A slow burner

‘Gypsy’ – Trisha Leigh

3-star-rating

Gypsy - Trisha Leigh

Gypsy – Trisha Leigh

Inconsequential: not important or significant.

Synonyms: insignificant, unimportant, nonessential, irrelevant

In the world of genetic mutation, Gypsy’s talent of knowing a person’s age of death is considered a failure. Her peers, the other Cavies, have powers that range from curdling a blood still in the vein to being able to overhear a conversation taking place three miles away, but when they’re taken from the sanctuary where they grew up and forced into the real world, Gypsy, with her all-but-invisible gift, is the one with the advantage.

The only one who’s safe, if the world finds out what they can do.

When the Cavies are attacked and inoculated with an unidentified virus, that illusion is shattered. Whatever was attached to the virus causes their abilities to change. Grow. In some cases, to escape their control.

Gypsy dreamed of normal high school, normal friends, a normal life, for years. Instead, the Cavies are sucked under a sea of government intrigue, weaponized genetic mutation, and crushing secrets that will reframe everything they’ve ever been told about how their “talents” came to be in the first place.

When they find out one of their own has been appropriated by the government, mistreated and forced to run dangerous missions, their desire for information becomes a pressing need. With only a series of guesses about their origins, the path to the truth becomes quickly littered with friends, enemies, and in the end, the Cavies ability to trust anyone at all.

About the author:

Trisha Leigh

Trisha Leigh

Trisha Leigh is a product of the Midwest, which means it’s pop, not soda, garage sales, not tag sales, and you guys as opposed to y’all. Most of the time. She’s been writing seriously for five years now, and has published 4 young adult novels and 4 new adult novels (under her pen name Lyla Payne). Her favorite things, in no particular order, include: reading, ‘Game of Thrones’, Hershey’s kisses, reading, her dogs (Yoda and Jilly), summer, movies, reading, Jude Law, coffee, and re-watching WB series from the 90’s-00’s.

Her family is made up of farmers and/or almost rock stars from Iowa, people who numerous, loud, full of love, and the kind of people that make the world better. Trisha tries her best to honor them, and the lessons they’ve taught, through characters and stories—made up, of course, but true enough in their way.

Trisha is the author of ‘The Last Year’ series and the ‘Whitman University’ books. She’s represented by Kathleen Rushall at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

Author links:

Facebook / Twitter / Web / Pinterest

Review:

Undoubtedly when you first start reading ‘Gypsy’, you can’t help but think it is a duplicate of the ‘X-men’ story. A group of mutants with special powers, secluded from society and being trained to control and enhance their powers, reading the first few chapters felt like a cheap imitation of the successful franchise. However, this similarity quickly ends when Gypsy and her friends are discovered by a reporter and their secluded world is suddenly shattered.

We follow Gypsy, one of the mutant teenagers who considers herself quite useless in comparison to her friends. Her “ability” is seeing the age that someone will die through making skin contact. As such, she feels forced to keep herself separated from others, not feeling able to cope with helplessly knowing when her friends will die. So when she is presented with the opportunity of living with her dad, going to school and doing things a typical 17-year-old would do, Gypsy jumps at the chance of being normal and fitting in. It was from this point that I truly began to appreciate Leigh’s story as I realised this wasn’t trying to copy something already out there. I found myself intrigued with how Gypsy would adapt and was particularly interested in how she maintains contact with her other Cavies.

I found the pace of this book quite slow until the very end. When Gypsy and the Cavies are all injected with an unknown substance from apparent strangers in the street, it takes a while for the story to reveal what has happened here. I thought more could have been made of the investigations being done by the Cavies and think that elaborating on how the others settle in to their new lives would have added a bit more depth to the story. Instead, I found myself a little bored by Gypsy contemplating her feelings for Jude and Dane. The change in powers that the Cavies show from the injection was really intriguing, especially how Gypsy changes and what she learns about Jude and I think Leigh could have made this more of a focus in the story.

Don’t get me wrong: I did enjoy this story and the idea of mutant teenagers being deliberately secluded from the rest of the world and the fall-out that comes as they learn more about their history. The different powers that the teenagers have is interesting and the role of Flicker throughout the story was a clever signal to show life was not going to be easy for the released Cavies. However, the execution of this plot was not quite as pacey as I had hoped and I found the ending the most enjoyable, clearly setting the scene for the next stage of the story.

This is a pretty good read and if you enjoy stories like ‘X-men’, then I don’t think you will be disappointed with Leigh’s offering. There are a lot of good elements within this story and despite me feeling that there was scope to expand on them, the ending definitely makes up for it. As far as teenage science-fiction goes, then this read will certainly satisfy your palette.

This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Give-away:

To be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of ‘Gypsy’ by Trisha Leigh, a swag bag and a $20 gift card, please click here. Good luck!

Excerpt:

“Oh, Lordy, I am so sorry! My mom’s always sayin’ I’m so clumsy I could trip over a cordless phone.”

A breathless, sweet, female voice chatters the apology as hands try, with little success, to drag me back to my feet using the straps of my backpack. She’s behind me, so not the person whose age of death I just saw in my first two minutes here.

Fail, Gypsy.

“Are you okay?” A second voice, male and with a smooth, local drawl, mingles with the first.

The dead kid is a boy.

I jerk my hands into my chest, trying not to be obvious about it. Wishing with all my might I could take it back. Forget. Turn away without seeing the attached face. Of course there isn’t, and when my body remembers how to breathe again, I open my eyes.

He’s tall, a few inches over six feet, with hair the color of sand and eyes that shift between gold and brown, like maple syrup in the sunlight. More than the intriguing shade, it’s the genuine kindness in them that stands out to me. My heart flutters, then seizes.

Dead. He’s dead.

“It’s okay, I’ll live.” I wince at my choice of words and busy myself with brushing imaginary dust off the skirt of my uniform.

The clumsy girl stands as high as my shoulders, and the upturned nose and smattering of freckles combine with her chin-length white-blond hair to remind me of Tinkerbell. At least she seems to have a better attitude than the jealous, spiteful fairy.

Her pale eyes fling more apologies my direction, but I hold up my hand. “Really. No big deal.”

“Oh my gosh, thank you for being cool.” She grins, and it lights up her entire body. “I’m Maya.”

“Norah.”

“You’re new?”

“How could you guess?”

“Because they rest of us learned to avoid Maya while she’s double-fisting coffee and a cell phone back in the seventh grade.” Oh, goodnight nurse. The boy who’s going to die before he graduates from high school would have eyes that make my stomach attempt to fly.

I imagine literal, iron plates of armor clicking into place over my face, my skin, my heart, then flick a glance his direction. I snatch my cell phone from his palm. “Thanks.”

“I’m Jude.” He sticks out his hand.

Even though my aversion remains, even though I don’t want to confirm what I saw, there’s no point in keeping to my hands off rule. Not touching him now won’t change anything.

“Norah,” I say again, laughing a little at the absurdity of repeating my name. Our hands touch, his skin soft and electric at the same time, like he scooted his feet across a shag carpet. The little hairs on my arms, at the back of my neck, stand up.

18. 18. 18.

I pull my hand away, fixing my smile and swinging back toward Maya. “You caught me, I’m new. And I’m supposed to be in the office but I have no idea where that is, so this is at least half my fault, stopping in the middle of the hall like that.”

“I’ll walk you. It’s right on my way,” the boy offers.

Maya rolls her eyes at me in a manner that suggests we’ve been sharing nonverbal cues for more than two minutes. “If you don’t want to be alone with Jude, I understand. But if you don’t care, I’m going to let him take you because I’m supposed to meet with the yearbook sponsor…” She glances at her phone. “Five minutes ago.”

“No, it’s fine. He’s fine.” Lord in heaven, did I just say that?

Maya snorts, and the heat in my face promises she didn’t miss my unintentional comment.

I grew up around boys, so snorts at double entendre isn’t exactly new to me, which only makes the fire in my cheeks all the more vexing. It’s surprising to learn that things can still embarrass me.

“You know, it’s not the first time I’ve heard that,” Jude jokes, his smile catching my attention.

My lips return it without permission, even though my face is about to melt off.

“Yes, it is,” Maya chirps. “It so is the first time he’s heard that. Norah, we’ll have lunch instead, okay?”

I nod, but she doesn’t see me because she’s already halfway down the hall, waving over her shoulder.

Buy links:

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On the edge of your seat

‘Taken by Surprise’ – Jessica Frances

4-star-rating

Image courtesy of goodreads.com

Taken by Surprise – Jessica Frances

Five strangers scattered across America have three things in common with each other. 

One: They each have special abilities that shouldn’t be possible. 

Two: They’ve all just had people try to kill them. 

Three: They’ve all just been kidnapped and taken away from their home, families and friends. 

Their lives will never be the same as they’re taken to a government facility and told that their abilities mean that they must train to become soldiers and fight. But are they being told the truth? Or is something more sinister going on? They must learn to trust each other and decide if they should stay on this path or run away from it. Either way there is no going back.

This is the first book that I have read by Jessica Frances and I am really glad I have had the opportunity to review this. Taken by Surprise reminded me of an action series you would find on television and I couldn’t put this one down.

The plot contains a range of elements that work together very well. When readers are first bring introduced to the different characters, the story is being narrated from their point of view. The character we first meet is  Zoe and when I felt that Frances spent more time on her story, the reason why became evident later on as she continues the narrative. On the back I this, I did find myself wishing that the author had given readers more of a snapshot into the final character’s story as this bit did seem a little rushed.

As mentioned before, this books has a range of genres successfully brought together into one thrilling package. Thrilling this definitely is, as you don’t know why each of these characters are being kidnapped until much later on in the story. This is also a science-fiction story with prospects of time travel and changing the course of history. There is also a lot of romance between two characters which, at times, I found a little stifling. Whilst the feelings did make sense, it kind of moved too fast to be believable. Coupled with the fact that Zoe does come across as a weak lead character who always seemed to be crying, I found her just a little too irritating and wanted her to “man up” and get on with things.

Jessica Frances brings on plenty of unexpected twists in the plot and the story ends on a neat cliffhanger. It keeps you guessing as to what the next story will bring and I am really lucky to already have this in my hands, ready to be picked up and read! Whilst some may consider this as teenage fiction, I think this is one that older readers will enjoy. It is an easy and exciting read that keeps you guessing throughout.

This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Monsters take centre stage

‘Plague’ – Michael Grant

4-star-rating

Image courtesy of goodreads.com

Plague – Michael Grant

They’ve survived hunger. They’ve survived lies. But the stakes keep rising, and the dystopian horror keeps building. Yet despite the simmering unrest left behind by so many battles, power struggles, and angry divides, there is a momentary calm in Perdido Beach.

But enemies in the FAYZ don’t just fade away, and in the quiet, deadly things are stirring, mutating, and finding their way free. The Darkness has found its way into the mind of its Nemesis at last and is controlling it through a haze of delirium and confusion. A highly contagious, fatal illness spreads at an alarming rate. Sinister, predatory insects terrorize Perdido Beach. And Sam, Astrid, Diana, and Caine are plagued by a growing doubt that they’ll escape—or even survive—life in the FAYZ. With so much turmoil surrounding them, what desperate choices will they make when it comes to saving themselves and those they love?

Sci-fi fantasy meets horror in the next phase of surviving the FAYZ (no pun intended). Monsters and ghoulies are ever-present in this book as Drake continues to haunt Perdido Beach and the children fall ill. But this illness isn’t just a flu or virus: it involves flesh eating bugs that rip through your flesh. Think ‘Alien’, just set on planet Earth. I liked the fact that Grant took a different focus this time and the violence between the children is not the key theme in the development of this story.

I found ‘Plague’ easy to get into and the action started pretty quickly. Still, I think Grant is running out of ideas and the whole Drake storyline was a little boring and predictable. However, readers are given an unusual insight this time – Petey gives his perspective on life and how he feels trapped in his mind, body and FAYZ. Whilst the revelations from the previous novel go completely missed, I did wonder what was in store for the FAYZ with the liberation of Petey.

The reader is still introduced to new characters. Not by the bucket-load, because, of course, by this time, most of the key kids with unusual powers have been discovered. But, combined with the change of setting where Sam and a few others leave Perdido Beach in search of water, this gave the story a new lease of life for me. Indeed, switching between Sam’s travels, the town and Caine’s little paradise island meant that there was plenty of pace in the novel.

I took little notice of the countdown at the start of each chapter, but this time the climax did not disappoint. It was interesting to see how the characters responded and moved on from the latest crisis in Perdido Beach and once again, Grant finishes with suggestions of what will follow in the next book. (I have thought long and hard about the title of the next book but cannot make any useful predictions.) This made it more of a satisfying ending and a pleasure to read.

I’ve given this book another 4/5. I’m finding it difficult to rave about how brilliant it is and I do think that something is missing from the plot. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but think it comes from wanting another perspective, an indication as to what is happening in the outside world. I do hope this comes, because I think this will really enhance the story.

For my reviews on the other books in the ‘Gone’ series, click the links below:

1. ‘Gone’

2. ‘Hunger’

3. ‘Lies’

5. ‘Fear’

6. Light’

A dual-narrative with lots of answers

‘Allegiant’ – Veronica Roth

4-star-rating

Image courtesy of olmclibrary.global2.vic.edu.au

Allegiant – Veronica Roth

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered – fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature – and of herself – while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice and love.

My reviews of the other two books, ‘Divergent’ and ‘Insurgent’, kept coming back to the fact that Roth does not go into much detail on the past: what lead to this dystopian city being created and what had happened to the outside world. ‘Allegiant’ answers all of those questions that I had running through my mind and I found the novel a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.

‘Allegiant’ is dual-narrative and the story is told from Tris and Tobias’ perspectives. Eager as I was to consume this book, I did find myself getting confused as to who was narrating the chapter, so I definitely advise you to take note of this at the start of each chapter. Nonetheless, I liked the different perspectives that are offered and the turmoil that both Tris and Tobias go through personally and with their relationship.

As I read this book I became distrustful of everyone and their motives, and I couldn’t dispel this feeling of unease until the final few chapters. The reality that Tris and Tobias know is turned on its head and the new alternative is revealed to have been based on a web of lies as a form of control. The decisions that Tris and Tobias make in this story show their determination to be free from control, and it is never fully clear until the end that they have actually achieved this.

I did enjoy reading this book but don’t think it had the same exciting pace as the second novel, ‘Insurgent’, and on reflection, wonder if it is because Roth is using the same formula as before. Don’t get me wrong, it certainly does work and makes this an enjoyable read, but I think it is right that the book finishes as a trilogy. (I have learnt that there are spin-offs to this series: events told from Tobias’ perspective but again, I fear that Roth might be doing what Stephanie Meyer did with the spin-off novella from ‘Twilight’, so think that in this case I won’t actively seek to read them unless they do land on my ‘to read’ pile.)

The new city that Tris and Tobias experience is well described and the contrasts that exist between the different social groups really come through. Like when Roth described the ways of the Dauntless, I felt really involved and could easily picture it in my head. It was these descriptions and the “history lessons” that I have been after throughout this trilogy.

If you have enjoyed the other two books in this series, then ‘Divergent’ fans will not be disappointed. Roth cleverly concludes this tale and there are still plenty of surprises along the way. I have read online that there is a film coming next year and this is one adaptation I am keen to see.

For my review on the second novel in this series, ‘Insurgent’, click here: https://mrsbrownsbooks.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/continuing-the-exciting-pace-from-the-first-story/

For my review on the first novel of this series, ‘Divergent’, click here: https://mrsbrownsbooks.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/not-quite-another-typical-teenage-fantasy-novel/

Takes a while to get going

‘Lies’ – Michael Grant

3-star-rating

Image courtesy of gone.wikia.com

Lies – Michael Grant

Tensions are growing in the FAYZ. The mutants are under attack. Food is scarce. Sam’s gone AWOL.

At night, a solitary figure roams the streets – the ghost of a boy with a whip hand, haunting the dreams of those he has tormented.

Then the town is deliberately set on fire… And through the flames, Sam sees the figure he dreads the most – Drake. But that’s impossible. Drake is dead.

So, the saga continues… I would say that this book has several sections. For The first 100 pages, nothing really happens. Seriously, the book is just “catching up” with the vast number of characters and the fall out from the climax of the previous novel. Then, the pace kicks up and it’s starts to pull you in. I was keen to know where the book would go and once the title ‘Lies’ becomes relevant to the theme of the story, was excited to see where Grant would take the story. The third part of the story, which happens to be the climax, was, like the first in the series, just a bit silly, but then it redeems itself with the final chapter as Grant ties up the loose ends.

Once again the character list does grow, but certainly not as much as the previous stories. I did find that once it had got going, the plot was more “concentrated” than previously and this was certainly lacking in the first novel, ‘Gone’. Indeed, there were a few surprises along the way and I do look forward to seeing how these develop later on.

The way that the kids of the FAYZ treat each other is still a little shocking and, whilst the warning on the back of the book that it contains scenes of violence made me chuckle, the thought that this is what the kids are capable of, is just terrifying. Yes, it is fiction, but I did find myself wondering whether this savagery is hidden in all of us; at what limits do we need to be pushed before such behaviours come to the surface? I hope that Grant does not continue with this shock-factor in the next novel. He has exposed to readers the savage behaviour from the children and whilst he needs to stay in keeping with the environment he has created, I’d like to see something more original in the next story.

I did generally enjoy this book, but found the climax is what ruined it for me. I am definitely keen to read the next book, particularly after the surprise revelations during the course of the novel. Not the greatest read, but one to pull off the shelf if the previous two in the series wetted your appetite.

For my reviews on the other books in the ‘Gone’ series, click the links below:

1. ‘Gone’

2. ‘Hunger’

4. ‘Plague’

5. ‘Fear’

6. Light’

Not one to read if you are easily distracted by food

‘Hunger’ – Michael Grant

4-star-rating

Image courtesy of bookdepository.co.uk

Hunger – Michael Grant

Suddenly it’s a world without adults and normal has crashed and burned. When life as you know it ends at 15, everything changes.

An uneasy calm has settled over Perdido Beach. But soon fear explodes into desperation as starvation sets in. More and more kids are developing strange powers and, just as frighteningly, so are the animals in the FAYZ. And in the background, in an abandoned mineshaft, lies the greatest danger of all – and he too needs to be fed…

So the adventure continues in the FAYZ (Fall-out Alley Youth Zone) and the second phase indeed focuses on the hunger that is tearing the children apart. The novelty of not having any adults around or any structure in society has dwindled and Sam and his loyal friends find themselves as playing at being Mum and Dad to everyone in Perdido Beach.

Just like the first novel, the chapters are counting down to the end and it is not clear until the last few chapters what this end will be. Again, I didn’t find myself paying much attention to this until there were just minutes left, and this coincided with me not being able to put the book down because I just had to find out what would happen next. This time I don’t think the book reached an anti-climax, and I wasn’t frustrated by the ending; instead I felt that the conclusion marked the end of the desperate hunger the characters were enduring and that the next novel will start with a (hopefully) brighter community for the children.

Indeed, the dark thoughts from the children are quite disturbing and I think Grant has considered interesting behaviour patterns when children are left on their own. Society is breaking down as a result of this desperation and the differences that are drawn up between the children do not seem far fetched nor remote. The idea of being different and not “the norm” is abused by the children and it is frightening the lengths that they consider to go to.

That being said, there remains a divide between Sam and Caine in the community and throughout this book I was always hoping that this divide disappeared. I don’t know how far Grant can take this division between Sam and Caine without it becoming repetitive, so I am looking forward to seeing what he does next with these characters.

More powers are revealed in this book and I hope this is something that continues in the next instalment as it is interesting to see how the characters adapt. I also found it enjoyable to read how the children are trying to rebuild a working community and I did find myself hoping that they succeed.

Like many novels that have several in a series, whilst some loose ends are tied up at the end of ‘Hunger’, there are course a lot of questions that remain unanswered. I found this book a lot more enjoyable than ‘Gone’: either because the characters were more developed or I was more prepared for what this next book had to offer. Either way, definitely give this a read if you found the first book partly enjoyable as this is a pleasant surprise and one worth spending some time on.

For my reviews on the other books in the ‘Gone’ series, click the links below:

1. ‘Gone’

3. ‘Lies’

4. ‘Plague’

5. ‘Fear’

6. ‘Light’

Continuing the exciting pace from the first story

‘Insurgent’ – Veronica Roth

5-star-rating

Image courtesy of onceuponabookcase.co.uk

Insurgent – Veronica Roth

Tris has survived a brutal attack on her former home and family. But she has paid a terrible price. Wracked by grief and guilt, she becomes even more reckless as she struggles to accept her new future.

Yet if Tris wants to uncover the truth about her world, she must be stronger than ever… because more shocking choices and sacrifices lie ahead.

I found this book even more exciting than the first and this time we are able to find out more about the different factions that have come to exist in society. Throughout the book Roth does give hints about the history of this new society and it wasn’t until the end of the novel does it become clear that this is going to be elaborated on in the final novel of the trilogy.

The book continues straight on from the last novel, so I recommend not leaving it too long to start this after finishing ‘Divergent’. We continue to follow Tris in her quest and there seems to be more of a focus on her thoughts and attitudes towards events and others. This is quite interesting although sometimes does get a little too much – at these points I wanted to see Tris just “getting on” with things. Indeed, quite a lot of time is spent on Tris and dealing with her grief from the first novel, and I don’t think it is until the end of ‘Insurgent’ that she has fully done so.

The plot has some surprising twist and turns and although at times it was a little predictable, the fantastical environment that has been created was a pleasure to read about. Indeed, the reader learns a bit more about what it is to be “divergent” and the exposure to the other factions gave the plot more depth and enjoyment. The whole idea of social control is still seen throughout the story and I like the perspective that Roth gives the different characters.

For a teenage fantasy novel, I found this really enjoyable. The novel finishes on a cliff hanger and I can’t wait to read on – once I have got my hands on the last in the series, that is. If you enjoyed the first book, then I would recommend definitely giving this your time to see what happens next to Tris.

For my review on the first novel of this series, ‘Divergent’, click here: https://mrsbrownsbooks.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/not-quite-another-typical-teenage-fantasy-novel/