What We’ve Been Reading: November 2013

What We've Been Reading: November 2013

When The Daily Quirk Bloggers aren’t writing, they’re reading! We decided it would be fun to share our bibliophilia with you by listing what we have been reading each month and giving you our opinions on a three point scale: Recommend It, Maybe, or Skip It. Have fun checking out what pages we’ve been turning and feel free to share your own recent reads in the comments! Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Just One Day’ by Gayle Forman

Just One Day

Just One Day (Image Credit: Gayle Forman)

Maybe it’s because I’ve never traveled abroad, but I find that I am always especially drawn to young adult books that take place overseas. Bonus points if it’s somewhere in Europe, and such is the case in Gayle Forman’s newest novel, Just One Day. Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Breaking Point’ (Article 5 #2) by Kristen Simmons

One of my surprise favorite books from last year was Kristen Simmons’ Article 5, a fast-paced and suspenseful dystopian featuring an admirable lead character on her quest to find her imprisoned mother (read my review). The second book in the Article 5 trilogy, Breaking Point, picks up shortly after the first ended. Be warned that there may be some spoilers for Article 5 in this review. Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Article 5’ by Kristen Simmons

At first when I picked up Article 5, I was a little guarded – I was on dystopian overload, and was skeptical I’d be able to get into it. But Article 5’s setting in a believable society on the brink of total oppression (but it’s not quite there yet) struck me as unique and disturbingly realistic. Ember Miller remembers when things were different, and she has seen the gradual changes as the government’s Federal Bureau of Reformation placed more and more restrictions on people. The FBR has a list of Articles, outlining various standards for “moral” behavior. When articles are violated, people are punished. Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Pandemonium’ (Delirium #2) by Lauren Oliver

(Image Credit: Lauren Oliver)

(Image Credit: Lauren Oliver)

In case you don’t already know, Pandemonium is the second book in Lauren Oliver’s Delirium trilogy. If you haven’t read Delirium, you probably don’t want to read this review or it will be totally spoiled for you. (You can read my review of Delirium HERE.) Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Warm Bodies’ by Isaac Marion

Image Credit: Isaac Marion

Image Credit: Isaac Marion

Here’s an idea: what if zombies actually had intelligent thoughts and a conscience? What would they be thinking and feeling, and would it make us think differently about them? This is the idea behind Warm Bodies, where our narrator is, in fact, a zombie. 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

Book Review: ‘Delirium’ by Lauren Oliver

(Image Credit: Lauren Oliver)

(Image Credit: Lauren Oliver)

These days, if I tell you I read a dystopian book about a girl loving someone she’s not supposed to, you’d probably say, “Oh, another?” It’s become a common concept, but it wasn’t that long ago that it was still a reasonably fresh idea in YA literature. Lauren Oliver’s Delirium was one of the first “new” books to delve into the idea, making forbidden love and a dystopian society one and the same. Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Unmasking Maya’ by Libby Mercer

Image Credit: Libby Mercer

Have you ever noticed how in romantic comedies (I’m thinking specifically movies, but it happens in books too), the leading lady always has this glamorous dream job that only, like, .002% of humans have but somehow 97% of romantic comedy ladies have them? Magazine editors, boutique owners who are never hurting for cash, fashion designers, wedding planners, fitness gurus…I’m sure there are more examples, but you get the idea. In Unmasking Maya, our lovely leading lady is an artist – but not a super successful and glamorous one – more like a realistic starving artist haunted by past scandal. Maya recently moved to San Francisco to reinvent herself. She designs unique works of art with fabrics and notions, creating works reminiscent of fashion design.  Her work is starting to gain some notoriety, and she is commissioned by the CEO of a large tech corporation to create an installation at the company headquarters. Continue reading

Book Review: ‘The Raven Boys’ by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys is a book I approached with some hesitation. Despite great word-of-mouth, I couldn’t really figure out what it was truly about based on how it was described, and that made me nervous. Now that I’ve read it, I understand why the descriptions were so vague, but I’m going to try to fill in the gaps with my own review for others who may have hesitations similar to my own. 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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Movie Review: ‘Sinister’

Image Credit: © 2011 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved

Horror movies can be a tricky thing. There are so many bad horror movies out there, it’s hard to figure out which ones are actually worth watching. Sinister comes from the producer of the Paranormal Activity movies and Insidious (all of which I’ve seen) and the writer-director of The Exorcism of Emily Rose (which I haven’t). To be quite honest, the real selling point for me was Ethan Hawke. And that scene from the trailer of the disturbing kid crawling out of a box. But mostly Ethan Hawke. Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Every Day’ by David Levithan

Try to imagine living life every day, but never living your own life. This is the difficult truth for A, the main “character” (for lack of a better word) in David Levithan’s Every Day. Each morning, A wakes up in a new body. Just like A, we don’t really know many specifics. A doesn’t remember ever having a body of his/her own. A doesn’t associate with a particular gender because it has always changed based on the day. (I’m going to go assume A is male during this review for simplicity’s sake; there’s some commentary on this in the book that I’ll address later.) But A can feel that his mind is separate from the bodies he inhabits. With some effort, A is able to access each body’s memory and uses this information to live each day as closely to his host’s normal routine as possible.  A doesn’t know what the host remembers the following day. After 16 years, A has learned not to make attachments to people. 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