Review: Back to Green

Back to GreenBack to Green: Part 3 of the Going Green Trilogy by Heather S. Ransom (Not A Pipe Publishing, 2020)

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Back to Green wraps up Ransom’s Going Green trilogy with an exciting and satisfying story that keeps a few surprises until the end. (If you haven’t read Going Green and Greener yet, what are you waiting for? This one could be read on its own but will make much more sense with that background.)

Calyssa Brentwood used to be a spoiled rich girl. At 18, she underwent the Green enhancement procedure that would allow her to photosynthesize and be part of high-class Green society. As the process was taking effect, she fell hard for non-Green Gabe Stayton and learned about the anti-Green, anti-GMO rebellion taking place just outside SciCity. Then she and Gabe both suffered terrible losses for which they blamed each other, ending their romance. But when their home was destroyed in a flood, Calyssa and her father sought refuge with the Staytons on their farm. Back to Green opens in that awkward position, with Calyssa and Gabe on speaking terms but not much else.

Calyssa’s father has contracted the deadly PKPH virus and is returning to AGHA (his research institute) to begin an experimental treatment. He wants Lyssa with him. In packing to leave, Lyssa and Gabe discover a journal from over a century before, when plants were dying from the PK virus and the Green enhancement was being developed as a way to save lives and resources. The friendship warms over this shared interest. But her return to AGHA puts her back in the orbit of charismatic Maddax Steele … and Eve Huxley, the mother who doesn’t remember her but is obsessed with her DNA for a project to create superior humans.

Calyssa is often scared to the point of hysteria, but who wouldn’t be, living in the same building as a driven psychopath who has lost all empathy? She doesn’t know who she can trust and almost drives friends and family away. But she finds her courage when she needs it, risking everything for a friend.

I appreciated how Calyssa and Gabe didn’t just get back together, forgive and forget, no hard feelings. The relationship they rebuild is earned. The book ends on an upbeat note, full of surprises, including one that leaves the door open for more stories.

After losing her sister and almost losing her father, Calyssa Brentwood is finally returning to a somewhat “normal” life … until the PKPH virus mutates and attacks, and she once again finds herself scrambling. When her maniacal mother who had been presumed dead resurfaces for a second time, there’s far more danger than Lyssa has ever known. But now, when it matters most, she must decide who she should trust and what is truly worth fighting for.

“Riveting, intense, and thought-provoking. Back to Green masterfully weaves the action and tragedy of unregulated science and politics with hope for a better future.”

Mikko Azul, author of The Staff of Fire and Bone

“This series grows with every installment, and Back to Green is a perfect conclusion. Nothing short of a triumph!”

Benjamin Gorman, author of Corporate High School

 

Review: The Supernormal Legacy: Book 2: Root

RootThe Supernormal Legacy: Book 2: Root (Not A Pipe Publishing, 2018) by LeeAnn McLennan

Book 2: Root picks up 6 months after the events of Book 1: Dormant (read my review here), in which Olivia Woodson developed the supernormal abilities she’d been suppressing since childhood, in time to help defeat a rogue supernormal cousin who had joined a terrorist organization. That cousin is in prison, but the rest of the Brighthall cousins are kept busy by an influx of monsters, many of them rarely if ever found in Portland, OR. And Olivia is having visions of her cousin breaking out of prison, but that’s impossible: supernormals don’t have visions.

Olivia is equal parts appealing and exasperating, for the same reason: she thinks like a teenager. She makes bad decisions for good reasons and continually finds herself in trouble with authority figures, usually because she’s trying to stay out of trouble. For example, she keeps her visions to herself because she’s sure she knows how the adults will react and she’d rather not go there. With good reason: more than one of these super-powered adults is dealing poorly with past trauma and tends to blow up at the nearest target. Young readers might miss that aspect of the story, but I found it compelling and moving. Olivia’s normal father has processed his grief over her mother’s death much better that her supernormal aunts and uncles, who aren’t used to needing help. Olivia’s secret strength may be her connection to the normal world, so I was pleased to see her make an effort to maintain relationships with her normal friends.

Although there’s some “sequel syndrome” here, having to re-introduce characters and situations, it is lessened by the introduction of a host of peculiar, goofy, gross, and/or terrifying monsters, such as a vampire-like thing that feeds on human lymphatic fluid. There were almost too many for me to keep track of, but that may have been the point; I think Olivia felt the same way.

Meanwhile, Olivia harbors warm feelings for another young supernormal, but he’s locked up and in a medically-induced coma to suppress his mindreading ability. When he’s released to help track the escaped prisoners, Olivia makes additional ill-advised but well-intentioned choices that lead to a road trip, a ghost town, grave peril, and a cliffhanger ending. There better be a Book 3!

Crane’s Fire

My novel Daughter of Magic released on May 22, 2018 from Not a Pipe Publishing, which accepted Kamila Shamsie’s challenge to make 2018 The Year of Publishing Women and will publish nine books by seven women this year. They are also accepting submissions of short stories by women to be published weekly online.

This week’s story is “Crane’s Fire,” from deep in the backstory of Daughter of Magic.

Hand-on-Fire-Wallpaper-For-Free

CRANE’S FIRE by Karen Eisenbrey

Crane was bursting to tell, but he couldn’t. Not while Soorhi watched. The teacher might have been old as dirt, but he didn’t miss much. Crane fidgeted. A breeze blew through the open windows. It smelled like apple blossoms. Like spring. Why were they inside on such a day? The eastern window framed a view of open country—grassland and rippling green wheat fields, broken here and there by splotches of purple or yellow where wildflowers bloomed. To the west lay the village of Deep River, though Crane could see only one house and part of another, built of gray river rock like the schoolhouse. Between them, he caught glimpses of a distant snow-capped mountain, and the dry gully that gave Deep River its name.

(Keep reading here.)

Review: Wrestling Demons

Wrestling Demons cover

WRESTLING DEMONS by Jason Brick (Not a Pipe Publishing, 2017)

The title might not make you think “lovable,” but that’s what Wrestling Demons is. This sports-fantasy mashup is smart, funny, and sweet.

It opens with the natural drama of a high-school sporting event, in this case a wrestling match. Protagonist Connor Morgan is big and athletic, good enough to get a varsity slot as a sophomore. But he’s the new kid, unsure of himself socially (a nice realistic touch), and on the bad side of the senior he beat out for that varsity slot. After the match, things go weirdly supernatural in a scene that is equal parts horror and farce. Apparently some of Connor’s schoolmates are . . . demon hunters? And apparently, so is he.

Connor is an appealing character, his inner voice filled with comedy and pathos. His Maori heritage is a nice touch of diversity in the beginning (and should appeal to fans of the movie Moana, too!). With its sports and action emphasis, this is a story aimed at male readers, but with plenty of genuine, natural emotion and strong female characters, including Connor’s wrestling teammate (and demon hunter) Sage Kaiser, like-interest Susan Freaking Parker, and his mom, a hardworking nurse who moves herself and Connor frequently to stay away from his dad’s addiction issues.

Exposition about wrestling and Connor’s backstory are handled gracefully, dribbled into the action of the early chapters so even readers with little or no background in the sport can keep up, and Connor’s loneliness makes sense. He longs to make connections, but almost doesn’t dare because what if he has to move again? But—Susan Freaking Parker seems to like him, and training to fight demons naturally leads to friendship with his fellow champions. Can he dare to care when they’re up against a powerful, unknown enemy? Brick does a terrific job of hiding the main villain’s identity from both the characters and the reader while providing several plausible candidates, leading to a nailbiter final confrontation in which Connor has to reach down deep and find his real strength.