DNF Review: Parallel Roads

ABOUT THE BOOK

cover83968-mediumTitle: Parallel Roads
Author: Mel Teshsco
Publisher: Escape Publishing
Release Date: March 2016
Length: 139 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Science Fiction, Romance

What would you do, if you had the chance to revisit all your decisions, to fix all your mistakes?

Celebrity chef, Jessie McCormick is incredibly late. Driving his Hummer to the opening of his latest restaurant seemed like a much better idea than flying, but incomprehensible directions and a dodgy shortcut throws him instead into the driveway of a rickety old house. Hopeful of finding the house occupied – and its inhabitants capable of directing him to Brisbane – he heads inside.

Voices lead him into the attic, and there he finds no direction – and every direction. The attic is an endless line of doors and ladders, each taking Jessie down a different path of his life. In one, he is a celebrity chef, fêted by the world. In another, his mother is still alive. In a third, his beloved sister is dead.

But in all of them is a small, dusty town and a small, dusty restaurant, run by a woman named Tara. As Jessie races to find his way back to his own life, he must make the biggest decision of his life: rescue his sister or take his chance at true love.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

The Players

Jessie – celebrity chef with personal and family troubles, possibly professional as well

Tara – blonde, failing diner owner in a run-down town

The Quote

Was it possible he really had had some strange, psychotic episode? Was the stress of his career, predominately his television cooking show, getting to him? Add possible heat exhaustion, along with his pathetic personal life, and it was probably just a matter of time before something within him unraveled.

The Highs and Lows

The beginning was kind of strange, and then things took an even stranger turn, and I’m not too sure about it. Jessie discovers a way to travel through time, and takes Tara – the diner owner he just met and has instantly hooked up with and fallen in love with in one night – with him. What persues is a strange alternate reality of the one they lived in. A Twilight Zone of possible pasts.

I tried following what little plot was available in this rogshod cruise of discovery in Jessie’s Hummer, but there just wasn’t anything to keep me interested. The circumstances of Jessie and Tara’s meeting and sudden clinging love story out of a one-night stand and riding off into the sunset together was just too unrealistic. The character growth and story development that should have been present fell flat.

Around 1/4 of the book I was getting frustrated feeling like I was reading in circles. The last few times I’ve picked it up to read I have fallen asleep – and not because I was reading at bedtime. I couldn’t read this book for more than five minutes. Finally at the 1/3 mark I decided to DNF. There are just too many other good books out there. I can’t wait around to figure out the plot of a story that the author doesn’t seem to know herself.

 

The Take-Away

The author might have a great story to tell, but she hasn’t finessed her writing enough to tell it. Even nearly 1/3 of the way in, I still had no idea where this storyline was going, or what was going on.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

Skip.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

3169687Mel Teshco grew up in Australia, where her seemingly gypsy dad and ever patient mother saw her living in many areas of the East Coast, along with her sister and two brothers.

Each new home stimulated an already over-active imagination, where she spent as much time dreaming about fantasy worlds as the real world – the fantasy sometimes being much better.
Now living on a small rural property with three horses and a handful or two of cats, she is happily married with three children of wide-spread ages and a stepson.

Not only does she adore writing darker-style paranormals, she also enjoys writing paranormal erotica and has some published works with Ellora’s Cave.

Find the author: Website | Goodreads

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: Brain Camp

8044106Title: Brain Camp
Author: Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan, Faith Erin Hicks
Publisher: First Second
Release Date: August 2010
Length: 151 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Graphic Novel, YA, Sci-Fi, Mystery

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Neither artistic, dreamy Jenna nor surly, delinquent Lucas expected to find themselves at an invitation-only summer camp that turns problem children into prodigies. And yet, here they both are at Camp Fielding, settling in with all the other losers and misfits who’ve been shipped off by their parents in a last-ditch effort to produce a child worth bragging about.

But strange disappearances, spooky lights in the woods, and a chilling alteration that turns the dimmest, rowdiest campers into docile zombie Einsteins have Jenna and Lucas feeling more than a little suspicious…and a lot afraid.

***** Review *****

The Skinny

Jenna and Lucas get scouted and roped into attending this stellar amazing genius brainiac camp, which their parents are heartily supporting. Jenna’s parents think this will be the thing that makes their child reach the Asian standard, while Lucas’s single-mother just wants him out of her hair and off her back. It’s a win-win.

Except…Camp Fielding isn’t quite what it is made out to be. Strange things start happening to campers, and Jenna and Lucas – being the new kids on the block – hook up with helpful but timid Wayne and start investigating, leading them down a trail to discover why campers are turning into zombie geniuses.

How do they keep from becoming one?

The Players

Jenna – an uninspiring Asian girl who is a disappointment and embarrassment to her family

Lucas – a delinquent teen who lives with his angry mother

Wayne – a nerdy rule-follower whose objective is to keep his life

The Quote

 So maybe our parents will finally stop hating us so much.

The Highs and Lows

  • Lucas. He’s a pretty cool dude and not quite what you would expect of a “delinquent.”
  • Jenna. She is almost anti-everything in violation of her Asian parents’ high standards. She’s 14 and they already expect her to be at Yale. She knows she is an embarrassment and a disappointment, but she wants to be her own person.
  • Wayne. I thought Wayne was cute in that nerdy, geeky kind of way, and he was so nice and helpful to both Lucas and Jenna when they arrived at Camp Fielding. He shows them the ropes of the camp and is in on the investigation to a point.
  • Plot. The plot was very streamlined throughout the book. Implausible, but it worked. I did find it interesting that those who were the smartest in the boys and girls cabins were “sent home,” while the camp counselors (who also appeared to be teens) were seemingly zombies themselves but also in on the entire thing. That part I wasn’t sure about.
  • The zombies. They look so much like a zombie, and do weird things. Yes, they are becoming geniuses through this scary process and they don’t even know.

The Take-Away

This was a good thing for me since I was looking for something different. I liked the setting and the friendships that formed between Lucas, Jenna, and Wayne. AND I liked that there was no love triangle business going on! What I really liked was how the longer the plot unraveled and the mystery deepened, Lucas and Jenna continued working side by side together as a team to figure things out.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

BUY! It is a story worth reading, and I found that I started getting very invested in the investigation and goings-on at Camp Fielding.

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: Billy Bobble Makes a Magical Wand

billybanner

Welcome to my tour stop for Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand by R.S. Mellette. This is an upper middle grade, lower young adult sci-fi adventure novel that’s perfect for the whole family. This tour runs Feb. 9-20th with reviews and interviews. Check out the tour page for more information.

23596104Title: Billy Bobble Makes a Magical Wand
Author: R.S. Mellette
Publisher: Elephant’s Bookshelf Press
Release Date: December 2014
Length: 190 pages
Series?: Billy Bobble #1
Genre: YA Science Fiction

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon 

“E = mc2 is no longer the most powerful force in the universe. Your wand is.”

Twelve-year-old Billy and his best friend Suzy Quinofski didn’t mean to change the universe. Billy, a quantum physics prodigy, just wanted to find a way to help his hoarding, schizophrenic mother – and maybe impress a coven of older girls in high school. Suzy, his intellectual equal, wanted to help her friend and cling to her last remnant of childhood, a belief in magic. Together they made Billy a real, working, magic wand, and opened a door to the Quantum World where thoughts create reality, and all things – good and bad – are possible.

***** Review *****

Billy Bobble and Suzy are hilarious characters. I loved them, separately and together. They are both geniuses in their own rights, Suzy in biology and Billy in physics.

Suzy has the advantage of being the daughter of an Army post general, who can pull strings and call shots…which they end up needing.

“You’re in a lot of trouble, young lady.” 

Adults say the stupidest things sometimes. Of course 12-year-old Suzy Quinofski was in trouble. She sat in a police interrogation room covered in dirt and dried tears. 

Billy’s life is the kind of life that kids try to hide from others due to embarrassment. He even tries to hide it from Suzy, even though she knows everything anyway. Those moments in the book broke my heart a little bit, and I could relate to them myself. Billy’s mother has schizophrenia, and hoards EVERYTHING. After a meltdown lands Billy and his brother searching for their mother in a pysch ward, the patients tell Billy some very strange things. Crazy people say crazy things, right?

Billy looked at the wandering patients at the water fountain. “I wish I could push a button and make my mom not crazy.” 

“Wishing can make it so.” One of the patients sat down next to Billy and started speaking a mile a minute.

They both face the dangers after Billy creates this magical wand that rends the Space-Time continuum. There is a lot of quantum physics talk in this book, including some bits about quarks and string theory, which, thank you Professor Burke for making me read and entire book about string theory, I understood. This is all in the first half of the book, so if you can just follow along and believe in Billy and Suzy, you’ll be good. There was one moment when I was becoming quite done with listening to one of their many scientific explanations.

“Every amoeba, every plant, every animal, every cell in your body is connected to the Quantam World.” 

“And my wand breaks that connection?” 

“No. Death breaks that connection.”

Billy meets some extraordinary characters along the way from the other world, including Merlin (also known as The Teacher) and Fame, a witch’s familiar. Merlin makes Billy’s danger and protection of the wand very clear: he will be tested by dark forces who want to abuse the powers of the magical wand he has created. Billy comes to realize the psych ward patients weren’t as crazy as our world makes them out to be…they were sharing insights into another world. Indeed, The Teacher has given Billy several examples from history in which the darkness took hold of some very famous and important people and influenced their decisions.

“Your wand is an inanimate object, a tool. Good and evil are in your heart, and only you can determine which will have access to your actions.” 

Billy doesn’t know who or what will be his temptation, but he knows that he will give in to it, like a prophecy. The only problem is, things are starting to get very, very complicated once the US Army is involved.

 “What are you thinking?”

“That things are getting complicated.”

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

R.S. Mellette has written, directed, designed and acted in theatre, film, television, and publishing for over 30 years. His credits in various jobs include XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, NUTTY PROFESSOR II: THE KLUMPS, BLUE CRUSH, and his own JACKS OR BETTER, which won Dances With Films Best Screenplay award in 2000. He has been working with the festival ever since.

His novel, Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand, released in December 2014 from Elephant’s Bookshelf Press. For novelists, Mellette blogs for From The Write Angle. For filmmakers, he writes for Dances With Films.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

***** Giveaway *****

f0021-cbbbutton1st Prize- *signed* copy of Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand

2nd Prize- Season two of Xena: Warrior Princess

Open to US only. Ends 2/25/15.

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Review + Giveaway: Sulan

sulanbanner-300x218

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 + Giveaway: This Crumbling Pageant

Title: This Crumbling Pageant
Author: Patricia Burroughs
Publisher: Story String Publisher
Release Date: May 2014
Length: 608 pages
Series?: The Fury Triad #1
Genre: YA Science Fiction/Dystopian(ish)
Format: e-book
Source: CBB Promotions

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

Synopsis

Persephone Fury is the Dark daughter, the one they hide.

England, 1811. Few are aware of a hidden magical England, a people not ruled by poor mad George, but the dying King Pellinore of the House of Pendragon.

The Furys are known for their music, their magic, and their historic role as kingmakers. When Fury ambitions demand a political marriage, Persephone is drugged and presented to Society – only to be abducted from the man she loves by the man she loathes.

But devious and ruthless, Persephone must defy ancient prophecy, embrace her Dark magic, and seize her own fate.

Be swept away into the first book of a dark fantasy series combining swashbuckling adventure, heart-pounding romance, and plot-twisting suspense.

Giveaway: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review

This book is something else. I was pushing myself to read this book – for a long time in the beginning the book drags. Burroughs is not one for giving things away – or really giving sly hints, which frustrated me. The narration was very lengthy and the descriptions very wordy, but it was written beautifully – in the way my sixth graders talk and reference the older time periods when we read things by Mark Twain and F. Scott Fitzgerald: They were much smarter than us…or they just sound like they are. I felt very limited in what knowledge I was gaining of the characters, plot and setting.

It wasn’t until the half-way mark that the plot started picking up speed and I felt that I was getting more of the picture revealed, and Burroughs did this purposefully. Things really started taking off, and I continuously kept re-evaluating my opinions of the characters and the predictions I was making because I started to realize that the perceptions that Persephone has grown up with for 18 years, what she held as true and valued, might not be what it appeared to be.

The novel begins with Persephone at a young age. She is born into the Fury family, who all seem to be blessed with magical musical talent. Some of the Fury siblings have various magical talents that prove beneficial and important in the novel.

Persephone is a twin, and long-cursed to have stolen her twin brother’s magic while in the womb. She lives with this nasty upset, and is always mindful of the rumors. Her twin, Dardanus, is very sweet, but truly lacks magical powers. He is, however, able to calm Persephone with a simple touch. An older sibling is also gifted as a Seer, which none take too seriously at first…until Persephone is rescued by a man with hair of flame, Sir Robin, who casts an approving eye on Persephone’s older and beautiful sister Electra. Robin’s rescue comes as a wonderful gift, and he becomes a close friend of the Fury family, and Persephone holds him in the highest regard, even if he is only a baronet.

This novel is set in a time when societal pressures and demands are the strongest of sway in matters and concerns of the utmost importance and the most banal and trivial. The Furys have never been ones to flaunt themselves at Court and to the Ton, but when they so deem they can throw a ball that will be remembered for a long time to come.

The novel shifts forward in time from young Persephone’s rescue to around her 17th year, when she is coming out to the Ton at her very own ball. There are some tidbits of the missing years thrown in, and two very important details that comes back to haunt the Fury family. All of these actions are put in motion at Persephone’s ball.

Persephone must maintain the proper social etiquette and follow the expectations of her family and her Crown, which is hard to do when her heart wants one thing and she is rigidly expected to do another. She has stronger powers than she, or anyone else, knows what to do with. Even though she has amazing magical ability, she is expected to follow the traditional gender role: go onto the marriage market, marry well politically, raise a family. But Persephone is most unique, and I knew right off that was not something that was up her alley. She is not a girl to daydream about wistful and silly girl things; she is a girl bent on seeking knowledge and learning.

…and then she gets kidnapped and plunged into a world of Dark magic…

She comes face to face with her brothers’ former tutor, who denied her knowledge and access to learning in his classroom. Needless to say, Persephone still carries this grudge around with her and this conflict between them is a driving force for most of the novel. Persephone’s carefully crafted world, the honorable aura that clings to all her family holds in high regard, is about to come crumbling down around her – and she must rely on a very unlikely source to go against all she’s known.

I am still not sure I have a firm grasp of the various terms Burroughs used: Fireborn, Earthborn, Magi, Quality and Ordinary. Persephone and her family live in a Magi world, a clone of Earth, just in magical, hidden form from ordinary humans. Her great ancestor, a lowly and uncommon man, ensured that the Magi people would be safe after Christians began their persecutions and witch hunts in England, and Bardan Fury was the man who made the king, the Pendragon lineage to take hold of this new and secret world. The Magi can go back and forth between the Magi world and the Ordinary world, but with a few magical stipulations. Quality kept being referred to as those of the upper classes in the novel, which is a strong societal structural characteristic throughout the book. I do not know how to explain Earthborn and Fireborn, except that Earthborn are Ordinary people with no magical powers. I was not clear if Fireborn was a Fury-only thing, or if it applied to all who live in the Magi world.

Overall, this was a very good read. I wish, wish, wish I could share more, but it will unravel all of the carefully crafted work that Burroughs has done with this novel. It is written beautifully, and if you can get through the first half that drags like I did, you will find a gem of a read in this book. For the longest, I could not understand the connection between the title and the book, until things set into motion in the latter half. Then it made perfect sense.

The book ends with a very surprising twist and ends on a cliffhanger and I am very intrigued to get my hands on the next installment in this series.

About the Author

Award-winning screenwriter and best selling novelist Patricia Burroughs loves dogs, books, movies, and football. A lifelong Anglophile, she treasures her frequent travels in the British Isles researching The Fury Triad, the epic fantasy that has taken over her life and heart. She and her high school sweetheart husband are living happily ever after in their hometown of Dallas, Texas.

Find the author: Website | Planet Pooks Website | Mailing ListFacebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Book Review: Through the Portal

12619949Title: Through the Portal
Author: Justin Dennis
Release Date: August 2011
Length: 252 pages
Series?: Through the Portal #1
Genre: YA Science Fiction/Fantasy
Format: e-book
Source: author

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

Synopsis

When Jem and Oliver accidentally fall through a portal to another world just before their first year of high school, they quickly discover that all is not well here. The first person they meet, a creepy old man named Atychis, almost gets them killed by a ferocious, fire-breathing dragon. They’re only narrowly saved when Sierra, a shy farm girl from a nearby town, uses illegal magic to help them escape. Allowed to stay with her family while they try to figure out a way back home, Jem and Oliver begin to learn of magic and the Regime that is oppressing it.

It isn’t until the Regime kills a woman that the three kids realize they have to do something to stop the Regime from taking over completely. After being framed for a crime they didn’t commit and banished from the town, Jem, Oliver, and Sierra take off on an adventure across this strange world in an attempt to defeat the Regime. New creatures and new kinds of magic are around every corner, but so are dangers that could have them wishing they were back safe at home. 

Through the Portal is the first book in a planned trilogy.

Review

I have mixed feelings about this book. What do I mean by that?

This was a difficult book for me to get through. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a wonderful and great story. This book was a very stick-it-to-the-man, defy-the-system type, which little ol’ scrappy me likes, but it was just too slow at the beginning, and about mid-way through it started slacking off again, and then again toward the end. I would fall asleep many nights with my Kindle in my hands, trying to get through a few more pages. The chapters were extraordinarily long for a piece of fiction. Perhaps that contributed to this feeling of “I’m never going to finish this book!”

Now, with that said: this is a book that could be made into the next big blockbuster. I would actually look forward to seeing this story play out on the big screen.

Oliver is a youth from a world of privilege. His parents have money enough, he has a younger sibling that adores him. His family has got it going on. Oliver is strong-willed and outspoken. Bold.

Jem is a troubled boy from the other side of the tracks. His parents died in a skydiving incident when he was a babe, and he has been raised by his ailing and blind grandmother ever since. He is very poor and knows that it wouldn’t matter if he disappeared: his grandmother wouldn’t even notice. 😦  Jem is that cowering kid in the corner, the exact opposite of Oliver.

Growing up, kids weeded out and picked on Jem because of his background. Oliver stood up for him, and they became fast friends. Oliver’s family would take Jem with them on trips, and he became an extension of their family.

This fact, the two main characters being foils of one another, immediately made me imagine all kinds of conflict to play out in this book. Fortunately, nothing compared with what I imagined, and their friendship remained intact.

I don’t know what type of time frame this book covers – it’s not very specific – and that’s something I was interested to know. Oliver and Jem fall through a portal at the bottom of Lake Sammamich (near Seattle) and wash ashore in a new world: Callisto. They are found by Atychis, a former Elder of the Argo region. Atychis is certifiable, and readers truly find out just how much so at the end of the book. They also have a run-in with the Red Dragon.

Jem and Oliver also meet Sierra and her older sister Rimaya, who’s dad is a stringent Regime follower. The Regime, under the power of Veroci, has little by little taken over almost all of Callisto and outlawed magic. And that’s where Jem, Oliver, Sierra, and Rimaya get into trouble.

The Terello family has graciously offered their home to Jem and Oliver, who help out on the farm. The boys are trying to come to grips with this new world, and what exactly is going on. They go to the local cafe to have some fizzies, and BAM! They are on “trial” for a major crime they didn’t commit. They see just how far the Regime will go to maintain control, and they flee.

Growing up in Argo, Sierra has been told all her life of legends: the legend of the Red Dragon, the Phoenix, the world of Kelados, the legend of 1000 Curses. The Regime has structured the world so that citizens remain in the region they were born into. There is no crossing the borders, for they have magnificently implemented the Legend of 1000 Curses: you cross the regional border into another region, you are cursed with 1000 curses, one of which is to grow a third leg. Obviously, Oliver and Jem see right through this ploy.

The three continue on throughout the world of Callisto, which is divided into six regions, pursued by Regime guards, all while trying to develop their magical skills. They come upon a scene that is very familiar to Oliver and Jem: a kid, Farouche, getting picked on by a gang of kids. Farouche turns out to be quiet a little inventor, and follows them in secret. The entire journey, people are constantly making unremarkable comments about Jem’s eyes being blue. It was starting to drive me crazy, because readers don’t find out why until the last quarter of the book.

Along the way, they have to make some serious choices about where they belong. They come face-to-face with Veroci himself after being betrayed by a second Elder, and end up in a land uninhabited by Regime outposts. They come to live a comfortable and safe life in the region of Luria, with an Elder who is honest, and hell-bent on defeating the Regime, but secretive. But the Red Dragon also lurks in the skies of Luria.

Jem and Sierra are a unique pair; she will stick by his side no matter what, even through her fears. Through an unfortunate set of events, Jem becomes convinced that Veroci is hoarding an army of Regime guards in the North Island, a place that is almost inhospitable, even though everyone else remains unconvinced.

The two also learn of a portal that goes to Kelados, and of course go looking for it, and are attacked by the Red Dragon…but Jem notices that the dragon has a rider. They are rescued and nursed back to health, but discover that Jem has a very unique quality about him. Scientists and doctors try again and again unsuccessfully to get him to exhibit the talents of his new quality. The determine he cannot bring these talents to fruitation, but Sierra knows they will. She jumps off the roof to test her theory, which proves correct. After this discovery, they set off for North Island…and encounter the Red Dragon and its rider.

I wish I could talk about the ending, but I can’t. My blabbermouth would give it away, but I will say that it is a fantastic ending! I will say this: Jem shares with Sierra that his parents’ bodies were never found, and I have a feeling they will show up in one of the sequential books.

I was impressed with the transformation of Jem, in particular, in this book. He starts off as only what I can imagine as the Coward of the County, and grows and develops beyond his previous limits. He sheds this outer skin, because before it seemed as if he was riding on Oliver’s coat tails. It would have been an interesting story if Oliver had stayed in Callisto, to see how things would have turned out.

2About the Author

Justin Dennis is from the rainy state of Washington but is going to college in sunny California. Soccer, which he used to play in high school, is his favorite sport, and he has in interest in creative writing, anthropology, and physics. He is a huge tech nerd who is obsessed with the newest and shiniest phones, tablets, and computers.

Writing occupies almost all of his time. The Through the Portal trilogy is his effort to inspire good morals in an entertaining and exciting way. Through fantasy, he believes that important real world lessons can be conveyed effectively.

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