Category Archives: 4 stars
Book: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, Penguin Audio, May 7, 2013
Book Info: YA Sci-Fi/Dystopian, Audiobook received for review from Penguin Audio. Running time: 12 hrs, 41 mins. Read by: Phoebe Strole and Brandon Espinoza. Also available in HC, 457 pages (I bought it) from G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
The 5th Wave is impossible to ignore right now, and arguably the hottest YA book of the summer. I don’t read a lot of science fiction so I was wary about an alien invasion book described as The Passage meets Ender’s Game. But, all the rave reviews and Hunger Games comparisons got to me and soon I had the 5th Wave fever. The 5th Wave is thrilling like a rollercoaster and fun like a summer popcorn movie. And I think it’s accessible enough for the casual sci-fi fan and very much a human story. It’s one I picked up in hardcover because I know it’s going to be a book I can loan out to a wide variety of readers.
In Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave, civilization as we know it has been wiped out by alien invaders in four devastating waves. The aliens want to get rid of the humans but leave the earth in good shape for themselves. These aliens are smart and have done their homework on how to exterminate the human race. Cassie is a teen who miraculously survived the first four waves with most of her family intact. She gets separated from her younger brother Sammy though, and the goal to get him back is what’s keeping her alive. Meanwhile she’s dodging aliens (nicknamed “the Others”) and hoping there won’t be a fifth wave.
In addition to Cassie and her brother Sam, we meet a character referred to as “Zombie”, and the mysterious Evan Walker who gives shelter to Cassie when she’s on the run. The story kicks off with Cassie’s POV but changes setting and characters with Zombie’s perspective. I clicked more with Cassie’s story and preferred being in her head, but the dual POV does give the reader a wider view of all the happenings. One drawback for me is that with the change in perspective I felt a little detached from the characters. Ideally, I would prefer the book was only from Cassie’s POV even though I get it from a storytelling perspective.
The chapters are short and action packed. The story drew me in quickly and I could feel the hopelessness and desperation the characters faced. It’s a scary story; partly because it seemed so realistic I could buy into the terror of it all.
I mentioned there are two guys in the story, right? So, yes there is some romance and it’s not without its complications. I liked that the romance doesn’t take over the book but it is there to break up some of the tension of the alien attack. I wouldn’t call this an alien romance exactly in the vein of Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Lux series, but it is there and I’m curious to see where it goes.
I listened to the audiobook read by Phoebe Strole and Brandon Espinoza, both new-to-me narrators. I’m happy that I listened to the audiobook because it was easier to keep track of the different perspectives with different male and female narrators. Phoebe Strole’s voice reminds me of narrator Emma Galvin (Divergent) combined with Sarah Drew (Delirium). She sounds age appropriate for sixteen-year-old Cassie and conveys her toughness & sarcasm as well as her vulnerability. I liked her quite a lot. Brandon Espinoza also does a fine job with the male voices, and he in particular has to voice a variety of ages and personalities. Both read with a pace to my liking and increased the intensity as the story dictated. I’d recommend listening to the audiobook of this one to really let you escape into the story. I’m going to read it in print to get that experience as well.
I do think this book is a natural sell to Divergent and Hunger Games fans and has crossover appeal for any type of reader. The ending really makes me eager for the next book in the series, though we have a long wait on our hands. Bring on the movie!
Click to Subscribe by L.M. Augustine, published May 9, 2013
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Source: Review copy provided by the author
e-Book, 252 pages
Rating: 4/5 stars
1,135,789. That’s how many subscribers sixteen-year-old West Ryder has on his web vlog series. But he only has eyes for one of them.
As one of the internet’s most prestigious video bloggers, West talks about high school relationships under the name “Sam Green.” As far as he knows, no one from school, not even his best friend, Cat, has seen his videos. But the highlight of the whole thing is Harper Knight, who comments every day at exactly 2:02 in the afternoon. He doesn’t know anything about her aside from the occasional deep philosophical messaging on why pizza tastes so delicious, but as stupid as it sounds, he might be falling for her. So when they finally agree to meet in real life, West’s hope for romance seems more and more in reach. But that all changes as soon as he arrives at their meeting spot and sees Cat walking toward him, wearing the same “I <3 Sam Green” T-shirt Harper promised she’d have on.
To his alarm, West realizes he is falling in love with the best friend who has always been a sister to him.
Click to Subscribe is such a fun comfort read, perfect when you’re looking for something light. What intrigued me about it first of all was that it’s about someone who has a vlog. I think that’s such a unique set up for the story. The vlog helps West when he’s having a tough time in his personal life and also is the catalyst for romance with one of his vlog followers.
This book has a male POV only, which is kind of refreshing when the trend is dual POV. West has a fresh voice and is an interesting character. I couldn’t imagine how someone who’s such a popular vlogger, even though he has a pseudonym (Sam Green), could be anonymous at school. It’s like he lives a double life. West is a nice guy, a little clueless at times, but endearing. And he bakes a mean birthday cake!
West has a best friend named Cat who totally gets him and has his back. She is fun-loving, snarky and awkward in a good way. They can be silly together, fight, laugh, eat ice cream and pizza endlessly and talk about the tough stuff. They call each other out on their bullshit, and converse like only best friends do. But what happens to the friendship when Cat wants to take it to the next level?
Though the tone of the book is overall quick and fluffy, there is some sorrow in West’s life. The vlog is therapeutic for West, who recently lost his mom. West’s family life is problematic; his dad is a mess and not really there for him. The vlog helps keep West busy and is a safe place to get his thoughts out there. West relies so much on Cat’s friendship I can understand his hesitation to add romance to the mix, even though the reader can see they’re perfect for each other.
Augustine inserts some fun into the story with haiku email exchanges, emoticons, and Harry Potter and Star Wars references. And the junk food! West and Cat are a pair of sugar addicts – best to keep some ice cream with rainbow sprinkles handy when you read this one.
This book is a quick read at just over 250 pages, but it doesn’t feel rushed at all. It’s a fun and relatable book about friendships and life. I could feel the chemistry between the characters and enjoyed watching the friendship evolve. Click to Subscribe gave me the warm fuzzies and is an entertaining debut.
About the Author:
L.M. Augustine is a YA romance author who is obsessed with writing about dorky teenagers, love, and happy endings. He currently lives in New England, where he spends far too much time reading books and screaming at his computer, and he believes that the solution to the world’s problems can be found in chocolate cake. Click To Subscribe is his first novel, but it won’t be his last.
Giveaway! Enter the rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win an e-book of your choice and a $10 Amazon gift card.
Read other reviews by following along on the Click to Subscribe blog tour!
Book: The Program by Suzanne Young, Simon & Schuster Audio, April 30, 2013
Book Info: YA Dystopia, Audiobook received for review from Simon & Schuster Audio. Running time: 10hrs, 56 mins. Read by: Joy Osmanski. Also available in HC, 416 pages from Simon Pulse
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
The Program takes place in an alternate reality where suicide is a teen epidemic. If a teen aged 13-17 shows signs of depression they are sent to the Program for treatment, where doctors erase the suicidal thoughts with therapy and drugs. Once your memory is reset you are considered cured and can re-enter society. Sloane wants to avoid going into the Program at all costs, so she tries to avoid the attention of the watchful handlers and teachers. She lost a brother to suicide so her parents are especially attentive to Sloane’s moods. Her safe haven is with her boyfriend James, and with him she can be herself and not so controlled. But they are both feeling the weight of depression and it’s harder and harder to escape notice of the Program.
The future is pretty bleak in the Program. I was worried about how depressing this book would be to read, but it’s actually a really interesting premise. This book gave me food for thought about depression, therapy, and anti-depressants. It made me wonder, if I could, would I erase painful memories so I could live my life blissfully unaware of my psychological scars? I guess it’s tempting, but I wouldn’t want to have that decision forced on me like in the Program. It reminded me of the procedure in Delirium to cure the love disease, except this is more of a complete mind eraser/reprogramming.
There is a strong romantic side to this book, with an epic love story between James and Sloane. It’s pretty interesting and creative how we learn their backstory and how their relationship evolves over the course of the book. I was invested in their saga and wanted them to beat the odds.
A few side characters play a part in Sloane’s journey, most notably Realm. He’s someone a little sketchy who you’re never sure if you can trust. But mainly this is Sloane and James’ story, and they have plenty of obstacles to overcome all on their own.
Joy Osmanski read the audiobook. I listened to her narrate What the Spell prior to this book but I didn’t even recognize her voice this time around. Osmanski captures the essence of Sloane and her voice sounds like a teen. Her pace is good, and I had no trouble telling the characters apart. When I wasn’t listening to this audiobook I was thinking about it and wanting to get back to it. There is some trickiness in the storytelling with flashbacks and mind games and Osmanski handles that well and brings the reader along for the ride. So in terms of the unique nature of the book, the audio format enhances the reading experience, but I’m curious to see how it compares in print.
At the end of the audiobook there’s a bonus interview with Suzanne Young and she discusses how she came up with the story and teases the next book. There is one more book in the series, and I think it’s considered a companion book. The ending does make me excited to see what happens next, though the book works pretty well on its own too.
I think The Program will appeal to readers who like romantic dystopia like Delirium or Matched. For what it’s worth, I’m more into contemporary these days and I did get more of a contemporary vibe in this one than sci-fi/dystopia, and the author considers it to be alternate reality in fact. The Program is a book I wanted to talk about immediately after I finished it, so I think it would make for a good book club discussion. The book illustrates depression quite well, while not being depressing if that makes sense. It also strikes a hopeful note and I’m interested to see where Young takes it next.
Suzanne Young talks about The Program:
In honor of the paperback release of First Comes Love (out today!) I have a review of the book and the sequel Second Chance. First Comes Love came out a year ago with a very different smoldering-looking cover. The cover re-design sells a whole new image that I personally think match the tone of the story very well. Making up for lost time, I read the first two books in the series back to back.
First Comes Love is the story of Dylan and Gray, opposites in every way. Gray is drifting after suffering a loss; he’s depressed and lost focus, even giving up his college baseball scholarship. Dylan is a free spirit who loves to travel and live life to the fullest. She does not want to get tied down and is just into having experiences. Gray gets sucked into the bright light that is Dylan and against the odds the pair fall in love. But are they just too different to go the distance?
This is Katie Kacvinsky’s first contemporary series- she also writes the dystopian Awaken series. I think this is a seamless transition for Kacvinsky and I like that she wrote a New Adult book without even knowing it was a thing. After high school, life is not always easy for everyone with the perfect college and life, and this book addresses the messiness of it all.
I wanted Dylan to save Gray from his funk, and for Gray to help Dylan to settle down, but in this book there’s no easy answers or tidy ending. The way the two see each other kind of reminded me of Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park. Gray is drawn to Dylan, but also a little embarrassed of her too. She marches to the beat of her own drummer with ill-fitting mismatched clothes, messy hair and impulsive behavior.
We get inside both Dylan and Gray’s heads with alternating POV. Gray’s character is a little easier to warm up to than Dylan’s MPDG type. Still, I kind of loved that the two got together- they balance each other out. Writing slow-burn romance is Kacvinsky’s forte and that’s my favorite kind to read. There’s emotion and romance along with some light, heart-warming moments.
The summer in Arizona setting is a nice backdrop to the story, and Kacvinsky makes you feel like you are there with Gray and Dylan on their hikes and adventures. They also take a little road trip to Los Angeles and that just sets a vacation like mood.
First Comes Love was written as a standalone, but Kacvinsky decided to extend the book to a trilogy. She self-published book two Second Chance. After reading First Comes Love, I felt satisfied by the ending as is, but was attached to the characters and glad to see Gray and Dylan’s story continue.
In Second Chance, there’s been a little distance between Gray and Dylan. Dylan is traveling around the world and doing her thing, while Gray is trying to go back to normal and reconnect with his college baseball goals. Where do the two fit in each other’s lives?
I like the angst and the opposites attract story- the two have chemistry, but they are such different people. I root for this pair and hope they make it work. In this book, there’s a new setting and new characters and stumbling blocks in the way of the couple’s HEA. Both Gray and Dylan still have some growing up to do and need to figure out what they want and if compromises can be made.
There’s one song Gray mentions listening to in the book (Missed the Boat by Modest Mouse) that kind of sums up the mood:
The laid back pace, setting and romance in this series makes for an ideal summer read to tuck in your beach bag. Dylan and Gray’s love story will leave you eager for the next book. (Write faster, Katie!)
I had the chance to interview Katie Kacvinsky recently about all her books, and you can check it out here and also enter the giveaway for your chance to win First Comes Love and Second Chance. I’m jealous of whoever wins! I borrowed First Comes Love from the library and bought a kindle edition of Second Chance but think I’ll have to pick up the paperbacks for my own library.
Find out more about the series here:
Book: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, Penguin Audio, April 9, 2013
Book Info: Fiction, Audiobook received for review from Penguin Audio. Running time: 15 hrs, 41 mins. Read by: Jen Tullock. Also available in hardcover from Riverhead Books.
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
The Interestings is the first novel I’ve read/listened to by Meg Wolitzer. I went into the book with high expectations, after seeing all the book buzz and the “A” grade review in EW. I lived in New York for a short time, so I’m always happy to read books that are set there. Plus, I find the subject matter of watching creative kids grow up and the challenges and opportunities they face fascinating. Friendships and other relationships are explored as The Interestings navigate the adult world. Though the book started out a little less than interesting, I soon got lost in the story and couldn’t put it down.
The Interestings time frame starts out in the 1970s and spans four decades. The title refers to the name the group of creative friends dub themselves at an artsy summer camp in the Berkshires. The clique stays in touch over the years, some leave their art camp dreams behind, while others build on their talents.
We follow the lives of a group of friends in The Interestings. Jules and Ash have the acting bug; Ethan is the animator, Cathy, a dancer, Jonah, the musician, and Goodman, the architect. Ethan is the most famous of the group, and achieves a Matt Groening level of success. His fame is something that sets him apart from the other Interestings, though he tries to stay grounded and keep his old friends close by. It’s hard for the other friends to keep jealousy at bay, especially when they settle for careers so different than they hoped for.
Since the book covers 40 years, important topics of the day are touched upon, from trendy cuisine and technology to feminism, AIDS, terrorism, autism, depression, and abuse. But at the center of it all are the friendships and there is some juicy stuff going on that kept me riveted.
I listened to the audiobook, read by Jen Tullock, and it’s my first experience with her narration. (I don’t see any other books credited to her on Audible) Tullock “gets” the characters and gives them distinct personalities. She sounds age appropriate and talks like a New Yorker. I tend to like narrators that talk quickly and Tullock’s pace was just perfect for me. I think the narration enhanced the book, and I don’t think I missed anything by not reading the print version. Except- there were times when I didn’t have the audiobook handy that I wished I had the print version too so I could keep reading!
Meg Wolitzer made the book entertaining and thought provoking. She weaves a good story, and plays with time to tease out the events. Wolitzer makes insightful observations about her characters and made me care about them. I don’t read a lot of literary fiction, but I’d put this book up there with Gone Girl in terms of the enjoyment factor.
Add The Interestings to your summer reading list if you like reading books about life, friendships and relationships, and New York. It would certainly be a good book club choice too. Be sure to serve The Interestings favorite 70s cocktail, V&T (Vodka and Tang) to go with your book discussion.
Book: Fall Of Night (The Morganville Vampires Book #14) by Rachel Caine, NAL Hardcover received for review, 338 pages, on sale May 7, 2013
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
When Claire Danvers gets accepted into the graduate program at MIT, she can’t pass up the opportunity. Enrolled in a special advanced study program with former Morganville native Professor Irene Anderson, Claire is able to work on her machine, designed to cancel the mental abilities of vampires. But when she begins testing her machine on live subjects, things quickly spiral out of control, and Claire begins to wonder if leaving Morganville will be the last mistake she’ll ever make…
I don’t usually include the publisher’s summary, but since this is the 14th book in the Morganville Vampires series I’m scared to attempt to summarize on my own!
We’ve reached the penultimate installment of the MV series and I still feel giddy when I get a new book in my hands. I don’t even read a lot of paranormal anymore, but I’m so attached to these characters I can’t stop reading. This is rare nowadays, and I commend Rachel Caine for keeping this series fresh.
This installment is a little different in that it takes place outside of Morganville as Claire ventures off to MIT. Claire wasn’t sure what to think of that, and neither was I. I was unsettled and felt like the new locale was a dangerous unknown entity. I missed the group dynamic but agree it had to happen. There are all these sketchy new characters around and Claire doesn’t have the backup she usually does. It’s a good chance for her to show what she’s made of though, and maybe even appreciate what she left behind in Morganville.
Claire and Shane have alternating POV in this installment. Their relationship was a little rocky in the last book so it’s interesting to see where their heads are. And of course, they each have lots of excitement going on around them and the alternating perspective provides some additional insight. Not to fret though, many of the series regulars appear in this book, along with some new blood. And, some of the old favorites appear in a whole new light, which is pretty exciting. It’s a little ominous that some of the characters from Morganville are not heard from in this book though, and they were missed.
I read this book during the 24-hour readathon. Series books are great for read-a-thons, especially action packed ones like these. It’s easy to settle in with favorite characters and let the pages fly. If you haven’t started this series yet, and you’re intimidated by the fact that there’s 14 books to catch up on, don’t be. These books are addictive and very fast reads. Each book usually ends on a big cliffhanger, so you’ll just want to binge on the whole series at once. And the last book of the series is out in the fall, so it’s a perfect time to give them a go.
Rachel Caine does a great job with character development and introducing new conflicts. As always, she surprises with another game changing ending to set up this falls series finale, Daylighters. I can’t imagine how Caine will resolve this newest wrinkle, but I have faith the series will go out with a bang.
Look for Fall of Night in stores on May 7, followed by Daylighters Nov. 5.
Book: manicpixiedreamgirl by Tom Leveen, Random House Books for Young Readers, On Sale Now
Book Info: YA Contemporary, Review copy provided by the publisher, Available in HC 256 pages
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
Tom Leveen has a unique voice and writes interesting male characters, so I was intrigued to check out his latest book manicpixiedreamgirl. Leveen’s characters are usually creative types and not the typical leading men you see in YA. And since I’ve seen lot of movies featuring manic pixie dream girls, I was curious to see the bookish incarnation of that quirky unattainable girl.
I always think of Zooey Deschanel in 500 days of Summer (or any of her projects really) when I think of MPDG‘s. These types of characters are like the muse to tortured artist type guys. After seeing MPDG’s in several films, it seems like they are there on to inspire the male lead & help them take the next step to reach their goals. So, based on my movie viewing experience, I had an image in my mind of the typical MPDG- pictured below with the smitten male leads:
In manicpixiedreamgirl, Tyler is in a relationship with Sidney Barrett, but secretly worships Becky Webb. Becky is a talented actress in school productions, and a loner type who reads Stephen King, just like him. Tyler joins the tech crew in drama class just so he can be near her. Everyone but Becky knows about Tyler’s obsession – even his girlfriend Sid knows. Tyler’s a writer and Becky’s his muse, but he has her on too high a pedestal to make a move. One of his stories about Becky gets published though, getting his feelings out in the open ready or not.
The book has an interesting structure and is set on one pivotal night in seventeen-year-old Tyler’s life, with frequent flashbacks to fill in the important details in the story. The story takes place over two years from when he first sets eyes on Becky. We follow Tyler as he stalks Becky around school and asks his friends for info on her. Sidney falls for Tyler in the meantime, and he strings her along while pining for Becky. It’s tortured and messy like real life, and none of the characters behave how you want them to, but I still had to keep reading to see how it would turn out.
I thought the male voice in manicpixiedreamgirl was very strong and unique. Tyler’s smart and likes being around the drama kids and writing. It’s nice to see the guy’s POV when he falls for the unattainable sort of girl, and all the missteps along the way. Leveen’s writing is sharp and engaging, and he juggles the flashbacks with ease. Becky is in many ways similar to MPDG’s in film, but she keeps you guessing all the same.
I think this book will appeal to guys as well as girls, especially readers who enjoy John Green and David Levithan, and Leveen’s own Zero. manicpixiedreamgirl is in stores this week, and his next novel Sick is due out in the fall.