GENRE: Young Adult Dystopian
PUBLISHER: Tara Brown Publishing (self published)
AUTHOR: Tara Brown
LENGTH: 274 pages
AUDIENCE: Young Adult/AdultTHE RUNDOWN: "It's us and them, Em. There are no regular people anymore."
When civilization as we know it suddenly grinds to a screeching halt, Emma and her father are one of the few people ready. Growing up with a survivalist father, Emma is tough, prepared and willing to turn away from any other human so she can survive. Her father taught her that the only creature she can trust is her pet wolf. The two of them survive alone for years until one day a girl knocks on her secluded cabin door. The tearful girl begs Emma for help; her brother has fallen and broken his leg. He'll die if Emma doesn't help. Going back on everything she was taught, Emma breaks down and helps, opening herself up to finally caring about another person. But, caring about others comes at a price. When Emma learns Anna has been taken by the government to be used as breeding stock, Emma decides to go in after her. There she learns how dark and twisted the government's procedures are. Now she'll stop at nothing to save the other girls who are being used and discarded.
THE RECOMMENDATION: As a young adult dystopian story, this book follows all the rules. There's a steamy love triangle, a kick-butt heroine, and a ravaged world falling apart at the seams. It is clear that Brown has a good grasp of pace and conflict that makes this book a page-turner. It also sells very well, set at a $.96 price point that makes it an easy buy.
There are some issues however that really soured this experience for me. First of all, Ms. Brown could have used a good editor. It isn't rife with errors like some books, but there were many times when sentence structure or awkward phrasing took me out of the book. Nothing awful or unreadable, but it kept happening over and over. The second issue I had was with the main character, Emma. I get that she is a hardened human being. She would have to be to survive in a world with zombies and government abductors. But she's so angry, often without a clear reason. One minute she loves Jake, the next she is furious with him. Then she loves Will, then she's furious with HIM. She sacrifices herself for the girls she meets, but then is also often furious with them. Her range of emotion felt like being in a middle school dance; the drama was exhausting and often not founded. By the end I just didn't like Emma. And this is problem.
Overall, many people enjoyed this book and it is a quick, light read that is entertaining. I think the story provided was worth a buck. But I did not feel compelled to pick up the rest of the story. There are too many spectacular books in the world.
THE RATING: 3 out of 5 stars
THE LINKS: Find it on Amazon
Find Tara Brown on Twitter
Find Tara Brown on FacebookTHE REVIEWERKatie French is the author of The Breeders, a Young Adult dystopian adventure and Eyes Ever to the Sky, a sci fi romance. Nessa: A Breeders Story, a prequel novelette is available in a new anthology on Amazon. Sign up for notifications, follow her @KatielFrench or like her on Facebook.
LENGTH: 208 pages
AUDIENCE: Young Adult
While many dystopian stories may stick to settings we’re all familiar with (towns, carnivals, woods) Dan Haight’s dystopia, Flotilla carves a new path. Set on a floating city in the ocean, this story has a setting all of its own. The main character, sixteen-year-old rehab survivor Jim, is being sent by his mother to live with his father. Jim’s partying ways have become dangerous and his mother believes hard work on his father’s boat is the curve to what ails him. Though he's a screw up, Jim is instantly likable and sympathetic. Even though he’s "up a creek" of his own making due to alcohol abuse, he never complains (at least not out loud) about the massive workload dumped on him as soon as he arrives. His father, a gruff man, sets out to make Jim a man. It turns out disastrous world events will be the catalyst for that change.
The narrative voice in this book is what drew me in. Jim’s voice is both humorous and heartfelt, a combination not easily crafted. The language and story-telling abilities of Haight are top-notch, no amateurish prose here. And I found the ecosystem of the floating city to be well-thought out and interesting. It made me want to research if cities like these really existed, that’s how realistic his portrayal is.
So why isn’t this book selling better? My guess is one thing: pace. This is an excellent coming-of-age story, masterfully told. Yet the pace is not up to par with other young adult titles. The rule of thumb for most books is to include the inciting incident (the moment where everything changes irrevocably forever) before the fiftieth page. Flotilla doesn’t heat up until at least two-thirds into the novel. For a teenage audience, this is just too long. Haight might do better to go back and move his world destruction up and save the world-building for another book.
For those who like strong voice and likable characters, Flotilla is a winner. For those looking for a page-turner, you might be advised to turn elsewhere. Still, a strong book overall. THE RATING
4 out of 5 starsTHE LINKS
Buy it on Amazon
Check it out on Goodreads
Follow @FlotillaOnline on Twitter
Visit his website
THE REVIEWERKatie French is the author of The Breeders, a Young Adult dystopian adventure and Eyes Ever to the Sky, a sci fi romance. Nessa: A Breeders Story, a prequel novelette is available on Amazon. Sign up for notifications, follow her @KatielFrench or like her on Facebook.
Bostonian author, husband and suburban farmer, Scott Cramer joins us today to talk about his book, writing and his life. Please welcome, Scott Cramer to the Underground!Katie:
What gave you the idea for Night of the Purple Moon
I wanted to write something that was high concept, something I could describe in a few sentences and people would know what the book was about. I also wanted to put my protagonist in a dangerous situation where the stakes were high. At the same time, I wanted to place my characters in a setting I could describe in some detail (a small island off Maine). Those were some of the things on my mind when I was plotting Night of the Purple Moon
. Finally, I had read a number of very good books where kids set out on their own after the death of their parents. I thought it would raise the stakes significantly if virtually every older teen and adult were to die.Katie:
What research went into the premise for the purple moon and the space dust that decimated the adults in your story?Scott:
I was looking for something that adults had but kids did not. That’s when I discovered the hormones, testosterone and estrogen. The levels of those hormones increase at puberty. The levels decrease in old age. It then became a matter of having a bacteria attack those hormones. The comet’s tail became the way to spread the bacteria everywhere quickly. (Several people wrote to me recently about the close encounter Earth had with an asteroid and the meteorite that crashed in Siberia.) In one scene, an elderly neighbor, Mr. Couture, does not die right away. In a sense, that was plausible because he had lower levels of the hormones.Katie:
When you create your characters, how do you write authentic children?Scott:
I guess I see all characters the same, no matter their age. Everyone has fears and dreams and desires. Everyone has strengths and faults. If you can weave all those elements together, you should have the foundation of a strong character. Then it’s a matter of having them change and grow over time as the result of their struggles.Katie:
What are you currently working on? Scott:
Colony East, Book #2 in The Toucan Trilogy. I have a pretty good handle on it, and I hope to publish it during the summer of 2013. But I also don’t want to rush it.Katie:
What is the best piece of writing advice you've received?Scott:
Write every day. Writing, at least to me, is 1 part joy, 1 part inspiration, and 8 parts hard work, like breaking rocks into pebbles and then turning the pebbles to dust. But if you keep chipping away, through thick and thin, you will eventually create a story.Katie:
How much marketing are you doing? What's your best kept marketing secret? Scott:
Obscurity is the enemy for all authors, and especially indie authors. My favorite part of marketing is when I connect with readers. The 8 parts of drudgery (mentioned above) is all worth it when I get feedback from readers who really liked the book. On a side note, I’d say that most of the readers of Night of the Purple Moon
are over the age of 20. But I got a note from a sixth grader recently. She featured me in her school’s author fair. It doesn’t get much better than that.Katie:
Why the Young Adult genre? Have you considered writing in other genres?Scott:
In the same way I don’t distinguish between the ages of characters, I almost feel the same way about genres. It’s mostly about the story. The characters may be 12 or 15 years old, but it still boils down to story.Katie:
Thank you, Scott. You can find Scott on Facebook
. You can find Night of the Purple Moon here.
I'm very excited to announce that Nessa: A Breeders Story
will release today, Tuesday, February 5th. The genesis of this story began when I polled readers in December and asked which character they'd like to get to know better. Surprisingly, many fans said Nessa Vandewater, Clay's mother. From there, Nessa's story grew and I am pleased with how it turned out. I hope you'll like it too. The novelette is priced at 99 cents, so it will be affordable to die hard fans and new readers alike. To celebrate, I'm also hosting a giveaway of an Amazon gift card to one lucky winner. Enter here.
Here's the pitch to wet your whistle.
Eighteen-year-old Nessa knows what it’s like to be an endangered species. Growing up in a dying world where nine out of ten babies are born male, she survives by trusting no one. When Marlin, the nineteen-year-old gunslinger with the sky-blue eyes, kills the man who has been keeping her enslaved, Nessa decides this handsome stranger might be her meal ticket. What she doesn’t realize is love is still possible, even in their decimated world. When Nessa discovers she’s pregnant with Marlin’s child, her difficult life now teeters on a knife’s edge. Can she bear to bring a child into their shattered world? Better yet, can Marlin keep them safe from those that hunt Nessa?
A companion story to The Breeders
, this prequel novelette (34 pages or 10,000 words) explores the origins of two important characters and gives a deeper look into their background. It contains minor spoilers to the novel and is intended for mature teens and adults. You can follow Katie French on Facebook, Twitter and on her website.
review by Katie French
When I saw the cover art for The Scourge
at the bottom of my own novel's
“Customers who bought this item also bought...” page, I knew I wanted to read it. The haunting description of Fennel, a sightless girl who must be the water bearer for her people during the time of the scourge drew me in. The scourge are basically zombies-- humans turned flesh-eaters who attack the healthy, turning them sick as well. For some reason the scourge do not attack the sightless, so Fennel is tapped to take an agonizing walk down to the water through the throng of fleshies everyday.
Then enter Peree, a tree-dwelling hunter, who has been given the task of being her keeper. Peree is her eyes while she slips through the masses of sick ones. Fennel's people and Peree's people live in an uneasy alliance. Yet, somehow these two find an instant connection, one that worries both of them. Groundies and Lofties do not mix. Fennel agonizes over the bond that grows between her and Peree.
When the scourge doesn't leave after a few days as expected, Fennel's people get desperate. Fennel volunteers to search for the Hidden Waters supposedly buried deep within the safety of their caves. Peree slips away to guide her. The two embark on a nail-biting journey through pitch-black caves where they are tested to the core of their being.
I was instantly jealous of the premise of this novel. What can be more terrifying than walking into a mob of flesh-eating monsters with no sight? Henley is a master of upping the terror, bringing us in to Fennel's haunting journey to the water hole. And here's the amazing thing, Henley cannot employ any visual imagery. No visual imagery! It's amazing. I was expecting the book to flounder and die in a sightless world, but no. As a reader, I got used to wandering around a world without vision. Somehow Henley uses surrounding sounds, smells and touch to make a world as vivid as any with sight. I was in awe of how easily she accomplished something that even master writers would not attempt.
I went online to look for a publisher for the novel. I was sure because of the quality that it had been picked up by one of the big six. However, I was surprised to learn it is self-published. There are gems out there in the self-published arena and this is one of them. I highly recommend this book to fans of speculative Young Adult fiction. You won't be disappointed.
You can find The Scourge here.
You can find A.G. Henley here. If you enjoyed this review you can follow Underground Book Reviews on Facebook or Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter.
You can also follow Katie French on Facebook and on her website.
Two years ago when I did the final edit on my first manuscript, I was sure I had a winner -- a gem of a story that agents would beg to represent. Oh how naïve a novice writer can be.
After numerous rejections, both form and personal, I fell into a deep, dark hole. Could I write? Did I want to write any more?
Once I closed down my pity party, I started doing research on the internet. I wanted to read about successful author’s writing journeys. Did they write manuscript after manuscript, until finally one got attention? How did they handle rejection and garner the strength to push forward and write yet another story?
With a burning desire to have my questions answered, I began contacting authors and asking them if they would share their writing journey on my blog. Their stories of rejection and frustration all had their own twists and turns, but they all ended up in the exact same place – eventual victory with a “call” for representation, and in many cases a publishing deal.
One writer’s odyssey caught my attention and her story is one I am thrilled to share today. Her name is Jessica Khoury and her debut novel, ORIGIN was just released.
“Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rainforest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home--and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life.
Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia's origin--a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.”
This is Jessica’s writing journey…
Amy: What drew you to write a Young Adult novel?
Jessica: YA is what I love to read, so I've never really considered writing anything else. The great thing about YA is it's exploding right now, not just in numbers, but in possibilities. There is a level of experimentation and freedom in YA you don't get in other genres; as an author, you can be daring, mixing genres, exploring themes and settings that haven't been done before. It's really an exciting place to be right now and I am so happy to have a spot in YA!
Amy: Was ORIGIN your first completed manuscript?
Jessica: Before ORIGIN I had written two complete novels. They were both high fantasy, and I love them both very much. The first, however, was written when I was 13, and is better off staying on its floppy disk in a deep, dark drawer--but it was a great learning experience! The second one I finished last year, having written it during college, and I would love to see it published one day! We will see.
Amy: How long did it take to complete?
Jessica: I spent 30 days on the first draft of ORIGIN, which sounds very fast, I know, but you must take into account the months of editing that followed. After editing with my agent and then editor at Razorbill, ORIGIN was in development for about 9 months.
Amy: Did you use critique partners for ORIGIN? If so, how did that affect your writing process?
Jessica: I had a few beta readers early on, before I got an agent, and their input was very valuable. The biggest influences on ORIGIN, however, came from my editor and agent. They are both very savvy when it comes to critiques, and I was so fortunate to have their help in developing the manuscript.
You can buy The Breeders on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
It's finally happened. I am now a published author.
It feels strange to type that statement. I keep thinking somewhere a record will scratch, everyone will turn and look at me and someone will say, "Umm, no Katie, you can't just proclaim yourself published. Didn't anyone tell you?" For most of my life I've dreamed of being published, but in my head it meant attention from "the industry," an agent, a hot shot editor. Not me alone at a computer late at night reading Smashwords Style Guides until my eyes crossed. Publishing felt akin to God on high descending on a billowing white cloud, raising a golden scepter and proclaiming me published. It just wasn't gonna happen.
But then I started this blog and I met all the lovely, self-published authors who had written really great books. They were smart, normal and good at what they do. They were putting it all out there and reaping the rewards. They had readership, an outlet for their work and were having fun in the process. I finally realized they were just like me except one thing: I was afraid.
So I started examining my hidden fears. I was afraid I couldn't get my book ready without the help of a fantastic editor, so I hired one. I was afraid to navigate the confusing mire that is formatting, so my husband and I slogged through it. I was afraid of what people would think when they actually read my book, so I got over it. One by one my fears fell away until all I had was excitement. And man, am I excited.
There are lots of great reasons to stick with traditional publishing, but I think I have found my path for now. The joy of reading that first five star unsolicited book review is something I will always remember. The path hasn't been easy, but it's been worth it. And I'm happy to say I'm no longer afraid.
review by Katie French
What is better than a sexy, savage outsider, a damsel in distress who learns she’s tough as nails and a post-apocalyptic society hell-bent on standing in their way? In my opinion, not much. Under the Never Sky is Veronica Rossi’s debut, and debut she did. This book has all the best elements of YA dystopia: a steamy forbidden love story, sweeping creative landscapes and characters that pop off the page.
The story opens with seventeen-year-old Aria, a girl who lives in a pod built into the earth. The planet has been scarred by dangerous Aether storms that burn through the countryside, leaving the planet virtually uninhabitable. The pod dwellers encase themselves underground and bide their time in virtual realities. Then Aria gets mixed up with a group of friends who turn savage. Though innocent, she takes the blame for their deaths and is banished from society. She finds herself dropped in on the outside under the never sky.
Perry, the savage hunky outsider, finds her and kidnaps her. Perry’s nephew has been taken by pod dwellers and he thinks Aria might help him. For the first half of the book the two are pitted against each other. Outsiders and dwellers don’t mix, after all. In the second half, they come together in a romance so hot, it puts Bella and Edward to shame. Stir in cannibals called the Croven, an Aether-wielding orphan and tribes with enhanced senses and I couldn’t stop turning pages. The sequel will be on my “to-read” list immediately.
In a way, I don’t find it fair to rank this book a top pick because it is published by HarperCollins and has already been optioned by Fox, but this book deserves its due attention. It hasn’t broken the top 100, but it’s climbing the charts fast. Rossi’s star is on the rise, as it should be. She earned it.
You can find the book here.
You can find Veronica Rossi here. If you enjoyed this review, you can subscribe to the Underground or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
In the era of Young Adult dystopian literature, ushered in by Suzanne Collins and the Hunger Games
, by Veronica Roth does not disappoint. In fact, she provides readers with an exciting, fresh narrative that any teen, and even some older, will gobble up.Divergent
, set in post-apocalyptic Chicago, gives us the story of Beatrice Prior, a sixteen year old on the cusp of adulthood. In the world she lives in there are five factions, Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, and Erudite. Each faction focuses on the qualities they feel will lead mankind to prosperity. Beatrice has grown up in Abnegation, a faction known for its selfless service of others. And Beatrice feels anything but selfless.
In order to help teens decide which faction to join, the school offers aptitude tests. During this test Beatrice learns she is divergent, an extremely dangerous label. Unsure what divergent means and unable to share this news with anyone, Beatrice struggles with which faction to join. In a last minute decision, she leaves her family and faction behind and joins Dauntless, the group that jumps off trains, pierces their noses and values fearlessness above all. Thrust into a completely new life and challenges, Tris, as she renames herself, embarks on a journey to find her place in a society that is not yet her own.Divergent
is an excellent mix of action, suspense, romance and intrigue. The world Roth builds is unique, lush and alive. Readers will be drawn in by Tris’s first person narration and find her hard to leave. Even though Divergent
follows many of the rules of current young adult fiction, it does an excellent job at avoiding cliché. The romance is expected, but executed lightly without bogging down the story in too much teen groping. The friends are quirky, interesting and realistic. And the ending does not disappoint.
Overall, this is a fantastic breakout novel for Roth. I am dubbing it my first Top Pick and this reader, though usually picky with teen lit, will definitely scoop up the sequel. You can find Veronica Roth at veronicarothbooks.blogspot.com
and order the book through any book seller.