Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Scorpion Rules (Prisoners of Peace)

The Scorpion Rules Book Cover The Scorpion Rules
Prisoners of Peace, Book 1
Erin Bow
Juvenile Fiction
Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing
September 22, 2015

In the future, the UN has brought back an ancient way to keep the peace. The children of world leaders are held hostage—if a war begins, they pay with their lives. Greta is the Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy, a superpower formed of modern-day Canada. She is also a Child of Peace, a hostage held by the de facto ruler of the world, the great Artificial Intelligence, Talis. The hostages are Talis’s strategy to keep the peace: if her country enters a war, Greta dies. The system has worked for centuries. Parents don’t want to see their children murdered. Greta will be free if she can make it to her eighteenth birthday. Until then she is prepared to die with dignity, if necessary. But everything changes when Elian arrives at the Precepture. He’s a hostage from a new American alliance, and he defies the machines that control every part of their lives—and is severely punished for it. Greta is furious that Elian has disrupted their quiet, structured world. But slowly, his rebellion opens her eyes to the brutality of the rules they live under, and to the subtle resistance of her companions. And Greta discovers her own quiet power. Then Elian’s country declares war on Greta’s and invades the prefecture, taking the hostages hostage. Now the great Talis is furious, and coming himself to mete out punishment. Which surely means that Greta and Elian will be killed...unless Greta can think of a way to save them.



I absolutely loved “The Scorpion Rules”.  It’s a wonderful addition to the YA dystopian genre.

The first thing that made me love it is the diversity.  Racial diversity is merely the beginning.  There is cultural  diversity and religious diversity, including a Jewish protagonist, which is something rarely seen.  And to take things to an entirely different level, there is sexual diversity, including a female bisexual main character.  I don’t think I have ever read that in a young adult dystopian novel, and I was quite literally bouncing with the excitement of it.  Absolutely none of it felt forced or gratuitous.  Well done.

Then we have the villain.  I think he may be my favorite villain ever.  He’s hilarious while being really, truly evil.  This is not someone (something?) you would want as your enemy.  I also enjoyed the other characters and their development.  Some of them may seem flat at first, but their traits unfold slowly and organically.  Greta is an unreliable narrator on the level of Katniss, and it is fun to go along with her on her journey of awareness.  Elian, well, I’ll let you find out about him for yourself.

Finally, the book brings up some incredible points about the nature of humans, society, wars, and the climate.  It is quite heavy on the philosophy, and yet it is also hilarious.  Some parts had me laughing so hard it was difficult to catch my breath.  The author has a good sense of comedic timing.

Overall, I recommend “The Scorpion Rules” for anyone eighth grade and up who loves a good dystopian novel.  The flow and humor make it a good choice for the reluctant reader, as well.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence

When It Was Just A Game: Remembering the First Super Bowl

When It Was Just a Game Book Cover When It Was Just a Game
Harvey Frommer
Taylor Trade Pub
September 9, 2015

The first Super Bowl in 1967 was actually called The World Championship Game, and pitted the upstart American Football League, represented by the Kansas City Chiefs, against the National Football League, represented by the Green Bay Packers. This book consists of oral interviews with many of the surviving players and/or their children, as well as the recently discovered unpublished memoirs of Chiefs coach Hank Stram.



As a diehard Packers fan (I bleed green and gold), I’m not entirely sure I can be completely unbiased in reviewing “When It Was Just A Game”.  What can ever be better than a comprehensive history of the first Super Bowl?

The book is an excellent resource that covers almost every facet of what went into the epic 1967 game between the Packers and the Chiefs.  It’s packed with facts and direct quotes from people ranging from the players to the fans and everyone in between.  Not the least of it is from the recently deceased legend Frank Gifford.  Reading how it was at the beginning of what has become such a large event is a good reminder of what the game is meant to be at the start of this new NFL season.

“When It Was Just A Game” is the perfect gift for any football fan you may have on your holiday list.  It’s a must-have for any Packers fans out there. GO PACK GO!

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Dead House

The Dead House Book Cover The Dead House
Dawn Kurtagich
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
September 15, 2015

Welcome to the Dead House.

Three students: dead.

Carly Johnson: vanished without a trace.

Two decades have passed since an inferno swept through Elmbridge High, claiming the lives of three teenagers and causing one student, Carly Johnson, to disappear. The main suspect: Kaitlyn, "the girl of nowhere."

Kaitlyn's diary, discovered in the ruins of Elmbridge High, reveals the thoughts of a disturbed mind. Its charred pages tell a sinister version of events that took place that tragic night, and the girl of nowhere is caught in the center of it all. But many claim Kaitlyn doesn't exist, and in a way, she doesn't - because she is the alter ego of Carly Johnson.

Carly gets the day. Kaitlyn has the night. It's during the night that a mystery surrounding the Dead House unravels and a dark, twisted magic ruins the lives of each student that dares touch it.

Debut author Dawn Kurtagich masterfully weaves together a thrilling and terrifying story using psychiatric reports, witness testimonials, video footage, and the discovered diary - and as the mystery grows, the horrifying truth about what happened that night unfolds.




“The Dead House” is a wonderfully inventive and creepy book centered around a girl who may or may not suffer from dissociative identity disorder.  Part mystery and part horror, it is one of the best psychological young adult thrillers I have read in a long time.

The thing I most loved about the book is the way in which the story is told.  There are journal entries, therapy transcripts, police interrogations, transcripts of video footage, and news articles.  Since none of these are told from the point of view of someone who knows the full story, it places the reader in the role of a detective.  All of the evidence is laid out to be examined.  I found it very fun to try to decipher it all, even if it did lead to a sleepless night.

The main character(s), Kaitlyn and Carly, are wonderful and complicated.  You can literally feel their fear and confusion in the diary entries.  It’s actually quite disturbing.  In a good way, of course.  My only complaint is that the secondary characters seemed a little too flat.  I liked them, but would have preferred to know a bit more about them.

Overall, “The Dead House” is a quick and engaging read that is sure to appeal to horror and thriller lovers from ages 14 and up.  Its fast pacing makes it an excellent recommendation for reluctant readers.  Highly recommended!  Just be sure to keep the lights on.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.



Content Warning:

Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Violence

Dexter Is Dead (Dexter)

Dexter Is Dead Book Cover Dexter Is Dead
Dexter, Book 8
Jeff Lindsay
Doubleday Books
July 7, 2015

After seven national bestsellers and eight seasons as one of the most successful shows on television, New York Times bestselling author Jeff Lindsay bids a thrilling farewell to his uniquely twisted and beloved serial killer, Dexter Morgan. Dexter Is Dead is the definitive conclusion of the character who has become a global icon. Dexter Morgan has burned the candle at both ends for many years. Blood spatter analyst . . . husband . . . father . . . serial killer. And now, for the first time, his world has truly collapsed. Dexter is arrested on charges of murder. He has lost everything--including his wife, his kids, and the loyalty of his sister. Now completely alone, Dexter faces a murder charge (for a crime . . . ironically . . . he did not actually commit). His only chance for freedom lies with his brother, Brian, who has a dark plan to prove Dexter's innocence. But the stakes are deadly, and the epic showdown that lies in Dexter's path may lead, once and for all, to his demise. Jeff Lindsay's trademark devilish wit and cutting satire have never been sharper. Dexter Is Dead marks the end of a beloved series, but is also Dexter's most satisfying and suspenseful outing yet.



As “Dexter Is Dead” is the last novel in the beloved Dexter series, and I have seen reviews that contain massive spoilers, I am going to keep this review brief so those of you who haven’t been so rudely spoiled will stay that way.

“Dexter Is Dead” is the perfect ending to a wonderful series.  The characters, as always, are well-developed.  The plot makes sense.  Everything comes to a logical conclusion.

The only thing left to say is this:  Thank you, Mr. Lindsay.  You’ve given all of us the true gift of an incredible character that graced the pages we read and the television screens we watched.  We’ll miss you, Dexter.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.



Content Warning: 

As this is an adult novel, there are no content warnings.


Drowning Is Inevitable

Drowning Is Inevitable Book Cover Drowning Is Inevitable
Shalanda Stanley
Juvenile Fiction
Knopf Books for Young Readers
September 8, 2015

After seventeen-year-old Olivia and her friend Jamie accidentally kill Jamie's abusive father, two other friends, Max and Maggie, join them in running away from St. Francisville, Louisiana, to hide out in New Orleans while they try to figure out what to do next.




“Drowning is Inevitable” is a book that is written in the Southern Gothic tradition.  Do not expect to be at all happy when you finish, as that is not the book’s intent.

The story of Olivia and Jamie begins with the troubles in their respective home lives.  Olivia’s mother committed suicide when she was only three days old, and Jamie has an alcoholic and violent father.  I don’t want to give away any of the plot, but things go horribly wrong and keep getting worse by the page.  The plot has a lot of potential, and I’m sure many will appreciate its melancholy nature.

The problem I had with it is that it was extremely melodramatic.  This probably would not have bothered me so much if I felt for the characters.  They are sad and suffered, but they are not well-developed enough for me to shed tears or be too emotionally invested in their plight.  In fact, the one character that evoked the most feelings was the place itself.  The feeling of being stifled, and yet loved, by a small southern town was captured perfectly.

“Drowning is Inevitable” is a book that just wasn’t for me.  It was a promising plot that fell flat.  If you do think it is something you may enjoy, give it a try.  This may very well be a case of “it’s not you book, it’s me.”

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.



Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence, Underage Drug and Alcohol Use, Domestic Violence

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs Book Cover The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs
Matthew Dicks
St. Martin's Press
September 8, 2015

Caroline Jacobs has lost herself. She's a wife, mother (to a tattooed teenage daughter she avoids), Sears Portrait Studio photographer, and wimp. Asserting herself, taking the reins, or facing life head-on are not in her repertoire. So when Caroline suddenly cracks and screams "Fuck you!" at the PTA president, she is shocked. So is her husband. So is the PTA president. So is everyone. But Caroline soon realizes the true cause of her outburst can be traced back to something that happened to her as a teenager, a scarring betrayal by her best friend Emily. This act changed Caroline's life forever. So, with a little bit of bravery flowing through her veins, Caroline decides to go back to her home town and confront Emily. She busts her daughter Polly out of school, and the two set off to deliver the perfect comeback, which is twenty-five years in the making. But nothing goes as planned. Long buried secrets begin to rise to the surface, and Caroline will have to face much more than one old, bad best friend. A heartwarming story told with Matthew Dicks' signature wit, The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs is a deceptively simple novel about the ways in which our childhood experiences reverberate through our lives, and the bravery of one woman trying to change her life and finds true understanding of her daughter, and herself, along the way.



“The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs” is story about a rather shy and reserved woman who unexpectedly breaks out of her shell at a PTA meeting.  This triggers a set of events that lead her back to her hometown to face her past.

The beginning of the book was pure gold, and I’m fairly certain anyone who has ever dealt with the leaders of various youth and charity organizations has at one point wanted to tell them what Caroline did.  Her search to change the way she handled things in the past is also very relatable.  Who hasn’t wanted to confront a former bully as an adult?  I absolutely loved that part as well as all of the main characters.  We’ve all either been one of them or know them.

Unfortunately, I found that it seemed the novel would have been better suited as a novella or a short story.  Many of the characters and details seemed like filler and were not well-developed.  It dragged down the flow of what would otherwise have been a very well-written work.

Overall, “The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs” is a book that I can neither recommend nor not recommend.  If it sounds like you may enjoy it, by all means give it a try.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.



Content Warning:

As this is an adult book, there are no trigger warnings.


Are You Still There

Are You Still There Book Cover Are You Still There
Sarah Lynn Scheerger
Juvenile Fiction
AW Teen
September 1, 2015

Gabriella Mallory, AP student and perfect-daughter-in-training, stands barefoot on a public toilet for three hours while her school is on lockdown. Someone has planted a bomb and she is hiding. The bomb is defused but the would-be-bomber is still at large. And everyone at Central High School is a suspect. The school starts a top-secret crisis help line and Gabi is invited to join. When she does, she is drawn into a suspenseful game of cat and mouse with the bomber, who has unfinished business. He leaves threatening notes on campus. He makes threatening calls to the help line. And then he begins targeting Gabi directly. Is it because her father is the lead police detective on the case? Is the bomber one of her new friends. Could it be her new boyfriend with his complicated past? As the story unfolds, Gabi knows she is somehow connected to the bomber. Even worse she is part of his plan. Can Gabi reach out and stop him? Or will she be too late?



“Are You Still There” is not what I would call enjoyable, but it is definitely important and timely.  It deals with bullying and school violence, so at its core is unsettling, but also a book that should be read.

The story centers are Gabi and her family, all of whom have their strengths and weaknesses.  At first, Gabi borders on the unlikable due to her judgmental nature and somewhat “holier-than-thou” attitude in regard to grades and volunteer work.  It becomes clear rather quickly that she is simply clueless.  She is eventually paired with a diverse group of students who expand each other’s self-awareness.  All of the new friends she makes are interesting, go beyond their stereotypes, and add to the plot.  I really liked the way Gabi grew, and helped others to grow, throughout the story.

As mentioned in the introduction, the story centers around bullying and violence.  It also raises awareness on how we perceive ourselves and others.  The most important message to take away is “If you can do or say something to help, do it.  Don’t ever just sit back and watch.”  Gabi makes some mistakes, and the author does not shy away from pointing out the consequences of those mistakes.  There are also things beyond her control, and those are also presented unflinchingly.  Nothing in “Are You Still There” is sugar-coated, nor should it be.

I highly recommend “Are You Still There” as a book that presents real issues to young adults without patronizing them.  It would be a good book for parents to read and discuss with their child.  Communication is so important, and I believe this book will present many opportunities for it.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.



Content Warning:

Minor Sexual Situations, Language, Underage Drinking, Violence


Eden (An Archer and Bennett Thriller)

Eden Book Cover Eden
Archer and Bennett, Book 2
Candice Fox
August 25, 2015

“A new murder mystery star—Candice Fox may just be your new literary addiction.”—Primo Life

“I fool myself that Eden has a heart—that she would at least have trouble killing me...”

Most homicide detective teams run on trust, loyalty, and the shared desire to put killers behind bars. Frank Bennett's partner, Eden Archer, thrives on darkness and danger. She has a rare talent for catching killers - but her idea of justice has little to do with courtrooms.

Now three girls are missing, and Eden is going undercover to a remote farm where the troubled go to hide and blood falls more often than rain. Frank’s job is to keep an eye on his partner while she's there - but is it for Eden's protection, or to protect others from her? Walking a tightrope between duty and desperation, Frank confronts a threat from Eden’s past—the sadistic crime lord Hades, who raised her. Suddenly, the hunter is the hunted. And a killer’s vicious desires are about to be unleashed . . .

The breathtaking new thriller from the author of Hades, winner of the Ned Kelly Award for Best Debut Crime Novel, establishes Candice Fox as a suspense writer of international renown and undisputed power.



I was beyond thrilled when I saw there would be another novel in the Archer and Bennett series after reading the excellent debut, “Hades”.  “Eden” did not disappoint.   Candice Fox is at the top of the class when it comes to gritty crime thrillers.  And when I say gritty, I do mean gritty.  This is far from a cozy mystery.

As I had hoped, we get more backstory for Eden’s father, Hades, and it is so well-written that the flashbacks alone could make a complete and satisfying novel.  The complexities of Eden are further explored, as well, and Frank grows much more as a character in this novel than in the previous one.  There are a few secondary characters who are introduced who are also so well-developed that you keep wanting to know more.  Also, the underworld of crime could be considered a character in and of itself.  It’s described as if it is a living and breathing thing that looks out for itself and none of those actually involved.  Characterization in “Eden” is nothing short of superb.

It’s difficult to say much about the plot without spoiling it because everything is connected, even if you don’t realize it.  The pace is steady and makes it difficult to find a stopping point.  Make sure you have a few uninterrupted hours before you begin.  And the ending…. wow.  It more than delivers.  No plot failure here.

The only complaint I have is the jumping of points of view.  There is first person, third person limited past, and third person limited present.  All three of these are different characters.  While it worked in the chapters that were dedicated to one character, some chapters combined all three, and that was a bit of a struggle to get my brain to switch gears.

If you like crime thrillers and don’t mind the blood and gore, I highly recommend “Eden”.  Please note that this is most definite NOT a young adult book.  On occasion I review adult novels, and this is one of those times.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Content Warning:

I normally don’t give content warnings for adult books, but I do feel compelled to warn that there is some animal abuse and racial slurs in “Eden”.  They are part of the plot and not gratuitous, but please keep this in mind if you are triggered by those things.