Saturday, October 21, 2017

#Stacking the Shelves # 260 - Week Ending 10/21/2017


Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

Thanks for Shopping by!

This week I finally answer the question; 

HOW DO YOU READ SO MANY BOOKS?!?! 

Easy Peasy. If you follow me on Goodreads, or even on this blog, you'll notice that I've averaged about 350 books a year for the past 6 years. That also means that I've gone 6 years without not finishing a book. I can review 6 books a week, because I am unable to work due to reasons that are way too personal. So, I choose to read and review books for a living even though I'm not getting paid. I dare say that if I were go get paid, I would happily blog for 10 more years. Reading is my escapism. I prefer books to watching or listening to the news. I hope that answers your question!

Have a fantastic weekend! 
Shelley

This Weeks Reviews: 


Tuesday - Freefall by Joshua David Bellin (YA, SyFy)


Thursday - Last Star Burning by Caitlin Sangster (YA, Post-Apocalyptic)

Friday - 13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough (YA, Mystery)

Saturday - The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook (YA, Mystery)


*REC'D VIA Publisher, & Edelweiss, & NETGALLEY *







Friday, October 20, 2017

Saturday #Review - The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook #YALit #Mystery

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Source: NetGalley
Genre: YA \ Mysteries & Detective Stories

Skye Thorn has given tarot card readings for years, and now her psychic visions are helping the police find the town’s missing golden girl. It’s no challenge—her readings have always been faked, but this time she has some insider knowledge. The kidnapping was supposed to be easy—no one would get hurt and she’d get the money she needs to start a new life. But a seemingly harmless prank has turned dark, and Skye realizes the people she’s involved with are willing to kill to get what they want and she must discover their true identity before it’s too late.





"Destiny is like a boulder. Bulky and hard to move. It’s easier to leave it alone than to try to change it. But that never kept anyone from trying. Trust me: I’m a professional."


Author Eileen Cook's The Hanging Girl is a sort of psychological thriller, mixed with a strange mystery, and plenty of twists and surprises. 18-year old Skye Thorn has been using Tarot Cards on her fellow students as a way to make a bit of money. She knows that after graduation, she and her bestie Drew are supposed to leave their small town behind for the brights lights of NYC. Problem is that Skye has about as money as I do in my bank account. And, that's not all that much. 

After a fellow student named Paige Bonnet goes missing, Skye suddenly has visions. Skye informs the police of her visions and offers to help find Paige and bring her home. However, things just don't add up. Things quickly spiral in ways that Skye has no control over. What should be a grand scheme to make some money for college, turns out to be all for not with an unexpected turn of events that nobody will see coming. The most curious aspect of the kidnapping? It was planned in advance by a person named Pluto. No spoilers!

Pluto decided to jump up the kidnapping even before Skye agreed to help her. All Skye had to do in return for a big chunk of money to go to NYC with is tell the police that she is having visions of what really happened to Paige, and where she can be found. Now, things get really complicated after Paige's father refuses to pay the ransom, and Paige later turns up dead. Rut Roh! The Hanging Girl is not the first book that I've read. I've previously read With Malice. I will say this about Skye. She is an unreliable narrator who has lied and manipulated people with her tarot cards. Not that Skye is a mess. She's not. She just gets caught up in something way bigger than she anticipated.

I have issues with authors who get way too political instead of sticking to the who, what, where, why, and how come? It may be the authors choice, but I don't have to read about it. Thus why even though I actually liked Skye, had ended up dropping my overall rating. I don't have to read about slams against people or businesses that you may not like. It's like saying you should ALL become vegans, and fuck all meat lovers because how dare you eat something that you enjoy! This is supposed to be entertainment, not political grandstanding to make points. We live in a society where the news is screeching at us 24/7/365 from all sides of the political spectrum. I read books to escape the real world, not get dragged back into it kicking and screaming. 



Reading people is a talent. I’ve always been a good observer, but as with any natural ability, if you want to be any good, you’ve got work at it. When I talk to people, I size them up. I listen to what they say and, more important, to what they don’t. I notice what they wear, what brands they choose, how they style their hair. I watch their body language to see if it matches their words. The image they work so hard to show off tells me what they’re trying to hide.
I make guesses and let them lead me. It’s easier than it looks. Then again, most people aren’t paying that much attention when someone tells them what they want to hear.
“What do you think, Skye—?will it work out?” Sara leaned forward, ignoring the rest of what was going on in our school cafeteria. She chewed her lips. There were sticky pink clots of Sephora lip gloss on her teeth. Nerves. She was worried about what I would say. She’d have been better off worrying about why she wanted to stay with a guy who was a class-A jackass. However, she wasn’t paying me for love advice; she was paying for a psychic connection to the universe.
I shuffled the cards. They were worn and faded, more like fabric than paper. My official story was that my grandmother had passed down this deck of tarot cards to me on her deathbed because she believed I’d inherited her psychic ability. This was a complete lie. The only thing my grandma believed in was bourbon. However, no one trusts a psychic who works with brand-new cards. I ordered the deck from Amazon years ago. When it arrived, I soaked each card in a weak tea bath, then put them in the oven, set on low. It wasn’t exactly a Food Channel recipe, but it worked. I’d shuffled them over and over until the cards took on the look and feel of a deck that had been in the family for generations. I held the cards out to Sara.
“Cut these,” I said. “Make three piles and then stack them.” I pulled back as she reached for the deck, holding them just out of her reach. “It’s important that you focus on your question as you do this.” I fixed her with a stare as if this were a matter of life and death. Sara nodded solemnly. Her hands shook as she cut the deck and then passed it back to me. Part of my secret was making the other person touch the cards. It made them feel complicit in whatever happened next.
I dealt six of the cards into a Celtic Cross spread on the table between us. The cafeteria wasn’t the ideal place for a reading. It was hard to feel a connection to something otherworldly when the smell of greasy industrial sloppy joes and overboiled canned corn hung like a cloud in the air. On the other hand, there was no way I was inviting people back home with me. I’d take the overcrowded cafĂ© and people’s judgment that I was a bit of a weirdo before letting my classmates see our salvaged-from-the-dumpster furniture. No thanks. I may be a fake psychic, but I’ve got some pride.
I tapped the table. “The first card represents you and your question. The one over it is what crosses you—?got it?” I waited for her to nod and then lightly touched each of the others with the tip of my finger. “This is the basis of your question, the past, what hangs over you, and the final card is the future.”
Sara took a deep breath. “Okay, my question is, what’s going to happen with Darren and me?”
I flipped over the first card. The queen of cups. This was going to be easy. That is, if I believed in any of this, which I don’t. What no one seemed to realize was I could read the tarot any way I wanted. There was no magic. What I had was my ability to memorize the meanings of the various cards, years of watching my mom, and an ability to spin a story. “This card represents you. This is associated with women who are creative and sensitive.”
Sara’s forehead wrinkled. “I’m not really creative. I mean, I want to be, but . . .”
“You’re in the band,” I pointed out.
Her shoulders slumped. “Only because my mom made me. She thinks it’ll look good on my college apps.”
“I suspect you have a creative side that you haven’t fully explored,” I offered. “Don’t think of it as just the arts. The queen represents creativity—?someone who sees things in a new way.” Her friend Kesha, who was practically seated in her lap, nodded. Her elaborate African braids bounced up and down.
“You’re totally the most creative person in cheer,” Kesha said.
“The squad always does ask me to do the posters,” Sara admitted.
I fought the urge to sigh. Sara needed to broaden her horizons beyond being a good cheerleader. “There you go,” I said, tapping the rest of the deck with confidence on the scarred and chipped table. “Now, the card crossing you is the six of swords. That often means a journey or a separation.”
Her eyes grew wide. “Like a breakup?”
Only if you’re smart enough to dump his ass.
I shrugged. “Maybe, but it could also be a journey of the mind.”
Kesha’s forehead wrinkled up like one of those shar-pei dogs. “What does that mean?”
“It means that either Sara or Darren is at a stage where their life could go in a different direction. That they’re changing. Evolving.”
“What if he changes so much that he doesn’t want me anymore?” Sara’s voice came out tiny and small. Kesha reached over and squeezed her hand. Sara’s lip quivered. “He’s going downstate for college in the fall. He says we’ll date long distance, but . . .” She was unable to put into words what she knew was coming.
I turned over another card. “This is the seven of cups. It means opportunities and possibilities.”
“Is that good?” Sara bit her lower lip.
“It’s always good to have options.” Like choosing a guy who doesn’t sit with his Neanderthal friends and hold up a sheet of paper with a number rating girls as they walk by in the cafeteria. “You have choices coming up. You could see who else is out there.” I saw her expression and switched my approach. She wasn’t interested in advice about who to date. “Or another option is figuring out what changes you could make to your relationship with Darren.”
“How can I do that?”
I turned another card. Death. The skeleton held his scythe at the ready. Kesha gasped. “That looks really bad,” she said.
They’re playing cards, I wanted to say, but I stuffed down the urge to ask if she was afraid of Monopoly or Chutes and Ladders. “The death card isn’t bad—”
“Death card?!” Sara’s voice cracked.
The effort to keep from rolling my eyes was giving me a headache. “It doesn’t mean death, not like physical death. It means that there’s a change coming. Something moving from one state to another. It can be a really good thing.” I flipped the next card. “Ah,” I said, and nodded knowingly.
Sara looked down and then back at me. “What does that mean?”
“It’s called the hanging man.”
“Oh Jesus.” Kesha’s hands twisted in her lap.
“See how he’s suspended by his feet?” I pointed to the illustration. “His card represents seeing the world from a different perspective. It’s not a bad card.”
“I don’t get it, Skye. What does that have to do with Darren and me?” Sara was leaning so far forward, her nose was practically on the table.
I smiled and spread my arms. “Don’t you see? That card gives you the possible solution.”
Sara exchanged glances with Kesha to see if it made more sense to her. Based on Kesha’s expression, it didn’t.
I sighed. “Tarot isn’t about any one card. It’s about how they work together. Look at what you have here, what cards you drew.” It never hurt to remind the person that if they didn’t like the outcome, they were partly to blame. “We started with you as a creative person. Then what’s opposing you at this point is that Darren is undergoing a journey. That makes sense if he’s going away in the fall. Then there are two forces—?this card meaning change is coming. That tells me this can’t be avoided.”
Sara nodded. “I feel like I’m already losing him, and he hasn’t even graduated yet.”
“I understand,” I said. “But how the situation turns out will depend on your ability to make him see you in a fresh way. Maybe change your look, or do something out of character that makes him rethink your role in his life.”
“He always wants me to go camping,” she mumbled. “It’s usually not my kinda thing.”
“There you go,” I said, pointing at her chest as if she’d just solved a really tricky problem. “Doing stuff outside your comfort zone is exactly the kind of thing you should be doing if you want to keep him.”
Someone a few aisles over tripped and dropped a tray with a loud crash and the shatter of exploding dishes. A cheer went up from the crowd in the cafeteria. Pain and humiliation is always amusing when it happens to someone else. Other psychics never had to work with these distractions.
“So, if I reinvent myself, then Darren and I will stay together?”
I shrugged. “That’s what the cards imply. Not that he needs someone different—?just that he needs to see you differently.” At least I was giving her good advice, regardless of Darren. Everyone benefits from shaking up their routine once in a while.
The corners of Sara’s mouth started to turn up. “You know what this means . . .”
Kesha let out a squeal. “Makeover!” The two of them hugged. “We’ll go to the mall after school. When he sees you he’ll already be planning his first visit home before he even leaves.” Kesha’s face was determined. The woman was on a retail quest to help her bestie.
“There’s another way you could read the cards,” I said, kicking myself for not just leaving it alone. “Your card is creativity and strength. You could also see this situation as change is inevitable, but you’ll be fine no matter what Darren does. That you have the inner strength to move forward in a new direction on your own.”
Her mouth pinched. “But there’s still a chance for me to work things out with him, right?”
I gave up. If she wanted to waste all that energy on a boy, it wasn’t my problem. None of their problems were mine. I had plenty of my own. “Sure.”
Sara leaned back in her chair as if all of her energy had rushed out like air from a balloon. Now that she had a plan, she was exhausted.
I shuffled the cards back into a tidy stack. I took my time. Sometimes people decided once the cards were out that they might as well ask a few more questions. Fine with me. I charge for each deal, but after a beat I could tell Sara wasn’t going to ask anything else. Now that the great Darren mystery had been put to bed, she wasn’t interested. She was too busy plotting how to remake herself into Darren’s ideal. She could do better, but that wasn’t the question she’d asked.
That was always the awkward moment—?when it came time for them to pay. I hated asking for the cash. It felt slimy, but not so distasteful that I was willing to do it for free. My mom made it easy with a sign by our door noting that she accepted both cash and PayPal. I cleared my throat and turned my hand palm up.
“Oh, sorry.” Sara pulled a ten out of her wallet and slid it over as if she didn’t want to touch me. “Thanks, Skye. That was awesome.” I shoved the bill into my pocket. She watched me tuck the deck of cards into the small paisley fabric bag I kept them in. “That was pretty cool.”
“The gift chose me,” I said with a shrug. I didn’t point out that the reason she thought I was amazing was because I told her exactly what she wanted to hear. I knew Darren well enough to know he followed his dick around like a dog on a leash. Sara wasn’t done crying over him. I’d have bet money on it. No psychic ability required for that prediction.
Sara wasn’t some cheerleader clichĂ©. She was on squad, but she was also an honor student. I’d heard she was in AP chemistry and calculus, and she was only a junior. You would think someone that smart wouldn’t be so stupid. But they were all like that.
She waved to me over her shoulder as she scurried across to her friends, and I smiled back. Another happy customer. With any luck, a few of those friends would decide they wanted their own readings. They tended to come in clusters.
My stomach rumbled. Even with the ten bucks, I shouldn’t make a Subway run. I was still way short of my goal. I should have saved the money, but it wasn’t like ten bucks was going to make a huge difference. Screw it. I could already smell that fresh-baked bread.




Thursday, October 19, 2017

Friday #Review - 13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough #YALit #Thriller #Suspense

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Young Adult \ Thrillers & Suspense

Natasha’s sure that her friends love her. But does that mean they didn’t try to kill her?

Natasha is the most popular girl in school. So why was she pulled out of a freezing river after being dead for thirteen minutes? She doesn’t remember how she ended up in the icy water that night, but she does know this—it wasn’t an accident, and she wasn’t suicidal.

Now Natasha’s two closest friends, who are usually her loyal sidekicks, are acting strangely. Natasha turns to Becca, the best friend she dumped years before, to help her figure out the mystery.

At first Becca isn’t sure that she even wants to help Natasha. But as she is drawn back into Natasha’s orbit, Becca starts putting the pieces together. As an outsider, Becca believes she may be the only one who can uncover the truth…which is far more twisted than she ever imagined.




13 Minutes, by author Sarah Pinborough, is dark, psychological suspense novel featuring a cast of characters who will remind readers of Mean Girls. From the onset of the story, the author starts with a puzzling and disturbing mystery. For 13 minutes, Natasha Howland was all but dead, until she was found floating in a river. She claims to have no memories of what really happened up to the point of ending up in the river. She does remember getting a text message that night from a unknown number.

But, things just don't add up. Why was Tasha in the river in the first place? Did someone attack her and dump her body in the river hoping she wouldn't be found? Why would Tasha be the first person Tasha asks for upon waking up? Is Tasha part of what happened, or just a pawn in a hard core game where anything can happen, and usually does? The same Becca she hasn't been friends with since Tasha became beautiful and started her own groupies called the Barbies who are by all indications, mean girls. 

To top things off, Tasha becomes bitter cold towards her two best friends, and in fact, turns to her ex-best friend to discover the truth about what really happened. As with all of the authors plot lines, she loves to screw with readers heads. She is the queen of psychological thrillers. The author has chosen to write different POV's for each chapter, so you really have to pay attention as to who is telling the story. One could say that both Natasha and Rebecca are primary storytellers, especially since Becca gets dragged into a situation that she doesn't understand. In doing so, she ends up experiencing her own intrigue.

This isn't a story for the feint at heart. There's plenty of abuse of alcohol, drugs, and yes, sex. 13 Minutes is a twisted web of surprises and twists. Both main characters are unreliable as narrators, and truth be told, hard to actually like. The story is also told through text messages, psychiatrists notes, and police case notes. In the end, I'm not especially tolerant of characters who are mean girls, so this book ended up being just satisfactory for me. 





Thursday #Review - Last Star Burning by Caitlin Sangster @CaitSangster ‏#YALit #Post-Apocalyptic

Series: Last Star Burning # 1
Format: Hardcover, 400 pages 
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: Publisher
Genre: YA \ Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic

To escape execution for a crime she didn’t commit, seventeen-year-old Sev is forced to run away from the only home she’s ever known in this exciting start to a brand-new fantasy series from debut author Caitlin Sangster.
Sev is branded with the mark of a criminal—a star burned into her hand. That’s the penalty for being the daughter of the woman who betrayed their entire nation.
Now her mother’s body is displayed above Traitor’s Arch, kept in a paralyzed half sleep by the same plague that destroyed the rest of the world. And as further punishment, Sev is forced to do hard labor to prove that she’s more valuable alive than dead.
When the government blames Sev for a horrific bombing, she must escape the city or face the chopping block. Unimaginable dangers lurk outside the city walls, and Sev’s only hope of survival lies with the most unlikely person—Howl, the chairman’s son. Though he promises to lead her to safety, Howl has secrets, and Sev can’t help but wonder if he knows more about her past—and her mother’s crimes—than he lets on.
But in a hostile world, trust is a luxury. Even when Sev’s life and the lives of everyone she loves may hang in the balance. 



Last Star Burning, by debut author Caitlin Sangster, is the first installment in the authors Last Star Burning series. For the past 8 years, Sevvy Jiang has been labeled as a Fourth Class citizen all because the City Proletariat claims that her own mother betrayed the city by infecting her own daughter with the so called encephalitis lethargica, or sleeping sickness. A sickness that can only be settled with a drug called Mantis. Sevvy has been branded with a star seared into her flesh as a way to indicate that she is the daughter of a traitor, and has been forced to undergo indoctrination

Sevvy is the last remaining member of her family since her mother currently hangs in stasis in a place called Traitor's Arch. Sevvy's only real friend, Tai-ge, is the second son of the family who is supposed to re-educate her back into society. Yet, he is still a second class citizen, or a Red as they are called. But, after a bomb is dropped by what the city claims is an enemy plane nearly killing her and Tai-ge, Sevvy finds that she has become the enemy of the city. Only one person actually believes that she is innocent. That is the son of the Chairman. 

Howl and Sevvy set out for a destination called the Mountain, where Howl claims that answers can be found. The road to the mountain is fraught with danger, and the promise of safety in the mountain may in fact be an illusion after Sevvy discovers some shocking and eye opening secrets. Sevvy's only real true ally might in fact be an outsider named June, and a medic named Sole who helps her when things looked their most darkest. 

Sevvy is a genuinely decent character who remains strong willed despite all of the issues that have been laid at her feet. One could state that Last Star Burning is influenced by the author’s experiences in China. The story is set against the back drop of a post-apocalyptic world where deception, lies, and propaganda rule the day. Where the First class actually drops bombs on its own citizens while blaming an unseen enemy. The stigma behind the sleeping sickness really does lay heavily over this story. It gives it a bit of a darker feel to it since nobody is immune. 

The author gets an A for her world building, an A for a very well thought out plot line, and an A for writing such a fantastic character in Sevvy. It is Sevvy's struggle to understand a whole new reality that is vastly different from what she was told by those who pretended to know better than she did. Her voice doesn't waiver, but gets strong as the story rushes towards a somewhat cliffhanger ending. Shatter the Suns, which is apparently the sequel, releases fall of 2018. 




Wednesday, October 18, 2017

#Fantasy #Review - Call of the Wilde (Immortal Vegas, #8) by Jenn Stark

Series: Immortal Vegas # 8
Format: Kindle, 339 pages
Release Date:  September 5th 2017
Publisher: Elewyn Publishing
Source: Amazon
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Hello darkness, my old friend…

Still recovering from an explosive family get-together, Tarot-reading mistress of the House of Swords Sara Wilde isn’t ready to return to the war on magic. Then the Magician of the Arcana Council uses her to summon an ancient Greek deity for his own devious purposes, and Sara’s suddenly up to her elbows in oversized egos and millennia-old conflicts. Conflicts that imperil the delicate balance of power between the most formidable mortals on earth and the gods who wait beyond the veil.

To keep both gods and monsters where they belong, Sara is forced to put out the first call to arms of the four Houses of Magic since the fall of Atlantis. Unfortunately, that call brings ancient enemies into the open and reveals truths about the Council–and the Magician himself–she would have preferred not to know. Worse, a brutal resurgence of violence rocks the Las Vegas Connected community and has Sara questioning everything she knows about her closest allies, while a nagging interest from Interpol evolves into a far more insidious threat. Sara’s done her best to become a team player, but with friends like these…

Better pray it’s a wrong number when you get the Call of the Wilde.




Call of the Wilde, by author Jenn Stark, is the Eighth installment in the Immortal Vegas series. This time around, Stark decided that Sara hasn't had enough on her plate. Nope. This time she takes the entire freezer and dumps all of its contents on Sara's shoulders. If you follow this series closely, and I hope that you do, Sara has had an extraordinary adventure up to this point. Sara is a tarot card reading artifact hunter of some renown, who has become the head of the House of Swords. Oh, and she's apparently Immortal now as well. 

But, there's nothing like meeting your own bio-mother, aka Vengeance, aka the Denounced, and barely surviving against her and your nemesis Gamon. (Yes, the author does actually reveal her real name later in this story and it blow you away to learn who she really was, and how she and the Hermit met.) But, I digress. As the story begins, Sara is supposed to be on vacation with her on again, off again romantic interest Armaeus. Better known as the Magician of the Arcane Council. There are times I really, really can not trust him, and this is one of those times.

At the urging of Armaeus, Sara finds a way to bring a certain Goddess through the veil. Sowelcome to the series Hera! You are the newest hopeful for the Arcane Council as the Empress? If you thought that was all I was going to talk about, oh you are in for a rude awakening. As I've said before, Stark doesn't like Sara to have any sort of down time. Why have any down time when you can come under attack four times by an unknown source that later is revealed to be the fourth house of human magic, the House of Wands.

The House of Wands is a curious collection of warriors who have hidden themselves away from the rest of the world for centuries, and now have decide to find out whether or not Sara is the real deal, or just a fading star that will soon blink out. If that weren't enough, Sara is betrayed, Interpol is hot on her tail because of said betrayal, and then there are the Gods who decide that they have been on the other side of the veil for far too long. Sara attempts to bring all four houses together in London to seal the breach and stop the Gods. 

On top of all that Sara has been through since she started working for the Arcane Council, she still struggles to catch up to the world of magic that she has become a prominent figure in. Not only a prominent figure, but now a figure who has a huge bounty on her head from all sorts of people. A figure who may be as powerful as any member of the Arcane Council, possibly even strong because of her parents. Sara is far from a Mary Sue character, or one of those TSTL characters either. She does stand and deliver time and time again, and in this story, standing up causes a really curious cliffhanger ending. 

I love this series, I do, don't get me wrong. I will read it to the end if that's what it takes to discover Stark's end game when it comes to Sara. But, my weakness is that Sara is so far behind the eight ball, and really seems like she doesn't want to understand her part in what is happening all around her. Her refusal to take her leadership of the House of Swords is perhaps my biggest issue. Remarkably, Sara does have General Ma-Singh, and Nikki Dawes around to keep her focused. And, maybe, just maybe, Sara will discover what her abilities are capable of doing as she gets closer to the Devil, and the secrets he holds in his hands. 

This is, perhaps, the first cliffhanger ending in this series. Sara is really in a pickle, and it will take a major magic trick to escape as everyone seems to be eager to get their hands on Sara and discover what she really is capable of. Author states that Running Wilde will be the 9th installment, and will release this December. See you then!





Monday, October 16, 2017

Gizmo #Reviews - Freefall by Joshua David Bellin #YALit #Science #Fiction

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Release Date: September 26, 2017
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: YA \ Science Fiction \ Space Opera

When the 1% and the 99% clash, the fate of the human race hangs on the actions of two teens from very different backgrounds in this thrilling sci-fi adventure.
In the Upperworld, the privileged 1% are getting ready to abandon a devastated planet Earth. And Cam can’t wait to leave. After sleeping through a 1,000-year journey, he and his friends will have a pristine new planet to colonize. And no more worries about the Lowerworld and is 99% of rejects.
Then Cam sees a banned video feed of protesters in the Lowerworld who also want a chance at a new life. And he sees a girl with golden eyes who seems to be gazing straight though the feed directly at him. A girl he has to find. Sofie.
When Cam finds Sofie, she opens his eyes to the unfairness of what’s happening in their world, and Cam joins her cause for Lowerworld rights. He also falls hard for Sofie. But Sofie has her own battles to fight, and when it’s time to board the spaceships, Cam is alone.
Waking up 1,000 years in the future, Cam discovers that he and his shipmates are far off-course, trapped on an unknown and hostile planet. Who has sabotaged their ship? And does it have anything to do with Sofie, and the choices—and the enemies—he made in the past?



Freefall, by author Joshua David Bellin, is a standalone, young adult, science fiction, space opera featuring Cameron Newell, with guest appearances by Sofie Patel, the object of his obsession. The story alternates between the years 2151 & 3151. In the year 2151, Cam, his friends Griffin and Adrian, and their hot shot families are preparing to leave Earth for a new planet called Tau Ceti E. They are part of what is called Upperworld, where the rich have had years to prepare to depart Earth which is doomed to an extinction level event. Then, Cam sees Sofie. 

Sofie has been preaching the slogan of one world, not two, and has managed to become the leader of the Lowerworld with a huge following that encompasses what is currently the Middle and Far East after her mentor is assassinated. Sofie has been labeled everything from a Terrarist, to prophet, to a revolutionary, to the last hope for the Lowerworld where people have been dumped on for hundreds of years. Sofie has a plan, and that plan ends up encompassing a boy with no clue of what he is getting involved in. A boy who will be used, tossed away, and betrayed. But, who is Sofie really, and why should readers really care about a radicalized fundamentalist?

In the year 3151, Cam awakes alone, his pod was jettisoned leaving him castoff from the others on the Executor. As he slowly awakes from his thousand year sleep, Cam finds that he is under attack by a strange thing made of mist. Newelly screwed because the Executor landed on a planet that is not conducive to any lifeforms, including terraforming, Cam finds that he is the enemy of his own people, including his best friends. Yet another chess piece to be moved around, and then sacrificed by both sides, Upper, and Lower. 

Cam, however, is too far gone to use the brain he was born with to open his mind and discover what is really happening under the facade. Instead, he uses the brain between his legs in order to continue his obsessive insta-romance with a girl who not only betrayed him, but used him in order to provide transportation for Lowers to another world altogether. After the Freefall, which is Sofie's ship, lands on the planet, Cam has to actually use his brain to figure out what is happening and why both ships landed on the same planet. Who is to blame, and why? What is Cam's part in all of this? Does Sofie have any clue how utterly gone he is when it comes to loving her?

You may think that I am being a bit harsh with my commentary regarding Cam. I assure you, I am not. From the first moment that Cam sees Sofie on a video screen, his entire world ends. There's no moving forward. He can't think of anything but Sofie. He can't do anything but think about Sofie and what she's doing. He runs off to NY where she is supposed to be speaking at the UN. He ends up joining Sofie in the Lowerworld where he basically doesn't do anything but sit around trying to make himself more attractable to the girl who will eventually leave him behind, and betray him.

I rated this story 3 stars because of the science fiction elements of the story. I rated this story because of the suspenseful action that takes place in 3151, not 2151. One could manage to say that this is yet another dystopian world where the socio-advantaged get whatever they want at the expense of the rest of the world. What would have made this story better for me? The addition of real life aliens that feast on the travelers. Or, how about an all out battle between the Upper and Lower over the only ship that actually matters when all is said and done? Bottom line? The future chapters were by far the only thing that kept me from rating this story any lower.




Sunday, October 15, 2017

Gizmo #Review - Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco #YALit #Horror

Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper # 2 
Format: Hardcover, 448 pags
Release Date: September 17, 2017
Publisher: jimmy patterson
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult \ Horror

In this New York Times bestselling sequel to Kerri Maniscalco's haunting #1 debut Stalking Jack the Ripper, bizarre murders are discovered in the castle of Prince Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. Could it be a copycat killer...or has the depraved prince been brought back to life?
Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper's true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe's best schools of forensic medicine...and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.
But her life's dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school's forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.


Hunting Prince Dracula, by author Kerri Maniscalco, is the followup to Stalking Jack the Ripper. The story takes place between December 1-26, 1888. 17-year old Audrey Rose Wadsworth is back. This time she and Thomas Cresswell are traveling via the Orient Express to Romania where they hope to study in the prestigious Academy of Forensic Medicine and Science. Before they even arrive though, there are headlines screaming about the possibility that Vlad Dracula may very well be alive and on the hunt after a body is found staked through the heart.

Apparently, the centuries dead legend has once again gained the imagination to the point where people truly believe it is possible that Dracula is an immortal. With the Ripper case fresh in her mind, and her imagination playing very cruel games with her, Audrey must find a way to put it all behind her if she is to be chosen as one of only two candidates to be entered into the next session of the school. This is a story that is as foreboding, as it is eerie. From a stunning murder on the Orient Express, to bodies piling up in and around the school, to the dangers that linger behind every corner, and possibly every student, Audrey and Thomas have their work cut out for them if they are to survive.

Historical Fiction is all about creating your own world, while also intermingling factual figures into your story. While this story is once set in the Victoria Era, Maniscalco knocks the walls down by allowing some things to happen between Audrey and Thomas that would probably have been frowned upon. She also uses the Orient Express as means of travel for Audrey Rose and Thomas. She uses the train for romantic means for Audrey and Thomas who grow even closer than before. Something that takes a whole lot for me to admit since I found Thomas a bit of a cad and a bloody bastard at times in both novels.

There's a bit of cooling at one point during the story after Thomas did something quite foolish. One could say that he bit off more than he could chew, and got smacked. But, Audrey gets a bit of clarity from her own cousins letter arrives and they end up in a good place when all is said and done. 
Bran Castle was never been a school for forensics, yet the historical and creepy aspects of the school gave the story a Gothic feel to it. Maniscalco's brilliant use of hallways, passageways, and tricky labyrinths that lead to life or death situations for Audrey and Thomas just prove that Maniscalco is not a one hit wonder.

The author also uses a secret society called The Order of the Dragon which really did exist at one point in history. The author twists the Order's membership by adding two female characters, Ileana and Daciana, something that really wouldn't have been possible in this era. Plus, Ileana and Daciana have a love for the other that is not restrained, but passionate and real. I do like the modern effort that allows Audrey to become a strong model for young women in today's society. She says I am strong, I am willing, and I am going to kick down the door on the male dominated world of forensic science, and make it my own.

I am extremely interested in what will play out in the next installment as Audrey and Thomas and Audrey's Uncle travel to America. Will the situation test their romance, or will it survive any circumstances thrown at them? We shall see.