Book Review: As We Know It

review-cover-as we know itTitle: As We Know It

Author: Carrie Butler

Genre: Romance, Survival, Adventure, Natural Disaster

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Deep beneath the ocean, stretching hundreds of miles alongside the Pacific Northwest coastline, lies the Cascadia subduction zone—a fault on the verge of unleashing a catastrophic earthquake, thirty times more powerful than the San Andreas. Unfortunately, like most tourists, Elena Cordova is oblivious.

She’s got her own pent-up stress to deal with, a humiliating breakup that’s driven her to end her tenure as a human doormat once and for all. So, when a pickpocket makes off with the last remnant of her relationship, she takes action—only to get trapped with him when disaster strikes.

Now, if either one hopes to survive, they’ll have to get past their initial impressions and work together . . . because in fifteen minutes, half the town will be underwater.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

What a fantastic read. Honestly. I’ll admit, I was a little thrown off by how this book began. I opened it up, and for a few short minutes, I sank into what felt every bit to be a contemporary romance. I forgot for a moment that the cover looked apocalyptic, and then BOOM, everything changed—much like, I imagine, it changed for Elena and Vincent.

As We Know It by Carrie Butler was a gripping survival tale that I felt, portrayed a natural disaster situation in a reasonably accurate light. The situation felt not only real, but plausible every step of the way, and I was sucked into the harrowing world of Elena and Vincent for a few hours. The book was wonderfully well written. I only found a couple of typos, and nothing jarring enough to pull me out of the story. The characters were complex and imperfect, but genuine. The romance was surprisingly sweet, and the banter between the two lead characters was compelling and dynamic.

I honestly don’t have anything to complain about with this book. I absolutely adored it. It was tense, gritty, believable, and heartwarming all at once. If you’re looking for a gripping adventure story, look no further.

Book Review: Aftermath

review-cover-aftermathTitle: Aftermath [After The Fall 1]

Author: Tom Lewis

Genre: Science Fiction, Apocalyptic, Alien Invasion, Young Adult

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

The end of the world came fast. Between the time the warning had sounded on the TV, till when 16-year-old Paige O’Connor awakened sometime later, civilization had been crushed.

The attacks had come by “them” – those things in the ships in the sky that had appeared suddenly, and without warning.

And as Paige would soon discover, the attacks had only been the beginning.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I tried to like this book. I did. I picked it up multiple times, read a little bit, put it down, re-read it again—but I just couldn’t get past the writing. The story itself was interesting at first look. It followed a girl, her friends, and family, as aliens invade earth and her hometown is wiped off the map. There was action, mystery, and from what I saw of the story, the characters were well fleshed out.

But all was not hugs and puppies. I had a serious problem with not only the logic of the character’s decisions but also the way the story itself was written. There was an obvious moment in the first four chapters of the book where the main character and her best friend witness an electrical surge, and the traffic lights and other electrical systems start to fail all over town…I mean, power poles fell. Then, she gets home to where her brother and his friends are having trouble getting the TV to work, and instead of mentioning that something weird is going on with the electrical grid – something that was still very fresh in her and her friend’s mind and should have stuck out as odd – she basically tells them “did you try unplugging it and plugging it back in?” I was mystified that the main character would completely skim over the fact that something was so obviously wrong and not mention it to anyone.

The writing itself, though, was my largest complaint. It started off okay. The characters were a little cliché, but nothing stood out too much. Then, I noticed moments where the author messed up the POV. The fourth wall was broken. Things that should have been said in dialogue, were stated in the narrative. Words were left out of sentences. At points, the narrative said one thing, and then the characters showed me something contradictory. Exclamation points were used in abundance! Everywhere!

It got to the point where the writing style just devolved into an overdramatic mess of exclamation points and declarations, and when I got to a sentence that read “It was punishing, pushing beyond any level of tolerance, and blasting their sanity.” I was just done.

The style of the narrative just wasn’t something I enjoyed, and though I tried to push past it and into the story, every time I picked the book back up to give it another chance, I’d run into another narrative problem that made me roll my eyes and kept me from wanting to read any further. I have no doubt that there is someone out there that will love this story… but they’re the type of person who’s going to have to be okay looking past the  inadequacies of the writing, and that’s just not something I’m able to do.

Book Review: Jubilee Year

review-cover-jubilee yearTitle: Jubilee Year [Erelong 1]

Author: Gerard O’Neill

Genre: Science Fiction, Apocalyptic

Rating: 1 Star

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Description/Synopsis:

Eighteen-year-old Storm lives in a small New South Wales country town beside one of the most famous telescopes in the world. When he falls for Penny, the daughter of the chief scientist and director on Mount Woorat, he is sucked into the center of a global conspiracy.

He must keep himself and those around him alive using his wits, tenacity, and a special ability he tries to hide. He cannot do it alone, and yet others are not always who they seem. Of even more consequence, neither is the reality of a world he once thought he knew.

Set in Australia, Jubilee Year is Book One of the Erelong Trilogy, a dystopian science fiction thriller series. Book Two will be released early in 2016.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I had such a hard time qualifying this book when it was time to sit down and give it a review. I guess I should start off by saying that I didn’t finish the book. Going in, the premise sounded interesting and right up my alley as far as genres go. I was excited to delve into it—but at the same time, my end of the TBR list has been looming and with only half of December left to finish a 10-book list, I was looking forward to reading through this book quickly and getting it out of my way along with a handful of others.

Unfortunately, that isn’t what happened.

Technically speaking, the book was fairly well written. There were only a few typos that I ran across—and I was reading a copy that hadn’t yet been fully edited—so that was understandable. The errors weren’t distracting, and overall, it felt like the narrative was well put together. The characters and the settings were interesting, and I had no trouble following the story… but by the time I hit the 5th chapter, I was ready to set the book aside.

The pacing was slow in the first five chapters, and scenes that felt as if they should have been engaging and filled with active tension didn’t quite hit the mark. Characters described items and actions that weren’t important in the current moment and drama, and by the time each scene had played out, I found myself skimming. Honestly, I was bored. It wasn’t any one thing that I can point out and say “this is bad” because the narrative was well written… it just didn’t capture my interest as quickly as I wanted it to.

If I didn’t have a book deadline looming, I’d probably have set this aside, given it a week or two to rest, and then picked it back up to try again… but at the same time, I have a belief that books should capture your interest from the first page and not let up until the end.. and however well written this book was, it just didn’t do that for me. Overall, Jubilee Year just wasn’t my cup of tea—but if you’re a sci-fi apocalyptic story fan, I’d recommend that you pick this up and give it a try. I have no doubt that there are going to be a lot of people out there that enjoy the book much more than I.. I just don’t have the time to dally with it right now if it isn’t going to hold my interest, and it didn’t.

Book Review: Duality

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This texture may not be sold without permission from the authors.Title: Duality [The Hitchhiker Strain 2]

Author: Kellie Sheridan

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Horror (Zombies), Apocalyptic

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

The end of everything came quickly, but the road back is endless and full of heartbreak.

After months of only death and loss, Veritas may be the answer everyone has been searching for—a cure. Savannah wants nothing more than to begin rebuilding, but with both the Initiative and the United Militia vying for power, there are no easy answers. Ending the threat for good could mean becoming something far worse than the monsters she is fighting against.

The infected will not go quietly. For Chelsea, the choice to step back into the world of the living is anything but simple. No miracle can erase the memories of the things she saw or the people she killed. While the girl she was struggles against the beast she became, Chelsea must make a choice—succumb or fight.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’ll admit it; this is one of those books that I picked up and got so sucked into that I forgot to leave myself any notes to fall back on for the review I knew I’d be writing. It was that good.

As far as the technical side of things go, there were very few errors. I found two. Not only is that acceptable for a published book, it’s pretty damned impressive. The narrative was clear, easy to read, and moved at a pretty decent pace. I never felt like it was dragging or moving too fast. Overall? I have no complaints.

As far as the story itself goes… this was a good addition to the series, and a solid continuation of the story set up in the first book, Mortality. Once again, the narrative was split between a small cast of characters, the main two being Savannah (from the first book) and a new player: Chelsea. To be honest, I like Savannah and she works well to tie all the books together, but she definitely isn’t my favorite character. In the first book, Savannah was a bit self-centered and all-over-the-place. She got herself and a lot of other people into danger with the poor snap decisions she made. She waffled on her romances, and in the end, I wasn’t a huge fan of her. It seemed like in Duality at least, she’d settled down and found herself. There was a lot less ‘obnoxious teenager’ to her character, and a lot more of a girl who was just trying to make the best decisions she could and save as much of humanity as she could muster. I ended up liking her more in this book than the first—she’s still not my favorite though.

That distinction fell to Chelsea. One of the best parts of this book and the series as a whole, is the way the author portrayed the zombie characters. In this book, that role belonged to Chelsea Zimmerman—a sixteen year old girl who finds herself trapped and sharing her body with the zombie virus that she refers to as “the beast”. She’s completely awake—aware of what she’s doing as an infected second-generation Zombie, but can do nothing to stop it. She spends her days sitting in the backseat of her mind, keeping a running death toll on how many survivors she’s killed and doing her best to keep the zombie part of her brain from walking itself into dangerous situations. Seeing the post apocalyptic world from a tragically aware zombie girl’s point of view was both fascinating and equal parts horrifying.

And that’s the great thing about this book, and indeed, this series: it tells the very human story of what the world is like after a zombie apocalypse… but it doesn’t restrain the point of view to just the human survivors. The author delved into the heartbreaking idea of what would happen if a person became a zombie, but was fully aware… just unable to stop themselves.

If you’re looking for a good zombie series, look no further. This book was fantastic, the series is probably one of the best zombie themed series I’ve read.  There are some elements of romance (though not enough to make me squee in joy), horror, friendship, thrills, action, and adventure. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good zombie read. This one is going on my keeper shelf.

Book Review: Poison Princess

cover-poisonprincessTitle: Poison Princess [The Arcana Chronicles]

Author: Kresley Cole

Genre: Dystopian, Apocalyptic, Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: Sixteen year old Evangeline “Evie” Greene leads a charmed life, until she begins experiencing horrifying hallucinations. When an apocalyptic event decimates her Louisiana hometown, Evie realizes her hallucinations were actually visions of the future—and they’re still happening. Fighting for her life and desperate for answers, she must turn to her wrong-side-of-the-bayou classmate: Jack Deveaux.

But she can’t do either alone.

With his mile-long rap sheet, wicked grin, and bad attitude, Jack is like no boy Evie has ever known. Even though he once scorned her and everything she represented, he agrees to protect Evie on her quest. She knows she can’t totally depend on Jack. If he ever cast that wicked grin her way, could she possibly resist him?

Who can Evie trust?

As Jack and Evie race to find the source of her visions, they meet others who have gotten the same call. An ancient prophesy is being played out, and Evie is not the only one with special powers. A group of twenty-two teens has been chosen to reenact the ultimate battle between good and evil. But it’s not always clear who is on which side….

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Last month for my Romance Book-Club, we had two books we were asked to read, and Poison Princess by Kresley Cole was the second of them. To be honest, I was so busy that I didn’t get to it, so this month the first thing I did was read the two books we’d been asked to. Out of the two, I think Poison Princess certainly had the best world building. The book starts with a girl, Evangeline, who has recently  returned to school after spending the summer in a mental institution. For as long as she can remember she’s had visions and hallucinations of the end of the world, and other terrifying images of death and destruction. What she doesn’t realize, is that all of her visions are true. The world is about to end, and Evangeline may be the only person who can save the remnants of what’s left. So starts the journey of Evangeline, her mother, a cajun boy from the wrong side of town, and two wayward teens from another part of the country as the seek out the truth of Evie’s visions, what truly happened when the great flash scorched the Earth to cinders, and what their purpose is in the upcoming battle of the Arcana.

I actually really enjoyed the world building in this book. A great flash that scorches the crust of the Earth in a manner of minutes isn’t an entirely new concept to the end of the world, but it’s certainly a lesser used one. Scientists have been saying for years that if a very large sunflare (which we’re due for in the next 5 years) were to happen, one of two outcomes would become reality. The first, is that all electronic equipment on the face of the Earth would be fried… leaving us back in the stone-age (yes, we are currently preparing for this situation in the US. It’s going to happen.) The second, is that if the sunflare were large enough, it could very well burn up the Earth and make it nearly uninhabitable (This should happen in the next 10,000 years). Kresley Cole went with the second option. It’s a terrifying reality where plants, animals, and water are nearly non-existent, and humans aren’t destined to survive long. Once the few non-perishable supplies are gone, that’s the end of humanity. We can’t live without an ecosystem or sufficient water. I thought Ms. Cole did an excellent job of showing the true desperation of such a situation through her characters and the brutality of how they lived their lives.

As for the characters, well, they irked me a bit. Evangeline was your typical clueless, snobby, teen. It’s almost unfortunate that she was one of the popular kids. She seemed to have a very shallow personality for the majority, if not all, of the book. Generally I like my main characters to be a bit less air-headed, and a lot more determined. Evangeline seemed ready to give up at every turn, and let her teenage angst get in the way of some really critical decisions. She worried more about boys than her own survival, and I found that really irritating.

Jack, on the other hand, was extremely determined, practical, and had a no-nonsense attitude when it came to survival. I really enjoyed him as a character for the most part, except one major character flaw: he was totally in love with Evie… I couldn’t understand it.  He even said at one point that he found her snobbish and useless, and yet he refused to leave her behind. I would have.  I guess overall, I did enjoy the other characters, and they each seemed unique and consistent. Mainly, it was Evie I couldn’t stand.

That aside, The narrative moved fast, was clearly written, and had a fun dark undertone to the story. The use of tarot cards as a basis for the main characters of the story was a unique and interesting way of setting things up that I did like, but I’m not sure I fully understood. Why did the tarot cards have superhero/villain counterparts? I don’t know. Why did they feel the need to battle it out at the end of the world? No idea. Either way, it was still fun, and I really enjoyed it.

I do have to admit though, that I greatly disliked the ending of the story. (SPOILERS AHEAD) It seemed like, the entire story I was rooting for Evie to not turn into the red witch. She tried so hard to be good and avoid killing people… and then at the end.. she turned wholly evil. What? How did this happen? Why did this happen? Jack was terrified of her, and it just seems to me that she threw everything she’d been working towards during the course of the book out the window. I was NOT happy.(End of spoilers)

Overall, I really liked the story. It was engaging, well written, and a unique take on the apocalypse. It wasn’t what I was expecting (I don’t know why I was expecting an actual princess to be in a book called Poison Princess!) but it was fun all the same. I’d certainly recommend it to anyone who likes Dystopian, Fantasy, or angsty teen novels.