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Coming Soon: In the After Light by Alexandra Bracken

in the after lightTitle: In the After Light

Author: Alexandra Bracken

Series: Darkest Minds #3

Genre: Teen Dystopian

Release Date: October 28, 2014

The OverviewRuby can’t look back. Fractured by an unbearable loss, she and the kids who survived the government’s attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup. With them is a prisoner: Clancy Gray, son of the president, and one of the few people Ruby has encountered with abilities like hers. Only Ruby has any power over him, and just one slip could lead to Clancy wreaking havoc on their minds. They are armed only with a volatile secret: proof of a government conspiracy to cover up the real cause of IANN, the disease that has killed most of America’s children and left Ruby and others like her with powers the government will kill to keep contained. But internal strife may destroy their only chance to free the “rehabilitation camps” housing thousands of other Psi kids. Meanwhile, reunited with Liam, the boy she would-and did-sacrifice everything for to keep alive, Ruby must face the painful repercussions of having tampered with his memories of her. She turns to Cole, his older brother, to provide the intense training she knows she will need to take down Gray and the government. But Cole has demons of his own, and one fatal mistake may be the spark that sets the world on fire.

in the after light

 Hosted by Breaking the Spine

 I don’t know about you, but I’m incredibly interested to see how this trilogy wraps up. I love the whole concept behind this series and especially love the effortless voice in which it was written. My favorite part of the series so far are the incredibly lovable side characters. Ruby is a great protagonist, but her sidekicks really do steal the show, and I am most excited to see where they wind up. October can’t come too soon! :-)

What book are you waiting on?

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

NeverFade by Alexandra Bracken

NeverFade by Alexandra Bracken

Title: Never Fade

Author: Alexandra Bracken

Series: Darkest Minds #2

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader”, but she knows what she really is: a monster. 

When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her.  As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam—and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart—she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?

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The Review:

I’m sure I mentioned in my review of The Darkest Minds that I was unsure if I wanted to continue reading. It wasn’t for the hope that things would get better – she took that away completely at the end of the first book. No, what’s kept me reading was the pure appreciation of the side characters. They were vibrant, interesting, and I was excited enough about them to want to see where they ended up. I also liked the main character, but I think certain plot ideas got in the way of her relatability (I’ll talk more about that below). Let me just say this: these are some of the best characters I’ve read all year, and I could definitely learn a thing or two by studying this for my own writing.

So, now that I’ve established how much I love these characters and how brilliant I think the author is at creating them, I’d like to talk a little bit about the things that are keeping this series from being outstanding. At least in my eyes.

The only thing that consistently brings the ratings down for these books is story. In book one, the author left the characters, and therefore the readers, without any hope. It didn’t really give me anything to look forward to in Never Fade and, frankly, I had a hard time deciding whether or not I wanted to read it. While the second one inspired more hope (and convinced me I want to see where the story ends), it still had some story elements that put me off.

For example, I found myself constantly questioning the rationale of the main character. Her decisions often didn’t make any sense. It was almost like the author didn’t know how else to get the story where she needed it to go, so she made it convenient for herself by making the protagonist responsible for the new directions. As a result, the main character came off as highly illogical, unsentimental, and by extension, less relatable. When people have very little, they tend to cling to it more fiercely. Several times throughout the story, the main character went against this norm, pushing away everything she had with no solid reasons for doing so. It might have worked if those odd decisions actually accomplished anything, but all it ended up doing was stirring up senseless turmoil and make her difficult to support.

Overall, I see where Bracken was trying to take the story, and even like the ideas behind it, I think she just could have chosen a better way to get there. It is still an enjoyable series, but I just can’t help but see the opportunities where it could have been stronger.

Recommendations: as far as teen dystopian’s go, this isn’t one of my favorites based on concept and story alone. However, it has superb characters and includes one of the best naturally developing love stories I’ve ever read in a teen novel. I would probably recommend this only if you’ve already read (and enjoyed) my five favorite dystopians below. A warning to the wary, this particular teen book contains an exorbitant amount of language… perhaps a fair bit of violence, too.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

brackenTitle: Never Fade

Author: Alexandra Bracken

Series: The Darkest Minds #2

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Release Date: October 15, 2013

The Overview: Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader”, but she knows what she really is: a monster. 

When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her.As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam—and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart—she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?

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Nik’s Notes:

After reading The Darkest Minds, I felt highly entertained yet still a little dissatisfied. I go into great detail in my review so I won’t delve into it here, but suffice to say it was a bit of a downer. Aside from that, I quite enjoyed the writing style, the characters, and the love story. Those things were powerful enough that even though I finish the book in a bad mood, I still want to see where she takes it next. If you liked Divergent, Partials, and The 5th Wave, this might be a great author for you to try next…

 Here’s my review of book #1:

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Your Pick for Nik! – May’s Review: Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

b4Title: Darkest Minds

Author: Alexandra Bracken

Series: Darkest Minds #1

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The OverviewWhen Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.

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The Review:

This book gives me turmoil because there were a lot of things I loved about it and only a couple of things I didn’t. Unfortunately, those couple of things were a rather big deal.

Story: Bracken really knows how to weave an engaging story. Not many books can make me dig down deep inside myself to feel genuine pain for what the characters are going through. The story tugged at my heartstrings throughout the entire novel before making me feel anguish and frustration for all of the last fifty pages.

This great use of emotion in storytelling is probably why the relationships within the book quickly became my favorite element. The friendships the main character develops were natural and gradual and led to one heck of a love story without ever turning the book into a “romance.” It was subtle and beautiful and I might actually go back and reread certain passages to experience it again. It was by far the strongest part of the story for me.

Conversely, my least favorite element of the book also had to do with story. I have come to expect many elements of brutality and shall we say “unsugar-coated” events from dystopian novels. It is what gives them their edge, raising the stakes and adding to the overall suspense of the plot. While there are many dystopian novels with far more tragic events than I saw here, Bracken piled them up in a way that made me incredibly unenthusiastic about reading the sequel. She took a lot of risks with the plot and, while it was highly unexpected, I don’t think it did her any favors. Other books like Partials and Divergent had many heart-wrenching and difficult moments. The difference it, at the end of those novels, what keeps the characters (and therefore the readers) moving forward is both hope of a brighter future and and some sort of plan to get there. From what I’ve seen in this first book, Bracken didn’t have those elements leaving me nothing but depressed and dissatisfied.

World Building: I am a sucker for a good concept. The idea of children with varying degrees of dangerous abilities excited me right from the start and Bracken did a great job creating the world around those ideas. On a side note, I get personal pleasure out of seeing things color-coded (I drive my coworkers crazy) so any time an author uses color to organize something, I am on board.

While Bracken does a great job with the concept side of her world building, I felt her settings could have used a bit of work. Not once throughout the novel was I sure if this world was truly suffering. There was one specific moment where we went from an abandoned town like any other post-apocalyptic one you read about to a suddenly crowded freeway where life seemed to move along unaffected. It was a contradiction that showed up many times throughout the book and I had a difficult time getting a feel for what life was supposed to be like for the average person in this world.

Characters: Part of the reason the romantic element was so good was Bracken’s ability to create great relationships between characters. We got to know each one organically and their personalities were perfectly rounded and deep making me feel like I was reading a journal log of real people – they were so lifelike! If I do continue reading this series, it will be because I miss the characters and wants to know where their journey ends.

Writing: Even though I had an issue with elements of story and setting, I still found Bracken’s writing style to be incredibly strong. It was always evoking, gut retching, and beautiful making me feel for everything with a passion. It took me by surprise and impress me with how the many pieces of the story came together with the fluidity that was effortless. she really has that kind of style that draws you in and keeps you there until you finish the book – into the wee hours of the morning and everything.

Pacing: At first I made several notes that her pacing was a bit slow. having now finishing the book I see that the only way to make those relationships develop naturally was to slow the story down a bit. It also provided a great contrast for when the plot really started to take off, building up into a breathtaking momentum that made my eyes weary near the end from trying to keep up. It was very well done, and I’m hoping she carries that same excitement into the second book.

Recommendations: The good news is – my biggest objection revolves around a decision with the storyline which means my lower rating has more to do with personal preferences than any flaws in the author’s craft. The bad news is – I can’t get totally behind her when making personal recommendations. I may change my opinion with the second book, but for now I would probably only recommend this to people who have already read my first 5 dystopian recommends (or if someone just HAS to have a book with a naturally-developing love story).

by Niki Hawkes

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