Category Archives: action/adventure

The Unlikelies by Carrie Firestone

unlikeliesSadie was more than prepared for a boring summer.  Her best friend was going away to work at a summer camp and she was going to work at a farm stand selling fruits, veggies, and $12 chunks of cheese to “citiots” who were on their way from NYC to the Hamptons.  Then, something completely random happened.  When a drunk and belligerent man pulled in to the farm stand, Sadie became a bit of a hero.  Rather than let him drive away with his toddler screaming and crying in the back seat, Sadie physically stopped him from leaving.  It wasn’t all that simple, though.  As she struggled to take away his keys, she actually had her head smashed off a toolbox and ended up with a major concussion and a terrible scar to show for her efforts.  Video of her daring deed went viral and she was nominated for an award at a “homegrown heroes” luncheon that honored local teens.

Though they would have been unlikely to come together on their own, these teens felt an instant connection and decided to start hanging out as a group.  Before long, they were working together to take down internet trolls while leaving care packages for the people who had been bullied.  I don’t want to give away too much, but I think it’s fair to say that their good deeds soon escalated with the help of a generous benefactor.  Though I was glad to see a book featuring brave and generous characters from a wide variety of backgrounds (both ethnic and socio-economic), I have concerns about the dangerous situations into which these teens placed themselves and can only hope that readers will know better than to emulate those particular acts of heroism.

Happy Reading!

Advertisements

Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos

life-in-a-fishbowlJackie Stone wasn’t the most popular girl, but her life wasn’t really terrible either…  That is, until her father (Jared) was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Then, her life quickly spun out of control. With his family’s future financial security in mind, Jared made the decision to auction his life to the highest bidder on eBay.  That is where we meet several of the other narrators — a billionaire who wants to win so that he and Jared can compete in their own “Hunger Games,” a nun who wants to win so that she can help people find God and see that the Catholic Church values all life, a producer who wants to sign Jared’s family up for a reality TV series, and an online gamer who simply feels compelled to try and win so that she can help this man die with dignity.  I don’t think it is much of a spoiler to say that eBay took down the auction, since it clearly violates their human remains and body parts policy.  And, based on the title, I don’t think it very “spoilery” to even acknowledge that Jared did, in fact, agree to contract with the American Television Network for a reality TV series.  What I won’t spoil, nevertheless, is what happened *after* ATN stepped in.  Suffice it to say that it was kinda crazy but also not completely outside the realm of possibility.

Between Jackie, Jared, Glio (the name the brain tumor gave itself), and the bidders from eBay, I initially found it a little difficult to follow the myriad of perspectives.  I am glad that I kept going, nevertheless, because this story was filled with such great food for thought.  Individual rights and privacy of minors in reality TV series and euthanasia were merely the tip of the iceberg!  Despite the morbid premise, the story managed to be much more quirky than depressing and I am fairly certain I laughed more often than I was sad.  If you enjoyed Reality Boy, you should definitely read this book as well.

Happy Reading!

The One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth

one-safe-placeDevin never knew life before the Earth got too hot.  All he knew of that time was what his grandfather told him.  But, despite the fact that he grew up in the “after,” he wasn’t really aware of the hardships that affected most people.  Growing up on the farm, he learned how to make due with what the animals and the land provided.  As long as he and his grandfather worked hard, they had all they really needed.  When his grandfather died, though, it became too much for a single person to manage.  So, Devin set off to the city to see if he could find anyone to help him work the farm.  For the first time in his life, Devin experienced true thirst and hunger.  He was also exposed to the darker side of humans when he encountered people who were willing to hurt others and steal in order to survive as well as those who ignored the suffering of others.

After settling in with some other orphaned children who taught him to scam and scavenge enough to get by, Devin began to hear rumors about a special home for children.  If the rumors were to be believed, it was a place in which children would have more than enough food and toys for all.  Even better?  There was a chance that the children could be adopted by families that could provide for them!  Some of the orphans believed in this place, but others thought it was a mere fairy tale.  When Devin met an older boy who promised to bring him to this home for children, though, he decided to take a chance.  As it turns out, this home really did exist… but something was not quite right.  This book is technically “middle grade” fiction, but teen and adult fans of dystopias should definitely check it out.

Happy Reading!

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

before-i-let-goWhen Corey moved away from Lost Creek, Alaska, she promised to come back to her best friend Kyra.  And Kyra promised to wait for Corey.  But, only a few days before Corey was scheduled to go back, she received word that Kyra had died.  In the middle of the harsh Alaskan winter, Kyra had supposedly fallen through some ice and drowned.  To Corey, who knew that Kyra suffered from Bipolar Disorder (and how very thick the ice could get in the middle of winter), it seemed much more likely that Kyra had chosen to break that ice and taken her own life.  The insistence that it was an accident wasn’t even the most bizarre thing, though, as far as Corey was concerned.  Even more bizarre was the way the small town’s people reacted to Kyra’s death.  For her entire life, the people of Lost Creek had never cared for Kyra or her art, but they were suddenly displaying her artwork all over the place and talking about how well liked and respected she had been.  Instead of acknowledging that Kyra had been suffering from depression, her mother insisted that Kyra was truly happy near the end.  And, even though Corey had grown up in Lost Creek and only moved away a short time ago, people suddenly treated her coldly, called her an outsider, and warned her not to “pry into other people’s business.”  When she carried on asking questions to try and understand what had happened, Kyra’s mother simply said, “Her death was inevitable, and so be it.”  Say what?!?

I absolutely loved Nijkamp’s first book, This Is Where It Ends.  I saw on Facebook that a friend had read this ARC, so I immediately messaged her and asked if she had an actual physical copy and, if so, whether she would *PLEASE* send it on to me.  Luckily, it was and she did!  Just like TIWIE, I could not put this book down!  I read the first 150 pages in a single shot and only stopped at that point because my husband would have been upset if I chose my book over dinner with him and our daughter.  😉  I read the rest of the book in one more sitting and almost considered re-reading it to make sure I didn’t miss anything.  Sadly, this book is not slated to be published until January 2018, so it looks like most of y’all will need to wait to read it.  But just trust me and put it on your TBR list now…  It will be worth the wait.

Happy Reading!

Divided We Fall by Trent Reedy

divided-we-fallDanny Wright signed up for the Army National Guard when he was 17 years old because he felt compelled to both serve his country and to honor the memory of his father, who died while serving in the Army.  At first, he was proud to wear his uniform and excited to get to train with high-powered guns… but that all changed only a short time after he finished bootcamp.  Why?  He was called in by the Governor of Idaho to help with protests in Boise (about a proposed new federal ID card) and things got very out of hand very quickly.  One accidental shot turned into a firefight in which civilians were injured and killed, and people started making comparisons to the Kent State shootings that took place during a Vietnam War protest in 1970.  Knowing that he fired the shot that started it all, and seeing how quickly people snapped to pass judgement when they did not have all the facts, he was glad that the Governor pledged to protect the identities of the guardsmen who were involved.  But, how long would the Governor be able to protect them when the President of the United States of America was demanding answers?

I especially appreciated the way Reedy worked in both extreme news coverage and polarized social media reactions.  I was impressed to see a YA novel tackle the very complex topic of federal government/federal laws vs state government/states’ rights, but the audiobook impressed me even more.  Much like Countdown, this audiobook uses a variety of sound effects and multiple readers to create sound bites that mimic news broadcasts and to set apart the non-narrative portions of the book.  The only “down side” to listening to this audiobook all at once (on a road trip) was that the “near future” setting seemed entirely too plausible and actually made me feel a little anxious as if I were really listening to the news.  :-/

Happy Reading!

The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan

Amadou (15) and his little brother Seydou (8) had already been harvesting cacao for two years before Khadija arrived on the farm.  They came willingly when they thought that they would be working for a single season to help make money for their impoverished family, but they soon discovered that they had been fooled.  The “bosses” told the boys they would only be able to go home after they earned back their purchase price, but no one would tell they boys how much they had cost or how much they earned each day.  Between their long hours of dangerous work — harvesting cacao pods with machetes — and their beatings when they failed to make quota, they boys quickly learned not to focus on anything but the task at hand.  They got along well enough with the other boys, but didn’t exactly make any friends.  All of their time was focused on survival.  Then Khadija showed up and their world turned upside-down.  Not only did a single child show up, when the bosses normally waited for a bigger group before making the expensive trip out to the farm, but Khadija was a girl.  A girl who was determined to escape from the very moment she arrived, and who tricked Seydou into helping her break free from her bindings…  After Amadou took the blame and helped them bring her back, though, he was forced to spend time with Khadija while they both recovered from their beatings.  Would he be able to help her adjust?  Or at least keep her from getting himself and Seydou into further trouble with the bosses?

I really wish I could say that this book was a dystopia rather than realistic fiction… It’s just so heart breaking to read about child/slave labor as it relates to the farming and harvesting of cacao (aka cocoa) in West Africa.  As someone who absolutely loves chocolate, I am going to have to spend some time with the Food Empowerment Project’s Chocolate List to see which companies they recommend and try to adjust my purchasing/consumption to more ethical companies.  I highly recommend this book for both the lesson in modern day slavery and the message of hope, bravery, and courage despite terrible odds.  I especially like how this book describes the brutality of the farm without getting overly graphic, making it appropriate for even younger tweens.

Happy Reading!

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

ready-player-one As a child of the 80s (having been born in 1979), this book felt so much like coming home.  All of the references to 80s pop culture, especially geek culture, were just so spot-on!  I was not an arcade kid, since we didn’t have an arcade close enough to my house, but I definitely played more than my fair share of video games on personal gaming consoles like the Atari 2600 and NES.  I also have fond memories of playing puzzle and sim games on the Commodore 64 and Mac Classic in “computer class” at school.  I also watched waaaaaay too much TV and too many movies, so most of Cline’s references felt like a conversation with an old friend.  It’s beyond obvious that Ernest Cline was a fellow geek and that he loved all the cheeseball 80s stuff just as much as my friends and I did.  For real…  If you are a fanboy/fangirl of geeky 80s pop culture, you NEED to read this book!

Even better than the reminiscing, though, was the foreshadowing of what could come to be if we (citizens of the world) don’t change our reliance on fossil fuels and unplug a little from the world of “social media” to actually interact with the people and the world around us — in real life!  Imagine, if you will, a future in which most people around the world are so immersed in a virtual reality “utopia” known as the OASIS that they rarely leave their houses.  Since most people no longer have their own vehicles or even the financial means to utilize public transportation, the OASIS was the closest thing they would ever get to traveling.  Kids even started to attend school in the OASIS because the virtual world created it’s own schools to let pressure off of the failing public school system.  When I read one quote, I wondered if Cline was really just that attuned to the forthcoming changes in our society back in 2011 or if he somehow traveled through time to 2016 before he finished his story — “Now that everyone could vote from home, via the OASIS, the only people who could get elected were movie stars, reality TV personalities, or radical televangelists.”

One of the creators of the OASIS, James Halliday, had very few friends and never married or had any children.  By the time of his death, he had even been estranged from his former business partner and one-time best friend for about a decade.  So, before he died, he crafted an elaborate “Easter Egg” hunt within his virtual world to determine who would receive his fortune.  Halliday’s last will and testament was announced to the world with a video chock-full of 80s references and explained that his heir would need to use their knowledge of Halliday’s favorite things to puzzle out the location of three keys and three gates/trials he had programmed into the OASIS.  Everyone went nuts at first, but excitement waned after the first five years and only hardcore Gunters (a condensation of “egg hunters”) like Wade kept up the hunt.  When Wade finds the first key and his name shows up on the leader board, though, the OASIS is suddenly hopping again and the competition stirs up adventure, danger, and even romance. I can’t wait to see how the movie of this book turns out…

Happy Reading!