The Young Elites

I read Marie Lu’s Legend series when it first came out, and it’s one I recommend to people looking for YA dystopia. I consider it to be one of the better series out there. I was hoping for the same feeling when I heard she had another series out, The Young Elites, but, I can’t say I felt the same grip to read more like I did with Legend.

The premise itself is interesting. A fever strikes a country killing some, leaving others unharmed, but a select few become “marked” with different color hair, skin, and with mysterious powers. One can command the wind, another fire. Their energy seems to come from the elements. However, Adelina only discovers her powers in a time of great distress. Taken from her family, she is guided by the others like her, The Young Elites, through a series of events. The Elites are outcasts and are trying to make their place in the world, so to speak.

I am going to be vague to avoid spoilers, but one of my least favorite plotlines happens in this book. Someone has a secret, but is too scared to share it, so bad things happen because he/she kept quiet. It happens so much in YA books, and it drives me nuts. It is just so unoriginal and overdone. I was disappointed this book’s main plot involved this very concept. However, the ending was good and the epilogue was even better.

Because of these two things, I will keep reading the series. I like Adelina as a character, but the main bad guys are pretty thin and cliched. But, because the Legend series is so great, I have hope that this series picks up in the next two books.

Ghost Boy

I really don’t enjoy sad books. If it’s one that will make me cry, I steer clear. And even though this book was about a person with a disability trying to overcome challenges, it was nowhere near as sad as I expected it to be.

I originally heard the author’s, Martin, story on the news and was really interested in his life and his progress. When he was 14, Martin fell into a non-responsive, vegetative state. The process took about a year, and to this day, no one is really sure what happened. He spent every day at a care facility while his parents worked and his siblings went to school, and every evening, his parents brought him home. After three years of this, Martin began to “wake up” and become aware of his surroundings. His brain was fully functional, but his voice and body wouldn’t respond really. He could move his eyes,  could barely move his head, and could smile. Most of his care givers chalked this up as involuntary. However, one woman, an aromatherapist who would come and massage Martin’s body (being stuck in a wheelchair and in one position most of the day is very painful) and she began to notice he was trying to communicate with his eyes or smile. She was one of the few people who ever talked to him directly during his time at the facility.

Martin’s parents agree to have him tested to see if he is able to communicate, and sure enough, the aromatherapist was right. When asked to look at a picture of a ball, he was able to look right at it. A picture of a dog, again, right at it. Slowly, through more directed therapy, Martin was able to communicate using a laptop, specialized software, and a board with pictures listed on it. Since Martin came out of his state, he lost all formal education and couldn’t read. Slowly, he taught himself. As his body grew stronger, his ability to teach himself did too.

Martin’s story truly is amazing. I would think that at some point, since he was progressing, someone would have noticed the changes in him, but the aromatherapist was key to it all. To this day, Martin is still unable to speak, but that doesn’t stop him in any way. He lives his life to the fullest and has accomplished more than you could imagine.

This book is absolutely a must read. I didn’t cry, but I do admit that I got teary towards the end, but for such happy reasons.

The Troop

I apologize for the delay in posting. I’ve been doing a bit of beta reading. Side note- if anyone needs a beta reader, please contact me!

It is no secret that I love Stephen King. He’s just one of the greatest writers and I think doesn’t get the respect he deserves because he’s mostly known for being a horror writer. But he is so much more than that. He’s truly a master storyteller. So, when he recommends books, I make a note to read them at some point. For the 2017 book challenge, I had to read a book recommended by an author you love, so this was an easy category. I already had The Troop on my Kindle and just hadn’t gotten to it, yet. I have previously read another of Nick Cutter’s books, The Deep, and really enjoyed that one, so I was looking forward to another one.

Hoooo boy, this one was pretty intense. And gross. Like really gross, by my standards. I still liked it, but the grossness was a bit of a turn off. This is a personal preference, though. It says nothing about his writing or storytelling. The basic plot is that a troop of 14 year old Boy Scouts (or whatever the Canadian equivalent is…I forget exactly the specifics) and their Scoutmaster have gone camping on a deserted island just off Prince Edward Island when a sick guy in a boat comes along. The guy smashes their radio and the boat he came on no longer works. It’s clear the man is dying, and conveniently, the Scoutmaster is a doctor, but he can’t figure out what is wrong. As the story progresses, you get answers as to what the illness is, and unfortunately, how it spreads from person to person. Yep. It’s rough.

The boys (5 of them) have their own demons to face (one’s an asshole, one’s overweight, etc) which play into the dynamics of the situation. This book was reminiscent of The Long Walk (by SK under the Bachman name) where you wonder which one(s) will make it alive. It’s pretty clear from the onset that not everyone makes it home from the island. The story is also told after the event is over from the perspective of media reports, interviews, etc. These small bits are interspersed in the chapters.

But, like I said, you’ve been warned that this book is pretty gross in parts. I don’t want to go into detail to avoid spoilers, but if you are the least bit squeamish about the human body and illness, it might behoove you to avoid this one. I’ve read worse, yes, but I do want to just let you know.

Overall, I enjoyed Cutter’s other book, The Deep, more. That shouldn’t detract from this book though. It’s a great read. I truly couldn’t put it down, wondering who survives and just how horrific the story was going to get.

Annihilation

For the 2017 book challenge, I needed a book with an unreliable narrator. This was challenging simply because you don’t know if a character is reliable or not unless you have actually read the book. I didn’t want to wade through dozens of reliable narrators wasting my time, so I turned to Goodreads to help find one. And, of course, I had this book is my back pocket all along!

I read Annihilation when it first came out a couple of years ago. Jeff VanderMeer published the Southern Reach trilogy all within several months, so the wait time in between books wasn’t too terrible. I read the first two (Annihilation and Authority) over the summer and, in the fall, Acceptance. I had pre-ordered it on my Kindle and spent the entire day reading. This is how much I love the series. The Annihilation movie comes out in 2018, so I recommend reading the series before then.

This is a book that is really hard to capture because it’s just so damn weird. And I mean that in the best way possible. Four people are sent into a place called Area X to investigate its mysteries. They are not the first group sent in, either. Our narrator, simply called the biologist, tells the story of what they find while in Area X. To avoid major spoilers, lets just say that your imagination will never predict what exactly they find. Within Area X is a lighthouse, plenty of flora and fauna, some abandoned residences, and a structure that seems to pull the explorers in. And yes, the narrator is completely unreliable, for reasons I won’t name here.

This book threw me completely out of my ability to comprehend just what in the hell was happening. And I loved every minute of it. Never have I gotten so sucked into a series like I did this one. Partly because it’s so crazy, but partly because VanderMeer expertly crafts the mysteries and leads you down a path you don’t expect. His newest book, Borne, my review here, is getting rave reviews, but nothing tops this series for me. It’s creepy and terrifying and mysterious and amazing. The second book in the series is my favorite, actually, and I put this series in my top 10 of all time books.

 

Black Mad Wheel

Bird Box is one of the creepiest books I’ve read in years. I read it in one day then barely slept that night. It’s a book I recommend to everyone. So when I heard the author, Josh Malerman, had a new book coming out, I immediately requested my library buy it. And, although it isn’t as good as Bird Box, it was still really enjoyable, creepy, and worth the read.

The format of the book isn’t exactly chronological. The perspective shifts from past to present in alternating chapters. In the past (1950sish period), we meet Philip Tonka and his band mates, The Danes who have been recruited by the US Government to investigate a sound that has been heard in Africa. The sound is debilitating and renders all weapons useless. The government wants the Danes to go in and investigate, partly because they all have war experience and because, with their musical backgrounds, they know sounds.

Present day (still 1950s, but happening currently to the characters) Philip is in a hospital room, nearly every bone in his body broken, The Danes’ whereabouts unknown, waking up from a 6 month long coma. We meet his doctors and nurses and see the speed in which Philip is recovering, so clearly there is something mysterious going on.

I am a fan of this storytelling format. Malerman used the same thing in Bird Box, and it worked great. The suspense build up absolutely works. Two stories paralleling into their climax makes for a double hit of terror. The only downfall of this book (and this is simply personal preference) is that this story didn’t scare me like Bird Box did. That book is easily the third scariest book I’ve ever read (The Shining and Let the Right One In being the other two). That is the only reason why I say I liked Bird Box better. (totally unrelated side note, but if anyone important happens to stumble upon this and if there is a Bird Box movie made, PLEASE PLEASE PLEEEEEAAAAASE, for the love of Pete, don’t show the creatures. It would be so much better that way.)

Malerman is an author I look forward to reading. He has another book, published between these two, that I need to get my hands on! If it’s anything like the other two, I know I will love it.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific

A friend recommended this book to me a few years ago. And, immediately, I was turned off,  simply because of the title. But they, he proceeded to tell me about the plot: a guy and his girlfriend movie to a tiny, barely inhabited island in the Pacific and try to survive for a few years. What all this has to do with sex lives and cannibals, even after reading the book, I still have no idea. However, don’t judge this book by the title. It is entirely worth reading.

Maarten and his girlfriend, Sylvia, move to Tarawa, which is near the equator, nearly a third world country where water must be boiled before drinking, where people (literally) shit in the ocean only to have it washed back up to shore, where dogs are such a nuisance that they are either eaten or aren’t even braked for when driving, where fish is eaten at every meal, where canned goods are flown in, sporadically, from Australia, where this is no hospital or medicine, and where the live expectancy is just over 50 years old. So, yea. Given all that, this book is really funny. Maarten’s experience, harrowing and hilarious, is not one I would ever embark on. Ever. But I’m glad he did, and survived, to tell us this story. And, of course, in the back of your mind, you will realize just how wonderful we have it with food, water, medicine, and shit free oceans.

He has written other books about his travel, but my friend says this is his best work. Between vignettes of his situation, he tells us about the history of the island and its surrounding neighbors. This was much less interesting to me, but for no reason other than I’m just not interested in it. It was still well researched and well written. I wasn’t expecting much from this book, but I’m very glad I picked it up.

The Life We Bury

Finding a book I haven’t read shouldn’t be that hard, but when the librarian tried to give me recommendations, she went with the most popular books as of late, all of which I have read. For the 2017 book challenge, I have to read a book recommended by a librarian, so I approached the desk with my query. She recommended The Nightingale, Gillian Flynn books, The Girl on the Train, etc. Check. Check. Check. So, she went to Amazon to look for books that are similar to these and came up with The Life We Bury. So, not officially librarian recommended, but I’m sticking with it.

Joe Talbert is a college kid with the assigned task of writing an older person’s biography. He has no one in his life that fits this bill, so he heads to a local assisted living facility and finds Carl Iverson. Carl has been let out of prison because he’s dying of cancer. And, even though he was convicted of rape and murder, letting him out to die seemed to be the right thing to do. Unlike the other residents, Carl is fully lucid each day and is willing to tell his story. Joe isn’t really sure he even wants to hear this story, but the assignment is pressing. Joe lives two hours away from home, leaving behind an alcoholic mother and an autistic brother. As his mother pulls him back home for various reasons, we see Joe as a caring, protective brother. One night Joe has to bring his brother back home with him, to his tiny apartment, and runs into a neighbor, Lila, who is great with his brother and ends up getting sucked into Carl’s story as well.

Of course, being a thriller, there are twists and turns. Did Carl really commit this horrible crime? If not, who did? Carl has a very mysterious past, going all the way to Vietnam, and he has never been the same since. But has whatever happened in the past affected him so greatly that he would rape and murder a teenage girl? I felt like Joe’s brother was more of a catalyst to get Joe and Lila together rather than an actual important part of the story. But that might just me being overly critical. I really did enjoy the author, Allen Eskens’, writing style. I wouldn’t say the plot was predictable, but writing an original thriller is hard to do these days. However, his writing was really great. Sadly, I returned the book to the library already, or I would type up a few phrases that stood out. My apologies. But I have looked up his other works on Amazon and hope to read some of them soon.