ARC Review: Phantom Wheel

Phantom Wheel: A Hackers Novel

 

**I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review as a LBYRPartner. This had no influence on my thoughts and opinions.**

 

This was one of those books that I was honestly curious to read since I haven’t read a lot of stories about teen hackers, or hackers in general. What I read was entertaining but I often became lost in the verbiage and felt as if I should have been smart enough to follow along easily. Unfortunately I’m not a coder or a hacker so when it came to all of the coding speak, and there was a lot, I had no clue what was being said.

Short recap: Six teens who had never met before believed they were being recruited by the CIA for their impressive hacking skills. If they won, they could win a college scholarship. Pretty tempting for anyone. Only one of the six teens refused to write the code asked of him, the other five wrote with no issue. It was’t until after the “testing” did they realize they were played. They were not being recruited by the CIA or any other government agency. The largest cell/technology company had these unassuming teens write code that when put together would create the most deadly virus every created. Now they have joined forces to put a stop to the virus known as Phantom Wheel from being released.

Sounds pretty amazing, no? Well, as I mentioned it was an entertaining read but it took me far longer to finish this novel then it should have. The characters were compelling, the story line was interesting, however, it was the heavy – and I do mean heavy – use of computer/tech speak that cause my eyes to glaze over. These six teens obviously knew their stuff, but making constant references to Red Hat and Linux coding was unnecessary. That meant nothing to me. I didn’t understand why it was so important. It was never explained why these coding languages were so important or what they were. It gave me the sense that I was not smart enough to understand what was going on and I am not a fan of that type of story. No reader should ever feel that way when reading a book.

That being said, there was also an enormous info-dump during the first third of the book that did not feel logical. Sure, backstory is important but it felt like overkill here. As mentioned, there were six characters but three to four POVs. That was okay as it helped give more depth to those characters, but why not give a voice to all characters? Why just those select few? Also, there were “character assessments” sprinkled randomly throughout the story but it wasn’t revealed who was compiling these assessments until the very end of the story. When the person was outed, it did not feel like a masterful reveal that blew my hair back. Instead, it caused me to say, “But… why?”

The pacing of the story itself felt a little off. There were sections that moved at lighting speed while others felt they lasted the length of the book. It was probably just me but the parts where the teens were coding felt to drag on, maybe because I didn’t understand half of what they were talking about or doing. When the story was coming to conclusion, things simply rocketed and the story was over. The ending felt incredibly rushed and wrapped up in a few pages. That did not sit well with me because it did not feel resolved. Maybe it is setting up for a sequel, I’m not sure but I know how I felt about what I read.

Overall, I was able to finish the story but this is not one I plan to ever read again. If you are curious, I urge you to give this one a try. It just did not work for me but that doesn’t mean you might not enjoy it.

 

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ARC Review: Light Years

Light Years

 

**I received an advance copy in exchange for my honest review as an LBYRPartner**

 

This is going to be another tough review to write as I greatly enjoyed this story. I enjoyed the setting, the characters, the plot, the twists, the turns, all of it. I am only upset about how long I have to wait to find out what happens.

Short recap: The Quatra Fleet Academy is doing something it has never done before – it is opening its doors to students from outer planets of the Quatra Federation to enroll. This means they will have the chance to be a part of their military, if their squad passes all of their courses and missions. Not everyone is keen to this idea of Settlers (what people from the outer planets are referred to as) having the same opportunity so mysterious (and bad) things start to happen. Four students from different backgrounds are assigned to the same squad will come up against unimaginable tests and challenges. Will it be enough to make their bond stronger? Can things work out for the Settlers in the Academy?

The way the story focused on four students was brilliantly done. They all had their own unique voice while blending together as a squad in a way that felt effortless. Cormack has had a very rough life. He came from a very poor settlement and had just suffered losing his brother, his only family. Desperate to get off of his planet that is full of toxic gas, he takes his brother’s place at the Academy. Vesper was the daughter of a very well known and respected high-ranking military officer. She is also a spoiled little rich girl that things higher of herself and lower of others. She only got into the Academy because her mother pulled strings, but it is up to Vesper to prove she belongs there. Arran was whip smart, brilliant to the point of being a genius, but very shy and reserved. His acceptance meant a better life for his mom. Orelia claimed to be from a well to do planet but that is not the truth. She was actually a spy for the Specters, a very well known enemy of Quatra Federation. The Specters want nothing more than to wipe the Federation out, and with Orelia hidden within the student population, they just might be able to do it.

Do you see how beautifully complex these individual stories are?! They all have their own secrets and inner tribulations they are trying desperately to hide, all while doing everything within their power to prove they are better than the station they were born into. I do have my favorite characters but I’m not giving them away here. There were twists and turns I never saw coming, though I should have. This was a fast-paced, edge of my seat thrilling adventure. I know that phrase may get thrown around a lot but it really holds true for this story. I tore through the pages and had this story devoured in two days.

One part of the story that I do hope is expanded upon in the next book is the reason for all of the ongoing wars within this universe. Nearly every planet is at war or has been attacked for some reason or another. I’d like to know more about the political thoughts behind that. That was the only underdeveloped part of the entire story but I really do believe it will be explained more in the second book.

I really do hope that this book is on your TBR because I don’t think you’ll be disappointed at all. This was so much better than I expected and I had high hopes. If you are a fan of The Illuminae Files, then I say you need to give this a chance.

 

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ARC Review: Dear Evan Hansen

Dear Evan Hansen

 

**I received an arc from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. I read this as a LBYRpartner**

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I have been struggling for days on how to properly write this review. Why the struggle? You know how it goes – if I don’t like a book I can easily type 5000 words or more and give in depth details as to why I didn’t like particular people/places/things. But if I love a story, the right words needed to express myself escape me. This story, my dear readers, is one that is still with me and I still feel everything for Evan. It is just so good that I almost don’t know what to do with myself.

Short recap: Evan Hansen was never the popular or outgoing kid in school. His mother even knows he leads an isolated life. Evan has a therapist to help him overcome some big issues. One thing he is tasked with is writing letters to himself… they are meant to be inspirational or whatever he is feeling at the time. He brings them to his sessions and they discuss. Pretty simple, no? Everything changes when one of Evan’s letters – a letter that is real and raw – is stolen from him by a bully, Connor Murphy. Things get even worse after something awful happens to Connor and Evan’s letter is found on him. It is implied that Connor and Evan were secret best friends. Suddenly Evan is the most popular boy in school, everyone loves him, everyone wants to talk to him and hear what he has to say… everything starts to go Evan’s way… if only he can keep up the lie. Can Evan keep stringing everyone along? Can he live in the fake friendship and world he has created?

I pretty much went into this story blind, as I do with most books. I only knew this was based on a musical but seeing as I have not been to many musicals, I did not know the particulars of the story. Be that as it may, I feel that not knowing about the musical did not improve or worsen my reading experience. I had nothing to compare the story to so I was free to experience fully and without reservation. I do believe that was the correct way to go. I allowed myself to welcome Evan into my life and go on this journey with him. And what a journey it was…

When I say everything about this story took hold of me, I mean it. The characters were the absolute shining star of the entire novel. Evan was brilliantly complex and believably flawed. He preferred to be alone but at the same time wanted to have friends. I’m sure we all feel that way at some point in our lives, I know I related to that trait. Maybe that’s why he chose to tell that little white lie that grew into something bigger than anyone could have ever imagined – the idea of being someone’s friend, the idea of mattering to someone. No lie, that’s a pretty powerful incentive in my book. But it was how Evan kept the lie going that really gripped me. I was bewitched by Evan and could not put his story down. I was in this one for the long haul.

The writing style seriously blew me away. I felt it was masterfully written and flowed so well. I was quickly turning the pages nonstop and before I knew it, the story was over. Talk about a quick read! But while it may have been a fast story to get through, it was not easy. There are very, very tough topics covered: suicide, bullying, lying, and more. Those are never easy to read but they cannot be easy to write about either. The authors of this novel did an excellent job of not making this a “preachy” story. I never felt it was an After-School Special. The topics within the pages of this book are handled very well.

You may be wondering when/if I will give more detail into exactly what happened … sorry! You won’t find those here. Other reviews, perhaps, but not here. You know how I operate. I want to hook you with the premise and hope that you give the book a chance for yourself. I know there is already a lot of hype around this book and I’m here to tell you that it is all deserved. This book was everything I wanted and hoped it might be. It had me wondering what I would do if I were in Evan’s place. I’d like to think I know what I would do but I wouldn’t know unless the situation presented itself.

I’m rambling! See what this book makes me do! Now this is me imploring you to add this to your TBR if you have not already. Borrow from your library or borrow from a friend (if your friends are the sort to lend their precious out…). If there is one book that I urge you to read this season, it is this book. You’ll thank me later.

 

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