UnSouled by Neal Shusterman (Unwind #3)
Connor and Lev are on the run after the destruction of the Graveyard, the last safe haven for AWOL Unwinds. But for the first time, they’re not just running away from something. This time, they’re running toward answers, in the form of a woman Proactive Citizenry has tried to erase from history itself. If they can find her, and learn why the shadowy figures behind unwinding are so afraid of her, they may discover the key to bringing down unwinding forever.
Cam, the rewound boy, is plotting to take down the organization that created him. Because he knows that if he can bring Proactive Citizenry to its knees, it will show Risa how he truly feels about her. And without Risa, Cam is having trouble remembering what it feels like to be human.
With the Juvenile Authority and vindictive parts pirates hunting them, the paths of Connor, Lev, Cam, and Risa will converge explosively; and everyone will be changed.
This is a series that restores my faith in the dystopian genre. Shusterman's terrifying vision of the future accomplishes exactly what a dystopia should: unsettling its readers and making them think. Each of the books in the Unwind Dystology have been poignant and engrossing, and UnSouled is no exception. Darkly witty humor, a suspenseful plot, and disturbing "ads" throughout the book made it a book I couldn't put down.
The same complex, realistic characters from the first two books are present and accounted for in UnSouled, while a few new characters are added into the mix. Risa doesn't make a lot of appearances - a lot of the attention is on Cam - which was kind of disappointing, but not major.
The only reason I didn't rate UnSouled five stars is that it's obviously a filler. Although the plot is just as compelling as always, the constant suspense and new discoveries had me expecting something bigger in this book. Instead, it feels like it's just stringing us along until the next book. As a whole, this series is one of my favorites, but UnSouled is definitely not the best book in it. However, I have every faith that Shusterman will bring back the nail-biting tension from the first books for the series' conclusion - and if he does, it'll be a knockout.
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Author: Aimee Carter
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Cover Design By: Unknown
Symbolism is the name of the game when it comes to book covers. Give away enough to get the reader interested, but not enough to spoil the story. When it's done well, the effect is stunning.
Unfortunately, the cover of Pawn didn't really hit the mark. The symbolism in the cover slaps you in the face, screaming for attention. Kitty's eye, which is what makes her such a good candidate for doubling as Lila, is front and center, but you can barely see it. The labyrinth from the pendant Greyson gave her (that's secretly a lock pick) covers up most of her eye, and what it doesn't cover is blocked out by the III - Kitty's original ranking and the reason she agrees to turn into Lila. The inside cover of Pawn is much simpler than the front cover. It still had Kitty's eye and her rank, but it doesn't have as much going on as the front cover.
And what's the point of that random little pawn in the corner? We get that Kitty's being used as a pawn in the Hart's power game - if the title didn't make that obvious, the use of the word throughout the book did. The pawn on the cover seems to be saying "in case you're stupid and didn't realize yet, pawns are going to be really important in this book." It just isn't necessary. If it's supposed to be a symbol of the series or something like that, it should only be on the spine, not on the cover.
If the image used for the inside cover had been the front cover image, or if the front cover didn't have Kitty's original ranking blocking out most of her eye, the cover would have been much better. The design would have been cleaner and the symbolism much more subtle. As it is, this cover is too over the top for me.
Entwined by Heather Dixon
Just when Azalea should feel that everything is before her — beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing — it's taken away. All of it. And Azalea is trapped. The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. So he extends an invitation.
Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest, but there is a cost. The Keeper likes to keep things. Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.
In her reimagining of the Grimm Brothers' The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Dixon introduces a world of magic and romance haunted by evil and loss. The setting, a decrepit old castle with magic - both good and bad - lingering about, is vividly imagined, as is the silver garden tucked away beneath the castle. As the girls dance each night, Keeper sets a centuries-old plan in motion. As a villain, he was delightfully creepy, and I would have liked to see more of him. A good portion of the book occurs away from Keeper, in the girls' daily lives, where they are dealing with their mother's death and struggling to relate to their father. The added subplot of the relationship between the King and his daughters was interesting and sweet, and I was glad it was such a big part of the plot.
While protecting her sisters from Keeper and mending her bond with her father, Azalea is also looking for a husband and future king. The romance of the book was very well done. It was about as far from instalove as possible, and it was refreshing to see an author take so much time to develop a relationship. Although Azalea has many suitors, the romance also stays triangle-free and a side note to the main plot.
The slow build of the story allowed for more suspense and the amount of subplot the book had, but it's also the reason I didn't rate Entwined higher. The plot dragged just a little too much in some places, while in others it rushed on. If it weren't for Dixon's array of characters, I might have been bored to tears. Luckily, the twelve princesses and various other characters were lively enough to keep me interested. Each of them was fully formed and entertaining. Azalea was complex but relatable, and I liked her a lot as a heroine.
Entwine is a masterfully developed story, and if you're willing to take your time with it, is a rewarding read. Fairy-tale lovers will delight in Dixon's beautifully crafted prose.
Before My Eyes by Caroline Bock
Dreamy, poetic Claire, seventeen, has spent the last few months taking care of her six-year-old sister, Izzy, as their mother lies in a hospital bed recovering from a stroke. Claire believes she has everything under control until she meets “Brent” online. Brent appears to be a kindred spirit, and Claire is initially flattered by his attention. But when she meets Max, the awkward state senator’s son, her feelings become complicated.
Max, also seventeen, has been working the worst summer job ever at the beachside Snack Shack. He’s also been popping painkillers. His parents—more involved in his father’s re-election than in their son’s life—fail to see what’s going on with him.
Working alongside Max is Barkley, twenty-one. Lonely and obsessive, Barkley has been hearing a voice in his head. No one—not his parents, not his co-workers—realizes that Barkley is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Until the voice in his head orders him to take out his gun.
Narrated in turns by Claire, Max, and Barkley, Before My Eyes captures a moment when possibilities should be opening up, but instead everything teeters on the brink of destruction.
White Space (Dark Passages #1) by Ilsa J. Bick
Seventeen-year-old Emma Lindsay has problems: a head full of metal, no parents, a crazy artist for a guardian whom a stroke has turned into a vegetable, and all those times when she blinks away, dropping into other lives so ghostly and surreal it's as if the story of her life bleeds into theirs. But one thing Emma has never doubted is that she's real.
Then she writes White Space, a story about these kids stranded in a spooky house during a blizzard.
Unfortunately, White Space turns out to be a dead ringer for part of an unfinished novel by a long-dead writer. The manuscript, which she's never seen, is a loopy Matrix meets Inkheart story in which characters fall out of different books and jump off the page. Thing is, when Emma blinks, she might be doing the same and, before long, she's dropped into the very story she thought she'd written. Trapped in a weird, snow-choked valley, Emma meets other kids with dark secrets and strange abilities: Eric, Casey, Bode, Rima, and a very special little girl, Lizzie. What they discover is that they--and Emma--may be nothing more than characters written into being from an alternative universe for a very specific purpose.
Now what they must uncover is why they've been brought to this place--a world between the lines where parallel realities are created and destroyed and nightmares are written--before someone pens their end.
Counting to D by Kate Scott
The kids at Sam’s school never knew if they should make fun of her for being too smart or too dumb. That’s what it means to be dyslexic, smart, and illiterate. Sam is sick of it. So when her mom gets a job in a faraway city, Sam decides not to tell anyone about her little illiteracy problem. Without her paradox of a reputation, she falls in with a new group of highly competitive friends who call themselves the Brain Trust. When she meets Nate, her charming valedictorian lab partner, she declares her new reality perfect. But in order to keep it that way, she has to keep her learning disability a secret. The books are stacked against her and so are the lies. Sam’s got to get the grades, get the guy, and get it straight—without being able to read.
The Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman
Death hasn't visited Rowan Rose since it took her mother when Rowan was only a little girl. But that changes one bleak morning, when five horses and their riders thunder into her village and through the forest, disappearing into the hills. Days later, the riders' bodies are found, and though no one can say for certain what happened in their final hours, their remains prove that whatever it was must have been brutal.
Rowan's village was once a tranquil place, but now things have changed. Something has followed the path those riders made and has come down from the hills, through the forest, and into the village. Beast or man, it has brought death to Rowan's door once again.
Only this time, its appetite is insatiable.
The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson
When her father is killed in a coup, 15-year-old Laila flees from the war-torn middle east to a life of exile and anonymity in the U.S. Gradually she adjusts to a new school, new friends, and a new culture, but while Laila sees opportunity in her new life, her mother is focused on the past. She’s conspiring with CIA operatives and rebel factions to regain the throne their family lost. Laila can’t bear to stand still as an international crisis takes shape around her, but how can one girl stop a conflict that spans generations?
The Deep End of the Sea by Heather Lyons
What if all the legends you’ve learned were wrong?
Brutally attacked by one god and unfairly cursed by another she faithfully served, Medusa has spent the last two thousand years living out her punishment on an enchanted isle in the Aegean Sea. A far cry from the monster legends depict, she’s spent her time educating herself, gardening, and desperately trying to frighten away adventure seekers who occasionally end up, much to her dismay, as statues when they manage to catch her off guard. As time marches on without her, Medusa wishes for nothing more than to be given a second chance at a life stolen away at far too young an age.
But then comes a day when Hermes, one of the few friends she still has and the only deity she trusts, petitions the rest of the gods and goddesses to reverse the curse. Thus begins a journey toward healing and redemption, of reclaiming a life after tragedy, and of just how powerful friendship and love can be—because sometimes, you have to sink in the deep end of the sea before you can rise back up again.
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is. I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative--like maybe someone who isn’t me wrote it--but I soon discovered that I’m not sneaky enough to pull it off convincingly. So I decided to just make a list of things that are in the book:
I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did. I figured it would be another humor book to flip through and smile at, but after reading it all in one sitting, I think I will probably end up reading it a few times a year for the rest of my life. Because, yes, Hyperbole and a Half is funny (hilarious, even) but more importantly, it's honest. Sometimes uncomfortably honest about irresponsibility, identity, and depression, while keeping it light with humor and cartoons.
If you're having a bad day, Hyperbole and a Half will make you smile. And if you're already having a good day, it'll just make it better.
Who She Is:
Beatrice Prior, the protagonist of Veronica Roth's Divergent series, lives in a dystopian Chicago where society is divided into five factions. She was raised in the Abnegation, or selfless faction, but now she is faced with choosing a faction to pledge her loyalty for the rest of her life. The aptitude test meant to make the decision easier told Beatrice she's Divergent, able to fit into multiple factions. She must choose between Abnegation and Dauntless - but she must also hide her Divergence or risk her life. Choosing Dauntless will get her away from the Abnegation life she's never really fit into, but it would mean leaving her family behind.
After choosing Dauntless and renaming herself, Tris is instantly thrown into the grueling initiation of new faction members. Even as Tris fights for her place in the faction, she's also keeping her Divergence under wraps and uncovering a plot to kill Divergents and Abnegation alike.
Why She's Awesome:
I love Tris Prior. She's one of my favorite literary characters. Why, you ask?
Throughout the Divergent trilogy, Tris grows from a quiet Abnegation girl to a Dauntless soldier. From the moment Tris leaves her family behind so that she can lead the life she wants, she's independent. But she never loses her selflessness as she learns to be brave. Even as she embraces life in her new faction, Dauntless, she remembers her Abnegation roots and her family, shown in her choice of tattoos.
Tris' tattoos are very similar to Four's. While she has the ravens and symbols of her factions, he has all five faction symbols tattooed on his body. Tris' tattoos symbolize that she's both Abnegation and Dauntless, while Four's remind him to be brave as well as selfless, kind, smart, and honest. Both characters refuse to be put into the boxes their society has built (the factions) which is part of why they make a great match.
Unlike many YA heroines, Tris never loses her head to romance. She loves Tobias and does her best to keep him safe, as misguided as her actions sometimes are, but it never becomes the focus of the story. The romance is always a side aspect of the story, adding more to the plot which always focuses on the revolution and Tris' part in it.
One of the most relatable things about Tris is that she makes mistakes. Lots of them. She's as insecure as she is confident; while she knows she's strong and capable, she can't believe Four loves her (at first, anyway). She sets the bar too high for herself sometimes, taking it on her shoulders to save her friends' lives, and it doesn't always go well. But she learns. She changes, in one of the best examples of actual character development current YA has. When she sacrifices herself in the first two books, she does it to atone for her mistakes. In the third book, she does it to save her brother. (And I'm still angry about her death, so I'm not going to say any more on that).
Tris Prior is a great character because she never loses herself. Not to romance, not to her changing world, not even to her family. Every decision she makes, whether it's a mistake or not, is hers. She exhibits extraordinary strength and bravery, but she never becomes unrelatable or flat. This is what sets her apart from so many other YA heroines, and why she's not just a great leading lady, but a fantastic protagonist.
Breathing Room by Marsha Hayles
Evvy Hoffmeister is thirteen years old when her family brings her to Loon Lake Sanatorium to get cured of tuberculosis (TB). Evvy is frightened by her new surroundings; the rules to abide are harsh and the nurses equally rigid. But Evvy soon falls into step with the other girls in her ward. There’s Sarah, quiet but thoughtful; Pearl, who adores Hollywood glamour; and Dina, whose harshness conceals a deep strength. Together, the girls brave the difficult daily routines. Set in 1940 at a time of political unrest throughout the U.S. and Europe, this thought-provoking novel sheds light on a much-feared worldwide illness. Hundreds of thousands of people died each year of TB, and many ill children were sent away to sanatoriums to hopefully recover.
Although Breathing Room is a few years too young for me, I was intrigued by the story of a young TB patient. Although the book doesn't really get into the grittiest details of the disease, it remains realistic and sobering. The book is full of historical documents and photos detailing life during the TB epidemic. It also touches on World War II. I enjoyed Evvy's steady narration of daily life in the sanatorium, her quiet determination, and the friends she made there. Middle-school kids interested in history would love Breathing Room.
Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother's pushiness and her father's lack of interest tell her they're the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. She doesn't know the passengers inside, but they're the only people who won't judge her when she asks them her most personal questions...like what it means that she's falling in love with a girl. Astrid can't share the truth with anyone except the people she imagines flying over her at thirty thousand feet, and they don't even know she's there. But little does Astrid know just how much even the tiniest connection will affect these strangers' lives--and her own--for the better.
Some books with characters who are questioning their sexuality are incredibly disappointing; the characters end up straight and their questions turn out to be a ploy for LGBTQ readers. But Ask the Passengers was anything but disappointing.
I loved that Astrid ad her girlfriend, Dee, had already been dating for a while. YA likes to focus on the "falling" part of love, and overlooks couples who've been dating for a few months and are just starting to run into their first problems. It was kind of refreshing to see people working at love and mending all its holes, instead of thinking there won't ever be any. Ask the Passengers is a reminder that love isn't straightforward or easy, but it's worth a lot more that way.
Ask the Passengers isn't just a love story, though, and it will get you thinking about a lot. Astrid's character is easy to love, and she's relatable. It's not just gay people or people questioning their sexuality who can relate to her, but people with dysfunctional families, friends, and small-town lives. Anyone grappling with their reputation will be comforted and encouraged by Astrid's story.
My copy of Ask the Passengers is sprouting post-it notes bookmarking highlighted passages and quotes. People like to say that words and stores are powerful, but it's hard to understand that until you've read a book like this one. King's words made me think, and hit home in a way only two or three books have before. I'm probably going to shove this book into the hands of every other person I meet so it can do the same for them. This is a book I will read to my children someday.
Something Real by Heather Demetrios
There’s nothing real about reality TV.
Seventeen-year-old Bonnie™ Baker has grown up on TV—she and her twelve siblings are the stars of one-time hit reality show Baker’s Dozen. Since the show’s cancellation and the scandal surrounding it, Bonnie has tried to live a normal life, under the radar and out of the spotlight. But it’s about to fall apart…because Baker’s Dozen is going back on the air. Bonnie’s mom and the show’s producers won’t let her quit and soon the life she has so carefully built for herself, with real friends (and maybe even a real boyfriend), is in danger of being destroyed by the show. Bonnie needs to do something drastic if her life is ever going to be her own—even if it means being more exposed than ever before
Ignite Me (Shatter Me #3) by Tahereh Mafi
Juliette now knows she may be the only one who can stop the Reestablishment. But to take them down, she'll need the help of the one person she never thought she could trust: Warner. And as they work together, Juliette will discover that everything she thought she knew-about Warner, her abilities, and even Adam-was wrong.
Cress (Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer
Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.
Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.
When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.
Mistwalker by Saundra Mitchell
When Willa Dixon’s brother dies on the family lobster boat, her father forbids Willa from stepping foot on the deck again. With her family suffering, she’ll do anything to help out—even visiting the Grey Man.
Everyone in her small Maine town knows of this legendary spirit who haunts the lighthouse, controlling the fog and the fate of any vessel within his reach. But what Willa finds in the lighthouse isn’t a spirit at all, but a young man trapped inside until he collects one thousand souls.
Desperate to escape his cursed existence, Grey tries to seduce Willa to take his place. With her life on land in shambles, will she sacrifice herself?
Wildwood Imperium (Wildwood Chronicles #3) by Colin Meloy
A young girl's midnight séance awakens a long-slumbering malevolent spirit...
A band of runaway orphans allies with an underground collective of saboteurs and plans a daring rescue of their friends, imprisoned in the belly of an industrial wasteland...
The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe
For sixteen years, Daisy has been good. A good daughter, helping out with her autistic younger brother uncomplainingly. A good friend, even when her best friend makes her feel like a third wheel. When her parents announce they’re sending her brother to an institution—without consulting her—Daisy’s furious, and decides the best way to be a good sister is to start being bad. She quits jazz band and orchestra, slacks in school, and falls for bad-boy Dave.
But one person won’t let Daisy forget who she used to be: Irish exchange student and brilliant musician Cal. Does she want the bad boy or the prodigy? Should she side with her parents or protect her brother? How can she know when to hold on and when—and how—to let go
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As Simple as Snow