Everything you see is something we've read. No hearsay or rumors to be found! Be sure to check out our "We Recommend" list where we break books down for all types of readers. We love comments, questions, and recommendations, so don't be shy! We promise we won't bite (the internet is a strong preventative barrier).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Exciting News--We've Moved!

We officially have a new website! It's still a bit rough around the edges, so don't judge too harshly just yet, but it's up and running, and we're very excited to design our own site. Check it out!

All future content will be posted there, and most of our past content has already been transferred (we'll finish it up in the next few days). Keep checking in for new changes and updates.

To help us celebrate our move, we have a great guest post by author Mike Mullin (Ashfall) on his ideas behind the book and the science involved. Check it out here!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Yellowstone Erupts: The Apocalypse is Now

Ashfall by Mike Mullin
(Based on an ARC provided by the author.)

In this thrilling, debut novel of "cataclysmic natural disaster," Alex Halprin lives in modern day Cedar Falls, Idaho, playing video games and arguing with his little sister on a regular basis. One day when his family has left for the weekend to visit an uncle, the unthinkable happens: Yellowstone erupts in a volcanic supereruption, leaving thousands of miles under layers of ash and projectile rock with no modern form of communication and few resources for immediate survivors. Alex begins the harrowing journey to Warren, Illinois, where his family is--he hopes--safely harbored with other relatives.

Alex's journey is laborious and often heart wrenching as he cross-country skis through the ash. He makes his way through cities, towns, and open, desolated land, meeting friends and strangers alike and finds himself running from cutthroat murderers, looters, and others like him just trying to survive. At one stop, Alex passes out from injuries and ends up at a farm where strangers Darla and her mother nurse him back to health; a steady relationship begins to bond the two teenagers. When tragedy strikes again and forces them back on the road, Darla accompanies Alex on his journey to Illinois, and they continue to skirt danger, both environmental and man-made.

It's a realistic, post-apocalyptic thriller. By that, I mean that the thrills are quick and gripping, but they aren't on every page; Mullin doesn't cop out to the Hollywood-ready scripts that a lot of authors (James Patterson comes to mind) throw at young readers. Instead, Mullin has created a storyline full of highs and lows with mature downtime rooted in the everyday difficulties of physical and emotional survival. It's the mix of action, science, thrills, romance, and the nitty-gritty details that make this book so gripping and good.

While I found Ashfall a little slow going at first, Mullin seemed to quickly gain more confidence in his own voice as the plot got going, and after the first few chapters I found myself thinking less about the words he used and more about what was happening, a good sign in any plot-driven, post-apocalyptic story.
The beauty of Ashfall is that the protagonist matures gradually as time goes on. Alex is believable, if conveniently physically fit for a video gamer (he has umpteen belts in taekwando), and his horror, exhaustion, and even physical arousal (nothing too descriptive) all keep him from becoming a super-human survivor. In fact, for a good portion of the book Darla outdoes him: she knows her tools, can slaughter and butcher a rabbit with minimal waste, and is the female equivalent of a teenage MacGyver.

Fans of Michael Grant's Gone series will appreciate this rough, dismal world where kids survive almost by determination alone. The story is close enough to a potential reality to be chilling: as Grant himself said of Ashfall, "The scariest apocalypse is one that could really happen."

Planned as the start of a trilogy, Ashfall is sure to appeal to readers of The Hunger Games, Gone, Hatchet, and any other number of survival and post-apocalyptic stories. (Check out the first two chapters here.) This is one to keep on your to-read list once it hits shelves on October 11th--I definitely recommend it!

Age 14+ (some mature content)
Copyright October 2011
ISBN: 9781933718552
Image from http://www.mikemullinauthor.com/

Friday, May 6, 2011

Anne Frank's World Re-Visited

Annexed by Sharon Dogar
In Amsterdam in the middle of World War II, two Jewish families--the Franks and the Van Pels--hide away in an annex above an office, praying for survival and the downfall of the Nazis. In Annexed, Dogar has created her vision of what it was like in the annex with Anne Frank from Peter van Pels' point of view. To take a time and character so closely scrutinized by the world and so well documented--by the world renowned diary of Anne Frank--is a challenge, to say the least, but Dogar has done a good job at not over-sensationalizing the material. She also manages to stay true to what she believes might have gone through the mind of a teenage boy in a time of personal and world-wide crisis. Following Peter from the morning before seclusion to his death (potentially, according to records, in a concentration camp sick bay), readers see the hope and the despair, two sides of many moments he experienced as his memories are shared in the book.
Full of hate and fear, love, shame, sexual longing, wavering faith, and all the “why” questions one could ponder, Peter examines life both inside and outside the walls of the annex and tries to make sense of it all, all the while experiencing the morphing relationships inside the hideout as tensions flow between the families and genders. Why, Peter asks, must I hide instead of fight? Why do we have to be the chosen people? Why does being Jewish have to define everything about me? Will I ever experience life beyond this point?
Dogar’s writing is powerful and conveys life in the annex as it probably was: stifling, claustrophobic, lacking in privacy, and frustrating while at times also joyful, grateful, and full of the knowledge that beauty truly is in the small, unnoticed things. As Dogar examines the emotions Peter, the lone adolescent male, might have felt as he matured, readers also get a sense of the other characters through Peter’s descriptions of them. And unlike other narratives, Dogar follows Peter and imagines--with the aid of research--what he must have gone through after capture, both in Auschwitz and on the death march that followed in his final days.
I highly recommend this, whether you're a fan of literary fiction, historical fiction, coming-of-age stories, or just about any other type. It's not a light story, as the premise indicates, but it's worth the journey. This as Dogar's first historical fiction, and she worked hard to get the research right (though she admits in the back to altering minor timeline events for continuity's sake). The whole product is well done, emotional, and absolutely worth the read.


Age 13+ (some mature content)
Copyright October 2010
ISBN: 9780547501956
Available as an eBook
Image from www.goodreads.com