Book Review – A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

For me, the best way to find new books and series that I love is through recommendations from friends; they know enough of what I like, and I know enough of what they like, plus there’s the added fun of having someone already there to talk about it. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas was a friend recommendation and I can’t wait to dive into the next book of the series in anticipation of the third novel’s release in early May. Incredible fantasy world building with plot elements that echo (and occasionally invert) classic fairy tales, myths, and legends and engaging characters and pacing are some of the fastest ways to capture my attention.

Feyre may be the youngest of three sisters but when it comes to providing for her family in their relatively recently acquired destitute state, she is the one who can be counted on to keep them all alive. Having taught herself hunting, she has a deer in her sights when a monstrously large wolf enters the scene—a wolf so large, Feyre believes it might be fairy in nature. Given everything that the fairies have done and continue to do to humans, even with the treaty in place, she decides to use her precious ash arrow to be sure she kills it dead. But a few days later an even larger beast appears at her family’s door demanding repayment for the slain fairy—a life for a life—and Feyre must either go to live in the fairy realm of Prythian for the rest of her days or die before her family’s eyes.

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Book Review – Heartless by Marissa Meyer

heartless - book coverHaving so thoroughly enjoyed Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, her latest novel, Heartless was one of the first I purchased with the gift cards I received back at Christmas. A stand-alone novel rather than the start of a new series, Heartless delves into the life of the young woman who becomes the Queen of Hearts and terrifies Alice on her journey through Wonderland. Once again, Meyer demonstrates her skill at paying homage to the source material while expanding and incorporating additional elements, including characters from nursery rhymes and poems.

Cath is the daughter of the Marquess and Marchioness of Rock Turtle Cove in the kingdom of Hearts but what she wants above everything else is to open a bakery with her best friend, lady’s maid Mary Ann. Though Cath has already caught the king’s attention with her tasty treats, someone else has caught her eye—the new court joker, Jest. As a Jabberwock begins terrorizing the kingdom, Cath learns that there is more to Jest and his presence in Hearts than she’d originally thought and her dreams will clash with both reality and fate. Continue reading

Book Review – The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

raven boys - book coverSince finishing The Lunar Chronicles last year, I’ve been searching for a replacement YA series to become invested in and I think I may have found it in Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle series—or at least, the first book, The Raven Boys has left me still intrigued enough to check out the next book sometime soon. Bringing together mystical and mythological elements I’ve read about in both other novels and studied the histories of over the years, The Raven Boys definitely sets up a larger story than just the one that gets told in its pages.

Blue Sargent has grown up in a house full of psychics—her mother and her mother’s friends—but she shows no ability herself; she only serves as an amplifier or battery of sorts, helping to strengthen those around her. But one thing all the psychics in her life seem to agree on is that she will somehow spell death for her true love—whoever he might be—and must avoid kissing him to protect him… even though she’s just a teenager and has no idea who he might be. But on St. Mark’s Day when she accompanies one of those friends of her mother’s to the Corpse Road and actually sees and hears one of the spirits—a teenage boy named Gansey who attends the local private boys’ school, Aglionby—she might have learned the first bit about him. Blue has her doubts, however, when she actually meets Gansey and his friends, Adam, Ronan, and Noah, and begins assisting them in their search for the historically mythical Glendower and things in their small town of Henrietta begin getting even weirder than any of them could have dreamt.

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Book Review – Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

9781250091840_p0_v2_s192x300Where many young adult series are told in one character’s first person perspective, Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles wasn’t. With each novel additional characters were added to the mix and the perspective shifted regularly between them. This meant that where many young adult authors release complementary/supplementary short stories that offer a different character’s take on scenes the audience is already familiar with, her collection of stories, Stars Above, provided a different kind of depth—backstory. Most of the stories in Stars Above are greater explorations of the circumstances surrounding key moments in the series’ central characters’ lives that took place before the readers met them but that were hinted at or referenced briefly within the main books.

Most of the stories function as prequels to the books of the main series: how Scarlet’s grandmother became involved in hiding and healing Cinder as well as how Scarlet came to live with her grandmother in the first place; Cinder’s first days with her adoptive family in New Beijing; how Cress came to find herself in the satellite orbiting Earth; some of Thorne’s earliest schemes; Wolf’s early days as a soldier in Levana’s army; Winter’s perspective of growing up in her step-mother’s palace; Kai’s first impressions of Cinder. There are two stories that break from that pattern, however. The Little Android, while featuring an appearance by Cinder prior to the events of the first novel of the series, stands on its own as a reimagining of The Little Mermaid (the Hans Christian Anderson original more than the Disney version). Finally, the last story in the collection is a happy epilogue/sequel which finds the series’ four couples gathering on Earth for a long-awaited reunion and wedding. Continue reading

Book Review – Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

wintergirls - book coverSomewhere between Speak and The Impossible Knife of Memory, I missed that Laurie Halse Anderson had published another book—Wintergirls. Luckily I have friends who alerted me to my oversight and now I have corrected it. Always willing to dive into the darker realms of growing up, Anderson addresses the psychology of eating disorders—a subject everyone knows exists but few are willing to discuss or explore in the face of a society that doesn’t wish to change the ways it portrays and commodifies young women’s bodies.

Lia has been through treatment twice before to deal with her anorexia (a term that is not used within the narrative itself) but both times she has managed to escape intact, telling the doctors, nurses, her parents, and psychologists what they want to hear in order to hurry the process along. Though she and her best friend since childhood Cassie had suffered a falling out before their final year of high school, when Cassie turns up dead in a local motel and the other girl’s eating disorder is determined to be the root cause of her death, Lia finds herself haunted by Cassie’s ghost—Cassie had tried calling Lia thirty-three times the night she died. Is it in some way Lia’s fault? Will Cassie’s death turn out to be the wake-up call Lia needs or the final nudge over the edge? Continue reading

Book Review – The Crown by Kiera Cass

the crown - book coverHaving finally gotten my hands on a copy of The Crown by Kiera Cass—the final book in her Selection Series—I’m mostly left wishing that there had been more to the series as a whole. It was a satisfying conclusion as far as the characters and where they end up as their arcs come to a close, but the series could have been so much more than just what was presented. There are hints at the depths it could have explored but it was content to go through the more superficial motions leaving this reader pondering what might have been.

Following her mother’s heart attack in the wake of her brother’s elopement, Eadlyn Schreave, the heir to the throne of Illéa feels the need to step things up when it comes to taking on responsibilities related to running the kingdom so her father doesn’t have to leave her mother’s side—and part of taking on more responsibilities means making some decisions concerning the Selection and narrowing down her choices. Going so far as to get rid of all but six, her Selection has suddenly entered the Elite stage. Still struggling with her public image and her people’s discouraging opinions of her, Marid Illéa—a descendant of a different branch of the royal family dating back to the nation’s origins—steps in to help Eadlyn with her public appeal. But as Eadlyn takes on more formal responsibilities and juggles them with the final stages of the Selection, she discovers she may have taken on more than she realized and her throne is unexpectedly threatened.

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Book Preview – Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor

book cover - into the dimDescribed as a young adult Outlander—and being a fan of that series as well as young adult fiction—Janet B. Taylor’s upcoming Into the Dim immediately caught my eye. The first book in what promises to be an interesting time-exploration series aimed at teens, Into the Dim offers explorations of parent/child relationships, the links between cause and effect, and how much say people have in defining themselves.

It’s been eight months since Hope Walton’s mother was presumably killed in an earthquake overseas. Her mother’s sister—whom she’s never met—invites Hope for a visit to the family’s ancestral home in Scotland and promises Hope she will learn more about herself and the mother she still mourns. Hope’s low expectations are turned on their head when she discovers that the family secrets involve an underground cavern where the ley lines of the earth converge to allow time travel. What’s more, Hope’s mother isn’t dead after all, simply marooned in the past by a rival band of time travelers who make a profit off of stealing artifacts regardless of the impact such interference has on history. Hope and two companions are to be sent back to find and bring her mother home safely but before she leaves, Hope encounters a strangely familiar young man who turns out to have an unexpected connection to her.

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Book Review – The Heir by Kiera Cass

the heir - book coverI wasn’t blown away by The Elite or The One from the Selection Series so I came into The Heir with reservations similar to those I had when starting the series and was pleased to find that in many ways, The Heir has renewed my interest in the series. Now I’ve reached the end of the series’ published books and must wait for the next to be published later this year.

Twenty years after America married Maxon, The Heir is told from the perspective of their oldest child, Eadlyn. The first female heir in the monarchy’s history, she grew up in a very different, caste-less Illéa than the one readers came to know in the first three books. But the dissolution of the castes hasn’t been as smooth as her parents hoped and the Selection has been resurrected to buy them all some time to figure out how to handle the growing unrest in their post-caste country. But with Eadlyn at the center of the Selection and thirty-five young men staying at the palace, it’s a Selection unlike any before. Continue reading

Book Review – Winter by Marissa Meyer

book cover - winter After how much I enjoyed Cress, the third installment in the Lunar Chronicles, I had high hopes going into the series’ final installment, Winter, but was also a little worried because—with the exception of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games—the ending of a young adult series like this is usually a bit of a let down and not just because it’s over. I’ve enjoyed a few in the last several years that have so much promise, build wonderfully, but end the series by falling flat in execution or become overly convoluted in an attempt to wring every last bit of drama out of them that can be had. Winter doesn’t do that; it’s longer than those that came before it but it delivers where and when it counts.

As the novel starts, Cinder—the lost Lunar princess and rightful ruler, Selene—and the friends she has gathered with her on the Rampion are hammering out the details of their plan to start a revolution on Luna and remove her aunt, Queen Levana, from power. With Emperor Kaito’s cooperation, they are able to get themselves onto Luna where they intend to rouse the citizens from the moon-nation’s outer—and severely oppressed—districts to rise up and march on the palace where their numbers should overwhelm the capabilities of those in charge. At the same time, Levana’s stepdaughter, Princess Winter, is still watching out for the abducted Scarlet—but Levana is growing increasingly jealous of the people’s affection for Winter and the threats posed by Cinder are frustrating her in ways she hasn’t felt for years.

There are so many characters and they go in so many different directions that it can be a bit tricky to keep track of everyone but ultimately the changes in perspective and the different ways the characters are paired up for the steps along the way work beautifully and keep the pacing exciting. The Lunar Chronicles as a whole act to emphasize exactly how important and engaging it can be to have switching points of view. None of the characters are presented in first person—a pet peeve of mine when it comes to young adult fiction—and they all have distinct personalities and ways of looking at and coping with the obstacles they encounter making the characters’ collective ability to work together that much more impressive. Meyer’s approach to add the characters and their stories gradually—one in each installment of the series as their role became clearer—was a wonderful way of building those voices and narratives (a way I know I didn’t appreciate much in Scarlet, though it might have been because the adjustment was jarring but also might just be that Scarlet is not my favorite character in the series).

Once again, I’m amazed at how well Meyer was able to weave the details of the fairy tales that inspire these characters into the novels as a whole. There have been a lot of series in the last decade or so that have used novellas or short stories as a way to provide additional insight into supporting or secondary characters—usually because the main book/series is limited by first person narration. I haven’t found those supporting stories too compelling in the past, but the Lunar Chronicles’ novella giving Levana’s history and rise to power in Fairest was worth it. Seeing the progression as she matures and learns not just how best to manipulate those around her but how to justify her actions to herself is a psychological masterpiece that is very valuable going into Winter where the reader sees just how different the responses to similar trauma can be.

Lastly, after being disappointed with the world building of the Selection series last week, the depth of it in the Lunar Chronicles is astounding. More than just the political institutions and their political figures as well as the geography of both a futuristic Earth and colonized, independent moon nation, the extent to which the social issues of this fictional society speak to current conversations is remarkable—the ethics of medical experimentation, the use of biological weapons, what constitutes and defines personhood, issues of class and wealth disparities, the use of propaganda, and more all appear throughout the series. And it is the characters’ opinions on such issues that help give them personality and depth, allowing their individual experiences to inform how they react to situations in ways which readers can easily relate to and apply to everyday life.

Book Review – The One by Kiera Cass

book cover - the oneMy number finally came up for my library’s copy of The One by Kiera Cass and after finishing it I had to laugh at the timing having just finished Sophie Perinot’s Médicis Daughter (though you’d probably have to both to understand why). There were definitely some surprises in this third installment of Cass’ Selection Series—I’ve already put my name in for the The Heir—surprises that were an improvement on some of the disappointments in The Elite but there are still areas I think could have been stronger.

Having made up her mind to fight for Maxon, America must navigate the more treacherous Selections tasks that King Clarkson puts before her. Still doubtful about both whether she wants the responsibilities that would come with being a princess and where she ranks in Maxon’s affections, America also learns more about the larger political situation the palace and her country are embroiled in—the differences between the northern and southern rebels and what their goals are. She must also confront telling Maxon the truth about her history with Aspen. Continue reading

Book Review – The Elite by Kiera Cass

the elite - book coverAfter completing The Selection, the first novel in Kiera Cass’ Selection Series, I had a renewed hope for my dwindling interest in Young Adult dystopic fiction and eagerly put my name on the wait list for The Elite. Having just finished The Elite, those hopes have not exactly disappeared by they have been dampened. Many of the predictable elements I have been expecting in the first novel—and was thrilled to find absent—made their appearances in this second novel instead. I’m still interested enough to continue with the series but my expectations are probably more realistic than before.

At the end of The Selection, the growing danger in the kingdom forces Prince Maxon to skip a few steps in the elimination process and cut most of the remaining girls until only six are left—the six known as the Elite. America Singer is one of the Elite. Though she knows she has feelings for the prince, she isn’t quite sure whether what she feels is stronger than what she felt—and maybe still feels—for Apsen, the boy she’d thought she was going to marry until he dumped her on the eve of the Selection but who is now working as a guard at the palace and wants her back. With fewer girls left, America’s faith in Maxon is tested and she must grapple with what becoming a princess would mean as far as the pressure and expectations—she isn’t sure she can or wants that job that comes hand-in-hand with Maxon.

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Book Review – The Selection by Kiera Cass

selection - book coverI think I mentioned in my review of Cress that I’ve been wary of YA series lately given my disappointment over Allegiant. The Lunar Chronicles have been enjoyable with Cress going a long way to getting me excited for Winter’s publication later this fall, but in the mean time, I’ve been trying to figure out which YA series to try next. I’ve heard so many good things about Kiera Cass’ Selection Series but given the premise, I was hesitant and put off starting the first book for a while (I’m not a fan of reality television in general and the Bachelor/Bachelorette series are probably at the bottom of the list of programs I can even stomach). I was actually shocked that I enjoyed The Selection as much as I did and am looking forward to reading The Elite when my number comes up at the library.

America Singer is a five in the caste system of Illéa – in a system with eight castes, things could be worse. She’s in love with her childhood friend, Aspen, and they must keep their relationship quiet because he’s only a six. When the nation’s Prince Maxon comes of age and the Selection is announced, America is surprised by the fact that Aspen wants her to put her name in as much as her mother wants her to. Though she has no desire to trade her home and family for a chance at becoming a princess, America obliges, only to be selected to represent her province in the Selection – much to her mother’s satisfaction and her own personal misery. But the palace and Maxon aren’t what she was expecting and America begins to wonder just what her future could hold.

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Book Review – Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

9781250007216_p0_v2_s260x420My love for reimagined fairytales is still alive and strong. With the announcement of a November release date for the final book in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, I figured I’d better make some progress on the series. Scarlet, the second book in the series continues the story begun in Cinder but with several new characters and layers to the futuristic world Meyer created.

Scarlet Benoit has been doing her best to keep up with the family farm in the wake of her grandmother’s disappearance. Most people have already dismissed the thought of looking for the older woman, convinced she’s simply run away. When a new patron of one of Scarlet’s regular customers asks for work on the farm, she’s wary but after her deadbeat father shows up ranting about men just like that patron torturing him and holding her grandmother captive, Scarlet goes looking for the mysterious Wolf who agrees to help her find and rescue her grandmother. But relations between the Earthen nations and Luna are tenuous after the incident at Emperor Kai’s ball in the Eastern Commonwealth. Queen Levana is threatening war if the young girl known as Lihn Cinder is not handed over, a demand that will be difficult to meet when Cinder manages to escape from prison and goes on the run.

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Book Preview – Since You’ve Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne

9781459728189_p0_v3_s260x420I was instantly intrigued when I stumbled across the short description of Mary Jennifer Payne’s upcoming Since You’ve Been Gone and read that it was about a teenage girl already coping with the constant uprooting that comes from fleeing an abuser who then must decide what to do when her mother – her main protector – goes missing. The plight of domestic abuse victims and the difficulties of resolving the situation when the system to do so has a nasty habit of protecting the abusers is one that gets mentioned from time to time, but rarely examined or portrayed in great depth. I was looking forward to a novel for young adults that would help young people to learn about the complexities of such abuse and inspire them to fight back, to seek ways to fix the broken system.

Edie and her mother have been running and hiding from her father for years. Edie is surprised when their latest move takes them out of Canada altogether and back to her mother’s native London – and another new school. Her first day is rough as Edie quickly manages to become a target of bullies. Her mother’s excitement over a new job – despite the fact that it means working nights and leaving Edie on her own a lot – helps Edie get through those first days. When Edie is late for school the morning after her mother’s first shift at her new job, she realizes her mother hadn’t been home. She doesn’t begin to panic until later that day when she notices that her mom still hasn’t been to the apartment. Going to the police could mean being placed in the foster system or worse, being sent right into the arms of her father. So Edie decides to find her mother on her own, even if that requires combing the streets of a large and unfamiliar city. Continue reading

Book Review – Cinder by Marissa Meyer

9781250007209_p0_v3_s260x420So after a decent break from YA science fiction/dystopic fiction, I finally took the plunge on a new series by reading Cinder by Marissa Meyer (it took a lot to resist the urge to just reread the Hunger Games especially with the first Mockingjay movie coming out later this week). But I found Cinder to be a promising start to the Lunar Chronicles series and will definitely put the second and third installments on my To Read list. More science fiction than most of the YA series I’ve read in recent years, it appeals to another of my favorite trends: twists on fairy tales.

Cinder is the best mechanic in New Beijing in the Eastern Commonwealth. She’s also a cyborg and, even if cyborgs weren’t looked down upon, her stepmother/guardian would be sure to make her feel that way. Cinder is understandably shocked when the crown prince, Kai, shows up to ask her to fix his personal android. But she doesn’t have long to enjoy the moment because her younger stepsister falls ill with the same plague that threatens the lives of everyone on earth including New Beijing’s dying emperor. Cinder is thrust into the mission to find a cure for the disease as the loathed and lethal Queen Levana from the colonized moon, Luna, holds the Commonwealth and all of Earth on the edge of war, threatening to enslave them as she has her own people, the Lunars.

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Book Review – Where She Went by Gayle Forman

9780142420898_p0_v2_s260x420As soon as I finished Gayle Forman’s If I Stay, I had to go put myself on the library hold list for the sequel, Where She Went because what bothered me most about the first book was where it ended. This wasn’t because of how it ended but because the part of Mia’s story I was most interested in wasn’t included (the book actually ended the only way that would really make sense based on the way the narrative was set up). While Where She Went doesn’t pick up where the last book left off, it does address the part of the story I had wanted but which wasn’t in the first book.

Three years after the accident that claimed the lives of Mia’s parents and brother, Where She Went follows Adam instead of Mia and in the intervening years, Adam and his band have hit the big time in a big way. Despite the success, Adam is not in a good place and knows it. The album he wrote, the one that made the band famous was written after Mia left for Julliard and he never saw her again. Almost three years later with his life a mess of paparazzi, pills, and planes, he finds himself with some free time to kill and an advertisement for Mia’s cello concert in front of him. Continue reading

Book Review – The Maze Runner by James Dashner

9780385385206_p0_v4_s260x420I need to stop going to the movies. Almost every time I see a trailer for a movie based on a book, I add the book to my “To Read” list but never end up going to see the movie. The Maze Runner by James Dashner is another on that list (though I might end up actually seeing the adaptation of this one). Only ever hearing mixed reactions from the few people I knew who’d read it and never getting a good feeling for what it was about, my number finally came up at the library. I understand those reactions better now.

Thomas wakes up in a dark room with no memory of his personal past or anything concrete beyond his name. Then the room begins to rise, the ceiling opens, and he finds himself on a platform in the middle of a large open space populated by teenage boys like himself, less than cordially welcoming him to the Glade. Information about how things are done in the Glade, Thomas learns that the boys are stuck in the middle of an elaborate maze, the walls of which change nightly and in two years, no one has managed to find a way out (at least not one that doesn’t involve dying). Terrifying creature/machines called grievers roam the paths at night while the boys stay safe behind the closed doors in the Glade. From the beginning, Thomas knows that he wants to be a Runner, one of the boys that attempts to map the maze. But several of his fellow Gladers think that there’s something odd about Thomas and when a teenage girl is introduced by the same means the day after Thomas’ arrival, the situation rapidly escalates.

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Book Review – The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

9780425272459_p0_v4_s260x420I was originally aiming for this to be a preview, as Sylvia Izzo Hunter’s The Midnight Queen was first released last Tuesday, Sept. 2, but it took me longer to get through my last book than I’d planned. Another novel with magic as a central feature, I wish I’d skipped ahead to The Midnight Queen earlier. Aimed at a young adult audience, The Midnight Queen doesn’t take itself too seriously. It addresses issues related to sexism and women’s rights, but without being too heavy handed or preachy. This particular approach to magick weaves in many different (though largely European) cultures, languages, and legends. The Midnight Queen was a very welcome change of pace. It’s not the next Harry Potter, but it will appeal to those of us who will never be quite ready to let go of that kind of world.

Graham “Gray” Marshall is a Fellow at Merlin College until something goes horribly wrong one night when he’s on a mysterious errand with some classmates. His tutor, Professor Callendar, brings him home with him for the summer holidays in what seems like a punishment. But while staying with the professor’s family, Gray meets and befriends the Professor’s inquisitive and studious middle daughter, Sophie. Though the Professor doesn’t like the idea of his daughters learning magick, there’s something about it that draws Sophie in, leading her to urge Gray to tutor her in the subject. As his stay progresses, suspicious visitors and surprising happenings begin to uncover a larger plot against the head of the college and beyond, with Gray and Sophie leading the charge to unravel the scheme and prevent it from being realized. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh O’Brien

9781596439382_p0_v1_s260x420Caragh O’Brien’s upcoming novel, The Vault of Dreamers touches on the modern obsession with reality television as well as the importance (and current undervaluation) of art in our lives and especially the lives of children. The Vault of Dreamers begins with a strong and intriguing premise but slowly loses traction as it progresses to its vague and uncertain, albeit action-packed climax, leaving the novel rife with unfulfilled potential.

Rosie is part of the incoming sophomore class at the prestigious and famous Forge School. Each year one hundred students with hopes for specializing in different artistic disciplines from performing arts like acting and music through visual arts like painting, photography, and film making are narrowed down to fifty in front of a nation of viewers. With one day to go before the fifty cuts are made, Rosie’s ranking with the audience is unimpressive and it looks like she’ll be going home. So she skips the mandatory sleeping pill and sneaks out of bed, only to see things that make her wonder whether the school’s staff is up to something during those hours when the viewers aren’t watching. Continue reading

Book Review – Requiem by Lauren Oliver

9780062014542_p0_v1_s260x420So I finally got up the courage to go ahead and read Requiem, finishing the Delirium trilogy. I swallowed down the feeling I was just setting myself up for predictable disappointment. I was surprised to find that, while it wasn’t what I wanted it to be, it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting either. The clichés that ended Pandemonium were handled well in the concluding novel. There were aspects that I found disappointing, but they weren’t what I was expecting to be disappointed by (which in this case, actually does make a difference).

Picking up where Pandemonium left off, Lena is traveling through the Wilds with her first love, Alex, whom she’d given up for dead, and with Julian, who risked his life and joined the resistance because of the love he found with Lena. In the wake of the rebellious activities of Pandemonium, the government is cracking down on both the invalids and the resistance, even venturing into the Wilds to do so.

Lena’s physical and emotional struggles are interspersed with those of her former best friend, Hana, who remained in Portland, receiving the cure and now planning her wedding. The prominent position of her fiancé in Portland society means that Hana has a better idea of just what is being done to fix the security and compliance problems facing those in power. Little do the former friends know, they’re paths are bringing them closer to each other once more. Continue reading

Book Review – If I Stay by Gayle Forman

9780142415436_p0_v6_s260x420As the summer blockbusters roll out, the number of previews for upcoming movies seems to grow exponentially. While the preview for If I Stay didn’t make me want to see the film, it did make me curious about the book that served as the source material. Shorter than I expected, Gayle Forman’s If I Stay looks at our reactions to life’s unexpected tragedies and considers what we’re aware of and agency in altered states of consciousness, specifically her heroine’s comatose state.

Mia is a high school senior with a promising career as a cellist on the horizon as well as a less than traditional but very loving and supportive family, friends, and boyfriend. But when the weather clears on a snow day, the family decides to drive to visit friends and their car collides with an oncoming truck. Left in critical condition, Mia must decide whether or not to stay and fight for her shattered life.

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Book Review – Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

9781595141880_p0_v1_s260x420Thirteen Reasons Why was recommended to me by a friend who was surprised, given my extensive reading in the YA genre, that I hadn’t heard of it. Jay Asher’s uniquely formatted novel about the reasons behind a teen suicide turns into a lesson about the interconnectedness and interdependence of human beings. The novel demonstrates that knowing the signs of someone at risk and recognizing them for what they are, are two different things; it shows that everyone is responsible to everyone else in small ways that can have large repercussions.

After school one day, Clay Jensen receives a shoebox of cassette tapes. Curious about the numbered tapes, Clay starts listening to the first tape and hears a voice he never thought he’d hear again: Hannah Baker. Weeks before, Hannah, the girl he’d had a longstanding crush on, had killed herself. And now she’s going to explain to why. Passed along from one person to the next in Hannah’s list, the tapes allow Hannah to take her listeners back to the moments where their lives collided with hers and how their actions contributed to her snowballing depression and feelings of isolation. And Clay must listen in agony to figure out where and how he fits into things. Continue reading

Book Review – Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

9780062280671_p0_v3_s260x420While I was on a Wizard of Oz kick the last few weeks, I noticed a number of emails in my inbox that were promoting the first book of a YA trilogy entitled Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige. I took it as a sign and went ahead, making sure to read the novella prelude, No Place Like Oz first.

In No Place Like Oz, Dorothy realizes that the Kansas she wanted so bad to return to doesn’t hold a candle to Oz. She gets a mysterious pair of red shoes that grant her wish and return her to Oz (with a few unexpected tag-alongs). But things in Oz aren’t quite the way she left them and it begins to bother Dorothy to the point where she decides to do something about it, simply because she wants to and can.

Dorothy Must Die is the tale of Amy Gumm. Another girl from Kansas who gets swept away by a tornado and lands in Oz, that’s where her similarities to Dorothy end. The Oz she lands in can look more like dreary Kansas than Kansas sometimes. It doesn’t take long for Amy to learn that Dorothy has become a fearsome, greedy, magic-hungry dictator and that she and her regime are slowly destroying Oz. Circumstances put Amy at the forefront of a war in which her mission is to kill Dorothy and save Oz. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

9781596439092_p0_v2_s260x420I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to preview The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu. A brutally honest portrayal of the power of rumor in high school, The Truth About Alice transcends the Teen/YA genre label it receives. Anyone who has ever walked the halls of high school considering the hierarchies and his or her place in them will relate to this brief but effective novel about Alice Franklin and her fall from grace.

When Brandon, the star quarterback of the high school football team and one of two guys Alice supposedly slept with at the same end-of-summer party, dies in a car accident just weeks into the school year, everyone blames Alice. While the rumor of her sexual exploits changed the way people looked at Alice, the accusations related to the accident turn her into a pariah.

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Book Preview – We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt

9780385742573_p0_v1_s260x420We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt was not a book I specifically sought to preview but I’m glad that the opportunity to do so presented itself. The novel focuses on two sisters whose close relationship is put to the test as younger sister, Nell, joins older sister, Layla, in high school. It shows Nell’s struggle to come to terms with her identity within the sister relationship as well as what to do when faced with a conflict that pits Layla’s desires and sisterly-loyalty against what is best for Layla.

The novel is structured with Nell narrating to Layla. Beginning with their first day of high school, it at first seems that the distance Nell laments is simply one that can naturally occur as siblings outgrow one another and develop interests independent of each other, that it’s simply a symptom of being teenagers. But as the novel progresses, Nell’s reasons for concern become more and more concrete, leaving her torn between actions that might be “the right thing” and her desire not to betray Layla’s trust. Continue reading