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4.01.2015

A twisted fix

The Remedy by Suzanne Young
Simon Pulse // April 21, 2015
hardcover, 416 pgs
ISBN: 9781481437653
source: egalley from the publisher

About the book:
In a world before The Program…
Quinlan McKee is a closer. Since the age of seven, Quinn has held the responsibility of providing closure to grieving families with a special skill—she can “become” anyone.
Recommended by grief counselors, Quinn is hired by families to take on the short-term role of a deceased loved one between the ages of fifteen and twenty. She’s not an exact copy, of course, but she wears their clothes and changes her hair, studies them through pictures and videos, and soon, Quinn can act like them, smell like them, and be them for all intents and purposes. But to do her job successfully, she can’t get attached.
Now seventeen, Quinn is deft at recreating herself, sometimes confusing her own past with those of the people she’s portrayed. When she’s given her longest assignment, playing the role of Catalina Barnes, Quinn begins to bond with the deceased girl’s boyfriend. But that’s only the beginning of the complications, especially when Quinn finds out the truth about Catalina’s death. And the epidemic it could start.

My thoughts:
The first word that comes to mind is twisted. Then interesting. 
Once I've thought it through and I'm over the shock of the twist in this series, I am able to think critically about the web that Suzanne Young weaved. 
She started with deep characters, and that stays true throughout the series. The characters in The Remedy are deep, but in a different way. Quinn is the central character in The Remedy. Her job as a closer makes her like a morphling... she changed with every assignment, just building on her base. Young made her vulnerable, scared, and a girl looking for her own life. As she built the new characters on top of Quinn, these personal pieces faded from the surface but were still visible. I see this as quite beautiful writing. And after finishing the book, I had even more of an appreciation for this. 
The other thing I really loved about this book was the psychological thriller aspect. I don't think the other two books contained as much as this one, and I felt compelled to know what is going on, what's coming next, and who is tied to it all. The answers, when they finally did come, left me shocked & disturbed - as good writing should!
The Remedy tells the story of what went down BEFORE The Program & Treatment. It adds a sufficient amount of creep factor and ties up some questions lingering from the previous books. This book is capable of standing on its own. You'll enjoy this if you've read the first books in the series, or if you happen to have an interest in how big brother could control us...


About the author:
Suzanne Young is the New York Times bestselling author of The Program series. Originally from Utica, New York, Suzanne moved to Arizona to pursue her dream of not freezing to death. She is a novelist and an English teacher, but not always in that order. Suzanne is the author of The Program, The Treatment, The Remedy, A Need So Beautiful, and Hotel Ruby. You can visit her online at Suzanne-Young.Blogspot.com.



write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

Cover image, synopsis, and author information from edelweiss.com
I received an advance egalley of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

3.14.2015

The most interesting book of the year (so far)

Running Press // March 10, 2015
hardcover, 336pgs
ISBN: 978-0762456345
source: advance uncorrected proof from the publisher

About the book:
All that Pearl knows can be encapsulated in one word: Seed. It is the isolated community that she was born into. It is the land that she sows and reaps. It is the center of her family and everything that means home. And it is all kept under the watchful eye of Papa S.
At fifteen years old, Pearl is finally old enough to be chosen as Papa S.'s companion. She feels excitement . . . and surprising trepidation that she cannot explain. The arrival of a new family into the Seed community—particularly the teenage son, Ellis—only complicates the life and lifestyle that Pearl has depended upon as safe and constant. Ellis is compelling, charming, and worldly, and he seems to have a lot of answers to questions Pearl has never thought to ask. But as Pearl digs to the roots of the truth, only she can decide what she will allow to come to the surface.

My thoughts:
Best. Book. Ever.
Wow.
I seriously don't even know where to start with this one.
Talk about an incredible debut.
Seed is such a beautifully written piece of fiction that while reading it I was almost convinced it was a a real tale. This novel tells the story of Pearl and her life at Seed- a strange nature worshiping cult that has blinded it members from the real world. The safe haven that Papa S and the Kindreds created is one based on fear and control; however those at Seed don't see that, all they see is the false reality that has been created around them. That is, until outsiders come to Seed and begin to reveal the cracks in the veneer.
Seed is like an intimate look at life within a cult. I said already that the novel is like reading non fiction... it is almost like a memoir of Pearl's life - vivid and honest, this book is one that rocked me to the core. Background - I once had a student who was in care after being taken away from a similar styled cult. This prior knowledge of what cult life is like helped me to see how real and truthful this is.. I've heard stories first hand. Thanks (unfortunately) to this experience with this child, I had the knowledge that what Seed was saying was not far from the truth and it chilled me to the bone. This could (and does) happen regularly, near and far.
Seed unlocks a door which has been closed to most - it will shock and humble you. This novel is so hard for me to review in words other than to say it is one of the most amazing reads of the year so far. Easily this book goes down as the most interesting book I have encountered this year - and in a long while for that matter.
If you want to be wowed by an intense story that seems so real it is disturbing, this is the one to read. If you only read one debut novel this season, let this be it. This is the book to move to the top on your tbr pile. You will not be disappointed. If you ever were curious about cults, read this book to satisfy your questions. Seed is a knockout debut. Without a doubt, this is a 5-star read.

As a side note:
I rarely write in books anymore or flag pages... however, look at this! I was constantly writing and flagging this book. I just had to get every thought out while reading this. This book NEEDS to be read with others, seriously- your book club will thank you.


About the author:
Lisa Heathfield is a former secondary school English teacher, specializing in working with hearing-impaired children. Seed is her debut novel. She lives in Brighton, England, with her husband and three children.



write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

Book provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Cover image and synopsis from Amazon.com
Author information from the publisher.

3.09.2015

Wolves are my spirit animal....

Last month I had the opportunity to go hang out with wolves again! I love wolves. They have always been a favorite animal of mine, and one that I identify as my totem. Not to far from where we live is a non profit wolf sanctuary. We haven't been in a while, so late last month we decided to head up there for their presentation on the dire wolf and to hang out with the wolves for a little while.
Tashina, Naoka, and Dancing Turtle
Wolf Mountain is in Smyrna, NY and is situated atop a beautiful mountain overlooking scenic upstate NY. The driveway is so long and steep, that sometimes only 4-wheel drive vehicles are allowed up in the winter, and sometimes it is even closed to 4WD! This time, the driveway was closed, which meant we had to hike up the drive (quite the feat in knee-high snow). Thankfully, they've had snowmobiles up the drive so there was a good pack for much of the trek. Mind you, it was freezing and windy that day - so it was cold cold cold!

Inside learning about the Dire Wolf
Once we made it up the hill, we were greeted by the wolves and coyotes in their sanctuaries. We said hello then went inside to warm up and learn about the dire wolf. We had hot cocoa and got to see a skull of a dire wolf. It was incredible! Once we learned all about the wolf, we went outside to hang out with the wolves some more. They are beautiful and magical creatures - I absolutely love them.
Wolf Mountain is such a beautiful place, and we love to visit. Seeing the wolves and getting to be so close to them is incredible. Will, the founder and head animal curator, is knowledgeable and wonderful to speak with. He always shares such insight and his connection with the wolves is amazing.


Natani, an Alaskan Timber Wolf giving Madeline a proper greeting

Seneca looking stunning

Hunter getting kisses from Natani

The view from the top of the driveway at Wolf Mountain
check out how deep that snow is!!!
good thing part of the path was snow-blowed!

Hiking back down the mountain

If you are ever in upstate NY, I insist you visit Wolf Mountain... it is such a wonderful gem of a place. They have many programs and events throughout the year, and admission is only $5 - with the money all going back into Wolf Mountain. Right now, they are fundraising to bring in another 3-4 wolf pups. You can go help out by donating to their Go Fund Me page. You can also adopt an animal (or even the whole pack)... which is a really neat way to stay connected with WMNC.



And for those wondering what I meant when I called the wolf my totem... here is a nice little site with some information about spirit animals. There are many ways to look at and identify totems. I consider the wolf mine because it has been an animal I seek out and one that seems to find me - I bought a house where most nights I can wander into my backyard and listen to the wolves howl. This wasn't planned, but just an instance of seeking out the wolf. Those who know me would say I embody a lot of the wolf traits: "emotional, passionate, and the lover".... my next closest animal people who align me with is the beaver: "take charge, adapt, overcome".

"Throw me to the wolves, and I will return leading the pack"


write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

It's March? Ramblings of what's been going on....

Well hello there March! I cannot believe we're already into the second week of March. I don't know where the hell the time went.... I have been a busy bee and feel like I suddenly just woke up and here it is, March 9th.




So, what exactly have I been doing? Well... I finished 2 embroidery projects, planned & hosted a birthday party, designed & ordered my wedding invitations, worked on hotel planning for the wedding, lost weight, finished season 5 of Downton Abbey, binge watched Bates Motel with Bear, went to an indoor water park, hung out with wolves, shoveled pretty much every day, planned & hosted a fabulous girls night, marathon watched Harry Potter (while home sick with an allergic reaction - yuck), made a dozen corn bags for us & a friend... and of course, the whole full time career and keeping house thing.

Seems like a lot, but at the same time it doesn't, if that makes any sense at all. I have certainly neglected blogging and reading for February. Netflix kind of sucked me in at night, then with so much other stuff to plan and do, I just didn't read like normal. I'm now "two books behind schedule" in my Goodreads Reading Challenge :(

Right now, I am reading 3 books - Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (for the Harry Potter ReReadalong with Sheila from Book Journey), Seed by Lisa Heathfield, and The Remedy by Suzanne Young. I don't normally read multiple books at a time, so I am willing to bet that is part of my lazy reading stats lately.

I just finished up 100 Skills for the End of the World as We Know It by Ana Maria Spagna. It was a really good little gem of a book with tips and tricks. I will post a mini review later this week.

Hope everyone had a good start to March and I'll be seeing you all around soon!


write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

2.18.2015

To This Day -- an anti bullying manifesto


To This Day by Shane Koyczan
Annick Press // September 2014
hardcover, 72 pages
ISBN: 978-1554516391
source: egalley from publisher

About the book:
Shane Koyczan wrote To This Day about his experiences with bullying. It received attention in February of 2013 as he performed the spoken word poem for a TED talk. It was that TED talk that first got my attention. I read the poem again later on and thought how great it would be to incorporate into my classroom. Then something magical happened - thanks to the power of positive influence on the internet, To This Day blew up. It was everywhere and now is a book. The book is the poem that Shane wrote set to the unique illustrations of 30 artists. This collaboration of talents produced a beautiful anti bullying manifesto.

My thoughts:
This is a BEAUTIFUL book. The words are strong, true, sad, heartfelt, lyrical, and full of purpose. I feel like every word was chosen with thought. The message behind this book - bullying and it's effects - is timely and necessary. We live in a world where bullying runs rampant. Thankfully, people are finally being to realize it's not "just kids being kids" and that the long lasting effects can be dangerous. This book is one that every teacher, parent, caregiver, therapist, and counselor needs to read. Then, we all need to share it with every child we encounter. Adults bullies were made in childhood- let's use this as a tool to stop the cycle where it begins. This book is perfect for teaching today's adolescents. I know a lot of adults who could use this lesson as well.
In addition to the meaning, this book is beautifully illustrated. The set reflects the artists, and that is made evident in every turn off the page. Not only does this show how all at its beautiful, it also translates into a perfect discussion on everyone being different and how to embrace that.

I highly recommend this book, and will be ordering it for my classroom. This book will become an essential tool in my social groups & therapy groups that I hold every week in my class. I also teach Rachel's Challenge weekly, and will incorporate this title into those sessions as well. The author also shared links to his spoken word, which I'll use as well. To This Day is in amazing read!



About the author:
SHANE KOYCZAN IS AN AWARD WINNING CANADIAN POET, AUTHOR AND PERFORMER.
The world took notice of Shane Koyczan when his influential, anti-bullying, To This Day Project video went viral in early 2013 and has reached over 14 million views and counting. 

Powerfully engaging and authentic in attitude, Shane’s explorations are relevant to our times in the way that Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen were to theirs. But unlike the musicians that he’s often compared to, poets rarely infiltrate pop culture.  Shane emerges in a new wave of 21st century poetry that dares to belong to the people and speak directly to them in their own voice.




write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

Book cover image were captured by screenshot while reading on my phone. Book information gathered from Amazon.com. Author image and information gathered from Shane Koyczan's website. I received this book as an egalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.