In Defense of Dangerous by Shannon Hale

I recently read and enjoyed Dangerous by Shannon Hale, which I later found out received a luke-warm reception upon its release in 2014. I rarely do this, but upon finishing the book, I logged on to Goodreads to see what other readers thought of the novel. Huge. Mistake. While I thought this novel was a rip-roaring, sci-fi adventure that… sure, had some kinks to work out, others were reluctant to rate it one or two stars (if they were even able to make it to the end of the novel). I was left wondering if we read the same book.

Continue reading In Defense of Dangerous by Shannon Hale

These Broken Stars is Outta This World!

these broken starsThese Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
December 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
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Synopsis: Luxury spaceliner Icarus suddenly plummets from hyperspace into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive — alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a cynical war hero. Both journey across the eerie deserted terrain for help. Everything changes when they uncover the truth.The Starbound Trilogy: Three worlds. Three love stories. One enemy.

This is what I loved about These Broken Stars:

1. Lilac LaRoux. So often are female characters written into un-flexible molds. They are princesses and tomboys and bookworms and the girl next door, but rarely do they cross over. That is not the case for Lilac LaRoux, who has an appreciation for jewel-toned dressed and designer shoes, but can also navigate around printed circuit boards and electrical wiring. Heart-throb Tarver Merendsen may be a hero in the headlines, but Lilac LaRoux is the true hero in this story, driven by her brilliance and bravery.

2. Soft Science Fiction. I love science fiction movies, and I love science fiction video games, but I do not often read science fiction books. It seems silly, but I’m intimidated by science fiction books because I’m afraid that the ideas will fly right over my head. Soft science fiction makes the genre more approachable though. Even though the ideas may be a little more fantasy than fact, the backdrop is fascinating nonetheless.

3. Of all the beautiful descriptions about stars and space, this line about Lilac LaRoux’s father is my favorite: “But who names a starship the Icarus? What kind of man possesses that much hubris, that he dares it to fall?” It’s brief. It’s simple. It’s powerful.

4. This book is equal parts science fiction and romance, but there are no traces of insta-love here. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen come from two different worlds and both are influenced by their pride. They are forced into showing each other their vulnerabilities after the Icarus has fallen, and they only have each other to rely on for survival. Watching the pair grow up and grow together revealed more about the two characters than any cliché love triangle.

5. The mysterious visions. Is it trauma? Is it fantasy? Is it an alien life form? I needed to know what caused Lilac and Tarver to hear voices and see impossible visions. The revelation at the end did not leave me feeling disappointed at all.

This is what I did not like about These Broken Stars:

1. The pacing was slow during parts of the book. I suspected that might be the case with These Broken Stars since a majority of the story takes place on a deserted planet. With the exception of the elements and one wildcat, there are very few external conflicts in this book. This can be okay, but their fight for survival became mundane after a few chapters. What kept my drive to read to the end alive was my love for the characters, the mystery of the abandoned terraformed planet, and the strange visions.

2. I was left with so many unanswered questions about humanity’s role in the universe. They’ve colonized a handful of planets, and wars and rebellions were briefly mentioned, but the authors seemed to gloss over the causes. I wanted to know more, especially what was causing the rebellions.


Despite the pacing and the unanswered questions, I really enjoyed These Broken Stars. Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner crafted a beautifully written book with intriguing characters and mystery. The end of These Broken Stars filled me with so much wonder that I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of This Shattered World. Even more exciting is the next installment follows two new characters and dives into wars and the rebellions that plague humanity. It’s rare that I want to read beyond book one in a series, which is why I have to give These Broken Stars four stars!

I received These Broken Stars as a gift from the splendid Kate @ Literary Kate

Book Report: Dark Parties by Sara Grant

Dark Parties

Dark Parties by Sara Grant
March 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
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Sixteen-year-old Neva has been trapped since birth. She was born and raised under the Protectosphere, in an isolated nation ruled by fear, lies, and xenophobia. A shield “protects” them from the outside world, but also locks the citizens inside. But there’s nothing left on the outside, ever since the world collapsed from violent warfare. Or so the government says…

Neva and her best friend Sanna believe the government is lying and stage a “dark party” to recruit members for their underground rebellion. But as Neva begins to uncover the truth, she realizes she must question everything she’s ever known, including the people she loves the most.

My Thoughts

Inside the electrified walls of the Protectosphere is a community cut off from the rest of the world. The government says they’re better off because beyond the Protectosphere lies a wasteland. Citizens may notice luxuries like blueberries, chocolate, and new clothes are disappearing, but at least they are alive.

But, are they really living when the government determines what job an individual holds? Or tries to brainwash the youth into reproducing at a younger age to save a dwindling population? Are they really alive when troublemakers are injected with tracking devices? Or worse, when family members and friends suddenly disappear during the night? Only the government knows where to, but to question them might create for you the same fate.

The teens hold Dark Parties to start underground rebellions, to join celibacy pacts, to spray paint anti-government propaganda on city walls. But, when their friends start disappearing, their rebellion fizzles out. Of the youth that attended the Dark Parties, three fighters remain– Neva, Sanna (her friend), and Braydon (Sanna’s boyfriend). Without the support of their peers, the three dig into their government to discover the history of the Protectosphere, and they begin to learn the atrocities their government is capable of.

Dark Parties by Sara Grant could have been a great novel, but like most of the other books I’ve read in 2013, it fell short of amazing. “Decent” and “all right” are more fitting adjectives. Perhaps my opinion would have differed if I hadn’t read two, awesome dystopians prior to Dark Parties. Already, the novel had some pretty big shoes to fill, and I approached reading it with a more critical eye. At first many of the elements of the society in Dark Parties seemed generic, but as I read on, they started to seem similar. Dark Parties by Sara Grant is to Young Adult as The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau is to Middle Grade. I’m not implying Dark Parties is a rip off because there are a few elements unique to its storyline. I am saying that because I’ve experienced a similar story already, Dark Parties failed to excite me. Besides, I liked Lina and Doon better than Neva, Sanna, and Braydon.

Neva, the main character, lacks passion and personality. Her ability to lead a rebellion seems more a result of circumstance than her own drive. Then there is Braydon, the love interest. He’s dating Sanna, Neva’s best friend, but Braydon is trying to become intimate with Neva, too. And Neva falls for it! As I read the story, I kept wondering how Neva could be attracted to a guy, who is two-timing her best friend. Hoes before Bros, amiright? Even worse, Neva is barely remorseful about it. I mean, she keeps saying she feels bad, but she still pursues Braydon. Aside from his teenage infidelity, Braydon lacks a personality, like Neva. (Perhaps they are meant for each other after all.) He’s pseudo-mysterious. He appears to be brooding, but that’s only because he doesn’t have anything valid to offer in a conversation. He does drive a motorcycle though, and everyone knows the ladies find motorcycles sexy or something. Braydon seems to exist merely as a plot device– Neva’s temptation to break her celibacy pact. But, I feel like the author should have given Neva someone more worthwhile and convincing. Sanna is about the only character in the story that is interesting, though at times she seems artificially sweet. Regardless, she has more passion, she has more challenges to overcome, and she has more life-altering decisions to make. Why couldn’t the story have been about Sanna?

While most of the characters lacked substance, the world didn’t. About 16 chapters in, the reader learns the founding fathers of the Protectosphere were xenophobic. The Protectosphere was developed to keep the effects of globalization out– no sharing religion, no sharing language, no sharing culture, no sharing ideas. I think this is an interesting idea given the shrinking world we live in, but I don’t think the idea was explored as well as it could have been. In fact, it caused a few holes in the world building. Earlier in the story, Neva laments over blueberries, which are no longer available in her world. Except, chances are, if she’s living in America or Europe, blueberries probably grow…naturally. Things like coffee and gas for cars still exist in Neva’s world though, and both of these most definitely would have to have been exported from the outside world. Unfortunately, I didn’t sense any irony or hypocrisy here, which makes this aspect of the world seem underdeveloped.

Even though I didn’t find the storyline compelling for the most part, I continued to read because I kept hoping the story would improve. And improve it did. Things took a turn for the better when Neva infiltrates the Women’s Empowerment Center. For the first time, the reader and Neva understand the grotesque and horrible things the government does to its people, its women. Finally,  a fire sparks in Neva; she realizes what she’s fighting for and fighting to get away from. Then, Grant leads us through a series of twists and turns and twists that had me at the edge of my seat. And just when I thought things could get any more satisfying, the last few pages happened. The end. OH MY GOD! I mean, I can’t tell you what happens because spoilers, but trust me when I say the ending was perfect. Unexpected. Thought-provoking. Grant doesn’t wrap up Dark Parties neatly with a nice little bow. As many answers are provided as questions are created in those last few pages. I guess you could say the story ends on a cliffhanger, which I understand is an acquired taste. I’m obviously a huge fan of them. I like it when a little is left up to the imagination, and since this book appears to be a stand-alone, all I will have is my imagination. I loved that the ending of Dark Parties filled me with as much wonder as it did Neva.

Read Dark Parties if you enjoy dystopian novels but haven’t read too many stories that fall into that genre. The character development and world building seemed worn out at times, but Grant’s storytelling shines during the second half of the novel. I’m not even being cheeky when I say the ending of Dark Parties makes it a book worth reading.

Giveaway hosted by Khy @ Frenetic Reader

Book Report: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth
May 2011
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
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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.

My Thoughts

For the most part, there are more important things to me than world building. I’d rather get trapped in a character’s mind or a character’s conflict than in their world. I think this is why I struggled with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Sometimes there is a perfect balance of world building, adventure, and character development like in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

And then there is Divergent by Veronica Roth, a reading experience for which I struggle to find adequate words to describe it. The world in Divergent is so full of holes and contradictions that it was distracting.

Divergent takes place in Chicago in the future. Readers know this because famous landmarks are name dropped on occasion—the Navy Pier, Lake Michigan, the Hancock Building. If you’re not familiar with Chicago, you’re screwed. Roth doesn’t make it a point to paint you a cityscape. Nothing about the scents and sounds and hustle n’ bustle is mentioned. Even the lack of the aforementioned is not described. I had no concept of how Chicago may have changed due to the dystopian society, and I had no idea how the people actually interacted with the city. It became like a backdrop in a middle school play—poorly painted and only there so the characters can walk in and out of door frames. Chicago was so vague that I didn’t even realize that the train the Dauntless were jumping from was the famed L-Train; I thought they were just your run-of-the-mill freighters that roar through the rest of the Midwest. (This explains why I kept wonder what the big deal was because gunslingers and hobos have been jumping in and out of freight cars since they first invented the dang steam engine).

Then there is the matter of the society that induced MASSIVE amounts of eye rolling.

It’s mentioned in passing that the people grew dissatisfied with war and greed, so they decided to do something about it. This is hardly the cataclysmic event that leads to dystopian societies, but whatever. Chicago in the future is divided into factions based on personality traits: Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (…niceness?), Candor (honesty), Erudite (intelligence), and Dauntless (daring). It’s believed that nurturing one of these traits can eliminate all of the injustices in the world. For example, the Abnegation raised their children to be selfless because they thought greed was the downfall of the world. Uh, what? Further, there is this type of person considered Divergent, which means they embody multiple personality traits; it’s dangerous to be Divergent. But…human nature will inevitably kick in, and so most of the people will at some point value multiple and perhaps contradicting traits. It’s evident when the kids choose their factions when they’re 16. One may have been nurtured to be selfless, but desire for knowledge may truly be in their heart, so they abandon their old faction for a new one. Based on this pretty much everyone would be in some sense Divergent.

Also, I should mention that this is all disregarding the Factionless who are such because they chose to or they failed their initiation. Everyone pretty much views them as the scum of the earth. I don’t know why they haven’t started a rebellion yet. Those factions are so bourgeois!

I read somewhere that if you can get past the poor world building, Divergent is a really fun novel. I’m not so sure I agree with that statement. Most of Divergent takes place during the Dauntless initiation. It was like…oh God, 400 pages of boot camp and daredevil stunts. During initiation, potential Dauntless candidates learn how to shoot guns, throw knives, and beat the ever-living stuffing out of each other. Because that’s what real daring people do. Every day is Fight Club when you’re brave. I felt like there was an extreme lack of story line during initiation.

The violence in this book made me uncomfortable. Bloody noses and broken bodies don’t make me squeamish, but lack of remorse surrounding those things does. The Dauntless candidates are cold. The main character, Tris, is cold. And they weren’t even raised or brainwashed to think this way. Tris’s passive past and aggressive present is alarming, and it’s not even because she’s a Divergent. The rest of the other candidates from Candor and Erudite are equally, if not more aggressive. Drawing blood is bravery. Almost killing your friends is bravery. Being able to stand in front of a target while someone throws knives at you is bravery. Really? It’s not like they’re even training to butt-kick enemies; they’re just beating the crap out of each other. Why? What’s the point?

The other half of the story revolved around the “shocking” appearance of the Dauntless. They had tattoos and facial piercings and wore leather jackets. I think the last time this kind of attire was considered shocking was…when? The 1980s? Roth successfully described half of my friends.

More annoying than the world were the characters because they’re all flat and symbolic of their initial faction. You know what they say—once a Candor, always a Candor. (They don’t really say that, I just made it up).  Oh, but really they’re Dauntless. You can tell from their left hooks.

And then there is Tris, who is a walking contradiction—and not because she’s Divergent. One minute she’s all gung-ho about beating someone to near death and ziplining off the Hancock Building because that’s what daring people do. The next, she thinks her bravery actually lies in her Abnegation values, which I think is a valid conclusion.  Then she back tracks during the next chapter when she’s channeling Chuck Norris and repeating her mantra—I am brave. I am Dauntless. My biggest pet peeve is a nitpicky one that revolves around her motives. During the last 40 pages, something interesting actually happens. And during these 40 pages, Tris comes face-to-face with several enemies. Her new-found Dauntless-ness means she should be able to kill them on the spot, but her Abnegation side keeps surfacing. Instead she decides to disable them by shooting out their knee caps. But then, when she’s face-to-face with a friend, she lodges a bullet between his eyes and doesn’t think twice about it. That’s what being Dauntless is all about afterall. But, wait…why couldn’t she just disable this person like she did to all of her enemies? But, it’s okay! Because this will provide conflict for future novels, I’m sure. Tris will have to deal with the regret of taking her friend’s life over her enemies’. LOL Tris, you don’t make any sense.

Oh, and don’t even get me started on Four, Tris’s love interest. He has about as much personality as Molly Ringwald’s character’s love interesting in Pretty in Pink. He treats Tris like garbage in front of the faction because the two have to keep up their appearances. That’s supposed to justify things? How is this not the same, problematic relationship we see time and time again in young adult novels these days?

I didn’t like this novel, and I do not understand the hype surrounding it. Goodread choice of the year…really? I won’t be continuing this series. I don’t even want to hit of wikipedia to find out what happens next. Read at your own risk. If you like your action with a side of action, have at it. But, I don’t really feel like I can recommend this book because I didn’t find anything redeeming about it. But, there are loooooads of people who LOVE Divergent. Here is a raving, five-star review. Heck, here is a well-balanced 3-star review.

Book Report: Matched by Ally Condie


Matched by Ally Condie
November 2010
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
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Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate… until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

My Thoughts

I was weary about reading Matched by Ally Condie (how many times have I started out my reviews like this?). For starters, I was very much aware of the hype surrounding the book– something that probably would have eluded me if it weren’t for fellow book bloggers. Don’t get me wrong, hype isn’t inherently bad, but it’s often hit and miss. I was also weary because based on the summary and other bloggers’ reviews, Matched revolved around a romance, and I’m always skeptical of romance in young adult books. (Then again, I’ve said that here, here, and here, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised each time. Maybe my tastes have evolved, and I shouldn’t be so quick to put my nose up.)

Matched by Ally Condie paints a bleak portrait of a Western society that a government has, at one point, deemed to be over saturated with culture. Now, the world Cassia knows has been reduced to just 100 paintings, 100 poems, 100 songs, etc. Also, there is little choice in Cassia’s world. Decisions are left to statistics and the Sorters who analyze them. An individual’s vocation, the type and amount of food they eat, the types of activities in which they can participate, where they live, and who they marry is predetermined by Officials. And yet, this society, built and maintained by officials and statistics is about to crumble. By doing the things we take for granted, like learning to write cursive, reciting [forbidden] poetry, and falling in love with someone [she wasn’t matched with], Cassia is challenging the very foundations on which her society is built.

I really appreciated the way Ally Condie incorporate poetry into Matched. For example, “Do not go gentle into that good night” by Dylan Thomas had a functional purpose in the prose. By just knowing the poem, Cassia risks her family’s well-being. The poem also has value among a cultural black market too. Then the poem is also symbolic of Cassia’s character, yet it doesn’t seem trite.

What I loved most about this book? Dare I say it? The love triangle. I never thought I’d see the day where those words were ever typed by my own fingers. The love triangle seemed natural; it did not seem forced– not like, there is a love triangle in this story for the sake of having a love triangle (see also: for the sake of all things trendy or for the sake of the ever lusty reader). The relationships made sense! Cassia loves Xander, her most handsome BFF4E. And, according to the statistics, they are each other’s perfect match; there should be no second guessing, right? Yet, when a glitch in the matching (or better yet a mistake) makes the ever mysterious Ky the apple of Cassia’s eye, things start to tumble out of control. He’s handsome and familiar like Xander, but he is also an anomaly. An anomaly– that’s not a good thing, by the way.

Perhaps my only complaint about the story is the vagueness of the geography and current events. I wish there was an illustrated map on the inside cover or something! What I wanted to know was where Cassia lived in reference to the war-torn Outer Provinces. Where is Cassia’s world in reference to our world? I’m also kind of confused about the war that’s going on. I have to assume that Ally Condie is only letting on as much information that Cassia’ would be aware of, but it’s frustrating because so little information was given that I kept forgetting about the war. That being said, I’m really interested to know why a perfect society would be at war.

I loved this book, and I devoured it in three sittings. I thought the characters and the world were rich with development, and I though Cassia’s relationship with Xander and Ky was lovely and genuine.

Won from Ren @ Ren’s Rambles

Book Report: Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life As We Knew It

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Last Survivors #1)
October 2006
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when a meteor knocks the moon closer to the earth. How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun? As summer turns to Arctic winter, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.

Told in journal entries, this is the heart-pounding story of Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all–hope–in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.

My Thoughts

“Chilling” were my thoughts as I made it through the first fifty pages. The way Susan Beth Pfeffer writes about the events leading up to the apocalyptic event and the events that happen shortly after is absolutely chilling. I think this is because I could actually see people in reality acting the way they did in the book. Leading up to the asteroid crashing into the moon, people have a sort of morbid fascination with the event. All of Miranda’s homework revolves around the moon and, on the night of the event, everyone is throwing a party to marvel at the once in a lifetime sight. Unfortunately, nobody really knew what they were in for.

The story itself was written in a diary format. I think for readers, this can be pretty hit and miss. While it gives the reader insight into Miranda’s thoughts, it’s also kind of written matter-of-factly. Miranda doesn’t wax poetic about the apocalypse, and I was bummed that the descriptions about how the world looked were lacking. Descriptions of how Miranda’s physique changed over the year when she was essentially starving were also lacking.

The character interaction was really interesting in this book, but then what would you expect if you were cooped up in a house with no electricity with the same people day after day, and going outside means you may fear for your life? The relationship that really got to me was Miranda’s relationship with her friend Megan, who is very religious. Once the world starts coming to an end, Megan gets swept up by a cult, and Miranda slowly watches her friend disappear. This filled me with such sadness and disgust as Megan just wasted away.

My biggest complaint about this book was considering it’s the end of the world, the people in Miranda’s town had it easy. All the families just stayed to themselves, and I wasn’t buying that. If the world is coming to an end, I’m expecting violence, looters and robbers, and beggars, and those people just didn’t exist in Miranda’s world. Then again, maybe these situations will surface in the books that follow Life As We Knew It. This is another instance where I unknowingly picked up a book, thinking it was a stand-alone novel, only to find out it’s part of a series.

Even though some aspects of this story were unbelievable, I still really enjoyed it. And even though I missed the vivid descriptions of the world, I appreciated the diary format of the book since it didn’t romanticize the end of the world.

Book Report: Shelby and Shauna Kitt and the Dimensional Holes by P.H.C. Marchesi

Shelby and Shauna Kitt and the Dimensional Holes

Shelby and Shauna Kitt and the Dimensional Holes
March 2011
Publisher: Createspace
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Shelby Kitt never gets lost. Shauna, his sister, never gets sick. As far as most people are concerned, the inseparable Kitt twins are odd 13-year-olds. No one, however – not even Shelby and Shauna – can guess how extraordinary they are until the Vice Consul of Miriax, a planet from another dimension, asks them to take part in a dangerous mission. From that moment on, Shelby and Shauna Kitt discover that the universe is full of Klodians, cities in jungles, giant bats, and tea with mushrooms. Most of all, they discover that it will take more than special powers for them to face – and survive – the evil that threatens the galaxy.

My Thoughts

P.H.C. Marchesi’s Shelby and Shauna Kitt and the Dimensional Holes took me on an adventure I did not expect. Shelby and Shauna are hand-picked by the Vice Consul of Miriax, named Lendox, to help save Earth and Miriax from total destruction at the hands of  the Klodians. Along the way, the twins receive training in a military fort, learn they have “super powers”, and explore the world of Miriax.

The greatest aspect of this book is P.H.C. Marchesi’s excellent world building, and Miriax really can only be described as epic! It’s a planet where stick bug creatures patrol the jungles and bat-like creatures are able to communicate telepathically. The walls can grow to increase the holding capacity of buildings, and the walls have a tendency to eat left over food. Instead of choosing books to read, the books choose the reader. But, I’ll stop there because learning about the alien world is half the fun of the book!

The book was also filled with an array of interesting characters. The young heroes all have unique gifts and “super powers”, but they also have weaknesses, which young readers can relate to. For example, Shelby has to learn how to control his quick temper, and Shauna has to learn how to overcome her shyness. Adults, who seem to be largely absent in most books meant for the younger generation, actually play an integral role in the story too. Vice Consul, Lendox, and tech-savvy Earthling, Marina, offer guidance and support for Shelby and Shauna as they tackle the Klodians and their own insecurities. The most intriguing character though, is the ever mysterious Dale. He was the most complex character in the book, and he kept me guessing all the way through. Good? Bad? Sociopath?

I thought the only weakness of Shelby and Shauna Kitt was the pacing. It takes about half of the book for the children to make it to Miriax. And, the battle against the Klodians, which the twins spent half the book learning about and training for, occurs in only one chapter. It left me thinking That was it?

Overall, I did enjoy this book. Despite the awkward pacing, the world building, the characters, and the twist at the end make this book a worthwhile read.Read if you’re looking for a good sci-fi read without all the overwhelming jargon or if you’re looking for adventure and epic world building!

Won from LibraryThing’s First Reads

Book Report: Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

Dearly, Departed

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel
October 2011
Publisher: Del Ray
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The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria—a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country’s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible—until she’s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses.

But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she’s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting “The Laz,” a fatal virus that raises the dead—and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble . . . and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, there’s no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.

My Thoughts

I actually finished this book at the beginning of October 2011, and yet it has taken me nearly three months to write a review. Honestly, Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel is easily the best book I read in 2011. I think that’s why it has taken me so long to write this. It would be easy to gush about this book to others who loved the book as much as I did. But, it’s a little more difficult to write something that won’t spoil the book for those who haven’t read it yet. Alas, here are my best attempts.

There is a subtitle on the front cover that says “Love can never die”. Initially I rolled my eyes and wondered what I had gotten myself into. Had I picked up yet another love story dripping with insufferable angst? And oh God, please don’t let this be about vampires. Luckily I was wrong. Habel’s Dearly, Departed, although tinged with romance, is surprisingly deep.

Much of the world we know has been destroyed by catastrophic climate changes, disease, famine, and a global war. Even though the story takes place far in the future where there is technology we can only dream of, Nora’s world has reverted back to more conservative, Victorian times in order to prevent further destruction. Despite their efforts, there is trouble brewing. Dearly, Departed is delightfully political but in a way that isn’t overwhelming to readers. The book delves into problems like classism; the problems Pamela Roe, Nora’s best friend, faces as a middle class citizen surrounded by a “new aristocracy” only begins to scratch the surface. Then, there are violent revolts led by the Punks in the south that threaten New Victoria’s reign of peace. On top of that, a new virus has broken out that is turning people into zombies, and this disease has no prejudices.

The book takes an interesting turn when Nora finds herself in the company of civilized, undead soldiers who seem more humane than some of the people she is forced to associate with. Overtime, Nora begins to develop feelings for Bram, who many look up to as a leader. It’s not as disturbing as it sounds (well, kind of considering Bram is decaying). But, the romance between the two characters is so genuine I may have felt my heart flutter.

Habel’s book also tells the story from five point of views– Nora, Pamela, Bram, Victor, and Wolfe. Each offer valuable insight into the world’s current disarray, however some POVs are more interesting than others. I didn’t favor Wolfe’s or Victor’s POV, but luckily they didn’t get as many chapters as the other characters. I found Pamela’s to be most interesting because she had more complex obstacles to overcome. Although, both are strong female characters who deserve to be considered among the ranks of heroines like Hermione Granger and Katniss Everdeen.

I don’t know if this adequately conveys how much I loved this book. So, I’ll go about it another way. The only books I’ve ever re-read are the Harry Potter books, but that’s about to change. I definitely belive I will find myself re-reading Dearly, Departed.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson is easily one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve read.  Ever.  It’s decades in the future in America; doctors have fallen into the habit of playing God, but their medicine has been rendered useless ever since they began pumping people full of antibiotics endorsed by major pharmaceutical corporations.  Jenna Fox, who has just woken up from a coma with “amnesia”, has been affected by this, but to what extent I can’t say because it will spoil the story for you.  Throughout the book, Jenna must rediscover her past to learn who or what she truly is.  At the same time, she must keep it a secret because she is afraid people will think she is a monster, and she doesn’t want to jeopardize her and her family’s freedom.  The Adoration of Jenna Fox seemed so eerie to me; as medicine and technology keep advancing I do think what happened in the book could be possible in reality.

Awesome storyline aside, I appreciate how many of the characters in this book grew and changed throughout.  In most books, it seems only the main character grows, and the rest of the characters only encourage the growth.  But, in The Adoration of Jenna Fox, opinions of supporting characters change over time regardless of the magnitude, and these impact their perceptions of themselves, the world, and their relationship with Jenna Fox.

While I very much enjoyed the story, I did have trouble appreciating the way it was written.  Everything was stated so matter-of-fact from Jenna’s point of view– cold and calculated.  However, I think if it were written any other way, the story wouldn’t have the same impact on the reader.  I’m also left feeling a little confused about one of the characters.  Everyone made such a big deal about him, warning Jenna to stay away from him, but he rarely made an appearance in the story.  You see, I can’t even remember his name, and I’m not entirely sure why he’s such a bad person.  At one point, he and Jenna have a confrontation of sorts, but I don’t understand his motivation.

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  I liked the development of the storyline and the development of the characters.  But, above all, I loved how the story questions both bio-medical ethics and humanity.  It does so in a way that is not overly philosophical or pretentious, and it will appeal to both teens and adults.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

Released: April 2008
Genre: Science Fiction
Age Group: Young Adult

[goodreads | indiebound]

Who is Jenna Fox? Seventeen-year-old Jenna has been told that is her name. She has just awoken from a coma, they tell her, and she is still recovering from a terrible accident in which she was involved a year ago. But what happened before that? Jenna doesn’t remember her life. Or does she? And are the memories really hers?