Thursday, April 19, 2018

Virtual Grunt (Everything League Book 1) by Barnaby Quirk

Virtual Grunt is a middle grade science fiction book that was sent to me by the author. It is the first book in the series called Everything League. In the future, virtual video gaming is the most popular recreational activity that teens and even adults are obsessed with. The Everything League, the company that makes the games, is hosting a 50 million dollar contest.

Bobby is an incredible grunt, the enemy in the game working against the players, challenging them harder and harder. As the competition heats up, he starts to notice that things are not quite right, and one player keeps getting insanely lucky. As Bobby starts to work with one of the programmers of the games, he unknowingly is getting involved in a huge hacking scheme that takes criminality into the real world, too. When Bobby starts climbing the ladder of the best grunts, leading to him playing against the cheater, he is really the only one who can make things fair.

Virtual reality is in our future, and it is quite likely that we could have a championship like this in a few hundred years. The games were quite fun and creative! I would love to play in those games, and being a grunt sounds like a lot of fun! It is also striking to see the obsession with virtual world video games, and I liked the reoccurring theme of spending time in "real life" and outside. I loved the suspense and action inside the games, and I was tremendously intrigued! The imagery inside the world was also really strong.

Cheating in sports is popular, and there are many people who will do illegalities for money. In the future, it is likely that this will actually happen, and I enjoyed the glimpse of the future. Bobby's moral skills are impressive and I liked his determination to make things right and fair. I loved how he did not back down even when things got scary. His journey really evolved his personality, too, and readers can watch him expand his confidence and strength as a person.

I highly recommend this book for all ages. I look forward to more books in this series in the coming future!

Title: Virtual Grunt
Author: Barnaby Quirk
Publisher: Blazing Things LLC
Pages: 294
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 5 Stars

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O'Brien

20518838The Vault of Dreamers is the first YA dystopian in the trilogy about dream mining and seeding. The Forge School is the best school for the arts in the world. Every moment of the students' lives are on national television. Every night, the students get 12 hours of medical sleep to "induce creativity." When film student Rosie skips her sleeping pill, she realizes that something is happening during the night at Forge, something that the cameras can't reach. What's worse is that she is hearing a voice in her head and is having dizzy spells. There are little IV marks in her arm she doesn't remember getting, and she sees students getting taken somewhere in the night. She sneaks around, filming the awful things she's witnessing. But in the morning, the footage has been erased. How can she stop this if nobody believes her? Even worse, she's beginning to think she can't trust herself.

This book was a complete thrill! I have never read any book like this, and I hope it never happens. Talk about an invasion of privacy! The 4th amendment completely vanished, and I was fascinated, constantly trying to figure out the motivations of all the characters and why and how the conspiracy unfolded and went unnoticed.

Rosie has possibly the biggest internal conflict of any character ever. As she sinks deeper into the investigation and trying to convince others to investigate too, she ends up questioning her sanity. The more nobody believes her, essentially the whole world, the more she doubts herself and truly wonders if everything really was a nightmare, or maybe she's hallucinating. It really doesn't help that the footage on her camera is gone. When everybody tells you something, it is really hard to stick with knowing that you are right and everybody else is wrong. I can only imagine how frustrating and angering it must have been. If I was a student there, I definitely would have believed her and tried to help.

Something I liked was the Dean's character. The whole book I was constantly guessing whether he was good or evil. I like characters that are not obvious, and the conspiracy surrounding him was very clever and well-written. The idea of the art school being on television and popularity rankings and eliminations is interesting by itself, let alone the secrets. I loved more than just the dystopian element, I loved the relationships and the classes and competition.

I highly recommend this book! I am very glad I bought this book, and I cannot wait to read the next one, The Rule of Mirrors!

Title: The Vault of Dreamers
Author: Caragh M. O'Brien
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Pages: 418
Series: Yes, Book 1 of 3
Rating: 5 Stars

Friday, April 6, 2018

Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez

Out of Darkness is a YA historical fiction book telling a story of love, racial tension, and tragedy in a backdrop of the New London School Explosion in 1937, the deadliest school disaster in American history. In East Texas, there are three rules on every sign in every store; No Negroes, Mexicans, or Dogs. Naomi Vargas is MexicanWash Fuller is African American.

An unlikely relationship blossoms between them. Their plans to be with each other and escape to Mexico are interrupted by the school explosion and Naomi's racist step-father who wants her all to himself. Soon in the face of tragedy again, Beto, Naomi's little brother, will take to the world and tell the true story of what really happened in all those fateful weeks, not the fake version the newspapers and white people created.

This is historical fiction, and while the characters' specific story may not be true, it is based on the truth. The author took an awful event and made it even sadder by bringing attention to the controversy and racism surrounding it. Tragedies like the ones that happened in this book we all know that in some form, they did happen in that time period. And we as a species still deal with racism and prejudice today. Out of the Darkness is a strong wake-up call to the darkness inside humanity and makes us reflect on who we are and the choices we make every day. The racial prejudice was true and strong, and this book pays tribute to those who could not speak their minds or tell the truth based on society. And we all sadly know that this fate was true somewhere, sometime in the world.

The book is also just beautiful. I cannot think of a single other word to describe the way the words flowed and carried the spirit, the love between the characters, the aura around them. The story was a beautiful, romantic tragedy. The ending made me cry, and I was also angry, but at the same time appreciative and grateful for reading this type of story. Out of Darkness will be the saddest book you have ever read. But the story is so sad that it must be told. I highly, highly recommend this book.

Note: This book should be advised for only older readers given certain scenes of violence and mature actions, especially near the end of the book.

Title: Out of Darkness
Author: Ashley Hope Pérez
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Pages: 402
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Monday, April 2, 2018

Jake, Lucid Dreamer by David J. Naiman

Jake, Lucid Dreamer is an inspirational middle grade realistic fiction book about love and loss. This was sent to me by the author, and will be released on May 4, 2018.

Jake is 12 years old, a seventh-grader. His mom died when he was eight, and while his dad and sister can move on and enjoy life, Jake cannot find a hint of happiness. To make things worse, he is bullied at school. Jake barely gets through the days, his anger, sadness, and grief consuming him. Jake is also a lucid dreamer, meaning he can think clearly in his dreams. The issues of his day come up in his dreams at night, prompting him to reflect on himself and eventually face his biggest fear.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Jake's emotional struggle can connect to readers far and wide. I know that I was personally touched with the deepness of his rage and internal conflict. Even if one has not felt the loss of a family member, everyone deals with intense emotions at times and difficult conflicts that can be looked at in a different angle. Jake, Lucid Dreamer teaches common behaviors that we do and don't notice, and teaches techniques and types of healing after tragedy. This book is inspirational to all because everyone deals with obstacles that seem impossible.

His middle school experience is quite common, and I enjoyed how he uses his intelligence to outwit his bullies. Jake teaches valuable techniques of how to handle tough situations and can help many kids in similar situations in viewing a different perspective and staying confident.

I enjoyed the juxtaposition of his dreams verses the reality and the symbolism of the basement, clouds, GPS, kangaroos, and much more I probably did not even catch. This would be really good for required reading in school because of the vast analytical essay opportunities. The imagery of the dreams was also really good, and I liked how they were crazy and fantastical, but at the same time expected and relevant.

I highly recommend this book!

Title: Jake, Lucid Dreamer
Author: David J. Nailman
Publisher: Kwill Books
Pages: 156
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Looking for Dei by David A. Willson

Looking for Dei is a young adult fantasy book that I received from the author. This new YA book was just published last week. Nara Dall has magical gifts, but she is not like the others. Her powers are far greater. When trying to help her village discover other gifted children, her rare powers are revealed, and her best friend is revealed as cursed. They are now on the run. The event signaled her existence to the evil king, whose daughter just happens to be Nara's twin, Kanya. Along their journey, Nara and Mykel will learn the true extent of their powers and battle for their freedom.

I love the cover! If I saw this cover in the library, it would instantly grab my attention and make me want to read it! The author wrote great imagery and the world felt real, as if I was in it. The plot development was very smooth. I really enjoyed the pace of this book, which held my interest.

I was not interested in some of the perspectives of the characters, like the soldiers, and in some scenes I really wanted more dialogue. However, I was extremely hooked on Nara and Kayna's story. The contrast between Nara and Kayna is striking, considering that they are twins. Nara takes life for granted while Kanya finds joy in taking lives.

The concept of the "broken" ones having special gifts is an interesting twist that I enjoyed, sort of the opposite of real life, but also an inspiration. Mykel was an interesting character, as was the unique concept of being cursed. I liked how Mykel was willing to sacrifice himself for Nara, and their bond is special.

I am hoping for a sequel in the coming years! The ending wrapped up this book, but left room for an extension.

I recommend this book!

Title: Looking for Dei
Author: David A. Willson
Publisher: Seeker Press
Pages: 346
Series: No
Rating: 4 Stars

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Glitch by Heather Anastasiu

Glitch is the first book in a YA dystopian trilogy about technology controlling our brains. Many years ago, a nuclear war ravished Earth, making the air toxic. In the Community, an underground race of humans, implanted computer chips in people's brains have erased capability of emotions and thoughts, keeping a peaceful society with no pain or war. The people are enslaved. When Zoe starts to malfunction, she gets her own thoughts and feelings, as well as uncontrollable telekinetic powers. As Zoe attempts to control her ability, she meets others like her, including Max, who can change his appearance, and Adrien, who has visions of the future. They must free themselves from the Community before they’re caught and deactivated.

One of the things I liked about Glitch is the concept of putting robotics into humans. A little computer chip, literally nanometers wide, completely controlling a person's identity. That idea is the reason why I bought this book. I also liked the fast pace and constant suspense. The imagery was amazing, and I truly felt like I was standing and walking around in their society. There were also a lot of twists and turns in the plot that one would not expect. I loved the manifestation of Zoe's powers throughout the book and her journey to accept them.

My one issue with this book was the predictable, exaggerated love triangle. Look, if you have never felt emotion before in your life, I find it extremely hard to believe that you could instantly figure out love and instinctively know how to kiss. They just found out, really, about emotions and all of the sudden they're taking this huge leap to love? Love is complicated enough for anybody, let alone someone with no exposure to emotion their whole life. I am not trying to diminish what they have, I do believe that Zoe loves Adrian, but I just think it was way too soon, way too big of a leap, and borderline unrealistic.

However, overall I did enjoy the book, and I do look forward to reading the next one in the series, Override

Title: Glitch
Author: Heather Anastasiu
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 308
Series: Yes, Book 1 of 3
Rating: 3 Stars

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Genesis Flame (Time Shift Trilogy #3) by Ryan Dalton

The Genesis Flame is the final YA science fiction book in the Time Shift Trilogy! The publisher, Jolly Fish Press, sent me an advanced copy of the book to review before its release on April 24, 2018.

The timeline, the connection between all years and dimensions, is burning- literally. Malcolm and Valentine Gilbert, teenage time-travelers, sense darkness, and are plagued with extreme pain. A new enemy invades from the future, labeling the twins as evil war criminals. Huge towers appear with robot armies all over the world, shooting fire that eats away time. The twins must uncover the truth about who they are and their future, and unlock their full potential before the enemy destroys all of time itself. 

This book was action-packed, much more than the first two books! I was hooked on every sentence, and it was better than I expected! The Genesis Flame is high tension, full of intense scenes. This is the final battle, the fate of the past, the future, and the present all in the hands of a few teenagers.

I am extremely attached to the characters. As a result, I was not at all happy with some of the sacrifices they made to protect the ones they loved. It ended the series nicely, and did not leave me wanting more. I liked how it answered some questions and also left many things up to the reader to decide. The epilogue was amazing!

I highly recommend this book and this series! Read my reviews of book one and book two.

Title: The Genesis Flame (Time Shift Trilogy #3)
Author: Ryan Dalton
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press
Pages: 450
Series: Yes, Book 3/3
Rating: 5 Stars
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