If your only reason for picking up The Detainee by Peter Liney is the publishing buzz about it being a Hunger Games for adults, don’t; however, if you want to read a novel with a dystopian look at ageism, an examination of an extreme example of a police state, and a dose of The Lord of the Flies blended into a unique vision of the future, this may be exactly what you’ve been looking for. Liney’s characters and world manage to get under the reader’s skin even when the exact details are a little off-putting.

One hundred and sixty-three years ago, a starship called Defiant tried to leave Earth’s orbit as a police vehicle desperately pursued it.  The police vessel was taken on board the larger ship as Defiant fell through a wormhole or other space anomaly and launched across space to a strange planet where life had developed despite the lack of a large light giving star.  Three members of Defiant’s marginally volunteer crew opted to leave this new place and return to Earth for rescue aid; however, Angela and Tommy chose to stay behind on this new planet and try to make a life while they wait for help.  The new home is dubbed Eden, and from this one couple, an inbred and primitive society is born. The Family is content to stay near the Circle of Stones created by their Mother, Angela, and wait for Earth until a young man named John Redlantern dares to believe that there could be life beyond the frozen wastes north of their settlement and becomes a catalyst for change in a stagnant world order.

How much would you be willing to risk for freedom? Seventeen-year-old Yulia has been on the run with her mother and younger brother ever since her father disappeared five years ago, destroying their comfortable life as high-ranking Party scientists; however, the KGB doesn’t want Yulia because of her parents’ previous positions. They want her ability to read memories from inanimate objects. When she is captured and taken to the hidden KGB school for young psychics, Yulia is faced with a harsh choice: should she fight to live her life as freely even at the expense of her mother and brother or accept the life the Party dictates for people with her special abilities? Set in Soviet Moscow in 1963 and 1964, author Lindsay Smith explores the nature of true choice on a backdrop of the Cold War and Space Race.

In a world where Demons previously roamed, a new species arose from the sexual assault of human women by the demon hoards. These demon-human hybrids combine the strength, ruthlessness, and rage of their Demon fathers with the soul and heart of their human mothers, but they can easily sink into the cruel nature of their Demon sides. They are known as Reapers, and those with only one-quarter demon blood have chosen to use their superior strength to defend humanity against all forces. Aella is the youngest Reaper and the result of the latest Teller Witch’s rape by the Demon Ganesh. With her Demon and magic user blood, she is predicted to be the last of the Reapers, the final hope for human kind, the powerful Red Reaper; however, Aella bears deep emotional scars from childhood abuse at the hands of her Demon father and his minions, and the Reapers do not fully trust her. When she flees their stronghold of Raggenborg in search of a mysterious boy from her past, Aella never suspects she may find what she craves most of all: a human who loves and accepts her even after seeing her dark side.

Labyrinth of Stars is the fifth installment in Marjorie M. Liu’s urban fantasy series, Hunter Kiss. Maxine and Grant are expecting their daughter, the child who should inherit Maxine’s mantle as hunter, but Grant is also losing his strength after becoming a demon lord to four clans. The pair must balance their relationship, caring for flesh-eating non-humans on modern Earth, and Maxine’s natural drive to eradicate demons to keep their fragile world intact; however, powerful forces fear the birth of Maxine and Grant’s gifted daughter and seek to fulfill the prophecy of Maxine being the last Hunter Kiss by killing the child in the womb. How far will this mother go to protect her child, and will a mysterious plague that threatens all life on Earth tip the scales?

I’m a longtime fan of Smart Pop Books and their brilliant and highly enjoyable series of essay anthologies focusing on popular culture subjects like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Hunger Games, Dexter, and many, many more. With their latest release, Fic: Why Fanfiction Is Taking Over the World, by literature professor Anne Jamison, Smart Pop has another absolute winner and continues to be the go-to publisher for the introspective geek.

H.G. Wells’ tale of the demented genius, Dr. Moreau, has inspired many creators to expand on the story of the man who yearned to create new forms of life. Megan Shepherd’s debut novel, The Madman’s Daughter, pushes further by not simply analyzing Moreau’s psyche but translating it through the eyes of a descendent. Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau can barely remember her father; he fled London six years earlier upon charges of illegal vivisection, destroying her mother and, ultimately, leading to Juliet’s sinking into abject poverty. The young woman fears that her father’s purported madness runs through her veins, so when she finds evidence he may still be alive, she grasps at the flimsy straws. Her father isn’t the only person from Juliet’s past that is still alive, though, and her journey to find her father on a mysterious, hidden island reveals things about all of them no one wanted to explore.

Everyone has a past, but twenty-six-year-old Rachel Thomas is sure that if she stops running, hers will catch up and destroy all of her dreams and her chance at freedom. For three years she has bounced from town to town, refusing to make personal ties or allow anyone beyond her friend, Danielle, close, because putting down roots is just not in the cards. Then, bookstore owner Mark Jacobson breaks through Rachel’s carefully constructed walls and shows her how pure and sweet love can be; however, the young woman’s past is hot on her heels and will destroy them both: one for daring to run away; the other for daring to love a prized “possession.”

Swords of Good Men by Snorri Kristjansson is the first book in a series (The Valhalla Saga) that seems crafted specifically for fans of History Channel’s Vikings who want something more, set in the fascinating world of Nordic warriors and their fierce pantheon of gods. Set in 996AD, Swords introduces readers to the conflict between the Christian King Olav and the pagan believers that inhabited most of Norway during the time period. The conflict appears to be loosely based on the real attempts of King Olaf I of Norway, who used violence and coercion to force his religion on his subjects and to spread Christianity throughout Scandinavia. I suspect that the full Valhalla Saga will cover his entire four-year quest to convert the region.

Renee Winters has always been a normal girl, except for her odd ability to find dead things wherever she goes.  She hangs out with her friends, has started dating the most popular guy at her California high school, and is excited to finally turn sixteen and get to drive; however, on her sixteenth birthday she finds her parents’ dead bodies in the redwood forest near her hometown, surrounded by coins and with gauze stuffed into their mouths.  The police claim the cause of death is simultaneous heart attacks, but Renee believes that something unexplained occurred.  Before she gets a chance to investigate, her estranged grandfather whisks her away to the gothic, mysterious Gottfried Academy in Attica Falls, Maine, where a similar death took place on campus the previous year.  Renee is sure there’s a link between her parents’ and the former Gottfried student’s deaths, but the Academy thrives on buried secrets and punishes those who try to uncover them. Eerily beautiful fellow student Dante Berlin also distracts the sixteen year old who finds herself drawn to him in a way she can’t explain.  The answers to all of Renee’s questions are hidden in the past, and they could change everything she thought she knew about herself and her family.

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