Incognito by Katie Delahanty

Ellie is deep into the Keystone Academy curriculum and the story opens with her on a mission to steal a voice recording from the Andy Warhol Museum collection. The famous artist was known for saving everything. While completing her goal, a colleague arrives and sneakily steals the cassette from her. So, she fails the mission. She moves on with other students to go undercover and learn as much as they can about a new program that’s based on whether free will is real or not. The group gets brain scans and disguises and they discover who’s trustworthy and who isn’t. This new program is a little too close to Ellie’s past and her old journal becomes a topic of interest and the story ends with a twist that leaves the opening for a third book in the Keystone series. Riddles and intrigue, 4 stars!

Nameless Queen by Rebecca McLaughlin

Coin is homeless and alone. She picks pockets to survive. The homeless people are called Nameless and are ignored and treated horribly by everyone else and have no legal rights. The king passes away and the kingdom is awaiting news of who the heir is. The heir is chosen as the king speaks his last words, mentioning a name. Then a tattoo magically appears on the shoulder of the person named. Coin happens to be that person, therefore the heir. She’s with her friend Hat when she gets a stinging pain on her shoulder and the two of them see her tattoo. She’s arrested for forging the tattoo and escapes only to be tested by the king’s daughter. Danger, intrigue, and a new world surround Coin as she adjusts to royal etiquette, duties, and the constant threat to her life. Self-worth, loyalty and friendship bind this unique story together, 4 stars!

Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams

Completely Riveting!

Agnes resides within a cult at Red Creek but she doesn’t realize that she’s part of a cult. She’s the eldest of several siblings and is responsible for taking care of their family because their mother is severely depressed. Agnes sneaks to the Outside once a month to retrieve insulin for her younger brother Ezekiel, even though she knows it’s against the rules. Her sister Beth, the next eldest sibling, is a rebel and doesn’t like the rules. When Beth is caught kissing a boy, she’s disgraced by their father and the community. Agnes has been betrothed as a sixth wife to a middle-aged man and before she gets married, she has to teach Beth everything so she can then become the family caretaker. The middle-aged man decides to marry Beth instead of Agnes to straighten Beth out. In the meantime, a ferocious virus is spreading throughout the world and eventually arrives at Red Creek. The Prophet releases an infected dog during a church meeting and, after a few people are bitten, he tells them about his revelation; the Rapture has arrived and everyone must move into the underground bunker. Agnes escapes with Ezekiel and is heartbroken that she’s left the rest of her siblings behind. She knows that the bunker would be a death sentence for Ezekiel because there’s no insulin for him. This is a riveting story about cults, self-worth, self-importance, bravery, love, loyalty, and sacrifice. The author’s note explains the cult background information being from a nonfiction book of a survivor who escaped a true cult. A wonderfully written and all-encompassing story about love, sacrifice, and different faiths, 5 stars!

Verify by Joelle Charbonneau

Meri misses her mother every day since an accident took her life. She also tries to emulate and understand her mother’s artwork. Meri wants to become an artist too. Her friend Rose was able to help her get an interview to be considered to participate in the City Art Program that Meri’s mother was such a big part of before her death. Meri has a successful interview but notices strange and suspicious things happening around her. Among them, she sees someone drop paper, a traitorous and wasteful act. Her curiosity gets the best of her and she thinks she’s figuring out some of her mother’s painted clues, so she goes to sights that she believes her mother meant for her to go to. She’s given a piece of paper with the word verify written on it and talked to by a young man. She eventually learns what truly happened to her mother and the underground she was a part of in the last eighteen months of her life. Meri falls down the rabbit hole! Action, intrigue and friendship pull the story along, 4 stars and I’m ready to read the sequel, Disclose.

The Institute by Stephen King

A cop, Tim, from Florida needs a change, so he leaves and heads north to see where life takes him. Luke Ellis lives happily with his parents until they’re shot, unknown to him, and he’s kidnapped. He’s taken to The Institute where children are experimented and tested on for telepathic and telekinetic abilities. The treatment isn’t kind and any empathy they do get seems to be for manipulative purposes only. Stephen King’s writing tends to pull me completely under and into the story and I became immersed in the children’s Institute lives and their well-being and mistreatment. The characters are laid out and built up with depth, as is the author’s way, and I was rooting for Tim and Luke the whole time. Another aspect of Mr. King’s writing is the philosophical pondering that always takes place when I read his books. The Institute made me stop and think about the greater good and how perspectives differ drastically. The children of the Institute had quirks, talents, and innocence until the experimenting drained them of everything. Thought-provoking and intense dystopian, 5 stars!

Skyhunter by Marie Lu

Dystopian and sci-fi mix that I couldn’t put down!
Thanks to NetGalley and MacMillan Publishing for the opportunity to read and review Marie Lu’s newest book, Skyhunter!
Talin lost her ability to speak years ago when the Federation attacked her home and her vocal cords were burned by a chemical they released. She learned sign language, along with her mother, so they could communicate. She becomes a Striker, a Maran soldier that fights the Federation, and she’s extremely good at it. She becomes a Striker because another soldier saw her worth and helped and supported her. His name was Corian and he has a wonderful, strong set of values and character. The two of them make a fantastic fighting team together. A Federation soldier finds his way to Mara, causing suspicion, since no one knows whether or not he’s a spy. The minute Red arrives, the danger from the Federation amps up. This dystopian book opens up a new series that promises suspense, action, intrigue and an array of interesting characters, 5 stars!

Ballads of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

The Ballads of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins, the prequel to the Hunger Games series, we meet a youthful President Snow. We get to know his goals and family. Coriolanus Snow wants to be a mentor for the Hunger Games. He does become a mentor but he’s disappointed with who he gets, the girl from District 12. He assumes she’ll be weak and unhealthy and be one of the first to die in the games. What he gets is a complete surprise. The action starts well before the games and many odd characters are brought into the story. Coriolanus has integrity and is honest with himself about his actions and who he truly is, even though he sees himself and his family a bit above others and he wholeheartedly believes in helping himself. He realizes variables and factors of human nature as he continues to do his best to support his charge, Lucy Gray. His arrogance pushes him to choose himself above anything or anyone else. By the ending, I’m saddened and appalled by his selfishness. A great read with many nods to the future of the Hunger Games, 5 stars!

This Vicious Cure by Emily Suvada

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A fun sci-fi dystopian story, This Vicious Cure by Emily Suvada, alternates between Cat and Jun Bei, giving insight into each of their thoughts. Cat is inside a simulated environment which is really in Jun Bei’s mind since Jun Bei took over. Both realities are under duress and fighting to fix its own problems. Memories have been wiped, so Cat is new to most, except for feelings of familiarity. Jun Bei wants to fix the Panacea mortality cure and goes to severe lengths to accomplish her goal. For the first time in her life, Jun Bei feels guilty about harming people and regrets the killing she’s been responsible for in the past. Cat can see everything in the environments she’s in and everyone can see her. She looks perfectly real and solid and she’s undetected unless someone tries to touch her because their hands will go right through her image. The science fiction aspect of this series is fascinating. Embryos were created with specific genetic material to make people great coders/hackers. Thirty generations were created, mixed and born within a short period of time. Only two embryos were grown into people who were born and raised to be coding geniuses, Dax and Mato. The Panacea cure/vaccination will make people immortal while the Hydra virus has been mutating people into Lurkers through the tech panels in their arms. The series comes full circle with a satisfying ending, 5 stars!

How We Became Wicked by Alexander Yates

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Young adult dystopian!
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read and review How We Became Wicked by Alexander Yates.
The story opens as Astrid notices the lighthouse that has been unlit for a long time, coming to life. She wakes up her neighbor Hank. The community is annoyed at Astrid because she keeps talking about the light being on in the lighthouse. She thinks they’re upset because they’re hiding something. The story felt somewhat drawn out and not as exciting, dangerous or suspenseful as I would have liked it to be. This could have been a truly scary story if it was built up more. I did like how creepy the wicker’s comments were because they were spoken so calmly. 3 stars for this young adult dystopian

Malice by Pintip Dunn

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I enjoyed this book more than any other Pintip Dunn book (that I have read). The concept is unique and the character growth and depth is profound.
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review Malice by Pintip Dunn!
Alice begins to hear a voice that’s telling her what to do. She soon realizes that the voice belongs to her future self, and is warning present time Alice, about a future virus that is going to destroy the world. Future Alice wants her to kill the virus maker. As the story unfolds, I kept thinking that I had figured out who the virus maker was, but I just kept getting hit with one surprise after another! The story concept is interesting and I especially like the mystery surrounding the virus maker. Bandit is intriguing but I want to know more about Zeke. Alice goes through a whirlwind of back and forth time travel, possible futures and the shocks and surprises that are thrown at her. This is the absolute best Pintip Dunn book I’ve read! 4 stars!