Book Review: All Rights Reserved

All Rights Reserved – Gregory Scott Katsoulis – Word$ #1 – Harlequin Teen – Published 29 August 2017

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Synopsis

Speth Jime is anxious to deliver her Last Day speech and celebrate her transition into adulthood. The moment she turns fifteen, Speth must pay for every word she speaks (“Sorry” is a flat ten dollars and a legal admission of guilt), for every nod ($0.99/sec), for every scream ($0.99/sec) and even every gesture of affection. She’s been raised to know the consequences of falling into debt, and can’t begin to imagine the pain of having her eyes shocked for speaking words that she’s unable to afford.

But when Speth’s friend Beecher commits suicide rather than work off his family’s crippling debt, she can’t express her shock and dismay without breaking her Last Day contract and sending her family into Collection. Backed into a corner, Speth finds a loophole: rather than read her speech rather than say anything at all she closes her mouth and vows never to speak again. Speth’s unexpected defiance of tradition sparks a media frenzy, inspiring others to follow in her footsteps, and threatens to destroy her, her family and the entire city around them.

My thoughts

All Rights Reserved is a clever and timely dystopian novel that introduces a world where speech and communication is controlled and monitored for capital gain. It is scary in its portrayal of a future world that is all too possible. With characters who quickly garner the reader’s support, All Rights Reserved is a highly thought-provoking novel.

Speth knows that at the exact moment of her fifteenth birthday every word she says, every gesture, every move of affection will be monitored, recorded, and she will be charged accordingly. But when her friend suicides just moments before her Last Day speech, Speth is horrified and knows no other option than to remain silent. She unwittingly creates a silent revolutionary protest. But it is hard to lead a revolution when you have no plan and can’t communicate. With her family falling apart around her Speth knows she must never stop fighting if she is to save herself and her family, or if she is to hopefully affect some change in her society.

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Book Review: Jane, Unlimited

Jane, Unlimited – Kristin Cashore – Kathy Dawson Books – Published 19 September 2017

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Synopsis

Jane has lived an ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor and deep sea photographer. Jane counted on Magnolia to make the world feel expansive and to turn life into an adventure. But Aunt Magnolia was lost a few months ago in Antarctica on one of her expeditions.

Now, with no direction, a year out of high school, and obsessed with making umbrellas that look like her own dreams (but mostly just mourning her aunt), she is easily swept away by Kiran Thrash—a glamorous, capricious acquaintance who shows up and asks Jane to accompany her to a gala at her family’s island mansion called Tu Reviens.

Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites to you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.” With nothing but a trunkful of umbrella parts to her name, Jane ventures out to the Thrash estate. Then her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn’t know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But at Tu Reviens, every choice comes with a reward, or a price.

My thoughts

Jane Unlimited is another book I have read recently solely because of the author. I found the synopsis confusing and was a little unsure what type of story this would be, but I decided to pick it up anyway because I loved, loved Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series. The few things I did know about the story prior to reading it were: a) it is genre defying, b) it is almost a choose-your-own-ending book, but is written to be read in order, and c) umbrellas get mentioned quite a bit. Otherwise I was a tad confused about it all. Now that I have finished reading it I can say that, unfortunately, it wasn’t the right book for me. Jane, Unlimited is a combination of many classics with its own, very unique style and a mixture of mystery, science fiction, and fantasy.

Jane’s aunt made her promise to accept if she was ever invited to stay at the mysterious grand house Tu Reviens. So, when Jane’s friend Kiran offers just such an invitation, Jane agrees. But Tu Reviens contains many secrets and intriguing mysteries and Jane’s own choices will influence what she will uncover and how that will change her destiny.

In her author’s note Cashore indicates that Jane, Unlimited reflects a number of literary works including Jane Eyre, Rebecca, and The House of Mirth. Jane, Unlimited’s tone and style are very much reflective of these novels. It actually reminded me of a novel that I would be asked to read for senior English or a university course and then have to analyse it to death. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t enjoy it, because those are not my favourite type of books, but I can imagine someone who loved those classics really enjoying this book.

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Book Review: Amid Stars and Darkness

Amid Stars and Darkness – Chani Lynn Feener – The Xenith Trilogy #1 – Swoon Reads – Published 18 July 2017

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Synopsis

Delaney’s entire world is thrown into chaos after she is mistaken for Lissa Olena, an alien princess hiding out on Earth in order to escape an arranged marriage.

Kidnapped by the princess’s head bodyguard, Ruckus, and imprisoned in an alien palace, Delaney is forced to impersonate the princess until Olena can be found. If she fails, it will lead to an alien war and the eventual enslavement of the entire human race.

No pressure or anything.

Factor in Trystan, the princess’s terrifying betrothed who is intent on unraveling all her secrets, and her own growing feelings for Ruckus, and Delaney is in way over her head.

My thoughts

Amid Stars and Darkness is an enjoyable science-fiction novel. It mixes lots of romance with a touch of suspense in a story where aliens regularly visit Earth and a human girl is forced to experience life on an alien planet first hand.

When Delaney is mistaken as the alien princess, Lissa Olena, from a neighbouring planet, she is forcibly removed from Earth by Olena’s bodyguard. It’s one thing to know aliens walk around on Earth, Delaney’s even met a few, but it’s very different pretending to be their princess. She will have to convince everyone she is Olena – even Olena’s betrothed – if she is to prevent a war.

Every so often I have the desire to read a really epic fantasy or sci fi. Something that transports me to a vivid place far, far away. Amid Stars and Darkness certainly captured my attention. I enjoyed disappearing into its pages and the world building was good, even if I would have enjoyed seeing a lot more of the society, culture, and landscape of the alien world. The alien world is actually quite familiar to our Earth. It makes it easy to recognise, different enough to feel ‘alien’, but is ultimately very similar. Technology is more advanced, but no more than something Tony Stark might carry with him. The aliens are all physically and anatomically the same as humans, and while they have different names for ranks and roles, most are parallel to those on Earth. There are also no changes in gravity or atmosphere. Food, animals and plant life were the things that were slightly different but all had reference points to earthly things. Actually, this book sometimes felt a little like Stephenie Meyer’s The Host and it does share a few similarities – a girl with another girl’s face and identity, two guys, one seemingly the enemy the other a nice ally, and, despite the universe being much bigger than originally known, a restricted setting.

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Book Review: Defy The Stars

Defy the Stars – Claudia Gray – Constellation #1 – Little, Brown Books – Published 4 April 2017

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Synopsis

She’s a soldier. Noemi Vidal is seventeen years old and sworn to protect her planet, Genesis. She’s willing to risk anything—including her own life. To their enemies on Earth, she’s a rebel.

He’s a machine. Abandoned in space for years, utterly alone, Abel has advanced programming that’s begun to evolve. He wants only to protect his creator, and to be free. To the people of Genesis, he’s an abomination.

Noemi and Abel are enemies in an interstellar war, forced by chance to work together as they embark on a daring journey through the stars. Their efforts would end the fighting for good, but they’re not without sacrifice. The stakes are even higher than either of them first realized, and the more time they spend together, the more they’re forced to question everything they’d been taught was true.

My thoughts

Don’t you just love it when a book surprises you? I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Defy The Stars. It just seemed to get better and better. It was clever. It was original. It had so much packed into it. It made me want to desperately read the next book in the series and yet, at the same time, I was totally content with the story just as it was. It made me fall in love with science fiction all over again and reminded me just how good it can be.

Noemi is a solider from Genesis, sworn to sacrifice her life to protect her planet from Earth’s forces who want to destroy Genesis just like they have Earth. Abel is a machine. One of the most advanced robots ever created. But 30 years stuck on an abandoned spaceship has left his wiring a little crossed and he longs for freedom. When Noemi discovers Abel while on a rescue mission, she also discovers that Abel holds the key to protecting her planet from Earth forever. She commands his help and together they explore the galaxy, putting into place her plan. But Abel is growing ever more human, and Noemi is running out of time.

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Book Review: Cold Summer

Cold Summer – Gwen Cole – Sky Pony Press – Published 2 May 2017

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Synopsis

Today, he’s a high school dropout with no future.
Tomorrow, he’s a soldier in World War II.

Kale Jackson has spent years trying to control his time-traveling ability but hasn’t had much luck. One day he lives in 1945, fighting in the war as a sharpshooter and helplessly watching soldiers—friends—die. Then the next day, he’s back in the present, where WWII has bled into his modern life in the form of PTSD, straining his relationship with his father and the few friends he has left. Every day it becomes harder to hide his battle wounds, both physical and mental, from the past.

When the ex-girl-next-door, Harper, moves back to town, thoughts of what could be if only he had a normal life begin to haunt him. Harper reminds him of the person he was before the PTSD, which helps anchor him to the present. With practice, maybe Kale could remain in the present permanently and never step foot on a battlefield again. Maybe he can have the normal life he craves.

But then Harper finds Kale’s name in a historical article—and he’s listed as a casualty of the war. Kale knows now that he must learn to control his time-traveling ability to save himself and his chance at a life with Harper. Otherwise, he’ll be killed in a time where he doesn’t belong by a bullet that was never meant for him.

My thoughts

The premise for Cold Summer sounded amazing. A time traveller unable to control his travelling who experiences PTSD from his time spent fighting in World War II, coupled with a girl-next-door romance. Unfortunately the execution left a lot to be desired.

I’m sad to be giving this book such a low rating – surely it deserves an extra star just for the cover – but unfortunately it was the writing style, among other things, that I didn’t like about this book.

It’s a long book but it felt like nothing actually happened. There is a bit of action when Kale travels back to World War II, but otherwise it is mainly characters discussing Kale’s situation or Kale bemoaning his lot in life. In the summary, Harper discovers a record of Kale’s life in the past but this doesn’t happen right until the very end of the book. I also felt the story was anticlimactic. It had so much promise, was such a great idea, but I felt it was never developed into something amazing. So much of this book felt convenient or contrived. There are no explanations for why Kale can time travel, no exploration for deeper meaning about it all. Everything that might raise questions or challenges is simply brushed away or too easily resolved.

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Book Review: Empress of a Thousand Skies

Empress of a Thousand Skies

Empress of a Thousand Skies – Rhoda Belleza – Razorbill – Published 7 February 2017

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Synopsis

Empress
Rhee, also known as Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. She’ll stop at nothing to avenge her family and claim her throne.

Fugitive
Aly has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. But when he’s falsely accused of killing Rhee, he’s forced to prove his innocence to save his reputation – and his life.

Madman
With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy.

My thoughts

Empress of a Thousand Skies is compelling and action-driven science fiction. Planets and their moons, droids, holos, space craft, and a plot to keep the crown princess from taking her throne as Empress, it has a very Star Wars feel to it.

Rhee knows that she must one day take her place as Empress. But before that she plans to enact her revenge on the man who killed her family. Rhee has planned her revenge for years, but an attempt is made on her own life before she can act on her plans. Adrift in the galaxy, she is on the run. Meanwhile, Aly is framed for the princess’s murder and he too becomes entangled in the plot to return war to the planets.

Empress of a Thousand Skies is told in alternating chapters from Rhee and Aly’s perspectives. They come so very close to meeting many times in the novel and yet they never do connect. Instead their story lines run almost parallel as they uncover the motives behind those who killed Rhee’s parents and who plan to kill Rhee.

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Book Review: Split The Sun

split-the-sun

Split The Sun – Tessa Elwood – Inherit The Stars Trilogy #2 – Running Kids Press – Published 6 December 2016

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Synopsis

The Ruling Lord of the House of Galton is dead, and the nation is in shock—or celebrating, depending on the district. Kit Franks would be more than happy to join him.
Kit’s mother bombed the digital core of the House, killing several and upending the nation’s information structure. No one wants the daughter of a terrorist. Kit lost her job, her aunt wants her evicted, her father is using her as a shield against a drug lord, a group of political rebels need Kit to ignite an interplanetary war, and the boy two floors down keeps jacking up her suicide attempts—as if she has a life worth saving.
When Mom-the-terrorist starts showing up on feeds and causing planet-wide blackouts, everyone looks to Kit for an answer. The rebels want Mom on their side. The government needs to stop Mom’s digital virus from spreading before there’s no record of government left. Both sides will do anything, destroy anyone, to make Kit crack. They believe she’s the key to Mom’s agenda and the House’s future. Worst of all, they may be right.
Kit’s having dreams she can’t explain, remembering conversations that no longer seem innocent, understanding too much coded subtext in Mom’s universal feed messages. Everyone, from Mom to the rebels, has a vision of Kit’s fate—locked, sealed, and ready to roll. The question is, does Kit have a vision for herself?

My thoughts

Split The Sun mixes fast-paced and edgy drama, action, family, romance and one hell of a resilient character to create an addictive story.

Kit has achieved a status of notoriety thanks to her mother blowing up their planet’s archive. Kit is left feeling both guilt and hopelessness, despite her ignorance about her mother’s deadly plans, despite what the rest of the planet chooses to think about her. But it seems like no one will let Kit fade into the obscurity she craves – not the crowds who lay blame, the government who seek answers, a rebel group of protestors that think Kit might live up to her mother’s apparent glory, her family who only want to take from her, nor the boy who lives in the apartment above Kit. Kit will need to decide what she will fight for – if anything.

Split The Sun is the second book in the Inherit the Stars series. It is more like a companion book, with a different set of characters and different plot line, but set in the same world and with the same mix of action, sci-fi adventure and romance. I think I enjoyed Split The Sun more than I did Inherit The Stars. Both are great books but I really connected with Kit. I had initially expected Split the Sun to continue the story of Eagle and Asa from Inherit the Stars, but wasn’t disappointed at all in Kit. She is a fantastic character. Continually knocked down, she is on the very edge of giving up and yet she cares so much about people, does everything she can for the people that treat her like rubbish. Her resilience and strength is amazing. 

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Book Review: Infinity

infinity

Infinity – Jus Accardo – The Infinity Division #1 – Entangled: Teen – Published 1 November 2016

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Synopsis

Jump dimensions. Find the bad guy. Don’t fall in love.

Nobody said being the daughter of an army general was easy. But when her dad sends a teenage subordinate to babysit her while he’s away? That’s taking it a step too far.

Cade, as beautiful as he is deadly, watches Kori with more than just interest. He looks at her like he knows her very soul. And when he saves her from a seemingly random attack, well, that’s when things get weird.

Turns out, Kori’s dad isn’t just an army general—he’s the head of a secret government project that has invented a way to travel between parallel dimensions. Dimensions where there are infinite Koris, infinite Cades…and apparently, on every other Earth, they’re madly in love.

Falling for a soldier is the last thing on Kori’s mind. Especially when she finds herself in a deadly crossfire, and someone from another Earth is hell-bent on revenge…

My thoughts

Infinity is the exciting start to a new series, with a complicated love story, sci-fi inter-world travel, a dangerous bad guy set on revenge across worlds, and an independent and feisty protagonist. It sets the scene for what promises to be a fun series.

Kori’s father, general in the US army, has left on duty once again. But not before laying down his punishment for her sneaking away from home in the middle of the night and contributing to her town’s artwork. Some might call it vandalism, she calls it bringing colour and beauty to dark places. But her new babysitters are unlike the stuffy soldiers her father usually sticks her with. Young, loud, messily dressed and hot, Private Cade and Recruit Noah are hiding secrets from Kori – secrets that could throw her life into chaos and change everything she has ever known about her world and family.

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Book Review: Spare and Found Parts

Spare and Found Parts

Spare and Found Parts – Sarah Maria Griffin – Greenwillow Books – Published 4 October 2016

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Synopsis

Nell Crane has always been an outsider. In a city devastated by an epidemic, where survivors are all missing parts—an arm, a leg, an eye—her father is the famed scientist who created the biomechanical limbs everyone now uses. But Nell is the only one whose mechanical piece is on the inside: her heart. Since the childhood operation, she has ticked. Like a clock, like a bomb. As her community rebuilds, everyone is expected to contribute to the society’s good . . . but how can Nell live up to her father’s revolutionary idea when she has none of her own?

Then she finds a mannequin hand while salvaging on the beach—the first boy’s hand she’s ever held—and inspiration strikes. Can Nell build her own companion in a world that fears advanced technology? The deeper she sinks into this plan, the more she learns about her city—and her father, who is hiding secret experiments of his own.

My thoughts

Spare and Found Parts is a steampunk-like sci-fi, set in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic world. It is a strange story, hopeful, intriguing and yet slightly off-putting, inspired by Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Nell lives in a world where computers are a word whispered in fear. Computers caused the sickness that spread through the city, killing many and leaving others missing arms, legs or ears. The city is slowly rebuilding and now tech is used only as body parts in place of those that were lost in the sickness. The idea of tech that can think for itself is terrifying. But not for Nell. She longs to construct a machine that can be brought to life, longs to uncover the meaning behind code and understand what computers could do for her city.

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Book Review: Night Speed

Night Speed

Night Speed – Chris Howard – Katherine Tegen – Published 3 May 2016

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Synopsis

Only those young enough can survive the pulse-pounding rush of tetra, a dangerous and addictive new drug that fuels a nine-minute burst of superhuman strength and speed. Alana West has been trained to use the drug so she can pursue the young criminals who abuse its power—criminals like the breakneck who nearly killed her kid brother.

On tetra, Alana is unstoppable. The rush makes her an explosive blur as she surges through New York City, battling to bring down breaknecks before they leave more people dead or injured in their wake. But with the clock ticking down to her eighteenth birthday, Alana will soon be too old for the rush…when just one more dose will prove deadly.

Supported only by her strong and steady handler, Tucker, Alana goes undercover, infiltrating an elite gang of breaknecks to stop the supply of their drug. But when Alana gets trapped on the wrong side of the law, she learns the breaknecks are not quite what they seem—especially Ethan, the artistic boy whose bottomless brown eyes seem to see the truth inside her. With her own dependency on tetra increasing, Alana must decide where her loyalties lie before the rush ends. Forever.

My thoughts

Night Speed is an action-packed thriller but I think it speaks louder as a statement about the tight hold drugs have over the mind and heart, the blurred lines between right and wrong and the fight addicts must go through to reclaim themselves.

Alana started her use of tetra in an effort to fight the breaknecks who take the drug to commit crimes, using the high speed rush to fuel their getaway. But Alana has become enamoured of the rush tetra provides and the distance between the good guys and the bad guys shrinks when Alana is blamed for a breakneck’s death. She decides to go undercover to take down the source of tetra once and for all.

Night Speed addresses a poignant topic considering the parallels to today’s prevalence of drug use. I spent the majority of the book unsure what the underlying message was, that drugs were okay if the rush was worth the fallout or that drugs take everything from you. I think this is reflective of the grey areas of life and it certainly kept me guessing. However, despite the high percentage of rush chases, shoot outs, fights and armed robbery, this was a slow read for me.     Continue reading