Book Review: The Eden Conspiracy by C.A. Gray

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Title: The Eden Conspiracy
Series: The Liberty Box #2
Author: C.A. Gray
Narrator: Melissa Williams
Publisher: Wanderlust Publishing
Publication Date: September 19, 2016

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The Eden Conspiracy
The Liberty Box #2
C.A. Gray
Narrated by Melissa Williams
Wanderlust Publishing, September 2016
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

The refugee caves have been destroyed, and most of the refugees are dead. The Potentate now knows of their existence and will stop at nothing to wipe them out completely. He suspects that terrorist Jackson MacNamera is among them, as well as reporter Kate Brandeis’s fiancé, hacker Will Anderson – and probably therefore Kate herself. Now that the Potentate is aware of security threats, most of the strategies the rebels used to get back onto the grid before now no longer work. The Potentate knows the rebels are on foot, and he knows they were at the caves not long ago. They can’t get far.

The remaining rebels, among them Jackson and Kate, have Kate’s fiancé Will to thank for their survival: he arrived back from the dead and in the nick of time, bearing classified information about the Potentate’s plans to expand his influence internationally. But the remaining rebels and the Council cannot agree on whether their top priority should be spreading truth far and wide and freeing as many citizens from government control as possible, knowing that they will likely die in the process, or escaping to New Estonia, in hopes that they might live out the rest of their days in peace.

Kate, meanwhile, finds herself torn between Jackson and the fiancé she thought she lost, and between the damsel-in-distress she once was, and the rebel she believes she has always been underneath. Whether the other hunters will support her or no, she knows she must use her influence over the people of the Republic to tell them the truth, no matter the cost. But is she strong enough to withstand the government’s lies?

No one will ever accuse this book of suffering from sophomore slump, that’s for sure. After a successful opening in the first book, the action really ratchets up in The Eden Conspiracy and certain characters become more vivid plus I learned a lot more about the two factions.

I already knew that the Potentate and his minions exercise a sort of mind control over the people, brainwashing really, but here I learned that they can direct it at a particular person. Kate has bought into the resistance fullbore but that propels her into doing something rash, bringing herself some very unwanted attention but she shows an unexpected strength when that happens even while she distrusts herself and Jackson immensely.

Things go from bad to worse for the band of refugees but a small group splinters off to find a new sanctuary while Kate heads back home to enlist her brother Charlie’s help with a project. Unfortunately, government agents are soon in hot pursuit and whether Kate can accomplish her mission is in real doubt.

Kate and Jackson come into sharp focus in this part of the trilogy and she especially shows a lot of growth emotionally and physically, no longer the simpering wuss that she used to be. In fact, Will’s behavior towards her becomes much more annoying because she realizes how condescending he’s always been, perhaps warranted before she grew a backbone. Jackson, on the other hand, is the perfect man, to the point of being irritating at times (but he always redeems himself). Many of the characters from the first book kind of fade into the background but Kate’s brother and parents are prominent with her mother being as aggravating as she can be. Last but most certainly not least, the Potentate’s point of view comes into play and, now that he is is much more evident, his bad guy persona comes to the fore with chilling effect.

With the first book, I indicated that I thought the narrator was a bit lacking but I saw a lot of improvement in this second book. Ms. Williams really got into the story this time and there’s more life in her voice although I still think most characters’ voices are too much alike. That aside, I do enjoy listening to her.

All in all, this was a really good continuation of the story and I’m excited to now move on to the third, and last, book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2018.

About the Author

By day, C.A. Gray is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD) with a primary care practice in Tucson, AZ, and she writes medical books under her real name (Dr. Lauren Deville). She lives with her husband, with whom she maintains a facetiously contentious movie review blog, and travels as often as they can get away. When not writing or seeing patients, she does yoga, drinks red wine while eating dark chocolate, and consumes audiobooks like there’s no tomorrow!

WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreadsInstagram

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About the Narrator

Melissa lives with her family, including two dogs and a cat, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Denver, Colorado.

After having a corporate job for most of her life, and as a self-proclaimed introvert, she decided to leave corporate America to work from home. Voice overs had always tugged at her heart as something she would like to explore, so she attended some classes and landed with a company that taught her how to break in to the industry.

Loving to read, she explored the fast growing world of audiobooks and fell in love with it. She has ten audiobooks under her belt and is currently working on the 11th. Understanding that she should always be learning how to improve her skills, she is currently working with Sean Pratt.

When not talking to herself in a padded room, she can be found walking her dog, singing or fishing the Arkansas River.

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Book Review: The Culling by Ramona Finn

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Title: The Culling
Series: The Culling Trilogy, Book 1
Author: Ramona Finn
Narrator: Stacey Glemboski
Publisher: Relay Publishing
Publication Date: March 21, 2018

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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The Culling
The Culling Trilogy, Book 1
Ramona Finn
Narrated by Stacey Glemboski
Relay Publishing, March 2018
DownloadedUnabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

In a solar system where The Authority decides who lives and who dies, only one of their own executioners can stop them.

Glade Io is a trained killer. Marked at a young age as an individual with violent tendencies, she was taken from her family and groomed to be a Datapoint—a biotech-enabled analyst who carries out the Culling. She is designed to identify and destroy any potential humans that threaten the colonies: those marked as lawbreakers, unproductive or sick. But when she’s kidnapped by rogue colonists known as the Ferrymen, everything Glade thinks she knows about the colonies, and The Authority that runs them, collapses into doubt.

Pulled between two opposing sides, and with her family’s lives hanging in the balance, Glade is unsure of who to trust—and time is running out.

Now, this is a dystopian concept that I haven’t run into before and fresh ideas are always welcome. Much of the tale’s plot and the behavior of the characters is similar to many other books but that all supports the central theme, that sociopathic tendencies can be harnessed to do the bidding of an evil government without a care or concern.

Glade is one of those sociopaths and, after being snatched from her mother and younger sisters as a young girl, she has been melded, in a manner of speaking, with a biotech system so that she is able to locate and assess candidates for culling and then carry out the procedure. What it boils down to is Glade is judge, jury and executioner; she murders people with the approval of the seven-person Authority and, because she’s a sociopath, she feels no remorse or reluctance whatsoever.

Except when she remembers that her own father was culled and she’s never understood why.

Things could have gone along this way for years but Glade and another Datapoint are taken captive by a band of resisters known as the Ferrymen and their leader, Kupier, begins to have a small effect on Glade and on her perspective. For the first time in her life, she has niggling questions about what she does and why and about the Authority. Back on the space station, she has a different view of herself and her fellow Datapoints, especially Dahn, and begins to fear one of the Authority, Jan Ernst Haven.

Even with the similarities to other dystopian stories, I came to really like these characters (my favorite may be Kupier’s kid brother) and some of the details of their world but there are still missing pieces. For instance, I want to know much more about how Earth came to be uninhabitable, how the people became space colonizers and why the Authority turned into such a force for evil. Perhaps more will be revealed in the next book.

Narrator Stacey Glemboski does a nice job with clear tones and good pacing. She has to work with a bit of a hindrance in that the point of view and even the setting frequently change without warning and it can be momentarily difficult to make the transition as a listener/reader but Ms. Glemboski eases the pain with her quite believable and effective voice characrterizations. I’ll gladly listen to more books she does.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2018.

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About the Author

Ramona Finn writes about courageous characters who fight to live in broken, dystopian worlds. She believes a person’s true character is often revealed in times of crisis, and there is no greater crisis than the worlds that she drops her characters into!

She grew up sitting cross-legged on her town’s library floor–completely engrossed in science fiction books. It was always the futuristic world or the universe-on-the-brink-of-extinction plotlines that drew her in, but it was the brave characters who chose to fight back that kept her turning the pages.

Her books create deep, intricate worlds with bold characters determined to fight for their survival in their dystopian worlds–with a little help from their friends. And, of course, romance is never out of the question ;).

Website // Facebook // Instagram

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About the Narrator

Stacey is an accomplished audiobook narrator and voice actor who has recorded books for many best-selling authors. Many of her favorite books have been for kids and teens, but all genres of narration appeal to her. For Stacey, narration is about having fun breathing life into characters and getting as lost as possible in the story she’s telling. Outside the studio, Stacey is an avid tennis player and fitness enthusiast. She enjoys dog walks, paddle boarding, and most any outdoor activities.

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Book Review: When They Came by Kody Boye

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Title: When They Came
Series: A When They Came Novel, Book 1
Author: Kody Boye
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
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When They Came
A When They Came Novel, Book 1
Kody Boye
CreateSpace, June 2017
ISBN 978-1545174210
Trade Paperback

From the author—

I was never afraid of monsters—at least, not until They came: the visitors from outer space.

Now They’re in our skies, on our streets, always watching, forever waiting.

At seventeen, I’m just about to graduate from the Juvenile Education System and declare my career of choice. The Midnight Guard—who protect our community from the vicious things that lie outside our walls—calls to me. 

It’s hard, dangerous work, with grueling hours that offer little sleep, but it’s the one thing I know will help make a difference in our ever-changing world.

I’m a pushover for science fiction of the alien invasion variety and I have equal fondness for the truly serious kind and high camp. When They Came falls somewhere in the middle and has both attractive elements as well as some that made me lift an eyebrow.

Ana Mia appealed to me quite a lot, as did her sister and mother, and I empathized with Ana’s desire to do something honorable with her life while being pretty unsure of herself. That lack of confidence rang true for a teenager but especially for one whose mere existence is a daily test. Jason and Asha also were believable characters and a real positive of the story was how much diversity there is.

There were several things that didn’t quite mesh for me. For one thing, I can’t imagine a military leader taking raw recruits—and I do mean raw—out on a mission that’s extremely dangerous and, in fact, ends badly. Also, that particular event occurred much too soon, before I had a chance to really get to know either the characters or the dire circumstances of their lives and, as a result, I was sympathetic towards Ana but didn’t care as much as I could have. Dialogue also left me underwhelmed at times.

On the whole, though, this story of humans versus aliens is based on an interesting concept and the author creates believable tension throughout with plenty of action and fear-inducing atmosphere. While I’m not entirely satisfied with this first book in the trilogy, that doesn’t prevent me from wanting to go on to the next book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2018.

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An Excerpt from When They Came

We didn’t find a house by the time the sun set. With no other way to seek shelter, we angled ourselves beneath the trunk of a massive pine and covered up with a pair of blankets as we watched the sun fall.

“You okay?” Asha asked.

“Yeah,” I replied, scooting closer to her. “Are you?”

“I’m scared out of my mind, but yeah—I think I’ll be okay.”

“We could always keep walking, you know? See if we find anything else?”

“I’m too tired to walk anymore.”

I couldn’t blame her. Though I couldn’t tell time by the way the sun fell, I knew, based solely on the fact that we’d risen at dawn, we’d been walking for ten, if not eleven hours. My body ached, my feet throbbed, my bones screamed bloody murder. It felt like someone had tried to drive a nail into the base of my heel, such was the pain I endured.

Rather than think on it, I opened the pack at my feet and pulled out a pair of bottled waters.

“Thanks,” Asha said as I passed hers over.

“No problem,” I said, taking a sip of my water as she popped the cap on her own. “So… how are we going to do this?”

“You mean the watch?” Asha asked. She capped her water, settling it between her knees and taking hold of the gun across her lap. “I’ll go first, then you can go until you start feeling tired. We’ll keep alternating until the sun comes up.”

“You really think that’ll work?” I asked. She nodded. “But what if we both fall asleep?”

“Then just go as long as you can,” Asha offered. “All I know is that I’m ready to pass out, but I’ll force myself to stay awake if I have to.”

Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad for the two of us to fall asleep at the same time. I mean, we were hours away from civilization. Surely the Harvesters had no reason to land out in the middle of nowhere, much less a copse of trees. Regardless, I knew I couldn’t argue with Asha. As I settled back against the tree and closed my eyes, she sighed and adjusted her position against the trunk.

“This isn’t going to be an easy night,” she said.

No. It wasn’t.

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About the Author

Born and raised in Southeastern Idaho, Kody Boye began his writing career with the publication of his story “A Prom Queen’s Revenge” at the age of fourteen. Published nearly three-dozen times before going independent at eighteen, Boye has authored numerous works—including the short story collection Amorous Things, the novella The Diary of Dakota Hammell, the zombie novel Sunrise and the epic fantasy series The Brotherhood Saga.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Amazon * Goodreads

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Book Review: The Liberty Box by C.A. Gray

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Title: The Liberty Box
Series: The Liberty Box #1
Author: C.A. Gray
Narrator: Melissa Williams
Publisher: Wanderlust Publishing
Publication Date: May 19, 2016

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Purchase Links:
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The Liberty Box
The Liberty Box #1
C.A. Gray
Narrated by Melissa Williams
Wanderlust Publishing, May 2016
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

Kate Brandeis has it all: a famous reporter at the age of 24, she’s the face of the Republic of the Americas. She has a loving fiancée and all the success she could wish for. But when she learns of the death of a long-forgotten friend, her investigations unravel her perfect memories, forcing her to face the fact that she’s been living a lie.

Jackson MacNamera, trained from a young age in the art of mind control, returns to the Republic for his mother’s funeral. Within a few hours of his arrival, authorities collect Jackson and take him by force to a room ironically called The Liberty Box, where he must choose between surrendering his thoughts to the new Republic, or fleeing for his freedom.

Kate, bereaved and confused, finds her way to a cave community of refugees, where Jackson seems to offer her an escape from her grief. The two forge an uneasy bond, and in the process Jackson learns that Kate has some insight which may help the hunters in their attempt to free other citizens from the tyranny of the Potentate. Against the expressed wishes of the Council, the hunters plot a series of daring raids, attempting to prove that not only is freedom possible, but that the citizens are not too far gone to desire it. But with the odds so stacked against them, can the refugees succeed in their rescue missions right under the Potentate’s nose?

It’s common in dystopian fiction for the people to be unaware of what their leaders are really like but not so common that they’ve been made to actually not see what’s around them. It’s that element of The Liberty Box that intrigued me the most, knowing that Kate and so many others truly believe they have good lives while the truth is entirely different. When Kate begins to get an inkling of something being off she still resists but the sudden death of someone very close pushes her over the edge and the appearance of clearly dangerous men at her door pushes her to run.

Kate lands with a rebel group, who do see what things are really like, and she meets several people who will make a difference in her life, for good and ill, but I didn’t always buy into the characterizations and the small details. For instance, if someone told me not to worry about the bullets because the government wouldn’t have loaded weapons, I’d tell that person to stand in front of me. I also think it’s unlikely so many people could escape the notice of a government that supposedly has such tight control but, I was intrigued by the story and, in particular, how Kate comes to terms with reality. I also had some good feelings about the very angry Alec and a lot of questions about Jackson who thinks he’s better than sliced bread.

The narration by Melissa Williams is pretty good, not the best I’ve ever heard but not unpleasant in any way. My main issue is that her voice doesn’t really distinguish one character from another very well.

On the whole, this is a promising beginning to the series and I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2018.

About the Author

By day, C.A. Gray is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD) with a primary care practice in Tucson, AZ, and she writes medical books under her real name (Dr. Lauren Deville). She lives with her husband, with whom she maintains a facetiously contentious movie review blog, and travels as often as they can get away. When not writing or seeing patients, she does yoga, drinks red wine while eating dark chocolate, and consumes audiobooks like there’s no tomorrow!

WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreadsInstagram

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About the Narrator

Melissa lives with her family, including two dogs and a cat, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Denver, Colorado.

After having a corporate job for most of her life, and as a self-proclaimed introvert, she decided to leave corporate America to work from home. Voice overs had always tugged at her heart as something she would like to explore, so she attended some classes and landed with a company that taught her how to break in to the industry.

Loving to read, she explored the fast growing world of audiobooks and fell in love with it. She has ten audiobooks under her belt and is currently working on the 11th. Understanding that she should always be learning how to improve her skills, she is currently working with Sean Pratt.

When not talking to herself in a padded room, she can be found walking her dog, singing or fishing the Arkansas River.

TwitterFacebook

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Book Review: Velocity by Chris Wooding

Velocity
Chris Wooding
Scholastic Press, March 2017
ISBN 978-0-545-94494-6
Hardcover

With an almost-manic-joy bubbling beneath the determined calm needed for navigation, Velocity takes off; tearing through teeth-rattling turns and bone-jarring twists. The tale of the unprecedented quick-track that takes Cassica and Shiara from racing the “unofficial boondocks circuit” to a qualifier for the Widowmaker, “the most hotly contested rally in the world”, flies faster than Maisie. Try not to take it too quickly though, lest you miss the interspersed clever, cutting humor and gradual growth of the girls, both as individuals and as a team.

Admittedly, I was seriously psyched to be reading about a female rally-car team. Being familiar with rally racing because it was something that another author I admire, Maggie Stiefvater, participated in; I believe her words describe it best, “…when the co-driver and driver are working perfectly together, you can hurtle along blindly, much faster than a) someone without notes or b) someone with common sense.” Certainly, Cassica and Shiara are tighter than twin sisters.

Shiara’s family had taken in Cassica when the girls were very young and while Cassica didn’t share Shiara’s fondness for tinkering and building cars, such as their beloved mongrel of so many different parts, Maisie, she happily hopped behind the wheel. While they shared so much, each had her own dream. One would be more than content to continue racing the tracks here in Coppermouth while the other yearns for…so much more.

Sometimes, helping your best friend achieve her dream means more than anything, even if the effort is not wholly altruistic. So, in spite of her skepticism, Shiara agrees to accept an unsolicited offer for sponsorship and management for a chance to qualify for the pinnacle of Maximum Racing season. Cassica is quickly dazzled and swept up in the glamour while Shiara is surlier than usual and even more suspicious than her teammate can stomach. It’s soon apparent that the terrifying tracks are only a small part of the danger that the duo will face. Suddenly, the girls are in so deep that no one can help them. They truly only have each other—or maybe not even that, anymore.

Reviewed by jv poore, December 2017.

Teeny Book Reviews: Shattered Roads by Alice Henderson and Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land

Shattered Roads
The Skyfire Saga #1
Alice Henderson
Rebel Base Books, April 2018
ISBN 978-1-63573-049-4
Trade Paperback

Shattered Roads starts out gloomy—in a subgenre that’s already exceedingly gloomy—with a protagonist who’s living a life of nothingness. Her soul purpose in life is to remove bodies when people die, much like the people in 17th-century London who trundled carts from door to door to pick up the dead. The truth is no one in this terribly damaged world has any joy, having no names, spending all their time in front of computers, interacting with no one while, outside the city walls, chaos reigns supreme.

One day, H124 finds something that piques her curiosity and leads her to unimagined discoveries about what really happened to bring such devastation to this land and to people who just might be able to make a difference. Now, H124 has a new purpose in life and, after a somewhat slow start, I found myself almost unable to turn away. Shattered Lands will be out in December and I’m already anticipating spending more time with this brave young woman.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2018.

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Good Me Bad Me
Ali Land
Flatiron Books, September 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-08764-5
Hardcover

We often wonder whether nature or nurture plays a bigger role in the development of a person’s psyche, especially a violent criminal, and Good Me Bad Me addresses that very question. Milly is placed in foster care after turning in her mother who was a vicious serial killer of children and you would think that Milly, only fifteen, has at least a chance of a normal life now. The trial is coming up and that gives Milly enough stress but her new family is not as welcoming as one could hope and her foster sister, the real daughter in this family, really resents her presence. That animosity leads to bullying in school but, in reality, it’s Milly’s own mind that could be her worst enemy in any future she might have.

This is a truly unnerving story and could be almost too much if the mother were present but the author chose to keep her on the periphery. We never see her commit her heinous crimes but we know what she’s done and the feeling of evil is full-blown. Watching Milly learn to cope—or not—with her life before and after was intriguing in many ways and I heartily recommend this to any reader who is curious about what happens to the children of truly wicked people.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2018.

Book Reviews: Denver Moon by Warren Hammond and Joshua Viola

Denver Moon
Metamorphosis
Warren Hammond and Joshua Viola
Hex Publishers, April 2018
ISBN 978-0-9997736-9-7
Ebook

From the publisher—

Denver Moon is Mars’ top private eye. She works the tunnels of Mars City, a struggling colony ravaged by the mysterious red fever. Her latest client, Jard Calder, is demanding results. Someone is dismembering the pimp’s prostitutes and salvaging their body parts. But since the victims are robots instead of humans, is it really murder?

As a matter of fact, this is actually a serious felony on Mars and Denver finds herself literally staring at body parts although these parts are plastic and plasma-gel rather than flesh and blood. This is not the first victim she’s seen with these nasty damages but, even in the rotten underbelly of Mars, a prostitute deserves better treatment. Are these attacks directed at the bots themselves or at the man who runs this prostitution enterprise, Jard Calder?

This is a private eye with a few interesting characteristics. First, she’s colorblind and that serves her very well on this planet with a madness-inducing disease called Red Fever that has something to do with all the red on Mars. Also, she carries an artificial intelligence named Smith on her belt and he doesn’t hesitate to call her out when he sees fit.

Murder or not, Denver has a job to do and she’s going to have to go into the Red Tunnel. There, she runs into Rafe Ranchard, a man with a grudge, and a most unlikely pair of lovers. This is not going to end well but I really enjoyed this short story introduction to a very unusual detective.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2018.

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Denver Moon
The Minds of Mars
Warren Hammond and Joshua Viola
Hex Publishers, June 2018
ISBN 978-0-9997736-6-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Earth is dying. Luna is uninhabitable. Mars is our last chance.

Once considered humanity’s future home, Mars hasn’t worked out like anybody hoped. Plagued by crime and a terraforming project that’s centuries from completion, Mars is a red hell.

Denver Moon, P.I., works the dark underbelly of Mars City. While investigating a series of violent crimes linked to red fever–a Martian disorder that turns its victims into bloodthirsty killers–Denver discovers a cryptic message left by Tatsuo Moon, Mars City co-founder and Denver’s grandfather. The same grandfather who died two decades ago.

Twenty-year-old revelations force Denver on a quest for truth, but Tatsuo’s former friend, Cole Hennessy, leader of the Church of Mars, has other plans and will stop at nothing to keep Denver from disclosing Tatsuo’s secrets to the world.

Hell-bent on reclaiming her grandfather’s legacy, Denver–along with her AI implant, Smith, companion android, Nigel, and shuttle pilot, Navya–set out on a quest to find the answers they hope will shed light on the church’s true agenda, the origin of red fever, and the mysteries surrounding Tatsuo’s tragic death.

Red Fever is a terrible disease that causes its victims to become murderous madmen but Denver is the ideal detective to investigate the fever because it attacks through color and she is colorblind. In the course of her work, she begins to get hints that her long-dead grandfather Tatsuo (whose personality is built into Denver’s AI, Smith) may not be dead after all. That, of course, sets her off on a new path, one that propels her into the heart of danger, including a church that’s as malevolent as they come. Denver and Smith—who, brilliantly, is actually a Smith & Wesson—delve futher and further in search of the truth that is full of surprises, both good and bad.

Worldbuilding is a bit lacking in that we know Earth is becoming uninhabitable but not why. That’s a pretty significant omission because humans have elected to move to a planet that is not exactly user-friendly and I’d like to understand why and how Mars is the better choice. On the other hand, I think having Denver be colorblind is a masterly decision and gives her so much more flexibility than other investigators and the relationship between her and Smith is really appealing and frequently funny. All in all, Denver’s story is a nice blend of science fiction and mystery with a good deal of adventure thrown in.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2018.