Title: A Million Suns
Author: Beth Revis
Publisher/Year: Razorbill, 2012
Length: 386 pages
Series?: Across the Universe #2
Genre: YA Sci-Fi/Dystopian/Romance
Source: Purchased from the Nook store
Look to the left.
Then to the right.
Then left. Then right. Up. Down. Spin your head in circles.
That’s how many plot twists are in this book.
A Million Suns is the sequel to Across the Universe, and it’s even better than the first book. Lately it feels like second books in trilogies have been grossly disappointing, so this was a pleasant surprise. Amy and Elder are still trying to figure out the mysteries of The Godspeed in order to fulfill the ship’s mission of reaching Centuri Earth. Amy is trying to follow a series of clues left by Orion regarding a decision only she can make. Elder struggles with his new leadership position on the ship, managing rebellions, food shortages, and the emotional issues resulting from the elimination of Phydus. Every time I thought I knew what was happening, there was another twist or turn. It was one of those books that I started reading at bedtime, and kept on reading until I finished at 3am. Yeah. That kind of book.
The most interesting aspect of this book, and the trilogy as a whole, is that we actually see the struggles of rebuilding a power structure in a society. The moral and ethical dilemmas faced by Elder are complex. His age and lack of experience don’t help his situation, and he realizes that he may not have all the answers. So many of the issues faced on the ship parallel issues in our own society (do the people in the hospital deserve a share of the limited food supply when they aren’t working?). There are a lot of YA dystopias out there that deal with fighting oppressive power structures, but this is the only one I know of that shows the reality of forming new ones in times of crisis. It’s fascinating.
And for those of you not interested in the government-y stuff, don’t worry. Between the mystery, the twists, and the romance, there’s something for everyone. Revis takes into consideration possible doubts about this relationship and makes it work. It’s a trilogy, so the romance is still developing. The best part? NO LOVE TRIANGLES. So thank you for that, Beth Revis. I’m sick of these love triangles all hyped up on teenage hormones and swoony, troubled boys filled with electric chemistry. Seriously. One swoony, troubled boy filled with electric chemistry and hormones is plenty for me. Especially because all the girls in the other books picked the wrong boys and I actually like Elder. He’s good people.
FINAL GRADE: A Revis, you won me over. I liked Across the Universe, but I LOVED A Million Suns and I can’t wait for Shades of Earth (though by the time this review posts, I’m sure I will have already read and reviewed it!). Dystopian lit is my favorite genre, so it’s no surprise that I’m a fan, but this series is even starting to stand out at the top of the list. I know, I know, I’m a little over the top with my praise for the one…but I just liked it that much.
Assigned reading: Assigned to anyone who read Across the Universe, as well as fans of dystopia, romance, sci-fi, outer space, kissing, mysteries, and explosions.
Library recommendations: Appropriate for middle school or high school. Be prepared to point readers to Plato’s Republic when they finish!
What’s your favorite dystopian trilogy?
Author: Gregg Olsen
Publisher/Year: Splinter, 2012
Length: 288 pages
Series?: Empty Coffin #2
Genre: YA crime novel/paranormal
Source: Review copy from publisher
Based on the real-life Amanda Knox case, Betrayal is the story of the murder of British exchange student Olivia Grant. Olivia was found wrapped in a bloody sheet on the floor during a Halloween party, and the rich, snobby Brianna Conners (and her boyfriend Drew) are persons of interest in the case. Between doing yoga at the police station between interviews and buying lingerie while making out with Drew less than twenty four hours after the death of her BFF, Brianna becomes the focal point of the media frenzy. Twins Hayley and Taylor find themselves experiencing supernatural messages and visions connected with the murder. However, they are also caught in their own drama — the continuing web of secrets that might unlock keys to the past.
Let’s start with what’s good about this book. First, the crime element was well-written and appropriately creepy. Olsen does a good job with taking a familiar, real-life crime and hooking us on the story. However, the story always goes its own direction and the ending isn’t predictable. Second, the overall arc of the series is quite intriguing. Hayley and Taylor have these strange powers and many strange incidents in their pasts. There is something quite sinister at work in their lives, and only small bits are released at a time. I really want to know exactly what happened that day their school bus plunged into the water..and why. That’s what will keep me reading these books.
Unfortunately, there were a few things I didn’t like. If you read the reviews of the book on Goodreads, I’m not alone in this complaint: there are too many pop culture references and the book sounds like it’s trying a little to hard to be “hip” for teens. It’s okay in books like Gossip Girl or Pretty Little Liars, because those books are like the candy of the book world. Light, airy, superficial cotton candy that can get all caught up in muffin tops and Victoria’s Secret thongs. However, I think that type of writing is missing the mark with the target demographic for this series. I really think Olsen could be writing for people who like a good crime story and awesome plot twists without having to resort to references that will just be dated in a few years.
FINAL GRADE: B With this book, I just have to see the forest through the trees. I’m a sucker for a mystery and a sucker for a crime novel, what can I say? Gregg Olsen has a knack for storytelling and tossing in enough twists/tension to keep me turning pages.
Required Reading: Required for anyone who read Envy and enjoyed it. Required for fans of crime novels, mysteries, and paranormal novels.
Library Recommendation: Put it in your middle or high school library, the kids will definitely read it.
The ABC Murders
by Agatha Christie
Purchased from the Nook Store
[#68 in my 75 book challenge]
Finishing Gretchen McNeil’s Ten inspired me to read another Agatha Christie novel, since I was in the mood for murder and mystery. The ABC Murders is a Hercule Poirot mystery about a serial killer who is murdering people in alphabetical order across England. The first murder, though preceded by a warning note sent to M. Poirot himself, appears to be domestic violence. The second, a coincidence. By the third murder, the police finally understand with Poirot has seen all along — the murders are the work of calculating sociopath with some serious inferiority issues. The race is on to pin-point the killer and prevent future attacks.
The ABC Murders was different from the other Christie novels I’ve read (Murder on the Orient Express, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Three Blind Mice and Other Stories, and And Then There Were None) because they didn’t follow the classic Closed Circle of Suspects mystery trope. It wasn’t all, “One of us in this room…IS A MURDERER!” but more like, “Someone is killing people randomly. Let’s catch him!” Hercule Poirot does do interviews of everyone connected to the victims, in traditional Agatha Christie style, but the story just wasn’t what I was expecting.
FINAL GRADE: C This was not my favorite Christie novel, even though it came highly recommended from various “Best of Christie” lists. However, Christie is ALWAYS worth reading. She’s the mystery queen for a reason. Her reveals are always steller, and I’m never able to guess “whodunnit” before I’m told (though I pretty much suspect every single character in the story at some point). If you love mysteries, you’ll enjoy this novel. It would also be appropriate for middle and high school students if they can tackle Christie’s prose — which they should be able to do, though Christie writes like a 1930′s British lady.
Which Christie novel should I read next? Is there another mystery author whose novels I should try?
Recommend A…is run by Chick Loves Lit, and I love this little meme because it is basically like a practical test in reader’s advisory, which was my favorite part of being a librarian (and the reason why I run this blog). People come up to librarians all the time requesting some very unique or odd things. I also like the challenge of recommended unique or odd things for popular requests (romance, fantasy, “a book like The Hunger Games”).
Today we are recommending books by debut authors. I love the idea of discovering new authors who are on the edge of awesomeness and spreading the word to others. Today I recommend:
Plot in a nutshell: Alex and his friends, Thomas and Glenn, were drinking vodka in the woods near their all-male boarding school. Each of the boys jumped off a large rock into the French Broad river, but only two came up alive. Thomas died when he didn’t clear the jump, leaving Alex and Glenn to make sense of exactly what happened that day on the river.
Why I recommend it: I love a book with lots of secrets, so this one really kept me reading. Alex doesn’t tell much of what happened on that day, but details are slowly revealed to show things are not what they first seemed. Each revelation brings the reader close to the truth. Theres a student-teacher relationship fraught with sexual tension, some truly unbalance teenagers, and a lot of mysterious behavior. My kind of book! Paper Covers Rock is Hubbard’s debut novel, and it had the honor of winning an ALA’s 2012 William C Morris Honor Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens (check this post for the winner and other honor books for 2012…Paper Covers Rock was in some good company!).
Who I recommend it to: Though my review makes it sound like a mystery novel, it’s really more of a YA book. There’s a lot of literary references, especially to Moby Dick, since Alex is working through a lot of his feelings in his writing and in his English class. I recommend it to high school and college students, and anyone who enjoys a good boarding school novel. I also recommend it to fans of darker contemporary YA. If you are interested in learning more about the novel, you can read my original review here.
Which book by a debut author would you recommend to me?
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the bloggers over at the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers from all around create lists based on the chosen topics, and post links to the host blog to share our love of books. This week we’re looking at books that we think would make great movies. This can either be due to the desperate desire to see a beloved story/character played out on the big screen or because the book just seems perfectly suited for the theater. I wrote a post about my views on books into movies, which included my favorites and a wish list, so check it out if you get the chance! Here are my top picks:
Top Ten Books I’d Like To See Made Into a Movie
[aka movies I'd pay $15 to see, even though I already know the ending]
1.) Divergent by Veronica Roth
The scene where Tris ziplines down the Chicago skyline from a skyscraper? That alone would be worth it.
2.) Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
I just want to see the battle room in action.
3.) The Ruby Oliver series by E. Lockhart
Okay, so this one is purely selfish. I just want to see the cute outfits and you KNOW it’d have a great indie music soundtrack.
4.) The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare
…so I can watch the movie and decide if I really want to read the books.
5.) Bunheads by Sophie Flack
I could watch ballet movies for hours.
6.) The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
This would make an amazing kid’s movie that grown-ups could also enjoy, especially if they put a good budget behind it and did it well.
7.) When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Just imagine all the pieces coming together at the end for a twist and a bang! But I also think the period feel could be done well, and the scenes with the $20,000 Pyramid would be fun.
8.) A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
It could ride the coattails of the Downton Abbey obsession AND the paranormal romance obsession, all in one book. I didn’t ever finish the book, so it would also inspire me to do so.
9.) The Maze Runner by James Dashner
It’s just asking to be made into an action movie with crazy special effects.
10.) Any Agatha Christie Novel
Now here’s a movie franchise I could take part in! I would love to see Christie’s stories OR new stories based on hers told on the big screen in the 21st century. The TV movies and adaptations and whatnot are nice, but they could really kill it (pun intended) with a good budget and some great actors.
Basically I’ll go see any movie that comes out for a book I’ve read. What movie would you like to see on the screen? What movie do you wish you could write/produce?
[Also, note that my book cover collages are back! I found a post-Picnik site that will do them just like Picnik: ipiccy.com!]
by Jodi Picoult
Washington Square Press
Purchased in paperback
[#26 in my 75 book challenge]
Ooooohhh, Picoult, you sure have a way of showing me both sides of a complicated issue. You’ve made me sympathetic to murder-suicide, anti-gay ex-husbands, and kids who refuse to donate a kidney to their sisters. And now you’ve made me sympathetic to neonaticide.
In this novel, a newborn baby is found dead in an Amish barn, and Katie Fisher is on trial for the murder. Big-city lawyer Ellie Hathaway ends up not just representing Katie in court, but also living in Amish country as her client’s court-appointed guardian prior to the trial. Like all Picoult novels, the story grows more and more complicated as we find out more about Katie’s life. We are given one twist and turn at a time, even throughout the trial in the last 1/3 of the book, and are left wondering exactly what happened until the last few pages when the truth comes out and the verdict is given.
Though I like Picoult’s books and read them like 400+ page candy, I found myself not liking either Ellie or Katie in this story. That fact didn’t hurt my overall enjoyment too much, but it was problematic none-the-less. I didn’t find myself feeling sympathetic toward the commitment-phobic, workaholic lawyer (ohmygoodness, will a few month living the simple life cure her?!) and I didn’t feel any sympathy toward Katie. She’s supposed to be sort of mature and naive at the same time, but I felt like I didn’t trust her from page one. And that trust didn’t even change at the end of the book.
Why do characters always have to hold on to secrets that they KNOW will be important (like who the baby daddy is) and that they know will be found out? And why on earth do they seem surprised that other characters in the story want to know these things? You are on trial for murder, honey. The baby daddy IS IMPORTANT. Characterization aside, though, it was a good page-turner of a book.
FINAL GRADE: B I liked it, in a quiet way. The ending wasn’t quite satisfying for me, which is why it’s knocked down from an A to a B. There are a few flaws, but overall it was what I was expecting in a Picoult book — legal drama with a lot of depth and a good twist. I’ve seen many people list this as one of their favorite Picoult books. I can see why, but I’m still sticking with The Pact as my #1.
Other Picoult books I’ve read:
My Sister’s Keeper
Have you read any Picoult novels? Why or why not? Which is your favorite?
(Also, did you know Picoult’s name is pronounced Pec-o? I learned that while researching this novel. Fun fact.)
And Then There Were None
by Agatha Christie
E-Book from Public Library
[#24 in my 75 book challenge]
After reading The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, I had to read the other Agatha Christie book that everyone is always saying has the best twist. In fact, many people believe this novel to be her best work. It’s listed as the #7 best selling book of all time. Crazy.
Previously titled as Ten Little Niggers and Ten Little Indians before both titles were declared racist and offensive, this is the story of ten strangers sent to an island to be murdered. Brought to the island under false pretenses, each of the ten people are murder in the order and manner that the soldiers are murdered in the rhyme Ten Little Soldier Boys.
I was told the twist in this was killer. And I will say that Christie was very clever in crafting a tight story that really worked. However, it wasn’t my favorite of her mysteries. I far preferred the twists in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Murder on the Orient Express, and The Mousetrap. Those are some great stories with genius twists at the end. This twist, though well crafted, was complicated to wrap my head around. I now see why people say they want to read it a second time to revisit the clues.
Final Grade: C It was okay. I always love a good mystery and trying to figure out whodunnit. I think I would have thought more of it if it were my first Agatha Christie novel. However, everyone else in the world seems to LOOOOVE it, so I guess it comes highly recommended! I would definitely watch a movie version of it, and even buy a copy for my middle school library — I think I have some kids that would enjoy the story and actually GET it. Christie’s books tend to be free of heavy sexual content, so they are good for sophisticated middle school readers (I read my first one in 8th grade and loved it — and my friend says she read this one the same year and also loved it!).
Have you read this story? What did you think? Do you like mysteries as much as I do?
March is turning out to be a busy month for me! I’m reading like the wind, but I’m currently in the middle of some big ol’ books so I’ve got no book reviews to blog about…yet. Here’s what I’m currently reading:
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
I’m about halfway through this, reading it as an e-book from the public library (so I need to finish soon!). It’s considered one of Agatha Christie’s best, with a great twist, so I can’t wait to find out what happens! I’m a little bit confused about the characters, so I need to make a chart or something, but I’m hoping it all comes together at the end…and I’m sure it will. I’m hoping to be done by the weekend.
Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
So far this one is REALLY good. Like she does, Picoult is keeping me guessing at every page turn. I’m more than halfway through the novel, but I’m setting it aside in favor of the the others that I need to be reading in a more timely manner. I’m hoping to finish by the end of next week because I’ve picked this is a required reading for March.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling
I was re-reading the series in print, but decided to reignite my enthusiasm for the process by picking this one up as an audio book from the public library. I’m on disc 11 of 17. I must say that Jim Dale’s narration is stellar and I am really enjoying the story this way. I might do book 5 on audio, too. I should be done by the end of next week.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I promised myself I’d reread the novel before the movie hit the theaters, which is four days away. Guess it’s time to get on that! I read it for the first time in the fall of 2009 and I feel like it’s stuck in my mind pretty well. However, I expect that I will love it just as much on the second go-around! I’ll be reading it as a combination of audio and print.
What are you currently reading? Have you read any of these books?