The Genesis Tree

 

genesisBlurb: She took down the Nephilim queen—but can she and her brother save the kingdom?

Sadie Larcen may have defeated the traitorous Queen Estancia, but she’s quite happy to be home with her family. Unfortunately, their fiendish neighbor, Mr. Marshall, is still up to no good. He’s called a press conference with plans to introduce the world to a living, breathing Bigfoot.

As a Sasquatch expert, Sadie’s mother Amy is coerced into lending her expertise to the spectacle. When Sadie and her brother Brady spy nefarious, uninvited guests at the gathering, they know there’s trouble brewing in the Tethered World. The two are driven into separate, dangerous exploits as they are thrust back into the schemes of the forces of darkness. Schemes that include using their autistic brother Brock as leverage to seize control of the Flaming Sword and the Tree of Life. The Gargoyles and Trolls have an ambition that extends beyond dominating these powerful elements. They’ve set their sights on the Topside realm—with or without the help of Mr. Marshall.

Deception is rampant, the enemy is subtle, and love dares to tug at Sadie’s heart amid the turmoil below. Once again, she and Brady will cling to God’s faithfulness as they fight for the people and creatures they care for, and against the enemies they fear.

Will the cost be more than they can endure?

It’s time to say good-bye to the Tethered World Chronicles… and I don’t wanna! 😦 The Genesis Tree by Heather LL FitzGerald is the last of the trilogy (previously reviewed and raved about here) and it was everything I’ve come to expect and enjoy plus more.

Mythical creatures come to life – check.
Adventures to a secret underground world – check.
Loathsome villains – check.
Unexpected events that leave me incoherent – double check!

Also I learned about some really interesting stuff I’d never heard of before – the Shanghai tunnels aka Catacombs of Portland, OR. (Which led to me learning about the Seattle Underground too. Fascinating history.)

Sadie and her brother Brady have grown up so much over the course of their adventures. It was a joy to see their courage and faith being lived out – especially as Sadie had been so reluctantly drawn into these adventures in the other books. And the romance – I waited patiently through the last two books and the payoff was worth it!

All together, this was a beautiful send-off to the series and I’m secretly hoping for a spin-off someday. If this review seems brief compared to my usual ramblings, it’s only because I’m afraid of saying too much for fear of spoiling the story. I highly recommend these books and I’m going to do what I can to get them in my daughter’s school library.

How do you feel about series finales?

HisAsking   Choices

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.

 

Doon

Doon

Blurb: Veronica doesn’t think she’s going crazy. But why can’t anyone else see the mysterious blond boy who keeps popping up wherever she goes?​

When her best friend, Mackenna, invites her to spend the summer in Scotland, Veronica jumps at the opportunity to leave her complicated life behind for a few months. But the Scottish countryside holds other plans. Not only has the imaginary kilted boy followed her to Alloway, she and Mackenna uncover a strange set of rings and a very unnerving letter from Mackenna’s great aunt—and when the girls test the instructions Aunt Gracie left behind, they find themselves transported to a land that defies explanation.

Doon seems like a real-life fairy tale, complete with one prince who has eyes for Mackenna and another who looks suspiciously like the boy from Veronica’s daydreams. But Doon has a dark underbelly as well. The two girls could have everything they’ve longed for… or they could end up breaking an enchantment and find themselves trapped in a world that has become a nightmare.

I had high expectations for Doon by Carey Corp & Lorie Langdon. It’s been on my radar a long time due to that gorgeous cover plus it’s inspired by the old musical Brigadoon, which I’ve always had mixed feelings about. Not to mention several of my online friends have given it good reviews. So I was excited to finally get my hands on this book and be swept away on a romantic adventure to ancient Scotland.

Only – not so much.

The book started off interesting with Veronica having visions, jetting off to Scotland with Mackenna, discovering mysterious items relating to Doon – a land that shouldn’t exist. I couldn’t wait until they managed to cross over. I also thought the details about Doon’s disappearing were much better that in the musical – time still passes while Doon is hidden, just slower, rather than a hundred years passing while they sleep. I liked that much better than the original concept – something about being locked in time, hundreds of years passing by, has always felt more like a nightmare than a miracle to me. The reasons behind Doon being hidden were better too, but I still wondered what made it so special that a witch would be obsessed with the place. The girls were often snarky and there were some hilarious references that made me laugh, especially with the friendship between the girls. There was a lot to like about the book.

However…

Doon’s occasional contact with the outside world ended up being rather bizarre. They had it down to a science – spending the big day reading up on all the advances in technology and rushing back to implement what they could. (Yay for flushing toilets in ancient Scotland! Isn’t that convenient for our two girlies?) And God randomly “Calling” people from all over the planet to come to Doon so they can have pizza and sushi? (I’m sorry but I just… I wanted to experience Scotland and instead they hung out with Italian restaurateurs!)

The magic-curse/evil-witch part just didn’t flow right somehow. Maybe because while I heard about it constantly, there were no real, obvious indications of it until suddenly at the very end. I kept feeling like they were jumping to conclusions and overreacting based on little to no information. Worst was the one time there really was an obvious sign but it happened off-scene and we were told about it much later. That would have been a powerful, downright creepy moment that would have really enhanced the story and I was flabbergasted it was not shown. I had issues with the big climactic ending too – I tend to get annoyed when I feel like a story goes all “girl power” for no reason – and some of the magic battling made me laugh which I doubt was the desired effect during the tense showdown. I also had a hard time telling the girls apart – their voices were the same and I couldn’t keep track of who was who and whose perspective I was currently reading.

But none of the above would have mattered – I can overlook a lot – if the romance had been decent. Firstly, Jamie acted like an extremely angry jerk for 90% of the book which I didn’t understand – for a people that place so much stock in soulmates, he sure didn’t seem to behave that way. Meanwhile Veronica just drowned in teen angst over the soulmate part. I’m all for two people being perfect for each other but I need to see the reasons why, not just have them be instantly, desperately, in love for no reason whatsoever other than they just have to be. There was a lot of told chemistry, physical tension and eventual kissing but I didn’t feel any of it because there was no groundwork laid to get us there.

(On a side note, there was a lot of fuss made about Veronica’s father disappearing when she was younger. On her birthday. Which had scarred her for life. I can see where some of that was to explain her character – but the fact he “abandoned” her on her birthday just made me extremely suspicious and I kept waiting for him to turn up for some magical, mystical reason. Except he never did. Maybe I’ve just seen the Alice miniseries one too many times but I was irritated at the “gun on the wall” that never got used. It’s the only thing about the sequels I am curious about. But not that curious.)

How do you feel about false “guns”?

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 First Principal

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In the not-too-distant future, the United Regions of America has formed. Governors hold territories instead of states, and while Washington, DC, is gone, the government has more control than ever before. For fifteen-year-old Vivica Wilkins, the daughter of a governor, this is life as usual. High school seems pretty much the same–until one day, that controlling power steps right through the door during study hall.

When Vivica speaks out to defend her pregnant friend against the harsh treatment of Population Management Officer Marina Ward, she has no idea she’s sowing the seeds of a revolution in her own life. But it isn’t long before she discovers her own illegal pregnancy. Now she has to decide whether to get the mandatory abortion–or follow her heart, try to keep the baby, and possibly ruin her mother’s chances at becoming president.

A rebel group called the Emancipation Warriors, who are fighting to restore freedoms once held unalienable, offer her asylum. Can Vivica trust these rebels to help her or will they bring everything crashing down around her? Accepting their help may come with consequences she isn’t ready to face.

After my review of The Liberation, I felt compelled to check out The First Principal by Marissa Schrock, especially since I​ already owned the ebook anyway. And I have to say, I liked this one quite a bit more. I finally got an answer to the age question of that one character (he’s 21 when she’s 17) and I found the ​majority of the book much more believable​.

The blurb explains the story well – Vivica is already questioning the laws against teenage pregnancy when she discovers she herself is pregnant and has to make a choice. At the same time, some political machinations are occurring, both ​in regards to the rebel group and with her mother’s bid for the presidency. The adventure Vivica finds herself on was tense, nail-biting and fairly believable for a 17-year-old teen. There was more detail and description – I really enjoyed the book.

I still had some minor qualms. For one, 21 is a bit young for me to really buy someone as such a high-level Emancipation Warrior. Also I’d been feeling guilty for how unbelievable I found book #2 compared to book #1 and then the big climactic ending happened and made me lol. I may have never felt a single labor pain prior to my emergency c-section but I know childbirth is rarely quite the way it went in the book. (And I say that while having a friend who has literally given birth so quickly that the paramedics barely made it to the house in time for her third child.)

But those were minor and altogether I found The First Principal a stronger book than the sequel and I definitely think teen girls would like it.

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.

Whispers in the Dark

whispersBlurb: She’s a preschool teacher. He’s kind of a zombie. It would never work… 

Karen teaches post-apocalypse preschool, safe inside city walls. She never intended to get caught outside.

Leo is technically alive, but perpetually zoned out: Mindless. He can see emotions as colors now, though, so at least there’s that. Like the other Mindless, he feeds on the emotional energy of humans. Then he meets Karen – her unique energy jolts him partly awake, and he’s hooked. He protects her but when she’s rescued, he lands in a cage.

Karen wants to go home, but until then, she also wants to spy on her sketchy host, which brings her into contact with Leo. He’s recovering, and surprisingly sweet, and he’ll protect her in any way he can. She returns the favor, but this alliance can’t last; she’s leaving, and he’ll be killed for science.

Leo doesn’t expect her to even talk to him, much less help him. But that emotion she has when she looks at him? He doesn’t know what to call it, but it’s not fear.

Karen can go back to her life – if she abandons Leo. She can’t stay with him, she can’t take him home… but without her, he’s dead.

He saved her. Can she save him?

I haven’t read or seen Warm Bodies but Whispers In The Dark by Pam Jernigan is how I imagine it would be like – if the zombies weren’t quite zombies and the worldview were a little more Christian.

The story takes place post-zombie-apocalypse. The world has been overrun by Mindless – people infected by an unknown source who become emotionless, speechless, mindless automatons that kill anything that crosses their paths.  The uninfected live in small cities, barricaded away from the Mindless and attempting to salvage what they can of life in a cage and a shattered global infrastructure.

This is the world Karen lives in and has known for half her life. She and her peers remember life from before and they aren’t quite ready to give up trying to find a cure. So they venture outside and she ends up injured and given up for dead.

Only for some reason the first Mindless that finds her doesn’t kill her. He protects her – and talks to her – instead. But before she has a chance to figure out what’s going on, she gets rescued and taken to an unauthorized, militant research camp. Along with the group of Mindless she was with – including Leo. There she learns more about the Mindless than she’d ever expected – and about the evil lengths that some people will go to.

I was a little nervous going into this book for two reasons. The first – the not-quite-zombies premise. Well, thankfully, that part wasn’t bad at all – yes, a few people are killed by the Mindless but it’s always off-screen and undetailed. And they definitely aren’t being eaten so there’s none of that “braaaiiinnss” grossness. The second reason was the “sketchy host”/research camp bit. Despite the fact I enjoyed the Poisoner’s handbook previously, I really don’t like a lot of detail, or even the idea of, morgue-like laboratories and the like. But again, this was handled very well – no details, nothing gruesome – just a hint to make you nervous but nothing to make you squeamish. Perfectly done there.

The book is primarily a romance so I was very curious to see how that was going to be handled – and it was pretty well done again. Not perfect – there were several little things that I avoided looking at too closely (like – did he smell or do Mindless not have BO? Cause I doubt they do much bathing…).  But Leo was sweet and Karen was cool and I enjoyed their dynamic together.

I also loved the idea that Leo and the other Mindless see and feed off emotions. You know how hanging out with your friends can help you recharge when you’ve had a bad day? Well they literally absorb the feelings of those around them. It was a cool idea and it helped me accept the reasons behind Leo slowly becoming not-so-mindless anymore. God’s presence throughout everything was lightly woven in.

All in all, this was 100% my kind of “zombie” book and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for romance with a speculative twist!

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.

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.