Sunday, April 21, 2013

ARC Review: "Insomnia" by J.R. Johansson

Insomnia (The Night Walkers, #1)

Summary courtesy of Goodreads:
Instead of sleeping, Parker Chipp enters the dream of the last person he’s had eye contact with. He spends his nights crushed by other people’s fear and pain, by their disturbing secrets—and Parker can never have dreams of his own. The severe exhaustion is crippling him. If nothing changes, Parker could soon be facing psychosis and even death.

Then he meets Mia. Her dreams, calm and beautifully uncomplicated, allow him blissful rest that is utterly addictive. Parker starts going to bizarre lengths to catch Mia’s eye every day. Everyone at school thinks he’s gone over the edge, even his best friend. And when Mia is threatened by a true stalker, everyone thinks it’s Parker.

Suffering blackouts, Parker begins to wonder if he is turning into someone dangerous. What if the monster stalking Mia is him after all?   

Paperback, 360 pages
Expected publication: June 8th 2013 by Flux

I've got a book hangover from this novel, y'all. I stayed up entirely too late reading it. Then I got up, fixed my children cereal, and hid out in the bathroom so I could have some peace and finish it. (Didn't work...They found me!)

Insomnia, the debut YA novel from J.R. Johansson, is unlike anything I've ever read. The closest comparison I can come up with might be "The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer," We have a protagonist who may or may not be losing his mind, and he's unsure what he's capable of.
Parker's burning obsession with figuring out if he's really the bad guy of the story was engrossing. I was sucked into his story from the first, as he struggled to hold his fracturing sanity together.

The pacing of the book is stellar. Everything just hums along from start to finish, with no middle section sag. There's a dash of romance, and I was pleasantly surprised to realize it wasn't with the girl I assumed it would be. However, the focus of the story is firmly set in Parker's mission to uncover the truth about Mia (the girl whose dreams give him rest), who is stalking her (is it Parker himself?), and his rapid descent into what appears to be psychosis. And when Parker really starts to doubt his sanity, things get pretty dang creepy. I love it when I start a book with no expectations, either good or bad, and end up being really impressed! The world of dreams and of Watchers and Dreamers was unique. I loved how Johansson explained the layers of the dreamworld, and how memories and dreams worked together.
And another thing: I was SO glad when Parker confided in his friends about his problem. I mean, how many times does a character in a YA book have something supernatural and scary going on, and they flatly refuse to tell anyone?? My only very small complaint was: why didn't Parker ever tell his mother? I know he didn't want to worry her, but having her think he was a drug addict certainly wasn't helping. He was able to convince his peers, I felt like he could've at least done the same for his mother.

Language: There's no profanity in this book.
Sexual Content: one kissing scene (maybe two, but nothing too graphic). In Parker's investigation, he learns that a female character has been sexually abused. Reference is made to another character having been raped, although this didn't happen in the storyline.
Violence: There's a considerable amount of violence, some of it pretty disturbing, both in the dreams Parker sees and in real life. One character in particular seems to have trauma after trauma to deal with.

The end leaves the reader with enough resolution to have a sense of closure, while leaving the door wide open for a sequel.

Review copy provided by NetGalley and Flux. Thank you!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Review: The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Runaway King (The Ascendance Trilogy, #2)
A kingdom teetering on the brink of destruction. A king gone missing. Who will survive? Find out in the highly anticipated sequel to Jennifer A. Nielsen's blockbuster THE FALSE PRINCE!

Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?
The stunning second installment of The Ascendance Trilogy takes readers on a roller-coaster ride of treason and murder, thrills and peril, as they journey with the Runaway King!

*summary from Amazon*

When I was reading THE FALSE PRINCE and then its sequel, THE RUNAWAY KING, I kept thinking, "Wow,  my son would really like these books." And I thoroughly enjoyed them, too.
Things my 5th grade kid would dig about these books:
1.They're fast moving
2. There's a lot of action and derring-do.
3. There are swords.
4. And knives.
5. And pirates.
6. And lots of fighting.
There's also not a whole lot of the things he doesn't like-- introspection and angst and dwelling on feelings.
We have stuff to DO, folks, and no time to sit around pondering our emotions in this series. Plus, Nielsen doesn't get carried away with romance, although there's a smidge of it for flavoring.
Kevin, relax. It's totally NOT a kissing book

The suggested age range is 10 and up, but I'm going to be honest: some of the political maneuvering in the beginning might be hard to follow for a younger reader. know.... for me. But that's ok, because there is swashbuckling to be done and brave escapes and whatnot!
Jaron shows some great character growth in this book. He matures, and there's a somewhat unexpected redemptive arc with another "bad guy" character that I really liked. Granted, I spent a lot of time echoing the adults in Jaron's life, ie: "This is a TERRIBLE plan and I am quite certain you will DIE!" but at the same time, I sympathized with Jaron. He kind of knew his chances weren't great, but he felt like he had no other options.
Sidebar: did anyone else notice lines from The Princess Bride here and there in the book??
 I can't find my notes (typical), but I for sure noticed "Drop your sword" and "Prepare to die"...
 Gold star stickers for anyone who also noticed them! :) I really hope Jennifer Neilsen did this on purpose as a nod to that movie. Because I adore The Princess Bride.
And I am easily distracted...
Back to the review!
THE RUNAWAY KING was a great addition to the series, and I look forward to seeing what's next for Jaron and his kingdom.
Content: I can't remember any profanity (there might be some milder curse words, though, so don't hold me to it), or sexual situations. There's a fair bit of violence though, given that Jaron spends a good deal of this book with pirates. And let's face it: Those guys have anger management issues.
*Review copy provided by NetGalley. Thank you!!*

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