Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Book Review: Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

Title: Speaker for the Dead
Author: Orson Scott Card
Publisher: Tor Books, August 15, 1994
(first published in 1986)
Pages: Paperback, 382
Series: Ender’s Saga #2
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From Goodreads: Three thousand planet-bound years have fled since Ender Wiggin won humanity’s war with the Buggers by totally destroying them. Ender remains young-travelling the stars at relativistic speeds, a hundred years or more might pass while he experiences a month-long voyage. In three thousand years, his books The Hive Queen and The Hegemon have become holy writ, and the name of Ender anathema; he is the Xenocide, the one who killed an entire race of thinking, feeling beings, the only other sapient race humankind had found in all the galaxy. The only ones, that is, until the planet called Lusitania was discovered and colonized.

On Lusitania humans found another race of ramen … a young race, beings just beginning to lift their eyes to the stars and wonder what might be out there. The discovery was seen as a gift to humanity, a chance to redeem the destruction of the Buggers. And so the Pequininos, as they were named by the Portuguese-speaking settlers, the “Piggies,” were placed off-limits to the colony. The only humans allowed to meet them and speak with them are trained xenobiologists, and then only two at a time. This time, there will be no tragic misunderstandings leading to war. This time…

This time, again, men die-bizarrely killed by the Piggies. Andrew Wiggin is called to Lusitania to Speak the deaths of the two xenobiologists, and walks into a maelstrom of fear and hatred. To Speak for these dead, he must first unravel the web of secrets surrounding the lives of the Piggies and those who study them. He must Speak not only for the dead, but for a living alien race.

My Rating: (5/5)

Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead is quite a different story from Ender’s Game, but it’s a great one. The setting is new, the characters are mostly all new and Ender is 3,000 years older (sort of). Unlike the first book, my favorite parts of this book have almost nothing to do with Ender. Rather, I’m all about the aliens in this one.

Much of this story takes place before Ender even arrives, which gives the reader a great chance to acclimate to the new surroundings. We are now on the planet Lusitania and we’re even further in the future. There are so many new and wonderful human characters in this book and each has their own separate identity; I both loved and hated most of them. (I think I also picked up a bit of Portuguese from reading this book!)

The alien characters, aka the “Piggies” are extremely complex and mysterious while at the same time very lovable. Never could I have imagined reading a book in which I care so much about the aliens (maybe more than the people!). Perhaps the best thing about this book is that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t figure out the twist at the end so it was a real and unpredictable surprise ending which I love.

I really loved this book – it’s one of those books you wish didn’t have to end. If you’ve read Ender’s Game and loved it, I think you”ll love this one, too.

[Side note: I have read the next two in the series, but my advice is that if you want to remember the good times, stop after Speaker for the Dead and that way you can always think of Ender fondly.]

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Book Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: HarperCollins, February 14, 2010
Pages: 480
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From Goodreads: What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: the world’s most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.

Instead, it turns out to be her last.

Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

My Rating: (4/5)

I loved this book and literally could not put it down. (I finished reading it in the wee hours of the morning with a tiny lamp emitting the light equivalent to a candle so my husband could sleep.) It’s a pretty long book compared to other YA books I’ve read recently, but it went by in a flash.

The story follows popular girl Sam as she goes through her own version of Groundhog Day after she has presumably died in a car accident. At first I thought rehashing the same day over and over may get boring to read, but each day was so different than the rest and brought new and sometimes shocking revelations.

Sam and her friends are the girls you love to hate, and I did have a great time hating them. I imagined them like the characters from Mean Girls, except not as dumb and more multi-dimensional. Each day we learn more about them through the different events, especially her BFF Lindsay, and you do get to see the flip side to her bitchy persona. Aside from the bullying, the relationship between the four girls actually reminds me of my own group of friends in high school and how we loved driving around, listening to music, talking about ridiculous things, acting like we were adults when we were anything but.

In fact, this book is very nostalgic for me because Lauren Oliver’s description of high school is so close to mine right down to The North Face fleeces and New Balance sneakers, that I’m sure we must be around the same age. I also really liked that this book described the partying side of high school in an accurate light (though now that I reflect back on it, it is pretty disturbing). It wasn’t glorified or taboo and there was no preachy message; she just wrote it like it is.

This is a great book and Before I Fall makes me excited to see what other tricks Lauren Oliver has up her sleeve!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book Review: The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

Title: The Dead-Tossed Waves
Author: Carrie Ryan
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books, March 9, 2010
Series: #2 (Forest of Hands and Teeth)
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From Goodreads: Gabry lives a quiet life. As safe a life as is possible in a town trapped between a forest and the ocean, in a world teeming with the dead, who constantly hunger for those still living. She’s content on her side of the Barrier, happy to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. But there are threats the Barrier cannot hold back. Threats like the secrets Gabry’s mother thought she left behind when she escaped from the Sisterhood and the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like the cult of religious zealots who worship the dead. Like the stranger from the forest who seems to know Gabry. And suddenly, everything is changing. One reckless moment, and half of Gabry’s generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry only knows one thing: she must face the forest of her mother’s past in order to save herself and the one she loves.

My Rating: (2.5/5)

I was a little disappointed to find that Carrie Ryan’s follow-up to The Forest of Hands and Teeth didn’t pick up where the last one left off, but instead the story skips to a new generation. Perhaps because of this, I felt it was hard for me to care about Gabry because she didn’t have much of a personality. Or rather, she didn’t have the passion and fire in her like her mother, Mary did in the first book. Granted, as the story goes along she does find her voice, but I actually found myself liking the other characters more than her.

One of the best parts of this book is the love triangle between Gabry, Elias and Catcher. I must say, Carrie Ryan knows how to create drama! Catcher is the boy-next-door all around good guy and Elias is the mysterious, tortured soul. Who to pick? I really liked both of them for a lot of different reasons. Catcher really changes throughout the book so I felt like he was the most developed character.

The zombies are still here and just as bad as ever. We do find out a little bit of information about them, however so that’s appreciated. One thing that I didn’t like about this book is that the characters are forced to go through the forest by way of the narrow fenced-in paths and I thought that was a little redundant since a lot of the first book is spent there as well.

Overall, I liked this book almost as much as the first, there were just a few things lacking for me.

(On a side note I just want to say I think the covers in this series are beautiful!)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Book Review: Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz

Invincible Summer
Author: Hannah Moskowitz
Publisher: Simon Pulse, April 19, 2011
Pages: Paperback, 269

From Goodreads: Noah’s happier than I’ve seen him in months. So I’d be an awful brother to get in the way of that. It’s not like I have some relationship with Melinda. It was just a kiss. Am I going to ruin Noah’s happiness because of a kiss?

Across four sun-kissed, drama-drenched summers at his family’s beach house, Chase is falling in love, falling in lust, and trying to keep his life from falling apart. But some girls are addictive….

My Rating: (4.5/5)

This book is so beautiful and so real, I just can’t tell you how good it is. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the description and actually, I don’t think the description is an accurate portrayal of what Invincible Summer is really about. It’s about family, growing up, making mistakes and grief. A girl is just a small part of this story.

Over the course of four summers, Chase and his family undergo an evolution of change and he and his brothers and sisters discover the bonds that will forever bind them. One of the (many) reasons this book resonated with me so much is because I feel like I’ve lived aspects of this story. Like Chase, I experienced summers at the beach with my family and how it changed every year little by little until nothing was ever the same as it was in the “old days” when we were young. That’s growing up, and, as Hannah Moskowitz shows us, it’s sad, too.

Chase is such an easy character to get behind because Hannah doesn’t just tell us what’s happening, she tells us what Chase is thinking. And Chase is not perfect, not by a long shot, but his portrayal is so real, it’s like I was a part of this story and ultimately a part of this family.

This is is a tragic story and while reading, I felt like what happened to these characters also happened to me and by the end I was crying along with them, feeling their losses as mine. It’s that good.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Book Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Publisher: Scholastic Press, May 24, 2011
Pages: Hardcover, 390
Buy it on Amazon

From Goodreads: From bestselling, Printz Award-winning author Libba Bray, the story of a plane of beauty pageant contestants that crashes on a desert island. Teen beauty queens. A “Lost”-like island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to email. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives underground in girls, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror! Only funnier. With evening gowns. And a body count.

My Rating: (4/5)

I was drawn to this book originally by two factors: a) the cover and b) the LOST-ish island. I absolutely love the cover and the entire book jacket. I just think it’s fabulous. I’m also a huge LOST fan so if it has any kind of resemblance to LOST, I’m there. What kept me reading though, was the hysterical characters Libba Bray created.

Beauty Queens is entirely satirical, which I wasn’t expecting so at first I wasn’t quite sure what I had gotten myself into. Some really silly things happen and the characters say some really ridiculous things, but eventually I really got the hang of it once I learned more about each Miss Teen Dream (thanks to some helpful personal “Fun Facts” pages in the first half of the book).

While Bray pokes fun at all kinds of teen-esque things like boy bands and makeup products (ahem, guilty pleasures anyone?), what I really loved about this book was the bond the girls made while surviving on the island. Each girl had her own unique story to tell whether it was serious or shallow and though I wasn’t entirely sure where Bray was headed, when I got to the epilogue I may have shed a tear or two when I felt like I finally “got it.”

This book isn’t perfect – it’s a little longer than it has to be and the conspiracy side plot seems a little tedious – but it’s a fun, feministic read for any teenage girl, or any woman for that matter.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Book Review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Publisher: Tor Science Fiction, July 15, 1994 (originally published 1985)
Pages: Paperback, 324
Series: #1
Buy it on Amazon

From Goodreads: In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

My Rating: (4.5/5)

Ender’s Game is one of my favorite books of all time. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and it helped me out of a reading funk I’d been having for a while so I suggest it if you’re having one, too. I wasn’t too sure about it when it was recommended to me, but I took a chance and I’m glad I did.
Ender is a great character, and even though he’s a young child, he’s more like a little adult. He’s a genius, but not because he spews scientific equations or anything. He’s more like a creative thinker: a sensitive strategist in every situation he’s in whether it’s figuring out how to handle school bullies or figuring out how to keep his brother from killing him. For most of the book he’s a loner though not exactly by choice and I think we can all identify with that at some point in our lives.
Both Valentine and Peter are great characters as well, and I love that Orson Scott Card goes back and forth between what Ender is doing at school and the shenanigans his siblings are conjuring at home. Peter, by the way, is the perfect villain because not only is he a genius, but also seems to sometimes be evil and sometimes alright and as Ender’s brother, you’re never sure if you can trust him.
This is a great book for lovers of science fiction but I would also recommend it to readers who haven’t reach much sci-fi before. Some of the space gravity lingo is difficult to understand but it’s usually explained very well. The aliens are not a main feature – they are mostly just referred to, so if you’re squeamish about things like that, no problem. And finally, if you love deep character development, I know you’ll love Ender, too.
[Note: Ender’s Game is the first of a series, but it’s also a great standalone book as well. The books that follow are completely different (example: the next one is set 3,000 years after this one), but of course you can indulge if you want!]

Book Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Publisher: Gollancz, March 10, 2009
Pages: Paperback, 310
Series: #1
Buy it on Amazon

From GoodReads: In Mary’s world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

My Rating: (3/5)

I enjoyed reading most of this book, however I have to admit up front that I was disappointed with a few aspects. First, the world Carrie Ryan created was pretty damn cool – apparently I have a secret desire to live within a bizarre and totally oppressive society. Unfortunately, my need for details was not fulfilled and though the world within the fence was totally fascinating to me, it wasn’t enough for the main character, Mary.

I guess the disconnect I feel is when Mary is living with the Sisterhood (which provides some hairy scenes that made my heart race with anxiety), but the whole time Mary is there she is thinking about a guy and the ocean. I wanted her to be more interested in the mysteries right in front of her. She seemed interested, but not interested enough to really sneak around and get the answers I wanted. It was like she was preoccupied and I couldn’t get her to focus. Focus on the basement of the Church Mary! Get me what I need!

Otherwise, this was a pretty fun zombie read for me. I’ve read almost nothing on zombies so this was a good transition because while zombies (Unconsecrated) are an essential ingredient, they pretty much take the back burner on this one to the characters living within the fence. I do love the imagery Carrie Ryan created of the Unconsecrated constantly scratching at the fences. It’s so unimaginable that I love to imagine it. I only wish Mary wasn’t so preoccupied with her mother’s dreams instead of her own; in that way, I don’t think I really understood Mary, especially since we only knew her mother for a short time.

All in all, The Forest of Hands and Teeth is an exciting read that made me anxious beyond belief in parts. I did come away feeling a little empty with character development but I was still eager to get my hands on the next in the series to see if I could squeeze some more answers out of it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Book Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Publisher: Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, October 6, 2009
Pages: Hardcover, 379
Series: #1
Buy it on Amazon

From GoodReads: When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

My Rating: (5/5)
This is probably my favorite book I’ve read so far this year. It’s so different than recent books I’ve read and I love that the protagonist is a guy and yet I still really identify with him. Sometimes I think there are less YA books out there that capture the attention of both male and female audiences but The Maze Runner really nails it.
This book is all about mystery and the psychological effects of not knowing anything – who you are or where you are and which one is worse?. In many cases in fiction, the main character doesn’t know exactly what’s going on, but the reader is given hints and we can predict a little of what can happen next. James Dashner doesn’t do this at all, and it’s amazing. I was kept in the dark just like Thomas and was just as confused by all the unhelpful answers he received when he asked the boys in the Glade the questions I also wanted to ask.
Another great thing about this book is that all the characters are so unique – they all have completely different personalities and quirks that made each one stand out so even though there are many, I was never confused about who was speaking. Each character had his own tone and dialect that I could pick out as being definably theirs. (By the way, the made-up slang James Dashner created for these characters is hilarious!)
This book was like a puzzle and I was desperately reading so I could find the next piece. I barely put this book down and read until the wee hours of the morning just to finish it. This book is a great ride full of psychological twists and turns and I recommend it to everyone!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Interactive?

Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme about (mostly) books and reading. Today’s great question is:

With the advent (and growing popularity) of eBooks, I’m seeing more and more articles about how much “better” they can be, because they have the option to be interactive … videos, music, glossaries … all sorts of little extra goodies to help “enhance” your reading experience, rather like listening to the Director’s commentary on a DVD of your favorite movie.

How do you feel about that possibility? Does it excite you in a cutting-edge kind of way? Or does it chill you to the bone because that’s not what reading is ABOUT?

Personally, I love my Kindle. Like, I’m almost in love with it. But that’s because I can get books I want in less than three seconds without having to go anywhere. It’s immediate gratification and I’m okay with that. Also, it’s nice to buy things without cluttering up my house or bookshelves; it actually feels kind of “green” in that way. Like I opted not to take a plastic bag with my purchase. Kindle

That said, I have zero interest in any interactive features. That sounds to me like it’s for people who don’t like the idea of e-readers because they prefer paper books (as if we need to show them that e-readers can do other cool things too, besides you know, hold 3,500 books at a time) or people who just don’t like reading at all. Reading is fun! If we need to tack shiny new toys on to books to get people excited about reading, I think we’re in trouble. Reading to me, is about getting lost in another world and relaxing. There’s no need for flashy features to go along with books to “enhance” reading. I can tell you what enhances reading: my imagination.

There are all kinds of things that already exist that you can participate in. Like video games or social media. I say leave books alone and let those who don’t enjoy them do something else.

Book Review: Matched by Ally Condie

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile,
November 30, 2010
Pages: Hardcover, 366
Series: #1
Buy it on Amazon

From GoodReads: Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

My Rating: (4.5/5)
I absolutely loved this book! I love reading about futuristic dystopian societies and this one is one of my favorites. Ally Condie created a world that, at first glance, I thought would be fun to live in. Of course there’s the whole not-being-able-to-pick-who-you-love thing and the you-can-only-listen-to-these-songs thing, among many other rules. But there’s also a nice sense of community in world that seems to pretty much take care of your every need. Until of course Cassia realizes what she really needs, she can’t have.
The world in Matched really reminded me of The Giver by Lois Lowry, and there are lots of parallels. But in Matched, the focus is around a blossoming love story where in The Giver, the characters are  lacking the ability to really love. I for one, love the connection between Cassia and Ky. When they first realize they have feelings for each other, it’s so dangerous that they have to hide it. The forbidden romance was really fun to read and I think I actually had butterflies myself, feeling so nervous for them.
If you’re looking for a great summer read, this is it. I can’t wait for Crossed, the next in the series!

Book Review: Fade by Robert Cormier

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers, September 14, 2004
Pages: Paperback, 320
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From GoodReads: First bewildered, then thrilled with the power of invisibility, Paul experiments. But his “gift” soon shows him shocking secrets and drives him toward a chilling act.

My Rating: (5/5)

This is one of my absolute favorite books of all time. I’ve read it a few times but just re-read it recently because I remember the slight drama surrounding it. About fifteen years ago (the book was originally published in 1988, though that is far before I read it the first time), I just lived for this book. I remember I was on vacation and was supposed to be out enjoying my time and playing with relatives but instead I was laying on my bed reading this book every chance I could get.

Fade is set in the 1930s but that doesn’t matter. It is completely relevant today simply because it deals with the raw feelings of a young teen PLUS all the great fantastical things that happen to him because of his ability to “fade” (that is to say, he becomes invisible). You would think this ability would be a gift, but as you see everything in Pauls’ point of view, it is anything but. I love the implications that he can do whatever he pleases (and I can think of some fun ones as well) but each time, reality slaps Paul in the face.

About halfway through the book, we are introduced to present-day story which is too good to be true. It’s as if Robert Cormier is picking up on your hopes and dreams and giving you what you want on a silver platter – except we don’t get the answers we so desperately want right away. No, we have to work for them. And that we do, as readers of Fade.

Honestly if I can ever promote an oldie but a goodie, this is it.

Working Out the Kinks

Hello to anyone who happens upon my brand new spankin’ blog! Oh, and sorry for any inconveniences my blog is causing while it’s in the beginning stages. I’m still working out the kinks, trying to figure out what goes where and how, so thank you for your patience. I’m working off a Mac so if this looks completely ridiculous in Windows/Internet Explorer/Mozilla or you think I could be doing something better, please let me know! I would love to hear constructive criticism or anything else you want to share with me.

Aside from that, I’m very excited and hope you enjoy what I share here!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Book Review: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Pages: Hardcover, 335
Series: #1
Buy it on Amazon

From GoodReads: The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.

My Rating: (4/5)

This was a great, thought-provoking read that actually made me tear up a little towards the end. Neal Shusterman gives you the perspective of three very different teens who are all facing the same consequences but for very different reasons.

Could this story have been told from the perspective of just one person? Of course, but I don’t think it would have been so effective on me as a reader. Unwind is a story about controversial subject matter and I think it was successful at not being preachy or patronizing. Ultimately, I think it was written objectively and its purpose was only to get the reader to reflect and think deeper on the subject because clearly, not everything is always black or white. The perspectives of Lev, Risa and Connor (as well as a few others in some chapters) provided the grayness in between so if you don’t empathize or identify with one character, you will with one of the others. Even though they are all going to be unwound, the three of them have very different takes on what it means and how they feel about it.

One of the best scenes of the book is when Neal describes an actual unwinding. It’s not actually gory or described in a particularly gruesome way, in fact it’s a very clinical and sterile process, but that – and the doctors’ flippant attitudes – is what makes it most horrifying. So horrifying I even found myself sympathizing with some of the antagonists in this book.

Although it’s not light subject matter, Unwind is a great page-turner that you can definitely breeze through in a few days. I did!

Book Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Publisher: Harper Teen, Feburary 1, 2011
Pages: Hardcover, 441
Series: #1
Buy it on Amazon

From GoodReads: Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love — the deliria — blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

My Rating: (4/5)

I was really excited to read this because not only did the premise interest me, but it is set sometime in the future in the town where I now live – Portland, Maine. Lauren Oliver’s tale of the heartbreak and excitement that love can provoke painted a picture of an eerie dystopian Portland which to be honest, unsettled me a bit, especially because I could picture it so well in my head.­ While reading it, I really felt Lena’s fear as she constantly looked over her shoulder as she walked through the streets of my town.
I love books like this because even though the assertion that the government could “ban” love and treat it as a disease sounds farfetched, it truly makes you reflect on history and you realize the crazy things some governments have already done in the name of protecting its people. The quotes from the Book of Shhh (The Safety, Health and Happiness Handbook which serves as a kind of new bible for society) at the beginning of each chapter really gave me insight into the ways the government has really brainwashed the minds of Lena and her family.
The great thing about Delirium is that you can see how this decision has changed society and Lena is a product of her environment. But even though Lena has never known a world any different, she somehow senses something isn’t right and deep down she pines for something more. I, as the reader, wanted so desperately for her to understand and have that epiphany with Alex so she could break out of her world and I ended up really caring about the characters.
Overall, Delirium was a great dystopian love story and after the exciting ending, I’m really looking forward to the next in the series.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Book Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Publisher: Razorbill, January 11, 2011

Pages:  Hardcover, 398
Series: #1
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From GoodReads: Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

My Rating: (3.5/5)

The beginning of this book was amazing – the way Beth Revis described how Amy felt while frozen was terrifying. It really made me think about what it would be like if you were in a constant dream-like state and the implications of possibly going crazy because of it.
When the focus shifted back to Elder, I was still intrigued. The ship is described beautifully down to the tiniest detail and I had no trouble imagining what it was supposed to look like as I followed Elder around. It actually reminded me of The Truman Show in that the community essentially lives in a bubble (the ship) and the main characters are in the dark but have no idea about the truths that lay beyond the surface.
In the end, I was hoping/expecting a more epic romance or a stronger connection between Amy and Elder as I thought the cover suggested. The romance seemed a little one sided, however it was nice to have both of their perspectives on the relationship even though I wasn’t completely satisfied with the resolution.
I loved the mystery that Beth created; it felt like a treasure hunt and I couldn’t wait to find out the secrets of the ship along with Elder and Amy. However, the ending felt rushed and it felt anti-climatic. I felt like the pages were dwindling as I wondered if I would be let in on biggest secret at the end. I was, though I don’t think it had as big an effect on me as it was supposed to so I was a little let down with the final twists.
Thankfully, the first three quarters of the book really made up for it and although I didn’t get everything I wanted, Across the Universe was very thought-provoking on many levels and I would suggest it to readers who are interested in a unique mystery with a little dash of science fiction.