The Kill Order

The Kill OrderTitle: The Kill Order
Author: James Dashner
Series: The Maze Runner #.5
Genre(s): Dystopian Fiction, Post-Apocalypse, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 327
Published by Delacorte Press on 2012-08-14
ISBN: 978-0385742894
ASIN: B006ATJXQW
Format: eBook
Source: personal purchase

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

Before WICKED was formed, before the Glade was built, before Thomas entered the Maze, sun flares hit the earth and mankind fell to disease.

Mark and Trina were there when it happened, and they survived. But surviving the sun flares was easy compared to what came next. Now a disease of rage and lunacy races across the eastern United States, and there’s something suspicious about its origin. Worse yet, it’s mutating, and all evidence suggests that it will bring humanity to its knees.

Mark and Trina are convinced there’s a way to save those left living from descending into madness. And they’re determined to find it—if they can stay alive. Because in this new, devastated world, every life has a price. And to some, you’re worth more dead than alive.

My Review

The Kill Order is the first prequel to The Maze Runner series, soon to be followed by The Fever Code.  This book takes place 13 years prior to the events of The Maze Runner and, although I have read many reviews that expressed disappointment because of the lack of connection between this book and the trilogy, but there is a connection.  It comes at the very beginning and at the very end, but it brings it all together. This provides some excellent backstory to The Maze Runner.

The story takes place long before the Maze and the Glade, even before WICKED came into being.  The majority of the story occurs after the sun flares have hit the earth, when groups of people have created new communities and have struggled to survive.  The story of the flares and the immediate aftermath is told through memories of the past, giving the reader a taste of the horror and chaos of the time, the struggle to survive not just the flares, but some of humanity’s worst.

Most of the story is centered around Mark, Alec, Trina, and Deedee, along with other members of their group.  They have struggled, but, with the others, they have created new lives for themselves.  Until the day that a government Berg (an aircraft) shows up and begins shooting darts at them, darts that seem to be filled with some kind of poison.  Once again, their lives are turned on edge and they are fighting to survive.

This is a book that shows humanity both at its best and at its worst.  There is madness and agony, pain and loss.  There are those who will do most anything in the name of the greater good, and those that see things differently and fight for their beliefs.

While it is true that the connections to the main series are only in the beginning and the end of the book, I think that the story told in this book sets the stage for The Maze Runner books.  It explains so much about how the world came to be as it is in ways that the main series does not.  I think it adds a lot to the overall story.

My Recommendation

I read this prior to beginning The Maze Runner and it definitely set the stage for it, although I do think that it could be read after the main series.

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 4.2

About James Dashner

James is the author of THE MAZE RUNNER trilogy and THE 13TH REALITY series. He also published a series (beginning with A DOOR IN THE WOODS) with a small publisher several years ago. He lives and writes in the Rocky Mountains.

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Dropping Gloves

Dropping GlovesTitle: Dropping Gloves
Author: Catherine Gayle
Series: Portland Storm #7
Also in this series: Breakaway, On the Fly, Light the Lamp, Delay of Game, Taking a Shot
Genre(s): Contemporary Fiction, Love & Romance, Sports Fiction
Pages: 269
Published by Night Shift Publishing on 2015-04-14
ISBN: 978-1942177104
ASIN: B00SLECBGI
Format: eARC
Source: author

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

She left to follow her dreams; she’s back to follow her heart.

Katie Weber left her heart in Portland to chase a career in Hollywood. Now she has returned to sing the national anthem for the Portland Storm for their annual Hockey Fights Cancer night. Her longtime crush, Jamie Babcock, is hurting just as much as she is. One look in his eyes is all it takes to know that. She's done the Hollywood thing, though, and she's over it, but it might be too late to dig herself out of the hole she’s dug with him.

Jamie’s already done everything humanly possible to let go of Katie, but she keeps coming back, and she keeps crushing him all over again every time she leaves. His heart has been trampled on more than enough already. At some point, he has to draw the line. Doesn't he? Only, when it's Katie, he's not sure that's even possible. She's in Portland again right now, but he can’t be sure for how long.

Katie knows she has a fight on her hands, in more ways than one, if she’s going to convince Jamie she deserves another chance, but she’s willing to drop her gloves this time. Because in the game of love, all bets are off.

My Review

Now anyone who reads my reviews knows that I am an avid fan girl of Catherine Gayle’s Portland Storm books.  I absolutely love hockey, so I appreciate a good book written around that theme.  But Catherine’s books are so  much more than hockey romance.  They are intensely emotional stories about real people.  There is none of the “celebrity diva” attitude with the players, being down to earth people with real issues, real struggles.  There are times when I feel like Catherine is channeling my life with her stories because they often, in some way, mirror things that are going on in my own life and Dropping Gloves is no different.

One of my favorite things about this series is the cast of characters that appears in each book, whether as the main characters in their own story or as supporting characters in another’s.  Catherine makes characters that we come to love and care about and we don’t lose them or their stories as we move to a new book.  Some of them have been featured in their own books and we get little updates, while others may have yet to have their own books and we get glimpses of future stories.  It’s an exciting way to create a world and I love it!

From the first time we met Jamie “Babs” Babcock, I have been waiting for his story and now we have it!  He has been one of my favorite characters from day one, kind and considerate and fiercely loyal.  I loved the way he fit in with the other players and with their families.  I love a man who genuinely loves kids, something that is a big part of his character.  And then he fell for Katie Weber when her father was his teammate.  And no matter what happened to her, he was there for her.  But then life brought new opportunities to Katie and she left him before even truly giving them a chance together.  That was heartbreaking and it has been talked abut from time to time in subsequent books, building the anticipation for Dropping Gloves.

Hollywood hasn’t been what Katie thought it would be and her career hasn’t gone the way she wants.  She just doesn’t want to keep living the life her agent has been pushing her into.  So when Katie comes home from Hollywood to sing the national anthem for the team’s “Hockey Fights Cancer” night, she is feeling at odds within her own life.  Changes need to be made and she knows it.

This is a story of struggle and change and acceptance.  For Katie, it’s about changing her life and being true to herself.  She has done some things she regrets and she is having a hard time forgiving herself for her own part in her victimization.  That feeling is something that I think all of us can relate to at some point or another.  She realizes just how much she cares about Jamie, but her inability to forgive herself makes her feel as if she just doesn’t deserve someone as wonderful as him.  But, as if all of this wasn’t enough, a personal tragedy in her life turns everything on edge.  And it turns me into an emotional mess!

For Jamie, it begins as a struggle to accept that his time with Katie is over and that he needs to move on.  But then he sees her again and the struggle becomes even harder for him.  He’s hurt and he doesn’t entirely trust her with his heart, but he is still drawn to her and slowly those barriers come down.  I love that his character isn’t scared off by dark times.  Instead, he embraces them and makes himself her rock when she needs it.

My Recommendation

This is a love story that is beautiful, but it isn’t just the romantic love that is beautiful.  It is the love of family and friends, too.  It is emotional and intense and impossible to put down!

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 5

About Catherine Gayle

Catherine Gayle is a bestselling author of Regency-set historical romance and contemporary hockey romance with a New Adult feel. She’s a transplanted Texan living in North Carolina with two extremely spoiled felines. In her spare time, she watches way too much hockey and reality TV, plans fun things to do for the Nephew Monster’s next visit, and performs experiments in the kitchen which are rarely toxic.

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The Truth About Jack

The Truth About JackTitle: The Truth About Jack
Author: Jody Gehrman
Genre(s): Contemporary Fiction, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 192
Published by Entangled Publishing, LLC on 2015-04-15
ISBN: 978-1511544023
ASIN: B00URW6ERE
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

Dakota McCloud has just been accepted into a prestigious art school. Soon she'll leave behind the artists' colony where she grew up―hippie dad, tofu since birth, yurt―and join her boyfriend and best friend on the East Coast. It was the plan…until Dakota finds out her boyfriend and best friend hooked up behind her back.

Hurt and viciously betrayed, Dakota pours out her heart on a piece of paper, places it in a bottle, and hurls it into the ocean. But it doesn't quite go where she expects…

Jack Sauvage finds the bottle washed up on the shore and responds to Dakota's letter. Except what if his straight-laced life doesn’t jive with the free-spirited girl he’s only seen from afar? As Jack creates a persona he believes she’ll love, they slowly fall for each other with each new letter. Now Jack is trying to find a way to make this delicate, on-paper romance happen in real life…without revealing his deception.

My Review

The Truth About Jack is the latest from Jody Gehrman, author of the Audrey’s Guide books.  It is told from the altering points of view of Jack and Dakota, two teenagers with very different voices.

The author is great at creating complex characters, characters with their own stories and issues and little quirks.  There were many moments that a character behaved in a somewhat questionable way, but there were other moments in the history of the character that would ecplain it, turing the questionable behavior into something more sympathetic.

Jack’s character is the epitome of this.  There were moments when he came off as more than a little obsessive, a little stalkerish, a little to instalove.  But, in reality, he was a bit on the dysfunctional side.  He had had some issues with his family, with school, with life, and it left him isolated and insecure.  There were times when I just couldn’t get behind him as a character… until something was said that reminded me of the things he had been through.  Then everything fell into place and I just wanted to hug him and root for him.  Dakota, too, had been through her own fair share of drama recently and was just as scarred as Jack, albeit in a different way.  She had been betrayed and it left her with trust issues that aren’t helped along by more lies.

Dakota and Jack are such completely different characters, from totally opposite ends of the spectrum.  He is privleged and sheltered, while she grew up in an artists’ colony with much more freedom than most.  The one thing they share is a love of creativity, Jack in music and Dakota in art.  The altering points of view really underscored the differences, and the similarities, between them.  I don’t think that the story just couldn’t have been told nearly as effectively with any other form of narration.

My Recommendation

This is a book that had happy moments, sad moments, funny moments, and even some creepy moments.  But what made it a good read were Jack and Dakota, two very different characters that were richly created.  Definitely a recommend!

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 4.2

About Jody Gehrman

Jody is the author of eight novels and numerous plays. Audrey’s Guide to Black Magic is her newest YA novel, the sequel to Audrey’s Guide to Witchcraft. Babe in Boyland was published by Penguin’s Dial books and was optioned by Disney. She also writes stage plays and screenplays. Her plays have been produced in Ashland, New York, San Francisco and L.A. She and her partner David Wolf won the New Generation Playwrights Award for their one-act, Jake Savage, Jungle P.I. She’s a professor of English at Mendocino College.

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Summer Queen

Summer QueenTitle: Summer Queen
Author: Amber Argyle
Series: Fairy Queens #2
Also in this series: Winter Queen, Of Fire and Ash
Genre(s): Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 378
Published by Starling Publishing on 2015-04-02
ASIN: B00RO84KX4
Format: eARC
Source: author

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

Nelay never wanted to be queen.

Poised to become the most powerful priestess in Idara, Nelay doesn’t have time to become a pretty bauble for the king. She’s too busy saving her people from the invading army sweeping across her kingdom.

But in defeat after defeat, Nelay begins to realize a bigger power is at play than that wielded by mere mortals. Only she can stand between the cinders of her once-great nation and the vengeance of a goddess.

My Review

Summer Queen is the second full-length novel in Amber Argyle’s Fairy Queens series.  It takes place after Winter Queen and in a different part of the world, a part that seems to be based on Middle Eastern mythology.  I am a huge fan of the author and this series, and this book, does not disappoint!

This book is focused on Nelay, an acolyte priestess in the temple of the Goddess of Fire.  She has lived most of her life in the temple with her only goal to avoid ever being a wife and mother after seeing the pain her mother went through after loss after loss.  She has trained as a priestess, a warrior, a tactician.  She is smart and independent and yet still willing to risk it all to save a family that has essentially abandoned her.

There is so much more intrigue in this book than I had expected, with twists and turns.  There are some battle scenes that are worth of a tactical military commander which I, as a former soldier, loved!  While Nelay is the center of the story, there are a number of key players, all of whom are well-developed and who have their own stories.  I loved that there were no clear lines between good and bad with the characters, each character, as in reality, having a bit of both as the situation requires.

The tie between the two novels in this series in not a direct one, which made it rather interesting.  In Winter Queen, we meet the Clans and they were generally characterized in a postive light.  In Summer Queen, the Clans are the enemy and portrayed in a much more savage light.  It was interesting to see them in a totally different way and to have that new perspective.

My Recommendation

Such a great series, but Winter Queen should be read first!

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 4

About Amber Argyle

Amber Argyle grew up with three brothers on a cattle ranch in the Rocky Mountains. She spent hours riding horses, roaming the mountains, and playing in her family’s creepy barn. This environment fueled her imagination for writing high fantasy.

She has worked as a short order cook, janitor, and staff member in a mental institution. All of which has given her great insight into the human condition and has made for some unique characters.

She received her bachelor’s degree in English and Physical Education from Utah State University.

She currently resides in Utah with her husband and three small children.

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