Thursday, February 28, 2013

Joint Review Discussion + Giveaway: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

I really enjoy doing these joint review discussions of dystopian reads, and this month I'm doing a couple with Christina of Reader of Fictions. These are more in-depth than my usual reviews and discuss plot points in a (mostly) non-spoilery way. Today we are discussing IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS.

Publisher's summary:

In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her? 
Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time.

Christina and I decided to discuss four topics: Atmosphere, Romance, History and Ghosts. The first two we discuss below, the second two we discuss over at Reader of Fictions.


A plague that kills a high percentage of people, dead, bloated bodies lying in the street, boys and men sent off to war, hucksters trying to make a quick buck off of desperate people, protesters arrested and jailed. Sounds like a typical post-apocalyptic novel right? But it’s not. It’s 1918 San Diego and Mary Shelley is staying with her aunt after her father’s imprisonment. She meets up with her childhood friend Stephen and his family - including an older brother who is a celebrated spirit photographer. And the deadly flu comes ever closer …

I just loved the spooky atmosphere of this novel.

Yes, the atmosphere is amazing. It’s very gothic and dark, full of shadowy corners and buzzing flies. Death is coming from every direction: the government, the woman coughing next to you, the cart of corpses down the street, the violent ghost inhabiting your body, the war... Mary Shelley, aptly named for a horror novel’s creator lives a life surrounded by horrors. I was so impressed by how well she managed everything. In this environment, I would be worthless.

Yes! Mary Shelley was so determined to set things right for Stephen - even if it cost her her life. I admire that kind of moxie and dedication. And that’s how Winters manages to up the stakes even more - Mary Shelley has to solve a whole mystery involving Stephen. This mystery was so well plotted, too. I totally didn’t see those reveals coming.

Moxie is the perfect descriptor for Mary Shelley. She has that in spades. I kowtow to Winters’ mystery-plotting, because she totally fooled me. I thought I knew what was up, but she threw me off the scent! One of those where you’re blindsided, but then look back and go “I should have seen that coming!” since it’s been so perfectly set up.

We should have seen it coming. But I love that we didn't.


One of the main reasons I fell so hard for this novel was the connection between Mary Shelley and Stephen. By the time the novel opens, Stephen has already been shipped off to fight in Europe - so we mostly see their relationship develop via his letters (swoon!) and a flashback of their first kiss (double swoon!). And man …. I felt sooo bad for both of them. I ached for them to be back together.

You’re going to call me hard-hearted, but I didn’t feel them as much as you did. I would have loved to see a few more scenes of them playing together as children, and to have read a few more letters. I do feel ever so badly for Stephen, though. That kid grew up with his abusive older brother and decided the best way to escape was the war. Bad plan, buddy. Bad plan. Their romance did have some of the best romantic lines, though. Ones that made me want to fistbump Cat Winters, like this one from one of Stephen’s letters: “Don't ever worry what the boys who don't appreciate originality think of you. They're fools.” Keep in mind, folks, that the quote is from the ARC, so it could change, but I hope it doesn’t.

I adore that line! And sometimes, a line like that goes a long way to winning me over. I mean, yeah - I would GLADLY take more Stephen/Mary Shelley interaction anyday, but I didn’t need more. I thought Winters packed so much emotion and longing into so little. It’s so hard to do, too.

I nearly gave this a Zombie Chicken Merit Badge for Romance, but in the end, I decided for the Writing badge.

Don't miss the rest of the discussion over at Reader of Fictions!


IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS doesn't come out until April 2nd, but luckily for my readers, the publisher has donated five advance copies for giveaway! Fill out this form by March 8, 2013 at 11:59 pm CST to enter. US only. Visit the author's website for more information about the book.

See index of all dystopian reviews at Presenting Lenore

FTC disclosure: NetGalley + I gave my ALA copy to Christina for the purpose of this discussion

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Book Review: The Program by Suzanne Young

Teen suicide has become a contagious epidemic - and the only cure is The Program: a six week hospital stay that takes your memories.  Despite being at high risk due to her brother's suicide, Sloane doesn't ever want to go into The Program.  She's seen how it's hollowed out her best friend Lacey and made her a shadow of her former self.  But when her beloved boyfriend James get infected, Sloane knows they'll be coming for her next ...

Despite the novel being about suicide, I wasn't prepared for how oppressively depressing some parts of THE PROGRAM turned out to be. This atmosphere is perfect for this near-future world where teens would rather swallow QuikDeath than be institutionalized and practically lobotomized, but it's not exactly fun reading.

The overarching theme here, though, is touching. It's the idea that the heart knows even if the mind forgets.  The chemistry between Sloane and James is palpable and you can feel it in your bones that these two will somehow find a way to get back together.

Both the premise and the execution reminded me of ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND mixed with MEMENTO NORA (by Angie Smibert), so it's a good bet for fans of those works. I'm not sure if there a sinister government conspiracy behind The Program (perhaps we'll find our more in future installments), but the fact that memories can be stolen from you without your permission is certainly a scary dystopian-ish thought.

THE PROGRAM comes out April 30, 2013. Find out more about it at the author's website.

FTC disclosure: Review copy requested from publisher.

See index of all dystopian reviews on Presenting Lenore  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Auto-Buy Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. I've never participated before, but this is too good a topic to pass up!

Because the question this week is which authors you love enough to automatically buy their books - like preorder them before you even know what they're about - because you love their work that much.

In order to qualify for my list, an author has to have at least three books out (that I've read) and the three can't all be part of a series. Ready? Let's go! In no particular order ...

Top Ten (+1)

AS King
Fabulously innovative and always thought-provoking. I've read all of her published work. Favorites: DUST OF 100 DOGS and VERA DIETZ

Lauren Oliver
LO delivers on high concept premises with emotionally rich executions. I've read everything except THE SPINDLERS (gotta get on that since it is on my shelf!). Favorite: BEFORE I FALL.

Sarah Waters
Atmospheric writing and intricate plotting. Only missing TIPPING THE VELVET and I plan to read that one this year. Favorite: FINGERSMITH

Courtney Summers
Gets to the truth of her characters. Fearless. I've read all her published work. Favorite: SOME GIRLS ARE

David Mitchell
Experimental in a way that breaks my brain in an awesome way. I've read all but one (saving it for a rainy day!) Favorite: GHOSTWRITTEN

Tana French
Insightful and thrilling. I've read all her published work. Favorite: THE LIKENESS

Laini Taylor
Imaginative, lush writing. Though I'm not into her faerie middle grade series (very much an "it's me, not her" thing), I love everything else. Favorite: Goblin Fruit from LIPS TOUCH

Beth Kephart
Gorgeous turns of phrase. I've either read or bought all of her YA books. Favorite: UNDERCOVER

Mary E. Pearson
Excellent plotting and emotionally resonant scene building. I've either read or bought all of her recent books. Favorite: THE MILES BETWEEN

Leila Sales
Leila's writing is so perceptive and funny. I think her upcoming book THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is her best yet.

Ann Bonwill
I adore her picture books! I buy at least three copies of each. Favorite: I DON'T WANT TO BE A PEA

5 others with potential to be on this list (where I have read at least 2):

Megan McCafferty
I've only read BUMPED & THUMPED (fangirled!), but I've no doubt that once I start her Jessica Darling series, she'll be "bumped up" to my main list. 

CK Kelly Martin
I loved YESTERDAY and enjoyed MY BEATING TEENAGE HEART, so I gotta read more.

Diana Peterfreund
Her writing in the killer unicorn series was so intelligent, I need to read her other two series stat.

Gayle Forman
IF I STAY was one of my all-time faves (still need to read WHERE SHE WENT). And I enjoyed JUST ONE DAY and am totes looking forward to JUST ONE YEAR.

Beth Revis
Beth knows how to bring the BIG twists. I can't wait to see what she has for us next!

5 other writers I love (but I have to check them out first):

Jasper Fforde
I enjoy his Thursday Next series and SHADES OF GREY was awesome, but so far I've had no interest in his YA stuff or the Nursery Crimes series.

Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler
The Series of Unfortunate Events kind of fizzled out at the end, and I didn't really need all the cash-in books, but I definitely take notice when he has a new book coming out.

Margaret Atwood
I do love most of her work, but I like to read a chapter first to see if the book is going to gel with me or not. 

Barbara Kingsolver 
Same as above.

Douglas Coupland
He has such great high-concept work, but I've yet to be completely wowed by one of his novels.

I'm sure I'm forgetting some, but let's stop there!

Who are your auto-buy authors?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Book Review: Elemental by Antony John

Because he has no element, Thomas is an outcast on his island.  People shrink away from his touch for fear of catching the “nothing”. One day a storm comes and the children of the colony are separated from the adult Guardians (who are kidnapped by pirates). Trapped between the plague-ridden mainland and the pirates, Thomas will uncover long-buried secrets that could be the key to saving everyone.

ELEMENTAL is getting the Zombie Chicken Merit Badge for writing because I absolutely loved the way the writing made the setting come alive.  Thomas and the Guardians live on a tiny island separated from Roanoke (yes – the lost colony island!) and when they’re trapped on Roanoke, everyone’s powers become much stronger.  There’s definitely something creepy about this island folks!

Although the novel starts out with a hunter-gatherer society living on a beach, it soon becomes clear that we’re in a post-apocalyptic future.  The islands have escaped the plague, but other survivors are confined to ships.  We’re not sure about the larger state of the world, but it doesn’t look hopeful.

Much of the novel is about Thomas discovering truths about his world, his companions and himself. Though there are moments of heart-pumping action, the tension is mostly supplied by the well-paced teasing out of revelations.

Some things I loved: Alice! She had an awesome “element” and was just so kick-ass and unapologetic about it. The epilogue. Because it promises some awesomeness to come in future installments of the series. The cat. Post-apocalyptic kitties FTW!

ELEMENTAL is available now. Find out more about it at the author's website.

FTC disclosure: Bought

Friday, February 22, 2013

Book Review: Stung by Bethany Wiggins

Fiona wakes up in her own room, but everything’s different. The house is trashed. The girl she sees in the mirror is older, thinner, haggard. She has a spider tattoo on her hand, a tattoo she somehow knows she needs to cover up with her sister’s concealer. And her beloved twin brother comes after her in a rage, his growl just like a monster’s.

She runs away from him through a world that’s changed too. Most everything’s dead or in ruins. People are wary, conniving or worse. And turning in someone who is marked can earn you precious ounces of honey.

STUNG is a gripping novel about science gone very wrong. First there were the gen-altered bees. Then there was the bee-flu. Then there was the vaccine against bee-flu that turned out to be plague.

This near-future Denver that Fiona faces is horrific but plausible given the careful worldbuilding - which unlike many current half-baked dystopians/post apocalyptics - actually reveals how current conditions arose and how people changed in order to deal with them. Thus the zombie chicken merit badge for worldbuilding.

But - I very nearly gave this novel the badge for romance, because the slow-burn relationship between Fiona and her eventual captor Bowen, a neighbor boy who used to tease her, was one of my favorite parts.

Those looking for something fresh and intelligent in the dystopian genre, this one’s for you.

STUNG comes out on April 2, 2013. Find out more about it at the author's website.

PS - Yes, there's a sequel planned for 2014 called CURED.  I may have danced a little jig when I found that nugget of news. 

FTC disclosure: NetGalley

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Book Review: The Culling by Steven Dos Santos

"Not every story has a happy ending, but that doesn't mean it's not worth telling."  This is a line from page 179 of the book, during a stunning scene where our protagonist Lucky is stargazing with his love interest Digory (and fellow Recruit) and telling him stories from mythology commemorated in the constellations.

It struck me because THE CULLING itself is so unrelentingly brutal and we know most of our characters are not going to get happy endings.  Because out of the five Recruits selected for the Trials, only one will get a position in the elite ranks of the military – and the rest will be sent to work camps – or worse.  And there’s an added sick bonus – each of the Recruits has two Incentives. These are loved ones who will die if the Recruit doesn’t outperform the other Recruits. It’s bleak, folks.

I’ve seen THE HUNGER GAMES comparisons, and yes, the similarities are there.  There are three sections in the novel.  Section one, The Recruitment, is similar to The Reaping. Section two concerns the Recruits training and Section three is all about The Trials (which reminded me a lot of MOCKINGJAY mixed with that horror movie SAW).

But because there are only five recruits (instead of 24), we get to know much more about each.  Lucky’s fellow Recruits are all distinctive characters with fascinating backstories – though the one we spend the most time with, Digory, is such a mysterious figure, he’s the one we find out the least about.

We don’t get a detailed explanation of this dystopian society arose to inflict the cruelty it does, but there are big hints.  I’m currently watching the series THE WALKING DEAD, and I kind of imagine THE CULLING’s world as something that could grow out of the type of place Woodbury is under the Governor’s leadership.

In any case, this novel is not for the faint of heart, but could hit your sweet spot if you enjoyed the non-stop action and horror of Ilsa Bick’s ASHES series.

THE CULLING hits stores March 8, 2013. Find out more about it at the author's website.

FTC disclosure: Egalley from publisher

Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Review: Starglass by Phoebe North

Terra lives on a generation ship heading away from Earth to colonize a new planet. On the eve of their arrival, Terra is recruited by an underground rebel group that her mother may have been involved in. Her mission is to kill the ship's rising captain, but can she do that when she's falling in love with him?

First of all, of course I had to give a Zombie Chicken merit badge for worldbuilding to a novel that gives us cats in space and gives us a legit reason for them being there too. Debut Author Phoebe North fills her science fiction universe with a myriad of thoughtful details, making this one of the deepest, most engrossing stories I've read in a long time. And one that absolutely goes to places you never see coming.

In fact, I loved it so much, I blurbed it (my first official blurb, y'all!):

Immersive and compelling, STARGLASS is sci-fi with both brains and heart. Terra’s search for belonging and authentic human connection is one to savor. 
—Lenore Appelhans, author of Level 2

But don't just take my word for it, STARGLASS has also gotten three other fabulous blurbs (from authors far more established than I am):

Starglass is a richly imagined, beautifully written book. It’s science fiction, mystery, and coming of age story all wrapped into one; creative but also firmly grounded in a real human experience, with all its loss, pain, and disillusionment—but also beauty, hope, and belonging. A wonderful story. 
—#1 New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth

Starglass is a poignantly written, gripping tale. I just loved it. I really enjoyed the themes of political intrigue, the depth of the characters, the suspense, and the twists and turns, all with the backdrop of space and interstellar travel, which I love. It all felt so original. 
—James Dashner, bestselling author of the Maze Runner trilogy

Murder, rebellion, and spaceships done right: Phoebe North’s STARGLASS gave me the best kind of chills. I can’t wait to see what the sequel has in store. 
—Jodi Meadows, author of Incarnate
Exciting, yes?  The only downside is that STARGLASS won't be out until July 23, 2013, so you do have a bit of wait.  But it's well worth it, trust me.  Find out more about STARGLASS at the author's website.

FTC disclosure: Review copy received from publisher

See index of all dystopian reviews on Presenting Lenore

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Joint Review Discussion: Shades of Earth by Beth Revis

I really enjoy doing these joint review discussions of dystopian reads, and this month I'm doing a cople with Christina of Reader of Fictions. These are more in-depth than my usual reviews and discuss plot points in a (mostly) non-spoilery way. Today we are discussing SHADES OF EARTH,  the third book in the ACROSS THE UNIVERSE series.

Publisher's summary:

Amy and Elder have finally left the oppressive walls of the spaceshipGodspeed behind. They're ready to start life afresh--to build a home--on Centauri-Earth, the planet that Amy has traveled 25 trillion miles across the universe to experience. 
But this new Earth isn't the paradise Amy had been hoping for. There are giant pterodactyl-like birds, purple flowers with mind-numbing toxins, and mysterious, unexplained ruins that hold more secrets than their stone walls first let on. The biggest secret of all? Godspeed's former passengers aren't alone on this planet. And if they're going to stay, they'll have to fight. 
Amy and Elder must race to discover who--or what--else is out there if they are to have any hope of saving their struggling colony and building a future together. They will have to look inward to the very core of what makes them human on this, their most harrowing journey yet. Because if the colony collapses? Then everything they have sacrificed--friends, family, life on Earth--will have been for nothing. 

Christina and I decided to discuss four topics: Plot, Elder, Other Characters, and The Ending. The first two we discuss below, the second two we discuss over at Reader of Fictions.


While book 1&2 were all about the ship of lies, book 3 is all about the planet of lies. Once Amy and the shipborns crash land on the planet and the frozens are awoken, it’s clear that some people have more information than others - and they’re not sharing. Revis is stellar at delivering an exciting, fast- paced plot with twists galore. We get so many jaw-dropping reveals in this last installment, but they all work with the info we’ve been given so far - which is so hard to do.

And since this is Dystopian Feb, I do have to give Revis props for creating a truly horrifying dystopian scenario on the planet.

Oh geez, I hate the “ship of lies” tagline. It may be true, but it sounds so melodramatic! Beth Revis does like to drop the twists and splosions on her unsuspecting readers, and I agree that those are what make the Across the Universe series so un-put-downable. I also loved that there was one last puzzle to figure out, carried over from A MILLION SUNS, which had a sort of treasure hunt plot.

The dystopian culture on the planet is fabulously dark and creepy. I love the way that when they first landed, the first reveals had me really skeptical. I mean, much as I was hoping for some dinosaurs, I was highly unsure about whether they made sense. In the end, though, Revis gets all of it explained, unfolding it slowly and mesmerizingly before your eyes.

Yes! The dinosaurs! However, I was curious about the distinct lack of other wildlife whatsoever. I could have used a dinosaur chomping on a squirrel scene (just kidding!).

The last puzzle clue was very cool. And also the way Orion’s statement “soldiers or slaves” came into play.

There is one major question I still have - it relates to the plague elder and the mono-ethnicity of the last generation shipborns, but I won’t go into it here since it’s spoilery. I’ll just have to ask Revis sometime.


Hahahaha! Yes! There should have been more creatures. There were some bugs and birds, maybe, but I don’t remember any mentions of anything else, do you? Though maybe this planet really just didn’t have any life forms before. However, that would seem to suggest that it wouldn’t be a great place to establish a colony.

The whole puzzle things was great, and I was really glad to see that make a comeback. Orion does not present information in the most logical way, but it’s more fun this way. Thanks, crazy!

I am very curious about this thing you can’t say! The mono-ethnicity is interesting in general, because it’s garnered a lot of … concern in the blogosphere.

I’ll tell you on gchat! Let’s see if you can explain it to me.


If anything has hampered my enjoyment of the series, it’s the character of Elder. It’s not that I object to Elder per se (I actually like his sort of inept yet good-hearted leadership), I just don’t love him in a romance with Amy. The romance was never a big deal in the first two books - with Amy rightfully wary of Elder and attributing her feelings for him to him being the only boy her age.

It was awesome of Revis to bring two major complications into the Elder/Amy relationship in this book: 1) Amy’s father - who naturally doesn’t approve of Elder and 2) Chris - the hot new guy with whom Amy has some great chemistry. But as much as loved Amy’s father ribbing Elder, I don’t think he was enough of an obstacle. And Chris - what do I say about Chris other than #teamchris all the way!

Ooh, yes, I very much appreciate the character of Elder for his leadership style. After so many heroes that can do anything, I like that he’s good-intentioned but not actually a particularly good leader. He tries, but that doesn’t mean he’s successful. In SHADES OF EARTH, Revis highlights this by introducing Elder’s foil in the character of Amy’s father. Compared to Amy’s dad, it’s so obvious what a drawback Elder’s youth is and how much he lacks a naturally commanding personality, despite his years of training to serve as Elder.

So far as the romance goes, I’m with you wholeheartedly. What I loved so much was Amy’s hesitance to date Elder because she was sort of shoehorned into being interested in him through the lack of other options. I was a bit disappointed to see reason become less of a factor for in romance so quickly, perhaps because of the added dangers of the new world, making her want to be in love while she can, or the introduction of her parents, making her revert to a less mature, thoughtful place. I would really like to have seen Amy’s father be more of an actual obstacle; I laughed with malicious glee every time he told Elder off. I’ll join you on Team Chris! They do have much more chemistry than she and Elder do!

I didn’t entirely believe that Amy would commit herself so thoroughly to Elder here. She didn’t seem to be doing it to defy her father (but then, I didn’t entirely understand Amy’s relationship with her father, so I could be wrong). Maybe as a way to show she was on the shipborns’ side, despite them not accepting her for so long? Or maybe she really did fall in love with him finally once she realized she cared for him more than his scant competition (c’mon Amy, give Chris a chance - or what’s wrong with all the old dudes? Ageist much? LOL).

Yuck! Amy, do not hook up with the old dudes. Please. Maybe it was sort of a pity move, though she might not have realized it. Her dad was really killing Elder’s self-confidence and insulting his leadership. After two books with him, she knows how hard he tries and how much he cares. What better way to show dad that he’s wrong about Elder than by dating him? Other than that, I really don’t see it. She doesn’t really ever seem to like Elder all that much. Wasn’t she laughing and joking with Chris shortly after meeting him? (I could be wrong about that, if my memory’s playing tricks.) I don’t remember her and Elder having too many light-hearted moments.

Yes - she and Chris were having a ton of fun together. I think he was making her remember her old life on Earth and how it could have been. So perhaps sealing the deal with Elder was her way of accepting that she was never going to get her old life back.

In my opinion, you always take the guy who makes you laugh. Plus, he’s hotter. And more capable. #TeamChris

Aww yeah!

Don't miss the rest of the discussion over at Reader of Fictions!


SHADES OF EARTH is out in hardcover. Visit the author's website for more information.

See index of all dystopian reviews at Presenting Lenore

FTC disclosure: Bought

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Book Review: Taken by Erin Bowman

In Claysoot, all boys are taken on their 18th birthdays and there's no escaping that fate. When Gray's older brother is taken, Gray knows his time is running out. But then he learns a secret about Claysoot and risks death by going over the wall to find out the truth.

TAKEN is one of those novels it's best to enter blind.  The set-up is deliciously creepy, and though the narrative is more reminiscent of standard dystopian fare as it goes on, it's still a satisfying and action-packed journey to find out the secrets of Claysoot.

Gray is an appealing main character - a good mix of loyalty and recklessness. TAKEN features one of those rare male/female/female love triangles, but romance really isn't the point here. Gray's arc is one of trying to make sense of his strange world and his part to play in it, and I'm very curious to see where the series goes next.

TAKEN comes out on April 16, 2013. Find out more about it at the author's website.

FTC disclosure: Egalley from Edelweiss

See index of all dystopian reviews at Presenting Lenore

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Book Review: Override by Heather Anastasiu

OVERRIDE is the sequel to GLITCH (my review).

Zoe is free of the Community, but she's still in great danger.  Hiding out with the Foundation rebels, Zoe is part of the plot to overthrow the Chancellor and liberate everyone, but the Chancellor has plans of her own ...

GLITCH got the zombie chicken merit badge for romance, and while Adrien is still a presence here, I have to give OVERRIDE the badge for twists because --- whoa!  Lots of stuff I didn't see coming leading up to an amazing showdown that sets up SHUTDOWN perfectly.

OVERRIDE comes out this Tuesday, Feb 12th. Find out more about the series on the author's website.

FTC disclosure: I beta-read the manuscript for the author.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Book Review: The Different Girl by Gordon Dahlquist

Four girls live on an island with their two caretakers. The girls are identical except for their hair color.  Then another girl shipwrecks on the island and changes come to the girls' lives.

*warning -- kinda spoilery, but not really, because honestly, there's not much to spoil*

Let me start out by saying that I didn't get the point of this book ... at all. Veronika and her three companions are not quite normal, and their caretakers are obviously there to test their abilities. When May ("the different girl" I assume) arrives, they are freaked out. Apparently, the rest of the world doesn't take kindly to Veronika's kind (though we never find out why) and everyone's in danger from some outside force.  The resolution is vague, and we don't ever get more than teasing hints about the type of world we're in.  Some will find this open-endedness intriguing, but I found it perplexing.

I did think Veronika's narration and observations fit her character well, but because it was emotionless and difficult to connect with, I don't really want to give this a Zombie Chicken merit badge for writing. There was virtually no action, no romance, no twists, and minimal worldbuilding.  If I had a badge for beautiful covers, though, it would definitely earn it, because I adore this cover.

THE DIFFERENT GIRL comes out February 21, 2013. Find out more about it at the publisher's website.

FTC disclosure: I requested this book for review from the publisher.

See index of all dystopian reviews at Presenting Lenore

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dystopian Books Out Now (Featured in August)

Part of the fun of my dystopian months is getting to read and review new dystopian lit months ahead of time. I thought a little reminder post was in order...because now you can actually buy these books or borrow them from the library!

WHAT'S LEFT OF ME by Kat Zhang - September 2012

Addie and Eva share a body in an world where everyone is born with two souls. At a young age, the recessive soul is supposed to fade away, but Eva clings to life - a risky existence in a world where hybrids are considered dangerous.

What I said then:
"As the sister trapped in a body she can no longer control, Eva narrates the sisters harrowing story. Her voice is what makes this novel work so well. There are no easy answers in this compelling exploration of sisterly bonds, government oppression and the right to life."

Read my entire review

YESTERDAY by CK Kelly Martin - September 2012

It's 1985. Freya Kallas has just moved across the world and into a new life. She tries to fit into her new school, but things feel off. When Freya lays eyes on Garren Lowe, she can't get him out of her head. She's sure that she knows him, despite his insistence that they've never met. As Freya follows her instincts and pushes towards hidden truths, the two of them unveil a strange and dangerous world where their days may be numbered.

What I said then:
"YESTERDAY has “Lenore book” written all over it. It contains so many elements that I love (most are spoilers, sadly). It defies easy genre classification and if you were to go into this story entirely pure and unspoiled, you wouldn’t even want to remember that I featured it during Dystopian August."

BETA by Rachel Cohn - October 2012


Elysia is a clone of a sixteen year old girl on the island paradise of Demesne. Because of the special air on the island that makes humans relaxed and happy, Demesne has long used clones for all of its service jobs, but they've all been adult. Elysia is one of the first teenage clones, a beta, created to serve as a companion for some lucky family on the island.  But there are cracks in paradise, and Elysia soon finds out about a secret clone rebellion ...

What I said then:
"BETA has some good twists, and even though I did see them coming, I still thought they worked well in the context of the story. The plot doesn't really kick in until about halfway through (until then, it's a lot of excellent world exploration - worthy of a Zombie Chicken Merit Badge for Worldbuilding)."

Read my entire review

CREWEL by Gennifer Albin - October 2012

Adelice lives in the world of Arras, where Spinsters weave time with matter. Though she tries to hide her talent, Alelice slips up during her testing and is taken from her family to a Coventry to serve as a Spinster.

What I said then:
"To take such a fantastic concept (everything that exists is woven into the tapestry of life - and can also be unwoven and restitched) and make it so tangible to the reader is an amazing feat. Creepy and clever."

THE DARKEST MINDS by Alexandra Bracken - December 2012


When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have been cursed with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control. Now she's 16, and she can't hide any longer that she's one of the dangerous ones ...

What I said then:

"I’m not always a fan of integrating paranormal abilities into real-world dystopians (I prefer “realistic” dystopians, lol), but Bracken does a great job of showing how terrifying it would be to suddenly have these strange (and amazing) abilities. The way Ruby is portrayed is absolutely consistent with how I imagine someone in her position would develop."

DUALED by Elsie Chapman - Coming February 26, 2013


The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday.  Fifteen-year-old West Grayer's number is up and she has one month to kill or be killed, but a tragic accident makes West question if she's really the best version of herself ...

What I said then:
"The kids killing kids angle is very reminiscent of THE HUNGER GAMES, but I think DUALED does enough differently to mark its own territory outside the HG box. I felt utter revulsion for some of West’s actions (which I suspect is how the author wanted me to feel) and I know this could be a problem for readers who insist on sympathetic characters. Overall, I’m very excited about the premise of the DUALED series in general and can’t wait to read more!"

Monday, February 4, 2013

Dystopian February (2013) Kick-Off

It's here: the 7th in a row (can you believe it?) of dystopian theme months that began in Feb 2010 to spotlight dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction. If you plan to participate with me this month, grab the Dystopian February badge above and put it on your blog, linking to this kick-off post.

Now, because the content this month on my blog won't be as extensive as you're used to, Christina of Reader of Fictions has joined me as an official Dystopian February partner, so most of the contests you are used to are going to be hosted over there by her. She already has reviews up of Sherri L Smith's Orleans and Andrew Fukuda's The Prey.

So what's in store this month?

I'm going to try to review at least 10 dystopian novels, past, present and future. (Refer to my index of dystopian reviews for latest updates and past reads) Every Thursday, I'll do an in-depth joint review of a book with either Christina or Michelle from Galleysmith. Each book I review a merit badge in one of the following categories: World-building, Action, Romance, Twisty Reads, and Great Writing (see the merit badges here - they are ADORBS! and read more about the philosophy behind the merit badges here) so if you know you prefer world-building books over all else, you'll know which titles to look out for.

I'll also have a couple of interviews and giveaways, and probably some themed booklists (if I get around to those).

Are you going to read any dystopians this month?