Sunday, February 26, 2012

Review: Pure by Julianna Baggott

By Julianna Baggott
February 8, 2012
Grand Central Publishing, 448 pgs
Amazon Description:We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . .
Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.

Burn a Pure and Breathe the Ash . . .
There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss-maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it's his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her.

When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again."

So. I thought about it a lot while I was reading this novel and I can't, in good conscience, break this book into simpler elements of plot, character, and writing style. 

This novel has to be taken in as an experience, so I'm unable to seperate any one part from another. This is one I couldn't gulp down in a single sitting like I do with other novels. I had to nibble at it, a little bit at a time. To be honest, this was tough to read at times. It is extremely intense, disturbing in its visceral description of post-nuclear detonation life. Every character outside of the dome has deformities, burns, missing limbs, mutations, even pieces of objects and people they were around at the time of the detonations, fused to their bodies. They consider these to be marks of pride for having survived. The descriptions are so deeply disturbing that it was difficult at the start for me to get from page to page. Don't get me wrong- I enjoyed this novel immensely. But it is NOT an easy read. Baggott's writing is lyrical, and yet clinical enough to force you to visualize each grotesque detail. This is a a dirty, gritty, and potentially realistic post-apocalyptic thriller. Contrasting this world is Partridge's world inside the dome. It is sterile and almost surreal in its dystopia. In the end, the novel is something you must read. You'll love it, then you'll hate it, then you'll love it again and by the last page you won't have the answers you're looking for. So, like me, you'll just have to read the second novel Fuse coming next year, fingers crossed and hoping for the best.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Review: Brightly Woven By Alexandra Bracken

By Alexandra Bracken
June 28, 2011
EgmontUSA, 368 pgs
Amazon Description: “When Wayland North brings rain to a region that's been dry for over ten years, he's promised anything he'd like as a reward. He chooses the village elder's daughter, sixteen-year-old Sydelle Mirabel, who is a skilled weaver and has an unusual knack for repairing his magical cloaks. Though Sydelle has dreamt of escaping her home, she's hurt that her parents relinquish her so freely and finds herself awed and afraid of the slightly ragtag wizard who is unlike any of the men of magic in the tales she's heard. Still, she is drawn to this mysterious man who is fiercely protective of her and so reluctant to share his own past.

The pair rushes toward the capital, intent to stop an imminent war, pursued by Reuel Dorwan (a dark wizard who has taken a keen interest in Sydelle) and plagued by unusually wild weather. But the sudden earthquakes and freak snowstorms may not be a coincidence. As Sydelle discovers North's dark secret and the reason for his interest in her and learns to master her own mysterious power, it becomes increasingly clear that the fate of the kingdom rests in her fingertips. She will either be a savior, weaving together the frayed bonds between Saldorra and Auster, or the disastrous force that destroys both kingdoms forever.”

Here’s the breakdown: 

Plot: Different. That’s the first thing that comes to mind when I consider the story in BW. It’s so difficult these days to find a YA with a premise that hasn’t been used time and time again. In BW, many of the common fantasy plot devices are used: magic and wizards, dragons, and of course, the epic journey to save the kingdom. But Bracken weaves (excuse the pun) everything so beautifully, it’s refreshing. The plot entraps you and you can’t help but speed through to the end, racing to the ultimate climax and enjoying every word. 

Characters: Sydelle is a character full of fire and her narration is quite lyrical. North is a wizard, but entirely different from the stereotype. He’s young, rash, and on his own, rebelling against society’s expectations for himself and his use of magic. Both characters are charmingly flawed. Their relationship is slow-building and genuine as they both gradually surrender to their feelings. The minor characters surrounding Sydelle and North are far from static, each playing a vibrant role.

Writing style: Once every few hundred novels or so, I’ll discover a book so incredible it knocks me straight out of my chair. Brightly Woven is one of these rare novels. The world Bracken has created is as vibrant, multi-layered, and deeply real as any I have ever read. The breadth of Bracken’s fantasy world is breathtaking. I didn’t just read the story. I was IN the story. I journeyed to the capital right alongside Sydelle and North. I felt their fears and held their hopes inside me as I sped through the pages. I honestly can say that I never felt as though I were reading a fantasy story. (Though fantasy this surely is.) From the first page to the last, I was in their world and knew the characters like I know my closest friends.


Fabulous. That’s really all I can say. And also, go out and get it! Right now!


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Review: Die For Me by Amy Plum

Die For Me
By Amy Plum
May 10, 2011
HarperTeen, 352 pgs
GoodReads Description:  My life had always been blissfully, wonderfully normal. But it only took one moment to change everything.
Suddenly, my sister, Georgia, and I were orphans. We put our lives into storage and moved to Paris to live with my grandparents. And I knew my shattered heart, my shattered life, would never feel normal again. Then I met Vincent.
Mysterious, sexy, and unnervingly charming, Vincent Delacroix appeared out of nowhere and swept me off my feet. Just like that, I was in danger of losing my heart all over again. But I was ready to let it happen.
Of course, nothing is ever that easy. Because Vincent is no normal human. He has a terrifying destiny, one that puts his life at risk every day. He also has enemies . . . immortal, murderous enemies who are determined to destroy him and all of his kind.
While I'm fighting to piece together the remnants of my life, can I risk putting my heart--as well as my life and my family's--in jeopardy for a chance at love?"

Here’s the breakdown: 

Plot: This was a very original take on the forbidden love/paranormal romance that has become so popular and downright common in the last few years. Amy Plum has created an entire mythos for her characters that is fascinating and my only complaint is we weren’t able to dig even further into the back story of the Revenants. Though I’m sure there will be more to come in the subsequent sequels. The “twists” of the story weren’t really all that surprising and I guessed pretty easily what was going to happen involving the villain(s) and the inevitable battle of good vs evil, but it was one of those books where I just didn’t care. I was involved from page one to page 352. I absolutely couldn’t put it down!

Characters: The characters in Die For Me were very likeable and had interesting, developed personalities. Kate started the novel in a state of understandable depression following the death of her parents and I enjoyed watching her open up to Vincent throughout the story and her internal struggle deciding if love is worth the possibility of loss. Vincent was swoon-worthy and I really enjoyed hearing his back story and learning about the horrible losses he had faced and overcome. It definitely made sense to me that Kate and Vincent understood each other as well as they did. It was easy to fall for Vincent. He was kind, gentlemanly, and protective. In the end he may have been too perfect. He wasn't given any real flaws. Another thing that hopefully will be fleshed out in the sequels. And now, I have to rant about the minor characters. I ADORED them! There wasn’t a single cardboard character in the lot and the novel wouldn’t have been nearly as colorful and captivating without them. As far as the romance goes, I think it was much more realistic than most YA paranormals these days. Both characters fought their feelings, but inevitably came back to each other. They didn’t declare their love right away. 

Writing style: Plum’s writing in this her debut novel was refreshing and vibrant. She obviously has plenty of knowledge of Paris and French culture. Her descriptions and detailed settings made the novel come to life. It was easy to get sucked into the story, so much so that I felt like I was living the story along with the characters. 


This novel included everything I’d want from YA paranormal. It had action, a mostly-believable romance, and a cast of vibrant characters. This will definitely be a re-read!


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Review: Saving June by Hannah Harrington

Saving June
By Hannah Harrington
November 22, 2011
Harlequin, 336 pgs

Amazon description:Everyone's sorry. But no one can explain why.
Harper Scott's older sister, June, took her own life a week before high school graduation, leaving Harper devastated. So when her divorcing parents decide to split up June's ashes, Harper steals the urn and takes off cross-country with her best friend, Laney, to the one place June always dreamed of going—California.
Enter Jake Tolan, a boy with a bad attitude, a classic-rock obsession…and an unknown connection to June. When he insists on joining them, Harper's just desperate enough to let him. With his alternately charming and infuriating demeanor and his belief that music can see you through anything, he might be exactly what Harper needs. Except…Jake's keeping a secret that has the power to turn her life upside down—again.”

Here’s the breakdown: 

Plot: The idea for the plot was something I’d never read before and I thought it was a really creative way to bring some depth and gravity to something as light as a road trip novel. The ultimate goal for the plot is for Harper to get her sister’s ashes to California. Along the way we encounter political extremists, a George Clooney-loving diner waitress, and a revolving cast of musicians, artists, etc. The plot dragged a little to me for a few reasons. First, it takes FOREVER for the road trip to start. They talk about the road trip, debate the road trip, plan the road trip, before it FINALLY happens. Second, a lot of the travelling and the pit stops along the way were irrelevant. They spend several pages in St. Louis, riding up to the top of the arch and what not, but in the end it has nothing to do with the plot or the goal of getting to California. Granted, a lot of discussion and emotional inner dialogue occur for our characters in this scene and others like it, but it could have just as easily happened without detailed description of the city and its monuments. 

Characters: Harper is awesome. She is tough as nails and does what she wants, but she also has a vulnerable side that we get to see a lot more as the novel progresses. Laney is also really cool- the type of loyal and quirky best friend every teen girl wants. And JAKE! Can I just say…WHERE IS MY JAKE? I loved him so much! He’s starts out very mysterious and then…well, he stays pretty mysterious for the whole book. But he’s passionate about music (one of my passions too) and as he and Harper get to know each other…whoo! Let’s just say it’s something you’ll want to read for yourself.

Writing style: Harrington’s style is smooth and easily and quickly read. The depth of the emotion is very real and at times I felt myself aching for the characters’ suffering. Also, The Music. Jake is obsessed with music and he has fabulous taste. Music is a central theme throughout and the novel even comes with its own soundtracks! It’s pretty great. 


A real and emotional read with developed, interesting characters and the perfect amount of romance.

Side Note: There’s a lot of religious and philosophical discussion and political commentary in this one. If that’s not your cup of tea, you might want to read something else. Just a warning.