Book Review: Last Things by Jacqueline West

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Title: Last Things
Author: Jacqueline West
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Genres: Dark Fantasy, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iTunes
Amazon // The Book Depository // Indiebound

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Last Things
Jacqueline West
Greenwillow Books, May 2019
ISBN 978-0-06-287506-8
Hardcover

From the publisher—

When strange things start happening to local music idol Anders Thorson, everyone blames his number-one-fan, Thea. But is she out to hurt him? Or protect him?

High school senior Anders Thorson is unusually gifted. His band, Last Things, is legendary in their northern Minnesota hometown. With guitar skills that would amaze even if he weren’t only eighteen, Anders is the focus of head-turning admiration. And Thea Malcom, a newcomer to the insular town, is one of his admirers. Thea seems to turn up everywhere Anders goes: gigs at the local coffeehouse, guitar lessons, even in the woods near Anders’s home.

When strange things start happening to Anders—including the disappearance of his beloved cat, then his sort-of girlfriend, and, somehow, his musical talent—blame immediately falls on Thea. But is she trying to hurt him? Or save him? Can he trust a girl who doesn’t seem to know the difference between dreams and reality? And how much are they both willing to compromise to get what they want?

As Last Things opens, we’re thrust into a world in which there are malignant entities waiting to take advantage of humans’ weaknesses but those same humans are unaware of the hidden dangers. Most humans, that is; Thea and her aunt are “sensitive” to such things but then we have to wonder, what are their motivations? Are they on the side of evil or do they hope to protect the other townspeople?

In particular, Thea’s behavior with regards to Anders raises many questions but Anders has secrets of his own, secrets that are eating away at his soul. After all, his explosive musical charisma is undoubtedly unusual but it may be due to an honest talent that surpasses the norm. Then again, perhaps he had a little help.

Thea’s obsessive interest in Anders seems a bit stalkerish at first but, when bad things start to happen, Thea and Anders are drawn almost inexorably to each other. What we don’t know is whether this is a good thing or not and Ms. West keeps us guessing—and, in my case, angsting about it—for quite a long ways into the story. This is by no means a complaint as I appreciate a creepy vibe in a thriller that won’t let me put the book down and the whole question of good versus evil is always a terrific hook. Most of all, I know I don’t want to go into those woods 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2019.

About the Author

Jacqueline West is the author of the NYT-bestselling middle grade series The Books of Elsewhere, the YA novel Dreamers Often Lie, and the new middle grade fantasy The Collectors.

She is also the author of two poetry collections, Cherma and Candle and Pins: Poems on Superstitions, and her poetry and short fiction appear in a variety of publications.

She lives in Red Wing, Minnesota, with her family.

Website // Facebook // Instagram // Goodreads

 

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Follow the tour here.

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GIVEAWAY

Prize: Win (1) of (2) copies of LAST THINGS
by Jacqueline West (US Only)

Starts: April 29th 2019

Ends: May 12th 2019

Enter here.

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Book Review: Blight by Alexandra Duncan

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Title: Blight
Author: Alexandra Duncan
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication date: August 1, 2017

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iBooks // Amazon
Indiebound // The Book Depository

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Blight
Alexandra Duncan
Greenwillow Books, August 2017
ISBN 978-0-06-239699-0
Hardcover

From the publisher—

When an agribusiness facility producing genetically engineered food releases a deadly toxin into the environment, seventeen-year-old Tempest Torres races to deliver the cure before time runs out.

From the author of the acclaimed American Booksellers Association’s Indies Introduce pick Salvage, which was called “Brilliant, feminist science fiction” by Stephanie Perkins, the internationally bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss. This stand-alone action-adventure story is perfect for fans of Oryx and Crake and The House of the Scorpion.

Seventeen-year-old Tempest Torres has lived on the AgraStar farm north of Atlanta, Georgia, since she was found outside its gates at the age of five. Now she’s part of the security force guarding the fence and watching for scavengers—people who would rather steal genetically engineered food from the Company than work for it. When a group of such rebels accidentally sets off an explosion in the research compound, it releases into the air a blight that kills every living thing in its path—including humans. With blight-resistant seeds in her pocket, Tempest teams up with a scavenger boy named Alder and runs for help. But when they finally arrive at AgraStar headquarters, they discover that there’s an even bigger plot behind the blight—and it’s up to them to stop it from happening again.

Inspired by current environmental issues, specifically the genetic adjustment of seeds to resist blight and the risks of not allowing natural seed diversity, this is an action-adventure story that is Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake meets Nancy Farmer’s House of the Scorpion.

Genetically modified food is kind of a sore subject these days with some appreciating the enhancements and others being diametrically opposed for a number of reasons, not least of which are the known and unknown health risks. In Tempest’s world, not so very far in the future, such food has become the norm and a subclass of people has developed , those who can’t afford this food and must resort to stealing it or distributing contraband. Tempest has found her place in this agriculture-driven reality as a security guard and she’s very good at what she does. She knows herself and what she wants for her future…until the day disaster strikes and she has to make unexpected choices.

Tempest is an intriguing character and has a toughness about her that comes to stand her in good stead. When we first meet her, she seems to be quite focused and, in fact, she has been raised with very little softness or sentimentality. Inside, though, she’s not nearly so self-assured and the many facets of her personality begin to come to the fore; it’s especially interesting to watch her come to terms with some unhappy truths and figure out her place in an uneasy future. Essentially, this is kind of a coming-of-age story and getting to know this girl is what makes Blight a story to remember.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

About the Author

Alexandra Duncan is a writer and librarian. Her first novel, Salvage, was published April 1, 2014, by Greenwillow Books. Her short fiction has appeared in several Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy anthologies and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She loves anything that gets her hands dirty – pie-baking, leatherworking, gardening, drawing, and rolling sushi. She lives with her husband and two monstrous, furry cats in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

You can visit her online at http://alexandra-duncan.com/

WEBSITE | BLOG | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS

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Follow the tour:

Week One:

7/24/2017- Savings in Seconds– Review

7/25/2017- The Autumn Bookshelf– Interview

7/26/2017- Wandering Bark Books– Excerpt

7/27/2017- A Dream Within A Dream– Review

7/28/2017- Two Chicks on Books– Interview

Week Two:

7/31/2017- Buried Under Books– Review

8/1/2017- The Bewitched Reader– Guest Post

8/2/2017- Here’s to Happy Endings– Review

8/3/2017- Kati’s Bookaholic Rambling Reviews– Excerpt

8/4/2017- YABooksCentral– Review

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Giveaway

1 winner will receive a signed hardcover of BLIGHT
plus a set of the gorgeous prints in the photo, US Only.

Enter the drawing here.

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Book Reviews: The Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush by Susan Wittig Albert and One by Sarah Crossan

The Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar BushThe Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush
The Darling Dahlias #5
Susan Wittig Albert
Berkley Prime Crime, September 2014
ISBN 978-0-425-26060-9
Hardcover

It’s 1933, and the little town of Darling, Alabama is running out of money. Its only bank has closed, and depositors are out of luck. Businesses can’t meet payroll commitments. People can’t buy necessities, let alone luxuries. Shops, even if they could extend credit, can’t restock their shelves without funds. Only Mickey LeDoux, supplier of moonshine while folks await the end of prohibition, seems to be doing okay—for the time being, anyway.

Who is to blame for the bank’s closing and the town’s woes? Is it the former bank president, who sold the failing financial institution to a big corporation and quickly retired? Perhaps it’s the new president, Alvin Duffy, the person who proposes saving the town by issuing scrip, which seems like counterfeit money to some mistrusting townspeople. And what about Charlie Dickens, the drunken newspaper man, the one who agrees to print the scrip and then somehow “loses” it? Verna Tidwell, acting county treasurer and an officer of the Darling Dahlias Garden Club, resolves to find out who can or cannot be trusted.

If you haven’t read any of the four previous Darling Dahlias mysteries, you’ll delight in the personalities and foibles of the various Dahlia Club members and their fellow townspeople. There’s a guide at the beginning of the book in case you become confused by the plethora of characters. But not to worry—by the time Verna Tidwell gets busy checking out clues, you’ll know the main character, the town of Darling, quite well. During the Great Depression, the welfare of the town depends on the fortunes of the country and the deeds of the townsfolk. The Dahlias are committed to the preservation of Darling and stand ready to deal with its challenges.

Enjoy this book on its own, as I did, or start with the first book in the series and learn to know all the Dahlias well, as I want to do now I’ve been introduced. These gals seem to have grit enough to cope with the times and the crimes to take care of their town.

Reviewed by Joyce Ann Brown, December 2015.
http://www.joyceannbrown.com
Author of cozy mysteries: Catastrophic Connections and Furtive Investigation, the first two Psycho Cat and the Landlady Mysteries.

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OneOne
Sarah Crossan
Greenwillow Books, September 2015
ISBN: 978-0-06-211875-2
Hardcover

Tippi & Grace weren’t expected to live past their second birthday, but now they’re sixteen and for financial reasons, must go to school instead of being homeschooled. They’re conjoined from the waist down, sharing two legs and a blended lower digestive system as well as a single set of reproductive organs. Despite physical and emotional hardships, not to mention their younger sister, a promising ballerina, having her own health/emotional issues, the girls are happy and cannot imagine being surgically separated.

When something serious begins to affect both of them, the choices facing them force the girls to look at something they never expected to deal with. Further complicating things are their parents’ financial and emotional problems as well as their first real friends at school, Yasmeen who has her own health issue that allows her to understand the sisters in ways nobody else can, and Jon, a boy who thinks they’re beautiful and isn’t scared off by their physical differences. In fact these two friends give them the courage and motivation to feel alive and free for the first time in their lives.

Told in short verse chapters with the more quiet and shy Grace as the narrator, this is an immensely powerful book, one that is a fast read, but will stay long after readers close the cover because of its sadness and beauty. It’s an excellent book on a very poorly understood condition and deserves to be in any school and public library where good and thought provoking young adult fiction is valued.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, October 2015.

Book Review: Breathe by Sarah Crossan

BreatheBreathe
Sarah Crossan
Greenwillow Books, October 2012
ISBN 978-0-06-211869-1
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Inhale. Exhale.
Breathe.
Breathe.
Breathe . . .
The world is dead.
The survivors live under the protection of Breathe, the corporation that found a way to manufacture oxygen–rich air.

Alina has been stealing for a long time. She’s a little jittery, but not terrified. All she knows is that she’s never been caught before. If she’s careful, it’ll be easy. If she’s careful.

Quinn should be worried about Alina and a bit afraid for himself, too, but even though this is dangerous, it’s also the most interesting thing to happen to him in ages. It isn’t every day that the girl of your dreams asks you to rescue her.

Bea wants to tell him that none of this is fair; they’d planned a trip together, the two of them, and she’d hoped he’d discover her out here, not another girl.

And as they walk into the Outlands with two days’ worth of oxygen in their tanks, everything they believe will be shattered. Will they be able to make it back? Will they want to?

The premise of Breathe, that population has gotten so out of control that we cut down all trees to use the land for farming to feed all those people, is an interesting one but essentially unworkable. Yes, there’s no doubt that we could be far more conservative of our natural resources but it really doesn’t make much sense that this scenario could come to pass with no indication that the worldwide scientific and health communities tried to find other ways to feed people. Also, why is it that a corporation that distributes air through scuba tanks is in total control when such tanks have been in use in today’s world for many years and come from many sources? And what on earth is “The Switch” that the author refers to so frequently? If the outer Zones of the pod contain people who are seemingly worthless to the authorities, why do they prevent them from leaving?

Clearly, much more worldbuilding information is needed but perhaps we’ll get it in the next book. In the meantime, let’s look at the characters. Bea, Alina and Quinn, along with Quinn’s father and Cain Knavery, the Pod Minister, are fairly well fleshed out—at this stage, I think Alina is my favorite because she’s by far the most interesting—but I felt very little connection to any of the secondary characters and, in truth, they don’t seem to be very important for the story. Perhaps the second book will make them more relevant and engaging.

There are ominous hints that the dreaded Love Triangle will occur but, in fact, it doesn’t really. There’s no Insta-Love either, thank heavens, since Quinn is oblivious for a long time to the feelings of one of the girls. I appreciate the author’s restraint in these relationship matters and the way she allows the boyfriend-girlfriend thing to develop without dwelling too much on all the teen angst so often prevalent in YA fiction. When you get right down to it, friendship takes precedence over weak romance and that’s quite all right with me.

The author does have a way with words and, despite what I felt were shortfalls, she managed to keep me reading. I liked the multiple points of view narration (although I really don’t like the present tense that the majority of YA authors insist on using) and there’s no question the premise, with all its flaws, is different and has a lot of potential. I hope Ms. Crossan will step up the pace and energize her characters in the second book because I will definitely be reading it.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2012.