Book Review: The Garden of Darkness by Gillian Murray Kendall

Book Review: The Garden of Darkness by Gillian Murray KendallThe Garden of Darkness by Gillian Murray Kendall
Published by Ravenstone on June 24, 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
5 Stars
Their families dead from the pandemic SitkaAZ13, known as Pest, 15-year-old cheerleader Clare and 13-year-old chess club member Jem, an unlikely pair, are thrown together and realize that, if either of them wishes to reach adulthood, they must find a cure.A shadowy adult broadcasting on the radio to all orphaned children promises just that — to cure children once they grow into Pest, then to feed them and to care for them.

Or does this adult have something else in mind?

Against a hostile landscape of rotting cities and of a countryside infected by corpses and roamed by voracious diseased survivors, Jem and Clare make their bid for life and, with their group of fellow child-travelers growing, embark on a journey to find the grownup they believe holds the cure. Their only weapon is Clare’s dog, Bear.

But Clare and Jem, as well as their followers, are hampered by the knowledge that everything in this new child-led world had become suspect—the love of diseased adults, alliances, trust, hope. As Clare and Jem learn to stitch wounds, skin deer and survive in the ashes of the old world perhaps it is no surprise that they begin to find that friendship is as redemptive as anything they seek—that friendship has its own kind of healing power. And, at the end of their journey, in the face of the ultimate betrayal, they discover that out of friendship can come love.

Book Review:

Sometimes when I finish a book, I feel … gutted. In a good way. I’m sad that I finished the book. I’m sad that I won’t get to spend any more time with the characters, watching them explore their world and grow in the process. I’m sad that my adventure in reading the book is over. I find it hard to start another book, because I’m still thinking about the book I just finished.

THE GARDEN OF DARKNESS made me feel that way. This book got to me. That’s hard for a post-apocalyptic/dystopian book to do, because I’ve read a ton in the genres, almost to the point where they’re all the same. To a degree, THE GARDEN OF DARKNESS is like a lot of what’s out there: all adults are killed by a mysterious disease leaving the world full of kids. Some kids band together, some go it alone, some live, some die. There’s usually someone smart who takes advantage of the chaos to create their own castle and rule like a king. And so on.

All of that, and darker, is in this book. But what’s different about THE GARDEN OF DARKNESS is how it’s written and the characters. Instead of employing the usual first-person point of view that’s common, the author tells the story in third-person. This sort of keeps you from the full emotional impact of the known world ending, but then the little things really pop up and sucker punch you. Like when Clare realizes there probably won’t be any new books written for a very, very long time. The author also sometimes gives hints as to when something really bad is going to happen, which got me. For example, saying that if Clare knew what was going to happen next, she would have enjoyed X moment of happiness. This tactic had me trying to flip ahead so I could find out right away what would happen, which is hard to do when you’re reading an e-book.

The characters and the relationships they form are another great part of this book. I’m always critical of romantic relationships (and they usually don’t work for me), so it’s super refreshing to see friendship be so important. I think one of the themes of THE GARDEN OF DARKNESS is the family you choose. Clare nearly loses herself after her parents die from Pest, but when she meets Jem, Mirri, and Sarai, she has a new reason to live. And all of the characters were so distinct, so alive. Not just the main four, but all of them, from the gang of city kids to Ramah and Bird Boy. I could have read a lot more about every one of them.

For the first third or so of the book, I wanted THE GARDEN OF DARKNESS to move faster. It’s somewhat slow at the beginning, setting up Pest, then following Clare’s depression after her parents’ death. But as I got further in, I started to enjoy the slow pace. The book does pick up after Clare meets those who will become her family. The action builds from there, to a showdown with a creepy villain. I rather liked that part, though it’s hard to say why without spoiling everything. Let’s just say the author doesn’t take the usual route, and I enjoyed that.

THE GARDEN OF DARKNESS breathes fresh light into the post-apocalyptic/dystopian genres, and I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a new twist on the same old. Oh, I forgot to mention one more good thing — this book is a standalone!

About the author:

Gillian Murray Kendall is a American author and a Professor of English literature at Smith College. A specialist in Shakespeare and English Renaissance drama, and a graduate of Stanford University’s Creative Writing Program, she teaches a course on the post-apocalyptic novel as well as on topics in Renaissance literature. Kendall is the author of articles, short stories and a book of essays.
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– leeanna

Book Review: Dorothy Must Die (Dorothy #1) by Danielle Paige

Book Review: Dorothy Must Die (Dorothy #1) by Danielle PaigeDorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
Series: Dorothy Must Die #1
Published by HarperCollins on April 1, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
Pages: 464
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero.

But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though—but even that's crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy.

They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas.

I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.

I've been trained to fight.

And I have a mission.

Book Review:

I like fairytale retellings a lot; I’ve read dozens and dozens. But DOROTHY MUST DIE is my first retelling of THE WIZARD OF OZ. Well, my first book retelling. I really liked Tinman, Syfy’s redo. So I was hoping for something along that line.

I should have loved DOROTHY MUST DIE. Instead of the colorful, happy, Munchkin-filled, joyous land we remember from the movie, Oz has turned into a desolate wasteland. Glinda uses Munchkins as slave labor, mining magic from Oz so Dorothy can have it. Oh yeah — Dorothy returned to Oz because Kansas just wasn’t good enough after her adventures. Instead of a wholesome farm girl, Dorothy’s a powermad princess, and has remade Oz in her vision. That? All good. I love that sort of stuff.

But I didn’t love DOROTHY MUST DIE. It’s a book with great ideas but poor execution. It’s basically 469 pages of setup for the rest of the series. The title should be “Dorothy Almost Dies” or a “A Primer of Oz History Under Dorothy.” The beginning of the book caught my attention, the middle put me to sleep, and the end left me saying, “that’s it?”

Amy, our sarcastic, unwilling hero is brought to Oz in a tornado. Even in its current condition, Oz is a step up from home, where she lives in a trailer park with her addict mother and is bullied by the popular girls at school. Amy’s an unlikely hero. When she’s rescued by a group of Wicked witches, she doesn’t take their word for it that she’s the only one who can kill Dorothy. Amy’s an okay character. She did some stupid things, which I always dislike, but I thought she also reacted realistically to the situations she got herself in.

My biggest problem with DOROTHY MUST DIE is that not a lot happens. For a book of its length, there should be a lot more going on. As I said, the beginning was good, with lots of action. But once Amy settled in with the witches, the book took a left turn to boring. Normally I really like descriptions of training and turning someone into an assassin/hero/etc., but the author didn’t keep me interested. I kept wanting to skim to more exciting parts, but they didn’t come until the last couple of pages and then the book ends on a cliffhanger.

After training, Amy infiltrates Dorothy’s palace … as a maid. So there’s another boring part, because I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to make reading about cleaning exciting. And Dorothy likes her palace to be really, really clean. I did not enjoy 100+ pages of that.

DOROTHY MUST DIE is the first book in a trilogy. Usually, you want to read the first book, because it’s full of information you need for the next two books. When I finished DOROTHY MUST DIE, I really felt like I could have skipped it and jumped right into book two, if it was available.

Socialize with the author:

Danielle Paige:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Death Sworn (Death Sworn #1) by Leah Cypess

Book Review: Death Sworn (Death Sworn #1) by Leah CypessDeath Sworn by Leah Cypess
Series: Death Sworn #1
Published by Greenwillow Books on March 4, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
1 Stars
When Ileni lost her magic, she lost everything: her place in society, her purpose in life, and the man she had expected to spend her life with. So when the Elders sent her to be magic tutor to a secret sect of assassins, she went willingly, even though the last two tutors had died under mysterious circumstances.

But beneath the assassins’ caves, Ileni will discover a new place and a new purpose… and a new and dangerous love. She will struggle to keep her lost magic a secret while teaching it to her deadly students, and to find out what happened to the two tutors who preceded her. But what she discovers will change not only her future, but the future of her people, the assassins… and possibly the entire world.

Book Review:

Dear DEATH SWORN,

I wanted to love you. I really did. You have some of my favorite things, including assassins and mages. But when it took me a couple of tries to read the first chapter, and then sheer determination to keep reading the rest of you, I knew we weren’t going to work out.

DEATH SWORN, when it comes down to it, you were, well, boring.

I can’t remember very much about you, and it’s only been a few days since I finally finished you. I feel like you are set up for the rest of the series, but you didn’t even accomplish much set up. For example, I don’t know very much about the world Ileni lives in. I needed to know more about that world to understand why the assassins operate. Just telling me that the guys in power are evil isn’t good enough. I need good worldbuilding in my fantasy reading, and basically all I know is the assassins live in a gigantic cave system.

Ileni losing her powers was a neat twist. I’ll give you that. I also liked your magic system, DEATH SWORN, because it sounds like the magic took a lot of focus and study, not just snap your fingers or shake a wand.

But when Ileni started having feelings for Sorin, I lost any liking I had for her. I don’t really know why either of them liked each other. Sorin is an assassin who survived his first mission and is waiting eagerly for another chance to prove himself. He believes in the assassins’ purpose, where Ileni thinks killing for any reason is super bad. I could have understood a friendship, because they did seem to be heading that way, but kissing and looooove? Sorry DEATH SWORN, but I’m critical of relationships, and I didn’t get this one.

DEATH SWORN, you just didn’t live up to your potential. You didn’t grab my attention or captivate me enough for me to want to continue your series.

Socialize with the author:

Leah Cypess:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Forever Song (Blood of Eden #3) by Julie Kagawa

Book Review: The Forever Song (Blood of Eden #3) by Julie KagawaThe Forever Song by Julie Kagawa
Series: Blood of Eden #3
Published by Harlequin Teen on April 15, 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 393
Format: eARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Vengeance will be hers.

Allison Sekemoto once struggled with the question: human or monster? With the death of her love, Zeke, she has her answer.

Monster.

Allie will embrace her cold vampire side to hunt down and end Sarren, the psychopathic vampire who murdered Zeke. But the trail is bloody and long, and Sarren has left many surprises for Allie and her companions - her creator Kanin, and her blood brother, Jackal. The trail is leading straight to the one place they must protect at any cost - the last vampire-free zone on Earth, Eden. And Sarren has one final, brutal shock in store for Allie.

In a ruined world where no life is sacred and former allies can turn on you in one heartbeat, Allie will face her darkest days. And if she succeeds, her triumph will be short-lived in the face of surviving forever alone.

THE FINAL HUNT IS ON.

Book Review:

Over the past few years I’ve been reviewing books, I’ve noticed a pattern: I usually don’t read the last book of a trilogy. I almost wish I hadn’t read THE FOREVER SONG, because it just wasn’t the best end to the series. I feel like I could have stopped with book two, THE ETERNITY CURE, as THE FOREVER SONG was mostly unnecessary. You can predict how the series will end, and the journey to the ending is rather boring at times.

At 393 pages, I swear the book could have been cut in half and told the same story, since so much of it was repetition: tons of travel, tons of rabid attacks, and tons of angst from Allie and Zeke. As with THE ETERNITY CURE, Jackal was the highlight of THE FOREVER SONG for me. I could quote line after line of his dialogue; he’s a perfect combination of dry wit, sarcasm, and unabashed vampireness. Unlike Allie, who is still adjusting to the fact that she’s a vampire and has to drink blood to survive, Jackal would paint a town red. Not in a crazy way like psychotic Sarren, but just because he would enjoy it.

Here’s an example, one of many I bookmarked:

“‘There you go again.’ Jackal sighed from the front. ‘Getting the puppy’s hopes up. More likely, every bloodbag in Eden is screaming and tearing their faces off, but oh, no, no one wants to hear that.’ He waved a hand. ‘So, go ahead, tell him that everything is going to be fine. All the meatsacks are perfectly content on their happy little island, Sarren has given up world destruction to raise kittens, and the magic wish fairy will wave her wand and turn shit into gold.’ (page 235).”

Don’t you just love Jackal? I do!

For the climactic book of a series, I guess I expected more than Allie and Zeke spending most of the book angsting over their vampire lives. The cure was almost stupidly simple, and it seems to me it’s something where the journey is more important than the end product type of things. But I just wish that journey hadn’t included so much traveling and repetition. One of the things that really captured my interest in this series was the bleak, dark, dystopian society Julie Kagawa created. One where vampires were the absolute power, and humans spent all of their time trying to find enough food to eat. I wanted to see more of that, or at least more of Eden, but no. It really felt like 97% of the book was spent on the long, dull road.

In the end, I’m just meh on THE FOREVER SONG. For me, it didn’t live up to the first two books in the series. It’s not a bad conclusion, but it was just missing something for me to feel really good about the end of the series.

Socialize with the author:
Julie Kagawa:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Sea of Shadows (Age of Legends #1) by Kelley Armstrong

Book Review: Sea of Shadows (Age of Legends #1) by Kelley ArmstrongSea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong
Series: Age of Legends #1
Published by HarperCollins on April 8, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
2 Stars
In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.

Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.

Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters’ journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they’ve ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court—one that will alter the balance of their world forever.

Book Review:

I finished SEA OF SHADOWS a few days ago, but I barely remember it. I would have written my review right after finishing, but I was really underwhelmed by the book and didn’t know what to say. Unfortunately, I still don’t know what to say, which is indicative to me that the book was, well, blah.

SEA OF SHADOWS is basically set up for the rest of the series. Almost an entire book of exposition. While I was reading, I kept wondering when something big or exciting or important was going to happen. Now, don’t get me wrong — there are battles, there’s some danger, a village even gets slaughtered. But it was all …. disjointed and slow. When I finally finished the book, I almost felt cheated because I expected more from such a best selling author.

If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, I’m pretty sure you’ll be disappointed by this book. It’s just not on that scope. The romance is also the farthest thing possible from “heart-stopping,” although I did appreciate Moria’s attitude towards boys. She didn’t care for romance, but also didn’t see anything wrong with having some fun and experimenting if the time was right.

The world in SEA OF SHADOWS is some combination of post-apocalyptic setting, historical fiction, and fantasy, but I needed a lot more worldbuilding. The characters were also flat and 2-dimensional. Moria and Ashyn have alternating chapters, but their voices were very similar, with Moria being the headstrong, kickass warrior and Ashyn the nicer, romantic thinker. And don’t get me started on the love interests. I wanted to slap everyone and ask them WTF they were doing, falling “in love” days after almost everyone they know has been killed. Let’s try being friends first, and concentrate on the big picture, okay?

All that said, would I continue this series? Maybe. I am curious about what will happen next, and to see what the author has in mind with the world. That’s why I gave SEA OF SHADOWS 2 stars instead of 1 star.

Socialize with the author:

Kelley Armstrong:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Avalon (Avalon #1) by Mindee Arnett

Book Review: Avalon (Avalon #1) by Mindee ArnettAvalon by Mindee Arnett
Series: Avalon #1
Published by Balzer & Bray on January 21, 2014
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 418
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
2 Stars
A ragtag group of teenage mercenaries who crew the spaceship Avalon stumble upon a conspiracy that could threaten the entire galaxy in this fascinating and fast-paced sci-fi adventure from author Mindee Arnett.

Of the various star systems that make up the Confederation, most lie thousands of light-years from First Earth-and out here, no one is free. The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it, and power is held by anyone with enough greed and ruthlessness to claim it. That power is derived from one thing: metatech, the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light.

Jeth Seagrave and his crew of teenage mercenaries have survived in this world by stealing unsecured metatech, and they're damn good at it. Jeth doesn't care about the politics or the law; all he cares about is earning enough money to buy back his parents' ship, Avalon, from his crime-boss employer and getting himself and his sister, Lizzie, the heck out of Dodge. But when Jeth finds himself in possession of information that both the crime bosses and the government are willing to kill for, he is going to have to ask himself how far he'll go to get the freedom he's wanted for so long.

Avalon is the perfect fit for teens new to sci-fi as well as seasoned sci-fi readers looking for more books in the YA space-and a great match for fans of Joss Whedon's cult hit show Firefly.

Book Review:

Over the years, various friends have tried to get me to watch Joss Whedon’s Firefly. However, I’d rather read books than watch TV series. So when I saw AVALON described for fans of Firefly, I thought this would be the book for me.

Unfortunately, I wish I’d skipped reading AVALON and watched Firefly instead.

Jeth leads a crew of teenage starship thieves. Working for one of the biggest crime lords in the galaxy, they steal metatech. Metatech allows other criminals or people who don’t want the attention of the Interstellar Transport Authority to travel across great distances in the blink of an eye. But when they steal a ship with a busted metadrive, Jeth and his crew find themselves in the middle of a very, very big problem.

AVALON just didn’t capture my attention. The beginning and middle were slow. Any time I put the book down, I didn’t feel compelled to pick it back up and find out how it ended. I did persevere, though, and thought the ending had way too much going on compared to the rest of the book. Jeth didn’t interest me, either. He works for the crime lord because his uncle gambled away his parents’ ship, Avalon, and he wants to buy her back. Of course, it’s not so easy as that, but I didn’t feel for Jeth and his predicament.

Ultimately, AVALON just wasn’t exciting for me. It was okay, but not the great YA sci-fi book I thought it would be. This is one series I won’t be continuing.

Socialize with the author:

Mindee Arnett:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Dark Metropolis (Dark Metropolis #1) by Jaclyn Dolamore

Book Review: Dark Metropolis (Dark Metropolis #1) by Jaclyn DolamoreDark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore
Series: Dark Metropolis #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on June 17, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, LGBT, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 301
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour, NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Sixteen-year-old Thea Holder's mother is cursed with a spell that's driving her mad, and whenever they touch, Thea is chilled by the magic, too. With no one else to contribute, Thea must make a living for both of them in a sinister city, where danger lurks and greed rules.
Thea spends her nights waitressing at the decadent Telephone Club attending to the glitzy clientele. But when her best friend, Nan, vanishes, Thea is compelled to find her. She meets Freddy, a young, magnetic patron at the club, and he agrees to help her uncover the city's secrets-even while he hides secrets of his own.

Together, they find a whole new side of the city. Unrest is brewing behind closed doors as whispers of a gruesome magic spread. And if they're not careful, the heartless masterminds behind the growing disappearances will be after them, too.

dark metropolis blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for DARK METROPOLIS by Jaclyn Dolamore. The tour is hosted by Itching For Books and you can visit all the stops here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

DARK METROPOLIS is the first book in a new duology set in an alternate version of Berlin in the late 1920s. Featuring three protagonists, the book digs into the dark underbelly of the city which is kept running by government-sanctioned zombies.

The summary for the book is a little misleading in my opinion, as it gives the impression Thea is the only main character. But her friend, Nan, and Freddy also tell parts of the story. I would have liked to see more character development for all three; DARK METROPOLIS is more plot-driven than character-driven. Characters are usually what I like most about a book, but something in this one hooked me and kept me reading.

Thea’s mother suffers from bound-sickness because she and her husband were magically bonded when they were married. But while he went missing eight years ago and was declared dead in the war, Thea’s mother has always insisted he’s still alive. Being unable to find her husband makes her mentally sick, and though Thea’s tried to take care of her mother, it’s getting harder and harder. One night at work, Thea touches the hand of club goer Freddy and sees a vision of her father sitting up. Is her mother right? Is her father alive?

When her friend and co-worker, Nan, goes missing, Thea asks Freddy for helping finding her. And that’s where things get freaky, because Freddy brought Nan back to life. He’s a necromancer and has brought thousands of people back to life. He was always told those people committed suicide, but when Thea insists Nan never would have killed herself, Freddy starts to investigate.

DARK METROPOLIS is a zombie story I actually liked. I typically don’t read a lot of horror, which is what I’d classify most zombie books as. Yeah, there’s some violence in this one, and some gruesome imagery, but the book is more fantasy/magic/paranormal than horror. The real horror comes from the manipulation of necromancy and the zombies’ living conditions.

I do wish there was more worldbuilding, because we’re given a few hints about the world, but not too many. The setting does feel very 1920s/1930s ish, but with an added element of magic. I did like how the author explored necromancy, and how there were consequences for doing such magic. But I wish more had been mentioned. For example, what was the war about? How did its outcome lead to the government outlawing magic?

Thea’s family relationship was probably my favorite thing about the whole book. I felt the love they all had for each other, and while I’m not going to spoil it, I liked the outcome. The other relationships in the book — Thea and Freddy, Nan and Sigi — could have used more development, just like the characters. The romantic relationships aren’t really a big portion of the book, though, so that didn’t really bug me. I was happy that Sigi kissed Nan at a very important moment, since I saw their potential relationship coming from their first meeting.

DARK METROPOLIS doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, which is refreshing. The main story is wrapped up by the end, leaving a few loose ends for the next book, due out in 2015.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author jaclyn dolamoreJaclyn Dolamore was homeschooled in a hippie sort of way and spent her childhood reading as many books as her skinny nerd-body could lug from the library and playing elaborate pretend games with her sister Kate. She skipped college and spent eight years drudging through retail jobs, developing her thrifty cooking skills and pursuing a lifelong writing dream. She has a passion for history, thrift stores, vintage dresses, David Bowie, drawing, and organic food. She lives with her partner and plot-sounding-board, Dade, and two black tabbies who have ruined her carpeting.
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– leeanna

Book Review: Essence (Essence #1) by Lisa Ann O’Kane

Book Review: Essence (Essence #1) by Lisa Ann O’KaneEssence by Lisa Ann O’Kane
Series: Essence #1
Published by Strange Chemistry on June 3, 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Romance, Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
Autumn escaped a cult, but now she realizes she's fallen into another.

Growing up in San Francisco’s Centrist Movement, sixteen year-old Autumn Grace has always believed emotions—adrenaline, endorphins, even happiness—drain your Essence and lead to an early death. But her younger brother’s passing and a run-in with a group of Outsiders casts her faith into question.

Ryder Stone, the sexy, rebellious leader of the Outsiders, claims Essence drain is nothing more than a Centrist scare tactic -- and he can prove it.

Autumn follows Ryder to his Community of adrenaline junkies and free spirits in Yosemite National Park, and they introduce her to a life of adventure, romance, sex, drugs and freedom. But as she discovers dark secrets beneath the Community’s perfect exterior, she realizes the more she risks in search of the perfect rush, the further she has to fall.

Book Review:

Here’s the thing with ESSENCE: the summary gives away most of the story. Because when Autumn runs away from the Centrists, she doesn’t realize she’s in another cult until the end of the book. However, thanks to the summary, and basic common sense on the part of the reader, it’s easy to see the Community is no better (and maybe even worse) than what Autumn left behind.

Autumn grew up in the Centrist movement, which believes that feeling emotions drains your Essence. As it’s impossible to know how much Essence each person is born with, Centrists live by the mantra “Neutrality is the key to longevity.” Doing anything to expend Essence, from being happy to sad, to even sweating, drains your Essence. Once you run out, you die.

But after her baby brother choked to death, Autumn started to question what she was brought up to believe. After a chance meeting with Outsiders, she runs away and joins a new Community, one that’s determined to show Essence drain is bull. It’s her chance to know for sure if her brother died because his Essence ran out, or because he choked.

Establishing all of that — the beginning of the book — that was interesting. The Centrist movement and their thoughts on Essence and not feeling emotions is what originally drew me to the book. I wish I’d learned more about it; there were a couple of hints as to how the Centrists came about, but not as much worldbuilding as I would have liked. But then, I’m a reader who likes a lot of worldbuilding.

Once Autumn joined the Community in Yosemite, the book took a downturn for me. ESSENCE basically becomes an adrenaline ride, as people in the Community are encouraged to do dangerous things like jumping from cliffs. Anything to raise their heartbeat, to prove Essence loss has nothing to do with life span. Although hesitant at first, Autumn soon jumps in with both feet, falling for both the bad boy of the community and adrenaline highs.

Yosemite itself was a great character in the book, a perfect place for Autumn to explore herself. I thought the author did a good job of describing it. But that was the best part of the book for me. Otherwise… I don’t quite know. I thought ESSENCE was a one book deal, but because nothing big happened until the last couple of pages, I wonder if it’s going to be a series to tie up all the loose ends.

I wanted to know more about the Community, just like I wanted to know more about the Centrists. But instead of learning about her new Community, Autumn dives into a romance with Ryder, the son of the Community’s leader, and starts trying to push her Essence to the fullest by doing dangerous stuff. I didn’t mind that she experimented with sex, drinking, and drugs — teens do that, and I did like that there was a mention for safe sex. It was pretty clear to me that Autumn traded one cult for another, so I spent the rest of the book waiting for her to wake up and smell the piney air. I don’t think that’s a spoiler, because as I said, I think any reader will figure that out pretty quickly.

In the end, I guess I just expected more from this book than was there. ESSENCE felt like set up for a showdown to come in another book.

Socialize with the author:

Lisa Ann O’Kane:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Sekret (Sekret #1) by Lindsay Smith

Book Review: Sekret (Sekret #1) by Lindsay SmithSekret by Lindsay Smith
Series: Sekret #1
Published by Roaring Brook Press on April 1, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 337
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
An empty mind is a safe mind.

Yulia's father always taught her to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive the harsh realities of Soviet Russia. But when she's captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she's thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power. Yulia quickly realizes she can trust no one--not her KGB superiors or the other operatives vying for her attention--and must rely on her own wits and skills to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.

Book Review:

On the surface, I should have loved SEKRET. Historical fiction + science fiction? Check. Teenagers with supernatural powers? Check. A real life dystopia? Check. But something about SEKRET just didn’t work for me.

Yulia is able to sense thoughts and memories through touch. It’s a secret ability that’s helped her survive as a fugitive in Communist Russia. But that ability draws the interest of the KGB, and at the start of the book, she’s kidnapped and forced to work for the KGB as a psychic spy. If she doesn’t cooperate, her mother and brother will pay the price.

She’s not the only one with special abilities. After the KGB takes her, she lives with a group of other teens who have abilities such as remote viewing and seeing the future. They are supposed to thwart the CIA’s attempts to steal plans for the Soviet Union’s attempt (Veter I) at orbiting the moon.

SEKRET just didn’t hold my interest. At the halfway point, I thought about restarting the book, because I was sure I’d missed something important. I hadn’t, but I felt that way because of how slowly the story progressed. I also spent some of that time confused, as the use of powers didn’t always make sense/was inconsistent. For example, Yulia works through touch, but somehow she’s able to tap into another character’s remote viewing of a room, and read an object she’s not physically touching. Another example: Yulia and Valentin are somehow able to communicate telepathically, without Yulia touching Valentin. But she couldn’t speak telepathically with anyone else.

I did appreciate that the author gave some background on the Cold War and the Soviet Union Yulia lives in. I read another YA book that was set during the Cold War, but it didn’t set the scene at all. So I did like that part of SEKRET. I do wish I’d gotten to see more of Yulia’s life before the KGB took her, but I’ll take what I can get.

The training and missions were interesting, but Yulia and her comrades didn’t spend a lot of time on that. The book just kind of floats around, going from the Veter I thing to the CIA hunting down the psychics to Yulia trying to escape. Yeah, in a house full of mind readers, she tries to plan an escape. *headdesk* SEKRET was very convoluted for me.

Socialize with the author:

Lindsay Smith:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Expiration Day by William Campbell Powell

Book Review: Expiration Day by William Campbell PowellExpiration Day by William Campbell Powell
Published by Tor Teen on April 22, 2014
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
What happens when you turn eighteen and there are no more tomorrows?

It is the year 2049, and humanity is on the brink of extinction….

Tania Deeley has always been told that she’s a rarity: a human child in a world where most children are sophisticated androids manufactured by Oxted Corporation. When a decline in global fertility ensued, it was the creation of these near-perfect human copies called teknoids that helped to prevent the utter collapse of society.

Though she has always been aware of the existence of teknoids, it is not until her first day at The Lady Maud High School for Girls that Tania realizes that her best friend, Siân, may be one. Returning home from the summer holiday, she is shocked by how much Siân has changed. Is it possible that these changes were engineered by Oxted? And if Siân could be a teknoid, how many others in Tania’s life are not real?

Driven by the need to understand what sets teknoids apart from their human counterparts, Tania begins to seek answers. But time is running out. For everyone knows that on their eighteenth “birthdays,” teknoids must be returned to Oxted—never to be heard from again.

Book Review:

EXPIRATION DAY is the YA science fiction book I’ve been looking for. I would actually recommend it for teens and adults alike, since I think it has a wide audience. When I finished the book, I really wished I had someone to talk about it with, since it’s a book that’s stayed in my mind for a couple of weeks.

Essentially, EXPIRATION DAY explores what it means to be human. There’s not any complicated science to understand, which I appreciated, since it can be really easy to get caught up with new technology or a new world and overlook the main issues. Written in diary format, the book tells the story of Tania Deeley, from age eleven to eighteen. Tania lives in a world where very, very few children are born. To help prevent social collapse, Oxted Corporation came up with the genius idea of loaning childless couples robot babies. The robots are practically impossible to distinguish from normal humans, but at eighteen, they are returned to Oxted.

Here’s the thing about EXPIRATION DAY that really got to me, and why I enjoyed it so much. Normally, the kind of stuff Tania does as she’s growing up, from taking a vacation with her parents to figuring out how to date to learning to play the guitar — that doesn’t really interest me. I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction because I like to venture into new worlds. But because Tania herself questioned what it means to be a human or a robot, I started to think about that too.

Are robots capable of creating original music or poetry? What does it mean to create something? Would a robot’s behavior change if it knew it was a robot? What’s the importance of teenage lust and crushes? Other than the human-like robots, and living in a world changed by war, Tania’s life is pretty normal. So it makes you consider how much influence “normal” human experiences have.

EXPIRATION DAY isn’t packed with action or adventure. I would have liked more worldbuilding, because the world Tania lives in sounded fascinating, but otherwise, there’s nothing I didn’t like about it. As I said at the start of my review, it’s a book that’s stayed in my head, and I know I’ll enjoy rereading it in the future and pondering what it means to be human.

Let’s talk about it:

Do you like your science fiction packed full of new technology/science/new stuff, or easier to comprehend?

Socialize with the author:

William Campbell Powell:
Website

– leeanna