Book Review: This Is Not the End by Chandler Baker

This Is Not the End
Chandler Baker
Hyperion, August 2017
ISBN 978-1-4847-5024-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

If you could choose one person to bring back to life, who would it be?

Seventeen-year-old Lake Deveraux is the survivor of a car crash that killed her best friend and boyfriend. Now she faces an impossible choice. Resurrection technology changed the world, but strict laws allow just one resurrection per citizen, to be used on your eighteenth birthday or lost forever.

You only have days to decide.

For each grieving family, Lake is the best chance to bring back their child.

For Lake, it’s the only way to reclaim a piece of happiness after her own family fell apart.

And Lake must also grapple with a secret–and illegal–vow she made years ago to resurrect someone else. Someone who’s not even dead yet.

Who do you need most?

As Lake’s eighteenth birthday nears, secrets and betrayals new and old threaten to eclipse her cherished memories. Lake has one chance to save a life…but can she live with her choice?

What an impossible choice Lake has, knowing she can bring her dead best friend or boyfriend back to life but not both. Can you imagine the pressure that comes with that, never mind the twist of having promised her one resurrection to someone else? At first blush, having the technology to allow a resurrection seems a remarkable opportunity but perhaps it really isn’t. Think about it…how would you select one person if you’ve had multiple losses leading up to your 18th birthday?

Lake has a tremendous sorrow, no doubt, but how is it possible that she could feel an almost instantaneous connection with a guy she just met? That budding romance didn’t sit right with me but I still have a lot of empathy for Lake because she’s a nice girl who cares, a very normal girl, and I wanted her to find some kind of resolution that gives her comfort. Lake’s brother, Matt, is another compelling character, not always in a good way but his bitterness is understandable, and the dilemma he causes for Lake gives this story a strong sense of the ethics involved in some of our medical and scientific advances. It also lets us see how Lake has been a sort of second-hand citizen in her own family, certainly something that would affect anyone’s psyche, especially considering the plan her parents have in mind. In the end, can whatever choice she makes please anyone, including herself?

Betrayal is a core element here and we see that certain people are, or were, not what they seemed, and the misperceptions that plague us all played a huge role in this very intriguing story. Those misperceptions lead to some very surprising twists, a fitting way to bring everything to a close and, all in all, I found This Is Not the End to be a most interesting and engaging tale.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

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Book Review: Temptation Trials by B. Truly

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Book Reviews: Body Parts by Jessica Kapp and Yom Killer by Ilene Schneider

Body Parts
Jessica Kapp
Diversion Books, August 2017
ISBN 978-1-63576-166-5
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Raised in an elite foster center off the California coast, sixteen-year-old Tabitha has been protected from the outside world. Her trainers at the center have told her she’ll need to be in top physical condition to be matched with a loving family. So she swims laps and shaves seconds off her mile time, dreaming of the day when she’ll meet her adoptive parents.

But when Tabitha’s told she’s been paired, instead of being taken to her new home, she wakes up immobile on a hospital bed. Moments before she’s sliced open, a group of renegade teenagers rescues her, and she learns the real reason she’s been kept in shape: PharmPerfect, a local pharmaceutical giant, is using her foster program as a replacement factory for their pill-addicted clients’ failing organs.

Determined to save the rest of her friends at the center, Tabitha joins forces with her rescuers, led by moody and mysterious Gavin Stiles. As they race to uncover the rest of PharmPerfect’s secrets, though, Tabitha finds herself with more questions than answers. Will trusting the enigmatic group of rebels lead her back to the slaughterhouse?

I’d like to say the idea of raising children for organ harvesting is a shocking idea but it isn’t entirely when you think of those families that have a child to harvest the stem cells for an older child. The big difference is that those families mean no ill will towards that younger child, unlike the drug company in Body Parts. Just imagine the betrayal Tabitha feels when she learns the truth. For 10 years, she has believed that her foster home guardians have her best interest at heart and that all the hard work getting and keeping her mind and body in top shape will win her a place with a loving family.

The time is about 2030 (based on a reference to a tv show), not so far in the future. When Tabitha first learns the truth, she isn’t at all sure who she can trust but, clearly, it isn’t the adults who’ve been involved in her “care” all these years and she fears for the friends still at the Centre. The tension at this point is high but then it sort of slides into a muddle of romantic confusion that, to my way of thinking, is neither necessary nor logical, given the need to concentrate on saving the kids left behind. When Tabitha accepts the reality of what’s going on, she becomes driven to join in on missions to rescue others but she isn’t really qualified.

Overall, this story is a good one and, while I can’t say I formed any real attachment to Tabitha or any of the other characters, the premise did provoke a bit of thinking. The real discomfort, to me, comes from the knowledge that we in developed countries are becoming much too reliant on pills and potions to make everything better, to “preserve” ourselves, if you will. Perhaps we should pay attention to the possible dangers that might seem like pure fiction.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

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Yom Killer
A Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mystery Book 3
Ilene Schneider
Aakenbaaken & Kent, December 2016
ISBN 978-1-938436-19-2
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

No time is ever good for a family emergency, but for a rabbi the period just before Yom Kippur is especially difficult. Yet even though the Holy Day is approaching, Rabbi Aviva Cohen rushes off to Boston to be at the bedside of her mother, who was found unconscious in her apartment at an assisted living facility. The big question is: was it an accident or an attack? The search for the truth uncovers everything from old grudges to family secrets to fraud – and possibly murder.

When you, or someone close, reach a certain age, assisted living facilities loom large and, for the responsible family members, safety is a major topic of conversation and research. However, murder or even the perception of murder, is not usually in the list of things to look out for. Small wonder, then, that Rabbi Aviva’s suspicions are aroused and she heads right to Boston to see about her mother, accompanied by her ex-husband, Steve Goldfarb, who just happens to be acting chief of police in their New Jersey town. Of course, she doesn’t immediately suspect attempted murder. After all, senior citizens fall a lot so why should her sleuthing senses be alerted? When she does begin to look at things askance, her snooping—for that is what it is—seems at least moderately appropriate because this is her mother. Besides, rabbis (and other religious professionals) do have a way of encouraging people to talk, don’t they?

Aviva is an engaging character, one that brought a smile to my face quite often, and a lot of the others also appealed to me, especially Steve, who’s not as much of an ex as you might expect, and Aviva’s fabulous mom. Since the author is Rabbi Ilene Schneider, I think it’s safe to say Aviva’s background, beliefs, behavior, etc., are as accurate as it’s possible to be within the confines of fiction and I appreciate that because my knowledge of the Jewish faith is limited. I learned things about Judaic customs and certain religious periods to add to my small collection of facts and that added to my overall enjoyment of this lighthearted, intelligent mystery.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

Book Review: Blight by Alexandra Duncan

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Title: Blight
Author: Alexandra Duncan
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication date: August 1, 2017

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Blight
Alexandra Duncan
Greenwillow Books, August 2017
ISBN 978-0-06-239699-0
Hardcover

From the publisher—

When an agribusiness facility producing genetically engineered food releases a deadly toxin into the environment, seventeen-year-old Tempest Torres races to deliver the cure before time runs out.

From the author of the acclaimed American Booksellers Association’s Indies Introduce pick Salvage, which was called “Brilliant, feminist science fiction” by Stephanie Perkins, the internationally bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss. This stand-alone action-adventure story is perfect for fans of Oryx and Crake and The House of the Scorpion.

Seventeen-year-old Tempest Torres has lived on the AgraStar farm north of Atlanta, Georgia, since she was found outside its gates at the age of five. Now she’s part of the security force guarding the fence and watching for scavengers—people who would rather steal genetically engineered food from the Company than work for it. When a group of such rebels accidentally sets off an explosion in the research compound, it releases into the air a blight that kills every living thing in its path—including humans. With blight-resistant seeds in her pocket, Tempest teams up with a scavenger boy named Alder and runs for help. But when they finally arrive at AgraStar headquarters, they discover that there’s an even bigger plot behind the blight—and it’s up to them to stop it from happening again.

Inspired by current environmental issues, specifically the genetic adjustment of seeds to resist blight and the risks of not allowing natural seed diversity, this is an action-adventure story that is Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake meets Nancy Farmer’s House of the Scorpion.

Genetically modified food is kind of a sore subject these days with some appreciating the enhancements and others being diametrically opposed for a number of reasons, not least of which are the known and unknown health risks. In Tempest’s world, not so very far in the future, such food has become the norm and a subclass of people has developed , those who can’t afford this food and must resort to stealing it or distributing contraband. Tempest has found her place in this agriculture-driven reality as a security guard and she’s very good at what she does. She knows herself and what she wants for her future…until the day disaster strikes and she has to make unexpected choices.

Tempest is an intriguing character and has a toughness about her that comes to stand her in good stead. When we first meet her, she seems to be quite focused and, in fact, she has been raised with very little softness or sentimentality. Inside, though, she’s not nearly so self-assured and the many facets of her personality begin to come to the fore; it’s especially interesting to watch her come to terms with some unhappy truths and figure out her place in an uneasy future. Essentially, this is kind of a coming-of-age story and getting to know this girl is what makes Blight a story to remember.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

About the Author

Alexandra Duncan is a writer and librarian. Her first novel, Salvage, was published April 1, 2014, by Greenwillow Books. Her short fiction has appeared in several Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy anthologies and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She loves anything that gets her hands dirty – pie-baking, leatherworking, gardening, drawing, and rolling sushi. She lives with her husband and two monstrous, furry cats in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

You can visit her online at http://alexandra-duncan.com/

WEBSITE | BLOG | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS

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Follow the tour:

Week One:

7/24/2017- Savings in Seconds– Review

7/25/2017- The Autumn Bookshelf– Interview

7/26/2017- Wandering Bark Books– Excerpt

7/27/2017- A Dream Within A Dream– Review

7/28/2017- Two Chicks on Books– Interview

Week Two:

7/31/2017- Buried Under Books– Review

8/1/2017- The Bewitched Reader– Guest Post

8/2/2017- Here’s to Happy Endings– Review

8/3/2017- Kati’s Bookaholic Rambling Reviews– Excerpt

8/4/2017- YABooksCentral– Review

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1 winner will receive a signed hardcover of BLIGHT
plus a set of the gorgeous prints in the photo, US Only.

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Book Review: Jadeite’s Journey by Lucinda Stein

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Title: Jadeite’s Journey
Author: Lucinda Stein
Publisher: Inkspell Publishing

Publication Date: January 24, 2017
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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jadeites-journeyJadeite’s Journey
Lucinda Stein
Inkspell Publishing, January 2017
ISBN 978-0-9976212-6-6
Ebook

From the publisher—

When romance turns deadly…

Jadeite’s perfect world comes crashing down on her. In the futuristic world of United Society, her only problem has been how to act around the cute boy on the air shuttle. But Jadeite’s world changes when she comes across a man who looks alarmingly like her father. Clones were declared illegal years ago. When she sees her father, a robotic engineer, headed to the Dark Edge of United Society, she follows him and uncovers her father’s secret life.

Jadeite shadows her father past the boundary of United Society and into a primitive world of canyons and high deserts. She learns her father is a Ridge Runner passing between the two worlds. Even more alarming, she discovers her younger brother, Malachite, is sick and requires medicine only available from over the Ridge. After her father is arrested, Jadeite takes his place in order to save her brother’s life.

But her world turns even more precarious after she breaks up with her obsessive boyfriend, Mattie. Jadeite soon learns his threats are more than words, and she finds her life is in jeopardy.

Book covers DO make a difference, don’t they? It certainly did for me this time—as soon as I saw this one, I just had to know more so kudos to the cover artist, Najla Qamber.

No disease, no crime, no poverty, no death. Sounds great at first, right? No plants, no animals, all made extinct because they serve no purpose. No unproductive people allowed to exist. No right to decide who sits next to you. Maybe the positives of this society aren’t so positive after all but if you’ve never known any other way….

At first, I couldn’t get a clear idea of the time frame and the history leading up to Jadeite’s period with relation to our own time—the numbers didn’t seem to work—but I decided that wasn’t so important. I also found it troubling that the still remaining signs of pre-United Society civilization existed so closely to her sheltered environment but she nothing of it, seeming to contradict her persona as an intelligent, curious young lady. How is it possible that crumbling buildings and roads from our own time are within a brief shuttle ride and, yet, she had no idea? Leaving these issues aside, though, I was quite taken with the world Ms. Stein created with her attention to small details such that I could picture myself in Jadeite’s environment.

Jadeite herself is an appealing protagonist as are her family and her friend, Electra. Mattie, on the other hand, starts showing his questionable side early on and I would like to think such an intelligent girl would see through him but, alas, she falls for the surface as so many girls do. On the positive side, Jadeite soon begins to acknowledge her own doubts concerning facets of the United Society’s dicta and its harsh laws.

What Jadeite will do with the shocking things she learns is, of course, a large part of her story and I found myself intrigued with this girl’s life journey.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

About the Author

lucinda-steinA school librarian for over twenty years, Stein now writes fulltime. Sanctuary: Family, Friends, & Strangers was a 2015 Colorado Book Award finalist. Three Threads Woven, was a 2010 WILLA Finalist. Her story, Sulfur Springs, won First Place in the 2011 LAURA Short Fiction competition. Her stories have appeared in Pooled Ink, The South Dakota Review, Fine Lines, and Women Writing the West online.

When not writing, she hikes desert canyons and alpine trails. She loves anything vintage, her shelter-rescued dog, Opie, and, most of all, her husband, Rob.

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Book Review (Audio): Anomalies by Sadie Turner and Colette Freedman

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Title: Anomalies
Authors: Sadie Turner & Colette Freedman
Publisher Print and Ebook: Select Books
  Print/Ebook Book Release Date: February 9, 2016
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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anomalies-audioAnomalies
Sadie Turner & Colette Freedman
Read by Lucinda Clare
Punch Audio/Sadie Turner & Colette Freedman, October 2016
Downloaded Unabridged Audio Book

From the authors—

In the future there is no disease. There is no war. There is no discontent. All citizens are complacent members of the Global Governance. But one summer is about to change everything.

Keeva Tee just turned 15. She’s about to make the trip to Monarch Camp to be imprinted with her intended life partner. But in her happy, carefree life in the Ocean Community, she hears whispers about “anomalies” – citizens who can’t be imprinted. When Keeva arrives at Monarch Camp, her worst nightmare becomes a reality – she is an anomaly. She begins to doubt everything she’s ever believed. What if freedom and individuality have been sacrificed for security?

When Keeva finds a warning carved under a bunk bed she begins to understand: nonconformity will be punished, dissent is not an option, insurgents will be destroyed.

I reviewed the print edition of this book in April 2016 {https://cncbooksblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/20/book-review-anomalies-by-sadie-turner-and-colette-freedman/} so I won’t go into the story again but, rather, focus this time on the audio aspects of the book. In case I really need to say so 😉 I wouldn’t have listened to the audio book if I didn’t really like the tale already.

An audio version of a book adds an element not present in other versions because the narrator is equally as important as the story. A terrific story can save a mediocre or poor narrator but, on the other hand, can be ruined by the wrong narrator or brought to new heights of appeal by the right one. I’ve listened (briefly) to some less than wonderful readers as well as a few I consider the tops and Lucinda Clare is very, very close to that level.

Ms. Clare has a pleasing tone with inflections that ease the listener into understanding the mood and personality of each character and she has clearly distinct voices for those characters. If I have any quibble at all, it’s that her voice is a little too mature to portray a 15-year-old girl but that’s truly minor. Keeva’s intelligence and curiosity, Calix’s confusion and Sobek’s callousness all come through easily but Ms. Clare doesn’t put all her efforts into evoking the characters.

As the story evolves, she ratchets up the tension and, as a result, my own senses were heightened beyond what I experienced when reading the print version. I felt the impact of each revelation as much as Keeva and Calix did and shared their emotions. In short, the audio edition of Anomalies is well worth the time (and cost) and I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying Ms. Turner’s and Ms. Freedman’s exciting story and Lucinda Clare’s narration.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

About the Authors

Sadie TurnerSADIE TURNER is a Los Angeles-based producer and writer originally from Brighton, England, who works in business development with several Hollywood entrepreneurs. She has various projects in development, and also teaches yoga.

Author Links:

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Colette FreedmanCOLETTE FREEDMAN– An internationally produced playwright with over 25 produced plays, Colette was voted “One of 50 to Watch” by The Dramatist’s Guild. Her hit musical “Serial Killer Barbie” can be heard here.

Her play Sister Cities was the hit of the 2008 Edinburgh Fringe and earned five star reviews:  It has been produced around the country and internationally, fifteen times including Paris (“Une Ville, Une Soeur”), Rome (“Le Quattro Sorelle”) and Australia.  It is next up in  Chicago August 2016. She wrote the film which is currently in post-production and stars Jacki Weaver, Alfred Molina, Jess Weixler, Stana Katic, Michelle Trachtenberg, Amy Smart, Troian Bellisario, Tom Everett Scott and Kathy Baker. She  has co-written, with international bestselling novelist Jackie Collins, the play “Jackie Collins’ Hollywood Lies”, which is gearing up for a National Tour.

In collaboration with The New York Times best selling author Michael Scott,  she wrote the thriller The Thirteen Hallows  (Tor/Macmillan). Her novel The Affair (Kensington) came out January 29, 2013. The play of the novel earned both critical and commercial success as it toured Italy February through May 2013. Her sequel novel The Consequences (Kensington) came out January 28, 2014. Her YA novel Anomalies (Select Books) came out February 9, 2016. She also co-wrote the film “And Then There Was Eve” which is currently in pre-production and begins principal photography May 2016.

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Book Review: Flashfall by Jenny Moyer

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Title: Flashfall
Author: Jenny Moyer
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Release Date: November 15, 2016
Genre:  Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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flashfallFlashfall
Jenny Moyer
Henry Holt and Company, November 2016
ISBN 978-1-6277-9481-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Orion is a Subpar, expected to mine the tunnels of Outpost Five, near the deadly flash curtain. For generations, her people have chased cirium―the only element that can shield humanity from the curtain’s radioactive particles. She and her caving partner Dram work the most treacherous tunnel, fighting past flash bats and tunnel gulls, in hopes of mining enough cirium to earn their way into the protected city.

But when newcomers arrive at Outpost Five, Orion uncovers disturbing revelations that make her question everything she thought she knew about life on both sides of the cirium shield. As conditions at the outpost grow increasingly dangerous, it’s up to Orion to forge a way past the flashfall, beyond all boundaries, beyond the world as she knows it.

While much about Flashfall seemed to me to be quite similar to other dystopian stories (really, though, how many new and totally different tales can there be this late in the dystopian book world?), Ms. Moyer did one thing that not many authors do for me, personally. Within minutes of beginning to read, I was truly attached to both Orion and Dram. Usually, characters have to grow on me and it takes a while but, here, the connection was almost immediate.

The plot, revolving around the mining of a particular element and the need to earn enough to live on the “good” side, is interesting and, even though I didn’t find it astoundingly different, I did enjoy this tale of a girl having to grow up a great deal before her time and learning that all is not as it seems. I also appreciated that the event that brought this world to its knees happened only about a century earlier so there is not a lot of need for fancy futuristic technology that, quite honestly, I sometimes think gets in the way of a good story. The radiation dangers and class divisions are issues we can relate to, making the tale more believable, and the author has created a credible and interesting human existence with worldbuilding that I found much better than I’ve seen in recent times.

Most especially, though, I reveled in the relationship between Orion and Dram, a relationship based on total trust. That is something we don’t see every day and I applaud Ms. Moyer for it.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2016.

About the Author

jenny-moyer
 Jenny is the author of YA sci-fi/fantasy FLASHFALL, coming from Macmillan/Holt 11-15-16. She lives with her filmmaker husband and their three boys in Des Moines.
Find out more at http://www.jennymoyer.com and connect with Jenny on Twitter and Facebook.
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