Review: Silent Symmetry (The Embodied Trilogy #1) by J.B. Dutton

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Title: Silent Symmetry
Author: J.B. Dutton
Format: Paperback and eBook
Publisher: Self-Published
Pages: 194
ISBN: 978-1484067468
Source: Author
Genre: YA Sci-Fi / Fantasy
Series: The Embodied Trilogy
Best Read in Order: yes
Stars: 4
Purchase Now:  Amazon § Barnes&Noble

About the Book:

The Embodied glide through the busy streets of New York, uttering barely a sound. Their eerie beauty comes from their perfect symmetry. Are they flawless humans, the epitome of evolution? Are they a genetically modified super-race? Are they extra-terrestrials? Once prep school student Kari Marriner becomes aware of their existence, she is driven to seek out the answer and finds herself ensnared in a web that reaches further than she could possibly have imagined.

Kari’s earliest memory is her father’s death in a car crash back in small-town Wisconsin. Now, 12 years later, her mother has been hired by a pseudo-religious organization in Manhattan called the Temple of Truth (a.k.a. the ToT). At Chelsea Prep, Kari develops a crush on classmate Cruz. But when she realizes that Noon, another attractive guy at school, is involved with the ToT, her curiosity gets the better of her.

Kari stumbles upon a secret tunnel leading from her apartment to another in the building, where an ancient book holds images she can scarcely believe, and a cavernous room contains… something inexplicable. As Kari pieces together the incredible evidence, she discovers that the ToT is run by other-worldly beings called The Embodied who influence human behavior and have established a global long-term human breeding program. But why? And what is her role in all this?

Just as she starts wondering whether the love she feels for Cruz is genuine or if her emotions are being controlled by The Embodied, her mother is kidnapped and Kari has to figure out who is human, who is Embodied, and who she can count on to help rescue her mother.

Book Review:

Kari and her mother move to New York City for a new prestigious position, after leaving her small Wisconsin town and memories of her father’s accident there behind. For a teenaged protagonist, Kari was easy to relate to and care for: her sad past and her eagerness to find the new life, opportunities and possible love interests for her mother were endearing. As with many things, nothing is ever quite what it seems, and that also relates to the wonderful opportunities: scholarship to a prestigious high school, the beautiful people and the ease with which they seem to incorporate a major metropolis into their lives without great distress.

As Kari starts to feel seeds of unease, the questions start to arrive in a fast and furious manner: although the answers are far less apparent. Just what is the ToT and just how much influence it has on this world, and on the live of the people who work for them is a slow-developing reveal, mixed in this smoothly paced story that demands you read on.

I will be the first to admit that Kari is often far more mature in her approach, speech, thinking and behavior than one would expect, or want to see in a high school teen. However, when you take into account her life experience and her only child status, it did fit her well, even as it may be problematic for some readers. Aside from that and my wishing that there was more of an explanation and solidity built to give more substance to the characters of the Embodied, I did enjoy this read. I think that many YA fans would appreciate this story, and be ready to read the second book in the trilogy when it comes available.

I received an eBook from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
About the Author:

After graduating from film school in London, I emigrated to Montreal in 1987, where I still live with my two young children and their even younger goldfish. I spent over a decade as a music TV director before moving into the advertising industry as an award-winning copywriter and translator. In parallel to my corporate work, I’ve written novels, short stories, blogs, screenplays and a stage play. I also write Young Adult and Children’s fiction under the name J.B. Dutton.

Website § @johnbdutton

AudioBook Review: A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials by Ann Rinaldi

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Title: A Break with Charity: A story about the Salem Witch Trials
Author:  Ann Rinaldi
Narrator:  Laura Hicks
Format:  Hardcover. Paperback, eBook, AudioBook
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (11 and up)
Audio Producer: AudioGo
Pages:  298
Length:  7 Hours: 13 minutes
ISBN:  978-0439872188
Source:  AudioBook Jukebox
Genre: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade and older
Stars: Overall: 4  Narration:  4 Story: 5 
Purchase Now:  Amazon §  Audible § Barnes & Noble

About the Book:

Susanna desperately wants to join the circle of girls who meet every week at the parsonage. What she doesn’t realize is that the girls are about to set off a torrent of false accusations leading to the imprisonment and execution of countless innocent people. Susanna faces a painful choice. Should she keep quiet and let the witch-hunt panic continue, or should she “break charity” with the group–and risk having her own family members named as witches?

AudioBook Review:

I’ve long held the belief that an Ann Rinaldi book opens the door to a younger reader, teaching them that they can connect and enjoy history. My daughter loved her books, and it fed her ability and willingness to explore more history, and not fear the research. What holds true with every book that I can name from this author, the characters are easy to understand and get to know, particularly for younger readers who are not as concerned with a rigid conformance to historical accuracy. While she takes liberties in speech and behavior, each story has a solid grounding in the event, and then uses modern conventions to explain the errors of behavior then and now.

In this story, set in 1692, and dealing with the circumstances of the Salem Witch Trials, we meet Susanna, a 15 year old girl who is desperate to be included in the popular girls meetings. Nothing new or different, people all want to belong, unfortunately the girls in this group are highly imaginative and vengeful, and are the genesis of several false accusations of witchcraft in the town. What emerges is a story about standing up for what is right and truth, and whether or not Susanna can actually face the adults and her new friends and speak the truth as she knows it.

While there is a great deal of dither in Susanna, the whole ‘what would / could’ you do in that situation is really the great play in the story. While providing a sense to young readers that history and the adults of the time may just have gotten everything wrong, for a variety of reasons.

Narrated by Laura Hicks, her clearly enunciated delivery and careful pacing feel comfortable and confident, delivering the story without excess embellishment or overly dramatic changes in pitch, tone or delivery to specifically delineate different characters.

All of the characters introduced are actual people, lived during the time and can be found in documents of the time, including information about the trials and the accusers. In an addendum to the story Rinaldi explains her use of Susanna in the story, the inclusion and use of simple elements, and her own liberties with the facts. This actually provides some interesting facts that many may not be aware of, and as an introduction to the time, and a less difficult read than The Crucible, which is all based on the trials themselves, this was an enjoyable story and perfect for readers 12 and up.

I received an MP3 download from AudioGo via AudioBook Jukebox for purpose of honest review for the Heard Word. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

About the Author:

Ann Rinaldi (b. August 27, 1934, in New York City) is a young adult fiction author. She is best known for her historical fiction, including In My Father’s House, The Last Silk Dress, An Acquaintance with Darkness, A Break with Charity, and Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons. She has written a total of forty novels, eight of which were listed as notable by the ALA. In 2000, Wolf by the Ears was listed as one the best novels of the preceding twenty-five years, and later of the last one hundred years. She is the most prolific writer for the Great Episode series, a series of historical fiction novels set during the American Colonial era. She also writes for the Dear America series.

Rinaldi currently lives in Somerville, New Jersey, with her husband, Ron, whom she married in 1960. Her career, prior to being an author, was a newspaper columnist. She continued the column, called The Trentonian, through much of her writing career. Her first published novel, Term Paper, was written in 1979. Prior to this, she wrote four unpublished books, which she has called “terrible.” She became a grandmother in 1991.

Rinaldi says she got her love of history from her eldest son, who brought her to reenactments. She says that she writes young adult books “because I like to write them.”

Website

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Life Bites: Hunger Chronicles # 1 by Tes Hilaire ~ Review

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Title: Life Bites
Author: Tes Hilaire
Format: eBook
Publisher: Self Published
Pages: 284
ISBN: 978-0989604000
Source: Author
Genre: Apocalyptic Sci-Fi, Paranormal
Series: Hunger Chronicles # 1
Best Read in Order: Not Required
Stars: 4
Purchase Now:  Amazon

About the Book:
Sometimes life really bites…

For socially inept nerds like Eva Harper, the junior prom is bound to suck, especially when her date turns out to be a vampire. Eva wakes from the change knowing her life will never be the same. Not only is the vegan teenager now a vampire, but a vicious virus has struck, spreading across the globe and irreversibly changing much of mankind…into zombies.

…and the only thing to do is to bite back

Fleeing from the vampire hive and their controlling queen, Eva takes up with a rag-tag militia in their seemingly insurmountable quest to rid the world of zombies. But little does she know it’s her own secret, a secret she doesn’t even know she has, that will be the turning point for the zombie wars.

Book Review:

I will admit to not being the world’s largest zombie / apocalyptic reader. What drew me to this title was the mixture of a vampire and a virus that has endangered them, and the main character seemed to be the sort of smart, snarky, geeky girl that I prefer for my heroines.

Hilaire did not disappoint: not only was Eva incredibly clever and very well developed as a vegan now forced to obtain food from “things with faces”, she developed a world that was unique in premise with enough familiarity to be comfortable for readers. Mixing the events in time provided good insight into Eva’s essential nature and self-reliance, and was done with such flair that it was easy to follow and provide layers of information that would not have fallen into place as well as in a straight narrative

Secondary characters are well presented with interactions feeling quite normal, if one can say that about a zombie apocalypse, and the intrigue surrounding John presents potential for some interesting twists in the next instalment. There are some good twists in this book, with enough information to lead seamlessly into the second in the story without the frustration of a large cliff hanger.

This was a fun book to read, and the perfect one to wet my feet with a longer zombie story, and a good read for YA and Adult readers alike.

I received an eBook from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

About the Author:

Daphne Award-winning author Tes Hilaire started creating whole new worlds to escape upstate New York’s harsh winters before finally fleeing to sultry North Carolina. Her stories are edgy, exciting, and bring a hint of dark fantasy to paranormal romance. And no one ever has to shovel snow.

Website  § @TesHilaire

 

Torn (Torn #1) by K.A. Robinson ~Review

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Title: Torn
Author: K.A. Robinson
Format: eBook and Paperback (coming soon)
Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 272
ISBN: 978-14766752136
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: YA Romance / NA Romance
Series: The Torn Series #1
Best Read in Order: Yes
Stars: 3
Purchase Now:  Amazon  § Barnes & Noble

About the Book:

Two people with battered souls are thrust together unexpectedly, leaving a profound impact on each other’s lives.

In K.A. Robinson’s USA Today bestselling debut novel, Torn, Chloe hasn’t had the easiest childhood. With a mother who was absent most of the time, she practically had to raise herself. Determined to start a new life and leave her demons behind, she heads to West Virginia University with her best friends Amber and Logan. On the first day of classes, she spots a student who takes her breath away. Drake is a pierced, tattooed bad boy, and no matter how hard she tries to fight it, he’s all she can think about.
Drake has never cared about anyone other than himself, but when Chloe takes the empty seat next to him in class, he is instantly drawn to her. Drake is left wondering whether this girl can take his cold, womanizing heart and alter him forever.

Falling for each other was never a part of their plan, and when it happens, things do anything but fall into place. Long-hidden feelings are revealed and friendships are tested to the brink as Chloe and Drake become helplessly entwined in each other’s love.

Book Review:

The description had me hooked, and I had heard very good things about this book: unfortunately they failed to mention the doggedly immature and wholly indecisive Chloe. Robinson has a clever way with presenting her characters: although I will admit to being tired of the heroine who literally has little to appreciate but the beauty that accompanies a rather flat personality. I was hoping to see more of the mother / daughter conflicts: reasons, clues or even some resolution that gave me insight into Chloe’s choices or why she would dither until those choices were determined for her. For someone who ‘raised herself’ her decisions aren’t always great ones, and I had to keep reminding myself that no teenager makes good choices all of the time.

Almost instantly we are thrust into a love triangle: Logan the best friend and good guy and Drake the new insta-attraction hottie bad boy that she just met. I didn’t find much to like about Drake: he really was flat in development and all of his “bad boy” qualities seemed to come only from the fact that he has tattoos, is in a band, goes through girls like Kleenex and doesn’t want to commit to anyone or anything. Logan had a few more positive attributes beyond his long-term friendship: patience, honesty and a clear way of presenting his tender and caring side.

It felt to me like a resetting of many of the popular “teen focused” stories that tend to pop off into “Team X” and “Team Y” groups – as readers pull for one boy or the other. Sadly, it also fell into that sort of feel with conversation, situations and romance: the characters did not, despite my wanting them to, speak to me with conviction or the solidness I would hope for. With a few steamy sex scenes – this book is definitely on the higher edge of a YA / NA story in terms of content, but lacking those tweaks to characters and plotting that would make it a great book. As it is, this is a book that kept me reading: I was more curious to see who Chloe would choose, and to see how she justified her decisions than rooting for either male in the story. It didn’t make the level of must read for me, but there will be people who will adore this story, particularly fans of teen protagonists and love triangles.

I received an eBook copy from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

 

Twisted (Torn #2) by K.A. Robinson ~Review

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Title: Twisted
Author: K.A. Robinson
Format: eBook and Paperback (coming soon)
Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 304
ISBN: 978-1476752167
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: YA Romance / NA Romance
Series: The Torn Series # 2
Best Read in Order: Yes
Stars: 3
Purchase Now:  Amazon  § Barnes & Noble

About the Book:

Chloe and Drake have found their happily ever after… Almost.

When Chloe’s mother comes back into her life with a bang, it sets off a chain of events no one could have ever expected.
Everyone has their demons, and Chloe and Drake’s hit them with a vengence.

Sex, drugs, money, a crazy ex, and Rock n Roll…. Can they survive it all?

Things are beginning to feel a bit… Twisted.

Book Review:

Picking up almost instantly after Torn, Robinson again throws us into the very confused life of Chloe. While she and Drake are working on their ‘relationship’, she needs to leave town for a family emergency. Again, I was hoping to see more of the background that would give viable reasons for the conflict between Chloe and her mother; and only a little piece of that came forward. Additionally, Chloe is again in another ‘love triangle’ which gets a little old as she was obsessing over Drake in the first book.

This book felt rushed, there was not a great deal of development with the newly introduced characters, and the only truly ‘adult’ person was an aunt who often ran interference between Chloe and her mother’s drama. Robinson seemed to have taken a step back in time with this book: both characters and language are far younger and more immature, although their situations are often those of far older people.

Drake is whisked off on tour, only to resume his “bad boy” ways, forgetting Chloe and his feelings for her and then dulling that pain with drug use. At this point, I wanted to put the book down and walk away. There were far too many crisis points for characters and the relationships, and no real resolutions. I had hoped that my affinity for the characters, and their emotional development would have me more engaged, alas these multiple roadblocks of distance, conflicts, drugs and death all had me hoping for some sort of actual resolution or real emotion that I could tap into.

Again: Chloe is less than empathetic, and frankly none of the characters were very likable or real to me, and still I read on in the hopes that one would stand out. Unfortunately, none did, and this story was more twisted and fractured for me than torn. There are people who want something to entertain, that moves forward quickly without great emotional involvement and they will love this book. Sadly, it was marginally worse for me than Torn, although I will not be reading more of the series, it wasn’t a hopeless book. Beta readers and a good editor could have moved this from passable to good, removing a love triangle and cutting back on the devastating dramas that happen would have gone a long way.

I received an eBook copy from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.