Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead {Review}

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead {Review}Title: Vampire Academy
Author: Richelle Mead
Series: Vampire Academy #1
Publisher: Razorbill on August 16, 2007
Format: Paperback, 332 pages
Source: Gift
4 Stars
The sum up

Snarky, sexy and fun. A promising start to the series.
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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


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}

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


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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Review: The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa

Title: 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.

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Review: Taking On the Dead by Annie Walls

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taking on the deadTitle: Taking On the Dead
Author: Annie Walls
Format: Paperback, 312 pages
Publisher: September 27th 2012 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Bookish Brunette Book Tours
Series: Famished Trilogy: Taking On the Dead | Controlling the Dead | Living With the Dead


Life for Kansas was perfect until the day the world changed.

She has been hiding out for four years in solitude. It’s the only way to survive. The only way not to draw the living dead. Helping a small group of people, she learns the new world might not be what she assumes. Venturing out of her refuge and comfort zone, she meets Rudy, who helps her find a greater purpose. She realizes that the world has moved on without her. Only it’s not what she expects. Her knowledge of the living dead grows and only makes her more curious as humanity continues to hang on by a thread. While on her search for answers she finds comfort in new friendships and love, but her past seems as if it will haunt her forever.

Kansas takes it upon herself to help other survivors, which would be easy if the famished were the only obstacles.

In a trilogy plot thick with twists and turns, this adult dark fantasy is emotional as much as it is horrifyingly gripping.

*Not intended for a young audience. Mature content.*

My thoughts

Wow wow wow. Freaky scary wow.

Kansas was with her boyfriend at a fair when the zombies struck. She survived the initial attack and went home to barricade herself in the bunker her dad had built, in case of the end of times. She has been alone for the past four years, only venturing out to hunt or for the bare necessities. Every once in a while, she practices her bow and arrow skills on the random zombie that comes through her neighborhood. When a trio of survivors shows up needing help, that becomes the start of a new chapter in her life.

Kansas was just about the strongest MC you could hope to have. Not only did she survive the initial zombie attack, but she’d survived ever since then, all on her own. She didn’t need a man to protect her or take care of her. She figured out how to find and cook her own food, how to keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer, how to take care of injuries, and how to keep her home safe. The other characters she met throughout her journey were pretty interesting. Some were a real blessing to her and some I would have punched in the face the first chance I got. I think my favorite was the friendly hooker, who had sass and a heart of gold.

When the other characters entered the story, unlike Kansas, I was happy to see them. She was scared to let someone in after being alone for so long, but I didn’t want her to be alone anymore. Throughout the book, I understood when she struggled to know whether she could trust someone or not. I felt the same way, unsure if each person was a good guy or a bad guy. Sometimes it was so hard to tell. And sometimes I guessed wrong. Very wrong.

I think if you were to imagine the world went to shit, and then imagine some of the most horrible things people might do to (and with) each other, you might have some idea of what this book involved. It was like Annie Walls thought of the most depraved things that a human might be capable of, and included them. Poor Kansas kept getting into really unfortunate situations and I felt so badly for her. Most of the time, I just wanted to give her a big hug and assure her that not everybody was like that.

There were a lot of action scenes and tense fights. There was gore galore, some of it pretty descriptive and gross. There were also non-fight scenes that were tense. Annie Walls has a real gift for making nail-biting scenes. I had to stay up late one night just so I could finish the book and find out what the hell was going to happen to Kansas next.

As much as I loved it, there were definitely some things that bugged me about the book. The comma use was crazy: there were commas stuck in all sorts of places they didn’t need to be and left out of the places they really belonged. Seriously, there were so many commas it was distracting. I was left with a lot of questions at the end of the novel, which I hope will be answered in the sequel. I felt some of them should have been answered in this book, though. One of the major setups throughout the book was left unresolved in the end. There was quite a bit of adult content, but nothing overly graphic.

I love the cover, it perfectly evokes the theme of the story inside. And the cover model even has dreads, just like Kansas.

The sum up

Serious and seriously creepy (and not just because of the zombies), this is a must for any zombie fan.

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Review: Velveteen by Daniel Marks

velveteenTitle: Velveteen
Author: Daniel Marks
Format: Hardcover, 464 pages
Publisher: October 9th 2012 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Source: Edelweiss
Series: Book 1 in The Velveteen series


Velveteen Monroe is dead. At 16, she was kidnapped and murdered by a madman named Bonesaw. But that’s not the problem.

The problem is she landed in purgatory. And while it’s not a fiery inferno, it’s certainly no heaven. It’s gray, ashen, and crumbling more and more by the day, and everyone has a job to do. Which doesn’t leave Velveteen much time to do anything about what’s really on her mind.


Velveteen aches to deliver the bloody punishment her killer deserves. And she’s figured out just how to do it. She’ll haunt him for the rest of his days.

It’ll be brutal… and awesome.

But crossing the divide between the living and the dead has devastating consequences. Velveteen’s obsessive haunting cracks the foundations of purgatory and jeopardizes her very soul. A risk she’s willing to take—except fate has just given her reason to stick around: an unreasonably hot and completely off-limits coworker.

Velveteen can’t help herself when it comes to breaking rules… or getting revenge. And she just might be angry enough to take everyone down with her.

My thoughts

Holy shit, you guys. I just don’t even know how to describe the awesomeness that is this book. It’s unlike anything I’ve read before. It takes place (mostly) in purgatory, a “state” just like any other. It’s broken into “cities” and everyone has a job. They all help construct and keep up the buildings, they have friends and relationships and they travel to other “cities.” There are a few difference, though; there’s no electricity, nobody eats and people have to cover their skin in ashes because their memories glow so brightly that if left uncovered, everyone would be blinded. They all are just biding their time until they dim, aka, move on. Velvet’s been breaking the rules by visiting the man who murdered her; she haunts him and tries to save the girls he continues to torture and murder.

Velvet was a fantastic main character. She was spunky, honest, tough and a real leader. In fact, she was head of the Salvaging team, whose job it was to go over to the “real” world and save the souls who’d been trapped and used for nefarious purposes. The latest soul she released turned out to be the very handsome Nick, whom Velvet was attracted to, against her better judgment. Her plan to avoid him failed when he was assigned to her team.

Her group members were eclectic and fit well together. Luisa was Velvet’s best friend and another tough chick. She was a 12-year old child physically, but much older mentally. Also on their team was Kipper, who thought he was god’s gift to men and Quinten, who was so terrified of women that he could barely look at them. The dialogue was straightforward, mostly thanks to Velvet and her “If I’m thinking it, I’m going to say it” motto. Though they worked hard, they also had a lot of fun. The group had a great dynamic and they worked well together. They were able to bounce one-liners off of each other like they’d been doing it forever. I thought the action parts were tense and exciting, and though I saw the big reveal coming, that didn’t cause me to enjoy it any less.

The world-building was incredible, I felt like I was right there in Purgatory with Velvet and her team. I was scared of the octopus-shaped shadow monster that terrorized people when bad juju was happening in the real world. I felt so sorry for Velvet and what she went through at Bonesaw’s sadistic hands. I practically cheered when Quentin finally worked up the nerve to talk to a girl. I wanted to smush Velvet and Nick’s heads together like a Ken and Barbie and make them kiss. I loved the little additions, like the Story Hour, when 1 person is chosen to tell the story of their death. It’s the little things like this that add up to 1 amazing story.

I like the cover, but it doesn’t really say a lot about the story. I love the black, white and pop of color. The female looks kind of goth, which could fit, but she’s a bit on the skinny side for me. Her shoulders and arms are waifish. To be honest, the cover kind of made me weary of the story, but I’m so glad I didn’t let that stop me.

The sum up

Blew. My. Mind. Ya’ll, I can’t even say how much I loved this book. Daniel Marks has an amazing gift and I can’t wait to read more of his stuff.

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Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick {Audio Review}

Title: Ashes
Author: Ilsa J. Bick
Series: Ashes #1
Publisher: Audible, Inc. on September 6, 2011
Format: Audiobook, 11 hrs and 6 mins
Source: Purchased
4 Stars

It could happen tomorrow . . .

An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions.

Alex hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushes her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom—a young soldier—and Ellie, a girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP.

For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it’s now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human.

Author Ilsa J. Bick crafts a terrifying and thrilling novel about a world that could be ours at any moment, where those left standing must learn what it means not just to survive, but to live amidst the devastation.

My thoughts

Alex had a brain tumor (which she called ‘the monster’) and knew she didn’t have a lot of time left, so she headed up to a special place in the mountains to say goodbye to her parents and dispose of their ashes. While there, she ran into a young girl and the girl’s grandfather. After an unexplained “attack” left Alex able to smell (something the tumor had taken away) and Ellie’s grandfather dead, they struck out on their own to find out what happened.

I really liked Alex. She was a strong protagonist, not your basic clichéd damsel-in-distress. She didn’t need, or want, anyone to take care of her, she’d been doing just fine on her own ever since her parents died. Good grief, Ellie was annoying. She was a child, yes, but her complaining and whining seemed far too young for someone her age. Tom, whom the two ended up running into and sticking with, was another strong character. He had some secrets and wasn’t upfront about his reasons for being on the mountain, but immediately was willing to do whatever he could to protect Alex and Ellie. If I were ever in a zombie apocalypse, I would want him on my side. (As an aside, if the zombie apocalypse were to actually take place, I would hightail it over to Ashley’s house first.)

We met more characters as the trio journeyed to seek answers and some of those characters were more developed than others, though I found one or two to be on the clichéd side. Especially at the end, some were downright regressive in their thinking and they pissed me off.

There was an element of mystery in Ashes, not only in what exactly the attack was and how it happened, but why did it bring back Alex’s olfactory sense, and why did it give her the ability to smell other things, like lies and personalities?

I didn’t like the second half of the novel, as the world learned to move on and survive, as much as I did the first, but it was still enjoyable. There was a change in the novel’s setting and I missed Tom (and yes, even the ultra-annoying Ellie) and thought the story was better when the three of them were together.

The audio was a trainwreck. I don’t know if that’s how Katherine Kellgran narrates all of her books, but I will be avoiding anything narrated by her at all costs in the future. In the beginning, she made Ellie into a LOUD whiny brat. I don’t think she would have been that annoying as a character without Katherine’s narration. She screamed the exciting parts and I ended up turning my volume down several times.

The cover is creepy, and gives a hint at what the book may be about (electromagnetic waves?). Though I don’t like it as a general book cover, it fits the novel perfectly.

The sum up

Taut and exciting. Avoid the audio version at all costs.

About the author

Among other things, I was an English major in college and so I know that I’m supposed to write things like, “Ilsa J. Bick is .” Except I hate writing about myself in the third person like I’m not in the room. Helloooo, I’m right here . . . So let’s just say that I’m a child psychiatrist (yeah, you read that right)as well as a film scholar, surgeon wannabe (meaning I did an internship in surgery and LOVED it and maybe shoulda stuck), former Air Force major—and an award-winning, best-selling author of short stories, e-books, and novels. Believe me, no one is more shocked about this than I . . . unless you talk to my mother.

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Review: The Raft by S.A. Bodeen

12987986Title: The Raft
Author: S.A. Bodeen
Publisher: August 21st 2012 by Feiwel & Friends
Format: Hardcover, 231 pages
Source: Once Upon a Twilight Book Tours

Goodreads Summary

Robie is an experienced traveler. She’s taken the flight from Honolulu to the Midway Atoll, a group of Pacific islands where her parents live, many times. When she has to get to Midway in a hurry after a visit with her aunt in Hawaii, she gets on the next cargo flight at the last minute. She knows the pilot, but on this flight, there’s a new co-pilot named Max. All systems are go until a storm hits during the flight. The only passenger, Robie doesn’t panic until the engine suddenly cuts out and Max shouts at her to put on a life jacket. They are over miles of Pacific Ocean. She sees Max struggle with a raft.

And then . . . she’s in the water. Fighting for her life. Max pulls her onto the raft, and that’s when the real terror begins. They have no water. Their only food is a bag of Skittles. There are sharks. There is an island. But there’s no sign of help on the way.

My thoughts

Robie is pretty much living the life – she spends most of her time on an island with a bunch of research peeps who study the local wildlife, but every once in a while, just for a change in scenery, she hops over to Hawaii to stay with her cool aunt for a bit. Her aunt has to make an unexpected trip out of town and Robie ends up on a cargo plane back to her home island. Thanks to a convergence unfortunate circumstances and bad decisions, the plane crashes in the ocean and nobody knows where she is. Now she and Max must survive the starvation, dehydration, the constant sun and even boredom.

The Raft was intense. The plane crash and resulting fight for survival were written so well that I felt like I was right there. I had several nights in a row where I didn’t get enough sleep because I was unable to put the book down. Though the majority of the book took place on the raft, it never got to be too much. I almost forgot how small the raft actually was, such was S.A. Bodeen’s ability to create a whole world for 2 people in such a small space. When they end up on the deserted island, it also felt expansive, though they didn’t see a lot of the actual island.

Robie was the main character here, obviously, and I felt she carried the story well. We learned pretty quickly that she was independent and strong-willed. Sometimes I forgot how young she really was, especially when she was on the raft. She would do something I thought was immature, then I would remember that she was only 15. I know for a fact I would have done a far worse job of keeping myself sane and alive than Robie did. Max was a bit on the bland side for me, though we didn’t have a chance to really get to know him before the crash. After that, we didn’t get a chance to focus on him personally because he was injured, and they were only worried about survival.

Occasionally, I thought the pace was a bit slow. I understand that it’s hard to keep things new and exciting when 2 people are stuck in a boat in the ocean, but I still thought it dragged a bit in the middle. There was an interesting twist that surprised me, but I was a bit disappointed in the way it was revealed. I thought it could have been drawn out more and maybe explained in a more exciting way. However, those were small issues in an overall great story.

The cover is perfect, though the model is older than Robie and I don’t see her nose piercing.

The sum up

The Raft is an intense look at a teenager’s fight to survive against all the odds.

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