Showing posts with label Dystopia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dystopia. Show all posts

Friday, January 5, 2018

Review: Nemesis

"The world might be about to end, but what did I care? My world ended all the time." 
-Brendan Reichs, Nemesis

Since she was eight-years-old, Min has been murdered on all of her even birthdays, just to wake up again in a forest clearing completely unharmed. No matter what she does to stop it, the black suited man comes to murder her without fail. Noah has also struggled with nightmares of death and destruction, until a shocking discovery turns his world upside down. Everyone he trusted has been lying to him. As the Anvil, a giant asteroid threatening Earth, looms closer, Min and Noah realize everything is more connected than they could possibly imagine. Min vows to figure out the conspiracy at the center of their town before it costs more people their lives.

I'll start with this: the premise of this book is fascinating, the first third to a half of the book easily pulls you into the world of Min, Noah, and Fire Lake, Idaho. You're in the dark, much like Min is, and you desperately want to figure out why she has to go through these gruesome murders. Events are unfolded at just the right pace to get you interested in the conspiracy at the center of the town, and whether or not the world is actually going to end. 

Once I got to about the halfway point, the book started to get a bit repetitive for me. Min and Noah just kept asking why, without getting any real answers until the very last 50 or so pages. While Reichs keeps up the action between the middle and the end, peppered with a few twists that will keep you hooked in the story of Min and Noah (and Tack), I eventually just wanted to know what was happening. And by the end, I still didn't have any clear answers, meaning that I'll have to pick up the second book when it comes out in March. Maybe I should have just waited until they were both out to read them!

The other thing that bothered me about the plot of the novel was that it wasn't quite believable to me. Most dystopian texts that I read seem to based in reality, expanding on a social flaw or societal fear. This one seemed a bit far-fetched. In turn, this made the plot seem a little disjointed by the end. I was left a little disappointed, but there's hope that this can be changed with the sequel.

Overall, if you're looking for a fast paced book with a lot of twists and turns, the action in Nemesis doesn't disappoint. Brendan Reichs has left enough intrigue to make me want to pick up the sequel when it comes out in March.

3/5 stars

Friday, December 8, 2017

Review: Scythe

"Hope in the shadow of fear is the world's most powerful motivator." 
-Neal Shusterman, Scythe

Humanity has cured every illness--including death. In order to continue to control the population, scythes are the only ones who can bring about death. The wield the most power in this new society, mimicking the nature of death in the best way they can. Rowan and Citra have been chosen to apprentice a scythe, a role that neither of them actually wanted. The apprenticeship quickly turns into a deadly competition, with both of their lives on the line.

The premise of this book was absolutely fascinating, and Shusterman did not disappoint with the plot. The plot took a different turn than I was expecting, and the detail that was put into the entire scythe community was fantastic. Shusterman did everything possible to mimic natural death with the introduction of scythes, and shows very different perspectives on the position: ones that do it for the power, and ones that do it because no one else will.

The multiple perspectives also help in the building of this post-modern world. There's an interesting moral question that sets itself in center of the novel that builds throughout the text, presenting itself differently in each of the scythes that narrates the story. Both Rowan and Citra find themselves thrown into this complex community, navigating it the best they can.

The romance aspect of the story wasn't completely necessary, as the story would have still functioned just as well without it. I was addicted to the story right from the beginning, reading almost the entire book in one sitting. As a fan of young adult dystopia, this book was new and refreshing and I can't want to read the next book in the series. I think more of the "bad" will be expanded on as the corruption within the scythe society is slowly reveal. Definitely a series to keep your eye on!

4.5/5 stars

Friday, October 13, 2017

Review: The Forgetting

The Forgetting Cover
"The past is never really gone. It only lies in wait for you, remembered or forgotten."
-Sharon Cameron, The Forgetting

The Forgetting occurs every twelve years in Canaan, when everyone forgets friends, family, and memories--unless they're written down. Everyone, that is, except Nadia. As Nadia starts to use her memories in order to solve the mysteries at the heart of Canaan, she discovers truths that will alter the structure of Canaan forever. As the Forgetting looms nearer, Nadia and Gray must figure out how to stop the threats at work in the heart of the city, before everyone forgets.

The core idea behind this novel was so fascinating to me. It explores a lot about the importance and truth behind the written word and people's ability to manipulate the truth. At first, it seems like your typical dystopian novel; some event has happened and thrown everyone back into the Middle Ages, they're sheltered from the rest of the world, and hidden behind a wall everyone is afraid to cross. However, when you throw in the Forgetting, everything becomes more interesting--no one knows how long they've been there or how long this cycle has been happening.

While the writing wasn't necessarily the best I've read (it was a little repetitive at times), the characters and the plot kept me going throughout the book, and the need to understand what the Forgetting actually was. The ending was complex, filled with twists that kept me turning the pages until I finally reached the very end. Like any good first book of a series, there's a cliff hanger that's sure to keep you hooked for the next book (which just came out this week!).

Overall, an engaging read certain to make you think about the way the truth can be warped.

4/5 stars

Friday, October 6, 2017

Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One Cover

"Being human totally sucks most of the time. Videogames are the only thing that make life bearable."
-Ernest Cline, Ready Player One

Up next on Amanda plays catch-up on her reviews is Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This book got lots of attention in the media, and is getting a movie next year. I made a playlist for this book a few weeks back, and now I'll finally give it my full review.

In the year 2044, pretty much everyone lives in a virtual reality, called OASIS, because life outside of it is miserable. Wade Watts exemplifies this, living in a trailer stacked on top of other trailers, barely scraping by and dedicating his life to figuring out the puzzles hidden within the game by the creator James Halliday. Whoever figures out the clues gets the rights to OASIS, and Wade has just solved the first clue. Thus the race begins--and the only way Wade is going to survive is by winning.

I'm definitely not a gamer, and my pop culture knowledge is often pretty lacking (unless it's about books), but I still absolutely loved this book. It was packed with action, and I love quests spurred by riddles. Cline created a story that I was able to immerse myself, and of course, I always have a weakness for dystopian worlds. And this one is pretty believable, which is...scary.

Cline's ability to build worlds is one of the strongest aspects of this book. He's able to explain things enough so that non-gamers (like myself) can understand everything he's created. There are a plethora of 80s references throughout the book, given that James Halliday is a huge fan/nerd of the 80s. While I didn't understand all of them, I had enough base knowledge to understand most of them. Wade is relatable and realistic, adding to the colorful tapestry that Cline has created in his world.

Though the book is a little on the long side, and drags a little before the end, it's still an a fantastic work of science fiction. Engrossing, entertaining, and great for science fiction fans of all kinds.

4/5 stars

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Review: When She Woke

When She Woke Cover
"She'd crossed into a place where truth, even if it was brutal, was all she had to offer."
-Hillary Jordan, When She Woke

In a not-too-distant future, people who commit crimes are coded by color. In this new America, one of the worst crimes to commit is that of abortion. If you have an abortion, you are dyed red, and considered a murderer. Once you serve out your sentence in prison, you're forced into world, to survive as best you can in your newly acquired skin.

Hannah is a Red--she has been convicted of murder. As she lives out her sentence as a Red best she can, she's forced to re-consider the values she once held true, and navigate her way in a country that politicizes faith.

I originally picked up this book on my trip to London, downloading it on my phone because it sounded similar to The Handmaid's Tale, and I do quite love a good feminist dystopia. I loved the concept of this novel, because it presents a pretty realistic future, and was a somewhat different concept than what I had read before. The idea of chroming (or dying the skin of) people who had committed crimes was interesting, and I wish that the author had delved into more of this particular aspect of the society. We learn about Hannah as a Red, and a few of her other comrades when she's let out, but the colors are never clearly outlined. I feel that if they were, I would have had a better grasp of the society.

Despite the fantastic concept, an issue I had with the text was the pacing. It didn't quite feel even throughout the text, and there were definitely times where the plot slowed way down, almost to the point that it was difficult to keep reading. The ending felt a bit open to me, which I normally don't have a problem with, but in this instance, I felt like there was almost no resolution. It felt like it should lead to something more, like a sequel, but it doesn't seem like that will be happening.

All in all, this is a fascinating concept that I wish was done a bit more cleanly. But, if you're looking for a novel that will make you think about the way we treat criminals, and perhaps the direction our justice system might be going, the core concept is interesting enough that it should drive you through the slow parts of the plot.

3/5 stars

Monday, August 7, 2017

Character Playlist: Wade Watts

Wade Watts Ready Player One

It's music Monday! At least, that's the goal I'm working toward: a new playlist every Monday. This week, given that we just got a trailer for the much anticipated movie coming out next year, my playlist is dedicated to Wade Watts. Get prepared for lots of 80s music!

"Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham!
We begin Wade's obsession with the 80s with an upbeat song, to match his optimism (kind of) at the beginning of the novel.

"Dancing With Myself" by Billy Idol
Though often used in reference to James Halliday, this song also fits Wade's predicament. And pretty much the rest of society in this time period, as everyone sits in their house playing Oasis.

"Star Wars Theme" by John Williams
There can't be a bunch of 80s references without referencing Star Wars, am I right?

"Dead Man's Party" by Oingo Boingo
James Halliday opens his last will and testament video with this song, which could be considered Wade's introduction to the 80s. And the rest of the future's obsession with the 80s.

"Wild Boys" by Duran Duran
With no parents, and growing up in virtual reality, I think this describes Wade's situation quite well.

"Star Trek Theme" by Alexander Courage
Wade has a particular connection to Star Trek within the book, the original series of course. Though, all of his obsessions pretty much come from the 80s due to James Halliday.

"Ladyhawke Main Theme" by Andrew Powell
In addition to being one of Wade's favorite movies, this is also an important clue to figuring out one of the keys in the novel.

"Three is a Magic Number" by Schoolhouse Rock
An important clue in Wade figuring out how to get to the last key, and eventually figuring out James Halliday's whole scavenger hunt.

"Monty Python and the Holy Grail Ending Music" 
Another one of Wade's favorite movies, again due to James Halliday's influence.

"Invincible" by Pat Benatar
By the end of the book, Wade feels pretty invincible and able to take on anything in the Oasis. And in real life, too.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review: The Girl with All the Gifts


"Melanie thinks: when your dreams come true, your true has moved."
-M.R. Carey, The Girl with All the Gifts

Melanie is brought to a school room everyday at gunpoint, wheeled into a room with other kids that are just like her. They're all under heavy guard, strapped into their chairs, and surrounded by a constant chemical smell. But, they just might be the answer to saving humanity.

I think this book has been out long enough that this isn't a spoiler--Melanie is a zombie. A virus/fungus has taken over the Earth, turning everyone into zombies, and the base that Melanie lives at is one of the last strongholds of humans. At the military base, Dr. Caldwell is studying Melanie and the other children to find a cure for the virus. Because the novel is narrated by multiple points of view, the way morality and the survival of humanity is presented is fascinating.

This definitely isn't your typical zombie novel, and it isn't for the faint of heart. There were passages that I had to skip over because they were simply too graphic for me--and some of the science explanations went over my head. However, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book; the writing was sound and the world created was intricate and well-thought out.

Overall, in my knowledge and reading of dystopia, this one definitely rates at the top of the list!

4/5 stars

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

5 Dystopias to Read During Trump's Presidency

Dystopian Book covers
Lately, it's definitely felt like we've been living in a dystopian world; Trump's lack of experience in the field of politics has created a wave of chaos in the first month of him being president. In fact, many of the news stories that pop up nowadays almost don't feel or seem like they're real--as long as it's not one of the many fake news stories that have been circulating the internet. From Trump silencing the EPA and other scientists to the blatant lies that his press is circulating, it's more important now than ever to stay well-read and informed.

This is where dystopian novels come in. Yes, they are fictionalized accounts of the future, however many of them have an eerie similarity to what the world has become. Reading these fictionalized accounts of dangerously oppressive governments can help us to try to stay one step ahead of the chaos that is unfolding around us. Literature can provide us with the knowledge and hope necessary to make it through the dystopic conditions we have found ourselves in.

Here are five books that you should put on your to-read list to stay ahead of the Trump administration:

1. 1984 by George Orwell

I actually wrote a post about the similarities between 1984 and Trump's presidency for the Radical Notion. The similarities are...terrifying. But they can make use more aware of the way Trump is using language to make the population more compliant.

2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Published before 1984, Brave New World depicts a different kind of society where people desire conformity and stability more than emotion or individual freedom. Brave New World depicts a society that has crumbled because of ignorance,  dominant technology, and an abundance of entertainment and material goods. Sound familiar?

3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Though Trump hasn't quite gotten to burning books (yet) he has engaged in censoring acts; he's silenced the National Parks, made multiple webpages disappear from the White House website (like the LGBTQ page, climate change, civil rights, etc.), and silenced anyone who speaks out against him. Perhaps he isn't burning books--but he's getting rid of knowledge just the same.

4. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood's book depicts a society where women are mere vessels for reproduction, only wanted or needed for their bodies. Though Trump's presidency is not quite as severe as the one depicted in Gilead, many of Trump's comments show his inherent misogyny and reflect the misogyny shown in The Handmaid's Tale.  

5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Okay, this one might be a little bit of a stretch; after all, Trump hasn't made a spectacle of children killing each other like President Snow does in Panem. In fact, Trump's administration announced a victory tour after his election win, because he loves nothing more than his thousands of adoring fans. Much like citizens of the Capitol in Panem.

While these books might depict a bleak future under Trump, reading them also show a core of resistance in humanity. By staying up to date and making our voices heard, we can be the resistance to Trump's dystopian tendencies. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Hunger Games

So I think I've blogged about The Hunger Games multiple times on this site, but each time I read it, I get a new-found appreciation for it. This read through was specifically for a class that I am taking this semester called the Heroic Tradition in Children's Literature. So far, we have read The Odyssey, Beowulf, The Hobbit, The 101 Dalmatians, and Rilla of Ingleside. It has been an interesting class so far, and the rest of the semester proves to be the same.

Now, The Hunger Games. I think by now, most people know what this book is about, but I will give a very brief synopsis. Every year, Panem puts on the Hunger Games, a competition where children between the ages of 12 and 17 fight to the death in an arena like setting, for the "entertainment" of the rest of the country. Katniss Everdeen has grown up in this society and only worries about one thing: keeping her younger sister, Prim, out of the Hunger Games.

With the third movie coming out in November, The Hunger Games is a hot topic at the moment, though I would argue that it has been a hot topic since it first came out in 2008. And for good reason. The Hunger Games is fast-paced, and always keeps the readers turning the pages. In high school, when I first read the book, I was in a book club called BBYA, where our librarians would get galley copies of books, and we would read them, and then meet on a regular basis to discuss these books. I remember when they got a copy of The Hunger Games and told everyone they absolutely had to read it. And everyone did. And we were all obsessed. While the subject of The Hunger Games is gruesome and at parts, difficult to read, Katniss Everdeen is such a riveting character that we're all drawn to her, to find out what happens. How will the story pan out?

The Hunger Games can't be read without getting any of the social commentary, which I think is more present in this book than most other YA dystopian novels (like Divergent or The Maze Runner for example). With the way Suzanne Collins has set up the Districts in the novel, it can be considered representative of our own class system in the United States. The upper class lives in luxury, in safety, while the lower classes struggle to survive day to day. Personally, I think this is one of the things that draws me to this book every time. The Hunger Games sends a powerful message, and it is so eerily similar to our own society that it isn't hard to picture this happening to us as well. While our society is steadily falling apart (just look at the news on any given day), we read dystopian novels to remind ourselves that it could be worse, that it hasn't gotten quite that bad yet. The government is sending kids to kill each other. The sun hasn't scorched the Earth. There aren't zombies running around trying to kill us. We're still surviving, and dystopian novels give us the hope that if something did happen, we would still have the chance to survive.

But back to The Hunger Games. Writing wise, Suzanne Collins does a good job of setting the scene, and creating a realistic picture of the society she's created. By narrating it in first person from Katniss's point of view, the reader can feel like he/she is really in the story, experience Katniss's experiences firsthand. And why wouldn't they want to be Katniss? She's brave, selfless, and doesn't take anything from anyone. She's willing to do anything for her sister, Prim, who's sweet and kind and the type of little sister anyone would want. Peeta and Gale (while creating that ever present love triangle) are fleshed out, foils of each other. The novel is well-crafted, and hints at things to come in later novels, things that will allow Collins to bring the story full circle.

I could probably go on and on about The Hunger Games, so I will stop here. But if you haven't read it yet, I would highly recommend it. You'll finish it in one night, I almost guarantee it. I don't think we have any reading for this class for a few weeks, so I'm sure what I'll be reading next. I'll pull something off my bookshelf for sure. Until next time, happy reading! :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Giver



Because the movie came out a few months ago, I figured it was time that I re-read The Giver, since I generally like to read the book before I see the movie, and I haven't read this particular book since I was in 5th grade. I remembered liking it then, so I figured that much probably hasn't changed since I read it all those years ago.

The Giver follows the story of Jonas, who lives in an apparently perfect Community. Everything is assigned to its citizens, there are no conflicts, and if there are, they are taken care of quickly. At the age of 12, residents are assigned their career. On Jonas's 12th birthday, he is assigned the role of The Giver, who holds all the memories of the past. Through The Giver, Jonas will learn the truth about the society he lives in.

In 5th grade, my teacher read this book out loud to us, and I remember the whole class being appalled at the end of the book. It's an open ending, one that 5th graders don't respond well to. However, now that I'm older, I've come to appreciate open endings, because it represents life. Life doesn't end perfectly, so why should the stories that we read? This is why I appreciated the ending of the book, because it leaves it up to the reader. What really happened to Jonas? What will happen to the Community he left? These questions aren't answered for us, we must answer them for ourselves.

Other than the ending, The Giver is a short read, but a thoroughly enjoyable one. I think it can be considered one of the first young adult dystopian novels, but don't quote me on that. Jonas was very well characterized throughout the novel, I sympathized with him and wanted him to make it. I also thought that the society was very well constructed, and honestly, one that I could see happening to our own society. Jonas's Community is very controlling, and with all of the restrictions being placed in our own society, this makes Jonas's present a very real future for us. I think that's the thing that keeps people reading dystopian novels. Yes, the state of our future is scary, but we read these stories to know that somehow, we can make it out. That somehow, we'd survive if any of these things happen to us, because the characters in the stories we read did. These stories give us hope.

Overall, The Giver is a fast-paced, quick read, one that would supplement a busy semester perfectly. If you're looking for something to read for enjoyment, I would definitely recommend this book. Next, I'll likely be reading something for class, I think The Hunger Games is next? Perfect timing, with the movie coming out in a month. :) Until next time, happy reading!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Mockingjay

Because the trailer just released, and the movie comes out in November, I decided to re-read Mockingjay, just because. I'm the type of person who likes to re-read books anyway, and this just seemed like the perfect excuse. And let me tell you, it's still just as good the third (or fourth?) time you read it.

For those of you that don't know (which I doubt is many, The Hunger Games series is very popular), Mockingjay is the final installment, thought I don't think I can give much of a summary without giving away anything from the last two books. Basically, Katniss has sparked a rebellion (which I would guess you would expect) and this book really sees that escalate.

Side note: I can't guarantee that I won't include any spoilers from here on out. So continue at your own risk if you have not read the book.

When Mockingjay originally came out, I feel that it was met with a lot of negativity, at least from the fan base. And I feel like a major reason for that is it isn't quite a happy ending. Everyone loves happy endings, I guess it's because it's what everyone wants in their own life. For everything to work out, to end up happily ever after. Why wouldn't people want that for their favorite characters? But the thing you have to remember is that in a war, there really aren't any happy endings. And that's what Mockingjay is, essentially, a war. People suffer. And I think Suzanne Collins does an excellent job of that. In a war, no one is the winner, really. Both sides suffer losses, both sides experience pain. And that can clearly be seen through this particular rebellion. Even though we as readers hate everything that the Capitol does, you can't deny that there are innocents in the Capitol, who didn't really deserve to die. They didn't have anything to do with the conflict, and yet they still perished in the war.

Next, I shall move onto Katniss. Katniss, who is probably one of my favorite characters, is so completely broken at the beginning of this book. And for good reason. She's been through two Hunger Games, more than anyone should ever have to bear, and believes she's lost the one person who could ever understand, Peeta. Peeta and Katniss's relationship really transformed in Catching Fire, in my opinion. In The Hunger Games, it was clearly and obviously something for show, so Katniss could survive and make it back to her family. But in Catching Fire, Katniss realizes that Peeta is the only one who can ever really understand what she's been through. Peeta is the only one who can comfort her, and she realizes she really does care for him, perhaps more so than anyone else does. So the loss of Peeta is something that sets her over the edge. And something that Gale can't really understand. Which brings me to the other point of contention between fans. Peeta or Gale? I believe by the time you get to Mockingjay, it's clear who's good for Katniss and who isn't. Though, in my opinion, that's completely missing point. This series isn't about the romance (no matter what the media makes it out to be), and Katniss even believes that she doesn't need either of them. She's perfectly happy on her own. But anyway. Back to Gale. What I think makes it so obvious that they're not compatible in this book is the way they both react to the rebellion. Gale has a fire in him, a fire that Katniss has known her whole life. He doesn't care about people getting hurt, as long as the Capitol is brought down. And while Katniss agrees with bringing down the Capitol, she doesn't agree with Gale's tactics. Despite her icy manner, Katniss doesn't want more people to get hurt. And I think that shows why they could never work in a romantic relationship. And especially after the end of Mockingjay...she could never forgive him for what happened.

In thinking about the way this book will be transferred to film, I think it will be slightly difficult, because a lot of the book takes place in Katniss's head (which I suppose is a lot like the others, but since she has so much PTSD and other trauma, that will be difficult to portray on screen). But given the way Catching Fire was done, I have faith in this movie. The only thing I fear with the whole film franchise is that we're acting almost the same way, at least the media is, that the Capitol does in the series. With The Hunger Games, there was potential in creating conversation about some things that are seriously wrong with our society. Because The Hunger Games brings a lot of those things to light (which I'm sure you can find all over the internet. This post is already long enough, haha). However, instead, the advertising surrounding Mockingjay and this whole franchise is centered around fashion. There's maeup lines, clothing lines, etc. Not to mention, the characters were white-washed, and all people do is focus on whether Katniss will end up with Peeta or Gale. This is problematic. The Hunger Games points out a lot of things that are wrong with out society, socioeconomic discrimination, violence in children, controlling governments, etc. And we're not having conversations about them. We're trivializing them. Which is sad. This book series is so powerful, in my opinion, and I think it deserves so much conversation. Maybe we can spark something with the last movie release. After all, everything starts with a spark, doesn't it?

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Dose of Dystopia

I guess I've been on a bit of a dystopia kick lately, given that is one of my favorite genres, probably. The first, Legend, I've been wanting to read for a while, and the second, The Testing, was recommended to me by a friend. Both very different visions, yet probably just as scary and probable. I think that's why I love dystopia so much. I like seeing the different ways people envision the way our world is going, even if it's in a horrible disaster.


Legend by Marie Lu follows the story of two different 15 year-olds, set in the distant future of the United States. The US is now known as The Republic, and at the age of 10 (I think? If I remember correctly), everyone has to take a test, which basically determines where you fall within society. Day failed the test. June is the only one to get a perfect score. Day is a known criminal, stealing from the wealthy and giving to the poor, while June is known as a prodigy. Their worlds collide when Day is the only suspect in the murder of June's brother. However, through the chase, June quickly learns that he world isn't as perfect as she originally thought. Which makes her question everything she's ever known.

At first, I had a difficult time getting into this book, because the author jumps right in with all of the new language and new vocabulary for this future world, and it took me a bit to get into it, to learn what everything meant. However, once I got it down, the book was very fast paced. Things just kept happening, making me want to keep reading, to find out what happens to Day and June. While there were a few plot points that I found predictable, for the most part, I rather enjoyed the book. It was a quick and easy read, definitely one that is fitting for the summer. And I'm left wanting to read the next book, which will just get added to my ever growing list of books to read.

Another thing I liked about the book was how well the characters were developed. I thought Day and June were good mirrors of each other, one coming from privilege and one coming from wealth. It also reminded me somewhat of an Aladdin story, with Day having to steal to survive, colliding with a girl who's never known that kind of life. The book was also written in two different colors of ink, gold for Day and black for June. I found that gave the book a unique edge, and really helped me to keep the two characters straight.

The Testing by Joelle Charboneau follows the story of 16-year-old Marcia (Cia) Vale, who is just about to graduate, and have her fate decided for her. As the entire Five Lakes Colony celebrates, all Cia can think about is getting chosen for the testing, the highest honor that can be endowed. When Cia gets chosen, her father finally tells her about his own nightmares from The Testing, warning her of the dangers in come. With this in mind, heading off to Tosu City, away from her friends and family forever, and forced to face the danger of The Testing on her own.

Like I said, this book was recommended to me by a friend, so I picked it up from the library. I hadn't really heard anything about it until she read it, and then I saw the third book in Barnes and Noble, a place that I frequent (surprised that it's a trilogy? I can't say that I was). I wasn't disappointed. This reminds me of a combination of Divergent and The Hunger Games, with the test that everyone has to take, and the survival aspects that are in The Testing. There's never really a dull moment in the book, either. It's fast paced and suspenseful, leaving me to not really want to put it down. I also thought that Cia was a very well-developed character, and very likeable. While not everyone would do what she did in her situation, I think she was well-rounded, and this made me want to keep reading. I wanted to know what happened to her. I can't wait to pick up the next book.

Next, I will be reading Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You by Peter Cameron. Until next time, happy reading! :)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The 5th Wave

So it's been a while since I've posted, being busy with school and work and other things. But now that I've graduated, and it's summer, I finally have time to read again, which means that I have time to blog again!

I've started out my summer by reading The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. The book starts out following Cassie, who has survived the first four waves of the alien invasion and is one of the last people left on Earth. Her family survived the first two waves, her mother died in the third, her father in the third, and her brother is missing. Now, finding her brother is her only mission. Until she meets Evan Walker, who may be Cassie's only hope. What does the 5th wave have in store for Evan and Cassie? And can they survive it?

At first, it was difficult for me to get into this book. I couldn't really connect with Cassie, the main character, and it took a while for things to be explained. The novel starts out right in the middle of the action, which I typically like in a book, but I was confused for a good 100-150 pages into the novel, which made it difficult for me to get into the story. But, once I got into the second half of the novel, I found it was difficult to put down. There were a lot of twists and turns I wasn't expecting, and looking back, it was really well written. Things fit together perfectly, and I think if I read it again, I would have a different opinion.

One of the things I definitely like about this novel is the fact that it is told from different points of view. While at first, I was a little confused. And typically, it would take me a paragraph or two to figure out exactly who was talking, but by the end, I liked trying to figure out who was talking by the little clues, what was happening, the other characters who were around. I also was able to figure out the voices of each character by the end of the novel, and I think this is a true mark of a good writer. Overall, I think I've decided that I like this novel. It's well written, an interesting concept, and I might consider reading the sequel when it comes out in September.

Up next: Scars by Cheryl Rainfield. Until next time, happy reading! :)

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Matched Trilogy

The Matched Trilogy is one that has been on my to-read list for a while, and since I found all three at the library, I figured that it was finally time to check them off my list. Matched, the first book is set in a future where the Society decides everything that you do; who you love, how long you go to school, where you live, what your job will be, etc. All her life, Cassia has never questioned the Society. So when she's matched with her best friend, she knows that he is the best possible match for her. Until another face appears on the microcard that she brings home...another face that she knows, Ky Markham. Even though the Society tells her that it's a glitch, Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and begins to question if the Society truly knows what's best. Will Cassia choose the path that Society thinks is right, or follow a new path that no one has taken before?

Crossed and Reached are the books that follow Matched, and they are all just as exciting as the first. Ally Condie has created an interesting future, one that explores a lot of different questions about our present society. In the Matched universe, the people believe that they are free, but how can they be when they aren't making any of their own decisions? They can't decide where they want to go, or what path their life is going to take. It is all based on data, which is composed by the society. And while it may be obvious to a reader that these people have no free will, they have been brainwashed to believe that the life they are given by the society is the life that is the best for them. But if you look underneath the surface, nothing is really as it seems. As it is with most things.

The Matched Trilogy has everything that readers want in a young adult dystopian novel, love, rebellion, strong characters, an interesting view of the future. The only complaint that I really had was the relationship between Cassia and Ky. I understand that this is what drove the whole story, the whole plot line, but I wish that Cassia's thinking behind this relationship would have been provided. It seemed a little forced to me, at least at the beginning, and since the story is told from Cassia's point of view, I wish more of her reasoning would have been provided. But other than that, I loved the story and believe that other people will too. I guess that's all for now. Until next time, happy reading. :)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Gone Series

Back in 2008, I first started reading the Gone series, not realizing that it would still keep me hooked 5 books later. Since the last book came out just a few weeks ago, I decided to re-read the whole series, so I could better remember everything that had happened. Re-reading the books reminded me why I was hooked on the series in the first place.

Gone begins with everyone over the age of fourteen suddenly disappearing. At first, all of the kids are glad the adults are gone. But then strange things start to happen. Kids start to develop powers, weird creatures begin to appear, and worst of all, they all seemed to be trapped in a giant dome, something the kids name the FAYZ. The series follows, with Hunger, Lies, Plague, Fear, and finally Light. Each novel presents a different difficulty for the kids, a new challenge that they have to overcome. Will they all make it out of the FAYZ? That is up to them.

At first, this series is quite unassuming. It just seems like a young adult superhero story. But I think Michael Grant makes it much more than that. As each novel progresses, things get darker and darker, and Grant creates twists that the reader never sees coming. Every time you think you know what's going to happen next, something completely different happens. That is what kept me hooked in the series. That, and I wanted to know what created the FAYZ. Grant also did a decent job at including a diverse audience within the series. There were representations from almost every race, gender, and sexual orientation. Any young adults could easily find a representation of themselves within the novel.

The one thing I think threw me off about the novel was the age of the children, which I think was the point. Often, while you're reading, you will forget that all of these people doing these horrible acts of violence, these things that any "rational" human being would do, are all being done by kids who are fourteen or under. This might be me over-analyzing the novel, but I thought of this as Grant possibly making a comment on childhood, either that we grow up too quickly now, or that anyone in a situation like that (life or death) is forced to grow up more quickly than we think is acceptable. It is an interesting perspective to look at the series as a whole.

Overall, if you're looking for an exciting, action packed summer read, I would definitely give this a try. The action is basically non-stop, and you won't be disappointed. Until next time, happy reading! :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The End of Summer

Since the last time I posted, I have left London (sadness!) and moved up to my apartment at Central. I don't know if I'm quite ready for another school year to begin, but it will begin all the same. However, I have finished quite a few books since I last posted about books on here. I read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, and The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Since I've been back in the US, I've also read The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kinsolver and The Bourne Supremacy by Robert Ludlum. I don't think I'll have time to review all these books to quite the extent that I usually do, but I will give a brief overview on what I thought of each one.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was an interesting read. It's about a boy named Oskar who is left fatherless after September 11th, and all he has left of his father are a few voice mail messages and a key. So he sets out to find out what the key unlocks. Oksar's whole journey is actually quite an interesting one, and the way it's told is different than what I've seen before. Foer reveals information in an interesting way, and after looking back on it, I think I rather enjoyed it. I think it would definitely be worth reading again, because I'm sure that there were things that I missed.

Neverwhere was an interesting book as well. It's about a man named Richard Mayhew who accidentally gets thrown into the strange world of London Below all because of a good deed he performed. Now he has to figure out how to get back. I think what I loved most about reading this book was the fact that I was reading in London, so when Gaiman would mention places in London, I would know what he was talking about. I loved it! The story was pretty good as well, even if it was a little predictable at the end. I still thought it was a pretty good book.

The Handmaid's Tale is a dystopian novel about a future where we've reverted back to life without technology. Offred is a handmaid that prays that she become pregnant, because if she doesn't, the punishment could be severe. Throughout the novel, Offred learns what the world has really become, and she wants desperately to try and get out. It's kind of a scary read because this is something that could happen in our future, which is something that is chilling about all dystopian novels. The fact that they could actually happen in our lifetime.

The Poisonwood Bible is about a family that goes to Africa on mission work. It's a family of a father, mother, and their four daughters, with a controlling, almost emotionally abusive father. The book chronicles what happens to them in their time in Africa, and what happens to them while they grow up and how going to Africa changed their lives. I enjoyed it because it was an interesting look at what happens both in missionary life and after, and how it alters the lives of the children who are taken along with their parents. It raises a lot of good points, and would be a great book for discussion in a book club or something.

The Bourne Supremacy was way different than the movie. Not only does Bourne know different information than he does in the movie, the whole novel takes place in Asia rather than in Europe. It's crazy how different the two are, actually. There aren't many similarities between the two besides the characters that are in both of them. I can't even really say which of the two I liked better because they are so different. I will just have to enjoy them separately, I guess.

Well, there were go! I'm now all caught up on my reading over the summer. :) Now that school's starting, I probably won't have all that much free time for reading, but I will definitely try to squeeze it in when I can. Until next time, happy reading! :)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Fear


I have been waiting since 2009 to figure out why all of the adults in the Gone series disappeared, and I was hoping that in Fear I would get some sort of idea, being that it is the second to last book in the series. Alas, I was disappointed. I still have no idea how this whole thing fits together, and at the end of Fear, I felt like I was left more confused than ever. I just want to know why all of the adults are gone!! I really don't think that's too much to ask from Micheal Grant. I was kind of shocked when I learned the series was going to be 6 books, but I'm going to say he definitely made each and everyone just as suspenseful as the last, with more and more creepy and disturbing stuff I wasn't expecting. I think Micheal Grant is becoming an expert as creepy and disturbing.

Fear picked up 4 months after the end of Plague. A sort of peace has come to the FAYZ (the dome that all of these kids are stuck in), but Sam and the gang are just waiting for something to happen. They know that the Darkness, or the Gaiaphage, the evil force in the FAYZ, doesn't allow peace to happen for long. And, of course, it doesn't. The kids soon start to notice a stain that's creeping up the barrier, a black stain that will plunge their entire world into darkness. And when the whole world is in darkness, how are they supposed to survive? Fear is a fitting title, as fear is what drives everyone crazy as the lights start to go out.

Talk about a suspenseful novel! Not only do the chapters countdown to something (like they do in every book in the series) but as the wall is slowly getting darker and darker, you can definitely see the panic that sets in in the children. I think Grant does an excellent job of portraying the reactions of kids, especially the younger ones, to the disturbing, creepy, slightly disgusting things that happen in the FAYZ. However, at times, I forget that Sam, Astrid, Cain, and all of the leaders in the FAYZ are just young teenagers. None of them are much older than 15, though at times they definitely have to act a lot older than they really are. And while most of the things they do make sense, I feel like some of their actions don't really fit for the age that they are. I think that's Grant's only downfall in this series. Otherwise, I think he's written a great series, one that never keeps you bored. There's always something happening int he FAYZ, and it's never something good.

Clash of Kings is up next on my list to read, and it's excellent so far. Until next time, happy reading! :) 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Divergent and Al Capone

In the week since Spring Break, I've been really busy. With work, homework, orientation for studying abroad, and competing in my first quidditch tournament, I haven't had much free time to do anything else. It's slightly annoying, because I hate not having time to read something for fun. Yeah, I know that sounds weird, but reading is my relaxing activity. However, I have finished two books since Spring Break, one for fun and one for my children's literature class. And now I will talk about them both! :)


I finished Divergent by Veronica Roth towards the end of Spring Break, I just haven't had time to review it yet. Divergent is set in a future dystopian Chicago that is divided into five factions: Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). At the age of 16, each child must choose which faction they will become a part of, the one they grew up in or one entirely different, based on a test they have to take. Beatrice is born in Abnegation, but during her test she is faced with a choice, to stay with her family or to become who she really is. And her choice surprises even her. During her initiation that follows, Beatrice becomes transformed and determine who she can trust and who she can't, all while harboring a secret that could mean her death. When she discovers a conflict that's unraveling her society, she doesn't know what to do. How will she save all the ones she loves?

As a whole, I thought Divergent was a pretty good book. I liked the idea of the factions and how that was what kept them from entering into war again, because the selfless were the ones governing the society. But as the reader, you know that something is going to happen to unravel their world. There's no way a society like that can stay perfect forever. So I knew that was going to be the inevitable conflict. The idea of the society that Roth created, however, was fascinating. I loved the world she created, the fact that we could be separated based on our strongest personality trait. It made me think about where I would be put if I lived in the same world as Beatrice, and I'm not entirely sure where I would fit. I guess I would have to take the test to find out.

There were a few things that made me not absolutely love this book. The main thing was the romance. First, there was a whole mystery aura around the guy Beatrice was interested in, but I guessed who he was right from the get-go. I kinda wish that aspect wouldn't have been as predictable. Second, I felt that the romance didn't really fit with the story. While it was sort of a nice aspect, I felt the story still could have worked if the romance wasn't thrown in there. It wasn't necessary to the story, at least in my opinion. It felt like it was more of a second thought, and I think it could've been done a little better, if it absolutely had to be in the story. The other thing that bothered me was the fact that Beatrice seemed to become really fit, really fast. She was in an initiation that was really physically intensive, but after a few days, she was already noticing her new muscles. That just wouldn't happen, even if you were working out every day. If those things were improved on, I think this could have been a much stronger book.


Now, the other book I read was Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko. This book followed the story of Moose Flanagan, who moves to Alcatraz with his family in the year 1935 when his father gets a job as an electrician there. His mom hopes to send his older autistic sister (Natalie) to a school she could do really well in. When Natalie gets rejected, Moose ends up being the one that looks after Natalie, something he's not very happy with. So the family (mainly the mother) works hard to get Natalie accepted into the school, and the book follows the events that ensue. I think this book was a really good look at families, while being in a historical setting. I loved the fact that, at the end, the Choldenko gave the historical background and facts to the novel. It really gave me a sense of the novels setting, and made me realize that this is something that actually happens. And the look at Natalie, an autistic child at the time where autism hadn't been discovered yet was really interesting. If we didn't know what the disease was, how would react to someone like that? I though Choldenko did a really good job portraying this fact. Definitely a book that I would recommend to any children.

Not that I will probably finish my next book anytime soon, but I will be reading The Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. It's good so far, just really long! So until next time, happy reading! :)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Two for One

So today I have two books to talk about! Since I didn't have much to do this weekend, and I was very productive today (I don't know what got into me...) I had free time to read! And in that free time I finished both The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien and The Death Cure by James Dashner. Both were pretty good reads.


I'll start with The Hobbit. For those of you that don't know, which I'm guessing isn't that many, The Hobbit is the prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and it follows the adventures of Bilbo Baggins. In it, you figure out how Bilbo comes to have the Ring, and the adventures that ensued after he obtained it. I think I liked it about as much as I liked the Lord of the Rings. They're good books, but not necessarily ones that would be on my read again list. I think the thing that puts me off about these books is the amount that JRR Tolkien goes into detail. In a way, it kind of reminds me of Christopher Paolini. He includes details that aren't really necessary to the story, and that puts me off. I'd rather he just cut to the chase. Don't get me wrong, details are important in allowing a reader to fully imagine the scene that's going on in the story in their own mind. But to go into so much detail...it just bothers me. So yes. He's a good writer. But not at the top of my list.


Now The Death Cure is totally different from The Hobbit. It's the third book in the Maze Runner trilogy, and I'm glad that I know how it ends. The first two books ended in cliff hangers, and this one really brought everything full circle. It's hard to summarize The Death Cure without giving away what happened in the first two books, but I can give you the basic idea of what happens in the trilogy. It's a dystopian novel, set not too far into the future where human kind has acquired this disease called the Flare. The Flare makes people go completely crazy, and Thomas and his friends are the ones that have been chosen to help WICKED find a cure. But can they trust WICKED? That's something they struggle with until the very end.

What I like about these books is how action packed they are. There's never a dull moment, and James Dashner definitely gives you surprises along the way, and they're not always good ones. The novels are very fast paced, which means they're rather fast reads. Once you start, you really just want to know how it ends. Are they going to survive and find a cure? Or is the whole world going to perish because of this deadly disease? Those are the questions that drive the whole trilogy. The most disturbing thing about this novel, and any dystopian novel in general, is that if you think about it, it could actually happen. It's something that you could actually see happen in our society, and it makes you think about what you would do if you were placed in the same situation as the characters in the novel. Would you be as brave as them, or would you go into hiding, hoping to never catch the Flare? And honestly, you'd probably surprise yourself if  you were in the same situation. People don't really know how they'll react unless they're placed in life or death situations. It's scary to think about. And hopefully we'll never have to be placed in situations like that.

Well enough of that for now. Next I'll be reading It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini. Until next time, happy reading!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Peeta or Gale?


I feel like this is one of the main questions that drives Mockingjay. Yes, there are about a billion other things going on at the start of the novel, but this is one of the main conflicts that Katniss has to deal with. Never fear, this isn't a spoiler. I think it's quite clear in Catching Fire that it will come down to this, I might even go as far as to say that it's clear in The Hunger Games. You know from the get-go that Katniss and Gale have a special connection, and Peeta and Katniss obviously form a special bond over the next two books. But who is she going to choose? I feel that readers were torn in this, kinda like readers of Twilight were torn between Edward and Jacob. But instead of having two really poor choices (let's face it, Edward and Jacob don't make the greatest boyfriends...), Katniss has two really amazing guys that she feels strongly about, though in different ways. Personally, I wanted her to be with Peeta because he's much sweeter than Gale, and I felt that if I had to choose between the two, I would definitely choose Peeta. But many people disagree. Who would you choose?

Obviously, there is a lot more going on in this novel than just Katniss's romantic choices. A war is going on, and Katniss is in the center of it all. Though she's trying to escape the clutches of the Capitol, she finds that the Rebels are almost as bad as the Capitol, still always telling her what to do. Katniss really struggles with her position in the war throughout the novel, and at times, it wears a little on the reader. You kind of just wish she would do something, though you do realize that she's kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. A lot of people could get hurt no matter what she does. 

Overall, I think that this was a pretty good ending to a trilogy. It doesn't leave you wondering what happens to any characters, Suzanne Collins made sure to show what happened to everyone you could possibly care about. Always good when there's no cliffhangers. And despite how sad and depressing the whole series it, it kind of has a happy ending. Not completely, but mostly. It's always good when there's a least a little happiness in the ending. Makes the reader feel a little bit better about life.

I guess that's all I have to say about Mockingjay. Next, I will be reading Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle. I'm getting into the Christmas spirit, since it is only 4 days away! :)