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.

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.

Life After Life By Kate Atkinson

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Title: Life After Life

Author: Kate Atkinson

Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books

Publication Date: April 2, 2013

Source: Library

GoodreadsAuthorFacebook

AmazonBarnes & Noble 

Summary

On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, she dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization.

Review

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson is a strange exercise in the what if’s. It takes scenes from Ursula Todd’s life and studies them from all angles until something eventually clicks. It is dense and can be slightly repetitive but Kate Atkinson is such a talented writer, you will not care.

I am surprised that a literary, historical based book is so popular. It is not the easiest read and it can move rather slow in places. I think the strength here is the wonder. Who hasn’t looked back and wished something could be redone, even a miniscule nothing act. Or had the thought that something tremendous could be done if one had the foresight to do so.

Life After Life is a study in the smallness of our actions. The rippling wave caused by a stones throw. It is inventive and deserves the accolades it has received. I highly recommend Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and think it would make a perfect pick for any book club. There is so much meat to chew on, it could be discussed at great length.

Summary and cover image from goodreads.

Review: Fangirl By Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Fangirl

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: September 10, 2013

Source: eArc via NetGalley

GoodreadsAuthorTwitter

AmazonBarnes&NobleIndieBound

Summary

A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Review

There is just so much to say about Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I loved every second of this book and was unable to put it down. It is difficult to even find a place to start with this review because the book is near perfection.

Cather and Wren (I love this, their mother did not know they were going to be twins, so she had only picked the name Catherine) are starting their first year of college. Wren decides that she does not want to live with Cather (who goes by Cath) and wants nothing to do with the fan fiction they used to write together. Cath is, rightfully, hurt by this and starts school my keeping to herself and rarely leaving her room.

Eventually Cath starts a writing project with a classmate in her advanced fiction class. This project, and the attention of Levi who is her roommates boyfriend, start to open Cath up. She begins to try to reach out. Wren begins to party and drink to excess. Both girls really represent what a lot of young people go through with their first taste of freedom in college. The struggle to find where you belong and who you are feels very authentic here.  

The greatest part of Fangirl (and trust me, much of it is great) are the relationships. Rowell does such a good job with each character and the interactions. The dialogue is snappy and often hilarious. The relationship between Levi and Cath is outstanding. They are adorable, but hit some snags early on. The relationship just feels so real and I loved pretty much any part of the book that they both are in. There is just such an overwhelming need to root for them. To hope they can work it out.

Cath and Wren have a father who has mental health issues. The way it is handled by Rowell is both informative and heartfelt. The love that Cath and Wren have for their father, who was their sole caregiver after their mother left, is very heartfelt. Of course this relationship, and the loss of their mother, is used to illustrate why Cath and Wren both throw themselves into the world of fan fiction. Escapism at its best and even better than just reading a book, you can be the one to control the world.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is both beautifully written and wonderfully insightful coming-of-age story. The romance will give you butterflies and the dialogue will often have you laughing. The creativity of using excerpts of fan fiction (with the inclusion of passages from the actual book) are such a great touch. Fangirl is a wonderful book and one in which I highly recommend.

I was given a free eARC of Fangirl but all thoughts are my own.

Cover image and summary from goodreads.

 

Review: The Bone Season By Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Title: The Bone Season

Author: Samantha Shannon

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

Publication Date: August 20, 2013

Source: eARC via NetGalley

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal

Challenge: Debut Author Challenge

GoodreadsAuthorTwitter

AmazonBarnes & NobleIndieBound

Summary

It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.

But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army.

Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.

Review

I was not sure what to expect when I picked up The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. The book is hyped to be the next big thing and I try to make it my business to read all the hyped books. The fact that Samantha is such a young (21!) author and talk of film rights, I knew I just had to get my hands on this book. The extremely unusual plot (umm clairvoyants?), really did not hurt either.

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon is extremely ambitious. The world Shannon creates is large, intricate, and full of wonderful detail. I loved that the beginning of the book contains a list of all the different types of clairvoyants and that the back contains a glossary of different terms. (I really thought about how much my husband would enjoy that because he is obsessed with book extras such as detailed maps and diagrams of buildings or ships.) This extra detail was very helpful because this world is enormous.

The story follows Paige Mahoney as she lives a life of crime in London. Paige has a very rare form of clairvoyance and is able to join a high level crime syndicate. This group is the first time Paige felt like she can be herself. They teach her how to use her gift and become a surrogate family. She is happy in this life until she is rounded up and taken to an undisclosed location, where her world is turned upside down.

There are so many layers to The Bone Season, I can see why a seven part series is possible. We barely scratch the surface of the questions I have and what else I need to know about this world. Plus, we end with a little light romance that I would like to see more of.

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon is an epic story that is non-stop excitement. Paige is a great protagonist she is complicated, brave, and a little frustrating. There is so much more here to flesh out and I will definitely be back for book two. I need to know where the story goes and learn all of the mysteries of this unique, weird little world.

I was given a of The Bone Season in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Summary and cover image from goodreads.