YA sci-fi book cover: black page with "POD" in big blue letters, the blue being a black orb

Book Review: Pod is a Tight Read, With A 20% Off Deal

Whew! My site was down temporarily, and I was stressing out! My apologies. My domain hosting company had somehow put my site on a different server, connected to a different account, but the problem has been fixed. I spent the time scouting for deals, though, because I get excited thinking about bringing them to you and helping you get better entertainment for less! I’ve got some good sales to tell you about tomorrow. In the meantime, let me tell you about POD by Stephen Wallenfels, a YA sci-fi. It was a tight read, one that’ll have you chewing your nails even if you’re not a nail-chewer.

What Is POD About?

From GoodReads:

POD is the story of a global cataclysmic event, told from the viewpoints of Megs, a twelve-year-old streetwise girl trapped in a hotel parking garage in Los Angeles; and sixteen-year-old Josh, who is stuck in a house in Prosser, Washington, with his increasingly obsessive-compulsive father. Food and water and time are running out. Will Megs survive long enough to find her mother? Will Josh and his father survive each other? 

Sample:

Surviving a massive alien siege is one thing-surviving humanity is another. I’m all cried out. I’m still alone. The sky is full of giant spinning black balls that kill anyone stupid enough to go outside. I’ve only been out of the car twice-once to pee and once to look at the sky. That one look was enough for me. Now I sit alone in the car, staring out the window like a rat in a cage. But I don’t have anyone to look at. The parking garage is empty, except for twisted-up cars, broken glass, and the smell of leaking gasoline.

Who Would Like POD, And Why?

If you like tight plots, like those found in Glimmer by Phoebe Katanidis or A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray, you’ll like POD. Its plot, which could’ve been boring in the wrong hands, since it’s about enduring an alien siege, is terse, interesting, and mentally challenging because of the intense emotions expertly shown. You’ll find yourself wanting a sequel.

What’s The Deal?

On Amazon, you can get a new paperback copy right now for $6.39, which is 20% off of the normal price. A Kindle copy is only $4.99! Dude! So worth it.

 

Book Review: The Knowing is Amazing

When I reviewed Sharon Cameron’s book The Forgetting almost a year ago today (where has the time gone?), I told you I was amazed by the author’s talent for sending me on a journey of the imagination that I had a hard time coming back from. I just finished the second book in that series–The Knowing–and as much as I was amazed then, I was even more so by this book. Mind you, it’s been a busy week for me, with Halloween, work, and another batch of query letters that I’m sending out to agents, so it was hard to find reading time, but it was worth it. The Knowing is amazing.

What The Knowing is About

Goodread’s description:  Samara doesn’t forget. And she isn’t the only one. Safe underground in the city of New Canaan, she lives in a privileged world free from the Forgetting. Yet she wonders if she really is free, with the memories that plague her and secrets that surround her. Samara is determined to unearth the answers, even if she must escape to the old, cursed city of Canaan to find them.

Someone else is on their way to Canaan too . . . a spaceship from Earth is heading toward the planet, like a figment of the city’s forgotten past. Beck is traveling with his parents, researchers tasked with finding the abandoned settlement effort. When Beck is stranded without communication, he will find more in Canaan than he was ever trained for. What will happen when worlds and memories, beliefs — and truths-collide?

Why I Thought it was Amazing

There’s a lot that goes on beneath the surface (interestingly enough, given the setting of the book) of what’s happening in the book. On the face of it, Samara escapes to Old Canaan to find a cure for the Knowing, and Beckett goes there too to [long spoiler alert] find out what happened to the colonists his predecessors sent to this planet, then the three accidentally meet, and are in fact, forced to hide from New Canaan’s Council for fear of capture. Then, they embark on a journey back/to New Canaan, each for very different reasons and feelings, thoughts, loyalties, and plans changing a lot along the way. By the time they make it to the Outside settlement on the surface, before they descend Underneath, Samara to hide until she can get into the Archives to maybe find a cure for the Knowing and then give herself up for execution, and possibly Beckett and Jillian too in place of her imprisoned parents, Beckett to discover as much as he can about this people (to heck with the protocol), and Jillian because she’s being dragged along, Samara has decided she can’t give Beckett in but doesn’t know what to do with him, Beckett keeps following (almost blindly) [end long spoiler alert].

It’s that undercurrent that carries the first two-thirds of the book: the evolution of both Samara’s and Beckett’s knowledge about what happened to the people of Old Canaan (i.e. the people of The Forgetting), the actions they take once they learn that, and the feelings that each possesses about each other and the other key characters in the book. The rest is action that happens so fast that it’s a little hard to keep up with, and all of that action is in reaction to the complicated discoveries made in the first two-thirds. If I had to compare this to a visual (e.g., gif or meme), as I am wont to do, I would say that this represents the book pretty well:

As far as stars, I’d give it 9.5 out of 10 just because I feel like there were one or two incidences where Cameron didn’t reveal certain things (like the reason for the existence of the Outsider village by the Underneath) until too late in the story, which made it harder to keep up with things.

If I were to make a nutrition label for this book, I would say that there was no sex, no swearing, a fair amount of violence, and some great descriptions of both valorous and ignoble deeds.

Who Would Like This Book?

Fans of any of Sharon Cameron’s other books would obviously like this book, as would those of Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking Series and of Amy Kaufman’s and Meagan Spooner’s These Broken Stars. Speaking of Amy Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, I’ve just started reading their not-yet-released Unearthed! I’m excited.

Book Review: Nemesis by Brendan Reichs is a Holy Cow Read

If you are looking for a roller-coaster ride of a book, this is it. If you’re looking for a mystery wrapped up like a science fiction novel, this is also it. If you’re looking for a coming-of-age story mixed with elements of the movie Transcendence and San Andreas (because who doesn’t happen to be looking for just such a combination?), this is also it. Nemesis is about two teenagers in the sleepy Idahoan town of Fire Lake who are murdered every two years but somehow come back to life afterward, every time, without a scratch on them, and a Doomsday comet that is projected to destroy all life on Earth. Sound like a head-scratcher? It kind of is, and that’s what intrigued me about this book: I wanted to see how Reichs would combine two such wildly disparate elements, each epic in their own right. He does combine them, but it’s not until the very end of the book. So, if I were to sum up Nemesis in one word, I would say it is: …not possible. I have to resort to two, and they are: holy cow.

The book starts with the murder of Min, one of the two teenagers, by a man in a black suit. It’s the same man that’s murdered her every two years since she was six, and he always apologizes before he kills her. Each time, he does it a different way, and Reich (thankfully) doesn’t go into gory detail. Each time, Min’s consciousness goes black at the point of death, and then resumes the next morning when she wakes up in a cave a mile or so from her house. It’s such a crazy premise that, at first, you feel tempted to stop reading, but Reich does a good job of describing her emotions and her backstory without slowing down the plot. Doing so, in fact, deepens the intrigue. By the end of the book, there is so much intrigue, in fact, that you’re neck deep in it. It was all I could do not to turn to the last pages to solve the mystery, but I didn’t. And I’m glad I didn’t. It ended on a total cliffhanger! Normally, when I come across cliffhanger endings to books, I throw the books down and put any other books by the authors of those books on my “do not read” list (I have a GoodReads list just for that purpose). In this case, though, I realized that the cliffhanger set things up for a sequel that will have an absolutely astounding, totally unique premise.

I’m just about done reading Of Noble Family, the fifth and last book in Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist History series, which I talked about here (hint: Regency + magic = awesome). As much as I liked the first four books, I’m liking this last one twice as much! I’ll put up a review of Of Noble Family Wednesday-ish of this week.

 

Book Review: Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth, an Intriguing Read

I was sick a good part of this last week, and while it was not fun, I got a lot of reading and querying done.  I read three books:

…re-read one (Smart by Scattered by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare) and queried eight agents. To query a book agent means to send a short pitch and sample pages to agents to ask them to consider representing one’s book to publishers. It’s basically a cover letter and a resume. One has already responded and requested a “partial,” which is exciting. I try not to get my hopes up about these things, though, until they request full manuscripts.

Of the books I read, the one I’d most like tell you about is Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth. This author also penned the Divergent series. This is her first book since those wildly popular books were published and made into movies. Carve the Mark is Divergent meets Star Wars. It is huge in scope, political, personal, and intense.

Book Review: Carve the Mark

In fact, Amazon says that “fans of Star Wars and Divergent will revel in…[this] new science-fiction fantasy series.” It’s about people on a planet that is part of a nine-planet galaxy and political system, all of which are powered by “the current.” This “current” is the visible “life force” of the galaxy, and is visible during space travel and manifested in “currentgifts,” or unique powers possessed by the people on those planets. Cyra and Akos, the two main characters, come from opposite parts of the planet and have very different currentgifts, which makes them both pawns in Cyra’s brother’s quest for domination of the planet, but in very different ways. Cyra’s currentgift enables her to inflict pain on others with just one touch, but it also causes her a lot of pain. Akos’s currentgift alleviates her pain but also keeps him captive to Cyra, whose brother kidnapped him and his brother Eijeh for their gifts.  Akos is from the peace-loving nation of Thuvhe, and is desperate to get his brother–an oracle– out of Shotet (Cyra’s nation)n and home to Thuvhe. When he’s thrust into Cyra’s world to alleviate her pain,  it’s in direct opposition to what he wants to accomplish.

It’s a complicated plot because it takes in deep motives, threads regarding all the members of Akos’ and Cyra’s families, visits to various other planets, whole governments, and a number of years. But it’s not an “adult” or epic sci-fi on the level of Neil Gaiman or Robert Blish. It’s focus is on main characters who are are roughly in their early twenties, and on their personal struggles of identity and family relationships. But the power struggles of those surrounding them very much play into their personal struggles. Because of that, I think it would appeal to both younger and older readers of science fiction.

But there is definitely a good amount of violence, some swearing, and a darker feel to some of the characters, especially Cyra, so the youngest of those younger readers would probably do best to avoid Carve the Mark.

As much as I like science fiction, I don’t usually enjoy reading books about interplanetary politics; they’re not usually my cup of tea. But I still very much liked this book because it didn’t go overboard on the politics, it had fleshed-out, full characters, and great prose. In that respect, it also reminded me also of Young Elites by Marie Lu.

So, overall, was it good? Was it worth the 468 pages it took to read it and the $13 price I paid for it? You bet. I’d do it again. It’s a solid contribution to both the YA the science fiction genres, and a very intriguing read.

Follow me on Twitter to be entered to win a giveaway to win a hardback copy of Carve the Mark, through Amazon!

Book Review: Inborn by Amy Saunders, Not the Best

For all of you ten people who follow my book review blog: 1) thank you. You are awesome. 2) I’m going to break with tradition here and give a less-than-stellar review of a book, so be forewarned. I read a book recently that I didn’t quite like, and I went back-and-forth on whether or not to review this book and how to go about doing it if I did. It wasn’t easy to pin down what was wrong with Inborn by Amy Saunders, but I feel that it will be helpful for both you, my readers, and me as a writer to articulate in a constructive way its faults. That being said, it is available for free on Amazon Kindle right now, and its worth a read just because of that. You might disagree with me in your assessment of the book.

Inborn, which was published in 2015, follows the life of teenager Rosamund Brandt, whose enjoyment of adolescence’s simple, normal pleasures (learning how to drive, dating, etc.) is threatened by the ever-present possibility of the revelation that she is descended from aliens, and whose life becomes threatened by a killer who seems to be routing out such non-human life forms as herself. Its premise promises a solid amount of conflict and tension: “her definition of ‘normal’ unravels when a killer with multiple powers and an agenda steps into town. When Rosamund herself becomes a target, she has a choice between playing the killer’s game and saving a few, or getting to the core of the murders and stopping them for good. Her choice will save everyone she cares about–or unleash a new era for herself and her family, shattering whatever hope for going back to normal she had.” But weak writing makes the plot too porous to really enjoy.

This paragraph near the beginning is a good example of such writing:

“I peeked back at Joss and she mouthed, ‘Tell me everything.’ I nodded in the affirmative and Joss gripped her pencil. After all that, I wouldn’t need to worry about it because things took a turn for the weird after lunch. In the middle of English lit, a school faculty member interrupted the class.”

Aside from the somewhat mechanical feeling of these words (i.e., “I did this and then I did that”) and the cliche situation they represent, there is also an incongruency of tenses that puts the reader off in subtle ways. Most of that quote, and the narrative throughout the book, is in past tense, as in “I peeked” and “Joss gripped.” “Wouldn’t” is a future statement embedded in a past tense narrative; it sends the reader into the future for a heartbeat, then back into the past. The paragraph, and the flow of the plot overall, would have been better with something like: “I didn’t need to worry about it after all because things took a turn for the weird after lunch,” or by taking the sentence out altogether, enabling the reader to follow Rosamund through events as they unfold.

Subtle tense dissonances are scattered throughout, and are occasionally compounded by mismatched tenses and pronouns. Take, for example, this sentence:

“But the sight of it did make me bolder, so I got to my feet. Besides, it was easier to defend yourself standing up.”

The author again changes tense mid-phrase, going from past (with “make,” “got,” and “was”) to present tense with “defend,” and changes point of view, going from first-person (“me,” “I,” and “my”) to second-  (with “yourself”). As I mentioned, this may not be something that would bother you, but it threw me off. That phrase would have been stronger if she’d written something like: “…so I got to my feet. I wanted to defend myself standing up.”

Various other instances of passive voice, redundancy, telling instead of showing, and unusual character reactions make what could have been a really fun, exciting read one that is decidedly less so. I would give this book a solid four out of ten stars.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the ebook through NetGalley. All opinions stated herein are my own.