Book Review: The Summer the World Ended by Matthew S. Cox

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Title: The Summer the World Ended
Author: Matthew S. Cox
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Publication Date: June 29th, 2015
Genres: General Fiction, Post-apocalyptic, Young Adult

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The Summer the World EndedThe Summer the World Ended
Matthew S. Cox
Curiosity Quills Press, June 2015
ISBN 978-1-62007-904-1
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

As far as Riley McCullough is concerned, her best friend getting ‘dragged’ off to Puerto Vallarta for the first two weeks of summer vacation was the end of the world―at least until the bombs fell.

Life in suburban New Jersey with her mother has been comfortable, not to mention boring, to an introverted fourteen year old. As if her friend’s surprise trip wasn’t bad enough, her expectations for the ‘best summer ever’ disintegrate when she gets sent across the country to stay with a father she hasn’t seen in six years. Adjusting to a tiny, desert town where everyone stares at them like they don’t belong proves difficult, and leaves her feeling more isolated than ever. To make matters worse, her secretive father won’t tell the truth about why he left―or what he’s hiding.

Her luck takes an unexpected turn for the better when she meets a boy who shares her interest in video games and contempt for small town boredom. In him, she finds a kindred spirit who might just make the middle of nowhere tolerable.

Happiness is short lived; fleeing nuclear Armageddon, she takes shelter with her dad in an underground bunker he’d spent years preparing. After fourteen days without sun, Riley must overcome the sorrow of losing everything to save the one person she cares about most.

If I had any doubts about what is meant by the title, The Summer the World Ended, they were driven out by the very first pages  when a 14-year-old girl is confronted with a devastating loss and, because it truly is the first pages, it’s easy to figure out that a whole world of hurt is coming at Riley this summer. Riley herself is a teen you could find just about anywhere—excited to be starting high school in the fall, squabbles with her mom sometimes but also loves to have movie day with her, somewhat addicted to video games, looking forward to a summer hanging out with her BFF, Amber. How could she possibly know that her entire world would be turned upside down in a matter of minutes and that so much more is yet to come?

Accompanying Riley as she maneuvers her way through this new life is the core of the story and I found Riley to be equally engaging in moments of deepest sorrow or fits of giggles or rampant fear. I had to wonder if there might be a 14-year-old girl in the author’s life because he certainly knows how to create one.

As much as I enjoyed Riley and her life journey, I had some issues. I had a real problem connecting with Riley’s dad and her relationship with him. I’ve never been in Riley’s position but I fail to understand how he could essentially abandon her for years and then she would accept him back into her life  with little to no explanation. And what kind of father has his young daughter pack up her dead mother’s things while he basically sits on his rear? Also, I find it very hard to believe that the woman paid off her house but left no money; how is it likely that she wouldn’t have at least some money in the bank? It also made no sense to me that Riley’s dad couldn’t find a way to hold on to the house for her future—why not rent it out and use the income to pay the taxes he says are so burdensome? Finally, how is it possible that the child advocate who was so very solicitous at first would then completely disappear once he’s on the scene?

I also found it nearly impossible to believe that Amber didn’t know about Riley’s mom until two weeks after her death. Not for a minute do I think that Riley could avoid telling her or that Amber wouldn’t realize something was wrong, even long distance.

All that aside, post-apocalyptic is one of my favorite subgenres and this one most certainly didn’t disappoint me once that part of the book got going.  That and the overall story are very good and the ending left me kind of breathless and quite taken by surprise. That’s a great way to end a book, don’t you think?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2015.

About the Author

Matthew S. CoxBorn in a little town known as South Amboy, NJ, in 1973, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Somewhere between fifteen to eighteen of them spent developing the world in which Division ZeroVirtual Immortality, and The Awakened Series take place. He has several other projects in the works as well as a collaborative science fiction endeavor with author Tony Healey.

Hobbies and Interests:

Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, Gamemaster for two custom systems (Chronicles of Eldrinaath [Fantasy] and Divergent Fates [Sci Fi], and a fan of anime, British humour (<- deliberate), and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of reality, life, and what happens after it.

He is also fond of cats.

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Book Review: The Artful by Wilbert Stanton—and a Giveaway!

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Title:The Artful 
Series: Shadows of the City #1
Author: Wilbert Stanton 
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Publication date: May 27th 2014
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic, Young Adult

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The ArtfulThe Artful
Shadows of the City #1
Wilbert Stanton
Curiosity Quills Press, May 2014
ISBN
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

New York City, 2025: Everything is changed. The city that never sleeps is now a land of death and decay. A rampant virus has taken over and the survivors have become carriers, quarantined from the rest of the world.

Twist and Dodger grew up in the streets, the sewers and underground tunnels – their playground. They aren’t heroes. They just like attention; and stealing meds from the rich and giving them to the poor is their golden ticket.

On their latest raid, they unknowingly steal a cure that puts them square between the ailing Emperor of Manhattan and the war hungry Governor of Brooklyn and forces them on a quest into the darkest shadows of their putrefying world.

 

To the reader who’s just starting The Artful: keep at it. Yes, the story is slower than you might like in a post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian novel but the action will pick up if you have a little patience. I admit I came close to giving up but I pushed on and I’m glad I did.

The interesting thing to me about this book is that I wasn’t overly enthralled with the characters immediately but they grew on me (although I never really liked Dodger) and I really appreciated the Dickensian flavor with a large dash of Robin Hood. Still, all is not lighthearted, just the opposite in fact. These boys live in a world of danger and gloom, the latter emphasized by a sun allergy. There are people in our world who cope with a similar condition known as Xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) and still more suffer from a depressive reaction to Seasonal Affective Disorder so the author’s concept of people being unable to let the sun’s rays touch them—and the consequences—is not so hard to believe.

Most of all, perhaps, this is a tale of great friendship and that is what made it appeal to me the most. We don’t see a lot of young adult books that feature boys as the main characters and even rarer is the book that shares the bond that can grow between those boys. Girls tend to have a lot of friends including one or two who are very close while boys frequently have just the one or two. As a result, the male and female friendships can have a different intensity. Dodger and Twist offer a good deal of insight to the reader about male friendships and I feel richer for it.

I do think this story suffers somewhat from firstbookitis in that there are holes in the plot, the character development and the worldbuilding but they didn’t cause me to want to DNF. Mr. Stanton has created a world and characters that I want to know more about and I am looking forward to getting more answers—and action—in the next book. I fully expect Mr. Stanton will hit his authorial stride then.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2014.

About the Author

 

Wilbert StantonWilbert Stanton was born and raised in New York City. From an early age, Wilbert decided he would either write books or take over the world; everything else was just a precursor to his end game.

Along the way, he has studied Psychology, English, and Computer Science. He’s held jobs in a wide range of fields and met people from all walks of life. Wilbert is constantly learning and growing as a person, in order to solidify his dreams.

In the end world domination was a bit tedious, so he decided to focus on writing books.

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Leave a comment below and you might
win an ebook copy of The Artful by
Wilbert Stanton!
The winning name will
be drawn on Thursday evening,
August 14th, and the ebook
will be sent out after September 8th.

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Book Reviews: Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow, The Passion of the Purple Plumeria by Lauren Willig, and The Last Condo Board of the Apocalypse by Nina Post

Sorrow's KnotSorrow’s Knot
Erin Bow
Arthur A. Levine Books, November 2013
ISBN 978-0-545-16666-9
Hardcover

How many times have you asked “Why?” only to be told (with a bit of exasperation) “Because, we’ve always done it this way!”  From the outside looking in, this can be frustrating, a non-answer.  It doesn’t explain a thing and it seems somewhat defensive and stubborn.  Of course, if you have “always done it this way”, and there are no obvious repercussions, the old “if it ain’t broke…..” adage may seem more than adequate.  With that philosophy, there would be no progress, no improvements, we would become stagnant.  The devil’s advocate may wonder, what is wrong with that?  Well, Sorrow’s Knot shows us.

I finished this book awhile ago, but writing this review has been challenging. I could almost write two different reviews—both hugely in favour of the book.  It is truly fantastic.  The unique and subtle life lessons were spot-on and welcome.  As an adult (chronologically), a mom, a short-time former educator and self-proclaimed promoter of the written word; I find this to be a stand-out book.  On the other hand, the book loving, adolescent inside of me just thinks it is a kick-ass story.

First, the appeal to the intended Middle-Grade audience: allow me to gush about the Rock-Star-Quality characters.    Otter, Cricket and Kestrel are unique and likeable, individually; but as the tightly knit trio, they are outstanding! I want to hang out with Kestrel, be her BFF.  She is my new heroine.  I could spend days completing menial tasks if Cricket was there to tell me stories.  The friendship among them surpasses all, including the laws that their people have forever lived by.  Together, they face mystery, intrigue, love and death.

Strengths exhibited by Kestrel, a female ranger, are more real, and therefore way cooler, than the modern-day vampire.  Sweeter romance will not be easily found.  In their world, okishae, said to mean mate, pair, knot.  It is the exception, not the rule.  Okishae lasts a lifetime.  Two humans choosing to love each other, exclusively and forever, is not just rare, it is strange.  That which is feared, The White Hand, is a brand-new (or newly introduced) creepy, eerie and scary entity.  The vagueness surrounding it adds to the mystique and makes for a bone-chilling tale.  As their sheltered life begins to unravel, Otter and Kestrel are faced with decisions that will impact, not just them, but the entire population of Westmost and potentially beyond.  Unceremoniously joined up with a complete stranger in Orca; the ladies will be forced to choose where to place their trust.  Should they accept Orca’s wild tales or continue believing what they’ve always been told?  The many twists and turns are thought-provoking and entertaining, making this one of the grooviest books I’ve read this year.

Now—a quick adult-themed note: I love that the village is mostly women, that a monogamous relationship is an oddity, that a Story-Teller plays such a vital role in the community and that the adolescents are so strong, smart and capable.  Most of all, I loved the purity and loyalty that came with their friendship.  These might not leap out as attributes to the intended audience, but the strength and solidarity that they lend to the story will not be missed.

Coming out in November, just in time to kick off your holiday shopping, this would be a welcome gift to any reader.

Reviewed by jv poore, October 2013.

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The Passion of the Purple PlumeriaThe Passion of the Purple Plumeria   
A Pink Carnation Novel  
Lauren Willig
New American Library, August 2013
ISBN 978-0-451-41472-4
Trade Paperback

The story opens in Paris with Gwendolyn Meadows, part of the intrepid Pink Carnation spy team, crouched on a balcony outside a room occupied by opera singer, Aurelia Fiorila, and the notorious Tallyrand, Napoleon’s foreign minister. They are hatching a plot whereupon Aurelia will play the spy in Britain. Gwen, of course, carries the news back to her employer and friend, Miss Jane Wooliston, who is known in certain circles as the Pink Carnation.

Meanwhile, Colonel William Reid, late of the East India Company, has just arrived in England with plans to build a home for himself and his two daughters, whom he sent to England ten years previously when his wife died.

Gwen and William meet on the doorstep of the girl’s school attended by Jane’s younger sister and William’s youngest daughter, only to discover the two girls have disappeared. Have they been kidnapped? Has someone taken Agnes Wooliston in order to flush out the Pink Carnation? Or is something else at work here? Why is Lizzy gone too?

The set-up sends Gwen and William on a wild chase seeking the girls. A sultan’s treasure is involved, stolen by one of William’s sons. The plot carries forward with non-stop action, fine-tuned characterizations, and excellent descriptions. And that’s just for starters.

Author Willig’s builds her two main characters with snappy, laugh-out-loud dialogue. The situations are both madcap and serious. Yes, I know. Both. The story building reminds me of some of Georgette Heyer’s lighter and more amusing farces, only Willig is funnier. I’ll certainly be reading more of Lauren Willig’s spy series. The only thing I found not to love was the insertion of some chapters that take place in the present day. Those chapters seemed to me to break the spell set up for William and Gwen.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, October 2013.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

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The Last Condo Board of the ApocalypseThe Last Condo Board of the Apocalpyse
Nina Post
Curiosity Quills Press, February 2012
ISBN: 978-1-62007-016-1
Trade Paperback

Kelly Driscoll is a bounty hunter for hire tasked with finding one suspect within a 500-apartment condominium. Finding him within two days will be pretty spectacular but that’s her job and she’s gonna do it. But there are more to these residents than meets the eye. Will she find her suspect in time and claim all her expenses?

To be honest, I couldn’t really get into this book at all. Even writing the short synopsis above took an age because quite simply, I didn’t care about the story, mainly because it was so manic throughout that I don’t know if I got it in the end. Ask me what it was about and I’ll struggle to tell you accurately because there are a myriad of characters all running about acting strangely and seemingly without purpose and certainly without sense. The only thing this achieved was to confuse and add unnecessary complexity to the story that made me want to just give up. Reading page after page about condo meetings is agonising and boring. I guess it was meant to highlight how this weird group of characters get distracted from their original purpose but I could have easily done without it, or at least had a very edited, shortened version. It felt like filler, just very, very boring filler.

Put it this way, the story is too haphazard and convoluted to actually work. It lacks direction and purpose and lurches from thread to thread with too many stops and starts. 61 chapters in a 250 page book is too many in my opinion and only add to the manic atmosphere of the story. While I understand that the book is supposed to be detailing the advent of the apocalypse, having to cling to the plot with a death grip does not make for pleasant reading and in the end, the story wasn’t strong enough for me to even care. It ends very abruptly as well which in this instance was a blessing for me when I realised that I didn’t actually have another 25 pages to read. But, abrupt endings are never a good idea anyway. Teasing and tantalising the reader with an open ending or cliffhanger is good, dropping the story like a hot potato is bad. Since the book contained a preview of the next book titled The Last Donut Shop of the Apocalypse, I’m pretty sure this is aiming to be a series. However, I didn’t even bother to read the sample chapter so indifferent was I to the first title and I certainly didn’t dip into the other sample chapter of One Ghost Per Serving either. This book needs a darn good editor and extensive rewriting before it will hit any bestseller lists. As it is, I won’t be recommending it to others.

Reviewed by Laura McLaughlin, August 2013.