Book Review: Passage by Indie Gantz

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Title: Passage
Series: The Akasha Series #1
Author: Indie Gantz
Publication Date: March 2018
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Amazon // Indiebound

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Passage
The Akasha Series #1
Indie Gantz
Cromulent Press, March 2018
ISBN
Trade Paperback

From the author—

On day one, Charlie Damuzi and her mute twin brother Tirigan are blissfully unaware of the dangerous world they live in. They may be aliens living on Earth after the extinction of humans, but to Charlie, life is pretty mundane.

On day two, the Damuzi family is ripped apart by a family secret that forces the twins to flee the only home they’ve ever known.

Determined to find a way to reunite their family, Charlie and Tirigan travel to uncharted territory in search of their salvation.

But that’s just Charlie’s side of the story.

In the future, forty days from when we first meet the Damuzi twins, Tirigan is on the move. His destination is unknown, as are the people he’s surrounded himself with, but his mission is still the same. Keep his sister safe and reunite their family.

However, as Tirigan attempts to navigate the complex bonds he’s formed with his companions, he’s forced to confront the one thing in life he has yet to fully understand.

Himself.

Family. Deception. Power. Destruction.

It all begins on day one.

There are elements in this story that set it apart from many other science fiction tales, not least of which is the premise that Earth is now populated by aliens, long after humans as we know them have gone extinct. That alone gives the reader the promise that the two principals, Charlie and Tirigan, are going to be very different beings than what we’re accustomed to and so they are but…they’re also quite familiar. This brother and sister are really appealing and it’s very easy to forget that they are, indeed, aliens.

These fraternal twins have the bond that we see between twins now but they take it further. Tirigan is essentially mute but that doesn’t hurt his connection to Charlie because they can communicate telepathically. The two live a comfortable existence until everything is suddenly turned topsyturvy and they are forced to leave it all behind.

Another compelling facet of this book is the author’s use of flash forwards, told by Tirigan. That can often be confusing and disruptive but Ms. Gantz handles it well and the future episodes allowed me to feel an even stronger rapport with Tirigan. In fact, they helped to round out the worldbuilding that is so critical to any science fiction story.

On the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed Passage and, while much of the book is taken up by the setup and worldbuilding, I was still engaged by Charlie’s and Tirigan’s adventures and I’m anticipating even better things to come next year in the second book, Kindred.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2018.

About the Author

Indie Gantz grew up in Northern Virginia and received her Psychology degree at George Mason University. Despite her passion and curiosity for the human mind, Indie left her chosen field of study to finally give voice to the many imagined minds she has created.

Indie lives with her family in North Carolina. She spends her days drinking tea and clacking keys.

Author Links:

Website // Goodreads // Twitter // Facebook

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Book Reviews: Exo by Fonda Lee, R.I.P. Eliza Hart by Alyssa Sheinmel and The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron

Exo
Fonda Lee
Scholastic Press, February 2017
ISBN 978-0-545-93343-8
Hardcover

Peace Day may be quickly approaching, but a battle is about to go down while something more sinister, bigger, bubbles beneath. Tension between the Global Security & Pacification Forces (SecPac) and humans is palpable; the humans’ hatred, disgust and raw fury with the zhree is tangible, yet they plan to celebrate a century of coexistence.  Coexistence applies to the fifteen percent of mankind approved to exist among the zhree.  The remaining eighty-five percent faded into shadows of themselves or morphed into fierce, determined resistance fighters.

Having survived the Hardening process that transforms a zhree-approved human child into an exo, the only son of the Prime Liaison appears as a firmly committed SecPac soldier.  Donovan is confident and unquestioning in his fight against human rebels; until a raid goes wrong.  Held hostage where humans are the apex species, his perspective shifts.  It becomes impossible to see the individuals around him as the cohesive, carbon-copy-collection he has been fighting against.  What he fought for blurs out of focus.  Who he really is becomes crystal clear: not human enough for mankind, “nothing but human” to the zhree. Although it feels as if everything is different now, one thing is very much the same: the entire planet is in danger and Donovan is helpless as a hostage.

Exo is a brilliant example of Science-Fiction feeling oh-so-real.  Ms. Lee packs powerful punches in action scenes, soothes with sympathy in some situations, but bites with wit and humor in others.  Entertaining, empathy evoking, surprisingly relatable and utterly thought provoking, this is a book for everyone; not just Science-Fiction fans.

Reviewed by jv poore, February 2017.

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R.I.P Eliza Hart
Alyssa Sheinmel
Scholastic Press, December 2017
ISBN 978-0-338-08762-8
Hardcover

The appeal of the convenient, all-access “…narrow streets on the narrow island of Manhattan” is almost irrelevant for someone uncomfortable (at best) in enclosed spaces. Hopeful that her home state would help her open doors that claustrophobia kept firmly closed, Ellie accepts a scholarship to attend a tiny boarding school buffered by redwoods, opening wide above the Pacific Ocean.

Alone, Ellie explores the other dorms. A parental accompaniment would have been cool, but her issues have taken up too much of their time anyway. She will make friends here, none of these students know of her problems. Actually, she even sees a name she knows and suddenly, Ellie has something to look forward to: reconnecting with Eliza Hart.

Awkwardness should be the worse-case-scenario. Eliza may not have fond memories of her former childhood friend, she may not even remember Ellie at all. Appearing angry and almost personally offended that Ellie dare approach her, Eliza obviously loathes Ellie. In fact, she’s already told everyone on campus that Ellie is a vicious, pathological liar and students should simply steer clear.

Stunned, shattered, struggling with her sanity, Ellie has to know why. Even as Eliza’s body is recovered from the cliffside and speculations swirl around campus, Ellie cannot stop searching for answers. As she uncovers Eliza’s best kept secret, Ellie’s own repression is revealed, changing her perspective on absolutely everything.

R.I.P. Eliza Hart is an outstanding YA novel because, as narrators of their own stories, Eliza and Ellie explain actualities of mental illness in a way that everyone can understand and empathize with. Misconceptions, such as medicine plus therapy equal a cure, are corrected…without sounding like a somber after-school-special. And the awesome element of something decidedly different, redwood burl poachers.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2017.

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The Forgetting
Sharon Cameron
Scholastic Press, September 2016
ISBN 978-0-545-94521-9
Hardcover

Imagine awaking with no knowledge of who you are. You don’t know your name, or age.  None of your surroundings are familiar. The distraught children barricaded inside with you are strangers, but the look of terror covering each little face reflects how you feel. They, too, have Forgotten.

In the white-walled world of Canaan, you carry your life story with you in the most literal way: hand-written in a journal kept close (if not tethered) at all times.  Every moment lived will be written down accurately and truthfully.  When one journal is filled, it is maintained in the Archives. Histories—both individual and collective—are compiled and preserved here; a necessity based on an inexplicable, yet infallible, occurrence that robs the residents of their memories every twelve years.

Every rule has an exception and here, it is Nadia.  Having been a child during her first Forgetting, she still realized how different she was.  She did not Forget.  Admirably altruistic, cunning and courageous, this character could carry the story.  A grudging acceptance to partner with Gray, the Glassblower’s Son, subtly shows her softer side and adds a bit more urgency and suspense to an already captivating caper.

The real scoop is revealed like ripples in a pond. The grab-your-attention-splash of the impending Forgetting expands into a more complex mystery.  Perhaps it is the limited memory, or maybe life without modern conveniences keeps people too busy to ponder, but; no one seems to question the wall around the city.  Again, except for Nadia.  She’s been over the wall and noted differences.  In her city, stone is jagged—as if freshly broken or cut.  The other side of wall has stone that has been worn smooth.  She wonders, “…does the wall protect us, or keep us in?”

Already intrigued by the idea of a periodic, mass-memory-erase, I became completely captivated considering circumstances that could have resulted in the walled city.  My wildest imagination is not even comparable to Ms. Cameron’s creative genius; I was astounded.

Reviewed by jv poore, May 2017.

Book Review: End of an Era by Robert J. Sawyer

Continue reading

Book Review: H.A.L.F.: Origins by Natalie Wright

Origins
H.A.L.F. Book 3
Natalie Wright
Boadicea Press, August 2017
ISBN 978-15453-7109-1
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Tex and Erika are again fugitives, on the run for their lives. But when Tex falls gravely ill, a Navajo healer is Tex’s only hope for survival. He emerges from the ordeal changed in body and mind and with vital information: how to stop the predatory M’Uktah from destroying those he has come to love.

Erika Holt seeks a respite from the constant threats to her life but she’s not about to give up. As she and Tex launch a mission to shut down the galactic highway used by invaders, she grows closer to her troubled half-alien companion. But what about her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Jack?

Jack Wilson, with his new friend Anna Sturgis, is determined to put an end to the Makers’ schemes for world domination. Complicating matters, the valuable medicine to counter the alien virus has been stolen.

As both alien and human forces line up against them, the destiny of all humankind is hand the hands of these young warriors. And time is running out.

Natalie Wright captured my attention two years ago with the first book in this trilogy, The Deep Beneath. Her plot was creative and compelling but what really appealed to me was her character, H.A.L.F. 9, who is a hybrid alien/human intended for unpleasant behaviors but who has an unplanned vulnerability. After an encounter in the Arizona desert with three humans, 9 began to connect in unexpected ways with Erika, Jack and Ian and the humans develop a desire to protect 9. While I really enjoyed the straight-forward science fiction storyline, it was these four characters that meant the most to me.

A lot happened in that first book, leading to capture and imprisonment and a voyage into an unknown future. In Makers, the second book, Erika and Ian were forced onto a spaceship while Jack and Tex, the name chosen for 9, were left behind on earth to face their own dangers. This book made the plot electrifying while the characters became even more real and appealing. Ms. Wright‘s concept solidified into a truly adventurous story that let the reader take part, if you will, in the emotions and action that have marked it as science fiction that’s accessible to all.

Now, the danger of world domination by the aliens, as well as the missing medicine for the virus, propel the friends into looking for ways to fight back against the aliens and a contingent of humans who are no less threatening. Along with an intriguing plot, the characters, including secondary players, are intensely interesting and often unpredictable and the romantic elements that have been developing from the beginning are even more absorbing. This is a love triangle that has real depth to it, unlike what we often see.

Origins ends satisfactorily although with a good deal of sadness and the one major unanswered question is part and parcel of this kind of story. The author seems to have ended this tale but I hope that, perhaps someday, she’ll offer more since I know I’m going to miss Erika and her friends and colleagues.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2017.

Book Review: H.A.L.F.: The Makers by Natalie Wright

HALF The MakersThe Makers
H.A.L.F. Book 2
Natalie Wright
Boadicea Press, May 2016
ISBN 978-1523820924
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Erika Holt dodged death and departed Earth in an alien ship. It wasn’t how she’d planned to spend her senior year. Is Erika on her way to paradise? Or to a hell worse than the underground lab she escaped? 

The greys rescued Tex from A.H.D.N.A. and have promised him a life he could never have imagined. But what will he have to give up to become one with The Conexus? 

Jack Wilson is still Commander Sturgis’ prisoner, but a promise of freedom comes from an unlikely source. Will his liberation cost more than he’s willing to pay? 

Caught up in their personal battles, will any of them realize the threat that looms over us all before it’s too late? 

I read the first book in this series, The Deep Beneath, back in September 2015 and have been eagerly awaiting the next chapter ever since. I’m very happy to say the wait has been well worth it as The Makers is every  bit as entertaining.

The first thing that got my attention was the pronunciation and definition guide, a tremendous help when you’re reading a book involving unfamiliar terms and language. Will I remember any of it? No, of course not, or at least not much, but it certainly enhanced my enjoyment of the story not to have to try to remember all these details and foreign words. Actually, I probably will retain a few things, like “manthruin” which is a spice similar to our own cinnamon; I love cinnamon so I’m intrigued by this alien spice. I’ll also remember “mach” because it’s always useful to know how to ask for a toilet 😉

Sometimes, we discover that the things we know are not much like reality and Erika has certainly had to cope with a lot of reality since first encountering aliens but being in servitude to the aliens is definitely not what she and Ian want for their future. Unfortunately, their options are limited since they’re on an alien spaceship heading to….somewhere. Meanwhile, back at the ranch (so to speak), Jack was left behind on Earth and needs help from Dr. Sturgiss, not his favorite scientist, if he wants to remain alive and free. Meanwhile, Tex, a created hybrid alien/human, has to stay out of the hands of the aliens if he wants to retain his human side, his emotions.

Ms. Wright has worldbuilding down pat, creating an alien society and diverse people trying to fight off their control in a story that’s very plot-driven and completely engaging. At the same time, a plethora of characters that could be kind of overwhelming are anything but as the author has managed to make even peripheral players come to life. The aliens are referred to as “greys” and that can also be seen as a descriptor for the lack of a black and white clarity; all humans are not good and all aliens are not evil.

I’ve become quite fond of Erika and Jack and Tex and all the others and the H.A.L.F. series is an example of how adventurous and fun science fiction can be. The third and final book will be out in 2017 and I’m really looking forward to it.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2016.

Book Review: Dark Energy by Robison Wells

Dark EnergyDark Energy
Robison Wells
HarperTeen, March 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-227505-9
Hardcover

From the publisher—

We are not alone. They are here. And there’s no going back.

Five days ago, a massive UFO crashed in the Midwest. Since then, nothing—or no one—has come out.

If it were up to Alice, she’d be watching the fallout on the news. But her dad is director of special projects at NASA, so she’s been forced to enroll in a boarding school not far from the crash site. Alice is right in the middle of the action, but even she isn’t sure what to expect when the aliens finally emerge. Only one thing is clear: everything has changed.

I don’t make a habit of guessing at authors’ motivations in writing particular books but I have to do it this time. I could be—probably am—dead wrong but I think Robison Wells had tongue planted firmly in cheek when he wrote Dark Energy. How else to explain the truly creative idea behind the story and the inclusion of more diversity than I’ve seen in a while with actions and behaviors that not only would never happen but no thinking individual would believe they could? Just as an example, after the aliens have been here only a few days, two are brought to a boarding school to live. Yeah, right. If you believe they wouldn’t end up in a lab somewhere, I have this bridge I’d like to sell…

Here’s the thing, though—I DON’T CARE how unrealistic and illogical it all is. I quite simply love this book and I applaud Robison Wells for coming up with a twist I absolutely never saw coming and, yet, it made perfect sense if you believe in life out there (and I do). There’s a lot of humor here (never slapstick, just normal) as well as shades of fear and a terrific roadtrip. The ending is actually a bit too rushed and I wish it hadn’t seemed quite so easy but I’ll still be including this in my favorite books read in 2016.

I also fell in booklove with all the major characters and I have to say that, for an adult male, Mr. Wells does a darned good job of writing teen dialogue, especially the girls. Leaving the whole alien thing aside, I really did connect with Aly, Rachel and Brynne and the latter two’s immediate acceptance of Aly is credible because of her connection to the crash site. An exciting time like this is exactly when teens would forego their natural snottiness towards a newcomer. They’re also very cool girls 😉

Kurt is no schlock, either, and I appreciated the lack of insta-love. The attraction is certainly there but the author lets nature take its course, thank heavens. And then there’s Aly. My goodness, I like this girl. She’s smart, brave, snarky and rebellious but she and her dad have a relationship we could all wish for and their mutual trust is, well, awesome.

So, put aside your need for credibility and just enjoy Dark Energy for what it is. If you’re like me, the only thing that will really nag at you is the title—I have precisely zero idea what it’s supposed to mean but, then, who cares?  😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2016.

Book Review: Empire by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard

EmpireEmpire
Book 2: The Chronicles of the Invaders Trilogy
John Connolly & Jennifer Ridyard
Emily Bestler Books/Atria, February 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4767-5715-5
Hardcover

The middle novel in a planned trilogy about earthling Paul Kerr and his beloved Syl Hellias, an alien female born on planet Earth, continues in separate adventures that keep them apart.  After Syl aided Paul and his brother in escaping from Edinburgh castle in Conquest, they were subsequently captured and given a choice to join the brigades, eventually assigned to investigate a distant planet.  Syl, on the other hand is given the option with her friend Ani of entering the sisterhood on a moon satellite of the Illyri planet and trained to become a member of the order.

Individually, Paul and Syl during their separate adventures discover an evil so horrible it could destroy the Earth and the rest of the known world.  As they struggle with their knowledge they must find ways to develop their abilities and make known the truth of what they have learned, much less to save everything before it is destroyed.

While the books were primarily intended for a teenage audience, an adult can also read and enjoy the novel, which is no less a sci-fi fantasy and what is loosely a love story.  The two novels, and the third yet to come, were written by John Connolly, the Irish novelist perhaps best known for the Charlie Parker mysteries, and his partner and mother of his two sons, Jennifer Ridyard.  This is not the first time Mr. Connolly has turned his attention from Charlie Parker to a different type of novel.  He also is the author of a trilogy for younger readers and even a modern fairy tale.  Now we have the completion of another trilogy to look forward to.  Empire, like Conquest, is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2015.