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I Belong

Review: Unplugged by Donna Freitas

August 19th, 2017 Tara Posted in Review Comments Off on Review: Unplugged by Donna Freitas

Title: Unplugged

Author: Donna Freitas

Genre: YA Science Fiction

Series: The Wired (Book #1)

Publication Date: June 21, 2016

Format: Hardcover, 427 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062118609 (HarperTeen)

ISBN-13: 978-0062118608 (HarperTeen)

Reviewed by: Tara

Synopsis:

Humanity is split into the App World and the Real World—an extravagant virtual world for the wealthy and a dying physical world for the poor. Years ago, Skylar Cruz’s family sent her to the App World for a chance at a better life.

Now Skye is a nobody, a virtual sixteen-year-old girl without any glamorous effects or expensive downloads to make her stand out in the App World. Yet none of that matters to Skye. All she wants is a chance to unplug and see her mother and sister again.

But when the borders between worlds suddenly close, Skye loses that chance. Desperate to reach her family, Skye risks everything to get back to the physical world. Once she arrives, however, she discovers a much larger, darker reality than the one she remembers.

Quick & Dirty: An intriguing dystopian science fiction novel that explores what could happen if humans discover a way to live entirely in a virtual world.

Opening Sentence: I’ll never forget the day the news rang through the App World.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Unplugged was an interesting dystopian science fiction novel that explored a  world where the citizens could either live entirely in a virtual world or pick the real one. The story begins with an announcement that the borders between the two worlds are now closed, trapping everyone in the world they’re currently in. This book has some strong social commentary regarding our increasing reliance on electronic devices, which definitely made me think.

Skye was definitely an interesting character. It was hard for me to like her at first but once the story switched to the real world, I was really able to connect with her. I liked that her ultimate goal was to see/save her family and that she stayed focused on that goal the entire time. However, I didn’t really get the idea that she thought her actions through or considered the consequences. I wish she had approached everything more using her head instead of her heart.

The world was somewhat well developed. I wish that there had been more information regarding the technology used to create and sustain the App World, mostly because it seemed as if a majority of individuals in the real world didn’t have any technical knowledge. The world really reminded me of the Matrix, but with the individual’s families serving as their caretakers. In the App World, Freitas created a voyueristic culture that was an eerily logical extension of our own social media culture. It was interesting to see how that affected characters and how they changed once they were in the real world.

Unplugged had excellent pacing, I was impressed by how engaged I remained throughout the whole book. There was just enough tension to keep me interested. There were some parts of the plot that didn’t quite make sense to me, such as why Skye had to become the face of the rebellion instead of Rain, but most of them weren’t huge.

This book was one that left me thinking long after I had finished it. Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of this one, I was intrigued enough by the premise and the plot to want to continue with the series.

Notable Scene:

“She sighed. “Aren’t you even a little relieved you’re off the hook? I mean, did you really want a whole year away from the Apps? From the constant entertainment of being a voyeur? The Keepers barely even have electricity! They, like, use the sun or something archaic like that.”

“Do you really think I care whether I can download a pair of long legs for a few hours or watch Lacy Mills’s every move if it means I’ll never see my mother and sister again?” I shrugged off Inara’s grip. “Without Service, I almost . . . I almost don’t feel like I have a future. I’ll never know what happened to my family.”

Inara’s hands returned to her sides. “Skye, you’re being melodramatic.”

“No, I’m not.” My voice filled the hall, sizzling with anger. The words sparked into the atmosphere like fireworks, then burned away. “Melodrama is exaggerated emotion. Do you really think I’m overreacting?” People were starting to stare. The skin on my hands was turning red. “My mother and sister might be dead!”

The Wired Series:

1. Unplugged

2. The Body Market

3. The Mind Virus (December 2017)

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FTC Advisory: HarperTeen provided me with a copy of Unplugged. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: The Marked Girl by Lindsey Klingele

August 18th, 2017 Tara Posted in Review Comments Off on Review: The Marked Girl by Lindsey Klingele

Title: The Marked Girl

Author: Lindsey Klingele

Genre: YA Fantasy

Series: Marked Girl (Book #1)

Publication Date: June 7, 2016

Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062380338 (HarperTeen)

ISBN-13: 978-0062380333 (HarperTeen)

Reviewed by: Tara

Synopsis:

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (Los Angeles)…

When Cedric, crowned prince of Caelum, and his fellow royal friends (including his betrothed, Kat) find themselves stranded in modern-day L.A. via a magical portal and an evil traitor named Malquin, all they want to do is get home to Caelum—soon. Then they meet Liv, a filmmaker foster girl who just wants to get out of the system and on with her life. As she and Cedric bond, they’ll discover that she’s more connected to his world than they ever could’ve imagined…and that finding home is no easy task…

Quick & Dirty: A relatively predictable yet fun young adult fantasy novel.

Opening Sentence: Light glinted off the side of the sword as it arced down in one perfect, sweeping motion.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

I was really looking forward to reading this novel, the premise made it sound like it would be an interesting blend of urban and high fantasy. To my disappointment, The Marked Girl wasn’t anything particularly special but it was an overall fun and quick read. If you’ve read a lot of fantasy novels, there’s a good chance that you’ve read a variation on this story.

The story begins with a quick sequence in Caelum before Cedric, the crown prince, Kat, his betrothed, and their royal friends must escape through a portal to another world, which just so happens to be Earth. They land in the middle of Liv’s school photo shoot. There’s an accidental switch of swords, which leads to another encounter between Cedirc and Liv. They band together as Cedric and his friends try to find their way back home and as Liv tries to figure out the mystery behind how she’s connected to Caelum. What happens next is a blend of chase scenes, a mystery, and some romance.

I liked the main characters, I thought they were pretty adorable as a whole. Liv and her best friend were my favorite characters. Cedric’s friends, even though they didn’t appear much, were pretty funny and I thought they served as a good counterbalance to Cedric’s seriousness. Although Cedric is very much the dreamy prince, he’s a kind of one-dimensional character who isn’t developed much beyond the prince persona. Also, there was a love triangle, which is one of the top tropes that I dislike. I really didn’t see the sparks between Cedric and Liv, I think that the book would have been much better if they had only been friends.

The plot itself was pretty predictable but still fun. The author had a nice mix of action scenes and quieter ones, where the main characters came to terms with everything that was happening. I called one of the main reveals long before it happened, which greatly diminished the suspense in the mystery for me. I think if the author had delved a bit deeper into exploring the characters and their backstories, it would have improved the plot. However, if you haven’t read a lot of fantasy novels, this one will probably be a lot more interesting. As it was, it was a quick, mostly enjoyable read for me.

The Marked Girl was an intriguing portal fantasy novel that ended up being kind of bland and generic. It was a fun and quick read though so if you’re a fan of the genre, definitely consider checking it out but don’t expect anything new or even anything that you haven’t seen many times before.

Notable Scene:

The boy shook his head, as if trying to clear it. “I did not steal the sword. You did.”

Liv pulled her arm free.

“I didn’t steal it. You left it behind. And I was just delivering it to the museum, where it probably belongs.”

“It is here?” The boy asked, his eyes lighting up in the darkness. “Where?”

Liv realized she wasn’t likely to get any satisfactory answers out of this strange boy. Talking to him was like trying to have a conversation with the staticky, disembodied voice that took orders at the Fatburger drive-through. Frustrating and near impossible. Now what she wanted most was to get out of this cold, dirty tunnel that she regretted walking into in the first place. And she certainly no longer cared what became of that stupid sword. It was officially time to bail.

“Tell you what,” Liv said, summoning courage. “I’ll tell you where the sword is if you tell me the fastest way out of here.

Marked Girl Series:

1. The Marked Girl

2. The Broken World

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FTC Advisory: HarperCollins provided me with a copy of The Marked Girl. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Skyborn by David Dalglish

August 17th, 2017 Tara Posted in Review Comments Off on Review: Skyborn by David Dalglish

Title: Skyborn

Author: David Dalglish

Genre: YA Fantasy

Series: Seraphim (Book #1)

Publication Date: November 17, 2015

Format: Paperback, 425 Pages

ISBN-10: 0316302686 (Orbit)

ISBN-13: 978-0316302685 (Orbit)

Reviewed by: Tara

Synopsis:

The first in an all new fantasy series from USA Todaybestseller, David Dalglish.
The last remnants of humanity live on six islands floating high above the Endless Ocean, fighting a brutal civil war in the skies. The Seraphim, elite soldiers trained for aerial combat, battle one another while wielding elements of ice, fire and lightning.

The lives of their parents claimed in combat, twins Kael and Breanna Skyborn enter the Seraphim Academy to follow in their footsteps. There they will learn to harness the elements as weapons and fight at break-neck speeds while soaring high above the waters. But they must learn quickly, for a nearby island has set its hungry eyes upon their home. When the invasion comes, the twins must don their wings and ready their blades to save those they love from annihilation.

Quick & Dirty: This was a seriously amazing world.

Opening Sentence: Breanna Skyborn sat at the edge of her world, watching the clouds drift beneath her dangling feet.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

I absolutely loved the premise of Skyborn and the beginning of the novel was so promising. However, I felt like the story and the characters needed to be developed more in order to make this a truly excellent novel. There was a lot of action, it was exciting, but it didn’t really stand out to me. That being said, this was a good book and I think it will appeal to many fantasy readers who enjoy more action-based books.

Breanna, or Bree, and Kael Skyborn lost their parents at an early age to the constant Seraphim battles between the six island nations. Despite witnessing their death, the twins are determined to follow in their parents’ footsteps and attend the Seraphim Academy. Once accepted, they train in the ways of the warriors, learning both physical and magical combat.

Bree was a feisty daredevil who had problems with authority and a strong affinity for fire magic. At times I was rooting for her and at other times I wanted to shake some sense into her. Kael was the quieter twin who worked hard and has a strong affinity for ice. Their sibling dynamic was cute and I liked how they balanced each other out. However, I wish both of them had been developed a little bit more beyond the obvious traits that correlated with their elements. As is, neither of them particularly stood out to me as a character but I also like them because of how familiar they felt.

The majority of the plot took place at the academy. I personally quite like boarding school stories so I enjoyed the descriptions of their training and watching the exercise the teachers put them through. There were a lot of info dumps that sometimes got a little bit too long though. This was somewhat balanced out by a surprising amount of action during this portion of the book so it kept my attention. A lot of this book was descriptive, describing characters going through the actions of doing something without necessarily focusing on why they did what they did or who the characters were. I personally prefer books where I can have an emotional investment in the story and the characters so that style of storytelling fell a little flat for me.

Even though I wasn’t able to really connect with the book, I appreciated the world-building. This was a seriously amazing world. From the mechanical wings that allowed them to fly to the tricky political situation between the islands to the magic itself, I loved it. I would visit this world in a heartbeat if I could (as long as I had a guarantee of safety). I think that future installments in this series will likely be better because there hopefully won’t be as many info-dumps necessary to set the stage.

Skyborn was an interesting series debut that definitely had potential. I am interested in continuing on with the series because of the plot and the world. The characters were slightly one-dimensional so I hope that they’ll be developed more fully in future installments. This would be a good read for high fantasy fans looking for some excellent world building and action scenes.

Notable Scene:

Laughing, Bree continued spiraling downward, looping the twisting waters, feeling the wet spray across her face, her long hair wildly flapping behind her like a cape. She danced through the fishermen, staying just outside their own steady upward spirals. Harder and harder she pushed at the toggle, willing herself faster, feeling more at home in that moment than she ever had staying at Aunt Bethy’s.

And then a fisherman flew in her path.

His back was to her, legs and net dangling as he lifted dozens of fish. He was returning to the docks, and with her rapid descent she was on a direct collision course. Panicking, she felt her mind blank, felt her body lock up. Deep in her stomach she knew it was the worst possible reaction, and as she careened toward the man she forced herself to do the only thing she could think of: she rolled. Shoulder over shoulder she twirled, ending her curved path about the Fount and sending her flying off and away. The roll gained her the few feet necessary to prevent herself from slamming into the fisherman, but her relief lasted only a split second, for as she tried to right herself, she found herself spinning. Head over feet she rolled, and it seemed every twist of her waist and pull of her shoulders was in vain.

She was falling.

Seraphim Series:

1. Skyborn

2. Fireborn

3. Shadowborn

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FTC Advisory: Orbit/Hachette Book Group provided me with a copy of Skyborn. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: The Operator by Kim Harrison

August 16th, 2017 Stephanie Posted in Review Comments Off on Review: The Operator by Kim Harrison

Title: The Operator

Author: Kim Harrison

Genre: Urban Fantasy/Science Fiction

Series: Peri Reed Chronicles (Book #2)

Publication Date: November 22, 2016

Format: Paperback, 468 Pages

ISBN-10: 1501149911 (Pocket/Simon & Schuster)

ISBN-13: 978-1501149917 (Pocket/Simon & Schuster)

Reviewed by: Stephanie

Synopsis:

On-the-run ex-agent Peri Reed returns bigger and bolder than ever in this second highly-anticipated installment in #1 New York Times bestselling author Kim Harrison’s new suspense trilogy, The Peri Reed Chronicles.

Peri Reed’s job eats her mind, but for a special task agent in hiding, forgetting the past can be a blessing.

Betrayed by the man she thought she loved and the agency who turned her into the very thing she fought against, Peri abandoned the wealth and privilege of Opti for anonymity riddled with memory gaps and self-doubt. But when a highly addictive drug promises to end her dependency on those who’d use her as a tool for their own success, she must choose to remain broken and vulnerable, or return to the above-the-law power and prestige she once left: strong but without will—for whoever holds her next fix, will hold her loyalty.

Yet even now as then, a love based on lies of omission might still save her life.

Quick & Dirty: Peri Reed is back in this much easier to understand second book in the Peri Reed Chronicles. Fast paced and fun, this one was hard to put down.

Opening Sentence: “Ah, ma’am?”

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

It’s been a year since Peri Reed managed to break free from Opti and the people who have been controlling her for years. She thought she had managed to escape everyone’s scrutiny, living a quiet life as a coffee shop owner. Then, it all goes to hell. Her former co-conspirators Silas and Allen both manage to find her, and then she finds out her corrupt former handler has found her as well. In his possession is a chemical that would make it possible for her to draft without an anchor, not needing someone to consolidate multiple timelines for her. She could be her own master. The downside? In order for the chemical to not drive her insane, she needs to also take a highly addictive drug. As much as she wants to live her own life, Peri knows the risk is too great. The stakes start to rise though, as does the body count, and Peri finds she may have no choice in the matter. Will she ever be free of her past, or will she have to run back to Opti?

I’ll start off by saying this book flowed much better than its predecessor. While I still felt a little bit of confusion initially due to the one-year time hop, it took no time at all to get acclimated to what was going on. The pace is faster here too, with many parts that made it hard to put the book down. I would say the one area where the book sometimes lagged would the sections from Bill’s point of view. Sometimes, I don’t mind having an insight as to the bad guy’s frame of mind, but with Bill, I just wasn’t interested. I kept wanting to go back to Peri. The majority of the book is in Peri’s point of view though, so these slow moments were few and far between.

As for Peri, it was much easier to connect to her this time around because there was no question as to whether or not she was corrupt this time around. Knowing her background made it much easier to connect to her as a character, and I really began to love her as the heroine.

On the negative side, the romance with Silas is falling a little flat for me at the moment. I love Silas. I think he’s great. But there is still a little bit of his and Peri’s past that hasn’t been revealed to the reader yet, and I think that’s what’s keeping me from fully investing in their relationship. Right now, it feels like they’re coming together because Peri feels she should, not necessarily that that’s what she wants now. She can’t remember their past, so all she has is her diary and Silas to form that connection. The romance doesn’t play a huge part in the book though, so in the end, it didn’t stop me from enjoying it. It was just something I noticed when it came up.

All in all, this book has me feeling much more positive about this series. It flowed quickly. I was very invested in what was going on. I even stayed up late to finish it. All of that shows me that Harrison has another quality series on her hands. I’m looking forward to the next one!

Notable Scene:

Jack exhaled long and slow. He gave Allen a last glance before following Bill out. “That was fun,” he said as the guard shut and locked the door behind them. “You do know he’s going to try to kill her the next time he sees her.”

The still air of the warehouse felt indescribably airy after the dead reek of the maintenance closet. “I’m counting on it,” he said, attention rising to the flash of light and boom of sound as the outer door opened and closed as Michael left. “I wouldn’t put him and Peri in the same building right now, much less give him access to Evocane. That’s why you’re going to take it to her, not Michael. If we’re lucky, she’ll chuck it all and come back with you right then and there.” But he knew that was unlikely. Peri had trusted Jack once and had been betrayed. She wouldn’t again.

Even so, Jack’s posture eased, and Bill allowed himself a smile in the dark. He knew his people better than they knew themselves. “Thank you,” Jack almost breathed.

“You’re welcome,” Bill said as he buttoned his jacket closed, but what he meant was, I own you.

The Peri Reed Chronicles:

1. The Drafter

2. The Operator

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FTC Advisory: Pocket/Simon and Schuster provided me with a copy of The Operator. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: The Drafter by Kim Harrison

August 15th, 2017 Stephanie Posted in Review Comments Off on Review: The Drafter by Kim Harrison

Title: The Drafter

Author: Kim Harrison

Genre: Urban Fantasy/Science Fiction

Series: Peri Reed Chronicles (Book #1)

Publication Date: April 19, 2016

Format: Paperback, 550 Pages

ISBN-10: 1501108743 (Pocket/Simon & Schuster)

ISBN-13: 978-1501108747 (Pocket/Simon & Schuster)

Reviewed by: Stephanie

Synopsis:

In the first explosive book in the Peri Reed Chronicles, Kim Harrison, #1 “New York Times “bestselling author of the Hollows series, blazes a new frontier with an edge-of-your-seat thriller that will keep you guessing until the very end. “Detroit 2030.” Double-crossed by the person she loved and betrayed by the covert government organization that trained her to use her body as a weapon, Peri Reed is a renegade on the run. Don t forgive and never forget has always been Peri s creed. But her day job makes it difficult: she is a drafter, possessed of a rare, invaluable skill for altering time, yet destined to forget both the history she changed and the history she rewrote. When Peri discovers her name is on a list of corrupt operatives, she realizes that her own life has been manipulated by the agency. Her memory of the previous three years erased, she joins forces with a mysterious rogue soldier in a deadly race to piece together the truth about her fateful final task. Her motto has always been only to kill those who kill her first. But with nothing but intuition to guide her, will she have to break her own rule to survive?”

Quick & Dirty: A confusing yet ultimately entertaining ride in this futuristic new series from Kim Harrison.

Opening Sentence: The room was a featureless eight-by-eight, the monotony relieved by a single chair and the door pad softly glowing in the recessed overhead lights.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Peri Reed is a drafter, a person with the ability to rewind time, albeit at the expense of her memory. Any draft has the potential to wipe an untold amount of time from a drafter’s past, but without that wipe, drafters would be left with two timelines in their mind, which their sanity would not be able to handle.  While on her latest job for Opti, Peri and her partner come across a list of corrupt agents, and Peri is surprised to find her name on the list. While she feels she isn’t corrupt, she has no real way of knowing because her memory of the past is gone. In order to find out the truth, Peri will have to let go of everything she’s known and believed about being a drafter and team up with a former Opti agent, Silas, who now works for an organization determined to bring Opti down. Will Peri find the answers she seeks? Will she be able to handle them?

I’ve had this book in my possession for over a year and just kept putting off reading it. The only reason I can think of for why is I was afraid it wouldn’t measure up to the love I have for Kim Harrison’s previous series, The Hollows. I love that series so much that I was afraid the magic couldn’t be repeated a second time. And while I did end up enjoying the ride this book took me on, it never fully got its hooks in me to where I didn’t want to put it down. In fact, I read two other books while still in the middle of this one, which says something.

I think the biggest problem lies in the fact that we as the readers don’t know much more than Peri about whether or not she’s corrupt. Even having read the prequel short story, I had no clue what was going on because this book takes place five years after the prequel, and it’s what happens in those intervening years that’s so crucial to knowing if Peri is corrupt or not. Now, don’t get me wrong, a part of me appreciates the fact that the reader is in the same situation as Peri. It helps us identify with her confusion and want to find out the answer. But at the same time, wanting to constantly  push through the book to get to the answer makes it hard to appreciate the journey it takes to get there because we’re feeling lost the whole time. It’s a tricky situation, and ultimately, I don’t think it completely works.

As far as the characters go, I really liked both Peri and Silas. I do think Harrison does a good job of fleshing them out so that we the readers like them and want them to succeed. The side characters of Taf and Howard are great as well, and I wish we had seen more of them. Everyone else didn’t seem quite fleshed out beyond whether they were a good guy or a bad guy.

Honestly, I’m not quite sure how I feel about this one, which is disappointing. I’m going with 4 stars because ultimately, I did enjoy the ride even though I spent much of the time confused. I think it’s an interesting world that Harrison has created, and I want to give her a chance to flesh it out more and see if book two perhaps has less of the confusion that permeated this one.

Notable Scene:

Silas’s jaw clenched when someone knocked into her. And then he stiffened when, with a snap, the room reset and the last four seconds replayed, Peri adroitly shifting in her chair at the right instant to remain untouched. Time caught up, meshed, and he shook himself, a cold feeling slipping through him when Peri, oblivious to the skip-hop, leaned forward to read the screen.

Uneasy, he pushed off from the counter. He’d watched her jump three times to escape the airport. It was doubtful she even knew she had drafted. Her mind was flirting with collapse, and the he felt responsible bothered him. It had been too large a task; too much of her life had needed to be erased.

It was her choice, he reminded himself, but he still felt betrayed as he came closer, halting just within her range of sight and waiting to be noticed. Power and recognition meant more to her than he liked, but her determined drive had drawn him regardless. Even now, years later, he could feel it, and his jaw clenched.

As if sensing it, she looked up, her hazel eyes and long lashes vivid against the heavy eyeliner she’d used to muddle any facial recognition software. Her shock melted into a quickly quashed panic. She was afraid of him. “You,” she said, eyes darting to the perimeter for others even as she blanked her screen. “What are you doing here?”

The Peri Reed Chronicles:

1. The Drafter

2. The Operator

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FTC Advisory: Pocket/Simon and Schuster provided me with a copy of The Drafter. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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