Posts Categorized: YA

National Book Award 2015 Finalist – Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

November 14, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA 3 Comments

National Book Award 2015 Finalist – Challenger Deep by Neal ShustermanChallenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Illustrator: Brendan Shusterman
Published by HarperTeen on April 21st 2015
Pages: 320
Genres: Mental Illness, Realistic YA Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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four-half-stars

Caden Bosch is on a ship that's headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.

Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.

Caden Bosch is designated the ship's artist in residence, to document the journey with images.

Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.

Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.

Caden Bosch is torn.

A captivating and powerful novel that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by one of today's most admired writers for teens.

‘Sometimes the darkness beyond is not glorious at all, it truly is an absolute absence of light. A clawing, needy tar that pulls you down. You drown but you don’t. It turns you to lead so you sink faster in its viscous embrace. It robs you of hope and even the memory of hope. It makes you think you’ve always felt like this, and there’s no place to go but down, where it slowly, ravenously digests your will, distilling it into the ebony crude of nightmares.’

Caden Bosch’s descent into schizophrenia takes readers on an unforgettable adventure that blurs the line between what’s real and what’s mere fantasy. Caden is a gifted artist at the age of fifteen years old yet he possesses an inner drive, a compulsion, that he can no longer keep quiet. His art becomes frenetic and he begins walking his town for hours based on a uncontrollable desire to fill the empty sidewalks with his presence. And sometimes his mind takes him elsewhere, where he’s a part of a crew on a galleon and their mission is to reach the deepest point of the Marianas Trench, a place called Challenger Deep.

‘The things I feel cannot be put into words, or if they can, the words are in no language anyone can understand. My emotions are talking in tongues.’

Ironically, this was my first read in my National Book Award experiment, yet it’s the last one I sat down to review. This was such a staggering read for me that it really took me some time to fully process Caden’s story and how it made me feel. I suppose the expected response is sadness and pity, but it was so authentically told that it transformed this story into something truly substantial for me. Despite the fantasy world that Caden lived in, his struggle becomes something real. We glimpse just enough of the outside world to realize how much his loved ones are also impacted and how they struggle to understand his inner turmoil. How his parents plead with him to change his behavior when it’s well past the point of his ability, so he’s placed in a mental institution when they don’t know what else to do for him. Almost in defiance of such a melancholy story, is the subtle (yet effective) humor that is laced throughout.

“If you continue making progress,” one of the nurses told me earlier today, “I see no reason why you shouldn’t be going home in a couple of weeks.” Then she added, “But don’t quote me on that.” Noncommittal is rampant among the committed.

Sprinkled throughout this story are various pieces of art which are original pieces from the authors son,
Brendan Shusterman. The story itself exists solely because of the experiences of Brendan who has personally struggled with mental illness, which makes sense as to why this story rang so true for me. Challenger Deep will certainly leave readers who haven’t suffered personally to gain more of an understanding and compassion for those that do.

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National Book Award 2015 Finalist – Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

November 7, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Graphic Novel, Read in 2015, YA 3 Comments

National Book Award 2015 Finalist – Nimona by Noelle StevensonNimona by Noelle Stevenson
Published by HarperTeen on May 12th 2015
Pages: 272
Genres: Fantasy, Funny-ha-ha
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
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three-stars

The full-color graphic novel debut from rising star Noelle Stevenson, based on her beloved and critically acclaimed web comic, which Slate awarded its Cartoonist Studio Prize, calling it “a deadpan epic”

Nimona is an impulsive young shape-shifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism!

All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson, based on the web comic Slate called “funny and vibrant, with wonderful energy in Stevenson’s illustrations and a wicked wit in her storytelling.”

Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the thousands of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is a shapeshifter. She’s also hilarious and set on world domination which is why she asked to join up with the designated villain of the kingdom, Lord Ballister Blackheart. The two set out to bring down the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics as well as Blackheart’s bitter rival (and ex-best friend) Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin. Behind Nimona’s fantastic sense of humor is a seemingly somber past that we only see a hint of. The former webcomic is now printed and bound and is sure to be loved.

Okay, so, despite my middle-of-the-road rating, I really did enjoy this. Nimona was hilarious and all over the place and the graphics were enjoyable as well. I wanted more character building though. The hints about Nimona’s past should have been more than just hints and the evil government was a bit too stereotypical. The board game scene had me absolutely dying because if I could breathe fire, that’s totally how it’d be like playing board games with me as well.

I picked this up though because it’s a part of my National Book Award Finalist experiment. It was fun. I enjoyed it. But being nominated for the National Book Award?

Not to be a party-pooper or anything. I love seeing a young author being nominated. I love seeing a graphic novel being nominated. But in my opinion, it shouldn’t have made the cut, and that’s what my experiment is all about. Setting all that aside though, this is one for all you graphic novel lovers looking for a good laugh.

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National Book Award 2015 Finalist – Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

November 6, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA 1 Comment

National Book Award 2015 Finalist – Bone Gap by Laura RubyBone Gap by Laura Ruby
Published by Balzer + Bray on March 3rd 2015
Pages: 368
Genres: Magical Realism, Mystery
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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four-stars

From acclaimed author Laura Ruby comes a fascinating, powerful, and wholly original novel about a beautiful young woman, a haunted young man, and a secretive Midwestern town.

Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years ago, their mother hightailed it to Oregon for a brand-new guy, a brand-new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?

Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turn up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.

As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.

‘Because we don’t have your typical gaps around here. Not gaps made of rocks or mountains. We have gaps in the world. In the space of things. So many places to lose yourself, if you believe that they’re there. You can slip into the gap and never find your way out. Or maybe you don’t want to find your way out.’

Finn O’Sullivan was the only witness to the kidnapping of Roza, his brother Sean’s girlfriend. But when he wrestles with his memories trying to recall the face of the man that took her, he also remembers that she didn’t really put up a fight. So maybe she wanted to leave? It only seemed natural, after their mother left Finn and Sean as well so it would make sense for Roza to do the same. No one in the town believes his story, especially since the only way he can describe the man who took her is that he “moves like a cornstalk in the wind.

Return of Persephone by Frederick Leighton (1891)

Bone Gap, at first glance, appears to be your typical small-town in America where everyone knows everyone’s business no matter how private you strive to keep it. There’s the local brothers that go around bullying people, there’s the rumor spreading and gossip mongering, but then there’s an offhand note about the corn that whispers softly to Finn. The basis of this story stems from the abduction of Persephone myth, which when I realized this made it all the more fascinating. It’s quite evident once you realize this even if it’s only loosely inspired. Pomegranates still manage to make an appearance, there’s the subtle reference to the garden that stopped flourishing as soon as she was gone, and the corns presence in the story becomes much less Children of the Corn when you take into account the connection between it and Persephone’s return.

There are so many enigmatic facets to this story that I could discuss but it likely wouldn’t make much sense to someone who hadn’t already experienced this story. Because an experience is exactly what this story is. Its world-building is obscure, cryptic, and vague. But it’s also fanciful and unconventional and that’s what I loved most about this. Trying to nail this story down to a single genre is a troublesome endeavor, but just know that it’s part mythology, part romance, with large parts of magical realism that is so relentless it often veers into straight fantasy. One of the most innovative stories I’ve read this year.

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Ominous October – The Hollow Boy (Lockwood & Co. #3) by Jonathan Stroud

October 29, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Ominous October, Read in 2015, YA 5 Comments

Ominous October – The Hollow Boy (Lockwood & Co. #3) by Jonathan StroudThe Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud
Series: Lockwood & Co. #3
Published by Disney Hyperion on September 15th 2015
Pages: 385
Genres: Ghosties, Horror
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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Also by this author: The Screaming Staircase, The Whispering Skull, The Creeping Shadow

four-stars

As a massive outbreak of supernatural Visitors baffles Scotland Yard and causes protests throughout London, Lockwood & Co. continue to demonstrate their effectiveness in exterminating spirits. Anthony Lockwood is dashing, George insightful, and Lucy dynamic, while the skull in the jar utters sardonic advice from the sidelines. There is a new spirit of openness in the team now that Lockwood has shared some of his childhood secrets, and Lucy is feeling more and more as if her true home is at Portland Row. It comes as a great shock, then, when Lockwood and George introduce her to an annoyingly perky and hyper-efficient new assistant, Holly Munro.

Meanwhile, there are reports of many new hauntings, including a house where bloody footprints are appearing, and a department store full of strange sounds and shadowy figures. But ghosts seem to be the least of Lockwood & Co.'s concerns when assassins attack during a carnival in the center of the city. Can the team get past their personal issues to save the day on all fronts, or will bad feelings attract yet more trouble?

Danger abounds, tensions escalate, and new loyalties form in this third delightfully terrifying adventure in the critically acclaimed Lockwood & Co. series.

Lockwood & Co. Series

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1) by Jonathan Stroud [PurchaseReview]
The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co. #2) by Jonathan Stroud [Purchase Review]


The trio are at the top of their game and their camaraderie has never been better, so it comes as quite a disappointment when Lucy arrives home one day to find the boys have added a new member to the team: Holly Munro. On top of dealing with the new member of the team, Lucy is struggling to come to terms with her developing powers of being able to communicate with spirits and is torn between the desire to investigate them more and in keeping herself and her team safe. In addition to all that’s going on with the group, a recent surge of supernatural activity has all the psychic agencies in London joining together in the fight, including Lockwood & Co.

My adoration for this fantastic series continues and I dread the day when the trio grows up and subsequently loses their ghost hunting abilities. The Hollow Boy is once again another solid installment that continues some fantastic character building and even adds a new character to the mix. I’ve seen a lot of readers express displeasure in Lucy’s attitude towards Holly, calling her catty and petty, and while I also originally felt disappointed in the immediate girl-hate, I could also understand it. Lucy is upset at the immediate change the house undergoes with Holly’s presence as well as the immediate closeness Lockwood shows her. She’s understandably jealous which quickly puts the brakes on any closeness the two girls could share. Jealousy, while hard to control, is alas a fact of life. Holly’s presence managed to throw a proverbial wrench in the comfort and familiarity Lucy was just beginning to feel and I don’t think it was unreasonable for her immediate response not to be “Hi, you’re a girl and I’m a girl! We’re going to be the best of friends.” It is what it is and I don’t like Lucy any less because of it.

The aspect of these novels that has been most satisfying is just how creepy they can be. Stroud’s writing is on point and because the entire novel isn’t a creep-fest the sections that do terrify really sneak up on you making them all the more effective. The descriptive detailing is enough to sufficiently get under your skin. Here’s just a taste of what I’m talking about:

‘I watched that notch of darkness.
I watched as something moved into it.
It came from the right-hand side beyond the arch, a human figure crawling on all fours. Scarcely blacker than the blackness all around, it dragged itself along on knees and elbows with a series of slow, slow, jerking movements. Now and again it advanced in swift scuttles, as a hunting spider might…’

I think it’s quite possible the word scuttle makes anything terrifying. Nothing should scuttle. *shudders*

This series is quite the underrated gem possessing a fantastic set of characters (plus a talking skull that adds a layer of comedy to this haunted tale), an intriguing alternate reality of sorts, and a subtle horror that is woven throughout the story. The ending sets up much anticipation for the next installment and I for one will be eagerly awaiting it.

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Ominous October – Welcome to Dead House (Goosebumps #1) by R.L. Stine

October 23, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Ominous October, Read in 2015, YA 4 Comments

Ominous October – Welcome to Dead House (Goosebumps #1) by R.L. StineWelcome to Dead House by R.L. Stine
Series: Goosebumps #1
Published by Scholastic on July 1992
Pages: 123
Genres: Ghosties, Horror
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Party Games: A Fear Street Novel

three-stars

Enter at your own Risk: The first ever Goosebumps.
Now with creepy bonus features!

11-year-old Josh and 12-year-old Amanda just moved into the oldest and weirdest house on the block--the two siblings think it might even be haunted! But of course, their parents don't believe them. You'll get used to it, they say. Go out and make some new friends.
But the creepy kids are not like anyone Josh and Amanda have ever met before. And when they take a shortcut through the cemetery one night, Josh and Amanda learn why.

Guess what time it is, guys? Time for a walk down memory lane. It’s October so naturally I’ve been immersing myself in all things scary and one night I was reminiscing about where my love of horror began and I started thinking about revisiting Goosebumps. Well, it happened. First off, do you realize the first Goosebumps came out in 1992?

No, it was not, thus making me feel officially fucking ancient I’ll tell you what. I love the idea of re-reading my childhood favorites, but what happens if its horrible? Your entire childhood becomes a lie, that’s what. But I had to take a chance, even though I took a chance on Stine last Ominous October and it didn’t exactly pay off so instead of reading his newer stuff I decided to go back to the very beginning. And you know what? It wasn’t bad at all.

“It’s really dead around here, huh?”
He chuckled. “Yeah. I guess you could say that.”

Welcome to Dead House is the very first in the original Goosebumps series (I don’t care what Amazon says trying to list this as #13 and Night of the Living Dummy as #1). It has all the makings of what scared me the most as a child and what still manages to freak me out still to this day: ghosts and things that go bump in the night. Josh and Amanda have just moved to a new town after their father received an old house from the will of a great-Uncle he never even knew existed. It’s a dark, creepy, and cold house but it’s huge and is a fantastic opportunity for their family. The kids aren’t sold. Amanda is constantly seeing things but keeps convincing herself that her mind is playing tricks on her. Her curtains move as if caught in a breeze even with the window closed and she hears footsteps in the hallway at night. But all of that is just her imagination running wild, right?

I can’t recall how long it took me to read these when I was a kid, but I ended up finishing this in a single night. It’s more of a novella for the mature reader, but it was certainly fun. While it didn’t exactly give me goosebumps because I’ve certainly read far scarier at this point in my life, it still managed to put a smile on my face taking that walk down memory lane and seeing once again what I loved so much about these when I was a kid.

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Book Review – Blood and Salt (Blood and Salt #1) by Kim Liggett

September 24, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA 4 Comments

I received this book free from First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – Blood and Salt (Blood and Salt #1) by Kim LiggettBlood and Salt by Kim Liggett
Series: Blood and Salt #1
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on September 22nd 2015
Pages: 352
Genres: Horror, Romance
Format: eARC
Source: First to Read Program
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one-star

Romeo and Juliet meets Children of the Corn in this one-of-a-kind romantic horror

“When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in—blood and salt.”

These are the last words Ash Larkin hears before her mother returns to the spiritual commune she escaped long ago. But when Ash follows her to Quivira, Kansas, something sinister and ancient waits among the rustling cornstalks of this village lost to time.

Ash is plagued by memories of her ancestor, Katia, which harken back to the town’s history of unrequited love and murder, alchemy and immortality. Charming traditions soon give way to a string of gruesome deaths, and Ash feels drawn to Dane, a forbidden boy with secrets of his own.

As the community prepares for a ceremony five hundred years in the making, Ash must fight not only to save her mother, but herself—and discover the truth about Quivira before it’s too late. Before she’s all in—blood and salt.

Blood and Salt was easily my most anticipated YA horror of the year. Alas, I’m slowly losing faith that I’ll ever find something that is worthwhile. This isn’t to say that there isn’t enjoyment to be found, I’m just clearly not the targeted reader. Considering horror is one of my favorite genres you would think there wouldn’t be a difference but the way the YA versions always seem to be written just doesn’t do it for me. I was leery about this one from the get go, because honestly? Romeo and Juliet meets Children of the Corn?

There’s something I find thoroughly compelling about cults. How did they begin? How were people allured into this following? I read another cult-ish YA novel earlier this year that did a superb job at illustrating it all and at the same time leaving you completely unsettled; reading about cults should leave you feeling like that. Alas, the cult in Blood and Salt lacked the unsettling feeling, but rather had so many plot holes in the logistics of it all that I was more or less just confused.

Ashlyn and her twin brother Rhys have been raised by their mother who grew up in a cult in the middle of the corn fields in Kansas. The cult centers around the belief that their ancestor, Katia, has been waiting for centuries to be reunited with her lover who was murdered. The only thing she is waiting for are appropriate “vessels” for her and her lovers’ souls to be able to use to finally be together. The rest of the followers believe that once this happens, Katia will share her immortality with them. When Ashlyn and Rhys find their mother has disappeared one day, they think that she was meant to be Katia’s vessel, and they set off to the corn fields of Kansas to save her. Immortality, a hint of alchemy, and cannibalistic corn (or cornnibalism as Dani so eloquently put it) could have been a most excellent story but I felt that too many aspects of this story were left tragically unexplained.

From the very start, this book requires quite a bit of suspension of disbelief. Ash and Rhys have both grown up in the modern day, but Ash is always seeing this random dead girl that hangs from a rope by her ankles and who coincidentally seems to look exactly like her. There’s little to no explanation for this, but her mother knows and occasionally gives her a new tattoo that is meant to protect her. When Ashlyn receives the voicemail from her mother saying that she’s gone to “walk the corn” one final time, the twins set out to Kansas immediately, driving the twenty hours straight to get there. Ash’s immediate acceptance of this cult and their belief systems was a bit far fetched and upon their arrival begins having visions of Katia that only succeed in confusing the story even more. There’s also her immediate attraction (by his scent, no less) to an individual that she’s immediately told she can’t be with, that he’s of mixed bloodlines and that sort of thing just isn’t allowed. So naturally she’s obsessed with him. Because apparently he smells that good.

Of course he’s gorgeous too.

‘…he was the kind of beautiful that made me think I might still be hallucinating.’

Followed shortly by:

‘I’d never felt such a strong physical attraction to anyone.
Even if it was just for a fleeting moment, he seemed to make all my problems disappear. I wanted to bottle that feeling and carry it around in my pocket. The thought of kidnapping him crossed my mind.’

I really should have called it a day.

It only continued.

‘He coaxed the bottle away from me and took a deep swig. […]
I snatched it back and took another drink, not because I wanted more, but because his lips had just touched the bottle.’

‘Firelight was kind to just about everyone, but what it did to Dane’s face was… criminal.’

‘For a moment, I wondered if I’d imagined our kiss last night, but he glanced down at my lips like he owned them.’

While all this is going on, she’s practically forgotten all about her prior concerns for her mother, the memory flashes continue to complicate everything, and she continues to fall deeply in love within the span of about 3 days. The out of nowhere plot development for her brothers side of the story didn’t help anything either. Given the fact that this is the first in a series, I would have hoped for a bit more character development and definitely more relationship development, but the lack of both left this one a most befuddling read for me. The ending lacked real resolution, just ending with the intent to bring readers back for the next installment but unfortunately the first installment didn’t hook me enough to be invested in seeking out the sequel.

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Book Review – Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien

September 18, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA 2 Comments

Book Review – Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’BrienZ for Zachariah by Robert C. O'Brien
Published by Simon Pulse on October 25th 1976
Pages: 249
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
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two-stars

Is anyone out there?

Ann Burden is sixteen years old and completely alone. The world as she once knew it is gone, ravaged by a nuclear war that has taken everyone from her. For the past year, she has lived in a remote valley with no evidence of any other survivors.

But the smoke from a distant campfire shatters Ann's solitude. Someone else is still alive and making his way toward the valley. Who is this man? What does he want? Can he be trusted? Both excited and terrified, Ann soon realizes there may be worse things than being the last person on Earth.

Yeah. That’s how this one is going to go. The expectations were high with this one. I first discovered this book when I found out it was being made into a movie so of course I was all about getting the book read first. Especially when I realized this author also wrote one of my favorites of all time: The Secret of Nimh. Naturally I couldn’t find a copy anywhere but FINALLY! Some luck blew my way and my library came through. I started it immediately. I finished it within 24 hours. And now I’m sad.

First off, a few things you need to know. 1. This is a post-apocalyptic novel with not a whole lot of post-apocalyptic action going on. 2. If you picked this up based on the movie trailer, you’re going to be disappointed and/or confused because they have practically nothing in common. 3. There’s some animal cruelty that for once didn’t actually make me cry. Nah. I was enraged instead. And 4? There will be spoilers, but I’ll put them in tags.

We’re introduced to Anne who is sixteen years old and has been living on her childhood farm alone for the past year now. She resides within a valley that because of an inversion has escaped the havoc that the rest of the world has suffered. Her parents and two brothers went out searching for survivors after the nuclear war that happened that we never get any other details of besides the fact that it happened. They never returned. She’s cultivated a garden, has cows and chickens to keep from starving, and fortunately there is also a country store nearby that was pretty well stocked. Anne has done a pretty amazing job surviving all on her own but is understandably curious when she sees smoke in the sky indicative of a campfire. She watches it day after day as it gets closer and closer to her farm; closer and closer to whoever is lighting the fire to discovering her home. She retreats to a nearby cave with her dog Faro to monitor the individual and determine whether or not to let him know there’s one other survivor besides him.

John Loomis is a scientist from New York. His team was researching/developing radiation proof suits but there was only a single prototype in existence which is the only way he was able to survive the fallout from the bomb. Trudging through the remains of the Earth, he comes upon a strange sight: a green valley. After a year of walking, seeing nothing but Earth, the valley is a spectacular sight. He takes his helmet off and realizes he can breathe the air there as well. Unable to help himself, he dives into a small lake to bathe. Unfortunately, the stream that flows into that lake was still affected by radiation and he falls deathly ill.

Spoilers, ahoy! View Spoiler »

Z for Zachariah is actually an epistolary and is told via Anne’s journal entries. This style helped build Anne’s characterization  and her day to day life before her peaceful valley was encroached upon, however, this style lacked in getting a proper feel on her emotions. She talks about her family that drove away, never to be seen from again, in a very disconnected almost robotic way. Even with passages she’s written immediately after shocking things happen, I still felt a disconnect from how it seemed like someone in her position would feel. It’s a post-apocalyptic book (much like recently read Blindness) which is more a study of human behavior rather than a focus on the reasoning behind the war that caused the devastation. This is all well and good but I felt the characters were very black/white with Anne being the good, wholesome girl and Loomis being the mysterious stranger that we never learn enough about to make his actions comprehensible. One could argue that his last year of surviving alone was enough to change him, however, Anne had to work just as hard to survive. The character study could have gone a bit deeper to better understand the inner-workings of these two characters since they were the only two characters in the book.

I wanted to love this one so much but unfortunately it didn’t happen. I kept thinking that there would be some final twist but I reached the final page without it happening. The ending left me feeling very indifferent and just as emotionally disconnected as Anne. All in all, it’s not the worst post-apocalyptic book I’ve read but it’s certainly not the best.

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Early Review – We’ll Never Be Apart by Emiko Jean

September 17, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015, YA 4 Comments

I received this book free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – We’ll Never Be Apart by Emiko JeanWe'll Never Be Apart by Emiko Jean
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on October 6th 2015
Pages: 288
Genres: Mental Illness, Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
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two-stars

Murder.

Fire.

Revenge.

That’s all seventeen-year-old Alice Monroe thinks about. Committed to a mental ward at Savage Isle, Alice is haunted by memories of the fire that killed her boyfriend, Jason. A blaze her twin sister Cellie set. But when Chase, a mysterious, charismatic patient, agrees to help her seek vengeance, Alice begins to rethink everything. Writing out the story of her troubled past in a journal, she must confront hidden truths.

Is the one person she trusts only telling her half the story? Nothing is as it seems in this edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller from the debut author Emiko Jean.

‘So where does a story that ends in fire and death begin? It begins in the snow on the coldest day of the coldest winter of the last fifty years, with two girls on their sixth birthday in silent house. It begins with a body.’

Alice and Celia are twins who have had an arduous life, but fortunately they’ve had each other to get through it. After their grandfather died when they were six, they’ve bounced around to various different foster care homes, some worse than others. When Alice is seventeen years old, Celia intentionally sets a fire  that almost kills her but does kill her boyfriend, Jason. She wakes in a mental health hospital called Savage Isle to find herself recovering from burns and a definite lack of memory surrounding the incident. All Alice knows is Celia killed Jason and revenge begins to consume her thoughts.

Honestly, the summary gives it all away and if you didn’t bother to read the summary then the prologue definitely will. Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with a mystery that’s predictable because the story itself can make it all worth it, but I have a hard time becoming sympathetic towards characters and their plights when I know more than they do. Their mental stumbling, trying to uncover obvious clues becomes more obnoxious than tragic.

We’ll Never Be Apart could have been saved with some tension but I never felt a sense of urgency from Alice to uncover the mystery. She finds herself in a mental hospital being charged with a crime that she knows in her heart she didn’t commit, yet instead of attempting to work through her memories she becomes resigned to her plight and instead focuses her attention on her crush. Nevermind that her boyfriend of several years just died in a fire a few weeks ago. Becoming resigned to the situation she finds herself in would have been one thing, because can you imagine waking up in a mental hospital being blamed for something you didn’t do and being force-fed medication? That would be terrifying and I think we’d all mentally shut down to some extent, but the focus on the boy was what really ruined it for me. And all the security card stealing so that the two can carouse the halls of the hospital at night. Because that’s totally legit.

I kept reading, hoping for a twist that I maybe hadn’t foreseen. Alas, the end came, and it was less twisty and suspenseful than I had been hoping for. The resolution was also far more tidy than I would have expected given the topic. All in all, this one is far from being a terrible read, but I’ve read too many books that touch on the same topic that have just been done better.

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Early Review – The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

September 12, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015, YA 0 Comments

I received this book free from The Novl in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – The Dead House by Dawn KurtagichThe Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on September 15th 2015
Pages: 432
Genres: Horror, Mental Illness, Mystery
Format: ARC
Source: The Novl
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three-stars

The Dead House is a chilling psychological horror that will keep you guessing even after the final page, from debut author Dawn Kurtagich.

Welcome to the Dead House.

Three students: dead.

Carly Johnson: vanished without a trace.

Two decades have passed since an inferno swept through Elmbridge High, claiming the lives of three teenagers and causing one student, Carly Johnson, to disappear. The main suspect: Kaitlyn, "the girl of nowhere."

Kaitlyn's diary, discovered in the ruins of Elmbridge High, reveals the thoughts of a disturbed mind. Its charred pages tell a sinister version of events that took place that tragic night, and the girl of nowhere is caught in the center of it all. But many claim Kaitlyn doesn't exist, and in a way, she doesn't - because she is the alter ego of Carly Johnson.

Carly gets the day. Kaitlyn has the night. It's during the night that a mystery surrounding the Dead House unravels and a dark, twisted magic ruins the lives of each student that dares touch it.

Debut author Dawn Kurtagich masterfully weaves together a thrilling and terrifying story using psychiatric reports, witness testimonials, video footage, and the discovered diary - and as the mystery grows, the horrifying truth about what happened that night unfolds.

‘Some people say that night blooms. But night descends self-consciously. Night cuts slowly.’

Is it possible for two souls to inhabit a single body? By day, Carly is in control but as soon as the sun sets Kaitlyn takes over. Every day, the same pattern. The two are aware of the other’s existence, calling one another sister, writing notes back and forth to each other. When they lose their parents in a car accident and they are committed to a mental hospital after being diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, Kaitlyn doesn’t handle this very well. The counselor sees her as the “wrong” identity, the one that needs to be dealt with and gotten rid of. Kaitlyn begins hearing voices, seeing a frightening girl that she’s not sure is real or simply a figment of her imagination, and nightmares of a house of terror. Kaitlyn has to deduct exactly what is fact and what is fiction in order to find out the truth about Carly and of herself.

Flash forward to two decades later and we learn that a tragic fire took place at Carly’s school killing several students with Carly herself being declared missing. Not until Kaitlyn’s diary is uncovered do we learn of what really caused the fire and what took place that disastrous day. It uncovers much more than a simple psychological mystery; there is dark magic and murder and horror. The story unfolds through a series of e-mails, medical transcripts, diary entries, and notes between the duo. Epistolary stories are a favorite of mine, giving me the feel that I’m sorting through documents attempting to uncover the mystery and solve the investigation and The Dead House definitely gave me that feel. The writing was terrific and while it didn’t necessarily scare (few stories do these days though) several passages did leave my skin crawling.

‘I am lucky to be here. The Dead House descended like music curdling into time, and as it did I grew wet and cold, and it was dark and I was so alone… It had devoured me.’

While I loved the feel of this novel I did feel it bit off more than it could chew adding a few too many side stories that weren’t ultimately necessary to the already tangled mystery and the strangeness of the dark magic inclusion that never felt fully fleshed out. The romance(s) were equally trivial putting a melodramatic spin on things that definitely could have been omitted to maintain clarity and focus on the real story. What really brought this one down for me was the ending. I’m all for endings of ambiguity that leave me to make up my own mind about how things turned out, but this one ends like you ran into a dead end. There were just far too many unresolved questions and too few answers for my liking, but if you like concocting your own ending then this is the book for you. I still very much enjoyed the premise and the execution and look forward to reading more from this debut author.

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Book Review – Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4) by Sarah J. Maas

September 4, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA 2 Comments

Book Review – Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4) by Sarah J. MaasQueen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass #4
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on September 1st 2015
Pages: 656
Genres: Fantasy
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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Also by this author: A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury, A Court of Thorns and Roses

four-half-stars

Sarah J. Maas's New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series reaches new heights in this sweeping fourth volume.

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she's at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past . . .

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen's triumphant return.

Celaena's epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe. This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena's story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

Word of warning: This is a book 4 review, therefore there will be spoilers from previous installments.

‘She was the heir of fire.
She was fire, and light, and ash, and embers. She was Aelin Fireheart, and she bowed for no one and nothing, save the crown that was hers by blood and survival and triumph.’

Just to quickly summarize the devastation that Heir of Fire left us with: Celaena/Aelin is headed back to Adarlan to begin the search for the Wyrdkeys and the war against the King after leaving Rowan behind, Dorian has become enslaved by his father, Chaol has fled and thankfully took Fleetfoot on his way out (or I could have never forgiven him) and in another part of the world, Manon has been made Wing Leader. Oh such fabulously wonderful characters, it was so nice to pick their stories back up. Queen of Shadows picks right up where HoF left off and continues the same steady sort of pace that some loved and some hated. I was a big fan for the sole reason that the story was really deserving of some slow simmering. I’m all for big time action scenes, however, I feel with this series there is not only the fantasy world-building aspect that is key but there is a wide cast of characters that need sufficient time to build them as well. And there are so many intricate details that just add to the elegant complexity of this fascinating tale.

Typically, I find that when I’m reading stories that deal with multiple POVs, there’s always ones that I prefer over the others and almost always one that I just can’t stand. I can honestly say that I enjoyed them all. Aelin’s POV because we’ve seen her come into her power but now we get to see her come into her role as queen (and still with the snarky we’ve all come to expect). We get Arobynn with more of an involvement in the story and they touch on their past (and Sam, *sniff*) which seemed a long time coming after the focus on him from the prequel stories so long ago. Aelin finds a new female friend in (shocker) Lysandra and her story/addition is fantastic. But mostly I loved Manon’s because… well, WHO DOESN’T LOVE MANON. It was great getting a little behind the scenes look at Asterin’s background but we’re introduced to a new character, Elide, who plays a part in the witches story but also has an interesting tie to Aelin’s past.

‘She was a whirling cloud of death, a queen of shadows, and these men were already carrion.’

There were a couple minuscule issues I had though. 1. Chaol continues to look down his nose in regards to the things that Aelin has done and continues to do. It got irritating after a while because, come on, craziness is happening and desperate times call for desperate measures and all that jazz. His opinions caused him to become a distant character in this installment and we honestly didn’t see him as much as I’d like. I wanted them to settle their differences and get on with it. 2. The villain. I’m a sucker for back stories on the villain and while the King was doing some pretty horrifying things, there was clearly an interesting/crazy story there regarding how he got to this point and why and how and why. I would have liked to see this delved into during his brief POV sections to build him up as a character like any other rather than a mini info-dump. 3. I would have also loved more of Kaltain’s back story as well because wow did her role ever get crazy.

The plot itself was incredibly detailed but still actually made forward progress, which I’ve found can sometimes be an issue with fantasy novels. There were slower moments, but there some impressive action scenes that helped balance it out. What I loved most were the small connections that pop up, small references that connect the previous installments and mostly the prequel are such a joy to see when they all come full circle.

The romance was subtle and definitely never made any attempts to high-jack the story, hallelujah. But oh man, the TENSION. It never amounted to much, which did make my eye go a little twitchy but all I gotta say is View Spoiler »

“…if it was death separating us… I would find you. I don’t care how many rules it would break. Even if I had to get all three keys myself and open a gate, I would find you again. Always.”

I appreciated the small amount of resolution we’re given, despite the fact that more disaster is inevitable since this is only installment 4 of 6. But still, gotta love a story with a solid ending rather than an ending that makes you pull your hair out when you realize how long you have to wait for the next one. Throne of Glass is easily one of my all-time favorite series with an amazing cast of characters and an incredibly thrilling fantasy world.

“Let’s go rattle the stars.”

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