Book Review: Before The Dawn

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00037]Title: Before The Dawn [The Ending 4]

Author: Lindsey Fairleigh & Lindsey Pogue

Genre: Post Apocalyptic, New Adult, Science Fiction, Romance, Dystopian

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

A year ago, the Virus killed off most people in the world.

A year ago, strange things started happening to those who survived. Some of them transformed into something dark and sinister, while others evolved, becoming something more, something beyond human.

A year ago, Dani and Zoe were lost. They traversed the country to find one another, losing some of the people dearest to them along the way. They fought for their right to simply live, uncovered long-buried secrets, and discovered irreversible truths. And after everything Dani and Zoe have been through—even with the battle wounds that they bear—they’re still not safe.

It’s time for the struggling to end, for survivors to take back their lives, their families, their safety. It’s time to really begin to live, and to do that, they must wait for the first rays of dawn.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I can honestly say that I was somewhat surprised by this book. I’ll admit, the third book in the series was probably my least favorite, and reading the third and fourth book in the span of just a few days had me a little burned out. I went into the fourth book full of trepidation that it was going to be yet another long drag through a narrative where very little happened. Luckily, that wasn’t so.

Let me first say that the writing in Before The Dawn was pretty damn flawless. I didn’t notice any obvious typos, awkward sentences, or grammatical errors. Not a single one—which is pretty amazing. The narrative flowed smoothly at a nice pace throughout, and other than a few short moments at the beginning of the book (Anna’s sections of the book weren’t my favorite), I didn’t feel the need to skim.

The characters were unique and complex, and though I sometimes had difficulty throughout the series telling Dani/Zoe and their respective J-named boyfriends apart by tone, I enjoyed their company. Their world was rich, fraught with danger and uncertainty, and unlike the previous book, had some pretty great action oriented moments. This was probably one of my favorite books in the series thus far—it may even be my favorite. The story felt wrapped up by the end, and though it had it’s stab at an HEA ending, it wasn’t perfect—which kept it from falling into the familiar romance genre trope that often ends with everyone pregnant, married, and all the bad guys defeated. Okay, so maybe there’s a smidgen of trope involved, but it was pulled off really well.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book, and I think it was a fantastic ending to the series. I would highly recommend it to anyone who’s been following the series thus far—including those who, like me, may not have enjoyed the third book quite as much.

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Book Review: Out of the Ashes

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00037]Title: Out of the Ashes [The Ending 3]

Author: Lindsey Fairleigh, Lindsey Pogue

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Post-Apocalyptic, Romance, Adventure

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Hope brought them together, but it’s now fear that drives them…and threatens to tear them apart.
Zoe and her companions succeeded in rescuing Dani from the Colony. But not without sacrifice. Beaten and broken, they head west, determined to leave behind the torment and horrors they experienced in Colorado.

As Dani and Zoe make the perilous trek home to Bodega Bay, they learn that danger can take many forms–other survivors, their friends, even themselves–and that things are rarely what they seem. Zoe is desperate to become the woman she sees in others’ memories, while Dani struggles to conceal damaging secrets, risking losing herself–her humanity–completely. Together, they must rediscover the true meaning of friendship, love, and trust, and learn just how hard they’re willing to fight for what remains of their shattered world.

As relationships are put to the test, second chances are given, and new life emerges, death lurks in the most unlikely of places. To survive, Dani and Zoe must accept that sometimes hope alone isn’t enough.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Let me preface this review by saying that I adore this series as a whole–I’ve been following it from the moment I was sent the ARC of the first book–but this installment to the series wasn’t my favorite. It’s been more than a year since I read the second book in The Ending series, so going into Out of the Ashes by Lindsey Fairleigh and Lindsey Pogue, I had a bit of a hard time sinking in. Like Zoe, one of the main characters of the series, I felt like I had a form of amnesia. I couldn’t remember what had happened previously in the series, particularly near the ending of the second book, and so being dropped into the fast-paced and somewhat alarming beginning of the third book, I was rightfully confused. It took me a while to sort out what was happening and to remind myself of previous plot points… and in that way, I felt very close to Zoe in her struggle with trying to remember her past. It was an unexpected and strange sisterhood between us throughout the book.

Technically speaking, the book was exceedingly well written. I didn’t run into any grammatical errors, typos, or punctuation problems. The characters were all distinct, easy to love or hate respectively, and the story moved along at a steady pace. The setting was rich with detail but not so much as to bog down the narrative, and overall, I enjoyed the book as a whole.

There was only one problem.

I slogged through the book. It was odd how slowly I moved through the story–and it took me till nearly the end of the book to figure out why. There were no big battles or dramatic plot points. The majority of the book was spent delving into the character’s emotional states and the relationships between the members of their group… but very little was spent in any sort of action scene or on any sort of big battle with a nemesis. It was all very interesting–don’t get me wrong.. but by the end of the book, I was left feeling that nothing had happened. As much as I enjoyed spending time with the characters, by the end I was glad to finally be done and to set the book aside and move on. I’m even a little hesitant now to pick up the fourth book, though I will be doing so shortly… this installment just wasn’t as tension filled as I’d come to expect–although, thank goodness, there was a lot more of the romance present that had been missing from the second book in the series.

If you like post-apocalyptic stories filled with special abilities and great characters, I highly recommend this series, even if this wasn’t my favorite out of the bunch.

Book Review: Mortality

review-cover-mortality

Title: Mortality [The Hitchhiker Strain 1]

Author: Kellie Sheridan

Genre: Horror (Zombies), Young Adult, Science Fiction, Post Apocalyptic, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

After surviving a deadly plague outbreak, sixteen-year-old Savannah thought she had lived through the very worst of human history. There was no way to know that the miracle vaccine would put everyone at risk for a fate worse than un-death.

Now, two very different kinds of infected walk the Earth, intent on nothing but feeding and destroying what little remains of civilization. When the inoculated are bitten, infection means watching on in silent horror as self-control disappears and the idea of feasting on loved ones becomes increasingly hard to ignore.

Starving and forced to live inside of the abandoned high school, all Savannah wants is the chance to fight back. When a strange boy arrives with a plan to set everything right, she gets her chance. Meeting Cole changes everything. Mere survival will never be enough.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I was a little hesitant going into Morality by Kellie Sheridan. I was just coming out of End Dayz, which was not at all what I expected, and stepping into book one of the series… I was cautiously optimistic. After all, the prequel was well written—it just hadn’t been what I’d expected. There was an audible sigh of relief when I found Mortality wasn’t another bunch of letters, but an actual narrative story.

All was not well in the world, however. The book had this odd habit of switching back and forth between present-day post-apocalyptic drama with Savannah, and then after two or three chapters, switching to Zarah, who was dealing with the initial outbreak some months before. To say that I was confused about where the story was heading would have been, to put it mildly. I was probably on chapter 15 before I realized that Zarah’s chapters weren’t written from Savannah’s POV. I honestly thought they were flashbacks to begin with. As you can imagine, this lead to all kinds of misconceptions and confusion.

My stupidity and inability to read chapter headings aside, the stories of the two girls themselves, were great. The writing was moderately well done. The sentences flowed easily, it wasn’t bogged down with a ton of exposition, the sentence construction was easy to follow, and the girls’ stories were engaging. My only nitpick would be that there were a few typos. Not big ones. Usually a letter left off a word, a space missing, or more commonly: a missing line break between actor and speaker when they were not the same individual. None of these errors were book-breaking though.

I loved the characters in this book—Zarah and Savannah especially. Each had their own very distinct set of thought processes, emotions, and personalities. Zarah was in love and a little doe-eyed about life in general, but she wisened up a lot as the story went on. She became practical, frustrated, observant. Savannah started out the story pretty gung-ho and fiery, but throughout the story learned to be more cautious and to stop and weigh her options a little. The dichotomy between the two girls and their struggles in the post-apocalyptic landscape was fascinating. I got sucked into their stories right away, and as the book wore on, I was avidly waiting to see where their stories would eventually meet up.

I really don’t want to give away any spoilers to this series—it was that good—but I honestly can’t praise it enough. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I ended up liking this story, and I’ll definitely be moving on to read more in this series. Thank goodness the second book is already sitting on my Kindle waiting to be opened. If you’re looking for a good character-driven zombie story (and probably one of the best zombie transition sequences written) you should definitely check out this book. I highly recommend it—and it’s odd little prequel.

Book Review: End Dayz

review-cover-end dayzTitle: End Dayz [The Hitchhiker Strain 0.5]

Author: Kellie Sheridan

Genre: Horror (Zombies), Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopian, Post Apocalyptic, Short Story

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

It’s month after the dead first began to walk. The miracle vaccine that was supposed to save us all has failed.

Now, four teens fight to stay alive as a stronger, smarter breed of zombie begins to appear, threatening to end humanity for good.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about End Dayz by Kellie Sheridan. I came upon this book as part of a larger series on NetGalley—in fact, the Hitchhiker Strain series in its entirety. Going into it, all I knew was that it was a three-book set. It wasn’t until I started reading End Dayz that I discovered that it wasn’t so much the first book in the series, as a prequel set of letters and diary entries. I wasn’t aware that it was a set of four short stories to begin with, so take that into context as you read this review. I kept waiting for the actual story to begin, and instead I was reading abandoned letters and diary entries from a bunch of kids trying to survive the apocalypse. The narrative I was expecting never came, and the longer the letters went on, the more I was starting to think that this “prologue” was going on way too long.

That’s okay though. To be honest, the letters were really interesting. It was entertaining to see how the different teens dealt with the horrors of a zombie apocalypse and how they conveyed those horrors to the reader. It managed to keep my interest despite being about something entirely different than I expected, and I would have given it five stars… except, the letters and diary entries weren’t written like letters and diary entries. The entire time I was reading I kept thinking to myself, “No one writes letters like this.” The amount of detail and blow-by-blow accounts of zombie battles that the author put in weren’t true to the format of letters. I can’t think of a single person who would write their dad a letter that gives a blow-by-blow account of what a person was thinking, feeling, and what actions they took while some survivor tries to kidnap her. It just isn’t going to happen. That doesn’t make it any less interesting… but it didn’t stick to the format in which it was meant to be written. It was a problem for me.

Does that mean I didn’t like it? No. I liked it tremendously—even more so once I started reading the actual first book Mortality and realized that the letters tied into the greater story. Had this series of four short stories been about separate, random survivors, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. Overall, I gave this four stars. The stories are good, but it’s hard for me to give them full credit when they didn’t stick to the format in which they were presented. Had they actually sounded like letters and diary entries I probably would have liked them more. Still, it was a good read, and if you plan on reading further into the series, I’d recommend you have a go at End Dayz first. It helps to bring some context to what’s going on as Mortality starts.

Book Review: The Scorch Trials

review-cover-the scorch trialsTitle: The Scorch Trials [The Maze Runner 2]

Author: James Dashner

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

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end.

Thomas was sure that escape from the Maze would mean freedom for him and the Gladers. But WICKED isn’t done yet. Phase Two has just begun. The Scorch.

There are no rules. There is no help. You either make it or you die.

The Gladers have two weeks to cross through the Scorch—the most burned-out section of the world. And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.

Friendships will be tested. Loyalties will be broken. All bets are off.

There are others now. Their survival depends on the Gladers’ destruction—and they’re determined to survive.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Another great book by James Dashner. I started the Maze Runner series with my 11 year old some months ago, and we’ve now finished the second book together… and boy what a ride it was.  Like his other books, The Scorch Trails by James Dashner was well written. The writing was clear, easy to follow, flowed at a nice pace, and lacked any obvious errors. Other than the authors predisposition towards using commas without conjunctions, I found no technical errors or blips within the narrative.

Like the first book, the characters were well written—each with his or her own voice and personality, and though few of the characters get as much screen time as the golden few (Thomas, Theresa, Newt, Frypan and Minho), I didn’t feel like they were absent from the story. The world building was well done and I got sucked in easily.

The book was a bit darker than I’d expected, as odd as that may sound. The Maze Runner felt like a mystery adventure with bits of horror thrown in for good measure… but The Scorch Trials seemed to be more dark, more tense, and more gory than its predecessor. The pace was a little slower, and the narrative less humorous, but I think that it fit the book well. Every time I ended a chapter I felt the pull to press on—to discover what lay in store for the Gladers and Group B. I never wanted to put the book down.

There’s a lot I want to say about Theresa, Brenda, Jorge and Aris, but I’m going to keep it to myself. Anyone who enjoyed the previous book should give the second book in the series a look.  It’s a bit less light-hearted than the first book… a bit darker, but it’s still a fantastic read, and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. I’d happily recommend this to anyone looking for a smart YA Dystopian fiction to pick up. The book is fine for middle-grade readers… other than a few tame kisses, there’s nothing inappropriate… but it may be a bit scary for younger readers who aren’t used to horror. My 11 year old only got creeped out once (Hint: Nose. Vent. Table) but was otherwise unaffected. I loved the book, and I’m excited to move on to the third in the series soon!

Book Review: Switch

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Title: Switch [New World 1]

Author: Janelle Stalder

Genre: New Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Romance, Post-Apocalyptic

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Two thirds of the world’s population has been wiped out, devastated by the worst war earth has ever seen. Still standing amongst the ruins is a mind reader who finds herself on the wrong side of the war. Everyone does what they must to survive. When the rebels bent on bringing down the New World leader start to rise up, it is her job to make sure they stay down where they belong. That is, until one rebel sneaks past her defenses and into her heart. Love will blossom from the ashes, but will it be enough to save them, or will it mean the end of them both?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I very nearly gave this book 5 stars. Almost. I’ll admit, at first, I wasn’t so engrossed in Switch. The narrative was choppy, typo’s popped up, the story sometimes contradicted itself, and Charlotte/Dinah was not a character I easily fell in love with. She was cold and calculating—brutally so—and honestly, it made it hard to like her…. at first.

However, the deeper I sunk into the story, the more I began to really enjoy Charlotte/Dinah and her crazy dystopian world. Life was hard for the mind-reader, but she took a practical stance and did what she had to in order to survive. Sometimes that meant doing horrible things, and most of the time she didn’t blink an eye, but I could see how she was able to rationalize and separate what she had to do in order to stay alive. If I didn’t love her, I could at least respect her.

There was so much going on in this book between the different viewpoints, the political plots, and the thrilling action, that it is hard to sit back now and try to encompass everything I’d love to talk about with this book. There was so much depth to the world building and characters, that after the first initial chapters, I was completely sucked into the narrative, and forgot to come up for air. It was only when the last page rolled by that I sat back, stared at my kindle and went “It ended?” I would have loved to have had another 200 pages to this story. The romance between the different couples was full out giggle-worthy and filled with tension. Ms. Stalder made the true tension and danger of this world evident with every turn of the plot, and despite the rocky beginning, I fell in love with the story.

Would I read it again? Yes. Would I recommend it to others? Definitely. This is not your average YA Dystopian…. Charlotte/Dinah is a complex, and less than perfect protagonist who is not at all air-headed, and despite her lack of apparent heart, I fell in love with her by the end of the book.  If you enjoy dark dystopian novels with a bit of romance and a lot of dangerous political strife, you’ll love this story. Give it a shot.

Book Review: Into the Fire

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Title: Into The Fire [The Ending 2]

Author: Lindsey Fairleigh, Lindsey Pogue

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic, Adventure, Romance, Young Adult

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

In the wake of destruction left behind by the Virus, it took Dani and Zoe months to find each other. But their reunion was short-lived. Dani has been taken, and though little distance separates them, they might as well be worlds apart.
From the moment she hears Dani’s scream, Zoe’s only goal is to save her best friend. She and her companions scramble to come up with a rescue plan, but when a ghost from Jake’s past reappears, lines are blurred, decisions become harder, and secrets are revealed…and some secrets are best left buried. To keep heartache and fear from consuming her, Zoe must cling to her determination. She WILL see Dani again.
Dani awakens inside the final hold-out of civilization: the Colony. Remnants of the former world surround her—electricity, safety, social order—but all is not what it seems. As she faces her most manipulative adversary yet, she loses sight of who she is and who she can trust. Friends become enemies, enemies become allies, and allies will betray her. Dani will have to decide what she’s willing to do and whose lives she’s willing to risk if she is to have any chance of breaking free.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Another solid cover and solid book from Lindsey Pogue and Lindsey Fairleigh. It’s been some months since I read and reviewed the first book of The Ending series, but when I was given a chance to take a look at the sequel, I jumped at the chance. Like it’s predecessor, Into the Fire didn’t disappoint.

The story at it’s heart is about two friends, Dani and Zoe, as they both try to survive the apocalypse with their band of supernaturally-powered refugees. Unfortunately, not only do these two girls have to survive the day-to-day of living in a post-apocalyptic world with no electricity or running water, but there are also crazy cannibalistic creatures, roving bands of thugs and bandits… some with their own unique powers, and last, but not least, so-called scientists and officials who think it’s their god-given duty to experiment on the survivors in an attempt to make a perfect society. These girls have it rough.

Personally, going into this story, it was a little bit of a difficult read. Not because the story was ill-written or slow-paced, but because it had been such a long time in between the books for me (I read them both before they were officially released), it became a push in the first few chapters to remember what had happened in the previous book, and catch up to the story. Which is the main reason I marked this story down to 4 stars rather than 5. Though this is an obvious sequel, and I was warned before-hand that this was not a stand-alone book, I do hold a firm belief that even in a series, there should be some re-telling to help ease readers into subsequent books in a series. This installment to the series, had no re-telling what-so-ever. Books are generally released with large (sometimes a year or more) gap between them, and if you’re like me and you read several books a week, it’s easy to lose track of where you were in a series during that down-time. It would have been nice to have a few hints here and there to remind me of where I left off.

Still, by the third or fourth chapter (minus some momentary lapses where I couldn’t remember who certain characters were), I fell back into the story like clock-work. The book was well-written, fast paced, and the characters were genuine. Before I realized it, I was done, and wishing there were just a few more chapters to enjoy. Alas, I’ll have to wait for the next one. My only true negative complaint, or rather, I’ll call it an observation, was that while present, the romance really took a back-seat in this installment of the story.  I certainly wouldn’t place this firmly in the romance category (I’d tag it as an action/adventure this time around), but there’s still some tidbits in there for people who enjoyed the romance from the first book—Just don’t get your hopes up and skim for the sexual tension.

Overall? I’d recommend it to anyone who liked the first book of the series. It was a fun, action-packed read, and it didn’t let me down. If you enjoy Post-Apocalyptic, Fantasy, or Sci-Fi adventures, you’ll probably like this book, and love the series.