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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Doon

By: Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon

Once again I found myself reading a romance.  This is not exactly my genre.  While I can admire romances in books with intricate plots, romances just  don't do the same thing for me.  In general, I find it annoying when one character is constantly thinking about another.  This was an average romance.  The main character Veronica was in love with another character, Jamie, the entire time.  There was some suspense and action but most of it was about the romance, which makes sense, because Doon is a romance.  I won't say it was an extraordinary romance but it also didn't fall short.  Veronica is a girl from the United States.  Her dad left her when she was 12, her mom is marrying someone she hates, and her boyfriend just left her.  Overall, her life is pretty bad.  Her friend Kenna takes her to Scotland for the summer where they discover a magical world called Doon.  Doon passes time at about one fourth as fast as "the mortal world."  A bridge to Doon only opens every one hundred mortal years for one day unless you have two special rings.  Veronica and Kenna have these rings so they arrive in Doon two weeks before the passage to Doon is open.  When the time comes they will have to decide to live in Doon or leave it forever.  Veronica's love (who she saw visions of before coming to Scotland) is the crown prince of Doon, Jamie.  Then the romance continues all the way through the climax and the resolution of the book.  In an unfortunate turn, the book ended cliff hanger-ish.  My only problem with the ending is that it could have easily been avoided if the characters had just thought a little bit.

This book was like a loaf of bread.  Yummy, but pretty much average.  Not special but not bad either.  This book is a 2.5.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Remnants: Season of Wonder

Written by: Lisa T. Bergren
Gnaw on some beef jerky and a loaf of bread for this diverting novel.

Everyone feels like hunkering down for a gritty adventure novel once in a while, and I recommend this one.

Set in the gritty and unappealing future, a pack of gifted warrior teens (the remnants) are burdened with the task of saving the world. Andriana, the main character with the power of reading emotions travels through the empire with her companions, searching for the missing members of their bedraggled yet fearsome squad. They must fight the wealth disparity in the country, the crippling and oppressive upper echelon who keep the masses under their heavily bejeweled thumbs.

There's a whole lot of action in this novel, and I got to get down and dirty in the mud with the remnants. The plot was packed with fight scenes and escape scenes, captivating scenery, and an overwhelming sense of urgency. Bergren took me through forests, caves, waterfalls, cloud, and mountains. Danger was everywhere. The romance was enticing and of course, forbidden.

The novel isn't high literature, but it will make you think (when you have time in between action scenes).

 Every aspect of a solid adventure is present, and an attractive romance thrown in for a little charm. You really can't go wrong with this type of book. The people are attractive, strong, and just thoroughly entertaining. You won't do any profound philosophy while reading, but Remnants is a really fun novel.

3.75/5 stars!

Relic

Written by: Heather Terrell
Relic: Grab a Popsicle and chill out as you read this one (oh so punny).

Relic is set in the future, after the great floods sweep the globe and leave only those worthy as survivors in the polar ice land. Society has reached a peaceful and righteous equilibrium, and from the looks of it everyone is happy in their pre-determined life stations. Or so it seems.

Terrell starts out with the death scene of the main character's brother, Eamon. Eamon is murdered by a mystery killer as he was climbing the forbidden ice cliffs, and Eva, the main character, is introduced to us in mourning. She chooses to honor her brother by casting away her simple life of docile maiden, and replacing him in the Testing, a competition against nature, time, and other youthful competitors. The point of the competition is display your strength, wit, and skill by surviving and returning with a relic from the ice cliffs. The relics are examined and displayed for all to see; they serve as a proclamation of the evil of the past and the righteousness of the present. To succumb to the persuasive powers of the evil god Apple is a sin punishable by exile.

But wait! It seems that all is not what it seems in this cool community, and Eva starts to question her society and her beliefs.

I love the plot of this book. The idea is fresh and new, which seems to be rare these days, following the rush of vampire/werewolf/dystopian dramas. The phase is getting a bit old, in my opinion. This book though, really is new and original.

Unfortunately, the actual writing was kind of a let down. I honestly believe that fifty pages could have been cut out as Eva trekked across the icy plains. For the longest time, she didn't do much of anything, while the reader was left waiting for her to realize what we already gleaned in the beginning. The villains were easily distinguishable from the heroes, which is always boring, and the plot only picked up in the final twenty pages. And they were a good twenty pages, which was why I wish the book had cut out all the extraneous detail.

The book was not great, it was pretty average actually. I will be reading the second, however, because I think that if Terrell really took a critical look at her novel, edited out the unnecessary parts, and worked really hard, she could have a hit. The plot is really interesting, it's too bad that the writing fell through.

 2.5/5 stars

The Mirk and Midnight Hour


Written by: Jane Nickerson
Pacify your sweet tooth with a honey stick and a slice of sweet potato pie.

If you're hankering for a run of the mill adventure romance, you might as well stop reading here. The Mirk and Midnight Hour is a book set in the time of the American Civil War about a young Miss Violet Dancey who stumbles upon a little magic and a little excitement as she adjusts to her shifting environment brought on by the war. As she romps through the forest with her little cousin, they meet a wounded man holed up in Violet's old secret hide out. For a number of different reasons (the war, a deceased sibling, some ominous villains) the solider, Thomas, must be kept hidden in the woods, even in the face of possible danger.
There are several different plots that sneak through the book, and they are written fairly well. Violet's life is both quaintly average (for the times), and secretly exhilarating. 

On the whole, the subplots were good. On their own the independent story lines were original and interesting, but together they didn't always piece together perfectly. There was also something to be desired in terms of suspense. Although the climax was fun to read, it wasn't heart-pounding, blood-rushing exciting. 

Despite these few critiques, I really liked this book. Nickerson has a beautiful imagination, and her words give the novel a fairy tale quality. The scenery is sweet and fanciful, and honestly made me wish I could dive into the pages and walk through the sparkling woods alongside Violet. The writing is in beautiful style, and I was drawn in immediately to the mysterious and whimsical world she created. I could almost taste the air, feel the wings of the bees as they flitted cheerily through the air. Nothing was overpowering, and I felt almost lulled into the story, enticed by the simple and mischievous quality. 

There is magic, yes, but this is not a full out Harry Potter wands spells and werewolves kind of magic. This is a low-lying kind of magic that is mysterious and dark and realistic. The romance is of the same kind, it is slowly blooming, and lovely to read. 

I recommend reading this novel, it's really wonderfully enticing. Be warned however, this book is not for the faint of heart. If you aren't patient and only want action, you might want to pass on this one. But if you're a romantic or a dreamer, grab this off the shelf in March! 

3.75/5 stars!


Monday, February 17, 2014

Extraction

By: Stephanie Diaz

The set up for this book was very good.  The idea was excellent.  It was similar to a lot of dystopian novels with hints of science fiction and romance which made for a very interesting mix.  The setting was on a different planet, Kiel.  The main character, Clementine, is from the surface.  Everyone from the surface goes to school and until they are 16.  When they turn 16 they take a test to find out what their "promise score" is.  If they are in the top ten then they are "extracted" and get to live in the core.  If they are not selected they are either replaced or they are simply killed once they turn 20.  Everyone alive on the 20th
birthday dies.  The moon spews acid which can kill someone in 10 minutes.  The core set up a force field  to protect against the acid but sometimes it leaks.  As always in books, the main character is selected to live in the core.  Her only problem is that leaving the surface means leaving Logan, a 17 year old.  When she leaves Logan she plans to get an audience with the leader of the planet, Commander Charlie, and convince him to bring Logan to the core.  There are other sections of the earth, the mantel and lower among them.  Extractions come from those sectors as well and they are trained together.  It was a very interesting idea and was executed fairly well.

I didn't think all of the characters were explained well enough.  I think that all of the characters had potential to be very interesting but in the end, some lacked complexity.  I don't think this is true for all the characters but I think it is especially true Sam, Ariadne, and Logan.  Sam was a bully in the Core who had a high ranking.  Ariadne was another girl from the surface who was roommates with Clementine in the core. Logan wasn't in the book that much so it is understandable but I think a greater connection between Logan and Clementine could have been established before Clementine is selected.  Being in the moment when they are together would have been more powerful than just the thoughts that Clementine has in the Core.  Ariadne definitely wasn't explored enough.  She was kind to Clementine but was easily overcome in the core and could have been a very interesting character if she had had a bigger role.  After a certain point in the book we never hear about Ariadne again.  I think Sam was the most one dimensional character.  He didn't seem to have any emotion other than anger and lust.  I don't quite understand his fixation with Clementine.  Sam was very competitive and Clementine threatened his authority so it made sense that Sam hated her but it was odd how much he hated her and how much he pursued her even when she wasn't doing anything. 

Overall this book was pretty good.  I was just like, well, a clementine.  Juicy and sweet.  Although, sometimes peeling the clementine can be a little frustrating.  Overall this book was a 3.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Writing A Blog Post: Tips For New Galley Group Members

Hey guys,
     If you found this post then welcome to the blog! As part of YALSA, we're supposed to review books. This is the public side of reviewing online. Hopefully you're getting closer to writing your first blog review. If not, don't sweat it. You've likely never done something like this before. Or maybe
you don't feel like it, you're busy, or procrastinating (I know I'm guilty).

Blogging and I don't mix
     In any case, here I'll outline the basic steps I follow in my blog posts. I intend this page to be a permanent fixture to help all future CCHS YA Galley Groupers (groupies? members? denizens?) get some help sharing their opinions on this blog.

1. Read a book, any book... but preferably an advanced readers copy (a galley). You don't have to finish it or like it to review it (I couldn't read more than a fourth of The Flame in the Mist).

2. You probably have some opinions about the book once you're done with it. After reading, just collect your thoughts. Did you like it or not? What are the best parts? How are the characters? The story? The writing style? If you did not like it, what are the most nagging problems? Talking about the book in the weekly group meeting can help.

     Here are some major areas that I think about when I'm preparing to write a review:
-Setting. Science fiction, futuristic, and fantasy novels put lots of emphasis on describing the world and societies in it. Is it believable?
-Plot. Is it interesting and unique or is it boring and cliched? Was it exciting as an action-packed movie or was it as dry as reading Thoreau?
-Characters. Are they interesting, unique, and complicated or are they simple, unrealistic, and/or machine-like? Do you like them?
-Writing. Is the writing skilled and legible or are there obvious flaws in mechanics or story-telling? Does it use simple words like a child's picture book or was it as dense as a Shakespearean play?

3. Put down whatever you're thinking into a new blog post. It could be as short as a few sentences or as long as several paragraphs. While lots of posts here look long, most of the earliest posts we made are in total length a paragraph or shorter. As long as it's your opinion, you're going great.

4. Add a short summary of the book. If you're going to tell someone about a book, it helps if they get an idea what the book is about. Try to make it so they know who and what the book is about without telling them spoiling details or the end of the book. You can look at the back of the book for inspiration.

5. Summarize your opinion of the book at the end. Write down your overall judgement in a very short way with an analogy to food and/or the number rating system (look on the right sidebar of the blog for the rating system explanation).

6. Prettify it up/make links
 Linking and tagging is a more optional step, but this is on the internet after all.
-Put in at least the title of the novel as the blog post title.
-Mention the author's name and link their name to their blog or website if they have one.
-Add an image of the novel's cover. Save the image to your hard drive so that it is permanent.
-Position the image and the text so it looks good.
-Check spelling and grammar.
-Tag the post with the book's rating and genre by looking under "Labels" on the right in your editor view.

7. Click publish!

 That's all there is to it. I hope to see some posts up soon!

Grasshopper Jungle

By: Andrew Smith

If you cross Catcher in the Rye with the 1950's movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers you might get something like Grasshopper Jungle.  The back describes the book to be about "Austin and his best friend, Robby" who "have accidentally unleashed an unstoppable amy.  An army of horny, hungry, six-foot-tall praying mantises that only want to do two things."  After reading the back its pretty obvious that this book is either going to be really good or really bad.  Let's just say it wasn't my favorite.  Ok, so to start with the problems.

1. The back of the book failed to properly portray what this book is really about.
 First of all, it's not really Austin and Robby who "unleash" the preying mantises.  It just so happened that it is the bunch of boys that beat them up earlier that day.  The back said NOTHING about Austin's girlfriend, Shann.  Shann is one of two things Austin thinks about.  The other is his friend Robby.  Something is super important in the book is that Austin doesn't know who he loves more, Robby or Shann.  He tells both he loves them so it really doesn't matter does it?  Which leads me to my next problem.

2. The characters were flat, emotionless, and unrealistic.
Well maybe not emotionless but they had very few emotions.  Hermione Granger's quote sort of portrays how I feel about the number of emotions that characters had, "Just because you've got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn't mean we all have." (thank you JK Rowling for that bit if insight, not everyone seems to understand it)  The only emotions I saw were those of Austin who was a hormonally driven sixteen year old.  And when I say hormonally driven I don't mean just part of the book, I mean the entire book.  As I said, the only things he really thought about were Shann and Robby.  The fact that maybe he should think about his parents or his brother when the world was ending didn't seem to even occur to Austin.  While I did say that the only things Austin thinks about are Shann and Robby I would like to amend that statement.  He only thinks about them in the context of himself.  If they are upset or thinking about something other than him he doesn't care.  In fact, he doesn't even notice.  So when the world is ending, which is the part of the book the back describes, Austin doesn't really think about it.  For the most part we are in Austin's head, so Shann and Robby are really more important than the end of the world (wow that was weird to say).  Also, I just don't understand Shann.  When Austin goes with Robby to pick her up they walk up to her door and when Shann walks out to greet them, she kisses both of them.  Austin goes on to describe how Shann always kisses Robby after kissing him.  That's a little odd.  But because she does this you wouldn't think should would get super upset after hearing that Austin kissed Robby, which she does.  The characters who are supposed to be 16 years old act much younger than they are supposed to be which just makes them even less believable.  I could go on for a while longer about the characters but I figure if you're still reading you've probably heard enough about them.

3. The writing, like the characters, was flat and emotionless.
The idea of show, don't tell, was not present in this book.  So how do I know that Austin experienced these feelings of love towards both Shann and Robby?  Well because Smith explicitly stated that Austin felt confused about why he loved both of them.  I must say its a good thing he did say this because otherwise I wouldn't have realized that Austin had feelings.

4. In order to create a voice/personality for Austin the book became repetitive.
I guess this is sort of where it reminded me of Catcher in the Rye.  Holden Caulfield seemed to have an odd fixation with the word "phony."  Austin had an odd fixation with a couple different words or habits throughout the book.  At first he kept on using the world rather, which he pointed out every time he did.  This died away eventually though.  No matter how far into the book though, Austin never stopped commenting on people's names.  According to Austin people in Iowa don't like names that have a lot of consonants in a row, like Polish names have (Austin is Polish by the way).  The people in Iowa like names that have vowels and are smoother.  Just about every time a new character was introduced Austin made a comment about if the name was a good Iowa name or not.  Another annoying thing Austin did was tell you the same things over and over and over again.  There was a character called Louis who's real name was not Louis.  Every time Austin said anything about Louis he would tell you that that wasn't his real name.  It wasn't just with Louis though, he did it with almost everyone.  It was as if you weren't expected to remember what was said three pages ago.  Another annoying thing Austin did was tell you the same things over and over and over again.  Oh, did I just say that twice?  Austin wouldn't have noticed.  Austin also had a fixation with History.  He believed he was a historian so he had to always tell the truth.  He talks about how he always tells the truth too.  At one point he lies and says that not he is a liar.  But there are at two instances before that where he lies.  He does not always tell the truth.  Also, because he is a historian he feels the need to at random times expound his family history.  It came at odd times when nothing seemed to have sparked the need for him to tell it.

5. The characters were not likable.
I'm really sorry but Austin talked a little but too much about the state of Robby's car as well as how much he smelled.  Apparently Robby never cleans his clothes and in an attempt to keep his room clean he leaves his clothes in his car.  It describes how his clothes are all over the place which is rather disgusting.  I don't think Austin went through an entire day without talking about the fact that he smelled bad.  There are some things the readers don't want to read.  One of those things is that the main character, for like the fifth straight days, smells bad.  A lot of the places Austin and Robby went were described as disgusting places that had garbage (and more gross stuff) all over the place.  I couldn't figure out why they kept going to the same places.

6. The book didn't portray people fairly.
Austin goes to a private Lutheran school.  It made it seem as if Lutherans are hateful, not understanding, and not accepting.  Obviously, this can't be true.  Robby was gay and he brought Austin to a gay bar.  In general, gays were portrayed as lonely and generally unhappy.  This was odd because at the same time I don't think this was the intention.

7.  The plot the book was based off of didn't make up for everything else.
Sometimes when there are problems with the writing or characters the plot is interesting enough to earn a few points.  This was not so.  I compared it to the 1950's film Invasion of the Body Snatchers because of how cheesy the book was.  In Invasion of the Body Snatchers, fake people who look exactly like real people grow from pods and then they replace the real people and take over the world.  In Grasshopper Jungle giant preying mantises grow from mold inside of people and then hatch out of these people.  It could either be done well or not.  As I said earlier, it wasn't my favorite book.

Ok so I didn't like the book.  I think that much is obvious.  But I did love the cover of the book.  It was simply and bright.  The picture above doesn't really capture the color well.  The color is a little more blue but also more neon.  This picture shows the color a little better.  The cover is clear yet mysterious and still has that odd quirk to it.  I can see myself reading a book like this any day (obviously because I picked it up and read it).  But honestly, if you can imagine Holden Caulfield as the main character in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, then you can pretty much imagine this book.

This book is the thing that Emile eats in Ratatouille.  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qtEjJuGo_U for the first 15 seconds or so)  It isn't really food.  Someone will eat it but that doesn't make it good.  In fact, you probably shouldn't eat it.  It probably smells bad, it probably wreaks.  It has a horrible texture in your mouth because it's not supposed to be food.  It's not the nicest color (not aesthetically pleasing).  As Remi points out, you don't want to eat the garbage, so why read the book?  There is almost certainly something better to read.  Well I know there is something better to read.  There is no reason to choose the garbage over the cheese and grapes that Remi brings.  So basically, don't choose the stuff Emile eats.  This book is a 1.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Plus One

Written by: Elizabeth Fama
Crack these pages open while gobbling up a rich chocolate cake laced with spice. 

If you’re a solid romance buff like me, but also enjoy alternate reality adventures, this is the book for you. 

Sol Le Coeur is part time hot-headed sass master and part time devoted caretaker. She keeps her heart closed off to everyone but her Poppu, who she is fiercely devoted to, so much so that she is willing to risk her freedom so he may hold his great-grandchild in his arms before his dying day. When she accidentally swipes the wrong baby from the hospital, Sol is caught up in a whirlwind of intrigue and confusion that all lead back to her estranged brother, Ciel, and the fractured society they must live in. Sol must navigate her way through the mysteries while conforming to a rigid day-night schedule. She is only allowed out under the cover of darkness. And she manages to handle (we hope) this all while braving the emotional roller coaster of true love.

I really liked this book. It’s no Jane Austen, and there are a few hiccups in the plot, but it has a fun and faced paced style that is truly enticing. It’s the kind of book that reaches out to you and drags you in right there next to the characters. I ran along side Sol as she battled time and fate, and those lesser foes (or friends?) like the ferocious Noma rebels. I watched in delight as Sol fell madly in love with D’Arcy Benoit, and I felt the weight of Sol’s despair when she faced her dying Poppu. All this was written with the style of one who understands the short attention span of a busy high schooler with a packed schedule. In other words, despite my other duties calling to me from the outside world, I found it very difficult to put this book down. The action was too exciting! I had to read it in one sitting, or else I would have missed it too much as I went about my mundane, un-curfewed life.

I was a little wary at first with the story line, unsure why a girl would risk her life to give her grandfather 45 minutes with a baby, and also why Sol’s mysterious desk partner was intruding on Sol and D’Arcy’s budding relationship (that one was fairly simple to figure out). It all seemed a tad cheesy and unrealistic.

Not to fear! By the third chapter, I was hooked, and none of the weird plot points seemed implausible, because I knew exactly what Sol was thinking. I loved her by the end (hopefully not the very end!), and I loved the way she thought. I had a great time with Plus One. 

This book is interesting, packed with adventure, brimming with adorable romance, and seriously just fun to read.

3.75/5 stars!



Monday, February 3, 2014

Landry Park

By Bethany Hagen. Release date: February 4th 2014 (tomorrow!)
       Madeline Landry lives in the luxury of the antique Landry estate with her mother and father. They are among the few elite living in a post-war Jane Austen-romance-novel-styled society. Their opulent lifestyles are supported by a large common lower class. Below the lower class are the Rootless, the poorest of the poor stuck with the worst jobs: handling spent radioactive charges used for generating electricity. There's a lot of responsibility on Madeline's shoulders to step up to the role of the next of her line, the most powerful family in the United States. As Madeline receives more pressure from her father to follow family responsibility, she learns more about the Rootless than she ever knew before.

       The upper class in this book is literally modeled after a Jane Austen novel. Inexplicably, in post-war society, they reverted to the 1700's. They drink tea, go to parties, have balls, engage in courtship, and act like proper ladies and gentlemen. They even ride horse-drawn sleighs in winter. While this adds some flavor to the book, it does not work out very well. The gender imbalance is constantly at odds with the gender-equal society described in the prologue. Furthermore, there is not enough world-building to describe why they are stuck in the 1700's or explain the complicated economics of the country. While town-sized economics are explained, there is not enough description of state-wide or country-wide economics, leaving me wondering how there is a working feudalistic economy.

     Overall I am disappointed with Madeline's actions and just annoyed with her love issues (which are a main part of the book).  Perhaps what bothers me the most is that Madeline is a weak character. She is constantly torn between duty and what she desires, crushed under her father's controlling grip. At every turn others get the best of her, forcing her into things she doesn't want. She actually never does anything dramatic for the cause of good in her own volition, except when she must act to save a life. Even then, she nearly buckles under the shame of acting out of turn. She remains attached to her desires and fears, not really growing as a person. The end of the book precipitates a series of events (mostly without her help) that conveniently end most of her problems for her and solves her romantic love triangle for the better. Too perfect. That Madeline could make no progress in any of her tasks by herself frustrated me; that she was controlled; that she was ineffective; that she let opportunities slide; that half the plot was her pining after a forbidden love: Ugh.

      Is this book a Jane Austen romance or a futuristic sci-fi dystopian? It's both, but it shouldn't be. While this book is modeled to be sci-fi, it's more of a romance with a sci-fi background.There were chances to comment on societal issues that were missed. The sci-fi side lacked world-building and attention. The Jane Austen part clashes with the rest of the book. With all this, I think even the best writers would have difficulty. Overall I kinda enjoyed reading it, but all the issues annoyed me the whole way through. I rate this book a 2. You may end up liking the story, but there are better romances and better futuristic distopias out there.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Storm

By: D.J. MacHale

This is the sequel to SYLO where a small island off the coast of Maine was invaded by the US Navy (the US navy is called SYLO).  The main characters, Tucker, Kent, Olivia, and Tori escaped from Pemberwick and got to Portland, Maine.  In Storm they pick up another character, Jon, a doctor from a Portland hospital.  As it turns out the US Navy is at war with the US Airforce.  Over three fourths of the worlds population is dead.  Tucker, Tori, Kent, Olivia, and, Jon are trying to get to Nevada where a radio signal they picked up said to come if they wanted to fight back.  There is a lot of action and the plot moves along at a good pace.  One thing that was different from the first book was how much you found out about their relationships.  Kent is with Olivia and Tucker is with Tori.  It sort of bothered me that they were so into who was with who when they were trying to figure out why most of the world's population was killed.  Then my sister, who only knew the names of Tori and Tucker and the fact that they were some of the only people on earth, pointed out that if Tori didn't want to be with Tucker then he was the last person on Earth she would want to be with.  I thought that was funny.

Storm was a decent book.  It was pretty interesting and the writing was pretty good.  What I didn't like was how aimless the characters seemed to be.  They had one goal then another then another.  There was an overall goal but there was not a lot of continuity throughout the book.  Also people who were supposed to be dead randomly started coming back.  They explained it, but still.  It sort of made the first book seem useless even though it was a better book.  This book is a 3.5.  Interesting but not the best.  It was like bread.  Soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside but still not amazing.  It is clearly just on the table so that you don't get too hungry waiting for the main course.  This book was the second in a trilogy and was obviously linking the first book to the third rather than having its own unique plot.

Tandem

By: Anna Jarzab

When I was reading this I was ready to give it a 4.5 or something like that.  I thought it was really good.  The writing was great and everything just in general was good.  It was enjoyable to read and I looked forward to reading it.  Reading it was like standing outside in the middle of the spring with a nice sweet breeze that smells like wet grass and a little like mud --  refreshing after a long winter.  Tandem was about a high school girl, Sasha, who like many people gets asked to prom.  Grant is the boy she's liked forever and was happy to say yes.  He is popular and good looking and someone that she hadn't talked to since elementary school.  She's a little baffled as to why he suddenly had a change of heart.  Well as it turns out, he had this change of heart because it's not actually Grant; it's Thomas.
Thomas is from an alternate universe.  This universe calls itself Aurora because one of the differences between Earth and Aurora is that each night there is an Aurora in the sky that is visible everywhere.  Aurora has some of the same history as Earth but during their Revolutionary war George Washington was killed and they lost.  As a result, in the twenty first century the United States is not the United States, it is two countries -- Farnham and the United Commonwealth of Columbia.  Thomas is from the United Commonwealth of Columbia, the UCC, and is on Earth to kidnap Sasha.  Thomas brings Sasha to Aurora where she is supposed to pretend to be Juliana, the crown princess of the UCC.  The UCC needs Sasha because Juliana has been captured by a rebel group, Libertas.  Sasha is Juliana's analog, her look alike.  In a week Juliana is supposed to be married to the prince of Farnham in order to make a peace treaty after years and years of fighting.  Sasha is told that she will be returned to Earth in 6 days, one day before the wedding.  Thomas, Juliana's body guard, is one of the few people that know who Sasha really is.  Thomas has been trained as a soldier which includes keeping his emotions in check but he has trouble when he falls in love with Sasha.  Without Thomas's knowledge Sasha also falls in love with Thomas.  They both know that it is impossible for them to be together because when Sasha is in Aurora she is supposed to be the Prince of Farnham's fiancĂ©.  Prince Callum is charming and funny and Sasha doesn't want to hurt him but she doesn't love him either.  Prince Callum was a great character, definitely one of my favorites.  Thomas's love for Sasha tests his loyalty to his family, to Juliana, and to his country.  Even though this is definitely a romance it isn't consumed by the romance, which I appreciated.  Libertas, as well as a other secret plots, cause problems for Thomas and Sasha in the week that she is supposed to be Juliana.

This book was absolutely amazing.  All the characters were realistic and I was rooting for them the whole time.  For once, I actually liked the main characters and wanted everything to turn out good for them which, at times, didn't seem possible.  The romance wasn't too sappy and there was a lot of action and movement in the book.  The character's feelings were well balanced with the plot and movement of the story.  The end of the book, don't worry I'm not giving anything away, was stunning.  I cannot wait for the next book, which is coming out July 2014.  I absolutely loved this book.  I really didn't want to give this book a 5 because I feel like I give them too easily but I just can't deny this one.  I don't think this book is as good as Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta, which is still my favorite book, but I did love this book.  While I can't wait to read the next book I don't think it is going to be as good because of the set up at the end of this book but I can see the third being great.  The next book is called Tether because...well read this book to find out -- I know why. This book was like a hot soup, filling and comforting and easy to just slurp up while wrapped in a warm blanket.  And yes, this book is absolutely a 5.

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