YA

Book Review: Unwind

unwindThis is a book that has been on my TBR for quite some time and I finally got around to it…and now I’m not sure how I feel. Maybe I just need to stop reading books about revolutions.

Unwind follows three separate character perspectives: Connor, Risa, and Lev. Each one is about to be “unwound” which is the process of having their bodies harvested for parts through legally granted permission by their parents. The society the trio lives in has a law which states that although abortion is illegal, choosing to have your children unwound at the age of 13, until 18, is not.

Under a very interesting set of circumstances, the three stumble into each other’s lives and become bonded. Connor and Risa don’t want to be unwound while Lev is a tithe, or someone who was raised specifically to be unwound when he turned 13. They meet a host of characters along their journey and even become separated for awhile, creating distance between them. There is no straight path to salvation and the only goal is to stay alive until they are 18 at which point, they cannot legally be unwound.

The book’s concept is a little creepy and a lot disturbing, even more than The Giver and makes you take a serious look at society and human nature. What can happen when both sides of an argument no longer care that they win but that the other side loses, what can happen when everyone forgets what they are fighting for and just wants to continue fighting, and what it truly means to be alive and human.

The plot pulls you in and keeps you invested in the characters but parts of it make you cringe away at how sick people can be. There is more sadness and discomfort than joy in this book, so I don’t recommend picking it up before bed. Character growth and bonds bring a lot into this story and there is more than one shocking surprise in store for you.

Goodreads rating: 4 stars

My personal rating: 84

  • Writing style – 8
  • Plot – 9
  • Dialogue – 9
  • Personality of Main Character(s) – 9
  • Love story – 7
  • Invokes emotion – 9
  • Synopsis accuracy – 7
  • Consistent level of interest – 9
  • Stays on topic – 8
  • Accuracy of genre/genre blending – 9

Book Review: Fairest

fairestWho doesn’t love a good villain backstory? I’m going to venture a guess and say, almost no one. The background, the journey to becoming evil is part of why we love them…or love to hate them.

First, if you haven’t yet read The Lunar Chronicles, what have you been doing with your life? Stop reading the book currently on your side table and go pick up Cinder, book 1 of the series. Any love for fairy tales, especially ones with a twist, and this will definitely get your juices going. So if you haven’t read that series yet, stop reading this review and hop to it!

Secondly, this book was more or less what I expected it to be. Although I didn’t expect quite so much intrigue and deception. Or rather, I anticipated it in a different way. Meyer weaves her world so flawlessly that stepping into these pages is like going into a dream. There is magic (of sorts), mystery, murder, revenge, death, love, loss, and of course, the bonds of family.

Levana’s history is bloody, as is to be expected, but it is also sad and sweet at times. Her young naivety is almost endearing, it’s like a freight train that you know is going to wreck and yet you are trapped outside the pages, unable to help. Little snipets of the past are revealed as Levana lives her life over the course of 5 or 6 years. It tells of her rise to power and why she rules with such disdain and an iron fist.

This book was enthralling, not quite as heart-pounding as the series, but softer almost. More quiet in a way. But compared to a series where characters are constantly facing death, that’s not really hard to believe. Levana is a woman, a gifted Lunar woman, but a woman nonetheless. She loves, laughs, cries, and feels. She is a mortal living as though she is not and is filled with the haughty pride that seems to natural to royal blood.

We are always interested in the debate of “is evil made or is it born?”. More often than not, we find stories that give us the former. It’s up for debate how much of either side is in Levana and I will let you discover that for yourself.

Goodreads rating: 4 stars

My personal rating: 88

  • Writing style – 10
  • Plot – 9
  • Dialogue – 8
  • Personality of Main Character(s) – 8
  • Love story – 8
  • Invokes emotion – 8
  • Synopsis accuracy – 8
  • Consistent level of interest – 9
  • Stays on topic – 10
  • Accuracy of genre/genre blending – 10

Top Ten Tuesday

top ten tuesdayBecause I can never get enough books! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday – December 2: Top Ten Books I’m Looking Forward To In 2015

The Game of Lives by James Dashner – The final installment in a series that I flew through, Dashner weaves a story that is as realistic and captivating as it is disturbing and thought-provoking. I shiver in anticipation of this ending.

The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – I know I’ve mentioned this book in at least one another post but this premiere looks to be amazing. It’s a little bit fantasy, a little bit fairy tale, and a whole lot of excellent writing (at least what I saw in the excerpt).

fairestFairest by Marissa Meyer – Villains nowadays are far more complex than they used to be. There is always a back story and this is Queen Levana’s (The Lunar Chronicles) story. Which begs the question, is evil born or is it made?

Winter by Marissa Meyer – And speaking of The Lunar Chronicles, I’m freaking out, losing my mind waiting for this next book which won’t be published for another year! But since the story has been so amazing thus far, I guess I can wait…or reread while I wait.

Untitled by Sarah Maas – The next book in the Throne of Glass series! I’m about two-thirds of the way through the third book and it is sucking me in again. I haven’t even finished it and I know I’m stoked to find out what happens next.

A Court of Thorn and Roses by Sarah Mass – And speaking of Maas, she is slated to be premiering a whole new series that tangles Beauty and the Beast in a whole new world of myth and magic. It will be wonderful, I just know it.

Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge – More fairy tales made modern, this time it’s Little Red Riding Hood but not the crimson boundpowerless little girl, no, instead a badass dark magic user who is forced to work for her enemy. I wonder how well that will end for either of them.

Untitled by Sara Raasch – I didn’t think my heart could take the entirety of Snow Like Ashes but now that the second piece is slated for next year, I’m already bracing myself for whatever adventure happens next. Oh, if I could but live in a land of eternal winter.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – A new tale spun in an old universe that has me hopeful for this book. It is hailed a mixed of Ocean’s 11 and Game of Thrones (aren’t they all?) so I’ll be interested to see how it turns out.

The Heir by Kiera Cass – I’m not nearly as excited for this book as most others are. I think the series would have been fine with just the 3 books but hey, I’ll probably still read this one.

Movie Review: The Maze Runner

maze runner Where do I even begin?

The great casting? All the little things they changed? The overall creepy feel of the movie? The extreme scary factor of the Grievers?

It’s hard to determine whether or not I liked this movie. Objectively, it was alright. As compared to the book, they were miles apart. I was so excited that this might actually be a great movie adaptation because Dashner himself loved it. I, however, was somewhat disappointed with all the little bits that were altered to make way for a more Hollywood-esque version of a completely brilliant and cgallyomplex book.

Okay, so let me first tell you what I did love about it. The casting was amazing. Dylan O’Brien was a great pick for Thomas. I really felt like he was connecting with that character and becoming him. His curiosity, running, and logic were dead on for how I pictured Thomas. Will Poulter, who I have loved since he performed in The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, was an absolute standout. Gally is a royal jackass with underlying fears and doubts and I couldn’t look away whenever Poulter was on the screen. Ki Hong Lee, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, and Blake Cooper were also fantastic as Minho, Newt, and Chuck respectively. Although Chuck was a little younger than I pictured.

The set was phenomenal. You truly got the sense of being trapped in the maze with them. The huge, towering walls with the bright green space in the center was dead on. Not to mention the pan out at the end, spectacular. The Grievers weren’t quite what I imagined but just as horrifying as they made me feel while reading the book. Part beast, part machine, and every bit hide-behind-your-hands-while-they-are-near.into the maze

The only casting I didn’t care for was Kaya Scodelario as Teresa. It’s not that she did a poor job, she was actually pretty good, but something about the character felt off with her in the role. Maybe as we see more of her in the next films, my opinion will change.

There were a bunch of little things in the movie that had been altered that you would only notice if you’ve read the book and some of them really bothered me. Only having one doorway, WCKD abbreviation, the plot line with Gally at the end, and the interactions between Thomas and Teresa. I think as a movie, it was good, entertaining, heart-pounding, jaw-dropping, and intense. But I liked the progression of the book better. It felt like they had to simplify it too much in order to appeal to the masses. They explained some underlining themes too openly and didn’t leave enough mystery.

Overall, I’d say it only achieves 3 stars. I hope the next one is better.

Top Ten Tuesday

top ten tuesdayfall arch

Fall: The Season of Back-to-School, new books, leaves, pumpkin spice, apple pie, costumes, candy, turkey, and cooling temperatures. So then the big question becomes what are the Top Ten Books On My Fall To-Be-Read list?

1) The Rule of Thoughts by James Dashner – Recently published and I received it from the library although I have yet to start reading it. That’s my goal for this week!

2) Styxx by Sherrilyn Kenyon – This has been sitting on my bookshelf since I purchased it at Barnes & Noble. I’ve wanted to read it a million times but I haven’t gotten around to it.

3) Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch – This is a new publication coming out next month that I recently discovered via Twitter. Magic, kingdoms, and mayhem, can’t wait!

4) Lord of the Flies by William Golding – I borrowed the Stephen King edition from my dad and I expect he’ll want it back at some point, so in honor of banned books and new school years, here I go.

5) The Young Elites by Marie Lu – Another book arriving next month and one that I have been waiting for since I finished Lu’s last series. Here’s the hoping it’s as good as Legend.

6) Talon by Julie Tagawa – Dragons, shape-shifting, and secret societies? Ummm, yes please! It doesn’t come out until the end of October but I’m already foaming at the mouth to read it.

7) Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – So many people have recommended this to me or are talking about the Starz series that now I just have to read the book and hope it is as good as it sounds.

8) The Whispering Skull by Jonathon Stroud – Lockwood sucked me into his world and now I fear I cannot escape. Recently published, the second installment is sure to give me chills and thrills once again.

9) Blood Magick by Nora Roberts – It’s been months, months! I say since I have finished the second book in this trilogy and I need to know how it ends. Roberts tells amazing fantasy tales if you take the time to read them.

10) The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – The second movie is arriving in theatres this fall so it’s only fitting that I actually fulfill my promise to read the book before it does.

snow ashes whispering skull blood magick hobbit

Book Review: The Thief

thief coverA prisoner, a magus, and a duke’s son walk into the mountains.

And that’s basically the first 100 pages. After that, the pace starts to pick up.

We are first introduced to a thief in the King’s prison by the name of Gen. He is both a masterful thief and a fool. He has gotten caught over a boast he made about a spectacular steal, literally. He is saved from rotting in prison by the magus and the King himself. He is then sent on a mission, which he is told nothing about with the magus, two apprentices, and one solider.

Eventually, the quest is revealed: steal a sacred stone and don’t die while doing it. Then give it to the magus, who will present it to the King, proving his right to the throne of a different kingdom. Simple, right?

I think if I hadn’t been reading so many other fast-paced books, I might have gotten into this one sooner than I did. As it were, I did not so I basically meandered through the first half or so without much interest or action. While I enjoyed the stories of the “old gods”, basically a different version of mythology than the ones I currently know, the first part of the book didn’t really pull me in to the greater story.

Once the quest was revealed and the task got under way, then things got interesting. The character of Gen is snarky, something I highly enjoy, which made me like him. The magus is very highbrow and intelligent but I had no idea who he was or what his job at the palace really was. It felt like random puzzle pieces that almost fit together but didn’t quite make it.

Overall, I think the book is good if you are truly interested in it and make the time to appreciate it (plus look up a different synopsis than the one on Goodreads) but it didn’t quite make the cut for me, despite being loved by Cinda Williams Chima (one of my all-time favorite authors, re: The Seven Realms Series, The Heir Chronicles). I was a little disappointed. It felt like The False Prince but with less action and a lot more talking. I did enjoy the flow of Turner’s writing but the plot progression left something to be desired.

Goodreads rating: 3 stars

My personal rating: 64

  • Writing style – 8
  • Plot – 7
  • Dialogue – 8
  • Personality of Main Character(s) – 8
  • Love story – 4
  • Invokes emotion – 5
  • Synopsis accuracy – 4
  • Consistent level of interest – 5
  • Stays on topic – 7
  • Accuracy of genre/genre blending – 8

Teen Topic Tuesday: Sex in YA Novels

YA novels

I’ve noticed that YA novels differ greatly with discussing the topic of sex. I find that fascinating given the profusion of sex in our current society. Are some authors trying to avoid the topic because it is too embedded into our culture or because they are creating worlds so outside the current norm that sex wouldn’t even be on the table? And yet, other books have sex as a main focus, usually more fantasy or “real life” driven novels. What are those authors saying about sex and society?

Let’s have some examples because that’s always fun!

hp1-7 Harry Potter: no sex…there isn’t even kissing until the 5th book, and then after that, everyone is kind of busy trying to survive but still.

The Hunger Games: okay, so Katniss is pretty busy trying to survive the Hunger Games and then once she gets back, there is a whole love triangle thing happening that doesn’t really get resolved until the final book.

The Giver: Well Jonas is supposed to be 12 in the books but he is like 16 in the movies, so I can understand this one. Plus his society doesn’t believe in love…

Revolution 19: Robots and death but no sex.

The Selection: Sex before marriage is illegal, especially if you’re going to be the future queen, so obviously America doesn’t risk that.

Legend series: Unfortunately, no. (damnit, June)

matchedMatched: Definitely not, just another depressing love triangle that makes me want to strangle someone, usually the female lead

Maze Runner: No sex, which makes sense in the first book since only one girl shows up…but later events, could have fit in there somewhere (*spoiler* would have been an interesting twist when the girls gang up on the guys)

The Mortal Instruments: *spoiler* Plenty of opportunity but considering they think they are siblings for the better part of the series, that would just be weird

The 5th Wave: Okay, apocalypse and she basically ends up alone, this one I get

Doomed: Nope, no sex. Even though 17 year old Pandora is on the road with two very attractive young men

cinderThe Lunar Chronicles: No sex so far (fingers crossed for Wolf and Scarlet!!)

Delirium: I can’t remember but I don’t think the main characters actually have sex

Tiger Saga: Unfortunately, there is another distracting love triangle and the whole guys turning into tigers for the better part of the day thing that makes sex nearly impossible, though there is lots of tension at various points

Seven Realms series: Once again, lots of tension but no sex. Plus there is a lot of fighting for your life type action so it kind of makes sense.

 

 

twilightThe Twilight series: *spoiler* There is visible waiting until after marriage, cough, Edward, cough, so it doesn’t happen until the 4th book.

The Fault in Our Stars: *spoiler* Sex at the end of the book, which makes sense to me

matchedDivergent: *spoiler* Abnegation has a thing about being touchy-feely and it’s implied that Four and Tris have sex but no detail is given

The Wolves of Mercy Falls: *spoiler* If I remember correctly, Grace and Sam progress to that stage in the second book but in a very sweet way. Plus they’ve already been sharing her bed for months beforehand so yea, ’bout time.

House of Night: *spoiler* There is definitely sex in this book. And in particular it’s how Zoey ends up in a sticky situation that rocks her world.

 

Well now looking back, I can see that the idea of sex is usually lost in extreme post-apocalyptic societies. But isn’t it interesting that in a world that holds sex appeal in such high esteem, how often our YA novels skim over the topic completely?

If sex isn’t being talked about in a way that our teens can relate to, then isn’t the point of including it kind of lost? I like series that both include and don’t include sex, especially ones where surviving is more important than living, but isn’t it also important to talk about procreation? In particular, in post-apocalyptic settings where life and death are a matter of every day living? Because obviously the people there are still having children. (Unless you are Katniss who swears she never will.)

And while sex might not be the most important topic, I think it’s one that gets a lot of press and media exposure but not necessarily one that teens are talking about in safe or healthy ways. Especially with the typically assigned gender roles about “the s word” and what it means to “be a real man”.

I know that I have sexual tension, innuendo, and scenes in the novel that I’ve written and I’m happy with that decision. I think it’s important to represent real people (read: imperfect people), regardless of whether it is a fantasy world or not. So let me ask my fellow writers, what are your thoughts on this topic? Why do you choose to include or not include sex in your writing?

I think novels can have a powerful impact on the psyche of the growing mind and in doing so, shouldn’t we take the time to address the issue that are most pressing on those minds? Sex is a part of life, a part of becoming an adult (and being one), whether you choose to participate, abstain, or wait. I think it’s important to leave our readers with a positive impression of sex, not a negative one, that should be the goal. I know it’s the one I strive for.

Why Books Matter

For those who don’t read or don’t believe that a book can make a difference, I say tut, tut. Since becoming an adult, and even in my formative years to becoming one, I have been greatly exposed to the power of the written word.

Some of my favorite memories as a kid are when my dad would take my sisters and me to the library. Shelf upon shelf filled with beautiful, colorful books that were just waiting to be plucked and read. He often had to limit his rambunctious daughters to 5 books, or maybe that was just me. Either way, I always went home a happy camper.

I didn’t read as much for pleasure in middle school and high school, not because it wasn’t “cool” but because I was a tri-sport athlete and sometimes just had enough trouble keeping up with my schoolwork. I did manage to read Harry Potter and I’m sure some other books but not nearly as much as I did when I went to college and discovered the joys of ILL (Inter-Library Loan).

And now, I don’t live anywhere without locating the nearest library and upon moving to my most recent location, I had a library card within two weeks. And I am loving every minute of being a part of that community. So this post was partly inspired by memory and partly by another posting. A fellow blogger, Hey, Library Girl!, posted an article about things she had read this week that inspired her and one of them really spoke to me as well.

The article was posted on the School Library Journal and is entitled “How Librarians Can Help Fight the Culture of Slut-Shaming”. Writer Karen Jensen talks about how YA books are discussing sex, sexuality, and the “s” word more and more and how librarians (and other influencers) can use these messages to broach the subject in their communities.

Often times, society is so enraptured with sex that we don’t take the time to think about why it impacts us in the way that it does. Different lessons are taught to different genders and now more than ever, there are kids who are being trapped in the middle or bullied because they are different from their peers.

The two quotes from the article below really emphasize  why it is important to discuss these topics with our youth:

“We sexualize girls at a young age, and we objectify women in order to sell everything from hamburgers to sports cards. Yet, we stigmatize women who take control of their sexuality, especially if they adopt the same practices men are often lauded for.”

“…the flip side to slut-shaming is our equally destructive view of male sexuality. Starting young, many men are told that virility is a primary characteristic of manhood…choosing to wait, or being slow to become interested, will lead teens to be labeled gays, geeks, or something else.”

Neither side is a good one to be on and our judgmental nature only serves to further alienate people and point out the differences rather than the similarities. Sex, like many other things, is a sensitive topic. But that doesn’t mean it should be ignored or tossed to the wayside, important lessons coming from inappropriate or misinformed sources.

People everywhere are hard at work to change the culture of labeling that has becoming the norm in today’s world. And sex is just another front that the battle needs to be fought on, one that is becoming increasingly important, especially in the face of issues like the Nicki Minaj album cover conundrum.