Red Queen

I should begin this post by thanking the South Carolina Young Adult Book Award Committee for placing an outstanding book like Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard on next year’s list of nominees. Had they not, it probably would have taken me a lot longer to get to this most excellent book. So thanks to this group of librarians, teachers, students, and others for including Red Queen on the Book Award list and moving it to the top of my TBR pile.

Now, let’s move on to my thoughts on Red Queen. In a nutshell…Holy Crap on a Cracker. I was blown away by this book, and I honestly don’t know how I’m going to be able to express that in a single blog post. (I’ll do my best, though.)

I guess I’ll start with this: If you were to combine the X-Men, Graceling, The Hunger Games, and The Selection, you might get close to the awesomeness that is Red Queen. Yep, that about covers it. Still not enough info? Well, let’s explore this fantastic story a bit more…

Mare Barrow is a seventeen-year-old who lives by her wits. She lies, cheats, and steals to get by, and she realizes that, if she should be caught, it would mean certain death. Why, then, does Mare risk so much?

Mare is a Red. To be Red in this world is to be “less.” The Silvers–humans with silver blood and amazing abilities–are in power, and they plan to stay that way. The Reds fight and die in wars of the Silvers’ making, they work for scraps, and their lives are daily struggles. Until Mare is conscripted into the army, her only way to contribute to her family is to steal whatever she can to make things just a little easier.

Mare sees no way out of her current life, but a chance encounter with a strange young man–known only to her as Cal–changes everything.

Soon, Mare finds herself with a new job–working for the Silvers in the summer palace. This position ensures that she won’t have to join the army, but how did she come to be working here? Who could have possibly gotten her this job? Imagine Mare’s surprise when she realizes that Cal, the young man she recently met outside of a Red tavern, is none other than the Crown Prince. He’s the reason she’s here, surrounded by the very people who keep Reds like her under their heels.

But it seems that fate has more in store for Mare than she or anyone else realized…

When Mare’s life is in danger, it is revealed that she has powers of her own–an unheard-of occurrence in this world. Only Silvers have power, and the royal family will not let anyone learn that Mare, a mere Red, has special abilities. So Mare is passed off as a Silver and betrothed to Maven, Cal’s younger brother. Now, Mare is a princess-in-training, and she knows that the Silvers around her are looking for any excuse to put an end to the threat she poses to their way of life.

As for Mare, she’s looking to be even more of a threat. When the opportunity arises to join the Scarlet Guard, a group of rebellious Reds looking to end Silver rule, Mare takes it. She can help the Guard from the inside and finally stop the tyranny that Reds have lived under for so long. She may even find some unexpected help along the way.

But nothing is as it seems inside the palace. Mare doesn’t know who can be trusted or when everything will come crumbling to the ground. Have those in power seen everything she’s been doing, everyone she’s been talking to? And what will happen to Mare if her secret activities should be discovered? Will she be able to count on the Silver allies she’s made, or will they betray her for their own agendas?

Mare stands in the midst of this war between Silver and Red. How will her position, abilities, and relationships factor into the events to come? Read Red Queen to find out.


I hope I’ve done a little to entice you to read this wonderful book. It truly is phenomenal, and I look forward to reading more in this series.

Speaking of more, the next full-length novel, Glass Sword, comes out on February 9th. If you can’t wait that long–yes, I know it’s only a couple of weeks–there are also two novellas already out. They are Queen Song and Steel Scars, and I plan to read those as soon as I finish up a couple of other books.

While Red Queen is, in my view, definitely written for a teen audience, I do think that some middle grade readers will eat it up. Those who love The Hunger Games and The Selection will find a new series to devour in Red Queen.

If you want to learn more about Red Queen and Victoria Aveyard, visit the author’s websiteblogTwitter feed, or Facebook page. You can also check out the Epic Reads book trailer below. It doesn’t give much of anything about Red Queen away, but it does look pretty cool.

Published in: on January 23, 2016 at 8:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Happily Ever After

It is highly recommended that you, at the very least, read the first three Selection novels (The Selection, The Elite, and The One) before reading the Happily Ever After collection. Most of the stories will be all kinds of confusing if you don’t. Get to it!

After finishing The Heir a couple of days ago, I just couldn’t let go of the world Kiera Cass created in her Selection series, so I decided to finish up the novellas included in Happily Ever After. These stories include a few I’d already read in ebook form, but I ended up rereading a couple because I forgot what happened (and because I neglected to write posts on them).

Like I indicated at the beginning of this post, each of these stories is best approached after already becoming familiar with what happens in the first three novels in the series. I’ll try to explain why as I we go along. Let’s get started…

The Queen (Selection #0.4)

I actually did manage to do a short write-up of this novella, and you can read that here. Even though The Queen serves as a prequel to the entire series, I would read it after finishing The One so that you can adequately compare the characters of Amberly, America, Clarkson, and Maxon. Each of the characters is very different, and they all approached hardships in varied–and not always positive–ways.

If you’re curious, I still think King Clarkson is a butt-faced jerk.

The Prince (Selection #0.5)

This is one of the stories I re-read so that I could remember exactly where it fit in the Selection timeline. The Prince, obviously, is told from Maxon’s perspective, and it takes place both immediately before and during the first days of his Selection. I would say that this story can be read after finishing The Selection.

The Prince provides an interesting look into Maxon’s rather tense dealings with his father, his feelings on the Selection as a whole, and his earliest interactions with America. In this story, Maxon also struggles with the very concept of love. If he can’t feel anything for a girl who he’s known forever and professes her love for him, how can he possibly grow to love one of the thirty-five girls chosen by his overbearing father, all in a matter of months? Luckily, his mind is somewhat eased fairly early on.

I think it’s clear to see in this story that, for Maxon, the winner of his Selection was decided before the competition even began.

The Guard (Selection #2.5)

The Guard, told from Aspen’s perspective, should be read after finishing The Elite.

If you’re at all familiar with this series (and by this point, you should be), you know that Aspen was America’s first love back in Carolina, and he’s now a palace guard. Both he and America are still very close, and Aspen is trying to envision a future where they can be together…even as he sees America winning the heart of the future king.

While Aspen is looking for any stolen moments with America that he can find, another guard and a Selection contestant are caught in a compromising situation. The consequences of their actions make him think about his relationship with America and how far he’ll go to keep her in his life. Is he willing to risk everything? Is she? (If you’ve already read the first three books, you know the answers to these questions, but it’s still fun to see things from Aspen’s point of view.)

The Favorite (Selection #2.6)

This story, which I read for the very first time this morning, might be my favorite (Ha!) of these short stories. It focuses on Marlee, America’s closest friend in the competion. This girl managed to make it to the Elite round of competition for Maxon’s hand…before she threw it all away for love.

The Favorite begins immediately after the Halloween party (seen first in The Elite) that changed everything. Marlee and Carter, a palace guard, were discovered with each other, and they’re now in the palace cells awaiting their punishment. Marlee is certain they’ll be sentenced to death, but they are to be publicly caned and virtually exiled instead. As long as she and Carter can be together, Marlee is willing to take whatever punishment the King dishes out.

Marlee is unprepared, though, for just how vicious this caning actually is. The fact that her family is forced to watch doesn’t help the situation. Through it all, though, Carter is there with her, professing his love. And, even though she doesn’t realize it at the time, her friend America–and even Prince Maxon–are there for her at what seems to be her lowest point. With Carter by her side and good friends who’ll move heaven and earth to help her, Marlee feels like she’s won something more precious than a crown.

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Okay…so those are the four major short stories in this collection. But wait, there’s more! Happily Ever After also includes several extras that are worth a mention:

  • Endpapers that feature a map of Illéa. This map clarifies a few things for me. Also, I really like geography, so I enjoyed comparing this map to the current map of North America and figuring out why places were redrawn and renamed the way they were. (Yes, I know this makes me even more of a nerd than some of you probably thought. I’m okay with that.)
  • Lovely illustrations peppered within each story.
  • Several scenes from Celeste’s perspective. These were particularly enlightening, given that I loathed Celeste for most of the series. She really grew from the spoiled, entitled girl we first met into someone who would do whatever she could to redeem herself.
  • The Maid. Told from Lucy’s point of view, this story gives readers a look into this girl’s budding romance with Aspen. Lucy, who serves as one of America’s maids, is worried that Aspen can never let go of his first love. It’s up to Aspen to convince Lucy that she’s truly the one for him.
  • After the One. This story is an epilogue for The One and, obviously, should be read after finishing that book. It is very sweet and serves as a great lead-in to The Heir.
  • “Where Are They Now?” Updates on three of the Selection candidates and what happened to them after this huge chapter in their lives came to an end.

All in all, Happily Ever After is a must-read if you’re a Selection fan. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’m glad I spent this last day of 2015 immersed in this world. For more on all things Selection, visit Kiera Cass’ website.

With that, I bid you adieu. I hope everyone has a fantastic New Year’s Eve. Be safe out there, and be sure to come back here tomorrow for my year in review, my reading resolutions, and the books I’m most looking forward to in 2016. Happy New Year!

Published in: on December 31, 2015 at 5:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Heir

If you haven’t read The Selection series up to this point (The Selection, The Elite, and The One), turn back now! You’ve been warned!

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s move on to The Heir, the fourth full-length novel in Kiera Cass’ Selection series. (There are also four novellas that go along with the series–The Prince, The Guard, The Queen, and The Favorite. If all goes according to plan, I’ll post on those tomorrow or Thursday.)

The Heir, which was released in May of this year, introduces Selection fans to Princess Eadlyn, the daughter of Maxon and America. (See now why you need to read the first three books before moving on to this one?) If the first three books make you think of The Bachelor, well, Eadlyn’s story will bring The Bachelorette to mind…but, you know, better.

Princess Eadlyn knows she will be Queen someday. In the meantime, she learns everything she can from her father, King Maxon, and she also seeks the counsel of her mother, Queen America, and her three younger brothers. Eadlyn knows, though, that the future of Illéa is in her hands. Her primary focus is on doing whatever she can to someday be an effective ruler. She has zero interest in finding a romance as epic as that of her parents. Unfortunately, that decision may not be up to her…

When reports surface of problems with the country’s new caste-less system, King Maxon and Queen America devise a plan to keep the people’s minds on something else. They believe that their only daughter, the Heir to the throne of Illéa, should go through her own Selection. It worked for them. Why not for their daughter?

For her part, Eadlyn is against the idea from the beginning. She isn’t looking for love, and she doesn’t need a man to get in her way. She has things to do, and a Selection will only slow her down. Her parents, however, feel that this is the best move for the country, so Eadlyn has no choice but to go along with it…but she doesn’t have to like it.

Soon enough, thirty-five strange boys are moving into the castle, and it’s up to Eadlyn to figure out which one will annoy her the least (if possible). In the back of her mind, though, Eadlyn is comforted by the knowledge that she doesn’t really have to choose any of them. If, at the end of three months, none of the young men have earned her heart, she can let them all go.

Eadlyn removes some of the boys immediately, and her coldness in doing so earns some media attention that she never truly expected. Do people really think that she is cold and heartless? How can she change the public’s attitude when she doesn’t want to be a part of this in the first place? Is there any way to turn all of this around and give her father the time he needs to address the growing outcry against the monarchy?

As days go by–and Eadlyn really gets to know the remaining candidates–she also comes face-to-face with her own shortcomings. She’s built a wall around her heart, and she’s loathe to let someone get to know the real her. A few of the Selection entries, though, have managed to capture her interest, and she finds herself softening a bit. Eadlyn is taking the time to get to know these young men, and she’s learning more about herself in the process.

Can Eadlyn find a way to truly immerse herself in the Selection? Is it possible that the man she’s meant to marry is in this group? Will Eadlyn be able to put all of her preconceived notions–about her parents, the Selection, the candidates, and herself–aside and do what must be done for the future of Illéa? Time will tell…

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Truth time: I found Eadlyn to be a snob, and, for much of the book, her attitude really bothered me. (I would say the same thing about a male character who behaved the way she did.) I get that she’s being groomed to be queen, but she had an almost unshakable air of superiority. I do think, however, that was the author’s intention. Eadlyn has one focus–becoming Queen–and she doesn’t have time for anything or anyone that interferes with that. Unfortunately for her, it’s that attitude that leads to many of her problems in this book (and possibly the next one).

If you’ve read the other books in this series, you can probably guess that The Heir ended on a bit of a cliff-hanger. Things are up in the air with Eadlyn’s Selection, the state of affairs in Illéa as a whole, and even with the royal family. All of this only whets my appetite for the next book, The Crown, which will be released on May 3rd, 2016. (According to Goodreads, The Crown is the series finale. That’s what we thought about The One, so I’m not so sure.)

Like the rest of the series, I think The Heir is suitable for any libraries that serve middle grade, teen, and adult readers. There’s something here for everyone to enjoy, especially if you’re already a fan of the previous books.

For more information on The Heir, the entire Selection series, or author Kiera Cass, visit the author’s website, Twitter, or Facebook. You may also want to take a look at the official book trailer for The Heir below. It in no way captures Eadlyn’s complex personality or gives anything away, but it’s still pretty good.

As for me, I’m going to spend tomorrow finishing up the Selection novellas (compiled in Happily Ever After). I’ve already read three of them, and I have to say that those added to my enjoyment of the series as a whole, and I’m sure the final story, The Favorite, will elicit the same response. I hope to let you know about that soon. Happy reading!

Published in: on December 29, 2015 at 8:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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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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