The Watch, Amanda Witt

The Watch, Amanda Witt

The Watch (The Red Series Book 1)

The Watch, by Amanda Witt, is set in a closed community under constant surveillance, where walls provide protection from the things that are rumoured to haunt the surrounding woods. Red, so-called for her flaming red hair, is the maverick in a society of martinets, the only child born during the time of the ashes, the only person on the island with that distinctive shade of hair, and she is both watched and shunned because of it. Red’s existence is precarious, and her penchant for breaking rules with her charismatic friend Meritt makes it more so. It isn’t until a dangerous brush with the Wardens that Red becomes increasingly aware that it isn’t just her existence that’s precarious…

Amada Witt offers an action-packed story in The Watch, fast-paced and with rags and tags of buried history drawn unexpectedly from dark corners as the plot progresses, building a fascinating dual picture of a highly-regimented society underlaid by foundations that are crumbling into the abyss at an ever-increasing rate. Red, the wild card, is a strong protagonist, the unknowns in her background drawing the reader on page by page in the quest to discover more. This book offers a wealth of adventure, mystery, and plot twists that will draw you in and surprise you right through to the final paragraph.

Everyone Dies at the End, Riley Amos Westbrook

Everyone Dies at the End, Riley Amos Westbrook

Everyone Dies at the End

Everyone Dies at the End, by Riley and Sara Westbrook, opens in the mouldering and trash-littered home of a pair of desperate junkies, fighting over the tiny amount of drugs they can afford. Earl, infuriated by Jadee’s attack, adulterates her dose with mould scraped from the walls of their home. Jadee, hospitalised and in a coma, eventually regains consciousness, but Earl is horrified to see that she’s altered, feral – and dangerous. Shortly after Jadee’s awakening, Earl finds her skull split by a huge mushroom rooted in her brain, the people around her alternately dead or ruthlessly predatory. Desperate to escape and driven by his addiction, Earl runs from the corpse of his girlfriend into a world that will never be the same again.

Everyone Dies at the End is a classic zombie horror story with a twist, the world of the two drug addicts with whom it begins contrasted against the mundane existence of three ordinary families who are caught up in the events that Earl and Jadee set in motion. The characters are plausible, exploring the theme of normal life thrown into a conflict situation by the unexpected, and the vector by which the disease is spread is original and plays neatly on a very familiar element turning into nightmare. Riley and Sara Westbrook have written a novel that is bound to entertain fans of zombie fiction.

Qorth, Ash Gray

Qorth, Ash Gray

Qorth: he wrote her name in the stars

Qorth is set on a future Earth, where the seas have covered nearly all of the planet’s surface, and of the whole human population, only two isolated settlements remain. It’s a compelling backdrop to a dystopia, but in some ways, the world-building was contradictory. Early in the book, the narrator presents a picture of a community that shares everything, where the elders tell old stories of murder and racism. However, as the story develops, the setting describes the community, and especially those living outside the main settlement, as terrorised and raided by violent gangs, which I found difficult to reconcile.

Alone in her family’s old farmhouse, Cameron lives on the Outer Zone of the US settlement, near what used to be Yuma. Cameron is a powerfully isolated protagonist in many ways, physically and emotionally; highly independent and willing to look outside her community’s customs for knowledge. Her encounter with an alien species on the beach near her home is possible because of this isolation; her isolation also makes both of them a target. It is this status as an outsider, the balance between independence and exposure, that drives a lot of the plot. The first person voice was also strongly-written in this story; flippant and sarcastic, Cameron provides a unique and memorable narrative voice.

I had a bit of trouble with this book, and trying to figure out exactly what it was in objective terms turned out to be tough enough that it delayed putting this review up by an embarrassing amount of time. I’m fond of sci-fi, I generally get on well enough with dystopia, and I have what could be uncharitably termed an addiction to anti-hero types, all of which boxes are checked by Qorth; but when I reached the end I was still on the fence. The romance that develops between Cameron and Qorth had its ups and its downs from my perspective; while it had some original points, (I have to give points for the originality of the setting), I found some of the interactions on the stilted side. While I’m a terrible romance reviewer, there are romance books that I can’t put down, where the characters fascinate me and the tension between them drives me to read more, and that quality wasn’t there in this book for me.

Despite my challenges with some aspects, I found this book merited a solid three stars; it’s well-paced, features a strong anti-hero type as the protagonist (I am a sucker for my anti-heroes) and a lot of the ideas were both original and compelling.

Reviewed for Romance Rehab.

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Adam’s Stepsons, M Thomas Apple

Adam’s Stepsons, M Thomas Apple

Adam’s Stepsons

Dr. Heimann wrote a theoretical paper on the topic of cloning. He didn’t expect a desperate military to snap it – and him – up, and throw billions at him to make it happen. Severely conflicted, not least by the experiment’s choice of genetic donor, Dr. Heimann finds himself torn at every turn; most of all between what he knows is right and his orders. By the time he’s finally forced to face the fact that neither his reactions nor the clones’ behaviour can be defined as within the parameters of the experiment, it may be too late.

Adam’s Stepsons explores the hot topic of human cloning; their development, their status, and the more ephemeral topic of whether the ability to think is the basis of individuality. I found that the characters and the plot were well-developed, with a fast-paced storyline. The aspect I found a little weaker was the world building. As a reader, you’re aware there is a war and the clones are being developed to fight in it, but basically world awareness is limited to the lab, the military base beside it, and scattered memories from a couple of the characters. If the story were being told uniquely from a clone’s perspective, that would have been a brilliant tactic; as a lot of the story is from Dr. Heimann’s point of view, it came across as rather odd. Kudos, however, for a great final plot twist.

Antioch, Gregory Ness

Antioch, Gregory Ness

Antioch: The Sword of Agrippa Book 1

Antioch follows the story of Roy Swenson, a scientist in an age where science has become reviled by extremists and scientists are hunted and killed on the streets; and in another incarnation, the story of the young Marcus Agrippa, following his Caesar to Alexandria to start a series of events that will echo through history. Other events in that time, less public, still shadow Roy’s life two thousand years later, as he struggles to find support and funding for a ground-breaking research project in one of the few remaining oases of education – the ancient city of Prague. Somehow, the two lifetimes are inextricably linked…

Author Gregory Ness has created a compelling contrast between the two timelines; Egypt in the time of the Caesars, and a close-future society where the vogue for denying science has become even more fashionable. The talking points of Swanson’s research offer interesting food for thought – I would have been happy to see those storylines developed a little more; in this first novel, Agrippa’s timeline dominates the story, and interesting as it is, I felt it rather overshadowed the other. The book is also clearly preparing the way for the next in the series, with a cliff-hanger of epic proportions to lure the reader on. That said, the book was a pleasant read, offering a tempting mix of myth, mythology, and science to pull a reader into the plot.

Feel.It, Ian Wingrove

Feel.It, Ian Wingrove

Feel.It

Roxanne Payne is one of the longest-surviving Tournament Knights, a legend to her fans and a popular icon. She’s also desperate to escape the image that Feel.It has created around her, and live as her own person. Knights attempted to break their contracts in the past, and people died because of it. Now those same killers are threatening Roxanne, and Feel.It’s security is part of the problem. Roxanne has to look to an unlikely source of protection to keep her alive outside the arena – a man with a past nearly as well-buried as her own.

Feel.It creates a backdrop of decadent dystopia, where the masses chase the sensations of the contestants’ physical pain as a distraction from their own lives in a virtual-reality take on the gladiatorial contests of Ancient Rome. Drawing on themes of identity and individuality, author Ian Wingrove has developed a convincing, original cast of characters, embroiled in a morass of lethal company politics and complex personal allegiances, who raise social deception to the status of an art form. With good pacing and intense cameo scenes with the protagonists interleaving with the main story action, this book was a definite page-turner, guaranteed to entertain those looking for something beyond the ordinary.