Review: The Testing By Joelle Charbonneau

5 Jun

Title: The Testing
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one in the same?

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.

Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies–trust no one.

But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust

Summary via GoodReads

I’m a long time fan of the dystopian genre but even I acknowledge that there isn’t a lot new themes to mine from the genre. The Testing certainly doesn’t explode the genre or give us much in the way of “newness” but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. If it had been published two or three years earlier, when the dystopian genre was new, I think it would have stood out even more in my mind than it does now.

This book has two things going for it that really set it apart from the myriad books in the dystopian section of the library: the sense of pacing that the author manages to execute and a very interesting main character who is given her own distinct voice and really drives the book.

This book is compulsively readable. I put the book down once and then didn’t put it down again. I told myself I was only going to read one more chapter and one more chapter turned into 100 more pages. The pacing of the test is incredibly well done. I thought there was a real sense of danger to the protagonist. I do think that an even more chilling atmosphere could have been created.

Cia, the protagonist, was awesome. She had flaws but what she clearly was a Leader with a capital L. People followed her in spite of her flaws, people perceived her as dangerous in spite of her naiveté. She is clearly a force to be reckoned with even if she does not realize it for most of the book.

I also thought that this book did a good job of touching on the post-apocalyptic genre which gave some depth to the standard dystopian theme.

Finally, I appreciated the lack of love triangle.

All in all, this was one of my favorite dystopian reads, if the rest of the series is as strong as this first book was then it has a chance to become my favorite dystopian trilogy-even ranking about The Hunger Games.

Is this book perfect? Of course not but it is certainly worth your time especially if you like strong heroines and dystopian/post-apocalyptic settings.

This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Review: The Last of the Doughboys by Richard Rubin

22 May

Title: The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War
Author: Richard Rubin
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Over the past decade, Richard Rubin sought out every last living American veteran of World War I–and uncovered a forgotten great generation, and their war. World War I was so cataclysmic that every town in America built a memorial to our doughboys, in the hope that they would never be forgotten. And yet today, thanks to the passing of nearly a century and an even more cataclysmic World War, they are. Ten years ago, Richard Rubin set out to interview every last living doughboy–several dozen, aged 101 to 113. They shared with him, at the last possible moment (they are all gone now) the story of America’s Great War, and of the generation that raised the “Greatest Generation.” They were nineteenth-century men and women living in the twenty-first century: self-reliant, humble, and stoic; never complaining, still marveling at the immensity of the war they helped win. A decade in the making, “The Last of the Doughboys” is a sweeping new look at our forgotten World War, and a moving meditation on character, grace, aging, and memory

Via GoodReads

Even since I read my first Studs Terkel, I’ve been a fan of the oral history sub-genre. A book filled with letters will put me to sleep but a book where people talk is one I will pick up in the bookstore. I was especially interested in the subject matter because, given how large WWII looms in the American public consciousness, I was excited to see a book that gave a nod to WWI veterans in the same way that WWII veterans have already been acknowledged.

I think WWI and WWII are viewed very differently. It is hard to come up with a war more justifiable than one against Adolf Hitler. The justifiable nature of WWII often turns WWI into a forgotten child. There is a great Studs Terkel book called “The Good War” but not equivalent oral history of WWI.

This book was written right before it was too late. This book could not be written today, as none of the veterans of WWI are still living. It could be argued that this book was written too late, that some of the weaker sections are due to the lack of available interviews, but I chose to applaud the work done instead of focus on how much fuller a picture could have been painted if this book at been written in 1975. It wasn’t and there is no point bemoaning that fact.

I had an issue with the use of first person narration. First person is becoming increasingly widespread in popular history and is rarely effective for me. I would speculate that part of the reason it was used in this case, and it was used heavily, was because the smallish number of veterans in the book simply did not say enough or remember enough to fill more of this book. I think this book was about finding the stories but it was also about finding the men and women who had these memories and meeting them before they were gone from the earth. An event is different when there are no more living witnesses to it. This book was about meeting those witnesses and hearing as much of their stories as possible. First person narration is a good choice for “meeting” the veterans even if it weakens the oral history sections.

The book was rounded out by the author’s research. This research is especially strong in the chapter on Tin Pan Alley and the forgotten music of WWI. A weaker section was the section on the lives of African-American soldiers. This may be a function of the dearth of both research information and the few living subjects that the author was able to interview. I understand why it was included in the book but the chapter was certainly very thin on the ground. I hope someday more work on this issue can be done.

I was very glad I read this book and “met” these veterans. Over the years, I have been trying to expand my reading of WWI. This book was important enough, and interesting enough, that I am glad to have read it.

A egalley was received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Top Ten Tuesday 4/30/13

30 Apr

Top Ten Words/Topics That Instantly Make Me Buy/Pick Up A Book

-road trip
-assassin nuns
-excellent world building
-Thurgood Marshall or Bob Moses
-World War I

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

Feature and Follow Friday 4/26/13

26 Apr

Is there a song that reminds you of a book? Or vice versa? What is the song and the book?

A Song of Fire and Ice


Power by Kanye West

FFF is hosted by parajunkee and Alison Can Read

Thursday Pretty: Liu Wen by JumboTsui for Ok! China April 2013

25 Apr






Top Ten Tuesday 4/22/13

23 Apr

Top Ten Nine Books I Thought I’d Like LESS Than I Did (AKA 10 Surprisingly Readable Books)

Hope Dies Last: Keeping the Faith in Difficult Times by Studs Terkel: I was scared to read this book because it sounded like such a downer but I ended up really enjoying it and reading through a chunk of Terkel’s back catalogue.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver: The premise sounded so hokey to me but the first book of this trilogy works really well. (The later books don’t work quite so well, sadly.)

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen: I’ve read a lot of fantasy and most of it has been sub-par. The description sounded like it would be subpar but I was bored and it was cheap and so I took a chance. I’m glad I did because I ended up really enjoying the book. It was paced well and the protagonist was awesome.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer: It is the oldest story there is: Girl hates being outside to the point that thinking about camping gives her hives. Girl is bored. Girl reads this book and ends up with a whole shelf of books about climbing various 8000m peaks. It still doesn’t make sense to me but there you go.

A Kiss for Midwinter by Courtney Milan: The best romance novel about contraception that you will ever read. Trust me. I was scared by that as well but it is an enjoyable book!

King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild: I was a little leery of this book when it was first released but one of my favorite authors raved about it and I bought it on their word alone. I have read every Adam Hochschild book he has subsequently published.

The Passage by Justin Cronin: I picked up this book because I thought it was in my wheelhouse but it seemed a little scary for me. Well, it was a lot scary for me but it was so compelling I was up all night reading it.

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut: I hate non-linear storytelling which was a reason I didn’t rush to read this book. Vonnegut ended up as one of my favorite authors so clearly I shouldn’t make blanket statements.

Persuasion by Jane Austen: I must confess that I am not an Austen fan. This novel is the only one of hers that I liked.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

Stacking the Shelves 4/21/13

21 Apr

Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King (Pub: Harper)

Arguably the most important American lawyer of the twentieth century, Thurgood Marshall was on the verge of bringing the landmark suit Brown v. Board of Education before the U.S. Supreme Court when he became embroiled in an explosive and deadly case that threatened to change the course of the civil rights movement and cost him his life.

In 1949, Florida’s orange industry was booming, and citrus barons got rich on the backs of cheap Jim Crow labor. To maintain order and profits, they turned to Willis V. McCall, a violent sheriff who ruled Lake County with murderous resolve. When a white seventeen-year-old Groveland girl cried rape, McCall was fast on the trail of four young blacks who dared to envision a future for themselves beyond the citrus groves. By day’s end, the Ku Klux Klan had rolled into town, burning the homes of blacks to the ground and chasing hundreds into the swamps, hell-bent on lynching the young men who came to be known as “the Groveland Boys.”

And so began the chain of events that would bring Thurgood Marshall, the man known as “Mr. Civil Rights,” into the deadly fray. Associates thought it was suicidal for him to wade into the “Florida Terror” at a time when he was irreplaceable to the burgeoning civil rights movement, but the lawyer would not shrink from the fight—not after the Klan had murdered one of Marshall’s NAACP associates involved with the case and Marshall had endured continual threats that he would be next.

Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi by Steve Inskeep (Pub: Penguin Press)
In recent decades, the world has seen an unprecedented shift of people from the countryside into cities. As Steve Inskeep so aptly puts it, we are now living in the age of the “instant city,” when new megacities can emerge practically overnight, creating a host of unique pressures surrounding land use, energy, housing, and the environment. In his first book, the co-host of Morning Edition explores how this epic migration has transformed one of the world’s most intriguing instant cities: Karachi, Pakistan.

both descriptions via GoodReads

I saw that Devil in the Grove won the Pulitizer and I didn’t even bother finding out more about it than “Thurgood Marshall” before I bought a copy.

I’d been looking at Instant City for a couple of months now. Someone had mentioned something about US-centricism in relation to Bangalore on another social media site and I realized I didn’t even know where Bangalore was. Clearly I needed to step up my game and that is what made me stop looking at Instant City and purchase it.

I also pre-ordered The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. I want to read that book NOW.

Rimmel Scandaleyes Waterproof Kohl liner in Nude & Taupe.
Nude has a little bit more shimmer than I would like on my waterline but they both apply beautifully and stay in place. I got both of them for less than $7.

Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga’s Reviews