Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Books On My Spring 2014 TBR List

toptentuesday

It’s that time again – Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, this week: Top Ten Books on My Spring 2014 TBR (to be read) list.

SideEffects

10. Side Effects May VaryJulie Murphy (March 18th, HarperCollins)
Alice finds out she’s dying of cancer, so she writes the most epic bucket list ever (with pay back a plenty included) and lives it out (revenge and all.) Then she learns she’s not actually dying. Chaos ensues.

Forget About Me

9.  (Don’t you) Forget About Me, Kate Karyus Quinn (Harper Teen, June 10)
If you’ve read Kate Karyus Quinn’s first novel Another Little Piece than you know she’s great when it comes to the whole fantasy/mystery thing. Don’t You Forget About Me revolves around a mysterious town where you never get sick and you live a long life. But there’s a price to be paid, one that comes every fourth year.

Killer

8.  Dear Killer, Katherine Ewell (Katherine Tegen Books, April 1)
(From Goodreads) …a sinister psychological thriller that explores the thin line between good and evil, and the messiness of that inevitable moment when life contradicts everything you believe. Um – hell yeah.

DreamBoy

7. Dream Boy, Madelyn Rosenberg  (Sourcebooks Fire, July 1st 2014)
Definitely a case of the be careful what you wish fors, this mystery centers on a beautiful and mysterious boy who proves that dreams really do come true. But with this dream comes a nightmare or two.

Dorothy

6. Dorothy Must Die, Danielle Page (HarperTeen, April 1)
Imagine an Oz where the sweet, girl from Kansas who liberates the people from the clutches of the Wicked Witch of the West finds a way back to that magical land only to become the dictator she once defeated.

ToTheDead

5. Love Letters to the Dead, Ava Dellaira (April 1st 2014, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
What starts off as a school assignment soon turns into an epistolary tale of first love, dysfunctional families and betrayal.

QueenofTear

4. Queen of the Tearling, Erika Johansen (Harper, July 8)
Full disclosure – I’ve already read this, but I plan to re-read in celebration of its official release in July. This book is awesome, it’s kind of Game of Thrones meets Reign meets something entirely different.

WeWereLiars

3. We Were LiarsE. Lockhart (Delacorte, May 13)
There’s tons of buzz around this YA thriller – and here’s why (from Goodreads):

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

Need I say more?

CityOfHeaven

2. City of Heavenly Fire, Cassandra Clare (Margaret K. McElderry, May 27)
The last book in Clare’s insanely addictive The Mortal Instruments series, this final chapter sees Clary, Jace and the gang face off against her sociopathic brother Sebastian and his army of evil nephilim.  How cool is that?

GodMonsters

1. Dreams of Gods and Monsters, Laini Taylor (Little, Brown & Company, April 8 )
Really is my number one shocking to anyone who reads this blog? I’m obsessed, OBSESSED with Laini Taylor’s beautiful, seductive, enthralling fantasy trilogy about love and war and everything in between. Will Karou and Akiva end up together (they’d better…) Will the Chimaera-Seraphim war finally come to an end? Will the renegade Stelian Seraphim save the day? I am equal parts excited and anxious, happy and sad – because really, when this series comes to end what will my life become?

Book Review: The Evolution of Mara Dyer

Author: Michelle Hodkin  Evolution
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date Published: February 28, 2013
Number of Pages: 544
Series: The Mara Dyer Trilogy, book #2

What’s It About?

Everyone around Mara Dyer thinks she’s crazy. But she knows better. She knows she can kill with her mind, that her boyfriend can heal with his and that the ex-boyfriend everyone else believes died in an accident that killed his sister and Mara’s bestfriend, is alive, well and looking for revenge. Afraid of a power she can’t control and desperate for answers Mara and Noah work together to figure out how Jude survived a building collapse and why he seems to know more about Mara’s power than anyone else.

The second book in the  Mara Dyer trilogy The Evolution of Mara Dyer picks up where the last book (the insatiably good The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer) leaves off – with Mara convinced she can kill with just her thoughts and fearing attack from the ex-boyfriend she knows is not dead. But as with the first book the big question throughout Evolution is whether or not any of what’s happening is real. Which is what makes this series so good.

This second book does several things that make it a great follow up – because in my humble opinion the second book in a trilogy can often get bogged down with too much set up in preparation for the final book – Evolution however amps up the intensity, the drama, the questions and excitement. From a foray into the occult and a dalliance with a priest of Santeria to attempted murder The Evolution of Mara Dyer pulls you even further into Mara’s complicated story.

Sharp Writing Goes A Looooong Way

Author Michelle Hodkin has a knack for sharp writing – Mara’s story is layered, well thought out and amazingly executed. It’s easy to zip through this book because Hodkin’s use of language is clever and concise. Plus she creates incredibly strong character voices – every exchange between Mara and Noah, whether it be playful or serious always evokes some sort of emotion. Also as Cassandra Clare so aptly points out on the cover the story is dreamlike – effortless – good writing will do that for a story.

The love story – Noah is swoon worthy

Par for the course with love stories is the usual boy/girl meets girl/boy, they fall in love, drama ensues, they’re ripped apart due to unforeseen circumstances or some other girl/boy comes between them. Not so much with Mara and Noah – there’s drama, of course there is, you can’t fall in love with a girl who, general consensus agrees, is nuts but who claims to be able to murder with her mind and not expect some ups and downs. But Noah is steadfast in his love (or is it obsession?) with Mara. He sticks with her despite Mara’s conviction that she will eventually hurt/kill him. Their relationship is definitely unconventional yet highly functional. It makes for a nice change of pace.

Some people suggest that Mara’s become too reliant on Noah. I tend to disagree with this line of thinking. Both Noah and Mara are equally as obsessed with the other – Noah’s obsession is obvious in how he inserts himself into any and all situations that involve Mara. He practically lives at her home, he is willing to indulge her every whim all for the sake of keeping her happy. These facts though are easy to look past because the reader is not provided with Noah’s stream of consciousness the way they are with Mara. We know more about her obsession/love for Noah because this is her story. It is her relaying the events to us and so her thoughts and feelings towards everything, Noah included, are more readily available.

But how anyone could fail to notice Noah’s dependence and infatuation with Mara is beyond me. Why is no one seemingly concerned that Noah inserts himself into any and all situations involving Mara? He willingly has himself committed in order to stay close to her. If that’s not slightly obsessive I don’t know what is.

Jude – Why you so cray?

I’m a big fan of antagonists. They’re often the best part of a story. I really think Jude is a great character/figment of Mara’s imagination/ghost/? – regardless whatever he is, he is great. As antagonists go he draws you in because though his motivations are clear there never seems to be any rhyme or reason to his intent. You’re never certain whether he only wants to hurt/torture Mara or if he really wants her dead. He’s horrible, and evil and any scene involving him is always full of tension and suspense.

*Spoiler*

Mara Dyer is teeming with unexpected twists – this is a book that loves to confuse its readers – is it all a set up? Is Mara sane and really capable of killing with just her mind? Or is she truly insane? Only adding to the confusion and frustration is learning that Dr. Kells (Mara’s therapist) knows Jude and is apparently in cahoots with him. Is in fact seemingly controlling this whole situation. This was a spin on the story I was not anticipating – are Mara, Noah, Jamie and the others just lab rats? Pawns in an even bigger game? Or is she really nuts? Unfortunately I can’t say because Hodkin continues to keep her readers in the dark. Which is exactly why we keep coming back for more.

The Evolution of Mara Dyer continues to entertain and confuse readers. This continuation has a little something for everyone – romance, suspense, fantasy (or is it crazy?) – and a mystery that leaves you desperate to know the truth. Hodkin’s truly worked to evolve not only the story but her characters while working to answer questions left unanswered all while adding more questions to the pot.  4/5 stars.

Book Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

maradyer

“If I were to live a thousand years, I would belong to you for all of them. If we were to live a thousand lives, I would want to make you mine in each one.”

Author: Michelle Hodkins
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date Published: September 27, 2011
Number of Pages: 466
Series: The Mara Dyer Trilogy, book #1

What’s It About?
Mara Dyer wakes up in a hospital bed only to learn that she is the only survivor of a building collapse that claimed the lives of her best friend, her boyfriend and his sister. Wracked with survivors guilt and suffering from major PTSD Mara and her family moved to Florida to start over. Only Mara can’t. In a fragile emotional state Mara constantly has visions of her dead ex-boyfriend and his sister, terrible nightmares and hallucinations. It’s not until she meets Noah Shaw that she begins to suspect she may not be quite as normal as she once believed.

***Spoilers abound beware***

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is one of those books that has a great beginning. It opens with a confession – Mara Dyer (our heroines assumed name) is a murderer. How and why is yet to be determined. Mostly because Mara herself doesn’t know these answers. But she’s on a mission to find out. The set up is perfectly executed. From the very first page you’re hooked – you need to know the circumstances, you need to know Mara’s secrets. Author Michelle Hodkin starts the suspense high and manages to maintain it throughout.

How she does this though is both invigorating and frustrating as all hell because Mara Dyer you will soon discover is not the most reliable narrator. The fact is she’s suffering from PTSD, brought on by the major bought of survivors guilt she’s suffering from. A guilt that’s so encompassing it has her seeing things that aren’t there, suffering from nightmares and all around going loopy. To help assuage her precarious emotional state Mara’s parents decide a change of scenery may help and so the family up and moves to Miami, Florida.

The move however does nothing to help Mara, in fact it only seems to aggravate her precarious situation because soon she finds herself seeing her dead boyfriend all over the place. Stressed, depressed and convinced she’s totally lost the plot Mara’s life is in a seemingly endless downward spiral.

That is until she meets Noah Shaw – of course as YA trilogy’s dictate he’s beautiful, a real dream boat, wanted by every girl in the school. He’s smart and has a cute British accent to boot. He’s also apparently the school man-whore.

Now it just so happens that I’m a sucker for a well-written male love interest (I mean I’m not opposed to a female love interest but since that’s not the case in this book we need not discuss this further.) And Noah Shaw easily captures your “aw shucks” gene and refuses to let go. From the beginning the chemistry between Mara and Noah is intense, clever, witty and everything you kind of want. As Mara and Noah’s relationship develops – in, despite all of the crazy surrounding Mara, a relatively normal way. Noah pursues Mara, and eventually wins her over by protecting her from an incredibly awful high school mean girl.

This is all set up though, apart from showing the strength of the connection between the two characters, and revealing Noah’s true nature (mainly that he’s nothing at all like everyone says) it has little to do with the real story at hand. But it does set up what will no doubt become an incredibly heart-pounding and intense love story.

The real story develops slowly, with an increasing sense of urgency and creepiness. Weird things are afoot in the life of Mara Dyer – she keeps seeing her dead ex-boyfriend, objects in her room move around, and her father just so happens to be the lawyer for a wealthy man accused of brutally murdering a young girl.

As the story progresses more is revealed about that fateful night that Mara’s life changed. Hodkin uses dreams as her medium for major revelations, and because of this fact you can never be sure if Mara’s dreams/visions are true or if her mind is trying to come to terms with a terrible accident. Mara becomes convinced that she is the cause of the building collapse, that she somehow has the ability to kill people with her thoughts and is therefore a danger to everyone around her.

But as the reader you can never really be sure if what Mara believes is true or not, and Noah is no help in this matter. He’s indulgent to the point of detriment. Quite honestly you begin to question his sanity too.

But this is the brilliance of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer – Hodkin keeps you guessing. Right until the end you can never be sure if you should believe Mara or Noah. What is reality and what is not flips back and forth, it’ll have you pulling out your hair and screaming “WHY? WHYYYYYYYY?!” But in the best way possible.

Add to this a great antagonist in Mara’s ex-possibly still alive, but probably not because a building totally collapsed on him-boyfriend Jude. Whether he’s real or simply a figment of her imagination he will give you the willies. Something about the brief flashback’s that allude to Jude, the small moments when he pops up in everyday life or when Mara suspects his existence tell you he’s an absolute skeeze. He is skin crawlingly demonic, and not knowing whether or not he’s there or not at times has you looking over your shoulder as you read. There’s nothing more delightful than a well written, creepy, scary, sociopathic foe. And in Jude you get one.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is the first book in the Mara Dyer trilogy. Author Michelle Hodkin sets up a story full of proverbial twists and turns, with a main character who’s fragility is equalled only by her thirst for the truth. Add to that a swoon-worthy love interest and the most unreliable narration you could possibly imagine, Mara Dyer is as frustrating as it is thrilling, and comes highly recommended.