Interview with Shaunta Grimes, Author of Viral Nation

Please welcome our special guest Shaunta Grimes!  Shaunta is the author of Viral Nation, a book that I am dying to read because protagonist Clover is autistic and because that super awesome dog on the cover.  Please check out what Shaunta has to say about her new book.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Shaunta Grimes] Shaunta Grimes has done a lot of things and been a lot of places, but she always comes back to storytelling.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Viral Nation?

[Shaunta Grimes] Viral Nation is a YA science fiction story about a group of kids who accidentally start a second American Revolution. It has a time-traveling submarine, the Ponderosa Ranch, Lake Tahoe, and a casino called The Dinosaur.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Shaunta Grimes] When I started writing Viral Nation, the US economy was at its worst point of the current recession, gas prices were soaring over $4 a gallon for the first time, people were losing their houses all over the place. The US was involved in two wars, people were scared about the possibility of the bird flu becoming a serious problem, the weather was doing weird things. I wanted to write a story about a collapsed society from the point of view of the young people who inherit it.

I knew from the beginning that I wanted to write about a really interesting character who happened to have autism, and that I wanted to explore the experience of being the sibling of a person who has autism. I was inspired by the relationship between my two oldest kids when I was writing Clover and West.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Clover?

[Shaunta Grimes] brilliant, awkward, freak

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Clover had a theme song, what would it be?

[Shaunta Grimes] The one song that I listened to over and over again while I was writing Clover’s story was “Raise Your Glass” by Pink. I love how it celebrates being different. But, I think that if Clover had a theme song all her own, it would be “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keyes.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Clover is never without.

[Shaunta Grimes] I had a hard time choosing between her dog, Mango, and her mother’s old red Chucks. In the end, it’s Mango. He’s an extension of her.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Clover’s pockets?

[Shaunta Grimes] Anything slimy, lipstick, a cell phone.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Shaunta Grimes] Amazing stories. I read a lot. My favorite authors are Octavia Butler, Neil Gaiman, Nancy Farmer, Paolo Bacigalupi . . . I could go on and on. I also go to a lot of movies and I watch television to feed my addiction to stories. I try to read, watch movies, and even watch TV like a writer. I look for what’s working in a show, for instance, that keeps me coming back week after week. If a movie keeps me watching without even noticing that time is passing, I try to figure out what made it special.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Shaunta Grimes] A notebook, a good pen, and a computer. I never revise while I’m writing a first draft, but I keep a notebook of notes for later editing.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Shaunta Grimes] Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Wreckers. What an amazing story.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Shaunta Grimes] When I was in the sixth grade, I took the city bus a few blocks to my local library and checked out Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. The librarian made me prove I could read it before she let me take it home. It was my first real trip out of the children’s library. I still remember the excitement I felt when I read it. I have always been a reader, so I didn’t really need to be turned on to it. There was something special about Scarlet O’Hara, though.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Shaunta Grimes] I love thrift shopping. I’m slightly addicted to finding vintage stuff.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Shaunta Grimes] They can reach me at shauntagrimes@gmail.com. They can also find me at www.shauntagrimes.wordpress.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order Viral Nation from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below

 

About the book:

After a virus claimed nearly the entire global population, the world changed. The United States splintered into fifty walled cities where the surviving citizens clustered to start over. The Company, which ended the plague by bringing a life-saving vaccine back from the future, controls everything. They ration the scant food and supplies through a lottery system, mandate daily doses of virus suppressant, and even monitor future timelines to stop crimes before they can be committed.

Brilliant but autistic, sixteen-year-old Clover Donovan has always dreamed of studying at the Waverly-Stead Academy. Her brother and caretaker, West, has done everything in his power to make her dream a reality. But Clover’s refusal to part with her beloved service dog denies her entry into the school. Instead, she is drafted into the Time Mariners, a team of Company operatives who travel through time to gather news about the future.

When one of Clover’s missions reveals that West’s life is in danger, the Donovans are shattered. To change West’s fate, they’ll have to take on the mysterious Company. But as its secrets are revealed, they realize that the Company’s rule may not be as benevolent as it seems. In saving her brother, Clover will face a more powerful force than she ever imagined… and will team up with a band of fellow misfits and outsiders to incite a revolution that will change their destinies forever

Review: Paradox by A J Paquette

 

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

  Fans of James Dashner’s Maze Runner series will love this postapocalyptic adventure about a girl who must survive an alien planet in order to save the Earth.

   Ana only knows her name because of the tag she finds pinned to her jumpsuit. Waking in the featureless compartment of a rocket ship, she opens the hatch to discover that she has landed on a barren alien world. Instructions in her pocket tell her to observe and to survive, no doubt with help from the wicked-looking knives she carries on her belt. But to what purpose?

   Meeting up with three other teens–one boy seems strangely familiar–Ana treks across the inhospitable landscape, occasionally encountering odd twists of light that carry glimpses of people back on Earth.   They’re working on some sort of problem, and the situation is critical. What is the connection between Ana’s mission on this planet and the crisis back on Earth, and how is she supposed to figure out the answer when she can’t remember anything?


Review:

I was excited to dive into Paradox by AJ Paquette for a number of reasons.  First, Paquette wrote one of my favorite reads from last year, the moving Nowhere Girl.  Second, it’s a science fiction novel, and there just aren’t enough of those to go around.  And third, the premise sounded fascinating.  Was it?  Yes and no.

Ana wakes up strapped to a chair in a rocket ship.  She has no memories or recollection of her past.  She doesn’t even know what she looks like.  She only knows her name because she has a name tag pinned to her jumpsuit.  She finds a note instructing her to Experience.  Discover. Survive.  Talk about a bare-bones mission statement!  At least she’s well supplied, with a massive backpack that seems to contain her every need.  Whoever packed it must have been a boy scout.

In rapid succession, she is attacked by a monstrous, dagger-toothed worm, discovers that she wasn’t the only one on the rocket, and learns she has a limited amount of time to accomplish her goal, whatever that is.  Ana’s lack of memories and knowledge of her past made for a tense, gripping read.  It also led to a great deal of frustration on my part when it’s revealed that her companions have retained all of their memories, and that they know exactly what’s going on.  While that was crucial for her mission parameters, it’s one of my least favorite tropes in YA fiction.  It’s almost as though the other characters think the protagonist is too stupid to be trusted with the knowledge needed to know what’s going on.  Instead, our intrepid little heroine stays alive through a mixture of luck and  sheer determination, marching towards the end of the book.  I felt the same way here, and maybe it’s because the other characters make no secret that they know what’s going on, and keep insisting that they’ll fess up the details at the end of their journey.  Should they ever arrive at that destination.

Along the way, they are attacked repeatedly by that scary worm thing.  It was stalking them.  I was hoping for a guest appearance by Tremors’ star, Kevin Bacon, which would have proven beyond a doubt that all steps truly do lead to Kevin.  Ana and company are also in a race against time.  Ana awakens wearing a timer that is counting down the hours until the end of their mission.  What happens when the timer reaches 00?  Nope, we don’t know that, either, but it must be pretty awful.

I found Paradox hard to put down.  It is a runaway freight train of adventure.  Danger! Danger! Will Robinson! It’s everywhere!  The writing is tense and in the moment.  At first the third person present tense narrative turned me off, but I quickly grew accustomed to it.  It kept me engaged in the story, running frantically with Ana and Todd as they navigated the strange, deadly world they found themselves on.  I wanted to know what the heck was going on, and how Ana was going to survive, given her massive deficiencies.  And the counter was always there, steadily ticking toward…what? Doom?  Rescue?  Dinner??

There is one caution I will give, and that is that Paradox reads more like a middle grade novel than YA.  Since I enjoy reading both, I wasn’t put off by the fact that I thought this book skewed to younger readers than I had expected.

Looking for a frenzied summer read?  Paradox flies along like a summer action flick, offering tons of adventure and excitement.  There’s running!  There’s mountain climbing!  There’s a scary jaunt through a dead forest!  And did I mention – killer worms?  Yeah, it’s got those, too.  So, my verdict for Paradox by AJ Paquette is just one word – FUN.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by Rockstar Blog Tours

Spotlight and Giveaway: Paradox by A.J. Paquette

Today I’m delighted to be working with Rockstar Book Tours to bring you a giveaway and a review of Paradox by AJ Paquette.  We’ll get the party started with a giveaway – just fill out the widget to be entered!  Check back later for my review of Paradox!

 

About the Book

Ana only knows her name because of the tag she finds pinned to her jumpsuit. Waking in the featureless compartment of a rocket ship, she opens the hatch to discover that she has landed on a barren alien world. Instructions in her pocket tell her to observe and to survive, no doubt with help from the wicked-looking knives she carries on her belt. But to what purpose?

Meeting up with three other teens–one boy seems strangely familiar–Ana treks across the inhospitable landscape, occasionally encountering odd twists of light that carry glimpses of people back on Earth. They’re working on some sort of problem, and the situation is critical. What is the connection between Ana’s mission on this planet and the crisis back on Earth, and how is she supposed to figure out the answer when she can’t remember anything?

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15927558-paradox

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Paradox-A-J-Paquette/dp/037586962X/

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/paradox-ammi-joan-paquette/1110207688?ean=9780375869624

About the Author

A.J. Paquette has been writing stories since early childhood. She and her sister would spend hours creating masterpieces of stapled paper and handwritten words, complete with pen-and-ink covers and boxed illustrations.

The road to publication was long and winding, peppered with many small successes including: a variety of national magazine publications, being a 2005 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award honoree, and receiving the 2008 SCBWI’s Susan Landers Glass Scholarship Award, for the book that would later become Nowhere Girl. Her first picture book, The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies, was published in 2009.

She now lives with her husband and two daughters in the Boston area, where she continues to write books for children and young adults. She is also an agent with the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

WEBSITE | TWITTER

Website: http://www.ajpaquette.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/joanpaq

Giveaway details:

An ARC of PARADOX to THREE winners. (US/Canada).

The giveaway will be shared across all stops via a common Rafflecopter.

Giveaway is US/Canada.

Must be 13 or older to enter.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway Rafflecopter direct link (if you can’t embed): http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/9a07ce131/

 

Please be sure to check out the other stops on the Paradox blog tour!

http://www.rockstarbooktours.com/2013/05/tour-schedule-paradox-by-aj-paquette.html

Week One

June 17th – Parajunkee – Guest Post

June 18th – Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews – Interview

June 18th – In Bed With Books – Review

June 19th – Chapter by Chapter – Guest Post

June 20th – A Dream Within A Dream – Review

June 20th – Escaping… One Book at a Time – Guest Post

June 21st – Coffee, Books and Me – Interview

Week Two

June 24th – Word Spelunking – Review

June 25th – Emilie’s Book World – Guest Post

June 25th – Confessions of a Readaholic – Review

June 26th – Nick’s Book Blog – Interview

June 26th – Magna Maniac Cafe – Review

June 27th – A Book and a Latte – Guest Post

June 28th – I Am A Reader Not A Writer – Guest Post

Win Nebula Awards Showcase 2013 Edited by Catherine Asaro!

Thanks to the super awesome peeps at Prometheus Books, I have a copy of Nebula Awards Showcase 2013 to give to one of you!  Here’s more info about the book:

Nebula Awards Showcase 2013

Edited by Catherine Asaro

The Nebula Awards Showcase volumes have been published annually since 1966, reprinting the winning and nominated stories in the Nebula Awards, voted on by the members of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of
America®. The editor selected by SFWAs anthology committee (chaired by Mike Resnick) is two-time Nebula winner, Catherine Asaro.

This years volume includes stories and excerpts by Connie Willis, Jo Walton, Kij Johnson, Geoff Ryman, John Clute, Carolyn Ives Gilman, Ferrett Steinmetz, Ken Liu, Nancy Fulda, Delia Sherman, Amal El-Mohtar, C. S. E. Cooney, David Goldman, Katherine Sparrow, E. Lily Yu, and Brad R. Torgersen.

Editor Catherine Asaro is a two-time Nebula Award winner and bestselling novelist of more than twenty-five books, as well as a dancer, teacher, and musician. She is a multiple winner of the Readers Choice Award from Analog magazine and a three-time recipient of the RT BOOKClub Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. Her soundtrack Diamond Star, for her novel of the same name, is performed with the rock band Point Valid. She is a theoretical physicist with a PhD from Harvard and teaches part-time at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Visit her at www.facebook.com/Catherine.Asaro.

390 pages • ISBN 978-1-61614-783-9 • Paperback: US $18.00 / $19.00 Canada • May 14, 2013

Ebook ISBN 978-1-61614-784-6

Entering is easy! Just fill in the widget below.  Earn extra entries for following.  US and Canadian addresses only please!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Interview with Christian Schoon, Author of Zenn Scarlett

Please welcome special guest Christian Schoon to the virtual offices today.  Christian is here to chat about his debut release Zenn Scarlett, which features a exoveterinarian.  How cool is that?

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Christian Schoon ] Life-long SF-geek, believe life/biology in general are just too mind-blowing, can’t wait for 1st inhabited planet to be discovered.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Zenn Scarlett?

[Christian Schoon ] Zenn Scarlett is a 17-year-old girl in her novice year of exoveterinarian training at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic in the deep end of the Valles Marinaris canyon system on Mars. So, she’s specializing the care and treatment of very large, often dangerous, profoundly fascinating alien creatures brought to the cloister from the dozen planets of the Local Systems Accord. She’s usually an over-achiever in her classes. But lately there’s: her father, off on distant Enchara, not communicating and it’s worrying her; Liam Tucker, tall, sorta hottish towner boy who is, strangely, very interested in spending time at the cloister lately which is combo annoying/intriguing; her end of term tests, which she’s pretty sure she’ll pass without too much trouble (there might be trouble); and, finally, the possibility that she’s started to experience a sort of mental “sharing” with some of the animals at the clinic.  The problem is, she doesn’t believe in ESP. She’s a scientist. There must be some other logical, real-world explanation. Because if there isn’t, she’s going just a little mad….

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Christian Schoon ] Because of my work with animal welfare groups, and due to living on a farm with lots of room for animals, I’ve had considerable interaction with veterinarians in the past few years. Their skill and dedication to helping their patients made a vet heroine a pretty natural concept for me.  Her uncle Otha and Hild also came about naturally as instructors at the cloister exovet school. Liam Tucker evolved as sort of bridge character between the cloister and the alien-hating citizens of the nearby town of Arisa; he then evolved into an on-again-off-again romantic interest who causes Zenn a fair amount of trouble…  Hamish, the coleopt (an eight-foot-tall beetle) who works as the cloister handyman (handybug?) came about because I wanted Zenn to have a sounding board who was from a totally different culture; that means he can ask lots of questions about stuff I want to clue the reader into.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Zenn?

[Christian Schoon ] Compassionate, indomitable, intelligent.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Zenn had a theme song, what would it be?

[Christian Schoon] Birdhouse in Your Soul by They Might Be Giants

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Zenn is never without.

[Christian Schoon] Mercy

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Zenn’s pockets?

[Christian Schoon] A crunchy dried-grasshopper treat for her pet rikkaset, Katie.

A rolled-up v-film listing all her class assignments, homework, cloister chores and patient meds roster for the week.

A dog-eared old-fashioned-printed-on-paper photograph of her mother, Dr. Mai Scarlett, lost in an accident during in-soma pod insertion on a colossal Lithohippus indra years ago. Well, everyone thinks it was an accident…

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Zenn’s greatest regret?

[Christian Schoon ] Not having her mother around to talk to.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Christian Schoon ] My mom was an English teacher, so was my older sister, and they both encouraged me to love books and to indulge my imagination. I also had many great teachers who encouraged me in similar ways. I also have a very supportive and patient wife, who shares my love of animals, which is a good thing, since they basically rule our lives here on the Schoon ranch….

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Christian Schoon ] Minimal distractions

A nice hot cuppa.

At least one cat to bother me by lying on the keyboard, jumping on & off my lap, chasing my pencils off the desk, etc.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Christian Schoon ] *checks his socks*  I was seriously impressed with The Greenlanders, by Jane Smiley; it’s been out for a while, but it’s just so beautiful and bleak.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Christian Schoon ] Well, this is tough. I guess I’d say Beautiful Joe: A Dog’s Own Story by Marshall Saunders. Very early on, I was hooked by books told from an animal’s perspective, not anthropomorphic Disney-movie-cute (tho I did love Disney’s animal movies, of course), but stories that really attempted to give a sense of an animal’s inner world, including the brutal, harsh and real, as well as the joyful and exuberant. I never really recovered from seeing things from that POV.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Christian Schoon ] I like good, down-and-dirty authentic old school blues music, played live, either solo or full-on electric, in a setting where people can cut loose and they serve something besides Bud. Also really like it when my wife Kat and I have time to unwind and just hang out with all our animals.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Christian Schoon ] Pre-Order Zenn Scarlett at Amazon   :)

http://www.amazon.com/Zenn-Scarlett-Christian-Schoon/dp/1908844558

Find Christian at:

Goodreads:

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16071885-zenn-scarlett

Author blog:

christianschoon.com

Twitter:

@cjschoon

Publisher’s website:

http://strangechemistrybooks.com/our-authors/christian-schoon/

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Thank you!

You can purchase Zenn Scarlett from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below:

About the book:

When you’re studying to be exoveterinarian specializing in exotic, alien life forms, school… is a different kind of animal.

Zenn Scarlett is a resourceful, determined 17-year-old girl working hard to make it through her novice year of exovet training. That means she’s learning to care for alien creatures that are mostly large, generally dangerous and profoundly fascinating. Zenn’s all-important end-of-term tests at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars are coming up, and, she’s feeling confident of acing the exams. But when a series of inexplicable animal escapes and other disturbing events hit the school, Zenn finds herself being blamed for the problems. As if this isn’t enough to deal with, her absent father has abruptly stopped communicating with her; Liam Tucker, a local towner boy, is acting unusually, annoyingly friendly; and, strangest of all: Zenn is worried she’s started sharing the thoughts of the creatures around her. Which is impossible, of course. Nonetheless, she can’t deny what she’s feeling.

Now, with the help of Liam and Hamish, an eight-foot sentient insectoid also training at the clinic, Zenn must learn what’s happened to her father, solve the mystery of who, if anyone, is sabotaging the cloister, and determine if she’s actually sensing the consciousness of her alien patients… or just losing her mind. All without failing her novice year….

About Christian Schoon :

Born in the American Midwest, Christian started his writing career in earnest as an in-house writer at the Walt Disney Company in Burbank. He then became a freelance writer working for various film, home video and animation studios in Los Angeles. After moving from LA to a farmstead in Iowa several years ago, he continues to freelance and also now helps re-hab wildlife and foster abused/neglected horses. He acquired his amateur-vet knowledge, and much of his inspiration for the Zenn Scarlett series of novels, interacting with animals ranging from black bears and cougars to Burmese pythons, alligators, caimans, emus and other critters.

Happy New Year 2013 Giveaway Hop! Win London Eye by Tim Lebbon!

Welcome to my Happy New Year 2013 Giveaway Hop,  hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and  co-hosted by Babs Book Bistro.  This hop runs from January 1st – 7th 2013, and you can win lots of new reads.   Click here for a complete list of blogs participating in the hop.

I am giving away a finished copy of Tim Lebbon’s London Eye.

 

About the book:

The Hunger Games meets The X-Men in an exciting post-apocalyptic debut.

Two years after London is struck by a devastating terrorist attack, it is cut off from the world, protected by a military force known as Choppers.

The rest of Britain believe that the city is now a toxic, uninhabited wasteland. But Jack and his friends, some of whom lost family on what has become known as Doomsday, know that the reality is very different.

At great risk, they have been gathering evidence about what is really happening in London, and it is incredible. Because the handful of Londons survivors are changing. Developing strange, fantastic powers. Evolving.

 

Entering is easy! Just fill out the widget below. Earn extra entries for following! US addresses only, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: London Eye by Tim Lebbon

 

Title:  London Eyes

Book One in the Toxic City Series

Author:  Tim Lebbon

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

The Hunger Games meets the X-Men in an exciting postapocalyptic debut

Two years after London is struck by a devastating terrorist attack, it is cut off from the world, protected by a military force known as Choppers. The rest of Britain believes that the city is now a toxic, uninhabited wasteland.

But Jack and his friends—some of whom lost family on what has become known as Doomsday—know that the reality is very different. At great risk, they have been gathering evidence about what is really happening in London—and it is incredible.

Because the handful of London’s survivors are changing. Developing strange, fantastic powers. Evolving.

Upon discovering that his mother is still alive inside London, Jack, his sister, and their three friends sneak into a city in ruins. Vast swathes have been bombed flat. Choppers cruise the streets, looking for survivors to experiment upon. The toxic city is filled with wonders and dangers that will challenge Jack and his friends… and perhaps kill them. But Jack knows that the truth must be revealed to the outside world or every survivor will die.


Review:

I am a little torn about how I feel about this book.  It was slow to pick up, but once the action started, it didn’t let up.  Until that ever unpopular with me brick wall of an ending.  This one screeches to a halt, without even the slightest hint of resolution or completeness.  Even worse, the ending opens up multiple story threads that need to be explored in the next installment.  While I don’t mind series, I do not like all of these non-conclusions.  Nothing is wrapped up, and the story lurches to a stop just as things were getting really, really interesting.  It’s like waiting in line at Cedar Point to ride the Gatekeeper, getting to the front of the line, and being told that the ride has to close due to inclement weather.  Come back next year for your anticipated thrill ride.  I am so not a fan of these kinds of endings.

London Eye is being billed as Hunger Games meets the X-Men.   Once Jack and friends enter the forbidden, toxic city of London, they are met with one life-threatening misadventure after another, and Jack is willing to risk his own life to discover the fate of his parents.  They were in London during the terrorist attacks that left it an empty husk of itself.  The only people left alive, everyone is told, are horrible monsters. The city has been completely shut off, with no electricity or access to fresh food.  People can not travel in or out without being picked up by the Choppers.  When Rosemary, an old woman with healing abilities, offers to sneak Jack and his friends inside, he jumps at the chance.  He needs to know what happened to his parents, and he won’t rest until he finds out the truth.

Beside the ending, my biggest complaint with London Eye is the pacing.  It is much slower than I’ve become accustomed to in YA dystopian novels.  If I didn’t like Jack and his younger sister Emily so much, I don’t think I would have stuck it out.  The story doesn’t pick up until about mid-way, and it ratchets up to crazy sauce (in a good way), the last 25 pages.  Which made the non-ending even more of a let-down.  I am getting to the point that I don’t even want to start a series until most of the books are already out, due to my ever growing levels of impatience.  With the deluge of titles hitting store shelves every week, I sometimes feel that my reading needs would better served if I held off on series until they are complete.  I am still stinging over the increasingly long wait times between GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels. Yes, I am one of those entitled readers who expects closure from every book I read.  I like endings, and I need closure. 

Jack and his friends don’t believe the government’s spiel about what happened in London the day the terrorists attacked, releasing Evolve, a biological weapon that sickened and killed most of the city’s residents.  Those who survived were changed, turned into dangerous monsters.  Jack knows in his heart that his parents are still alive, and he just wants to find them and bring them home.  He has been struggling to raise his younger sister, and he knows that they both need their parents.  His friends Sparky and Lucy-Anne also want to discover the fates of their relatives who were in London during the attacks.  When Rosemary shows up, they throw caution to the wind and agree to make the dangerous, forbidden journey into London with her.

As far as the world-building goes, I found it a mixed bag.  I liked the idea of a deserted London, where enhanced humans hide from the vicious Choppers, a government body that captures and dissects the Irregulars in a vain attempt to discover what makes them tick.  As Jack and his small party infiltrated the empty streets, however, I didn’t get a sense that it was all that dangerous to sneak from safe house to safe house.  It wasn’t until the end, during a bloody encounter with the Choppers and the terrifying Superiors, that I felt invested in the danger of the story.   Prior to that, it seemed to me that if you just kept your head down and crept around like a mouse, you wouldn’t draw much attention to yourself and you could just lay low, so I didn’t buy into the hazards of being trapped in the ruins of London.

While I didn’t feel completely engaged in the plot until the end, I am invested enough now that I want to see what happens next.  A sense of urgency and a clear and present threat to Jack’s continued survival was finally, firmly, engaged at the end.  I wonder how he will save all those he cares for, and fend off the Choppers and the terrifyingly powerful Superiors.  I do feel, though, that this book and next could have been combined for a more complete and finished story.  Your mileage will more than likely vary.

Grade:  C+/B-

Review copy provided by publisher

Excerpt: Nights of Steel by Nico Rosso and Giveaway!

 

Nico Rosso’s latest release, Night of Steel, is in stores now.  This is the 4th book in the Ether Chronicles, which is a collaboration with Zoe Archer.  I have an excerpt to share, as well as a chance for you to win a copy of the first 3 books in the series.

Excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

The remote hills south of Thornville, California.

“The only good place for a man is on the other end of my gun.” Anna Blue cocked the hammer of her .45, keeping the green dot of her prismatic sight hovering over “Dirty” Danny Malone’s heart. His partner in crime, Ron “Rat” Welles, stood on the other side of their little dead campfire. Anna had heard Malone was fast, but she had no doubt she could put a bullet in him before he reached the pistol on his hip. And he knew it, too.

Instead, Malone shot off his mouth again. “You ain’t too plain. Wash some of that trail dust off and you could be a pretty little flower.”

She kept her gun steady. The sun was high, but her tinted spectacles kept the glare down, as well as letting her see the green dot of her pistol’s sight. “I know you boys are stupid, but do you really think you’re the first to try to use what’s in your breeches to distract me from taking you in?”

Malone spoke up, thumbs casually hitched in his belt, but ready to draw if he had to. “Might want to reconsider that, sweetheart. A lot of things a man can do for you. A man like me.”

She laughed, but it didn’t break the tension in her body. She’d done this a hundred times—more, even. No one was better than she was at running down bounties. The image of a man with intense eyes, broad shoulders, and a two-gun rig flashed through her mind. Maybe one man was as good as she was.

“That’s right.” Welles’s nasal voice seemed to rattle in the pine needles around the campsite. “Laugh a little. Live a little. Got a bottle of corn liquor we could all share.”

“You boys could never earn the right to drink with me.” She hadn’t had a drink with a man in years. Something like that, sharing the heat of whiskey, the calm it soaked into her nerves, was more intimate than the tumbles she’d had with strangers.

Malone sucked a breath, shaking his head in disappointment. “Never met a more ornery woman.”

“That’s your problem,” she said. “Gotta stop thinking of me as a woman and start realizing I’m the bounty hunter who’s bringing your sorry hide in.”

Malone’s eyes narrowed. She saw the tendons twitch on the back of his hand. Welles shifted his feet in the dirt. Now they were serious. Even the horses that were tied on the edge of the campsite had the sense to paw at the ground and nicker nervously.

She kept the green dot on Dirty Danny’s chest. “What’s your play, Malone? Boxed yourselves in. You can’t run north. Up that way is Thornville, and everyone knows the law doesn’t even let mosquitos bite in that town. The ocean’s to the west, hunting parties to the east, coming up from New Mexico where they really want you dead.” Malone glanced in all the directions she mentioned, a tic developing at the side of his eye. She didn’t let up. “I imagine you wanted to run south, but I’m standing here.”

Welles’s nickname of “Rat” became abundantly clear when he showed his sharp front teeth in a mean sneer. “Not for long.”

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