There Will Come a Darkness: A Review

“An impossible beginning and an inevitable end.”

The Seven Prophets guided humanity for generations building the fated cities and ending wars. Their visions–gifts from the Grace of Mind each possessed–predicted the ruin of dynasties and united countries. Until one hundred years ago when they disappeared leaving behind one final prophecy, a secret vision predicting an Age of Darkness and the arrival of the Last Prophet–the only person who might be able to stop it.

Hassan, Prince of Herat, was forced to flee his country when a strange zealot known as the Hierophant staged a coup in his bid to eliminate all of the Graced and pave the way for a new age. Hassan left everything and everyone he loved behind. Now he’s willing to do almost anything to get it all back.

Ephyra should be able to heal with her Grace of Blood but she has no training and no matter how hard she tries, it’s not enough. She has become a vigilante known as the Pale Hand to try and keep her sister alive, but the lines between right and wrong are getting thinner every day.

Anton has never met a game he couldn’t win. But even his luck isn’t enough to outrun the nightmares that plague him whenever he tries to use his Grace. With his past chasing at his heels, Anton will have to confront the truth of his nightmares if he wants to escape.

Jude is a leader in charge of an elite guard meant to find and protect the Last Prophet at all costs. But how can he stay true to his duty when his heart keeps pulling him away from his chosen path?

Beru knows she is dying even if her sister can’t admit it. After fighting the inevitable for so long, she’s starting to wonder if giving up is really the worst thing that can happen to her.

One prophecy, one common enemy, and five souls who all have the potential to save the world–or destroy it in There Will Come a Darkness (2019) by Katy Rose Pool.

There Will Come a Darkness is Pool’s debut novel and the start of her Age of Darkness trilogy. The novel alternates close third person point of view between the five main characters.

Pool creates a lush world where magic is seen as a gods-given gift and, instead of haves and have nots, the social order is divided between the Graced and those without magic. The action of the story plays out against this sprawling world framed by a complex magic system and polytheistic society where Prophecy has shaped civilization for generations. Lush and vividly described settings help bring this story to life.

Every character in There Will Come a Darkness is driven by fear or desperation–all five are running away, or in some cases running towards, something. The choices they make while pursuing these goals underscore the question of predestination versus free will that permeates the story as it builds quickly, and sometimes unevenly, to a conclusion filled with sudden twists and betrayals.

There Will Come a Darkness is a fantasy filled with suspense and action as each character is forced to ask themselves how far they will go to protect everything they love. Recommended for readers looking for a fast-paced fantasy with a large ensemble cast and anyone who has ever asked themselves what they’d do at the end of the world.

Possible Pairings: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi,  Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, Furyborn by Claire Legrand, Black Wings Beating by Alex London, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration at BookExpo 2019*

The Last Place on Earth: A Review

The Last Place on Earth by Carol SnowDaisy Cruz is used to her best friend Henry skipping school for unnecessary sick days. What she isn’t used to is Henry not answering her texts and his entire family disappearing without notice.

At first Daisy thinks maybe is has something to do with their last awkward encounter. But the longer Henry is missing, the more Daisy worries–especially when she finds a note on Henry’s desk that says “Save Me.” Was it a sudden relocation because of witness protection? An alien abduction? Something even less plausible? Could it have something to do with all of her classmates that are getting sick?

Following Henry’s trail leads Daisy into California’s wilderness and straight to Henry’s (and his family’s) biggest secret in The Last Place on Earth (2016) by Carol Snow.

The Last Place on Earth is a strange little book where the mystery surrounding a missing friend quickly morphs into a story about a plague, survival, doomsday preppers, and a really awkward first kiss.

Heavy-handed exposition and erratic pacing unfortunately dilute the overall impact of an otherwise suspenseful and surprising story.

Daisy is an enterprising and sincere narrator as her search for Henry moves in unexpected directions.Her humor and the “will they or won’t they” romance she has with Henry keeps the plot moving and adds heart to this unusual story.

The Last Place on Earth is has short chapters and numerous plot twists that make it ideal for reluctant readers and middle grade readers looking to transition into YA titles. An excellent choice for fans of survival stories and post-apocalyptic tales as well as readers who prefer their romances sweet and comfortably PG.

Possible Pairings: Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway, No Parking at the End Times by Bryan Bliss, Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle, The Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, Starters by Lissa Price, Catch & Release by Blythe Woolston

*An advance copy of this title was acquired from the publisher for review consideration*

Blood Red Road: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Lugh got born first. On Midwinter Day when the sun hangs low in the sky. Then me. Two hours later.

“That pretty much says it all.

“Lugh goes first, always first, an I follow on behind.

“An that’s fine.

“That’s right.

“That’s how it’s meant to be.”

Blood Red Road by Moira YoungAll Saba ever needs is to know that her twin brother Lugh is by her side. With him near, Saba can handle the annoyances of her younger sister Emmi; the loss of her mother, who died birthing Emmi; and even the madness that is slowing pulling their father under.

When Lugh is abducted by four horsemen, he tells Saba to keep Emmi safe. But they both know she won’t. Not when Saba promises to follow him–to find him–no matter what.

She’ll follow Lugh into the lawless, wild world beyond her family homestead. In hunting for Lugh she will begin to understand some hard  truths about herself and her sister. She’ll find a gang of warriors and a daredevil who makes her heart flutter. In searching for her twin brother, Saba might even find a way to change her world forever in Blood Red Road (2011) by Moira Young.

Blood Red Road is Young’s debut novel and the start of her Dust Lands trilogy which continues with Rebel Heart and Raging Star.

Blood Red Road is an interesting novel set at the end of the world. Saba’s first person narration clearly brings her stark world to life with hints like ruined skyscrapers and useless books that suggest the world that might have come before.

Books are obsolete in this novel and, perhaps as a direct result, the spoken word and Saba’s narration have a very distinct cadence to them. The entire novel is written in Saba’s dialect as if she were telling the story directly to the reader. Words often have phonetic spelling and Saba’s speech sounds like nothing so much as a character in a twang-filled western. The prose is sparse and often reads like a verse novel with dialogue interspersed throughout without quotation marks or other punctuation to pull them out of the text. While this formatting is jarring at first, it eventually becomes a seamless part of the story and makes Blood Red Road a very fast read.

Saba is an interesting heroine in that she is resilient and inspiring while also being ruthless and often deeply flawed. For a lot of the novel, Saba wants nothing to do with her sister Emmi (to the point of putting the younger girl in very real danger) as she keeps a singular focus on her efforts to rescue Lugh. Young handles Saba’s growth as she learns more about the world (and herself, and her family) throughout the novel expertly to create a character transformation that is authentic and inspiring.

While some aspects of the world building remain murky–particularly in relation to the overarching villain that Saba will be dealing with for the rest of the novel–Blood Red Road is a solid dystopian and a very unique addition to the genre. Recommended for readers who enjoy post-apocalyptic tales with a survivalist slant.

Possible Pairings: Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, The Color of Rain by Cori McCarthy, Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis, Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien, The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

The Carbon Diaries 2015: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci LloydIn 2015 the UK becomes the pilot country for a program to ration carbon in an attempt to stave of the catastrophic climate change that has already lead to super storms and other natural disasters.

Laura Brown uses her diary to make sense of the chaos and keep herself sane in this strange new landscape with minimal heat, carbon ration cards, blackouts and worse.

With everything changes so quickly, will Laura and her family make it through their first year of rationing? Will the coutnry? Only time will tell in The Carbon Diaries 2015 (2008) by Saci Lloyd.

The Carbon Diaries 2015 is Lloyd’s first book about Laura Brown’s experiences with carbon rationing. The story continues in The Carbon Diaries 2017.

Originally published in 2008, The Carbon Diaries 2015 has only become more timely and plausible in 2015. That said, there is something very on the nose in reading a “futuristic” book during the year in which it is set (or after).

Because The Carbon Diaries 2015 is written as Laura’s diary it is sometimes hard to get a sense of her character. Generally, Laura reads very young although that works in the book’s favor as it has fairly broad age appeal.

Lloyd does an excellent job of bringing Laura’s eerie world to life with all of the madness and troubles that come with carbon rationing. It is this evocative prose that save the novel from being relegated to nothing more than a message-driven allegory for readers used to living in a world of chronic over-consumption.

Although The Carbon Diaries 2015 is a slight read beyond the obvious ecological messages, it’s still an entertaining read. Recommended readers looking for something new after reading all the bigger name post-apocalyptic novels.

Possible Pairings: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow,  The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson, Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan, Empty by Suzanne Weyn

The Rest of Us Just Live Here: A Review

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick NessMikey isn’t the chosen one. He’s not going to fall in love with a vampire. (It’s hard enough just trying to tell Henna how he feels now that she’s finally broken up with her boyfriend.) He isn’t going to change his name to Finn or Satchel or Kerouac. He isn’t going to fight zombies. (Not when he’s busy trying to keep his own OCD tendencies under control.) He isn’t going to rid the town of ghosts. (Not when the almost-loss of his sister is still so fresh.)

Sometimes it’s hard being the chosen one. Just ask any of the Indie kids at school. But, as Mikey knows all too well, sometimes it’s also hard just being a regular guy trying to make it through senior year and make sense of his life–hopefully before the high school gets blown up. Again.

When it feels like every week there’s a new impending doom, sometimes the most extraordinary thing to do is live your regular not-chosen-one life. Even if your best friend is worshiped by cats in The Rest of Us Just Live Here (2015) by Patrick Ness.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here is Ness’ clever send-off of almost every recent supernatural/paranormal trend to have hit YA literature. Remember when everyone was falling in love with vampires? What about the soul eating ghosts? Or way back when the big thing everyone was dealing with was Gods? They all make an appearance in Mikey’s town where high schools get blown up more often than kids named Finn end up at the center of a battle for humanity.

But none of that is really Mikey’s problem because he isn’t an indie kid and, as such, it’s also not a concern of The Rest of Us Just Live Here. Chapter headings explain the “big” story as indie kids Satchel and Finn (not the dead one, the other one) try to save the world from something . . . weird. Meanwhile this book focuses on Mikey’s life in the background of this supernatural drama as he looks toward the end of high school and all of the uncertainty it holds for himself, his best friend Jared, Henna–the girl he thinks he loves, and Mikey’s sister Mel.

The thing to remember here, is that despite the backdrop of supernatural on every level, The Rest of Us Just Live Here is basically a contemporary story. And a familiar one at that with Mikey’s uncertainty about nearly everything except his rock solid bond with his best friends.

While the premise of characters doing the best they can on the periphery of a bigger drama seems original, in Ness’ hands it feels decidedly trite. Something in the execution of The Rest of Us Just Live Here–with its obvious nods to classic YA like Twilight and TV shows like Buffymakes this otherwise enjoyable novel feel unoriginal and slight. While not necessarily a bad thing for every reader, it can make it hard to connect with (or even care) about these characters.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here is an ideal choice for readers who like their stories a bit zany and their adventures madcap. Recommended for readers suffering from paranormal romance/dystopian adventure fatigue.

Possible Pairings: Landscape with Invisible Hand by M. T. Anderson, Geek Fantasy Novel by E. Archer, Don’t Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom, Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts, The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin, All We Have is Now by Lisa Schroeder

Birthmarked: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'BrienIn a future where the world has been baked dry and the Great Lakes are empty craters, sixteen-year-old Gaia Stone’s world is divided by the walls of the Enclave. The privileged few living inside the walls want for nothing; their lives the stuff of legend with decadence and comfort documented for all to admire at the Tvaltar.

Gaia Stone has always known that her place is outside the walls. The Enclave does not welcome people with scars or burns especially not when they are as visible as the one on Gaia’s face. Like her mother before her, Gaia works as a midwife helping the women in Western Sector 3 deliver their babies. Like her mother, Gaia also fills the baby quota each month by “advancing” a handful of newborns to live inside the Enclave walls.

It is only after her parents are arrested that Gaia begins to wonder about the true purpose of the baby quote and what else the Enclave might be hiding. Gaia knows she has to try to infiltrate the Enclave and rescue her parents no matter the risk in Birthmarked (2010) by Caragh M. O’Brien.

Birthmarked is O’Brien’s first novel and the start of her Birthmarked trilogy which continues with Prized and Promised.

Birthmarked is utterly engrossing and atmospheric. Readers are immediately drawn into Gaia’s world and the complex politics surrounding the Enclave. Third person narration and flashbacks to Gaia’s past lend an introspective quality to this otherwise taut narrative.

Gaia’s arc throughout the story is handled extremely well as she begins to learn more about the Enclave and the politics surrounding it. O’Brien expertly demonstrates Gaia’s growth as well as her changing attitudes throughout the novel.

Every detail in Birthmarked is thoughtfully placed within a complex world and intricate prose where even the vocabulary is often unique and the dialog simmers with unspoken chemistry. Although this novel starts a trilogy, it also offers a self-contained story that leaves room to ponder and to savor. Birthmarked is a fast-paced, vibrant book that is absolutely brilliant. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, Eve by Anna Carey, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Wither by Lauren DeStefano, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, Everless by Sara Holland, The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson, The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid, Legend by Marie Lu, The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson, For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, Vicious by V. E. Schwab, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Grasshopper Jungle: A (Rapid Fire) Review

This is more a critical analysis than a review and is therefore littered with spoilers of varying degrees.

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith (2014).

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew SmithBy this point, Grasshopper Jungle needs no introduction having already swept up a variety of accolades including wide critical acclaim, starred reviews, a movie option as well as winning the Boston Globe-Horne Book Award and receiving a Printz honor in 2015.  It is the bright green book that could and has helped mark a well-deserved turning point in Smith’s literary career as he joins the ranks of current hot authors. It is a madcap, diverse, clever book that blends genres, time periods and story lines.

Grasshopper Jungle is also one of those books where I can see all of the things Smith is doing that are clever and smart but I don’t particularly care for or appreciate any of them on a personal level because I am too busy deeply not enjoying it.

The diversity here and Austin being refreshingly whoever the hell he wants to be is great and much needed. Continue reading