The Liberation

LibBlurb: How far would you go in the fight for your country’s freedom when it’s crumbling from within?

In the near future, all seventeen-year-old Vivica Wilkins wants is a normal life. Time with her boyfriend, her computer, sports. But after becoming a fugitive, the only place she’ll be safe is among the enemies of the government. She has no choice but to join the Emancipation Warriors, the only hope for the United Regions of North America to return to the country it once was.

When her mother is taken as a political prisoner and slated for execution, the Emancipation Warriors change Vivica’s appearance, identity—everything. With her vaunted computer hacking skills, she’s able to infiltrate the government with a job that gives the Warriors a foothold in their fight for freedom and the chance to save her mother.

But soon Vivica is discovered, and her only chance of escape is to become allies with one of her greatest enemies. Together they must follow the government’s trail of evil to its highest levels, where they learn not only the future of their country is at stake, but the entire world.

From the cities of the United Regions of North America to the high-tech corridors of Asia, The Liberation is an international thriller with an all-too-possible scenario that will grab you by the throat and refuse to let go.

The Liberation by Marissa Shrock is book 2 in the Emancipation Warriors series. I read this without having read #1 and wasn’t very confused although the events referenced made me curious about the first book. It did take me a while to sort out the characters, especially when they kept going by aliases, their real names, and then also referring to each other by code-names. Apparently in the first volume, Vivica ran away from home and sought asylum with the Emancipation Warriors in order to save her baby. You see, in this futuristic authoritarian USA-ish land, illegal teenage pregnancies result in mandatory abortions. She’s a master hacker and helps the Warriors out during her pregnancy and ends up finding God through them. At the end, her boyfriend/baby-daddy ends up in prison and Vivica joins the Emancipation Warriors to rescue him and participate in the rebellion. The Liberation begins with Vivica arriving at a secret training compound, determined to become an amazing agent asap. Only things happen and she ends up launched into the world of high-tech espionage almost immediately.

The world in this series is futuristic with chips, retinal scanners, nanobots, facial recognition cameras everywhere and so on. And it’s also one that could be a somewhat realistic dystopian future with a Bible sanitized to be more “inclusive”, Christians oppressed for their beliefs, mandatory abortions for unplanned pregnancies, the world moving toward a one-world-order, etc. The pace was exciting and I was constantly terrified something bad was going to happen – I read it quickly because of this. But the book stretched the bounds of believability for me. Vivica is 17, has almost no training, and yet manages to successfully go undercover in extremely dangerous situations and fools nearly everyone. The timeline was confusing – I could swear the book would say a few weeks went by but then it would say the next day and I never knew how much time had passed. Which meant sometimes I’d be incredulously wondering how they implemented a plan so quickly but maybe it wasn’t as quick as I thought? Even with all that, I’d still be planning to read the 3rd of the trilogy if it weren’t for the following:

The writing was too sparse for me. If you dislike details, this is the book series for you. I never knew where anyone was – if they were standing, sitting, hovering over a shoulder, (floating? /s 😉 ) or on the other side of the room.  Things would happen or be said and I wouldn’t understand what led to it. Or something would get mentioned and dropped and I’d wonder if it was wrapped up or not. And I’m still unclear how old most of the characters are aside from Vivica. There’s an obvious love interest and all I know is “it’s not like he’s 40”. So he could be anywhere from 23-35. But if he’s too young, I wouldn’t believe he could be such a high-ranking rebel agent – so I don’t know how I feel about him liking an almost-18-year-old. Or why he even likes her for that matter – they rarely saw each other and when they did, they just pettily bickered.

All that being said, though, I think this series would be a hit with the targeted age group of teenage readers. It just had elements that didn’t work for me personally.

How much realism and detail do you like in a story?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Songkeeper

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Blurb: War ravages Leira and the Song has fallen silent.

Freed from the hold of a slave ship, Birdie, the young Songkeeper, and Ky, a street-wise thief, emerge to a world at war. Hordes of dark soldiers march across Leira, shadowed by whispers of plague and massacres, prompting Ky to return to his besieged home city in hopes of leading his fellow runners to safety.

Desperate to end the fighting, Birdie embarks on a dangerous mission into the heart of the Takhran’s fortress. Legend speaks of a mythical spring buried within and the Songkeeper who will one day unleash it to achieve victory. Everyone believes Birdie is the one, but the elusive nature of the Song and rumors of other gifted individuals lead her to doubt her role. Unleashing the spring could defeat the Takhran once and for all, but can she truly be the Songkeeper when the Song no longer answers her call?

Songkeeper is book 2 in the Songkeeper Chronicles by Gillian Bronte Adams. This volume picks up immediately after events from the first volume, right in the middle of the action. I haven’t read the first in the series and while it was obvious I had missed a lot, I never felt lost or confused – events were explained well and woven into the action without any info-dumps. The blurb summarizes what happens pretty well – Birdie heads into the heart of danger with a group of colorful, endearing companions hoping to find the mythical spring and thereby stop the big baddie. Ky returns home and clashes with authority figures in a power struggle over how best to save his fellow runners (a gang of orphan thieves living under the radar and literally under the city).

The book was gripping and I couldn’t put it down. But it was also very grim and especially dark toward the end. Almost gruesome but without details that would make it too much. So grim in fact, that I’m not interested in reading the skipped first volume and I’m unclear if I will read the last volume when it comes out. I’m a reader who needs plenty of light in-between the doses of dark and Songkeeper was very heavy. Not to mention it ends with such a major set-back that I question what progress was made at all.

I do have to say, though that the book was extremely well written – one of the best I’ve read in a long time. I was impressed at the quality. The only complaint I had was my ebook had no spaces or separators between scenes which was extremely confusing until I got the hang of being hyper-vigilant keeping an eye out for scene shifts.

What kind of heavy books do you like?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Terra Soul

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Blurb:  Ayla thinks she’s just a comic-book geek with photophobia living in boring Colorado Springs until the day a space fold forms in her living room. When her father drags Ayla through to the other side, she discovers an alien world. Her birthplace. Karanik.

Everything should be great for Ayla, but it’s not. The boy who has been crushing on Ayla all summer was pulled through to Karanik too. Her long-lost sister thinks Ayla’s some sort of messiah. Her grandmother wants to shape Ayla into a ruthless leader and Earth is under attack.

It’s up to Ayla to stop millions of invincible alien creatures before they devour the souls of everyone on Earth.

This book, ya’ll. Just wow.

I was starting to think I’ve been ruined for books and was incapable of truly enjoying them anymore. So I didn’t have high expectations going into Terra Soul by S.J. Abraham. I definitely wasn’t expecting to love it. But I did and I’m so glad!!

The story is mostly from the perspective of Ayla  – a geeky teenager whose normal life is smashed to bits when she gets zapped to another planet. But at least she gets the benefit of some answers: why she and her family are so tall, can’t tolerate bright light, what happened to her mother when she died, and more. But poor Justin had finally worked up the courage to approach Ayla – he was hoping for a date, not to be whisked across the galaxy. Neither of them were planning to be caught up in political machinations or a war against vicious souleaters. They definitely weren’t expecting to become Earth’s only hope.

I loved the tone of this book. It was tense and serious but also snarky and funny. I felt there whether the characters were at the comic store in the mall or underground on a foreign planet. The idea of a moon-like “well of souls” and soul items that reveal the shape of ones soul – objects that represent who you are. (It’s such a beautiful, cool concept that I can’t explain well without spoiling.) The book felt like contemporary fantasy not science fiction. Not once did I question any of the characters’ actions, emotions, motives – every aspect was handled perfectly. And I loved the moral and ethical dilemmas Ayla faced – they weren’t easy and there were times she messed up as she struggled over what kind of leader she wants to be. (The whole do-the-end-justify-the-means debate…) Oh – and anyone who knows me knows my obsession with culture. The Karani – they were not necessarily likeable but they had a rich culture that was fascinating.

The only flaw for me – there was occasional swearing denoted as swear symbols (#$@&%*!). I don’t have a problem with characters swearing though I prefer the less severe words and it certainly fit the situations. But since the words weren’t actually shown, inevitably my brain always tried to plug a real word into those spots (and sadly, my instinct often went to the words I’d rather not be thinking). It was the only time the dialogue tripped me up.

I liked the ending, too. Not all done up in a bow but plenty of closure with the door wide open for a sequel. And I want it now!!!!!  (I really, really hope there are plans for one.) Also, I think Terra Soul would translate fantastically to film. Hint hint movie/tv people!!  (Btw, Terra Soul is also a finalist for Realm Makers’ Debut Novel of the Year!)

What was the last book that really floated your boat?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Legacy Rewound

LWBlurb: Magic and mystery entwine… hidden in the web of time.

Melinda knew Kalek’s music created powerful visions, but it wasn’t supposed to actually send her into the past!

It definitely wasn’t supposed to bring someone back to the present with her. Especially not someone tied so tightly to Melinda’s own past, someone to prove, once again, that her family ancestry was made up of psychopaths who should never have existed.

Now it’s her chance to change her lineage–and history–forever.

Legacy Rewound is the third and final volume of the Toch Island Chronicles by Kat Hechenbach. It picks up immediately after Seeking Unseen and again is told primarily from the perspective of Melinda though Angel still has several chapters written from her perspective. (Though I didn’t really see how they were necessary or added anything that couldn’t have just been done from the Melinda’s point of view.)

The blurb pretty much tells the premise – the combination of Melinda and Kalek’s talent results in inadvertently sending her to the past and accidentally bringing someone back with her. Melinda and her friends have to find this person and set things right the damage to the timeline is irrevocable. The time-travel was interesting – one of those “she was always supposed to have been there” situations but then Melinda did things in the past for no reason other than she knew it was supposed to be that way in the future which frustrated me. I prefer when things happen in the past and that explains why things are in the future, not when they are deliberately done because that’s how it’s supposed to be someday…

I’m also a little confused about some of the core issues in the story – supposedly humans always had magic but forgot it, but then an elf seemed to be giving it to the humans and I wasn’t sure if he was the one responsible for humans having magic or just rediscovering it? But only some humans have it, right? He also seemed like he was supposed to be a Christ-like figure but I wasn’t sure why he was so special? And throughout the story there was an emphasis that we are all special, even as ordinary humans, but then at the end of the book I felt like that message was diluted by certain discoveries.

The romance was much better this time – still a little instalove but I finally got the pairing I’d been looking forward to. 😉 And one of the questions I had from Seeking Unseen was addressed so that was a pleasant surprise. All in all, this was a nice wrap-up to the series.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Darkened Hope

DHBlurb: The Secret Keeper is on the run, but does she know the secret she keeps? 

Ayianna is a cursed half-elf betrothed to Desmond, but her heart belongs Kael. After discovering the cure for the Sorceress’s curse, she and her companions embark on a dangerous quest to retrieve the ingredients. 

When dragons descend upon their party, Ayianna realizes the Sorceress is searching not just for the corrupted dagger, but a human sacrifice that will open a portal to the underworld. Battling deadly creatures and natural disasters, Ayianna is forced to confront her insecurities and conflicted heart. She must decide whether to be true to her family or true to herself. 

As the nations rally for war, betrayal threatens to destroy them all, and it’s a race against time to return before the curse destroys the plains people.

Darkened Hope is book 2 in the Hidden Dagger series by J.L. Mwebe. I read it just as quickly as I did the first volume and I liked it more. The story picks up immediately after the first volume as our heroine and her companions continue their quest. The world is huge and fascinating. The races and creatures are interesting and obviously deeply understood by the author though I found the amount of them overwhelming and sometimes difficult to keep straight. Past events were referenced a lot but not very explained so it was sometimes confusing (and I read part one 6 months ago so you’d think it’d be slightly less confusing, for me at least). After finishing, I’m still not clear when or how certain events happened. But I was so wrapped up in the story I didn’t really care.

There was a lot of introspection but actions didn’t always correlate so I found Alya and Kael frustrating to understand. They’d decide one thing and then do something else and then change their minds just as quickly. But it was two steps forward, one step back so I was happy that things progressed at least. And I was much happier with the romance this time around – there may have been a happy squee or two. 😉

My personal opinion is there is a great story here but I still feel it would only improve with a bit more refining. I am really looking forward to reading the last one when it comes out.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I won a copy of this book in a giveaway. I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Blurb: A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.

A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

I’d seen Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Tiggs around but wasn’t intrigued enough to go out of my way to read it. But someone from work had read it, loved it and happily plopped their copy on my desk with an enthusiastic, “you have to read it and let me know what you think!”  So I did. And I have mixed thoughts about it.

Mostly – it’s a very odd book. If I liked it more, I’d joke that it was peculiar. 😉 The idea of peculiar children (think X-Men mutants but weirder) hiding the way they are was unique. And the reason they are hiding from the bad guys was different. The book started off interesting, then got very draggy, and then got very interesting again. I was mildly hooked by the excitement at the end and was debating reading the next in the series. But the more time that passes, the more I feel this book was mediocre and really not worth the attention it is getting. The story was missing something critical. And I think that “something” is mainly because the book, and entire series, is based on the gimmick of the photos.

See, it’s very obvious that Riggs loves collecting old, odd photographs. And it’s equally obvious most of the book was written around and to include said photographs. I read the first part of the book quite happily – it was a little creepy but intriguing and I was curious to learn more. And then the photos started showing up, wedged in as part of his grandfather’s journal. And I hated them. Everything was already visualized in my head and, honestly, I was picturing everyone more anime-style than anything so the photos yanked me out of the world.  And there were so many elements in the story that felt included merely to show a photo. It was heavy-handed and left me with a bad taste. I very quickly got to the point where I would skip the photos but that didn’t fix the problem of the story pausing while Jacob would browse through or reminisce on journals and photo albums.

I also thought many of the characters were one-dimensional and the romance was not only fast but a little icky. And, unfortunately, the entire book ends up being a very long set-up with not really much happening until the very end where it ends on a cliff-hanger. Honestly, I think the book could be pared down to a few chapters – it’s really only the beginning of the story and almost nothing happens to actually move the story along. (It’d be like reading The Fellowship of the Ring only the book ends with the hobbits in Bree and you’ve spent 300 pages getting there.)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

The Flaming Sword

Blurb: Sadie Larcen and her family are slowly recovering from their life-altering trek to the Tethered World. That is until their aunt arrives clutching a mysterious letter and sporting a black eye. The letter that Aunt Jules shares with the family writhes with sinister implications. A new and menacing enemy has slunk from the shadows and is conspiring to seize the most powerful piece of weaponry in the land: The Flaming Sword of Cherubythe. The sword must—at all costs—be kept from the enemies who lust for its power.

The threat extends to Sadie’s autistic brother Brock. As High King in training, he now resides in the Tethered World, within close proximity to the sword. It’s apparent that drastic measures will be required by all in order to protect what’s most important. Can Sadie once again confront her disabling fear, stare evil in the face, and walk away whole—let alone alive? How can one teenage girl and her family save a sword with the potential to start a world war? Will lines be crossed even as Sadie’s faith is tested? Sadie knows it’s going to take a lot more than strength, grit, and courage to survive.

I enjoyed The Tethered World quite a bit so I jumped at the chance to read the ARC of The Flaming Sword (The Tethered World Chronicles #2 by Heather L.L. FitzGerald). And I managed to inhale it in two sittings, too. 😉  The story picks up almost immediately after the last one ended and while there is some recapping to refresh readers memories, it has a good balance for those who need it and those who don’t. This time we get two point-of-views and I especially enjoyed learning more about Sadie’s brother Brady. It’s always fun watching a character grow and mature and he’s a very likable character. You may remember I thought the first book leaned a little more toward MG than YA – well, I didn’t have that feeling with this one. It is just a touch more serious, a touch more mature. The romance is still mild but highly enjoyable.

Oh – I don’t remember noticing in The Tethered World (because it’s stated simply and not emphasized) but there’s a lot of ethnic diversity among the gnomes and Nephilim – it’s a nice element that makes the world-building fuller and I expect many readers appreciate. If there was one thing that slightly bothered me, it was at times I felt like the travels were repetitive – mainly because Sadie and Brady’s separate adventures covered the same ground, just at different times. We also learn some Larcen family history and, while the story wraps up neatly, there are several questions raised that I am hoping will be answered in the finale due out in 2017. I can’t wait!

Do you notice when there is ethnic diversity in books?

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy by the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.