Category Archives: Sci-Fi

Tuesday Review Day: Open Minds by Susan Kaye Quinn

Susan Kaye Quinn’s Open Minds is another one that was on my 2014 Goals list that I’ve finally been able to cross off. I actually bought it quite some time ago because it was free for Kindle, but it, along with all of the other books I grab just because they’re free, sat in my Kindle library gathering theoretical dust. I’m not sure why it took me so long to get around to reading it, but I’m thrilled I did because it was a really great book.

Open Minds

Series: Mindjack
Author: Susan Kaye Quinn
Publication Date: November 1, 2011
Pages: 326
Rating: 4 stars

In 16 year-old Kira’s world, not being able to read minds makes you a freak. She has been waiting for her mind-reading powers to kick in so she can finally be a functioning part of society, but being 16 with no powers pretty much means they aren’t going to appear – she’s destined to be a “zero” forever. However, she soon discovers that while she doesn’t have the power to read minds, she does have the power to control, or “jack” them. With her fellow jacker Simon, she enters into a new world full of things she could have only dreamed of had she gotten the same powers as everyone else. But while at first her jacking abilities seem awesome, it quickly becomes apparent that there are those out there who would like to use the jackers for purposes much more sinister than just trying to fit in. Finding a fellow jacker to show her the ropes seems like a great idea at first, but that friendship ultimately lands her in places she thought could only exist in science fiction, places she must fight her way out of in order to keep her life and the lives of her loved ones in tact.

What I Liked:

1. That the mind-reading aspect was done well.  It was creepy, no doubt about that, but Ms. Quinn did a great job of making it seem like a perfectly normal aspect of every day life.

2.  Romance isn’t a big thing in this one, although it was still a functional part of the plot. Kira’s relationship with Simon was certainly flawed, but it gave her the opportunity to discover more about herself than she would have otherwise.

3. The reason she was different was very basic, no supernatural force necessary. Genetics were the driving force behind her differences, not some magic potion or monster bite.

What I Didn’t Like:

1. The physical descriptions of characters was somewhat lacking. We knew about hair color for a few, and some characters had some defining traits, like Raf’s Latino hotness, but for the most part there wasn’t really much to go on, nothing to really fuel the imagination and draw up pictures of the characters.

2. Minor thing: it was way too easy to get away with the whole Kestril confrontation. He knew exactly how powerful Kira was and how much control she could exert, so you’d think he’d be more on his guard.

3. The words the author created for the story – “demens,” “mesh,” “scrit,” etc. – were an ok touch but also kind of annoying. She described everything else about the world, so the language could have been explained, too.

I recommend this book to anyone who is into a more sci-fi young adult theme than paranormal. It doesn’t focus on a person who has super powers because they’ve been cursed/bitten/whathaveyou.  Kira, like everyone else in her world, was born with her powers. They just happen to be a bit different than the norm. It made for a really entertaining and quick read, so if you’re looking for something you can get through in a few days, this is a great option. It’s still free for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and on Google Play, so if you’re curious it’s a great time to grab it.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Cheap reads, Dystopian, Fiction, First in series, Mind control, Romance, Sci-Fi, Series, YA

Tuesday Review Day: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer was one  I really wanted to knock off my 2014 Goals list (which I really need to get cracking on), so when it lowered quite a bit in price (only $1.99), I snagged it. The concept of it was a bit unclear based on the description, but it sounded interesting enough to try it out.

Mara Dyer

Author: Michelle Hodkin
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
Pages: 466
Rating: 4 stars

Mara Dyer is a 17 year old girl who wakes up in a hospital to discover she is the only survivor of a building collapse that took the lives of her two closest friends and boyfriend. She has no memory of the events leading up to the collapse, including how she came to be there. She experiences severe PTSD after her release from the hospital due to her feelings of survivor’s guilt, prompting her and her family to pack up and move to Florida for a fresh start. Once there, she begins to see that she has what appear to be some very disturbing abilities. After she meets Noah, the popular British classmate with a reputation for breaking hearts, she realizes that he may be the only one who can help her understand her new powers. With him, she sets out to discover what she can do, and whether she can use those powers for good or if they have a more sinister purpose.

What I Liked:

1. The different twist on paranormal was done really well. There was no way (for me) to really guess what was fueling Mara’s powers and how Noah was connected to them, and once more came to light it indicated a really great story would be continued in the next two books.

2. The love between Noah and Mara wasn’t immediate. It took a little while for them to actually get together, although he pushed it from the start. Mara, while definitely attracted to Noah, held him off because of his reputation and her past, which at least indicated some level of common sense on her part. She didn’t automatically assume he was “different” with her.

3. The minor things. I liked that the books Mara was into weren’t the old-school classics, like in so many other books. She’s caught reading Lolita, which, while not exactly a new release, it’s also not centuries old. Also, Hodkin pulls off the sibling aspect well. Usually protagonists are only children, or have siblings that are relatively absent. Daniel and Joseph were very present in the book and were integral to the story, giving Mara a home life that consisted more than absent or clueless parents. The sporadic references to Harry Potter and LOTR were also a plus.

4. The language was pretty typical for teenagers. Sexual innuendoes, raunchy jokes, etc. were included in the dialogue, which made the characters a bit more believable. I know not all teenagers have potty-mouths, and foul language does not a good book make, but when you walk down the hall in a high school, you’ll hear plenty of things that could hardly be considered intellectual conversation.

What I Didn’t Like:

1. The typical YA romance formula was followed. Mara shows up on her first day of school dressed like a bum, gets into it with the prettiest girl in school, becomes BFFs with a friendly nice guy, embarrassed herself, and makes googly eyes with the hottest guy in school. Who also happens to be British. Not to mention the “warm current” she feels when their hands brush. Come on now.

2. Ok, Mom, super smart lady that you are. Your daughter has been prescribed antipsychotics and you feel the best time for her to take her first pill is as she’s walking out the door for a date? With a boy you just met? I’m gonna go ahead and say that’s probably not the best idea.

3. The whole missing-brother thing was really random. I’m still not entirely sure of the purpose of it. I thought it would be the climax to the book, and even that would’ve been odd because there was still so much unknown about Mara. I get that the author was trying to reveal something about Mara and Noah (kind of), but there wasn’t really enough foreshadowing to indicate that something big would be revealed.

4. Once Mara discovered what her powers allowed her to do, she didn’t really attempt to control them. She knew that she could if she really wanted to, but she let her emotions get in the way of learning to use or control them to keep herself from falling apart. That cast her in a pretty negative light in my eyes.

All in all this was an enjoyable book. The surprising cliffhanger at the end has me really itching to read the second book, so I’ll likely have that one up for review soon, too.

Now, on to check a few more books off of my goals list!

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, Cheap reads, Fiction, First in series, Paranormal, Romance, Sci-Fi, Series, YA

Tuesday Review Day: Crossed by Ally Condie

When I reviewed Ally Condie’s Matched a while back, I mentioned that it had taken me a few tries to get through it. Once I got past the first few chapters I really enjoyed it and was excited to read the sequel, Crossed.

In Matched, Society citizen Cassia and aberration Ky fall in love and hope to defy the laws of their world be together. That plan is foiled when the Society officials send Ky to fight in the outer provinces, leaving Cassia heartbroken but determined to find him. With the help of  her official Match, Xander, she is able to sneak away from the Society to search for him. Crossed picks up not too long after Cassia sets out on her search for Ky in the outer provinces of her world, which seemed to be a promising and hopefully exciting storyline. Unfortunately,  it sadly fell completely flat.

crossed

 

Author: Ally Condie
Series: Matched
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
Pages: 367
Rating: 2.5 stars

(Minor spoilers)

What I Liked:

1. Although my major complaint is that not much of any significance happened, the things that did were pretty interesting. Discovering the truth about the blue tablets, Xander’s secret, and the extent to which the Society will go to collect data made for really great plot points.

2. Cassia seems to be going through a very gradual change from Citizen to rebel. In a lot of books, one event sparks an almost immediate change in the protagonist, but that’s not the case with Cassia. She still has a lot of growing and evolving to do, which isn’t something that is spread out evenly over several books.

What I Didn’t Like:

1. The walking. OMG, the WALKING. I felt like I was reading about Sam and Frodo on their quest for Mordor.

2. Cassia destroys everything that could be important. She keeps illegal artifacts hidden, but papers giving her background information for the thing she’s looking for get destroyed. Her grandfather’s poems, destroyed. Things that could easily be stuffed in the bottom of her sock, destroyed.

3. Nothing of significance, aside from escaping the aberration camps, happened until they all met up with each other halfway through the book. Then Ky and Indie discovered their similarities, they met Hunter, found the Society’s stash, and finally found the Rising.

4. And as for the writing itself. The author chose to use alternating perspectives for the chapters, so they were split between Ky and Cassia, but there was no real difference in their voices.

5. There’s no major obstacle, aside from their trek through the Carving. They encounter interesting things during their travels, but not much really happens.

Unfortunately, upon finishing Crossed I realized that the false starts I experienced with Matched might actually be indicative of the rest of the series. When I finished Matched I was excited and anxious to continue the series, but Crossed just left me feeling as though I’d wasted time reading an entire book when the story could’ve been told in a few chapters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, Dystopian, Fiction, Paranormal, Romance, Sci-Fi, Series, YA

Tuesday Review Day: The Park Service by Ryan Winfield

I came across Ryan Winfield’s The Park Service on Amazon back in June as a freebie deal. Currently its got 4.5 out of 5 on Amazon from a total of almost 900 reviews, and when a freebie pops up with good reviews, I really don’t see the harm in grabbing it.

I was almost halfway through by the end of a 2 hour car ride, so I was pretty sure it was going to be a great book. It did lose steam a bit once I hit that point, but it was able to pick back up again toward the end.

Park Service

Author: Ryan Winfield
Series: The Park Service
Publication Date: October 11, 2012
Pages: 338
Rating: 4 stars

Set almost 1000 years in the future, The Park Service centers around 15 year old Aubrey VanHouten, a boy who lives in a compound called Holocene II beneath what was formerly the United States. In Holocene II, all kids take a test at age 15 to determine which of the 6 levels of society they’ll move on to for the remainder of their working life. Aubrey gets called to Level 1, which is extremely rare because no one really knows what happens there. Not knowing what he will find, he sets off on a train to his new home. On the way, his train crashes and he is dumped out into the middle of the world he was told was uninhabitable. He stumbles across a small clan of people who take him in and make him one of their own. In time, he begins to realize that the world he lived in and what he was told was fact was almost all a fallacy. The scientists that controlled what he did, ate, and how he lived were doing much more than attempting to keep the human race running. He, along with his new friend Jimmy, end up on a mission to destroy what was a much more disturbing and sinister organization than Aubrey ever thought possible.

What I Liked:

1. Male protagonist. They’re rare, but I almost always like them, finding them much less whiny or mopey than the female protagonists of the YA genre.

2. While it happened quicker than I thought it would, the author included Aubrey’s necessary adaptation to the outside world. He’d been living underground all his life with an immune system and body that could only develop so many immunities in the concealed space. He had to go through a transition period of sunburn, peeling, and illness before being able to really function in the open air.

3. The evil of the Park Service is demonstrated to an extreme. I’m not sure why I found this a strong aspect of the story, because the note I added was “so freaking depressing,” but it added a good deal of emotion to the story. If writing can elicit true emotion, I find it worth reading.

What I Didn’t Like:

1. That everything I did like happened within the first 150 or so pages. I tore through the first chunk of the book in about 2 hours, but once Aubrey and Jimmy met the Radcliffes, I ended up skimming for about 50 pages. There had been a lot of things happening in the first half – adapting to a new way of life, making new friends, mass murder, treks through the mountains, etc – that kept it moving along nicely. Once they reached the compound, Aubrey seemed to get comfortable back in his own element (sort of), so things stopped happening.

2. After Aubrey met Hannah, things turned into a stereotypical YA romance for awhile. She was beautiful, they fell for one another immediately, they roll around in the ocean together, etc. The only weird thing was that her parents were expecting them to essentially bring the human race back from extinction once Dr. Radcliffe pulls off his crazy plans, but that added to the interesting aspects of the story.

3. Dr. Radcliffe told Aubrey absolutely everything about his mad-scientist schemes and explained all the things that they’ve been keeping from those in Holocene II. He laid it all out very clearly, making it way too easy for Aubrey and Jimmy to carry out their own plans.

I still haven’t picked up book 2, Isle of Man, because I’ve got several other books I want to get out of the way first. But I’ll definitely be grabbing it. Toward the end of the book, things started to pick back up and it’s looking like the next part of the story will be pretty interesting. I definitely recommend this one to anyone who enjoys YA dystopian and wants something not fraught with romance. It’s a relatively cheap series – The Park Serivce is only $3.99 on Amazon, with books 2 and 3 – Isle of Man and State of Nature at only $5.99. All are free for Kindle Unlimited.

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, Cheap reads, Fiction, First in series, male protagonist, Paranormal, Sci-Fi, Series, YA

Tuesday Review Day: Touching Fire by Airicka Phoenix (Touch Series #2)

So after receiving an ARC copy of Airicka Phoenix’s Touching Smoke a few months back, I’ve been anxiously waiting for the second book, Touching Fire, to make its appearance. After a few false alarms, it finally got released on March 27, and I got around to reading it a few weeks ago. I was REALLY excited to read it because I loved the first one so much (see my review here), but I really had no thoughts on where the series was going to go after Fallon learned all about herself.

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

Author: Airicka Phoenix
Series: Touch
Published: March, 2014
Pages: 395 (approx. – only on Kindle so far)
Rating4 stars

Touching Fire picks up shortly after Fallon and Isaiah escape Garrison/Terrell. Having been on the run and constantly hiding from his men, they finally meet up with Ashton/Acheron, Fallon’s father. After defeating an army of supernatural creatures outside of a diner, he takes the two back to his home in Luxuria, which is in a separate dimension only accessed via the nexus (a long crazy hallway of doors). Once there, Fallon’s lineage is laid out for her. Ashton explains that she is more than just a genetic freak concocted in Garrison’s lab. She is also the daughter of sin, in particular, lust, and therefore has many special powers. From this point forward, Fallon discovers that she is potentially a key component of a centuries old prophecy, fights tooth and nail to have a future with Isaiah, and gets kidnapped/detained a couple of times. All of this leads up to a pretty severe cliffhanger of an ending.

What I Liked:

1. I loved the way Fallon speaks. She says things like “Somehow, this revelation was infinitely worse than the time I learned I was a cocktail of animal DNA,” and “Life really was one big box of freaking mystery chocolates and I was quickly becoming diabetic.”  She’s very off-the-cuff and much more believable than a lot of characters in other books.

2. No love triangle! At least not yet. I’m sure I’m speaking too soon, but as of right now, the focus is on figuring herself out and loving Isaiah.

3. The fusion of two very different genres – Paranormal Fantasy + Sci-Fi – makes this story really interesting. In Fallon’s words, she was “a weapon, a mutant, a sin, and a princess.” She has to choose between being human with Isaiah or supernatural, living on Earth or in the realm of Luxuria with the rest of the sins and their offspring. But in reality, her actual humanity was conceived in the lab of a mad scientist who wanted to carry on the life of his deceased daughter and unknowingly fused her DNA with that of a sin.

4. I really like the idea of sins personified as opposed to actual monsters like vampires or werewolves. Definitely different. BUT….(see #3 below).

What I Didn’t Like:

1. As with the first book, SO much of this book seemed like set up or filler. It took quite a while for the sci-fi theme of the first book to catch up with the supernatural fantasy theme of this one.

2. For a book that was postponed several times due to editing/publishing, it was still chock full of errors, and silly ones at that: googles instead of goggles, hare instead of are, noise instead of nose, etc. At one point, Isaiah was referred to as Ike. They were things that should’ve been picked up with no problem by anyone who read the book.

3. I’m currently in the middle of Wendy Higgins’ Sweet trilogy, so being confronted with another storyline involving the descendants of sins kind of made me face-palm. It’s definitely a cool idea, and it’s in no way the same as the Sweet series, but I just get worried that that’s going to be the new vampire craze, and it doesn’t seem like that can be adjusted to reflect the author’s own ideas as easily as the vampire/zombie/werewolf story.

4. Isaiah didn’t really have much of a purpose in this book. In the first one, he was Fallon’s protector. In this one, he just kind of existed, waiting around until Fallon and Ashton figured out what to do with him.

So my review for this went down a bit from Touching Smoke because, while a lot happened, most of it happened in the last third or so of the book. The large majority of it seemed a lot like filler and set up. But based on the ending, I think the third book will be really good. Hopefully it won’t take too long to get published, though!

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Shatter Me by Tehereh Mafi

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

Author: Tahereh Mafi
Published: October, 2012
Pages: 340
Rating: 4 stars

I’ve had Shatter Me on my To Read list for a long time now, and I’m really happy I finally got around to reading it.

Hunger Games meets X-Men is the best way I can describe it, although I certainly wouldn’t put it at the same level of awesomeness.

Tiny spoilers ahead!

Juliette’s world has been taken over by The Reestablishment, a governing body that controls how and when people eat, who gets what food, where people can and can’t live, and the jobs that people do. She has been locked up in an asylum by the Reestablishment after her fatal touch causes her to accidentally kill a young boy. Being isolated from others – both in and out of the asylum – has caused Juliette to go a little mad, but she overcomes that relatively quickly once a soldier for the Reestablishment named Adam breaks her out. He has been ordered to do this so she can (hopefully) be put to work for his tyrannic boss Warner, a leader of the Reestablishment, using her bizarre power to help torture people for information. She ultimately breaks out of her new prison (a suite in Warner’s home) and ends up in an anti-Reestablishment movement’s headquarters with 55 other people who have freakish gifts like hers.

What I Liked (with more tiny spoilers):

1. Once I figured out how to navigate the incessant rambling metaphors, the story was really interesting.

2. The ending was really cool. It doesn’t seem like this will just be a series about a girl choosing between two love interests, but about finding her place in a world that she didn’t know existed. She thought she was a lonely freak, and that turned out not to be the case, which was nice.

What I Didn’t Like:

1. The main thing I had issue with was the perspective. I generally don’t have problems with the first person perspective; I usually prefer it. But this was completely stream-of-consciousness and FULL of metaphors, so at times it got a little convoluted. For example:

“I always wonder about raindrops.

I wonder about how they’re always falling down, tripping over their own feet, breaking their legs and forgetting their parachutes as they tumble right out of the sky toward an uncertain end. It’s like someone is emptying their pockets over the earth and doesn’t seem to care where the contents fall, doesn’t seem to care that the raindrops burst when they hit the ground, that they shatter when they fall to the floor, that people curse the day the drops dare to tap on their doors. 

I am a raindrop.” (5)

And it goes on like this throughout the entire book.

3. Juliette’s constant blushing, hopes that she wasn’t blushing, and embarrassment because she was blushing (or might be blushing) was ANNOYING. Seriously, she blushed or flushed (or tried not to blush) 31 times throughout the book. I tried my best to keep her isolation from society in mind as I was reading, but it happened so frequently that it became difficult not to be annoyed by it.

Blushing aside, this was a really good start to what seems to be a pretty promising series. I’m really excited to find out what happens, because this is one of those cases where I can’t really predict what the outcome might be. I just bought #2, Unravel Me, so hopefully the story will continue along in the same way. I don’t know that I would’ve liked to have seen anything added to or taken away from the plot, so this one gets 4 stars, mainly due to the perspective and incessant babbling.

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A Re-Review of Portal by Imogen Rose

I actually read Portal a few years ago, but I realized that I’ve now mentioned it in two of my previous posts and thought I’d revisit it now that I’ve got a new forum for reviews.

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

Author: Imogen Rose
Published: January, 2010
Pages: 354
Rating: One star

My original review can be found here.

For some reason the only versions showing up on Goodreads are not in English, so you can read the full description of Imogen Rose’s Portal here on Amazon.

When I first read the description of the book, I was thinking I might get something along the lines of Donnie Darko, which at times made my brain hurt, but was still a great movie. Sadly, that was not the case.

16 year-old Arizona Stevens lives in New Jersey with her father, living the life of a typical tomboy and playing on the boys ice hockey team. Suddenly, she “wakes up” in the backseat of her mother’s H2 9 months in the past as platinum blond Arizona Darley, cheerleading captain. She now lives with her mother, who she despises, stepfather and brother (who were previously nonexistent), sister, and (previously dead) grandmother. Freaked out but wanting to avoid a trip to the psych ward (?!), she plays along, pretending that this is all perfectly normal. She goes to school and hangs out with her “friends,” meets a guy (Kellan), and discovers she’s on the cheerleading squad, something she never would’ve done in her “real” life. Because this was so out of character for her, she decided to take some action and try out for the hockey team in order to bring some normalcy to her life. In her own words,

          “This [cheerleading] was a total dealbreaker. Dream or no dream, I immediately decided that I had to play for the varsity ice hockey team.”

So, instead of trying to keep a low profile while she figures out what the heck is going on, she tries out for the varsity hockey team to prove she’s not a girly-girl cheerleader. One thing she did love about her “new” life was that she drove a brand new Jeep. She was super stoked about having a Jeep to drive around in. As long as there’s a cool car and a hockey team, life was good.

Arizona makes it clear to her mother Olivia (more than halfway through the book) that she knows Olivia has brought into the future. But instead of insisting that they discuss it right then and there, Arizona gets ready for school, goes down for breakfast, talks about hockey, tells her mom she wants to talk to her after school, talks about hockey some more, then leaves for school. Now I’m sorry, but if I found out my mother kidnapped me from the future and the life I loved to come back and live with her, a stepfather and brother who never existed before, my formerly dead grandmother, and my little sister, I would want to talk about it NOW. Not when it was convenient, but NOW. I can guarantee a hockey game, school, or anything else short of death would not keep me from making sure that happened. And honestly, if I were Olivia, I certainly wouldn’t be letting my daughter go on with her daily routine, ESPECIALLY considering there were other people who were in on the scheme hanging around. She went through hell and high water to bring her daughter into this alternate reality, so instead of sitting down and talking it out, the two just agree  to talk about it after Arizona goes through the day not getting her butt kicked by the bully on the hockey team or killed by her crazy ex-friend. Who, incidentally, knows all about her previous life.

Later, when Arizona explained to Kellan that she was from the future (after telling him repeatedly throughout the book that there was “so much” she needed to tell him), instead of thinking she was completely bonkers, he believed her in a matter of a few lines. Lines! The book is 354 pages long, I think a few pages could’ve been spared for some discussion and persuasion.

As for the ending, well, it was incredibly abrupt and weird.  The epilogue, normally an extension of the book, read more like a preview to the next book in the series. It introduced characters that had not appeared in Portal at all. The only reason I knew that it had anything to do with the series at all was because one of the characters was brought up.

What I Liked:

1. Nothing.

What I Didn’t Like:

Aside from everything,

1. The language and word choice used was often very awkward. There was a constant lack of contractions, no use of slang, and just a lot of awkward phrasing. Ms. Rose didn’t seem to capture a true teenager’s voice and ended up taking on the voice of that teenager’s grandmother.

2. There was designer name-dropping EVERYWHERE. Juicy, Marc Jacobs, PacSun, Jeep, Hummer, Abercrombie, Nike, Louboutin, Chanel, Hermes, and Apple were just a few. It’s really hard to get into a book when it seems like the author was getting paid for product placement.

3. The editing for Portal was atrocious. There were missing question marks, oddly placed commas, hyphens in random places, and various other grammatical errors. To be fair, the more I get into self-published books, the more I try to cut authors some slack because professional or formal editing is not always readily available. However, when it seems as though the bare minimum amount of editing was done, I start to see the author as somewhat lazy. But, the book was only $.99, so I guess I got what I paid for.

Overall this book was terrible. I normally hate to be so harsh, but in this case I can’t help it. The language was weird, there wasn’t much distinction between character voices, not enough questions were asked, and the grammatical errors were rampant. Even in re-reading Portal for this review I made an attempt to see it in a more favorable light, but I couldn’t. If I actually had to listen to the characters in this book speak in real life I might put my head through a wall. Maybe if it were picked up by a publishing house some of these things would be worked out, but until then I have to stick with my one-star review. 

Next Week (3/23): A review of Containment Zone by R.A. Seckler

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