Posts Tagged ‘book’


Corrie Wang’s novel, The Takedown, takes our current technological society and multiplies it by 1000. Take what you know about the Facebook currently works–if you post a photo, it scans the faces in that photo and suggests that you tag the person it thinks it sees in that picture based on some facial recognition algorithm that I can’t begin to claim to understand. In The Takedown’s equivalent, Connect Book, this idea goes to a new level via something called Woofer. Woofer scans the photos and videos EVERYONE posts and tags EVERYONE in them, and it’s completely legal due to the user agreement everyone signs when they create their account. Taking a selfie at the mall on the escalator? Woofer is tagging everyone on that escalator with you. Making a video of the latest and greatest subway musician? Well Woofer is tagging every person crowded on that train platform. Sounds fun, in theory, and protagonist Kyla Chang agrees. At least until a video surfaces of a teacher and a girl in a classroom having sex–and when that girl turns to the camera, it’s Kyla.

Only it isn’t. 

Someone has taken Kyla’s face and put it on someone else’s body in a perfect edit, and Kyla’s entire life explodes. Her school tries to suspend her; the organizations she belongs to disconnect from her, and no college will accept her. The video attaches to absolutely every aspect of her life, and Kyla has to figure out where the video has come from so that she can take it down before her life, and the lives of everyone attached to her, completely explodes.

I love this book for a lot of reasons. First off, Kyla. I want to hate her, but I also want to love. She’s that super popular girl in high school that all of us non-popular people want to despise. She’s written in a very two layered way–that girl we wanna hate is right there, but there’s also the girl below that that is every one of us. Kyla is just as insecure about her place in society as anyone else, just in a different way and for different reasons. It’s harder to be at the top than it looks, and Wang writes from this perspective masterfully. Audra, one of Kyla’s best friends, was, by comparison, underwritten. From a feminist perspective, she could have been played up much more. While the focus of the book is clearly Kyla, an opportunity comes with Audra (staying spoiler free!) that could be played up and written more. As women, what does in mean to be in control of our bodies? What does in mean to ask others to respect them? How does the gaze of others change us? There are a lot of questions here that, while responded to by Wang’s text, don’t go as in depth as they had the potential to.

The Takedown also makes some strides in terms of diversity. I love how broad it is in terms of race, but I more love how that’s absolutely not the focus. It’s more just how it is. Wang doesn’t make a point of saying “this person is white, this person is African American, this person is Asian.” They just are. 

The society in The Takedown is fantastic just because of how clearly it aligns with the path of our current lives. In a few years, this could be where we are. Many people still think that it doesn’t matter what you do online, that no one sees it. That’s just not true–people do see. And in the future, everyone will see, much like Kyla’s situation. This book is going to be great for teens in that, though it’s not tech currently available to us, it still promotes a message that will make people think. Think about what you say, what you do, what you post. You never know who’s watching. All in all, if you are a teen who uses the internet (every teen ever) or if you have a teen who uses the internet, pick this up. This isn’t us today, but it could be us tomorrow. 

5 stars.

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awake

Awake by Natasha Preston easily takes the award for the most disappointing ARC of the year. Normally, when I find so many issues with an ARC, I DNF it. But as I read and moderately enjoyed another of Preston’s books, The Cellar, (albeit, another book with lots of issues—predominantly poor editing—that I put up with for the plot) I gave this one a shot from beginning to end. However, unlike The Cellar, Awake is missing a plot with which to redeem itself. Usually I would not bother to review a book like this, but, again, my disappointment knows no bounds.

The concept of Awake was a decent one, though not unique. Scarlett is a relatively normal teen, minus the fact that she remembers nothing from before she was four. Her parents told her that her memories were lost after a house fire, but when the family gets in a car accident, Scarlett starts to remember things that contradict her parents side of things. She leans heavily on her boyfriend, Noah, because she felt an instant connection to him even though he was new to town. However, Noah already knows Scarlett’s past—she was a member of a cult called Eternal Light, and Noah and his family have been sent to bring her home.

Like I said, it sounds interesting, but it’s not in anyway unique. Plus, there’s a little a psychological term called “childhood amnesia,” which, in layman’s terms means that most people don’t remember anything from before the age of four. I could have suspended belief in the psych side of my brain, but there were just too many problems here.

Let’s start with the characters. The most redeeming character feature in this book was the level in which cult related characters sold themselves to their beliefs. I could really buy into the members of the cult and their blind obedience. But beyond that, I couldn’t find one iota of belief in anyone. Scarlett was so horrified about her amnesia, but yet, it’s really a normal childhood thing. Noah and his family? Why go to all the trouble of getting to know Scarlett and make her fall in love with Noah when they could have just taken her? I mean, essentially, that’s what they end up doing. So let’s skip the romance, which seemed like a “let’s have the main character have sex, and OH! now we can send her off to the cult!” type move. How did Noah even know Scarlett would like him? Oh wait. He knew because insta-romance is totally a thing…No. No it is not. The development of the relationship was insanely fast and incredibly unrealistic. What does it say to the teens this book is marketed to that Scarlett instantly drops all her friends to be with this boy, and then they are talking about their future together, marriage, children…

And don’t even get me started on Scarlett’s parents. I mean, WOULDN’T THEY HAVE RECOGNIZED NOAH AS FROM THE CULT??? Or at least SOMETHING fishy? He had never had Oreos or processed foods, never watched movies or tv, spoke very formally….It was obvious to me even without a plot summary that the boy did not have a normal childhood.

Bottom line, the characters have zero depth.

Now, for the cult. I wanted to know more about the cult and the rituals. There were various books and pamphlets available to Scarlett. But as the reader, we were never fully filled in on the belief system or the foundation behind the cult itself. It was mentioned at one point that they are two cult melded into one, but we don’t really get a lot of support for that. The cult could have been a really cool addition to the plot, but it isn’t totally filled out.

The ending annoyed the crap out of me. I stay spoiler free on my blog, but I know most people will not get to the end of this book …. but no, I won’t tell. Just know that the ending is a cliffhanger that doesn’t make me want to read more. It just made me angry.

The writing in this is not compelling in the slightest. The dialogue is too stiff and formal in many places, and completely unrealistic. (Note—people don’t generally speak without the use of contractions!).

The biggest flaw of this book was the editing. Granted, I did have an ARC, so there may be some typo and grammar adjustments in the final copy. But suspending my annoyance over the enormous amount of that type of editing error, I also need to point out that this book could have benefited from an editor PERIOD. The beginning drags like nobody’s business. I don’t care about what the characters are eating for lunch; I don’t care about who is having sex with whom. The cult is not even introduced until over a third of the way through the book. (Though as I mentioned, it is obvious that Noah belongs to SOMETHING). The teen characters are too busy at school engaging in slut-shaming and eating, among other things. Yes, let us teach teens to slut shame their friends. And also fat shame their friends. Because THAT is totally appropriate.

This one gets 1 star from me. Mostly because I cannot go any lower. Also, during the reading process (which was hard, but I stubbornly pushed through), I shared passages with my friend, S. She is certain it broke her brain and wanted y’all to know I am not alone in my views.

**I received Awake by Natasha Preston as an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Awake is expected for publication August 4th 2015 by Sourcebooks Fire.

untaken

Untaken, by J.E. Anckorn centers on 14 year old Gracie and 15 year old Brandon, two of a small number of survivors after an alien race comes down to Earth and swallows everyone that they love into giant silver ships. They form a plan to travel towards Maine and Brandon’s uncle’s cabin; along the way, the pair comes across a young boy they name Jake. Jake can’t talk, and he doesn’t act like a normal boy. But Jake has a secret, and he will do anything to hold onto it—not only from Gracie and Brandon, but from the army men who pursue them.

Plot wise, this started out reminding me of In The After, by Demetria Lunetta—only it doesn’t move nearly as quickly. There were many times where the storyline dragged for me, but it held my interest just enough that I had to continue reading. The characters in this book weren’t rounded out; the twists and turns were obvious before they were revealed. The world building also lacked for me. I wanted to know more about the alien race—where they came from, their motivations, and just who, exactly, they were. The little we see of them feels like “here we are, going to suck up your people now.” I also didn’t entirely understand the way in which the “drones” functioned. In different places in the book, it seems like they work in different ways, and the end adds an entirely new dynamic to the way in which they function.

There’s a lot that this book does well. This book really picks up once Gracie and Brandon join forces on their journey. The first sections are way too long and unnecessarily detailed with things we don’t really need to know. The language of the characters is spot on for their age. The evolution of Jake was also amazing; I enjoyed watching him “grow up” inside his head. The description and imagery throughout are amazing; Anckorn put me right into the situation alongside the characters. I also love that this was a single book and didn’t follow the current trend of YA dystopian trilogies.

The things that this does well are enough to balance out the things that it doesn’t, making it worth a read for anyone middle school age-ish who likes survival stories, aliens, or science fiction.

3 stars.

**I received this book as an DRC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Untaken was published March 23rd, 2015, by Curiosity Quills Press.

qualify

“You have two options. You die, or you Qualify.”

Qualify, by Vera Nazarian, tells the story of sixteen year old Gwenevere Lark. Gwen is a self proclaimed geek and klutz, living in the year 2047. Scientists discover an asteroid heading towards Earth that will destroy the planet, but descendants from Atlantis come down from space to offer their help—they will take a small percentage of people back to Atlantis with them, but those people must be in the their teens, they must smart, and they must be athletic. Gwen is definitely NOT athletic, but she knows that she has to try and Qualify. If she doesn’t, she’ll die. And if Gwen does qualify, she will have the option of participating in the Atlantis Grail and possibly becoming a full citizen of Atlantis—which would allow her to save her entire family.

I like Gwen. She’s smart and a bit sassy, and she’s stronger than she gives herself credit for. I love how much she cares for her family, and how this trait stays with her throughout the entire book. I like how she relies on her brains and her inner strength rather than looks, making her a champion for geeks everywhere. Her family is also very relatable—the whiny little sister, the strong older brother, and the middle child brother. Gwen is sort of a mother hen to her siblings, a trait that both suits her character and informs her actions for much of the book.

I didn’t care for the romance, but that’s normal for me. I did appreciate that the romance took a backseat for most of the book. Gwen to me wasn’t a character that really seemed to fit the boy crazy mold, but she fell hard for Logan. And maybe that’s the way teen romance works—when you fall, you fall hard.

The world building in this is incredibly well done. The Atlantian culture is built around the ability to singing—singing controls all of the objects and technology of Atlantis, so perfect pitch is a helpful talent. The musical theory aspects were spot on, and I found it interesting how different quadrants of Atlantis worked in different musical areas—major, minor, flat, and sharp.

One of my biggest gripes with this book is that it could have strongly benefited from an editor. I received this as a DRC, but I recommended it to another friend to read (because she too loves dystopians) and she downloaded it from Amazon. We compared editions and noticed many of the same typographical and grammatical errors. The dialogue in many places is also stiff, using contractions where contractions would not normally be used in speech. This was a long book, and I’m not sure that it needed to be so long. Many things could have been much more concise. It only really starts to roll forward when we stop living in every second of Gwen’s life—and we don’t NEED every second. Stay with this book, and you won’t be sorry; the plot is a great concept and once the book makes it to the semis and the final it really rolls. But I fear many people won’t get that far.

3 stars.

**I received Qualify as a DRC from Netgalley. I was not paid to write this review. Qualify was published December 20, 2014, by Norilana Books.

year

Jessica Warman’s The Last Good Day of the Year opens in the first moments of the new year, 1986, as seven-year-old Sam and her best friend Remy watch a man break into their home and take Sam’s sister, Turtle, from her sleeping bag. Both children are to scared to stop the man, but they later claim to have recognized him as the boyfriend of Sam’s sister, Gretchen. Ten years later, Sam’s family is low on money and forced to return to the childhood home where Turtle disappeared. Being back in the house causes Sam to start remembering things, and she begins to question just what, exactly, actually happened to Turtle.

The plot of this reminded me of a combination of Jon Benet Ramsey and Elizabeth Smart’s cases. It seemed to be a realistic breakdown of what happens to a family when a child is kidnapped, from Remy being so scared that he wet himself in his sleeping bag to Sam’s mother throwing up on the floor and not cleaning it up for weeks. Sam’s parents have a “replacement child,” Hannah, but she doesn’t fill any of the holes they thought she would—yet another realistic detail. Sam’s family seems to just move forward, but they never really connect again in the absence of Turtle.

The best written character in this is Sam’s mother. In the aftermath of losing Turtle, she loses a large sense of who she is as a mother. She strikes out at her oldest daughter, and then goes on to have another daughter and get heavily involved in that daughter’s life—beauty pageant’s, dance classes, etc. Sam’s mom throws herself into the life of Hannah in order to give Hannah everything that she couldn’t give Turtle, and she is unable to admit to herself that she will never be able to make up for what happened to Turtle because it is not make-upable.

Sam is okay for me. She’s not a very reliable narrator, for the obvious reason that much of the story takes place when she is a child. However, her feelings are written well; her grief about not doing anything to stop the man from taking Turtle is apparent in even the smallest things. Her scenes with Hannah are especially powerful.

The insertions of pages from Forty Eight Minutes of Doubt didn’t really work for me. They generally contained nameless people talking about more nameless people; I really had to work to figure out who was who and what was happening, which I felt like I needed to do because the information appeared to be important. The plot moves forward on its own without these insertions, and they just come across as pushy and over the top, taking away from the powerful prose that makes up Sam’s sections.

The ending left me a bit hollow, because it was so rushed. I had a feeling that it was what was coming, but it happened in a few short pages and then was over. I wanted more pay off, both for myself and the characters. Though the fact that the family does NOT get that pay off is also realistic. But still. I wanted the closure and didn’t get it.

This book is a solid mix of mystery and thriller that will keep the reader guessing, though it has a stronger start than finish. 3.5 stars from me.

**I received The Last Good Day of the Year as an ARC from Netgalley. I was not paid to write this review. The Last Good Day of the Year is expected for publication May 19th, 2015, by Bloomsbury USA Children’s.

saintanything

I have never been more excited to receive an ARC than I was to get a copy of Sarah Dessen’s Saint Anything. I may have literally squealed. I posted a review of the sneak peek copy last month here: https://wordpress.com/post/82881117/49/

But I really, really wanted to read the full book. So thanks, Penguin. 🙂

This book centers on a teen named Sydney. Sydney is a fairly ordinary girl who lives a life of invisibility, of moving in the background of everything around her. Sydney’s brother Peyton was always the star of the family. He was a handsome athlete, got good grades, and had lots of friends. Until, suddenly, he didn’t. Peyton took a dark, fast turn towards drugs and alcohol, unable to cope with the pressure of maintaining his public persona. When he gets a drunk driving conviction and is sent to jail, he leaves Sydney trying to figure out who she is when his his shadow is not immediately present to overpower her. With Peyton gone, Sydney goes to a new school and makes some new friends, Mac and Layla Chatham. This book follows Sydney’s evolution from girl in the background to girl who can stand on her own and form her own identity. It’s a beautiful bildungsroman of sorts, Sydney’s journey, and one that any teen could identify with.

I love Sydney. Her emotions and actions are perfectly written and true to character. She’s a typical second child, a star that feels like it doesn’t shine quite as brightly as the star that came before. We get pretty deep into Sydney’s point of view, which allows us as readers to really care for her. Her interactions are all incredibly realistic, especially those she has with Ames. Ames is a creeper right out of the gate, and he remains a creeper. Sydney doesn’t stand up to him in the beginning like I, as the reader, kept hoping she would. True to character, she never voiced her discomfort and kept letting her parents shove Ames into her life.

I also really enjoyed Sydney’s mother. She desperately scrambles to make a life after Peyton’s conviction, trying to “fix” things as best as she can for her kids. She micromanages Sydney to the extreme, because she can no longer manage Peyton. Her actions are completely believable, and while frustrating for Sydney, make her incredibly sympathetic.

Who am I kidding? I really like all the characters. Dessen’s strength is in her characters; she has crafted them with a high level of believability that grabs on to the reader and refuses to let them go. My only real beef with this is that I really wanted more of Mrs. Chatham, Mac and Layla’s mother. She is such an integral part of the story, and the end, yet we only get to see her in little snippets.

There’s romance in this book, but it’s not the focus. It’s a really sweet background that speaks to the power of the relationships in our lives to help us get over our past. This book seemed more mature to me than many of Dessen’s other books, in that the focus was really on how we move forward ourselves, rather than the traditional “love can make everything better” idea. Mac and Sydney work perfectly together, especially with Mac’s backstory. (Staying spoiler free, read it to find out what I mean :D).

I was sad to see Saint Anything end. Not because the ending was bad, (it was perfect!), but because I was so in love with the characters that I wanted to live inside their world. If you’re looking for a contemporary with the perfect mix of family, friendship, drama, and light romance, this is the book for you. It has something for everybody.

Sarah Dessen’s fans will love this book. Everyone will love this book. 5 stars.

**I received Sarah Dessen’s Saint Anything as an ARC from Penguin’s First to Read program. Saint Anything is expected for publication on May 5th, 2015, by Viking Juvenile.

cover61097-medium

You guys. YOU GUYS.

SARAH DESSEN HAS A NEW BOOK COMING OUT!!!

My joy at this fact knows no bounds. I’m not normally one for the romance, but for some reason I have always adored Sarah Dessen’s books. Her prose is always so incredible and the characters so believable that the inevitable romance doesn’t bother me. In fact, I—get ready for it—actually love it.

Her newest book, Saint Anything, looks like it’s going to be no exception to my mad Sarah Dessen book love. I had the pleasure of reading a sneak peek of the first four chapters, courtesy of Netgalley. (I hope that the powers that be will grace me with a full version to review, but that remains to be seen.) But the first four chapters really hooked me, and the book is going on my list.

Here’s what I know: The protagonist of this one is Sydney, a girl whose older brother, Peyton, has traditionally gotten all of the attention in their family. When Peyton gets a drunk driving conviction and is sent to jail, Sydney is left searching for her place in a world where she was previously borderline invisible. The prose of the sample I read was fantastically written and drew me right in. The backstory of Sydney and Peyton’s relationship really helped me to understand and care for Sydney. They are written in an incredibly realistic manner, as are all of Dessen’s characters. The sample cuts off just after the introduction of the Chatham family in the pizza parlor, but I have a feeling there is much more to them than meets the eye.

This one is going to be a boatload of themes, from growing up, to family, to self discovery, to overall change. I can’t wait to read it. And I hope I get it as an ARC! 🙂 (Please, Viking? Pleeeeeeease? I’m not ashamed to beg, and I promise to write you a fantastic review.)

If you’ve never read any Sarah Dessen, you should. My personal favorite thus far? What Happened to Goodbye. Seriously. Go buy a Sarah Dessen novel.

No. Really.

Go.