The Kill Switch by J.E. Clarkson

4 out of 5 stars

Clarkson keeps the adrenaline pumping in The Kill Switch, the third installment in her dystopian, techno-thriller series. The short, action-filled chapters keep the suspense high as the nameless main character known only as The Cleaner and her allies continue to fight against the evils of Stella and Nemo & Co. 

The Kill Switch by J.E. Clarkson

Leaping in where The Ghost Society ends, the book revisits some familiar themes and scenes present in the first book, while adding a political element reaching the highest levels of power. We also get a teaser for the fourth book with references to a parcel of documents labeled Dark Cygnet.

In addition to the fast pacing and endless curves, I enjoy the observations like, “They say you don’t hear the bullet that kills you,” which are present in Clarkson’s writing. Her astute metaphors also keep me engaged. One example: “I felt a bit like I was taking a slow walk into hell and the soles of my feet were beginning to burn.”

These books are definitely written to be read in order, not as interchangeable stand-alones. So, if this review sounds intriguing, and you haven’t read the first book in the Nemo and Co. series yet, do yourself a favor and download it today. You will quickly start to see why Clarkson has her own category on this blog.

As for me, I will be devouring The Dark Cygnet Files, the next in the series, as soon as I can.

Clarkson’s books are available on Amazon.

The Sky Looked the Same by Marissa Dike

4 out of 5 stars

The cover of The Sky Looks the Same displayed on an e-reader placed on a pink and blue blanket.

Set 60 years in the future, The Sky Looked the Same is told through the main character Mia’s diary entries. After defending her friends turns into a violent situation, sixteen-year-old Mia is sentenced to 30 years for her crimes.

However, in the world Dike has created, instead of serving time, convicts have time taken away from them by undergoing an aging process. Readers follow the first year of Mia’s life after her sentencing. 

Through its exploration of aging, death, and the human need for love, friendship, and forgiveness, this memorable book can be depressing at times (despite its cheery yellow cover). The short journal entry storytelling style helped keep the heavy story moving at a good pace. I also appreciated the poetry that is interspersed throughout the book. 

I fell in love with Dike’s writing style after reading her debut work, Liam’s Town. Her writing has an incredible depth and vulnerability to it that was also present in this novel.

One of the lines from The Sky Looked the Same that resonated with me was about how much an individual can endure in their lifetime. “It’s just a reminder that even strong things can break,” she writes.

The book has some triggering content, including references to a racial slur and rape/incest.

Marissa Dikes books are available for purchase through her website, www.writingmarissa.com.

Thank you to the author and to BookSirens for providing a free e-ARC. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

The Ghost Society by J.E. Clarkson

The Ghost Society

The Ghost Society is the second installment in J.E. Clarkson’s Nemo & Co dystopian techno-thriller series.

Like the first book, The Ghost Society is told from the perspective of a woman known only as The Cleaner. The Ghost Society reveals more about The Cleaner, introduces us to a few new characters, and resurfaces a few others who are pivotal to the story. 

Like its predecessor, what this book lacks in attention to minor editing details, it more than makes up for in plot. This book is genuinely exciting, and a little terrifying, to read. Just when you think you know what is happening, Clarkson tosses in another curveball, and suddenly you are boomerang-ing in another direction. 

“Extraordinary people are sometimes worth extraordinary compromises.”

J.E. Clarkson

I liked that this book added romantic love into the mix of human emotions it explores. As one character observes, “Extraordinary people are sometimes worth extraordinary compromises.”

Love and the compromises we make are just two things in this journey that are infinitely more complicated than they seem on the surface. 

I’m definitely sticking with this series, which has two more books – The Kill Switch and The Dark Cygnet –  to see where it takes us next.

Read my review of The Vanishing Office.

The Vanishing Office by J.E. Clarkson

The Vanishing Office by J.E. Clarkson

The Vanishing Office is the second book I’ve read by Clarkson. The first was The Lamb, a murder mystery. 

While The Vanishing Office, a dystopian thriller, is quite different from The Lamb in terms of genre, subject matter, and tone, Clarkson’s distinctive voice and intriguing writing style are still there.

In The Vanishing Office, an unnamed female protagonist is hired as a cleaner for Nemo and Company, where she receives assignments by text, doesn’t know any of her co-workers, and her work is shrouded in secrecy for unclear reasons. 

I thought I would hate the concept of a story being told from the point of view of a nameless lead character, but it actually worked really well. It forces the reader to almost assume the identity of The Cleaner and feel her emotions as she tries to understand what is happening around her and decipher what is real and what isn’t. 

The reader could really feel her struggle and relate to her realization that “sometimes it’s a good idea not to argue too hard with them. As long as you know what’s going on in your head, that’s all that matters.”

One of the scariest elements of the book is that, with a society that revolves around alternate facts and an isolating, impersonal work environment, there are points where it is easy to forget it is supposed to be dystopian. 

The one drawback to the book is that there are a few typos and formatting issues. Personally, these didn’t take away from the reading experience or the overall message.

I’ve already downloaded and started reading The Ghost Society, the second installment in the Nemo & Co series. To read my review of The Ghost Society, visit this link.

The Vanishing Office is available on Amazon in several formats.

Entanglement by Alina Leonova

5 out of 5 stars

With implants, DNA edits, and human memory rewrites, the storyline in this dystopian read was beyond inventive. Cay, Limea, and Vietra are layered, unique characters, who become entangled in situations that kept me guessing throughout the book.

The circumstances that these well-developed characters face force the reader to confront the question of “What is the most fundamental element that makes a person who they are?” I was completely captivated by the different paths Limea and Vietra took to uncover their true selves.

Set in a world where plant life is beginning to threaten human life, the book manages to weave in important messages about environmental preservation.

Leonova does take the reader down a few rabbit holes, but the story is so mesmerizingly distinctive that I didn’t mind. I’m looking forward to seeing what she writes next!

Thank you to the author for providing a free review copy in exchange for my honest opinions.

The Humane Algorithm by Trevor Wynyard

4 out of 5 stars

The Humane Algorithm, a newly-released dystopian novel, is told from the perspective of Matt Turner, an older brother and father figure to Kevin. Matt lives with Kevin and his mother in a society where the government strictly regulates electricity and controls access to medical care. The Turners find themselves in desperate need of high level medical care when Matt discovers their mother is gravely ill.

The premise of this book was interesting to me, and I liked that it centered on a family of three. With his oldest child syndrome and deep love for his mother, Matt was a relatable protagonist.

Wynyard does an excellent job with world-building in this novel. I appreciated his descriptions of scenes, like when Matt and Kevin try to get their mother admitted to the government-run hospital. He gives enough detail for you to envision what’s happening without being too sparse or overly descriptive.

My quibbles with this book were minor. I would have liked more background about how society evolved to be the way it is described in the book. I also had a little bit of trouble following some of the family timelines — I couldn’t figure out how much older Matt was than Kevin. The ending also felt a little unresolved, though that’s likely because the reader is being set up for the next book in the Streetlighters Trilogy. The odds are good that I will read the second book in the series.

I received an ARC of this book through BookSirens in exchange for my honest review.

Queentide by Donna Fisher

Four out of 5 stars

“She swore from that point on that no one else would ever edit her story.”

Cover of the book Queentide

This book is set five years (2026) in the future in Australia. It tells the story of several women who are part of Queentide, a political movement formed to elect a female prime minister and all-female government with the hopes of eliminating the oppression women began facing at the onset of the pandemic in 2020. 

I was drawn to the premise of the book and was engaged by the contemporary references. It is billed as a dystopian book, but, unfortunately, the inequality and oppression present in the book aren’t too far-fetched.

This book will appeal to readers who enjoy books like The Handmaid’s Tale, storylines based on politics, or women’s empowerment themes. 

“I don’t want to win if it means being no better than the system I want to dismantle.”

Queentide

The writing felt both oppressive and empowering at times but it made sense for this type of book.

I appreciated the stories of characters like Bodie, the founder of Queentide, and Lilith, a major character who becomes stronger during the course of the story.

This wasn’t a five star read for me mainly because the ending dragged a bit. It felt the story could have ended before it did. Overall, I’m glad I read the book.

Thank you to BookSirens, the author Donna Fisher, and SheSaw Press for providing a free ARC in exchange for my honest review.