We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

An imminent catastrophic event can change how you view your life.

In the life of high school, there’s popular Peter, keep to herself Eliza, laid back Andy, and parent pressured Anita. Each has their own problems and they casually know each other from attending Hamilton High School. When news of the asteroid in the sky having 66.6% chance of colliding with Earth, the four students question their true intentions and discover what truly matters. Their town gets more chaotic and stressed the closer the asteroid gets. The four teens’ lives entwine and things spiral, sometimes out of control. I grew to care about them and stayed invested in their stories throughout the book. Realistic fiction with a dystopian touch, 5 stars!

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman

A wonderful twist and a fascinating ending!

Nami is on her way to the class graduation party when she receives a call from Lucy. Lucy pressures her into buying alcoholic drinks for the party. Nami stops at a mini mart and while she’s looking at what’s available to buy, a shooter enters the store. Nami jumps in front of a young girl to protect her and ends up getting shot. She wakes up later in the Infinity Courts which are run by Artificial Intelligence. Nami resists taking a pill to help with her headache and resists drinking from the fountain. Instead, she follows the lights and ends up being rescued by rebels fighting against Artificial Intelligence control. The rebels rescued her because she resisted and most people can’t. They need her for the rebellion. For some reason, Nami blends in easily with the AI and held the attention of a prince during their conversation, so the rebels want her to be a spy and gather as much information as possible so they can be taken out of control. Humans that have taken the pill are servants to the robots and are unaware of supposedly anything, surroundings, people, and their own pasts. Other humans are sent to War to fight in horrible battles. The resistance works together to free humans and end the robots and all Artificial Intelligence control, even through rough patches. Nami frustrates me a little because she’s only wanting to see one side of the resistance and stubbornly expects everyone else to understand and follow her point of view when she won’t reciprocate that understanding to others. There’s a wonderful twist and the ending was fascinating, 4 stars!

Roots of Ruin by Amber Mitchell

Roots of Ruin by Amber Mitchell
Book three in the Garden of Thorns series.
Rose/Arianna works alongside Rayce to unite their two kingdoms and to restore her rightful place as ruler of her kingdom. There’s a traitor in their group who keeps giving valuable information to the enemy and man who took Arianna’s father’s life and crown, King Ganem. As king, he has broken apart families and caused extreme poverty and violence. With Rayce’s help, they plan to bring the kingdoms together and create peace. The stress picks up at the last third of the book when the traitor is discovered and the rebels find themselves in a twisted mess. A solid ending in this YA dystopian series, 4 stars!

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!