Book Review: Jubilee Year

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

Author: Gerard O’Neill

Genre: Science Fiction, Apocalyptic

Rating: 1 Star

AmazonButtonGoodreadsButton

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: Back Roads Kingdom

review-cover-back roads kingdomTitle: Back Roads Kingdom [The Back Roads Cycle 1]

Author: Christian O’Neill

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure

Rating: 5 (4.5 Stars)

AmazonButtonGoodreadsButton

Description/Synopsis:

Just ahead on the highway, there’s an exit ramp no one’s ever noticed before.

At the edge of the woods, a trail you can only see if you know just where to look.

Hidden in your own basement, a door you’ve walked past a thousand times without noticing.

Congratulations. You’ve found the Back Roads. Good luck finding your way back home.

Penny Lazarus has spent her entire life wishing she could escape from the real world. Through it all, she had exactly one friend – her sister, Dana – and now Dana’s dead, drowned in the distant Pacific under mysterious circumstances. But she left something behind, meant only for her sister’s eyes: a surreal teen-road-trip screenplay, BACK ROADS TO VEGAS. Penny sets out into the wilds of West Virginia to make her sister’s movie…and winds up taking an unplanned detour, straight off I-64 and into a madcap alternate America.

Here, in the hidden country known as the Back Roads, every individual’s deepest desire emerges as a powerful supernatural ability. In Penny’s case, that means she’s a Veil, capable of turning herself invisible, intangible, ghost-like. Stranger yet, this is a place Dana somehow knew about. That bizarro screenplay? A veiled code, Penny soon realizes, embedded with clues leading deeper into the unknown. The only problem is that nearly everything in the Back Country is trying to kill her and/or drag her soul away to netherworldly depths.

Like the man-eating mosquitoes. And the gangs of slave-trading cyborg bikers, and the soul-devouring tree haunted by its long-dead victims, and the snake-handling zealot who’s mesmerized his flock into following him to the depths of Hell. Also, Death himself, who turns out to be kind of a jerk in real life.

She’s got help, too, for whatever it’s worth: a fierce mountain-woman werewolf and a guitar-slinging thief who slowly but surely ensnares Penny’s heart, entirely against her better instincts.

What she hoped to find was the truth behind her sister’s fate. But what awaits her at the end of the road is something even bigger – the dark secret of her own world-shattering destiny.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I was wary going in to Back Roads Kingdom by Christian O’Neill. To be honest, the cover threw me off. It looked vaguely anime and featured fox-eared and magic wielding people, and I was more than a little afraid that I was going to open the cover and find out some anime fan boy had scribbled out a melodramatic fantasy tale with goofy dialogue and ridiculous villains. If you too looked at the cover of this book and thought “eh… maybe I’ll pass this one by” STOP. Pick up this book. It isn’t what you think.

I’ll admit, diving in to the narrative, I was a little put off. The beginning of the story wasn’t the easiest to follow. Littered with flashbacks, absent twins, and mentions of bouts in a mental institution, I had a hard time sinking into the story. It took me awhile to grasp what was going on—but once I did? You couldn’t pry the book out of my hands with a crowbar—even with one that may or may not turn into a magical flaming sword.

The characters were brilliantly complex, each with their own motivations and personalities. The world building was familiar but also lavishly unnatural, and despite the back and forth switching between memories, the present, different dimensions, and different view points, the text was easy to read….if a little hard to follow at first. Confused? Yah, me too. The story reminded me of following Alice (or Penny in this case) down the rabbit hole, and instead of ending up in Wonderland, I ended up in the Appalachian Mountains—complete with hillbilly witch doctors that swig hexed moonshine, and snake-handling preachers with the ability to mesmerize any poor fool to cross their path—and that barely scratches the surface of what Penny encounters in the Back Roads.

I don’t want to spoil this story for you, but I can say this: It wasn’t what I expected. It was complex, filled with adventure, good natured hijinks, and some ill-natured trickery. If you’re looking for a fresh idea on a modern fantasy, I highly recommend you check this out. I cannot wait for the second book in the series!