Book Review: West by Caroline Starr

Book Cover - West V1

 

I reviewed the first book in this trilogy, Campbell, here.  Again, this story is amazing.  Not as intriguing as the first one, more than likely because the concept isn’t as new, but still great work.

After her world was turned upside down by the death of her twin and a new alliance forged through an unexpected friendship, Lucy Campbell left West determined to return to her old life. 

It took four years and a natural disaster for her to admit that was impossible.

Hatched from a lie devised to keep them both safe, the conflict with East has affected Lucy and Tal Bauman in different ways. It’s left Lucy engulfed in a bitter power struggle with her war-hungry brother. It’s forced Tal to align himself with Campbell, despite questioning their motivations in continuing to attack East, when peace seems attainable. He’s also left to sort out the mess left behind by his predecessor and best friend, Connor Wilde. 

When they are reunited by a tragedy, Lucy and Tal are forced to question how far their duties stretch, where their loyalties lie, and how far they would go for one another. 

They’re also left reevaluating their morals, values, and the futures of those around them. 

West is the second book in the Campbell trilogy. 

If you haven’t read Campbell, and you definitely have to before you read this book, the premise is that something wiped out all the adults and teenagers in the early 2000s.  The kids, aged 12 and under, had to fend for themselves and remake their world.  It is a completely fascinating concept.

What I like about the premise is that Ms. Starr uses it as a springboard to highlight coming of age issues.  How do you grow up when all of your parents, teachers, adults aren’t there to guide you?  So this series just captivates me.

This second installment was a little bit darker, but with more romance.  So I’ll take it.  The “kids” are now into their mid to late 20s and despite the fact of their upbringing, or lack thereof, they still struggle with the same issues “kids” in contemporary society struggle with.  Relationships, friends, “family”.  But there is so much more responsibility with Lucy and Tal.

They both are heads of state for large parts of the North American continent.  They not only have to deal with their own personal issues, but they have to deal with trade, war, diplomacy and economics.  Tal even had to deal with a murder trial for the first president of West and his best friend.

I loved that this book included more of a romance aspect.  It’s a different type of romance, and I do need to point out that this book isn’t YA, there is sex and violence.  It isn’t erotica, but it happens.

The type of romance that Ms. Starr features isn’t typical.  It’s refreshing.  It’s real:

She knew she loved him; the kind of love that was earned, cultivated over time, born of selflessness and respect.  It would never be throw-down, crazy passion because she didn’t operate that way.  What they had was better.

Ms. Starr also illustrates that basic human cruelty can survive in their post-apocalypse.  Even though they were kids when the world ended, they still retain the ability to torture each other, to go to war, to kill each other in cold blood.  That apparently will never be erased.

Overall a great read, excellent follow up to Campbell, and I can’t wait to read the third book.

Book Review: The Prophecy of Arcadia by M. H. Soars

prophecyarcadia

A different spin on YA paranormal romance and I loved it.  Here is the synopsis:

Being a teenager is tough, especially when you have to pretend to be something you’re not, and you’re in love with someone you shouldn’t. 115 years ago, a small planet called Arcadia was invaded by a vicious alien race and nearly destroyed. Cut off from their resources, the Arcadians turned to Earth for help. A group of Arcadian explorers discovered a Prophecy that claimed their salvation lay in the hands of two children from Earth. To ensure their safety, the Arcadian Council sent their most gifted youngsters to Earth to act as protectors. Samantha is one of them.

To succeed in her mission she must learn to control her Arcadian powers and keep her true identity from her best friend, and the girl she swore to protect, Alexia. But Samantha will soon realize that nothing is as it seems. Someone is trying to prevent the Prophecy from taking place and the prophecy boy hasn’t been found yet. There is also a new drug circulating at school that is turning students into freakishly strong menaces.

To make matters worse, distractions keep getting in her way. Such as her love/hate relationship with her “cousin” Matthew. Or her confused feelings toward popular and mysterious Julian. She wants nothing more than to be free to live her life. But the survival of Arcadia depends on her and her friends. Free will is not an option.

I liked that this book wasn’t typical YA.  It involved aliens.  The first chapter kind of made my eyes cross with all the alien names, but the story was amazing after I got past that.

This is YA, but I would classify it as older YA, just because there is sex involved as well as drugs and alcohol.  I would say 16 and up.

Sam is the main character, but the points of view swivel from character to character.  The author does an amazing job of this, as it is very clear which character is the speaker.  This can be very difficult, and the author pulls it off nicely.

Sam and her “cousins” are sworn to protect Alexia.  They have super powers that help them do this and they are trained to be bodyguards.  But their powers don’t really manifest until they are teenagers, and this creates some problems, especially for Sam.

Add in the fact that they are several teenagers around the same age living in the same house who aren’t related and you have some romantic issues.  Considering that they are pretending to be “cousins”, this presents some problems.

What I do like about this book is how it clearly conveys the angst of this time in life.  Despite who is the character speaking, the author makes this time in life abundantly clear:

Betrayal was one of the worst feelings a human being could possibly experience.  It gnawed at your insides, it twisted your heart until you thought it would be better if someone just ripped it out — then you wouldn’t feel the pain of it bleeding inside of you.

This passage could have been written by me at age 17, but maybe not so eloquently.

I do like the aspect that the guardians aren’t 100% automatons.  They know what the prophecy says, but they use their own brains to figure out that something isn’t right.

I was completely sucked into the world of Arcadia.  It is completely different in that most of these books feature vampires, wizards, etc.  So this was completely new to me.  And it is very well written, very concise, and the prophecy, sci-fi rules, powers, etc are clearly spelled out.  You don’t find characters suddenly doing something that they couldn’t before, or the prophecy doesn’t meld to fit the situation of the characters.  That is really important to me with reading these types of books.

Highly recommended for fans of paranormal romance and YA.  I love the sci-fi angle to it.  I am eagerly awaiting the next book.

 

Book Review: The Stronghold by Coty Justus

Stronghold

 

This is the second book in the Birthrights series.  Here is the synopsis:

The release of her father from prison forces Jocasta into hiding. Memories of the night he tried to kill her have rendered her mute, unable to speak of the horror she witnessed. Fearing he will attempt to finish the job, she alters her appearance and flees to Cheyenne, Wyoming. 

Alan has long been waiting for his mysterious J.B. Alerted to her presence by a series of dreams, he knows she is out there somewhere and has never wanted anyone but her. When she finally arrives, bearing a leather tote packed with heartache, Alan must decide whether the waiting was worth a lifetime of worry. 

This one broke my heart.  It was refreshing in that it didn’t follow the usual cookie cutter:  boy meets girl.  They fall in love.  They live happily ever after.  It showed that things aren’t always perfect and that even when you are destined to be together, it isn’t always perfect.

I love J.B. she is so sweet and innocent.  But she gives too much of herself.  And she is too forgiving of Alan.

I love that this story also incorporates more of the Stanton family’s Native American heritage.

This book, like the one before it, starts to set the stage for future books.  You see the sense of family that is developing.  There are hints of the next book when it is mentioned that a younger brother, Matthew, might have found his “chosen”.

The reader learns more about the religion as well through Odessa’s training.  It is absolutely fascinating, and so out of the realm of the usual paranormal books that are on the market today.  Very unique.

Again, there is romance, but no sex scenes.  Perfectly acceptable for teenagers of all ages.

 

Another excellent book in the series.

Book Review: A Home on the Range by Coty Justus

Just found my latest paranormal romance series to binge out on….

ahomeontherange

The author originally asked me to review one of the books of her series.  I saw that there were a few books in the series, and knowing what I know about these types of books, I asked if I could read the others.  The author graciously complied and that is how I spent a good portion of last week engrossed in the world of The Ten and the Stanton family.  Here is the synopsis:

Book 1: Odessa and Jason 

After her mother’s death at the hands of a cult leader, Odessa escapes the cult, relying upon determination, instinct and a mysterious voice to keep her one step ahead of her pursuers. The blood-stained contents of the heavy leather tote she bears have already cost lives, and she is prepared to kill to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands. 

Jason waits. He does not know what he waits for, only that it rapidly approaches from the east. Restless, he struggles to comprehend his inner turmoil, delving into his family’s past for answers, answers that may cost him his life.

There are five books in this series.  I highly recommend reading all of them.  Each can function as stand alone novels, there aren’t any cliff hangers, but characters overlap from one book to another, and the story continues until the final book.

I love so many things about this series, the first being that it is extremely female driven.  In the heritage that Jason and Odessa both belong to, without knowing it, it is female-centric.  The women are the ones in charge.  The women are the ones in power and it is the job of the men to protect.

Odessa’s strength and drive is overwhelming.  It sets the stage for later books and you understand why she is who she is in the greater scheme of things.

I loved reading about Wyoming.  I now want to go there.  The author does a wonderful job setting the scene, putting you right there with Odessa on her journey.

The love story is fantastic.  I love these stories where people meet and they just KNOW.  That they are meant to be together because they are greater together than apart.  I should note that this is a love story, but there aren’t any sex scenes.  They really aren’t necessary and this series is pretty safe for teenagers of all ages.

The rest of the series is as follows:

Book 2: The Stronghold (Jocasta and Alan)

Book 3: The Roundup (Penny and Matthew)

Book 4: The Maverick (Acrasia and Michael)

Book 5: Range Wars (The Final Battle)

Excellent start to an excellent series.  I will be reviewing each of the books for the rest of the month.

 

Book Review: Through the Portal

Title: Through the Portal
Author: Justin Dennis
Release Date: August 2011
Length: 252 pages
Series?: Through the Portal #1
Genre: YA Science Fiction/Fantasy
Format: e-book
Source: author

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Synopsis

When Jem and Oliver accidentally fall through a portal to another world just before their first year of high school, they quickly discover that all is not well here. The first person they meet, a creepy old man named Atychis, almost gets them killed by a ferocious, fire-breathing dragon. They’re only narrowly saved when Sierra, a shy farm girl from a nearby town, uses illegal magic to help them escape. Allowed to stay with her family while they try to figure out a way back home, Jem and Oliver begin to learn of magic and the Regime that is oppressing it.

It isn’t until the Regime kills a woman that the three kids realize they have to do something to stop the Regime from taking over completely. After being framed for a crime they didn’t commit and banished from the town, Jem, Oliver, and Sierra take off on an adventure across this strange world in an attempt to defeat the Regime. New creatures and new kinds of magic are around every corner, but so are dangers that could have them wishing they were back safe at home. 

Through the Portal is the first book in a planned trilogy.

Review

I have mixed feelings about this book. What do I mean by that?

This was a difficult book for me to get through. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a wonderful and great story. This book was a very stick-it-to-the-man, defy-the-system type, which little ol’ scrappy me likes, but it was just too slow at the beginning, and about mid-way through it started slacking off again, and then again toward the end. I would fall asleep many nights with my Kindle in my hands, trying to get through a few more pages. The chapters were extraordinarily long for a piece of fiction. Perhaps that contributed to this feeling of “I’m never going to finish this book!”

Now, with that said: this is a book that could be made into the next big blockbuster. I would actually look forward to seeing this story play out on the big screen.

Oliver is a youth from a world of privilege. His parents have money enough, he has a younger sibling that adores him. His family has got it going on. Oliver is strong-willed and outspoken. Bold.

Jem is a troubled boy from the other side of the tracks. His parents died in a skydiving incident when he was a babe, and he has been raised by his ailing and blind grandmother ever since. He is very poor and knows that it wouldn’t matter if he disappeared: his grandmother wouldn’t even notice. 😦  Jem is that cowering kid in the corner, the exact opposite of Oliver.

Growing up, kids weeded out and picked on Jem because of his background. Oliver stood up for him, and they became fast friends. Oliver’s family would take Jem with them on trips, and he became an extension of their family.

This fact, the two main characters being foils of one another, immediately made me imagine all kinds of conflict to play out in this book. Fortunately, nothing compared with what I imagined, and their friendship remained intact.

I don’t know what type of time frame this book covers – it’s not very specific – and that’s something I was interested to know. Oliver and Jem fall through a portal at the bottom of Lake Sammamich (near Seattle) and wash ashore in a new world: Callisto. They are found by Atychis, a former Elder of the Argo region. Atychis is certifiable, and readers truly find out just how much so at the end of the book. They also have a run-in with the Red Dragon.

Jem and Oliver also meet Sierra and her older sister Rimaya, who’s dad is a stringent Regime follower. The Regime, under the power of Veroci, has little by little taken over almost all of Callisto and outlawed magic. And that’s where Jem, Oliver, Sierra, and Rimaya get into trouble.

The Terello family has graciously offered their home to Jem and Oliver, who help out on the farm. The boys are trying to come to grips with this new world, and what exactly is going on. They go to the local cafe to have some fizzies, and BAM! They are on “trial” for a major crime they didn’t commit. They see just how far the Regime will go to maintain control, and they flee.

Growing up in Argo, Sierra has been told all her life of legends: the legend of the Red Dragon, the Phoenix, the world of Kelados, the legend of 1000 Curses. The Regime has structured the world so that citizens remain in the region they were born into. There is no crossing the borders, for they have magnificently implemented the Legend of 1000 Curses: you cross the regional border into another region, you are cursed with 1000 curses, one of which is to grow a third leg. Obviously, Oliver and Jem see right through this ploy.

The three continue on throughout the world of Callisto, which is divided into six regions, pursued by Regime guards, all while trying to develop their magical skills. They come upon a scene that is very familiar to Oliver and Jem: a kid, Farouche, getting picked on by a gang of kids. Farouche turns out to be quiet a little inventor, and follows them in secret. The entire journey, people are constantly making unremarkable comments about Jem’s eyes being blue. It was starting to drive me crazy, because readers don’t find out why until the last quarter of the book.

Along the way, they have to make some serious choices about where they belong. They come face-to-face with Veroci himself after being betrayed by a second Elder, and end up in a land uninhabited by Regime outposts. They come to live a comfortable and safe life in the region of Luria, with an Elder who is honest, and hell-bent on defeating the Regime, but secretive. But the Red Dragon also lurks in the skies of Luria.

Jem and Sierra are a unique pair; she will stick by his side no matter what, even through her fears. Through an unfortunate set of events, Jem becomes convinced that Veroci is hoarding an army of Regime guards in the North Island, a place that is almost inhospitable, even though everyone else remains unconvinced.

The two also learn of a portal that goes to Kelados, and of course go looking for it, and are attacked by the Red Dragon…but Jem notices that the dragon has a rider. They are rescued and nursed back to health, but discover that Jem has a very unique quality about him. Scientists and doctors try again and again unsuccessfully to get him to exhibit the talents of his new quality. The determine he cannot bring these talents to fruitation, but Sierra knows they will. She jumps off the roof to test her theory, which proves correct. After this discovery, they set off for North Island…and encounter the Red Dragon and its rider.

I wish I could talk about the ending, but I can’t. My blabbermouth would give it away, but I will say that it is a fantastic ending! I will say this: Jem shares with Sierra that his parents’ bodies were never found, and I have a feeling they will show up in one of the sequential books.

I was impressed with the transformation of Jem, in particular, in this book. He starts off as only what I can imagine as the Coward of the County, and grows and develops beyond his previous limits. He sheds this outer skin, because before it seemed as if he was riding on Oliver’s coat tails. It would have been an interesting story if Oliver had stayed in Callisto, to see how things would have turned out.

2About the Author

Justin Dennis is from the rainy state of Washington but is going to college in sunny California. Soccer, which he used to play in high school, is his favorite sport, and he has in interest in creative writing, anthropology, and physics. He is a huge tech nerd who is obsessed with the newest and shiniest phones, tablets, and computers.

Writing occupies almost all of his time. The Through the Portal trilogy is his effort to inspire good morals in an entertaining and exciting way. Through fantasy, he believes that important real world lessons can be conveyed effectively.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Book Review: Weeks in Naviras by Chris Wimpress

naviras

 

Ohhh…one of my favorite kinds of books.  I would call it a mashup.  A little bit of romance, a little bit of sci-fi, throw in some politics and political commentary, add elements of a thriller.  Excellent.  Here is the synopsis:

It’s late afternoon in the tiny Portuguese fishing village of Naviras, where Eleanor Weeks is sipping wine and watching the ocean. Even though she’s been there dozens of times, how she arrived that particular afternoon is a mystery to her. Until she remembers she’s the wife of the British prime minister, and that she’s just been killed in a terrorist attack.

As Ellie explores her afterlife she finds other people she knew, all of whom died before she did. She recalls her troubled marriage during her husband’s rise to the very top of British politics. She remembers the tragedy and secrets which dominated the last ten years of her life, before recounting her role in a conspiracy which threatens to destabilise not just Britain but the wider world. 

Both a political thriller and love story, Weeks in Naviras delves into the heart of a woman who sees first-hand the rise and fall of governments troubled by turmoil and crisis.

Beautifully written.  I really want to go to Naviras.  Like right now.  The way it is written, you can see the little village.  You can feel Ellie’s attachment to it.  You understand why it is where she would go.

The “flashbacks” aren’t puzzling at all.  When not written effectively, it can detract from the overall reading experience.  Not so with this book.  It only makes you want to keep reading on to find out what happens.  The author only feeds you enough information to spur you on.  It is maddening but at the same time satisfying when you finally DO get the answers.

Ellie is an intriguing character.  The ten year span that you get to know her is appropriate.  You get to see her grow as a mother, as a person.  The amount of courage it takes to do what she does on the last few pages is phenomenal.  She grows from someone afraid to confront her husband and his power to one who essentially takes on some unknown quantity to save the world.

I appreciate the honest depiction of depression.  The noonday demon.  The malaise.  And the portrayal of it in someone in Ellie’s position is appreciated as well.

I also liked the political commentary as well.  I can very well see the author’s political stance on recent events, but it isn’t overwhelming.  It isn’t a political book, it is more futuristic (I think?).  Not enough is specified to pinpoint exact events or political figures.  But the criticism rings loud and clear.

I also love the creativity employed with the mode of  terror device used.  I don’t want to give anything away, but put it this way, it will knock your socks off.  The twists are so unexpected, so genius.

Excellent, excellent book.  Highly recommended.  Definitely different, definitely eclectic.

Goodreads Giveaway: Campbell!!

I reviewed this book in November.  It absolutely floored me.  The writing, the imagination, the creativity, the characters.  Excellent book.

Here is the synopsis:

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It’s been ten years since a virus wiped out the entire adult population. Across the world, opportunistic kids worked to reestablish order through the creation of uneasy, fractured territories.

A decade later, the rules are changing.

Desperate to stop his western territory from coming apart at the seams, 23 year old President Connor Wilde sends his oldest confidante to Campbell, a swelling northern empire, to negotiate with its leader.

Tal Bauman isn’t expecting Lucy Campbell to be so impossible.

Or intriguing. Or beautiful.

He’s also not expecting their negotiations to leave them both fighting for survival in a part of the world neither are familiar with.

Spanning a dystopian North American landscape, Campbell is the story of two unlikely companions who find themselves reevaluating their loyalties, beliefs, and futures.

Now Goodreads is giving away a copy in anticipation of the sequel’s release April 15.  I was going to post a synopsis of West, the sequel of Campbell, but there are spoilers. Put it this way.  This book, once I get it, will jump the line, and I will probably devour it within a day or two regardless of my work schedule.  But here is the cover:

Book Cover - West V1

So here is the link for the giveaway of Campbell at Goodreads.  It is for a print copy, which actually makes me a little jealous.  I always hope that authors will send me a print copy just to have once I’m done reviewing.  Regardless of my preference for Kindle, sometimes it’s nice to have a healthy bookshelf.  And I’m kind of scared that the apocalypse will hit and I won’t have anything to read…

I should point out that this is NOT YA.  Yes, the characters are young, but the content deals with so much more than the usual YA fare.  The author touches on something that everyone can relate to going through in this part of growing up regardless of the world essentially ending.  Excellent writing.

 

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