Book Reviews: Books 1 and 2 of the New World Series by G. Michael Hopf

The EndThe End
 Book 1 of the New World Series
A Postapocalyptic Novel
G. Michael Hopf
Plume, January 2014
ISBN 978-0-14-218149-2
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

What would you do to survive?

Young Gordon Van Zandt valued duty and loyalty to country above all, so after 9/11, he dropped out of college and joined the Marine Corps. This idealism vanished one fateful day in a war-torn city in Iraq. Ten years later, he is still struggling with the ghosts of his past when a new reality is thrust upon him and his family: North America, Europe and the Far East have all suffered a devastating Super-EMP attack, which causes catastrophic damage to the nation’s power grid and essential infrastructures. Everything from cell phones to cars to computers cease to function, putting society at a standstill.

With civilization in chaos, Gordon must fight for the limited and fast dwindling resources. He knows survival requires action and cooperation with his neighbors, but as the days wear on, so does all sense of civility within his community—and so he must make some of the most difficult decisions of his life in order to ensure his family’s safety. 

Rarely have I been so conflicted about a book and I fear it won’t get any better with the second novel. At its core, this is a strong post-apocalyptic story with tension running higher and higher with every day that passes after the EMP attack but, sadly, the plot can’t make up for the flaws in most of the characters.

Put simply, the women are useless unless overrun with power madness and the men are overbearing bullies, manly men who always know best. There are exceptions, of course, Sebastian and Jimmy being the most obvious, but Gordon, as likeable and dependable as he can be, knows no boundaries to his superior knowledge. Then there’s the President of the United States who is an uncontrollable hothead and, like Gordon, will listen to no one else’s opinion. And the women? Apparently, not one is capable of lifting a finger for her own survival, much less anyone else’s, unless someone dares to threaten her child and then Mama Bear comes out. Where are all the women we see around us every day who are perfectly capable of going on supply runs, wielding a weapon with accuracy, coming to the defense of others, driving a vehicle, for heaven’s sake?? Samantha’s only roles, apparently, are to look after Hunter and Haley (perfectly understandable) and whisper sweet nothings into Gordon’s ear while Mindy is the stereotypical HOA witch. Only Simone seems as though she could be somewhat useful but her role is very limited.

And this is the source of my conflict—I think the plot is really good and gives a good picture of how society would fall apart in such a situation but the characters are SO hard to care about. I understand that someone like Gordon who has a military background and experience with hostilities might be best suited to lead others in the quest for survival but it’s difficult to overlook his trigger-happiness and his inability to EVER admit he might be wrong. President Conner is easier to understand because he’s been thrust into a frightening situation he never thought could happen but it’s even more terrifying to contemplate how unwilling those surrounding him are to confront him when he insists on action that will bring our destruction even faster. Perhaps Lt. Colonel Barone is the easiest of the main characters to understand as I have no doubt some military leader somewhere would mutiny and attempt to “rule”.

When all is said and done, the story is interesting enough to keep me reading so I’ll move on to the next book, The Long Road. Maybe these people will start to grow on me. At the very least, I want to see what will happen with Sebastian, Gordon’s brother, who’s trying desperately to get back to his only family.

 

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2014.

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The Long RoadThe Long Road
Book 2 of the New World Series
A Postapocalyptic Novel
G. Michael Hopf
Plume, January 2014
ISBN 978-0-14-218150-8Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

The End was just the beginning of the new world…

Only six weeks have passed since a super-EMP attack devastated the United States, but already, life has changed dramatically. Most of America has become  a wasteland filled with starving bands of people, mobs and gangs. Millions are dead and millions more are suffering, with no end in sight.

For Gordon, Samantha, Sebastian, Cruz and Barone, the turmoil and chaos they dealt with in the early weeks after the attack will seem trivial in comparison to the collapse of society that plays out before their eyes. Uncertainty abounds as they all travel different paths in search of a safe place to call home. The only thing that is definite is that The Long Road will take its toll on all of them.

In The End, the EMP attack happens on December 5, 2014, and the small band under Gordon’s leadership leaves San Diego on January 6, 2015 . How is it possible that both the author and the publisher could fail to notice that the dates in this second novel are wrong all the way through? The first one concludes in January 2015; the story continues in January 2014 (after the introductory chapter with Haley) and it is not a flashback. I could understand an error getting past all eyes one time but this was previously self-published so it’s had more than just the publisher/author round of proofing. Chapter after chapter, the error goes on and that pulled me out of the story more than anything else could. It’s just sloppy and makes me feel that neither the author nor the publisher cared enough to correct it which is certainly easy enough to do in the digital editions if not the paperback and surely I’m not the first reader to notice this. (Note: I didn’t just get an uncorrected copy—the sample on Amazon is the same.)

Another dating issue occurs on January 16th when a mention is made that one of the groups has been camped out for eleven days but they had just reached that spot on January 8th.

Faction leaders—Lt. Col. Barone, Bishop Sorenson, Rahab, Cruz, Pablo Jaurez, Gordon—all must be in control and all are victims of madness to varying degrees except for Cruz, who is just very weak, and Bishop Sorenson. He is a kindly man, too kindly for the circumstances, but it was a relief to find one person in a position of leadership who truly cared for other people.

The one person who is consistently an honorable man is Sebastian and perhaps he and the bishop represent the minority that would be trying to survive with decency while all the others are the types we would most likely encounter in a post-apocalyptic world. Rahab is the scary monster living under the bed but Barone and Jaurez are the men truly to be feared. Gordon, the supposed hero of the story, is frightening if only because he is so deadly and can’t control himself. His impulses, as often as not, lead to terrible consequences.

This part of the story covers just 10 days which I also found disappointing and, quite honestly, far too many pages are devoted to those 10 days. Still, with all my negative feelings about this book and its predecessor, I am completely caught up and need to know what will happen next; despite everything else, this is the hallmark of a good story, to be compelled to read on. I’ll be picking up Sanctuary as soon as I can.

 

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2014.

So, Who Do You Want To Be?

Why Can't I Be You Tour Banner

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Title: WHY CAN’T I BE YOU?

Author: Allie Larkin

Release date: February 26, 2013

Publisher: Plume

Age Group: Adult

Genre: Women’s Contemporary Fiction

Links to the book:

Penguin     B&N     IndieBound     Amazon

Goodreads

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Why Can't I Be YouWhy Can’t I Be You
Allie Larkin
Plume, February 2013
ISBN 978-0-452-29837-8
Trade Paperback

From the author—

WHY CAN’T I BE YOU takes its name from a 1987 hit song from English rock band The Cure.  All her life, Jenny Shaw toed the line, striving to be the perfect colleague, girlfriend, and daughter – a path that has led her to an unhappy (though successful) career, a failed relationship, and all-but-severed family ties.  On her way to the airport for her first business trip, she is unceremoniously dumped by the man she thought she would one day marry.  In her haze of shock and confusion, she responds to the wrong name when Myra Aberly, organizer of Seattle ’s Mt. Si class of 1999’s thirteenth high-school reunion, shouts “Jessie!” across the hotel lobby. 

In an instant, Jenny Shaw becomes Jessie Morgan, a woman to whom she bears an uncanny resemblance. She is immediately embraced by Jessie’s warm circle of friends – and gains a possible love interest.  But when Jenny becomes more and more curious about Jessie’s history, she uncovers a trail of secrets, pain and deceit that inspires her to uncover the truth that will heal her own painful past.

I don’t often read what is frequently called “women’s fiction”, mainly because I spend so much of my reading time on genre fiction and also because I tend to resist that term and the other one that I find almost deprecating, “chick lit”. Let me say I have similar feelings about terms such as “men’s fiction”, especially when it’s portrayed as being so much more worthwhile than fiction for women. To me, it’s terribly short-sighted and demeaning to imply that women don’t enjoy stories that include action and violence and that men can’t enjoy tales with feelings and romance and even a little fluff. Years ago, a male customer in my bookstore announced very loudly that he never read anything by or about women because such books were not worth his time. I was appalled; his wife was clearly ashamed to be seen with him. I also had women customers who wouldn’t even try mysteries any more edgy than cozies. My point here is that this great divide is not just media flapping its gums but some readers also fall into their expected patterns.

So what made me want to read Why Can’t I Be You? The description got my attention, the bit about pretending to be someone else because, be honest, who among us has not at some point wished to be someone else? I also liked the cover and, yes, I DO sometimes judge a book by its cover.

I’m happy to say taking a chance on this was a great success. I really enjoyed this book, both the storyline and all the characters, every one of them, even the lout who dumped Jenny at the airport. Well, actually, there is one character I could not love but I’ll leave it up to you to ferret out which one that might be and how you connect to all these characters. My heart bled for Jenny, not so much because of her boyfriend’s behavior but for the real long-term pain in her life. I also understood how she could respond the way she did to the mistake Myra made because sometimes it’s just so much easier not to correct people’s errors, especially when it initially seems to be inconsequential.

What really pulled me into this tale, though, was the relationship among these men and women who had not only maintained their friendship after high school but had nurtured it, allowing it to grow into real love from one to another. When Jenny becomes Jessie, that inconsequential response becomes very consequential indeed and the repercussions will have life-long effects.

This is the first book by Allie Larkin I’ve read but it certainly won’t be the last. She is a writer who truly has a way with prose and I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with her characters and their stories. Many men would also find this very appealing, especially the bonds between the men in the group and between Fish and his dad. When all is said and done, this is a story of taking a chance on possibilities and finding one’s self. I have to admit to rampant curiosity, though—why is there no question mark at the end of the title??

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2013.

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Author Info

Allie LarkinAllie Larkin is the internationally bestselling author of the novel Stay, and the just-released novel Why Can’t I Be You (2013).  She lives with her husband, Jeremy, their two German Shepherds, Argo and Stella, and a three-legged cat.

Author Social Media links:

WEBSITE: http://allielarkinwrites.com/

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Allie-Larkin-Writes/116227021725680

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/allielarkin

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