[BOOKTOUR] The Awakened – Sara Elizabeth Santana

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Zoey Valentine is concerned with two things: surviving the multitude of self-defense classes her dad makes her take and avoiding Ash Matthews.

Then the Z virus hits, wiping out a third of the population in a matter of weeks. If that weren’t frightening enough, the bodies of the victims disappear and suddenly reappear, awakened from their dead state.
Faster, smarter, working together to get the one thing they crave, human flesh.

The United States is in a panic and then the government decides the unthinkable: to bomb every major city overrun with the awakened.

Now Zoey is on the run, with her dad and Ash, desperate to find a place of safety amongst the ruined remains of the country.


0081ce_f0504e6999e74d0d830f8a11e8d785e4Summary
Characters – 3/5
Plot – 3/5
Style – 3/5
World Building – 3/5
Overall – 3/5

Review
Zoey is physically strong and seemingly well prepared for the end of the world. Between shooting lessons and a proficiency in almost every martial art on offer, she can certainly take care of herself.

Her bravery and powerful right hook can be a little too good to be true at times, especially with her tendency to hide her emotional vulnerability, but she does eventually open up as she warms to Ash and comes to terms with her losses along the way.

Whilst in places the plot was somewhat predictable, the awakened are a brilliant twist on the classic, slow zombies which usually haunt apocalypse books and movies. Distinguished by the blue tint to their skin, the awakened are intelligent, vicious, fast and light on their feet; surviving in this new world is a truly brutal affair.

I loved Zoey as a protagonist but felt that occasionally the author was trying a little bit too hard to mould her into a relatable character. She’s super into reading and makes a lot of references to popular novels and characters in the YA community. Sometimes these shoutouts felt a little shoe-horned in, to me, but I definitely think they will go down well with less cynical readers (I’m a grump, what can I say?).

I also have to go out on a limb here and say that I really did not like Ash. He does go through some serious character development throughout the story arc (thankfully), but until the effects of these changes are felt, he is utterly insufferable. I do maintain, however, that a good character doesn’t always have to be likeable, and Ash is the exact kind of smooth, flirtatious, persistent irritant that seems to make other YA readers go weak at the knees.

THE AWAKENED has some seriously steamy moments for a YA novel which took me by surprise. Sometimes sex in YA can produce very stilted, timid, ‘fade to black’ scenes that make it very obvious that the author didn’t feel confident or comfortable writing about it. In THE AWAKENED, these moments are pitched at the perfect level for an emergent audience and are well-written and handled appropriately across the board.

While this certainly wasn’t a major feature of the plot, it is so refreshing to read a YA novel where the 19 year old protagonist actually behaves like an adult. Even little things like Zoey wanting to brush her teeth on the road and having her period add together to make this a wholly more realistic (and therefore frightening) experience.

As a publishing student, the real triumph here is seeing how Ben’s (Benjaminoftomes) hard work has paid off. Setting up a micropublishing house is an amazing feat in itself, but he has also managed to take three books to publication since September with more in the pipeline for early 2016! I can’t wait to see how Oftomes Publishing grows and am certainly looking forward to reading more books from a publishing house which is so in tune with what the community really wants to read.

Overall, THE AWAKENED is fast-paced and exciting, with danger lurking on every road between Zoey’s New York brownstone and her mother’s farm in rural Nebraska. Facing more than her fair share of tragedy, Zoey has to learn how to hone her survival instincts as she slowly becomes aware of how and where these mysterious awakened came from.

I received THE AWAKENED in exchange for an honest review from Oftomes Publishing. My reviews always represent my own opinion. 

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[REVIEW] The 5th Wave – Rick Yancey

16101128Summary
Characters – 4/5
Plot – 4/5
Style – 4/5
World building – 4/5
Overall – 4/5

Quote
“But if I’m it, the last of my kind, the last page of human history, like hell I’m going to let the story end this way. I may be the last one, but I am the one still standing. I am the one turning to face the faceless hunter in the woods on an abandoned highway. I am the one not running but facing. Because if I am the last one, then I am humanity. And if this is humanity’s last war, then I am the battlefield.”

Review
They arrived on an average day without warning or fanfare, the Mothership hanging over Manhattan like it belonged there. Aeroplanes dropped from the sky, tsunamis and earthquakes destroyed entire coastlines, and the Pestilence took four billion humans with it. Isolated and terrified, the survivors are ripe for hand-picking. Now they are with us, walking in our skins and killing us with our own hands. Nobody can be trusted.

Cassie is on her own. She has survived the 3rd Wave and is managing to eke out on existence in the 4th. She knows the 5th Wave is coming, not when or what or how, but she knows it will come, because the Silencers won’t stop until every last human is silenced. Searching for her little brother after their separation at Camp Ashpit, she refuses to break the promise she made him. Zombie is training to become an alien-killing machine and Evan is just trying to follow his heart.

One of my favourite features of THE 5TH WAVE was the way each character’s storyline began separately and eventually became woven together. Rather than chapter-by-chapter changes, their stories are told in segments, ending each time on perfect, tension-building cliffhangers. This method certainly made for a more dynamic and intricate story-telling experience.

There are some truly thought-provoking and moving moments in THE 5TH WAVE, considering what it really means to be human in a world stripped back to its most basic nature. With just the right amount of humour and teenage dreams, the plot is fast-paced and full of energy. The threat of capture and death is tangible and hangs over the characters constantly, making for an exciting and powerful story.

The story of Cassie and her family takes place against the classic apocalypse backdrop: not quite deserted forests, conflicted survivor camps, lonely highways and the looming watchers above.. Uncomfortably realistic and set firmly in the modern-day, the many scenes of Cassie’s travels feel like an eerie reflection of what our world could be if aliens really didn’t want us around.

The few protagonists and their friends appear to be quite well-rounded and come complete with one fully realised, heartbreaking back story or another. Some characters, such as Ringer, remain charmingly enigmatic, keeping enough secrets to make her interesting. Evan in particular is complex and intriguing, with motives and a history I enjoyed puzzling out. There’s a lot of development in Zombie in particular as he learns the art of war and what it truly is to be brave, while Cassie’s evolution creeps up on her and takes her cold-hearted distrust by surprise.

My only real disappointment with THE 5TH WAVE was that each character didn’t have a completely unique or distinct voice. The style in general was excellent across the board regardless of which character was in charge, but without context I found it difficult to distinguish between Cassie and Zombie. They each had subtle quirks and I especially enjoyed Cassie’s internal conversations with herself, but stylistically there was little to make each one instantly recognisable.

THE 5TH WAVE has the makings to be a brilliant young adult scifi series, with THE INFINITE SEA already available and a third installment on the way. Frantic and believable, every page is completely absorbing with the perfect combination of an unearthly atmosphere and the human condition.

[TOP TEN TUESDAY] Worlds I wouldn’t want to live in

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This week’s TTT, hosted by the wonderful The Broke and The Bookish, is one that definitely appealed to me! I read a lot of dystopian and apocalypse fiction so the answers came to mind pretty easily for me, so I decided to mix it up and make my post a little different. I’ve included the top six worlds I definitely would not like to live in, and the top four that I would!

Worlds I Would Hate to Live in:

1. The Hunger Games Trilogy (Panem)
Does this one really need an explanation? Not only are the citizens working to death and still starving, but they’re also being forced by an oppressive government to send their children into an arena to murder each other. Umm… I’ll pass, thanks.

2. Slated Trilogy
Kyla lives in a world where children can be taken away and have their memories ‘slated’ overnight. Accused of terrorism, they’re given a second chance under close observation with a new family, a new personality and a new mind. Sounds scary enough without even factoring in all the shady business, suspicion and lies the people responsible for slating are involved with. Nope, no thank you!

3. Penryn and the End of Days
I have no burning desire to witness the end of days, with angels of the apocalypse being sent down from Heaven to destroy everyone and everything in their path. Not my idea of a good day.

4. Blood of Eden (The Fringe)
If I were a vampire, this would definitely make it onto my list of worlds I would like to live in. Life seems pretty grand as a vampire. Sadly, being the feeble human I am, I can’t say a life of extreme poverty quaking under the constant shadow of a hoarde of predators really does it for me.

5. Mindjack Trilogy 
Living in a world filled with the constant noise of other peoples’ thoughts would drive me insane. I wouldn’t be able to deal with knowing everything someone was thinking, and knowing that they could hear exactly what I was thinking too! The privacy of your own mind is a blessing I don’t think many people would like to sacrifice.

6. Mistborn Series (Scadrial) 
This has a lot to do with the extreme poverty and dictatorship again, as found in more than a few fantasy novels. While having the powers of Allomancy would definitely be a plus, I don’t think I’d be happy to trade off for a life of scavenging and oppression.

Worlds I Would Love to Live in:

1. Harry Potter Series
I don’t believe that anyone in my generation who grew up with Harry Potter hasn’t felt the bitter pinch of disappointment when birthday after birthday their letter didn’t arrive from Hogwarts. The Harry Potter universe is a wonderful, magical place hidden within the everyday, urban, boring world of Muggles. Yeah, Voldemort might be trying to destroy everything and kill everyone in his path, but you get to be a wizard! With magic!

2. Draykon (Seven Realms)
Draykon’s world is absolutely gorgeous, filled with mysterious plants and creatures and its own unique pattern of night and day. The whole world is magical and I would just love to dive in and experience it first hand.

3. Wheel of Time 
This world is so expansive with a history so rich that it already feels like it could really exist in some kind of alternate reality. I love High Fantasy and the old-fashioned historical feel to it, so I could definitely imagine myself jumping straight into Two Rivers and joining Rand’s adventure. I think I’d like this place even if I wasn’t an Aes Sedai (but I do want to be, please oh please!).

4. Black Jewels Trilogy
A matriarchal society where nearly everyone is gifted with varying strengths of magic? Yes please! I’d take even a White jewel to live in that world! I see a pattern emerging, I clearly have a thing for the promise of magical powers. Oh dear.

I really enjoyed this weeks Top Ten Tuesday! Let me know in the comments which fictional worlds you would love or hate to live in!

[REVIEW] Broken Angels – Harambee K Grey-sun

Broken AngelsSummary
Characters – 3/5
Plot – 3/5
World Building – 5/5
Style – 3/5
Overall – 4/5

Review
The White Fire Virus has infected thousands of humans and blessed them with extraordinary powers to bend light to their will and dive into the ultimate reality of XynKroma. The catch is that they’re being slowly and painfully consumed from the inside-out by the parasite. BROKEN ANGELS tells the story of infected Watcher agents Darryl and Robert in their hunt for a particularly elusive case; missing teenager Marie-Lydia McGillis. After storming a nest of virus-infected terrorists, they instead find self proclaimed “angel” Ava Darden, the last person to see Marie-Lydia before she disappeared. The search for Marie-Lydia winds around a complex background of the impending apocalypse and a race against virus-infected ID terrorists.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this novel. Anyone who’s been reading my blog for a while knows that I’ve been slowly but surely working my way through BROKEN ANGELS for a good few months now, it’s taken me a lot longer than usual to finish because of a number of factors – life getting in the way being one of them.

The characters were a little hard to connect with in the beginning; Darryl was clearly deluded and Robert was a little too stiff and boring until Ava came on the scene. I enjoyed trying to puzzle Ava out, her lost memories and conviction in her angelic status made her mysterious and she seemed to be the only character really pushing the book forward in the early stages.

I felt a real lack of plot for a long time with this book,when it suddenly kicked into gear in the final third and things turned very exciting, very quickly. For me, far too much time was spent dripping hints and clues before any real action took place, although I wouldn’t say that my stop-start reading helped this feeling at all. The pacing felt more than a little slow and coupled with a thick style, I definitely didn’t find BROKEN ANGELS an easy read. 

Grey-sun has a very deep and philosophical style, which while elegant on the page, did cause me to struggle a little. The whole novel is pitched in a spiritual and religious manner; thought-provoking  and quite beautiful to read. However, I would often find myself reading the same section over and over to try make sense of it. I think this might have been intentional in some places; when the characters visit XynKroma for example, but it was sometimes too often than I had patience for. 

The imagination and creativity behind the world building was wonderful, I loved the concept of the White Fire Virus and XynKroma was Alice in Wonderland in the extreme. From what I understood, XynKroma is an extra-dimensional realm, a different version of reality, which doesn’t adhere to any laws of physics. It is a special kind of chaotic hell crammed with the thoughts and souls of every living being all at once. Only the carriers of the White Fire Virus can visit, and a certain terrorist group of carriers called The ID are attempting to cause this realm to leak into our reality, causing the apocalypse. It’s complicated, but I love it.

I thought the book ended rather roundly with all the ends tied up nicely, however, BROKEN ANGELS is only the first in a series. I will definitely be grabbing DIVINITIES, ENTANGLED at some point but would have to re-read BROKEN ANGELS to try cement the story in my head beforehand.

Overall, while I did struggle my way through this novel I can’t help but feel it was worth it. There was a lot lacking, but exceptional world-building and an exciting ending definitely swayed my opinion. I would recommend setting aside a large chunk of time if you’re planning on tackling BROKEN ANGELS, but I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed if you make it to the end.

I received BROKEN ANGELS for free from the lovely people at HyperVerse Books. My reviews always represent my own honest opinion. 

[REVIEW] Angelfall – Susan Ee

ImageSummary
Characters – 5/5
Plot – 3/5
Style – 4/5
Overall – 4/5

Quote

“I never thought about it before, but I’m proud to be human. We’re ever so flawed. We’re frail, confused, violent, and we struggle with so many issues. But all in all, I’m proud to be a Daughter of Man.”

Review
Self-published urban fantasy/apocalypse novel, ANGELFALL, blew up the internet in 2011 and gained rave reviews from YA fans everywhere. Having somehow completely missed this obsession, I downloaded the eBook after falling prey to particularly aggressive Facebook advertising this summer and I absolutely devoured it.

Angels of the Apocalypse have descended upon Earth with only death and destruction in their sights, but Penryn’s attempt to escape the annihilation of her home town is halted by an angelic street fight. When one of the monsters kidnaps her disabled sister, Penryn is driven to extreme lengths to bring her home. Accompanied by her wounded hostage, the now wingless target of the brawl, she embarks on a desperate journey to save her sister, punctuated with horrifying discoveries.

I was really impressed with this book. Ee’s dialogue is on point and gives a great depth to Penryn and her captive angel, Raffe. They’re fiesty and funny together and it’s refreshing to see Ee develop a YA fantasy relationship in a natural way, rather than plumping for dreaded ‘instalove’. Penryn is strong both physically and emotionally, her voice as the narrator shows this persistant attitude and her quirky sense of humour. I really enjoyed her as a protagonist!

The plot is simple with the pace actually set quite slow until the second half where it ramps up bigtime. However, the first half definitely wasn’t boring; Ee devotes this chunk of time to moving Penryn and Raffe towards San Francisco and establishing their individual personalities and interactions with each other. I really appreciated this and barely realised the pair hadn’t done much until it came to writing up my thoughts. Ee winds conversations around actions very well.

The end was really high energy and, for me, totally unexpected, I loved the whole book and the ending definitely didn’t let me down. With rumours of a movie in development and second book in the series “World After” to be released in November this year, Susan Ee has shown just how successful self-published can be.