The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Expertly woven, perfectly twisted plot makes this Sci-Fi/Fantasy one of the best
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The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Putnam Juvenile | Hardcover, 480 pages
This book has been the subject of many gushing reviews on Goodreads. I was a little intimidated by it just because I saw myself as another outsider among the legions of fans that were tripping all over themselves. The Sci-Fi thing and the alien invasion thing aren’t really my cup of tea. So that only added to my trepidation to read it. But by the end of chapter two, I’m sunk.

The invasion happened like a masterful thief in the night. Humans didn’t know, wouldn’t have known until they actually made their presence known by unleashing the most brilliantly executed form of invasion. It came in five waves: First – an E.M.P blast strong enough to take out all forms of communications, power and every technological apparatus known to man. Cell phones, electricity, planes, and automobiles instantly died. Second – the big one. An earthquake that took out most of the coastal cities all over the world, therefore drowning almost half of the population. Third – pestilence. An airborne Ebola virus that pretty much guaranteed whoever survived the earthquake wouldn’t survive the epidemic. Fourth – the Silencer. Aliens trained to take out every human they see by putting a bullet to their heads. So the “cleansing” was almost complete until the fifth wave, which was brilliant in such a way that it was a form of psychological warfare. But you’ll have to read the book for you to find out.

It was a strategic plan that the aliens had used against humans because they knew how we think and they were always one step ahead. Rick Yancey made it even more credible via his characters. It was enough to make you think that everything you’ve read was entirely possible. And man,Yancey knew plot twists like he invented the concept. It took me a couple of tries before I wrapped my head around it but by the time I figured it out, I was entranced and completely in awe. It was like an M. Night Shyamaylan movie playing out right before your eyes. And love him or hate him, the guy would be the man for the job to bring this book to life. Sorry (not sorry).

The fact that the aliens aren’t your garden variety cone heads with dark onyx eyes only added to the suspenseful element of the book. The author would have you on tenterhooks along with the characters who were anxiously waiting for the fifth wave of the attack.

Cassie was an incredible force of a character. Her stream of consciousness vacillated between fear, anger and determination beyond any of us could ever muster. If you can even believe it, there is a romance in here that will hit you like a speeding freight train. And it’s so sweet and so impossible but lovely in all the ways I love my romances in a book.

After reading this book, I have concluded that sometimes, the hype machine actually knows what it’s talking about.

My rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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Here by Denise Grover Swank

Publication Date: November 11th, 2012
Self-Published
Format: Paperback, 344 pages
RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars

SUMMARY

Sixteen year old Julia Phillips buries herself in guilt after killing her best friend Monica in a car accident. Julia awoke in the hospital with a broken leg, a new talent for drawing and false memories of the accident, in which she dies and Monica lives. The doctors attribute this to her head injury, but no one can explain how a bracelet engraved with her name ended up at the scene of the accident. A bracelet no one has ever seen before.

Classmate Evan Whittaker paid Julia no attention before the accident, let alone after. Now suddenly he’s volunteering to tutor her and offering to drive her home. She can’t ignore that his new obsession started after his two-day disappearance last week and that he wears a pendant she’s been drawing for months. When the police show up one night looking for Evan, he begs Julia to run with him, convincing her that Monica is still alive. Julia agrees to go, never guessing where he’s really from.

At first glance, Here’s cover bespeaks loudly of your run-of-the mill paranormal read; wolves? Shifters? Maybe even vampires or ghosts. But never would I have expected a parallel universe. I was getting ready to go to bed when this book caught my eye. It was just sitting on my desk along with my pile of Self-Pub Challenge books. Once I started reading, I was half worried, half excited that it was going to keep me up all night. But alas, I succumbed to tiredness and got through about half of it. In all honesty, I loved about three-quarters of this book and felt so-so about the rest of it. I’ll explain further…or I’ll cite the circumstances why this book didn’t sustain its lovability. 
Quick Synopsis: Reeling from the death of her best friend, Julia has all but given up. She was debilitated by guilt and blamed herself for being alive. Her school work has suffered tremendously and her family was on the verge of collapse. At school, she’s the proverbial social pariah. That is, until Evan Whittaker, the it boy of James Monroe High started paying her unwanted attention and volunteered to be her tutor. It doesn’t take long until Evan showed signs that he knew more than he was letting on, dropping hints about the past that Julia knew nothing of. After a fight over a bracelet she woke up wearing after the accident, Evan disappeared and a police manhunt ensued. That same night, Evan came calling on Julia and begged her to come away with him. The rest of the story flipped on the side of crazy, as Evan takes Julia to a world where United States was reduced to 10 regions, plants don’t grow, and the world as they knew it, was still suffering from a nuclear fall-out that happened decades in the past.
Whew. That was a mouthful…and hardly quick.
DGS bisected the past and the present, combining them into a reality unheard of. The prologue was set in the 60s at a time when there was a considerable fear of a nuclear attack from the Russians.  Though it took a while for Denise to reveal how this would all be melded in the story, it’s what sucked me in to the entire novel as a whole. I couldn’t really tell what this book was about from the summary alone so to eventually find its relation to Julia and Evan’s story was definitely a nice surprise. 
As for the characters, Evan gave me quite a worry there for a second. His fascination with Julia seemed a little sudden and unfounded from the start and for a moment, it bordered on instant-love. And when I found out the reason why, my opinion of Evan’s behavior changed from reasonably acceptable to…NOT. I mean, I don’t think he pined for her enough. Knowing what he knew then and knowing how much he loved her, I think Evan’s reaction to Julia was a little subdued, in my opinion, considering how much he mourned for her ‘loss’. I may sound a bit confusing and vague now but there are spoilers to consider.

Julia Phillips was a likable character. Though she spent some time moaning about her loss, the author worked very hard at making her a strong character regardless, especially during the times when she had to be the strong one in the family. 

This is where it gets tricky. I did say I loved this book but upon Reece’s introduction, I started to break out in hives. LOVE TRIANGLE allergies. I hate when that happens. I was sold on the Evan/Julia pairing and though Here has a different spin on this tired not so romantic arc, I just…I just don’t really like it. It’s the heroine waffling between two heroes that irritates me. In the end, the wonderful start and the gripping middle just kind of ended on a flat note. Which is unfortunate because that’s when things got intense.

VERDICT: Despite the dud ending, I’m glad I got to discover Here for the first time. Denise Grover Swank’s ability to create a well-evolved story truly shows in this book. The over-all ambiguity of the story made for a page-turner that will take you into an alternate universe that stands above some of the  dystopian novels you’ve ever read – and really, this is the best thing about this book: the unexpectedness of where Ms. Swank will take you is simply remarkable. I’m just sorry that my enthusiasm over the book was marred by that dreadful you-know-what.

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Review: The Other Life by Susanne Winnacker

Publication Date: February 1st, 2012
Usborne
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
SUMMARY
3 years, 1 month, 1 week and 6 days since I’d seen daylight. One-fifth of my life. 98,409,602 seconds since the heavy, steel door had fallen shut and sealed us off from the world
Sherry has lived with her family in a sealed bunker since things went wrong up above. But when they run out of food, Sherry and her dad must venture outside. There they find a world of devastation, desolation…and the Weepers: savage, mutant killers.
When Sherry’s dad is snatched, she joins forces with gorgeous but troubled Joshua – an Avenger, determined to destroy the Weepers.
But can Sherry keep her family and Joshua safe, when his desire for vengeance threatens them all?

Three years have passed since Sherry’s family sequestered themselves in a bunker and things are looking mighty bleak. They’ve just eaten their last food, her mother’s asthma is getting worse and grandma seems to be on the brink of madness. Her father had come to the conclusion that he would not stand by and watched his family barely survived the plague only to die of starvation. He made the decision to go up to the surface and find food or help. Sherry could not let her father go alone, and with a basic gun knowledge and by virtue of being the eldest of the siblings, she volunteered to help. The world they once knew was now a desolate, scary place – overrun by monsters with a healthy appetite for fresh flesh and blood. While on a hunt, Sherry and her father found themselves surrounded by Weepers. Her father was taken while Sherry was thankfully saved by a fearless boy who’s a danger to himself. Joshua has nothing and no one left to lose. He has one thing left to live for – to hunt and kill the monsters that prowl the streets. Sherry is left to ponder if his appetite for destruction will be the cause of their eventual demise.

This book’s release date in North America is not till May. But because I’ve never really been known for my patience, I ordered the UK copy right away (the UK copy has a better cover anyway, IMO). Why? Well, it’s just my type of book; post-apocalyptic with some zombie-like, flesh and blood eating creatures terrorizing the country. I was sold. And let me tell you, this was a relentless read. It sank its teeth onto me and never let go until the bitter end. Here, I was introduced to a different breed of monsters…kind of like zombies but not really. Think, werewolves/zombies.  A new strain of rabies turned humans into well, rabid, flesh eating creatures and yet somehow have managed to keep some of their brains.  That’s what they were, smart monsters – a scarier breed of monsters who stockpile humans by kidnapping them and bringing them to their nests for future…err, feeding. It’s almost as if they knew that their supply for food will eventually dwindle. So the story begins when Sherry teams up with Joshua to find her father. Alive or dead, they have a tiny window of time to save him, or what’s left of him.

This novel moves unforgivingly fast. You’re thrown into a terrifying world where you feel like you’re being chased all the time – where sleep is an impossible feat because you know as soon as you close your eyes, the horrific images of the day will be the movie that plays behind your eyelids.  And the thing about it was, that jittery feeling never left until there was only about a page left. And even then, I was still not comforted with the thought that everyone was safe for the time being. The tension and the feeling of dread was a constant thing.

I also loved that the author managed to give us a sort of Genesis to the post-apocalyptic environment of the book by imposing some of Sherry’s past, which ultimately gave us a view of the beginning and the end of her world. It was all easily imagined and it’s a credit to Ms. Winnacker’s writing. She was very straight-forward and concise, helpful especially to this genre where every fear of every character plays an integral role in capturing the over all emotional ambiance of the book. Nothing was lost in translation, everything was succinct.

Overall, The Other Life is a gruesome story told in a grueling pace. If you’ve ever complained about a slow start to a book, or a plateau in the middle, well, you will not find it here. It’s like a bag of Lay’s potato chips, once you start, you can’t stop. The worst part about reading this book? The waiting for the sequel.

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Review: The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe

Publication Date: January 24th, 2012
Disney-Hyperion
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
SUMMARY
It starts with an itch you just can’t shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you’ll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in.
And then you’re dead.
When a deadly virus begins to sweep through sixteen-year-old Kaelyn’s community, the government quarantines her island—no one can leave, and no one can come back.
Those still healthy must fight for dwindling supplies, or lose all chance of survival. As everything familiar comes crashing down, Kaelyn joins forces with a former rival and discovers a new love in the midst of heartbreak. When the virus starts to rob her of friends and family, she clings to the belief that there must be a way to save the people she holds dearest.
Because how will she go on if there isn’t?

The Way We Fall is a story about a small island held hostage by a deadly virus. It’s told in a series of letters written by Kaelyn to her estranged best friend Leo. Kaelyn is a teenager who had front view accounts to how fast the virus ravaged a small community that already had its share of diminishing population driven by economic woes. Little by little, her small family had become victim to the disease while her father, the town’s microbiologist, worked day and night to stop the contagion. First it was her Uncle Emmett, shot dead while protesting the government’s quarantine orders. Then it was her mother who fell victim to the disease. Then it was Drew, her brother, who disappeared soon after Kaelyn had gotten sick. The town was also being run by a group of violent thugs, who thought the best way to get rid of the disease was to shoot anyone with the symptoms. They stole food and destroyed buildings. But amidst the seemingly hopeless situations, a new friendship blossomed and Kaelyn found herself aligning with an unlikely ally.

I was under the impression that this was going to be another dystopian read or at least, post-apocalyptic. It was actually not even close. The contagion was isolated in a small island, so all the bleakness characteristic of those two somewhat similar genres didn’t really apply. Can you even consider it post-apocalyptic when the deaths were concentrated on a small island? Pandemic, yes. Dystopian? No, post-apocalyptic? Maybe.  But then again, I’m hardly an expert. I have watched movies of similar story lines; a virus spreading like wildfire, killing people in a matter of days, sometimes hours. I had a lot of expectations. I expected to be disturbed by the failing human conditions associated with the chaos. But aside from the gun-toting thugs burning houses and shooting one victim right in front of our characters, I hardly flinched. The onslaught of the virus, the burgeoning spread of the disease, the need to find a cure – all lacked the much needed urgency. I think it has something to do with the way this story was told. Kaelyn’s letters/journalized accounts of what was happening on the island was really focused more on her emotional state at the time of writing. It was also her way of trying to repair a damaged friendship with Leo so most of her entries were fond recollections, saturated with contrition. She didn’t really have a first hand account of how her father had tried to find a cure, so it was difficult to see how helpless her father was. In the end, the cure was really simple, predictable even.

I don’t really know how this story could’ve been done better. On the one hand, the technique used to tell the story was perfect for what Kaelyn was trying to accomplish. And on the other, the author failed to properly convey all the elemental foundation to this series. I was bogged down with the slowness of the pace and overall lack of descriptive explanations about a lot of things.  Yes, I understand that this is a series (like a lot of the YA books nowadays!). But there’s a lot to be said about a proper set-up, beginnings, if I may.

I just wasn’t that enthusiastic about it all. I found myself straying most of the time, forcing myself to finish even though all I wanted to do was to pick up another book. I was interested enough to see it through, however. Due to its format, this book is heavy on narration. The sparse dialogues didn’t alleviate the tedious litany of Kaelyn’s voice. Incidentally, I was bed ridden with the flu while I was reading this book so to actually have a first-hand insight to the symptoms probably helped from flouncing mid-way through.

I’m hoping that the mysterious Leo would make an appearance on the next book. Because then perhaps, the monotonous journal entries/letters would cease and I could enjoy this series more.

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