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Apr 17 2014

Nil by Lynne Matson

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NilNovel: Nil by Lynne Matson | Goodreads
Release Date: March 4th, 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt
Format: ARC
Source: Borrowed from another blogger

On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have one year. Exactly 365 days–to escape, or you die.

Seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules. She doesn’t even know where she is. The last thing she remembers is blacking out, and when she wakes up, she’s lying naked in an empty rock field.

Lost and alone, Charley finds no sign of other people until she meets Thad, the gorgeous leader of a clan of teenage refugees. Soon Charley learns that leaving the island is harder than she thought . . . and so is falling in love. With Thad’s time running out, Charley realizes that to save their future, Charley must first save him. And on an island rife with dangers, their greatest threat is time.

I’m not going to lie. I had high expectations for this book, but if anything, I guess I should finally learn to not carry such high expectations. It wasn’t a bad book, per say, but a lot of it just didn’t work for me and for various reasons.

Firstly, I have to talk about the romance. I understand that time is short and precious, but I was never convinced of their supposed love. There were so many times where I felt like Thad didn’t truly respect and understand the fact that yes, of course Charley needs some help, but she’s also a big girl that can figure out how to survive on her own. Their dependency on one another just rattled me in so many ways because I understand their desperation and their need to hold on to one another, but it just felt like there was no connection between them other than that they’re both attractive and sort of get to know one another. And no, knowing about one another’s previous relationships doesn’t count as knowing a lot about them. The thing is, I never saw how their lives outside of Nil came into play (for the most part). None of their past struggles, other than Thad’s problems with his dad (which were barely mentioned) and Charley’s problems with her ex/the kids at school. I just think that there should be more to them as characters than is portrayed. Yes, maybe it’s not as important, but to form the type of relationship and dependency they had, yeah, I needed more.

And not feeling the romance messed up many other portions of the book for me. The pacing was very inconsistent. While I understand the need to have more of the beginning explained so that the reader, and Charley, could be acquainted with the island, it felt as if the beginning and middle dragged on while the end went by extremely quickly. Additionally, while there certainly were other themes and plots, I felt as if everything was just so centered around the relationship between Thad and Charley that it overshadowed everything else, including the need to survive.

Going on from there, I felt as if some of it was too easy. Yeah, I get that it’s hard for them to get by, but I didn’t see much of that. They always seemed to have some type of food and drink, whether they complained about it or not. I mean, come on, there has to be some point where you run out of food or go hungry, right? Then, there’s the fact that for the most part, save for the major deaths later on, it wasn’t completely hard to survive. They had knives from past islanders (but how does one make a metal knife on an island), they all miraculously had impressive skills that would help them survive (sorry but they’re teenagers; most of them should probably be more pre-occupied with school than learning some of those skills, but maybe that’s just me). They could go surfing, play volleyball, run, etc. It just…didn’t sit right with me oftentimes.

Speaking of major deaths, I sometimes felt as if the deaths were just plot devices. Yes, the deaths had an impact, but on such an island, shouldn’t more people have died of other things–perhaps sanitary issues or maybe someone gets sick or maybe even someone has a heat stroke (not necessarily death-inducing).

Lastly, the ending was just so…aggravating to me, and for so many reasons. I don’t want to include spoilers, so I can’t really go into detail over it, but part of the end felt like a cop-out, and the other part just felt…weird. Unrealistic.

But there were aspects that made the book bearable and kept me from completely hating it. Firstly, there’s a diverse cast of characters. Yes, I would have liked to see how differing cultures and life experiences shaped each and changed the way they interacted with one another, but it’s a start. Additionally, I felt like despite the diversity, the ones that were in the main focus weren’t as diverse. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but I would have liked to see some more. Additionally, okay, I guess this isn’t a positive, but I would have liked to see people with disabilities or illnesses or other things. I would have liked to see what life was like for someone who isn’t in shape. I wanted to see what life was like for someone that had asthma or allergies to something on the island. We get the sense that Nil doesn’t discriminate, and yes, we have a large, diverse cast in terms of race, but what about other forms of diversity. And I know there’s only so much an author can include without overwhelming the reader, but even one character would have been nice to see. But overall, I liked that there was racial diversity in the novel, and it was all the better for having a diverse cast.

Moving on, I also liked the “mystery” surrounding Charley’s finding out about the Man/Woman in the Maze. That mystery was honestly what ultimately kept me reading towards the end. Charley would figure out a piece of the puzzle, only to find that they were missing something else. I certainly could have never figured out the truth/map, and I believe that this plot arc was extremely well written and integrated. It kept the story interesting when it was starting to get dull.

Overall, I know it makes it sound as if this book was so far from being enjoyable, but there was still an element that I liked about it. I think the premise remains an excellent one, and I’m actually really content with not completely knowing how Nil. I don’t think it needs to be explained. Nil is about more than the island itself, and I think that in the end, Lynne Matson portrayed that well, even if not in a way I would have preferred it. Matson’s dedication to creating a diverse cast was done as best as she could without having been overwhelming. Certain mysteries were integrated at just the right time to create just the right amount of suspense and tension. Though the pacing, romance, focus, and some of the plot and character arcs bothered me, overall, it wasn’t a terrible read.

Apr 16 2014

Waiting on Wednesday {35}

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Waiting On Wednesday is originally hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, but we just love this meme so much we had to tag along! Each Wednesday, one of the Lit Up Review writers will post a book she is looking forward to, along with the summary and cover. You can find all of these posts by clicking on the category button and selecting “Waiting on Wednesday,” and fill up your Goodreads shelves with great books to get excited about!

9943276Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin, #3) by Robin LaFevers | Goodreads
Release Date: November 4th, 2014
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.

She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn’t mean she has.

This series is one of my absolute favorites ever and Annith has always been a character whose story has both fascinated and eluded me. You never get to know that much about her after you leave the convent in Grave Mercy, and so I’m very excited to read about Annith’s story. I grabbed a copy at TT4L last week and CAN’T WAIT to read this book.

Apr 13 2014

The Weekly Blaze {33}: April 7-13

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This week was a bit slower, but we finished off well! Sorry about missing a Ten Illuminations… We’re all been crazy busy. And please stick with us through the end of the school year – it’s going to be insane!

Monday, April 7th: Jessica’s Review of The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski“This thought-provoking novel blew me away, and I was in the middle before I knew I had begun.”

Friday, April 11th: Emily’s Review of Tease by Amanda Maciel: “Its effortless morals will spark discussion and compel readers to consider their actions toward their peers, making Tease a powerful story no matter how individual readers look at it.”

Saturday, April 12th: Willa’s Reviews of The Darkest Minds and Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken: “Go out and get these – but get both because this a back to back read situation – and cry a lot. There’s some emotional moments.”

Have a great week, and don’t forget to read this month’s Spotlight Book Club Book, A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sarah Biggs Waller!

Apr 12 2014

The Darkest Minds + Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

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I decide to cram these together because I read them fairly close together… and why not?
10576365Novel: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
Release Date: December 18th, 2012
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Format: Hardcover
Source: Local Library

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her-East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.

When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.

Aneeqah, one of my closest blogger friends has been demanding I read this for FOREVER and when I finally did I understood why. This book is better than The Hunger Games by a landslide (not even kidding guys). The same children-being-massively-mistreated-but-still-kickbutt theme is there, but Ruby is a much different heroine. Ruby has this fire inside her but also a hesitancy which I think is great mixture. She is thrust into a position of semi-leadership, but she’s also a follower, which seems to be rare in a lot of female narrated dystopian novels. Ruby’s friends (Liam, Chubs, and Zu) form possibly my favorite squad in YA dystopia. Liam (dreamy), Chubs (I laughed so hard at his lines), and Zu (too adorable for words) make Ruby stronger and her them.

This book is an absolutely incredible start to a series. The subject is unique, engaging, and Bracken is a fantastic writer. Highly recommend!


Novel: Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken
Release Date: October 15th, 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Format: Hardback
Source: Local Library

Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader”, but she knows what she really is: a monster.

When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her.

As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam—and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart—she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?

That ending to book one though! *dies from being stabbed in the heart* But Bracken did a great job of piecing together Ruby’s current life and weaving in elements from the old one (and some old character back in *wink wink*) and working through Ruby’s emotional trauma. The Children’s League though. *shudders* Anyways, this book takes the feels from Book One, heightens them, and proceeds to smash your heart to pieces again, this time with an even more amazing climatic scene and some nail biting moments. Also, some awesome romance thrown in. I do not know how I will survive until #3. I need some ice cream for the emotions because these books.

Go out and get these – but get both because this a back to back read situation – and cry a lot. There’s some emotional moments.

Apr 11 2014

Tease by Amanda Maciel

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Novel: Tease by Amanda Maciel | Goodreads
Release Date: April 29, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Format: ARC
Source: PLA

Emma Putnam is dead, and it’s all Sara Wharton’s fault.

At least, that’s what everyone seems to think. Sara, along with her best friend and three other classmates, has been criminally charged for the bullying and harassment that led to Emma’s shocking suicide. Now Sara is the one who’s ostracized, already guilty according to her peers, the community, and the media.

During the summer before her senior year, in between meetings with lawyers and a court-recommended therapist, Sara is forced to reflect on the events that brought her to this moment—and ultimately consider her role in an undeniable tragedy. And she’ll have to find a way to move forward, even when it feels like her own life is over.

In this powerful debut novel inspired by real-life events, Amanda Maciel weaves a narrative of high school life as complex and heartbreaking as it is familiar: a story of everyday jealousies and resentments, misunderstandings and desires. Tease is a thought-provoking must-read that will haunt readers long after the last page.

Tease is one of the most difficult books I have ever had to review because I can tell it will be one of the most polarizing YA releases of the year. I loved it for its villainous protagonist, but for the same reason, many people will hate—and have hated—this novel. The reader’s take on Sara can make or break the book.

For most of the story, Sara is a terrible person, or at least a spineless person who easily allows her friends to pressure her into doing terrible things. She has zero self-confidence or self-respect, a truth she proves by jumping to call Emma a slut when she as much as speaks to Sara’s boyfriend. She does not mastermind any wild schemes to torment Emma—her best friend Brielle does that—but she goes along with them, worried about staying in Brielle’s favor. She shows little to no remorse for her actions toward Emma because she is too busy whining about how Emma’s death affects her. She does make some changes to her outlook, but not until the last few chapters. To top it all off, Maciel tells the story exclusively from Sara’s point of view, so readers never get a break from her exhausting voice.

After realizing what kind of person Sara is, readers can react in one of two ways. For some, the protagonist’s narrative will prove to be too much to take. They may think Tease contains too much bullying, selfishness, and slut-shaming and not enough explicit statements to indicate Sara’s actions are wrong. These readers may feel like this book advocates for the bullies and could make a good case that it does.

Others, however, will love the way Maciel subtly criticizes—but does not condemn—Sara, letting the character come to terms with her feelings at a slow, realistic pace. Members of this group will appreciate that the author never sounds preachy because she lets her characters and readers uncover her story’s morals for themselves. These readers will be able to tell for themselves that Sara and her friends should not have treated Emma the way they did, so they will love the way Maciel focuses on developing a challenging character rather than awkwardly injecting messages. As someone who loves getting into the head of antagonists and discovering why they are the protagonists in their versions of the world, I fall into the latter group of people.

No matter which side a reader associates with, he or she should remember that a character’s beliefs and actions do not necessarily mirror the author’s or represent the values the story is promoting. Yes, the characters in Tease participate in bullying and slut-shaming. No, Maciel does not condone these actions. Instead, she uses her ignorant protagonist to show that bullying is not acceptable and renew readers’ determination to be less like Sara. I would not recommend this novel to anyone who could not deal with its painful subject matter, but I would push it upon anyone willing to look past an unconventional main character to find a thought-provoking story. Its effortless morals will spark discussion and compel readers to consider their actions toward their peers, making Tease a powerful story no matter how individual readers look at it.



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