The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

13326831Remember how I said a few weeks ago that book comparisons make me nervous?

Well, I’m about to make one. And yes, this makes me nervous.

The Testing seems to be the latest dystopian YA “IT” novel, heir-apparent to The Hunger Games. Cia Vale lives with her family in the Five Lakes Colony, one of the few colonies left in what was America after the Seven Stages War. The Seven Stages War left the country is ruins, the land almost completely barren, and the water mostly undrinkable. The few who remain struggle to get the things they need from the ravaged land. Cia’s father and brothers are some of the citizens who work with the land, developing new crops that can flourish and sustain their colony.

Cia, who is graduating from high school, seems to be living her life to go to university, so that she can be like her father. To go to university, however, one must go through a process called Testing. It has been 15 years since anyone from Five Lakes Colony has been picked for testing. She’s hoping this year will be different.

At first, it appears it’s not.

But later, she finds out she has been picked. I’m not going into the politics of what happens with that, as it would be giving away tooooooo much. Let’s just say she gets picked. She goes to Testing.

All of this, before the shift to the Testing, was fascinating to me. I loved the world building, the way the colony worked, the interaction between Cia and her family. It was just too brief. Because this is YA dystopia, and YA dystopia doesn’t take long to GET TO THE POINT.

The point is to get to the Testing. Once there, the book begins to feel suspiciously familiar.

The Testing consists of 4 parts. The first three test basic skills. The fourth. Well. The fourth is where things begin to feel very, very familiar.

Spoiler alert:

It felt like a complete rip off of The Hunger Games. Except with a gun instead of arrows.

Spoiler over.

There is a lot of politics, and of course the environmental message (which actually didn’t bother me), and OF COURSE the romance between the two hometown friends. Which felt very forced and unnecessary to me. Actually, most of it felt forced to me. And derivative. The beginning was so good, I was so into it and all, and then it just went down hill. But, that is too me. I think I’ve read too much YA lately.  But, let me be blunt. If you are looking for another Hunger Games, as much as it makes me nervous to say it, this book is for you. If you’re tired of the formula, but think it sounds good, give it a try! You’ll probably like it (I did LIKE some of it, I’m just disappointed I didn’t LOVE it). If you are really tired of the formula, I’d keep on moving. To me, the book had a lot of potential it just didn’t live up to. I may read the next in the series (because of course, it’s a trilogy). I’m going to wait to read the description before I decide though.

The Testing
By Joelle Charbonneau
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (June 4, 2013)
336 pages (hardcover)
Acquired from NetGalley
Rated 3/5

The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater

Title: The Raven Boys
Author: Maggie Steifvater
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Acquired: NetGalley


Part of me wishes I could just post the first chapter right here. The book opens with Blue Sargent, “Muggle” child of psychics, standing in a graveyard, late at night, on St. Mark’s Eve. On St. Mark’s Eve, in certain, powerful places – and if one is a psychic – one will see the dead arrive. Not just any dead, these are the dead to come, in the coming year.

Blue has never seen the dead.

Until this year.

There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”


Two things in Blue’s life have been constant. Stay away from Raven Boys, the rich, privileged, obnoxious boys who attend Aglionby, the local private school.   And don’t kiss any boys. It has been foretold, by her family of psychics, that Blue will cause her true love to die.

So, when Blue sees a Raven Boy on St. Mark’s Eve, and he speaks to her, she knows in her head, she needs to stay away. Yet, she can’t help but find herself drawn to Gansey, and his compelling group of friends; Adam, the scholarship student with something to prove; Ronan, the fierce one who is so angry he could burn up the house with a glance, and Noah, the pale, watchful figure who haunts their lives. All four boys worm their way into Blue’s heart and before she knows it, she’s hooked.

And in their quest for Gansey’s obsession, their lives will change in irrevocable ways.


Oh my gosh, the characters. THE CHARACTERS Y’ALL. The characters make this book. At first glance, they may seem cardboard cutouts. Blue, loner child of a strange family of female psychics, who tries to stand out with her funky hairstyles and home-fashioned attire. The smart, charismatic, rich boy. The poor kid looking to find a way out of his down-in-the-dirt existence. The fierce, almost suicidal, with nothing-to-loose, wearing his heart on his sleeve, boy. And the quiet, shy, secretive type. Yet all of these characters are so well-rounded, so nuanced, any thoughts of cliche are thrown out the window. Blue has lived her life in a family where she doesn’t feel she belongs. Everyone in her home, and there are a LOT of women in her home, are psychic. They walk around telling things that will happen during the day and of course, don’t go kissing any boys. She can’t do that. She can’t do any of that. But she’s a barometer for them. If she is in the room, their gift becomes more powerful. She helps them focus. This gift is important to her family, but to her, it almost seems an annoyance. A not-good-enough gift. Despite her prattle that she’s learned to live with her life’s circumstances, you can tell she wants more. And you can tell she can attain it, if she would just break out of that mold she’s put herself in.

And the Raven Boys. As with Blue, at first they all feel cliche, but that is from looking at them through Blue’s eyes. As she, and the reader, gets to know each of them, we see just how much Steifvater has done with them. Each boy has a story, a reason, a purpose. Each boy is as different as night and day, but when put together, they complement each other so well. And dude, if they don’t make you fall in love with each and every single one of them, something is wrong with you.

And then, their quest. Here Steifvater has done something original. Gansey’s quest is to find Glendower. Who is Glendower?

Owain Glyndŵr (Welsh pronunciation: [ˈoʊain ɡlɨ̞nˈduːr]), or Owain Glyn Dŵr, (c. 1349 or 1359 – c. 1416) was a Welsh ruler and the last native Welshman to hold the titlePrince of Wales. He instigated a fierce and long-running but ultimately unsuccessful revolt against the English rule of Wales.[1] (Wikiepedia)

In Steifvater’s story, Glendower takes on an Arthurian legend. He is meant to come back someday. And Gansey wants to find him. He has searched the world, and his search has brought him to Henrietta, Virginia. Magic, mystery, and science are all wrapped up in this brilliant counterplot to the boys, their lives, and Blue.

The king sleeps still, under a mountain , and around him is assembled his warriors and his herds and his riches. By his right hand is his cup, filled with possibility. On his breast nestles his sword, waiting, too, to wake. Fortunate is the soul who finds the king and is brave enough to call him to wakefulness, for the king will grant him a favour, as wondrous as can be imagined by a mortal man.

It’s on this quest to find Glendower, that Blue, and the boys, begin to learn unexpected things about the world. And themselves.


  • Liked, nay, loved, the characters
  • The story was new, original, something I haven’t read in YA before.
  • Strong plot
  • Best highlights are, for me, the boys


  • Could improve on writing faster?
  • You may not like this if you don’t like well told stories?
  • Really, can’t find a weakness.


Remember how I said, I wish I could just post the first chapter? Well, here you go. You’re welcome. Now go. Read it. And if you’re not hooked, well, I’m a monkey’s auntie.

Oh, and also? I think this is Ms. Steifvater’s best book yet. Not that I’ve read them all, but it’s the best I’ve read yet.

Favorite bits:

April days in Henrietta were quite often fair, tender things, coaxing sleeping trees to bud and love-mad ladybugs to beat against windowpanes. But not tonight. It felt like winter.

It didn’t escape Blue that his slightly accented voice was a nice as his looks. It was all Henriette sunset: hot front porch swings and cold iced-tea glasses, cicadas louder than your thoughts. (This is just SO the South.)

She recognized the strange happiness that came from loving something without knowing why you did, that strange happiness that was sometimes so big that it felt like sadness.

And, but oh, I loved it so. I think I’ll go hug the book now.

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

Drums of Autumn

Title: Drums of Autumn
Written by Diana Gabaldon
Read by Davina Porter
Downloaded from Audible
Published by Recorded Books

I have slowly, and I mean SLOWLY, making my way through Gabaldon’s Outlander series.  It’s no joke when I say these are ginormous, monster books, which is why I listen to them on audio!  It’s convenient, it’s FASTER, and the UNABRIDGED versions have a fantastic reader.

It’s really hard to review a series isn’t it?  What do you say without giving spoilers for previous books?  And how to do tell what’s going on in the new one, without rehashing what the first ones in the series were about?   It’s just so HARD.  So here is a pilfered summary to give you an idea…

Diana Gabaldon’s fans will be delighted to find Jamie and Claire as spirited and endearing as ever in this fourth installment of this magnificent saga. Romance, history, and time travel blend once again as the couple builds a new life together in the wilderness of pre-Revolutionary America.

Twice Claire has used an ancient stone circle to travel back to the 18th century. The first time she found love with a Scottish warrior but had to return to the 1940s to save their unborn child. The second time, 20 years later, she reunited with her lost love but had to leave behind the daughter that he would never see. Now Brianna, from her 1960s vantage point, has found a disturbing obituary and will risk everything in an attempt to change history.

I read the first book, Outlander, a long, long time ago.  When I finally came to the second book, I didn’t remember much, so I listened to Outlander again to refresh.  That was my first encounter with the powerhouse that is Davina Porter.  Ms. Porter doesn’t just read the story; she lives and breathes it.  Her lovely British voice is a pleasure to listen to.  And she does a great Scottish accent to.  Her voice for Jamie is, dare I say, sexy!  Honestly, because when Ms. Porter reads the somewhat revealing love scenes, I find myself blushing!  I tell you, it’s hard to put this (and the rest) of the audio books down!

So if you’ve long wanted to read the Outlander series but have been put off by their length, give the audio books a try.  They are fantastic.

Also by Diana Gabaldon:

Don’t miss Outlander, the first book, Dragonfly in Amber, the second book, and Voyager, the third book in this great series. And of course all the rest; The Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes and the latest, An Echo in the Bone coming out September 22 .  And there is also a graphic novel version of Outlander coming out soon too, sorry no link! And THEN there are the Lord John Grey novels; Lord John Grey and the Private Matter, Lord John Grey and the Hand of Devils, and Lord John Grey and the Brotherhood of the Blade, which are a spin off series from the Outlander books.  And don’t forget The Outlandish Companion to help you keep the whole world straight.  I wonder where this woman finds the time to write these 1000 page tomes!?!

Also reviewed by:

Fyrefly’s Book Blog ~ Framed and Booked ~ Gripping Books ~

Did I miss yours?

Note: I bought this lovely large download with my own money!

Hunted: A House of Night Novel

Hunted A House of Night Novel
Hunted A House of Night Novel

Hunted: House of Night, Book 5
P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast
St. Martin’s Griffin, March 10, 2009
Dare to enter the House of Night: WWW.HOUSEOFNIGHTSERIES.COM

Book Description

What if the hottest guy in the world was hiding a nameless evil and all he wanted was you?

At the start of this heart-pounding new installment of the bestselling House of Night series, Zoey’s friends have her back again and Stevie Rae and the red fledglings aren’t Neferet’s secrets any longer.  But an unexpected danger has emerged. Neferet guards her powerful new consort, Kalona, and no one at the House of Night seems to understand the threat he poses.  Kalona looks gorgeous, and he has the House of Night under his spell. A past life holds the key to breaking his rapidly spreading influence, but what if this past life shows Zoey secrets she doesn’t want to hear and truths she can’t face?

On the run and holed up in Tulsa’s Prohibition-era tunnels, Zoey and her gang must discover a way to deal with something that might bring them all down.  Meanwhile, Zoey has a few other little problems.  The red fledglings have cleaned up well–they’ve even managed to make the dark, creepy tunnels feel more like home–but are they really as friendly as they seem?  On the boyfriend front, Zoey has a chance to make things right with super-hot ex-, Eric, but she can’t stop thinking about Stark, the archer who died in her arms after one unforgettable night, and she is driven to try to save him from Neferet’s sinister influence at all costs.  Will anyone believe the power evil has to hide among us?

I am not going to bother telling you want these books are about, hence the book description is being provided for you.  Either you know or you don’t.  If you don’t, you probably don’t care to know and for that I applaud you.  I can’t begin to say how pathetic this series is.  The writing is horrible.  The premise, while should be exciting, is decidedly not.  The weird romantic…uh…quadrangle (?) is ridiculous.  The totally idiotic use of teenage vernacular almost dates the books before they even come out.

And I can’t stop reading these.

It’s insane.  I hate them.  Absolutely despise them.  But I just have to know WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. 

I’m pathetic.  And I’ll keep torturing myself.  At least for one more book.

And, PS, the full pull-out poster of Zoey is hilarious.  Serious.  Gut-splitting laughter.  Is it for the GUY READERS of the series?  Because seriously?  What girl is going to put that on her wall?

Also reviewed by:

Bookshelves of doom | Darque Reviews | Karin’s Book Nook | Reader Rabbit | The Story Siren |