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Review: Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe #2) by Neal Shusterman

December 10, 2018
Thunderhead, (Arc of a Scythe #2), Neal Shusterman, InToriLex
Published By: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers on January 9, 2019
Format Read: Hardback Edition (504 pages)
Genre: Young Adult/ Dystopia/ Sci-fi
Series:Book Two of Arc of a Scythe
Source: Purchased
Rating:FIVE STARS
~Amazon~                                                         Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.
Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?

VERDICT:

Content Warning: Torture, Graphic Violence

REVIEW:

The Thunderhead is an all knowing AI that you love, fear and can't escape. In this world of immorality the Thunderhead is determined to make earth, humanity and society function optimally. However because the Scythe's and Scythdom is out of the Thunderhead's domain, Rowan and Citra have to find creative ways to fight the corruption of the Scythedom. Neal Shusterman knows how to seamlessly make you think more deeply about the world around you while you contemplate the morality of this world. Citra and Rowan have to adjust to dealing with the Scythedom on their own terms. The characters are dynamic, the world building is fantastic, and I enjoyed every bit of suspense, humor and action this book has to offer.
"Society gorges itself, and rots. Permission is the bloated corpse of freedom."
Plot points and characters surprised me. The villain of this story was flipped and changed a few times throughout the book. The Scythedom's political intrigue is processes are more multi-faceted than I  imagined. I was happy to learn more about the underground world of Unsavories, people intent on getting into trouble and their function in this wold. The use of vignettes of the Thunderhead's thoughts led you to empathize with a being that beings to understand the frustration of living in a world you cannot control. Our main characters find themselves in more danger with higher stakes than ever before. This sequel solidified how amazing this world and these characters are.
How ironic, then and how poetic, that humankind may have created the Creator out of want for one. Man Creates God, who then creates man. Is that not the perfect circle of life? But then if that turns out to be the case, who is created in whose image?
Although this is a young adult novel, the themes of life, death and purpose can resonate with any reader. I cheered,  laughed and worried many times while reading this book. If you enjoyed the world of Scythe, do not hesitate to continue on with the series.

Recommended for Readers who
- enjoy Dystopia's with a funny and all knowing AI
- appreciate action packed books with well developed characters
- enjoyed Scythe and want more twisty plot, humor and philosophy

Reviews For Books In Series
Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1) by Neal Shusterman

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning author Neal Shusterman grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where he began writing at an early age. After spending his junior and senior years of high school at the American School of Mexico City, Neal went on to UC Irvine, where he made his mark on the UCI swim team, and wrote a successful humor column. Within a year of graduating, he had his first book deal, and was hired to write a movie script
In the years since, Neal has made his mark as a successful novelist, screenwriter, and television writer. As a full-time writer, he claims to be his own hardest task-master, always at work creating new stories to tell. His books have received many awards from organizations such as the International Reading Association, and the American Library Association, as well as garnering a myriad of state and local awards across the country. Neal's talents range from film directing (two short films he directed won him the coveted CINE Golden Eagle Awards) to writing music and stage plays – including book and lyrical contributions to “American Twistory,” which is currently playing in Boston. He has even tried his hand at creating Games, having developed three successful "How to Host a Mystery" game for teens, as well as seven "How to Host a Murder" games.
As a screen and TV writer, Neal has written for the "Goosebumps" and “Animorphs” TV series, and wrote the Disney Channel Original Movie “Pixel Perfect”. Currently Neal is adapting his novel Everlost as a feature film for Universal Studios.
TWITTER
WEBSITE
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Book Scoop November 30- December 7, 2018

December 7, 2018
Book Scoop, InToriLex, Weekly Feature
Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful, Arwen Elys Dayton, InToriLex
Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful~Amazon~
For fans of television shows Black Mirror and Westworld, this compelling, mind-bending novel is a twisted look into the future, exploring how far we will go to remake ourselves into the perfect human specimen and what it means to be human at all.
Set in our world, spanning the near to distant futures, Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful is a novel made up of six interconnected stories that ask how far we will go to remake ourselves into the perfect human specimens, and how hard that will push the definition of "human."
This extraordinary work explores the amazing possibilities of genetic manipulation and life extension, as well as the ethical quandaries that will arise with these advances. The results range from the heavenly to the monstrous. Deeply thoughtful, poignant, horrifying, and action-packed, Arwen Elys Dayton's Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful is groundbreaking in both form and substance.
At the End of the Century: The Stories of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
At the End of the Century: The Stories of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, InToriLex
At the End of the Century: The Stories of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala~Amazon~                                                                                      Nobody has written so powerfully of the relationship between and within India and the Western middle classes than Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. In this selection of stories, chosen by her surviving family, her ability to tenderly and humorously view the situations faced by three (sometimes interacting) cultures—European, post-Independence Indian, and American—is never more acute.
In “A Course of English Studies,” a young woman arrives at Oxford from India and struggles to adapt, not only to the sad, stoic object of her infatuation, but also to a country that seems so resistant to passion and color. In the wrenching “Expiation,” the blind, unconditional love of a cloth shop owner for his wastrel younger brother exposes the tragic beauty and foolishness of human compassion and faith. The wry and triumphant “Pagans” brings us middle-aged sisters Brigitte and Frankie in Los Angeles, who discover a youthful sexuality in the company of the languid and handsome young Indian, Shoki. This collection also includes Jhabvala’s last story, “The Judge’s Will,” which appeared in The New Yorker in 2013 after her death.
The profound inner experience of both men and women is at the center of Jhabvala’s writing: she rivals Jane Austen with her impeccable powers of observation. With an introduction by her friend, the writer Anita Desai, At the End of the Century celebrates a writer’s astonishing lifetime gift for language, and leaves us with no doubt of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s unique place in modern literature.
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
Once Upon a River, Diane Setterfield, InToriLex
Once Upon a River~Amazon~                                                                                               A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.
Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.
Is it a miracle?
Is it magic?
Or can it be explained by science?


The Mansion by Ezekiel Boone
The Mansion by Ezekiel Boone, InToriLex
The Mansion~Amazon~
After two years of living on cheap beer and little else in a bitterly cold tiny cabin outside an abandoned, crumbling mansion, young programmers Shawn Eagle and Billy Stafford have created something that could make them rich: a revolutionary computer they name Eagle Logic.
But the hard work and escalating tension have not been kind to their once solid friendship—Shawn’s girlfriend Emily has left him for Billy, and a third partner has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. While Billy walks away with Emily, Shawn takes Eagle Logic, which he uses to build a multi-billion-dollar company that eventually outshines Apple, Google, and Microsoft combined.
Years later, Billy is a failure, beset by poverty and addiction, and Shawn is the most famous man in the world. Unable to let the past be forgotten, Shawn decides to resurrect his and Billy’s biggest failure: a next-generation computer program named Nellie that can control a house’s every function. He decides to set it up in the abandoned mansion they worked near all those years ago. But something about Nellie isn’t right—and the reconstruction of the mansion is plagued by accidental deaths. Shawn is forced to bring Billy back, despite their longstanding mutual hatred, to discover and destroy the evil that lurks in the source code.
Did I miss anything in the book world? Let me know in the comments below
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Review: Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

December 4, 2018
 Empress of All Seasons, Emiko Jean, InToriLex
Published By: HMH Books for Young Readers on November 6, 2018
Format Read: ARC Edition (371 pages)
Genre: Young Adult/ Fantasy/ Own Voices
Series: Stand Alone
Source: Publisher Request
Rating: FOUR STARS
Empress of All Seasons
~Amazon~ 
In a palace of illusions, nothing is what it seems.

Each generation, a competition is held to find the next empress of Honoku. The rules are simple. Survive the palace’s enchanted seasonal rooms. Conquer Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Marry the prince. All are eligible to compete—all except yōkai, supernatural monsters and spirits whom the human emperor is determined to enslave and destroy.

Mari has spent a lifetime training to become empress. Winning should be easy. And it would be, if she weren't hiding a dangerous secret. Mari is a yōkai with the ability to transform into a terrifying monster. If discovered, her life will be forfeit. As she struggles to keep her true identity hidden, Mari’s fate collides with that of Taro, the prince who has no desire to inherit the imperial throne, and Akira, a half-human, half-yōkai outcast.

Torn between duty and love, loyalty and betrayal, vengeance and forgiveness, the choices of Mari, Taro, and Akira will decide the fate of Honoku in this beautifully written, edge-of-your-seat YA fantasy.

VERDICT:


Content Warning: Graphic Violence, Slavery, Death 

REVIEW:

This action packed fantasy helped me crawl from the depths of an awful reading slump. Mari is a bad ass protagonist who is a skilled fighter, a yōkai and a caring friend. She sets out to compete to become Empress by facing seasonal rooms meant to break her in mind and body. Mari has to hide her identity from prince Taro and everyone in the competition because all yōkai in the city are forced into slavery. Akira is an outcast who is Mari's best friend and sets out to protect her in any way he can while she competes. This multifaceted world of yōkai, priest  and  humans was developed phenomenally, so I felt fully immersed in Honuku. 
I am a lean tiger in winter, come for me. I dare you.
Copyright Kill Bill, InToriLex

The characters were well developed and every time they were in danger I felt genuine concern (no one is magically never hurt). The powers yōkai had throughout the book were fascinating and included supernatural features I have never imagined before. For example there are yōkai that can turn into spiders, flying beasts and giant red fleshed demons. As Mari faces the contest to become Empress she has to count on her training and experiences in her village. While beauty is a tool for her village of Animal Wives, she is described as plain but trains to be a talented fighter by difficult means. 
Do not let fear decide your fate.
When character's take a break from trying to survive or defend themselves,  there is genuine romance well described. This book offers a hopeful message to young readers about learning to accept yourself to reach your full potential. The folklore, ninjas, settings and Palace of Illusions kept me engaged with the book the whole way through. I would recommend this for fans of fantasy who want to read about a culture inspired by East Asian folklore in a non-western setting. The diversity, message and writing is something everyone can enjoy. 

Recommended for Readers who
- enjoy fantasy featuring diverse people, species and relationships
- want to read young adult romance with realism
- appreciate intricate world building and characters you will root for and despise

**I received this ARC from HMH Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. **

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Empress of All Seasons, Emiko Jean
When Emiko is not writing, she is reading. Most of her friends are imaginary. Before she became a writer she was an entomologist (fancy name for bug catcher), a candle maker, a florist, and most recently a teacher. She lives in Washington with her husband and children (unruly twins). She loves the rain.      TWITTER                     WEBSITE 
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Book Scoop November 23- November 30, 2018

November 30, 2018
InToriLex, Book Scoop, Weekly Feature
Amber & Dusk by Lyra Selene
Amber & Dusk, Lyra Selene, InToriLex
Amber & Dusk~Amazon~ Sylvie has always known she deserves more. Out in the permanent twilight of the Dusklands, her guardians called her power to create illusions a curse. But Sylvie knows it gives her a place in Coeur d'Or, the palais of the Amber Empress and her highborn legacies.

So Sylvie sets off toward the Amber City, a glittering jewel under a sun that never sets, to take what is hers.
But her hope for a better life is quickly dimmed. The empress invites her in only as part of a wicked wager among her powerful courtiers. Sylvie must assume a new name, Mirage, and begin to navigate secretive social circles and deadly games of intrigue in order to claim her spot. Soon it becomes apparent that nothing is as it appears and no one, including her cruel yet captivating sponsor, Sunder, will answer her questions. As Mirage strives to assume what should be her rightful place, she'll have to consider whether it is worth the price she must pay.
Come with Me by Helen Schulman
Come with Me, Helen Schulman, InToriLex
Come with Me~Amazon~
"What do you want to know?"
Amy Reed works part-time as a PR person for a tech start-up, run by her college roommate’s nineteen-year-old son, in Palo Alto, California. Donny is a baby genius, a junior at Stanford in his spare time. His play for fortune is an algorithm that may allow people access to their "multiverses"—all the planes on which their alternative life choices can be played out simultaneously—to see how the decisions they’ve made have shaped their lives.
Donny wants Amy to be his guinea pig. And even as she questions Donny’s theories and motives, Amy finds herself unable to resist the lure of the road(s) not taken. Who would she be if she had made different choices, loved different people? Where would she be now?
Amy’s husband, Dan—an unemployed, perhaps unemployable, print journalist—accepts a dare of his own, accompanying a seductive, award-winning photographer named Maryam on a trip to Fukushima, the Japanese city devastated by tsunami and meltdown. Collaborating with Maryam, Dan feels a renewed sense of excitement and possibility he hasn’t felt with his wife in a long time. But when crisis hits at home, the extent of Dan’s betrayal is exposed and, as Amy contemplates alternative lives, the couple must confront whether the distances between them in the here and now are irreconcilable.
Taking place over three non-consecutive but vitally important days for Amy, Dan, and their three sons, Come with Me is searing, entertaining, and unexpected—a dark comedy that is ultimately both a deeply romantic love story and a vivid tapestry of modern life.
Neron Rising (Neron Rising Saga #1) by Keary Taylor
Neron Rising,  (Neron Rising Saga #1),  Keary Taylor, InToriLex
Neron Rising (Neron Rising Saga, #1)~Amazon~I…am nothing.” He takes a step forward, shaking his head twice, with absolute conviction. “You’re not nothing, Nova.” 
In the Eon galaxy, Dominion controls any planet with solid Neron deposits, and Nova just found out they’re coming for hers. Korpillion isn’t supposed to have any Neron—the galaxy’s purest form of energy—but Nova Ainsley has been working with the owner of a secret mine for months, building highly illegal weapons that can wield Neron. She wants off Korpillion, and selling these weapons will buy her and her father a ticket to another planet in the galaxy.
Neron is incredible on its own, but there are those who can wield it to their will, granting them the ability to read minds, see the future, and destroy worlds—the Nero. But this is a galaxy where they are ceasing to exist, and Dominion owns the last one in the known universe, using him to take over and destroy billions of lives.
An encounter with the last Nero shows Nova her future: it’s with him. She will stand by his side one day, her fingers laced through his, love and adoration in both their eyes, a dark queen to his evil, pawn king.
Fate or destiny, Nova will do whatever it takes to change their future, and that of the galaxy.
The Adults: A Novel by Caroline Hulse
The Adults: A Novel~Amazon~Meet The Adults.
Claire and Matt are no longer together but decide that it would be best for their daughter, Scarlett, to have a “normal” family Christmas. They can’t agree on whose idea it was to go to the Happy Forest holiday park, or who said they should bring their new partners. But someone did—and it’s too late to pull the plug. Claire brings her new boyfriend, Patrick (never Pat), a seemingly sensible, eligible from a distance Ironman in Waiting. Matt brings the new love of his life, Alex, funny, smart, and extremely patient. Scarlett, who is seven, brings her imaginary friend Posey. He’s a giant rabbit. Together the five (or six?) of them grit their teeth over Forced Fun Activities, drink a little too much after Scarlett’s bedtime, overshare classified secrets about their pasts . . . and before you know it, their holiday is a powder keg that ends where this novel begins—with a tearful, frightened call to the police.
What happened? They said they’d all be adults about this
Did I miss anything in the book world? Let me know in the comments below
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Review: Point Blank: Poems by Alan King

Point Blank: Poems, Alan King, InToriLex
Published By: Silver Birch Press on October 18, 2016
Format Read: Paperback Edition (102 pages)
Genre: Poetry/ Contemporary/Own Voices
Series: Stand Alone
Source: Author Request
Rating:THREE POINT FIVE STARS
Point Blank: Poems
~Amazon~
"In Point Blank, we are given an intimate look at one man's inner and outer life, but there's no navel-gazing nonsense. There's always an awareness, implied or explicit, of the sociopolitical crucible. With language both tough-minded and celebratory, Alan King ignites the important details of his experience, compelling us to ask what-plus-what added up to our own lives." TIM SEIBLES, author of Fast Animal and One Turn Around the Sun

"Alan King is one of my favorite up-and-coming poets of his generation. His poems are not pop and flash, rather more like a slow dance with someone you're going to love forever. Here you will find poignant slices of life, so bright in a rough age of race killings and hate speech. He reminds us that what matters has always mattered." JOY HARJO, poet, musician, performer, and teacher

VERDICT:

Content Warning: Racism

REVIEW:

I really enjoyed these eclectic poems about coming of age and experiencing adversity and tragedy. The author does a great job of creating imagery and atmosphere throughout his poems. The dialogue used flowed naturally and allowed me to be more immersed with the topics described. I was engaged in this short collection the whole way through, even when I couldn't directly relate to the experiences described.
"Thats when the world becomes scarier, when you discover the darkness that lurks outside your "Happy Meal" life, when you learn danger needs little to combust and consume whatevers's in its way."
I was happy to gain more insight on the authors life.Throughout the poems themes and topics I appreciate the candidness involved. Although there were a few poems I didn't get I understand that poetry is meant for different audiences and reaches people differently. I would recommend this collection to readers who enjoy well thought out reflections on how black men survive tragedy and face our unwelcoming world.
Lawd, this world's too ugly for sober eyes.All those souls outside of paradise, anticipating the other side
Recommended for Readers who
- enjoy poetry that explores important social topics
- want to learn more about the experiences of black men
- appreciate perspectives shared by own voice writers

**I received this ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review. **

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alan King
Alan King is a Caribbean American, whose parents emigrated from Trinidad and Tobago to the U.S. in the 1970s. He’s a husband, father, and communications professional who blogs about art and social issues at alanwking.com. A Cave Canem graduate fellow, he holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the Stonecoast Program at the University of Southern Maine. He’s a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee and was also nominated three times for a Best of the Net selection. He lives with his family in Bowie, Maryland.
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Review: Schmuck the Buck: Santa's Jewish Reindeer by Exo Books, Karina Shor (Illustrator)

November 27, 2018
: Schmuck the Buck: Santa's Jewish Reindeer, Exo Books, Karina Shor, InToriLex. Book Review
Published By: Exo Books, LLC on September 1, 2018
Format Read: Paperback Edition (60 pages)
Genre: Humor/ Christmas/ Fantasy
Series: Stand Alone
Source: Author Request
Rating: FOUR STARS
Schmuck the Buck: Santa's Jewish Reindeer
~Amazon~ 
Larry was just your regular caribou, who was cruelly excluded from his crew. He and his kin happened to be the sole Jewish reindeer in the North Pole. Larry was bullied and treated the worst way, until his plan saved one Christmas Day.

A contemporary satirical take on Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Schmuck the Buck introduces Larry, a young Jewish reindeer. He overcomes his awkward and sometimes painful youth to save Christmas. His tale of acceptance and inclusion is sure to warm the hearts of anyone who loves Christmas, Hanukkah, or both. Sixty pages of vibrant illustrations bring his story to life. A unique modern addition to any holiday library.

VERDICT:

Content Warning: Delicious Grass Entrees and Overworked Elves

REVIEW:

Larry is a memorable caribou who celebrates his beliefs while appreciating others. I was pleasantly surprised how relate-able this tale is for adults and children. He try's hard to fit in while in school and as an adult seeks out ways to discover what he has a passion for. Since Larry is Jewish part of the book details his families Hanukkah celebration at home. The artwork was vivid and included wonderful details to enjoy on your second or third read.

I applaud all of the diversity to be found in this amusing tale. It includes differing religious beliefs, elves, caribou, and humans of all races. While most story's tend to leave out references to our modern technology. The author did a great job of tying in multiple elements in a amusing way. This is a wonderful holiday read that can be enjoyed by everyone.
The humor included references that adults will enjoy. I was pleasantly surprised at how Santa joins in on the action. This unique twist on what we know about Christmas time at the North Pole is amusing, inclusive and fun.

Recommended for Readers who
- enjoy funny holiday stories
- appreciate diversity
- enjoy modern takes on Christmas lore

**I received this ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review. **

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Exo Books, InToriLexEXO Books is the pen name and publishing company of a science fiction writer. He is a man from NYC, USA, Earth.
WEBSITE
TWITTER
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