Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Book Reviews: Hollow World

Hollow World
BY MICHAEL J. SULLIVAN

AMAZON | GOODREADS


Publisher: Tachyon Publication (April 15, 2014)
Print Length: 416 pages
Format: E-Arc
Source: Netgalley
Genre: Science Fiction, Adult
Series: Maybe?
Completed: April 2014


SUMMARY

FROM GOODREADS: Ellis Rogers is an ordinary man who is about to embark on an extraordinary journey. All his life he has played it safe and done the right thing, but when faced with a terminal illness, he’s willing to take an insane gamble. He’s built a time machine in his garage, and if it works, he’ll face a world that challenges his understanding of what it means to be human, what it takes to love, and the cost of paradise. He could find more than a cure for his illness; he might find what everyone has been searching for since time began…but only if he can survive Hollow World. 




SETTING PACE AND STYLE

Hollow World is a novel in a genre of its own. That's part of the beauty of this book.  Totally different, its labeled as Sci-Fi thriller, but I don't think that's the best classification for this book.  It just didn't feel exactly like Sci-fi to me.  Instead, this book is a hybrid.  It has elements of Sci-Fi, but also felt a lot like reading a contemporary novel too.  Plus, the entire concept is based on time traveling into the future. The writing was not overly descriptive either, which sci-fi sometimes is. This book begins in current times and then quickly jumps 2000 years into the future to a place called Hollow World, an entire civilization built underground. Its told in a third person narrative from the perspective of our hero Ellis Rogers.


CHARACTERS


Characters in this book were impressionable. Ellis Rogers, though flawed, appeared to be a good person deep down.  He's just someone who made some pretty bad decisions in his life and was suffering dearly for his bad choices.  Warren, Ellis's best friend from high school, well, he's someone I didn't trust.  He's a very bad influence on Ellis, in both worlds.   I loved Pax right from the start.  Even though he was sexless, I thought of him as male more than female.  He did have plenty of female traits because he was tender, compassionate and a person who wore his emotions on his sleeve.  However, he was brave and seemed to hold a position (an arbitrator) which which felt like a man's, plus he chose to dress in men's clothing.


RECOMMENDATION

I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes to read about concepts which really make you think and re-think your values.  Its a story that leaves the reader pondering the direction this world is heading in and wonder where it might end up.  For readers looking for something complex, but written in a simple way, this is your book.  Sullivan fans won't be disappointed this is another great book.  We can only hope he will write many more like it!


PERSONAL NOTE

I've read almost all of Michael J. Sullivan's Riyria books (all the prequels and most of the main story - just need to finish the last two books).  He's an incredible author and has a knack for creating characters readers can feel something for, plus a story line which keeps eyes glued to the pages.  He's exceptional about exploring controversial topics, really making me think.  So, naturally when I found out he was writing another book, one which was completely different from his fantasy novels, I just knew I had to get myself a copy.  I dove in with high hopes, luckily Michael delivered.

Its evident right from the start, Ellis Rodger is definitely a flawed character.  He's been married to his wife for over 35 years, but I don't believe he's ever been in love with her.  Their only son, Isley, was conceived out of wedlock.  He's the sole reason the marriage even exits.  Its no surprise when Isley's found hanging from the rafters of the garage, Katherine (Ellis' wife) removes her wedding bands.  At this juncture, the marriage is over, except for it lingers, legally only on paper.  Many years later when Ellis is told he's dying from pulmonary fibrosis, he doesn't share the news with his wife.  He's afraid of death,  not ready to die.  As a last ditch effort to save his life, he decides to attempt something crazy.  He builds a time traveling machine. Maybe in the future he will find a cure for his ailment. The time machine transports Ellis 2000 years into the future to a place called Hollow World. Here is where the true story begins.

I loved the world building in this book.  It was something even simple minded folks could wrap their arms around.  That's rare for a sci-fi thrillers, which usually thrive on their complexities. The futuristic inventions like The Maker, a device which could create anything a person's mind could conjure from the past or the Port-a-Com another device for transporting anything from one place to another were all so easy to grasp.  This is not usually the case for me when I'm reading Scif-Fi.

One of my favorite elements of Hollow World were its people.  In this future humans are no longer classified or divided into sexes, groups or cultures.  Everyone is the same, created from the same DNA.  In this particular future, people actually strive to stand out or be different, a total reverse concept of the conformity which we see of in our day and age.  Its wonderful how the Y chromosome was removed and also blamed for all the violence of the world.  I got a good chuckle from that!  I also adored in this rendition of the future people are actually judged by what is on the inside - not how they look on the outside.

The way this story wraps up is pretty incredible.  The ending really made the story for me.  In addition, the way everything comes to a head reminded me of like the way a Western ends with a big gun battle.  The last 40 pages or so are just real page turners. For the entire book, I was craving to know why Isley committed suicide.  When it was finally revealed, I never would have guessed. Partly because it seemed to be quite out of character for Ellis. All in all this is a wonderful story, one which made me ponder the real meaning of love and to relish the beauty in everything, - especially the rain!


RATING

4 out of 5 Rings
(CAPTIVATING, LOOKED FORWARD TO READING, ENGAGING)



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Book Reviews: The Here and Now

The Here and Now
BY ANN BRASHARES

AMAZON| GOODREADS


Publisher: Delacorte Press (April 8, 2013)
Print Length: 256 pages
Format: E-Arc
Source: Netgalley
Genre: Dystopian, Romance
Series: Stand Alone
Completed: April 2014


SUMMARY

Prenna comes from a futuristic world, a place fraught with blood plauges and suffering from the ill effects of global warming.  She's traveled back through time to the past to escape the devastation of her world.  Prenna did not come alone, she came along with a large group of time travelers.  They've established their own community with their own special rules.  The rules are extremely strict and put into place for the protection of the natives and the time travelers both.  One of the major rules is even though the time travelers are allowed, even encouraged to blend in and socialize with the natives, they are forbidden to get too close.  Also those in the community are expected to wear protective lenses because of their sensitive eyes and they have to take daily pills to protect them from diseases or illness. Prenna is very compliant in her society, until a bum approaches her about a potential murder.  If the murder takes place it will change the future, so it must be stopped.  Prenna has always pretty much stuck to the rules. She's confused and doesn't know if this guy's just a crazy loon or if his warning holds any merit.  Her closest friend Katherine, another time traveller, is the only one she feels comfortable confiding in.  When Katherine gets shipped off to a "comfortable boarding school"  after speaking with Prenna, she quickly realizes the graveness of her situation.  Her only other confidant is a long time friend, a boy named Ethan, a native.    She's reluctant to talk to him about the situation.  However, when the homeless man ends up brutally murdered, desperate times call for desperate measures.  Prenna decides to reveal her secrets to Ethan. Shockingly he already knows more than she imagined.  Now the two of them team up to stop the murder that could potentially change the course of the future.  The biggest problem is the community is very suspicious and they only have two short days to sort everything out!


BACKGROUND

From Goodreads: Ann Brashares grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland, with three brothers and attended a Quaker school in the D.C. area called Sidwell Friends. She studied Philosophy at Barnard College, part of Columbia University in New York City. Expecting to continue studying philosophy in graduate school, Ann took a year off after college to work as an editor, hoping to save money for school. Loving her job, she never went to graduate school, and instead, remained in New York City and worked as an editor for many years. Ann made the transition from editor to full-time writer with her first novel, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Ann and her husband live with their three children in New York.


SETTING PACE AND STYLE

The Here and Now is a surprisingly fast paced read.  Its told in a first person narrative in the voice of our young time traveller Prenna.  Occasionally it changes up to letter format, where Prenna is writing to her younger brother Julius.  In these informative passages we find out a little more of the back story.  Writing in this story felt peculiar.  I wasn't sure what to make of it.  Mainly it seemed slightly robotic or even bland.  I'm not saying I didn't like it.  I felt like it just took some time to get used to before I really fall into it.


MAIN CHARACTERS 

Prenna, the main character has been through so much, she's suffered huge loses in her life: the death of two younger brothers and the strange disappearance of her father. She's definitely emotionally scarred and very guarded about her feelings, many of which have been suppressed. In addition, Prenna is a good girl. She's been a rule follower and hasn't caused any problems.  She wears her glasses takes her pills and does what she is asked.  Well, that is until a homeless man raises suspicions about her community and current beliefs. Then her whole perspective is turned upside down.

Ethan has always been kind to Prenna.  He's patient and never really pushes her to reveal more about her life than she is comfortable with.  Ethan is also a very intelligent caring guy.  I like how extremely patient he was with Prenna. His listening ear helped Prenna reveal all the monstrosities of her past. So much bad happened in her life before.  He was a good friend before he became a lover, they really did share so much before hand.  I admired his mind, his compassion for others and especially his desire to make the world a better place.  I can certainly see why Prenna couldn't help but to fall in love with the guy.  He really didn't have any noticeable faults.


RECOMMENDATION

Readers looking for a fast past, short engaging read, this is a good one to pick up.  With lots of mystery, suspense, twist and turns, it will keep you guessing to the bitter end.  This book mixes dystopian with time travel, something different.  I think it has elements both guys and gals could appreciate.


PERSONAL NOTE

A book about time travel, forbidden romance with a dab of dystopian society weaved into the plot The Here and Now certainly stands out.  This book didn't just focus on Ethan and Prenna's budding romance, it had much more substance than that.  If not the story would have been a struggle to hold my interested.  I enjoyed the mystery and suspense parts of the book.  It had its share of twists and turns, which were for the most part unpredictable.  The main ideas of the story were about wanting something you can never have and doing what's best for the greater good of the people - not just for yourself - making sacrifices.  The ending definitely wasn't all warm and fuzzy or ridiculously sad it.  I thought it fit perfectly because it felt real.


RATING

4 out of 5
(CAPTIVATING, LOOKED FORWARD TO READING, ENGAGING)



Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Book Reviews: The Mark of the Dragonfly

The Mark of the Dragonfly
BY JALEIGH JOHNSON

AMAZON | GOODREADS

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (3/25/14)
Print Length: 400 pages
Format: E-arc
Source: Netgalley.com
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Series: Not sure
Completed: April 2014








SUMMARY

The Mark of the Dragonfly is set in a futuristic world with the majority of the story unraveling on a cargo train called the 401.  After the untimely death of her father,  Piper is left to fend for herself, forced to live her life as a "scrapper". Scrappers salvage rare objects found directly following a meteor storm.  They clean up objects found, attempting to turn them into something useful to sell  for profit.  Piper's great at what she does, in fact some believe her talent for fixing up mechanical items is very unusual, especially for a gal who's only 12 years of age.  "The Scrappers", prefer to keep to themselves, but Piper managed to make a few good friends, namely a young boy named Micah.

When young Micah makes a bad decision to sneak out before the meteor storm is over, to get a head start on scrapping, he ends up in trouble. Piper chases after him.  Oddly enough, Micah is not the only one who is in need of rescue that day. Piper also stumbles across a peculiar young girl with The Mark of the Dragonfly on her arm. This mark signifies the girl is under the protection of the King.  Saving the young girl, Piper secretly hopes will be her ticket out of the scrap town.  Something she's been wishing for for a very long time. What pursues is an action packed story full of adventure, mystery magic and suspense.


BACKGROUND
From Goodreads: Jaleigh Johnson is a fantasy author born and raised in the Midwest. She's written books for the game Dungeons and Dragons. This is her first attempt at a book for middle grade readers. In her spare time, she enjoys gaming, gardening, and going to movies with her husband. Visit her online at www.jaleighjohnson.com


SETTING PACE AND STYLE

Set in the future, Mark of the Dragonfly primarily takes place on a The 401, a futuristic cargo train.  This may sound boring, and odd for a fantasy novel.  I mean honestly, how much can happen aboard a train?  Well, let me tell you a whole heck of lot can!  This book was action packed. Writing style contained quite a bit of dialogue, which is a little out of the ordinary for a fantasy novel, but when the characters weren't speaking to each other the prose was brilliantly detailed and easy to get lost in. The story is told in a third person narrative primarily from the heroine, Piper's perspective.


CHARACTERS

All the characters in this story were memorable in some way or another. The author ties them together in an imaginative way. I liked how each one is almost co-dependent on the others. Our heroine: young Piper, lives on her own. Her father died as a factory worker, due to poor working conditions. Something that has never set will with Piper. She's smart and has a unique knack for fixing mechanical things. She's compassionate and caring, quick-witted and agile. Her current form of employment comes from being a scavenger. Piper is a very resilient young girl.  She's been self sufficient for some time. Blessed with an amazing gift for fixing machines and gadgets Piper has done fairly well for herself.  Her biggest problem secondary to money, is loneliness.

Anna is the strange and peculiar girl Piper rescues. She's plagued with amnesia, struggling to remember her past.  Anna bears the mark of the dragonfly, which makes her very valuable to King Aron. She's very calculating has a strong desire for everything to make logical sense.  As she slowly regains her memory, we quickly realize there is a whole lot more to this little girl than meets the eye.

Gee is a chamelin or a shapeshifter.  He's the protector of the 401, something he's been doing since boyhood.  The 401 is the main trains bound for the city that Anna and Piper decide to stow away on.  Gee is strong, fierce and quite a force to be reckoned with.  I love the sweet, innocent relationship which sparks between he and Piper.  Gee has had and extremely difficult life before he found his duty to serve the 401.  You can't help but feel badly for what he's been through, but also be proud of the way he's turned out.


RECOMMENDATION

This book would be a great fit for both boys and girls.  Plus it would be a great way to introduce a young reader to both fantasy and steampunk.  Not only does this one have really fun gadgets and machines, but it also has rare unheard of magical creatures, too.  Don't be scared off by its length. This book is a quick, entertaining read, an unusual fantasy with lots of fun, easy to read dialogue.


PERSONAL NOTE


With a plot that moves along as fast as the 401 train, there was never a dull moment in this story. Alongside the race pace of the book, the author spiced up this fantasy with unusual creatures like chamelin's (shape shifters) and sarnum's (blue-skinned creatures with tentacles spouting from their skulls who had strong psychic abilities).  I also appreciated the steampunk elements and unique gadgetry.  The only negative aspect of this book was the over abundance of dialogue, which made if feel less like a fantasy to me.  However, when the author wasn't writing in dialogue her writing was delicate and beautifully detailed.

The ending wrapped everything up quite nicely in a pretty close to a happily ever after way. I may mention, the big reveal wasn't a surprise for me.  It was something I suspected all along.  I don't think young readers will find it quite as predictable, though. At the conclusion, the character's problems were resolved to my satisfaction. However, I feel like the author could continue this book as a series if she desires. I think she still could take these characters into plenty more adventures which young readers would love to follow.  Its a very clean and quick read despite its long page length, it held my attention and kept me engaged from the very first page until the last.


RATING

4 out of 5 Rings
(CAPTIVATING, LOOKED FORWARD TO READING, ENGAGING)