Tag: dystopian

Book Review: The Nothing Within, by Andy Giesler

nothingwithin_ebook_medium_seal
Image belongs to Humble Quill LLC.

Title:   The Nothing Within
Author:   Andy Giesler
Genre:   Dystopian
Rating:   4 out of 5

In 2161, the world changed. The first chimera appeared, and a year later, twelve billion people were dead. Those that remained called it the Reckoning, and as they struggled to survive in their hostile new world—the World That Is—they became different. More withdrawn. Less tolerant of anyone who was different, anyone who might harbor the Nothing within themselves, bringing danger to all inside the walls that encircle their villages.

Root is the daughter of a Weaver—a village guardian—and her blindness isn’t the only thing that sets her apart. So does her curiosity, her questions about everything around her. For the tradition-bound people she knows, that is her worst offense. Until one day Root hears a voice no one else hears, and soon she’s on a journey to find out the truth about herself, her world, and what happened in the Reckoning that shapes who she is now.

It took me a little bit to get into The Nothing Within. Dystopian fiction set in Amish country? I’ve never even considered the idea, and it kept me hooked. The world here is so unique that it kept my attention, even when I was a bit confused early on. Root is a fascinating character. Her blindness doesn’t stop her, and even gives her more abilities than she’d otherwise have. This is a great read for anyone who just wants to settle into a longer story and get to know a new world.

Andy Giesler lives in Wisconsin. The Nothing Within is his debut novel.

(Galley provided by Humble Quill LLC in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: The Red Labyrinth, by Meredith Tate

theredlabyrinth
Image belongs to Flux Books.

Title:  The Red Labyrinth
Author:  Meredith Tate
Genre:  YA, dystopian
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

As one of the unskilled, Zadie Kalver is treated like trash by the skilled. She wishes she had one tiny power—anything—to make people hater her less. Her small desert town lies in the shadow of the labyrinth—a massive maze built to protect the town—filled with death traps and enchantments, and a killer named Dax who snatches those who wander too close.

When Zadie’s best friend disappears and everyone forgets he even existed, she knows something is going on. And the only person who might be able to help her lives at the heart of the maze. Her only hope is an uneasy truce with the murdering Dex, the one person familiar with the labyrinth. They’ll have to avoid all the deadly traps inside—and keep from killing each other—if they are ever to get back the people they’re searching for.

I read this straight through in one sitting. The world, harsh as it was, fascinated me, and Zadie is a character I’d like to hang out with. I can’t imagine the strength it would take to survive what she’s been through, on top of being abused and treated like trash for being unskilled. She starts off a little naïve, but she grows quickly as a character, making this a riveting read.

Meredith Tate has a master’s degree in social work and now lives in Switzerland. The Red Labyrinth is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Flux via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: A Soldier and a Liar, by Caitlin Lochner

a soldier and a liar
Image belongs to Swoon Reads.

Title:  A Soldier and a Liar
Author:  Caitlin Lochner
Genre:  YA, fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Lai is a Nyte, a supernaturally gifted teenager with abilities that frighten the Etioles without abilities—but with numbers and power on their side. Lai is in prison:  by her own choice and for her own reasons. Going back to the military is not what she had in mind, but when a chance to join a special team of Nytes comes her way, she decides that it might suit her own agenda perfectly, if she keeps the truth of her power to herself.

She joins Jay, an uptight perfectionist haunted by his father’s expectations, Al, whose short temper keeps her own secret hidden, and Erik, a surly amnesiac desperate to find out who he really is. Their team has a chance to stop the rising rebellion between Nytes and Etioles, but will the secrets they’re hiding destroy their team before they can?

This is a dystopian story, but without the dystopian feel. The focus is on the two groups, Nytes and Etioles, and the conflict and rebellion between them. Each of these characters has secrets, big ones, and keeps everyone at a distance to keep their secret safe. This novel is about finding trust—for yourself and those closest to you—even in the face of danger. An enjoyable read not bogged down with romance and flirting (although there is a teensy bit).

Caitlin Lochner lives and teaches in Tokyo. A Soldier and a Liar is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Swoon Reads via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Plague Land: Reborn, by Alex Scarrow

plague land
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:   Plague Land: Reborn
Author:   Alex Scarrow
Genre:   Dystopian
Rating:   3 out of 5

They thought it was dead. They were wrong.

Two years ago, the virus hit London, wiping out most of the population. Leon has made it through two winters since then, and no one has seen the virus since. He lost his father, his mother, and his sister to the virus, and most of his hope as well. Until he finds a message about a rescue boat and sets out to see if the rest of the world has survived. But that’s not all he needs to worry about.

Okay, this probably wasn’t the best pick for me. Sometimes I can pick up a series book without having read the previous books in the series and be fine. Sometimes I can’t. This was one of the latter times. I didn’t have any problems following what was going on…I just had a problem caring. I didn’t have any emotional connection with the characters, so it was hard for me to get into reading this. Interesting premise with the virus, though.

Alex Scarrow currently lives in Norwich with his family. Plague Land:  Reborn is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Crossing, by Jason Mott

the crossing
Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

Title:  The Crossing
Author:   Jason Mott
Genre:   YA/dystopian
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

At first, the disease only took those over age 90, putting them into a sleep they never awoke from. Gradually, the victims grew younger, and the world realized eventually no one of childbearing age would be left awake—or alive. Accusations of blame arose, followed by the war.

Virginia and Tommy have spent most of their lives in the foster care system, fighting to stay together. But now the draft threatens to keep them apart forever. So they run away, headed for Florida and a space shuttle lunch that could be the last hope of mankind.

In a world gone mad, people try desperately to forget the truth, but Virginia remembers everything:  ever single detail of everything she’s ever seen or heard. The Memory Gospel brings the past alive for her, but it makes her blind to some things. As Tommy and Virginia flee across the country, they have only themselves to depend on, but can they bear the cost of the truth?

This was an intriguing novel, with a premise unique in the dystopian books I’ve read. The world, filled with war and the Disease, is frankly terrifying. Virginia and Tommy’s history is sad, yet their love for each other remains strong.

I found Virginal pretty unlikable. Her perfect memory makes her think she’s smarter than everyone around her, and, while that may be true in some cases, she only remembers her memories, not necessarily the truth. She’s a selfish person whose intellect makes her push people away. Despite that, this was an engrossing read.

Jason Mott is a New York Times bestselling author. The Crossing is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by Harlequin/Park Row in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Book Review: The Rending and the Nest, by Kaethe Schwehn

the rending
Image belongs to Bloomsbury USA.

One moment, Mira was at the mall shopping with her little brother. The next instant, 95% of the world’s population vanished, along with sunlight, most of the animals, food, and stuff. What isn’t missing is in huge random piles. The survivors eke out a living by scavenging the Piles and banding together in haphazard communities.

Four years after the Rending, Mira spends her days scavenging for her community of Zion, hanging out with her best friend, Lana, and avoiding people she might come to love—she can’t bear to lose anyone else. Then Lana tells her she’s pregnant, the first pregnancy since the Rending. For the first time since everything changed, Mira feels hope.

But when Lana gives birth to an inanimate object—and so do other women in Zion—Mira’s world crumbles again. An outsider named Michael lures Lana away, and Mira must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice to save her friend, her community, and her own pregnancy.

I’m not going to lie:  this is an odd book. Dystopian, with no explanation for why the Rending occurred (so if you must have a “why,” you’re out of luck here). The world is both strangely familiar and oddly skewed, like everything is just a bit off-kilter. Mira and Lana—well, everyone—are hiding secrets from their before, secrets that they need to deal with before they can truly accept their now. The Babies are creepy—and weirdly fitting—and I was drawn into the story from the first page as Mira struggles to make sense of this new world while still trying to sort out just who she is. Despite the oddness, this is an enthralling book, with a vividly realized setting that’s just as intriguing as the characters.

Kaethe Schwehn is an award-winning writer of prose and poems. The Rending and the Nest is her new novel.

(Galley provided by Bloomsbury USA in exchange for an honest review.)

Current Adventures in Reading

I started reading two books this week—and stopped reading them shortly thereafter. Choosing to not finish two books back-to-back is highly unusual for me, but I found the characters in Sugar Lump by Megan Gaudino to be vapid and superficial, despite the very intriguing premise of the book. (And I love YA, so that wasn’t the problem. But I like real YA, not surface-level, and I couldn’t get past that.)

Then I started A Cold Day in Hell by Lissa Marie Redmond. And only made it about 10% into that one. I felt pretty distant from the main character to start with, but stuck it out until she met with the accused killer, a teenage kid who just randomly had sex with a girl he didn’t know in her car, and then she turned up dead a few hours later, and he’s totally confused about why he’s been accused. Here’s the thing:  I don’t do stupid people. Or stupid characters. So his blasé attitude  about the whole situation was a deal-breaker for me right then and there.

Both of these might be great books for someone else. Just not for me.

Then I started reading The Rending and the Nest, by Kaethe Schwehn, and couldn’t put it down. I do love dystopians. So that was a win! Review to come soon.

the rending

 

Book Review: The Wolves of Winter, by Tyrell Johnson

wolves of winter
Image belongs to Scribner.

It wasn’t enough for nations to disagree. They had to add nuclear war to the mix, changing both the environment and nature, making food scarce and luxuries like electricity and chocolate a thing of the past. Then came the Asian Flu, and millions died, changing the landscape of the world even more.

For years, a nomadic, secretive existence is the only thing that kept them alive. Now, for seven years, Lynn and her family—mother, brother, honorary uncle and his adopted son—have huddled together in their tiny community in the Yukon wilderness, hunting and struggling to eke out a hardscrabble existence in a world gone mad. Then Lynn finds an injured stranger and his dog and brings them home, never dreaming what she was unleashing on them all.

Jax has been used as a weapon for too long; now he’s on the run, desperate to keep ahead of his enemies. “Alone” is the only safety he knows. But when Lynn and her family get caught up in his fight to survive, he realizes there is far more going on than he knew, and he must decide whether to keep his solitary existence, or fight for a glimpse of hope for mankind.

I’m not going to lie: I do love dystopian novels. Well, I love good dystopian novels. Wolves of Winter is far, far more than “good.” No, the idea of a world decimated by war and sickness isn’t new, but the execution of the concept is, and the characters are as well. We get to know Lynn:  her strengths, weaknesses, hopes, and desires, and we watch as she starts growing into the person she can be. I cannot imagine the strength it would take to survive in the Yukon with no modern conveniences to fall back on (First World problem, I know), but Lynn shines through with grace and love for her family, leaving the reader riveted to the page. I read this straight through in one sitting, and I cannot recommend it highly enough!

Tyrell Johnson loves the outdoors. Wolves of Winter is his debut novel.

(Galley provided by Scribner via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

 

 

Book Review: The End of the World Running Club, by Adrian J. Walker

end of the world running club
Image belongs to Sourcebooks.

Edgar Hill is a “meh” father at best:  he’s content to let his wife take care of the kids while he avoids responsibility and contemplates his dreary life. Until the sky begins to fall, and he only has a few hours to prepare. With a rain of asteroids imminent, Edgar is catapulted into motion, trying to scrape together everything he can to help save his family from the apocalypse. They are trapped in their basement for two weeks, and emerge into a world almost totally devastated.

With a few other survivors, they attempt to sort out their lives. When Edgar is out on a supply run one day, his family is rescued and taken all the way across the country in preparation for evacuation. Now he has only weeks to make it to them, with no vehicles, no supplies, and crazy, power-hungry scavengers who want to rule their own territories between him and his family. Running is the only answer. And Ed has never been much of a runner—more of a couch potato—so the lack of supplies isn’t even his biggest obstacle. Will his ragtag group make it to safety in time?

This novel mixes a dystopian, end-of-the-world feel with literary prose to achieve an adventure that focuses on the outer obstacles, but also a man’s struggles with his own inner ugliness. Ed isn’t a nice guy. He loves his family, but he’s kind of—okay, definitely is—a jerk. The end of the world doesn’t change that, but it does shake loose something in Ed and make him realize how precious his family is. Ed’s friend, Bryce, is a fantastic supporting character, injecting humor and attitude that Ed is decidedly lacking. This was a good read that gave me a bit to think about.

Adrian J. Walker was born in Australia, but now lives in London. The End of the World Running Club is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Salt Line, by Holly Goddard Jones

the salt line
Image belongs to Penguin/Putnam.

In the future, life in the United States has contracted behind a wall of scorched earth—The Salt Line—that keeps citizens safe from deadly ticks that carry a horrific disease. Social media is ever-present, and life isn’t too different from now. Instead of going on big-game safaris to Africa, the wealthy pay to travel outside the safe zone, into the America outside the salt line.

A pop star’s girlfriend, Edie; tech genius Wes, and housewife Marta are all part of the same excursion, but once through their three weeks of survival training, they realize their vacation trip has more in store than they ever suspected. Ending up as hostages to a group of outer-zone survivors, they discover the darker secrets holding up their world, and find themselves at the mercy of everyone who wants to keep those things secret.

At first the idea of a tick causing everyone to retreat behind walls was a little bit hard for me to adjust to, but yeah, I’d run from these things, too. The world of The Salt Line is just familiar enough to make the idea of killer ticks even more scary, with social media a constant focus of every life (sound familiar?). This is a novel about an ensemble cast, which can be hard to pull off, but Jones nails it, and the backstories and motivations of her characters kept me just as engaged as the “current” action.

Holly Goddard Jones’ newest novel is The Salt Line.

(Galley provided by Penguin Group/Putnam via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)