Free Fiction Friday #102

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Free Fiction Friday #102! For those of you who are new to this blog, or who may have missed out on the previous Free Fiction Fridays—every Friday I post an article containing 10 fiction e-books that are 100% FREE on Amazon at the time of posting and an additional 5 that are roughly of the same genre, and on sale for less than $5.

I try my best to make sure they are all 4+ stars, have over 40+ reviews, and are 100 pages minimum—so you can have a hand-picked list of the best-of-the-best to choose from and enjoy over the long weekend (while I do more important things, like laundry). I try to switch up the genres every week, and this week our theme is: Young Adult>Science Fiction>Aliens!

THE FREE

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THE BARGAINS

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Book Review: Red Queen

review-cover-red queenTitle: Red Queen [Red Queen 1]

Author: Victoria Aveyard

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Dystopian

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I enjoyed The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. It wasn’t what I expected, but I was pleasantly surprised anyway. As far as the technical aspects of the book go, the writing was flawless. I didn’t run into any obvious typos, grammatical errors, or formatting issues. The narrative was clean and easy to read, and I enjoyed the narrative voice.

This was a YA book, so yes, the storyline and the characters were simple, even familiar, but I’m not going to hold that against it. Was it a ground-breaking novel? No. Probably not… but it was interesting. I liked the characters, I liked the world building – what there was of it – and I enjoyed the romance. Had this been a book geared towards adults, yes, I would have held it to a higher standard. There is no poetry to the narrative voice, the characters aren’t complex, and there’s no simmer to the romance… but this isn’t an adult book. This is a book meant for teens, and for them, I think this hits a lot of the points it needed to. there’s a cute romance, an element of danger, superpowers, fancy dresses, and a very fairytale vibe to the plotline.

Overall, I think this is a good book for the YA crowd, particularly those that are actually teens – but if you’re an adult reading into the YA genre, this may be a bit below your level. Either way, I found it to be a good book, a fast-paced read, and I’m glad to have picked it up.

Book Review: The Gates of Dawn

review-copy-the gates of dawnTitle: The Gates of Dawn [The Never Dawn 3]

Author: R.E. Palmer

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Banished to the surface, Noah and his team struggle to survive in the harsh climate and forced to make a difficult decision. In their quest to see the first dawn, they make a shocking discovery about their past that could help Noah bring Mother’s cruel regime to an end.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

There are not enough words in the English language to describe how much I’ve enjoyed The Never Dawn series by R.E. Palmer, or this latest addition to it. These books came across my desk from a relatively unknown author—and it was by sheer whim that I decided to pick them up for review. I am so glad that I did.

I adored this book. It was such a fantastic conclusion to one of the best YA Science Fiction Dystopian series I may have ever read. Though a bit darker than the two books that came before it, The Gates of Dawn by R.E. Palmer sucked me into the story right away and didn’t let up until the last page. I was saddened to put this book, and this series, down when the last sentence was read. I’ve grown to love and care for the many characters within its pages. I cheered when they triumphed, and gasped, disheartened when they were thwarted. There were many aspects of the story that surprised me and left me scrambling to read on to discover what would happen next. The ending, in particular, wasn’t one I saw coming—but at the same time, I’m not upset by it. Although it wasn’t the ending I expected or even wanted, it seemed fitting for Noah’s story. I read this book aloud with my daughter, and she fought tears the entire last chapter and epilogue of the story.

It broke our hearts, and I think we both agree that this series is one of the best series we’ve read between us. If you enjoy YA Science Fiction, or Dystopias, you need to pick up this book, and this series. It is so well crafted and well voiced—trust me when I say that you will not regret it.

Free Fiction Friday #76

Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome to Free Fiction Friday #76! For those of you who are new to this blog, or may have missed out on the previous Free Fiction Fridays, every Friday I post an article containing 10 fiction e-books that are 100% FREE on Amazon at the time of posting, and an additional 5 that are roughly of the same genre and on sale for less than $5. I try my best to make sure they are all 4+ stars, have over 40+ reviews, and are 100 pages minimum-so that you can have a hand-picked list of the best-of-the-best to choose from and enjoy over the long weekend (while I do more important things, like laundry). I try to switch up the genres every week, and this week our them is: Science Fiction!

THE FREE

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THE BARGAINS

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Book Review: The Journal of Curious Letters

review-cover-the journal of curious lettersTitle: The Journal of Curious Letters [The 13th Reality 1]

Author: James Dashner

Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Action & Adventure, Sci-Fi, Fantasy

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

What if every choice you made created an alternate reality? InThe Journal of Curious Letters, Atticus Higginbottom, a.k.a. Tick, is an average thirteen-year-old boy until the day he receives a strange letter informing him that dangerous— perhaps even deadly—events have been set in motion that could result in the destruction of reality itself. Tick will be sent twelve riddles that, when solved, will reveal the time and place of an extraordinary happening. Will Tick have the courage to follow the twelve clues and discover the life he was meant to live? Tick’s journey continues in The Hunt for Dark Infinity! Mistress Jane and the Chi’karda are back. Tick and Mistress Jane race to find the deadly Dark Infinity weapon. But who will destroy it—and who will become its master?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

What a gem! I picked up this book for my 12-year-old daughter and we ended up reading it together. I’m glad to say that I honestly found this to be a joy to read.

The book was exceptionally well written and full of colorful characters. There were funny, heartwarming, action-filled, and even creepy moments throughout the book as Tick worked to solve the mystery of the 13 clues he received from one very odd Master George and his companions, Rutger and Mothball (who was definitely one of our favorite characters).

One of my favorite aspects of the book as a parent, though, was the relationship Tick had with his father. Where most children’s books seem to either omit the parents, or fall into the trope of having the parents not believe their children, James Dashner crafted The Journal of Curious Letters in such a way that not only did Tick turn to his father with his worries, but Tick’s father believed his son—and helped him! It was a great moment to witness in a children’s book, and I and my daughter had a great talk about how important it was for kids to talk to their parents about their worries, and for parents to listen to them and take them seriously.

Overall, we found loved the book. It was exciting, funny, and full of interesting characters. It’s a bit of a long book, but I’m not complaining—we never wanted to put it down, and often read 5-10  chapters together a night until it was finished.

Book Review: Immurement

review-cover-immurementTitle: Immurement [The Undergrounders 1]

Author: Norma Hinkens

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopian

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description / Synopsis:

The earth’s core overheats. The sovereign leader vanishes. A young girl is the survivors’ only hope …
What little land is habitable is patrolled by cutthroat gangs of escaped subversives, but that’s not the greatest threat facing sixteen-year-old Derry Connelly, her brother Owen, and a ragged band of Preppers holed up in a bunker in the Sawtooth Mountains. Mysterious hoverships operated by clones are targeting adolescents for extraction.

Owen, is one of the first to disappear. To save him, Derry must strike a deal with the murderous subversives, and risk a daring raid to infiltrate the heart of the extraction operation.

But will the rookie leader falter when forced to choose between her brother and a clone who ignites something inside her she didn’t know was possible?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

There’s so much that I want to say about Immurement by Norma Hinkens that it’s been hard for me to take it all and bundle it up into an organized review. On one hand, the book had a lot of problems—some of them big problems—but on the other hand, it was a very solid read, and depending on how much certain aspects of the plot bother you, this may be a fantastic read, or a very “meh” one for you.

Technically speaking, the book was well written. There were maybe two typos in the whole book (missing words in sentences mostly), but nothing so big as to make me pause for more than a second. It was still easy to understand the narrative and what was happening, even with the errors. The narrative itself was well paced, the sentences flowing easily, and I liked the main character. She was interesting and placed in a very stressful situation that had me wanting to read more to find out how she was going to handle everything the author threw at her. The book was action-packed and kept me reading straight through in just a handful of hours.

But there were some pretty serious problems with the book as well. This was by no means a new plot. I saw bits and pieces of plot ideas thrown in from an array of dystopians I’ve read before—and I’m not saying that’s necessarily bad. I love dystopians, and there are very few original ideas out there anymore…but by the same token, I wish there had been more to this particular book that had made it stand out as something new to the genre. I won’t point out other series or authors, but I can say that the plot of this book was extremely similar to another dystopian series I’ve read, just minus a space-related central theme. The familiarity made me sit back and go “oh. okay.” rather than “wow! what’s going to happen next?”

One minor problem for me was the lukewarm romance sub-plot between Sven, Jakob, and Derry. There was no sexual or romantic tension in this love triangle, and although the author kept reassuring the reader that Derry had feelings and chemistry with Sven and Jakob… I wasn’t feeling it. It just didn’t seem genuine.

Another minor problem was the obvious casting of the dog, Tucker, as a plot device. I know, I know. It’s a dog! So cute! But it seemed like he knew an extraordinarily absurd amount of commands and hand signals for a dog that belonged to a pair of teenage suburbanites. When Derry got lost, the dog jumped in and showed her the way. When Derry couldn’t decide if someone was good or bad, the dog would give his opinion. Other than chime in to keep the plot moving by solving complications for Derry, the dog didn’t seem to exist for any other reason.

To be honest, some parts of the book left me with a rather “meh” feeling, but when it came down to it, I still liked it. Maybe it wasn’t as exciting or innovative as I’d hoped, but it was interesting, at parts, engaging, and I’m glad I read it. I’m interested in continuing with the series and seeing how the second book unfolds. Right now I can’t imagine this dragging on for a third book, but maybe the author will surprise me. If you’re looking for a decent dystopian read to while away an afternoon, I recommend you give this a try.

Book Review: Spark

review-cover-sparkTitle: Spark

Author: Atthys J. Gage

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy

Rating: 4 (4.5) Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

People are dying downtown, their bodies shriveled away to almost nothing. The police are mystified, and outrageous rumors are flying: flesh-eating bacteria? an experimental bio-weapon? mutant mosquitos? Fifteen year-old Francy Macmillan listens, but says nothing. It isn’t a comfort knowing that no matter how far-fetched the theories, the truth is even stranger.

For Francy, that truth wasn’t very hard to find. It followed her home from basketball practice one night, a floating bauble of light that speaks inside her mind and shares her thoughts and her feelings. Is it an alien wanderer fallen from some distant star? Or a shard of some divine entity? Whatever it is, it seems to like her. She calls him Spark.

But as their friendship grows, a disturbing fact emerges: Spark knows who is responsible for those deaths. With Spark’s help, it is up to Francy to stop them. Spark leads Francy into a strange alternate reality, along with her friends: beautiful Echo with the dragon tattoo; moody Brooke with the wicked jaw; and Owen Owens, the boy with the fascinating eyes who may just get around to kissing her one of these days—assuming the world doesn’t end first.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I have the oddest feeling walking away from this book that I’m not sure I can even begin to describe. Spark by Atthys J. Gage was not what I was expecting, and yet it hit the bullet points of everything it promised.  Even now, half an hour after finishing the book, I sit here and marvel at what I just read in a strange state of confusion.

Technically speaking, the book was very well written. I ran across two typos in the entirety of the book, but the narrative was otherwise clean, easy to follow, and lacked grammatical mistakes. The dialogue felt natural, and the characters felt real. I liked them. All of them—even the mean-spirited sarcastic best friend. I was pulled into the story from the get-go, and never felt the need to skim, put the book down, or re-read. Francy, strange name aside, was a compelling and likeable character, and Spark, her light-ball sidekick was a curious—dare I say, “interesting”—little creature that kept me hooked until the very last page. (See what I did there, fellow readers?)

The plot itself… well, that’s where some of my confusion comes in. Don’t get me wrong, I –loved- this book. I really enjoyed it and was thoroughly entertained… but there were parts that were hard to follow. The pocket universe was, well, weird to say the least. Even having finished the book I’m not sure I understand what all was happening throughout those sequences even when I understood the concept of entropy. Frankly, my dissatisfaction (and why this didn’t get a full five stars) came down to the ending. The book felt unfinished. There was this sense of increasing tension throughout the book with the murders, the appearance of spark, and the pocket dimension that begged for a huge mind-blowing reveal and ultimate battle to save Francy’s world… and I felt the ending fell short of that. I won’t get into too much detail because SPOILERS—but it fell a bit flat for me. I was expecting more…. and then the end o the book came and went, and I sat back and went “Oh. That’s it?”

Does that change how much I liked the book? No. I enjoyed it, and I want to read more from this author… but on the same token, I’m seriously hoping for a sequel to help explain and further iron out what happened in Spark. It doesn’t feel done to me. Overall, I loved the book. It was both better, and odder than I expected, and I was entertained. Spark is perfect for young teens on up, and I’d have no problem handing it over to my twelve-year-old to read. If you like YA fantasy or science fiction with a little bit of romance and a whole lot of strange, I’d definitely suggest checking this out.