Poisoned Apples

Title: Poisoned Apples

Author: Christine Heppermann

Release Date: Available

Poetry and YA aren’t usually two genres that mix, with the exception of a few authors such as Ellen Hopkins. So, naturally, as a poetry buff, I was intrigued when I heard of the premise of Christine Heppermann’s Poisoned Apples.

The book is a compilation of fifty free-verse poems that cleverly twists classic fairytales to depict the emotional and physical struggles of becoming a teenage girl. While many of the poems, such as “If Tampons Were for Guys,” are lighthearted on the surface, underneath, all of the poems all brilliantly satirize society’s construct of beauty and its physical expectations for women. The humor is dark and twisted, yet honestly portrays the inherent hypocrisy and sexism present in society today.

Powerful black and white images of young girls make Heppermann’s message even more powerful. Often simple and elegant photos of girls in plain, long dresses, the images represent society’s expectation of innocence and purity that Heppermann so brilliantly satirizes in the book.

Although it is a short read, Poisoned Apples is a brilliant work of satire, and a compelling read, even for those who are not fans of poetry.

Reviewed by Danielle

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Time Between Us


Title: Time Between Us

Author: Tamara Ireland Stone

Release Date: Available

They shouldn’t be together. The rules of time say so. But when Bennett Cooper appears in Anna Greene’s life from out of nowhere (so it seems), she can’t make herself push him away. She lives in Evanston, Illinois in 1995. In his present, he should be in 2012, in San Francisco, California. But Bennett can travel through space, time, or both, and when he arrives in Evanston in 1995, Anna has no idea he doesn’t belong.

Anna has never traveled outside of Illinois before. In Bennett, she finds not only a gateway to the world, but also a gateway to love. However, with Bennett’s extraordinary gift comes secrets and choices, and Anna must decide if she is prepared to join him in his special yet challenging life.

This is just the simple premise of a much deeper, more intriguing book that won my interest, my emotions, and the day I spent captivated while reading it. Time Between Us combines elements of other iconic books and authors, while creating something beautifully unique. The time travel love story reminded me of The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger; the writing style and plot progression was reminiscent of Sarah Dessen’s wonderful young adult novels; and the nuanced symbols and metaphors reflected John Green. Don’t get me wrong, however – this book is entirely its own, with a distinctive, creative plot and intriguing characters.

As the story unfolds, readers connect to all the characters in the book; Anna, Bennett, Anna’s parents, Bennett’s grandmother, and Anna’s school friends are all perfectly developed. They all feel like real people, with both strengths and flaws.

Not only did I love the book, but I loved the opportunity to meet author Tamara Ireland Stone at a Book Passage event. After hearing her answer questions, I got the chance to have a chat with her about her writing. She was kind, engaging, and inspiring; it was lovely to be able to meet the creator of this wonderful book-world in real life and I was thrilled at how open and likeable she was, and how willing she was to connect with the young adult readers at the event.

Time Between Us is indeed a young adult romance novel, told from a female point of view, so I doubt it would appeal to a great variety of readers. However, for those who like romance, this is a new, fresh story that is beautiful, captivating, and thought provoking. It was one of those books that I had to read all the way through right away, because I was dying to know the ending. This is Tamara Ireland Stone’s first novel, and I was thrilled to learn she is working on her second. Time Between Us was a pleasure to read, and I encourage fans of the romance genre to give it a try! I’m certain you’ll find yourself as immersed in Anna and Bennett’s relationship as I was!

P.S. After you read the book, head over to its website for extra tidbits about Anna, Bennett, the places they travel, a book trailer, and a playlist of the music they listen to throughout the story!

And don’t forget to check out the write-up of Tamara Ireland Stone’s most recent Book Passage visit!

Review by Katie

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Title: Above

Author: Isla Morley

Release Date: Available

In Eudora, Kansas, a local librarian and survivalist, Dobbs, lives in a mindset of conviction and certainty that the world is on the brink of collapse. In response to this, he constructs an underground bunker in an abandoned missile silo, storing everything from food and supplies to copies of historical documents and various seed samples. He’s also decided who will be his perfect mate — who will be the Adam to his Eve once the world needs rebuilding.

The novel opens with our sixteen year old protagonist, Blythe Hallowell, waking up in her new home.

Abducted and afraid, Blythe attempts to come to terms with her new situation, reacting with fear and confusion, attempting escape and pleas before eventually setting into a sort of resignation. She spends the next eighteen years of her life trapped in the silo, treated to Dobbs’ deranged ramblings about the end of the world, futilely trying to convince Blythe that everything he’s done is for her own good. A few years into her imprisonment, she has a child, and must then struggle with the additional burden of trying to raise and protect her son from the hell they both occupy. Once her son, Adam, reaches the age of fifteen, though, Blythe’s flimsy excuses and explanations no longer satisfy him. He becomes determined to see the world above, and when Dobbs’ refuses, becomes determined to escape.

All of this occurs in the first half of the novel — which I really enjoyed reading. It was thrilling and suspenseful, and Morley does an excellent job of building tension as Blythe makes her numerous escape attempts. The opening half is both page-turning and captivating, compelling and horrifically believable.

But the second half of the novel is where the story loses me.

Okay, quick heads up, massive spoiler alerts below. You’ve been warned.

Adam and Blythe manage to escape by killing Dobbs, finally experiencing a taste of freedom in the world above. Adam is mystified and blown away by this wide, wide, world — but Blythe can tell that something is different —- wrong. Because as it turns out, all of Dobbs’ deranged ramblings about the end of the world turn out to be true. Power failed, nuclear reactors melted down and coated the country in radiation, governments and systems have collapsed and the entire country is poisoned. Adam and Blythe stumble through this new world of unpredictability and danger, eventually managing to settle themselves in Blythe’s old hometown with some familiar faces from Blythe’s past, and, in a sense, live happily ever after.

Now, I’ve heard comments that Above feels like two stories squeezed into one, and I do agree with that. But that’s not my main problem with the book. My main issue is Dobbs, and the treatment of his character.

For the first half of the novel, the reader is led to, reasonably and understandably, revile him. He kidnapped a sixteen year old girl and trapped her underground for over 18 years, removing her from everything she knew and loved and raping her along the way. But then Adam and Blythe discover the world above, finding out that everything Dobbs said is true — that he in fact saved both of them from radiation poisoning and the chaos and misery that plagued the country for years. By raping Blythe, he gave her a son free of mutations and disabilities that define every other child born in recent years. He gave them both a chance at life.

So how am I supposed to feel about him? Blythe herself does very little consideration of Dobbs after emerging aboveground, just the occasional though here or there, leaving Dobbs actions as very morally open ended. He’s also praised later in the novel for remembering to save important historical documents that all others overlooked.

Is he the hero or the villain? As it turns out, he did a number of tremendously good things for Blythe and Adam, by doing a number of tremendously horrific things. Or do they only seem horrific because Blythe/the reader were blind to the truth? After discovering how awful things have become above, the little consideration that Blythe gives to Dobbs seems almost approving and accepting of his actions.

But that can’t erase all of Dobbs horrible actions, can it? Or do his actions only seem horrible because of the reader’s limited perspective?

I walk away from Above treating Dobbs as the villain – because perhaps it can be argued that his actions were justified, but at the heart of the issue, he never gave Blythe a choice. Maybe if she’d been aware of everything that would have happened, she would have chosen life in the silo — but regardless, it should have been her choice to make. By depriving her of the opportunity to make her own decisions, taking it upon himself to do “what’s best for her” Dobbs casts himself in the role of the villain. In the end, his actions aren’t justified by the end of the world.

So overall, I thought the book was interesting and certainly unique. I was frustrated by the moral ambiguity, but all of this is just my take on the novel. I’d be curious to hear other interpretations and views on Dobbs actions. Regardless, it is a gripping and fast-paced read — exciting and intriguing from the first page.

Reviewed by Kayla

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Title: Revived

Author: Cat Patrick

Release Date: Available

Death is optional for Daisy. Ever since the bus crash when she was five that killed the driver and twenty children, including Daisy, she has been part of the testing of an experimental drug called Revive, that brings the dead back to life. Daisy is very accident-prone and dies multiple times and, as a result, is revived and moved, her name changed. Daisy doesn’t really mind, although dying is a real pain in the rear. And she keeps dying of stupid causes like choking on a grape, or allergies. She lives with two of the scientists on the project. She doesn’t really make friends, as she will probably move again in a few years, anyway. Then, after dying of an allergy attack after a bee sting, Daisy Appleby becomes Daisy West. She goes to a new school, and, hey, actually makes a friend. Yet, the God Project, as it is so fondly dubbed, is even more sinister than Daisy knows. Soon she gets tangled in a web of lies — now her life is at stake, and this time if she dies, she dies for good.

I enjoyed this book. It was not the best book I have ever read, but it was engrossing and, at times, emotional. The writing was well done, but nothing special. Daisy’s view of death is skewered, so when she sees it firsthand, the result is heartbreaking. There are many light moments in the book, but the idea of morality and how fragile we are adds darkness. The relationships between most of the characters were touching and realistic, although the whole romance element in the book didn’t really do it for me. I’m not a huge fan of romance in general, however, so I might be a little biased. Revived is one of those rare Sci-Fi/paranormal stand-alone novels. It didn’t give me all the answers I craved, but the ending was satisfactory and wrapped things up nicely, no jarring, pull your hair out cliffhangers. I recommend this book if you are looking for a quick and interesting read.

Review by Annalise

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Tea And Scones With Katherine Longshore

unnamed (3)March 28th, MB14 was thrilled to welcome Katherine Longshore, author of the historical fiction novels GiltTarnish, and most recently, Manor of Secrets. Set in the early 1900s, Manor of Secrets tells the story of Charlotte Edmonds and Janie Seward, two girls who, despite living under the same roof, dwell in entirely different worlds. Charlotte is wealthy but powerless, longing for a life of freedom while Janie is lowborn and practical, dreaming of a better life. The story follows Charlotte and Janie as their two lives are pulled closer together, carrying all complications and rules in tow, threatening an inevitable collision between their upstairs and downstairs lives (for more information, check out MB14’s review of Manor of Secrets). In honor of Manor‘s release we enjoyed an evening of tea and scones, completed by a discussion with Katherine Longshore.

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First, we asked Katherine to talk a little bit about her experience writing historical fiction. She described writing historical fiction as a combination of unnamed (5)world-building and time traveling — that historical time periods are the ultimate secondary worlds. Manor of Secrets was brought about thanks to a demand for a Downtown Abbey-esque young adult novel, requiring extensive research to build Janie and Charlotte’s intricate world. The inspiration for the manor came from an old house near where Katherine used to live in England. Currently in ruins and completely overgrown, at one point it would have been nothing short of pristine, with perfectly manicured and cultivated grounds and an absolute order and hierarchy that governed every aspect of manor life.

We then asked Katherine to discuss her path to publishing — how she went from writer to publishedunnamed (2) author. Her story began when she was working at a preschool and had an idea for a picture book about Henry VIII. That picture book idea turned into a children’s novel, then middle grade, and eventually became Gilt, a book she was expecting to be a stand-alone but turned into a series of three (don’t miss Brazen, coming soon). She also mentioned that Manor of Secrets, while currently a stand-alone, allows for the possibility of a sequel, and she may later return to Janie and Charlotte’s stories. And here’s a fun fact — if you check out the front and back of Manor of Secrets, you’ll see that it’s the same model for both Charlotte and Janie!

unnamed (1)The evening wound to a close with some casual conversation and signed copies and final bites of scones. All in all, we are so grateful to Katherine Longshore for taking the time to stop by and sit down with us, to answer all of our questions (if she could choose one book to become a movie, it would be Brazen) and sharing her insights and for the wonderful conversation. Hopefully we’ll see Katherine again soon, and in the meantime, don’t miss out on reading Manor of Secrets.

Click here to order Gilt, Tarnish, Manor of Secrets, and Brazen.

The End Games

Title: The End Games

Author: T. Michael Martin

Release Date: Available

There is a world painted by darkness – a world home to the echoing, mindless, shambling cries of the Bellows – a world of shotguns and screams and chain link fences, of destruction and chaos – a world defined by death.

In T. Michael Martin’s upcoming novel The End Games, there are two brothers who call this world home.

In some ways, The End Games bears remarkable similarities to the ever rising numbers of zombie apocalypse novels, movies and television shows – in some ways, it fits the formulaic plot lines and patterns we’ve come to know and love and that define this new culture of gore and violence and the all-consuming desire to feast on human flesh. But The End Games also contains elements and plot lines serving to set it apart from its fellows – one of the most compelling being the relationships between the two brothers, as well as all the characters and their interactions. Martin takes an uncertain 17 year old, driven by his unconditional and fierce love for his fragile, unstable 5 year old brother and throws them into hell, with the result being a series of unpredictable twists and turns and fascinating insights into the depths of human resilience and courage.

However, when every facet of our society is seemingly infected by this new apocalyptic trend – it becomes imperative that anything new – be it a novel, show, or movie – must go above and beyond to distinguish itself from the others, and while Martin does find ways to set The End Games apart, I don’t think he goes quite far enough. Throughout the book, there were more parallels than I would have liked between The End Games and another new cult-like phenomenon, The Walking Dead. The End Games didn’t really start proving itself to be unique until the very end, at which point things seemed to speed up and snowball into what felt like a hasty conclusion.

That being said – The End Games is still a compelling and suspenseful read – and seeing as how I found myself unable to put it down, needing to know what would happen next, then clearly Martin’s The End Games is doing something right.

Review by Kayla

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The Kill Order


Title: The Kill Order

Author: James Dashner

Release Date: Available

The world was in chaos. Sun flares had ravaged the earth, destroying civilization as it had been known. However, there were a few who had survived the disaster. Mark, Trina, and Alec were among these survivors, and had been living in a settlement in the mountains. Nothing had returned to normal, but they finally felt at peace for the first time in their community.

But who knew that a small dart could change the world they had come to accept? Out of nowhere, an aircraft called a “Berg” arrives, and strange people fire darts randomly at the civilians. To their horror, the darts appear to contain a deadly virus that is wiping out most of the population. To make matters worse, the virus seems to be mutating. Thus, Mark, Trina, Alec, and the rest of their gang are determined to find answers, but only if they can prevent themselves from getting infected.

In this thrilling, action-packed precursor to the Maze Runner series, James Dashner depicts a gruesome world in which survival is a constant struggle. Just as he has done in the Maze Runner series, Dashner fills the novel with heart-pounding action and adventure that render it impossible to put down. I highly recommend this novel for anyone who is a fan of The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, or any dystopian thriller.

Review by Danielle

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