Categotry Archives: Reviews

The Darkest Minds

The Darkest Minds Book Cover The Darkest Minds
Alexandra Bracken
Juvenile Fiction

"Sixteen-year-old Ruby breaks out of a government-run 'rehabilitation camp' for teens who acquired dangerous powers after surviving a virus that wiped out most American children"--



To put this out there right up front, this is one of my favorite books ever and the beginning of one of my top three favorite dystopian series.

Ruby and company are part of a generation of children who have developed various powers, each given a different color code. The government locks them into camps to try to “cure” them. Obviously, this is not how it goes, because if they just went to camp and were cured there would be no plot to speak of. I’ll leave it to you to read the book and find out what happens.

Ruby is a refreshing character in the world of young adult dystopias. While she does have quite a bit of naiveté when it comes to interactions with the outside and boys due to being sent to the camp when she was ten, she is certainly not slow to pick up on things. She takes help and needs help but is by no means a damsel in distress. Others need her just as badly as she needs them. All too often these types of novels leave the heroine in somewhat of an intellectual fog when it comes to adaptation to their new environments, but Ruby does not suffer from that. This is part of why I love it so much.

The other characters are all wonderful. Each one has a well-developed back story that is compelling and heartbreaking. This is not a novel where you find anyone with an easy life. Getting to know them on such an intimate level made me become invested in the novel as whole, not just as it related to Ruby, and made me feel genuine panic when the fates of some became unknown.

The author clearly thought out the motivations of every character in a scene before writing it. None of it is muddled, and it all fits perfectly with their history and current circumstances. None of it seems out-of-place and it makes the plot flow beautifully leaving no room for holes in a character’s plot line. It’s an excellent example for those looking for what to do when it comes to character development.

There is one scene that is particularly disturbing in a sexual consent and control issue way. It’s intense enough that I feel it warrants a description here rather than a brief mention in the content warnings. One character takes advantage of another by using their powers. It’s somewhat ambiguous as to the exact nature of what occurred, but it is definitely creepy and a possible trigger for some. That being said, it is in no way gratuitous and does serve to further both character development and plot. In my opinion, it’s a delicate subject that is handled well.

I cannot end this review without mentioning the world-building aspect. That is my favorite part of any non-realistic fiction type novel and Alexandra Bracken does not disappoint. It’s a world still very much like how we live today, but one going downhill fast. The best parts of the small details that make perfect sense but many would not even think to add. For example, what would the radio play in an absence of teenagers? Oldies. Don’t even get me started on how they are used, because as a combined biblio- and audiophile I may never stop speaking.

Overall, I recommend this book to the point that were I a rich man I would buy all of you reading this review a copy. Well-written, well-developed, heartbreaking, and really darn fun.


Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Sexual Situations, General Intense Situations


Born Trilogy, Book 3
Tara Brown



I did this to myself.  Part of me really wanted this to be good and fix the problems in “Born to Fight”.  The series had so much potential, in spite of some flaws, and got progressively worse.

The typos and sentence structure were so bad in this one that it felt like it had been translated from another language by someone a translator who barely knows English.  This should not happen in something sold to the public.  A few are normal, though should try to be avoided.  At least run spellcheck.

The plot is another issue altogether.  There were so many things going on at once that none could be properly explored beyond a surface level, thereby making it a complete mess of ideas that didn’t quite connect.  Add to it an ending that came from nowhere, and it becomes a ridiculous mess.

I already ranted in the review of “Born to Fight” about my anger toward the unhealthy relationship found in the series.  This one continued that.  In the interest of my blood pressure, I will say no more.

What makes me sad is that this story had so much potential.  The first one needed some work but with a good editor the series could have been something unique and special.  Had Tara Brown not wanted to cut out some of the plot points, it would have been better to be extended beyond a trilogy and focus a book on each one.  Then the reader could make some sense out of it all.  Not a recommended series at all.


Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Sexual Situations

Born to Fight

Born to Fight Book Cover Born to Fight
Born Trilogy, Book 2
Tara Brown

Ten years ago when the world ended she ran for her life. Five weeks ago the world she'd hidden from came knocking on the door of her secluded cabin. Ten days ago she found salvation hiding amongst the dead. Yesterday she went back for the living. Today she wonders if she will live to see tomorrow."--P. [4] of cover.



In an effort to be fair, I am going to begin with the good parts.  There is a part of the plot about a government-run facility that I really enjoyed.  The entire idea of the place was horrifying, the author provided great details that cemented the place in my imagination like it was real, and it really provided great insight into how the world was falling apart.  It meshed well with the back story and experiences we learned about Emma in “Born”.

I also enjoyed the comic relief of Emma having absolutely no social skills whatsoever.  Sure, she was rude, and she often knew it, but it was still fun to see how other characters reacted to her.  When people who are rapists, live with zombies, and/or are part of some strange commune in the woods think someone is  uncivilized, you know that the person has some issues.

Now for the bad.  I think we all need to take up a collection to help the author find a good editor.  There were entire paragraphs repeated, misused words, misspelled words, and an ever-annoying tendency to have a scene with multiple characters having a conversation that includes no names.  It would simply be denoted by “he said” or “she said”.  Who is he?  Jake?  Will?  The dog?  Casper the friendly ghost?  The entire process of decoding large parts of the book was an exercise in frustration.

Since we have a good and a bad, it seems fitting to have an ugly.  The ugly in this is the completely contrived and horrific love triangle.  Firstly, one of the love interests is barely in the book, and although an altogether decent human being, this seems to be some sort of sin in the mind of those around him.  Granted, I know he is a liability to survival, but at least he is not violent.

Which brings us to the next love interest, Will.  He is an abusive jerk of a person and he knows it.  It is like he was made to fit the list of “signs of an abuser”, and the main character keeps thinking that he is one, and yet the author portrays the entire thing as some sort of excellent antagonistic love story.  The entire thing makes me so angry that I am literally shaking.  Younger women may read this and take it as healthy and romantic.  Why is it ok to know someone makes you feel bad about yourself and hurts you, but you still forgive them?  It is not.  Not even a little bit.  Romanticizing it is absolutely irresponsible and reprehensible on the part of the author.

Strong words?  Yes.  I don’t regret them.

I will read the next one because I’m worried about the wolf.


Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Sexual Situations, Romanticized Abuse


Born Book Cover Born
Born Trilogy, Book 1
Tara Brown

Ten years ago when the world ended she ran for her life. Five weeks ago the world she'd hidden from came knocking on the door of her secluded cabin. Ten days ago she found salvation hiding amongst the dead. Yesterday she went back for the living. Today she wonders if she will live to see tomorrow."--P. [4] of cover.



I bought this book for my Nook because it was on sale, and I am a sucker for any dystopian type of novel.  It was a choice I am glad I made.  It’s different from all of the others I have read in the blending of elements and tropes.

The basic premise is that a girl has been taught to survive by her father before a type of New World Order world conspiracy occurs.  This leaves her alone and without human contact for ten years of her life.  Add into the mix people who are almost like zombies, human hunters, rapists, food scarcity, and other various dangers and it becomes quite a thrill ride.

I loved the world building aspect of this book.  Since she was completely isolated before others became involved, it was almost as if there were two different worlds to explore.  The first is Emma’s in isolation, and the second is introduced through two characters who arrive at her door and pull her back into the lives of others.  Her learning about them and how to interact was my favorite part.

Unfortunately, it began to lose me at the end.  Things seem to move too quickly and a third character is introduced who gives me the creeps.  I am afraid I can see where the next book is going, and it makes me nervous.  Along with it, the writing of many of the personal interactions is stilted and awkward almost to the point of distraction.  I enjoyed it at first, because it seems natural that someone who has had so little human contact would speak that way, but as the book progressed it became apparent it was due to the writing itself, not the portrayal of a character’s limitations.

Overall, the premise was enough to make me enjoy this book and read the rest of the series.


Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Sexual Situations




Damned Book Cover Damned
Damned, Book 1
Chuck Palahniuk
Anchor Books

As thirteen-year-old Madison tries to figure out how she died and ended up in Hell, she learns how to manipulate the corrupt system of demons and bodily fluids.



To be upfront, I am not typically a fan of Chuck Palahniuk’s writing, but this one’s description caught my eye so I decided to give it a try.  I’m glad I did, because I generally loved it.

The main character, 13-year-old Madison, evolves throughout the story from a rather clueless girl to one who gradually becomes more self-aware.  The writing style is meant to mimic how a girl her age may write, and for the most part it played out nicely.  However, after a while some of the repetition began to grate on my nerves like one of the demons in the book.  We got the point, Mr. Palahnuik. It really marred what was otherwise a pleasant read and is the sole reason I gave it three stars instead of four.

The other characters were excellent.  All surprising and well-rounded, they did a great job of making the novel thought-provoking as opposed to one-dimensional. Archer and Goren were particular were favorites of mine.

The list of ways to get you a one way ticket to eternal damnation had me laughing every time one came up.  I challenge anyone not to wonder if you are gambling with their soul the next time they commit one of the atrocities.

As is so common in a Palahniuk novel that I don’t think it bears even a thought of a spoiler warning, it all comes down to the ultimate existential crisis.  This one is the best I have ever read, not only from the author, but from possibly any author. It definitely left me wanting more in spite of the previously mentioned repetition. Lucky for me, there is a sequel, “Doomed”.

Content Warning:

This book was listed as young adult, and that designation makes me quite sure that I either entered an alternate dimension or the one who decides such things came to work drunk.  It is NOT, by any stretch of the imagination, a book meant for younger readers.  There is quite a bit of profanity, extremely graphic sexual imagery, and an overall perverseness that would make most school librarians have a stroke.  You have been warned.