Book Review: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Also known as the book that scared the crap out of this reader.

It’s not rare that I find a book I love and give it five stars. It is, however, rare, for me to find a book that I love so much, it makes me regret giving those other books five stars, because they just cannot even compare. It’s times like this where I wish there was a + feature to add that to the stars so the book really stands out.

So what is it about this book that makes it stand out so far above the others? First, the characters. They were realistic and changed throughout the story in ways that made me appreciate them even more. Even the characters that I started to hate at first were redeemed at some point in the novel (at least the kids were – not so much the adults). The plot is brilliant and horrifyingly unique. I’ve never read anything that had an idea like this, and I appreciate that. Finally, this is the only book that has legitimately made me cry from FEAR. I felt it as an ache in my chest, and then me, a twenty-seven year old, started to cry for the atrocities that were being committed against the Unwinds right on the page. And not because I felt bad for them, either, but because it genuinely frightened me that a world like this even existed in a book.

Connor is an Unwind who runs away to save himself. Risa is an Unwind who runs when she sees the chance. Lev is a tithe who thinks being unwound is a holy thing. When the three of them meet up, the world they live in will be thrown off course.

Connor may start off as a kid who readers like and dislike, but by the end of the book I, like the other kids, saw him as a hero. The scene that did it for me was the short chapter from the Clappers perspective as Connor is being led to the Chop Shop, he looks up at Risa on the roof, and blows her a kiss. Somehow that just cemented him as a hero in my book. It was so brave, romantic, and terribly sad at the same time.

Risa is a wonderful character who finds that she has more value than others have previously found in her.

And Lev. I think he changes the most. From starting off as a tithe who WANTS to be unwound because it is the purpose in his life to the transformation he undergoes after witnessing CyFi’s breakdown… it’s incredible. And hard to remember that he is only thirteen the entire book.

Finally Roland. He may not be a main character, but it’s a scene with him that had me so frightened. He’s a jerk. No other way to look at it. And I wanted him to get what was coming to him because I thought he deserved it. Until it actually happened. The scene of Roland’s unwinding scared the hell out of me. It wasn’t that it was overly descriptive. But as a reader, you know what’s happening through what Roland sees… or doesn’t see. Like his feet. When he says he looks down but cannot see him, and then they remove the lower half of the table, I knew half of him was gone. And then my brain, lovely thing that it is, zoomed out as if it was a movie and showed him laying on a table, only exisiting from the waist up. And the thought that he was a) kept concious during the unwinding and b) the doctor’s treated him like a nonexistent specimen just made me feel sick. In fact, I feel sick again thinking about it!

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Book Review: Sometime Yesterday by Yvonne Heidt

About the book: Successful artist Natalie Chambers impulsively buys a Victorian house  overlooking the Pacific Ocean after her divorce. Immediately, her dreams  are haunted by Sarah and Beth, two lovers from the past and the Dark  Man who controlled their lives. When she begins to look for explanations  for the things going bump in the night, the only answer she can get  from the locals is that several previous owners had fled screaming into  the night.

Landscaper Van Easton hasn’t had a serious  relationship since her partner died. Content to let women and alcohol  distract her from her pain, she is surprised at the intensity of emotion  that bubbles to the surface after she meets Natalie. Contracted to  restore the gardens at Natalie’s house, she refuses to believe that the  mansion is haunted. Until the ghostly Dark Man follows her home.

It  appears he will stop at nothing to keep the new lovers apart, and the  violence continues to escalate. Can they solve the mystery that will set  Beth and Sarah free and banish the evil presence in the house? Or will  the evil echoes of the past destroy them as well?

This book has quite the emotional ride and a lot of twists and turns to satisfy just about all readers. It’s a mystery just as much as it is paranormal and horror. I really enjoyed all of the characters, from the two main women – Natalie and Van – to Mary, Natalie’s mother (ESPECIALLY her mother), and Van’s father.

Though the love blossoming between Natalie and Van is beautiful, it is not without its hitches, and I liked that about it. There were moments when I wanted to smack Van upside the head for jumping to conclusions. Likewise, I wanted to do the same to Natalie sometimes! Without the paranormal elements, the story and romance was very believable. I could feel the desire between the women through the pages of the book.

With the paranormal elements, it’s a fantastic read. I was on the edge of my seat, especially towards the end, when the haunting starts to escalate. And when the “key” and other secrets are revealed a literally gasped, “Oh, shit!” because I did not see them coming! I don’t want to say to much because I want readers to have the same reaction.

As a final note, though he is a minor character, I loved Van’s grandfather. It saddened me that he has Alzheimer’s, but his way of describing it moved me to tears and I had to pause. It really puts the disease in another perspective if you think of it as your loved one visiting moments in life that they loved so much they wanted to visit them twice.

You can purchase Sometime Yesterday by Yvonne Heidt from Bold Strokes Books or Amazon.

Book Review: Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith

I’m still on a dystopian fiction kick. The last few have been zombie related, but this one is different. It has science fiction and horror elements to it, and without my students’ recommendations I may have missed it. Yet again, I regret not reading it when first suggested to me. (Are you sensing a trend? I certainly am. Note to self: read what people recommend right away.)

Lockdown is the first in the Escape from Furnace series by Alexander Gordon Smith. Like The Enemy, the book takes place in London. Teens accused of murder are not given a fair trial and are thrown in the prison known as Furnace. In this first book, the main character, Alex, is framed for his friend’s murder and thrown in the penitentiary. What he encounters there is unlike anything he could have ever imagined.

I loved the book because of the characters. While yes, he and the others have committed some crimes (Alex is a thief even if he isn’t a murderer, and his cellmate, Donovan, did kill his mother’s boyfriend but after he had beaten her numerous times), they are still sympathetic characters. I was conflicted. I wanted to dislike them, but I couldn’t. Donovan smiled too often and was too humorous. And Zee was another great character that brightened up the gruesome story.

The novel is dark. There were scenes that left me haunted by the images left in my mind, and others that left me reeling and feeling sick like the characters. The author is excellent at describing the conditions of Furnace and the mindset of all the characters.

If you’re a fan of dystopian novels, British YA authors, or dark novels that explore a character’s mind, check out Lockdown and the other books in the series.