Saturday, October 17, 2015

A Power Ballad of a Tale

Sugar SkullsSugar Skulls by Lisa Mantchev
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What an intense, fun ride Sugar Skulls is. Though I am previously familiar with the literary concept of a young adults utopia where your main goal in life is just to party and have fun (The Uglies Series by Scott Westerfeld and Night Creatures Trilogy by Marianne de Pierres), this has a fresh spin to it which I quite enjoyed.

In this dystopian world where regular energy sources are depleting, people are searching for a new sustainable energy. Cyrene is a unique pioneer city which is harnessing the energy created through one's pleasure, both on a physical and emotional level, via thrum-collectors and a grid that keeps track of it's citizens. (Big Brother is totally watching you... right now... just kidding... Or am I?)

Enter stage left is Vee, our scrappy, no bull, punk-rockette leading lady; the Corporate's songbird whose voice has an amazing siren-like power over the masses. Along with her two friends, Sasha of the hot-pink punk style and retro-goth with Victorian flair Jax, they make a band called Sugar Skulls whose fan base is ever growing. In a city where it's power if you can heighten the citizens excitement and adoration, Vee and her friends are pretty close to being a gods, or so it seems.

Beneath the shiny surface of Cyrene there are hidden dangers and with the appearance of Micah, an untraceable ghost to Cyrene's grid, the dark secrets in Vee's forgotten past come to the surface threatening to swallow her whole and take all she loves with her. Does she have the strength to overcome her demons, both in her past and her present, in order to save her future?

This tale is a power ballad of dark and light, glitter and ruin, love and hate. Vee is both tough and fragile, her vulnerabilities making her human and relatable. I would have loved to have read more about her band mates and seen more interactions between them all as their relationship did seem a little disjointed but I guess there can only be so many pages right?

The plot was interesting and seeing the story unfold from the viewpoints of both Vee and Micah made it a fascinating read. The story was relatively fast paced and the climax though exciting, was a little bit underwhelming but didn't detract from the overall tale. The story can stand alone but perhaps, just maybe, there is an opening for a sequel? I just didn't get my fill of Cyrene and the Sugar Skulls.

Overall I devoured this story of song, grit and glitter in one sitting; it was an enjoyable read, the cover is amazing and I am seriously considering getting a hardcopy for my bookshelf.

Sugar Skulls is available here

Please Note: I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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High School Unmasked

Falling into PlaceFalling into Place by Amy Zhang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just WOW.

I have never read a book that so thorough in drawing back the curtain on all the glitz and glamour of being one of the popular kids in high school. If you think this is just another Gossip Girl you are very, VERY, mistaken.

For a girl who seems to have it all, the hot boyfriend, the right friends, the right clothes and the assertive attitude, Liz Emerson realizes she is a cataclysm of bad luck to everyone she meets, friends and foes alike. Sick of the lies, the depression, the loneliness and the affect she has on others, Liz is determined to end it all and stop the vicious cycle.

An interesting, engrossing read that begins at its climax, it swings between flashbacks and present time to explain how it all came to a head. As much as the story is about Liz, it is also about her friends, family and the people whose lives she changed for better or worse, sometimes both. I had come to know all of the main and supporting characters so well they became unmasked before my very eyes.

As much as I really, REALLY, wanted to hate Liz for all the nasty things she did and the lives she ruined, surprisingly, I could not bring myself to I was able to connect with Zhangs characters in way I wasn't able to in other young adult books; their secrets, heartbreaks and tragedies are so real and relatable to youth today as they were when I was in high school.

Amy Zhang strips the high school caste system bare, until all we see is the bare bones and hidden secrets of those we thought we knew well and those we didn't. Falling into Place really makes you re-evaluate what it means to be a friend, a parent or how you treat people you barely know or just met.

A beautiful and powerfully emotive book. Buy it, read it and realize that in your deepest despair you are not alone.

Please Note: I received this copy from Bookworld (now Angus & Robertson Bookworld) in exchange for an honest review.

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A Hidden Gem

Orphan TrainOrphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every once in awhile you come upon a gem of a book that will leave a mark upon your bookworm heart, regardless of the somewhat bleak cover. Orphan Train is neither a fairy tale nor a tragedy but rather a story of survival of the darkness that life can throw your way.

A series of unfortunate events in her young life come to a head when a very badly thought out action leads Molly Ayer to choose between juvie or 50 hours of community service... Seems life has hit an all time low for this smart talking, angst ridden, OCD 17 year old Native American Goth.

Clean out an old lady's attic, a pretty straightforward task right? But the prim Vivian Daly is not at all what she seems and as each box is opened Molly uncovers a hidden past, buried secrets and perhaps a kindred soul. Suddenly a community service project evolves into something much more, with the potential to change the life of more than just one woman.

This book surprised me on many different emotional levels and I found it easy to read, devouring it in one day. Orphan Train is truly a hidden treasure, a great bookclub suggestion with interesting historical facts to discuss and a reading group guide enclosed at the back of the book.

If you are a fan of Posie Graeme-Evan's The Dressmaker or The Linnet Bird by Linda Holeman and therefore not afraid of gritty historical fiction with heart, pick up Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. You will not be disappointed.

Please Note: I received this copy from Bookworld (now Angus & Robertson Bookworld) in exchange for an honest review.

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