Monday, January 30, 2012

Ashfall by Mike Mullin

From Goodreads:
Under the bubbling hot springs and geysers of Yellowstone National Park is a supervolcano. Most people don't know it's there. The caldera is so large that it can only be seen from a plane or satellite. It just could be overdue for an eruption, which would change the landscape and climate of our planet.

Ashfall is the story of Alex, a teenage boy left alone for the weekend while his parents visit relatives. When the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts unexpectedly, Alex is determined to reach his parents. He must travel over a hundred miles in a landscape transformed by a foot of ash and the destruction of every modern convenience that he has ever known, and through a new world in which disaster has brought out both the best and worst in people desperate for food, water, and warmth. With a combination of nonstop action, a little romance, and very real science, this is a story that is difficult to stop reading and even more difficult to forget.


I'd call the feeling I had upon finishing this book less Afterglow and more Aftermath. The goodreads blurb ends with "even more difficult to forget" and I find that very true. I find myself thinking about how any of us would survive the ordeals that Alex overcomes. The book is amazingly well-researched, the science feels very real. I love the way Alex grows from a spoiled, attitude-ridden teenager who fights with his mother into a mature adult, fighting to protect the people he loves.

It's part dystopian, part post-apocolyptical, and part contemporary. If you like any of those YA genres, I urge you to read Ashfall, by Mike Mullin.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Everybody Sees the Ants, by A.S. King

I just finished this novel the other day, and I'm still basking in the afterglow. I'm a little ticked I got it on my Kindle, because while I love the convenience of just grabbing the e-book in an instant, I would love to own the hardcover. I wouldn't call this cover beautiful, or shiny, and I wouldn't squee over it, but I do think it's compelling, and incredibly apt.

On the surface, this may seem like a simple story about bullying, or dysfunction in the family, but it's really so much more. Lucky Linderman is a character you can fall for in an instant. His situation isn't much different from hundreds of real kids his age. My own teenage years we're just as awkward, and filled with fear, apathy, and confusion. But Lucky's outlook, his intelligence, and his wit, draw you into his story with a power not many books can wield.

His opinions, and his total lack of fear to tell the truth about them (at least to the reader) set this book apart from most other young adult novels, in the sense that it truly feels like it was written by the character, rather than the author.

After getting in trouble for doing a survey about suicide, Lucky tells us:

Three hours after my meeting with the principal, I was sitting in the guidance office. Six days later, I was in the conference room with my parents, surrounded by the school district’s “experts” who watched my every move and scribbled notes about my behavior. In the end they recommended family therapy, suggested medications and further professional testing for disorders like depression, ADHD and Asperger’s syndrome. Professional testing! For asking a dumb question about how you’d off yourself if you were going to off yourself.

It’s as if they’d never known one single teenager in their whole lives.

In that moment, I felt like I was right inside Lucky's mind, and I knew exactly how he felt, for I'd felt that way countless times in my own life.

From there the story gets much stranger, and I won't give the plot away, because it's full of lush surprises, but I will say that when a tale blends metaphor and possible fantasy (or not) with the harsh reality of life, it does everything I love about stories and storytelling.

King also gets points from me for quoting Robert Nesta Marley, and for dedicating the book to everyone who sees the ants, which, if we can admit it, is really all of us.

Aren't we all bleeding, a little?

EDIT: I completely forgot to mention where else you can find A.S. King. She has a blog, and a website, but there is also an amazing interview with her and Paolo Bacigalupi, if you scroll down from the Amazon page for Ants.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I have been wanting to share this review for MONTHS! And finally, I got it written. Let me start with a little background info about the author and this book ~

About the Author: John Corey Whaley

Here is the official bio from Amazon:
John Corey Whaley is an American Young Adult author from Louisiana. His first novel, WHERE THINGS COME BACK is a finalist for the 2012 William C. Morris YA Debut Award. 
Whaley was named a Spring 2011 Flying Start Author by Publishers Weekly as well as a Top Ten New Voice for Teens by the ABC Children's Group at ALA and a Spring 2011 Okra Pick from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.
 WHERE THINGS COME BACK has also been nominated for the American Library Association's Best Fiction for Young Adults 2012. 
Whaley was recently selected by the National Book Foundation as a Top 5 Under 35 author, making him the first YA author to be awarded the honor. 
Whaley studied English and writing at Louisiana Tech University and later earned a Master's in English Education. 
To learn more about John Corey Whaley and WHERE THINGS COME BACK, visit
Now, my unofficial 4-1-1...
I had the opportunity to meet and "hang out" with Corey for a couple of days when he came to do some school visits with Elana Johnson and Jessi Kirby. Let me tell you - he is FABULOUS! Smart, funny, talented - all words I would use to describe him. Needless to say, I was so excited to read his book...especially after meeting him.

About the Book: Where Things Come Back

Here's the "official" blurb on Amazon:

In the remarkable, bizarre, and heart-wrenching summer before Cullen Witter’s senior year of high school, everything he thinks he understands about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town vanishes. His cousin overdoses; his town becomes absurdly obsessed with the alleged reappearance of an extinct woodpecker; and most troubling of all, his sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother, Gabriel, suddenly and inexplicably disappears.
As Cullen navigates a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young, disillusioned missionary in Africa searches for meaning wherever he can find it. Through masterful plotting, these two stories are brought face-to-face in a surprising and harrowing climax that is tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, and above all, hope.
My thoughts:

This is a wonderfully crafted book that explores death...and life. His characterizations are rich, as is his use of setting. I found both plots interesting as I kept reading to find out how and when they would intersect. The ending, while I certainly predicted it, was exciting and satisfying.

Whaley does a fabulous job in his debut novel and I sincerely can NOT wait for more from him. Do yourself a favor and check it out!