Legend by Marie Lu

What’s It About: Legend takes place in a future United States which is now called the Republic which is in a perpetual warring civil war with other parts of the nation and plagues run rampant. The story is told through the alternating perspectives of June & Day — two teens who live incredibly different lives. June lives the military life in which she is on the fast track to the Republic’s army due to her perfect scores and her brother’s high rank. Day, coming from the poor sector, is one of the most wanted criminals in the Republic and lives a life in a constant state of running from the Republic and playing tricks on them. When a horrible crime is committed that shakes June’s world, she gets put on point to track down Day who is presumed to be responsible. But what happens when motives may not be what they seem and enemies unknowingly become allies?

Legend by Marie Lu is a smartly written cat and mouse game that is adventure filled and full of surprises as the reader awaits the moment when both Day and June will figure out the true identity of each other. The tension of the relationship leaves you often not being able to breathe because you keep thinking, “IS THIS THE MOMENT? Who’s going to find out first??” It’s beyond gripping. I really enjoyed the characters of Day and June – what’s not to like about a misunderstood rebel who really has a heart of gold or a smartass, daring girl who sleuths around with the big boys to hunt down criminals…like Nancy Drew but with kickass weapons and a defiant attitude? Ok, really, love you Nance but watch your back because June could have the criminal tied up and a full confession before you even find a clue.

I think the biggest problem I had with the book was that sometimes June and Day reminded me TOO much of each other and, despite the alternating perspectives, I would find that their personalities were blending together for me. But mostly I loved them even if they totally don’t seem like they are 15 year olds. But then again, who knows how much you’d have to grow up in a world like THAT. My other gripe would be that I felt like we didn’t get to know much about WHY the world is the way it is..which I know we’ll probably learn more about in the second book but I wanted a LITTLE bit more than we were given.

Final Thought: Legend by Marie Lu is a fabulous addition to the YA dystopian canon and would highly recommend those who have just gotten into The Hunger Games. It’s full of adventure and a few surprises and twists that will leave you reeling not to mention some fabulous romantical tension, shocking betrayal, a messed up government & a future world that makes you thank your lucky stars that you don’t really live in it. It’s a great book for both teen girls and teen boys and I’d highly recommend it to reluctant male teens. I was reading it at the same time as my 13 year old nephew and he devoured it and just couldn’t stop talking about how good it was!

Learn more on Goodreads or Amazon
four-stars

Book Review: Under The Never Sky By Veronica Rossi

Aria and Perry live in two completely different worlds. Aria lives comfortably in Reverie — a very science fiction type city of enormous domes where technology allows you to do anything you want or be anywhere you want within different realms. You could be walking around the ancient streets of Rome or singing at the opera. When news that her mother, a scientist working in a top secret pod, goes missing Aria seeks answers at any cost which leads to Aria getting exiled from her home…into the Wastelands where she meets Perry, a Savage. Their journey for answers and redemption forge together as they realize they need each other to survive and to find the answers to the get them back to the ones they love.

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi is exactly what I needed to read right now! This post-apocalyptic/dystopian novel was fast-paced, highly imaginative and made for one exhilarating ride. I loved that part of this novel was more science fiction-y than most of the dystopian reads I’ve encountered but there was still that wild, badlands feel with the “outside” world where Perry lived that seemed more like a post-apocalyptic world. The world-building was incredible in this book because of this. I was equally interested in both worlds and how they operated, what they looked like and how they became separated in the first place. Veronica Rossi built these worlds so intricately that I couldn’t shake the images that my mind was conjuring up. I am in awe of these worlds she created.

I really LOVED the characters of this novel. I loved seeing Aria come to learn more about herself through this journey. She proved to be so strong but believably so. She was still vulnerable, seemingly weak and scared when she first started it all but I loved watching her power through it all and WANT to learn how to protect herself and learn that she COULD survive in the outside world. I think the thing I loved about her is that she wasn’t some badass, superpower female lead but she was a normal girl who took her horrible circumstances and really became brave and made smart decisions to keep herself fighting. And Perry..he isn’t without flaws but it’s so hard not to like him. And their relationship…PERFECT. I loved how their journey and their inner turmoil helped them to really start to see each other for who they really were rather than the labels they had assigned to each other as “Savage” and “Dweller.” I fully enjoyed watching their relationship and tensed up quite a few times waiting for some sparks. The rooftop scene…YEAH…tension galore.

While I really enjoyed this novel and couldn’t put it down, there were a few things that bothered me about it. I felt really confused at first in the beginning. I felt like I missed a first chapter or something where things were explained about the world. There was just a lot of things thrown  at you all at one time and it really took about 50 pages for me to really get into it. I really had no context for what happened to the worlds that they were like this.

The biggest source of contention, for me, was the Aether storms. They were mentioned so frequently and I didn’t feel like I even understood what the heck they were or how they came to be. The only way I can think to explain it is if you’ve ever seen Lost. The Aether storms to me seemed like the Smoke Monster (not actually that it’s like the Smoke Monster but in how confused it made me). It just always seemed to be in the storyline and you don’t know where it came from or why it’s there but it just keeps showing up and that when it comes around BAD SHIZ HAPPENS. That’s how I felt about the Aether sky and the storms. I just didn’t get them. I hope that we come to understand it in the next book but it honestly did make me really confused that there seemed to be no explanation about them — not even a little. I didn’t need to know everything but I felt I was missing something…

My final thought: If you are seeking a fast paced, exciting YA dystopian/post-apocalyptic from start to finish..Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi definitely a good pick. The world-building was fantastic and I could picture it all. It wasn’t without its flaws..there were a few elements that made it confusing in the beginning and I wished I would understand some things at least a little bit because..well I just felt like I was missing some things. Great characters, accessible writing & lots of action from the get-go! AND HEY..no cliffhanger. I was actually really satisfied with the ending!

Review On A Post-It

* I received this book from the publisher — HarperTeen — in exchange for an honest review. I swear on my bookshelves full of great books that this in NO way shaped my opinions in this review.

four-stars

Review: The Unbecoming Of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster – 9/11
How I Got It: Got an ARC at BEA!
Read a summary here.
Pre-Order It here.

I’m going to preface this with: I normally don’t write reviews like this. I mean,  my reviews tend to be more conversational and laid back rather than a literary analysis that is eloquently written with excellent usage of literary terms straight from your college textbook. But this review…I’ve tried to write this 10 times since I finished it and this is the only way it’s worked…to gush and then to rant like I’m calling up my sister and telling her about it.

Oh goodness. This book and I…we have a real complicated relationship. I finished this book in a day. To say I devoured it would be an understatement. It was like the kind of head-over-heels-and-so-deliriously-drunk-on-lust infatuation….you know the kind that might make you go and get hitched after a day together. THAT is how smitten I was with this book.

From the very first page I was undeniably locked in. The mystery and intrigue had me in its grips, I fell in love with Noah (who weirdly enough I kept picturing as a cross between Logan from Veronica Mars and Heath Ledger in Ten Things I Hate About You…more so Logan with his bad boy swagger and adorableness) and Hodkins unraveling of the plot and ability to balance the paranormal, romantical and realistic aspects of the story was brilliant.  There was some sexy, steamy tension and that was a nice distraction from the mysteries and general confused (in a good way!) state I was in.

I mean, there were some bizarre things going on in this book. Good bizarre…in a way that I was DYING to figure it out and trying to formulate guesses as to what is going on. I felt just as crazy as Mara felt trying to grapple with what I was reading — is this a dream? Are these ghosts? Parallel universes? Is she dead or something bizarre like that? WHAT IS REAAAAAL?!? WHAT IS HAPPENING?!? Freakin A. I felt like David after the dentist for goodness sake. Seriously. The screaming and all. AND THIS IS ALL IN A GOOD WAY! MIND-BENDING!

BUT I WAS LOVING IT ALL. I was getting ready to slap a “Jamie’s Pick for Best Book Of The Year”…and, friends, that carries more weight than the big O book club sticker…and mine are sparkly.

BUT THEN…about 3/4 of the way through..something happened. Some may call it a plot hole but I just call it plain old WTFery. It involves alligators and that’s all I’m going to say. But what happened is that it really deviated from what I had come to expect from the story…and not in a good way for me. The whole situation seemed illogical to me and I didn’t quite find it believable in the scope of the book. I can’t really explain it without giving things away but that scene and some of their decisions and conclusions afterward just really seemed off. I mean, maybe it’s just me. I still pressed on because I NEEDED and wanted to know what was going on. I read just as quickly through until the end….and the ENDING…OMG. Cliffhanger central. And a real doozy of a cliffhanger too. I will most certainly be reading the second book.

My other tiny gripe is that, while I really did love Noah because I’m always rooting for that bad boy who isn’t really bad, I found him to be a bit cliched in some ways…not too terribly..but I feel like I must note it. With his playboy, jerk ways…I didn’t ever really BELIEVE that just having met Mara was enough to change. I mean, I guess they have a different connection as you’ll find out when you read it…but I don’t know. There were also some whiffs there of instalove and you know that is one of my personal bookish pet peeves. But again with that…by the end I could kind of see why he might have instantly been drawn to her.

My final thought:  Mara Dyer was a riveting and hair-raising read that will have you turning the pages ravenously with that insatiable desire to know and understand all the little mysteries and the intricacies within the book. I really did enjoy the book but some of the bizarre plot holes and some directional choices of the story coupled with some personal pet peeves prevented me from slapping a “BEST BOOK EVAHHH” kind of label on it. I would highly recommend it for readers of YA who love to be on the edge of their seat trying to figure out a HUGE mysterious puzzle and are looking for well-written supernatural stories and can maybe turn a blind eye to some bizarre plot holes. I will definitely be reading the second book because I am wholly invested in figuring out what the heck is going on!!

Review On A Post It: 

Edit: I found out via Twitter from Michelle Hodkin that there are some  changes from the ARC (that I read) and the final copy…like one major sentence that was missing somewhere. Soooo we shall see if that clears some things up for me!

three-half-stars

Thirteen Reasons Why By Jay Asher: Reflections + Giveaway

One of the first YA books that I had read and made me want to explore the world that is YA literature is Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher….so I’m super excited that it is now available in paperback and thanks to Big Honcho Media I have TWO copies to give away to two lucky readers!!

I went through an emotional rollercoaster while reading this book. I felt sorry for Hannah, I hated Hannah, I wanted to get through all the tapes to figure out WHY she did it, my heart broke for Clay, I wanted to punch certain people and I wanted to never ever have to experience the confusion, the guilt and the “what-ifs” of someone I knew taking their own life. There are so many questions surrounding suicide. At this point in my life while reading this book, I hadn’t really known anyone to commit suicide aside from a neighbor but I was too little to remember. I had lost my mom to cancer a year before I read this but I knew that at least she didn’t CHOOSE to leave me. My heart broke for people who had loved ones that committed suicide and I got emotional and angry at people who did that sort of thing because I know my mom would have given anything to live. And then I after my anger subsided I felt truly sorry for people who had made that decision. I felt sorry that they literally felt they had nothing worth living for. Not one thing that made it worth it. I wanted to hug these people. I truly did. Especially the young ones.

Since reading this book, I have watched my little sister lose one of her good friends at 15 to suicide. I watched her wrestle through the grief and the “what could I have done”, “if only I would have done this” scenarios. And my heart broke. My heart broke that my little sister had to know about these things. My heart broke that a boy of 15, who hadn’t really experienced life, thought that he wanted it to be over. Since reading this book,  I lost a friend to suicide. She was beautiful and kind and just graduated from nursing school. And her friends and her family….we’ll always have questions and never ever get any answers.

Despite what some people think, I believe books like this are special…and not too dark for teen readers. Let’s be honest…life can be too dark. And I feel like I keep seeing young people making this decision to end it and teens deserve to be able to talk about it and reflect on it and know their options. The beauty of a book like this is that there is SO MUCH DISCUSSION that can come from it. A wonderful thing that has come from this book is an initiative from Penguin — The Thirteen Reasons Why Project. Teens from all over (each review is also logged on a map) can share how this book has affected them through text, video or photo. You should check it out! I found it to be a really powerful initiative to see teens speaking out about it.

Now for the giveaway: Two lucky people will win a paperback version of Thirteen Reasons Why. Leave a comment (and with a way I can get in contact with you– Twitter, blog url, email) about either a) why you want to read this book b) your thoughts about this book if you have read it or c) a comment about whether or not books like this are “too dark” for teens. I’d really love to get a discussion started.

+ You don’t have to be a follower.
+ US only since it is being shipped out from the publisher.
+  This giveaway ends 11:59 PM on June 13th

If you aren’t familiar with this book here is a summary:

Thirteen Reasons Why is the story of a girl named Hannah Baker who takes her own life. But before she does, she records several cassette tapes explaining why and sends them to the people she feels pushed her toward that decision. The story is told from the point of view of Clay Jensen who spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah’s voice as his guide. He becomes a first-hand witness to Hannah’s pain, and learns the truth about himself—a truth he never wanted to face.

Why I Think YA Saves

Hell hath no fury like my Twitter feed right now after a WSJ article about YA. I’ve seen incredibly brave blog posts from authors and bloggers in response and the #YAsaves tweets have made me remember why I love being a part of the bookish community.

I wasn’t initially going to write a post that had anything to do with this subject because after reading some of these amazingly brave and articulate posts…I’m seriously doubting what I really have to contribute. I’ve been through bad times..but nothing like some of the things I’ve read today. I don’t have this huge story to tell about how YA saved my life. But…you know..YA and reading in general has done some incredible things in my life and those around me. I’ve always been a reader. I devoured books even faster when my parents got divorced and during the messy custody battle and then our ultimate move. Books made me forget about what I heard. But at that point..I wasn’t reading books that really delve into Real Life Issues. I was still young..I was reading Little House On The Prairie, Sweet Valley High, etc. etc. I was reading to forget the nasty things that were being said and forgetting the look on my dad’s face when I told him I wanted to move 4 hours away with my mother.

Enter into my high school years. I read..but not as much. I wanted to be popular. I thought popular people didn’t read so I wasn’t going to be a bookworm anymore. I was too busy trying to decipher an AIM conversation with the Boy of the Week, going shopping and having the right stuff to be “cool.” Life was easy peasy. It was light, it was fun and I had hope. I was a good student and I loved my life. All my friends and I had these happy little lives. Then came my senior year and my mom was diagnosed with brain cancer. Inoperable. My teen self did not understand this. Things like this DID NOT HAPPEN. A fucking tumor…and like that my life was beyond different. I couldn’t relate to my friends and they couldn’t relate to me. They didn’t understand where this anger was coming from within me. I DIDN’T understand where this anger was coming from within me. Had this always been inside of me? Was I always this messed up? I ended up moving out for a little while because things became so hostile in my house. I cried myself to sleep, read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath over and over again and tried to be bubbly and happy when I was with people…because I didn’t want to lose my friends and I didn’t want to lose the happiness that I once had.

I didn’t read YA books during this time. But GOD..I wish I had some of these YA books that I’ve read now (as a twenty something) when I was in high school and especially during this time. I was too busy trying to grow up and being TOLD I needed to grow up.  As most of you know me, I read a variety of adult, YA and non-fiction. I read them as the mood strikes. I read adult and YA that is light and fun and I read adult and YA that is dark and depressing. Because…that’s how my life is. As a YA I saw some horrible things with my mom being ill. Horrible horrible things that I can’t ever erase from my head. I said HORRIBLE HORRIBLE things that I can’t ever take back.  But at the same time, there were so many fun and carefree times in my life. That’s just how it goes and I’ve found literature that reflects both of those times in my life.

I WISH I had books that were as real as the YA books I’ve read in these past few years…I wish that I could have had these books to feel not so alone during this time and to understand that the rage I felt within me was ACCEPTABLE and NORMAL…even though my friends made me feel like I was insane and “not handling things well”….considering THEY never dealt with anything like I was dealing with. They didn’t understand grief and pain of this magnitude. And I am SO happy that they didn’t have to experience that during these years of their lives. I read books now that deal with losing a parent and I find myself having a deeply personal reaction to them. Even though it has been years since my mom has passed away, I bawl and really feel something when I read these. And each time I begin to understand more and more of the feelings that I couldn’t explain back then. I realize I wasn’t a lunatic and that I wasn’t alone. Other people have gone through things like this and even worse. It’s therapeutic for me really and I wish I could go back in time and hand my teen self these books and say…”you might not be at risk for suicide or being harming yourself in any way throughout this experience…but these books…they will SAVE you from thinking that you are crazy. They will SAVE you from thinking you are alone. They will SAVE you from being too afraid to have hope ever again. You deserve to have hope.”

Something that isn’t about me:
I hate what this article implies…that YA now is too dark..too raw…too explicit. Like teens can’t handle it. I’m glad it is. I’m GLAD things that didn’t used to be talked about are talked about now. Everyone deserves a voice. My mom lived with an alcoholic father who beat the shit out of her mother. They lived in filth and poverty. And it wasn’t ok to talk about it. My mom dealt with it by moving out and becoming anorexic because she could control that. And I’m sure my mom wasn’t the only one who lived with secrets. Can you imagine living these things and never being able to talk about them or realize that you weren’t the only one?? I love that YA gives some of these tough issues a voice. Somebody has got to speak up for teens and teach them that they are ok, that things will get better and that life is freaking NOT unicorns and rainbows alll the time. It can be…life CAN be that way. But sometimes it gives you tumors or alcoholic parents…and sometimes it gives you summer days in the sun staring at cute boys or feeling like a princess on your way to prom. It’s not ok to ignore both sides of it. It’s just not. 

I used to babysit for a family that had a crisis situation on their hands. The mom was an alcoholic and those kids saw some horrible horrible things….their mom chasing their dad with a knife, their mom passed out on the floor, their mom hitting herself and trying to later tell the cops that the dad did it. The mom has since left but I cannot tell you the stuff that these kids have seen and how all of that effects their life today. I know firsthand because my sister is dating their dad. It breaks my heart to know these things. There is a beautiful and smart 13 year old girl that I have become very close with through this…and you know what…SHE READS YA. She loves YA. We talk about YA and I give her books when I see her. She LOVES Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series and this past year I took her to a signing when Richelle came into town. To see her face light up and to see her acting like a kid again at this event made me SO incredibly happy. She is going into high school and I worry about her. The normal pressures coupled with what she has been through makes me worry that she will get into things that she shouldn’t. But right now I am thankful that she reads to cope with the shitshow she saw in her life…because I can’t tell you how I felt seeing some of the things she went through. She reads, she’s healthy and she’s happy. She loves vampires and cute boys. She isn’t doing drugs or having sex. And I am thankful for that right now. I can’t speak for her and tell you that YA saved her life. But I bet you that she’d tell you that YA makes her life a little bit better, makes her FEEL like a teen again and helps her to escape from some of those things. As she gets older, I plan on handing her some of these books that have been deemed as “inappropriate” or too raw….and I plan on talking to her about the issues that these books raise and I know my sister will as well. She knows some of these issues first hand at a young age…issues that I’ve never experienced and she deserves to be able to read about them to realize that others know and that her feelings….they are justified.
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