Book Review: Keystone

Keystone – Katie Delahanty – Entangled: Teen – Published 7 January 2020

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Synopsis

When Ella Karman debuts on the Social Stock Exchange, she finds out life as a high-profile “Influencer” isn’t what she expected. Everyone around her is consumed by their rankings, in creating the smoke and mirrors that make them the envy of the world.

But then Ella’s best friend betrays her, her rankings tank, and she loses—everything.

Leaving her old life behind, she joins Keystone, a secret school for thieves, where students are being trained to steal everything analog and original because something—or someone—is changing history to suit their needs.

Partnered with the annoyingly hot—and utterly impossible—Garrett Alexander, who has plenty of his own secrets, Ella is forced to return to the Influencer world, while unraveling a conspiracy that began decades ago.

One wrong move and she could lose everything—again.

My thoughts

I went through a whole range of reactions while reading Keystone. I couldn’t have hated the beginning more. I was disconnected, confused and ready to put the book down and never pick it back up. However, I reasoned I was very busy at work and was only reading the book in short fits and I really should give it a better chance to capture my attention. I’m glad I did. One week into my holiday, I picked it up again. There were sections in the middle that made me cringe, but the story comes together and I was intrigued by the mix of social commentary, dystopian story and heist novel. By the end, I was hooked. What a fabulous turn around. The end reads like a thrilling action movie. I’m intrigued about where the series is going to go next.

Keystone dumps the reader right into the middle of the plot and action. So much so, that I actually stopped reading and went to check if this was a second book in a series. The story starts in the middle of big events for Elisha, the main character, and readers must just go along for the ride, picking up details about who she is, why she’s just jumped off an exploding yacht, who and what the Disconnects are, the slightly futuristic world, and what on earth is going on, along the way. This sudden start makes it hard to connect or care about Elisha’s trauma (because we are not sure what really happened anyway) or grief (how can we mourn characters we never met?). It only gets more confusing from there, as she somehow joins (or has already joined??) a group of spies. After reading on a bit and some backstory is provided via journaled flashbacks, it made a lot of sense for the book to start after Elisha (or Ella) has left her Influencer life as she is rather unlikeable before and that is more palatable as she reflects on her mistakes and how she wants to change. I would have liked a few more details about what she knew of the Disconnects and Keystone as she started there, but I did eventually figure out the essential details.

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Book Review: Day Zero

Day Zero – Kelly deVos – Day Zero Duology #1 – Inkyard Press – Published 12 November 2019

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Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old coder Jinx Marshall grew up spending weekends drilling with her paranoid dad for a doomsday she’s sure will never come. She’s an expert on self-heating meal rations, Krav Maga and extracting water from a barrel cactus. Now that her parents are divorced, she’s ready to relax. Her big plans include making it to level 99 in her favorite MMORPG and spending the weekend with her new hunky stepbrother, Toby.

But all that disaster training comes in handy when an explosion traps her in a burning building. Stuck leading her headstrong stepsister, MacKenna, and her precocious little brother, Charles, to safety, Jinx gets them out alive only to discover the explosion is part of a pattern of violence erupting all over the country. Even worse, Jinx’s dad stands accused of triggering the chaos.

In a desperate attempt to evade paramilitary forces and vigilantes, Jinx and her siblings find Toby and make a break for Mexico. With seemingly the whole world working against them, they’ve got to get along and search for the truth about the attacks—and about each other. But if they can survive, will there be anything left worth surviving for?

My thoughts

Okay, you had me at Krav Maga, and prepping. If I’m going to read a doomsday book, having a character who knows that they are up against is my kind of book. Day Zero has all the destruction, terror and political unrest you would expect from a book about the end of civilisation as we know it. Along with lots of action and tension, Day Zero plunges readers into a world that is scarily similar to our own, as political fractions rip society apart.

Jinx doesn’t much care for politics, history or who won the recent election. She’d rather focus on her upcoming campaign in her favourite computer game. But then she, her younger brother and her step-sister are caught up in one of five building explosions that kills thousands and sends the population into a terror-driven run on the banks. When her step-father is arrested for the explosions and her mother taken as part of the investigation, Jinx knows their only chance of survival is finding her father, a doomsday survivalist expert, a computer genius and best friend of the man who is currently trying to hunt her down.

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Book Review: Rogue

Rogue – A.J. Betts – The Vault #1 – Pan Australia – Published 26 June 2018

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Synopsis

There was no going back; there was no choice, anymore. I’d chosen out and this was it: hot-cold, dry-wet, bright-dark and lonely.

Hayley has gone rogue.

She’s left everything she’s ever known – her friends, her bees, her whole world – all because her curiosity was too big to fit within the walls of the underwater home she was forced to flee.

But what is this new world she’s come to? Has Hayley finally found somewhere she can belong?

Or will she have to keep running?

My thoughts

Rogue is the second book in the two book dystopian series, The Vault. As the follow-up to Hive, Rogue took the world of Hive and blew it wide open. With the same curious and ever-searching main character and even more incredible descriptions of the surrounding landscape, Rogue gives readers and Hayley the answers they were searching for in book one.

Hayley had so many questions and when the son gave her the option to leave her confined life behind and explore what else was out there, she took it. Now, Hayley finds herself in a place she never could have imagined, with new creatures, landscapes and rules. But she can’t forget the people she left behind, and, as she learns more about this new world, she isn’t sure if she should let her old world go or if she should share her new-found discoveries.

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Book Review: Hive

Hive – A.J. Betts – The Vault #1 – Pan Australia – Published 26 June 2018

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Synopsis

Hayley tends to her bees and follows the rules in the only world she has ever known.

Until she witnesses the impossible: a drip from the ceiling.

A drip? It doesn’t make sense.

Yet she hears it, catches it. Tastes it.

Curiosity is a hook.

What starts as a drip leads to a lie, a death, a boy, a beast, and too many awful questions.

My thoughts

Hive is a unique dystopian story. Intricately crafted, the world beautifully written, this gentle and compelling story is just the start of an exciting two-book series. The narrator, alongside the reader, knows only of the day-to-day rhythm of life and the stories she has been told. As she questions, explores and discovers scant details, she, and the reader, learns there is far more to the world than she could have expected.

Hayley is a beekeeper. It is her job to tend the Hive, just one of the gardeners in the gardener house, one of the six houses, that rely on water from the source and follow the patterns set out by the generations before them. But Hayley has a secret, one that has her questioning everything around and soon the walls of her world seem to hem her in. But will questioning provide the answers she is looking for?

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Book Review: The XY

The XY – Virginia Bergin – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 6 November 2018

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Synopsis

In River’s world, XYs are a relic of the past, along with things like war and violence. Thanks to the Global Agreements, River’s life is simple, safe, and peaceful…until she comes across a body in the road one day. A body that is definitely male, definitely still alive.

River isn’t prepared for this. There’s nothing in the Agreements about how to deal with an XY. Yet one lies before her, sick, suffering, and at her mercy.

River can kill him, or she can save him. Either way, nothing will ever be the same.

My thoughts

The XY is a compelling and unique work of speculative fiction that asks the question, what if? What if a drastic illness reduced the population by half. What would the world look like? How would things have changed 60 years on? What if the half that was left to start over were all female? What if a young girl, who has only know life in this new era, met a boy, a strange creature she recognises only from history lessons? How would she treat him, how would it change her world?

River lives in a world two generations on from an event that changed everything. When she finds an injured stranger on the road home, she is shocked to discover it is an XY – a boy. When she saves his life and takes him back to her community, it will forever change her life and how she views her world.

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Book Review: Access Restricted

Access Restricted – Gregory Scott Katsoulis – Word$ #2 – Harlequin Teen – Published 28 August 2018

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Synopsis

At the end of All Rights Reserved, Speth and her friends freed the city of Vermaine from Silas Rog and his oppressive litigation. But now, with the Wi-Fi untethered, the citizens of her city are looking to Speth to lead them. Just as Speth never intended to lead a rebellion of Silents, she has no idea how to begin putting Vermaine back to rights. All she wants to do is break out of the dome and track down her parents, who were sold into indentured servitude years before. Leaving the care of the city in the hands of her friend and mentor, Kel, Speth and a few friends embark on a journey to explore the rest of their world and spread the cause of freedom.

My thoughts

Access Restricted is the sequel to the amazing and scarily possible All Rights Reserved. With just as much action and intrigue, Access Restricted once again delves into a world where every form of communication is owned and fees charged accordingly, where history and knowledge have become propriety information only accessible to those with wealth and standing, where one girl unwittingly became the leader in an uprising, and where that girl must once again risk everything for a chance of a better future.

There has been much debate in my high-schoolers book club, who all adored All Rights Reserved, if a sequel was needed. The first book could, arguably, be concluded and left as it was. Others suggested they were happy with the ending, and that any more could possibly ruin the awesomeness of the first book. Others still, myself included, desperately wanted more -more of Speth, more of her accidental rebellion and uprising, and more explanation of the world in which she lives and the consequences for her actions. Would everything she had already done and sacrificed really change things? Had it really made a difference?

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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: 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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