Monday, July 14, 2014

The Testing & Independent Study - Joelle Charbonneau

Title: The Testing (The Testing #1)
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Hardcover: 336 pages (my version ARC paperback)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books
Published date: 2013
FTC: Requested to review from publisher

When I heard about the premise for the YA trilogy The Testing I knew I'd want to check it out. I love YA dystopian novels - The Hunger Games, Divergent, Article 5, etc. I was pretty darn impressed with The Testing. So far, it has the most realistic premises for it's dystopian future.  I also really liked the protagonist Cia Vale. I don't normally write multiple reviews in one post, but I thought I'd give it a try.

Back of the book:

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation's chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing - their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.

Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father's advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies - trust no one.

But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed this first book of The Testing series. I was very impressed with synopsis of the Seven Stages War that left earth pretty messed up.  Survivors have rallied and made a capitol city in Kansas while colonies are made in other regions of the U.S. The goal of the survivors is to fix and rejuvenate the earth while making sure their future government doesn't make the same mistakes. Gradually throughout the testing (and more in the second book) the background unfolds. I thought this was pretty brilliant on the author's part to gradually fill in the gaps of the apocalyptic background.

I also thought the idea of the future University whose goal is to recruit only the best and brightest who will be the future leaders of the United Commonwealth.  Think of The Testing as the ACT or SAT test only insanely more intense and life threatening.  What appealed to me the most about this book is how scarily logical the whole thing is. While some dystopian novels have kind of a silly or far fetched big brother government, this one is very realistic. The Testing challenges are also crazily brutal. I think it's more scarily done than The Hunger Games because it's done on such an awful stage.

I also really liked Cia Vale. Growing up with five older brothers, you can see how she became the person she is. She really looks up and adores her oldest brother Zeen and her father - both are very intelligent.  She's got a drive to impress and live up to her family's brilliance.  While this book has a tad bit of love story between Cia and Tomas, it really isn't mushy or overly done. I think even guys would enjoy reading the story. I was definitely looking forward to reading book two of the series.

Title: Independent Study (The Testing #2)
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Hardcover: 310 pages (my version eBook)
Publisher: HMH Books
Published date: January 2014
FTC: Check out eBook from the library

Back of the book:

Cia is a freshman at the University in Tosu City with her hometown sweetheart, Tomas - and thought the government has tried to erase her memory of the brutal horrors of The Testing, Cia remembers. Her attempts to expose the ugly truth behind the government's murderous programs put her - and her loved ones - in a world of danger. But the future of the Commonwealth depends on her.

My thoughts:

Hmm. This one is much harder to review. It doesn't lack in action, it starts out on a good foot that way.  Think of college freshman initiations only more deadly. That and Cia and her classmates don't get to pick which area of study they want. They are placed. So while Cia Vale was wanting to do mechanical engineering, she is placed into government studies. The synopsis is also a little misleading. Cia really doesn't remember her time during the Testing...but I'd spoil the end of book one if I told you what happens.

I think the problem with book two is that I just didn't connect as much with Cia. She is basically on survival mode and a lot of the relationships and character building of book one just isn't there. The book doesn't have a whole lot of dialogue so that's always hard for me as a reader. I'll admit that halfway into the book I was debating on giving up on the series.  I am glad I stuck with it though because I really liked how it ended on a cliffhanger and I'm going to check out book three. I won't be waiting on pins and needles but I do want to see how it ends. I just hope the last book gets back some of the personal tones and relationship building that book one had.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Salt & Storm - Kendall Kulper

Title: Salt & Storm
Author: Kendall Kulper
Hardcover: 416 pages (my version ebook ARC)
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published date: September 23, 2014
FTC: Requested to review from Netgalley

My goodness, I'm not sure exactly why but I love this cover. I would have read Salt & Storm without even knowing the story blurb based on the cover alone.  It's mid-July and this book isn't going to be published until September but I already know that Salt & Storm is going to make waves. (I'm laughing at my little joke.)

The story blurb:

 A sweeping historical romance about a witch who foresees her own murder - and the one boy who can help change her future.

Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she's about to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.

Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane - a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.

My thoughts:

Salt & Storm is beautifully written and engaging. Kendall Kulper is a Harvard grad with a degree in lit and history. My kind of author!  So while this book may be tagged "romance" and "ya" it can stand alone as a piece of well written literature.

As a history major myself, I adored the mid-nineteenth century era Avery Roe is from. It almost makes me want to try and read Moby Dick again. I have yet to travel to the shores of Massachusetts but for some reason I always think it will look and feel like this book.  A girl can wish though, can't she?

While the story is set in the past and it's dubbed a historical fiction, if that genre isn't your thing you'd probably enjoy this novel.  The whole story is from Avery Roe's perspective. She's sixteen and rebelling against the life her mom wants for her. While I liked the mystery around Avery's dream of her murder, her frantic search for a way to stop her murder, and her romance with Tane, I loved how the story rolled back to her relationship with her mom.  I think this is a great coming-of-age story.  And what sixteen year old girl isn't going to swoon over Tane. I would have.

I am looking forward to future books by Kendall Kulper.  

Alternate covers I found on Goodreads:

What's your favorite cover?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Modern Pioneering - Georgia Pellegrini

Title: Modern Pioneering
Author: Georgia Pellegrini
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Clarkson Potter
Published date: March 2014
FTC: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

I love the site Blogging for Books. They've recently gone through a revamp and they have a ton of new review books. I gasped when I saw this one and then nearly drooled when I received it. I absolutely adore this book.  Tiny disclaimer - the "pioneering" is taken a bit lightly - you aren't going to learn how to pluck a chicken or anything major.  But this book is right up my alley as a newbie to gardening and eating in season.

This book is beautifully made.  I had to snap some pictures because while you can get it as an eBook, I'd definitely recommend getting the physical book. It is gorgeous.

I love that this book is so visually stunning and explains everything so easily. It's like being able to pick someone's brain and throw it all into a book for handy reference. I've been needing someone to explain what she does in just a couple of pages:

This is really a massively awesome cook book and gardening book. Like I said, while it won't tell you how to raise, kill and pluck chickens, it does show how to quarter one and how to make stock.  Again, perfect for me (although my husband has a dream to raise chickens, goats and bees for some reason).

My family and I are currently going through a massive change. We moved from Las Vegas and are looking for a job and a place to live. I'm looking forward to being able to grow some of our own food and get my two sons involved as well. Modern Pioneering is going to be a great resource for recipes and gardening tips once I get started. For instance, I might be able to grow radishes but then what? I love her section on preserving and jamming. Mmmm.

Check out the video:

Also check out:

Georgia Pellegrini's website
Georgia Pellegrini's facebook