Book Review: Mayfly by Jeff Sweat

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Title: Mayfly
Author: Jeff Sweat
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: May 8, 2018
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:

         
         

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Mayfly
Jeff Sweat
Feiwel and Friends, May 2018
ISBN 978-1-250-13920-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Jemma has spent her life scavenging tools and supplies for her tribe in  their small enclave outside what used to be a big city. Now she’s a teen, and old enough to become a Mama. Making babies is how her people survive—in Jemma’s world, life ends at age seventeen.

Survival has eclipsed love ever since the Parents died of a mysterious plague. But Jemma’s connection to a boy named Apple is stronger than her duty as a Mama. Forced to leave, Jemma and Apple are joined in exile by a mysterious boy who claims to know what is causing them to die. The world is crumbling around them, and their time is running out. Is this truly the End?

Several years ago, I read two books of a dystopian trilogy that were based on the concept of all adults having died and the children had very early deaths to look forward to, much like the story in this book. Those books left me kind of cold and there were gaping plot holes, more like sinkholes, but I felt this particular tale was handled much better and I was not left so dissatisfied.

Remnants of the world created by the parents, such as lawns and swimming pools, have been turned to new uses by the children so that they can survive in this mutated version of California and they think of TeeVee as a god. Jemma, a Gatherer, wants out of this community before she can be forced to have a child and Apple, her friend and a sixteen-year-old Muscle, agrees to go with her when she makes her break.

Worldbuilding is weaker than I would have liked—there are lots of small details, which I welcomed, but big gaps in the larger issues—and I really couldn’t stop wondering why these kids go on as they do, bringing babies into this harsh world. I understand the human drives for survival and procreation but, like Jemma, I don’t think I could give birth to a baby with no future beyond seventeen years and, perhaps worse, not even the comfort of a mother past one year.

All that notwithstanding, I had no idea where Mr. Sweat was going to take me and it’s a perilous and wonderful journey indeed. Failings aside, this series debut is well worth the time and I hope to get more answers in the next book. There will be a next one, right, Mr. Sweat?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

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About the Author

Jeff Sweat has made a living from words his entire career, starting out as an award-winning tech journalist for InformationWeek magazine and moving into marketing.

He led the content marketing team for Yahoo and pioneered its use of social media. He directed PR for two of the top advertising agencies in the country, Deutsch LA and 72andSunny. He now runs his own Los Angeles–based PR and marketing agency, Mister Sweat.

He grew up in Idaho as the middle of eight children—seven boys and one girl—and attended Columbia University in New York. Jeff lives in a big blue house in Los Angeles with his wife Sunny and their three kids, two cats, and a racing greyhound.

He loves to travel and writes everywhere he goes, even when there’s not a desk. He likes karaoke, motorcycles and carpentry. He was once shot in the head with a nail gun, which was not a big of a deal as it sounds. But it still hurt like crazy.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads

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Giveaway
1 winner will receive a MAYFLY
prize pack which includes
buttons, custom art and maps,
and a t-shirt.
US only.

Enter the drawing here.

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Book Review: ISAN by Mary Ting

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Title: ISAN
Author: Mary Ting
Publisher: Vesuvian Books

Publication Date: May 1, 2018
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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

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ISAN
International Sensory Assassin Network
Mary Ting
Vesuvian Books, May 2018
ISBN
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

THE WORLD HAS CHANGED.

SCIENTISTS WARNED IT WOULD HAPPEN.

Meteors devastated the Earth. World Governments developed plans to help surviving citizens. The United States disbanded and salvageable land was divided into four quadrants—North, South, East, and West—governed by The Remnant Council.

Struggling to survive, seventeen-year-old Ava ends up in juvenile detention, until she is selected for a new life—with a catch. She must be injected with an experimental serum. The results will be life changing. The serum will make her “better.” To receive the serum, Ava agrees to join a program controlled by ISAN, the International Sensory Assassin Network.

While on a mission, she is abducted by a rebel group led by Rhett and told that not only does she have a history with him, but her entire past is a lie perpetuated by ISAN to ensure her compliance. Unsure of who to trust, Ava must decide if her strangely familiar and handsome captor is her enemy or her savior—and time is running out.

A major requirement of any speculative fiction—including science fiction, fantasy and the like—is solid worldbuilding so the reader can understand this imaginary setting and how/why it came into existence. When worldbuilding is done well it can be the star of the book; when it doesn’t, the result can be a kind of heartless story with no real point. Ms. Ting has done a slightly incomplete but very nice job of creating her characters’ world.

The first part of this book is a little slow but I chalk it up to the author needing to spend time on that worldbuilding and the action definitely picks up later, quite satisfactorily. Throughout the story, I found gaps here and there but I actually prefer it that way because I don’t want all the answers spoonfed to me. Ava doesn’t understand everything either, not by a long shot, so we learned together.

Imagine yourself as a teenaged girl turned into an assassin, one with enhanced abilities that are used to make killing more efficient. Kind of scary, right? During all the training sequences, I couldn’t help thinking about a couple of movies, Wonder Woman and Black Panther, in which young women are schooled in the art of fighting with constant training (and, in both cases, said training is a visual work of art). The big difference, of course, is that Ava has no real choice and the ultimate goal is less than honorable.

Ava begins to question that goal and cemented herself in my affections with her courage and willingness to look beyond what she is told. She’s not entirely alone, naturally, but I appreciated that the romantic tension between her and Rhett did not become the be-all and end-all of her existence. This pair is an interesting duo and I want to see much more of them and some of the other characters—Ozzie, Tamara and Brooke in particular—but it’s their search for truth that sets them apart from so many others in their universe. Well done, Mary Ting!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

About the Author

International Bestselling Author Mary Ting/M. Clarke resides in Southern California with her husband and two children. She enjoys oil painting and making jewelry. Writing her first novel, Crossroads Saga, happened by chance. It was a way to grieve the death of her beloved grandmother, and inspired by a dream she once had as a young girl. When she started reading new adult novels, she fell in love with the genre. It was the reason she had to write one-Something Great. Why the pen name, M Clarke? She tours with Magic Johnson Foundation to promote literacy and her children’s chapter book-No Bullies Allowed.
Author links:

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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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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon
Indiebound // Entangled Publishing

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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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Giveaway
Signed copy of Unraveled

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Book Review: Condition Book Three by Alec Pirri

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Title: Condition Book Three
Series: The Condition Trilogy
Author: Alec Birri
Narrator: Jonathan Keeble
Publication Date: January 17, 2018
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian

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Purchase Links:

Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Condition Book Three
The Final Correction
The Condition Trilogy
Alec Birri
Narrated by Jonathan Keeble
Essential Music Limited, January 2018
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

So, Professor Savage has been unmasked as the monster Alex Salib always knew he was. But what was their agreement and why is she still determined to see it through? The war on terror appears to be back on track but why does President Kalten seem hell bent on ramping it up – are the Americans seriously intent on starting World War Three?

And what of the treatment itself? Despite Savage’s arrest, the ‘corrections’ go on but to what end? The laws of unintended consequences are about to cause a seismic shift in the very nature of our existence. But then our new masters know that and won’t let it happen until we’re ready…
…Ready to accept the unacceptable.

The year 2028 finds Faruk and Isra, his daughter, traveling through a Middle Eastern desert, en route to deliver Isra to The Prophet. The world has changed thanks to the scientific innovations brought about by Professor Savage and the traditional Faruk has a good deal of trouble blending his old ways with the new face of Islam. Isra, on the other hand, is finding a lot of freedom she never knew before as a young Muslim woman. This particular section of the story is very relevant today as we try, not always successfully, to accept and accommodate cultures and religions that vary widely.

Later, we re-encounter Professor Savage, Nurse Tracy and Dr. Addams as well as a host of new characters; in fact, I began to wish for a cast of characters, not that such a thing is very helpful with an audiobook. What began as an attempt to treat—or, rather, correct—brain disorders has morphed into a mishmash of real time and virtual reality as well as an evolution in the abilities of AI’s to have the emotions of humans. Unfortunately, the question of who is to decide what is aberrant or deviant behavior in need of “correction” is a very heavy issue, as heavy as that of the anti-terror activities that may lead to a new world war.

There is no tidy end to this trilogy but much is left to the reader’s own thoughts, not a bad way to conclude such a tale.

Jonathan Keeble has grown into one of my favorite narrators with his pleasant tones, vivid characterizations (including what seem to be accurate accents in a variety of cultures) and his ability to evoke all kinds of feelings about the story. I don’t think Mr. Birri could have asked for a better voice for his tale.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2018.

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About the Author

Alec Birri served thirty years with the UK Armed Forces. He commanded an operational unit that experimented in new military capabilities classified at the highest level (Top Secret Strap 3) and it is this that forms the basis of his novels. Although semi-autobiographical, for national security and personal liberty reasons, the events and individuals portrayed have to be fiction but are still nonetheless in keeping with his experiences.

Website
Twitter
Facebook

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About the Narrator

If you regularly enjoy listening to audiobooks then this Shakespearean actor will need no introduction. Winner of a 2016 SOVAS award, Jonathan’s voice is rightly recognized as being one of the best, and his narration of The Condition Trilogy is no exception.

LinkedIn
IMDB

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Condition Book Two by Alec Birri

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Title: Condition Book Two
Series: The Condition Trilogy
Author: Alec Birri
Narrator: Jonathan Keeble
Publication Date: January 17, 2018
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Condition Book Two
The Curing Begins…
The Condition Trilogy
Alec Birri
Narrated by Jonathan Keeble
Essential Music Limited, January 2018
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

Discovering an infamous Nazi doctor conducted abortions in Argentina after the Second World War may not come as a surprise, but why was the twisted eugenicist not only allowed to continue his evil experiments but encouraged to do so? And what has that got to do with a respected neurologist in 2027? Surely, the invention of a cure for nearly all the world’s ailments can’t possibly have its roots buried in the horrors of Auschwitz?

The unacceptable is about to become the disturbingly bizarre. What has the treatment’s “correction” of pedophiles got to do with the president of the United States, the pope, and even the UK’s Green Party?

As if the Condition trilogy wasn’t unsettling enough….

The medical experiments that took place during the Nazi regime are, to this day, horrifying and a look at just how evil humanity can be in the name of science. A young Argentinian police officer, Emiliano—who becomes unrealistically entangled in a romance with Maria—is not prepared, though, to find evidence of continuing work being done in an orphanage, leading to a hunt for the former Nazi who’s involved.

That hunt goes on for years until we find ourselves in the year 2026 and back among some of the characters from the first book including Professor Savage and Nurse Tracy. Tracy is still just as unlikeable as before and still just a foil for sexual fantasies but we learn much more about what the professor is really up to. I’m looking forward to getting the true story with Book Three, The Final Correction (an ominous subtitle if there ever was one).

Jonathan Keeble continues to be an excellent narrator in this second book of the trilogy; he has a wonderful tone to his voice and his interpretation of various characters is quite good albeit with some limitations with the Argentinians.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2018.

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About the Author

Alec Birri served thirty years with the UK Armed Forces. He commanded an operational unit that experimented in new military capabilities classified at the highest level (Top Secret Strap 3) and it is this that forms the basis of his novels. Although semi-autobiographical, for national security and personal liberty reasons, the events and individuals portrayed have to be fiction but are still nonetheless in keeping with his experiences.

Website
Twitter
Facebook

************

About the Narrator

If you regularly enjoy listening to audiobooks then this Shakespearean actor will need no introduction. Winner of a 2016 SOVAS award, Jonathan’s voice is rightly recognized as being one of the best, and his narration of The Condition Trilogy is no exception.

LinkedIn
IMDB

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Condition Book One by Alec Birri

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Title: Condition Book One
Series: The Condition Trilogy
Author: Alec Birri
Narrator: Jonathan Keeble
Publication Date: January 17, 2018
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian

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Purchase Links:

Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Condition Book One
A Medical Miracle?
The Condition Trilogy
Alec Birri
Narrated by Jonathan Keeble
Essential Music Limited, January 2018
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

What if all brain disorders were treatable? Few would lament the passing of dementia or autism, but what if the twisted mind of a sex offender or murderer could be cured too? Or how about a terrorist or maybe a political extremist? What if we could all be “corrected”?

It’s 1966, and RAF pilot Dan Stewart awakes from a coma following an aircraft accident into a world where nothing seems to make sense anymore. Not being able to recall the crash might be expected, but what about the rest of his life? And what’s stopping him from taking his medication? Is it brain damage that’s causing paranoia about the red pill, or is Dan right to think something sinister is going on?

His horrific injuries don’t make any sense either – a post-crash fire caused him to suffer almost 100% burns. How is it even possible to survive that? Are the hallucinations and strange dreams trying to tell him something? They are, and he’ll soon find out what, but not before his doctor’s sure the shock won’t kill him.

Have you ever met a character that seemed to somehow exactly fit what you expected? Dan is more than a little loudmouthed, brash, even obnoxious, and his thoughts swirl madly and almost aimlessly. He’s badtempered and suspicious and apparently has kind feelings only about his young daughter. All of this meshed nicely with how I might feel and behave if I woke up in a hospital after a terrible accident that should have killed me and found that, not only was my body in a rather strange condition, but I also just knew that something wasn’t right.

Dan, of course, is correct in thinking something’s off and, if there has ever been an unreliable narrator, it’s him. Small wonder since he is seemingly surrounded by people who don’t want to be honest with him. Is the doctor really treating him? Why are all the patients he meets suffering severe burns just like his? Does he have good reason to be suspicious about his wife? Why is his memory so faulty? And why is he so leery of taking the red pill?

Unfortunately, in the early stages of this story, I couldn’t like a single character for one reason or another, with special dislikes for Dan and his nurse, Tracy. If that happens to you, I urge you to keep reading anyway because, when all is said and done, this is a unique tale, one that kept my interest to the end and I’m anticipating enjoying the next book just as much. Reading about the evil that can be done in the name of science is always tough but a gripping story nonetheless.

As for the narration, Mr. Keeble added a lot to my appreciation of the story. His tone is smooth and very pleasing and he interprets different players really well, male and female. I haven’t listened to anything else he might have done but I certainly won’t mind listening to him again.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2018.

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About the Author

Alec Birri served thirty years with the UK Armed Forces. He commanded an operational unit that experimented in new military capabilities classified at the highest level (Top Secret Strap 3) and it is this that forms the basis of his novels. Although semi-autobiographical, for national security and personal liberty reasons, the events and individuals portrayed have to be fiction but are still nonetheless in keeping with his experiences.

Website
Twitter
Facebook

************

About the Narrator

If you regularly enjoy listening to audiobooks then this Shakespearean actor will need no introduction. Winner of a 2016 SOVAS award, Jonathan’s voice is rightly recognized as being one of the best, and his narration of The Condition Trilogy is no exception.

LinkedIn
IMDB

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Play an excerpt here.

************

Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Quantum State by M. Black

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