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Starters, by Lissa Price

Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary: Callie is left to care for her brother after the Spore Wars killed off the Middles, the middle-aged members of society. The only survirors were the weak – the children and the elderly, who had been vacinated at the start of the War. Unclaimed Starters, children without living grandparents, are left to fend for themselves on the streets, or suffer in the Institutions set up to “care” for the unclaimed Starters. With laws in place to keep teens from working, Callie is left with one option to help care for her brother – signing up with Prime Destinations, and underground corporation that allows Enders to rent out the bodies of Starters. When Callie’s chip malfunctions, she realizes that her renter is looking to get more out of the arrangement than a few nights of youth. As Callie fights to maintain control and save her life, she begins to suspect that Prime Destinations isn’t what it seems. Can she stop them before it’s too late?

I first read Starters in 2013, but in preparation for the reading the sequel, Enders, I decided to reread Starters. I have to say, on my second reading, I was blown away. The first time I read it, I focused on the plot and character development – the plot remains, in my mind, a wonderful addition to the dystopian/post-apocalyptic genre. The characterization, similar to my initial assessment, is a little lacking. You can find my original review on Goodreads.

On my second read, it was Price’s writing skill that drew me in and left me wanting more. Her pacing was spot on, with little waste. The idea seems well-thought out, and her world building was believable and engaging. She sucks you in and holds you captive until the end, similar to the Ender’s hold over the donor teens.

As a writer, works like this excite me. Too often I read books with amazing worlds, but poorly developed plots, or engaging plots, but poor writing. Price has the full-package. For any writer looking for help with their pacing, Starters is a must-read.


Ii‘m a sucker for goodreads’ Reading Challenges. My to-read list has over 200 books on it. Deciding which of the 200+ books to read next is a challenge in and of itself. The reading challenges help me sort through that list and pick what I will read next.

Last year I participated in the A to Z challenge, where participants read one book for each letter of the alphabet – either the title or the author’s name (first or last) has to start with the selected letter. Surprisingly, Y gave me the most trouble, which is how I discovered Moira Young’s Dustlands series. This year I am once again doing the A to Z Challenge, but I’m also doing the 50 states challenge, inspired by Epic Read’s The United States of YA, where you read a book set in each of the 50 United States.

Planning out my year’s worth of books may seem odd. I’m pretty sure my husband was humoring me when I was explaining what I was doing all evening last night. And sometimes my reading challenge lists change if  a new book is released or I see something intriguing at the library. And my challenge lists do not encompass everything I will read for the upcoming year.

For me, planning out my reading is relaxing. It allows me to revisit books I wanted to read, but have forgotten why I wanted to read them. I can reevaluate my reading interests and find new books to get excited about. Also, as with Blood Red Road, the reading challenges help me discover new authors and books.

Struck, by Jennifer Bosworth

Rating: 3 out of 5

Summary: Mia Price is a human lightning rod, or so it seems. She cannot go out into a storm without getting struck, yet, somehow, she always manages to survive. Embarrassed by the scars that cover her body and scared that people will get hurt if they stand too close to her, Mia tries to keep to herself. Following an earthquake that devastated Los Angeles, and which some people claim was caused by lightning, Mia is finding it harder to stay in the shadows. Cult members from an evangelical church led by a man name Prophet are hunting Mia along with another group that is fighting against Prophet, known as the Seekers. And both groups keep telling Mia that the world is coming to an end and that its fate rests on her shoulders. To complicate matters, the mysterious, attractive boy Jeremy keeps urging Mia to stay away from both groups. As the End nears, Mia’s must decide – is fate written, or can it be changed.

Disclosure: I received an ARC of Struck from

All in all, this was not a bad book, but I did not think it lived up to its potential. The premise is great – a girl who controls lightning, the end of the world, and secret cults. But once I got past the premise, the book fell short for me.

The biggest problem was that I didn’t really feel invested in the characters. I didn’t care if they lived or died. I didn’t want to see the world end, so I had to side with the people trying to save it, but otherwise, I didn’t have anything to root for.

I also found the plot to be a little overcomplicated. There were a lot of unanswered questions. The logistics of the powers didn’t really make sense to me. In Ashes, some of the characters seem to acquire special powers after an EMP, but the logic behind this is explained and seems plausible enough. I would have liked to have seen some sort of explanation about how the people who got their powers were chosen. Otherwise, it just seems a bit too random.

I thought I was going to have a bigger issue with the religious aspects of the book, but I thought Bosworth handled them nicely. So often in apocalypse books the religious elements become too intense and preachy, but Bosworth did not get preachy. Rather she showed us a cult that played on people’s’ fears. I’ve seen people turn to religion after traumatic events, so this seemed like a relevant addition and I thought Bosworth handled it with grace.

As an easy beach summer read, this book would work, but if you have a stack of things you are dying to read, I would probably recommend reading them first.


Ashes, by Ilsa J. Bick

Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary: Alex is dying. She has a brain tumor that can’t be cured and she can tell that she is getting worse. Determined to die in peace, Alex takes a trip out to the woods to scatter her parents ashes and come to terms with her own mortality. And then the unthinkable happens. An EMT goes off, killing all electronics and casting the country, and, possibly, the world, into a state of chaos.

With the help of Tom, a young soldier, and Ellie, a young girl whose grandfather and only family member died in the EMT, Alex struggles to survive in this new world, where millions are dead and the survivors are mostly untrustworthy or worse, extremely deadly.

I don’t want to give away too much more about this book. I think what made it so engaging for me were all of the surprises and twists. It has been a long time since I read a book that kept me guessing and on the edge of my seat – this book did that and more. While there were a couple of things I guessed, I did not see the ending coming at all. And I’m dying to read the next book.

Great Characters

For starters, the characters all have depth. Even the minor characters were 3-dimensional. Everyone had something they were fighting for and I believed everyone’s story.

The main character, Alex, was very well done. She had layers and she grew in a very believable way. I could make sense of her decisions and understand her feelings. The same was true for Tom and, while she was a little obnoxious at first, even Ellie.

I did have a slightly harder time with a couple of the characters later in the book, mostly in Part 4, but I don’t want to say anything about them because that would ruin the suspense. I will say, though, that Part 4 got a little weird for me, but it was worth sticking it out to get to Part 5.


I’m glad I went into this book knowing very little about it. I thought it would be your typical apocalypse story, which in some ways it is, but in other ways it is not. Had I known more about it, I may not have read it. But I’m glad I did because this book does not fit neatly into any of the boxes it could be put into, genre-wise. Even if you have heard some things that make you think you don’t want to read it, you really should give it a chance. I promise you will not regret it.


I just joined a Book Blog list. Basically, anyone who reviews books and blogs about it was invited to join. Since I love reading book reviewer blogs and love blogging about books, I figured this was a good way to reach out and meet some more bloggers. I encourage everyone to visit these blogs. If you want more information, check out The Masquerade Crew.

Also, if you are a book blogger, you can add your site to the list below. If you do add your site, please also include this list on your site. There is a link below the list to add the list to your site.

Happy Reading!

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The Children of Men, by P.D. James

Rating: 3 out of 5

Summary: The year is 2021 and mankind is on the brink of extinction. The last generation has reached adulthood and despite fertility testing and years of scientific research, mankind remains infertile. Mass suicides are on the rise as the citizens of England begin to lose hope. Theodore Faron, an Oxford historian, is stuck in the past. He would rather remember his unhappy past then think about the future-less future. Until he is approached by Julian, an attractive, smart woman who wants him to help her and her group of revolutionaries, the Five Fish, convince Theo’s cousin, the Warden of England, to step down and let someone else rule the country. As Theo becomes more involved with the group, he begins to realize that his future may not be so hopeless as he discovers that the Five Fish have a secret that could mean the survival of the human race.

While this is not really a YA novel, I’ve noticed that a lot of people on GoodReads who enjoy YA dystopians have added this book to their to-read lists. Personally, I have wanted to read this book for a long time because I loved the 2006 movie adaptation. Unfortunately, very quickly into the book I realized that the movie adaptation was a very loose adaptation. About the only similarities are the main concept and the character names. Otherwise, they may as well be two completely different stories with more or less different plot lines and characters.

The Good

James’ writing is, without a doubt, beautiful. She uses interesting words in interesting ways and her use of description is quite good. The characters, for the most part, are interesting with a healthy dose of weaknesses. Theo has an interesting story and he grows throughout in ways that seem believable. Miriam and Julian were also interesting and I found myself wanting to know more about their backgrounds. I wish Luke and Rolf, the other members of the Five Fish, had been equally as developed. Xan, the Warden of England, was also well portrayed. Despite his weaknesses, I did not find him to be completely bad and, even though I knew his success would mean the failure of the hero, I was conflicted about wanting him to fail. I kept hoping that a compromise could be found. I think this shows that James successfully created her characters because you should always feel something for both the hero and the villan.

The plot, while slow at times, kept me guessing. James moved the plot in interesting ways and made good use of surprises. Even when things seemed predictable, I still found myself engaged in seeing how the predictable parts would come to pass.

Finally, the general concept is intriguing. I loved seeing how James painted a world on the brink of destruction, seeing the different responses and how different people dealt with the inevitable end and the failure of mankind to reproduce, something so innate and something that other, seemingly more inferior beings like cats, are still able to do.

The Not so Good

The book is written in third person with pages from Theo’s diary added in to provide his background. It was an interesting convention, but I was not overly fond of it. It almost seemed like an easy way to give us the background into Theo’s life. I would have preferred learning about his life throughout the flow of the novel. His diary entries bordered on boring and, were it not for the fact that I enjoyed the movie so much, I probably would not have been able to make it through this book.

The book did not really get interesting for me until about 200 pages in. The book only has about 250 pages. I’m not sure if seeing the movie, which was so very different, made me enjoy the book less than I would have otherwise or if it made me enjoy it more.

While I didn’t love the book, I am happy that I read it. P.D. James is a lovely writer and she made an interesting exploration into mankind’s nature and how we would deal with such an inevitable end.

The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater

Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary (taken from GoodReads): It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

I know I’ve been writing a lot of reviews for dystopian/apocalyptic books of late. I’ve been trying to focus more on them since that’s more in the genre I’m writing. But I recently read The Scorpio Races and I loved it so much I could not resist sharing this book with you all.

Two Person Narration

I overlooked this book for a long time because, try as I might, I have not been able to get through Stiefvater’s Shiver. I just couldn’t get into the writing style (though I’m now planning on giving it another go). One thing that Stiefvater does in her books is that she tells it from the point of view of two narrators. I’ve reviewed other books on this blog that have used this technique. Sometimes I love them (see my review of Leviathan for an example). But usually, I would prefer one narrator. In The Scorpio Races, though, I think the double narrator was essential for the plot. Sean and Puck are such dynamic characters that to have not seen inside either of their minds would have been a shame. So if you usually do not like the 2-narrator approach, please, give this one a shot. I think you may be pleasantly surprised.

When Learning is Good

I felt like I learned something from this book. Often when I read these days, I no longer feel like that, or I feel like the underlying messages are not underlying at all, but rather slapping me in the face. Stiefvater has a way of weaving a plot that makes you really think without feeling stressed and like you are being tricked into thinking. Think reading Where the Red Fern Grows for pleasure vs. in an english class. I felt like The Scorpio Races could be picked apart and presented in a literary class in a way that would make the most diehard classicist proud. But, unlike some books I read in school that shall remain nameless, I did not feel like you needed to dissect this book to get the book.

So what did this book teach me? It helped me think about the inner workings of mankind, how people are more than they seem. It also portrayed a strong message about fighting for what you believe and not giving up, no matter what. And then there was the be true to yourself message, which I think is always an important message in YA books.

Another theme of the book was learning how to know what it is you want. Some people are satisfied with who they are and what they have, but others need more. The struggle to find who you are and what you really, truly want in life can be a beautiful thing, and Stiefvater did a lovely job portraying this.

And Horses!

I cannot forget the horses. I loved that these were not the sweet cuddly horses of fairy tales. They were sinister but still had a primal beauty to them, a thing few of the characters in the book could see. So many of the characters saw them as monsters or as toys or as an adventure, and, more often than not, things ended poorly for those shortsighted characters.

A bit of Grit

OK, you know I like my gritty settings sometimes, as long as they don’t get too gritty. And I thought this book had just the right amount.

YA even Adults can get behind

Finally, I think this is a YA book that adults can read and love. It doesn’t have the sappy love triangles so many YA books have these days (which I enjoy, but I know not everyone can get behind) and the characters have depth and real problems and fight against very real, honest obstacles. So what are you waiting for? Go find yourself a copy.


I know, it’s late Friday night and there is no book review in sight. I read a book this week that I had every intention of reviewing, but once I finished it, I decided that it was so bad there was no way I could review it in good conscious. I know writers are supposed to have a thick skin and be used to negative criticism, but I don’t want to be the one throwing out the negative comments. So I decided to hold off on my review this week.

There is another extremely good book I read this week as well, but I wasn’t ready to review it yet. So stay tuned next Friday for my review of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races.

The Water Wars, by Cameron Stracher

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Summary: Vera and her brother Will live in a world where water has become the most valuable asset. Set in a future where the United States has been divided into new countries, where Canada has dammed off the flow of water from everything south of its borders, and where the ocean, mined for its water has become a toxic waste land of salt and pollutants, The Water Wars follows the story of Vera and her brother Will as they go on a wild journey to try to rescue their new friend Kai, who has mysteriously disappeared. As they encounter pirates, militant environmentalists, and corporation thugs, Vera and Will discover the power of friendship and learn that appearances can often be deceiving.

The Good

There were a lot of things I really liked about this book.


First and foremost, Vera and Will are very likable. They bickered like brother and sister, but you could also feel the love between them. I thought this relationship was very believable and enduring. There were also some great supporting characters, like the Pirate King.


This plot was packed full of action, which I enjoyed. It made me not want to put the book down because I had to know what happened next. Sometimes inner strife can keep me hooked, but usually when a book grabs me and won’t let go, it’s because of the action. While it was a little slow to get going, once Vera and Will set out to find Kai, the action pretty much keeps going and doesn’t stop until the very end.


I loved that the concept was so believable and I thought the world Stracher created was well-defined. When looking at the politics behind oil, it is easy to imagine another liquid commodity, water, being played in a similar way. While the UN would most likely step in and stop countries like Canada from building a large dam and stealing fresh water sources from the rest of North America, it is not entirely far-fetched that this could at some point happen. Especially if the U.S. becomes a disjointed place made up of several new ‘countries.’

The Cover

I know you aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, but the cover is gorgeous and very intriguing.

The not so good

You don’t get a 3.5 star rating if there aren’t elements that I didn’t love, and The Water Wars had a few.


OK, I know one of the strengths was characters, but this was also one of the weaknesses, particularly with the bad guys. I didn’t really get where they were coming from. I like a villain that is complex. I like to root for him and also despise him. I want to feel like he has some redeeming quality. After all, no one is all evil. Part of this problem could have been a result of the intended age group for the book. This definitely felt more MG than YA and I’ve noticed that often in MG books, villains are evil because they enjoy being evil, pure and simple. But I still would have liked just a bit more depth.


Again, with the good came some not so good. While I loved that the book was packed full of action, sometimes I found that the flow of the action didn’t really make much sense. Like characters suddenly knowing where things would be or events happening in a way that logically did not make much sense. Maybe it was a fault on my part, but this is something I have noticed in a lot of books. It feels almost like some of the scenes are thrown away or like things were edited out but then when editing the next scene, someone forgot that things had been removed from the previous scene. This may or may not have been the case, but that is how parts of the book felt to me when I was reading it.


I know you are probably scratching your heads. What could be wrong with environmentalism in a book for kids, right? And normally, I would say nothing. I support the earth and I’m all for making people of all ages aware of our precious resources. But when I am reading a book, I like to stumble upon the underlying themes in a more subtle way. I do not like it when they are repeatedly banged over my head. I started to feel like the environmental themes were getting a bit preachy by the end and I felt, instead of helping the message, that it hurt it a bit. The rest of the world may not be like me, but when I feel like I’m being preached to, my first inclination is to do the opposite. I worry that the preachy nature of the “underlying” theme may turn some people off of the message. And if you notice, I put underlying in quotes because it was not so underlying as one might expect.

Concluding Thoughts

All in all, this was a fun read with an interesting plot and, despite the not so good elements, I think it is definitely worth reading. It is totally appropriate for the Middle Grade reader while also being fun for the Young Adult reader.

The Eleventh Plague, by Jeff Hirsch

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Summary: 20 years ago, the world Collapsed as a result of biological warfare. Now, the survivors are forced to survive however they can. Some have turned to human trafficking. Some are scavengers, who hunt ruins for useful things left over from the past. And still others are struggling to hold on to the world as it once was.

Stephen Quinn, a fifteen-year-old, has been handed a scavenger’s life and travels the trail with his father and grandfather until his grandfather passes away and his father is terribly injured. Now Stephen must turn to Settler’s Landing, a group that is trying to rebuild the world as it once was. But will Stephen’s friendship with Jenny Tan, the town outcast, force him to leave this tranquil life? Will he even want to stay?

This book did not read like a lot of the dystopian or even other YA books coming out at the moment. Instead, it reminded me of something more timeless, more like the YA books that were coming out before YA books were even a thing. I could see this book being taught in school, and I mean that in the best way. Especially following on the heels of a recent NYT op-ed that argued that YA books have no real substance and are not worth the time of anyone with an adult’s intellect, which I would argue is not the case with this book. But that is a discussion for another day.

Reality in a Fiction = Good character building

I liked that this book felt real. People acted in ways I expected them to act, with honest emotions, the right mix of flaws, and we were able to see a wide variety in the types of people who existed in the world Hirsch created. I also liked that this book had a love story, but it was not sappy. There was a romantic interest, but it felt more real, more authentically teenager than you see in other books. I also really enjoyed the underlying morals, something I feel I don’t often see in books anymore.

Standing up for what you believe

One of the big underlying themes of this book was standing up for your beliefs and doing what you can to make sure the right thing happens. Pretty much every character is forced to make a decision at one point or another about doing what is right or doing what is easy. It was interesting watching which decisions the characters would make and also seeing how doing something that seems harmless can quickly spiral out of control.

Finally, a male protagonist!

This is a book that I think males can enjoy. There was not as much action as I may have liked, but it was refreshing to see a male protagonist and to watch how males interact with their world. So many of the YA books out there have a female protagonist and the male supporting characters are single dimensional and make weird decisions. Stephen felt real in his reactions and it was refreshing to read a book from the male perspective.

If you enjoyed The Cay or Ashfall, I think you will also enjoy this book. While different from what I normally read, it was definitely a winner.