The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow #bookreviews

A world battered by climate shift and war turns to an ancient method of keeping peace: 11516221the exchange of hostages. The Children of Peace – sons and daughters of kings and presidents and generals – are raised together in small, isolated schools called Preceptures. There, they learn history and political theory, and are taught to gracefully accept what may well be their fate: to die if their countries declare war.

Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan-Polar Confederation, is the pride of the North American Prefecture. Learned and disciplined, Greta is proud of her role in keeping the global peace, even though, with her country controlling two-thirds of the world’s most war-worthy resource — water — she has little chance of reaching adulthood alive.

Enter Elián Palnik, the Prefecture’s newest hostage and biggest problem. Greta’s world begins to tilt the moment she sees Elián dragged into the school in chains. The Prefecture’s insidious surveillance, its small punishments and rewards, can make no dent in Elián, who is not interested in dignity and tradition, and doesn’t even accept the right of the UN to keep hostages.

What will happen to Elián and Greta as their two nations inch closer to war? –

I’ve seen some pretty impressive and highly complimentary reviews of this book, and that’s part of the reason I wanted to read it but, unfortunately, it didn’t resonate with me as much.

Something I really liked was the unique concept of this YA dystopian novel.  Holding hostage the sons and daughters of world leaders in order to maintain peace?  Amazing.  It’s obvious the author put a lot of time and imagination into her world-building and I especially liked the idea of AIs making the rules and the humans’ acceptance of this.  The diversity of the characters was refreshing and although there was a love triangle, it was between the female MC, a man, and another woman, adding some interesting dynamics.

A couple of things that just didn’t work for me were the pacing and characterization.  Despite the slow pace of this novel (where I learned far more about goats and farming than needed), I stuck with it because of the other reviews I’ve seen.  Somewhere around page 100, it picked up a little, but not enough to hold my interest.  The characters felt flat, with none really standing out, and I had difficulty connecting with any of them.  I also couldn’t buy into the fact that Greta was considered the leader among her cohorts.  To me, Greta was who everyone expected her to be, following all the rules and never questioning them, so I felt as if I never knew the real Greta.  When she finally stood up to someone, I was completely shocked, because it seemed so out of character based on her previous actions.

Judging by so many rave reviews, I’m definitely in the minority on this one, but it just wasn’t for me.  If you’re a dystopian fan, you should check into The Scorpion Rules and decide for yourself.  This book is scheduled for publication September 22, 2015.

This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.

Jaded (Nirvana #1) by Kristy Feltenberger Gillespie

After sixteen-year-old Jade discovers her late grandmother was poisoned, she’s 20448650devastated yet determined to find the killer commune member and their motive.

With help from her mysterious friend Tyrian, and Peaches, the commune leader’s sweet daughter; Jade unearths dark secrets that involve her mother’s affair, her maternal grandparent’s abandonment, and a plethora of murders. To make matters worse, someone is hell bent on ending Jade’s mission for the truth.
Jade can’t continue conforming to an evil society and yet she fears the Outside is just as corrupt. If she resolves to flee and is caught, the punishment is banishment to the slave cabins… and blinding. –

I’ve read a lot of YA and the author has developed an original concept in Jaded.

Jade is an easy character to like – although only sixteen years old, she’s struggling with the loss of her beloved grandmother, trying to decide which career path she will follow, and how to tell her best friend she’s in love with him.  Family is very important to her and their feelings figure prominently in her decision-making processes.

With all the insta-love happening in some YA books, the romantic relationship in this story was a refreshing change.  Ty and Jade grew up together as friends and the way their feelings for each other evolved into something more was very believable – just the right amount of awkward and sweet.

Something I struggled with was the unanswered questions.  I’m assuming many will be answered in the next book, but I would have liked some of the basics resolved in this first book to help me connect better with the story – more information on the background of Nirvana, who developed it and why, why some people from the outside live there and are allowed to move freely back and forth, the reason an eye operation is performed at the age of seventeen  – I never felt like I had a good grasp on why Jade wanted to escape.

Jaded is the first book in this series and the second, Hunted, was released in March.  If you’re a dystopian fan, take some time to check out this original concept in the genre.



Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton

For readers of A Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games comes an epic new series.20911450 (1)

The night Quin Kincaid takes her Oath, she will become what she has trained to be her entire life. She will become a Seeker. This is her legacy, and it is an honor. As a Seeker, Quin will fight beside her two closest companions, Shinobu and John, to protect the weak and the wronged. Together they will stand for light in a shadowy world. And she’ll be with the boy she loves–who’s also her best friend.

But the night Quin takes her Oath, everything changes. Being a Seeker is not what she thought. Her family is not what she thought. Even the boy she loves is not who she thought.

And now it’s too late to walk away. –

After reading the description, I had high hopes for this book and I really wanted to like it more, but several things troubled me.

I still have no idea what a Seeker is, who they’re protecting, and from what or whom. From the setting description, I was under the impression the time period was the late 1800’s or early 1900’s, but then a television and movie stars were mentioned, so I’m a little fuzzy on when the story takes place.  There were also time jumps in some of the chapters and, at times, I wasn’t really sure where we were.

The characters were interesting initially – training to be Seekers, full of excitement and determination.  Quin showed promise as a strong female protagonist, John’s backstory seemed mysterious, and Shinobu added some humor.  Soon after, they all went in unexpected directions, and some of their actions seemed out of character and illogical, given what we were told about them.  Then, the love triangle showed up, which I found difficult to swallow.  Yes, technically Quin and Shinobu are distant cousins, but they were raised their whole lives as family, so Quin’s sudden realization of her ‘feelings’ for Shinobu seemed implausible and a little creepy.

Despite all this, there were some things I did like – the action sequences were well-written, exciting, and dangerous and I could easily picture them.  The chapters were written in alternating perspectives, giving me a peek inside the characters’ thoughts and reasoning behind their actions – which didn’t always help.  If I had better insight to the actual concept of this story, I’m pretty sure I’d be more intrigued.

Although I understand the author not wanting to give an info dump or reveal all  her cards at once, it interfered with the cohesiveness of the story, leaving me very frustrated, with too many unanswered questions.

Seeker is scheduled for publication February 10, 2015.  This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.







Kalahari (Corpus #3) by Jessica Khoury

Deep in the Kalahari Desert, a Corpus lab protects a dangerous secret…21393504

But what happens when that secret takes on a life of its own?

When an educational safari goes wrong, five teens find themselves stranded in the Kalahari Desert without a guide. It’s up to Sarah, the daughter of zoologists, to keep them alive and lead them to safety, calling on survival know-how from years of growing up in remote and exotic locales. Battling dehydration, starvation and the pangs of first love, she does her best to hold it together, even as their circumstances grow increasingly desperate.

But soon a terrifying encounter makes Sarah question everything she’s ever known about the natural world. A silver lion, as though made of mercury, makes a vicious, unprovoked attack on the group. After a narrow escape, they uncover the chilling truth behind the lion’s silver sheen: a highly contagious and deadly virus that threatens to ravage the entire area—and eliminate life as they know it.

In this breathtaking new novel by the acclaimed author of Origin and Vitro, Sarah and the others must not only outrun the virus, but its creators, who will stop at nothing to wipe every trace of it.  –

Wow – this was good.  This is the second book I’ve read by Jessica Khoury – I’ve had another one in my TBR pile for almost a year, but I think I’ll be moving it to the top of the list.

Kalahari is the name of the book and setting – which in this case is a desert – sorry, semi-desert – but the setting itself plays a character in this novel.  I can’t imagine many things scarier than being stranded in a desert with no food, water, or shelter, knowing you’re being tracked by people who will probably kill you if you’re found.  Oh  – and there’s also a silver lion out there who’s hungry.  I haven’t read many books set in the desert, but the author must have done extensive research before writing this novel.  Even if everything about survival techniques was made up, it all sounded convincing and I wouldn’t know the difference.

Although strong and resourceful, Sarah is primarily a loner who is tossed into a mix of Breakfast Club-like characters that at first glance have nothing in common.  As the story progresses, they begin to realize how very similar they are.  The group dynamics are highly charged at times, humorous at others, and entirely believable.

This was a fast-paced sci-fi/adventure/thriller YA book that kept me glued to the pages throughout the story – there were no down times here, folks.  Although listed as the third book in this series, each is easily a standalone and can be read in or out of sequence.

Kalahari is scheduled for publication February 24th, 2015.  This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher through the Penguin First to Read program.

Zodiac (Zodiac #1) by Romina Russell

At the dawn of time, there were 13 Houses in the Zodiac Galaxy. Now only 2082130612 remain….

Rhoma Grace is a 16-year-old student from House Cancer with an unusual way of reading the stars. While her classmates use measurements to make accurate astrological predictions, Rho can’t solve for ‘x’ to save her life—so instead, she looks up at the night sky and makes up stories.

When a violent blast strikes the moons of Cancer, sending its ocean planet off-kilter and killing thousands of citizens—including its beloved Guardian—Rho is more surprised than anyone when she is named the House’s new leader. But, a true Cancerian who loves her home fiercely and will protect her people no matter what, Rho accepts.

Then, when more Houses fall victim to freak weather catastrophes, Rho starts seeing a pattern in the stars. She suspects Ophiuchus—the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend—has returned to exact his revenge across the Galaxy. Now Rho—along with Hysan Dax, a young envoy from House Libra, and Mathias, her guide and a member of her Royal Guard—must travel through the Zodiac to warn the other Guardians.

But who will believe anything this young novice says? Whom can Rho trust in a universe defined by differences? And how can she convince twelve worlds to unite as one Zodiac?

Embark on a dazzling journey with ZODIAC, the first novel in an epic sci-fi-meets-high-fantasy series set in a galaxy inspired by the astrological signs.  –

When I was in junior high, my friends and I were all caught up in the Zodiac signs and their meanings, so when the Penguin First to Read program offered me this book, I thought it would be fun to do a little reminiscing and the story itself sounded quite interesting.

I had some definite likes and dislikes with this book.  We’ll start with the likes:

The world-building was amazing.  At first, I had a difficult time getting into the world-building because it wasn’t just one world, it was twelve, each with their own terminology and culture.  After my initial struggle, I was fascinated by the author’s imagination.

I liked the importance Rho placed on family, friends, and community and her belief in unity of the signs, not separation.  Throughout the book, there’s an element of mystery.  Someone is a traitor and, although I have my suspicions who that may be, it was still unclear at the end.

If a love triangle is required, Hysan and Mathias were good choices.  Both are strong, good-hearted characters and I liked them more than Rho, for reasons stated below.

Something I didn’t enjoy was the whiplash Rho’s character gave me.  One minute she’s in the guardian mindset, concerned about the destruction in her world and the danger to others.  The next, her world revolved around her feelings for Hysan and Mathias and the strength of those feelings seemed directly proportional to who she was with at the time.  I lost respect for her character over the way she handled those relationships.

Zodiac offered action, suspense, and romance, and I’d like to see where the story goes from here, but at times, the romance overshadowed everything else, leaving the reader with a female protagonist who needed to be rescued.



The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

Four hundred years in the future, the Earth has turned primitive following a nuclear 18109771fire that has laid waste to civilization and nature. Though the radiation fallout has ended, for some unknowable reason every person is born with a twin. Of each pair, one is an Alpha—physically perfect in every way; and the other an Omega—burdened with deformity, small or large. With the Council ruling an apartheid-like society, Omegas are branded and ostracized while the Alphas have gathered the world’s sparse resources for themselves. Though proclaiming their superiority, for all their effort Alphas cannot escape one harsh fact: Whenever one twin dies, so does the other.

Cass is a rare Omega, one burdened with psychic foresight. While her twin, Zach, gains power on the Alpha Council, she dares to dream the most dangerous dream of all: equality. For daring to envision a world in which Alphas and Omegas live side-by-side as equals, both the Council and the Resistance have her in their sights.

I had high expectations for this book.  It doesn’t come out until February or March 2015 (I’ve seen both dates listed) and it’s already been optioned for a movie.  The beginning of the book was fascinating, and this is a unique concept for a dystopian novel, but some things just didn’t gel for me.

The pacing during the first half of the book was pretty good, but the second half seemed to drag on.  The characters traveled a good bit in the story and much was written about the hardships of that travel – many times.  I found it very repetitive and skimmed through those pages.

Cass’s voice pulled me in immediately and I was anxious to learn more about her, but by the end of the book, I felt like she hadn’t undergone much of a transformation – which was disappointing, because so much more could have been done with her character.  She repeated the same mantra over and over and it grew tiresome.  I’m hoping she’ll have a stronger presence in the sequel.

There were some wonderful plot twists toward the end, but I have to admit – I guessed what they were before the halfway point of the book and they seemed a little obvious.  The actions of some characters were inconsistent and, consequently, I didn’t feel the same about them as Cass.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad I read this book because the premise is unlike anything else I’ve read and the ramifications of both twins dying if one is killed is very thought-provoking.  Maybe I set the bar too high, but The Fire Sermon just came up a little short for me.

This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.

The Body Electric by Beth Revis

The future world is at peace.22642971

Ella Shepherd has dedicated her life to using her unique gift—the ability to enter people’s dreams and memories using technology developed by her mother—to help others relive their happy memories.

But not all is at it seems.

Ella starts seeing impossible things—images of her dead father, warnings of who she cannot trust. Her government recruits her to spy on a rebel group, using her ability to experience—and influence—the memories of traitors. But the leader of the rebels claims they used to be in love—even though Ella’s never met him before in her life. Which can only mean one thing…

Someone’s altered her memory.

Ella’s gift is enough to overthrow a corrupt government or crush a growing rebel group. She is the key to stopping a war she didn’t even know was happening. But if someone else has been inside Ella’s head, she cannot trust her own memories, thoughts, or feelings.

So who can she trust?

I’m a little conflicted about this book.  Until I read some other reviews, I didn’t realize this was a companion novel to the author’s Across the Universe series and, as I haven’t read that series, I feel like maybe I missed some things, even though The Body Electric is considered a standalone.

Ella was a breath of fresh air.  Sometimes in YA novels, female characters seem incapable of functioning without a guy around, but not Ella.  She was proactive and didn’t hang around with tear-filled eyes waiting for someone to rescue her – she took charge of the situation.

The sci-fi aspect was very intriguing – entering people’s dreams and altering their memories?  I’m totally there.  Throw in some androids, scientific research secrets, and conspiracy theories?  Even better.  There were a couple of twists that threw me. However, the pacing was a little inconsistent for me.  At times, I couldn’t put down the book – at others, it seemed somewhat repetitive (are we really going over the trust issues again?) and the last part of the book was confusing and seemed to drag on a bit.

Maybe if I’d read the Across the Universe series, I would have been more vested in this book.  Judging by other reviews, people who have read the series enjoyed this companion novel more than others who haven’t read it.

This review is based on an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.

Atlantia by Ally Condie

Can you hear Atlantia breathing?17731926

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose.

Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths. –

Back in July, I was fortunate to receive a sneak peek of this book from NetGalley.  After finishing it, I was definitely interested in reading the whole book, but found Rio’s character to be flat and not very likeable.

After reading the complete book, my opinion about Rio didn’t really change.  Throughout the majority of the book, I thought her selfish and uncaring, using others to accomplish her goals with no regard for their feelings.  In the last third of the book, her character began to mature as she saw a bigger view of the world, not just her own.  Something I did enjoy about Rio was her reasoning in determining who she could trust – especially since her options were pretty limited.  The relationships she shared with her mother and sister were also strong and I liked the emphasis on family ties.

True was the only supporting character who seemed to care about someone other than himself and learning he was hiding secrets of his own was a surprise.  Maire’s character was well-developed and very honest about who she was and I respected her for that, but she definitely wasn’t a charmer.

The setting was unique and the storyline engaging, but the ending seemed a little too neat and tidy, so this book was just okay for me.  Something just seemed to be missing.  Atlantia is scheduled for publication October 28th, 2014.

This review was based on a digital ARC from the Penguin First to Read program.

Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

Supernatural meets The Da Vinci Code in this action-packed paranormal thriller, the first book in a new series from New York Times bestselling author Kami Garcia.Kami Garcia/Unbreakable

I never believed in ghosts. Until one tried to kill me.

When Kennedy Waters finds her mother dead, her world begins to unravel. She doesn’t know that paranormal forces in a much darker world are the ones pulling the strings. Not until identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart break into Kennedy’s room and destroy a dangerous spirit sent to kill her. The brothers reveal that her mother was part of an ancient secret society responsible for protecting the world from a vengeful demon — a society whose five members were all murdered on the same night.

Now Kennedy has to take her mother’s place in the Legion if she wants to uncover the truth and stay alive. Along with new Legion members Priest and Alara, the teens race to find the only weapon that might be able to destroy the demon — battling the deadly spirits he controls every step of the way.

Suspense, romance, and the paranormal meet in this chilling urban fantasy, the first book in a new series from Kami Garcia, bestselling coauthor of the Beautiful Creatures novels. –

This book description appealed to me immediately – almost like a teenage Ghostbusters, only darker, but it was leaps and bounds away from The Da Vinci Code.  When all was said and done, some things I liked about this book, some not so much.

Early on, I connected with Kennedy.  She was an awkward teenager, talented artist, child of a single parent who had a great relationship with her mom, just trying to figure out where she fit into the world.  Almost immediately after her mother was killed and twins Jared and Lukas came into the picture, I lost interest in her.  Her mother was murdered, house destroyed, she had no close living relatives, only the clothes on her back, no money – and she talked about how “gorgeous” the twins were with their “pale blue eyes and full lips”.  Cue love triangle with brothers.

What I did like about this book was the pacing, the supernatural scenes with the ghosts, and the unusual and clever ways the characters were able to kill them.  Either the author has a highly creative imagination, or I’m just completely unaware of the universal methods of ghost assassination.

Several reviews have mentioned the strong similarities between the TV show Supernatural and this book.  Since I’ve never seen the show, I can’t comment on that, but Unbreakable did hold my interest.

Unbreakable is by no means a book with deep themes and complex characters.  They are superficial, occasionally amusing, and if you can overlook the immaturity and near constant insecurities of Kennedy, this was an okay read purely on the basis of the ghosts, demons, and mystery of the Legion.

This review is based on a digital copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Sneak Peek: Atlantia by Ally Condie

Can you hear Atlantia breathing?

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her 22698037underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose.

Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths. –

As a fan of Ally Condie’s Matched Trilogy, I was excited to see this sneak peek of her new book, Atlantia, scheduled for release October 28, 2014.

This sneak peek accomplished its goal – I definitely want to read the book.  I need to know the reasoning behind Bay’s choice almost as much as Rio.  The setting, an enclosed underwater city, is new for me (unless you count The Little Mermaid) and the book mentioned precautions the citizens have to take in case of a leak – foreshadowing?

That being said, with Rio and her sister standing before a crowd of people, choosing to stay Below or venture Above, then being taken from their families before they could say goodbye, I couldn’t help seeing the similarity to the characters choosing their factions in Divergent.  I’m not sure if I really like Rio’s character yet – she felt a little flat to me, but maybe that will change when I read the complete book.

This review is based on a digital sneak peek from the publisher through NetGalley.