Replication: The Jason Experiment

Blurb:  What if everything you knew was a lie? Martyr—otherwise known as Jason 3:3—is one of hundreds of clones kept in a remote facility called Jason Farms. Told that he has been created to save humanity, Martyr has just one wish before he is scheduled to ‘expire’ in less than a month. To see the sky.

Abby Goyer may have just moved to Alaska, but she has a feeling something strange is going on at the farm where her father works. But even this smart, confident girl could never have imagined what lies beneath a simple barn. Or what would happen when a mysterious boy shows up at her door, asking about the stars.

As the reality of the Jason Experiment comes to light, Martyr is caught between two futures—the one for which he was produced and the one Abby believes God created him to have. Time is running out, and Martyr must decide if a life with Abby is worth leaving everything he’s ever known.

Replication: The Jason Experiment is the second book I have read by Jill Williamson and it confirmed for me that she is one of those authors I will read automatically.

For a book with such heavy topics, it handled everything with a light touch, keeping matters in the upper MG/lower YA range. I was on the edge of my seat the entire book – I may have read it in entirely one sitting – though there was also plenty of humor to keep it from getting too overwhelming. It was one of those books where I had to cheat (Yes, I did! I’m horrible!) and read the last page, because I was so anxious for the characters.

Abby’s faith was very central – the preaching to Martyr made sense but it also felt very heavy-handed a couple of times. There’s also a chaste romance (light kissing), some of it downright swoony, though I did have some qualms about Martyr and Abby considering she was the first girl he’d ever even met.

If I had any complaint about the book, it was that the ending was a little too fast and neat and the entire story was a tad simplistic. But that’s what makes it an MG/YA book, not one aimed at adults. If there is a sequel, I hope it explores Martyr’s faith as he matures since it was innocent as a small child’s (he needs to make his faith his own) and also the nuance of his relationship with Abby as he gets to know other girls and realizes he has choices, not just one option.

Do you ever cheat when reading?

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 Night Circus

Blurb: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

This book. Personally, it’s going on the shelf where I keep iconic, classic must-reads. I didn’t like the book but I loved the book. Does that makes sense? The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is pure artistry – I knew within pages that it was something different and special and a bit other.

As for my review… Firstly, the format of the book is unique as there are 3 different time-lines. One is present day and based on the reader’s perception. This timeline is basically poetic interludes throughout the story. The other two timelines are told alternating between chapters, though the older timeline has much more focus until they converge at the end. It’s a unique format but a good choice as it allows for the addition of a character at the end would have been jarring if the stories hadn’t been told concurrently.

The mythos is fascinating and eerie. Many of the characters are not the most loveable but they are (mostly) all sympathetic and likeable. Most interestingly, I thought the ending came full-circle in many ways, with characters having grown and yet taking certain similar steps anyway. (I know that’s vague but I really can’t be clearer without spoiling.)

What makes a book artistry to you?

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.

Seeking Unseen

Blurb: It may be Angel’s wish… 

…but it’s Melinda’s journey.

It’s been two years since Angel learned the magic chip of wood inside her locket would grant any wish. What is taking her so long to choose?

An alarming discovery about her beloved foster brother Zack makes the decision easy…but everything else gets complicated after she runs into her old friend Melinda, who demands to go along for the return to Toch Island.

Melinda doesn’t fit in with the magical freaks any more than she did with the losers back in Florida, but she never wanted to belong before. A secret world surrounds her where even the bugs have magic…

She’s more of an outsider than ever.

So when ex-con Doran Ashe slinks out of the shadows and offers her an easy road to powers of her own, Melinda follows him despite – or maybe because of -everyone’s warnings.

I liked Seeking Unseen (Toch Island Chronicles #2) by Kat Heckenbach better than the first volume but I also had a few more issues with it. Perhaps I should have known from the blurb but it seemed like Angel was the main character for the first part of the book and then Melinda became the main character for the latter which is an unusual format. Angel’s wish had all this build-up and then just happened so smoothly and quickly I never realized she’d actually made the wish – I spent most of the book wondering why everyone had forgotten about the wish only to realize at the end it had already been done.  The book is definitely YA instead of MG, with older characters and boy/girl relationships a large part of the plot, but I spent half of the book feeling cheated in the romance department. There’d been hints of a particular pairing in Finding Angel and not only were those squashed but a new insta-love was introduced instead. A large aspect of my enjoyment of YA is the romance and there really wasn’t any in Seeking Unseen despite all the dating. Angel and her beau were pretty much instant-perfect (and a little too lovey-dovey with the parents around) from my perspective.

But I loved Melinda and I sympathized with her feelings, her actions and so on. I was rooting for her nonstop, even while she made bad choices, because I wanted her to find happiness. Unlike Finding Angel, I figured out the ending very early on but could understand why it took the characters the time it did to figure things out.  And Seeking Unseen ended with similar hints at romantic possibilities for her future that I am hoping will be followed up on in the newly released finale.

How do you feel about hints of future romance?

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.

Finding Angel

Blurb:  Angel doesn’t remember her magical heritage…but it remembers her.

Magic and science collide when she embarks on a journey to her true home, and to herself. 

Angel lives with a loving foster family, but dreams of a land that exists only in the pages of a fantasy novel. Until she meets Gregor, whose magic Talent saves her life and revives lost memories.

She follows Gregor to her homeland…a world unlike any she has imagined, where she travels a path of self-discovery that leads directly to her role in an ancient Prophecy…and to the madman who set her fate in motion.

Finding Angel (Toch Island Chronicles #1) by Kat Heckenbach imagines a world where magic not only exists alongside us (though hidden) but is based on realistic scientific principles.

It’s hard to say a lot about the book without spoilers but I’ll give it my best shot. The blurb says a lot of it – Angel lives with a foster family and is very close to her youngest “brother.” She has no memory from before she was found wandering alone and placed in foster care. And then one day she meets a mysterious guy named Gregor and shortly after, she’s whisked off to the homeland she had forgotten. There she is busy trying to remember the events that led to her initial disappearance, waiting for her parents to return (from searching for her) and learning all about this world she was born into. Add rocker Elves, dragons (dog-sized pets!), and an evil man bent on acquiring magic through whatever means necessary and you get a unique adventure.

I will say the story slows in the middle while Angel is “finding” herself. But the slowness fit with the events and I was enjoying exploring the world and didn’t really notice it. There is reference to some animal cruelty which might disturb some – I’m fairly sensitive and it danced just on the safe side for me so most readers probably won’t find it an issue. Romance is very low key – there’s a bit with some side characters but only hints at future possibilities with Angel. The climactic ending was well done and kept me guessing up to the last minute. And faith is implied but never spelled out – it’s more in the world-view of the characters than any overt mentions. I’d qualify the book as more MG than YA. Best of all, the sequel picks up pretty quickly after the events in the first volume.

How would you feel if magical talents really existed?

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.

Mardan’s Mark

And the last of the book club is here! (Because I reviewed Glass Girl long ago.)

Blurb: Abducted by pirates and taken behind enemy lines across the Great Gulf, Princess Srilani is determined to save her sisters and younger brother, the crown prince, from captivity.

She convinces their caretaker, Aldan, and his brother slaves to share the perilous journey home. This ragtag group of unlikely heroes sets out on a quest — pursued by cutthroat pirates, merciless priests, and marauding soldiers — to return the heir to his kingdom before war breaks out.

I really enjoyed Mardan’s Mark (Mardan’s Mark #1) by Kathrese McKee. What’s funny is I got so sucked into the story that I didn’t notice the similarities with By Darkness Hid until I was nearly done with the book. It’s a great example of two stories with similar premises yet totally different execution. And I loved how it wrapped up – with one part complete so you get that sense of satisfaction, even though there’s more story to go. (Which I am very much looking forward to reading.)

There are quite a few characters in the group and I loved them all, though Aldan had a slight lead over anyone else. The only confusion I had (and this was my fault because I have this aversion to flipping back in an ebook for some reason) was I wasn’t sure which characters were killed during the beginning kidnapping which made me misunderstand something later in the story.

For a fantasy, I didn’t miss the magical component and didn’t even notice its absence until it was pointed out to me. Having a very spiritual element probably contributed to that. I also really liked the unique world-building and it contained the perfect level of YA romance along with the adventure. (Although speaking of, with a kingdom so dependent on El, I found their stringent purity-of-lineage rules rather extreme. If they really have to go that far, why not do like the Old Testament –  making the suspected person drink bitter water or some such and let El  judge?)

Do you expect magic in fantasy?

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 Wishing Pearl

Almost through with the book club reviews! Only one more after this. 🙂

Blurb: Sixteen-year-old Olivia Mansfield dreams of a land far, far away. . .
A land far away from her stepfather’s abuse and torment.
A land far away from her mother’s blind eye.
A land far away from the haunting memories of her past.

But then reality sets in, and Olivia knows she must make the best of her dire situation—at least until her high-school graduation. But when poor choices lead Olivia to the brink of a complete breakdown and she finds herself dealing with the unexpected death of her best friend, she comes to a crossroads.

Will Olivia find the path to ultimate hope and healing that her heart longs for? Or will the demons from her past prove too much to bear? 

I liked The Wishing Pearl (Diamond Estates #1) by Nicole O’Dell (ebook free on Amazon, btw). The way it portrayed the abuse was exactly how I can handle it – implied but off-screen and vaguely. I also thought it did a fantastic job showing how a series of choices can lead you deeper and deeper until you look back and wonder, “How did I end up here?”

The first half felt long to me because I was looking forward to Olivia getting to Diamond Estates (and for the mild romance to start). I loved Diamond Estates – it’s the kind of place I wish my husband could find to work at. It was so similar to the facilities he has worked at but with the added benefit of being Christian. (Though I know enough about his job to find a few Diamond Estates policies less than credible.) I did think the end dragged a bit – once everything was all out in the open the book started to feel like a very long wrap-up. And I got a little frustrated at Olivia wanting to sneak a smoke all the time. It didn’t help that my ebook didn’t have any spacing/**/indicators for scene cuts. So there’d be time-jumps between paragraphs and it would take me a minute to figure out time had passed and I was always confused. Date stamps would have helped a lot. (This is probably why it bothered me when someone’s boyfriend signed “I love you” at the end – so far as I was concerned, it felt like they’d only been dating a week!)

My one main beef with the book was that the ending was too neat & easy. For a book focused on real problems with troubled youth, it was unrealistic for resolution to be so tidy.  But I liked the characters, I enjoyed the setting – it was a good YA and an interesting premise. I’ll probably read the next in the series eventually.

What kind of resolution do you like in books?

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.

It Had to Be You

Blurb: Eden Christiansen never imagined her role as her younger brother Owen’s cheerleader would keep her on the sidelines of her own life. Sure, it feels good to be needed, but looking after the reckless NHL rookie leaves little time for Eden to focus on her own career. She dreamed of making a name for herself as a reporter, but is stuck writing obits―and starting to fear she doesn’t have the chops to land a major story. If only someone would step up to mentor Owen . . . but she knows better than to expect help from team veteran and bad-boy enforcer Jace Jacobsen.

Jace has built his career on the infamous reputation of his aggressive behavior―on and off the ice. Now at a crossroads about his future in hockey, that reputation has him trapped. And the guilt-trip he’s getting from Eden Christiansen isn’t making things any easier. But when Owen’s carelessness leads to a career-threatening injury and Eden stumbles upon a story that could be her big break, she and Jace are thrown together . . . and begin to wonder if they belong on the same team after all. 

It Had to Be You by Susan May Warren is book two in the Christiansen family series. Since I wanted to like the first one so much, I had to give book two a shot. (I can never decide if it’s the book or the author just isn’t my cup of tea until I read at least two books, sometimes more if I really wanted to like them.)  This was also  another story featuring a star hockey player. I’m really not into sports but this is the one sport I do have a vague fanship for so I enjoyed that aspect. Especially as it addresses the serious physical danger hockey and football players face, which is the reason I have qualms with liking the sport.

While not as overwhelmingly serious as the first book, it was still a heavy story – not a light and fluffy romantic read, that’s for sure. I liked Jace and Eden a lot. There were times I got frustrated with Eden as she judged him based off her initial impression and then was constantly jumping to conclusions over everything he did. I found Jace a very sympathetic character so it was hard seeing her judge him so harshly (though, of course, I had the advantage of reading his POV while she didn’t. 😉 ) There was also a heart-wrenching side-story involving a young girl in desperate need of a transplant.

The book also included a novella, I Really Do Miss Your Smile, about the Christiansen parents. When it came to the romance, I liked it better than the main books since it was cuter and fluffier. But I thought it suffered from the drawbacks I usually find in novellas – not enough character development and a bit of insta-love. But that’s definitely personal taste – I rarely care for novellas but many people love them.

Over all, I’d say it’s an excellent series, just a bit too heavy for my tastes.  Are there sports you especially like/dislike to read?

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.