Category Archives: 2-Meh

Pulse: The Trial by RA Crawford

In a society ruled by women, a group of human girls working toward becoming PULSE soldiers must prove their worth in a deadly trial no human has ever survived before. And if the barely uninhabitable planet they drop on doesn’t kill them first, the other women just might.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

TitlePulse: The Trial 
Author: R.A. Crawford
Series: Pulse? Series still TBA
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publish Date: December 2016
Genre: YA Dystopian
Source: Provided by the author.

Publisher’s Description: Forty of Earth’s most dangerous women compete to become warriors in the interstellar empire known as PULSE. They must endure a Trial on a death-planet filled with monsters and betrayal.

Only three will survive. And the war hasn’t even begun.

It’s a future like you’ve never seen before: one populated by amazing (and often unfriendly) aliens and a Humanity that is 100% female. A paradise in some ways, a prison in others, this handful of extraordinary women must fight to stay alive in a brutal universe, enduring an onslaught of deadly challenges, just to join the fight against a star-spanning threat they can scarcely imagine.

THE TRIAL is the first in an action-packed adventure series for all ages, crammed with creatures, combat, courage … and some of the most fascinating new characters you’ve encountered in years.

Join PULSE! See the universe! You might even survive…


Kat Mandu says…

Pulse follows two young girls, Stella and Faye, not to mention a myriad of other women (both alien and human) as they work to become enforcers for PULSE, an intergalactic space organization that goes from planet to planet and frees women from “the evil” of men (and men in general). They’ve been training for ten years, which is nice because in order to become soldiers, they must first pass a brutal trial on a wicked planet full of dangerous terrain, deadly enemies, and harsh conditions. From the moment they jump off the spaceship and have to fall to the surface, to the final confrontation as they attempt escaping, Stella and Faye have to be at their best to succeed – or else perish like every other human before them.

This is action-packed and full of fight scenes between the girls, monsters, and human nature. It’s reminiscent of the violent competitions in the Hunger Games, especially since the story is narrated by you guessed it, all women. These girls are tough and fierce, and Stella and Faye make a great duo. I liked the bonds between them and how tested their relationship became in the darkest moments of the trial.

However the writing just didn’t do it for me.

For one, I don’t mind descriptions of certain battle scenes and etc, because you’ve gotta have great visuals, yes? However this was often way too verbose in places, making you wonder what was actually happening in between three full paragraphs of unnecessary details. I found myself struggling to follow along.

Another thing is that I didn’t understand the narration. I’ve read several third-person perspective books, but none have been this chaotic. The thing that irked me the most was the shift to characters that weren’t important to the story line. For example, at the very beginning, you hear from Stella’s mother – but why? What role does she have to play in the set up, beyond offering “mental” support for Stella at random and infrequent moments? Switching to characters who don’t play a valuable role is a waste of space. Why did we have to hear from Haley right before Stella went to fight her in hand to hand combat? I felt that switching so often distracted from what the story was trying to say. I wish it would have stayed within the confines of Stella/Faye’s head (and I guess, Koot at times).

Sadly, I could not connect with any of the characters at all. I liked that they had various personality traits but I just didn’t feel for any of them, despite their situations.

I didn’t understand the unrealistic battle between Stella and Haley either. The girls have been rivals for quite some time now and they can’t stand each other. Okay, that works. A little high school drama never hurts anyone. BUT IS THAT A REASON FOR WANTING TO KILL EACH OTHER? My god no. This was my final sigh moment, even though I continued to read it. How could someone go from simply hating someone for stupid reasons – Haley often beat Stella in combat, for example – to wanting to kill them? Nope, nope, nope. It just went to an extreme level that was just…again, unnecessary.

I also missed the actual world-building. A world ruled by all women? Okay, that’s awesome. Now why? Do I need to know every detail of how the world came to be? No, I mean, even Divergent and Hunger Games had very vague reasons on how their worlds ended up like that. But these girls are going through all this trouble – this life-threatening trial – to prove themselves. Okay? Why? To free women, okay, that’s a good reason, but it’s not enough for me. Are men savages in this world? Are they corrupt? Why are these women fighting to prove? That lack of information just doesn’t work for me.

Despite all this, Pulse is not a bad story. I mean, I’ve seen the reviews on Goodreads and a lot of people really love it. I liked the action and the excitement but the rest was not for me. 

Other recommendations…

…you might try The Gender Game series by Bella Forrest, Man Hunt by K. Edwin Fritz, and The Monster Within Idea by R. Thomas Riley.

The New You by Kathleen Leverich

Welcome to Saturday Shorts, in which we review shorter works such as short stories, novellas, middle-grade books, and graphic novels.

In The New You, Abigail is a young girl who just moved to the big city. She’s got a new step-mother as well and as she adjusts, she realizes she has lost who she used to be and wants to find herself a new identity

the-new-youTitle: The New You
Author: Kathleen Leverich
Series: stand alone
Publish Date: June 1, 2000 Scholastic
Genre: MG Magical Realism
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: Abigail and self-esteem have not gone hand in hand ever since she transferred to a new school. And the harder she tries to fit in, the more things seem to come out awkward and wrong. But when she makes friends with three savvy older women, gets a fabulously flattering haircut — and ultimately what she earnestly believes is a completely new identity, suddenly things begin to look up. Is it all wishful thinking or a glimpse into the future?

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat_Mandu_100

 

Kat Mandu says…

In The New You, Abigail is a young girl who just moved to the big city. She’s got a new step-mother as well and as she adjusts, she realizes she has lost who she used to be and wants to find herself a new identity.

This is an okay coming-of-age story. It’s very young so I put it at lower middle-grade on my mental shelf. The New You was one of the books that I found while going through some of my old books; I couldn’t remember much about it besides that it had a future-meets-present feel, so I reread it. Boy, I wonder if I liked it more back then because my feelings toward it have definitely changed if so.

Abigail has managed to lose her friends, her hometown, and everything else she once was. Now that she’s in a new school and new city, she doesn’t quite know where she fits in. She wants to make friends but doesn’t know how because she doesn’t know if they’ll like her. So she stumbles on a makeover place called The New You in a phone book and decides to go there (a twelve year old wandering around in a NYC type area at dark? *shudder*).

What she finds is three women who treat her kindly and take her in, giving her a makeover. After a few hours of feeling comfortable around them, she starts to become ill, and goes home. She wakes a few days later and discovers she was sick. But when she starts to tell her family about the experiences she had, they tell her they never happened. In fact, she starts to investigate but finds out that the building she went to doesn’t even exist, let alone the people she met.

Yet Abigail remains hopeful and is much more comfortable in her own skin. She makes friends and realizes that these friends and these experiences are more like deja vu, and that her “dream” was just a projection of the future.

badge2v4If you’re looking for something simple and young, this book is for you. It just wasn’t for me. I missed the action that a lot more YA offers these days. Since this is an older book, it’s a lot more innocent. Which, there’s nothing wrong with, but I like my magical-realism a bit grittier.

Everlasting by L.K. Kuhl

I received an ARC of this book book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

everlastingTitleEverlasting
AuthorL. K. Kuhl
SeriesEverlasting Trilogy, Book 01
Publish Date: February 8, 2016
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Source: Provided by the author

Publisher’s Description: Seventeen-year-old Sophia Bandell is scared of boys and her biggest fear is dying. Boys make her uncomfortable and itchy and dying is …well …dying.

Sophia is surprised when her long lost friend calls her, inviting her to spend the summer with her on the beach at Charleston.

When a plastic saucer hits her in the head one day as she’s sunbathing, she has no idea it will forever change the course of her life. It is there she comes face to face with the impres-sive Tate Forester.

She is scared and …itchy, but he’s gorgeous and she can’t shake him from her mind. They begin dating and Sophia soon knows he’s the one.

But things turn dark when she finds out Tate really isn’t the person he says he is, and the real reason her friend has brought her here is to teach her about life after death.

This everlasting summer on the beach gives Sophia a taste of first love—the happiness as well as the heartbreak.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Luna_Lovebooks_100Luna Lovebooks says…

Likes: Everlasting starts out creepily enough with a weird broken phone call. I figured out the paranormal aspect quickly enough even though it is presented as a mystery. Khul has unique descriptions in her writing. The plot has plenty of potential and the characters were interesting enough, even if they made me shake my head. It did make me glad to see that Sophia grows a little and becomes less afraid of death.

Dislikes: Despite the unique plot and colorful descriptions, there were many issues in this novel. Sophia’s mother is a worrier but she allows her seventeen-year-old daughter to travel halfway across the country alone when she has had no contact with Mandy’s parents for four years? It just didn’t add up to me. Sophia seems naïve and, despite saying the opposite, falls instantly in love twice – once with a controlling and very unlikeable man.

badge2v4Even though this novel has plenty of potential, I can’t look past all the work that it needs. For this reason I give it two ghosts.

Recommendations…

I received an ARC of this book book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

As They Rise by J.M. Wilde

Like in most zombie scenarios, the character of this book finds herself in a struggle for survival. The short-story is filled with gruesome deaths, high stakes, and plenty of action.

as-they-riseTitleAs They Rise
AuthorJ.M. Wilde
SeriesThe Eva Series, Book 01
Publish Date: June 21, 2015
Genre: Apocalyptic
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionA kick-ass teenage girl, a nation swarming with zombies, and a sweet romance that grows amongst the ruins. You’ll find all that and more in this exciting and action-packed, post-apocalyptic young adult novella.

Readers have said it’s had them on the edge of their seats, reading all through the night and still craving more.

Eva was just an everyday girl, working as a waitress, hanging out with her friends, and falling in love. But her world changed overnight when a powerful virus spread throughout the country, transforming it into a wasteland of deadly disease and crazed zombies. With Australia cut off from the rest of the world and rampant with terror and chaos, Eva and her friends must do whatever they can to survive.

Set in Australia, horror, friendship and true love collide to make this tale of survival stand out from the rest.

The Eva Series will make you smile, scream, cry and fist-pump the air as you go on a wild and dangerous ride with Eva and her friends. And it all starts here, as they rise.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat_Mandu_100Kat Mandu says…

I struggled to come up with a rating for this short story. I was able to read it in one sitting and it was something nice to pick up during the week of Halloween.

However, I wasn’t that impressed with the actual story. I felt like it was just a combination of every zombie movie/book already out there. I also had a hard time with all the clichés. Anyone who knows what I like knows I don’t like clichéd fiction and this just hit that particular mark with me. I want a fresh take on zombies. Something more original than the standard “we have to get out of here, the dead are coming” thing.

The characters were real enough – until it came time to face the zombie horde and then suddenly the lead character becomes a freaking ninja, able to come away unscathed each encounter and managing to kill off a lot of zombies using makeshift weapons. I didn’t really get why she happened to be so skilled within that short amount of time, having grown up “normally” and having no idea how to use a blade. It just seemed very unreal despite the rest of the book where the situations were more realistic.

badge2v4The writing itself isn’t bad, descriptive enough to figure out what’s going on and follow it clearly. I’m not quite sure why there was romance involved unless it was to make sure the story didn’t completely fall into the category of horror. But I felt like all the lovey-dovey thoughts the lead character and her love interest were having were inappropriate for the situation, as most of the time she was having those thoughts in the middle of a battle. I get the “gotta do it now before we die” but this just seemed a little too over the top.

I wished I would have enjoyed this more. I’m sure someone else will, it just wasn’t for me.

If you like this book…

…you might try these other zombie reads – Allison Hewett Is Trapped by Madeline Roux, Rise Again by Ben Tripp, or The First Days by Rhiannon Frater.

The Whizbang Machine by Danielle A. Vann

When Elizabeth Yale’s grandfather returns home with a mysterious gift for her, the typewriter present turns out to be something far more sinister. The more she learns about the typewriter and all its secrets, the more secrets about her family are revealed – plus the curse that’s been put on her family for years has come to claim them.

I received an ARC of this book book from the author/publisher.

whizbang-machineTitleThe Whizbang Machine
AuthorDanielle A. Vann
Series: stand-alone
Publish Date: Nov 15, 2016
Genre:  YA Supernatural Mystery
Source: BEA 16

Publisher’s Description: After years of running from his tragic past, Jack Yale books a flight home. With him is a typewriter that is intended to be a gift for his granddaughter, Elizabeth. The minute Elizabeth’s fingers cradle the large black and cream keys the machine responses: popping, sizzling, and roaring to life with a Whiz-Whiz-BANG! Elizabeth quickly discovers the typewriter has powers beyond anything she has ever seen. The more she types, the more the machine spells out guarded secrets that need to be revealed in order to set history straight and remove a curse that has been on their family for centuries. To solve the mystery, Elizabeth Yale, alongside Jack, will have to crack the code of the Whizbang Machine. What they find challenges their most basic assumptions of their family, the history of the typewriter, and even Elizabeth’s father’s death. The ultimate goal is to remove the curse. The question is: will Jack and Elizabeth be able to carry out their mission?

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat_Mandu_100Kat Mandu says…

What I liked: Well, you don’t see a typewriter every day in books involving relics that spell out a certain doom for the characters. That’s unique to me because I often see an amulet or a stone or a key. It helps that the typewriter can technically talk back, even if it’s often unhelpful.

The author has a very good idea of suspense going for her, for even though there were many things I wasn’t impressed with, I found myself still wanting to read it to figure out the truth behind all the events going on in the book.

What I didn’t like: First off, the characters. Though they are quite believable due to the things they do and say, they’re not likeable people. Elizabeth is the very epitome of annoying, whiny, and temperamental teenagers. In one scene she can seem very grown up and wise, and in another, throw a tantrum for no reason. It’s frustrating that her traits often change. Plus, I wasn’t fond of the mother or Jack. What kind of grandfather purposely brings something he knows is dangerous to his family, while being aware that it could destroy them? That makes no sense to me. I had a tough time relating to any of them and that was rough for me. All the side characters were unfortunately predictable and you could tell who the bad guy was and who wasn’t.

Also, the plot of the book is drowned out by unnecessary details. The characters often find themselves in situations where they have to talk things out but when the dialogue or inner thoughts display on the page, it’s just a recap of everything that’s already happened and I found myself thinking, “I know this already, why are we wasting time?” This book would be so much better if the author got rid of all that re-summarized information and just got on with the plot.

There are action scenes mingled in but they seem so fake that it’s painful. The characters just “happen” to escape from the police in both New York and Amsterdam. They’re not very well written because it’s trying to happen from only one character’s perspective when there are things happening beyond her scope she’s just automatically tuned in to. I could see this better written as third-person omniscient instead of first-person. Elizabeth just seems to know too much.

badge2v4I sadly, can only give this a two – but with hopes that when the sequel is written, the action picks up and makes it less worrisome for readers.

Percy_Procrastinator_100Percy Procrastinator says…

This was a tough read for me. The book is written in Elizabeth’s first person POV but for that, I don’t think I got very good insight into her character. Elizabeth was erratic and emotional, more so than I would have expected from a teenager. Had it only been her, though, I could have excused it. Elizabeth’s mom, Lauren, is just as bad and so is Jack, her grandfather, from whom I expected patience and wisdom. So much so that it surprised me and made it tough for me to root for them as characters. I couldn’t find common ground with any of them which meant I didn’t understand them and therefore made it tough to read about them.

The first part of the book is focused on the family members so much that I almost stopped reading before the mystery started. Elizabeth is about to start her summer off and Jack has just returned. Jack had left years earlier, after his wife and son, Elizabeth’s dad, had died within a week of each other. Jack hopes to reconnect with his family but also starts the mystery with his gift.

Once the mystery of the typewriter, the titular WhizBang Machine and gift from Jack, started, that kept me going as I did want to see what the mystery was. Thinking back on it, though, I don’t think the characters gave enough thought to the Whiz Bang machine. It reacted only to Elizabeth by creating smoke letters to spell out words. It electrocuted Jack enough to give him a heart attack. It worked with no power to it or even no paper. What? They have a supernatural item on their hands and it isn’t questioned?

However, when Elizabeth starts having near psychic-level dreams, a supernatural typewriter at that point is par for the course. Sure, some of her dreams reveal to her old memories of her dad. Other dreams, though, are of people she didn’t know who turn out to be real and tied up in the curse. And now we get a curse, because why not at this point? All of these things are used to push Elizabeth and Jack into researching the mystery of her family and I don’t think this was done very well. There are boxes of her dad’s things in storage that contain clues and could have started this in a much better way for me. Further, at no point is how the Whiz Bang machine works or creates smoke messages ever questioned, even though it’s nearly sentient.

Now, having criticized the book, I enjoyed many parts of it. I like the idea of rival families and a feud centuries old. I liked the characters having to go to the library to do searching for documents not on the internet. I liked that they had to travel to Europe to find out more. There were good chase scenes in several places and the tension in them worked for me.

badge2v4I’m not sure where I stand on the next book. If I knew it was the last book of the series, I would be more interested in it. I’m not curious enough to search it out. For that reason, I give this book a high two. Some good points but it didn’t come together enough for me to give it a three.

I received an ARC of this book book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.