A Snowy Journey

Rene Denfeld’s writing is one of lyricism and comfortability. Her voice is that of your mother reading to you as you fall asleep. There is an ebb and flow to her style that is inspiring. The type of writing that when you start reading, you say, “Ah, this is what good writing sounds like.” Denfeld has mastered her voice and found interesting stories to tell.

There is much about this book that I appreciate in good storytelling. Naomi is complicated; she has an easy smile with an open demeanor, but is guarded about her past. Madison, aka Snow Girl, is young and naïve though quickly learns what it takes to survive when you are a “lost girl.” Her strongest tool is her imagination and she wields it like a master. One of the best ways to write a “villain” is to show not only their weaknesses, but also their reasoning or longing. Mr. B. has done a terrible thing but I sympathized after learning about his background.

Denfeld gave us the point of view of each of these characters. It helped to deepen the heart of the story. Naomi is literally the child finder. Obviously bad things are happening to these children before she finds them, but Denfeld doesn’t lead us on a faceless, rage filled witch hunt. There are tragic circumstances to understand behind some stories, and this story is built on a rock bed of tragedy.

Denfeld has given us a beautifully tragic tale and lightened it with a positive ending. I won’t say happy, because these characters have quite the journey ahead of them, but positive. And that is my biggest critique of the book. The continued journey of the characters sounds just as exciting as the beginning journey. The Child Finder is a slim novel that I would have loved to see more of. Maybe Denfeld will continue Naomi’s story as she continues her search for the most important child of all.

 

 

 

By Emily Coleman

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Team Player

Marie Lu has some exciting things brewing. Legend will be seen on the big screen soon, and her Batman YA novel will be released in January 2018. Now Warcross’ publication was met with fanfare from fans and YA authors alike. I will confess, Warcross was the first book I’ve read by Lu. It didn’t surprise me that it was well written and well structured. What surprised me is how completely I fell in love with it.

Warcross is set in a future where virtual reality is not only the norm, but beyond anything we can imagine today. Hideo Tanaka created a game called Warcross and it’s so widely played, people have made careers from playing the game. The future generation of professional athletes. Emika is a teenage hacker turned bounty hunter, doing anything she can pay off her deceased father’s debt. Emika is invited to play in the championship tournament as a wild card, but she has to keep her real reason for playing from her teammates and the millions of fans watching: find the hacker trying to destroy Warcross from the inside.

Emika is easily likable and relatable. With her father’s death and her mother walking out on them years ago, Emika is trying to keep her head above the mountain of debt her father accumulated and the never ending rent bill. Girl, I feel ‘ya there. She uses her hacking skills to become a bounty hunter, chasing down people who gamble on Warcross. It doesn’t pay much though. Even finding a waitressing job is becoming obsolete with restaurants turning to automated servers. Everything about Emika character, from her mannerisms to her backstory, felt fully developed.
Lu did a great job with the futuristic world building and describing a technology in a plausible way. It sounded crazy, but plausible. The game levels were intense and imaginative. Gaming isn’t a world I understand, nor a world I’ve been a part of ever, but I understand sports. And watching these teams battle it out in a simulated landscape had my heart racing.

As you would expect with YA, there is a love story tangled in the plot. Unlike some other love stories, this one felt earned. Hideo is famous and while Emika has a crush on him, upon meeting him for the first time, she has a start struck reaction, but is rubbed the wrong way by his stand offish manners. It isn’t until halfway through the book that Hideo fully shows his feelings for Emika. Even then, nothing is easy about their relationship. Not only with keeping it a secret in a public situation, but both Hideo and Emik are private, closed off people, both with baggage they need to work through. Each of their relationship milestones are earned slowly as they both learn to open up to one another. But then….

I thought I had figured out the twist at the end but Marie Lu still took me by surprise. There was a lot of magic at work with her world building and plot, even non gamers will be hard pressed not to be on the edge of their seat. It will be exciting to see what the second novel has to bring. Emika has quite the journey ahead of herself.

 

 

 

By Emily Coleman

Realistic Survival

Clade – a group of organisms believed to have evolved from a common ancestor.

 

James Bradley has created a hyper-realistic climate fiction novel. He has taken the definition of clade and applied it to the Leith family. We follow three generations of the Leith family and those they are connected to as they navigate a warming Earth and the drastic consequences that come with it.

While Bradley sets these characters on a dying Earth, he doesn’t spend much time exploring what’s happening but rather shows us the characters reactions to the dangerously changing landscape. Adam Leith obsesses over the climate while his partner Ellie undergoes IVF treatments. Though their daughter Summer means the world to Adam, him and Ellie drift apart as the Earth seems to unglue from the seams. When Summer disappears to Europe, Adam braves the devastating flooding to find her living in a shake with a six year old son. They battle to get out while Ellie is immersing herself in learning about the dying bee colony for an art installation.

Clade could be described as a collection of short stories as each chapter moves through each characters point of view at different times of their life, propelling the plot forward. What I saw of these characters is, even as the world is in turmoil, the mundaneness of life remains. You worry about money and putting a roof over your families head, spouses fight and break up, teens are full of angst and prefer the virtual world to reality. When the world is dying faster than we can stop it, yelling at dad or dancing in a virtual rave is an intrinsic human behavior that doesn’t disappear when faced with life altering challenges.

Clade is written beautifully. Brandley follows not only the destruction of the world, but the turmoil of family. It’s a shame he didn’t give us more. I would have gladly followed the Leith family in more detail rather than snippets. There are themes of loss and redemption and survival, but I wanted a deeper look at them.

 

 

By: Emily Coleman

Duplicate

The Punch Escrow was published through Inkshares, and if you’ve never heard of them, don’t worry because I hadn’t either. Inkshares is a crowdfunding site specifically for writers. As a writer, all you need is an idea to get started. Inkshares will help you get a chapter drafted and create a draft page on their website. Using this page, you build a following of people who are interested in your book and believe in it. If you can sell 250 pre-orders, Inkshares will publish your book, taking over the editing, design, and marketing aspects. They have the royalty structure mapped out on their site so there are no secrets about the money you would be making through them. It sounds pretty ingenious to me. Crowdfunding has become an instrumental tool in helping self-publishing authors get their work into the world, and Inkshares is making it a bit easier.

Tal Klein convinced at least 250 readers that his book was worth it as it was published at the end of July. It was immediately picked up by Lions Gate and James Bobin is set to write the screenplay. Clearly this book has garnered attention in a short time span. And it makes sense. Science Fiction is on the rise, and what’s better than seeing Sci/Fi technology at work on the big screen?

Overall, I liked the book, and it will make for an exciting movie. Klein did an impressive amount of research to make the science all fit, and he does a good job of making sure the reader can follow along. Of course the main character is helpful in that fact because while he’s lived with this technology his whole life, he isn’t a scientist himself. Just a regular old Joe like us readers. But I can’t decide if I like Joel or not. He’s snarky and witty and isn’t anywhere near being the bread winner in his marriage. His wife works long hours and he while he misses her, Joel isn’t the best at sticking to their plans as I would expect. He also doesn’t come off as brave as he consequently becomes. I just couldn’t quite figure him out.

On the other hand, I liked his wife Sylvia. She works at International Transport, the company in charge of all teleportation, and is in the midst of a top secret project. Her character felt real, full of longing and uncertainty. She has a dream job but her marriage is suffering, and she’s clearly conflicted. Sylvia is putting effort into keeping her marriage above water but she doesn’t feel like Joel is giving the same effort. She’s also able to admit her own shortcomings, and that’s not easy to do for anyone. Sylvia plans a second honeymoon for their tenth anniversary, and as a way for them to rekindle their passion, when everything goes to shit.

It’s clear there will be a second book and while I do plan to read it, I can’t say that it will be earth shattering. I can’t think of where it will go. Time will tell. The movie deal is an exciting prospect, though. Klein is going to have a busy career if he can sell movie rights just as soon as his books are published.

 

 

Thank you Wunderkind PR for providing this book for review.
By Emily Coleman

Wait, What’s Happening?

The one consistency I’ve found across the reviews for Ninth City Burning, whether it was 1 star or 5 stars, is that J. Patrick Black used a range of science fiction icons that his inspiration. This certainly isn’t a bad thing, and I didn’t feel it took anything away from the story. Instead of reiterating those icons, he molded them to fit his plot. That’s just good authorship if you ask me.

I’m going to be blunt with my overall criticism – it’s confusing. A real quick overview of the plot: Valentine’s Day, aliens attack using technology we’ve never seen before. Five hundred years later we’re in a stalemate against them, but we’ve harnessed their technology so we can hold our own against them. This is where people are making

comparisons. Similar to Star Wars, certain people have a “force” they are able to yield as a weapon. Blacks calls it thelemity and backs it all up with science. There is an academy to train kids for a lifetime of military service, much like Ender’s Game (others cite Harry Potter and Hogwarts but I don’t agree completely with that connection). We’ve created giant suits of armor (Pacific Rim by Tel Toro, anyone, anyone), while in space and bouncing between portals. There is also mention of Starship Troopers and Red Rising, all for good reason.

Lately I’ve been obsessing over the “question” character. Many times it’s the main character but side characters work as well. The fastest way for the author to get relevant information to the reader is for one or more characters to know even less of what is going on than the reader, so as that character asks questions, the reader learns along with them. Sometimes there are good question characters, frustratingly slow question characters, or even wrong characters to be asking questions. The lack of information and sometimes outright wrong information coming from the characters was frustrating. I didn’t have a full grasp of the story until halfway through because it simply wasn’t given to me.

Black uses a rotating cast of POVs and each of them are at a different level of in the “know.” With the extensive world building Black needed to do, I’m not sure this was the right narration technique. Rae and Naomi are part of a “wandering” community that haven’t encountered the alien war and don’t believe it’s happening. Torro lives in a settlement working long hours in various factories that send their goods to the “front.” The settlement communities romanticize the war because they need volunteers to go fight, but no one comes back from the front, so these citizens often argue amongst themselves what is actually happening. Jax and Kizabel and Vinneas are a little higher on the food chain and have seen some of the fighting first hand. They help to explain the basic intro information to start with. Then there is a scene with Torro as he is going through training where an officer sits down the new troops and tells them the truth of what’s been going on for the last 500 years. It was the first time I felt like I finally understood what had been happening. Even with Torro growing up in the settlement, knowing and believing this war has been happening, he has been fed misleading information his whole life (which he shared with the reader).

This way of getting information across made for a confusing story. Even when all fo the information was revealed, I didn’t have that satisfactory feeling as everything clicked into place. I felt lied to, like the citizens of the settlements had been lied to.

Ninth City Burning is the start of a trilogy. Series often fall prey to the beginning of the story being mostly world building, and it ends just as the epic battle is about to take place. I’m pleased to say Black didn’t fall pretty to this typical blunder. We get a battle at the end and promise of an even more epic battle to come. I think Black has a lot going for himself with this story. Even as confused as I was in the beginning, I was invested in the characters. Black has all the space in the world to show us where he can take this story, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it only gets better from here.

 

 

 

By: Emily Coleman
Thank you Blogging for Books for the ARC of Ninth City Burning.

What Will Disappear Next?

I haven’t been reading YA as frequently as I used to. The characters tend to get on my nerves and the sentences are more likely to bother me. While The Disappearances is far from perfect, it has a unique and refreshing premise. Murphy created a story steeped in mystery laced with literary references. The amount of research and prep that went into this stories structure is impressive. And as Murphy’s debut novel, she will only strengthen her style and voice.

Aila and her brother Miles are shipped off to live with her deceased mother’s childhood friend after their father is drafted into WWl. The siblings are treated with distrust and disdain because their mother left Sterling and never came back. Aila learns their mother was blamed for a curse blanketing the town and the surrounding towns for decades. The disappearances occur every seven years. Smell disappeared first. The stars. Colors from paint and pencils. A person’s reflection. Children born into these towns grow up without these senses. When Aila and Miles arrive, they lose all of them as well.

Each disappearance could be linked back to Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. Murphy must have read Shakespeare backward and forward to pull out just the right lines to create a story around them. Using everything she’s learned from her mother’s personal copy of Shakespeare’s collected works, Aila helps the town inventor and her new group of friends to lift the curse that has plagued the town for so long.

The Disappearances is a story that suffers from “weak ending” syndrome. The ending seemed too easy. There were questions left unanswered. Not that the story rose those questions, but I wanted to know more about why that worked or how that didn’t work. It wasn’t explored enough for me to feel completely satisfied. My final feeling is that it was good; worthwhile premise but lackluster ending.

 

 

 

By Emily Coleman

City of Conclusions

The conclusion of a series is always bitter sweet. Even if the last book isn’t as perfect as the first one, knowing there won’t be another story in this world or with these characters is always sad. City of Miracles wraps up The Divine Cities trilogy and based on the ending, we won’t be visiting the city of Bulikov with Shara and Sigrud again.

Sigrud is always Shara’s side kick but he takes the main stage when he learns of her death. Ever loyal, he returns from exile to avenge her death (I was trying to stay away from that description, but it’s exactly what he does). Shara has never done anything simply so naturally Sigrud runs into a tangle of mysteries that envelope Shara and her daughter, Tatyana, and later Sigrud himself. We meet a plethora of new characters but some old faces join Sigrud’s mission of protecting Tatyana. (He completed his revenge on Shara’s killer within the first few chapters as efficiently as we expected.)

As much as I liked Sigrud’s character in the first two books, it wasn’t the best idea to make him the leading character. Putting Sigrud at the forefront drastically changed the dynamic of everything Bennett had previously set up. Shara’s story was steeped in politics and the war that breaks out was a centralized action scene. With Sigrud leading the way, the story became an action packed thriller. Shara was the brains and Sigrud is the brawn. Sigrud could help Shara piece together the clues and events but she was vastly more educated than him. Nothing against Sigrud, as he’s always been a great character, but it was more fun watching Shara’s brain piece together the puzzle than follow Sigrud fumble through the mysteries of Shara’s work alone.

While Sigrud made for a less than desirable main character, it was still an enjoyable book, with the right ending. This last book action at the front but it never lost its mysteries or investigation work that we all originally fell in love with. It’s nice to see the series wrapped up nicely. I haven’t read Bennett’s older stuff but it’s been added to my TBR pile.

 

 

By: Emily Coleman
I received an ARC of City of Miracles from Blogging for Books for an honest review.