Book Review: ‘Levitating Las Vegas’ by Jennifer Echols

Levitating Las Vegas (Image Credit: Jennifer Echols)

Levitating Las Vegas (Image Credit: Jennifer Echols)

Levitating Las Vegas was an interesting experience for me. As a Jennifer Echols fan who has read all her previous books, I felt like I had some idea of what to expect. While in some ways those expectations were met, in other ways this book was a (not necessarily unwelcome) departure for Echols. Continue reading

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Book Review: ‘Sketchy’ by Olivia Samms

Sketchy (Image CreditL Olivia Samms)

Sketchy (Image CreditL Olivia Samms)

When I first cracked open Sketchy by Olivia Samms, I didn’t know what to expect, but within the first few pages, I was hooked.

Sketchy’s plot revolves around sharp and spunky Bea Washington. Bea, newly released from a drug rehab program, is preparing to start life at a new school. Unlike most high school seniors, however, Bea has a gift: she can see and draw what other people are thinking. This gift leads her down a dark path as someone begins to sexually assault and murder girls from her town, and Bea may be the only one who can find the rapist after accidentally seeing (and drawing) his only surviving victim’s thoughts. Continue reading

Interview with Author Tahereh Mafi

An Interview with Author Tahereh Mafi

Tahereh Mafi

Tahereh Mafi (Image Credit: Ransom Riggs)

She may only be 24 years old, but Tahereh Mafi has already become a force to be reckoned with in young adult fiction. Her debut novel, Shatter Me, is a unique blend of emotional turmoil, dystopia, romance, and super powers. Mafi pulls all these elements into one suspenseful package tied together by her unusual and captivating style of writing.

Unravel Me, the next book in the Shatter Me series, hits bookstore shelves and e-readers February 5th. A big thank you to Tahereh for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer a few of our questions about the Shatter Me series.

Continue reading

Book Review: ‘If I Stay’ by Gayle Forman

Death is not an uncommon concept in young adult fiction. Whether it’s death of a friend or parent, the impending death of one’s self, or even the undead, death in general is a central theme in tons of YA novels. And yet there is something unique about Gayle Forman’s take on the matter in If I Stay, which follows the thoughts of a girl in between life and death. A concept that could have been morbid and melodramatic instead reads as a thoughtful celebration of life. Continue reading

The Mara Dyer Trilogy: What We Know So Far!

(Image Credit: Michelle Hodkin)

(Image Credit: Michelle Hodkin)

Now that we have had time to read The Evolution of Mara Dyer, what better way to wrap our minds around it than to recap the important information we gained in the first two books of the series? Spoilers for both The Unbecoming and The Evolution will be plentiful; consider yourself warned. Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Shatter Me’ by Tahereh Mafi

Image Credit: Tahareh Mafi

Image Credit: Tahareh Mafi

I’m not even really sure how to begin to summarize Shatter Me, because there is just so much. We meet our protagonist, Juliette, in an insane asylum. Juliette has unique powers, similar to Rogue from X-Men: when she touches people she sucks the life out of them. As a result, she’s locked up in the asylum. In this setting, we learn about Juliette’s past, as well as the fairly recent shift in society that has led to the country being run by something called “The Reestablishment.” It’s your usual dystopian stuff – something bad happens, powerful people take advantage of it, even worse things happen as a result. Since the Reestablishment is still fairly new, neither the reader nor Juliette totally knows what’s happening outside of the asylum walls. During this section we are also introduced to Adam, a boy from Juliette’s past who is now a soldier for the Reestablishment. Continue reading

Mara Dyer 101: Getting to Know Michelle Hodkin’s Hit Trilogy

Abyss of the Disheartened Series (Image Credit: Heather Landis)

Interested in reading Michelle Hodkin’s Mara Dyer book series but want to know what you’re getting yourself into? Keep reading for the spoiler-free scoop on the first book in the series, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. Continue reading

Book Review: ‘The Evolution of Mara Dyer’ by Michelle Hodkin

Image Credit: Michelle Hodkin

The Evolution of Mara Dyer is the sequel to The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. This review will likely contain spoilers for the first book – consider yourselves warned!

I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting when I read The Unbecoming last year, but it was one of those situations where a book just really caught my attention and had me totally wrapped up in it. I was confused, I was yelling and exclaiming, I had no idea what was going on…and for some strange reason, I loved it. I’ve read it 3 times since. Needless to say, I have been really looking forward to (hopefully) getting some answers in The Evolution.

To give a little background, the main character in these books (Mara Dyer, obviously) has been suffering some mental issues since she and three of her friends were involved in an accident at an abandoned insane asylum in her old hometown. The asylum collapsed, and all of her friends (including her boyfriend) were killed. She was totally fine, physically, but suffered from extreme Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after the incident. Understandably.

We catch up with Mara shortly after the events in the climax of The Unbecoming. After seeing her supposedly dead ex-boyfriend, Jude, at the police station, she had an episode that landed her in a mental hospital. Apparently during her fit she told the police that Jude was alive and admitted she was responsible for the deaths of her friends at the asylum. While these things are technically true, Mara’s history of psychological distress didn’t help her provide a convincing argument. Meanwhile Jude is still out there, making sure Mara knows he’s watching her.

The Evolution focuses on Mara’s quest to figure out what the heck is going on with her, basically. She knows she has some strange abilities, but she doesn’t understand exactly what they are or why she has them. She knows that Jude is alive, but she doesn’t know how it’s possible or why he seems to be stalking her. She knows that Noah, her beautiful British boyfriend (we are reminded of these attributes constantly, though I’m not necessarily complaining), also has some strange abilities, but she has no idea how they are connected to each other.  And what’s up with those weird dreams about being in India? There are a lot of questions, no easy way to get answers, and a lot of obstacles in the way. Mara’s family doesn’t trust her to be on her own. No one besides Noah believes much of what she says. She’s in danger, but she doesn’t really have a way to prove it. Things are just a big ol’ mess.

One of the interesting things about The Unbecoming was that Mara’s PTSD made her an incredibly unreliable narrator. Because she struggled to understand what was real and what was not, so did the reader. Interestingly, Mara actually seems to have a little better grasp on reality in The Evolution. She begins to trust herself more and is better able to distinguish reality from dreams or hallucinations. Sure, the girl still has some issues, but you get the feeling they aren’t necessarily things Mara can control. What we don’t know is why.

Part of the appeal of this series is the mystery and all the creepy elements that play into it. Michelle Hodkin is a really ambient writer, and every chapter of The Evolution conveys a general feeling of eeriness, regardless of subject matter. The mystery runs pretty deep, so you get a lot of questions but not necessarily a lot of answers. What I appreciated about this book was the balance – some things that were unclear in the first book become much clearer here. There are still plenty of bizarre things going on to keep you guessing, but you get just enough resolution to keep you invested in the story…

…Very invested in the story. I don’t usually talk to my books, but the Mara Dyer series has been an exception.  “What is going on!?,” “O.M.G.,” “You’ve gotta be kidding me,” and “How is that a thing?!” are common responses at the end of pretty much every chapter. And “page-turner” doesn’t even begin to do it justice. This is the rare type of book where I could easily read it in one sitting but don’t want it to end…so I have to force myself to try to spread it out over a day or two.  And, like the first book in the series, this book really sticks with you. I found myself thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it, pondering what was going on or even just revisiting particular scenes that especially stood out.

Do I have anything to complain about? Not really. Everything that is confusing or frustrating about this book is confusing and frustrating because it should be and it needs to be. Aside from the addictive writing style and ambiance, there’s also realistic character development, a plot that moves forward believably despite dealing with some pretty crazy concepts, well-executed dialogue and moments of fantastic wit.

If I had to pick one little tiny thing to nitpick about, it would be something I hinted at earlier. We get it: Noah is the hottest guy on the planet. While I can appreciate Mara’s astonishment that he’s giving her the time of day, I could have stood for, like, 10% fewer references to his perfection. I’m not suggesting a substantial cutback here, just maybe cutting out one of the several references to his “sliver of stomach below his shirt” and maybe two of the times “beautiful” was used to describe him. Trust me, that still leaves plenty. I suppose the actual teenagers reading these books eat that stuff up, but at a certain point it makes me feel a little lecherous. (Much like my love of One Direction, but that’s another story).

So, now that I’ve gone on and on about how awesome this book is, I think it’s pretty clear that I loved it. I will be waiting impatiently for the final book in the series to come out and answer all these crazy questions.  It seems like these books tend to illicit a strong reaction – people who like this series really love it and people who dislike this series really hate it. But since I really love it, all I can do is highly recommend it to anyone who will listen.

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Interview with Author Susan Dennard

Author Susan Dennard’s debut novel, Something Strange and Deadly, is an addictively creepy tale of a strong-willed teenage girl battling zombies and evil spirits in 1870s Philadelphia (read the review).

Dennard’s initial career ambition was marine biology – she even  has a masters degree in it! A move to Europe (and away from the ocean) prompted her to pursue writing instead. Now that she’s had a taste of writing novels, she says that she “can never do anything else.”

This is good news for fans of Dennard’s unique work, and she’s sure to attract more admirers with her creative plots, strong characters and ambient settings. With Halloween around the corner, it’s the perfect time to check out Something Strange and Deadly for a dose of horror mixed with some mystery…and even a little romance.

Susan was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about Something Strange and Deadly and the upcoming sequel, A Darkness Strange and Lovely.

On to the Interview! Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Something Strange and Deadly’ by Susan Dennard

Image Credit: Susan Dennard

As readers, we all have pet peeves and deal-breakers when it comes to what we like and what we don’t. Genres that I sometimes struggle with are paranormal, steampunk, and historical fiction. Which is why it’s kind of odd that I decided to read this paranormal-themed, steampunk-tinged historical fiction. I guess I was trying to convince myself to be open-minded, which isn’t such a bad thing! Continue reading