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H.A.L.F.

The Deep Beneath (H.A.L.F., #1)

H.A.L.F by Natalie Wright tells the story of H.A.L.F 9, a Human-Alien Life Form that escapes from the military facility where he was created. During the course of his escape, H.A.L.F 9 meets teenagers, Erika, Jack and Ian, with whom he strikes up a friendship. Among other abilities, H.A.L.F 9 has extreme telekinetic and telepathic powers which make him a valuable asset to the government and one that they are not willing to lose. The government, claiming ownership of H.A.L.F 9’s life, sets out to retrieve him. Having no human technology that can match H.A.L.F 9’s power, they have to enlist a force stronger and more cunning than even H.A.L.F 9 is prepared to face.

Right from the start of the book the characters are likable and relatable. Even though the first couple of chapters were a bit confusing, each one was intriguing enough to make me want to keep reading. It isn’t immediately obvious how the characters in the first chapters are related to one another, but once you do discover the connection the direction of the story makes perfect sense. The writing is actually done very well for a Young Adult novel; which the book appears to be, as all the main characters are teenagers. I was very surprised at how each chapter really kept me on the edge of my seat; my interest in finishing the book never waned. Most books have at least a few chapters that are somewhat slow but I didn’t find this to be the case with H.A.L.F., it kept a great pace and remained interesting throughout. I think the struggle within H.A.L.F 9 between his alien and human personalities were done incredibly well. Having spent hardly any time at all actually interacting with humans on a personal level, he isn’t quite sure what to make of the new feelings that he experiences outside of the facility. For instance, there is a moment at which he finds himself wanting Jack to feel pain, even though he can acknowledge that Jack has never done anything to deserve his ill will. H.A.L.F 9 isn’t able to recognize that he feels this way toward Jack because of Jack’s romantic involvement with Erika, whom H.A.L.F 9 is also developing romantic feelings towards. I also appreciated how this aspect of the characters relationships is subtle and not the focus of any particular chapter in the story. Sometimes Young Adult fiction does not have a good balance of romance to substance but this book does not have that problem.

Natalie Wright does an excellent job with the element of surprise. I don’t want to give any spoilers so I will just say that in several places throughout the book the outcome that I was imagining is not at all what came to pass. I eagerly await the next installment of this series.

Pages: 293 | ASIN: B00R6U32CA

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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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Embellished

Embellished (Chronicles of Orian Book 1)

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to live inside your favorite video game? Karen Glista’s novel, Embellished, the first novel in The Chronicles of Orian trilogy, takes us on a wild ride with a story about teens who find themselves inside the world of the M.M.O.R.P.G. game, The Battle of Orian. While playing the game during a lightning storm, Bekka, Travis, and Matt are suddenly transported into the antiquated world of Orian. Bekka, a teen suffering from a rare genetic disease, finds herself fully healed from her earthly ailments and rises up the royal rankings. Meanwhile, her brother, Travis, and his friend Matt continually search for an escape back to Earth. Their only hope for escaping this world is finding the only other human from Earth, also trapped in the game, before they’re all killed by dangerous creatures.

Embellished is so much more than a fantasy/paranormal romance with a fair amount of compelling, steamy scenes. Embellished transcends genre boundaries through incorporating elements of adventure, suspense, and gruesome battle scenes. What makes it even more exciting to read is the development of its deeply complex characters and intricately woven plot with twists that’ll leave you gasping.

The novel opens with a group of teens playing The Battle of Orian on a stormy night in Texas, when lightning strikes their home and catapults the teens into the world of the game. Little do they know that their real-life bodies on Earth are rapidly deteriorating. Luckily, they know how to defeat evil spiders, bears, and violent Vadarcs, a sub-human species.

While the novel begins by focusing on Travis, who becomes the leader of the group, the perspective shifts to his sister, Bekka. She starts as a somewhat timid, soft-spoken individual, as her body on Earth was ravaged by the rare Marfan’s disease, but once she begins to find her voice, Bekka truly blossoms into a bold, outspoken, and open-minded heroine. I thought that it made the story so much more compelling to give Bekka these strong character traits, since it added suspense to the decisions she had to make.

Glista does a great job of capturing the inner feelings that any person would have when faced with a love triangle. Bekka befriends Atharia and even becomes betrothed to Atharia’s brother, the devastatingly handsome Vallas. But during a harrowing attack, she and Atharia are taken captive by a belligerent Vadarc tribe. After she meets Zandar, a half-Human Vadarc who exudes masculinity and passionate sensuality, Bekka wonders if she can ever go back to her life with Vallas again. She has the chance to choose between Vallas and Zandar – attracted to the different qualities within both men, she is torn between her desire for passionate, romantic love, or for safety and security.

Glista also masterfully incorporates multiple themes that add multiple layers to the novel. For example, Bekka discovers that there are deeply entrenched discriminatory practices between the Humans and Vadarcs, and after learning the history of the Vadarcs, Bekka begins to preach open-mindedness to her Human friends.  I thought this was an extremely vital and current theme to have as it relates pretty directly to racial issues within today’s world.

As the first novel in the Chronicles of Orian trilogy, Embellished provides a bit of closure at the end, but it’ll definitely be interesting to see what happens to Bekka, Travis, and Matt in the next installment.

Pages: 302 | ASIN: B01M5BZVQ1

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Blooded

Blooded (Lisen of Solsta, #3)4 Stars

In the final installment of the Lisen of Solsta trilogy, Blooded by D. Hart St. Martin takes us on a gruesome journey as we learn how Lisen as Empir of Garla will affect the future of the Garlan people. After ascending to the throne, Lisen must make major decisions while facing her own physical and mental battles alone, especially when she’s captured by rebel Thristans for a period of time. On the verge of a devastating war, Lisen and the holders of Garla face the bloodthirsty Thristans in a battle that reveals the truth of the hermit’s prophecy and whether peace can ever truly arise between the two nations.

In Blooded, the concluding piece of the Lisen of Solsta series, Lisen becomes Empir Ariannas—without Korin at her side, though, she struggles with this new sense of authority. As a result, Nalin becomes a vital figure who assists Lisen with developing the knowledge and skills needed to rule over Garla, and he becomes even more important when Lisen is captured by rebel Thristans. Blooded also follows Korin’s return to his homeland, Thristas, and he experiences his own dilemmas, as he realizes his connection to Lisen is much deeper than he originally thought—in this world, where gender norms are shattered, men or women can carry a child, and Korin is carrying his and Lisen’s baby (unknown to Lisen).

Hart St. Martin’s impressive fantasy world construction throughout the entire Lisen of Solsta series kept me so absorbed in the story that I couldn’t put this last book down—I had to know how the series ended because I felt genuinely invested in these carefully-constructed characters. For example, along with everyone else in Garla and Thrista, Lisen resembles a human, but she has a flat chest, a furry belly, and a marsupial-like pouch. In Blooded, we learn more about the “unpouching” or birthing process in this world by witnessing two important “outcomings” or births. St. Martin makes these moments suspenseful and full of emotion by showing two birthing events from different perspectives.

While Korin is raising his and Lisen’s child in Thristas, Lisen faces her own mental struggles when she realizes that the Thristans are planning to go to war with Garla. This climactic moment in the plot, where Lisen and her Council devise a plan for war, showcases the dynamic development of both Nalin’s and Lisen’s characters throughout the series.

During Lisen’s abduction by the rebels, Nalin becomes a strong-minded, confident leader, commanding Lisen’s Council to make major decisions in Lisen’s absence. On the other hand, Lisen sets aside her typical sarcastic, sassy attitude and at times she reveals her emotional turmoil a bit more, as she feels overwhelmed by death piling up around her and the possibility of war. Bala, a significant character from Tainted, becomes instrumental to the plot of Blooded once she’s granted a spot on Lisen’s private Council—when the Garlans go to war, Bala shows her true colors as an assertive leader for her troops.

It’s rare to find a series of books that keeps your interest until the very end, and the end of Blooded and the Lisen of Solsta series left me feeling a great sense of closure. With characters that felt so real within a uniquely constructed fantasy world, this series captures the best aspects of the fantasy genre while also pushing the genre’s boundaries through constructing a gender non-conforming world.

Pages: 420 | ASIN: B00R8K8XXQ

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