Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour Review

The Disenchantments
by Nina LaCour

Colby and Bev have a long-standing pact: graduate, hit the road with Bev's band, and then spend the year wandering around Europe. But moments after the tour kicks off, Bev makes a shocking announcement: she's abandoning their plans - and Colby - to start college in the fall.

But the show must go on and The Disenchantments weave through the Pacific Northwest, playing in small towns and dingy venues, while roadie- Colby struggles to deal with Bev's already-growing distance and the most important question of all: what's next?

Morris Award–finalist Nina LaCour draws together the beauty and influences of music and art to brilliantly capture a group of friends on the brink of the rest of their lives.


Wow, I loved this book. A book about friends, first love, regrets, and how the decisions you make without understanding why, begin to shape who you are. The role of art in our daily lives fuels this story in a quiet way and is used as a tool to understand the complex characters in the book. Tattoos, graffiti, 80s music, drawings, tiny wood sculptures, photography, an intimate and quirky note left in an unexpected place are all woven into this story about growing up.

I laughed out loud at funny and interesting characters and conversations so real and relatable it was like remembering my own friends. It touches on the ache and confusion of an identity crisis when life brings the unexpected, the crushing weight of secrets too long kept, and the losing of self while searching for something you had all along.

I'm not sure I've ever left a young adult book feeling like I knew a character as thoroughly as I knew Colby by the end and the whole thing is so easy to read and unaffected. It was not a predictable teenage love story nor a campy road trip adventure, and when you come to the beautiful ending you see the author had no hidden agenda or message to preach other than expressing the pain and joy of trying to find your place in the world.

Conclusion: An easy read with substance and gorgeous writing that will hit pretty close to home in some places especially for those in their late teens and twenties. It won't bring you down though, as this lovely coming of age story carefully guides you toward an ending full of hope and wonder at all the world has to offer. This is a book to watch in the coming year and an author to keep an eye on.

5 out 5 star review and you get an awesome cover to boot.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Divergent by Veronica Roth


Author: Veronica Roth
Hardcover, 487 pages
Published May 3rd 2011 by Katherine Tegen Books

"In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her." - publisher's description

My Review

I just finished reading the book Divergent, and trust me when I say that this is and will be the next huge thing in young adult fiction and more than likely there will be a film, and in a year or so it will be everywhere, not quite like the Hunger Games but close.  (Why can’t you buy stock in books?  I’d be rich!)  So do me a favor and jump on the bandwagon now so we can have it to ourselves for a little while longer.  (Except not really as it was voted Goodread’s “favorite book of 2011”.)  I’ll start with my one primary criticism and that is that it's a little too similar to the Hunger Games in several respects.  That being said, she is an excellent writer and the characters, the plot pacing, the vivid and detailed descriptions that she sneaks in unexpectedly, and overall theme of the book are all her own.  So she was clearly inspired by the Hunger Games, so what?  I didn’t find myself irritated by it and in fact, didn’t think about the similarities too much until the end of the book (to be fair, I read the Hunger Games over three years ago so it’s not as fresh in my mind).  The book critic in me could point out a few others things but I won’t because the book lover in me is too in love with the characters and well, there’s the review in a nutshell.

Tris (Beatrice) is a strong female protagonist which is always refreshing to read and what I loved most about the book is her tremendous growth as a character throughout the story.  You are right beside her as she makes difficult choices, learns the consequences, makes and loses friends, deciphers who her enemies are and who really has her best interests at heart, and you are there as she feels the ache of growing up and realizing her own naivety.  She asks questions concerning what is selfless and what is selfish, the truth behind acts of bravery, the difference between necessary and senseless acts of violence, how mankind can twist what seems good, and what kinds of people it takes for a society to function in a fair and prosperous manner to all.  

There is definitely some romance and watching it develop is a lot of fun and happens more naturally than in many other young adult books.  The dynamic between them is refreshing as they support and challenge each other and are attracted out of mutual respect for one another, not something I can say for most YA books either.  If I were way less mature and perhaps still in my teens I would say I had a mad crush on the love interest but, ahem, that’s simply not the case. 

Every character is multi- dimensional with something else simmering beneath the surface and readers can only guess at how that will play out.  As typical with this brand of dystopian fiction, it’s a gritty futuristic world she’s created, tragedy does eventually strike, and you’ll find that Tris is almost too tough to be relatable but you root for her nonetheless.  The plot pacing is fantastic so be prepared to stay up all night finishing this one.  Something I would never do, but you might.  *Yawn*

Conclusion: 4 stars starts out of 5*.  Let go of comparisons to the epic Hunger Games and enjoy.  You’ll get attached to Veronica Roth’s characters fairly quick and  find yourself lost in this page turner and in a voice that is all her own.  When you hit the end you’ll want to run to your computer to search when the sequel comes out.  Let me save you the trouble:

Insurgent hits shelves May 1st, 2012.  What is today’s date again?  Aw, man.

Favorite Quotes (without giving anything away)

“He told me once to be brave, and though I have stood still while knives spun toward my face and jumped off a roof, I never thought I would need bravery in the small moments of my life. I do.” 
- Tris from Divergent

“Becoming fearless isn't the point. That's impossible. It's learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it.”  - Tris from Divergent

* a note about my rating system, when reviewing young adult fiction I compare it to other young adult books and not, to say, timeless literature.  That being said, I am not downing this genre in any way, as a good book is just a good book and good writer is just a good writer.

Has anyone else read this?  I need to discuss!
Tell me your thoughts!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Currently Reading

Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. by Sam Wasson

I found this awhile back and I just started it but I'm enjoying it as it discusses (in a very fun and readable manner) how Audrey Hepburn's portrayal of Holly Golightly changed women's views of themselves and society in the sixties.  Really interesting take on the movie and women's roles in society during that time.  I highly recommend.

 "how did Breakfast at Tiffany's bring American audiences to see that the bad girl was really a good one?  There was no way she could have known it then -- in fact, if someone were to suggest it to her, she probably would have laughed them off -- but Audrey Hepburn, backed by everyone else on Breakfast at Tiffany's, was about to shake up absolutely everything.  This book is the story of those people, their hustle, and that shake."  -excerpt from the book

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
Ok, I started this series a couple of years ago and the last book finally came out.  I honestly didn't want to read it but the crazy book lover in me told me I had to for closure.   It's taking me a little bit to get into the story again but I'm determined to find out what happens to Eragon and his dragon, gosh darn it.  Basically when I'm finished, I'll be happy if good wins over evil and Eragon hooks up with Arya and that I won't have to remember who characters with names like Jormundur and Nar Garzhvog are supposed to be.  I'm not hatin', I'm just frustrated, k?  I read the entire third book (which was lengthy to get through) thinking the series would end, only to find that not only was there a surprise fourth book but I'd have to wait forever for it.  I think I'm still holding that grudge. 

The Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

"In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street—and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.
With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them.
Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will—the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?
As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart."  -Amazon's description

To view the book go here.   I'm not going to review this one because it is such a popular series in young adult fiction but I enjoyed this latest installment!  3.5 stars out of 5

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Maze Runner: Book review


The Maze Runner by James Dashner is another dystopian fiction book that landed itself on the New York Times bestseller list.  It’s about a boy named Thomas who suddenly finds himself in a place called the Glade, an expanse surrounded by large stone walls and home to around fifty boys that live in an isolated environment surviving on their own agriculture.  Nobody remembers their former lives, how they got there, or why.  

 Beyond the walls of the Glade is a maze that opens during the day and shuts at night to protect them from something terrible that comes out at dark.  Thomas’s arrival is expected by the Gladers but the next day a girl arrives, the first one ever to enter the Glade, and she unwittingly delivers an ominous message.  The boys have always assumed that if they could solve the maze they could make it back to wherever they are come from, but with Thomas’s arrival the long established order of things begins to fall apart and Thomas decides to do whatever it takes to find some answers before it’s all too late.  

Reading level: Ages 12 and up
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (October 6, 2009)

I think, I ended up liking this book but I found the first quarter of it difficult to get through.  I still can’t decide if the author was smart to make us feel as confused, disoriented, and frustrated as the main protagonist or cheap to rely on devices like that to keep us turning pages.  At a certain point you don’t care anymore because you’ve invested too much and you need answers for your own sanity as well as Thomas’s.

 Thomas was a neutral character for me that I didn’t really like or dislike until later in the book when he began to show some courage and resourcefulness giving his character a bit of dimension.  It was a little weird how often he got his “feelings hurt” by the other boys and whines about not remembering things so you’re relieved when he resolves not to accept the status quo and emerges a leader.

The rest of the characters were decidedly likeable and unlikeable though none were particularly explored in depth (it is a children's book after all).  Newt and Minho were by far my favorite of all the characters as they are practical, quick, brave and likeable without trying too hard. 

 Dashner’s world is created fairly well in that you get an idea of the deceptive peace of the Glade (quiet forest, never-ending nice weather) and the confusing dichotomy of a natural self- sustaining environment with the implied futuristic technology that controls the Glade and the Maze.  The boys’ made up slang in interesting, and Thomas’s observations are fairly realistic and gritty fitting a dystopian novel (snot dripping, slimy goo, ugly noses, the cook’s wiry beard hair that Thomas fears will show up in his food). 
A nice mystery element, enough clues that you have a sense of the boys’ situation by the middle of the book, constant tension between all the boys, and  a few good fight scenes including a “final battle” makes the last half exciting.  And what can I say?  These kids are narrowly avoiding death at every turn and you'll find you've grown attached them.  Though there are many unique elements the plot line isn’t terribly original, so you’ll think you have it pretty much figured out until the very end where there is an unexpected twist in the epilogue that will probably have you rushing out for the sequel despite the inevitable page-turning stress it will cause you.

Conclusion:  3.5 stars Think The Hunger Games meets Lord of the Flies and an eventual page turner if you’re in the mood for some young adult fiction or a quick dystopian read.
 Other books in the trilogy: The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure. Also coming out in 2012 is the prequel, The Kill Order.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Goodreads Choice Awards

Goodreads has announced the winners for best books of 2011.  You can see the winners for any genre but best overall book for 2011 was one I haven't read:

  Here is amazon's description:

One choice can transform you. Pass initiation. Do not fail! Thrilling urban dystopian fiction debut from exciting young author. In sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior's world, society is divided into five factions -- Abnegation (the selfless), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent) -- each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue, in the attempt to form a "perfect society." At the age of sixteen, teens must choose the faction to which they will devote their lives. On her Choosing Day, Beatrice renames herself Tris, rejects her family's group, and chooses another faction. After surviving a brutal initiation, Tris finds romance with a super-hot boy, but also discovers unrest and growing conflict in their seemingly "perfect society." To survive and save those they love, they must use their strengths to uncover the truths about their identities, their families, and the order of their society itself.

Dystopian fiction (not familiar with the term?  Think anti-utopia) is the new big thing in young adult fiction, mostly because of the phenomenal Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  Each time I read a new one it seems to be either amazing or....not so much.  No in between (why is that?).  Divergent looks really good though.

Look at the rest of this years winners here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Currently Reading

I found this while browsing at the bookstore and so far I am loving it.   It's about small, everyday interactions with people, noticing those we may ignore, take for granted, or not see very clearly. It's brilliantly written, poignant, and darkly humorous.  We'll see how I feel when I get to the end.  To learn more go here.

Also reading:

This is written by my seventh grade grammar teacher!  Really enjoying the escapades of her and her daughter as they go to Italy with no plan and no money and rely on faith and the goodwill of people to navigate the country.  Her insights into the Italian culture are fun to read and I had similar feelings and experiences when I went to Italy in 2008 to study abroad.  Look at it here.

And I'm rereading the Harry Potter series as it's been a long time and the winter weather gets me in the mood  for good kid lit and young adult fiction.  Ok, who am I kidding, I read it year round.  Anyways,  I'm currently on the third.  Getting lost in her world is always amazing and just reaffirms what we all already know:  J.K.  Rowling is just bloody brilliant. *wink*

About Me

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My name is Sarah McInroe and I am an artist living and working in Texas with my husband and dog, Lucy. I love sharing my art and other's art. You can also see my work at or for sale on my Etsy. Thanks for visiting!