Book Review: The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond @ctrichmond @Scholastic

The Only Thing to Fear
Caroline Tung Richmond
Scholastic Press, September 2014
ISBN 978-0-545-62988-1
Hardcover

Zara’s plan to keep her head down and just plod through life is not working out. Partly due to the fact that she was not raised that way. Largely because of the perplexing, unwanted attention from Bastian. Not just any Nazi, the son of a colonel knows better than anyone that Aryans do not mingle with “sub-humans”. Although she’s not Jewish, to the Germans, as “half-breed stock”, she falls into the same category. Fit for only factory or farm work. Certainly not for fraternizing.

Zara’s earliest memories are of her mother and Uncle Red leading the local Alliance, all efforts into eradicating the Nazi-rule. She could not wait to be old enough to join them. Before she could reach the coveted age, though, a mission went terribly wrong and Uncle Red’s attitude was adversely affected. Compounding an already complex matter, in her grief and frustration, Zara’s power emerged. No one was more stunned than she was to discover that she was an Anomaly.

Select Germans had been gifted with powers enabling them to conquer the Allies so many years ago. The remaining Anomalies serve in an elite division of the Nazi military. When the rare non-Aryan Anomaly is discovered, things are a bit different. That poor soul will be taken to a laboratory to be studied, tested and ultimately dissected.

Zara has two huge secrets to keep if she hopes to stay under the radar of the suspicious Germans. Having Bastian hovering, bugging her, may just be the last straw. Aryans speak to her people for only a handful of reasons, none of them good. Most worrisome; they would never, ever feign interest in the Alliance—even as a sick joke.

She may not know what Bastian is truly up to, but Zara does know that she’s no time for the likes of him. There are brutal deaths to be avenged and one very last chance for her to convince Uncle Red that she belongs with the Alliance.

It’s no wonder I’ve seen The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond on so many students’ To-Read lists. This fast-paced, action-packed, Sci-Fi story of ‘what if’ is simply stellar. And, I absolutely love the atypical ending, which was not gratuitous, but rather allowed the narrative to wrap up a bit more naturally, with an authentic feel.

Reviewed by jv poore, December 2019.

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

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Book Review: Fractures by Alice Reeds @Alice_Reeds @EntangledTeen @YABoundToursPR

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Title: Fractures
Series: Echoes #2

Author: Alice Reeds
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication Date: June 2, 2020
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon
iBooks // Entangled Publishing

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Fractures
Echoes #2

Alice Reed
Entangled Teen, June 2020
ISBN 978-1-64063-900-3
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

They survived a plane crash.

They survived life on a deserted island.

They survived being hunted.

Now they must survive the truth—they are not who they think they are.

One minute they’re in Poland, subjected to gruesome tests they keep failing. No friends to support them. No family to claim them. No hope of ever living a normal life again.

Then suddenly, they’re trapped on an abandoned freighter in the middle of the ocean and forced to fight for survival. No food. No drinkable water. No way to get home. And strange memories of another life they don’t understand.

But how can they be living two separate lives, trapped in two separate places, at the same time? They’ll have to find the connection and uncover secrets that someone went to great lengths to keep hidden…if they’re going to survive long enough to find out who is behind it all.

When I read Echoes, the first book, I was immediately drawn in by the two protagonists and by the alternate timeline aspect of the plot. The timeline thing and the characters still appeal to me in Fractures now that they are off the island but, if Fiona and Miles thought they were in trouble before, they could have had no idea what was to come.

This time, the point of view comes from Miles and there’s a difference in the level of urgency that they felt on the island but the mystery of what’s really going on deepens. For starters, how lovely is it that their own parents sold them out, literally? The promise of new lives in California was just a ploy and now Miles and Fiona have to trust no one but each other and work to find answers for themselves including the question of their real identities.

I could definitely do without the insta-love but Alice Reeds is a fine writer and her worldbuilding is vivid; the duology is a nice blend of science fiction and mystery, which I really appreciate, and Ms. Reeds kept me guessing and flipping pages as fast as I could to the very end. Besides heartily recommending Fractures, I’ll say this—you must read the two books in order 😄

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2020.

About the Author

Alice Reeds was born in a small town in Germany but spent her first eight years in Florida, USA. Later on, she moved back to Europe, where her family moved around a lot. She was raised trilingual and has a basic understanding of Russian, read and spoken. After getting her International Baccalaureate Diploma, Alice is studying English Language and Literature at University. In her free time Alice mostly writes, reads, figure and/or roller skates, or watches countless let’s plays and figure skating videos.

Author Links:

Website // Goodreads // Twitter

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Book Review: The Vatican Games by Alejandra Guibert @Aleja_Guibert @Authoright

The Vatican Games
Alejandra Guibert
Clink Street, January 2020
ISBN 978-1-913136-30-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Vera is born on the day an apocalyptic revenge is unleashed, annihilating half of the world’s population.

Her birth marks the beginning of a new world order run by powerful gaming corporations.

A warless existence with no poverty has been secured, until this fine balance becomes once more under threat.

Vera is the female David to beat Goliath and prevent further devastation.

The future lies in her hands. It’s a game that she needs to win.

What an unusual story this is! There are certain things that set it apart from most apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic/dystopian tales—Vera is born just as the worldwide terrorist attack happens, she survives a deadly brain defect, the setting is in Vatican City, etc.—but, taken as a whole, they create the beginnings of something unexpected. To be honest, I’m not quite sure how I feel about it and I suspect this is one of those books that has to sort of rumble around in my mind for a while.

To this semi-luddite, it’s appalling to think of the gaming industry being in charge of the world but this kind of story is supposed to be unsettling, isn’t it? Speaking of unsettling, Ms. Guibert is very adept at dropping little crumbs here and there that make you think, “Wait a minute…oh” starting with how hunger no longer exists.

Carry on as usual…urged people to carry on with life in the midst of death. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it, but in The Vatican Games, a diabolical attack by unknown terrorists, first against the US, then spreading around the world, is the cause of the overwhelming devastation. It’s followed by a self-justified US military retaliation against the Middle East and then a counterattack on Israel, resulting eventually in incredible loss of life as well as economic disintegration. As might be expected, though, ruling bodies around the world soon collaborate to form a world government but, in reality, this is the story of Vera and her mother, Alina, and Vera’s life after another tragic event.

So much happens in this story that I think the pacing was a bit too slow but it’s a compelling tale of the condition of our world and where it could be heading. Food for thought, indeed.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2020.

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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signed copy of STING and a $20
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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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