Genre: Survival


The Lifeboat Clique by Kathy Parks | Book Review

February 18, 2016 Book Review, Debut Author Challenge, Young Adult 4 ★★★★

The Lifeboat Clique by Kathy Parks | Book ReviewThe Lifeboat Clique by Kathy Parks
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on March 1, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Survival
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: TBTB Secret Santa
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4 Stars
Some people might say that Denver had a death wish. Why else would she have dared to sneak into a Malibu beach party where she’d be surrounded by enemies, namely including her ex-BFF Abigail?

Oh yeah. Croix. Denver never thought in a million years he’d ask her out, but who was she to question this miracle of fate? Well, that wasn’t the only surprise fate had in store.

During the party a tsunami hit the coast of California, wiping out everything in its path. Denver and a handful of others escaped death by holding onto the roof of the house and were swept out to sea. Of course, one of her fellow castaways was none other than Abigail, who could barely stand the sight of her.

Now that she’s floating in the ocean, stuck on a small boat with the most popular kids in school and waiting to be rescued, Denver wonders what might kill her first-dehydration, sunstroke, or the girl she used to think of as a sister?

A hilariously dark and twisted story that sparkles with a remarkably fresh voice, The Lifeboat Clique is Kathy Park’s irreverent yet insightful novel about how to survive in the most unthinkable circumstances.

The Lifeboat Clique has been a highly anticipated novel of mine for quite some time now, and I moved it even higher up on my to-read list after Hannah told me it had the snark of Veronica Mars. I’m a huge Veronica Mars fan, and so I dove into this book as soon as she compared it to VM! I finished it a couple weeks ago, and the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized how much I liked it. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. The Lifeboat Clique took me a little while to get into, but once I did I was pretty invested in the story. I’ve always been a fan of survival stories because they give us a chance to see what a character is really made of. There’s just something about hitting rock bottom emotionally, mentally, and physically. This book got deep fast, and became about so much more than being popular.

2. Hannah was right when she compared this book to Veronica Mars. Denver sounds JUST like Veronica! She has that same snark and dark humor that we all love. Denver is also ostracized by her former best friend, and is picked on a lot. She’s an outcast, but a fighter. I couldn’t put it better than Hannah did in her review when she said “If Veronica Mars was stranded on a lifeboat with a handful of 09ers, this is what would happen.” I totally agree.

3. As I mentioned before, this book gets deep. There’s a lot of soul searching and healing that goes on out there in that lifeboat. There are some heart-wrenching moments, some funny moments, some horrifying moments, and some tender moments. I loved all the different dimensions of the story.

There’s not a lot more I can say without ruining the story, so I’m going to stop right here! Bottom line, I enjoyed this darkly funny and thought-provoking book! If you’re looking for something a little bit different, definitely pick up a copy of The Lifeboat Clique.


438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea by Jonathan Franklin | Book Review

January 30, 2016 Adult Non-Fiction, Book Review 2 ★★★★★

438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea by Jonathan Franklin | Book Review438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival by Jonathan Franklin
Published by Atria Books on November 17, 2015
Genres: Biography, Non-Fiction, Survival
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover
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5 Stars
438 Days is the miraculous account of the man who survived alone and adrift at sea longer than anyone in recorded history—as told to journalist Jonathan Franklin in dozens of exclusive interviews.

On November 17, 2012, Salvador Alvarenga left the coast of Mexico for a two-day fishing trip. A vicious storm killed his engine and the current dragged his boat out to sea. The storm picked up and blasted him west. When he washed ashore on January 29, 2014, he had arrived in the Marshall Islands, 9,000 miles away—equivalent to traveling from New York to Moscow round trip.

For fourteen months, Alvarenga survived constant shark attacks. He learned to catch fish with his bare hands. He built a fish net from a pair of empty plastic bottles. Taking apart the outboard motor, he fashioned a huge fishhook. Using fish vertebrae as needles, he stitched together his own clothes.

He considered suicide on multiple occasions—including offering himself up to a pack of sharks. But Alvarenga never failed to invent an alternative reality. He imagined a method of survival that kept his body and mind intact long enough for the Pacific Ocean to toss him up on a remote palm-studded island, where he was saved by a local couple living alone in their own Pacific Island paradise.

Based on dozens of hours of interviews with Alvarenga and interviews with his colleagues, search and rescue officials, the medical team that saved his life and the remote islanders who nursed him back to health, this is an epic tale of survival, an all-true version of the fictional Life of Pi. With illustrations, maps, and photographs throughout, 438 Days is a study of the resilience, will, ingenuity, and determination required for one man to survive fourteen months, lost at sea.

First of all, happy two year rescue anniversary to Salvador Alvarenga! It was exactly two years ago today that Alvarenga washed up onto a little island and was taken in by a generous local couple who helped nurse him back to health. This man’s story is unfathomable, and inspiring. There are really no words that can accurately describe what he went through. And I really want to just sit you down and tell you everything, but that would just spoil everything. I’m so happy that I got the opportunity to read his story and learn more about the man we heard about in the news.

438 Days took a little while to grab me. The first 60-70 pages talk about his life before he was stranded at sea. He was a party boy. He loved his drugs and his alcohol. I was a little bored with this section because I was more interested in reading about his survival story than his background. Once he became stranded, he began a radical internal change. He cared about his daughter and he cared about being a better person. I loved seeing how this event impacted him for the better. Once the book moved in to his survival story, I became very invested and flew through the pages. Interestingly enough, I also got very depressed while reading. I already knew the outcome, and I knew he would be ok, but I was still very mopey as I read about his emotionally and mentally taxing experiences. This is part of why I read so quickly. I needed to read that he was ok.

The writing style also took a little while for me to get used to. The author of this book, Franklin, is a news reporter for multiple publications, and I could tell from his writing style. The entire story was written like a newspaper article, and it lacked the flowing, narrative style I’m used to in books. I did get used to it, though, and I grew to enjoy it at times.

The book has a map on the endpapers that plots the course Alvarenga took. I loved looking at this map, and seeing where he was during each part of his journey. So much detail is used to describe his day-to-day activities, the weather, his surroundings, etc. that I felt like I was there. There’s a particular few days where Alvarenga makes a friend in a very large whale shark, who drifts along with him. A few days later, a baby whale shark shows up. What an amazing thing to experience. There are other special moments that the author recounts, and I’m so happy to know that Alvarenga was able to experience some good during his miserable time at sea. He saw some amazing things.

Alvarenga grew to be a true survivalist. The ingenuity and creativity he developed helped him find food and water. He was able to entertain himself to pass the time. He was able to fight off the insanity that was bubbling to the surface. He continued to amaze me throughout the entire story. I honestly have no idea how he was able to survive for so long drinking turtle blood and eating raw birds and fish. Every time I think of this man, the words “amazing” and “miraculous” come to mind.

In short, I’m not usually a fan of non-fiction and memoir. I’ve read a few, but they are not usually what I choose to read. Alvarenga’s story was so interesting to me, though, so I took a gamble and accepted this book for review. I really enjoyed reading it, though, and felt feelings of hope while reading. I felt inspired to do great things. I love it when books have the power to do this to a person, and that’s the beauty of survival stories. I’m going to end my review with a quote from Alvarenga himself, which can be found in the epilogue of the book. The author asks him what motivated him to write this book. His response is a lovely message for people everywhere, and perfectly illustrates that our experiences have the power to change us:

“I suffered so much and for so long. Maybe if people read this they will realize that if I can make it, they can make it. Many people suffer only because of what happens in their head; I was also physically being tortured. I had no food. No water. If I can make it so can you. If one depressed person avoids committing suicide then the book is a success.

Be strong. Think positive. If you start to think to the contrary, you are headed to failure. Your mind has to be relaxed as you think about survival. Don’t think about death. If you think you are going to die, you will die. You have to survive and think about the future of your life, that life is beautiful! How can you imagine taking your own life? There are challenges and punishment in life but you have to fight!”


Girl Underwater by Claire Kells | Book Review

July 10, 2015 Book Review, New Adult 0 ★★★★

Girl Underwater by Claire Kells | Book ReviewGirl Underwater by Claire Kells
Published by Dutton Adult on March 31, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Survival
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: From the Publisher
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4 Stars
An adventurous debut novel that cross cuts between a competitive college swimmer’s harrowing days in the Rocky Mountains after a major airline disaster and her recovery supported by the two men who love her—only one of whom knows what really happened in the wilderness.

Nineteen-year-old Avery Delacorte loves the water. Growing up in Brookline, Massachusetts, she took swim lessons at her community pool and captained the local team; in high school, she raced across bays and sprawling North American lakes. Now a sophomore on her university’s nationally ranked team, she struggles under the weight of new expectations but life is otherwise pretty good. Perfect, really.

That all changes when Avery’s red-eye home for Thanksgiving makes a ditch landing in a mountain lake in the Colorado Rockies. She is one of only five survivors, which includes three little boys and Colin Shea, who happens to be her teammate. Colin is also the only person in Avery’s college life who challenged her to swim her own events, to be her own person—something she refused to do. Instead she’s avoided him since the first day of freshman year. But now, faced with sub-zero temperatures, minimal supplies, and the dangers of a forbidding nowhere, Avery and Colin must rely on each other in ways they never could’ve imagined.

In the wilderness, the concept of survival is clear-cut. Simple. In the real world, it’s anything but.

I love survival books and plane crash books (wow… does that sound insensitive!? Haha!). I love the excitement and survival instincts they bring out in our characters. Girl Underwater had been on my radar for quite some time, so I jumped on it as soon as I could. While it was not what I expected, I ended up really enjoying it anyway! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I know this has nothing to do with the story or the author, but Tracey Garvis-Graves, my favorite author ever, blurbed this book. She wrote the ultimate survival love story of our time (On the Island), so if she thinks that Girl Underwater is, “a powerful love story embedded in an action-packed tale of survival” then I’m going to be all over it. Her endorsement is a huge selling point for me.

2. I felt a little disconnected from the story. The plane crash and the beginning really hooked me, and then the story alternates back and forth between the snowy dangers of the Rocky Mountains and the realities that occurred after Avery’s rescue. I was disappointed in the fact that we knew right from chapter two that Avery makes it home. It kind of took away feelings of suspense or discomfort, and I was not on the edge of my seat as often as I could have been. I also hated being ripped out of the mountains to read about her life after her rescue. I wanted most of the book to take place on that mountain, with maybe some of the aftermath in the ending chapters or an epilogue. That’s what I mean when I say the book was not expecting. But once I got passed the fact that my expectations were inaccurate, I was able to enjoy the book for what it was.

3. I was expecting a survival story, but what I ended up getting was what happens in the aftermath of surviving. It’s a story about surviving life after you survive a disaster. We read a lot about Avery’s attempts to deal with her PTSD and her efforts to pick up where she left off the moment her plane went down. It was a very powerful, yet sometimes depressing, portrayal of someone who has gone through the unthinkable. You do not get this in books (or news stories) often, so I did appreciate the added details that are usually left behind the scenes.

4. I really loved the characters. Avery is strong in the mountains, and she is strong after she returns home. She was strong in two different ways, though. On the mountain she was strong for Colin and the three little boys she was stranded with. She did everything in her power for them, even if it meant risking her life. When she was back at home, she finally had to focus on herself. She had to be strong for herself, and that is oftentimes the hardest thing to do. I loved Colin so much. He’s the typical gentleman, who was concerned. He was also so swoony to me the way he treated those little boys. And the boys were very sweet and lovable.

5. There were so many feelings and emotions. It was quite a roller coaster, but I ended up really loving and appreciating that about the book. Girl Underwater acted as more than entertainment. I learned a lot about what goes through the mind of a PTSD victim, and I got to see what I think was a very accurate portrayal of what it’s like to be recognized in public for something you’d like to forget ever happened to you. I really felt for Avery. Moving on is hard when the media and your friends keep pulling you back to such a painful event.

6. I loved watching Avery learn to cope. And I loved watching her come to terms with her life and embrace the good parts of it, even if they make her remember the bad times. She never gave up on herself.

7. The romance was not the focus of the book by any means, but it was an underlying factor. I couldn’t help but hope for the best, and I was very happy with how things turned out for everyone involved. It was real, not ideal. And it was beautiful.

Overall, this book reminded me of how much I love reviewing books. I went into this wanting one thing, and the author gave me something I needed instead. I really loved reading about Avery’s and Colin’s stories, and I loved watching their lives change shapes as a result of what happened to them. I think this book would appeal to anyone. It definitely has young adult/new adult/adult crossover appeal, and it has a little but of everything for everyone. Highly recommended.


The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey | Book Review

February 9, 2015 Book Review, Young Adult 5 ★★★★★

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey | Book ReviewThe 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Series: The 5th Wave #1
Published by GP Putnam's Sons on May 7, 2013
Genres: Science Fiction, Survival
Pages: 457
Format: eBook
Source: Bought from Amazon
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5 Stars
After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker.

Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

**This is one of the books I chose to read for my YA literature class**

I’ve been very excited to read The 5th Wave, and am so glad I finally had the chance! It’s a very exciting books that I loved so much more than I thought I would. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Rick Yancey has created a very convincing post-apocalyptic setting, taking place right here in the United States. He really took his time giving us all the details about what the world is like now, what the aliens have done so far (in the first four waves of human extermination, essentially), and what life is like for the few remaining humans on Earth.

2. Everything seemed so frighteningly real to me, that I was completely engrossed. Yancey has convinced me that this can really happen!

3. The writing style portrays so many different emotions: Cassie’s heartbreak when her brother is taken, her skepticism as to whether or not to trust Evan, her fear at being alone, her sorrow over losing her family, and her determination to survive.

4. In that same vein, Rick Yancey did such a good job at getting into the head of a teenage girl. I kept forgetting a man wrote this book! Cassie’s voice is quintessentially female. I particularly loved the part of the book where Cassie woke up in a strange guy’s house, all cleaned up and wearing new clothes. Her inner thoughts are hilarious when she realizes a boy saw her naked. She reacts exactly the way any girl would, and I loved her for it.

5. I loved all the characters. Cassie is a wonderful heroine, who has the courage of Katniss Everdeen. She’s also got a pretty great sense of humor. And she’s a girl after my own heart because she is dragging books around in her backpack as she fights off aliens! Evan is mysterious and kind and caring. He’s a very dynamic character, and he’s constantly being torn in two directions. I love Cassie’s little brother and the people he encounters on his new mission in life. I felt very connected to everyone, which makes sense because they are fighting for their lives. True humanity comes through in these situations, and the characters were so real and relatable because they’ve got nothing left to be but themselves.

6.This book is non-stop action and excitement! Then there’s a little romance and some violence and some survival scenarios… It’s pretty gripping, and I had a very hard time putting it down.

My Favorite Quotes:

– “But if I’m it, the last of my kind, the last page of human history, like hell I’m going to let the story end this way. I may be the last one, but I am the one still standing. I am the one turning to face the faceless hunter in the woods on an abandoned highway. I am the one not running but facing. Because if I am the last one, then I am humanity. And if this is humanity’s last war, then I am the battlefield.

– “How do you rid the Earth of humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.

All in all, this is one LONG book but I didn’t even care. I didn’t want it to end! I was so amazed by the situation and captivated by the characters’ stories that I could not put it down to go to sleep! The 5th Wave has everything a reader could want and even some things you might not realize you wanted in the first place.


Nil by Lynne Matson | Book Review

May 15, 2014 Book Review, Young Adult 13 ★★

Nil by Lynne Matson | Book ReviewNil by Lynne Matson
Published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers on March 4, 2014
Genres: Adventure, Romance, Science Fiction, Survival
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: From the Publisher
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2 Stars
On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have one year. Exactly 365 days--to escape, or you die.

Seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules. She doesn’t even know where she is. The last thing she remembers is blacking out, and when she wakes up, she’s lying naked in an empty rock field.

Lost and alone, Charley finds no sign of other people until she meets Thad, the gorgeous leader of a clan of teenage refugees. Soon Charley learns that leaving the island is harder than she thought . . . and so is falling in love. With Thad’s time running out, Charley realizes that to save their future, Charley must first save him. And on an island rife with dangers, their greatest threat is time.

Any book that is marketed as “Survivor meets Lost” has some pretty gargantuan shoes to fill. And honestly, I think this might have hurt Nil, because I went into the book with really huge expectations. I am a Survivor fangirl, and got addicted to Lost very quickly. So I was expecting to fall head over heels into crazy love with Nil. And I didn’t. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. The premise sounds AMAZING, right? People are randomly showing up on this unknown island and have a year to get off or they die. I mean, what a unique and creative idea! That’s why I was so drawn to the book in the first place, I just feel like I wanted more from it. More details. More surviving. Less of what we got.

2. I really, REALLY did not like the romance aspect of the story. It completely overshadowed the craziness of the Island. The great thing about Lost was that the island was a character. It was the main character. Everything that happened was because of the island. Nil needed that same treatment. I did not care about the lovebirds, I did not believe in their love story of convenience, and I got really annoyed by the fact that Thad kept not wanting to get off the island because he did not want to leave Charley. Are ya kidding me? He wants to risk his life and, ultimately, die to spend a few extra days with a girl he has known for less than a month? Less than a few weeks? I don’t like dumb characters. It would have made so much more sense for him to do everything he could to get off the island and then hope the same for Charley. Because then they might have a chance. And I got so tired of hearing how hot he was and how long and lean her legs were. And her hair. And blah, blah, blah.

3. I feel like a lot of time was spent reading about the characters as they ran as fast as they could to try and catch an exit portal to escape. There is only so much an author can do with running scenes.

4. I did like the society on Nil. The teens who live there all pull their own weight, have different talents that make life easier or more comfortable, and all look out for one another. I liked that they set up searching groups for exit portals and did everything they could to try and help people get out. I like that they keep track of who makes it off the island and who doesn’t. They really care about one another, and I felt like these friendships made me care much more about the people involved.

5. I’m not sure whether or not I liked the dual point of view from Thad and Charley. I don’t like dual POVs unless they are done really well and add something to the story, rather than rehashing things we already read about. Sometimes the dual point of view was enlightening, but other times I found it to be predictable and re-hashy.

6. There were so many characters that nobody really got enough time spent on them for you to care about them individually. I liked a couple people here and there, but I could not even remember their names. For this reason, I wish more focus had been placed on surviving instead of the people and the romance.

7. I loved the mystery and intrigue of the inner workings of the island. I love puzzles and figuring things out. I wish more time had been spent on this.

8. Everything ended SO FAST. You’re kind of left hanging, yet there’s no sequel.

Basically, Nil had large shoes to fill before it even hit the shelves and I feel like it suffered as a result. I wanted a crazy, twisted survival story and got a lukewarm instalove instead. The story had SO much potential, too. Yes, there were some good moments, but I was disappointed overall.

This book is a 2014 debut


My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George | Book Review

March 31, 2014 Book Review, Classy Considerations, Middle Grade, That Artsy Librarian 1 ★★★★★

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George | Book ReviewMy Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Series: Mountain #1
Published by Puffin on 1959
Genres: Adventure, Survival
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought from Amazon
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5 Stars
Terribly unhappy in his family's crowded New York City apartment, Sam Gribley runs away to the solitude and danger of the mountains, where he finds a side of himself he never knew.

I read this book for my children’s literature class as part of my library and information science grad program. One of our assignments was to write a professional book review (like one that could be published in Publisher’s Weekly or Kirkus) of one of our books for the semester, and so I chose to review My Side of the Mountain!

Roughing it in the mountain wilderness never sounded so appealing! Sam Gribley, tired of his monotonous life in New York City, runs away with his parents’ permission to live a simpler life, equipped with only a few of the bare essentials. This is his account, written as though he were talking directly to the reader, of his yearlong adventure in the Catskills Mountains. He tells of his fight for survival, battles against the elements, love of nature, and wild animal friends. He describes his experiences of making fire, building a shelter, finding food, hunting animals, making clothes, and ultimately discovering what he is truly capable of. Readers are also along for the journey as Sam captures, raises, and trains a falcon named Frightful to be his constant and devoted companion. Mixed in with his exciting feats are pieces of advice he has for the reader on surviving the wilderness such as, “…the more you stroke and handle a falcon, the easier they are to train.”

Jean Craighead George has created a wonderfully timeless escape for readers, both male and female, even though the story is about the experiences, thoughts, and feelings of a young boy. The scenery leaps off the page, and the coordinating drawings and diagrams help the reader picture different contraptions Sam builds and also the wildlife of the region in which he lives. Young readers will open their imaginations to the possibilities found within the pages, and more seasoned readers might have to suspend a little disbelief while reading about some of Sam’s escapades, not to mention the fact that his parents let him go on such a dangerous adventure. In any case, Sam Gribley’s adventure will have readers tearing through the pages, and leave them dreaming of going on one of their very own someday.


Uncharted by Tracey Garvis Graves (Mini Book Review)

August 28, 2013 Adult Fiction, Book Review 4

Uncharted by Tracey Garvis Graves (Mini Book Review)Uncharted by Tracey Garvis Graves
Series: On the Island #1.5
Also in this series: On the Island
Published by Penguin on July 2, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Romance, Survival
Pages: 160
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
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When twenty-three-year-old dot-com millionaire Owen Sparks walked away from his charmed life, he had one goal in mind: get as far away as possible from the people who resented his success, or had their hand out for a piece of it. A remote uncharted island halfway around the world seemed like a perfectly logical place to get away from it all.

Calia Reed wasn't part of Owen's plans. The beautiful British girl - on holiday in the Maldives with her brother, James - made Owen wonder if getting away from it all might be a lot more enjoyable with a carefree girl who didn't know anything about the life he left behind.

But Owen had no idea how much his carefully detailed plans would go awry. Nor did he realize that a decision he made would have such a catastrophic effect on two passengers who boarded a plane in Chicago.

And when Owen shows up at Anna and T.J.'s door with an incredible story to tell, everyone involved will learn just how much their lives are intertwined.

I loved being reunited with T.J. and Anna! It was a lot of fun to hear about what they’ve been up to since On the Island, even though they were not the focus of this novella. We are introduced to Owen, who chose to maroon himself on an uncharted island to get away from his crazy life. I really, really liked Owen. Even though he was wealthy, he wasn’t happy because his life was full of money and not relationships and simple pleasures. I love that he recognized this, because so many people these days believe that money buys happiness. His time on the island proved to be therapeutic, and he ended up learning a lot about himself in the process.

From time to time, Owen would head to the mainland for supplies and a shower before going back. One time he met Calia, a cute British girl, and her brother, James. The three went back to the island together, and I really liked reading about the bond they formed. James really cared for his sister in a, “you mess with her, you die.” kind of way, and I’ve always loved it when siblings have that kind of relationship. Romance also blossomed, and I really loved seeing what it did to Owen. It totally changed him–the sign of a great relationship. I also really liked Calia, although you don’t get to learn a ton about her. Adventure happens, as is Tracey’s mantra. It’s amazing the things that happen on this little island.

Most of this story is a flashback and Owen tells Anna and T.J. about his experience being stuck on an island. It was easier for him in that he had a pilot flying in to check on him and a satellite phone, but it was also very hard. And, of course, we get to discover how his story relates to theirs. It was all very exciting.

This book is quite a page-turner! With all the adventure and mystery, I tore through it. Tracey’s writing is still amazing. She is so good at describing the island, that I’m sure she’s been there. I can’t wait for more books from her!


Sky on Fire (Monument 14 #2) by Emmy Laybourne (Book Review)

June 17, 2013 Book Review, Young Adult 13 ★★★★

Sky on Fire (Monument 14 #2) by Emmy Laybourne (Book Review)Sky on Fire by Emmy Laybourne
Series: Monument 14 #2
Also in this series: Monument 14
Published by Feiwel and Friends on May 28, 2013
Genres: Dystopia, Post-Apocalyptic, Survival
Pages: 212
Format: ARC
Source: From the Publisher
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4 Stars
Trapped in a superstore by a series of escalating disasters, including a monster hailstorm and terrifying chemical weapons spill, brothers Dean and Alex learned how to survive and worked together with twelve other kids to build a refuge from the chaos. But then strangers appeared, destroying their fragile peace, and bringing both fresh disaster and a glimmer of hope.

Knowing that the chemical weapons saturating the air outside will turn him into a bloodthirsty rage monster, Dean decides to stay in the safety of the store with Astrid and some of the younger kids. But their sanctuary has already been breached once. . . .

Meanwhile, Alex, determined to find their parents, heads out into the darkness and devastation with Niko and some others in a recently repaired school bus. If they can get to Denver International Airport, they might be evacuated to safety. But the outside world is even worse than they expected. . . .

If you read my review of Monument 14 last summer, you know I got quite attached to the children in this series. I’m not sure if it’s because I work with children all the time, or what, but I just had to know what happened to all of them–especially the ones who drove off in search of help at the end of the last book. What a cliffhanger to end on! Luckily, Sky on Fire picks up right where we left off and it does not take too much time to refresh your memory before being thrown right back into the action. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. I feel like there was a lot more action in this installment. Half the kids are driving a torn up bus through the ravaged towns and cities in search of a way to a safer world. Their goal is to make it to the Denver airport. All the while, they are trying to keep exposure to the atmosphere at a minimum, due to the dangerous effects of the chemicals in the air. This part of the story was the most exciting, and had me flying through the pages. The kids get attacked, their bus gets stolen, they find a little humanity left in the world, and they really get pushed to the limits. I was SO scared for them as I read.

2. And then we have the kids who stayed back at the store. Most of them become aggressive, murderous monsters when exposed to the chemicals, so they end up waiting things out in the hopes that their friends bring back rescuers. They are faced with their challenges as well including walls being torn down and letting the chemicals in, losing their electricity, and dealing with intruders.

3. I really like how the story flips back and forth between the two brothers, Alex and Dean. Alex, the younger brother, decided to go off in the bus with Niko and the others, while Dean stayed back with a pregnant Astrid and the little ones. We get to read Dean’s story as it happens, and Alex’s in the form of a journal he kept as a letter to Dean in case they didn’t make it.

4. Because such a huge part of the story takes place outside of the store, we finally get to see what’s really going on in the world during this time. The chemicals have absolutely decimated the place. These chemicals are so powerful, that they dissolve rubber after a few hours. The few remaining survivors are pretty much insane, heartless, or not even human anymore. The world has been plunged into complete darkness. Scary! I really liked seeing what’s been going on outside the store.

5. Alex really shown in this novel, whereas I hardly remember him as being anything more than annoying in the first one. He has had to grown up, mature, and learn to remain level-headed. I liked reading his thoughts much more than Dean’s this time around.

6. Dean’s chapters were rather monotonous. There’s only so much that can happen in a store, and though some more intruders arrive and a romance blooms (one I’m not so sure I like, for that matter), I really looked forward to getting back to Alex.

7. Our supporting characters do not play the same dynamic roles this time around, and I really did not get to hear much about them. I missed little doomsday priest Batiste, although he is there piping in every once in a while. I think a little character development had to fall to the wayside since Alex was writing about his impressions, not giving us a play-by-play of what everyone is up to. Honestly, I didn’t mind much. I was so interested in what was going on, and how things would turn out, that I didn’t crave the dialogue between characters as much as I would have if they had all stayed in the store.

8. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. SO much happened! I had to keep reminding myself that these kids had only been living like this for a couple of weeks, because it’s insane how much happens to them and how long it takes to get places.

9. I was super satisfied with the ending (holy crap, it was tense and insane) until the last paragraph or so. I was thinking we were done, but BOOM. Cliffhanger! We are not done with kids of Monument yet, and I’m kind of excited to see where things go next.

All in all, Sky on Fire is a great read. It’s fast, action-packed, and I love those kids! I just want to squeeze them and save them from their world. They still have the strong determination to survive that they did in Monument 14, and I just LOVE watching children being portrayed in books as strong. I still love how much they care for each other. They are tenacious and smart, and they work with what they have. I just loved reading about them. Definitely read this book if enjoyed Monument 14, because I’m pretty sure I like this one better!


Unremembered by Jessica Brody (Book Review, Author Guest Post, & Giveaway)

March 5, 2013 Blog Tour, Book Review, Giveaway, Guest Post, Young Adult 22 ★★★★★

Unremembered by Jessica Brody (Book Review, Author Guest Post, & Giveaway)Unremembered by Jessica Brody
Series: Unremembered #1
Published by Farrar Straus & Giroux on March 5, 2013
Genres: Science Fiction, Survival, Suspense
Pages: 307
Format: ARC
Source: From the Publisher
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
When Freedom Airlines flight 121 went down over the Pacific Ocean, no one ever expected to find survivors. Which is why the sixteen-year-old girl discovered floating among the wreckage—alive—is making headlines across the globe.

Even more strange is that her body is miraculously unharmed and she has no memories of boarding the plane. She has no memories of her life before the crash. She has no memories period. No one knows how she survived. No one knows why she wasn’t on the passenger manifest. And no one can explain why her DNA and fingerprints can’t be found in a single database in the world.

Crippled by a world she doesn’t know, plagued by abilities she doesn’t understand, and haunted by a looming threat she can’t remember, Seraphina struggles to piece together her forgotten past and discover who she really is. But with every clue only comes more questions. And she’s running out of time to answer them.

Her only hope is a strangely alluring boy who claims to know her from before the crash. Who claims they were in love. But can she really trust him? And will he be able to protect her from the people who have been making her forget?

Welcome to my stop along the official Unremembered blog tour, hosted by Macmillan Kids! We’ve got a jam-packed post today with my review, The Who is Seraphina? clue #9, a special guest post about the things Jessica Brody hopes she never “unremembers”, and a chance to win a hardback copy of Unremembered!

First of all, happy book birthday to Jessica Brody! Unremembered hits shelves today, and I am SO excited for you all to read and experience this wonderfully exciting book! I love mysteries and I love survival stories. Unremembered is both, plus a little science fiction. You really can’t go wrong with this one! I’m keeping my review short because we’ve got Jessica’s post right after!

1. I love the mystery and frustration that comes with memory loss stories. I mean, OH MY. I was getting so terribly frustrated that Sera/Violet could not remember anything! But at the same time, I was tearing through those pages in the hopes that she would remember. And the intrigue and danger that came with not remembering was really exciting.

2. This story flows really fast, but not so fast that you can’t keep up. I loved that.

3. I really liked Sera. I thought it was really cool that, since Sera did not remember anything, we got to learn about her past right along with her. Sometimes an author throws you into a story and has to teach you what a character already knows about his or herself. That can sometimes end up being tedious and frustrating. With Unremembered, though, we get to experience everything with Sera.

4. I really liked the very little I got to learn about Zen in this story. I’m hoping he plays a more dynamic role as the trilogy unfolds, because I really like what I know about him so far. I hope we get more of his own back story, rather than his past with Sera. I want to know him. And I was hoping for more romance. We get glimmers of it throughout the story, so I know the potential… and I want more! I can see book #2 being amazingly good.

5. The sci-fi aspect is really cool and unique. I won’t give too much away, because I loved not knowing about it when I started the book. Let’s just say there are some evil people, associated with an evil plan, who go to great lengths to get back what they claim is theirs. It was so exciting!

Overall, I loved Unremembered. It’s definitely a step or two away from the books I usually read, and I loved this change. I’d recommend this to people who enjoy a little bit of everything in their stories: romance, sci-fi, mystery, survival. It’s the beginning of a promising trilogy, and even though I know we are all really beginning to tire of trilogies, but this one is worth investing the next 2-3 years in.

And now for today’s clue!

Jessica Brody: Five Things I Hope I Never Unremember

My memory is a pretty fickle thing. It likes to play tricks on me. It likes to make up stuff and convince me they’re real. It has a tendency to completely misplace things and then blame me for it. Basically, my memory is a really annoying younger sibling.

When Jana and I first got in touch to talk about post ideas for this blog tour she suggested two topics: The first was “5 Things You Hope You Never Forget” and the second…well, I don’t think I even read the second because I was too excited about the first and my mind was already churning with ideas!

This topic is so charmingly appropriate. In UNREMEMBERED, my character, Seraphina, thinks she has amnesia after she’s been rescued from the site of a plane crash and has no memories about who she is or where she came from. But she soon learns there’s much more to her past than simple memory loss. Someone has actually been erasing memories from her mind. No bueno. I can certainly think of a boatload of things I hope are never stolen from my own mind but since the topic of this blog post is “5 Things You Hope You Never Forget” and not “A Boatload of Things You Hope You Never Forget,” I suppose I will have to narrow it down. 

So…here are the top 5 things I will cling to like a Krispy Kreme in a donut drought, should anyone ever try to erase my memories.

5. The way my dogs look at me after they sneak into the backseat of the car and hope I won’t notice and make them get out.

4. This perm at age 13. Because if I forget it, I may end up repeating it. *Shudders at the thought*

3. The girl who bullied me in the 6th grade. As painful as it was, as horrible as she made me feel pretty much every single day, I know her actions shaped who I am today. Remembering her means remembering that I survived it.

2.  The day I signed my first book contract. I had been trying to get published for over 5 years and had a mountain of rejection letters (I still have them all!) Getting that first contract in the mail (all official in a Fedex envelope) was pretty much one of the best feelings in the world. I would never want to lose that.

1. And last but most important, I hope I never forget why I do this job. It’s not for money or acclaim or to see my name on the front of a book. It’s to tell stories. To bring make-believe worlds to life. To entertain people like you. Fortunately, I’m reminded of this with every fan letter I receive and every reader who takes the time to tweet me or leave a comment on my Facebook page. So thank you for making sure I never unremember.

Comments from me: Yay! Jessica, thank you SO much for stopping by the blog today! I loved your answers. Your dogs are adorable, your perm was out of this world (I secretly wish I had a crazy hair style when I was younger, because then I could tease myself…), and you look so happy signing your contract! It was so much fun getting to know you better today. :) 

Try your luck at winning your own copy of Unremembered, which Mac Kids is so graciously providing! I hope you win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And don’t forget to stop by the other tour stops! Here’s the schedule:

Monday 2/25 Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday 2/26 IB Book Blogging
Wednesday 2/27 Good Choice Reading
Thursday 2/28 Books with Bite
Friday 3/1 Book Sake<
Saturday 3/2 YA Book Nerd
Sunday 3/3 My Five Monkeys
Monday 3/4 The Irish Banana
Tuesday 3/5 You are here! (That Artsy Reader Girl)
Wednesday 3/6 Carina’s Books
Thursday 3/7 A Patchwork of Books
Friday 3/8 MacTeenBooks Blog

And in case I have not provided enough links for you, here are some other really important ones: 

Unremembered Book Trailer
Read and download the first five chapters of Unremembered for free!
Become a fan of the Unremembered Trilogy on Facebook
Follow Jessica Brody on Twitter
Become a fan of Jessica Brody on Facebook
See Jessica Brody on tour!
Check out her website!


The Raft by S.A. Bodeen (Book Review)

August 20, 2012 Book Review, Young Adult 4 ★½

The Raft by S.A. Bodeen (Book Review)The Raft by S.A. Bodeen
Published by Feiwel and Friends on August 21, 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Survival
Pages: 231
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher at ALA
Amazon Add to Goodreads
1.5 Stars
Robie is an experienced traveler. She’s taken the flight from Honolulu to the Midway Atoll, a group of Pacific islands where her parents live, many times. When she has to get to Midway in a hurry after a visit with her aunt in Hawaii, she gets on the next cargo flight at the last minute. She knows the pilot, but on this flight, there’s a new co-pilot named Max. All systems are go until a storm hits during the flight. The only passenger, Robie doesn’t panic until the engine suddenly cuts out and Max shouts at her to put on a life jacket. They are over miles of Pacific Ocean. She sees Max struggle with a raft.

And then . . . she’s in the water. Fighting for her life. Max pulls her onto the raft, and that’s when the real terror begins. They have no water. Their only food is a bag of Skittles. There are sharks. There is an island. But there’s no sign of help on the way.

Ever since I read Hatchet by Gary Paulsen in elementary school, I’ve been captivated by survival stories on TV, in movies, and in books. And there are so many of them! Lost, Survivor, Terra Nova, Castaway, On the Island, etc. I could go on and on. It’s fascinating what we humans will do in order to survive. When I saw The Raft on a table at ALA, I knew it had to come home with me. I was excited to be able to devour another exciting story of survival. Sadly, this book was very lackluster for me. I just didn’t enjoy it. I did not find it as believable as I have other versions of a similar story. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. The bulk of the book takes place on a raft in the middle of the ocean. Obviously, not a lot can happen on a raft. That’s exactly what we were given: not a lot. Of course, this is incredibly realistic. I mean… I know that real life is not like Lost, where supernatural things are happening all the time. At the same time, though, I would have enjoyed a little more action to break the monotony of the happenings in the raft. I got bored.

2. The setting = a raft. Let me just say that the author did not paint any images in my mind that looked like anything more exciting than a yellow raft in the middle of a bunch of water. But really, how could she? Sometimes it rained. Sometimes it was sunny. It got dark, and then it got light again. There’s just not a lot you can do with that.

3. Because the book is so short and takes place in such a small amount of time, we don’t get to learn a lot about Robie or Max. And those are really the only two characters that are mentioned across more than 2-3 pages. There’s no character development, no relationship, no nothing.

4. There was a little suspense every now and then, but it could have been so much more. I felt like the writing style took away from the possibilities that could have been there in the more tense moments. The writing was very staccato, with short, blunt sentences and very few long, flowing sentences. Perhaps this was the author’s goal: to create a feeling of tenseness with sequences of multiple short sentences. I just didn’t feel it, though.

5. The emotion did not seem real to me. This book is full of hard and/or sad moments, and Robie was completely flat and emotionless. I mean, if I were there I would have been crying and panicking and really freaking out. She seemed totally removed from the situation, even though she was in the very center of it.

6. A small twist happens that kind of makes you go, “Oh… ok. That kind of makes a little more sense.” But really, I was just ready to be done at that point. I didn’t even like the twist, but at least it made sense. Meh.

Overall, I think the story is what I had a problem with. Not the author. I have a feeling I would enjoy other works of hers. It takes a lot for a survival story to grab me and really pull me in. When I read a book, I’m looking for more than just a picture of reality. I loved the idea, but I was hoping more would be done with the execution to make it exciting, while still being somewhat realistic.