Don't Touch by Rachel M. Wilson Review

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Title: Don't Touch
Author: Rachel M. Wilson (Twitter)
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publish Date: September 2, 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 432
Source: Publisher

Step on a crack, break your mother’s back. Touch another person’s skin, and Dad’s gone for good.

Caddie can’t stop thinking that if she keeps from touching another person’s skin, her parents might get back together... which is why she wears full-length gloves to school and covers every inch of her skin.

It seems harmless at first, but Caddie’s obsession soon threatens her ambitions as an actress. She desperately wants to play Ophelia in her school’s production of Hamlet. But that would mean touching Peter, who’s auditioning for the title role—and kissing him. Part of Caddie would love nothing more than to kiss Peter—but the other part isn't sure she's brave enough to let herself fall.
Books that tackle mental illness head-on tend to either really work well or fail miserably. Honestly, they're risky, if only because there are so many differing opinions, misconceptions and preconceived notions about what, exactly, these diseases entail. And so, when I began Don't Touch, I went in with an open mind and a very, very guarded heart. Tackling OCD and anxiety head-on, author Rachel M. Wilson takes a daring approach and gives readers what they really want - a no holds-barred look at the psychological ramifications and repercussions of such mental illnesses - all the while giving us characters whom we can love and respect.

Caddie was the perfect protagonist for this story. She offered us a refreshingly honest take on her condition, and her anxiety was played out perfectly on each and every page. As someone who has dealt with extreme anxiety in my life, I could understand the trepidation she felt, and each jarring, emotional moment rang increasingly true throughout the story. Moreover, Ms. Wilson makes certain that we're not just watching Caddie's journey from afar. We're put in Caddie's shoes, and we feel the enormity and sheer weight of this crippling disorder that plays out on her mind all the time. It's a powerful writing device, and I have to admit that it was done so well, that I actually had quite some anxiety reading the more intense moments of the novel. Heavily immersive, Don't Touch really worked for me on that level.

The plot of Don't Touch moved a little slower than I normally liked, but for the most part, it worked. This wasn't the type of story where I needed every little moment to build into some awe-inspiring crescendo. Rather, it was in those subtle moments and minute intricacies that we saw the depth of Caddie's desire to get better, the graciousness and heart of Oscar and the beauty of Peter's persona. I'm always a bit hesitant when it comes to contemporary romance novels, but I have to say that Ms. Wilson balanced this one really well. A huge part of the teenage existence is that insane desire to feel a first love, and watching Caddie grapple with the desire to manifest her emotions was really powerful. In turn, Peter was the picture-perfect love interest, but he offered us depth and a real strength of character, to boot. Honestly, he's one of my new favourite YA love interests.

Don't Touch has flown relatively under the radar in many of the blog circles I've seen, but I do hope that this underrated novel finds its niche because it is really, really well done. Ms. Wilson should be commended for the sincerity of her novel, as well as the depth and understanding of both anxiety and OCD. I give it a 5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary and light romance novels.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Glass Arrow

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I'll be the first one to admit that the dystopian genre seems a bit tired these days. I'll also be the first one to say that I can't resist a good dystopian synopsis though! There's something about totally broken worlds and characters seeking redemption that just speaks to my soul. I just can't help it. And so, yet again, I'm adding a dystopian to my TBR pile.

Title: The Glass Arrow
Author: Kristen Simmons (Twitter)
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publish Date: February 10, 2015
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Pages: 336

The Handmaid’s Tale meets Blood Red Road in Glass Arrow, the story of Aya, who lives with a small group of women on the run from the men who hunt them, men who want to auction off breeding rights to the highest bidder.

In a world where females are scarce and are hunted, then bought and sold at market for their breeding rights, 15-year old Aya has learned how to hide. With a ragtag bunch of other women and girls, she has successfully avoided capture and eked out a nomadic but free existence in the mountains. But when Aya’s luck runs out and she’s caught by a group of businessmen on a hunting expedition, fighting to survive takes on a whole new meaning.
They had me at the first comparison, to be completely honest. Blood Red Road was a quick favourite of mine, and to see anything in that vein would be absolutely remarkable. I also have to say that Aya sounds like the type of heroine I could really root for. She seems scrappy, and isn't that the sort of empowering YA female we all need? Maybe, just maybe, this one will be able to avoid the love triangle/damsel in distress tropes and we'll get that new dystopian winner we've all be craving! Plus, hell, I'll read anything Ms. Simmons writes. What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Cover Reveal: The Dark Water by Seth Fishman

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

You might recall that earlier this year, I had the amazing opportunity to read and review The Well's End by Seth Fishman. It was one of those stories that was eerie, a little bit freaky and a whole lot suspenseful from start to finish. And, to be honest, when I closed the book on the last page, I felt a little bit cheated because, well, I had to know more. And, my friends, now we do! I'm so excited today to give you guys an exclusive first look at the (stunning) cover of The Dark Water

To escape Blake Sutton’s army at the end of the enthralling The Well’s End, Mia and her friends jump into the newly gurgling fountain of youth and swim to its very bottom. When they resurface, an astounding world awaits them—an entire underground civilization of humans, the Keepers of the Well.

But instead of finding a safe haven, Mia and her gang are quickly embroiled in a dangerous, high-stakes battle royale. If Mia wants to save everyone she loves and make it back home alive, she’s got to get to the water’s Source before Sutton and his troops, who are still hot on her trail.
The Dark Water by Seth Fishman. Publisher: Putnam Juvenile. Publish Date: March 3, 2015. Genre: YA, Sci-Fi, Thriller.

And now, a giveaway! The generous folks over at Putnam Juvenile have offered up one free ARC of The Dark Water, so that you can get a glimpse of this awesome sequel in all its glory firsthand! The rules are simple. This giveaway will end promptly at midnight EST on 8/26/14. Just fill out the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win…good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters Review

Monday, August 18, 2014

Title: The Cure for Dreaming
Author: Cat Winters (Twitter)
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publish Date: October 14, 2014
Genre: YA, Historical Fantasy
Pages: 368
Source: Publisher

Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud.

These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.
Cat Winters is the type of author who, when she crafts a new novel, you can't help but stand up and take notice. After reading The Cure for Dreaming, I am completely certain of this. It's no secret that I'm a fan of paranormal novels, and I've always loved historical fiction, but there's something about this novel that creates such a rich, intoxicating blend of the two that just captures you wholeheartedly. This is the type of novel that whisks you back to another time and place, but it gives you the a rich added layer by adding that deceitful paranormal element that really makes you think twice. Done this beautifully though, you can't help but be mesmerized and under its spell, as well.

The Cure for Dreaming was such a multi-faceted novel that it's truly difficult to break it down into the story structure, but in terms of plot, it's one of the most original and fascinating I've read in a long while. We're given a young protagonist who dreams of a better life, a father who is so afraid of losing his only daughter that he'll manipulate her into staying quiet and a mysterious hypnotist who could change everything forever. I was completely enthralled by how vivid and real this time period seemed, and I was thoroughly impressed by the detail that Ms. Winters put into her story. We weren't simply offered a time period with no real backing. Rather, the time and place are as powerful as the characters themselves - oppressive, overbearing and the driving force of change in our characters' lives. By offering us this black and white backdrop with characters full of life and colour, we can see these stark contrasts in all their glory.

Olivia was the perfect heroine for this story. Rather than painting her simply as a rebellious teen with lofty dreams, we see her as this multi-faceted young lady with dreams of more than what she's privy to in her everyday life. In start contrast, we're given her father, rigid and uptight, who's both unwilling and unable to see the beauty of his daughter's dreams and instead hires a hypnotist to cure her of her dreams of grandeur. I wanted so badly to hate him throughout the entire novel, but there was a deep-seeded sadness within him that sort of spoke to me through it all. And, of course, The Cure for Dreaming gives us Henri, our hypnotist who sets the story in motion. There was something beautiful, dark and mysterious about his character, but as his relationship and the truth of his plan is unraveled, we can't help but be mesmerized.

The Cure for Dreaming is the type of story that will ultimately suck you in from start to finish. Ms. Winters does an incredible job, as usual, of painting the perfect setup for well-developed characters to bloom and flourish through the story. And, in the end, it really won me over from start to finish. I give it a 4.5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy paranormal and historical fiction stories.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book. 

The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno Review

Friday, August 15, 2014

Title: The Half Life of Molly Pierce
Author: Katrina Leno (Twitter)
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publish Date: July 8, 2014
Genre: YA, Mystery
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher

You take it for granted. Waking up. Going to school, talking to your friends. Watching a show on television or reading a book or going out to lunch. You take for granted going to sleep at night, getting up the next day, and remembering everything that happened to you before you closed your eyes. You live and you remember. Me, I live and I forget. But now—now I am remembering.

For all of her seventeen years, Molly feels like she’s missed bits and pieces of her life. Now, she’s figuring out why. Now, she’s remembering her own secrets. And in doing so, Molly uncovers the separate life she seems to have led…and the love that she can’t let go.
There's something about a good psychological mystery that keeps you thinking about the book long after you've closed the last page. And, in all honesty, coming by such novels in the young adult realm is quite the chance occurrence, so when I heard about The Half Life of Molly Pierce, I was decidedly intrigued. Author, Katrina Leno, gives us a character and a scenario that we've seen on the big screen before, but I've never seen accomplished well in novels. Giving us a fragmented past, a broken present and an uncertain future, we're asked to get onboard and follow the thrill ride that is Molly's life. I can honestly say it's hard not to comply.

Molly was possibly one of the most refreshing protagonists I've had the pleasure of following in a long time. The Half Life of Molly Pierce offers us a sort of stream of consciousness type of storyline, and it gives a delicious, if confusing, look into her life, her mind and her thoughts. Everything about Molly is so asymmetrical. Nothing seems to fit into the mold that is her life, and yet she has a strong will and a temperament about her that makes us want to solve the mystery with her. Perhaps the strongest element of her character, however, is her sense of self. Even though everything seemed to be consistently unraveling around her, or working against her, she knew that she had a mission, and she never lost sight of that, which was refreshing.

Perhaps the biggest strength of the novel, however, is Ms. Leno's ability to truly capture the heart of this mystery and what makes it so very psychological. From the start, I'd known that The Half Life of Molly Pierce was being loosely touted as the younger literary version of Memento, and that intrigued me. Being able to unravel a mystery about a layered character that may or may not be all there at all times is infuriatingly intriguing and puzzling. And, to be honest, I as worried that Ms. Leno would dumb it down for the younger viewers. I was pleased to be able to read between the lines and really understand how complex Molly was as a character. It's really quite remarkable to read a psychological mystery that is layered enough to keep me interested until the end.

If I could point out one flaw in the novel it was simply that I guessed the mystery in the end - possibly because I knew the concept of Memento. All that said though, I was really impressed by the depth that Ms. Leno managed to convey through The Half Life of Molly Pierce, as well as the characters she created, because they all shone in their own way. I give this novel a 4.5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy psychological mysteries and thrillers

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Stars Never Rise

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

If you're like me and you've been in a bit of a paranormal funk as of late, you're probably searching for the next gem that'll break you out of that mold. From what I can see, it looks like 2015 is going to have a bit of a resurgence of amazing young adult paranormal novels that, I truly hope, will break the previous mold that was set by the likes of Twilight, etcetera. Here's hoping!

Title: The Stars Never Rise
Author: Rachel Vincent (Twitter)
Publisher: Delacorte
Publish Date: June 9, 2015
Genre: YA, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 368

Sixteen-year-old Nina Kane should be worrying about her immortal soul, but she's too busy trying to actually survive. Her town's population has been decimated by soul-consuming demons, and souls are in short supply. Watching over her younger sister, Mellie, and scraping together food and money are all that matters. The two of them are a family. They gave up on their deadbeat mom a long time ago.

When Nina discovers that Mellie is keeping a secret that threatens their very existence, she'll do anything to protect her. Because in New Temperance, sins are prosecuted as crimes by the brutal Church and its army of black-robed exorcists. And Mellie's sin has put her in serious trouble.

To keep them both alive, Nina will need to trust Finn, a fugitive with deep green eyes who has already saved her life once and who might just be an exorcist. But what kind of exorcist wears a hoodie?

Wanted by the Church and hunted by dark forces, Nina knows she can't survive on her own. She needs Finn and his group of rogue friends just as much as they need her.
In all truth, I've read only a handful of urban fantasy novels. With a twist of paranormal activity and what seems like a pretty badass protagonist, you'd best believe that The Stars Never Rise is hot on my must-read list though. There's something awesomely different about this one - perhaps it's the exorcisms and demons that remind me a bit of Supernatural (still the world's best show, kids) - and I'm loving it. I must read this one. I must read it now. What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'm Not Sure I Want to Read

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It might just be me, but there are some books that I've had on my shelf that, for whatever reason, I just can't seem to bring myself to read them. More often than not, it's because I'm afraid I'll be the sole person that won't enjoy them. Or, alternatively, they're those series that you loved, but you're afraid maybe dragged on a little bit too long. Then, there's the ones that reviewers simply shot down and made me too wary to even start them. They're rare, but they're there, and like it or not…there are a bunch of books on my shelf that I've yet to read…here are just ten of them.

As an aside, I love this series. Is it the best written? No, but it sure is entertaining. Here's the thing though…I got closure with the third book. I'm not sure I can go any further.

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater - I read the first two books, but I'm one of the few that didn't enjoy this series.
Elixir by Hilary Duff - I hear that she had a ghostwriter write the entire thing, and that ruined it for me.
Embers & Echoes by Karsten Knight - While I enjoyed the first book, I wasn't sold enough to continue on.

Lola & the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins - I loved Anna…what if this one doesn't live up?
Shut Out by Kody Keplinger - I'm one of the few that didn't like The Duff. I worry this might follow suit.
Hunger by Michael Grant - I enjoyed Gone, but I'm not sure I loved it enough to read on.
Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout - With a fan following like this, what if I'm the only one that hates it?

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature from The Broke and the Bookish.

After the End by Amy Plum Review

Monday, August 11, 2014

Title: After the End
Author: Amy Plum (Twitter)
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publish Date: May 6, 2014
Genre: YA, Dystopian, Sci-Fi
Pages: 352
Source: Personal Copy

World War III has left the world ravaged by nuclear radiation. A lucky few escaped to the Alaskan wilderness. They've survived for the last thirty years by living off the land, being one with nature, and hiding from whoever else might still be out there. At least, this is what Juneau has been told her entire life.

When Juneau returns from a hunting trip to discover that everyone in her clan has vanished, she sets off to find them. Leaving the boundaries of their land for the very first time, she learns something horrifying: There never was a war. Cities were never destroyed. The world is intact. Everything was a lie.

Now Juneau is adrift in a modern-day world she never knew existed. But while she's trying to find a way to rescue her friends and family, someone else is looking for her. Someone who knows the extraordinary truth about the secrets of her past.
It's taken me a long time to both read and review After the End, in large part because I feel like the dystopian genre, although downright entertaining at times, has been a bit overplayed in the past couple of years. I was, however, intrigued by the premise of the novel because it seems so very different from the dystopian novels I've read as of late. If anything, it offers us a faux dystopian, which is remarkable because, if done right, we'd have the chance to see just how powerful those behind it would have to be…and why they did it. With veteran author, Amy Plum, at the helm of this one, I knew that I would love the writing, so I just needed to see if I would actually love the story, as well.

In terms of characterization, I absolutely loved how Juneau and Miles were complete opposites. Juneau lived in a society that believed they lived after the destruction of World War III. Miles, on the other hand, lives a fairly average and boring existence in his normal, everyday life and when their paths collided I knew that we were in for a treat. There was a beautiful dichotomy to the fact that they both thought the other was nuts. While Juneau's point of view was confused, but articulate, we saw Miles' as bewildered and just going along for the ride. There are massive trust issues that course through their interactions, as well, which kept the tension alive throughout After the End - especially because these two worlds have collided in a way that seems entirely implausible and chaotic.

The plot's pacing, however, was a different ballgame for me. After the End starts with a bang, and sets off at a rapid pace, propelling us on this journey to discover the nature of Juneau's world vs. Miles' world. And, for the first third of the book, I found myself unable to stop reading. However, as the story begins to evolve into a bigger picture where Miles and Juneau's lives intersect, it becomes a bit of a roadtrip story that's much more introspective than action-filled. I wanted more from those chapters, simply because I felt that they lagged after such an impressive start. Luckily, however, the pace picks back up in the end, and we're propelled towards a grand conclusion that definitely sets the stage for future installments.

In the end though, I have very mixed feelings about After the End. On the one hand, I loved the utterly original take on the dystopian genre, and I enjoyed how vastly different our two main characters were. On the other hand though, I wanted a little more consistency throughout, and I felt a bit like this novel was setting us up for future drama. In the end, that's great, but it tends to throw off my interest in the meat of the story a bit. I give it a high 3.5 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy dystopian and sci-fi novels. 

Mortal Danger by Ann Aguirre Review

Friday, August 8, 2014

Title: Mortal Danger
Author: Ann Aguirre (Twitter)
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publish Date: August 5, 2014
Genre: YA, Paranormal
Pages: 384
Source: Publisher

Edie Kramer has a score to settle with the beautiful people at Blackbriar Academy. Their cruelty drove her to the brink of despair, and four months ago, she couldn't imagine being strong enough to face her senior year. But thanks to a Faustian compact with the enigmatic Kian, she has the power to make the bullies pay. She's not supposed to think about Kian once the deal is done, but devastating pain burns behind his unearthly beauty, and he's impossible to forget.

In one short summer, her entire life changes, and she sweeps through Blackbriar, prepped to take the beautiful people down from the inside. A whisper here, a look there, and suddenly... bad things are happening. It's a heady rush, seeing her tormentors get what they deserve, but things that seem too good to be true usually are, and soon, the pranks and payback turns from delicious to deadly. Edie is alone in a world teeming with secrets and fiends lurking in the shadows. In this murky morass of devil's bargains, she isn't sure who—or what--she can trust. Not even her own mind...
I've been pondering on how to review this one for several days now, mostly because we all know how much I enjoy the dark and twisty stories. Mortal Danger, however, presents a unique twist onto such stories adding a very intriguing, if a bit vague, paranormal element to the mix. Author, Ann Aguirre, gives readers a lot more than they necessarily have bargained for. Giving readers a heavy-handed dose of high school reality with a chance not to just get angry - but to get even - it's the type of story that you want to get on board for…but you want to be careful not to lose yourself in the vengeance, as well.

Edie was a fantastic character from the start for me. I felt that her pain, her despair and her inner turmoil were extremely real and tangible. It was so real, in fact, that I admired the fact that she was still able to think somewhat coherently because such smothering anger and distress can be all-consuming. Yet, underneath it all, we were still able to see how incredibly intelligent and logical she was, and that was by far her most redeeming character trait. Edie knows that Kian's offer can't be as simple as it sounds, and she understands that there are consequences. For a girl at the end of her rope to logically process and accept that definitely helped me become further invested in her plight, simply because she wasn't the oblivious and blind heroine.

Kian, on the other hand, remains a bit of an enigma to me long after closing the last page of the book. On the surface, I can tell you that he's handsome - dangerously so - and he has a sort of stoic power that resonates from the page. There's a sinister sort of power lurking in the background of his being that made it inherently difficult to trust him, though it's clear that he's allied with Edie. However, Mortal Danger is careful never to reveal too much, and we don't really understand the driving force(s) behind him, the deal and the actions that Edie is going to go through.

In terms of the plot, I'll be honest and say that I thought this was going to be a pretty straightforward revenge novel. The synopsis, as well as the title, imply that the underlying theme of Mortal Danger is the actual act of revenge that Edie will be seeking. I was surprised to find that there was a new sort of depth to the plot though, which offered us more than a cut-and-dried approach to one intelligent teen girl seeking to right the wrongs previously done to her. And, in the end, that really won me over. While, yes, we're privy to elements of revenge, we instead watch in awe as Edie manages to regain power and composure through the novel and, if anything, that's the best revenge I could have imagined for a first installment in a series like this.

Overall, despite the fact that I'd hoped to learn more about the driving powers behind Kian and Edie's pact, I have to say that this book thoroughly entertained and captivated me. It's the type of novel that offers us a surprising amount of depth when we don't necessarily expect it. I give it a strong 4 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who like paranormal stories.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

Waiting on Wednesday: Monstrous

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Fantasy, my friends, is on the rise. While it's kind of a hit or miss sort of genre for me, when it's done really well, I tend to fawn over the book for years - much like I do for sci-fi novels. I honestly love worlds that abound with witches, wizards, magic, other realms and dark creatures bent on vengeance. So, naturally, when I find a book that piques my interest, you'd better believe it becomes a future favourite immediately!

Title: Monstrous
Author: MarcyKate Connolly (Twitter)
Publisher: Harper Children's
Publish Date: February 10, 2015
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 432

The city of Bryre suffers under the magic of an evil wizard. Because of his curse, girls sicken and disappear without a trace, and Bryre’s inhabitants live in fear. No one is allowed outside after dark.

Yet night is the only time that Kymera can enter this dangerous city, for she must not be seen by humans. Her father says they would not understand her wings, the bolts in her neck, or her spiky tail—they would kill her. They would not understand that she was created for a purpose: to rescue the girls of Bryre.

Despite her caution, a boy named Ren sees Kym and begins to leave a perfect red rose for her every evening. As they become friends, Kym learns that Ren knows about the missing girls, the wizard, and the evil magic that haunts Bryre.

And what he knows will change Kym’s life.
Monstrous is supposedly reminiscent by the tales of the Brothers Grimm, as well as Frankenstein, which has me positively salivating over it. There seems to be this beautiful blend of rich drama, fantastic creatures and an overarching story of good vs. evil - all of which speaks to my soul. Plus, it doesn't hurt that the cover is simply to die for. It says this one is good for the upper middle-grade crowd, as well, but so was Harry Potter, so I'm hardly concerned. Sign me up! What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'd Give First-Time Readers of Science Fiction

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

It's no secret that science fiction has long been a favorite genre of mine. There's something about these highly implausible, but eerily formidable worlds of technology, that make my heart skip a beat. I've long speculated that science fiction is the type of genre that's incredibly difficult to write, not always the easiest to read, but when done well, it's some of the best stuff out there. So, without further ado, here are the top ten books I'd recommend to someone who's never read a science fiction novel before.

Imposter by Susanne Winnacker. One by Leigh Ann Kopans. What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang.

Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson. Fair Coin by E.C. Myers.

The Host by Stephenie Meyer. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle. Minder by Kate Kaynak.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature from The Broke and the Bookish.

Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano Review

Monday, August 4, 2014

Title: Nearly Gone
Author: Elle Cosimano (Twitter)
Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books
Publish Date: March 25, 2014
Genre: YA, Paranormal Mystery
Pages: 388
Source: Personal Copy

Nearly Boswell knows how to keep secrets. Living in a DC trailer park, she knows better than to share anything that would make her a target with her classmates. Like her mother's job as an exotic dancer, her obsession with the personal ads, and especially the emotions she can taste when she brushes against someone's skin. But when a serial killer goes on a killing spree and starts attacking students, leaving cryptic ads in the newspaper that only Nearly can decipher, she confides in the one person she shouldn't trust: the new guy at school—a reformed bad boy working undercover for the police, doing surveillance...on her.

Nearly might be the one person who can put all the clues together, and if she doesn't figure it all out soon—she'll be next.
Nearly Gone had me from the first touch of the synopsis - being touted as Bones meets Fringe. There's pretty much no combination in the entire world that could sound more enticing than that. So, naturally, I was hooked. And, in terms of follow-through, I must say that this is the type of novel that has fantastic potential in many regards. Elle Cosimano crafted a story with a remarkable heroine in whom we can all find bits and pieces of ourselves, a plot that's realistically thrilling and a storyline that will keep even the most avid of mystery fans guessing until the very end. 

Looking back at Nearly Gone, I find myself needing more time to sort of digest it - even weeks later - if only because of the many layers the novel encompasses. Much like an onion, it's the type of story that you have to peel back, layer by layer, if only to expense the meat and bones of the plot in a form which will actually make you fully understand the depth of the novel. At times though, I felt like the book had a ton of potential and almost reached that pinnacle of success, only to fall just a little bit short by resting on a more average approach to the actual plot. For example, there is a definitive paranormal aspect woven carefully throughout the novel. Unlike Fringe, however, this layer of paranormal activity didn't feel as though it actually enhanced or furthered the plot in the grand scheme of things. If anything, it was just an interesting, if mildly arbitrary element in the end.

In terms of characters though, Nearly Gone really stood out for me. Nearly, despite her different name, was every bit the heroine that I look for in a young adult novel like this one. While she comes off as a bit reckless and abrasive at times, she's also incredibly intelligent, which made her stand out from the crowd for me. I liked how hyper analytical she was about things - over-thinking them at times, even - simply because it felt very tangible and real to me. I also enjoyed that she was human and definitely had some character flaws. She looked down on a lot of people around her, and while it made her a bit heavy-handed at times, it also made her feel really real, and I could get onboard for that. Furthermore, she had a clear and distinct character arc throughout the novel, and there was definitive potential and growth there, which made me admire her even more.

Mysterious and alluring though, Nearly Gone lived up to its eerie title and cover in full. Ms. Cosimano has crafted a mystery that's layered, and multidimensional. I enjoyed the fact that the author took the time to expertly time each element and reveal, plus we got to see characters in new lights, as well as different sides to the mystery as the story unfolded. It was dramatic, tense and, despite feeling as though the paranormal element was excessive, intriguing. 

In the end, I really enjoyed Nearly Gone despite a few key elements being a little off for me. Ms. Cosimano is an excellent mystery writer, and I'll definitely be looking for more from her in the future because these are the types of stories that keep you reading on and guessing all the while. I give it a 3.5 out of 5, and I definitely recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy mysteries and light paranormal elements.

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon Review

Friday, August 1, 2014

Title: The Bone Season
Author: Samantha Shannon (Twitter)
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publish Date: August 20, 2013
Genre: YA, Dystopian Fantasy
Pages: 466
Source: Personal Copy

It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.

But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army.

Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.
I'll admit that The Bone Season has been on my shelf for some time now, but I've simply put off reading it based on the vast and categorically un-streamlined reviews. From what I've seen, people seem to either love it or hate it, and I'm the type of person that hates being on one strict side or the other.  But, I was in the mood for a futuristic fantasy novel, and I knew that this was the one book that I'd eventually have to pick up because, for better or worse, it clearly elicits quite the emotion from its readers. First and foremost, I'll state that Samantha Shannon has written a masterpiece of a novel. Like it or not, the world within these pages is well-defined, beautifully paced and welcomes you into a world that's dark, alluring and mysterious.

Having such a backdrop demands that readers be given a fantastic heroine, as well, and I was pleased to see that Paige fit the bill in its entirety. Paige is a force to be reckoned with. At times quiet and pensive, but other times reckless with abandon, we get to see through this sort of dichotomy that she is a layered, complex sort of girl. Simple - she's the type of character (and person) that I'd want to get to know. Perhaps the best part of her character though was the fact that I could see a little bit of myself in her. She toys with Warden, testing the limits and bounds, but when she retreats, we see that she's caring, observant and kind, and that keeps her in our good graces.

Warden, on the other hand, stole the show for me. In theory, I should have hated him. As the enemy, I knew that this should have been in black and white for all to see, but Ms. Shannon makes it so that there is something so very enigmatic about him that we see him instead in shades of grey. Furthermore, he doesn't really fit into any specific mold or definition. He's a million things at once, but he's never quite any of them either. He's a quiet, dangerous, powerful and beautiful character that is so very rich that I have to say he might just be the highlight of the entire novel for me. Because, in the end, even though Paige is strong and resilient, Warden equally matches - and bests her - in terms of charisma.

The Bone Season was, at times, a bit overwhelming because it is so very complex, but Ms. Shannon does well in creating a scene that is memorable and vivid, capturing us and absorbing us completely. It's a task to take on though, I'll admit, and it was daunting at the start. However, it's the type of novel that has a quiet, brooding power that will overtake even the most stoic of readers if only they'll give it a chance. I give it a high 4.5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to fans of YA and upper YA, especially those who enjoy fantasy, urban fantasy and dystopian novels.


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