Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Everneath by Brodi Ashton

As I was reading Everneath, I pretty much figured out early on how it would end. When the expected ending came, I was thinking, "Woo! I'm right again. Can't get one past me!" Then the sobbing started. Because this book really did have an effect on me.

Nikki just came back after spending one hundred years in the Everneath. Now she has only six months before she will be taken back forever. The problem is that she disappeared without a trace. Her friends and family had no idea where she was for months. Now, Nikki has to find a way to make peace with them, and with the boy she loves, Jack.

If all that wasn't stressful enough, Nikki is being followed by Cole, the Everliving who took her to the Everneath. He wants her to return with him and make a power play so they become king and queen of the Everneath. Cole could have been cartoonish or unlikeable, but he was written very well. Jack was very sweet, but I really like a bad boy.

Sorry to write such a short review, but I'm afraid of giving away too much. Everneath reads like a modern myth, which was intentional as the book is a modern retelling of the Persephone myth. I enjoyed the narrative style, which has chapters showing current Nikki and then flashbacks to before she went underground. It makes you want to keep reading so you can find out what happened that made Nikki agree to go to the Everneath. Just be careful, because that ending creeps up on you.

I got my copy of Everneath from Netgalley. It's available for purchase now.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe

Let me get my major complaint about The Way We Fall out of the way first: it wasn't a zombie book. I recently started watching The Walking Dead, so I have had zombies on my braaaaain. I wanted to read a good old zombie novel. Unfortunately, this wasn't a zombie novel. It was still pretty good for what it was. It's about a small island community that suffers a sudden epidemic. People start to come down with a virus, then the people, lots of people, die. The government quarantines the island, they send in military to keep them from infecting the rest of the world.

The story is told in journal entries written by Kaelyn to her friend Lee. She just moved back to the island, and she is trying to be more outgoing. Then the outbreak happens, people around her get sick, and people around her die. Some people start being selfish, shooting infected people and stealing food and medicine to hoard. Kaelyn tries to do some good. She loots houses with Lee's ex-girlfriend Tessa, and she volunteers at the overcrowded hospital where her father works. It's still a terrible atmosphere. Either you get sick and die or you are sentenced to watch while everyone around you, everyone that you love, grows sick and most likely dies.

The Way We Fall is very good at creating a sense of paranoia. Who can tell if a sudden itch means you are infected, or if that sneezing fit is just some dust or the disease. While reading the book, I was suddenly overcome with itching one night, an itch that travelled from my stomach to my arm to my neck, just everywhere. Even though I knew it couldn't be true, for a brief moment I thought maybe I had the disease in the book. It's just another example of how a book can infect you (Ha, ha, ha, duck my head in shame).

I received my copy of The Way We Fall from Netgalley. It will be released on January 24th, 2012.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg

Nobody really knows who Harris Burdick is. The story goes that he dropped off a series of captioned illustrations and promised to drop the stories off later. He was never seen again. The black and white drawings were collected in a picture book, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. Children used the pictures as a creative writing exercise, making up their own stories for the drawings.

In The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, fourteen authors make up a story to go with the illustrations. The authors range from Gregory Maguire to Lois Lowry to Louis Sachar (I loved Wayside school as a kid!) to Stephen King. Their stories range from funny to slightly creepy to downright scary.

I'm going to finish this off by bursting the bubble: there was never actually a Harris Burdick. It was all a ruse to get kids to use their imaginations. Personally, I wish I could have participated in this exercise as a child, and I sort of still want to give it a try. Lemony Snicket's introduction is just an extra cherry on top, and I hope that any actual children who get their hands on this book find themselves inspired to write some stories as well.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Crossed by Ally Condie

Here is my review of Ally Condie's first book, Matched, from two Cannonball Reads ago.

Matched was a fantastic open to the series. I initially read it because it was compared to (Say it with me now!) The Hunger Games. It's a story about a dystopian society, a story about making your own choices instead of letting someone else decide for you. Two kids from different levels of society fall in love over poetry. It's about raging against the dying of the light. Minor spoilers on the ending of Matched ahead. Cassia had been a regular city dweller in Matched. She did all the things she was supposed to, then at her Matching ceremony she saw that second person, just for a second. Ky was her second match, and she chose him. He taught her how to write, and together they read non-sanctioned poetry. Cassia was sent to a work camp at the end of Matched. It was supposed to be as punishment for her rebellious actions, but really her parents want her to have a chance to find Ky.

This time we get chapters from Ky's point of view. We knew that he had been an aberration, one of the lower class, and that he became an aberration because of something his father did. When his cousin died, Ky's aunt and uncle adopted him and took him to the city. He tried as hard as he could to just fit in, to be unremarkable enough to stay off of the Society's radar. It didn't work, and they sent him away to fight the Enemy. They said that he would be gone for a couple of months, then he'd return with full Citizen status. They keep sending more boys, but the boys keep dying off from enemy fire, and from lack of food and water. Cassia's secondary goal is to join up with the Rising, a resistance movement. It becomes a conflict with Ky, whose father had been involved with the Rising. Ky wants nothing to do with them.

The poem in Crossed is Alfred Lord Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar."

For tho' from out out bourne of Time and Place The flood may bear me far, I hope to see my Pilot face to face When I have crossed the bar.

Tennyson's poem, not one of the approved 100 poems, is a symbol of the resistance. There are people who are opposing the Society, and they will be gathering under the Pilot. Nobody knows who the Pilot is just yet, but it will probably be one of our kids. Crossed wasn't quite as outstanding as Matched, but I still found the sequel engrossing. It brought up a lot of interesting questions about the Society. I'm hoping that we get some answers in the next book.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse by Lucas Klauss

Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse is not the type of book I would normally choose. It deals a lot with religion, and I tend to avoid those sort of books. I do believe in God, but I dislike overly simplistic Christian messages and what I see as the conservative leaning bias of many of the people who live in Ohio and the rest of the Midwest. So, no creepy Amish Christian novels for me. I'm not exactly sure why I decided to download and read the book. It has a fairly cool cover, and I was intrigued by the male narrator and coming of age story.

I'm used to male narrators such as those in Frank Portman's King Dork and John Green's books. They talk about girls and think about sex and make me a little uncomfortable. Phillip isn't nearly as, um, driven. He's a sophomore and when he finally gets a girlfriend, he stresses out about kissing her. Just kissing, no mention is ever made of sex. I'm a little torn on whether the books I read before are normal or this one is abnormal.

Phillip meets Rebekkah at track practice one day. He thinks she's unconventionally hot. She invites him to a youth group meeting. He's kind of weirded out, but when an unconventionally hot girl invites you somewhere, you HAVE to go. One major problem is that Phillip's dad is an extreme atheist. His mom used to try to take Phillip and his brother to church, but their dad stopped her. In the days before she died (We get little flashbacks in between the regular narrative), she had been hoarding supplies for the end of the world. Her obsession sparked an interest in the apocalypse in Phillip. He collected several books on the topic. Because of this interest, the first Bible book Phillip reads is Revelation.

As the book progresses, Phillip starts to go to actual church services and completes service hours to participate in the Summit, a big church conference. It's always one step forward, two steps back, though. For all the progress he makes, every new discovery brings a new opportunity for doubt. I really like that Phillip doesn't automatically have all the answers to everything. A good portion of faith is figuring out what you believe and why, and it definitely doesn't always make sense. I also like how it's not all about Christianity as the only good religion. Phillip's dad could have been vilified, and it was a little sad how he punished his son for going to church. In all fairness, he makes up for this later in the book. Rebekkah's father is a Christian who is always away from home on religious missions. Rebekkah still bases her decisions on what her father would want her to do. It's sad that neither of them gives their children the option to decide for themselves. Phillip's father may be an atheist, but at least he's there for his family.

Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse definitely gave me a lot to think about. That's definitely a good thing. I received a copy of Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse from the Simon & Schuster Galley Grab. It's available now.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber

Darker Still is basically a love story between a girl and a painting. Also, the girl is mute. Also, there's a man trapped in the painting. Also, the mute girl gets sucked in the painting and visits the man. And while inside the painting, she can talk.

So, it's all a little bit weird. Natalie Stewart, the mute girl in question, narrates the story. She's incredibly sharp and witty. Being both a woman and unable to speak puts her at an extreme disadvantage for the time (1882). Natalie doesn't let anyone treat her poorly because of it, and she has a loving father who gave her the best education he could afford. Natalie becomes obsessed with the painting of Lord Denbury. He was a young man who simply vanished. Rumors circulate that the painting is haunted, and spiritualism being all the rage, Natalie's father acquires it for his museum.

Now, for more weird stuff. Natalie sees Lord Denbury in real life outside of the painting. He looks different somehow, wicked. Lord Denbury the painting tells her that whomever trapped him is wearing his body and using it to copycat Jack the Ripper. Natalie and Lord Denbury must work with her spiritualist friend Evelyn Northe to free him from his prison.

Darker Still was a fun gothic story. It's a nice change of pace to read about a character from the Victorian Age, and my thesis (For lack of a better word) was on spiritualism. As I already said, Natalie was a great narrator, and I like her spirit. She talks about pranks she would pull at school and how handsome some coworker of her father's is. She even pities the fact that he is engaged to some blind girl who can't appreciate his handsomeness. I'm definitely interested in seeing where a continuation of this book would go. I received a copy of Darker Still from Netgalley. It's available now.