Book Review: Rarity of the Century

I received an ARC of this book way back when I started up the blog and finally got around to reading it as I am trying to make progress on the blog book TBR when I don’t have paid reviews coming in. This one was called Rarity of the Century by Fawzy Zablah and I am using it as my book for “defense against the dark arts” book (had to start with the letter R) in the Magical readathon.

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Synopsis: Chucho, an aimless tramp of Palestinian/Latino descent, has reached a lull in his young adult life that he surmises is directly linked to a long ago, barely spoken of family tragedy that left him an orphan.

After a brief stint and stellar downfall in the fetish porn industry, he is forced to move back home with his flamboyant uncle in South Beach and get a job at a Brazilian steak house. Just as he is getting used to his new position in life, he falls for the hostess Shiraz Zirel who first torments him via her unattainable beauty and then by ignoring him.

Frustrated with Shiraz, Chucho decides to give up on love. But when a Rapture event of unknown origins occurs over all of South Florida, Chucho and Shiraz find that they are the sole survivors. In fact, Chucho realizes with new-found excitement, they may be the last two people on earth.

Can they be together? Are they fated for love? And what is that strange thing in the sky over South Beach anyway? As the star-crossed lovers journey to investigate the inexplicable phenomenon, they encounter a mysterious, yet familiar third survivor that will force them into a fight for their lives.

I’m honestly not really sure what I just finished reading.

There were 3 different viewpoints of the story. It was essentially the same story being retold from the 3 main characters perspectives so a lot of what was happening was already known and it left little to the imagination. I did not like one single character in this book. They were all pretty conceited in the way they thought about and treated others.

There was no love in this book. It was just people using other people for sex. And don’t get me started on the sex. There was so much emphasis on the man being dominant over the woman and how she was supposed to be his “slave”. *Pardon my french* but are you fucking kidding me?! Men and women should be treated equally in a relationship and there were so many parts of this book where they were treated worse than a dog (I also don’t condone treating any animal poorly). I realize that this may be used to build a nasty character but honestly, it was too much for me to enjoy the book.

Also, trigger warning that there is a lot of rape. It made me feel uncomfortable reading these parts. The second trigger warning I would add is that there is quite a bit of racism towards people of Jewish descent. There is a line where the character says that he wants to be Hitler. I had to pause when I read that and think to myself, what was the author trying to achieve with this?

And then the whole post-apocalyptic thing. It never explains how this came to be. I was kind of waiting for an explanation to tie everything together at the end but nope. No explanation at all.

I feel bad about this review because I was hopeful for an interesting book but I just found myself cringing a lot while reading. I believe that the author had an idea and they tried to make it into a story but it did not feel complete in my opinion. I hope that this rating doesn’t make the author feel like there book is not good. This was just my personal opinion of how I felt about the book but someone else might like it.

*I always hope that authors will continue to write regardless of bad reviews to push through and work on their dreams. You guys make the creations that we love to consume as readers.*

Book Rating: 1/5

You can find this book on Amazon and Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us as an advanced reader’s copy in physical format by the author to read and give an honest review.


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Book Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

What’s up bookworms? I hope you are all reading your hearts out. I know I am. Over the past 3 weeks, I participated in my first ever buddy read with J.W.Martin from Storeys of Stories and we read the book Armada by Ernest Cline. We did about 2 chapters a day and fit in extra when we had time but stayed pretty consistent. Each day we would message each other about the stuff that happened in the book and give our predictions for what we thought would happen. It was quite fun and we plan to do another in May. For now, you can read my review below!

The book Armada by Ernest Cline on a bed

Synopsis: Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

If you loved the nostalgia in Ready Player One then you will like this book because it is stuffed with it. It has many references to Star Wars, Star Trek, pretty much any Sci-Fi film franchise you can think of. This made me very happy.

Zach is a lovable character that takes you on a journey of life as a nerdy kid. He has his two best friends (both named Michael) by his side and they are all extreme gamers who log at least 15 hours or more a week on their favorite game, Armada. The author introduces more characters along the way that I’m very fond of. I can see this book potentially being made into a movie.

One thing I would say is that the conclusion of the novel seemed very forced and too fast. I was hoping for more action and intense descriptive fight scenes (they still are there but it seems to wrap up and move onto the next scene too quickly). The book has so much build up to the finale so the least they could do is extend it a little longer to satisfy the reader with that juicy explosion of an ending. This was the area where the book fell short for me and the reason I gave it a 4 star rating instead of a 5 star rating.

Overall, I would suggest this book to anyone that wants a fast-paced science fiction page-turner.

Book Rating: 4/5

You can buy this book on Amazon or Book Depository and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: I bought this book with my own money and read it because I wanted to.


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Book Review: Intraterrestrial

Our external reviewer Sara sent over another review she is very excited about. She recently read Intraterrestrial by Nicholas Conley and had great things to say about it.

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Synopsis: Adam Helios is a bully magnet without many friends. When he starts hearing a voice that claims to come from the stars, he fears he’s losing his mind, so he withdraws even further. On the way home from a meeting at the school, he and his parents are involved in a horrible car crash. With his skull cracked open, Adam’s consciousness is abducted by the alien who has been speaking to him for months.

After surviving the wreck with only minor scratches, Camille Helios must deal with her guilt over the accident that left her husband badly injured and her son in a coma. When the doctor suggests letting Adam go, Camille refuses to stop fighting for her son’s life.

Lost among galaxies, Adam must use his imagination to forge a path home before his body dies on the operating table. But even if he does return to Earth, he may end up locked inside a damaged brain forever.

This novel is a little like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but for young adult readers. It’s a little intense, and if you dissected it enough you could finds all sorts of hidden meaning and perhaps even Biblical allusions to analyze.

This novel follows the journey of a young boy named Adam Helios (even his name warrants analysis!) who has suffered a traumatic brain injury. While in the coma, he is taken by aliens (or is he?) to help them defeat The Nothing Spot which is attacking their ship, The Consciousness. The only catch is, the entire experience is built by his imagination – the aliens only have bodies because that’s how he imagines them, he travels around the ship, which is actually the solar system, because that’s what his imagination creates, and so on. This book also follows the journey of Adam’s parents, who are waiting for him back on Earth, hoping he will recover, and are going through their own journey of discovery.

This book is very strange, no doubt about it. There are times when you have no idea what’s happening, or why, and it frequently gets gross and a bit scary. This book is also beautiful, as it is (perhaps) a metaphor for Adam trying to find himself as a person, through all the self-doubt and uncertainty that he feels as he is becoming an unpopular teenager. He must rescue several different aliens from The Nothing Spot, which endlessly tells him that he is meaningless, and no one cares about him, in order to heal The Consciousness – all while his body is attempting to heal from a traumatic brain injury.

There’s really a lot more to this book than you might think, especially as you consider how everything might tie together for Adam and his family and friends. This is a book about self-discovery, but it’s also a book about aliens, the solar system, and a bit of science.

Overall, I think this book is a win. I would recommend this to any young adult friend who likes things a little bit stranger than the typical coming of age theme prevalent in so many young adult novels.

Book Rating: 5/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in ebook format by the author to read and give an honest review.

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Book Review: Foiled by Carey Fessler

New book review alert! We have delved into the world of middle-grade books this time. Presented here is a book called Foiled by Carey Fessler.

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Synopsis: It’s 1947 on a U.S. Army base near Roswell, New Mexico, and eleven-year-old Kate’s friend and neighbor, Billy, shows her a secret. A CIA agent arrives at Billy’s house, to recover the Top Secret items, and threatens the family, warning them to never talk about the incident—ever. Special Agent Falco informs them of their sudden reassignment to Germany. Billy, not wanting to move to Germany or return his treasures, begs Kate for help. Feisty and fiercely loyal, she agrees to hide him.

Thus begins a most unusual road trip in which the two friends use their wits, their knowledge of the terrain and geography around the base, and sheer determination to evade capture. Kate must also reach her grandfather, more than two hundred miles away, and warn him how the secret poses a dangerous threat … to anyone involved.

Their race has begun, and there’s no turning back.

This was an average middle-grade book. It had likable characters, despicable villains and quite an adventure through different parts of New Mexico. I was kept entertained all the way through it with Billy and Kate’s antics. They bantered back and forth just like two young kids would and it was fun to experience this kind of honesty and childlike innocence.

It was set in the 1940s and had all these references to things that are a part of our history (especially baseball and comic books). I identified with Billy as a child because, like him, I would read comic books and want to be just like the superheroes/protagonists of the adventure.

There were some parts of the book where I would think that they should be a little more descriptive of the scene but this could have been because of the nature of it being a middle-grade book. The author was just making it easier for kids to understand and in turn, this would keep them from losing interest in the novel.

Overall, I think it is a genuine adventure book that would be fun for kids to read when they are experiencing books for the first time and just starting to explore the world of literature. It just gets better and better the more you open your world to reading!

Book Rating: 3.5/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads or the Author’s Website.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us by the author in ebook format to read and give an honest review.

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Book Review: Provider​ Prime

More fantastic reviews from our external reviewer Chris Connors! This one was called Provider Prime: Alien Legacy by John Vassar.

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Synopsis: Earth has endured world wars, global famine and the near-collapse of civilization. It has always survived. But it has never seen anything like this…

After a century of peace, world security is under attack from an entity with incredible power and intelligence. Something that has remained hidden within the Populus for decades. Something malevolent.

Facing impossible odds, one man is caught in a race against time to find and eliminate the threat. Earth’s all-powerful AIs, the SenANNs, offer hope but have their own agenda for the future of mankind. As an alien starship appears on the outskirts of the solar system, the loyalty of the most advanced machine minds the world has ever known will be tested.

In the final reckoning, with the future of humanity at stake, the SenANNs themselves will hold the balance of power.

Will they stand with the human race or assist in its subjugation?

An expletive might be appropriate here, but I’ll settle for, “oh boy, this book was good!” I admire anyone who has taken the time to write a book, even if it isn’t all that good, because, by gum, they sat down and wrote a friggin’ book! How awesome is that?! Then you get an author who not only has written a book but has done it so well you wouldn’t know that there was no professional publishing house behind him.

For the most part, this book was difficult to put down at bedtime. It wasn’t just good in terms of the storyline, but good in terms of writing, both creative and technical. If there were any spelling errors or major grammar mistakes I missed them. I thought I spotted an incorrect comma placement right near the beginning, but that’s probably po-ta-toe vs po-taw-toe scenario; and I was so involved in the story right from page one I didn’t even slow down to check. The attention to detail needed for this level of technical writing is something you expect from a professional editor—my reviews have more grammatical errors in them than this entire book (I’m pretty good at spotting errors in my own work but only after they’ve gone online or been sent out to a client).

Set about 2 centuries in the future, Earth’s scientific knowledge has leaped forward since the time of the Great Famine when several billion people died and humanity was in danger of extinction. Space flight, orbital living quarters, AI, Moon and Mars colonies are thriving, and crime rates are at a manageable level. People are beginning to exhibit signs of telepathy or empathic connections, something that is viewed with a bit of suspicion, but doesn’t stray into us vs them X-men territory; instead, it plays a background part that adds to the storyline rather than be the storyline.

Part of the story blurb from Amazon states, “After a century of peace, world security is under attack from an entity with incredible power and intelligence. Something that has remained hidden within the Populus for decades. Something malevolent.

Facing impossible odds, ex-FedStat agent Lee Mitchell is caught in a race against time to find and eliminate the threat. Earth’s all-powerful AIs, the SenANNs, offer hope but have their own agenda for the future of mankind. They also have plans for Mitchell which will make him question what it is to be human.”

It won’t come as a spoiler, given the sub-title of the book, that aliens are involved, but at first, you don’t know why they’re here—to aid or to subjugate?

One thing, of many, that I liked is the author doesn’t explain all the terms— he doesn’t spoon-feed you like some authors (you know who you are) who seem to have a low opinion of their readers’ intelligence.

In real life we don’t explain all our acronyms or terms or how things work to people we talk to, but use them with the understanding that they also know these shortcut terms or how things work: MTO, OPP, coppers, 9-1-1, tweakers, NFL, change the spark plugs, electoral processes, and on it goes. Vassar’s technique feels much more “realistic” than having characters explain things for the sake of the reading audience that should be obvious to the other characters in the book.

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Did your pilot just explain pilot acronyms to another pilot?

With Vassar, the reading audience can pick up what is meant within a few pages of seeing the terms used in context. His well-done technique kept me turning pages; I wasn’t pulled out of the story, which happens when some character explains what should be obvious to those around him. I feel this type of writing technique is under-appreciated by many readers because the story flows so smoothly they don’t recognize why it flows that way.

He also manages not to veer into William Gibson territory who has taken “aggravatingly obtuse” to a whole new level; Gibson is brilliant, but avoid going on Gibson reading binge if you want to maintain your love of reading.

The pacing of the Vassar’s story also kept me turning pages. Things did slow down a bit near the end, strangely enough, when the alien spaceship finally shows up—it was still interesting though. As well, there were a couple of items that didn’t seem to fit into the story—it wasn’t fully explained why an agent’s communication node failure was integral to the story nor why it had to malfunction; far as I could tell it wasn’t necessary as that storyline could have been fulfilled using devices that are already in place.

There is also a couple of near Deus ex Machina used to extricate characters out of tight situations near the end (one technological, one convenient telepathic intervention); it felt like cheating to me. If you don’t know what Deus ex Machina is, don’t look it up—it’ll ruin Star Trek for you forever.

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“Don’t look, you’ll be ok, this will be the last Deus ex Machina device for this week, ahhh.. I mean season”.

And, I thought the love interest wasn’t developed well at all—Mitchell just meets this person yet they’re deeply in love. Yes, they both are latent telepaths, but the story didn’t explore how this brought them towards deep love. The love interest felt tacked on to give Mitchell more motivation for continuing on against some good-sized odds.

But those are minor quibbles. The line “We are the same. But we are different” (see front piece picture) is a recurring theme in the book, which ties things together. It is especially put to good use at the end of the story where the words “We are the same” take on new meaning, which gave me a happy chill. The universe Vassar has created felt realistic, creatively done, and was clever, which is fitting considering his writing was the same way.

The ending does leave room for further books in this universe. It also could end right there, as it was fairly satisfying and leaves it to the reader to imagine what might happen next. If Vassar does continue with this universe I’ll buy those books. Personally, I want to know how Mitchell’s life continues as all he knows now will completely change how he sees life. Vassar has demonstrated that his writing is comparable with some well-known authors, and I thought it was better writing than some big names (you still listening, Dean?).

For just the technical prowess alone I’d give 6/5 stars if there were such a thing. For storyline, creative writing, imagination, well-developed universe, definitely a 5/5 star book, and then some!

Book Rating: 5/5

You can buy the book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in ebook format by the author to read and give an honest review.

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Book Review: Star City by Edwin Peng

Another book  has been read and reviewed! This one is called Star City by Edwin Peng.

This book was pretty good. The main characters were Emma (the youthful student ambassador) and Sepporinen (the chosen Alien delegate). They work together to cure diseases with the use of the alien technology. But a lot of the world doesn’t agree with working with aliens and choose to start anti-Bar’en groups (Bar’en is the alien race that Sepporinen is a part of).

There was some teen love but I found that most of it wasn’t exactly believable. It just seemed like a very elementary school kind of relationship.

Most of the events that happened in the book were pretty predictable. I kept waiting for that moment when you think you know whats going to happen and there is a twist that just makes for a great ending but it never came.

There was a lot of progress towards accepting different cultures. This I did like about the book because it promoted accepting everyone and taking away the fuel of hatred towards others based on skin color or religion.

It was interesting enough to keep me going and I liked the book cover too. I think the sequels will be promising and I hope for some more adventure with the main characters.

Book Rating: 3.5/5

Oh and finally I will reveal the Giveaway Winner!!! And the winner is…….drumroll please……….KYLEE BAKOWSKI! I will get in touch and get the book to you. Thank you to everyone who liked and shared the post and participated in the contest.

Disclaimer: I was sent this book by the author and publishers to read and give my honest review. I also did a book highlight and giveaway for this book.

Book Highlight – Star City by Edwin Peng

So I have been sent a book call Star City by Edwin Peng for free to review. I am doing a book highlight first before I finish the book to give everyone a little taste of this science fiction adventure and to give you a little insight into the author by sharing an author interview!

It isn’t every day you read a debut novel that you know will be just the beginning of a successful career, but with Edwin Peng’s Star City (Evolved Publishing, December 4, 2017), it’s clear from page one that this book is something special. Star City is more than just a world-shaking sci-fi adventure for YA readers, with a dash of romance and a super cool alien race who happens to love blueberries. From Peng’s unique take on human/alien first contact, to his diverse cast of characters, and a protagonist with strong ties to her STEM roots, the book feels lively and well thought out on every level.

Synopsis: Eighteen year old Emma Smith is exactly where she wants to be: she’s headed to the University of Nebraska with a full scholarship to, and on top of that she’s been selected by the U.S government to participate in an exclusive medical research project. The project, as it turns out, isn’t an average college internship. Emma has been selected as a student ambassador to liaise with the Ba’ren, an alien race that has recently made contact with Earth in order to share medical technology. The project will kick start Emma’s biomedical engineering career, as well as give her a chance to interact with this mysterious alien race she – and all of humanity – are very curious about.

Unfortunately for Emma, her Ba’ren counterpart, Sepporinen, has very little interest in her humanity as a whole. He is most excited about the opportunity to explore and mine the asteroids of Earth’s solar system, but is compelled by his government to take part in the research project. As the two work together, they begin to draw closer, and form a friendship – and perhaps more. In the meantime, they discover far more is at stake with their project than what their respective governments have let on. Political and cultural clashes between the humans and the Ba’ren intensify, and Emma and Sepporinen must risk everything to help maintain the fragile peace between their two species.

Star City is the best kind of YA – it encourages readers to enjoy the story, and yet to think beyond its pages. Fans of Rick Yancey, Melissa Landers, and Claudia Grey Alexandra Bracken will gravitate towards this series, and will be so glad that they discovered Edwin Peng, a debut author we’ll certainly be hearing more from.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

What inspired you to write Star City?

Edwin Peng: I have always loved YA, so that’s the genre that I always knew I would write. I really hope that my fandom shines through, but at the same time that my novel is  different than what’s currently out there. The other thing that inspired this novel was my experience in the highly competitive Early Entrance Program at California State University, Los Angeles. I was 13 when I went to college, which is a little bit out of the ordinary (to say the least!). Some of the very smart, very driven, and very geeky characters in my novel are loosely based on that experience.

Why did you choose to set the book in Nebraska?

Peng: I moved to Lincoln, NE five years ago. I are to love this state and its people. One of my favourite books is Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. There are enough books – not to mention movies and TV shows – set in New York City or Los Angeles. I believe there should be more novels set in “unpopular” places such as Nebraska.

What do you hope readers will take away from this novel?

Peng:  My hope is that Star City provides pertinent social commentary and challenges the average YA reader’s preconceptions while still delivering a funny and exciting story. The most obvious theme of the Ibook is the need for peaceful relations with other cultures. In our increasingly connected world, we must be much more understanding and tolerant of others.

Why was it important for you to feature a diverse set of characters in the series?

Peng: Traditional publishing, especially within the young adult genre, has a long history of excluding marginalized groups, both in their fiction and for real life readers and authors. In the rare instance that a young adult novel features minority/lower class/LGBT+ characters, they are often stereotyped and/or whitewashed on the cover or movie adaptation. The Star City series fights for diversity with many, non-stereotypical characters, who readers from marginalized groups can identify with.

When you’re not writing, what do you do?

Peng: I am a postdoc doing materials engineering research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Some of the alien technologies in Star City actually are inspired by the research I’m doing!

Connect with Edwin Peng at www.edwinpeng.com, on Twitter @edwinPeng88, Facebook, and Instagram @edwinpeng88.

Star City can be purchased on Amazon:

Disclaimer: All copy was provided by Smith Publicity and they own the rights to the materials provided.

I hope to talk to you bookworms soon about this one when I am finished it.