Saturday, August 31, 2013

Teen/YA Review: The Ask and the Answer

It usually takes me a while to find time to read a sequel, even when I really liked the first book, but I started The Ask and the Answer, book 2 in the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness, just a couple of weeks after finishing book 1, The Knife of Never Letting Go, because I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen next. It worked out well because this was another long book to add to my Big Book Summer Challenge. This series continues to be fast-paced and exciting with a unique plot full of surprises.

I don’t want to give too much away for those who haven’t read book 1 yet, so this will be tricky. Todd, the main character from the first book, is back. He and his friend Viola have been captured by their enemy, Mayor Prentiss, and separated. The Mayor tells Todd that the only way to keep Viola safe is to comply with everything he says and become a part of his new regime. Todd is constantly worried because he has no way of knowing if Viola is safe or even still alive, as he struggles to keep her safe while doing things for the Mayor that he knows are wrong.

With this page-turning beginning, the story continues against a backdrop of increasingly disturbing changes the Mayor is making to the society he is now ruling, and increasing violence against the Mayor’s regime by a rebel group called The Answer. Where The Knife of Never Letting Go had more of a post-apocalyptic feel to it, with Todd and Viola fleeing from their enemies, The Ask and the Answer is decidedly more dystopian, focusing in on the new society that the Mayor is trying to create. Of course, both books are still in the sci-fi realm, with plenty of action, adventure, and suspense thrown in. It’s an enticing combination.

Like the first novel in the trilogy, The Ask and the Answer is a very violent story, with similar fighting and combat but also plenty of bombing in the mix from the rebel group. However, this second book introduces lots of thought-provoking ethical questions, about war and violence, torture and terrorism. Ultimately, it investigates an age-old question that applies as well to our own world as it does to Todd and Viola's: do the ends justify the means?

The action and suspense build to a final stand-off between the rebels and the Mayor’s organization, but once again, the book ends with a surprising twist that left me yelling, “What?? No, not that!” Now, I can’t wait to read the third and final installment of this exciting trilogy.

519 pages, Candlewick Press


Monday, August 26, 2013

It's Monday 8/26! What Are You Reading?

Two more days! My oldest son moved back into the college dorms yesterday, and my youngest starts back to high school on Wednesday, so in two more days, the house will be quiet during the day and I can stop the constant running to doctor's appointments every day! Not that I'm counting... I love my kids, but it's been a difficult summer and I am looking forward to being productive again.

With the end of vacation and school looming ahead, we had a very busy week and all had far less reading time than usual:
  • I am still reading The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness, book 2 in the fabulous Chaos Walking trilogy. I am enjoying this book as much as I did the first one!
  • My husband, Ken, is still reading Secrets to the Grave by Tami Hoag, a psychological thriller.
  • He and I did manage to finally finish an audio book, a new release of The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. I'd never read the original, and we both enjoyed this classic time travel story very much. Now I understand why Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory has nightmares about the Morlocks!
  • Jamie, 19, spent the week at the beach with his friends, so he had very little reading time! He is still reading Luck in the Shadows by Lynn Flewelling, book 1 of The Nightrunner series.
I spent a lot of times in waiting rooms last week, so I did bring my laptop along and managed to post a couple of book reviews last week:

Review of The Twelve by Justin Cronin, sequel to The Passage.

Review of The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, Book 1 in the Chaos Walking series.

And a Weekend Cooking post with a couple of very tasty summer recipes.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.) 

If you have been participating in the Big Book Summer Challenge, summer is almost over! Be sure to add your links for any Big Book reviews to the review link list on the challenge page. Later this week, I will post a summary post with another link list for your own wrap-up posts.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Teen/YA Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go

My son and my husband both raved about the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness, so I finally found time to read Book 1: The Knife of Never Letting Go as part of my Big BookSummer Challenge last month. Though this unique series has been marketed as teen/YA fiction, it seems to be loved just as much by adult readers. I enjoyed it so much that I started reading Book 2: The Ask and the Answer this week.

I am going to tread lightly with plot description here because it’s obvious the author intended for the novel’s secrets to be gradually discovered by readers. Todd is a boy just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man. He lives in a society where everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts, creating a continuous stream of Noise. Though Todd is an orphan, he has had a decent life, brought up by two close family friends who care for him.

One day, Todd and his dog, Manchee (whose thoughts Todd can also hear), encounter an odd patch of silence on the edge of town.  This strange discovery leads to the uncovering of some dark secrets that have been kept from Todd, in spite of the Noise. Certain people in town are so committed to keeping the town’s secrets that they go after Todd, forcing him and Manchee into life on the run, leaving his little town for the first time in his life.

This novel is full of action and adventure, as the bad guys chase after Todd and Manchee and a friend they meet along the way. It’s an unusual mix of science fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, and even some dystopia. And through it all, the Noise adds a unique element. Can you imagine a world where you know what everyone else is thinking?

I loved this book just as much as my husband and son did. Todd is a very likeable character, and Manchee provides a touch of humor, with his doggie thoughts being constantly broadcast to Todd. Although it is a longish book at almost 500 pages (hence its inclusion in my Big Book Summer plans), it is a fairly quick read, with a fast pace and plenty of suspense to keep you reading long past bedtime. So far, Book 2: The Ask and the Answer is just as good.

479 pages, Candlewick Press


Monday, August 19, 2013

It's Monday 8/19! What Are You Reading?

We're back! I haven't posted since July because we took a 2-week camping vacation to Cape Cod and Maine, then headed to Pennsylvania for a weekend with our extended family. Lots and lots of fun all around - hiking, kayaking, and eating way too much delicious food! If you want a peek at our vacation adventures, check out our Road Trip Blog - scroll down to August 1, 2013, to see the photos in order.

So, with all that vacation time, we read a LOT of books these last few weeks!
  • I read The Twelve by Justin Cronin, sequel to The Passage and my fourth Big Book of the Summer. I enjoyed it and am glad I read it, but I liked The Passage more (and just gave it to my sister for her birthday this weekend). I wish I'd read The Twelve sooner because I'd forgotten a lot of what happened in the first book. 
  • This weekend, I started The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness, sequel to The Knife of Never Letting Go which I read earlier this summer and loved (another big book). The two books are part of a YA trilogy that is a mixture of science fiction, dystopia, and post-apocalyptic fiction, with a heavy dose of action and adventure.
  • My husband, Ken, had eye surgery before we left. Fortunately, it went well, and he was able to get back to reading during vacation. He read The Lost Ones by Ace Atkins, an Edgar Award winner that I gave him for Father's Day. He really enjoyed it and is looking forward to reading more by Atkins.
  • Now, Ken is reading Secrets to the Grave by Tami Hoag, a freebie I picked up for him at the library when I completed their adult summer reading challenge (I got a total of 5 free books!).
  • Jamie, 19 (as of Friday!), took full advantage of vacation and read at least 6 books over the past two weeks! He is lucky that he can read in the car and not get sick. First, he finished the David Eddings' trilogy The Tamuli, reading Book 2, The Shining Ones and Book 3, Hidden City. He liked this fantasy series that his dad lent him.
  • Jamie also read a couple of free books on his Kindle. When he first got it for last year's birthday, he downloaded a dozen free fantasy novels and has been making his way through them. One of the ones he read last week was The God King by James A. West, Book 1 of the Heirs of the Fallen series. He loved it and is looking forward to reading more of the series.
  • Jamie and I were thrilled to find a bookstore in Bar Harbor, Maine, so I treated him to two more books for his birthday. He already finished the 700-page novel The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks and absolutely loved it!
  • Now, Jamie is reading his other birthday book, Luck in the Shadows by Lynn Flewelling, Book 1 of The Nightrunner series (as you can see, he loves fantasy). He says this one is good, too. His reading is going to come to a screeching halt next week when college starts up again, so he's enjoying it while he can!
  • Craig, 15, finally started his second book for required summer reading, The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa. He's not too excited about this one, even though his brother told him it's pretty good! I want to read it when he's finished.
  • Despite all those hours on the road, we didn't listen to much in the way of audio books (to my great disappointment!). The boys don't like listening to books with us anymore (sniff, sniff) - Craig would rather listen to music, and Jamie would rather read on his own. I did talk Jamie into listening to Insurgent by Veronica Roth with Ken and I - all three of us read the first book, Divergent, and enjoyed it. However, he got frustrated because he didn't remember much from the first book and soon gave up. Ken and I still listened while the boys had their earbuds in, but we didn't get very far - I'm not sure when we'll find time to finish it now that we're home!
Believe it or not, I did manage a couple of posts before we left, in the flurry of packing:

Review of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain, an amazing and moving novel.

My summary of Books Read in July.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.)