Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Review of Cinder by Marissa Meyer

AuthorMarissa Meyer
Pages: 387
Publication Date: January 3, 2012
Source: given to me by Natalie (thanks, friend!)

Quick Summary
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.
Opening Lines
"The screw through Cinder's ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle."

My Thoughts
So I know that I'm a little late to the Cinder fandom, but COUNT ME IN! This novel (and series) was such a fantastic idea for a fractured fairytale! It combines all of my favorite genres: young adult fiction, sci-fi, and (of course) classic fairytales with a bit of a twist! I LOVED IT!

First, let's talk about the setting. This book takes place on a futuristic Earth and Moon (called Luna). This part of the larger series takes place in the royal kingdom of New Beijing. I mean, how else would we have a Prince Charming? And this kingdom is full of hovercraft for transportation, androids to take care of most of the work, and cyborgs to experiment on. Unfortunately, a plague is ravaging the kingdom and with cyborgs being only part-human, they are the natural test subjects for a vaccine. Having a fairytale set in the future is such a brilliant idea! Instead of the cheesy talking animals, we have robots. And instead of a horse-drawn carriage, we have hovercraft. Admittedly, the sic-fi futuristic twist totally brought out my nerdy side. I also love the use of a "non-white" cultural presence as well. A Chinese Cinderella and Prince Charming add some much needed ethnicity to this classic fairytale. 

One such cyborg is Cinder, the main character. She doesn't remember anything from before the accident that made her into a part-human/part-machine combo, but she knows that the way her family now treats her isn't fun. She is an incredible mechanic and provides for her stepmother and stepsisters with this talent. That is until her stepmother sends her off to be tested on for plague research, turning Cinder's world completely upside-down. Through all of this, Cinder is a strong character who is as caring and kind as we consider most classic renditions of a "Cinderella" character, but she has sass and sarcasm to back her up! She's totally BA, and I pretty much want to be her. I don't want to give too much of her story away, but she does meet the prince and she does go to a ball... just maybe not in the way you are anticipating! 

Iko is Cinder's sidekick, partner in crime, and best friend. She is also an android. Iko kind of makes up the "friendly and helpful mice and animal" characters that we see in the Disney version of Cinderella, and she has hints of the "fairy godmother" as well. Iko is a hilarious character that you can't help but love, and she is completely head over heels for the prince... there is some major 

fan-girling involved! I loved the use of an android as Cinder's confidante because who could better understand a cyborg than a robot, especially a robot that longs to be human? Aside from Cinder, Iko may be my favorite character in this book. 

The other really important character is Prince Kai. I bet you can't figure out what part he plays in this fractured fairytale! *wink wink* And let's be real, Iko totally has the right idea about Kai. I was even fan-girling a little bit myself. He is cute! And let's be honest, it's hard to pass up a hot, down to earth, prince of the land! Kai handles the pressures of office with grace and wisdom despite his young age and manages to be gorgeous while doing so. Fictional character crush? Oh yeah. *dramatic sigh* But it also gives us a good look into a character that we usually don't give a lot of thought. Prince Charming, in many renditions of Cinderella, is a very flat character. He's rich; he's handsome; and he gets the girl. The end. No depth. But Cinder gives us a good look into the Prince's psyche. We see his thought processes, and while we may not agree with all of his decisions, we understand why he made those decisions. A something tells me there is more to come from our young prince in future books...

I can't say too much more about the plot or side characters without giving things away, but I will tell you it is fantastic and managed to thoroughly surprise and delight me. I highly recommend this book and series, especially if you're a fractured fairytale fan like me! It's a refreshing new take on this classic tale. 

Warning: If you start this book and don't have Scarlet and Cress handy, you will regret it! I finished this book in one day and by the time I was done, the bookstore was closed and I had to wait until the morning to go buy the next two!! It was an agonizing few hours. If you get one, get them all. 

Overall, I give it a strong 5 out of 5 hearts!

About the Author

Marissa Meyer lives in Tacoma, Washington, with here fiancé and their two cats. In addition to her slight obsession with books and writing, she's big on road-tripping, wine-tasting, and hunting for antiques. She is represented by Jill Grinberg. Cinder, her debut novel, is a futuristic re-envisioning of Cinderella in which Cinder is a cyborg mechanic.

Follow Marissa Meyer 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 Cinder on Amazon Smile here

Monday, August 3, 2015

Review of Grimspace by Ann Aguirre

Title: Grimspace
Authors: Ann Aguirre
Pages: 312
Publication Date: March 2008
Source: a wedding gift (Thanks Natalie!!)

Quick Summary
As the carrier of a rare gene, Sirantha Jax has the ability to jump ships through grimspace - a talent which makes her a highly prized navigator for the Corp. Then a crash landing kills everyone on board, leaving Jax in a jail cell with no memory of the crash. But her fun's not over. A group of rogue fighters frees her... for a price: her help in overthrowing the established order.
Opening Lines
"Are you afraid of falling, baby? No, I'm afraid of landing."

My Thoughts
So a little background, Natalie gave me this book as a wedding present. She was one of my bridesmaids and it was such a thoughtful idea to get me books, which I obviously love! I read this book back in December, while on a ski trip with my family, and am just now finding the time to put my thoughts together in a post. So, any references to skiing or winter are because I wrote my thoughts out awhile ago and am just now getting them out to you! Sorry for the delay. 

Wow. This book is stinkin' amazing!!!!! Seriously, one of the best wedding presents I received (thanks Natalie!). Ann Aguirre is a fantastic author with an amazing voice that kept me laughing and crying throughout the entire book. I was engaged from the moment I opened the cover and had a really hard time putting it down to go skiing with my family! That's the sign of a good book, right there. 

Sirantha Jax is such a compelling main character, full of wit, a hell of a survival instinct, and the rare ability to jump a spaceship through grimspace from one point in the galaxy to another. Aguirre writes Jax's pain and hurt and longing in such an accurate way, full of raw human emotion, that you almost get the sense that she herself has seen this kind of heartbreak. It breathtaking and beautiful. 

Then there's March. Phew! Can you say brooding, tortured, and hot?! Mmhmm... Expect a lot of angst and sexual tension in this department. It seemed to be just the right amount of romance and sex here. It didn't overwhelm the story, but added to the characters of March and Jax by filling out their backgrounds and history. It brings them deeper instead of simply adding sex in for sex's sake. 

I also loved the universe that this story takes place in. In sci-fi, there are so many aliens and worlds that are all humanoid or only have one climate for an entire planet. This universe has a bit more to it. Bug like aliens, shape-shifters, and invisible flying monsters keep the suspense up as the gang travels across the galaxy. The galactic politics are also a big part of the story-line and add some intrigue. I don't want to give too much away here, but check this book out! It's awesome! I find myself already checking Aguirre out on Goodreads to see what else she's written! 

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

About the Author
Ann Aguirre is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author with a degree in English Literature; before she began writing full time, she was a clown, a clerk, a voice actress, and a savior of stray kittens, not necessarily in that order. She grew up in a yellow house across from a cornfield, but now she lives in sunny Mexico with her husband, children, and various pets. She likes all kinds of books, emo music, action movies, and Doctor Who. She writes all kind of fiction in multiple genres, both YA and for adults.

Follow Ann Aguirre 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 Grimspace on Amazon Smile here

Friday, July 17, 2015

Review of Tainted Energy by Lynn Vroman

Title: Tainted Energy
Authors: Lynn Vroman
Pages: 300
Publication Date: Oct. 21, 2014
Source: copy from the author

Quick Summary
For seventeen-year-old Lena, living in the trailer park with the rest of town’s throwaways isn’t exactly paradise. Dealing with a drunken father who can't keep his fists to himself doesn’t help matters either. The only good thing in her life, other than track, is the mysterious man who visits her dreams, promising to find her. When a chair burns her arms, Lena chalks it up to stress-induced crazy. Yet as bizarre incidents escalate, even being crazy can’t explain it all away… until one day dream guy does find her. Tarek lost Lena seventeen years ago after she was accused of treason and marked Tainted. He finally discovers her reborn on Earth into a life of suffering as punishment for her crime. However, someone else has already found her… and wants her dead. Willing to sacrifice everything, he fights to keep her safe so she can live the only life she’s ever known—even if that life doesn’t include him.

Opening Lines
"Nothing annoyed me more than crappy friends. The type who did stupid stuff, like grab my shoulder and scream right in my ear, 'Help me, Barbara!'"

My Thoughts
First, I need to make a quick apology to the author, Lynn Vroman, because it took me forever to get this post out! She gave me the book months ago, and I read it back in February, but then I got a full-time job and the blogging went on the back burner for awhile. So, I am very sorry that this review has been such a long time coming! 
Now, on to the review!

I think my favorite thing about this book was the sheer whimsy of it all. It was incredibly imaginative. Everything from lunch lady guardians to giant man-eating jellyfish that live in trees! It made the world (well, more like multiple worlds...) fun and unpredictable, which is always refreshing, especially in a young adult novel. Vroman weaves the concept of reincarnation - into new lives, new bodies, new worlds - into her book, and this is something I've never seen done in a YA novel. 
It's deep. It's thought provoking. And it's unexpected. 

I also thought the addition of an abusive father and a weak mother gave the main character, Lena, some depth. She wasn't just some teenage girl worried about boys and what everyone else thinks of her. She was fighting a battle at home, daily. It made her a much more believable character and gave me a good reason to sympathize with her. She is so strong for both herself and her mom. And she is determined to get out of that house and make something of herself. 

Tarek, I wasn't so sure about. I originally thought the idea of a literal "dream guy" was a little weird, but as the book goes on and the setting and idea of multiple worlds begins to take form, it makes more sense. That, and it's hard not to fall in love with Tarek. Tall, dark, strong... and has been searching the cosmos for Lena since he lost her. Yes, please! 

The last thing that I appreciated about this book is that no one is what they seem. Just as you've formed an opinion about a character, something happens and completely changes everything you were thinking about them! I couldn't guess what the villain's plan was ahead of time, and those of you that know me, know that I LOVE when books can surprise me like that! 

Unfortunately, this book wasn't perfect. Some of the writing, especially at the beginning of the novel, could have been better. It seemed quite discordant at first. It took awhile for some of the back and forth between characters and the setting to make sense. Once I began to understand the story and get some more information about how the world was set up, the book began to catch my interest. I guess what I am trying to say is that if you can get through the first part of the book, 
it gets quite good!

My Rating
Overall, I give it 3 out of 5 hearts.
About the Author
Born in Pennsylvania, Lynn spent most of her childhood, especially during math class, daydreaming. Today, she spends an obscene amount of time in her head, only now she writes down all the cool stuff. With a degree in English Literature, Lynn used college as an excuse to read for four years straight. She lives in the Pocono Mountains with her husband, raising the four most incredible human beings on the planet. She writes young adult novels, both fantasy and contemporary.

Follow Lynn Vroman at the links below:
Website: http://lynnvroman.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lynnvromanauthor
Twitter: @lynn_vroman
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22739224-tainted-energy

Support the non-profit I work for (Family Life Services of Washtenaw County) or one of your choice by purchasing a copy of Tainted Energy on Amazon Smile here!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Named one of NewInBooks Contemporary Young Adult Bloggers to Follow!

We got some exciting news today! NewInBooks named our blog one of their Contemporary Young Adult Bloggers to Follow. This is a huge honor, and we greatly appreciate it. Of course, we wouldn't be here without all of you, our faithful readers, and the amazing authors and publishing companies that send us books for review. You all rock! If you'd like to see the article, I am posting the link below: 

Be looking for a new review tomorrow!

Monday, July 13, 2015


It's official! My favorite book series (including the book with the character who is my namesake!) is going to be made into a TV series!!!! If you have never read the Shannara series by Terry Brooks, read it now. Right now. It's absolutely fantastic! 

From what I can tell from the trailer, it looks like the TV series will be based mostly on Book 2: The Elfstones of Shannara. 
This is the book where my name comes from. This is a book I've read so many times I've lost count. This is my favorite author. If you haven't heard of him, he is a hidden gem and quite prolific. I LOVE Shannara, and even I haven't read all of the books yet! But this announcement has lit a fire in me and makes we want to reread them all again. I am so very excited! I hope you grow to be as excited as I am! Here is the trailer for the series: 

Get More: MTV Shows

Monday, June 22, 2015

Review of Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

This book was recommended to me by fellow blogger Goose and Bug. And let me tell you, it was a fabulous recommendation! So thanks, friend!

Title: Out of the Easy
AuthorRuta Sepetys
Pages: 346
Publication Date: Feb. 12, 2013

Quick Summary
This book is set in 1950 in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Josie Moraine, the daughter of a local prostitute, wants nothing more than to get out of The Big Easy and study at a nice college away from the secrets, hardship, and the judgment of the Quarter. But when a wealthy man dies under mysterious circumstances, Josie finds herself in the middle of a police investigation and a web of lies she struggles to keep. All the while, Josie tries to understand her unwanted connection to her mother, her yearning for a better life, and which of the young men in her life will win her heart. 

Opening Lines
"My mother is a prostitute. Not the filthy, streetwalking kind. She's actually quite pretty, fairly well spoken, and has lovely clothes. But she sleeps with men for money or gifts, and according to the dictionary, that makes her a prostitute."

My Thoughts
The first thing I have to say about this book is that it made me cry. Like full on sob. In fact, it's taken me awhile to complete this post because of the emotions linked to talking about it. While this book is set in the French Quarter and delves into the brothel life of the times, that isn't what the book is about. The book is about Josie, a girl who is smart and cunning and thick-skinned and determined to get in to college and make a better life for herself than that of her mother. But what made me cry was the deep connection that she formed with the father of the man that owned the bookshop where she lived and worked. This man had Alzheimer's, though of course at that time it didn't have a name yet. I read this book not long after my grandma passed away. She had Alzheimer's, and I took care of her for quite awhile before she died. This author must have had some kind of experience with the condition because her portrayal of it and the the people taking care of this character were dead on. It just brought back a lot of the emotions and memories of my grandma's final months and eventual passing. While I cried because it was a difficult thing to experience and I was still grieving, I also cried because it was a beautiful relationship and it was somewhat cleansing and healing to see that beauty amidst such a hard and close to home situation. It has now been over a year since my grandma went to be with the Lord, and while I still miss her, I am able to talk about it freely now.

Anyway... back to the book!
As with Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys has completely embraced the power of voice. Voice can take an author from good to great. It just adds so much depth and personality to the characters, enough that they feel like real people you are connecting with. Sepetys has an amazing grasp on this concept, and it shines in this book. There are so many characters with vibrant personalities and lives in this novel, but their voices bring them to life! In their voices, you hear the buried pain, the hidden love, and the longing for another life.

I also thought that Sepetys had a good choice of setting. Admittedly, the French Quarter in the 1950s isn't a place I had a ton of knowledge about. It's not frequently discussed in basic public school history classes these days, and I believe this is the first book I've read that was actually set there. Needless to say, I learned a lot! Sepetys weaves history and culture into her novels so well, that you don't even realize how much you've learned until you're done. Just another reason to recommend her books to be taught in history or literature classes. Though with some of the "sensitive" content, this one may need to be done in the right classrooms. There isn't any explicit content, but when you talk about prostitution in a classroom there is bound to be at least one kid that asks some awkward questions at home! With the right structure and lesson planning, I'm sure it would be possible.

I have to recommend this book and anything else by this author. She is phenomenal.

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

About the Author
Ruta Sepetys was born and raised in Michigan in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. Her award-winning debut novel, Between Shades of Gray was inspired by her family's history in Lithuania and is published in 45 countries. Her second novel, Out of the Easy is set in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1950. A historical tale of secrets and lies, Out of the Easy is a haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny. 

Follow Ruta Sepetys 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 Out of the Easy on Amazon Smile here

Friday, June 19, 2015

Book Announcement!! A Girl Undone By Catherine Linka

Hey, bookish friends! I know it has been awhile since my last post. I've been pretty swamped at work. But never fear! I managed to find time (way too late at night!) to read quite a few books and should have some reviews coming out very soon.

Before my reviews, I wanted to make a quick announcement about a book coming out this Tuesday! A Girl Undone is the sequel to A Girl Called Fearless by Catherine Linka. If you haven't picked the first one up yet, I recommend checking out a copy. I will have reviews of both books in this series coming out in the near future, so you can hear all about my thoughts on the characters and such. Until then, look into these books yourselves and see if they might be something you want to read!

Quick Intro
Catherine Linka is no stranger to the publishing world. Her first book, A Girl Called Fearless, met terrific success and was an ABA Indie Next Pick, a nominee for the America Library Association’s Amelia Bloomer Project, and also won the Young Adult Novel Award in 2014 from the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association. A frequent speaker at book festivals and writing conferences on girl power, book banning, speculative fiction, and the debut author experience, Linka was also the children’s and young adult fiction buyer for an independent bookstore in Los Angeles for a number of years.

In Linka’s award-winning debut novel, the first installment of a two-book series, a synthetic hormone in beef killed fifty million American women ten years prior. When the death threat passed, the Paternalist Movement took power in order to “protect” young women and control the decisions they make. Avie Reveare is looking forward to the prospect of college but when her dad "contracts" her to marry a rich, older man, her life suddenly narrows to two choices: be trapped in a marriage with a scheming politician, or escape with Yates, a lifelong friend and the boy she loves. Now, Linka brings us the much anticipated sequel and exciting conclusion to Avie’s story, A GIRL UNDONE: A Novel (St. Martin’s Griffin; June 23, 2015).

Short Teaser
Having survived a violent confrontation with the US government, Avie is not out of danger. Both she and Yates, have been declared terrorists. With Yates hospitalized in critical condition, Avie must undertake the perilous task of carrying information that can bring down the Paternalist party, if she can get it into the right hands. Forced on the run with handsome, enigmatic woodsman Luke, Avie struggles when every turn becomes a choice between keeping the two of them alive or completing their mission. With her face on every news channel and a quarter million dollar reward from the man who still owns her marriage contract, Avie’s worst fears are about to come true.

Inspiration Notes
Romantic speculative fiction set in a contemporary America, Linka’s books are inspired by historical and current events. She began her work exploring what it would be like if American girls were suddenly forced to live with the same restrictions on their choices that face women in many developing nations. She added to the context of the series by displaying how having an unequal number of females and males affects societies, as well as how dowries and bride prices affect human behavior. The strong themes of women’s rights make both of Linka’s volumes timely reads for young and adult readers.

Currently in development for a television series with Universal Cable Productions (UCP), along with A Girl Called Fearless, A GIRL UNDONE is written in the same style that Catherine Linka fans have grown to love—equal parts thrilling and romantic. The explosive conclusion to this riveting series will surely win over faithful readers and newcomers alike.

About the Author:
Catherine Linka is the author of A Girl Called Fearless and its sequel, A GIRL UNDONE. A former children’s and young adult book buyer for an independent bookstore in Southern California, she studied international politics at Georgetown University before getting a master’s degree in business at the University of North Carolina. After years in sales, marketing and advertising, she re-imagined her life and pursued a masters in writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Catherine is a regular speaker and panelist at book festivals and publishing conferences. Catherine is married and lives with her husband in the San Gabriel foothills. 
Visit her at www.catherinelinka.com.

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!

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.
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