Wednesday Reads: please don’t hate me for not reading this before now

We all have those books we should have read much earlier in our lives. My list is obscenely long. Embarrassingly long. And not just for a librarian, but for a human being. For example: anything by Mark Twain, Little Women (the movie, too), Call of the Wild, etc. etc. etc. Seriously. Way too long to type.

My husband and I were driving from my sister’s home in Huntsville, Alabama to Nashville, Tennessee a couple weeks ago, and we wrote out a list of some books I need to read. Stat. One of them is:

bridge

The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. Yeah, I know. So I have it on audiobook and am currently halfway through. So far, it’s alright. Maybe I spaced out during a track, but I feel like Jess’ progression from complacent to interested in Leslie was pretty instantaneous. Then again, maybe that’s how young people work. I haven’t been one for a while, so…

 

unsiuled

Unsouled by Neal Shusterman – the third book is the Unwind Trilogy. Book one was great, and book 2 surprisingly kept the momentum going. I am honestly shocked that the third is as good as it is so far. Keep it coming, Shusterman!

 

counting

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan is about a young oddball named Willow Chance. I totally adore her, which is something Sloan is really good at doing – making readers fall for her characters. I was recommended this book by my boss-lady, and I am really enjoying it so far.

 

 

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review: Escape from Eden by Elisa Nader

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Escape from Eden by Elisa Nader landed on my lap because the (awesome, incredible, book-loving) manager of my library’s Programming Division was in contact with Nader about a possible YA author’s panel program at my library. As any programming librarian (especially those who work with youth) knows, you can’t just say “Yeah, sure!” to every author who wants to visit the library (no matter how much you want to). Time and meeting room space aside, publicly promoting a book you have never read can have bad consequences. So my boss-lady and I decided that we would consider the program only after reading the book. Nader gave us 5 copies of the book, and I cannot wait to meet with the teens who picked up a copy so we can discuss this book! Awesome division manager, move forward with booking her!

Mia is 16 and has lived in Eden – a small religious community set in a fictional South America town – for six years. She has never really liked it, not necessarily hoping for her old life, but just not feeling comfortable or safe as the others do. Then Gabriel and his parents join Eden, and he opens Mia’s eyes to all of the things that aren’t quite right. She sees things she cannot forget, and her desire to get away turns into a desperate need. But she grapples with leaving behind her mother and little brother, and everyone else she loves and wants to protect.

The action scenes are longer than in most YA novels, but I didn’t find myself skipping them. Nader really packed a lot of punch into each scene, especially the ones that got Mia’s heart racing. The more passionate scenes definitely made me a little warm in the neck, but it is tame enough for a YA novel. It was done tastefully, which I appreciate. The chemistry between the two teens as well as Gabriel’s perfect mix of wit and gruff is really what drives the novel. I liked his depth.

Recommended for:
Teen girls and adult women who read YA will be happy they read this. It has the sinister cult leader and his team of bad guys, passion that is always right on the precipice, and a lot of action. I think teen boys may appreciate Mia’s determination and heroics, as well. I’d consider recommending this to the right teen boy.

Read-alikes:
This has a Hunger Games and YA dystopic thing going on, without being set in a different world. Cults have been around for a while, and this is quite reminiscent of the Jonestown massacre of 1978. I watched a documentary on Jonestown a few years ago and thinking of it still gives me chills. I think I’ll forever link that doc with this novel.

Review: The Elite by Kiera Cass

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I read the first book in this series The Selection last March. I wrote that it “perfectly combines elements of modern reality TV, with a futuristic dystopian society, and the historic ideologies and pressures of being a royal family.” 

But Cass kind of let me down with its sequel The Elite. 

What I loved:
Unlike with most sequels, Cass didn’t spend the entire first chapter revisiting the previous novel. (I hate when authors do that. If you read the first, you don’t need a grade-school summary leading you to into the second. Forgot what the first was about? Re-read the last chapter or the entire thing.) She dove right into the new material, getting to work on reminding us about why we fell in love with Prince Maxon and “bachelorette #6” America Singer.

I loved that America’s ferocious sense of right and wrong was upheld. When her friend is being wronged, despite her own wrongdoings, America behaves the way everyone else should have. Thank you, Cass, for keeping her strong.

What I did not love:
The very thing that earned one potential-princess a spot on the first train out of town in The Selection earned America nothing more than a stern look from the Queen in The Elite. And America and Aspen sneak away less than a day after another princess-to-be is caned for being caught in a compromising position with a guard. I really don’t like that Cass lets America get away with the very things that others were punished for, with no explanation whatsoever.

America is a teenaged girl, so her affections for Maxon and Aspen change with the wind…but I found her to be a bit too fickle to be taken seriously. 

Recommended for:
While I will continue to recommend The Selection, I will not be recommending The Elite. :/

Book 64: UnWholly by Neal Shusterman

UnWholly by Neal Shusterman is the second book in the Unwind series, a trilogy set in a world where parents cannot abort their babies, but are legally allowed to send them to organ donation facilities (harvest camps) as early as their thirteenth birthday. I read and reviewed the first book in the series in January of this year and just loved it! I loved the characters, the plot twists, the dystopic elements, and the realism. Oh, the realism! That is what makes the book so terrifying; this could happen. With how divided (no pun intended…then again, only people who’ve read the series will get that, so is it a pun if no one but the reviewer gets it?) we are as a country on the topic of abortion, it isn’t too far-fetched an idea.

Unwind was originally a solo book, but Shusterman received so much feedback that he decided to turn it into a trilogy. I am not one to read series simply because I have too many other books to read, and I figure that if I read the first book in a series then I have enough info to perform quality Readers Advisory. BUT…Unwind had me hooked, so I just had to see what happened to Connor and Lev. UnWholly is exactly what a second book in a trilogy should be; it fully reviews the first book without just an obvious first chapter re-cap; introduces only a few, but very critical, new characters; and has plenty of action and plot twists; and ends with a true cliffhanger. I love this book and just cannot wait for the third. I just hope Shusterman doesn’t take 5 years to write it like he did with UnWholly.

As with Unwind, I will recommend UnWholly to teens (and adults who like YA lit) who like dystopia and stories where the teens are in charge. (A read-alike to this is the recently published Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne and Variant by Robison Wells.)

Book 46: Amped by Daniel H. Wilson

Amped by Daniel H. Wilson is the second of Wilson’s novels I’ve read this year. Earlier in 2012 I listened to the audiobook of his thriller Robopocalypse and enjoyed it. It was scary, well-written, and, worst thing? Believable. 

Amped follows along the same lines in that it is a truly believable situation: Americans who have been altered with neuro implants (brain implants that correct such disorders as ADHD, epilepsy, deafness, and more) are considered enemies of “pure” humans. The implant, originally considered advanced technology and medicine, became a source of hatred and discrimination for those who were not enhanced or amplified (hence the moniker “amped”). Those with the telltale scar on their temples, signs that they have had the operation, were forced from their homes by hostile neighbors and former friends who were angry that their mediocrity was enhanced by the presence of the amped people.

The book follows Owen, a 29 year old teacher whose father was the inventor of the implant. After his father’s murder, Owen flees the city to find the man who can give him answers as to what is really inside of his head. What he finds along the way is hostility, hatred, murder, and he must make a choice to fight or flee.

I received this book as an advanced reader copy (ARC) at the American Library Association Conference, so a big “thank you!” to the publisher Doubleday for the free read. Because it is an unfinished proof, I want to withhold judgement…but I cannot.

For how descriptive Robopocalypse was, I found Amped to be completely lacking in all details, including setting, character development, and character interactions. Owen’s internal thoughts are so obvious and boring, that I really hope they were just placeholders for the final, fully descriptive, content. I found Owen to be lackluster in completing the mission he (rather begrudgingly) undertook. I didn’t feel like his whole heart was in the mission, nor was it in the very disjointed romantic relationship he embarked (awkwardly) on.

I will still encourage readers of doomsday/dystopia to read his last novel, but I will omit Amped from my recommendation list. I would love to know if the final product was better than the ARC I read. But sadly, I won’t take the time to read it to find out.

Book 22: Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

I just finished listening to Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson, read by Mike Chamberlain. In this novel, machines, robots, and technology take over the world, led by the deceptively child-like voiced Arcos. Cars are no longer driven; they do the driving. Domestics (house robots) turn from errand boys to murderers. Throughout the short time this story spans, technology evolves from its human-made level to something very sinister and lethal. Many communities collapse, yet many thrive in this new world. The Osage Nation, a hardened group of New Yorkers, US soldiers and their Afghanistan enemies…each of these groups struggle to beat, or befriend, the machines that are tasked with killing them. Readers will be shocked at the angle that some of the free-thinking robots take on the New War.

I enjoyed this book because I love doomsday/apocalypse/end-of-the-world stories. Maybe that is because I am absolutely certain it will never happen…if I had an inkling that any of this could happen, I think I’d be much more hesitant to read about it. Anyway, the novel is quite reminiscent of Max Brooks’ World War Z, but the use of technology vice zombies really gives it a unique and creative edge. They are comparable, but not alike. I will be recommending this book to teens and adults who enjoy zombie thrillers, doomsday scenarios, and the like.

Oh…if you intend on listening to this while driving, allow me to warn you: this book is especially terrifying to read while stuck in traffic. One super-creepy feature is that cars kill people. I was listening to this while stuck in a car on the Capital Beltway surrounded by cars. Oh, and I totally locked my car doors. SMH…not my brightest moment.

A note on the narrator: Chamberlain’s British accent isn’t the best, nor is his interpretation of a tween-aged girl, but he keeps the story going. He found a way to alter his voice just enough that the characters sound distinct, which makes it easier to follow since every chapter is the account of a different character.

Book 21 : The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker is a chilling YA novel set in a world that is slowing down. By mid-book, daylight stretches into 48-hour long periods…as does nightfall. The sun becomes a source of constant and blistering heat, and by hour 72 the Earth’s surface reaches temperatures of 135 degrees. People fall victim to “the syndrome”, which could be the result of radiation, or is it depression? Sixth-grade Julia, a loner by nature, becoems even more lonely as she watches the world around her do the strangest things. Not just the planet, but her peers, her family, and her neighborhood.

What I like about this story is that, while it is very much a doomsday story, it is not written in an utterly desperate and hurried voice. Instead, our protagonist digests things matter-of-factly and truthfully. She doesn’t waste time guessing or crying; she see what is happening, tries her hand at understanding it, then moves on, whether she does or doesn’t. While I don’t think I would have been friends with Julia, I sure was interested in being a part of her life for that year that she covers the slowing of the world.

Eerily enough, Walker makes it all seem so realistic. Like it could happen tomorrow. Nothing about this story is so fantastical that the reader cannot help but think…is today the last 24-hour long day? I will be recommending this book to teens and adults who enjoy end-of-the-world stories and introspective protagonists. Sadly, this book will not be released until June…sorry for the teaser!!