Book Review: “Falling & Uprising” by Natalie Cammaratta

Plus insight into book two: SCATTERED & BREAKING

I love a good YA dystopian book, and FALLING & UPRISING, the debut novel from Natalie Cammaratta did not disappoint! Told in alternating POV, the story  follows socialite Serenity and marshal Bram as they navigate a society built on lies and the revolution that has been brewing for many years. 

Everyone in Kaycie knows that their city is the last dry haven for humans. Kaycians enjoy a life of prosperity, safety, and glamour. Serenity thinks she has it all, until she learns the truth. The Establishment has lied to its citizens.

Other islands exist, their main purpose being to provide goods and labor to the glittering city of Kaycie. There is a major imbalance and people from the islands are suffering. Young people taken from their families, their memories erased, and forced into zombie-like service as marshals in Kaycie. 

When Serenity learns the truth and is offered a chance to make a difference, she takes it—much to Bram’s surprise. He’s known the truth for a long time, having been born on one of the other islands and rescued by Sophos, Serenity’s mentor and one of the revolution’s key leaders.

FALLING & UPRISING has a nice balance of dystopia, sci-fi tech, and YA glamour. I found myself immersed in Cammaratta’s vivid details—I would love some of the fabulous clothing worn by Serenity and her best friend Vogue. The story moved well, and I never felt bogged down with techno-babble.

The connection between Serenity and Bram worked for me. I liked their prickly beginnings and enjoyed watching the two very different personalities find common ground and respect for each other. Serenity’s attraction and relationship with Jase, another member of their revolutionary team, had a few sizzling moments and it’ll be interesting to see what happens with those two in the next book. 

The reader is left hanging a bit at the end as there is another book coming. However, many threads are tied up nicely, but I found myself saying—WAIT! MORE! I wanted to continue reading and will be anxiously awaiting the next book!

And guess what? I got to read book two!

Scattered & Breaking by Natalie Cammaratta

I was thrilled when Natalie offered to send me an ARC of SCATTERED & BREAKING! Yes, I actually squealed and there may have been some bouncing/dancing about.

Here are some of my thoughts:

It sucked me in from page one! Seriously. I didn’t want to stop reading.

Being back with Bram, Serenity, Vogue, and friends was so much fun, but boy are they dealing with a LOT.

Book two picks up after the uprising and deals with the fallout, lies, and corruption that entangles each of the characters as well as their friends and family. The islands are splintered, the sea water has receded, and there is another enemy at the gates.

SCATTERED & BREAKING is a deep dive into this dystopian’s world’s political intrigue, twisted family dynamics, and the determined group fighting to make things right.

The book kept me turning pages, the action fast, but Natalie also gives the reader deliciously tender moments where we suck in a breath and just go “oh.”

It’s about relationships, the good, bad, and the very bad. But there also is hope. However, hold on when you’re reading SCATTERED & BREAKING because it’s a ride! And not everyone makes it out.

I’m am so ready for this story to continue!

Where To Find These Books:

To get a copy of FALLING & UPRISING and to preorder a copy of SCATTERED & BREAKING, please go visit author Natalie Cammaratta at her site: nataliecammarattabooks.com/books.

You can also add it to your Goodreads list.

SCATTERED & BREAKING releases on December 29, 2021.

You’ve got plenty of time to read FALLING & UPRISING first & then dive right into the SCATTERED & BREAKING. I highly recommend BOTH.

Back on the Bookshelf

Last Act by Christopher Pike

Several years ago I downsized my book collection, and then regretted that action. Not right away. At first, it was like, “Oh hey look at all this lovely bookshelf space” and I took the opportunity to add new books to the shelves.

Fast forward to about three years ago when I found “Until the End” the trilogy that is Christopher Pike’s three books “The Party”, “The Dance”, and “The Graduation.”

“Until the End” by Christopher Pike

Once I reread it, I wanted the other Christopher Pike books that I had let go, but I wanted them with the original covers that I had as a kid. I’ve been on the hunt ever since. Antique shops are a great place to find books like this, and I’ve added “Chain Letter” and “Remember Me” to my collection.

But the one I really wanted was LAST ACT. And now I finally have it. It arrived today — I ordered it online from a bookseller, because I could not find it in any of the used bookstores or antique shops that I’ve explored.

It’s been a couple of decades since I read LAST ACT and I’m looking forward to the reread. Will it be nostalgic? Probably. Will it be as good as preteen Barb remembers? Maybe not, but you never know. I’m still looking forward to it.

Do You Read Every Day?

Recently, someone asked me if I read every day, and I said, yes.

They seemed surprised. So I asked them if they watched TV or a movie every day.

They said yes, and seemed surprised that I’d ask that.

I said I don’t see any difference between picking up a book and reading for 30 minutes or sitting down and watching a sitcom for the same amount of time. I like to read. I also like to watch TV shows, movies, and other programming. But I usually feel like I relax more when I read.

I don’t think reading every day is strange, just as I don’t think watching TV daily is strange. Or listening to music.

My copy (with original cover) First book in the GONE series.

Reading makes me happy (most of the time). So yes, I do read every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

What am I reading right now? The GONE series by Michael Grant. It’s a reread for me, and I’m currently on book three: LIES. It’s a YA series that can be quite disturbing in parts, but it’s one of my favorites because of its complexities.

I have a few other books that I will be starting soon, in particular an ARC that I’m excited to read (keep an eye out for a post about that) and a beta read of an MG book written by one of my critique partners.

If you need me, I’ll be over here writing and always reading.

Halloween Week: Spooky MG Books for Kids

Some of the spooky MG books currently living on my bookshelves.

It’s Halloween week, but I enjoy a good spooky story any time of the year!

I’ve read several fantastic middle grade spooky stories this year, both in print and on my ereader, which include Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko, The Stitchers and The Collectors both by Lorien Lawrence. I totally recommend each and every one.

Here’s my Spooky MG list based on what I currently own and have read this year (it’s in no particular order.) Click on the author’s name to go to their website or book links. Add to your TBR and get ready to enjoy some creeps, chills, and thrills.

The Witches of Willow Cove by Josh Roberts

Ollie Oxley and The Ghost by Lisa Schmid

Doll Bones by Holly Black

Magic Can Be Murder by Vivian Vande Velde

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie

Scritch Scratch by Lindsay Currie

What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay Currie

Midnight at the Barclay Hotel by Fleur Bradley

Ghost Squad by Claribel Ortega

Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts by Dianne Salerni

The In-Between by Rebecca KS Ansari

The Missing Piece of Charlie O’Reilly by Rebecca KS Ansari

Alfred Hitchcock’s Ghostly Gallery

Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko

The Stitchers by Lorien Lawrence

The Collectors by Lorien Lawrence

The last three in the list are not in the above pic because my copies are digital, but I’m thinking I’d like to add the print versions to my shelves. They’ve all got great covers!

This is just one small list of MG spooky books — there are so many great ones out there! Go visit these authors on their sites, check out their books, give them a read. It’s worth it. Looking for other titles? Head to your local library and ask a librarian for recommendations. Your librarians can help you find the perfect book to fit your mood any day of the year.

I hope you enjoy reading these books as much as I did! And if you have any recommendations you want to share, let me know. Tweet me your favorites. Find me talking books, writing, and more on Twitter at: BarbH2014.

Loving My Library

Library with bookcases and books

I have always loved libraries. If you follow me on any of my social media, you’ve seen countless posts about the absolute awesomeness of libraries. Today is one of my favorite days of the year and it’s totally library-related. It’s my local library’s FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY BOOK SALE! 

Books! Tons of wonderful used books, all for sale! And the best part?

The money goes back to the library to buy MORE BOOKS!

That is truly pure awesomeness. I love the anticipation of going to the annual book sale. You never know what’s going to be there. I may find dozens of books to add to my collection or it might just be one. It doesn’t matter. It’s more than just acquiring new books. For me, it’s the joy of walking into this massive space filled with tables and tables of books just waiting to find a new home, new hands to hold them, and new imaginations to entertain.

And as I go on and on about libraries, I’m happy to report I FINALLY set up the free app on my ereader and TV to be able to check out ebooks, audiobooks, and digital programs/movies.

Why or why did I wait this long??? Don’t be like me. Take advantage of all these amazing and free services your local library has. You won’t regret it!

Book Review: The Tesla Legacy by K. K. Pérez

“The truth was so much more X-Files than Lucy could have imagined.” (pg. 177)

Readers looking for a young adult, sci-fi thriller with mystery and even a bit of romance can find it all and more in The Tesla Legacy by K. K. Pérez. The story follows Lucy Phelps, an intelligent 18 year old in the last few weeks of her senior year of high school and the “shocking” information she uncovers about herself, her family, and the legendary Nikola Tesla.

Lucy has epilepsy, or so she’s been told her entire life. Because of that, she’s been sheltered by her parents shunned other kids, especially when she was younger. A budding and brilliant scientist, Lucy just wants to venture out on her own terms and that means getting away to college. She does have the love and support of her best friend Claudia, but things are a bit rocky with her boyfriend Cole. When Lucy accidentally discovers a hidden message in a photograph of her younger self, it leads her into New York City and an experience that will change her life.

After discovering the hidden Tesla room in New York, Lucy has her hands full. She’s promised Claudia she’d help with the lighting design for prom, there’s issues with her boyfriend, she needs to keep working on her science experiment, and there’s also this little (not!) issue of her newfound abilities that involve her ability to manipulate and control electricity. And let’s not forget the handsome new teaching assistant that’s taken an interest in her as well as the two rival, ancient, alchemical societies that each want Lucy for their own agendas.

I enjoyed The Tesla Legacy immensely. It kept me entertained and engaged, even during its science-y moments. For me, there was a nice balance between sci-fi and action as well as between the sci-fi and romantic elements. Lucy is a likable character and I found myself cheering her on as she takes a stand.

Author K. K. Pérez provides enough twists to keep a reader guessing, but not too many where it becomes tedious. I do like that we’re set up for a sequel and when it’s released, I’ll definitely be adding it to my TBR list.

Please go check out the other books by K. K. Pérez at her website and grab a copy of The Tesla Legacy today.

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

“It was the dawn of new era, one where most of the human race now spent all of their free time inside a videogame.”

(Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, Chapter 0005, page 60)

Fun and entertaining—Ready Player One by Ernest Cline delivers more than just a nostalgic look at the games and pop culture from my childhood. The story is as immersive as the fictional OASIS, a mix of dystopia and sci-fi with plenty of action and references to satisfy my inner geek.

RPO

I did not read the book before I saw the movie and I’m glad I saw the movie first. Full disclosure, I really enjoyed the Ready Player One movie directed by Steven Spielberg and I’ve watched it multiple times. It’s the movie that prompted me to check out the book and want to read it; and I’m really glad I read Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.

My advice: Don’t go into reading the book expecting to find the movie jammed between the pages. While they share the same title, characters, and overall theme, the Ready Player One book and movie really are two separate entities, both with their own merits.

Now, if you read the book first, I can see why maybe you didn’t care for the movie. Or maybe you did. Whatever. It’s my review and I liked them both, but have no issue keeping them as two different stories.

Let’s get back to the book. I liked it and plan to re-read it because there’s a lot to take in. It’s very detailed (okay, at times rambling) but I enjoyed the references and it didn’t take long for me to become invested in the journey of Wade Watts.

Wade Owen Watts (yes, his initials are W.O.W. and how fun is that when they’re entered into the high scorers screen of an old-school video game) spends his free time in the OASIS: the Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation. It’s 2044 and the world is a mess due to many factors including the Global Energy Crisis. The OASIS is a virtual utopia where humans can escape their depressing reality. Its creator has died but left behind a challenge; a game for gamers. If they can find the Easter egg Halliday hid in the OASIS, they inherit his vast fortune.

Halliday left three keys that had to be found followed by challenges to be won/solved before moving to the next key. Wade is on the hunt, one of the “gunters” going for egg, and his OASIS avatar is known as Parzival or “Z”.

Along with his best friend Aech (pronounced like the letter “H”) and other gunters known as Art3mis, Shoto, and Daito, they vie to reach each key and claim the ultimate prize. Throw in the corporate baddies and their leader Sorrento and the race is on.

The book is told in first person from Wade/Parzival’s perspective. It’s extremely detailed, almost too much at times, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the overall story and rooting for Wade to get to that egg and not let Sorrento win.

Do I recommend Ready Player One by Ernest Cline? Yes, I do for fans of light sci-fi that’s filled (brimming!) with 80s pop culture and gamer references.

Book Review: Slayer by Kiersten White

“When you know as much as we do, how can you ever decide to just . . . stop? Stop fighting? Stop trying to help? Once you’re in, you can’t turn your back on it.”

(Slayer, by Kiersten White, Chapter 17, page 224)

 

I really liked Slayer by Kiersten White and I say that as a huge fan of both the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie from 1992 and the long-running series—and I did watch all of Angel. I haven’t read the comics or graphic novels, so if you haven’t either, no worries. You won’t be lost, just maybe a bit surprised at few things that have gone down since Buffy, the slayers, and the Scoobies closed the Hellmouth in Sunnydale.

Slayer

Slayer offers a different look at the Buffyverse, centered on what’s left of the Watchers and what happens when the last slayer becomes activated. Set primarily at and near the Watcher’s Academy, not far from Dublin, twins Artemis and Athena have grown up there. Their mother is on the now very small Watcher’s Council (remember the majority of Watchers were blown up?) and their father was a Watcher too.

Before he died. Protecting his slayer. Buffy.

Artemis and Athena, nicknamed Nina, are the only children of Buffy’s first Watcher, Merrick.

As children of Watchers, the twins’ lives have definitely not been normal, nor has their education. Artemis has trained in weapons and combat, while Nina has been more protected and has a natural hand (and preference) for healing. They’ve dealt with tragedy throughout their young lives, from the death of their father to the devastating fire that almost killed Nina because their mother chose to save Artemis first.

Their world shifts again after Buffy destroys the Seed of Wonder and magic is purged from the world and all portals and hellmouths are closed. However, moments before it’s destroyed, something happens to Nina. She’s now the last slayer, and she never even knew she was a potential. It comes as a bit of shock, once she finally notices. It takes her a bit.

Slayer combines all the elements I have come to know and love from the Buffyverse and then adds a few twists that, for me, worked. There was ample teen angst, relationship issues, and jealousies flouncing about as well as parental units and Watchers that relentlessly get in the way.

I loved the supporting characters, in particular Cillian and Rhys as well as demon Doug. I never fully warmed up to Artemis, but that’s okay. I don’t think she’s completely likable. Then again, Nina definitely has her moments when you want to slap her upside the head as well—but let’s be truthful, there were times we wanted to slap Buffy too.

Kiersten White plays homage to the original Buffyverse nicely. I particularly enjoyed the dream connections and the interaction Nina gets with both Faith and Buffy. Slayer has plenty of action, the right amount of snark and wit, and plenty of heart. Loved the reveal of the “hunter” at the end and look forward to seeing how this all plays out in future stories.

If you’re a fan of any Buffy the Vampire Slayer stories, then definitely check out Slayer by Kiersten White. Also White is the author of one of my favorite (and often re-read) YA series: The Paranormalcy Series. I highly recommend it, you’ll totally love Evie and she always reminded me a bit of Buffy.

You can check out all Kiersten White’s books at her website: kierstenwrites.blogspot.com/p/upcoming-books

If you’ve never seen the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie (and WHY haven’t you?!) take a look-see at it on the IMDb.

The Book of Answers by A.L. Tait

“Gabe didn’t always agree with the method the girls employed in their assistance, but he couldn’t argue with the results.

They always acted out of kindness, love and charity—

but they always acted.”

(Chapter 9, page 178, The Book of Answers by A.L. Tait)

The Book of Answers by A.L. Tait is the second book of the Ateban Cipher duology and an action-packed adventure filled with intrigue, suspense, friendship, and fun. Author A.L. Tait takes readers on a journey they won’t soon forget.

bookofanswers

Gabe, Gwyn, Merry, Scarlett, and Midge are on the run again. Along with Eddie, the son of the king, the group journeys to a remote place named Haydon’s Mont where they hope to uncover the secret behind the mysterious book Gabe must protect at all costs. Hunted by their enemies, they face terrible dangers and must use all their cunning and bravery to get Eddie the documents he needs to regain his crown and survive long enough to rescue Merry and Scarlett’s dad from execution. Gabe discovers the truth about his own birthright and pushes himself to new levels of valor to help save his friends, their families, and the king while protecting the precious Book.

I really enjoyed The Book of Answers from start to finish, and then wished there was more. It’s a great escape from our modern world and I love being swept into a story that takes me on a journey. From our band of heroes trek to Haydon’s Mont to the outlying villages and the great courtyard at Rothwell Castle, author A.L. Tait delivers exciting action sequences, witty dialogue, and characters to like, love, and even detest—because you can’t have an adventure story without a few bad guys giving chase.

If you’re a regular reader of my book reviews, you know I don’t do spoilers. I will tell you that the secret behind the Book is pretty cool and how the book can be read, is even better.

Pick up the Ateban Cipher duology today. I highly recommend The Book of Answers and loved how the two books effortlessly merged into one grand adventure.

Please visit author A.L. Tait at her website for links to The Book of Secrets and The Book of Answers as well as her not-to-be-missed books: The Mapmaker Chronicles.

You can find reviews on all four of the Mapmaker books here on my site as well as my review of The Book of Secrets.

The Book of Secrets: An Ateban Cipher Novel by A.L. Tait

“Your head can be turned, your heart can be wooed, but your gut never lies.”

(Merry, chapter 4, page 61 of The Book of Secrets by A.L. Tait)

The Book of Secrets by A.L. Tait is book one in a duology titled the Ateban Cipher. Fourteen year old Gabe, an orphan living in the Oldham Abbey, finds himself the protector of a a special book. It’s thrust upon him by the dying Brother Benedict, who tells him to “take it to Aidan.” Gabe’s perilous journey begins, book in hand, as he flees the only home he’s ever known. With the help of a group of rebel girls, Gabe takes on a quest to find the mysterious “Aidan” and assist the girls in rescuing a wrongfully imprisoned family member.

bookofsecrets

This book is so much fun! As a kid, I loved books like The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and the swashbuckling stories of the Three Musketeers. The Book of Secrets has a similar feel, in my opinion. It’s packed with action, adventure, danger, and an intriguing mystery.

I loved the wit and whimsy of the dialogue and the pacing of each scene. As for characters, Gabe is very likable and you’re cheering him on from the start. The girls are amazing and I loved each of them—smart, brave, loyal, and caring. And they save Gabe more than once. You want Merry, Gwyn, Scarlett, and Midge on your side.

There’s a lot happening in The Book of Secrets, but the story flows effortlessly with a comfortable balance of action, exposition, and dialogue. While not set in modern day, author Tait makes it easy to envision the times through her vivid descriptions and dialogue. I’d recommend The Book of Secrets for mid-grade readers through teens, but adults will enjoy this adventure as well.

Please visit author A.L. Tait at her website and check out The Book of Secrets and more. I also highly recommend her Mapmaker Chronicles series.