Title: Being Henry David
Author: Cal Armistead
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Shelf: Read-in-2013, Young-Adult, Contemporary, 4.5-out-of-5, Released-in-2013, Debut Author, DAC Challenge, Kindle-eBook, Netgalley-Read
Publication Date: 1 March 2013 by Albert Whitman & Company
Synopsis: “Seventeen-year-old “Hank” has found himself at Penn Station in New York City with no memory of anything –who he is, where he came from, why he’s running away. His only possession is a worn copy of Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. And so he becomes Henry David-or “Hank” and takes first to the streets, and then to the only destination he can think of–Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. Cal Armistead’s remarkable debut novel is about a teen in search of himself. Hank begins to piece together recollections from his past. The only way Hank can discover his present is to face up to the realities of his grievous memories. He must come to terms with the tragedy of his past, to stop running, and to find his way home.” (Taken from Goodreads)
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Being Henry David is the first debut of 2013 I’ve picked up this year, and what a great start to the year! I’m so glad I picked this to start off the year because it was just such a moving and wonderfully written story. It follows a seventeen-year-old boy who wakes up at Penn Station in New York with retrograde amnesia. Armed with only a copy of Walden by Henry David Thoreau and a little bit of cash, he makes his way to Concord, Massachusetts, where Thoreau lived for two years and wrote Walden. As the book is his only clue of his past prior to waking up, he believes it’s the obvious place to go to.
Along the way, ‘Hank’ meets some important people that help him realise that the only way he can move on and remember his past is to face it head-on. Armistead presents us with snippets of Hanks’ past throughout the story – enough to keep it mysterious and intriguing without overwhelming the reader. Hank is a character that digs a spot in our heart and refuses to move. You become invested in him – in his past, present and future. Armistead has created a character so touching that you just can’t help but root for him.
I found the little snippets of Walden being thrown in fit perfectly with the voice and pace of the overall story. It’s a quick introduction to one of America’s great thinkers, and helps Hank come to terms with who he is. It really becomes his lifeline as his journey forward and backward is aided by this book. The people he meet in Concord is a result of this book being a clue for him to be there in the first place. His rediscovery of his past is a result of Walden. I think Armistead did a wonderful job incorporating these two stories about the intricacies of survival and life together.
What I really wanted to see more of was the development of the side characters. I wish we got to see more of Jack and Ness, even though I realise they’re side characters. And I really wished there was a scene where we saw Hank reunited with Rosie – but irregardless, the ending moved me to tears.
Being Henry David was such an emotional ride, but I loved every minute of it. If there’s one contemporary young adult fiction you’re going to read this year, Cal Armistead’s book is the one you need to invest in.
I think the song ‘Home’ by Phillip Phillips fits wonderfully with Being Henry David. The lyrics, the filmclip and even the singer just reminds me of this story! What do you think?
THANKS TO: Albert Whitman & Company for providing an electronic ARC to review honestly.
Title: The Darkest Minds
Author: Alexandra Bracken
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Shelf: Read-in-2013, Young-Adult, Science-Fiction, Adventure, 3-out-of-5, NetGalley-Read, Kindle-eBook, HarperCollins Australia
Publish Date: 11 December 2012 by HarperCollins Australia
Synopsis: “When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.
Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.
When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who 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 a life worth living.” (Taken from Goodreads)
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The Darkest Minds is about the outbreak of a mysterious disease called IAAN that killed a majority of America’s children whilst leaving the remainder with abilities that scared the government enough to put them in ‘rehabilitation’ camps, which are really nothing more than concentration camps. At the start, we are introduced to Ruby, a 16-year-old who’ve been sent to the camp, Thurmond, by her parents on her 10th birthday. While I found Ruby’s backstory of how she arrived at the camp intriguing, the storytelling was a little choppy as we were suddenly thrust into Ruby’s past without warning. Also, how exactly did this disease come about?
These camps classify their occupants by colour according to their special abilities. I found myself quite lost throughout the majority of the book as I don’t think the abilities of each group were explained properly, you just had to read to understand what they did. I guess Bracken took a ‘show-don’t-tell’ approach, but this got confusing because there was so much being thrown at you at once. (But maybe it was just me, and she did explain it but it completely went over my head? In that case, then it’s my fault for being completely confused.)
Ruby kept her head down throughout her time at Thurmond by pretending to be a Green (someone with intelligent mental capabilities) – but in fact, she is really an Orange (someone with the ability to control minds). While I found the pacing of the beginning to be quite slow, I enjoyed it because it was really fascinating learning about Thurmond and Ruby’s time there. The camp was horrifying. Adults (known as psi officers) walked around with rifles and abused children left and right. It was just horrible to read about Ruby’s time there, so props to Bracken for creating such a creepy environment encased in this horrendous atmosphere.
I think what made up the majority of the book was the world-building and character development. Liam, Chubs and Suzume became characters that I loved, and even Ruby grew as a character. Seen as weak and vulnerable to everything at the start of the book, she became stronger and made hard decisions for the benefit of others by the conclusion.
However, I found that the plot was sacrificed for world-building and character development. The beginning and ending was strong and exciting as things actually happened quickly. There was action, there was suspense and I went through those chapters so quick! But the middle fell so flat for me. Aside from a few chases/escapes from the the psi officers and skiptracers (bounty hunters), all that really happens is the characters getting to know each other. I found myself saying that certain scenes could definitely have been cut out/molded together with others to make the journey more exciting. At more than one point, I kept wondering where Bracken was actually taking this story. While I wanted to put the book down halfway through, I gave the story the benefit of the doubt as I saw so much potential in it. It was just not executed as flawlessly as I’d have liked.
One advantage for this slow story building is that the romance didn’t feel forced. I love, love, LOVED it. You could obviously tell from the beginning who that love interest to Ruby would be, but the slow plot made the ‘getting-to-know-you’ phase all the much sweeter. I was definitely rooting for them – which is why the ending REALLY floored me. SO MUCH SO that I cried.
I think what really killed me was finding the playlist Miss. Bracken has made for the book right after I finished reading and was still feeling so vulnerable and emotional. Because of this, the first song on the playlist almost put a dagger through my heart because it was just so perfect and fit the ending so brilliantly.
I think it’s really a song that you need to have read the book to feel extremely emotional about. The rest of the playlist is just brilliant also, it just captures the essence of the novel completely. CLICK HERE FOR ‘THE DARKEST MINDS’ PLAYLIST.
I really thought this book would be a standalone, I think it works well as one for such a thick book – so much so that I was really disappointed to find out that it’s meant to be a trilogy. As the majority of this book was spent on character development, it’s almost as if Bracken held back the plot developments in order to stretch out the story. While I’m not saying that that’s a bad thing as there are still so much left to be resolved, but it almost feels like I can pinpoint what would happen in the next two books.
- Ruby goes around doing things for the Children’s League … she either becomes corrupted or is a double agent.
- Clancy Gray becomes more reformed (less evil with using his mind powers) and works with Ruby secretly to take down his dad’s government regime, and actually cares about breaking the kids out of the rehabilitation camps.
- Chubs does not die, he joins the League and probably works with Ruby as a double agent or watches as Ruby becomes corrupted in the second book, only to realise what she is becoming and reforms in the third book as Liam reappears.
- Suzume is found by the League.
- Ruby keeps close tabs on Liam and they cross paths somehow. I have a feeling he may reconsider joining the League again, convinced they’re not so bad after letting him go. Ruby facepalms. They spend more time together, relationship rekindles.
- Ruby becomes stronger and stronger. Perhaps she’ll learn how to place memories back in someone’s head.
- Rehabilitation camps will be shut down, Clancy will be so reformed and good that he becomes the President after killing his dad.
There was also a lot of inconsistencies in the editing of the book. For example, ‘Rob’s’ name was used before he was even introduced. I think I really noticed that because it was just so abrupt. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m reading an electronic ARC, but I found myself stopped abruptly in the middle of sentences throughout the whole book because words were either missing or misused. This became a really frustrating because it felt so jarring to the overall reading experience.
While I found many problems with this book, I did like it overall. I think Bracken has come up with a very interesting story that could perhaps have worked better as a standalone. The ending was heartbreaking as the characters were developed so well, but I wish it could have just been left off like that – almost as if to say life’s not perfect, deal with it. I will definitely be picking up the next book in the series as I’ve really become invested in these characters, I just hope there is more action now that the world is built and the characters are well-formed!
An electronic ARC was provided to me by HarperCollins Australia for an honest review.
This year, I’ll be participating in two reading challenges to really whip my ass into shape with getting through my TBR pile – both physical copies of books and electronic copies on the kindle. I’m really excited as I’ve always wanted to read more over the year, and I hope this is a way that will help my mind expand.
1. 2013 Goodreads Reading Challenge
My goal for this is to read 100 books by the end of 2013! I’m really crossing my fingers for this as 100 books is A LOT to read over the year because I’m usually pretty busy and don’t have that much time. But, I really want to change that this year!
2. 2013 Debut Authors Challenge
I’m SO excited for this challenge as it’s the first one I’ve actually attended. It’s being hosted by Tara over at Hobbitsies. Basically, I have to read debuts in the YA/middle grade category that are released in 2013 and review it. I’ve set a goal for reading 12 debuts this year, which I think will be pretty reasonable – one for each month. Here’s to hoping I will get there!
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I will be creating a masterlist for all the books I complete in each of these challenges, with links to their reviews once they’re up. Let me know if you’re participating in any challenges yourself! Happy reading everyone! x
Title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Author: Stephen Chbosky
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Shelf: Read-in-2012, Young-Adult, Contemporary, 3-out-of-5, Released-in-2010, Kindle-eBook
Synopsis: “Charlie is a freshman. And while he’s not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.
Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix-tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.
But Charlie can’t stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.” (Taken from Goodreads)
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I’m not sure I really understand the hype surrounding this story. Charlie was a character that I came to dislike throughout the book with his incessant whinging and crying. I get it, Charlie is meant to be autistic … but it got to a point where his character became so unbearable that I had to put down my kindle for a few hours so I wouldn’t throw it across the room.
While I’m not saying the whole book was horrible (I did give it three stars), the main character was what made my rating go down. Yes, I’m aware that I’m in the minority of people who do not love and worship this book like it’s the most amazing piece of literature on earth that defines our generation – and I don’t even care. While I understand that Chbosky created Charlie as a character that we’re meant to root for and relate ourselves to – I found it increasingly hard to because I found him to be a very 2D character.
For a 16-year-old boy, he sure didn’t act like it. [What 16-year-old boy does not know about masturbation. Did he just tune out completely during sex-education class every time? Please.] He was extremely emotionally unstable, and the reason was not explained until the very last part of the book. It just felt forced and unbelievable, like Chbosky realised at the last minute that Charlie’s actions needed to actually be explained.
BUT as I mentioned before, this book was not all bad. I did in fact enjoy it, even though its protagonist marred the reading experience. I did love his friendships with Sam and Patrick. (Side note: Did anyone realise that Charlie had said that Patrick’s nickname was ‘Nothing’ – except apart from saying it once or twice, no one ever brings up that name again? What was the point in introducing that name if it’s never going to be used?) What I did like about Charlie was how supportive of a friend he is. This redeeming quality made me like him a little better. I really like it when friendships just click together, and that happened in this book. (Apart from the times when Charlie kept whinging about his love for Sam.)
While not all bad, I was eventually let down by this book. I guess I was pulled in by the hype surrounding the movie, and went in with really high expectations. While not my favourite book of 2012, I did enjoy it overall (when Charlie was continuously whinging).
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The movie trailer on the other hand, makes Charlie seem completely different to his character in the book. I think I’ll give the movie a try.
Title: What’s Left of Me
Author: Kat Zhang
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Shelf: Read-in-2012, Young-Adult, Science-Fiction, Dystopia, 4-out-of-5, Released-in-2012, Kindle-eBook, Netgalley-Read
Synopsis: “I should not exist. But I do.
Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t . . .
For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable-hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet . . . for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.” (Taken from Goodreads)
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I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did, especially with a plot that moved along so slowly. But wow, I’m so glad it blew my expectations out of the water! More than once, this book ignited questions about humanity that resulted in momentary lapses in reading time to try and resolve. It was odd to think about having two souls in your body that co-existed together and was able to watch what either one was doing – in a sense it was similar to siamese twins, but with their minds and thoughts conjoined.
I found Eva to be a very well constructed character – and props to Zhang for writing from the perspective of the recessive soul that existed only as a remnant of most people’s memories. I found Zhang’s writing to be strong and flawless, and Eva’s voice resounded so well within the pages.
The relationship between Addie and Eva was written wonderfully too. They behaved as sisters would – they fought and they supported each other. What made it so different to normal sibling relationships is that both souls shared the same body, thus if one kissed someone, the other had to experience it too. This once again made me think – while hybrid souls are solely science-fiction, what about conjoined twins within our normal world? How does it work when one twin has a physical relationship with their partner? How does the their twin react? What happens when one gets married? I’m really interested in finding out after reading this book.
What irked me about this book (and kept me from giving it 5/5 stars) were some of the side characters and the pacing. Hally/Lissa was a character that I couldn’t invest in. Hally appeared for the majority of the first part of the book, while Lissa seemed to replace her in the second. While Hally seemed to reappear a few times, it seemed this happened sporadically, as if Zhang only just remembered that Hally still existed. There was no explanation as to why Lissa seemed to take over their body once they got to the hospital. These soul switches were executed better with Devon/Ryan – and I understood why they switched around, especially when Eva finally gained control of her and Addie’s body again. However, I’m still confused as to how Eva could tell when Devon or Ryan was in control … they shared the same body, so it’s not like there were little differences to their faces like twins may have.
The second thing that irked me was the pacing of this book. I found the plot to be extremely slow, but then BAM, Eva tells me that only a day or two has passed since the time she was admitted into the hybrid hospital. I’m surprised for a bit and then the plot continues to move along at a snail’s pace. Luckily, it does speed up towards the last fifth of the book, which I think redeemed itself. But now that I think about it, Addie and Eva only lived in that hospital for 5-7 days before they escaped to live with their rescuers … where they hell are their parents? Surely they couldn’t have forgotten about the girls in less than a week? And don’t get me started on Hally/Lissa and Devon/Ryan’s parents. Did they not even bother to fight for their children? It seemed a little too easy that they would let someone take away their only two children to a completely different state without putting up a fight.
While there were negative aspects of the book, it didn’t really hinder my overall enjoyment of Eva and Addie’s story. I thought the entire story was very though provoking and extremely creative and original. There were light aspects of romance, and luckily it didn’t make up the plot – huzzah! I am definitely intrigued about this series and will most likely pick up the next book as soon as it comes out. I do recommend this book to anyone that likes a dystopian read that is original and not powered only by romance!
THANKS TO: HarperCollins Australia for the read on Netgalley
Title: The Maze Runner
Author: James Dashner
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Shelf: Read-in-2012, Young-Adult, Science-Fiction, Dystopia, 4-out-of-5, Released-in-2009, Kindle-eBook
Synopsis: “When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.
Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.
Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.
Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.” (Taken from Goodreads)
Title: Snow Whyte and the Queen of Mayhem
Author: Melissa Lemon
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Shelf: Read-in-2012, Young-Adult, Fairytale-Retelling, Fantasy, 3-out-of-5, TBR-in-2012, NetGalley-Read, Kindle-eBook
Release Date: 11 December 2012
Synopsis: “Stuck in her family’s apple orchards, Kat’s got plenty of work to do and only pesky Jeremy to help. But when Jeremy convinces her to run away, Kat will discover that nothing—and no one—in her life is quite what it seems. Wonderfully reimagined, this is the magical tale of Snow White as you’ve never read it before!” (Taken from Goodreads)
Title: The Girl in the Wall
Author: Daphne Benedis-Grab
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Shelf: Read-in-2012, Young-Adult, 3-out-of-5, TBR-in-2012, NetGalley-Read, Kindle-eBook
Release Date: 18 December 2012
Synopsis: “Ariel’s birthday weekend looks to be the event of the season, with a private concert by rock star Hudson Winters on the grounds of her family’s east coast estate, and all of Ariel’s elite prep school friends in attendance. The only person who’s dreading the party is Sera, Ariel’s former best friend, whose father is forcing her to go. Sera has been the school pariah since she betrayed Ariel, and she now avoids Ariel and their former friends. Thrown together, Ariel and Sera can agree on one thing: this could be one very long night.
They have no idea just how right they are.
Only moments after the concert begins and the lights go down, thugs open fire on parents and schoolmates alike, in a plot against Ariel’s father that quickly spins out of control. As the entire party is taken hostage, the girls are forced apart. Ariel escapes into the hidden tunnels in the family mansion, where she and Sera played as children. Only Sera, who forges an unlikely alliance with Hudson Winters, knows where her friend could be. As the industrial terrorist plot unravels and the death toll climbs, Ariel and Sera must recall the sisterhood that once sustained them as they try to save themselves and each other on the longest night of their lives.” (Taken from Goodreads)
Title: The Archived (Sneak Peek)
Author: Victoria Schwab
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Shelf: Read-in-2012, Young-Adult, 4-out-of-5, Paranormal, Released-in-2013, NetGalley-Read, Sneak-Peek, Kindle-eBook
Release Date: 22 January 2013
Synopsis: “Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.
Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.
Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous-it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.
In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.” (Taken from Goodreads)