Book Review: Spellhacker

Spellhacker – M.K. England – HarperTeen – Published 21 January 2020

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Synopsis

In Kyrkarta, magic—known as maz—was once a freely available natural resource. Then an earthquake released a magical plague, killing thousands and opening the door for a greedy corporation to make maz a commodity that’s tightly controlled—and, of course, outrageously expensive.

Which is why Diz and her three best friends run a highly lucrative, highly illegal maz siphoning gig on the side. Their next job is supposed to be their last heist ever.

But when their plan turns up a powerful new strain of maz that (literally) blows up in their faces, they’re driven to unravel a conspiracy at the very center of the spellplague—and possibly save the world.

No pressure.

My thoughts

Spellhacker is a fantastic mix of fantasy and science fiction. I can tell you right now it is going to be a pain deciding whether to put it in our YA fantasy or YA Sci-fi section but the pain will be worth it to share this adventure of a novel with our readers. Tech hackers, best friends, diverse romantic relationships, conspiracy theories, magic literally woven with technology and gadgets, explosions, heists and enough action to keep you glued to the pages, M.K England seriously delivers with this fabulous book.

Diz‘s world as she knows it is ending. Her best friends, who, aside from a cousin, are the only family she has since her parents died in the Spellplague that killed thousands, are moving away from their home to new jobs, new Universities. They have time for just one final job, siphoning maz from the tightly controlled supply MMC maintains. But when the job goes horribly wrong, the four friends have to run for their lives, especially when MMC look set to use their mini disaster to cover up the fact they have been secretly mining a new strand of very dangerous maz. To save themselves and clear their names they will have to save their city also.

Spellhacker is such a fun adventure. It’s a combination between a heist novel and fantasy quest, with a bunch of cool tech thrown in. The world in Spellhacker feels almost futuristic – almost dystopian as the destruction caused by maz and the spellplague could easily reflect the natural disasters and impacts of climate change in our own world. Magic, rather than replace or prevent technology, has been neatly intertwined and it makes so much sense. I know readers who frequently ask me for fantasy books that make sense and have scientific backings will love Spellhacker.

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Book Review: Chasing the Shadows

Chasing the Shadows – Maria V. Snyder – Sentinels of the Galaxy #2 – HarperCollins – Published 18 November 2019

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Synopsis

Lyra Daniels is dead. Okay, so I only died for sixty-six seconds. But when I came back to life, I got a brand new name and a snazzy new uniform. Go me! Seriously, though, it’s very important that Lyra Daniels stays dead, at least as far as my ex-friend Jarren, the murdering looter, knows.

While dying is the scariest thing that’s happened to me, it morphed my worming skills. I can manipulate the Q-net like never before. But Jarren has blocked us from communicating with the rest of the galaxy and now they believe we’ve gone silent, like Planet Xinji (where silent really means dead).

A Protector Class spaceship is coming to our rescue, but we still have to survive almost two years before they arrive – if they arrive at all. Until then, we have to figure out how to stop an unstoppable alien threat. And it’s only a matter of time before Jarren learns I’m not dead and returns to finish what he started.

There’s no way I’m going to let Jarren win. Instead I’ll do whatever it takes to save the people I love. But even I’m running out of ideas…

My thoughts

Chasing the Shadows is the exciting second book in the Sentinels of the Galaxy series. As a huge Maria V. Snyder fan, I was thrilled to be able to continue this story that is one part archaeology-action and the other technology-hacking, space science-fiction.

Chasing the Shadows picks up right where the first book left off, and continues Lyra’s investigation into the Terracotta Warriors that grace planets across the galaxy, the looters who are destroying the Warriors, the invisible creatures who attack, leaving planets desolate, and the hacker who has put a target on Lyra’s back. But Lyra, with the help of her archaeologist parents, security officer boyfriend and his head of security father, is more than up for the task of this four-pronged investigation. Especially, as Lyra’s already exceptional worming skills (her ability to navigate the Quantum Net ((think internet on steroids)) without detection) are increasing with surprising results.

Lyra is, once again, our narrator, with her usual humour and propensity of mischief. The writing style puts the reader right alongside Lyra and it’s as if Lyra is chatting to the reader. She continuously makes little asides to the reader, comments on what she is saying or thinking, often as a way to explain or excuse something. This gives her a young voice, which is a little in contrast to her age, her worming abilities, her ideas for improving security and even mature leadership skills (not to mention her increasingly physical relationship with Niall).

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Book Review: This Cruel Design

This Cruel Design – Emily Suvada – This Mortal Coil #2 – Simon Pulse – Published 30 October 2018

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Synopsis

The nightmare of the outbreak is finally over, but Cat’s fight has only just begun.

Exhausted, wounded, and reeling from revelations that have shaken her to her core, Cat is at a breaking point. Camped in the woods with Cole and Leoben, she’s working day and night, desperate to find a way to stop Lachlan’s plan to reprogram humanity. But she’s failing—Cat can’t even control her newly regrown panel, and try as she might to ignore them, she keeps seeing glitching visions from her past everywhere she turns.

When news arrives that the Hydra virus might not be as dead as they’d thought, the group is pushed into an uneasy alliance with Cartaxus to hunt down Lachlan and fix the vaccine. Their search takes them to Entropia, a city of genehackers hidden deep in the desert that could also hold the answers about Cat’s past that she’s been searching for.

But when confronted with lies and betrayals, Cat is forced to question everything she knows and everyone she trusts. And while Lachlan is always two steps ahead, the biggest threat to Cat may be the secrets buried in her own mind.

My thoughts

Absolutely stunning. This Cruel Design is the epic second book in the This Mortal Coil series and it is every bit as incredible, well-written, and addictive as the first book. This Cruel Design lived up to every expectation and high standard set by its predecessor. Fast-faced and intelligent, This Cruel Design ramps up the tension and the stakes, introducing new characters and pushing the boundaries on everything once thought possible for genetics and technology.

Cat might have found a vaccine for the deadly Hydra plague, but the journey has revealed secrets that shattered her world and has left her reeling, no longer truly knowing who she is or what her purpose should be. Camping in the woods with Cole and Leoben, Cat is hoping for a chance to regroup and decide on her next move, but time is running out if she is going to prevent Lachlan from reprogramming humanity. She also needs to learn how to control her new panel and deal with the memory glitches that threaten to reveal more secrets.

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Book Review: A Secret To Die For

A Secret To Die For – Lisa Harris – Revell – Published 18 September 2018

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Synopsis

Psychologist Grace Callahan has no idea that she has a secret–one worth killing for. But when she finds out one of her clients has been murdered, she quickly realizes that the computer security specialist wasn’t simply suffering from paranoia.

Detective Nate Quinn has just been cleared for active duty after a bombing killed eighteen people, including his partner, and left him dealing with PTSD. His first case back on the job involves the murder of Stephen Shaw, and his only lead turns out to be an old friend, Grace Callahan–and her life is in grave danger. Someone believes Shaw gave his psychologist information before he died. Information they are willing to kill for.

My thoughts

A Secret To Die For plunges readers straight into the tension and thrills of a race to foil a terrorism plot. With sweet romance and limitless action, Lisa Harris weaves together a story of second chances and overcoming grief and tragedy.

When psychologist Grace Callahan’s home is broken into and her life threatened, it’s not long before the case is tied to the murder of one of her clients. It’s the first day back on the job for Detective Nate Quinn after a bombing left him sidelined and dealing with PTSD after the death of his partner. Reuniting with an old college friend, Grace, and facing a murder investigation with ties to a larger criminal plot, Nate must work to keep his feelings from overshadowing the investigation. Nate and Grace join together to solve the case and stop the people who plan to threaten millions of lives – starting with Grace’s.

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Book Review: Autonomous

Autonomous – Andy Marino – Disney-Hyperion – Published 3 April 2018

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Synopsis

William Mackler is about to go on a road trip of a lifetime. After winning a contest—and nearly dying in the process—he becomes the proud owner of Autonomous, a driverless car that knows where you want to go before you do. #Worthit! To sweeten the deal he gets to pick three friends to go with him on a cross-country trip to see their favorite band. For William, a reckless adrenaline junkie, this is the perfect last hurrah before he and his friends go their separate ways after graduation. But Autonomous is more than just a car without a steering wheel. It’s capable of downloading all of the passengers’ digital history—from the good, to the bad, to the humiliating. The information is customized into an itinerary that will expose a few well-kept secrets, but it will also force William to face some inner demons of his own. Think you know Autonomous? The real question is, how much does Autonomous know about you?

My thoughts

Please note this is a review of the original book that was to be published in November 2017, and some things may have changed in the April 2018 release.

Picture a road trip – sunny days, hair blowing in the wind, happy times of solid friendship and sing-a-longs to feel-good music. Autonomous is not that road trip. Instead, Autonomous is an examination of the true nature of humanity, where buried secrets are laid bare and the harsh truths of reality are posed against the speculation of how technology might evolve and how it might reflect those truths.

When William wins a state-of-the-art car in a competition, he plans to take his three best friends on an epic road trip. But while discovering the extent of the car’s abilities, from being completely self driving to apparent mind reading, everything William had planed for the road trip begins to fall apart. Instead of making fantastic memories with his friends, their relationships are tested and things get far more dangerous then they could have imagined.

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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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