Book Review: Return Once More

Return Once More (The Historians #1)
by Trisha Leigh
Release Date: June 2015
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Summary from Goodreads:

If you could learn the identity of your one true love—even though you will never meet— would you?
Years have passed since refugees from a ruined earth took to space, eventually settling a new system of planets. Science has not only made the leaps necessary to allow time travel, but the process engineered a strange side effect—predicting your one true love.
If you could save your one true love from an untimely death, would you be able to resist?
Sixteen-year-old Kaia Vespasian is an apprentice to the Historians—a group charged with using time travel to document the triumphs and failures of the past—and she can’t resist a peek at her long-dead soul mate in Ancient Egypt. Before she knows it, she’s broken every rule in the book, and the consequences of getting caught could destroy more than just her new romance.
Or would you have the strength to watch him die?
But when Kaia notices a fellow classmate snooping around in a time where he doesn’t belong, she suspects he has a secret of his own—and the conspiracy she uncovers could threaten the entire universe. If her experience has taught her anything, to changing history means facing the consequences. The Historians trained her to observe and record the past, but Kaia never guessed she might have to protect it— in a race across time to save her only chance at a future.

I’ve never had a thing for time travel, but I have always had a thing for Ancient Egypt, so that’s what drew me into Return Once More. I believe that the author did a good job of describing the futuristic world and the technology that was used within it. I find that some books have to little explanation while others have far too much – Trisha Leigh got this one just right. Some of it did require a willing suspension of disbelief, but that’s why we read fantasy!

The entire premise of being about travel back in time but not forward it time made sense to me. The past is already done but the future possibilities are infinite. As long as you don’t screw up the past and make sure we have a future to return to. The other plot device used was the ability to find someone’s “One True Love” throughout all time and space. For some reason, they can predict someone’s True in the future… but not go there… hm. That felt undeveloped for me. I played along with that, because hey, I love History so the thought of being able to go back and observe was awesome!

Kaia is a great heroine, I enjoyed reading from her point of view. She is a realistic teenager who breaks all the rules when it suits her, but still has a strong sense of what is right and wrong. The supporting characters could have used a bit more fleshing out, as sometimes I was confused about who Kaia was interacting with.

While the book moved and read quickly, some of the pacing felt off to me. I found myself bored every so often and then suddenly it would pick up like a roller-coaster. I really loved the cover for this book. I like the juxtaposition of the modern clothing with the (fantasy inspired) Ancient Egyptian setting.

As I was approaching the end of the book, I knew that there was no way that it was all going to wrap up nicely in the last 10%. I went into this book thinking it was a standalone, so I was left wondering wtf was going on at the end. Imagine my surprise when I realized it was a series! I can’t wait to read what happens next.

In the end, I really enjoyed this book by Trisha Leigh and I look forward to reading the next installment in the series. She does have another series completed with CreateSpace named The Last Year, which I will also be adding to my to-read list. The first installment, Whispers in Autumn is free on Amazon!

*disclaimer* – I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a honest review. 
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Book Review: The Body Institute

Do you guys remember when I hosted a cover reveal for The Body Institute by Carol Riggs back in March? Well I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advanced copy to read and review!
The Body Institute
by Carol Riggs
Release Date: September 2015
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Summary from Goodreads:

Meet Morgan Dey, one of the top teen Reducers at The Body Institute.
Thanks to cutting-edge technology, Morgan can temporarily take over another girl’s body, get her in shape, and then return to her own body—leaving her client slimmer, more toned, and feeling great. Only there are a few catches…
For one, Morgan won’t remember what happens in her “Loaner” body. Once she’s done, she won’t recall walks with her new friend Matt, conversations with the super-cute Reducer she’s been text-flirting with, or the uneasy feeling she has that the director of The Body Institute is hiding something. Still, it’s all worth it in the name of science. Until the glitches start…
Suddenly, residual memories from her Loaner are cropping up in Morgan’s mind. She’s feeling less like herself and more like someone else. And when protests from an anti–Body Institute organization threaten her safety, she’ll have to decide if being a Reducer is worth the cost of her body and soul…

I was originally interested in the book because I thought it would be tackling issues like body shaming and discrimination, but that wasn’t really the case. There were a few moments hidden in between health lectures, but they seemed few and far between. I might have just been too sensitive about it, because of my own personal history – and I’ll admit there were parts in the beginning that were triggering to me and I had to put the book down. Therefore, I would recommend anyone living with an eating disorder or body-dismorphia to read with caution.

However, for all the personal challenges I had while reading this book, I’ve very glad I did. There is no doubt that Carol Riggs is an excellent writer and keeps the reader guessing. I’m normally that person that has everything figured out – not with The Body Institute! The story was slow (but engaging) until the 50% mark and just when I thought I knew what was going to happen I got hit with twist after twist. I read the last half of the book in a day because I just couldn’t put it down!

I like the world building, it was easy to imagine and the technology seemed plausible in the next 100 years or so. I don’t know much about tech or biology but to me, the tech described for switching minds didn’t seem all that impossible. That’s what marks a good sci-fi for me – books with tech that is realistic is way more unnerving that fantasy lands.

I love Morgan for her resliance and her detication to her family. She was a heroine that I could really get behind and not be annoyed by the 1st person perspective. After all she went though, and still carrying herself with pride really inspired me. The other characters were all great in their way, and the cast supported a very well thought out plot.

My favourite character was Morgans grandfather. I felt like I connected with him better because he was not a native of this intense technology, just as I would be if it were developed in my life time. I think his family (even Morgan in the beginning) writes him off as a grumpy old man, but he is very wise. There was something that he said that seems to be a cornerstone of the theme of this book, which I will leave here for everyone:

“Your looks are an important part of who you are. You wouldn’t be who you are, the same personality, if you’d grown up looking different. You’re a blend of your body and your soul.”

 

*disclaimer* – I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a honest review. 
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Book Review: Superstition

Superstition by Lucy Fenton was a great novel. It set the bar high as one of the best self-published books I have read in a long time.

Superstition
by Lucy Fenton
Release Date: August 2015
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Summary from Goodreads:

What happens when your childhood nightmares of being bitten by strange creatures in a dark wood aren’t just dreams?
Sixteen-year-old Arden St. John’s life takes a strange turn when she finds an unusual animal injured near her new house on the south east coast of Australia. When she takes it to the local vet, a terrible truth is inadvertently exposed to her.
She discovers a secret underworld, where witches are commonplace and trolls masquerade as queen bees, terrorizing the other students with impunity. A world where vampires traffic in the lives of children, draining their bodies once they reach maturity. Where adults auction their own children to extend their lives.
Arden finds out she’s one of those kids, her life traded by the mother she never knew. Now she’s caught up in this ancient and corrupt economy operating just below the surface of modern society. She’s a hot commodity, and it’s only a matter of time before the vampire who bought her comes to claim his prize.
But Arden’s not going down without a fight.

It should be no secret now that I’m a sucker for witchcraft or occult based stories. The world building in Superstition was a neat take on traditional witches and vampires. I appreciate that the vampires are scary monsters and not sparkling hunks – I’m not at all worried that Arden might fall for one in the future. What was most interesting was the currency of lives or years, being able to buy and sell them, or even selling your children’s years instead! I know that our society surely would be doing that if they could. (If not already, but that’s a political essay for another day.)

Arden was a likable main character. The narration was dependable and consistent all of the way through. I admire her determination and grit, but some times she gets what she want way too easily. Her friends were loyal throughout, even when things got tough; and the teen heart throb Nick, well – he was your perfect boy next door. I hope things will work out for them.

I enjoyed the debate on what is good and evil, creation and destruction, and all of the grey areas in between. You can’t have one without the other, but being raised in a Western/ Christian society, if someone is labeled as destructive, they immediately related that with being evil. I like that Arden is determined to use her powers to right wrongs and fight evil.

Over all, the editing for this book was strong, however I feel like it could have been longer. The pacing was off, and some scenes seemed too rushed. The fight scenes could have been fleshed out better, they all seemed to end to easily and too quickly. For a witch with such destructive powers, I was hoping for a bit more blood and gore! The story could have easily filled another 100 pages and not been a drag.

The title fell flat for me. There are so many books out there with the title Superstition (or some close variable) that it makes it harder to search for it. I would have recommended something a bit more unique for a first novel, but naming books is something I also have trouble with.  *cough cough*

I will be checking out the play Gaslight to see how it ties into this novel. It seemed like a not so subtle name drop, and Fenton seems to be a reader of plays so I will be checking that out soon.

I was pleased to find out from the author’s Goodreads page that a sequel was in the works. She noted that it takes her a year or more to write a book, which is totally understandable and I was grateful that she wrapped up the end perfectly – leaving you wanting more but not hanging over a cliff!

*disclaimer* – I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a honest review. 
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Book Review: Synthetica

Synthetica by Rachel Pattinson was a great debut novel. At 299 (kindle) pages, Synthetica was a fast-paced read for me. The story was paced well, and had surprises at every turn. Thankfully, it didn’t fall victim to the usual YA tropes and really stands out as an interesting take at the dystopian society. The world of Synthetica isn’t as far-fetched as we’d like to hope.

Synthetica
by Rachel Pattinson
Release Date: April 2015
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Summary from Goodreads:

This city is falling.

Seventeen-year-old Anais Finch lives in a world where everyone is born beautiful, where every dream is a possibility – and where their every move and every piece of personal information is recorded by an ID picochip inserted behind their right ear. When technology giant, Civitas, finally announces the launch of their highly anticipated Scholarly Learning Programs, which allow people to download and learn any subject instantly, Anais can hardly wait.

But not everyone is pleased with society’s progress, and not everyone wants to fit in. When Anais witnesses a brutal murder on an innocent citizen and is implicated in the crime, she becomes determined to uncover the truth, especially when others like it begin to occur all over the city. But it may already be too late for Anais to stop the man who calls himself ‘the Hacker’ before he commits his most appalling crime yet…

Anais, our heroine, is an average girl-next-door who grew up in a lower-middle class family. At her career meeting she is placed in the Picochip factory, just like her parents. Anais’ hope is that she could break out of those limits and become an architect by using SLP chips that allow the user to learn everything instantly. (Which would be awesome in the real world, am I right?) Then after witnessing a murder, her and her friends start to put the pieces together and discover a dangerous terrorist plot.

The world building was fantastic! In fact, it was probably my favorite part of Synthetica. The story is set in the “moderately distant” future of earth, where technology is so advanced that children’s traits can be picked at conception. I always found this fascinating, getting to “build” your perfect child so to speak. On the dark side of this idea, however, I could see how this could turn sour for society and we would become fixated on having the perfect child. Luckily in this world, people can easily change their hair and even eye colour to fit the particular fashion.

The story and action really kick it into gear around the 50% mark. I suddenly found it impossible to put down and I read the latter half of the book in one sitting. The ending was such a cliffhanger, hopefully the second installment will be out soon.

Unfortunately, I must comment on the formatting for the e-reader. I use a free reader, UB reader via the Google Play Store, for the ARC copies I receive. I read exclusively on my Samsung Galaxy Tablet. When I opened the file, I was disappointed to see that none of the chapters were linked or spaced properly and paragraphs cut off mid-line. Hopefully this wasn’t the case for everyone else who is reading it. However, it didn’t stop me from enjoying the story.

Ultimately, I would be interested in seeing more from this author… Particularly the one about a sex-crazed girl in a dome world that she mentioned in her bio!

*disclaimer* – I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a honest review. 
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