Tag Archives: fiction

Book Review of Renegades by Thomas Locke

A Recruits Novel

Once again Thomas Locke’s novel entertained on Thomas Lockemultiple levels. He starts right out with a kidnapping, snarling gangsters and rebellious twins at a military academy. From there you know you’re in for an entertaining action adventure. The book begins with two main plot lines in clearly delineated chapters. As with many of Locke’s books, you know they’ll converge so you read on, enjoying the plot set-ups, as you anxiously anticipate their interaction.

The story is heavily testosterone driven with the twins, Sean and Dillon, and the military dudes, Logan and Vance. Female generals’s and a female advocate keeps it modern and adds balance. Although peppered with romance, the romance is a side element to the story, more of an admittance that romance is an element of life than a predominating plot point.

Teleportation and telepathy play a primary role in the main characters. Sean can project his mental vision outward in order to “hunt” for the information he wants, and the twins can both  jump to any location they know. The military team Logan put together, from the ragtag of adepts he assembled from book one, boasts similar powers.

As the second in the Recruits series, Renegades stands on its own nicely. References to the first story provide a little background, but the story doesn’t rely on you having read the first book. Undoubtedly, the first book will prove an equally fun read. I haven’t read it, but expect to enjoy it when I have time.

Thomas Locke’s Social Commentary

As with all good sci-fi the story-line functions as a vehicles for the authors views on life and/or society. Locke writes about things as he would like them to be, in specific, how people get alone, support each other and work together. His views come out in his depiction of interpersonal relationships. Many novels emphasize conflict between characters, in particular within family. Locke depicts the twins, Dillon and Sean, as an examples of how brothers can interact with respect, understanding and support for each other’s individuality.

Military scenes are similar. Interactions among the team Logan put together show how a trusting team can work. It may not be realistic, but that doesn’t distract from the story. In fact it makes it better.

Book Review of Renegades by Thomas LockeRenegades (Recruits) by Thomas Locke
Published by Fleming H. Revell Company on November 7th 2017
Genres: Novella, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Goodreads

Twins Sean and Dillon are using their transit abilities for good--but not everyone sees it that way. Arrested and imprisoned by a clandestine group within the highest reaches of the Human Assembly, Sean and Dillon are forced to choose sides between those who wish to serve and those who seek to rule. At the same time within a distant outpost system, a young soldier is coming into his own. Logan has known since childhood that he possessed a special ability--a distinct form of transiting called ghost-walking. Though ghost-walking has been outlawed for centuries, Logan is secretly drawing together a crew for a risky quest. The fates of these three young men will lead them, along with the entire Assembly, to the brink of destruction in this inventive tale of adventure, honor, and the things worth fighting for.

Review of Splinters by Fiona J. R. Titchenell & Matt Carter

The Prospero Chronicles #1

Fion Titchenell and Matt Carter co-author the Prospero Chronicles. In book one Ben goes to a funeral of an old friend where he becomes an by Fiona Titchenell and Matt Carterunintentional participant in an alien species’ quest to take over the world.

We follow the story from both Ben and Mina’s perspective in 1st person. Each chapter clearly delineates the perspective, so there is not confusion.

The story is often told with tongue-in-cheek humor. In many ways this horror story is wrapped in humor, the young fresh carefree humor of youth.

Fiona Titchenell and Matt Carter Collaboration

Spliters is one of a series of three in the collaboration of Fiona J. R. Titchenell and Matt Carter. An interview on Smashwords with Titchenell describes the process they use to work together.

“When Matt and I are working on a project together, we construct the outline together and then mostly alternate the chapters between us, so we’ll be writing a pair of chapters concurrently, then we’ll trade them, make notes to each other, adjust accordingly, and continue on to the next pair… It usually takes us about four drafts to get a manuscript ready for an outside editor. Draft two fixes major continuity errors and adds in any parts we wanted to include but forgot in draft one. Draft three cuts the fat and smooths emotional continuity, and Draft four is usually down to fine-tuning.”

Bravo for their process and the results of their co-creating.

Chapter 1 Analysis

Many first chapters set up the challenge of the protagonist and give a good sense of the setting.  Splinters provides a solid setting, while it oozes with clues. Some clues may mislead the reader until they dive further into the book. The first chapter end leaves readers with a pile of questions to peak their interest…

An abundant use of commas pepper a multitude of run-on sentences. The commas can be distracting. Short sentences periodically break the run-on sentences up and help create much needed white space, but a cleaner punctuation style might work better.

Review of Splinters by Fiona J. R. Titchenell & Matt CarterSplinters by Fiona J.R. Titchenell, Matt Carter
Series: The Prospero Chronicles #1
Published by Createspace on June 6th 2017
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Goodreads

Under normal circumstances, Ben and Mina would never have had reason to speak to each other. He’s an easy-going people person with a healthy skepticism about the paranormal; she’s a dangerously obsessive monster-hunter with a crippling fear of betrayal. But the small Northern California town of Prospero, with its rich history of cryptid sightings, miracles, and mysterious disappearances, has no normal circumstances to offer.

When Ben’s missing childhood friend, Haley Perkins, stumbles out of Prospero’s surrounding woods and right into her own funeral, Ben and Mina are forced to work together to uncover what happened to her. Different as they are, their unlikely friendship may be the only thing that can save the town, and possibly the world, from its insidious invaders.

“A snapping, crackling, popping homage to classic horror.” —Kirkus Reviews.

“Whip-smart dialogue... genuinely terrifying Splinters, the descriptions of which will have fans of monster films utterly enthralled... A promising series opener, this will satisfy those readers who like their scary stories to be as clever as they are chilling." —KQG, the Bulletin of The Center for Children's Books.

“The stakes are high. The action is intense." —Washington Independent Review of Books.

Book Review, The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

Sara Zarr takes us into the world of classical piano competitions in The Lucy Variations.  At the beginning of the story, we find  that Lucy walked off stage at one of the highest level competitions. Her Sara Zarrfamily did not take it well. From there, Lucy must navigate within her new world, a world without playing piano.

Although her family pushed her beyond her emotional limit, Lucy’s passion for music remains clear. Her life doesn’t feel complete without it. While struggling to determine her own compass among the adults who control her life, she befriends her brother’s teacher. His affect on her life, a gift or a burden, we must read to determine.

By placing Lucy in the world of competitive music, which few of us are familiar with, Zarr creates a coming-of-age story that takes you out of your world and yet is very understandable. We can all relate to the pressures Lucy feels, the betrayals she confronts, and her struggle to do what she knows is right for herself. Lucy works through her issues like a true heroine, someone we’d like to emulate if we were in a similar situation.

Accolades for Sara Zarr

Sara Zarr writes stories with strong female heroines. She received the National Book Award Finalist for Story of a Girl. The National Book Foundation conducted an interview with her after the award.

POV questionable at times, written in 3rd close but sometimes I questioned whether it was 1st because

Book Review, The Lucy Variations by Sara ZarrThe Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
on May 7th 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult, Coming of Age
Pages: 309
Goodreads

Lucy Beck-Moreau once had a promising future as a concert pianist. The right people knew her name, her performances were booked months in advance, and her future seemed certain.
That was all before she turned fourteen.
Now, at sixteen, it's over. A death, and a betrayal, led her to walk away. That leaves her talented ten-year-old brother, Gus, to shoulder the full weight of the Beck-Moreau family expectations. Then Gus gets a new piano teacher who is young, kind, and interested in helping Lucy rekindle her love of piano -- on her own terms. But when you're used to performing for sold-out audiences and world-famous critics, can you ever learn to play just for yourself?
The Lucy Variations is a story of one girl's struggle to reclaim her love of music and herself. It's about finding joy again, even when things don't go according to plan. Because life isn't a performance, and everyone deserves the chance to make a few mistakes along the way.

The Humming Room by Ellen Potter Book Review

Humming Room by Ellen PotterEllen Potter starts The Humming Room with a young girl, Roo, hiding while state troopers search her parent’s trailer. The scene seemed foreboding and not what I expect in a middle grade book. By the end of the chapter I feared for Roo, either her parents died or committed a terrible crime. One imagines the mystery of what happened the challenge of the story, but that plot line evaporated more quickly then it arrived. The mystery remained unresolved, making it incongruous to the rest of the story.

In the next chapter Roo moves in with her uncle on the isolated Cough Island, where a new world introduces new mysteries. Two housekeepers attempt protecting Roo from something undefined, but with little effect. New mysteries appear everywhere.  A Faigne or phantom boy skirts around the river, stirring Roo’s imagination. Humming in the walls entice her, while rumors of her uncle killing his wife haunts her. Bottom line, there is no lack of mysteries in Potter’s novel. All, but the first mystery is resolved by the end. What happens to the parents is never addressed, only that Roo loved her father, who looked like her uncle.

Roo proves a confrontational personality, but one I grew to embrace. Each chapter of the story left me wondering what comes next. The plethora of mysteries drives the story, but its core revolves around Roo building relationships and establishing her equilibrium.

Ellen Potter Builds on Sounds

I like how Potter incorporates sounds in her story. She builds Roo’s character on the girl’s listening ability. From the opening scene, with Roo under the trailer listening to the state troupers’ boots above, to the end. Even the title, The Humming, reflects Potter’s obsession with sound. The story weaves what Roo hears into every scene. The sounds of the river and swishing of oars, flapping of a bat’s wing and swish of a crane overhead all serve to enliven the read. We question the squirrel’s chatter who befriends Roo, and the unidentifiable crying she hears. Neither do we miss the humming in the walls of her uncle’s mansion. Perhaps most distinctive is Roo’s ability to hear sounds in the earth when she puts her head to the ground, which is a thread at the beginning and end of the story, tying it together.

The World Listening Project announced the theme for World Listening Day which occurs annually–scheduled for July 18th, 2017 this year. The theme will be “Listening to the ground”

The Humming Room by Ellen Potter Book ReviewThe Humming Room by Ellen Potter
Published by Feiwel & Friends on February 28th 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade, Mystery, Young Adult
Pages: 192
Goodreads

Hiding is Roo Fanshaw's special skill. Living in a frighteningly unstable family, she often needs to disappear at a moment's notice. When her parents are murdered, it's her special hiding place under the trailer that saves her life.
As it turns out, Roo, much to her surprise, has a wealthy if eccentric uncle, who has agreed to take her into his home on Cough Rock Island. Once a tuberculosis sanitarium for children of the rich, the strange house is teeming with ghost stories and secrets. Roo doesn't believe in ghosts or fairy stories, but what are those eerie noises she keeps hearing? And who is that strange wild boy who lives on the river? People are lying to her, and Roo becomes determined to find the truth.
Despite the best efforts of her uncle's assistants, Roo discovers the house's hidden room--a garden with a tragic secret.
Inspired by The Secret Garden, this tale full of unusual characters and mysterious secrets is a story that only Ellen Potter could write.

Rebel, Reboot #2 by Amy Tintera; a scifi action adventure

Redd Becker Book Review

Rebel (Reboot, #2)

Tintera writes a griping science fiction action story placed in a dystopian future world. From the start, each scene creates tension and puts the reader on edge. Layer upon layer of subplot intertwine as characters appear. Conflict builds as each character moves toward their goal. 

Rebel is the second book in Tintera’s Reboot series.  As in Reboot, people who die come back to life. In rebirth they are stronger, faster and can quickly regenerate themselves when hurt. Their ability to feel emotions, however, comes under questioned. Normal humans fear them, so the reboots are imprisoned and used as slaves.

Characters in Rebel, Reboot #2

When Callum 22 and Wren 178 escape from the Austin HARC detention facility, they free other reboots and find a reboot reservation where they hope to live in peace. To their surprise, the reservation of Reboots are planning a revolt and revenge on humans that neither Callum or Wren believe is good.

Tintera invests in character development. Two protagonists tell the story from  first person perspective providing empathy to their journey. And true to science fiction the story brings up questions of the ethics of technological manipulations to human lives.

Check out Amy Tintera’s book trailer.

Rebel, Reboot #2 by Amy Tintera; a scifi action adventureRebel (Reboot, #2) by Amy Tintera
Series: Reboot #2
Published by HarperTeen on May 13th 2014
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 340
Goodreads

Wren Connolly thought she'd left her human side behind when she dies five years ago and came back 178 minutes later as a Reboot. With her new abilities of strength, speed, and healing—along with a lack of emotions—Wren 178 became the perfect soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation). Then Callum 22 came along and changed everything.
Now that they've both escaped, they're ready to start a new life in peace on the Reboot reservation. But Micah 163, the Reboot running the reservation, has darker plans in mind: to wipe out the humans. All of them. Micah has been building a Reboot army for years and is now ready to launch his attack on the cities. Callum wants to stick around and protect the humans. Wren wants nothing more than to leave all the fighting behind them.
With Micah on one side, HARC on the other, and Wren and Callum at odds in the middle, there's only one option left...
It's time for Reboots to become rebels.

the Calling by Rachelle Dekker

Redd Becker Book Review

The Calling (Seer #2) byI picked up The Calling because of the cover. I wanted a male hero who struggles with the care of his family. This is that, although Remko also struggles with his relationship to his inner-beliefs.

A band of rebells, the Seers, hide outside their city and conduct gorilla warfare in an attempt to gain personal freedom for their people. The Seer’s enigmatic leader, Aaron, is seldom with the group, but he provides them each with the spiritual strength and guidance they need.

A change in president ramps up the urgency of their rebellion. When scientists experiment using drugs to erase  citizen’s memories and their desire for  freedom the Seers respond.

Remko acts as the Seer’s defense specialist, organizing and carrying out raids into the city to bring others out or to save those arrested by  authority. His conviction to Aaron is in question, but his love for his wife and child commit him to the cause. As the book progresses it is Remko’s internal battle to understand his spirit that drives the story and puts everything in the balance.

The Christian elements of The Calling

The Calling is a Christian action adventure in a dystopian world. There are many elements linking Christianity in The Calling. Their leader Aaron can appear anywhere and any time to provide his disciples emotional support. Love of family is only trumped by love of their spiritual leader. The title itself brings Christianity to mind. But the Christian elements don’t need to detract from the story. Most cultures have similar spiritual and ethical struggles.

For another perspective check out The Artist Librarian‘s review.

the Calling by Rachelle DekkerThe Calling (Seer #2) by Rachelle Dekker
Series: Seer #2
Published by Tyndale House Publishers on March 8th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Religious, Dystopian
Pages: 441
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
four-stars

Remko Brant had never been so sure of anything as escaping the Authority City with Carrington Hale. But bravado comes easy when you have nothing to lose. Now a husband, father, and the tactical leader of the Seers, Remko has never had so much at risk.
As he and his team execute increasingly dangerous rescue missions inside the city, they face growing peril from a new enemy. Recently appointed Authority President Damien Gold claims to be guiding a city shaken by rebellion into a peaceful, harmonious future. But appearances can be deceiving. In order to achieve his dangerous ambitions, Gold knows he must do more than catch the rebels--he must destroy the hope their message represents . . . from the inside out.
With dissension in his own camp--and the CityWatch soldiers closing in--Remko feels control slipping through his fingers. To protect those he loves, he must conquer his fears and defeat Gold . . . before one of them becomes his undoing.

Defender by Graham McNamee; trust is the root of family

 Redd Becker Book Review

Defender by Graham McNameeDefender is a quick read at 226 pages. Teens can relate to the six-foot-six female basketball player from the ghetto who tells the story in first person.While Graham McNamee captures family dynamics and boyfriend issues through his Tiny’s eye, great dialogue and the voice of the narrator carry the book.

The plot was predictable in the beginning. I could almost write the script, but the voice of the narrator kept me reading.  With few words used, scene locations come alive. It’s an enviable writing style teens should appreciate. There were, however, few twists, but most of the ending was satisfying.

Tiny finds a mummified body in the basement of the tenement where her family lives and her father works. When her dad hides the body and tries to convince Tiny she hallucinated it, Tiny and her boyfriend Stick want to find out more, but who can they trust. Suspecting her dad of the murder almost destroys Tiny’s relationship with him.

For those who enjoy writing: This is a good example of teen dialogue acceptable to wide audiences.

My Rating three-stars

 

Defender by Graham McNamee; trust is the root of familyDefender by Graham McNamee
Published by Wendy Lamb Books on April 12th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 227
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
three-half-stars

They call her Tiny, but Tyne Greer is six foot six, a high school basketball star who is hoping the game will be her ticket out of the slum. She lives in a run-down building called The Zoo, where her father is the superintendent. One day she discovers a crack in the wall of an abandoned basement room. And sealed up in the wall is a girl’s body. Horrified, she runs to get her dad. But after he goes to take a look, he comes back and tells Tyne that nothing’s there. No girl. No body. He tells her she must be seeing things in the dark.
Tyne is sure it was real, though, and when she finds evidence that the body was moved from the hole in the wall, she knows the only one who could have done it is her father. But why? What is he hiding?
Tyne’s search for answers uncovers a conspiracy of secrets and lies in her family. The closer she gets to the truth, the more dangerous it becomes for her. Because some will do anything to bury the past…and keep her silent.