Review: Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau

Written By: Kellie - Mar• 09•14

independent study

Series: The Testing, #2
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: January 7th, 2014
Source: ARC

Rating: 4/5 – Surprise, surprise! Even better than the first one!

About the bookIn the series debut The Testing, sixteen-year-old Cia Vale was chosen by the United Commonwealth government as one of the best and brightest graduates of all the colonies . . . a promising leader in the effort to revitalize postwar civilization. In Independent Study, Cia is a freshman at the University in Tosu City with her hometown sweetheart, Tomas—and though the government has tried to erase her memory of the brutal horrors of The Testing, Cia remembers. Her attempts to expose the ugly truth behind the government’s murderous programs put her—and her loved ones—in a world of danger. But the future of the Commonwealth depends on her. – Goodreads

Thoughts: Independent Study is book two of The Testing trilogy, which I’ve heard hailed as the next Hunger Games on more than one occasion. While I definitely wouldn’t go quite that far with my praise, I’m really enjoying this series and can’t wait to see how it concludes.

After the events of book one Cia has had most of her memories erased. She doesn’t remember the testing process she went through, the friends she lost or the things she has had to do. All she was able to salvage is a recording device filled with whispers alluding to some pretty horrible things. In the time between books one and two, she mostly tries to ignore it as she goes through the pre-University courses she’s been assigned to but always looking for clues about what might be true and how much danger she’s really in.

This is one of those books that I really can’t go too far into explaining without giving away too much of the plot. I will say that the title references an internship and Cia gets the best of the best which puts her in a great position to learn more about what’s really going on around her and to get a better feel for the political landscape of the world she lives in. I can’t get enough of dystopian books that actually let you see the political side of things—why people are doing these horrible things, the challenges people have to deal with, general political intrigue. All that fun stuff.

I also really enjoyed Cia’s personal arc through this book. It’s easy to see how she’s growing and changing and how she gets through the moments where she feels like she should just give up or keep her head down. She’s not a superhuman, super problem solving, superhero. She’s a girl who is trying to create a future for herself and the people she loves. She’s also willing to accept help along the way which is a big bonus. Got to love a plot that is actually complex enough to require more than one teenager to try and fix things.

If you enjoyed book one then have no fear, you can expect a similar ride with the second book in this series, and then some.

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February Recap and March TBR Jar Picks

Written By: Kellie - Mar• 07•14

how i live nowSo February was an… interesting month for reading. I barely got a chance to read much of anything for the first 2/3rds of the month, and then once my vacation hit I made up for lost time a little but still ended up behind where I wanted to be. Still, as of today my total for the year is 20 books (2 books ahead of schedule) so I won’t beat myself too much for going off the rails on only me second month of my TBR jar challenge. First, my TBR jar picks for last month. This did not go according to plan AT ALL!

The Other Normals – This was a DNF for me. I read about 1/5th of the book and had to give it up because there were so many other books I had with me on vacation that I would rather be reading.
The Darkest Minds – I’m about halfway through now but I can’t find my copy ANYWHERE. I know it’s in my house, but I have no idea where. So since I couldn’t find it to bring with me to Mexico I didn’t manage to finish it by the end of the month.
The Dwarves How I Live NowThe Dwarves ended up being a much heavier book than I thought it was. Since I was trying to pack light, I pulled a book early for March to switch it with and ended up reading How I Live Now instead, which I loved and will be reviewing soon!

For March I’ll only be reading two books because I have a lot of work reading to do as well and the two books I will be reading are both on the large side. They are… The Dwarves and The Diviners. Heh, that actually sounds like a pretty good book by combining those two together.

the dwarves the diviners

Review: Elusion by Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam

Written By: Kellie - Mar• 01•14


Series: Elusion, #1
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publish Date: March 18th, 2014
Source: ARC

Rating: 3/5 – A thought provoking take on the direction that virtual reality technology can go and some of the side effects that go with it.

About the book: Soon, Elusion® will change the world and life as we know it.

A new technology called Elusion is sweeping the country. An app, visor and wristband will virtually transport you to an exotic destination where adventure can be pursued without the complications—or consequences—of real life.

Regan is an Elusion insider. Or at least she used to be. Her father invented the program, and her best friend, Patrick, heir to the tech giant Orexis, is about to release it nationwide. But ever since her father’s unexpected death, Regan can’t bear to Escape, especially since waking up from the dream means crashing back to her grim reality.

Still, when there are rumors of trouble in Elusion—accusations that it’s addictive and dangerous— Regan is determined to defend it. But the critics of Elusion come from surprising sources, including Josh, the handsome skeptic with his own personal stakes. As Regan investigates the claims, she discovers a disturbing web of secrets. She will soon have to choose between love and loyalty…a decision that will affect the lives of millions.

Suspense, thrills, and romance fuel this near-future story about the seductive nature of a perfect virtual world, and how far one girl will go to uncover the truth behind the illusions. – Goodreads

Thoughts: Trust me when I say that I am very much looking forward to the evolution of virtual reality technology. I am counting on one day being able to walk the halls of Hogwarts without leaving my living room. I know that Star Trek’s holodec’s are a long shot (I mean, how can they walk infinitely in any direction in a tiny room! It doesn’t make any sense) What we’re more likely to see is headsets and motion control sensors, which hey, I’d be pretty okay with oo. Elusion by Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam looks into some of the repreccusions of this kind of technology and the ways it could be handled and how it might be exploited. The world building is a lot of fun in this one, creating a gritty and futuristic version of Earth. Pollution is everywhere and Detroit is well, what you’d expect. But being included in the trials for Elusion has real potential to turn the city around. Elusion is a virtual reality technology that also seems to have some sort of euphoria effect as well as some pretty severe side effects (after coming out, it takes a while to be able to function again). So no surprises when we learn that things might not be entirely what they seem.

Regan’s father invented Elusion, but after his death the program was taken over by Regan’s best friend, Patrick. When things start to go wrong and people are accusing Elusion of being dangerous, Patrick starts getting a little squirrely which sends up some red flags.  While the world building was great, the plot lacked some oomph from me. You’ll probably be able to see some of the twists coming, but that doesn’t mean Elusion isn’t worth your time. It’s more of a mystery than anything else as you try to figure out who is telling the truth and who is just being paranoid. I did find some of the accusations against Elusion to be kind of silly though since the people getting into trouble were hacking the system and using it in ways it wasn’t designed for which seems a little unfair to me, but maybe I’m missing something.

Anyways, if you’re looking for sci-fi that gets away from spaceships and dystopia, you should absolutely check this one out!

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Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

Written By: Kellie - Feb• 27•14


Series: The Lunar Chronicles, #3
Publisher:   Feiwel & Friends
Publish Date: February 4th, 2014
Source: ARC

Rating: 5/5 – Quite possibly my favorite book so far in this already awesome series!

About the book: Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard. 

In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, 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. – Goodreads

Thoughts: I love this series so much! Wouldn’t these books make an amazing TV show? I would so love to see all of these characters every week. Anyways, this was a great read and I would highly, highly recommend this series to anyone who loves fairytales and/or sci-fi.

Book three of The Lunar Chronicles introduces a new character… who is obviously Cress. Cress has spent a good chunk of her life locked away in a satellite (where she is a super hacker, working for the bad guys) but she’s still all kinds of awesome. Quite possibly my new favorite as she was a very relateable character for me. All your old favorites are back for this new installment too, including lots of Kai who I definitely missed during book two. Cress also has a bit of her own romantic plot which I’m not totally sold on yet, but I won’t give it away, so you can draw your own conclusions. The person who was lacking a little in this one was Scarlet, which I was alright with. That spaceship was getting kind of crowded anyway. Overall, I think Marissa Meyer did a great job of weaving the various characters and plotlines together. I don’t want this series to ever end.

For the first time ever, I can’t wait for Winter!

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Promo: Enduring Chaos by Catherine Fitzsimmons

Written By: Kellie - Feb• 20•14

enduring chaos

Series: Sisters of Chaos, #1
Author: Catherine Fitzsimmons
Publisher: Brain Lag
Published: November 29th

About the book: Cursed with fearsome eyes and a dangerous gift, any chance of Damian Sires having an ordinary life was dashed the moment she was born. All her life, she has hidden her abnormalities and fought for acceptance behind the shadow of a veil and her respected merchant father.

When Damian’s power spirals out of control and casts her out alone into the world, she finds herself caught up in plots as old as the gods themselves. Bitter exiles, deposed nobility, clandestine knights, and a divine being with an ancient grudge all close in on the unstable power radiating from Damian.

Desperate to keep that power contained, she sets out with mysterious allies in an attempt to find someone who can help her in a world that fears magic. Yet the source of Damian’s ability is far more deadly than she imagined. – Goodreads

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Review: Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci

Written By: Kellie - Feb• 10•14

tin star

Series: Tin Star, #1
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publish Date: February 25th, 2014
Source: ARC

Rating: 4/5 – A surprise sci-fi hit that I didn’t see coming but will definitely be reading again.

About the book: On their way to start a new life, Tula and her family travel on the Prairie Rose, a colony ship headed to a planet in the outer reaches of the galaxy. All is going well until the ship makes a stop at a remote space station, the Yertina Feray, and the colonist’s leader, Brother Blue, beats Tula within an inch of her life. An alien, Heckleck, saves her and teaches her the ways of life on the space station.

When three humans crash land onto the station, Tula’s desire for escape becomes irresistible, and her desire for companionship becomes unavoidable. But just as Tula begins to concoct a plan to get off the space station and kill Brother Blue, everything goes awry, and suddenly romance is the farthest thing from her mind. – Goodreads

Thoughts: I hadn’t heard about Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci until I was offered an ARC but I am so, so glad I read this book! I’ve always considered myself someone who likes sci-fi in my tv and movies, and fantasy in my books. Lately, I’m starting to think I just haven’t been reading the right sci-fi books. I really loved this one! Tin Star was able to offer the kind of sci-fi you don’t see on the big/small screen with complex aliens that are nothing like human beings, leaving the main character Tula to navigate a completely alien world.

Tula is abandoned by her people on a remote space station that is inhabited entirely by species that are nothing like us. She’s left for dead and has absolutely nothing to her name so things aren’t easy. The book, while fairly short, spans years, and it’s so interesting to see her learn how to survive in her new surroundings and deal with being literally the only human being for a good portion of the book. She’s a really great character and I can’t think of anyone I’ve read about who is quite like her. She isn’t your typical YA heroine by any stretch–she keeps to herself, she’s cautious and because of the situation she’s put in has to look at everything from an entirely different angle than I would. It was really fun to read!

I suspect the style of writing in this one wont sit with everyone. It’s a little choppy at times, although I thought it fit with the story. My only real criticism is that the writing was (only at times) way too tell-y. One line in particular actually made me do a double take, “Everything was so much larger and more interconnected than I thought it was.” Keep in mind that I read an ARC, so this might not be in the final version but it was hard not to raise my eyebrows at that one. Let me figure out for myself how the big picture connects rather than pointing out how great the plotting was.

The plot itself was interesting. At times it was a little slow, but I still really enjoyed it. I did find the romantic element to be a little forced (in one instance at least, something that came closer to the end was actually a great surprise, but I can’t talk about it without giving too much away). I suspected some of the plot twists but still really enjoyed how all of the pieces came together, and I really can’t wait to see what the next book brings and what the over all arc of the series will be.

Highly recommend for someone looking for a great science fiction read that comes with everything from aliens to intergalactic politics to a rickity old space station.

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January Recap, February TBR Book Jar Selections + John Green!

Written By: Kellie - Feb• 03•14

Well I’d say January went well! Not only did I finish my three January TBR Book Jar reads with time to spare but I actually ended up reading a total of twelve books, which put me into February at four books ahead of my reading goal for the year. So with a vacation coming at the end of this month, I’m feeling like a second great reading month is in the works for me.

The Highlights of January
Tiger Lily
– Avalon
– Ruby Red
– Tin Star

I’ve already reviewed Avalon but will probably write something up for the others as well in the near future. All highly recommended. Now I just have to find a hardcover version of Saphire Blue that matches my copy of Ruby Red. Sigh. #booknerdproblems

So! February! What are we reading? The Book Jar selections for this month are…. *drum roll*

the other normals the dwarves  thedarkestminds

I’m feeling pretty good about all of these. The Darkest Minds is one I just haven’t gotten too in a while despite owning an ARC. Shamful, I know. I’ve never read a Ned Vizzini book, and after his death in December this will probably feel bittersweet but I still think The Other Normals sounds like a book I’ll absolutely love.

Annnd… I just saw The Desolation of Smaug a couple of weeks ago so I’m feeling very pro-Dwarves right now! (Psst… check out this cover of I See Fire from the movie, it’s amazeballs).

Annnd there was one more book to pick for this month, but this one wasn’t only up to me as it’s the next book we’ll be reading for the next WordNerds book club. We decided to go with a John Green book annnnd the winner was.

Looking for Alaska!



Review: Blackout by Robison Wells

Written By: Kellie - Feb• 02•14


Series: Blackout, #1
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publish Date: October 1st, 2013
Source: ARC

Rating: 3/5 – An action packed sci-fi/superhero read that left me a little confused.

About the book: Laura and Alec are trained terrorists.

Jack and Aubrey are high school students.

There was no reason for them to ever meet.

But now, a mysterious virus is spreading throughout America, infecting teenagers with impossible powers. And these four are about to find their lives intertwined in a complex web of deception, loyalty, and catastrophic danger—where one wrong choice could trigger an explosion that ends it all. – Goodreads

Thoughts: I’ll admit, it was the cover that initially drew me to requesting Blackout. I’m still not totally sure what it’s supposed to be depicting, but I like it.  Going even further, I wasn’t even sure what the book was really supposed to be about. The story itself didn’t quite live up to the cover for me, but it was still an interesting read.

Blackout’s stories centers on two seemingly random points. 1) Groups of teenagers are roaming the country committing massive acts of terrorism. 2)Random teenagers are gaining special powers. These two things were a bit much for the willing suspension of disbelief part of my brain to take on together, but I still enjoyed the story. The world building was mainily lacking on the terrorist side of things since we get to spend a fair bit of time reading about the abilities and the theories as to why they’re happening. It felt like I waited a long time for answers that never came which can always be kind of infuriating.

There are five main (or main-ish) characters who fall into either (and sometimes both) group. Aubrey was the easiest for me to latch onto since she started out not having much of an idea about what was going on, but as she learned the ropes she managed to be competent while still realistically flawed. Before the story even starts she had been trying to use her new powers to climb the social ladder of high school… so you know, not great. But the story leaves her a lot of room to grow into her character and her powers, so her arc ended up becoming my favorite part of the story.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next book to get a feel for where the plot is headed next before committing to read it. Still, I feel like this could be one of those series with an awesomely plotted payoff in the end. Fingers crossed!

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Review: Avalon by Mindee Arnett

Written By: Kellie - Jan• 20•14


Series: Avalon, #1
Publisher:  Balzer & Bray
Publish Date: January 21st, 2014
Source: ARC

Rating: 5/5 – My new favorite sci-fi series!

A ragtag group of teenage mercenaries who crew the spaceship Avalon stumble upon a conspiracy that could threaten the entire galaxy in this fascinating and fast-paced sci-fi adventure from author Mindee Arnett.

Of the various star systems that make up the Confederation, most lie thousands of light-years from First Earth-and out here, no one is free. The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it, and power is held by anyone with enough greed and ruthlessness to claim it. That power is derived from one thing: metatech, the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light.

Jeth Seagrave and his crew of teenage mercenaries have survived in this world by stealing unsecured metatech, and they’re damn good at it. Jeth doesn’t care about the politics or the law; all he cares about is earning enough money to buy back his parents’ ship, Avalon, from his crime-boss employer and getting himself and his sister, Lizzie, the heck out of Dodge. But when Jeth finds himself in possession of information that both the crime bosses and the government are willing to kill for, he is going to have to ask himself how far he’ll go to get the freedom he’s wanted for so long.

Avalon is the perfect fit for teens new to sci-fi as well as seasoned sci-fi readers looking for more books in the YA space-and a great match for fans of Joss Whedon’s cult hit show Firefly.

Thoughts: 2014 is already shaping up to be a great year in books. I’ve read a total of seven books so far, and Avalon is by far my favorite. I was a little hesitant because the cover suggests such a dark, creepy story (and for good reason) but I’m so glad I got the chance to read this book. That tough thing will be stopping myself from rereading it monthly from now until the next book comes out.

If you’ve ever seen (and loved) Joss Whedon’s show Firefly or the follow up movie Serenity, there’s a lot here that you’re going to like. There’s a tight knit crew, a similar government setup, a creepy part of space that everyone avoids, and of course, a spaceship that ties it all together. While I love books like Across the Universe and Glow, with their huge passenge liners, there was something so gritty and genuine about Avalon and her crew that’s going to stay with me for a long time.

Avalon follows a crew of teenaged thieves, who are under the thumb of a jerk named Hammer who runs a pretty extensive criminal empire. The captain (and our MC) Jeth just wants to keep his friends and sister safe and buy back his paren’t ship. Of course, from there everything goes a little bit crazy and it’s pretty much non stop tension with the occasional bit of banter thrown in. And I’ve got to say, Mindee Arnett does tension so well. There’s a very creepy space ship scene that basically had me looking over my shoulder, as well as some other moments that I won’t get into because you should definitely discover this story for yourself.

The one, teeny tiny suggestion I would make is fleshing out a few of the other characters, to give the crew a more dynamic vibe. Celeste, Shady, Flynn and Vince all could have used an extra 250 words or so each, spread throughout the book–a mannerism here, a one liner there–so we could get to know them a little better. I still really enjoyed every character, I just would have liked a tiny bit more. Heh, actually this book was so good that I definitely wouldn’t have complained if there had been a lot more of everyone.

If you’re a fan of science fiction, Firefly, or just good storytelling, this is a book you’re definitely going to want to check out. I have high hopes for this series, and will definitely be picking up the prequel novella, Proxy in short order. Nevermind, I just bought it. I’ll probably wait to read it though, otherwise I have no idea how I’ll survive the year I’ll have to wait before picking up book two.

Seriously guys, this book is crazy good. Go read it.

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Cover Re-Design: A Grimm Legacy by Janna Jennings

Written By: Kellie - Jan• 17•14

B1 Grimm Legacy

Series: Grimm Tales, #1
Author: Janna Jennings
Publisher: Patchwork Press
Cover Designer: Erica Crouch

Enchanted castles and charming princes thought to exist only in stories come to life in this classically twisted fairy tale that combines the timeless quality of generations old folktales with the challenges of the modern world.

The woods of Elorium appear ordinary to Andi Grace, until birds start talking and elves answer doors. Along with three others, Andi has been whisked out of her world and finds herself the reluctant guest of the perplexing millionaire, Mr. Jackson—a stranger willing to help get them home, but who’s keeping secrets of his own.

Discovering unexpected family connections to this fairy tale land, the group must rely on each other as they dodge evil fairies and battle giants, intent on keeping them in Elorium.

Faced with characters short on whimsy and bent towards treachery, Andi, Quinn, Fredrick and Dylan are forced into fairy tale roles to find the way home. But in Elorium, happily ever after is never guaranteed.

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