Posts Tagged ‘Penguin’


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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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.

accident

“So let’s raise our glasses to the accident season, to the river beneath us where we sink our souls, to the bruises and secrets, to the ghosts in the ceiling, one more drink for the watery road.”

Of all the ARC’s I’ve been hoping to receive this year, Moïra Fowley-Doyle’s The Accident Season was definitely at the top of my list. Needless to say, I was quite excited to receive a copy from Penguin. I struggle to pinpoint precisely what this book is. Is it horror? Thriller? Mystery? An inventive fairytale? Honestly, I think it’s a bit of all these things. And as one of the most lyrically written YA novels I’ve ever read, it’s definitely worth a read—so y’all can make your own decisions.

The book centers around 17 year old Cara. October every year in Cara’s family is known as “the accident season.” Family members become accident prone; they separate themselves from anything that could hurt them, but still somehow manage to become injured. Cara’s entire family is obsessed with “the accident season,” and live the entire month in fear. But Cara wants to know where this curse came from and how she can escape it—as she struggles to unravel the mystery of a classmate who appears in every single photograph ever even when she has no business being there, Cara creeps closer and closer to the truth.

The Accident Season is an incredibly compelling read. Glancing at the blurb, one could take it for a story of family, love, friendship, or secrets, but Fowley-Doyle’s lyrical and winding prose bring the story to life in a way that make it completely unique and anything but ordinary. Fowley-Doyle devotes an extensive amount of time to building her characters and their world, and the setting is so intricately described that the reader can literally see themselves there.

I quite enjoy Cara as a character. She’s a dreamer, but still well grounded. She’s also a bit naive, but I found this didn’t bother me. Cara’s visions of changelings and fairies fit very well both into the overall arc of the story and the touch of magical realism that floats throughout the work. The visions are beautiful, with an almost ethereal quality to them. Once you get to the end, it’s amazing to look back at the subtle details in Cara’s visions and realize “oooooooh, that’s what was being said.” I can’t say much more without giving spoilers, but trust me. Don’t skim over the visions. They may be a bit confusing when you are first reading, but they all come together by the end.

I also really liked Sam as a character, and although the romance was a touch forbidden between Cara and Sam, it definitely worked. Cara’s sister, Alice, is in a relationship with an abusive older man which adds an entirely different layer that runs as an undertone through the entire story.

There was not much conversation between characters, but I didn’t mind that as much of the story (and memories of the accident season) was contained in their heads. I wanted that deep point of view, from inside the characters, and Fowley-Doyle did not disappoint in that regard. This novel does feel at times like snippets of things shoved together, but that is what memory is. That is also, in some respects, what fantasy can be. If you like metaphorical reads and books that make you think, this is definitely for you.

This definitely has similarities to We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, for sure—but Fowley-Doyle’s characters are strong and her writing is one hundred percent richer. For a debut novel, The Accident Season is absolutely stunning. I agree with the readers who have called this one an instant classic. Sure, I somewhat predicted the twist at the end (though not entirely), but I don’t really count in that regard as I read many, many YA novels. Pick this one up, y’all. Discover a somewhat underrepresented genre (at least in terms of good reads) of YA. You will not be sorry. 5 stars.

**I received The Accident Season as an ARC from Penguin’s First to Read program. The Accident Season is expected for publication August 18th 2015 by Corgi Childrens.

minnow

“The grief world isn’t closer to where the dead live … You only trick yourself into believing that. If you stand up and move around and look at the living world, and start participating again, you’re closer to them anyway.”

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, by Stephanie Oakes, is a beautifully harrowing and emotional read about the both the power and danger of faith. Minnow Bly is a seventeen year old former Kevinian cult member sitting in juvenile detention. She attempted a rebellion against the Prophet, so he had her father chop off her hands. Then the Prophet turns up dead, and the Kevinian camp is destroyed by fire. Minnow may have done it, or she may not have, but she most certainly knows what happened that night—and she won’t speak of it to anyone. Minnow is forced to relearn everything that she knows about life and how to live it, and in the process, she begins a journey to finding true faith and freedom.

Minnow is a powerful, powerful narrator. Having gone into the woods with the Kevinians at the age of five, Minnow has some memories of the outside world. She has a foundation to believe things outsiders take for granted, like the fact that meteors really ARE meteors and not war bombs fired by the Gentiles to destroy the Kevinians. Minnow is completely believable as she navigates the outside world almost like a newborn; not only does she need to relearn how to function without hands, she also needs to learn how to function when she’s no longer a Kevinian. A weaker author may have inserted Minnow directly into the outside storyline and left the religion behind, but Oakes draws her world all the way through with precision and ease. Minnow’s struggle is incredibly realistic. I also really enjoyed the character of Angel. Her hope and faith, or lack there of, make an interesting foil to Minnow’s own budding beliefs.

One of the best parts of this book is the care that Oakes takes with building the Kevinian religion. The different prophecies, beliefs, and foundations of the religion woven throughout make the book all the more solid. This is one of those books that had legitimate potential to be a cheese factory, but it ended up precisely the opposite. Oakes’ care with world building supports strong characters and an amazing story.

Thus far, this book is my Number One for 2015. It has a little of everything—murder, mystery, cult, guilt, shame, grief, faith, and how all of these things knot together and come undone, only to knot together again. Plus, the prose is beautiful and intricate. So y’all need to read it. Like now. Or, rather, on June 9th. Preorder now :). But be prepared to feel emotions. Keep the Kleenex close by.

5 stars. Because that’s my max.

**I received The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly as an ARC from Penguin’s First to Read program, in exchange for an honest review. The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is expected for publication June 9th, 2015, by Dial/Penguin.