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Book Review- Dualed

I applied for this ARC after talking a bit with the author on Twitter (news flash- she’s insanely sweet), totally not expecting to receive it, so when I did I was VERY excited. The idea of this book fascinated me from the beginning, and I’m happy to say that it exceeded my (rather high) expectations! (as always with ARCs, I’m using the GR summary)

You or your Alt? Only one will survive.

The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.

Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.

I think I loved this book because I love books that make me think. Books that make me challenge the norm, wonder why? What if the world was a certain way? (that’s why I’m often drawn to dystopians like this one). I’m almost sad to put this in a category, especially dystopians. They’re so stereotyped, often slandered among ‘serious’ book reviewers. This book is more than a book set in the future, because it might not be in the future. Kersh is a gated, isolated city, separating it’s inhabitants from the ravaging wars of the rest of the world. Sound familiar? While the technology used to create genetically identical twins from two sets of parents (you read that right) seems incredibly advanced and past anything we have now, it doesn’t seem far out of the realm of possibilities to me.

Also, it chilled me to the bone. The thought of being raised to fight, taught your whole life that to live, you had to be fierce, violent, unfeeling- it terrifies me. The world building is incredibly convincing, and I especially loved the main character. It bothers me that a lot of dystopian female characters are so cold, and unfeeling. (I’ve mentioned numerous times that this is the way I feel about Katniss) West has every reason in the world to be cold, every reason to block out all emotion. But somehow, she doesn’t let it get to her. At the beginning, she’s how you would expect a girl in her world to be- utterly grounded in what she needs to do. But towards the end, it’s great to see her really allow herself to feel.

Lastly, the romance. It really felt true and natural, almost like something that actually happened. I am drawn towards romance that is less blind passion and more slow and real, and this definitely did it for me. Thank goodness for the absence of a love triangle, that’s all I have to say.

I highly recommend this book, everyone! It kept me on my toes, never let me get too relaxed, and the romance melted my heart. I also love that the end wasn’t a cliffhanger, seeing as it will be more than a year at least before the sequel comes out! Look for this one in stores on February 26th, 2013!

Olivia

*ARC kindly provided for me from the publisher via Netgalley*

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The One That Could Have Been

growing-up-is-highly-overrated-just-be-an-author

Big thanks and hugs to the magical Amy Zhang for making this post and then giving me permission to post something similar.

What would your life be like if you hadn’t started writing?

Olivia is a tallish blondeish sophomore who falls under that stiff category of ‘smart’ that folks like to apply to people who get A’s in hard classes and talk about things other than Facebook and who’s dating who. She does well in her classes, better than most, but she isn’t a genius like that crazy girl in her AP Psych class who took AP Calc in her freshman year and got a 5 on the exam. She does great in math but hates it, great in Biology but not so hot in Chemistry, great in History but doesn’t like the teaching style, and her favorite is English. English is always the class she loves, because she feels like it is the one class where her opinion matters. In math, when she asks why, they tell her “Because.” In Chemistry, when she says she didn’t choose answer B. because even though that was the answer she got, it didn’t feel right, they laugh at her. In History, her thoughts about current events don’t really matter so much as The All Important 8 Characteristics of Civilizations and Who Chopped off Who’s Head In The French Revolution. In English, it all matters. She gets to do really fun stuff  like write papers about what the green light in The Great Gatsby means and talk about the Latin roots of vocabulary. She secretly wishes she could have a career in English, but those jobs are capital N Not Secure and therefore Not A Good Idea. She figures she’ll be a doctor when she is older. She liked Biology so much after all,so it seems to fit. Olivia volunteers at the hospital so she’s used to the way it feels, the urgency everyone has. She even has the I-Have-People’s-Lives-To-Save-So-Get-The-Bleep-Out-Of-My-Way walk down. Sometimes she gets a little sad and feels like there is something more to life that she’s missing, something different that she could be, that she should be, that no one has told her about. Sometimes she wakes up at 4 AM having had a crazy, vivid dream about 20 foot insects who had a food fight while hovering over Paris and feels like she should do something about it. Even though she’s not quite sure what she could do with a story like that, she has a feeling that as crazy as these dreams are, no one in the world has ever had the same dreams, and that is amazing

She also has terrific nightmares where she wakes up panting and sweating and crying. Nightmares of sitting all alone in a big house, with lots of money but no happiness. Nightmares of being 25 and in her very first Gross Anatomy class and realizing, wait a second, I can’t cut into an actual person, why the heck am I training to be a doctor? She is deathly afraid of not succeeding, and equally afraid of being unhappy.

If I never started writing, that fear of not succeeding would probably still be outweighing my fear of not being happy. If I never started writing, I think there would forever be a part of me missing, a hole in my heart. It scares me how close I came to never writing.

The Olivia I am today is still a tallish, blondish sophomore who falls under the category of ‘smart.’ She still does well in her classes and will probably go to a good college and have a nice, secure job/life in a few years. But she is so, so different, so fundamentally not-the-same as the other Olivia. She is HAPPY instead of distant and insecure. (okay, maybe still a little distant and insecure. but who isn’t, really?) She loves the part of her that made her want to challenge the norm and think differently from other people seem to. She writes down the ideas she has and harbors big hopes for them.

If she hadn’t started writing, she would have smiled vaguely and answered ‘Doctor.’ when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now, she replies ‘Author’ and if they say “Don’t worry, you’re only a sophomore in high school, you don’t have to know yet.” she replies that she does know already, thank you very much, and nothing they can say will change it.

Olivia

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Book Review- Between Shades of Gray

betweenshades

This book blew my expectations out of the water! From the very first page I was captured, and read it in the space of about two days. It’s the kind of book that gives you a hunger for more, even after you finish reading it. When I first started it, I was in a nasty reading slump, but it pulled me out fast! It reminded me how much I really love reading stories of other times, other people, other events, and for that, I am grateful.

Lina Vilkas is a normal teenage girl in Lithuania; she loves to paint and draw, she crushes on boys and has high hopes for the future. But when Stalin invades Lithuania and deports thousands to working camps in Siberia, everything changes.

One thing I’ve learned from reading a lot of historical books is that it takes skill to write about a different time period than our own and make it simulatiously informative and entertaining. The line between informative and a history lesson is a difficult one, but this book successfully made a truly interesting period of history entertaining and enjoyable. Also, it was nice to read about a historical period I hadn’t heard about yet. I obviously knew about WWII and that it affected everything, everywhere, but I did not know about Lithuanians being deported to Siberia. I can’t even comprehend being forced out of my home to go work in Siberia. History unremembered is a terrible thing, and I’m glad this book is telling Lina’s story.

I thought it was insanely cool that Lina Vilkas actually existed. At the end, you find out that it was inspired by an actual diary and letters written by a Lina Vilkas. Also, even though the book ends in an unusual place and you don’t really know what happens to Lina, the letter tells you. Not to mention that the romance in the book (which was amazing, some of my favorite that I’ve read, actually, and that’s saying something) is based on Lina’s real life love, mentioned in the letter. I find this unbelievably cute.

Y’all know writing style is a huge thing for me. I have a strong affininty for books with brutal beauty in the words, such as with this one. It is concise enough not to bother people who dislike more floral writing styles, but still has the beauty of something that would normally be a bit more wordy. Also, the resonance of the title could not have been more perfect. It was worth reading just for the one sentence where it was explained. I want to quote it here so bad, but I feel like it would spoil a big secret, even though it isn’t one.

I highly, highly recommend this book, especially for anyone interested in the time period, looking to get out of a reading slump, or searching for a brutally honest YA romance.

Olivia

*This ARC was kindly given to me (from her personal stash, no less) by Jennifer of ARCycling. Thank you so much, Jennifer. I’ll treasure it.*

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Thanks for a beautiful year.

I love you all, and while this sounds drastic, I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I had never started blogging. I might never have started writing at all, and writing gives me joy. To imagine my life without such a large piece of it is near impossible.

The support you’ve given me over this year warms my heart. You’ve been with me for varying lengths of time, from the second post I made to last week, but each of you has contributed here. I might have given up without the support and love of all of you.

And while we’re talking about giving up, I want to give specific hugs to the lovely people that have never stopped encouraging me on my writing journey.  I throw y’all a lot of crappy words and the strangest questions, but you never hesitate. A million times thank you to Alice, Amy, Ari, Mark, and John. I don’t know what I’d do without you.

Here’s to another fabulous year with more reviews, more writing, more giveaways, and more FUN! ❤ Stay safe as you ring in 2013 tonight!

Cheers!

Olivia

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I’m Making Today ‘National Use Creativity to Heal Day’

As most of you probably know, yesterday a gunman opened fire on an elementary school in Connecticut, killing 7 adults and at least 20 children.

When I heard this news, I was more than broken. I was shattered. I was utterly useless to the world, stuck in my own little bubble. The fact that someone could shoot children…. I don’t think there’s a word in the English language that can capture the feeling sweeping over the nation today.
There’s a lot of talk about gun control and all that. And I applaud people who can take this pain and turn it into a movement to stop the world from experiencing this pain again. But I can’t help but feel that now is not the effing time for that.
The world is grieving, and so am I. I’ve always had a huge sense of empathy, one that becomes almost crippling when I experience it. I’m better today than I was yesterday, but better is simply a relative term. I will never, ever forget this tragedy.
But sometimes remembering is too painful. I’m absolutely not suggesting we forget that this happened, but a large part of healing from is putting it out of your mind for bits of time. When something like this happens, it plagues my brain so I can think of nothing else. And that isn’t healthy.
This brings me to the title of this post. I almost always deal with pain like this creatively. I can already hear the voices chorusing in my head, but I can’t be creative other than with words! Be creative however you have to. (i’ll also be making a more lighthearted post later on ‘How to be Creative’) I believe that the people of this nation and the world can slowly come to terms with this by taking a day, a weekend, a week, to do what gives them joy and to be calm. Through this we can honor the memory of all those lost, and in time, make changes to gun policy.
Life is fragile, so take the time to realize how much you appreciate it. I love you all.
Olivia

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Book Review- Promised

I’m finally back, and it feels great! Christmas break is so close I can taste it, and I’m hoping to catch up on reading. As you can imagine, between school and extracurriculars, including a newly minted online newspaper for my school that I’m in charge of, I’m swamped. The few minutes I have each day to read are heaven, if I can get them. There’ll be another dry spell in January because of finals, but hopefully next semester will be easier and I can get back to my usual reading. I’ll try to space some of my movie and book reviews from over the break out through January. Anyway, let’s get to the review! I got this lovely gem from Arcycling! 🙂

promised

This book is the last in the Birthmarked trilogy, one of my favorite series’ ever. My hopes were very high for this one, to say the least, and I was very happy with the end. Gaia finally has to confront the things she’s been running from. I can’t really tell y’all more than that without spoiling the series (sorry, that’s been a trend from me lately, hasn’t it?), but here is my review of the first one (I’m was a bit inexperienced at reviewing back then, but either way, it’s glowy and gets the point across). I don’t think anyone would regret reading this series!

That being said, these books did rip my heart into tiny pieces. Sometimes I love that, but other times it just stresses me out to read the book, and for the most part, I read to relax. The angst between Gaia and Leon is so strong that it’s like a physical thing, but they make it work. I’ve always admired that part about their relationship, that despite all they’ve been through they are still happy together. I was happy to see this stay in Promised. It was also nice to finally see some romance between the two! Because of the way that books 1 and 2 were set up and the circumstances, we didn’t get much of an opportunity to see them together. Now that we do, I am convinced that they are the cutest couple ever. Not in the sicky-icky, always kissing-and-whatnot way, but their witty banter and still tenderness stole my heart. If I was ever unsure about the depth of Leon’s feelings before, that is completely gone now.

In the book, something really, really tough happens to Gaia. Something that stands out above the other terrible things and really resonates with me as a woman. (don’t worry- for those of you who hate reading sexual assault in books like I do, that’s not what I’m talking about) I loved the way Gaia handled it, in fact, I love the way Gaia handles most things. She doesn’t block herself off from her emotions, she embraces them and stands back up, and succeeds.

The end was great. It felt a little rushed at times, but overall I was satisfied with the way it ended up!

Hope y’all are having a good week!

Olivia

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Gifts for the Medically Conscious!

My friend Alice-Jane and I were talking the other day and realized we both planned on making gift-guides for blog posts, so we teamed up! We’re alternating days from now on, excepting Sunday. I’m really happy with what we’ve come up with, and you should totally hop on over to her blog to see what she’s up to. We’ve both chosen topics for each other that fit out personalities well. Hope you enjoy!

gift guide for the medically conscious

I’ve chosen these gifts for people like Alice and myself, for people who like watching medical shows and science class! You don’t have to be an aspiring doctor to find these things awesome.

1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

TFiOS recently won an award from TIME for ‘Best Fiction book of the year’, and it is certainly well deserved. It was an amazing book, and I have never read anything that portrays cancer as lovingly and realisticly as this. Everyone must read this at least once, and it’s perfect for any teen in your life.

2. Candy Striper Dress

I love being a candy striper, and the only thing I regret about it is that we don’t get to wear cute uniforms like these anymore! This one is salmon pink instead of the usual candy cane stripes, but it’s still very adorable and a steal for something vintage like this!

3. Lung iPhone Case

This anatomically correct lung iPhone case rocks my socks.  It’s a great and chic way to display your love for being medically savvy! The clear cut black and white lines are very aesthetically pleasing, too.

4. Plush Common Cold

This is one of the best gag (or real) gifts to give to anyone medically savvy! Imagine being able to say “I gave you a cold for Christmas!” or, depending on what bacteria you give them, “I gave you mono/anthrax/chicken pox for Christmas!”

5. Anatomy Poster

This poster is great. It’s subtle, which is nice. The colors are muted and the canvas background is better than anything paper ever could be. Vintage rocks.

6. Anatomical Heart Necklace

This has to be my favorite thing on the list. I have always wanted something like this, something that actually looks like a heart.

Well, there you have it, folks! 🙂 Hope you enjoyed it! Alice’s first post is here. Keep your eyes peeled for more to come!

Olivia

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