Contained is S. L. Harpel’s debut novel. It is a young adult, science-fiction tale built around a young girl, Ella, who finds herself torn between two worlds. Ella was born in the Outskirts, the barren wasteland that covers most of the planet after man has destroyed it with biological weapons. While still a small child, she is chosen by a wealthy couple and taken into one of the Communities. There are nine Communities and each is dome-protected and full of life and abundance, but very few humans have the chance to live in one.
Ella faces a difficult choice because she wants to be loyal to her sister, Beaunca, who stayed behind in the Outskirts. However, there are many, many good things to life in the Community, from good food to advanced medical care, and Ella starts to be able to see the world from two points of view.
Contained is told from Ella’s first-person point of view. The writing style allows you to feel what Ella feels and do some self-examination as you decide which choices you might make in a similar situation. The book is reminiscent of the time when social standing and civil liberties were determined on where you were born. Had she not been chosen, Ella would not have the options now before her. She must choose to support the Community, find a way to elevate the lower classes, or find a positive middle-ground between the two.
The dystopian nature of the book is a possible future that is all too likely. Seeing a glimpse of how the world could evolve if we continue to destroy the planet was both fascinating and chilling.
What I Liked
Contained has a fast pace with rich characters. Since it is told from the first-person perspective, you feel what Ella feels as she faces each choice and decision. Ella faces a struggle with not only the world she has been forced to live in but a secret that she is forced to keep hidden inside. The story does a good job of not getting bogged down in unnecessary details and tells you what you need to know when you need to know it.
The character development was also well done. Each main character is a solid and fully fleshed out individual. Well not too much time is spent describing each character, you are given enough to see the whole person and their personality.
The only thing I had a hard time with in Contained was the abundance of characters. So many characters were described and named that I had a hard time keeping them all straight. At times, I was a little confused as to whether I really needed to know about a character or not. The plethora of characters introduced is the only reason I did not give this book a five-star review. That said, for the most part, the story sticks to the important characters and you learn who they are and what’s important about them. This minor negative did not detract from the excellent storytelling.
To me, Contained was a quick read that I had a hard time putting down. I was drawn in from the first few lines and am looking forward to reading Book Two. There were a few minor imperfections in the book, but none so much as to interfere with your reading enjoyment. The only reason I am not giving this book a five-star review is that I got confused more than a few times due to the sheer number of characters that are introduced and developed.
In conclusion, if you like dystopian science fiction and/or young adult literature, you will enjoy Contained. The book builds believable worlds that draw you in, and you find yourself invested as to which world or social group will or should prosper. There is definitely plenty of substance for this series to go on, possible through many more books. I highly recommend this book.
What would you be willing to do to find the one that got away? Would you travel to another country? Would you comb the streets of a foreign city? Such questions form the basis of Tokyo Story by Tereza Mackova.
Tokyo Story, Tereza Mackova’s debut novel, tells the tale of Alice. In her mid-twenties and just out of college, Alice is a quiet and sensible girl. Still, the man she loved, or the man she thought she loved, had gone home to his family two years prior. Her relationship with Katsu had been short but intense, and she wanted him back. The only clue she had about him was that he was in Tokyo, so to Tokyo Alice goes.
Everything about the city is foreign to Alice, except for some of the language that she has learned. A chance meeting brings Hiraku across her path. Hiraku is about the same age and returning home to Japan after studying in the United States. He’s stylish, charming and readily admired by everyone he meets. He decides he will be the guide that Alice needs to find her beloved Katsu.
Tokyo Story is a fun romp through the streets of Tokyo filled with lighthearted and sometimes awkward moments, as Alice seems to be inclined to misadventures. There are several laugh-out-loud moments as the accident-prone girl makes more than one lapse in judgment.
The language throughout the book is clean and appropriate for even a teenage audience. The storytelling is light and makes for a fast read and enjoyable read.
The Not So Good
I can honestly say that there wasn’t anything that I didn’t like about this book. It follows a typical romantic comedy trajectory, which means at times some of the scenes are a little silly. However, that silliness is integral to the genre and well-placed where it shows up in the novel.
If you are a fan of smart humor and contemporary romance, you will enjoyTokyo Story. The characters are both likable and relatable, but honest enough that you can see their flaws and imperfections. Alice and Hiraku are individuals you would want to be friends with.
In conclusion, it was also a pleasant experience to learn a little more about Tokyo and to learn a few Japanese words along the way. The author does an excellent job of highlighting the culture and social norms of the area.
Final rating: 5 of 5 Stars
About Tereza Mackova
Since she was a child, Tereza Mackova has loved good stories. Books were a large part of her childhood, and she found herself reading everything she could.
In time, she volunteered for the Center for Integration of Foreigners in Prague, Czech Republic, which is near her home. That unique role helped her to learn more about various countries and cultures. Some of her travels in that position took her to Japan. The beauty of the people and the land inspired her so much that she had to use it for the backdrop for her debut novel.
Michael Crichton was an amazingly talented author that we lost much too soon. Crichton finished his writing journey in 2008, but I firmly believe his legacy and books will last for eternity.
One of my favorite authors (it’s so hard to try to narrow that list down), I have read almost everything that Crichton wrote. This list is my seven favorites from his collection.
Even though Michael Crichton knew he wanted to be a writer, he initially set out to take the safe course. He pursued a medical career and graduated with an MD from Harvard Medical School in 1969. He started his writing career while at Harvard, initially writing under the pseudonyms John Lange and Jeffery Hudson. You can read more about Crichton on his official website.
Altogether, Crichton wrote about 30 books, three of which have been published since his passing. In addition, he was the force behind the hit TV series ER, and many of his books, including most of those listed here, have been turned into movies.
His experience helps keep me motivated and patient while I continue working today success. Hopefully, one day, someone will write a post like this about my books.
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The Top 7 Best Michael Crichton Books
I know not everyone will agree with me, but Sphereis by far my most loved book by Michael Crichton. While they did their best to make a worthwhile movie, it does not even shake a stick at the masterpiece Crichton originally wrote.
I’ll admit, the Sphere movie is better than a lot of book-to-movie adaptations. Unlike Battlefield Earth, which was an excellent book, but about the worst movie I have ever seen.
Sphere takes place at the bottom of the South Pacific ocean. A large spacecraft has been discovered and an elite team of scientists are tasked with exploring it and its wonders. The secrets they uncover and the dangers they face makes this a book that was hard to put down. It will always be my go-to when I need a little heart-pumping action.
I cannot recommend this book enough. It has been a treasured part of my collection since I purchased it in 1990. I have leant my personal copy out more times than I can remember, and recommended others read it probably hundreds of times. It will forever be one of my favorites. It’s been in my mind a lot as I develop my current work-in-progress, Paradise.
Timelineis another masterpiece that, in my opinion, did not get the rave reviews it deserved. In this case, the movie adaptation did do a decent job of portraying the story (and features Paul Walker and Gerard Butler – not related, but would be awesome if he was), but movies will never be able to cover the depth or emotion that can be found in the written word.
The book begins with a man speaking unintelligibly wandering dazed in the Arizona desert. He survives less that 24 hours after he is found.
On the other side of the world, an unbelievable find is discovered by an archaeological team. The discovery leads to the introduction to a secretive, international corporation that gives the archaeologists the chance to not only study the past, but to see the past first-hand.
This fun read is full of action and emotion as the team strives to rescue a beloved friend. If you have not read Timeline, be sure to add it to your reading list. The movie is worth watching after you read the book.
Perhaps the most well-known and most beloved of Michael Crichton’s books isJurassic Park. Don’t think that you know this book just because you have seen the movies. While the movies were masterfully done (except for maybe The Lost World), the book gives you much more detail and more insight into the characters than is possible with film.
I hardly need to go into detail, but Jurassic Park centers around a new theme park idea. An island has been transformed into a new home for dinosaurs. The dinosaurs have been resurrected thanks to the ingenuity of technical science.
Sometimes the best of plans lead to terrible consequences, and that is exactly what happens in Jurassic Park. Don’t think that any of the heart-racing moments are lost on the written page. In fact, I think the book scared me more than the movies did. This is a classic that everyone should read at least once.
To me, Preyis both exciting and terrifying. The story could easily take place today.
It centers around the Xymos Corporation based in the Nevada desert. Xymos is a leader in nanotechnology, but their latest invention has gotten the upper hand on them. When eight people become trapped by a cloud of nanobots, it will take all the ingenuity they have to survive – if they can.
I loved this book because it feels like something that could happen in today’s world. It’s the story of both technological triumphs and the warning of how technology could turn against us.
Everyone would enjoy this book, but especially those fans of speculative fiction. The simple idea of what could happen is sometimes more scary that what does happen.
Rising Sun is a break from the science fiction genre that Michael Crichton may be best known for. The book begins in downtown Los Angeles. The Japanese super-corporation, Nakamoto, is celebrating their grand opening for their United States headquarters, when the body of a young woman is discovered on the 46th floor of their building.
The death leads to an intense chase full of industrial intrigue and unexpected twists. The Japanese have a saying, “Business is war.” This tale takes that war to a whole new level.
I loved Rising Sun for its fast pace and the depth of the different characters. Not everything is as it seems, so you have to make sure you are paying attention. This is a great book to introduce you to Crichton’s writing style if you have not already read any of his other works.
For those of you that want to cheat, there is a movie adaptation. It stars Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes.
Disclosureis another fast-paced tale of corporate intrigue. The main character, Tom Sanders, works for the computer firm DigiCom and is quickly making his way up the corporate ladder. His future is bright until a meeting behind closed doors alone with his new female boss sends everything into a death spiral.
This book is just as timely today as when it was written, and perhaps more so, as the Me Too movement continues to gain traction. It tells the story from the other side, a what-if scenario where a man might be accused of something he didn’t do.
There are more secrets than just the ones involving Sanders. What he learns in his struggle to clear his name will forever alter his view of his beloved company.
I loved this book for its ripped-from-the-headlines feel. Michael Crichton was not afraid to feature a subject that many might have felt taboo at the time of his writing. Still as relevant today, it is a book that everyone will enjoy reading.
Last in my list is State of Fear. It revolves around Peters Evans, an environmental lawyer that is working to keep the world a safe place to live. Battling against an eco-terrorist group that is conspiring to cause natural disasters fueled by the weather, Evans’ work is cut out for him.
State of Fear takes you around the world from Antarctica to the Solomon Islands and many more locations. Full of action and science that could realistically be happening in our world today, it highlights issues like global warming and how man is affecting the weather.
It made my top seven list because it was full of facts that really made me think about what is happening with weather today. In addition, it is full of action and highly entertaining. Again, I had a hard time putting the book down and read it in one weekend. If you are at all concerned about the weather issues we keep seeing, you will be enlightened by this book.
This list of Michael Crichton books is hardly exhaustive. In fact, he wrote close to 30 books, three that were published posthumously, includingDragon Teeth, which was just published in 2017. It is one of the few books of his I have not read but will add it to this list later on.
I can’t say I loved all his books. To be honest, I was rather disappointed with both Airframe and Next. That said, even my least favorite books by Crichton were good enough that I read the book in its entirety. I’m not saying the books were bad. You may in fact love the books, but the seven listed above are my favorites. The two mentioned here just did not resonate with me.
Do you have a favorite by Crichton that I have not listed? Share your title and why you loved it in the comments below.
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Book Review: Mall Hair Maladies by Kristy Jo Volchko
Mall Hair Maladies is told in first-person from the perspective of fourteen-year-old Tanya Sheffield. As she states in the beginning of the book, “All it takes is one chance meeting or moment to change everything.” Tanya’s life is changed by meeting her new best-friend, Randi Gattano. That friendship puts several things in motion that change everything in Tanya’s life over the course of 12 months.
The year is 1985 and Madonna’s career has just launched into the stratosphere. Teenage girls, Tanya and Randi, are on joint mission as super fans to see the star in concert. Along the way, they are two typical teenage girls trying to survive their freshman year and all the challenges that life throws at a teenage girl.
The book is written for the tween audience. For those of us that were children or teens of the 80’s, it is equally enjoyable. Maybe even more so.
Kristy Jo Volchko does a great job of sharing the teenage mind. The book has a quick pace and a sense of urgency throughout as Tanya is ever working toward her primary goal of seeing Madonna in concert. The dialogue is enjoyable to read and keeps you invested in the characters.
My favorite part of the book was all of the 1980’s references. From words like psyche and bodacious, to smoking in the school bathroom and clouds of hairspray in the school halls, many of the references could have easily been pulled out of my high school experience.
As loyal Madonna followers, the girls work hard to have the biggest hair, more jelly bracelets than an arm can hold, and iconic fingerless gloves, even if they must make the latter themselves. There are grooming malfunctions, fashion agonies and plenty of teen angst to keep young readers connected to the story.
Other items that really struck me were the release of Madonna’s movie, Desperately Seeking Susan, and the character reading Flowers in the Attic, both iconic items from the 80’s. Music references from Huey Lewis to Hall and Oates add texture to the tale. I even found myself pulling up an 80’s playlist to listen to as I read the tale.
The Not So Good
Honestly, there is nothing negative for me to say about this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the romp through the 80s through the eyes of two teenage girls. I’m pretty sure I was friends with both of them once upon a time. Volchko writes at a comfortable pace with an easy flow. There’s enough detail to let you fully experience each scene without feeling too wordy.
Whether you are searching for a wholesome book for your tween or looking to relive a little nostalgia for yourself, you will be very happy with Mall Hair Maladies. The book is very entertaining and each reading session left me with a good feeling and happy memories.
Mall Hair Maladies is volume 1 in what will be a series. Look for the sequel to be released in 2019.
I am thrilled to give this book a 5 out of 5 stars look forward to seeing what Kristy Jo Volchko releases next.
Series: Mall Hair Maladies
Paperback: 268 pages
Publisher: Cackleberry Creek Publishing; First edition (February 2, 2018)
The following books are exactly what you need. If you are new to blogging, or even not so new, you should readGundi Gabrielle’s Beginner Internet Marketing Series. The series is geared to beginner bloggers, but there is a lot of information and resources that will be of benefit to any blogger.
My original intention was not to review these books. So far, this blog is mostly devoted to fiction, and I read the following books for personal growth, not for entertainment. The more I thought about it, though, I decided it was crazy not to write a review.
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While none of the books in the Beginner Internet Marketing Series are a huge time commitment, they did take time away from the books I should be reading and reviewing. There are three books in my queue right now that I had hoped to have reviewed long before now.
To keep up the consistency of blogging book reviews, I decided it best to go ahead and review what I was reading.
Let me start by saying I love the books I have read in this series. To date I have read three.
There are at least five books in Gundi Gabrielle’s Beginner Internet Marketing Series. I say five because only five of the books specifically have that tag on the cover, but there are other books with similar covers that may be intended to be part of the series.
Often unconventional in my approach, I started the series with Book 6, SEO – The Sassy Way to Ranking #1 in Google. There was a method to my madness. Initially, I was originally only interested in learning more about SEO. Since I got so much quality content from the SEO book that I decided to read some of the others.
If you have ever wondered how sites make it to number one on search pages, you should read this book.
SEO – The Sassy Way to Ranking #1 in Googleis an excellent book for beginners. In it, Gabrielle does a stellar job of giving you the basics about SEO in a way that makes it easy to understand and implement into your site.
One of my favorite parts in the book is the description of white hat and black hat practices when it comes to SEO planning and ranking. The wrong practices can damage your ranking or get you banned from search results completely. There are some SEO games you don’t want to ever play.
Overall, it takes about two hours to read the book, but there is such detailed information and numerous useful links that you will want to go through it more than once.
Next up I read You Started a Blog – Now What….?, Book 3 in the series. This book covers topics like writing viral blog posts, steps to grow your audience, and how to monetize your blog.
The main point I picked up from this book was that there is a difference between writing styles for general writing and blog writing. Before now, it never had occurred to me before. I spent some time looking at popular blogs and now I can clearly see the differences.
No doubt you know, blog writing is an evolving process so continued training and modifications are necessary. For continued growth. Gabrielle points out some great resources to improve blog writing skills.
On the subject of monetizing a blog, Gabrielle goes over some of the different options and how to get started with each one. If you recently started a blog and are stuck on what to do next, you will find your guidance in this book.
Finally, the last one I read was Book 4, Social Media Marketing when you have NO CLUE! It delves deep into the main social media platforms: YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook. Each platform has a section of the book devoted to it. An overview is given of each platform. Then best practices and additional resources are discussed.
In addition, Book 4 includes step-by-step instructions are included from setting up your initial account and profile, to how and what to post, to the best daily routine for each platform. Specific advice is given to how your posts should vary from one site to the next and which posts will do the best.
It only takes about two hours to read the book. However, you will want to spend more time with the dozens of links listed in the book Gabrielle has aresource page on her website that you can access from a link in the book. That page goes into even more detail on how to prosper with social media.
Most of all, it is important for you to know that this is not a sponsored post. I am an Amazon Affiliate. As such, I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase through a link on this page. I read the books with myKindle Unlimited subscription. There was no interaction with Gundi Gabrielle prior to writing this review.
My primary reason for this review is that I truly enjoyed and benefitted from these books. I have plans to read the other books in the series. In the future, reviews for other books will be posted as they are read.
In conclusion, Gundi Gabrielle’s series caught my attention because of my Kindle Unlimited subscription. I cannot emphasize the value that a Kindle Unlimited subscription provides. There are thousands of books included and so much to learn. Sign up through the banner below.
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Have you read any ofGundi Gabrielle’sbooks? Please list your favorite and why in the comments below.
As I stated earlier, I had no interaction with Gundi prior to writing this review. however, since then I have joined her Facebook group. The group is a great resource for all authors and bloggers. Be sure to check it out.
This week’s book review takes us into the young adult, science fiction world. Roman Centurions, time travel, romance and art all make their appearance in Cidney Swanson’s A Sword in Time.
A Sword in Timeis the third book in the Thief in Time Series by Cidney Swanson. The time travel series is geared toward a young adult audience. This installment focuses mostly on DaVinci Shaughnessy-Pavlov. DaVinci is on a mission to save her childhood home from destruction, but her well intentioned actions create unforeseen consequences that she is not sure she can live with.
Quintus Valerius has been unwillingly pulled from ancient Rome. He is now stuck in modern times, but he has two missions to accomplish. One, he must return to Rome to deliver an important message from Caesar. Two, he must find and punish the man who forcibly carried him through time.
Let me start with the cover, which I really liked. All three books have professional covers that add to the appeal of the books. A Sword in Timeis an easy and relatively quick read with a generally light and positive tone.
Having not read the first two books in the series, I was concerned that I would not be able to follow this book. For the most part this installment stands on its own. There are a few places when I was a little confused as to what was happening or to a reference from one of the characters, but for the most part it is a good read on its own.
The main characters each have their own unique voice and personality. The book does a good job at making you feel appropriate emotions for each character. I found myself torn because there are two possible futures for both DaVinci and Quintus, and I kept vacillating as to which future I wanted for them. These possibilities kept me turning pages.
The Not so Good
While reading A Sword in Time, I found myself stuck on a few inconsistencies that did hamper some of my enjoyment for this book. For instance, early in the book we learn that time travel trips last about three hours. As the book progresses, the main team that works at progressing time travel are stumped because they are unable to make trips longer than six minutes. It might be that this is resolved in one of the other books in the series.
Each chapter tends to deal with a different character. For the most part, I enjoyed this aspect. However, there are times in the first several chapters where the story bounces quickly through characters and time periods, and I found myself lost more than once. That problem seems to resolve itself after the first dozen chapters.
Cidney Swanson does well at conveying emotion and a sense of urgency from the characters that each have their own missions to accomplish. The language throughout is very family friendly, which to me is essential in a young adult novel. The tale is a bit silly at times, but that is appropriate for the intended audience. In the end, I enjoyed the book and found myself caring about the characters, enough so that I am interested in reading the other installments.
I am scoring this a 4.3 of 5.
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A Sword in Time (Thief in Time Series Book 3)
by Cidney Swanson
Publisher: Kindle Press (January 30, 2018)
What if zombies weren’t bad? How might the world change if they could be trained to work and be useful members of society? What would that world look like? Scott Bell’s Working Stiffs gives you a glimpse into that possible dystopian future.
Scott Bell’sWorking Stiffsis a new twist on the dystopian zombie genre. Rather than being created from the bite of another zombie, these zombies, called Revivants, are created by injected nanobots as a scientific solution to cheap and endless labor. Bodies of the recently deceased are reanimated to serve an abundance of manual labor tasks. The year 2051 is dark and gritty and not one you will want to live in but will enjoy visiting.
The book revolves around two characters, everyday man Joseph “Joe” Warren and Homeland Security Agent, Angel Ramirez.
Joe’s story is told from the first person. In his mid-twenties, Joe is a bit down on his luck. Due to the abundance of Revivants, he has been unable to find work for more than two years. Living in ratty government housing with his ailing girlfriend is a less than ideal life. In an attempt to better their situation, Joe is inadvertently tossed onto a whole new and often violent path.
Agent Ramirez is a corrupt and sadistic Homeland Agent. His tale unfolds in the third-person. Like most of the government, he is intent on keeping the country’s narrative away from the true happenings of everyday life and instead on what is beneficial to the government. Morally bankrupt, he is not afraid to hurt or kill anyone in the path to his goal.
The words flow easily with realistic dialogue and phonetically written accents. Though I did not always understand every word of some of the characters, I was able to hear the individual accents of characters from different ethnicities.
Many of the characters, Millie, John and Alex, to name a few, are lovable and unique. The world of the book is created with enough detail to create a clear image in your mind’s eye without so much as to be exhaustive.
The 80’s child in me enjoyed a lot of the one-liners and quips echoing the bygone decade, such as, “Rodents of Unusual Size.” Additional notations to more recent years are equally enjoyable. I guess I am a bit of a pop culture junkie myself.
Joe’s humor, though more than a bit snarky and often crude and juvenile, did lead to some laugh-out-loud moments. In the beginning, one of the zombies, named Larry, was programed with a little of a sense of humor and repeatedly says, “Braaains!” much to Joe’s annoyance. A bit later someone sarcastically refers to hiring a comedian and Joe says, “You should meet Larry.”
The Not So Good
There was some difficulty on my part in getting through the plethora of expletives, especially in the first third or so of the book. In one section, I noted curse words or vulgar references in almost every line.
Every good book should have color in its dialogue and narrative, but the superabundance in Working Stiffs was a little overwhelming at time for this reader. Had I not agreed to write a review, I may have stopped reading altogether.
I also had a little trouble with many of the pop culture references. While I enjoyed the trip down memory lane, I did find it a bit hard to believe that today’s references would still be as relevant in 2051, especially to someone then in their twenties.
I enjoyed the second half of the book much better than the first and am glad I continued reading. The story really seems to find its way and smooth out the rough edges felt in the opening chapters. Joe becomes the friend you love to hate, and Agent Ramirez the malicious villain that grows worse with each chapter.
Even though there were aspects that I did not enjoy, in the endWorking Stiffsis well-written and easy to read. Despite myself, I was not ready for it to end. If there is a sequel, and a big part of me sincerely hopes there will be, it will be added to my reading queue.
To rate this title on a five-point scale, I would give it 3.75.
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Let me preface the remainder of my review by reminding the reader, this is the firstin a series. One should not expect for all of the storylines to be completed in this book. The author gives us a lot of reasons to want to read the next installments. I write this due to a particularly poor review I read online.
First, I want to mention what I enjoyed most about the book. Ms. Knight creates such detailed and vivid descriptions that you cannot help but experience the worlds she has created. I could clearly see in my mind each location as the story unfolded.
The story is told in the third person, giving us an in depth look into each of the main characters.
Kayla McGann is known throughout the galaxy as a criminal. From the media’s point of view, she was justifiably sent to the asteroid prison to live out her days in agony and torment. Kayla knew, deep inside, that where there is life, there is hope. Her internal struggles and broken spirit kept me wishing her success despite what she may have been part of in the past.
President Chilake is a true politician and could easily have been modeled after many of the notorious individuals we see in today’s news. He is not entirely unlikable, which left me vested as to what might be his ultimate fate. As a master manipulator, he does not imagine that anything could cost him his presidency.
The fast pace of much of the book kept me glued to the pages. Ms. Knight has created a vibrant galaxy that I wanted to be part of. There are many comparisons, some thinly veiled, to today’s world. One can readily see that this science fiction future might not be far off from what the real future will be without major changes on the world front.
In regard to the cover, initially it did not excite me. It is not one that I would probably pick up while walking through the local book store. As I delved deeper into the story, the cover made more sense, and I can see the grit and despair that unfolds within the pages. It still is not my favorite, but I understand the author’s choices.
Overall, I genuinely enjoyed the book and will be reading episode two. Georgia Knight has gained a new fan in me.