0.4 by Mike Lancaster

0.4
by Mike Lancaster
ISBN-13: 9-781405-253048
Rating: 4 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it

“My name is Kyle Straker and I don’t exist anymore.”

So begins the story of Kyle Straker, recorded on old audio tapes. You might think these tapes are a hoax. But perhaps they contain the history of a past world…

If what the tapes say are true, it means that everything we think we know is a lie.

And if everything is a lie, does that mean we are too?

0.4 is such a neat book. I’ve read my share of humans-as-computers, and the way Mike Lancaster tackles the idea is very cool. I have to say right up front, though, that the book’s format had me immediately thinking back to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (both books are written with the idea that the book is a transcript of found audio tapes). However, the inserted notes, forwards and afterwords of 0.4 was quite different. so though the concept is the same, the execution was unique.

The whole idea of the book is that it is a transcription of the Straker Tapes, and account left by Kyle Straker in the early 21st century, that details the events of the time period. From the first page, we realize that the future if quite different from our present. The story follows Kyle, Lilly and two adults, Kate and Mr. Peterson as they realize that something has happened to their town – in fact, something has happened to the whole world – and they have been ‘left behind,’ as it were.

The atmosphere of the writing as Kyle tells his story is full of anxiety, fear and sadness. Kyle’s tapes are a plea to the world to not forget those who had been left after the events that took place (it’s hard not to give anything away!). The imagery, the tiny ‘footnotes’ inserted by the author explaining everyday things that are no longer around (like reality tv! hehe), and the broken or missing parts of the narrative (from cut off tapes and interruptions)_all lend the story a realistic quality. A great story for anyone who likes an apocalypse, dystopia and maybe some out-of-this-world explanations will really enjoy 0.4!

0.4 is part of the 2011 Debut Author Challenge hosted by The Story Siren.

Advertisements

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

Brightly Woven
by Alexandra Bracken

ISBN-13: 9-781606-840382
Rating: 5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I loved it!

The day the rains came was like any other, blistering air coating the canyon in a heavy stillness…

Just as the rains come after ten long, dry years, a young wizard, Wayland North, appears, to whisk Sydelle Mirabil away from her desert village. North needs an assistant, and Sydelle is eager to see the country – and to join him on his quest to stop the war that surely will destroy her home. But North has secrets – about himself, about why he chose Sydelle, about his real reasons for the journey. What does he want from her? And why does North’s sworn enemy seem fascinated by Sydelle himself?

Through a journey that spans a country, magic and hard-won romance are woven together with precision and brilliant design by a first-time novelist.

Reading this book was like coming home for me. As soon as I saw that map in the front of the book I had a huge smile on my face. It’s been a while since I’ve read a pure fantasy novel and I really, really enjoyed it. Brightly Woven weaves a wonderful tale of adventure, magic, friendship and romance with well-written characters fueling the story.

The only life Sydelle has ever known is life in her small desert town on the border of her country. Until the wizard Wayland North arrives and whisks her away, just before the bordering country’s army invades her home. Sydelle always wanted to leave and see her country, but following a wizard – who has no sense of direction and doesn’t seem to bath – all the way to the capitol is not really what she had in mind. On the run from Wayland’s enemy and experiencing freak storms and a lack of money, Sydelle and Wayland reach the capitol only to have things continue to go wrong, including some interesting news and a trip to Auster (the country declaring war on Sydelle’s country of Palmarta).

I loved Wayland North. He’s such a unique character (and I mean that in the sense of his personality). A wizard who works alone, likes his ale a bit too much and an aversion to bathing. He seems rough, brash and abrupt at times, but he has a good and kind heart. He genuinely wants to do the right thing, he just has to learn that actually telling people what’s going on might get them to agree with him rather than fight him the whole way. Which Sydelle does. Sydelle is a very confident young woman. She’s smart and capable, and doesn’t let Wayland walk all over her. She has her moments of temper tantrums – which lead to more trouble than they should, but that way leads to spoilers – and naivety (she’s from a very remote town, after all) but overall Sydelle is a strong, likeable character.

The draw to this book for me was the adventure. Above all else, the story is Sydelle’s journey from small town girl, to larger than life, during a crazy adventure across country. Yes, there’s a bit of romance but it’s not the focus of the story. The novel is very plot and character driven and I was sucked right in. The detail given to each place Sydelle and Wayland stopped, and to the people they met, was wonderful. The history and culture that Alexandra Bracken put into her world really brought it to life. It was never an information dump, and there weren’t pages devoted to this new world. Rather, we are given the information to understand as Sydelle thinks it and lives it. It was definitely the right way to go about it.

Alexandra’s story is so rich with information in a smooth, flowing voice that I didn’t want to put it down. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys straight up fantasy – it won’t disappoint.

Brightly Woven is part of the 2010 Debut Author Challenge

The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea M. Campbell

The Rise of Renegade X
by Chelsea M. Campbell
ISBN-13: 9-781606-840603
Rating: 5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I loved it!

Damien Locke knows his destiny – attending the university for supervillains and becoming Golden City’s next professional evil genius. But when Damien discovers he’s the product of his supervillain mother’s one-night stand with – of all people – a superhero, his best-laid plans are ruined.

Now forced to live with his superhero family, Damien must prove that he’s truly evil. Only he wasn’t counting on a villainous plot that threatens his new relatives’ safety and will make Damien choose who he really wants to be.

Going to extreme lengths (and heights), The Rise of Renegade X chronicles one boy’s struggles with the villainous and heroic pitfalls of growing up.

After finishing this book, I curse the fact that I don’t own more YA superhero/villain books; I was absolutely blown away by The Rise of Renegade X. It’s a snarky, fun, fantastic story about a boy who is on the path to becoming a supervillain, but just might be a superhero instead.

Damien is the son of a supervillain, and fast on his way to becoming one himself. On his sixteenth birthday, he finds out for sure if a V will appear on his thumb and declare him a proper villain. But things don’t quite go as planned. Damien suddenly finds himself living with his superhero father and participating in decidedly un-villainous activities – in fact, they’re downright heroic at times. Damien is torn between doing what is right in his heart, and what is right for a villain. The whole storyline is about choices – the choice to be a hero or a villain; to be with the girl he loves but hurt him, or the girl he likes; between his mom or his dad. Even though these choices are difficult, Damien approaches everything with a snarky wit and sense of humour that keeps his mind and heart on track.

Damien is such an easy character to connect with. He’s sweet, devious, sarcastic, loving, mischievous and fun. He’s grown up knowing he would become a proper supervillain when he turned sixteen, but had his whole life flipped upside down in seconds. Still, he took it all in stride and made the best of a unique situation. It helped that he had ex-girlfriend turned best friend Kat, and quirky new friend, possible girlfriend Sarah helping him out along the way. Kat and Sarah are vastly different characters, but both compliment Damien well, appealing to both his villain and his hero sides.

The whole world that Chelsea came up with for her book is amazing. I love the idea of cities with heroes and villains running around and being common members of society. It’s like if every DC and Marvel super-something all existed in one universe. There are even universities for heroes and villains so they can better learn their trade! Some powers belong to villains, some to heroes – it all comes down to genetics in the end. They all have costumes and secret identites, mortal enemies, evil plots, do good deeds, have families and even retire. The Rise of Renegade X is a full-blown action story with great world building and some fun characters running around. In the end you’ll be as torn as Damien – villain, or hero?

The Rise of Renegade X is part of the 2010 Debut Author Challenge

The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

The Dark Divine
by Bree Despain
ISBN-13: 9-781606-840573
Rating: 5 ♥ / 5 ♥

Grace Divine – daughter of the local pastor – always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared and her brother Jude came home covered in his own blood.

Now that Daniel’s returned, Grace must choose between her growing attraction to him and her loyalty to her brother.

As Grace gets closer to Daniel, she learns the truth about that mysterious night and how to save the ones she loves, but it might cost her the one thing she cherishes most: her soul.

 

The Dark Divine belongs to one of the most popular (and one of my favourite) genres of YA at the moment: paranormal. I found it unique, engaging and thouroughly entertaining.

I was unsure how much I would enjoy the book with the religious aspects of the story, Grace being a pastors daughter and all. Bree Despain wrote her book wonderfully, though. Although Grace, her family, school and th backstory to Daniel’s condition (no spoilers here!) are all steeped in religion, I did not feel preached at or taught – the facts were just that, facts. Grace and her family were obviously quite religious, but it was handled perfectly.

The writing was engaging and smooth, though I found the beginning of the book a little slow. I contribute this to the plot, rather than the writing style. Even with the bit of lag in the beginning, the plot soon gained momentum and I was sucked right in to Grace’s world. Grace’s character was pretty well-rounded; she knew exactly who she was…until Daniel showed up again and threw her for a loop. She’s soon conflicted between her feelings for her old friend, and her loyalty to her family, especially her brother. She’s an imperfect character, who can make mistakes but truely has good intentions. Daniel was also well-done, with a detailed background and emotions that came out loud and clear even through the first-person narrative.

I was actually most impressed with the ending, believe it or not. I like my happy endings, and while The Dark Divine can certainly be considered a happy ending, it’s not all roses and light – which I also like. There’s just something about having an ending where not everything works out perfectly for our characters that I enjoy. It’s a bit more real than the happily-ever-after scenario. Over-all, a wicked debut novel!

 

 

This book is part of the 2010 Debut Author Challenge hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren.