The Literary Phoenix

Funny, the damage a silly little book can do. Especially in the hands of a silly little girl.

It feels like months since I’ve finished reading a book.  Even an audiobook.  I have been consumed… drowning in my personal life.  My blogs always fall apart when that happens.  There are reasons why this blog has been around for nearly ten years, and every time I start to acquire a small following, it falls away.  I am rubbish at balance.

I found out I was pregnant in February, lost all focus on my recreational responsibilities by early April, and lost the baby after a car crash at the end of May.  I was – I am – heartbroken.

I am not writing this for pity.  I am writing this to explain why I disappear, and exactly how much the written word means to me.

For the last month, I’ve been in a depressed fog.  I am prone to depression and the relentless struggle is nothing new, but I have never been so consumed and immobilized as I have been the last few weeks.  If there was ever a time I needed to disappear from the cruelties of reality, this was it.  On Monday, though, I started to write.  I’ve been journalling privately every single day since the loss, but Monday was the first time I picked up the proverbial pen to write some fiction.  Fiction, especially fantasy fiction, has been my rock since I was a little girl.  There is nothing so tantalizing as escaping into a world where magic is real.  Just right now, I could use a little magic.

I wrote a ficlet featuring one of my favorite characters – the disgraced Princess Jessica.  It was not spectacular.  In fact, it was horrible.  The writing was clunky and fractured, and in place of a plot it was an emotional glimpse of a rejected, heartbroken, angry young woman.  So, in short, me.  Jessica is a fallback character for me – I created her when I was in middle school, and I can’t stop writing her stories.  I love the way she manipulates the wind, and how she embraces her past instead of running from it.

The next day, I launched Novlr and wrote 1500 words of The Story Collector.  Wednesday, I wrote 1800.  Yesterday, I wrote 1600.  I intend to write more today.  In the interim, I’ve read a chapter of Pistols and Petticoats by Erika Janik (an early-reviewer book I won in December).  I’ve listened to hours of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and my husband and I resumed our listening of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling.  Yesterday, we reached the scene where Fred and George Wealsey set fireworks off throughout the castle.  We are coming, slowly, back to life.

In the meanwhile, I will flit back and forth as I must.  Some days, the world will be bright and beautiful; other days, it will be insufferable.  I am diving into my stories – original and otherwise – to find sanctuary, joy, and comfort.  And for a little while, that’s okay.

The best part is, I’ve forced myself through a roadblock in The Story Collector and am finally explaining the workings of Ember’s magical gift.  So productivity is something worth being proud of.  Huzzah.

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra BrackenThe Darkest Minds

by Alexandra Braken

Narrated by Amy McFadden

❤︎ ❤︎ ❤︎ ❤︎

Series: The Darkest Minds (1)
Genres: FantasyDystopiaYoung AdultScience Fiction
Published By: Disney Hyperion in 2012 (First Hardcover Release)
Format: Digital Audiobook (14 hours)

Goodreads / LibraryThing

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 book has been on my TBR list forever – the way my hardcopy reading is going, I would have never gotten to it.  Thank goodness for the audiobook!  Although I think I really would have liked it better without the narrator….

Characters

❤︎

I’ve bounced back and forth on whether I liked the characters or not in this book, and ultimately, it really came down to the character.  For a protagonist, Ruby’s not bad.  She definitely grows and evolves, and I love the fact she isn’t awesome at everything.  It’s immensely frustrating when a protagonist excels at everything.  The lead boy, Liam, is not my favorite, but I thought Chubs was pretty well developed.  Zu was adorable.  Clancy was the worst.  Overall I have to say that Braken did a pretty good job with character development.

 World

❤︎

The Darkest Minds takes place in a crumbling world, but not a post-apocalyptic one.  Especially at the beginning of the book, you get a sense of the chaos that has ensued in the ten years Ruby’s been in camp.  Empty houses and city blocks, looted stores, a partially exploded school – all these are nuances breaking apart what used to be a normal life.  I had some issues with the calm highway miles and the complete lack of people who weren’t bounty hunters, but neither of these things are enough to break the illusion of the world.

Story

❤︎

I kept trying to predict this book, and I kept failing.  I kept waiting for things to blow up in Ruby’s face, and for the most part, they didn’t.  I kept waiting for the worst YA cliches to bounce in and although they started to trickle from time to time… they didn’t fully evolve.  Thank you.  The book ended differently than I expected, too.  When it comes to YA, it’s so important to me that I not be able to predict the book.  Predictable books are boring.

Overall, Braken is telling a story of a generation that has developed mutant powers (five varieties only).  The older generation, terrified of their children (mostly), have abandoned them to the government.  The morality of this has split the country, and meanwhile, the children are tortured, tested on like lab animals, and generally neglected.  It’s not a great situation.  It’s not the most original idea, but Braken does manage to tell it in an original way.

Also, I kept waiting for a love triangle.  I was sure it would happen.  It didn’t.  Some bits with one of the characters near the end got pretty sappy… but it never actually became a triangle!

 Writing / Narration

The biggest reason for the loss of a heart in this category is the narrator.  Amy McFadden was not the worst narrator I’ve heard, but several of her voices (Liam’s!) really bugged me.  Ruby always sounded like she had such an attitude as well, which didn’t come across in the writing at all.  It just irritated me.

Braken made some interesting writing choice for a YA novel, including what is implied to be a rape scene.  Very little of this is described as the main character is being mentally manipulated, but it may not be what some parents want their ‘tweens reading.  The scene that bothered me the most?  Within an hour of waking after the attack, the protagonist very nearly starts making out with someone else.  Not quite, but almost.  I was enraged.  If Braken allowed it to go from rape to teen makeout session, I was done.  It didn’t, but it felt really, really close.

Personal Thoughts

❤︎

Overall, I really did like this book.  There were a couple things that made me mad, but the story as a whole was well-done and interesting, with characters that I became invested in.  The book ended with several questions that I want answered – such as Did that character live?  Did that other one reach his/her destination?  WTF is Ruby’s plan? and so forth.  I’ll be picking up the sequel at some point for sure.

 

TL;DR

Well done, with characters I cared about.  Didn’t love the narrator, or the villains.  Ended with questions!


Source

I purchased this audiobook from Audible almost exactly a year ago – April 3, 2016.


First Sentence

“When the white noise went off, we were in the garden, pulling weeds.”


Some of My Favorite Quotes

“The darkest minds tend to hide behind the most unlikely faces.”

“He’s so busy looking inside people to find the good that he misses the knife they’re holding in their hand.”

When a girl cries, few things are more worthless than a boy.

“Maybe nothing will ever change for us,” he said. “But don’t you want to be around just in case it does?”


Available At

Amazon / Barnes & Noble / IndieBound / Audible /