Thursday, July 16, 2015

Review: Mania by J.R. Johansson

Book Blurb:

Jack and his half-brother, Parker, have no time to mourn the loss of their father. With an attack by the body-stealing Takers imminent, the pair must put aside their grief and track down the ingredients of their father’s formula—one that will rein in the power-hungry Takers and keep their family and friends out of danger.

Their only hope lies in a puzzle their father left behind, a maze of clues and riddles buried in the minds of strangers. This perilous treasure hunt leads them down a deadly path where nothing and no one can be trusted entirely. And when Parker finds himself deep in the fray between the Takers and the other Night Walkers, it’s up to Jack to complete the formula and save his brother’s life.

My Review:

5 Out Of 5 Stars

Genre: Supernatural, Survival--

Jack has been trying to figure out the missing ingredients for his father’s drug to fix the Takers, but so far he has been unsuccessful. Meanwhile, Parker feels frustrated because he wants to know more about Jack and his father, but Jack refuses to talk with him or let him help with the formula. When Jack and Parker receive a message from their dad, they team up to try and save their people from the war that will destroy everyone.

I know I am a fan of this series but I forgot just how much I love the books until I am reading one. I stumbled across the first book a year or so ago one day while browsing through my favorite book social media outlets and decided to give it a whirl. I have never been so happy as to have given a book a shot as I was by reading that. I had to wait forever (or what seemed like forever because I was so anxious) for book 2 to be released, but if possible, it was even better than the second book. I had the opportunity to meet the author and geek out on her at SLC comic con, and she was just as nice as I had hoped she would be, which is always reassuring since I couldn't imagine somebody mean writing one of my favorite series. I was so excited to get my hands on the third and final book of the series, but at the same time sad because it is the end and concerned that my expectations were too high. Rest your minds at ease, because this book did not disappoint.

Just a little background for those that forgot: Parker is a Walker, which means he will enter the dreams of the last person he makes eye contact with before he sleeps. But he can’t actually rest when he sleeps without the help of a Builder, a person who can create a world that allows the Walkers to actually get rest so they don’t go crazy. Together Walkers and Builders fight a war against the Takers, who are super freaking scary because they can possess the body of the person they last make eye contact with. Takers die early and use other’s bodies as a way to keep them self alive, even when it is against the person’s will to be taken.

I have never hid my love of Parker, I think he is perfect regardless of the fact he is a fictional 17 year old boy. What, a girl can dream. Well, now he has competition in the form of his older brother Jack. Jack has mad skills with science, weapons, survival and general badassness. If the zombie apocalypse happens, I would gladly take him on my team. Ok, who am I kidding; I want him on my team regardless of the end of the world. I absolutely love these guys, and having the narration told in alternating points of view between them was the perfect balance in the book. Parker has come so far from the boy on the verge of death and despair in the first book, to the boy who split his personalities in the second book, to finally accepting who he is as a whole. Sure he had anger and frustration here, but he seemed so much more grounded and rational (amazing what accepting your anger and having a Builder of your own can do for a guy). I would kind of like to wrap Parker in bubble wrap because, GEEZ!, the boy has it hard. Even in face of danger (ie murder and or torture) and tough choices, Parker keeps his head and his positive outlook on life which is probably my favorite thing about him period. I enjoyed seeing the bond between the brothers firmly cement and I could not be happier with the two of them as a team.

In case you couldn't tell, characterizations are the most important aspect of a story to me. Sure, strong plot helps to keep the book progressing, but if I don't connect with the people, I could care less about the actions. JR does an amazing job of creating tangible characters that I feel like I know, regardless of how small the role is. The side characters are just as important to the story as the main characters and here I love them almost as much. Finn is the best friend who always has a random thought or joke ready to ease tension as well as is willing to jump into to whatever mess Parker needs him in. I find his humor as well as his fun and terrible shirt quotes necessary. Abby is Finn’s younger sister, and the girl that Parker has loved forever, even when she was off limits. Abby has been there in any way she can and embraced her role in the world even when it sounded crazy. If I can’t have Parker, I can at least be happy that it is Abby who does. Mia did not play as strong a role in this title as she previously has, but it is nice to see she is getting her life in order and that Finn can bring her joy. I love Parker’s mom and her willingness to go along with this strange world and embrace Jack regardless of his parents. I loved her asking Jack to stay, it made me want to hug her. And a kinda sorta new character is Chloe, who was the bad guy in the last book, and is now a good guy here. I had expected to not like her, but it was hard to not understand, sympathize and root for her in this story. JR has the ability to make her characters be so real, with motivations that the reader can’t help but to relate to and grow to love. Here was a villain who I threw away my previous anger and decided I wanted to get a happy ending, regardless of her past deeds.

The books have to be read in order. No if ands or buts about it because everything builds on the first book. There is no way someone could just pick up this title and understand fully the complexities of the world that JR has built. Sure, you could get the plot of this specific book and see the end result of the current relationships, but the new reader would not understand the way the Night World society has been set up or the battles the characters went through to get what they have. I just don’t think the book would be as good/intense as a standalone. The series has taken some dark twists, so don't expect happy baby bunnies and unicorns, but it is so worth the read. The author does a great job of throwing a snippet of humor in to relieve the darkness (the theme not the person, fyi) when it feels like it may be just too much. I personally have enjoyed the journey I took with Parker and have not regret a moment of it. I strongly recommend this series to any and everyone who likes paranormal or who is just looking for something entirely new and unique to read.

I received this title from the author in exchange for my honest review.

If you have not read the first two books in the series, here are my reviews to get you familiar with the series:

Insomnia (The Night Walkers Book 1)

Book Blurb: Parker Chipp is dying. Dr. Brown confirmed Parker's suspicions that lack of sleep would drive him mad before killing him, but Parker cannot confide in anyone, because who would believe him? Johansson's adult personas are limited by their inability to accept the supernatural and understand the teen experience, both in the form of a ridiculous principal and a concerned yet oblivious mother. Before Mia moved to town, Parker was counting down the days he had left because he's a Watcher: a dream-walker. He is tortured by the dreams of the last person to make eye contact with him, but Mia's dreams offer unexpected respite from his condition; Parker can rest and dream his own dreams while inhabiting Mia's. Unfortunately, his triumph quickly turns sour when she feels violated by his attention, especially when she receives sinister emails, seemingly from Parker. This thriller embraces every conflict imaginable with horrifying results, whether Parker is battling his own good and evil halves, his friends and reputation, or an unseen foe.

My Review:

4 Out Of 5 Stars

Parker has not slept since he was 12, which was four years ago. Instead of sleeping, he ends up going into the dreams of the last person he made eye contact with during the day. The dreams are gritty, usually disturbing, and he has no control over what he sees. Instead he just has to witness the events unfolding around him. He is now 16 and fears his life is running short. He knows what horrible things happen to the body without sleep and he has slowly been experiencing them- the fatigue, the loss of muscle control and shaking, the headaches- leading up tot the delusions and then death. One night after a bad episode, he makes eye contact with a strange girl, and it completely changes his life. She dreams like no one he has ever seen, and for the first time in 4 years he can sleep while in someone's dream. He tries to find her to save his life, and she happens to be the new girl at his school. Parker tries everything he can do to make sure she is the last person he makes eye contact with every day, going so far to be considered a stalker and completely alienated. Events outside of Parker's control unfold, and he has no idea what is real, and if he is as big a monster as everyone thinks.

This book was so interesting. It was unlike anything I have ever read before. Parker is so mature after living this life with peoples nightmares and horrors.He tries to take charge of his life and has excepted what will happen to him very calmly and matter of fact. It was a different take of a teen who is not suicidal, yet is ok with his eminent death. But it was not depressing, more a mystery. The reader wants to solve what is going on with every aspect of the book, from why Parker is that way to who is the stalker, and why certain dreams are calming. I instantly liked Parker and who he is, and could not and would not accept he was a "monster" as he called himself. He believes he is bad, but I rooted for him, believed in him.

I loved his best friends Finn and Addy and how loyal they were to him even when the signs pointed negatively. I also erally liked his love interest, which I was almost positive was going to go in another direction, but stayed true.

The book had an ending, but there were so many loose ends that it can easily be a series, and if that's the case I will certainly read more to come. Overall an interesting unique story with a likable character.

I received this book from the publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Paranoia (The Night Walkers Book 2)

Book Blurb:

After years of sleeplessness that nearly killed him, Parker Chipp is learning that being a Watcher—a Night Walker who watches dreams —isn’t an automatic death sentence. But as he fi gures out how to live with his unusual abilities, a powerful alter ego he calls Darkness is growing inside him, taking over his body and filling him with frightening impulses that could get him into serious trouble.

Even as Darkness spins him out of control, Parker faces a worse threat: the Takers. Another breed of Night Walker, the Takers are anarchistic chaos-makers who want to see all the Watchers dead. Desperate to stop them, Parker discovers that they want to create an immortality pill and have kidnapped the one chemist who can make it . . . Parker’s long-absent father.

My Review:

5 Out Of 5 Stars

Parker has gotten into a happy rhythm with his life in the last four months since the school fire/Jeff incident. He hangs out with his best friend Finn, secretly sees Finn’s sister Abbie, and spends his nights sleeping inside Mia’s dreams. His life is not perfect, but for once he is doing ok with everything. But unfortunately nothing really ever ends well for Parker. People have been going missing, his evil alter ego is making demands on him, and there are more things out there than the Watchers.

I love this series. This is book 2, and I guess it can be read alone but I would not recommend it because you would miss out on the entire back story. So please take my advice and pick up book one, which also a fantastic read. I have never seen anything like this subject matter before, making it so incredibly unique. The world building the author does is unreal, be it about the three types of “special” individuals or from the dreams Parker finds himself in. I was completely wrapped up in the story and read the entire book in one sitting because I wanted to know what would happen next.

Parker is such a great character, if I was a teenage girl I would want to throw myself at him. He has no airs, is just 100% percent himself. And he always tried to do the right thing, even if it ends up hurting him. But he does have that bad boy edge to drive girls wild, be it Darkness coming forward or his own desires. I absolutely love him; seriously I have no character flaws to point out. Yes he is a deeply flawed person, but he knows that and still tries to do good. Sigh.

I like the relationship between Parker and his friends, the fact they are all in this together, complete honesty. Parker does not have to be angsty and sad alone, but these loyal people share the burden with him. Parker is completely in love with Abbie, so much so that everyone around him knows it regardless of him telling anyone. The very intimate moment (not sexy time, the book is fairly pg rated) that Finn and Abbie share was incredibly intense, and how could Abbie not want to be with this boy who revealed all of himself to her? I had mixed feelings with Jack, at first I liked him, and then mistrusted him until the reveal when I had it all ready figured out. I love how open and accepting Parker was to Jack, even after everything they went through.

The end felt a little bit like it was “the end” of the series, everything was wrapped up so nicely. But I sincerely hope there is more to come because I enjoy every venture into Parker’s world. To be honest though, I will read anything by this author, she has a fan in me.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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