Book Review: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

the-darkest-mindsTitle:  The Darkest Minds

Author: Alexandra Bracken

Genre:  Young Adult Science Fiction

Release Date: December 18th, 2012

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. She is on the run, desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who have escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents. When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at having a life worth living.’

Summary from Goodreads.com 

My Review:  I picked up the Darkest Minds because I saw the news that is was going to be made into a movie, which always intrigues me, and I loved Passenger by Alexander Bracken, and wanted to see what some of her other books were like.  The concept is quite interesting and heartbreaking at the same time.  All of these poor children, who have survived a massive plague, only to be ripped from their families and put into camps where they are tortured and killed is not an easy thing to read about.  Our main character, Ruby, was an amazing heroine.  She has been put through hell, and when she comes out of it, she reacts realistically to situations.  She does not magically transform and become better, but slowly comes into her own and gets her strength from within.  I loved her, I loved how she matured and grew through this book and came to understand how strong she truly is.

There is a slow building romance in this book between Ruby and Liam, which was pretty adorable.  I loved Liam, he tries so hard to take care of everyone around him first, but he has it bad for Ruby.  It is pretty apparent from the beginning, but she is just too traumatized from everything going on to let that fire burn too quickly, which I appreciated.  Ruby has been through a lot, and she needed to sort through many issues on her own before she could let someone else in to her world.

I absolutely loved the secondary characters as well, Chubs and Zu, they added comic relief in very tense moments, but were also well developed.  I thought they made such an impact on the story and I loved all the page time that both of them got.

The only thing I would say negatively is that I thought it was a little too long.  At almost 500 pages, it is a longer book and I do not think it needed to be that long to get across everything that was portrayed.  I will be interested to see what it looks like when it is made into a movie, because I think it will speed up the plot and help move things along at a better pace.

Overall, I liked the Darkest Minds.  I thought it was a good read and honestly I have already finished the series, so while I may have minor issues with it, I did enjoy the series as a whole.  I wish someone had picked out a better cover for this series though, because you really have no idea what kind of book you are getting with this cover and it does not do the contents of the book justice at all.  Now that I have finished with this series, I will be anxiously awaiting whatever Bracken will be writing next.

 

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Book Review: Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

Of Beast and BeautyTitle: Of Beast and Beauty

Author: Stacey Jay

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Fairy Tale

Release Date:  July 23rd, 2013

In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret…

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.

-Summary from Goodreads.com 

My Review:  I am a sucker for retelling and fairy tales. I read Princess of Thorns by this author and loved it, so after I finished that I immediately got my hands on this book. Of Beast and Beauty puts a sci-fi twist on Beauty and the Beast that I found fascinating. It took place in a world where the god, for lack of a better way to describe it, is split in two, one good and one evil. Interestingly enough, the evil spirit watches over the “smooth skins” who are people without blemish (for the most part) and live within the only cities left surrounded by walls to keep others out.  There are monarchs that rule in these lands and every so often the queen must sacrifice herself to keep their lands prosperous. The good half of the spirit has been suppressed for far too long and has left for the lands outside of the walled cities to live in a wasteland.  The “monsters” who live in those desert lands starve and perish very quickly. To break the curse in this world a smooth skin has to fall in love with a “monster” and after that happens all the lands will be prosperous again. Too bad neither of them ever see one another and hate each other fiercely. Enter, Gem and Isra.

Watching the two interact together and slowly learn not to hate one another was so sweet. These two have centuries of embedded hatred for each other’s people to overcome. Once they can start to get past that and slowly appreciate each other is when it really starts to get interesting. I loved the slow build of the romance and how the two of them learned more about themselves as they got to know one another.

I loved the world itself and all of the legends and interesting mythology that came with it. Overall, just a great read.

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Book/Audio Book Review: The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

BOOK OF SPECULATION_tpMECH_01.inddTitle:  The Book of Speculation

Author: Erika Swyler

Release Date:  June 23rd, 2015

Genre:  Adult Fiction

“As Simon, a lonely research librarian, searches frantically for the key to a curse that might be killing the women in his family, he learns strange and fascinating secrets about their past. A tale full of magic and family mystery, The Book of Speculation will keep you up all night reading.”—Isaac Fitzgerald, BuzzFeed

Simon Watson, a young librarian, lives alone in a house that is slowly crumbling toward the Long Island Sound. His parents are long dead. His mother, a circus mermaid who made her living by holding her breath, drowned in the very water his house overlooks. His younger sister, Enola, ran off six years ago and now reads tarot cards for a traveling carnival.

One June day, an old book arrives on Simon’s doorstep, sent by an antiquarian bookseller who purchased it on speculation. Fragile and water damaged, the book is a log from the owner of a traveling carnival in the 1700s, who reports strange and magical things, including the drowning death of a circus mermaid. Since then, generations of “mermaids” in Simon’s family have drowned–always on July 24, which is only weeks away.

As his friend Alice looks on with alarm, Simon becomes increasingly worried about his sister. Could there be a curse on Simon’s family? What does it have to do with the book, and can he get to the heart of the mystery in time to save Enola?

In the tradition of Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, The Book of Speculation–with two-color illustrations by the author–is Erika Swyler’s moving debut novel about the power of books, family, and magic.

Summary from Goodreads.com

My Review:  I came upon this book because it was in my suggestions on audible.  I am a librarian and the main character was a librarian so I thought it would be interesting to give this book a chance.  I have seen comparisons to The Night Circus and Water for Elephants and I would not put this book in with either of those.  Yes, there is a traveling circus in this book, but that is where the similarities end for comparing those books end.  The Book of Speculation weaves a story from the past and the present together in a magical and intriguing way that keeps you completely enthralled, desperate to discover how the two are related to one another.

I listened to the book on audible and the narrator was fantastic!  He did all the voices, read at a great pace and was very engaging.  I loved him and will be sure to look up what else he has narrated and give those a try as well.  There were a couple of moments at the beginning of the story that I was not sure if I was going to stick with it, but his narration kept me interested and I am glad I stuck with it, because about 50 pages in, it really started to pick up.  I will say that listening to the audio had one downside, I did not know there were drawings in the book until after I was done.  I happened to pick up a copy and noticed them and wish I had known about them earlier because I would have liked to see them as I was reading.  I am pretty sure they were described to me throughout the novel, but the illustrations were very interesting and I went back through to see all of them.  So if you do listen to it, know that there are small illustrations in there that you might be interested in seeing.  I just checked the book out from my library and scanned through them that way.

I am not sure how much I can really say about the book itself without giving too much away.  The magic in this story was not knowing what was going to happen and who was related to whom.  Each chapter unraveled one mystery only to present a new one which kept me very intrigued and always guessing about what was going to happen next.  We follow Simon, a librarian who is about to be let go, as he tries to uncover why an old book landed on his doorstep and how it relates to him and his family.  The book itself tells the story of a travelling circus from long ago, the characters all acts within Mr. Peabody’s show.  Honestly, almost every one of them could have had their own book and I would have been interested in learning every detail about them.  I was fascinated by their lives and what they entailed.  At the beginning of this book I wanted to get back to the chapters about them, but by the end I was more interested in Simon’s life and how it connected to this traveling circus.  Swyler weaved an amazing journey, that I was not sure I was willing to go on at first, but now I cannot stop thinking about it.  I know it is a book that I will re-read and it will stay with me.  I have not read anything else by her yet, but I will be on the lookout for her books in the future in hopes of getting lost in a new and magical world.

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