The Wicked Deep

The Countdown (The Taking #3) by Kimberly Derting

The Countdown (The Taking #3) by Kimberly DertingThe Countdown (The Taking, #3) by Kimberly Derting
Published by HarperTeen on May 10th 2016
Pages: 378
Goodreads
four-stars

She may no longer be human…but she’s their only hope.

In the concluding book in the otherworldly Taking trilogy, Kyra struggles to understand who she is as she races to save the world from complete destruction.

Ever since Kyra was abducted by aliens and then returned to earth, she has known there was something different about her. Now she knows the truth: she is an alien too. Her alien captors replaced all her human DNA with their own—gifting her with supernatural powers like incredible healing, enhanced eyesight, and telekinesis. But when she’s captured by an unexpected enemy, Kyra begins to wonder if her abilities are also a curse. And is she, as her enemies believe, meant to play some key role in helping an impending alien invasion? Is it programmed into her, something inescapable? Or can she fight that destiny?

No matter what the truth is, Kyra is sure of one thing: She just rescued the love of her life, Tyler, and she is not going to stand by and let anyone hurt him or her friends. Whatever it takes, Kyra will do everything in her power to save the world…even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice.

The Countdown is the final book in the Taken trilogy. After the NSA attacked Blackwater Ranch in the previous book, all the returned and replaced scattered to find safety. When The Countdown begins, Kyra, Kyra’s father, and Tyler are hiding out at a campground. The trio has been bouncing from campground to campground – never staying more than one night in one place in order to stay off the NSA’s radar.

Early on, Kyra is separated from her father and Tyler. She’s jumped and drugged by an unknown blonde assailant. For a while Kyra is on her own, her father and Tyler are desperately trying to find Kyra, and the rest of the Blackwater Ranch crew who made it through the attack, are trying to locate Kyra and any other potential survivors.

The first third of The Countdown was a tad forgettable because it was mostly recap and slow buildup. However, once that 100 page count came and went and more of the taken and replaced joined up again the story really exploded! We got some badass-power-wielding Kyra, deceptions and twists, and some swoony romance – all the elements that made me love this series so much in the first place!

I said it in my review for book two and I’ll say it again, the romance between Simon and Kyra was too forced. Maybe Simon had feelings for Kyra, but I never once felt like Kyra showed any romantic nor sexual feelings towards Simon. All Kyra can think about is Tyler. Even though I think it unnecessarily dragged the entirety of books two and three, I’m glad that this weird triangle was resolved by the end of The Countdown.

When I started reading The Countdown I thought I had everything figured out, but then towards the middle of the book a slew of hidden agendas and lies were divulged and I had no idea what to think anymore. Thank you Derting for pulling the rug out! It’s exactly what this last book needed!
I was initially worried that Derting had made the overall story too big for just three books but by the end of The Countdown I was satisfied with how she tied things up.

I’m sad to see the Taken trilogy end, but the story and characters ran their course. I’ll miss Kyra and her feistiness but I’m sure Derting is hard at work on another stellar book that you can bet I’ll be reading!

four-stars
The Wicked Deep

Altered by Jennifer Rush

Altered by Jennifer RushAltered (Altered, #1) by Jennifer Rush
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on January 1st 2013
Pages: 323
Goodreads
two-stars

When you can’t trust yourself, who can you believe?

Everything about Anna’s life is a secret. Her father works for the Branch at the helm of its latest project: monitoring and administering treatments to the four genetically altered boys in the lab below their farmhouse. There’s Nick, Cas, Trev . . . and Sam, who has stolen Anna’s heart. When the Branch decides it’s time to take the boys, Sam stages an escape, killing the agents sent to retrieve them.

Anna is torn between following Sam or staying behind in the safety of her everyday life. But her father pushes her to flee, making Sam promise to keep her away from the Branch, at all costs. There’s just one problem. Sam and the boys don’t remember anything before living in the lab—not even their true identities.

Now on the run, Anna soon discovers that she and Sam are connected in more ways than either of them expected. And if they’re both going to survive, they must piece together the clues of their past before the Branch catches up to them and steals it all away.

There’s a lot of books I want to read for a few different reasons. There’s the sequels or continuations of series I already love. There’s books whose concepts interest me but don’t completely sell me yet. Then there’s the debuts such as Altered, that capture my interest right way through a combination of a intriguing concept and stand-out cover. I awaited Altered‘s arrival for months, had it pre-ordered and checked the tracking info probably 50 times a day once it was shipped. I was that anxious for it to arrive. I planned to rip right into the packaging as soon as I got my hands on it. I didn’t even care that it was close to 10 p.m. when I started Altered because I had pre-convinced myself that I’d love it.

And then, about 30 pages in, something happened. With only a couple chapters in, my excitement began to wan. I was still interested in delving deeper because the plot had raised a lot of questions that I wanted answered. However, early on I became detached. Detached from the characters and detached from the emotion. Throughout the whole book I felt like there was general lack of emotion. A lack between father and daughter and a huge lack between two individuals who were supposedly in-love or close enough to becoming. Even the premise says, “Sam who’s stolen Anna’s heart” a concept that Rush tried to convey throughout the story, and one I just couldn’t buy.

By the time Altered begins we’re already told that there’s feelings brewing between these two, or at least, on Anna’s end. She’s known Sam for about 5 years and harbors strong feelings for him. Why, is a question I asked myself over and over again. Sure. He’s hot and pretty nice and Anna has seen him pretty much everyday for the last five years. But besides some late night chess matches, it seems like Anna really doesn’t know him or hasn’t gotten close to him, not like she has towards one of the other boys, Trev. Trev, who she considers one of her best friends is someone she talks to all the time, opens up to, not Sam. The connection between Anna and Sam didn’t make sense to me. It felt physical not emotional and so because Rush pushed so hard for it, that was a loss of one stake itself.

The second problem I had was the plot. At its basis Altered is about 4 boys with altered abilities and memories along with a girl, running from an uber-bad corporation. To be honest though, this corporation called “The Branch” really didn’t strike fear into me. Yes, there was a lot of guns and violence involved but I had too many questions. Where did this company come from. What was its agenda a.k.a. why were the boys involved, or Anna for that matter. I really didn’t understand Anna’s lack of questioning when her house was quite literally built on top of a secret laboratory housing 4 boys in glass and brick cages. Sure, at times she mentions wishing the boys were free, but she seemed awfully complacent for someone in her position. If it were me, I’d be a whole lot more curious and less accepting.

This is one of the most critical reviews I’ve yet to write. I believe this one in particular is so critical because I felt so let down. I wanted to love this book SO BADLY but because of the detachment, I couldn’t. I didn’t understand the motivations, decisions or actions of any of the characters. I couldn’t get a grip on any of their personalities whether it be virtues or flaws. They all just fell flat, which for me, made the whole book fall flat. Sure, the story itself is great, but the characters that are supposed to navigate it, were not.

two-stars
The Wicked Deep

Book Review: The Outsider (Roswell #1) by Melinda Metz

Book Review: The Outsider (Roswell #1) by Melinda MetzThe Outsider (Roswell High, #1) by Melinda Metz
Published by Simon Spotlight Entertainment on November 1, 1999
Pages: 170
Goodreads
two-half-stars

He's not like other guys. Liz has seen him around. It's hard to miss Max -- the tall, blond, blue-eyed senior stands out in her high-school crowd. So why is he such a loner? Max is in love with Liz. He loves the way her eyes light up when she laughs. And the way her long, black hair moves when she turns her head. Most of all, he loves to imagine what it would be like to kiss her. But Max knows he can't get too close. He can't let her discover the truth about who he is. Or really, what he is.... Because the truth could kill her.

I’m a die hard CW a.k.a. The WB fan. Many of my favorite shows (Buffy, Angel, Dawson’s Creek, Gilmore Girls, Charmed, etc.) have come from this awesome network. So about 6 years ago I happened to come across a little TV series called Roswell. Roswell aired between 1999-2002 approximately 3 seasons; a time span where I watched very little supernatural dramas or “real-person” shows because I was still in my Disney and Nickelodeon phase. Anyways, five episodes in and I was officially hooked. We’re talking 60+ episodes (roughly 45 mins each) watched in 5 days in between full time college classes and part time office work. I was barely sleeping 4 hours a night because I HAD to keep watching. I learned half-ways through that this insanely-addictive show was based on a series of novels, but I didn’t fully seek them out until much later. Having been published in the late 1990′s it was very hard to get your hands on a copy. However, I finally invested in a Nook Tablet this past January somewhere around the time that the Roswell series made a jump to the e-scene. I’m so happy to have finally read the book that “started it all”. Although I don’t feel as close to the characters in the book versus the show, I still highly enjoyed reading The Outsider.

Our story takes place in Roswell, New Mexico. A location very close to the famous Roswell crash that occurred in 1947. The book’s POV switched place between few characters, but I’ll start with Liz. Liz Ortecho is a teenage girl who apart from school, spends her time hanging out with her best friends Marie and Alex and also working at her parent’s ufo-themed diner. She’s very smart and and intuitive, yet burdened. We find out early on that her sister Rosa past away (at some point) due to a drug overdose. Her parents are not only highly protective but also very anal when it comes to Liz’s future. Although Liz does aspire to graduate top in her class and attend a high-ranked college, I felt as though her parents over-pressure her to succeed because of the loss of their other daughter. The Outsider begins on a day where Liz is waitressing in the diner during which an out of the blue fight erupts between two customers. This argument reaches a breaking point when one whips out a gun. After some shuffling a shot rings out and Liz immediately slumps to the ground. She’s been shot and is slowing bleeding to death on the diner floor…

Enter Max Evans. He’s described as tall, blue-eyed and gorgeous. He’s a fellow classmate who Liz has known since third grade. After some internal struggle and an argument with his friend Michael, Max reaches Liz and does some type of molecular manipulation that causes the bullet in her stomach to break down into small particles. He then proceeds to repairing the ripped cartilage by reforming her cells. Before any officers show up, Max and Michael make a run for it leaving Liz and her best friend Maria dazed. Later on Liz and Maria notice a faint hand-shaped marking remaining on Liz’s stomach where Max worked his “mojo”. Early on, through POV change we learn that Max his sister Isabel, and their friend Michael are not from “around here”. I don’t want to go into too much detail as to spoiler the overall plot but I will say that there is a huge E.T. aspect to this book. *wink wink*

I liked this book but didn’t love it. I love the original concept and storyline but I found the writing very simplistic. The dialogue is hella-funny but that’s about it. There was a good mix of characters. Some we’re endearing and humorous like Maria while others tended to be prissy and kind of shallow like Isabel. There’s a little bit of everything including suspense, romance, mystery and humor.

two-half-stars
The Wicked Deep

Pivot Point by Kasie West

Pivot Point by Kasie WestPivot Point (Pivot Point, #1) by Kasie West
Published by HarperTeen on February 12th 2013
Pages: 343
Goodreads
four-stars

Knowing the outcome doesn't always make a choice easier...

Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.

In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through... and who she can’t live without.

Thanks HarperTeen for providing me with this ARC in exchange for a honest review.

Watch out 2013 releases – Pivot Point is going to be one tough act to follow. Original, intricate, and surprising; Pivot Point is one of those great books that I will compare others to.

Pivot Point, much like NBC’s short-lived series Awake, which featured a similar storyline, focuses on one character (Addison “Addie” Coleman) and the alternating parallel lives she leads. In a tight-knit and secretive town, referred to as the Compound, a small population of humans with enhanced mental abilities, thrive. This society and its abilities have remained under lock and key for quite some time. You’ve got your run of the mill telekinetics, telepaths, mood-swayers, as well as, human lie detectors. In a town full of gifted individuals, Addie rises slightly above the rest with the ability to witness her future(s) which are all dependent on certain decisions she makes. When the book kicks off, Addie has just found out that her parents are divorcing and making her choose between which parent she wants to live with.

Unfortunately it’s a bit more complicated than just parental separation. Although her mom will remain in the Compound, Addie’s father has decided to leave and settle in a “norm” town. With some careful consideration, Addie decides to peer into each of her potential futures; life with mom and life with dad. In a matter of minutes, Addie experiences the next few weeks of two potential lives.

Pivot Point was brilliantly set-up. You have interchanging chapters between Addie’s parallel lives. One chapter you follow Addie’s continual day-to-day life in the Compound. The other – follows her attempts to fit into a norm high school and make norm friends. Even though it’s not your typical POV switch-off because Addie constantly remains the narrator, I was still skeptical in the beginning. I feared that I’d love one life more than the other. Then get discouraged whenever it’d switch to the less-liked one. Boy was I wrong! I ended up loving BOTH of Addie’s potential futures. It felt like I was getting two stories for the price of one.

Although Addie’s life drastically differs between D (dad) and M (mom) paths, you find out that there’s a lot of similarities. It was basically a case of “you can’t escape fate”. The murderer mentioned in the synopsis, is still a big problem regardless of the path Addie chooses, and certain incidents or meetings still occur in both. By Addie and the readers witnessing both possible futures, the mysteries are slowly cracked by pieces of information revealed in both paths.

I was so caught up in the suspense and romance; I didn’t want Pivot Point to end. It was fast-paced and intense with a great build-up. Bodies pile-up, secrets begin to overload and emotions run high. By the end of the book, Addie’s left with a tough decision because both paths lead to equally horrific and happy futures. No matter what decision she makes, Addie has something to precious to lose.

four-stars
The Wicked Deep

Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

Unraveling by Elizabeth NorrisUnraveling (Unraveling, #1) by Elizabeth Norris
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 24th 2012
Pages: 464
Goodreads
five-stars

Sixteen-year-old Janelle Tenner is used to having a lot of responsibility. She balances working as a lifeguard in San Diego with an intense academic schedule. Janelle's mother is bipolar, and her dad is a workaholic FBI agent, which means Janelle also has to look out for her younger brother, Jared.

And that was before she died... and is brought back to life by Ben Michaels, a mysterious, alluring loner from her high school. When she discovers a strange clock that seems to be counting down to the earth's destruction, Janelle learns she has twenty-four days to figure out how to stop the clock and save the planet.

Unraveling is one of those books I see myself re-reading at some point down the road because of it’s sheer amount of awesomenimity. It’s very edge-of-your-seat intense with danger lurking at every corner. The whole feel of the book was raised to a heightened sense of doom because of THE COUNTDOWN, a mystery once revealed; that will leave you reeling. I loved how Norris didn’t take anytime jumping right into the action. A few pages in and I was hooked.

Janelle Tenner is my kind of heroine and quite truly one hell of a girl. She’s a force to be reckoned with, uber-smart and resourceful. When one of her father’s FBI cases re-open with a string of deformed corpses she can’t help but team up with her best friend Alex in order to lend a helping hand. Of course Janelle doesn’t necessarily tell her father what she’s doing… She’s also very strong and nurturing. With a father who spends most of his time working and a mother with a severe case of Bi-polar disease, household management has unfortunately fallen on Janelle’s shoulders. She’s had to watch over both her younger brother and at times, erratic mother. And yet, there’s still another side to her. Janelle can be quite saucy at times, during character dialogues and her own narration. I loved being inside her head because they’re was a lot of humor which kept the sometimes darker story, light.

“When did I become such a hormone-crazed psycho? Ben comes to my house in the middle of the night, obviously upset, and I practically jump him. And in his weakened-by-blood state, he doesn’t fight me. If he ends up dying because I was turned on, I might shoot myself.” – direct quote

“Loner” Ben was also a great character. We only get to see the world through Janelle’s POV but through unique circumstances we do get an inside look at who Ben truly is i.e. his true thoughts and emotions. What I loved most was the fact that although Janelle never really noticed Ben, Ben has always had Janelle on his radar. I don’t want to spoil the sweet reveal, but I will say that Janelle has always been highly regarded and beloved by Ben due to an incident that occurred when they were younger. Ben’s very protective, sweet and charming, and although his secrets build up throughout the story, Janelle still can’t resist getting closer to him.

I’ve personally never really liked sci-fi movies or TV shows (Roswell and Fringe are the exception) but I do LOVE this book. The whole END OF THE WORLD plot line is very sci-fi-y but it’s not the core of this book. Unraveling is very much so about it’s main character, Janelle, realizing that she’s got so much to live for and being thankful for the second chance she gets. The emotions are very strong in this book, especially the sad ones. Like the synopsis says, death hits close to home and when it does it’s toll is devastating.

In conclusion: Unraveling is fabulous. The writing is briskly paced and the characters entirely engaging. There’s not one fault that I could find with this book. I definitely recommend it, especially if you’ve been in a reading slump because it’ll get you right back out!

 

five-stars