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[Review] Surrender by Elena Johnson

Title: Surrender

Author: Elena Johnson

Publication: June 12th 2012 by Razorbill

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Summary (Amazon): Raine has always been a good girl. She lives by the rules in Freedom. After all, they are her father’s rules: He’s the Director. It’s because of him that Raine is willing to use her talent—a power so dangerous, no one else is allowed to know about it. Not even her roommate, Vi.

     All of that changes when Raine falls for Gunner. Raine’s got every reason in the world to stay away from Gunn, but she just can’t. Especially when she discovers his connection to Vi’s boyfriend, Zenn.

     Raine has never known anyone as heavily brainwashed as Vi. Raine’s father expects her to spy on Vi and report back to him. But Raine is beginning to wonder what Vi knows that her father is so anxious to keep hidden, and what might happen if she helps Vi remember it. She’s even starting to suspect Vi’s secrets might involve Freedom’s newest prisoner, the rebel Jag Barque…. 

My Review: 

I was interested in reading Surrender because I just had to know what happened with Vi and Zenn and Jag after the events of Possession, even though that novel . So, I was pretty disappointed to hear that they would only be background characters in the second book in Elana’s trilogy. But I think she did a good job of introducing two new main characters and still showcasing the ones who were the initial draw.

I’m a little conflicted with how I feel about this book so let me break down The Bad, The Good and The Great:

The Bad: I spent a lot of the book entirely confused about how the Insiders operated and weren’t caught. For a place that in the first book had such strict rules and procedures, the characters we meet seem to get away with an awful lot. I understand that there were people helping them to get away with things, but over all it just didn’t feel all that plausible to me. I mean, Gunner was far too reckless and got away with far too many things for me to believe were possible in this place with no freedom.

I’m still not entirely sure who was on what side, who was helping who and who was really the enemy. I mean, I know who The Big Bad is (or at least I’m sure, with this series it’s definitely not crystal clear),but beyond that there was a lot of back and forth and things that didn’t quite fit. I wanted more insight on some of the characters to decide what they were doing and what their motives were and I was left feeling unsatisfied overall.

Also, I’m still not clear on how the ending happened. Has anyone read the book? I may need to bounce some ideas off of you!

The Good: The strong friendship between Raine and her match Cannon was sweet to witness, you could tell that they really did care for each other even if they weren’t romantically involved. However, their friendship and match was also one of the few things that made Raine vulnerable to her father, which doesn’t bode well for anyone involved.

Gunner was a great addition to the book and I think he was the perfect foil for both Zenn and Raine. I would like to know more about Gunner’s past and how his mother and father play into everything that is currently unfolding. Gunn is the character I am more interested in seeing how his future plays out.

And Vi and Raine had some fantastic scenes together, it was interesting to see Vi be the one who was able to get through to Raine when no one else could. I’m a big fan of YA books not displaying two girls as enemies or competition, there’s so much of that on television that it’s good to see these two working together and supporting each other.

The Great: I liked getting to see Raine’s power and how it affected her. Everyone else we’ve seen has a power and can use it, but they usually don’t suffer consequences from using it. I thought it was fascinating to see a different side of these powers and see why someone honestly didn’t want to use them. I though Raine was an excellent character, even if she was a bit under developed. As much as I liked Vi in Possession, I think I like Raine even more!

Overall, Surrender was a vast improvement from Possession yet I still felt it was lacking in many ways. But if you like dystopian fiction this trilogy is worth taking a look at it. And even though I wasn’t 100% satisfied, I’ll still be sticking around to read the third book and see how this all ends.

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Book Review: The Selection by Kiera Cass

Title: The Selection

Author: Kiera Cass

Publication: April 24, 2012 by HarperTeen

Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary (Amazon): For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

My Review: I seem to be in a habit lately of picking up series that I think are done or books that I believe to be standalone, only to learn there are still more books left! I truly did not know that this was part of a trilogy when I began reading and was genuinely confused when I was nearing the end and things were not wrapping up. However, once I saw that it would be continued things began to make a lot more sense.

I was a little hesitant to pick up this book, as I saw reviews liken it to “The Hunger Games meets ‘The Bachelor’!” and I can’t even tell you how much i LOATHE reality shows like “The Bachelor”. Seriously, ick. However, once I got past that aversion to the story I ended up pleasantly surprised. It was adorable in all the right ways.

The Good: As much as I was wary of ‘The Bachelor’-esque theme, I have to admit I found myself enjoying the competition, especially getting to watch nasty girls taken down a  notch or two. The story is self is sweet and lighthearted (with the exception of a few minor instances), which I found was exactly what I needed as I read this book almost immediately after Insurgent. And of course, as with most recent YA books, there’s the love triangle between America, her childhood love Aspen and Prince Maxon. By the end of the books I still wasn’t quite sure which one I preferred. Hopefully the next two books will make the choice easier for me!

Also, America Singer is a fantastic main character for this story, she’s straightforward, bold, opinionated and stubborn. Also a tad socially awkward and isn’t used to dressing up, which i can totally relate to, especially around girls from the upper “castes”. It’s quite satisfying watching her awkward run-ins with Maxon and even more fun when she’s not afraid to hold back in a conversation. I do love a female character that speaks her mind (and plays multiple instruments!)

The Bad: One thing I was never quite clear on was how the caste system came to be or how the country of America deteriorated and over time became Illéa. Also, why are there two different camps of rebels and what are their goals? I mean, other than chaos and just general panic under gunfire. The history nerd in me needs to know these things, as they seem more important to the overall trilogy than the romance between Prince Maxon and his bevy of girls.

A fair warning, the ending leaves MUCH to be disired in this book, which is inline with it being the first in a  trilogy. However, I like endings best where they wrap up some plot points and leave a few others hanging, or introduce an entirely new cliffhanger. I’m not such a fan of leaving everything up in the air to be resolved IN THE NEXT BOOK. Which, doesn’t come out for at least another year. So, be aware.

One thing is for sure, I don’t really understand the comparison to The Hnger Games, other than it’s the book all ‘dystopian fiction’ is compared to. This is definitely more of a light hearted read for those who enjoy a good romance or princess fairy tales. Now I just have to figure out how to wait for the next two books…

 
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Posted by on 1 June, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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Book Review: Thumped by Megan McCafferty

Title: Thumped (sequel to Bumped)

Author: Megan McCafferty

Publication Date: April 24, 2012

Genre: Dystopian YA

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

How I got it: Pre-ordered and downloaded on my iPad

Summary (from Amazon): It’s been thirty-five weeks since twin sisters Harmony and Melody went their separate ways. Since then, their story has become irresistible to legions of girls: twins separated at birth and living different lives, each due to deliver sets of twins . . . on the same day! In a future where only teens can “bump,” or give birth, babies mean money, status, and freedom.

Married to Ram and living in religious Goodside, Harmony spends her time trying to fit back into the community she once loved and believed in. But she can’t seem to forget about Jondoe, the guy she fell in love with under the strangest of circumstances.

To her adoring fans, Melody has achieved everything she always wanted: a big, fat contract and a coupling with Jondoe, the hottest bump prospect around. But this image is costing her the one guy she really wants.

Cursed by their own popularity, the girls are obsessively tracked by their millions of fans, who have been eagerly counting down the days to their “Double Double Due Date.” Without a doubt, they are two of the most powerful teen girls on the planet, and there’s only one thing they could do that would make them more famous than they already are:

Tell the truth.

Review: I read Bumped a few months back when I found that it was available as a 99 cent download from Amazon (I love those sales!). I knew nothing about the book going into it except that it was vaguely dystopian and that it focused on teen pregnancy. Plus I figured it was worth a read at only 99 cents and if I hated it then I wasn’t out the price of a brand new hardback.

It took me a while to get into Bumped, I read the first chapter and then let a few weeks go by before picking it up and actually finishing the entire book. However, once I got into the story I wanted to see how things played out for Harmony and Melody and once the story ended I knew I’d absolutely have to read the sequel. I pre=ordered in on my iPad and waited patiently for it to release.

Thumped picks up 37 weeks after the end of Bumped and we see that Harmony and Melody are planning on delivering sets of twins on the same day. They are the hottest thing in teen pregnancy, only problem is that Harmony has gone back to her home in Goodside with her Husband Ram and

I loved how Megan McCafferty took the horrors and very real problem of teenage pregnancy and completely turned it on its head and gave us a world where teen pregnancy is expected, glamorized and promoted everywhere. This is one dystopian book where I had very little difficulty imagining that this was a very real possibility for our future. Watching teen girls get so pumped up and excited over being selected to “bump” with a hot RePro star was a little surreal and I felt a twinge of heartbreak thinking that in that world at my current age I’d be unable to bear my own children.

In fact, one of the few things that bugged me while reading both Bumped and Thumped was the overuse of the, oftentimes, ridiculous slang words. I found myself reading words like “Fertilicious” and “Neggy” and wondering how in the world she came up with these terms. And would anyone seriously use them. Then I stop for a moment and think of the overuse of “internet speak” and phrases like “Totes,” “cray-cray,” and “amazeballs” (not gonna lie, I kinda love that word) and you realize we’re kinda already there. It’s totes crazy, y’all.

Despite being shelved and classified as “dystopian fiction for young adults” McCafferty’s world is peppy and upbeat, filled with entertaining and occasionally outlandish characters. Twins Harmony and Melody play two halves of the same whole who believe in very different things, but at the core of it are more similar than they realize. The supporting cast of characters include Melody’s best guy friend Zen, her publicist Lib, Johnoe the famously hot RePo and Harmony’s husband Ram. While some are a bit over the top or over zealous in their ideals all the characters work well in this crazy world McCafferty has created. A few of the more minor characters are a little one-dimensional and seem to try to hard to have more depth they serve their purpose in the overall storyline and are easily glossed over if they bother you too much.
If you’re in the mood for a light-hearted read that doesn’t take itself too seriously then you should absolutely take a look at both Bumped and Thumped. However, if you’re feeling rather cynical or coming down a Hunger Games-esque high you may want to wait a bit before you pick this up.

Also, for an interesting read check out this post on Megan McCafferty’s blog about how this world is closer than we think!

 
 

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Book Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Title: Insurgent

Author: Veronica Roth

Publication Date: May 1, 2012

Genre: Dystopian YA

Publisher: HarperCollins

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

How I got it: Pre-Ordered from Amazon

Summary (from Barnes and Noble): One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

(Caution: There may be spoilers below. I’ll do my best to keep it as spoiler-free as possible, but you have been sufficiently warned. Proceed at your own risk.)

Review: Oh my, this book. THIS BOOK. Seriously, I’m not sure I’ve had time to really form any coherent thoughts about it, but I wanted to go ahead and review while it was still fresh in my mind. So I apologize for any dis-jointed ramblings.

I loved Tris in the first book even when she was being selfish and cold and frustrating. But that is nothing compared to how I felt about her here. We learn so much more about what makes Tris, Tris and it’s fascinating to see it all come together into this strong and able female character. The more I learned about her thoughts and her background the clearer it became to see how she tested for Dauntless, Erudite and Abnegation in her aptitude test.

It was also fascinating to get a better look at some of the other characters from Divergent, getting to learn more about Four/Tobias, Caleb, Uriah, Lynn, Peter, Marcus and Christina helped me feel more connected to the story. However, it also makes you feel ALL THE EMOTIONS for these characters, so be warned.

While I still kinda feel that there was a healthy dose of “instalove” between Tris and Four (Tobias), I didn’t care one bit. Maybe it’s because I felt that their Divergence made them a better match and that for once they finally had someone who understands them? Who knows, but I’m okay with it for whatever it is. I love the two of them together and it breaks my heart to see tension occurring between them. At times I wanted to stand there and smash their heads together until they saw past their own stubborn viewpoints and were able to understand the other better. BUT that tension made for better chemistry and better scenes between the two, so I’ll take it for what it gave me 🙂

This book hit the ground running (almost literally) as it continues directly from the end of Divergent (no time skipping happening here folks) and leaves you with very little time to catch your breath as it takes you on a ride. There was so much action happening and even in the slower bits the intrigue and the secrets keep you turning page after page that I could barely manage to set the book down long enough to do my real job. (that pesky job keeps getting in the way of my reading).

As a second book in a trilogy it doesn’t disappoint and it hits all the high notes you’d expect. There was enough resolution to keep you satisfied, but the cliff-hanger at the end is right up there with the one at the end of Catching Fire. Is the last book out yet? Do we really have to wait a year?

Seriously, go read this. ASAP.

 
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Posted by on 25 April, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Title: Divergent

Author: Veronica Roth

Publication Date: May 3, 2011

Genre: Dystopian YA

Publisher: HarperCollins

Rating: 4/5 stars

How I got it: Purchased from Amazon at the insistence of a friend

Summary (from Barnes and Noble): In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Review: I’ve been hearing about Divergent pretty much on-stop for the past year as it seems to be on every “Books you MUST read if you like The Hunger Games” and “Best Dystopian Books for Young Adults” list that’s out there.  I’ve been meaning to read it, but something else always finds its way onto my shelf first. Damn, did I not know what I was missing. From the very first page I was drawn into Beatrice’s world and was intrigued by her choices and rhe effect they had on her life and those around her. Veronica Roth’s writing is fast-paced and full of suspense which resulted in me frantically flipping pages as fast as I could to learn more of her story.

From the beginning I adored Tris/Beatrice even when I found myself disagreeing with her or her reactions. I identified with her out of place feeling and the struggle to fit into the mold she was expected to fill. And I was immensely proud when I watched her make the difficult choice to switch factions and become a different part of herself. Even though at times Tris was harsh and unrelenting, I loved that Roth let herself create a heroine that at times could be downright unlikeable and yet you were still drawn to her and her struggle. I can’t wait to see how Tris develops through the rest of the trilogy.

As I read through the book, with it’s fast paced action I was amazed and impressed by how all the characters were neither hero nor villain but rather simply human (flaws and all). In YA lit you get a lot of black and white characters (with the hero/heroine being the most flawed or gray character) and so it was refreshing to see a book filled with these true to life representations.

If you haven’t read Divergent, then I’d suggest you get yourself to your nearest library, bookstore or online bookseller and get a copy now. As for me I am not so patiently waiting for May 1st and the release of Insurgent!

 
 

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