Tag Archives: post-apocalyptic

ARC Review – Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld, Alex Puvilland, & Hilary Sycamore

Title: Spill Zone

Author: Scott Westerfeld, Alex Puvilland, & Hilary Sycamore

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Nobody’s ever really explained the Spill. Was it an angelic visitation? A nanotech accident? A porthole opening from another world? Whatever it was, no one’s allowed in the Spill Zone these days except government scientists and hazmat teams. But a few intrepid explorers know how to sneak through the patrols and steer clear of the dangers inside the Zone. Addison Merrick is one such explorer, dedicated to finding out what happened that night, and to unraveling the events that took her parents and left her little sister mute and disconnected from the world.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I. hate. creepy dolls. I’ve never been a fan of the living doll trope that exists in horror, mostly because I am a wuss. Also because I love toys and the idea of them being murderous or possessed frightens me. Which brings me to The Spill Zone, Scott Westerfeld’s latest effort that is both intriguing and creepy as all hell.

I will admit that it took me awhile to get into the artwork of The Spill Zone. It’s something I didn’t warm up to until I was about half way through because there are moments where some panels look very rushed or not proportioned right. I generally don’t mind a sketched style, but it’s definitely something where the end of the book looks far cleaner than the beginning. Since this was an ARC there were only a few colour panels, so I’d be interested to see the colour choices given that the colour panels that did exist in the ARC really popped!

But the story, oh my goodness, the story — creepy, disturbed, and it ended on a horrible cliffhanger that made me wish I had the second book. Vespertine the doll gave me the willies and made me so uncomfortable most of the time. I felt bad for Addison’s sister Lexa, who still can’t talk about life after “The Spill.” Addi’s taking photos illegally, risking her own life to get the perfect shot. I feel like this first installment didn’t give me enough of the characters, and while I enjoyed their presence, I can only hope book two will give more information about Addi and Lexa’s past beyond the snippet we get here in book one.

The Spill Zone is a very fast-paced graphic novel, and one that just oozes with creepiness. There’s interesting plot developments and characters, which I am sure will get more developed when the time comes. There’s an interesting world at play in The Spill Zone and I am curious as to where Westerfeld plans to take this story further.

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ARC Review – Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain

23848031Title:  Instructions for the End of the World

Author: Jamie Kain

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: He prepared their family for every natural disaster known to man—except for the one that struck.  When Nicole Reed’s father forces her family to move to a remote area of the Sierra Foothills, one without any modern conveniences, it’s too much too handle for her mother, who abandons them in the middle of the night. Heading out to track her down, Nicole’s father leaves her in charge of taking care of the house and her younger sister, Izzy. For a while, Nicole is doing just fine running things on her own. But then the food begins to run out, the pipes crack, and forest fires start slowly inching their way closer every day. Wolf, a handsome boy from the neighboring community, offers to help her when she needs it most, but when she starts to develop feelings for him, feelings she knows she will never be allowed to act on once her father returns, she must make a decision. With her family falling apart, will she choose to continue preparing for tomorrow’s disasters, or will she take a chance and really start living for today?

Huge thank you to Raincoast/St. Martin’s Griffin for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Last year I read The Good Sister, a book I wasn’t expecting much from considering it was compared to The Lovely Bones, a book I quite disliked. I read it, and I LOVED it along with Jamie Kain’s writing style. I was so excited to hear she had a second YA novel coming in Instructions for the End of the World.

However, this book was lacking compared to her first. I had a hard time trying to connect with the characters at times. Part of it is the multiple perspectives, though by the end of it Nicole and Wolf begin to dominate it. It’s one of those books I kept wondering if I would have liked more written in one perspective or if it had been done in third would it have been more effective.

That being said, once again Kain writes a story about a troubled family coming together, in this case for the inevitable end of the world. She really has an amazing knack for writing family dynamics and making you care about the overall picture in terms of how the family will survive, how they will succeed, and where they have the potential to completely family. I loved reading about Nicole and Izzy’s family life, and I found those moments of the novel, especially when paired with the survivalist aspects to be quite gripping. Kain just really knows how to paint an engaging family portrait.

Despite having read this novel in a day, there’s a part of me that just felt it was lacking in terms of plot. It’s a case where the blurb doesn’t illustrate what the book is really about, and if you are expecting an apocalyptic novel, this probably is going to miss the mark. The ending alone complicates things in that it just ends and doesn’t provide a conclusion to anything really. I see why this was done, but as a reader I didn’t feel entirely satisfied when I finished the novel.

Even though I have some problems with this novel, I still think Jamie Kain is an amazing writer, and I love the experiences that she transplants me into when I start reading her novels. While this is no The Good Sister, I still found myself engaged byInstructions for the End of the World, and read the book in a day. There is a lot to like here, even if it isn’t the most satisfying read out there.

River’s Review:

After reading and LOVING The Good Sister I was very excited for this book. I grew up in a backwoods type country bumpkin town, my father made sure we knew how to hunt and take care of ourselves in the wild, and I went to outdoors camp when I was a kid. My family is NOT crazy “preppers” like the family in this book, but I was curious to see how well I could relate.

Sadly this book just didn’t cut it for me. The writing was still very good, but the payout at the end of this was not what I was hoping for. After the family drama in The Good Sister I was sad to see just a shadow of that in this book. The father clearly had some ISSUES (as did the mother) but it didn’t feel as natural in this book as it did The Good Sister.

This book starts off with Nicole and her family showing up at a dilapidated old house that apparently belonged to some great-great-great-great relative and hadn’t been lived in since that relative had been alive. Nicole’s father has moved them there so they can live off the gird in preparation for the ~end of the world~. Nicole has grown up buying into her father’s beliefs (btw father is some ex Military general who just randomly retired for no reason… until REASONS later on in the book). But somehow the mother and younger sister are NOT on the dad’s side of the fence and I just didn’t know HOW they’d made it this far with the two of them being so NOT a part of this.

And I guess that really bugged me through most of this book. How did the mother and the sister really get this far with the father acting the way he did? I could understand if like, the mother financially couldn’t leave or SOMETHING but again, there was never any explanation (and then the mother later enrolls in Grad school so I don’t think money was ever an issue). And how was the younger sister able to get away with as much as she did?

This was another multi-POV book and it did NOT work for me. There were WAY too many voices and I really didn’t see the need for Laurel’s AT ALL. She literally had NO effect on this book. Her chapters could have been edited out and we would have lost nothing. The younger sister’s were also pretty useless to the story. Sure they showed what she was struggling with, but she was a massive brat (and she did have right to be, but STILL) and I just didn’t feel like her voice really contributed to the plot or story. Wolf’s was okay, but I really would have been FINE if this would have been in first person from Nicole’s POV.

Also this is supposed to be a survival book. I was expecting tension and actual things that needed to be survived. Sure their water stopped working, but their lives weren’t really IN DANGER. And the part with the fires was like two pages and then it was done. I wanted some actual life-threatening survival! And I don’t know the gun/hunting laws in California, but I can they really, LEGALLY, be allowed to just go out hunting on their property any old time of year?! And Nicole, do you NOT know about wearing orange so that OTHER people don’t shoot at you? That part really bugged me.

Overall this wasn’t BAD, it just wasn’t… anything really. And that made me so sad after LOVING The Good Sister.

ARC Review – Until the Beginning by Amy Plum

22445886Title: Until the Beginning

Author: Amy Plum

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: When Juneau’s clan disappeared, she lost so much more than her friends and family. She soon discovered everything she thought she knew about her life was a lie. Her people’s gifts were actually secret abilities that others wanted, desperately enough to kidnap an entire village.

Juneau and her new companion Miles’s cross-country journey to find her clan has led them to a game preserve in New Mexico. Now Juneau’s people are finally within reach, and she will stop at nothing to save them. But she has a target on her back too, because unbeknownst to her she is the key to unlocking everything. To rescue her people – and herself – Juneau must discover what she, and her abilities, are truly capable of.

I read an ARC of this which was provided by a friend!

River’s Review:

I was SO excited to read this because After the End was one of my fav books from last year and I was DYING to find out what happened next! Well this was a really good conclusion to the two books and I enjoyed reading it so much!

We start EXACTLY where the first book left off and Miles is sleeping. Of course the author toys with us but he pulls through and they continue on to save Juneau’s clan. All our favorite characters from the first book show up, and there is an epic battle at the end.

While I loved this book a lot, I didn’t love it as much as the first book. There were some VERY sweet (and some very sexy) moments between Miles and Juneau, which I loved, but other than that the interactions between everyone fell a little short. Overall I actually think this book should have been longer and fleshed out a little more. I also would have liked more tension. The first book was so amazing because of all of the tension and the WTF IS GOING ON MOMENTS?!

I did like Miles’ character development though. It was so solid and he really grew into such a different person. I wish there’d been a much larger show down between him and his father though, I would have loved more!

I guess I just wanted more from this. And I’m sad that it’s over. But I still loved it a lot! And I really can’t say much more without giving away a lot of it. So I guess if you loved the first one you might be a little disappointed with this. But only a little.

Late to the Party ARC Review – In the End by Demitria Lunetta

18712520Title:  In the End

Author: Demitria Lunetta

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: It s been three months since Amy escaped New Hope, and she s been surviving on her own. Then one day Amy gets a call from Kay and hears the four words she had hoped she would never hear: “Dr. Reynolds has Baby.” Now it s a race against time, for Baby is in imminent danger, her life threatened by the malevolent doctor who helped start the end of the world. Amy must make her way to Fort Black, a prison turned survivor colony, where she will need to find Ken, Kay s brother, who holds the key to Baby s survival.

One small slipup on this quest might not only cost Baby and Amy their lives but could also threaten the survival of the people in the After.

Huge thank you to Harper Teen and Edelweiss for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

In the After gave me all the feels. In the End gave me all the feels quadrupled. There’s something to be said about an emotionally charged post-apocalyptic novel, that yes, is about survival, but Lunetta gives us more than just instinct — this idea that you do need others to keep you sane. Amy goes rogue in this book after her beloved Baby has been stolen from her, and it sends her on the rescue mission that may not have been exactly what she thought it was when she started.

Lunetta does this amazing job of building tension and giving the reader the tools they need to understand what is going on in Amy’s mind and the world. Since this is also a direct continuation, there’s no hand holding either — this world is sick, twisted, and the humans might be far worse than the creatures they are trying to eliminate. For me, however, it was Amy’s personal journey that just kept me moving through the book, she had to save Baby, she had to make sure she was okay — their interactions were my favourite part of the first novel.

I really enjoyed a lot of the character motives in this book too. A lot of the characters are malicious, with the intent that they think they are saving people when in actuality, they are the real monsters. A lot of what these characters do are so unforgivable, so when someone is sincere in the story, it’s almost jarring because this world is such a crappy place. I liked Jacks and Brenna, and I thought they were great. I loved Amy’s maturity in the story, it’s a forced kind but very symbolic to how her world has transformed around her.

I’m not going to spoil any of this book or the series, but there were a few parts in this book that made me really emotional. I could feel like heart break in parts because the intensity and the emotion was just so spot on throughout. If you haven’t checked out this series and you want a strong zombie or survival narrative, look no further.

ARC Review – After the End, by Amy Plum

endTitle: After the End

Author: Amy Plum

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: World War III has left the world ravaged by nuclear radiation. A lucky few escaped to the Alaskan wilderness. They’ve survived for the last thirty years by living off the land, being one with nature, and hiding from whoever else might still be out there.

At least, this is what Juneau has been told her entire life.

When Juneau returns from a hunting trip to discover that everyone in her clan has vanished, she sets off to find them. Leaving the boundaries of their land for the very first time, she learns something horrifying: There never was a war. Cities were never destroyed. The world is intact. Everything was a lie.

Huge thank you to HarperTeen and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

WHAT HOW IS THAT THE END HOW AM I GOING TO MAKE IT UNTIL THE NEXT ONE OMG.

Wow. So this book was good. Really good. I was skeptical at the start. Around 20% I had no idea what was happening and to be perfectly honest, Juneau seemed like she was doing WAY TOO WELL for herself. 

This book is told from two POVs, which actually worked really well for me. I LOVED both Juneau and Miles’ voices. God I loved Miles. The book starts with Juneau’s, and we’re in the middle of the forest, hunting and living off the land in a post-apocalyptic era, three decades after WWIII. Juneau and her clan are able to connect to the ‘yara’ (basically the spirit of the earth) and use it to do what appears to be magic. Then we flip to Miles’ POV and he’s working in the mail room for his dad’s pharmaceutical company… in the present day.

Juneau’s POV shows her going on a hunting trip and then hearing a helicopter and returning to her clan and finding everyone gone. Miles’ shows his father hunting for a girl who matches Juneau’s description. And Miles, who’s in his father’s bad graces, decides to go find Juneau to bring her back to his dad and get back on his good side. This starts the adventure that the two take for the rest of the book as Miles tries to help Juneau find her people and she tries to figure out wtf is going on… because there clearly WAS no WWIII and she’s been lied to her entire life… 

This was nothing like I expected. At first I was annoyed because I had no idea what was happening but then as the answers began to roll in and the story began to build my opinion changed and what started as a 3 star book moved up to a full blown five stars and holy crap when I turned to the last page I couldn’t believe that it was over. I read 70% of this book in one sitting because I was that engaged in it. I only stopped because I had to go to sleep and when I woke up I went right back to reading it. 

I loved Juneau and Miles’ relationship. The only quip I have is that Juneau seemed to have way too much knowledge. I know that she grew up reading an old Encyclopedia Britannica (which she refers to A LOT in the story as a way for understanding modern things), but I still felt that she should have had a bit more trouble figuring things out. She also spoke a little too modern sometimes. But when it was from Miles’ POV she seemed way more like a girl who’s been displaced from society. And when he spoke you could see the difference (especially when he’d make cultural references) so that was a little odd for me… 

I cannot wait to see where this goes. Highly recommend this to everyone, just push through the beginning because omfg does it ever get amazing!

Book Review – Countdown, by Michelle Rowen

17622950Title:  Countdown
Author:  Michelle Rowen
Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: 3 seconds left to live. Once the countdown starts, it cannot be stopped.

2 pawns thrown into a brutal underground reality game.

Kira Jordan survived her family’s murder and months on plague-devastated city streets with hard-won savvy and a low-level psi ability. She figures she can handle anything. Until she wakes up in a barren room, chained next to the notorious Rogan Ellis.

1 reason Kira will never, ever trust Rogan. Even though both their lives depend on it.

Their every move is controlled and televised for a vicious exclusive audience. And as Kira’s psi skill unexpectedly grows and Rogan’s secrets prove evermore deadly, Kira’s only chance of survival is to risk trusting him as much as her instincts. Even if that means running head-on into the one trap she can’t escape.

Sam’s Review:

I received a finished copy of this book from the author. Huge thank you to Michelle Rowen for giving me this opportunity. Check Countdown out when it releases October 1st.

Countdown is like candy. It’s one of those books where the plot zips by you so quickly that by the time its over, so is your bag of M&Ms. I must admit, while there are parts of Countdown that were full of flaws and generally would annoy me, the other half of me was so forgiving because the ride Kira and Rogan took me one was so fast and frantic.

The world building in Countdown is razor thin. There’s not a lot for the reader to envision and picture in terms of understanding the world that sounds our protagonists. The vivid descriptions definitely come more from the sinister game, Countdown, a televised event wherein teens must fight to their deaths in order to access freedom. In a way this book definitely has some similarities to Battle Royale (particularly later on within the last level and endgame), but what it lacks in some cases in the tension that a story like Battle Royale has, where if your back is turned, you can be killed.

For the most part I enjoyed the plot twists that Rowen lays out on the table. I found, however, there was too many of them, each getting a bit more ridiculous than the last, and yet I enjoyed it. I felt like I was on a sugar high each time I learned something new about Kira or Rogan because as crazy as the twists were, they made for addictive reading. I actually really liked Kira for the most part. I loved that she understood that what she was playing was a game and that in any instance the rules could be flipped with that of a switch. She was very thoughtful, a good soul, and surprisingly humorous. She’s had a tough life and you definitely get a sense of that, where as Rogan is a spoiled high rich kids who essentially was looking for cheap thrills but had to atone for his sins. Rogan was hit and miss with me considering the majority of the twists were about him, but at the same time, I found myself struggling to be angry with him. It was hard to accept his actions, yet at the same time Rowen makes hims someone you can have some sympathy for. Sometimes I wanted to give him a smack because his behavior was inexcusable.

The overall villains of the story were fairly flat, and had they been stronger, I think I could have accepted more of the character development present in the narrative. They felt functional and flimsy, never feeling like their presence entirely mattered. Yet, in the confines of the world Rowen created, this role oddly makes sense and you get a sense of how liaise-faire the world and its economical environment truly is. Everything revolves around money, as well as Countdown, yet no one really gives a crap.

Countdown is not a bad book, it’s surprisingly fun. The flaws are many, but I found myself turning pages as though I was popping candy. It’s a fast, engaging read, though not particularly deep. If you can accept that there isn’t deeper issues here and you want something light and action-packed, Countdown definitely fits that bill. If you’re looking for a more meaningful post-apocalyptic YA read, there’s better options out there.