Wither by Lauren DeStefano

From Goodreads:
What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.

     Advanced Readers Copies are evil, children. I'm warning you. Letting an ARC into your house is tantamount to disaster. I actually read this book months ago and now it's only just about to be released and I'm tearing my hair out in want of the sequel. This book was fabulous enough to cause severe emotional distress.

First, it's YA dystopia, an ever growing genre made up almost entirely of win. I've found only one or two that have disappointed me. These books are shocking, terrifying, and startlingly realistic (save for the Zombie Apocalypse which we will allow). A horror story is so much more effective when you could see how it could be real. Many people got to experience this book along with me as I read it. I took great joy in seeing their shocked expressions when I told them what the book was about.

     In DeStefano's dystopian future, women have a shelf life of twenty years. Science, in its unending quest to rid the world of diseases that shorten lives, has advanced itself into a state of the exact opposite. Twenty illness free years are all that a female is allowed before her time runs out and a horrible sickness brings her death. Twenty years allows very little time to repopulate the human race, and even less to study it in hopes of finding a cure, for the cure. Women are married off in multiples to men, who live longer (oh the injustice) and spend their remaining, fertile years trying to conceive.

     This isn't a new concept; DeStefano just told it better. I remember reading The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and hating it, not for the shocking storyline, but because it bored the hell out of me. This time, I was still shocked and pleasantly appalled at women being portrayed as enslaved breeders, but I was much much more entertained.

     There are so MANY great characters in this book, and you will be properly and soundly introduced to each of them in turn. Rhine is matched with two other "wives" into a house hold whose one remaining wife is dying. Her short but meaningful friendship with the woman facing eminent death gives Rhine a glimpse of just what her future will be like. I loved the mix of the beautiful and the grotesque as these women are portrayed as lovely, but diseased flowers, kept prettily in their idyllic little garden world until they are no longer deemed useful. Their lives are worth so much yet they matter so little.

     The one thing I couldn't feel is any sympathy for Linden, the "husband" so to speak. In many ways he's just as much a prisoner to this new society as his wives but he still retains some freedoms. While I'm glad to see that the decline of a wife as she neared the end of her twenty years was still able to affect him, he was a wussy little daddy's boy and I wanted to smack him.

     I've said before how opposed I am to nearly EVERY freakin' YA book released today having to be part of a series when there was barely enough concept and content to warrant a first book, but in Wither a world is created, expertly in fact. A story may only go so far if the setting is lacking, but a well defined world can mean no end of possibilities. I long for, pine and covet the idea of a sequel to Wither and I don't know how I'll bear the wait.

"I spend a lot of time in an overstuffed chair in the library, thumbing through brilliant pages of flowers that no longer grow in this world, and some that can still be found in other parts of the country. I educate myself on the polar ice caps, vaporized long ago by warfare, and an explorer named Christopher Columbus who proved the earth was round. In my prison I lose myself in the library of a free and boundless world that's long dead."

*A very special thank you to the publisher for sending me this wonderful treasure.
*Quote taken from an ARC of Wither and may vary in the finished copy.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

From Goodreads:
Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -- the deliria -- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government's demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

     I had been dying to read this book. It's dystopian, a love story and an absolutely brilliant concept all in one. Love as an illness? It can seem that way sometimes and I bet there are many people post-break up that wish it never existed. A future where love is not only curable, but a disease whose sufferers must be hunted down and surgically altered to prevent its spread? Brilliant. Plus, I've heard only good things about Oliver's previous work Before I Fall, which I have yet to read and this one was just too tempting to resist. However, in hindsight, turns out I could.

     For me, this story was, I don't know, awkward. The pacing was choppy and I remember putting the book down at one point and thinking that the whole experience felt like walking around in oversized, heavy shoes. Plodding. That's it.

     I found Lena to be an inconsistent flake, which yes, maybe that was the point and people do change their feelings and minds but the Lena at the beginning of the story and the Lena at the end were such entirely different people that I don't see how the one could have existed in the other. Yes, yes, growth and transformation and all that, but really, people are who they are and such an abrupt change of character felt too contrived.

     I loved the snippets from the textbooks, pamphlets and books from this future, details that added to the severity of this society's campaign against an emotion it equated with plague. The over all sense that the story conveyed was an unexpected jolt. The eradication of love was the community's main focus and I read the entire book feeling lonely and lost from it, which was perfect.

     And yes, there were moments when the writing stood out to me, even if the story didn't and I'm still on board to read Before I Fall. I just don't think I'll be visiting Delirium's sequel.

"It's strange how I instantly recognize the voice even though I've heard it only once before, for ten minutes, fifteen tops-it's the laughter that runs underneath it, like someone leaning in to let you in on a really good secret in the middle of a really boring class. Everything freezes. The blood stops flowing in my veins. My breath stops coming. For a second even the music falls away and all I hear is something steady and quiet and pretty, like the distant beat of a drum, and I think, I'm hearing my heart..."

Would you like my ARC of this book? Be a BOOK BLOGGER, living in the US, and over the age of 13. Leave a comment and I'll randomly pick a winner in a couple of weeks using the very scientific "Eeny meeny miny mo" method.

*Quote taking from an ARC of Delirium and may differ in the finished copy.

Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard

From Goodreads:
Rose Leonard is on the run from her life. Taking refuge in a remote island community, she cocoons herself in work, silence and solitude in a house by the sea. But she is haunted by her past, by memories and desires she'd hoped were long dead. Rose must decide whether she has in fact chosen a new life or just a different kind of death. Life and love are offered by new friends, her lonely daughter, and most of all Calum, a fragile younger man who has his own demons to exorcise. But does Rose, with her tenuous hold on life and sanity, have the courage to say yes to life and put her past behind her

     This was a tough read. The subject matter that is. Rose is attempting to start fresh after an attempted suicide; a subject that I personally tend to stay away from. It's not a very enticing subject, and not very entertaining for obvious reasons. But sometimes it's not what is being said, but how one says it that matters. I could not have stomached this story if Gillard's writing had been any less beautiful.

     It's fitting that it's a story about an artist, as it paints very vivid pictures. I envisioned landscapes and backdrops, in an array of colors and textures as Rose created each piece. I felt and shared Calum's frustration as he struggled to reach Rose, who was still trapped in the place between the death of her old life and the hope of a new one. I loved that their relationship grew through their art, and they found each other in her pictures and his poems.

     I also hated Gavin. What a horror of a human being. And while I can't blame him for Rose's actions, those are hers to own and hers alone, I'd rather she tried to off him than herself. By the end of the story I had yet to come to terms with her daughter, Megan, and thinking on her now I'm still not sure that I could forgive her, even if her mother could.

     The book takes place on an island off the coast of Scotland and the entire story is steeped in cold and damp, and the struggle to keep it out of the heart. Normally I would be opposed to the idea of two sad saps coming together but Rose and Calum's relationship was not one about healing by relying on another. I would not have been able to tolerate a needy, dependant, damaged love between two damaged people. Rose was adamant that she would be the one to fix Rose, and Calum never once interfered, each of them attending to their own pasts without making the other its keeper.

'You could have killed yourself. If you had slashed your throat instead of your wrists I doubt you would have survived.'
'I wanted to die!'
'You no longer wanted to live.'
'Is there a difference?'
'Oh, yes, a great deal of difference... We can do very little for those who want to die.'

Thanks to Angie @ Angieville who mentioned this book which caused me to buy it.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

From Goodreads:
Stargirl. From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of color and sound, the hallways hum with the murmur of “Stargirl, Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock’s heart with just one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with just one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. At first.

Then they turn on her. Stargirl is suddenly shunned for everything that makes her different, and Leo, panicked and desperate with love, urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her: normal. In this celebration of nonconformity, Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli weaves a tense, emotional tale about the perils of popularity and the thrill and inspiration of first love.

     I'm probably the last person on earth to read this book as it seems to be a YA staple. So don't tell me you haven't read it because I won't believe you.

     First, I love, love, LOVE that the story is told by Leo, a male narrator, one of those rare creatures found sprinkled sporadically throughout YA. It was refreshing to find a love story, a story of first love even, written by a man and told by a man without once feeling a lack of emotional connection.

     Stargirl was a unique character, as she was meant to be and I was very glad to meet her. She's supposed to embody "different" in a world filled with everyday and same. At times she was over the top, and probably a little too carefree to be believable but I like the idea that she could exist, even if I know she really couldn't. I just can't see that there could ever be anyone so unaffected and heedless of the norms of society to be as completely undefined as Stargirl. But isn't it nice to pretend?

"She was bendable light: she shone around every corner of my day."

     I got caught up in Spinelli's writing, his grasp of human nature, his romanticizing of the mundane. I pay him the compliment of seeing a bit of Pratchett in him, meaning I think he really understands people and even loves the ridiculousness of them. I'll visit his other works in the future.

"It's in the morning, for most of us. It's that time, those few seconds when we're coming out of sleep but we're not really awake yet. For those few seconds we're something more primitive than what we are about to become. We have just slept the sleep of our most distant ancestors, and something of them and their world still clings to us. For those few moments we are unformed, uncivilized. We are not the people we know as ourselves, but creatures more in tune with a tree than a keyboard. We are untitled, unnamed, natural, suspended between was and will be, the tadpole before the frog, the worm before the butterfly. We are for a few brief moments, anything and everything we could be. And then...and then -- ah -- we open our eyes and the day is before us and ... we become ourselves."

Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

From Goodreads:
When an unexpected inheritance enables Ari to transfer to an elite Manhattan prep school, she makes a wealthy new friend, Leigh. Leigh introduces Ari to the glamorous side of New York--and to her gorgeous cousin, Blake. Ari doesn't think she stands a chance, but amazingly, Blake asks her out. As their romance heats up, they find themselves involved in an intense, consuming relationship. Ari's family worries that she is losing touch with the important things in life, like family, hard work, and planning for the future.

When misfortune befalls Blake's family, he pulls away, and Ari's world drains of color. As she struggles to get over the breakup, Ari must finally ask herself: were their feelings true love . . . or something else?

     I absolutely loved this story. It was a beautiful, heart-breaking story about self acceptance, loss and the loneliness that comes with love. I read it in just a few hours, pausing to breathe only enough times to sustain life.

     That's such a crap summation above. If I had read that alone I probably wouldn't have even picked this book up. That makes the story sound common place, sophomoric and shallow, everything it isn't. It is not a story about a poor girl falling in love with all the tinsel and glamour that comes with dating a rich boy. I never once felt that Ari really took notice of the financial differences. When she would compare herself to her wealthier friends it was their acceptance of themselves she envied, not the money. Summer and Leigh, while both rich, were also confident, self assured and at ease with who they were. These were the things that Ari coveted.

     Her relationship with Blake, who yes, had the means to wine and dine, spirit her away for day trips in the Hamptons, and enough family connections to get her into any university, never once really meant anything to Ari. She was in love with feeling loved and I don't think for a second that she noticed the "glamorous side of New York". She only noticed how love made her feel. There's a certain high that comes with knowing that someone loves you, truly, for yourself alone. It's perhaps one of the biggest confidence boosters there is. Ari needed that, regardless of the hurt that comes when a relationship ends prematurely. She needed to know that it was possible for her to feel that way.

     Knowing that there is to be a breakup in the book is not a spoiler. The events in the book aren't important; the emotions are. Watching Ari learn to recognize love, in all its forms was the real story.

     It's been a while since I've finished a book and almost immediately wanted to read it again. While this is a YA novel, the main characters are teenagers and the story is very coming-of-age, the sentiment cannot be confined to YA alone. It's too beautiful for just about anyone to overlook.

     I thank Kristi @ The Story Siren whose review of this book made me buy it.

Dear Life After Jane,

     I have a confession. I admit that I have been avoiding you these last two months. At first the snubbing was unintentional, as I have been very busy and did quite truthfully lack the time. In all my rushing about I would fully intend to sit down and talk with you and told myself that I would do so just as soon as I had a moment. But when I did have a moment, I admit, I was just too tired for the long overdue visit. There were so many things that I wanted to tell you about that I didn't even know where to start, so I didn't. Over time the stack of books that I've read since we last talked started to seem less like topics of conversation and more like, well, work and it is admittedly the last thing I wanted more of. So yes, I am aware that my truancy has turned into neglect and in some ways, it has been deliberate.
     I take full responsibility for the deterioration of our relationship; you are not to blame. It was my intent at the start for us to merely sit down and informally chat about books and I've turned it into something so formal and formulaic that it has become taxing. You've never had any expectations of me; they have all been self imposed. I don't want our friendship to feel so forced and I think you wouldn't be opposed to approaching our conversations in a slightly less stuffy way. In short, I'd like for us to begin anew, not stand on ceremony, and conduct our book thought chats as we see fit, with a lot of feeling, crying and cussing. Can we, dear Jane?
I apologize profusely for any hurt that my selfishness may have caused you and it is my sincere hope that we can renew the friendship that I have so cherished these past two years.
     I also hope that my usage of the semicolon has been correct. But if it hasn't, fuck it.

As always, with affection,

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Laura @ A Jane of All Reads
I read excessively and hoard books like a greedy dragon. Theoretically, I also plan to use them to barricade myself against the forthcoming zombie apocalypse.

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