TitleA Matter of Days 
   Author: Amber Kizer   Website|Twitter|Facebook

 Pages: 288
Publisher: Delacorte Press
             Release Date: June 11, 2013                            Ranking: 4/5              
                                                                            On Day 56 of the pandemic called BluStar, sixteen-year-old Nadia's mother dies, leaving her responsible for her younger bro4ther Rabbit. They secretly received antivirus vaccines from their uncle, but most people weren't as lucky. Their deceased father taught them to adapt and survive whatever comes their way. That's their plan as they trek from Seattle to their grandfather's survivalist compound in West Virginia. Using practical survival techniques, they make their way through a world of death and destruction until they encounter an injured dog; Zack, a street kid from Los Angeles; and other survivors who are seldom what they seem. Illness, infections, fatigue, and meager supplies have become a way of life. Still, it will be worth it once they arrive at the designated place on the map they have memorized. But what if no one is there to meet them?
I have this fascination with viruses. Perhaps it comes from one too many bio classes with my teacher and his obsession with ebola or one too many games of Plague with my coworkers. Either way, maybe it should be a little serendipitous that I picked up this piece of post-apocalyptic literature. The end of the world as we know it- all thanks to one of my favorite fields of study.

With the world nearly devoid of people, you basically have to love the main characters (you and they will spend a LOT of time together). While Rabbit and Zack are wonderful, it's Nadia who really shines through. Like so many other underdogs, you root for her. You want her brand of selfless love, determination, and, yes, vulnerability to win. And, to be honest, you'd probably want her at your side if the world ended, too.

The book does take some getting into. The first few chapters are overly slow and quiet- not what you'd expect from the nightmare world. Much of the information for how Blue Star unfolded comes later in the novel as well. Kizer missed a chance here to better develop the disaster that essentially wiped out the entire planet. While we see its aftermath, the initial devastation is not well documented and left me fairly curious as to what this society gone to pieces looked like in its stage of collapse (maybe that's just the morbid epidemiologist in me, though).

Ultimately, the characterization in this book is superb. Every action of Nadia's seemed believable, and her family history made the tragedy more poignant than any disease possibly could. With the addition of that big sibling-little sibling dynamic, and an impossibly adorable-almost relationship, you're constantly falling in love with almost everyone. Add in ore world-building, and the book would have been basically perfect.

(I better get a sequel.)
Some Boys by Patty Blount  
Release Date: August 1, 2014

Some girls say no. Some boys don't listen.

When Grace meets Ian, she's afraid. Afraid he'll reject her like the rest of the school, like her own family. After she accuses Zac, the town golden boy, of rape, everyone turns against her. Ian wouldn't be the first to call her a slut and a liar.

Except Ian doesn't reject her. He's the one person who looks past the taunts and the names and the tough-girl act to see the real Grace. He's the one who gives her the courage to fight back.

He's also Zac's best friend.

Beauty of the Broken by Tawni Waters  
Release Date: September 30, 2014

Growing up in conservative small-town New Mexico, fifteen-year-old Mara was never given the choice to be different. Her parents—an abusive, close-minded father and a detached alcoholic mother—raised Mara to be like all the other girls in Barnaby: God-fearing, churchgoing, and straight. Mara wants nothing to do with any of it. She feels most at home with her best friend and older brother, Iggy, but Iggy hasn’t been the same since their father beat him and put him in the hospital with a concussion.

As Mara’s mother feeds her denial with bourbon and Iggy struggles with his own demons, Mara finds an escape with her classmate Xylia. A San Francisco transplant, Xylia is everything Mara dreams of being: free-spirited, open, wild. The closer Mara and Xylia become, the more Mara feels for her—even though their growing relationship is very much forbidden in Barnaby. Just as Mara begins to live a life she’s only imagined, the girls’ secret is threatened with exposure and Mara’s world is thrown into chaos.

Mara knows she can't live without Xylia, but can she live with an entire town who believes she is an abomination worse than the gravest sin?

Random by Tom Leveen  
Release Date: August 12, 2014

Late at night Tori receives a random phone call. It’s a wrong number. But the caller seems to want to talk, so she stays on the line.

He asks for a single thing—one reason not to kill himself.

The request plunges her into confusion. Because if this random caller actually does what he plans, he’ll be the second person connected to Tori to take his own life. And the first just might land her in jail. After her Facebook page became Exhibit A in a tragic national news story about cyberbullying, Tori can’t help but suspect the caller is a fraud. But what if he’s not? Her words alone may hold the power of life or death.

With the clock ticking, Tori has little time to save a stranger—and maybe redeem herself—leading to a startling conclusion that changes everything…

                                                                                                                                                          TitleMeant to Be
   Author: Lauren Morrill     Website|Twitter|Facebook
 Pages: 304
Publisher: Delacorte Press
             Release Date: November 13, 201                             Ranking: 2/5              
                                                                            Meant to be or not meant to be . . . that is the question. 

It's one thing to fall head over heels into a puddle of hazelnut coffee, and quite another to fall for the—gasp—wrong guy. Straight-A junior Julia may be accident prone, but she's queen of following rules and being prepared. That's why she keeps a pencil sharpener in her purse and a pocket Shakespeare in her, well, pocket. And that's also why she's chosen Mark Bixford, her childhood crush, as her MTB ("meant to be").

But this spring break, Julia's rules are about to get defenestrated (SAT word: to be thrown from a window) when she's partnered with her personal nemesis, class-clown Jason, on a school trip to London. After one wild party, Julia starts receiving romantic texts . . . from an unknown number! Jason promises to help discover the identity of her mysterious new suitor if she agrees to break a few rules along the way. And thus begins a wild goose chase through London, leading Julia closer and closer to the biggest surprise of all: true love.

Because sometimes the things you least expect are the most meant to be.

Okay. Before I say anything, I really wanted to like this book. It's been on my 'to-read' list for ages, it features my favorite long-dead author, AND it has global travel. It looks like just an overall adorable novel.




I had trouble getting through this book. The plot is annoyingly predictable from the first page (although, are rom-coms like this ever anything but predictable?) and Julia is a judgmental, one-dimensional idiot (really. A smart stuck-up girl in need of some rebel? Original.) Seriously. You would expect girl who is very similar to me to be at least tolerable, but I could not stand the way she basically looked down her nose at everyone. It's the bookworm steryotype to the extreme- and it gets old after about two chapters.

If you do manage to wade through Julia's complaining, the second half of the book seems to pick up a little bit, and the end is romantically delightful. Some serious plot twists (which, to be fair, half of them were glaringly obvious) and maybe some absolute adorableness tie up the the last chapter quite well. So if you can wade through a good 150 pages of annoying characters, things might get tolerable, but that's a pretty big if there.

If you want fluff, and can brave some really unsympathetic characters, this might be a good beach read. If not, don't bother with it. Find something else.

                                                                                                                                                          Title: The Family Romanov

   Author: Candace Fleming     Website|Twitter|Facebook
 Pages: 304
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
             Release Date: July 8, 2014                              Ranking: 5/5              
                                                                            Here is the riveting story of the Russian Revolution as it unfolded. When Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, inherited the throne in 1894, he was unprepared to do so. With their four daughters (including Anastasia) and only son, a hemophiliac, Nicholas and his reclusive wife, Alexandra, buried their heads in the sand, living a life of opulence as World War I raged outside their door and political unrest grew. 

Deftly maneuvering between the lives of the Romanovs and the plight of Russia’s peasants—and their eventual uprising—Fleming offers up a fascinating portrait, complete with inserts featuring period photographs and compelling primary-source material that brings it all to life. History doesn’t get more interesting than the story of the Romanovs

You know what the best thing about  running this site is? I totally have an excuse not to do other stuff and read books (I am totally not procrastinating on anything, never.) At any rate, with the business of my summer/job/college applications, it's been good to curl up with a book again. It's even better considering how well this one was written.

I don't think I've ever reviewed non-fiction on this site. They tend to be much harder books to market because so many people find them dry/boring/dull/reminiscent of their classes at school. To put it bluntly, they just aren't normally something that the majority of readers can sit down and devour. Even though this book is incredibly factual and informative, it reads exactly like a piece of well crafted fiction. Part of that, I think, is the fairytale aspect of the Romanov story, but much more of it is in the author's writing style.  Ms. Fleming deftly weaves together primary source quotes with her own narration to tell a story capable of keeping you hungry for more, even if you already know exactly how it ends.

Maybe that's not entirely accurate. Most of us know how the story of the Romanov's (bloody) end but fewer of us, I'm willing to bet, understand all of the forces that led to their execution. This isn't just a story of the royalty, it's a chronicle of an entire country, from it's peasants, to its government, to its revolutionaries. It;s the perfect snapshot of a country poised on the brink of change but without limiting it to anyone facet of society.

Non-fiction gets a bad reputation but this book breaks nearly all of the bad stereotypes. It's magical and enchanting, and just as captivating as anything else you could read. Without a doubt, you should get a copy ASAP.

This book is a ARC given to me by Random House Children's Books! While I love getting free books and am eternally grateful to the author and the publisher, all above opinions are mine and mine alone. 
The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson 
Release Date: July 15, 2014

In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight—but she doesn’t—and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom—to a prince she has never met.

On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—even as she finds herself falling in love.

Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Release Date: July 22, 2014
"We all have a secret buried under lock and key in the attic of our soul. This is mine."

When Fifteen-year-old Oscar Drai suddenly vanishes from his boarding school in Barcelona, no one knows his whereabouts for seven days and seven nights.

His story begins when he meets the strange Marina while he's exploring an old quarter of the city. She leads Oscar to a cemetery, where they watch a macabre ritual that occurs on the last Sunday of each month. At exactly ten o'clock in the morning, a woman shrouded in a black velvet cloak descends from her carriage to place a single rose on an unmarked grave.

When Oscar and Marina decide to follow her, they begin a journey that transports them to a forgotten postwar Barcelona--a world of aristocrats and actresses, inventors and tycoons--an reveals a dark secret that lies waiting in the mysterious labyrinth beneath the city streets.

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin
Release Date: August 12, 2014

From the moment she stepped foot in NYC, Addison Stone’s subversive street art made her someone to watch, and her violent drowning left her fans and critics craving to know more. I conducted interviews with those who knew her best—including close friends, family, teachers, mentors, art dealers, boyfriends, and critics—and retraced the tumultuous path of Addison's life. I hope I can shed new light on what really happened the night of July 28.
—Adele Griffin

: The Running Drea 

Author: Wendelin Van Draanen

Pages: 352
Publisher:Knopf Books for Young Readers 
Release Date: January 11, 2011

Series: N/A 
Ranking: 4/5 

Jessica thinks her life is over when she loses a leg in a car accident. She's not comforted by the news that she'll be able to walk with the help of a prosthetic leg. Who cares about walking when you live to run?

As she struggles to cope with crutches and a first cyborg-like prosthetic, Jessica feels oddly both in the spotlight and invisible. People who don't know what to say, act like she's not there. Which she could handle better if she weren't now keenly aware that she'd done the same thing herself to a girl with CP named Rosa. A girl who is going to tutor her through all the math she's missed. A girl who sees right into the heart of her.

With the support of family, friends, a coach, and her track teammates, Jessica may actually be able to run again. But that's not enough for her now. She doesn't just want to cross finish lines herself—she wants to take Rosa with her.

So I'm laid up with shin splints and not allowed to run for the next few weeks because of this strain on my legs. Which is killing me. Even though my problem is nowhere near that of Jessica's, the fact that she too couldn't run is what made me pick up the book for my next read (errr... download the audiobook for my next listen). The book, so deeply rooted in her passion for running and her new impairment, feels like being tossed into a totally different world, complete with it's own jargon and terminology. It's an immerse experience in realistic fiction, not exactly something that you get every day.

To be fair, the first part of the book is not easy to get through. It's hard to be inside Jessica's head, with all of the self-pity rolling around in there. But the point of a character is not to make her (or him) likeable; it to make her or him real.  Jessica feels real. I am not at all ashamed to admit that I spent parts of my daily commute alternately urging on the actions of the characters, cheering, or nearly crying (beware all drivers).

Well. Let me amend that. Jessica feels real. The rest characters simply... don't. The romantic lead is stereotypical perfect, Rosa ( the girl who suffers from CP) is the stereotypical sainted sufferer, etc. etc. It makes it a little hard to really under anyone but the lead.

I really enjoyed this book, but it does have that essential contradiction. ON one hand, the world is fully forms, thrusting us into medical terms and procedures as well as the world of running. On the other hand, the world is completely unformed because none of the characters other than Jessica are anymore than cardboard cutouts (come to think of it, even she's up for debate considering that she has the oh-so-cliched realization that people with disabilities are people too!) Worth reading? Maybe... The book hits an emotional chord, but it won't leave any depth.

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