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text SPOILER ALERT! 2016-09-03 03:31

Chapter 1


   My hands are numb from the cold air. It's 6 am and I'm waiting outside of the Prelude Clubhouse for my dad to finish a breakfast meeting with his work group. Every Sunday, he insists on taking me with him for golf, but when the meeting starts, I only stay long enough to finish my food. Their conversations are always so bland, so reserved. They talk numbers and reports, almost as if to bore me. Deep down, I know that it's a distraction. It might be a family gathering, but I am the only relative that comes. There are dozens of men there. I can't imagine that not a single one is a father or a husband.

No—they purposefully wait for me to leave to talk business. It worries me what kind of work my dad is involved in that's so closed-off and secretive. I picture them as a room of criminals. My presence is an inconvenience, but I have to attend. It's only fitting after my mom died two years ago. He would take her. I feel like coming here helps fill that empty void for my dad.

   A door opens from behind me and I turn slightly to see a younger member of the group approaching me. He's dressed in a black business suit like the others, but striking blue eyes contrast jet-black hair. He stood out to me from the first day and from what I've seen of his mannerisms, he's fairly new to the organization.

   "Needed some fresh air?" he asks as he comes to stand at my left side.

   I shrug. No one has ever asked me this before.

   "I wouldn't know what to talk about in there," I admit.

   He smiles, but looks ahead at the foggy rolling hills beyond the course.

   "You might be surprised," he responds. "There's a lot to be said about what we do. You never know—one of these days, this might be your legacy to share with us."

   I smile back, failing to re-capture his wandering gaze. "I doubt I'm cut out for it. That's more my father's thing." I question why I called my dad that. I'm not one to pick up conversational cues for the sake of the other person. This man has a strange effect on me. It doesn't make me feel very comfortable.

   "Maybe," he concludes simply.

   I open my mouth to mention that I'm not fully sure what it is that they do, but he turns and returns to the front double-doors.As one opens, he catches it, holding it for my dad.

   "Thank you," my dad says to him, before walking to me.

   The man disappears inside, but not without another glance at me. I'm not sure what it is behind his eyes that has me stuck in place. It was forceful.

   "There you are," my dad tells me in a tone that's meant to be cheerful. I don't buy the attitude for one second—his eyes tell a different story. They're apprehensive, almost scared.

   "That was weird," I explain to him. "He asked why I'm out here."

   "I'm not surprised. You never stay." He starts walking with me across the road leading from the clubhouse to the entrance gate. "What did he say?"

   "I'll explain when we're back at the house."

   This place has the tendency to give me the creeps on any day. I have no interest in discussing anything personal within possible earshot of the grounds. Before we take more than two steps onto the lawn to cut across to the parking lot, a black sedan drives at an oddly-low speed across the road. I follow it with my eyes as it circles to behind us. Then, it stops—so do I. My dad must sense my hesitation. He stops, too, turning around to look at the car. A rear passenger's window rolls down and I see a mirror-like reflection no bigger than a bottleneck shining from the lower edge of it. I get an uneasy feeling and step towards my dad.

   A loud bang cuts through the air and I hear my dad gasp. The window rolls up as the car leaves, just as slowly as it came.       The next few moments don't feel real—they happen too quickly. All I can do is let out the breath I've been holding as I shake my dad on my lap, having collapsed onto the grass in a desperate attempt to catch his falling body. I see blood soaking through his blazer where his heart should be. I near to touch it, to try to stop the bleeding, but my hand freezes, moving sharply to his face instead as I pray that he moves.

   "Dad," I squeak in the loudest voice that will escape my lips—it's inaudible. I shake him again by the shoulders, but he won't move anymore. It's like he froze. "Dad!"

   Echoes of my cries pulsate through my head, but he won't hear me. He won't listen anymore.

Source: mayatripathi.wix.com/fallacies/radicals
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text 2014-03-21 18:41
What the $##$#!!#$#$ Is Young Adult Literature, Anyway?

From my blog, a rant about my philosophy about YA books, no thanks to the many agents and publishers who try to convince me otherwise: 




Source: hblackbeard.blogspot.com/2014/03/what-is-young-adult-literature-anyway.html
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review 2013-12-09 04:11
Seraphina - Rachel Hartman

Plot Summary: 


The land of Goredd has experienced forty years of uneasy peace between humans and dragons thanks to a much-contested treaty. In spite of the efforts to improve inter-species relations by the powers that be, much tension still exists. Seraphina Dombegh, the assistant music mistress at the Goreddi court, finds herself thrust in the middle of the action when a prince of the realm is found murdered, presumably by a dragon. In the process, a secret that Seraphina holds close to her heart is in danger of being revealed.


Interview with Rachel Hartman: 





And here it is, a young adult novel that, in my opinion, is fully worthy of the elusive five-star review. This book is incredibly well-written and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It's now one of my favorites! I find it most challenging to write reviews for books that are this good, because I just want to say "I LOVE EVERYTHING. GO READ THIS NOW." But of course, no book is perfect, and a good review should be more detailed than that. So here goes my best shot! 


Hartman has created a fascinating world, one where dragons can more easily interact with humans by assuming a human form, known as a saarantrai. This does nothing to endear dragons to humans, however; if anything, one could even argue that it only makes things worse, as humans can claim that dragons are out to trick them. It doesn't help that dragons have no sense of social etiquette and, while incredibly intelligent, are also incredibly awkward. The world resembles medieval Europe, but with the obvious difference being that dragons exist. There appear to be no other major differences: the various breeds of dragons appear to be the only mythological creatures that exist in Hartman's world and there seems to be no magic (unless one counts music, which many in our own world would agree is a form of magic in itself). 


Hartman fills her world with fascinating characters. Seraphina's passion is music, a skill that she's learned from her uncle Orma. She befriends two members of the royal family, Glisselda and Lucian, known affectionately by his surname, Kiggs. Glisselda is an absolute sweetheart, who wants nothing more than for everyone she loves to get along, while Kiggs strictly follows his moral compass. Seraphina's relationship with the two is challenged by her secret, which causes her to feel compelled to lie in order to protect it. 


The plot is exquisitely constructed. Hartman evades the tendency of some authors to info-dump and manages to reveal her world to the reader in bits and pieces. The result is wonderful: by the end of the book, the reader feels sufficiently familiar with Goredd, but hasn't experienced the frustrating feeling of being overwhelmed or bored by information overload. Hartman weaves a story that's full of plot twists and unexpected revelations, ensnaring the reader's attention so wholly that it can't be freed until the story has ended.



I loved this book so much that I personally can't think of a single thing to complain about or that needs to be improved. Thankfully, there were a few people in class who weren't as thrilled with the book as I was - although no one outright disliked it - so I can offer their criticism as a potential warning to readers, even though I disagree with their assessments. I think the biggest criticism that was mentioned was that some people didn't find it believable that the dragons weren't more aggressive towards humans or that they weren't more eager to flaunt their dragon forms. I think that the person's comment was something along the lines of "If I was a dragon, I'd just react to a human's aggression by transforming into dragon form and kicking their butts" (paraphrasing, of course - I can't remember the person's exact words). I can understand why some people would react that way, but in my opinion, Hartman addressed that issue sufficiently. The mere existence of the peace treaty shows that the humans are, or at the very least, were at some point, relatively equal in strength and skill to the dragons. Therefore, if peace is the goal, it's in the dragons' best interests to refrain from being more aggressive towards humans. Any dragons who abide by the treaty and reside in Goredd are faced with discrimination and intolerance from humans, and, again, if they are to obey the peace treaty that is enforced not only by the humans but also by the dragons' government as well, they must abide by its terms. Again, in my opinion, I think that this topic was sufficiently explained by Hartman, but I suppose some people might disagree with me.


I can't wait for the sequel to be released, which won't be until either June 2014 or March 2015 (goodreads lists both dates and Hartman has no clues on her website so I am just stumped and crossing my fingers for 2014 because I NEED to read it!!!). This book is wonderful and I highly, highly recommend that you rush out to your nearest bookshelf and pick it up!


Recommended to: 

Well, anyone, really - as stated above, I adored this book and I find it difficult to fathom why anyone would not. But I suppose that specifically, I would recommend this to people who love fantasy and/or young adult literature. I think this book is a great representative of both genres, and, as I've said, I can't imagine anyone not enjoying it. 


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review 2013-12-09 03:37
The Keeper of Dawn
The Keeper of Dawn - J.B. Hickman

Plot Summary:


Jacob Hawthorne is less than enthusiastic about being forced to attend boarding school on Raker Island. Unfortunately, no one really seems to care about what he wants - not his self-absorbed mother, his absentee father, or his adventurous older brother - and so off to boarding school he goes. But once there, Jake becomes a part of the Headliners, a group of boys who band together after their fathers all make the front page of the papers on the same day. In the Headliners, Jake learns the value of friendship and finds that he's not the only one who suffers from constantly living in the shadow of a prestigious father.


Unfortunately, at this time, I was unable to find a video interview with J.B. Hickman. However, a print interview may be found here




I loved this book so much more than I expected to. Written in the same vein as classics such as Catcher in the Rye and A Separate PeaceThe Keeper of Dawn centers around a bunch of privileged boys with serious daddy issues. Not my usual thing - but, again, it was on the reading list for class. However, this book stands out from the cliches. It's written beautifully and subtly, and I honestly could not put it down when I first read it this past summer. 


What struck me most about this book was the plot twist at the end. It's probably one the most successfully executed plot twists that I've ever read. It came completely out of nowhere and completely blindsided me, much as it must have blindsided Jake. As I re-read it this past week, I kept the ending in the back of my mind as I read and I was able to pick up on clues about what was coming, but they're so subtle that the reader dismisses them without even realizing it. Truly brilliant. 


This is a book that deals a lot with psychology - how boys must deal with living in their fathers' shadows, class issues, and how, as Mr. O'Leary (Jake's teacher/mentor) says, (and I'm paraphrasing here) the purpose of prep schools is so boys can form the right tribes/clans, and if they fall in with the wrong one they're lost forever. 


I'd like to start with the concept of "daddy issues." In this book, Jake, Chris, and Roland all live in their dads' shadows. I guess Derek does too, but he really didn't seem as bothered by it - or at least, nowhere near to the extent that the other boys are. Chris' dad is a major politician and he tends to use his reputation as a family man to win votes. In response, Chris is just about the most rebellious kid imaginable - or at least, he is by prestigious rich kid standards. He's got giant wings tattooed to his back (a huge taboo in 1980, especially in the society that these boys associate with), he seeks out trouble simply for the sake of embarrassing his father, and he revels in drinking and sex (which isn't exactly atypical where teenage boys are concerned). Roland was my favorite character, I think. He comes from a long line of military heroes and he's expected to carry on the tradition. The problem is, Roland is a very peaceful, pensive person - he is so not suited for a military career. But he's so weighed down by the family tradition that he can't even consider any other path for his life. 


Being that these boys all go to a prep school in New England, it's pretty clear that they're from the upper echelons of society. Jake tells us that his family is very well-respected in legal matters, and I've already touched on Chris and Roland's families' prominence. Derek's the exception. His family is "new money," and that's not really apparent until the boys go home with him over break and he throws a party that his dream girl refuses to attend because of his apparently lower class tendencies. I think this point is more subtly illustrated by the group dynamics. Jake is the narrator so we see everything from his perspective, and what's most evident is that he comes to view all of the boys, especially Chris, as older brothers - they're two years older than him and they really take him under their wing. But if you look at the rest of the dynamics, Chris and Roland are attached at the hip. They've been together since childhood and they are without question best friends. I think that Jake sees himself as the group's follower, but in reality, I think that it's Derek. He's not a part of this society - he is, but they don't really see him as such because he's "new money." He tags along with Chris and Roland but even though he's their age, because he doesn't have the same background as they do, he's not really a part of the group. He's essentially a follower. 


Going back to the "tribe" aspects, Mr. O'Leary warns Jake not to hang out with the Headliners. He acts as a father figure to Jake at the school and he doesn't want Jake to hang around the boys because 1) they're two years older and he feels that Jake should be around boys his own age and, more importantly 2) they're TROUBLE. Or so Mr. O'Leary says. And I suppose he has a point: they wreak havoc from the very beginning and as the book progresses, their shenanigans get more and more out of hand. So yes, I guess they are trouble. But they're also really good for Jake. They break him out of his shell and make him feel important. He looks up to them and, regardless of what Chris' motives may be at times, they truly are there for him. I think this demonstrates the tendency to categorize people as "good" or "bad," when, in reality, we all have both qualities and even when people have a dark past, they still have good in them and can still be of value. 


I think this book is fantastic. It is not a book that I would typically like, but the more I think about it, the more blown away I am by how well it's written and how much J.B. Hickman managed to pack into it.  In my opinion, this is capital-l Literature and I think that if it gets the attention that it deserves, it could very well become a coming-of-age classic, worthy of being discussed in a high school English class. I know that this is a huge claim to make, but of all the young adult novels that I've ever read, I believe that this one has the most potential to become a classic. I highly recommend reading it. 


Recommended to: 


In a public library setting, I think I would recommend this to just about any teen, but especially teens who I know have recently struggled with the loss of a family member or who are struggling to find their place in the world. I think that teens in either of these categories will be able to identify the characters, which will add to their appreciation of the story.  

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2013-12-09 02:56
daynight (Volume 1) - Megan Thomason

Plot Summary: 


When Kira Donovan has the opportunity to become a recruit for the Second Chance Institute during her senior year of high school in exchange for a full ride to college, she jumps at the chance, especially since all of her friends died in a tragic accident. However, she quickly learns that the SCI is nothing like she'd imagined: she finds herself on Earth's sister planet, Thera, where nothing is as it should be. The more she learns about Thera, the more Kira wonders what she's gotten into. It doesn't help that she's been paired up with the mysterious Blake Sundry as a partner, and on top of everything, she can't push Ethan, a stranger that she met at a party, out of her mind... all this adds up to a new young adult novel filled with action, romance, and suspense.


Unfortunately, at this time, I was unable to find a video interview with Megan Thomason. However, a print interview can be found here




This book has such an interesting premise. Yes, it's dystopian, and as such, it has a lot of similarities with other dystopian novels - including a communist society that is highly regulated by the authorities. But the concept of a sister planet to Earth that is Earth's polar opposite, a planet where people who've died can have a second chance to live out their lives... that is a cool concept. 


The main problem with this book is that the super cool concept is not carried out as well as it might have been. We discussed many of its weaker points inclass and we agreed that one of its huge weaknesses is that Thomason throws a LOT of information at the reader in a very short amount of time. She'll have characters (usually Kira) asking questions about things that don't seem quite right, then wait about 50 pages and answer all of them at once. And then, the answers get repeated to us twice as each of the narrators get filled in on the information. I think a way that this problem could have been avoided would have been if Thomason had chosen to stick to one narrator. This book is told through multiple points of views - those of Kira, Blake, and Ethan (and in the very beginning, Bailey) - and in some books, this is a great way to keep the story moving and tell it from various perspectives. In this case, it created choppiness, led to repetition, and made the book much longer than it needed to be. I think it would have been better if Thomason had stuck to Kira's point of view - that way, we'd learn everything when the protagonist learned it and we wouldn't have to read the same information multiple times. 


daynight shows some similarities to other recent young adult series.  Although her story is certainly her own, there are common elements. For example, as in The Hunger Games, Thera is split up into various cities (similar to the districts in THG), each of which serves a different purpose for the overall functioning of Thera (example: Industrial City takes care of all of the manufacturing). I think the similarities to Twilight are more visible. There's a love triangle that exists throughout the entire book (and I suspect throughout the rest of the series as well) between Kira, Blake, and Ethan. Even the names are similar: Blake/Jake, Ethan/Edward. Blake is the nice but flawed boy, Ethan is the seemingly perfect in every way Prince Charming. They have sparkly eyes. Like in Twilight, the characters have crazy raging hormones but insist on not acting on them until they're Cleaved (aka married). Again, I don't mean to imply that Thomason stole elements of her story from these extremely successful YA series. But you can definitely see the similarities. Thomason was kind enough to respond to my initial review of the book and she pointed out that, contrary to what I had been told and despite the similarities, Twilight did not influence her when writing daynight. 


This brings me to my next point, and I'm not sure exactly how to word it. The characters, while not exactly one-dimensional, did not seem as fully developed as they could have been. To me, the boys didn't talk like boys - they talked like an adult woman's interpretation of teenage boys, but not like actual teenage boys. Everyone was overly sarcastic - yes, teens are sarcastic, but they do not respond sarcastically to each and every situation. Reactions to scenarios were far too calm. Example: The SCI shoots Kira's parents. Though horrified, she simply accepts this as her fault - if she had listened to the SCI's instructions to return to Thera, this never would have happened. Although it's possible that this could have happened had Kira experienced extreme trauma/brainwashing at the hands of the SCI before this point, at this stage, she really hadn't prior to this, and I didn't believe her mostly calm reaction. After reading my review, Thomason actually took the time to re-write this scene. I think it's remarkable that not only did she take the time to read my review AND respond to it, but she took my feedback seriously enough to modify her review based on what I had to say. I found the revised version to be a huge improvement, as Thomason added Kira's thought processes and mental responses to each thing that happened, rather than simply narrating the events. 


Additionally, some key plot elements just didn't add up. Examples: 


-There is NO WAY Blake could have climbed a bunch of ropes on the edge of a cliff at the age of three. 

-Blake could NOT have made it over the detonator when returning from the canyons and survived. On the off chance that he did, he would NOT have healed as promptly as he did. 


Ultimately, this book had a LOT of potential, but there were some key points that just had me shaking my head in disbelief/disappointment. I think that part of the problem is that (as far as I know), it's self-published. In her author's note, Thomason says that she's had several people look over her book and proofread it prior to publishing, but I think this really could have benefited from a professional editor, who could have given Thomason a bit more guidance as to format and style. She puts forth a good effort towards a potentially great book, but I don't believe that it's lived up to its full potential. I do think that this book will greatly appeal to teenage girls - if I were in middle school, I would have devoured it and bought it hook, line, and sinker. But as a college student reading it with a more critical eye, there is a lot of room for improvement, and I believe that many adults who give this a try will come to the same conclusions. I do intend to continue the series, however, because in spite of its flaws, it truly is an enjoyable story, full of plot twists and suspense. 


When Thomason spoke with me, she told me that although daynight was pretty much exclusively previewed by proof-readers, her later books in the series are being looked at by an editor and she does take beta readers and reviewers' feedback seriously. Considering my own experience with her, I definitely believe that. The revised scene that I had the privilege of reading makes me believe that her writing skills have definitely improved just in the short time since daynight was published and although, as stated, I think that daynight essentially reads as an early draft as a novel, I anticipate that her later works will be of a higher quality and will have benefited from her added experience. I look forward to reading the rest of the series and plan to look for the sequel once I've graduated. 


Recommended to: 


If I were to recommend this to anyone, I would definitely recommend it to middle school girls. There's really nothing too offensive or inappropriate for that age group and I think that preteen girls will appreciate the romance aspect of it, and, as stated, it bears similarities to Twilight and The Hunger Games that I think would appeal to that audience. Thomason told me that the book has also been very popular with college aged women, but based on my own experience and that of my classmates' I think I would be hesitant to recommend this to one of my own peers without being very familiar with their reading tastes. However, after I read the rest of the series, that might change and I might be more inclined to recommend this to a wider group of readers, with the caveat being that the series improves in later books. 

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