Release Day Review: THE SIX by Mark Alpert

The Six

The Six by Mark Alpert

Published July 1, 2015 by Sourcebooks Fire


A hardcore science fiction joyride.

What happens when you take six dying teens and upload their brains into the most technologically advanced robots ever created by man? You get a team of unruly superheroes who are the only hope for destroying a rogue Artificial Intelligence hell-bent on the destruction of all humanity.

Meet the Six, a group of teens given a second lease on life. Led by the violent ex-gang member Zia and computer prodigy Adam, who happens to be the son of the tech-genius who is leading the entire operation, the Six have less than a month to learn how to fight together using their new robot bodies. A rogue AI program, named Sigma, that was also created by Adam’s father, is trying to take over the world – and now only Adam and his team can stop it.

The best feature of THE SIX is that the author does not portray the scientists as the bad guys. In fact, advanced science and technology is on the side of the good guys – they need it to save the lives of millions of people. Among a wealth of dystopias and sci-fi novels in which the scientists and the government are the enemy, this standpoint is refreshing and exciting.

With accessible writing and a diverse cast of characters, THE SIX is a well done sci-fi action novel that will appeal perfectly to its intended audience. However, adult readers of YA, particularly women, will most likely find the series opener not quite to their tastes. There is the tiniest hint of romance, but once the teens are virtually ensconced in their new robot bodies, any hint of romance is crushed but the technological barriers between them.

The verdict: I highly recommend THE SIX, a well-researched, hardcore science fiction joyride for fans of first-person shooter video games like Halo and Destiny. Fans of YA sci-fi romance and dystopias may find it not quite suited to their tastes.

(Adapted from a review first published in School Library Journal, June 2015 issue)

THE CAGE by Megan Shepherd

THE CAGE is the first in a compelling new science fiction series from popular YA author, Megan Shepherd. ALIENATED (Melissa Landers) meets NIL (Lynne Matson) in this sci-fi romance survival adventure.

The Cage (The Cage, #1)

Cora wakes up in the desert, completely lost and with no personal belongings, and totally alone. She wanders the dunes, trying to find help or a landmark. What she finds are snow-covered hills, a manicured farm, and a miniature town with other teens already there. Cora and the other teens are members of a cohort kidnapped from Earth in order to populate a zoo-like habitat. They were kidnapped by an alien race, known as the Kindred. While Cora tries to find any way out of the habitat, her cage, the others learn to settle in and enjoy their captivity. Meanwhile, romance blooms between members of the cohort, and Cora finds herself undeniably drawn to their alien captor.

What I loved: Shepherd really blows it out of the water with the world-building. While we start out discovering the “cage”, the habitat that Cora and her cohort are confined within, due to Cora’s curiosity and tenacity we quickly discover more about the alien planet they are on. Discovering these secrets, things about the very world that they exist on, is breathtaking. I can’t say anymore, because I don’t want to spoil anything for potential readers, but I’ll leave it at this: You won’t guess where they are, or why. Trust me.

What I wanted more of: I wanted just a little more tension. I felt like there wasn’t a point at which the characters’ lives were really in danger. With the Caretaker watching their every move and the habitat specifically designed to keep them alive, I felt like the cohort really could have used some actual danger. However, I expect the danger and heart-pounding action will be very intense in the second book!

The verdict: With exquisitely crafted world-building, a tantalizing romance, and thrilling character dynamics, THE CAGE is a page-turning intro to a series that YA readers will fall in love with.

Best YA Debuts of 2015

With so many incredible contemporary books out this year, I wanted to highlight my favorites. These are the best YA debuts of the year, and books you should be reading or adding to your to-read list! 

None of the AboveNONE OF THE ABOVE is a fantastic contemporary debut novel by a strong writer and expert in the medical field. Gregorio is a force to be reckoned with – her seemingly effortless prose will capture readers’ attention and keep them enthralled all the way to the last page.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon Spiers is a little bit of a mess. What is a boy to do when a complete stranger discovers the emails you wrote to your secret, anonymous, online boyfriend? Try to deal with the blackmail, and generally mess up your life – sounds like a great plan. SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA is an incredibly authentic and heartfelt debut novel that follows Simon through his junior year of high school. Romance, parties, angst, drama club, and many conversations in a Waffle House are in store for readers. Simon Spier’s junior year of high school is a fantastic and funny adventure reminiscent of Andrew Smith’s WINGER. Highly recommended for readers looking for a heartfelt slice-of-life romance.

Mosquitoland

Incredibly written and complex storytelling couple with deep characters and thrilling adventures makes this debut one-of-a-kind. Mim struggles with the loss of her mother, who moved away, her dad making a new home with her stepmother, and her own mental health issues as she traverses the Midwest. Strong writing and clever storytelling complete this impressive debut.

My Heart and Other Black Holes

Jasmine Warga’s debut is a very well written look at the real effects of depression on teens. A heartfelt story with authentic writing and a lot of feelings, this is a book full of real issues and a whole lot of hope.

We All Looked Up

Imagine if the world was going to end in 2 months. All those imminent disaster by comet exploding the Earth? It’s actually going to happen. Suddenly, Seattle is in turmoil, chaos reigns, and 4 teenagers with tenuous connections suddenly become connected. This is the story of their connections, their attempts not only to survive, but to thrive in the little time they have left. This is a novel that everyone is going to be talking about, and if they’re not yet – they will be once the movie is in production. The novel will also be released with an accompanying album, since the author is a talented musician. Adults and teens alike will fall for this novel, and I hope it creates connections between the readers. I think when people finish it, they’ll all look up and wonder about their own purpose in the world.

Anything Could Happen

Tretch is in love with his best friend, and he doesn’t know what to do about it. Not only that, the bookstore girl crushing on him becomes his date to the New Year’s dance, and his best friend gets a girlfriend. How does Tretch deal? With Ellie Goulding’s Halcyon on repeat, Tretch dances his way through lies, bullying, and awkward situations, and I loved every minute of it. ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN is a powerful debut novel about being true to who you are. There is so much hope in Tretch’s world. He never gives up, and that combined with the support he gets from friends and family is simply unbelievable. I wish I had this book as a teenager, and I want to share it with every teenager I know. A powerful story of self-discovery and empowerment. ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN will warm the hearts of readers.

More Happy Than Not

MORE HAPPY THAN THOUGHT is a powerhouse of a YA debut that will crumple your heart and make your soul soar, all in the same chapter. The writing is very good, driven by Aaron’s strong and captivating voice. While I wanted a little more connection to Aaron in the first half of the novel, I got that connection later on, once the secrets and twists come to light. The near-future setting is so very authentic, yet fascinating in its nuanced differences. The story is also incredibly contemporary – it isn’t quite sci-fi and isn’t quite your typical realistic novel. With powerful, sucker-punch moments and tearful, soul-searching questions, MORE HAPPY THAN NOT is quite possibly the best debut novel of the year.

Review: 5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

5 to 1

5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Expected publication May 12, 2015


SUMMARY: In the year 2054, after decades of gender selection, India now has a ratio of five boys for every girl, making women an incredibly valuable commodity. Tired of marrying off their daughters to the highest bidder and determined to finally make marriage fair, the women who form the country of Koyanagar have instituted a series of tests so that every boy has the chance to win a wife.

Sudasa, though, doesn’t want to be a wife, and Kiran, a boy forced to compete in the test to become her husband, has other plans as well. As the tests advance, Sudasa and Kiran thwart each other at every turn until they slowly realize that they just might want the same thing.

This beautiful, unique novel is told from alternating points of view-Sudasa’s in verse and Kiran’s in prose-allowing readers to experience both characters’ pain and their brave struggle for hope.


REVIEW: In a groundbreaking debut told in alternating points of view, one in poetry and one in prose, Holly Bodger explores a future in which gender selection in India has led to there being 5 boys for every girl.

The prose is captivating in its authenticity, portraying Kiran’s point of view very well. The poetry is appropriately jarring and nuanced, showing many aspects of Sudasa’s culture and lifestyle. Sudasa is about to come of age, meaning that she, along with many other girls just like her, will watch 8 boys compete for her hand in marriage. Kiran is one of those boys, but he has a plan to escape the tests, escape his inevitable military assignment, and escape the oppression of his country.

Sudasa struggles against her grandmother’s strong and repressive influence, while Kiran battles pressures from the other boys in his testing group. Over days of testing and judging, Sudasa comes to realize that Kiran may have another agenda besides winning her in marriage.

Meanwhile, Kiran comes to see that Sudasa is not just a power-hungry woman looking for a male companion to obey her every wish. What these 2 discover puts them on the cusp of changing their worlds forever.

In a not-so-distant future we see the possibilities of giving too much power to one gender or the other, and the negative impact that inequality can have on our young people and an entire country.


Review originally published in School Library Journal, February 2015. 

Magical Realism

I never thought I would like magical realism. It feels to literary, too pretentious, you know? But I was very wrong. Oh, so wrong. Magical realism is exactly what I like. It’s that “wtf” feeling you get, it’s the “how did that even happen?” kind of question you ask while reading. It’s the uncertainty at the end of a story because you’re not sure if anything you just read even happened outside of the protagonist’s head. And I love that. So here are some of my favorite magical realism YA novels! 

Bone Gap  Grasshopper Jungle

When My Heart Was Wicked The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

CuteBoomCon: A Review!

CuteBoom is a convention for fans of everything cute! Anime, manga, ponies, video games – it’s pretty much your regular anime convention, just with an emphasis on the kawaii. There was an MLP band doing several concerts, a maid cafe, and lots of cute artwork all over the place.

I highly recommend CuteBoom! I plan on attending for all 3 days next year, and you should, too!

The Events!

I only went to CuteBoom for 1 day, but there was so much going on! I hung out in the dealer’s room, did a mini photo shoot with Madster Cosplay & Photography, and got a super cute manta ray plushie. I sang Japanese karaoke for the first time, which was an awesome experience. I also went to a couple of panels, and won some stuff at Anime Jeopardy. There was a cosplay contest, and I got 3rd place out of 4! The contest was run really well, and MCed by a super adorable Fluttershy who was also in the MLP band. I watched anime in the screening room (a real theater!), listened to Shadow Clone perform a few songs live, and wished I could have stayed for the Rave, which I heard was great. I also went to the Maid Cafe, which was fun and super cute!

The Venue!

The convention was held at the Atrium Hotel & Conference Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. I absolutely loved the location! The conference center was spacious and had the perfect rooms for the events. The concert/cosplay contest room was great, and had a stage and lights and everything. The dealer’s room was big enough for everyone but didn’t feel cramped. There was a lot of seating in the hotel lobby, as you can see in the picture below.

The best part of the location? The theater! It has a full-size, big-screen theater right off the lobby! I watched a few episodes of Sengoku Collection with a friend and it was super fun.

The Video! 

Check out this awesome promo video for CuteBoom! You can see my Espurr cosplay a couple of times, and all the other cool events that went on!

May 2015 Books for Sale & Trade

Hi there! I am very open to swapping books, whether they’re ARCs or finished copies. If you don’t have something I want to swap and you want one of my books I will ask you to just pay for shipping, please, even if it’s an ARC. Thanks!

Currently available:

ARC – Eternity’s Wheel (InterWorld #3) by Michael & Mallory Reaves & Neil Gaiman

Eternity's Wheel

ARC – Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales (annotated and scribbled upon by yours truly)

Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales

ARC – Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl

Positive: A Memoir

Hardcover – In the Shadows by Kiersten White and Jim diBartolo

In the Shadows