Free Fiction Friday #118

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Free Fiction Friday #118! 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 & Fantasy!

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Free Fiction Friday #114

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Free Fiction Friday #114! 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:  Science Fiction & Fantasy!

Where’s the Reviews?! Just wanted to give you guys a bit of a heads up. I have been super busy the last few months, so posts have pretty much been restricted to Free Fiction Fridays. I finally moved, and since have been working on a really fun editing project for a couple of books, as well as dealing with homeschool. My daughter and I put together a hands-on science project this year which involves breeding live insects, snails, and fish in order to learn about biology, ecology, the nitrogen cycle, etc. – so we’ve been a bit busy keeping up with the maintenance involved and the observation of the animals. It’s been super fun, but my schedule’s been really tight – so reviews have fallen a bit to the wayside until I get my schedule back under control. Thank you for being so understanding. Please, feel free to continue to send in review requests – just understand that I might not get to them for awhile.

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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!

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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: Jubilee Year

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

Author: Gerard O’Neill

Genre: Science Fiction, Apocalyptic

Rating: 1 Star

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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: The Here and Now

 

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Title: The Here and Now

Author: Ann Brashares

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Time-Travel, Science Fiction, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

The Here and Now at it’s heart is a story about Prenna, a teenage girl from the not-so-distant future who travels back in time—to our time—in order to escape the devastating plagues and global climate changes that have destroyed her world. Her society is one that lives in fear of the slightest touch and the germs it could spread. Children are kept in doors, out of schools, and are taught never to touch another human being—not even their family. Obviously, coming to our time period was a bit of an adjustment.

The book follows Prenna’s journey as she tries to blend in with the native population of 2010… and it isn’t easy. Her people are monitored in everything they do, and punishment for breaking the twelve rules of time travel are harsh. Prenna chafes under the unforgiving rule of her leaders, and like most teenagers, is eager to escape. And then there’s Ethan: the local native boy who has his eyes and heart firmly set on Prenna no matter how hard she tries to go unnoticed.

The premise was fascinating, and a little terrifying to be honest. It isn’t a stretch to imagine Prenna’s world. Her world, is our world. Give it another 100 years, and we’ll be there—and that is what is so frightening about this book. It isn’t far-fetched (okay minus the time travel). Global Warming is a thing. Super Virus’ are a thing. This could easily happen to us, and to Prenna, it has. The warnings this book gives: that we are currently a world full of people who are fully aware that our environment is on it’s last legs, and still we’re doing nothing about it… completely true. It’s a sobering thought.

Unfortunately, as much as I truly adored the premise for this story—and believe me, I could go on for hours about the parallels between the story and the reality of our planet right now—the romance and character development within the story fell flat.

First of all, let me state that the book was written in first person, present tense. Or at least it tried to be. The first-person POV didn’t bother me, but the tense had me pulling out my hair. It seemed to switch back and forth at random intervals between present and past tense for no obvious reason, leaving the narrative feeling disjointed at time. Also, the copy of the story that I received from NetGalley was an uncorrected proof and rife with grammatical errors at times. Example:

He saw the strange the atmosphere at the end of the time path.

That’s a quote from Chapter Twenty-Two (Location 2511 on the Kindle). I’ll give it some leeway because it was an uncorrected proof, but that doesn’t excuse the clinical feel of the narrative. The story was written in a very dry manner. The sentences were concise and clear. That isn’t a bad thing—but it lacked a certain ease of flow. There wasn’t a lot of description, emotion, or senses included in the narrative, and it left the narrative feeling almost over-edited in a way. I felt I was reading the dry, bleached bones of the story after all of the tender meat and tasty fat had been trimmed off.

This also extended into the character development. I don’t have a particular gripe about any of the characters. They were fine. I just didn’t feel connected to any of them. It was almost as if Prenna and Ethan were secondary characters in a scene. Instead of standing center stage, they seemed to take up space in the scenes and react to whatever was thrown their way. They didn’t feel like active characters. It’s hard to like, or even hate, a character you feel no attachment to. The actual secondary characters (especially the villains and Katherine)  barely had enough personality between them to create a blip on the radar. They seemed to exist because the story needed characters, but none of them felt like real people with real motivations. They were names on a page, and only that.

Overall the story was a bit of a mixed bag. I really liked the concept of the plot and the world building, but the characters and the style the story was written in made it bland. I really wish the author had spent more time fleshing out the characters and the style of the narrative. This could have been an excellent book. Did I like it? Yes. Would I read it again? Maybe. Would I recommend it to others? Eh. Maybe not. I think it’s a good discussion piece. It could spur on some really interesting conversation about the society Prenna lived in and the future of our planet, but there was so little depth to the characters that outside of a very academic view of the story, I don’t know that I’d consider this a good read.

Book Review: Across The Universe

cover-acrosstheuniverseTitle: Across the Universe

Author: Beth Revis

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I have to admit, posting a 3-star review for this book, I feel a bit like I’m going against the grain. Everywhere I look I see rave reviews for Across the Universe, even from my fellow bloggers… but I stand by 3 stars. The book was okay, but it wasn’t anything special. From the very beginning the plot (teenager wakes up from cryo-sleep early, on board a spaceship overrun by the managerial crew who’ve taken over) was a familiar one. In fact, one of my favorite science fiction books from when I was still in grade-school started off the same way (wayyy back in the 80’s)… kid wakes up from cryo-sleep early.  I wasn’t surprised or enthralled.

For the most part, the story kept me reading, partly due to the fun of reminiscing over a familiar plot from my childhood, but despite the many assurances I had from other reviewers… the book wasn’t thrilling or suspenseful. I had the bad-guy picked out the first time they mentioned him. This wasn’t a great mystery. The characters had an inkling of depth, but I feel as though more could have been done with them. It almost felt as if something were missing. I’d have liked to hear more about Kaleigh and what happened to her, or even the full story behind why the Eldest tried to have Orion killed, but neither were fully explained. The author spent more time on The Season than the back-stories of the characters, which was a shame. I inwardly cringed when the season came up.  Now, understand that I’m not some great prude.  I read a LOT of romance novels and erotica–it’s somewhat my forte–but in a book labeled as YA, I couldn’t help but think “and how old do these YA need to be?” while the characters proceeded to join ship-wide orgies, and the main character nearly being raped.

I honestly don’t think the season had any direct relationship to the plot in any way… other than being a moment were the author tried to say “look here! i’m so clever! look at my world building!” Some of the world building was interesting. I really liked the beginning when Amy was being put into cryo-sleep. It was nice to see a book where the realities of how embarrassing and uncomfortable the whole situation was wasn’t glossed over. I also liked the (cliche) idea of how the crew took over the ship… but that’s where the fun ends. It’s all been done before, and in some cases, better. Even the romance was lack-luster… if you can even call it a romance. Elder had a teenage crush on Amy even before he met her, but Amy never seemed to respond to his affections (or anyone else’s) and then it just… faded away. The author stopped talking about the romance at some point, and it became background noise.

In the end, I did enjoy the book, but I wish the author had spent more time developing the story. It’s a fun read, but it lacks depth… to the characters, the plot, the romance… everything.