The Mission (The Unknown Assassin #2) by Allen Zadoff

The Misson

“The difference between a hero and a villain is a very thin line.”

He was the perfect assassin.

Boy Nobody: No name. No past. No remorse. At least until he began to ask questions and challenge his orders — until he fell in love with his target. Now The Program is worried that its valuable soldier has become a liability.

Boy Nobody, haunted by the outcome of his last assignment, is given a new mission. A test of sorts. A chance to show his loyalty.

Book Links: Amazon | Book Depository | Goodreads | National Book Store | Publisher

Personal Thoughts:

Also known as I Am The Mission in US or The Lost Mission in UK, this second installment of Allen Zadoff’s The Unknown Assassin series is not only an entertaining read like the first book but also more action packed, more thrilling, and full of twist and turns that will surely keep readers on the edge of their seats.

If you have read my review for the first book, The Hit (first published as Boy Nobody) you know that I’m all praises for that book. I love everything about it that I’ve written a longer and more detail review than usual. I also developed high expectations from Allen Zadoff, I don’t know how he will do it but I’m certain he can top the first installment, and top he did. He not only deliver a thrilling story but also surpass the first installment with this book, The Mission.

In here, Nobody’s mission is much bigger, the risk is definitely much higher, tension is shooting up, and the danger is more real.

New mission, new name and new background for Nobody. For this mission he is going under the name of Daniel, a regular kid who was sent by his father to join a recruiting event for a teenagers’ camp. The camp called Camp Liberty is owned and managed by a former US military officer, Eugene Moore – Daniel’s new target. Daniel isn’t the first assassin sent by The Program to do the task. He is deployed to complete a lost mission with one specific condition set by The Program – he must not enter Camp Liberty.

But things doesn’t always go as plan and Daniel was left with no other choice than to continue the mission even without the help of The Program. Without communication and assurance from his superiors Daniel must rely on his own to complete the task while deciphering who is really the good guy and the bad guy.

Going back to Nobody’s (now Daniel) head is always a welcome experience. His isolated and succinct voice is perfect to his personal background as an assassin trained by The Program. His process of thought and his ideas are interesting and even thought-provoking.

“Everyone in the world is a follower. They follow an agenda, whether it’s set by school, parents, a job, society. The only question is who or what they choose to follow. Most people don’t even realize there’s a choice to make, so they end up stumbling blindly through their lives, wondering why they’re so unhappy when they’re doing everything right.”

Daniel approached every situation with his assassin’s skills and trained mind, mostly for The Program’s benefits, until he uncover some of the secrets and the lies. From there emerge a more raw and more human like version of Daniel as he starts to questions the authority, his mission, and his role in all that is happening. He finally shows some real feelings and emotions, and all those happen gradually with believable reasons to back it all up which simply prove a well handled character development by Allen Zadoff.

In the first book, Boy Nobody, Daniel (Ben/Nobody) is a solo soldier, no real friends, no real family. No one to trust or care of. But in this installment he is finally learning to trust other people. He is willing to hand his life and security to a friend, someone we already met in the previous book of this series.

“If you don’t feel fear, you don’t feel joy or love. Not in any real way. Without the fear, the risk is gone. And without risk, rewards don’t matter. You’re left with nothing much at all. You’re numb.”

The first person narrative is perfect. It so easy to understand and feel every emotions of Daniel even with his machine like personality. Every little emotion he shows is bursting into million pieces, every cut and every scraps he get feels like my own wounds, every questions and doubts are same questions running in my own head. Everything is raw, powerful, and real.

How Daniel battle between his loyalty and his personal responsibility is well written. It keeps the story more engaging, more interesting, and more thrilling. As Daniel uncover some of the secrets and started to question The Program and his missions, I find myself rooting for him while dreading some of the revelations that is coming.

The story line about the military camp is very believable. It can happen or maybe it is happening somewhere, and that alone makes the story more compelling and even frightening. It also provides a perfect opponent for Daniel. The place is like a mine field waiting to explode and the people inside the camp are like assassins like him. One wrong move or miscalculated step my favorite assassin is gone. It really gives a risky and frigthening feel, add the action-packed scenes, the killings, secrets, and lies I am literally holding my breath in most of the scenes.

Overall, The Mission is a solid riveting sequel to The Unknown Assassin series. With its believable and interesting premise, complex characters, and action packed story line, Allen Zadoff successfully delivered a thought-provoking, pulse-pounding, and smart novel once again. Will surely be reading the next/final installment of this series.

*This review is based on a copy I received courtesy of the publisher, Hodder Children’s Books, an imprint of Hachette Children’s Books UK in exchange of honest opinion.

The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno

The Half Life of Molly Pierce

“I’m good at being unhappy. I’m good at accommodating my sadness.”


You take it for granted. Waking up. Going to school, talking to your friends. Watching a show on television or reading a book or going out to lunch.

You take for granted going to sleep at night, getting up the next day, and remembering everything that happened to you before you closed your eyes.

You live and you remember.

Me, I live and I forget.

But now—now I am remembering.

For all of her seventeen years, Molly feels like she’s missed bits and pieces of her life. Now, she’s figuring out why. Now, she’s remembering her own secrets. And in doing so, Molly uncovers the separate life she seems to have led…and the love that she can’t let go.

The Half Life of Molly Pierce is a suspenseful, evocative psychological mystery about uncovering the secrets of our pasts, facing the unknowns of our futures, and accepting our whole selves.

Book Links: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters | Goodreads | National Book Store

Personal Thoughts:

I haven’t read much books that deals with multiple personality disorder. Though I’ve seen a lot of movies that deals with the subject I don’t find it common in fiction especially in YA. Yes, there are many psychological thrillers in YA genre out there but not much deals with multiple personality disorder and not as subtle as this one. Those I’ve read mostly gears from psychological to paranormal – a twist I don’t like much because it loss the realistic vibes of the story.

In this book, The Half Life of Molly Pierce, I really appreciate that the author sticks her story in the contemporary and psychological thriller side. I’m glad she didn’t push the story to other genre just to add twist or shock factor for her readers.

The first few pages actually reminds me of the suspense Japanese movie Tokyo Shōnen / Tokyo Boy. The two are not the same except for the multiple personality disorder, it give me more theories about the twist and turns of the plot. Though it doesn’t end up as darker as I expected, the journey is still as thrilling.

Molly Pierce life is a mystery, even to her. She suffers from blackouts, where part of her time is a total blank to her. One minute she in school attending class, then next thing she realize she is somewhere she can’t even recognize. She don’t know why she was there, what she did, or whom she spent her time with. She knows something is wrong but she can’t figure it out. But still she pretends that her life is normal. Until she witness a road accident where a boy she doesn’t know seems to know her very well. Eventually memories are start come back to her. Little flashbacks are filling her mind and Molly have to find out if she is ready to face them all or not.

“Now I am remembering.
And I’m not sure what I liked better.
Being in the dark or being thrust unceremoniously into the light.”

 Molly’s stream of consciousness is well written. Her choppy voice is realistically aligned to her condition. Katrina Leno created Molly with a consuming voice that makes me empathize and relate with her even from the outside perspective of the reader. It so easy to feel her struggles and confusions, like I was inside her head every moment. Even during the times when her narrative are chopped and hanging creating an isolated atmosphere, I still feel her and her isolation. Her complexity echo throughout the pages of this book.

Katrina Leno’s unfolded Molly’s story in a right pace. Every hints and revelations are well executed, leaving readers enough moments to formulate theories and evaluate Molly’s situation. It’s a gripping ride getting to know Molly’s character as she try to put together the puzzle behind her blank hours.

Besides with mystery and the main character, I also like the family dynamics and friendships presented in the story. Molly’s family are supportive and very understanding. I like the fact that they didn’t push Molly to understand things that’s happening to her. They let her undergo through it at her own pace. The way they handle the situation is admiring. I can feel their frustrations, and pain even Molly doesn’t see it herself. While Molly’s friends add normality to Molly’s life, something Molly is trying hard to accomplish – to be normal.

The Half Life of Molly Pierce is a powerful, intense and emotionally heartfelt psychological thriller novel. Molly and her life story will surely stay with me for a good long while. Katrina Leno soar high with this debut novel. I’m already looking forward to her next work.

* This review is based on an advance readers copy I received courtesy of the publisher,  HarperCollins International in exchange of honest opinion.

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling“You win your people or you lose your throne.”

On her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, raised in exile, sets out on a perilous journey back to the castle of her birth to ascend her rightful throne. Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa. But though she may be inexperienced and sheltered, Kelsea is not defenseless: Around her neck hangs the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense magical power; and accompanying her is the Queen’s Guard, a cadre of brave knights led by the enigmatic and dedicated Lazarus. Kelsea will need them all to survive a cabal of enemies who will use every weapon—from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic—to prevent her from wearing the crown.

Despite her royal blood, Kelsea feels like nothing so much as an insecure girl, a child called upon to lead a people and a kingdom about which she knows almost nothing. But what she discovers in the capital will change everything, confronting her with horrors she never imagined. An act of singular daring will throw Kelsea’s kingdom into tumult, unleashing the vengeance of the tyrannical ruler of neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. Now Kelsea will begin to discover whom among the servants, aristocracy, and her own guard she can trust.

But the quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun—a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend…if she can survive.

The Queen of the Tearling introduces readers to a world as fully imagined and terrifying as that of The Hunger Games, with characters as vivid and intriguing as those of The Game of Thrones, and a wholly original heroine. Combining thrilling action and twisting plot turns, it is a magnificent debut from the talented Erika Johansen.

Personal Thoughts:

There’s quite a huge hype surrounding this book even before the released date. Describe as fully imagines and terrifying as that of The Hunger Games, with characters as vivid and intriguing as those of The Game of Thrones, and a wholly original heroine, it is given for readers like me to have expectations. Add the news about the film rights that been bought by a big studio production and the casting of Emma Watson as star and executive producer I am prepared to love the book and add it to my favorite reads. But as usual too much expectations ruin things for me. Though The Queen of the Tearling is an enjoyable read with it’s decent plot and promising world it still fell a little short for me.

One of the reason is because the book is staged to set-up a planned trilogy. Nothing much happens in-spite of the thickness of the pages except for a long and detailed explanation of everything and everyone that surrounds the narrator, Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, Queen of the Tearling. And despite all the details and explanations of things I still had a hard time picturing the world where the story is set. Leaving me a lot of unanswered questions about the world and events.

I understand the time setting being in the near future that has to go back in medieval times. I like that concept, but I’m not sure if Erika Johansen pull it off smoothly. There are some plot holes and real life references that I think are out of place or shouldn’t be in the story. Even Ericka explains in her narrative the existence of some of those things, it’s still felt forced to me.

The narrative of this book is more on telling than showing. A lot of things are explained in a form of story telling than actually showing things how it happened. And most of the times the detailed are not in the most important things. Usually I don’t mind long narrative especially if a lot of things are happening and the plot is moving fairly fast, but if the narrative will just consist of irrelevant things like what bricks are made of, or details of nobles’ dresses and their hair and make up – that’s just poor editing for me.

“To the east, Kelsea spotted what must be the house of a noble: a high tower made of red brick. Real brick! Tearling brick was a notoriously poor building material compared to Mortmesne’s, which was made with better mortar and commanded at least a pound per kilo. Carlin had an oven made of real bricks, built for her by Barty, and Kelsea had wondered more than once whether Barty had bought the bricks off the black market from Mortmesne.”

I like the fact that Kelsea our heroine is not the usual gorgeous, confident girl, but there are also a lot of things that I don’t like about Kelsea. She is an inconsistent character in my opinion. Not only her background doesn’t fit much of what she become, but also her own personality doesn’t quite jive properly. She has the making of a great Queen, being the caring ruler that she is. Her loves for her people and Kingdom is what makes her a good leader. She also not afraid of doing things she think is right no matter what it cost. But once in a while Kelsea also shows traits that negate the definition of a great Queen. Like when she is being judgmental or when her thoughts are simply offensive.

What does she see when she looks in the mirror? Kelsea wondered. How could a woman who looked so old still place so much importance on being attractive? She had read about this particular delusion in books many times, but it was different to see it in practice. And for all the anguish that Kelsea’s own reflection has caused her lately, she saw now that there was something far worse than being ugly: being ugly and thinking you were beautiful.

Other characters that are worth mentioning are The Mace and The Fetch. These two gentlemen are clearly written with emphasis than the others beside the main character and narrator, Kelsea. And between the two, The Fetch was clearly written with mystery, but in-spite of this I am more intrigue with The Mace. For me, he has more depth than anyone else in the story. But of course there are still other books to change that status. The Queen’s Guard are also interesting, I think it would be lovely have them more exposures in the next books.

Overall, The Queen of the Tearling was a nice attempt to contribute something new in the familiar fantasy ground. The idea of how a future society will resolved living like the old ways to create a better society is something I haven’t encountered before, and that alone is a worth applauding. I just hope that the next books will explore more of that world and concentrate on more important things that will make the plot more engaging and moving.

* This review is based on an advance E-copy I received courtesy of the publisher,  HarperCollins International in exchange of honest opinion.

Plus One by Elizabeth Fama

Plus One

“But after he tells you how they died, I want you to remember how they lived…”

It takes guts to deliberately mutilate your hand while operating a blister-pack sealing machine, but all I had going for me was guts.

Sol Le Coeur is a Smudge—a night dweller in an America rigidly divided between people who wake, live, and work during the hours of darkness and those known as Rays who live and work during daylight. Impulsive, passionate, and brave, Sol deliberately injures herself in order to gain admission to a hospital, where she plans to kidnap her newborn niece—a Ray—in order to bring the baby to visit her dying grandfather. By violating the day-night curfew, Sol is committing a serious crime, and when the kidnap attempt goes awry it starts a chain of events that will put Sol in mortal danger, uncover a government conspiracy to manipulate the Smudge population, and throw her together with D’Arcy Benoît, the Ray medical apprentice who first treats her, then helps her outrun the authorities—and with whom she is fated to fall impossibly and irrevocably in love.

Set in a vivid alternate reality and peopled with complex, deeply human characters on both sides of the day-night divide, Plus One is a brilliantly imagined drama of individual liberty and civil rights—and a compelling, rapid-fire romantic adventure story.

Personal Thoughts:

I have read Plus One more than a month and a half ago with the tour copy provided by PBT, it’s been a while and it’s only now that I finally got the chance to sit down and review the book — a mistake that I just realized few seconds ago. Since I don’t have a copy of the book right now, I’m not sure how I can discuss in detail this book. So, reminder to self, buy my own copy soon because this book is definitely a keeper.

With my poor memory and no notes at all, let me attempt instead to dig the experience of reading Plus One.

For a first time reader of Elizabeth Fama’s works, I remember being impressed with her writing, which means I’ll be reading her other works soon. In this book, Plus One I like how she easily pull those flowing words and weaved them together to form one absorbing novel. The way she built-up this new world in Plus One is slow but evolving. Forming the world from simple to more complex. Her descriptive style carry smoothness and her words are rich that somehow I imagine seeing things in different angle.

“The thing is, when you’re with someone like Poppu – someone who sees straight through your battered facade and loves every bit of you, someone who makes you laugh until you pee your pants, someone who grabs you in a hug exactly when you need it – you don’t crave any kind of approval from strangers. You don’t need to ‘matter’ in the world, because you already matter to the only person who counts.”

The concept of dividing people by day and night is quite well done. It’s not entirely new to me but I like that it carry a ring of reality in it. The possibility of living in a world where people are divided by period of time is easily imaginable. It could be our alternate reality if things from the fast goes differently. I just wish that the novel explain more how things end up this way.

For a dystopian novel, this book is quite light on the political side. Though there are clearly the struggles of the masses & inequality, the story doesn’t focus much on that part until the latter part of the book. Instead, Fama focus on detailing Sol’s plot to get her niece so her grandfather can see the baby before he dies. As much as I enjoy Sol’s plotting and her interaction with D’Archy, I kinda feel that the kidnapping part took so long. Though I understand how it become the focus of the story, having Sol as the narrator and her focus is more personal, I still feel that the story will be more interesting if Sol delved into bigger things than the wish of her dying grandfather.

Sol Le Coeur, the narrator and main character of the story is quite naive. Her impulsiveness sometimes lies on the path of act-now-think-later which is not very wise. But while she is being impulsive and careless in her decisions she is also showing her strength in a way. She is loyal to a fault. Her love for her family is undeniable, add her unending determination, she grew on me as I read. She frustrates me but she also surprise me. Sometimes her impulsiveness results to unexpected turns in the story.

While Sol is impulsive, D’Archy the love interest is the total opposite. He is more in control. He is cautious in handling the situation around him. He thinks and weigh things before doing something.

I’m not sure if there will be a sequel. The ending though hopeful and resolves most things, I still feel like the author should expand more the story. I want to know more about the government, the political sides and other much intriguing things than kidnapping the baby.

Overall, with compelling mystery, easily imaginary world, and determined protagonist, Plus One is a well written and absorbing novel.

Vivian Divine Is Dead by Lauren Sabel

Vivian Divine Is Dead

“Grief is like that. It starts off as a painful, bloody wound, then it crusts into a scab, and eventually, it fades into a scar. The scar’s always there, but it doesn’t hurt anymore.”

Filled with surprising twists and poignant moments, Lauren Sabel brings a fresh new voice to contemporary fiction with Vivian Divine Is Dead. Creepy, clever, funny, and romantic.

When a death threat arrives with teen celebrity Vivian Divine’s fan mail, Vivian has no choice but to go on the run to Mexico. She soon discovers, though, that her Oscar-nominated performance killing villains on-screen did nothing to prepare her for escaping a madman in real life. Some people say he’s a hero, others tremble in his presence, but one thing is clear: he won’t stop until Vivian is in his grasp. Why didn’t she pay more attention during those judo lessons for her role in Zombie Killer?

Vivian finds an ally in the mysterious and charming Nick. He is everything Hollywood boys are not-genuine, kind, and determined to see Vivian for who she really is. But even he seems like he can’t be trusted-what could he be hiding?

Beat up, hungry, and more confused than ever about who she’s running from, Vivian is living in a real-life blockbuster horror flick. But there’s no option to yell “cut” like there is on set….

Lauren Sabel’s Vivian Divine Is Dead is a creepy, witty, fast-paced adventure about family, fame, and having the courage to save yourself.

Filled with surprising twists and poignant moments, Lauren Sabel brings a fresh new voice to contemporary fiction with Vivian Divine Is Dead. Creepy, clever, funny, and romantic.

Book Links: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters | Goodreads | National Book Store

Personal Thoughts:

Vivian Divine is an Oscar nominated 16 year old actress. Her celebrity mother died, her father almost kill himself through suicide and her celebrity boyfriend cheated on her with her bestfriend. To make everything worst, she is getting death threat with a video on how she will gonna die. With all that is happening around her, she run and hide to Mexico hoping to save herself from unknown killer who might be the killer of her own mother.

“Filled with surprising twists and poignant moments, Lauren Sabel brings a fresh new voice to contemporary fiction with Vivian Divine Is Dead. Creepy, clever, funny, and romantic.”

When you read a description like the above as part of the book blurb of any book, you will surely expect something great or at least an enjoyable read. And since I’m a sucker of mystery novel with female protagonist, those expectations just double even before I start reading Vivian Divine is Dead. I wanted so much to be impressed, or at least to get lost myself in the story and to experience a thrilling ride but unfortunately those things didn’t happen.

First reason is the narrator herself, Vivian. For a protagonist, I think she is lacking of edge. She is too self-absorbed and too immature for my liking. With her rich & celebrity background, it can be acceptable for her to be self-centered and naive about the real world since she isn’t living it, but it won’t hurt much to see some character growth from her. As a lead character, I think she wasn’t fully developed in the story.

The other characters also failed to impress me. No one stand out or at least makes me want to care or root for them., not even one character for me to cheer or wish good luck. As hard as I tried to connect and care for any of them, they all end up flat to me. I’m not sure if this is because the main character at the first place is too bland for my taste, which possibly makes the narration too flat and plain for a chance to see someone who will stand out in Vivian’s perspective.

Then we have the plot which consist of a lot of far-fetch story lines. If this is a fantasy novel I might accept far-fetch plot curve but this is set in a real world with supposed to be realistic characters so those things that happen in here are too coincidental for my liking. It’s like an orchestrated drama played in local TV series. At some point while I’m reading, I thought that maybe the story is actually a script of a movie where Vivian is playing a role. Like maybe, at the end she will pull out a twist revealing that everything that happened is actually part of a scripted film where she is the lead actress (after all she is a celebrity). But that didn’t happen either.

And for a story with unbelievable story line, this book is also predictable. I don’t know how, but the book accomplished to be both predictable and unconvincing. Though I don’t exactly guess everything that happened or every motivations of the characters, I still guessed every characters’ role in the plot — how they will turn in the end, and their role in Vivian’s life.

Now to be fair. Vivian Divine is Dead isn’t all bad. Despite all the issues I mentioned above this book is still a flowing read. For most part, the pacing is well balance which I guess the main reason why this book didn’t end up in my DNF pile. The author managed to make the story continuously flowing with all the actions and thrilling mystery surrounding Vivian’s life. The unknown killer and his motivation alone is one thing that get me glued, trying to uncover those details while working out every possible scenarios I can’t think of.

Overall. Vivian Divide is Dead is a fast-paced, easily devoured read that suffered from its weak heroine and melodramatic plot. If you don’t mind predictability and weak characterization the story might actually work for you.

* This review is based on an advance readers copy I received courtesy of the publisher, Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins International in exchange of honest opinion.

Excerpt: Scan by Walter Jury and Sarah Fine

ScanTate and his father don’t exactly get along. As Tate sees it, his father has unreasonably high expectations for Tate to be the best—at everything. Tate finally learns what he’s being prepared for when he steals one of his dad’s odd tech inventions and mercenaries ambush the school, killing his father in the process and sending Tate on the run from aliens who look just like humans.

All Tate knows–like how to make weapons out of oranges and lighter fluid–may not be enough to save him as he’s plunged into a secret inter-species conflict that’s been going on for centuries. Aided only by his girlfriend and his estranged mother, with powerful enemies closing in on all sides, Tate races to puzzle out the secret behind his father’s invention and why so many are willing to kill for it. A riveting, fast-paced adventure, Scan is a clever alien thriller with muscle and heart.

Book Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Book Excerpt:

I open my door in the morning and find my breakfast on a tray. Meal Number Six. Two cups iron-fortified cereal, banana, eight ounces milk, eight ounces orange juice, blue vitamin pill. Also, a note from my dad saying he’ll be back from Chicago late tonight and a reminder that Chicão’s coming this afternoon to give me my first extra training session. Nothing about yesterday at all.

Nothing except the bottle of Advil he left sitting in the middle of the kitchen table, next to a glass of water.

It might be Sunday, and I might have been through hell yesterday, but that’s no excuse to slack off. I walk my aching leg to our workout room and don’t come out until I’ve punished myself adequately. It takes about five miles on the treadmill and an hour with the weights, thinking all the while about the family responsibility and what the hell he could possibly be talking about, coming up with absolutely nothing except a headache the size of Manhattan. Then the cleaning lady shows up to do her thing, filling the apartment with the scent of 2-butoxyethanol and sodium petroleum sulfonate – Windex and Pine-Sol – and making my already-pounding head feel like it’s going to detonate.

 Check the rest of the tour via Pinoy Book Tours!