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 (Occasional) Diamond Thief

The (Occasional) Diamond Thief was a book that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. I actually applied to be a reviewer twice because I was worried that somehow my 1st request hadn’t gone through! But, because I applied for it so long ago, I had actually forgotten what it was about. When I cracked it open to find it was a sci-fi, I was pleasantly surprised – and it just got better from there.

The Occasional Diamond Thief
by J.A. McLachlan
Release Date: May 2015
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Summary from Goodreads: On his deathbed, Kia’s father discloses a secret to her alone: a magnificent diamond he has been hiding for years. Fearing he stole it, she too keeps it secret. She learns it comes from the distant colonized planet of Malem, where her father caught the illness that eventually killed him.

Now she is even more convinced he stole it, as it is illegal for any off-worlder to possess a Malemese diamond. When 16-yr-old Kia is training to be a translator, she is co-opted by a series of events into travelling as a translator to Malem. Using her skill in languages and another skill she picked up after her father s death, the skill of picking locks – she unravels the secret of the mysterious gem and learns what she must do to set things right: return the diamond to its original owner.

But how will she find out who that is when no one can know that she, an off-worlder, has a Malemese diamond? Kia is quirky, with an ironic sense of humour and a loner. Her sidekick, Agatha, is hopeless in languages and naive to the point of idiocy in Kia’s opinion, but possesses the wisdom and compassion Kia needs.

First off, I just want to warn everyone that this review will severely test my spelling abilities because THIEF is one of the words I always misspell. Anyways…

The (Occasional) Diamond Thief was fast paced from the very first chapter. The writing style is very direct and to the point. The chapters are well thought out; there is no rambling for the sake of page count. The story was straight forward, and while I feel like it could have gone on longer, there were no loose ends to mention.

Kia is a fantastic protagonist. She steals a diamond to get into translator college and it just snowballs from there. She is, however, a thief with a conscious and only steals in order to help her family. Eventually, she does get caught and that’s were the real story begins. Kia’s first-person narration is great; she’s witty, sarcastic, driven and ultimately, a believable character. She’s a person that a reader can really get behind and support, she’s a rational thinker and -gasp- not whiny. I love to see a female lead with a good head on her shoulders, and having good taste in bling never hurts.

This book openly speaks of race and differences between culture. Kia is described as black-skinned and in the narration, race is often mentioned. My favorite quote is when she refers to herself and Agatha as “piano keys in a coffee bar” when describing how different they are from the natives of Malem. I love to see women of colour cast as main characters in YA books. It seriously doesn’t happen enough! Kudos for McLachlan for writing a non-white main character.

The only thing that I found lacking in this story was the romance. At first, it seems like there is going to be a spark between Kia and Jumal, but it never gets any further than a secret crush. Maybe she’s destined for someone else, but I honestly can’t see Kia settling down any time soon anyways. That girl has too much work to do.

The (Occasional) Diamond Thief was an enjoyable, quick read. Unfortunately, the ending seemed very abrupt and left me desperately wanting a sequel.  I really hope that McLachlan continues writing more book set in this world. No sign of anything up-and-coming on her Goodreads, but a girl can hope!

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

AN EXCLUSIVE MESSAGE FROM THE AUTHOR:

Hello, I’m J. A. McLachlan, the author of The Occasional Diamond Thief. I’m so pleased to be meeting you, and I’d like to thank Samantha for having me here on Samantha Writes, and reviewing my book. This blog tour is part of my online launch of The Occasional Diamond Thief, and I’ll have something different at each stop – book excerpts, author and character reveals, vlogs, reviews and blog posts – for you to enjoy.

You can find The Occasional Diamond Thief in print: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1770530754/edgescienceficti and in ebook form: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NF9NYJM And you can find me at: http://www.janeannmclachlan.com

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Book Review: Golden Son

To be brutally honest, when I read Red Rising last year, I liked it. 50% into Golden Son, I was seriously going down the meh slope. Upon finishing Golden Son, my emotions were on a roller coaster and became impossible to explain in words or animated gifs. I have never read a book that can be so uplifting and heartbreaking all at the same time.

Golden Son (Red Rising Trilogy #2)
by Pierce Brown
Release Date: January 2015
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Summary from Goodreads:
With shades of The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, and Game of Thrones, debut author Pierce Brown’s genre-defying epic Red Rising hit the ground running and wasted no time becoming a sensation.

Golden Son continues the stunning saga of Darrow, a rebel forged by tragedy, battling to lead his oppressed people to freedom from the overlords of a brutal elitist future built on lies. Now fully embedded among the Gold ruling class, Darrow continues his work to bring down Society from within. A life-or-death tale of vengeance with an unforgettable hero at its heart,Golden Son guarantees Pierce Brown’s continuing status as one of fiction’s most exciting new voices.

First off, I just want to say how much I hate that this book is often compared to The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games trilogy isn’t even in the same league as Red Rising. Breathe in, breathe out. Now put your pitchforks away so I can continue.

If your heart beats like a drum,
and your leg’s a little wet,
it’s ’cause the Reaper’s come
to collect a little debt.

I read Red Rising back in the fall of 2015. And while I liked it, it didn’t consume me like Golden Son did. That’s why I wasn’t in a hurry to read it. When I finally got around to Golden son, it had been several months since reading the first book and it took my a while to get back in the groove. After finishing Golden Son, I really want to go back and read them together in case I missed anything.

What do I love about this series? I love the world building. I love the history. I love the culture. I love the resistance. I love Darrow. I love Jackal. I love Mustang. I love Sevro. I love the Howlers. I love Ares. I love the action. I love the struggles. I love the hate. I love the loyalty. I love the betrayals. I love the love. I love literally everything about it.

Because of this, it makes it really hard to write a review that isn’t just a list of the things I loved and try to keep it spoiler free.

Ultimately, I think what really makes this a bloodydamn good series is that every single part has been carefully thought out. All aspects of the culture, down to the swearwords is consistent. The nods to our time period are amusing and insightful. The cast system is well defined and essential to the plot line, not just an afterthought. Darrow’s narration is pretty amazing, because it includes lots of information without seeming like a dump. Everything just flows together perfectly and I wish I could visit this world.

When it comes to Darrow, I appreciate how raw his emotions are. A lot of dystopian/sci-fi/etc. heroes miss the mark on this point. Darrow is a real person with real emotions. Heck, he was just a teen when his world turned upside down and he was thrust into this revolution. It only makes sense that he’s confused or moody sometimes. But when it comes down to it, he knows what his duty is and he (and the Howlers) kicks some serious butt!

I’m torn with the Team Darrow vs Team Sevro. I really love Sevro (and all the plot twists he’s involved in). I love him because in this crazy world, I know he’s the only one that Darrow can count on. He’s spunky, wicked and fiercely loyal. He reminds me a lot of one of my close friends. So much of why I love him is riddled with huge spoilers, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Also need to give a shout out to the designed, cohesive covers. They will look beautiful all in a row on my book shelf.

That ending though. (Don’t worry, I promised no spoilers) That ending will kill you like it killed me. Morning Star isn’t out until January of 2016, which is sooner than the Spring 2016 date that was first announced. It can’t come soon enough.

Cover Reveal: The Body Institute

I recently came across YA Bound Blog Tours and while browsing I found the synopsis for The Body Institute by Carol Riggs. I instantly flew to Goodreads and added it to my to-read list. This story sounds so unique, so promising and insightful. As an advocate for self love and acceptance, I am really eager to read this in September.

When I noticed that YA Bound was hosting a cover reveal, I applied. I am thrilled that I was chosen as one of the blogs to host the cover reveal. (which is possibly the most exciting part of releasing a book, next to reading it of course!) Please support new authors by checking out Goodreads and pre ordering the e book now.

THE-BODY-INSTITUTE-500X750

The Body Institute
Release Date: 09/01/15
Entangled Teen
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…

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About the Author

I’m a YA writer represented by Kelly Sonnack of Andrea Brown Literary. My sci-fi novel THE BODY INSTITUTE explores the themes of society, identity, and body image. I live in the beautiful, green state of Oregon and have a Studio Arts degree; I’m an SCBWI member. You’ll usually find me in my writing cave, surrounded by my dragon collection and the characters in my head. I also enjoy reading–mostly young adult novels–as well as drawing, painting, and quilting. I also attend writing conferences, walk with my husband, and enjoy music and dance of all kinds.

Author Links:

Website / Goodreads / Twitter / Facebook

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Book Review: Earth Girl

Book Review: Earth Girl (Earth Girl Series # 1) 
Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover – a term most of us are familiar with and I’ll admit it: I do. This time, I was smitten by the mysterious blue cover and I needed to know more. Then I read the synopsis and I immediately hopped on the waiting list at my local library.

The official teaser for Earth Girl is this:

A sensational YA science fiction debut from an exciting new British author. Jarra is stuck on Earth while the rest of humanity portals around the universe. But can she prove to the norms that she’s more than just an Earth Girl?

2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. While everyone else portals between worlds, 18-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Sent to Earth at birth to save her life, she has been abandoned by her parents. She can’t travel to other worlds, but she can watch their vids, and she knows all the jokes they make. She’s an ‘ape’, a ‘throwback’, but this is one ape girl who won’t give in.

My thoughts were: All Right! A strong female character that (hopefully) I won’t end up hating! So far so good, I really like Jarra. She’s a smart, determined girl who despite her Handicap says “eff you” to society and tries to live her life as if she were “normal”. I think that can speak to anyone living today, about overcoming challenges you face and being yourself, living life to the fullest every day. What I just didn’t get was why some people couldn’t live on other planets. Why not people who could live in some places and not others? I know it’s necessary for the plot, but I’m hoping more gets revealed in book 2, Earth Star.

Jarra sometimes is too good to be true. She’s way more experienced in the field than other students, knows how to fly a plane etc. Sometimes it can get a little dry “Oh look she knows how to do that too.” And in the synopsis, it’s mentioned that she “can’t hide in the back of the class anymore.” Except she NEVER did. She was schooling them right from the beginning – so I thought that was a bit misleading. However, Edwards did explain how she was so much more further ahead than her class, she simply had the advantage living on earth all her life. Despite the fact she had all the experience, how she led the class in everything and no one seemed to care was annoying. Sometimes Jarra was just too perfect.

While living in the fantastical world of Earth 2778, the author Janet Edwards gives all of the cast members believable pasts and presents. They’re kids in the first year of college – included is all the awkwardness, hormones, drama and romance that we remember (or will experience) from those years. The emotions and relationships were all fairly believable and there was even spins on the stereotypes, eg. the rich popular girl ends up not to be a jerk. The love interest Fian isn’t really my type (I’m more of an Alpha-man fan) but it was nice to see less stereotypical take on the YA love tropes.

Jarra’s inner struggles were well illustrated and it was helpful that it was written in first person. To avoid spoilers I won’t get into much detail here, but around 50% into the book she suffers a shocking loss and goes inside herself, reemerging as a character, Military Jarra not the Jarra we knew from before. I have mixed feelings about that and it was confusing at first. I like the real Jarra much better, and I’m sure the author intended it to be that way, but Military Jarra was too cocky for me. Eventually she snaps out of it, but I found it too sudden.

Oh the world building – what can I say? I loved it! Now keeping in mind I’m not a Sci-Fi reader most of the time, I know other people did have mixed views on the world, but I thought it was well put together. There was history, back stories, culture, customs, languages – this list goes on.  I think it all tied in really well, but sometimes the chunks of history got a bit overwhelming and I started to feel like I was reading a textbook, however it was all necessary to the plot. I just wish it could had been done in a less “info dump” manner. The technology was awesome. I especially enjoyed the slang terms like “amaz” and “newzies”, it was close enough to how we speak now that I knew what was being said and it flowed into regular conversations seamlessly. I’ve even caught myself thinking “nardle” a few times since finishing the book.  From history to entertainment, transportation to food, Edwards has really put effort into making the world of 2778 come together full circle.

Also I just need a moment to share with you all how much I loved the hover suitcases.
It was such a small thing in the world-building, but I went giddy over it. But honestly how can you not when it was phrased like this: “My bags gathered up in a tight group behind me, bouncing up and down slightly in mid air like obedient but excited puppies.” (Chapter 3, Earth Girl)
I even tweeted about it. (Sad to say I didn’t get hover luggage from Santa.)

Even though the ending was a bit anti-climatic (eg. the big “I’m an ape-girl” reveal was nearly non-existent), I think this book deserves a lot more attention than it’s been getting. I’m not even a Sci-Fi fan and I loved it. As soon as my copy of Earth Star comes in, I will most likely go into hermit mode and read it in one sitting.