Book Review: The Final Six

The Final Six – Alexandra Monir – Harper Teen – Published 6 March 2018

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Synopsis

When Leo, an Italian championship swimmer, and Naomi, a science genius from California, are two of the twenty-four teens drafted into the International Space Training Camp, their lives are forever altered. After erratic climate change has made Earth a dangerous place to live, the fate of the population rests on the shoulders of the final six who will be scouting a new planet. Intense training, global scrutiny, and cutthroat opponents are only a few of the hurdles the contestants must endure in this competition.

For Leo, the prospect of traveling to Europa—Jupiter’s moon—to help resettle humankind is just the sense of purpose he’s been yearning for since losing his entire family in the flooding of Rome. Naomi, after learning of a similar space mission that mysteriously failed, suspects the ISTC isn’t being up front with them about what’s at risk.

As the race to the final six advances, the tests get more challenging—even deadly. With pressure mounting, Naomi finds an unexpected friend in Leo, and the two grow closer with each mind-boggling experience they encounter. But it’s only when the finalists become fewer and their destinies grow nearer that the two can fathom the full weight of everything at stake: the world, the stars, and their lives.

My thoughts

The Final Six combines thrilling tension, intense romance, heartbreaking grief, and sci-fi speculation in a world that is facing the disastrous consequences of climate change.

Leo has nothing left to live for. His family were killed in one of the massive natural disasters to hit Rome, and with no one to care for, he has given up all hope. Until, shockingly, Leo is drafted to the new world army. He is now one of twenty-four teenagers battling it out to become one of the Final Six. The chosen six will have the chance to escape Earth and forge a new settlement deep in space. When Naomi discovers she is to be one of the chosen twenty-four, she is heartbroken. There is no way she can leave her parents or her beloved brother. With no other choice, Naomi sets in place a plan to reveal the secrets that lie beneath the surface of this space program.

There have been a number of YA books published recently that centre around the concept of teenagers being recruited for elite space training. The Final Six sits well beside titles like Katie Kennedy’s What Goes Up and Heather Kaczynski’s Dare Mighty Things. Yet, despite some similarities in concept, The Final Six brings something unique to this space-cadets plot line, with diverse characters, conspiracy theories, and a unique setting.

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Book Review: Your One & Only

Your One & Only – Adrianne Finlay – HMH Books for Young Readers – 6 February 2018

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Synopsis

Jack is a walking fossil. The only human among a sea of clones. It’s been hundreds of years since humanity died off in the slow plague, leaving the clones behind to carry on human existence. Over time they’ve perfected their genes, moving further away from the imperfections of humanity. But if they really are perfect, why did they create Jack?

While Jack longs for acceptance, Althea-310 struggles with the feeling that she’s different from her sisters. Her fascination with Jack doesn’t help. As Althea and Jack’s connection grows stronger, so does the threat to their lives. What will happen if they do the unthinkable and fall in love?

My thoughts

Your One and Only is a compelling YA science-fiction novel that tackles the complexity of love, compassion, community, genetic engineering, and what it means to be human.

Althea-310 is one of ten Althea sisters from the 310 generation, one of nine homo factus models that make up their community. When the leaders of the community reveal that they have created a human from genetic remains, Althea-310 is shocked by how unlike one of her brothers and sisters he is. Jack has been raised alone outside of the clone community, raised as a human, and so it is not only his face and build that differs so greatly from the nine models. The clones are unwilling to trust Jack but Althea-310 is strangely drawn to the outsider.

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Book Review: The Undercurrent

The Undercurrent – Paula Weston – Text Publishing – Published 31 July 2017

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Synopsis

Eighteen-year-old Julianne De Marchi is different. As in: she has an electrical undercurrent beneath her skin that stings and surges like a live wire. She can use it—to spark a fire, maybe even end a life—but she doesn’t understand what it is. And she can barely control it, especially when she’s anxious.

Ryan Walsh was on track for a stellar football career when his knee blew out. Now he’s a soldier—part of an experimental privatised military unit that has identified Jules De Marchi as a threat. Is it because of the weird undercurrent she’s tried so hard to hide? Or because of her mother Angie’s history as an activist against bio-engineering and big business?

It’s no coincidence that Ryan and Jules are in the same place at the same time—he’s under orders to follow her, after all. But then an explosive attack on a city building by an unknown enemy throws them together in the most violent and unexpected way.

My thoughts

The Undercurrent is a fantastic book, Australian futuristic, speculative sci-fi at its very best. Paula Weston delivers on action, family dynamics, politics, environmental destruction, romance with chemistry that is off-the-charts hot, and a genuine Aussie-ness that made me feel totally at home among the gumtrees.

Julianne De Marchi knows she is a little different from everyone else. No one else has an electrical undercurrent inside them, a current that seems impossible to control and is deadly to others. The current stole her normal life, ended her mother’s career and is responsible for leaving them so broke Julianne is willing to interview at Paxton Federation -the enemy- to get a job. But when protests turn violent, Jules is forced to turn to the mysterious Ryan Walsh, who seemingly just happened to be in the same place at the same time, for help. The Feds want to know if Jules and her mother are responsible for the latest attack, the Army, including Ryan, have their own interests in the De Marchi women, and the Paxtons are out for blood. It’s going to be interesting – if Jules can stay alive long enough to find some answers.

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Book Review: A Conspiracy of Stars

A Conspiracy of Stars – Olivia A. Cole – Katherine Tegen Books – Published 2 January 2018

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Synopsis

Octavia has only ever had one goal: to follow in the footsteps of her parents and become a prestigious whitecoat, one of the scientists who study the natural wonders of Faloiv. The secrets of the jungle’s exotic plants and animals are protected fiercely in the labs by the Council of N’Terra, so when the rules suddenly change, allowing students inside, Octavia should be overjoyed.

But something isn’t right. The newly elected leader of the Council has some extremist views about the way he believes N’Terra should be run, and he’s influencing others to follow him. When Octavia witnesses one of the Faloii—the indigenous people of Faloiv—attacked in front of her in the dark of night, she knows the Council is hiding something. They are living in separate worlds on a shared planet, and their fragile peace may soon turn into an all-out war.

With the help of Rondo, a quiet boy in class with a skill for hacking, and her inquisitive best friend, Alma, Octavia is set on a collision course to discover the secrets behind the history she’s been taught, the science she’s lived by, and the truth about her family.

My thoughts

Here there be monsters. A Conspiracy Of Stars is a truly imaginative novel. Beautifully crafted, this book draws the reader into another world, or rather planet, that is entirely different from our own. Yet is seems that the troubles of humanity follow, no matter how exotic the location.

Octavia’s dream is to become a whitecoat like her mother and father, eminent scientists who study the diverse animals and plants of Faloiv. When she and her fellow classmates are offered internships well before expected, they are all excited. But things are changing within their settlement of N’Terra. There are murmurs of discontent, anger towards the indigenous people of Faloiv, the Faloii, and the head of the Council seems to be driving it all. As Octavia and her friends uncover more of the secrets of her home, she begins to experience her own strange changes – it seems she is far more tied to the planet of Faloiv and all its inhabitants than she ever could have dreamed possible.

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Book Review: This Mortal Coil

This Mortal Coil – Emily Suvada – This Mortal Coil #1 – Simon Pulse – Published 7 November 2017

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Synopsis

Catarina Agatta is a hacker. She can cripple mainframes and crash through firewalls, but that’s not what makes her special. In Cat’s world, people are implanted with technology to recode their DNA, allowing them to change their bodies in any way they want. And Cat happens to be a gene-hacking genius.

That’s no surprise, since Cat’s father is Dr. Lachlan Agatta, a legendary geneticist who may be the last hope for defeating a plague that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. But during the outbreak, Lachlan was kidnapped by a shadowy organization called Cartaxus, leaving Cat to survive the last two years on her own.

When a Cartaxus soldier, Cole, arrives with news that her father has been killed, Cat’s instincts tell her it’s just another Cartaxus lie. But Cole also brings a message: before Lachlan died, he managed to create a vaccine, and Cole needs Cat’s help to release it and save the human race.

Now Cat must decide who she can trust: The soldier with secrets of his own? The father who made her promise to hide from Cartaxus at all costs? In a world where nature itself can be rewritten, how much can she even trust herself?

My thoughts

This book deserves a victory dance for awesomeness. But I’m actually too shocked to move right now. This Mortal Coil is mind-blowingly awesome. Prepare yourselves, I’m afraid this is going to be one of those gushing, I-just-loved-it-so-much reviews. But this book totally deserves it.

This Mortal Coil expertly combines breathtaking world building with endless action, insane plot twists that just keep coming, and some seriously amazing characters. Add romance in the midst of apocalyptic chaos with intense chemistry, a zombie virus that is wildly spreading, and some very impressive technological advancements that all seamlessly fit with scientific explanations, and you have one amazing book that is impossible to put down.

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Book Review: Warcross

Warcross – Marie Lu – G.P Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers – Published 12 September 2017

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Synopsis

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty-hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem…and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

My thoughts

Warcross is a dramatic and thrilling science-fiction. All-too believable technology, fast-paced action, a compelling mystery, complicated and forbidden romance, and a really likeable main character – Warcross has everything that will keep readers glued to the pages.

Emika Chen is a bounty hunter. She hunts criminals who gamble on the world-wide phenomenon, virtual reality game, Warcross. It’s the only way she can afford to live and slowly repay her father’s debts. But in a moment of desperation, Em accidentally glitches herself into the biggest Warcross game of the season, instantly displayed across the vision of millions of people. Instead of begin arrested, though, Emika is recruited by the game’s founder, Hideo Tanaka, to play in the Warcross championship, working undercover to help him find the person responsible for dangerously hacking into the games.

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Book Review: Dare Mighty Things

Dare Mighty Things – Heather Kaczynski – HarperTeen – Published 10 October 2017

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Synopsis

THE RULES ARE SIMPLE: You must be gifted. You must be younger than twenty-five. You must be willing to accept the dangers that you will face if you win.

Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Gupta’s entire life has been leading up to this—the opportunity to travel to space. But to secure a spot on this classified mission, she must first compete against the best and brightest people on the planet. People who are as determined as she to win a place on a journey to the farthest reaches of the universe.

Cassie is ready for the toll that the competition will take; the rigorous mental and physical tests designed to push her to the brink of her endurance. But nothing could have prepared her for the bonds she would form with the very people she hopes to beat. Or that with each passing day it would be more and more difficult to ignore the feeling that the true objective of the mission is being kept from her.

As the days until the launch tick down and the stakes rise higher than ever before, only one thing is clear to Cassie: she’ll never back down . . . even if it costs her everything.

My thoughts

From the very beginning this book was completely exciting. I had a huge grin of anticipation that I couldn’t wipe off my face – but maybe that was more to do with Cassandra’s smarts and humour. It’s so much fun hanging with someone who is clever, knows she is clever, and isn’t afraid to correct her internship boss’s math in front all his coworkers – go girl.

Cassandra knows she was born for something great – it’s expected of a child who was one of the first genetically engineered babies. When she is offered a place in a competition for a highly secretive NASA mission, Cass jumps at the opportunity. Leaving her family behind, Cass spends the next few months being tested to her limits and trying to outclass the other competitors. But no amount of physical or mental aptitude can prepare her for the challenges she will face, including making friends amongst her competitors. But the greatest challenge will be revealed if she makes it to the top spot and discovers what this mission aims to achieve.

Dare Mighty Things is set 26(ish) years in the future. Cass’ world largely resembles our own. Most things appear to have remained the same, despite increased weather disasters and decreased fertility levels. There also hasn’t been a space exploration – no funding – for years, which is why Cassandra is surprised to be asked to join a competition that offers a chance to travel into space.

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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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