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ComplicitFrom Goodreads: Two years ago, sixteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else. But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie. Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know the truth about their past. A truth she’s kept hidden for years. A truth she’s not supposed to tell. Trust nothing and no one as you race toward the explosive conclusion of this gripping psychological thriller from the William C. Morris Award-winning author of Charm & Strange.

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The synopsis of Complicit drew me in from the get go, and I knew I had to read this novel. With a premise like this one, you just know it’s got to be good, and it was. Very good, especially with its ending that completely knocked me on my butt. I mean, WOW.

According to her confession and the evidence her brother Jamie found in the woods, Cate Henry set alight a horse barn with the horses still inside in hopes of drawing out their riders and doing as much damage to both them and the horses as possible. Sent to juvie for two years, the novel begins as Jamie learns that his sister, Cate, has been set free, sending him spiraling down as she taunts him with statements about their deceased mother and the fact that Cate’s now coming for Jamie.

Determined to find the truth at any cost, Jamie begins to stir up the past, including that surrounding his mother’s murder when he was a young child; an event that not only left him emotionally scarred, but also suffering from blackouts and seemingly sporadic loss of his hands mobility. Unable to remember the events of his past, or even his mother’s features, though certain that they hold the key to Cate’s odd, cultish behavior, Jamie sets off on a journey of self-discovery, and what he finds is beyond alarming. Told through both past and present revelations, readers begin to put together the puzzling pieces of Jamie and Cate’s existence, understanding that not everything is as it seems, and that the cost of protecting the fragile mind of the young can indeed turn deadly.

I highly enjoyed this novel, especially with this ending that left me mystified and chilled to my core. While I was able to pinpoint the truth behind Cate’s actions fairly early on, the events that readers are left with at the very end were still shocking and, in a way, more appalling than that of the horse barn burning in the first place. Jamie’s attempts to placate his sister while maintaining the semblance of his life, including his very first crush, sends readers on an intense psychological ride as Cate gets ever closed to Jamie, and as everything comes to a head, it’s beyond mind blowing. If you’re looking for something completely different, I suggest picking up Complicit—be prepared for a chilling conclusion. Four stars.

4 stars

I received an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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From the WreckageFrom Goodreads: “In a matter of minutes on a Friday night, I lost my school, my identity, the security of my first love, the personality of my sweet fearless brother, my best friend, my town, everything as I knew it. Everything changed.” “Minutes – that’s all it takes to change your entire life. How do you deal with that?” For high school senior Jules Blacklin surviving the storm is only the beginning. Faced with the new reality of her life, she must find a way to rise From The Wreckage and answer the question – how do you get back to normal, when everything that was normal is gone?

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In the wake of the recent tornadoes touching down across the Midwest, perhaps the most prominent being those in Arkansas and Oklahoma, Miller creates a touching, poignant story that truly captures the fear, panic, loss, and ultimate renewal that comes from the destruction of Mother Nature’s ferocity. Told through the memories of survivor Jules Blacklin as she relates her story for a video memorial, readers are brought into her personal world and experience events through her eyes as an unexpected tornado rips through the Friday night hang out attended by many of the counties teens.

Imagine turning around and seeing a tornado coming for you. Miller captures the fear and horror surrounding these events as her main characters experience their lives being ripped apart, both literally and figuratively. Recounting her experiences, and with a new outlook on life, Jules takes readers through her healing process, her revelations of love and loss drawing the reader even deeper into the story. The tenses in the story are a bit jarring every now and then, jumping between past and present, first and third person as the story develops, but I feel like this fits the upheaval of the storyline itself, and as Jules is recounting past events in a present memorial to the dead, it works.

“From the Wreckage” is both a literal and figurative phrase that perfectly fits as the title of this novel. From the wreckage comes loss. From the wreckage comes survivors. From the wreckage comes unity. And from the wreckage comes rebirth, love, fear, and strength, and it’s a beautiful story that I highly recommend. Four stars.

4 stars

I received an ARC of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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15752340From Goodreads: Do the gates keep the unchosen out or the chosen in?

In Mandrodage Meadows, life seems perfect. The members of this isolated suburban community have thrived under Pioneer, the charismatic leader who saved them from their sad, damaged lives. Lyla Hamilton and her parents are original members of the flock. They moved here following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, looking to escape the evil in the world. Now seventeen, Lyla knows certain facts are not to be questioned:

Pioneer is her leader.

Will is her Intended.

The end of the world is near.

Like Noah before him, Pioneer has been told of the imminent destruction of humanity. He says his chosen must arm themselves to fight off the unchosen people, who will surely seek refuge in the compound’s underground fortress–the Silo.

Lyla loves her family and friends, but given the choice, she prefers painting to target practice. And lately she’d rather think about a certain boy outside the compound than plan for married life in the Silo with Will. But with the end of days drawing near, she will have to pick up a gun, take a side, and let everyone know where she stands.

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This was a very well-written fictionalized story that takes a look into world of cult life. Lyla Hamilton was only a kid when her family moved to Mandrodage Meadows, and growing up in a faction like the one Pioneer has organized doesn’t phase her because it’s really all she’s known. The world is an evil place; after all, her older sister was kidnapped from in front of her house right before the terrorist attacks on 9/11. No one in safe. But there are a few chosen, and the Brethren have spoken to Pioneer to tell them who they are, bringing them all to Mandrodage Meadows to wait out the storm. They are the new Noah, and the Brethren will soon be unleashing Armageddon on the rest of the world, at which time the families in Mandrodage Meadows will move deep into the earth, into the Silo, where they’ll live for five years before coming back topside to begin the world of man again.

Sound familiar? It should, especially if you’ve read about Charles Manson or Jim Jones and their flocks that followed them. This novel crosses the two infamous cults to create a story that, though slow to start, increasingly becomes more intense as the story unfolds. The novel opens with target practice: Lyla, her intended, Will, her best friend, Maria, and her intended, Brian, are in the fields practicing with their rifles because, in just a few months, the end will come, and when it does, evildoers will come knocking on their doorstep, so they have to be ready. Or, at least that’s what Pioneer has told them ever since they were young, mold-able children. While Will, Marie, and Brian have no qualms about being the chosen and fighting for their loved ones, Lyla is different. She can’t stop imagining the wood cutouts are real people, and she doesn’t want to hurt anyone. From the very beginning, it’s easy for an outsider like me to see that Lyla and her family are part of a cult, even though they don’t believe it. And though Pioneer seems kind and caring in the beginning, it doesn’t take long for him to begin to show his sinister side.

One aspect that I really loved about this novel is that the characters were completely fleshed out and real. Even though the novel started very slowly and it took a while for me to really get into it, Parker takes this time to create vivid characters. The hate I harbor for Pioneer as he exacts punishments and cons the adults and teens around him–there are no children anymore as Pioneer selected very carefully when choosing his families so all the children would be roughly the same age to make marriage easier–is palpable, and though I’m no longer immersed in the pages, my blood-pressure still rises when I think of him. Thankfully, Pioneer has no interest in sexual relations with anyone in this story, so that aspect of cult life is not included in this novel, but his version of “intendeds,” matching up teens for marriage at 18, shows just how much hold he plans to exact in the next generation after emerging from the Silo in five years time.

Lyla was a complicated character. At 17, she knows what she’s supposed to do according to Pioneer’s teachings and her family’s insistence, but after meeting a young outsider her thoughts begin to probe the validity of it all. In the midst of all the sheep blindly following Pioneer, Lyla begins to struggle with herself as she knows her doubt will bring down evil among her people. She wants to follow and be good, but her conscience won’t allow it. And, While I really wanted to reach through the pages and shake her, at the same time, I completely understand her inability to choose what’s right because her teachings have taught her to trust no outsider and obey Pioneer unconditionally. It’s intense.

As the plot thickens and events bring Lyla closer to the truth, she has a huge decision to make, and I don’t envy her at all. While the choice may seem relatively easy on the outside, the consequences will be earth-shattering for everyone, and it is here that the novel really begins to pick up speed.

While much of the novel is predictable based on our knowledge of cult beliefs and brainwashing, Pioneer never ceased to amaze me and I feared very much for not only Lyla, but also the people within the faction as new evidence came to light. It ended with a bang and I really enjoyed it overall, so, should you have any curiosity about cults, this is definitely the novel for you. Four stars.

4 stars

Random House Children’s Books has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on August 6, 2013.



15710557From Goodreads: “I can’t weep. I can’t fear. I’ve grown talented at pretending.

Elizabeth Caldwell doesn’t feel emotions . . . she sees them. Longing, Shame, and Courage materialize around her classmates. Fury and Resentment appear in her dysfunctional home. They’ve all given up on Elizabeth because she doesn’t succumb to their touch. All, that is, save one—Fear. He’s intrigued by her, as desperate to understand the accident that changed Elizabeth’s life as she is herself.

Elizabeth and Fear both sense that the key to her past is hidden in the dream paintings she hides in the family barn. But a shadowy menace has begun to stalk her, and try as she might, Elizabeth can barely avoid the brutality of her life long enough to uncover the truth about herself. When it matters most, will she be able to rely on Fear to save her?

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I really enjoyed how completely unique this novel ended up being. Elizabeth does not feel emotion, so she forces herself to play the part day in and day out as she struggles through her abusive existence. Her ability to talk to the emotions was intriguing and I liked how they materialized from nowhere and were able to carbon copy themselves to control all human emotions in the world at the same time. The novel went off in a completely different direction than I thought it would, and I loved the surprises. Kudos to Sutton because I believe it’s virtually impossible to write a character with zero emotions, and Sutton does a very good job with this, even though on occasion Elizabeth does show emotion in a muted sort of sense.

This novel has a great pace, but I felt that the ending went on for much longer than it needed to.  Everything seems to come to a climax about 70% in, but it doesn’t end there. Instead, it takes a turn for the worst and a whole new story seems to develop, fleshing out the truth behind Elizabeth’s past, and while it was definitely well done, I just found it a little long for my tastes.

I also would have liked to see the weak, abusive characters get their due. There are multiple instances in which characters hurt, mock, and abuse Elizabeth, and she allows it because she does not feel emotion, but these evil people are never put to task for their actions. Bullying should never go unpunished, and neither should abuse, in my opinion, and I really would have liked to see repercussions for these actions.

But all in all, this is a very interesting story about emotions, or lack there of, and the different plains that exist outside our reality.  I’ve never thought of emotions as having human thoughts and feelings (sort of like the four horsemen, in a way), and I loved how their characterization came across to really show their traits.  Fears appearance, actions, and dialogue fit him well, as did Courage’s and all the other emotions.  As I said before, this novel went in a completely different direction than I expected it to, and it was a fun read, though a little drawn out here and there.  Three and a half stars.

3.5 starsFlux books has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read this novel, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.



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