Showing posts with label survival. Show all posts
Showing posts with label survival. Show all posts

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?

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?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Partials Book Review

 Author: Dan Wells. Release date: 2012. Publisher:  Balzer + Bray. ISBN: 9780062071040.

Annotation: In the year 2076, the world has been decimated after the Partials, genetically engineered super soldiers, rebelled against their human creators with a deadly virus known as RM. Now the human race is on the verge of extinction as every newborn in the survivor settlement of East Meadow on Long Island succumbs to the virus. Sixteen-year-old medic Kira Walker is determined to find a cure for the virus, even if it means capturing and studying a Partial to do it.
Personal thoughts: I was a bit worried that this novel would be irritatingly similar to other dystopian books I’ve read recently when I heard what it was about, but was pleasantly surprised that this was not the case. Although I definitely recognized some concepts from other popular books, TV shows or movies, the overlap didn’t bother me. In fact, I found the author’s take to be fresh and interesting. One of my favorite parts of the novel was the presence of strong, intelligent female protagonist, Kira. Not only is she described as beautiful, she is also very smart, explaining the science of her research to the reader and giving teen girl’s a positive role model who is proud of her knowledge and uses it for a purpose she believes in. I’m looking forward to seeing how Kira develops in the following installments, and can’t wait to read Fragments when it’s released in 2013.

Plot summary: The year is 2076, and the world has been decimated after the Partials, genetically engineered super soldiers, rebelled against their human creators. Having replaced the world’s armies, humans were unable to defend themselves when the Partials launched their attacks. It was a biological weapon, a deadly virus known as RM, that managed to wipe out 99.9% of the world’s human population. The Partials retreated after the RM plague and haven’t been seen for eleven years, but now the human race is on the verge of extinction as every newborn in the survivor settlement of East Meadow on Long Island succumbs to the virus. The survivors themselves are inexplicably immune to RM, but the inability to produce new generations threatens to put the final nail in the coffin that was humanity. In response to this overwhelming problem, the government of East Meadow created the Hope Act: a law that requires all women age 18 and over to be pregnant at all times. Sixteen-year-old Kira Walker was only five when RM was released, but she still remembers a time before every infant died within hours of birth. Kira works as a medic in East Meadow hospital’s maternity unit. Everyday she helps her fellow scientists try to discover a cure for RM by studying the newborns before they quickly die. When her best friend Madison becomes pregnant, however, Kira is determined that her baby will live. Convinced that the answer to curing RM lies in the physiology of the Partials, all of whom are immune to the virus, Kira sets out for the deserted island of Manhattan with one mission: to bring a live Partial back to East Meadow and find a cure.
Review: Continuing the dystopian craze that seems to have taken over young adult literature is Dan Wells’ Partials, the exciting and well-written first installment in a new post-apocalyptic series for teens. A cross between Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, Battlestar Galactica and Terminator, some common ideas (i.e. the revolting robot/machine, world-ending plague, totalitarian government, etc.) get a fresh and interesting take in this novel. From the beginning, it is clear that the Partials, the human race’s enemy number one, are going to have a role in curing the deadly RM virus. Unraveling exactly what that role will be is one of the most intriguing parts of the story. The author does an excellent job of creating an action packed plot, making Partials an ideal recommendation for male readers who want something exciting. Teen girls will also find a lot to identify with in Kira, the smart and dedicated scientist who is determined to save the life of her best friend’s unborn baby. Unlike other dystopian novels, and young adult novels in general, the romantic part of the novel takes a bit of a backseat to the rest of the story. Readers might pick up on a potential future love triangle, but the book isn’t particularly lovey-dovey, adding to its male appeal. Overall, Partials is an enjoyable and interesting beginning to a series with lots of potential. The sequel, Fragments, is set to be released in 2013.

Genre: Science-fiction
Reading level: Grade 7+

Similar titles: Eve by Anna Carey, The Pledge by Kimberly Derting, The Chemical Garden trilogy by Lauren DeStefano, The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch, Legend by Marie Lu, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Divergent by Veronica Roth.    
Themes:  Dystopian, post-apocalyptic, plague, genetic engineering, survival, pregnancy, oppression, rebellion.

Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, VOYA, The Wall Street Journal, and The Los Angeles Times.
Series Information: First installment in Partials series. Second novel, Fragments, set to be released in 2013.  

Discussion questions:
-      Why do you think the Partials rebelled against their human creators? Do you think they were justified?

-      Do you think the Hope Act was right or wrong? Why?

-       Do you think the way Samm was treated was humane? Why or why not?

-     Why do you think the Senate chose Kira to study Samm?

-       What do you think the last line of the novel means?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Under the Never Sky Book Review

 Author: Veronica Rossi. Release date: 2012. Publisher:  HarperCollins. ISBN: 9780062072030.
Annotation: In the distant future, the world is divided into two groups: Dwellers who live in domed cities protected from the terrible electrical storms that permeate the sky, and Outsiders who brave the elements and live as primitive tribes of hunters and gatherers. After a terrible accident in her city of Reverie, Aria, a Dweller, is cast out into the wilderness. There she meets Perry, a handsome Outsider and outcast from his own tribe, and the two vow to help each other return home.
Personal thoughts: I am a big fan of both dystopian and survival novels, so Under the Never Sky was a perfect fit for me! I really liked the concept of the domed cities, especially the Realms, and how that life impacted Aria after she was exiled into the Outside. Both Perry and Aria were interesting characters with a lot of depth, which kept my interest high as I travelled with them on their journey through the wilderness. I hope that in the following novels, the author goes into more detail about the exact nature of the electrical storms (that concept was especially intriguing.) I am really excited about this trilogy and would definitely recommend it for fans of dystopia, romance, survival, or for teens who simply want a well-written and exciting read.
Plot summary: In the distant future, society as we know it has collapsed, replaced by a savage and brutal wasteland plagued with electrical storms that torch everything in their path. The world has become divided into two groups. The first are the Dwellers who live in domed cities protected from the outside world. In these cities, the people spend most of their time in the Realms, virtual realities that mimic what the world used to be like and allow the Dwellers to travel from place to place in the blink of an eye. The second group is the Outsiders: people who brave the storms and live in primitive tribes as hunters and gatherers. Aria is a Dweller and has spent her seventeen-years living in the domed city of Reverie with her scientist mother, Lumina. After travelling to another domed city known as Bliss, Aria loses contact with her mother. In an effort to learn what has happened, Aria becomes involved in a terrible accident that takes the lives of two of her friends and causes her to be exiled from Reverie and cast out into the wilderness. There she meets Perry, an Outsider her age who was thrown out of his tribe after he was blamed for the kidnapping of his nephew, Talon, by Dwellers. Perry and Aria, though distrustful of one another, realize they can help each other return home: Perry by taking Aria to Bliss and Aria by giving Perry a way to retrieve Talon. As the two travel through the harsh wilderness, however, they begin to discover that they have more in common than they thought.  
Review:  In the current sea of dystopian novels that is young adult literature, there are those that stand out from the crowd as fresh, original and intriguing. Under the Never Sky, the first installment in a new trilogy for teens, is one of those novels. Part Hunger Games part Clan of the Cave Bear, debut author Veronica Rossi has created something truly unique that juxtaposes high-tech gadgetry with primitive tribal life. Aria and Perry, both narrators of the novel, are equally strong characters, giving the reader two protagonists to easily care about and identify with. Their evolution throughout the story, from distrust and contempt to mutual understanding and love, is expertly paced and well executed. Other characters, Perry’s friend Roar and mysterious orphan Cinder are equally interesting, giving the novel depth and richness. Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of Under the Never Sky, however, is the intricate landscape that Veronica Rossi has created. From the domed cities, to the electrical storms, to the tribes of vicious cannibals, the reader is plunged headfirst into Aria and Perry’s world. According to the book jacket, the book has been optioned for film by Warner Brothers, something that comes as no surprise after arriving at the exciting final pages of the novel. The second installment in this trilogy, Through the Ever Night, is set to be released in 2013.
Genre: Science-Fiction
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, Earth’s Children series by Jane Auel.
Themes:  Dystopian, post-apocalyptic, exile, virtual reality, survival, loyalty.  
Awards/Reviews:  Starred reviews from Kirkus. Positive reviews from VOYA
Series Information: First installment in Under the Never Sky trilogy. Second novel, Through the Ever Night, set to be released in 2013.
Discussion questions: 
-    Would you rather live as a Dweller or an Outsider? Why?
-     Why do you think Aria was exiled from Reverie?
-      Do you think Perry did the right thing in leaving the Tides? Why or why not?
-     Why do you think Aria and Perry didn’t like each other at first?
-     Were you surprised by Lumina’s “Songbird” message?
-      What would you like to see happen in the sequel?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Dark Inside Book Review

Author: Jeyn Roberts. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9781442423510.
Annotation: As earthquakes ravage the world, four teens struggle to survive after an ancient evil is unleashed, turning people into calculating and homicidal monsters.
Personal thoughts:  Wow! This was one of those novels that I really could not put down. It was absolutely suspenseful from start to finish. The characters were well-developed and the plot was really well thought-out. I am very impressed with Jeyn Roberts, especially because this is her first publication! I highly recommend this novel to both teens and adults; it is excellent and appropriate for both groups! I am dying (no pun intended) for the sequel!   
Plot summary: The day begins like any other for four teens, Aries, Mason, Michael and Clementine, who live normal lives in different parts of the US. What these four, who have never met, don’t realize, however, is that their world is about to change forever. An earthquake of apocalyptical proportions ravages the west coast of America, destroying major cities including Los Angeles and Seattle. Similar earthquakes appear all over the globe, causing mass destruction and death. But the worst is yet to come. The earthquakes have unearthed an ancient evil: one that thinks and feels and is ready to hunt. Friends and family suddenly become homicidal, setting off bombs in schools, hospitals, and churches; murdering their sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers. Entire towns are executed at the hands of the few who seem to have become possessed with a maniacal force that speaks to them, telling them to carry out these horrendous acts. Aries, Mason, Michael and Clementine are each plunged headfirst into the horror that has taken control of the world and must survive as best they can. Their four stories will eventually overlap, but how and at what cost has yet to be determined.
Review:  Suspenseful and exciting from start to finish, this debut novel from author Jeyn Roberts makes for a must-read start to a new series for young adults that is perfect for those anticipating what the infamous year of 2012 will actually hold. The novel invokes many feelings and memories of famous apocalypse novels and movies of recent years, from Night of the Living Dead to The Road. Although some of the plot points are familiar, Dark Inside stands on its own as an original new take on the genre and would arguably make for a fantastic movie itself. The novel is told from the perspectives of all four teens and the additional voice of the Nothing. Although it is never clearly stated what the exact nature of the Nothing is, the reader comes to understand that the ancient evil that is ravaging the world is itself a co-narrator of the book. This makes for an intriguing twist as few apocalyptic stories actually give a voice to the means of the end. The other four narrators, Aries, Mason, Michael and Clementine, are all easy to root for and each has a unique backstory that allows to reader to genuinely care about their survival. Overall, Dark Inside is an absolute page-turner that any fan of apocalyptical or dystopian novels must read. The second novel in the series, Rage Within, will be released in September of 2012.
Genre: Science-fiction/Horror
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: The Road by Cormac McCarthy, The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch, Forest of Hands and Teeth series by Carrie Ryan, Blood Red Road by Moira Young.     
Themes:  Apocalypse, dystopian, possession, murder, survival.  
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from VOYA.     
Series Information: First installment in Dark Inside series. Second novel, Rage Within, set to be released on September 4, 2012.     
Discussion questions:
- Who was your favorite of the five narrators? Why?
- What do you think the Nothing was?
- What do you think happened to make people become homicidal?
-  What would you have done if you were trying to survive the Baggers?
- What would you like to see happen in the sequel?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Eleventh Plague Book Review

Author: Jeff Hirsch. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Scholastic Press. ISBN: 9780545290142.
Annotation:  Fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn and his father are two of the few remaining survivors of P-11: a devastating plague that wiped out most of North America’s population. After Stephen’s father is gravely injured, Stephen must ensure that both of them stay alive in the unforgiving wilderness that is now America.  
Personal thoughts:  I wanted to like this novel more than I ended up enjoying it. I thought the teenage perspective on a post-apocalyptic future was interesting, but the pacing issues in the plot really hampered the story at times for me. I wish the author would have expanded more on what caused the plague and describing the post-apocalyptic environment. I think the author did a good idea of inspiring the reader to contemplate the “what-if’s” of Stephen’s future: what if the America of today experienced P-11. Although it is unclear if this novel is part of a series, I look forward to seeing more of what this author has to offer.
Plot summary: In the not too distant future, fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn and his father are scavengers living in the desolate wasteland that is now the United States. After a plague known as P-11 wipes out most of the population of North America, the survivors now live on the brink of starvation, constantly trying to evade capture by the Slavers: mercenaries who seek to sell their captives to the highest bidder. After the elder is gravely injured, Stephen and his father find themselves being taken to Settler’s Landing: a small town that managed to survive the plague and is now home to other survivors as well. After his father slips into a coma, Stephen lives with a local family to help care for him. Stephen is reluctant to partake in the seemingly normal life of Settler’s Landing, but eventually gets used to attending school and playing games, even though he is far from welcome by Will, the son of the town’s leader. When he meets Jenny, a fellow outcast, Stephen feels like spending his life in Settler’s Landing might be a possibility. But when Stephen discovers that a practical joke has lead the town to the brink of war with a neighboring village, will he be forced to leave his father in Settler’s Landing and return to his life in the harsh wilderness?
Review:  Despite its slow-pacing, The Eleventh Plague offers an interesting perspective on a very real possibility for the future of the United States. Stephen struggles with normal teenage issues while tackling the realities of his situation: coping with the loss of his mother, his grandfather’s recent death, and his father’s injury. By including Stephen’s grappling with things like crushes, bullies, and feeling like he doesn’t belong, Hirsch creates a believable character living in a very harsh future. The novel focuses almost exclusively on Stephen’s thoughts and feelings, leaving the supporting characters slightly underdeveloped. Jenny, Stephen’s love interest, has a small back-story to explain why she is also an outcast in Settler’s Landing, but story could have been improved by working to expand upon the people Stephen encounters. Overall, however, The Eleventh Plague is an enjoyable read for fans of dystopian novels, especially into a post-apocalyptic setting.  
Genre: Fiction
Reading level: Grade 7+
Similar titles: The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick.  
Themes:  Dystopian, post-apocalyptic, survival, fitting in, friendship.
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from best-selling author Suzanne Collins.  
Series Information: Unclear, but ending of novel points to possibility of sequels.
Discussion questions:
- Do you think the events of the novel could actually take place? Why or why not?
- Do you think Stephen’s father should have attacked the Slavers?
- If you were Stephen, would you have chosen to stay or leave Settler’s Landing? Why?
- Why do you think Will couldn’t forgive Stephen?