Some books do a fabulous job of showing what goes on inside of a hormonal teenager’s head. Anatomy of a Boyfriend is very honest and pretty accurate w...moreSome books do a fabulous job of showing what goes on inside of a hormonal teenager’s head. Anatomy of a Boyfriend is very honest and pretty accurate with its portrayal.
Dom is a hormonal mess. She’s been able to resist the lure of boys for most of her time in high school, but then she meets “the one”. Enter Wes. He’s everything that a young Cassanova isn’t. And he’s perfect for Dom.
There is instant chemistry… and a lot of sexual exploration. I mean a lot. They are both horrible niave, so some of the situations they find themselves in are entertaining. Classic teen stupidity.
I have to be pretty honest, however, I was really surprised by the amount of sex in this book. At times, it felt more like a teen Harlequin novel instead of a YA contemporary read. That did not keep me from reading it, however.
Dom is all over the place with her emotions, and I could not help but recognize my younger self in her character. The highs and lows of young (and most) relationships were realistic. The anger and ache that comes from having your heart broken, also believable. Dom is every teenage girl.
After reading the book, I thought about the dedication page. Anatomy of a Boyfriend is devoted to Judy Blume and Dorothy Teenov. That may not seem important at first, but when I started to think about things I realized something. Judy Blume received a lot of crap for some of her stories that discussed sexuality among teens and masturbation. Well, Anatomy of a Boyfriend is part of the new age of teen literature that explores these topics.
I will admit that I did not know who Dorothy Tennov was. So, I looked her up. She was a psychologist that—in simple terms—studied the compulsions behind ‘being in love’. She coined the term “limerence” to describe these feelings of needing to have your romantic feelings reciprocated. This feels pretty accurate for Dom, because a large part of the book deals with her efforts in her first relationship, and whether or not they were returned.
I will also go ahead and mentioned that I never cared for Wes. I think he had a lot of potential, but he always felt selfish to me. I kept waiting for some plot twist to show that he was taking advantage of Dom, or some other explanation to explain his behavior. When that didn’t occur, it left me a little baffled. I never fully bought the relationship and “love” aspect of Wes and Dom. It felt very rushed.
I would probably not be able to keep these on my classroom shelf due to explicit sex scenes that are on just about every page. I would also have a hard time keeping these out of my students’ hands if they knew I had them. They are so interested in this topic, and many don’t feel comfortable asking about it. They would, however, read a book. This series would definitely be the most requested book from my “secret box” in the closet. (less)
I read it. that one part was... I can't believe it. I'm not happy with the outcome, but I get it. I guess. I'm a bit let down by the conclusion to my...moreI read it. that one part was... I can't believe it. I'm not happy with the outcome, but I get it. I guess. I'm a bit let down by the conclusion to my beloved series.(less)
There is a lot going on in Stung. The opening scene begins with Fiona waking from a sleep she doesn’t remember and stepping into a fight for her life....moreThere is a lot going on in Stung. The opening scene begins with Fiona waking from a sleep she doesn’t remember and stepping into a fight for her life. The entire world has changed while she has been asleep, and it’s no longer safe for anyone. Enter the plot complications. Fiona meets someone that saves her life, but asks a high payment for those gallant efforts. In an attempt to pay back her savior, Fiona finds herself in a very bad situation. Things seem pretty bad, and they are-- until Bowen recognizes her. Now that made an interesting addition to the story. I read somewhere that this was a loose retelling of Sleeping Beauty. I’m not sure I see too many similarities between the two, so I would not venture to make that comparison on my own. I did enjoy the story and the setting. It was pretty intense. There are these zombie-like animals/people infested with some vaccine gone bad that are ripping people apart. Pretty terrifying. Not to mention the whole black market aspect of the story and what they want to do with these “beasts”. You can imagine. I think what I did enjoy the most what the subtle way the story unfolded. You get a lot of action in the present, but Fiona is clueless. She has no memory of her past beyond her 13th birthday (and she seems to be about 17 now). As events occur, little pieces of her memory come back until you get a huge realization during the final climatic scene. I thought the story was pretty solid, until the final page. That was a bit annoying for me and very predictable. I understand what it was meant to do, since it will obviously be what the next book focuses on, but I found the delivery a bit immature and quick. Overall, I enjoyed Stung. I will probably read the remainder of the series as it becomes available from my library. This wasn’t one that I would pre-order or stand in line for, but a good summer read. (less)
The ending of Shadowlands left me questioning whether I would like this series or not. I can say after reading Hereafter, I do like this series.
I fou...moreThe ending of Shadowlands left me questioning whether I would like this series or not. I can say after reading Hereafter, I do like this series.
I found Hereafter a bit more predictable than Shadowlands. If you read the first book, you understand what I’m saying because that ending came out of nowhere. Do not expect that same since of shock and surprise from Hereafter. There is nothing really surprising in this book. I saw the ending coming from the beginning. The setting is still great. The sleepy little island community of Juniper Landing is starting to be shaken. Things like hornets and dead animals and flowers are creeping in to the island paradise. It may seem like nothing for a typical Florida beach community, but it is not common in Juniper Landing. The cause of these mysteries is the focus of the entire book. In simplest form, something is amiss. Not only can you see what’s obviously going wrong in the community, but Rory and the other Lifers can sense it. Souls are going astray, and no one knows why. The creep factor is a bit higher in this one because we meet new characters. The new characters are dark and mysterious. It’s hard to say what role they will ultimately have in the series, but for now it’s not looking too good. I have to say, though, what really sold me on Hereafter is Joaquin. He never made much of an impression on me in the first book, but he shines in Hereafter. I adore him. Rory is in a tough spot, so I don’t know how things will turn out in that area. I’m very anxious to see where that subplot will take us. Kate Brian has definitely written a mystery that I’m curious about. This is typically my least favorite genre, but there was just enough of a hint of mythology (Charon and the golden coins) to suck me in. I will be waiting patiently for Endless to arrive. (less)
Sick was sick. These zombies are hardcore and not for the faint hearted. There was much gore and blood slurping, so teenage boys should be satisfied....moreSick was sick. These zombies are hardcore and not for the faint hearted. There was much gore and blood slurping, so teenage boys should be satisfied.
If you're looking for a solid plot, though, look elsewhere. There was a lot of action, but it was pretty uneventful during the most crucial parts. The virus that causes these bone marrow sucking zombies was never fully explained. You get some scientific sounding gibberish that might pass as an explanation, but it didn't feel solid. The characters in the book didn't even buy it, so you know the reader isn't going for it.
The characters were also somewhere in the so-so spectrum. Chad was a mess. He's a bigot and not afraid to show it. I got a little annoyed with some of his off-color statements throughout the book. I can't really say I was upset when he had his 'accident'. I did like Travis. He didn't leave a lasting impression, but I liked his role enough to think "that's too bad".
Some of the other characters were a bit cloudy as well. I am still trying to figure out Laura. The entire book was spent explaining why she is this delicate flower that cannot fend for herself. She's on panic meds and all this other stuff that makes her a mess. However, Laura is swinging flag poles and cutting down zombies by the time the end of the book rolls around. Call me crazy, but someone that is on heavy panic meds should not be making that kind of recovery in a 24 hour period. I don't care if the doctors were weaning her off the meds or not. You do not become Wonder Woman on Zoloft that quickly.
Overall, this was a fast read. I flew through it in a few hours. It had some disgustingly gory scenes that I'm sure teenage readers would like. But, there were some pretty raunchy sayings and talks about sex that make this most suitable for older YA readers. (less)
Conjured was both captivating and terrifying-- all at the same time.
There is a mystery surrounding Eve. She's in a witness protection program, but s...moreConjured was both captivating and terrifying-- all at the same time.
There is a mystery surrounding Eve. She's in a witness protection program, but she can't remember why. People treat her differently than they do others; it's almost as if they are afraid of her. She's different... and she's powerful.
She can bring paper birds to life. She can change the color of her eyes with just a thought. But each time she uses her magic, she slips into unconsciousness. Entire days (sometimes weeks) are erased from her memory. Her life seems to be missing something.
Then she meets Zach. He's a super nerd working along side her in the local public library. He has no trouble telling her how he feels during their first meeting. He's also a huge believer in magic. Imagine his surprise when a simple kiss sends him and Eve floating above the stacks!
On a simple level, Conjured is a huge mystery. Every page is a puzzle to piece together. Every day with Zach brings Eve closer to a truth that she might not be ready to accept. And every day with Eve brings Zach closer to a life he desperately needs.
Eve was very unique. I wish I could say more, but it would blow the whole thing. Just know that Sarah Beth Durst (again) takes us to a whole new place with her characters and plot. Fans of her writing style will not be disappointed. Conjured is magical in every way. I was captivated by the setting of the magical realm. The imagery was beautiful and a pure delight for my imagination. I found myself longing to travel through my own portal and experience what Eve saw. (Only the good stuff, of course!) (less)
This cover is stunning! Simply beautiful. I fell in love with it instantly. Then I read the synopsis and realized this was a mermaid story. Score!
I f...moreThis cover is stunning! Simply beautiful. I fell in love with it instantly. Then I read the synopsis and realized this was a mermaid story. Score!
I found the idea behind Water to be refreshing. There was a certain mythology that gave it an air of mystery. Also, there was a strong message of conservation and anti-pollution that was different. It's not your normal "mermaid" story.
For readers, you will find the setting interesting. It was hard for me to know if the geography in the book was legit or completely made up. I'm pretty certain it takes place in Africa, but I could be wrong. It was a bit confusing at times. I think the mystery of the "fish people" and the tribal stories were pretty fascinating, even if it all came together very quickly.
There were a few other elements of the story that I have mixed feelings toward. I'm still pretty uncertain about Merrick. Ok, I actually stopped reading at 65% because it was dragging on and I have other books to read. I hate to say I did not finish Water, but it's the truth. I gave it 3 solid nights of reading, but I was not connecting to the story or characters. I have a feeling that it would have picked up a good bit by the end, but I did not wait to see.
I wouldn't say this is my favorite mermaid book out there. It was rather hard for me to be swept away by the story. But, in the book's defense I do like the underlying plot of the Oceanids coming inland due to water pollution. This real problem doesn't get enough air time, so it was pretty snazzy to see it pop up in a fictional book. (less)
Ethan is a complicated mess. In one sense he is your typical teenage manwhore, but in another sense he is a victim. Obviously there is some physical v...moreEthan is a complicated mess. In one sense he is your typical teenage manwhore, but in another sense he is a victim. Obviously there is some physical violence here, but Ethan is more the victim of a broken heart than anything. His first experience with "love" leaves him broken and wounded, and I think searching.
Ethan pretty much sounds like teenage girl, right? You wouldn't be wrong for saying so. I thought it was interesting that the glimpses into the male psyche we got through Ethan really did fit for either gender. Now, don't think that makes Ethan less believable as a narrator, because that isn't true. He was great. I am merely pointing out that guys and girls aren't that different after all.
Something else that makes Ethan such a great character is how raw he is. There is no hiding his desires. After the attack, he can't hide its effects either. He is a victim, and as such suffers serious psychological complications. (Think PTSD.) The whole process he goes through to find "normal" is powerful. There is no easy road to recovery, and Ethan's character shows that.
I really wish this book had a different name. I have a feeling that the title, Sex & Violence, is going to keep it off many shelves. I know for certain that I can't send a copy to some of my teacher friends because their schools are terribly censored. This is a sad fact. Also unfortunate is the fact that pretty much any teen I know will be drawn to this book based on the title alone, but few will get the chance to read it outside of a library. You may think it's not that big of a deal, but it is. Without Ethan's story, many readers will be missing huge life lessons. Hidden between these pages are messages about healing, finding yourself, and learning to see others for what they are (not what they can do for you). There is also a decent bit of snarky teenage dialogue too.
I'm going to add a little something here about the book. My review was pretty basic, but the book is not. There are many layers to work through. I think this book would be wonderful read along side Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak. The healing process that both characters undergo is powerful, and worthy of discussion. (less)
Loved it from the first page. I loved the setting, the characters, and the whole idea behind this book.
As I started reading Belle Epoque, it became a...moreLoved it from the first page. I loved the setting, the characters, and the whole idea behind this book.
As I started reading Belle Epoque, it became apparent to me that this was similar to The Luxe series. Maybe it's not an obvious comparison, but bits and pieces from the sage seemed to fit.
I think Isabelle was my favorite in this book. She was strong willed and brilliant. Her "other side" made her a unique feature in this typical society. Maude was what you would expect. She had a lot to learn about herself as the story progressed. Her actions were expected, but also necessary for the remainder of the book. No real surprises there. In all honesty, the majority of the characters were predictable, but it didn't bother me. I was so caught up in the actual story that I ignored the fact that I knew every turn of the plot. It was just a fun read.
If you have any interest in France or turn of the century French society, you will enjoy this one. All the gilded glory of the early 1900s French high society is wrapped up between these covers. The author did a great job describing the characters. The emphasis was not placed so much on how they looked, but in their actions-- which really helped underline the theme of beauty only being skin deep.
I do recommend this one for historical fiction fans, or fans of period writings. It's not profound or overly accurate in its historical tidbits (basic research skills, nothing more than that), but it is super fun to read. A great beach or rainy day read! (less)
Let me start by saying that this cover sucked me in. It's gorgeous! Then I read the summary and realized it was a retelling of Hamlet. I am a sucker f...moreLet me start by saying that this cover sucked me in. It's gorgeous! Then I read the summary and realized it was a retelling of Hamlet. I am a sucker for retellings of the classics. I love the fresh spins they bring when they are done correctly.
Unfortunately, I would not consider this one "done correctly." I tried. I truly did. I even made it to 81% complete before I just couldn't stand to read further. I finally gave up because, indeed, I do know how this story ends so I didn't feel the need to continue.
My biggest complaint with A Wounded Name was Ophelia herself. What an absolute mess. She took so much physical abuse from Hamlet that I found myself deeply annoyed with her. Maybe I was missing this whole victim mentality because that is not who I am, but it didn't seem right. He would choke her and leave bruises (and at times all but force himself on her) and she went along with it. She'd complain to herself about the abuse, but say she loved him soooo much that it was basically okay for him to do it because it was "her pain to carry"-- or some load of crap similar to that. All that being said, she came across as weak and pathetic. I read another retelling of Hamlet a few years back titled Ophelia that was incredible. That Ophelia was everything the foil to Hamlet should be. This mess of a girl was too pitiful to side with.
The writing also slowed me up at times. It was flowery and fluent, but also too much at times. I loved the poetic quality of some of the descriptions, but at times it seemed too long winded. I can say the author did a fine job of finding ways to use actual lines from the play in the book. Having them be spoken by Dane (aka Hamlet) during his bouts of craziness gave it a nice touch.
The paranormal element that was working in the story never fit for me. I see the ratings for the book are at 4.03 on Goodreads, so it obviously worked for others! I just don't know why I couldn't buy into it. Of course, I also did not finish this book so maybe I missed out on that critical piece. That may be too bad for me, because I have no plans to go back and finish those 50 or so remaining pages. (less)
Ok, I'll explain. This book managed to hit some of my bookish pet peeves, which ruined it for me. First off, I really get annoye...moreStinkerific. The end.
Ok, I'll explain. This book managed to hit some of my bookish pet peeves, which ruined it for me. First off, I really get annoyed when books create words. I understand that sometimes this is needed to help create a setting (like in Scott Westerfield's series). Unfortunately, in Bubble World, instead of adding to the setting it just got annoying... and confused the mess out of me for a good portion of the book. For instance, what the H is "un-utter" supposed to be? Gah! And "scrummy"? You do not describe something that is supposed to be amazing as "scrummy". It looks too much like scummy; therefore, it's a terrible choice in made up words. If you're making crap up, at least make it make sense.
Pet peeve #2 that was breached: superficial characters. Not a single character in this book made an impact on me, except for maybe the 10 lines the English teacher had towards the end. Freesia/Francine is an idiot. Spending time in Bubble World just makes her more of one when she returns. I'm struggling to find something redeeming. Her family should be taken outside and tied to a tree and left to the elements. What a bunch of a-holes. I hated them all. Her dad might have been okay, but he wasn't around enough. Plus, he did everything the crazy mom wanted, which just made him seem spineless. Psycho mom was too much. She was horribly self-absorbed and all over the place. The phrase "sell out" comes to mind when thinking about her, which made her credibility plummet. Not that she had much/any to behind with. Then there is the sister- Angel. OMG. What a whiny brat. I would have slapped her. Several times.
Bad characters lead me to pet peeve #3: unanswered questions. There are so many things that were not resolved. For instance, what is up with Angel? Why does she keep saying no one likes her? A little explanation would be nice. Then there are the old friends/enemies of Freesia/Francine. Erin's role I understand, but what's the deal with the other girl? Why is Angel connected to this chick? I'd like that explained. This book also needs more back story for why the parents were okay with hooking their brilliant child up to a tube for 3 years without ever really following up. Even for a dystopian type book, that is not believable.
I could keep ranting, but I'm not finding this book very "de-vicious" (yeah, another stupid slang word). It's irking me to think about it. I do not recommend reading this book. In fact, you should probably go scrub your toilets or give the cat a bath instead of reading it. At the very least, get it from the library when you have nothing else to read. Do not waste your money on it.
** I'm sorry this sounds so harsh, but I was seriously let down with this one. (less)
This book is a must read. Period. I loved everything about it! Everything.
Ann is hilarious. She is so real, it will be hard not to relate to her. The...moreThis book is a must read. Period. I loved everything about it! Everything.
Ann is hilarious. She is so real, it will be hard not to relate to her. The opening scene begins with her bathing suit shopping while her mom picks up a "motivational" teeny tiny bikini for Ann. This is not Ann's idea of motivation to lose weight. It's a nagging reminder of how far she is from being able to wear anything in that department store.
Who hasn't felt like that at some point, right?
45 Pounds starts off being about Ann deciding to lose weight, but it quickly becomes so much more. There are so many subtle subplots that add a rich depth to the characters and the story. It's really hard to say what was my favorite part overall. Ann starts out on a journey to meet a goal, but in the process she learns some tough lessons about true friendship, her mother, family, and what it means to be 'healthy'.
I just want to gush about how amazing this book is! I can't stop myself. I had no idea what it would be like when I started reading. I figured there would be a snarky narrator, but I got more than that. I found real emotion and a positive message.
Everyone should read this book. We can all relate. As women, we are so hard on ourselves about our weight. Often, we don't realize what our subtle messages and attitudes toward food do to those around us. Parts of this book were a total eye opener for me, because I realized I was guilty of some of these things. Who would have thought that an adult could have learned a lesson about life from a YA novel?
If I had to summarize this book in one word, it would be: Strange. I'm just not certain where on the 'strange' spectrum I would place Indelible. It co...more
If I had to summarize this book in one word, it would be: Strange. I'm just not certain where on the 'strange' spectrum I would place Indelible. It could be closer to the 'so strange it's amazing' area or the 'this is whacked out strange.' For now, I'm going to say it's somewhere in the middle.
The idea behind Indelible is unique. I can guarantee that you have read nothing like this. I would even bet a kidney on it. However, because it is such a unique concept, it was hard for me to buy into it 100%. I never made it past the relationship between Ink and Joy. How can one instant take you from "I hate your guts" and "I could care less about what I did" to "you may be my soul mate". That was too much of a stretch for me. I think if more time would have been spent making the transition between those feelings, I would have been more okay with it. Buuuuut, then there is that whole thing about Ink not really being anything (I got the impression of some oozing, swirling vortex inside of a pseudo-human candy coated shell). Now, that was just weird. So naturally, I just couldn't see how Joy could have romantic feelings towards something that was described repeatedly as nonhuman-- and to the extent of being nothing at all. Way too far into left field for me.
Other than the relationship aspect that really seemed to drive the majority of the book, I had a few issues with the story telling aspect too. I hate to admit it, but I got confused sometimes-- which is not easy to do. I can't really say what it was that had me baffled, but I ended up rereading entire paragraphs trying to grasp what was being said. That made me almost give up on the book. I was around 30% finished when I felt like I didn't want to read anymore. Then I picked it up the next day and read about 30% more. Something pretty important happened, and I figured I needed to find out what the cause was (because I had my hunch). I did end up finishing it, but I do not think I will read the next book in the series. It just didn't move me the way I've seen others proclaim. I felt like once I looked beyond the dazzle of the uniqueness, I was left with too much of an unbelievable story. (and yes, I know it was a fantasy but it still didn't click with me) (less)
This book was amazing for the first two-thirds. I was enraptured. The idea of a girl being unable to feel any emotions really had me curious. Then you...moreThis book was amazing for the first two-thirds. I was enraptured. The idea of a girl being unable to feel any emotions really had me curious. Then you add in this supernatural element and I was hooked. The chemistry between Elizabeth and Fear was delicious, even if she couldn't tell it was there.
I really liked the characters. The author did a great job describing them and making me feel their individual emotions. For Elizabeth, it was especially tricky to do so because she isn't supposed to feel anything. Of course, that idea is the focus behind the great mystery in Some Quiet Place.
If you like spooky reads with that mystery quality, you'll enjoy this book. I am fairly certain of that. As I read through it, I was reminded of the Riders of the Apocalypse series for some reason. Don't ask me why, but there was something I just couldn't place that kept creeping up.
What ended up frustrating me, however, was the last portion of the book. It all happened so quickly. From the moment the villain's plans are uncovered to the bittersweet ending, I was left speechless-- and not in the best of ways. I think it all transpired way too quickly. I had questions. I wanted answers. I got nothing. I'm not even thrilled with the ending. I am pleased with it, but I think Elizabeth needed to do more. That's all I'll say about that one.
While I started out thinking this was going to blow my mind, I ended up placing it in the 'enjoyable' category. It's different, which was a plus. Unfortunately, though, the lingering questions left me desiring a bit more. (less)
Hmm... This one left my brain feeling as cloudy as that fog on the cover. I really wasn't sure what I was reading 2/3 of the time. I found myself very...moreHmm... This one left my brain feeling as cloudy as that fog on the cover. I really wasn't sure what I was reading 2/3 of the time. I found myself very confused in places. They felt patchy-- as if there were key parts of the plot that were removed like a missing puzzle piece. I knew there was something important going on, but I just couldn't put my finger on what it was exactly. I found that very frustrating at times. It didn't feel like a mystery; it felt like a gap.
None of the characters impressed me much. They all had this sense of mystery about them that was more annoying than intriguing. Brynn was way too wishy-washy, so I couldn't figure out what her deal was really. Nora was a little off as well. I never could connect, not even with the main character. The one character that does stand out is Mark, but in a really creepy way. I am not sure if he was supposed to cross into that weird creeper territory or not, but he sure made me feel that way. That scene with his mom... and the bed... bah! Way creepy. I did not recover from that.
I probably would have bumped this down a notch or two, but I did appreciate the mythology element. I thought I knew what was up with the one character haunting everyone, and it turns out I was correct. Of course, I had to make it through the whole book to find that validation. I did not get a sense of closure after finishing The Last Academy, which is a little disappointing. I (sometimes) appreciate open ended endings, but I want to feel complete when I get to those. I do not like wondering, "Well, what now?" Unfortunately, that's how I feel. I can assume what happens with Cameron, but I want to know what happens with the other characters. (Ok, again, I can assume, but I really want something finite!) (less)
Have you ever had a love-hate relationship with a book that left you so confused you really didn't know what you think about it? Well, that is me with Gorgeous.
On the one hand I hated this book with a passion. I almost stopped reading it because it irked me on so many levels. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what I did not like, so I'll just list them.
1. The language used by the supporting character/best friend. I get her personality. I could actually picture her better than the main characters, but her use of certain phrases did not sit well with me.
2. The plot was straight forward and obvious. I saw every twist and turn for miles. I might as well be a cyborg because I was cruising on auto-pilot the whole time while reading. I know this isn't necessarily a bad thing because sometimes we want a "beach read" but I was really expecting something more. When you add my mild boredom to my other issues, it put me over the edge.
3. This book's sense of schizophrenia. It didn't know what genre it really wanted to be in. Was it a fairytale like book, a contemporary romance, or something else all together? Wish I knew! I'm still trying to figure that out.
4. The main character. Simply put, she was boring. The author spent a lot of time describing the other characters and bringing them to life, but Becky never managed to feel real.
I know it seems like I am bashing Gorgeous into the ground, but it had a redeeming value. I understand the message the author was trying to get across. Yes, it was reached in a very frustrating way, but the intentions were good. Inner beauty is more important than outward beauty, and Becky eventually learns that. Unfortunately though, having a strong final 20 pages does not make up for the other problems.
I can say, though, that the characters were very witty. I found myself laughing and giving a wry smile because I could hear the sarcasm. The dialogue was certainly well written and believable. (less)
The idea behind caged graves really had me intrigued. Add in a hint of something reminiscent of the Salem Witch Trials and I was on it for sure! I rea...moreThe idea behind caged graves really had me intrigued. Add in a hint of something reminiscent of the Salem Witch Trials and I was on it for sure! I really thought this would be about witches, but I was wrong. Instead, I discovered an interesting story about the depths one will go to achieve their goals-- and I don't mean that in an afternoon special sort of way, either.
I loved the setting. I got the feelings associated with a closed-minded small town instantly. I also adore this time period. It's one of my favorites to read about. There were so many elements in this story that reminded me of Pride and Prejudice. I even found a worthy imitation of Mr. Darcy.
There was also a certain element of mystery in The Caged Graves. Verity is trying to discover her place in this small town while also seeking to uncover the reason behind her mother's death. During this process, though, she discovers there is a lot at stake. She has to fight for her engagement to the town's hottest bachelor, while trying to stay alive... because you know there is always something lurking in the shadows.
If you enjoy historical fiction, you'll probably want to read this one. I do not typically read anything in the historical fiction genre, but this one called to me. I was pleased with the result, so I feel pretty confident recommending this one to others. (less)
Imagine that The Hunger Games and Divergent series got together and had a baby. That was what The Testing was like. It was a smashup of everything you...moreImagine that The Hunger Games and Divergent series got together and had a baby. That was what The Testing was like. It was a smashup of everything you enjoyed from Tris/Four and Katniss/Peeta with a bit of newness to keep things fresh.
Right away you will notice similarities. They are undeniable. Dystopian setting, factions ("colonies" this time around), special skills, select kids fighting it out until the bitter end, corrupt government, etc. You get the picture. As I was reading, it was hard not to think about the other books because so many things reminded me of them. To be honest, at times I was tired of reading because it felt old.
Luckily, there were a few differences that kept this from feeling too stale and repetitive. First, Cia is different. She is not fierce like Katniss and Tris. She is a thinker with a compassionate side. Her inner instincts are not to kill or fight to the bitter death. As you can imagine, that makes her situation very different. Her love interest, Tomas, is very different as well. He has the devotion of Peeta and the secrets of Four. He's not as moody, but there is something different about him. Unfortunately, you really don't discover what it is in The Testing. You'll have to read book two!
Another difference to this "game" or test that the characters are facing is pretty solid. There is an academic element to the selection process. The purpose of the testing reminds me of the factions in Divergent, but I can see how things will be different as the story plays out.
I was also glad to see the world building in this one. The land has been ravished by mankind. Four years of physical war was followed by three years of war by natural elements. After the Seven Stages of War, everything is destroyed and it's not coming back any time soon. The land cannot sustain life and the radiation from nuclear blasts have left many things mutated and dangerous. The perils the University candidates face during their testing is intense.
I thought the writing of The Testing was solid. It was descriptive and detailed. The finer points of the plot were well thought out and executed flawlessly. Unfortunately, I still thought about The Hunger Games and Divergent/Insurgent as I read. If I had not read those series, this would be fantastic. I would be singing its praises of originality and uniqueness. But, instead of being original it came across more as a mash up of the other books, which took away from my response. I still enjoyed it, and I certainly want to read the other books. I hope they become more unique as the story continues to make this another strong contender in the dystopian genre. (less)
I really appreciate what Stoke Books is doing. They are putting together high-interest stories for struggling readers. Being a teacher that works with...moreI really appreciate what Stoke Books is doing. They are putting together high-interest stories for struggling readers. Being a teacher that works with lower level readers in a middle school setting, I can advocate for this need!
It's very important to grab the reader's attention from the first page. It's even more vital when that reader typically does not like to read (or want to read). Wild Song starts off with action, which is a great hook. While it is certainly geared towards female readers, it could also work for students interested in Shakespeare. Wild Song was a loose retelling of The Tempest.
The plot and characters are pretty straight forward. There isn't a lot of depth or character building. That may bother some readers, but if you keep it in context of the intended audience, then it makes sense. Struggling readers do not have the stamina for pages upon pages of descriptive writing and character building.
I have to say that Wild Song is not my favorite Stoke Book so far, but it wasn't bad. I think it will have a limited appeal because of the setting and characters. Boys will probably not run to this one, but I can picture several of my female readers enjoying it (less)