March 31, 2011

Grace: In A Nutshell

Goodreads' description:

Grace was raised to be an Angel, a herald of death by suicide bomb. But she refuses to die for the cause, and now Grace is on the run, daring to dream of freedom. In search of a border she may never reach, she travels among malevolent soldiers on a decrepit train crawling through the desert. Accompanied by the mysterious Kerr, Grace struggles to be invisible, but the fear of discovery looms large as she recalls the history and events that delivered her uncertain fate.

Told in spare, powerful prose by acclaimed author Elizabeth Scott, this tale of a dystopian near future will haunt readers long after they've reached the final page.
Grace by Elizabeth Scott

One sentence sum-up: the story of a suicide bomber who decides she wants to live.  

My reaction: The one word that keeps coming to mind to describe Grace: intense. It's a short book in word count, but crammed with emotion and questions of morality. Scott does an amazing job of portraying the mindset of someone raised to be a suicide bomber, and the tensions between two warring groups, without specifying where this book is set. It takes place in the future, yes, but in a manner of speaking it's timeless; we can see many aspects of Scott's fictional world in the current situation in the Middle East. There are no easy answers as to who is "right" in the battle – the ruthless dictator who will stop at nothing to keep power, or the brainwashed cult members who are convinced their death is worth it if it means the death of others as well.

Best aspect: the nuanced complexity brought to the two main characters. Let's face it: the protagonist Grace isn't very nice. She's been raised to believe her destiny is death, and though she herself is decidedly determined to keep living, she doesn't think twice about anyone else. Grace makes no qualms about the fact that she's looking out for numero uno. And yet, somehow, Scott makes it possible for the reader to connect with her, sympathize with and even root for her. She's done plenty of wrong, but then, she's had plenty of wrong done to her as well. It's so astonishingly obvious that both groups are committing atrocious crimes that it becomes easier for the reader to cheer on Grace to escape their clutches, despite her own reasons for guilt.

Kerr, the man accompanying her on her escape journey, is equally multi-faceted. He comes across as brusque and uncaring at first, but he and Grace begin to open up to each other along the way. Watching them share their stories and realize that they understand one another better than they originally thought is a treat. Neither of them has really had another person like that in their life before.

If I could change something... I was really fascinated by the dynamics of the social setting, and I wanted to know more about how Keran Berj rose to power, and how these two races came to be living side-by-side and warring with each other. More information about the cultlike tendencies of both groups would have been fantastic as well, although through Grace's flashbacks we do get a glimpse into how the People operate. I also would have liked to have seen a bit more of Grace's earlier perspective, growing up with the People, before she goes to perform her "calling." And I was always a bit unsure of where Chris fit into the scheme of things.

Although most of her inner monologue felt spot-on, I thought a few of Grace's realizations towards the end happened too suddenly to be believable, seeming a bit forced and preachy.

Also, regarding the ending (very spoilery, highlight to read): I am generally not a fan of ambiguous endings, and after all the tension on the train as they got closer and closer to the destination, I was hoping for a more dramatic ending. This one was too abrupt and anti-climactic for my taste, leaving it feeling kind of unfinished. I did enjoy, though, the tenuous trust formed between Jerusha and Grace that is clearly crystallized at the very end.
In five words or less:  hard-hitting, thought-provoking, character-driven


The blast would have killed me had I stayed with the bomb by the stage. I would have been tossed up into the air as bits of bone and ash so fine I would have fallen like rain, scattered like the words of a prayer.

Instead, I stayed standing. Breathing.


I can still see the fire the bomb created. It was so strong, so angry. It hissed and popped and roared as it moved. As it grew.

Do not read if: you are looking for a light, fluffy, insubstantial, or feel-good read.

Do read if: you want to be impacted and challenged.

Final verdict: 4 shooting stars.

Author's website:

March 30, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Wish Me Dead and Someone Else's Life

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and features books that we just can't wait to get our hands on!

This week's picks:

Wish Me Dead by Helen Grant

Goodreads' description:

"The funny thing is I never even meant the first one.

Now I bitterly regret visiting the cursed witch's house, deep in the middle of the forest. It's where I made my wishes.

I wished Klara Klein dead.
It came true.

I wished for the most gorgeous boy in town to finally notice me.
It came true.

I wished to be rid of the poisonous busybody who destroyed my family.
It came true.

I didn't mean for this to happen. Not me, Steffi Nett, the shy one who never says anything. But as the body count increases with every wish I make . . .

Who else could it be?"

Love the premise of this one – stories about wishes can be so entertaining! Although this one sounds like it has quite a dark angle to it... (And is it just me, or does the girl's face on the cover look totally creepy?)

Someone Else's Life by Katie Dale

From the author's blog:

"When seventeen-year-old Rosie’s mother, Trudie, dies from Huntington’s Disease, her pain is intensified by the knowledge that she has a fifty-per-cent chance of inheriting the crippling disease herself.

Only when she tells her mum’s best friend, ‘Aunt Sarah’ that she is going to test for the disease does Sarah, a midwife, reveal that Trudie was not her real mother after all – that she was swapped at birth for a baby destined to die…

Devastated, Rosie decides to trace her real mother, hitching along on her ex-boyfriend’s GAP year to follow her to Los Angeles.

But all does not go to plan, and as Rosie discovers yet more of her family's deeply-buried secrets and lies, she is left with an agonising decision of her own - one which will be the most heart-breaking and far-reaching of all... "

Woah. Seems like there will be lots of secrets revealed here! Why was that first baby destined to die - because it had inherited the disease? *Did* it die? And what is this decision Rosie has to make? This one sounds like it's going to be emotionally intense. Also, love the simplicity of the cover (although the disembodied head is a little unsettling...)

What books are you waiting on?

March 29, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Overlooked Authors

This fabulous meme is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, and this week's topic is authors that don't get enough recognition. I actually couldn't come up with 10 for this one, so you're getting a Top 5 post this week.

1.) Jaclyn Moriarty – she's one of my top recommendations for contemporary YA authors, but I don't see her books being mentioned nearly enough. She's got such talent for writing distinctive voice and fantastically funny humor. If you're looking for a feel-good contemp YA read, I'd definitely recommend either Feeling Sorry for Celia or The Year of Secret Assignments.

2.) Patricia Wrede –  How is it that practically no one has read her Enchanted Forest Chronicles? They're light fantasy, dosed with plenty of humor, a fabulously independent heroine, dragons (both good and bad), very wicked wizards, and an unpredictable enchanted forest. Some of the books also feature a magic carpet that can't fly properly, a stone prince, and a levitating blue donkey named Killer (well, he's actually a rabbit). Um, how can you go wrong? You can't.

And that's not even getting started on the wonderful novel Sorcery & Cecelia that she co-wrote with Caroline Stevermer. It's a book that I have re-read so many times I've stopped counting. Love it.

3.) Phyllis Reynolds Naylor – I grew up reading the Alice series. Alice's charm is that she is so very relatable to teens, as are her experiences in dealing with friendships, romance, break-ups, jobs, school, and family. Her friendship with her two best friends, Elizabeth and Pamela, is one I always envied, because despite their ups and downs they stick it out together. Serious topics such as bullying, abusive relationships, and death are touched upon but tempered with humor laced throughout. There are still a couple more Alice books to come (Incredibly Alice is going to be released in May) before the series ends, which I know I'll find a little sad. I'm surprised these books don't get more buzz in the blogosphere.

 4.) Gerald Morris – He makes Arthurian legend accessible and funny. I don't like all of his books in the Squire's Tale series equally, but I can certainly recommend The Squire, His Knight and His Lady, The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf (which I think is my favourite) and The Lioness and Her Knight.

5.) O.R. Melling – she takes Irish legend and makes it her own! I think my favourite is The Summer King (book 2 of her Chronicles of Faerie) but honourable mention goes to the standalone novel The Singing Stone.

I'm interested to see everyone else's most overlooked authors!

March 28, 2011

A Cornucopia of Dystopia: Week 1 Catch-Up

Week 2 of A Cornucopia of Dystopia has begun! There's an Awaken interview over at Midnight Bloom Reads and the Dark Parties playlist here.

But wait! You missed Week 1 and want to catch up? Of course, here's what happened...

Monday: Books Are A Girl's Best Friend Bumped Interview, The Bookish Type Memento Nora Review & Interview
Tuesday: I Swim For Oceans Awaken Review & Interview, The Book Worms XVI Review & Interview
Wednesday: A Writer’s Review Bumped Review, Musings of a YA Reader Memento Nora Review & Interview
Thursday: Books in the Spotlight Delirium Review, Supernatural Snark Possession Review, Reading Teen Wither Review
Friday: Down the Rabbit Hole Bumped Review & Interview, Supernatural Snark Possession Interview
Saturday: Musings of a YA Reader Awaken Interview, Books in the Spotlight Dark Parties Review 
Sunday: Midnight Bloom Reads Awaken Review, The Bookish Type Delirium Review, BSAOT XVI Interview

And there were some giveaways announced too:

Loud Words & Sounds – Awaken cover redesign contest
I Swim For Oceans – Awaken 
Musings of a YA Reader – Memento Nora
Down the Rabbit Hole – XVI cover redesign contest
Midnight Bloom Reads – Awaken

Be sure to check them out!

A Cornucopia of Dystopia: Dark Parties Playlist

A few of our Cornucopia of Dystopia authors gave us the playlists for their novels! Here's the one for Sara Grant's Dark Parties:

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

There were a few songs not accessible on (links go to YouTube videos):

When We Were Beautiful - Bon Jovi
I'm Not Dead - Pink
Into the Fire - the Scarlet Pimpernel soundtrack
Believe in Me - Demi Lovato
Down - Jason Walker

According to Sara:

"This playlist was compiled by the author and one of the book's first readers, 15-year-old Maddie. Some of the songs inspired the writing of DARK PARTIES while others are a response to the reading of it. Maddie is an avid reader. Check out what she's reading at"

Hope you enjoy listening! And a quick reminder that we're still looking for questions for Sara. If you submit a question for Sara before tomorrow (Mar. 29) at 11:59 pm EST (please go to this post and comment), you can be entered to win a signed Losing Faith bookmark. So get your questions in!

March 27, 2011

YA Through The Ages: the '50s

In this "YA Through the Ages" series I've been following the progression of YA literature from its very earliest beginnings to today. Previous posts have looked at YA in the 1800s and YA from 1900-1950.

Two books, now considered YA classics by many, burst on the scene in the 1950s. The first was The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, in 1951. I haven't read this one but I know it's required reading in a lot of high schools, and its protagonist Holden Caulfield has become "an icon for teenage rebellion."

The second was Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1958). This book actually apparently didn't sell well when it first came out, but later became a bestseller and was incorporated into the curriculum in schools in the 1960s. (And it still is today...I had to read it in Grade 11). Its message about human nature being inherently violent and self-serving (even in children) made it rather novel for the time.

Despite their popularity among young adult readers, these two books were both written for an adult audience.
Yeah, this cover definitely wasn't created with teens in mind.
Fantasy took quite a step forward in this period, with C. S. Lewis beginning his famous Chronicles of Narnia with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in 1950.

T.H. White also published his Arthurian retelling The Once and Future King. This contained what became the well-known story of The Sword in the Stone, which eventually got turned into this:

...not quite what I think T.H. White had in mind for his epic tale.

Historical novels for young readers started to gain prominence as well. Several Newbery Medal and Honor novels of that time were historical fiction, including Carry on, Mr. Bowditch (1955) and The Witch of Blackbird Pond (1958).

And the 1950s was also the era of the "Great Comic Book Scare." I'd never heard about this before, but apparently, there was quite a commotion. At that time the U.S. was deep in McCarthyism, and communists weren't the only thing that had the American public shaking in its boots. No, there was a far more dreaded enemy out there...comic books.

A comic book! Run for your lives!
A psychiatrist named Fredric Wertham started things rolling when he published a book called Seduction of the Innocent, lambasting the crime and horror comic book industry (which had gained popularity in recent years) for contaminating the minds of youths and contributing to juvenile delinquency. 

Fredric Wertham, looking shocked as he reads Shock Illustrated.
This sparked the creation of the Comics Code, which regulated the content of comic books. Criteria included "in every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds," "scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited," and "no comic magazine shall use the word horror or terror in its title." Oh Dr. Wertham, if you were only here today to see all the paranormal YA novels on the shelves.
Yep, they had their own seal of approval. I bet that didn't get stamped on much, given the rigorous criteria.
In 1957 an important step for YA literature was taken: the American Library Association formed the Young Adult Services Division.

This was pretty huge in that it made a distinction between books for children and books for young adults. Publishing houses still weren't marketing books specifically for teens, but now they were beginning to be recognized as a separate category of readers, and books like Lord of the Flies and The Catcher in the Rye were paving the way for changes in how adolescents were portrayed in novels.

Have you read any or all of these books? Were you a fan of Lord of the Flies? Can you convince me to read The Catcher in the Rye? And does Disney's massacre of The Sword in the Stone make you cringe in anguish?

March 25, 2011

Book Blogger Hop (31)

Yes, that's right...time again for the Book Blogger Hop! This awesome meme is hosted by Jennifer at Crazy-For-Books and this week's question is, "If you could physically put yourself into a book or series…which one would it be and why?" 

Oh, good question! As much as I love fantasy, I think honestly I'd be terrified if I got plunked down into a world like Tamora Pierce's Tortall. I don't think I could swing a sword to save my life. And I am a huge fan of historical novels set in the Regency period, but actually living it? With all those hygiene issues and lack of medical knowledge? (Not to mention the corsets...) Not so sure about that.

So I think I'll go with a fun contemporary YA novel like Anna and the French Kiss (how can you go wrong with a boarding school in Paris?) or one of Jaclyn Moriarty's Ashbury-Brookfield books (I'd love to meet her characters, they're so fabulous!) 

Recent posts on the blog:

A Cornucopia of Dystopia ARC Giveaway (Canada) – giveaway of Bumped, Possession and Wither ARCs for my Canadian readers! 

Waiting on Wednesday: The Girl of Fire and Thorns & Switch
 Talk is "Cheep"! – Join the discussion on talking animals in books. Yea or "neigh"?

 Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Pet Peeves

In My Mailbox (20)

A Cornucopia of Dystopia Giveaway Schedule

YA Through The Ages: 1900-1950 - this is the 2nd post in my "YA Through The Ages" series. What were teens reading in the early 1900s? And what book is considered by some to be the very first "YA" novel? Read it to find out!

March 24, 2011

A Cornucopia of Dystopia ARC Giveaway (Canada)

We've been lucky enough to receive some ARCs from publishers for our blog event, so I'm able to give a few away! For this giveaway there will be 1 winner who will receive ARCs of the following 3 books: Bumped by Megan McCafferty, Wither by Lauren DeStefano, and Possession by Elana Johnson.

I'm trying to keep things simple, so just one entry per person. The winner will be randomly selected. You don't have to be a follower, but of course it is always appreciated. You DO have to have a Canadian mailing address (very sorry to everyone outside Canada but it is outrageously expensive to mail books internationally!)

The giveaway is open until April 18, 11:59 PM EST.

The contest is now closed.

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