Saturday, April 12, 2014

Messenger

Messenger
by Lois Lowry


Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Dystopian Fiction

Synopsis:  He carried messages for [the people].  It was his job.  He thought that when it came time to be assigned his true name, Messenger would be the choice.  He liked the sound of it and looked forward to taking that title.

But this evening Matty was not carrying or collecting a message...He headed to a clearing he knew of, a place that lay just beyond a thick stand of bristly pines...He needed privacy for this thing he was discovering about himself: a place to test it in secret, to weigh his own fear for what it meant.

Six years earlier, Matty had come to Village as a scrappy and devious little boy.  Back then, he liked to call himself "the Fiercest of the Fierce," but since that time, Matty had grown almost into a man under the care of Seer, a blind man whose special sight had earned him the name.  Now Matty hopes that he will soon be given his true name, and he hopes it will be Messenger. But strange changes are taking place in Village.  Once a utopian community that prided itself on its welcome to newcomers, Village will soon be closed to all outsiders.  As one of the only people able to safely travel through the dangerous Forest, Matty must deliver the message of Village's closing and try to convince Seer's daughter, Kira, to return with him before it's too late.  But Forest has grown hostile to Matty too, and he must risk everything to fight his way through it, armed only with an emerging power he cannot yet explain or understand.
From the book jacket

Review:  This book started out slowly.  It took me a while to become interested in the storyline.  Matty is a character who we met in Gathering Blue so there is a connect between this book and the last book.  I liked the community that Matty lived in but there just wasn't enough of a plot.  Nothing really happened in this book.  There was some action at the very end but that was about it.  At least I didn't end this book wanting to know more.  I'm satisfied by how this book ended.

Rating: 2 1/2 stars

To read the review of The Giver, click here.
To read the review of Gathering Blue, click here.

Weedflower

Weedflower
by Cynthia Kadohata


Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

Synopsis:  Twelve-year old Sumiko's life can be divided into two parts: before Pearl Harbor, and after.  Before the bombing, although she was lonely, she was used to being the only Japanese-American in her class and she always had her family to comfort her.

When the government forces all of the Japanese-Americans living in California into internment camps, Sumiko soon discovers that the Japanese are just as unwanted on the Mohave reservation they have been shipped to as they were at home.  But then she meets a young Mohave boy, who, after initial resentment, becomes her first real friend.  Together, they navigate the racial and political challenges of the times, and both help each other understand the true meaning of friendship.
From the back of the book

Review:  It's nice that the author gives young adults exposure to the Japanese internment camps and what happened in our country during WWII because most books are about what was going on in Europe.  Sumiko's story is well told and honest.  We understand her family's fear after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the waiting game of when they were going to be taken away from California.  We understand the heartache of selling off their goods and watching their home disappear as they leave to be taken to a camp.  We understand Sumiko's lethargy as she is in camp and the feeling of hopelessness and discontentment.  This book is written for a younger audience.  I felt like the ending was fairly abrupt and I would have liked to know more about what happened to Sumiko and her family.

Rating:  3 1/2 stars

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Coda

Coda
by Emma Trevayne


Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Dystopian Fiction

Synopsis:  Deep in an abandoned basement, Anthem signs of truth and freedom with his illegal underground band.  Yet on the surface and under watchful eyes, Anthem is unable to resist the call of the Corporation's addictive, mind-altering music tracks, even as he knows they are used to control him and his fellow citizens.

When tragedy strikes close to home, Anthem realizes that defying the Corp comes at a deadly price...and the stakes of preventing his brother and sister from being claimed by the government drug are worth every heart-pounding second.  The key to the revolution might lie with the girl Anthem loves, but will he trust her enough to let her join the fight?
from the back of the book

Review: This book was slow to start but it finally picked up.  I had trouble understanding some parts and at times I was unclear as to what happened.  All of a sudden I would realize that something happened but I didn't remember reading about it!  Perhaps I wasn't reading carefully enough or perhaps things weren't explained well enough.  The writing wasn't quite fluent enough for me.  The story was intriguing with how citizens were controlled by music and music was a drug that they were addicted to.  But there was something about this story that wasn't gripping enough.  There wasn't a lot of action until about two thirds of the way through the book.  This book is certainly different that a lot of the dystopian fiction books in regards to what the world looks like.  This is supposed to be part of a series and I may read more but this book's end left me content.  I wasn't left hanging which I am thankful for.  

Rating: 3 1/2 stars

Monday, March 31, 2014

Gathering Blue

Gathering Blue
by Lois Lowry


Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Dystopian Fiction

Synopsis:  "Mother?"

There was no reply.  She hadn't expected on.  Her mother had been dead, now, for four days, and Kira could tell that the last of the spirit was drifting away...Now she was all alone.

Left orphaned and physically flawed in a civilization that shuns and discards the weak, Kira faces a frighteningly uncertain future.  Her neighbors are hostile and no one but a small boy offers to help.

When she is summoned to judgement by The Council of Guardians, Kira prepares to fight for her life.  But the Council, to her surprise, has plans for her.  Blessed with an almost magical talent that keeps her alive, the young girl faces new responsibilities and a set of mysteries deep within the only world she has ever know.  On her quest for truth, Kira discovers things that will change her life and world forever.
From the book jacket

Review:  First off, I don't see how this is a sequel to The Giver.  It has nothing to do with it.  It's a completely different village/community.  There is a totally different story line.  If you are expecting to know more about what happens to Jonas,  you will be sorely disappointed.  If you look at this book as a stand alone book, it's a decent book.  I didn't think this book was as thought provoking. I figured out the twist well before the main character did (I had to remind myself that this a young adult-or even younger audience book than that).  There was a lot of description in this book and not a lot of action.  The end left me wanting more and I sure hope that the next book in The Giver series tells me more about this community.

Rating:  3 stars

To read the review of The Giver, click here.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Well-Tempered Heart

A Well-Tempered Heart
by Jan-Phillip Sendker


Genre: Fiction

Synopsis: Almost ten years have passed since Julia Win came back from Burma, her father's native country.  Though she is a successful Manhattan lawyer, her career and wealth leave her longing for more.  When her personal life falls apart, she finds herself at a crossroads.

One day, in the middle of an important business meeting, she hears a stranger's voice in her head that causes her to leave the office without explanation.  In the following days, her crisis only deepens.  Not only does the female voice refuse to disappear, but it starts to ask questions Julia has been trying to avoid.

Why do you live alone?  To whom do you feel close?  What do you want in life?

Interwoven with Julia's story is that of a Burmese woman named Nu Nu who finds her world turned upside down when Burma goes to war and calls on her young sons to be child soldiers.  This spirited sequel, like The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, explores the most inspiring and passionate terrain: the human heart.
From the book jacket

Review:  I was surprised to see this book at the library as I wasn't aware that there was a sequel and I didn't feel that The Art of Hearing Heartbeats needed a sequel. But since I loved the first book so much I had to read this one.  The beginning was very slow and strange-it was all about how Julia started hearing a voice.  The story didn't pick up until she arrived in Burma and met with the woman who knew Nu Nu's story.  I waited for the magic of the first book to sweep me away but it never really did.  The story of Nu Nu was not as magical nor as beautiful as the story in the first book.  In fact, it wasn't uplifting at all.  Her story made me sad and made me not like Nu Nu.  I also had a hard time with Julia because I felt like she struggled a lot more in this book and was kind of annoying.  It was still a good book but not as amazing as the first book.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars

To read my review of The Heart of Hearing Heartbeats, click here.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Reconstructing Amelia

Reconstructing Amelia
by Kimberly McCreight


Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Synopsis:  When Kate, single mother and law firm partner, gets an urgent phone call summoning her to her daughter's exclusive private school, she's shocked.  Amelia has been suspended for cheating, something that would be completely out of character for her over-achieving, well-behaved daughter.  Kate rushes to Grace Hall, but what she finds when she arrives is beyond comprehension.  Her daughter Amelia is dead. 
 Despondent over having bee caught cheating, Amelia has jumped from the school's roof in an act of impulsive suicide.  At least that's the story Grace Hall and the police tell Kate. 

In a state of shock and overcome by grief, Kate tries to come to grips with this life-shattering news.  Then she gets an anonymous text: Amelia didn't jump.  The moment she sees the message, Kate knows in her heart it's true.  Clearly Amelia had secrets, and a life Kate knew nothing about.  Wracked by guilt, Kate is determined to find out what those secrets were and who could have hated her daughter enough to kill.  She searches through Amelia's e-mails, texts, and Facebook updates, piecing together the last troubled days of her daughter's life.  

Reconstruction Amelia's a stunning debut page-turner that brilliantly explorers the secret world of teenagers, their clandestine first loves, hidden friendships, and the dangerous cruelty that can spill over into acts of terrible betrayal.
From the ebok

Review:  I could NOT put this book down-I read it in one day and stayed up way too late!  This book was fast paced and engaging.  I tried to figure out the whole book what happened to Amelia and who would have hated her enough to push her.  I would think one person but then the author would make me believe someone else was guilty.  More and more secrets were revealed and I had to keep reading.  This book really hits on angst of high school and the cruelty that can come along with it.  There were curse words and discussion (and some description) of intimate moments (not too graphic) that could make the book slightly uncomfortable especially knowing that we are talking about high school students as young as sophomores.  I was disgusted by what some of the high school students did but I had to view this as a book and nothing else (or else I would have been more disturbed).  Towards the end, pieces start to get put together and some of them just didn't seem to fit together well.  We figured out character motivation at the end but some of them seemed to not make too much sense to me (unless I just didn't follow because it was late by the time I finished the book!)  Some things seemed superfluous.  The end was a little anti-climactic as well. But overall it was a really good, fast enjoyable read that I would recommend when you are in the mood for a thriller.  

Rating:  4 stars

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Scorch Trials

The Scorch Trials
by James Dashner


Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Dystopian Fiction

Synopsis:  Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end.  No more puzzles.  No more variables.  And no more running.  Thomas was sure that escape meant he and the Gladers would get their lives back.  But no one really knew what sort of life they were going back to.

In the Maze, life was easy.  They had food, and shelter, and safety...until Teresa triggered the end.  In the world outside the Maze, however, the end was triggered long ago.

Burned by sun flares and baked by a new, brutal climate, the earth is a wasteland.  Government has disintegrated-and with it, order-and now Cranks, people covered in festering wounds and driven to murderous insanity by the infectious disease known as the Flare, roam the crumbling cities hunting for their next victim...and meal.

The Gladers are far from done running.  Instead of freedom, they find themselves faced with another trial.  They must cross the Scorch, the most burned-out section of the world, and arrive at a safe haven in two weeks.  And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.

Thomas can only wonder-does he hold the secret of freedom somewhere in his mind?  Or will he forever be at the mercy of WICKED?
From the book jacket

Review:  I really enjoyed this book as much as I enjoyed the first book.  We get answers to questions and we start to understand a bit more about the society who created these trials and why these children are participating.  But you won't have all your questions answered-there are plenty of unanswered questions and I have been told that most are answered in the third book.  This book is full of action, suspense and drama and is quite the page turner.  There are some disturbing events as the story is fantasy and set in a futuristic world where terrible things have happened.  You have to be prepared for that going into the book.  There was a twist that I wasn't expecting and I didn't like because it changed my opinion of one of the characters whom I had previously really liked.  I am looking forward to seeing where the series goes next.

Rating: 4 stars

To see my review of The Maze Runner, click here.