Book Review: Borne of Sand and Scorn

reviewcover-borne of sand and scornTitle: Borne of Sand and Scorn [Forgotten Lands 0.5]

Author: Lindsey Pogue

Genre: Steampunk, Western, Novella, Romance, Post-Apocalyptic

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Death favors no one.

In the bustling industrial cities of Victorian America, soot clouds darken the skies, plaguing citizens with black lung. Rich or poor, young or old, no matter their station, no one is able to escape the life-threatening disease, and the West family is no exception.

Overcome by death and sickness, the Wests flee to the New Territories for refuge, only to discover more devastation. Wind and drought ravage the land and no one is safe. No place on earth is untouched by the Shift.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I loved Borne of Sand and Scorn by Lindsey Pogue for what it was – a prequel to the Forgotten Lands series. Here’s the thing: I’m not a fan of novellas. I think they’re too short to enjoy, and because they’re so short, authors often try to do too much too quickly. Unfortunately, this book didn’t live outside that realm – the romance between Lizzie and Brandon moved far too quickly to be realistic, and as an avid romance reader, that bothered me. That being said, I can understand why it was done that way, I just don’t like it.

Aside from this, the only other complaint I have is that I caught a few typos, but nothing so bad as to ruin the book for me. I think, for the most part, the story was well written, and it has that same atmosphere and description to it that Dust and Shadow has that I absolutely adore.

I think my favorite part though, as odd as it will sound, was the opening scene. As awful as it was for the character, it was certainly impactful, and it really set the stage for the type of storytelling the author is so good at.

If you enjoy westerns or post-apocalyptic stories, I’d certainly recommend this – but I would throw in the caveat that you should read the first book of the series before you endeavor to read this prequel. You’ll understand what’s going on a lot more, and you’ll get more enjoyment out of meeting the characters.

Book Review: The Darkest Winter

reviewcover-the darkest winterTitle: The Darkest Winter [Savage North Chronicles 1]

Author: Lindsey Pogue

Genre: Post Apocalyptic, Horror

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

The Virus spread. Billions died. The Ending began.

A group of orphaned misfits.

The wild lands of the last frontier.

Superhuman abilities, harrowing adventures, and heartbreaking secrets.

Elle – Haunting shadows are nothing new to Elle St. James, she’s been running from them all her life. But since the outbreak spread from the lower forty-eight, new monsters lurk in the darkness. After Elle wakes from The Fever, capable of horrific deeds, she fears she’s one of them. When she stumbles upon four orphans, Elle’s forced to discover what happens when her greatest fear becomes her darkest secret and her only hope of surviving.

Jackson – After the world goes mad and takes his family with it, Jackson decides a bottle of bourbon and the depths of despair are preferable to any semblance of living. But when Jackson wakes from the black hole of oblivion with a gun in his face, he must choose whether he wants to die or fight to find something worth living for.

Brought together under the worst possible circumstances, Elle and Jackson must face the inexplicable realities of the new world. Their past lives are over, and the arctic isn’t all that’s savage anymore.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

The Darkest Winter by Lindsey Pogue was an absolutely stunning work of fiction. The author is amazingly skilled at letting the reader feel the urgency and fear of the situations the characters are in throughout the book. I’d endeavor to say that they mastered what it is to be human, and the connections we build with one another.

I absolutely loved the characters – especially little Thea, who was a little ray of sunshine. The writing was flawless and flowed effortlessly. I was drawn in by the characters, the plot, and the extensive world-building, and honestly, I didn’t want it to end.

If you love post-apocalyptic stories that are heavily lead by the characters in them, this is an absolute gem, and I would highly recommend it to you. You don’t have to have read The Ending series to enjoy this book, but if you have, this is certainly another offshoot of the saga, and you’ll run into a lot of similar themes.

Book Review: Dust and Shadow

reviewcover-dust and shadowTitle: Dust and Shadow [Forgotten Lands 1]

Author: Lindsey Pogue

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Eleven years ago, my mother was murdered, and still, her killer lives in plain sight.

In Sagebrush Canyon, thirst rules, ignorance is power, and nothing is as it seems. It’s been two centuries since the boom of the Industrial Revolution sent the Victorian world into a devastating climatic shift. Now, chivalry is dead and the frills and frivolities of the romantic era are no more than a fading memory.

Jo has kept to the safety of her family’s farm, desperate to forget the horrific day that took her mother and left Jo battered and broken. But the marshal of Sagebrush is everywhere–he controls everything–and for years Jo has had to stomach the false pleasantries and knowing glint in the eyes of the man who killed her mother.

When Jo discovers how deep the marshal’s seedy dealings run she decides that fear will no longer keep her silent. But just when Jo plans to expose him for what he really is, the marshal plays a card of his own—his notoriously scandalous son, Clayton. As Jo and Clayton are thrust together, lines become blurred, truths are revealed, and Jo must decide what she is willing to sacrifice in exchange for retribution.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’ve read several books by Lindsey Pogue, and I have to say, Dust and Shadow is by far my favorite to date. There’s something about the mix of the historical Victorian era and post-apocalyptic world-building that drew me in.

The writing itself was stunning – the narrative flowed effortlessly, and there weren’t any major grammar or punctuation errors. The dialogue felt real the characters were complex.

I adored the romance between Clayton and Jo. Though both of them were terribly flawed in a lot of ways, both Clayton and Jo were trying to do the best with the lives they were given. It wasn’t an easy task for either of them, and there were a lot of ups and downs as they figured things out.

The book is filled with deception, murder, past events that are having consequences in the current time – and tiny bits of hope sprinkled throughout. The world-building was by far my favorite part of this book. There was something so compelling about the dust-blasted landscape of this small Victorian town, dealing with massive storms and a lack of water. It was this fantastic mix of Victorian-era clothing and Etiquette, post-apocalyptic scenery, and a very old-west drama feel.

I would highly recommend this for anyone who enjoys westerns, historical romances, or post-apocalyptic settings.

Book Review: The Infernal Lands

reviewcover-the infernal landsTitle: The Infernal Lands [The Aionach Saga 1]

Author: J.C. Staudt

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Western, Science Fiction

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Across the heat-blasted wastelands of a post-apocalyptic world, ages of high technology lay in ruin. Mutants and madmen roam vast derelict cities while nomads and monsters haunt the edges of a brutal wilderness. Armies rise up to war over what yesterday left behind.

But something larger than war is brewing beneath the Aionach. The inhabitants of this lawless realm are beginning to unearth mysteries from a forgotten age. Mysteries that may reveal the true nature of their dying world and unlock its darkest secrets.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

The Infernal Lands by J.C. Staudt was a little hard for me to get into, and I think that will ring true for a few people out there. There’s a distinct style to the narrative voice which is both colorful, engaging, and full of atmosphere, but you have to really enjoy that sort of heavily stylized type of writing to sink into it and forget the world around you. Personally speaking, it isn’t the kind of writing that I gravitate towards, but I can appreciate the art of it. It was well-written.

I had a bit of a tough time identifying with the characters, both because of how fantastical their world was, but also because of how often the narrative switched between them. In the first couple of chapters, the point of view kept changing, and I had a hard time figuring out who the main character of the story was, or even if I liked them.

All that aside, the book was very well written, the narrative style was gorgeous – I just don’t know if it was for me. If you like classic westerns and detailed science fiction sagas, I think you’ll really like this book for the atmosphere. But if you’re like me and tend to gravitate more towards character-driven stories, you might have trouble with this one.

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: Rebel Bound

cover-review-rebel boundTitle: Rebel Bound

Author: Shauna E. Black

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Post-Apocalyptic, Fantasy

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

A city without light … without hope.

Caelin is a survivor. It’s been eleven years since a nuclear disaster drove much of the population underground. Caelin and her young sister Mardy were left topside, where Caelin uses salvage to trade for shelter. Until she gets hurt.

To save her life, a handsome stranger named Jate brings the sisters to rebel turf where plans are being hatched to conquer the Undercity. The rebels preach good life for the masses, and both Caelin and Mardy are hooked on the dream. But as Caelin is drawn deeper into the rebel’s inner circle, passion ignites between Caelin and Jate, and he suddenly seems determined to push her away.

Then she discovers the harsh price of loyalty. The rebel’s dream becomes a nightmare that puts her sister on a dangerous mission to the Undercity. Caelin must determine who to trust before Mardy and the population of the Undercity are wiped out.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Rebel Bound by Shauna E. Black was a fast-paced danger-filled tale of two sisters trying to survive in the wreckage of a post-apocalyptic world. The book was well written – the narrative easy to follow and lacking more than one or two obvious typos. The characters were solid, unique, and their story was rife with danger and uncertainty.

I loved every minute of it. The uncomfortable tension of Caelin’s world and the distrust she had for those around her brought a very real feeling of disquiet to the narrative that made it feel like I was truly part of the story. Caelin was smart, untrusting, and although sometimes made decisions based on a lack of information, she never made stupid choices. She was fiercely loyal to her family and friends, and not afraid to jump into the fray to keep what was hers. I thoroughly enjoyed her as the main character.

Overall, I loved this book. If you enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction, I highly recommend you give this book a try. It is well worth the time.

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.

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.