BOOK REVIEW: The Darkest Minds by Alexndra Bracken

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Author: Alexandra Bracken
Genre: Young Adult/Dystopian/Romance
Series: A Darkest Minds Novel (Book 1)

The Darkest Minds: ★★★★ (3.5)

Buy it on Amazon

SUMMARY: When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. She is on the run, desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who have escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents. When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at having a life worth living.

REVIEW: This is my first read of 2016 and it was a solid novel. I typically do not like to read young adult dystopian books, but I heard a lot of good things about this one (plus the fact that I stumbled upon a hardcover copy for only $3), I decided, why not? “The Darkest Minds” earned 3.5 stars from me. Overall I found the book enjoyable and interesting, but something about the journey kept me from giving it a higher rating.

Bracken’s writing is spectacular. No doubt about it, this author has a talent. She was able to provide descriptive explanations without being too wordy or confusing. She builds the world and sets the tone early on in the story. The beginning was a bit slow for me, but I understood she wanted to emphasize the darkness early on by revealing a little bit about the main character’s background from her experiences. I did appreciate the fact that the author did not literally write everything out for readers and would allow them to discover things on their own though.

The world she builds is somewhat believable, but there were times I found myself thinking it was a post-apocalyptic one, only to remember that the government was still somewhat running and the older folk were still working and living life. It is a bit unbelievable that parents would send their children to a camp believing they were being rehabilitated and accept the fact that they’re NEVER allowed to visit them again. The fact that most of the thousands of children inside the camps are just shipped somewhere by their parents willingly is still a bit hard for me to believe.

Basically, children who don’t die from IAAN (this disease the government makes up) they develop special abilities which are defined by color:

Green: great memory and very smart

Blue: ability to move things

Yellow: ability to manipulate electricity

Orange: ability to play with the mind

Red: ability to manipulate fire

Ruby: Ruby is an Orange, one of the last in the world, and the protagonist of this book. She starts out as a nervous, unsure young girl as she is sent to Thurmond for “rehabilitation.” After she escapes, she begins a journey that is destined to change her forever. By the end of the book, Ruby is more resolute and “cutthroat,” I guess you can say. But throughout the story, I did find her to be a bit whiny. One of my my pet peeves is when characters insist on keeping a secret because they’re afraid of being shunned, which is what Ruby does for a majority time. Overall, she wasn’t a terrible heroine, but she also wasn’t one of my favorite.

Liam: Liam is a Blue and the charismatic leader of the pack Ruby ends up joining. He’s tall, ruggedly handsome, and looks older than he actually is. Liam’s heart is huge and he’s always thinking of others before himself, sometimes at a fault. (No one can be perfect after all). The Skip Tracers and Psi Officers are all after him because he organized a breakout, not to mention the $250,000 bounty on his head, but you know you can rely on him because he’s so capable.

Charles “Chubs”: Chubs is also a Blue and the comedic mean kid of the group. He doesn’t like outsiders but is extremely loyal once he accepts someone. He never lost sight of what needed to be done and wasn’t blinded by the temporary “happiness” at East River like the others were. And even though he was upset, he was loyal until the end.

Suzune “Zu”: Zu is a yellow and the cute, young Asian girl of the group. She doesn’t have much control over her abilities so wears rubber gloves all the time to protect the others. Because of her traumatizing past (that isn’t fully revealed) she’s mute and interacts with them with expressions and motions instead.

The romance is introduced near the later end of the book. I found it strange that in the beginning of the book, the author emphasizes how uncomfortable Ruby is with boys because she was separated from them for six years. Then all of a sudden, she’s on a journey with two of them and becomes more comfortable pretty quickly, as she’s sassy with one and starts to like the other. Her character was very vanilla, and the conditioning she experienced in the camp for SIX YEARS would not disappear in a few weeks or a month even…

The reason I didn’t rate this book higher is because the whole story was basically a long road trip. There were some car chases and close calls with Skip Tracers and Psi Officers trying to recapture the group, but it consisted of them just traveling in a car trying to find out where East River was to find the Slip Kid (Rumored to be an Orange kid who was able to get in touch with parents). I also didn’t like how it ended. I understand why it had to be done and I can just assume what is going to happen later, but still it’s not a very “feel good” ending.

If you like young adult dystopian novels, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one. I do plan on continuing the series to see how it finishes.

Buy it on Amazon

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UPDATE: Netflix Addiction

WARNING: If you don’t like gifs, then get outta here. It’s my first time incorporating it so I might go a little crazy. GO BIG OR GO HOME, RIGHT?

Netflix and chill. It’s more like Netflix and rot! My friend just recently gave me her login for Netflix to watch “How to Get Away with Murder.” I finished the first season within a week.

The second season hasn’t released on Netflix yet but I hear it’s crazy. I can’t wait. Ever since I got rid of the TV in my room, I’ve been on Netflix even more.

Currently, I am watching The Office. (I’m behind the bandwagon, I know). Upon some recommendations from my friends, I decided to give it a shot, even though it never really appealed to me. It took me about one whole season to start to get into it. Throughout the first season, I think I may have laughed….once?

But, I stuck with it and powered through. That was 2 weeks ago. Now I’m on Season 9…

I found myself in a never-ending loop–wake up, go to work, eat dinner while watching The Office (8+ episodes…), sleep at 3 a.m. Today I’m taking a break from watching it and I’m writing about it instead. I’ve always been a binge TV series watcher because I hate to have wait to see what happens next. I prefer one big dose rather than multiple small doses. (Just like how I would break my arms before taking two trips to take groceries from the car to my house).

My favorite characters are Jim and Dwight. Their relationship is so fun to watch and their pranks are the best part of the show. Their snarky remarks and the quick wit of the characters are a couple of the things I’d like to incorporate into my writing. Dialogue is so important in books and watching shows like this really helps me develop characters through their conversations. (The character in my next book may or may not be inspired by Dwight!)

It’s 3 a.m. right now and I’m not going to review this TV series, but if you haven’t watched it, then I recommend you do (especially if you work in an office). But, make sure to start from the beginning or you won’t get the full effect of funny and some things won’t make sense. Friends, How I Met Your Mother, and The Office are all must watch series in my book.

ARTICLE: So, what do you do?

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So, what do you do?

What have you been up to?

 Did you find a job?

As a millennial in her mid-20’s, this question has easily become the bane of my existence. My life in regards to employment is unconventional to say the least. I’m ridiculous busy, yet not busy at all. If you don’t know me personally, let me give you a brief overview of the things I do (in order of importance).

  1. Club. I own a volleyball club that runs year around because there is a girls and a boys season. My responsibilities include all bookkeeping, ordering equipment/gear, coaching at practices and tournaments, and general admin work. (aka it’s almost tax season and I’m kind of stressed.)
  2. Coaching. In addition to owning a volleyball club, I’m also the head coach at a high school for a boys volleyball team. This is a lot of work as well because I have to invest more time into it. I practice 2-3 hours every week day and two of the days there are travel games, not to mention weekend tournaments. Once March rolls around, until the end of May, my scheduled is BOOKED.
  3. Weddings. I also started my own wedding videography business a couple years ago. So whenever I don’t have a tournament on a weekend, I book weddings to film. Usually this is an all-day affair for filming and consists of about one month of editing.
  4. Writing. While I would love to dedicate more time to writing it is more of a hobby as of now. I just finished Kalcyon (The Phoenix Ashes, #2) and I should probably start on the last installment of the trilogy soon.

Anyway, you’ll notice I’m not the traditional 9-5 type of person at all. I dabble into a lot of different things and so organizing my life is kind of a nightmare sometimes because I have to make sure to meet deadlines for each “job.” Which brings me back to the original dreaded questions. “So, what do you do?” People/family always ask this; it’s the question to fill silence with an answer that may or may not be interesting. The real question is, “What don’t I do?”

Typically, I’ll answer depending on my mood at that given moment. I hate to list the things I do because it usually leads to a lot of questions, so I stick with one and don’t mention the others. I have the luxury of trying new things at this moment in my life and I’m always thankful for the chance to discover what it is I want to dedicate my life to. I think it’s easy enough for me to find an office job and work a 40-hr week, but that’s just not me and I would probably go insane. (I’ve worked in an office for a fashion company before and when month three hit, I just couldn’t take it anymore).

I guess what I’m trying to say is that even though the road is tough and may not yield immediate spoils, seek your dream job or passion if you have the opportunity. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with how easy it is to put in hours and hours of your time without it feeling like work at all. Most of the times, you won’t end up where you thought you would five years ago. I never imagined I’d be where I am today and I’m ecstatic with what I’ve accomplished in my 25 years of life. I might not be rolling in the dough, but I can confidently say that I am more than satisfied with where I am right at this moment. I can just feel that this year will be an incredible milestone for me. Keep reaching for the stars, they’re closer than you think.

Stop asking, “So, what do you do?”

It’s time to be asking, “So, what do you want to do and what are you going to do about it?”

Kalcyon Soundtrack

Kalcyon will officially be released on January 31, 2016. And I’m happy to say that the e-book, paperback, AND hardcover will be available for purchase!

To have a little look into what to anticipate, here is the soundtrack that inspired me throughout the writing journey of Kalcyon. Enjoy!

I made both the Karnage and Kalcyon playlists public on Spotify if you want to listen to them at your own leisure.

Karnage Soundtrack

Kalcyon Soundtrack

KALCYON SOUNDTRACK

  1. i believe by Christina Perri
  2. human by Christina Perri
  3. Wings by Birdy
  4. One the Water by Finding Favour
  5. Stars by Marie Hines
  6. Young Blood by Bea Miller
  7. The Call by Regina Spektor
  8. Feels Like Coming Home by Jetta
  9. If You Say So by Lea Michele
  10. The Sun Is Rising by Britt Nicole
  11. Cassiopeia by Sara Bareilles
  12. Crystals by Of Monsters And Men
  13. Hunger by Of Monsters And Men
  14. Black Water by Of Monsters And Men
  15. I of the Storm by Of Monsters And Men
  16. Monsters by Katie Sky
  17. Poison & Wine by The Civil Wars
  18. Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl by Wet
  19. Statues by Nina Nesbitt
  20. Pilgrims On a Long Journey by Coeur De Pirate (Instrumental)
  21. Pau hafa sloppio undan punga myrkursins by Olafur Arnalds (Instrumental)
  22. Four Walls by Broods
  23. Run – Snow Patrol by Eklipse (Instrumental Cover)
  24. Runaway by AURORA
  25. Who We Are by Tristan Prettyman
  26. Brother by The Brilliance

Wrapping up 2015. Hello 2016

In 2015, I published my first book (Karnage) and completed my second (Kalcyon). When I was a senior in high school, I could only dream of this moment. Writing was my medicine for boredom and though some people found it a strange prescription, I found it absolutely right (pun intended!).

As I occasionally fan through the pages of my book, I still can’t believe it myself. I wonder how I sat my scattered mind down to write 600+ pages of a story. I’ve immersed myself in the fantasy world of Celestria this past year and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I have the last book of the trilogy slated to be completed by the end of this year and I’m not only sad but excited for this adventure to come to an end. (Though I don’t think this world will ever come to a complete end for me and I’m sure I’ll venture back to Celestria, and maybe expand beyond just Selena’s story).

One thing I’ve learned in 2015 that applied to every aspect of my life was a realization I had when writing the dedication for Kalcyon:

For everyone who had a dream that seemed too far to reach–greatness is achieved when you transform your weakness into strength.

I’m a hopeless dreamer when it comes to life and I always believe that there is something greater out there, so I continue to reach forward no matter how impossible things may seem. And I want to encourage everyone out there with a dream that you may have had as a child or still currently keep close to your heart because anything is possible. I know it sounds cliche, but you will only get as far as you believe you will. It may take five days or even five years, and even if you have to crawl to get there, every move forward gets you closer to achieving that dream.

It’s worth it.

The things you love the most are the things that get you the most frustrated. I’ve wanted to bang my head against the wall multiple times during my writing process, but I never gave up and continued to look forward because I knew all the blood, sweat, and tears would be worth it in the end. 2015 has been a hallmark year for me in terms of personal achievements and I’m sure 2016 will be no different. Happy New Year!

Leigh’s 2016 Writing New Year’s Resolutions

I. Complete The Phoenix Ashes Trilogy
II. Complete book 1 and 2 of the Death Wish Undone Trilogy
III. Get traditionally published
IV. Publish “Moon Lily”
V. Read 30 books!

 

What did you learn in 2015 and what do you hope to achieve in 2016??

UPDATE: It’s Official!

My Kalcyon ARCs have officially been delivered and I have never been so excited to open a package. It looks even better than I had hoped for it to. I love the new cover concept that I incorporated into it. For those who purchased my VERY first edition, I did make many changes to the cover and format, but I appreciate each and every one of you for your support ❤ On the plus side, it is technically a specialty product! (Get the hardcover! It’s 100x better.)

Kalcyon is slated to be officially released on January 31, 2015, however this will only be the paperback and e-book version. I am going to try my very best to get the hardcover version finished by this time as well, but the company I use has a somewhat slow turnaround rate for proofs. I am keeping my fingers crossed though.

This is such a surreal moment for me. And the best present I could have given myself for Christmas! I hope you all have a great holiday, and if you do have the chance, read my first book, Karnage, to get ready for the release of Kalcyon!

You can find Karnage on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Leave me a review and tell me what you thought!

Tata for now~