September 22, 2021

Death Perception by Lee Allen Howard

 


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Kennet isn’t your average teenage boy. His bedroom is a closet in the nursing home facility he lives in with his mother. His job, cremating bodies at the nearby funeral home. But what really sets Kennet apart is his special ability. When he opens the furnace to take out someone’s ashes, he’s able to sense how they died, his death perception. Things really take a turn when his death perception gives him a cause of death that’s different from the death certificate.





This isn’t a very action-packed story, but it is thrilling, with a cast of characters who each have their own story. But the stories all intertwine and affect each other. As the story progresses, we learn more about people’s pasts that lead them up to this point. We have Flavia Costa, who owns the nursing home Kennet and his mother live in. She holds resentment at her family for being left with nothing, leaving her to work her way up on her own, with retirement plans as her main goal. Next you have Cecil Grinold, the owner of the local funeral home. Similar to Flavia, Mr. Grinold is all about his business, maximizing profits and planning to expand. Flavia and Cecil each have their own secrets and ambitions, leading them to certain actions that have major consequences. Then right in the center we have 19 year old Kennet. He’s stuck living at Flavia’s personal care home and cremating bodies for Mr. Grinold.

 

The thrill in this story isn’t a scary thrill, but more of a suspenseful thrill that keeps you hooked wanting to know what comes next for our characters. Also, this story is filled with supernatural and murder mystery aspects. The twists will keep you guessing. Lee Allen Howard wrote this perfectly. Plenty of details to let you picture everything as the story unfolds. Each character is well developed, with their own personalities that clearly sprout from their unique pasts. I enjoyed how the story would be told from everyone’s perspectives. It mainly is from Kennet’s perspective since he is our main character, but we the readers get to know what Kennet doesn’t yet know by seeing what other characters are up to or thinking.

 

All of the intertwining stories fully overlap towards the end in a rush of suspense. Ultimately, everyone gets what they deserve.


Thank you to the author and Blackthorn Book Tours for a copy of this book!





SPOILER SECTION


You can’t help but feel sorry for Kennet. We eventually learn that his father was abusive,  and during one of the conflicts his father ends up dead and his mother is left blind in one eye. Now to make matters worse, it seems like everyone is out to get him. Flavia wants him gone from her facility after his mother dies, and Mr. Grinold doesn’t want Kennet working for him.


From the beginning we know that Flavia and Grinold have secrets, but I didn’t expect anything so sinister. It’s clear from the start that Flavia wants to get as much money as she can out of her business, but I didn’t think she would kill patients to move through residents more quickly. As soon as we’re told she has killed a patient, though, I suspected that’s what she did to Kennet’s mom. Luckily, Kennet’s ability caught the murder. Also, Grinold is obviously concerned with running his own business, maximizing his profit, and doesn’t want anything ruining his reputation that would hinder his business. Once Dolores started blackmailing him I wondered what he would do to stop her. Just like Flavia, he killed.


I’m glad that things worked out for Kennet in the end. He was able to put a stop to Grinold and Flavia, as well as further his life. 





QUOTES


“What’s a gift, unless it helps somebody else?”


“Physical death did not end existence. The dead live on forever.”

August 16, 2021

BirthRights by Carly Rheilan

 


⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Dr. Ana Griffin is a psychiatrist. One night after giving a lecture, she’s attacked in the parking lot by one of her patients. He stabs her in her pregnant belly. But there is no blood. Ana isn’t really pregnant, instead she’s wearing a pad. However, another one of her patients witnesses this attack. Now Ana’s secret is in jeopardy.





This is a psychological thriller of what a woman will do to have a baby. There are more secrets than you realize to Ana, but the lengths she will go to keep those secrets is thrilling.


There are so many mysteries to Ana, not just her pregnancy but also a traumatic event in her childhood involving her baby brother. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the mysteries to unravel. 


The book has a slow start, getting into who Ana is, revealing pieces of her mysterious past, and then explaining her journey to become “pregnant”. Once we’re given the full story behind her pregnancy, things start to pick up, because this is when Ana’s secrets are threatened.


Other than the thriller aspect, I enjoyed how mental illness and the troubles of becoming pregnant were implemented into the story. The patient who stabs Ana is schizophrenic, hearing voices leading him to attack, while the patient who witnesses the attack has Tourette’s, making it difficult for him to explain to authorities what he witnessed and even more difficult for them to believe what he saw. There’s also the trauma of Ana’s past that guides her whole life’s choices up to this point. Even more, we see how difficult it can be for a single person to have a child, especially if they can’t conceive on their own and the only options are adoption or surrogacy.


Not only is this story entertaining, but also enlightening!


Thank you to the author and Blackthorn Book Tours for a copy of this book!






SPOILER SECTION


This story is fairly sad over all. The loss of Ana’s brother drives her actions later in life. It seems like she wants a child to have the love she didn’t receive from her parents, but to also have a redo of taking care of her brother. This is why she’s so sure she’ll have a baby boy and name him Edward as well.


However, a second chance at a happy ending doesn’t come out. Ana meticulously planned out everything to have her baby and make it seem like she gave birth to the baby. As with anything, though, one thing can completely change those plans. In this case, it was Robbie’s attack. Everything for Ana began to go downhill from there.


It’s very sad that Ana didn’t get her baby and she died. But this ending is slightly expected, and isn’t all bad. The baby gets to stay with her birth mom, and the mom’s husband, to have two loving parents. They even named her Anna, as if it is the second chance at a happy ending for Ana after all.

July 15, 2021

The Dark Chorus by Ashley Meggitt

 


⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


There is a boy who can see souls that have not moved on when their bodies have. These souls are known as the Dark Chorus. But there are two souls in particular the boy must help: his mother’s and the angel’s that is inside him. With the help of two other troubled teenagers, one filled with rage and the other with pain, the boy sets out to take the souls of the corrupt. Will he cleanse the angel’s soul, help his mother’s soul to move on, or get caught by the Inspector and the psychiatrist Dr. Rhodes?




This was such a quick read for me, will all that was happening I couldn’t put the book down! There’s so much mystery and adventure. 


At one point, the Inspecter says, “Do you get the feeling we’re in some kind of B-movie?” I think this really sums up what kind of story this is, in a good way! If you enjoy those B-movies, especially the horror or occult ones, you’ll love this book.


Ashley Meggitt is super descriptive throughout, allowing you to really picture what is going on. Also, coming up with the religion of Banuism was perfect. It was so intricate and framed the story so well. 


I love the character of the boy. He seems so innocent. His name is never mentioned, which makes you wonder if he was never actually given one, especially since he was taken from his mom when he was born and then she died. But him being nameless also seems to serve a purpose, that he’s just a conduit for the bigger plans.


It’s interesting to see how each character develops over the course of the story. Not just the boy, who is finally getting out into the world and learning a lot, but his friends, and also Dr. Eve Rhodes.


I feel like the ending leaves the story open for more. This could be an end, with the reader able to imagine what comes next for our characters, but I could definitely see another book with their adventures continuing, and I would love that!


Thank you to the author and Blackthorn Book Tours for a copy of this book!



*Trigger Warnings: ritualistic murders, gore, abuse (physical with hints at sexual)





SPOILER SECTION


One of the biggest reveals in this story is that the boy is the great-great-grandson of Charles Janenssen. This makes you wonder, was he descended from Charles on his mother’s or his father’s side. We know his mother had mental health issues, enough to be placed in an asylum. However, we don’t know what those mental health issues were, which could be that she had the same abilities as her son, and we also don’t know who the boy’s father is. This is one question that I feel like could have a larger role in this story, especially if another book is written. 


Along these lines, I wonder if Dr. Eve Rhodes is related to the boy, or at least to Charles Janenssen. It could just be a coincidence that she also has the ability of seeing souls. Eve’s experience leads us to believe that this ability is more common than we think, but most people shut out the ability as they get older, just like Eve.




QUOTES


“Each of us carries within us our own portal to death, our own gateway.”


“Although I see the dark, I live in the light, the light generated by beauty.”


“That whatever anyone ’as done, they deserve the chance of redemption.”

June 30, 2021

The Cuts That Cure by Arthur Herbert

 


⭐️⭐️⭐️ 


Alex Brantley is a surgeon who hasn’t been happy as a doctor since medical school. After a breakdown, he opts for a fresh start as a high school science teacher. This is where his path crosses with Henry Wallis, a seemingly normal high school boy on the cross country team. But Henry has been containing his sadistic tendencies. Henry finally decides to act on those tendencies, starting a chain of events that could alter not only his life, but also Alex’s, depending on the choice each character makes.




This was a suspenseful story, keeping you wondering what’s going to happen next, however, it wasn’t what I was expecting. The cover has a quote from another author stating, “A tale of intrigue and suspense, with a villain that will keep you awake. A page-turner you don’t want to miss.” Some readers may feel this way, but unfortunately I did not.


At first, when Henry’s sadistic compulsions are brought up, and you see what’s going through his head, this story seems like it’s going to be something from a Criminal Minds episode. I just expected more than one murder and expected Henry to be more ruthless than he was.


That said, I feel like if the story was solely focused on Alex, and he was the single main character, with the synopsis reflecting that, I wouldn’t have been as disappointed. I’ve read other mystery/thrillers, with a villain that actually keeps you up at night because you’re scared they’re going to get away with it and come after you. Now it is scary to think that there are people like Henry who appear completely normal on the outside but have the capacity to commit cold-blooded murder, Henry just wasn’t a terrifying killer. 


What became more intriguing and suspenseful was how Alex gets wrapped up into Henry’s crime, and must make a decision to commit a crime of his own in order to save himself and get his fresh start.


I did like the ending, and felt like it gave good closure.


Thank you to the author and Blackthorn Book Tours for a copy of this book!



*Trigger Warnings: murder, mutilation, abuse, animal cruelty, suicide





SPOILER SECTION


Probably my biggest issue was how easily Henry was caught for his murder. He only committed one murder, and had so much against him, and it wasn’t even that he made mistakes. There just so happens to be a virus on his phone that makes it look like it shuts off but it actually doesn’t, and then a kid flys a drone that just happens to fly over the murder site at the exact second that Henry’s hood falls down? Of course the author wanted Henry to get caught in order to further the story, mainly Alex’s story, but it just didn’t feel all that realistic to have that many strange coincidences. Also as I mentioned, I was surprised that Henry only committed one murder. I was expecting at least a few. I think I would have enjoyed the story more if Henry had gotten away with his first murder and committed a couple more (even though I obviously don’t want to see people die) before getting caught.


I enjoyed how things ended for Alex, though. He truly got the new life that he wanted. Marco definitely deserved something, but I don’t know about having his arms and legs amputated. I at least like that Alex starts visiting Marco, it slightly makes up for what he did. 

June 21, 2021

Keepers Of The Gate: Twilight Ends Book 1 by E. Denise Billups

 


⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


In 1779, a Seneca village is destroyed by Sullivan’s Expedition. Two hundred years later, the land houses Twilight Ends Bed and Breakfast, an inn that has been in the family for generations, generations who descended from those in the Seneca village. After the death of Tessa, her daughter Skylar and granddaughter Twyla take over the inn. But there’s more to Twilight Ends than meets the eye. The ghosts of people who lived on the land previously are just the beginning of the secret that Twyla discovers.




There is a slow start to this book, not really picking up until about halfway through. It’s not action packed or a thriller. Instead it more keeps you on the edge of your seat with suspense as the mysteries of Twilight Ends unfold. The author plans on making this a trilogy, so the purpose of this first book seems to be to set the stage with world-building and unraveling the mysteries that will contribute to the next adventures. It ends on a cliffhanger, with the suspense building, so I can’t wait for the next book to see what happens!


I absolutely loved the historical aspects. This book sheds some light on the past for Native Americans when America was colonized, as well as what Native Americans can still face today. This story is as much a historical fiction one as it is contemporary, as the events of the past converge with events of the present.


I love that the beginning of the book includes maps of the land that the story takes place, as well as a list of characters and their relations. There aren’t a too many characters in this story, but it does get a little confusing trying to remember everyone, especially the characters from past events.


E. Denise Billups really did her research in finding the history that serves as the backbone to her story. I also enjoyed her writing style. There’s so much detail in each sentence that I can completely picture what’s happening. The story is told in third person, with the perspective changing between main characters, letting you know what each one is experiencing.


Ultimately, I can’t wait to learn more about the past events, and see what they bring for the future.


Thank you to Blackthorn Book Tours for a copy of this book!





SPOILER SECTION


The main thing with this story is time travel! At first I thought that the characters just saw ghosts from the past and had visions of past events. But I love the concept of time travel. I would love to know more about Tessa’s adventures when she travelled back to be Jawanda. However, I’m excited to hear about the adventure that Twyla and Cristal have started on. I wonder if they’ll continue going back in time to different events, and I wonder if they’ll end up changing the course of history. 


There’s so much left open: will they stop Harrison Dox from trying to take Twilight Ends, will the past of what William Dox did repeat itself in Harrison Dox, will Twyla save Teka’s baby, and who is the baby that Garrentha gave birth to but let Mercy and Mingin raise?





QUOTES


“Your sleeping soul walks with ghosts.”


“Life’s Circular Path: Reincarnation.”


“When the right people, stars and time align, history reappears around Twilight.”


“There are two wolves inside us. One is evil, the other good. The wolf that wins is the one you feed. That’s an old Cherokee proverb. The struggle between good and evil, light and darkness, war and peace are eternal. Often, men feed the evil wolf – war.”

June 14, 2021

418: I Am A Teapot by Edgar Scott

 


⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


In this futuristic dystopian, menial jobs are completed by staff. Staff are people who either by choice, birth, or punishment have their brains integrated online, so their minds can participate in a virtual world with their alternate identities and lives while their bodies are controlled to perform these lowly tasks. But after a car accident, known as an exception, one staff becomes aware of what his body does while his mind is immersed in his virtual life.




I think this story really makes you stop and think about society’s use of technology and how we treat others, especially those in a lower-end job than you. The people who are “staff” can be born into it because their parents are staff, or they could be people who chose to live a life where they are fully immersed online while allowing the use of their bodies for whatever jobs are necessary, or they could be carrying out a punishment of either being a criminal or having to pay off their debt. Those that are staff do not have an identity, referred only to the identification number they are given. Their gender isn’t even recognized, they are referred to as “it”.


There are two main characters in this story: George, a staff known as 418, and Brian Agarwal, who owns a staffing company that 418 is a part of. The book is written in a mix of first person and third person. The first person is from George’s perspective, which gives insight into what he’s going through and feeling as he becomes aware of his situation as a staff and what he wants to do about it. The third person is mostly from the perspective of Brian, to show what he experiences, especially with regards to 418, while also giving others’ perspectives, like insurance agents handling 418’s case. 


I especially loved the first person of George’s perspective. Once he becomes aware, his mind isn’t online in the virtual world while his body is controlled for work. This really enhances how someone doing this type of job may feel, and how they are treated by customers, but how they can’t do anything about it. George has a lot of feelings about his situation and things he wishes he could say to customers, but his body and his speech is controlled by what he’s programmed to do so that the customer is happy.


It’s scary to think that some people would choose the life of the staff. Brian even fears that his son will choose that life with how much he enjoys his virtual games. But it’s really not that far fetched of an issue. Just to see how far technology has already come, and how so many people rely on it and can’t give it up.


I just wish there was a bit more detail and world-building for the world that this story takes place in. We get a taste of it with things that the characters experience, but I would have enjoyed more background. For instance, how do staff reproduce? Their interactions with other staff are solely online in the virtual world, and they can get married and have children in their virtual world, which then corresponds to a birth in the real world, a child born into the life of a staff. However, it’s never explained where these people born into the life come from.


I thoroughly enjoyed the relationship formed between George and Brian, and how they each helped the other come to a realization about their life. 



Thank you to the author and Bookstagrammers.com for a copy of this book!


You can purchase the book here:

418: I Am A Teapot on Amazon





SPOILER SECTION


One thing that bothered me was when Brian got in trouble for not paying off a loan that he supposedly took out, I don’t know if Brian wasn’t thinking, or what, but we know that there are bank accounts in this world, so there should be a record of deposits Brian has had. Therefore, he should have brought in his bank statements to show that he never received the loan money if he didn’t actually authorize it. However, I think the author was just trying to make a point of how unfair the system could be, so even if Brian brought in bank statements, that might not have changed anything. This also shows what some people may resort to in order to get money, to keep his family from becoming staff, Brian has to sell a kidney.


I’m also a little confused on how George was able to get free from retirement. But I’m guessing it was something like with Sirius Black in Harry Potter. Sirius was able to escape from Azkaban Prison by transforming into his dog form, then the dementors didn’t detect him, so he was able to slip right past him. I think similarly, since George’s implant was turned off, and he stopped using the feed bags, with whatever drugs were in it, he basically wasn’t staff anymore. He wasn’t reacting the way staff usually act when sent to retirement. He really stopped acting like a staff after his exception. Therefore, the staff who were guards didn’t recognize George as a staff, and didn’t try to stop him as he walked out.





QUOTES


“This isn’t life, this is existence.”


“Nothing disguises lies better than the truth.”


“No one can make you accept a fate that you didn’t choose.”

May 17, 2021

The Legacy of Old Gran Parks by Isobel Blackthorn

 


⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


“Taking in the crossroads, the neon sign outside the roadhouse, the hotel across the highway, the general store on the other side, it all looked normal, like an uneventful kind of place. Only, it was far from it.”


The paths of four women cross in Cann River, Australia, 1983: Miriam, a longtime office worker forced to stay in town on her way to a new house because her car breaks down; Frankie, a local hunter who lives in an isolated cabin in the woods; Pearl, a local fisherwoman who lives next to the lake; and Emily, a backpacker from England working at the local roadhouse café to save money to move on. But only the locals understand the legacy over the small town left by Gran Parks when she killed her abusive husband about 30 years prior. After each of the women encounter reprehensible men, the effect of Gran Parks’s legacy starts to take its toll.




I really enjoyed the thrill of this book, however, I felt like the personalities of the women were lacking in their storytelling. The story is told in first person from the perspectives of the four different women. The perspective switches each chapter, with the woman’s name as the title, going in a cycle of Miriam, Frankie, Pearl, then Emily.


I like the change in perspectives, but I wish each perspective had more of her own “voice”. The writing style and word choice is the exact same throughout, and even though the women have some similarities, they are different, with different educations and backgrounds, so I feel like each one should have a different style in the writing, especially since it’s written fully in first person.


I do like the first person, though. It gives you more insight into each woman, as well as giving some outside account when the women encounter each other. Since they’re not together very often, and they each have different experiences, then the first person account lets you know what’s happening to each one.


The book starts off really good and thrilling. Gran Parks kills her husband, with a meat cleaver. He was abusive, and she did it out of self defense. This sets the stage of her legacy, hinting at what’s to come.


Each woman has an encounter with a man who seems to be trouble: a drug addict staying in the hotel room next to Miriam, a man on the run convicted of rape and murder, a man with two daughters who is staying in a house next to Pearl seemingly without the owner knowing, and a man staying at the local lighthouse while the lighthouse keeper is out of town.


There’s some mystery to each man. As the women unravel this mystery, the thrill of Gran Parks’s legacy takes hold.


The whole time you’re wondering what’s the secret to each of these men, and how will the legacy influence how the women handle these men.


In addition to the main women and the men they encounter, there are several other important characters. You have the woman who runs the local hotel, and the woman who runs the roadhouse café with her son. They add interesting dynamics to the story.


This book wasn’t really scary, but was definitely creepy, thrilling, and entertaining!


Thank you to Blackthorn Book Tours for a copy of this book!





SPOILER SECTION


I could tell from the beginning that this story had some similarities to Fried Green Tomatoes. You have women coming together to help each other get rid of bad men. Then there’s Frankie, disposing of one of the men by giving his “meat” to the roadhouse to be used for burgers.


I understand why the women do what they do, but there’s the question of if it was actually necessary. The man Frankie encounters is almost certainly Wayne, a rapist and murderer, confirmed by the similarities of his description and the picture of him in the newspaper, as well as the fact that he goes to Frankie’s house after she sets the trap of saying her good looking sister is in town and all alone at her house. It’s also certain that Dan, the man staying in the hotel room next to Miriam, is not good. Miriam found his stash of drugs, and Cassie, who ran the hotel, knew of his past. However, it’s not completely certain that Brent and Pete are bad.


Pete seems good at first, but then does seem to have an ulterior motive. Emily is naive to this motive, up until Pete comes at her with tools in his belt. Once Emily finds the magazine hidden in the couch and reads the article about a study where mice with brain cancer were cured after eating the brains of healthy mice, you guess that that is Pete’s plan for Emily. So he might not be as good as he seemed.


Brent, on the other hand, is still questionable. Instead of Pearl confronting him and telling him that she talked to the owner of the house and he needs to leave, she decided to poison him to get rid of him. After killing him she talked to his daughters to find out their story. Then she assumes Brent killed their mother. We, the readers, aren’t told exactly what the girls say, so we can’t decide on our own if Pearl is assuming correctly or if she’s just reading into what the girls say. Even though I don’t condone killing, Brent’s murder is only one that doesn’t seem completely justified.


The ending is the most thrilling part of this book. So far nothing has been done about Dan, and Miriam hasn’t had any part in the killings. But as she’s driving off, she hits something, possibly someone. We can guess that this someone is Dan, if Gran Parks’s legacy holds true. And we can assume it does, since as Miriam glances in the rear view mirror, she sees a woman sitting in the passenger seat of the truck behind her, but at second glance the woman is gone, indicating the woman was Gran Parks. Making sure her legacy continues on.





QUOTES


“Sometimes real life wasn’t worth facing.”


“Justice has a way of landing the right way in the end.”


“Men took out their rage on women with impunity, and somewhere along the line there had to be some redress. It was the wisdom of Gran Parks.”

May 6, 2021

Nightmares in Aston: Wicker Village by Michael J. Moore

 


⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


11 year old Juanito and his family just moved to Wicker Village in Aston, Washington. A trailer park in a small town. Moving from a big house in the big city of Seattle. Moving can be a huge struggle on its own, but even harder when the boogeyman gets involved.


This story is full of the typical thriller aspects: an old cemetery, an old asylum, supernatural encounters, and the suspicion of a murder that was never solved.




I would classify this as a contemporary, middle grade thriller. It felt like a mash up of Goosebumps and something like the Conjuring. Even though this story is intended for readers aged 8 to 12 years old, I still really enjoyed it as an adult. It’s great for younger readers, written in a way to easily understand, and is scary enough to be a thriller, but not so scary that younger readers would have nightmares. It’s good for older readers as well who want something that’s an easy, quick read, that still gives you chills.


A week after Juanito and his family have moved into Wicker Village, Juanito starts to have some supernatural experiences. First he sees a swarm of bees in the shape of a man, then he hears someone inside his home, then we watches a YouTube video where the man starts speaking directly to him, and then the video disappears and has no evidence of ever existing. Juanito begins to make friends with other kids who live in Wicker Village, and while hanging out, they have an experience together.


I also love the mystery aspect of this story when Juanito and his friends try to figure out what’s happening and why. 


My only complaint is that this book seemed too short. It starts off exciting, drawing you in, with Juanito’s first experience in the first chapter. But then the story slows down, building up the setting, background, and other kids involved. It’s not until about halfway that things start to pick up again, and three quarters through when the mystery is really introduced. After that, all the events felt rushed, and the ending felt a bit abrupt. I would have liked to have more details towards the end, however, this fast pace makes this story easier for the intended readers. Also, some of the twists/mysteries are easily guessed, but again this could just be the fact that I’m an older reader.


Overall, I think this is an excellent book for middle grade readers who want something spooky!


Thank you to Blackberry Book Tours for a copy of this book!





SPOILER SECTION


Once the kids figure out that Sarah had a boyfriend named Jack, and the reason she started haunting Juanito is because he looks like Jack, you start to wonder if Jack is currently living in Wicker Village. Then you can guess that he’s Old Man Whittaker. It’s sad that Sarah was killed, but at least her and Jack were able to see each other again, giving both of them some closure.


My main issue with the ending feeling abrupt is that Juanito says he’ll wait a while then call the police to explain what happened. I’d like to know comes of this, because I’m assuming the police would take Sarah’s remains to examine them and make sure it’s her. I wonder if this would upset her again and cause her to do more haunting, because the whole reason she’s haunting in the first place is she would like for her body to be laid to rest near her father. But I’m sure that once the police check it out, they’ll probably bury her in the cemetery. The ending was pretty good, I just would have liked to know what happens next.

March 24, 2021

Orange City by Lee Matthew Goldberg

 



⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


“Do you ever feel like you’re not in complete control of your brain?”


The outcasts don’t fit in in the Outside World: the criminals, the deformed. Those who are lucky are Selected to come to The City, ruled by The Man. They are provided a job and a home, a chance to start over. The catch? They can never leave The City, and they must obey The Man or suffer the consequences of being sent to an Empty Zone.

Graham Weatherend is one of those lucky ones. Orphaned at a young age, with bad experiences in the foster system, reduced to a life of crime. Instead of going to prison, he is Selected and brought to The City to work in an advertising agency. After 10 years, his story really begins when he is asked to try out the new products from Pow! Soda company, and help run their advertising campaign. However, the new sodas aren’t as good as they appear, and Graham starts to uncover the truth about The City.



I really enjoyed the mysteries of this new world. It was somewhat hard to get into at first, though. There are a lot of terms that aren’t defined, such as “Selected” and “Empty Zones” that I used in the summary of the book. Since these terms aren’t defined, you’re left to use the context to figure out what they mean, which is difficult at first and makes it hard to fully understand what’s happening. But as the story continues, it’s easier to understand these terms and the world-building. 


Even though the story is a little hard to follow from the beginning, using these terms from the start without definitions flows really well. It puts you right into what’s happening and the time period when all these terms are common language. 


Goldberg did an amazing job creating this dystopia of America. What makes this story so terrifying is that it’s possible. I don’t know if advancements like “lifelike limbs” where you just plug them into a socket on your body will truly be developed, but the concepts are definitely plausible. 


The City seems like a wonderful place, where you can start over. Forget your past, become someone completely new. However, inhabitants aren’t as free as they think. They may have escaped the normal world, known as the Outside World, but now they are under the control of The Man. There are always questions about how much the government controls us, mainly without our knowledge. So The Man’s control isn’t that unlikely.


I thought it was really interesting that this control is being implemented with a soft drink. We know from the beginning that The Man has plans for Graham, but we don’t know exactly what those plans are until he is chosen to test the new Pow! sodas. But even then we don’t know why Graham and the reasoning behind his testing the sodas.


There’s a lot of mystery behind these reasons. It was fun to try to figure out the effect each flavor of Pow! was having on Graham and who was in on his experience. These mysteries are revealed at the end, but new mysteries are brought up. The ending is also a little bit of a cliffhanger, so you’re left eagerly waiting for the next book Lemonworld.


Thank you to Black Thorn Book Tours for a copy of this book!





SPOILER SECTION


The biggest twist was finding out the reasoning behind Graham being chosen by The Man. Warton, Mind, and Donovan reveal that there was an uprising before, and Graham’s parents were major leaders in it. They were able to escape back to the Outside World, but The Man found them and their son. When Graham starts dreaming about his parents’ death in the car crash, something starts to seem off about it. So you’re able to guess that it didn’t actually happen that way. We find out that The Man killed Graham’s parents and had that memory of the car crash inserted into his mind. We also can infer that it was the Elders who inserted the chip into Graham’s brain, altering his memories, since Graham had the memory of twins inserting the chip, and E asks the Elder who attacks them at the end where his twin is.


Speaking of E, I loved how there was some redemption for each of the main characters. Gayle decides to help take down The Man. E gives his life to save Graham and help stop The Man. And of course Graham redeems himself by taking action. I think he would have made his parents proud.


However, at the very end, Graham finds a new flavor of Pow! on the boat they’re escaping on. This leaves you wondering if Warton, Mind, and Donovan are actually good, or someone found out their plan of letting Graham leave and seized the opportunity.


We’re also left wondering who The Management is, and what their overall plan is. With the technology advancements of this world, I’m not convinced that The Man is forever dead. I feel like he could be brought back to life. But even if he isn’t, there are still others like him out there, and someone in charge of them. This is what I’m most interested about in continuing the series. Graham started a revolution, but then fled, so I wonder if he will continue to find out who’s behind this, or if someone else will continue what he started.





QUOTES


“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”   -Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms


“Rise from the ashes...There are a few key moments in life, and this is one of them. Today is your four-leaf clover.”

The Shadows by Alex North

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Two teenagers committed a murder, then went to sleep, believing they’d disappear. One of them did. Now, 25 years later...