Wednesday, March 18, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Duplicity by N.K. Traver


Title: DUPLICITY
Author: N.K. Traver
ASIN: B00N046Z48
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Theme(s): computer hacking, technology
Length: 253 pages
Binding: E-book, Hardcover
Published: 17 March 2015
Buy: Amazon, B&N, Kobo

Synopsis:

A computer-hacking teen. The girl who wants to save him. And a rogue mirror reflection that might be the death of them both.

In private, seventeen-year-old Brandon hacks bank accounts just for the thrill of it. In public, he looks like any other tattooed bad boy with a fast car and devil-may-care attitude. He should know: he’s worked hard to maintain that fa├žade. With inattentive parents who move constantly from city to city, he’s learned not to get tangled up in things like friends and relationships. So he’ll just keep living like a machine, all gears and wires.

Then two things shatter his carefully-built image: Emma, the kind, stubborn girl who insists on looking beneath the surface – and the small matter of a mirror reflection that starts moving by itself. Not only does Brandon’s reflection have a mind of its own, but it seems to be grooming him for something—washing the dye from his hair, yanking out his piercings, swapping his black shirts for … pastels. Then it tells him: it thinks it can live his life better, and it’s preparing to trade places.

And when it pulls Brandon through the looking-glass, not only will he need all his ill-gotten hacking skills to escape, but he’s going to have to face some hard truths about who he’s become. Otherwise he’ll be stuck in a digital hell until he’s old and gray, and no one will even know he's gone.

My Rating:


My Review: I have been extremely lucky in the past month or so to have had the opportunity to read YA novels with unique male protagonists. As an educator working with mostly reluctant readers, it is very difficult to find Young Adult books with interesting male leads that will keep teenage boys engaged. After having read The Tragic Age by Stephen Metcalfe and now Duplicity by the brilliant N.K. Traver, it almost feels like I hit the jackpot.

Without adding the science fiction element, the story is quite simple. Brandon Eriks is a 17 year old tattooed bad boy that gains pleasure out of hacking into bank accounts and credit cards for a nefarious organization. Of course he gets his cut, however he doesn't really need it since his parents have plenty of money. Brandon seems to fit the stereotype that comes with being tattooed and pierced-- he isn't doing well in school, he treats everyone with disdain, and is in constant dispute with his parents who start to think drugs might be the reason for his attitude and lack of motivation. Brandon doesn't care what anyone thinks; in fact, he has everyone thinking EXACTLY what he wants them to. Well, except for one anomaly-- Emma. Emma is the one person that sees beyond the attitude, beyond the tats and piercings. And for awhile, Brandon allows it. For once, he lets someone get close. But it can't last. Not with how his parents pick up and move every year. No, it's better for a clean break now rather than heartbreak later.

Then things get a little...crazy. One night while running a program to begin another "hack" job, his computer starts sending him messages. Personal, scary messages:

"HERE'S THE GAME, HACKER. I'M DONE WATCHING YOU RUIN PEOPLE'S LIVES. HEARD THE PHRASE 'YOUR OWN WORSE ENEMY?' YOU'RE ABOUT TO LIVE IT."

Thinking someone has messed with his computer, Brandon tries to brush it off until he starts to notice strange things happening to his reflection in mirrors-- his reflection doesn't follow his every move, instead it moves on its own, leaves messages through the glass, and starts to make physical changes to his appearance. Tattoos and piercings are removed (somewhat painfully), clothing replaced with a completely new "preppy" wardrobe, until finally, one day, it is HE that is replaced by his "duplicate". Now Brandon is on the other side of the mirror, watching this "replica" of himself take over his life. What's worse is the fact that Obran (the name Brandon gives his duplicate) appears to be mending the relationship with his parents, getting better grades in school, and getting a little too close to Emma. Why was he pulled into the mirror? Most importantly, how will he get out? That's something you'll have to figure out by reading this suspenseful cyberthriller!

If you like anti-heroes, then you will enjoy Brandon. He definitely isn't perfect and from the very first page you know he is partaking in illegal activities and makes no apologies about it. Bank accounts, credit cards-- he hacks into them all and is looking forward to moving on up to social security numbers very soon. So why should teenage boys pick this book up when the male lead is a slacker and on his way to becoming a criminal? Because despite his less than role model qualities, he is relatable. How many kids do you know have parents that work extra hours to keep their million dollar homes, brand new cars, their lake house but spend absolutely no time with their children? Parents that move every year, yanking their kids out of school, never staying long enough to lay down roots? That is Brandon's life. Despite his standoffish appearance and front he puts on, all he really wants is to be noticed by his parents. He wants to be able to stay in one place long enough to make long lasting friendships and relationships, however, keeping people at arm's length, especially Emma, is the only way to guard himself from being hurt when it is time to move.

Another aspect of Duplicity I liked is that Brandon and Emma's relationship is already established at the beginning of the story. I thought this was a unique twist to the book and allows us to get right into the action.

While there are not too many secondary characters in the book, the one that stood out to me was Seb. Once Brandon is pulled through the mirror into this alternate "landscape",  he eventually meets Seb, an androgynous, mysterious hacker that wants to work with him to get out and back to the real world. Seb has a particular set of skills that Brandon definitely needs to attain their goal, but he is unsure if Seb can be trusted. I'll admit-- I was just as wary about Seb as Brandon was. However, Seb was hilarious and definitely serves as the comic relief in Duplicity. And as the story unfolds, you learn there is more to Seb then meets the eye, things that will have your eyes widening in shock and pulling on your heart strings.

The science fiction element of the story was fascinating and the technology aspect of the story will grab teenage readers and keep them invested since we live in a world where our kids are more technologically inclined then us adults. But even less tech savvy people can enjoy this fast paced thriller even with the introduction of supercomputers and nano chips, etc.

Duplicity is an engrossing piece of literary genius-- from the concept to the plot, to the flawed anti-hero who wants to be seen but is terrified to get attached-- it is hard to believe this book was written by a debut author. The ending will leave you wanting more--is it open ended, left for you to draw your own conclusions or did the author subtly set it up for a possible sequel? I guess we all will have to wait and see. I have no doubt we will be seeing more of N.K. Traver.

best wishes,mia

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: TAKE by Nashoda Rose + Giveaway


Title: TAKE (Scars of Wraiths, #1)
Author: Nashoda Rose
ASIN: B00TWL8NQG
Reading Level: Adult
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Length: 208 pages
Binding: E-book, Paperback
Published: 21 February 2015
Buy: Amazon, B&N, KOBO

Synopsis:

MAX

Feelings are a luxury I can’t afford. Hidden behind a shield of quiet placidity, I keep my secret safe from those who’d use it against me. Until him—the tatted up, self-centered Scar assassin hired to protect me.

He takes pleasure in tormenting me, chipping away at my defenses as if I’m a toy to be played with. I hate that he continuously reminds me that I’m nothing more than a job. I hate that my body responds to his touch. I hate him.

JASPER

I’m not a good guy and I don’t pretend to be. Condemn me if you want, I don’t give a fuck. You’re nothing to me. No one is … except her—Max. She’s my target. And I was hired to do a hell of a lot more than protect her … I was hired to kill her.

It should’ve been simple, but it was complicated as hell.

Full-length novel. Come meet the Scars.

My Rating:


My Review: I have read just about every book by Nashoda Rose so I was pleasantly surprised when I got offered a chance to read and review her newest novel TAKE. The reason for my surprise? Because TAKE is a paranormal romance and Rose--up to this point--has written only contemporary erotic romance. Paranormal romance used to be one of my top go-to genres. However, it didn't take me long to get tired of stories that lacked any kind of originality. Don't get me wrong, sometimes reading a book with a similar formula can be great when you just want to shut your brain off and enjoy a few hours of mindless entertainment. But when stories from completely different authors start blurring together, that's when you know a break is in order. And this is why I typically buy only from my constants in the paranormal romance genre, like J.R. Ward and Lara Adrian.

However, Nashoda Rose hasn't failed me yet and I'm not going to lie, there is really nothing in the synopsis that gives away this story is a paranormal romance. So I was curious-- what were the paranormal elements that made up this story?

What we have are Scars, immortal warriors that live in the human world but have heightened senses. For example, our hero, Jasper, is known as a Sounder, the ability to hear noises, voices, etc. from miles away. There are also Trackers, Healers, Tasters, Visionaries and the rare Reflectors. Each of these warriors has a tattoo, or what they call an "Ink" that can be called to life.

I absolutely loved the concept of the Scar warriors, especially their "Ink" that they can summon off of their bodies to manifest into...creatures? Monsters? We only get two examples of "Inks" in the book. Jasper's "Ink" is named Groar, a boar-like monster with silver skin covered in tattoos. Totally bad ass. While immortal warriors with heightened senses and tattoos that come to life are not completely original ideas, Nashoda Rose took the concept and made it her own.

Jasper was the ultimate bad boy alpha male. But he is more then just a Scar Sounder. He is a highly respected hired assassin who crosses paths with our heroine Max in the beginning of the story and then meets up with her again 6 months later when her life is threatened. Jasper is crass, a major smart ass, and hides his emotions behind a thick wall to protect himself from growing attachments to anyone because of a tragedy that happened years ago. This is also why he doesn't belong to a Talde, or a group/band of Scar warriors. A complete loner and he likes it that way, well, until Max starts messing with his head and emotions.

Max was an intriguing character and perhaps is one of the only heroines that I can remember in a romance where I walked away liking her more than the hero!
Not that I had any issues towards Jasper-- that man was HOT with a capital H and his tragic past was heartbreaking. But Max's back story is horrific and it takes an extremely strong person to endure what she has. Max is a Scar Healer, only she has a unique ability that no other healer can do-- and that is the ability to heal a Scar's "Ink" once it has been destroyed. Max has endured years of imprisonment, torture, rape by the twistedly evil Drake. Once a Scar Tracker, he is even more powerful now that he is a vampire. At first, Drake enslaves Max and keeps her close so that she can constantly heal is failing lungs which started to occur once his "Ink" had died. At this point, he does not know Max's other ability-- and she will take it to her grave before she lets him find out. After years of imprisonment, she is rescued by Xamien, the leader of his own Talde of Scar warriors. He gives her safety, a place to call home. And while she is forever grateful and has a soft spot for this fierce warrior, she can't completely trust him and remains tight lipped about her time with Drake.

And then Jasper enters her life and all the walls she spent years erecting to keep herself safe start to crumble. He constantly baits her, saying outrageously sexual things that stirs a fire in her blood that she thought long dead. Her body riddled with scars from her time with Drake, Max wants to hide them, but Jasper isn't having any of it. He finds her beautiful, scars and all (even though the thought of someone putting them on her makes him want to hunt down the evil bastard responsible). Jasper and Max have off the charts chemistry and couldn't be more perfectly matched. When Jasper's true motives for taking her on as a "job" are revealed towards the end of the book, I felt a twinge in my heart for both characters-- how would Max ever be able to trust Jasper again and get over feeling betrayed? It took almost losing her for Jasper to realize how important she has become in his world-- how will he ever gain her trust? Well, you'll just have to read to find out!

It is really no surprise how much I also enjoyed the introduction to the secondary characters, especially Jasper's brother Holden (a Scar Tracker) and their friend Guise (a Visionary, ability to see very far). If you've read any of Nashoda Rose's previous novels, then you already know she has an amazing ability to create some of the hottest male secondary characters that will leave you panting for more. I know that TAKE was a bit of an experimental book in that reader reaction will play a huge role on whether Nashoda decides to expand on this series. And I am praying to the gods that she does because Holden, Guise, even Xamien need their own books. It totally has to happen!

So what held me back from giving TAKE a perfect 5 star rating? While I absolutely loved the concept of the Scars, the story lacked world building and mythology. At the very beginning of the book, the author gives us a glossary of terms which I found interesting. I thought wow, okay, Nashoda is trying to prepare us for this unique new world. Well...many of the terms in the glossary weren't even mentioned in the story. For a first novel in a series, there definitely lacks a bit of foundation. We really have no mythology, meaning we don't know where or how Scars came into existence. Oh, and how/where do vampires fit into all of this? I also feel like there was a ton of repetition throughout the story, a lot of Jasper and Max repeating themselves, their thoughts over and over which could have been extra pages spent giving us background.

Despite this, TAKE is a refreshing paranormal romance that will make a great new addition in the overly saturated genre. If you like dirty talking alpha males and strong heroines that aren't easily intimidated, then this is a must read.


best wishes,mia



EXCERPT 

How long since you fucked a guy?”

“What?” Her arms moved as if she was about to cross them over her breasts and then decided against it and put them back at her sides. “What does that have to do with anything?” 

“Because when I fuck you, it will be hard. I need to know if you can take it.” I’d expected her to grab her shirt and put it back on. That was what I had intended. To scare her. Instead, she stared at me as she undid her bra and let it fall to the floor. 

Fuck. 

I was a guy. A guy that didn’t give a shit if a woman hated me in the morning, but they never did. I may be a selfish bastard but I never left a woman unsatisfied. And it was more a self-serving reason as I could always get seconds when I wanted. But this was different. Everything about it was different. Max was different. 

And that should’ve scared me enough to walk away. 

But Max … staring at her milky white naked skin … her handful of breasts with nipples erect and waiting for my mouth to be sucking on them. I should’ve walked back into the bathroom, shut the door and jerked myself off in the shower. 

I didn’t.

about the author


Nashoda Rose lives in Toronto with her assortment of pets. She writes contemporary romance with a splash of darkness, or maybe it’s a tidal wave. Her novella "With You" is the first in the Tear Asunder series, followed by the novel "Torn from You" and "Overwhelmed by You". When she isn’t writing, she can be found sitting in a field reading with her dog at her side while her horses graze nearby. She loves interacting with her readers on Facebook and chatting about her addiction—books.

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