Curie

Curie (Adaline #3)
by Denise Kawaii

In the past few days, I’ve told you about how addicted I’ve become to the Adaline series. Hooked from the first page of book one, it took me all of four days to devour these three books. Curie is the best of the series so far, and boy was I lucky to have an advance copy! Especially after how Biocide ended. If you’re not already into this series, pick it up now. And best buy all three books at once so you’re ready when you hit those cliffhangers!

Summary41590909

When 62 emerges from Adaline, he thinks his troubles are over. But will he be accepted by his rescuers?

The moment Boy 1124562 is rescued from Adaline, he’s thrust into a strange new world. It’s a land of off-grid outlaws, irradiated desert and a new species: Women. As 62 navigates the matriarchal society that’s dying out just beyond Adaline’s borders, he discovers an unsettling truth. The outside world is not the peaceful safe-haven of his dreams. 

There’s a second cloning program, a war-torn town, and a mysterious enemy lurking beyond the horizon. Is it harder to hide within the confines of a mechanized society, or to weather the storms brought by politics, a poisoned environment and Mother Nature? 62 is about to find out.

Musings

Spoilers here on out for the first two books!

At the end of Biocide, 62 and a handful of other abnormals are rescued by Blue and led to the outside world. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, 62 can finally discover the world he had only seen through dreams – but now, he can never go back. Those who leave Adaline can never return, would be shot if ever seen on a patrol. The book picks right up as 62 leaves his old life behind and embraces life on the outside.

Curie answers so many questions we’ve been asking since book one, namely – why? Why does Adaline grow boys? What happened to the outside world? Where are all the women? Why can’t they dream? (I loved the answer to this one. It made so much sense that it turned my suspension of disbelief into pure, grounded contentment. I mean – of course that’s why.)

The outside world isn’t an easy one like Adaline. it involves work, hardship, disagreement. But all the while, 62 is still this eager child we’ve grown to love. He is so thrilled to discover grass – making some pretty silly mistakes in the process. He’s confused by meeting girls or trying to understand how to eat. Discovering snow leads to a hilarious segment which I laughed for ages. Watching him discover what we take for granted had me grinning as I read.

We have new answers, but also new questions. Namely, who are the Yousa? And why are their demands so particular? Through ancient books and new friends, 62 pieces together the world’s past and tries to make sense of his place in it. While dreaming isn’t exactly prohibited, it’s seen as an oddity, like walking around with three arms. It’s not safe to be different, and 62 once again struggles to fit in.

In my mind, Adaline and Biocide could have been a single book. Curie turns the series so on its head that it can be seen as a turning point in Adaline. It’s so different: we can see it as an almost apocalyptic novel, with people struggling to build a culture, to get along, to find out which resources are valued the most. Having a child in such an adult world brought this sharp contrast between innocence and decay.

I need book four RIGHT NOW. The ending left me with so many questions – I shouldn’t have read the preview because there are even more! Whatever am I going to do in the meantime?

Expected publication: September 21st 2018 by Denise Kawaii

Advertisements

Biocide

Biocide (Adaline #2)
by Denise Kawaii

I probably shouldn’t have waited a week to write this review: I have Curie, book #3, swimming in my head as well and I have so much to say! But Biocide is a turning point in the series and I just have to tell you about it. If this review had a subtitle, it would be “why you should be reading the Adaline series and why I won’t shut up about it.” Here we go for book number two, Biocide!

Summary

41575681

Will 62 use his abilities to protect himself, or save his friends? He can’t do both.

1124562 has found a way to blend in. When he gets an upgraded data chip, giving Adaline the statistics it expects, he’s rewarded with more freedom than he’s ever had before.

But 62 soon discovers he’s not the only one enjoying the relaxed atmosphere. Hiding in a secret passageway is a Boy with blue eyes, no number, and the keys to a conspiracy that can never be brought to the surface.

When 62’s life is threatened by his keepers, he’s forced to make a fatal decision. Use his abilities to help Adaline purify its ranks, or sacrifice himself to save his new friend. Just when it seems his choice has been made for him, a secret comes to light that makes him question everything he’s ever known.

Musings

While Adaline, the first book, focused on 62’s awakening (ironically, as his revelations come to him in his sleep), Biocide focuses on his disillusionment. 62 is still the adorable, innocent little kid we know and love: he lives to please, is desperate to fit in. His ability to dream might free him of the boredom of his monotonous life, but it also sets him apart in a way that the very regulated system of Adaline is not equipped to deal with. Well, they do have one final way to deal with anomalies like him: biocide. The act of eliminating that which does not conform. Permanently.

62, however, in his pure innocence, can’t imagine something like that in his world. He’s now moved to the physical training portion of his childhood, where they make sure the boys are physically fit and ready to integrate the workforce. But physical exercise will change the readings on his chip, the ones monitored by the machines: the secret patch he and 42 put in place will no longer hold. 62 is in danger again.

But this time, instead of keeping his head down, 62 is learning a new skill: that of saying no. That of talking back. That of thinking for himself. But this, of course, puts not only him, but his friends in danger as well: his teacher, the doctor, and a new, fresh face with bright blue eyes that shouldn’t exist. 62 is beginning to question his existence. Unlike in the first book where he believed fitting in would solve everything, his beginning to ask why he needs to be the same as everyone else.

Many questions are finally addressed, though the answers are cryptic: is there an outside world still out there? Are other people in Adaline capable of dreaming, and if so, where are they all? Is Adaline really all there is out there?

At times I found this book a little slower than the first, but it was still an incredibly fast read. It took me a day to finish it, the same way I have been devouring this entire series. It’s simply brilliant. What is a familiar scifi trope becomes an exploration of what makes us human, and is relatable on so many levels. The author displays incredible skill in crafting her characters, making Blue lovable from the first time we meet him.

I love these boys. I was on the edge of my seat during the entire last chapter, and I really can’t tell you how thrilled I was to be able to pick Curie up immediately after finishing Biocide! I don’t think I could have waited with a cliffhanger like that!

Wild Hearts: The Coming Night

by Andrew Wichland

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. The blurb was exciting, the cover absolutely gorgeous, making it look out of this world, unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Was it going to be an alien story, a human story, or both? Wild Hearts: The Coming Night is a fun, action-packed novel with excitement and friendship to last a lifetime. If you love aliens and teenage heroes, you’re going to love this book!

Summary40740761

Ian Dragan can still remember life before the Wraiths came. Now, the spectral aliens have laid waste to the galaxy, consuming every planet in their path. Next in line is Dragan’s homeworld: Centauries IV.

The remnants of the intergalactic alliance have placed their hope in the latest brainchild of  Shurgal: the Cybersuit, a shifting experimental battlesuit bristling with weaponry. On the front lines of his home, Dragan stands alongside this metal warrior, ready to fight and die. But he did not anticipate Overlord Kizor. A Wraith of terrible power, Kizor turns the Cybersuit upon its allies, and Dragan finds himself leading a handful of survivors off-world, memories of his burning planet fresh in his mind. Things go from bad to worse when the slip gate—their only avenue of escape—sends his ship hurtling into the distant past. 

Now, stranded on a familiar planet known as Earth, Dragan and his warriors wait for revenge. After a long wait to the present Ian can’t contact their or their allies last surviving military fleet when Earth is discovered, or the Wraiths will crash down onto Earth like a Tsunami. But when Shurgal crash-lands, bringing more Cybersuits hurtling to the planet’s surface, five Earth teenagers will stumble upon them and find themselves drawn into the conflict: the Wild Hearts. 

An exciting science fiction adventure about, survival, friendship, and courage.

Musings

I really enjoyed the premise of this novel: the idea that human teenagers can take a strong role in an intergalactic war is one of my favorite tropes out there. I love everything about rag-tag teams learning their skills, bonding together, and saving the universe.

The stand out aspect of this novel is the characters Wichland creates. Blair, a wheelchair-bound orphan struggling with the foster system, is a badass, stubborn fighter and the girl I related to most. Aisha is a blind Muslim girl, and my absolute favorite character: she’s strong, smart, and wicked fast. Before Aisha, Blair, Alec, and Hunter find the Cybersuits, they’re like the characters from the Breakfast club, on their way home from detention; after, they bond and form an incredible team that can take on anything.

I also loved the concept of the Cybersuits. More powerful than an exoskeleton, they now allow Blair to walk and Aisha to see, but can change ‘modes’ based on what DNA they’re given: for example, they can take on the sharp claws and brute strength of a Tiger, if it comes in contact with one. The team must learn to use the suits in order to take on the greatest threat the galaxy has ever seen: the Wraiths. Capable of possessing any living being, they’ve almost decimated the Centauri civilization and are hell-bent on taking over the earth as well. Only the teenagers stand in their way.

A few things irked me in this book, though, and a lot was hard to follow, especially in the beginning. The Centauri might have been sent into the distant past, but the author doesn’t do much with that: all the character growth seemed to have happened in the last quarter century (characters falling in love, loss, etc) so I don’t understand what they were doing with all five thousand years of their hiding on earth. Five thousand years is enough to build a civilization, fall in and out of love with a dozen characters. It’s an insanely long amount of time.

The perspectives switch between Ian (the Centauri leader) and Alec (the leader of the teens), which was a fun way to see the entire action. However, I had a lot of trouble connecting with both POV characters. Ian’s backstory, for example: he marries Terra (in the 1990s) and then she disappears – all within the course of two lines. So when Ian struggles with her loss in the book, we as a reader have a hard time believing it.  He drinks to forget a character we know absolutely nothing about.

The hard time I had connecting with Alec came from how much more interesting the characters around him were. Alec is the leader – but I have a hard time figuring out why. Blair and Aisha have must more backstory and growth than Alec or Hunter, which makes me wish badass Aisha was the leader.

I believe the book could have been fleshed out a whole lot more, answering our questions, developing the human backstory, giving us a reason as a reader to fall in love with these characters: something Wichland does perfectly with Aisha and Blair. I want to know why Terra was the love of Ian’s life to connect with him better.

Even so, I’m excited for the next book. I want to read what happens next! The friendship between the characters was fantastic, the action was fun to read, and the villains despicable. It played out in my head like the Power Rangers! Let’s see what happens next to these Wild Hearts!

Adaline

Adaline (Adaline #1)
by Denise Kawaii

You may have noticed I haven’t written much on this blog lately. Well, with everything going on – new job, a surprise trip to Asia, a book spilling out of me – I’ve also hit a reading slump. Well, that slump came to an end two days ago when I picked up Adaline and couldn’t put it down. I’m hooked on this series and I can’t wait to tell you about it!

Summary 33618848.jpg

He may look identical to the hundreds of other Boys that surround him, but there is something different about Boy 1124562. When he closes his eyes in the quiet of his sensor-filled cube his mind doesn’t go blank like the rest of his brothers. Instead, 1124562 dreams.

With the help of a rogue teacher, 1124562 discovers that there is more to Adaline than brushed steel and robotic Nurses. When a Boy suddenly escapes the secure pod, it seems that all of Adaline is on a hunt for anyone with an anomaly. When 1124562 finds himself strapped to a table, the threat of an electric current pressed against his temples to erase his mind, he realizes just how dangerous being different can be.

Musings

Adaline is a society of identical clones, living like bees in a hive. Everyone is numbered according to when they were born. They are birthed, raised, and cared for by machines,  who weed out any ‘anomalies or signs of individuality that would somehow threaten Adaline – which is anything that exists outside their parameters, be it eye color or even the ability to dream.

The plot might sound familiar, as it’s the premise of quite a few scifi series: what happens if the human race was grown and raised in a pristine environment? But there’s something special about Adaline that I can’t quite put my finger on, something that makes it impossible to put down. And while I’m not sure exactly what it was that made this book so addictive, what I do know is that I picked it up while my computer was rebooting and ended up forgetting about my responsibilities entirely for the two hours it took me to read it cover to cover. Yes, it’s that addictive.

Adaline is an incredibly easy read. By that, I don’t mean it’s a simple story, no: it’s just so easy to get sucked into it. It’s a book you can enjoy as a pre-teen as well as an adult, because the fundamental story is something that we all need to read.

Boy 1124562 – 62 to his friends – is a sweetheart and a joy to follow even in his rigid society: him, and the other Boys he befriends, are each so vibrant and loveable. I loved getting to learn about the confines of Adaline through his eyes, and discovering what it is to dream. It’s so interesting to see the power of dreaming in a world as totalitarian as his.

62 is only a nine year old when the story begins. All he wants to be is a Good Boy, like he’s been told for the entirety of his life. Unlike so many books where the character actively rebels against a rigid system, 62 is a child, wanting only to please, terrified when he can’t. When he starts standing out, he’s both excited and terrified. He’s such an innocent and pure child, and like everyone, is afraid of being different – though in his world, he’s not quite sure how dangerous different can be.

So when everyone is born the same, can people still have their own personality? Is everyone identical in every single way? The novel is short, but it covers so much. It explores friendships and mentorships, like the beautiful relationship 62 grows with his teacher, 71, and reminded me how much I owe to the teachers in my life. Or between 62 and 99, two identical children, born so close to each other, struggling with standing out.

All in all, I don’t know why it grabbed me as tightly as it did, but I needed the sequel right away. I flew through Biocide and Curie, and I cannot wait for book 4. What an amazing book! If you liked Logan’s Run, Brave New World, and the Giver, you’re going to love Adaline. Trust me, you’re going to fly through it too.

Note: Reading some reviews of Adaline, people commented on how it needed editing, that the language was too ‘heavy’ and a little stale. Since I’m reading the most recent version, I think the author took all of these comments to heart and fixed all these issues, even going beyond and making it lyrical and fun to read. I didn’t find a single grammatical issue or missing word. 

Smoke and Iron

The Great Library #4
Rachel Caine

It’s hard to believe it’s already time for the fourth book of the Great Library series! Last year I freaked out when we realized that the series was going to be five books instead of three, and that cliffhanger… gah! But now the wait is over, and we finally get to know what happens next to our favorite book loving rebels. And unlike the other books, Smoke and Iron introduces multiple perspectives so we can follow everyone as they are split around the world. Spoilers for the first three books from here on out!

Summary36595619

The opening moves of a deadly game have begun. Jess Brightwell has put himself in direct peril, with only his wits and skill to aid him in a game of cat and mouse with the Archivist Magister of the Great Library. With the world catching fire, and words printed on paper the spark that lights rebellion, it falls to smugglers, thieves, and scholars to save a library thousands of years in the making…if they can stay alive long enough to outwit their enemies.

Musings

Right from page one, we’re thrown back into the action. Jess is in Alexandria, under the guise of his brother Brendan; Khalila is on Anit’s ship, waiting for the sword to drop; Wolfe is in the prisons, alone and losing his mind; and Morgan is back in the tower, trapped, but ready to fight. The Archivist will stop at nothing to kill them: already he doesn’t trust Jess/Brendan, who must play the role perfectly or risk meeting a terrible death. But to save his friends, and the world, Jess will do anything. New alliances need to be forged. Weapons built. Friends betrayed.

Smoke and Iron is incredibly exciting. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, worrying about this crew, hoping they can make it out. At the same time, some of their plans were pretty… bad. That’s something I quite like about this series, as Jess is a YA hero who doesn’t have things miraculously work out for him every time. The stakes are real, and they’re high.

The writing is perfect in that it never impedes the plot. The world has been so strongly established and built now that Caine can take us on an adventure without having to stop and introduce us to new elements. Adding this to the already fast-paced story, I feel like I read this book in a blur: it feels shorter than the other books despite being just as long, if not longer. Everything fits together perfectly to bring us to the grand finale, the epic ending that leaves you breathless. How can I wait another year for book five?

While things went by so fast, a few plot points kinda fell to the side. Morgan’s storyline was fascinating, but I felt like there was quite a lot of deus-ex-machina on her end. She’s just so incredibly powerful. That, and her relationship with Jess seemed added a little like an afterthought? Maybe I’m just being nitpicky, or maybe I just missed them working together. But one thing’s for sure, the Iron tower needs to fall.

Thrilling and fast-paced, this book left me breathless. I cannot wait for the next one!

Expected publication: July 3rd 2018 by Berkley Books
I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with this ARC!

Heroine’s Journey

Heroine Complex #3

by Sarah Kuhn

It’s so hard to believe this is the end of the series. I’m sitting in a puddle of my own, happy tears. What a fantastic finale! If you don’t yet know about this series,  it follows three Asian-American superheroines as they protect San Fransisco from a plague of mysterious demons (who tend to inhabit things such as cupcakes or porcelain unicorns) and has the best character growth you will ever read. If you want strong women in your books, I don’t think I’ve read anyone stronger or more complex than Evie, Adveda, and Bea.

Summary36606133

If there’s one thing Beatrice Tanaka never wanted to be, it’s normal. But somehow, her life has unfolded as a series of “should haves.” Her powers of emotional projection should have made her one of the most formidable superheroes of all time. And she should have been allowed to join her older sister Evie as a full-fledged protector of San Francisco, pulverizing the city’s plethora of demon threats.

But Evie and her superheroing partner, Aveda Jupiter, insist on seeing Bea as the impulsive, tempestuous teenager she used to be–even though she’s now a responsible adult. And that means Bea is currently living a thoroughly normal life. She works as a bookstore lackey, hangs out with best friends Sam Fujikawa and Leah Kim, and calms her workplace’s more difficult customers. Sure, she’s not technically supposed to be playing with people’s mental states. But given the mundanity of her existence, who can blame her?

When a mysterious being starts communicating with Bea, hinting at an evil that’s about to overtake the city, she seizes the opportunity, hoping to turn her “should haves” into the fabulous heroic life she’s always wanted. But gaining that life may mean sacrificing everything–and everyone–she holds dear…

Musings

One of the most remarkable things about Kuhn’s books is that they each have such a unique voice. While we return to San Fransico, to the world of puppy demons and superpowered heroes, we’re now following Bea’s perspective, and it’s completely different from that of her big sister Evie and super-heroine role model Aveda. Bea is spontaneous, stubborn, and rash: her excitement flits from one thing to another like a hummingbird. At only 22, she’s still a child in her sister’s eyes, though she’s trying to build her own life.

It’s been about 4 years since the last book, and Bea now works at It’s Lit, an adorable bookstore I would elect to live in if I ever got the chance. She dropped out of college, worries about her future, struggles with adulting and being taken seriously by her sister. Her dream is to join the superhero team – but Evie will hear nothing of it. When her powers start to change, and she begins to hear a voice in her head, convincing her that her mother might still be alive. Bea must embark on a journey of self-discovery, danger, and demons, in order to save her from the Otherworld.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I don’t think I’ve read stronger female characters than in the Heroine Complex series. The girls are front and center to the action: they’re badass, know how to fight, but they also value their emotions. They have an incredible arc of growth through each novel and the series itself. Finally having the girls confront the loss of their mother tied the series together as well as giving them a strong emotional conflict. On top of all that, they’re Asian-Americans, and that fact is not brushed aside or passed over. They openly discuss what it’s like to be a heroine of color and the standard they’re held to. Bea has vividly dyed hair, and there’s a fantastic discussion surrounding that stereotype. She has more personality traits than just her hair: in fact, she’s full of personality.

Heroine’s Journey might be the best in the series. Granted, it’s a little less chaotic than the first book (no cupcake demons here!) and less laugh out loud, but the focus was on Bea and I loved it. I loved seeing the other beloved characters through her eyes. I loved her relationship with Sam (SAM! Mr. Beaucoup Fromage! My new Book Boyfriend, swoon). I loved seeing her grow.

All in all, I don’t want this series to end. I know the Heroic Trio trilogy is now closed, but I’m hoping to see my favorite girls again sometime soon. An outstanding end to a fantastic series.

UPDATE: I learned via twitter that this is definitely not the end to the heroic trio!!! We’re going to get more books!!!

Expected publication: July 3rd 2018 by DAW 

The Perilous In-Between

The Chuzzlewit Chronicles #1

by Cortney Pearson

I have to admit: for all my love of science and invention, my addiction to Jules Verne and my need to take apart watches and play with the gears, I don’t read all that much Steampunk. So when I saw the blurb for The Perilous In-Between, I thought this might be a great chance to try a new genre. As a result? I had a great time, loved the book, and found a novel that will thrill both people new to the genre and long-time fans.

Summary

37841445

Even the sky has secrets.

Victoria Digby’s life in Chuzzlewit is picturesque. Ideal. Born to a good family, she’s also the star pilot in the Aviatory’s Protection Program, one of five young ladies assigned to protect their town from the Kreak – a deadly mechanical creature residing in the nearby ocean.

Enter Graham Birkley, a peculiar boy claiming to be from a strange place Victoria has never heard of either. The more she gets to know Graham, the more she loses not only her heart, but also all senses of security about the life she thought she loved.

Graham knows secrets about people, things he couldn’t possibly know, including a secret about Victoria that she has yet to uncover. Mostly, Graham knows what the sky is hiding. And when he tells her the truth, getting rid of the Kreak is no longer Victoria’s biggest problem.

Getting out of her town is.

Fans of The Paper Magician and The Infernal Devices won’t want to miss this dazzling romp in a steampunk, fantastical Victorian world.

Musings

Victoria Digby has a problem: she’s having flashbacks to a life that isn’t hers. And at the worst possible time, no less: when she’s flying a plane, with a flamethrower, trying to defend her town from a deadly mechanical monster that rages on her small town every evening.

The premise itself was enough to get me hooked. The small town of Chuzzlewit has been suffering the attacks of the massive ‘Kreak’ for what seems to be forever, and there’s no end in sight. It’s all that they can do to keep it held back with flamethrowers and planes, but it still manages to kill innocent civilians from time to time – a heavy loss for the small town. From the first chapter, the reader is brought right into the heart of the action, wondering how and why this monster keeps attacking (and why people don’t just move a little more inland?)

The plot was fun and had quite a lot of surprises in store. The big twist early on is when a mysterious young man appears in town, and the revelation of where he’s from completely changes the direction you thought this book was going on. It’s fantastic, as at first I was having trouble getting into the author’s style, but a shift of perspective bring on a shift of vocabulary, and I was impressed how unique she made each character’s voice.

The characters are what drive this novel, even if the premise is fantastic in its own right. We don’t have a cheesy romance, we get multiple friendships that grow and twist and evolve in very natural ways (even in an unnatural world). I really enjoyed how every character interacted with the others, which made each of them more relatable and more human.

The worldbuilding, too, was rather brilliant. I loved the world of Chuzzlewit, the design of the Kreak, the fantastic planes and hovercars. It was a trip for my imagination, being in this semi-victorian setting, experiencing aviary battles and a great mystery.

The author kept bringing the twists, leaving you guessing and surprised. The climax was fantastic, a great adventure, that had my heart pounding through my chest.

All in all, a fun read. Really enjoyable, and I’m curious to see how the author continues the series!

Read it now!

Veznek + An Interview with Andrew Gates

The Color of Water and Sky #3
by Andrew Gates

Get ready, science fiction fans: The third book in the Color of Water and Sky series is out, and it’s more epic than ever! After the outstanding ending of Kholvaria, I didn’t think I could last this long not knowing what happens next. And yet, Veznek somehow manages to blast any expectation I had out of the water.  Now, fair warning: Veznek is a lot more violent (a LOT more violent) than the first two books. Quite a few scenes are unsettling, to say the least, so it’s not for everyone. But those who love hardcore sci-fi are are going to be blown away.

Summary51eccqhdeil

Kholvaria has been attacked. Its greatest city destroyed. A cloud of debris now covers the void once filled by Vigilant Behemoth. In the wake of this unexpected assault, the Chiefdom’s leadership is promptly evacuated to a fallback shelter beneath the surface. But the horrors of the Behemoth’s destruction cannot be forgotten. Here in the grimy confines beneath the Earth, Kho Veznek, second-in-command of the Chiefdom, will stop at nothing to claim vengeance on those responsible for his city’s destruction… even if that means going through his own people to do it. As tensions mount between the ranks of humans and Kholvari alike, the fate of the world comes to its ultimate tipping point. 

Musings

Definite spoilers from here on out if you haven’t read the first two books. Spoiler free for Veznek itself. 

It’s so exciting to finally be getting answers to the world Gates has created. Veznek answers everything you’ve been wondering since book one, introducing hints of new, formidable villains for the books to come. The revelations are incredible! From the very first page of the prologue, we discover new details on the zombie-like humans Iris and the team discovered in book 2, and it throws everything we thought we knew out the window.

About half the book is told from the perspective of Kholvari characters, one of them the titular Veznek himself. The current Under-Chieftain, second in the entire Kholvari empire, he won’t stop at anything to get what he wants – and thinks he deserves. The author once again proves his writing skill as he expertly weaves the perspectives, showing a fundamentally different mentality when it comes to these insect-like creatures’ way of life. It’s fascinating being so engrossed in such an alien culture, I almost wanted more of their perspective.

It feels so odd not following the original survivors as much as we used to! After losing Iris in the last book, every relationship has changed. Dan leads the team of teenagers through the wilderness, discovering the truth about the zombies as he struggles with the loss of his love and unborn child. Grey tries to survive in the ruins of the Pentagon with his family, living through the aftermath of the missile strike. The last humans – divided.

Meanwhile, below the surface, Sanja is suffering the consequences of her nuclear launch. Basically going mad, alone in her cell. Plotting, planning, remembering. We get to see the steps that made her into the ruthless psycho she is today, leading to ‘scenes of graphic sexual trauma and physical torture’ (to put it lightly). She’s a villain I love to hate, one of my favorites in literature.

And the ending – that ending! Gates has always left us with powerful finales, but this one takes the cake. It’s possibly the strongest and most terrifying one in the series so far. I just can’t wait to know what happens next!


Interview with Andrew Gates, Author of The Color of Water and Sky series

33992926_1765995060113642_4107841158665732096_nR: Veznek takes everything from the previous books and raises the stakes higher than ever before. Did you find it more difficult writing Veznek?

AG: Great question! The stakes are certainly higher in Veznek, but along with that comes the fact that all our characters are split up. Rather than a group of characters going on one adventure together, like we had in the last two books, each POV character is on their own and doing their separate thing. Because of these separate storylines, it heavily influenced the way I went about writing the story. Instead of writing all of the chapters in order, this time I wrote each character story in it’s entirety and then went back and put the chapters in their proper chronological positions. So instead of writing character A, B, C, B, A, D, A… I wrote it A, A, A, A, then B, B, B, B and reordered them later.

R: What would say has been your biggest challenge and achievement in writing Veznek? What have you learned about yourself as a writer through writing?

AG: There’s a chapter in this book – Chapter 14. It gets pretty dark. It’s definitely the darkest content I’ve ever written and I really wanted to make sure I handled that serious content appropriately. I consulted several people for help on it. In the end, I think that chapter turned out very well, but it took a lot of work to get right.

R: The ending left us on the edge of our seats. How long do we have to wait until book 4? And is there any hint you can give us about what we can expect?

AG: Hard to say when Book 4 will be out. I know some authors are great at setting hard dates, but I’m not one of those guys, at least not yet. There were a few months between the release of books 1 and 2 but nearly a year between 2 and 3, so who knows? Hopefully it won’t be too long. Over 1/4 is already written. As for what to expect, I’ll say the story is heavily influenced from sources like Star Trek Beyond and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game series. You can form your own conclusions from there.

R: Any plans to write outside the Color of Water and Sky series? What’s new from author Andrew Gates?

AG: Yes! I’ve been playing with an idea in my head for a gladiator-style series that I’m tentatively calling Battle Planet. Think gladiators in space. Right now I’m just toying with the concept. I’m not sure if anything will ever come of it. But if you’re looking for non-Water and Sky content that’s already out, I have two stories in the Pew! Pew! Science fiction collections already released.

R: Now that you’ve gotten ‘settled’ into the author life, do you have a writing routine or process that you adhere to?

AG: The routine comes on and off. I hit a nice groove for awhile where I had a certain number of hours I devoted to writing, but lately I’ve fallen out of practice. For me, my other hobby is running so I usually have to choose which thing I want to do that day before work. Either I fully commit to running that morning, or fully commit to writing. There are some days when I half-commit to each, which I suppose is better than nothing, but I’m still figuring it out.

R: Do you have a favourite amongst all your characters, old or new?

AG: If we’re talking old characters, I still think one of my favourites is still Tracey Saljov. I’m also a big fan of Sanja Parnel and Kho Ikharus. Those are the most fun to write for me. 

R: Are there any authors or specific books you aspire to? Who inspires you?

AG: When it comes to writing, the popular thing to do is “Write to Market”. You hear about it all the time. Basically the philosophy is to take themes and genres and storytelling devices that are popular and that prove to sell well and write that. For example, if you follow Chris Fox’s writing blog at all, he’s big on writing to market. And I think for people who write to market, it’s easier for them to have authors or specific books to pull from. But for me, I have a different philosophy. Instead of looking at what sells in the genre and adhering to those themes and tropes, I try to write things that I want to read. That’s my only criteria. I say, “Do I want to read this?” and I go from there. So the result is, I pull a lot from tons of different genres and sub-genres and authors and concepts. My stuff doesn’t necessarily fit into clean boxes. There’s no established audience for Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian Zombie Survival Giant-Crab-People Sea Stories, so there’s really no specific author or person to pull from in my case.

R: And finally, do you have any advice for other aspiring authors?

AG: My advice for new authors would be to play around with stuff and try new things. There’s no right or wrong answer to anything. The first book you write will take the longest, but once you get one out of the way, you’ll hit your groove. Everyone finds success differently.

Andrew Gates’s last book, Veznek, was just released on Amazon. The first book in the Color of Water and Skies series is Iris, which you can read here. And don’t forget to check out his website for exclusive content!

Are you a fan of Gates’s work? Let us know in the comments below!

The Navigator’s Touch

The Seafarer’s Kiss #2

Julia Ember 

Followers of this blog might remember me waxing poetic about the dazzling Seafarer’s Kiss (Review) last year when I first discovered it.  Exciting and brilliantly written, it somehow managed to combine The Littler Mermaid with Norse Mythology to create something completely new. So when the opportunity came from the author for me to read the latest installment, The Navigator’s Touch, I dropped everything to see what happens next!

Summary39078738

After invaders destroyed her village, murdered her family, and took her prisoner, shield-maiden Ragna is hungry for revenge. A trained warrior, she is ready to fight for her home, but with only a mermaid and a crew of disloyal mercenaries to aid her, Ragna knows she needs new allies. Guided by the magical maps on her skin, battling storms and mutiny, Ragna sets sail across the Northern Sea.

She petitions the Jarl in Skjordal for aid, but despite Ragna’s rank and fighting ability, the Jarl sees only a young girl, too inexperienced to lead, unworthy of help. To prove herself to the Jarl and win her crew’s respect, Ragna undertakes a dangerous expedition. But when forced to decide between her own freedom and the fate of her crew, what will she sacrifice to save what’s left of her home?

Inspired by Norse mythology and J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, this companion novel to The Seafarer’s Kiss is a tale of vengeance, valor, honor, and redemption.

Musings

Unlike in the first book, The Navigator’s Touch follows Ragna’s perspective, as she vows revenge upon the men who raided her village and killed her family. It can be read either as a sequel or a companion novel, and you don’t need to read the first book to understand it, but I highly recommend you do, since The Seafarer’s Kiss is such an outstanding read. Not to mention you’ll understand Ersel’s background in much more detail.

Ragna is a Shield-Maiden, fierce and fiery, with vengeance on her mind. She lost her hand and gained a hook since we first met her, and her relationship with Ersel (the shapeshifting mermaid) has deepened. She has also got a ship and a reluctant crew: is that going to be enough to retake her village and save what’s left of her family?

I was instantly drawn into the world of Vikings and Norse myths. Ragna’s ever-shifting tattoos (the navigator’s touch which gives the book its name) and Loki’s manipulations remain a great mystical element that brings this world to life. We also learn more about Ragna’s mother, a horse breeder, and warrior training, which is so absolutely fascinating. The reader is fully immersed in the world, and the subtle imagery keeps you sucked in.

The Navigator’s Touch has a completely different tone from the first book. Ragna’s perspective is different from Ersel’s, as their two personalities are so different. It’s also a vengeance-driven story, so it’s violent. There’s a torture scene near the end of the book that is particularly vicious.  However, a great touch from the author and her publisher is the official “content warnings” in the book that lists, chapter by chapter, what the trigger warnings are for the book. Most of these are for violence, as this is a vengeance narrative. So if you need to look away, you can.

I found the pacing to lag at times, but it wasn’t an issue. I was so caught up in the characters I didn’t want to put the book down. However, I wish we could have seen more of Ersel! At times I felt like she was just an afterthought to Ragna, though I have a feeling that’s what the author wanted us to see. Ragna’s relationship(s) suffer under the weight of her plans for revenge. So although I want to complain (give us more mermaid awesomeness!) it’s part of a bigger arc which I can’t wait to see. And I hope we get more Ersel in book 3!

Speaking of book 3, The Navigator’s Touch isn’t even out until September, and I already NEED to know what happens next. The author sets up the ending so fantastically that I’m dying to read it. Holy cow, it can’t end like this!

All in all, if you liked Sky in the Deep (but wanted more action), and if you devoured The Seafarer’s Kiss, then this is the book for you! Action packed, with a fierce heroine and sublime myths, The Navigator’s Touch is a masterpiece of Viking fiction. Bring on book 3!

Expected publication: September 13th 2018
Duet Books, the YA imprint of Interlude Press

Preorder now!

 

 

 

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe

by Preston Norton

This might just be the most hopeful YA I’d read in a long, long time. What started as a ‘stereotypical’ high school story became everything but, when the school ‘jock’ has a near-death experience and claims God needs him and the school ‘loser’ Neanderthal to turn everything around. Every character started jumping from the page, so complex and fully realized that I couldn’t help but fall in love with them all. A beautiful book to rekindle your hope in humanity!

Summary

36105772Cliff Hubbard is a huge loser. Literally. His nickname at Happy Valley High School is Neanderthal because he’s so enormous-6’6″ and 250 pounds to be exact. He has no one at school and life in his trailer park home has gone from bad to worse ever since his older brother’s suicide.

There’s no one Cliff hates more than the nauseatingly cool quarterback, Aaron Zimmerman. Then Aaron returns to school after a near-death experience with a bizarre claim: while he was unconscious he saw God, who gave him a list of things to do to make Happy Valley High suck less. And God said there’s only one person who can help: Neanderthal.

To his own surprise, Cliff says he’s in. As he and Aaron make their way through the List, which involves a vindictive English teacher, a mysterious computer hacker, a decidedly unchristian cult of Jesus Teens, the local drug dealers, and the meanest bully at HVHS–Cliff feels like he’s part of something for the first time since losing his brother. But fixing a broken school isn’t as simple as it seems, and just when Cliff thinks they’ve completed the List, he realizes their mission hits closer to home than he ever imagined.

Musings

As I mentioned above, my first reaction when starting this read was to roll my eyes at all the High School clichés. You have the outcast who lives in a trailer park (with an abusive father), the popular jocks, the bullies, weird nerds, drug dealing teens…but then everything changes when Quarterback Aaron wakes up from his coma. He has seen the face of God – who looks remarkably like Morgan Freeman – and God has given him a list to change all this. And he specifically asked for Cliff’s help.

The author takes all these familiar YA elements and turns them upside down, making Cliff one of the most stand out characters I have ever read in contemporary YA. Still reeling from the suicide of his brother, with many questions he will never get the answer to, he joins Aaron in their mission to change the school. At times, the writing feels a lot like John Green’s, and can really pack an emotional punch; the characters are complex and have so much dimension you feel like you can really know them. It allows for the author to surprise you in so many ways.

It’s surprising in its (un)predictability.  As a reader of a LOT of YAs, it’s evident an author cannot escape the formulaic nature of high school contemporaries. The way the author deftly manages to pull twists out of this is astounding. At many times I found myself wowed by the depth of the characters: how Cliff remains so hopefully through everything, how Aaron canbe such a good person and friend, how Teagan… no spoilers, I’m just still in awe!

It’s honest, irreverent, sweet, funny, incredibly sad, and still hopeful. Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe is an absolute must for fans of  YA Contemporary. It’s at times brutally honest, yet so hopeful and relatable that you can’t put it down. Give yourself a mental hug and read this book.

“You know what the most dystopian idea in the world is to me?” I asked. “The idea that our feelings don’t matter. We might as well be robots.”

Neanderthal