Elan Mastai: All Our Wrong Todays

You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we’d have? Well, it happened. In Tom Barren’s 2016, humanity thrives in a techno-utopian paradise of flying cars, moving sidewalks, and moon bases, where avocados never go bad and punk rock never existed . . . because it wasn’t necessary.

Except Tom just can’t seem to find his place in this dazzling, idealistic world, and that’s before his life gets turned upside down. Utterly blindsided by an accident of fate, Tom makes a rash decision that drastically changes not only his own life but the very fabric of the universe itself. In a time-travel mishap, Tom finds himself stranded in our 2016, what we think of as the real world. For Tom, our normal reality seems like a dystopian wasteland.

But when he discovers wonderfully unexpected versions of his family, his career, and—maybe, just maybe—his soul mate, Tom has a decision to make. Does he fix the flow of history, bringing his utopian universe back into existence, or does he try to forge a new life in our messy, unpredictable reality? Tom’s search for the answer takes him across countries, continents, and timelines in a quest to figure out, finally, who he really is and what his future—our future—is supposed to be.

Writing science fiction always seems like the hardest genre to me–there is always a problem to solve. When done right, the reader is transported directly into an alternate universe; when done wrong, all of the focus goes on the lack of research and the awkwardness or lack of world-building. The author has to be able to explain the problems and solutions well enough for a person like me to at least grasp the concept to make it believable–and also hold up to those smart enough to pick apart the numbers and equations in their heads.

All Our Wrong Todays is science fiction done WELL. I was immediately immersed into Tom’s whorling world of time travel between 2016 and 1965–and I had previously put down two books as DNF because I could not focus on anything. I was in serious danger of a book slump when I picked up Elan Mastai’s first novel. But instead, Tom’s fictional memoir saved both me and his world from total destruction.

This book does have some problems. Everybody in the book is straight, and while there are POC, they are mostly background characters.  Also, the relationships are a little sketchy, although the narrator does acknowledge that fact. He knows he’s an awkward guy going about everything the wrong way. Still–they are a bit problematic.

I am conflicted, because I hate “mental illness as a twist”–but I don’t think that is what is being done here. The book is a legit time travel story, but it does unpack some heavy mental illness and domestic abuse issues as a part of the plot. The narrator challenges and discusses them in the text. I can’t explain further without spoiling the book, but I think the author does a really good job of writing these issues in without using them as a plot device.

At first, I thought this was going to be a really great escape book for Inauguration Weekend. And it IS a good one to dive into, for sure. But this one will hit you deep. Can a book be fun, challenging, and heart wrenching all at the same time? Because All Our Wrong Todays certainly makes the effort.

NetGalley and Dutton provided an ARC for unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.

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Rachel Sharp: The Big Book of Post-Collapse Fun

Mab is an unemployed feminist blogger with a philosophy degree, a deathly allergy to bee stings, and the real-world experience of a domestic rabbit. When Portland, Oregon is evacuated, no one thinks to look for her in her unlabeled apartment. She can still get news from the outside world for days. All the news is bad. The planetary Tarantella dance has started, and the world is shaking itself apart. Volcanoes and earthquakes abound. Taking stock of her supplies, she finds that her best survival gear includes a 49cc moped and clothing that wouldn’t keep a chihuahua warm in a Florida winter.
Left alone in the city, Mab fumbles along and documents her post-apocalypse adventures through the lens of mankind’s greatest coping mechanism: Inappropriate humor. She learns from experience as she misinterprets survival tips, battles wild geese, steals cars, befriends a buffoon of a dog, and discovers the difference between instinct and cultural training.
When Mab learns of a geologically stable place in Canada, she leaves Portland behind. Vet, the world’s dumbest remaining dog, goes with her, and while they try to navigate the wilderness, mountains become volcanoes. Strangers become bandits. Mab wasn’t prepared for this, but she writes the book on how to improvise in case of apocalypse.

My husband and his friend have zombie-preparedness plans. In fact, he’s so serious about them that we had zombie plans IN OUR WEDDING VOWS. Not even kidding.

But ya’ll, when it comes to fight or flight…I HIDE. So I completely related to Mab when she hid and hid and hid some more until she finally could nit hide anymore. When she came out of that third story apartment to realize “Um, hey, where’s everybody at? OH SHIT!” I almost died. Of course…so did Mab.

The Big Book of Post-Collapse Fun is written like a travel memoir–think Wild if Cheryl Strayed were walking the PCT while it was exploding. It’s also SUPER campy, thanks to Sharp’s incredible sense of humor. It’s equal parts serious, as in, OMG THE SUPER VOLCANO IS HAPPENING, but also HEY LET’S STEAL A HOT AIR BALLOON.

By the way, I would be dead, in this scenario because the Midwest just falls into a cavernous lake. All those dreams of Florida falling off into the sea? Nope. Rachel Sharp killed the Midwest. Thanks Rachel Sharp. Love you too.

I do though. This book is the very last book of 2016, and what a way to end the year. Actual fire and brimstone. Sounds about right.

Diverse Bingo 2017:  MC w/Anaphylactic Allergy

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Marie Lu: Legend

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Can I tell you how weird it is to read a dystopia right now? WEIRD. We are basically living what used to be dystopian fiction, so to read it is very creepy.

Thankfully, Legend is still a ways off, and the world June and Day live in seems to have been created originally by natural disasters first, and horrible human government second. Our natural disasters are getting worse…but at least we haven’t had a super volcano yet. Right?

I’m trying to find a silver lining here guys. I’m trying.

(Hopefully by the time I post this review there hasn’t been a super volcano. You never know. Italy has had some pretty serious earthquakes lately, and there was one in New Zealand this week too.)

I’m scaring myself. What was I talking about? Oh, right. June and Day.

Real life nightmares aside, I can understand why this is so popular. It’s young adult fiction for young adults. Sometimes, as an adult reader, I forget who the audience is supposed to be while I’m reading books like this–the writing seems juvenile–but this was written by a very young author for a young audience. And for that, it fits wonderfully. Are the characters the deepest I’ve ever read? No. Is the plot totally unique? No. But I was instantly wrapped up in June and Day’s dual POV plot lines. I loved the idea that these kids were brilliant, and that they had such different life experiences.

This series goes back in my TBR jar so I can read the rest of the series. We can only hope our government looks a little less dystopian by the time I get around to finishing it. Fingers crossed (plus a whole lot of letter writing, calls, twitter rants, etc).

Update 2/10/2017–This has now been added to my shame list, and the rating has been changed to reflect that. A friend pointed out today that June is described as “She was either Native. Or Caucasian.” That is unacceptable language. It is incredibly harmful. I have removed the other books from my TBR, and moved this to my DO NOT READ list.

 

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Anna Kopp: Rise of the Chosen

In Sam’s world there are two rules. Rule #1: Nobody dies. Protect the living at all costs. Rule #2: Everybody dies. At least once.

The Waking was a global event in which a force called the Lifeblood invaded all humans who died. The few strong enough to control it came back as powerful immortals. The rest let the bloodlust take over and awoke with one goal – to kill.

Newly appointed Watch Guard Samantha Shields has a legacy to uphold. Her father died a hero defending their city and now she wants to follow in his footsteps. Except for the dying part, of course. Unfortunately, fate has other plans as she discovers deep dark secrets that make her choose between her loyalties and the lives of everyone in her city. Both rules are in play as Sam is forced to make hard decisions that could cost her everything – including the person she cares about most.

My first thought when I started this ARC was “EW, a zombie book! I hate zombie books! They are always the same thing!”

This is nothing like that zombie book. Not even close.

First of all, the zombies–Woken–aren’t running around eating people. They are certainly monsters, and they certainly kill, but no braaaaiiiiins. Secondly, these guys don’t look like maggot ridden grave vomit. Take The Others/White Walkers from Game of Thrones and replace the blue with red, and you have a Woken.

If you take it a step further and add some Captain America Super Serum and keep the human consciousness along with the Woken immortality, you have The Chosen. Basically, Super Zombies who are used to keep the city safe. They run around with swords and sever the heads of the Woken from their hearts–the only way to end them.

I told you this isn’t your normal zombie book.

Did I mention the main character is bisexual? She is–and with the exception of one awkward “he is so hot” moment with one of her work partners–I thought her sexuality was presented really well. It’s normalized in the story. She likes guys, she likes girls, all is well in the world.

Except, ya know…the whole zombie thing.

The plot is laid out in a before and after sort of way, though. I won’t tell you how. It’s interesting to see how everything is set up and then how it plays out. I think Kopp shows all her angles really well. I didn’t think I’d like this at all, but by the end I was pretty enthusiastic. I’m totally on board to read the next installment!

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NetGalley and Blue Moon Publishers provided an ARC for my unbiased review. Releases October 4. This post does contain affiliate links.

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GIVEAWAY: Criminal by KB Hoyle

Following the horrors she discovered in the basement of Sanctuary and her miraculous rescue at the end of Breeder, there is no longer any doubt in Pria’s mind that the Unified World Order and their goals for humanity are wicked. But convincing the rest of the world will be another story. When it’s revealed that the files she’d stolen from Sanctuary are worthless to the rebel cause, Pria and the other Free Patriots must scramble to come up with another way to convince the rest of the criminals to rise up in open revolution before the UWO’s monsters hunt down and destroy them all. But Pria still knows so little about liberty and self-determination, and her tenuous grasp of human nature complicates her role in the rebellion as she finds herself torn between Pax, her ever-present protector, and Henri, her good-natured friend. As she works through figuring out her feelings, she becomes increasingly anxious for Pax, who displays symptoms of a disturbing ailment, even as he withdraws from Pria.

Free Patriots from outside Asylum bring with them a new plan to infiltrate the seemingly impregnable UWO machine, and Pria is once again at the center of the plan. This time, though, she must be willing to erase her identity, just as she’s beginning to figure out who she is. It’s a sacrifice she thinks she’s ready to make to take down the UWO and save the world, but she has no idea just how difficult it will be.

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There are books we like, there are books we love, AND THERE ARE BOOKS WE PUT ON OUR CALENDARS BECAUSE WE LOVE THE FIRST ONE SO MUCH AND HOLY CRAP THERE IS GOING TO BE A SEQUEL AND THE PUBLISHER JUST EMAILED ME TO PARTICIPATE IN THE BOOK TOUR AND OMG I CANNOT BREATHE.

I really cannot figure out WHY Breeder is not more popular. If you want an exciting YA dystopia with diverse characters–and not your normal “strong female lead” either–please let me throw this book at your face. This checks so many boxes. Only one of the leads is white–there are so many different POC in these two books. I wish it had more LGBTQA+ diversity, but it is pointed out that Bishop is asexual.

I absolutely loved the characters in Breeder, and they only get better in CriminalThere is a love triangle, but I don’t hate it in this series. I think it’s crucial to the development of Pria–again, she’s not your average YA lead. She’s got some unique challenges to get through, and developing her romantic side is part of that. There are a few other pairings too, but this isn’t a romance at its core–it’s suspenseful and action packed. There are so many interesting strategies to pick apart and battles to be won.

It’s a second book, so there are some of the typical plot developments that have to happen to build for the third. You can almost taste the tension for what is coming next and there was one thread that I picked up early on that all along I was just thinking yes…Yes…YESSSS. By the end I already knew what the next book was going to be.

KB Hoyle, please don’t make me wait another two years. PLEASE.

>>>>>>>Click Here to Win a copy of Breeder and Criminal!<<<<<<<

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Dark Matter

“Are you happy with your life?” Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable–something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

You’ve probably seen this book posted everywhere–it’s been on Goodreads, NetGalley, Blogging for Books. I haven’t seen it in the Tumblrspace yet, but it’s coming, I promise. One of the Goodreads ads has a quote from Lee Childs:  ” I think Blake Crouch just invented something new.” He’s not wrong. I keep trying to come up with something to compare it to, and I really can’t. When I told Nicole at Pure Geekery to pick this up, all I could tell her was it was sciencey, and kind of a thriller about a physicist? How else do I describe it?!

Really the only thing I can think to tell you is that it’s like a choose your own adventure in real life. Only Jason didn’t really get to pick his adventures.They just happened. And they certainly weren’t super cool and awesome–mostly just terrifying, like every anxiety-ridden stress dream I’ve ever had.

I can’t go into any further detail than that without spoiling the book for you. And I really don’t want to do that because it’s awesome. Remember back when I said I didn’t like Sci-Fi? Who was that person? I think I just wasn’t reading the right Sci-Fi. Clearly.

Fans of Peter Clines and Ernest Cline are going to love this. (Which, by the way, are they related? Probably not, but same name, similar genre…something fishy there.) Anyone who loves TRUE sci-fi, like the kind where you actually take a deep dive into scientific principles, like physics–you are going to love this. If you love mind twisters–you’re going to love this. Can I stress any more that YOU ARE GOING TO LOVE THIS?! It comes out today. Click any of the links in this post and go buy it immediately.

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NetGalley and Crown Publishing provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases July 26. All links are affiliate links.

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The Wolf Road

In the remote wilds of a ravaged land, Elka has been raised by a man who isn’t her father. Since finding her wandering in the woods when she was seven, he has taught her how to hunt, shoot, set snares and start fires–everything she needs to survive. All she knows of the world outside is gleaned from whispers of a cataclysmic event that turned the clock back on civilization by a hundred and fifty years and reduced governments and technology to shambles, leaving men at the mercy of the elements–and each other. 

Everything changes when Elka learns that the man she has been calling father is harboring a terrible secret. Armed with nothing but her knife and her wiles, she decides to escape his clutches and sets out on a long journey to the frozen north in the hope of finding her long-lost parents. 

But as the trail of blood and bodies grows in her path, Elka realizes that daddy won’t be letting his little girl go without a fight. If she’s going to survive, she’ll have to turn and confront not just him, but the truth about what he’s turned her into.

Cold Mountain and Silence of the Lambs are two of my very favorite books…but I never thought I’d see them combined. Then throw in a little Mindy McGinnis post-apocalyptic and you have such a weird combination of civil war era Appalachia meets psychological thriller meets modern ruin. What the heck even is this book?

Brilliant. That’s what this book is. First of all, the voice written into the narrative is unmistakably Appalachia hill country. How she captures that so clearly, I don’t even know. Accents can be super hard to read sometimes but not Elka. I fell into it as naturally as if I were really there.

Secondly, I just reeeeeeeeeeeeeeally loved this story. I don’t even know what else to say about it besides that. You have two very different female leads–think Ruby and Ada from Cold Mountain–fighting across country, saving each other along the way. And guys….THIS IS NOT A LOVE STORY. Like, MEN DO NOT SAVE THEM THEY SAVE THEMSELVES. ROMANCE DOES NOT FACTOR IN TO THESE WOMEN AND THEIR STORY. (Until the very end but it’s only a very minor drop in the hat and only as a building block to something else.)

I seriously didn’t even realize that until I wrote that sentence. I’m so used to there being a love story or a hero swooping in to save the day that I didn’t notice. THIS IS A REALLY GOOD BOOK AND YOU SHOULD READ IT.

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Blogging for Books and Crown Publishing provided a copy for an unbiased review.

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Injection

A few years ago, a public/private partnership between the British Government and a multinational company saw five clever people placed in university-owned offices and allowed to do whatever they liked. It was called the Cultural Cross-Contamination Unit, and the idea was that it would hothouse new thinking and new patents. Five actual geniuses, all probably crazy, very eccentric, put in one place and given carte blanche to think about ways to approach and change the future. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

They did A Crazy Thing, which was referred to as The Injection. A mysterious Thing that they did in order to make the 21st Century better and stranger. It got out. It got loose into the fabric of the 21st Century, whatever it was, and now things are getting weird and ugly, faster and faster.

So a few years have passed. They’ve all gone their separate ways, into separate “jobs” that allow them to follow and sometimes deal with the repercussions of The Injection. We are in the period where the toxic load of The Injection is at such a level that events that are essentially paranormal in nature are coming faster and faster, headed towards a point where humanity won’t easily be able to live on the planet any more. Not a Singularity of glory, but an irretrievable constant blare of horror coming too thick and fast for anything to deal with.

It’s been awhile since I have read any comics, and I still have a few left from that Humble Bundle. I figured it was time to work through them. I’ve been flying through books lately, so it was nice to take a short break and check out some awesome art.

And the art IS awesome in InjectionDark cool colors mix with flashes of yellow and red lights, heavy ink and light ink alternate to depict real time versus flashback.

I wasn’t sure about the story at first–you know how I feel about sci-fi. I’m always slow to pick up on it. But I couldn’t pull myself away, and as the plot began to lay down, I was drawn more and more into it. So much that I am adding Injection to my list of books to keep up with…if I ever keep up with comics. (I still need to finish W+D.) It’s a mix of sci-fi and old British folklore. Like if Peter Cline and Neil Gaiman had a baby. Oh man. Wouldn’t that be something?

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The Fold

The folks in Mike Erikson’s small New England town would say he’s just your average, everyday guy. And that’s exactly how Mike likes it. Sure, the life he’s chosen isn’t much of a challenge to someone with his unique gifts, but he’s content with his quiet and peaceful existence.  

That is, until an old friend presents him with an irresistible mystery, one that Mike is uniquely qualified to solve: far out in the California desert, a team of DARPA scientists has invented a device they affectionately call the Albuquerque Door. Using a cryptic computer equation and magnetic fields to “fold” dimensions, it shrinks distances so that a traveler can travel hundreds of feet with a single step.

I’ll be honest, when Nicole over at Pure Geekery told me to grab this from Blogging for Books, I was a little skeptical. I’d passed over it multiple times because it sounded like that kind of sci-fi book that is just too far fetched for me to grasp onto.

But, since she raved about it, and I was in the process–literally that day–of reviewing and requesting from BFB, I pulled it. And she was right! Nicole’s already read the parallel book 14, and I’ll be picking it up soon!

This was so well-written that it bypassed the sci-fi cheese factor. There are so many pop culture references made–sort of like Ready Player One and Armada, but I actually understand them, and they are not so one-dimensional. They actually fit into the story, instead of being like a “tick all the boxes” game.

There’s really only one way to describe the main character of this book.

The entire time I was reading Mike, I kept thinking about him as Jayne Cobb from Firefly. Yes, I know he is described as a skinny, redheaded, young Severus Snape (ew?)–but his character is so goddamned skeptical of EVERYTHING. He never misses a beat, and he’s just this not quite so heroic guy who people SHOULD pay attention to, but don’t.

And then, I mean…

 

But that will make more sense later.

I enjoyed The Fold WAY more than I thought I would. I kept getting interrupted, or I would have finished this in a few hours. It’s one you won’t be able to put down, and you’ll be mad if you have to. Prepare for some seriously F’d up dreams afterward. Or maybe some good ones, if you happen to have a thing for Adam Baldwin.

I mean…I don’t hate the silver fox he’s turned into, do you?

 

Aaaaaaaaaaaand on that note. This review has gotten away from me. Happy Friday, ya’ll.

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Blogging for Books provided a copy for unbiased review.

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Marked in Flesh

I’m baaaack! Did ya’ll have a good Spring Break? I certainly did.

I keep thinking that I didn’t get much reading done at all–but in reality, I read THREE books! They were all just from the same series, so my brain counts them all as one. I mentioned this last week, but I was due to read Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop for its release on March 8…and then realized it was not the second book in her The Others series, but the FOURTH! Oh no!

I always hate being late on a deadline, but I was taking a hiatus anyway, so I’ll just play a bit of catch up with my reviews this week. You’ll forgive me, right? Thanks!

I read the first book, Written in Red, almost exactly a year ago, and loved it. Anne Bishop mixes fairy tale with indigenous culture set in a dystopian landscape. It’s pretty fierce. It’s been awhile since I’ve binged an entire series like this, and this was a great one to lose myself in.

When you get into the series as a whole, you really get to see the themes Anne Bishop pulls into her dystopian fairy tale. As I mentioned before, the main component is about prejudice between the indigenous race and the humans. The war between the HRL and The Others reads very familiar to those in America today (and heck, those in America throughout our bloody frickin history). Another very heavy theme is in regards to mental health. The first two books reference cutting and severe bodily harm quite often, even referencing it as an addiction–the other two books do too, but it’s a major theme in the first two. The third book is all about abuse:  getting away from the captor, healing after the fact, recovery. The fourth is war. All of them cover PTSD.

Sounds pretty rough, right? Did I mention that those big themes are wrapped up in a completely gorgeous, dark, dystopian fantasy series? GUYS GO BUY THIS SERIES IMMEDIATELY. The romance tension is so thick you will need Namid’s teeth and claws to cut through it.

This is the fourth book. And as it was getting closer and closer to the end I was thinking, this can’t be it, right? I mean, there’s only 5% left and not enough closure and I NEED ANOTHER BOOK! Goodreads says there’s an Untitled Book #5. All is well with the world. I only have to wait until 2017. GIVE IT TO ME NOWWWWWWWW.

Sigh. I guess I’ll just have to read something else. This is why I don’t binge anymore.

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