Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Review: Gravity (Taking #1) by Melissa West

Did Not Finish Gravity (Taking book 1) by Melissa West.

It is the Year 2133. World War IV has led to genocide of the human species. Planet Earth has been destroyed. Only the Aliens aka Ancients possess the ability to terraform Earth and nurse it back to health. In exchange for their help, the humans provide the Ancients with antibodies during the Taking so that they can acclimate to and survive life on Earth.

Here's what we know of the Taking:

(1) It commmences the moment a child hits ten years old, a mark of reaching adulthood.
(2) Everyone must wear the patch which acts as a blindfold as well as an immobilizer during the Taking.
(3) It takes place at exactly twelve midnight.
(4) No one is allowed to sleep during the Taking which means the humans are totally conscious of it happening.
(5) No one is allowed to miss the Taking.
(6) No one talks about the Taking.
(7) Failure to comply leads to either death or memory alteration by human punishment.

For the past 7 years, Ari Alexander, the future commander has participated in the Taking and complied with the rules laid down by the Ancients. That is until one fateful night, her patch goes missing from its silvery case. Without the patch, the temptation to take a look is too great to deny. Ari steals a peek. The Pandora's box opens. However, what she sees is only the start to a series of cover-ups, conspiracies and lies.

While I love the title and book cover, book 1 Gravity of the Taking series certainly does not take off for me. Call me jaded or otherwise, I find it really difficult to enjoy a story totally meant for Young Adults what with their attempts to take matters into their own hands to save the world from war and self-destruction amid conflicting feelings for one another. At halfway mark, I decide that enough is enough and close the book for good.

Then again, to be fair, the author does a great job with the writing which is smooth and flows pretty well. Efforts have been made to throw readers off guard through unexpected twists and turns. Though these surprises may be well received and well-liked by young adult readers, to me, they are anything but. I think it is more likely for me to enjoy this science fiction novel if I have been 20 turns younger.

Last of all, if you have intention to read this book, by all means avoid reading the blurb, which l am glad I did, not that it serves me so well in the end. The blurb really is a spoiler and an awfully bad one at that.

Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Publication date: 30 Oct 2012


In the future, only one rule will matter:

Don’t. Ever. Peek.

Seventeen-year-old Ari Alexander just broke that rule and saw the last person she expected hovering above her bed—arrogant Jackson Locke, the most popular boy in her school. She expects instant execution or some kind of freak alien punishment, but instead, Jackson issues a challenge: help him, or everyone on Earth will die.

Ari knows she should report him, but everything about Jackson makes her question what she’s been taught about his kind. And against her instincts, she’s falling for him. But Ari isn’t just any girl, and Jackson wants more than her attention. She’s a military legacy who’s been trained by her father and exposed to war strategies and societal information no one can know—especially an alien spy, like Jackson. Giving Jackson the information he needs will betray her father and her country, but keeping silent will start a war.

*Blurb from author's website*

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Review: Mockingbird (Miriam Black #2) by Chuck Wendig

4.5 stars for Mockingbird (Miriam Black book 2) by Chuck Wendig.

I start out on Mockingbird almost immediately after finishing book 1 Blackbirds. At that time, I did not think of myself enjoying book 2 more than book 1 since it is a dark urban fantasy with a lot of violence and brutality. But boy, am I wrong!

At the end of book 1, we know that Miriam has unlocked the secret, the one special exception to her psychic ability. As it is, there is no free lunch in Miriam's world, and she pays a price, that being the cost of her interference to change the outcome in her visions of death.

Mockingbird kicks off with Miriam's attempt to live a normal life working as a check-out cashier wearing gloves, gloves that Louis buys for her and insists she wears. Following a run-in with the store manager, Miriam gives in to her true self, dumps the gloves and unleashes the lingering promise of death - a feeling she misses in the past year - to witness the last moments of the lucky ones whom she makes skin-to-skin contact with.

An unexpected turn of events leads Miriam to a school that takes in troubled girls, girls with disorders such as bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, depression and anxiety. What Miriam sees in her visions upon touching some of the girls there deeply disturbed her. It is so unnerving that it spurs her on a mission with the mantra "She is who she is", and she has work to do.

Though Mockingbird continues to be a dark fantasy in Miriam Black's urban world, there are touches of humor amd wit sprinkled like fairy dust throughout the book. I find myself liking Miriam more and more as the story unfolds to reveal more shocking details. In my opinion, the author has brilliantly created a female protagonist who may not be prim and proper girl next door, curses and swears at every opportune moment available, but is definitely one with a heart of gold.

I like the irony setting the author cleverly carves out for Miriam in that she can find out how and when anybody is going to expire but yet her own doom remains a mystery always; a mystery that eats into her day by day. Most of all, I love the way the story twists and turns and fills me with lots of heart-stopping thrills as Miriam races against time to redirect fate.

All in all, a notably dark and gritty read that makes me feel as if I am riding shotgun with Miriam. Her mission becomes my mission. I am who I am.

Publisher: Saga Press
Publication date: 5 May 2015


Miriam is trying. Really, she is.

But this whole "settling down thing" that Louis has going for her just isn't working out. She lives on Long Beach Island all year around. Her home is a run-down double-wide trailer. She works at a grocery store as a check-out girl. And her relationship with Louis--who's on the road half the time in his truck--is subject to the piss and vinegar Miriam brings to everything she does.

It just isn't going well. Still, she's keeping her psychic ability--to see when and how someone is going to die just by touching them--in check. But even that feels wrong somehow. Like she's keeping a tornado stoppered up in a tiny bottle.

Then comes one bad day that turns it all on her ear.

*Blurb from Goodreads*

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Review: Blackbirds (Miriam Black #1) by Chuck Wendig

4 stars for Blackbirds (Miriam Black book 1) by Chuck Wendig.

Meet Miriam Black, a 22-year old girl who has the sight to see what is yet to pass. An impartial observer, Miriam sees death, everywhere; a spectator bearing witness to the last minutes of people's lives, with answers as to the how and more importantly, the when.

Thanks to her psychic ability, Miriam cannot help but be skeptical at best, if not paranoid of everything and everyone around her. Self-confessed to be an awful person, she curses, she drinks and she smokes. In toggling between the present and the past, Miriam tells her story. She tells of how she acquires this gift or rather curse and why she no longer tries to stop the deaths she sees in her visions from happening. That is, until she hitches a hike from a truck driver, a mountain of a man called Louis.

As a harbinger of death, Miriam is constantly plagued and haunted by those she has seen in her visions. The victims always manifest as a specter or demon from her own subconscious and taunt her, be it in suspended animation or wakefulness. It is indeed thought-provoking, the way the author pens Miriam's dreams and visions that one marvels if these are simply fragments of Miriam's own active imagination or phenomena from some higher power at work.

This fantasy tale trends very much on the side of dark urban, exploring and revealing the ugly side of human nature. There is cursing and swearing, violence and brutality, definitely not a story for the faint hearted. However, it is precisely due to this darkness that brings across its message, the bottomline of this story "it is what it is". It makes me think and wonder about my own actions and the resulting consequences. By taking Action A, I have created Result C. But if I have taken Action B, will it have led to a temporary Result D but ultimately still Result C? Is it the journey or the destination that matters?

It is what it is.

Publisher: Saga Press
Publication date: 5 May 2015

*** Favourite quote ***

All of our lives are just a series of events carefully orchestrated to culminate in whatever death fate has planned for us. Every moment. Every act. Every loving whisper and hateful gesture - all just another tiny cog in the clockwork ready to ring the alarm for our ultimate hour.

~ Blackbirds
Chuck Wendig


Miriam Black knows when you will die.

She’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, and suicides.

But when Miriam hitches a ride with Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be murdered while he calls her name. Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim.

No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

*Blurb from Goodreads*

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Review: Destiny (Rogue Angel #1) by Alex Archer

3 stars for Destiny (Rogue Angel book 1) by Alex Archer.

I love reading. Yet in my mind's eye, it is a vicious cycle, one I dislike. A lot. It is a cycle which I almost always willingly let myself fall into, and then struggle against the tide when I fall head over heels into a bottomless pit, to rid myself of the emptiness, the horrid void feeling that always ensues following my re-emergence from a deeply entrenched fictional world to the real one. Yes, reality bites.

After the previous 2 Did Not Finish (DNF) books, I tell myself that I really must finish reading whatever book I pick up next. Truth be told, I dislike posting book review with DNF rating.

Back to Destiny. I read this book becaue the book cover depicts a tough looking kickass girl who reminds me of Lara Croft in Tomb Raider, and that the blurb has this catchy "Archaeologist" that simply tugs me in.

Written from third person point of view, Destiny centers on an American young lady, Annja Creed who loves archaeology for its challenges, stories and puzzles. Trained in archaeology, anthropology and ethnography, Annja is always searching for truths in the past.

The story opens in Lozère, France with Annja attempting to solve the mystery of the La Bête, one of the French legends for the cable show, Chasing History's Monsters. While hunting for the beast, Annja comes into possession of a charm, a piece of antique metal, a talisman of some sort in a hidden cave in the Cévennes Mountains. At the same time, she meets the mysterious Roux, an old man who saves her from being pursed by people with criminal background for unknown reasons.

As if there is invisible arcane forces at work, Annja soon finds herself bounded by destiny to Roux and his past. The search for answers to solve the mystery leads the chase across Paris, France to Manhattan to Brooklyn, New York and back.

The characters are well drawn and the plot, packed with actions, moves at a good pace, one which is sufficiently fast but yet does not compromise on the depth of the various characters. I enjoy much of the story for the first three quarters of the book before it bore me to tears by dwelling too deeply on the topic of knights and historical events, all of which I do not bother to validate. This is afterall, an urban fantasy novel.

Publisher: Gold Eagle Rogue Angel
Publication date: 1 Jul 2006


Archaeologist and explorer Annja Creed's fascination with the myths and mysteries of the past leads her to a crypt in the caves of France, where the terrifying legend of the Beast of Gevaudin hints at the unimaginable. What she discovers is shattering: an artifact that will seal her destiny: a brotherhood of monks willing to murder to protect their secret; and a powerful black-market occultist desperate to put his own claim to centuries-old blood money. Annja embarks on a high-tension race across Europe and history itself, intent on linking the unholy treachery of the ages with the staggering revelations of the present. But she must survive the shadow figures determined to silence her threat to their existence.

*Blurb from Goodreads*

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Review: Night Child (OSI #1) by Jes Battis

Did Not Finish Night Child (OSI book 1) by Jes Battis.

I have always have this weird vibe telling me to steer clear of male authors who write with a female protagonist in mind especially if the story is written from first person narration, which ironically is my favorite point of view. Well, the fact that I am even posting this book review goes to show that I have chosen to ignore this gut reaction of mine. Sadly, try as I may, I am unable to convince myself to finish what I have started. At slightly less than the halfway mark, I give up reading and come to the conclusion that goes with the saying "Men are from Mars, women from Venus". Period.

Yes, central to this urban fantasy novel is our heroine, a 24-year old Tessa Isobel Corday aka Tess who works for an occult government agency, otherwise known as Central Occult Regulation Enterprise, or CORE in short. Tess is a level one Occult Special Investigator (OSI) who has been put as the person in-charge of cracking a mysterious case involving a dead vampire.

While the storyline is ok, the narration is too fragmented to my liking for an enjoyable read. Also, the characters do not leave impression deep enough for me to remember that once I stop for a break, I have to flip back to re-read parts to refresh myself from where I leave off or risk stepping into the unchartered territory of neverland. As it goes without saying, this feeling gets old after awhile and turns annoying instead.

I am not sure if I should or will give this series a second chance by reading book 2. But I know without a doubt that this episode of DNF will not stop me from trying out another male author masquerading as a female lead character in yet another first person narrative account.

Publisher: Ace; 1st edition
Publication date: 27 May 2008


Tess Corday, Occult Special Investigator for Vancouver's Mystical Crime Lab, is used to seeing dead vampires. But there's nothing ordinary about this case. Not the lab results on the cause of death. Not the teenage girl living at the address found in the vamp's pocket, who may well be in thrall to a demon. And certainly not Lucian Agrado, the necromancer who is liaison to the vampire community. Agrado is supposed to be part of the solution, but Tess suspects he might be part of the problem.

Soon she finds herself in the middle of a paranormal conspiracy that will change her life forever... and possibly end it.

*Blurb from Goodreads*

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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Review: Fluency (Confluence #1) by Jennifer Foehner Wells

Did Not Finish Fluency (Confluence book 1) by Jennifer Foehner Wells.

Fluency starts out promising with an intriguing air of mystery surrounding the derelict Target, a massive airship the size of a city. Unfortunately, any mystique associated with the story collapses as easily as a dying star to form a black hole within the first 4 chapters. Much as I try to keep it going, the plot fails to regain my interest and I struggle with a couple more chapters before calling it a day.

Below is what I have gathered from 30% of my reading:

After travelling 10 months in the vacuum of space on its maiden voyage, modern airship Providence has finally caught sight of its target, ironically known as the Target, a drifting alien spacecraft. The six on board are entrusted with the task of uncovering the mysteries shrouding the long-abandoned Target. Of utmost importance in this space expedition is 35-year old Dr Jane Holloway whose ability to learn new lanaguages as easily as she breathes secures her a position in Providence as Earth's ambassador. A linguist who also doubles up as a translator, Jane holds the reins to the ultimate success or failure of this space mission.

Pilot: Tom Compton
Commander: Walsh
Engineer: Alan Bergen
Flight surgeon: Ajaya Varma
Position unspecified: Ronald Gibbs
Linguist: Jane Holloway

I love reading sci-fic fantasy tales and have always been on a lookout for a good story or two. Sadly, this one is not my cup of tea as the space exploration is not only uneventful, the premature revelation of the unknown kills off any further inclination to read.

Publisher: Blue Bedlam Books; 2 edition
Publication date: 18 Jun 2014


NASA discovered the alien ship lurking in the asteroid belt in the 1960s. They kept the Target under intense surveillance for decades, letting the public believe they were exploring the solar system, while they worked feverishly to refine the technology needed to reach it.

The ship itself remained silent, drifting.

Dr. Jane Holloway is content documenting nearly-extinct languages and had never contemplated becoming an astronaut. But when NASA recruits her to join a team of military scientists for an expedition to the Target, it’s an adventure she can’t refuse.

The ship isn’t vacant, as they presumed.

A disembodied voice rumbles inside Jane’s head, "You are home."

Jane fights the growing doubts of her colleagues as she attempts to decipher what the alien wants from her. As the derelict ship devolves into chaos and the crew gets cut off from their escape route, Jane must decide if she can trust the alien’s help to survive.

*Blurb from author's website*

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Review: The Unbound (Archived #2) by Victoria Schwab

4.5 stars for The Unbound (Archived book 2) by Victoria Schwab.

The Unbound pretty much picks up where book 1 The Archived leaves off and we see our heroine, Mackenzie Bishop having difficulty keeping the different worlds apart. Plagued by memory of a rogue History from the earlier book, Mac finds herself no longer alone but shrouded by fear and nightmares of her own making: her fear following her through into the Narrows and likewise, her nightmares following her out into the Outer.

While book 1 centers around Mac and her home in the Coronado, much of the story in this book 2 is set in the school grounds on the pretext that summer break is over, and Hyde school with its moss-covered building, ivy-strewn walls, hundred-year-old oak trees and wrought-iron gate is waiting for Mac. But even as the school term has started, Mac continues to hunt Histories and read memories as there is still the duty of returning Histories from the Narrows to the Archive. Through a chain of events, Mac is determined more than anything to stay in good graces with the Archive by doing a good job as a Keeper. Unfortunately, trouble seems to be Mac's middle name and before long, she finds herself in soup hotter than she can stomach.

The author continues to deliver a stunning story that resonates well, in fact, so well that I feel as if I am one with Mac, reliving the nonstop horrors of night terror, putting up with the fear of having something dear and then losing it being worse than not having it in the first place, and questioning the likelihood of losing one's mind as the line between imagination and reality increasingly blurs. The only pain in the neck is the injustice dealt out to Mac along the way that makes me see red, clench my fist and grit my teeth. How I wish to kick a certain character to the moon and back. In all fairness, the fact that the unfair treatment suffered by Mac makes my blood boil is proof enough that the author has done a very good job spinning tales and twisting words.

All in all, a captivating story that keeps me up late into the night to finish reading.

Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication date: 28 Jan 2014


Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books. Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Last summer, Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper tasked with stopping violent Histories from escaping the Archive, almost lost her life to one. Now, as she starts her junior year at Hyde School, she’s struggling to get her life back. But moving on isn’t easy — not when her dreams are haunted by what happened. She knows the past is past, knows it cannot hurt her, but it feels so real, and when her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she’s really safe.

Meanwhile, people are vanishing without a trace, and the only thing they seem to have in common is Mackenzie. She’s sure the Archive knows more than they are letting on, but before she can prove it, she becomes the prime suspect. And unless Mac can track down the real culprit, she’ll lose everything, not only her role as Keeper, but her memories, and even her life. Can Mackenzie untangle the mystery before she herself unravels?

*Blurb from author's website*

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