Tag Archives: fiction

The Walled City

The Walled City Book Cover The Walled City
Ryan Graudin
Juvenile Fiction
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
2014-11-04
448

730. That's how many days I've been trapped.18. That's how many days I have left to find a way out. DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key to his freedom, he needs help from someone with the power to be invisible.... JIN hides under the radar, afraid the wild street gangs will discover her biggest secret: Jin passes as a boy to stay safe. Still, every chance she gets, she searches for her lost sister.... MEI YEE has been trapped in a brothel for the past two years, dreaming of getting out while watching the girls who try fail one by one. She's about to give up, when one day she sees an unexpected face at her window..... In this innovative and adrenaline-fueled novel, they all come together in a desperate attempt to escape a lawless labyrinth before the clock runs out.

 

Review:

I am not sure what I expected when I first began to read “The Walled City”, by Ryan Graudin, but it was certainly not what I got.  It is gritty, violent, and faces the most unpleasant of subjects head-on, weaving through three different points of view, with totally different lives, to create what eventually becomes a satisfying whole.

While it reads as a dystopia, The Walled City is actually based upon an actual place that once existed in Hong Kong.  Once you finish the book, I highly recommend reading a bit about Kowloon.  It is equal parts horrifying and fascinating, and it will give a real appreciation of how much research the author did to recreate the unimaginable living conditions in her novel.  It’s a history buff’s dream.

All of the characters are well-developed, and all three plot lines are intriguing and filled with detail.  The reader can almost feel the desperation faced by the residents of The Walled City themselves.  There is good flow and almost seamless transitions from one point of view to the next.  The reason I gave it four stars, instead of five, is that some of the relationship dynamics seemed a bit forced, but otherwise it is a good, solid read.

I recommend “The Walled City” for those in high school and above, or very advanced older middle school readers, due to the intensity of some of the subject matter.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Child Trafficking, Child Prostitution, Heavy Drug Usage

Undivided

UnDivided Book Cover UnDivided
Unwind Dystology, Book 4
Neal Shusterman
Juvenile Fiction
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
2014-10-14
384

Teens control the fate of America in the fourth and final book in the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology by Neal Shusterman. Proactive Citizenry, the company that created Cam from the parts of unwound teens, has a plan: to mass produce rewound teens like Cam for military purposes. And below the surface of that horror lies another shocking level of intrigue: Proactive Citizenry has been suppressing technology that could make unwinding completely unnecessary. As Conner, Risa, and Lev uncover these startling secrets, enraged teens begin to march on Washington to demand justice and a better future. But more trouble is brewing. Starkey’s group of storked teens is growing more powerful and militant with each new recruit. And if they have their way, they’ll burn the harvest camps to the ground and put every adult in them before a firing squad—which could destroy any chance America has for a peaceful future.

 

Review:

“Undivided”, the last book in the Unwind dystology by Neal Shusterman, is everything a final book in a series should be.  It is sheer perfection from beginning to end.

All of the characters introduced previously are developed even more, and their stories manage to come full-circle.  All of the plot is consistent with the previous books, without one single detail out of line with what has already been established.  In fact, even small details from the first book, “Unwind”, are brought back in “Undivided”.  I am looking forward to reading all four books in a row so I can fully appreciate all of the details that were sprinkled throughout.

It’s difficult to say much without spoiling everything.  “Undivided” is a deeply disturbing novel, as it should be, and unflinching in the various topics explored, ranging from human rights to abortion.  It will make you question your own beliefs and search your soul.  It may even change you in ways you never expected.

Thank you, Mr. Shusterman, for such an excellent series.  It will always remain one of my favorites.

Five stars.  I wish I could give it more.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence, Disturbing Imagery

Endgame: The Calling

Endgame: The Calling Book Cover Endgame: The Calling
Endgame, Book 1
James Frey, Nils Johnson-Shelton,
Juvenile Fiction
HarperCollins
2014-10-07
480

Twelve ancient cultures were chosen millennia ago to represent humanity in Endgame, a global game that will decide the fate of humankind. Endgame has always been a possibility, but never a reality…until now. Twelve meteorites have just struck Earth, each meteorite containing a message for a Player who has been trained for this moment. At stake for the Players: saving their bloodline, as well as the fate of the world. And only one can win. Endgame is real. Endgame is now. Endgame has begun. Google Niantic is building a mobile location-based augmented reality videogame inextricably tied to the books and mythology, a major prize will be tied to a puzzle in each book, and Twentieth Century Fox has bought the movie rights. Read the Books. Find the Clues. Solve the Puzzle. Who will Win?

 

Review:

“Endgame: The Calling” is a very unique take on the apocalyptic genre, merging both a story and a puzzle.  The first to solve the puzzle will win a hefty amount, and the gold is actually on display at Caeser’s Palace in Las Vegas.

My review is based on the story itself.  I intend to reread it and try to solve the puzzle at some point.

The story was somewhat slow in the beginning, with so many characters that it was difficult to follow difficult to follow.  Mixed in with a large amount of information clearly meant to be used solely in solving the puzzle, and a very slow revelation of the nature of the story, and I became disenchanted with it.  Having a review copy, I continued to read,  and I really am glad that I did.

The story slowly comes together to make a remarkable and unique plot.  All of the characters take on a life of their own, with complex feelings and backstories, leaving you feeling like you are a part of the “game” they are playing.  Without realizing it, I was emotionally invested in every character’s story.  The ending was a perfect gateway into the sequel, which I very much look forward to.

I recommend this to those who enjoy apocalyptic thrillers, do not mind violence in what they read, and who are willing to play along with the puzzle.  I wish I had from the very beginning, as that would have made it more enjoyable and less difficult to get into.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Heavy Violence

UnSouled

UnSouled Book Cover UnSouled
UnWind Dystology, Book 3
Neal Shusterman
Juvenile Fiction
Simon and Schuster
2014-10-14
432

After the destruction of the Graveyard, Connor and Lev are on the run, seeking a woman who may be the key to bringing down unwinding forever while Cam, the rewound boy, tries to prove his love for Risa by bringing Proactive Citizenry to its knees.

 

Review:

“UnSouled”, the third book in the brilliant Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman, is the best in the series thus far.  It takes the existentialist themes to an entirely new level.

It’s difficult to review “UnSouled” without giving away major plot developments, so please excuse the generalities found in this review.

There are many difficult questions that can make the reader uneasy, as they should, because there are no real answers.  What is a soul?  Can only God create it?  What control do we have over what makes us who we are?  All of these questions are presented so well, with arguments from different points of view, that I believe “UnSouled” should be taught in upper level english classes as the perfect example of existentialism.

The plot is engaging, and it flows perfectly from the previous book, “UnDivided”. Nothing seems forced and the progression of society seems natural.  Character development is deep and well-executed.  The issue of human rights, and to what degree should society interfere with those rights with criminals, adds another dimension to an already excellent book.

I recommend “UnSouled” for all readers who like books that aren’t afraid to make them uncomfortable.  It’s wonderful and definitely worth the ride.

 

Content Warning:

Violence, Language, Sexual Situations, Disturbing Imagery

Just Call Me Superhero

Just Call Me Superhero Book Cover Just Call Me Superhero
Alina Bronsky
Fiction
Europa Editions Incorporated
2014-10-07
240

His face disfigured after being attacked by a dog, 17-year-old Marek has a lot to come to terms with. Tricked into attending a support group for teens with disabilities, he is rude and dismissive to the other members, with one exception. An atmospheric evocation of modern Berlin, a vivid portrait of youth under pressure, and a moving story about learning to love oneself and others, Just Call Me a Superhero is destined to consolidate Alina Bronsky's reputation as one of Europe's most wryly entertaining authors.

 

Review:

“Just Call Me Superhero”, by Alina Bronsky, is the story of a young man named Marek, who lives in modern-day Berlin.  Marek was attacked by a rottweiler, leading to facial disfigurement, and is tricked by his mother into attending a support group.  This forms the basis of the story.

Make no mistake about it, Marek is far from a likable character.  He is blunt, homophobic, a jerk to anyone who finds themselves unlucky enough to be in his company, and seems to have no problem with any of it.  However, he is an also extremely well-developed character who shows a wonderful amount of growth by the end of the book.

The wry humor had me literally laughing out loud at times.  Bronsky knows exactly when to insert sarcasm and absurdity to break mounting tension.  It makes what could be an extremely depressing book an enjoyable and somewhat lighthearted one.

The only reason I gave “Just Call Me Superhero” four stars instead of five is the homophobia is very over-the-top.  There is growth and resolution to it, but I believe some of the phrasing may be a result of it being a translation.  As long as you keep this in mind, I recommend “Just Call Me Superhero”.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher through the Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations

Waistcoats and Weaponry

Waistcoats & Weaponry Book Cover Waistcoats & Weaponry
Finishing School, Book 3
Gail Carriger
Juvenile Fiction
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
2014-11-04
304

Class is back in session... Sophronia continues her second year at finishing school in style--with a steel-bladed fan secreted in the folds of her ball gown, of course. Such a fashionable choice of weapon comes in handy when Sophronia, her best friend Dimity, sweet sootie Soap, and the charming Lord Felix Mersey stowaway on a train to return their classmate Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland. No one suspected what--or who--they would find aboard that suspiciously empty train. Sophronia uncovers a plot that threatens to throw all of London into chaos and she must decide where her loyalties lie, once and for all. Gather your poison, steel tipped quill, and the rest of your school supplies and join Mademoiselle Geraldine's proper young killing machines in the third rousing installment in the New York Times bestselling Finishing School Series by steampunk author, Gail Carriger.

 

Review:

“Waistcoats and Weaponry” is the latest in the Finishing School series by Gail Carriger, and it is by far my favorite thus far.

The book begins with Sophronia’s second year at her finishing school for espionage.  Many things have changed, not the least of which being the challenges that come with being older.  Young men, potential sponsors, marriage, and prospective employment keep Sophronia on her toes.

As with the Harry Potter series, the topics explored in “Waistcoats and Weaponry” are geared toward a bit older set than the previous two of the series.  While it is still suitable for middle readers, it should be noted that there is quite a bit more dealing with sex, though nothing is graphic.  It also delves much more deeply into the matters of politics and the supernatural.

The adventure is darker, but still keeps the humor and detail that makes the series  so enjoyable.  I highly recommend “Waistcoats and Weaponry” to all of those who enjoy the first two of the Finishing School Series.

This review is based on an advanced copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Violence, Sexual Situations

Curtsies and Conspiracies

Curtsies & Conspiracies Book Cover Curtsies & Conspiracies
Finishing School, Book 2
Gail Carriger
Juvenile Fiction
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
2013-11-05
320

Does one need four fully grown foxgloves for decorating a dinner table for six guests? Or is it six foxgloves to kill four fully grown guests? Sophronia's first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy--won't Mumsy be surprised? Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners. Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers' quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship's boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a field trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot--one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card. In this sequel to New York Times bestselling Etiquette & Espionage, class is back in session with more petticoats and poison, tea trays and treason. Gail's distinctive voice, signature humor, and lush steampunk setting are sure to be the height of fashion this season.

 

Review:

As with its predecessor, “Curtsies and Conspiracies” is about the life of Sophronia in a unique finishing school for espionage in Victorian England.  It continues the Finishing School series in a way that leaves the reader looking for more.

“Curtsies and Conspiracies” is a wonderfully written adventure full of imagination and all of the wonderful imagery found in the best of steampunk novels.  The characters are well-developed and relatable in spite of being set in an entirely different period of history.  The one drawback is that while there is mystery, it is definitely setting the plot and character for advancement in the next book in the series.  That provides a little less spark of the first one, but is necessary to further the character development.

The attention to the details of fashion and speech from Victorian England are so vivid that the novel also serves as a history lesson of sorts.  The tongue-in-cheek humor about how things were done is delightful and shows how much society has changed over time.  The strong female protagonist sets a good example, and this series remains an excellent introduction to steampunk that can be enjoyed by middle readers, as well as those far beyond the age of a finishing school student.

I highly recommend “Curtsies and Conspiracies”, with a word of caution that the language of the period may be a turn off for more reluctant readers.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Violence, Brief and Mild Sexual Situations

Red Rising

Red Rising Book Cover Red Rising
Red Rising, Book 1
Pierce Brown
Fiction
Del Rey Books
2014-07-15
400

A tale set in a bleak future society torn by class divisions follows the experiences of secret revolutionary Darrow, who after witnessing his wife's execution by an oppressive government joins a revolutionary cell and attempts to infiltrate an elite military academy.

 

Review:

Before I go any further, let me warn you that “Red Rising” is not for the faint of heart.  It is extremely brutal and violent, but if you can handle that, it is one fast and exciting novel.

Nothing pleases me more than a well-built world in a dystopian novel, and “Red Rising” is one of the most fascinating worlds I have found.  The attention to detail is vivid, and it leaves you wanting to go deeper into their world and their history.

The characters and their motivations are complex, and they are very well-developed.  The plot has so many twists and turns it is like a roller coaster, and just when you think you have it all figured out, something happens that takes you in an entirely new direction.

The writing flows well and is easy to read, while also challenging to the reader, throwing in quite a bit of history and mythology.

In short, I cannot wait for the sequel to “Red Rising”, and highly recommend it to all fans of dystopian or fantasy novels.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Extreme Violence, Gore

Etiquette and Espionage

Etiquette & Espionage Book Cover Etiquette & Espionage
Finishing School, Book 1
Gail Carriger
Juvenile Fiction
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
2013-10-08
336

It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School. Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners--and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but the also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage--in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education. Set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, this YA series debut is filled with all the saucy adventure and droll humor Gail's legions of fans have come to adore.

 

Review:

“Etiquette and Espionage” is a wonderful and whimsical introduction into the world of historical steampunk fiction for the middle reader.

Based around a floating finishing school that also trains young women to become spies in the Victorian era, the subject is rich before a single word was written.  The attention to detail in describing the machines and general steampunk ideas is amazing and inspires the imagination.

Added into the plot is a great history lesson about the customs of the era mixed with a great deal of satire concerning the way a “proper lady” should dress and behave.  I found myself laughing at several points in the adventure at the sheer ridiculousness of it all.  To counter the customs of the day, the author presents a host of very strong female characters and how they are, in fact, equal to men.

There is fantasy type violence, though none graphic, and questionable morality that is presented in a tongue-in-cheek-manner that no reader after fifth grade will see as an example of appropriate behavior, making it a great read for those making the leap from children’s books to young adult.  My only caveat is that the language is a bit difficult to get used to, so it is not a good choice for the more reluctant readers.

But don’t let the children have all of the fun.  “Etiquette and Espionage” is a fun read for adults who are children at heart.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Violence

Meritropolis

Meritropolis Book Cover Meritropolis
Meritropolis, Book 1
Joel Ohman
Young Adult Fiction
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
September 9, 2014
Paperback
226

The year is AE3, 3 years after the Event. Within the walls of Meritropolis, 50,000 inhabitants live in fear, ruled by the brutal System that assigns each citizen a merit score that dictates whether they live or die. Those with the highest scores thrive, while those with the lowest are subject to the most unforgiving punishment--to be thrust outside the city gates, thrown to the terrifying hybrid creatures that exist beyond.

 

Review:

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

“Meritropolis”, by Joel Ohman, was a wonderful surprise when it comes to the sometimes predictable world of young-adult dystopian literature.  The action is non-stop, and while the story has great depth and backstory, it is presented in a way which is not bogged down and unnecessarily complicated.  It’s a very easy to understand premise.

What I found to be the major selling point is that it is a very attractive story for advanced middle reader males, a market which is surprisingly sparse.  As the primary purchaser of books for a twelve-year-old male bookworm, it becomes frustrating to find a story that’s full of adventure, intelligent, and a bit light on the romance.  “Meritropolis” fits the bill perfectly, and I would like to thank Mr. Ohman personally for writing it.

I wish 4 1/2 stars were possible, because the only reason I did not give it the full five is because the paragraphs were long, with lots of description.  While not necessarily a bad thing, it may be off-putting for more reluctant readers.

I highly recommend “Meritropolis” for lovers of dystopian novels, both old and young alike.

 

Content Warning:

Violence, Adult Themes, Animal Death