Caught on Camera

by Madelle Morgan
Reviewed by SA

Let me start off this review by saying I don’t usually read romance – heck, it’s a genre I rarely ever connect with. But when the author sent me a copy of her book, I though it might be high time to give it a chance. And I was right: Caught on Camera was such a blast, and I enjoyed every minute of it! Did I mention it has a playlist?

Summary31945536

To achieve her dream of working on Hollywood film sets, star struck chambermaid Rachel Lehmann needs $35,000 for film school tuition by the end of the summer. When she’s asked to fill in for a missing bridesmaid at a movie star’s wedding and pretend to be the bride’s cousin, it’s her big chance to secretly take photos of celebrities and sell them to the entertainment media! Then Mickey, one of the groomsmen, sweeps her off her feet.

Mickey McNichol, talent agent to the stars, believes everyone in show business is out for what they can get. When he falls hard for the bride’s “cousin”, he thinks he’s finally met a beautiful woman he can trust. But if Rachel betrays the wedding party, Mickey will ensure she never works in Hollywood.

Musings

Rachel needs a whole lot of money if she’s ever going to get into her first choice film school in LA – a problem that’s so wholly relatable to other New Adults like this reader right here. I remember looking up how much money I could make selling my kidney. Rachel’s smarter though – she gets a job working the summer at a hotel in Muskoka, sneaking snaps of celebrities she hopes she can sell to reach her financial goal.

But when a bridesmaid fails to turn up at the huge, star studded wedding that had rented out the hotel for the weekend, the bride needs Rachel to go from maid to bridesmaid in a flash. This gives Rachel a fantastic opportunity to sneak pictures of the event. What she didn’t count on was love at first sight. When she meets Mickey, there’s an instant attraction – but what if he learns her secret?

Sure, there are a whole lot of clichés and tropes in this novel… but it’s a Rom Com! And it will have you laughing out loud, let me tell you. You have a bridezilla with a temper; a tiny, very needy dog; a comedy of errors as Rachel’s luck flip flops all over the place. And, of course, you have the couple you want to root for so much you could burst.

I think what holds me back when I read romance is the suspension of disbelief. A lot of things happen by ‘coincidence’ which are a little too convoluted. And we have a lot of coincidences in this novel that made my eyes roll… until I started to really get into it and want Rachel and Mickey to end up together. After the climax of the novel, as we push for resolution, I found myself thinking of how perfect this ending was, how much I wanted every second. I realized that the author had fully managed to reel me in, despite my annoyances with Rom Coms! I closed the book thinking how brilliant of a movie this would be, with butterflies in my stomach and a craving for chocolate.

So. Fantastically. Sweet!

I think what sold me was Rachel. She’s so relatable and fun! I love her ethical dilemma, I love the classic makeover scene, I love watching her fall for Mickey. She’s a perfect stand in for the reader.

Oh, and did I mention this novel comes with its own soundtrack? You listen to the playlist at key moments and are sucked right in! So unique! The playlist itself is perfect even without the book, great songs to listen to on repeat.

So while I’m not a big fan of the genre, I’m still a huge fan of this book. Perfect feel-good weekend read!

Pick up your copy right here!

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Starstruck – EXCERPT!

By S.E. Anderson

Heya Bookworms! Today’s post is a little different – because I’m going to tell you a little bit about my new release, my debut novel, Starstruck. It’s a funny, quirky space story about aliens, anxiety and adulthood. And so far, people are really liking it!

“S.E. Anderson’s debut is a hilarious galactic romp with loving nods to Hitch Hiker’s Guide to Galaxy but with a voice all its own. It’s quirky, fun, and utterly enjoyable.” ~Dragon Award-nominated author, R.R. Virdi of The Grave Report and The Books of Winter.

“It’s witty, it’s fast paced, and it’s delightfully tongue in cheek. […] If you like The Doctor, Hitchiker’s Guide or Space Shennanigans, you’ll like this book. Can’t wait to read more.” ~ L. Burke

“My only question is WHEN CAN I READ THE NEXT BOOK?!” ~ C. McGough

“I think anyone who is a fan of things like Doctor Who, Douglas Adams’ trilogy, or even Firefly would feel right at home with this one.” ~ H.

“I’ll be definitely picking up the second book in this series. S.E. Anderson is a skilled writer, and Starstruck’s pages burst with personality, action, and humour. A must-read for science fiction fans.” ~ M. Dyer

But as the author, it would be very odd of me to review it. Though I have said a little bit about it before, right here! So instead, I’m just going to share with you the prologue. Enjoy!


PROLOGUE
It All Begins With a Lot of Sand

The commander raised his binoculars and surveyed the desert. The bleak landscape spread out for an eternity before him, flat as far as he could see, broken only by the crumbling buildings of the city. “Where are you?”

“Um, sir. W-what are your orders?”

The commander drew in a sharp breath. His second might only be a kid—on his first posting, no less—and maybe he hadn’t seen the kind of action that kept the commander awake at night, but he had to keep his face straight. If he thought that skirmish with the fugitives was an actual attack, he was kidding himself. Besides, the men counted on them for strength and guidance, not fear and weakness.

His team waited in silence on the roof beside him. Most were looking anywhere but at the commander, avoiding eye, or any other kind of contact. He did not blame them.

“I want you to find those fugitives.” The commander’s order flew off his tongue like sparks from a fire. “They must be within the city limits or someone would have spotted them.”

“But, sir, we searched the burg, and there was no sign of them.”

“Then look harder,” the commander hissed, raising the binoculars again. He scowled at the empty wasteland. It was the same as always, as it had been for months … well, until today.

“Maybe they’ve, um, braved the desert?”

The commander resisted the temptation to slap him. How his superiors thought the boy ready for the post was beyond him. Maybe it was meant as a slight, giving him children to command, like he was a babysitter rather than a decorated war hero. “Can you see them out there?”

His number two swallowed. “Um, no, sir.”

“Then they’re not there, are they?” The commander shifted his gaze back to the horizon, daring the universe to put the fugitives in his field of vision. “They’re in the town. They can’t be anywhere else, which makes me wonder what you are still doing here.” He turned and glared at his number two. “Find them.”

“Sir!”

A call from the street below made him lower his binoculars. He marched to the edge of the roof and looked down at the cracked pavement, ignoring his second-in-command as the boy scampered off to follow his orders. A soldier looked up at him, clutching a rifle against his chest like a shield.

“What?”

“They’ve been sighted, sir.” His voice cracked. “They’re making a run for it on foot, but they’re not moving very fast. They’ve taken to the desert, by the east bridge.”

The commander spun on his heels, turning from his perch to make his way to the staircase. He gave a curt nod to each of the men standing by, gesturing for them to follow. He would need every soldier assigned to this middle-of-nowhere dump he had been defending for half a century. The atmosphere had been quite cheerful until today, the day when everyone under his command learned what it meant to be tested.

But they’d been seen, finally, and he could take as long as he wanted to get to the East End. The desert was eternal, without shelter or cover until one reached the mountains, and that took at least three days by ‘craft. If they were on foot, all his men needed to do was to keep them in sight, and he would have them.

He ran through the list of rewards he would receive for capturing the elusive pair. Money? Land? A promotion would be in order; he deserved that much, at least. Somewhere nice, somewhere where the sun shone, instead of burning like fire on his constantly covered-up skin. There was a little place he liked not too far away, with sandy beaches and a deep ocean, a post that required plainclothes rather than camouflage.

He marched through the ghost town, realizing how high the sand had risen since his first day all those years ago. It had been a vibrant place back then, with a market on this very street and flags flying from the windows. Now, all that remained were crumbling memories; the rising sands were devouring what lingered. Soon, all they would leave would be a gigantic dune—the only dune for thousands of miles.

“You have them?” he asked as he reached the squadron at the east bridge. The soldiers huddled in a mass, each trying to mask their fear. The broken bridge had all but crumbled away, leaving a cement perch over an ocean of sand, a perfect vantage point from which to see … well, more sand. Only today, just for a change, there was something else out there.

Each of his soldiers bore a mark from the so-called attack: a red-raw neck; a lump or two growing on their head; a small mark in the shape of a cigarette burn, accompanied by the scent of scorched clothing and skin. Their wounds were minor, however, which meant he would capture the two most wanted criminals in the universe without losing a single man. He did wonder how they had managed to get through the fight with such light injuries, though. According to legend, the fugitives could kill hundreds in a single minute—some even said the blink of an eye—though he was sure the stories were exaggerated.

The felons dashed across the arid desert. They wore desert clothes, loose layers of cotton wrapped around their bodies to help them blend in with the sand. The man’s turban was coming undone, fluttering in the wind he created by his sheer speed. The woman danced lightly across the sand beside him; unhindered by the wrap, she was so graceful, she almost floated in the air. It was enough to make the commander freeze as he watched her shrinking from view.

“I have them in my sights, sir,” the sniper announced. His finger hovered above the trigger. The commander found himself staring at it, that lonely digit, reveling in how something so simple could bring such vile things to an end. The rest of his companions stood further back, eyes wide with terror, faces contorted with fear, and legs paralyzed by both. This man had no welts on his arms, no marks or bruising on his neck. No wonder he could still think clearly. The commander ran a hand over the burn on his right wrist, sliding his sleeve to cover it.

“I see them.” He grinned at the sniper, his binoculars trained on the two figures. “Shoot to incapacitate. Then have a retrieval squad pick them up.”

The sniper fired a single shot. A loud, piercing sound broke the silence. Almost instantly, the man fell to the ground, a red spot spreading from the middle of his back, soaking through his cotton garb. The commander sneered. Just minutes away from glory.

His sneer faded when the man stood up; he didn’t seem to notice the bullet, even though the splotch of blood spread. The man fled across the desert unhindered by the wound, his feet pounding rhythmically. “Shoot him again,” the commander ordered, mortified. He clutched his burn as if he could reflect the pain back tenfold upon those who bestowed it.

The shot rang out, seemingly louder this time, but the man kept running, despite fresh blood saturating his shirt. “Again.” Finally, losing his temper he commanded, “Kill him!”

This time, the bullet hit the small of the man’s back, but he didn’t fall. Instead, his hand reached across his back, as if to swat a fly, smearing the blood without slowing his stride.

“This is clearly the wrong approach,” the commander said, forcing himself to keep his composure, though fury flooded his words. “Arms at the ready.”

“What, all of us?” a soldier asked.

“Yes, all of you,” he snapped, raising a hand in the air. “Ready … aim …”

The soldiers had barely raised their guns when the targets just … disappeared. They had not fallen, nor had they escaped upward. The commander scrutinized the landscape, but there was no trace of them; in their place, an unfurled turban floated to the ground in the breeze.

The commander’s fury burst the dam of self-control, and he howled. He ripped off his helmet and slammed it on the ground. It hit the pavement and rebounded, ramming into his shin. He felt none of it; his anger eclipsed his pain, the fury burning through his veins like acid, stronger and hotter than he had ever felt before.

Everything he had heard about them, everything he wished he hadn’t known but had learned to fear about them … it was all true, and there was no better truth than the one he had seen with his own eyes. One second they were there, just out of reach, the next, gone. Just … gone. Bullets didn’t even slow them down. No wonder they had a knack for evading the law.

No wonder they needed to be taken down.

For the first time in his life, the commander dropped his head into his hands, a sob ringing across the empty wasteland, heard only by the cowards behind him. He picked up his helmet, and, seeing the burn marks upon it, shouted words into the desert that his men could not understand. Then, without thought, he tossed it into the desert, watching the dented metal tumble in the air, before falling into the sand and lodging itself there to be covered up by time. With that, the commander fell to his knees, rubbing his webbed fingers over his irritated, sunburned scalp.

They had escaped once again. And with them, his dreams.

Goodbye, money.

Goodbye, land.

Goodbye, promotion and plainclothes.

And he had so wanted that quiet posting on Earth.


Starstruck All Angles

There you have it! Do you want to read more? The first FIVE chapters are available right now, for FREE. Check it out right here!

And if you’d like to buy the book, well that’s easy too! You can find it right here, on amazon.

But I’m not Depressed!

 

A Memoir of Disintegration
By Lia Rees

It’s not often that I read memoirs, so I didn’t know what to expect with this one. To my surprise, I was blown away by how profound it was: it was a personal and intimate look into the loss of self, which still resonates long after I put the book down. I think you should read it: let me show you why.

Summary33279579

This is what happened when something devastating crashed into an unusual mind.

When I suffered a brain injury at the age of 19, I was not told what I had. The world became a dreamlike haze. I was cut off from my own thoughts and memories.

Instead of receiving medical treatment, I was sent into psychotherapy. So began a ten-year battle to recover my lost self. This memoir is a window into the surreal internal landscape of a brain injury survivor striving to find reality once more.

Positive thinking and pills couldn’t fix me, but a bizarre and cutting-edge field of medicine just might.

Musings

What happens when you suffer a brain injury and begin to feel your mind crumble away – but no one believes you? What sounds like a nightmare is actually the daily life of Lia Rees, the author of this book. Faced with her fantastic mind suddenly turning against her, she struggles to find help in a world where doctors still carry a bias.

The writing style is so gorgeous that it’s hard to believe the author is struggling so much, another example of how her high functioning stops doctors from taking her seriously.She describes mental states in a way that is so incredibly relatable and visual. It was painful to read how her knowledge about her own body and mind were refuted by well meaning specialists. As a reader, you just want the doctor to listen: if any of them took the time to thoroughly listen, we think, they might just be able to help.

But in the meantime, life as a brain injury survivor is an uphill battle, one where the energy you need to make it through the day is not enough to fight. It reminded me of a TED talk I watched recently, where Jennifer Brea describes the obstacles she’s faces in seeking treatment for her Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She too had to use her reduced functions to find out what was wrong by herself, when the medical world would not.

This memoir is powerful. While the writing can get a little verbose at times, it was still witty and incredibly poignant. From brain injury to doctor to doctor to failed treatment after failed treatment, her road to recovery is filled with huddles she’s still fighting today.

A memoir that took strength to write and really shows. If you or someone you know has suffered a brain injury and found their daily functions impaired, you might want to grab this book. It is truly an eye opener and a fantastic read.

KHOLVARIA + Interview with ANDREW GATES

The Color of Water and Sky, Book 2
By Andrew Gates

Last year, we had the pleasure of interviewing the debut author Andrew Gates, for the release of his Science Fiction novel “IRIS.” Having just read the ARC of KHOLVARIA, the upcoming sequel, I just had to have him back to tell us more!  I like to describe his Color of Water and Sky series as being a science fiction series with the scope of Game of Thrones but the world building of Asimov, and Kholvaria does not disappoint. Potential spoilers if you have not read Iris yet!

Summary51mrkwhf2al

The ancient ones called it America. The survivors call it the New World. Others know it only as Kholvaria.

It is a desperate time for the Federation. The Atlantic Station, the last known city on Earth, has been destroyed. Humankind is on the brink of extinction. Nine survivors flee the crumbling city in a dire effort to survive. Their destination: the planet’s surface, a poisonous landscape untouched for generations. Plagued by danger, disease, hunger, and mystery, they do whatever they must to stay alive. But they are not alone. Other eyes, above and below the sea, watch the survivors with great interest.

For the first time in generations, humanity is coming home. But it may not be to the home they expect.

Musings

If you loved Iris, then this book is definitely not to miss. After the devastating ending, which left most of humanity dead, including one of our favorite characters, Iris and the eight other survivors have finally reached the surface. It’s a combination of excitement and shock, as well as complete abject terror. This new world is beautiful, but it hades many dangers, and you never know what to expect.

Once again, the author’s style completely pulls you into the world he created. The imagery is so vivid you truly do feel as if you’re actually there. Unlike the claustrophobic sense that came from Iris, Kholvaria on the contrary feels open to so many opportunities. It’s like taking a caged bird and releasing them into the wild: it’s almost overwhelming for the characters, and that’s something that really comes through.

The pacing is a lot faster than Iris, especially towards the ending when you feel like everything is life-or-death. And, in fact, there is quite a major death, one that left me personally reeling for days.

We also finally get some answers about what we were contemplating in the first book. While we might have guessed some things, or at least tried to, we finally get proof in Kholvaria. The author definitely rewards his readers’ loyalty by validating theories.

We also have a new character who’s introduced who’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before. He might be my favorite POV of the entire series so far, and I just can’t help but want to know more about him!

Andrew Gates proves once again that he is a master of world building and suspense. it’s an addictive, fast paced read that will leave readers begging for more. A must read for scifi fans everywhere.

Compass

Interview with Andrew Gates

Hi Andrew! It’s great to have you back on Readcommendations. We here are very excited about your new book, Kholvaria.

Last year, you described Iris in one sentence: There’s an underwater city in the future and the people who live there think they’re safe, but now they may not be.

I made you recap Iris to one sentence; think fast, can you recap Kholvaria in a single word?

Kholvaria in a single word – Unknown

I love that! So Kholvaria takes place right after the events of book 1. What can the reader expect out of the sequel?

Well, without giving too much away, it’s a pretty dark time for humanity right now. The characters are basically starting over from scratch, hence “unknown”. They don’t know what to expect. They don’t know the trials or challenges they’ll face and a lot of surprises are thrown at them.

It sounds like there’s a lot more action in this book than in the first one. Would you say it’s faster paced than Iris?

I certainly would. Ironically though, it takes place over a shorter duration of time. While Iris elapsed the timespan of about 4 months, Kholvaria elapses closer to 2.

Now at the end of Iris, we lost a major point of view character. Will we have a new point of view to fill the void?

 Great question! Iris had 5 perspective characters (not including the prologue). Kholvaria has the same amount. I really like the 5 character format. I think that’s a good number. I plan to maintain that number throughout the entire series.

I’d just like to add that the new perspective character in Kholvaria is probably my favorite character in the series so far. He’s a very different type of character from anyone in Iris. The first chapter where he is introduced is probably my favorite thing I’ve ever written. I think readers are really going to like it.

So, let’s say another perspective character dies, which is purely hypothetical of course, I would fill that void in the next book and so on.

Many readers -including me – have compared The Color of Water and Sky series to a Science Fiction Game of Thrones. Do you feel the comparison is apt? Why or why not?

Absolutely it is. There’s a lot of similarities between the two. Tone, pacing, length, style, even the multiple-POV format. I’m a big fan of A Song of Ice and Fire so many of these similarities are largely intentional. What’s cool about those books is that you don’t ever see the full story. You get everyone’s perspective of the story, but there’s no omnipotent “third eye” in the sky showing you what’s going on. Sometimes characters will completely drop out of the book and leave you wondering where they are.

You don’t see a whole lot of writers do that, but I think it’s a smart choice. It’s a way to keep the readers engaged by withholding information, not providing it. If done well I think it’s very effective.

Now I hear you have a novella coming out. What can you tell me about it? How does it tie in with your Color of Water and Sky series, if at all?

Yes! The story is going to take place at the same time as books 1 -3 and will basically provide a linear narrative to the different prologues of each book. Captain Sara Gesetti from the prologue of Iris will make a return, as will Damien Saljov. We’ll find out what happens to them after the Cassidy submarine disaster. We will also get to meet a brand new character, who’s story intertwines with the other two.

The prologues from Iris and Kholvaria will be featured again in the spinoff, this time as regular chapters.

The book will be called Cassidy, named after the submarine that started this whole thing.

You’ve now been a published author for a few months. How has that been? What has been the most surprising thing this change has brought? 

The most surprising thing is – now that I’m part of the “writing community”, I’m amazed by how open and accessible it is. There are lots of people out there willing to provide help, whether it be with advice or with shared writing ventures. I’m amazed to see how open everyone is. And so kind too.

What’s your favorite part of being a published author?

And my favorite part of being a published author is knowing that this hobby of mine is actually worthwhile and profitable. There was a period of time when, if I just did my hobbies, I used to feel like I was wasting my time. But now I feel like I can still do things for fun and be productive.

Once again, you wrote a powerful ending that leaves the reader desperate for more. We didn’t have to wait very long for Kholvaria: is the third book currently in the works?

It is. In fact, I’d say about 60% of the rough draft is already written. It’s going to be a more unique story because each perspective character is on a wholly separate journey, rather than one shared journey. So it has a different flow and pace to it. Going back to your earlier point about A Song of Ice and Fire, I would say the next book is going to resemble that series the most in a sense of the characters all being separate and doing their own thing a lot of the time.

Right now I’m guessing the release will come around this time, early summer-ish in 2018. Followed very shortly by Cassidy. Those two books will likely come out mere weeks apart.

And to wrap up: For those who haven’t started the ACoWS series, if they were to be stuck on an island for a year with access to only one new book, why should they pick Iris?

There’s a lot of mystery in Iris, so if you’re on an island with nothing to do, you’ll have a lot of time to think of theories both during and after you read it.

Are you excited yet? Check out the official page for more information. Kholvaria is set to release on May 27th, but you can already preorder a copy right here! A huge thank you to Andrew Gates for providing me with an ARC and an opportunity to interview him.

If you’re a fan of hardcore science fiction, then you’re going to love The Color of Water and Sky! Check out the trailer for IRIS right here

The Song Rising

The Bone Season, Book 3
Written by Samantha Shannon

I have to say, I’m a massive fan of the Bone Season series. I’ve had this book preordered since last August and just waiting ages and ages for it to release and ship. Downsides of living in France is just how much waiting there is for good books. And with the fantastic twist ending of The Mime Order, well, the wait was unbearable! Spoilers ahead for the first two books if you haven’t already read them.

Summary31451267

Following a bloody battle against foes on every side, Paige Mahoney has risen to the dangerous position of Underqueen, ruling over London’s criminal population.

But, having turned her back on Jaxon Hall and with vengeful enemies still at large, the task of stabilising the fractured underworld has never seemed so challenging.

Little does Paige know that her reign may be cut short by the introduction of Senshield, a deadly technology that spells doom for the clairvoyant community and the world as they know it…

One of the most amazing things about this series is how every book is a different genre. The Bone Season was paranormal fantasy; The Mime Order was murder Mystery; and now, the Song Rising is definite dystopia. Paige is now the Underqueen, and has to lead her people, the voyants of London, as they stand up against the Scion Empire. And it’s not an easy task: there’s betrayal, deceit, new enemies and a whole lot of unhappy voyants.

We finally get to explore more of the world that Shannon has created. Paige’s mission takes her north of London, to Scion Manchester and Scion Edinburgh. We get to see just how much Scion has destroyed the lives of non-voyants as well, and learn more about the dark pasts that haunt our favorite characters. We learn about Scion Sweden, and Nick’s story, which is painful in every way.

Another strength of Shannon is how every book has its own villain, and gives Paige a very distinct goal to strive for. In The Song Rising, we finally get to meet the woman behind the fall of Ireland, Paige’s true home. Vance is a cruel commander who will stop at nothing to destroy everything Paige is trying to create. I would have liked to see more from her, but she was a great enemy to pursue.

The character growth is exceptional, especially for Paige and her relationship with Warden (which doesn’t go where you’d expect). However, I think the author might have spread herself thin by having so many supporting characters also evolving. There were so many to juggle, and I think they might have lost some of their depth on the cutting board.

I have to say the first half of the book was a little slow. it was hard to get into the story, as it was mostly Paige having to deal with annoying people, and hand out pep talks and long speeches to assert her dominance. A bit of a pain. but the last half was gripping to the extreme, and the last fifty pages were insane. So intense! Now I just can’t wait for the next book.

What I’m excited for: Scion France, and TBS à la international spy thriller. Heck. Yes. Sign me up now!

The Space Between the Stars

by Anne Corlett

This novel was nothing what I expected, and yet it is now stuck in my mind like an idea that just won’t go away. It’s one of those books that’s so breathtaking, so gorgeous, it becomes unforgettable. Fair warning, scifi fans: this is not hard scifi, this is not a space opera: it is something different, something more.

Summary30981910

All Jamie Allenby ever wanted was space. Even though she wasn’t forced to emigrate from Earth, she willingly left the overpopulated, claustrophobic planet. And when a long relationship devolved into silence and suffocating sadness, she found work on a frontier world on the edges of civilization. Then the virus hit…

Now Jamie finds herself dreadfully alone, with all that’s left of the dead. Until a garbled message from Earth gives her hope that someone from her past might still be alive.

Soon Jamie finds other survivors, and their ragtag group will travel through the vast reaches of space, drawn to the promise of a new beginning on Earth. But their dream will pit them against those desperately clinging to the old ways. And Jamie’s own journey home will help her close the distance between who she has become and who she is meant to be…

Musings

The virus hits, and humanity as we know it is gone. Less than a dozen or so survivors per planet. The virus has consumed so entirely that the dead are nothing but dust in sunbeams. Jamie is one of the survivors, seemingly alone on a frontier planet, so she finds hope by clinging to one idea: she needs to find her ex-husband on Earth, as they promised they would do so long ago. She’s not alone: soon, she finds a religious man with a troubled past; a woman slowly losing her mind; a pilot with a cold exterior, and his engineer; a young prostitute, and a mentally challenged boy. Strays. Stragglers. Survivors. Together, they decide to head to Earth.

The surprising thing about this novel is just how… calm it is. Not so say that the plot isn’t gripping, it’s just that you can almost feel the voices snuffed out. The author juxtaposes small, personal loses (or quite large ones) with the wide scale loss of your entire species. Jamie’s loss of her siamese twin, then unborn child, then the crumbling of her relationship with Daniel are poignant pains that are still valid in front of the collapse of mankind.

It’s really a book about philosophies, and personal beliefs around hope and religion. Some turn towards a god in this apocalypse; others turn away. And some try to take god’s place.  Although some might try to take control, believing they know best, the truth is, all in all, there is no right answer to dealing with loss and grief. There’s no one sobbing in the street and mourning the dead – since this is a massive, collective loss, the hundred or so left might remain in shock forever.

I found that the plot was predictable, BUT, it was the philosophies that kept me hooked. Yes, the ‘twist’ at the end (or big reveal) is evident from about half way through, but I didn’t mind that since the rest of the book was so beautiful. It was very odd that out of the survivors (A little over a hundred out of the billions the human race used to be made up of) the protagonist knew or was related to two of them. The coincidences did feel heavy handed.

The novel really did manage to speak about today, about how our fear of ‘others’ can destroy us all. We hear bits and pieces about the forced emigration when Earth became over crowded; about the protest ships; about the echelons that make up our future society, where our fingers are branded with our class. I would have loved to know more about that, even if that world is now gone.

For fans of Station Eleven and Firefly, this seems to be the perfect combination of ‘ragtag space team’ and the burden of loss and survival. It’s an exploration of grief and hope, and, above all, belief. It’s an exploration of our humanity, what it means to be human when humankind is lost.

And it’s gorgeous.

Expected publication: June 1st 2017 by Pan Macmillan

Fragmented

Untamed, Book 2
By Madeline Dyer

Those of you following my Instagram might have seen my middle-of-the-night post, where an exhausted me at 2 am finished reading the last page of Fragmented and found myself in a whirlwind of emotions. I hadn’t even realized how late it was, I simply could not put the book down. I’ve been so excited I could barely wait until today to tell you about it. Well, it’s Self Published Saturday, and I’m here to tell you about Fragmented!

Summary33804767

After the terrible battle against the Enhanced Ones, Seven and Corin find themselves on the run. With the Enhanced closing in, Seven knows they need to find other people on their side. So, when the opportunity arises to join the Zharat, one of the last surviving Untamed tribes, it seems like the perfect solution.

But the Zharat lifestyle is a far cry from what Seven’s used to. With their customs dictating that she must marry into their tribe, and her relationship with Corin breaking down, Seven knows she has to do something before it’s too late. But that’s easier said than done in a tribe where going against the rules automatically results in death.

And, with the Enhanced still out there, nowhere is truly safe for the Untamed–least of all for the most powerful Seer in the world…and Seven soon discovers how far people will go in order to ensure she’s on their side in the War of Humanity.

Battling against the emerging web of lies, manipulation, and danger, Seven must remember who she was meant to be. Her life has never been more at stake. Nor has humanity itself.

Musings

Many series suffer from a weak second novel. But Fragmented is the Empire Strikes Back here, and is even stronger than the first book.

I was captivated by the world that Dyer created in Untamed: a future where most of humanity live with chemical ‘augmenters’, and those who refuse the drugs are hunted down. Unlike most dystopias I know, there’s this incredible spiritual element: Seven, the protagonist is a seer capable of speaking with them through dreams. The spirits have a massive, sometimes physical effect on the land, able to change it or roam it at will. All in all, this is astounding worldbuilding which made me desperate to read Fragmented.

Fragmented has a much faster pace because of the short timeframe. While Untamed took place over weeks, months, Fragmented is the course of just a few days. Seven, Corin and Esther are all that is left, and decide for their safety to band with a massive tribe called the Zharat. But just because they’re Untamed does not make them good people.

The Zharat are an incredibly patriarchal society, and part of what I loved about Fragmented was how on edge I was the entire time. To put it simply: these guys are absolute creeps. To keep humanity going, their only weapon is their babymaking. Women are nothing but a tool in this regard. Seven’s strength and abilities are put to the test when the Zharat community refuses to treat her as a real person. I was cringing the entire time they were with them.

The character growth is also pretty incredible here. Seven is not only trying to make her voice heard in this new community, but also trying to keep her relationship with Corin alive and healthy. Not to mention that her Seer dreams are strangely stopped now that she’s with the Zharat, and she can’t mention that fact to anyone, because Zharat culture sees Women-Seers as demons. Not to mention the guilt she feels from the last battle…

We also learn more about the place of the Spirits and Gods within not only this culture, but the war itself. At the climax of the book, I was gripping the page as things became clear and the mysteries unraveled. I wanted to scream at the book.

This book has honestly been very difficult for me to review with a level head, because I’m still shattered from the ending. I just cannot wait to get my hands on Divided, the next book in the series!

You can pick up a copy right here!