Review: “The Dark Intercept” by Julia Keller

Review- The Dark Intercept by Julia Keller

A review by Amanda.

In the year 2294, on a glorious world called New Earth, crime is almost non-existent. Thanks to a highly advanced computer program, called the Intercept, crimes are stopped before they are committed. The Intercept monitors and records the emotional responses of every citizen on both New Earth and Old in order to keep the peace. Each citizen is implanted with a chip that allows the Intercept into their minds, giving up their right to keep their emotions private. When an emotional spike indicates a potential crime, the people whose job is to utilize the Intercept watch closely to determine if an intervention is necessary. The Intercept will then use an individual’s worst emotional memories against them, creating a horrible feedback loop that incapacitates the offender. Violet Crowley, daughter of New Earth’s Founding Father, is one of the employees of the Protocol Hall, where they watch for patterns that indicate potential criminal activity. It is her job to decide if an intervention is needed, a job she does not take lightly.

Violet understands the necessity of the Intercept and how much easier life is with it. Her curiosity about Old Earth and sympathies for the poor people who still live there pushes her to ask difficult questions, especially when her crush, a cop named Danny, makes unauthorized trips to Old Earth and won’t tell her why. Violet decides to investigate on her own, and the answers she finds only lead to more confusion. When threats arise against people she cares about and to the society her father painstakingly built, Violet takes matters into her own hands.

This story has some similarities to Minority Report, without the precognition aspect, and has a frightening take on futuristic class warfare. When New Earth was created, the deciding factor for who was allowed to come along and who had to stay behind was mostly wealth. Many doctors and scientists left Old Earth and the people who were forced to stay behind had very little resources. Many are dying of fevers and infections and crime is rampant there, even though many citizens have had chips implanted because they are rarely monitored by the Protocol Hall.

Violet is a lovely character if a bit naive in the beginning. She loves her friends and her family and is torn between following the rules and protecting her loved ones. She feels some ambivalence towards the Intercept, despite accepting its usefulness. The supporting characters are a little less developed than Violet, although still interesting. There are a couple of unexpected twists that added more substance to the plot, and the ending could work as a standalone or to continue in a series.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “The Gender Game” by Bella Forrest

Review: “The Gender Game” by Bella Forrest

A review by Vanessa.

I purchased this book from Amazon after an advertisement linked me to it and the synopsis seemed interesting.

In a world where your gender rules your fate, Violet Bates is happy being a woman born in Matrus, where the females rule the government. Violet doesn’t know what exactly caused the great war that brought such destruction upon them, but everyone knows why the surviving populace living in the only fertile mountainous area left, split into two different ruling factions. Men had proven to be monstrous, and violent, and had already brought about the eradication of their previous way of life. Women thought it was time for females to lead. The men disagreed, and the majority of the women left, with those men who agreed, to form a separate government in the flat lands beyond the toxic river. Peace reigns in Matrus; power and masculinity reigns in Patrus.

Even though 19-year-old Violet committed a crime that put her in jail until her upcoming 21st birthday, she was better off than in Patrus where women were no more than property. Still, when her brother was marked at an early age as unfit to reside in Matrus, she loved him too much to see him condemned and tried to smuggle him across the river. She failed, and he was taken away. Now all she wants is to get through the rest of her sentence without trouble. But fate has other plans when Violet’s scuffle with another prisoner ends in womanslaughter. The Queen has made Violet an offer: help with a secret mission to recover something that was stolen, or face death as punishment. The mission comes with a heavy price. Namely, marriage to the Queen’s spy in Patrus. If she succeeds, she might just get the chance to see her brother again. But first she must survive having no rights, and no bodily autonomy. Still, it’s not all bad. Violet has always loved the thrill of physical combat, which is outlawed in Matrus. But in Patrus she is drawn to a lean handsome fighter who serves as a warden for the government her new scientist husband works for. Things just aren’t what they seemed to her before, and she finds herself torn between her mission and her heart.

The classic futuristic dystopian genre gets an interesting twist in this book. Focusing on the gender dichotomy as the source of the main conflict is an all too familiarly painful, and eerily possible, future. The turns the story takes are expertly executed, and will definitely keep the reader engaged. Violet, the main character, is a highly relatable lead to the story. Her personal journey is particularly captivating, as she discovers more about the world outside of her own experience. A rather large flaw in the world building, however, is the complete lack of acknowledgment of what happens to those who would be transgendered, non-gendered, or outside of the societal expectations for sexual orientation. Considering that this world is supposed to be the future fate of our own world, it is insanely disappointing that such a large part of humanity is simply not addressed. I have to hope that the great potential for what could have been a fascinating conflict within this world will be covered in future books. That being said, it has been a very long time since a book has actually kept me up all night to finish it. And though the prose could be just a little bit stiff at times, it flowed just right in all the places that mattered the most; the first moments of Violet’s real self-discovery, the height of the romantic tension, and the shocking twist of the story’s climax. I will definitely continue on in this series.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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Review: “Rise of the Chosen (Lifeblood #1)” by Anna Kopp

A review by Amanda.

Samantha Shields lives in a post-apocalyptic world, but it isn’t exactly the one we were expecting based on movies and books. Almost two decades ago, a mysterious blood disease began infecting every person on the planet. Called Lifeblood, it wakes the dead (no matter the cause of death), turning 99% of them into mindless creatures with enhanced strength and senses. Unlike traditional zombies, the Woken have no interest in devouring flesh or brains; they only want to kill as many people as quickly as they can. A small percentage of the infected become Chosen instead. These lucky few get the super strength and enhanced senses but retain their sense of self.

Some cities, like Savannah, Georgia, where Sam lives, are protected by the Watch, a military-like installment that exists to protect the living. Steel walls surround the city, with guarded gates to let people pass in and out. The Watch is made up of both humans and Chosen, sworn to protect the citizens from the Woken. At eighteen, Sam is about to be given her first official Watch assignment when a series of tragedies strike, changing the course of her future and bringing new information to light. She has to make one difficult decision after another, without knowing who she can truly trust.

Rise Of The Chosen took a unique approach to the post-apocalyptic genre. The city of Savannah is described as safe, clean, and comfortable. Technology did not cease when the world ended, it simply adapted to suit the world’s new needs. The use of tech in this world was both creative and logical, and the overall world-building was excellent. The characters, however, were lacking just enough depth that they did not feel complete. Perhaps this had to do with the Chosen’s emotional limitations, which could be expanded upon in the next book. Sam was likable, if naive and indecisive, as teenagers occasionally are. She was revealed early on to be bisexual, which was a nice change from the typical romantic storylines in the YA genre. Some of the writing felt disjointed, as though the author jumped from one scene to another without the necessary transitions, but otherwise this book had me intrigued. It ended on a curious note and I am interested in seeing how the story continues in book two.

Fans of Struck by Jennifer Bosworth, Amy Tintera’s Reboot series or Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris may enjoy this book.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “Butterfly Bones” By Rebecca Carpenter

Review: "Butterfly Bones" By Rebecca Carpenter

A review by Domoni.

Bethany was born with a rare bone condition. She wasn’t supposed to live past 6 months, but her scientist father will stop at nothing to save her. Especially since his wife, Bethany’s mother, died of cancer when Bethany was only 2. So he created a treatment and Bethany has been getting injections that strengthen her bones and keep her alive. At the age of 15 she easily passes for an elementary student due to her size and the fact that puberty hasn’t come her way yet. Which makes Bethany a prime target for bullies in high school. The only bright spot is her best friend Jeremiah, who just happens to be the hottest boy in school. Since all the girls want the hot football player, especially the new girl Zoey, this makes an even bigger target on Bethany’s back when jealous girls want her out of the way.  Bethany’s final teenage torment is she is also in love with Jeremiah, but it seems he only sees her as a friend.

Bethany spends most of her free time in her father’s lab at home. This is the only way she seems to have his attention. When they observe the mice he has been treating with the same new treatment he is giving Bethany behaving strangely, that’s when things get really weird. The injections use caterpillar DNA, now suddenly the mice have made cocoons. Is this what is in store for Bethany now too? If she is going to survive the metamorphosis, what will she become?

I loved this book. It had some creepy yet fascinating moments and it brought up many emotions. The author did an amazing job crafting the world around Bethany. The characters had depth and motivation, you could understand who they were and their reasons for their behaviors. I found myself angered over the constant bullying Bethany had to endure and horrified that the adults in the school turned a blind eye or shifted blame to the petite girl. As the story progressed I started to have anxiety waiting to find out what was going to happen. The ending blew me away. I will gladly read more in this series.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Butterfly Bones

by Rebecca L. Carpenter

Genre: YA Sci-fi

Lakewater Press

Summary:

Bethany should be dead, just like the doctors predicted. But along came the butterflies, altering the order of nature.
And now nature is hell bent on revenge.
Because when fate’s path is disrupted, it’s only a matter of time before balance must be restored.

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Rebecca Carpenter

About the Author

Rebecca Carpenter is a native of western Colorado. She is married with two grown children and has been blessed with four amazing grandchildren. She owns and directs a large childcare center where she shares her love for books. In her spare time, she freelances as a copy editor, helping others attain their writing dreams. She finds solace and clarity while spending time with her husband exploring the beautiful mountains of Colorado.

 

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BOOK TOUR Review: “Carmine” by Alan Janney

Review:

A review by Domoni.

She wakes up alone, naked, and with no real memory inside a Walmart. She knows her world has changed. She knows she is a variant. Kidnapped and experimented on, she is stronger than a human. The other changed beings flock to her. She is only 18, but she is strong and they need a leader. She doesn’t remember being Katie Lopez. But she will be Carmine and she will protect them. America is divided. The humans fear the variants, they are hunting them. Some of the strongest infected ones want to use their abilities to rule the country. Carmine just wants peace, for variants and humans alike. Her kingdom of New Los Angeles will be a land where those who work, will eat. Those who follow the rules, will be protected.

I really enjoyed this story. The way it was written was unique and captivating. From the first paragraph to the end, I was pulled through the story and didn’t want to put it down. Carmine is a great character. She has depth and complexities. Her personality and conflict make her more interesting. Watching her battle who she is and what she was created to be while grappling with a past she does not fully remember gave me a deeper connection to her story.

The variants have a strange need to be lead and bond closely with the strong person in charge. Carmine has amassed a large following and given them a purpose outside of the destructive force they were created to be. This makes her a target of the other strong changed ones. She has many enemies and allies she did not want. One of those allies is The Outlaw Chase Jackson, who just happens to be Katie Lopez’s boyfriend. Though Carmine does not remember him, the pieces of Katie that survive in her crave him. His undying devotion to Katie also makes him hard for Carmine to resist. He is stronger than her in his abilities and this evokes the inner warrior drive in the variants who follow Carmine, which can be a problem. It is hard to decide how you feel about someone when all of your people want to kill him, and you kind of do too.

All of the characters are well developed and the decaying city of Los Angeles is crafted well. It is easy to fall into the world created by the author and embrace the battle for basic rights. This book is an easy to read stand alone story that has captured my attention enough that I will be purchasing and reading all of the Outcast series and learning more about The Outlaw and this world he lives in.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Carmine by
Alan Janney
Genre:
YA
Dystopian/Adventure/Romance
Sparkle Press
Summary:
She wakes as society crumbles
She wakes up with no memory
She wakes up a queen
The girl once known as Katie Lopez wakes up in an abandoned Wal-Mart with no memory, possessing only the vague sense that something has happened. Where is her family? Where is her boyfriend? She has a faint recollection of him, a ghost of a memory. The world, she discovers, is staggering from the weight of rampaging mutants, victims of a bizarre surgery gone wrong. Once intended to bring about a utopia, now the victims threaten societal meltdown. Much to her surprise, the girl with no memory discovers she is their queen.
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BOOK TOUR Review: “A Criminal Magic” by Lee Kelly

BOOK TOUR Review, "A Criminal Magic" by Lee Kelly

A review by Domoni.

Joan is desperate to take care of her family. Since the awful day her mother died, her main concern is caring for her young sister Ruby and making sure to keep a roof over the heads of her sister, cousin, and even the uncle she despises. Their family barely survives off the money they make selling her uncle’s shine. In Prohibition times, the bottled magic gives a high that can’t be beat. But that magic is illegal and since her uncle drinks as much as he makes, the money doesn’t come in as much as it is needed. Joan hid her own magic abilities from everyone in her life. Until the day that Gunn came offering her uncle an opportunity to turn their fortunes around.  When her uncle Jeb’s wasted form doesn’t impress the gangster, Joan steps up and confesses her abilities. Now she is caught up in a job that could save her family, or ruin her.

Alex despises magic and its allure. He used to help his father bottle shine before his father’s arrest. Then he hid his abilities and even began training to become a Prohibition agent. He claims to hate magic, but really he just hates the life he lost with his father’s arrest. When he is brought before some top Prohibition agents and unmasked as a sorcerer, he can either go undercover as a sorcerer to the mob, or face prosecution of his own. Maybe he can get back the life he wants, but trying to take down this gang could take all he has left.

This book takes place in an alternate reality. The time of Prohibition and gangs ruling the streets are alive and well, but magic is the center, not alcohol. The world the author created was a shadow to the story though. I found myself often forgetting the era that was supposed to be portrayed. It could literally be anytime or place. So if you are looking for a story that embraces the mob culture, this is not it.  That does not make this a bad story though. I did enjoy the tale.

Joan and Alex are well developed characters with personalities and conflicts that evolve and grow through the story. With their evolution, my enjoyment and opinions of the characters also changed. I found myself becoming more invested in Alex as time passed and more disappointed in Joan. The smaller characters were not as fleshed out and I do wish there was a bit more about them included in the story. In the end, the idea of the story itself held me more than the events taking place in the pages of this book.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: "A Criminal Magic" by Lee Kelly

A Criminal Magic
Lee Kelly
Publication date: February 2nd 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Young Adult

THE NIGHT CIRCUS meets THE PEAKY BLINDERS in Lee Kelly’s new crossover fantasy novel.

Magic is powerful, dangerous and addictive – and after passage of the 18th Amendment, it is finally illegal.

It’s 1926 in Washington, DC, and while Anti-Sorcery activists have achieved the Prohibition of sorcery, the city’s magic underworld is booming. Sorcerers cast illusions to aid mobsters’ crime sprees. Smugglers funnel magic contraband in from overseas. Gangs have established secret performance venues where patrons can lose themselves in magic, and take a mind-bending, intoxicating elixir known as the sorcerer’s shine.

Joan Kendrick, a young sorcerer from Norfolk County, Virginia accepts an offer to work for DC’s most notorious crime syndicate, the Shaw Gang, when her family’s home is repossessed. Alex Danfrey, a first-year Federal Prohibition Unit trainee with a complicated past and talents of his own, becomes tapped to go undercover and infiltrate the Shaws.

Through different paths, Joan and Alex tread deep into the violent, dangerous world of criminal magic – and when their paths cross at the Shaws’ performance venue, despite their orders, and despite themselves, Joan and Alex become enchanted with one another. But when gang alliances begin to shift, the two sorcerers are forced to question their ultimate allegiances and motivations. And soon, Joan and Alex find themselves pitted against each other in a treacherous, heady game of cat-and-mouse.

A CRIMINAL MAGIC casts a spell of magic, high stakes and intrigue against the backdrop of a very different Roaring Twenties.

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Lee Kelly

Author Bio:

Lee Kelly has wanted to write since she was old enough to hold a pencil, but it wasn’t until she began studying for the California Bar Exam that she conveniently started putting pen to paper. An entertainment lawyer by trade, Lee has practiced law in Los Angeles and New York. She lives with her husband and children in Millburn, New Jersey, though after a decade in Manhattan, she can’t help but still call herself a New Yorker. She is the author of A Criminal Magic and City of Savages. Visit her at http://www.NewWriteCity.com.

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Review: “Shadow Fall (Shadow Fall #1)” by Audrey Grey

Shadow Fall (Shadow Fall #1) by Audrey Grey

A review by Amanda.

Maia Graystone lives in a world held hostage by catastrophe. An asteroid is poised to pass so closely to Earth that utter destruction is unavoidable. The Emperor has seized this opportunity to solidify the elitist segregation that keeps him in power. Those of Gold and Silver status have a secure place in the space station that was built when the danger first became clear. Those of Bronze status will have to earn one of the limited remaining spots by competing in the Shadow Trials; a series of challenges designed to weed out the weak and unworthy.

Maia is the child of a Gold mother and a Bronze father. She was Chosen, matched with a Prince to be married at eighteen, and elevate her from a life of comfortable means to one of luxury. However, when her mother abandons the family and her father is executed for treason, young Maia and Max are forced to beg and steal to live. Maia is caught stealing and thrown into the Pit to be forgotten. After six years of fighting for survival, she escapes with assistance from an enigmatic group of rebels. In exchange for her help in a dangerous mission, they will help her find her brother. For the mission to succeed, she must ally with a brooding and murderous boy from the Pit. She must also become someone else entirely to compete in the Shadow Trials. Can she fool those who knew her as Maia into believing the lie?

This book has the bones of an excellent apocalyptic story. The characters are complex and interesting and the plot is fascinating at its core. The first half of the story sets up the world, the danger, and introduces the heroes and villains, but it moves too slowly to keep the reader’s attention for long. There are also too many elements introduced too soon, making the plot feel over-complicated and convoluted. The second half moves at a faster pace and has a simplified feel to it. In contrast to the first part, readers will be glued to the pages, waiting to find out the fates of Maia and her cohorts. There are similarities to The Hunger Games franchise, but nothing that screams “rip-off” in an obvious manner. The romantic allusions are somewhat cliché but it doesn’t detract from the story once the over-arcing plot gains traction. I will be interested to see where the story goes from here, and will pick up the next book.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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