Sever

Spoilers ahead! If you haven’t read the first two books in Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy (Wither and Fever), do so now! This post will focus on Sever, the third and final book in the series.

Nearly two years ago, I began reading Wither, the first book in The Chemical Garden series, a dystopian trilogy by Lauren DeStefano. From the start, I was mesmerized–and often horrified–by the world presented in this series. Fever, book two, only increased my horror at the world that Rhine, our protagonist, is forced to navigate. And now, I’ve finally made my way to book three, Sever. In this book, Rhine continues on her quest to save herself and those around her, but, as they so often do, circumstances seem to conspire against her.

As Sever begins, Rhine continues to struggle with the experiments Vaughn, her vile father-in-law, has done on her. She is trying to cope with the knowledge that he has killed others before her, and she knows that he’s not done with her.  Rhine is also eager to find her twin brother, Rowan, and get back to Gabriel, the boy she left behind in Manhattan.

With the help of Linden, her former husband, Cecily, her sister wife, and Reed, Vaughn’s estranged brother, Rhine is, at the very least, able to avoid Vaughn’s clutches for a while. Rhine also learns a bit more about her brother’s activities. He believes her to be dead, and he has become the leader of what can only be called a terrorist group. He is blowing up scientific research facilities. He appears to believe that they are wasting their time experimenting on young people and looking for a cure that just doesn’t exist.

(You may recall that young people are doomed to die early in this world. Young men don’t live past age twenty-five, and women die at age twenty. Vaughn, Rhine’s father-in-law and Linden’s father, has become something of a mad scientist in his quest for a cure.)

Everything, though, is not as it seems. Vaughn has far-reaching power that follows Rhine wherever she goes. But Vaughn’s many deceptions will soon be uncovered in a very unlikely place. In Rhine’s quest to find her brother, she returns to the hellacious carnival that was once her prison. Secrets are revealed here that will not only lead Rhine to her brother but may also lead to Vaughn’s undoing.

As Rhine learns more and more about Vaughn’s research, her parents’ work, her brother’s supposed rebellion, and her own place in the world, she realizes that everything is much more complicated than she ever believed. And when she factors in her tumultuous relationships with Linden, Cecily, Rowan, and others around her, Rhine is more befuddled than ever.

How can Rhine hope to make sense of what’s going on around her when she can’t seem to come to terms with what’s happened to her and those she cares about? Lives have been lost and promises broken in this mysterious quest for a cure, but is it worth it? Why is Rhine so important to this search, and, if a cure is found, what then? Is Rhine doomed to be a prisoner forever? Or is there a way out? A way that not even Rhine would dare to dream of?

Questions will be answered and secrets revealed soon, but is anyone prepared for what will be uncovered? Unravel the mystery when you read Sever, the gripping conclusion to The Chemical Garden trilogy.

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Now that I’ve read the entirety of this series, I must confess something. I’m still not quite sure what a chemical garden is. It was sort of explained in Sever but not to my satisfaction. I know it had something to do with the genetic experimentation done by Rhine’s parents, but why were their experiments referred to as a chemical garden? I may have to do my own brand of research to figure this out. (Not a problem, really. I’m a librarian. Research is kind of my thing.)

I do think that the action in Sever was a bit slow at times, but I still found myself enthralled by the story. I do wish, however, that we had seen more of Gabriel and Rhine’s relationship with him. Even with the way the book ended, that story feels kind of unfinished.

When I first started this series, I couldn’t stand the character of Cecily. In Sever, however, she definitely showed an inner strength that most women–never mind fourteen-year-old girls–don’t possess. She survived so much and grew into a young woman with a core of steel. Even Rhine was surprised by how much her sister wife had matured in such a short time. Cecily grew from an annoying little girl into a young woman capable of enduring unimaginable grief and tribulations. Out of all the characters in this series, I think she changed the most. She went from an easily manipulated pawn into a queen taking charge of her own destiny.

If you want a rather disturbing view of what the future could hold, I suggest you give Wither, Fever, and Sever a try. You may like this trilogy; you may not. Every reader has his/her own taste, and that’s okay. (I say this because another blogger called me out for daring to give Fever a positive review. She’s entitled to her opinion, but I stand by my view that this is definitely a series worth reading.) This series does deal with some mature themes, so I would caution you before recommending it to middle grade readers.

If you enjoyed series like Delirium, Matched, or The Selection, then The Chemical Garden may be right up your alley.

For more information on this series or other books by Lauren DeStefano, check out the author’s website, FacebookTumblr, and Twitter. You may also want to take a quick look at the Sever book trailer below. Enjoy!

Published in: on April 11, 2014 at 2:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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V for Vendetta

Well, this one has been a long time coming. During Snowpocalypse 2014, I finally made time to dive into V for Vendetta, the classic graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. Like so many other classics, I don’t know why I waited so long to read this book (especially since I loved Watchmen so much–the book, not the travesty of a movie), but I’m glad I finally made time for it. It definitely appeals to the dystopian fiction fan in me.

V for Vendetta presents a disturbing view of an alternate England in the 1990’s. The world has been ravaged by nuclear war, and, somehow, England has come through nuclear winter. (Not realistic, but we overlook things for the sake of the story.) Fascism has taken hold, and differences–at least those that don’t benefit those in power–are eradicated. People are controlled through fear, and only a select few have any say in what happens. One man–a man who takes on the persona of the infamous Guy Fawkes–aims to change that.

The vigilante known only as “V” is on a mission. At the beginning, that mission revolves around a select few individuals, people who made him into the man–or maniac–he is. Slowly, readers learn the story of how the totalitarian regime’s policies and “experiments” made some people–those thought to be expendable–into nothing more than lab rats. Few survived, but one of them, V himself, did just that, and he’s unleashing hell on those who tortured so many. V is eliminating these tormentors one by one, and his vendetta against them is blossoming into a rebellion against everything they stand for.

Only one person has any real contact with V. Evey, a young woman all alone in this frightening world, is saved by V one night, and she begins to learn more and more about her savior. She is terrified by some of what she learns–and the part she plays in certain things–but part of her understands what motivates V. Soon, it will motivate her as well.

V for Vendetta is, at its most basic, a story about oppression and how one person can strike a flame that sets off a conflagration of rebellion. It only takes one voice speaking out to change things. Yes, V sought to subvert the system through violence and death, but his legacy was that one person could do much. Only fear stands in the way. Once fear is removed from the equation, there is no limit to what can be accomplished.

(I would add that apathy needs to be removed from the equation as well, at least as far as our own society goes. Too many people are okay with the status quo, don’t think they can do anything, or just don’t care to change things. In my opinion, this attitude is more damaging than fear.)

Maybe I’m missing the boat on my interpretation of this story, but I don’t think so. After having watched the movie–which is pretty different from the book but has the same basic message–I’m doubly sure that V for Vendetta centers on a message that resistance to any form of oppression begins with one person who decides that he/she just won’t take it anymore. Does resistance have to be violent? Absolutely not. In fact, I’d wager that most successful resistance movements are not. The point is that someone has to be brave enough to speak up and do something. Even seemingly small acts can have a lasting impact…and one never knows when those small acts could turn into something bigger and unstoppable.

Published in: on February 13, 2014 at 2:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Giver

I know it’s shocking to some that I’ve only just read The Giver. This book won the Newbery Award in 1994, and here I am reading it twenty years later. I don’t know why I waited so long to read this book (especially since my mom gave me an autographed copy a couple of years ago), but I do know what spurred me to read it now…the movie. In case you weren’t aware, a movie adaptation of The Giver is due to be released this August, and with names like Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges attached to the film, I know I’ll have to see that move…but that means becoming familiar with the book first.

I knew going in that The Giver was considered one of the first examples of YA dystopian lit, and I was aware that the book had received loads of challenges over the years. (You’d think that would have made me pick up the book much faster.) I guess this weekend, I was in the mood for something like this, so I finally delved into this seemingly idyllic world created by Lois Lowry. As we’ve all learned, though, perfection has a price, and things aren’t always as ideal as they seem once a person discovers what’s being hidden from them…

Imagine a life free from choice. Everything is decided for you: what you’ll study, what you’ll do with your free time, what you’ll eat, who your parents are, your future career. Everything. This is the only world that Jonas has ever known. This is a world free from pain, war, poverty, and suffering. Every day is the same, there are rules governing everything, and everyone knows their place in the community.

Very soon, Jonas will be assured of his place. Like every other child before him, when Jonas turns twelve, he receives his Assignment. This Assignment is Jonas’ career path, chosen by the Elders who have been watching over him since birth. Jonas is unsure of what his Assignment will be, but nothing could have prepared him for the decision that is made. He is to be the next Receiver, the only person in the community to hold all of the memories of the past. And his training with the Giver–the man Jonas will eventually replace–will begin immediately.

Jonas is nervous about his training, but he soon forms a bond with the Giver. Yes, there are moments of intense pain in his training–as is expected when painful memories are transferred from one person to another–but Jonas also experiences joy. He sees colors for the first time. He feels the warmth of sunshine and the tickle of snowflakes on his skin, things that have been removed from society in favor of sameness and control.

As his training intensifies and Jonas learns more about the past–and the present–Jonas begins to question the societal bounds that define his community. He goes to the Giver with his questions, and Jonas learns that he is not the only one with doubts…or the belief that things could one day be different. But what can be done when only two people, Jonas and the Giver, know the truth of the world? Could drastic actions lead to change? Jonas will soon answer those questions for himself…

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I’m sure the recap above in no way adequately captures The Giver. This is a powerful book that has been discussed for years, and, although I’m late to the party, I wanted to express what I got from this book and how it made me feel.

I think it’s all-too-easy to see the community in this world come to fruition. All you have to do is drive around a bit, find a neighborhood with a bunch of beige McMansions, and you can see that “sameness” is kind of glorified. Look around. Most people want to be like those around them. Being different, in many cases, is seen as bad, and those of us (yes, us) who don’t fit into a neat little mold are ostracized.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I have high hopes that the movie adaptation will live up to my expectations. (With Jeff Bridges playing the part of the Giver, we’re already off to a good start!) Check out IMDB for more information on the movie and its exceptional cast.

There are three more novels loosely tied to The Giver: A Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son. I don’t know much about these books, but I plan to learn more soon. Hopefully, it won’t take me quite so long to get around to reading these!

Published in: on January 21, 2014 at 6:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Allegiant

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Allegiant, the third and final book in Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, was released this week. You’ve probably also heard that fans are having some pretty strong reactions–both positive and negative–to how things played out in this book. (Truthfully, some of them are being jerks about it. At the end of the day, it’s not up to me how the book ended, but I can decide to be mature about how I react to it.)

This book was nothing like I expected it to be. (Honestly, I’m not totally certain what I expected after Divergent and Insurgent, but I’m sure it wasn’t this.) That being said, I truly enjoyed the book, and, even though things didn’t happen like I anticipated–or even wanted–I felt it was a fitting, disturbing, and thought-provoking end to a series that captivated me from the first page.

I’m not going to say much more about Allegiant here. To be perfectly honest, I’m still processing what happened (even though I finished the book about four hours ago). I was thrown for a loop, and I cried so much that I’m likely a little dehydrated now.  A person can’t experience a book like this without some inner turmoil, and I’m still working through mine. (I predict that anyone who reads it will feel the same.)

So…love or hate the final installment, Roth’s Divergent series is over. At least until the Divergent movie comes out on March 21st. If you’re anything like me, what happens in Allegiant may just color how you view this movie.

Published in: on October 27, 2013 at 7:33 pm  Comments (4)  
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Defiance

Normally, it takes me a week–at most–to finish a book. For several reasons, it took me a month to finish Defiance by C.J. Redwine. It wasn’t entirely the book’s fault. I liked the book, for the most part, but it wasn’t a read that demanded my attention at first. Lots of other things, however, did. Here are a few things that may have contributed to the lengthy amount of time spent reading Defiance:

  1. End-of-school-year craziness. Any educators who follow this blog know how insane the end of a school year is. Inventory. Meetings. Tracking down overdue books. Awards days and celebrations. Gathering materials checked out to teachers. Too tired to move at the end of the day. Not to mention my library got new carpet during the last week of school. That was its own brand of crazy.
  2. Netflix. Yes, I blame Netflix for my lack of reading lately. When I got home from school, I wanted to zone out a bit, and I did that with the help of the IT Crowd, the Bluth family, and the Brothers Winchester. I have no regrets.
  3. Defiance, the ebook. I downloaded Defiance as an ebook to my Kindle app when it was one of Amazon’s Kindle daily deals. I’ve found that it simply takes me longer to read ebooks than it does print books. For whatever reason, I find it easier to get lost in a print book than an ebook. I don’t know why.

Anyhoo, no matter how you look at it, it took a while to read Defiance. It was a decent book with an interesting plot, and I’ll probably read any sequels, but I wasn’t really invested in what was happening to the main characters until close to the end of the book. To put things in perspective, I read the last third of the book in less than a day.

In C.J. Redwine’s Defiance, we meet Rachel and Logan. They live in the walled city of Baalboden, which is ruled by the heartless Commander who seemingly protects the citizens from a dragon-like monster known as the Cursed One. Rachel’s father, Jared, was sent on a tracking mission by the Commander and is missing, and Rachel and Logan might be the only people who really believe that he’s still alive beyond the city’s walls. So they devise a plan to go looking for him…but the Commander may have other ideas.

It seems the Commander might know something about Jared’s whereabouts–and why he hasn’t returned–and he’ll do everything in his considerable power to make Rachel and Logan cooperate in retrieving what he believes is rightfully his. But the Commander didn’t count on just how much Rachel and Logan want to thwart his tyranny…especially when the Commander demonstrates just how far he’ll go–and how much he’ll take away–to hold onto his power.

Some people buckle under pressure, but others–like Rachel and Logan–become more determined than ever to destroy the man who has taken so much from them…by any means necessary. They’ll brave prison, loss, the Cursed One, and certain death to bring justice to the Commander. But first, they must find out what happened to Rachel’s father and what the Commander is really after. Can they do this while holding on to hope, their own humanity, and each other? What will they lose in the process? Can they fight against evil from so many sides while figuring out who’s really in control? Begin finding the answers when you read Defiance, the first book in C.J. Redwine’s Courier’s Daughter trilogy.

Now that I’ve finished Defiance and thought about it a little bit more, I realize that I’m very intrigued by the story and what may happen next. (This is usually the case when I read books that talk about rising up against corrupt governments. I should probably examine that a bit.) I look forward to seeing what happens in the next book, Deception, which will be out on August 27th.

Upon reflecting, I realize that the characters in Defiance have a lot in common with those in The Hunger Games. Rachel, the main character in this series, is kind of Katniss-like. Her circumstances harden her, make her stronger (in some ways), and force her to do what needs to be done. Her counterpart, Logan, is an amalgam of Peete and Gale. In my opinion, Logan is more emotional than Rachel, but he’s still a skilled hunter and absolutely ruthless when he needs to be. The Commander, of course, is similar to President Snow. He’s a jerkwad of epic proportions, and I dare any reader to get through this book and not want the man dead.

If you’d like to learn more about Defiance and the rest of this series, visit C.J. Redwine’s blog at http://cjredwine.blogspot.in/. You can also find out how to follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. You may also want to check out the Defiance book trailer below which takes the whole Hunger Games comparison to a whole new level.

Published in: on June 11, 2013 at 10:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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Reached

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t read Ally Condie’s Matched and Crossed, do that before continuing with this post. As a matter of fact, even if you have read Matched and Crossed, you might want to reread them before proceeding with this post and, most especially, with Reached, book three in this series. I didn’t realize how much I forgot until I was well into reading this third book. You’ve been warned!

About a week ago, I started reading Reached, the third book in Ally Condie’s Matched series. I loved the first book (which just won the 12-13 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award), I thought the second was a pretty typical second book in a trilogy, and I had fairly high hopes for this third and final book. When I started reading Reached, though, I thought my hopes were sure to be dashed. It was really hard for me to get into this book, and I kept having to go back to Crossed to refresh my memory on what happened in the previous book (and how it related to what happened in this one). Things didn’t pick up for me until about halfway through the book. After that, my reading positively flew. To put this in perspective, it took me five days to get through the first half of the book and only one to read the second half. I guess, for me at least, the first part of the book had a lot of build-up to the events of the second half, and I felt that it could have been condensed a bit. I did enjoy the book, especially the second half. Was it my favorite of the trilogy? No. That honor goes to Matched. Did it answer some of my questions? Yes. Did it tie up everything in a neat little bow? Not exactly.

Cassia, Ky, and Xander are all part of the Rising, the group trying to overthrow the Society that has controlled their lives for so long, but they all have different roles to play in this struggle. Ky is a pilot for the Rising, and it’s his job to transport supplies, medicine, and anything else needed to further the Rising’s agenda. Cassia is continuing to sort for the Society while following the mysterious instructions from the Rising. She’s also working with the Archivists, making trades on behalf of others, and gathering artists, poets, writers, and musicians together to share their gifts that the Society has long repressed. Xander, once an Official for the Society, is now a valued medical professional who is treating those infected with a Plague that has infected much of the populace. Each of them is critical to the Rising, but they’re all about to learn just how important their work really is…

When the Plague begins to mutate, everything the Rising has worked for is in jeopardy. It is of paramount importance that a cure be found. The Plague has already reached pandemic proportions, and, if something doesn’t happen soon, this disease could wipe out most of the population. The leader of the Rising, the Pilot, gathers Ky, Xander, and Cassia together to work on finding a cure. Cassia’s sorting abilities (and attention to detail) could help to find the common factor that those immune to the Plague share. Xander’s medical and pharmacological knowledge could help to actually create a cure. And Ky…well, Ky is to serve as a test subject. (I don’t think I need to spell out what this means.)

As Cassia, Xander, and even Ky learn more about the Plague that is devastating all they’ve known, they are also learning more about the Rising, the Society, and their own stories. These three young people, whose lives are so interconnected, are discovering the truth about the Plague’s origins, the Rising’s true agenda, and what it really means to have the freedom to choose one’s own path in life. The answers they find will not be comfortable, and their quest for a cure will lead them to some disturbing truths. Will they be able to handle what they find? And how will their relationships be impacted by all of this? Is the cure a possibility, and what will a cure (or lack thereof) mean for the Rising, the Society, and any other groups of people (including those who are immune)? Can everyone reach for the freedom that they’ve been denied for so long, or will the Plague keep everything from their grasp? Read Reached, the conclusion to Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy, to discover the truth for yourself.

I haven’t even come close to covering all of the events that occurred in this book. There are some minor characters (Indie, Lei, the Pilot) who have a huge impact in what happens in this book, but I’ll leave that for you to discover. Like Requiem, the final book in Lauren Oliver’s Delirium series–which I prefer to this one, by the way–Reached doesn’t really resolve everything in a nice, tidy little package. There is a clear conclusion, but there’s also room to speculate what happens to the characters after the last page.

I’ve seen both Matched and Crossed in my school’s Scholastic Book Fairs, and I think some mature fifth graders might be able to handle it. The entire series is great for middle grade, high school, and even adult readers. Reached, in particular, could generate some interesting discussions about diseases, how diseases mutate over time, and how governments or other groups could use diseases–or fear of them–to control a population.

If you’d like more information about Reached, the whole Matched series, or author Ally Condie, visit her website at http://www.allysoncondie.com/. You may also want to check out the Reached book trailer below. (Don’t worry about spoilers here. It tells almost nothing about this book…or the others that preceded it.)

Having finished this entire trilogy now, I can finally reflect on where it fits into my list of favorite YA dystopian (and/or post-apocalyptic) series. As you can probably imagine, The Hunger Games is at the top of that list. Veronica Roth’s Divergent series is a close second. Lauren Oliver’s Delirium trilogy and James Dashner’s Maze Runner series are also pretty high up on the list. I’ve started a few series (Kimberly Derting’s The Pledge, Kiera Cass’ The Selection, Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, Ann Aguirre’s Razorland series, Caragh O’Brien’s Birthmarked trilogy, Marie Lu’s Legend series, Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me series, and a couple of others) that will probably end up somewhere on the list as well. The Matched series, though, is probably closer to the bottom of this list. Yes, I did like the series (or most of it), but it is not my favorite, especially when you consider just how many awesome YA dystopian series are out there. Feel free to disagree with me. I’m just giving you my opinion as a long-time reader of dystopian literature. (I think it started with Fahrenheit 451 when I was in the 8th grade.  Thank you, Mrs. Galloway!)

Published in: on April 17, 2013 at 10:32 am  Leave a Comment  
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Requiem

Spoilers! If you haven’t already, you simply must read Lauren Oliver’s Delirium and Pandemonium before continuing with this post. It may also be a good idea to read the Delirium novellas–Hana, Annabel, and Raven–as they give a lot of insights into the minds of some pretty major characters in this trilogy. Also, I would recommend reading Requiem, the final book in this series, in a padded room. It’s either going to drive you crazy, or you’ll want to throw the book across the room. The padding may also muffle the sounds of your cries of anguish. You’ve been warned.

For those still reading this post, I assume you’ve gathered that I just finished Requiem, the third and final book in Lauren Oliver’s Delirium series. Like Clockwork Princess a couple of weeks ago, it took me longer than anticipated to get through this book. Again, I wanted to prolong the drama, but I’d also heard from a couple of people that the ending would drive me insane, and I was trying to put that off…even when the book’s events were keeping me up at night. Well, I finally finished the book this morning, and the ending did make me go a little nuts, but it was also kind of satisfying. (I’m sure other readers out there will disagree with me on the last part of that sentence.) I feel like I’ve been through a lot with Lena, Alex, Hana, Raven, Julian, and the others, and I needed at least some measure of closure with these characters and their captivating stories. (In some cases, I got a little more closure than I would have liked.)

I don’t want to tell you too much about this book because I don’t want to spoil the reading experience for those who are just discovering this series or those who are finishing up as I was. I will say, though, that Requiem is told in two viewpoints:  Lena, on the run in the Wilds, figuring out how to balance her feelings for Julian and Alex, wondering if the cure would have provided her more freedom than her current situation, and still fighting for a better future; and Hana, facing marriage to the future mayor of Portland, a man who isn’t as great as he would appear on the surface, wondering what happened to his first wife, and trying to cope with the startling possibility that her “cure” wasn’t entirely successful. At first glance, it would seem that these two viewpoints are wildly different, but, as the story progresses, the lives of these two former friends once again converge. Both are facing war on seemingly different sides, but both of these girls long for the freedom they experienced as children. They must discover, though, just what they’re willing to sacrifice to be truly free.

I probably gave way too much away in the previous paragraph, but there’s still a lot in this book to be discovered. Lena’s journey is nothing short of heart-breaking. The same can be said for everything that Hana goes through. I haven’t even touched on what happens to Alex, Julian, Raven, Annabel, and several other important characters–some we’ve seen before, and some who are brand new in this story. This book is by no means a happy-go-lucky tale, but when we’re talking about revolution, I guess that’s to be expected. Lives are lost, love is found, and the war for freedom is coming to a head. Will the resistors be successful? Or will the establishment finally succeed in wiping them out and finally putting an end to amor deliria nervosa, the disease we would call love?

Even though I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about how Requiem ended, I do think that it’s a fitting finale to this wonderful series. The first book, Delirium, is on the 2013-2014 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award nominee list, and I hope that teen readers who take the time to read the first book see things through to the bitter end. If you’re looking for a way to get readers interested in this series, casually mention that fans of the Hunger Games or Ally Condie’s Matched series will love it. That should do the trick.

*There is a fair amount of totally justifiable cursing and violence in this book, so be careful when recommending Requiem to middle grade readers. Like any other YA book, know your readers, and be aware of who can handle mature language and situations.*

If you’ve got a first edition of Requiem, you’ll definitely want to check out a short story about Alex at the end of the book. It provides a lot of information on this fascinating character and goes a long way in explaining his past and his attitudes in this entire series.

For more information on Requiem, the entire Delirium series, and any other books by Lauren Oliver, visit her website at http://www.laurenoliverbooks.com/. This site also provides links to the author’s Facebook and Twitter pages as well as her blog. Enjoy!

Published in: on April 4, 2013 at 12:07 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Pledge

Well, Christmas is over, and it’s getting close to the time for me to return to the real world. I’m trying to read as much as possible before that happens because I know my free time will be limited soon. (I must go back to school on January 2nd. I’m nowhere near ready.)

Anyway, tonight I finished reading a book that was on my to-read list pretty much all year:  The Pledge by Kimberly Derting. Like me, you may have read Kimberly Derting’s The Body Finder series (The Body Finder, Desires of the Dead, The Last Echo, and Dead Silence–which comes out in April). Well, this new series–which begins with The Pledge–has some things in common with The Body Finder (a strong female main character, a love interest, special abilities, and battling evil), but in other ways, it’s completely different. Where The Body Finder, at least in my mind, is a paranormal mystery series, The Pledge is more dystopian with a supernatural twist. It’s kind of cool.

In the distant future, powerful queens with magical abilities rule each nation. Some queens are merciful and loved by the people. Others rule with an iron fist and tolerate absolutely no sign of rebellion. One queen in particular insists that each class be divided by language. In the country of Ludania, Queen Sabara is a ruler to be feared. Her power is formidable…but it is fading. If she doesn’t find another to take her Essence (the life-force that has been passed from queen to queen for centuries), both she and her Essence will die. That cannot be allowed to happen.

Charlaina–Charlie to her friends and family–has always known she was different. Unlike those around her, she can understand all of the languages spoken around her. Even when she’s not supposed to. Even if she’d never heard the language spoken before. If Charlie’s secret were discovered it could mean certain death. Her parents have helped her to keep this gift hidden, but someone–someone powerful–may have inadvertently discovered Charlie’s secret.  What will he do with his suspicions? Will he turn her over to the queen, or will he pledge to be Charlie’s fiercest protector?

As revolution against the queen draws ever closer, Charlie finds herself embroiled in something that she never expected or wanted. According to those around her, she’s more important that she realizes, and it may be up to her to usurp the queen that she–and every other citizen of Ludania–has pledged their lives to obey and protect. Charlie is unsure of who she can trust, but she is sure of one thing. Her secret is about to be revealed…but even she isn’t prepared for what that might mean. Can Charlie do what must be done? Can she sacrifice all she’s ever known or believed for the possibility of a better future for Ludania? Is she strong enough to face the battle ahead? Read Kimberly Derting’s The Pledge to learn how one young girl has the power to topple a despot…if she’ll only believe in herself.

Before anyone points it out, yes, I know I haven’t told you a whole lot, and I know this isn’t the greatest recap I’ve ever written.  To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really know what to say about this book.  It’s a dystopian novel with some supernatural stuff thrown in, but it’s also a story about love, friendship, loyalty, and rebellion. The main character–and many others in this book–are battling an evil that none of them truly understand.  I’m not even sure I understand it fully.  (I do know, however, that a queen that can essentially Force-choke those who cross her would be an enemy I wouldn’t want to have.)  I’m hoping things will be cleared up in the next book, The Essence, which is set to be released on New Year’s Day (if it’s not already out in some places).

If you’d like more information about The Pledge or other books by Kimberly Derting, I encourage you to visit the author’s website. You may also want to follow the author on Twitter @kimberlyderting.

To hear the author herself talk about the creating of The Pledge, check out this vlog from Novel Novice.

Published in: on December 28, 2012 at 10:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Selection

Before I started reading The Selection by Kiera Cass, a friend of mine related it to watching The Bachelor.  Now, I have never (and will never) watch this horrible excuse for entertainment, but I must admit that I kind of liked the premise as it applied in this book.  Maybe adding a dose of political intrigue would make “reality television” more palatable…or maybe it would make it even worse than it already is.  Who knows?  But the combination of a competition to win the heart of a prince and a “dystopian-lite” society at war was definitely enough to pique and keep my interest when it came to The Selection.  The gorgeous cover didn’t hurt, either.  (I am a sucker for pretty book cover.)

America Singer lives in the young nation of Illéa (made up of what used to be the countries of North America).  The world she lives in is based on castes, and America’s status as a musician places her closer to the bottom than the top.  Life is not always easy, but her love for Aspen, a young man in a caste lower than hers, gets her through the hard times and gives her some measure of hope for the future.  That hope, however, is about to be tested by circumstances well beyond America’s control…

In Illéa, a monarchy reigns supreme, and it is time for the young Prince Maxon to choose a bride.  But he does not choose from other royal families.  No, Prince Maxon must choose a true daughter of Illéa, a “commoner” with ties to this young country…and he must make his choice a public spectacle.  Thirty-five girls from around the country are selected to compete for the heart of the Prince—and a chance to one day be Queen.  They will live in the palace for the duration of the Selection, their castes will be elevated, and their families will be well paid.  For most girls, this would be the chance of a lifetime.  But America Singer is not most girls…

America does not want to be a part of the Selection, but her family and even Aspen convince her to at least submit an application.  After all, what are the odds that she’ll even be chosen?  Well, as it turns out, pretty good.  When America’s name is called for the Selection, her entire world changes.  She becomes an instant celebrity (something she’s not exactly comfortable with), and she’s forced to leave her family and the only boy she’s ever loved…all to compete for the hand of a man she knows will never hold her heart.

But life in the palace isn’t exactly what America expected.  Sure, it’s more glamorous and extravagant than anything she’s ever experienced—and the food is truly spectacular—but America is surprised by how quickly she adapts, makes friends, and even grows closer to Prince Maxon.  She realizes that his life isn’t quite as easy as it is portrayed on television—what with invading rebels from the north and south, trying to keep a young country intact, war as a constant threat, and choosing a future wife in front of a national audience.  No pressure there at all.  Maybe America was too quick to judge Maxon as a poor-little-rich-boy who never had to work to survive.  Maybe she could grow to love this young man who is becoming such a dear friend to her.  And maybe events will unfold that throw Illéa, America, Maxon, the Selection, and everything else into even more of a tailspin.

The Selection is an excellent book for readers who like their dystopian literature with a heavy dose of romance, especially a juicy love triangle (or, in this case, whatever type of polygon has 30+ sides).  Give this book to fans of Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy, Lauren Oliver’s Delirium trilogy, and, yes, even Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy.

I, for one, was more intrigued by the historical and political aspects of this book than I was the romance.  (We can probably blame that political science degree that I’ve never really used.)  I loved the lessons on the history of Illéa, and I hope to learn much more about how this young monarchy came about in the next book.  Based on what little we learned about what led to the breakup of the United States in The Selection, I would say the events are entirely plausible, so I’m eager to see what the author does with the mysterious history of the U.S. and how it relates to Illéa’s current circumstances.

The next book in this series, The Elite, will be published sometime in 2013, and there’s not a lot of information available yet on the plot of this book, but I have no doubt that it will be just as gripping as The Selection.

In the meantime, you can find out more about this series and author Kiera Cass at http://www.kieracass.com/, or you can follow the author on Twitter @kieracass.  FYI, according to the author’s webpage, The Selection is being turned into a TV show by the CW network.  It won’t be out this fall, but it could be out as early as this coming spring.  I don’t quite know how I feel about that, but I’ve got plenty of time to think about it.

If you’re still not convinced to give The Selection a try, check out this book trailer from HarperTeen, and enjoy!

Published in: on July 30, 2012 at 9:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Insurgent

Warning!  Read Divergent by Veronica Roth before continuing!  (And, honestly, if you haven’t already read Divergent, I’m silently judging you.  Just kidding…but not really.)

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that Veronica Roth’s Divergent was picked as my top read of 2011.  Well, it looks like the sequel, Insurgent, is in the running for the top book of 2012.  (The jury is still out on which book is better.  I’m still trying to decide.)  I finished reading Insurgent yesterday morning, and I was totally blown away.  The ending alone made me utter a few choice words, and I’m still processing a lot of what happened and what it could mean for book three.  This post will likely be a short one—for me, anyway—because I don’t want to spoil things too much for you guys, but I also don’t quite know how to put my feelings on this book into words…but I’ll try.

Insurgent picks up almost immediately where Divergent concluded.  (It might behoove you to reread the final chapter of Divergent before starting Insurgent, or just check out this link to Veronica Roth’s blog for a handy-dandy “guide to remembering stuff before you read Insurgent,” http://veronicarothbooks.blogspot.com/2012/04/but-i-read-divergent-year-ago-your.html.)

  
Tris, Tobias (also known as Four), and company are on the run after the Erudite attack on Abnegation (including the simulation that turned many Dauntless members into assassins).  Tris trusts Tobias with her life and her heart, but she knows that even he is keeping secrets from her.  Tris is crumbling from the inside out, overcome with grief and guilt over the deaths of her parents and the actions that led her to this point.  She wants to confide all to Tobias, but how can she when she doesn’t know how he’ll react to the heavy burden she’s carrying?  Especially since he’s got his own demons to overcome.

As Tris and Tobias are trying to figure out where they stand with each other—and with the remaining members of their factions/families—they must also worry about the war being waged all around them.  Who can they trust with the truth of their Divergence (aptitude for more than one faction)?  How can they combat the Dauntless traitors who have allied with the Erudite?  Can they convince Candor, Amity, the remaining Abnegation, and the factionless to join in their quest to overthrow the Erudite who wish to control everyone and everything?  What if these groups have their own agendas?

War has broken out between the factions, and no one knows who can truly be trusted.  Friends (and family) become enemies.  Enemies become allies.  And secrets are revealed that shake what little foundation is left in Tris’ world.  What does it really mean to be Divergent in this war-torn society, and why is the Erudite leader—and all-around evil genius—Jeanine so determined to wipe them out?  What is Jeanine trying to hide, and can Tris find out before everything she has left is destroyed?  The truth is out there, and it’s up to Tris to bring it to light…no matter what the cost.

I’ve tried not to give too much away here, and I’m pretty sure I’ve succeeded.  This is one book you really need to read for yourself.  Like I said before, the ending alone was enough to send me into a cursing frenzy.  (I just reread it a few minutes ago, and it managed to shock me all over again.)  Totally didn’t see that coming.  In my everyday life, I hate surprises, but I love it when a book manages to surprise me.  It doesn’t happen often enough.  If you can’t tell, I thoroughly enjoyed Insurgent, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this epic journey will end.  Now, the countdown is on to book three!  The title and cover are still TBA, and I’m assuming we can expect the book to be released sometime in May of 2013.

If you want to learn more about the Divergent trilogy and author Veronica Roth, visit http://veronicarothbooks.blogspot.com/, http://thedivergenttrilogy.com/, check out the Facebook pages at http://www.facebook.com/#!/DivergentSeries and http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Veronica-Roth/108433975887375, and follow the author on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/VeronicaRoth. You may also like this book trailer from Harper Teen (that gives absolutely nothing away).

I would like to add that, even though the majority of them were the bad guys in this book, I still consider myself a member of the Erudite faction (as I’m sure most other librarians would).  I spend most of my life in the pursuit of knowledge, and I enjoy sharing my knowledge with others…sometimes even when they prefer me to shut up.  If you are a proud Erudite member, you may want to check out the Erudite Faction tumblr site at http://eruditefactionnews.tumblr.com/.

Published in: on May 6, 2012 at 10:52 am  Comments (1)  
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