Tag: dystopian

Book Review:   The Limitless Sky, by Christina Kilbourne

Image belongs to Dundurn Press.

TitleThe Limitless Sky
Author: Christina Kilbourne
Genre:  Fantasy, YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

Trapped in a life she didn’t choose, Rook struggles to find meaning in her appointed role as an apprentice Keeper of ArHK. Even though her mam soothes her with legends of the Outside and her da assures her there are many interesting facts to discover in the Archives, Rook sees only endless years of tracking useless information. Then one day Rook discovers historic footage of the Chosen Ones arriving in ArHK, and she begins to realize her mam’s legends are more than bedtime stories. That’s when Rook begins her perilous and heartbreaking search for the limitless sky.

Gage is also trapped. Living on the frontier line with his family, his is a life of endless moving and constant danger. As he works with the other Scouts, Gage searches for the Ship of Knowledge to help his society regain the wonders of the long distant past, when machines transported people across the land, illnesses could be cured, and human structures rose high into the sky.

Will Rook and Gage escape the traps and perils that await them in order to save each other’s worlds? If they don’t, it could very well be the end of humanity.

The setting and culture in this story were fascinating to me. It was a little unsettling to read about national monuments as archeological artifacts, so that was an interesting aspect. I actually enjoyed Gage’s POV a bit more than Rook’s, because her culture and mindset just felt so foreign to me, but the author did a good job fleshing it out and making it come to life. I thought the ending was a little abrupt and kind of left the reader hanging, but I’d still recommend this.

Christina Kilbourne is from Canada. The Limitless Sky is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Dundurn Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  After the Plague, by Imogen Keeper

Image belongs to Mindless Muse Publishing.

Title After the Plague
Author:   Imogen Keeper
Genre:   Romance, fantasy
Rating:  4 out of 5

99% of the population dies due to a strange unnatural virus, leaving 1% grieving, scared, desperate, capable of anything, plunged into a world without laws, and no one to enforce them anyway.

 Frankie has zero skills to survive, but when she loses the love of her life, she discovers an untapped well of hope and courage inside herself – to find the others, the left-behind survivors who must now rebuild in the face of gathering clans, rising dictators, and everpresent danger.

 When Yorke, a lone soldier, who never wanted a family, finds Frankie, he has a single burning conviction: if anyone will make the rules in this strange new lawless world, it will be them.

 Before the apocalypse they were strangers. Now their lives will forever be entwined.

I read all three of these stories—Broken, Lost, and Found—pretty quickly. I enjoyed both Frankie’s and Yorke’s points-of-view, as well as the characters themselves. This was an interesting dystopian viewpoint, too:  far enough in the future to change daily life (like the prevalence of solar-powered homes so the characters can find one to stay in pretty easily), but not so different that the reader doesn’t feel completely at home. I’m also intrigued by what the red-haired woman who has taken over the White House is up to, so I’ll likely read the fourth volume in this series, Safe, very soon.

Imogen Keeper lives outside of Washington, D.C. After the Plague is her dystopian saga.

(Galley courtesy of Mindless Muse Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Book Review: Unbound, by Byna Whitlock

Image belongs to the author.

Title: Unbound
Author: Byna Whitlock
Genre: YA
Rating: 4 out of 5

Laura Curtis is ready to step out of her shadowed past and into a promising future. With close friends, a prospective romance, and college opportunities pushing her forward, life is finally looking up!

But when a bizarre attack at Central High School sets the world spinning into apocalyptic chaos, Laura is driven into hiding, wanted by the government for reasons unknown to her.

Despite her efforts to stay out of the spotlight, a mysterious stranger hunts her down. Claiming to be a renegade CIA agent, he declares Laura is a key figure in the fight against the virus that’s ravaged civilization.

As the two embark on a deadly cross-country road trip in a race for the cure, Laura seeks to uncover the truth while battling her haunted past. Can she fight her demons while navigating a new world rife with zombie attacks, espionage, and the attention of a man who may not be who he seems?

The answers are slippery, hidden in layers of deceit. In this high-stakes mission, she finds not only is her life in danger… so is her heart.

Time is a relentless enemy.

I do enjoy a good dystopian read and throw in the zombie apocalypse and my attention was definitely caught. Laura and Brandon were quirky characters—his obsession with energy drinks made me laugh, and the way she checked every food expiration date made me roll my eyes a bit—and the gradual way they got to know and trust each other was believable and well-done.

This wasn’t a “scary” zombie book to me, and the focus was more on the espionage and the hope for a cure than gore and chills. A solid read and I’d be interested in reading more in this world.

Byna Whitlock lives in Texas. Unbound is her newest novel.

Book Review: Knight in Paper Armor, by Nicholas Conley

Image belongs to author/publisher.

Title: Knight in Paper Armor
Author:  Nicholas Conley   
Genre: Fiction, science fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5

Billy Jakobek has always been different. Born with strange and powerful psychic abilities, he has grown up in the laboratories of Thorne Century, a ruthless megacorporation that economically, socially, and politically dominates American society. Every day, Billy absorbs the emotional energies, dreams, and traumas of everyone he meets—from his grandmother’s memories of the Holocaust, to the terror his sheer existence inflicts upon his captors—and he yearns to break free, so he can use his powers to help others.

Natalia Gonzalez, a rebellious artist and daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, lives in Heaven’s Hole, an industrial town built inside a meteor crater, where the poverty-stricken population struggles to survive the nightmarish working conditions of the local Thorne Century factory. Natalia takes care of her ailing mother, her grandmother, and her two younger brothers, and while she dreams of escape, she knows she cannot leave her family behind.

When Billy is transferred to Heaven’s Hole, his chance encounter with Natalia sends shockwaves rippling across the blighted landscape. The two outsiders are pitted against the all-powerful monopoly, while Billy experiences visions of an otherworldly figure known as the Shape, which prophesizes an apocalyptic future that could decimate the world they know.

I have to say, the setting for Knight in Paper Armor was very disturbing (near-future, urban dystopia), not just because of how it was, but because it seems so easily possible from where we are now. One company dominating and oppressing the world—yep, I could see that—poverty, loss of rights and freedoms, the use of violence and murder to control people and keep them below the poverty level…Sad and depressing, but believable.

Billy was such a sympathetic character:  branded as different and raised by a greedy corporation in a lab, his family murdered in front of him, the victim of experiments and used for a weapon. All Billy wants is to have a “normal” life and help people. All Natalia wants is to help her family and to right the wrongs she sees around her every single day. Both these characters are strong and vividly drawn but have their flaws as well.

The author does an excellent job painting an admittedly dark picture, but he also showcases the glimmers of light and hope that can be found even in the dark of times.

Nicholas Conley lives in New Hampshire. Knight in Paper Armor is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: Road Out of Winter, by Alison Stine

road out of winter
Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title: Road Out of Winter
Author: Alison Stine
Genre: YA
Rating: 4 out of 5

Surrounded by poverty and paranoia her entire life, Wil has been left behind in her small Appalachian town by her mother and her best friend. Not only is she tending her stepfather’s illegal marijuana farm alone, but she’s left to watch the world fall further into chaos in the face of a climate crisis brought on by another year of unending winter.  

With her now priceless grow lights stashed in her truck and a pouch of precious seeds, Wil upends her life to pursue her mother in California, collecting an eclectic crew of fellow refugees along the way. She’s determined to start over and use her skills to grow badly needed food in impossible farming conditions, but the icy roads and desperate strangers are treacherous to Wil and her gang. Her green thumb becomes the target of a violent cult and their volatile leader, and Wil must use all her cunning and resources to protect her newfound family and the hope they have found within each other.

 This was rather dark and depressing—so the author did an excellent job of setting the tone and mood of the story. The idea of never-ending winter is sobering, at the very least. Wil is an interesting character. She’s so used to being the outcast, the one everyone shuns, that it’s a big adjustment to have people around who actually need her.

I enjoyed the character growth she experienced, but the book just depressed me, frankly. Lots of horrible people willing to steal and kill in order to get ahead, even if they don’t actually need what they’re stealing. Wil is like a tiny ray of light in a dark room in this story, and even though she sometimes flickers, she does not go out.

Alison Stine lives in the Appalachian foothills. Road Out of Winter is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: A Beginning at the End, by Mike Chen

a beginning at the end
Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title:  A Beginning at the End
AuthorMike Chen
Genre:  Dystopian
Rating:  4 out of 5

Six years after a global pandemic, it turns out that the End of the World was more like a big pause. Coming out of quarantine, 2 billion unsure survivors split between self-governing big cities, hippie communes, and wasteland gangs. When the father of a presumed-dead pop star announces a global search for his daughter, four lives collide: Krista, a cynical event planner; Moira, the ex-pop star in hiding; Rob, a widowed single father; and Sunny, his seven-year-old daughter.

As their lives begin to intertwine, reports of a new outbreak send the fragile society into a panic. And when the government enacts new rules in response to the threat, long-buried secrets surface, causing Sunny to run away seeking the truth behind her mother’s death. Now, Krista, Rob, and Moira must finally confront the demons of their past in order to hit the road and reunite with Sunny — before a coastal lockdown puts the world on pause again.

A Beginning at the End wasn’t your typical end-of-the-world dystopian novel. Apart from a few brief flashbacks, the story doesn’t spend a lot of time with the actual end of the world. Instead, it’s firmly grounded in the rebuilding phase of life after a global pandemic.

My heart went out to Rob. He’s been keeping a huge secret from hid daughter Sunny for years—and now it has caught up with him and he doesn’t know what to do, so he’s floundering. Moira has been running for so long she doesn’t know how to not run. And Krista…well, I didn’t like her for most of the book, as she’s selfish and a bit ugly to people around her, but she fortunately has an epiphany about herself that changes her. I loved that this novel left the large-scale view alone, and focused on a handful of individuals, their lives, and their emotions, as this made everything much more vivid and realistic.

Mike Chen is a lifelong writer, from crafting fan fiction as a child to somehow getting paid for words as an adult. A Beginning at the End is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)

Blog Tour: Day Zero, by Kelly deVos

9781335008480.indd
Image belongs to Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press.

Title:  Day Zero
Author:    Kelly deVos
Genre:  YA, dystopian
Rating:  3.8 out of 5

Jinx Marshall grew up preparing for the end of the world—because her doomsday-prepper dad made her. Krav Magna, survival skills, and drills filled her days, but she thought all that was over when her parents divorced. Until the end of the world happened, and her father is accused of starting it all.

Now Jinx must take care of her little brother, her opinionated stepsister, and her cute stepbrother as she struggles to locate her vanished father, all while evading the law. But she can’t stay more than half a step ahead of the people after her, and safety seems even farther away with every step she takes.

I’m…undecided about this read. I loved the premise, but a few things were a little hard to believe:  the black-and-white nature of the politics (everyone’s either one thing or the other, with no shades of grey), Jinx’s trusting nature (which seems implausible, considering how she was raised), and her propensity to stick to a plan…even if it’s going down in flames. This was intriguing at times, eye-rolling at others, but I’d probably read the second book in the duology.

Kelly deVos is from Gilbert, Arizona. Day Zero is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Trinity Sight, by Jennifer Givhan

trinity sight
Image belongs to Blackstone Publishing.

Title:  Trinity Sight
Author:    Jennifer Givhan
Genre:  Fantasy, dystopian
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Pregnant with twins, anthropologist Calliope Santiago is driving when an earthquake happens, driving her car off the road. When she wakes up, she’s surrounded by abandoned cars, but no people. At home, she finds her family gone, but her six-year-old neighbor, Eunjoo, is there. With the city in flames, Calliope and Eunjoo set out for Calliope’s aunt’s home, where she knows she’ll find her family.

Instead of her family, Calliope finds Zuni myth and legend come to life. As she struggles to overcome her disbelief—she’s a scientist, so this can’t be really happening—she knows she must get to safety before she delivers her babies, but is safety anywhere to be found in this strange new/old land?

Trinity Sight is an odd book. Odd, but…compelling. I enjoyed seeing such a different and vibrant dystopian tale. I’m not sure I’ve read much connected with Zuni legend, so I found it fascinating. Calliope wasn’t the most likable character:  she’s stubborn to a fault but gives up on her husband pretty quickly, but I still enjoyed her story and the setting was captivating.

Jennifer Givhan is an author and a poet. Trinity Sight is her new novel.

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

Book Review: Echoes of War, by Cheryl Campbell

echoes of war
Image belongs to SparkPress.

Title:  Echoes of War
Author:    Cheryl Campbell
Genre: Dystopian, YA
Rating:  3.0 out of 5

Dani is a Brigand:  living on the fringes of society and scavenging to survive. The Wardens, an alien race, came to Earth centuries ago and lived disguised as humans until they were discovered. Now they’ve destroyed much of humanity—and are trying to destroy the rest. Then Dani’s brother reveals she’s an Echo—one of the near-immortal alien race who reset back to a younger age when they die, but not militant like the Wardens.

Soon Dani is trying to convince the other Brigands they need to work with the military so they can defeat the Wardens. But Dani will have to learn from her mistakes if she’s to help them succeed.

Okay…it was really hard for me to write this summary, which tells me a bit about this book’s issues:  it’s a little too undefined to be completely coherent. Frankly, Dani was kind of childish, and while this is partially explained due to her nature, she never seems to learn from her mistakes and is just hell-bent on doing things her way—no matter the repercussions to other people. I did not find her very likable. And this book felt more like an unpolished manuscript to me:  sometimes there are no explanations/motivations for characters’ actions—I can’t relate to people if I don’t have the slightest idea why they’re doing things. And there are several places lacking transitions, where time passes—four months, in one case—with zero transition at all, which felt very abrupt and threw me out of the story.

Cheryl Campbell lives in Maine when she’s not being a nomad. Echoes of war is her newest novel.

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

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.)