The Death Cure by James Dashner

Release Date: October 11, 2011
Publisher: Delacourte Press
Format: ARC
Source: Emilys Reading Room
Parental Warnings: violence
*may contain spoilers if you have not read the previous two books in the series*

The-Death-Cure-by-James-Dashner-is-the-final

Thomas knows that Wicked cant be trusted, but they say the time for lies is over, that theyve collected all they can from the Trials and now must rely on the Gladers, with full memories restored, to help them with their ultimate mission. Its up to the Gladers to complete the blueprint for the cure to the Flare with a final voluntary test. 

What Wicked doesnt know is that somethings happened that no Trial or Variable could have foreseen. Thomas has remembered far more than they think. And he knows that he cant believe a word of what Wicked says.

The time for lies is over. But the truth is more dangerous than Thomas could ever imagine.

Will anyone survive the Death Cure?

This is the third installment in the Maze Runner trilogy. If youre a fan of the Gone books or the Hunger Games, you will love this. Any dystopian fan, fan of high-action scifi, adventure, or action, will seriously worship this book. I read James Dashners other book series, the 13th Reality books before this and I was a huge fan of them. Theyre on my favorites list. Ill review those another time. Anyways, I was anxious to read this one because he always leaves us with a huge cliffhanger and I know that Im in good hands when Im looking for a great book to read.

Thomas has been separated from the Gladers for days. Scenes from the Scorch keep echoing through his mind and he can hardly keep time anymore. Its like WICKED wants to keep him disoriented. He exercises by running in place. Soon after hitting his twentieth day in solitude, the door opens.

WICKED has told Thomas that he is not infected with the cure. In fact, there are a select group of people who are naturally immune to the Flare, and generally disliked by the population. A few Gladers however, do have the cure. When a list is read of those select peoples names, the group starts fraying. WICKED said that there would be no more tests.

They lied. They claim that they have decided to give back the Gladers their full memories. Curiosity about their parents, backgrounds, and friends weighs on them. But what if WICKED implants false memories? What if their pasts are too painful to remember? WICKED needs the Gladers for one last test. They need a blueprint for the cure, a last stretch for the Gladers to commit to.

This novel brings up the endless question do the ends justify the means? Will the discovery of the cure justify the vicious deaths of all the Gladers killed in the Maze and Scorch? Thomas knows that he used to believe WICKED, but the memories resurfacing prove that he cant believe a word that they say.

Thomas is a very strong character. His cleverness and intelligence makes me like him. Brainy and brawny. He is loyal and just a nice guy in general. He was worried about his past because he was one of the creators of the Maze and he knew that that was a piece of darkness in his past that he wouldnt be able to get rid of. Hes changed though; he knows whats right and whats wrong, and hes not just another brainwashed person under the influence of WICKED.

I love the characters. All of them really have some importance. If you think that one character is going to be unimportant, in the next chapter, he or she introduces an intense plot twist! Its ridiculous although I kind of love it because it gives all of them the spotlight.

Minho is a special favorite of mine but he is very confrontational with people that he doesnt like or agree with. Sometimes he just uses his fists instead of his head. I dont know why hes my favorite, but hes loyal to Thomas and willing to do whatever it takes to make things right, even if hismethodsarent the best ways of getting things done.

Newt was also a favorite of mine because he was the rock. He kept everybody calm and always had his head in things. He seemed to be a natural born leader and very smart when making decisions.

My only problem with the characters in this novel was that I would have liked to see more about the girl Gladers. After The Scorch Trials, they arent mentioned, and that made me feel kind of offended. Theyre sacrificing just as much as the rest of them, and yet the focus still lay on the boys. It wasnt a huge factor, but it still irritated me how Dashner just didnt mention them throughout the book.

This book was incredibly fast past. It was thick enough to be satisfying while still a very fast read. This last book felt like a very quick read, but part of that may have been because there was so much going on.

Im in awe of James Dashner. I can honestly say that I would kill for his writing ability. He has a sixth sense for how to twist his plotlines together. He has the suspense-bit down to a science. Hes so completely unexpected, and everything that happens makes you freak out.

This book devastated me in a good way. The problem with third books is that although I really want to read them, I DONT WANT TO LET THE CHARACTERS GO! Or the world that the author has created. If I ever end up becoming a published author, I dont know if Id be able to end my books! This book made me cry, many many times.

I loved this series so much that for it to end makes me want to throw the books against the wall and scream in frustration. I actually think that this series is so much better than The Hunger Games and seeing as I hated Mockingjay, the ending to this one was so much better. Im not going to make a comparison between the two though because each book deserves to be thought of as themselves.

Teresa bugged me so much in the previous books. She was more of an enigma because although she was connected to Thomas, she was the one who was really the catalyst for the Maze and all that. She also slightly deluded herself into thinking that WICKED was good and it almost seemed like she hated Thomas sometimes. After the events of the previous book, I just didnt trust her. Her changing so much made me not believe what she said and throughout the entire book I was wondering what was right and wrong when it came to her. Id say that James Dashner did an excellent job of character building with them. I was blown away by Teresa. She seemed both fragile and poisonous to Thomas, and that was one of her most engaging qualities.

The first half of this book was more figuring out what was going on and making guesses about what would happen to the world. The constant debate of whether WICKED was actually trying to help or not was one of the main plot points, as well as who was and wasnt immune to the Flare. Relationships were tested, barriers were crossed, and the world was falling apart.

The second half of the book was more of executing a plan to save everybody and try to save the world. There was intensity and suspense and heartbreak, all the things that you expect in a final dystopian book. By the time the ending rolled around, I understood what had to happen and watched it unfold. Everything was pulled together so well and tightly that I have to give James Dashner some applause for his method of making people happy while still staying true to the story and what had to happen.

Ive recommended this book to so many guys in my grade, its ridiculous. Some of the girls in my grade love this series to, because it is a crowd-pleaser. This book has caused so many people to want to read and I love that. James Dashner has created a hit and its persuaded many teens to actually pick up the books! Even Elizabeth Banks (Effie in the Hunger Games movie out in 2012) decided to accept the role because she loved The Maze Runner. Not only is that awesome, but it shows the far reach that the series has.

This book blew me away.

Recommended for anybody who likes: The Hunger Games; Gone; The 13th Reality; etc,.

Possible book club questions:

What do you think WICKED was like? Do you believe that they had good intentions?
WICKEDs name leads us to believe that it is bad, but the phrase brought up that WICKED is good is an oxymoron. Why do you think James Dashner meant for it to be this way?
Do you believe that the ends justify the means? Use examples from the story to back up your answer.
Do you believe that people can change? How might losing ones memory cause Thomas to change completely?
Imagine that you were a Glader. Would you have wanted your memory back? Why or why not?

etc,.

Iklan

Savor by Megan Duncan

Publisher: Self-Published
Format: Paperback
Source: Author

Savor by Megan Duncan

When Claire Miller turned eighteen all she wanted to do was celebrate her birthday, but after a night on the town with her best friend she awakes to a visitor she never expected.  The rulers of her region, a vampire royal family, have chosen her to be turned as their new heir and vampire princess.  In a world fueled by the power of blood, Claire quickly discovers the vampire royal family is not what they seem and that she has secrets in her past, she never knew existed.
Claire Miller is expected to do a few things on her eighteenth birthday: get her ID, donate blood to the vampires, and party all night. Shes planning on hitting the clubs with her best friend, but the next day, she realizes that she has somehow stood out among the sea of humans. A visitor has come to see her, a representative from the royal family of vampires.
Claires blood is the perfect type for the vampire royal family, and the visitor wants her to come back with him to live with the royal family, and to maybe become one of them. They have chosen her to be their heir. She is immediately introduced to the family, cleaned up, and quickly figures out who loves her and hates her.
Claire finds herself sucked into a place of blood, royalty, and politics almost immediately. Navigating through friendships and the romances that present themselves to her turns out to be trickier than she expected. Also, why did they choose her in the first place? What makes her so special to them, other than her blood? Could there be secrets buried among the family that she never knew existed?
Megan Duncan was actually the first author who ever contacted me, and the first person to ever ask me to review for her. I was really excited to review Released, but when she announced Savor, this book seemed even more up my alley. Megan Duncan seems to have hit the vampire trend at one of the perfect times, just when things are winding down but enough where people will still be interested.
With so many vampire books in the market, it seemed difficult for her to have hit anything new, but I liked how she pulled it off. The world that Claire lives in is one similar to House of Night or Morganville Vampires. I really love the idea of people knowing that vampires exist, and not the tried-and-true routine of having  it be a smothering secret. In House of Night, its a scientific and spiritual condition that everybody studies about and humans dread. In Morganville Vampires, the town has an almost unspoken agreement with the vampires, and its part of their history.
In this world, humans over the age of eighteen are expected to report to donate blood to the vampires at intervals. Its almost like taxes, so that the vampires dont get hungry. This contributed to the idea that the vampires were good. There were no strange animal-like attacks, and no reasons for the humans to hate them. They were accepted, and that was a rare thing in this trend.
There was a slower world-building aspect of it towards the beginning, but it builds in intensity as the story goes on. Because it is rather slow at the beginning, the middle and end is fast and addictive to read!
I liked Claire. She seemed like somebody that I would be friends with. At first, I thought that she wouldnt be memorable. After a while, heroines seem to all sound the same. She didnt have an extreme identifying quality, but I dont think that she would blend into the background of this type of book. She was solid, and quieter at first, but she still had fun and you could identify with her voice. She wasnt that average Im-just-like-you character that always seems to pop up in book, but she was like enough to us that you felt like you were reading some of your thoughts in her own.
My favorite character was definitely Robin though. She was energetic and friendly and she was definitely unique. She was playful and she definitely took away some of the foucs. I just wanted to hear about her!
While this book is mainly classified as a romance, I didnt really see that much of it. Sure, there was romance, but it wasnt the main focus of the story. I felt that this book was mostly world-building and intrigue about the politics of it all.
Dmitry was likable as well, but I also wish that she would have chosen a different name for him. I get that thats a random thing to say, but there are way too many Dmitrys in YA! I mean, most of them are spelled differently, but theres even one in Vampire Academy. He was quieter and entertaining to read about. He was one of the better characters in the books too, but he didnt come into the story until later in the book, when we are introduced to the vampires of course.
Arrick was intense to say the least. He brought up so many emotions, deep-seated and at the surface. I felt that he was rather quick to say things, and I personally wouldnt have been attracted to him, but he worked for Claire. His character was pretty focused and narrow minded, but he was also really passionate about the things that he did speak about. Usually its the quiet character who is emotional and overwhelming, but Arrick was just extremely potent as a character! Megan poured heart and soul into him.
I may have already mentioned this, but I need to pound this into the review: vampires were accepted! I loved this fact! While a lot of the world and general plotline was similar to some vampire lore already inflicted in the market, I cant remember reading one where being a vampire was considered a good thing! Humans werent overly worshipful or like slaves to them. Vampires were put on a pedestal, without being considered above everybody else. They were on a different plane of being, but they were also like equals. I know that that doesnt make much sense, being equals but being worshipped, but its kind of hard to explain the pure liking that humans had towards them.
I hated Claires mother! Her mother was the most detestable, most obnoxious human being. She really forced her daughter to do everything and was completely blind to Claires desires. I wanted to strangle her at the beginning of the book. I know that a character is written well when I actually feel like screaming at that character. I felt a deep seated loathing for her. What was wrong with that woman?
This story was so well written. If Released was good, Savor was absolutely fantastic! Megan has this way of making you think one way and then pulling the story in a complete other direction as if you had been going that way all along. I really love her style of writing for doing that because its such a refreshing way of reading. Its intense and yanks you in different directions, and that can be jerky sometimes, but she pulls it all together at the end and you want to laugh at yourself for not realizing what she had been doing the entire time. She drops hints without being obvious, and then refocuses your attention at the end of those books and makes the little things huge!
The endingah the ending! She killed me with it! Holy mother of cliffhangers, I need the second book. I thought that Released had a crazy beat-my-head-against-the-wall ending but Savor killed it. I dont know how she does it!
I loved this book so much, its ridiculous. I must have read it so quickly. I remember looking at the clock, reading, and then looking up when I finished it to see that it was a few hours later. It sucks you in (literally, haha!) and it is definitely recommended, which is a good thing, because I have a giveaway for yall! There will be three winners.
First prize: SIGNED paperback copy
Second prize: ebook copy
Third prize: swag!
Comment to enter. You must be 13+ years old and have a valid way for me to reach you to enter. Thanks for entering! Giveaway ends on 11:59 PM on October 31, 2011.

Top Ten Books I Read Based on Their Covers

Hey yall!
Its Grace. Sorry Ive been kind of inconsistent with my blog lately. School has been crazy! Our eighth-grade musical (Thoroughly Modern Millie) has been in the works for our performances on Thursday and Friday night, dance, volleyball, and the end of the quarter has cut down on my blogging time. However, soon everything will be over except for dance and I can blog almost every night of the week! HURRAH!

Anyways, Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This weeks theme is Top Ten Books I Read Based on Their Covers. Because although the popular quote is to not judge a book by its cover, everybody does anyways. Lets give a hand for the beautiful art departments at all the publishing companies! Now, a particular favorite of mine is Harper Teen, but I love all the others too. My favorite cover of all time though, would have to be Fallen by Lauren Kate.

Fallen by Lauren Kate

1. Fallen by Lauren Kate

Im in love. I think I might have died when I saw this cover. LOOK AT IT! And you simply must see it in the hardcover version. Unfortunately, I let a friend borrow my copy and she dropped it in a puddle and the cover (and most of the book) was completely ruined! Ive been on the hunt for a new hardcover copy, but Im broke. I am determined to get one soon though.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

2. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

This is one cover that doesnt get too much of a spotlight in the YA genre. I dont know why; I think its gorgeous. I love the comparison between the painting and the girl with the eyeliner, and the contrast is just stunning. Also, when you see the actual book, you will love the ruffled paper and ribbon finish. I just love it.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

3. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

This girls eyes just bore into me every time. Theyre so beautifully green! She looks almost like she wants to tell you something, and the title intrigued me. Overall, this cover just sucks you in. Once you start reading the book itself though, you wont be able to let it go.

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

4. Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

I actually saw this one at the bookstore, but then my sister blocked the way for me reaching for it and refused to let me buy it until she finally just had to tell me that she was getting it for me for Christmas last year. I loved her for it, but I wanted it so badly then! Guess what present I opened first on Christmas morning?

Hourglass by Myra McEntire

5. Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Okay, confession time: I havent actually read this book yet BUT its on its way to me now. I did want it because of the cover and I was lucky enough to win it in a contest, which is WHY I havent read it before now. Although I was extremely tempted to buy another copy just because I WANT TO READ IT NOW!! :)

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink

6. Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink

Not only are there twins on the cover, but both of their eyes are so piercing. This entire cover just radiates a Gothic, creepy, romantic feel almost that hooked me and made me buy it!

Halo by Alexandra Adornetto

7. Halo by Alexandra Adornetto

Im in love with this cover as well. If this cover was a boy, Id marry it. It gives a lighter, also romantic, while still intense feel. I really do like how her wings blend in with her hair and the couple is outlined by the Sun. It really does emphasize the angelic part of it, and makes it so great to read. The cover is magnificent.

Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs

8. Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs

I love the makeup for this. Its beautiful and once I actually tried to duplicate the results on a friend. We ended up with kelly green eyes and bright blue lips, and we pretended we were mermaids. What can I say? I live in Florida. Of course I wish I were a mermaid! Actually, Im still praying that I am.

Entwined by Heather Dixon

9. Entwined by Heather Dixon

I have read this book. First of all, this is the type of book that I am talking about when I say that itd be so much fun to model for book covers. Im obsessed with this beautiful dress and when you get the finished copy, there is some really shiny embossing on the cover that makes it stand out. It is the perfect cover for this book and even if I werent already enraptured with the plot, I would definitely take a chance on this book if it were just sitting on the shelf. Actually, Im even writing a review for this right now!

Need by Carrie Jones

10. Need by Carrie Jones

Not only is this book amazing, but the cover is too! Its incredibly simple, but it makes your heart stop for a second. I just love her gold lips. Plus, it completely conveys the wintery, lyrical, creepy feel of the book.

Thanks for reading!
Grace 

Ugly to Start With by John Michael Cummings

Release Date: October 1, 2011
Publisher: Vandalia Press
Source: Author
Format: eARC

Ugly to Start With by John Michael Cummings

Jason Stevens is growing up in picturesque, historic Harpers Ferry, West Virginia in the 1970s. Back when the roads are smaller, the cars slower, the people more colorful, and Washington, D.C. is way across the mountains—a winding sixty-five miles away.

Jason dreams of going to art school in the city, but he must first survive his teenage years. He witnesses a street artist from Italy charm his mother from the backseat of the family car. He stands up to an abusive husband—and then feels sorry for the jerk. He puts up with his father’s hard-skulled backwoods ways, his grandfather’s showy younger wife, and the fist-throwing schoolmates and eccentric mountain characters that make up Harpers Ferry—all topped off by a basement art project with a girl from the poor side of town.

Ugly to Start With punctuates the exuberant highs, bewildering midpoints, and painful lows of growing up, and affirms that adolescent dreams and desires are often fulfilled in surprising ways.

(Synopsis from YA Infatuation)
Before I read this, I read up on the author. Something that I realized and that played into the book was that he actually writes short stories. This book was composed of short stories in the chapters. If youve read Eleven by Lauren Myracle, flash back to the format that was used.
I actually think that this works amazingly well for contemporary-type books like this, with stories of finding yourself and of the protagonist on a journey of self-discovery. :) Because everything in everybodys lives does not revolve around one central plot. Life is made up of a ton of tiny stories. John Michael Cummings does an excellent job with the formatting.
Jason wants to go to art school. He dreams of being an artist, and desires it more than anything. However, before he can start pursuing his dream of being an artist, he has to survive regular life first.
Not only is his life filled with the turmoil and chaos of being a teenager love, loss, change, school, friends, etc,. but he deals with things that are more out of the ordinary as well. He stands up to an abusive husband, watches the charming of his mother by an artist named Ernesto, and works with a girl from the other side of the tracks.
This is the story of Jasons life, and surviving his teenage years, portrayed in a laughable, tearjerking, lovely story of Jason trying to find his path in the world.
Jason was the best part of the book by far. If I had to name a part of the book that really stood out from the rest, it would have to be the well rounded and developed characters. He was the best type of protagonist and gave the story his own unique charm.
He thinks deeply, while also portraying a light-heartedness found in most teenagers. It was a nice balance that really showed the depth of his character and made this book very enjoyable to me.
Being a teenager myself, I really did feel like I knew Jason. He constantly struggled with self-doubt, got pushed around by his parents and the people around him, and he was passionate. For most people, they dont think that a young teenager can be very passionate about something, and thats something that Ive struggled with. People dont usually look at us like equals until were older.
I did like the quirky personalities of his family. His father was very backwoods, and it was funny to hear about. His mother was easily charmed and she was an interesting character. I really liked the rest of the supporting characters and they shaped the world that Jason was in.
The writing was fantastic. The author has written a lot before this and it really shows. Theres an aura ofprofessionalism and cleanliness that really made it a pleasure to read. It was well-organized and clear, which is what I need sometimes. Im all for writing without outlining and not really organizing, but John Michael Cummings did it so well!
I really liked the setting of the book. The 1970s was the perfect time period to shape this book in, and gave it a vintage air almost that really went along with Jasons character. It was simpler, and nice to read about. Also, this doesnt really have much to do with the book, but were studying Harpers Ferry in Social Studies as a prelude to the Civil War so I was able to convince myself that I was studying by reading this. I wasnt really, but the mention of it kept me reading, ha.
This is a quicker read, not too light or heavy. With Jasons changing temperament and surroundings, were plunged into an engaging story about a boy finding his way in the world. The experiences that we got to visit with Jason were just wonderful to read. I both laughed and cried in this book because of the honest simplicity and poignancy of it. This is definitely a read that will have shaped my reading tastes.
Theres not really that much that I can say to describe this book other than that. There were a few key points that I really loved and that Ive pointed out, but the overwhelming potency of these points makes the book. There were a few great points, but you really need to understand HOW great these points were to the book.
If youre looking for a great read, please pick this one up. It might be one of those books that not enough people hear about, but when you read it, you will truly enjoy it.
Book club questions and recommendations to come later.

Silver Linings: Introduction to Audiobooks

Silver Linings Notebook Girls

Hey readers, Cara mendaftar Asiapoker99

Its been a while since Ive done a Silver Linings. School has made me feel like Ive been behind on reviews. I actually also really need to update my pages and review archive as well. Today Im talking about audiobooks. Audiobooks are new for me. When I was younger, I remember vividly in kindergarten listening to books while sitting in a beanie bag with huge, leather headphones strapped to my head. Its a strange memory, but its comforting.

Audiobooks are an indulgence that Id never thought that Id try. I dont know how I even started thinking of them again. What I didnt think that Id like about them was that Im a really fast reader. I thought that the slow pace of the reader would frustrate me.

Okay, its confession time. When I was younger, I was up in arms about how my mother wouldnt let me read the Twilight series. This must have been when I was about nine or ten. I would hustle my friends in secret to let me borrow the books from their older sisters. I read New Moon that way.

When I was finished with New Moon, I used my library card to listen to the audiobook of Eclipse online. I would irritate my twin sister Hannah to no end because, in her room, was the only spot of wi-fi. Every night for a month or so, I was camped out underneath my sisters bed, listening to it on my iPod touch and shivering from the air conditioner vent right by my head.

I really liked the narrator, but I could read faster, so I just read conventional books.

Anyways, so sometime in the past few months, I have had the craving for audiobooks.

One of the reasons for this was my excessive amount of homework since August (hint, hint to teachers who might be reading this post!). I couldnt stand having to give up my book for a few hours while I slaved away at my worksheets and textbook exercises. The only homework that I could actually bear was the homework that I could do during class.

One of the other reasons for this was because I am a fan of baths. Bubble baths, to be exact. Theres no better way to unwind after dance class when Im sore and exhausted, or when I have a sleepy day where I want to just read and relax. Anyways, so I was sick of hauling my iHome in there to listen to the radio and I was always terrified that Id drop my book in the water. So audiobooks seemed like the perfect solution.

Honestly, I completely forgot what the other reason was, so just know that audiobooks were on my mind for lots of them.

I was searching online for audiobooks, but I couldnt find any good cheap ones. First of all, I didnt know who I should pick for a narrator. I also didnt know which books that I would prefer to have in print format. When I have a book in one format, I like to keep the rest of the series in that same format. Of course, I make exceptions for longer series such as Vampire Academy and the House of Night books, but other than that its pretty much the same.

For example, I refuse to get Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick until I can go into Barnes and Noble, which I havent gone to in forever. As much as I love my indie (seriously, I adore Inkwood), sometimes they dont have the book that I want. I have the rest of the series in print, so I must have Silence in print as well.

When I was at the library, reading up for a research project, I noticed a tiny little section of audiobooks in the young adult section. I looked at some of the audiobooks and noticed a book that I had been hunting for a while.

This book was called Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison. I had been looking for this one for a while, but I could never find it at the library or at the bookstore. They had later books like Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas and Away Laughing on a Fast Camel and other titles, but they never had the first book.

Needless to say, I picked it up. Now this wasnt completely coincidental because I had been hunting for audiobooks for a while, but I couldnt find any cheap ones. I was planning on looking for an audiobook, but for some reason I thought that I couldnt get one from the library. I know, that was dumb of me.

Anyways, so that night, I started it. This is one book that I will always associate with wet hair and warmth. I know that I did a Silver Lining about the first time reading things, right? So I felt great about it, because the first time that I listened to this, I actually fell asleep.

Im a bit of an insomniac. I can hardly ever fall asleep before midnight unless Im completely exhausted, and during several schoolnights, I was up until four in the morning unable to sleep. Part of this problem may be contributed to the fact that I can literally not put a book down when Im reading at night. I keep telling myself that Ill stop at the end of the chapter, but I never do. But not all of the blame goes to the books. Just the fact that I can never fall asleep.

This book lulled me to sleep, but not in a bad way. More in a first-time-relaxing-in-ages way and a this-is-so-great-to-listen-to and an oh-my-eyes-arent-heavy-and-drooping-but-I-can-read way. I loved it.

The narrators voice was lively and perfect for the character. I felt much more connected to the character than I had with any other way of reading. I cant imagine continuing the series in print or in e-book format, and I simply must find the audiobooks of the next one (theyre on my RAK if anybody would be so kind!) and Im definitely going to continue the series on audio.

Audiobooks are just the perfect solution. I can listen to it on the way to dance, they spice up schoolwork and make me actually LOOK FORWARD to doing homework (crazy, I know, but I got to listen to my audiobook) and they add depth to the story.

In other words, Im obsessed. I have been serial-entering audiobook contests and begging and its one day, my hope to be asked to review audiobooks. I want to make this an audiobook/print book blog. That way you can truly get the reading experience on all different levels and I can listen to my audiobooks.

Im hoping to continue a series of Silver Linings on audiobooks, so be on the lookout for more articles featuring audiobooks on my blog.

Thanks for reading!

Grace

Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber

Hey, Im probably going to go back and update this later, but Im trying out a simpler approach on my blog. Same reviews, but cutting down the headline space. There also was originally more in this review, but it didnt save my previous draft, so I had to re-add what I remembered. If you dont like it, tell me in the comments and Ill go back later and put in the information or leave a link if youre curious about the stats for this book.

Release Date: November 1, 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Format: ARC
Source: Inkwood

Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber

The Picture of Dorian Gray meets Pride and Prejudice, with a dash of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

New York City, 1882. Seventeen-year-old Natalie Stewarts latest obsession is a painting of the handsome British Lord Denbury. Something in his striking blue eyes calls to her. As his incredibly life-like gaze seems to follow her, Natalie gets the uneasy feeling that details of the painting keep changing

Jonathan Denburys soul is trapped in the gilded painting by dark magic while his possessed body commits unspeakable crimes in the city slums. He must lure Natalie into the painting, for only together can they reverse the curse and free his damaged soul.

Darker Still was a darkly entertaining read.

The year is 1882, and its in New York City. Natalie struggles with the fierce and frustrating reality of being mute. As a woman in that time period, to be mute was almost condemning you to remain husband-less and its hard to make a living. Her father works for the Met. She hasnt been able to speak since her mothers death.

She doesnt have any friends. She cant even communicate with her father in sign language, because he doesnt know it. She is in all sense of the word, alone.

After witnessing a humiliating joke at her expense, Natalie is more determined than ever to make something out of her life. When Natalie hears about a painting, she knows exactly what she has to do.

This particular painting is not just a painting. It is the likeness of a lord so skillfully wrought, so exquisite, that it makes everybody feel as if he is in the room. Women would swoon at the sight of the painting, at Denburys eyes boring into their own. The very essence of him is in that painting and it is so intense that you couldnt help but be captivated. Natalie is another one of those girls.

She knows that she must get the painting for the Met. It would increase traffic, bring purpose to her life, and she just wants to sit in the presence of that painting. What museum would the Met be if they didnt stake a claim?

So she contacts Mrs. Northe, the woman most likely to get the painting. She knows that they dont dare bid against her, so she enlists her help in letting the museum borrow it. The confidante and motherly figure that she discovers in Mrs. Northe, a spiritualist, is not what she expected.

Mrs. Northe knows sign language, and doesnt give Natalie the awful look that most do. The look that occurs when people first realize her condition and a look of judgement and disgust passes over their faces. Mrs. Northe educates her, and teaches her about the darker parts of being a spiritualist.

When Natalie discovers that Denbury is alive, and IN the painting, she knows that she must get him out. Shes the only one who can go into the painting and visit him, and when shes there, she can speak. In the painting, she finds freedom while he is captured. He is withering away from a curse that a demon put on him to keep him tracked, and that same demon prowls the streets, killing young girls.

Before any more girls are murdered, Natalie must save Denbury from the painting. How exactly can she break the curse and what will happen when the demon finds out about it?

This book reminded me of a Gothic version of Warped by Maurissa Guibord. It was very dark and twisted, while still not succumbing to the freaky over-action that some scarier books do. It had a very nice balance of dark action and lore and soul-searching of Natalie.

Ive heard a lot of reviews comparing this book to The Picture of Dorian Gray. I have never read that book, so I wouldnt know. Although I can feel a lot of the influence from classics in this book. Leanna Renee Hieber manages to draw some comparisons and essences of those books mentioned: Pride and Prejudice, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Natalie was such a strong personality, although not many people got to see it. She was alone, and I felt so bad for her. I couldnt help but get annoyed at the people around her who acted like she was deaf. They said things that they wouldnt have in front of anybody else, knowing she couldnt respond. Some of it was accidental, but she has feelings too!

Because Natalie doesnt really use dialogue that much, her internal monologues are much more formal than youd expect. The entire book is basically one big monologue. If youre not one for thenot necessarily tighter speaking, but not the loose and easy communication that we associate with speechthen this book probably isnt for you.

She was looking for a mother figure and found it in Mrs. Northe. Mrs. Northe was probably one of my favorite supporting characters that Ive read about. She understood what Natalie was going through even though she hadnt experienced it first hand, and her wisdom showed through everything she said and did. She helped Natalie feel like she belonged in the world that everybody tried to push her out of, and I was so proud of her for that.

Natalie needed somebody to learn from, and to look up to. Everybody needs somebody like that. Mrs. Northe was that person to Natalie. She was wise and kind and clear in her thoughts and actions. She was exactly what Natalie needed.

Denbury, however, I was not the biggest fan of. Ive heard many reviews simply praising Denbury. I started to like him towards the beginning of the book but then he just got irritating for me. There have been many girls out there saying that they loved Denbury, but I am not one of them. In fairy tales, the prince is supposed to be Prince CHARMING. As in, nice.

Although he was a very attractive man and his (dwindling) charisma leapt off the page (and the painting!), some of his meaner moments stuck out to me. He blamed a lot of it on the demon, and although the demon had influenced him a lot, we didnt get to see the change in him at the end of the book. I mean, he was good throughout the book, but thered be incidents where hed be a complete jerk, and no jerk will ever grab my heart in a book.

I wished that at the end, we would have seen him more because although the conflict WAS ABOUT HIM, we didnt see him much in the resolution. He was charming, but not my favorite character. He could have been nicer.

There was also a lot of prejudice in this book. Based on class, gender, and disabilities, the society was not very forgiving. First of all, class was very heavily relied on. If you were poor, you were trash. Now this is not very new to that time period and literature featuring this time period, but I think that that was a factor especially in this one because of the murders occurring in this book. The victims were mostly from brothels and the streets in the poorer section of town.

Gender was a large factor too because of course, this was before the womens rights movement. Everything usually depended on how well you married. Mrs. Northe was one of the few very powerful women in the story. It was only strong, rich women who could make their way in the world.

To be a mute man then was devastating and crippling. To be a mute woman was another thing. You were almost powerless. Most people made no effort to even communicate with you and most people didnt act as if Natalie could hear them either. They acted as if she werent in the room, and I thought that it was so sad to hear about. There was this look that Natalie talked about in her journal.

This look symbolized everything that hurt her. When people first realized what she was, they had this look of disgust and confusion. They felt like deer-in-the-headlights and found themselves fumbling for what to say and do around her. She had to write everything she wanted to say because nobody except for Mrs. Northe and the people at the asylum knew what she wanted to say.

The history in this book was alluring to say the least. The full amount of research obviously invested into this novel was evident by the confidence in which the legends were created. The church was talked about a lot, but not in a preachy way. It was honestly important to the story. The biblical stories and the saints and the history was all backed up and tied into the story very nicely.

I did like the demonic part. The thing about demon books is that the same plotline can get really overdone. The battle between heaven and hell can get kind of old after awhile, as literature goes. Theres only so much that you can do without ripping off somebody elses story.  We simply explored the dark nature of this demon and the twisted things that he did.

Im not usually a one for outlining in my personal writing, but Leanna made it work so well. The pure organization of events in this novel shows us that she outlined, or at least, had some way of organizing them really well (I want her secret!). I just remember thinking throughout the book that the outlining was wonderful, and it was so organized, with a lot of content.

The format was wonderful to read. It started with a letter from a police chief, and the body of the novel was written in journal format, and it also ended with a letter and a warning. I love it when authors mix up the format and it worked really well in this. This type of format is hardly ever seen in YA lit. The last book that I read that was similar to this format was Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging.

I actually really like the journal format, not because it was mixed up, but because I think it adds a more personal touch. It seemed like we were more intimate with Natalie and could see her thoughts better. Most books are simply written like a story, and its not as if we are confiding more with Natalie. We get to see her side of things completely, and her thoughts, as opposed to just telling us the story.

I must admit that I just picked this up looking for a satisfying read. It looked like the type of book thatd be good but not amazing, but as I got into it, I was surprised to see how it played out.

The writingah the writing! Gorgeous description all throughout; fierce and sharp wit; the pacing. It was all perfect. Not only was Natalie thoughtful, but when you got down to it, one of her weapons was her dry humor. It was very entertaining to say the least.

The ending was utterly brilliant. There was intrigue and darkness and danger that all led into an explosive conclusion. This book should really be spotlighted more in reviews because the ending is fantastic! Everything was tied together perfectly and made it a single book with no loose ends.

Recommended for anybody who loves: Personal Demons; Warped; Beautiful Creatures; Haunting Violet; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Dracula; Pride and Prejudice; The Picture of Dorian Gray; dark Gothic reads; historical fiction; etc,.

Possible book club questions:

How is Natalie stifled?
Have you ever had trouble finding your voice? What helped you get past that? How do you think this related to Natalies experience in this book?
How did religion affect this book?
Why do you think Natalies father never bothered to learn ASL?
How does prejudice change throughout this book as Natalie falls into the friendship of Mrs. Northe?
What is your opinion about Denbury?
Why do you think the mute population is not spotlighted more in literature? Do you think this book may help change that?

etc,. 

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Release Date: September 29, 2011
Publisher: Dutton Childrens Books
Format: ARC
Source: Inkwood

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit more sparkly, more fun, more wild the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood. 

When Cricket a gifted inventor steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

Lola is unique, and she always has been. Unlike other girls, she doesnt want to be a fashion designer, no. She wants to be a COSTUME designer. She has an amazing boyfriend

I could have sworn I had written a review for this already. I saw this review on my friend Kristis blog and I went back to check on my blog because I had thought that I had posted it and I wanted to see what I said. My review hadnt posted! And I must have written it longhand or something because I REMEMBER writing a review but I didnt have a draft saved or anything. But again, I do have an awful memory when not connected to reading (I remember everything about books, but I swear Im like Dory and have short-term memory loss) so that could contribute, but the point is is that Im sorry for not posting a review sooner and now Im writing one again.

Lola was such a quirky, lovable character! Her spunk and witty charm make her a knockout, and she can also be really deep and thoughtful. She had a special relationship with the moon that I absolutely loved and she made me want to hum Mr. Moon, moon, bright and shiny moon.  I may sound weird saying that, but youll get what I mean if you read the book. Anyways, she was super sweet and nostalgic and funny! I loved her. Lola had a ton of self-confidence and she wasnt afraid to branch out.

I would love to be like her, but I do care what people think. She was inspiring in her zany quirkiness.

Cricket was okay, at first. It took me a few chapters to really get how amazing he was, but once I did, I loved him. He was polite and perfect for Lola and I really wish he werent because I wanted to steal him away. :) I loved how he was a twin because Im a twin and I would love to date a twin boy. The brother-sister relationship between Calliope and him was fun to read about and I really enjoyed watching him balance everything. He didnt want to upset Calliope by dating Lola, but he also really liked Lola.

This was a sweet book, but it wasnt a cutesy-cutesy book. There were melancholy moments and adorable moments, and it all just added together into LIFE.

Stephanie Perkins isnt afraid to make her characters too weird or anything. All mixed together, they balanced each other out and they werent overdone. They were realistic.

People had been yelling at me for ages to read Anna and the French Kiss and I ignored them before I read this, so I hadnt read Anna before Lola. This should tell you how much I loved it: the second I finished Lola, I was begging my mom for a ride to the bookstore. Plus, it was perfect timing because Anna had just come out in paperback! I was captivated. Stephanie Perkins had me hooked with her easygoing and charming writing style.

I really liked seeing how relationships changed in this book and how it all interacted. Everything was taken down a notch. It wasnt really intense, but it was amazing to see. There was chemistry and family and friends and jobs and school and everything in there that made it real. Although it was also realistic, the poignancy and fairy-tale like feel made it almost like a dream to me.

Everything knitted together seamlessly. This wasn’t an overtly emotional book, but some of the things that Stephanie said were things that I emphathized with on a daily basis. Some things just ran deep with me. I don’t know if Stephanie meant for this to have that effect on the reader, but either way, it just worked.

This book just warmed my heart. It wasn’t cheesy, and it wasn’t contrived. It was perfectly balanced, smart, and rang with a sweet poignancy that makes Stephanie Perkin’s writing stand out from other contemporary books.

While still sweet, it retained tingly kisses and moments where I honestly thought that I was falling in love with a fictional character. Stephanie Perkins played with my emotions throughout the entire book. Lolas emotions from the past were mixed in with her emotions of the present and she was confused. She wrestled with her confused feelings about WHAT exactly she should be feeling the hurt and anger towards Cricket from the past and her love for him in the now.

For many people, they have trouble letting go of the past. That was one of Lolas main problems, and I loved how realistically that she dealt with it.

I also really loved the effect that St. Clair and Anna had in the story. They werent really invested, but they did make cameos and affected the story a little bit. I loved being able to see them again and see where their relationship had gone. Of course, I had read Lola before Anna, but after I read Anna, I realized what I had seen in Lola.

Some people say that they liked Lola more than Anna; some say opposite. I dont know where I lie, but I loved both of them. I did feel like Lola was more diverse than Anna, and Anna was more of the normal protagonist, while Lola was more of a free spirit. The world that Lola was in was taken from a wider perspective, while Annas world was mostly focused in on the school.

It was a bit heavier though. This wasnt necessarily a good thing or bad thing, just different.

Lolas dads faced some prejudice from people and Lola addressed that. They were worried when she was younger that people would think that they were dressing her up like that, with her crazy costumes and glittery false eyelashes and such. They were perfect parents to Lola and I loved them and respected them completely! I love reading about more parents being involved in their kids life instead of being portrayed as either overprotective or absent all the time. Lola loved her dads and I loved seeing their relationship in the book. It was sweet.

Overall, I loved Lola and the Boy Next Door. It was charming, riveting, and perfectly complex! The romance was wholesome and realistic, the characters were amazingly diverse, and everything fell together seamlessly! You will laugh, you will cry, you will sigh, and you will wish that the book will never end. It was everything that I could ask for and more.

Recommended for anybody who loves: Anna and the French Kiss; Amy and Rogers Epic Detour; Perfect Chemistry; The Summer I Turned Pretty; What Happened to Goodbye; etc,.

Book club questions to come.