The Light at the Bottom of the World (Light the Abyss#1) by London Shah #bookreview #YA #scifi

Hope had abandoned them to the wrath of all the waters.

At the end of the twenty-first century, the world has changed dramatically, but life continues one thousand feet below the ocean’s surface. In Great Britain, sea creatures swim among the ruins of Big Ben and the Tower of London, and citizens waver between fear and hope; fear of what lurks in the abyss, and hope that humanity will soon discover a way to reclaim the Earth.

Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Leyla McQueen has her own problems to deal with. Her father’s been arrested, accused of taking advantage of victims of the Seasickness-a debilitating malaise that consumes people,often claiming their lives. But Leyla knows he’s innocent, and all she’s interested in is getting him back so that their lives can return to normal.

When she’s picked to race in the action-packed London Submersible Marathon, Leyla gets the chance to secure his freedom; the Prime Minister promises the champion whatever their heart desires. The race takes an unexpected turn, though, and presents her with an opportunity she never wanted: Leyla must venture outside of London for the first time in her life, to find and rescue her father herself.

Now, she’ll have to brave the unfathomable waters and defy a corrupt government determined to keep its secrets, all the while dealing with a secretive, hotheaded companion she never asked for in the first place. If she fails, or falls prey to her own fears, she risks capture–and her father might be lost forever. 

The totally stunning cover and concept of humans living at the bottom of the ocean made this a must read for me.

From the watercraft and underwater homes to the sea creatures, the world-building is magnificent.  When Leyla pilots her submersible around London landmarks and during the thrilling marathon, the imagery is outstanding.  And the conflict!  One roadblock after another is thrown into the mix, and nothing comes easy in her quest to find her father.  She’s a brave and determined protagonist, but makes some questionable decisions at times before thinking things through.  Ari is a man of mystery and caution, but a perfect balance to Leyla’s overly trusting nature.  Leila’s world is brimming with mystery and political undercurrents, and she’s forced to question many of her beliefs and things she’s been told.  And that cliffhanger will steal your breath away!

Although the pacing wavers here and there, I enjoyed this highly creative, underwater adventure and will be anxiously anticipating the next book in the series.  Add this one to your TBR!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

The Murder Complex (The Murder Complex #1) by Lindsay Cummings #bookreview #YA #dystopian

An action-packed, blood-soaked, futuristic debut thriller set in a world where the murder rate is higher than the birthrate. For fans of Moira Young’s Dust Lands series, La Femme Nikita, and the movie Hanna.

Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision.

The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn’t know it—one of the MC’s programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?

Action-packed, blood-soaked, and chilling, this is a dark and compelling debut novel by Lindsay Cummings.

I’ve had this in my TBR for far too long, and after finishing it, I’m sorry I didn’t get to it sooner.

When another author friend recommended this book, I looked it up and loved the premise.  Having La Femme Nikita as a comp title was just icing on the cake.  Trained assassins, a government who tracks population numbers, a fierce female protagonist, and family secrets – what’s not to like?  Be warned – this is a dark storyline with violence and some graphic deaths, so it may not be to everyone’s taste; however, if you enjoy thrilling plot twists and outstanding action sequences, this could be for you.  I felt like the romance happened at the speed of lightning (literally love at first sight for one of the characters), but it didn’t really overshadow the plot.

Several reviewers have commented on the violence, but I felt it was comparable to The Hunger Games.  I’ve already downloaded the next book, and I guarantee it won’t take me so long to read this one.

The Red Labyrinth by Meredith Tate #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

The massive labyrinth was built to protect Zadie Kalver’s isolated desert town. Unfortunately, living in the maze’s shadow makes her feel anything but safe. Even without its enchanted deathtraps and illusions, a mysterious killer named Dex lurks in its corridors, terrorizing anyone in his path.

But when Zadie’s best friend vanishes into the labyrinth-and everyone mysteriously forgets he exists- completing the maze becomes her only hope of saving him. In desperation, Zadie bribes the only person who knows the safe path through-Dex-into forming a tenuous alliance.

Navigating a deadly garden, a lethal blood-filled hourglass, and other traps-with an untrustworthy murderer for her guide-Zadie’s one wrong step from certain death. But with time running out before her friend (and secret crush) is lost forever, Zadie must reach the exit and find him. If Dex and the labyrinth don’t kill her first. 

This book description reminded me of The Maze Runner, a novel I fell head over heels for and kept me guessing, and the cover really grabbed me.

The world-building is creative, detailed, and pulled me in almost immediately.  The Skilled, the Blanks, and the labyrinth housing the monster, Dex, and separating the town folk from the Creator held me spellbound.  The author does a magnificent job explaining Zadie’s world without an info dump.  Zadie is also very likable, and has survived tragic circumstances in her past.  I cringed more than once when reading about her interactions with the Warden.  Landon is the stereotypical hero, and plays the role of rescuer and town hero very well.  But by far, Dex is the most compelling, and multi-layered character.  Honestly, if the author wrote a spin-off focusing on Dex’s backstory, I’d snatch it up immediately.  The story is well-paced, and the obstacles Zadie and Dex face in the labyrinth are dangerous, challenging, and, at times, heart-breaking.

Everything was going smoothly – awesome world-building, life and death circumstances, intense action – until it became very obvious that one character isn’t what the reader is led to believe.  That’s nothing new – it goes along with good storytelling.  But the revelation is meant to be a twist towards the end, and some things just didn’t ring true for me with this character early in the story.  In scanning other reviewer comments, it didn’t seem to come as a shock to them, either.

If you’re looking for an original YA dystopian/fantasy, The Red Labyrinth fits the bill nicely.  Although the ending includes a cliffhanger, it wraps rather suddenly, and I’ll definitely be adding the next book to my TBR.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

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.