Midnight

The Opposition, #1
by Stefani Chaney

When I finished this book, I had so many feelings: I went right to Goodreads and saw there were only three reviews – HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? THIS BOOK IS AMAZING! Midnight is insanely good, and one of my new favorite novels. Stefani Chaney is a new author to watch – get ready world! get ready to meet… Midnight.

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Jo Harding never thought of herself as a villain. At seventeen, her only adversary was her chronic illness. Yet, when a group of superheroes separates Jo from her brother, nothing will stop her from getting Jamie back. 
After waking up in a morgue, Jo finds herself with no money, nowhere to go, and no way of letting her famous twin brother know she is still alive. To make matters even worse, she starts exhibiting uncontrollable powers. Afraid and in a body she can’t rely upon, Jo scours the town with help from a bookstore owner and his former-military husband. Each encounter leads the superheroes to believe they are fighting a villain. However, the real villain is the leader they are following, the doctor that left Jo to die.

Musings

If you like superhero novels, then this book is for you. It’s not your run-of-the-mill story, it’s unique in more ways to count, but I’m going to try to tell you all about it right here, right now.

Meet Jo: she just woke up in a morgue, it’s three months since she lasts remembers anything, and her brother is missing. And what’s most surprising (other than not being dead) is that the pain of her constant chronic illness is just… gone. She’s not limping, heck, she can run again. And she’s running with a vengeance.

Her last memories are of being betrayed by the doctor – Morgan – who was claiming to heal her. Learning that her brother Jamie was being tricked by the same doctor to take a mysterious drug. Where is he now? The only way for her to find him is to suit up: with help of bookstore owner and his husband the depressed war vet, she’s going after the man who turned against her.

And this leads to one of the coolest aspect of the novel: Morgan has been running tests on other teens in the city, turning them into superheroes. And in their eyes? Jo is the villain. Jo has been chasing them, after all, maybe even stalking them. So they’ll fight tooth and nail to protect their team.

Jo’s the most brilliant protagonist you could ever want. She’s smart, she’s strong, and she’s determined. She gets stronger and stronger, grows with every superhero encounter. She loves her brother more than anyone else, and will stop at nothing to find him. And the other characters… they’re so diverse, and fun! I think Jamie is Ace, and it’s really cool to see a character like him. You also get to see the effects of mental abuse and manipulation.

I really can’t recommend this enough. It’s a complex, fast paced novel that will have you hooked from page one. So excited for the rest of the series!

I got this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review. It in no way affected my feedback. I know I’ll be buying the sequel!

No Plain Rebel

No Ordinary Star, Book 2
By M.C. Frank

Have I told you recently how I’ve fallen totally, and irrevocably, in love with this beautiful series? Well I can say with certainly now that the love for book one – No Ordinary Star – extends into book 2. No Plain Rebel delves deeper into the world Frank has created, and into the true meaning behind the mysterious clock that has captivated not only the people of the One World, but every reader as well. Potential spoilers from here on out if you haven’t read No Ordinary Star!

Summary30970438

In No Plain Rebel, Felix finds out the truth.
Or so he thinks. He’s trying to come to terms with that, as well as with the fact that the Clockmaster’s shack has been discovered by his fellow-soldiers, but he can’t exactly concentrate. The match girl’s fiery curls appear before his eyes every ten seconds, distracting him, and then he starts talking to her in his head.
Because she’s no longer there.
The Stadium is looming in the distance.
It’s ten heartbeats to midnight.

Musings

It’s ten heartbeats to midnight – my favorite line of so many fantastic lines in this gem of a novel. It’s incredibly short: I started it as my plane taxied out of Tampa airport, and finished it before we began our descent into Baltimore. But I definitely needed that time before landing to reflect on what I just read.

While the first book read more like a love letter to humanity, the second feels like it has more like a manifesto. It has gusto, ambition, and drive: just like its main characters, Felix and Astra. The two of them, secluded in the North Pole, are slowly discovering what mankind has lost to the past,  as well as discovering what it’s like to be close to another person. But they’re also seeing what they’re about to lose to the future, if no one steps up to take charge and change things.

Frank carefully weaves in mystery through the plot, leaving the reader wondering why things are the way they are. New discoveries answer questions but new ones arise just as quickly: while the world Felix lives in becomes clearer (both to us as well, as well as to him, now completely off the pills) confusion about their current predicament takes over. Twists and turns arrive at an increasingly rapid pace, until at the end they’re staggering and putting the reader in shock.

There’s so much character growth, too! While I do miss Ursa (where’s my big bear when I need her?) the focus is drawn on Felix and Astra completely – as well as their lineage. The way Frank writes complex characters is astounding: Astra dealing with the trauma from the Box and the tests that went on there, panic attacks as she tries to cope with simple things like showers. Or the way she writes Felix wrestling with the betrayal he’s feeling from the people he’s been trained to protect. Or the way they’re feeling towards each other – feeling they don’t have words for.

One thing is clear: everything hinges on this crazy clock. And it’s ten heartbeats to midnight. And ten heartbeats until my heart explodes.

I need the finale NOW!

 

No Ordinary Star

(No Ordinary Star #1)
by M.C. Frank

One of the best things about being a blogger is being a part of a ‘street team’. I had been seeing this book everywhere on Tumblr and Instagram, and the summary had me intrigued. So when the author asked if anyone was interested in reading, reviewing, and possibly joining their team, I saw it as a perfect opportunity to finally see what the hype was about. Oh gosh, I’m so glad I did!

Summary27419429

A soldier is summoned to the North Pole, days before the year changes, told to fix the great Clock for a celebration. He has no idea what to do. 
A girl, hunted for the crime of being born, almost dies out on the ice. She is rescued by the last polar bear left alive. 
A library waits for them both, a library built over a span of a hundred years, forgotten in the basement of an ice shack. 
The world hasn’t known hunger or sickness in hundreds of years. It has also forgotten love and beauty. 
The year is 2525. 

Inspired by the short stories of Ray Bradbury, this futuristic novel is set in a world where Christmas -among other things- is obsolete and a Clock is what keeps the fragile balance of peace. 

Written in three installments, this is the breathtaking and sensual story of how two unlikely people change the world, and each other, one book at a time. 

Musings

The year is 2525 (and yes, the song will get stuck in your head every time you read that number). The world is completely different to what we know now: men and women live apart, born from test tubes and raised on pills that stop them from feeling hunger, exhaustion, or even emotions. It is a world without love, or Christmas. Only one man is left from the old days: a clockmaker in the north pole.

When a soldier is called upon by the clockmaker, only to discover the man is his grandfather, who has recently been murdered, his world changes forever. And when a young woman, a felon, escaped her execution only to find herself at the north pole, she and the soldier must depend on each other for survival. It is together that they discover the clockmaker’s secret library, and together that they must discover what it means to be human.

The feel of this novel is so unique. It reminds me a little of “The Northern Lights”, but combined with “The Giver”, along with a strong foundation of dystopia. But it has something special to it that truly sets it apart from the massive sea of YA dystopians we have available. Some spark that makes it truly beautiful.

The characters are strong and relatable, despite their different world. Astra is one of those protagonists you just want to know more about. The author feeds us a trickle of information about her painful past, building the world Astra lives in and making us cringe at her torment. In many dystopians, women are reduced to their wombs, but here it’s even worse: they’re reduced to their eggs.

And yet, it reads like a love letter to humanity. A reminder of all things beautiful we need to cherish now. Like books, or like clockwork. Family and love. There’s a heartbreaking scene where the two read “The Steadfast Soldier” together, which stirred up emotions inside I didn’t expect: I didn’t think the novel would hit me so hard.

It’s a slow, silent beauty, like snow falling at night. It probably sounds incredibly odd for me to say this about a book, but hey, I’m as surprised as you are. If there’s one criticism is that it is too short: it really is “Part 1” and not “Book 1”, as we only get the worldbuilding and the beginning of character growth. I wonder if the author will release all three parts (when the third one comes out) as one book one day.

All in all, this series is going to quickly become my newest obsession!

A massive thank you to the author for sending me a copy of this book to review. She’s definitely got a new fan!

Tombyards and Butterflies

Montague & Strong Case Files #1
by Orlando Sanchez

I’m a sucker for a good Urban Fantasy novel, so of course I was incredibly excited to start reading this one when it came my way. In short, it’s terribly fun: incredibly fast paced and with a fantastic cast of characters, you’re going to want to add this to your TBR!

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An emissary from the Dark Council has just materialized in the office of the Montague & Strong Detective Agency, and makes Simon Strong an offer he can’t refuse. Charon is missing. The legendary ferryman responsible for transporting sorcerer souls across the river Styx hasn’t been seen in days. And with each passing hour, those unable to cross the river are left to walk among the living, tilting the world further out of balance.

Meet Simon Strong, an immortal, who is also the best private detective in New York City. Together with his surly partner-Tristan Montague, a mage of indeterminate age, they must find the Ferryman and get him back to work before another Supernatural War ravages the earth, destroys humanity, and Simon’s local coffee shop.

Time is running out. His landlord wants the rent and Karma with a capital K is paying him a visit, and she can be a real…

Join the Montague & Strong Detective Agency and help them locate Charon, so he can restore balance to the universe, put the dead sorcerers to rest, and maybe solve the age old conundrum-coffee or tea?

Musings

Meet Simon Strong: an immortal and a detective. His partner, Tristan ‘Monty’ Montague is a mage; not a wizard, and don’t you dare ever calling him a sorcerer. When an incredibly deadly emissary from the Dark Council breaks into their offices and gives them a job, they know it’s something they can’t refuse. She can’t be involved, so you know it’s going to be bad.

Simon wasn’t always an immortal: we learn more about this curse, and the person behind it, as the story progresses. He’s still getting used to it, and doesn’t want to test how far this immortality goes. There’s a mark on his arm that links him to a god, who seems both intent on protecting him and making his life a miserable hell. Maybe both at the same time.  The author leaves a lot of the backstory unspoken, so there are details with the characters yet to be revealed. It showed them all to be complex and exciting.

My one qualm with the book was that I felt like I was reading a sequel. Many times the characters referenced a moment in their shared history that seemed like something I should have know about. This is the same with Simon’s relationship with Karma: when she first appears, she isn’t given a name in the entire chapter, and I was left confused until she was properly introduced later on. It’s like I skipped the Pilot Episode entirely – but this might not be a bad thing.

The writing style took me a bit to get into, but once I did, the ball was really rolling. I loved the character of Simon, with his funny quips and witty remarks, always breaking the tension with a joke. He seems like someone you’d want to be friends with. And Monty? Still a bit of a mystery, but one I’d really like to uncover.

The overarching plot was masterfully crafted and exciting to unravel. There’s so much happening in this book you, you wonder how it fits in only 300 pages. It’s fast paced and exciting, with fun characters along the way.Seeing Hades, for example, working at the head of a fancy company; or the special Uber created just for people in supernatural muck; these were proof of fantastic world building and a fun and enjoyable read. And if you love puppies, you’re going to adore Peaches!

All in all, if you love UF, then this should be on your shelf. It’s fun, enjoyable, and a series I personally will be reading a lot more of. Enjoy!

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?

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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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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.

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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