Gated by Amy Christine Parker
In the Community, life seems perfect. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Pioneer invited Lyla’s family to join his group and escape the evil in the world. They were happy to be chosen, happy to move away from New York and start over in such an idyllic gated community. Now seventeen, Lyla knows that Pioneer is more than just their charismatic leader, he is their prophet … but his visions have grown dark.
Lyla is a loyal member of the Community, but a chance encounter with an outsider boy has her questioning Pioneer, the Community—everything. And if there’s one thing not allowed in the Community, it’s doubt. Her family and friends are certain in their belief. Lyla wishes she could feel the same. As Pioneer begins to manipulate his flock toward disaster, the question remains: Will Lyla follow them over the edge?
It’s hard to imagine why anyone would join a cult, especially one of the kind that Lyla’s part of, when you’re not actually in a cult. But Parker tells the story of traumatized people preyed upon by a power-hungry villain. The quotes from Jim Jones and Charles Manson, leaders of real-life cults, add a terrifying element of reality to the book.
I liked that the story progresses both from Lyla’s perspective and from an outsider’s. Although it’s told from Lyla’s point of view, Parker throws in enough details for an “outsider” to realize there’s something off. The closer you get to the end of the book, the more dangerous it feels. The ending isn’t really a surprise, though.
Although the Community was well-developed and portrayed, Parker never mentioned Pioneer’s motives. Obviously he was a madman, but he still had some sort of reason or logic behind his actions. He was scary and obviously manipulative, but he lacked a bit of depth because of that.
I liked the apocalypse-preppers side of the Community, and it added a lot of suspense throughout the book. I could realistically see Pioneer talking a group of people, traumatized by personal and national tragedies, into believing that the world would end to punish the wicked. What didn’t seem so realistic is that he would be able to convince them the world would end when the earth’s rotation was reversed. That isn’t scientifically possible, and if it didn’t ring true with me, I don’t see how Pioneer convinced so many well-educated people of it.
Pioneer’s strange new religion was also kind of off to me. Again, it was realistic that he claimed he was a prophet and gained a cult following of his new religion. But Parker took it too far when she added in aliens. Even if some of the Community members had believed in aliens before meeting Pioneer, it seems like when he told them the Brethren were watching them and choosing to save them from the outer reaches of space, they’d have called bullcrap on the whole thing.
Other than a few hiccups and overdone plot points, though, Gated was a fascinating and captivating read. The romantic part of the plot had the feel of instalove, but since the story mainly revolved around the Community and Pioneer’s control over it, that didn’t bother me too much.
Hollow City by Ransom Riggs (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children #2)
The extraordinary journey that began in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children continues as Jacob Portman and his newfound friends journey to London the peculiar capital of the world. But in this war-torn city, hideous surprises lurk around every corner.
Hollow City has all of the appeal of its predecessor: vintage photography combined flawlessly with the story, terrifying monsters, and a hint of the fantastic. This is a book for lovers of fairy tales and dragonslayers who want a little more.
I loved that Riggs picked up right where he left off - almost exactly where he left off. A lot of sequels pick up a few days or weeks after the first book, and then you have to backtrack and figure out what's happened in between. With Hollow City, I was immediately back in the story, no fumbling around figuring it out.
Riggs also managed to combine superhero-esque powers, time travel, and creepy monsters brilliantly. The monsters are as scary and devilish as always, and they play a bigger role in this book than Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.
The peculiars' history and culture get a lot of attention in Hollow City, which was fascinating. The relationship between hollows, wights, and peculiars was explored a little more, too, and provided the book with plenty of suspense. We also get to see the children use their powers a bit more, too, and learn more about some of their backstories. The characters were all wonderful, even those who appeared only for a chapter or two, but especially the kids. They each have a distinct personality, and it was fun getting to know them.
As always, Riggs left the biggest twist for the end, leaving readers hanging and begging for more. This book was a great addition to the series that pulled me in from the start and kept me hooked to the last page. I, for one, can't wait to get my hands on the next book.
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Challenge yourself to reading your way through the alphabet this year! (Skip to 1:27 in the video for information about the challenge).
I will be participating in this challenge. Read the reviews I write for it here.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
As a child, Kathy – now thirty-one years old – lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory.
And so, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, and as the feelings that long ago fueled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to deepen into love, Kathy recalls their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unperturbed – even comforted – by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of discord and misunderstanding that hint at a dark secret behind Hailsham’s nurturing facade. With the dawning clarity of hindsight, the three friends are compelled to face the truth about their childhood–and about their lives now.
Never Let Me Go is told in a disconnected sort of way, more a collection of anecdotes than a proper plot. The plot of the book left me sort of underwhelmed; it wasn't too dramatic, and the romance seemed forced. The characters were interesting and they all had their quirks, but they didn't really seem to go together - there wasn't any chemistry for the romance, even though it was a huge part of the plot.
The plot, like I said, is rather disjointed and more a collection of short stories. It adds to the effect that Kathy is looking back on her life, but it overlooks a lot of the emotional impact of donations. We don't hear about the history of the donations and the donor children until the very last chapter, although we do get glimpses and a basic understanding throughout the book. The donor children were the most interesting part of the book. Both the children and the "normal" people's reaction to them providing an interesting look at humanity, but again we don't really get the full effect of it until the last chapter.
Because of the vague way Ishiguro told the story, I wanted to keep reading and find out more. In some ways, I suppose Ishiguro was telling us about the donations the way Kathy and her friends were told; a little bit at a time so it was never too shocking.
Looking back on it, there was a lot I enjoyed about Never Let Me Go, and it's definitely a book that will stay with me.
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom, Nyx has always known her fate was to marry him, kill him, and free her people from his tyranny.
But on her seventeenth birthday, when she moves into his castle high on the kingdom's mountaintop, nothing is as she expected—particularly her charming and beguiling new husband.
Nyx knows she must save her homeland at all costs, yet she can't resist the pull of her sworn enemy—who's gotten in her way by stealing her heart.
The Unbound (The Archived #2) by Victoria Schwab
Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.
Last summer, Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper tasked with stopping violent Histories from escaping the Archive, almost lost her life to one. Now, as she starts her junior year at Hyde School, she's struggling to get her life back. But moving on isn't easy -- not when her dreams are haunted by what happened. She knows the past is past, knows it cannot hurt her, but it feels so real, and when her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she's really safe.
Meanwhile, people are vanishing without a trace,and the only thing they seem to have in common isMackenzie. She's sure the Archive knows more than they are letting on, but before she can prove it, she becomes the prime suspect. And unless Mac can track down the real culprit, she'll lose everything, not only her role as Keeper, but her memories, and even her life. Can Mackenzie untangle the mystery before she herself unravels?
Into the Still Blue (Under the Never Sky #3) by Veronica Rossi
Their love and their leadership have been tested. Now it's time for Perry and Aria to unite the Dwellers and the Outsiders in one last desperate attempt to bring balance to their world.
Infinite (Newsoul #3) by Jodi Meadows
Ana knows that soon life in Heart will be at risk so she escapes with her friends, seeking answers and allies to stop Janan's ascension and keep the other Newsouls safe. But only she knows the true cost of reincarnation and the dangers she'll encounter if she returns to stop him once and for all.
Timestorm (Tempest #3) by Julie Cross
As Jackson recovers from his brush with death, he’s surrounded not only by the people he loves most—his dad, Courtney, and Holly—he’s also among a few of the original time travelers. As he learns more about their lives and how this world began, it becomes apparent that they need to put a stop to Thomas and Dr. Ludwig’s experimenting at Eyewall Headquarters. What starts out as an escape plan becomes a war between time and humanity, between free will and peace. It’s the battle Jackson was born to fight and he’s not about to back down. Not for anything. Not for anyone.
Her Dark Curiosity (The Madman’s Daughter #2) by Megan Shepherd
Back in London after her trip to Dr. Moreau's horrific island, Juliet is rebuilding the life she once knew and trying to forget her father's legacy. But soon it's clear that someone—or something—hasn't forgotten her, as people close to Juliet start falling victim to a murderer who leaves a macabre calling card of three clawlike slashes. Has one of her father's creations also escaped the island? As Juliet strives to stop a killer while searching for a serum to cure her own worsening illness, she finds herself once more in a world of scandal and danger. Her heart torn in two, past bubbling to the surface, life threatened by an obsessive killer—Juliet will be lucky to escape alive.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
As a kid, Jacob formed a special bond with his grandfather over his bizarre tales and photos of levitating girls and invisible boys. Now at 16, he is reeling from the old man's unexpected death. Then Jacob is given a mysterious letter that propels him on a journey to the remote Welsh island where his grandfather grew up. There, he finds the children from the photographs--alive and well--despite the islanders’ assertion that all were killed decades ago. As Jacob begins to unravel more about his grandfather’s childhood, he suspects he is being trailed by a monster only he can see.
Eerie and suspenseful, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was a stunning read. It's a perfect intertwining of reality and fantasy, as well as history and modern-day. The small, secluded Welsh town is the perfect setting, like all those ghost stories from the English moors. I fell in love with this book in every way. I never knew what to expect and was always surprised and delighted by the plot twists.
The characters were equally exciting; they were interesting, original, and eccentric. Jacob, the narrator, was believable and likeable, though my favorite character was Emma Bloom. I adored her character, although I'm still not sure how I feel about her as the love interest. It's just a little off to me, even though it was executed better than eighty percent of YA romances.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was a beautifully haunting read. The vintage photographs throughout the text add to the text, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality even more. Fans of mystery and monsters will devour this book.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. When "Verity" is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she's living a spy's worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.
As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?
Code Name Verity is the most most heart-stopping, heartbreaking book I have ever read. The first time I read it, I couldn't finish it - I didn't like it. A few days ago I found it under a pile of laundry and decided to have another go at it and my god am I glad I did. I honestly can't say why I didn't like Code Name Verity the first time I tried to read it, because I am head-over-heels madly in love with this book. On the outside, it's a story about girls who love each other fierce and true, fighting for their country, but underneath is the brutal life of a captured spy and an airwoman behind enemy lines. Verity and Kittyhawk, even the Nazis, are some of the best written, well-rounded characters I've ever read. They were all real, the whole book seemed real to me, and just as terrifying and heartfelt as a real-life account of the events would be. I cried for hours after finishing Code Name Verity. I could gush (possibly incoherently) about it for hours, but I don't want to give anything away, so I'll only say this: Code Name Verity is just grand, a masterpiece of storytelling and a piece of history brought back to life.
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How to participate:
I wanted to expand my scope of reading - and I want you to join me! Every month, you pick a novel from the specified genre that you think you will like. Even if you don't usually read from that genre, you might find something you really enjoy! You can ask me for recommendations for that genre if you aren't too sure! Then, after you read the book, you post a quote, picture of the book, a review, a fancast, a meme, anything really! Have fun doing this and Happy Reading!
I will be participating in this challenge! Find the reviews I write for it here.
Avalon (Avalon #1) by Mindee Arnett
Jeth Seagrave and his crew have made their name stealing metatech: the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light. In a world where the agencies that patrol the outer edges of space are as corrupt as the crime bosses who control them, it’s as much of a living as anyone can ask for. For years Jeth’s managed to fly under the radar of the government that executed his parents for treason—but when he finds himself in possession of information that both government and the crime bosses are willing to kill for, he’s going to find there’s no escaping his past anymore.
Evertrue (Everneath #3) by Brodi Ashton
Now that Nikki has rescued Jack, all she wants is to be with him and graduate high school. But Cole tricked Nikki as they journeyed through the labyrinth of the Everneath together, and now she's begun the process of turning into an Everliving herself. Nikki and Jack begin a desperate attempt to reverse the process, using everything they can think of. Even Cole has become an unlikely ally—but for how long? Nikki needs to feed on Cole to survive, Cole needs Nikki to gain the throne in the Everneath, Jack needs Nikki because she is everything to him—and, together, they must travel back to the Underworld to undo Nikki's fate and make her mortal once more.
Will Nikki be forced to spend eternity in the Underworld—or does she have what it takes to bring down the Everneath once and for all?
The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos
A severely burned teenager. A guitar. Punk rock. The chords of a rock 'n' roll road trip in a coming-of-age novel that is a must-read story about finding your place in the world...even if you carry scars inside and out.
In attempting to describe himself in his college application essay--help us to become acquainted with you beyond your courses, grades, and test scores--Harbinger (Harry) Jones goes way beyond the 250-word limit and gives a full account of his life.
The first defining moment: the day the neighborhood goons tied him to a tree during a lightning storm when he was 8 years old, and the tree was struck and caught fire. Harry was badly burned and has had to live with the physical and emotional scars, reactions from strangers, bullying, and loneliness that instantly became his everyday reality.
The second defining moment: the day in 8th grade when the handsome, charismatic Johnny rescued him from the bullies and then made the startling suggestion that they start a band together. Harry discovered that playing music transported him out of his nightmare of a world, and he finally had something that compelled people to look beyond his physical appearance. Harry's description of his life in his essay is both humorous and heart-wrenching. He had a steeper road to climb than the average kid, but he ends up learning something about personal power, friendship, first love, and how to fit in the world. While he's looking back at the moments that have shaped his life, most of this story takes place while Harry is in high school and the summer after he graduates.
Heavyweight by MB Mulhall
Secrets. Their weight can be crushing, but their release can change everything—and not necessarily for the better. Ian is no stranger to secrets. Being a gay teen in a backwater southern town, Ian must keep his orientation under wraps, especially since he spends a lot of time with his hands all over members of the same sex, pinning their sweaty, hard bodies to the wrestling mat. When he’s trying not to stare at teammates in the locker room, he’s busy hiding another secret—that he starves himself so he doesn’t get bumped to the next weight class.
Enter Julian Yang, an Adonis with mesmerizing looks and punk rocker style. Befriending the flirtatious artist not only raises suspicion among his classmates, but leaves Ian terrified he’ll give in to the desires he’s fought to ignore.
As secrets come to light, Ian’s world crumbles. Disowned, de-friended, and deserted by nearly everyone, Ian’s one-way ticket out of town is revoked, leaving him trapped in a world he hates—and one that hates him back.
Fake ID by Lamar Giles
Nick Pearson is hiding in plain sight. In fact, his name isn't really Nick Pearson. He shouldn't tell you his real name, his real hometown, or why his family just moved to Stepton, Virginia. And he definitely shouldn't tell you about his friend Eli Cruz and the major conspiracy Eli was uncovering when he died. About how Nick had to choose between solving Eli's murder with his hot sister, Reya, and "staying low-key" like the Program said to do.
But he's going to tell you—unless he gets caught first. . . .
The Rule of Three by Eric Walters
One shocking afternoon, computers around the globe shut down in a viral catastrophe. At sixteen-year-old Adam Daley’s high school, the problem first seems to be a typical electrical outage, until students discover that cell phones are down, municipal utilities are failing, and a few computer-free cars like Adam’s are the only vehicles that function. Driving home, Adam encounters a storm tide of anger and fear as the region becomes paralyzed. Soon—as resources dwindle, crises mount, and chaos descends—he will see his suburban neighborhood band together for protection. And Adam will understand that having a police captain for a mother and a retired government spy living next door are not just the facts of his life but the keys to his survival, in The Rule of Three by Eric Walters.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Greg Gaines is the last master of high school espionage, able to disappear at will into any social environment. He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics.
Until Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel.
Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia—-cue extreme adolescent awkwardness—-but a parental mandate has been issued and must be obeyed. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives.
There are numerous “cancer books” and a lot of them focus on the fighting cancer bit and how strong and inspiring that is. I really liked that Andrews didn’t do that. He didn’t turn Rachel into a martyr because of her illness. Actually, I’m hesitant to even call Me and Earl and the Dying Girl a cancer book, because it doesn’t focus on the cancer, which was actually pretty great.
What the book does focus on is Greg’s stupid. There’s quite a lot of stupid. Some of it adds to Greg’s character, like his awkwardness and inability to have a conversation, but a lot of it, like his constant insistence that his book sucks, is just annoying. It’s like when people insist something they’ve made is awful just so people will say it isn’t.
Andrews’ book isn’t bad, and it definitely had some good points. They just got weighed down by the bad. The characters were strong, although a wee bit overdone. A lot of them seemed off to me, actually, especially Greg. I laughed (a little too loudly) a few times, but it didn’t really impress me. For one thing, a lot of the humor is kind of offensive and the jokes that actually were funny were of the variety that makes you question your sense of humor.
The short version: I loved Andrews’ point that shit happens and people die and it sucks but not everybody (actually, most people) don’t take a lesson away from that. But a lot of the humor fell flat with me and a good amount of the story grated on my nerves.
Once Upon a Time...
As a longtime lover of stories and a believer in the power and magic of books, I've spent my life seeking out the best reads. This blog is dedicated to reviewing the books I read - good, bad, or magnificent - to help other readers find their next favorite books.