Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: Kings of Colorado

Title: Kings of Colorado
Author: David E. Hinton
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pub Date: January 2011
Genre: Realistic Fiction

A man reflects on his troubled childhood at a boys reformatory, where troubled youths care for wild horses as untamed as the boys themselves. -- Goodreads
My Thoughts:
I've been trying to broaden my reading horizons and read things outside my usual favorite genres (i.e. dystopian), and a "boy" book set in the 60s on a horse ranch is pretty far from my usual.

I haven't read too many "boy" books that I actually liked and thought a teenage boy would actually like -- Kings of Colorado is one of the few that I think teenage boys would actually like and relate to. The book is pretty violent, so it's definitely not something I'd recommend for a young teen, but there's a lot for an older teen to like. The characters are realistic and the violent life of kids at a boys' reformatory is realistic. Hinton doesn't shy away from darker themes (abuse and rape) which really gives the novel more depth than I was expecting.

Every character draws you in, especially the ones you're supposed to hate. No one is quite what they seem, but  Hinton manages to create terrible villains that completely terrible, but still seem real. I don't think this happens often in many books. The villains are either pure evil and don't feel like they could actually exist or they're only terrible on the surface and there's some underlying reason that they are the way they are. But the villains in Kings of Colorado are completely horrible evil people without redeeming qualities that still feel real.

The book is beautifully written and would definitely hold a teenage boy's attention (quite a huge feat if you ask me). The only thing I didn't like was the ending -- it was ok and fit the story alright, just was a little more tied-up-in-a-pretty-bow than I was expecting. But then again the main character William needed and deserved to have a nice ending.


Note: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Review: The Future of Us

Title: The Future of Us
Author: Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
Publisher: Razorbill
Pub Date: November 2011
Genre: Realistic Fiction
It's 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They've been best friends almost as long - at least, up until last November, when Josh did something that changed everything. Things have been weird between them ever since, but when Josh's family gets a free AOL CD in the mail,his mom makes him bring it over so that Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they're automatically logged onto their Facebook pages. But Facebook hasn't been invented yet. And they're looking at themselves fifteen years in the future.

By refreshing their pages, they learn that making different decisions now will affect the outcome of their lives later. And as they grapple with the ups and downs of what their futures hold, they're forced to confront what they're doing right - and wrong - in the present -- Goodreads
My Thoughts:
I absolutely loved 13 Reasons Why, so I was incredibly excited to hear that Jay Asher wrote a new book. I haven’t read anything by Carolyn Mackler, but I’d heard good things. Beyond the authors, the premise of the book sounded amazing (especially since I grew up in the 90s), so needless to said I expected to totally love The Future of Us.

Sadly, I didn’t love The Future of Us; I wanted to really badly, but there was something about the characters and the plot that prevented me from really getting into the story and loving it. The biggest reason I didn’t really like the book was Emma. She drove me crazy right from the beginning and continue to irritate me through the whole book. My main issue with Emma was her focus on her future relationships and husbands; she doesn’t seem to care about anything else. I found it really odd that a teen would be so obsessed with who she marries in ten years. Maybe teen girls care about that, but when I was sixteen marriage was the last thing on my mind. It’s very hard for me to really like a book if I don’t like the main character.

Ok, that’s enough about Emma now on to the good stuff. I did actually like Josh quite a bit and thought that his character was totally believable. His reactions to what they learn on Facebook and how he changed over the course of the book seemed completely plausible to me.

The whole premise of the book was really interesting and I really liked that not everything Josh and Emma did had a completely logical simple effect on their future. That seemed so real; we don’t really know how our tiny actions change things and Asher and Mackler focused on that, as well as how big decisions change things.

I didn’t hate the book, but I was disappointed. This was a tough one for me; I had issues with the characters and a few key plot elements, but overall the story was interesting and the writing was great. I just didn’t end up loving it. A lot of other people did love it, so maybe this one just wasn’t for me.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Review: Blood Red Road

Title: Blood Red Road
Author: Moira Young
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Pub Date: June 2011
Genre: Dystopia
Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba's world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back.

Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she's a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.
-- Goodreads
My Thoughts:
A friend of mine went on and on about how amazing Blood Red Road is several months ago. Usually we have similar tastes, so I figured I better add it to my to-read list. And I was itching to read a dystopia (I’ve been reading a lot of books outside my comfort zone lately instead of just reading every dystopia I can find).
Blood Red Road was amazing -- probably one of the top five of this year for me, maybe even top two. The characterization is wonderful, the writing was really good, and the whole world was crafted beautifully. I almost have nothing bad to say about the novel. My only critique is that sometimes Saba felt young to me, several years younger than her eighteen years. But these moments were very brief and also could be easily explained by her sheltered life before her brother Lugh is taken.

Back to the good stuff. Saba is one of my favorite female characters. I loved that she was sort of a mean girl. Yes, she is doing everything thing she can to get her twin brother back, but she can’t stand her little sister and is at times horrible to her. This strained relationship made her feel more real to me and less like an untouchable hero character. Beyond her strong and flawed personality, I loved her relationship with Jack. I don’t to say too much or give anything away, but I loved her reactions to the possibility of a boy liking her. I’m pretty sure I laughed out loud during several of their scenes together.

Saba’s world was so wonderfully crafted. I could totally picture the dustlands, the gladiator arena, everything. The setting, as well as all the crazy characters were so well written that I was quickly and totally pulled into the book. I read the whole book in a few sittings and took an extra long lunch at work so I could finish the book. I can’t wait for the next book to come out.

On a side note I got to meet the lovely Moria Young at Wordstock this year. She is one of the nicest, friendliest authors I met so far. So if she’s doing an reading in your area go see her. And congratulations to Moria for winning the Costa Children's award!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Challenges: Softmore Reading Challenge

A bunch of the books I'm looking forward to reading this year are softmore novels (an author's second book), so I figured I'd better join Chick Loves Lit's Softmore Reading Challenge. To learn more and sign up visit Chick Love Lit

Reading List:
  1. Insurgent by Veronica Roth
  2. A Million Suns by Beth Revis
  3. The Right and the Real by Joelle Anthony
  4. Fever by Lauren DeStefano
  5. Thumped by Megan McCafferty
  6. Rebel Heart by Moira Young
  7. Truth by Julia Karr
I don't quite have 10 books, but I'm sure I'll add to the list as the year goes on.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Review: Far From the War

Title: Far From the War
Author: Jeffery David Payne
Publisher: Roche Harbor Books
Pub Date: September 2011
Genre: Dystopia

Economic ruin and partisan rancor have pushed America to the brink of a new civil war. Esther is caught in the middle, serving as a page in the United States House of Representatives when rogue politicians and military leaders stage a modern day coup d'etat. When the coup turns violent, she abandons Washington, D.C. for home. She must learn to survive on her own as transportation and financial networks fail, as the war disrupts food and water supplies. The result is a cautionary tale about political extremism and the true cost of war. -- Goodreads
My Thoughts:
I've been reading a lot of books lately that have been out of my comfort zone; mostly romance and paranormal. So when I heard about Far From the War I decided it was time to get to what I love reading the most: dystopias, especially realistic dystopias.

I really loved the idea of a dystopia that takes place in the very near future because for me the possibility of these dystopic worlds becoming a reality is what really draws me. Far From the War takes place in a completely recognizable United States, which is what really kept me reading. The civil war that begins early on in the book seemed completely realistic and eerily possible in my lifetime. And from this base the way civil war was depicted and the characters' (both civilian and military) reactions to the war all felt real and worked to draw me into the story.

But I kept getting thrown out of the story by all the political and cultural references. The number of very time-specific references made me worried that in even five years teens would feel the novel is outdated even though it's supposed to be in the near future. But beyond the longevity of the novel, these references confused me a bit because I wasn't familiar with them so I couldn't figure out if they were supposed to reference a time period I should know (like the '80s) or if they were made up as future times (like the 2020's). I have this pet-peeve about cultural references, so maybe these parts wouldn't bother most other readers. Along the same lines as the references, there was a lot going on all the time. At some points this worked really well, especially in the opening section of the book and when the war first breaks out, but as the book progresses I felt like there was too much happening and I couldn't keep track of everything. Too many terrible things were happening to Ester and these tragedies started to lose their impact for me by the last few chapters.

Although there were a few things that bothered me about the novel, I really liked the concept of the novel and how it broke away from the usual set far in the future dystopias that are flooding YA right now. Plus I think this novel could be an excellent teaching tool for teens. The more current time period and actually watching a government and society fall apart could really make this novel resonate more with teens.