Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cinders and Sapphires

Cinders and Sapphires by Leila Rasheed
At Somerton, Book 1

Publication Date: January 22, 2013

Teen, Ages 12+

ARC copy used for review.

Personal Ranking 3 out of 5

It is 1910 and the Earl of Westlake and his daughters, Ladies Ada and Georgiana, have spent the past decade in India where their father has been the lieutenant governor. Now, forced to return to their home, Somerton, in the wake of political scandal, the family has to adapt in more ways then one. The staff at Somerton are in a rush trying to ready the home for the Averley's arrival, but then news comes of a wedding and the Lord's new wife and her children. Rose, is trying to quickly learn the ropes as the new ladies' maid, but refuses to accept the advice she has been given to take advantage of her situation. Lady Ada feels the weight of her families troubles on her shoulders, but how can she choose between her dreams and ambitions and her family?

First I am so thankful to live in a time when I did not have to fight for my right to a good education and a voice just because I am a woman. Second, to have the freedom to marry who I want, for any old reason or just because I love him, should be celebrated.

Now all of that being said, diving into the world of Somerton was like being a fly on the wall during a good period soap opera. There were so many characters and and games played among them that I just got sucked in completely into their world. Above all, I found myself cheering for Ada and her desire to be with the one she loves and pursue an education at Oxford. Thankfully, At Somerton, will be a series, and I can't wait to see what Ada and her sister's are able to accomplish. There are so many rules to society and how you should be seen that it almost forces everyone to live a lie.

In many ways there are also traces of a Cinderella-like tale, with the sudden marriage and the evil stepmother and stepsister. Except, with the father still in the picture, even though his daughters are more naive, they keep besting the evil pair. Even the stepbrothers seem to be on their side. I have so many theories and questions, but I will be patient and sit back and see what happens next.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Darkest Minds

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

Publication Date: December 18, 2012

Teen, Ages 12+

ARC copy used for review.

Personal Ranking 4.5 out of 5


"They were never scared of the kids who might die,
or the empty spaces they would leave behind.
They were scared of us - the ones who lived."

Children are mysteriously dying all around the United States. But those who live are met with a much worse fate then death. Parents are afraid of their own children and turn them into the government. Most are carted off to camps claiming to rehabilitate them, but others are forced to run on their own with no adult support. It was Ruby's tenth birthday when her parents sent her away, and for six years she lived in one of the camps not really knowing what she truly was. When the truth comes out and she is presented the opportunity to run she takes it, but something doesn't feel right and she escapes. Not trusting any adult, Ruby ends up becoming the fourth member of a group of kids looking for a safe haven. Fighting for survival, they quickly learn that nothing is what it seems and the only ones they can trust are each other.

Totally mind blowing! By the end of Chapter 1 I was hooked, the only reasons I ever put it down was for sleep or surgery. The concept is just so amazing and utterly horrifying that it just stunned me. To be a young child and watch all of your classmates die, and then be taken away from your family because of how dangerous someone else is telling you that you are, to me is unthinkable. Yet, that is what is happening all around to these kids. I didn't know that this would turn into a series when I started, but I am glad that it will. I just have too many questions. For example, what on earth did they feed us or make happen so that children either started turning into, for lack of a better term, mutants or just dropping dead?  I am heartbroken over the ending though, I won't spoil it, but I know exactly one thing I would like to see happen by the end. I am apparently an incurable romantic.

I love the cover. I know that I normally don't discuss book covers since I feel like my yearbook background makes me a rather harsh critic, but this one for some reason is screaming at me to be mentioned. You know just from looking at it that this story isn't all rainbows and sunshine, but it just grabbed me. If I didn't have to actually work, I would have no problem reading all of the ARCs that cross my desk, but since I can't covers are important deciding factors on what books I prioritize. So, well done on this one. It is incredibly thought out, even if it takes you a while to grasp its whole meaning.

I could probably talk about this book for hours; about how well paced the plot was, my connection to the characters or just how lost I got in the story. But I won't, instead I want to mention how close to home the foursome's journey to East River was to me. I am a Virginia girl, and I spent my undergraduate days between Mary Baldwin College in Staunton as a freshman and the other three years at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, all the while driving home to Richmond along 81 and 64. At the end of Chapter 13, they are driving along 81 South, heading towards Roanoke and end up having to take the local roads through Harrisonburg. The Shenandoah Valley is exactly as she described it with breathtaking foliage and views from the highway. It is one of the many things I miss from living there. But the way she describes JMU, as a barren campus, closed to the world just broke my heart. It is one thing to get lost in this world, imagining how cold and empty it is. But nothing brought it into such sharp focus as trying to picture JMU without the friendly students that bring it to life every year. And no, that is not an exaggeration. JMU students are like no other; we hold open doors for the people behind us, smile at everyone and are committed it seems to every social cause.

To fans of the Hunger Games, like me, this is an excellent book to recommend. Ruby is just as damaged and kick-ass, and which makes her incredibly strong with the desire to protect those she loves. They are both incredibly strong and powerful women. Just incredible, and I am looking forward to the next.