The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson #bookreview #YA #scifi

When all hope is gone, how do you survive?

Before the war, Eden’s life was easy—air conditioning, ice cream, long days at the beach. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed.

Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. Eden has lost everything to them. They killed her family and her friends, destroyed her home, and imprisoned her. But Eden refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores.

Eden finally reaches the island and meets others resistant to the Wolves. But their solace is short-lived when one of Eden’s new friends goes missing. Braving the jungle in search of their lost ally, they quickly discover Sanctuary is filled with lethal traps and an enemy they never expected. 

This island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom.

My book club requirement was to read a YA book optioned for movie/TV, and The Sandcastle Empire was snatched up by Paramount before its release date.  And I’d just bought it during a Bookbub promotion a couple of months ago so, an obvious choice.

The beginning of this book is absolutely captivating, and I fell hard for it.  An exciting escape on the beach, explosions, stolen boats with questionable traveling companions – I couldn’t read fast enough.  Once Eden reaches the island – wow.  If you’re a Lost fan, this island will bring back memories.  After one night on the beach, a character is missing – grabbed while everyone slept.  Eden and the other two girls trek through the mysterious jungle in search of her and experience extraordinary occurrences.  Color me enthralled.

Then the storyline ventures into familiar tropes:  insta-love, girls more focused on cute boys than on their fight for survival and appearing helpless – after they’d just braved a life-threatening, danger-filled trek through the jungle without the help of the male persuasion.

The world-building is fantastic, the writing descriptive, and the plot original, if a little predictable in some places.  Overall, I enjoyed the read, but hoped the plot would concentrate more on the science fiction/dystopian aspects of the story as in the first half, rather than introduce distracting romantic elements.

 

Dealing in Dreams by Lilliam Rivera #bookreview #dystopian #scifi #TuesdayBookBlog

At night, Las Mal Criadas own these streets.

Nalah leads the fiercest all-girl crew in Mega City. That roles brings with it violent throw downs and access to the hottest boydega clubs, but the sixteen-year-old grows weary of the life. Her dream is to get off the streets and make a home in the exclusive Mega Towers, in which only a chosen few get to live. To make it to the Mega towers, Nalah must prove her loyalty to the city’s benevolent founder and cross the border in a search for a mysterious gang the Ashé Ryders. Led by a reluctant guide, Nalah battles other crews and her own doubts, but the closer she gets to her goal, the more she loses sight of everything—and everyone— she cares about.

Nalah must do the unspeakable to get what she wants—a place to call home. But is a home just where you live? Or who you choose to protect?

All girl gangs, throw downs, and a quest?  This description was unlike anything I’d read before, and with this beautiful cover, I couldn’t resist.

Such intriguing and creative world-building.  Mega City is a matriarchal society led by a beloved woman, and men are primarily considered secondary citizens.  It’s a gritty, dangerous way of life, with gangs gaining power and moving up the food chain through physical battles against each other.  At the age of seven, girls are sent to soldier training camps.  Many of the citizens are hooked on pills that induce lucid dreaming, and are also a used as a form of payment.  It’s not an easy way of life by any means.  The only thing I had difficulty buying into was eleven and twelve-year-old girls having the capacity to take down much older teens – it just seemed too young.

Nalah and her gang are tightly bonded, and consider each other family.  The dynamics between the crew are messy, heartfelt, and difficult at times, but completely realistic.  Nalah’s strong loyalty to them and need to secure their futures through obtaining a spot in The Towers is the driving focus of the story – until some hard truths are revealed.  Her character arc is sensational, and really made the story for me.  Her journey from having such strong beliefs about herself and her environment to questioning everything she thought she knew is compelling.

Dealing in Dreams is dark at times, full of action and surprising revelations, and a book I’d recommend to dystopia and sci-fi fans.  This book is scheduled for publication March 5, 2019.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the digital ARC.

 

Legacy (Project Renova #4) by Terry Tyler #bookreview #postapocalyptic #TuesdayBookBlog

‘Out of all the death and destruction has come the freedom to be who we really are.’

A hundred years after the world was devastated by the bat fever virus, the UK is a country of agricultural communities where motherhood is seen as the ideal state for a woman, new beliefs have taken over from old religions, and the city of Blackthorn casts a threatening shadow over the north of England. Legacy travels back in time to link up with the characters from Tipping Point, Lindisfarne and UK2.

Seventeen-year-old Bree feels stifled by the restrictions of her village community, but finds a kindred spirit in Silas, a lone traveller searching for his roots. She, too, is looking for answers: the truth behind the mysterious death, forty years earlier, of her grandmother.

In 2050, Phoenix Northam’s one wish is to follow in the footsteps of his father, a great leader respected by all who knew him―or so his mother tells him.

In 2029, on a Danish island, Lottie is homesick for Lindisfarne; two years earlier, Alex Verlander and the kingpins of the Renova group believe they have escaped the second outbreak of bat fever just in time…

Book #4 of the Project Renova series rebuilds a broken country with no central government or law, where life is dangerous and people can simply disappear … but the post-Fall world is also one of possibility, of freedom and hope for the future. 

Most of us have read books and, upon reaching the end, wondered what happened to the characters beyond the scope of that novel.  What about the rest of their lives?  Did they live happily ever after?  Have children?  If so, what happened to them?  I was ecstatic to learn that Legacy provides those answers.

I’m not an overly emotional person, but this book gave me the feels in certain parts.  After spending time with many of these characters through three books, they almost feel like family, and I was anxious to learn what happened to them.  Some got their happily ever after, others didn’t, and a few got what they had coming to them, but when you’re living in a post-apocalyptic society, not everything is sunshine and roses.  With new characters, I enjoyed making those connections in the family tree, and learning which branch they came from.

The time jumps allowing the reader to see characters’ fates, connections, and the progress in rebuilding society are done so well, and aren’t at all confusing.  I loved seeing how actions taken by some characters affected the lives of so many 100 years later.

This has been a compelling series with superb characterization, and I was thrilled to read in the author notes that she’s considering spin-offs featuring some characters.  If you’re a fan of gritty, post-apocalyptic stories that don’t pull punches, add this to your TBR.

I received an ARC from the author.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

Bright Ruin (Dark Gifts #3) by Vic James #bookreview #YA #dystopian

Magically gifted aristocrats rule–and commoners are doomed to serve. But a rebellion threatens the old order. The dystopian trilogy that began with Gilded Cage and Tarnished City concludes.

In a world where the lower classes must endure ten years of forced service to unfairly advantaged, magically powered rulers, a teenage boy dreams of rebellion, his older sister yearns for love and knowledge, and a dangerous young aristocrat seeks to remake the world with his dark gifts. In Bright Ruin, the final book in the trilogy set in modern-day England, our heroes will lead a revolution that will transform–or destroy–the world.

With phenomenal world-building, both loathsome and lovable characters, political intrigue, rebellion, and power struggles, Dark Gifts has been an exceptional and intelligent YA dystopian/fantasy series from beginning to end.

If you’re familiar with the term ‘book hangover’ – that’s an adequate description of how I felt upon completing this novel.  Two days later, I was still going back to re-reading parts and mull them over.  I’m sad to see the series end, but what a satisfying ending it is – no spoilers here.

If I’ve read other series with such incredible character arcs, they don’t immediately come to mind.  Several of these characters will surprise you, and aren’t what they initially seem or eventually become.  As with the previous books, the author certainly doesn’t balk at putting them through trials and tribulations, heartbreak and heartache, and occasionally even death.

I can’t recommend this series enough, and it’s easily a crossover for adults who are skeptical about reading YA.  If you’re a fan of complicated and intricate storylines with remarkable world-building and character development, this series is for you.

I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.

The Yak Guy Project by C.S. Boyack #bookreview #scifi #dystopian

Imagine waking up in the desert with no idea what happened to you. You have clear memories of situations and places, but a complete loss in personal matters… like your own name. This situation is bad, and you have no idea how to get home.

When you’re rescued by a talking yak, the situation gets exponentially worse. You’ve obviously lost your mind. The immediate needs of a ride off the salt pan and searing heat, along with a drink of water, outweigh the concerns about your mental state.

This is exactly what happened to the Yak Guy. In fact he’s been placed in an alternate world and given a chance to start over in life.

Can this selfish, almost parasitic, young man learn to start over in a world where charity is hard to find? Life is brutal and short here, but he’s going to have to adapt or perish.

The Yak Guy Project is loosely based around The Fool’s Journey from the Tarot. Those with experience in Tarot will spot people and situations from the Major Arcana.

I’ve read several books by this author, and his extensive imagination astounds me.  A yak teaching a man basic survival skills and how to become a better person?  Definitely a unique concept.

Generally, coming of age stories apply to teens, but it’s an apt description of the Yak Guy (Ted) in this book.  He comes from a life where he takes advantage of others, doing almost nothing to support himself, earn his way, or take on responsibility.  The yak teaches Ted some valuable, but hard-learned life lessons in a new world that lacks the luxuries he’s accustomed to.  Not how to live with a lower thread count – more like how to survive life or death situations, and find food, water, and shelter.

As with all this author’s books, there are some quirky and memorable characters along the way, as well as a thrilling adventure.  I especially enjoyed the Yak with his practical, no-nonsense approach to life, and sarcastic wit.

I highly recommend this to fans of offbeat, innovative sci-fi/dystopia with characters that will stick with you long after reading.

 

 

Vox by Christina Dalcher #bookreview #dystopian #scifi

Set in an America where half the population has been silenced, VOX is the harrowing, unforgettable story of what one woman will do to protect herself and her daughter.

On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than 100 words daily, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial–this can’t happen here. Not in America. Not to her.

This is just the beginning.

Soon women can no longer hold jobs. Girls are no longer taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words a day, but now women only have one hundred to make themselves heard.

But this is not the end. 

For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.

The thought that something like this could happen in the U.S. is terrifying, disturbing, and inconceivable.  It’s a chilling reminder, albeit extreme, about what can potentially happen if you remain silent.

Parts of this book enraged me – not only that of women being limited to 100 words per day, stripped of their jobs and identities, and forbidden to read or watch only approved media – but also the rules placed upon gays and lesbians, with their children taken away, and being forced into heterosexual relationships.  It’s maddening and surreal – and yet there are probably still people in this country who might embrace this way of life, and that’s the scary part.

Even with the bits of backstory woven in, I thought the massive life-altering changes seemed to come about rather suddenly.  Being a science geek, I enjoyed the scientific details, but found some areas a bit too technical and possibly unneeded.  Nearing the end, I wondered if there might be a second book, but things wrap up rather quickly, and some events aren’t entirely clear.

This is a perfect choice for a book club, and would no doubt encourage much discussion.  I’d definitely recommend this to dystopian fans.  Vox is scheduled for publication August 21st, 2018.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

UK2 by Terry Tyler #bookreview #postapocalyptic #dystopian #TuesdayBookBlog

‘Two decades of social media had prepared them well for UK2.’ 

The pace steps up in this final instalment of the Project Renova trilogy, as the survivors’ way of life comes under threat. 

Two years after the viral outbreak, representatives from UK Central arrive at Lindisfarne to tell the islanders about the shiny new city being created down south. Uk2 governor Verlander’s plan is simple: all independent communities are to be dissolved, their inhabitants to reside in approved colonies. Alas, those who relocate soon suspect that the promises of a bright tomorrow are nothing but smoke and mirrors, as great opportunities turn into broken dreams, and dangerous journeys provide the only hope of freedom.

Meanwhile, far away in the southern hemisphere, a new terror is gathering momentum…

‘I walked through that grey afternoon, past fields that nobody had tended for nearly three years, past broken down, rusty old vehicles, buildings with smashed windows. I was walking alone at the end of the world, but I was a happy man. I was free, at last.’

Although this concludes the Project Renova trilogy, there will be more books in the series. A collection of five side stories is planned, and another novel, set far into future.

I’ve loved these characters, hated them, been infuriated with some of their choices, and even mourned a few of them.  Just when they thought they’d created a relatively safe, new kind of normal life on Lindisfarne, more obstacles are thrown in their paths.  Opportunities are presented and choices are made – both good and regrettable.  In their desperation to return to some semblance of their old lives, some characters forget that if something seems too good to be true, it usually is.

In this series, Lottie’s and Flora’s character arcs are my favorite.  Lottie is nearly unrecognizable from the first book to the third, but she learns what’s needed to survive in this new world while still retaining her humanity.  I never thought I’d like Flora’s character, but she makes immense strides in UK2, and I hope to see what happens to her in future novellas.  I was thrilled to see that karma delivered packages to a few who deserved them.

I have to stress this isn’t a series to be read out of order.  I’ve been a fan of this series since the first book – and if you’re a post-apocalyptic/dystopian fan, you will be, too.

I received a digital copy of this book from the author.