Wither [Book Review]

“And here we are: two small dying things, as the world ends around us like falling autumn leaves.” p. 147


Title: Wither
Author: Lauren DeStephano
Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult
ISBN: 1442409053
Pages: 368
Year: 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Source: E-galley from publisher
Rating: 3.5/5


Medical science grew so advanced in the 21st century that it created a generation of perfect human beings. All of the big diseases and cancers are gone and no one really knows how long this generation will live. However, the descendants of this generation are not so lucky. At the age of 25 for males and 20 for females every single person contracts an illness and dies. Facing the possible extinction of the human race, things have grown quite uncivilized. Rhine, 16, is kidnapped when she applies for a job in NYC and taken to Florida where she is forced to marry Linden. There she lives with him; his father, Housemaster Vaughn; her sister wives, Jenna and Cecily; and a multitude of staff, including Gabriel, who Rhine quickly befriends. Rhine plans on escaping and finding her twin brother before it is too late.


I must confess that I went into Wither with a bit of a critical eye. Because we had all received it at the same time, Jen, Michelle, and I were all reading it the weekend they visited. They were ahead of me and unlike almost every other person I had heard discuss it on twitter, they had found some faults with it. So I think I was a little biased.

That said, my only real problem with Wither was that I thought there was something lacking and inconsistent in the world-building, and this can be remedied in the final books of the trilogy. I think the first book in a series is always difficult but especially so in a dystopian book. You have to get the plot going so you don’t lose the reader but you also have to set up the entire series. I guess I wanted a little more set-up in this one. The idea is so intriguing that I really wanted to know all of the details.

The story itself dealt a lot with the way Rhine adjusted to her new life. She finds the situation is not as horrible as she thought it would be and even finds some sympathy for Linden. She wants to go home to her brother but she could probably get comfortable in the Florida mansion if it weren’t for the little horrors that sneak in (most of which concern Housemaster Vaughn and his desire to find the cure using any means available to him). Jenna and Cecily provide a nice contrast to Rhine. Cecily is so young (only 13!) that it is a little heartbreaking to see her get so excited about marriage and pregnancy. Jenna is older, closer to death, and accepts this as the best way to live our her final years. And then, of course, we have the love interest, Gabriel. Rhine and Gabriel can only sneak moments, so this is not a time-consuming romance. I really liked Gabriel but I wish there was a little more substance to it.

My hope is that the rest of the series provides me with the things I felt were missing. I am certainly curious about the world and the characters and I will definitely read the next installment.

Others’ Thoughts: My Friend Amy; That’s What She Read; Debbie’s World of Books; Good Books and Good Wine; Posey Sessions;

Buy It Now: Powell’s; IndieBound; Amazon;Book Depository

The Scorch Trials [Book Review]

“No. I kind of accepted it, in a way. That saving you was worth losing what we might’ve had.” Ch. 56

The Scorch TrialsTitle: The Scorch Trials
Author: James Dashner
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
ISBN: 0385738757
Pages: 368
Year: 2010
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Source: Personal Collection
Rating: 4/5


[Spoilers for prior book only]. Thomas and the other Gladers have been rescued. They believe their biggest troubles are in the past. They are wrong. The Maze was only the first phase of a larger test W.I.C.K.E.D. is putting them through. And they are about to begin phase two. Dropped in the middle of the dessert, Thomas and his companions must survive an even greater challenge than the maze.

My Thoughts:

My feeling toward The Scorch Trials roughly mirror my feeling toward The Maze Runner. I was frustrated for much of the novel. Not because I wasn’t enjoying it but because we don’t know anything more than Thomas. And Thomas doesn’t know very much. Despite anxiously awaiting the book, I didn’t get to it right away and I started and stopped a lot in the beginning. But once I got about halfway, I was hooked. The Scorch Trials is fast-paced, full of impossible tasks and characters you can’t help but cheer for.

During a difficult, life-altering moment for Thomas, Dashner’s writing shines through:

“Life took its time as it drained from the man, as the light in his maddened eyes faded, as the grunts and the physical strain to hold on slowly quieted and stilled.” Ch. 34

And a few pages later:

“And then, impossibly, they slept.” Ch. 34

And finally, despite the dark, desperate feeling throughout The Scorch Trials, there are a few shining moments of humor:

“‘What the hell’s a beetle blade?’ Jorge asked.
Thomas answered. ‘Little mechanical lizard things that spied on us with cameras in the Maze.’
Jorge rolled his eyes. ‘Of course. Sorry I asked.'”
Ch. 42

In the end, I enjoyed The Scorch Trials. And I will eagerly read the final book in the trilogy, The Death Cure, in October.

Other Reviews: Bookshelves of Doom; Reeder Reads; Chick Loves LitS. Krishna’s Books

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares [Book Review]

“I was attempting to write the story of my life.
It wasn’t so much about plot. It was much more about character.” p. 198

Dash and Lily's Book of DaresTitle: Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares
Author: Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction
ISBN: 0375866590
Pages: 272
Year: 2010
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Source: Library
Rating: 4.5/5


Dash and Lily are both 16 and parentless this Christmas. Dash, by choice; Lily, by coercion. Dash finds Lily’s red notebook in the JD Salinger section of The Strand. This notebook takes them on a 10-day adventure throughout New York City as they pass it back and forth. They’ve never met but they pour their thoughts and worries out in this notebook. As the story progresses we learn more about Dash and Lily as they learn more about each other and themselves.

My Thoughts:

Oh how I enjoyed spending time with Dash and Lily on their Christmas adventure. I was smitten from the beginning. Lily, with her overprotective family and her odd personality that has made her a bit of a loner. Dash, with his love of words and quiet anger at his parents.  I loved watching them grow and as the book went on.

Seeing the NYC sights vicariously through Dash and Lily was like visiting all over again. The wonder of the Strand, the bustle of Times Square, the characters you see along the way.

This was the kind of book that I wanted to rush through but was thankful when I was forced to savor it. I would dip in for a few spare minutes every chance I got.

The flap explains that Rachel Cohn wrote Lily’s chapters and David Levithan wrote Dash’s chapters without knowledge of what the other was writing. This just adds to the magic for me. I love that it was written this way.

It was such a joy to read. If you need a cute love story or are feeling nostalgic for some Christmas once more, you should definitely pick up Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares.

Other Reviews: Fiction Folio; The Infinite Shelf; Take Me Away; things mean a lot; Erin Reads; Reeder Reads

Buy It Now: Amazon; Powell’s; IndieBound; Book Depository

Delirium [Book Review]

Love: a single word, a weepy thing, a word no bigger or longer than an edge. That’s what it is: an edge; a razor. It draws up through the center of your life, cutting everything in two. Before and after. The rest of the world falls away on either side.

Before and after – and during, a moment no bigger or longer than an edge.”

p. 301

Title: Delirium
Author: Lauren Oliver
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance
ISBN: 0061726826
Pages: 448
Year: 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Borrowed from friend**
Rating: 5/5


Lena lives in a world where love is a disease and adults are cured before they are assigned their place in the world. Lena is counting down the days until she, too, receives the cure. Then she meets Alex and her whole belief system starts falling apart. Is love really a disease? Is it really something she wants to be cured of? Is Lena ready to give up her predetermined life for one with Alex?

My Thoughts:

When Lauren Oliver’s debut, Before I Fall, came out last year, everyone heralded it as the best thing to come out of YA in a long time. Now I really liked Before I Fall but I don’t think my feelings were quite as strong as most. But after reading Delirium, I am 100% on board the Lauren Oliver fangirl train. I absolutely adored it.

Unfortunately, I read it so long ago (and neglected to write a review until now) that I’m not going to be able to articulate the reasons for my adoration with any level of specificity. You’re going to have to take my word: the premise was unique, the characters were interesting, and the entire book was engaging. I am so thrilled to discover that this is the first book in a trilogy. While Delirium can stand on its own, I want more.

If you are not yet a Lauren Oliver fan, listen to the gushing around you and give Delirium a chance.

Other Reviews: Fiction Folio; Erin Reads; Iris on Books; The Lost Entwife; Presenting Lenore;

Buy It Now: IndieBound; Powell’s; Amazon; The Book Depository

* Pages numbers refer to the advanced reader’s copy. They may differ from the finished copy.

** A BIG thanks to Kelly from KellyVision for loaning me her ARC.

Anna and the French Kiss [Book Review]

“But the only truth I know is what I feel when we’re together.” p. 338

Anna and the French KissTitle: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary Fiction
ISBN: 0525423273
Pages: 372
Year: 2010
Publisher: Dutton Books (Penguin)
Source: Library
Rating: 4./5


Anna’s father has decided that she should spend her senior year of high school at a boarding school in Paris. Anna, who doesn’t speak any French and who just wants to spend one more year with her friends in Atlanta, is not happy. But then she meets Etienne St. Clair and suddenly Paris doesn’t seem so bad. Unfortunately, Etienne has one slight flaw – a girlfriend.

My Thoughts:

I read this book simply because I couldn’t escape the gushing that everyone in the whole world had for it. I had to know what the fuss was but I was skeptical. I probably wouldn’t have picked up the book on my own. The title seemed cheesy to me and it didn’t look like anything more than your standard YA love story. I was wrong.

This is how Anna won me over:

  • The Setting: I’ve previously discussed my love for books that take place at boarding schools. And this one goes one better. A boarding school in Paris. A city I’ve always loved to read about (and am now even more excited to visit this summer).
  • The Characters: Anna was a fantastic teenage narrator. She seemed real without being annoying. She was neurotic without being crazy. She analyzed everything to death – something that my high school journals will suggest is normal. Josh and Rashimi are the high school couple that is always fighting yet still together that I’m sure we all knew. And Etienne St. Clair. So charming. Such a wonderful love interest. And that name! Don’t you just want to say it over and over (in the proper English fashion of “Sin Clair)? The only main character I could have done without was Meredith. She always just seemed to be there. Not really doing anything.
  • The Writing: Stephanie Perkins is talented. The writing was Good. She was able to capture the way teenagers speak without crossing that irritating line where adults can’t read any more. But even better, she was able to capture that feeling of being a teenager. There is a scene in the book in a movie theater. Anna and St. Clair are sitting next to each other, shifting in their seats because they are both so aware of the other person. I reread this section immediately because Perkins did such a fantastic job of capturing that energy and focus of knowing that the person next to you is less concerned with the movie and completely obsessed with where you are placing your arm, hand, leg. A scene like that can make you want to go back to high school.

All I can say is that everyone was right. This is about as good as a YA love story can get. Ben kept teasing me for the smile I had on my face as I read. Thank you, fellow book bloggers, for your gushing.

By It Now: Powell’s; IndieBound; Amazon; Book Depository

The Mockingbirds [Book Review]

Title: The Mockingbirds
Author: Daisy Whitney
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
ISBN: 0316090530
Pages: 352
Year: 2010
Publisher: Little, Brown
Source: Public Library
Rating: 4/5

Plot Summary:

Alex attends the fancy Themis Academy boarding school where the kids are smart and the adults turn a blind-eye toward any unpleasantness. After attending a concert with her friends, Alex is date raped. She has little memory of the previous evening but she knows that she did not consent to sex with Carter. Alex feels she is unable to turn to the administration, her parents, or the police, so, with a little help from her friends, she turns to The Mockingbirds. The Mockingbirds are a secret society that maintain the peace on campus among students and the deeper she becomes involved in her case, the more she sees just how far their reach is.

My Thoughts:

I first heard about the Mockingbirds when Kelly and Michelle read it earlier this fall. They raved about it so much that I reserved a copy immediately (I think I may have been the first person to read my library’s copy – take that teenagers!). I ended up really enjoying the novel and I think it’s one of the better YA books I have read this year.

I love stories that take place at boarding schools. I also love that Alex had such a wonderful support system at her school. Her friends are kind of awesome. They don’t doubt her or blame her for one second. They convince her to do something about it and stand by her the whole time.

I found Alex’s reactions to her situation interesting. She didn’t turn away from the world but she didn’t just jump back into it. She did the best she could to go back to her normal life but, quite naturally, that night comes back to haunt her at times. As the novel progresses, we learn more and more about what really happened that night as it starts to come back to Alex.

The Mockingbirds is an interesting idea. I’m not sure it is realistic at all but it was certainly a unique idea. This brand of organized, vigilante justice takes high school society to a new level. The kids police each other and make sure there are enough checks and balances that everyone is treated fairly. All while disguised as an a cappella group.

Whitney has written a wonderful book here. It was entertaining, thought-provoking, and moved along nicely. She created some unique characters that I grew to like. I would have read it in just a few sittings if my life allowed me.

Here’s a problem I had though. And it’s one of those tiny little things that don’t really matter but I couldn’t get past. Alex is date-raped partly because she has had what is repeatedly described as A LOT to drink and she couldn’t give consent or resist. Upon closer examination, we find out she had three drinks over the course of three hours (and one of the smartypants kids states that she had a blood alcohol level of .08).  Now, maybe this says something about the high school version of me, but is three drinks over three hours really enough to cause Alex to blackout/pass out? And .08 is the legal limit where I live. Which means if you have just a tiny bit less, you can drive. In my experience, people don’t go straight from having the ability to operate a motor vehicle to passing out.  I just wish that maybe she’d had a few more drinks. Silly problem to have with a story, I know. Especially considering the fact that I just accepted the vigilante secret society so easily that obviously would have problems existing in real life. But it was just one of those things I couldn’t get out of my head so I wanted to hear your opinions.

One more little problem. I don’t think all novels need to teach lessons, but I do sometimes feel that YA novels are a little different. It’s great that teenage date-rape victims have someone to relate to in Alex, but I’m afraid that The Mockingbirds might make them think that it’s ok to not go the police/rape kit route and handle the matter on their own. I don’t necessarily think this is any kind of failure or omission in The Mockingbirds, just a concern I had.

BUT, overall I really did enjoy The Mockingbirds and I would definitely recommend it.

Other Reviews: Presenting Lenore; Good Books and Good Wine; The Elliot Review; Chick Loves Lit

Buy It Now: IndieBound; Powell’s; Book Depository; Amazon

Zombies vs Unicorns [Book Review-ish]

Title: Zombies vs. Unicorns
Edited by: Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Length: 432 pages
Year: 2010
PublisherMargaret K. McElderry
Source: Library
Rating: 4.5/5

Zombies vs. Unicorns is pretty much as awesome as it sounds. A bunch of the big YA authors of the day have contributed stories to help settle the eternal debate over which creature is superior: zombies or unicorns.   You can read all about the debate here.  Instead of doing a normal review (my normal review = definitely read this because it is wildly entertaining),  I am  tackling the stories as if they were head-to-head matchups and declaring a winner. Scroll down to see who wins.

Garth Nix – “The Highest Justice” vs
Alaya Dawn Johnson – “Love will Tear Us Apart”

Thoughts: The first story, about a princess who calls upon a unicorn to help her dead/dying mother, is alright. But I loved Johnson’s story about a semi-cured teenage zombie who falls in love with his intended prey (described as similar to the best mac and cheese you’ve ever had talking to you about your favorite music). There was something so tender about it that you forgot you were cheering for a brain-eating creature.

Point: Team Zombie

Naomi Novik – “Purity Test” vs Carrie Ryan – “Bougainvillea”

Thoughts: I thought Team Unicorn had a chance with this one. Novik’s story about a modern girl on a mission to rescue baby unicorns is hilarious. But then I read Ryan’s not-so-hilarious story of a dictator’s daughter living on the island of Curacao and attempting to avoid the zombie revolution that has taken over the world. Ryan managed to pack so much into a 30-page story that I am still thinking about it.

Point: Team Zombie

Margo Lanagan – “A Thousand Flowers” vs
Maureen Johnson – “The Children of the Revolution”

Thoughts: I may be predisposed to like anything that Maureen Johnson writes because I think she is about as entertaining as people get, but her story was much more to my taste in this matchup. Lanagan’s story is about…this is a tough one to describe…a boy wrongly accused, a midwife subjected to an unnatural birth, a woman in love with a unicorn. While Johnson’s story is just about a girl who finds herself in a the house of a famous celebrity taking care of her zombie children. Very funny.

Point: Team Zombie

Diana Peterfreund – “The Care and Feeding of Your Baby
Killer Unicorn” vs Scott Westerfeld – “Inoculata”

Thoughts: Diana Peterfreund’s story of killer unicorns and the one girl who could stop them (think Buffy) was touching. It had religion, internal conflict, and some old fashion teen romance. Also, there is a baby unicorn. Westerfeld tells the story of a small band of people fending off the 6 billion “Zees” in the world and one young girl’s solution to their boredom. Both of these stories had interesting takes on their subject matter, but I have to give Team Unicorn its first win.

Point: Team Unicorn

Meg Cabot – “Princess Prettypants” vs Cassandra Clare – “Cold Hands”

Thoughts: With a unicorn named Princess Prettypants, Meg Cabot pretty much clinched her win. I mean, she gave us a unicorn  that expels rainbows and jasmine from various orifices.  And Princess Prettypants turns out to be the perfect present for this 17-year-old girl. In “Cold Hands,” we’re told of a town where the dead routinely come back and coexist with the living. Clare’s contribution to the anthology is wonderful and if she weren’t up against a unicorn named Princess Prettypants, she would probably win.

Point: Team Unicorn

Kathleen Duey – “The Third Virgin” vs Libba Bray – “Prom Night”

Thoughts: “The Third Virgin” is a tale of a 500-hundred year old unicorn who can heal people and also steal part of their lives. This unicorn is out to seek a true virgin in need – the only type of human he can communicate with. It was an interesting story but it had too much baby killing in it for me. Libba Bray’s eerie story takes place in a town where all of the adults are gone due to the zombie infection and the teenagers are left to rule. And there was less baby killing. So it wins.

Point: Team Zombie


If you’d asked me which side I was on before I began this book, I would have said Team Unicorn. Because I thought I didn’t really liked zombies. Turns out I do. A lot. Team Zombie, FTW!

Now seriously, you should probably go read this book. But if you need more convincing, I leave you with this book trailer.

Point: Team Zombie


Paranormalcy [Book Review]

Title: Paranormalcy
Author: Kiersten White
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
ISBN: 0061985848
Length: 352 pages
Year: 2010
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Library
Rating: 4/5

Plot Summary:

Evie is not your average teenager. She has the ability to see through the glamors (disguises) of supernatural creatures. Warewolves, vampires, and faeries may be able to fool the rest of the world, but Evie sees them for who they are. She works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, an organization that keeps track of these supernaturals and protects the human population from them.

But then Evie meets Lend, a shapeshifter and her tidy little world begins to unravel.

My Thoughts:

There are a lot of fun quirks about this book. Evie’s best friend is a mermaid, she has an awkward relationship with a faerie, and she’s obsessed with a teen drama called Easton Heights. The little details made Evie very real to me.

Paranormalcy was dark enough to be interesting but light enough to be fun. It’s perfectly paced and kept me going through the first hours of the 24-hour Readathon. It is unique enough to stand out from the plethora of YA paranormal books out there today.

Buy It Now: IndieBound; Powell’s; Amazon; The Book Depository

Other Reviews: The Infinite Shelf; The Elliot ReviewKellyVision; Chick Loves Lit; Good Books and Good Wine

Linger [Book Review]

Note: This review assumes you’ve read Shiver, the first book in the trilogy. Other than that, it is spoiler-free.

Title: Linger
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
ISBN: 0545123283
Length: 368 pages
Year: 2010
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: Library
Rating: 3.5/5

Plot Summary:

Linger begins shortly after where Shiver leaves off. Sam is human. Him and Grace have their entire future together. Sam must take on Beck’s role and welcome the new wolves back as spring comes.  Enter Cole, one of the new wolves with a less than pristine past and no desire to make this easy on Sam. Add a mysterious illness to the mix and Sam and Grace find their lives once again not really in their control.

My Thoughts:

When I put down Shiver this summer, I eagerly awaited my copy of Linger to come in at the library. Shiver left me wanting more. By the time I finally got my hands on a copy of Linger and the chance to read it, a few months had passed and my eagerness had subsided.  Had I anxiously devoured Linger right after I finished Shiver, I think I may have enjoyed it more.

I liked Linger. I really did. But it didn’t grab my like Shiver did. It seemed to start off very slowly and I’m pretty sure I was 150 pages in before the I felt the story really started moving. And I’m not sure if my feeling that way is a direct result of the book or a result of my start and stop distracted reading this week. But whatever caused it, that’s what I felt.

I enjoyed the addition of Cole as a character. I liked that we got more Isabel (although I could do without the 700 references to her eye makeup). I think the way those two characters developed was great. And although I love Sam and Grace and I love Sam and Grace together, I’m glad that there was more than just them.

The writing is beautiful, just as it was in Shiver. I just wish the pacing and plot had been there, too.

I’m intrigued by the way Linger ended. It was much different than Shiver and I’m interested to see how it develops in the final book.  I wish I didn’t have to wait for July to see how this trilogy concludes.

PS: Did I completely miss that the text in Shiver was blue? Really?

Buy It Now: IndieBound; Powell’s; Book Depository; Amazon

Other Reviews:

Hurt Go Happy [Book Review]

Title: Hurt Go Happy
Author: Ginny Rorby
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction
ISBN: 0765314428
Length: 272 pages
Year: 2006
Publisher: Starscape
Source: Library
Rating: 4.5/5


Joey, a thirteen-year-old girl who is almost completely deaf, lives a lonely life. Her mother, the only person who’s lips she can read well, is the sole person she’s able to fully communicate with. She only recently made her first friend at school. Her mother refuses to allow her to learn or use sign language for fear it will draw attention to her disability.

Then one day she meets Charlie, an older neighbor, and he introduces her to Sukari, a chimpanzee that lives with him and communicates using sign language. As Joey becomes friends with Charlie and Sukari, a whole new world opens up to her and Joey learns that she must make decisions that affect more than just her.

My Thoughts:

I discovered Hurt Go Happy when I randomly clicked on Her Book Self’s BBAW Hidden Treasures post. I read the description and Lisa’s praise of it and immediately requested it from the library. When the Readathon rolled around, I figured it was the perfect time to dive in.

As previously noted, I have a soft spot for chimpanzees and the like. Especially those that can communicate with humans. While Ape House recently left me a little disappointed, this one did not.

I loved Joey. I felt for her and her isolation. I enjoyed watching her grow as life’s possibilities were presented to her. Her friendship with Charlie was touching and her love for Sukari relentless.

This book made me laugh  but it also made me cry sob. There are some tough realities that Joey must face and there are things in this book about our world we’d rather not see. I am not going to rant or lecture here because I know I’ve done it in the past but I do think it’s important to read books like this: books that force us to look at the things we do to animals and nature.

This story will give you hope. I recommend it for that reason although I realize the subject matter may not appeal to everyone like it does to me.

Buy It Now: Amazon; IndieBound; Powell’s; Book Depository