Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fiction

Review: The Edge of the Abyss

Cover of "The Edge of the Abyss," featuring a girl dressed in black standing on the seashore with massive read octopus tentacles rising from the surf
Image from Emily Skrutskie

Title: The Edge of the Abyss

Author: Emily Skrutskie

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic/Science Fiction

Trigger Warnings: Blood/gore, violence between sea monsters

WARNING: This book is a sequel and this review contains spoilers of The Abyss Surrounds Us!

Back Cover:

Three weeks have passed since Cassandra Leung pledged her allegiance to ruthless pirate-queen Santa Elena and set free Bao, the sea monster Reckoner she’d been forced to train. The days as a pirate trainee are long and grueling, but it’s not the physical pain that Case dreads most. It’s being forced to work with Swift, the pirate girl who broke her heart.

But Cas has even bigger problems when she discovers Bao is not the only monster swimming free. Other Reckoners illegally sold to pirates have escaped their captors and are taking the NeoPacific by storm, attacking ships at random and threatening the ocean’s ecosystem. As a Reckoner trainer, Cas might be the only one who can stop them. But how can she take up arms against creatures she used to care for and protect?

Will Cas embrace the murky morals that life as a pirate brings or perish in the dark waters of the NeoPacific?

Review:

This is one of the best emotional roller coasters I’ve been on in YEARS.

So I loved loved loved The Abyss Surrounds Us, and as soon as I finished reading it I immediately reserved this book at the library.

It never made it out of the library. I had a break between work and yoga, sat down in a chair, and devoured the entire book in a single 1.5 hour sitting. I couldn’t put it down and really didn’t want to.

You get more of the great characters in this book, including some backstories and more about Swift’s history. Also some of Cas’s family towards the end. But most of what you get is Cas and Swift and their relationship, which is a beautiful, complicated mess and a total emotional roller coaster. Ups, downs, love, hurt … so many emotions. It was so raw and real and vivid and I loved the way it wrenched my heart around.

We also get a lot more about pirates in this book. How they work, who they are … even meeting a lot more of them. And it’s interesting, because they’re all scheming and piratey, but none of them seem quite as ruthless as Santa Elena. (And as a bonus, you get to learn a lot about pirate politics, which there is apparently a lot of.)

There is a plot, and a really good one – other set-free Reckoners like Bao are destroying the ocean’s ecosystem – but it takes a bit of a backseat to Cas’s emotional turmoil and her messy relationship with Swift and the reoccurring ethical conundrum of working for and with pirates. But the emotional plot and the plot plot blend nicely, and even though emotions are the focus, it doesn’t overwhelm the sea monster plot.

The only thing I wasn’t 100% a fan of was the final battle. Yeah, it was epic and there were sea monsters and stuff, but in my opinion it wasn’t quite as epic as the ending of book one. Don’t take me the wrong way, it was still pretty darn epic. The Abyss Surrounds Us just set a really high bar that The Edge of the Abyss didn’t quite meet. The ending after the final battle, though, makes up for it.

Overall, this was a great book and an amazing series. This review really isn’t doing this book justice. I loved it. It pulled my heart out and played with it and it’s one of the best books overall I’ve read in a while. I’m just sad this is the end of the series. Logically, I know it’s a good ending, but still. I wish there was more!

The Abyss Surrounds Us Series:

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Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fiction

Review: The Abyss Surrounds Us

Cover of "The Abyss Surrounds Us," featuring an Asian girl standing on the deck of a ship with the giant eye of a sea monster behind her
Image from Emily Skrutskie

Title: The Abyss Surrounds Us

Author: Emily Skrutskie

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic/Science Fiction

Trigger Warnings: Death, blood/gore

Back Cover:

For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. Shes been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the giant, genetically engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup and teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

Review:

I first heard of this as a lesbian book recommendation on Tumblr and immediately reserved it at the library because heck yes scifi lesbians! I’m always complaining about there not being enough gays in speculative fiction. But anyway.

For some reason I thought this was set in space. Not sure how I got that idea. It was a little disorientating at first, because I’m expecting space and getting ocean, but once I got a couple chapters in I was hooked.

The Abyss Surrounds Us has everything I look for in a book.

The Characters: Fascinating! Cas is the protagonist, an East Asian girl from San Francisco who is just getting ready to take her place in the family business – which happens to be raising and training sea monsters. It’s pretty darn epic. Then there’s Swift, the pirate girl assigned to watch Cas while she’s training the pirate’s monster, who’s part badass and a tiny bit sweet and mostly just making the best of some crappy circumstances. Both girls have great character arcs, the romantic tension is obvious but built slowly, and you get cool minor characters in the pirates … it’s just awesome.

The Setting: So this is after a lot of global warming and stuff and the oceans have risen to ridiculous levels, countries have splintered into smaller countries, (hence why I put “post-apocalyptic” as a genre on this) and pirates run so rampant the only way legitimate ships could protect themselves is by genetically engineering sea monsters. It’s a great concept. The pirate ship that most of the story happens on is a combination of old-fashioned pirate-y stuff and modern technology, and there’s even a brief excursion to a floating pirate city which is also really cool. It’s just fantastic.

The Plot: The plot is really quickly paced, which I loved. It follows Cas, and starts with “what’s wrong with my Reckoner,” then moves into “survive the pirates/train the pirates’ monster enough that he looks trained/don’t actually train the monster because I don’t want to help the pirates because they’re evil.” But then she begins to wonder if they’re really so evil. And she starts getting to know (and kinda like) Swift. And what starts off so simply – survive the pirates, don’t help them, get home – suddenly gets super complicated with ethics and emotions and things.

The End: Holy crap, the end. An epic battle that made me feel Epic Battle Feelings that I haven’t gotten from a book in a long time. A twist I probably should have seen coming but didn’t. Romance that I did see coming but was still really happy about. And it wrapped up nicely while still leaving room for a sequel. There were no cliffhangers, just the confident knowledge that you’ll want to spend another book in this world with these characters. And I do.

One thing I will say about it, though, is it is pretty violent. (Hence the trigger warnings.) Some people do die, one death is described in somewhat graphic detail (even though Cas is disgusted by it), and there’s quite a bit of carnage in the final battle. So just be aware of that if that kind of thing bothers you.

If I have any complaints, it’s that the book was too short. (It’s less than 300 pages, which is short to me, and it feels shorter than it is.) But it’s paced perfectly, so I really shouldn’t complain. It was a fantastic book, and I’m super excited there’s a book two. Now, pardon me while I go reserve that one at the library …

(As a side note: If you’re a fan, you really should check out Emily Skrutskie on Tumblr.)

The Abyss Surrounds Us series:

  1. The Abyss Surrounds Us
  2. The Edge of the Abyss
Science Fiction, Suspense/Thriller

Review: Genius: The Game

Cover of "Genius: The Game" featuring an iridescent image of a brain above the word "Genius" spelled out in a connect-the-dots style
Image from Fierce Reads

Title: Genius: The Game

Author: Leopoldo Gout

Genre: Science Fiction/Thriller

Trigger warnings: None (I think)

Back cover:

Trust no one. Every camera is an eye. Every microphone an ear. Find me and we can stop him together.

The Game: Get ready for Zero Hour as 200 geniuses from around the world go head to head in a competition hand-devised by India’s youngest CEO and visionary.

The Players:
Rex – One of the best programmers/hackers in the world, this 16-year-old Mexican-American is determined to find his missing brother.
Tunde – This 14-year-old self-taught engineering genius has drawn the attention of a ruthless military warlord by single-handedly bringing electricity and internet to his small Nigerian village.
Painted Wolf – One of China’s most respected activist bloggers, this mysterious 16-year-old is being pulled into the spotlight by her father’s new deal with a corrupt Chinese official.

The Stakes: Are higher than you can imagine. Like life and death. Welcome to the revolution. And get ready to run.

Review:

I picked this up on a whim, partially because the characters looked interesting and partly because my boyfriend and I are thinking about moving into the tech industry and for some reason I was thinking about that while I was at the library. (Also the book feels satisfyingly heavy in your hands despite being not thick, so that was a nice bonus.)

For as much action as there was in here, the book really didn’t feel long. It took me probably 1.5 hours of reading, total, to finish. And it was good.

The characters are pretty much what you get from the back cover: Rex, son of illegal Mexican immigrants, excellent hacker looking for his missing brother Teo; Tunde, Nigerian engineering genius; and Painted Wolf/Cai, Chinese secret activist with epic spy skills. They all had their own “thing” (Rex’s coding, Tunde building things from junk, and Cai’s leadership and spy cameras that solve every problem), and were all so brilliant that I often forgot how young they were. (Although the series is literally called “Genius,” so I don’t know what I expected.) The only bad part was all three were narrators and occasionally I lost track of who was speaking. (The transitions weren’t always obvious.)

As much as The Game features in the back cover, it actually wasn’t as big of a plot point as I expected. It was more of a means to an end. Rex went because he needed access to a quantum computer to find his brother. Tunde went because a corrupt general told him to win or watch his village be wiped out. Cai went to help Tunde and foil the plan of the Indian CEO/visionary who created The Game. The Game was epic and awesome, but it was more of a backdrop for the other plots.

There was also some fantastic tension – every chapter starts with a countdown to “Zero Hour,” the end of The Game, and there’s so much of a time crunch going on that it feels super fast-paced, even though it isn’t.

This book was very unique. Take the Hunger Games but make them a technological competition, add a cup of Mission: Impossible, throw in a tablespoon of hacking, a teaspoon each of riddles, conspiracies, and engineering, and a pinch of death threats, and you’ll get something close to Genius: The Game.

The surprising thing about it is that it wrapped up pretty well. Sure, there’s a lot of loose threads left, leaving a lot of interesting stuff for the sequel (Genius: The Con, releasing in August) to cover. But it also isn’t a bad stopping point on its own and wrapped up pretty satisfyingly. If I happen to run across Genius: The Con in the library, I’ll probably pick it up. But I won’t go out of my way for it.

The Genius series:

  1. Genius: The Game
  2. Genius: The Con (August 1, 2017)
Science Fiction

Did Not Finish: Maximum Ride Forever by James Patterson

Maximum Ride Forever
Image from James Patterson

Title: Maximum Ride Forever (Maximum Ride #9)

Author: James Patterson

Genre: Science fiction

Warning: This book is 9th in a series, so this review will definitely have spoilers. If you haven’t read the previous books, proceed with caution.

Back cover:

THE NINTH AND ULTIMATE MAXIMUM RIDE STORY IS HERE! Legions of Max fans won’t be disappointed by this encore episode in the beloved series about the incredible adventures of a teenage girl who can fly. As Maximum Ride boldly navigates a post-apocalyptic world, she and her broken flock are roaming the earth, searching for answers to what happened. All will be revealed in this last spectacular “ride”- a brand-new grand finale featuring all of the nonstop action, twists and turns that readers can rely on in a blockbuster Patterson page-turner!

Read to: Page 26 (chapter 6)

Reason for Stopping: Not caring about plot or characters, character death

Review:

This book is described as an “encore,” which explains why I hadn’t heard of it until I saw it at the library. I thought Nevermore was the end of the series. The Maximum Ride series had honestly gone downhill after Max (Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports was the last of the fantastic Maximum Ride books), and I hated Nevermore. I picked up Maximum Ride Forever for two reasons – 1, I felt I owed it to my childhood favorite series to at least try to finish it, and 2, I wanted to give it a chance to redeem itself after the fiasco of book 8.

I made it through 26 pages before I totally gave up.

Admittedly, part of that is probably me. It’s been about two years since I last read a Maximum Ride book, so I didn’t remember much. Also I’m way older than the upper middle grade target audience. But I had hoped.

This book is best read in quick succession with Nevermore, because it jumps right into the action and emotion. And I was just too distant from these characters (who all suddenly seemed really freaking young) to get into it.

Yet another part of me not liking this book was also that I hated the ending of Nevermore, and Maximum Ride Forever is just a continuation of that. But I don’t really want to see my favorite winged bird kids in a post-apocalyptic world, I wanted to see them keep navigating the normal world as oddly-skilled mutants.

But the last straw for me was a death. The only people left alive in the world (as far as we can tell) are our bird kids, and killing one of them off was the last straw. That one was probably my least favorite, but still. Just no.

I was quite disappointed in this book, but I really don’t think I can blame the book. All my problems with the book (perhaps with the exception of killing a character) were 100% me. I think this is just final proof that I’m officially done with my favorite childhood series.

The Maximum Ride series:

  1. The Angel Experiment
  2. School’s Out–Forever
  3. Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports
  4. The Final Warning
  5. Max
  6. Fang
  7. Angel
  8. Nevermore
  9. Maximum Ride Forever

 

Science Fiction

Review: Terminal by Kathy Reichs

TERMINAL by Kathy Reichs, reviewed at JalynEly.com
Image from Kathy Reichs

Title: Terminal (Virals #5)

Author: Kathy Reichs/Brendan Reichs

Genre: Science Fiction

Format: Hardcover

Warning: This book is fifth in a series, so this review will have spoilers of the previous books. If you haven’t read the other Virals books, I recommend avoiding this review.

Back cover:

The Virals are back. But this time, they’ve got company. A rogue band of newborn Virals is stalking the streets of Charleston, intent on challenging Tory Brennan and the Morris Island gang for domination of the city. Calling themselves the Trinity, these powerful rivals have been infected by an altered strain of supervirus created by Tory’s nemesis and sometimes-crush Chance Claybourne, who has caught the bug himself. Hiding in plain sight, striking without warning, the slippery new adversaries have no intention of playing nice.

As Tory and her companions delve deeper into the mysterious experiment that scrambled their DNA, the world begins to close in around them. The Trinity will stop at nothing to bring the Virals down. A shadowy government agency is working to uncover the secret to their powers. Medical tests reveal shocking truths about their cellular evolution. All while unfamiliar emotions roil the deepest corners of Tory’s heart.

The noose is tightening from every angle, and there’s nowhere safe to hide. In the riveting conclusion to the Virals series, Tory and the pack are nearing an impossible choice – and the ultimate showdown.

Review:

After I devoured Expsure – and was left with that mind-blowing ending – I immediately picked up this book. I sat down and read the first half (over 200 pages) in an hour.

Since you’re reading this review, I assume you’ve already read the first four books (or at least my reviews of them – but hopefully the books). So if you want to hear about the characters, check out one of my previous reviews – the characters don’t change much in Terminal.

The main character difference was Chance became a much bigger player. I simultaneously felt bad for him and got annoyed with him. Yeah, he was an outcast who just wanted to fit in, but he also kept so many secrets – and he would have been accepted a lot better (and faster) if he’d just been up front about everything. And that annoyed me.

There were lots of parts of the plot. The standard Virals kick-butt, solve-the-problem action, plus another, separate group of Virals who have it in for the Morris Island gang, plus romance, plus friendship drama, plus possibly-trustworthy-possibly-enemy Chance, plus new revelations about the virus that made them Virals…there’s a lot. It moves really freaking fast. And I loved it.

If you’ve read Code and Exposure, you won’t be surprised when I say there’s a romance in Terminal. It’s even a love triangle. Normally, I find love triangles excessively irritating, but this one was shoved between action scenes and kept getting pushed aside for secrets and superpowers, so I actually didn’t mind so much. It was there, but it was minor.

My main problem with the plot was I guessed the big shocking reveal at the end. Admittedly, I did that last book and was fine with it, but somehow the execution of this twist just made me think, “yep, I knew it. Disappointing.”

As I finished the book, I went, “No! That’s a horrible ending! They can’t do that to my Virals!” And then I read the epilogue and went, “Yes, that’s perfect.” It left options open for more books if there really, really had to be, but it also makes a pretty satisfying conclusion on its own.

Even though I’m sad (really, really sad) that this series is over, Terminal was a pretty fabulous ending. I would not object to another book with these characters (and their Viral powers), but for now, there are three Virals short stories to go through. I’ll have to be happy with that – because I’m not ready to let go of this fabulous series just yet.

The Virals series:

  1. Virals
  2. Seizure
  3. Code
  4. Exposure
  5. Terminal

Extra short stories:

  • Shock
  • Shift
  • Swipe

Report Card

For more on my grading system, check out this page.

TERMINAL scored a 3.6 (A) and a final verdict of "read"

Science Fiction

Review: Exposure by Kathy Reichs

EXPOSURE by Kathy Reichs and Brendan Reichs
Image from Kathy Reichs

Title: Exposure (Virals #4)

Author: Kathy Reichs and Brendan Reichs

Genre: Science Fiction

Format: Hardcover

Warning: This book is fourth in a series, so this review will contain spoilers of the previous books. You’ve been warned.

Back cover:

When twin classmates are abducted from Bolton Prep, Tory and the Virals decide there’s no one better equipped than them to investigate. But the gang has other problems to face. Their powers are growing wilder and becoming harder to control. Chance Claybourne is investigating the disastrous medical experiment that twisted their DNA. The bonds that unite them are weakening, threatening the future of the pack itself.

The Virals must decipher the clues and track down a ruthless criminal before he strikes again, all while protecting their secret from prying eyes. And everyone seems to be watching.

Review:

So after the way Code ended, I was dying to get my hands on this book. That was two years ago. Somehow this book slipped to the back of my mind and I forgot about it until I saw it on the library shelf (right next to Terminal, which is the book 5 I didn’t know existed). I snatched both up.

I thoroughly enjoyed Tory. She seemed a bit younger than I remembered – but it’s been two years since I read a Virals book, so that could just be me. She was still the stubborn, impulsive, occasionally reckless spitfire from the previous books, but she was also an emotional teenager. Being able to see the soft, scared, vulnerable side of her in this book just made her that much better.

In my review of Code, I complained that Ben, Hi, and Shelton weren’t really three-dimensional characters. I don’t know if my perceptions changed or if the characters made huge leaps in development in this book, but they actually seemed like real people. I can’t really explain how or why, but they really jumped off the page and I liked all of them (including Ben, who I don’t recall liking all that much before).

So the whole missing twins is a big part, and Chance Claybourne comes back in a huge way (in charge of his father’s company and SERIOUSLY investigating the Virals), but I think the main plot here was pack dynamics. Ben and Tory are at odds thanks to the events of last book, Hi and Shelton are stuck in the middle, and the maybe-romance threatens to mess up everything. And Tory actually makes a non-Viral friend, which just adds another wrench to the works.

There was still plenty of danger, Virals power-using, sneaking around, and life-or-death situations to satisfy the action fan in me. (And I’ll be honest, I still absolutely LOVE seeing them use their powers.) But this book was a whole lot more character-driven, and I liked that, too.

That ending blew me away – doubly so because I actually saw it coming, yet it was still a shock when it happened. And it was one of those endings where everything changes and you absolutely need the next book RIGHT THIS INSTANT.

I am in the best possible situation with this series, because I finished Exposure and have Terminal just sitting on my shelf, available for immediate reading. According to my library, Terminal has a hold on it and is currently accruing fines – but I really don’t care. I’m going to read it immediately anyway.

The Virals series:

  1. Virals
  2. Seizure
  3. Code
  4. Exposure
  5. Terminal

Report Card

For more on my grading system, check out this page.

EXPOSURE scored a 3.8 and a final verdict of "Read"

Science Fiction

Review: Elevated by Daniel Kaplan

ELEVATED by Daniel Solomon Kaplan reviewed at JalynEly.com
Image from Daniel Kaplan; used by permission

Title: Elevated (Elevated Saga #1)

Author: Daniel Solomon Kaplan

Genre: Science Fiction

Format: ebook

Back cover:

Rose never wanted to be an Elevated. She refused to have her power unlocked on Elevation Day, unlike her other classmates. The irreversible treatment reveals powers that range from a benefit or a nuisance. For her father, it transformed him into an Unsound, forcing him to a life of exile.

Rose’s choice is taken away after a chance encounter with a previously undiscovered power activates her ability. Living as an Undocumented Elevated, Rose needs the help of others who hide under the government’s radar to learn to control her unwanted power. Among them, she unravels secrets about the treatment, the powers, and what happened to her father. Fed up with lies, Rose wants nothing more than to learn the whole truth – even if it means accepting her fate as an Elevated.

Review:

I picked this book up because superpowers. The idea of everybody getting latent superpowers activated when they reached a certain age – and the powers ranging from epic to useless – sounded great.

Rose was okay. At first, she kind of annoyed me (honestly, what kind of person doesn’t want superpowers?), but as the book went on, I liked her more. She had a stubborn streak and a tenacity that I really enjoyed. But despite having superpowers, she was a very normal girl, which felt strangely refreshing.

There were various other semi-main characters in this story. I liked Rose’s friend Aaron, mainly because Rose’s and his relationship reminded me of me and my friend Ryan – he’s blunt and irritating, and sometimes I wonder why we’re friends, but we are. Elliott, a guy Rose meets on Elevation Day, was enjoyable – at first, he was adorable and slightly awkward, but he eventually became a good friend. Zach kind of annoyed me, because it seemed like the only reason he was even in there was because he was handsome and occasionally useful.

The whole learning-the-truth thing was not as major as I thought – it was kind of entangled with a find-Rose’s-dad plot. People are hiding things about Unsounds, and Rose decides to figure out what. A bunch of friends, old and new, and a frenemy get involved, and they use their powers to investigate things. Plus there’s an underground conspiracy theory/resistance movement, which was a fun touch.

To me, the best part of this book was the idea. I loved the concept of activating latent superpowers. I totally want my latent superpowers activated. (Which made me kind of annoyed with Rose at first, because if you have the opportunity for superpowers, take it!) Sometimes I would have rather read about someone figuring out what power they have than the plot that was actually there.

I did liked Elevated. It was a fun book, and I didn’t guess a lot of the resolutions. The concept was great, and I loved reading about a world where almost everyone had superpowers. I’m not sure I will read book two, but I did enjoy this read.

I received a free review copy of Elevated from the author. His generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

The Elevated Saga:

  1. Elevated
  2. Catalyst

Report Card

For more on my grading system, check out this page.ELEVATED scored a 3.9 (A)

 

Science Fiction

Review: Max

Cover of "Max," featuring the word "Max" in silver letters in front of a picture of a blond girl in a red tank top and a dark-haired boy standing behind her, with a stormy sky in the background.
Image from James Patterson

Title: Max

Series: Maximum Ride #5

Author: James Patterson

Genre: Science fiction

Warning: This book is fifth in a series, so this review will probably contain spoilers of the previous books.

Back Cover:

Max and the flock have traded in Antarctica’s subzero temperatures for sunny Los Angeles, where they’re taking over the skies with their hair-raising air show. But a powerful enemy has them in his sights – and Max’s mom in his grasp.

When the flock learns that millions of fish are dying off Hawaii’s coast, and Max’s mom is being held in the middle of it, they are confronted with the most frightening ecological catastrophe yet.

While Max and her team comb the depths of the ocean off Hawaii’s coast, the ruthless kidnapper develops his own dark plans for the flock. Can the flock protect themselves from the approaching army – and save the world from utter destruction?

Review:

Yeah, I’d intended to read this directly after The Final Warning. We all know how that goes. Anyway, after finishing my reread of The Final Warning, I began to remember why I considered getting rid of the copies I own. The first three books were fabulous, and then it went downhill at book 4. I pretty much only read this one because I recalled some awesome scenes on an army base.

Max was still pretty fun, and she had some snarky comments that left me laughing out loud. The romance thing with Fang, though – I guess I’m used to them being friends and kind-of co-leaders from the first three books, because her actions around him just seemed weird and got on my nerves.

Like I said in previous reviews, besides Max, the rest of the characters weren’t jumping off the page. Except Angel – but Angel got on my nerves. (I seem to recall her getting worse as the series goes on.) She’s probably the most powerful of the Flock, and in Max, she’s figured out that nobody can really make her do anything she doesn’t want to.

The overarching plot was “get Max’s mom back,” but it was really the smaller details that the book focused on. The Max-Fang romance was a pretty big part. So was the changing Flock dynamics (I liked it better when Max was the undisputed leader). But the army base part I remembered? Awesome as ever. I absolutely love watching normal people react to the Flock.

I’m going to give up my copy of Max. I used to recommend that people new to the series stop at Max, but now I think for older readers, stopping at Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports is probably a better idea.

This series still has lots of nostalgia as one of my absolute childhood favorites (and starting a desire for being a winged person that I actually still have), but The Final Warning on didn’t really cut it for 17-year-old me.

The Maximum Ride series:

  1. The Angel Experiment
  2. School’s Out–Forever
  3. Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports
  4. The Final Warning
  5. Max
  6. Fang
  7. Angel
  8. Nevermore
  9. Maximum Ride Forever
Science Fiction

Review: The Final Warning

The Final Warning book cover
Image from Hachette Book Group

Title: The Final Warning

Series: Maximum Ride #4

Author: James Patterson

Genre: Science Fiction

Warning: This book is fourth in a series, so this review might contain spoilers of the previous books.

Back Cover:

In one of the world’s most extreme environment – the freezing South Pole – Max and the flock are in serious trouble. The grotesque Uber-Director has put a price on their heads, and a worldwide auction for the genetically modified kids is about to begin. His mutant army is heading down south to track down the winged gang, and with no function for mercy, the soldiers aren’t about to take pity on anyone. Oblivious to the Uber-Director’s evil plans, the flock is on a special government mission to save the Earth. But in a brutal environment like the South Pole, being able to fly isn’t always an option for escaping your worst nightmares.

Review:

I was going through my books a long time ago and realized I owned the first five Maximum Ride books but hadn’t read them in a while. So I started rereading them to see if I still wanted to keep them.

I had intended to read The Final Warning in pretty quick succession after Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports…but yeah, that didn’t happen. It got shoved between a backlog of books that need read and books that need to get back to the library suddenly. But one Saturday with nothing happening, it made its way to the top of my pile.

I still loved Max, but she seemed a little more serious in this book. Her sarcasm and cynical wit made me love her in the first three books, but it didn’t seem to show up as much. She still had her moments, but her whole mood seemed darker.

All the other characters disappointed me a bit. I remembered them as much more vibrant than they seemed this time. (I even had a minor crush on Iggy at one point.) But this time around, they all just kind of felt flat.

I got to a point where it’s pointed out that the oldest three Flock members are 14, and I went, “That’s it?” I feel like this far along in the series, they should be older. I don’t recall this bothering me when I read it for the first time at 14, but at 17, they felt far too young.

I did enjoy the plot. I remembered almost all of it, so there weren’t really any surprises (except a few things that I didn’t realize happened in this book). But I enjoyed the confused almost-romance thing between Max and Fang, and Angel’s love of penguins, and Total’s complete obsession with Akila the dog. And there’s still some butt-kicking, even if it isn’t as much as the previous books.

The one thing that actually annoyed me (and I didn’t notice it at all as a 14-year-old) was the whole global warming thing. It got preachy. That especially annoyed me because Max was all championing this cause, and then it never comes up in the rest of the series again. I do think not harming the planet is a good thing, but please, let’s not use a preachy plotline to get your message out.

It’s not that I didn’t like The Final Warning – it just doesn’t hold the same magic as it did when I first fell in love with it. I don’t think I’ll be keeping this one. But, since I own Max and I seem to remember some hilarious scenes on an army base, I may reread that one before donating it.

The Maximum Ride series:

  1. The Angel Experiment
  2. School’s Out–Forever
  3. Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports
  4. The Final Warning
  5. Max
  6. Fang
  7. Angel
  8. Nevermore
  9. Maximum Ride Forever
Science Fiction

Review: Cress

Cover of "Cress," showing the back of a person with a long blond braid with a red ribbon wrapped around it
Image from Marissa Meyer

Title: Cress

Series: The Lunar Chronicles #3

Author: Marissa Meyer

Genre: Science Fiction

Warning: This book is third in a series, so this review will probably contain spoilers of Cinder and Scarlet.

Back Cover:

Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and prevent her army from invading Earth. Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker – unfortunately, she’s being forced to work for Queen Levana, and she’s just received orders to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice. When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is splintered. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a higher price than she’d ever expected. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai, especially the cyborg mechanic. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

Review:

After loving the heck out of Cinder and really enjoying Scarlet, I was really looking forward to reading Cress when it came out. Then finally it did. And even though there was a long pile of books I needed to read, I dove straight into this one and finished it in two days.

Cress is a (mostly) new character this book – she showed up briefly in the first two books, but this was the first time she was a major character. And she was so fun. Innocent and naive, sometimes clueless, and really, really socially inexperienced, she was probably a teenager but she felt like a sweet little kid a lot of the time. Plus, she was an amazing hacker.

Cinder felt like a little less of a focal character this time around. I think a lot of it is that Cress spends less time in her head than the previous books, but she almost seemed a little jaded this time around. I still liked her, but I hope the next book has a lot more of her.

I wish I could devote an entire paragraph to all the minor characters. Thorne was just so-so last book, but he had a lot of page time in Cress and for a fictional character, he’s awfuly charming. Iko is more of a teenage girl than Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress combined, and she was just so darned fun. And there was Kai and Wolf and Dr. Erland…even Kai’s wedding planner was a good character.

Cress is told from multiple perspectives, and at first, it annoyed me. There was Cinder and Scarlet and Cress and a little bit of Kai. And that was just too much. But eventually, Scarlet’s narration was reduced to a minimum, and Cinder and Cress weren’t together for a good half of the book, which completely solved the issue.

After finishing Cress, I finally realized why I didn’t like Scarlet as much as Cinder. Scarlet and Cinder had similar personalities, so I almost felt like they were competing – and since I had all of book one to get to know Cinder, I naturally liked her better. Cress and Cinder are completely different, so I didn’t get that feeling at all and I was free to enjoy her half of the story.

The plot…oh, the plot! There’s so much happening. Cress and Thorne are in one place doing one thing, Cinder and company are all over the place doing other stuff, Kai is struggling with a wedding, and one of the characters (not saying who) gets kidnapped and tortured on Luna. And there’s so many revelations. Some of them I’d half-guessed, but it was nice to have them confirmed. Now if I just knew how it all goes down…

I’ve just about run out of synonyms for “great.” Now I’m going to gripe about the fact that Winter doesn’t come out until next year.

The Lunar Chronicles:

  1. Cinder
  2. Scarlet
  3. Cress
  4. Winter