Posted on Jan 13th, 2014 by audra
In these categories Review, Society's Bookshelf

Book Title: The Spectacular Now
Author: Tim Tharp
Release Date: October 20, 2008
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Source: Purchased

SUTTER KEELY. HE’S the guy you want at your party. He’ll get everyone dancing. He’ ll get everyone in your parents’ pool. Okay, so he’s not exactly a shining academic star. He has no plans for college and will probably end up folding men’s shirts for a living. But there are plenty of ladies in town, and with the help of Dean Martin and Seagram’s V.O., life’s pretty fabuloso, actually.

Until the morning he wakes up on a random front lawn, and he meets Aimee. Aimee’s clueless. Aimee is a social disaster. Aimee needs help, and it’s up to the Sutterman to show Aimee a splendiferous time and then let her go forth and prosper. But Aimee’s not like other girls, and before long he’s in way over his head. For the first time in his life, he has the power to make a difference in someone else’s life—or ruin it forever.

I have a spectacularly love hate relationship with this book. This is a heavy hitting book, dealing with a lot of issues that any young kind shouldn’t shoulder. They shouldn’t have to face issues such as alcohol abuse, absent parents, abusive parents and more but the very sad and heartbreaking reality is there are a lot of kids that do. For this reason, I really love when I come across a book that to me is so perfectly set up to tackle these issues. But then there are a few things that I disliked, one issue I would say I down right hated.

There was really only one issue I had with The Spectacular Now, and I had such an issue with it that I put the book down and didn’t want to keep reading it. What was it? The treatment of the fat girls in the book was flat out deplorable to me. Sutter describes his ex-girlfriend as “my beautiful fat girlfriend” and goes on to say “I don’t use the word fat in a negative way. The fashion magazine girls are dried-up skeletons next to her. She has immaculate proportions. It’s like if you took Marilyn Monroe and pumped up her curves three sizes with an air hose.” So, basically he is describing a proportionately curvy gal. Sutter later begins to describe Amy’s friend Krystal Krittenbrink and it’s a whole other story. “The fact is she’s very much a non-beautiful fat girl. Whereas Cassidy’s voluptuous with grand monumental curves, Krystal Krittenbrink is what you’d call amorphous—a blob. She has a very little face in the middle of a big pink head. Her mouth alone is about the size of a dime.” Those fifty words had me practically throwing my book across the room. I became so bothered not just because I’m overweight myself, but because I had to deal with assholes like Sutter Keely practically all my life. I’ve been battling people that dismiss me and find me unworthy because of my size since I can practically remember. So, to read Sutter’s feelings towards a girl trying to protect her friend really touched a nerve in me.

 

After a couple of days I came back to thinking about this because honestly this book was still pissing me off and I couldn’t seem to get past it. It was then that I realized that it really just shows that Tharp created a great hateable character. Sutter can be an insensitive asshole, and that is exactly what an insensitive, superficial asshole would think about someone. Removing myself from the story helped me progress in finishing the book, but it still left a really bad taste in my mouth that I couldn’t get rid of. I couldn’t help but picture younger girls such as I was, really struggling with their weight, with acceptance from their peers and especially boys reading this. I can see how all of their issues could quickly become magnified and triggering to them, much as it did to me.

I remained angry at Sutter for the duration of the book for his destructive behaviors and the fact that he was bringing Aimee down with him. On one hand, I can’t say he didn’t help her overcome some of her insecurities and shortcomings in life, but it wasn’t without a price. She became stronger and more independent, putting her foot down when she needed to finally stand up for herself. With these strengths came a lot of weaknesses that I think outweigh the good. I think Aimee lost a bit of herself, which is what I’m sure any non-popular kid would do when they are suddenly given the attention of a popular life of the party type of kid. You can only imagine how I felt when she starts in on the fat insults. I nearly lost all respect for her as a character, but was able to rethink things to take her frame of mind into consideration making me all the angrier with Sutter.

Sutter has a lot against him, and it left me wondering if he would follow his father’s footsteps. Tharp crafted a spectacular world around him and I’m glad this book has found recognition in the literary world and now also its film version is getting acclaim as well. I personally saw the movie before reading the book and I think that helped me in accepting the flaws I found in the book.

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Posted on Jan 9th, 2014 by audra
In these categories Review, Society's Bookshelf

Book Title: The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond
Author: Brenda Woods
Release Date: January 9, 2014
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Source: Publisher

Coretta Scott King Honor winner Brenda Woods’ moving, uplifting story of a girl finally meeting the African American side of her family explores racism and how it feels to be biracial, and celebrates families of all kinds.

Violet is a smart, funny, brown-eyed, brown-haired girl in a family of blonds. Her mom is white, and her dad, who died before she was born, was black. She attends a mostly white school where she sometimes feels like a brown leaf on a pile of snow. She’s tired of people asking if she’s adopted. Now that Violet’s eleven, she decides it’s time to learn about her African American heritage. And despite getting off to a rocky start trying to reclaim her dad’s side of the family, she can feel her confidence growing as the puzzle pieces of her life finally start coming together. Readers will cheer for Violet, sharing her joy as she discovers her roots.

The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond is a darling story that you can’t help but fall in love with. Violet Diamond is biracial, born to a white mother and a black father. To make things a bit more complicated, she has an older sister who has a white father and Violet’s father died in a car crash when her mother was pregnant. Violet never knew her father’s side of the family, so when she over hears her mother talking about her paternal grandfather, she presses for details until she’s finally wrangled a surprise chance to meet her.

There were several things I loved about the story. First, Violet was just the cutest, most curious and adorable main character in a middle grade book I’ve read in a long time. Woods was able to articulate her profound feelings so well. A lot of people do not know what it’s like to feel like an outsider in our own family, and Violet’s journey to reclaim a bit of her father in her life was a great journey to read. I’m also biased but I absolutely love stories set in the Seattle area. This story truly could have worked for nearly any geographic location, but it was great to be able to recognize local landmarks- I really love getting to read stories like this.

Some parts of this book felt rather forced, which made for uncomfortable reading passages. For example, Violet’s best friend has Greek heritage, and while this set up a contrasting feeling to Violet’s family in where their Greek family knew where they came from, shared similar experiences and were able to connect with their heritage it felt forced. At times it came across too purposeful, almost to really spotlight the differences. Which can be okay and perhaps middle grade readers won’t pick up on this.

Getting to experience Violet’s emerging relationship with her Grandmother was heartbreaking. You could really feel both of their grief over the lost man in their lives, but seeing it through the Grandmother was tough. A lot of the experiences they go through together from church, to family dinners was great, but also came across a little over the top.

Overall The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond was a wonderful read that I would recommend to readers that enjoy middle grade books. This book would be a great read for not only biracial kids, but also kids that don’t live in a traditional household, or someone who would want to read a book that features non-traditional households and race issues.

Order: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|IndieBound

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Posted on Jan 8th, 2014 by audra
In these categories Review, Society's Bookshelf

Book Title: No One Else Can Have You
Author: Kathleen Hale
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Publisher

Small towns are nothing if not friendly. Friendship, Wisconsin (population: 688) is no different. Around here, everyone wears a smile. And no one ever locks their doors. Until, that is, high school sweetheart Ruth Fried is found murdered. Strung up like a scarecrow in the middle of a cornfield.

Unfortunately, Friendship’s police are more adept at looking for lost pets than catching killers. So Ruth’s best friend, Kippy Bushman, armed with only her tenacious Midwestern spirit and Ruth’s secret diary (which Ruth’s mother had asked her to read in order to redact any, you know, sex parts), sets out to find the murderer. But in a quiet town like Friendship—where no one is a suspect—anyone could be the killer.

No One Else Can Have You is an eerie tale that left me creeped out beyond belief. Kippy’s best friend Ruth was found not just dead but brutally disfigured and placed like a scarecrow in a cornfield. After Ruth’s brother sets a bug in her ear that the real killer may be out there, she hits the ground running determined to help solve the crime.

Kippy seemed a bit stunted in her age, perhaps due to the passing of her mother but it makes her come across as immature and a lot younger than she actually is. Throughout the book we see glimpses of how her and her father were left to cope. They both went through a difficult time, and Kippy’s coping mechanism caused a bit of problems for her, some which resurface after Ruth is murdered. At times, this gave the book a very comical feel. Kippy’s relationships with the grieving townspeople, her father, neighbor and the local police is quirky and entertaining despite the dark nature of the book.

I was surprised to see a young adult book with the themes explored in No One Else Can Have You. It reminded me a lot of the Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell and while a lot of the descriptions were toned down, I would be wary having anyone too young read this.

Some of the interactions between characters came off really awkward and uncomfortable. Especially every scene involving the recovery group Kippy revisits. Ruth’s mother was also a peach but I really loved that she gave Ruth’s diary to Kippy. That added an extra layer to the story that was really quite entertaining and a bit taboo. It’s always interesting to see someone’s unfiltered life views especially through a diary. I can only imagine what my high school friends might have said about me!

No One Else Can Have You really held my attention and threw me for a bit of a winger with that ending. I definitely recommend this book for readers that can handle dark subject matter, but if you do you will love this one!

Order: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|IndieBound

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Posted on Jan 7th, 2014 by audra
In these categories Review, Society's Bookshelf

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Book Title: Damselfly
Author: Jennie Bates Bozic
Release Date: November 11, 2013
Source: Publisher

In 2065, the Lilliput Project created Lina – the first six-inch-tall winged girl – as the solution to a worldwide energy and food crisis. Isolated in a compound amidst the forests of Denmark, Lina has grown up aware of only one purpose: learn how to survive in a world filled with hawks, bumblebees, and loneliness. However, on the eve of her sixteenth birthday, she discovers that she’s not the only teenager her size. Six ‘Toms’ were created shortly after Lina, and now her creators need to prove to the world that tiny people are the next logical step in human evolution. In other words, they need to prove that reproduction is possible.

Um. No thanks. Lina’s already fallen in love with a boy she met online named Jack. Only he has no idea that thumbelina1847 could literally fit inside his heart.

When her creators threaten to hurt Jack unless she chooses a husband from among the ‘Toms’, Lina agrees to star in a reality TV series. Once the episodes begin to air, the secret of her size is out. Cut off from any contact with the outside world, Lina assumes Jack is no longer interested. After all, what guy would want to date a girl he can’t even kiss?

Slowly, very slowly, she befriends the six young men who see her as their only ticket to happiness. Perhaps she can make just one guy’s dream of love and companionship come true. But her creators have a few more twists in store for her that she never thought possible.

She’s not the only one playing to the cameras.

Damselfly is a darling reimagining of the classic Thumbelina Story. In Damselfly we meet Lina, part of the Liliput project. She’s part of an exciting initiative where she thinks she will eventually get to grow up and leave. Unfortunately, the scientists working on the project are working under different motives. While she spends her time training and testing, she also gets to retreat to her house nestled in a tree filled with wonderful furnishings that are just her size.

To give her a bit of a break, one of her trainers managed to sneak Lina a computer which she’s been using to communicate with her online boyfriend Jack. The author manages to navigate a lot of the world building and technical explanations of the workings of these possibilities swimmingly and made this an enjoyable read.

I really loved the diversity of Jack, a Native American who lives on a reservation. I can’t think of a book I’ve read other than Twilight that featured a Native American character, and the author did a great job realistically portraying life on a reservation except for one thing. I was a left slightly confused as to how his family couldn’t afford heating and other basic needs yet had a computer with internet access. Maybe in 2065 every family is given a computer with internet access.

I was in love with Damselfly until I just wasn’t any longer. It was a cute story, but once the Tom’s were introduced I felt the story started to fly by the seat of its pants and went into a really weird direction. The reality show plotline really pulled me out of the story and left me wanting to see more of what Lina’s life was like before all that happened. What was her life like growing up? I’d love to see that explored a bit more than it was.

Overall Damselfly was a cute story that reminded me of Jessica Khoury’s Origin, and I really enjoyed it! I don’t know if I would read a sequel,  but the world that Jennie built really stuck with me and makes me want to explore it more.

Order: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|IndieBound|Smashwords

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About the Author

I’m a visual effects artist for film and television by day, and at night I don my author cape and pen stories for the YA crowd. I love a good fairy tale, especially if there’s a creepy twist, so that’s what I write.I met my husband in the World of Warcraft and we live in Los Angeles with our cat. We spend our time playing video games, reading, hiking, sweeping up cat hair, and cursing the terrible traffic.

I have a bachelor’s degree in Religion and Philosophy from Hillsdale College, and some of my past jobs have included: swimming lessons teacher, lifeguard, furniture salesperson, barista, and loan officer. I was especially terrible at the loan officer bit and that’s what prompted me to make a major change and go off to Canada to get a diploma in 3D Animation and Visual Effects. After that, I moved to Los Angeles by myself and roomed with two crazy sisters I found on Craigslist. But that’s another tale.

You can find her online: website|twitter

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Posted on Dec 22nd, 2013 by audra
In these categories Review, Society's Bookshelf

Book Title: A Really Awesome Mess
Author: Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin
Release Date: July 23, 2013
Publisher: Egmont USA
Source: Publisher

A hint of Recovery Road, a sample of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and a cut of Juno. A Really Awesome Mess is a laugh-out-loud, gut-wrenching/heart-warming story of two teenagers struggling to find love and themselves.

Two teenagers. Two very bumpy roads taken that lead to Heartland Academy.
Justin was just having fun, but when his dad walked in on him with a girl in a very compromising position, Justin’s summer took a quick turn for the worse. His parents’ divorce put Justin on rocky mental ground, and after a handful of Tylenol lands him in the hospital, he has really hit rock bottom.

Emmy never felt like part of her family. She was adopted from China. Her parents and sister tower over her and look like they came out of a Ralph Lauren catalog– and Emmy definitely doesn’t. After a scandalous photo of Emmy leads to vicious rumors around school, she threatens the boy who started it all on Facebook.

Justin and Emmy arrive at Heartland Academy, a reform school that will force them to deal with their issues, damaged souls with little patience for authority. But along the way they will find a ragtag group of teens who are just as broken, stubborn, and full of sarcasm as themselves. In the end, they might even call each other friends.
A funny, sad, and remarkable story, A Really Awesome Mess is a journey of friendship and self-discovery that teen readers will surely sign up for.

A Really Awesome Mess is one heck of a young adult book. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but loved the comparison to Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist so I looked forward to getting to read this. Heartland Academy is a reform school of sorts for teenagers that are in trouble. Of course the kids being sent here have a plethora of issues that need to be worked through, but they think there’s been a mistake- that they belong back at home with their friends and family.

Justin and Emma are no exception. Justin’s in after getting caught in a compromising situation with a girl he had just met, and Emma is in for what seems to be online bullying. Of course, nothing is ever what it seems, especially in places like Heartland Academy.

A Really Awesome Mess was a mixture of everything I could have asked for in a book. I went through waves of emotion- everything from fits of laughter, sorrow, and even a bit of guilt. The characters are loveable and hateable and everything in between. This book picks up a lot of heavy topics, but I really loved the issues Emma brought to the table as an adopted Asian girl in a white family.

This book reminded me a lot of It’s Kind of a Funny Story and brings deep teen issues to the surface in an engaging manner.

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Posted on Dec 20th, 2013 by audra
In these categories Review, Society's Bookshelf

Book Title: Vicious
Author: V.E. Schwab
Release Date: September 24, 2013
Publisher: Tor
Source: Library Rental

A masterful, twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, betrayal, and superpowers, set in a near-future world.

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab took me a couple of chapters to really get into the meat of the story and Schwab’s writing style, but once I got into it, boy was I INTO it! Before reading this, I heard several really fantastic things about it, but for one reason or another just didn’t think it would be something I would be into. I think I also fell into the trap of judging a book by its cover, which of course is the worst thing you can do, but I just can’t help it! Personally, the cover was a bit drab to me and didn’t pull me in. The synopsis sounded okay but still didn’t reel me in to wanting to read it that badly. A close friend practically pushed the book into my arms, and now I find myself doing the same for others I come across as Vicious is just that great!

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what I love about Vicious. To start with, the very essence of Vicious was so easy to fall in love with that I can now see why I wasn’t reeled in by the synopsis. How do you tie up all the awesomeness of a book like this in a tiny little description? Another reason it was so easy to fall in love with this story is because of the characters. The basis of a great book for me is having characters that I enjoy reading and interacting with throughout the book. Vicious is great because they have not only good and bad guys but also fluid characters that seem to meld into the grey areas in between as well as both extremes. I loved getting to read every moment with this group of characters.

The moral implications of the actions taken by both Victor and Eli really weighed heavily on me as I read the book. I can’t say enough how well Schwab did crafting such an expansive storyline with differing points in time and in different places with characters. I was so engrossed with everything that was happening that I found myself staying up late two nights in a row just to finish this, which is hard to do when I treasure my sleep so fondly!

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Posted on Dec 8th, 2013 by audra
In these categories Review, Society's Bookshelf

Book Title: Pawn
Author: Aimee Carter
Release Date: November 26, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Books

YOU CAN BE A VII. IF YOU GIVE UP EVERYTHING.

For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country.

If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister’s niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter.

There’s only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed …and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that’s not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she’s only beginning to understand.

Pawn is centered around Kitty, a girl who just took her ranking test, and turns out she’s a III. Things in this new America are all centered around a ranking system. Supposedly, based on your test results you receive anything from a I to a VII. VII’s are reserved only for the political family and the only way to get one is to be born into the family. So Kitty’s III could be better but it could also be a lot worse. She’s pretty downtrodden when she discovers her new lot in life and makes some choices to try to stay as close to her boyfriend Benji.

In the midst of these choices, she comes face to face with the Prime Minister himself, offering her the proposition of a lifetime. If she takes over the identity of his niece, Lila Hart, through an innovative  procedure to be Masked, she will earn a VII branded over her III. She’ll never want for anything as long as she becomes their pawn.

Of course, things don’t end up quite that easy for poor Kitty and she’s thrust into a political world with revolutionaries, backstabbers and of course the royal family. I really enjoyed Pawn and the plays it made on class systems and what it means to your place in life.

There were very few things that bristled me, and one of it was Kitty’s name. It seems asinine but I had such a hard time getting behind a character with that name. What did I love? SO MUCH! I really loved the rather frank and adult topics featured in Pawn. Not only were there brothels and prostitutes, but also a mere mention of girls auctioning their virginity made me a little shocked to see, but I absolutely loved it. Why you ask? When I think of dystopian societies, I imagine these exact things yet the dark, seedy underbellies of societies aren’t typically shown in these books. I can see why, as these usually aren’t themes suitable for a young adult audience. I think Aimee Carter was able to integrate these and some more adult themes I won’t spoil in Pawn brilliantly.

Pawn reminded me a fair amount of Tandem by Anna Jarzab, another book about sneakily becoming someone else under the guise of helping the government. Pawn has me hooked on this Blackcoat Rebellion series and I will be reading the sequel the day it is out.

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Posted on Nov 20th, 2013 by audra
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Book Title: Sia
Author: Josh Grayson
Release Date: November 20, 2013

When seventeen-year-old Sia wakes up on a park bench, she has no idea who or where she is. Yet after a week of being homeless, she’s reunited with her family. At school, she’s powerful and popular. At home, she’s wealthy beyond her dreams. But she quickly realizes her perfect life is a lie. Her family is falling apart and her friends are snobby, cruel and plastic. Worse yet, she discovers she was the cruelest one. Mortified by her past, she embarks on a journey of redemption and falls for Kyle, the “geek” she once tormented. Yet all the time she wonders if, when her memories return, she’ll become the bully she was before…and if she’ll lose Kyle.

I thought I was going to absolutely love this book. The cover is amazing and absolutely caught my eye. The synopsis made me think this would be a solid story. What I ended up reading was kind of the opposite of this.

I enjoyed the basic plot idea, but very quickly things just did not make sense. Of course I have never experienced amnesia, but I can’t for the life of me believe I would not seek out help if I suddenly woke up and had no recollection of my previous life. Luckily I was able to suspend my disbelief a little bit so I could get into the story. From there, I ended up in trouble again as the voices weren’t believable. The portrayal of teens in this book comes across entirely way too cliche and really pulled me out of the story.

Grayson seems to take an important hot button issue of today and crafts it to fit his story. I think part of the problem I had with this story is Sia’s redemption. It just felt forced and unnatural. Despite my issues with the book, Sia was a quick read which made things a little bit easier to swallow.

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Posted on Nov 9th, 2013 by audra
In these categories Blog Tour, Review, Society's Bookshelf

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What should have been an ordinary morning is about to spiral into a day of unrelenting terror.

As a reporter for his high school newspaper, Tom is always on the lookout for an offbeat story. But from the moment he woke up this morning, his own life has been more bizarre than any headline could ever tell.

The streets of his town are suddenly empty and silent. A strange fog has drifted in from the sea and hangs over everything. And something is moving in that fog. Something evil. Something hungry. Closing in on Tom.

Tom’s terrified girlfriend Marie says the answers lie at the Santa Maria Monastery, a haunted ruin standing amidst a forest blackened by wildfire. But can he trust her? A voice that seems to be coming from beyond the grave is warning him that nothing is what it seems. “Only one thing is certain: with his world collapsing around him, Tom has only a few hours to recover the life he knew – before he, too, is lost forever in this nightmare city.”

Reading Nightmare City was like living through a foggy recurring dream, just like the one Tom is trying to live through. I was on the high school newspaper so I was a bit drawn to this, knowing how hectic that can be. Tom is really taking his newspaper involvement seriously. He had the amazing fortune and investigative skills to publish a story that pulls back the curtain on the football teams performance.

There’s a moment where he wakes up from a dream and nothing makes sense. Everyone is gone and there is a strange fog outside filled with monsters. It reminded me a lot of something straight out of Silent Hill. Klavan’s intense descriptions were chilling to the core and really made me feel like I was right there with Tom.

Nightmare City was a creepy read, but it did feel as though something was missing. The story starts out pretty quick and there isn’t much development to any kind of back story, which at times left me wanting more.

Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble 

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andrew klavan

About the Author
Andrew Klavan is a best-selling, award-winning thriller novelist whose books have been made into major motion pictures. He broke into the YA scene with the bestselling Homelanders series, starting with The Last Thing I Remember.He is also a screenwriter and scripted the innovative movie-in-an-app Haunting Melissa.

You can find Andrew on his website, goodreads, twitter and facebook.

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Posted on Oct 29th, 2013 by audra
In these categories Review, Society's Bookshelf

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Book Title: The Eye of Minds
Author: James Dashner
Release Date: October 8, 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Books

An all-new, edge-of-your seat adventure from James Dashner, the author of the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series, The Eye of Minds is the first book in The Mortality Doctrine, a series set in a world of hyperadvanced technology, cyberterrorists, and gaming beyond your wildest dreams . . . and your worst nightmares.

Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.

The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker.
And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team.
But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.

The Maze Runner hooked me in from the very first chapter, and The Eye of Minds had me hooked as well. James Dashner’s newest book has an interesting sci-fi spin on your typical dysropian that really sucked me in. In Eye of Minds, Michael seems to spend every spare minute in the Virtnet hoping to get into the next level of the game when things get disturbingly bad for him on the Golden Gate Bridge. Michael realizes that something else might be going on in Virtnet, which is all but confirmed when he’s wrangled into a government agency who needs his hacking skills to solve a problem.

I had a couple of issues with this in that I wasn’t able to suspend my disbelief fully to believe that a government agency would find that the best hackers is a set of three teenagers. I can only imagine that in the future the youth will become even more technologically advanced, but I can’t think they would be the go to people for something as important as this.

The world’s that Dashner creates inside the Virtnet reminded me a bit of the virtual worlds in Veronica Rossi’s Under the Never Sky and I loved them just as much in The Eye of Minds. I really like getting to escape into an idea of something like this, and always wonder if we had technology like this in the real world, would I choose to use it?

Somewhere along the way, and I’m having a difficult time pinpointing what happened when, but somehow I really began to lose interest in what was happening. By the time I reached the end of the book, I felt a bit disappointed and let down. Dashner’s writing really shines though and the worlds he creates are fantastically written. A sequel is scheduled to be released in 2014.

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