“Flashfall” by Jenny Moyer

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Orion is a Subpar, expected to mine the tunnels of Outpost Five, near the deadly flash curtain. For generations, her people have chased cirium—the only element that can shield humanity from the curtain’s radioactive particles. She and her caving partner, Dram work the most treacherous tunnel, fighting past flash bats and tunnel gulls, in hopes of mining enough cirium to earn their way into the protected city.

But when newcomers arrive at Outpost Five, Orion uncovers disturbing revelations that make her question everything she thought she knew about life on both sides of the cirium shield. As conditions at the outpost grow increasingly dangerous, it’s up to Orion to forge a way past the flashfall, beyond all boundaries, beyond the world as she knows it.

-excerpt taken from http://www.jennymoyer.com/read-me/

Review:

I have been dying to bring this review to New Book Smell Reviews for quite some time.  I started reading this book before its release when I was able to get my hands on an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy).  I was lucky enough to befriend the author and watched as the magic of publishing her first novel unfolded.  The process intrigues me greatly, and so it was fun to watch her YouTube channel where she let us in and allowed us to observe as each stage came to pass.  I watched as she edited, unveiled her book art, and held a copy of her book in her hands for the first time.

I only give honest reviews, so I am very happy to say that I loved this book.  I have heard it compared to “The Hunger Games”, but I think the only reason for that is because it’s an action-packed book with a strong female main character.  It really is unlike anything that is currently out there, so I have a hard time truly comparing it.  Orion is not like Katniss to me at all.

The story is about Orion, the main character, and her friend/caving partner, Dram. They are trying to mine cirium, and if they mine enough (400 grams) they will earn passage into the protected city on the other side of the Flash Curtain.  Cirium is supposedly the element that will keep them safe from radiation.  Orion is the best ore scout.  They don’t know that she can sense the cirium, and that is why she is able to mine so much of it.  Orion later learns that they are being deceived.

Jenny is a brave author.  She is not scared to write a passionate love-scene, create terrifying monsters, or kill off a character in a grisly death.  Some of the pictures I had in my head were so vivid by Jenny’s descriptions, that I can’t wait to see if this story gets picked up to be made into a movie, so I can see if the images I created were close to correct.

I give this book a 5 out of 5 stars.  I really couldn’t get enough of this story.  When I wasn’t reading, I was imagining Outpost 5, or the way it must feel in your throat and on your skin as you would approach the Flash Curtain.  I am so happy that we have a sequel to look forward to.  An amazing debut by a talented new author.  Cheers, Jenny!

life and death: Twilight Reimagined

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      Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined is an additional, non-canon reimagining of Twilight. The book was written and published by Stephenie Meyer in honor of the 10th anniversary of the Twilight franchiseThe story is set in an independent, parallel universe in which the most significant difference is that the genders, names and roles of the main characters have been reversed, with only a few exceptions.[2]

The story follows essentially the same plotline as Twilight, but with necessary adjustments and slight changes to the story, dialogue, backgrounds, and personalities of the characters to accommodate the switched gender roles. Life and Death also features an alternate ending from the original plot-line.

-excerpt taken from http://twilightsaga.wikia.com/wiki/Life_and_Death:_Twilight_Reimagined

Review:

Before I go any further I would like to say there will be spoilers in this review.  So if you plan on reading this book I would stop now and come back after you’ve read it to hear my thoughts.  Now that you’ve had fair warning, I will proceed…

I would like to point out first and foremost that I am a huge, and I mean HUGE, Twilight fan.  I am enraptured by the story.  I’ve traveled to Forks, WA to check out the sites.  I own all of the movies, books, supplementary books, some jewelry and clothes, and a few random trinkets that people have gotten for me.  I try to stick to new books on here for my reviews so that my readers are hopefully able to make choices on new reading material and hear a review based on somebody who is reading all the new stuff that’s out there.  Also, if I wrote a review on the Twilight books it would go something like this, “Bella is so lucky.  She found the perfect man who loves her unconditionally even though she’s just average.  OH MY WORD, HE’S A VAMPIRE!  OH MY GOSH, I WANT TO BE A VAMPIRE!  HOLY COW, I WANT TO MARRY A VAMPIRE!  AHHHH!!! I WANT TO HAVE A VAMPIRE BABY!”  I just don’t think I could be completely impartial in my thoughts of my favorite book series of all time.

When I saw that there was a new book going to be released that has a different spin than the original I was very happy that I would be able to review a favorite story, completely indulgently, and hopefully give an unbiased review.  After finishing the book I think I can successfully do that, because it was just different enough that I don’t consider it the same.

The entire premise of “life and death: Twilight Reimagined” is that the gender roles and names have been swapped for everybody in the entire book, from the main characters all the way down to the teachers in the school, except for Renee (& Phil) and Charlie, and the members of the Volturi that are mentioned in the book.  Stephenie Meyer was quoted saying that the reason for this was that people saw Bella in the original Twilight series as a “damsel in distress” which always bothered Stephenie who thought it wouldn’t matter what gender the main character was.  So in this story, Bella is Beaufort (Beau for short), and Edward is Edythe.

I would say that the story does have a different feel with the roles reversed.  The major disadvantage I had as a reader who knows the original story inside and out, backwards and forwards, is that my mind had a hard time switching the characters in my head.  I would sometimes have to stop and really think about what I just read to make sense of it.  I would say to myself, “Wait, so Jessamine is supposed to be Jasper, and Eleanor is supposed to be Emmett, right?”  I thought this would subside but I found myself doing that into the last chapter of the book.  Archie (a.k.a. Alice) was mentioned the most so I had the easiest time remembering who he was supposed to represent and what his special abilities would have been.  Because of these struggles it would be much easier to read this as somebody who wasn’t already such an invested fan of the saga.

I am admittedly old-fashioned so there were a few parts that I didn’t love with the roles reversed, or at least I didn’t think they flowed the way they were meant to.  One of them was when she paid for him whenever they ate.  I know this generation is obsessed with strong women and equality, but it felt like Beau was uncomfortable with that and I didn’t like it either.  It’s fine if a girl pays but maybe let the guy pay sometimes.  Another time was when she ran with him on her back.  I just kept thinking of how awkward that sounded and how a big strong dude wouldn’t want to ride on his tiny girlfriend’s back.  The other thing that was bizarre to me was when Beau would kiss Edythe – because Edythe (and Edward) were so very careful about kissing or really any physical contact for fear of losing control it seemed like the vampire should always be the one leading, and not the other way around.  That just seemed very unnatural to me.

Now, I am going to broach the biggest spoiler of them all, so if you were naughty and read this before you finished the book, here is one last chance to turn back…

 

The biggest variance from Twilight to this book is the ending.  They end up driving Beau to Phoenix just like in the original, and Beau sneaks away from Archie (Alice) and Jessamine (Jasper) when he learns that his mom has been taken by Joss (James) and heads to the ballet studio where Renee once taught dance (instead of where Bella once took ballet class).  Beau is cornered by Joss and has bones broken, and then Joss bites the tip of his finger.  When Edythe arrives she tries to save Beau by sucking out the venom but Archie sees that there are only two remaining conclusions:  Beau dies because Edythe can’t stop drinking his blood and kills him, or they let the change take place.  Beau decides to let the change happen.  They keep him as comfortable as possible while they drive him back to Forks.  They also let him know that if he changes he won’t be able to see his family ever again and his death will have to be faked.  The story concludes with Beau and Edythe watching his funeral from a tall tree far off in the distance.  He watches as his parents, family, and friends mourn his death, which was supposedly in a fiery car crash.
He also meets up with the werewolves and explains that the treaty wasn’t broken, and that a vampire who wasn’t affiliated with the Cullens was the one responsible for the change.  They don’t like that it happened, but agree that the treaty was still, in fact, intact.

 

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.  I can’t deny that even though the story is flopped, at its core, it is one of my favorite stories.  The genius behind the premise is still there, and that’s what I fell in love with.  However, I don’t think this version works as well.  I wonder if the franchise would be anything like it is today if it had been written this way to begin with.  I don’t think so to be quite honest.
Reading this book made me excited for the day that Stephenie hopefully writes some new stuff.  I would love to dive into a new series by her.  She always teases in interviews saying she is writing all the time, but just hasn’t released anything new* in quite a while.  Hopefully that day will come soon, and if not, at least I have this to tide me over for a while.

I came across this article by buzzfeed and it made me laugh out loud, so I thought I would share it too.  #30 cracked me up.

 

 

*Yes, I realize this is technically new, but I mean ALL new.

 

 

 

 

 

“The Alchemyst” by Michael Scott

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He holds the secret that can end the world.

The truth: Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on September 28, 1330. Nearly 700 years later, he is acknowledged as the greatest Alchemyst of his day. It is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life.

The records show that he died in 1418.

But his tomb is empty.

The legend: Nicholas Flamel lives. But only because he has been making the elixir of life for centuries. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects- the Book of Abraham the Mage. It’s the most powerful book that has ever existed. In the wrong hands, it will destroy the world. That’s exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won’t know what’s happening until it’s too late. And if the prophecy is right, Sophie and Josh Newman are the only ones with the power to save the world as we know it.

Sometimes legends are true.

And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time.

 

Review:

Well, it’s finally happened here at New Book Smell Reviews – a book I couldn’t stand so much that I couldn’t even finish it.  This was a hard one for me.  The book comes off as a YA novel, and IMHO, should be with the subject matter, but is actually (as it turns out) written in a genre referred to as “juvenile fiction”.  That’s a good way of describing it.  I couldn’t get the word “immature” out of my head as I read it.  The part that makes me kind of confused however, is that the story isn’t bad – it’s the writing that drove me nuts.  I felt that things were over-explained, as in “Yeah, I get it.  You didn’t have to bother spelling that out for me.”  And the young teen characters made poor choices that just leave you rolling your eyes – like the time somebody tells them not to leave the room they are in because it’s not safe, and they immediately leave the room without a second thought and run into danger.  Also, the time they start looking around for cameras because they’re pretty sure they are on a hidden camera reality show had me rolling my eyes – it took away from the magic for them to go there.

Another thing that bothers me is the Harry Potter connection to this book.  I am guessing there are a huge percentage of readers (me included) who saw “The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel” and picked it up thinking it was some sort of cool spin-off.  To me, the author is capitalizing on JK Rowling’s huge success, and I guess what I am saying is leave the Harry Potter spinoffs to her.  That’s her territory, and ain’t nobody gonna do it better than JK herself.

I give this book a 2 out of 5 stars.  I gave it a 2 instead of a 1 because the story isn’t bad.  I could see a movie geared towards late elementary/middle school aged kids that would probably be better than the book, and do fairly well.  I am not 100% sure that I wouldn’t like these books myself if I were quite a bit younger.  For a 28-year-old who just came off one of the best adult novels I have ever read, this just wasn’t my piece of pie.  I won’t be finishing this series, but I may give it to my 7-year-old daughter to read in a few years.

“The 5th Wave” by Rick Yancey

5th wave

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother–or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

-excerpt taken from RickYancey.com

 

Review:

This story starts from the point-of-view of Cassie, short for Cassiopeia.  A survivor of the first 4 waves of an alien invasion on Earth.  She is a teenage girl who watches as many people close to her, including friends and immediate family members, are killed by the different waves of the invasion.  She is left virtually alone to try to survive – something she’s not even sure possible.  The first 4 waves killed billions of people, and so she assumes a 5th wave will drive the human race into extinction.

This book starts in a very bizarre rhythm that you kind of have to ease into.  It is from a first person point-of-view, and is just kind of quirky.  I wasn’t sure that I liked it, but it’s not as bad once you get past the first 10 chapters or so.  That may seem like a lot but the book has many chapters that are only 1-2 pages long.  I actually really like that as I can be kind of ADD and I like a chance to take a break if I see a shiny object that distracts me, or what have you.

One thing I didn’t catch onto right away is that the book changes point-of-views throughout.  It is broken apart into sections separated by black pages with a title on them. Example:

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Each time you get to a new section the POV changes between 4 different characters, beginning with Cassie.  I would’ve liked a heads up at the start of the new sections as to who is talking because I don’t like spending the first couple pages trying to figure out who’s talking instead of enjoying the story.

Cassie speaks of many people from her past, her family members, kids from school, and even people she has run into along the way who are also trying to survive.  The whole book you don’t know if these people have survived or not, which is why I’m having to be very vague with my description.  Half the fun is finding out who made it and who didn’t, and finally, what the next steps are to survive.  If I had to describe this story I would say it is a mixture of the TV show “The Walking Dead” and “The Host” by Stephanie Meyer.  Basically the alien invasion version of “The Walking Dead”.  If you’re familiar with “The Walking Dead” there is a large portion of this book that I imagined took place at Hershel’s farm.  That’s just what it sounded like to me when he described it.

I give this book a 4 out of 5 stars.  The dialogue threw me for a loop at first, and at times some of the more complex descriptions had me re-reading to make sure I understood.  I am glad this story has already been made into a movie.  I’m looking forward to visualizing some of these things just to clarify for myself and see if it is anything like I imagined it to be.  I would recommend this series, and will be reviewing the next book in the series, “The Infinite Sea”, within the next month or two.

 

 

 

“Red Queen” by Victoria Aveyard

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“Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with red and those with silver. Mare and her family are lowly Reds, destined to serve the Silver elite whose supernatural abilities make them nearly gods. Mare steals what she can to help her family survive, but when her best friend is conscripted into the army she gambles everything to win his freedom. A twist of fate leads her to the royal palace itself, where, in front of the king and all his nobles, she discovers a power of her own—an ability she didn’t know she had. Except … her blood is Red.

To hide this impossibility, the king forces her into the role of a lost Silver princess and betrothes her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks her new position to aid the Scarlet Guard—the leaders of a Red rebellion. Her actions put into motion a deadly and violent dance, pitting prince against prince—and Mare against her own heart.

From debut author Victoria Aveyard comes a lush, vivid fantasy series where loyalty and desire can tear you apart and the only certainty is betrayal.”

-excerpt taken directly from the author’s own website – http://victoriaaveyard.com/books

 

Review:

Within the first few chapters of this book I was immediately reminded of the “Hunger Games”.  The Reds (those with literal red blood) are living in poor conditions with very little to eat and the privileged Silver (those with literal silver blood) live in glamorous fashion in the big capital city.  The Silvers require the Reds to watch matches in arenas between Silvers – all of which have different magic powers, from mind control to super strength and everything in between.  “Only Silvers can fight in the arena because only a Silver can survive the arena.  They fight to show us their strength and power.”  They have “healers” standing by so that nobody is hurt permanently or even for very long – the Silvers wouldn’t want the Reds to see them actually die.  The difference is that the story is more based on the lives of the Silver, specifically the royalty, showing their power and majesty over the Reds.

By random chance, Mare Barrow, a Red thief, is caught by a man on the street who she was trying to pickpocket.  He takes pity on her and gives her the money, stating that she needs it more than him.  The next day she is summoned to the palace where she is given a job.  Jobs are hard to come by and without one you will be “conscripted” or sent to fight in a dangerous war.  She is given the job of a server during the Queenstrials, where talented Silver girls from different houses basically perform for the Royals as well as a large crowd of houses and a new Queen and a new princess are chosen from the bunch.  She spies the Royals and soon realizes that Cal, the prince and heir to the throne, is the man in the street, and the one responsible for her job at the palace.  While serving, Mare falls and lands on a large electrical shield that is placed over the performing Silver girls, it should kill her, but instead she not only lives but produces bolts of electricity out of her hands, which earns her the name little lightning girl.  She is captured and brought before the Royals who decide to hide the fact that she is a Red with powers. They make up a story that she is a Silver whose parents died when she was very young and she was taken in by a Red family and raised a Red, not knowing she was Silver or that she had any powers.  And to top it off they force their younger son, Maven, to marry her.  Mare is immediately given a schedule consisting of etiquette, lessons, and also, how to use her newfound powers.

Meanwhile, there have been attacks against the Royals by a group calling themselves the Scarlet Guard.  It is made up of Reds who are tired of how they are treated by Silvers and want equality.  Mare joins the Scarlet Guard along with some close friends and acquaintances.  She spends the majority of the rest of the book making plans with the Scarlet Guard and trying her best to fit in with the Royals.

I don’t want to give too much away so I will end my synopsis there.

I really enjoyed this book.  It was well-written and intriguing.  There were enough plot twists to keep me on my toes, and I didn’t completely figure them all out ahead of time.  There has been an open spot in pop culture that needs to be filled now that all of the really big franchises are coming to an end, i.e. “Harry Potter”, “Twilight”, and “The Hunger Games”.  I think it may be time for “Red Queen” to take over.  I would not be surprised at all to hear this book has been picked up to be made into a movie series, and frankly would love to see it.  This is one of those books that was described so beautifully and, if done right, could be visually stunning – it would be so fun to see brought to life.

I give this book a 4 out of 5 stars.  The only reason I give it 4 instead of 5 is that there are some slower parts to this book.  There is a lot of build-up (which is necessary for a complex plot) and it really sets the stage for a dramatic ending.  It leads really well into the next book however, so I am excited to get my hands on that one.  All-in-all I would definitely recommend this series to my fellow YA lovers.