Reading Recap 2014

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I’ve read 60 books this year – I’m pretty sure that’s a record for me … We had full use of the library this year and I made use of the opportunity by borrowing all those popular books I haven’t had a chance to read yet. It was a great experience. I read some awesome books, some so-so, and some unrealistically amazing. But most of them were awesome, really.

Books I Read in 2014 (in order) (spoiler-free! ***But if you want to be absolutely clueless about everything in these books, skip this post. Also, I might give away who is still living in the next book of a series …***)

(rating system: 5 stars = excellent/4 stars = really good/3 stars = good/2 stars = okay/1 star = did not like)

1. A Room With a View, by E.M. Forster

Three stars. It was good … a nice story about following your dreams and the ridiculousness of society. Think, a darker Jane Austen.

2. Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe

Two stars. I read this for school. I can see why it’s a classic but, the truth is, it bored me. It’s not something I’d read on my own.

3. The Human Factor, by Graham Greene

Three stars. I’ve got mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, it was slow paced, sometimes boring, often confusing, and the ending was something of a letdown. On the other hand, it was interesting seeing what life was like for a spy and slow paced though it is, there is a certain undercurrent of dark imminent danger. It’s a thought provoking and unusual book and I’m definitely glad I read it.

4. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

Two stars. It was a mystical, magical kind of sermon. Not really my kind of thing.

5. Goodbye Mr. Chips, by James Hilton

Four stars. This is a sweet story of a schoolteacher’s memories. Mr. Chips is quite a personality!

6. Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen

Four stars. Again, I’ve got mixed feelings about this one. I didn’t like Edmund Bertram. Fanny was … okay. Sure, I admire her strength. I did like the Crawfords. Jane Austen has the unique ability of making mundane occurrences interesting to read about and I was very invested in the story. After it ended, I just stood in a daze, unable to recover from the feeling of having to turn more pages. I think any book that gives me that deserves an extra star.

7. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Three stars. I love this story. I really do. I guess I was just a little underwhelmed by the story and found it hard to relate to Scout? But I did love it. It’s a touching story and I love the relationships of Scout with her brother, her father, and Boo.

8. Persuasion, by Jane Austen

Three stars. It’s definitely well written but none of the characters felt alive. The story was so flat for me. But I can’t bring myself to give Jane anything less than a three and once again, she makes mundane occurrences worth reading about.

9. Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen

Five stars. Oh, this story. I love Catherine and Henry Tilney so much. Bonus: Austen has an especially sarcastic wit in this one.

10. Silas Marner, by George Eliot

Three stars. Again, a touching story, but kind of underwhelming. Silas Marner and Godfrey Cass have some nice character arcs.

11. Quo Vadis, by Henryk Sienkiewicz

Four stars. When I first read this book, I absolutely loved it. I reread it recently and I’m not sure what I feel about it. The main character is a would-be rapist and missed a lot of the sickening aspect of it all the first time around. There’s also a lot of Christian supremacy. On the other hand, it’s also a gripping read and an interesting look into the culture of the times. It’s very imperfect but I think it’s worth it. Also, the Petronius + Nero scenes. That guy is a genius.

12. The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1), by Suzanne Collins

Four stars. Oh, wow. This is an awesome book. Very nicely written and easy to read. The plot is tidy and the world is somehow believable. Of course, the concept is gold, if chilling.

13. Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2), by Suzanne Collins

Four stars. Am I the only one who didn’t expect … um, a certain big thing that happens later in the books? And the only one who thought it was an amazing idea on Collins’ part?

14. Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl series #1), by Eoin Colfer

Four stars. I borrowed this on a whim when my mum left me at the library for a couple hours. Oh, it’s good. Very nice worldbuilding but the highlight is Artemis and his evil mastermind brain.

15. Hands, by Joseph Harold Bunting

Two stars. An interesting look at jazz culture.

16. Broken Identity, by Sarah Jae Foster

Two stars. I can’t quite place what I didn’t like about the story. The characters were very real and Foster writes emotion well. Maybe it was just a little too preachy? Maybe it dragged somewhat?

17. Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3), by Suzanne Collins

Five stars. Ah, wow. I love this book. It’s the emotion … the feels. I could read it and lose myself … look up from the page and realize that, yes, I’m still in my house, sitting on the sofa, with a book in my hands. I was in a daze long after The End. Also, Finnick. I got the chills. This book was also when I started feeling for Katniss and Katniss and Peeta’s relationship.

18. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Three stars. This story is deeply melancholy and Jay Gatsby is … wow … one heck of a character. As an idealist, I can relate to him.

19. Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1), by Marissa Meyer

Five stars. I was skeptical about this story. All the praise it was getting seemed too good. Then I read it and understood. Marissa Meyer’s stories have something about them … they roll on. You can’t stop turning the pages. Oh, I don’t know if I described that right. Anyway, Cinder and Kai are adorable together. And the fairytale parallels were cool.

20. Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2), by Marissa Meyer

Four stars. Writing wise, this book was less polished than Cinder. And I was kinda bored at the Scarlet and Wolf bits. But I love Cinder and Thorne and Iko together and I laughed so hard. And woah! Those plot twists! In many ways, I could say I like this book more than Cinder, so why only four stars? I don’t know. Star ratings are … complicated.

21. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1), Rick Riordan

Three stars. I didn’t care much for the characters but the world building and action was cool. A fun story.

22. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

Three stars. Interesting. Different from my usual reads. What the Dog Saw is still my fav.

23. The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1), by Maggie Stiefvater

Four stars. Awesome plot. Awesome mystery. Lots of mystery that I couldn’t understand. Awesome characters. Awesome writing. Slow pacing. Laughs. And Adam. Oh, Adam.

24. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck

Five stars. Epic, beautiful, tragic. I first planned to give it a three, then a four. The last hundred pages absolutely killed me and I gave it a five.

25. Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3), by Marissa Meyer

Four stars. Somewhat disappointing. Don’t get me wrong. I did love it. But there was too much going on and I didn’t feel any CressxThorne chemistry.

26. The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2), by Maggie Stiefvater

Three stars. Ugh. It was so confusing. I felt like such a Seaweed Brain reading this. But I will re read it. I am determined to learn to love it.

27. The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #2), by Rick Riordan

Three stars. Another fun story and there was some nice character development.

28. The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare

Four stars. I think I might have almost cried? It was too short and the ending was rushed and it was a little preachy. And the scene with Jesus … just, no. Apart from that, it was good.

29. Take Me Tomorrow (Take Me Tomorrow #1), by Shannon A. Thompson

Four stars. An absolute page turner. I could. not. stop. reading.

30. Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo

Five stars. In a word, Jean Valjean. Um, two words, I mean. The other parts were great, too, though. Just … sigh … I love it, alright? Any attempt to describe it won’t do it justice.

31. Gates (Book #1), by G. S. Luckett

Two stars. This story has so much potential: interesting characters, intriguing plot, awesome setting. But the pacing was much much too quick and the writing needed polishing. It reads like one of the first drafts of a book. It could be amazing.

32. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

Five stars. I read sooo many awesome books this year, it’s crazy. The writing style is brilliant and witty and I cried. I still can’t help crying whenever I read page _____.

33. Behold the Dawn, by K. M. Weiland

Five stars. More plot twists. More awesome plot twists. And Weiland writes the best romantic tension. Seriously. Those scenes had me internally screaming like they were murder scenes.

34. The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #3), by Rick Riordan

Four stars. Um, this is embarrassing. I forgot what made me love this book so much. It was Nico, probably. I love him so much, especially his scenes with Dionysius (priceless).

35. And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie

Five stars. Creepy. Clever. Genius. Terrifying. Also, the characters’ psyches are very interesting.

36. The Source, by T. E. George

Four stars. This is a Christian/spiritual crime thriller. A very interesting and effective combination. It’s a great book.

37. God Behind the Movie Screen, by Allen D. Allen

Two stars. Meh. It was thought provoking but kind of condescending.

38. The Silmarillion, by J. R. R. Tolkien

Four stars. It was hard getting into this story. And there are so. many. names. But I love the fantastical feel. It’s a thrilling and tragic history, even if I felt rather detached from the characters.

39. Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein

Four stars. Everything was great about this story except … I didn’t get the feels. Why? I have no idea. But I didn’t cry. There was no pain. And that was disappointing.

Listening to Flyleaf’s song, Head Underwater, helps, though. It reminds me of Maddie and Queenie’s story and I begin to feel pain.

40. Captives (Safe Lands#1), by Jill Williamson

Five stars. Amazing plot and writing. Massive cliffhanger. I had such a book hangover. Made me want to devour all of her books. I love Mason and Omar and I shipped MasonxCiddah so hard.

41. Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1), by Laini Taylor

Five stars. Taylor wrote of a complicated world with beautiful description and didn’t once bore me. I read every word of hers and loved it. Either her world is amazing or her writing is. Both, probably. I love the fantastical and dark feel and the ending. Gah!

42, 43, 44, and 45. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place (Books 1-4)

Three stars. The mystery is quite incredible. And the humor. Judge Quinzy gives me the chills.

46. Outcasts (Safe Lands#2), by Jill Williamson

Five stars. It was still amazing but not quite as good as Captives. It suffered somewhat from second book syndrome. But it was certainly gripping.

47. Rebels (Safe Lands#3), by Jill Williamson

Five stars. This one was awesome. I love Mason and Omar’s part.

48. The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas

Five stars. Amazing. Apparently I like long books? Dante’s character change is masterfully written. For that alone, I’d love it but it was also filled with dark humor and cleverness. Also, I cried. Like, really cried. Just thinking of it brings the pain all over again.

49. The Giver (The Giver #1), by Lois Lowry

Five stars. I love the concept! It’s about what makes life worth living and I can totally see how this book changed lives. I wasn’t a fan of the writing style but the world and the premise were simply amazing.

50. Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton

Five stars. Interesting. Much easier to understand than heretics. It’s a look into Chesterton’s joyful view on life and religion. I definitely don’t agree with everything he says, but it’s a beautiful story.

51. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

Five stars. It was a really sweet, funny, and thought provoking love story.

52. The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #4), by Rick Riordan

Three stars. I didn’t like the relationship drama. Also, there was too much going on for that amount of pages. Apart from that, it was good. The plot twist at the end was a killer.

53. We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart

Four stars. So, the ending was … unexpected, to say the least.  That’s not what I love about this book, though. My favorite part is the study of the character’s psyches and how messed up everyone is.

54. Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie

Five stars. Genius. Christie is a genius, okay? It didn’t freak me out like And Then There Were None and I missed the suspense but the genius totally made up for it.

55. The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath

Two stars. It was an interesting look into depression and suicide. Unfortunately, I couldn’t connect with Esther Greenwood. It’s definitely a well written book, just not for me.

56. The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #5), by Rick Riordan

Five stars. What an ending. What an ending. It is by far the best book in this series and a perfect conclusion. I’m still not done fangirling over it.

57. The Lost Hero (Heroes of Olympus #1), by Rick Riordan

Two stars. I didn’t connect with Jason or Piper. I liked Leo but he wasn’t cool enough to redeem the whole book when it bored me and was missing a killer mystery and any suspense. The good side of it is I realized how much I loved Percy Jackson.

58.  The Demigod Files, by Rick Riordan

Five stars. The stories and interviews are very funny!

59. Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus #2), by Rick Riordan

Five stars. Percy! At last! The mystery was amazing and I like Hazel and Frank (as a couple, too), so all was well. It could nearly beat The Last Olympian. Nearly.

60. Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1), by Sarah J. Maas

Five stars. Celaena Sardothien is one of my favorite heroines, and that’s rather surprising considering I don’t normally like heroines, and she did annoy me a lot. But somehow, she’s a heroine I love to read about. And the dynamic between Celaena, Dorian, and Chaol is pretty hilarious. Just, please tell me the love triangle won’t last for all. freakin. six. books. I don’t know if my for everything else can outweigh that.

 

And now, for more 2014 round ups!

Favorite books: Mockingjay, East of Eden, Les Miserables, The Book Thief, And Then There Were None, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Last Olympian, Son of Neptune

Favorite characters: Catherine Morland, Henry Tilney, Finnick Odair, Carswell Thorne, Adam Parrish, Percy Jackson, Luke Castellan, Nico di Angelo, Jean Valjean, Mason Elias, Edmond Dantes, Celaena Sardothien, Chaol Westfall

Most read author: Rick Riordan. I don’t even need to count. (But it’s eight books, not including The Demigod Diaries, which I partially read.)

In other words, 2014 was an amazing year, reading wise.

Behold the Dawn

imageK. M. Weiland writes incredibly helpful posts on writing at Helping Writers Become Authors and I couldn’t well pass up on the opportunity to get a FREE review copy from Story Cartel of her historical novel, Behold the Dawn.

I’ll dive right into the details. But first, check out the blurb.

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Marcus Annan, a tourneyer famed for his prowess on the battlefield, thought he could keep the secrets of his past buried forever. But when a mysterious crippled monk demands Annan help him find justice for the transgressions of sixteen years ago, Annan is forced to leave the tourneys and join the Third Crusade.

Wounded in battle and hunted by enemies on every side, he rescues an English noblewoman from an infidel prison camp and flees to Constantinople. But, try as he might, he cannot elude the past. Amidst the pain and grief of a war he doesn’t even believe in, he is forced at last to face long-hidden secrets and sins and to bare his soul to the mercy of a God he thought he had abandoned years ago.

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Truth be told, I don’t know if I’d have read this book on the blurb alone. But the story proved to be excellent. I loved it! 5 stars.

The story is slow at first. The tourneyer Marcus Annan meets an old friend, Gethin, who wants him to get a certain Matthias Claidmore to kill the corrupt Bishop Roderic. Annan steadfastly refuses. I couldn’t get myself to like Annan initially or the fanatical Gethin. But I liked Annan’s indentured servant, Marek, from the beginning. He’s funny and good hearted and it was nice to see his relationship with Annan strengthen through the course of the novel.

It’s when the paths of Marcus Annan and the Lady Mairead collide that the pace quickens. From then on, I was hooked. The plot is unpredictable and I love the plot twists. I’d better move on before I give them away!

POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD

Annan and Mairead fall in love. Not sure if that’s a spoiler but I thought I’d warn you since it’s not completely certain. It was when the romance started that I began to like Annan and I came to really ship the two. Weiland writes excellent romance scenes. That’s all I can say. If I try to describe it … I’m just going to end up tripping over adjectives. When they started to realize their feelings for each other, I may or may not have smiled wide. When Mairead finds him at the inn and they finally reveal the truth to one another – it’s hard to believe that I, of all people, love that scene so much but tis truth. They had to be together.

END OF SPOILERS

The story is told in third person with multiple POVs. It worked well. I didn’t feel jarred and the pacing was good, after the first hurdle. I also love the moral ambiguity. As in all life, there are many gray areas. None of the characters are perfect – neither are they, despite their cruelty, monsters. They are human and it was interesting “seeing through their heads”.

I can’t be sure about the historical accuracy but I had a good picture of the times, while not being bored by the descriptions. There are just a few instances of unbelievable good fortune.

SPOILERS

Marek is dropped from a balcony onto stone and he survives! What’s more, not long after (couldn’t have been near a week), he is up and sword fighting with guards! That’s the most unbelievable. But Annan’s good luck in all his fighting is rather surprising too.

END OF SPOILERS

Christianity and Christian values play a large part in the story but a reader will, I think, also appreciate the story for its plot and scenes. The story covers topics like redemption, guilt, sin, and justice and Annan and Mairead’s story is a beautiful one.

God Behind the Movie Screen

image(I received a free review copy of this book from Story Cartel)

This short book is told from the point of view of a Christian evolutionist and discusses the concept of God using science for creation and miracles, with analogies and examples from movies. It’s an interesting and unique idea and worth a read. You may not agree with everything author Allen D. Allen writes, but it’ll make you think. However, there were a few passages that are potentially offensive.

For instance, Allen writes that our bodies are not perfect, whether or not the reader is “too conceited” to admit it. Is it necessary to label readers as possibly conceited? Then Allen says that Christians “might” be more likely not to kill people at the instigation of a person in power. Is this true? I don’t know, but it would have been more accurate if he mentioned that atheists (and other deists – he didn’t include them) can have a strong moral sense outside of society.

Overall, it’s an interesting read if you’re curious about Christianity and science.

The Source

image(I received a free review copy of this novel from Story Cartel.)

I began this story knowing nothing of what I was getting into. “I’ll be adventurous,” I thought. I’ve never read a mystery thriller like this – the closest I’ve been is with the spy novel, Graham Greene’s The Human Factor, which is pretty different. But The Source was a great story.

An FBI agent’s obsession with his late father’s secret sets him on a collision course with a past he has carefully avoided, shadowy enemies he never suspected, and a most unlikely friendship with an autistic man who sees reality in ways no one else can. Will Jackson Barrett’s determination to unlock secrets his father took to the grave save or ultimately destroy one he only knows as — The Source?

I called t. e. George’s The Source a mystery thriller. There are secrets. There’s action. There is a team of FBI agents. You could term it spiritual fiction – even Christian fiction. There is no mention of Christ and could be considered deistic but it could easily be Christian influenced. That came as a surprise to me, since the blurb and the description said nothing about spirituality. I liked that aspect – but while it wasn’t preachy, it does play a crucial part, so you might want to skip this one if you’d rather not read about such things.

The story is nicely written, albeit with a few typos. The plot was gripping and the mystery had me hooked. What is this source Jackson Barrett is looking for? And how in the world does the savant Manny know so much?

There’s a diverse range of characters, including an autistic savant, a Serbian refugee, and a Korean geek. Let me elaborate on the autistic savant. I trust the author did his research but it did surprise me since autism has always been … less extreme in my mind. Doubtless, some of my friends throw the term about too loosely – I’ve been called ADD, ADHD, “aspie”, and autistic before, when I don’t score on the actual tests. Manny is the savant. He has incredible drawing and number skills. He is a fascinating and sympathetic character and it was an interesting experience learning of him.

I don’t know if it’s just me or I’ve been reading good romance these days, but there’s something so satisfying about seeing a fictional couple get happily together. A mild spoiler? – Jackson and his ex Jennifer get back together. Cue broad smiles.

I liked the protagonist Jackson, as well as the other characters like Jennifer, Hu, and Dr. Sanford. Senka Batik was compelling. The little cultural references were fun to find – it’s not often I read phrases like “penny for your thoughts”. And Jennifer said her father used it so … I think that’s pretty realistic!

This is getting nitpicky but there were a couple of strange anachronisms. For one, there could have been more contractions. And then there’s a scene when someone kisses a friend’s hand. Am I just ahead of the times? Do people still do that?

All in all, the book is a page turner with diverse, likeable characters, a sense of mystery, and a unique premise. The words thriller and spiritual sum it up fine. If that interests you, it’ll be worth your while.

Emma

imageOne of my favorites parts about Emma is the mystery. Reading the story, I didn’t know if Emma would marry or not, and if so, who. I didn’t know what Frank Churchill was up to. This novel is often considered a precursor to the mystery novel. While this book is very different from a whodunit, the mystery element is there. If you don’t normally like romance or Jane Austen, I’d say you should still give Emma a go.

The story features a cast of colorful characters: brutally honest but caring Mr. Knightley, poor naive Harriet, chatty Miss Bates, the mischievous Frank Churchill, elusive Jane Fairfax, and Mr. Woodhouse, the hypochondriac who takes a stance against wedding cake. Then there is Emma herself. Sure, she is snobbish and annoying and makes a mess of things. But I can’t help liking her.

As with all Austen’s novels, this book is well written and the pacing is good – probably her best pacing after Pride and Prejudice.

The edition in the picture above is from Story Cartel (http://storycartel.com) and includes a number of essays about Emma. The format is tidy and easy to read. If you’re so inclined, you can pop over to Story Cartel and grab a review copy of Emma while it’s available.

Gates

image(I received a free review copy from Story Cartel of Gates, by G. S. Luckett, in exchange for an honest review.)

I’m not sure, honestly, if I like this book or not. I’m rating it three stars but that in no way describes it all. So I’ll give my thoughts on this book below in as detailed a way as I can.

First things first, let’s have some cover talk. I wanted to read this book both from the blurb but primarily from the cover. I like the atmosphere, illustration, and the way the tag line is printed. The blurb is below.

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Some of God’s instruments are tarnished.

A death row inmate, known as The Brit, on an isolated island is able to escape from his execution during a freak thunderstorm. Now, he finds himself fighting his way through the prison and protecting the very people who jailed him. Pursued by prisoners and guards that will not die and a mysterious inmate from his nightmares, The Brit has to lead the others to escape in order to save their souls and possibly his own.

This is the first installment of a series where we find out how, The Reaper, is chosen and that he does more than shepherd lost souls. He maintains the balance between Heaven and Hell, that is threatened to be destroyed by an ongoing war. Can a condemned soul becomes God’s weapon?

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I have hardly read paranormal so I don’t know if this is a unique concept or not but I have not heard of it before and the uniqueness of the premise impressed me favorably. And the plot carried through; it was unpredictable and didn’t lag.

However, I did not like the writing so much. It was choppy in many places and had lots of telling. There were typos and awkwardly phrased sentences.  The pacing was quick – too quick. The story was altogether too short. And this is probably why I couldn’t feel for the characters, especially the Brit. They were likeable enough but I was never afraid or sad for them. I liked the Pastor though.

Overall, this is a story with a good premise and a promising plot and characters. But because of the writing, it didn’t work so well for me. However, “okay” is not exactly the right rating. I would give it 2.5 stars, rounding up to 3.

Les Misérables

imageSo, I finished Les Miserables (Les Mis) about a week ago. And now I am in dire straights. I want to browse Les Mis blog posts, watch all the Les Mis videos, and listen to Jackman’s “Who Am I?” over and over but I also want to use my time productively and that’s, sadly, not my idea of productivity. So instead I have to be satisfied with a glowing review on this blog.

But, really, what can I say? How can I do justice to it? What can I say other than that Les Mis is possibly my favorite novel and Valjean is possibly my favorite fictional character of all time? Another thing – I knew most of what was going to happen but I still couldn’t stop turning the pages (once I had gotten past the beginning). And the whole Champmanthieu affair was brilliantly painful.

Still, I must be realistic. I will not say everyone should read this book. I will not even say most people should. Dare I say this? I found some parts boring.

What kind of fan says that about a favorite book?

Around a third of the book consists of history and philosophical essays. Much of it is interesting, but it’s complicated and sometimes makes me feel like I’m reading a schoolbook – not a patronizing one, but with heavy stuff! However, you can skip those parts and still appreciate the story. But the good thing about all this heavy stuff is it makes the story feel real. Same goes for the storyline itself full of back stories, info dumps, and descriptions; it’s crucial to the “feels”.

It is worth it. It is so worth it.

Take Me Tomorrow

imageI received a free review copy of this book from author Shannon A Thompson* – thanks, Shannon! I’ve been in a reading rut for the past few weeks and I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy this story or not, but, I must say, I was impressed.

Here’s the blurb:

Two years after the massacre, the State enforces stricter rules and harsher punishments on anyone rumored to support tomo – the clairvoyant drug that caused a regional uprising.

But sixteen-year-old Sophia Gray has other problems.

Between her father’s illegal forgery and her friend’s troubling history, the last thing Sophia needs is an unexpected encounter with a boy.

He’s wild, determined, and one step ahead of her. But when his involvement with tomo threatens her friends and family, Sophia has to make a decision: fight for a future she cannot see or sacrifice her loved ones to the world of tomorrow.

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As the blurb says, a key part of this YA dystopian is tomo, an illegal drug that enables you to see the future. It is a touchy subject and I appreciate that the author tackled it. The story presents a fair view of drugs, showing both the good points and the bad ones. I have never thought of this in detail before. This novel made me think, all while the motif was naturally interweaved in the story.

The protagonist is Sophia, who is courageous, determined, and relatable. She made for a good narrator. I like the side characters very much. There’s Lyn, who takes the place of mother to Sophia. She cares deeply for Sophia but is willing to let her into danger when necessary. There are Sophia’s childhood friends, Lily and Miles, twins, and Broden. There’s Noah; his complexities are fascinating. Anthony is another interesting character.

I loved the various relationships – Sophia with her Dad and Lyn, Miles and Lily as twins, and Sophia, Broden, the twins, and Noah, as a tight knit, tumultuous group.

This brings me to another point. I feel the story would have benefitted from some extra character development. Sophia has three male teenage friends and while they do have differences, their personalities are similar enough that they become enmeshed. And there are other characters who would have benefitted from extra air time, like her father and Phelps. I do love the characters. I just want to know them better.

There is romance in this story, but it makes for a minor subplot. I enjoyed the romance. It was natural and it was sweet. I wasn’t happy with how Sophia’s crush treated her for much of the story. But I came to think they would make a good couple. 🙂

The pacing is excellent. About twenty pages in, I was absolutely hooked. I could not stop thinking about the story. I could not stop turning the pages. I mentioned a reading rut earlier. It was impossible to be in a rut with this. At the same time, the story was not so fast paced as to be choppy. I know how hard it is to get pacing right. It’s one of the marks of a good writer to do it well. 🙂

The plot was not predictable – and that’s the way I like it. There were a lot of untold secrets, a clever trick of the trade; that was part of what had me turning the pages obsessively. “What is this all about?” “Why is everyone doing this?” And I love it. I love the mystery and suspense.

I can’t say too much about the world because I don’t know it well enough. The story is short – an extra fifty pages of worldbuilding and character development would have been nice. What I know of the world feels quite believable but I can’t form a very clear picture of it. I especially want to know more about the government. There’s a curfew and knives have been outlawed. What else? Phelps employs criminals. Fascinating. I want to know more. There’s a lot of potential with the world.

The story finishes open ended so a sequel is quite possible. If ever one is released, I will certainly read it.

If you enjoy dystopian novels, or are looking for a suspenseful, thought provoking YA read, you should definitely give this one a go.

*Shannon blogs at http://shannonathompson.com/