Review: The Delphi Effect by Rysa Walker

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First of all, look at that cover. I was browsing through Netgalley when this cover caught my eye. After seeing who the author was (she also wrote The Chronos Files), I immediately submitted a request. When it was granted, I did a little happy dance and immediately set to reading.

Overall Score: 8.5/10

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Paranormal

Publisher: Skyscape

Release Date: 10/11/2016

Source: Received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Book summary

It’s never wise to talk to strangers…and that goes double when they’re dead. Unfortunately, seventeen-year-old Anna Morgan has no choice. Resting on a park bench, touching the turnstile at the Metro station—she never knows where she’ll encounter a ghost. These mental hitchhikers are the reason Anna has been tossed from one foster home and psychiatric institution to the next for most of her life.

When a chance touch leads her to pick up the insistent spirit of a girl who was brutally murdered, Anna is pulled headlong into a deadly conspiracy that extends to the highest levels of government. Facing the forces behind her new hitcher’s death will challenge the barriers, both good and bad, that Anna has erected over the years and shed light on her power’s origins. And when the covert organization seeking to recruit her crosses the line by kidnapping her friend, it will discover just how far Anna is willing to go to bring it down.

Review

If you’ve read the Mediator series by Meg Cabot and loved that one, I would highly recommend this one. Anna is a wonderful character, she is smart, jaded, and incredibly loyal. She stands to her convictions and seems wise beyond her years (which may be due to the hitchhiking ghosts she’s picked up along the way). The story starts out with Anna attempting to find the grandfather of a murdered young girl and the grandfather believing she’s a charlatan.

Danger ensues and the plot begins to thicken. When I thought about the book afterward, I was amazed by the breadth of subject matter covered (A murder was solved, a secret government conspiracy was unearthed, and there was even time for a little romance). The plot never felt rushed or like the reader was receiving an information dump. All of the characters, even Anna’s hitchhikers, are fully developed and each has their own personality.

There are some potentially touchy subjects dealt with in this book and I think they’re dealt with incredibly well. Molly, the murdered young girl whose ghost found Anna, went through some traumatic experiences in her last moments. These moments are shared with the reader in short glimpses rather than all at once. This allows the reader to process these horrors with Molly.

One of the things about this novel that truly stood out for me was the emphasis on family and the strength of familial ties (whether through blood or choice). I don’t want to spoil anything but the bonds between family members were truly what made this novel enjoyable for me.

I loved this book. It’s a fresh, unique tale and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Review: The Liberty Box and The Eden Conspiracy by C.A. Gray

Today I’ll be reviewing the first two books in the Liberty Box trilogy. I’m also hosting a giveaway of some wonderful goodies with the author and some other bookstagrammers. Check it out –  My username is spinatale!

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Overall Score: 7/10

Page Length: 334

Genre: Dystopian, Science Fiction

Publisher: Wanderlust Publishing

Source: Received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review

Book summary

Kate Brandeis has it all: a famous reporter at the age of twenty-four, she’s the face of the Republic of the Americas. She has a loving fiancé and all the success she could wish for. But when she learns of the death of a long-forgotten friend, her investigations unravel her perfect memories, forcing her to face the fact that she’s been living a lie.

Jackson MacNamera, trained from a young age in the art of mind control, returns to the Republic for his mother’s funeral. Within a few hours of his arrival, authorities collect Jackson and take him by force to a room ironically called The Liberty Box, where he must choose between surrendering his thoughts to the new Republic, or fleeing for his freedom.

Kate, bereaved and confused, finds her way to a cave community of refugees, where Jackson seems to offer her an escape from her grief. The two forge an uneasy bond, and in the process Jackson learns that Kate has some insight which may help the hunters in their attempt to free other citizens from the tyranny of the Potentate. Against the expressed wishes of the Council, the hunters plot a series of daring raids, attempting to prove that not only is freedom possible, but that the citizens are not too far gone to desire it. But with the odds so stacked against them, can the refugees succeed in their rescue missions right under the Potentate’s nose?

Review

The book starts off with the collapse of the American economy and the subsequent descent into chaos. Voltolini is an interesting character, smart and evil in equal measures. I enjoyed seeing the contrast between the prologue and the true start of the story. There’s some very fast world-building here but it does serve to orient the reader.

I’ll start with the things I didn’t like and then move to those that I did (which then sets it up for my review of the second book). One of the main negatives about this book for me was the lack of character development at the start. I would have preferred to have read more about Kate, Will, and their everyday lives before jumping into the action. As it is, there wasn’t a lot of contrast besides that stated by the characters between Kate’s life in the republic and her life as a refugee. If this book is ever turned into a movie or tv show (which I honestly think it should be), this opening would be perfect though.

The writing style is very matter of fact. As the book goes on, you can tell that C.A. Grey figured out a happy medium between telling the reader and showing them. It’s definitely not my usual preferred style but once I adapted to it, I thought that it fit the story well.

Onto all of the good things! I absolutely loved this plot and the world. It isn’t too fantastical as to seem unrealistic, but it is an excellent dystopian novel. I enjoyed the science aspects. Everything was well-reasoned and entirely consistent throughout the novel. Seeing Jackson and Kate starting the shed the shells of their former lives was interesting. Jackson started out as kind of a mix between Yoda and Jason Bourne (or just limitless) and it was nice to see the contrast (and conflict) between him and Kate. Regarding the romance, I did enjoy how that played out. While there was definitely insta-attraction, it was messy and complicated (maybe due to the dead fiancé…?).

I would recommend this book to any dystopian/science fiction fans. It’s an incredibly fast read and you really do get sucked into the story. While it wasn’t my favorite book, it was good and the series definitely got much better in the second book.

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Overall Score: 8.5/10

Page Length: 253

Genre: Dystopian, Science Fiction

Publisher: Wanderlust Publishing

Source: Received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review

Book summary

Can the truth set you free?

The refugee caves have been destroyed, and most of the refugees are dead. The Potentate now knows of their existence and will stop at nothing to wipe them out completely. He suspects that terrorist Jackson MacNamera is among them, as well as reporter Kate Brandeis’s fiancé, hacker Will Anderson—and probably therefore Kate herself. Now that the Potentate is aware of security threats, most of the strategies the rebels used to get back onto the grid before now no longer work. The Potentate knows the rebels are on foot, and he knows they were at the caves not long ago—they can’t get far.

The remaining rebels, among them Jackson and Kate, have Kate’s fiancé Will to thank for their survival: he arrived back from the dead and in the nick of time, bearing classified information about the Potentate’s plans to expand his influence internationally. But the remaining rebels and the Council cannot agree on whether their top priority should be spreading truth far and wide and freeing as many citizens from government control as possible, knowing that they will likely die in the process—or escaping to New Estonia, in hopes that they might live out the rest of their days in peace.

Kate, meanwhile, finds herself torn: between Jackson and the fiancé she thought she lost, and between the damsel-in-distress she once was, and the rebel she believes she has always been underneath. Whether the other hunters will support her or no, she knows she must use her influence over the people of the Republic to tell them the truth, no matter the cost. But is she strong enough to withstand the government’s lies?

Review

This book was a lot better than the first one in my opinion. The background was established and the plot well on its way. This book absolutely does not suffer from middle book syndrome. Rather than serve as a bridge between the first and third, this one could stand on its own. From here on down, there will be some spoilers from the first book so consider this your warning.

Will is back! And he’s pretty much a horrible person. I get that’s he is a computer genius and has done a lot of incredible/helpful things but that seriously is no way to treat a woman. I wanted to punch him in the face for some of the things he said to Kate (which really is a testament to the writing because I very rarely detest characters). The love triangle between Kate, Jackson, and Will had some similarities to the one found in ACOMAF. Jackson started to show that he was truly human (about time!) even though he does remain semi-superpowered. Of all the characters in this book, I liked Kate and her family the most. Kate’s development was truly fun to watch as she started to find herself. Seeing her with her family and how they all interacted with each other was one of my favorite parts of the novel. Despite the fast-pace and high tension, C.A. Grey created distinct characters and allowed them to interact with each other differently.

Regarding the plot – holy guacamole did a lot happen in this book. I essentially marathoned the first and second book in this series and it was definitely worth it. I can’t wait to read the third book and find out what happens to everyone. The world is starting to become very complex and I love that all the groups have different motives. And that everyone within the groups has their own motives for being there. I’m repeating myself but if this was a movie/tv show, I would absolutely watch it.

Overall, the writing was much better in this one and I found myself tearing through the pages, desperate to figure out what happens next. I’m excited for the third book to come out.

Review: The Question of The Felonious Friend by E.J. Copperman and Jeff Cohen

After binge reading a lot of young adult books recently, I decided to change it up a bit. This led to me reading both this book and starting The Lilac Girls. Since I got that one for a book club, I don’t want to post my full review before our discussion. The Question of The Felonious Friend was a highly entertaining and fascinating read. I would recommend it if you like Agatha Christie mysteries! This book will be released on September 8, 2016.

 

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Source: Goodreads

Overall Score: 8/10

Page Length: 288

Genre: Mystery

Publisher: Midnight Ink

Source: Received a free ebooks from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Book summary

It’s been one year, two weeks, and three days since Samuel Hoenig opened the doors of Questions Answered. The personality traits of his Asperger’s Syndrome help Samuel maintain objectivity in his work—a critical component for his business’s continuing success.

But when Tyler Clayton, a young man who also has Asperger’s, asks if a store clerk is truly his friend, Samuel, for the first time, can’t bear to give an objective answer. It’s a dicey situation that only gets worse when one of the key players ends up dead. Resolving to do the right thing, Samuel, with help from his associate Ms. Washburn, wades into the murky waters of friendship, and the answer he finds may be a revelation to himself most of all.

Review

This book was charmingly quirky and a refreshing change of pace. Most of the mysteries I’ve read recently rely more on the surprise and violence to progress their plot so reading one about good old fashioned detective work was wonderful. While this is the third book in the series, you do not have to read the previous two in order to read this one. Fair warning – you probably will want to go read them after you finish this one to get more of the characters.

Samuel Hoening owns Questions Answered, a store where anybody can go to get their question answered. His coworker Mrs. Washburn serves as the neurotypical Watson to his Sherlock Holmes with Asperger’s Syndrome. The dynamic between the two of them really worked for me. While the story is told from Samuel’s point of view, his careful analysis of Mrs. Washburn’s actions and probable thoughts allow the reader to view the story through both investigator’s eyes.

The story opens with Tyler Clayton, a young man who also has Asperger’s, coming in and asking them to investigator whether his friend is really his friend. This leads to an interesting line of investigation as Samuel and Mrs. Washburn attempt to determine how you can tell if somebody is truly your friend. After giving Tyler the answer, the other key individual in the question ends up dead and Tyler is found nearby holding the gun.

This is where the novel truly takes off. Samuel provides a constant narration, exposing the reader to what life is like for those on the autistic spectrum. There are multiple characters introduced who all have some form of autism and each stands as a distinct individual, each with their own mannerisms and quirks. I liked that the book explored their differences and made an effort to explain why they did the things they did. For a narrator, Samuel does a lot of explaining and this is one of the those rare instances where this works.

The plot moved along a good pace with a fun subplot thrown in there. (When I reached the last line of the book, I was incredibly happy about the ending). If you’re looking for a fast-paced detective story with a lot of suspense and drama, this book is not for you. The plot follows the investigation day by day, exposing the reader to the exact same information Samuel has. Given that, I still did not expect how the mystery would be resolved. It was fun going back afterward and picking up the clues.

I would recommend this book to the readers who like a good detective mystery done more in the way of Agatha Christie. It was an incredibly fun, refreshing read that offered a good insight into what it means to have Asperger’s.

 

Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

First of all, that cover. The cover for this book is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen and I’m so glad to add it to my collection. After seeing a few of my trusted sources on Instagram review this book, I immediately went out and bought it. I am so incredibly glad that I did because it easily made my top 5 list for 2016.

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Overall Score: 10/10 (Am I allowed to give it an 11?)

Page Length: 484

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Source: Bought

Book summary (From Goodreads)

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

Review (No Spoilers)

Going in, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. It sounded very interesting but I wasn’t sure how the concept would play out. Kiersten White surpassed all of my expectations and I cannot wait for the second book in the series to see how this all plays out. That being said, even if there never was a second book, this is an incredible stand-alone with an ending that would still leave me satisfied.

Lada is an absolutely wonderful protagonist. She is ferocious, flawed, intelligent, determined, and a woman. The way gender and the advantages/disadvantages you have because of it are explored in this novel was truly eye-opening and thoughtful. Each character was fully fleshed out and seeing even just the women in the harem compared to each other was wonderful. Each woman has her belief in how to obtain power and how to best use herself to her advantage. Huma, Mara, and Lada are all extraordinary characters. The scenes between Huma and Lada were some of my favorites in the novel. I loved seeing how they interacted with each other and how they each sought to control the men surrounding them. Lana was true to herself and her beliefs, despite being constantly reminded that she isn’t a proper woman.

The role that religion played in this book was entirely a surprise for me. Given the setting, I guess it shouldn’t have been though. The way White approached both Islam and Christianity was very respectful and thoughtful. She showed the different aspects of each religion and how individualized religion truly is. It was thought-provoking and very timely. Religion, along with love and politics, shapes how the three main characters interact with each other throughout the entire book. The politics in this book were fascinating. Men fell and rose to power multiple times throughout the novel. The events and power struggles that caused each one were developed and explained. The variety of motives and desires led to a court that truly felt alive and real. Kiersten White made history come alive and made me care about the players.

Love. This book examines love in its many forms, whether between friends, family, or romantic. It also shows how the norms of the time affected this love. For example, the relationship of Mehmed and Lada (also Mehmed and Radu) was altered by the revelation that Mehmed kept a harem. I don’t want to spoil anything but the inclusion of Radu’s love and Nazira made this book even better for me. I can’t wait to see where the story goes and how the threads are all woven together.

This book was wonderful and I would highly recommend it. The characters were beautifully written and the plot wonderfully executed. It was a coming of age novel that brought to life an entire world in shades of grey.