A True Reality

aka YA Literature

Friday, March 7, 2014

Book Review: Honey

How far would you go for the perfect body? What if there was a miracle drug that let you achieve rapid weight loss without exercise or dietary changes? People taking it are happier than ever...but the drug is harvested from unsuspecting endurance athletes whose lives are shattered as a result.

The plot of Honey is told through a courthouse setting with the details emerging in trial-like fashion. I was intrigued by the moral and ethical dilemma presented, as well as the concept of a miracle drug that lets ordinary people become extraordinary athletes. A thriller, mystery, and science fiction all rolled into one, Honey kept me interested from beginning to end. I can see Honey appealing to a broad audience - young and old, male and female. I look forward to reading more stories from Daniel Erwin.

**Full Disclosure: My brother-in-law wrote the book, my sister is on the cover, and I just re-used the review that I posted on Amazon. That being said, I honestly think this is a terrific read that would appeal to the young adult crowd. Plus, it is only $2.99 in the Kindle store!**

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

All Good Children

Title: All Good Children
Author: Catherine Austen
Rating: B+/A-

Set in a dystopian future (can you imagine anything else from a YA novel?), All Good Children follows the story of a teenage boy named Alex. At first, he enjoys a relatively privileged lifestyle among the country's wealthiest residents; however, everything changes when the government starts injecting students with a mind-controlling serum that changes the entire student body to well-behaved "zombies". Fortunately, Max and his friend are able to escape the injections - thanks to some help from Max's mother (who is a nurse.) Now, Max and his family must hide among the zombies while formulating an escape from the watchful eye of Big Brother.

The Good: Although this book is difficult to get into (I really have to force myself to read the first 100 pages!), the second half more than made up for the slow start. I found this to be an interesting story - and it's nice to see a YA author that can actually tell a story in one single volume!

The Bad: As I mentioned above, the only real negative aspect of this book was the slow start. I also found the references to 1984 and "pod people" a little too obvious. However, overall, this was a very enjoyable novel.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Title: Beta
Author: Rachel Cohn
Rating: B+

Set in the future on idyllic island for the world's wealthiest people, Beta centers around a newly "born" clone, who is the first in a new class of "beta" teen clones. Due to the relaxing nature of the island's atmosphere, human workers are deemed inappropriate for servitude; fortunately, science have solved the problem by creating a race of working clones from the bodies of the recently deceased. Elysia, the newly "born" teen, is an attempt to perfect the teenage model - something that has given scientists trouble in the past (apparently puberty does not agree with the cloning process.)

Elysia is purchased by a wealthy family to serve as a plaything for a bored mother and her children. However, problems start to occur when Elysia realizes she still has memories of her "first" life, before the cloning processes. She must now guard this secret to prevent from being destroy as a "Defect" clone. She soon discovers that she is not the sole "Defect", but that there are many more out there campaigning for clone rights. In the middle of all this, Elysia develops two romances: one with another clone, and one with her "first's" true love.

The Good: The story is a fast-paced, easy read that kept my attention from beginning to end. Although I'm not usually a big fan of series books that aren't read as stand-alones, this is actually a fairly good start to a series. The dramatic plot twist at the end definitely left me wanting book #2.

The Bad: I really only have one "major" complain (and one minor issue.) First, I didn't really like the amount of drug usage in the book. At first it seems a little gratuitous, but I'm hoping it somehow serves a point in the plot of book #2. As for the minor complaint, I didn't care for some aspects of the "clones." Apparently, clones are basically robots that have been programmed with a very specific set of instructions. I might be dating myself (and proving myself to be a big ol' nerd) with this reference, but the clone's speech reminded me a lot of Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Their inability to understand humor or slang became annoy after the first couple chapters.

Friday, July 20, 2012

What I've Been Reading

I've been reading like crazy this summer, so I thought I'd mention a few of my favorite titles so far:

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Part fantasy, part historical fiction, this book tells the story of Ismae Rienne who escapes from an abusive marriage by joining the convent of St. Mortain in 15th century Brittany.  There she becomes a handmaiden of Death and trains in the arts of fighting, poisons, and seduction.  She is assigned an important task in the royal court, and there she becomes involved in danger, political intrigue and double-crossing, and of course, romance.  I LOVED this book.  Probably my favorite of the summer so far.

Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas
This is actually somewhat similar to Grave Mercy in that the main character ends up involved in the political machinations of the castle where she's staying. 
Celaena Sardothien is the kingdom's deadliest assassin, and in order to win her freedom from hard labor, she trains in the palace for a royal competition (if she wins, she wins her freedom).  There's a paranormal element, secrets, murders, and a yummy love triangle (will she end up with the prince or the captain of the guards?).  So good, but now I'm regretting that I read the ARC because I'm dying for the second book and the first hasn't even come out yet.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Orphan Alina Starkov is a cartographer in the King's Army.  She is going across the dangerous Shadow Fold with the rest of the army when she is attacked by the viscous winged creatures who live there.  A burst of bright light comes from Alina, and she soon discovers that she is a Grisha, one of the elite members of the Second Army who practice magic at the behest of the Darkling.  Since she is a rare Sun Summoner, she is taken under the protection and guidance of the Darkling to help to finally destroy the Shadow Fold.  But there are many plot twists ahead!  I read it in one day.

Partials by Dan Wells
The Partials were engineered to be like humans but more indestructible so that they could fight wars in humans' stead.  Naturally, that didn't go too well, and now there are only a few thousand human survivors living on Long Island.  Cut off from the rest of the world, they know only that these never-aging Partials are out there surrounding them and are now their enemies.  The Partials also involuntarily released a virus, RM, which kills all human babies.  So the remaining humans are aging and can't reproduce.  The protagonist, 16 year-old Kira, is determined to find a cure for RM, even if it means illegally leaving the security of Long Island to bring back a Partial for study.  I read this one because three of my students told me how much they liked it when they turned it in.  I don't know if I liked it as much as they did, but I did quite like it.

The Selection by Kiera Cass
Set in a future where the U.S. is now ruled by royalty and divided strictly by class lines, America Singer is selected from her district to compete in a high stakes reality show - the winner will win marriage to the hunky Prince Maxon.  Kind of a futuristic, YA "The Bachelor."  I enjoyed it quite a bit, although she better end up with Maxon!  I really liked America and Maxon together, but maybe I would have also liked the book if we didn't know who to root for, if we liked and knew about several of the candidates (ie. we didn't just get America's viewpoint).

A few older titles I just got around to reading and really enjoyed: Blood Red Road by Moira Young (can hardly wait for the second book!), Legend by Marie Lu (thank goodness I didn't read it when it came out because I'm already overly anxious to read the next book, which isn't out until the end of January), and The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han (The girls all LOVE this book, and I can totally see why - at least as good as anything by Sarah Dessen, if not better.  That's saying a lot.).

Zombie Kid Diaries: Playing Dead

Zombie Kid Diaries: Playing Dead by Fred Perry and David Hutchison isn't my usual reading fare.  It's more middle grade oriented, and it's heavily illustrated.  It's about wimpy middle schooler Bill Stokes who suffers from normal middle school insecurities and bullying.  To add to those issues, Bill's mom one day feeds him something for breakfast that, he eventually figures out, is slowly turning him into a zombie.  He has terrible BO (from his rotting zombie flesh), pussy pimples, and a taste for rotten meat.  You might think becoming a zombie would help him in his battle against the school bullies, but you have to remember that zombies don't exactly run very fast.  His best weapon might be his terrible odor.  Oh, and he's trying to win a local video game tournament.

It's rather hard for me to give an opinion on this book because I know I'm not the target audience.  I found it kind of dull and gross, but I'm not a middle schooler.  The gross descriptions and pictures of "zombie zits" would probably appeal more to them than they did to me.  I imagine with the popularity of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and zombies, it would be popular with the middle school crowd.  The sequel, Zombie Kid Diaries: Grossery Games, comes out at the end of the month.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Death Cure

Title: The Death Cure
Author: James Dashner
Rating: D

Although I was somewhat disappointed with the first book (The Maze Runner) in this series, I was pleasantly surprised by the second book (The Scorch Trials) and had hoped that this series would end on a high-note. Sadly, this book failed to meet those expectations.

After the first two books' long drawn-out series of adventures with few explanations for the mysteries surrounding the Maze, the Flare, WICKED (the list of unanswered questions in the series could continue for quite some time), I was hoping this last book would magically take all these random puzzle pieces and create some amazing unforeseen conclusion. Instead, the novel wandered aimlessly while neither answering the questions raised in the previous books nor creating a solid conclusion to the story-line.

The basic plot is that a portion of the "maze" group from WICKED's research project managed to escape and return to the outside world (to Denver of all places.) The remainder of the book is largely a back and forth asking, "Is WICKED good or evil?" Although the teens (or subjects as WICKED would call them) never really learn the true answer to that question, they eventually have to pick a side during the final battle between WICKED and a resistance group.

The Good: Perhaps the best part of the book is the fact that it finally ends The Maze Runner series (I really wish I had just stood with my original decision not to read the last two books - dang you Overdrive for your limited collection of YA downloads!) The book does at least answer a few of the questions from the first books (though surprisingly most of the real questions weren't even answered until the epilogue, and only then with merely sentence or two in passing...)

The Bad: While I have obviously not been a huge fan of this series, the first two books were at least fairly well-written, fast-paced adventure stories; this book was all the more disappointing in the fact that is lacked both the pacing and organization. (At the halfway point, I was really asking myself, "Isn't something more going to happen in this book?") This book failed to address many of the questions raised throughout the series, while only providing a quick (and seemingly poorly thought-out) ending to the overall storyline.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Scorch Trials

Title: The Scorch Trials
Author: James Dashner
Rating: B

When I first read started this series a couple years ago, I was so disappointed with the first book that I swore I wasn't going to read the rest of the series. However, with my lack of reading options, I got desperate and decided to give Dashner another chance.

Fortunately, I did enjoy the second book in this series. The series continues right were the last book left off (which is not surprising since the last book had a little in the way of conclusion.) For the second book, the children of the maze find themselves forced to face another mysterious challenge designed by WICKED. Set in the future, the world has been ravaged by two different disasters: first, a massive sun flare radically changed the climate of Earth (making the the majority of a the planet uninhabitable.) Then, to make matters worse, a new deadly disease, which causes people to lose their humanity and go crazy, breaks out.

For the second trial, the children are released into the quarantine zone for the infected people and given just two weeks to fight their way across to safety. As with the first book, there are many questions posed about the mysteriousness of WICKED and these trails; however, Dashner again offered very few answers. In addition to the workings of the trial, Thomas (the main character) now finds himself in a love triangle with Teresa (from the first book) and Brenda, an infected girl who helps them cross the quarantine zone.

The Good: The book is a fast-paced read and generally an enjoyable read. It definitely has several key elements that all YA books seem to require nowadays (a dystopian society, a love triangle...the only thing missing is a little wizardry!)

The Bad: Again, I really wish that these books would function more as stand alone novels. I don't like how the storyline seems to run continuous throughout the three novels with very little division. I think this would have been a perfect single novel, but as three separate works it just annoys me.