pack was infected by a strain of supervirus created by Tory’s nemesis and sometimes-crush, Chance Clayborne, who accidentally infected himself, too.

These red-eyed Virals have openly challenged Tory’s pack for domination of Charleston, bringing on the attention of a shadowy government organization intent on learning the secret to their powers. Surviving it all is going to test the limits of the gang’s abilities and push them to make some tough decisions about their future as Virals.

Great pacing and sense of action and adventure with some twists and turns.  Loved the ending and can't wait to read the follow up novella!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

REVIEW: Jasper Dent #2 and #3 by Barry Lyga

Last year I read I Hunt Killers, book 1 of Lyga's Jasper Dent series about a seventeen year old who besides being the son of the world's most notorious serial killer also assists police in solving other serial killer crimes, all while attempting to live a "normal" life.

The series continues with Game.  Billy Dent has escaped prison, which has Jazz and the rest on the world on edge.  Jazz is asked to assist the NYPD with a series of murders by the Hat-Dog killer. What he finds is that this game plays a bigger part in his own twisted relationship with his father as well as revealing some startling truths about his mother.

The final book of the trilogy is Blood of My Blood. Jazz is close to catching his father and ending that chapter of his life.  He is determined to get some answers, put old demons to rest and protect his girlfriend, Connie, and best friend, Howie, from any more trauma and danger.

What I like about these books is that they are dark, edgy and raw.  I wouldn't recommend them to just any reader.  This is certainly a mature read with detailed discussion of some pretty heavy, adult themes (i.e. rape, murder, torture). Anyone wanting a fluffy romance need not apply.

That being said the narrative in compelling and will enthrall readers who want to reach the end of the story and learn all the deep, dark secrets of the Dent family. Jazz is a fascinating character since he struggles with two selves. These aren't my favorites since they creep me out quite a bit but will definitely appeal to the right reader.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

REVIEW: The Darkest Minds Trilogy by Alexandra Bracken

Bracken''s Darkest Minds trilogy is a slightly futuristic dystopian adventure which supposes that a mysterious disease has killed most of America's children.  Ruby wakes up on her tenth birthday knowing that something about her is different. Something which frightens her parents to much that they lock her in the garage and then allow her to be taken to Thurmond, a brutal government "rehabilitation" camp along with thousands of other children.

We soon learn that those children do survive the disease develop extraordinary abilities (i.e. manipulating fire, electricity and minds and even super strength). The adults are terrified, eradicating many of the children deemed to much of a threat and isolating the other to live in terror. Ruby lies about her ability to manipulate minds; however, six years later she is given the opportunity to escape and join a rebel group. It is difficult for Ruby to decide who to trust

While on the run and desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who have escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents. When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. Ruby is forced to make some hard choices that will eventually have significant consequences--namely forcing the boy she loves to forget he ever met her.

I enjoyed this first book.  The story is intriguing as is the character development if at times a bit predictable for the genre.  Great cliffhanger at the end.

Final rating:  4 out of 5 stars

In book 2, Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flash drive in the hands of Liam, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her.
Needless to say this book is filled with tension of bittersweet reunions are lies are unraveled and relationships put to the test. I like some of the newly introduced characters (Jude) but felt like much of the narrative dragged in the middle.  The ending is another heartwrecher.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Ruby is among the kids who survived the government's attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup. With them is a prisoner: Clancy Gray, son of the president, and one of the few people Ruby has encountered with abilities like hers. Only Ruby has any power over him, and just one slip could lead to Clancy wreaking havoc on their minds.

They are armed only with a volatile secret: proof of a government conspiracy to cover up the real cause of IAAN, the disease that has killed most of America's children and left Ruby and others like her with powers the government will kill to keep contained. But internal strife (namely tension between Liam and his older brother-in-charge Cole) may destroy their only chance to free the "rehabilitation camps" housing thousands of other Psi kids.

There is a lot of drama and planning that make up the crux of the narrative.  I found the ending a bit anticlimactic and still unsettling since having adults involved (even those on their "side) might still isolate children with abilities and create more problems rather than an environment of acceptance.  I did think that Ruby's final interaction with Clancy was fitting.

Final rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Overall, I recommend the series for readers who enjoy dystopian thrillers with adventure and romance.


Friday, February 17, 2017

REVIEW: King's Cage by Victoria Aveyard

King's Cage is book three in Aveyard's Red Queen series. Readers were left with a jaw dropper of an ending.

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, virtually powerless as she's cut off from her lightning and held captive by King Maven, the young boy she once thought was her friend and a potential love. Maven struggles to control a kingdom plagued by rebellion.

Outside of the palace walls, Mare's friends and allies comprised of Reds and New Bloods plot to wage war again Maven as well as mount a rescue for their friend.

King's Cage is very much a transition book, setting the stage for the next installment in 2018. While I still enjoyed it, I wasn't as entertained nor enchanted as I was with Red Queen and Glass Sword. This is due in part to Mare being isolated from many of the other characters. There is finally a reunion; however, it takes much of the narrative for this to happen.  Mare's interactions with Maven and others at court are insightful but there was something lacking for me.

Another miss for me was Aveyard's decision to change the POV and narrative style.  One one hand, I understand the change given Mare's captivity and the necessity to follow characters at another location.  However, the change upsets the already established framework of the series--much like Allegiant did with the Divergent trilogy. I haven't connected with these other character to the degree that I have with Mare, despite her faults.

A strength for Aveyard remains her endings.  King's Cage ends with another doozy and plenty of broken hearts and touch decisions.  Mare isn't my favorite person right now but we'll have to see how it all develops.

For a while I was worried this was the final book and with so little happening, the ending would be rushed.  Luckily, readers have one more to look forward to next year.

Final rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter:

REVIEW: Gilded Cage by Vic James

*Thanks to Netgalley and Del Rey Books for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

Gilded Cage is the debut from author Vic James. This narrative, set in Britain, supposes an alternate world where humans are either born with or without magical abilities.  The Equals, aristocrats with magic, have all the power. Leaving the commoners to suffer in servitude, most often hard slave labor, for 10 years.

Behind the enchanted gates of one of the three most powerful estates, Kyneston, a great power rises that just might break their world apart.

There is a lot going on within the book.  One one hand is the haves and have-nots of magical ability and how that affects the characters, the world and the driving force of politics throughout the book.

Is the adult fiction or YA?  Probably a crossover for both. The driving force is the introduction of two families and how they impact each other.  As commoners, the Hadley's are in a precarious place. Eldest daught, Abi, thinks she's negotiated a great deal to have her entire family serve their time together at Kyneston; however, as Equals, the Jardines break their own rules regarding keeping minor children with parents and Abi's younger brother, Luke, gets sent to the harsh labor town of Millmoor. These scenes are brutal but are the driving force for the story.  While at Millmoor, Luke becomes involved with a rebel group trying to improve the lives of slaves and readers later discover that there are more connections and a lot more deceit and power struggles afoot.

The Jardines are an interesting family. Lots of highs and lows with plenty of potential for the rest of the series.  Silyen is proving to be very tricky, dark and apt to show his hand at being an unhinged sociopath. If nothing else, he's creepy. Gavar's relationship with Daisy, the youngest Hadley is also unsettling and I spend part of my reading wanting to shake more sense into Jenner. For Abi, I can see the romantic appeal and attraction to the 'skilless' middle Jardine brother but she's a bit naive.

I do see potential for the series, especially with the events occurring at the novel's end for Abi and Luke.   I discovered the book, thinking that it might have echoes of Harry Potter and in some ways it does.  What surprised me is the bleak, dark and plain cruel nature of this society.  Definitely though provoking given the state of our own world. For the next book, I do hope there is more exploration of magic.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @DrVictoriaJames

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

REVIEW: The You I've Never Known by Ellen Hopkins

Ariel has always lived a transient life with her father, having been abandoned by her mother as a little girl.

Now seventeen and after years of new apartments, new schools, and new faces, all Ariel wants is to put down some roots. Complicating things are Monica and Gabe, both of whom have stirred a different kind of desire.

Maya’s a teenager who’s run from an abusive mother right into the arms of an older man she thinks she can trust. But with a baby on the way, life’s getting more complicated than Maya ever could have imagined.

Ariel and Maya’s lives collide unexpectedly when Ariel’s mother shows up out of the blue with wild accusations: Ariel wasn’t abandoned. Her father kidnapped her fourteen years ago.

Let me say I am a huge Hopkins fan. I love her writing style and that she is a fearless storyteller about painful and difficult topics.  The You I've Never Known is based in part on real life experience from the author, having her child kidnapped by her ex and not knowing her whereabouts for years.

This latest release will still appeal to readers but for me it wasn't my favorite of all her book released to date.  What is was lacking for me was an odd sense of pacing and closure. It is not until 60-70% through the book when I had the 'aha' moment to connect the narrative dots.  Even after that I wanted more to happen with the storyline and more of a resolution and consequences for characters, especially Ariel.

Overall, the quality is outstanding and will no doubt be one of 2017's top teen titles.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @ElleHopkinsLit

#amreading #TheYouIveNeverKnown #EllenHopkins #YALit #teen

Thursday, February 9, 2017

REVIEW: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

The first in a trilogy, Leviathan explores an alternate, steampunk influenced history of the advent of WWI and the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand.  Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

Through many trials and tribulations Aleksander and Deryn's paths cross, forcing them to forge an alliance for survival. What follows it an epic, around the world adventure full of amazing machines and spectacular creatures.

Leviathan has been on my "to-read" radar for a long time. I love a good steampunk novel and this is truly a creative spin on a pivotal moment in history.  I am intrigued enough to continue the series; however, I did find it difficult to connect with the characters.

Overall, this is a well written and developed novel for readers interested in the genre or history. I recommend the audiobook narrated by Alan Cumming--he does a fantastic performance.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars