Posts Tagged ‘books’


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.

I hereby declare that May was “get back into reading” month. (Just wait until you see June though!) Better late than never, here’s the short list of my fun May literature shenanigans. I feel like Goodreads is letting me down here, because I know I read more. Or, rather, I failed to keep proper track:

  1. What Light, by Jay Asher
  2. Into the Water, by Paula Hawkins
  3. The Girl in Between, by Sarah Carroll
  4. The Mothers, by Brit Bennett
  5. Here and Gone, by Haylen Beck
  6. The Marsh King’s Daughter, by Karen Dionne

These are the lost list of reviews I will never catch up on, unfortunately, but that’s not the fault of the books! What Light was excellent, my second Asher read after, of course, Thirteen Reasons Why. I’m not huge on romance as you know, but it wasn’t terrible in this novel–plus, it revolved around Christmas trees! What’s not to love? Hawkins Into the Water was a good followup for her to the successful Girl on a Train (which I read in March). Shifting POV doesn’t normally work for me, but Hawkins handles it really well. With so many characters to go between, she had a lot to juggle, but she did it well. As an added bonus, the characters all show development over the course of the story. Win! The Girl in Between was a gift from Penguin’s First to Read Program. I liked it, at first. And then when I got to the end, I kicked myself and had rage for not seeing the way the entire puzzle had been laid out for me the ENTIRE time. I was so into the protagonist that I completely missed blantantly obvious clues–someone paying better attention to this YA read than I was may find the end to be trivial and annoying. Bennett’s The Mothers was an easy highlight of the year thus far. It is beautifully written and completely engrossing. Do not read it in public, because you WILL have feelings. Here and Gone, another First to Read book, was very nearly a DNF for me. The concept itself sounded interesting, until I downloaded it and began reading. I found the mother to be annoying and the situation to be unbelievable. Others may disagree, as always, but that’s my two cents. Aaaaaand my last First to Read book, The Marsh King’s Daughter, was much anticipated and RIGHT up my alley. I was quite excited to get it, especially after multiple problems with First to Read’s download process. The Marsh King’s Daughter is an incredibly well thought out and well written thriller that will easily win the day over the summer. I love the way time shifts back and forth between Helena’s past and present! Everything was very smooth and well handled. A great read!

That’s all for May! I promise to be better as I enter this new phase of life as a book blogger over a CNF blogger–you will see my June wrap up in the beginning of June, along with a few extra reviews in between. Genuine Fraud, anyone? Anyone??

Hey, y’all! It’s been a while. I’ve been inspired by BookCon to get back on the writing book reviews train, so hopefully the motivation sticks! It got to be not fun for a while there, being REQUIRED to review books. So for a change of pace, I’ll review a few I am absolutely not required to! Starting with this gem!

I had a fantastic time at BookCon. The most notable event for me, was, of course, meeting Sarah Dessen. I’ve read her books since her beginning as a writer, and I was very excited to tell her so. For her part, she was super sweet and wonderful. And her publicist handed out flowers. It was amazing. Ignore my messy hair and weird eyes in this photo, but please share the joy:


I was super stoked to get Once and For All a few days early, so that I could have it done by the time the rest of the world got their hands on it. The book follows the standard Dessen formula: girl meets boy; girl rehashes some past traumatic event; girl avoids getting with boy we all know she should be with; girl ends up with boy, “healed” from trauma. We all know that I am not a romance person. But for some reason, Dessen and her formulaic approach to contemporary romance just really work for me.  I love her writing, her stories, her characters…etc etc. Clearly I am a fan.

To the specifics of THIS book!

I love Louna as the protagonist. I love her name, for starters, the combination of Louis and Natalie. Louna is a strong girl, but she’s damaged in the typical Dessen fashion. A romance set in a wedding planning society is a fun concept, but with massive cheese potential. Once and For All, does not, however, stray to the land of the cheese. The wedding planning aspect forms a nice background to the story–damaged girl sees everyone else falling in love, but she remains cynical after the terrible events that befell her first epic romance. Louna doesn’t wish. Louna doesn’t have expectations. She comes to work for her mother’s company, and she makes weddings run smoothly, but she does not believe in true love. 

“‘Do you believe that true love can last forever?’ … I knew she wanted a yes or no, something concise and specific and if this were any other question, I probably would have given it to her. But instead, I just sat there, silent, as I tried to put the image in my head … into any kind of words”

Enter Ambrose. He is the fairly typical Dessen male counterpart to the female protagonist. I have to be honest and say that he didn’t totally ring true for me. I wanted to like him, so badly. The text itself screamed at me to like him, especially when he saved the dog (read the book to find out more, that’s as spoiler-y as I get!). But there was something about him that didn’t ring true to me. I think it’s that, while we see Louna come full circle as a character, we don’t see Ambrose actually change. He is A one minute, and he is B the next. Others may disagree, but his evolution is too abrupt in my opinion, especially when laid beside the evolution of our lead. Louna gets there in a legit way for me. We can follow the gears in her head shifting:

“Everything in weddings and life had its phases, and if you were smart, you learned to appreciate them all. What really mattered, though, were the people in those moments with you. Memories are what we have and what we keep, and I held mine close … I was choosing to believe we had time, plenty of it.”

I just love Louna. This is the same for me for all of Dessen’s female protagonists, and it comes from the way she crafts them–Dessen’s writing of her lead is so strong that she gets us inside their heads. We follow them every step of the way down their healing path, and we’re so inside their point of view that we feel with them when they get there. I think this love is, largely, what makes Ambrose a weak counterpart for me. 

Long story short, because you’ve figured out by now that I can rave about Dessen all day long, if you like romance that’s a cut above the average, then Dessen is for you. If you like weddings and reading about behind the scenes bridal shenanigans, then Once and For All is DEFINITELY for you. Pick it up; you won’t be sorry.

4.5 stars on the Goodreads scale, .5 deduction solely for my Ambrose dislike. Agree? Disagree? Hit me up.

detached

I’ll note that Detached, by Christina Kilbourne, got some pretty nice reviews on Goodreads. However, I’m going to take the rare position of disagreeing with the majority. This book should have been in my wheelhouse. I wanted to like it. The plot fit my interests in terms of what I normally like to read—Anna seems like a perfect teenager on the outside, but on the inside she is a complete mess of depression and has NO idea how to tell anyone. She’s smart; she’s talented. But the suicidal thoughts that keep coming back have turned her into a walking black hole, and she becomes certain that the only way out is to do something about it. As a added “bonus,” we get to see how Anna’s depression and suicidal tendencies hurt those around her by reading some chapters from their points of view. Sounds interesting, yes?

Here’s the problem. I did not like the people around Anna. I didn’t like the way their POVs interrupted hers. I didn’t like the way their POVs jolted the chronology of the narrative. I especially didn’t like how Anna was able to attempt suicide FOUR times and absolutely NO ONE realized that this was a serious issue. While I understand that people who really want to kill themselves are not going to broadcast it to the world, the fact that Anna attempted four times and NO ONE tried to help her really bothers me.

Anna as a character is pretty great. Her sadness is so overwhelming that it invades her every thought, and that’s something Kilbourne handles really well. Had the entire book been from her POV, I would have been much more sold. However, as it stands, it comes across as too many different pieces of suicide, a large issue with many intricate pieces, crammed into too small of a book. 3 stars.

**Detached, by Christina Kilbourne, was given to me as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Detached was published by Dundurn Press on August 13th, 2016.

cresswell.jpg

The Cresswells are a strict religious family living in a house governed by firm guidelines from the clothes they wear to what they read to the way that they’re punished. Father runs the show, pushing Castley, Hannan, Casper, Mortimer, Del, and Baby J to follow the scary universe that he himself created. In the beginning, the children follow along, accepting what is told to them and even agreeing to marry their siblings when they become adults. But the older Castley gets, the more she sees of the world, the more she begins to question her way of life.

This type of book is my favorite to read after my own religious background. I wouldn’t say that the topic is for everyone, but it is definitely fast paced and easy to get through. I read it in one day, getting on and off the subway. I enjoy real world suspense books without the fantasy, and I love anything that draws attention to the ways in which religion can be dangerous when left unchecked. 

Castley is great as a sympathetic protagonist. The way that she wavers back and worth between wanting to follow Father and wanting to explore her doubts is very strong—a cult follower is not going to simply jump out of the cult the instant someone snaps their fingers. The follower will need time to think, to disassemble the beliefs that have been engrained inside of them. Castley is a perfect portrait of that description. It was nice to see her evolution as she slowly grew out from under Father’s beliefs. It was also interesting to “watch” as she tried to balance being a regular teenager with being under Father’s wing, and the ways in which this forced her to fly on her own.

My only real problem with this is that I don’t really understand the motives behind Father’s creation of their religion. Why did he really choose to segregate them? Did he suffer a traumatic act in his childhood that made him shun the secular world? Or was he just completely insane? The book that the children read scripture from seemed largely created by Father with some aspects of the real Bible thrown in. I wanted to know more background, but the book didn’t give it to me. The ending (spoiler free) left me unsatisfied. The characters of the children were solid, but the religion itself was not carefully built.

All in all, this gets a 3.5 from me. The prose was great and I mostly enjoyed the characters, but I was left with a lot of questions with no answers. This could have easily been a much longer book.

**I received The Cresswell Plot, by Eliza Wass, as an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The Cresswell Plot is expected for publication June 7th, 2016 by Disney-Hyperion.

tg

Tragedy Girl by Christine Hurley Deriso tells the tale of a teenage girl, Anne, and her path through the high school landscape after the death of her parents in a car accident. Anne meets Blake, and it seems like a match handed to her directly from her parents—he too has suffered a great loss; his girlfriend Cara drowned in a freak accident before the beginning of the school year. But the more Anne gets to know Blake, the less she wants to be alone with him. She begins to think that perhaps Cara’s death was not really an accident at all, and wonders what part Blake had in her death.

This is not a love story.

Well, okay. It’s supposed to be a love story. Anne meets Blake. Everyone says “there’s something off about him,” “you should stay away from him,” etc etc, but Anne decides to go on a date with him anyway. They are mirrors for each other’s grief, or so she thinks. But Blake shows a darker side quickly, and Anne realizes that something isn’t quite right with him. However, SHE KEEPS MOVING FORWARD WITH HIM ANYWAY.

Note from the book author: “Attention readers. When a significant other is verbally abusive to you, it’s all cool. Go ahead and stay with them even if you suspect they’ve done deeper darker things.”

Anne learns that Cara’s body was never found, and in trying to do some investigation, encourages Blake to take her to the beach where Cara died. Blake, of course, flips out at the beach. (Predictable, but okay. I guess I’ll go with the mystery here). I just can’t buy that Anne would stay with Blake through all of his outbursts and ups and downs combined with the mysterious notes warning her away from him and his best friend Jamie.

Note from moi: “If you have relationship doubts, it’s okay to leave that relationship. Don’t stay just because you think you’ll make the person sad.”

Long story short, the borderline (and at times flat out) abusive nature of the Anne/Blake relationship ruined this book for me. I get the idea that in our grief, we can be drawn to things that aren’t good for us. However, there are too many red flags and too many icky messages that aren’t carefully delivered to the reader to make it really stick.

I would, however, like to say that Deriso does a pretty good job writing wise. Characters aside, her set/world building is great, the dialogue is lovely, and she has some great prose happening. The characters just simply aren’t there for me, and really, it’s the characters that make or break you. As this is a message close to my heart, I was looking for something stronger.

2 stars.

**I received Tragedy Girl, by Christine Hurley Deriso, as an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Tragedy Girl is expected for publication April 8th, 2016, by Flux.

flawed

Cecelia Ahern’s Flawed reminds me of many of the other young adult novels I’ve read as of late. We have our female protagonist, Celestine, who has a perfect life with perfect grades and a perfect boyfriend and a seemingly perfect family. The people in society are branded with an F for “flawed” if they do something wrong or make a poor decision; these people are not allowed to lives the same lives as the non-flawed and are forced to exist under a completely different set of rules. In true young adult dystopian form, Celestine recognizes the insanity of this society, stands up against it, and gets punished for that rebellion. This punishment leads her to a situation where she is forced to choose between two suitors in her life—the typical good boy and bad boy scenario. There is a definite formula to this first book of the series, and it is followed to the letter. You might be thinking now, “Okay, so then why do I want to read this?” Answer? There’s just something about this book.

Ahren’s prose is spot on. The writing is smooth and engrossing, and I never found myself annoyed or lost. The pacing is perfectly laid out and kept me flipping the pages; Flawed never dragged, and I didn’t want to put it down. World building is worked into the story in a way that is shown and not told. I’m really a fan of this sort of build, as a lot of times society setup can turn into one giant info dump. The characters are well constructed as well, albeit slightly predictable. Most characters get a narrative arc of some sort and display growth over the course of the story. Celestine goes from rule follower to logical savior. Her sister Juniper goes from being sassy and not totally authentic in her actions to being very real and gaining a more solid backbone. Even Colleen, a side character, gets a nice little growth arc where she learns about expressing anger.

I found myself wanting to know more about Carrick, as he was intriguing but relegated to a back burner position for most of the novel. I assume his character will play a strong role in the sequel—at least I hope so!!! The only character in this I really didn’t care for was Celestine’s boyfriend, Art. He doesn’t really grow or change at all over the course of the narrative, remaining very fixed and rigid despite many opportunities to grow and change with those surrounding him.

The assessment of this as being a Divergent and Scarlett Letter hybrid is pretty accurate. While nothing unique, Ahren’s prose makes this worth a grab.

Four stars.

**I received Flawed by Cecelia Ahern as an ARC from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. Flawed is expected for publication on April 5th, 2016 by Feiwel and Friends.