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The Bone Labyrinth by James Rollins {1.5 Stars}

The Bone Labyrinth by James Rollins is a conspiracy-theory style thriller with enough sci-fi thrown in that I thought it could be a fun story for me. Unfortunately, the plot starts off promising on the sci-fi front and then spirals into everything I dislike in thrillers, including really incorrect science, ridiculous characterization of scientists, and a pretty crazy conspiracy involving the moon. I’m sure fans of thrillers will enjoy the action-packed ride, but if you like sci-fi, I can’t recommend this one.

Note: I received an advanced copy of The Bone Labyrinth from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

The Bone Labyrinth by James Rollins {1.5 Stars}

The Bone Labyrinth by James Rollins (Sigma Force #11)
Published by William Morrow on Dec. 15th, 2015
Genres: Adult, Thriller
Page Length: 496 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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In the remote mountains of Croatia, an archaeologist makes a strange discovery:  a subterranean Catholic chapel, hidden for centuries, holds the bones of a Neanderthal woman. In the same cavern system, elaborate primitive paintings tell the story of an immense battle between tribes of Neanderthals and monstrous shadowy figures. Who is this mysterious enemy depicted in these ancient drawings and what do the paintings mean?

Before any answers could be made, the investigative team is attacked, while at the same time, a bloody assault is made upon a primate research center outside of Atlanta. How are these events connected? Who is behind these attacks?  The search for the truth will take Commander Gray Pierce of Sigma Force 50,000 years into the past. As he and Sigma trace the evolution of human intelligence to its true source, they will be plunged into a cataclysmic battle for the future of humanity that stretches across the globe . . . and beyond.

With the fate of our future at stake, Sigma embarks on its most harrowing odyssey ever—a breathtaking quest that will take them from ancient tunnels in Ecuador that span the breadth of South America to a millennia-old necropolis holding the bones of our ancestors. Along the way, revelations involving the lost continent of Atlantis will reveal true mysteries tied to mankind’s first steps on the moon. In the end, Gray Pierce and his team will face to their greatest threat: an ancient evil, resurrected by modern genetic science, strong enough to bring about the end of man’s dominance on this planet.

Only this time, Sigma will falter—and the world we know will change forever.

1.5 Stars

Strengths:
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Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez ARC {4 Stars}

Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez is a middle grade adventure/thriller/mystery and a tough book to put down!! I found myself making time to get back to Gonzalez’ trio of seekers to root for them in their search for the Spear of Destiny in the hopes of saving the main character’s father. It would definitely be a good book for pre-teens who like Rick Riordan’s mythical series but are looking for something quick and fast-paced. And this would be especially good for a young woman who likes adventure stories. She will find a good role model in Cassie!!

There’s plenty of action to go around, a magical artifact to locate, and various factions who are hunting for our protagonist and her friends in order to gain control of the Spear’s magic. The main character is likable and sympathetic to the reader – spunky without being obnoxious – and seems to have the hopes and fears of any ordinary 8th grader. The book starts out with a plan to play hooky from school and rapidly moves into a hunt for a historical/mythical artifact worthy of National Treasure or the DaVinci Code. By the end of the book, some loyalties are tested and secrets unveiled, but the end is just the beginning for Cassie and her readers!!

Note: I received an advanced copy of Moving Target from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez ARC {4 Stars}

Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Published by Scholastic Press on August 25, 2015
Genres: MG, Thriller
Page Length: 248 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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In this exciting and action-packed adventure by an award-winning author, a young girl discovers her secret ancient bloodline. The fate of her family, and the world, may rest in her hands...

Cassie Arroyo, an American studying in Rome, has her world ripped apart when someone tries to kill her father, an art history professor at an Italian university. Is she their next target?

Cassie sets out to uncover what is happening, only to learn that she is a member of an ancient bloodline that enables her to use the Spear of Destiny--a legendary object that can alter the future. Now running from a secret organization intent on killing those from her bloodline, Cassie must--with the help of some friends--decipher the clues that will lead her to the Spear.

Christina Diaz Gonzalez has created a fast-paced thrill-ride of a book, rich with riddles and myth, that young readers will not want to put down.

4 Stars

Strengths:
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Zer0es by Chuck Wendig eARC {3 Stars}

Zer0es by Chuck Wendig is the first in a sci-fi thriller series starring five misfit hackers and a very creepy artificial intelligence program! This is my first Wendig book and may not have been the best to start with, but it is hard for me to resist hacker characters and fairly accurate computer science ;-). If you’re a fan of hard sci-fi with plenty of computer jargon and a fair number of characters, be sure to check Zer0es out!

Note: I received an advanced copy of Zer0es from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Zer0es by Chuck Wendig eARC {3 Stars}

Zer0es by Chuck Wendig (Zer0es #1)
Published by Harper Voyager on Aug. 18th, 2015
Genres: Adult, Sci-fi, Thriller
Page Length: 432 pages
How I got my copy: Edelweiss
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Five hackers—an Anonymous-style rabble-rouser, an Arab Spring hacktivist, a black-hat hacker, an old-school cipherpunk, and an online troll—are detained by the U.S. government, forced to work as white-hat hackers for Uncle Sam in order to avoid federal prison. At a secret complex known only as "the Lodge," where they will spend the next year working as an elite cyber-espionage team, these misfits dub themselves "the Zeroes."

But once the Zeroes begin to work, they uncover secrets that would make even the most dedicated conspiracy theorist's head spin. And soon they're not just trying to serve their time, they're also trying to perform the ultimate hack: burrowing deep into the U.S. government from the inside, and hoping they'll get out alive. Packed with electric wit and breakneck plot twists, Zer0es is an unforgettable thrill ride through the seedy underbelly of "progress."

3 Stars

Strengths:
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All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill Audiobook {4.5 Stars}

All Our Yesterdays is a thrilling story about two people going back in time over and over to try to prevent a dystopian future. The twists and action is seriously non-stop in All Our Yesterdays, making it an excellent book to binge or listen to on audio! It took me forever (and a swap with Kel) to finally get to this highly recommended book and I’m so glad I did! If you’ve been looking for a time travel book that actually makes sense but still takes advantage of the awesome craziness that results from trying to change your past, All Our Yesterdays is just what you’re looking for.

Note: I listened to All Our Yesterdays on audiobook. This definitely influences my experience.

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill Audiobook {4.5 Stars}

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
Narrated by Meredith Mitchell

Published by Disney Hyperion on Sept. 3, 2013
Genres: Sci-fi, Thriller, YA
How I got my copy: Purchased
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What would you change?

Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend, James, since they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it... at least, not as the girl she once was. Em and Marina are in a race against time that only one of them can win.

4.5 Stars

Strengths:
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The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien ARC {3 Stars}

The Vault of Dreamers is the story of a near future world where an art school transformed its program into a reality show to overcome financial struggles, but as Rosie competes to make it at school, she finds there is much more going on during the twelve hours of drug-induced sleep all students experience. The Vault of Dreamers is definitely the most unique premise I’ve read in a long time and I can see fans of more contemporary YA enjoying The Vault of Dreamers along with sci-fi YA fans.

Note: I received an advanced copy of The Vault of Dreamers from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien ARC {3 Stars}

The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O'Brien
Published by Roaring Brook Press on Sept. 16th, 2014
Genres: Sci-fi, Thriller, YA
Page Length: 432 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success:  every moment of the students' lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students' schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What's worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.

3 Stars

Strengths:
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The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey {4 Stars}

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey is the heart-wrenching, pulse-pounding sequel to The 5th Wave. The aliens are meaner, the feels more devastating, and the plot even twistier if that is possible. The Infinite Sea is a book you need to deliberately schedule time for to avoid missing appointments or horrendously disrupting your sleep schedule. I seriously could not put down The Infinite Sea and then I noticed it was 3am. I called in sick to work (I really did have a headache from all the crying…) and finished it immediately. Due to the nature of these books, there will be major spoilers for The 5th Wave below.

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey {4 Stars}

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey (The 5th Wave #2)
Published by Putnam Juvenille on Sept. 16th, 2014
Genres: Post Apocalyptic, Thriller, YA
Page Length: 320 pages
How I got my copy: Borrowed
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For Cassie Sullivan and the rest of Earth’s remaining human survivors, the situation was already desperate when the 5th Wave hit. It’s about to get worse.

No one yet knows the depths to which Earth’s conquerors—the Others—will sink in order to rid the Earth of the human infestation, nor have they guessed the heights to which the human spirit can reach. Characters introduced in Book One will come to the fore—and others will face the ultimate test.

4 Stars

Strengths:
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Gasp by Lisa McMann {4.5 Stars}

Gasp by Lisa McMann is the concluding book of the Visions trilogy and continues the tradition of edge-of-your-seat action with lots of awesome banter and cuteness thrown in to lighten the mood. If you haven’t read Crash or Bang yet, I really recommend you check out those reviews and read the books instead, since there will be major spoilers (the fun is finding out how the vision is going to play out after all!). Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let me just warn you that there will be fangirling and I read this book in literally one four-hour sitting. Gasp was everything I hoped it would be and still managed to surprise me despite all my speculating up until release day, ha.

Note: I purchased Gasp because I couldn’t resist. Buuuuuuuuuyyyyy iiiiiiiit!

Gasp by Lisa McMann {4.5 Stars}

Gasp by Lisa McMann (Visions #3)
Published by Simon Pulse on June 3rd, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal, Thriller, YA
Page Length: 256 pages
How I got my copy: Purchased
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After narrowly surviving two harrowing tragedies, Jules now fully understands the importance of the visions that she and people around her are experiencing. She’s convinced that if the visions passed from her to Sawyer after she saved him, then they must now have passed from Sawyer to one of the people he saved.

That means it’s up to Jules to figure out which of the school shooting survivors is now suffering from visions of another crisis. And once she realizes who it is, she has to convince that survivor that this isn't all crazy—that the images are of something real. Something imminent.

As the danger escalates more than ever before in the conclusion to the Visions series, Jules wonders if she'll finally find out why and how this is happening—before it's too late to prevent disaster.

4.5 Stars

Strengths:
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Nil by Lynne Matson eARC {3.5 Stars}

Nil by Lynne Matson is the story of a mysterious island that teens randomly get transported to and the relationships that form when people are trying to survive and get off this dangerous island even though they’re falling in love. I knew going in from other reviews that Nil was going to be heavy on the romance and I think that preparation helped me have reasonable expectations. Nil is a fast read with insta-love that makes at least some sense, but don’t hold your breath for an explanation about how the island works.

Note: I received Nil through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Nil by Lynne Matson eARC {3.5 Stars}

Nil by Lynne Matson
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on March 4, 2014
Genres: Sci-fi, Thriller, YA
Page Length: 384 pages
How I got my copy: NetGalley
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On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have one year. Exactly 365 days--to escape, or you die.

Seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules. She doesn’t even know where she is. The last thing she remembers is blacking out, and when she wakes up, she’s lying naked in an empty rock field.

Lost and alone, Charley finds no sign of other people until she meets Thad, the gorgeous leader of a clan of teenage refugees. Soon Charley learns that leaving the island is harder than she thought . . . and so is falling in love. With Thad’s time running out, Charley realizes that to save their future, Charley must first save him. And on an island rife with dangers, their greatest threat is time.

3.5 Stars

Strengths:
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Phoenix Island by John Dixon eARC {3 Stars}

Phoenix Island by John Dixon tells the story of a mysterious island with a military-style bootcamp that has much darker purposes than the story’s protagonist, Carl, first assumes. I had been hoping that there would be a bit of a sci-fi element to it, but Phoenix Island barely strayed into the realm of near sci-fi and didn’t pursue the interesting paranormal directions that it could of. Instead, Phoenix Island has an emphasis on violence for violence’s sake, lunatics that want to take over the world, and a very Lord of the Flies feel to it.

Note: I received an advance copy of Phoenix Island through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Phoenix Island by John Dixon eARC {3 Stars}

Phoenix Island by John Dixon
Published by Gallery Books on Jan 7th, 2014
Genres: Thriller, YA
Page Length: 320 pages
How I got my copy: NetGalley
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Phoenix Island was supposed to be a boot camp for troubled children. But as one boy learns, the secrets of this jungle are as vast as they are deadly.

When sixteen-year-old boxing champ Carl Freeman jumps in to defend a helpless stranger, he winds up in real trouble - a two-year sentence at an isolated boot camp for orphans. Carl is determined to tough it out, earn a clean record, and get on with his life. Then kids start to die.

Realizing Phoenix Island is actually a Spartan-style mercenary organization turning "throwaway kids" into super-soldier killers, Carl risks everything to save his friends and stop a madman bent on global destruction.

3 Stars

Strengths:

  • Phoenix Island’s MC, Carl, really hates bullies and has the strength and fighting skill to stand up to them. I really identified with his deeply-rooted need to protect those who can’t protect themselves, especially when I found out how he came to possess that instinct. Carl does what I wish I could do when I hear of the really extreme bullies: demonstrate to them that they can’t treat people that way and get away with it.
  • The action never stops in Phoenix Island. It seemed like there was always some sneaking or fighting or equally suspenseful scene playing out. I can see why the manuscript inspired a television show since it is definitely made for keeping people hooked.
  • The premise of Phoenix Island is a little crazy, but as things developed, they seemed actually possible. There is some light sci-fi in that some of the technology used isn’t actually viable in today’s world, however it could be in another couple of decades.
  • The ending of Phoenix Island leaves a lot of room for a sequel that I think I would quite enjoy. The mysteries that remain and the things that need to be done have a lot of promise!
  • There is a crazy amount of violence and evil in Phoenix Island, but that grittiness served to make the suspense real. Phoenix Island demonstrates pretty quick that side characters and even fairly central characters will not be spared from injury and even death.

Weaknesses:

  •  The violence in Phoenix Island went way too far for me, however, to the point that I simply stopped caring. I became desensitized to the horrible things happening to the characters because I knew that worse things would keep happening. It was weird when the suspense is lost because I KNEW that the bad thing would actually happen and I just cringed and tried to get it over with.
  • Half of the island is inhabited by the bootcamp and the other half is separated by a big fence and is so scary even the big, bad drill sergeants are afraid of it. You can’t just throw in a mysterious half of an island and not go explore it! The whole book I was waiting for the kids to escape over the fence and find out what is really out there, but no.
  • Don’t read the blurb if you want to be surprised by anything. It pretty much summarizes Phoenix Island and I freaking hate when they do that!
  • There are lots of weird little things that are included by never explained, and one of them is that the romantic interest has a white patch in her otherwise dark hair. Sure, there are lots of medical reasons why she could have discoloration (it’s not dyed, they shave their heads), but it is never addressed. I really want to know! All she’d have to say is, “Oh yeah, I have this discoloration condition” but no, Anya has to be left in the dark again. I know it sounds small, but it’s a non-spoilerly example of the many strange things that are never explained.

Summary:

Phoenix Island is mostly a thriller about a mercenary bootcamp full of psychos, but it had just enough strange and mysterious elements that I kept hoping it would turn into a sci-fi. The numerous mysteries that remained at the end and seem unlikely to be explained in a sequel drove me nuts and the excessive violence forced me to just stop caring about these characters. If you like boxing, you might like Phoenix Island since Carl was a boxer and there is a lot of fighting where he relies on that skill. Phoenix Island just doesn’t seem to be a good book, even a good thriller, for speculative fiction fans because we expect mysteries to be solved and strangeness to be investigated. I did give it a half-star back, though, since I know I’m not quite the intended audience for Phoenix Island, no worries ;-).

3 Stars
Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings

– Anya

 

 Phoenix Island by John Dixon

4 Stars: Playing Tyler by T. L. Costa ARC

Playing Tyler by T. L. Costa was not exactly what I expected, but it still turned out to be an enthralling read! For some reason I had gotten it into my head that this one would fit in the sci-fi category, which is definitely doesn’t (in case anyone else had gotten that impression, haha). It fits well into the contemporary/thriller genres which I normally don’t consider “my thing” at all. However, there is a solid gamer culture element that pulled me in at the beginning, and from there the excitement and mystery took firm hold. As a recovering gamer myself, I think some of my gamer readers might enjoy that part ;-).

Note: I received Playing Tyler through Netgalley for an honest review. I read an ARC and so some things might change in the final version.

4 Stars: Playing Tyler by T. L. Costa ARC

Playing Tyler by T. L. Costa
Published by Strange Chemistry on July 2nd, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Thriller, YA
Page Length: 304 pages
How I got my copy: NetGalley
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When is a game not a game?

Tyler MacCandless can’t focus, even when he takes his medication. He can’t focus on school, on his future, on a book, on much of anything other than taking care of his older brother, Brandon, who’s in rehab for heroin abuse… again.

Tyler’s dad is dead and his mom has mentally checked out. The only person he can really count on is his Civilian Air Patrol Mentor, Rick. The one thing in life it seems he doesn’t suck at is playing video games and, well, thats probably not going to get him into college.

Just when it seems like his future is on a collision course with a life sentence at McDonald’s, Rick asks him to test a video game. If his score’s high enough, it could earn him a place in flight school and win him the future he was certain that he could never have. And when he falls in love with the game’s designer, the legendary gamer Ani, Tyler thinks his life might finally be turning around.

That is, until Brandon goes MIA from rehab and Tyler and Ani discover that the game is more than it seems. Now Tyler will have to figure out what’s really going on in time to save his brother… and prevent his own future from going down in flames.

4 Stars

Strengths:

  • I don’t have ADHD and haven’t run this by anyone I know who does, but the stream of consciousness of the main character, Tyler, seemed to be a good representation of a character with ADHD. Tyler also blames his racing thoughts on his unmedicated ADHD, so it was obvious that was the conclusion I was supposed to draw. I’m interested in others thoughts on this!
  • The gamer culture was accurate and fun to read about. I had to resist pulling out my old game of choice when reading Playing Tyler. I especially liked that the social element of gaming was shown, with Tyler talking to his gaming buddies while he is playing.
  • There are a couple of hard issues in Playing Tyler, including drug addiction and war. I thought that they were handled well, in that I could connect to those issues and understand how difficult they are for everyone involved, but it wasn’t too painful to read.
  • After the 50% mark was definitely where Playing Tyler picked up and became much more thriller. I was so excited to see what happened and so moved by the choices made. Stick with it!

Weaknesses:

  •  Tyler makes some stalker decisions when he becomes interested in a girl. Emailing a girl multiple times a day when she has expressed zero interest in you is not okay at all. Attending school events because you think she will be there after said email barrage is also not okay. I would have liked Tyler a lot more in the beginning if I wasn’t so horrified by this.
  • The stream of consciousness style of first person narration was a little annoying at first. Tyler’s thoughts are pretty darn scattered. However, I did get used to it!
  • With hard issues comes trigger warnings. The very real problems and pain that come from a family member with drug addiction are described. In addition there are several people discussed that have problems of their own such as PTSD.
  • Ani is the romantic interest and while she narrates some of the chapters, I ended the book feeling like I didn’t know her at all. Looking back I realized she was just a mirror for Tyler, which was disappointing.

Summary:

If a book about gamers, the military, tough issues, and secrets sounds intriguing to you, I recommend you pick up Playing Tyler. While I started reading the book with a mistaken impression, I was quickly drawn in to Tyler’s world and made to appreciate my very boring childhood by comparison. I’m very thrilled to say this is the first Strange Chemistry book I’ve read where the plot made sense to me :D.

4 Stars
Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings – Anya

 

 Playing Tyler by T. L. Costa