Book Reviews: Where the Rock Splits the Sky by Philip Webb and The Man Who Was Poe by Avi @chickenhsebooks @avi3writer @avonbooks

Where the Rock Splits the Sky
Philip Webb
Chicken House, March 2014
ISBN 978-0-545-55701-6
Hardcover

Mr. Webb’s Where the Rock Splits the Sky is a stellar sci-fi, dystopian story beyond my wildest imagination. Perhaps because I could not fathom a unique paranormal situation which essentially creates chasms, both metaphorical and literal, all over the continental United States. Rather than banding together, people pretend to be in some sort of survival mode. In reality, society splintered and regressed to the ways of the “wild, wild west.”

Everyone can see that an invasion is underway, but only a select few know why. The Navaho people had prayed to the White Shell Woman believing her to be a goddess; Wife of the Moon, Mother of the Navajo people. They are honest and trusting people but the she is an unabashed liar, master manipulator and nothing resembling a goddess.

In the chaos, Megan’s father is missing. She knows, with an inexplicable certainty, that he is trapped in The Zone. She has yet to learn that she is the only person on the planet capable of freeing him and Megan may never be ready to understand why. Shoving doubt aside, she saddles her horse to head into The Zone.

In a rush, but feeling she owes her best bud an explanation, she makes a quick stop. Since Luis is easily as stubborn as she is, Megan isn’t really surprised when he insists on accompanying her. She’s just not sure how she feels about it. Their old, but seemingly uncertain, friendship may not be destined to survive the journey, even if they do find Megan’s father and miraculously make it out alive.

Once inside The Zone, they encounter Kelly. Determinedly cheerful, Kelly announces her intent to join the duo on their quest. Not a problem for Luis, he always believes there’s room for one more. Megan is not so quick to accept a new acquaintance.

Kelly is a large presence with plenty to say and not too much time for politeness. Her overwhelming attitude has Megan and Luis independently soul-searching and even reevaluating their relationship. The dynamic among the three solidified this sweetly-strange little story. I admit, I did not fully understand exactly what was happening or where the story was heading, but I was absolutely invested enough to be shocked, then tickled by a sneaky twist.

Reviewed by jv poore, September 2019.

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The Man Who Was Poe
Avi
Avon, July 1997
ISBN 978-0-380-73022-3
Trade Paperback

I have just “discovered” the author, Avi. Meaning, of course, that one of “my” students brought him to my attention. I had asked the students to fill in a wish-list of books to be added to their classroom library and someone requested a book by Avi. The name stuck with me, and wouldn’t you know, after digging through my stacks o’ books, I actually had something from this very author!

Not just any book, either. This casts Edgar Allan Poe as a supporting character. Famous in his own rights, Mr. Poe is almost legendary here in Richmond, VA, where he occupies a predominant place in history. Clearly, I had to read The Man Who Was Poe right then. Fortunately, this Juvenile Historical Fiction was a fast read.

There’s something completely quirky about enjoying the interactions between two totally different types of people, neither of which I would expect to covet as a companion in real-life. In Avi’s world, however, it is the perfect plot presentation. This mystery moves quickly, even with the hair-pin twists and turns. I wanted to sympathize with young Edmund, or at least his pathetic predicament; but, he’s simply too tenacious and tough to pity. After all, this kid continues to go toe-to-toe with Edgar Allan Poe.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2019.

Book Review: Sting by Cindy R. Wilson @cindyrwilson @entangledteen @YABoundToursPR

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Title: Sting
Author: Cindy R. Wilson
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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Purchase Links
Can Be Found Here

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Sting
Cindy R. Wilson
Entangled Teen, March 2020
ISBN 978-1-64063-826-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

They call me the Scorpion because they don’t know who I really am. All they know is that someone is stealing from people with excess to help people with nothing survive another day.

But then a trusted friend reveals who I am―“just” Tessa, “just” a girl―and sends me straight into the arms of the law. All those people I helped…couldn’t help me when I needed it.

In prison, I find an unlikely ally in Pike, who would have been my enemy on the outside. He represents everything I’m against. Luxury. Excess. The world immediately falling for his gorgeous smile. How he ended up in the dirty cell next to mine is a mystery, but he wants out as much as I do. Together, we have a real chance at escape.

With the sting of betrayal still fresh, Pike and I will seek revenge on those who wronged us. But uncovering all their secrets might turn deadly…

Last fall, I was introduced to Ms. Wilson’s work through her book, Rival, and I liked it very much. At the time, I hoped to see more from her but I didn’t think that would happen so soon. I’m mighty glad I was wrong.

Once again, the author has crafted a story that tips the hat to both another fictional theme, The Count of Monte Cristo, and a legendary quasi-historical figure, Robin Hood. Tessa is a young girl who makes her way in a harsh world—one which we have brought upon ourselves through climate change—but always has an eye towards helping others who are less fortunate by appropriating supplies from those who live a life of privilege and plenty. Tessa has a somewhat surly attitude but she always wants to make life a little easier for those who barely survive day to day in the Dark District and she has formed a family of sorts among a little girl named Cass, a boy named River who is beginning to stir certain feelings in Tessa and Elle, a girl who resents her own origins in the Light District. Each night, they have to avoid the Enforcers who are directed to keep residents of the Dark District in their place.

Tessa has acquired a nickname, Scorpion, largely because of her quick, rapid forays into enemy territory and it’s both a hindrance and a source of pride but betrayal of the deepest sort gets her thrown in the prison known as Decay. After that, escape and revenge are all she wants. A fellow prisoner, Pike, has his own reasons to seek retribution but, for both, the future is a nebulous thing.

Appealing characters and a strong plot, along with a vivid setting, kept me reading into the night and I especially appreciated that this is a self-contained story…although I wouldn’t be averse to another adventure for Tessa and her family 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2020.

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An Excerpt from Sting

He empties another pot of water. “How did you learn how to do all this?”

“Unclog sinks?”

“Fix things. They said the Scorpion built robots the size of men and sent giant tanks into those warehouses to collect all the supplies.”

“Giant tanks?”

“With electronic devices attached to the side. Weapons.”

I stare at him.

“What?” he asks.

“Giant tanks and human-sized robots? Really? That’s a lot of embellishment.”

I wish I could have built an army of robots, though. Something to fight back against the Enforcers. But we still have a chance. Me and Pike. We’re going to do this together.

“You made a big impact, Tessa.”

I look over, my hands dripping with sink water. He’s never called me Tessa before. I almost forgot he knows my real name.

His eyes are earnest, focused on mine. “Whether you were building robots or not, you made a difference. People talk when that happens.”

Mongo snaps out an order for us to get to work. I drop my eyes and continue to gather pots of water.

“I made robots,” I admit with a shrug.

Pike flashes a smile. “Yeah?”

“Robotic scorpions to help canvas the city and the areas we planned on…visiting.”

“Ah. Scorpion. I see. I was wondering where that came from.”

“It wasn’t my idea to start calling myself that.”

“Like I said, you made a difference.” He shifts another pot of water to the bucket. “People need heroes and hope to hold onto. When they get it, they do a lot more than embellish. They start to believe.”

I make myself continue working, though my heart is clutching at Pike’s words. I know what he’s talking about. I know about hope and believing. The first time we brought back supplies for the people in the Dark District and they thanked us, I believed we could do more. The first time a mother cried because we gave her food for her kids, I believed we could get into any warehouse anywhere and help more people. I had hope and I believed.

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About the Author

Cindy lives at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and loves using Colorado towns and cities as inspiration for settings in her stories. She’s the mother of three girls, who provide plenty of fodder for her YA novels. Cindy writes speculative fiction and YA fiction, filled with a healthy dose of romance. You’ll often find her hiking or listening to any number of playlists while she comes up with her next story idea.

Author Links:

Website //  Goodreads // Twitter // Facebook // Instagram

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

One prize pack that includes a
signed copy of STING and a $20
gift card (open to US only)

Enter here.

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Book Review: The Insurrection by Chris Babu @realchrisbabu @tlcbooktours

The Insurrection
The Initiation #3
Chris Babu
Permuted Press, February 2020
ISBN 978-1-68261-883-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

They are protected by lies. He is armed with the truth.

Having survived the Initiation and expedition, one battle remains: the fight for the heart and soul of New America.

Drayden and his friends, enlisting the help of Professor Worth, must find a way back to New America before the Guardians imperil their return. But for these teens, their problems are only beginning. The Bureau, which never expected them to survive the expedition, will do everything in their power to prevent New America’s darkest secrets from getting out.

Drayden’s only hope is the insurrection led by ally Kim Craig. The David versus Goliath battle between good and evil, between truth and lies, will push Drayden to his breaking point and require bravery, self-acceptance, and above all, belief in himself. Backed by the will of the citizens, he’ll need to engineer an ingenious strategy to defeat the all-powerful authoritarians. The question is, will it be enough?

Predators in the wild, gang violence, a perilous ocean journey, confrontations with the Guardians…all, and more, are the many trials and tribulations a small band from Boston face as they work to help those who are resisting the Bureau of New America. How did we get here? A pandemic caused by Aeru, a deadly bacterium (uncomfortably close to what we currently have with the coronavirus) led to a totalitarian group dividing Manhattan into highly defended walled wards but, as you might expect, very little about this is beneficial to the citizens.

Drayden and his team , Catrice, Sidney and Charlie, along with the elderly Professor Worth, set out to become part of the incipient revolution led by Kim Craig but they also have personal issues to work through, especially the teens. When all is said and done, this band of resistors are able to focus on the task at hand, the defeat of the Bureau and they learn that their bonds give them the strength and the fortitude to do what needs to be done.

Mr. Babu is a very talented storyteller and I have to say I really appreciated the way he let these teens be more mature than so many authors do, with all of them able to keep the usual teen angst down to a dull roar. I haven’t read the first two books but I surely will now.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2020.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Books-A-Million // Amazon

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About the Author

Chris Babu is a lifelong math and science geek, with a math degree from MIT. For nineteen years, he worked as a bond trader on Wall Street. Now he writes full-time, indulging his love of young adult books. He splits his time between New York City and the east end of Long Island, where he lives with his wife Michelle, daughter Lily, and Great Dane Buddy. He’s the author of The Initiation and The Expedition, and can be found at chrisbabu.com.

Connect with Chris:

InstagramTwitter, and Facebook.

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Resistant by Erika Modrak @brwpublisher

Resistant
A World Divided
Erika Modrak
Black Rose Writing, December 2019
ISBN 978-1-68433-393-6
Trade Paperback

It is pertinent to preface this review by sharing my wish-list for turning A Book into The Best Book.

1.      Characters I attach to like Velcro. The kind that pop into my head, even when it isn’t buried in the pages, and evoke a wide range of emotions.

2.      So well written that I simply slide along the sentences. But not smoothly.

3.      Must have razor-sharp turns, tummy-flipping twists and a reveal so shocking, it hits like a giant wave of ice-cold water— from out of nowhere.

4.      The story itself must be its own kind of special. Something shiny-new, but with a pseudo-nostalgic, familiar feel. A couple of chuckle-worthy lines, a few to bring tears.

Resistant by Erika Modrak, doesn’t stop at checking each box; it fades my Kodachrome-color fantasy into a sad little stick-figure drawing.

Set in two drastically different worlds, separated by only miles and an impenetrable wall, this Young Adult dystopian marvel unfurls from different viewpoints, each providing a part of the big picture.

Cat and Abel are both fortunate—albeit the reasons are not the same—to live in the Dome. The great Dr. Grayson heads up and cares for The Community. He oversees order and all efforts to find a cure for the Virus. He generously provides basic essentials—beyond the vaccination—for this elite group. Protection, too. Under his watch, they are safe from the few survivors on the outside who have most certainly become criminals, quite possibly cannibals.

Wren and Ryder reside in a comfortable, if rough-around-the edges, camp with other folks that have somehow avoided the Virus. Not absolutely isolated, though. Ryder has managed to make a connection with someone inside the walled city, and periodically speeds away on his motor-bike for supplies. Sometimes, he allows Wren to join him.

And that is how Ryder and Wren learn that each camp rule was written for a reason. If broken, consequences are exponentially more severe than parental punishment.

They’ve caused worlds to collide. Secrets spill and cast a shadow of doubt over everything believed to be true. Wary partnerships are formed to ferret out the truth as those with the most to lose frantically try to maintain their malicious cover.

I’ll be happily handing out copies of Resistant as soon as it hits my hot little hands. It would just be wrong to keep it to myself.

Reviewed by jv poore, December 2019.

Book Review: Our War by Craig DiLouie @CraigDiLouie @orbitbooks @SDSXXTours

Continue reading

Book Review: Rival by Cindy R. Wilson @CindyRWilson @EntangledTeen @YABoundToursPR

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Title: Rival
Author: Cindy R. Wilson
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication Date: October 7, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Entangled Publishing

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Rival
Cindy R. Wilson
Entangled Teen, October 2019
ISBN 978-1-64063-351-3
Ebook

From the publisher—

For years, our families have had one rule: We leave them alone. They leave us alone.
When Juno caught me scavenging for supplies in her family’s territory, I had no idea that the war between our two families was about to be pushed to the edge.

But she takes a chance on me. Trusts me. Lets me go.

Now there’s a greater threat to both sides. Someone’s stealing from my family, too.

And it’s up to me to find the thief before anyone else. Because if I can’t, both sides will blame each other. Rule broken. Game over. No one wins.

My only ally is Juno. The one girl I can’t be found with. The one girl who tempts me like no other. She’s the definition of off-limits. If our families knew how we look at each other, and kiss each other…

Star-crossed doesn’t even begin to describe our fate.

I’ve always been fascinated with the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys that lasted through much of the latter half of the 1800’s on the West Virginia/Kentucky border so, when I first saw the description of Rival, I hoped this would be a fitting re-telling of that inter-family war. I’m happy to say that Ms. Wilson has done a really good job with this.

Re-framed in a future time when conditions are dismal and people are struggling to survive, this also offers a nod to Romeo and Juliet in a sort of disjointed manner and the two threads combine into a tale that held my attention all the way through. Juno and Pillar have a friendship that has allowed them to survive a harsh life and, when Maddox ventures into their community’s territory, a hope for peace between the warring sides is born, if only tenuously. First, Maddox and Juno have to learn to trust.

Although I’m not generally a fan of the kind of angsty romance we usually see in young adult fiction, it works here, maybe because they really do have to overcome the hatred and distrust that have been bred into them. Ms. Wilson has gotten my attention with this story and I’ll be looking forward to many more.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2019.

An Excerpt from Rival

It was Maddox who’d broken the rules this time.

He reached for the lock on the storage room door then froze. It was undone. Wait—had he forgotten to lock it? Or had someone else been by? It was a simple lock, probably easy to pick, but they’d never had problems before.

He opened the door and felt around for the flashlight that hung on the closest hook—one of several he was pretty sure Theo had stolen from the people by the bridge.

He cursed the moment his eyes adjusted.

No, no, no. He shone the flashlight around the room, shock waves rolling through his body. When he’d illuminated every dark corner of the room, his heart dropped to his feet.

Things were missing. Half of their supplies and food were gone. Lanterns, flashlights, cans of beans…so many things missing.

It had to be a mistake. Maybe Theo moved some things, or his mom. But why would they do that? No one was allowed to take anything unless they had permission from the community leaders, and even then, it was only in the direst of circumstances. His mom and Theo were big believers that each family or individual took care of their own needs and only got handouts if the leaders agreed.

He reached overhead and pulled open cupboards, the doors banging against each other. Then he ducked down to the lowest shelves, but he couldn’t find much. Theo hadn’t said anything about moving supplies, had he?

Maddox swallowed, mind racing back to the girl on the beach. Someone had stolen from her, too. He hadn’t believed it. Or at least, he hadn’t believed someone from his community could have done it. But now…he wasn’t sure.

It looked like the girl on the beach might not be the only one who was dealing with a thief.

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About the Author

Cindy lives at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and loves using Colorado towns and cities as inspiration for settings in her stories. She’s the mother of three girls, who provide plenty of fodder for her YA novels. Cindy writes speculative fiction and YA fiction, filled with a healthy dose of romance. You’ll often find her hiking or listening to any number of playlists while she comes up with her next story idea.

Author Links:

Website //  Goodreads // Twitter // Facebook

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Helix by Mary Ting @MaryTing @VesuvianMedia @XpressoTours

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Title: Helix
Series: International Sensory Assassin Network #2

Author: Mary Ting
Publisher: Vesuvian Books

Publication Date: September 10, 2019
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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

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Helix
International Sensory Assassin Network #2
Mary Ting
Vesuvian Books, September 2019
ISBN 978-1-944109-86-8
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Alliances are forming. The resistance is growing. Everything is about to change.

With her memory still fragmented, Ava returns to the International Sensory Assassin Network (ISAN) to find the twin sister she never knew she had.

But as Ava hunts for information, she finds herself tangled in a web of yet more lies and conspiracy. The Helix serum may not be required to access her superpowers, and the number of male assassins—previously considered too volatile to tolerate Helix—is growing in every territory.

The more Ava uncovers, the more of a threat she becomes to ISAN. Her only salvation may be to join the rebels—if she isn’t killed first.

Sometimes, a second book in a series lacks the excitement and energy of the first book but that is certainly not the case with Helix. If anything, it’s a lot more frenetic, and all the action and intensity kind of wore me out although in a good way for the most part.

interestingly, we get the POV of Rhett this time as well as Ava’s and that made it easier for me to buy into the relationship between these two. So often in young adult stories I think the hormones get out of control to a laughable level but I’m more comfortable and less distracted by the romance this time.

As Ava searches for her twin, she learns a lot more about her own unusual abilities and the widespread conspiracy behind them but it’s the introduction of the younger players, the children, that let Ava and me begin to understand. I wonder what the author has in store for us next time.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2019.

About the Author

International Bestselling, Award-Winning Author Mary Ting writes soulful, spellbinding stories that excite the imagination and captivate readers all over the world. Her books run a wide range of genres and her storytelling talents have won her a devoted legion of fans and garnered critical praise.

Becoming an author happened by chance. It was a way to grieve the death of her beloved grandmother, and inspired by a dream she had in high school. After realizing she wanted to become a full-time author, Mary retired from teaching after twenty years. She also had the privilege of touring with the Magic Johnson Foundation to promote literacy and her children’s chapter book: No Bullies Allowed.

Mary resides in Southern California with her husband, two children, and two little dogs, Mochi and Mocha. She enjoys oil painting and making jewelry.

Author links:

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Giveaway

Tour-wide giveaway (INT)

$25 Amazon gift card

Enter the drawing here.

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