Review: Colony East


23435737Title:
 Colony East
Author: Scott Cramer
Publisher: Train Renoir Publishing
Release Date: October 2014
Length: 336 pages
Series?: Toucan Trilogy #2
Genre: YA

Find the book: Goodreads |Amazon

When Abby’s little sister, Toucan, contracts a new, deadly illness spreading among the survivors, they go on a dangerous journey to Colony East, an enclave of scientists caring for a small group of children.

Abby fears that time is running short for Touk, but she soon learns that time is running out for everyone outside Colony East.

 

REVIEW

The Skinny

The second book in the trilogy brings such changes! News gypsies and fuel kings have taken over the survivors’ worlds. The Port radio stationed, rumored to be operated by a kid, is what keeps many going. It is when a particular band of news gypsies comes to Castine Island that the Leighs and friends learn about Colony East, a big operative in New York. In fact, one of the gypsies was from Colony East.

Jordan sets sail on his own adventure, leaving Abby and Toucan behind on Castine Island with the rest of the survivors. When Toucan contracts what Abby believes is a new deadly virus called “The Pig,” she knows she must act fast. Her mission is to get Touk to Colony East for testing – and for the cure.

Abby takes Touk as far as she can, breaking barriers than many thought were impenetrable, to save her baby sister. It is not until after she is inside Colony East that she questions how beneficial the adults there are, and what it is exactly they are studying.

You can read my review of Night of the Purple Moon, the first book in the trilogy, here. This book picks up a few days after Night of the Purple Moon ends.

The Players

  • Abby Leigh – a 13 year old red-head 7th grader on the island, Jordan and Touk’s older sister; becomes the first medical responder
  • Jordan Leigh – Abby’s younger 6th grade brother; has a lot of friends on the island; becomes the lead sailor
  • Toucan Leigh – Abby and Jordan’s toddler sister
  • Toby – the school bully; rude and crude; becomes the lead negotiator
  • Mel – Abby’s friend back home in Cambridge
  • Timmy – a youngster of six or seven found by Abby on the mainland
  • Mandy – a hardcore, aggressive pre-teen part of a motorcycle gang on the mainland

The Quotes

Staring upward, Abby felt a deep fatigue set in and began seeing images on the ceiling; she was sailing home and had entered the calm waters of Castine Harbor. She fixed her eyes on the tip of the mile-long jetty that stretched into the mouth of the harbor. It was her favorite place to be alone on the island. She imagined that the noxious smoke from the distant fire was the rich, raw scent of seaweed at low tide. Abby’s eyelids drooped as a sense of peace settled over her like mist on a pond.

The Highs and Lows

  • Time Advance. In the beginning of the book, it picks up a few days where the first book (Night of the Purple Moon) left off. Abby, Jordan, Mel, Mandy and Timmy are recovering from their stint in Massachusetts and traveling back to Castine Island. Then the book fast forwards a year and has alternating chapters. Readers meet Lieutenant Dawson at Colony East (in New York), and find out enough about the place to have the heeby jeebies. Although Colony East is trying to rebuild some semblance of a civilization and order, they must carefully choose the children who will grow up to be the next generation.
  • Lieutenant Dawson. He is a tortured man in some ways, carrying with him the gnawing uncertainty of whether his own baby and wife are alive. Many times he has asked to be part of crews in the area of his home, and each time he is stalwartly denied. Despite this, he is kind and compassionate to his cadets and does his very best to look out for them and their well-being.
  • The Pig. The Pig is a new virus that you don’t realize you have until it’s too late, and there isn’t a cure.  As Abby travels to Colony East, she learns that many kids on the mainland kill those they suspect have The Pig because they literally can’t stop eating…and try to kill for any and all food.
    • “The illness was horrific: a month of high fever, loss of appetite, hallucinations in the latter stage, and a painful rash that devoured the skin in the final days leading up to death. The antibiotic was the only cure.”
  • Abby. She is growing into a strong young lady. Her kindness and compassion can be taken advantage of in a time like this, and get her into serious situations. She is not one to back down because something seems impossible. She is adventurous, bold and brave. But she still hangs on to this childhood innocence that makes her a little naive about the new world they are living in.
  • – Inconsistency. At a few points in the latter part of the book, Abby and Jordan both make references to the survivors on Castine Island, stating that hundreds of kids have flocked there from the mainland for survival, but I don’t recall any of that mentioned in the beginning of the book when they are actually still on the island.
  • Jordan’s Change of Heart. After many visits by news gypsies, Jordan decides he needs to set sail from Castine Island, so he does. I did feel like he was abandoning Abby and Touk. The book also follows his journey, and he finally ends up at The Port and discovers the identity of the mysteriously anonymous DJ. He leaves a dedication through a song for Abby, and I hope this means he will continue to make his way back home.
  • Resourcefulness. In the first book we discovered how the Leighs and Patels helped set the island up for success, and how the 28 survivors of Castine Island operated together to make a new life. In the second installment, we see how the kids on the mainland have established their own little colonies for survival. They have set up trading routes, much like the triangular trade in the 16th century between Europe, the Caribbean, and the colonies. Power is held by those who are fuel kings. They own everything from the fuel to weapons to food to medical supplies. Some also have rule over medical clinics that have been set up. In all, these pockets of kids everywhere Abby and Jordan come in contact with have figured out how to make do and live without the help from any adults.
  • – Cliffhanger. I hate cliffhangers. Although I understand them, I also hate them. I was left in the dark, not knowing if the kids I had become emotionally attached to are going to make it through.
  • Emotional Attachment. I felt an emotional attachment to the Leighs in the first book, and I feel even more invested in them in this one. The way Cramer has crafted the situation, and the characters personalities and reactions to it all leaves me feeling like there is a glimmering element of good in us all. If ever put to the test, it could come out in all of us. I suppose the concept of a story of survival, with such adventure and danger, puts you right in the thick of things. I did find myself feeling like a character in the story.

The Take-Away

Despite forming an emotional connection, I don’t feel this book was as enjoyable for me as the first one was. I know this is a trilogy and Toucan is the vital focus. After all, it is called the Toucan Trilogy, but I just didn’t feel the same as I did about the first one. Perhaps it was my impending feeling of doom and death. Please don’t kill the Leighs. Please, no!

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

If you’re keeping up with the Kardashians – ahem, the Leighs – buy the book. If you want the entire trilogy, buy it! If you simply want to enjoy the storyline and the characters, borrow it.

 

About the Author

Scott Cramer has written feature articles for national magazines, optioned a screenplay, and worked in high-tech communications. The Toucan Trilogy –Night of the Purple Moon, Colony East, and Generation M– are his first novels. Scott and his wife have two daughters and reside outside Lowell, Massachusetts.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: Night of the Purple Moon

15772644Title: Night of the Purple Moon
Author: Scott Cramer
Publisher: Train Renoir Publishing
Release Date: May 2012
Length: 186 pages
Series?: Toucan Trilogy #1
Genre: YA

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Abby, 13, is looking forward to watching the moon turn purple, unaware that bacteria from a passing comet will soon kill off older teens and adults. She must help her brother and baby sister survive in this new world, but all the while she has a ticking time bomb inside of her–adolescence.

 

***** Review *****

The Skinny

Abby and her siblings are outsiders on Castine Island, despite their grandparents residing there most of their lives and their father growing up on the island. Recently moved from Cambridge and living in split households, Abby wants to go back home.

The world is anxiously awaiting the arrival of the purple moon – caused by a purple comet entering the Earth’s atmosphere. This has been an expected and seemingly safe thing. Even a special purple beer was made by a national beer distributor, and pizza places are delivering purple pizzas. It’s a pretty big deal. However, the following morning Abby and her brother Jordan make a chilling discovery: their father is dead. They see a delivery truck crashed into the lawn across the street, driver slumped over. The new kids next door have come over with the same news of their parents. Something in the bacteria of the comet – released into the Earth’s atmosphere forever – killed off all adults who breathed it. Quickly, the kids of Castine Island come together to make decisions about what they will do…how they will survive, and how they will teach the younger kids the necessary things so they may continue when the big kids have succumbed to the comet bacteria.

The Players

  • Abby Leigh – a 13 year old red-head 7th grader on the island, Jordan and Touk’s older sister
  • Jordan Leigh – Abby’s younger 6th grade brother; has a lot of friends on the island
  • Toucan Leigh – Abby and Jordan’s toddler sister
  • Emily Patel – a sweet Hindu girl; sister to Kevin
  • Kevin Patel – a kid genius, brother to Emily
  • Toby – the school bully; rude and crude
  • Chad and Glen – Toby’s croonies; they follow in Toby’s shadow
  • Mel – Abby’s friend back home in Cambridge
  • Timmy – a youngster of six or seven found by Abby on the mainland
  • Mandy – a hardcore, aggressive pre-teen part of a motorcycle gang on the mainland

The Quotes

Stars burned fiercely in the coal-black sky. The outlines of the moon’s craters were crisp. A bright dot moved slowly across the sky.

Before stepping outside, she looked at her sister and brother as if it might be for the last time. She swallowed hard and tried to drive this sad, frightening thought from her mind.

A quarter mile off shore, they had a good vie of the mansion. Laundry hung on the lines, and hundreds of rain buckets sat empty on the lawn. Cars filled the driveway and lined the road. Smoke leeched out of the mackerel smoke house. The American flag fluttered in the breeze. It looked like the circus had come to town.

Eddie crumpled to his knees and sobbed. Abby did not think it was possible for her heart to break further, but Eddie proved her wrong when he pulled back the covers and climbed beside the girl he loved.

A wave of grief washed over Abby and she felt her heart explode. The shattered pieces settled into the darkest part of her soul like snowflakes. She sank to her knees, inwardly tossed and tumbled by turbulence. She heard mournful sobbing in the distance and realized she was hearing herself.

The thought took root in her mind. She, alone, was responsible for her feelings. She had no control over the surroundings. Why should she allow the surroundings to control her feelings?

The Highs and Lows

  • + Plot. The plot is something entirely different and original. How can  the children of the world survive this new apocalypse? Anyone past puberty is dead* and those who are hitting puberty break out  – clear signs that they will not last long.
*Except, not. Only the adults who breathe the murderous purple comet bacteria.
  • – Puberty. I teach sixth grade (age 10-11), and I can definitely speak to the fact that almost all the students I have taught hit puberty by seventh grade (age 11-12). There are several characters grouped together who are right at puberty age (or past it), and that was used as a ticking time factor, but I found it somewhat illogical and unrealistic.
  • + Toucan. Is adorable. I want one.
  • + Heartfelt. As the Castine Island kids band together and work out a plan to survive, there was a budding romance between the Leighs and the Patels: Emily and Jordan, and Abby and Kevin. The way that Jordan cares for Emily throughout everything and the reverence he has for her is phenomenal in a kid so young. Emily is a lasting impression for Jordan, and Abby comes to realize just how much Kevin means to her.
  • + Kevin Patel. The kid is a genius. He helps the kids of Castine Island in so many ways. He sets them up to be successful and survive these dark, uncertain times. He even teaches the younger kids at the public library!
  • – The Bacteria. The bacteria is like the boogie man. You can’t really see it or smell it. It can’t be identified but it is present in the atmosphere and things still have a purple haze. They do listen to the radio broadcasts from the CDC and learn about the bacteria: it affects those with elevated hormonal levels of estrogen and testosterone. The unknown feeling of a ticking time bomb leaves everything up in the air for the big kids. I was constantly wondering if (or when) one of them would hit puberty full-on. Of course, this only propelled the plot and built more suspense – and anxiety for the characters.
  • + Descriptive Writing. There were wonderful descriptions sprinkled throughout the the novel. It was so sensory I felt like I was there. I had this little movie reel playing in my head as I read.
  • + The Mansion. There are 26 Castine Island survivors plus two babies who decide to band together and take up residence at a mansion on the island. There is plenty of space, and this small band of (primarily) locals iron out specific jobs and duties. They take care of the island and themselves and no one is left behind or alone. They do everything they can to survive and make the island livable. I loved the different snippets of various characters at the mansion and seeing what jobs and tasks they were responsible for. These kids, from babies to pre-teens, grow up at the mansion. It is a symbol of hope and their future.
  • + Abby. She is like the mother of all on the island. She has a lot of influence even though she’s not the oldest. During such a stressful time she maintained her calm and cool and took care of business for Castine Island and its survivors.
  • – Toby. He starts off as an asshole, as described by another kid, and decides to be a rebel. He and his band of croonies (Chad and Glen) do not live at the mansion and instead “live it up” scavenging the island and people’s homes. They also sneak to the mansion and take items and food, infuriating several of the mansion residents. Toby is the kind of character who makes it easy to hate him.
  • The Journey. Abby and Jordan journey to the mainland to save the survivors of Castine Island. Along the way they inhert two more members: little Timmy and hardcore Mandy.

The Take-Away

There were genuine emotions – from multiple characters – that made the purple comet and all the aftereffects seem so real. This development of the characters and the plot could have been easily overlooked and kind of wiped on by as the novel progresses, but they are present and they are real. It gave the book heart.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

Buy it. Even if you don’t want to continue reading the trilogy, I highly recommend buying this one. I typically do not like to buy physical books, but this is one I do want to purchase and have on my shelf to re-read. This is just one you want to have around.

 

***** About the Author *****

Scott Cramer has written feature articles for national magazines, optioned a screenplay, and worked in high-tech communications. The Toucan Trilogy –Night of the Purple Moon, Colony East, and Generation M– are his first novels. Scott and his wife have two daughters and reside outside Lowell, Massachusetts.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review + Giveaway: Sulan

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Welcome to my tour stop for Sulan by the beautiful Camille Picott. This is a YA Dystopian/Cyberpunk novel.  This is a review-only tour that runs September 15-19. Check out a few different reviews from participating blogs and form your own opinion. Start with the tour schedule…after reading my review and entering the giveaway, of course! 🙂

cbbtourhostTitle: Sulan – Episode One: The League
Author: Camille Picott
Publisher: Pixiu Press
Release Date: June 2012
Length: 296 pages
Series?: yes
Genre: dystopian, sci-fi, YA
Source: CBB Book Promotions

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

*****Synopsis*****

15717986Sixteen-year-old Sulan Hom can’t remember life before the Default—the day the United States government declared bankruptcy. As a math prodigy, she leads a protected life, kept safe from the hunger and crime plaguing the streets of America. She attends the corporate-sponsored Virtual High School, an academy in Vex (Virtual Experience) for gifted children.

Beyond the security of Sulan’s high-tech world, the Anti-American League wages a guerrilla war against the United States. Their leader, Imugi, is dedicated to undermining the nation’s reconstruction attempts. He attacks anything considered a national resource, including corporations, food storage facilities—and schools. When Sulan witnesses the public execution of a teenage student and the bombing of a college dorm, she panics.

Her mother, a retired mercenary, refuses to teach her how to defend herself. Sulan takes matters into her own hands. With the help of her hacker best friend, Hank, Sulan acquires Touch—an illegal Vex technology that allows her to share the physical experience of her avatar. With Touch, Sulan defies her mother and trains herself to fight.

When Imugi unleashes a new attack on the United States, Sulan finds herself caught in his net. Will her Vex training be enough to help her survive and escape?

*****Review*****

I’ve read one book by Camille Picott before, and I enjoyed it. I was sure I’d enjoy Sulan, but I loved it!

How am I supposed to concentrate on anything when I’m worried about getting blown up or shot in the head.

Sulan lives in a dysptopian world. She lives in the time following the Default, where large corporations dealing in arms and weaponry dominate. Her father works for one, with his crazy math self.

Sulan keeps her affinity for math quiet. Despite being a prodigy, she purposefully keeps herself on the low side of the gradebook. She attends school in a virtual world in order to keep her identity and location a secret, as do all of her classmates and friends. She’s never met them face-to-face.

After witnessing the horror that Imugi, leader of the Anti-american League, wreaks across the United States is enough for Sulan. She wants to defend herself, but her mercenary mother refuses to teach her….so Sulan finds a way.

I am not going to be the girl with a hole in her head, or the girl with a bomb in her bed. I am going to be the girl with the gun. 

Sulan takes some severe risks to protect herself, and in the process meets someone who is pretty crafty in such a high tech world. Baldy, who was Sulan’s opponent, is now her partner in the Cube.

“Sounds like you’ve met the male equivalent of yourself,” Hank says the next day. “Parental issues. Pent-up rage. Violent tendencies.”

“Isn’t’ it great?” I grin at nothing in particular. 

When Sulan’s virtual high school is requiring all the students to actually move to a corporate compound, things start getting fishy. Sulan is in for the ride of her life!

The hype, the fear and the world building drew me in, but the characters are what made this book. Hank and Sulan have as solid a relationship as can be had, being virtual classmates and all. Hank and Billy are so geeky in their competitiveness, that turns out to be a cover for them both!

Sulan finds herself in the middle of an overthrow, along with Hank and Billy, and her rescuerer Taro. Hank and Billy, like Sulan, belong to prominent families, and they discover Taro’s identity…and his father’s.

“What good are convictions if I can’t hold onto them in a moment of crisis.” 

When the moment comes when the four of them need help the most, Sulan is not let down, but she is creeped out by one particularly strange man in a frog costume.

The dialogue between characters was strong and fitting, and that drew me into the relationships between the characters. The only one I had some hesitation with was Sulan’s mother. She didn’t make any sense to me, until toward the end of the book.

Sulan now lives in a world that is going to change vastly and quickly. Picott is saving that for the next book in the series, and I can’t wait to read it. I want to see what happens to Sulan and her friends.

 ****About the Author*****

Camille Author PicCamille Picott is a fifth-generation Chinese American. She writes science fiction and fantasy books with Asian characters and/or Asian settings. Camille grew up reading speculative fiction stories largely devoid of Asian characters and culture. This, coupled with a passion for her heritage, is the reason she strives to bring some aspect of Eastern myth, legend, culture, and ethnicity to all of her writings.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

*****Giveaway*****

There are two $5 Amazon gift cards up for grabs in this giveaway.

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Book Review: The Prophecy of Arcadia

The Prophecy of Arcadia (Arcadian Wars, #1)Title: The Prophecy of Arcadia
Author: M.H. Soars
Publisher: Createspace
Release Date: January 2014
Length: 430 pages
Series?: Arcadian Wars #1
Genre: YA, Paranormal
Format: e-book
Source: author

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon 

Synopsis

Being a teenager is tough, especially when you have to pretend to be something you’re not, and you’re in love with someone you shouldn’t. 115 years ago, a small planet called Arcadia was invaded by a vicious alien race and nearly destroyed. Cut off from their resources, the Arcadians turned to Earth for help. A group of Arcadian explorers discovered a Prophecy that claimed their salvation lay in the hands of two children from Earth. To ensure their safety, the Arcadian Council sent their most gifted youngsters to Earth to act as protectors. Samantha is one of them.

To succeed in her mission she must learn to control her Arcadian powers and keep her true identity from her best friend, and the girl she swore to protect, Alexia. But Samantha will soon realize that nothing is as it seems. Someone is trying to prevent the Prophecy from taking place and the prophecy boy hasn’t been found yet. There is also a new drug circulating at school that is turning students into freakishly strong menaces.

To make matters worse, distractions keep getting in her way. Such as her love/hate relationship with her “cousin” Matthew. Or her confused feelings toward popular and mysterious Julian. She wants nothing more than to be free to live her life. But the survival of Arcadia depends on her and her friends. Free will is not an option.

Review

This book is all kinds of hot mess! Arcadia is a planet separate from Earth, but Arcadians look and function exactly like Earthlings (humans on Earth). Arcadia believes in a thing called the Prophecy. One flaw I saw in the book was that it wasn’t made very clear what the Prophecy would do long-term for the Arcadians; it was just a thing that was destined to happen.

In fact, the Arcadian Council, responsible for making all the decisions for Arcadia, is so bent on the Prophecy being fulfilled that they have assigned six teenagers and one adult to be Alexia’s protectors in disguise. Alexia is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter. Eventually, Alexia, the Promised girl, will be drawn to the Promised boy (the seventh son of a seventh son) like moth to a flame and nothing will compare to their destiny as the Promised Ones. Except…the Promised boy can’t be located. 

Alexia lives in Santa Fe with her dad, but her uncle Gary and all her cousins live in Santa Barbara. Alexia goes to visit them every summer. Gary is known for his goofiness; he seems to be a scatterbrained hairball. Gary is only father to two of the cousins, the others he has taken guardianship over. A long time back, two other aunt/uncle couples and Gary’s wife died in a boating accident, and he took in all the kiddos. Of course, this is just a cover for them acting as Arcadian operatives. Things get dicey when a couple of them are required to go back to Arcadia for training, and lies must be made up to keep Alexia from knowing the truth.

When I first started reading I thought the novel would would center around Alexia, since she’s a Promised One and the center of the entire Arcadian world, essentially. Wrong! The novel seemed to revolve predominately over Samantha and Matt, “first cousins.” They are both twins, and Matthew’s twin has been sent back to Arcadia. Sam and her twin act nothing like twins, they are not close in the least. Meeting Sam and Matt started off very rocky – there is some definite back-story from seven years past, some event that took place on Arcadia – but all of their memories have been wiped away. All that’s left is this feeling – a hostile feeling. And overcoming that is one of the main themes throughout the book.

And the second is discovering that some things are not quite right with the Arcadian Council. Remember I said the Arcadian Council is so bent on the Prophecy being fulfilled? Well, so much so that there is a special operative secretly assigned to oversee the entire Alexia operation, who has his own secret spies infiltrate the cousins’ school, where Alexia will now attend for her senior year. This adds a dystopian element to the book. 

Alexia develops this romance with wheelchair-bound Ethan, former football star, and Samantha and Matt have unfinished business, and Samantha develops a fast and furious fling with Julian, a hotshot rich kid whose parents are never to be found. Then a new kid comes to school, Lucas, and he’s very strange. Then, a second new kid comes to school, Henry, and the cousins are informed he is the Promised One. Gary starts acting strangely, and Alexia and Ethan must be broken up.

Julian throws extravagantly insane parties…where someone is pushing an insane drug. A drug that allows the alien race that almost eradicated Arcadians to inhibit and possess Earthlings — with superhero strengths and powers. Things start going wrong, and the cousins are not buying the story Durgin and Gary are feeding them. They suspect something is going on with the Council, who seem to try to be forcing the Prophecy to be fulfilled. They start their own investigations and discover some very shocking things about Arcadia, the Council, the Promised Ones…and there are a few murders on the way.

This book is part of a series, which I knew when I started. Within chapters, the point of view switched between characters: Alexia, Samantha and Matthew. At times, this became confusing because I would forget whose POV it was from, especially when one of the three characters was not in the scene, and even more when the cousins are debriefing and plotting.

About 40% of the way into the book, things were on a roll. After that, I thought it started falling apart a little bit. The focus switched from Alexia and Sam to Sam and Matt, which drug on. The further and further into the book, there were fewer scenes that Alexia owned. About halfway through the book I realized there were some fishing things going on, before the cousins let on. When they realized what was up, they all started plotting. At first they thought there was a snitch in their midst, but then I realized there was a snitch at large – somewhere between them, Gary, Durgin and the secret spies, one of which is always right there when one of the murders happens and the cousins are investigating.

Besides the reason for the Prophecy, there are three other items left unexplained by the end of the book that I predict will continue and/or come to light in the second book:

  • Julian: there are comments over and over that he is acting strangely and there is no resolution or discovery made.

For example, he gives Alexia a necklace to give to Sam (but to say it’s an old birthday present and not from Julian), and when he sees Sam wearing it he flips out on her about where she got it.

  • Lucas: at the end of the novel he seems to have crossed a few people, and is deeply involved in the cousins investigations, but there is still a strange, uncertain quality about him.
  • The Drug Dealer: the cousins discover who the distrubuter from the source is, but realize he can’t be the dealer. Whenever they get close to discovering, a catastrophe happens. The dealer is still at large – with an unknown amount of the drug, Big A – at the end of the novel.

This book does contain some adult content with language choice and sexual steam scenes. I would recommend for mature readers or 18 and up.

About the Author

M.H. SoarsI like to call myself a United Nations child. I was born in the United States but grew up in several different countries which gave me a broader perspective of life. I’ve always been passionate about books and stories and at a certain point had a comic book series going. With a background in fashion design I always thought I was going to follow that path. But the characters in my head kept begging to be set free. So I decided to write their stories. A couple of years and a baby later, the first installment of my Arcadian Wars series is finally done. I currently reside in New Mexico with my husband and baby daughter. I love to read novels in the YA, PNR, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, and Chick Lit genres. When not devouring said novels, you may find me shopping online (I’m an expert), blogging about fashion, or trying to teach my daughter to walk (even though she’s too young for that).

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Book Review: Rebels Divided

????????????????????Title: Rebels Divided
Author: Lance Erlick
Publisher: Finlee Augare Books
Release Date: June 2013
Length: 294 pages
Series?: Rebel #2
Genre: YA/Science Fiction/Dystopian
Format: e-book
Source: author

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis

Rebels Divided was written as a standalone dystopian action story. It is also part of the Rebel series, three years later. [Read my review of Rebels #1, The Rebel Within, here.]

The first time he sees her, they meet as enemies and she doesn’t kill him. That’s worth something. Geo (19) is a rugged frontiersman who hungers to see more of the world than the impoverished Outland glen where he and his pa hide from local Rangers. To prove himself, Geo fights Union Mechanized Warriors and Outland Rangers to protect friends, neighbors, and refugees fleeing the Federal Union. Annabelle (19) is a tough yet fragile tomboy who lost her parents at age three to the Mech Warriors. Then she’s forced to become a Mech.

After the Second American Civil War, the nation divides into two ‘utopias’. The Federal Union enforces Harmony and an all-female society with the help of EggFusion Fertilization and Female Mechanized Warriors based near Knoxville. The Appalachian Outland promotes rugged individualism, but Thane Edwards holds a monopoly of power with his Rangers, loosely modeled on the legendary Texas Rangers. The Union’s Tenn-tucky governor and the Outland warlord conclude a secret deal, pledging Annabelle to the warlord to provide him heirs, and putting a bounty on Geo and his pa.

When Annabelle refuses the arranged marriage, Thane Edwards kidnaps her and her beloved sister. She escapes, but can’t find her sister without help. That’s when she tracks down Geo, a sworn enemy she feels connected to. While trying to survive, and pursued by their own and opposing military forces, Geo and Annabelle wrestle with attraction and mutual distrust as enemies. Yet, only together can they confront Edwards to rescue her kidnapped sister and gain justice for the murder of Geo’s pa. Time is running out.

Review

Annabelle has grown up in a world where females have weeded out the men and boys from their society and their lives. Her adopted mother, a Tenn-tucky state senator, still remembers the husband and son she sent into the Outlands to protect. Annabelle has grown up believing her brother George is a monstrosity of a boy. 

This novel picks up three years after the ending of The Rebel Within (read my review here). Annabelle is still paired with Dara in the Mechanized Female Warriors, and still is trying to evade and brush off the amazon’s advances. Her younger sister Janine has now joined their ranks, and they are sent on a mission into no man’s land, the strange common ground between the female Civ society and the male retreat of the Outlands.

Governor Battani is still pressing forward with her own political agenda, the mechs are amping up their border patrol and missions, and Senator Scott is still opposing Battani on many issues…until Battani gives Mama Scott an ultimatum she can’t refuse.

Annabelle and Janine are both captured in the Outland and held hostage, but Thane Edwards has underestimated Annabelle’s resourcefulness. She must impost her much-hated mech presence on the very thin hospitality of those trying to sustain a life during the hard times on the frontiers of the Outlands. She’s not leaving without her sister, even if it means taking a stand against the much feared and well-trained former mech Thane Edwards.

The novel’s chapters alternate between Annabelle’s world and a young Outland man’s world, until they eventually find each other in the Outland.

Annabelle and Geo are both betrayed by their people, fighting against both of their worlds to do the right thing, and forging something new of their quickly deteriorating civilizations before civil war can strike again and take its toll.

This is not a novel to be missed! While the first was hard for me to get through at times, this novel pretty much lays it all out on the table. The past of Annabelle is fully explained, the truth of George’s banishment is shown clearly, and shows the strength and willpower of young individuals, which is something I find quite lacking in today’s time.

Annabelle continues to grow as an individual, even deceiving Geo along the way for his help. She shows a softer side in this novel, as does her mech commander, Sam, which is totally out of place based on the hard-nosed character she was portrayed as in the first book. Geo is a character that grows throughout the novel in so many ways. He is a young man trying to be a man but is oppressed by the societal structures of the Outland and the cause his father has taken up to protect others. I loved Geo’s character; he has a heart to match Annabelle, even if he was unfocused at times.

I am intrigued to see how Annabelle and Geo will build a new Appalachia, in hand with their mother and Sam, and how their relationship will progress. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a third book!

About the Author

600388_10201010092153744_210253767_nRaised by a roaming aerospace engineer, Lance Erlick grew up in various parts of the United States and Europe, as well as traveling through Asia. He took to stories as his anchor, including the works of Asimov, Bradbury and Heinlein, and has been writing since age eleven. Growing up, he was inspired by his father’s engineering work on cutting-edge aerospace projects to look to the future.

Lance received his BS in political science and his Masters in business from Indiana University, before studying creative writing at Ball State, the University of Iowa, Northwestern University, and the University of Wisconsin.

Numerous detours along the way included solving business problems for companies ranging from automotive, to electronics, kitchen cabinets and boats. This involved significant professional writing, supplemented after hours by writing science fiction. Now a refugee from the business world, he is focused on writing.

Lance lives with his wife in the Chicago area, where he’s working on his next novel. He writes speculative fiction, science fiction, dystopian and young adult, and likes to explore the future implications of social and technological trends.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Book Review: The Rebel Within

perf5.500x8.500.inddTitle: The Rebel Within
Author: Lance Erlick
Publisher: Finlee Augare Books
Release Date: March 2013
Length: 270 pages
Series?: Rebel #1
Genre: YA/Science Fiction/Dystopian
Format: e-book
Source: author

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis

Forced to grow up quickly, Annabelle (16) faces adult dilemmas and a fight for her life. Orphaned at age three when the elite military corps took parents, she’s a tomboy who rebels against a conformist society. The state pushes her to become a cop intern to catch escaped boys. Then she’s forced to choose between joining the elite military unit that took her parents or being torn from her beloved sister and adoptive mom.

The Rebel Within turns our male dominated world upside down. After the Second American Civil War, the Federal Union pursues a utopian society without men by rounding up the remaining males, and enforcing Harmony. Central to their plan is EggFusion Fertilization and Female Mechanized Warriors based near Knoxville.

In this world, Annabelle faces a cop intern boss who hates her, a military commander who demands too much, and an amazon bully who won’t leave her alone. She meets a handsome boy who escapes prison. As she tries to survive rigorous military training and hunt for her imprisoned birth mother, Annabelle must choose between capturing the boy and helping him escape, while she wrestles with the consequences of her actions.

Review

I don’t like people bringing up family connections, as though the sins of the mothers fall upon the daughters.

Annabelle is a strong young woman, not at all deceived by the utopia that political officials paint. She works as a cop intern, and sees the daily grind of what the reality of her all-female society is really like. Of course, it doesn’t help that her mother holds an opposing view to that of governing officials and is a state senator.

Mom says women stopped having boys because of high rates of autism, violence and social disruption, and they didn’t read. That made it hard for them to adjust to our knowledge-based economy. After the war, most of the males fled. Then the city zoned our neighborhood and school to exclude them. Harmony Director Surroc and Captain Voss say liberated women don’t need men. Governor Battani says the only way to make females safe is to eliminate the source, men. 

And that’s just what they do. Boys, even as a young child, are strictly forbidden from being outside of their “zone,” with rezoning happening constantly, and consequently catching usurpers of the law. The women of Annabelle’s society fear boys and men, and the lucky boys are regulated to all-boys boarding schools that are highly regulated by the government and surveillance industries.

Who knows what men are really like? Most fled to the Outlands before I was born. 

Annabelle’s society, the Federal Union,  was created after “21st century right-wing extremists tried to turn back the clock.” Obviously, they failed and thus seceded, causing the Second American Civil War. The result was the split between the Federal Union and the Outlands (Appalachia and TexSoCal), where men take off to hide and escape persecution.

During this process, Sam Hernandez came to have a powerful position by mechanizing female warriors – literally making them almost indestructible and amped up on illegal performance-enhancing drugs of a new generation. Given how much Annabelle’s society has regressed, it is surprising, as well as some of the technology that is mentioned throughout the book. This new all-women society has even come up with a solution to reproduction without using males: EggFusion Fertilization, where one woman’s egg fertilizes another. Sam has continued this program, Mechanized Female Warriors, in the state of Tenn-tucky. Just as in Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games, mech tournaments (which include a variety of mech vs. man and mech vs. mech fights that also include fights to the death) are televised every six months.

It’s horrible to have to wear a choker like a dog, which is how cops I work with track males. 

This all-female society is surprising in the fact that women are allowed to take multiple wives. Annabelle has two other mothers, each with three children. She has two younger sisters that are her mother’s children – but she’s adopted. Her younger sister Janine, who seems heavily dependent on Annabelle, wouldn’t understand that she’s adopted. Truly, Annabelle and Janine’s mother fights for a cause – the very reason which landed Annabelle with her, and the reason behind her losing her own husband and son. Annabelle hasn’t forgotten what the Federal Union has done to her family, and neither has her mother. They are bent on gaining more information, helping boys escape, and seeking justice.

On top of everything else, the government regulates everything, right down to the “harmony” of one’s clothing, one’s ambiance in a place of business, and the food choices and food content of restaurants. No sugar, no caffeine, no MSGs – in other words, the bland cardboard that is now being pushed in public schools today. Annabelle hopes of opening a restaurant to avoid the unpleasantness of her society, and it’s a lot of work. Governor Battani makes sure that Annabelle’s dreams of her future are shut down. The book also mentions that some things that are a normal part of our lives today are banned in this future society, like the King James Bible and The Diary of Anne Frank. I would be interested to know what else is restricted in their society.

Annabelle really gets in a scrape when she stands up for her sister at a school basketball game, and is embroiled in a fight with the other team. She has two choices: go the the Resocialization Facility in Nashville…or join the Mechanized Female Warriors. Annabelle is in a hard spot: be put far away where she won’t have access to information she needs to seek justice or her family, or join the group responsible for her family’s downfall?

I stare at the retreating boy, a scared mouse caught in a trap. You don’t treat humans like this. 

Annabelle has to make some very difficult choices, and put aside her own opinions of her world in order to further herself, gain trust of others, and hopefully get what she’s wanted all along. Despite joining an organization that discriminates against men and the weak and going through weeks of tear-down and build-up exercises, Annabelle retains all of her heart, spirit and opposition of her society. She supports her sister warriors, roots for them, and ultimately shows the compassion her society is sorely lacking.

About the Author

600388_10201010092153744_210253767_nRaised by a roaming aerospace engineer, Lance Erlick grew up in various parts of the United States and Europe, as well as traveling through Asia. He took to stories as his anchor, including the works of Asimov, Bradbury and Heinlein, and has been writing since age eleven. Growing up, he was inspired by his father’s engineering work on cutting-edge aerospace projects to look to the future.

Lance received his BS in political science and his Masters in business from Indiana University, before studying creative writing at Ball State, the University of Iowa, Northwestern University, and the University of Wisconsin.

Numerous detours along the way included solving business problems for companies ranging from automotive, to electronics, kitchen cabinets and boats. This involved significant professional writing, supplemented after hours by writing science fiction. Now a refugee from the business world, he is focused on writing.

Lance lives with his wife in the Chicago area, where he’s working on his next novel. He writes speculative fiction, science fiction, dystopian and young adult, and likes to explore the future implications of social and technological trends.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

12 Months of Reading Recommendations

The last Monday of 2013, I happened to stop into a Half Price Books store…and buy books. It’s inevitable. With my purchase, I received a free HPB calendar filled with reading recommendations. Each month is broken down into a category, and lists ten books for each category. There are additional books in the categories, which are available on various HPB webpages.

I broke out the calendar and went to the first link, and was pleasantly surprised by what I found, so I am going to share their compilations with you! The categories are in order by the corresponding month it is matched with in the calendar.

resolveBanner100 Books You Can’t Put Down

The 50 Greatest Love Stories 

21 Books to Start A Baby’s Library

40 Books That Will Make You LOL

32 Underrated Book Club Novels

100 Scifi & Fantasy Novels to Geek Out Over

55 Quick Reads: Under 200 Pages

40 Classics You Should Have Read in School

65 Banned or Challenged Books That Shaped America*

Top 40 Horror Books to Scare Your Pants Off

Great American Novels of the 21st Century

30 Books That Are Better the Second Time Around

*Currently this page is unavailable.

Resolve to Read More in 2014

Enter to win a $100 HPB gift card! Enter by January 31, 2014.

Book Review: Scrapbook of My Revolution

scrapbook_of_revolution_by_goweliang-d5norezScrapbook of My Revolution by Amy Lynn Spitzley (Curiosity Quills Press, 2013)

Genre: YA, dystopian, supernatural, romance

Curriculum Building Ideas:

  • Language Arts: Reader’s Notebook, Literary Circles, Guided Reading Groups, Writer’s Workshop, Sequencing, Plot, Character Map/Analysis, Inferences/Predictions, Connections (Text to Self, Text to Text, Text to World), Graphic Organizers, Persuasive Essay, Reader’s Theatre, KWL Chart, write the first chapter of the next book in the series
  • Social Studies: design an article that would appear in The Hanna Bay Express – follow the attention of the media from the book, paying attention to the audiences of both literary sources; create a propaganda poster or pamphlet; write a bill about Benign Indifference or Malian treatment/rights; stage a debate of Regular vs. Malian; relate the ideas espoused by RAMM to past historical events of similarity, with the outcomes of each event
  • Science: study of evolution; discuss the evolution of Malians

*Author’s Note: This book contains some controversial topics, and is centered around race. I have made some references to past historical figures or events in connection with some things that happen in this book. I do not support these past historical events. I, like the main character Amber, believe in equality for all.

I may as well say it up front. I’m Malian. Yeah, one of the freaks. I’ve got gold skin and the ability to read emotions. It’s great fun, too, believe me. Yeah, right. Anger. Frustration. Desire. Try reading those all day. But I’m not the only one who’s frustrated. We’re all mixed-up and sick of the bad press and attacks and everything else from Regulars. Things are changing, though. I’m getting other Malians in my school together. We might be able to show people that we’re just as human as they are…unless one of my best supporters is really public enemy number one. (Amazon)

Amber is a Michigan teen…but she’s no normal teen. She is Malian – a human with various and unusual skin tone shades, who also possess a supernatural ability. There are four types of Malians: Sensitive, Athletic, Camo, Manipulative. Each type, by definition, is extremely broad:

Sensitive – Any Malian whose skills lie in the mental region.

Athletic – Any Malian whose skills lie in the physical region.

Camo – Any Malian whose skills lie in the ability to camouflage themselves.

Manipulative – Any Malian whose skills lie in the ability to change the environment.

There were tons of ways for each “talent” to manifest itself, and each kid born seemed to have their own way of doing things. The kid down the street…could talk to animals, but technically she was a Sensitive like me.

Amber is unhappy not being a Regular; being different and being an outcast, with no explanation why, is a hard thing for a teen to digest. Even harder when you can read the feelings of your parents, and those feelings contradict their words. She is a Sensitive: she can read the emotions others around her feel. It is frustrating because she just gets the emotion, not the reason for the emotion. Kids at school often abuse this ability. It is very awkward when kids ask what the captain of the basketball team is “thinking” – and he’s thinking he has a crush on the math nerd across the room…who’s a boy. And the math nerd is totally homophobic. What’s a girl to say?

But what’s more is that Amber is golden. Like a walking goddess dusted in gold. She attracts the attention of all the boys in school, who Desire her. Some of them are quite crude. Being a Malian and being a teen Malian is not an easy road, and it has manifested in Amber. She is not one for crowds, given her ability – but it’s hard to run around with her cousin Bree, who is insistent and pushy and slightly manipulative. She does it out of love, but sometimes she just doesn’t know when to let up.

f_0scrapbooking6The book is aligned almost with the beginning of the school year, kicking off with Amber’s birthday, and ending that same time the following year. Her Regular cousin, Bree, gives her a scrapbook to document meaningful things that year. The entire book was laced with newspaper clippings, receipts, notes, fliers and drawings, just the kind of things that Amber would put in the scrapbook Bree gave her for her birthday. After a couple of chapters it hit me like a Mack truck that the book is the scrapbook!

The principal of Amber’s school is of course a Regular, and is fearful of offending her Regular school population….causing her PC-ness to be discriminatory and honestly, racist, toward the Malian population. The previous year, an incident happened downstate at a high school gathering, which caused a riot between Regulars and Malians, dubbed the Grand River Halloween Riot. Jonny Marino, a Malian high school student, was blamed for the riot and expelled from the school. Turns out, a friend of Amber’s knows Marino, who shows up later in the book and causes quite a stir.

Given that back history, Principal Bardha has banned any kind of face or body paint at the upcoming Halloween dance, held every other year. Bree is justifiably infuriated about the principal’s fear and strict line of PC-ness, which is discriminatory to Malians. Bree and Amber both decide to take a stand to this discrimination: Bree dresses as a china doll with pale face paint and rosy red cheeks, and Amber dresses as an Amazon with minimal face paint and a few bands around her arms – which leads to a confrontation with Bardha and a dramatic Golden Goddess model walk that drops jaws. But we learn that other Regulars and Malians also took a stand and defied the principal to stand up for their rights, which is a big component of this book.

After the dance, while with Amber and Bree, a Malian friend is assaulted by a young, Regular boy. The girls all chase him and his friends down the beach, bellowing hollow threats. Bree is insistent that they report the incident to the police…but who would the police believe? It is a very real situation that women everywhere face: who’s going to believe me? It’s a hard thing to face, and it brings to light the very issues Amber and her fellow counterparts face in a world that is not only unaccepting, but fearful.

Everyone was waiting to see what we’d become…including us.

Additionally, a well-supported group, Regulars Against Malian Menace (RAMM), has formed and is very outspoken about their hatred of the Malians, the first generation of which are now Amber’s age. The RAMM leader uses terms like “The Malian Situation,” how Malians need to be “cured,” “eradicating the problem” and Malians being an “afflicted people.” So, the fact that Malians are a new make-up of the population is another hard thing Amber and her counterparts must face. It’s also scary to have someone saying such hateful things…things that the country had seen before with the Native Americans, and settlers nearly effectively eradicated them. And then there was slavery. It’s not hard to imagine how Malian teens feel about their future. and how they see things going down. The leader of the Michigan RAMM base is Abraham Baronson (ironic, no?), who has said the President is handling the situation with “kid gloves,” but the President is now requiring voluntary testing of Malian genetics…I’m not so sure how “voluntary” this movement is, and Amber and other Malians aren’t sure what they’ll find.

You wanna fly a kite?

kite_soaringAnd as always with YA dystopian fiction, there is always a kind of love triangle, one guy stuck with the old and one braving forward with the new. We’ve seen it in the popular series Uglies and Hunger Games. High school friend Cam (a Camo) is very quiet and hides in the shadows, and of course Jonny is an outgoing, outspoken rallying figure for political change for Malians. Cam is the one guy in school who has never overtly ogled Amber with Desire. Jonny is the kind of guy Amber is unsure if she can trust. There’s just something about him. Was he an innocent bystander at the Grand River Halloween party….or did he do something more, as prosecutors claim? There’s something sinister about him that doesn’t meet the eye.

Right before Christmas, an article is published alluding to the building ideas of the RAMM supporters, and the Malians – that both sides are building supporters…and warriors? The reporter states peace is no longer going to reign in the world, but that something akin to a war is brewing. Amber decides to do something before others do it and ruin it. She decides to start a Malian awareness group called Lake Michigan Malian Supporters, LaMMS.

Lambs and rams. Which one seems more gentle? Which one seems more…battering? Which image do you sympathize with – a gentle lamb or a battering ram? I don’t find Spitzley’s use of this a coincidence, although it is intended to be coming from Amber. But LaMMS puts Amber on display for all the world to see – and makes her an easy target. Seems it isn’t the first “incident” of Malian-directed malice by Regulars. With a rash of outbursts, beatings, break-ins (and who know’s what all else going unreported) against Malians, what does this hold for their future?

Even a revolution can start small.

Heads Up: this book does contain “foul” language. This book takes on a lot of controversial topics: evolution, superiority, fear, malice, anger, judgement. The book is divided into two sections, the first Innocence and the second Revolution. Those titles are very indicative of Amber’s attitude toward Jonny Marino.

After reading two pages on my Kindle, I didn’t think I could continue reading due to the smaller-than-normal font, in combination with the font text style. It was really hard on my eyes. But by page two I was into the story. Who cares about your eyes? Besides that, the only other thing that bugged me was the blatant overly conversational style of writing that Spitzley picked for this novel. I understand that this is a technique employed to connect with the YA audience, but I feel like it is catering too much to the kind of teens (like my brothers) who eye roll and mutter under their breath to friends after an adult speaks to them; the kind of kids who exude senses of entitlement. I don’t think that’s a positive. There were many sentences that ended with “you know?” and it just kind of turned me off, and it somewhat alienates non-teen readers.

Amber experiences a lot of growth in such a short time. She has matured past her young age, and her friends are following suit. They are walking a very fine line to promote their cause but not create waves. She realizes mistakes she’s made, and she tries to fix them and not make those same mistakes again. She is a natural leader, and a great role model. She has evolved as a person, used her influence for good, and she’s warmed and strengthened her relationship with her parents. I hope Spitzley’s YA readers see the changes in Amber from beginning to end, and the strong character she has become.

I definitely see a series in progress here. I don’t think this is the end of Amber and LaMMS…or of Jonny Marino.