Your Pick for Nik! – July’s Review: Pure by Julianna Baggott

#1 Pure by Julianna Baggott

#1 Pure by Julianna Baggott

Title: Pure

Author: Julianna Baggott

Series: Pure #1

Genre: Dystopian Fiction

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . . 
Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.

Burn a Pure and Breathe the Ash . . . 
There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss-maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it’s his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her. 

When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again.

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The Review:

World-Building: the world building was actually pretty creative. Baggott essentially re-created the parameters for our world and, as a result, had to come up with new rules for how people were forced to interact with one another and the unforgiving environment around them. Her evolution of the world was raw, gritty, and filled with the unexpected. She essentially changed the biological aspects by which people are composed and backed it up with some feasible science – I love it when authors do that.

Character: There are multiple viewpoint characters in this book. I’ve mentioned before that the only way for many viewpoints to work for me is if they are each contributing towards the story’s progression. Every scene where we switch perspectives must add something to the overall arc of the story. It was handled quite well in this case, and I liked how each scene gave us a little more information about what was going on.

Story: The basic storyline was a major strength for me, mostly because it included what I’m going to call a “rose-petal” plot. Important things were revealed in layers (which is normally called a layered or “onion” plot) which is not an uncommon tool, but in this case the layers were pulled back quite delicately, little by little – no onion around here. I liked how subtle it was, I liked how there was no false tension or people withholding information, and I genuinely enjoyed discovering what was going on with the characters. I feel like it’s been a long time since I’ve seen writing tool used this well.

Writing: I don’t believe I’ve ever read a book written in third person present tense before. I found it a bit odd, to be honest. The voice didn’t blend into the background like most third person perspectives do (which was a bit distracting on occasion), but it also lacked the emotional involvement I usually feel with present tense writing. It’s almost as if combining these two writing styles negates all the benefits that, in theory, they should be enhancing. I think this was the main reason why I felt rather impartial to the characters through most of the story and couldn’t help but wonder how much more of an impact it would have had had she chosen a different style.

That’s not to say her writing was weak. She had many passages of beautiful and often gut-wrenching description. Her writing set a very distinct tone for the story, showcased some truly beautiful imagery, showed us what’s important to the characters without rubbing our noses in it, and wowed me with her ability to pull back the layers of the plot so delicately. I would love the chance to appreciate her voice in another format.

Pacing: Pacing was really difficult for me to discern in this book – and I think it had something to do with the odd writing style choice. It kept me so impartial that I couldn’t really feel the highs and lows that normally come from adventure, danger, wonder, and romance. It kept me at a distance to the point where everything sort of flat-lined for most of the book. Logically, I could see were things sped up and slowed down, but I couldn’t feel it. And that’s a problem.

Marketing: this book is officially categorized in the adult fiction section of the bookstore I work at. As fiction is not my usual forte, I might have overlooked this one entirely if I hadn’t stumbled upon the second book while doing research for my “upcoming releases” feature. All I have to say is, thank goodness for catchy covers.

The storyline initially sounded like a typical teen dystopian novel, so as I read I tried to keep an eye out for anything that would explain why it wasn’t marketed as a teen book. At first, I thought perhaps maybe it was going to be too violent – but then I considered how much more violent it can get than children slaughtering each other in an arena for the amusement of the Capitol. Then, I thought maybe the story was too gritty and frightening – but then I considered how much more disturbing and intense things got while reading about an alien invasion in a series of five waves. Okay then, maybe it has to do with language – but then I remembered a sarcastic,  blue haired girl from an upcoming sequel of a teen dystopian (about, ironically, genetically mutated teens) dropping the F-bomb every couple of pages, and I know that’s out.

Everything I thought might have at one point made publishers wary of introducing to a teen audience turned out to be unfounded. My point? Perhaps this one should of been marketed differently to better reach its ideal demographic – teens. Besides, we all know us “adults” are devouring more of these books then actual teens, anyway. :)

Recommendations: While not my favorite dystopian on the market, it definitely was an enjoyable addition to the genre. I don’t see any reason why teens can pick this one up but would probably recommend it to those who prefer “action” dystopians like Hunger Games and The Fifth Wave over “romance” dystopian’s like Matched and Delirium.

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Discussion time! (May contain spoilers):

Who was your favorite character and why?

100% – Partridge. Of all the characters, I felt the most connected to him. I appreciated how brave he was and how love for his mother drove him unfalteringly, despite the sacrifices he had to make along the way.

Did anything surprise you in the story?

El Captain – when he was first introduced, I was actually a bit disappointed. I was expecting him to be a typical one-note villain that the author would keep bouncing to just to show us how “evil” yet “justified” he was. I was pleasantly surprised when he turned out to be a rather complex and totally human character. The author gained a lot of respect for me with this one.

What was your favorite/least favorite part of the book?

My favorite and least favorite parts of the book were actually the same thing: the atmosphere. I love how totally immersed into the setting I felt the entire time and the author did a great job setting the stakes in this world and showing us the dangers within it. It was incredibly well done, with pops of beauty that shone like beacons through the pages (i.e., the little mechanical creatures Pressia created). The reason it was my least favorite is that it was gloomy, gritty, and downright depressing. I stopped reading it right before bed because I think it was giving me bad dreams.

Where would you shelve this book? Adult fiction or teen dystopian?

As stated above, I don’t think this book would be out of place at all in the teen section.

Well, there you have it! I hope you enjoyed the review – I had a lot of fun composing it.

The questions are meant to generate conversation, so feel free to answer any or all in the comments area. :-)’s

Here’s a link to the world’s coolest librarian who read along with me and made this month my favorite Pick for Nik! ever! Check out her review at: 

photo copy

by Niki Hawkes


Your Pick for Nik! – July’s Selection

fffEvery month I nominate titles from my TBR pile and you pick which one gets featured for our book club. This month, I’m doing things differently. you see, there is a title that has been the runner up since January and I figured this month would be a good month to feature it considering so many of you out there want to read it. So I’m skipping the voting process and going straight to the pick. Without further ado, July’s selection is: 

c3Title: Pure

Author: Julianna Baggott

Genre: Fiction

The Overview: We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . . Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.

We won’t start reading this until July so there’s plenty of time to pick it up if you want to read along (for that matter, there’s still time to read June’s selection, The 5th Wave – it’s fabulous!).

For more information on how this feature works click here.


Book Review: Walking Disaster by Jamie McGuire

A oneTitle: Walking Disaster

Author: Jamie McGuire

Series: Beautiful Disaster (Companion Novel)

Genre: Romance/Fiction

Rating: 4.5/5 stars!

The Overview: Travis Maddox learned two things from his mother before she died: Love hard. Fight harder.

In Walking Disaster, the life of Travis is full of fast women, underground gambling, and violence. But just when he thinks he is invincible, Abby Abernathy brings him to his knees. Every story has two sides. In Beautiful Disaster, Abby had her say. Now it’s time to see the story through Travis’s eyes.

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The Review:

After reading this novel, I’m convinced Jamie McGuire is someone I’m eager to read more from in the future. Her writing style makes you want to stay up all night devouring and her characters make you feel like you’ve known them for years. Walking Disaster was grabbing, and that’s saying something considering I already knew what was going to happen (for those of you who don’t know, it is meant as a companion novel to Beautiful Disaster, following the exact same storyline but from the male lead’s perspective).

Both novels illustrated McGuire’s exceptional writing skills. Not only was the voice in this one a complete contrast, but the observations and emotions she chose to highlight gave it a totally different spin. Even though it was the same basic plot, each character went into situations with different sets of perspective and inner turmoils. All of the issues I had with Abby’s conflicts in the first book were practically nonexistent here because Travis was focused on different things. McGuire managed to make it just as fresh and exciting as the first one, if not more. It kind of blows my mind.

Character development was probably my favorite element of the book. She doesn’t hit you over the head with matter-of-fact statements of each character’s temperament but rather lets them develop organically through their actions. It was really subtle, and she achieved it through compelling dialogue mixed with superb body language and facial expressions. It sounds odd, but the little nuances of physical description really spiced up the characters and overall story.

This is probably the best companion novel I’ve ever read. If you haven’t read the first book, however, it would not be near as compelling. Readers got to know Abby intimately in book one and were able to understand her rationale behind her actions. Not much of that inner dialogue is represented in this book, however, which makes her come off as a self-centered brat. If I didn’t already know and love Abby from her story, I would’ve had a difficult time trying to figure out why Travis found her so appealing.

Recommendations: these books are a little more robust than your average romance novels but I would probably still recommend them to fans of that genre. I would also hand it to anybody looking for a fun, fast read. Fair warning: these books contain a great deal of language and sexual content.

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

b1Title: Beautiful Disaster

Author: Jamie McGuire

Series: n/a

Genre: Fiction / Romance

Rating: 4.5 stars

The Overview: Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand.

Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby wants—and needs—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.

The Review:

I haven’t been so enraptured in a book since I read The Night Circus two years ago. The stars really aligned for me on this one and I  found myself considering cancelling plans so I could stay home and read it (Oh, the hazards of befriending a booknerd). It was perfect: great pacing, great characters, and great plot…until about halfway through. 

I’m not a fan of senseless turmoil, and I felt the end half of the book had that in abundance. She almost would’ve done herself a service to end the book sooner and focus more one lengthening the bits at the beginning that were working so well for her. Without going into specifics, let’s suffice to say she climaxed a fantastically building conflict a bit too premature, then she introduced another conflict that I thought was a bit silly. The dark moodiness of the cover and the book’s description led me to believe that there was something really dark and twisted in this girl’s past (which ironically is not usually my cup of tea), and honestly I think that’s really what the story needed to keep going. Don’t even get me started on the profound unhealthiness of the relationships in the book. Although I guess it’s difficult to have senseless turmoil without that element.

Even though I had some gripes with the plot, I have to give the author kudos for her character creation. Her focus on physical description – particularly mannerisms and facial expressions – made for some awesome characters. Each one came across as a real person, and I haven’t seen many authors who pulled it off better. She really brought them to life for me, and that’s the main reason why I still rated the book so highly. When the plot turned, I still found the characters wildly entertaining and that was more than enough to keep my attention. Another more subtle strength to her writing was in setting. I found myself reliving my own college experience countless times throughout the book, and I imagine others will do the same. McGuire wrote without specifics, and I think it was a deliberate tactic to make the story come alive for each individual’s experiences.

Overall, I consider McGuire and exceptionally talented writer, I just wished she’d taken the basic story in a different direction. I enjoyed her writing style and characterization so much that I will definitely be picking up anything else she writes.

Recommendations: Although the novel wasn’t incredibly graphic, there were a lot of sex scenes. There was also a fair bit of language and a hint of violence. All-in-all, subject matter considered, I thought it was very tastefully done. because of this, though, I would recommend this book mostly to women who are comfortable with the romance genre but also enjoy works of fiction. I’m creating a new category for this book: a robust romance!

by Niki Hawkes

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