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. 

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.

WOW–The Kingdom Of Little Wounds By Susann Cokal

The Kingdom of Little Wounds Book Cover The Kingdom of Little Wounds
Susann Cokal
Young Adult, Fantasy
Candlewick
October 8, 2013
557

On the eve of Princess Sophia’s wedding, the Scandinavian city of Skyggehavn prepares to fete the occasion with a sumptuous display of riches: brocade and satin and jewels, feasts of sugar fruit and sweet spiced wine. Yet beneath the veneer of celebration, a shiver of darkness creeps through the palace halls. A mysterious illness plagues the royal family, threatening the lives of the throne’s heirs, and a courtier’s wolfish hunger for the king’s favors sets a devious plot in motion.

Here in the palace at Skyggehavn, things are seldom as they seem — and when a single errant prick of a needle sets off a series of events that will alter the course of history, the fates of seamstress Ava Bingen and mute nursemaid Midi Sorte become irrevocably intertwined with that of mad Queen Isabel. As they navigate a tangled web of palace intrigue, power-lust, and deception, Ava and Midi must carve out their own survival any way they can.

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking The Spine that spotlights new releases that you are eagerly anticipating. This week I am waiting on The Kingdom Of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal.

Why I’m Waiting

The cover is amazing and that would probably get me to pick it up. Physical appearance aside, I love stories that take place in castles and are full of intrigue.

Summary and cover image from goodreads.

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal A Review

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

Title: Far Far Away

Author: Tom McNeal

Publisher: Knopf Books For Young Readers

Publication Date: June 11, 2013

Source: Netgalley

Genre: Young Adult, Fairy Tale

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Summary

It says quite a lot about Jeremy Johnson Johnson that the strangest thing about him isn’t even the fact his mother and father both had the same last name. Jeremy once admitted he’s able to hear voices, and the townspeople of Never Better have treated him like an outsider since. After his mother left, his father became a recluse, and it’s been up to Jeremy to support the family. But it hasn’t been up to Jeremy alone. The truth is, Jeremy can hear voices. Or, specifically, one voice: the voice of the ghost of Jacob Grimm, one half of the infamous writing duo, The Brothers Grimm. Jacob watches over Jeremy, protecting him from an unknown dark evil whispered about in the space between this world and the next. But when the provocative local girl Ginger Boultinghouse takes an interest in Jeremy (and his unique abilities), a grim chain of events is put into motion. And as anyone familiar with the Grimm Brothers know, not all fairy tales have happy endings. . .

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal is very unique. It has the feel of a fairy tale. It is difficult to place the time when the book takes place and this timeless aspect is very well done. The book is full of quirky characters, none more that Jeremy Johnson Johnson who is obsessed with fairy tales and whom the ghost of Jacob Grimm is a pseudo-father figure. 

The town of Never Better has that otherworldly feel to it. Filled with odd characters that are mostly likeable, especially the very spunky Ginger Boultinghouse. Ginger and her adventures take Jeremy down a path that is both dark and dangerous. The towns secrets are eventually revealed and we start to see people as they are.

Overall, Far Far Away by Tom McNeal is very enjoyable. The story itself is compelling and the writing is very strong. The problem I had with Far Far Away is how annoying Jacob Grimm is. I did not enjoy this ghost narrating much of the story and could not bring myself to like the character at all. Eventually,  as more is revealed about Jacob, he becomes a bit more likeable but overall I could have used with less of him in the book.

Far Far Away will be a delight for fairy tale fans because it does an excellent job of capturing the feel of a fairy tale. The darkness that lurks beneath the surface. The ending is quite exciting and I truly enjoyed the later third of the book the most. Far Far Away by Tom McNeal is a solid choice for fairy tale fans and those that like a story that is a bit dark but not scary.

 Cover images and summary from goodreads.

Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Title: The 5th Wave

Author: Rick Yancey

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile

Publication Date: May 7, 2013

Source: Purchased

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Summary

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

Review

I have to start by saying, I loved every second of The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. I wanted to lock myself in a room with a do not disturb sign on the door until I was done (sadly, it actually took me five days to read it because I have to do things like go to work and sleep.) I loved it so much that I might even recommend that you stop reading this review and get yourself a copy of The 5th Wave and start reading right now.

All that being said, The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey is a book I had high expectations of going in. In case you skipped over the first paragraph of this review, my expectations were actually exceeded and it really does live up to all the hype. Starting with the characters, we have Cassie, her father, and her five year-old brother, Sammy. Forced to leave their home, the goal is to get to an Air force base where they have a better chance for survival. Cassie is fierce and independent. Rick Yancey lets us in on what Cassie is thinking and she is both smart and funny. The use of humor and sarcasm throughout The 5th Wave gives an otherwise pretty dark book, some levity. Eventually, Cassie is separated from her brother and she spends most of the book plotting to get him back.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey is broken down into sections that contain chapters in the voices of different characters. I loved this because it really lets you get to know the characters and what their motivations are. Not everyone is what they seem and getting to see into their heads, gives you a much better understanding of what is going on. The dire situation (hello, alien invasion and the world is ending) keeps The 5th Wave in constant motion. There is one lull for a love story but even that serves a purpose in pushing everyone forward.

I love how the different stories interconnect in ways that are surprising. There are quite a few places in The 5th Wave where I was very surprised by a turn of events. It forces the reader to be on the edge of their seat for the entire 480 pages and never lets up. Everything from the dialogue to the action is pitch perfect throughout. The only negative I can mention about The 5th Wave is the massive feeling of loss I have for having finished it and waiting who knows how long for the next book. So please, take my advice and get yourself a copy of The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. I promise you will not regret it.

 

Summary and cover image from goodreads.

 

Shucked By Megg Jensen A Giveaway

Shucked

Title: Shucked

Author: Megg Jensen

Publication Date: April 14, 2013

Genre: YA Contemporary

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Summary

Suburgatory meets Indiana Jones…on a farm

Fifteen-year-old Tabitha has had the kind of life that would impress even the greatest adventurers. She’s escaped a croc attack in the Amazon, walked the length of the Great Wall of China, and earned a black belt in taekwondo in Korea. She owes her worldly experience to her mother’s career in archaeology, but when her mother takes on a dangerous new assignment, Tabitha is devastated to learn she can’t tag along.

Instead, she’s forced to live on a midwestern farm with her grandparents where she’ll have to attend a full year of public school. It’s Tabitha’s greatest nightmare, because despite all her adventures, she has no practical experience with the one thing that frightens her the most – other teenagers.

Her math teacher is her mom’s old high school boyfriend, she can’t tell the friendly girls from the mean ones, and she develops a major crush on a boy she knows she can’t trust. And just when she thinks she’ll never get the hang of this normal teenager thing, an attack brings the danger of her previous life right up to her midwestern porch. Who could have ever guessed getting totally shucked would bring her face-to-face with her most exciting adventure yet?

Megg

Author Bio

I’ve been a freelance parenting journalist since 2003 and began writing YA novels in 2009. I co-run DarkSide Publishing, am a member of SCBWI, and I blog about writing while juggling freelancing, volunteering, and family life. I live in the Chicago suburbs with my husband, two kids, and our miniature schnauzer, Ace.

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Excerpt

I peered through the overgrown bushes, observing the beasts in their native habitat. My heart pounded, tapping an unfamiliar beat. I’d subdued a croc after an attack in the Amazon, looked a lion in the eye in the African bush, and swam with sharks in the Great Barrier Reef, but nothing compared to the fear ripping through my chest, infecting every bit of my essence with panic.

“Tabitha,” my grandmother, Mimi, bellowed, “get over here right now!”

I backed away from the evergreens, swinging my backpack over one shoulder. “Coming.” My whole life I’d been surrounded by adults or kids from cultures so far removed from civilization that American teenagers became the epitome of uncivilized behavior. I’d seen their TV shows on the Internet. All I could hope was that reality TV wasn’t real.

The double doors of the school loomed in front of me. The embedded crosshatching in the windows skewed my vision of the masses of kids opening lockers and chatting in groups. A select few were already swapping spit. I rolled my eyes. Suspicions confirmed.

“Do I have to go in there?” I turned around, arms folded across my chest. Mimi stood her ground, towering over me at nearly six feet tall, a giant to my mere five foot one inch. I wasn’t afraid. Intimidated yes, afraid no. I’d spent years cuddled on her lap reading stories but as I grew up, I realized that she was the powerhouse in her marriage and nearly everywhere else. No one crossed her except for my mom. I think that’s why Mom hadn’t come back to her hometown in the last sixteen years.

“Of course you have to go in. It wouldn’t do for you to be late on your first day of school.” She had that same look on her face as when I’d first met her. Exasperated, annoyed, and definitely not in the mood to be defied.

“But Mimi,” I started.

“No buts,” she barked. Her bear-like hand grabbed the door handle, opened it and she pushed me in with the other paw. “Have fun, Tabitha.”

I stumbled in as the heavy door thudded behind me. How could she leave me here alone? Among some of the most frightening creatures on earth – teenagers. I felt the bile rise in my throat but I swallowed it. Just what I needed, to be the girl who barfed on everyone the first day of school.

Giveaway

Win an ebook copy (Mobi or ePub) of Shucked by Megg Jensen and three bookmarks.  
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The Eternity Cure By Julie Kagawa

The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa

Title: The Eternity Cure (Blood Of Eden #2)

Author: Julie Kagawa

Series: The Immortal Rules (Blood Of Eden #1)

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Publication Date: April 30, 2013

Source: Netgalley

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Summary

Allison Sekemoto has vowed to rescue her creator, Kanin, who is being held hostage and tortured by the psychotic vampire Sarren. The call of blood leads her back to the beginning—New Covington and the Fringe, and a vampire prince who wants her dead yet may become her wary ally.

Even as Allie faces shocking revelations and heartbreak like she’s never known, a new strain of the Red Lung virus that decimated humanity is rising to threaten human and vampire alike.

Book Trailer

 

 

Review

The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa starts where The Immortal Rules leaves off. Allie is forced to leave Eden and she knows she has to help her maker Kanin. Allie has dreams of the torture being inflicted on Kanin and follows the pull that will lead her to him. With a slight twist, Allie is lead to Jackal, the raider king who killed her friends. Allie is forced to work with Jackal in tracking down Kanin and ultimately fighting the old and powerful Sarren to save those she loves.

Allison Sekemoto is as conflicted in The Eternity Cure as she was in The Immortal Rules. She believes that there is a demon deep inside of her but wants to do the right thing. Allie has a strict moral code which she lives by and seeing her struggle to do the right thing, is an important part of The Eternity Cure.

The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa is fast-paced, full of action, and difficult to put down. Julie Kagawa keeps things interesting by having characters that were previously evil, do some good. The shades of gray is such an important part of The Eternity Cure because in this society, where it is kill or be killed, you have to make difficult decisions. Watching Allie struggle to do the right thing even in the face of tremendous obstacles, shows how strong she is. I do love that Allie is forced to work with Jackal. While he may be evil and quite self-centered, his constant barbed speech adds levity to what is a dark book. It is impossible not to be glad that Jackal is around.

The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa is immensely entertaining and does a great job of moving the story of Allison Sekemoto forward. This book is not filler but a fully fleshed story that would be interesting on its own. I highly recommend The Eternity Cure for those who like their vampires a little dark and their world a little bleak.

What You Will Find

  • Romance
  • Kick Ass Female Lead
  • Vampires
  • Experiments

Cover image and summary from goodreads.

 

Mila 2.0 By Debra Driza

Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza

Title: Mila 2.0

Author: Debra Driza

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Publication Date: March 12, 2013

Source: ARC from 2013 Debut Author Challenge ARC Tour

Challenge: Debut Author Challenge

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Summary

Mila 2.0 is the first book in an electrifying sci-fi thriller series about a teenage girl who discovers that she is an experiment in artificial intelligence.

Mila was never meant to learn the truth about her identity. She was a girl living with her mother in a small Minnesota town. She was supposed to forget her past—that she was built in a secret computer science lab and programmed to do things real people would never do.

Now she has no choice but to run—from the dangerous operatives who want her terminated because she knows too much and from a mysterious group that wants to capture her alive and unlock her advanced technology. However, what Mila’s becoming is beyond anyone’s imagination, including her own, and it just might save her life.

Mila 2.0 is Debra Driza’s bold debut and the first book in a Bourne Identity-style trilogy that combines heart-pounding action with a riveting exploration of what it really means to be human. Fans of I Am Number Four will love Mila for who she is and what she longs to be—and a cliffhanger ending will leave them breathlessly awaiting the sequel.

Review

This review does contain some spoilers.

I was really excited to read Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza and elated when it showed up as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge ARC Tour. Debuts can often be a crap shoot but I always have high hopes. There are some that blow you away, The Cadet Of Tildor, and others that just don’t resonate, Nobody But Us.  Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza landed somewhere in the middle.

Mila 2.0 is the story of a girl who learns she is an android and has a lot of difficulty accepting it. The first part of the book has Mila going to High School, where she is the new kid. Her only friend sets her sights on the new boy in school, who of course only has eyes for Mila. Not one to take this lying down, Kaylee creates a situation that leads to a terrible accident which should have killed Mila. This accident is not fatal but it does expose (literally) that she is not like most girls.

This is where the book should have gotten more interesting but it did not. Yes, Mila is upset to learn she is an android and that all of her memories are false. She is angry with the woman she thought was her mother for lying to her. I feel this portion of the book went on a little to long. It may be that I did not feel connected with Mila but I was just not that interested in her conflicted feelings of finding her true identity. I think the point was to humanize Mila, to show how she is a real girl with real feelings but the point is nearly drilled into the head of the reader.  

Once Mila moves past the teen angst stage, Mila 2.0 does start to pick-up. There are lots of great fighting sequences and tons of action. We learn more about the people involved in the Mila project and are even teased with information about a mole from a secret organization. This part of the book was my favorite and by far the most interesting.

Mila 2.0 leaves the reader wanting to know more, as is the fashion with most trilogies. Even though I found Mila 2.0 rather middle of the road, I do think there is plenty to explore in the world created by Debra Driza. I mostly enjoyed Mila 2.0 and would say it is a good debut novel that has the potential to become a more interesting story in books two and three.

What You Will Find

  • Cute Romantic Interest
  • Teen Angst
  • Bad Ass Fighting Robot
  • Conspiracies

Summary and cover image from goodreads.

Waiting On Wednesday–This Song Will Save Your Life By Leila Sales

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking The Spine that spotlights new releases that you are eagerly anticipating. This week I am waiting on This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales.

This Song Will Save Your Life By Leila Sales

Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.

Told in a refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny voice, THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together.

Title: This Song Will Save Your Life

Author: Leila Sales

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Expected Publishing Date: September 17, 2013

So many things about This Song Will Save Your Life stands out to me. I love books that talk about music (I love High Fidelity book and movie so, so much.) The main character is a an outcast, who has trouble making friends. Plus, the cover is just so pretty I love the picture and the pink font.

Requiem By Lauren Oliver A Review

Requiem by Lauren Oliver

Title: Requiem (Delirium #3)

Author: Lauren Oliver

Publication Date: March 5, 2013

Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books

Source: Purchased

Challenge: None

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Summary

They have tried to squeeze us out, to stamp us into the past.

But we are still here.

And there are more of us every day.

Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has been transformed. The nascent rebellion that was under way in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight.

After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends fled to the Wilds. But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven—pockets of rebellion have opened throughout the country, and the government cannot deny the existence of Invalids. Regulators now infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels, and as Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancée of the young mayor.

Maybe we are driven crazy by our feelings.

Maybe love is a disease, and we would be better off without it.
But we have chosen a different road.

And in the end, that is the point of escaping the cure: We are free to choose.

We are even free to choose the wrong thing.

Requiem is told from both Lena’s and Hana’s points of view. The two girls live side by side in a world that divides them until, at last, their stories converge.

 

As is often the case, starting the last book in a trilogy can be difficult. There are all kinds of expectations and desires for the story to end on the right note. For the storylines to be wrapped-up in a way that makes sense but maybe isn’t perfectly neat. Of course any story where you have a love triangle, our main character has to pick the right partner. All of these things and more were circling around my head when I start reading Requiem by Lauren Oliver.

Requiem does alternate the voices of Hana and Lena. I love that we are able to learn about Hana’s life because it rounds out the story. It fills in the gaps of what might have happened to Lena if she had chosen to stay. Hana being paired with the newly elected major gives us a great insight to the have’s of society. Those whose lives are filled with all of the worldly comforts and those who are in places of great power. With this insiders view, Requiem becomes more of a political and philosophical commentary than the other books in the series. It opens up the story to the greater questions of how our choices define us and what makes us actually free.

I love that Requiem did not spend all of its time on the love triangle. Yes, I was eagerly anticipating Lena choosing between Alex and Julian, but Lena is not Bella Swan. Instead, she is a complete individual who is strong and capable, not a girl who is defined by a man or her relationship to one. I do like how Lauren Oliver does not use the love triangle as the sole way to make the reader feel. There are other relationships that are even more important, those of friendship and family.

I have tried to avoid reading any reviews of Requiem because I needed to read this book without any other thoughts in my head. I can guess that some reviewers may find the ending frustrating but I thought it was beautiful. With her way with words, Lauren Oliver writes a beautiful ending that leaves the reader with lots to think about. Overall, I think that Requiem is  a wonderful end to a superb trilogy. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the first two books.

Favorite Quotes

All of you, wherever you are: in your spiny cities or your one-bump towns. Find it, the hard stuff, the links of metal and chink, the fragments of stone filling your stomach. And pull, pull, and pull.

Or maybe I will keep walking until I reach the end of the world.

Maybe. But for now there is only the high white sun, and the sky, and tendrils of gray smoke, and voices that sound like ocean waves in the distance.

What You Will Find

  • Strong female characters
  • Message of hope
  • Lots of action
  • Growth
  • Friendship
  • Connecticut (I am biased being from the Hartford area)

Cover image and summary from goodreads.