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Take 5: Karen’s TBR Pile (I’ll Show You Mine if You’ll Show Me Yours)

We have come to the point in my year when I have fallen behind in reading the books in my TBR pile. This seems to be a yearly event, maybe I should celebrate with balloons and cake. Please tell me I’m not the only one behind on my reading . . . Anyhow, I thought I would share with you 5 of the titles that I’m reading now or very, very soon. I’ll show you my TBR pile if you’ll show me yours. Ready? Go.

Who R U Really? by Margo Kelly

Publisher’s Description:

Thea’s overprotective parents are driving her insane. They invade her privacy, ask too many questions, and restrict her online time so severely that Thea feels she has no life at all. When she discovers a new role-playing game online, Thea breaks the rules by staying up late to play. She’s living a double life: on one hand, the obedient daughter; on the other, a girl slipping deeper into darkness. In the world of the game, Thea falls under the spell of Kit, an older boy whose smarts and savvy can’t defeat his loneliness and near-suicidal despair. As Kit draws soft-hearted Thea into his drama, she creates a full plate of cover stories for her parents and then even her friends.

Soon, Thea is all alone in the dark world with Kit, who worries her more and more, but also seems to be the only person who really “gets” her. Is he frightening, the way he seems sometimes, or only terribly sad? Should Thea fear Kit, or pity him? And now, Kit wants to come out of the screen and bring Thea into his real-life world. As much as she suspects that this is wrong, Thea is powerless to resist Kit’s allure, and hurtles toward the same dark fate her parents feared most. Ripped from a true-life story of Internet stalking, Who R U Really? will excite you and scare you, as Thea’s life spins out of control.

Karen’s Thoughts: The idea of online safety and Internet stalking is certainly a timely issue. Stalking as a whole seems to be having a moment of cultural relevance, whether it be the new TV show Stalker or Shia LaBeouf’s recent admission that he engaged in some “light stalking” of Alec Baldwin. Maroon 5 was recently called out by RAINN for its video of the new single Animal, which RAINN suggests romanticizes stalking. And of course this week the news of Kathleen Hale’s admission she stalked a reviewer that she had some online interactions with has been all over the place. At the same time, there is no escaping the news of GamerGate and the incredible ramifications it has for the online community. So it seems Who R U Really? is a very timely read. For the record, stalking is always wrong and Internet safety is an important issue we need to keep engaging our teens in conversation about.

Made for You by Melissa Marr

Publisher’s Description:

Bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely books Melissa Marr’s first contemporary YA novel is a twisted southern gothic tale of obsession, romance, and murder. A killer is obsessed with Eva Tilling. Can she stop him, or will he claim her?

When Eva Tilling wakes up in the hospital, she’s confused—who in her sleepy little North Carolina town could have hit her with their car? And why? But before she can consider the question, she finds that she’s awoken with a strange new skill: the ability to foresee people’s deaths when they touch her. While she is recovering from the hit-and-run, Nate, an old flame, reappears, and the two must traverse their rocky past as they figure out how to use Eva’s power to keep her friends—and themselves—alive. But while Eva and Nate grow closer, the killer grows increasingly frantic in his attempt to get to Eva.

For the first time, New York Times bestselling author Melissa Marr has applied her extraordinary talent to contemporary realism. Chilling twists, unrequited obsession, and high-stakes romance drive this Gothic, racy thriller—a story of small-town oppression and salvation. Melissa’s fans, and every YA reader, will find its wild ride enthralling.

Karen’s Thoughts: I read Wicked Lovely years ago and thought it was a really intriguing concept. I am a sucker for stories where people have some type of unique power, all the better if it’s a new power they have to try and figure out, and Marr has proven herself a good author.

Taken by David Massey

Publisher’s Description:

A young crew of five are toughing it out together, sailing around the world on a gruelling charity challenge. They are used to being pushed to the limit, but nothing could have prepared them for being kidnapped.

When they are taken hostage by a notorious warlord and his band of child soldiers, the trip of a lifetime turns into a one-way journey into the heart of the African jungle.

When hope is all you have, survival is all you can fight for.

Karen’s Thoughts: Maybe I should make a Take 5 list of island survival stories! It could include NIL by Lynne Matson, the Phantom Island series by Krissi Dallas, Lost Girls by Ann Kelley, and of course Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. There is also a boat crash and island in The Living by Matt de la Pena. As a longtime fan of The Lord of the Flies, I am always game for a survival story of any type. And child soldiers are a concept that breaks my heart. And the African jungle is always such an intriguing setting. So as you can see, there are a lot of appeal factors here for me.

The Fire Artist by Daisy Whitney

Publisher’s Description:

A forbidden romance literally heats up in this new fantasy from acclaimed author Daisy Whitney.

Aria is an elemental artist—she creates fire from her hands. But her power is not natural. She steals it from lightning. It’s dangerous and illegal in her world. When she’s recruited to perform, she seizes the chance to get away from her family. But her power is fading too fast to keep stealing from the sky. She has no choice but to turn to a Granter—a modern day genie. She gets one wish at an extremely high price. Aria’s willing to take a chance, but then she falls in love with the Granter . . . and he wants his freedom. Aria must decide what she’s willing to bargain and how much her own heart, body, and soul are worth.

In a world where the sport of elemental powers is the most popular form of entertainment, readers will be swept away by a romance with stakes higher than life and death.

Karen’s Thoughts:  Daisy Whitney makes it on to my TBR list because she wrote the very important The Mockingbirds and the very emotionally well done When You Were Here, both of which I recommend. I haven’t read any of her fantasy before, but I’m a huge fan of fantasy so I’m looking forward to this.

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Publisher’s Description:

Life. Death. And…Love?

Emma would give anything to talk to her mother one last time. Tell her about her slipping grades, her anger with her stepfather, and the boy with the bad reputation who might be the only one Emma can be herself with.

But Emma can’t tell her mother anything. Because her mother is brain-dead and being kept alive by machines for the baby growing inside her.

Meeting bad-boy Caleb Harrison wouldn’t have interested Old Emma. But New Emma-the one who exists in a fog of grief, who no longer cares about school, whose only social outlet is her best friend Olivia-New Emma is startled by the connection she and Caleb forge.

Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death-and maybe, for love?

Karen’s Thoughts: In February of this year, this story became real life right here in Texas. Women’s issues like access to birth control, access to abortion, and even things like whether or not we can (or should) charge a pregnant woman for using drugs (which may one day become eating the wrong foods or exercising too much) during their pregnancy are very much in the public conversation at the moment – and they are very controversial, hot button issues steeped in things like people’s personal religious beliefs and personal life experience. Scott is bold to take on such a controversial issue and I look forward to reading this and seeing how she handles it.

These books are all actually in the wild as we speak. This post doesn’t even cover the ARCs on my TBR pile. So I guess I better go get reading. What’s on your TBR pile? Old or new please share in the comments. 

Book Review: The Rule of Three by Eric Walters

A person can last:
3 Minutes without Air
3 Days without Water
3 Weeks without Food

A community begins to die in just seconds . . . 

30 minutes before Todd’s paper is due, he is in the school’s computer lab trying to have his best friend Adam type it for him.  Suddenly everything stops working.  Computers. Cell phones. Cars.  Nothing that has a computer component to it works.

Luckily, Adam has an old beat up car, and they are able to pick up his younger siblings from school and make it home to their subdivision neighborhood.  The world is about to change.

What follows is a look at the world falling apart.  People begin to run out of food, acts of violence break out, and fear and desperation grow.  But The Rule of Three is a little different because in it the small, local community comes together to put a detailed plan into action for long term survival.  This is not a journey through the decaying landscape, but an exercise in thought, reason, and working together with your neighbors to survive.  There is conflict, but it comes mostly from outside groups that see what this neighborhood is building for itself and wants to try and take it – after all the hard work is done of course.

Where The Rule of Three excels is in its tackling of difficult discussions and a look at the importance of intelligence, planning and coming together.  Characters wrestle with turning away those in need as they do the math about how much food they can produce, how many people it can feed, and for how long.  There are discussions about killing others in the defense of preserving the lives of the many inside the neighborhood.  They even talk about the idea of situational ethics; since the world has changed, the ethics of the world has changed and they must try to find a way to balance this and still maintain their humanity.

There are a few huge plot conveniences that make the plot work, like the fact that Adam’s missing father is a pilot and Adam himself was taking flying lessons and building a small plane that still functions because it doesn’t have a computer.  Adam’s mother is also the local chief of police and his next door neighbor, Herb, is a retired some type of operative who happened to be preparing for this very type of event for a really long time.  Herb, in fact, is the big planner.  He has experience and knowledge that is invaluable to the long range survival plan, and Walters does a good job of throwing a few details in to make him a little more realistic, but Herb tends to be a little superheroish in his calm resolve as he continually comes to save the day.

At the end of the day, The Rule of Three is an interesting story and a good study for those who want to survive the post-technology apocalypse (they never say but I am thinking an EMP).  There is a lot of good information and strategy in the pages of this book hidden inside the story.  It is thoughtful in the important discussions that would need to take place.  And there is plenty of action and suspense to keep readers entertained.  There is also a sweet, slow love story tucked in there in a way that makes sense and doesn’t overpower or minimize anything.

Sometimes the conveniences made me roll my eyes (I mean, I do hope that all those people live in my neighborhood when the post-technology apocalypse happens), but overall I think this is a thoughtful look at human nature with a hopeful tone, some solid relationships, and good action.  Adam is a well developed and thoughtful main character.  Not as dark and gritty as some of the PA lit out there, making this more accessible for some readers.  There is only one scene where they mention anything sexual, and it is in jest and not graphic (strip Scrabble of course!), so this is a good one for older MG or younger YA readers, keeping in mind that there is, of course, some violence.

3 out of 5 stars, I can see a lot of readers enjoying this.

The Rule of Three by Eric Walters, published 2014.  ISBN: 978-0-374-35502-9.

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