Sunday, May 26, 2013

Review: The Program

The Program
Author: Suzanne Young
Published: April 30, 2013
408 pages
3 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them.

Parts of this novel make complete sense and make me think that a suicide epidemic could be something we face in the future, but most of it seemed unrealistic. It is the complete opposite of Delirium, where teenagers are not allowed to be sad, or cry, or show any emotion that could lead to suicide. If they do, they will be sent to the Program, where their memories of things that depressed them will be washed away and they will be sent back into the world anew. This part made sense to me, the brainwashing and memory loss to have control over the teenagers in the city, but there was a lot that didn't.

Sloane's older brother committed suicide and her and her boyfriend, James, have been trying to heal without getting put into the Program. They protect each other and comfort each other in private, and right from the start, you knew they were doomed. When their other friend kills himself, the handlers pay much closer attention to them, and there may be no escaping the Program this time. 

I don't want to say much about the plot because to me it was unpredictable, at least until later on into the book. This is ultimately a love story trying to survive in a world where teenage love can lead to depression. Well, that's in any world, but in this world it's monitored. The emotions feel real and anyone who has lost someone to suicide would know how hard it is to put yourself back together after that happens. And it's not any better when they end up coming back without their memories of you and you're alone either way. The teens know better than to want to go to the Program because they know what happens to the returners, but the adults just see it as a way to cure their children and therefore they call the Program if they think their kids are suicidal. The premise is interesting but at the same time, there is such a fine line between suicide being a disease and this novel making light of a serious situation. Thankfully I've never had any feelings of suicide, nor do I know anyone who's killed themselves, so I can take this book as fiction and leave it at that, but I know those who have experienced this first hand may have different opinions. 

It's a unique dystopian that will stand out from the rest with a world we have not seen before, but I don't think it's strong enough to become a series, though what books aren't series now a days? Sloane and James are meant to be together and they prove that nothing can stop them, even the Program and I like that theme because true love is stronger than those who wish to tear it apart. Though I think this book would work better as a contemporary, focusing solely on their relationship. Having a more thought provoking plot and treating suicide like the mental health issue it is, would make a much bigger impact. It's too bad that the suicide comes off as more of a gimmicky plot to create a new dystopian world. I'm not sure if I'll be picking up anymore in this series, we'll see when the time comes. 

“...some things are better left in the past. And true things are destined to repeat themselves.” 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Book Covers

top ten favourite covers of books i've read

This week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is all about pretty covers. Covers that catch your eye and make you pick up a book. In no particular order, this are some of the ones that I love looking at on my shelf. 

1. A Great and Terrible Beauty
Such a beautiful cover. It sets the scene and leaves so much to the imagination. Like, you have no idea what this book is going to be about, I love that. Plus, I'm a sucker for corsets.

2. Born Wicked
My copy has the revamped cover, but I love this one so much more. Just the way Cate's lying there sends shivers   up my spine, especially since I know the kind of power she holds.

3. Wither 
What I love most about this cover is that it encompassing different themes from the novel all over the place. It was a lot of fun trying to figure out what meant what.

4. This is Not a Test
This cover is just so haunting that you know this book is going to be brutal. The blood splatter is the icing on the cake. This says zombies so quickly, it's easy to miss.

5. Sisters Red
Two sisters and a wolf. Best graphic cover I've ever seen. There's no doubting what this book is about and I could look at this cover all day.

6. Beauty Queens

I always come back to this book, but there's a good reason for that. I mean this cover is fantastic and it goes with the theme so well. She has lipstick instead of bullets. Genius.

7. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Beautiful and haunting, just like the book. This series has the best covers and they go together so perfectly, it's hard to not want them on display as art. This was definitely a selling point when I saw this book.

8. The Dark and Hollow Places
Another haunting book to go along with a haunting theme. The whole Forest of Hands and Teeth series has great covers, this is just my fave.

9. If I Die
The Soul Screamers series has beautiful covers, gorgeous dresses and great fonts, but this is my fave because of what it gives to the story. Kaylee will forever be my fave heroine.

 10. Masque of the Red Death
Everything about this cover is perfection. It's so dark and dreary, but gorgeous at the same time, just the world that's been painted in this book.

 Let me know what you think! Do we share any faves?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Review: Bright Young Things

Bright Young Things
Author: Anna Godbersen
Published: October 12, 2010
389 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

The year is 1929. New York is ruled by the Bright Young Things: Flappers and socialites seeking thrills and chasing dreams in the anything-goes era of the Roaring Twenties.

Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Grey escaped their small Midwestern town for New York's glittering metropolis. All Letty wants is to see her name in lights, but she quickly discovers Manhattan is filled with pretty girls who will do anything to be a star....

Cordelia is searching for the father she's never known, a man as infamous for his wild parties as he is for his shadowy schemes. Overnight, she enters a world more thrilling and glamorous than she ever could have imagined — and more dangerous. It's a life anyone would kill for...and someone will.

The only person Cordelia can trust is ­Astrid Donal, a flapper who seems to have it all: money, looks, and the love of Cordelia's brother, Charlie. But Astrid's perfect veneer hides a score of family secrets.

Across the vast lawns of Long Island, in the ­illicit speakeasies of Manhattan, and on the blindingly lit stages of Broadway, the three girls' fortunes will rise and fall — together and apart.

After watching The Great Gatsby, I was in a 1920s mood that just didn't want to go away. So I picked up my copy of Bright Young Things that I had grabbed at Value Village a week before, and dove right back into the roaring 20s, filled with prohibition. bootleggers and girls in pretty dresses who just want to have a good time. Thankfully there is less murder and the theme is not nearly as destructive as Gatsby is. I got sucked into the New York social scene just as quickly as Cordelia and Letty were, and I loved their journey along the way.

Each girl is unique and has her own secrets that she's running from. Cordelia, recently married, finally decides she's ready to run away from the small town in Ohio she's grown up in. She wants to move to New York and find her long lost father, a famous bootlegger running the scene. Letty follows her swiftly, eager to be in New York to become an actress. She is ready to do whatever needs to be done in order to be famous, she just doesn't realize what that implies. And Astrid, living in New York with her mother who remarries more often than not, is a bored flapper who may not be happy with the man she's with. She wants adventure, all the girls do, but adventure can be dangerous.

As soon as the girls hit New York, things change. The plot is fast and fluid, the girls having problems as soon as they arrive. Cordelia and Letty quickly take two paths, their goals so drastically different. Cordelia falls for the wrong boy. Letty realizes becoming famous is not an easy task. And Astrid explores other options. Some points were predictable, but I liked that I could guess what would happen with the girls, that is until the end, which surprised the hell out of me. Everything that happens leads up to the end and there is still so much that these girls are going to go through. Their journey in New York has only begun and I'm eager to see what else is at stake for them.

Now I know period pieces can be hard to read. The language is normally different and descriptions seem to play a large part. The only problem I had with this one was the fact that there was way more description than dialogue. I know there's a need to set the scene, such as telling us what the girls are wearing or how their hair looks, but I would rather have had more dialogue instead of just being told what they were thinking or feeling. This did not ruin the book and I enjoyed it just the same, but it would have made more of an impact on me if there was more talking. 

The problems these girls face may not be problems now, but in the 20s, times were much different. At the same time, some of it still rings true today. The obstacles Letty has to overcome to be famous very well still occur today, and there are still rules when you fall for someone your family does not approve of. These girls are young, but they are quickly realizing how hard it is to live on their own in the big city. Here's hoping they all survive.

“It is easy to forget now, how effervescent and free we all felt that summer.” 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty

A Great and Terrible Beauty
Author: Libba Bray
Published: December 9, 2003
403 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Sixteen-year-old Gemma has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother's death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence, a girls' academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing. There Gemma is snubbed by powerful Felicity, beautiful Pippa, and even her own dumpy roommate Ann, until she blackmails herself and Ann into the treacherous clique. Gemma is distressed to find that she has been followed from India by Kartik, a beautiful young man who warns her to fight off the visions. Nevertheless, they continue, and one night she is led by a child-spirit to find a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order. The clique soon finds a way to accompany Gemma to the other-world realms of her visions "for a bit of fun" and to taste the power they will never have as Victorian wives, but they discover that the delights of the realms are overwhelmed by a menace they cannot control. Gemma is left with the knowledge that her role as the link between worlds leaves her with a mission to seek out the "others" and rebuild the Order. 

Blending corsets, boarding school, and magic gave this book a uniqueness that I've never read before. Gemma Doyle is one of a kind. Living in India with her parents, all she wants is to be back in England and the way she thinks she'll get there is by constantly bringing it up to her mom. But after a terrible and sudden accident, she is shipped back to England with a dead mother and thrust into a boarding school to make her a proper lady. But Gemma is everything but proper. She is more concerned with being happy and sticking up for her friends, which is what gets her involved with Felicity and Pippa in the first place and leads to them having secret meetings in a cave at night and fooling around with magic. Before she knows it, Gemma learns that she can cross over in the realms, a secret place that only certain girls can find. While it is all fun and games at first, her dead mother warns her of the power of the realms and a mysterious diary that she's found leads her to believe there is more than meets the eye. Add in the secretive man, Kartik, who has followed her from India to warn her, and you've got the makings of a dramatic, historical, magical romp.

Period pieces can be hard for me to get into. The language is always different and there can be too much description that leads away from the plot. Bray knows how to write historical fiction. There was  just enough description to tell me where the book was taking place and what sort of clothes the girls were wearing, but she did not ramble about their outfits for paragraphs on end. The writing was easy to follow and captivated me quickly, letting me know that even though it was going to be historical, that was not the main focus of the novel. The magical element brings a whole other air to the story, making it stand out from most other books. The Order, a secret organization that we still know little about, promises to give Gemma some things to worry about in the future of this series.

The minor characters played such pivotal points to this story that it's hard to call them minor. Felicity is one of a kind, a lovely girl who knows how to get what she wants. Pippa just wants to marry a man she can love, not the older man her parents want her to be with. And Ann, Gemma's orphan roommate who is destined to be a handmaiden, shows her strength when alone with the other girls and she may prove to be more powerful than any of them could imagine. Each girl grows drastically throughout the book. When they get these powers, we see their true character, and I'm curious to see how each one will develop throughout the rest of the series. Kartik is as mysterious at the end as he was at the beginning and I know it'll be fun to get to know him further.

This is an series but I think it's as important today as it was when it came out. It's as important now as it would have been in the 1800s. Women are powerful, in more ways than one, and it's the way we use that power that makes us who we are meant to be. I'm excited to pick up Rebel Angels.

“I run after her, not really giving chase. I’m running because I can, because I must. Because I want to see how far I can go before I have to stop.” 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Light & Fun

Sometimes you just need a nice, light read that you can finish in a day that makes you laugh, smile and fill you up inside. This week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the lovely girls at The Broke and the Bookish, is all about those kind of fun books. So here are my Top Ten Books When You Need Something Light & Fun

1. Confessions of a Shopaholic: Pretty much anything by Sophie Kinsella leaves me feeling good at the end. Still need to pick up Wedding Night

2. Beauty Queens: Libba Bray's satire about pageant girls stranded on an island made me laugh the entire time. 

3. Alice in Wonderland: A go-to for me when I want to escape the world for a bit.

4. Sun & Moon, Ice & Snow: This fairy tale retelling is so wonderful that I read it in a day. Fairy tales are always a good way to make me smile.

5. Can You Keep a Secret?: Like I said, Kinsella is awesome.

6. The Undomestic Goddess: My top Kinsella book about a woman who quits her job and decides to be a housekeeper, with no idea how to do any of the chores. Great read.

7. Supernaturally: Though there are some serious things happening in this book, Efie is just a breath of fresh air when it comes to heroines. She is hilarious!

8. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist: Great music, good friends, strange and funny times!

9. Cloaked: Alex Flinn does remarkable fairy tale retellings and this one is perfection. She takes many different tales and creates a whole new one.

10. Will Grayson, Will Grayson: A light hearted read with funny characters and a feel good ending.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Author: John Green and David Levithan
Published: April 6, 2010
310 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.

This was a nice change from what John Green normally puts us through. Instead of mysterious girls with too many problems, or kids dying of cancer, we get Will Grayson, an average boy who mostly just follows in his friend Tiny's footsteps, and Will Grayson, a closeted gay who's in love with a boy he's never met online. The story played out a lot more like a David Levithan novel, like Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and Dash and Lily's Book of Dares. There were some dark points, but for the most part this book was happy romp in the park that was certainly one of a kind.

John Green's Will Grayson has only ever known a life with Tiny, the very large, very gay football player. When Tiny decides he's going to put on a musical about his life, Will starts to wonder if being friends with Tiny is really what he wants. Tiny introduces Will to his friend Jane, and suddenly Will has much bigger problems to worry about. Levithan's Will is very different. He is on anti-depressents and living in the closet, hoping beyond hope that Isaac can rescue him from his sad life. So when Isaac says he wants to meet, Will accepts wholeheartedly, and he ends up in Chicago, waiting. Other Will Grayson is in Chicago with Jane and Tiny to see a concert, but fails to get in because his fake I.D. says he's only 20. While he's waiting for his friends to get out, he meets Will Grayson, broken and torn from Isaac not showing up. Instead, he meets Tiny, and suddenly both Wills are connected together more than either thought they'd be.

Told in alternating chapters from both Wills, we watch as their stories slowly collide together and se how each can help the other. It's easy to tell who is narrating not only because each Will is drastically different, but Levithan's Will writes in all lowercase, which Levithan explained is because he lives in a lowercase kind of world. His problems are real and will hit true to anyone going through the same thing as him. Not just because he's gay, but because he is depressed and feels like he is alone in the world. Other Will Grayson's problems are much different, but ring true just the same. Hiding behind the shadow of someone like Tiny, who is loud and proud and everyone loves, Will is trying to find his own identity and slowly drifting away from Tiny. 

This was so easy to read and fun to boot. Tiny's musical made me laugh and part of me is hoping they'll make it a real thing because it looks like it would be so much fun to watch. I can't decide which Will I like better because I liked them both in their own ways. There are parts where I wanted more, maybe because I was expecting more John Greenesque to the novel, but I enjoyed reading it. This the first book I've read with a gay main character and I love that he is written like any other character. It is not a flashing sign about being gay, he's a normal kid with normal problems and I think it's really important to let the world know that. In fact, I kind of wish I had a friend like Tiny to hide behind sometimes. 

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