PJV Quickie: Sticky on the believability factor but high on the entertainment scale, VARIANT by Robison Wells had me engrossed from the beginning. But, I’ll admit I was cross comparing it to a few other Young Adult Dystopian novels as I read.
Benson Fisher, the main character of Variant is your typical lost boy. He is a product of foster care, doesn’t fit in at any school he goes to and is resigned to the fact that his life is messed up before it has even begun. Until he gets a scholarship to Maxfield Academy. Which, is surprising since his grades aren’t that good and he lied on the application. But, who cares about that. He’s about to go to a great school.
He is all excited, until he is dropped off at the front gates and his ride high-tails it out of there without a backwards glance. Maxfield Academy isn’t a school, it is a prison, with no guards but the children within the walls. There is no way out and the people within can’t be trusted. There are rules on top of rules to be followed and if you break those rules…you are never seen again.
Sounds exciting right? It is. The book keeps going and going, it sucks you in from the beginning and has excellent pacing in the beginning. I enjoyed Benson and the way Robison Wells developed his character, in the beginning. He was likable, even in a very tumultuous plot. The story was filled with suspense and hidden compartments which kept the book interesting. But, what I keep mentioning is…in the beginning. Then it gets to a point where Benson just turns into a very dumb character, his actions are dumb, selfish and illogical. Because of his actions the plot progresses, but it is obvious that his actions were written to carry the plot instead of a logical character reaction.
Then you are hit with the big surprise of the plot, which I won’t reveal because of spoilers, but with the reveal, the main character again reacts differently then I would have expected. Everything does seem to converge in the end — but then that is it, the end. Most of the plot is still unresolved with the ending of this book, so while exciting, it left me with a feeling that I put a book down in the middle and then lost the book…or forgot about it. Which isn’t that favorable a feeling for me.
I would recommend this more for younger boys, instead of the usual Young Adult fans. In fact I would probably put this in categories of Middle Grade instead of YA, just because of the similarities in crafting. The male lead and the sketchy plot will probably leave the usual young adult dystopian fans lacking. They might also find the strong resemblance to THE MAZE RUNNER also a bit on the distasteful side. Fans of Middle Grade, male leads, ages 11 – 15 should enjoy.
Similar Young Adult Dystopian Novels & 3 Star Ratings:
The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1) by James Dashner
The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1) by Patrick Ness
PJV Quickie: Already an established fan of Josephine Angelini, I didn't think I would have any issues with her new series, TRIAL BY FIRE, I just didn't expect it to be so different, so dark...the synopsis of this one does it no justice. TRAIL BY FIRE is a richly constructed and well-crafted Young Adult Fantasy novel that I was pulled into from the first sentence and wasn't let go until the last and yet still I keep thinking about the novel, weeks after finishing it.
Review: Angelini tackles the idea of the multi-verse and makes us question our own beliefs, in the first from her new series, TRIAL BY FIRE. The first novel introduces us to a very unique young lady, Lily Proctor. Lily is allergic to everything, her life is literally hanging on a thread, she is only managing to go outside of her house with the use of tons of medications and restricting what she wears, eats and even touches. Nothing ever goes her way, until one day, her long-term crush finally makes a move and Lily thinks, this is it...but it's not. Thrown into despair, Lily gives herself over to this little voice in her head that is whispering about a better life a better world and Lily says, "yes."
Nothing will be the same for Lily again. Brought to a more primitive and dangerous world, her counterpart, Lillian is a cruel and merciless ruler that has some weird agenda for Lily and believes that Lily can help "save her world." She came to this conclusion because Lily had been outspoken in her opposition of certain things, like not eating meat and opposing nuclear energy by wearing t-shirts. The underlying message behind these novels seemed to be showcasing a form of fanaticism and the lengths a person might go if they believe something to be wrong. Angeline did a great job! This book seems to be loved and hated - and frankly I think that is the mark of a great book. I loved it. I thought Lily's character, whom, didn't go over that well with me, her stubborn stance on different issues that would put other people's lives in danger, was quite infuriating. But, the fact that you could admire her stubbornness but then see the ignorance in her stance, shows that this character will have to go through a bit of a transition by the end of the trilogy which is always a plus for me. Love character transitions.
Overall, great book - can't wait to read more. Angelini hit another home-run.
Narration: Emma Galvin is a favorite of mine, she has a good voice that translates well to a YA female narrative. She has done series like DIVERGENT and ARCANA CHRONICLES - which are both MUST LISTEN books. You can't go wrong with Galvin.
Recommendations: This one is nothing like STARCROSSED, but if you loved her other series, you'll enjoy TRIAL BY FIRE. If you love Young Adult Fantasy, also another plus, give this one a try. It has romance, heart-break, violence and evil witches! PG-13 rating. Enjoy!
The Sand Omnibus by Hugh Howey was a hit on audiobook. I have not had the pleasure to read Howey's WOOL series, so for me this was a first look. I thought his take on the dystopian world was stunningly real and his portrayal of life in this world, both haunting and thrilling at the same time. This is a great audiobook pick with narration by Karen Chilton whose clipped and mature voice gives depth to the story.
Review: The world of Sand is far in the future in a world covered in Sand and a desert landscape. The residents of the area make a living by diving into the sand, digging for treasures and artifacts of the world before, where the buildings touched the sky and food came in cans. The world Hugh Howey created was richly portrayed, each description of the world made it more real, until finally, I could image living in a world where houses were sinking into the sand slowly and people were afraid of what lived over the dunes.
The beginning of the tale covered the concept of sand diving, where men and women strap on contraptions and fins that bring them deep under miles of sand, to push their way into the buildings and towns that they scavenge for goods. The goal is to find the mother load, the big score. Whispers of an area called, Denver (Den-var) are what sand divers dream about. The score of score and which Palmer, thinks he is about to become a part of. Once we are introduced to Palmer, the story pans out and encompasses Palmer's family, his older sister Vic and their younger brother Connor. It also briefly portrays their mother and father, who have both abandoned their children.
The story is done in the 3rd person POV, but the narrative is harsh, full of bad language and conveys the life that this family is living within. The land is hard to live in and their lives have not been easy, but they do try and stick together in spite of all the hardships that they deal with. You don't really get immersed in the charters as you might in other dystopian, but instead Howey gives the story to you in pieces and parts, in back and forth progression as each character reveals their piece of the story. It can get a bit confusing, but if you stick with it until all the pieces come together it is well worth it.
The writing style is gritty and realistic, the tone harsh and not very emotional, but it sets the tone perfectly for the landscape. Karen Chilton's narration fits the setting perfectly, spinning visions of Mad Max meets The Book of Eli, perfectly. It was a great listen and I highly recommend checking the omnibus out.
Recommendations: Fans of science fiction and dystopian elements should really enjoy, this is an adult science fiction novel, on lines with DUNE, sans the Space Opera element and The Postman by David Brin. Again, adult, so expect harsh language and mature topics, but nothing explicit.
Feral Sins is the first book in the Phoenix Pack series by Suzanne Wright. I haven’t had a pleasant surprise with a Paranormal Romance series in a long time…but that is what I got with FERAL SINS. I just love werewolves. And werewolves in love make my day even better. In this series you have crazy werewolves working through issues and not willing to accept their mates. So, while you do have this fated mate story-line, they have to work for that relationship.
Great writing, excellent plot and kick-ass characters, while a typical PNR story arc, it isn’t typically written. The first book reminded me more of a Urban Fantasy with a romance subplot then the usual PNR dribble.
This is one hairy, sexy, paranormal romance series. Yum. These werewolves are scrumptious. Taryn was kick-ass and Trey was sexy as hell. And they came together hot, hot, hot! You can’t get any better.
Narration: Narration was done by Jill Redfield, who did a great job. I will definitely look for other Redfield’s audiobooks.
PJV Quickie: LUST, MONEY & MURDER by Mike Wells was a surprise listen for me. I expected the book to be good, but I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. The story might not have been the usual character driven, romantically charged novel which frequent my shelf, but the intense plot and the obvious knowledge of the author kept me completely intrigued. LUST, MONEY & MURDER by Mike Wells is a good listen on Audiobook, especially with Sue Sharp as the narrator. If you are looking for a thriller, with political and a few hinted romantic undertones, check out this series. You shouldn’t be disappointed.
Review: Let me state from the beginning that in it’s original form, Wells divided this 250 page book into three parts and published them as eBooks. Lucky for me, Books 1, 2 & 3 were all put together in audiobook format, so cliffhangers were not an issue – even though I can see if you were to read these one by one, how they could be. The books follow the main character, starting at the beginning of her life, for a very flushed out back-story. The character is Elaine Brogan, a very pampered child of a doting father, who while not wealthy would do anything for his daughter. One of those anythings just happens to be steal and cheat. So, when Elaine decides to be a model and gets caught up in some sort of counterfeit operation, her father, instead of admitting Elaine got the money, takes the fall and ends up in prison. Prison is too much for Elaine’s father and he takes his own life, leaving Elaine to fend for herself. Luckily Elaine is smart and driven and she is set on revenge. She blames the man from the modeling agency for her father’s death. She has to find him, she has to put him in jail, like her father went to jail. The only way to do this, she surmises, is by becoming an agent in the Secret Service counterfeit division. So, Elaine focuses on that goal and nothing else.
While the book dragged in the beginning, it accomplished what Wells set out to do. It set the stage, Elaine’s frame of mind, her goals and her motivations. I thought how Wells flushed this out was well done, even though most books will do this quite differently, usually starting the stories with present day and having the character flashback to their past in clips. But, Wells delivered the whole back-story. This technique in the story allowed for the author to “teach” the reader about counterfeiting as Elaine learned about it and the steps she took to establish herself as an expert. Well’s knowledge of intaglio printing, the process of printing money, counterfeiting operations and the government agencies that investigate these operations was the highlight of the novel. I love learning new things while reading fiction and I certainly learned a few things by reading LUST, MONEY & MURDER. As the book progressed, we move away from Elaine’s childhood goals of revenge and on to Elaine’s struggle as a Secret Service agent, which was also a great part of the novel. Elaine is a strong character and she is highly driven throughout the book. It was fun reading about how she made it through training, only to be relegated to nothing field offices and chauvinistic bosses and then finally to her dream position as an expert in spotting counterfeit bills.
It was a good story. Well written and full of wonderful facts. This book was also well worth the read if you are into a bit of thrills. LUST, MONEY & MURDER sets a fast pace and the main character is enjoyable. I enjoyed this story from the beginning to the end. With the addition of Sue Sharp’s narration, who nailed Elaine perfectly, I highly recommend you grab this one via audiobook. Mike Wells was a very competent author and while this book was self-published, I only noticed a few editing flaws and hiccups. The book was very tightly put together.
Some low points of the novel included the fact that the story goes through a few “tell me” moments, where the author does a lot of telling and not the nicely rendered “show” narration. Granted there is a lot of information, so this is understandable. But the information overload at times led to lackluster characters. Elaine was a three dimensional character, but the secondary characters never really came to life for me. The romance in the novel was just slightly talked about, leaving me not feeling it, in turn, leading me to have no emotional desire for an HEA for both characters. Again, this is pretty common in these types of mystery/thrillers, but a girl can hope. The focus of the novel was the plot and the mystery, which it did well and carried the story. I think Wells did a phenomenal job for doing this independently. If you would like to support a great Indie author, check out Mike Wells and his LUST, MONEY & MURDER series.
Recommendations: This is an adult thriller. If you enjoy a good mystery, or more conspiracy charged thrillers, give this one a listen. Fans of novels by Dan Brown or John Grisham might get a kick out of this one.
PJV Quickie: Are Aliens the new dystopian over-lords? It seems so and Rick Yancy’s The Fifth Wave is leading the charge in setting this new fad. In Yancy’s future the aliens have come to Earth and they are not fugly little brown men that like to eat candy and say funny quips in broken English, no they are here to destroy everything!
The main character in this original Young Adult Apocalypse novel is Cassie. Cassie has lived through an alien take-over of the planet Earth. The alien motherships came silently and hovered over the planet and one by one each wave hit – thousands, millions, billions of people died. Cassie feels like she is the only person left on the planet, she can’t trust anyone…she knows she is hunted, but because the aliens where human skins in this last wave – just talking to another human can mean her death. She’s just lost her father, her brother was taken away and all she can focus on is getting him back. She holds on to his stuffed bear, she writes in her journal and she tries to stay sane and survive.
Cassie was a great character, she was both parts innocence and survivor. Being in her head was enjoyable and scary as she lived within this screwed up world that Yancy created. I liked how determined she was, but also how she knew that she couldn’t do it alone. She wasn’t one of those characters that just made crazy decisions that worked out in the end, just so she could be obstinate for the sake of being obstinate and cause problems that led to plot movement. The other characters were also just as rich and Yancy pulled them all together seamlessly. He switched POVs and showed the current world from within the camp of children and actually from within an alien’s head to give their perspective. There was also a slight romance that gave the story a bit of emotional swoon factor. So, have we gotten the breakdown yet? Aliens + crazy internal dialogue + action and murderous alien intent + children training to kill + swoon-worthy romance + fab characters = a 5 star book! It’s like Ender’s Game for “grown-up” teens, meets The Hunger Games.
A must read!
The narration was also top-notch. Brandon Espinoza did the boy parts and Phoebe Strole did the girl parts. I love when they have a female and male voice with POVs shift. It gives the audiobook more depth. I did enjoy Phoebe’s voice more, but they were both on par.
Recommendations: If you are a fan of apocalypse fiction in the young adult age range, you’ll love The Fifth Wave. The book was reminiscent of 80s/90s era fiction but modernized to the new taste of YA. If you like books like Ender’s Game…you should really enjoy.
PJV Quickie: Second in series are scary. Will it be as good as the first? Will it keep pace with the first? Will I love it as much? Through the Ever Night was one of the best second in series that I’ve read in a long time. The pacing, the intrigue and the action were all present, just like the first book. I’m still in love with the Under the Never Sky series, in fact I think I’m enjoying it even more.
Review: A lot has happened since Aria and Perry first met in Under the Never Sky. Since then, Perry has taken the title of Blood Lord of the Tides and Aria has taken on the responsibility of rescuing Perry’s nephew and searching for clues to the Still Blue. After months of diverging paths, Perry and Aria are reunited but only to a bittersweet and almost painful realization that their happily-ever-after isn’t exactly in the cards. Perry’s tribe will never trust a dweller and if he doesn’t want to be challenged over and over again as Blood Lord, bringing Aria into the tribe as his love-interest isn’t an option. They decide to keep their relationship a secret from the tribe, but having a dweller within the tribe still is still a challenge and Aria is met with distrust and disgust. When problems erupt left and right for Perry, Aria decides it is best to leave with Roar and go in search of what everyone wants…the Still Blue.
New characters are introduced, new problems arise and new enemies stand in the shadows. Through the Ever Night is an emotional roller-coaster, wrapped up in a dystopian icing, full of angsty goodness and action-packed awesome. I have to say it again and again, you don’t get any better then this. Rossi is a superstar when it comes to penning a young adult trilogy. This second installment delivered even better then the first. Her character development is superb. I fell in love with the characters again, felt emotionally tied to them in that special way that only great authors can achieve and not only that, I’m totally in-love with the secondary characters too! Roar, oh Roar is just wonderful. The relationship between Roar and Aria is superb and Rossi didn’t muddy it up with any hinted love-triangle bull-dinky, or comedic interplay, it was a substantial secondary friendship with true meaningful purpose. Roar was not created to propagate a plot point or entertain, he is there as his own person. The secondary story of Roar and Liv’s romance was also top-notch, if not heart-achingly disastrous to my emotions. It was wonderfully played out and Rossi again, did not pull any punches, she has no problem writing in problem after problem and having her characters make mistakes, without a foreseeable conclusion of said problem, which you don’t find a lot in young adult. There is nothing easy about these books. It kind of scares me to think what is in store for us in the next book.
Are you convinced yet?
Read the series. You won’t be disappointed. There were moments in this audiobook where I wanted to scream at the characters, especially Perry. There was also a particular character that I wanted to murder. You can’t get better emotional reactions from a read than this. I think because she switched back and forth between the characters perspectives it actually enhanced the tension, instead of muddying it. Rossi is a truly talented writer, both books in this series are full of action, angst, emotion and ridiculously paced that you are kept on the edge of your seat at all times.
Narration: Michael Goldstrom is the narrator for Through the Ever Night, and I do think he did a better job then the first narrator of Under the Never Sky, but I wasn’t as impressed as I have been with other narrators. Some of his accents were a bit forced and I didn’t feel a seamless transition into dialogue that I do in some of the great narrators. Goldstrom did a good job, just with a great book, I would hope for a great narrator.
Recommendations: This is not a stand-alone, it is recommended that you read the first in the series before tackling book two. Fans of the genre, Young Adult Dystopian should be rightly pleased, the book epitomizes the awesome of that genre. The book’s themes are mature and it is recommended for 14+ readership.
Review originally posted on Parajunkee's View.
If you liked this Young Adult Dystopian, you might also like these:
The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden, #1) by Julie Kagawa
Article 5 (Article 5, #1) by Kristen Simmons
I'm a HUGE fan of Karen Marie Moning and Phil Gigante's narration. I went to the signing and bought the book - but quickly succumbed and bought the audio book also and then listened to it. I wasn't disappointed. I'm not a huge Natalie Ross fan and she did the majority of the narration. But, Gigante and his grasp of different accents and the growl tones of the Alpha males in this series eclipsed it.
I was worried about Ross' narration of Dani because her tone in the Shadowfever books was very juvenille, but she did soften Dani in ICED and I was pleased with the turnout. The story is also top notch. I was also worried about how Karen Marie Moning would handle this Dani spin-off and I was pleased. KMM is a genius. Please go back and listen to the Fever series books first though. While this is a spin-off and could technically be read without partaking in Mac & Barron's story - you don't want to miss out on it. The Fever Series is on of the best Paranormal/Urban Fantasy series I've ever read.
PJV Quickie: I highly enjoyed TOUCH OF POWER from Maria V. Snyder, but what else can be expected with this author. Synder has a way of building tension, creating characters and painting a picture with every sentence.
Review: Avry of Kazan is a healer, by placing her hands on an injured or sick person she assumes their sickness, and her own advancing healing system heals her. It was once a respected profession, until the plague. Now, because of the devastation of the plague assumes their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Avry is left to live a half-life, where she has to hide what she is and watch as people die around her. Unable to watch the young die from something that she could save, Avry gives in and the parents of a girl she saves turns her in. Healers are hated and feared. The regent of the territory has also put a big reward on a healer’s capture. But, before she can be killed she is “saved” by a group of men, who insist that she has to save their “friend.”
TOUCH OF POWER was a fun and fantastical listen. The narrator Gabra Zackman was very talented and unobtrusive. The book was classic Synder. Both Avry and Kerrick were characters that will resonate with me for a long time to come. The most poignant point of the novel is the transition of Avry, she is a great character. She goes from scared but still courageous to empowered and willing to take on the world for her new friends.
Then there was the world-building, a fantasy mixed with a dystopian, it was great. Plague destroyed world with rogues and magic. I was also a big fan of the relationship dynamic between the characters and the mystery surrounding the mission of the rogues and Avry. Everything was laid out perfectly. From Avry’s point-of-view the information was revealed as she discovered it and any withholding made sense and was expected.
How can I describe this perfectly? The story just unfolds as you read it. It lays before you, every little piece something to be appreciated. Kerrick the secondary character is the puzzle that is most intriguing and his character’s transition within the eyes of Avry is the reason I read books. I read to experience characters like this. But, don’t take my word for it. This is a highly recommended book and I urge you to experience it for yourself.
But, I know what you are thinking. Why only 4.5 stars PJ? Where did the but…come in? And quite frankly, it is because I read POISON STUDY. One of my all time favorite books. And in fact, I read POISON STUDY right before listening to TOUCH OF POWER. It is one of my favorite books to re-read and I wanted to experience it on audiobook, so I downloaded both POISON STUDY and TOUCH OF POWER. Because of this, I noticed similarities between the characters of Avry and Kerrick and Valek and Yelena. Mostly in the transition of the characters. While the similarities were annoying it did not distract from the overall story.
Recommendations: Recommended for Young Adult fantasy and lighter fantasy fans. Fans of POISON STUDY should really enjoy. This is a more mature young adult so it is recommended for older teens and in fact I would think of this more of an adult novel then young adult. I highly recommend to my readers that you pick up a Maria V. Snyder book if you haven’t already – they are truly an experience.
PJV Quickie: Welcome to ‘Grimspace’ a crazy, fast-paced, science fiction ride that made me think “Why did I wait this long to read this particular series?” I’m so glad I “read” this audiobook.
In ‘Grimspace’, the genius that is Ann Aguirre (Enclave), introduces us to a science fiction world in which people with a rare J-Gene are able to travel through Grimspace, the new navigators of the future. Their rare ability is sought after far and wide. Sirantha Jax is a carrier of the gene. She knows the more she jumps, the closer she is to her body wearing down and imminent death, but there is nothing like grimspace and the connection she has with her pilot while transporting her ships. But, Sirantha’s latest jump didn’t go as planned and a crash landing killed her pilot and lover and left her with no memory of what happened and in some kind of Corp reconditioning/interrogation area.
On the brink of a breakdown because of the interrogations a strange man breaks into her cell and offers her freedom. March’s breakout comes with a high price though, she must join a small outlying community and help them break-up the Corp’s monopoly on grimspace travel.
This was a very exciting book. Jax and March are great characters and their interactions are priceless. Sirantha has a witty humor, with that sharp-edged sarcasm that I really enjoy in a character. I enjoyed every minute of this book. Aguirre has become one of my favorite authors with her quirky plots and over-the-top creativity. The women definitely has an imagination and that seeped into every aspect of this audiobook / novel. The far-reaching aspects of the science fiction might be a little much for some more down-to-earth readers, but I do believe if you are a fan of the genre, or an Urban Fantasy reader, you’ll really enjoy. I also have to relate that this book is not a “tell-me” science fiction tale. Aguirre introduces you to the world in a very creative and easy to follow way, it is not page after page of technogarbage forced down your throat that can bog down a lot of science fiction novels. Aguirre just tells it like it is and you get it, you understand what is going on. This is a rare talent in an author and I believe this is why I really enjoy her books.
Adults-only read, this is a science fiction novel and fans of the genre will be elated with the space travel and broad political schemes. This is a good transition for Urban Fantasy fans also, because it is very reminiscent of that genre. Ann Aguirre fans will not be disappointed, this is one of her best series.
And now all I can focus on, is getting more of this series…
Want some more Science Fiction Audiobooks? Check out…
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Narrated by Stephen Fry
The Host: A Novel, by Stephenie Meyer, Narrated by Kate Reading
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