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Friday, January 24, 2014

Chasers by James Phelan

My mother chose today's book :) I showed  her the covers for a few of the stories I wanted to write about and she said "this one looks interesting". So everyone, I present today's book

Chasers by James Phelan
Jesse is just a normal Australian at a UN Youth Ambassadors camp in New York City during his break from school. Everything is going great until he and the rest of the students in his camp are involved in a subway accident. When Jesse wakes up he finds that nothing is as it was before. Him and three friends must fight to find other survivors while staying clear of the Chasers that want to drink their blood.

This is a great post-apocalyptic novel! When you think of "the end of the world" you think of one thing: Zombies. That is what this novel is about. A world that is suddenly in chaos where survivors fight against creatures that look like your teachers or your friends or former lovers. Phelan creates a new world from the one we already live in. He takes iconic buildings in New York City and changes them to fit his story. For example: 30 Rockefeller Center does not actually have apartment buildings located inside. However in Phelan's world, it does. And it works. The novel would not have been the same without the apartments in the same building as all the food.

Now let's talk about these Chasers. So rightly named because they literally chase anyone who is not one of them so they can drink their blood. In a true zombie storyline the Chasers don't really know what their doing. All they know is that they are so incredibly thirsty that they co gregate around bodies of water and use blood to quench their thirst. The Chasers begin to learn however. They adapt to their surroundings and begin to regain their previous knowledge. At the end of the novel you see two separate forms of Chasers: those that are evolving and those that are staying exactly how they are. This leaves a question for the sequel to answer: Is there a cure for being a Chaser? 

Now I absolutely have to talk about the ending. MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD! READ ONLY IF YOU DARE. The ending of this novel is the sole reason I think so highly of this book. The final pages reveal that Jesse was always the sole survivor of the subway crash. His three friends never made it out alive. They were figments of his imagination used as a coping mechanism for the apocalypse. It. Was. All. In. His. Head. All the conversations. He pretended not to notice that the majority of the food was not eaten. The cars were never checked because there was no one to check them. Jesse recreated his friends in his mind. This ending blew my mind. I am able to predict many different plot twists in novels but this was not one I saw coming. 

Just because of the ending iI give Chasers a 6/10. The story line could have used some work overall but the ending was gold. I did attempt to read the sequel Survivor but I couldn't get through it. The beginning was just too slow and the characters were not what was needed for the plot. Sadly I don't have a lot of questions that were not answered during the first installment and that could be one reason why the sequel was not as good as it could have been. However, I do recommend Chasers and if you have a talent for getting through boring novels you might finish the series. 

-Shawnee Smith

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Program by Suzanne Young

School has actually been keeping me busy for once. I am also happy yo report that my English class is actually teaching me something! Hurah! I apologize for the long breaks between posts. Hopefully I will get more consistant in the weeks to come. I know give you...

The Program by Suzanne Young

When teen suicide and depression is at an all time high, the local government begins The Program to "cure" teens of their depression. Sloane has been watched like a hawk since her older brother committed suicide. She is not allowed to show any emotion or she risks her parents sending her to The Program. Her only solace is her boyfriend James, who used to be her older brothers best friend. The inseparable two are finally ripped apart when James is sent to The Program after suicide attempts plague their social groups. Set in a series of three parts this novel shows the ups and downs of Sloane's journey as she goes through The Program and everyone she loves turns their backs on her.

This is an extremely relevant topic in today society but it has a twist on it that makes for a breathtaking read. A world where teens are not allowed to cry, grieve their friends or family, or even show too much happiness is a world that is sick itself. Every parent is constantly worried that their child will become depressed and attempt suicide. It is almost an obsession for them to watch over their children to protect them.

Sloane's journey is told in three separate parts of the novel. With the novel structured this way, the reader gets an inside look at Sloane's life. From the first few chapters, you can see the dark cloud constantly hovering over Sloane's head. At first the reader is left with many questions about Sloane's brother and what exactly happened. The full story is revealed almost painfully slow. When you hear the full story you see how truly strong both Sloane and James are not being able to show emotion after what they went through. However, James' emotions do get the best of him and he is sent to The Program and that is where the story really begins to grow.

When James is sent to The Program, the only thing Sloane can hold on to is the hope that James will not forget her and that he will still love her. Since this is a novel and not someones real life, we as readers can guess that James will forget Sloane. It is still upsetting to read when Sloane realizes that James doesnt remember  her. You can tell that she felt as though her heart was ripped out of her chest. I can only imagine how truly painful that must have been. And then what happens to Sloane? She has to go to The Program herself.

I will give one spoiler. Even though James and Sloane are both forced to forget the other, they find their way back. Its as if their bodies remember being together even if their minds do not. I think that concept is incredibly beautiful and I think Suzanne Young handled that situation perfectly. Everyone roots for the soul mates to stay together even if they have no memories of each other. The ending made me ball like a little baby just as much as the middle did. When Sloane was just simply talking about James it was so incredibly beautiful and you could see the love in the words. Young created two characters that the readers root for even if they only read about them together for five chapters. The love is always floating in the characters words. It is beautiful.

This novel definitely deserves an 9 out of 10. I don't know how it could have been written any better. There is something keeping it from becoming a 10, but maybe that will change during the sequel that is set to come out later this year (2014).

-Shawnee Smith 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Today in order to chose a book to review, I asked my Dad and Brother to choose a number between 1 and 19 and they both gave me different numbers. After some mathematical calculations that I don't really understand and that I probably didn't even do correctly, I have chosen the book for today.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yacey
The 5th Wave is a post-apocalyptic story that takes place a few years after an alien invasion of Earth. The first wave took out the electricity. The second wave caused tsunamis to flood the coasts. The third wave was a plague that killed the majority of the population. The fourth wave activates 'Silencers', alien killers that have been implanted in a humans body before birth. The 5th wave is on its way. The main character Cassie (short for Cassiopeia) is all alone with her one rule: Trust no one. Until the mysterious Evan comes into play. Cassie must then chose to accept Evan's help in finding her brother and break her one rule, or to brave it alone and possibly fail. Will Evan and Cassie be able to win this war? After all, how can you win when you don't know who you're fighting.

I have been hearing a lot of good reviews of this book since its publication back in the summer of 2013. I found it at Half Price Books and said "Why not?" While there were a few reasons that I should have left the book on the shelf and not spent my money, I am still glad I read it. First off I am happy to report that this is actually a good "alien" story. It's not a bunch of bullshit like some other books are. It almost reminds me of all the alien movies like Signs and War of the Worlds that were coming out about 10 years ago (and yes I know that War of the Worlds is actually a book written over 100 years ago in 1898). There were just a few things that one of the characters said that sparked a connection in my brain.

Rick Yancey wrote a brilliant novel, but there were a few things I would change for a reprinting. The book was sectioned off based on who's point of view we were reading.l However the points of view started to become jumbled. I would make it almost half way through a page before I realized who was telling the story. There could have been some clarification at the beginning of the chapter to say "Hey! We're in this persons point of view!". Maybe a name at the top of the page, or a different color of ink, or even a different font would have been nice. Just something to differentiate the points of view without having to re-read a full page for the story to make sense. There were many parts in this book that I could tell were meant to be plot twists that no one was supposed to see coming. Yeah, that didn't happen. (Spoiler warning!) Ben Parish is Zombie and Evan Walker is the Silencer was kind of obvious.

Now that I'm mostly done with the negative, I want to talk about Cassie and how incredibly badass she is! She is only a 16 year old girl but she has already lost pretty much every one that meant anything to her during the first four waves. Her mom was lost in the third, her dad after the fourth, her brother was taken from her, she doesn't know where her friends are or if they are even alive. I thought it was interesting that the name Cassiopeia is actually a constellation and that aliens come from outer space. It was a nice tie in to the plot. Cassie's narration in the beginning of the book is the best thing I have ever read. It is snarky and sarcastic and perfectly sets up who Cassie is as a person. She is hard, unforgiving, and completely self dependent. That's why when Evan comes along she is somewhat reluctant to let him in (sometimes literally when it comes to letting him into her room).

Let's talk about Evan and Cassie's relationship. I hate it. It's annoying. It's kind of Twilight-y. It makes me want to punch someone in the face, maybe the two of them? They do have some good banter but Evan's lies in the beginning are so incredibly transparent that I wonder why Cassie still trusts him. But then I remember that girls are gigantic bimbos when it comes to guys. They will almost believe anything unless they have solid proof otherwise. There's nothing wrong with relationships like that, I just personally don't like them.

In the end, though I have some negative things to say about this book it is a good read, if you borrow it from the library. I'm glad I only spend $5 on it because if I would have paid full price I would have been a little disappointed. This novel is action packed and a great read for both genders. Its hard to image anyone other than preteens and teens enjoying the story though. Ultimately I give the novel a 5.5/10. The ending left room for a sequel so we will see where Rick Yancey takes the story and if I will enjoy that book more than this one. I'm hard on this story because Rick Yancey is a terrific writer and you see that in the narration. I just wish some of the story was better.

-Shawnee Smith

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Divergent by Veronica Roth

I realize I have said previously that readers will enjoy the books I have reviewed if they have read Divergent, but I have not reviewed Divergent yet. I think it is time to change that.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Set in a post apocalyptic Chicago, Divergent takes place in a society split into five factions that value a different human trait. Candor the honest, Amity the peaceful, Erudite the knowledgeable, Dauntless the brave, and Abnegation the selfless. At age 16, each member of society gets to choose which faction they will spend the rest of their life in after undergoing an aptitude test. The citizens can choose to stay in the faction where they grew up or transfer to a new one, forgoing their family and friends because in this society the motto is "Faction before blood." The story follows 16 year old Beatrice Prior on her journey through choosing a new faction, finding new friends, and trying to stay alive all while keeping the knowledge of her Divergence and secret.

We meet Abnegation born Beatrice Prior right before her life will change forever. For during her aptitude test, Beatrice finds out that she has an aptitude for not just one faction, but three. A fact that is almost unheard of. This anomaly is called being Divergent, and being Divergent is extremely dangerous. Beatrice decides to leave Abnegation in order to create a new life in Dauntless where she changes her name to Tris. This is where her problems begin.

Divergent is one of my favorite books, and Veronica Roth is certainly one of the most talented writers out there at the moment. From the very first words on the page the readers is captivated in her story. There are absolutely no plot holes and the only questions left unanswered were left untouched for a reason. Roth writes in a way as though you, the reader, are with Tris all the time. A feeling that is often missing from novels in this day and age. I applaud Roth for her talents as a young author (She's only in her mid 20's!)

Tris, as the main character, is the perfect literary heroine. She is this seemingly unimportant sixteen year old girl who becomes a catalyst but does not do anything of note. She fights back against the system, but she does not start the fight. She fights to protect her friends, but knows they cannot all be saved. Because of these reasons, I believe she is one of the most believable characters ever written. She is not a wizard, or a person with supernatural abilities, or someone who shares a heart with a vampire. She is simply a normal girl attempting to survive in the cracked world she lives in. Through all the ups and downs of her life she also stays true to herself. Roth never attempts to make Tris be anyone but who she really is.

This novel is definitely written for anyone who likes a good adventure. This novel is fast paced, exciting, and makes you question whether you are a Candor, an Amity, and Erudite, an Abnegation, or a Dauntless. Me? I think I'm a little bit of Erudite mixed with Amity and a little Abnegation thrown in (How's that for SAT Vocab prep). In other words, I guess I'm factionless.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

A new year brings new books. I honestly cannot wait for all the new books of 2014 to be released. The first one being released? The Testing: Independent Study.  But that doesn't come out until Tuesday. For now, I will talk about a different book...

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
Sutter Keely is the life o the party. No matter who he's with or what he's doing, Sutter knows how to have a good time. When he wakes up on Aimee Finicky's lawn after a wild night of partying, Sutter is determined to help this loner girl have a good time and take her under his wing. Although at the end it seems as though Aimee taught Sutter a few things.

I first heard about this novel when I found out that Miles Tiller would play Sutter Keely in the movie version alongside Shailene Woodley as Aimee. Being a good little book nerd, I thought I would read the novel first before seeing the movie. And being one who is not into romance novels I put it on the back burner for as long as I possibly could. And I'm glad that I finally put my pride away and read this dang book. First of all, this is not a romance novel. I repeat, this is not a romance novel. It is almost written as a coming of age novel. It has a very Markus Zusak/John Green feel to it. (If you don't know who those authors are you have been living under a rock. Go read The Book Thief and The Fault In Our Stars immediately. I will be covering them soon.) Tim Tharp is an incredible author. He was able to capture two separate, and very different, teen spirits within the pages of his book. I applaud him.

Now where do I begin with Sutter Keeley. The life of the party. Not very reliable unless it involves, you guessed it, a party. And a slight alcoholic. Sutter is the kind of guy that is incredibly popular during high school but ends up in a dead end job that no is impressed with at the 10 year reunion. Even though you know that's in his future, you want more for him. He is a genuinely nice guy but he just takes too many stupid mistakes. Through the novel Aimee begins to change him. Aimee: this free spirit tied down by a not so reliable, deadbeat mom. By the end of the story you see something in Sutter that will break your heart. Because through everything that year, Sutter became a good guy. He became the type of guy that will remove himself from the equation because its the best thing for the other person, even if he himself so desperately wants to stay. Even though he said Aimee was a project and he just wanted to help her, you see at the end of the novel that he truly loves her. And it will break your heart.

Though heavy subjects such as teen alcoholism, abnormal sexual situations, and divorce are all covered in this novel, there are some non heavy moments. Sutter after all is the life of the party so his story does have some fun moments that the readers get to enjoy. This truly is a novel that  people of all ages will enjoy. Maybe not so much "all ages" as 15 and up. It is definitely worth it to read the novel before you watch the movie. And now that this review is finished, I will allow myself the pleasure of ordering The Spectacular Now, making a bucket of popcorn, and judging how true the movie is to Tim Tharp's novel. Now go read this book!

-Shawnee Smith