Sunday, June 28, 2015

Book Review: Pawn by Aimee Carter


Kitty thought she would be a IV, like the average member of the population. But she's just been labeled a III, and that makes her just a touch above worthless to society. With her career assignment threatening to take her halfway across the country and away from her boyfriend, Benji, she doesn't have a lot of options. Benji will almost certainly be a VI, the top of the ladder. Kitty will do anything to stay with him.

But will she go so far as to pretend to be a VII, a member of the ruling family? The offer has just come. Lila Hart, the prime minister's niece, has died, and only Kitty can pull off acting as a double. The other problem? Lila was heading a rebellion, one that values ideals Kitty wholeheartedly agrees with. And now, Kitty has two choices. Be Lila and stop the rebellion or watch as her new "family" kills Benji.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

You can be a VII. If you give up everything.

For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country.

If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked - surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter.

There's only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed...and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies, and a life that's not her own, she must decide which path to choose - and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she's only beginning to understand.


Pawn is set in a dystopian America that isn't so far removed from now. Multiple times, there is mention of things being this way for only 71 years, and it's easy to assume that the 71 years started sometime in the early 2000s. So this isn't too far in the future. The timeframe is supported by the fact that one of the major characters, Augusta Hart, remembers what it was like before the Hart family brought order to an economically ruined country.

Things could be very different now. Imagine being labeled with your value to society on a scale of I-VI, with a tattoo on your neck and ridges under the skin preventing any alteration of the tattoo. One test is what determines that mark. It could have been that way. There's no changing it. Sometimes, it's easy to think it's already that way, just without the actual marks.


Carter's writing style translated very well to audio, and I listened to Pawn through Carter has a very strong sense of both setting (overall and scene) and of character. It can be easy to lose a sense of place when listening to audio, but that didn't happen to me at all in this novel. She doesn't get overly wordy when it comes to description, but the details she gives leave just enough to the reader to set the imagination off. I could picture Kitty/Lila's suite at the Hart home in Somerset, and the bulk of the description was that it was opulent and decorated in white. There's some real talent in Carter's writing to give that sort of simple yet full description to everywhere we visited.

Her sense of pacing is strong, and while I do feel that there was a little too much circuity to the plot, I got pulled in and involved in the situation and with Kitty in general very quickly. Carter made it easy to like characters, then doubt them, then trust them again, right along with Kitty. On the whole, very well done.

My Thoughts

I grabbed Pawn at random through audible, and I'm glad I did. I thoroughly enjoyed this plot, these characters (Nox was my favorite), and Carter's writing style. The whole of this novel is enjoyable, and I'm a little upset that its sequel, Captive, isn't available through audible as of my writing this review (Nov 2014. NOTE: It IS available in hardcover here).

For a YA novel, there is a little toeing of propriety at the beginning, but I don't think it would stop me from letting a teenager read it. Relationships are part of their lives, why shouldn't it be part of their characters'? Kitty makes some choices that would make parents cringe, but considering her surroundings and the few options she has in life, it's hard not to agree with those choices. Carter has made someone very real in Kitty, and I love that she didn't feel the need to hold anything back.

Would I Recommend This Book? Yes, I would! Kitty is a capable character surrounded by other capable people who challenge and support her growth. The situation is engaging, the way this alternate America functions is intriguing, and on the whole, it's just a great story. I give Pawn a Masked 4 of 5 stars.

For more information on the author, visit

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Trilogy Book Review: Evolution: ANGEL, Evolution: SAGE, and Evolution: HEX by Starla Huchton

Evolution: ANGEL


Candace Bristol is a comic book geek. For years, she's been waiting for her chance to apply for the ANGEL project, a genetic modification process that turns young adults into superheroes. The time has finally come, and there's an acceptance packet in her mailbox.

Now, away from her little Iowa town, she's surrounded by others like her, superheroes in the making. But she's not a shoe-in yet. There's a lot of adjusting to do with the treatments before they're made permanent, and suddenly, the physical necessity for romance is taking hold. Candace didn't plan on this, or for the jerk who's in her training class. She just wanted to be a hero. Trailblazing a new skill that no one's seen before, she's torn between wanting to explore what she can do and the threat of being dangerous. Is she really cut out to be part of ANGEL after all?

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

Candace Bristol has always been obsessed with comic books, but in a world where the nightly news often mirrors these inked stories, her dreams of becoming a real superhero could actually come true. After being rescued by members of the government’s AdvaNced Genetic EvoLution (ANGEL) Project four years ago, getting recruited for this elite team is all she’s wanted.
Now 18, she’s finally reached her goal after years of study and physical training, but little could have prepared her for life as a genetic experiment. As though coming to terms with her new ability to manipulate water isn’t tough enough, she never expected to be swept off her feet by one of her fellow recruits.
With genetic alteration, the threat of physical and mental instability hangs over every superhero like a shadow. When one of their own tumbles over the edge of madness, Candace will have to choose between protecting the world, and saving the one who holds her heart.


Huchton couldn't have picked a better setting for this book than right now. With science getting scary-cool more and more every day, the thought of creating a team of superheroes with genetic alteration is a perfect possibility. And considering superheroes are really big right now and it's okay to be a comic book geek in public, this is just taking fantasies one step further, into reality.

But she doesn't make it easy, and that's real life right there. There are dilemmas and issues with coping to take into account, and Huchton addresses this wonderfully. Being a superhero isn't easy or black-and-white. Candace discovers this quickly. Huchton has a winner here with her premise.


This is far from the first Huchton book I've reviewed (see other reviews). And I'm constantly pleased with the ease of reading her work. She writes cleanly, without talking up or down to her readers. It's not plain prose, but it isn't overdone, either. She strikes a great balance of description, thought, and dialogue, with plenty of action to keep things interesting. I have yet to come across a problem with pacing or anything like that in her novels, and I expect I won't have to worry about that problem in the future either. This was an all-around joy to read, and holy cow, did it make me want to dive into book 2.

My Thoughts

I'm always happy to read Huchton's books, and Evolution: ANGEL was no exception. Her clear understanding of her characters and their situations makes for some great reading. There are a few hints of mysteries she doesn't give answers to in this book, but it isn't so bad that I would've been angry if Book 2 weren't already available. I could have waited for confirmation or rejection of my suspicions. I am glad the whole trilogy is already out, though.

I admit, I saw a whole lot of myself in one of the characters, though. I identified very strongly with him, and knowing me, I saw [NOT PUTTING IN A SPOILER] coming. It couldn't have gone any other way, not with that character in that mindset. Huchton has really made things real and stayed true to her characters even when she knows it will be painful for the reader. It's great to know she isn't shy about it.

Would I Recommend This Book? Highly. I have yet to run across anything by Huchton that hasn't been a great read. And what's nicer is her books read very quickly thanks to tight, engaging writing. I'm excited to see how this trilogy pans out. I give Evolution: ANGEL a well-hydrated 5 of 5 stars.
Evolution: SAGE


Candace Bristol can't help but think of the choices she had to make now that she's part of the ANGEL project. Her superpowers have put her in a position to destroy, even if it's for good. Now, in the wake of the hardest decision she ever had to make, Candace is broken, but the project goes on.

The unstable results of outside genetic evolution keep popping up, all with the same mark: HEX. In light of the ANGEL casualties that keep happening when confronting these threats, volunteers are needed for the next step of treatment. No one has traveled down this path before. What more does Candace have to lose? Somebody has to agree to become a SAGE. Why not her?

Too bad Jackson, the jerk she can't seem to escape, has volunteered too.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

Devastated by her choices, Candace Bristol is on the brink of losing it all: her mind, her hope, everything she thought she was.
But from the ruins rises new purpose. An enemy has emerged and it will take everything to combat this new threat. Broken as she is, picking up the pieces and carrying on might be the hardest battle to win, but it’s either fight, or lose what little she has left.
Amongst the wreckage, hope still burns. The flicker of a flame kindles something within her she thought was dead.
Love can break you.
So, too, can it bring you back to life.
My Thoughts

I couldn't have been more pleased with this book. Huchton really tapped into the consequences of Candace's actions at the end of Evolution: ANGEL. So much can be overlooked when people make hard decisions. What Candace had to do haunted her, and it still does even once she gets past the shock of it. Possibilities and implications of her abilities are always being weighed in her head, and it's scary for very clear reasons. It's a journey we take with her. Even better, while Huchton makes the mental journey understandable, she doesn't make the reader wallow in it. There's still plenty going on, both in action, plot developments, and a new romance that had me wanting to scream at the denying lovers to just kiss already.

And oh, my, does she pave the way for book three (Evolution: HEX). I am so ready to dive into this. I'm not going to give it away, but there are hints at how this book will end, going back to book one, and it's so subtly done that Huchton told me I was the first to notice it. It's that subtle. But once you realize it, it will hit you like a ton of bricks. If you don't notice it the first time, you should on a reread of SAGE. And for reasons beyond that, this will definitely be a series to reread.

Would I Recommend This Book? Oh, so very yes. Huchton has yet to disappoint me as a reader, and Evolution: SAGE was no exception. It's a fitting continuation of Evolution: ANGEL, giving closure to old questions while still raising new ones. Huchton knows what she's doing, in both the superhero parts of the tale and the romances. I give Evolution: SAGE a snowy 5 of 5 stars.
Evolution: HEX


The independent superhero group HEX has captured Candace Bristol. Now, in the hands of the enemy, Candace is learning the other side of the story. The ANGEL project that made her a superhero has its secrets. Some of those are just as bad as what HEX is doing, and Candace had no idea. Maybe if things were different, her boyfriend Adrian would still be alive. Is she really playing for the right side?

But HEX has its problems, too. Now, she and the members of HEX are planing to return her to ANGEL so she can make things better for all the supers.

Something has to give, and it definitely isn't going to be Candace's morals.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from
A lie is a prison without bars.

A captive of the enemy, Candace is forced to confront mistakes and regrets from both sides of the battlefield, including her own. Nothing is simple, and lines in the sand that were once clear have become blurred and indistinguishable. Even the unlikely love she found teeters on the edge of uncertainty.

The truth is not always what it seems, and can be a prison of its own.

Alone, she must decide where she stands. Alone, she must decide who to trust.

When the smoke clears, what’s left might not be much…

But it might be enough.

My Thoughts

I don't think there could have been a more fitting ending to the Evolution series than this book. Huchton made good on all the promises she made with ANGEL and SAGE and left us with a conclusion that made me want more in the best way. The trilogy is complete in itself, but it does lend the reader to more wants for books in this version of our world.

The addition of insight into the HEX organization gave a great deal of new material in characters and interpersonal conflicts to Candace and her friends. It was a welcome addition, and some of the new characters were absolutely wonderful. A few little pieces involving them did get left dangling, but they were totally minor and I don't mind at all. Those threads weren't dealt with directly, but the overall end of the trilogy still gave indirect closure to them, so I'm fine with that.

I developed a whole new respect for the characters I've been with from page one of Evolution: ANGEL. The development of these individuals was wonderful from beginning to end, and everyone was integral to the plot in some way. There was purpose all around, and I applaud Huchton for that. She also gets a huge round for writing an all-out amazing novel.

Would I Recommend This Book? Hell YES! This is a fitting close to the epic story she began two books ago, and there is little more to say than that.  I give Evolution: HEX an unstable 5 of 5 stars.

The Evolution series as a whole gets a supercharged 5 of 5 stars.