Book Review: Regeneration by Stacey Berg

Regeneration
An Echo Hunter 367 Novel #2
Stacey Berg
Harper Voyager Impulse, March 2017
ISBN 978-0-06-246614-3
Ebook
Mass Market Paperback coming in April 2017

From the publisher—

The Church has stood for hundreds of years, preserving the sole surviving city in a desert wasteland. When Echo Hunter 367 is sent out past the Church’s farthest outposts, she’s sure it’s a suicide mission. But just when she’s about to give up hope, she finds the impossible – another thriving community, lush and green, with a counsel of leaders who take her in.

Wary of this new society, with ways so different from the only life she’s ever known, Echo is determined to complete her mission and bring hope back to the Church. She’s unsure who she can trust, and must be strong and not be seduced by their clean, fresh water, and plentiful energy sources. If she plays her cards right, she may even still have a chance to save the woman she loves.

Regeneration is one of those books that leave me in the dust a bit because there is so much going on and so many characters to keep straight. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but it does mean I struggled some but, all in all, I liked it for the most part. I will say I think I should have read the first book, Dissension, before tackling this one.

When we first see Echo, she is on the point of death but rescue comes just in time and she wakes in a strange place surrounded by people she doesn’t know. This is initially the most important facet of the story, the need to try to adapt to and work with strangers, people whose lives have been so different.

The other core aspect of Echo’s tale is the need to make choices or, indeed, to NOT make choices. At nearly every turn, Echo is faced with options and they are rarely simple; some, in fact, can lead to major upheavals in her life and in the world she lives in. She’s not the only one facing these dilemmas, though. As two societies learn they are not alone, they must either agree to disagree, if you will, or find ways to coexist and Echo is right at the center of what will be a turning point for these people who have survived the end of civilization as we know it.

Including a love story that nearly consumes Echo, Regeneration is an intense look at human nature when faced with the unknown and I felt compelled to turn the pages to find out what would happen next. I was certainly not prepared for the ending but I think it was almost pre-ordained and was, indeed, fitting.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2017.

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An Excerpt from Regeneration

Echo Hunter 367 studied the dying woman in the desert with grudging admiration. The woman had walked long past what might reasonably be expected, if that lurching stagger could be called a walk. When she couldn’t walk any more she had crawled, and after that she had dragged herself along, fingers clawing through sand until they clutched some purchase, body scraping over rocks and debris, heedless of the damage. Now and then she made a noise, a purely animal grunt of effort or pain, but she forced herself onward, all the way until the end.

I smell the water.

Desperate as the woman was, she had still been cautious. Though an incalculable distance from any familiar place, she still recognized danger: the wind-borne sand that scoured exposed skin clean to the bone, the predators that stalked patiently in the shadows for prey too weak to flee. The cliff edge that a careless girl could slip over, body suspended in space for the briefest moment before her hands tore through the thornbush, then the long hard fall.

Echo jerked back from that imagined edge. It was her last purposeful movement.  From some great height, she watched herself collapse in the sand. One grasping hand, nails torn, knuckles bloody, landed only a few meters from the spring’s cool water, but she never knew it. For a little while her body twitched in irregular spasms, then those too stilled. Only her lips moved, cracking into a bloody smile. “Lia,” she whispered. “Lia.” Then she fell into the dark.

For a long time there was no sound except water trickling in a death rattle over stones.

Then the high whine of engines scattered the circling predators. Pain returned first, of course. Every inch of skin burned, blistered by sun or rubbed raw by the sand that had worked its way inside the desert-proof clothing. Her muscles ached from too long an effort with no fuel and insufficient water, and her head pounded without mercy. Even the movement of air in and out of her lungs hurt, as if she had inhaled fire. But that pain meant she was breathing, and if she was breathing she still had to fight. With enormous effort she dragged open her eyes, only to meet a blinding brightness. She made a sound, and tasted hot salt as her lips cracked open again. “Shhh,” a soft voice said. “Shhh.” Something cool, smelling of resin and water, settled over her eyes, shielding them from the glare. A cloth dabbed at her mouth, then a finger smoothed ointment over her lips, softening them so they wouldn’t split further when she was finally able to speak. Lia, she thought, letting herself rest in that gentle strength until the pain subsided into manageable inputs. Then she began to take stock.

She lay on something soft, not the rock that had made her bed for so many weeks, although her abused flesh still ached at every pressure point. The air felt cool but still, unlike the probing desert wind, and it carried, beyond the herbal tang, a scent rich and round, unlike the silica sharpness of sand she’d grown so accustomed to. Filtered through the cloth over her eyes, the light seemed diffuse, too dim for the sun. Indoors, then, and not a temporary shelter, but a place with thick walls, and a bed, and someone with sufficient resources to retrieve a dying woman from the desert, and a reason to do so. But what that reason might be eluded her. The Church would never rescue a failure.

Unless the Saint commanded it.

She mustered all her strength and dragged the cloth from her eyes. She blinked away grit until the blurred oval hovering above her took on distinct features, the soft line of the cheek, the gently curving lips. Lia, she thought again, and in her weakness tears washed the vision away. She wiped her eyes with a trembling hand.

And stared into the face of an utter stranger.

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About the Author

Stacey Berg is a medical researcher who writes speculative fiction. Her work as a physician-scientist provides the inspiration for many of her stories. She lives with her wife in Houston and is a member of the Writers’ League of Texas. When she’s not writing, she practices kung fu and runs half marathons.

Visit Stacey Berg on her Website, Goodreads Page, and on Twitter!

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3/13 Guest post @ Writers and Authors
3/13 Showcase @ Sapphyrias Book Reviews
3/14 Interview/Showcase @ CMash Reads
3/15 Showcase @ The Ordinary Housewife Book Blog
3/16 Showcase @ The Book Divas Reads
3/17 Showcase @ Bound 2 Escape
3/17 Showcase @ Tome Tender
3/18 Interview @ BooksChatter
3/18 Review @ Rockin Book Reviews
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3/20 Showcase @ Deal Sharing Aunt
3/20 Showcase @ The Bookworm Lodge
3/21 Showcase @ The Pen and Muse Book Reviews
3/22 Review @ Buried Under Books
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3/25 Review @ Collected Works
3/26 Showcase @ Writers and Authors
3/28 Showcase @ A Bookaholic Swede
3/29 Guest post @ Books Direct
3/29 Review @ Wall-to-wall books
3/30 Review @ JBronder Book Reviews
3/31 Showcase @ Books, Dreams, Life
4/01 Review/showcase @ Kara the Redhead

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Book Reviews: Lifers by M.A. Griffin and When My Heart Was Wicked by Tricia Stirling

 

lifersLifers
M.A. Griffin
Chicken House, February 2017
ISBN 978-1-338-06553-4
Hardcover

Particularly pertinent in current political climate, this fresh Middle-Grade mystery-adventure is a phenomenally fantastic read for all ages.  Mace may be a bit of a conspiracy theorist, but when weird news of missing teens and strange sights at night hits close to home, even practical Preston is pulled in.  Also….he is pretty sure he is partly to blame for the most recent disappearances.

Attempting to trace Alice’s steps, Preston walks the night streets of Manchester and senses a spooky truth to the recent rumors.  He enlists Mace to delve deeper and the two stumble onto a pseudo-futuristic-sci-fi scene.  Children are trapped in a prison prototype with dwindling supplies and absolutely no way out.  The only way in, is scheduled to be permanently shut down in less than twenty-four hours.

The juvenile delinquents are not completely alone.  One young lady is the daughter of a recently deceased politician, her “crime”: doubting that her father’s death was an accident.  She is not going down until the guilty party pays.  Two Urban Explorers snuck into the prison to help facilitate an escape and two workers who never wanted their creations to be used in this manner will fight for freedom.

The story plays out in a matter of days; the pace is very quick and quite captivating.  A bit of sharp wit, an unexpected kindness keeps the book from becoming bleak.  Many questions are answered, but nothing is too pat; there’s plenty to think on…..in a sneaky kind of way.

Reviewed by jv poore, February 2017.

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when-my-heart-was-wickedWhen My Heart Was Wicked
Tricia Stirling
Scholastic Press, March 2015
ISBN 978-0-545-69573-2
Hardcover

Lacy is clearly conflicted and completely compelling. At the tender age of sixteen, she has become so very good in spite of her tumultuous, tangled life; but, things change. The loss of a parent is heart-breaking and often life-changing.  When that loss is followed by an abrupt and unwelcome custody change, the downward spiral spins out of control.

Flashbacks and memories reveal the characteristics of Lacy’s parents allowing the reader to understand Lacy’s influences.  The vibes emanating from the recollections reach from the pages to raise the hairs on the back of your neck.  Parents are palpable presences and when Lacy thinks of her father, sunshine shoots from the pages.  She is light, happy, hopeful……joyous and buoyant when considering her father and his charming hippie-chick wife, Anna.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Lacy’s mother, Cheyenne.  Her unique “teaching techniques” and willingness to spend weeks without electricity did not result in a nurturing home.  Rather, she burned her daughter’s wrist for asking “too many questions”, tied her to a tree to prevent “wandering”, then completely vanished without a word, leaving a broken 13-year old girl all alone.

When My Heart Was Wicked is a captivating and quick read that bravely tackles taboo topics such as “cutting”.  More than merely acknowledging the existence of a disorder that plagues so many teens, by offering an answer to the common question: “why?” On some level, problems that plague Lacy are the same, or at least similar to the challenges every teenager faces.  The importance of identity is not easy to address, but Ms. Stirling demonstrates how strong will, determination and knowledge can carve a unique path, even when it seems all forces are fighting to make you march down a different road.

Reviewed by jv poore, August 2016.

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: Membrane by Michele Corriel

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Title: Membrane
Author: Michele Corriel
Publisher: Leap Books

Publication Date: October 10, 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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membraneMembrane
Michele Corriel
Leap Books, October 2016
ISBN
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

In the multi-verse people may look familiar, but no one is who they seem.

In a small town in Montana, Sophie lives with her quantum physicist mother, and her equally brilliant, but dangerously obsessed step-father.

Her father disappeared years ago under mysterious circumstances, but Sophie is still haunted by memories of him that seem so real she swears she feels his presence one night as she drifts off to sleep.

Realizing that somehow her missing father is trying to send her a message, Sophie decides to take a big risk.

With her friend, Eli, Sophie must discover what strange experiment her father did and understand the startling impact it has on her world and another, just across the membrane dividing the multi-verse.

Isn’t that cover eye-catching? Better yet, it reflects the story as well as any I’ve seen in a long time. The fractured title evokes the thin barrier between Sophie’s Earth and…whatever is on the other side…and the image of the man, who surely must be Sophie’s missing father, is almost haunting, kind of a ghost. Kudos to the cover artist, Nina Gauthier Gee.

The thing I really appreciated about Membrane is its simplicity. Here we have a girl living in a less-than-fabulous family, a girl whose father went missing years ago without any resolution. When she begins to believe he’s trying to reach out to her, she’s compelled to go through his journal for hints as to what might have happened to him, leading her to an incredible adventure with her friend, Eli. What they discover is life-altering and Sophie may be humanity’s last hope.

Sophie is a smart girl with plans for her future but, at the same time, she’s protective of her mother and has learned to cope as well as possible with her increasingly paranoid step-father, Ted. Eli could easily become more than a friend if only Sophie would allow herself to let him in and I have to say Eli is possibly the most appealing guy-friend-potential-love-interest I’ve found in young adult fiction. I’m so glad there’s no insta-love here, just a naturally growing connection between two decent kids.

On the whole, Membrane is an intriguing tale with vivid characters and twists you never see coming. Although we’re left with some unanswered questions, that’s quite natural and I turned the last page feeling more than satisfied.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2016.

About the Author

michele-corrielMichele Corriel lives and works in Montana’s scenic Gallatin Valley, surrounded by seven mountain ranges.

Her work is as varied as the life she’s led, from the rock/art venues of New York City to the rural back roads of the Rockies. With her fourth book just out from Leap Books, she’s also a prolific freelance magazine writer with articles regionally, nationally and internationally. Michele has received a number of awards for her non-fiction as well as her poetry. She also enjoys teaching, presenting writing workshops and speaking on panels across the country.

When she’s not writing you may find her on the golf course, hiking or slogging her way through the snow on what some people like to refer to as “skis.” You might also find her in the kitchen creating exciting new flavors or recreating classics.

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Book Review: The Transatlantic Conspiracy by G. D. Falksen

the-transatlantic-conspiracyThe Transatlantic Conspiracy
G. D. Falksen
Soho Teen, June 2016
ISBN 978-1-61695-417-8
Hardcover

Oh, I do love a story about bad girls and The Transatlantic Conspiracy is quintessential.  Rosalind’s own words best define her when she explains to Alix, “I drive motorcars and I’m a suffragist, so my reputation is already a bit uncertain.”  Their mutual friend Cecily not only tinkers with clocks, but has been known to write “strongly worded letters” to express her displeasure or disappointment.  Embarking on the maiden voyage of the underwater railway, Alix is quick to confirm that her traveling companions both know “how to give a swift quick and a good stab” (with a hatpin).

Perhaps I should mention that this steampunk story begins on May 25, 1908.  My first book from this fantastical, science-fiction subgenre complete with advanced machines and modern technology.  It did not disappoint.

Rosalind is quite accustomed to traveling alone, despite being female and seventeen years old.  She has every confidence in her father’s perpetually advancing railways, whether it be traveling above water on an impossibly long bridge or seven days underneath, riding a train through the ocean from Germany to New York.   She may not cherish her reluctant role as a “pawn in her father’s advertising campaign”, but she has never felt afraid.  Until now.

From the beginning, with Cecily and sibling Charles unexpectedly announcing plans to accompany Rosalind to America, to feeling inexplicably unnerved at the station, Rosalind is overcome with unease as she boards.  A strange skepticism settles; people seem to smile around secrets tucked safely away.  Charles disappears.  Two passengers are murdered.  It is only the second day.

Fully engaging with twists and turns, sneaky surprises, loyal friendships and levity, The Transatlantic Conspiracy was a fascinating foray into steampunk.

Reviewed by jv poore, May 2016.

Book Review: H.A.L.F.: The Makers by Natalie Wright

HALF The MakersThe Makers
H.A.L.F. Book 2
Natalie Wright
Boadicea Press, May 2016
ISBN 978-1523820924
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Erika Holt dodged death and departed Earth in an alien ship. It wasn’t how she’d planned to spend her senior year. Is Erika on her way to paradise? Or to a hell worse than the underground lab she escaped? 

The greys rescued Tex from A.H.D.N.A. and have promised him a life he could never have imagined. But what will he have to give up to become one with The Conexus? 

Jack Wilson is still Commander Sturgis’ prisoner, but a promise of freedom comes from an unlikely source. Will his liberation cost more than he’s willing to pay? 

Caught up in their personal battles, will any of them realize the threat that looms over us all before it’s too late? 

I read the first book in this series, The Deep Beneath, back in September 2015 and have been eagerly awaiting the next chapter ever since. I’m very happy to say the wait has been well worth it as The Makers is every  bit as entertaining.

The first thing that got my attention was the pronunciation and definition guide, a tremendous help when you’re reading a book involving unfamiliar terms and language. Will I remember any of it? No, of course not, or at least not much, but it certainly enhanced my enjoyment of the story not to have to try to remember all these details and foreign words. Actually, I probably will retain a few things, like “manthruin” which is a spice similar to our own cinnamon; I love cinnamon so I’m intrigued by this alien spice. I’ll also remember “mach” because it’s always useful to know how to ask for a toilet 😉

Sometimes, we discover that the things we know are not much like reality and Erika has certainly had to cope with a lot of reality since first encountering aliens but being in servitude to the aliens is definitely not what she and Ian want for their future. Unfortunately, their options are limited since they’re on an alien spaceship heading to….somewhere. Meanwhile, back at the ranch (so to speak), Jack was left behind on Earth and needs help from Dr. Sturgiss, not his favorite scientist, if he wants to remain alive and free. Meanwhile, Tex, a created hybrid alien/human, has to stay out of the hands of the aliens if he wants to retain his human side, his emotions.

Ms. Wright has worldbuilding down pat, creating an alien society and diverse people trying to fight off their control in a story that’s very plot-driven and completely engaging. At the same time, a plethora of characters that could be kind of overwhelming are anything but as the author has managed to make even peripheral players come to life. The aliens are referred to as “greys” and that can also be seen as a descriptor for the lack of a black and white clarity; all humans are not good and all aliens are not evil.

I’ve become quite fond of Erika and Jack and Tex and all the others and the H.A.L.F. series is an example of how adventurous and fun science fiction can be. The third and final book will be out in 2017 and I’m really looking forward to it.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2016.