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Reactive: A Young Adult Dystopian Romance

Reactive: A Young Adult Dystopian Romance (The Elite Trials Book 1) by [Moynihan, Becky]

Reactive is a dystopian novel written by author Becky Moynihan. It is the first book in the Elite Trials trilogy. Set in Tatum city, Lune is the adopted daughter of the Supreme Elite – Renold Tatum. She longs to escape the city and regain her freedom – however the only way to do that is to win the Elite trials. She is focused and well prepared for her one chance at freedom. That is, until Brendon, a boy from her past re-enters her life – jeopardizing her only chance at freedom.

I was immediately drawn into the story by Moynihan’s description of Freedom (Cleopatra) Tatum’s charger. She realistically described the powerful physical traits of the animal and her more subtle personality traits. The relationship between the charger and Tatum was also convincingly described, it was as if I was reading about a genuine relationship between a rider and horse. The description of Tatum riding her charger was realistic, and made me feel as if I were experiencing the same sense of freedom.

The main character – Lune Tatum is described as a strong, determined young woman. Until Bren appears in her life, we see her actions as just that. She is focused and determined to win the Elite trials. Her strength is shown through the descriptions of her training regime, and the way in which she endures the cruel punishment of her father without allowing it to break her spirit. We see she is extremely careful with whom she forms relationships with, allowing herself to have only one true friend – Asher. Lune’s world changes when Bren – a boy she encountered long ago re-appears in her life. Against her better judgement she begins to develop feelings for him. She cares about his well being and worries about him. Lune begins to lose some focus in her training, and is often ‘saved’ from situations – for example when being assaulted by fellow trainees. I felt there were too many times that Lune was ‘saved’ by Bren. If Lune was determined and skilled and had a legitimate chance at winning the trials would she have needed saving so often by Bren? Sadly, the story changed from having a strong female protagonist, to almost becoming a story of a young women being saved by a handsome man.

The motto of the trials – Strength, Speed, and Precision could be woven more into the beginning of the story. This motto underpins the Elite Trials, it would reinforce this by having it appear at the start of the book, and reappearing throughout.

Overall, this is a highly addictive book with interesting characters. It is impossible to put down!

Pages: 397 | ASIN: B07GTVYDBC

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Reality Gold

Reality Gold (The Shifting Reality Collection) by [Brooks, Tiffany]

Tiffany Brooks’s book, Reality Gold, is an excellent read for young adults and beyond. Readers follow a large group of teenage survival show competitors who are whittled down as the show progresses. The story is told from the perspective of protagonist, Riley. Riley sees the show as a shot for redemption. She had gotten into some trouble at her high school, and ultimately had become both a viral meme and the butt end of seemingly everyone’s jokes. She wants to shake her reputation as a spoiled brat with a silver spoon. It doesn’t hurt her shot at winning that she has first-hand knowledge of the show’s backdrop, Black Rock Island, and the treasure it holds.

Brooks has constructed a very interesting, very well-written story with Reality Gold. The characters represent several demographics across the board. The plot and pace flow well. Bits of backstory of the island and Miles, Riley’s godfather with gold-fever, come out as the story progresses. The story sometimes feels like it does a cha-cha with it’s one step forward, two steps back rhythm. The kids are steadily moving toward their goal with some obstacles and setbacks in their path. Some plot twists at the end took me by surprise. The story kept my interest piqued until the very last page.

I particularly liked the character, Maren. Maren had dyed black and purple hair, and was always in a t-shirt with a sarcastic word or one-liner printed across the front. She was instantly labelled as harsh, mean, and weird. Some of those things came to her rightfully. Some of those things were likely just defense mechanisms. Either way, we get to see a few jagged edges soften at times. She lets some redeeming qualities peek out from underneath the dark makeup at times. She became a lesson in “don’t judge a book by its cover.”

I also liked brainy, sometimes aloof, A.J. who was interested in one thing and one thing only, the gold. He was more interested in the gold than the actual payout, because he saw the discovery itself as a foot into Harvard’s door. He was smart and driven and between him and Riley, had all the answers.

Riley was a rich kid, but wasn’t “just a rich kid.” That is the reputation she was fighting hard to shake. She wanted people to know her. Really know her. She thought the show would give her the chance to show the skewed world who the real Riley was. She also had a bit of the taste for the hunt passed down to her from her godfather. She plays a pivotal part in the story, both as a friend to her coeds and as an experienced treasure hunter.

There is a bit of a budding romance or two within the story, but nothing gets graphic whatsoever. There is also an important cautionary tale. There is an “almost romance” between an underage player and a crew member of the show. The characters struggle a little with how to handle that situation, but in the end, they keep their friend’s best interest and safety at heart.

Watching the clues, maps, markers, and cryptic symbols all fit together to form a completed puzzle was reminiscent of watching National Treasure and movies like it. The brainy kids all hashing and rehashing possible meanings and directions was exciting. The island served as a scary backdrop. Throwing in the “reality” factor kept both me and the characters trying to figure out what was fake and what wasn’t until the very end. They had to second guess everything they thought they knew since some things were manufactured specifically for the anticipated TV audience and ratings. Are their friends real or actors? Are the clues for the treasure real or planted?

I loved the characters and the story. It was well-written, and the characters and plot were well-developed. It was an exciting, sometimes “edge-of-your-seat” kind of story. I’d love to see more from this author.

Pages: 398 | ASIN: B07C5B7RFY

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A Game of Life

A Game of Life by [Musewald, Anna]

After a serious car crash, Stefan comes round from a coma with a case of amnesia. Eva, his younger sister, is the only one who can see that Stefan is not really Stefan at all…When a strange letter arrives, written in gothic handwriting and addressed to Stefan, saying there has been a terrible mistake and signed by a mysterious ‘Hyacinthe’, the puzzle starts to unravel. Along with Eva, Stefan’s friends, Kim, Thomas, Harry, and Andrew must try to solve the mystery but to do that they will have to take part in a dangerous race, called The Game of Life.

Anna Musewald’s A Game of Life is a YA fantasy and mystery novel which draws you in from the first page. The prose is so easy to read; it is witty and enchanting and feels perfect for a YA audience. In spite of the simplicity of the language, it doesn’t feel at all patronising or one-dimensional. The ‘game’ from the title is quite complex, with lots of imaginative systems and challenging tasks set for the players which really immerses the reader in the experience. I loved the inclusion of Greek myth, such as Apollo and the Sirens, woven through the narrative. The plot is in the vein of The Hunger Games and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire which could make it seem derivative, but with an original and inventive spin, it manages to feel fresh and exciting. Meaningful themes of friendship, loyalty and bravery flesh out the fun storyline.

The pacing is excellent; I was instantly engrossed by the opening chapter and the book never let me go! We are drawn in by the question of what has happened to Stefan and led through a number of rabbit holes and strange happenings. The revelation isn’t made until the end which kept me greedily turning the pages, and there are also plenty of action scenes to keep the reader hooked until the final page.

I had total belief in the characters, who all have distinctive personalities, and I loved the way that the friendships and rivalries are portrayed, showing the tangled and complex nature of relationships. The relationship between Stefan and Eva is particularly poignant and depicts the protective and intuitive nature of sibling relationships. The dialogue is funny and clever, and the conversation seems very authentic for a group of young people.

One of the aspects that I enjoyed the most was the setting of Parsi and the fully formed ‘underground’ city created by the author which is full of fantastical and magical detail. Musewald excels at writing surroundings and conjures up place in a beguiling and descriptive way so that the reader feels as though they are on the journey with the characters.

This is a great addition to the young fiction genre, full of twists and turns, mystery and suspense; I enjoyed the journey immensely. I gobbled it up in one go, and I can’t wait for another riveting story from Anna Musewald.

Pages: 202 | ASIN: B01M0ZBKXP

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The Pace of War

Isobel Mitton Author Interview

Isobel Mitton Author Interview

Across the Realm: When Two Tribes Go To War is the second book in the Across The Realm series that continues the overall story yet is able to stand on it’s own. What direction did you take in this novel that you felt was different from the first book?

In the first book I was introducing my story and how the war that my series is based on came to be. I was giving background information and introducing the main characters. I was also describing this Earth of the 27th century. I knew then that I would write the consequent books in the series based on each territory of the North. There is a book for each one coming.

When Two Tribes go to War is based on the war front of The Arab Territories. That gave me a chance to develop the Arab Territories, show my readers their way of life and their belief systems. I wanted that unique feel of the Middle East.

I created new characters and a new story for the North. I kept my Southern characters intact from book 1. I didn’t use all the Southern characters because I split them up. In each book in the series, four or five of my Southern characters will get center stage. The series gives me a chance to develop them so that the reader gets to know them better.

I would say that When Two tribes go to War goes straight into action and stays there. There is no need for background information because the first book, Across the Realm Life Always Finds a Way had already dealt with that. I could increase the pace of war without being encumbered with explanations. I loved that.

You have a fantastic ability to create three dimensional characters. What was your favorite character to write for and why?

I love all my characters. In fact, I am very protective of them all. But, Khadija stood out for me. She came to me very softly. (I totally believe my characters introduce themselves to me.) She was meek and didn’t have a story to tell for a while. And then she rose and shared with me her past, her present, her strengths and her weaknesses. I fell in love. She lives in a very masculine world and was a child bride whose husband raped her. But, she retained love and compassion despite her hardships and in the war she found her strength.  She was a surprise to me. I had not expected her to develop that way.

What science fiction novels or writers do you feel most influenced you?

I am going to make you laugh at me and admit that I have never read a single scifi novel. Ever. I am however a trekkie to the day I die and I have all of Battlestar Galactica in every way that I could store it. I am a scifi movie or cartoon or comic junkie. Anything scifi and I am there.

My greatest influence in writing. Stephen King. He weaves a world and characters that blow my mind. I read everything he writes and I watch every Stephen King based movie. The shocker is that I don’t like horror stories. His books keep me awake at night, absolutely frightened out of my mind. And that is why I am a fan! That is amazing writing. When I grow up, I want to write like him.

Besides Stephen King, I will have to hand the baton to Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games. That trilogy blew my mind. I like to think though that the authors who influenced me the most were British Author Enid Blyton of the Famous Five series and William Shakespeare.

Where does book 3 in the Across the Realm series take readers?

Book three, The Land of the Forefathers takes readers to the war front of Asia! The Asian territories get a spotlight. The themes are slavery, heredity and so much more. I must warn my readers that this is a dark story. It is very dark.

Author Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Website

Isobel Mitton seamlessly weaves in love, humor, betrayal, loyalty and brutality in a new fantasy novel that stands uniquely on its own. This is one of her best new science fiction books. Across the Realm 2: When Two Tribes Go to War is a reflection from the future that hits close to home as the reader comes to realize that this future world is not so different from our own. There are many fiction books on sale. However this is one of the best science fiction books because it has action, adventure, fantasy, diversity, technology, and more. 

One of the most exciting parts of this tale is its subtle exploration of larger current societal issues like racism; the fuzzy lines of ethics created by scientific advancement and the unwillingness to compromise with those we view as “different” in a futuristic landscape. This Science Fiction Space Adventure will not disappoint. 

Across the Realm 2: When Two Tribes Go to War is a science fiction short story about complex relationships that endure trying times and experiences. Forbidden love, illegitimate pregnancy, strong childhood attachments, betrayal, abuse, and bastard kings reminiscent of the Game of Thrones, all complicated by the rules of a rigid society makes this latest instalment of the Across the Realm franchise difficult to put down.

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Breaking Magic

Breaking Magic (The Legacy of Androva #5)

Breaking Magic is the fifth book in the Legacy of Androva series. This emotional story takes place in the world of Imbera. The inhabitants are on an island and divided into two classes, the Opta and the Exta. The Opta are the ruling class, old, never aging, living a life of luxury. The Exta are the workers, made to work, sorted into units and worked to the bone until the age of eighteen when they are gathered by the Opta for nefarious purposes. For two thousand years, this has gone on. It is only when Cal starts remembering things that the world takes a dangerous turn.

In Breaking Magic, the story focuses on Callex who is a worker, in the lowest of the units, repairing roads and buildings, cleaning, and other hard labor. He cannot read or write, but he is physically strong. All the Exta’s are paired with an older child. Things start going astray in Imbera when Cal picks up his new little brother and discovers Benedar is a thinker, not a worker like him.

With the help of his friends Cal soon learns that everyone is genetically engineered to contain certain traits to make society function. When otherworlders appear in Imbera they learn of magic and spells and start to uncover their own pasts and hidden locked away parts of themselves. But with this new revelation comes a price and they must discover how to save their world.

Alex Vick creates a dramatic novel by expanding on Cal’s story in the Legacy of Androva series. Cal’s character slowly develops through the story, each new layer being pulled back as the story progresses, leaving you with a fascinating character in the end. The bond that is formed within the circle of friends brings the reader in and makes them a part of the group. You are on the edge of your seat waiting for the next clue so you can help Cal and his friends uncover the next missing piece of their world. Like the Exta’s, the reader learns more with each passing event. It’s all brought together with a compelling narrative that makes it difficult to put the book down. Breaking Magic is an entertaining and drawing novel for both young adult and adult readers, it will captivate you and give you hope for society. It shows that just because things are one way, doesn’t mean things can’t change, and just because your told your one thing, doesn’t mean you’re sentenced to always be that thing. Breaking Magic is a novel of hope and overcoming inner struggles and is a fantastic read.

Pages: 330 | ASIN: B071H5ZWDQ

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The Sky Throne

The Sky Throne4 Stars

The Sky Throne, by Chris Ledbetter, is a tale set in Ancient Greece. Zeus, a youthful prankster, finds himself entangled in a conflict that reaches the slopes of Mount Olympus itself. Living a life as an unknown, Zeus’s world changes entirely with the violent attack by an Elder deity, Hyperion. Zeus, seeking an answer for this attack, finds himself at Mount Olympus Preparatory Academia. He finds sanctuary and a temporary reprieve from the sorrow that haunts him, but trouble still follows him. Students and faculty begin to vanish from Olympus, which leaves Zeus and his peers to solve the mystery.

Ledbetter takes the best pieces of contemporary YA and gives them their own mythological flare. The academia of Harry Potter becomes the independent schools of the Mediterranean and Aegean. The survival of The Hunger Games is embodied by Zeus’s ingenuity throughout the story. Even tones of Red Rising can be felt in the opening pages of the very humble beginnings of a character we have known about for thousands of years. The breadth of the world is very thorough, and will please any Grecophile. Ledbetter covers everything from Crete to Tartarus, and all that lies in between.

These very familiar characters from mythology are made a new by being “made young” and formed into literal student roles. The twist on these old figures was one of the reasons why I kept turning the page. This, and the mystery of Zeus’s parentage, kept me enthralled with the character; especially since Zeus is a character that not only grows and changes throughout the book, but becomes endeared to the reader. For example, he consistently struggles with how to flirt with girls!

The actual pacing itself is done quite well. Within the first dozen pages, the reader feels the very real consequences of violence and aggression and the plot only gathers speed from there. It especially begins to escalate when the real threat against Olympus Prep arises and Zeus begins to show the true core of his character, to the delight of the reader.

If anything negative can be said against the plot and world building of the book itself, I would say that Ledbetter’s technical skill could use a bit of Olympus grace. While reading, I found some of the sentences awkward, while others were quite unnecessary based on context. This forced me out of the story. Beyond that, I found the dialogue to be inconsistent along the lines of pushing melodrama or self-deprecating humor. This is not to disregard the appreciation I had for his presentation of different cultures that actually did have their own way of speaking.

All of this taken into account, the reader of YA literature will not be disappointed. Following in the footsteps of Rick Riordan, yet also striking out on his own when his path diverges, is not a feat to be taken lightly. Ledbetter achieves this with brilliant originality and a story uniquely his own.

Pages: 324 | ASIN: B06W5LXJFN

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Death Leaders

Death Leaders5 StarsIt’s 2031. Crime and violence plague the city of Chicago. The government constantly tracks its people with small hardware implanted into each citizen’s neck. At the same time, another organization, possibly even more powerful than the US government, is working in the shadows – completing their own macabre agenda. Chris, once a homeless orphan, is rising quickly through the ranks of this organization. Having been adopted by a very old man who is well-known throughout the organization, many are jealous of Chris and his high pedigree, making it even harder for him to perform his grave responsibilities.

In this way Kendra Hadnott sets up what happens next in her delightful new novel Death Leaders, a tight, well-written yarn. Death Leaders is Hadnott’s 6th novel, and is a work from a writer with experience, insight, and imagination. The writing and dialogue is fluid, allowing you to simply become engrossed in the story. Her characters’ emotions and actions are believable and empathetic, you find yourself rooting for Chris and then questioning if you should be. And lastly, the dystopian setting and story keeps you enthralled throughout.

After receiving a confusing new assignment related to a young local woman, Chris begins to take careful first steps, knowing his reputation and future in the organization depend on it. As he becomes more acquainted with this girl, he begins to sympathize with her, wondering about her past and becoming smitten by her good looks. But as he continues moving forward, he realizes that someone else, possibly from his very own organization, is stepping in and complicating the situation. He doesn’t know why someone is interfering or even how far up the organization’s ladder this conspiracy goes. Is it just jealousy of his father, or is it something else? After turning to his friends for help, he realizes that even they are keeping secrets from him.

In the same vein as Hunger Games and Divergent, Hadnott creates a not-so-average teen who is trying to make sense of his personal life, as well as how he fits into a larger system. Death Leaders is well-written and gripping. The characters’ backgrounds, feelings, and motives are well fleshed-out, and the setting is appropriately creepy, tinged with a dark side that is just enough. This definitely has crossover appeal – enjoyable for both young adults and parents alike. This isn’t just a novel that revels in the dystopian worlds that are so popular right now. Sure, the setting is exciting and fascinating – a dismal future, where the population has little freedom and where certain random ‘life’ events aren’t quite random. But, like the Hunger Games trilogy, the real appeal is the focus on characters’ emotions, actions, and motives. It’s all just set in an incredibly detailed and rich backdrop that keeps us wondering what will happen next.

Pages: 131 | B01C1WUTVO

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Review – The City Center by Simone Pond

18164491 3star

Ava Rhodes is an elite that lives in the Los Angeles City Center which is the only known bastion of life in a future post-apocalyptic world. Ava is bred from birth to be a successor candidate, someone who must spend their entire life competing in a game to become popular. Her popularity being voted on by the people, she stands to win the greatest prize in the City Center; to become queen. Ava’s plans for the future are quickly turned on its head when a terrorist from the Outside breaks into the utopian society and inspires doubt in Ava with a book that tells of humanity’s forgotten history. With the horrifying proposition that her entire life has been a lie she sets out to find answers. The journey she takes is not an easy one; she finds love, heartache, and loss. Ava is a stand out character and her life in the decadence of the City Center stands in stark contrast to the simple, easy going, agrarian lifestyle that people on the Outside lead. The City Center stands as a symbol for human ingenuity, technology, and peace, but Ava learns that the City Center’s purpose is much more sinister. The City Center’s director instigates fear in the form of a relentless and irrational attack on the City Center by outsiders to advance his ultimate objective of creating an intentionally misinformed populace whose fear and discontent are pointed towards a nonexistent enemy so that the City Center may continue its parasitic existence; everything Ava must change.

The first thing that I noticed about The City Center is how much it resembles The Hunger Games; in the best way, I think. Where Katniss’s internal dialogue seems to overwhelm The Hunger Games, Ava is more extroverted which leads to a much faster paced adventure. Where the novel tumbles for me is in its deeper logic. Ava was training to become a successor candidate and competes in some kind of a game in the arena, but I don’t believe we were told what that game actually was? How was it that the City Center stands as the pinnacle of human technology, but a bunch of farmers are able to crack City Center databases and take over the city’s security protocols? The elites seem to rule with an iron fist, but then seem to care what their own manufactured society thinks of them. All this might lead you to believe that I didn’t like the novel; on the contrary. I actually really liked it as a YA novel, I think it hit all the right notes. My displeasure with the finer points of the novel really derives from the novels potential to be great but falling short. I found it really hard to give this book a star rating; I was jumping back and forth between 3 and 4 stars, this is a time when I wish I had a scale of 1 to 10. I only gave the book 3 stars because I felt that the dialogue wasn’t very dynamic and character development wasn’t on par with the amount of effort the author put into building a fantastic world. If you love The Hunger Games, The City Center should definitely be your next stop.

Pages: 324 pages
ISBN: 0615889115

Get more info on Simone Pond at http://www.simonepond.com/

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