Book Review: Breeder

review-breederTitle: Breeder

Author: Honni Van Rijswijk

Genre: Dystopian, Science Fiction

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Will Meadows is a seemingly average fifteen-year-old Westie, who lives and works in Zone F, the run-down outermost ring of the Corporation. In the future state of the Corp, a person’s value comes down to productivity: the right actions win units, the wrong ones lose them. If Will is unlucky and goes into unit debt, there’s only one place to go: the Rator. But for Zone F Breeders, things are much worse–they’re born into debt and can only accrue units through reproduction.

Every day in Zone F is a struggle, especially for Will who is fighting against time for access to an illegal medical drug, Crystal 8. Under the cover of night, Will travels to the Gray Zone, where life is less regulated and drugs–and people–are exchanged for gold. There, Will meets Rob, a corrupt member of the Corporation running a Breeder smuggling operation. Will also meets Alex, another teen whom he quickly recognizes as a Breeder in disguise.

Suddenly, Will has an illicit job and money, access to Crystal, and a real friend. As the pair grows closer, Alex shares her secret: she is part of the Response, an uprising to overthrow the Corporation. Caught up in the new friendship, Will and Alex become careless as the two covertly travel into Zone B for a day of adventure. Nothing goes as planned and Will’s greatest fear is realized. Will his true identity be revealed?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’m going to be honest… I found it extremely difficult to get through this book. In fact, I dropped it at 56% in. The book had an interesting concept and some well-thought-out world-building that I enjoyed, but that’s about where my praise ends.

The opening narrative was stilted and a bit confusing. There was lots of back-telling, poor grammar, a break in the 4th wall that seemed unintentional, and worse, the book was written in present tense… which is just… the worst. I disliked the narrative voice and because the writing was so disjointed and choppy, it was hard to like the characters, let alone empathize with them.

It felt like I was reading a book from the point of view of an alien, pretending to be a human, who had never actually met a human. It was… off and choppy. I didn’t feel engaged or sucked into the story, and I figured out the big “reveal” about the main character before the first three chapters were up.

There are going to be readers out there that appreciate this book for the world-building and the plot – because those things were really well done…. But I appreciate the narrative flow of a book, the atmosphere, and the human struggle – and this book just absolutely butchered those.

Book Review: Knight in Paper Armor

review-cover-knight in paper armorTitle: Knight in Paper Armor

Author: Nicholas Conley

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Billy Jakobek has always been different. Born with strange and powerful psychic abilities, he has grown up in the laboratories of Thorne Century, a ruthless megacorporation that economically, socially, and politically dominates American society. Every day, Billy absorbs the emotional energies, dreams, and traumas of everyone he meets—from his grandmother’s memories of the Holocaust, to the terror his sheer existence inflicts upon his captors—and he yearns to break free, so he can use his powers to help others.

Natalia Gonzalez, a rebellious artist and daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, lives in Heaven’s Hole, an industrial town built inside a meteor crater, where the poverty-stricken population struggles to survive the nightmarish working conditions of the local Thorne Century factory. Natalia takes care of her ailing mother, her grandmother, and her two younger brothers, and while she dreams of escape, she knows she cannot leave her family behind.

When Billy is transferred to Heaven’s Hole, his chance encounter with Natalia sends shockwaves rippling across the blighted landscape. The two outsiders are pitted against the all-powerful monopoly, while Billy experiences visions of an otherworldly figure known as the Shape, which prophesizes an apocalyptic future that could decimate the world they know.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I wanted to like Knight in Paper Armor by Nicholas Conley. The synopsis was interesting, the cover was beautiful, I liked the genre, and the world-building was interesting… but I put the back down around chapter twenty-one.

Where this book lacked for me, was the writing itself. It was mediocre at best. The children characters didn’t talk like children. The Young Adult characters didn’t talk like Young Adults. There was an elaborate world and past history to the story, but at least as far as I got into the book, none of it was explained or tied into the plot in any way. Throughout the story I got this feeling that the worldbuilding and setting were arbitrary – you could have taken the characters and their histories and put it directly into a contemporary setting, and it would have made zero difference to the book. The connection between Billy and Natalia seemed tenuous and forced.

So much of the beginning of the book was filling in the backstory for the characters that I kept wondering when the story was going to actually begin. By the time I quit, at 21 chapters in, nothing significant had happened to drive the plot forward. I take that back… one thing happened. Natalia was thrown in the trunk of a car – but even that couldn’t keep me reading. I grew bored and tired of slogging through detail that didn’t matter.

There will be readers out there that enjoy this book far more than me, but in my opinion, the writing was lackluster. It didn’t feel like a well-refined and polished book. It didn’t suck me in, I didn’t care about the characters, and I didn’t feel any sort of draw that would keep me reading.

Book Review: Rebel Betrayed

review-cover-rebel betrayedTitle: Rebel Betrayed [Rebel Bound 2]

Author: Shauna E. Black

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Paradise isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Everything should be perfect in the Undercity, where Caelin and her younger sister Mardy are safe from the radiation topside. But safety feels more like prison. The Undercitizens aren’t exactly welcoming, and Lucio and his Impartialists continue to pound the city’s barrier, more scavs flocking to their army every day. Then Mardy goes behind Caelin’s back to accept a government assignment to spy on the Impartialists. In spite of the danger, Caelin goes after her.

Once more in the camp of the man who killed her best friend, Caelin must convince Lucio of a loyalty she’s renounced in order to bring Mardy home. It doesn’t help that Lucio suspects Caelin still has feelings for Jate, the special forces officer who betrayed him, or that Lucio’s suspicions are right.

As her cover story unravels, Caelin discovers Lucio’s true plan for taking over the Undercity. Her desperate attempt to protect Mardy backfires, and Jate is caught in the crossfire of Lucio’s revenge. Caelin can’t rescue the man she loves without abandoning Mardy to the Impartialists. How will she live with herself if she makes the wrong choice?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS TIME – REVIEW BELOW

Rebel Betrayed by Shauna E. Black was an engaging continuation of the Rebel Bound series. The book was well written, easy to read, and absent of any major typos. The characters were well defined and familiar from the first book, and the world-building was fantastic. Overall, I think the book was a good read, and if you like Young Adult Dystopians, you’ll probably like this series as a whole.

My only real problem with the book is that I found it a bit short, and with that, came a load of problems. There wasn’t a lot going on plot-wise, and a lot of the characters didn’t get much screen time – which is, in particular, a problem when it comes to Jate, the main male lead. He was rarely seen in the story, and there wasn’t enough interaction between him and the main female lead to maintain their relationship for the reader. This book felt a lot like filler in a way – spanning the gap between the introductory 1st book, and what presumably will be the finale in the 3rd book. The reader spends a lot of time in the headspace of the main character, but doesn’t get the time to get to know any other characters… it was just more of the same already established in the first book.

Is the book bad? No. I enjoyed reading it, and I enjoy the series as a whole… this just wasn’t a book I’d set out to read on its own if it wasn’t the 2nd book in a series. It doesn’t stand on its own well.

Book Review: Cynetic Wolf

reviewcover-cynetic wolfTitle: Cynetic Wolf [Wolfish 1]

Author: Matt Ward

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopian

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

It’s 2096, sixty years after ninety percent died from a man-made Bioplague. Humanity has splintered into four unequal subspecies: immortals, cyborgs, enhancers, and subservient half-human, half-animal hybrids.

The world is anything but equal. Hybrids everywhere are suffering, but sixteen-year-old Raek Mekorian, a wolfish with a nose for trouble, doesn’t see an alternative. Except the Resistance, who don’t stand a chance against the world government. His mom always said, “Keep your head down.”

And he does, until his sister is murdered by a pair of cyborgs. Overnight, his simple life is shattered, fracturing the rigid governmental caste as he is thrust into the dangerous world of superhuman hit squads, Resistance uprisings, and secrets better left unsaid.

With only built-in blasters and the advice of a mysterious professor, Raek must navigate crushing betrayal, self-doubt, and a limitless enemy whose evil knows no bounds.

Can Raek unify his people and free them from tyranny? The fate of mankind may rest in his hands.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I had a bit of trouble getting into Cynetic Wolf by Matt Ward, and to be honest, I didn’t finish it. I ended up quitting the book at the end of the first chapter.

Overall, I found the book to be well-written in that there weren’t a lot of typos, it was grammatically correct, the punctuation was clean, and the narrative voice flowed well. I cannot fault its editor. I also adored the world-building – it was a fresh new idea, and vibrant in the way it was described. I found the futuristic world in which the characters lived to be fascinating.

Where I ran into issues with the book, and why I ultimately set it aside, is that though this is a “young adult” book, it read more like a middle-grade book. I genuinely thought the main character was maybe 13 before I looked up what the book was categorized as. Simple writing isn’t bad – as I said earlier, it flowed well and it was clear and easy to read, but it sounded juvenile, especially in the way the main character interacted with his mother and with his internal thought processes. I think the book was miss-categorized as a young adult book, and it would have been better received in a younger audience with some adjustments.

Another issue I ran into was a few minor writing style faults – repetition of ideas when they didn’t need to be repeated, details that didn’t make sense in the timeline, and the pacing of the scenes. The dog running away at the beginning of the story should have been fast-paced, and instead, it dragged on while the kid called his neighbor, walked home, talked to his mom, walked some more, talked to more people, wandered into an alley, and then eventually found the dog. I couldn’t figure out what the author was trying to do by dragging the scene out, and it would have better served the tension of finding the mutilated dog had the whole sequence moved faster and been more impending. Slowing it down muffled the impact, and in the end, I grew bored waiting for things to happen.

I think if you can look past these problems, you might enjoy the story, but as someone who copyedits novels for a living, it’s really hard for me to set these sorts of problems aside to enjoy the greater story.

Book Review: The Crimson Throne

reveiewcover-the crimson throneTitle: The Crimson Throne

Author: Christi Stallard

Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Dystopian, Vampires

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synoipsis:

Nearly a decade ago, the supernatural creatures hidden in the shadows conquered the world with unspeakable power. The mass takeover became known as the great fall of civilization and the most devastating event in recorded history. 18-year-old Sadie Carlisle has never seen past the walls of Section 18. After a city siege forces Sadie into a fight for survival, an unlikely ally turns her life into a thrilling and terrifying whirlwind. Peter is the ultimate drug; exciting, addictive, and highly dangerous. The war raging between dark creatures threatens everything they’ve discovered in one another. Loyalties are tested, and the fate of humanity rests in the balance. How far would you go for the one you love most?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I was so disappointed by The Crimson Throne by Christi Stallard. As a rule, I generally love paranormal romances, dystopias, and just vampires in general… but the writing was so poor that I couldn’t force myself through reading it. I gave up at about 7% into the book.

Although the book had a stunning opening, I spotted several typos as the story continued. The narrative didn’t flow well – it was as if it lacked any sort of soul. There was no seduction or charm to the characters, there was no tension, no pull, no impact. The characters lacked defined personalities. As the story wore on, I became bored… mostly attributed to the lackluster narrative voice and complete absence of description or atmosphere.

In the end, I gave up. There will probably be readers out there that get some form of enjoyment out of this story, but I was looking for more. I think the author could have done better.

Book Review: Bargain in Silver

reviewcover-bargain in silverTitle: Bargain in Silver [Solis Invicti 1]

Author: Josie Jaffrey

Genre: Paranormal, Dystopian, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

A deadly infection threatens to wipe out humanity. The only people who can stem its advance are the Silver, a vampiric race who offer a simple exchange: protection in return for blood and subservience. It’s not a deal that Emmy’s willing to make, but as her world burns around her she finds herself in the arms of the enemy and the line between oppressor and saviour begins to blur.

After an attack by the infected, Emmy is rescued by the handsome Drew who introduces her to the world of the Silver. Desperate to escape subjugation and confused by her attraction to him, she gathers what remains of her surrogate family and plans to make a break for freedom.
But despite her efforts to resist, she is drawn further into the intrigues of the mysterious Silver through the agency of their ruler, the Primus: Solomon. Emmy refuses to submit to the cold and detached Primus and an attempt on her life makes it clear that he is unable to protect her from the political machinations of his race.

As the connection between them deepens she must choose between her desire and her will to rebel, but can she trust his intentions when everyone is after her blood?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I have mixed feelings about Bargain in Silver by Josie Jaffrey. I liked the narrative voice and Emilie – even if she sometimes made poor decisions that often left her in danger. I liked the world-building, the concept of the weepers, and the story flowed easily throughout. For the most part, I was entertained and never felt the need to throw the book across the room – even when it was being overly dramatic.

That being said, it wasn’t perfect. The entire opening sequence of the story didn’t need to be there and had no impact on the story other than to turn the entire thing into one long flashback. On top of this, the characters were often needlessly dramatic, sometimes going into rants that didn’t even fit the scene at hand.

Worst yet, the romance between Emilia and Drew was terribly contrived, moving way too fast to be reasonable (especially on Drew’s end) given the circumstances.

The book, overall, wasn’t great. It wasn’t awful by any means, but it clearly needed more polishing. It’ll be great for a short time-waster, but nothing I’d keep on my shelf in the long run.

Book Review: Immersed

reviewcover-immersedTitle: Immersed [Configured 2]

Author: Jenetta Penner

Genre: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Young Adult, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Just when she thought it was safe to step into the light.

After a daring escape from Elore, Avlyn finds that the Outerbounds isn’t the haven of freedom she’s hoped for. Deception and lies run rampant. Avlyn’s powerful Immersion ability marks her as dangerous, but highly valuable.

Will she find her place in this new world? Or have to die trying?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Immersed by Jenetta Penner is the second book in the Configured series, and was strikingly well-written. Though I will admit, having gotten ahold of an early review copy, the ARC I was reading had a few editing errors – I’m sure these are not present in the final version. Like the first book, I adored the characters, the complicated romance between the main character and her romantic interests, and the remarkable world-building of the dystopian world in which they reside.

My only critique, if it is one, is that this book does not stand alone. If you haven’t read the first book in the series, this one will be unduly confusing for you. There’s a lot that happens in the first book that directly ties into this one, and the author relies on you having started with the first book in the series to have all the information you need to go forward with this one.

That aside, I love this series, and this book was a great addition to it. If you like Science Fiction Dystopian series, you’ll probably really enjoy this one.

Book Review: The Famoux

reviewcover-the famouxTitle: The Famoux [The Famoux 1]

Author: Kassandra Tate

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Out of the wreckage of environmental collapse, the country of Delicatum emerged. Its most popular celebrities are the Famoux, uniquely beautiful stars of a reality TV show called the Fishbowl. In a world still recovering from catastrophe, they provide a 24/7 distraction.

Sixteen-year-old Emilee Laurence is obsessed with the Famoux―they provide a refuge from her troubled home life and the bullies at school. When she receives an unimaginable offer to become a member herself, she takes it. Leaving behind everything she’s ever known, Emilee enters a world of high glamour and even higher stakes.

Because behind their perfect image lies an ugly truth―an anonymous stalker has been dictating the Famoux’s every move, and being popular really is a matter of life or death.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS TIME – REVIEW BELOW

The Famoux by Kassandra Tate is a rollercoaster ride of deception, reality show, and dystopian strangeness tied together with a thin ribbon of romance and family drama.

On the technical side of things, the book was well written and well-edited. The narrative flowed easily, the dialogue was believable, and the romance was cozy and familiar. The plot moved along at a steady pace with just enough twists and turns to surprise me.

The only real complaint I have is the characters. To be honest, half of the cast of the Famoux, and more than half of the remaining characters were utterly forgettable. Half the time, I couldn’t remember even what gender they were, let alone what their jobs or personalities were – and I didn’t even truly like the main character, Emilee. From the start of the story, she was incredibly depressing to listen to as a narrator – everything was terrible, everything was her fault… she had no real backbone. Throughout the rest of the story, she kind of stumbled her way to being more assertive – but it wasn’t a conscious decision. It just kind of ended up that way despite what she intended. She didn’t come across as a terribly engaging character to follow for the length of the story. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate her… I just think she could have been better written.

Overall, the story was good. I liked the concept of the plot, the worldbuilding, the way the story was written… I just didn’t find the characters engaging. If you like Dystopians with the flare of a Reality Show, this is probably going to be right up your alley, and despite my misgivings, I would recommend it.

Book Review: When They Came

cover-when they cameTitle: When They Came [When They Came 1]

Author: Kody Boye

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

I was never afraid of monsters—at least, not until They came: the visitors from outer space.

Now They’re in our skies, on our streets, always watching, forever waiting.

At seventeen, I’m just about to graduate from the Juvenile Education System and declare my career of choice. The Midnight Guard—who protect our community from the vicious things that lie outside our walls—calls to me.

It’s hard, dangerous work, with grueling hours that offer little sleep, but it’s the one thing I know will help make a difference in our ever-changing world.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I absolutely loved When They Came by Kody Boye. It was certainly a different take on the usual alien invasion scenario. The author had no hesitation in killing off characters –  which was both refreshing, surprising, and awful in equal measure.  The writing was clear and easy to follow, perfect for juvenile and young adult readers.

If you enjoy sci-fi, alien invasion stories, or apocalyptic/dystopian tales, I encourage you to give this book and this series a try. I look forward to reading more.

Book Review: Sim 299

cover-review-sim 299Title: Sim 299 [I Am Sleepless 1]

Author: Johan Twiss

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, Dystopian

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

The planet Ethos is at war with a mysterious enemy known as the Splicers. Their only successful defense is the Prime Initiative. All newborns with the compatible genetic code are taken from their families and injected with the Prime Stimulus. Each child that survives the stimulus develops an extraordinary ability and is conscripted into the military for training.

After turning twelve, Aidan is moved to the upper-class at the Mount Fegorio training complex. His special gifts allow him unprecedented success in the virtual training simulations, advancing him further than any prime cadet in history. No one knows what lies after sim 299, not even Director Tuskin, the ruthless and reclusive ruler of their planet. But something, or someone, has been guiding Aidan there. If he can pass the final tests, he may discover the key to ending the Splicer War.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I Am Sleepless: Sim 299 by Johan Twiss was an imaginative mix of dystopian, sci-fi, and YA fantasy. The book was fast-paced, full of colorful world-building, and determined characters. It was relatively easy to read and sink into, though especially at the beginning, the slang sometimes gave me pause.  There’s a lot of world-building that you need to learn, so if you don’t get absorbed into the book right away, give it a few chapters.

Overall, it was a fun read and I would certainly recommend it to young readers who enjoy science fiction.