Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi {Review}

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi {Review}Title: Under the Never Sky
Author: Veronica Rossi
Series: Under the Never Sky #1
Publisher: HarperAudio on January 3, 2012
Format: Audiobook, 9 hrs and 39 mins
Source: Purchased
5 Stars
Summary

WORLDS KEPT THEM APART.

DESTINY BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER.

Aria has lived her whole life in the protected dome of Reverie. Her entire world confined to its spaces, she’s never thought to dream of what lies beyond its doors. So when her mother goes missing, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland long enough to find her are slim.

Then Aria meets an outsider named Perry. He’s searching for someone too. He’s also wild – a savage – but might be her best hope at staying alive.

If they can survive, they are each other’s best hope for finding answers.

My thoughts

Sometime in the future, everyone lives in completely enclosed spaces called pods where everyone looks basically the same and dresses exactly alike. Everything is done by computer, including socializing. The air outside is toxic and the pods protect them from not only the aether storms, but the diseased savages who scrape by living off the land. Aria is perfectly content until the communication link with her mother, who is in a separate pod miles away, goes down. In her effort to find out what happened to her mother, and why the link isn’t getting fixed, she ends up alone outside the safety of her pod. There she meets Perry, an outsider, who agrees to help her find her mother in exchange for her help in finding someone he’s lost.

I know I’m the last one to the party here and I don’t know why I waited so long to read this book, but I am so glad I finally did! I think I was a bit scared of the hype and I’ll be honest, it didn’t sound like it would be all that interesting. Luckily I was wrong.

The world-building here is phenomenal.
Veronica Rossi has created a whole new world set in Earth’s future, where people are separated by giant pods. The people in the pods are instantly cured of any illness, never want for anything and spend almost all of their time in the virtual world where they can travel anywhere, look any way and feel anything. Anything. The story spent more time outside the pod than inside, but we still had a chance to get to know “both sides of the pods” pretty equally. There was just incredible detail and description throughout the book. I could picture every scene, every building and cave and character.

The world building is incredible here.Speaking of characters, I wasn’t too fond of Aria in the beginning. She was entitled, as I guess everyone in the pods was, but she was childish and so naïve. Mostly in the beginning, before she ended up outside, I knew what was going to happen and almost thought she was kind of stupid for not figuring it out. She needed to be rescued from herself more than once. But, as she spent more and more time outside with Perry, she became more mature and stronger, and I started to like her more. Perry was grumpy and tough and didn’t give Aria any slack. He really grew on me, too. I also liked the other characters, including Roar and Liv, who have their own novella in the series.

An unexpected aspect of the story was the powers that some of the characters had. Basically, one of their senses was super hyped up. Perry had the ability to taste people’s emotions, which made for an interesting character quirk. It also made it harder for people (including Aria) to hide their feelings from him.

I admit, the narrator didn’t appeal to me at first, but that’s another thing that grew on me. Bernadette Dunne Flagler’s voice was very gravelly, and bordered a bit on annoying when she tried to lower her voice even more for the male speaking parts. Luckily, by the 4th or 5th chapter, the story was enough to make me forget about the voice I didn’t much care for. I was pleasantly glad to see she is not the narrator of book 2 (which I have already purchased!).

The sum up

A fun and creative take on the dystopian genre.

About the author

Veronica Rossi is the author of post-apocalyptic fiction for young adults. Her debut novel, UNDER THE NEVER SKY, is the first in a trilogy. Released in January 2012, it was deemed one of the Best Books of Year by School Library Journal. The second book in the trilogy, THROUGH THE EVER NIGHT, debuted in January on the NY Times and USA Today Best Seller Lists. The final book in the series, INTO THE STILL BLUE, is expected to release January 2014.

Foreign rights to the UNDER THE NEVER SKY trilogy have sold in over twenty-five territories to date and film rights have been optioned by Warner Bros.

She completed undergraduate studies at UCLA and then went on to study fine art at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. She lives in Northern California with her husband and two sons. When not writing, she enjoys reading, painting, and counting down the minutes until she can get back to making up stories about imaginary people.

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The Program by Suzanne Young {Review}

The Program by Suzanne Young {Review}Title: The Program
Author: Suzanne Young
Publisher: Simon Pulse on April 30th 2013
Format: eARC, 408 pages pages
Source: Publisher
5 Stars

Summary

In Sloane’s world, true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them.

My thoughts

Sloane lives sometime in the near future when science has declared teen suicide an epidemic. Luckily, science has found a cure – The Program. Kids who show signs of depression can be forcibly admitted into The Program. Once the kids come out, they’re happy and without care. But they also can’t remember things from their past, even their friends. Sloane, who has already lost her brother to suicide, spends all her time with her boyfriend James, who was her brother’s best friend. The two of them are just trying to stay “happy” until they turn 18 and are no longer eligible for The Program.

Sloane was an amazingly strong female lead character. She knew she had to remain stoic, but it was hard for her; not only was she still upset from her brother’s suicide, she was scared of being taken away. She had James to lean on, but only in private, when nobody else was around. He was also strong; not only was he carrying guilt for not having saved his best friend, but he had made it his personal mission to take care of Sloane and their small circle of friends. That’s a lot of weight on such young shoulders.

There were other characters: friends, classmates, doctors and her parents, who added their own thing to the book. There were a few special ones whom I can’t call out specifically for fear of spoilers, but I will say I enjoyed them all (except for the really bad guy). There were some sexy times, but it was not at all graphic. Boo.

The story was incredibly suspenseful. The tension was just amped up over and over until I didn’t think I could take it anymore. The kids were afraid to show any emotion at all, and you know keeping it inside wasn’t any good for them at all. They couldn’t have a bad day or get in a simple argument without fear. Every time they saw a handler from The Program, they were scared to death that they were next. And since they knew what would happen, some felt suicide was the better option.

Several times, I found myself holding my breath, wondering if it was the end of Sloane, or someone else we’d gotten to know.
Several times, I found myself holding my breath, wondering if it was the end of Sloane, or someone else we’d gotten to know. The people from The Program were always lurking around the school, waiting for someone to look sad so they could scoop them away and erase their memories. And there’s no running away, The Program would just track them down and drag them back. It’s no surprise that some chose suicide as their only option.

In the beginning, I wondered why parents would voluntarily send their kids away to a place like that, I just knew that Sloane’s parents were going to be there for her and let her be unhappy, at least in the home. But no, they were pro-Program. And after a while, I could almost see it. If you had already lost 1 child to suicide, wouldn’t you do basically anything to keep from losing the other one, even if it made them unhappy?

I just went from reviewing the book to discussing the ethics of The Program, so let me get back to the former.

I can’t imagine how it would feel to be in the situation these kids were in, but thanks to Suzanne Young, I absolutely felt the terror and fear Sloane, James and their friends did. Young created a not-too-distant place where a government-mandated non-voluntary treatment for suicide prevention was totally believable. I was caught up in the story and lost myself in it many times. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the sign of an excellent writer.

I was left with a few unanswered questions, and though I think this was originally going to be a standalone, I was very pleased to find out that a sequel is due next year.

The sum up

Believably realistic and surprisingly romantic, this is an excellent entry in the dystopian genre. I can’t wait to see what happens in the follow up.

About the author


Originally from New York, Suzanne Young moved to Arizona to pursue her dream of not freezing to death. She currently resides in Tempe, where she teaches high school English. When not writing obsessively, Suzanne can be found searching her own tragic memories for inspiration.

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The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda {Teen Review}

The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda {Teen Review}Title: The Hunt
Author: Andrew Fukuda
Publisher: St. Martin's Press on May 8th 2012
Format: Paperback, 304 pages
Source: Purchased
Series: The Hunt | The Prey | The Trap
3 Stars

Summary

Don’t Sweat. Don’t Laugh. Don’t draw attention to yourself. And most of all, whatever you do, do not fall in love with one of them.

Gene is different from everyone else around him. He can’t run with lightning speed, sunlight doesn’t hurt him and he doesn’t have an unquenchable lust for blood. Gene is a human, and he knows the rules. Keep the truth a secret. It’s the only way to stay alive in a world of night—a world where humans are considered a delicacy and hunted for their blood.

When he’s chosen for a once in a lifetime opportunity to hunt the last remaining humans, Gene’s carefully constructed life begins to crumble around him. He’s thrust into the path of a girl who makes him feel things he never thought possible—and into a ruthless pack of hunters whose suspicions about his true nature are growing. Now that Gene has finally found something worth fighting for, his need to survive is stronger than ever—but is it worth the cost of his humanity?

My (son’s) thoughts

My 15 year old gave me his (slightly rambly) thoughts on The Hunt. I’ve cleaned it up a bit, but the opinions and thoughts below are all his:

Gene is a human living in a world taken over by vampire. Gene and his father learned a lot of vampire behaviors so they could blend in; if they were discovered to be human, they would be eaten immediately.

When Gene was younger, he was sick and when his father went out to find medicine, he was killed. Though Gene feels guilty, he knows his father would want him to continue on and live.

I like the characters, they were well thought out. My favorite character was Gene; he had to go through so much every day just to survive. He had to remember so many small details, and he would die if he did any of them wrong. He had to remain vigilant and always aware.

The dialogue was pretty good, though slightly confusing with all the new lingo. There was a good amount of cussing and just the right amount of romance. I liked that he had a crush on a girl, but wasn’t able to show her any affection at all. The vampire sex was kind of weird. [ed: I could have asked him to elaborate on this point, but I felt it unwise to open that can of worms.] There was a bit of humor, but it was mostly a dark and serious book. Any more humor would have been out of place in this survival story.

The Hunt was exciting and kept me on the edge of my seat. There was a lot of action, secrets and betrayal. I would recommend it to fans of mystery, paranormal and sci-fi.

The sum up

I liked this new take on vampires and look forward to the next one in the series.

About the author


Born in Manhattan and raised in Hong Kong, Andrew Fukuda is half-Chinese, half-Japanese. After earning a bachelor’s degree in history from Cornell University, Fukuda worked in Manhattan’s Chinatown with the immigrant teen community. That experience led to the writing of Crossing, his debut novel that was selected by ALA Booklist as an Editor’s Choice, Top Ten First Novel, and Top Ten Crime Novel in 2010. His second novel, The Hunt, the first in a new series, was bought at auction by St. Martin’s Press and will be published in May 2012. Before becoming a full time writer, Fukuda was a criminal prosecutor for seven years. He currently resides on Long Island, New York, with his family.

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How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff {Audio Review}

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff {Audio Review}Title: How I Live Now
Author: Meg Rosoff
Publisher: Listening Library on April 12th 2005
Format: Audiobook, 4 hrs and 13 mins
Source: Library
3 Stars
Summary

“Every war has turning points and every person too.”

Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.

As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.

A riveting and astonishing story.

My thoughts

This is a very different story, in that it’s insular, mainly just focusing on the kids holed up on a farm somewhere. The adults only appear briefly, and really aren’t needed by the kids, anyway. Not quite dystopian, this is more of a war-time general young adult book that could almost be dystopian in its ambiance.

It was a bit frustrating for me, in that we never learned the answers to what I thought were important questions: what year did this story take place in? Who was fighting in the war, and why? Perhaps we never learned these answers because Daisy couldn’t care less; she even mentioned that the people who were dying in the war weren’t important because she didn’t know them. This made her selfish and unlikable in my eyes. I don’t care how young you are, when there’s something this major going on in your life, you notice. You care, even if it’s just a little.

The characters that we spend the most time with, Daisy, Edmond, Piper, Isaac and Osbert, were varied and they each had their own quirks and personalities. They all grew and matured throughout the story, which I liked. They truly became their own little family unit during the war, they made each other feel safe. Daisy and her love interest do not have insta-love, rather, their relationship was based on friendship and, let’s be honest, mostly convenience. Would it have happened without the war and the situations that followed? Most definitely not. But, it was nice that they found each other when they each needed someone the most.

Even though the audio is a very short 4 hours, the story seemed to move very slowly and it dragged a bit for me. Of course, that could have been because of the story. Though the kids found a way to get along and survive, the general tone of the book struck me as depressing. Besides war, it also covered such dark subjects as anorexia, family relationships, suffering, friendship, mental health and survival.

This is probably one of those instances where the audio version was a better choice than the print version.

The sum up

Sad and a bit long-winded, this is still a book worth reading if you like contemporary stories.

Connect with the author


Meg Rosoff was born in Boston and had three or four careers in publishing and advertising before she moved to London in 1989, where she lives now with her husband and daughter. Formerly a Young Adult author, Meg has earned numerous prizes including the highest American and British honors for YA fiction: the Michael L. Printz Award and the Carnegie Medal.

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Review: Slated by Teri Terry

Title: Slated
Author: Teri Terry
Publisher: January 24th 2013 by Nancy Paulsen Books
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Source: Book Divas
Series: Slated | Fractured
5 owl rating

Summary

Kyla’s memory has been erased,
her personality wiped blank,
her memories lost forever.

She’s been Slated.

The government claims she was a terrorist, and that they are giving her a second chance – as long as she plays by their rules. But echoes of the past whisper in Kyla’s mind. Someone is lying to her, and nothing is as it seems. Who can she trust in her search for the truth?

My thoughts

In the U.K. in the near future, teens who have been convicted of crimes can be slated, or have their brains wiped. They forget everything about their past: who they were, their personalities, their families, everything. They literally become blank slates. They are then placed with new families who raise them as their own. The slated are like toddlers, just learning about the world and their place in it. To help with the transition, those who have been slated wear bracelets that monitor their brain activity. If they get too sad, angry or aggressive, their bracelets alert the wearer so the offending behavior can be fixed.

This book turned out so differently than I was expecting from the start. At first, the writing bothered me a bit; there was a serious lack of contractions. It was weird, a conversation would be going along fine, then someone would say something like “It is obvious” or “It is fine.” It was kind of jarring and I just knew it would ruin the story for me. But then I really got into it and soon I didn’t even see those little annoyances anymore. Let me assure you, this is a fantastic book.

When I started the book, I wondered why Kyla was so compliant about the slating situation. Where were her parents and why didn’t she wonder the same thing? How could she just go to a new family and act like it was no big deal? What happened if she didn’t fit in? Though these questions were answered eventually, they were slow in coming. There was no big info-dump in the beginning, I just had to read along and wait for the information to be revealed.

I really enjoyed all the characters. It’s hard for me to describe them, though, without revealing some secrets. One of the best things about the book is how I never knew who was trustworthy and who wasn’t. Someone who was a stereotypical bad guy could be secretly good and someone who appeared so good you knew they must be evil, may actually be good. Truly, I never knew what to think about them, and I absolutely loved that.

There wasn’t a lot of action, as far as fight scenes or chases, but there were a ton of tense moments, and Teri Terry really knows how to write them. They were subtle and gripping and I literally held my breath many times throughout the story. Sometimes it was as simple as 2 people having a conversation, but it was written in such a way that you could literally feel the uneasiness between them, even if one of them didn’t.

Finally, the ending frustrated me because it didn’t feel like an ending. It wasn’t that it was a cliffhanger, it just… ended. Almost like Teri Terry had to edit the book down in size, so she just opened a page, pointed and said “Here. Here’s where it will end.” Of course, that just makes me anxious for the next one, so maybe she did it on purpose!

The sum up

I loved every bit of it and can’t wait for the next one.

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Review: The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa

Review: The Eternity Cure by Julie KagawaTitle: The Eternity Cure
Author: Julie Kagawa
Series: Blood of Eden #2
Publisher: Harlequin Teen on April 30, 2013
Format: eARC, 446 pages
Source: Publisher
5 Stars
The sum up

I loved every minute of it and wait not so patiently for the next one.

[Read more...]

Audio Review: The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

the eleventh plagueTitle: The Eleventh Plague
Author: Jeff Hirsch
Publisher: September 1, 2011 by Scholastic Audio
Format: Audio CDs, 7 hrs and 3 mins
Narrator: by Dan Bittner
Source: Purchased

Summary

In an America devastated by war and plague, the only way to survive is to keep moving.

In the aftermath of a war, America’s landscape has been ravaged and two-thirds of the population left dead from a vicious strain of influenza. Fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn and his family were among the few that survived and became salvagers, roaming the country in search of material to trade. But when Stephen’s grandfather dies and his father falls into a coma after an accident, Stephen finds his way to Settler’s Landing, a community that seems too good to be true. Then Stephen meets strong, defiant, mischievous Jenny, who refuses to accept things as they are. And when they play a prank that goes horribly wrong, chaos erupts, and they find themselves in the midst of a battle that will change Settler’s Landing–and their lives–forever.

My thoughts

Stephen and his father are all alone now, after having buried his grandfather, who died from the plague. They are salvagers, always traveling, trading for supplies and never settling in one place for too long. When his father is injured in an accident and taken in by a settlement, Stephen must learn to live among people again. Just as he starts to get comfortable, disaster strikes.

I liked the characters in this novel just okay. I really liked that the MC was a male, and he was quite complex. On the one hand, he wanted to be strong and independent like his grandfather was always pressuring him to be, but on the other hand, he enjoyed the comforts of finally having an actual home to live in and a community to belong to. His father wasn’t able to guide him, so he was suddenly making all the decisions, and you could tell that was tough for him. Jenny reminded me of a rebel without a cause. She certainly didn’t have a perfect life, but I felt her attitude toward her family and town was unjustified. Her family, though, was a treat. Kind and thoughtful, they were just what Stephen needed.

The plot was snappy, save for a bit there after they arrived at the new community, and there were some tense moments. The bad guys (from the slavers to the townfolk) were bad. Creepy, should be arrested and tossed into jail, bad. I liked the plague aspect of the story. Though I love me some zombies, it’s kind of nice to read a dystopian every once in a while that doesn’t involve someone trying to eat your brains.

The audio was fine. In fact, the whole novel was fine. The story was fine, the characters were fine, the dialogue was fine, the action was fine and the audio was fine. The novel was entertaining, but nothing spectacular and certainly not a new favorite.

The cover is okay. It speaks to the tone of the story perfectly. Bonus, the ferris wheel actually plays a part in the story.

The sum up

A fine new take on the dystopian genre.

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Review: Pretties by Scott Westerfeld Audiobook

prettiesTitle: Pretties
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Publisher: November 1st 2005 by Simon Pulse
Format: Paperback, 370 pages
Narrator: Carine Montbertrand
Series: Book 2 in the Uglies series (read my review of Book 1, Uglies)
Source: Purchased from Audible

Summary

Gorgeous. Popular. Perfect. Perfectly wrong.

Tally has finally become pretty. Now her looks are beyond perfect, her clothes are awesome, her boyfriend is totally hot, and she’s completely popular. It’s everything she’s ever wanted.

But beneath all the fun — the nonstop parties, the high-tech luxury, the total freedom — is a nagging sense that something’s wrong. Something important. Then a message from Tally’s ugly past arrives. Reading it, Tally remembers what’s wrong with pretty life, and the fun stops cold.

Now she has to choose between fighting to forget what she knows and fighting for her life — because the authorities don’t intend to let anyone with this information survive.

My thoughts

The follow up to Uglies, Pretties takes place after Tally has had the surgery and is loving life as a Pretty. After she receives a message from the Uglies she used to live with, she tries to shake off the juju that’s making her feel like she’s missing something. It’s not quite as simple as the book’s blurb makes it sound, though. She doesn’t just “wake up.” She has to decide if she wants to, then she has to fight hard to do it.

The writing was similar to Uglies, so Pretties felt familiar. There were new words (balance missing, mili helens, pretty making, crim) and I eventually tired of their repetitiveness (especially combined with the narrator’s gravelly voice). If I never hear the word ‘bubbly’ again in my lifetime, it will be too soon. The same world-building was there, and expanded upon. We learned quite a bit more about the Specials and their role in society and the different technological ways the Pretties can play around with their appearances, and I have to say, most of them were darn weird.

The same characters were back with a few more thrown in. We got to know Shay more (and it turns out she’s darn weird, too) and we were introduced to Zane, meant to form a love triangle with Tally and David. Maybe it’s just me, but I couldn’t get behind Zane. He was okay, but he was Pretty, you know? In my mind, he was no match for the Ugly David. Dr. Cable made several appearances and she was just as freaky and sneaky as ever.

The narrator does a fine job, nothing spectacular. The cover is okay, a bit generic for me. There’s a girl with red hair (did Tally ever have red hair? I can’t remember) and a boy trying to push his way into the picture. Meh.

The sum up

An acceptable follow-up to Uglies, but not outstanding in its own right.
 

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