Brutal Youth

Brutal Youth. The title of this book could not be more fitting. It just about cured me of any desire to ever work in a high school again. This intense story by Anthony Breznican paints a vivid picture of some of the most horrible teenagers, teachers, and parents to ever step foot in a school. Yeah…it’s that bad.

Brutal Youth is by no means a bad book. It’s actually a stellar piece of work, but it is often very upsetting…which is why it took me nearly two months to read it. I started reading it in July–when I was trying to gear up for another school year–and it started to color my feelings about going back to work, even though I work in an elementary school. For that reason, I had to put it aside until I felt prepared to handle what I was reading. Finally, this past weekend, I was ready, and I quickly reentered the disturbing world of St. Michael the Archangel High School.

Peter Davidek didn’t exactly want to attend St. Mike’s, especially after the incident on the roof during his introductory tour. A kid who’d been bullied relentlessly snapped and unleashed his wrath on the entire school. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the school.

Somehow, Peter ended up at St. Michael the Archangel High School even after the horrible event he witnessed in the spring. Now, he’s a freshman, and it doesn’t take long for him to realize that this school is much worse than he ever could have envisioned.

Most of the teachers simply don’t care. The guidance counselor is a hateful woman who seems to delight in others’ misery. The parish priest would like nothing more than for the school to close (and he’s got his own shameful reasons for that). Even the few adults who aren’t totally wretched seem to be hiding something.

If the teachers are bad at St. Mike’s, the students are worse. Hazing runs rampant, and the adults turn a blind eye for the sake of “tradition.” Freshmen are tortured, humiliated, and abused daily…all for the sake of the enjoyment of the upperclassmen (and some of the faculty), and some kids are willing to do just about anything to keep from becoming targets.

Peter sees all of this going on around him, and he tries to avoid trouble, but it usually seems to find him. It doesn’t really help that his best friend, Noah Stein, does his level best to antagonize everyone around him…making him a target that most of the school would like to take out. Peter has also unknowingly befriended the school’s most notorious pariah…and that puts Peter in a spotlight he never wanted.

This year at St. Mike’s will show Peter Davidek the absolute worst of humanity. He’ll see friends driven mad by the actions of sadistic bullies. He’ll see a girl he once liked become someone he’d do anything to avoid. He’ll see the appeal in getting revenge on those who oppress others. Peter will learn so much about himself and the world around him…and some of those lessons will be horrid and eye-opening.

How will this brutal year change Peter? Will he retreat into his own mind, or will he use what happens to grow stronger? I’ll leave that for you to discover…

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I’m the first to admit that my own high school experiences were sometimes not great. If it hadn’t been for the band, I would have done my level best to graduate early. (I was the nerdy, fat girl who wore braces, glasses, and played the tuba. It’s something of an understatement to say that I was the target of bullies.) My experiences now seem like nothing after reading Brutal Youth.

The people in this book were absolutely awful, and very few of the characters had redeeming value. Even the characters I sort of liked did things that made me shake my head. The bullying scenarios in this book take torture to a whole new level and exhibit cruelty that I hope to never see. And I’m not just talking about kid-on-kid violence here, although that was bad enough. Teachers bullied teachers, the priest bullied everybody, and parents bullied their kids. No one escaped torment.

With a title like Brutal Youth, one might think that this is most definitely a YA book. I would have to disagree. In my opinion, this is an adult book with young adult characters. Quite frankly, some teens won’t be able to handle this book. (Profanity, while true to the story, is abundant, there’s quite a bit of violence, and the book contains pretty frank talk of sexual situations. It’s an upsetting, disturbing book that could contain some triggers for those who have been severely bullied or abused.)

Other teen readers, though, will find kindred spirits in Peter Davidek, Noah Stein, and other “poor, unfortunate souls.” Sadly, they’ll identify with those who are bullied the worst, and Brutal Youth may give them a voice for expressing their feelings (though not in the way some people expressed themselves in the book, I hope).

Adults who read this book may find themselves reflecting–either positively or negatively–on their own high school experiences, and this could lead them to examine how “tradition” often fuels oppressive or aggressive behaviors.

Speaking (or writing) as an adult reader, I have to say that, while I was horrified by the actions of the kids in Brutal Youth, I was even more perturbed by what I saw of the adults. Which is worse: bullying someone to the point of violence, or turning a blind eye when it happens in front of you? Most of the adults in this book were guilty of the latter, and that can be viewed more harshly than the actual act of bullying. Kids at least have an excuse. They’re stupid sometimes, and their brains aren’t fully developed. What excuse do the adults have? Spite, jealousy, self-preservation? Is any excuse even valid here? I honestly don’t think so.

Well, I think I’ve said enough for one post. (Bullying is kind of a hot-button issue with me, so we’re lucky I’ve limited myself so much.)

If you’re looking for an intense, uncomfortable, and thought-provoking read, I suggest you give Brutal Youth a try. It’s not exactly an easy read, but it’s worth the time you put into it.

For more information about Brutal Youth and author Anthony Breznican, click here. You can also connect with the author on Facebook, Goodreads, or Twitter.

*I received a free review copy of Brutal Youth through Goodreads First Reads.*

Published in: on September 24, 2014 at 2:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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I Am the Weapon

A few minutes ago, I finally finished reading I Am the Weapon, the first book in Allen Zadoff’s Unknown Assassin series. This book (which I got to read thanks to NetGalley) was originally published last year with the title Boy Nobody. Let me just say that I whole-heartedly approve of the title change. I doubt I would have chosen to read the book with the original title. Boring. I Am the Weapon, though? Yeah, that one grabs my attention.

In this series opener, readers are introduced to a young man with a somewhat fluid identity. He’s the new kid in class, the one who makes friends easily, the one who disappears like smoke. He is an assassin, and, as soon as his job is done, he moves on to the next assignment. The next target sent to him by The Program. He doesn’t ask questions. He follows orders…for now.

The boy’s new assignment takes him to New York City. Unlike his other jobs, this one won’t force him to slowly and carefully make connections with those around him. No, there is a speedy timeline here. He has five days to kill the mayor of New York City.

While he questions his unusual timetable and his high-profile, heavily protected target, he proceeds with the job at hand. He becomes Ben, a new kid in a private Manhattan school, and he does what he must to get close to Samara, the mayor’s daughter.

Sam is smart, though. She knows something is different about Ben. He doesn’t quite fit in at school, and she seems to be intrigued by this. Ben can only use this to his advantage. He quickly involves himself in nearly every aspect of Sam’s life, and, as he learns more about this girl and her father, the more he wonders why this seemingly good man must be eliminated.

Pretty soon, Ben is getting much closer than he intended, and that’s having an impact on his assignment. He can’t quite force himself to follow through and actually kill a man he’s growing to like, especially if that means that Sam will be hurt.

Ben is also reflecting on the circumstances that led him to be an assassin for The Program. Why was he chosen? Why was his father killed? And does he have any control over his own life? Can he make his own choices without higher-ups deciding that he needs to be eliminated as well?

As Ben is struggling with his assignment and his place within The Program, he receives a new set of orders. He’s now got four days to complete his job, but his target has changed. He’s no longer expected to kill the mayor. No. Now his target is Sam. Why? What has she done to warrant being silenced? And can this teen assassin figure things out before he is put in the cross-hairs?

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If you’re looking for a quick, action-packed YA book in the vein of The Bourne Identity and other psychological thrillers with political implications, I think I Am the Weapon may be the book you seek. The main character is not exactly a hero, but readers will be intrigued by his thought processes and what leads him to the actions he takes. He is a killer, one who sometimes blindly follows orders, but he wasn’t always so cold. Once upon a time, he had a family, and his memories of those times–and his growing dissatisfaction with The Program–show readers his humanity and give a hint that he could be redeemed in the future.

Those looking for a happy ending with a sense of closure will not find it in I Am the Weapon. If anything, the conclusion raises even more questions…which I guess is good since there are other books in the series waiting in the wings. The next book, I Am the Mission (which has gone through a couple of title changes as well), should already be out. I’m hoping it’s just as action-packed as the first book. I’ll find out soon enough. Thanks to NetGalley, I’ve also got a copy of this one waiting on my ereader.

For more information on I Am the Weapon and other books by Allen Zadoff, check out the author’s website. As for me, I think I’ll move on to my next book! Peace!

Buzz Kill

I first became a fan of Beth Fantaskey’s work a few years ago when I read Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side. Since then, I’ve read a few other works by Fantaskey: Jessica Rules the Dark Side, Jekel Loves Hyde, and The Wedding of Antanasia Jessica Packwood and Lucius Valeriu Vladescu (a short story published on the author’s website). So, when Goodreads gave me the chance to read an ARC of this author’s latest novel, Buzz Kill, I was pretty stoked. I’m happy to say that the book lived up to my expectations.

Unlike Fantaskey’s other stories, this newest read has no supernatural elements, but it does introduce us to a strong, relatable, female protagonist. In Buzz Kill, readers meet Millie Ostermeyer, a seventeen-year-old who eats like a trucker, is the only member of her school’s Philosophy Club, wears ironic t-shirts that nobody gets, and has a somewhat loose relationship with rules and authority. She’s also an award-winning reporter for her school newspaper, and, while on what should be a routine assignment covering the new football stadium, Millie becomes embroiled in a story that will rock her entire world…

Nobody really liked the Stingers’ head football coach, Hollerin’ Hank Killdare, but who could have wanted him dead? That’s a question Millie wants answered after she discovers his body under the football stadium…especially when it’s made clear that her dad, the town’s mayor and the assistant football coach, tops the list of suspects.

Millie is sure that her dad didn’t do this (even if he has been acting kind of strange lately), so she goes on a quest to find the identity of the real killer. Plenty of people had reason to kill the coach, but who really did it? Was it Millie’s arch-nemesis, Vivienne Fitch, the cheerleader who was embarrased on YouTube, thanks largely to Coach Killdare? Was it Mike, Viv’s lackey, who lost his position as quarterback with the coach brought in a ringer? Could it even be the new quarterback himself, Chase Albright, a boy with a murky past who tends to keep to himself? Who could have committed this heinous crime, and can Millie figure things out before the murderer strikes again?

As Millie unleashes her inner Nancy Drew, she’ll find an unlikely ally in Chase. He’s still a total mystery, but it seems he knew Coach Killdare better than most, and he can give Millie access to the coach’s house, the school locker room, and other areas that would otherwise be off-limits (not that anything would have stopped Millie with or without Chase’s help). Chase may be the key in proving that her dad is not the killer everyone thinks he is.

But why does Chase want to help Millie? Why was the coach so important to him? Chase is most certainly hiding something, and, along with her quest to solve a murder mystery, Millie is determined to solve the mystery that is Chase Albright. She may not, however, be prepared for what she finds.

Millie and Chase are growing closer and closer to uncovering the truth…and they’re also growing closer to each other. Can either of them handle a relationship when everything around them is going crazy? Especially when things are about to get even more insane? There’s a killer on the loose, and, as Millie starts to put the pieces of this puzzle together, she may be this maniac’s next target. What would Nancy Drew do? Millie will have to answer this question and many more if she hopes to get out of this mess alive…

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I found Buzz Kill to be a thoroughly entertaining read. In addition to the murder mystery that kept me guessing for quite a while, I was also enthralled by the character of Millie. I think many readers will be able to see themselves in this character. She speaks before thinking sometimes, she dresses in what’s comfortable, she’s awkward around guys she likes, and she’s tortured by a mean girl. (Actually, “mean” doesn’t quite fit the evil Vivienne. The words I’d use to describe her would make a sailor blush. She’s vile, and a host of curse words went through my mind every time she made an appearance.) Millie questions rules that don’t make sense to her, she doesn’t understand why she should learn French, and she has a complicated relationship with her dad. Who can’t relate to at least some of that?

I also found Chase’s character to be intriguing. (See, I’m relating to Millie right now!) He was mysterious from the instant we saw him, and he remained something of an enigma for most of the book. Even when his secrets were revealed, there was still an aura of mystery about him. I think that’s part of what made him so attractive to Millie. Of course, his good looks and impressive vocabulary didn’t hurt either.

There were so many dynamic, well-developed characters in this book. I wanted to punch many of them in the face (even Millie on occasion). So many characters were butt-heads, in fact, that I didn’t know which one I wanted to be the killer. Like Millie, I waffled on who could have committed the crime, and, also like Millie, I didn’t figure things out until the very end. I’d say both of us were surprised by the way things turned out, and I think that’s the mark of a good mystery novel.

If you’re looking for a murder mystery with a liberal dose of humor, wit, and a touch of romance, I strongly urge you to give Buzz Kill a try.  It’s due to hit stores on May 6th, and I think it will be a big hit with middle grade, teen, and adult readers.

For more information on Buzz Kill and author Beth Fantaskey, visit the author’s website, Facebook page, Goodreads page, and Twitter feed.

Also Known As

Every once in a while, Amazon offers some pretty great Kindle Daily Deals. (Most of them are less than $3.00.) Recently, one of those deals came in the form of Robin Benway’s Also Known As. I previously read and liked Audrey, Wait!, one of the author’s other books, so I was pretty sure that I would enjoy this one. After reading the synopsis, I was even more certain. You see, this book is about Maggie, a teenage spy. After reading Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls and Heist Society series, I really dig books about teenagers who are spies or use, shall we say, less than legal means to right wrongs. That’s just what I got with Maggie in Also Known As.

Maggie is an expert safe-cracker. She’s been a spy for the Collective for over ten years…and she’s a teenager. Maggie picked her first lock as a preschooler, and she’s been working ever since. But now, she’s facing her first solo assignment. She and her parents (also spies) are relocating to New York, and Maggie is tasked with obtaining information that could expose and bring down the entirety of the Collective’s operations. How will she do this, you ask?  Well, her mission begins with enrolling in high school…

Maggie has never been what one would call a traditional student. She’s never been in a regular classroom, had to make friends, been judged on her fashion choices (which are many even with school uniforms), or faced the horror of a school cafeteria. Her first and most daunting task here is going to be just trying to fit in. This might just take every one of her super-spy skills.

Eventually, Maggie becomes closer to Roux, a social pariah at school, who has a connection that Maggie needs to complete her job. Roux is acquainted with Jesse Oliver, a boy whose father may just be printing the article that could end Maggie’s world as she knows it. As spies have always done in the past, Maggie must use every weapon at her disposal, including budding friendships, to get the job done, and that’s exactly what she does.

What Maggie didn’t count on, however, is actually becoming close to both Roux and Jesse. (How could she anticipate such a thing? It’s not like she ever had real friends before?) Now, Maggie is torn between doing the job she’s always been groomed for and being honest with the first real connections she’s ever had with people her own age. Could there possibly be a happy medium here? And can Maggie complete her mission–and figure out who would put the mysterious Collective in jeopardy–before it’s too late? Follow Maggie on her quest for the truth–and lasting friendships–when you read Also Known As, the first book in an exciting new series by Robin Benway!

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Also Known As is a quick, thoroughly entertaining read that, in my opinion, is a great fit for upper middle grade and young adult readers. There is some swearing, but I don’t think it’s excessive, and it’s true to the situations in this book. (I dare you to be a teenage spy or son/daughter of extremely permissive, absent parents and not drop the occasional expletive. Go ahead. I dare you!)

I think this book is more about developing Maggie’s character than it is about spying…but there was plenty of intrigue, especially in the latter part of the book. The biggest mystery for me was how Maggie was going to reconcile her work with her new relationships…and I feel like Benway resolved that in a rather satisfactory way, one that I’m sure will pop up in subsequent books in the series. (At least, I hope so!)

Speaking of sequels, the next book, Going Rogue, will be out in less than two weeks! It will be released on January 14th, and I’m definitely planning to read it as soon as possible. I’m sure it will be just as captivating as the first book!

If you’d like more information about Also Known As and other books by Robin Benway, check out her website at http://www.robinbenway.com/index.php. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram. Enjoy!

Published in: on January 3, 2014 at 7:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Eleanor & Park

My latest read landed on my to-read list after a glowing recommendation from a friend.  (Hi, Jen!)  For some reason, though, I didn’t pick it up immediately.  Then, a couple of weeks ago, this blog hosted an interview with author Rainbow Rowell. I took that as a sign to read her books as soon as I could.  Well, yesterday, I finally finished Eleanor & Park, and I must say that I wish I had read it sooner.  I don’t know if words can express how much I loved this book.  (Don’t worry. I’m going to try.) It was almost like being immersed in a John Hughes movie, and any child of the 80s can tell you how awesome that is.

When Eleanor and Park first met in August of 1986, it wasn’t immediately all moonlight and roses. (As a matter of fact, their relationship was never all that smooth.) Eleanor was a new girl; kind of strange and with flaming red hair that made her a target of jokes. Park was the only Asian kid for miles, but he was on the fringes of the popular crowd. These two crazy kids met on the bus, and, when Park told Eleanor to take the empty seat next to him, he probably didn’t realize that his life would change forever…just because of one small (and kind of mean) gesture.

Eleanor and Park didn’t become instant friends. For the longest time, they didn’t even speak to each other. They eventually bonded, though, over punk music and comic books. That tenuous bond later grew into a rather rocky relationship. A relationship where Park was kind of embarrassed about his feelings for someone so far removed from his circle of friends. A relationship that Eleanor could never speak of to her troubled family.

As Eleanor and Park grew ever closer, they realized just how much they meant to each other. Park gave Eleanor a haven from all of the wretchedness at home and school. Eleanor gave Park the acceptance he craved after a lifetime of being so different from those around him. Theirs was a love like nothing either had ever experienced.

But sometimes love just isn’t enough. Sometimes things happen that force people into untenable situations. What could possibly happen to drive Eleanor and Park apart? And could love be strong enough to bring them back together?

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If you’re still reading, let me say that this post doesn’t even come close to describing the beauty and awesomeness of Eleanor & Park. I was sucked in from the very beginning, and I’m still contemplating everything that happened to these two characters who I came to love.  To put things in perspective, the last book that generated such strong feelings in me was The Fault in Our Stars.

This book isn’t one that only young adults can appreciate. I firmly believe that anyone who’s ever been a teenager in love will be able to relate–maybe in just some small way–to what Eleanor and Park experienced. Anyone who has ever bonded with someone over music and comic books will be especially drawn to this book. Also, if you grew up in the 80s and wanted your life to be like a John Hughes movie, this is definitely the book for you!

I cannot say enough good things about Eleanor & Park, but, for now at least, I’m going to stop. Read this book. You won’t be sorry.

For more information on this book and others by Rainbow Rowell, visit http://rainbowrowell.com/blog/.

Published in: on October 7, 2013 at 1:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Slide

It’s been a while, dear readers. I freely admit that I’ve neglected this blog for the past couple of weeks, and my only excuse is that I needed a break. Whenever Knight Reader feels more like an obligation than a fun hobby, I like to take a step back and spend some time focusing on other things. Yes, I still read during my brief hiatus, but I didn’t feel the need to blog about those books (mostly picture books and mindless romances). Also, I’m gearing up for a new school year, and I needed to just do nothing before I dive back into the school library grind. (My fellow school librarians can no doubt relate to how hectic the beginning of a new school year is.) Now, feeling a bit refreshed, I’m ready to get back to sharing books with people. Thanks for bearing with me.

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I never know what I’m going to get when I download free ebooks. Sometimes, these free books are less than stellar. Other times, though, I’m pleasantly surprised. The latter scenario was true of my latest read, Slide by Jill Hathaway. It was a free Kindle download last month, it seemed interesting, so I thought I’d give it a try. It was a pretty good read, and it definitely kept me guessing. Readers who like a fast-paced mystery with supernatural undertones will likely agree.

Sylvia “Vee” Bell is not what one would call a normal teenager. Sure, she has many of the typical problems–parents, popularity (or lack thereof), siblings, boys–but she has to deal with something that most people don’t. The “experts” call her condition narcolepsy, but they really don’t know the whole story. They don’t know that when Vee falls asleep/passes out, she doesn’t just lose consciousness. She “slides” into the minds of others. She sees what people don’t want seen. She learns things she doesn’t necessarily want to know.

When Vee slides into one mind, however, she sees something that turns her blood cold. She sees her sister’s best friend, Sophie, dead. Her wrists are slit, her bed is covered in blood, and someone–the eyes through which Vee is viewing this scene–is writing a suicide note. Vee, of course, is the only person who knows that Sophie was murdered, but how can she prove to everyone that this is not the obvious suicide that they seem to think it is…especially when she doesn’t know whose mind she slid into.

As Vee searches for answers, she uncovers uncomfortable truths about her friends, her sister, and even her own father. But how do these long-kept secrets have anything to do with what happened to Sophie…and what is continuing to happen in Vee’s community? Who is ultimately responsible for the terror in her town, and is there anything Vee can do to put a stop to it…before she’s the next victim? Unravel the mystery when you read Slide by Jill Hathaway.

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While Slide was an engaging, gripping book, it’s not one I would have picked up had it not been free. (Kudos to whoever decided to make it a free download last month. You reached at least one new reader.) Now, I kind of want to see how the story progresses in the next book, Impostor. Maybe it’ll be a free download soon.

Slide is not a particularly deep book, but it does explore family dynamics and how secrets and jealousy can tear relationships apart. It is a mystery that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the very end. (I’m pretty good at picking up on clues, but even I didn’t really expect things to end they way they did.)

If the premise of Slide intrigues you, I urge you to give Lisa McMann’s Wake series a try. These three books (Wake, Fade, and Gone) are very similar, in my opinion, to what occurs in Slide, but they’re a little more fleshed out.

For more information about Slide and author Jill Hathaway, visit http://www.jillhathaway.com/index2.php.

After Obsession

Well, it’s been a crazy week.  (Thankfully, not as crazy as last week.)  I’m finally starting to get back to normal after last week’s home invasion.  I’m hoping my reading will pick up as soon as things are kind of on an even keel.  Right now, though, I’m lucky to finish one book per week.  (This makes me very sad.)

This week, I finished After Obsession by Carrie Jones and Steven E. Wedel.  I had high hopes for this book because I enjoyed Carrie Jones’ Need series.  (I still have to read the fourth book, Endure.)  Unfortunately, After Obsession didn’t really live up to my expectations.  I felt that the plot was too rushed, the ending was a bit too neat, and I didn’t quite buy the love-at-first-sight thing between the two main characters.  Also, there was a lot of woo-woo supernatural stuff in this book but very little explanation behind it.  I’m a reader who needs to know why things happen, and this book didn’t deliver on that count.  Maybe I’m being too critical.  Maybe not.  But it’s my blog, and I can do what I want.  So there.

When Aimee and Alan meet, it’s like they’ve known each other forever. There’s an instant connection, and they know they’ve seen each other in their dreams…dreams that paint a disturbing picture of the future in their small town in Maine.  Something dark and evil has taken hold in town–something that has taken lives before–and it’s up to Aimee and Alan to drive this darkness–known only as the River Man–away.

But are two teenagers strong enough to fight an evil they can’t understand?  And what will happen when the River Man makes someone dear to both of them his vessel?  Is there any hope of saving someone after an evil spirit becomes obsessed with them…and before he takes full possession?  What mayhem could result if they fail?  What will they have to sacrifice to succeed?  Read After Obsession to find out.

I realize I haven’t told you a whole lot about After Obsession, but the more I think about it, the more I dislike this book.  (That is hard for me to admit.  I don’t like being negative about books.)  It just felt too choppy, and too many things were left unexplained.  I’m all for using my imagination, but even my overactive imagination couldn’t fill in the many holes left in this story.  I liked how Native American spirituality played a part in the book, but even that wasn’t given the attention it deserved.  With most books, I can see a movie in my mind as the action unfolds.  This book was just words on a page, and I wasn’t engaged at all.  Very disappointing.

If you don’t want to take my word for it, you can find more information on After Obsession on Carrie Jones’ website (http://www.carriejonesbooks.com/), or you can check out the book trailer below.  As far as I know, this is a stand-alone book.  If there were any sequels, I doubt I would read them.  Do with that what you will.

Published in: on September 23, 2012 at 11:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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Hallowed

Spoiler alert!  If you haven’t already read Unearthly by Cynthia Hand, this post will be all kinds of confusing.  Seriously.  Read Unearthly before proceeding!

Nearly a year and a half ago, I read a truly outstanding novel that revolved around angels.  That book was–if you haven’t already figured it out–Unearthly by Cynthia Hand.  Now that summer is upon us and I have ample time to indulge my deep and abiding love for YA novels, I finally read the sequel, Hallowed.  This book continues Clara Gardner’s search for her true purpose, but she’s in for some surprises that rock the very foundation of her world.  While Hallowed, in my opinion, isn’t quite as action-packed as Unearthly was, it is definitely emotionally loaded.  I got angry and sad right along with Clara, and, to be perfectly honest, I’m a little wrung out at the moment.  (I finished the book about twenty minutes ago.)  If you’re looking for an emotional roller coaster of a book, Hallowed might be just what you’re looking for.

After the fire that changed Clara’s life–and what she believed was her purpose–forever, she finds herself wondering what’s next. Will she be punished for choosing to save Tucker, the boy she’s chosen to love, instead of Christian, another angel-blood who may or may not be meant for her? How has her choice changed the course her life is destined to take? And who will be impacted by whatever happens?

In addition to wondering about her changing purpose as an angel-blood, Clara is being presented with disturbing visions of the future. These visions convince her that someone she loves will soon die. But who could it be? She searches her visions for clues, and, just when she’s convinced that she knows what to expect, Clara is presented with some knowledge that not only clarifies her vision but shakes her world to the core.

As Clara prepares herself for the loss that is to come, she must also deal with a growing threat from Samjeeza, a dreaded Black Wing (or fallen angel), who has a strange interest in her and her family. What does he want? And is there anything Clara can do to stop him?

Clara’s world is quickly spinning out of control. Her brother, Jeffrey, is growing colder and more distant. Her relationship with Tucker is strained, and her feelings for Christian are more complicated than ever. She must also decide the direction her life will take after graduation. All of these things are swirling in Clara’s mind, but they must soon take a back seat to something that will alter everything Clara ever knew about herself, her family, and her angelic nature.

Life is about to change yet again for Clara Gardner. She’ll go through loss, grief, sadness, heartbreak, resignation, and even joy, but will she be strong enough to handle everything being thrown at her? And will she be able to figure out her true purpose while remaining true to herself?

The Unearthly series–Unearthly and Hallowed, so far–is perfect for readers who are fascinated with angels.  Like other “angelic” series, such as Lauren Kate’s Fallen saga, Courtney Allison Moulton’s Angelfire series, and Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush series, Unearthly and Hallowed reel the reader in with scenarios of how angels could exist on the earthly and heavenly planes.  If you’re like me and were brought up in church with stories of angels watching over you, these stories are especially compelling.

Hallowed is a great read for anyone in middle school on up.  The love scenes are rather mild, so I wouldn’t have any problems putting this book in the hands of a middle school student.  And there’s enough emotional angst to satisfy even the moodiest of readers.  (I’m talking to you, teenagers.  Yeah, I used to be one of you, so I know you can be a little more emo than you’d like to admit.)

If you’d like more information about the Unearthly series or author Cynthia Hand, visit http://cynthiahandbooks.com/ or follow the author on Twitter @CynthiaHand.  The third book in this series, Boundless, is due to be released on January 22, 2013.

If I still haven’t convinced you to give Hallowed a try, check out this book trailer.  That might do the trick!

Published in: on June 15, 2012 at 10:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Future of Us

What were you doing in 1996?  I was a junior in high school.  I had a few close friends, I was active in band, I was a nerd that got picked on a lot, and I was looking forward to getting out of my small town.  Oh, how things have (not) changed in fifteen years.  I finished reading a book yesterday that really made me revisit that time in my life and wonder if I would change anything.  If I could have seen who I would become, would I make changes that would impact my future?  (Yes, I probably would have.)  The book I’m talking about is The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler.  Told from two different viewpoints, this story takes us back to 1996.  Emma, a junior in high school (!!!!), just got her very first computer, and her neighbor–and former best friend–Josh brings over a free AOL CD-ROM.  They log on to the Internet for the first time, and they are met with something truly shocking…

When Emma gets her computer and Josh brings over the America Online CD-ROM, she’s excited about finally being able to email and instant message her friends. What neither of them are prepared for, however, is the website that appears on the screen. It’s Facebook…which will not be launched until 2004. Emma and Josh are viewing their Facebook pages from the year 2012, including their jobs, spouses, etc. What is this site? And why do so many people feel the need to tell everyone about the most mundane aspects of their lives?

At first, Emma and Josh think the site is a joke. After all, it’s impossible to see fifteen years into the future, right? Right??  It soon becomes crystal clear, though, that the site is real.  Emma and Josh are glimpsing into their futures…and all is not as they thought it would be.

Emma is distraught over the information on her Facebook page.  In the future, she’s apparently in a horrible marriage, unemployed, and very unhappy.  Josh, however, is pretty stoked about his future.  He’s married to the most popular girl in school, lives in a big house, has a great job, and is a father.  But here’s the problem with knowing your future…anything you do in the present ripples and has the potential to change the future.  And Emma and Josh figure this out each time they refresh their Facebook pages.  Sometimes things are just a little different, but sometimes the changes are huge, like living in a different city, marriage to a different person, or different kids. 

Emma is so unhappy with her future life that she becomes determined to change what’s in store for her.  But how will that impact Josh’s future or even their friendship in the present?  What will Josh do to hold onto the future he sees for himself?  And when Emma and Josh find out disturbing things about their friends in the future, will they reveal what’s to come, or will they let events unfold without interference?

Emma and Josh are not always sure what they’re doing with this whole Facebook thing.  Each time something happens to change the future, though, it’s driving them further and further apart.  Can they get back to a present–and a future–where they are friends?  Or is their friendship a thing of the past?  Read The Future of Us, an intriguing story by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler, to discover how the little things can change a person’s destiny.

I don’t know if it’s come across here, but I adored this book.  It was a quick, easy read, but it also made me think.  It probably didn’t hurt that I related so much to the character of Emma.  After I finished the book last night, I really contemplated what my teenage self would have done if she had seen my current Facebook page.  For one thing, she would have wondered why so many of my posts deal with books.  (I read a lot in high school but not nearly as much as I do now.)  She would have been confused about why she became a librarian instead of a high school band director.  I really think Teen Kelly would have tried to lose some weight so that it wouldn’t become the issue it is today…at least, I hope so.  Even though I don’t think I’ve changed all that much since high school, I’m sure my 17-year-old self would disagree, and I’m honestly not sure how my life would be different if I’d had the opportunity to tweak my future a bit.  Would it be better?  Who knows.  But it’s fun to think about.

If you are interested in learning more about The Future of Us or authors Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler, you can visit one or more of these sites:

You can also, of course, find them on Facebook:

Published in: on February 22, 2012 at 12:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Getting It

My latest read, Getting It by Alex Sanchez, has been on my bookshelf for a while.  This week, I finally decided to give this book a go.  It was a quick, light read, but it had a very positive message—a message that teens as well as adults could stand to receive.  Getting It revolves around the life of Carlos, a fifteen-year-old guy who comes to understand that getting something isn’t nearly as important as giving.

Carlos wants a girlfriend.  Bad.  His buddies all brag about their latest hookups, but Carlos is a virgin, and he doesn’t see that changing anytime soon.  He’s obsessed with gorgeous Roxy, but he knows he has no shot at her.  He’s a slob with bad skin and no confidence.  Is there any way to change his image and get the girl of his dreams?  There just may be…

Carlos decides to seek the help of the only openly gay guy in school, Sal (because everyone knows that guy guys know about being clean, neat, and fashionable).  Sal agrees to help Carlos in exchange for a little cash and his assistance in starting a Gay-Straight Alliance at their school.  Even though Carlos worries that everyone will think he’s gay, he agrees to Sal’s terms.

As Sal works his magic, and Carlos begins to notice changes on the outside, it seems the inside might be changing as well.  Yes, he’s still obsessed with Roxy, but he’s also coming face to face with homophobia among his friends and classmates.  His time with Sal has made him realize the power of words, and how gay slurs, even when directed at straight people, are not okay.  But Carlos is still uneasy about his friendship with Sal and forming a GSA at school.  Can he overcome his own issues and step up for the friend who has helped him so much, or will he always be worried about what other people think?  Will Carlos ever get the girl, and, if he gets her, will it really make him happy?  Join Carlos on his journey of self-discovery when you read Getting It by Alex Sanchez.

Even though some of the pop culture references in this book are a little dated—particularly the nods to Queer Eye for the Straight Guy—and some stereotyping of gay men, the book’s message is really timely.  If you keep up with current events at all, you know that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people are fighting alongside their straight allies for equal rights.  There have been great strides recently, but there is still work to be done.  Getting It brings that fight to a high school setting.  Even teenagers, gay and straight alike, can do their part to battle against homophobia (and they might just teach us adults a few things along the way).

If you’d like more information about Getting It or author Alex Sanchez, visit http://www.alexsanchez.com/default.asp.

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