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 – Cress by Marissa Meyer

9781250007223_p0_v4_s192x300While I enjoy young adult series for the most part, in the wake of The Hunger Games I’ve had a hard time finding one that felt as carefully plotted and well-executed. I thought the Divergent trilogy would fit the bill but the final installment was such a tremendous disappointment in execution that I’ve been a bit disheartened. I thought Cinder, the first installment of the Lunar Chronicles, was promising but Scarlet (the second book) left me wary. Having finally gotten up the courage to read Cress (Book 3), I’m completely excited to pre-order my copy of Winter (Book 4 due out this November).

Scarlet saw Cinder break out of prison along with fellow-inmate Carswell Thorne before eventually meeting up with Scarlet Benoit and the genetically enhanced ex-Lunar operative, Wolf. With all of them aboard Thorne’s ship, the Earthen Union stands on the brink of war with Queen Levana so Emperor Kai agrees to marry her. Cress picks up right where Scarlet left off with the formal introduction of Cress, the hacker Cinder spoke with briefly in the first book. Adding Rapunzel to the litany of fairy tales The Lunar Chronicles tackles, Cress has been kept imprisoned in a satellite orbiting Earth for the last seven years. Her only visitor is one of Queen Levana’s closest henchwomen, Thaumaturge Mira, who has had Cress hacking, programming, and infiltrating every Earthen system to glean information while protecting Lunar interests; along the way, Cress has developed a sympathy for Earth and in fact has been covertly aiding Cinder in her escape. When Cinder reaches out to Cress once more, Cress immediately agrees to help if Cinder and her crew will free her from her satellite. The rescue plan – and the larger plans for preventing Levana from taking over Earth – hit a snag when Thaumaturge Mira arrives at Cress’ satellite minutes before Cinder. Continue reading

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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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

Book Review – The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

9780670012091_p0_v1_s260x420The Impossible Knife of Memory is the first novel by Laurie Halse Anderson that I’ve read since Speak back when I was in middle school. I remember flying through that one and how impressed I was with the way she handled the difficult subject matter of Speak. Anderson shows, once again, that when she tackles difficult subject matter in a young adult novel, she doesn’t dumb it down or sugar coat it.

Hayley and her father have recently returned to the home where he grew up to settle down after years of living on the road in a big rig. The change means that Hayley must adjust to the regulated life of public schooling. A senior in high school, at first it seems like Hayley has little respect for the rules and enjoys causing trouble. And while some of that is true, the reasons behind how and why she acts that way at school lie deep in the past that she suppresses in herself each day as she does what she can to keep the past at bay for her father at home. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

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I’ve been lucky to start working my way from simply reviewing books that have already hit bookstore shelves into the realm of previewing books. The first of these is from an author I enjoyed years ago: Ann Brashares. I found her Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series to be sentimental but in the best way, examining the importance of friendship and having people to support you through your teen years, whoever they may be. Having the opportunity to preview her upcoming The Here and Now was doubly exciting because it delves into the realm of science fiction (which I’ve come to really enjoy in recent years). Tackling the wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey issues that go hand in hand with time travel, The Here and Now is a huge departure from the Sisterhood books and while I’m all for writers branching out and trying new things, there are some elements from the Sisterhood books that could have helped The Here and Now fulfill its potential.

Seventeen-year-old Prenna James lives with some pretty strict rules but they’re not the same rules that most teenagers have to deal with. As a time immigrant from an apocalyptic future, the rules of Prenna’s community are designed to protect the unsuspecting people around her. Or at least, that’s what she’s been told in the years since arriving four years earlier in 2010. Limiting interaction with anyone not a fellow time traveler proves difficult for Prenna for several reasons, not the least of which is persistent classmate, Ethan. Aside from the fact that Prenna is attracted to him, he refuses to be deterred when she does try to brush him off. She can’t help but feel he understands more about her than he should and when an apparently crazy, homeless man confronts Prenna and challenges her belief in the rules and the system, the reasons for breaking them multiply.

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Book Review – Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

9780061978074_p0_v1_s260x420After a brief break from young adult fiction in the wake of finishing the Divergent trilogy and taking another stab at the Lorien Legacies, I decided to return to the genre with the second installment of the Delirium trilogy by Lauren Oliver, Pandemonium. While Delirium spent a lot of its time setting up a world in which love has nearly been eradicated using a mandatory medical procedure at age eighteen, Pandemonium delves into the lives and tactics of those who have escaped and/or resisted that government. Presumably, the last installment will center around the confrontation between the two but I will have to wait a little longer before I get to Requiem.

In the trilogy’s second installment, the reader flashes back and forth with Lena from the days immediately following her escape from Portland to her work as an active part of the resistance in Manhattan. Initially found by a young woman, not much older than herself, who goes by Raven, Lena is taken into a small community of survivors in the Wilds. After spending some time recovering and learning more about what happened outside of the protected communities, Lena agrees to join several of her new friends in the resistance movement.

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Book Review – Delirium by Lauren Oliver

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I’m a little late to come to Lauren Oliver’s Delirium series but that’s mostly because of my own overstuffed “To Read” bookcase. It was actually recommended to me by my aunt at Easter shortly after its initial release. She was right; I enjoyed it. While it is like a lot of other dystopic Young Adult fiction released in the last five to ten years, it managed to stand out and I enjoyed that Lauren Oliver took so many risks. I only hope that I don’t continue on with the series and discover that she’s back-tracked on some of those decisions.

Lena is approaching her eighteenth birthday and the brain surgery that will accompany it and she can hardly wait. Eager to be safe against the disease that led to her mother’s suicide and the taint it left on her childhood, Lena counts down the days to her procedure. The Cure will destroy her ability to feel love and any of the pain that may come with it. The Cure also tends to destroy any will to resist or analyze the government structures of everyday life, structures that she only begins to question when she meets Alex. That’s when she realizes that there are other sides of love that The Cure will also rip from her.

As much as Delirium is about Lena’s romance with Alex and her awakening to the realities of the life she’s been trained to want, the relationship that I actually found most compelling in the novel was the friendship between Lena and her best friend, Hana. The looming changes of graduation, The Cure, and what that will do to their friendship affect their dynamic and how they relate to one another. Though there are added dimensions to their transforming friendship due to the nature of the novel, the ages of the characters and the more relatable aspects of their situation are testify to the novel’s appeal. Heading off to college, separating from everything and everyone that’s familiar can be traumatizing, and not always in a noticeable or outwardly violent way. People change and lose touch, drifting apart naturally and many times, without realizing it. In the case of the novel, there’s a medical procedure that will be at the heart of their detachment.

As far as the novel’s plot goes, it is very straightforward and progresses in an understated way. I was surprised that there wasn’t more action given the early-established premises of the novel. There’s a lot of running, but it’s most just exercise and a way for Lena to meditate and analyze for the reader’s benefit. I was initially struck by all of the echoes of dystopic fiction I’ve read in the past, particularly The Giver by Lois Lowry and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

As I said earlier, there were elements that surprised me, most prominently the closing scenes of the novel (which I refuse to give away as I oppose spoilers of this nature). It was a fitting end for a stand-alone book but where there are now two more in the series, I hope that Lauren Oliver didn’t feel the need to undo what had been done. In Delirium she showed that she is capable of avoiding that unnecessary, unrealistic, but all-too-frequent retreat from an unpopular decision.

Book Review – The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer

Stephenie Meyer’s new release, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner is not the Twilight related release fans wanted. But it’s the first new taste of the Forks gang since Meyer’s indefinitely postponed working on Midnight Sun, a rewrite of Twilight from Edward Cullen’s perspective.

There were a lot of expectations and hopes riding on Meyer’s novella centering around a minor character from Eclipse, the third novel Meyer wrote about Bella Swan and her supernatural companions. Fans of the series will be satisfied with this little fix but overall, the novella isn’t what it could have been.

Following Bree Tanner, a newborn vampire caught up in the plans against Bella, anyone who has already read Eclipse knows exactly how the novella ends. The novella only makes that inevitable end more painful when Bree’s sad story of perpetual victim-hood is filled in. She’s a smart young vampire, exploring her new capabilities, realizing there’s something wrong with what she’s been told by those who created her but it isn’t going to be enough to change her fate.

The novella is shorter than Meyer’s other works and can easily be read through in one extended sitting. It is still lengthy for a novella at 178 pages, but contains no breaks for the reader. There are no chapter breaks, not even a skipped line between scenes. It is straight narration and can becoming tiring. It doesn’t leave the reader time to digest the information (though this isn’t fully necessary since much of the information is hardly new to veterans of the series).

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner seemed to be more of a way for Meyer to explain the connections between her vampires and the traditional lore that she seemed to largely ignore in the first four novels (and for which she has often been ridiculed by fans of established vampire mythology). Those critics will not be satisfied with the explanations provided in Bree Tanner.

As someone who was dissatisfied with the way Meyer handled the end of Breaking Dawn (the whole novel, really, but the end especially), Bree’s story came across as an attempt at reconciliation. As though, because she couldn’t bring herself to kill off any of her characters during the showdown with the Volturi (except Irina who, let’s face it, no one cared about because she was never really presented to the reader as dimensionally as the others), she went back to a different character she had already killed off and made them more multidimensional to make up for the fight that fizzled in Breaking Dawn. Unfortunately, it is too late.

Though there is no hope for Bree, there are almost as many loose ends created as are wrapped up in the novella, leaving room for Meyer to take readers on another visit to, if not the Cullen clan, at least their vampire world.

For fans who haven’t yet picked up their own copy, you don’t have to wait for a chance to grab it in stores. Through July 5th, Meyer has a free readable copy posted online (you can find it via links on her website), though this doesn’t allow downloads to various eReaders or printing the book pages. Not posted full size, the text can be difficult to make out for some readers, and anyone who suffers headaches from extensive computer screen reading might want to find a hard copy. A portion of the sales from the physical copies sold is being donated to the American Red Cross.