Friday, February 15, 2019

Tour Book Review: The Expedition, by Chris Babu

The Expedition
(The Initiation, Book 2)
Chris Babu
Hardcover, 304 pages
Permuted Press
December 4, 2018
Dystopian Fiction, Science Fiction
Young Adult Fiction


Drayden and his friends thought nothing could be harder than the Initiation. Little did they know it had only been a warmup for the challenge that lay ahead.

With New America’s situation dire, Drayden and the pledges venture out into the unexplored world outside the walls, escorted by a team of elite Guardians. The group seeks to contact another civilization in what remains of Boston, but Drayden has secret goals of his own.

Dangers abound in the real world, including Aeru, the deadly superbug that wiped out humanity. While they battle the elements of a desolate landscape, a power struggle emerges within their ranks. The Guardians seem to be carrying out a covert mission themselves, and the quest turns everything they thought they knew about New America upside down.

I received a complimentary copy of this 
novel from TLC Book Tours. 
I greatly enjoyed it, and all opinions are my own.

It's not often that I read a dystopian/science fiction novel as good as this one! From beginning to end, Babu engages and keeps the reader's interest. I was totally riveted!

As the novel opens, readers find themselves in New America, which was introduced in the first book of the series -- The Initiation. This is what's left of one section of the United States, after a worldwide bacterial epidemic (the bug is named "Aeru") wipes out most of the world's population. This includes large sections of the U.S.

New America is concentrated in Manhattan,which was part of what used to be known as New York City. The inhabitants of New America live in an enclave surrounded by a wall that protects them from Aeru. The "government", if such it may be called, is in the hands of The Bureau. (I think this group might be a reference to the FBI. I'm not entirely sure about this, since I haven't read the first book. It sounds plausible, though.)

There's a Premier Holst, who runs The Bureau, and a VERY unsavory character named Harris Von Brooks, who is the Premier's Chief of Staff. He is also in charge of the expedition referred to in the book's title. 

The Bureau basically runs the lives of people living in New America. There's a place called "The Palace", where Bureau members and other elite individuals live, while the rest of the population resides in "the Dorms", which are not pleasant dwellings at all.

The whole thrust of the plot is an expedition to Boston. This is a Bureau project, to which Drayden, as well as three other teens -- Catrice, his girlfriend, Sidney, and Charlie -- have been forcibly assigned. The purpose of the mission is to find out whether Boston is deserted, or might be a refuge for other Aeru survivors. New America is in trouble, with dwindling food supplies, and is reaching out for help.  In fact, The Bureau has resorted to the horrible practice of exiling random people, because of the problem of not having enough food to feed the entire population.

In regards to this, I'm including a very interesting, yet chilling quote which includes a nod to Star Trek TOS (The Original Series), as well as the subsequent movies created from it. I was very happy to recognize Babu as a fellow Trekker!

"The Bureau's policy was barbaric and unfair, but it wasn't illogical. The city didn't have enough resources to support the population anymore. They believed they had a choice between exiling a few people or allowing everyone to die. It was the essence of the philosophy of utilitarianism, which his original mentor, Mr. Kale, had taught them about in school. It also echoed the words of Spock, from the one Star Trek movie played in the Dorms -- The Wrath of Khan. He said the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few. The red-and-green-hats challenge in the Initiation was even designed to drive the message home. 'All might be done, but for one', was how they had phrased it. They'd said a group's well-being superseded any individual's." (Chapter 6, pg. 56)

So this is a society driven by harsh realities, as well as by a ruthless ruling group, led by a premier, who will not hesitate to achieve its ends by justifying the means. There's an overall feeling of suspicion, as undercurrents of unrest flow beneath the whole society. There are cameras everywhere, and Drayden even wonders if The Bureau has bugs hidden in people's apartments. Although I have not read the novel 1984, I was immediately reminded of "Big Brother". That was because the concept this entails has become a well-known motif in our contemporary society, thanks to the author of that book -- George Orwell.

I immediately found myself liking three of the four sixteen-year-old protagonists -- especially Drayden, who is a math and science genius, and the main focus of the story. In spite of his superior intelligence, he remains a very down- to-earth guy, with insecurities and vulnerabilities. And he's sensitive, too; he has doubts about his girlfriend's love for him, as he desperately wants her to return his own love for her. He's also a very brave guy who doesn't back down from a challenge.

The other three teens are obviously of secondary importance, although each has a role to play in the book. I didn't like Catrice, as she blew hot and cold in her relationship with Drayden. Sidney was great, though; she was loyal to a fault, and always ready for action! As for Charlie, he was a blast as the group's clown! His jokes often made me roll my eyes, though. Still, he was perfect comic relief!

These four teens have gone through something called "The Initiation", which is some sort of survival test. Again, I have not read the first book, which gives the details of this test. Babu does provide readers with enough hints about it, however, so that we can get the general idea: it's a combination of brainteasers and physical challenges.

Survivors of this initiation are few and far between, so it's clear that it's a very dangerous, challenging test. Drayden and his friends are thus viewed as heroes by the inhabitants of New America. Unfortunately, this means that The Bureau has chosen them for the dangerous trip to Boston. They are considered expendable, which is ironic, considering their heroic status.

The teens are accompanied on the trip by four elite Guardians -- highly trained soldiers in the service of The Bureau. One of them, an eighteen-year-old named Eugene, immediately befriends Drayden and his companions. I really liked Eugene! He was not only strong, which is, of course, a requirement for a Guardian, but also handsome, charming, and smart, to boot. However, he did seem to be "too good to be true", and I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop in regards to him.

The plot is full of twists and turns, as the author introduces other elements into the story, such as a conspiracy against The Bureau, and Drayden's secret search for information on what happened to his mother, who had been exiled by someone in The Bureau. The action is exciting, fast-paced, and full of drama, as a power struggle emerges between Drayden and his friends, and the Guardians. 

I LOVED the world-building! Babu has created a very believable setting for this novel. Like all dystopias, this one has an overarching feeling of doom-and-gloom. The descriptions of partially and totally destroyed bridges in the area of New York were vivid, and I felt so sad that The Bureau had destroyed them, in order to quarantine what remained of New York City, thus preventing the spread of the disease. They also had vaccines, though. But the destruction, whether partial or whole, of the NYC bridges was unfortunately necessary.

Interestingly, Babu has invented some new slang terms, such as "shkat", "chotch", and "flunk". The first one seems to have a meaning similar to "s--t", while the second one apparently means "idiot". The third is perhaps similar to the Yiddish term "schmuck", which means "idiot" as well.

The time period of the novel is not specified. I imagine Babu did that in his first book. However, one does get the feeling, in this second book, that it's not that far into the future -- perhaps about 50 years or so ahead of our own time. 

Now I'm eager to read The Initiation, in order to find out how these four characters (especially Drayden) mastered the challenges of the test! 

This is a well-crafted, intellectually compelling novel that also includes a lot of action, very engaging characters, and a futuristic world on the brink of destruction. The fact that it's a Young Adult novel should not deter older adults from reading it, as it deals with very important themes that fuse politics with philosophy. 

This is not only a GREAT addition to the Young Adult Fiction genre, but to the dystopian sub-genre of science fiction! KUDOS to Chris Babu for having created such a riveting book! I hope this novel, as well as its predecessor, will hit movie theaters soon! I would LOVE to see both!


Purchase Links

Be sure to check out the first book in this EXCITING series!!
Click on the cover for the book's Goodreads page.

Chris Babu grew up in North Haven, CT, playing soccer and the violin in his free time. After devouring The Shining under the covers with a flashlight when he was eight, Chris was hooked on fiction. He’s always had a thing for young adult books. But he’s also a major science and math nerd—physics being his favorite—and he has a math degree from MIT.
For nineteen years, he worked as a bond trader on Wall Street, riding the subway to and from work every day. He traded mortgage-backed securities for Bank of America and then Deutsche Bank, where he eventually ran the MBS trading desk. Now Chris writes full-time, always with his trusted assistant Buddy, a 130-pound Great Dane, who can usually be found on his lap. They split their time between New York City and the east end of Long Island. Their omnipresence at home drives his wife Michelle and daughter Lily crazy. 


To access the complete tour schedule, just click on the button below! 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Can't Wait Wednesday No. 89: Finale, by Stephanie Garber

Welcome to "Can't Wait Wednesday"!

This is a weekly event hosted by
Tressa @ Wishful Endings!
This is also where we excited book bloggers showcase future releases we're eagerly anticipating! 
For more information, 
please click HERE.

There's also a Linky widget, so participating blogs can link up!

Here's my choice for this week!

(Caraval, Book 3)
Stephanie Garber
Hardcover,  416 pages
Flatiron Books
   May 7, 2019 
 Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Welcome, welcome to Finale, the third and final book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Caraval series!
Welcome, welcome to Caraval...all games must come to an end.

It’s been two months since the last Caraval concluded, two months since the Fates have been freed from an enchanted deck of cards, two months since Tella has seen Legend, and two months since Legend claimed the empire’s throne as his own. Now, Legend is preparing for his official coronation and Tella is determined to stop it. She believes her own mother, who still remains in an enchanted sleep, is the rightful heir to the throne.

Meanwhile, Scarlett has started a game of her own. She’s challenged Julian and her former fiancé, Count Nicolas d’Arcy, to a competition where the winner will receive her hand in marriage. Finaly, Scarlett feels as if she is in complete control over her life and future. She is unaware that her mother’s past has put her in the greatest danger of all.

Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun―with lives, empires, and hearts all at stake. There are no spectators this time: only those who will win...and those who will lose everything.
. .

 Why I can't wait for this one!

I own a copy of the first volume in this series, titled Caraval. Of course, I need to read it, and then move on to the second volume, and then this one!! 
This series is supposed to be AWESOME!! 

For more information on this author, you can check out her
Goodreads profile HERE!

What do you think of my
choice this week? 
Please leave a comment and
let me know!

Friday, February 8, 2019

Buddy Read Update No. 4/Wrap Up: The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give
Angie Thomas
Hardcover, 444 pages
Balzer + Bray
February 28, 2017
African-American Fiction,Coming-of-Age, Contemporary Fiction, Diverse Reads,
Social Justice, Young Adult Fiction

A three-time winner of Goodreads Choice Awards

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.


This buddy read is presented by 
Maria @ A Night's Dream of Books
Barb @ Booker T's Farm!!

For this week's post, 
we both read Chapters 22 to 26,
which brought us to the end of the book.

Be sure to visit Barb's blog to read
her half of our "chat"! 
You can access her post HERE!!

This post, as well as that of my fellow
buddy reader, may contain spoilers!
Read at your own risk!!

This is our last buddy read post..... Yep, this is our fourth and final week! I can't BELIEVE how FAST the time went by! 

I have felt a little sad each time I've come to the end of a buddy read, too, although I haven't done that many of them.

I feel especially sad about coming to the end of this particular book. The characters were SO vividly drawn, the plot SO intense, I actually felt as if I were watching the movie already! I wanted to get into the book and give Starr a BIG HUG, as well as dap! I wanted to stay with her family and share their lives for some time. Heck, I wanted to IMMERSE myself in their world! 

Of course, I will also miss this back-and-forth question format with Barb! But not for long, as we're already planning our next buddy read!! We will reveal our plans when we firm everything up, and then we'll share with all of you, our readers and visitors!

Our very last posts will be our individual reviews of this book. The dates are tentative at this point, but we'll have these reviews published as soon as we're able to. Please refer to my Launch Post for the weekly schedule. You can find that post HERE.

And now for the last week's questions....

Barb: What are your feelings on Starr and basically the rest of her family hiding the fact that she was dating Chris from Mav?

Maria: I wasn't very comfortable with it. However, Mav was very protective of Starr. I got the impression he didn't think she should have been dating ANYONE, since she was sixteen, and that's too young for a girl to be dating, in his opinion. He wasn't too happy, either,  when he found out that his daughter was dating 'a white boy', especially in light of the Khalil case.

The irony here is that Starr herself was somewhat conflicted about dating Chris, although thankfully, she resolved this by the end of the book.

While I didn't like it much, I can see why the family acted this way. They figured that Mav would get all bent out of shape if he ever found out. And he did find out! Lol. 

Barb: In the end, DeVante decides to turn evidence in against King. Do you think doing so will make much of a difference? A lot of times, even when arrested, gang leaders manage to keep a stranglehold on the community. Do you think DeVante will ever be safe?

Maria: I was totally surprised by this, considering the fact that King had been looking for DeVante, and his goons finally found him and beat him up. I don't think he will ever really be safe, unless he moves to another city, maybe. 

And you're right, gangs do have a way of keeping control of the communities they're in. They do this even from jail! In this case, too, there are other gangs in Garden Heights that work with the King Lords. So I really don't think that DeVante's decision to turn witness will do much good, in the long run. 

Barb: And speaking of DeVante, I watched the movie Saturday and he doesn't factor into it at all. Do you think they left an important piece of the puzzle out and can you imagine this story without him in it?

Maria: Oh, you've already watched the movie? I haven't, but I did look it up on Wikipedia. That's where I found out that DeVante was not included in the plot. I even searched the list of actors included in the article, looking for the one who had played this character. Of course, I didn't find him.....

I was very disappointed to see that the makers of the movie had eliminated DeVante. I love this character. He's a good guy who, like Khalil, did what he did in order to look out for his family. 

I really enjoyed the relationship that developted between DeVante and Starr's family. Her dad and uncle became surrogate fathers and friends to him, helping him as much as possible. I'm going to miss that in the movie, if I do decide to watch it.

I also totally enjoyed the friendship between DeVante and Chris! I loved it when they gave each other dap, and played video games together. That, too, I will miss in the film....

Last but not least, I also liked that DeVante was a good friend to Starr. At first, I thought he was a bit condescending to her, but later, I saw that I had been wrong. He actually became another Khalil for her. I felt this was a very nice touch on the part of the author. 

Well, you know how it is -- most of the time, the book is better than the movie! 

Barb: Starr, Seven and Chris didn't hesitate to jump into the protests which placed them right in the middle of the riots going on. Do you feel they were right in doing so? 

Maria: Well, they didn't really want to do anything violent, and they didn't. Starr, Seven and DeVante (SO sad he's not in the movie....I have to say it again), wanted to show their solidarity with their fellow African-Americans, so I think they felt they had a duty to be present, even if they didn't participate in the violence and the looting that went on. And it ended up that Starr became the one who actively participated -- not in violence, but in speaking out in front of everyone. I thought she was GREAT! Gone was her fear. It was replaced by outrage that justice had not been done.

As for Chris, I LOVED that he went right along with the rest of them! He, too, was outraged about the outcome of the murder case, especially since it had an adverse impact on Starr. And then, too, he and DeVante had become friends. So, by the time this part of the novel came up, I was totally rooting for Chris being Starr's boyfriend! It really took guts for him to participate in this with Starr, her brother, and friend, as, being the only white person around, he could have gotten hurt. YAY for Chris!!!! 

Thanks for the GREAT, thought-provoking questions, Barb, not only this final week, but also during the three previous weeks! It's been so interesting and fun to have participated in my second buddy read with you! I can't wait for the next one to start!! (Hey, maybe we can move it up a little!) 

Blog visitors and regular readers, be sure to visit Barb's blog (see the link above) to see how she answered my questions for this last week! And.......stay tuned as well for our reviews!! 

What do you all think?
Have we piqued your curiosity
about this book?
Be sure to let us know!
Don't forget to visit Barb's blog
to get her side of this "chat"!!

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Book Blogger Hop No. 161: Audio Books vs. Ebooks?

Welcome to the Book Blogger Hop,
hosted by Billy @

For more information, and 
to find out the topic of next week's question, click HERE.

This Week's Question

Audio Books vs. Ebooks? If the
world stopped printing books,
which would you prefer
between the two?

(Submitted  by Angelica  @ 

My Answer

Here's the short, paradoxical answer: Both, and neither! That might sound bewildering, so here's the long answer....

The thing is, I have this LOVE for printed books, that NOTHING and NO ONE will EVER, EVER take away from me. So, asking me to choose between audio books and ebooks is like asking me to choose between the lesser of two evils. Lol.

However, if this HORRIBLE situation were to come about -- and I really don't think it will, not in a hundred years, nor a thousand, nor a million, because the love of printed books is being passed down from one generation to the other, even as I write this -- I would have to go with ebooks, much to my dismay.... But I wouldn't do this to the exclusion of audio books. The thing is, I will only listen to an audio book if I've already enjoyed a book through the printed, or, in this case, digital, word. I guess that's because of something I've suddenly become aware of -- I LOVE the visual aspect of words. However, I also LOVE their sound. And this would probably be true for any language. Words and sentences are a special kind of art form. But they do have these two aspects -- vision and sound. 

So I have to reconsider my answer. I would not have a preference between these two formats. I would go from one to the other. I might decide to enjoy a book first in audio book format, and then as an ebook. Or vice versa. I would not want to consume a book in ONLY one of these two formats. I NEED to SEE text, and if I can't get it through print, then I'll get it through a digital format. 

Having stated all of the above, I think I should start to buy audio books for some of my favorite books, books that I've already read (in the printed format). I do own all of the audio books for The Twilight Saga, and have listened to them all. This is in addition to having read all four books three times each, AND the first volume, Twilight, four times -- three in English, and one in Spanish. That's how much I LOVE and treasure this series!

I also have the first volume of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, as an audio book. Of course, I bought the original hardcover books some time back. I also own the paperback edition that shows a picture of Hogwarts when all the book spines are lined up. It comes in a beautiful box. I have yet to listen to this audio book, though. I REALLY must do so, this year!!

Of course, I also need to get the rest of the HP audio books -- with the exception of Book 6 -- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. That's because a very sad event takes place in that book, and it tore me up when I was reading this book. I have been unable to finish the book. So I definitely would NOT want to listen to the audio version.

Here are some of the books I've already read (in printed format) that I would also love to listen to. If you're interested, click on the titles to access my reviews. They are listed in alphabetical order, by author. 

If you would prefer to check out these books on Goodreads and/or Amazon, they are easily accessible at both sites.

Young Adult Fiction

Shadow and Bone - Leigh Bardugo

Waterfall - Lisa T. Bergren

Cascade - Lisa T. Bergren

Abandon - Meg Cabot

Underworld - Meg Cabot

The Nightshade Series
Andrea Cremer

Tempest Rising - Tracy Deebs

Die For Me - Amy Plum

Until I Die - Amy Plum

The Vampire Academy Series
L.J. Smith

Tryst - Elswyth Thane
(This novel was first published in 1939,
and is a paranormal GEM. It should
not only be available in an audio book
version, but in a film version, as well.)

Adult Fiction
Literary, Contemporary,
and Genre Fiction

A Darker Dream - Amanda Ashley

Spock Must Die! - James Blish
(It would be GREAT if the narrator
were able to imitate the voices
of the original Star Trek actors!)

Paula Brackston

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë

Angels in the Snow - Melody Carlson

The Angel of Losses - Stephanie Feldman

Magister Ludi - Hermann Hesse

Rita Leganski

My Name is Asher Lev - Chaim Potok
(I read this book several years ago, and
fell in love with it! This was before I 
had a blog, though, so I would have
to re-read it in order to review it. And then, yes, listen to the audio book!! By clicking
on the title, you will access the GR page.)

The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien

Adult Nonfiction

Everyday Enchantments - Maria De Blassie

What are your thoughts on
this topic?
Please leave a comment! 
If you're participating in this meme,
I'll go comment on your 
own BBH post.
If not, I will then comment on one 
of your blog posts!
Thanks for visiting!!!