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Review – The Portal December 11, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 5 stars, Sci-Fi.
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Title: The Portal

Author: Alan Zendell

Publisher: FeedBrewer, Inc.

Publication Date: March 21, 2011

ASIN: B004TBC4DW

Available at: Kindle Barnes and Noble

From Goodreads:

Harry Middleton is born in an America staggered by a century of decline, a time of medical and technological marvels beyond the reach of most people in a shattered economy. Pessimism and despair are more common than optimism and hope, and a desperate government bets the future on space.  The lunar and Martian colonies have not provided the hoped-for salvation, so despite an angry, disillusioned public, the first star mission will soon be launched.

Harry is a special child, smart, precocious, his only confidante an embittered grandfather.  When the old man dies, Harry is lost, until he meets Lorrie.  At thirteen, they bond, certain they’ll spend their lives together, but a year later, she disappears, and Harry is desolate.

With help from his friend Carlos, Harry begins a quest to find her, but he quickly learns how powerless he is.  Even the police lack the resources to help.  Harry and Carlos can only depend on themselves and each other.  An unlikely duo, Harry is an academic prodigy while Carlos is a stud athlete.  Realizing that school and baseball are their  tickets out of the morass they’re caught in, they inspire each other to greatness in both.

Trying to move on with his life, Harry has a college sweetheart, but as long as Lorrie haunts him, he knows the relationship is doomed.  He gains celebrity and wealth, but the thing Harry wants most, finding and saving Lorrie from whatever fate took her from him remains beyond his reach.  And always, in the background, are the deteriorating state of the country and the coming star missions.

And of course, there’s the Portal.

Review: *A free copy of this book was given in return for an honest review.

This book basically chronicles the life of Harry Middleton during the 22nd century. It centers around his high school sweetheart Lorrie Grissom who disappeared when he was just fifteen. He spends a lot of resources searching for her and she’s never really far from his mind.

I’m a huge baseball fan. Huge. Naturally when baseball came up in this book I was thrilled. Futuristic baseball! Harry’s baseball career starts young and is an integral part of his life. His boyhood friend Carlos is also a baseball player and together they become a team.

Carlos was a rough around the edges type of guy. He was incredibly street smart. Harry drove Carlos to do better at his studies while Carlos drove Harry to do better athletically. They complimented each other extremely well. After Lorrie went missing, Carlos and Harry became inseparable.

The decline of America that the book shows is staggering. It shows itself all through the book. It made me wonder if that’s where we’re really heading. At the same time, the book shows the resiliency of the American spirit. Despite the dismal conditions,  Americans still fought to keep their country great.

This book made me look at the future differently. I look at it with a bit of hope and with a bit of dread. Either way, I enjoyed this book tremendously and it’s something I hope to reread in the future.

5 Stars_Star Rating System

Review – Stormdancer October 5, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 5 stars, Fantasy, Steampunk, Young Adult.
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Title: Stormdancer

Author: Jay Kristoff

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Publish Date: September 18, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1250001405

Available at: Amazon Kindle Barnes and Noble

From Goodreads:

A DYING LAND
The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.

AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger—a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.

A SIXTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.

Review:

This was a strong debut novel from Jay Kristoff and I loved it! I loved the Asian influence that reeked of Japan. I loved the complex world building. I loved the rich culture he infused throughout the book. I also loved the elaborate technological inventions he inserted in the book here and there.

What I really loved or rather, who I really loved was Buruu, the thunder tiger. He was magnificent! Buruu had a strong primal voice in the book as a main character. His bond with Yukiko was something I was particularly jealous of.

I did like Yukiko though. Yukiko was someone you felt for because her father became such a wastrel. She had to grow up before her time. Yet at the same time she cried out to be just a sixteen-year-old. She was capable and she could really fight well.

The shogun was the best villain. He was maniacal and evil. I truly felt hatred for him and his careless callous ways. The Lotus Guild was even worse. The way they were polluting the land and in turn, killing the people and the animals? Atrocious.

Even the finale of this book was strong. It left me feeling satisfied as far as knowing everything there was to know. The only problem I had was the the book had to end. I was left with a book hangover and with nothing more to read of Buruu and Yukiko’s adventures.

Review – Death's Inception August 21, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 5 stars, Paranormal Romance.
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Title: Death’s Inception

Author: Tamara Rose Blodgett

Publisher: CreateSpace

Publication Date: June 17, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1477424087

Available at: Amazon Barnes and Noble

From Goodreads:

Kyle Ulysses Hart and his team of scientists mapped the human genome in the year 2010. As Brain Impulse Technology came online… so did the long arm of the United States government. A covert, military-driven regime was born with genetic manipulation the key to future widespread control.

When pharmaceutical laboratories, funded by the Graysheets, discover a way to unlock paranormal potential through compulsive inoculation, their exploitative dream is realized.

Clyde and Caleb’s lives are predestined to intertwine as they cross paths, his history becoming Caleb’s future.

A lone teenager named Jeffrey Parker, falls prey when he manifests the rare, Affinity for the Dead.The Graysheets abandon all pretense of stewardship, ripping him from his family for their nefarious purposes.

Can Jeffrey remain who he was destined to be in an environment exclusively built for mass control?

Review:

This prequel to the Death series was enlightening and revealed a lot about Clyde and Jeffrey Parker. I’m a big fan of Tamara and her writing. This novella was no exception to how much I love her work.

When Jeffrey’s life falls apart as his paranormal powers start to awaken, his life falls apart. The Graysheets take control of his life and he’s changed forever. It was particularly tragic seeing how the Graysheets took over Jeffrey’s life.

I was really excited to get a glimpse of Jeffrey as a teenager. He’s exceptionally smart and precocious. He has to become incredibly tough because of all the trauma he’s gone through. He’s also extremely determined. Jeffrey showed a side of himself that we wouldn’t have otherwise seen.

Seeing Clyde when he was alive was surprising and delightful. Clyde was a great character to explore. On one hand you want his story to have a happy ending on the other hand you know it doesn’t end well. It was tough. I still thought his story was sweet.

I thought the transitions from one story to another were smooth. There was never a sense of being jarred out of your senses or of their being a stilted conversation lag. There’s also romance in the story, but I’ll leave you to read it to find out whose romance it is.

Although I wanted to read even more once the book was through, I didn’t get the sense of an incomplete story. I think all good books leave you with the sense of wanting to prolong the experience no matter what, just like this one did.

Review – Death’s Inception August 21, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 5 stars, Paranormal Romance.
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Title: Death’s Inception

Author: Tamara Rose Blodgett

Publisher: CreateSpace

Publication Date: June 17, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1477424087

Available at: Amazon Barnes and Noble

From Goodreads:

Kyle Ulysses Hart and his team of scientists mapped the human genome in the year 2010. As Brain Impulse Technology came online… so did the long arm of the United States government. A covert, military-driven regime was born with genetic manipulation the key to future widespread control.

When pharmaceutical laboratories, funded by the Graysheets, discover a way to unlock paranormal potential through compulsive inoculation, their exploitative dream is realized.

Clyde and Caleb’s lives are predestined to intertwine as they cross paths, his history becoming Caleb’s future.

A lone teenager named Jeffrey Parker, falls prey when he manifests the rare, Affinity for the Dead.The Graysheets abandon all pretense of stewardship, ripping him from his family for their nefarious purposes.

Can Jeffrey remain who he was destined to be in an environment exclusively built for mass control?

Review:

This prequel to the Death series was enlightening and revealed a lot about Clyde and Jeffrey Parker. I’m a big fan of Tamara and her writing. This novella was no exception to how much I love her work.

When Jeffrey’s life falls apart as his paranormal powers start to awaken, his life falls apart. The Graysheets take control of his life and he’s changed forever. It was particularly tragic seeing how the Graysheets took over Jeffrey’s life.

I was really excited to get a glimpse of Jeffrey as a teenager. He’s exceptionally smart and precocious. He has to become incredibly tough because of all the trauma he’s gone through. He’s also extremely determined. Jeffrey showed a side of himself that we wouldn’t have otherwise seen.

Seeing Clyde when he was alive was surprising and delightful. Clyde was a great character to explore. On one hand you want his story to have a happy ending on the other hand you know it doesn’t end well. It was tough. I still thought his story was sweet.

I thought the transitions from one story to another were smooth. There was never a sense of being jarred out of your senses or of their being a stilted conversation lag. There’s also romance in the story, but I’ll leave you to read it to find out whose romance it is.

Although I wanted to read even more once the book was through, I didn’t get the sense of an incomplete story. I think all good books leave you with the sense of wanting to prolong the experience no matter what, just like this one did.

Review – Throne of Glass August 10, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 5 stars, Fantasy, Young Adult.
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Title: Throne of Glass

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Publication Date: August 7, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1599906959

Available at: Amazon Kindle Barnes & Noble

From the publisher:

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Review:

I had been eagerly awaiting the release of this book since May. I was a little worried that I’d be disappointed but there wasn’t anything to worry about. I was captivated from the first few paragraphs.

At age eighteen Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan’s greatest assassin. She’s spent a year doing hard labor in a salt mine for her crimes. She’s brought before the Crown Prince of Adarlan after that year and she still has her spirit. She hasn’t been broken. She’s been whipped, half-starved, worked to death, and maltreated. Yet she still has fight in her.

As I got to know Celaena, I grew to admire her even more. She was even more resilient then I imagined. Yet she had all the realistic weak spots you’d grow to expect from someone who had spent all that time in a prison camp.

Celaena also had determination. She was understandable physically weak from her year in a prison camp. So to  get in shape for the contest she trained hard. She could have reveled under the feel of what freedom she was afforded and luxuries she had instead she worked hard towards the ultimate goal.

Her romance with Prince Dorian was something! It wasn’t surprising though. It was sweet. It was romantic and I liked it. He was devilishly charming. Only  the whole time they were together I wondered where it would lead to? In fact it added a bit of excitement to it in that it was a bit of a forbidden romance. That question wasn’t answered in this book. Maybe it will be answered in another book.

There was a bit of a love triangle, but it was very well done. There wasn’t any rivalry. Chaol and Dorian are best friends and they want nothing to come between them, especially a woman. Celaena has no designs on being that woman to come between them. Yet there is something there between Chaol and Celaena. It’ll be interesting to see if that’s further explored in upcoming books.

Chaol was more antagonistic towards Celaena, but in the end I liked him for that. Their banter became something I looked forward to. At first I thought he was rather hard-hearted. Eventually though, he softened towards her making him all the more endearing.

There is a mystery in the book. It was very intriguing. I was at a loss until the end of the book. I always love a good mystery. Between the killing of the champions and the tests themselves, it was a very interesting way to go about a book.

I loved this book. I tried not to read it too fast but I couldn’t help myself. If I had another way of making it last longer then I would have taken it. I had a really hard time writing this review and I can’t help but feel that my words haven’t done it justice. I can only urge you guys to read this book yourselves!

Review – If I Stay July 25, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 5 stars, Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult.
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Title: If I Stay

Author: Gayle Forman

Publication Date:  April 6, 2010

Publisher: Speak

ISBN-10: 014241543X

Available at: AmazonBarnes and Noble

Summary:

After a crushing car accident, Mia is torn from her family and ripped from her body. A talented cellist, she relives her life’s precious moments with her family, boyfriend, and friends.  She’s forced to come to the decision of whether or not she should stay or if she should go.

Review:

This book was astounding. It was just breathtaking. Mia was real and alive and you could sympathize with her from the first page to the last.  Shy and insecure away from the cello, she comes alive with her music. She has only a few friends, but she’s loyal to those few that she has.

Mia comes from a family of extroverts and she’s a decided introvert. She’s a classical music lover and they’re all rock’n’roll. Yet their love for one another is deep and abiding. It shines throughout the book and it makes itself known. I loved that about this book. That alone made this a “feel good” book.

Another “feel good” aspect of this book was Mia’s relationship with her brother Teddy. They had a close bond that was hard to break. I thought that was endearing and touching.

Adam and Mia were a great couple. They were real, with flaws, and totally believable. Their flaws didn’t make them any less romantic. Although for one moment in the story that I thought was a bit far-fetched and I had to stretch my imagination a bit as far as Adam was concerned. I tried to tell myself that he was really, really desperate so he really, really wasn’t thinking.

Aside from that, the book brought up some very deep feelings. I’m not ashamed to admit I leaked tears at one point of the book. It was just good. As you read the book, you know that whatever Mia decides, whether she stays, whether she goes, it will be heartbreak. It was heartbreak. What she did decide, made me realize where the author would lead on to another book and I was so glad for that.

Whatever you do, don’t let this book pass you by. You’ll regret it. It’s unforgettable.

Review – Blackbirds June 20, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 5 stars, Paranormal.
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Title: Blackbirds

Author: Chuck Wendig

Genre: Paranormal

Publisher: Angry Robot

Publish Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN-10: 0857662295

Available at: AmazonBarnes and Noble

Summary:

Miriam Black can see the last minutes and seconds of a person’s life, but she can’t do anything to stop their death. She lives on the fringes of society, robbing the dead. When she meets Louis, a truck driver, she sees him die a horrible death and she’s involved. If she’s to survive she needs to somehow find a way to stop Fate and save Louis and in so doing, save herself.

Review:

Miriam is a damaged soul. Whenever she touches someone skin on skin, she sees their last moments on Earth. This drives her a little crazy. She somehow ends up in Louis’ truck and he’s not like most of the road scum she meets. He’s decent and kind. She doesn’t expect that, but when she sees his death she catapults out of his truck and into the arms of Ashley.

Ashley turns out to be a con-artist who has been on her trail for months. He found out about her and he manipulates her into a partnership. Unfortunately he has bad guys after him.

Just the interplay between Ashley, Louis, and Miriam could have withstood a book on its own. Ashley is a conniving, manipulative, opportunistic character. Miriam is still attracted to him because he’s charming, but at the same time she’s repulsed by him. Especially when she finds out what he’s really all about.

Whereas Louis is the epitome of the knight in shining armor. He’s a hulk of man yet he’s gentle and kind. He treats Miriam with nothing but respect and she’s not used to that. I think that throws her for a loop. She’s used to be treated like garbage yet here she is being treated like a lady. Add to that the fact that she thinks he’s going to die in a horrible fashion in about a month. She ends up rejecting him.

Miriam is a complex character. She’s tortured by the death scenes she sees every time she touches someone. She drowns them out with alcohol and she smokes too much. But she’s a survivor. Miriam manages to get out of one tough situation after another. She also feels terrible guilt for what she’s doing, but she manages to talk herself out of it time and again. That’s another reason why she keeps drinking.

The story was a bang bang action packed adventure. Between Miriam’s penchant for trouble and the torturing bad guys there was never a dull moment. Miriam was always on the run. From her visions, from the bad guys, from her past. The only question was when was everything going to catch up with her.

This story was dark and thrilling. A thoroughly enjoyable ride!

Review – Masque of the Red Death June 3, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 5 stars, Fantasy.
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Title: Masque of the Red Death

Author: Bethany Griffin

Genre: Dystopian Fantasy

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Publish Date: April 24, 2012

ISBN-10: 0062107798

Available at: AmazonBarnes and Noble

Summary: 

The plague has taken over the city. The rich hide themselves away in the upper city and seek pleasure at places like the Debauchery Club. Prince Prospero rules with an iron hand. Araby Worth seeks the means to obliterate the memory of the loss of her twin brother. Instead she meets Will, a handsome brother of two young siblings that works at the club and Elliot, an arrogant but charming aristocrat.

Review:

This was an extraordinary book of amazing imagery. From the first scene where you see them taking bodies out to the corpse takers to the lower city where the poor live, it’s gritty and it’s grimy.

Araby is a multi-layered character. She’s vulnerable yet she can be tough in certain situations. She’s resourceful. She’s compassionate and she’s strong. I found myself admiring her throughout the book. Her grief over the loss of her brother was palatable. She had no source of comfort which most likely prolonged it.

I usually don’t care for love triangles. I mostly find them tiresome and annoying, but this one was tense and exciting. Elliot was an intriguing character and I never knew what he was going to do next. Will was exactly what I would have wanted in a lead man but he you never could tell if Araby was going to suddenly fall for Elliot. The tension between the two men made it even more dangerous.

The atmosphere in the city was exciting too. Between the plague and the rebellion that was stirring it was action packed. There was never a dull moment and I couldn’t stop pressing my Kindle button. There were a lot of surprises in the plot too. I won’t say what they were for fear of spoiling the book.

The story ends on a cliffhanger but I still got the sense of fullfillment to a certain extent. I didn’t feel like there was any sense of an incomplete story. Yes, there were a lot of unanswered questions, but at the same time the book ended just as they were about to embark on another adventure. Not as they were in the middle of one.

I’ve never read Poe’s short story so I’m not sure how closely this matches to his masterpiece, but I love this story for what it is. It’s a fantastic read!

Review – Insurgent May 31, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 5 stars, Sci-Fi, Young Adult.
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Title: Insurgent

Author: Veronica Roth

Genre: Dystopian Science Fiction

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Publish Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN-10: 0062024043

Available at: AmazonBarnes and Noble

(This review contains some spoilers if you haven’t read book one.)

Summary:

From Goodreads:

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

Review:

This second books was just as good or maybe even better than the first book, Divergent. The action is much more highly concentrated. Tobias’ and Tris’ relationship gets even more complicated.

The complications are completely realistic and I loved how practical their relationship became. Instead of a highly idealistic version of love, they had a completely reasonable version of what it would be like to have two teenagers in love in the midst of war.

The danger in the book had me breathless. As Tris became more like an Abnegation in her selfless behavior she also became more Dauntless with her bravery, showing the two intermingle. Perhaps she showed just how Divergent she truly was or perhaps she showed how Divergent everyone was.

As we get to know Tris and Tobias more in book two, we understand their motives more and appreciate them better. At the same time Tobias remains somewhat of a mystery since it’s not his perspective we see the world from.

Veronica Roth continued with the surprises she had with book one onto book two. My head spun with the plots twists and turns. It was a joyful ride!

The book ends in a cliffhanger which left me yearning for book three. I’m sure it’ll be worth it!

Review – Divergent May 30, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 5 stars, Sci-Fi, Young Adult.
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Title: Divergent

Author: Veronica Roth

Genre: Dystopian Science Fiction

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Publish Date: May 3, 2011

ISBN-10: 0062024035

Available at: AmazonBarnes and Noble

Summary: 

Beatrice Prior must choose among five factions: Candor (the honest); Abregation (the selfless); Dauntless (the brave); Amity (the peaceful); and Erudite (the intelligent. Her choice is made the more difficult when she finds her aptitude test scores show that she doesn’t fit in any of the groups.  Her decision will also either keep her with her family or tear her away from them forever.

Review:

This book was fantastic. It was fraught with just the right amount of tension. From the romance to the trials and tribulations Beatrice goes through, it was a wild ride.

Beatrice, who takes on the name Tris, makes a difficult choice. At the age of 16 she shows a maturity beyond her years. Yet at the same time Roth manages to show that she’s still a vulnerable youth in those instances where it matters most.

Each character flew off the page and into my heart. From Tris to Four to Al, they all found a way to come to life. Even the minor characters had a vivacity to them that you don’t find in most books.

While this is a character driven novel, you can still feel the grunge of the city that they live in. From the racing trains to the dilapidated building, the world they lived in was alive.

The plot twists kept me surprised and on my toes each and every step of the way. Nothing was quite predictable except maybe the romance. Even that managed to surprise me now and then. While the characters were unique and unlike any I’ve come across, the plot was also quite very different from the norm.

I applaud Roth’s debut novel. It was a show stopper.