Super Sequel NOT YOUR VILLAIN–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new YA LGBTQ-friendly superhero novel from CB Lee. NOT YOUR VILLAIN is the second book in her Sidekick Squad series and is a fantastic follow-up to NOT YOUR SIDEKICK. Both books are set in the US, a little over a century into the future, when superheros and villains take center-stage in the world…and Bells is a master of his future.

Check out the excerpt and be sure to enter the $25 GC and book giveaway below!

About the book:
Bells Broussard thought he had it made when his superpowers manifested early. Being a shapeshifter is awesome. He can change his hair whenever he wants and, if putting on a binder for the day is too much, he’s got it covered. But that was before he became the country’s most wanted villain.

After discovering a massive cover-up by the Heroes’ League of Heroes, Bells and his friends Jess, Emma, and Abby set off on a secret mission to find the Resistance. Meanwhile, power-hungry former hero Captain Orion is on the loose with a dangerous serum that renders meta-humans powerless, and a new militarized robotic threat emerges.

Sometimes, to do a hero’s job, you need to be a villain.

How about a little taste?

Captain Orion walks into view, dragging a machine on a cart behind her. “I don’t like that smirk he’s giving you. Shame we couldn’t get the audio on that feed to work. Step aside, let me get a look at him.”

Bells has only seen Orion in holovids and during that one, frenzied encounter at Abby’s house. It’s startling how different she looks now from the shiny, polished hero who graced comic book covers. Her hair is tied in a messy ponytail; her bangs fall limp across her forehead. She’s wearing her usual blue-and-white supersuit, but Bells has never seen it this dirty or in such a state of disrepair; there’s a patch ripped in the leggings, and her knee is poking out. Orion’s cape trails behind her; the edge is frayed and riddled with dirt. The cart she dragged in rolls onto it, causing her to stumble. Orion yanks her cape free of the cart, straightens up, and glares at Bells, as if she’s daring him to laugh.

Bells recognizes the machinery sitting on the cart; it’s one they used at the training center to measure the power levels of meta-humans.

He remembers the last time he was tested. All the other students had taken care not to use their powers all day so they could get an “at rest” rating and be sure that the League could see their full potential. He kept his Barry shift on all day, so that by the time he was measured, he’d be so tired out he’d get a low rating.

What does Orion want with me?

The former hero looks down her nose at Bells. “Well. The famous, talented Chameleon. The League was all about you. The next me, perhaps. Or maybe that was just what they were filling your head with. Did they promise you glory? Greatness?”

“Free lunch,” Bells says. “And travel. To the training center for three summers. Got to see a lot of places. I liked Baja, but the last one was pretty cool. The North is awfully pretty. Lots of trees. Huge, like giants. And last year I got to go to the beach all the time, so—win.”

“I don’t think you understand the gravity of your situation, Barry.” Orion grins like a feral cat. “I’ve got your file right here.”

Orion flips through the thick sheaf of papers. Bells takes a deep breath when he spots the word Broussard, followed by a photo of the restaurant and even a picture of him and Simon as kids. The file must have been important for Orion to print them on actual paper. Or maybe Orion can’t connect to the Net anymore.

How long has she been on the lam? What was she proposing to Stone? The League obviously doesn’t know where she is, since they still claimed she was in Corrections.

Even if she doesn’t have the League behind her, she’s still dangerous, especially if she knows who he really is.

My Review:
Bells has grown up in Andover, a smallish town in the Nevada desert, several hundred miles from what remained of Los Angeles, after the Disasters and World War III are just stories in history books. Nearly 100 years ago, when humanity was still fighting to survive, there was a series of large solar flares that caused cataclysmic events, and generated the first generation of meta-humans, humans with super powers, of any type.

Bells is a black transboy with the power to alter his appearance, and that of anyone or anything he touches. He’s dealing with the meta-human stuff pretty well for a kid whose parents run a black market agribusiness. Oh, and who also has a long-time crush on his best friend Emma. In the beginning he keeps his identity as “Chameleon” one of the newly inducted member of the Heroes League of Heroes. Unfortunately, Jess, who has an undetected super power recognizes that Bells has been made a pawn in the game of heroes vs. villains. Jess noticed that the “villains” that Chameleon was impersonating on a series of “training missions” all had characteristics of her good pal, Bells, and Jess reveals the bigger plot that surrounds a group of missing villains, and Captain Orion, leader of the Heroes League.

This story overlaps NOT YOUR SIDEKICK and picks up with Jess, Bells, and their other pals trying to rescue Jess’ girlfriend Abby’s parents from captivity. Abby has a super power, but she’s been given a serum by Captain Orion to negate her mechanopath abilities.

Just as Bells is getting a handle on his powers and his feelings for Emma, life gets in the way. Ema finds her own boyfriend, and Chameleon’s activity in rescuing Abby’s mom leads to him being listed as Public Enemy ! by the Heroes League. That said, he finds some comfort in pals that didn’t have strong enough powers to make it into the League–and his mission to unmask the REAL villains of this world (think grown-ups in the government) brings some results. To a degree. If nothing else, Jess’ superhero parents take their mission seriously, and superheroes and villains are uniting to defeat the actual bad guys and bring justice to those who need it.

I love the multicultural cast, and the world is beautifully rendered. All to locales jump off the page, and Bells’ plight, in life, love and activity, is a sympathetic one. I love his sweetness, and his commitment to do the right thing even when it’s really, really difficult. It seems as if Bells’ perserverance wins him both the respect and validation he sought when he hungered to be a hero, and I was happy for that. I wonder who will lead us to eventual victory in book three. It feels like Jess’ sister Claudia is a strong candidate. This is an excellent book series for teens who are identified, or questioning, in the LGBT spectrum, as the relationships are all affirming and fluid. Bells is trans, Jess is bi, but seriously dating a girl, Emma has two moms, and there are many other examples of queer life, too. This world posits that nothing is unusual about those connections, and that felt pretty super, too.

Interested? You can find NOT YOUR VILLAIN on Goodreads, Interlude Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, Book Depository, and Indiebound.

****GIVEAWAY****

Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $25 GC to Interlude Press, or one of FIVE e-books of NOT YOUR VILLAIN.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
C.B. Lee is a bisexual writer, rock climber, and pinniped enthusiast from Southern California. A first-generation Asian American, she is passionate about working in communities of color and empowering youth to be inspired to write characters and stories of their own. Lee’s debut novel Seven Tears at High Tide was published by Duet Books in 2015 and named a finalist in the Bisexual Books Awards. This summer, C.B. was named to Lambda Literary’s Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices.

You can find C B online on her website, Goodreads, Facebook, twitter and Instagram.

Cephalopod Coffeehouse Sept 2017: THE LIST, A Review

0ed81-coffeehouseHi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

This month I’m featuring a post-apocalyptic YA adventure from Patricia Forde. THE LIST is a newly-republished novel, originally called THE WORDSMITH. I’ve only read this version, but I liked it bunches.

About the book:
In the city of Ark, speech is constrained to five hundred sanctioned words. Speak outside the approved lexicon and face banishment. The exceptions are the Wordsmith and his apprentice Letta, the keepers and archivists of all language in their post-apocalyptic, neo-medieval world.

On the death of her master, Letta is suddenly promoted to Wordsmith, charged with collecting and saving words. But when she uncovers a sinister plan to suppress language and rob Ark’s citizens of their power of speech, she realizes that it’s up to her to save not only words, but culture itself.

My Review:
Letta is the teenaged apprentice wordsmith of Ark, a community of survivors on post-apocalytic Earth. The ice caps melted and the seas rose and John Noa built a fortified town where some of humanity would survive. Letta’s parents, residents of Ark, disappeared when she was a small child, bound to search for more survivors. Letta was raised by the wordsmith, Benjamin, to treasure words, though the people of Arc are only given license to use the 500 words on their List as their language.

Benjamin isn’t pleased when he’s told to cut the List to 300 words, and Letta isn’t any happier. She’s in love with language, and words are her trade. She relishes knowing more words than most of Ark’s residents, and does her duty to keep making List words for the school children and apprentices of Ark when Benjamin goes on an extended journey.

John Noa’s theory that deceitful words of untrustworthy politicians destroyed the world has warped his mind, and he wants language eradicated and man to return to that of beasts, is pretty out there. Benjamin fought against him, and lost, which Letta discovers before it’s too late. She meets Marlo, a “Desecrator” or person who creates are or music and lives in the banished forest outside of Ark. Letta helps him recover from an attack by the Ark policing agents, and his family helps her track down the fate of Benjamin, and others who’d gotten in John Noa’s way.

This is an adventure that’s filled with intrigue and peril as Letta endeavors to find truth that’s been well hidden in ignorance. Her worldview is opened by her experiences with the Desecrators, and in witnessing the callousness of John Noa’s agents. They banish the old and infirm as well as the young. Their idyllic world is a shell game, and Letta’s blinders have been removed. She does her best to save the day, but it’s not over when it’s over. Letta, Marlo and the Desecrators need to find a way to help their fellow humans find a new direction, and it’ll take another book to get us there. Really interesting look at a totalitarian regime, and a censored society, from a teen’s point of view, and the plot kept moving along nicely as Letta made truth her mission.

Looking forward to the next adventure on this journey.

Interested? You can find THE LIST on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. You can also likely find it in your local library–may be cross-listed as The Wordsmith. I read a review copy via NetGalley.

Thanks for popping in and be sure to visit my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers as they share reviews of their fave books for this month.


Hard To Survive CRACKED OPEN–A Review and get a free book!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a fantastic new YA dystopian novel from Susan Kaye Quinn. CRACKED OPEN is the fifth book in her MindJack series and I’m pretty much breathless for the next book already. You can start the whole series with OPEN MINDS, which is free and fantastic, but you absolutely must read LOCKED TIGHT before jumping into CRACKED OPEN.

About the book:
Zeph always knew he was a weapon. He didn’t count on being a spy.

But he made a dangerous bargain with the Director of the Jacker Technologies Division of DARPA–he’d let Wright test his mutant mindjack ability if she’d release his parents. Simple. Occasionally painful. And the screams of his victims fill his nightmares. But it will be worth it as long as she can’t crack open his head and find out his sister, with her super-surge jack-ability, is still alive. And if his parents are finally set free.

Once that happens, he’s gone. Even if it means giving up everything he’s just now getting back. A home. Friends. A girl who believes in peace and love even when the world is falling apart.

My Review:
This is the fifth book in the MindJack series where humans have evolved the ability to broadcast their thoughts–but the new wrinkle is mindreaders who can hijack your brain. These “mindjackers” are a super powerful minority, being hunted for experimentation and extermination. And Zeph, a “locksmith” mindjacker who can lock and unlock the toughest minds, will do whatever it takes to keep himself and his family safe.

In LOCKED TIGHT, book four, Zeph allied himself with some horrifying persons in the government and private enterprise–people who truly want to hunt down and kill “jackers”–in order to find his missing sister and parents. He’s also infiltrated the jacker population, attempting to get close to the young, powerful and charismatic jacker senator. Hiding his jacker nature from readers has made Zeph a loner, by necessity, and his plan to rescue his family and go back on the run is upset by the new connections he’s made. What if there could be a balance between the jackers and the readers? Could he then find sanctuary instead of isolation?

In CRACKED OPEN, the battle lines have been clearly drawn. His employer, a MindWare developer who hired Zeph as a bodyguard to his daughter, believes Zeph’s a reader, and shares all sorts of anti-jacker tech with Zeph, by way of relating how it will help Zeph be a better guard. The government’s shadow lab, run by Dr. Wright, is preparing a jacking operation on the highest levels of government–to destroy any sympathy the President or populace might have for jackers. Once Zeph recognizes how dangerous all of this has become, he reaches out to Kira Moore, one-time spokesperson for the defunct Jacker Freedom Alliance, to offer his services as a mole.

Zeph had rescued his sister in the previous book, but things aren’t all quiet on that front. Her powers are raw and untrained, making Olivia a fourteen-year old walking weapon. Now, Zeph’s trying to find his mom, and he knows Wright has her locked up somewhere. In fact, Wright agrees to release her if only he’ll assist with the grand scheme she’s cooked up. Zeph knows it’s a bad job, but he has no choice if he wants his mom freed. This time, however, he’s got friends who can assist him–and he calls them.

Fundamentally, the MindJack series is about discrimination, and surviving intact after the powerful have sought to crush you. It’s an allegory to the current political climate where discrimination by the government (of any marginalized community) has been lauded by a segment of the population who allow themselves to be led by fear, instead of community. For readers, it’s a chilling journey into discovering what the experience might be for a marginalized population, if the government ideologically decided that (insert your personal minority) was Public Enemy Number One, and needed to be studied and eradicated. And yet, throughout, it’s a humanizing story. One of hope and desperation, and succeeding against all odds against your most feared, armed, bully.

CRACKED OPEN marks the midpoint of Zeph’s three-book story and clearly articulates his rage and fear at the situation he’s in for no other reason than being born different. But mostly, it’s filled with Zeph’s resolve to save his family, and to help all the other jackers out there lead whole lives, not the half-life he’s lived. For being roughly 17-18 years old, Zeph’s survived a lot of bad, bad stuff. And that’s formed him into a weapon. Unlike a gun, however, Zeph has the presence of mind to keep his targeting mechanisms on the bad guys, to ensure he does the most good. Expect things to go from bad to worse, however, and for Zeph to make mistakes–because he’s working within a narrow framework. The day might be lost, but the battle continues. Cannot wait to get my hands on the next book!!

Interested? You can find CRACKED OPEN on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo and GooglePlay.

Get yourself a FREE book!
The MindJack universe began with OPEN MINDS, the story of Kira Moore, a sixteen year-old jacker learning about herself and prejudice she’s been born into. Kira is a strong MC, and her steadfast commitment to doing the right thing, even if it’s hard, gives readers a protagonist worthy of respect. It’s a super-fast read that tackles real societal problems with grace and confidence. I read this book in a day. Mostly because I couldn’t stop until I knew Kira was safe.

The great thing? OPEN MINDS is a FREE on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, GooglePlay and Kobo. OPEN MINDS is the first in a trilogy, but has a satisfactory ending that resolves completely while leaving room for the companion books to develop.

About the Author:
Susan Kaye Quinn is a rocket scientist turned speculative fiction author who now uses her PhD to invent cool stuff in books. Her works range from young adult science fiction to adult future-noir, with side trips into steampunk and middle grade fantasy. Her bestselling novels and short stories have been optioned for Virtual Reality, translated into German, and featured in several anthologies.

She writes full-time from Chicago, inventing mind powers and dreaming of the Singularity. You can find out what she’s up to by subscribing to her newsletter (hint: new subscribers get a free short story!).

Catch up with Susan on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Out today! THE ILLUSORY PROPHET–A Review

Hi there! I’m so excited to share a review for a brand new dystopian YA adventure/romance from Susan Kaye Quinn. THE ILLUSORY PROPHET is the third book in her Singularity series, and should be read in order. Having loved THE LEGACY HUMAN and THE DUALITY BRIDGE, I couldn’t wait to read this one.

illusory-prophetAbout the book:
What if you could paint with reality? Elijah Brighton can bring a girl back from the dead, travel outside his body, and absorb a lifetime of memories from anyone he touches in the fugue state. Everyone seems to think he’s the prophet they’re waiting for… including the girl he’s falling in love with. The truth is, the fugue is bleeding over into reality, bringing his sketches to life and haunting him with visions of a girl in metal armor. She stabs him with her blade and denounces him as any prophet worth the name—and it’s not like he disagrees.

People who change the world generally aren’t losing their minds.

He just wants to hide out in his tent and kiss Kamali, but a vision of his death and an attack on the Human Resistance Movement convince him something bigger is coming. Maybe Augustus—the power-mad ascender he barely defeated. Maybe the Makers, a tinkering cult with their own kind of ascendance. But when his best friend Cyrus disappears, questions of destiny and prophethood will have to wait—because the fugue is always showing a version of the truth, and Eli must discover that truth before his terrifying visions become reality.

My Review:

This is the third book in the Singularity series, and needs to be read in order.

Elijah Brighton is not entirely human. Nor is he an Ascender–one of the millions of minds that are electronically connected since the Singularity several hundred years prior. Earth is not the place we know, it’s far advanced technologically, and humans that live here are kept as legacy populations in Ascender controlled cities, or they escape to join the Resistance, of the Makers or an even lesser-known cult.

Makers abhor all Ascender technology, and are governed by an enhanced human called Miriam. Their goal is to wipe Ascenders off the Earth. The main human Resistance faction is harboring Eli, hoping that he’ll assume his role of prophet, and draw more legacy humans to their cause. The Resistance is willing to share the world with Ascenders, as long as they are allowed to live a free life–not governed or limited by Ascender rule. See, legacy humans are never given more than they need to survive, and never receive any Ascender-enhanced or derived treatments for illness or injury; they are pets. A curiosity for Ascenders to amuse themselves with at this point.

Eli has been having scorched Earth dreams of Miriam for some time. He doesn’t want to be part of a battle, especially doesn’t want people dying on his account, but the war is coming whether he makes himself the prophet, or not. In the previous book, Eli destroyed a new and powerful Mind–one that was illegal to build. Augustus, the powerful Ascender who conceived of the Mind, had his consciousness disrupted as a result, but it’s only a matter of time before he is resurrected in a new bodyform, and will come looking for his revenge.

Eli’s need to stay on the sidelines isn’t cowardice. He knows that many–humans and Ascenders alike–will be killed in the ramp-up to what seems inevitable: the Second Singularity. In fact, it seems if Augustus has his way only his select few will make that leap, and the millions of Ascender in the collective will perish alongside all of humanity.

This book is all about Eli’s rise. He’s a teen boy with untapped power. He recently brought his girlfriend back form the dead, but was that a fluke? He doesn’t want to test this power–doesn’t want to tap that power–until it’s too late to not try. Too many are dying for him, for the human cause, and to not try means to give up and let humanity die.

There are so many difficult ethical and moral questions for young Eli. He has loved ones that he wants to save, but he doesn’t withhold his newly-developed abilities from foes, or enemies. Each move he makes could trigger reprisal, and death, but he builds a coalition that is committed to limiting bloodshed wherever possible. It’s not an easy balance to strike. It helps that he’s able to bridge reality and a realm he calls the fugue. When in the fugue Eli can commune with human souls, and Ascender consciousness. Part of his battle is to demonstrate that Ascenders have souls, a step that might unite some of the factions under Eli’s banner.

The book is rife with conflict, always with Eli at the center of the bull’s eye. He’s under attack in many ways, but he’s also fearless in making choices that will help humanity survive the waves of aggression to come. The pace is unrelenting. Between attacks, negotiating the peace, formulating plans, and forays into the fugue, Eli hardly has the chance to catch a breath, let alone a nap. It is his moment to “ascend” into power, not as a figurehead or a prophet, but as a man with a plan who is unwilling to relent. He’s committed to the preservation of life, and it seems that he’s finally figured out how to get to the souls of the Ascenders.

Ultimately, the book ends in a manner that’s miraculous and astounding and fantastic and makes me eager to get the next installment as soon as possible. Eli has stepped into his own in a way that’s going to blow the lid off the status quo in his world. It’s a good thing, too, because it seems he has a new foe to face who may be even more powerful than Augustus.

Interested? You can find THE ILLUSORY PROPHET on Goodreads and Amazon.

New to the series? The first book, THE LEGACY HUMAN, is currently on sale for $.99. Check out my review and catch the buy links, here

Susan Kaye Quinn is a rocket scientist turned speculative fiction author who now uses her PhD to invent cool stuff in books. She writes young adult science fiction, with side trips into adult future-noir, royal fantasy romance, and middle grade. Her bestselling novels and short stories have been optioned for Virtual Reality, translated into German, and featured in several anthologies. She writes full-time from Chicago, inventing mind powers and dreaming of the Singularity.

Chat with her about our coming robot overlords in her Facebook group.

More about Sue: website | Facebook Page | Twitter | For Writers

A Great Beginning With NOT YOUR SIDEKICK–Review & Giveaway!

nys_tour_fbHi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a YA LGBTQ-friendly superhero novel that kicks off a three book series from CB Lee. NOT YOUR SIDEKICK is set in the US, a little over a century into the future, when superheros and villains take center-stage in the world…and Jess isn’t very super.

Check out the excerpt and be sure to enter the $25 GC and book giveaway below!

nys-front-900px-tumblrAbout the book:
Welcome to Andover, where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship—only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain.

On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, whom Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether.

How about a little taste?

His eyes glowing, he stands in the doorway. Master Mischief’s mechanical armor clanks as he steps into the room. The faded “M M” logo is blistered in purple paint on his chest.

Jess’ brain stutters. Has he figured out her parents’ secret identity? Is this is a kidnapping? A ruse to draw her parents out? She steps back and grabs for the pepper spray in her backpack, but that’ll be little help. Mischief is blocking the only exit.

He’s not an A-class villain, but Jess has never met any villain in the flesh. Despite all the funny T-shirts and silly videos of Mischief, and despite Jess’ arguments that some of what he does isn’t villainous at all, it’s hard to shake off years and years of seeing villains do terrible and destructive things in the news.

And now a villain stands in front of her; his electronic suit crackles with power.

Mischief can manipulate tech, but what is he’s doing here, in the heart of Monroe Industries? He’s certainly in his element. Anything electronic that isn’t too complicated, he can manipulate and control for a limited time. Jess has seen him direct cars to rebel against their owners and reprogram traffic lights and signs and computers.

Jess swallows and stands her ground. He’s silly. He mostly does harmless pranks. He’s ridiculous, not scary.

But it’s one thing to casually joke about villains and another to see one in person.

“I know we were deliberately vague in the job listing and interview, but I hope you understand why we needed the utmost discretion,” Mischief says. The voice is a little different than what she remembers, but that could be her imagination. It’s more electronic—is that a thing?

“Master Mischief?” Jess asks.

Mischief tilts his head; he almost fills the doorframe. But Mischief is quite a few inches shorter than Mistress Mischief, and the difference is always exaggerated in the comics.

He looks taller than Jess, and the suit—she can see black fabric at the knees under the metal armor, as if it doesn’t quite fit. And the logo is old, too; this version of the suit hasn’t been seen for at least a year. “What’s going on here?” Jess asks. “Why do you have Master Mischief’s mecha-suit?”

“Ah, I see you figured that out. I’m M, by the way. Nice to meet you.”

“Who are you?” Jess demands. “Do you actually work for Monroe Industries?”

“I’m not Master Mischief, that’s for sure. But yes, he works for Monroe Industries, and I do too. I was his assistant—am his assistant. He’s busy at the moment, and I’m running his lab in the interim.” M folds his arms and tilts his head and lights flicker without a discernible pattern on his helmet’s front panel. “You can laugh now. Villains need jobs too.”

Jess doesn’t laugh. It makes sense, actually. Mischief’s power of technological manipulation would be incredibly handy here; if his meta-powers weren’t low-level he’d be a formidable and almost unstoppable villain. As it is, he can’t use his powers for longer than probably twenty minutes at the most before he has to recharge, just like her parents. “If you’re his assistant, why don’t you have your own suit? What do you do exactly? And is this internship with Monroe Industries or with you and Master Mischief?”

M shakes his head, and makes a noise that almost sounds like a laugh before it is garbled into electronic static.

“I’m wearing an old prototype of his suit because we’ve been incredibly busy working on other projects. New mecha-suits aren’t a priority right now. And yes, you will be working for Monroe Industries, in a subsidiary with special interests. If that’s something you’re still interested in?” M asks.

“This isn’t a kidnapping, is it?”

The panel on M’s helmet blinks various shades of orange, and he throws up his hands. “No, no, absolutely not,” M says. “We wouldn’t kidnap you, do you—do you want to leave?”

My Review:
Jess has grown up in Andover, a smallish town in the Nevada desert, several hundred miles from what remained of Los Angeles, after the Disasters and World War III are just stories in history books. Nearly 100 years ago, when humanity was still fighting to survive, there was a series of large solar flares that caused cataclysmic events, and generated the first generation of meta-humans, humans with super posers, of any type.

Some, like Jess’ father and elder sister Claudia, could fly, some, like Jess’ mother, had super strength. But the degree of “super”-ness wasn’t consistent. Like, Jess’ father can fly for about an hour before he needs to rest and recharge his strength, while Claudia can fly for several hours without fatigue. Jess’ parents were refugees from Asian countries who emigrated to the North American Collective years ago–and were welcomed due to their meta-human status.

Jess, well, she can’t to anything super. She’s tried, and tried to determine if she has any recognizable power, but she’s sure that’s not the case, and with her 17th birthday looming, she’s sure none will surface. Being a Meta-Human and training to help others is Jess’ ambition, and without any trace of powers that seems impossible to occur. So, she decides to give up wishing for powers and look for a job. She’s hired as an intern at Monroe Industries, where they make MonRobots–personal helpers in the home, like Roombas with Artificial Intelligence–so they serve as housepets, too. Only the very wealthy can afford actual pets in these times.

Jess has two close friends, Emma and Bells–who is trans–and she has a crush on the beautiful Abby. Though Jess identifies as bisexual, she’s never dated anyone, and has been attracted to Abby for two years…in secret. Imagine her delight/dismay when it turns out Abby is also interning at Monroe. While working with the mecha-girl, “M” who is her supervisor and an assistant to the C-class villian Mister Mischief, Jess gains a new insight into the hero/villain feuds that loom within the North American Collective–the governmental agency covering the populace within what remains of the US. Jess now notices all the superhero fights seem choreographed, and the villains/heroes seem…off. Plus, she’s noticing inconsistencies in her NAC-monitored e-textbooks and NAC-controlled holonews. Villains are seemingly missing, but never reported captured or incarcerated. Where are they? Jess had already wondered, as her parents had a duty to defend Andover from the nefarious shenanigans of Mister and Mistress Mischief–but no one had seen the fiendish duo in months…

While Jess works for M, she also develops a closeness with both M and Abby, and that’s a lot more delightful. They make a great team, and spend hours building a friendship, though Jess fears letting her attraction become known and chasing Abby away. Little does she suspect Abby and M are very much the same. Also, Jess enjoys the idea that she may be helping her parents’ nemesis’ as she feels very much left out of the super loop. It soon becomes apparent, however, that the “Heroes” arent’ doing very heroic things, and there’s a vast conspiracy in the NAC–using the heroes–to destabilize power in adjacent parts of the world. It’s also clear that the “villains” might be prisoners of the system, and subject to inhumane experimentation. This is a nightmare scenario, and it seems Jess’ sister Claudia might be in the mix.

This was an engaging read. Jess is an ordinary girl, wishing to be “more” and she strives to find how she could be helpful, useful, to humanity. Her friendships with Emma and Bells are sweet, and her growing relationship with Abby proceeds cautiously. Expect some kissing and not much else. That said, there’s all the emotional highs and lows of crushes, and first love. Plus, there’s the whole superhero intrigue, and a government plot that’s up to the kids to unravel and reveal. I really enjoyed the world-building here, and this dystopian futurescape was really well-described and considered. The romance is a significant part of the story, but the same importance and careful attention is given to the mystery and the adventure. Jess learns that she does have some powers, and that she’s not destined to be a sidekick, but an equal in a real partnership–with Abby. I also loved that Jess is Chinese-and-Vietnamese, and her compelling experiences as “other”–not being Asian enough/white enough…which is an unique conundrum that I generally enjoy exploring.

The book ends with a comfortable resolution; not all the plot threads are tied tight, but what remains is clearly the larger plot arcs regarding the government conspiracies regarding meta-human tracking and imprisonment. Years of testing have resulted in serums that can enhance or remove a meta-humans powers, and the stage is set for some real family drama–and battles–to come. It’s billed as a three book series, and I can’t wait to read the next installment. Due to the “superhero” aspect of the plot, expect some charming comic-type art within the book, as well.

Interested? You can find NOT YOUR SIDEKICK on Goodreads, Interlude Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, AllRomance, Smashwords, Book Depository, and Indiebound.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $25 GC to Interlude Press, or one of FIVE e-books of NOT YOUR SIDEKICK.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
C.B. Lee is a bisexual writer, rock climber, and pinniped enthusiast from Southern California. A first-generation Asian American, she is passionate about working in communities of color and empowering youth to be inspired to write characters and stories of their own. Lee’s debut novel Seven Tears at High Tide was published by Duet Books in 2015 and named a finalist in the Bisexual Books Awards. This summer, C.B. was named to Lambda Literary’s Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices.

You can find C B online on her website, Goodreads, Facebook, twitter and Instagram.

Heartbreak and Healing: THE REVOLUTION OF IVY

Hi there! Today, I’m sharing my review for Amy Engel’s second novel in the Book of Ivy series, THE REVOLUTION OF IVY. This is a YA dystopian adventure/romance. Much higher on the adventure, and lower on the romance. I loved THE BOOK OF IVY, and was eagerly expecting the sequel. I wasn’t disappointed!

Check out my review, and get in on the prize pack giveaway below.

5a544-rev2bof2bivy2bfront2bcover_for2bentangled_500About the Book:
**Spoilers if you haven’t read book one**
Ivy Westfall is beyond the fence and she is alone. Abandoned by her family and separated from Bishop Lattimer, Ivy must find a way to survive on her own in a land filled with countless dangers, both human and natural. She has traded a more civilized type of cruelty–forced marriages and murder plots–for the bare-knuckled brutality required to survive outside Westfall’s borders.

But there is hope beyond the fence, as well. And when Bishop reappears in Ivy’s life, she must decide if returning to Westfall to take a final stand for what she believes is right is worth losing everything she’s fought for.

My Review:
This is a sequel and the books should be read in sequence. For readers who do not like cliffhangers, the series ends here. (Well, there could always be another adventure, but there are no unresolved plot questions.)

If you have NOT read BOOK OF IVY, some spoilers below.

When last we left off:
1. The world is in ruins due to war 50 years ago and collectives have endured these lean times.
2. Westfall is a town divided. One side is wealthy the other, not. At age 16 children from one side of the town are married to spouses from the other side, to prevent rebellion and foster amity.
3. Ivy Westfall’s family founded Westfall, but the Lattimer family stole the power and maintains the government. Ivy has grown up in the bad side of Westfall, and has been diligently trained to hate the Lattimers. Her elder sister, Callie, was supposed to be married to Bishop Lattimer, son of President Lattimer, two years ago, but he refused. Bishop wanted Ivy.
4. Ivy’s father and sister want Ivy to murder Bishop.
5. Ivy falls for Bishop.
6. Ivy refuses to kill Bishop.
7. Stuff happens and Ivy is put outside of the barrier fence that protects Westfall’s territory and water supply. This is, essentially, a death sentence.

In Ivy’s case, she has little to no chance of surviving, but she manages to fend off two specific dangers, acquires a canteen and walks until she collapses. She is rescued by Caleb and Ash (Ashley) who tend her wounds and bring her into their settlement. They do not trust her, but she’s identified as Ivy Westfall, and there are enough refugees of Westfall around to ensure Ivy a welcome. She is afraid they will learn that she married, and (gasp!) loved Bishop Lattimer, as these people are outside the fence due to Bishop’s father’s “justice”. BTW some of them were put out for just cause, but many others were set out because they refused to accept their arranged marriages; they think Ivy was set out for this very reason and are sympathetic.

During the weeks, Ivy, Ash and Caleb become friends. Caleb knows that Ivy is not telling the truth, but he cannot prove it. In the meantime, Ivy proves herself to be a quick learner and a hard worker. She gains other friendships, and feels a part of a community as she never did in Westfall–either side. Naturally, this all falls apart when Bishop arrives in the camp.

There is animosity, but a steady growth of respect as Bishop sets out to prove he is “not his father’s son” (figuratively, peeps). Ivy can’t bear to be parted from Bishop again, but she also can’t get close to him, fearing that she’ll lose him all over again in this even harsher world than Westfall. I applaud Bishop’s patience, because I wanted to hit Ivy in the face for all her tentativeness. Live in the NOW, Ivy! LOL.

Anywho, Caleb and Ash find that Bishop is awesome, and Bishop gets Ivy to do what she never has done: tell the truth, of herself and her feelings. It builds a strong bond that is tested when Ivy learns that Westfall’s in disarray and her family is at extreme risk.

Ivy feels the need to make as much right as she can, and is disgruntled with Bishop, Ash, and Caleb who decide to assist. This seemed like a truly madcap enterprise, and I cannot say that I would have done what Ivy did, but I believe that Ivy did what she needed to do. (Even if I think it was utter foolishness!) That girl does love with her whole heart, even if she is hesitant to reveal it…

The end is a naturally gruesome affair, though it was a better situation than I did predict. I was satisfied in the reading. I still like Ivy, and adore Bishop and hope that this future world nevah-evah comes to pass.

Funny thing, Ivy and Bishop’s marriage was annulled when she was put outside the fence. It struck me that Bishop never discarded the ring, nor did he ever plan to let Ivy go. His steadfast love was fairy tale in origin, and it made me (and Ivy) swoony. He never tries to dissuade her from her plans, and always seeks her counsel in decisions. He’s an excellent partner, a rock really, who only wants to love Ivy as she is, whoever she is. That was heart-warming. They do consummate their love, but it’s all off the page.

As with all dystopian stories, I’d love a little more world-building, and some deeper survivor hardship on the page, but that’s not the biggest issue for me.

Interested? You can find THE REVOLUTION OF IVY on Goodreads, Amazon, Kobo Books, and Barnes & Noble.

The Book of Ivy (The Book of Ivy #1)
About the book:
After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.

This year, it is my turn.

My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power.

But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.

Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…

I really enjoyed this dystopian YA romance. Both Ivy and Bishop are excellent characters and I totally rooted for their HEA. (Didn’t happen, but I respected the heck out of Ivy. Check out my review for more details.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win a signed copy of THE REVOLUTION OF IVY, and a necklace! A second winner will win a signed copy of the book.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author
Amy Engel was born in Kansas and after a childhood spent bouncing between countries (Iran, Taiwan) and states (Kansas; California; Missouri; Washington, D.C.), she settled in Kansas City, Missouri, where she lives with her husband and two kids. Before devoting herself full-time to motherhood and writing, she was a criminal defense attorney, which is not quite as exciting as it looks on TV. When she has a free moment, she can usually be found reading, running, or shoe shopping.

Find Amy online on her website, Goodreads, and twitter.

Get Mindjacked! Review and Special Sale!

Hi there! I’d love to share a review for a newly-published set stories from Susan Kay Quinn’s Mindjack universe. As you know, I devour books. Really. And, still, there are often times when I don’t have a large chunk of time to dig into a hearty novel. In those cases a novella or short story will tide me over. I especially love novellas that give me insight to books I’ve loved, so I was really glad to get a copy of the MINDJACK STORIES, which is a collection of novellas, short stories, vignettes and behind-the-scenes glimpses from Chicago New Metro in the near, and disturbed, future.

Mindjack Short Story CollectionMy Review:

This collection of short stories, vignettes and novellas in the Mindjack universe is a perfect companion for readers of the Mindjack series. For those who have read the trilogy (OPEN MINDS, CLOSED HEARTS, FREE SOULS) it is great to get insight from other characters in this world.

The book opens with the bittersweet MIND GAMES featuring Kira’s childhood friend Raf, who is desperately in love with Kira but cannot express his feelings for her, due to her inability to read minds. His kind of love, that for a “zero” which Kira is, is considered wrong and unhealthy, and is turned against him to pressure him into being someone he is not. It’s definitely melancholy!

There are some great flash fiction and world building elements added here, with excellent insight from the author regarding the world she has detailed. I naturally enjoyed THE HANDLER, because I pretty much love Julian. Watching him build his army of Jackers from the beginning is a thrill. I’ve always wondered about quiet, reticent Sasha, and his mind-overwriting power. It was a fearsome thing to consider, and his aversion to his own gift is acutely rendered in THE SCRIBE. In KEEPER, Kira’s obsessed with being on the strike force for the next JFA mission: attacking Kestrel’s stronghold and rescuing trapped jackers from experiments and torture. Julian won’t let her go knowing that Kira’s secondary objective is to kill Kestrel–and it’s clear Julian doesn’t want Kira in harm’s way. So, Kira develops her new talent in secret, hoping to make herself invaluable as a strike force member. And, in THE LOCKSMITH we get another game-changing jacker who has really difficult decisions to make.

All these kids are unique, but wonderfully written, and their moral compass is definitely pointing due North. I enjoyed these little bites of Mindjack, and wonder if we’ll get to read a post-Kestrel Mindjack book any day… *crosses fingers*

Interested? You can find MINDJACK STORIES on Goodreads and Amazon.

mindjackHonestly, these stories are best enjoyed after (and between) reading of the MINDJACK trilogy. I have thoroughly enjoyed all the books in this series, and luckily enough, this three-book set is on SALE. A crazy sale, actually, because it’s $.99 this week on Amazon, Barnes & Noble iTunes, Google Play and Kobo. Ms. Quinn musta lost her mind.

Or, perhaps the mindjacking kitty got ahold of her…

MJ-KittenAnywho, it’s a great series, totally appropriate to teen readers, as well.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!