Review: The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore (@harperteen)

Received an advance digital review copy from Edelweiss

The Rise of Nine is Book #3 in Pittacus Lore’s Lorien Legacies series (the first two are I am Number Four and The Power of Six), about teenage aliens with superpowers destined to save the world. If you have read my blog for more than about five minutes, you know that this concept holds massive appeal for me. Teen aliens with superpowers are awesome (as an aside, if you agree with that statement and haven’t watched Roswell yet, you need to get on that, stat). And while I think the Lorien Legacies are kind of cheesily written and won’t be touted as Great Literature anytime soon (or ever), they’re still a high-energy series of books that completely succeed in keeping me thoroughly entertained. And honestly, in a series about teen aliens with superpowers that’s ghostwritten by an alien, I’m pretty sure entertainment is the sole purpose.

The Plot (from Goodreads)

Until the day I met John Smith, Number Four, I’d been on the run alone, hiding and fighting to stay alive.

Together, we are much more powerful. But it could only last so long before we had to separate to find the others. . . .

I went to Spain to find Seven, and I found even more, including a tenth member of the Garde who escaped from Lorien alive. Ella is younger than the rest of us, but just as brave. Now we’re looking for the others–including John.

But so are they.

They caught Number One in Malaysia.
Number Two in England.
And Number Three in Kenya.
They caught me in New York–but I escaped.
I am Number Six.
They want to finish what they started.
But they’ll have to fight us first.

My Thoughts

Although the synopsis is written from the POV of Number Six, The Rise of Nine actually shifts between three POVs: John Smith (Number Four), Number Six, and Marina (Number Seven). I’m wondering if this is going to become a thing with this series. Book #1 had one POV, Book #2 had two, and now Book #3 has three. But because all of the POVs are written in the first-person and the voices really aren’t that different, it can start to get confusing. I kind of hope Book #4 reins it in and doesn’t add yet another POV to the mix.

Speaking of which, I totally thought this was a trilogy until I realized I was at the last chapter and there was no way things were going to resolve by the end of the book. Which is mostly fine, but there’s a couple plot points I can’t believe are still dangling, including the whereabouts of my favorite character. In case anyone wonders, apparently there are going to be six books. Which you probably already knew, but I didn’t.

But anyway, moving away from that, let’s talk about the book. So as I said, there are three POVs. And I’m not entirely sure they were necessary. Marina and Number Six’s voices were kind of interchangeable, until they get split up and you can tell who’s speaking based on the setting. However, that’s a pretty late-stage development, and I don’t think we needed to stick with Marina through it. Probably just John and Six’s voices would have sufficed and been less confusing. It wasn’t really a bad thing, just sometimes hard to figure out who was talking. I had to back up a page on several occasions to double-check the narrator.

As for the plot, it had all the crazy action I’ve come to expect from this series. I loved the addition of Number Nine and Number Eight to the mix. They provided some fun new powers and personalities, and I got excited every time another member of the Garde joined the group. We didn’t really learn much more about Lorien’s history in this book, which was kind of sad (I love learning about Lorien), but the increased action made up for it for the most part. I am a sucker for awesome new superpowers and gadgets and giant explosions, and there are plenty of all of the above. The best thing about this series is the action, and this book really played to its strengths.

Getting to the writing, even on the sliding scale that I use to judge writing (I’m not going to hold an action book about teen aliens to the same standard as high fantasy), I had one major gripe about the writing. Actually, it’s not major. In the grand scheme of things, it’s minor. But it irked the heck out of me. And that is the phrase “with my telekinesis”  and all its variations.

I used my telekinesis to push the plane”

“I’m able to deflect [the sticks] with my telekinesis”

“I use my telekinesis to pull on the tail of one of the helicopters”

And about a thousand other mentions of the Garde using their telekinesis to move, lift, throw, tear, float, and otherwise manipulate their surroundings.

I have absolutely no problem with the fact that all of the members of the Garde have telekinetic powers and that they use them all the time. I would too, if I had telekinesis. But since this is a thing that all of them can do, and they all use it like another extension of their body, constantly reminding us that they’re doing it with their telekinesis is redundant. If you’re ripping a helicopter from the sky, and I know you have telekinesis, I’m pretty sure you’re not doing it with your nose. It’s like saying “I kicked the ball with my foot” or “I picked up the book with my hand.” You don’t need to tell us what part of your body you used to do something. It’s assumed. Stop telling me that you are doing things in the only practical way you could do them.

Okay. Rant about telekinesis over.

Aside from that, the writing flows well, the pacing is good, and the action scenes (which are a good chunk of the book) were exciting. I enjoy this series with the same part of my brain that enjoys Michael Bay movies (admit it. Transformers was super fun). I still don’t really understand the title (we found out in Power of Six that there are actually ten Garde members, three of which died at the beginning of I am Number Four, and we met Number Nine at the end of the last book and he doesn’t do much “rising” in this one. It’s a mystery), but I don’t care too much. This isn’t a big “thinking” series. It’s about superpowers and explosions and adrenaline, and I highly enjoy it.

Content guide: Contains violence and profanity

Review: A Spy Like Me by Laura Pauling (@LauraPauling)

Not too long after I started this blog, I had the privilege of being approached by the very first author to request a review from me: Laura Pauling, author of A Spy Like Me. I was kind of torn. On the one hand, an author was contacting me with a request to review her book! What an honor!

On the other hand, I hadn’t yet ventured into the world of indie books. Doesn’t “indie” = bad? Plus, although I adore Alias so much it makes me forgive Bradley Cooper for all of his dubious career decisions since then, I wasn’t entirely sure that a spy novel was up my alley.

But, after an internal debate with myself, I decided to at least give it a shot. After all, it’s not every day an author asks you to review her book (or at least, not every day for me. Yet). And the reviews on Amazon seemed positive. How bad could it be?

The Plot 

17-year-old Savvy Bent is working to adjust to life in Paris with her dad, following the abrupt and unexplained departure of her mother a year ago. Life consists of pastries and lattes at a neighborhood bakery with her best friend Aimee, working at her father’s theater-of-life company Spy Games, and most recently, a date with cute neighborhood waiter, Malcolm.

But everything Savvy knows goes topsy-turvy when her romantic date with Malcolm ends in gunshots and Savvy running for her life.

Soon, Savvy finds that her pretend spying has morphed into the real thing as she struggles to separate spy from friend and client from killer, all while she races through Paris’ most famous tourist attractions in an effort to find the truth.

My Thoughts

I was honestly completely surprised by my reaction to this book. I was winding down from a bad day, and decided to just take a peek at the first chapter, to see if I was in for an okay read or a big stinker (I was in a bit of a pessimistic mood at the time).

Next thing I knew, it was past midnight and I had torn through half the book. The only reason I forced myself to put it down then was because I have small children who WILL be up at 7 am, no matter how late I stay up, and they don’t let me stay in bed if they’re awake.

Savvy was funny and sassy, and I liked her immediately. My heart went out to her poor fumbling spy-wannabe father, and I was guessing about the other characters right along with Savvy for most of the book. And the Parisian setting was a lot of fun, even though all the pastries made me ridiculously hungry.

The pacing of this book was very quick, and the chapters felt like they were just flying by. Each time I’d reach the end of a chapter, I couldn’t just stop there, so I’d read “just one more.” There is a good amount of action, escapes and intrigue, and while I predicted some of the plot twists, some of them definitely took me be surprise.

I did have a few issues with the book. The first (and I have this problem with YA heroines a lot) is Savvy’s willingness to just let things go, or not ask about them out of spite. Without getting into spoiler territory, I’ll just say that something shocking and potentially catastrophic will happen, Savvy will be consumed by curiosity…and then someone with the power to clue her into what’s going on will annoy her, then offer her the missing information. And she will pass, because she’s being spiteful. I kind of wanted to take her by the shoulders and shake her. Doesn’t the knowledge of why someone is trying to kill you trump your bruised ego? Apparently not.

Also, I found Savvy’s reactions to the romantic story line far-fetched. One minute she’s cowering in fear, afraid that her discovery could lead to her torture or death, and the next minute she’s…kissing? I could buy it if it was done in a spy-like way, using her feminine wiles to get herself out of a tricky situation, but that’s not the way it happens. Instead, she seems totally at the mercy of her hormones, which are utterly oblivious and independent of her fear and anger.

I’m sorry, but even as a teenager, if I was afraid the boy in the next room kidnapped my friend and was trying to kill me, I am pretty sure my hormones would be dormant, if not completely extinct. I don’t care how cute he is.

And I was a fan of the crazy roller coaster plot right up until the end. A couple new elements were introduced to the story line close to the end of the book that I felt muddled the plot rather than helped resolve it. I would have been happy just learning who was trying to kill who and why, without bringing in new characters and associations.

But despite my complaints, they really didn’t do much to detract from my enjoyment of this book. I could overlook them because I was enjoying the pacing and the characters so much. This was a fun, witty, fast-paced book that I’m thrilled I agreed to review. Thank you, Laura Pauling, for having faith in a new blogger. I’ve now read enough great indie titles to know that indie does not = bad, and I’m glad I overcame my unfounded misconceptions to read this book. I enjoyed it immensely, and am excited to read about more of Savvy’s adventures.

Content Guide: Spy violence, amorous activity