Monday, February 25, 2013

Through the Ever Night Book Review

Author: Veronica Rossi. Release date: 2013. Publisher: HarperCollins. ISBN: 9780062072061.

Annotation: After her mother’s death and the discovery of Vale’s treachery, Aria and Perry, now the blood lord of the Tides, are living an uneasy existence amongst the people Perry must protect. With the Aether storms worsening and land becoming more scarce for Outsiders, however, Aria and Perry’s situation is further complicated when they decide to seek out the Still Blue: the one area on Earth said to be free of the electrical storms that destroyed civilization.

Personal thoughts: I was a huge fan of Under the Never Sky and have recommended it quite frequently to Hunger Games fans who want something similar, so I was really looking forward to picking up Through the Ever Night. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I did the first novel. I found the whole tribe/survival element of Perry’s role as blood lord and little tedious and I kept waiting for something exciting to happen throughout the first two-thirds of the story. The book does pick up towards the end, which leads me to believe that there is still hope it will be an overall excellent trilogy, but I think the author has a bit of work to do in the final installment. Either way, I will still recommend this series to fans of the dystopian genre. Interesting storyline and likable characters that hold a lot of promise for a strong finish.   

Plot summary: Following their discovery of her mother’s death and of the defeat of his brother Vale, Aria and Perry, now the blood lord of the Tides, are living an uneasy existence amongst the Outsiders. Distrustful of Dwellers, Aria’s new home is far from welcoming, especially since Perry’s new position as ruler of the Tides is shaky at best. Determined to protect his people and make up for his brother’s mistakes, Perry and Aria decide to seek out the Still Blue: the last place on Earth that is said to be free of the Aether storms that increasingly scorch the landscape and everything in its path. The only person who knows where the location of the Still Blue, however, is Sable: the blood lord of the Horns, the tribe that Perry and Aria believe is still holding Perry’s sister Liv captive. To make matters worse, Consul Hess, the leader of the domed-city of Reverie that Aria used to call home, is forcing Aria to provide him the location of the Still Blue, using Perry’s brother Talon as a bargaining chip. As the Tides’ trust of their new blood lord and his dweller girlfriend decreases and the Aether storms get worse and worse, can Aria and Perry discover the location of the one place on Earth where they might be able to survive?

Review: Picking up where the best-selling novel, Under the Never Sky, left off, this second installment in Veronica Rossi’s trilogy doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor but still manages to continue the author’s intriguing tale of danger, love and duty. Unlike the first book, Aria and Perry’s relationship is firmly cemented in Through the Ever Night. What is not cemented, however, is their position in Perry’s tribe, the Tides, of which he finds himself the new blood lord. Readers who have forgotten some of the events of Under the Never Sky will need a little refresher to understand exactly what is going on, because the novel does little to recap what happened previously, potentially leading to some confusion. For those who remember all of the details, and plot twists of the first book, however, the story flows well, expanding on the characters created in Under the Never Sky and adding new elements to the landscape in which they exist. One of the most intriguing parts of Veronica Rossi’s creation, the mysterious and deadly Aether storms, becomes the largest driving force in the plot as Aria and Perry struggle to find a way to free themselves and the Tides from its constant destruction. This focus on the Aether and survival, unfortunately means that some of what was so enjoyable about the first novel, such as Perry and Aria’s developing relationship, the nature of the domed cities and the various inhabitants of the outside world, etc. take the backseat. Some interesting plot twists occur surrounding Perry’s sister Liv and her new home with Sable, the leader of a rival tribe, add entertainment value, but many readers might find themselves longing for the spark of the first book that simply isn’t as apparent in Through the Ever Night. Despite its shortcomings, however, the first two novels in this trilogy will definitely appeal to teens and fans of the dystopian genre. The third and final installment, Into the Still Blue, is set to be released in 2014.

Genre:  Science-Fiction/Dystopian

Reading level: Grade 8+

Similar titles: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, Earth’s Children series by Jane Auel, Across the Universe series by Beth Revis, Divergent series by Veronica Roth.   

Themes:  Dystopian, post-apocalyptic, love, loyalty, duty, survival, betrayal.

Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from Kirkus, Horn Book, Booklist and VOYA.  

Series Information: Second installment in Under the Never Sky trilogy. First installment, Under the Never Sky, released in 2012. Third installment, Into the Still Blue, set to be released 2014.

Discussion questions:

-          How have Perry and Aria changed since the first novel? Do you like them more or less?

-         Why do you think the Tides were so distrustful of Aria?

-         Do you think Perry is a successful blood lord? Why or why not?

-        Why did Wylan leave?

-         Do you think the Still Blue exists? Do you think Aria and Perry will find it?

-        What would you like to see happen in the third novel?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lies Beneath Book Review

Author: Anne Greenwood Brown. Release date: 2012. Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9780385742016.

Annotation: Calder White and his three sisters are a family of mermaids that hunt in the waters of Lake Superior: feeding off the lives and emotions of humans. In order to avenge their mother’s death, Calder and his sisters vow to kill the person they believe to be responsible, a man named Jason Hancock. Calder’s sisters order him to seduce Lily, Hancock’s daughter, to get close to her father, but Calder doesn’t expect to find himself falling in love with his prey.

Personal thoughts: I’m always intrigued by mermaid tales, especially ones where the mermaids are kind of mean, so this story was up my alley. While I did enjoy it, there were some aspects that I wish had been downplayed and some that I wish had been highlighted more. I really liked reading about Calder and his sisters and their ability to lure victims to their watery graves. I wanted to know more about the mermaid family, but instead the bulk of the novel focused on Lily and her relationship with Calder. The romance was sweet, but seemed to blossom incredibly quickly from trepidation to full-blown love within a few chapters. I also felt like the ending got a little muddled, but I will still likely pick up the sequel when it’s released later this year. I think the series has potential and would recommend it to readers who like paranormal romance, especially of the mermaid variety.  

Plot summary: For decades, Calder White and his sisters, Maris, Pavati and Tallulah, have hunted in the waters of Lake Superior. Feeding off the lives and emotions of humans, Calder and his sisters are not like the Disney version of mermaids: their supernatural powers and ability to survive both above and beneath the surface of the icy waves makes them lethal to their prey. Years earlier, their mother died as a result of a broken promise made between her and a human man who’s life she saved in exchange for that of his infant child. The man, Tom Hancock, took his family away from the lake, but his now adult son, Jason, has returned with his wife and children. Determined to avenge their mother’s death, Maris, the eldest of Calder’s sisters and the leader of their family, orders Calder to seduce Lily, Jason’s seventeen-year-old daughter. In order to please his sisters, Calder gets close to Lily, spending more time with her than he ever has with another human. What Calder doesn’t expect, however, is to find himself falling in love with his prey. As Lily and Calder get closer, will he be able to deliver her father to his sisters?

Review: Author Anne Greenwood Brown’s enthusiasm for Lake Superior is evident in her debut novel, Lies Beneath, the first installment in a new series for young adults. It’s not very often that mermaid tales take place in a lake, but the author’s obvious love for the beauty surrounding the nearly ocean-sized body of water makes the presence of sea creatures perfectly acceptable. The geography and climate of the lake is almost as much of a character as Calder, the leading merman, and Lily, his unknowing prey. Readers who are unfamiliar with Lake Superior will feel like they know the area quite well by the end of the story, largely due to the factual information the author includes about the history and lore that surround it. The plot of the novel itself is also interesting, with Calder and his mermaid sisters being more like sharks circling the shore watching for prey. The revenge aspect of the tale gets slightly confusing at times: it’s clear that there is more to the story but it isn’t until the end of the book that the author really decides what direction she wants to take the characters. The conclusion feels somewhat abrupt, but overall, the novel is entertaining and will likely leave readers excited for the sequel, Deep Betrayal, which is set to be released on March 12, 2013.

Genre:  Fantasy

Reading level: Grade 7+

Similar titles: Lost Voices by Sarah Porter, Of Poseidon by Anna Banks.  

Themes:  Mermaids, revenge, murder, sibling relationships, romance, secrets, betrayal.  

Awards/Reviews:  Positive review from School Library Journal.

Series Information: First installment in Lost Voices series. Sequel, Deep Betrayal, set to be released March 12, 2013.

Discussion questions:

-         Why do you think Calder had a hard time feeding off of humans but his sisters seemed to enjoy it?

-        Which of Calder’s sisters was your favorite? Which was your least favorite? Why?

-         Have you ever been to Lake Superior? If not, did you learn anything about it while reading the novel?

-         Why do you think Lily was scared of Calder at first? What do you think changed her mind?

-          Do you think Lily always suspected Calder was a merman? Why or why not?

-        What would you like to see happen in the sequel?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Shades of Earth Book Review

 Author: Beth Revis. Release date: 2012. Publisher: Razorbill. ISBN: 9781595143990.

Annotation: Amy and Elder land on Centauri Earth, along with the members of the Godspeed who chose to abandon their ship and start a new life. After thawing the frozen leadership of the original Godspeed mission, including Amy’s parents, Amy, Elder and the rest of the colonists realize that Centauri Earth is far more dangerous than they ever anticipated.

Personal thoughts: Wow, this is one of the best series I have ever read. I loved the first novel, enjoyed the sequel even more, but can safely say that the third book was the best…not many trilogies can accomplish that! From start to finish, this is an amazing book and I was completely satisfied with the ending. I am only sad that the series is over, but I am really looking forward to reading what Beth Revis comes up with next. This trilogy is a must-read for anyone who simply likes a well-written, exciting and entertaining story. Excellent, excellent, excellent.

Plot summary: Amy, Elder and the inhabitants of the Godspeed who chose to start a new life on the planet have landed on Centauri Earth. The frozen members of the original Godspeed mission, including Amy’s parents, have been released from their icy chambers and work must now begin to colonize their new home. But everything is not going as smoothly as Amy and Elder had hoped. The shipborn colonists do not trust their new military leaders, and the Earth natives, including Amy’s father who is now the leader of the mission, are even more wary of Elder and his people. More troubling, however, is the planet which they must now call home. Inhabited by fierce dinosaur-like creatures, deadly vegetation and unpredictable weather, Amy and Elder aren’t sure if Centauri Earth is as habitable as they were lead to believe. The colonists also begin to discover ruins: proof that someone has been to the planet before but seems to be gone without a trace. Will Amy, Elder and the rest of the members of the Godspeed mission be able to survive long enough to learn the truth about Centauri Earth?  

Review: This third and final installment in Beth Revis’ best-selling Across the Universe trilogy provides the series with an incredibly exciting and satisfying end. Revis is a master at creating twists and turns that are difficult to anticipate, and the reader will find themselves along for a very bumpy ride as Amy and Elder learn the truth about the mission that has brought them to their new home. Free from the confines of the Godspeed, the author creates an entire world for her characters to navigate, providing opportunities to develop Amy and Elder even further as they learn more about themselves and each other. The novel is action-packed and paced perfectly as well, building suspense throughout the plot that comes to an exciting climax. In her Across the Universe trilogy, Beth Revis has created a story and set of characters that is certain to stand the test of time as one of the best science-fiction series ever written for the young adult audience.  

Genre:  Science-Fiction

Reading level: Grade 8+

Similar titles: Across the Universe and A Million Suns by Beth Revis, Glow and Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan, A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan.   

Themes:  Space travel, spaceships, dystopian future, control, mystery, conflict, rebellion. 

Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from Booklist, Horn Book and Kirkus.

Series Information: Final installment in Across the Universe trilogy. First installment, Across the Universe, published in 2011. Second installment, A Million Suns, published in 2012.  

Discussion questions:

-         Why do you think Amy was in such a hurry to unfreeze her parents and the rest of the frozens? Do you think it was a good idea?
-         Why do you think the frozens were so distrustful of the shipborns and vice versa? Do you think Elder made the situation better or worse? How?
-         What role does Phydus play in the series?
-         Do you think Colonel Martin was like Eldest and Orion? Why or why not?
-          What do you think the future holds for Amy and Elder after the events of this final installment? If you were to write a continuation story for the trilogy, what would you include?
-        Which novel in the Across the Universe trilogy is your favorite? Why?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Forsaken Book Review

Author: Lisa M. Stasse. Release date: 2012. Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9781442432659.

Annotation: After sixteen-year-old Alenna Shawcross fails the GPPT, a personality test instituted by the harsh, all-controlling government that now controls North America, she is sent to Island Alpha: a brutal, tropical prison where other teenagers who fail the test struggle to survive. The island’s population is in the midst of a civil war between two rival groups of teens, and Alenna finds herself in the middle of the conflict, determined to stay alive and find a way off the island. 

Personal thoughts: Having read and completely loved The Forsaken, I am shocked that I haven’t heard more buzz about it. I have said many times that I am a huge fan of the dystopian genre, but too often dystopian books aren’t super satisfying. That is not the case with The Forsaken, however, which I loved from the first page to the last. I can’t wait for the sequel, and am looking forward to recommending this new series to Hunger Games fans. What an accomplishment for debut author (and librarian!) Lisa M. Stasse! 

Plot summary: After years of war, poverty and violence, North America is now the UNA: an alliance between Canada, the United States and Mexico controlled by a harsh and incredibly strict military government. When she was little girl, Alenna Shawcross’ parents, like anyone else who opposed the UNA, were taken by the government, and Alenna became one of countless orphans raised to respect and obey. At the age of sixteen, all citizens of the UNA are required to take the GPPT: a chemical personality test that can identify individuals with violent or criminal tendencies. After Alenna inexplicably fails the test, she is sent to Alpha Island, a brutal tropical prison where other teens who didn’t pass the GPPT must struggle to survive. The island is in the midst of a civil war between two rival factions of teens: those who follow the Monk, a charismatic dictator whose devotees revere him as a path to salvation, and those who oppose the Monk. Alenna finds herself in the middle of the conflict living with the teens who fight against the Monk and his drones. Amongst the rebels, Alenna meets Liam, a strong and handsome warrior who is convinced that there is a way off Island Alpha. As Alenna learns about the island, she begins to realize that it is much more than a prison, and becomes determined to help Liam, and the rest of her new friends, escape before it is too late.

Review: In her debut novel, digital librarian turned author Lisa M. Stasse delivers a healthy dose of action, adventure, romance and overall dystopian excitement in The Forsaken. The dystopian genre seems to be slowly taking over young adult literature, but Stasse’s novel truly shines as a thoroughly entertaining and well-written book. Fans of The Hunger Games will easily enjoy the fast pace, likable characters, and non-stop action in The Forsaken, which reads much like a futuristic Lord of the Flies. From start to finish, the reader is entrenched in the world of Island Alpha, where teens battle eachother for scarce resources, territory and power. Throw in a protagonist that many teens will identify with, a strong supporting cast of characters, and a romance that refrains from being overly gushy and melodramatic and you have a story with loads of appeal to both male and female teens. The novel has received some mixed reviews from those who consider it to be too much like The Hunger Games, but the author’s ability to have the same tone as the uber-successful series while creating a unique storyline is perfect for teachers or librarians who want to provide teen readers an enjoyable read-a-like. Overall, a successful and entertaining debut novel that will leave fans eagerly anticipating the release of the sequel, The Uprising, in August 2013.

Genre:  Science-Fiction

Reading level: Grade 7+

Similar titles: Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, Article 5 by Kristen Simmons, Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky, Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth, Chemical Garden trilogy by Laruen DeStefano, Across the Universe trilogy by Beth Revis, The Pledge by Kimberly Derting, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi.  

Themes:  Dystopian, post-apocalyptic, control, war, conflict, survival, conspiracy.

Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from School Library Journal and Booklist.  
Series Information: First installment in Forsaken trilogy. Sequel, The Uprising, set to be released August 6, 2013.

Discussion questions:

-          What do you think the GPPT is? Why do you think Alenna failed?
-          If you were sent to Island Alpha, which side would you be on? Why?
-         Why do you think Veidman was so distrustful of David?
-       Who was your favorite character? Why?
-         What do you think the feelers are?
-         If you were Alenna, would you have gone on Operation Tiger Strike or stayed at the village? Why?
-         Were you surprised to learn the identity of the Monk? Why or why not?