ARC Review: Undertow-Michael Buckley

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cooltext1889161239 copySixteen-year-old Lyric Walker’s life is forever changed when she witnesses the arrival of 30,000 Alpha, a five-nation race of ocean-dwelling warriors, on her beach in Coney Island. The world’s initial wonder and awe over the Alpha quickly turns ugly and paranoid and violent, and Lyric’s small town transforms into a military zone with humans on one side and Alpha on the other.

When Lyric is recruited to help the crown prince, a boy named Fathom, assimilate, she begins to fall for him. But their love is a dangerous one, and there are forces on both sides working to keep them apart. Only, what if the Alpha are not actually the enemy? What if they are in fact humanity’s only hope of survival? Because the real enemy is coming. And it’s more terrifying than anything the world has ever seen.

Action, suspense, and romance whirlpool dangerously in this cinematic saga, a blend of District 9 and The Outsiders.

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***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group.

PROS:

  • The variety of the Alpha people is incredibly intriguing. Each subspecies is described in wonderful detail and creates an elaborate underwater world. They have religion, politics, and a hierarchy of citizens. It’s intricate and sucks you right in. Their abilities are terrifying, sometimes grotesque but beneath the somewhat off-putting outer visage the culture is ingrained and the personalities are unique.
  • Lyric is a former feisty troublemaker turned timid girl of shadows after she learns of her mother’s secret. Lyric’s fierce personality shines through the guise of her indifference. Lyric has a powerful sense of right and wrong, she fights for the underdog, thinks with her potent, explosive emotions, and takes reckless to a new level when what she cares about is at stake. 
  • The slow fire of Lyric and Fathom’s budding relationship was intense. The build up is enough to drive a girl crazy but so worth it. It’s sweet and complicated and leaves you wanting more. 
  • Bex is sassy, pushy, and sometimes you can’t help but wonder how a girl like Lyric ended up with someone so confident and loud as a BFF. Bex brings happiness and fire to Lyric’s world of fear and helps her break out of her shell. Bex remembers the girl Lyric used to be and never lets her forget the “wild thing” buried beneath the surface.
  • Bex and Shadow are adorable together. Lovable, easy, they’re playful and get each other’s need for light and laughter in this time of darkness. 
  • Fathom is stoic, quick to anger, and reeks of pride but there’s something about him that sparks interest, an intensity and devotion that is crazy attractive. Duty and violence run in his veins but when he opens up, there’s an inkling of the compassionate man he could be and great ruler of the Alphas. 

CONS:

  • Some sections were really slow and not much happened. Despite the epic world building and politics, the pace took away from the intensity of the danger. 
  • The outside world, what’s beyond the zone and the references to cultural icons were confusing. There wasn’t an explanation for why the Alpha came to the area specifically or if the world outside the zone had issues that would place it in the category of a dystopia. From what I gathered, right outside the zone, the world is like we know it today. I would have liked a clearer picture of outside influence and the role of the president. While forces like the UN and National Guard are employed, what the head of the government thinks of the situation and how it affects life out of the zone were a mystery.
  • The Niners and other hysterical protesters were cheesy at times with their ridiculous rhymes and while there is mention of horrific crimes against “fish lovers” the genuine fear and frenzy of the mob fizzled out after so many similar scenes. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

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ARC Review & Giveaway: Siren’s Song-Heather McCollum

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4/5 Stars

Siren’s Song-Heather McCollum

***I recieved this book as a gift from Spencer Hill Press in exchange for an honest review and participation in the blog tour.

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Jule Welsh can sing. She enthralls people with her bel canto voice. But it takes more than practice to reach her level of exquisite song; it takes siren’s blood running through her veins. Jule is starting her senior year at Cougar Creek High when her relatively normal world begins to resemble a roller coaster flying through a carnival scare house. Her mother is diagnosed as insane and committed, a psycho-stalker is snapping pictures of her to put into his homemade Jule-shrine, her voice is suddenly putting people into comatose trances, oh and the gorgeous new guy in town, Luke Whitmore, is interested in her . . . but also wants to kill her.

Siren’s Song is the perfect blend of magic, romance, curses and corruption. It’s the kind of book that draws you in through curiosity and keeps you with its lively characters, twisted plot, and scorching passion.

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  • Jule is not your average heroine. She’s theatrical, talented, her voice puts people in a trance and her personality attracts people despite her mood swings. Jule has a lot going but remains determined to get to the bottom of all the clouded details of her new neighbor Luke and his strange association with two of her classmates. Jule is full of integrity, honesty, and genuine warmth. She is super protective of those she loves and is willing to put her life on the line to save her loved ones from even the slightest suffering. Jule is so brave, she wears her heart on her sleeve and gives herself to love. It’s a freeing, wonderful experience to watch Jule fall in love.
  • Taylin is funny, sarcastic, and brutally honest. She doesn’t think before she speaks and her personality is at odds with her nature. Taylin’s yearning for love, her heart-wrenching quest to deal with life with the absence of feeling will break your heart.
  • Luke is a beast. He’s broad, muscular, bipolar in his connection to the curse. He wavers between loving, thoughtful and smoking hot to enraged, violent, and destructive. Luke’s love for Jule is like an addiction that borders on obsession. He’s drawn to her with a magnetic pull that’s haunted his every waking moment and seeped into his dreams. Luke’s attraction to Jule is more than surface value, it transcends time. Luke battles all odds, risks his sanity to fight the curse and be with Jule despite the almost certain death and travesty on the horizon.
  • Eric is such a creeper. His skeevy looks, the slimy way he grabs at Jule, his skulking in the shadows, and random arrival at wherever Jule is, it’s beyond disturbing.
  • The curse, when it’s revealed is disquieting. The sheer hatred and loathing that went in to such a vile concoction is palpable. The Cursed suffer more than any human being should, devoid of love and the capacity to feel. It’s heartbreaking how broken and torn The Cursed are. There’s a deeper message about suicide attempts and lack of love. Guarding emotions, voluntarily or not has a dire effect on so many more people than those in the immediate vicinity. The pain and anguish resonates and spreads like tendrils to everyone it comes into contact with. Some are able to cope with this residual emotion and others are devastated.
  • The Guardians are sick, violent, brainwashed psychopaths. The extent to which they will go to protect some ancient rumors that their whole cult-like organization is based on is nauseating and so wrong. There’s a particular scene where just how evil and sociopathic these characters are really flourishes. You’ll be shocked, terrified, and screaming for someone to save Jule and co. Their deadpanned expressions escalate to screaming hysteria that quickly spirals into madness. They’re marvelously written. McCollum really gets at the heart of ideological indoctrination and just how far beneath the skin these ideas are ingrained in a person to the point where humanity and morality cease to matter.
  • Plot twists galore. You won’t see this coming.
  • The climax is a lesson is keeping calm and remembering how to breathe. The tension mounts to unnatural, dangerous levels as life and death hang in the balance. You can’t be sure of anything.

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  • One of the most obnoxious aspects of this story is that Jule is so trusting and entranced by Luke that she’s infuriatingly naïve. Firstly, if a guy who was openly glaring at you like he wanted to slice you up into tiny pieces, discovering him stalking you, randomly leaving gifts in your locked home, and starring in a predatory fashion should not be sexy, it should be sending off serious alarm bells. The indecisive, should I call the police or should I rule my mind with my hormones is insane and frustrating. While Jule is an intelligent, talented girl I found it hard to put up with this aspect of her personality.

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Fear and guilt have stolen my voice. I open my lips. It’s like standing on the edge of a tall building and being so terrified of falling that you actually take a step forward and jump. One note, one line of my favorite song, and I jump to my death. 

***

But the feel of Luke’s palm on my cheek, the whisper of his breath against my lips, the sincerity in his words, all wrap around me, pulling me into a world where only he and I exist. No questions and no difficult choices. Just a boy and a girl falling in love. 

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#1: “You and I,” he shakes his head, “we shouldn’t be together. I’m…dangerous.”

#2: The light that’s captured with the shadow and white space on the picture gives the skin a soft, smooth look. The model’s face is obscured, off the page, yet she’s turned so that her left breast shows. My eyes run down her neck to a little smudge. I peer closely at it. It can’t be. It really…can’t…be.

 #3: There he stands. Dark, blue-black eyes so deep I feel almost sucked toward them, like they are black holes in the universe.

#4: “Your voice.” His smile fades and a crease pinches his eyebrows briefly. “It caught me off-guard.”

My voice. Really? “Yeah, it surprises people,” I say, “but they don’t usually look like they’re going to reach down my throat and rip my voicebox out.”

I watch him swallow, and he inhales as if the visual might be too much for him. I raise one eyebrow. He doesn’t look like the type who shies away from graphic violence.

 #5: “I am battling hard enough to keep my temper in check,” Luke says as he glances at Matt, his grin gone. But then he looks quickly back to me. “I don’t have any remaining strength to stay away from Jule.” 

#6: “You won’t hurt me.” I take a step closer so that I’m mere inches away, showing him that I trust him. I breathe him in, and I realize that I do.

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Goodreads/Heather McCollum Website/Twitter/Facebook

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Pleasant reading,

-BB