Review: Control by Lydia Kang

An un-putdownable thriller for fans of Uglies

When a crash kills their father and leaves them orphaned, Zel knows she needs to protect her sister, Dyl. But before Zel has a plan, Dyl is taken by strangers using bizarre sensory weapons, and Zel finds herself in a safe house for teens who aren’t like any she’s ever seen before—teens who shouldn’t even exist. Using broken-down technology, her new friends’ peculiar gifts, and her own grit, Zel must find a way to get her sister back from the kidnappers who think a powerful secret is encoded in Dyl’s DNA.

A spiraling, intense, romantic story set in 2150—in a world of automatic cars, nightclubs with auditory ecstasy drugs, and guys with four arms—this is about the human genetic “mistakes” that society wants to forget, and the way that outcasts can turn out to be heroes.

Description taken from Goodreads.


Just so anyone reading this knows, this book is nothing like UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld. I repeat, CONTROL is nothing, nothing and nothing like UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld. Please do not believe it is.

If you were interested in this book at any one point in time, I would strongly encourage you to go read the XMen comics. Not a fan of comics? Maybe try Transparent by Natalie Whipple or The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea Campbell. I would also strongly encourage you to read Uglies, but I would not recommend CONTROL.

Here’s problem one: the hater, who just happens to be the main character. She hates on everyone. Her father, her younger sister, the people who just try to help her, and here’s problem two: the only person she doesn’t hate on is the biggest jerk on the planet. His name is Cy, and his wonderful, super amazing power is that he can regenerate skin fast enough to have a new tattoo every single day. He also seems to be an abusive sadist who fantasizes about gore.

I’m telling you, I can’t make this stuff up. This is actually the guy.

It’s a painting of a dismembered hand, fingers stretching to extremes, but cut off at the wrist, leaning against the wall. The one next to it shows a long bone, still smeared with blood, floating in the same pale blue void the hand is in.

Wonderful. Just wonderful.

Problem number three: no world-building. Whatsoever. Whatever semblance of world-building exists entirely on the concept of suspended disbelief. You think the movies are bad? Read this book. Uniforms exist in every single state, for adults, and the sky isn’t visible because there’s a structure for growing plants because apparently there is now no farmland in Kansas, Iowa or Nebraska.

nebraska farmland

Yup. Definitely no farmland to be found anywhere near here. Guess we gotta build a structure in the sky.

 

And Alaska is a separate country now.

Problem four: these so-called mutants with amazing powers have no place in society. They aren’t feared, hated, envied, threatened, they simply exist. CONTROL tackles none of the social issues and questions that were brought up in the XMen comics and TRANSPARENT.

I just couldn’t deal with CONTROL. It was an exhausting book to read and I didn’t get anything I wished for. Zel hates on everyone around her as well as herself and there is 0 to no character growth in this story. Would not recommend. 1 star.

pg count for the hardback 393

Series: Control #1

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ARC Review: The Unhappening of Genesis Lee by Shallee McArthur

the unhappening of genesis lee by shallee mcarthur

Seventeen-year-old Genesis Lee has never forgotten anything. As one of the Mementi—a small group of genetically-enhanced humans—Gena remembers everything with the help of her Link bracelets, which preserve memories perfectly. But Links can be stolen, and six people have already lost their lives to a memory thief, including Gena’s best friend.

Anyone could be next. Which is why Gena is less than pleased to meet a strange but charming boy named Kalan who claims that they’ve not only met, but that Gena knows who the thief is.

The problem is, Gena doesn’t remember Kalan, she doesn’t remember seeing the thief, and she doesn’t know why she’s forgetting things— or how much else she might forget. As growing tensions between Mementi and ordinary humans drive the city of Havendale into chaos, Gena and Kalan team up to search for the thief. And as Gena loses more memories, they realize they have to solve the mystery fast.

Because Gena’s life is unhappening around her.

Description taken from Goodreads. I received an advance copy of this book via the publisher from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own. This book will be released on November 18th, 2014.


There were so many things I liked and disliked about this story. Overall, it was very entertaining and I really enjoyed reading this story. There were so many different aspects to it, and much of it was written in a very realistic light. I thought that McArthur portrayed the emotions of the people in this story very well and the way that memory loss could affect people. I also thought that the science behind which McArthur based this book off of as well as how the world got to the point it did in THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE was believable and solid.

However, there were a few things I had issues with, the first being with the main character–Genesis. I like the Asian influence here, but it’s not really present or major in any way other than a little bit in the beginning. Genesis is smart and likable at times, but she’s also extremely naive, shortsighted and has a temper at the worst of times. I had a difficult time liking her and disliking her, because her flaws made her more realistic but she did make some very unfortunate decisions.

As for the writing and plot line, the romance was a little rushed. The two main characters, Kallan and Genesis, meet quickly and have a mutual attraction to each other pretty quickly, but it doesn’t get acted upon for most of the story. It’s nice to see what they have build it, but sometimes it feels like the romance plot line is left alone for a little bit, then come back to, and on and on. Not bad in a major way, but annoying all the same. The plot line is a little slow, especially during the investigation parts, but it does pick up after it becomes slow.

When it comes to writing, one thing I really appreciated was the lingo. This is no BLOOD RED ROAD or SALVAGE. The made-up lingo is extremely easy to pick up on meanings, and it’s used efficiently. The writing is very readable and not hard to understand, and the mystery elements especially pick up really well over the course of the book. I was really unsure about some of the religious elements to this book (Kallan’s dad is a preacher) and I didn’t think it put the best light on religion and Christianity in general.

I think that the characters, villains and heroes were fairly well written here. I thought the motivations were a little extreme or stretched, but I could understand them. The mystery was stretched out a loud which I felt was unnecessary, but it was still fun to see Kallan and the others follow the clues to the end. I didn’t think that any of the characters really grew over the course of the book, but I also appreciated the way that the two rival groups here were able to come over some of their prejudice for each other.

Overall, this book was entertaining and something that I would recommend. It was a lot of fun in the sci-fi and premise parts to it, and I really enjoyed following the mystery. I would’ve liked more action and adventure themes to it, but overall a very worthwhile debut. I’m looking forward to what else McArthur comes out with. 3.5 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 352

Review: Side Effects May Vary but Julie Murphy

side effects may vary by julie murphy

What if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you?

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, who she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her archnemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she caused irreparable damage to the people around her—and to the one person who matters most?

Julie Murphy’s Side Effects May Vary is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality.

Description taken from Goodreads.


SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY didn’t have too unique of a premise. It combined sickness and bucket lists, two recent trends; and it was and wasn’t all I had expected it to be.

For one thing, I felt before, during and after that this book would’ve been more powerful and hard-hitting if the unfolding of it hadn’t been split between then and now.

The POV was also split between Harvey, the love interest of this story and Alice’s best friend, and Alice herself. This did work on many occasions because I enjoyed seeing into both Alice and Harvey’s minds, but the problem was that the two POVs felt too similar. I hated the way that Harvey and Alice both constantly went off on tangents, explaining things and going on about matters that weren’t really vital to the story.

The thing is, a lot of people will hate this story simply for the main character. Alice. And she doesn’t grow, doesn’t blossom, doesn’t do any of that. She’s incredibly selfish and rude at times, and when she starts up on her bucket list she pretty much sets out to get revenge on anyone who has ever done her wrong. I can’t say that I agree with her motives and I definitely don’t agree with a lot of the things she ends up doing on the basis of petty things like revenge, regret and grudges.

But there’s the fact that a personality like Alice’s and the actions she ends up undertaking are not entirely out of the realm of possibility. The bitterness from people who have done so many bad things to her and how she would react and how she would feel after being diagnosed are entirely reasonable, and because of that I was able to understand where Alice was coming from. I did think it was extremely selfish of her to bring Harvey into the picture–she should pay for the things she does by herself–but she did need someone who wasn’t about to die.

There were so many flawed characters in this story, but none so much so as Alice. If you want to read about entirely flawed, messed-up characters, this is the book for you. If you’re looking for a book like this but not so hateful at times, you’re better off going in the direction of IF I STAY by Gayle Forman, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green or THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING by Robyn Schneider. For a fun, fluffier summer read, I would go with THE ART OF LAINEY or SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS by Bethany Crandell–both 2014 debuts as well that are extremely well written.

As much as I wanted to hate Alice, I couldn’t in a way. As a writer, I admire her. She’s so completely hateful, flawed and believable that I can’t help but be in awe of the way she’s written. She can use people and not appear to feel any guilt over it, but at the same time she has plenty of self-conflict and self-hate. In terms of plot and overall execution, this story was entertaining enough–but the heavy narrative bogged down the entire story. 3 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 330

ARC Review: Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin

tabula rasa by kristen lippert-martin

The Bourne Identity meets Divergent in this action-packed debut thriller with a Katniss-esque heroine fighting to regain her memories and stay alive, set against a dystopian hospital background.

Sarah starts a crazy battle for her life within the walls of her hospital-turned-prison when a procedure to eliminate her memory goes awry and she starts to remember snatches of her past. Was she an urban terrorist or vigilante? Has the procedure been her salvation or her destruction?

The answers lie trapped within her mind. To access them, she’ll need the help of the teen computer hacker who’s trying to bring the hospital down for his own reasons, and a pill that’s blocked by an army of mercenary soldiers poised to eliminate her for good. If only she knew why .

Description taken from Netgalley. I received an advance copy of this book via the publisher from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own.


There really was just one issue when it came to me and my experience with TABULA RASA. I’ve been really excited for this book for a long time, mainly TABULA RASA is a thriller, it’s a stand-alone, it’s a debut and because Kristen is a part of the YA Valentines–and they’re all awesome.

The thing that went wrong for me was the issue of drawn-out suspense and teasing when it came to answers to all the questions that are asked throughout this book. Too many times, the teasing just didn’t work for me. I got so frustrated trying to figure out what was going on and how the questions were being answered only to realize they weren’t being answered at all. I felt like as a reader, I had to know what was going on in certain parts of the story, but I wasn’t getting anything, and the teasing approach in TABULA RASA just didn’t work.

Not to mention that the way everything was answered at the end in one huge dump was entirely anticlimactic. I don’t think that the one thing that went wrong for me and TABULA RASA should reflect on the author, because it’s a skill that requires time and patience to master, and I believe that Kristen can fully do that in her books to come.

I did like a variety of things in TABULA RASA though. I loved the descriptions and how graphic it was without being too much. I thought the world-building was excellently done and believable, and the memory issues were realistic. I really enjoyed the way that Sarah never gave up, and her relationships grew and developed. I wasn’t a fan of the romance at first, but I grew not to mind it and enjoy parts of it. The pace is very fast and the book goes by really nicely. The action elements and themes didn’t get bogged down by the journey and search part of it, and I really liked the steady pace.

Overall, not the best debut I’ve ever read or the best thriller, but I did enjoy this book and appreciate many aspects of it. I’m really looking forward to what else Kristen comes up with, and I would recommend it. 3 stars. Be sure to check out this interview with Kristen to learn more about her and the book!

pg count: 352

#14Debuts Day 12 Part 2: Julie Murphy and Side Effects May Vary

14debutsbutton

Welcome to #14Debuts! Today I’m featuring:

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Publication Date: March 18th, 2014
Publisher: Baltzer + Bray/HarperCollins
side effects may vary by julie murphy cover
What if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you? 

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, whom she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her arch nemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger and reliving some childhood memories). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she done irreparable damage to the people around her, and to the one person who matters most? 

Julie Murphy’s Side Effects May Vary is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality.

yessss julie murphy featureSo far, I’ve heard lots of good things about this book and I can’t wait to try it! In the few excerpts I’ve read, I’m loving the refreshing concept to it and I’m on a bucket-list story kick (Goodbye Rebel Blue, The F– It List, etc.) right now so this seems like just the thing. :)

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

1) If you could describe SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY as a mash-up of two other books, what would they be?
This is a tough one, but maybe Jenny Han’s Summer series and A.S. King’s Please Ignore Vera Dietz.
2) If you could switch places with any author in the world, who would it be and why? 
I would love to spend a day in A.S. King’s shoes. She seems so zen and at ease with herself. And maybe Tahereh Mafi, too, because all of her shoes are AMAZING.
3) What inspired you to write SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY? 
I used to work with teens at a public library. At one of our movie nights, the teens and I found ourselves in a heated discussion about the zombie apocalypse and where we would all barricade ourselves should we end up stranded in the library. This topic quickly evolved into a discussion about all the things that we weren’t allowed to do in a library that we might do if all bets were off. And that’s where it all began. Here I am on the OneFour KidLit YouTube channel, talking more about my inspiration while my cats steal the show.
4) If you had 24 hours to live starting now, what would you do?
I would gather up all the people I love most and head to a beach. We would stay there all night with a huge bonfire and delicious food.
5) What has been the best thing about your writing/publishing journey so far? 
I’ve really enjoyed meeting readers. It’s so incredible to meet others who just as passionate about books. I’ve also loved building relationships with my editor and agent. Those two women are incredible, and I am so proud to know them. Oh, and having a job I can do in my pajamas is pretty great.
6) What was the transformation of the title for SIDE EFFECTS? Did you always know Alice as Alice?
SEMV was actually originally titled The Symptoms of Our Shadows. I was never in love with the title and when I signed with my agent, we decided to change the title before going out to editors. I slaved over titles and finally saw the phrase “side effects may vary” on a pill bottle. It was one of those moments where you just know you’ve got something special. As for Alice, she (and every other character) always carried the same name. I’m funny about names. I’ve got to be totally convinced I’ve found the right one before I can move forward.
7) Which character are you closest to? 
Ya know, I’ve always felt very close to both Alice and Harvey, but if I had to choose, I’d say Alice. I just feel for the girl. She’s a tough cookie, but in my head I can see all the ways she grows even after the book is over. I probably sound crazy about now. Ha!
8) If you could meet any character, who would it be? 
I would have to say Harvey’s mom, Natalie. She was one of my favorites from the very beginning. She’s so serene, and really connects to Alice in a special way.
This was so fun. Thank you so much for having me!
Connect with Julie: 
Find Side Effects May Vary:
Ξ B&N Ξ AmazonΞ Goodreads Ξ Indiebound Ξ
4.14.14. side effects may vary julie

Julie lives in North Texas with her husband who loves her, her dog who adores her, and her cat who tolerates her. When she’s not writing or trying to catch stray cats, she works at an academic library.Side Effects May Vary is Julie’s debut novel.

Whisper by Chris Struyk-Bonn: A Quiet, Slow Read That Will Creep Up On You and Surprise You

Sixteen-year-old Whisper, who has a cleft palate, lives in an encampment with three other young rejects and their caregiver, Nathanael. They are outcasts from a society (in the not-too-distant future) that kills or abandons anyone with a physical or mental disability. Whisper’s mother visits once a year. When she dies, she leaves Whisper a violin, which Nathanael teaches her to play. Whisper’s father comes to claim her, and she becomes his house slave, her disfigurement hidden by a black veil. But when she proves rebellious, she is taken to the city to live with other rejects at a house called Purgatory Palace, where she has to make difficult decisions for herself and for her vulnerable friends.

“I would be strong. I would be more than this place wanted me to be.”

The thing that I most admired about WHISPER was Whisper herself. She’s incredibly different from all other YA heroines I’ve ever come across. As I got through WHISPER I saw that as a good and a bad thing. Even though she’s looked as a monstrosity, she never bows down and her quiet determination is something that was new to me. There was nothing especially loud or boisterous about her, and her desire to deal with the situations she was thrown into was amazing.

I had a few reservations about this book. Not everyone will like it. It’s slow to start and slow to end, the pacing going along at a crawl almost. There’s something that made me keep on going though, and it was well worth it. I love the end of the story, everything coming together at once. I was disappointed with the back story to the world and how it came to be the way that it was. I mean–there are things that say here and there that there was an epidemic where kids were born with birth defects–but kids are born with birth defects now. There are people such as that described in WHISPER now, and there are organizations and people everywhere working to help those people. What happened to the organizations and all the people that care? That didn’t make sense to me, and that was my biggest hold out on WHISPER.

Overall though, I really enjoyed this debut. I think it brought a lot of unique concepts and things to think about to mind, and there were so many heartwarming moments where Whisper triumphed over the injustices done to her. The “bad guys” to this story were well portrayed and pulled off. I love the relationships she makes and the people she meets, the plot connecting each person to each other and showing that there are good people even in the midst of evil. Even though this story had it’s dry patches, I loved reading WHISPER. 3.5 stars.

An ARC copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. 

pg count for the hardback: 230

Transparent by Natalie Whipple: X-Men Meets the Godfather

Plenty of teenagers feel invisible. Fiona McClean actually is.

An invisible girl is a priceless weapon. Fiona’s own father has been forcing her to do his dirty work for years—everything from spying on people to stealing cars to breaking into bank vaults.

After sixteen years, Fiona’s had enough. She and her mother flee to a small town, and for the first time in her life, Fiona feels like a normal life is within reach. But Fiona’s father isn’t giving up that easily.

Of course, he should know better than anyone: never underestimate an invisible girl.

I read this book on impulse, deciding to give it a chance. I am so glad that I did. This book is so much more than the synopsis plays it off as. You know those decisions where you feel like a genius after making them? This is it.

hellyeah fabulous

I was so pleasantly surprised with this story. Fiona reminded me somewhat of Remy from This Lullaby, but in a good way. I felt like the transformation Fiona went through was what I wanted and expected from Remy–except it didn’t end up happening.

I thought the pack was awesome and Bea was a great friend. The relationship of the O’Connell family? I loved them. Miles, Graham, Fiona and their mom and dad. I have to say that the second half of this story is definitely better than the first. It’s when you get into the second half that I really began to like the story a lot.

I can’t argue the fact that there are definitely twists that you see coming in this story. But the twist with Seth? Wow. That was great. Maybe I’m a bit slow sometimes with plot twists, but I definitely didn’t see that coming. In Hero’s Journey Archetypal terminology, Graham was a great Shapeshifter.

I’m eagerly awaiting to get my copy of the second book of this series. So glad that this is a series. The ending of this story wasn’t lacking, but I definitely wanted to see more of everything. I’m not ready to let go of Fiona and the crew yet. My first book from Whipple, and I’m thoroughly impressed. The characters in TRANSPARENT were amazing and I LOVED learning about and their individual personalities. Natalie Whipple does an amazing job with all of her characters, even though she has a pretty big cast.

Overall, this book was amazing and I would definitely recommend it. There were so many things that I was just blown away by and the book was never boring or let me down. 4.5 stars.

pg count for the paperback: 350

Series: Transparent