Book Review: Unraveled by Kate Jarvik Birch

Unraveled
Perfected #3
Kate Jarvik Birch
Entangled Teen, April 2018
ISBN 978-1-63375-913-8
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Ella isn’t anyone’s pet anymore, but she’s certainly not free.

After exposing the dark secrets about NuPet’s breeding program, forcing them to repeal the law that allowed genetically modified girls to be kept as pets, she thought girls like her would finally be free. She never dreamed that it would backfire. NuPet may have convinced the public of their intentions to assimilate pets back into society, but Ella knows it’s a lie.

They aren’t planning mass rehabilitation…they’re planning a mass extermination.

Now, with the help of a small group of rebels, Ella and Penn, the boy she’d give up her life for, set out to bring down NuPet for good. But when her group gets implicated in a string of bombings, no one is safe. If she can’t untangle the web of blackmail and lies that extends far beyond NuPet’s reach, she won’t just lose her chance at freedom, she’ll lose everyone she loves.

The author of the Perfected trilogy, Kate Jarvik Birch, created a world and story in which girls are raised to be pets, a glorified form of slavery, and I was enthralled by the first two books, especially with the innovative ideas Ms. Birch had. This third and final entry is just as creative and I was fascinated with the twist on our own animal rights activists’ dramatic, sometimes deadly, attacks on the facilities where animals are held. In those circumstances, the animals are often freed in order to save them from experimentation and imprisonment; in Unraveled, it’s the “animals”, the genetically modified girls, who are determined to stop the travesty.

In the US in current times, there is a lot of discussion about the members of congress and whether they are competent, decent, judicious people with good intentions but they don’t hold a candle to the one in this story, the man who owned Ella and father to Penn, the young man Ella loves. Many young adult stories overdo it with the romance, in my opinion, but this love story that has developed over three books is natural and organic, the way it should be.

Ella and Penn, especially Ella, have been fighting for the rights of the pet girls but now face a new betrayal, one that forces them to lead a small group in rebellion. Ella has grown, mentally and emotionally, by leaps and bounds since her time as a pet and has become something of a heroine, always with justice as her goal. Tension rides high on nearly every page in this tale and I think this was a fitting end to a terrific series.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2018.

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An Excerpt from Unraveled

No one glanced up at us as we left. We were inconsequential, just two kids leaving a pizza place. And that’s exactly what we felt like—kids. Powerless. Weak. Alone.

The bell on the door jingled lightly once more, and we stepped back out into the night. Once again, the sound of jazz music drifted out of the bar next door. I paused, listening to the soulful cry of the saxophone. For a moment, I closed my eyes, focusing on the full, round tone.

And then, just as the last note of the song died away, the bomb went off.

One single note rang in my ears.

High pitched.

Whining.

The saxophone… It had just been playing, wasn’t it? I could remember the low, sweet crooning, but that wasn’t what this sound was.

I shook my head and tried to bring a hand up to my eyes, but something held it clamped down at my side. I tried to wiggle free, but there was something pressing my back, too, making it hard to breathe.

I coughed. My mouth was dry, thick with dust and the taste of metal.

“Penn,” I croaked. “Penn?”

I blinked, trying to turn my head.

In front of me the ground spread out like a battle field.

Red and blue lights blinked behind a cloud of dust. Dark forms moved left and right, up and down. Long limbs waved to one another.

My cheek pressed against something rough.

“Penn!”

“Here’s one,” someone said. They sounded far away, a voice inside a bubble floating somewhere high above my head.

The weight on my back lifted, and a hand slipped beneath me, lifting me from the ground. I choked in a deep gulp of air and balanced on my wobbly legs. Even with the world tipped vertically once more, I couldn’t make sense of it.

“Ella!”

I turned.

The dark outline of Penn stumbled toward me.

Behind him, the building crumbled in on itself. Brick and cement.Wire and steel.Here and there a tipped table, a smashed chair. Broken glass littered the ground, glittering with the orange light of flames that glowed inside the hole where a door had just been. A door. A door. The door that had just jingled shut behind me.

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About the Author

Kate Jarvik Birch is a visual artist, author, playwright, daydreamer, and professional procrastinator. As a child, she wanted to grow up to be either a unicorn or mermaid. Luckily, being a writer turned out to be just as magical. Her essays and short stories have been published in literary journals, including: Indiana Review and Saint Ann’s Review. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with her husband and three kids.

Find Kate at:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram

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Signed copy of Unraveled

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Book Review: Tarnished by Kate Jarvik Birch

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Book Review: Bitter Angel by Megan Hand

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Title: Bitter Angel

Author: Megan Hand

Release date: April 1, 2013

Age Group: Mature Young Adult

Genre: Contemporary/Thriller

Tour organized by: AToMR Tours

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Young attractive lady lying down and reflected in the waterBitter Angel
Megan Hand
M Hand Publications, April 2013
ISBN 978-0-578-12207-6
Ebook

From the author—

Torn between two realities.
A choice that will mean life or death.
But she won’t know anything… until she wakes up.

College sophomore, Lila Spencer lived Friday night twice. She doesn’t know how or why, just that she did. As if she split in half and went in two different directions.

Out clubbing with her friends, Heather and Nilah, the girls rock it out and party hard. What begins as an innocent night will lead to a deadly fight for their lives, and Lila might be their only chance for survival.

In bed with her boyfriend, Jay, Lila is safe and warm as she drifts to sleep in the arms of the man she loves. Until she is sucked into a horrifying nightmare of her friends’ deaths.

As the sunlight warms her face on Saturday morning, the two scenarios collide. But there can be only one outcome. Will she wake up in her warm bed with Jay by her side, devastated and grieving for her friends? Or was she there to save them?

The answer is just the beginning.

I’ve dithered over writing this review because, to be quite honest, I have had a difficult time defining my feelings about it and I needed time to let those feelings percolate, so to speak. Essentially, this reviewer’s reaction and Bitter Angel both have a bit of a split personality.

I love the idea of parallel existence and Ms. Hand’s concept of having Lila “live” two sides of a horrendous event is really appealing. The plot itself, revolving around behavior that really does happen, is very well done and the author clearly has a talent for creating almost unbearable tension and suspense. It’s plain almost from the beginning of the girls’ outing what is going to happen and I barely suppressed the urge to yell at them to stop what they were doing, pay attention, get smart and run like hell—very much like those movies where you can’t believe the girl is going into the dark basement and you just want to scream, “No! Don’t do it!”.

Unfortunately, I found the character development to be rather uneven in several ways. The triumvirate is appealing on its surface but, the truth is, I didn’t care much about Heather and Nilah. I cared what might happen to them but the girls themselves were not appealing to me and I thought they were too shallowly drawn. I came very close to heartily disliking Nilah just because she is so very narcissistic and I also thought both these girls were really inconsiderate for demanding that Lila immediately give up her plans when they could clearly have discussed it long in advance.

I did like Jay other than his being a bit of a pushover and was glad to see him “man up” when he needed to. He’s a young man any parent would be happy to see with their daughter. As for the bad guys, I felt they were the most well-drawn in their despicableness and, while I certainly didn’t have any empathy for them (with one exception), they were the most real to me.

Then there’s Lila. Hmm. This girl just yanked me left and right and I’m still not sure what I think. First, she accepts with far too much ease that her parallel experience is real when 99% of us would think it was all one hell of a bad dream. Then she apparently turns into Superwoman and, from that point on, reality takes a hike. I like a strong female character but I just found it hard to believe that she would charge right in the way she does and some of her behavior is downright stupid.

Having said all that, Ms. Hand has created a story about an all too real crime that does happen and I think some of the behavior she attributes to certain characters has a point, that whether it’s a feminist ideal or not, girls DO need to take more care and that perhaps having a designated driver can also serve the purpose of one person being alert enough to spot trouble. In the end, while I had some difficulties with Bitter Angel, I still enjoyed it and will look for more from Megan Hand.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2013.

About the Author

Megan HandAt twelve, Megan decided to write a novel. A month later, she quit. A reading junkie by nature, she started writing again in her twenties as a way to get the voices out, because who wouldn’t want to create a Real Living Person out of thin air? Megan also plays the piano and sings. She teaches little kids and takes pictures of pretty butterflies. She eats way too much chocolate, is sort of a mad scientist with her blender, and spends an unhealthy amount of time LOLing on Facebook and Twitter. She lives in Ohio with her husband and very smiley son. Bitter Angel is her first published novel.

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Book Review: Time’s Twisted Arrow by Rysa Walker

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Time’s Twisted Arrow by Rysa Walker

Publication date: October 1st 2012

Genre: YA Science Fiction

“Sharp writing, a flair for dialogue and a big, twisting imagination.” – Kirkus Reviews.

 

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Time's Twisted Arrow 2Time’s Twisted Arrow
Book One of The CHRONOS Files
Rysa Walker
Gypsy Moon Books, October 2012
ISBN 978-0-9883511-0-3
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

They weren’t panic attacks. Of that, seventeen year old Kate is certain, no matter what the shrink told her parents. But it’s even harder to accept the explanation offered by her terminally ill grandmother – that Kate has inherited designer DNA from the time-traveling historians of CHRONOS, who were stranded in the past by a saboteur. Kate knows that her grandmother’s story could easily be the brain tumor talking, but that doesn’t explain the odd medallion or the two young men – one of them hauntingly familiar — who simply vanish before her eyes on the subway. It doesn’t explain Trey, the handsome stranger who now occupies Kate’s assigned seat in trig class. And it definitely doesn’t explain why  Kate is now in an alternate timeline, where leaders of a previously unknown cult hold great power and are planning a rather drastic form of environmental defense.

In this new reality, Kate’s grandmother was murdered at age twenty-two on a research trip to the past, which means that Kate’s mother was never born, her father doesn’t know her and, for all intents and purposes, she doesn’t exist. The only thing keeping her from disappearing entirely is the strange blue medallion around her neck, and the only thing keeping her sane is her burgeoning relationship with Trey. To restore the time line, Kate must travel back to 1893 and keep herself and her grandmother clear of H.H. Holmes, the serial killer who is stalking young women at the Chicago World’s Fair. But that choice comes at a price – she’ll remember the past few months with Trey, but when he looks at her, he’ll see a total stranger.

The basic premise of Time’s Twisted Arrow is the well-known time travel conundrum: if you know it will change history, including whether certain people exist, are those potential changes justified to stop evil? Rysa Walker offers her take and she does so with a very interesting story.

When Kate finds out that she has the genetic ability to travel through time and that her help is sorely needed to correct some changes made in the past by a cult leader and his devotees, she’s skeptical but, once she realizes that the missing timeline affects her grandmother and herself, it becomes clear that she has little choice. Here, though, is where the author takes the reader down an unfamiliar path and I loved it.

Kate travels back to the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition (World’s Fair) and into the horrendous world of a true-life monster; Ms. Walker’s evocation of this nightmare is right on target. Having this as an important setting in her story is brilliant because it brings to mind the question of changing history in a very individualistic way—how could a time traveler not want to save as many victims of terrible events as possible no matter what collateral damage there might be?

On the whole, I enjoyed this first in a series with only a few quibbles. I really couldn’t like Kate’s grandmother very much and Kate’s acceptance of her new-found ability and her “duty” came much too easily to her. I also found it annoying that she kept telling everybody about it, something I’m pretty sure would not be appreciated by others in her very small fraternity, and I could do without the stale romantic triangle, even though I liked both of the guys. Still, this is a story that intrigues me and I’m looking forward to the next book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2013.

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Author Information

Rysa WalkerRYSA WALKER grew up on a cattle ranch in the South. Her options for entertainment were talking to cows and reading books. (Occasionally, she would mix things up a bit and read books to cows.) On the rare occasion that she gained control of the television, she watched Star Trek and imagined living in the future, on distant planets, or at least in a town big enough to have a stop light.

When not writing, she teaches history and government in North Carolina, where she shares an office with her husband, who heroically pays the mortgage each month, and a golden retriever named Lucy. She still doesn’t get control of the TV very often, thanks to two sports-obsessed kids.

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