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SciFi Book Review: Insignia

Insignia by SJ Kincaid

Tom Raines can’t seem to keep up with school while his dad gambles his life away, and keeps them constantly on the move. Tom excels at one thing – games. And after one particular VR game scenario, Tom is told that he has been watched. And is recruited by the government for their elite military academy. Tom is taken to the Pentagonal Spire where he will have the chance to possibly help his country fight in World War III. WWIII is a war fought entirely in space via virtual reality, where no lives are lost. But Tom will quickly learn there are many secrets in this political war.

Tom is a likeable and relatable teen. While he’s smart and strong-willed, he’s a more than a bit naïve when it comes to girls. Kincaid’s version of the future is a world controlled by companies that have a monopoly on the Earth’s food and water supplies. Countries (by extension of those companies) are at war in space for other world’s resources. But mostly the politics and relationship between the companies, the government, and the general public come into play in this remarkable debut.

From the start, the story had the feel of one of my favorite films The Last Starfighter or Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. But after Tom gets recruited, the similarities fade. Part scifi adventure, part YA coming-of-age story, part political thriller – this ambitious novel has a fantastic blend of suspense and drama. Fast-paced and full of mystery and adventure – Insignia is an enjoyable and riveting read for science fiction fans of all ages.

Insignia releases from Katherine Tegen (Harper Teen) Books on July 10, 2012.

Dark Days of Summer 2012 Blog Tour

As a part of the Dark Days of Summer 2012 Blog Tour, I’m hosting SJ Kincaid and her novel Insignia.

Today, Harper Teen has given me this question to answer:
Like all book lovers, you choose your vacation destination based on what you’re reading.
Lucky you— a magical genie is granting you and your copy of INSIGNIA a summer trip. If you could read INSIGNIA anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

Well, if I was offered a free summer trip where I could read all day, I would automatically pick a warm, sunny, beach location. Maybe Hawaii. Nothing beats a breezy shore, sand, and a good book for relaxing.

But related to Insignia specifically, I think it narrows my choices down to Washington, DC or Las Vegas. DC would be ideal for the politics in the book – it would be an immersion in the setting. But Las Vegas for the gaming aspect. Tom Raines, the main character in Insignia, excels at games – specifically virtual reality games. It would certainly be an experience to get immersed in a virtual reality game in between occasional breaks in reading. I’m sure I wouldn’t be good enough to get noticed by the government. So there’s no chance I’d get recruited to any branch of military where they need my gaming skills. But that’s what books are for. A chance to escape everyday life for an exciting adventure where there are no limits!

Click here for a chapter excerpt from Insignia!

Be sure to check out Insignia, on sale July 10th.

Stay connected to all things Dark Days on the Pitch Dark Facebook page, including exclusive content features every Wednesday!

Leg 2 of the Dark Days of Summer 2012 Blog Tour Continues:
6/12 Aprilynne Pike at Books with Bite
6/14 Dan Wells at Hobbitsies
6/19 Veronica Roth at The Mod Pod Bookshelf
6/21 SJ Kincaid at SciFi Chick
6/26 Aprilynne Pike at Books with Bite
6/28 Dan Wells at Hobbitsies
7/3 Veronica Roth at The Mod Pod Bookshelf
7/5 SJ Kincaid at SciFi Chick


Fantasy Book Review: False Covenant

False Covenant by Ari Marmell

Widdershins has taken over running her late friend’s bar, but isn’t having much success. So, she still relies on her occupation as a thief with the Finders Guild. But even after destroying the evil demon plaguing the city, she still isn’t trusted within her own guild. When a strange creature with seemingly mystical power begins attacking innocent people throughout the city, Widdershins immediately wonders if it’s another demon. When it seems that everyone is against her again, Widdershins needs her patron god Olgun more than ever in order to face this horrific creature out of nightmares.

Already having setup Widdershins’s backstory in Thief’s Covenant, this story focuses on the present time, without having to jump around in time, which made for smoother reading. More character development with supporting characters and a fantastic new plot made this sequel enthralling. It’s easy to get caught up in Widdershins’s adventures. The mystery and suspense makes for an exciting read. With plenty of drama and a bit of humor and several surprises along the way, this dark fantasy series is decidedly charming.

False Covenant releases from Pyr Books on June 26, 2012.

Fantasy Book Review: The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group

The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group by Catherine Jinks

Found in a dingo pen at the wildlife park, Toby wakes up in a hospital with no memory of what happened. Nothing seems to be physically wrong with Toby, and the doctors have no explanation for the episode or than possible epilepsy. When a strange note left on Toby’s hospital bed says that a priest claims to know about Toby’s affliction, his mother thinks the priest is crazy. But when a young man named Reuben claims to have the same condition, Toby’s denial slowly turns around when meeting a group of Reuben’s odd friends. And when Toby is kidnapped by violent men, he realizes the truth too late – that he’s a werewolf.

Toby and his friends are rebellious teens with a penchant for home-made explosives and mischief. But when Toby is kidnapped and thrown in a cell, he gets serious and uses his cleverness to try to escape. Suddenly his life is changed, and with it, his priorities. My only complaint is that we never experience any werewolf actually transforming. There is no “wolfing out” in this story. It’s only referred to. But after Toby is kidnapped, there is no lack of excitement and suspense. This is a sequel to The Reformed Vampire Support Group, but this is a separate story, and I didn’t find it confusing at all. Those that have read the first will just know several of the minor characters a bit better. With plenty of humor, mystery, and heart-pounding suspense – The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group is an entertaining read for fans of werewolf and vampire novels.

SciFi Book Review: Monument 14

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

After boarding their buses for school one morning, Dean and his younger brother Alex are suddenly caught in a violent hail storm. Fourteen children, from elementary students to high school, are forced to seek refuge in a nearby superstore. While their world falls apart around them as an incredible earthquake leads to an even more dangerous chemical spill.

Dean is an average teen, not popular but smart and well-read. He has the stereotypical crush on the most popular, pretty girl who, of course, is dating the popular jock. But the kid’s world in thrown upside down when forced to take on unbelievable responsibility in the face of an apocalyptic scenario. Laybourne’s story of survival during this horrific apocalypse is both frightening yet full of hope. Monument 14 is not nearly as dark and depressing as Lord of the Flies or Michael Grant’s Gone series. Her characters show a wide range of believable choices from bravery and selflessness to extreme fear and cowardice. As more terrible things keep happening around them, the suspense builds to a heat-pounding, cliffhanger ending. This debut is a fast-paced, exciting story with plenty of drama and adventure that both mature teens and adults will enjoy.

SciFi Book Review: Revived

Revived by Cat Patrick

Daisy Appleby is severely allergic to bees, and unfortunately help doesn’t come in time to save her from dying. But the drug Revive brings her back to life. Again. Daisy has actually died 5 times already in her short 15 years. The first time she died was in a horrendous school bus crash when she very young. Now a part of a secret study for the drug, each time Daisy dies, she must move to a new city with a new identity. But at her newest school, Daisy quickly gains a new best friend and potential boyfriend, who make her question the Revive program. And when Daisy uncovers a secret within program, she has no idea how deep and how dark the conspiracy falls.

Daisy is an average girl put in an unlikely circumstance. Though, she obviously has a penchant for dying prematurely. Her home life may be unorthodox, but her new friendships help to ground her. And her relationship with Matt is a bit chaotic but believable given their odd situation.

Several twists and shocking surprises along the way made for a riveting read. Revived is a dramatic YA novel with a science fiction twist. This is more of a relationship drama interlaced with a dark mystery than much scifi. The drug Revive and the program are only mentioned occasionally without much detail. The story ends a bit abruptly with a big reveal, but feels so open ended with questions left hanging that a sequel (though, apparently unplanned right now) seems almost necessary. This was an exciting, suspenseful novel that left me wanting more.

SciFi Book Review and Giveaway: Starters

Starters by Lissa Price

After a devastating killer-spore epidemic, the majority of humans left are either senior citizens or children and teenagers. As children are unable to work, Enders (the seniors) have grown rich. While unclaimed children are forced to hide and live in squalor or be sent to juvenile facilities and treated like prisoners. So sixteen-year-old Callie, caring for her sickly younger brother, feels forced to accept the only “legal” job offer she can get. Renting her body to rich Enders who wish to experience a youth again. But when Callie’s neurochip experiences a glitch, she discovers that her renter is up to something more than just partying. She wants to use her body to murder. Callie is in a race against the clock to find out more about the person using her body and the Body Bank’s horrific plan and the mysterious man behind the scenes.

Callie and her younger brother lost their parents and had to resort to squatting in abandoned buildings. Readers will quickly form a sympathetic bond with her and her predicament. The Body Bank is particularly disturbing. Price’s futuristic dystopia is unique and inspired. When the deadly spore epidemic hit, the very young and very old were vaccinated first and survived. Now, an Ender’s money can buy just about anything. Even a younger body. The creative world had me hooked from the start. The fantastic characters and intense plot kept me reading. I loved every minute of this one.

This exciting debut is incredibly suspenseful and completely riveting. Price is a talented writer, pulling the reader into an unnerving setting and following Callie on her thrilling adventure. Starters is marketed for young adults, but older adults and science fiction fans should definitely check this one out as well. With plenty of plot twists, surprises, and even a bit of romance – I couldn’t put it down. This has certainly made my list of favorites for this year. Don’t miss it.

Courtesy of the author, I have an extra copy of Startersfor one (1) lucky winner!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes, please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends June 22. I’ll draw a name on June 23, and notify winner via email.

Good luck!

Continue reading SciFi Book Review and Giveaway: Starters

Fantasy Book Review: Dead Reckoning

Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill

Jett is wandering the Old West, in search of her brother who was lost during the Civil War. But to keep safe out on her own, she disguises herself as a young man. When she enters this latest town, Jett is expecting trouble, but not an army of invading zombies. Jett manages to escape and happens upon Honoria Gibbons, an eccentric young female inventor, and White Fox, a white man raised in a Native American tribe. Gibbons and White Fox don’t really believe her account, but help her investigate anyway. And when they witness the zombie horde the next night, they realize the mindless undead are being controlled by someone – a madman with a dark purpose.

Jett is the central character, and most of the suspense is built around her and her point of view. Both Jett and Honoria Gibbons are fun characters who reject the stereotypical woman’s role of the time period. Jett thinks she has no choice but to pretend to be a young man in order to get by on her own. And Gibbons has obviously been given more freedom to be who she wants to be, regardless of what others think. And while White Fox has an interesting backstory, he takes a backseat to the strong female characters.

Lackey and Edghill have created a fun and unique mash-up of Western, zombie and steampunk that I was excited to get my hands on. And I wasn’t disappointed in the least. As with most zombie novels, there is plenty of heart pounding and intense suspense. Though, the gore and violence was certainly minimal in this story marketed for young adults. Instead, the story focuses more on mystery and adventure – which I thoroughly enjoyed. Solid characters, a clever genre blend, and a fast-paced intriguing story made Dead Reckoning irresistible.