A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses Book Cover A Court of Thorns and Roses
A Court of Thorns and Rose
Sarah J. Maas
Young Adult, Fantasy
Bloomsbury Children's
May 5, 2015
416
Goodreads

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas was everything I hoped it would be. Coming from the author of the Throne of Glass series, my expectations were very high and I was not disappointed. Anyone who is a fan of Maas, which really should be everyone, or is looking for a love story in a magical setting, should pick-up A Court of Thorns and Roses.

Never Fall Down By Patricia McCormick

Never Fall Down Book Cover Never Fall Down
Patricia McCormick
Historical Fiction
Balzer + Bray
May 8, 2012
Hardcover
216
Library

When soldiers arrive at his hometown in Cambodia, Arn is just a kid, dancing to rock 'n' roll, hustling for spare change, and selling ice cream with his brother. But after the soldiers march the entire population into the countryside, his life is changed forever. Arn is separated from his family and assigned to a labor camp: working in the rice paddies under a blazing sun, he sees the other children, weak from hunger, malaria, or sheer exhaustion, dying before his eyes. He sees prisoners marched to a nearby mango grove, never to return. And he learns to be invisible to the sadistic Khmer Rouge, who can give or take away life on a whim.

One day, the soldiers ask if any of the kids can play an instrument. Arn's never played a note in his life, but he volunteers. In order to survive, he must quickly master the strange revolutionary songs the soldiers demand—and steal food to keep the other kids alive. This decision will save his life, but it will pull him into the very center of what we know today as the Killing Fields. And just as the country is about to be liberated from the Khmer Rouge, Arn is handed a gun and forced to become a soldier. He lives by the simple credo: Over and over I tell myself one thing: never fall down.

Based on the true story of Arn Chorn-Pond, this is an achingly raw and powerful novel about a child of war who becomes a man of peace, from National Book Award finalist Patricia McCormick.

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick is a powerful and moving work that tells the story of Arn Chorn-Pond as he changes from a normal kid in Cambodia to one who gets caught up in the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rougue. The choice that Patricia McCormick made to use Arn’s voice is an excellent. It really allows you to feel that you know Arn because you can hear his story in his own words. 

The books is not dramatized and can be shocking at how matter of fact murder, torture, and starvation can become. We are on the journey with Arn as he is forced to change to survive. The pace of the book, pulls you along as Arn is forced to make decisions that are frightening and heartbreaking. As he tries to save those around him and keep moving forward. The emotion and despair he feels having to do terrible things to survive, is just unimaginable.

Never Fall Down is the story of the human spirit. How it can persevere and survive the most horrific circumstances. That there can be hope for all of us to make changes. If Arn is able to survive and see the humanity around him, there is truly hope for all of us.

Summary and cover image from goodreads. 

Uninvited By Sophie Jordan A Review

Uninvited Book Cover Uninvited
Uninvited #1
Sophie Jordan
Dystopian, Young Adult
Harper Teen
January 28, 2014
eGalley
384
HarperTeen

When Davy Hamilton's tests come back positive for Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTS)-aka the kill gene-she loses everything. Her boyfriend ditches her, her parents are scared of her, and she can forget about her bright future at Juilliard. Davy doesn't feel any different, but genes don't lie. One day she will kill someone.
Only Sean, a fellow HTS carrier, can relate to her new life. Davy wants to trust him; maybe he's not as dangerous as he seems. Or maybe Davy is just as deadly.

Only Sean, a fellow HTS carrier, can relate to her new life. Davy wants to trust him; maybe he's not as dangerous as he seems. Or maybe Davy is just as deadly.

Uninvited by Sophie Jordan reminded me of The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. Although the work by Bracken is much darker and grittier. In both, people are identified as having a dangerous mutation and eventually isolated from society. In Uninvited, they are identified by a genetic marker that identifies them as dangerous and prone to violence.

Davy Hamilton is ripped from her charmed life and sent to a new school where she is segregated from the rest of the students and literally left to learn in a cage. Eventually her friends and boyfriend turn on her and she has to accept her new normal. A normal that excludes any chance of a real future. 

Uninvited by Sophie Jordan has a slow start. We spend a lot of time learning about how awesome Davy is and how great her life was. The second half of the book, where they actually start rounding up the carriers and placing them in camps, is by much more interesting than the first half.

Davy, because of her musical ability and economic status, is placed in a special training camp. There is a small group that is being trained for some kind of government service (teen spies? military?) This is where Uninvited starts to get good.

We also finally get to the inevitable love entanglement between Davy and the uber bad boy with the heart of gold, Sean. The romance was obvious from the moment he was introduced but is done pretty well.This half of the book shows a few government documents on the origins of the group that runs the camps. I wish Sophie Jordan had fleshed that information out more but I assume we will get it in book two.

Overall, Uninvited by Sophie Jordan is an enjoyable, if at times predictable, story that takes place in a world I would be interested in learning more about. It ended in a definite cliffhanger and my assumption is we will see much more of this world in book two.

Wonder By R.J. Palacio A Review

Wonder Book Cover Wonder
R.J. Palacio
Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction
Alfred A. Knopf
February 14, 2012
Hardcover
315 Pages
Library

I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

Wonder by R.J. Palacio is such a great book, that it makes me wish that I had a young child to read it to. Wonder begins with the idea that August Pullman is ready to start school. Previously home-schooled because of severe facial deformity and a host of health problems, his mother wants him to start school. Of course the family is not in total agreement about whether he is ready, and August is also unsure, but eventually they decide to do it.

Throughout his first year at school, we learn about August. How he has struggled with people staring at him. How he wants to be treated like everyone else. We learn what his family has gone through to try to give him a normal childhood. Wonder is not a sad story, in which R.J. Palacio wants the reader to feel bad for August. It is ultimately hopeful and full of great lessons.The chapters written from August’s perspective show a kid who has flaws and doesn’t always do the right thing. A kid who is so much more than his disability.

The school year continues to unfold as we have shifting points of view from different people in August’s life. We learn from all of these people how hard friendship and family can be. Most people in August’s life are very likeable and they all felt so real. His sister, for example, feels resentful. There are times when she does not receive the attention she should because her parents are consumed with August. She acts out as teenagers are likely to do. When we get to her perspective, we learn how much more there is to the story. Getting to read about those feelings from multiple points of view is fascinating and really adds so much to the story.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio is both funny and sweet, I promise the end will have you blubbering. I highly recommend it as a read along with a pre-teen, there are lots of great lessons about courage, standing up for yourself, and forgiveness. Wonder by R.J. Palacio is a great book and deserving the mountains of praise it receives.

Summary and cover image from goodreads.

Recent Reads: Gathering Blue By Lois Lowry

Gathering Blue Book Cover Gathering Blue
The Giver Quartet #2
Lois Lowry
Dystopian
HMH Books For Young Readers
January 1, 2000
Hardcover
241
Library

Six years after The Giver, Lois Lowry ushered readers back into that mysterious but plausible futuristic world to tell the story of Kira, orphaned, physically flawed, and left with uncertain prospects. Like The Giver, Gathering Blue challenges readers to imagine what our world could become and how people could evolve.

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry is a haunting, well-written book that deserves all the praise it receives. It is a companion to The Giver, I assume in the same universe but it is difficult to tell if it is the same time. Gathering Blue follows Kira, after her mother dies, as she finds her place in society.

Kira has a great skill with thread which saves her and gives her a new opportunity to elevate her position. She is housed with other artists and they spend their days working on their craft. The simple and clean prose moves the story along perfectly as we began to see that everything is not as it seems.

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry is extremely well-written and touches on values such as friendship, self-reliance, and bravery. It is difficult to put down and left this reader feeling introspective. I highly recommend Gathering Blue Lois Lowry to anyone who enjoys Dystopian and those who enjoy a story with a gradual build.

Cover image and summary from goodreads.

Starters By Lissa Price A Review

Starters Book Cover Starters
Starters #1
Lissa Price
Dystopian, Science Fiction
Delacorte Books For Young Readers
March 13, 2012
Hardcover
352
Library

HER WORLD IS CHANGED FOREVER
Callie lost her parents when the Spore Wars wiped out everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty. She and her little brother, Tyler, go on the run, living as squatters with their friend Michael and fighting off renegades who would kill them for a cookie. Callie's only hope is Prime Destinations, a disturbing place in Beverly Hills run by a mysterious figure known as the Old Man.
He hires teens to rent their bodies to Enders—seniors who want to be young again. Callie, desperate for the money that will keep her, Tyler, and Michael alive, agrees to be a donor. But the neurochip they place in Callie's head malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, and going out with a senator's grandson. It feels almost like a fairy tale, until Callie discovers that her renter intends to do more than party—and that Prime Destinations' plans are more evil than Callie could ever have imagined. . . .

Starters by Lissa Price is a fast-paced Science Fiction dystopian that takes place in a world where everyone is either young or old. The Starters, like the main character Callie, are often forced to live a life of squatting and scrounging for scraps, while being on the run. The Enders are wealthy, or at least quite comfortable, and live comfortable and often extended lives.

To earn money to help her little brother, Callie signs up to be a body rental for an Ender. She ends up being caught-up up in a complex plot involving missing teens and a politician. When people are literally not who they seem, it is difficult to know who to trust but Callie wants to do the right thing. There is a lot of action, car chases, shooting, and running from the bad guys. There is a little bit of romance, but that takes a back seat when the seriousness of the situation really starts to hit home.

Starters by Lissa Price has great pacing and a story complex enough to keep the reader guessing. It definitely left me wanting more and wanting to dive right into book two (Enders, which comes out on January 7, 2014). If you like your dystopian with Science Fiction that includes interesting technology, you will love Starters by Lissa Price.  

 Cover image and summery from goodreads.

The Farm By Emily McKay A Review

The Farm Book Cover The Farm
The Farm #1
Emily McKay
Dystopian, Paranormal
Berkely Trade
December 4, 2012
Paperback
420
Library

Life was different in the Before: before vampires began devouring humans in a swarm across America; before the surviving young people were rounded up and quarantined. These days, we know what those quarantines are—holding pens where human blood is turned into more food for the undead monsters, known as Ticks. Surrounded by electrical fences, most kids try to survive the Farms by turning on each other…

And when trust is a thing of the past, escape is nearly impossible.

Lily and her twin sister Mel have a plan. Though Mel can barely communicate, her autism helps her notice things no one else notices—like the portion of electrical fence that gets turned off every night. Getting across won’t be easy, but as Lily gathers what they need to escape, a familiar face appears out of nowhere, offering to help…

Carter was a schoolmate of Lily’s in the Before. Managing to evade capture until now, he has valuable knowledge of the outside world. But like everyone on the Farm, Carter has his own agenda, and he knows that behind the Ticks is an even more dangerous threat to the human race...

The Farm by Emily McKay is one of those books that I missed when it first came out. Luckily, my local library is excellent and I found it on the New Book shelf. I am very glad I decided to pick it up.

The Farm uses alternative points-of-view of Lily and Mel, twin sisters who are being held on a work camp of sorts, after an illness that turns people into monsters is released. The monsters, called Ticks because of their propensity for blood, are particularly attracted to the young and thus they are being held for their own safety. Lily and Mel are getting close to their 18th birthday and Lily is certain they have to leave before then.

Mel is autistic and Lily feels responsible for her. I truly enjoyed the chapters written from Mel’s point-of-view because diversity is always good and she tended to think in riddles. Very interesting to see inside the head of a character who thinks in such a different way than most.

Carter showing up changes everything. He helps both girls escape and they are eventually pulled in to a greater plot of what is really going on in this world. We are also treated to a little mystery about who to trust and what people are willing to do to survive.

I love how action packed The Farm is. There are a lot of fight scenes and a touch of gore. The Farm is a great twist on the dystopian genre, mixing in some horror with a bit of a love story. It is definitely a book that you can read in a sitting.

The Farm by Emily McKay is an action-packed, creepy dystopian book that has great pacing. I could not put it down and am so glad that there is a sequel. I highly recommend The Farm by Emily McKay.

Cover image and summary from goodreads.

Splintered By A.G. Howard: Review

Splintered Book Cover Splintered
Splintered
A.G. Howard
Paranormal, Young Adult
Amulet Books
January 1, 2013
Hardcover
371
Library

This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

Splintered by A.G. Howard is an interesting take on the Alice In Wonderland story. It is a little dark and sexy while still capturing the wonder and strangeness of Wonderland. Overall, I found Splintered to be OK. The main character, Alyssa, is a bit annoying. She has had a tendency towards rash, sometimes silly, decisions.The romantic tension would have been solved if the characters just asked the most obvious questions. (This is something that kills me in books, TV, and movies, creating tension with situations that any sane person could solve in two seconds by speaking. So frustrating.) There are some scenes where the romantic plot, there is a kind of love triangle, is done well.      

The world created by A.G. Howard was the best part of Splintered. I enjoyed the adventure through this Wonderland and reading about her take on characters we have seen in the original story and the countless iterations. Very creative and interesting, it really saved this book for me.

Overall, Splintered by A.G. Howard is a solid debut but it just was not for me. I enjoyed the book, but did not feel a connection with the main character. Those who enjoy Paranormal Romance would be more likely to enjoy it. This is the case where the book is fine but just not for me.

Never Fade By Alexandra Bracken A Review

Never Fade Book Cover Never Fade
The Darkest Minds
Alexandra Bracken
Young Adult, Science Fiction
Disney-Hyperion
October 15, 2013
eARC
512
NetGalley

Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader”, but she knows what she really is: a monster.

When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her.

As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam—and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart—she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?

Review

I loved The Darkest Minds and when I was approved to read an early copy of Never Fade, I was ecstatic. The Darkest Minds ends in such a  heartbreaking way, where Ruby chooses to give herself up to save Liam. She actually erases every trace of her from Liam’s mind, so he has a chance to be free. Obviously after an ending like that, I couldn’t get my hands on Never Fade fast enough.

Never Fade jumps right back in where The Darkest Minds left off. Ruby is working with the Children’s League and learning how to control her power. Even with this new control, she is uncomfortable using her powers. Ruby continues to struggle, as she did in The Darkest Minds, as to what her power says about her as a person. Does it make you a monster to use your power for the good of others? Is there a way to use it that is less damaging? At this point, Ruby knows that she has to continue working with the league in order to make a difference in the world around her. Of course, things aren’t always as they seem and there is a rift in the league. There are two dueling factions and one wants to murder the kids working in the organization.

Never Fade is darker than The Darkest Minds and we are given more of the overarching story of where the virus that infected the kids came from. We also learn of new people pulling the strings and about the politics of this world. I am so glad Alexandra Bracken decided to get more in depth with the governmental fracture and history behind the league, this information really takes the story to a new level.

Without giving anything away, Never Fade is a good balance of continuing the stories of characters we already know and introducing new ones. Ruby continues to demonstrate strength and selflessness with a determination to see things through in the face of terrible odds. She is loyal, almost to a fault, and strives to save those she loves. 

The world created by Alexandra Bracken is dark and full of unsavory characters, making it impossible to know who to trust. I love that the story is so full of shades of gray and there are times when terrible people may have to be trusted or kept around for the information they know. The internal struggle that Ruby faces, how using her power to delve and shape the minds of others is such an internal conflict. It gives such an added dimension because there aren’t any right answers here. Ruby can only do what she thinks is right and hope she makes the right choices. 

Never Fade is full of so many layers that it draws you right in. As in The Darkest Minds, there is a love story here. At times tragic and sad, it is so well written. The passion jumps off the page and is such a bright spot in an otherwise dark world.

Never Fade is a second book that is as strong as the first. The characters have grown and changed in reaction to living in a world with little hope. I highly recommend Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken and am already feeling desperate for book three. 

Cover image and summary from goodreads.

 

Hunger By Michael Grant A Review

Hunger Book Cover Hunger
Gone #2
Michael Grant
Young Adult, Science Fiction
Katherine Tegen Books
May 26, 2009
590
Purchased

It's been three months since everyone under the age of fifteen became trapped in the bubble known as the FAYZ.

Three months since all the adults disappeared. GONE.

Food ran out weeks ago. Everyone is starving, but no one wants to figure out a solution. And each day, more and more kids are evolving, developing supernatural abilities that set them apart from the kids without powers. Tension rises and chaos is descending upon the town. It's the normal kids against the mutants. Each kid is out for himself, and even the good ones turn murderous.

But a larger problem looms. The Darkness, a sinister creature that has lived buried deep in the hills, begins calling to some of the teens in the FAYZ. Calling to them, guiding them, manipulating them.

The Darkness has awakened. And it is hungry.

 

Review

Hunger by Michael Grant picks up where Gone leaves off. The problem of disappearing at 15 is solved but the logistics of surviving in a world of only children, cut off from the rest of civilization, is dawning on the residence of the FAYZ. It took much to long for the kids to realize that something needed to be done about food and they are starting to run out.

Hunger by Michael Grant is the perfect mix of science fiction and a semi-post apocalyptic world. It deals with the everyday realities of what running and rebuilding a society is like, such as developing an economic system and dealing with conflict. There is also the story of the the powers that some of the kids develop and a monster that is lurking in the shadows. What happens when there is such an obvious divide in society, when it becomes and us versus them. The balance between all of these elements makes for an exciting book that is impossible to put down.

Getting into the the Gone series after it has concluded is the perfect time because I cannot imagine waiting for the books to be published. I am on the edge of my seat, needing to read book three (Lies). I highly recommend Hunger for those looking for an action packed, realistic story of what could happen if children were in charge and monsters lurked among us.

 Cover image and summary from goodreads.