Monday, May 20, 2019

All Roads Lead to Chrysalis

Project Nemesis
Book 3

By Brendan Reichs

The stunning finale of the Project Nemesis trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Brendan Reichs.

The 64 members of Fire Lake's sophomore class have managed to survive the first two phases of the Program--and each other. Now, they alone have emerged into the dawn of a new era on Earth, into a Fire Lake valley that's full of otherworldly dangers and challenges.

Although staying alive in this broken world should force Min, Noah, Tack, and the others to form new alliances, old feuds die hard, and the brutality of the earlier Program phases cannot be forgotten. But being a team isn't easy for the sophomores, and when they discover that they may not be alone on the planet after all, they'll have to decide if they're going to work together . . . or die together.

This book has so many twists and turns that it's very, VERY hard not to spoil anything. But I'll do my best...

Not a bad end to the series. It's rare, but I have read a couple series where I hated the first book but greatly enjoyed the subsequent ones. Project Nemesis was one of those. Picking up a few months after the end of the last book, the kids are doing their best to survive their new world. But it turns out that Project Nemesis wasn't quite done messing with them yet.

I enjoyed the strong characters. Min and Noah reprise their roles as narrators, and do a good job staying in the middle of the action. Min is still very much the moral compass of the group, choosing mercy and discussion above violence, but still kicking butt when the situation calls for it. I noticed she froze less often than before, and usually only with information processing rather than emotional distress.

Noah was less involved in diplomacy this time around, tackling exploration and physical persuasion more often than not. I was a little disappointed with the lack of resolution with his panic attacks - he suffers through one or two at the beginning, but then never again, regardless of the situation. I understand it's important not to have your main character freeze up in the middle of things, but a little resolution to this problem he's had since book 1 would have been appreciated.

Another complaint I had was with the villain. She just kinda came out of nowhere in the final hour of the series to provide another obstacle for our heroes. Plus, when her big reveal comes, she just vomits out an exposition dump with hardly any dialog with our narrator. Maybe she has an ego? Maybe she's relieved to get it all out there? We don't know because she's never had any characterization in either of the previous books, and we've hardly gotten to know her in the course of this one. I wish she hadn't been rushed so much, but I guess there's not much to do when all of her involvement is only in the last half of the last book in a trilogy.

As an aside, I totally called what the purple goop was when it first showed up. What can I say? I know my SciFi ;)

The ending was well done. It was action-packed, had me on the edge of my seat for the majority, and had a decisive conclusion. I did get a few Hunger Games vibes from it, but in a good way. The epilogue made me smile. (view spoiler) I probably won't read these books again, but I will at least recommend them more than I would some other post-apocalyptic series. I definitely appreciated the themes in Chrysalis - the resilience of humanity - over the Lord of the Flies vibes that permeated the first two. And I'll definitely keep Brendan Reichs on my list of authors I like.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Thursday, May 16, 2019

Phase Two Has Begun

Genesis (Project Nemesis, #2)
Project Nemesis
Book 2

By Brendan Reichs

Noah Livingston knows he is destined to survive.

The 64 members of Fire Lake's sophomore class are trapped in a place where morals have no meaning, and zero rules apply. But Noah's deaths have trained him--hardened him--to lead the strongest into the future . . . whatever that may be. And at any cost.

Min Wilder knows that survival alone isn't enough.

Trapped in a violent world where brute force passes for leadership, it's tempting to lay back and let everyone else fight it out. But Min's instincts rebel against allowing others to decide who lives and who dies. She's ready to fight for what she believes in. And against whomever might stand in her way.

I'm still not completely on board with these books, for reasons I addressed in the last review. I'm just not one for war for war's sake, or kids being dicks to each other for the hey of it. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to continue, if only to see if there WAS an endgame or if it was just supposed to be one big video game.

And on that front, I found myself agreeing wholeheartedly with Min, and I'm not sure why others didn't rally around her sooner. The geniuses in charge of this thing seemed dead set on mathematics, what was statistically better, instead of humanity itself. That point didn't really get hammered in until the last chapter or so, when the firefight was mostly over, but it was still nice to have it addressed eventually.

I'm not 100% on the love triangle here. Min having two love interests and her being oblivious to one was fine, but I couldn't understand how she kept feelings for Noah after being literally shot in the back. Then again a lot of the mental stuff was pretty messed up. Again, I don't exactly have firsthand accounts of people dying and coming back to love their killer, but it doesn't seem like something easily let go.

I did like that Tack and Noah didn't outright kill each other over their shared love interest, even though they definitely thought about it a lot. Can't wait to see how that resolves...

So yeah, I guess I'll finish it up. I'm curious more than excited, but the writing's good and I don't hate everyone, so that's something.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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Monday, May 13, 2019

You're My Nemesis

Project Nemesis
Book 1

By Brendan Reichs

Orphan Black meets Lord of the Flies in this riveting new thriller from the co-author of the Virals series.

It's been happening since Min was eight. Every two years, on her birthday, a strange man finds her and murders her in cold blood. But hours later, she wakes up in a clearing just outside her tiny Idaho hometown—alone, unhurt, and with all evidence of the horrifying crime erased.

Across the valley, Noah just wants to be like everyone else. But he’s not. Nightmares of murder and death plague him, though he does his best to hide the signs. But when the world around him begins to spiral toward panic and destruction, Noah discovers that people have been lying to him his whole life. Everything changes in an eye blink.

For the planet has a bigger problem. The Anvil, an enormous asteroid threatening all life on Earth, leaves little room for two troubled teens. Yet on her sixteenth birthday, as she cowers in her bedroom, hoping not to die for the fifth time, Min has had enough. She vows to discover what is happening in Fire Lake and uncovers a lifetime of lies: a vast conspiracy involving the sixty-four students of her sophomore class, one that may be even more sinister than the murders.

There's a reason I didn't enjoy reading Lord of the Flies way back in high school. I didn't need a book to tell me kids could be dicks.

I picked up this book/series because I loved the author's last series, Virals. And, yeah, the high school drama in those books didn't paint teens in a highly favorable light either, but it played mostly in the background. Plus, the synopsis for this series sounded like teens unmasking a top secret conspiracy, one that held their lives in the balance. Sounded super cool.

And it was, at first. The conspiracy, digging behind the scenes, piecing clues together was all riveting stuff. And the mystery doesn't let up even through cataclysmic events. But it seems like that is taking a back seat to high school drama, politics, bullying, revenge, and power struggles. Joy.

I liked the narrators, Min & Noah, and their different views. I was even impressed by their flipping the stereotype of strong dude and meek damsel. I wasn't big on the romantic tension, but it's expected at this point, so whatever. But then everything goes to hell and so does my enthusiasm.

If the next book weren't readily available, I don't think I would be continuing. I'm just not big into kids acting like assholes in my fiction.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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Friday, April 15, 2016

All Of Wizardry Is A Never-Ending Game

This review is for those who have read or are familiar with the previous books, or don't mind knowing spoilers for them. Games Wizards Play, however, will remain spoiler-free.

Games Wizards Play
~Games Wizards Play~
Young Wizards
Book 10

By Diane Duane
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Every eleven years, Earth's senior wizards hold the Invitational: an intensive three-week event where the planet's newest, sharpest young wizards show off their best and hottest spells. Wizardly partners Kit Rodriguez and Nita Callahan, and Nita's sister, former wizard-prodigy Dairine Callahan, are drafted in to mentor two brilliant and difficult cases: for Nita and Kit, there’s Penn Shao-Feng, a would-be sun technician with a dangerous new take on managing solar weather; and for Dairine, there's shy young Mehrnaz Farrahi, an Iranian wizard-girl trying to specialize in defusing earthquakes while struggling with a toxic extended wizardly family that demands she perform to their expectations.

Together they're plunged into a whirlwind of cutthroat competition and ruthless judging. Penn's egotistical attitude toward his mentors complicates matters as the pair tries to negotiate their burgeoning romance. Meanwhile, Dairine struggles to stabilize her hero-worshiping, insecure protégée against the interference of powerful relatives using her to further their own tangled agendas.

Man, am I glad I didn't read that last (hidden) preview paragraph before I read the book. That would have taken away practically all of the tension! I mean, I guess you could/should see it coming if you look at it logically, but where's the fun if three quarters of the plot is spoiled before you even read the book? There had to be a better hook than that to sell your book.

But really, if you've read this far into the series, how could you not automatically pick up Book 10?

Monday, September 8, 2014

The First Three Wishes Are Free, But If You Need a Fourth...

This review is for those who have read or are familiar with the previous book, The Art of Wishing, or don't mind knowing some spoilers for it. The Fourth Wish, however, will remain spoiler-free.

The Fourth Wish
~The Fourth Wish~
The Art of Wishing
Book 2

By Lindsay Ribar
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Here's what Margo McKenna knows about genies:

She's seen Aladdin more times than she can count; she's made three wishes on a magic ring; she's even fallen head over heels in love with Oliver, the cute genie whose life she saved by fighting off his archenemy. But none of this prepared her for the shock of becoming a genie herself.

At a time when she's trying to figure out who she wants to be, Margo is forced to become whomever her master wants. Everything she's taken for granted—graduating high school, going to college, performing in the school musical, even being a girl—is called into question. But she's also coming into a power she never imagined she'd have.

How will Margo reconcile who she is with what she's becoming? And where will she and Oliver stand when she's done?

After that non-ending from the last book, I was excited to dive into this one. After all, we had a new genie on the loose and I had no clue where this book was going to take her, even after watching a slightly spoilery interview with the author. So, I guess if you're looking for a new big bad to show up and the genies having to work their magic to save the world, you're going to be kinda disappointed. But if you're interested in seeing how a teen deals with a life-changing, magical decision, then you'll probably want to continue reading. I mentioned the last book had no dénouement *. Well, get ready for 350 pages of dénouement, because it's time to deal with the consequences!