Review of Ballistic by Aria Michaels

Every so often I come across a series which has a truly cinematic quality, this is the case with the Icarus series.  Ballistic doesn’t falter after Killshot and the same depth of world and character building is astounding.  

Before picking up on Liv’s search, we start with Lucas’ story.  The chaos in the aftermath and where we discover that he is at least alive, but being taken to “safety” by the Army.   Liv on the other hand is still battling through with her band of friends and allies, at least with transport they now have something going their way, but with the heat still blazing their choices of shelter need to be wise.  What looks like the perfect sanctuary for a pitstop brings them face to face with yet more mutations, the pods have incubated and the results are truly terrifying.

The team seem to be living from one escape to the next, be it from the pods to the lightening storms to other survivors.  Clues left by those they are searching for are followed but an interruption along the way leads to new discoveries allegiances.  But will Liv ever reach her goal?  Is Lucas better at getting himself into trouble than his sister is?

As with Killshot, the set pieces are fantastic, battles are intense in both description and scale and the book is full to bursting with story.  The pace fluctuates well with the ups and downs of the groups experiences, well earned rests are a time for reflection, to get to know each other better and to get under each other’s skin.  I like that there is such a diversity between the group and also with those they meet along the way. There is a good sense that even in times of strife people either naturally get along with each other or they don’t.  The writer doesn’t force them to be a jolly band but nor is anyone truly a villain, everyone is just getting through each day as best they can.  For me this is a massive part of what sets this series apart, the characters are exceptional and that leaves the slower parts of the book being just as captivating as those filled with action.

It’s a book which kept me on the edge, desperate to turn to the next page but this time the cliffhanger is a little more dastardly!  Thank you Aria Michaels for another amazing read!

Review of The Surrendered by Case Maynard

In a future America, the country no longer able to sustain itself, finds a new and abhorrent way to tax their citizens.  Any couple with more than one child would subject to “The Tax” an exorbitant fee to punish those who choose to have more than one child, a fee that the many can ill afford.  Those children whose parents can’t pay the Tax are “Surrendered” at a young age and are forced to earn their keep for the masters by either working the fields, factories or other more harrowing tasks.  

Vee and her twin brother Oliver were surrendered at 10 when their parents had their younger sister Jane, both working their way up to positions of respect within the areas they are assigned to.  However, when a new influx of surrender’s arrive, Vee sees a face she thought she would never have to see and after playing Good Samaritan after a chance encounter leaves Vee fleeing the walls into the unknown.

Vee is the typical strong and feisty girl, quick to judge and with high moral values, although her capacity to care gets her into trouble more often than not.  Her journey brings her face to face with her past and the secrets surrounding her and her brothers surrender are painful to watch unfold.

The supporting cast are strong and tight knit, each with their own harrowing tale to tell.  Ramsey is a particularly sorrowful tale and I felt for her the most.  The story is a little slow paced at times, but the action is very powerful when it reaches its climactic point.  

This was an easy and enjoyable read and a very accomplished and polished debut. It was actually really refreshing to have a read that was pretty much a standalone – there is no indication that it is part of a series or the ever popular trilogy.  Towards the end I was elated to realise that yes, the story would reach it’s end with pretty much everything tied up, is there scope for further books with these characters, of course!  But I like the fact that I am not adding book 1 in another series to my list of started’s and I feel my journey with these characters can be complete.

Author Interview with Bethany Adams

As part of this weeks author spotlight, I was delighted to have Bethany Adams agree to take part in our author interview.  I reviewed Soulbound a while back and loved it, so am really glad to have this opportunity to find out more about Bethany and her books in this interview!

Q. For those that are new to Bethany Adams, can you tell us a bit about your books

Bethany: It’s pretty much a given that my books will contain magic. My current series is a fantasy romance blend, though I’d say it’s a bit heavier on the fantasy. But even when I try to write something contemporary, magic creeps in. 🙂 The Return of the Elves series features my favorite thing ever. You’ll never guess this, but it’s…elves. Hehe

Q: At what point in your life did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Bethany: Very early on. I started making up little stories as soon as I knew enough words to write them. I think I was in middle school when I tried to write my first book. It was baaaaad. LOL. I didn’t even know that “I” needed to be capitalized, and I didn’t get anywhere close to finishing it. But even though I’ve been writing for all this time, it took me until my 30s to get to a place where I was ready to publish.

Q: Do you need peace and quiet to write or do you have a playlist to keep you going?  If you do would you share it with us?

Bethany: Most of the time, I listen to music. Peace and quiet isn’t something I get often, since I have small children, so I don’t expect it. I’ve always been inspired by music, though. Favorite artists on my playlist? Evanescence, Red, Sara Bareilles, Amy Petty, Sarah McLachlan, Disturbed…it’s pretty eclectic. One of my favorite songs to listen to with Soulbound was “Of These Chains” by Red.

Q: Are your characters always a complete work of fiction or is there an element of someone you know to start the idea rolling?

Bethany: My main characters are always a complete work of fiction, and 99% of secondary characters are, too. This goes back to my high school writing days. I started a story with characters based off of friends, and everyone wanted a say in what happened. It got tedious, so I decided not to do that again. Nope. And if you’re curious about that 1%…those aren’t usually people I know. For instance, there’s a scene in Book 2 where Kai is in another town on a mission, and he finds a murdered couple. They are directly based on an encounter I had in a restaurant when my youngest was a baby. So tick me off enough and I might kill you off in a future book?

Q: What are your experiences of being an Indie Author, do you find that social media is a help or a distraction to your writing?

Bethany: So far, I love being an Indie Author! I think social media can be both help and distraction. I love connecting with friends and fans (especially friendly fans, heh), and it’s a great tool to share my work with others. But I do have to stop myself from checking social media when I should be working.

Q: What are you currently working on or is it a secret!?

Bethany: Well, I should be getting edits back on Book 2, Sundered, any day now. In the meantime, I’m working on a short story that takes place between books 2 and 3. Then I’ll be diving into the third book.

Q: The Elven world in Soulbound is so intricately  woven, including the language, how do you go about creating a whole new world like that?

Bethany: In an odd way, it’s sort of organic. It all starts with the scenes that flash into my head, which tend to be character driven. I almost never come up with the world first. As the story unfolds for me, the world does, too. After the first draft is complete, I might ponder certain aspects and see if I can richen them. Now when it comes to language, I do stop in the first draft to put thought into that. I almost went into Linguistics in college, and languages fascinate me. For example, I set up the Moranaian language as a verb, subject, object language with limited case markers. I also had to decide how to do their alphabet, etc. Maybe someday I’ll write a guide to their language. Someday. 🙂

Q: If you could be any character you have written who would you choose?

Bethany: Probably Arlyn. I mean, I wouldn’t want to lose my mom or family, but I’d love to find a portal to Moranaia. If one exists, I don’t know how to find it, though. Alas.

Q: What are you currently reading?

Bethany: I’m between books right now since I’m on a tight deadline, but next on my list is Angeli by Jody Wallace. Then probably the newest Lynsay Sands.

Q: Fictional Dinner Party – give me 5 fictional characters or authors who you would have as dinner companions

Bethany: Ohhh, only 5? Aerin from The Hero and the Crown. Elspeth, Darkwind, and Vanyel from Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series. Number 5, hmm….maybe Mercedes Lackey herself. I suppose you can guess who my favorite author is. Hehe

Thank you so much for taking part Bethany, I now know not to get on your bad side 😉 or perhaps I do to get a mention in a book! Can’t wait for Sundered!

Review of Killshot by Aria Michaels

Killshot has been on my TBR ever since Aria Michaels won a spotlight contest on this blog a couple of months back. When the opportunity presented itself to receive a review copy I jumped at the chance and I wasn’t disappointed.

Set in the lead up to, and then aftermath of a solar event “Icarus” we are first introduced to our heroine, Liv, and learn a little about her life. Sadly orphaned and separated from her little brother Lucas, she lives in Foster care, just getting through each day until she is old enough to go it alone and to be her brothers carer. Also fostered with her is the effervescent Riley, an absolute optimist and despite their social differences, is truly like a sister to Liv.  We are in firm high school territory when Riley organises a gathering to view the Icarus event, with her boyfriend Micah, his cousin Zander and an assortment of other friends and foe. Having viewed the beautiful phenomenon, none could have foreseen the tragic chain of events that would then unfold.

A solar storm cuts the group off from the rest of the town, causing them to retreat into the depths of the high school building to survive the freak weather conditions. Liv finds herself an unlikely leader, with survival skills learnt as a child, coming to everyone’s aid, including Zander who clearly has his eye on Liv and she on him. The unlikely group must form a team to get to the bottom of what is going on and to go on a journey to try and save those they love.

This story is much longer than I expected, yet none of it seemed to drag or feel like filler, the prelude to the Icarus event is as short as it needs to be and we are soon thrown into the chaos. The group of friends (or not so much in some cases) are like their very own Breakfast Club, the cheerleader, the popular kids, the genius and the socially awkward, but non feel over done in their roles. The discovery of the horrifying consequences is played out in gruesome detail, the author has an amazing ability to really make you see what it going on in their world, in a no holds barred way (I would suggest not eating a snack during reading).

The journey they must take is fraught with both danger and discovery, leading the plot to places that I would never have imagined when I first started reading. I have no idea if the “science bit” is accurate but it damn well sounds like it is, and it’s clear that a lot of research went into getting things right or at least sounding right.

It’s an emotional read at times, but not in a mushy way, everyone has their own cross to bear and issues are dealt with sensitively without dwelling or becoming too angsty.

This is a fantastic, page turner of a read. Bursting with content and amazing imagery, and whilst yes, it does end on a cliffhanger, it does so at a natural point rather than on a shock which is refreshing.  There are scenes that have stayed with me given their intensity and it’s easy to imagine the book as a movie whilst you are reading.

I’m excited to move onto Ballistic next!

Throwback Thursday – George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl

So i’m going to push the realm of fantasy to it’s furthest reaches with this one, but it’s a fantastical story and one that has meant a huge amount to me growing up.  It was one of the first Roald Dahl books that I owned as a child (I now have many – some of which now belong to my daughter) it captivated me like no other book had at that point and it has awesome kudos for the fact that (Brit Alert) Rik Mayall read it as part of Jackanory in the way that only he could.  In even more Brit-tastic news apparently Richard E Grant read the audio-book version, which I must hear!

George, left on his parents farm for the day whilst being “cared” for by his grandmother, becomes increasingly fed up with her taunts and tall tales.  In a truly Dahlian turn of events, he seeks retribution on his evil grandmother by tipping her medicine away and creating his own version to give to her instead.  Systematically going through every room in the house, he takes everything from perfume to shampoo, to Gin (good lad) and brown paint to match the colour, no item is left untouched.  His concoction has the impact of making his grandmother incredibly, incredible tall – breaking up through the roof tall until she is of a height where a crane has to be used to hoist her out.  When his parents return, despite grandmother being ridiculously mis-sized, his father can only see £ signs and seeks to increase the size of the farm animals to help eliminate world hunger – however poor George can’t recall the exact recipe.  Numerous attempts fail and leave them with varying shapes and sizes of animals and ultimately grandmothers greed in finding a cure is typically misguided in a way only Roald Dahl could accomplish.  

It is a story which no doubt had many parents locking up their cupboards in the 80’s for fear of what their children would create.  For me, it was the start of an amazing literary adventure – he was probably the first author that I binge read – for my age (around 8) and I now know what my next bedtime read with my daughter will be!