Saturday, May 18, 2013

First Blog Tour: Review, Excerpt and Giveaway

First (Book 1 of Live Once Trilogy) by Chanda Stafford

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Mira works on a farm in the ruins of Texas, along with all of the other descendants of the defeated rebels. Though she’s given her heart to Tanner, their lives are not their own.

When Socrates, a powerful First, chooses Mira as his Second, she is thrust into the bewildering world of the rich and influential. Will, a servant assigned to assist her, whispers of rebellion, love, and of a darker fate than she’s ever imagined.

With time running out, Mira must decide whether to run to the boy she left behind, the boy who wants her to live, or the man who wants her dead.

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Don’t say a word.”
The room smells musty, unused. Kind of like the back storage buildings on the farm, or the old cellar the Chesanings don’t use any more where we explore and play games. Shafts of sunlight slant through the cracks in the heavy, dark red curtains, and when I take a step, more puffs of dust cloud the air. Chairs covered in white blankets line the walls and tower over me in stacks almost as high as the ceiling. 

“What do you think they’re doing out there?” I whisper, but it’s so quiet, I could be shouting.

My servant, Will, shushes me. “If you listen closely, I bet you can hear your First talking.”

I creep over to the door and press my ear against it. Nothing. As if no one’s on the other side. “Isn’t this the Release Ceremony? Shouldn’t I be out there with him?”

Will nods, leaning against the wall, crossing his arms in front of him. “That’s normally how it happens. This is… odd.”

“Did I do something wrong? Did I make Thoreau mad?” I bite my lip to keep it from trembling. Grow up, Adrian. Stop acting like a baby.

“No, of course not.” He flashes me a quick grin, but I can tell he’s nervous.

“Are you sure?” I hate it when my voice is all shaky like a little baby’s.

“Definitely. I would know if there was a problem.” He shrugs, and a bar of light illuminates his carefree smile. “I bet it’s to save you from having to sit out there for the whole ceremony. Some of them can get pretty long.”

On the other side of the door, I hear clapping. An old man’s voice rises up as the applause dies.

“There, you see?” Will says. “Nothing to worry about.” I turn away and tune him out so I can listen to Thoreau.

“Thank you, my friends, for this most welcome reception. As a First, I’ve lived for hundreds of years, influenced this country in ways the average person can’t even begin to comprehend. With your continued support, and that of Princeton, I will use your gift to change the future and create a better tomorrow. Thank you.”

A dull roar follows his words, and I fidget in my seat, watching the door. My eyes dart to Will.

“This doesn’t make any sense, Will. I should be out there.”

“I’m sure they’ll call you shortly, Adrian. Maybe the usual waiting room was unavailable and—”

A loud boom shakes the room, and I almost fall down. The chairs weave back and forth in their towers, and millions of dust particles rain down. Will shoves me away from the wall and pushes me toward the back of the room.

“Move, now!” he shouts, but my ears are ringing, and I cough from the dust. He looks behind us at the door and forces me to move faster.

“Murderer! Child killer! Free the Second!” a loud, mechanical voice shouts from the other room. “Free the Second! Free the Second!”

There’s more yelling, but I can’t make out what they’re saying. Another, quieter boom. Will pushes me to a narrow closet.

“In here,” he hisses and shoves me inside. We stay like that for what feels like a couple hours before the door to our main room bangs open, and I hear the heavy clomping of boots.

“You in here with the Second, boy?” Will stays silent. There is a general grumbling outside, some swearing my mother would never approve of, then the deep, gravelly voice speaks again. “Alpha Code One, this is Underground Robin. Is the cargo safe and accounted for? I repeat, is the cargo safe and accounted for?”

Apparently these are magic words for Will because relief washes over his features.

“Who wants to know?”

“Papa bird.” The men march over to our closet and slide open the door. “Good spot, boy.” The head guard, an older man with a pinched face and a permanent frown sheaths his Artos. The other guards keep theirs out. Why? Is it still dangerous?

“What’s going on out there?” Will asks.

“Nothing we didn’t expect. Stupid rebels, always doing things half-assed.” He grins. “Let’s go.” One of them reaches out for me, but I jerk away.

Will touches my shoulder, reassuring me. “It’s okay, Adrian. We’re safe now.”

I shake my head and step back. “Where are we going?”

“Someplace safe.” The head guard takes my arm roughly in his. “Don’t worry. We won’t let anything happen to you.” One of the other guards laughs, as if that’s somehow funny.

“Is… my First all right?”

“He’s fine, boy.” He drags me from the closet. “Now let’s go.”

“Where?” My feet skitter, trying to find purchase as the guard forces me to follow him. The other men glance at each other, at me, then away again. Even Will won’t meet my eyes. Fear freezes me, and I dig my shoes into the thick carpeting. “Will? What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” he answers too quickly. “Just a trip down to the medical center, to make sure you’re all right.” He tries to give me another smile, but he’s lying about something. I can feel it.

“But I’m fine,” I protest as the guard pulls me to the side of the room, behind the curtains where, instead of a window, there is another door. “Can’t you just tell them that? I’m fine. I just want to go back to my room.”

Will shakes his head, sadly. “I’m sorry, Adrian, I really am.”

“What’s going on? Why are you sorry? Will?”

“Let’s go,” one of the other guards growls from the rear of our group. “We don’t have all day. Some of us have work to do.”

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. 

Review: A very realistic portrayal of a very dismal and depressing future.

Unlike many of the young adult dystopian novels I have read recently, First’s dystopian setting is one that I actually believe and find completely plausible, which makes it quite scary. Along with Mira, the reader slowly discovers what Seconds actually do for their Firsts. The history of the world that First takes place in is something I would to love more about. I know that Texas rebelled, but apparently not any other places in the country. There are mentions of the wilderness of the border. What happened to Mexico?

Mira was a strong, sympathetic character whom I rather liked. I also liked Socrates despite what he did to a number of children over hundreds of years. I am not sure what it was about Mira, the rebels, or his wife or some combination of them all that made him make the decision he eventually did in the end. I saw it coming, but was glad Socrates made that decision. I really do wonder what will happen to Mira in the future. Though I thought her love for Will developed too fast, I do hope that she will be able to be with him.

About the Author: Chanda Stafford teaches middle and high school English. She loves traveling and currently lives in Michigan with her husband and a menagerie of rescued dogs and cats.

When she’s not reading or writing, Chanda enjoys old zombie movies, authentic Italian food, and comic books.

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