Specials – Scott Westerfield

ISBN 978-1-4424-1979-7 Published by Simon Pulse

Tally thought they were a rumor, but now she’s one of them.  A Special.  A super-amped fighting machine, engineered to keep the uglies down and the pretties stupid.

But maybe being perfectly programmed with strength and focus isn’t better than anything she’s ever known.  Tally still has memories of something else.

Still, it’s easy to tune that out – until she’s offered a chance to stamp out the rebels of the New Smoke permanently.  It all comes down to one last choice, listen to this tiny, faint heartbeat, or carry out the mission she’s programmed to complete.  Either way, Tally’s world will never be the same.

 

Tally is special.  She knows it, and she is.  She is a Special.  A person with outstanding abilities and is able to bring down the smokies… if they could find them.

Tally is now a cutter, along with Shay after being taken back and specialised, but when one of their forays goes horribly wrong, they have to leave.  With Tally’s boyfriend being taken to the New Smoke, Tally and Shay have to keep track of them, and keep one step ahead.  But even when they reach the new smoke, the discoveries aren’t quite what they all expected, especially when Shay and the Cutters all take the cure.

This was a fantastic way to complete the trilogy of the three stories, and there is an interesting twist at the end of the story, that caught me by surprise.

Extra’s is the next story, but from my understanding, it doesn’t follow on the story of Tally, Shay or the rest of the Cutters / Crims.

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Uglies – Scott Westerfield

Uglies – Scott Westerfield

Simon Pulse – ISBN 978-1-4169-3638-1

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait.  In just a few weeks she’ll have the operation that will turn her from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty.  And as a pretty, she’ll be catapulted into a high-tech paradise where her only job is to have fun.

But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to become a pretty.  When Shay runs away, Talley learns about a whole new side of the pretty world – and it isn’t pretty.  The authorities offer Tally a choice: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all.  Tally’s choice will change her world forever…

The librarian recommended this book to me and I am pleased that I have read it.  An intriguing series of books which starts with Uglies and is set some time in the future, after the rusties have all passed on.  The world is dominated by a new system, where pretty’s live in a world of their own, and everyone wants to be pretty.

But Shay decides she wants to go to the “Smoke” a mythical city populated by uglies who have refused the operation.  What Tally doesn’t know is that the Smoke turns out to be a place of fascination and wonder and while she is sent to betray her friend, she realises that there is more to life than being pretty.

I found this story easy to follow and read.  Even though it is set in the future, the characters are well rounded with flaws that every teenager could relate to.  They are rebellious with a good streak running through them.  When they learn the dark secret that the Specials have kept hidden from them, it changes all of their lives and Tally goes from being a teenager on the verge of changing to one who questions everything that is thrown at her.

The Supernaturalist – Eoin Colfer

2004 – Puffin Books ISBN 0-141-31741-8

Satelite City, Northern Hemisphere, Soon:

 Cosmo Hill is a human guinea pig in an orphanage used by corporations to test new products.  Statistics say he has about a year left to live – unless he escapes.  But escapes to what?

To a world of high-tech gang warfare, swat teams of paralegals and a plague of four-fingered parasites who are invisible to everyone except three misfits who call themselves Supernaturalists.

Could Cosmo be one of them?  Are they the family he’s always wanted? And if he does become a Supernaturalist, will his life get any longer – or a whole lot shorter?

 Eoin Colfer can spin a yarn and make you feel like it is real.  He manages to sucker you into a world of fairies (Artemis Fowl) or in this case, a futuristic city full of dangers and hardships.  I love the way he tells the story, gets to the guts of the problem and lays it out for the reader to work it out.

This story revolves around a boy named Cosmo Hill (because he was found on Cosmonaut Hill).  He lives in an orphanage, because he has no parental sponsors and life is tough for no sponsors.  And at 14, chances are getting shorter by the day of ever getting a sponsor.

An accident one day leads to him and his cuffmate escaping, but escaping into what?  They are chased by the warden and fall from the top of a tall building, where they are left for dead.  His cuffmate is dead, but Cosmo is rescued by three motley kids from the life sucking parasites.  When he says he can see the creatures, they reluctantly take him with them back to their lair.

So begins the adventure of Cosmo and the Supernaturalists.  With the most briefest of trainings, Cosmo, complete with lightning rod, heads out with the others to remove the world of the Parasites, but are they helping or hindering.

The way the story is told sucks you in from the first chapter, and leaves you gasping for breath as you read the final chapter, and clearly Mr Colfer has more stories in mind, because he has left the ending open for them.  I hope to get my hands on them soon.

The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse – review

What happens when we die? 

This has been the third question on mankind’s FAQ list since the dawn of time (numbers one and two being: Is this edible? and Excuse me, would you care to breed?). 

I know what happens. Believe me, I’d rather not. But I do. 

There is a lighthouse, and it guides our souls along the narrow path to being reborn as humans. It’s the light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, as my undead granddad and the Tibetan special mission monk in my kitchen have kindly told me, there’s a problem with the lighthouse. And if the world is to be saved, someone needs to fix it.  Which is where I come in: George Larson, eighteen years old. Who could possibly be better suited to save the world? 

Well, almost anyone. Especially as being a teenage guy is nothing at all about question three but all about questions one and two.  And really, that’s complicated enough as it is.

This is the first release from new publisher on the block Steam Press, by Swedish author, Fredrik Brounéus. Firmly set in the landscape of the South Island of New Zealand, it brings together fantasy elements with science fiction, and perhaps what some might consider horror elements – I mean, it has a zombie, though he only seems to be worried about his next coffee fix. Your brains are safe.

From the get-go, this book was making me smile. The main character, George, is very likable, and Brounéus has nailed the late teen, kiwi male perspective. He made for an amusing protagonist, and one that I could get behind. I wanted him to ‘win’ though I wasn’t sure what that might entail, being that there is a great deal of mystery surrounding what it is he’s meant to be doing.

I was drawn right into that mystery, and had to read on to find out what on earth was going on. Eventually all the clues, hints and suggestions become clear in a grand reveal that blew my mind. LOVE the concepts in this book, though I don’t want to say too much as I don’t want to ruin it for you. If you like your humor mixed with some action, some mysticism, philosophy and science, then I think you might really enjoy this book. I adored the footnotes (a really nice change from reading footnotes in research articles!), the drawings and the easy to engage with style that this book is written in.

If you are keen to check it out, head over to Steam Press and read a sample!

Pure – Julianna Baggott

We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . . 

Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run. 

Burn a Pure and Breathe the Ash . . . 

There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss-maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it’s his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her. 

When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again.

This is a dark, bleak, beautifully written book that was, at times, uncomfortable to read. It’s set in the future, where only those in the Dome remain pure, and those outside have been fused with whatever they were close to when the Detonation occurred. Most of the country is doing it’s best to survive, clutching at hope wherever they can find it.

There is quite a wide cast of characters, with several semi-romantic pairings – this was actually nice, considering SO many YA novels have a strong romantic thread in them. I think my favourite characters were Pressia, Bradwell, and El-Capitan, they were the ones that stood out for me most – or perhaps it was just that I felt greater compassion for them as they were the wretches. Pressia and Bradwell have this sweet, subtle swell of emotion between them and I couldn’t help but hope they would both make it out of the book alive. Partridge and Lyda, the two main Pure’s in the book were less engaging for me, though I can’t really place my finger on why.

Although the book had a slow build up, I am pleased I stuck with it. I found myself quite caught up in this new vision of the world, it was creepy on so many levels, but I couldn’t help but see a kind of beauty in the mutation of the wretches. There is a scene with a group of mothers, their babies and children now literally a part of their bodies. I could see myself as one of them, so often are my young ones in my arms.

If I had one criticism of the book it would be that there were a lot of coincidences and people/items/information showing up at JUST the right time. I think this was mainly down to the fact that the two main characters didn’t really have any idea about what was happening behind the scenes. I am hoping that happens less in the next book, but regardless, will certainly be giving it a read to see what happens next.

Anyways… it’s a good book, if you like dark and uncomfortable reads. I think some readers will love it, and others may find that it’s not their cup of tea.

Horizon – Aftertime #3

Cass Dollar is a survivor. She’s overcome the meltdown of civilization, humans turned mindless cannibals, and the many evils of man.

But from beneath the devastated California landscape emerges a tendril of hope. A mysterious traveler arrives at New Eden with knowledge of a passageway North—a final escape from the increasingly cunning Beaters. Clutching this dream, Cass and many others decamp and follow him into the unknown.

Journeying down valleys and over barren hills, Cass remains torn between two men. One—her beloved Smoke—is not so innocent as he once was. The other keeps a primal hold on her that feels like Fate itself. And beneath it all, Cass must confront the worst of what’s inside her—dark memories from when she was a Beater herself. But she, and all of the other survivors, will fight to the death for the promise of a new horizon….

This is the third installment in the Aftertime series, of which I read and reviewed the second novel, Rebirth, last year. I saw that it had come up on NetGalley and immediately requested a copy. The second book was really well written for the most part, even though I had some issues with it. In any event, I was eager to see what happened next.

Horizon is set several months after the end of Rebirth. I found this quite jarring, as I wanted to know what happened between the end of the second and beginning of the third books. I got over that soon enough though and found myself being caught up in the story.

I really enjoyed this novel. It blew my mind, punched me in the gut and ruined my ability to read other books for days. Nothing I’ve started since has stacking up with this one. It’s very well written, a fine balance between forwarding the story and also filling in some of the blanks that had been left in the previous two novels (well, I assume they were blanks from the information in the book as I haven’t read the first one yet!).

There is a whole range of new characters in New Eden, but once again this story is about Cass, who has fallen off the wagon and seems caught up in another round of quiet self-destruction. That is until the Beaters learn to swim and threaten to devour their little settlement, forcing everyone to abandon their once safe haven and try to find a new home.

The Beaters were pretty absent in Rebirth – it was less about them, and more about the Rebuilders – so in some senses this was my first real exposure to them. OMG. So good. I love zombies and these ones do not disappoint. I could feel the overall tension building throughout the novel and by the time I’d got less than halfway I had entered the ‘can’t-put-it-down’ zone.

Sophie Littlefield has done an amazing job on this novel. I love all the little plot points that were woven in, the way the characters are all so real and vital, so present in their lives. I loved it when Cass realized she needed to get sober, get herself straight, not for someone else, but for herself, and I LOVED the way the romance line resolved itself. I loved the way relationships changed, evolved, shattered, renewed.

This book had me in tears at the end. Even with three kids running around the house, interrupting me every other page. It’s a dark novel in places, an ‘on-the-edge-of-your-seat’ read at others, but the underlying strength of the characters, their ability to cling to hope in spite of such horrific circumstances is beautiful.

And that is what I was left with. A sense of hope.

So good.

I definitely recommend this book. I’m going to have to go back and read the first one now.

Review: Dauntless

Dauntless
Dauntless by Jack Campbell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

John “Black Jack” Geary wakes up from cryosleep to find 100 years have passed and he is now a legendary hero. Lost in a decisive battle with the Syndic Alliance, Geary’s actions have made him a hero. Now he has been found by the Fleet cruiser Dauntless, and brought back to life in the middle of a war that has dehumanised both sides and brought them to the brink of collapse.

Geary just wants to crawl away somewhere and live out his life. But when command of the decimated fleet lands in his lap, he must find the courage to bring these tired soldiers home.

Dauntless was a fast, enjoyable read. Though at times dark, Geary’s determination to get his people home keeps the story positive. It’s fairly technical-heavy, but if those bits don’t interest you, you can skim them without losing the thread of the story.

I found most of the characters well-drawn and interesting, though a few grated on me with their unrelenting stupidity. There was also a fair bit of preaching from Geary, but believable in the context of the story.

Overall I enjoyed reading the story and will certainly continue with the series to find out how they get home.