Saturday, April 25, 2015

Review of The UnWind Dystology, Book Four: UnDivided by Neal Shusterman

Hey guys! Sorry that it's been so long since I've gotten a post out. But I got a job a little while back at a local non-profit called Family Life Services. It is a crisis pregnancy center, and we help women with unplanned pregnancies or mothers that may not be able to afford to have their children. We give free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, material goods, counseling, and parenting classes. I am the new Development Manager and get to plan the parties, raise the money, and get the word out! It is so much fun. However, blogging regularly and having a full-time job has been more difficult than I originally anticipated. But I love doing both, and hopefully I will get into a little better rhythm here soon. Working in the non-profit world has been very rewarding, and I'm sure that I'll be posting about it a bit more as I go along. Feel free to check us out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ or at our website www.flsfriends.com
And here is a picture of a cute baby... the reason we do what we do. 
But enough about me. On to the books!
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Title: UnDivided
Authors: Neal Shusterman
Pages: 372
Publication Date: Oct. 14, 2014
Source: Purchased myself

Quick Summary
Proactive Citizenry, the company that created Cam from the parts of unwound teens, has a plan: to mass produce rewound teens like him for military purposes. And below the surface of that horror lies another shocking level of intrigue: Proactive Citizenry has been suppressing technology that could make unwinding completely unnecessary. As Conner, Risa, and Lev uncover these startling secrets, enraged teens begin to march on Washington to demand justice and a better future. But more trouble is brewing. Starkey’s group of storked teens is growing more powerful and militant with each new recruit. And if they have their way, they’ll burn the harvest camps to the ground and put every adult in them before a firing squad—which could destroy any chance America has for a peaceful future.
Opening Lines
"A tranq tears past his head so close that his earlobe is skinned from the friction."


My Thoughts
This was an amazing ending to a fantastic series!! I believe I started my review of UnSouled (Book 3) by saying that Neal Shusterman is a genius... well, folks, that hasn't changed! Some authors have completely ruined series for me in their final book, but not so with Shusterman. He tied up loose ends while preserving the integrity of his characters. 

While some might argue that there were a few convenient moments towards the end, I think that the author had been building to those events for the entire series. He introduced many elements in the first and second books that run throughout the whole (no pun intended!) series and are brought full circle at the end. Many sub-par authors will wait to introduce situations or opportunities for their characters until the last book or the last few chapters of a book, leaving us with the feeling that those occurrences were awfully "convenient." Shusterman didn't do this, which I greatly appreciated!

The underground war on Proactive Citizenry comes to a head in this book. Dotted with provocative propaganda and political intrigue, the suspense builds until the tension is palpable! Will the heroes be caught and unwound? Will they be able to resurrect a secret buried by Proactive Citizenry for decades? Or will Proactive Citizenry get a bill passed that allows the government to unwind teens without their parents' permission? Once I started this climactic book, I couldn't put it down. 

And the characters. We have all of the favorites (Connor, Risa, Lev, Cam, etc.) and all of the hated (Nelson, Roberta, Starkey, etc.). But which of them will survive? The only thing I'll tell you is this: no one is safe! This final book is not only suspenseful, but formative for the main characters. So many of them grow in this book because of the decisions that they have to make. There is heartache (yes, I teared up a little) and romance and sacrifice beyond words. Shusterman's characters are so lifelike and genuine that you almost forget that they don't truly exist! This is the highest praise I think I can give an author. 

Basically, I totally recommend this book and this series. I think it is an amazing social and political commentary on the decisions being made by our country right now, while still being accessible for teens and young adults. Read it. 
It will rock your world. 

My Rating
Overall, I give this book a 5 out of 5 hearts!



About the Author
Award-winning author Neal Shusterman grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where he began writing at an early age. Neal has made his mark as a successful novelist, screenwriter, and television writer. As a full-time writer, he claims to be his own hardest task-master, always at work creating new stories to tell. His books have received many awards from organizations such as the International Reading Association, and the American Library Association, as well as garnering a myriad of state and local awards across the country. 

Wherever Neal goes, he quickly earns a reputation as a storyteller and dynamic speaker. Much of his fiction is traceable back to stories he tells to large audiences of children and teenagers. As a speaker, Neal is in constant demand at schools and conferences. Degrees in both psychology and drama give Neal a unique approach to writing. Neal's novels always deal with topics that appeal to adults as well as teens, weaving true-to-life characters into sensitive and riveting issues, and binding it all together with a unique and entertaining sense of humor. Neal Shusterman now lives in Southern California with his children Brendan, Jarrod, Joelle, and Erin, who are a constant source of inspiration!


Follow Neal Shusterman at the links below:
Support the non-profit I work for (Family Life Services of Washtenaw County) or one of your choice by purchasing a copy of UnDivided on Amazon Smile here

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Review of Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

Wow! I am soooooooooo excited to be publishing a review of Vanishing Girls on the book's publication day! I love reading new books, especially ones that a lot of people haven't read yet, mostly because I love recommending the good ones. And this, my friends, is a good one! In fact, I mentioned it to the manager of Literati Bookstore while I was there this week, and she said she would take a look at it for her store! Those are the moments I love. I also love sitting and drinking a good cappuccino around other bookish people, like so! Thanks Espresso Bar!


Title: Vanishing Girls
Authors: Lauren Oliver
Pages: 357
Publication Date: March 10, 2015
Source: ARC copy from author


Quick Summary
Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara's beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it's too late. In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.


Opening Lines

"The funny thing about almost-dying is that afterward everyone expects you to jump on the happy train and take time to chase butterflies through grassy fields or see rainbows in puddles of oil on the highway." 

My Thoughts

Okay, friends. This book is seriously good. It is one of the most honest looks at sisterhood, sibling rivalry, and the crazy world of teen girls that I have read in a very long time... maybe even ever. These sisters show raw emotion and often cannot see what they are doing to each other, even though it seems plain as day to us as readers. While I, admittedly, don't have a sister myself, my best friend growing up did, so I got to glimpse the experience through her. And from what I can tell, this is a very real depiction of how sisters act and why they make the choices that they do. Oliver's grasp on realism here is amazing. You could have told me this was a non-fiction story, and I would have believed it. That is good writing. 

With this level of realism comes very real and messy characters. I mean messy here in a good way. People are messy. No one is perfect. We all have secrets and selfish motivations from time to time. But to capture genuine human messiness in characters that are still sympathetic and lovable is extremely tough. This really showcases how good of a writer Oliver really is. Dara and Nick are the main characters of this story, and they frequently don't see eye to eye (something I think a lot of sisters can relate to). But, as a reader, we get a rare glimpse at both sides of the story, and it's tough to chose which sister you want to side with. They both have compelling reasons for why they do what they do. They both make mistakes and bad choices. They both like the same boy. They look alike and wear each others' clothing. They spent a large portion of their lives as inseparable, until something caused a massive rift in their relationship. This dynamic of not knowing who to side with creates a tension that ramps up as the book comes to a climax and explodes once a HUGE twist is revealed near the end. I don't want to give anything away, but this revelation made me want to stop and read the entire book over again just to see if I could catch hints of it coming (I haven't done so yet, but I intend to)! The ending made this book. It was gold. 

Seriously, guys. Get on board. Buy this book. Read it.
It's one of the best I've read in awhile.

My Rating

Overall, I give this book a 5 out of 5 hearts!

About the Author

Lauren Oliver was born Laura Suzanne Schechter in Queens, New York, and raised in Westchester, in a small town very similar to the one depicted in Before I Fall. Her parents are both literature professors and from a very early age, she was encouraged to make up stories, draw, paint, dance around in costumes, and essentially spend much of her time living imaginatively. She pursued literature and philosophy at the University of Chicago, and then moved back to New York to attend NYU’s MFA program in creative writing. She also worked at Penguin Books, in a young adult division called Razorbill, and while there started writing Before I Fall. She left in 2009 to pursue writing full-time and now happily works at home in Brooklyn, New York. She is also the co-founder of the boutique literary development company, Paper Lantern Lit. Lauren Oliver is the author of the young adult novels Before I Fall and Panic, as well as the books in the Delirium trilogy—Delirium, Pandemonium, and Requiem—which have been translated into more than thirty languages and are New York Times and international bestsellers. She is also the author of a just-published novel for adults, Rooms, and two novels for middle-grade readers, Liesl & Po and The SpindlersToday, HarperCollins published her most recent YA novel, Vanishing Girls, a psychological thriller about the bond between two sisters. 

Follow Lauren Oliver at the links below:
Purchase a copy of Vanishing Girls on Amazon here!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Review of Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells


Title: Fluency
Authors: Jennifer Foehner Wells
Pages: 363
Publication Date: June 18, 2914
Source: Virtual Author Book Tours


Quick Summary
NASA discovered the alien ship lurking in the asteroid belt in the 1960s. They kept the Target under intense surveillance for decades, letting the public believe they were exploring the solar system, while they worked feverishly to refine the technology needed to reach it. The ship itself remained silent, drifting. Dr. Jane Holloway is content documenting nearly-extinct languages and had never contemplated becoming an astronaut. But when NASA recruits her to join a team of military scientists for an expedition to the Target, it's an adventure she can't refuse. The ship isn't vacant, as they presumed. A disembodied voice rumbles inside Jane's head, "You are home." Jane fights the growing doubts of her colleagues as she attempts to decipher what the alien wants from her. As the derelict ship devolves into chaos and the crew gets cut off from their escape route, Jane must decide if she can trust the alien's help to survive. 



Opening Lines

"Jane strained against the harness as the capsule shuddered around her, craning her neck for a better view of the ship they were hurtling toward. The Target."

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed this book! It was a perfect "plane book", as my Dad calls it, because I was able to read it in the span of one plane ride. It was fast-paced and engaging from the very beginning. I enjoyed the characters and their interactions, especially Jane, the main character. She was extremely compelling and dynamic. It was so cool to see a linguist in space! I, personally, find linguistics to be an amazing field of study with so many practical applications; however, I never would have thought about putting a linguist on a space mission. It makes perfect sense when visiting an alien ship, but for some reason, this choice struck me as unique and profound. The way that Jane thinks and approaches this new environment is very different from how a military man or an astronaut or an engineer might, which is highlighted through the different characters' reactions to the circumstances thrown at them. 

I also really like Alan, an engineer and the love interest. He brings great comic relief to an otherwise intense story. His voice is very relatable, and I think that his thoughts and actions are a spot-on interpretation of the male psyche. Granted, I am not a man and have no firsthand experience with the male psyche; however, I do live with a man and based on his actions and voiced thoughts, I think Alan is pretty darn realistic. Especially for a female writer! Writing the opposite sex in a realistic way is extremely difficult, but Wells did a fantastic job with Alan. 

I also really liked the way she set up the aliens in this world. I don't want to give away too much information and ruin the surprises here, but I like the aspect of telepathic communication in a genetic language. This is a great way to get around the ever-popular concept that all aliens speak English! I think the way that the galaxy is set up in Wells' universe is unique and refreshing. It is believable, but still has that element of whimsy and the unknown. I would love to speak more in-depth about the aliens here as well as some of the exciting plot points, but I don't want to give anything away because there are some really good twists! 
Just read it. Check out. Trust me. 

One last thing I have to say is that I appreciate that this book comes in two versions: an all ages version and an adult version. I was sent the adult version of this book, which I believe is how it was originally intended to be published. I like to read books the way that the author originally envisioned them, even if I'm not a personal fan of graphic sex or nasty language. I think a lot of authors use these "adult" concepts to make their books more marketable to the mass populous. Our culture worships books like Fifty Shades of Grey that could basically pass as porn (please keep in mind that I haven't actually read Fifty Shades of Grey, so take my comments on the matter with a grain of salt.) Is sex what I look for in a novel? No. But if the sex and the language enhance and deepen the characters, then I appreciate their use. It's all about characterization. If the sex doesn't serve any function, other than to add sex into the book, it is distracting from the overall story and adds nothing to the characters. Sex and language, if used, should be used with caution and used correctly. I think that Wells did a great job of keeping this balance. Fluency did have some pretty explicit sex scenes. But I think it helped add to the romance in the story and made the characters feel a bit more genuine in their intentions and motivations. If you prefer not to read about fictional characters' sexual encounters, you have the option of reading the all ages version of this book. Though I haven't personally looked through that version, I imagine that the sex scenes and more sexually charged moments are toned down a little, as well as some of the language. While I think the use of expletives made a lot of sense for the characters (mostly military personnel) and the situations they were put in, if you prefer to have your fictional characters a bit more tame of tongue, I'd try the all ages version. It is nice to have the option here because it is a great book with a good story, and the sex or the language can't take away from that if you can choose a version without it. 


My Rating

Overall, I give it a 4 out of 5 hearts.

About the Author

As a child growing up in rural Illinois, she had the wild outdoors, a budding imagination, and books for company. Her interest in science fiction was piqued early on when a family friend loaned her a Ray Bradbury compilation, among loads of other wonderful sci-fi books. Fluency is her first novel.

Follow Jennifer Foehner Wells at the links below:
Website: http://www.jenniferfoehnerwells.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JenniferFoehnerWells?ref=bookmarks
Twitter: @Jenthulhu
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7246594.Jennifer_Foehner_Wells
Google +: https://plus.google.com/110012412930597513254/posts

Purchase a copy of adult version of Fluency on Amazon here

or the all ages version here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Review of Countryside: The Book of The Wise by J.T. Cope IV

I would, first, like to say that J.T. Cope IV was an absolutely amazing author to work with. Not only did he send me a signed hardback copy of his book, he also included a handwritten note thanking me for my honest review! No one does things like that anymore, and I, for one, find the personal touches he added to be refreshing. I can't wait to read the next book in the series and have the opportunity to work with Cope again. 


Title: Countryside: Book of the Wise
Authors: J.T. Cope IV
Pages: 328
Publication Date: Oct. 27, 2014
Source: copy from the author

Quick Summary

Eleven-year-old Luke Rayburn has never seen a skyline without skyscrapers or fallen asleep to anything but the sound of traffic. But his life is about to change in ways he never imagined. When his father leaves for a year of military service, Luke and the rest of his family move into their grandparents' home in the remote town of Countryside, a place like no other. Reachable only by a mysterious traveling tunnel and horse-drawn carriage, centaurs roam the landscape and shadowy wraiths slip among the trees. There, Luke will be drawn into a centuries-old quest for an almost-forgotten book whose secrets will determine the fate of the world. He will have to reach deep to discover the power within him as he battles the forces of darkness and an alliance of sinister men who seek to destroy any who get in their way. Luke's only hope is to find the book before they do, but to do so he'll need help from someone he never expected as the forces of evil come to bear on the magical world of Countryside.



Opening Lines

"The wind howled through the passageway and between the stone columns where Quentin stood, staring to the north. Dark clouds gathered, and lightning flashed in the sky."

My Thoughts

I hate starting reviews on a negative note, but this book had a lot of very familiar elements to it. There were some definite similarities to the Harry Potter series. Luke, the main character/hero, has three best friends in Countryside: Matt, a boy that is a bit clumsy and hotheaded, Marti, a boy who stutters and is nerdy to a fault, and Samantha, a girl that is intelligent and keeps her cool in tough situations... Ron, Neville, and Hermione, anyone? Luke also has to go through the process of going into downtown Countryside to buy his school supplies, which consist of strange books on unknown subjects, weird tools and supplies, and a trip to some pretty odd shops. Is anyone else reminded of Diagon Alley? Then there is the matter of a class with a Centaur as a teacher, Luke being a surprisingly good football player like his father, and a class bully with his minions whose face you just want to punch. Add all of these elements together and you get the sense of being at Hogwarts with Harry being an excellent seeker like his father and the sudden urge to see Draco, Crabbe, and Goyle puke slugs. Oh, and Luke writes in a journal each night, and the pages of this journal make the ink disappear... If you've read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, you know what I'm talking about here. The similarities were just a little close for my taste.

Then there is the matter of the portal between the world and the Holdings. To travel long distances in a short amount of time, the characters use archways handed down to them by the Ancients. If you press the correct ancient symbols in the correct order, a blue rippling light covers the doorway and you walk through to the new location designated by the combination of symbols.... This may be my nerd showing, but that my friends is a Stargate.
For those of you that are not quite as nerdy as me and perhaps haven't seen this amazing 90's sci-fi TV show, I will elaborate. Stargates were left on planets by the Ancients (yes, they use the same name) and are a way to travel quickly between planets. To operate a stargate, you must press seven symbols in the correct order (which then light up) and a blue, lighted, ripply surface covers the gate so that you can walk through to the designated destination. Look back up at the book cover and you will see the archway to Countryside... now tell me that's not a Stargate!!

That being said, there are a few unique elements to the story and the land of Countryside and the creatures and monsters that live there. I still think it is a good read and that kids will especially enjoy it. It is intended for a younger middle grade audience (perhaps 4th-6th graders), and I think that it hits home with it's level of whimsy, adventure, and excitement for that audience. I can also see some definite religious undertones (as you might see in The Chronicles of Narnia). They are present enough that it could start some cool conversations about Christianity between parents and their kids, but they are also subtle enough that it wouldn't be glaringly obvious to non-Christian kids and parents. I think this is a very hard balance to hit but that Cope did a good job of it. If your kids like series such as Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, or Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the Countryside series is worth checking out. 


My Rating

Overall, I give it a 2 out of 5 hearts.

About the Author
J.T. Cope IV was born in Texas, and grew up in the small farming community of Wheelock, living on land that had been in the family for over a century. In 2002 J.T. graduated from Centenary College of Louisiana with a bachelor's degree in physics. This college was also where J.T. met his beautiful wife, Katie. He joined the United States Marine Corps in January 2003 and was married to Katie in July of that same year. In 2006 he returned from Iraq and in a small table in the back of a local coffee shop, on a cold (about 78 degrees for Hawaii) and rainy day took down the first notes and ideas for his Countryside Series. In November 2006, J.T and Katie moved back to Fort Worth, Texas where J.T. pursued a master's in geology at The University of Texas in Arlington. As a geologist, J.T. spent much of his time visiting drilling rigs, and picking through rocks brought up from two miles below the surface. However, this time allowed J.T. the opportunity he needed for his book, Countryside, to grow. Over the next two years, Countryside received the love and attention it needed in order to turn into the book it is today.


Follow J.T. Cope IV at the links below:

Purchase a copy of Countryside: Book of the Wise on Amazon here!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Novella Review of Cursed Beauty by Dorian Tsukioka

Title: Cursed Beauty
Author: Dorian Tsukioka
Pages: 97
Publication Date: 2013
Source: eBook from the author

Quick Summary
A pair of glass slippers that can change her life? When something is too good to be true, it usually is... Adelaide has lived her entire life cursed with a birthmark that makes people shy away. When an invitation to the Elder Prince’s ball falls in her lap, she knows attending would only cause people to shun her more. A fairy godmother feels her pain and offers her a pair of glass slippers that not only transform her ragged dress to an elegant gown, but also removes the mark that covers her face. However, Adelaide soon learns that the beautiful slippers can steal away more than just her birthmark, leaving her cursed in a far worse way. This retelling of the classic Cinderella story will resound with readers of young adult fiction who love paranormal fantasy, fairy tales, and a splash of romance.
Opening Lines
“Though she was now miles away from the prince’s twenty-first birthday ball, the girl could still hear the music ringing within the castle walls.”

My Thoughts
Well, normally I'm not much for short stories and novellas because I like the magic of a story to last a bit longer. Give me a 600 pager any day of the week. But this particular novella captured my attention. I am a sucker for fractured fairytales! I love taking old stories that everyone knows and turning them inside out and upside down. Needless to say, I've read quite a few Cinderella stories in my day, and I think Dorian Tsukioka did a good job of keeping the classic story while changing enough to make it interesting and new. 

It's going to be very hard not to give too much away here, but I'm going to try my best! Adelaide, the main character, is not the beauty we normally think of as Cinderella (at least not without her magic shoes!). An ugly birthmark mars her face and neck, making her an outcast and a laughingstock in the village. Her father was the court physician and she actually has back story with the princes (yes, there is more than one), which I really liked. It helped to make the very quick romance much more believable, a feat that is difficult to accomplish in 97 pages. I also appreciated that there was more than one prince, giving our "Cinderella" some options. But the best element of this retelling was definitely the villain. While I have seen this character vilified in other retellings, I liked the motivations that drove this particular person and how they eventually linked back to past events. There is also some redemption for a few characters I've hated in the past, which is refreshing. I don't want to give too much away, so I will have to leave you with those vague sentences about my thoughts. But definitely check out Tsukioka's novella if you're curious! I read the whole thing in one evening. 

My only complaints were that I would have loved to have seen this as a novel instead of a novella (which is really more of a personal taste thing). And there were some spelling and grammatical errors. As a former English teacher, I do find that hard to forgive in a published work. But as far as the important things go (storyline, characters, writing style), I thought this novella hit it out of the park!

My Rating
Overall, I give it a 3 out of 5 hearts. 
About the Author
Dorian Tsukioka was born in Iowa, but lived most of her childhood in the heart of America, in Kansas City, Missouri. After college, she lived in Japan, in Nagasaki Prefecture. There, she met her her husband and got her crazy last name. She and her husband lived in Las Vegas, Nevada; Durango, Colorado; and Colorado Springs, Colorado until her first born child came along. Then, the lure of free babysitting brought her family back to Kansas City, where you can go to the opera, see a major-league ball game, and go cow tipping all in one night. Dorian is a full-time elementary school teacher and late-night writer. She loves writing young adult fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction stories. 

Follow Dorian Tsukioka and her fractured fairytales at the links below:
Website: http://dorianwrites.blogspot.com 
Twitter: @DorianTsukioka
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/doriantsukioka/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6922601.Dorian_Tsukioka
Google +: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+DorianTsukiokaWrites/posts

Purchase a copy of Cursed Beauty on Amazon here!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Title Announcement!

Hey friends! So I've been chatting with author, Jesse Cope IV, via email for the last few weeks, and I have the pleasure of posting a review of his whimsical YA fantasy adventure, The Book of the Wise, the first book in the Countryside series. The Book of the Wise looks like this: 


And though I haven't had a chance to begin reading it yet, I am ecstatic about Cope's summary. He compared it to The Chronicles of Narnia and the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Quite possibly two of my all-time favorite YA series. So it's got some hype to live up to! Pick up a copy on Amazon and read along with me as I delve into a land of fantasy. And keep your eyes peeled for my review come January. 

But today, I get to post about the title reveal of the second novel in the series! I'm super stoked to get to be a part of this excitement! Woot Woot! 

So without further ado: the title of the second book in the Countryside series is... 
(drumroll please!) 




Tuesday, December 16, 2014

BOOK TOUR!! Review of The Knife's Edge by Matthew Wolf

Title: The Knife's Edge
Authors: Matthew Wolf
Pages: 511
Publication Date: April 8, 2013
Source: eBook from Kismet Book Touring


Quick Summary
When legends come to life the world trembles from a single name. Ronin. Once-heroes from a different age, they wield elemental powers… wind, water, fire, stone, forest, sun, moon, flesh, and metal. At the same time, a young man discovers his best friend with a sword in her stomach, and dark wings sprouting from her back. Guards rush onto the scene, accuse him of the act, and he is forced to flee. In a new world without his memories, Gray must find his way amid legends and darkness, as he wrestles with an elemental power inside himself. A power all too similar to the infamous Ronin…


Opening Lines 
"Kirin ran. Using the tooth of the battlement as a stepping-stone, he launched himself at Ren."

My Thoughts 
First of all, I must say that I am extremely excited about this series and book tour! High fantasy holds a very special place in my heart for two reasons. It is definitely the genre I would choose to write should I ever publish a novel, and I was named after a character in the high fantasy series The Sword of Shanara by Terry Brooks. It has always been one of my favorite genres, so when I saw that Matthew Wolf's book was touring I had to be a part of it! 

And let me tell you, Wolf did not disappoint. The Knife's Edge is his breakout novel and quite the series starter. There were a few technical elements (spelling, grammar, punctuation) that could have used some editing, but overall I was very pleased. Wolf was able to create very compelling characters, which (in my opinion) is the most important part of a good book. Gray is mysterious and powerful yet compassionate and kind. He takes up the role he was destined for, but learns that many of the stories he grew up hearing are actually true, though they have been bastardized and changed over the years. The Ronin are also very intriguing. They are extremely powerful and have elemental powers, but are they as evil and dangerous as they are made out to be? That remains to be seen. The one part of the characterization that was a bit confusing at times was the split between Kirin and Gray. While I found the idea of the same character becoming almost two character to be fascinating, it does become difficult to figure out who is who sometimes. The book begins from Kirin's point of view, which was initially a bit confusing as I was also growing accustomed to the jargon of this fictional world. Once I caught on to the language, that was no longer a problem; however, when he made the switch to Gray both time and events are lost leaving the reader with a gap that is not resolved for quite some time... I like the element of mystery that this provides, but unfortunately it also comes with some confusion and a lot of questions. 

Setting, plot, and dialogue are the other big three that make up a good novel, and this is another place Wolf excelled. The world he created was breathtaking. It is obvious that the author has spent a lot of time outdoors in some very beautiful parts of the world, and he weaves his experiences into the elaborate tapestry of Daerval. He completely embraces the use of sensory detail, which truly helps his world come to life. The one thing here that was a bit confusing until I was about halfway through the book was the difference between Farhaven and Daerval. At first, I didn't really understand that there were two worlds. I just thought that maybe I had gotten the name of it wrong. This difference is eventually explained, but until then I had a hard time understanding that Farhaven was the land of magic and Daerval was simply human, ordinary, and nonmagical. I was also unclear whether the legends of the Ronin and the war were from Farhaven or Daerval. The gap between the two was just a bit further than I would've liked it to be. 

The dialogue was well written and feels like real people actually conversing, while still holding that style of high fantasy. This is a very difficult balance to hit, but Wolf did it quite well. The other thing I loved about this book was that the plot is very mysterious and fast paced. It kept my attention and made me want to continue reading. I don't want to give too much away here, but it is definitely worth the read! Mystery and fantasy combined? Yes please!

I think Matt Wolf is definitely a wonderful up-and-coming author. I can't wait for the second book in this series! The Ronin Saga is definitely going places. 

My Rating 
Overall I give this book a 3 out of 5 hearts.
 
About the Author
At a young age, Matt had an unusual mix of passions; archery, herbalism, tracking, and everything to do with Japanese history and language, but he was always first and foremost a story teller and a writer. Early on, he wrote epic tales of mice inspired by Brian Jacque’s Redwall. Then at sixteen years of age he was roped into the world of young adult fantasy and from then on was utterly captivated; spending all-nighters finishing series like Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, and Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth. Matt was also stirred by sights of the world. The rolling grass hills of Switzerland and the highlands of Scotland inspired much of the setting for the saga he would later write. After graduating from high school, Matt moved to Oregon to attend Oregon State University. With the combination of too much solitude, breathtaking landscapes, and a heap of books, Matt began writing again and The Ronin Saga took form. In fall 2007 Matt transferred to UCSB as an Astrophysics Major, a far cry from the English degree he later ended up earning. After four years of Japanese, and a heavy emphasis on Old English, Matthew graduated with a passion for language as well. The languages of the book (Yorin and Elvish) along with the wide range of cultures in the story are heavily influenced by these traditions. As for Matthew’s hobbies, they are far ranging as well, but dwell mostly in the realm of the “old soul.” He is also a Kung Fu instructor. Matthew is currently touring—visiting schools, libraries, and bookstores to spread the word of the Ronin. For a list of his upcoming speaking engagements visit www.roninsaga.com/pressroom.

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Purchase a copy of The Knife's Edge here

Monday, December 8, 2014

Review of Legacy by Ellery Kane

Title: Legacy
Authors: Ellery Kane
Pages: 242
Publication Date: Sept. 5, 2014
Source: Copy from the author

Quick Summary
How do you want to feel today? In 2041, the choice is yours.
San Francisco is deserted, the Bay Bridge bombed, and the BART subway trains grounded. The
Guardians, members of an elite and mysterious government-appointed military police force, are maintaining order at all costs—thanks to emotion-altering drugs like Emovere that suppress fear and anxiety. Lex Knightley, daughter of a prominent forensic psychiatrist, risks entering the devastated city to partner with the Resistance, a group of rebels intent upon exposing the dangers of Emovere. Lex discovers an ally in Quin McAllister, a magnetic Guardian Force recruit with a haunting past that binds them together. As she uncovers the secrets of the Guardian Force and confronts the truth about her family, Lex begins to realize that even those closest to her are not quite who they seem.


Opening Lines
"The first time I kissed someone, it wasn't at all like I had imagined - and trust me when I say that I had spent hours imagining it."

My Thoughts
First of all, I must say that I am very honored to be chosen to review this book. I think it has very interesting social commentaries, and it takes place in the San Francisco Bay Area, a place that I have family and am very familiar with. This is Ellery Kane's break out novel, and for a first publication, it's really not bad. It has enjoyable characters and takes place in an intriguing world. However, I must continue my rant on the cliche dystopian teen novel. While there were some interesting concepts explored in this book, there were definitely cliche elements that made some plot points very predictable. 

But let's start with the positives. The idea of emotion controlling drugs that are as strong as this novel makes them out to be is a unique point. While we currently have emotion controlling drugs in our society in the form of antidepressants or "happy pills," these drugs don't completely change your entire reality and personality. I have first hand experience with antidepressants, and they are a God-send when it comes to dealing with depression or trauma and getting yourself into a healthy frame of mind. However, these drugs don't alter who I am, my personality, or my moral decisions. Emovere, Agitor, and Crim-X (fictional drugs from the novel) on the other hand, can completely change your personality by making you 
hyper-angry, immune to fear, or entirely without compassion. Do I believe our scientists would have the ability to make drugs such as these? Yes. Are they currently in production? No. But we have other drugs and hallucinogens that have invaded our society and change the way people are and the decisions they make. I find this to be one of Kane's best social commentaries. Whether this was an intentional pass at the illicit drug use in our country or simply a byproduct of the story that I happened to pick up on, I think it is a problem in our society that could lead to some serious destruction and definitely an increase in crime. 

Of course, there was a commentary on the government and military making decisions for us without our knowledge or consent. This is kind of a staple in dystopian fiction, and it was a point that I expected to see. In this novel, as well as many other recent dystopian novels, where there is authority there is subterfuge, lies, and propaganda to help cover up whatever agenda the leaders are pushing. One thing I did appreciate about the government cover up in this novel was the level of propaganda usage and the censorship of media that Kane highlighted. Again, this idea in dystopian fiction is a bit tired and cliche. But if we were being lied to and used by the powers that be, the media is the first place it would start. So even though it's a bit of a "done" concept, it keeps the society of the book more grounded and realistic. 

Now on to the relationships in the book... and where I found some issues. I did like the main characters (Quin and Lex) and their supporting characters (Max and Elana) a lot. Lex and Quin are very likable and sympathetic characters, and they share some pretty hot scenes (which are always a bonus!), but a lot of their relationship felt very childish and even makes the characters come off as forced at times. Don't get me wrong, I like them together! But some of the writing during their fights, make ups, and even their dialogue could have been cleaned up. With a little tuning it would have felt more like a real relationship. Then there is the problem of Quin finding Lex's mom as a confidante. I found that to be a really weird dynamic. I would have understood it more if he would have turned to Max or Elana (two of the supporting characters that are his age and have known him for awhile) for help instead of a forensic scientist and the mother of the girl he likes. I don't know about you, but if I got into a fight with my husband, his dad is not the first person I'd talk to about it. Mostly, because his dad has to love him, but his dad doesn't have to love me (even though I know he does). In a real life scenario, Quin would have been a bit terrified of talking to his girl's only present parental figure. And Lex's mom would have most likely taken Lex's side. She loves her daughter, and while she may have given Lex advice on her relationship, she would still support her decisions. 

Unfortunately, I couldn't get past this little hiccup. In a book like this, there needs to be some reality to ground it and make it believable. In some places (like the social commentaries and the setting) it had that grounded feeling, but above all, the characters needed to be believable. If characters aren't realistic, the readers aren't going to buy their decisions and actions. If you have extremely solid characters, you can have them be superhuman and do unthinkable things, and the reader will buy into the story. If characters are a little shaky, it breaks the readers' suspension of disbelief. And sadly, this is why I had to knock this book down to a two. 

My Rating
Overall, I give it 2 out of 5 hearts.

About the Author
Ellery Kane is a forensic psychologist residing in the San Francisco Bay Area. She spends her days evaluating violent criminals and trauma victims. A voracious reader herself, some of her favorite books include Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye; Slyvia Path’s The Bell Jar; and Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy. Legacy is her first novel.


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