Cephalopod Coffeehouse Sept 2015–THE SCORPION RULES–A Review

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Hi 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 sharing THE SCORPION RULES, a YA dystopian story by Erin Bow. Set 400 years in the future, the world is a very different place and peace is kept by means of hostage exchange where the children of world leaders are kept and educated together–and executed if factions go to war. It was a slow build, but a wild ride.

The Scorpion Rules (Prisoners of Peace, #1)My Review:
4.5 Stars, I think. I’m pretty sure, in fact. There was something that captivated me in this story. There were things that didn’t work, too, but mostly it got me. Or, I got it. Or, something.

This is a YA dystopian story of survival, in a way–excepting the fact that we know from the start that the main character, Greta, will die. Yep. Greta Gustafson Stuart Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy, next-in-line for the throne, will die.

Here’s how:
She is a hostage, sheltered and educated in one of Preceptures for royal hostages. This is Earth, 400 years into the future. Earth ruled by alliances that one hadn’t dreamed possible, but that’s what happens when the ice caps melt, there’s widespread famine, and wars to end all wars have ravaged the globe enough to hand the control of the orbiting weapons systems over to AI in order to save humanity.

Talis, specifically, was the UN AI in charge of conflict abatement. And he stopped the wars.

I saw the plague pits, I saw the starving armies, and eventually I…
Well, it was my job, wasn’t it? I saved you.
I started by blowing up cities.

By city number seven–Fresno, because no one’s gonna miss that–I had everyone’s attention. I told them to stop shooting each other. And they did.
But of course it couldn’t be that easy.

The general terror led to a global stand down, and now Talis enforces peace by “making it personal”–essentially keeping a Child from each territorial ruler as a hostage. This Child of Peace will be killed if that ruler goes to war. Simple, brilliant, and effective. Despite marginal resources on a global scale, there have been modest amounts of incursion, and fewer wars.

Greta is a Child of Peace, raised in the 4th Precepture since age 5. She regularly visits home to her mother–like all Children of Peace–so as to reinforce the family bond, but her actual home has been on a self-sustaining farm in what was once Saskatchewan. Now 16 she has grown up around other Children of Peace, her cellmate Xie, who is considered to be descended from a Goddess in her homeland, and Atta whose people consider him a prophet, among others. They work hard raising goats for milk and cheese, fruit and vegetables and grains and honey–all the foodstuffs they require, and they learn about war, and peace and philosophy. Greta is an excellent student, but Greta’s time is coming close. She knows because her land has water (Lake Ontario) and the people to the south, the new Cumberland Alliance, cannot survive on the dregs of Lake Erie. When a Child arrives from their current War Secretary, Elian, Greta recognizes that her life is likely numbered in months, or even weeks.

Elian is like no other Child of Peace. He was raised in his home, with his parents. His Grandmother rules the Cumberland Alliance. He knows there will be war, and he knows he’s been sent to die, and he will not go quietly.

The Precepture is guarded by electronic monitors that use electric shock to keep the peace. As Elian soon discovers, he will be tortured until he is compliant. Greta and her comrades have seen nothing of resistance in their years there. Being raised from early childhood they learned to comply, to code their speech so that it didn’t sound insubordinate or revolutionary, but Elian has no scruples, and his torture breaks something open in Greta. She was resigned to death, but perhaps it doesn’t need to be something she accepts.

I was caught in the state of constant readiness, alongside Greta. Most of her comrades are safe from the threat of death, by virtue of having no encroaching enemies, or too much power in their region. Greta and Elian should be enemies, but she cannot hate him. It is not his fault their people are at the brink of war. This is where the usual dynamic goes awry. People will expect Greta to fall for the bad-boy rebel Elian, and she does, but not the usual way.

He did not seem happy about it. “I don’t get it. From the day they dragged me here, I was going to die–we were both going to die–and you were okay with that.”
“I was wrong.”

There are a whole lot of fantastic, unprecedented changes in store for the Children of Peace, not least of which is meeting a hostile enemy and the savior of the human race.

At no point does Greta become a soppy mess of a lovesick girl. She does change and affection comes, but it is unexpected and bittersweet.

“You don’t love me.”
“Oh, Elian.” It was not that simple. Not nearly. “I–I’m sixteen years old. And I’ve been asleep my whole life.”

“You woke me up, Elian Palnik.”

I found the almost Stockholm syndrome scenario of Greta’s world to be intriguing. She knew that her mother could not/would not save her. She was resigned to sacrifice, and yet, she made choices that enabled her a modicum of freedom, in a way. A death of her choosing. Greta dies, but she also lives on–and not in a martyred memory. She is wise and she is capable–the unelected leader of the Children of Peace in her Precepture. She reaches out for help, and she sways a god. In her cool and calculating mind she finds a middle passage that saves hundreds of thousands, and, in particular, the one she promised to save.

There is a love story here, but it is not between Greta and Elian. He is boy she hardly knows. No, Greta finds love with the people she has leaned on throughout her childhood. That love she never allowed herself to experience, fearing she would lose it, becomes a purpose in her final hours.

If I was going to put my life down–as Wilma had–then I wanted to mourn it. I wanted to regret it, and fiercely. Maybe the grey room would kill me, and maybe not, but one way or another it would transform me, and this life would be done. I wanted to be alive before that happened. I wanted to be alive before I died, and I wanted death to terrify me, not slip in like a long expected guest.

As for the book, there were parts I wanted to move faster, that then became important later. Those deft touches, and full-circling, brought my enjoyment back when it began to falter. There was a sharpness to the narration, a gallows humor, that kept the prose light. I did not weep for Greta. I did admire her, and I expect that her sacrifice will bring change to her world. And that’s the best compliment I can give to a protagonist.

Interested? You can find THE SCORPION RULES on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Also, libraries will be getting this one soon, fo sho.

Thanks for popping in. Please stop by my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers and catch their fave books of the month. And, as always, keep reading my friends.

Caught in the UNDERTOW–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review for a dystopian YA novel that is eerily applicable to today’s mad, mad world. UNDERTOW, released today by Michael Buckley is a bit haunting in content, only because it brings the nastiest elements of our present society into sharp focus.

imageAbout the book:
Sixteen-year-old Lyric Walker’s life is forever changed when she witnesses the arrival of 30,000 Alpha, a five-nation race of ocean-dwelling warriors, on her beach in Coney Island. The world’s initial wonder and awe over the Alpha quickly turns ugly and paranoid and violent, and Lyric’s small town transforms into a military zone with humans on one side and Alpha on the other. When Lyric is recruited to help the crown prince, a boy named Fathom, assimilate, she begins to fall for him. But their love is a dangerous one, and there are forces on both sides working to keep them apart. Only, what if the Alpha are not actually the enemy? What if they are in fact humanity’s only hope of survival? Because the real enemy is coming. And it’s more terrifying than anything the world has ever seen.

Action, suspense, and romance whirlpool dangerously in this cinematic saga, a blend of District 9 and The Outsiders.

My Review:
Lyric learned the biggest secret of her life three years ago: her mother isn’t human. She is one of several ocean-dwelling races (a daughter of Sirena) who sent 20 operatives into the human world to learn about life on the surface. Her mother, Summer, met her (human) father and they married, had Lyric, and enjoyed a rather normal daily life as low-income people living in Coney Island. Lyric’s father is an upstanding police officer, and had been able to mask his wife’s lack of documentation over the years. Lyric had no reason to suspect anything was unusual about her heritage until the night the Alpha arrived.

The Alpha are Summer’s kin, and there’s 30,000 of them quarantined in a shanty town on the beach at Coney Island. Lyric’s entire neighborhood, now dubbed “The Zone”, has been placed on lock-down to keep the Alpha from branching out. This means Summer cannot leave Coney Island either as she has no birth certificate or social security card. The book opens with the forced integration of Lyric’s high school.

Lyric knows she needs to keep her head down at school and in public. All of Summer’s associates, the other 19 operatives and their families, have been “disappeared” to secret government labs for testing, and calling their house into scrutiny could lead to Lyric and her parents being captured. Summer spends her days and nights searching the video feeds of the refugees to find her parents so they can reunite, if possible.

The forced integration is intense and harkens back to the 60s and 70s inclusion of Blacks into “white” schools. Expect riots. Lyric and her BFF Bex are hard-pressed to make their way into school without being caught in the mobs. Plus, lots of kids in this impoverished school are more than happy to lash out at the Alpha, but Summer has told Lyric how deadly they can be. The bullying is extreme and fights are sure to have lethal consequences. Trying to stop one such altercation, Lyric finds herself square in the new principal’s spotlight, only Principal Doyle isn’t just the new guy in charge. It seems he’s got serious insider info regarding Lyric’s family. They strike a deal that Lyric acts as a tutor to the Alpha prime’s son, Prince Fathom, and Doyle won’t ‘out’ Summer’s Alpha status.

Thing is, humans seen as sympathetic to, or in the company of, Alpha have been killed by local anti-Alpha vigilantes. The chance of discovery gets ever higher as Prince Fathom and Lyric spend more time together–causing Doyle to sweeten his offer: he has bona fide paperwork for Summer that will enable her family to leave The Zone.

There is a love spark here, between Lyric and Prince Fathom, but it’s on the down low for the first half of the book. I think the bigger part of the story is the politicization of this refugee community. The governer of NY (a blatant parody of Michelle Bachmann which I appreciated) is a hardline conservative positioned against integration, and is on the school steps attempting to bodily block Alpha entry–the National Guard is out in full force, and present in the school and classrooms. Vigilantes are everywhere, attempting to incite riot.

There are so many parallels to today’s society in this novel one could discuss the themes in the context of racism, classism, undocumented status, homophobia, vigilante justice, and xenophobia, among others. The plot itself is not terribly original–Lyric must overcome her own issues and fight the spreading violence that is overtaking The Zone to save herself and her family. The characterization is unique, however, and the love interest thing is not the major focus. Sure, Lyric develops an affection for Fathom, and it’s reciprocated, but there are a million and one other things happening here, and that’s absolutely cool.

I really dug the action, and the world-building within this tiny slice of Americana. I’ve been to Coney Island, and could easily imagine the devastation of the community around it, all filtered through Lyric’s eyes. The Alpha are an amazing collection of beings, each of which has a specific role within their society. Learning that they are not the biggest problem facing humanity is rather a refreshing twist. Lyric’s migraines are a part of who she is, and the benefit of them was only revealed late. She’s able to channel some of that physiological malady into powering an Alpha weapon, but killing others may be beyond Lyric’s pacifist ideals. Well, until her existence is treatened… The short time-frame for mastery was thin on believability, but I was able to overcome it. I loved the gritty descriptions, and the secondary characters are fantastic–from Bex’s miserable abusive step-father to Lyric’s nosy racist neighbor.

The book ends with a temporary end to hostilites, though the resolution is not complete. Lyric has a lot more work to do to fix her family and her world. This is series I know my kids will love, and I’m anxious for the sequel.

Interested? You can find UNDERTOW on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
New York Times bestselling author Michael Buckley was born in Akron, Ohio. He tried his hand as a stand-up comic and lead singer for a punk rock back before attending Ohio University. After graduating with honors he moved to New York City to be an intern on the Late Show with David Letterman which led to stints developing programming for Discovery Networks, MTV, MTV Animation and Klasky Csupo (producers of Nickelodeon’s Rugrats). Today he lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife, Alison, and their son Finn.

You can find Michael on his website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Cover Reveal for REVOLUTION OF IVY

Hi there! Today, I’m sharing the cover for Amy Engel’s second novel in the Book of Ivy series. Without further ado:
The Revolution of Ivy (The Book of Ivy #2)
Release Date: 11/03/15
Entangled Teen

About 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.

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.

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. The Book of Ivy is her debut YA novel. Find her online at http://amyengel.net/ or @aengelwrites.

Author Links:

 photo iconwebsite-32x32_zps1f477f69.png  photo icongoodreads32_zps60f83491.png  photo icontwitter-32x32_zpsae13e2b2.png

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Cephalopod Coffeehouse February 2015–THE LEGACY HUMAN-A Review

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Hi 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.

As part of the Coffeehouse I’m obligated to share the best book I read this month. A few of my Coffeehouse friends are familiar with Susan Kaye Quinn, but this is a NEW, so I am eager to share a YA dystopian-future gem. Oh, and scroll down to enter the KINDLE GIVEAWAY!!

The Legacy Human (Singularity #1)About the book:
When transcending humanity is the prize, winning the Game is all that matters.

Seventeen-year-old Elijah Brighton wants to become an ascender—a post-Singularity human/machine hybrid—after all, they’re smarter, more enlightened, more compassionate, and above all, achingly beautiful. But Eli is a legacy human, preserved and cherished for his unaltered genetic code, just like the rainforest he paints. When a fugue state possesses him and creates great art, Eli miraculously lands a sponsor for the creative Olympics. If he could just master the fugue, he could take the gold and win the right to ascend, bringing everything he’s yearned for within reach… including his beautiful ascender patron. But once Eli arrives at the Games, he finds the ascenders are playing games of their own. Everything he knows about the ascenders and the legacies they keep starts to unravel… until he’s running for his life and wondering who he truly is.

The Legacy Human is the first in a new young adult science fiction series that explores the intersection of mind, body, and soul… and how technology will challenge us to remember what it means to be human.

My Review:
This is a sci-fi YA story set in a richly described dystopian future. More than one hundred years ago, Earth had a catastrophic population event, called the Singularity. At that time, there were serious issues with population and shortages, but a new technology allowed the conscious of a human to be uploaded into a computer mainframe called Orion. This collective was then able to “download” the experiences of each “Ascender” into discrete automaton bodies. Ascenders had not only their own knowledge, but access to the minds of the billions who likewise ascended.  Those who chose not to Ascend–Legacy Humans–Have been treated like museum pieces to some extent. They are now little more than entertainment for the Ascenders, existing in small Ascender-monitored communities where they have all the “basic” needs met, or off the grid in Believer/rebel colonies.

What is celebrated by Ascenders is the creativity of the Legacy mind. The ability to create–life, art–is venerated. As Legacies are meant to live, and die, the technology that Ascenders use on a daily basis to extend and improve life is denied to the Legacies.

At the time of the Singularity, any human could choose to Ascend, however that avenue is now closed. Currently, the only way for a Legacy to join Orion’s collective is to win one of four coveted, annual spaces in the Art Olympics. Each year the best Legacy (under age 18) in Art, Drama, Writing or Music is selected in the Agon Games–and each winner plus his/her immediate family is ascended.  With the prospect of virtual immortality on the line, winning is difficult, if not downright deadly.

Eli is a 17 y/o Legacy Human who wants nothing more than to get his mother well. She suffers leukemia, a disease that Ascender gene tech can easily cure, but she is denied this treatment because, well, humans die. No point healing them if they are only going to die anyway, in the Ascender viewpoint. Eli is also a talented artist, and he is selling his art for illegal “chits” to buy the forbidden treatment. Eli has an Ascender patron, Lenora, who is helping him to improve his craft, and also assisting with the sales of his work.

Eli wishes to Ascend not only to save his mother, but also to be worthy of an equal relationship with Lenora–while Ascenders and Legacies can have “relations” this is highly frowned upon. Plus, Eli wants to be more than a domestic. He wants immortality, but Lenora will not sponsor him for the Agon Games. And, Eli’s mother doesn’t actually WANT to Ascend. She believes, as do many Legacies, that Ascending destroys the human soul.

Turns out, Lenora’s second (read: boyfriend/partner), Marcus, will. As Eli enters the Games, however, it turns out to be far harder for him than he imagined. Two “Agonites” are already dead, and the likelihood is high for another fatality. Eli is assisted by his dearest friend, Cyrus, and makes a few rebellious friends: Kamali, Basha and Delphina, all who do not actually wish to ascend. Eli is mystified; who wouldn’t wish to be perfection? Still, he hears their arguments against–the most incredible being this “soul” issue.

Eli’s art suffers from an inability to connect to his creative genius. It sometimes peeks out in a “fugue” state–he gets angry or upset and the art…happens. He wakes from this (almost) trance to find amazingly detailed paintings, the kind that could clearly win the Gold, but he cannot harness his fugue. It is transient, though seems to be happening with greater frequency. Kamali seems to be able to draw Eli into the fugue, however, and they pair up often to facilitate Eli’s chance.

As Eli and Kamali talk, Eli comes to realize that the Legacy and Ascender life are not all they seem. Eli recognizes that his true goal, to Ascend and save his mother and become Lenora’s second, are perhaps not the best goals. Well, he’s dead set on saving his mother, but perhaps being Ascended isn’t the perfection he craves after all…

THE LEGACY HUMAN is beautifully rendered with a lush world and the kind of moral dilemmas that are core issues in our own time. Do we have souls? What are the permanent effects of childhood decisions? Can we truly harness power for good, or will power always corrupt? Eli’s fight to save his mother extend throughout the Games and afterward–when he learns he’s been (perhaps) double/triple crossed. He is a strong, likable character and his plight is sympathetic. He competes for love–for his mother’s life and the woman he desires. That he is an inadvertent hero of a cause he didn’t know existed? Well, that’s for the next book.

INTERESTED? You can find THE LEGACY HUMAN on Goodreads and Amazon. It’s an interesting new series that I jumped into because, well, Sue is a dear writing friend at this point.

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Thanks for popping in, and feel free to check out what were the best reads of my fellow Coffeehouse bloggers:

1. The Armchair Squid 2. WOMEN: WE SHALL OVERCOME
3. Stephanie Faris, Author 4. Trisha @ WORD STUFF
5. Cherdo on the Flipside 6. mainewords
7. StrangePegs — Just Exactly How Life Looks 8. StrangePegs — Changes
9. A Creative Exercise 10. Life Before the Hereafter
11. V’s Reads 12. Two Square Dogs

The Future Exists in THE BOOK OF IVY–Review and Giveaway

The-Book-Of-Ivy-TOUR
Hi there! Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for THE BOOK OF IVY sponsored by YA Bound Book Tours. For other stop on the tour click here. This YA dystopian romance by Amy Engel is a compelling read.

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…

My Review:
I wasn’t sure what to expect based on the blurb: 16 y/o Ivy Westfall is arranged to be married to the only child of the President of their post-apocalyptic town, and then she’s supposed to kill her new husband. I was genuinely surprized at how well I liked this book.

In this dystopian future, there aren’t many people left: 10,000 in the fence-protected Ozarks town of Westfall. No one knows about the rest of the world because anyone venturing out of the fence is killed (presumably). Ivy’s father is the lone child of the town’s founder, and his town of Westfall was seized in a police coup by the grandfather of her husband-to-be, Bishop Lattimer. Ivy has been coached throughout her life that the Lattimers are evil, and need to be deposed. Her elder sister, Callie, was originally betrothed (in the arranged marriage system of Westfall) but Bishop objected and it is now Ivy’s duty–not only to marry him, but also (in accordance with her father and Callie’s plans) to kill him.

Quick note, because of the history of nuclear war and disease, the lifespan of this world is lower, and younger procreation yields healthier babies, hence the marrying of teens with the objective of early pregnancy. Also, it’s a bit of a 1950’s world where the wives are strongly expected to remain home as baby incubators–something which greatly dismays the literate and curious Ivy.

Frankly Ivy is terrified. She has been home-schooled and rarely ever mixed with anyone, let alone boys. She can’t understand why Callie was passed over; cunning Callie is petite, dark and lovely while Ivy is too tall and too awkward and too impetuous. Still, Ivy presents herself for the marriage, because to not agree to marrying is a crime in Westfall–one that carries a banishment (death) sentence. Ivy is afraid Bishop will assert himself as her husband against her will (read: rape her), and yet, he doesn’t. At all. I wasn’t sure if he was interested in girls, or not, for a bit there. It seems Bishop wants a real relationship with Ivy–not just a sex partner.

Meanwhile, Ivy has been told her entire life that President Lattimer killer her mother. Remaining with Bishop teaches her the folly of trust–her own family lied, repeatedly, in order to gain Ivy’s cooperation. The more time Ivy spends with Bishop, the more she realizes that she cannot achieve her family’s goals. And why should she! Vengeance is not a dish Ivy is comfortable serving–warm, hot or cold–and cold is not the way to describe her new feelings for Bishop.

I really enjoyed this book. I had a few qualms–it seems that Ivy and Bishop pretty much do….nothing. Unorthodox Ivy barely knows how to cook and requests a job so she doesn’t have to sit around all day. Bishop is being groomed to replace his father, but he spends long hours just hiking around, lazing about in the sun. Pretty poor showing for a world where the collective number of citizens is barely twice the population of my son’s high school. I can’t fathom anyone being spared in terms of skill training. This seemed a glaring oversight in the world-building. I did appreciate the frank discussions of domestic violence, and the hardships of forced marriage very much.

The romance that blooms between Ivy and Bishop is organic and well-paced. He has no trouble calling her out for “putting on a show” for others, and demands her honest affection–which she is reluctant to give. How can she give her heart to a boy she is required to kill?

Ivy, of her own self, is an admirable character. She has real spirit and a desire to do right, no matter her familial influences. Her willingness to sacrifice for Bishop was heart-rending. I eagerly await her next adventure.

And check out this trailer. Seriously gave me chills!

Interested? You can find THE BOOK OF IVY on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books, iTunes, and Google Books. I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

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Good luck and keep reading my friends!

amy engelAbout 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. The Book of Ivy is her debut YA novel. Find her online on her  http://amyengel.net/ or .

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arbitrate = great (A review)

Hi there! A few weeks back I lost an entire weekend to Megan Thomason’s YA dystopian series daynight. Now I’m here to catch you all up. Just in case you needed a tense, state-sponsored love-triangled, YA romance to pass the time this Memorial Day.

daynight centers it’s activity on Thera, a parallel planet where the land exists as a mirror image of Earth’s and it’s so incredibly hot that all activity occurs in the cooler nighttime hours. Kira is pulled into the Second Chance Institute, thinking it will land her a college scholarship. Instead she ends up on an otherworldly adventure with supremely deadly consequences.

The second book in the series, arbitrate, is about a clean as a book can be–for having a love-square with a married couple…and whoo-boy is the tension crackling. (FYI–not a stand-alone, per se. I mean, you could read it that way, but it’ll be kinda confusing at first.)

Clean Slate Complex (Daynight, #1.5)In order to set the mood, you can download the free companion story, Clean Slate Complex, which is a standalone but has some overlapping characters in arbitrate. My review is here. In it we learn of some shady dealings on Earth that are bringing a whole lotta Second Chancers to Thera.

Particularly we learn a lot about Alexa, a former homeless girl who is now the spokesperson for the Clean Slate Complex, a division of the Second Chance Institute. It all sounds so benign, but it is a giant leap in the other direction. Also, we get some insight into Joshua Black. He’s a Theran daynighter whose parents run the CSC. He’s a cousin to both Ethan and Blake, and they are (potential) suitors to Kira.

In daynight we thought Kira was going to be okay. She was cleaved to her new mate, and going to protect those she loved most….well, maybe not so much.

Arbitrate (Daynight, #2)About the book:

It’s one year later. Everything has changed.

Remember The Second Chance Institute (SCI). Earth’s benevolent non-profit by day, Thera’s totalitarian regime by night. They’ve stepped up their game on Earth and on Thera—infiltrating political parties, preying on the downtrodden, and planning offensive maneuvers. And they’re handing out more “second chances” than ever before. The SCI’s abuse of their charter leads to Arbiter oversight and bitter consequences.

Remember Kira Donovan. Broken, burdened, and evading those who wish her harm, Kira enlists the Arbiters’ help when forced to return to the clutches of the SCI and her angry, estranged love.

Remember Blake Sundry. Exiled, determined, and packing an agenda, Blake seeks assistance on Earth and Thera to use his newfound knowledge to bring down the SCI.

Remember Ethan Darcton. Overworked, emotional, and holding a grudge, Ethan hunts down his stolen property, but finds himself in awkward territory, stuck between the Arbiters and the SCI.

Full of action, competing agendas, romantic entanglements, humor, twists and turns, arbitrate is book #2 in the award-winning, bestselling daynight series.

My Review:

The second I finished daynight I one-clicked both Clean Slate Complex and arbitrate. Then I tucked in for a long weekend of neglected household duties and insomnia. I had thought Ethan and Kira would be a strong couple, facing down Ethan’s formidable mother and building a life together–particularly after Kira’s forced impregnation. Not happening.

No, a year later the babies are born, Kira’s in hiding after having survived something like 17 assassination attempts. Meanwhile, Ethan’s the lapdog of the daynighters. His half-brother, Blake, is on a mission to rescue one of Kira’s babies from a kidnapper. Oh, and Blake’s leading the new resistance on Thera to secure legal status and housing for exiled Therans and Second Chancers.

Ethan’s shattered when he hears that Kira died in childbirth–she hadn’t thanks to Jax, Ethan’s other half-brother–but Ethan seeks solace from Alexa, an Earthling daynighter who works for his uncle’s Clean Slate Complex. To Kira, Ethan seeking any companionship is a huge betrayal–even if Ethan thought Kira had died.

So, yeah. Theran politics is a total mess. And, they aren’t content to screw up their own planet. No, Ethan’s other uncle is a US Senator, campaigning for the presidency.

Jax, an arbiter, has a lot of powerful abilities, skills that half-arbiter Ethan is trying to hone. It was Jax’s teleportation that saved Kira time and again, and his blood transfusion that brought her back from the brink of death. In seclusion, Kira bonds with her babies, surviving tormenting daymares of her many close calls. Ethan learns that she’s still alive and wishes to “claim” her, but Kira won’t have him. In fact she arranges, with the help of the arbiters, to command the first ever Theran divorce.

Free of any suitors, Kira is able to focus on motherhood and her recovery–all the while Ethan, Jax and Blake drift in and out of her life.

The machinations run ultra deep in this book. The Genitors, those who create life on both Thera and Earth, are not happy with the manner in which Second Chancers are being “harvested” for Thera, nor are they best pleased with the new militaristic changes on Thera. They give Ethan the chance to fix things–before they step in, and wow, do they make a huge impression.

Joshua Black and Blake become conspirators to bring down the Theran power structure, but in completely different ways. Truly, I can’t even sum up 75% of the book in a single blog post, but I will tell you I adored the book. Kira does find a happily ever after–discovering the power within herself to protect her beloved children, and accepts a cleave (husband) who loves her absolutely and unconditionally. Blake has some serious issue that he works through, and I’m glad we’ll see more of him.

Ethan started out the story with such a bright path and ended up in pretty dire straights–but we can tell he’s going to bounce back in the third book.  Plot twists and turns will keep you turning pages well into the night. For all the “Love Square” this is a completely clean book–barely kissing, folks–so it’s safe for upper YA readers.

Interested? You can find arbitrate on Goodreads and Amazon.

Megan ThomasonAbout the author:

Bestselling, award-winning author Megan Thomason lives in paradise aka San Diego, CA with her husband and five children. A former software manager, Megan vastly prefers writing twisted tales to business, product, and marketing plans. When she isn’t typing away on her laptop, she’s reading books on her phone–over 600 in the last year–or attending to the needs of her family. Megan’s fluent in sarcasm, could potentially benefit from a 12-step program for road rage, struggles with a Hot Tamales addiction, loves world travel & fast cars and hates paperwork & being an insomniac.

You can find her on her website, Goodreads, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in! And, keep reading my friends! 🙂

 

daynight? Mind = Blown (A Review)

I had the great pleasure to get a copy of the YA dystopian anthology WHAT TOMORROW MAY BRING. It’s a 11 full-length novels for a tidy little price. One of my fave authors, Susan Kaye Quinn, has a book in there–OPEN MINDS–which is a super fantastic read as I have noted.

One of the first novels I devoured when I cracked the “spine” on WTMB was daynight. This dystopian YA romance caught my eye for the sheer fact of its handling of sex. In daynight, the kids are supposed to get ‘cleaved’ or married by their 18th b-day. This is a non-revokable marriage and occurs on an alternate Earth called Thera. My mom-o-meter was piqued, so I took the plunge.

Daynight (Daynight, #1)About the book:

2012 Book of the Year Award Finalist-Young Adult Fiction, ForeWord Reviews

Meet The Second Chance Institute (SCI): Earth’s benevolent non-profit by day, Thera’s totalitarian regime by night. Their motto: Because Everyone Deserves a Second Chance™. Reality: the SCI subjects Second Chancers to strict controls and politically motivated science experiments like Cleaving—forced lifetime union between two people who have sex. Punishment for disobeying SCI edicts? Immediate Exile or death.

Meet Kira Donovan. Fiercely loyal, overly optimistic, and ensnared by the promise of a full-ride college scholarship, Kira signs the SCI Recruit contract to escape memories of a tragedy that left her boyfriend and friends dead.

Meet Blake Sundry. Bitter about being raised in Exile and his mother’s death, Blake’s been trained to infiltrate and destroy the SCI. Current barrier to success? His Recruit partner—Miss Goody Two Shoes Kira Donovan.

Meet Ethan Darcton. Born with a defective heart and resulting inferiority complex, Ethan’s forced to do his SCI elite family’s bidding. Cleave-worthy Kira Donovan catches his eye, but the presiding powers give defect-free Blake Sundry first dibs.

Full of competing agendas, romantic entanglements, humor, twists and turns, daynight is Megan Thomason’s debut young adult dystopian novel and first in the daynight series.

My Review:
Kira has had a whole lotta change in a short period of time. Her parents were unwilling to pay her college tuition, so Kira tested into the Second Chance Institute program–it works like this: Kira spends her senior year of high school working for them, then they pay her college tuition. She’s nervous about the ‘SCI year’ coming between herself and her friends, including her boyfriend, Tristan, but that fear dissolves when all her pals are blown up in a huge explosion at an unsupervised house party.

True, Kira had just broken things off with Tristan for being a cheater, but she’s still shell-shocked. Plagued by nightmares of the explosion she barely survived, and dreams of a stranger she had only just met–Ethan–Kira suffers depression that she hopes will fade with distance–she enters SCI. Turns out, her new locale is an alternate Earth, called Thera.

Thera is hot. 95 degrees, at night–upwards of 150 in the blazing sun. Thera is a mirror-image of Earth, with all land masses and water bodies swapped, so all the parts of Earth that are water–oceans, lakes, streams–are land, and water only exists where the land was on Earth. This makes water an even more precious commodity on Thera.

Also, the majority of the population on Thera are Second Chancers–people who died on Earth and are “reincarnated” on Thera. They are only young, able-bodied folks–capable of carrying the lab-created embryos to term, because Second Chancers are otherwise infertile. Kira’s job is to help assimilate the Second Chancers, because they come through the transition from Earth to Thera via death their bodies are intact and their memories are clean slate–so they sometimes struggle–this is what Kira is TOLD, anyway. Imagine her horror when the Second Chancers she’s to monitor and assimilate happen to be the kids whose deaths she just mourned for MONTHS–including Tristan.

In this effort, Kira is partnered with Blake, an attractive, secretive fellow student from Earth. It soon becomes clear that the SCI isn’t actually planning to let Kira, or Blake, leave when their year is up. Part of the rules on Thera dictate that all Therans must ‘cleave’ (marry) by age 18. This is a lifetime binding, and dissolution or straying from one’s cleave will result in severe punishment–exile or death. And exile is almost certain death.

Blake knows this well–he’s a Theran mole who grew up in exile and escaped to Earth years ago. His father is part of the Exiler Resistance, and expects Blake to assist with a huge operation to take down the Theran government. Oh, and Blake and Kira share a house. The Therans are determined to maneuver Kira and Blake into a cleaved pair–trapping them on Thera forever. See, Kira and Blake have opposing genetic backgrounds–Kira is a Pure Light, while Blake is a Pure Dark; the union of these genes in their children would create half-breeds who could easily traverse the span between Earth and Thera. Such people are known as daynighters and they are highly prized on Thera as communicators.

I guess they hadn’t banked on Kira’s ability to deflect the advances of boys. She never even gave it up to Tristan, and they dated for a year….

Also, Ethan is waiting. He hadn’t perished in the explosion as Kira believed. No, he’s a Theran. And also a Pure Dark. He’d be the perfect genetic match to father Kira’s children–with one glaring exception: he had been born with a heart defect. The Therans are afraid to risk his progeny being likewise impaired. But Etahn’s the son of two very powerful leaders on Thera–and they have BIG plans for Ethan, plans that include him having a lot of influence on Earth politics. These plans don’t interest Ethan, however; having met Kira, he pines for the opportunity to cleave her.

As the story unwinds we learn that the explosion on Earth wasn’t accidental, that the Therans are taking no chances that Kira’s babies won’t be born (even if she won’t cleave) and the autocratic powers that be on Thera have absolutely zero problems with killing any and every person who stands in their way.

The three viewpoints: Kira, Blake and Ethan, tell a tale of Thera that is very different, and totally engrossing. Plus, the sexual tension is as high as the day temps on Thera. I adored the creativity that built this world. The transition to a nocturnal society was fascinating. And, the pureness of purpose these three have is truly remarkable. Blake knows he’s under scrutiny, and has the chance to cleave Kira in order to protect himself, but he can’t divert from his mission, or else the people who raised him will continue to suffer in Exile. Ethan knows he’s a pawn to his family’s ambition, but he seeks to find his own happiness within his circumscribed world. And Kira, she recognizes the danger in rebellion and submits to Theran rule in order to protect the few she can–for now. There’s a lot of maturity, and selflessness to be had throughout. It’s rather fun to have three heroes to cheer on.

The love triangle, as manufactured as it is by the Therans, is really quite fascinating. It’s not simply attraction, there’s dire consequences on either side of the choice to cleave–and some of the Second Chancers play a big role in keeping the sexual tension high. While it’s clear that Kira would be a good match for either Ethan or Blake, the reader will be hoping that Kira doesn’t cleave ANYONE, which is a unique twist on a romance theme. For all the talk of sex and cleaving, the book is pretty innocent. Appropriate to YA readers and above.

Interested? You can find daynight on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. daynight has a sequel, arbitrate, and a freebie companion story. Expect reviews of these since they kept me up too late last week….

What Tomorrow May BringIt is also one of the 11 books in the WHAT TOMORROW MAY BRING collection. It’s actually the same price as daynight, on it’s own. So for $2.99 you’d get this book and ten others. That’s an amazing buy. Click here for the link to pick up WTMB. I’m getting ready to dive into some more stories from that, so I’ll be reporting back if any others amaze.

Megan Portrait (640px)About the Author:

Bestselling, award-winning author Megan Thomason lives in paradise aka San Diego, CA with her husband and five children. A former software manager, Megan vastly prefers writing twisted tales to business, product, and marketing plans. When she isn’t typing away on her laptop, she’s reading books on her phone–over 600 in the last year–or attending to the needs of her family. Megan’s fluent in sarcasm, could potentially benefit from a 12-step program for road rage, struggles with a Hot Tamales addiction, loves world travel & fast cars and hates paperwork & being an insomniac.

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