Wool ~ Hugh Howey

  • Title: Wool
  • Author: Hugh Howey
  • Series: Wool Series Book 1
  • Genre: Post-apocalyptic
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Purchased
  • Reviewed by: Emma
  • Rating: 5 out of 5

Description:  They live beneath the earth in a prison of their own making. There is a view of the outside world, a spoiled and rotten world, their forefathers left behind. But this view fades over time, ruined by the toxic airs that kill any who brave them.

So they leave it to the criminals, those who break the rules, and who are sent to cleaning. Why do they do it, these people condemned to death? Sheriff Holston has always wondered. Now he is about to find out.

Review:  Wow! Wow! Wow!

I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s beautifully written without being frilly. It’s provocative without being being preachy. It’s clever without being dense. This book is like a six course meal; you get enough of everything without feeling sick, and if you eat all six courses, by the end of it you feel satisfied. All of your taste buds have been tickled and tantalised, your hunger for something different and exciting in every mouthful has been satiated, but there’s still room for more, you wish there was more, you wish you could eat the meal all over again!

From concept to characterisation, Mr Howey has pitched it just right. His world in the silo is believable, his world outside the silo scarily plausible. Juliette is an exceptional protagonist, a reluctant protagonist. She’s nicely flawed but has a core of steel and a heart of gold. I wish I could meet her.

I’m not going to talk about the story. You have to read it for yourself. But read it you must. For all book lovers out there, this is a must read. Go on, you know you want to!

Little Ones of Holda In ~ Short Story

“There’s trouble coming, son. Take your sister and hide in the basement. Remember, always survive. Live to survive.”

Solemn brown eyes in thin oval face were bright with fear and determination. The sharp edges of his nose, cheeks and jawline become prominently displayed as every muscle in the young boy’s body coils close to act. His only answer was to give his Father a single nod of understanding and then he was off to gather his sister and minor provisions.

A tiny little girl with lopsided pigtail braids, bright smile and tattered boys clothes sat at a chipped wooden desk. Homemade ink splattered across her right hand as she tried to draw a lizard on an old magazine. Igwa the lizard was a present that her Father had given to her as a birthday present that year. She loved it! Her older brother called it a lazy animal but she didn’t care. She loved the way it scampers across the floor and flicks its tongue out to eat bugs. She was just about to finish drawing the spines on the back when her brother tapped her shoulder.

She looked over her shoulder and beamed at her brother. “Guguh! Look, I’m drawing Igwa!”

The boy’s sharp features softened as he looked at his sister. “That looks great! We have to go and play the hiding game. You ready to play?”

“Yes! I remember. We have to be quiet, take our bag and go hide.”

“That’s right. Go get your bag and be ready to go in one minute. Ok?”

“Ok, Guguh!”

As the youngest Park scootched off her seat and ran to get her backpack, the young boy moved to grab a water filter, a large bottle of water and the flat cakes that their Father had made for breakfast. He threw everything into a bag that already held a change of clothes for each of them and zipped it closed. He swung it onto his back and met his sister by the main door to their suite of rooms. He put a finger against his lips and she nodded. He opened the door slowly and listened hard.

Nothing.

Nothing but the rush of blood pumping hard in his chest. The angry hiss of him trying to breathe sounded too loud. So loud that anyone could hear it. He knew it was nothing but fear spiking into paranoia but he couldn’t strangle it silent. Taking a big breath, the young boy that has yet to see his teen years, took his baby sister’s hand and they ran down the shadowed hallway, past the stairwell, rusting metal doors, and stopped at the maintenance closet just long enough to open the door and closet themselves inside.

His heart pounded louder than their soft footfalls on the carpet when they ran in the hallway. He put one hand on the wall and held onto the little one with the other. Uneven texture of pitted and paint peeling wall turned into a cold rusted metal. He pulled the chute open and whispered, “Remember to keep your arms and legs together and roll once you get to the bottom. Ok?”

“Ok,” she whispered back. She felt him pick her up, and she gave him a quick hug and kiss on his chin before he placed her into the chute. There was a moment where nothing happened at all and then she was off! She almost gave out a whoop of glee before she remembered that they were playing the hiding game.

The little girl loved the way the world seem to pass by in a hissing whoosh. She knew she was falling but it felt more like an adventure ride that ends in a pile of old pillows. She couldn’t help but giggle when she landed with a whumph and a cloud of dust danced into the air. She was about to jump up and down on the pillows but remembered to roll away instead and hide behind the large grey laundry cart. She tucked into herself, became as small as she could be and waited. She started to count to a hundred the way her Father taught her to.

One one thousand.

Two one thousand.

Three one thousand.

Her bubbly joy began to fade as she reached the thirties without a sign of her brother and started to count into the forties. A ping of unease wove into her heart and the palms of her little hands became moist. The feeling of foreboding crept over her slowly with the passing of each thousand and she was ready to give up on the game when a hissing noise tempered the silence and a darker figure flew into the air to land with a whumph! She didn’t wait like she’s suppose to. She ran fast as lightning, threw herself on her brother and hugged him tight.

“I was scared, Guguh.” she whispered into his side. Her eyes closed tight. She felt him hug her back awkwardly, patting her thin shoulder.

“Shh– shhh. It’s ok. Don’t forget the rules. We have to be very quiet and hide. Let’s go hide in the basement storage room. We’ll hide until Father finds us.”

The little girl nodded. One of her pigtails loosened and wavy little locks of blue black hair bounced as she moved her head. This time, she grabbed her brother’s hand and held tight. Her small, heart shaped face no longer held a bright smile.

They moved quickly in an almost jog. He lead her in a maze of turns that they both knew well. The whole building was their home, haven and playground. They knew every inch of it. Though, he had a better grasp of it than she did. The darkness didn’t frighten them. It never did. It would be hard to live in the desolate wastelands if one is afraid of the dark. Yet, the tension in the young boy’s frame only coiled tighter and the littlest Park could feel it. She didn’t understand why but she could feel that there’s something wrong.

It didn’t take long for them to reach the small storage room. He was careful to lift the door slightly and then open it. Otherwise, it would make a screeching squeal of worn and rusting metal. He tapped her on the back to let her know to go in. She felt for the edge of the door frame and walked in slowly with her hands held up in front of her. She only took seven steps into the room before turning around. She listened hard.

A noise of cloth moving against cloth. A huff of breathe. A ting-cked of metal and a definite click of the door setting into the place.

“Guguh?” she whispered.

“Go to the corner. We’ll wait on the little couch.” he whispered back.

They settled down onto the old, lumpy couch. He unrolled a blanket that their Father had left down there and pulled it over them. “We may be here for a while. Why don’t you try and take a nap?”

He felt her nod her head against his narrow chest and she snuggled in closer. It was a while before her breathing evened out in sleep. He tried to keep himself occupied by going over the plans for surviving in the desert. What to do if their Father didn’t come for them by nightfall. What he would have to do to keep them both safe until they reached Dodge City. It wasn’t safe for kids to be out in the desert alone.

Trouble was the code for raiders. Raiders came to toss Holda once every few years. Different ones for different reasons. The world’s gone to hell in a hurry when the bombs were let loose. Now everything is a wasteland and life is far from normal. Survival wasn’t for the smartest or the most fit. It was for whoever was strong enough to fight for life and smart enough to keep it going after victory.

Disjointed memories flooded his mind. He couldn’t just sit there and think about plans. No matter how many times he went over it all, it may not matter one whit. It could have been a false alarm. The Holda people may fight off the raiders. Their Father may die in the fight. Memories of the last big raid pushed over his denials and clogged his brain.

Screams.

The sharp Hai of fighting turned into harsh denials that turned into screams of fear and pain.

Dark red.
Everywhere.
It flowed quickly like a creature with a mind of its own. Searching for him. It came so close. Within inches of his face before stopping. A thin flow of red that grew thicker and darker. The rounded edges bloomed and made a lake of red out of the thin flow.

It grew each time Mother screamed.
Her screams grew hoarse and weak.
Wet sounds and masculine grunts took over.

He doesn’t remember when she stopped screaming.
When she stopped making any noise at all.
But the grunting and cursed filled satisfaction of the strangers didn’t stop.

He woke up in the darkness with a jerk and a whimpering scream clawing his throat dry. A rush of fear driven adrenaline and heat flooded his system. The cold quickly ate away the jagged warmth from his uncovered face as knowledge of where he was took root. An uncomfortable weight pushed down in his tummy. It didn’t help that the little one was snuggled tight against his side. He needed to go but he didn’t want to do it in the room.

He froze.

A loud clank and the sound of people moving. Muffled voices. He shook his little sister awake with a hand over her mouth. It muffled her questions. Her sleepy confusion. He put his lips near her ear and whispered fiercely, “Keep quiet and stand up with me. People are coming. They may find us. If it’s not Father, we have to run. Ok? Just nod your head.”

She nodded.

They stood up. He reached into the cushions of the couch and pulled out a metal rod. He rolled his shoulders and loosened his muscles. They were light from sleep but sore and tingling from were the littlest Park slept on him. He put her hand on edge of the back of his shirt. She knew to stand there. To be out of the way if he had to fight. To run.

Only minutes passed as the noises and voices grew louder but it felt like eons to the children. They waited. Growing more tense as time edged by. They didn’t have to wait too long before the heavy metal door was thrown open with a screaming metallic clash.

The shadowed outlines of a large man filled the doorway and wetness quickly puddled in the young boy’s pants as his bladder let go. The sharp smell of fresh urine filled the air and his body shook in shame wrapped fear.

With a roar of defiance, he tore away from his sister and rushed the enemy.

The Passage ~ Justin Cronin

  • Title: The Passage
  • Author: Justin Cronin
  • Genre: Horror
  • Series: The Passage #1
  • Format: Audiobook
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Description:  “It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.”

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.

With The Passage, award-winning author Justin Cronin has written both a relentlessly suspenseful adventure and an epic chronicle of human endurance in the face of unprecedented catastrophe and unimaginable danger. Its inventive storytelling, masterful prose, and depth of human insight mark it as a crucial and transcendent work of modern fiction.
From the Publisher (Random House)


Review: 
Justin Cronin has taken it upon himself to tell a rather long and ambitious tale. The Passage, weighing in at 784 pages, is just the first installment of this saga, so be prepared to settle in for the long haul. The book requires patience, as Cronin weaves between different perspectives and time periods as he slowly and methodically lays out his tale.

The Passage tells the story of the rise of vicious vampire-type creatures that have caused the near destruction of the world. The first half of the book explains that circumstances surrounding the creation of these monsters and their subsequent infection of society. The second half of the book follows survivors of the catastrophe and their struggle to try to save what is left of the human race.

From the description, it sounds like this is an epic, action-packed story. Not so much. Don’t get me wrong, there are quite a few action scenes and some of them are very well told. The scene where all hell breaks loose at the secret compound in Denver was very well-written. However, the action seems few and far between, as they are spread out among a lot of long-winded prose explaining all of the characters in great, and often, unnecessary detail.

For example, the book opens by telling the hard-knock life story of Amy’s mother. Amy is a vital character to the plot of series, not just this first book. However, the author could have given the mother’s background in a few sentences, rather than a few chapters. In fact, the writing style reminded me at times Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, seeming overly focused on everyone’s internal motivations and past history. This is not a compliment, I could not finish Frankenstein. Cronin’s opus is indeed slightly more enjoyable, I did make my way through to the end, after all.

The book often felt a little ADD, changing perspective AND writing styles. I am generally not bothered by alternating point of views, but Cronin took this a bit to the extreme. He would spend a lot of time focusing on a group of characters, then boom, he is off somewhere completely different. Oh, and he tells the story through a combination of narrative, letters, and diary entries.

The author was also guilty of committing one of my worst fantasy/sci-fi infraction, conflicting mythology. He has described that sunlight is harmful to his creatures and harms them. This premise is a key component to the survival of his characters. However, he has a scene where his characters flee the “sticks” (their derogatory name for the creatures) in broad daylight, and yet the creatures give chase. How is that possible? Further, his Mensa-candidate survivors decide to take refuge in a mall where there is plenty of shade to aid the sticks. It makes no sense! Gah!

Overall, the book wasn’t bad. There were compelling characters and the story was interesting. It probably would have been better told in at least 200 fewer pages. After hanging in there until the very end, I was rewarded with an ending that just kind of petered off. I am sure the author intends to pick up the thread in the next book, but the question is, will I care enough to read it? The jury is still out.

Insurgent ~ Veronica Roth

  • Title: Insurgent
  • Author: Veronica Roth
  • Series: Divergent #2
  • Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopian, YA
  • Format: Audio book
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewer: Val
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  One choice can transform you, or destroy you.

Every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves, and herself, while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.


Review:   Insurgent, the second book of the Divergent series, picks right up where Divergent left off. The factions are at war, following the massacre of much of the Abnegation faction at the hands of the hypnotized Dauntless warriors. Having stopped the attack, Tris and Four find themselves outlaws on the run.

This book was just as much of a rush to read as the first, maybe even more so. There is plenty of action, as Tris and Four face danger trying to uncover the truth about what is going on. Roth takes the political undertones even deeper, creating a delicious tension throughout the story. It is a constant struggle to sift truth from lies, or more importantly, whose truth is more compelling.

As the plot thickens, the character also become more complex. It is no longer as simple as good versus bad. Roth reveals the good intentions behind some of the terrible actions of her “bad guys”, and that good misguided “good” characters have faltered onto dark paths. I am so tempted to mention some specifics here, but I think I will let you discover that for yourself.

Tris, herself, is very conflicted throughout the story. Her actions in the previous book have her questioning what kind of person she really is and erodes some of her recently won confidence. This internal struggle results in conflict and tension between Tris and Four. There is also continued tension among Tris and her new Dauntless friends.

I will say one thing for Roth, she didn’t really hold anything back. She is telling a dark and gritty tale and she’s not afraid for bad things to happen to pack the necessary emotional punch. Roth is by no means a George R.R. Martin (who seems to kill off characters just so the reader won’t get attached), but she does not shy away from the death of a likeable character.

While the first book focused primarily on the Abnegation and Dauntless factions, Insurgent gives a closer look at Amity and Candor. Herein lies the brilliance behind Roth’s unfolding saga. Each faction has its specific social mores, which are both a strength and a weakness when isolated without divergent thinking (um, yeah, guess that explains the series theme in a nutshell). Another theme throughout this book is how far people will go to avoid accepting a harsh reality out of fear, often failing to act and thus making them fall victim to that fear.

The cover for Insurgent is equally eye-catching as the Divergent cover. This time, it features the faction symbol for Amity with the Chicago skyline at the bottom. The color scheme and layout are complimentary to the Divergent cover, clearly identifying the series.

There is one bad thing about this book that I do not like so much . . . that I will have to wait until October for the third and final book of the series!

Divergent ~ Veronica Roth

  • Title: Divergent
  • Author: Veronica Roth
  • Series: Divergent #1
  • Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopian, YA
  • Format: Audio book
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewer: Val
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is–she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are–and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.


Review:   I was really torn on whether or not to read this book, even though I had heard good reviews. On one hand, I have been avoiding anything approaching YA lately, unsure if I can handle yet another teen-angst fest. On the other hand, I really like dystopian fiction. A good recommendation from a trusting source convinced me to give it a try. I am so glad that I did.

Divergent takes place in Chicago years after some society changing disaster. In order to survive, the isolated population has divided itself into five factions, each of which is characterized by specific personality traits that make them especially suited to serve the societal roles assigned to their faction. If someone fails to conform for some reason, they become ostracized and relegated to the lowest tier of society, the factionless.

The story follows Tris, who like others her age must make the difficult decision to choose her faction, an irrevocable decision. If the wrong faction is chosen, there is no going home, the only option available at that point is to become factionless. However, Tris isn’t like everyone else. She is Divergent, having aptitude for multiple factions. She is not sure what it means exactly, other than it puts in danger, so she must conceal it.

Tris is a complex character of a young girl trying to discover who she is within a world that seems to be crumbling around her. She is bold yet unsure of herself, selfless without being self-sacrificing, and clever, if at times slow on the uptake. There were definitely times that I felt a discrepancy between how clueless Tris could be and her portrayed intelligence.

Because of her very nature, Tris is portrayed as a bit of an underdog character. Despite being an outcast, the author created some great relationships with her among her underdog friends. The author also did a great job of creating chemistry between Tris and Four, capturing that spark of young love without the usual overdose of angst.

The world-building was really good in this book. The mental images evoked by the descriptions of dystopian remains of Chicago were fairly vivid. It was painted as a harsh world with limited options, yet the author was able to include a hopeful element.

It was easy to get swept away in the scenes depicting the dauntless actions. The author did a great job of capturing the heady combination of fear and freedom that Tris felt during these scenes.

The cover of this book is very eye-catching. It features a flaming rendition of the symbol for the dauntless faction. The rest of the cover is muted, in stormy shade of blue/grey, lending itself to the dark, cold tone of the story, depicting clouds and a distant Chicago skyline.

Divergent starts this trilogy off well. It does a great job of introducing the world and the main characters without sacrificing on plot or adventure. If felt like a complete book, capable of standing on its own, yet there was enough foreshadowing to make the reader want to continue the series.

Beyond Shame ~ Kit Rocha

  • Title: Beyond Shame
  • Author: Kit Rocha
  • Series: Beyond #1
  • Genre: Erotica
  • Format: e-book
  • Source: Own copy
  • Reviewed by: Erica, Guest Reviewer
  • Rating: 5 out of 5

Description:  All Noelle Cunningham has ever wanted is a life beyond–beyond the walls of Eden, where only the righteous are allowed to remain, and beyond her stiflingly restrictive existence as a councilman’s daughter. But only ruins lie outside the City, remnants of a society destroyed by solar storms decades earlier.

The sectors surrounding Eden house the corrupt, the criminal–men like Jasper McCray, bootlegger and cage fighter. Jas clawed his way up from nothing to stand at the right hand of Sector Four’s ruthless leader, and he’ll defend the O’Kane gang with his life. But no fight ever prepared him for the exiled City girl who falls at his feet.

Her innocence is undeniable, but so is their intense sexual attraction, and soon they’re crossing every boundary Noelle barely knew she had. But if she wants to belong to Jas, first she’ll have to open herself to the gang, to a dangerous world of sex, lust and violence. A world where passion is power, and freedom is found in submission.

Review: Wow. This book is erotica at its filthiest best.

Noelle Cunningham has been cast out of Eden, a city which restricts society so rigidly that even touching each other is prohibited for reasons other than necessity. Outside the walls of Eden lie the Sectors – sections of gangland territory where anything goes, and the only rules are the ones imposed by whoever is the leader of that sector.

The book itself never really touches on what happened exactly to make the world as it is. There is more information on this in the description above than there is in the book itself, and the only real references are the ones made to ‘pre-Flare technology’ or somesuch. It doesn’t really matter though; all the reader needs to know is that within Eden nothing is allowed and fornication is a crime, whereas outside nothing is taboo. And I do mean nothing.

When Noelle is cast out she stumbles into Sector Four, ruled by the O’Kanes, and literally into the arms of Jasper. Her attraction to him is instant, and this begins a slow venture into the world of lust, violence and uninhibited sex for Noelle.

If you like your erotica as straightforward sex, this isn’t the book for you. It features exhibitionism, BDSM, oral sex (lots of it), threesomes and foursomes, but it’s brilliantly written and draws you in. The characters are vivid, and while Noelle’s constant dilemma about whether she’s a bad girl for wanting sex is a little exasperating sometimes, it makes sense for her to be like that if you consider her background. All the other members of the O’Kane gang have their own distinct quirks, and it gave the book a depth and extra dimension that lifts it far above mediocre. I’m already looking forward to the next instalments in this series.