Book Review: The Torturer’s Daughter (Internal Defense #1) by Zoe Cannon

Title: The Torturer’s Daughter (Internal Defense #1)

Author: Zoe Cannon

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia

Published: 22 October 2012

Format: E-book, 274 pages

Synopsis: “When her best friend Heather calls in the middle of the night, Becca assumes it’s the usual drama. Wrong. Heather’s parents have been arrested as dissidents – and Becca’s mother, the dystopian regime’s most infamous torturer, has already executed them for their crimes against the state.

To stop Heather from getting herself killed trying to prove her parents’ innocence, Becca hunts for proof of their guilt. She doesn’t expect to find evidence that leaves her questioning everything she thought she knew about the dissidents… and about her mother.

When she risks her life to save a dissident, she learns her mother isn’t the only one with secrets – and the plot she uncovers will threaten the lives of the people sh

It’s easy to be a hero when you can save the world, but what about when all you can do is choose how you live in it? THE TORTURER’S DAUGHTER is a story about ordinary teenage life amidst the realities of living under an oppressive regime… and the extraordinary courage it takes to do what’s right in a world gone wrong.” (Taken from Goodreads)

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Book Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Title: The 5th Wave

Author: Rick Yancey

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Genre: Science-Fiction, Mystery & Trillers, Young Adult

Published: 7 May 2013 by Penguin Books Australia

Format: E-book, 457 pages

Synopsis: The Passage meets Ender’s Game in an epic new series from award-winning author Rick Yancey.

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.” (Taken from Goodreads)

– – – –

“We’re here and then we’re gone, and it’s not about the time we’re here but what we do with the time.”

Everyone is raving about this book, because they’re right – this book is great! Some goes as far as calling this the next Hunger Games. While I’m not going to agree with that (nothing can really beat the intensity and originality of HG), The 5th Wave is definitely a good contender for being 2013’s most popular young-adult book, read by the masses.

Two things keep me hooked on a book:

  1. Plot line
  2. Characters

I’m not someone that dissects each and every paragraph looking for the themes the author has scattered through the book. I read for enjoyment, not to analyse. So what I need to keep me entertained is a well thought-out plot with a good pacing, and characters that I can invest my time in. If I’ve gone through 300 pages and want to punch everyone in the face, you know there is something wrong with your characters.

What makes this book great is that it meets both my criterias. Fast paced adrenaline pumping plot? Check! Amazing characters that have made me cry more than once? Double check!

While his writing is a little choppy, Yancey makes up for that with his cast of amazing characters that you just can’t help but root for. There’s Cassie for Cassiopeia, Zombie, Evan Walker and Sammy. Each has such a unique voice of their own, and it was sad to see one go as the chapter with their point-of-view ends.

In the midst of an alien invasion, it was so good to see a very sassy and bad-ass heroine take center stage. Cassie was so smart and intuitive, you can’t help but wait in bated breath every time she does something. It’s refreshing to see a female-lead stand on their own two feet and be able to SURVIVE by themselves, even when the world around them falls apart – literally. My only issue with Cassie was her behaviour after she meets Evan Walker. There was a point where I wanted to shake her and go, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING CASSIE. AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THIS!” but luckily, I doubted her too quickly. She is a bad-ass karate girl, I tell you! Her unwavering love for her brother and her need to keep the promise she made to find him was such an emotional part of the story. He is her drive to survive, and the reason she chooses to fight rather than give up.

Then there’s Zombie. I can’t say that his real identity was all that shocking, not with all the hints Yancey kept dropping about him. A lot of the ‘twists’ in the story was quite predictable, but The 5th Wave is much more a character driven story than a plot driven one. I really enjoyed reading the novel through his eyes as well, it was a good change to the pace of the story. What he goes through to survive is entirely different to Cassie, but like she has Sammy to fight for, he has the need to prove that he will not run away again when things get tough. Zombie crawled out of his grave as a new person, and his character grew stronger because of his will to change himself.

Evan Walker; now there’s an enigma. Once again, who he really is was not hard to figure out. Yancey’s plot twists are basically handed to you on a silver platter. At first, I found him extremely creepy, but he definitely grew on me. His devotion to Cassie transcends everything and I really, really need to know what has happened to him. How can you leave it off like that Mr Yancey?!?!!?

I am definitely looking forward to book two, but my gosh, August 2014 is to far away!

Thank you to Penguin Books Australia for providing an e-copy in return for an honest review. 

Book Review: The Quest of the Unaligned by A. L. Phillips

Title: The Quest of the Unaligned

Author: A. L. Phillips

Rating: ★ ★ ½

Genre: Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure

Published: 2013 by BorderStone Press LLC

Format: E-book, 356 pages

Synopsis: “In the city of Tonzimmel, where hover-cars zip over anonymous crowds, contracts are king, and education is everything, Alaric has worked hard to make a decent life for himself. As a level nine security chief, he needs no one and nothing, and is in control of his fate. Or so he thinks. When a stranger from neighboring Cadaeren suddenly appears, however, babbling of magic, quests, and long-lost princes, Alaric finds himself contractually obligated to undertake a journey that his training hasn’t prepared him for: the Quest of the Unaligned. Accompanied by Laeshana, a Cadaerian native who has reasons of her own for helping him on his quest, Alaric is soon plunged into a perilous adventure that will force him to confront a seemingly impossible truth and embrace his destiny, even as the fate of Cadaeren hangs in the balance.” (Taken from Goodreads)

– – – –

I thought this book started off a little shaky, but definitely picked itself up in the middle. As the story opens, we meet Alaric, a level 9 security officer who has been raised all his life in Tonzimmel. Tonzimmel supports a Gesellschaft culture where each person fights for themselves in order to move up the social ladder. When we meet Alaric, he seems rigid and unimpressionable, similar to the masses in his black uniform and boots. He was extremely bland until he meets Ruahkini, an air mage from Cadaeren who declares he’s the missing prince and heir to Cadaeren. Hearing this news, Alaric is both disgusted and amused as Cadaeren is depicted as a crazy place outside the walls of Tonzimmel. While Tonzimmel boasts hard work and science, Cadaeren encapsulates the ideas of a Gemeinschaft culture where your birth determines your status. Not only that, but the mage declares that he has magic, which Alaric almost laughs himself unconscious at.

Ruahkini convinces Alaric to take on a wager with knife-throwing (Alaric’s best skill). If Alaric won, his bar tab would be pre-paid for a month, but if he lost, he has to attempt the Quest of the Unaligned. This is a quest that the prince of Cadaeren must go on before their coronation ceremony. Of course Alaric takes on the wager as he considers himself the best knife-thrower in Tonzimmel – and of course he loses. And from there, we follow him as he leaves Tonzimmel and journeys to Cadaeren to begin his quest. On his way to Cadaeren, he is accompanied by Laeshana, a friend who he had believed was a mechanic/engineer back in Tonzimmel, but was in fact an aesh (a mage aligned with fire).

At this point, Alaric’s personality was really annoying and rubbed at me in all the wrong places. He was condescending and ignorant, which I knew was intentional. Because of his ‘Tonzemmelian’ traits, he almost gets both he and Laeshana killed when he declares that he would take the mountain path, even after she warns him of a dragon lurking there. Of course, as a person of science, he scoffs at the idea (fair enough) and declares that will do whatever he wants even though Laeshana was there to be his guide. He’s a level 9 security officer, of course he knows best! (Sarcastic) Not surprisingly, they meet the dragon which made for a very exciting read. However, it was pretty unbelievable as I kept wondering why the dragon didn’t bother to use fire to incinerate them. And Alaric definitely defeated it too easily.

Following that encounter, we see a little bit of change within Alaric, he becomes less sceptical of magic and of Cadaeren being as insane as he first thought. While he still exhibits many Tonzimmelian traits, his character was changing. After a while, they arrive at the Temple where the King’s Crown is held, but alas, it’s stolen! The second half of the novel follows Alaric, Laeshana and the apprentice of the temple on their journey to retrieve the crown. This was where everything got much more interesting and where Alaric definitely grew as a character. What I found a little sceptical was how much he changed in just a few weeks – while it was definitely nice to see, 21 years of upbringing within one culture does not equate to immediate assimilation into a culture that is directly opposite to what you’re used to.

What I do applaud is Phillip’s ability to develop her characters. I think character development is one of the most important things within a good novel, right after plot, and she did it really well with Alaric. Throughout his quest, he is faced with the themes of duty, trust, morality and the continual issue of statuses depicting a persons’ worth. This was done extremely well with Alaric. What I had problems with was his parents, the king and queen of Cadaeren and their decision to send Alaric away to be brought up in Tonzimmel in the first place. This was only explained briefly, and not even enough for it to make sense. From what I could tell, they sent him away so he could be ‘unbalanced’ and not lean towards any one element. What they essentially did was send him to a MAGIC-LESS place which was not only idiotic but what kind of parents does that make you when you send your ONLY child away to be brought up parentless. How are they even fit to rule when your actions show you don’t even love your child, let alone your people. I’m surprised civil war did not start while Alaric was away.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read as the action picked up in the second part of the novel. I liked Alaric’s character development but I can’t say I was invested in any of the other characters enough, which is a shame. Especially Naruhan for his selfless sacrifice to buy Alaric time and save him from death. It would have been good to get some insight into the monarchy of Cadaeren as the two rulers seem quite … oblivious to everything. Very fairy-airy to be exact. But the book does have a nice ending, which was a good close to the story.

Thanks to A. L. Phillips for providing an e-copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Matt Archer: Monster Hunter (#1) by Kendra C. Highley

Title: Matt Archer: Monster Hunter (#1)

Author: Kendra C. Highley

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Shelf: Read-in-2013, 4-out-of-5, Children-Fiction, Adventure, Paranormal, Released-in-2012, Author-Request-Review

Synopsis: “Fourteen-year-old Matt Archer spends his days studying Algebra, hanging out with his best friend and crushing on the Goddess of Greenhill High, Ella Mitchell. To be honest, he thinks his life is pretty lame until he discovers something terrifying on a weekend camping trip at the local state park. 

Monsters are real. And living in his backyard. 

But that’s not the half of it. After Matt is forced to kill a strange creature to save his uncle, he finds out that the weird knife he took from his uncle’s bag has a secret, one that will change Matt’s life. The knife was designed with one purpose: to hunt monsters. And it’s chosen Matt as its wielder. 

Now Matt’s part of a world he didn’t know existed, working with a covert military unit dedicated to eliminating walking nightmares. Faced with a prophecy about a looming dark war, Matt soon realizes his upcoming Algebra test is the least of his worries. 

His new double life leaves Matt wondering which is tougher: hunting monsters or asking Ella Mitchell for a date?” (Taken from Goodreads)

– – – –

Fourteen-year-old Matt Archer is out camping in the woods of Montana with his uncle Mike when they are attacked by a paranormal grissly bear with tusks. Not knowing what to do as his uncle is attacked, Matt grabs the first weapon he finds in his uncle’s bag – a sharp knife that glows at his touch. The knife takes out the monster and Matt is thrust into the mist of a mission to save the world from armageddon.

For a fourteen-year-old thrust into the tough ordeals of a military nightmare, Matt handles himself extremely well. He is a well-rounded character written unbelievable well by Highley. He acts as a fourteen-year-old would when faced with girl-troubles, but is also smart enough to obey command when necessary. Matt is not irrational and stubborn as most teenagers would be when told that they’re wielding immense power – and that is what I loved about him. Highley has created a person that all readers could root for – rather than another annoying kid given power they’re unable to comprehend.

I found the entire story very well written and paced. Most scenes were definitely filled with action and Highley does not shy away from the prospect of death, which I admire her for. While written for children, it is still to be expected that when you’re fighting a war with monsters, death would always be lurking around the corner.

I have only high praise for the character developments within this story. All the characters were well-rounded and felt completely real. I enjoyed the strong bond of friendship between Matt and his best friend Will, but what I loved most was his bond with his family. His sister Mamie is one tough cookie, even though she’s known as a nerd to people around school. While we don’t see much of Matt’s brother Brent, he is always there when Matt needs him the most. He has his back and that’s what counts the most. And how can I forget the relationship between Matt and his uncle Mike? With Matt’s father M.I.A, Mike is the closest father figure he and his siblings have. Being deployed to Afghanistan serves the family a huge blow, but it is because of Mike’s leaving that pulls the Archer family together. They’re all just so supportive of each other, and it’s such a great thing to read about.

While you may think that this book is just about hunting mosters in the dark, Matt is still a teenager in high school. He has problems just like any other adolescent boy full of testosterone, and the glimpses offered into his ‘normal’ life was quite enjoyable to read about. Not once did I get impatient and want to fast forward to the fighting, because Matt chasing after is dream girl Ella was fun to read about too.

Matt Archer: Monster Hunter was an extremely enjoyable read and I will definitely be reading the next one in the series – Matt Archer: Blades Edge. I hear it’s set in Australia, my home country, so I’m very, very excited!

THANKS TO: Kendra C. Highley for providing me an electronic copy to review honestly.

Book Review: What’s Left of Me (The Hybrid Chronicles #1) by Kat Zhang

Title: What’s Left of Me

Author: Kat Zhang

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Shelf: Read-in-2012, Young-Adult, Science-Fiction, Dystopia, 4-out-of-5, Released-in-2012, Kindle-eBook, Netgalley-Read

Synopsis: “I should not exist. But I do.

Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t . . .

For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable-hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet . . . for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.” (Taken from Goodreads)

– – – –

I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did, especially with a plot that moved along so slowly. But wow, I’m so glad it blew my expectations out of the water! More than once, this book ignited questions about humanity that resulted in momentary lapses in reading time to try and resolve. It was odd to think about having two souls in your body that co-existed together and was able to watch what either one was doing – in a sense it was similar to siamese twins, but with their minds and thoughts conjoined.

I found Eva to be a very well constructed character – and props to Zhang for writing from the perspective of the recessive soul that existed only as a remnant of most people’s memories. I found Zhang’s writing to be strong and flawless, and Eva’s voice resounded so well within the pages.

The relationship between Addie and Eva was written wonderfully too. They behaved as sisters would – they fought and they supported each other. What made it so different to normal sibling relationships is that both souls shared the same body, thus if one kissed someone, the other had to experience it too. This once again made me think – while hybrid souls are solely science-fiction, what about conjoined twins within our normal world? How does it work when one twin has a physical relationship with their partner? How does the their twin react? What happens when one gets married? I’m really interested in finding out after reading this book.

***SPOILERS***

What irked me about this book (and kept me from giving it 5/5 stars) were some of the side characters and the pacing. Hally/Lissa was a character that I couldn’t invest in. Hally appeared for the majority of the first part of the book, while Lissa seemed to replace her in the second. While Hally seemed to reappear a few times, it seemed this happened sporadically, as if Zhang only just remembered that Hally still existed. There was no explanation as to why Lissa seemed to take over their body once they got to the hospital. These soul switches were executed better with Devon/Ryan – and I understood why they switched around, especially when Eva finally gained control of her and Addie’s body again. However, I’m still confused as to how Eva could tell when Devon or Ryan was in control … they shared the same body, so it’s not like there were little differences to their faces like twins may have.

The second thing that irked me was the pacing of this book. I found the plot to be extremely slow, but then BAM, Eva tells me that only a day or two has passed since the time she was admitted into the hybrid hospital. I’m surprised for a bit and then the plot continues to move along at a snail’s pace. Luckily, it does speed up towards the last fifth of the book, which I think redeemed itself. But now that I think about it, Addie and Eva only lived in that hospital for 5-7 days before they escaped to live with their rescuers … where they hell are their parents? Surely they couldn’t have forgotten about the girls in less than a week? And don’t get me started on Hally/Lissa and Devon/Ryan’s parents. Did they not even bother to fight for their children? It seemed a little too easy that they would let someone take away their only two children to a completely different state without putting up a fight.

***SPOILER***

While there were negative aspects of the book, it didn’t really hinder my overall enjoyment of Eva and Addie’s story. I thought the entire story was very though provoking and extremely creative and original. There were light aspects of romance, and luckily it didn’t make up the plot – huzzah! I am definitely intrigued about this series and will most likely pick up the next book as soon as it comes out. I do recommend this book to anyone that likes a dystopian read that is original and not powered only by romance!

THANKS TO: HarperCollins Australia for the read on Netgalley

Book Review: Kid in Chief by Paul Maguire.

Title: Kid in Chief

Author: Paul Maguire

Illustrator: Katy Betz

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Shelf: Read-in-2012, Children, 3-out-of-5, NetGalley-Read, Kindle-eBook

Release Date: 6 November 2012

Synopsis: “When third-grader Bobby Barton visits Washington, D.C. on a class trip, he doesn’t know he will walk away with a chance to become the leader of our nation. It’s on that trip that Bobby finds a missing part of the United States Constitution telling him how he could become President! Soon after making this discovery, Bobby moves into the White House as the youngest American President in history. With his friends Maria Cagney (Bobby’s Vice-President) and Kevin Sawyer (his Chief of Staff), Bobby is faced with many important decisions, confusing situations, and exciting adventures. Bobby quickly finds out that being President is a very tough job. Join him as he and his friends learn all about how the government works, having loads of fun along the way!” (Taken from Goodreads)

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