My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George, was published in 1959 by Dutton.

Rating: 3/5

My Side of the Mountain is a survival novel a lá Hatchet, though Sam willingly chooses to live off the land in this book, as opposed to the protagonist of Hatchet, who is forced to do so after a plane crash. I found it amusing that the author’s note to this book states that the publisher was originally unwilling to publish a book that featured a boy running away and living off the land, lest kids also want to do so—reading this book almost 60 years later, it’s hard to imagine any teenage boy today doing what Sam in this book does.

The survival aspect of this book is the most interesting part, as George details what Sam does to survive a summer and winter on the side of a mountain. It almost seems too good to be true—Sam is so knowledgeable about vegetation and the wilderness that the novel almost has a fantastical, or at least exaggerated, atmosphere to it. The conflict in the book is of the natural variety, as the adults and other children he runs into are always curious and pleasant, rather than hostile. This poses a problem to the realism, though perhaps that’s modern culture speaking—I can’t imagine all of the adults being so nonchalant about Sam’s living on his own. Even his father exudes more awe at his son’s abilities than relief that his son is alive.

The ending is definitely of the fantastic variety, a sappy, feel-good ending that smacks perhaps too much of the glory of the country/wilderness as opposed to the darkness of the city. That’s really the main problem of this book—everything is just a little too pat, people react just a little too nonchalantly. There is a blissful, “I’m right to live in the wilderness” undertone that eats a little at the survival aspect. My Side of the Mountain is not as frantic nor as tense and dangerous as a book like Hatchet, which makes it perhaps better suited for certain ages, but it’s too light and fluffy to be a compelling survival novel.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Children’s, Realistic, Survival

You can buy this book here:

Sunrise: Surprisingly Better Than The First Two

Sunrise is written by Mike Mullin. It was published in 2014 by Tanglewood. It is the sequel to Ashen Winter.


“The Yellowstone supervolcano nearly wiped out the human race. Now, almost a year after the eruption, the survivors seem determined to finish the job. Communities wage war on each other and gangs of cannibals roam the countryside. Sickness, cold, and starvation are the survivors’ constant companions.

When it becomes apparent that their home is no longer safe and adults are not facing the stark realities, Alex and Darla must create a community that can survive the ongoing disaster, an almost impossible task.”


Okay, so despite my trepidation after finishing Ashen Winter, I did grab this book after seeing it on the shelf at the library. And…I was pleasantly surprised.

Alex did annoy me a little, especially on page 2 when he’s all “They don’t consider me an adult even though I’m sixteen.” Chill, Alex. No, you’re not an adult. Sorry. Mullin still has the tendency to have his characters explain their own growth to the reader, but I think the fact that this book takes place within a huge amount of time (I think Alex is twenty at the end?) works well in his favor. It’s less noticeable. His descriptions are also weird (why is it necessary to say that Alex and Darla “fell across each other in the shape of an X”?), and his action in general still had that clunky, tell-y type feel to it, but I didn’t mind it or notice it as much.

Most of my time while I was reading, I was thinking, “This is what the first two books should have been like!” This book was survival at its finest: building something that could withstand the disaster, initiating new (or old) rules, eking out a living on a harsh landscape. It reminded me somewhat of Hatchet, except with more people. There’s very little worldbuilding and much more of Alex & Co. learning to build their own life on this world. In other words, Mullin knew that the last book is not a good place to still be developing atmosphere and world.

I actually think the ending was too nicely wrapped up in a bow, too convenient, too “I’m obviously going for a happy ending despite this awful world.” Or maybe it’s because I still don’t care for Darla, and I care less for Darla and Alex and their “Our relationship is so much more special than anyone else’s” attitude. Although I applaud Alex’s decision to start a family.

Rating: 3/5

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Warnings: Violence, graphic descriptions, death, swearing.

Genre: Survival, Young Adult


I grabbed another ear and started peeling back its wilted brown sheath. It was moldy too. We sampled ears out of every bag we’d harvested. They were all moldy, although some of them only had a light dusting of mold, while others were almost uniformly black with it.

I held out one of the last moldy ears. “You sure we can’t eat this? What happens if we do?”

“I don’t know,” Darla said.

“I’m going to try it—”

“That’s not—”

“I’ll cut a handful of kernels off this ear and boil them ‘til they’re mush. If I don’t get sick, we’ll try a little more.”

Darla was scowling at me. “It’s not safe.”

“We need the food.”

~Mullin 187

Overall Review:

Sunrise is better than both Ashfall and Ashen Winter, mainly because Mullin goes full-out survival mode and has time speed by with overarching descriptions so that the characters have less time to be annoying. I still don’t like Darla, and I still don’t particularly care for the characters, but Sunrise is at least a good survival story.

You can buy this here: Sunrise (Ashfall Trilogy)

The Hunger Games Weekend Extravaganza: Real Or Not Real?

Mockingjay is written by Suzanne Collins. It is the third and final book in the Hunger Games trilogy. It was published in 2010 by Scholastic. Collins’ website can be found here.

Spoilers for all three books; MAJOR spoilers for Mockingjay.

Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult, Survival


“Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss’s family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell and it is by design that she has long been a part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans—except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’ willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay—no matter what the personal cost.”

~Inside Flap


My body breaks out in a sweat at the memory. My hand slides down the screen and hangs limply at my side. Peeta doesn’t need a brush to pain images from the Games. He works just as well in words.

“Once you’re in the arena, the rest of the world becomes very distant,” he continues. “All the people and things you loved or cared about almost cease to exist. The pink sky and the monsters in the jungle and the tributes who want your blood become your final reality, the only one that ever mattered. As bad as it makes you feel, you’re going to have to do some killing, because in the arena, you only get one wish. And it’s very costly.”

“It costs your life,” says Caesar.

“Oh, no. It costs a lot more than your life. To murder innocent people?” says Peeta. “It costs everything you are.”

~Collins 22-23

“Katniss, I don’t think President Snow will kill Peeta,” she says. Of course, she says this; it’s what she thinks will calm me. But her next words come as a surprise. “If he does, he won’t have anyone left you want. He won’t have any way to hurt you.”

Then I know Prim is right, that Snow cannot afford to waste Peeta’s life, especially now, while the Mockinjay causes so much havoc. He’s killed Cinna already. Destroyed my home. My family, Gale, and even Haymitch are out of his reach. Peeta’s all he has left.

“So, what do you think they’ll do to him?” I ask.

Prim sounds about a thousand years old when she speaks.

“Whatever it takes to break you.”

~Collins 150-151

Cover Art

Warnings: Violence, death.

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Rating: 5/5

What I Liked:

Wow. Oh, wow. I’d forgotten how powerful this book is. How gut-wrenching, how terrible it is. Anyone who says that The Hunger Games is an inappropriate book for people (teenagers/children) to read because it’s about teenagers killing each other need to read this book. The Hunger Games is by no means a glorification of murder. It is by no means teaching children that violence is okay. It’s saying exactly the opposite, and Mockingjay drives it home again and again. This is the message of the Hunger Games trilogy, people: violence changes you. Irreparably. It leaves no room for compassion or understanding or mercy. It’s a vicious cycle. Once you go down that road, you can’t go back. You can’t forget it. It will stay with you. Forever. It will change you. Forever. Case in point: District 13 and Coin. Katniss realizes almost immediately that Coin is virtually no better than Snow. Throughout the book, we see that District 13 will do to the Capitol what the Capitol did to the Districts. District 13 doesn’t even blink twice in killing children or their own (defenseless) people for the purposes of winning the war. Coin even wants another Hunger Games for the Capitol children. This is when Katniss finally realizes that this must stop. The cycle cannot keep on going. Hence, why she kills Coin.

Katniss says continuously throughout the first two books how selfish she is. But it is in this book that she starts to think about other people a lot more. The growth of Katniss, out of her selfishness into selflessness, becomes even more apparent when Haymitch and the team are talking about what Katniss did that made them feel something real. Every one of the actions listed were when Katniss was at her most selfless and most self-sacrificial. “I guess there isn’t a rule book for what might be unacceptable to do to another human being,” she says at one point (Collins 185). This revelation, if you will, of hers is what causes her to eventually kill Coin and what creates the rift between her and Gale. It is in this book that Katniss really starts to think about what this war is doing to people. To her, to the other people affected by it. At the end, when she realizes how changed people are, how desperate and full of revenge, she thinks this: “I no longer feel any allegiance to these monsters called human beings, despise being one myself. I think that Peeta was onto something about us destroying one another and letting some decent species take over. Because something is significantly wrong with a creature that sacrifices its children’s lives to settle its differences. You can spin it any way you like. Snow thought the Hunger Games were an efficient means of control. Coin thought the parachutes would expedite the war. But in the end, who does it benefit? No one. The truth is, it benefits no one to live in a world where these things happen” (377). Katniss realized that the Capitol was wrong and that there needed to be a rebellion (i.e, there is sometimes a just cause for  violence or war). But she also realized that what the rebellion was doing was also wrong (i.e., succumbing to violence rather than exhibiting mercy, justice, compassion, etc.).

This realization is why Katniss did not, could not, and should not have “chosen” Gale. I know a lot of “Team Gale” fans were legitimately upset at “how Collins chose to put Gale out of the picture;” namely, the bombing and Prim’s death. But Gale was already out of the picture way before then. He was out of the picture all the way back in Catching Fire. He became even more out of the picture when Katniss realizes how bloodthirsty and angry he is during Mockingjay. Katniss just wants it all to end. Gale wants revenge. He wants the Capitol to pay. He lies to Katniss. He is completely at odds with her. If Katniss had “chosen” Gale, she would have gone spiraling down the path of destruction. Furthermore, she would have been deluding herself. But Peeta…Peeta makes Katniss a better person. He’s kind, he’s steady, he’s good. He brings Katniss out of her despair and makes her feel hope. Katniss says at the end, “What I need to survive is not Gale’s fire, kindled with rage and hatred. I have plenty of fire myself. What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again. And only Peeta can give me that” (Collins 388). To have Katniss go with Gale would have completely gone against Collins’ message. It had to be Peeta, and only Peeta.

Now we come to the ending. More specifically, the epilogue. I know so many people who hated the epilogue. Who thought it went against Katniss’ character. That it was (yet another) example of patriarchy, another example of women being reduced to childbearer. As for me…I thought it was fabulous. Here’s two reasons why the epilogue is the best ending for this book:

1.)    Katniss has children.

2.)    Katniss has children.

Reason one: Katniss has children! What did she say throughout the first two books? That she would never have children because she didn’t want to subject them to the Hunger Games. Don’t you see? Her having children doesn’t go against her character at all—instead, it shows everything about how her character is now! She can have children now because there are no more Hunger Games. She has the freedom to have children. And she has finally realized that this is not the past. She can have children, revel in them, and know that what happened to her will never happen to them.

Reason two: Katniss has children! Why? Because Peeta wanted them. People can say whatever they want, but this action shows how much Katniss has learned and developed. Having children for Peeta is, like, the most selfless act Katniss could have done, because she put Peeta’s wants over hers. Katniss is no longer selfish.

Fan art by unknow_chan on deviantart.

What I Didn’t Like:

Finnick! Why!

Okay, one thing that has always bothered me about this series is that there is virtually no one who chooses not to fight. No one jumps in between a person and a gun (except for Katniss at one point, who as the protagonist doesn’t count). No one refuses to choose a side. Even Peeta, who represents goodness, doesn’t. I mean, I guess Prim counts, but I’m thinking more of a non-medical person here. It’s like the only option is to fight or to be a doctor, but that’s not true in real life. Nobody runs away. Nobody mutinies (besides the obvious Capitol/District mutiny. I’m talking more of captain/soldier mutiny), deserts, opts to not choose a side, whatever. I’m not talking about nameless crowds. I’m talking about characters. Collins was aiming to only show a specific side of war, and she did so very successfully, but her presentation didn’t encompass all areas of war and violence, which would have been quite wonderful to see. Then again, this is YA.

Overall Review:

Mockingjay is powerful. So powerful that I did more of an analysis than a review. The Hunger Games was great. Catching Fire was a decent follow-up. MockingjayMockingjay is the reason why these books were written.  You cannot read or consider these books separately; they need to be read and considered together to understand the scope of what Collins is presenting. Mockingjay is a masterpiece. Well, almost. But it’s definitely a masterpiece of YA.

You can buy this book here: Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)

Coming Up Next: The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison

The Hunger Games Weekend Extravaganza: I Am The Mockingjay

Catching Fire is written by Suzanne Collins. It was published in 2009 by Scholastic. It is the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy. Collins’ website can be found here.

Spoilers for The Hunger Games.

Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult, Survival


“Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol—a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.”

~Inside Flap


Back in our old quarters in the Training Center, I’m the one who suggests the public marriage proposal. Peeta agrees to do it but then disappears in his room for a long time. Haymitch tells me to leave him alone.

“I thought he wanted it, anyway,” I say.

“Not like this,” Haymitch says. “He wanted it to be real.”

I go back to my room and lie under the covers, trying not to think of Gale and thinking of nothing else.

~Collins 73

“What do you think they’ll do, Haymitch? To the districts that are rebelling?” I ask.

“Well, you’ve heard what they did in Eight. You’ve seen what they did here, and that was without provocation,” says Haymitch. “If things really do get out of hand, I think they’d have no problem killing off another district, same as they did Thirteen. Make an example of it, you know?”

“So you think Thirteen was really destroyed? I mean, Bonnie and Twill were right about the footage of the mockingjay,” I say.

“Okay, but what does that prove? Nothing, really. There are plenty of reasons they could be using old footage. Probably it looks more impressive. And it’s a lot simpler, isn’t it? To just press a few buttons in the editing room than to fly all the way out there and film it?” he says. “The idea that Thirteen has somehow rebounded and the Capitol is ignoring it? That sounds like the kind of rumor desperate people cling to.”

“I know. I was just hoping,” I say.

“Exactly. Because you’re desperate,” says Haymitch.

I don’t argue because, of course, he’s right.

~Collins 168-169

Cover Art

Warnings: Violence, death.

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Rating: 4/5

What I Liked:

I think I want to talk first about the love triangle that really raises its head in this book. Obviously, it’s GalexKatnissxPeeta, and to me, it’s a very interesting love triangle. Katniss seems to waver back and forth between the two. Or does she? At the beginning of the book, it’s obvious it’s Gale. She realizes it herself after his whipping. She even states how she chose Gale over Peeta. Then, towards the end…it turns to look more like it’s Peeta. Just think about how Katniss can’t handle him dying. And how they kissed in the arena. And it’s also neither, because Katniss has a rebellion to think about and can’t be bothered with something as distracting as love. She’s also confused (“Of course, I love Gale. But what kind of love does she mean? What do I mean when I say I love Gale?” [Collins 125]).For me, it was very obvious that it was going to end up being Peeta, for many reasons, most of which were because of their interactions in the arena. Gale is only there as a possibility, because, again, these two boys represent two different things. Peeta is goodness, as I said in my first review. He’s also steadfastness and selflessness. He’s willing to let Katniss go so that she is happy. Gale is familiarity, but he’s also rebellion. He matches Katniss’ own ruthless side. Katniss could chose either of them, really, and be happy with either. They both represent different possibilities. Which possibility will Katniss choose? To put it another way, which possibility is ultimately the best for her to choose? In my opinion, it’s very clear at the end of the second book that she chooses Peeta (and, arguably, that Peeta is the best choice).

Note: Keep in mind that Katniss thinks of herself as selfish. It’s very important, especially for the last book, in understanding her development.

The Games of this book felt very different to the Games of the first book. Perhaps it was because there was an alliance going on, or something, but it felt less urgent than the first, for some reason. But at the same time, it felt more tense, because you can tell that something is building up.

A lot of difficult choices that Katniss made in this book. Her development is really starting to unfold. She recognizes her flaws, which is good, and at some points she overcomes them, and at some points, she does not. It’s a tough journey, and it will only get tougher from here, unfortunately, because poor Katniss really gets put through the wringer in Mockingjay.

Finnick! Hi!

What I Didn’t Like:

Catching Fire is sooooo slow at the beginning. And the end is very fast, so it’s a very uneven pace. It’s like, “doo-doo-doo-doo District 12, hmm hmm hmm hmm Victory Tour, da-dee-da District 12, BAM GAMES BAM ENDING.” And, unfortunately, slow beginnings tend to stick with you, because it’s the one thing I remembered the most about this book. The other bad thing about slow beginnings is that nothing seems to happen even though a lot of stuff is. Like I said, it’s very uneven.

The ending is one of those cheesy cliffhangers. I always hate it when second books do that. First books always finish as if they were stand-alones, second books always have a cliffhanger. Blarg.

The information about District 13 at the end was revealed very mechanically. Maybe that was supposed to represent Katniss’ frame of mind? The “Says Haymitch!” part was done so much better, and only a page before.

Overall Review:

Catching Fire has a slow start and a very fast end, and it’s probably the weakest in the series. That being said, I love the love-triangle dynamic (I know, right? I couldn’t believe it either!) and the revelations it makes about Katniss, Peeta, and Gale’s characters and what they represent. The Games was a very interesting one, and, judging by where Collins left the characters, the third book promises to be one heck of a ride.

You can buy this book here: Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)

And the movie here: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (DVD + UltraViolet Digital Copy)

The Hunger Games Weekend Extravaganza: May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favor

In celebration of the Catching Fire movie that comes out November 22, I’ll be reviewing the Hunger Games trilogy this weekend (the reason I’m not doing it the weekend of the movie release is because I’m planning to have Series Week V around that time)!

The Hunger Games is written by Suzanne Collins. It was published in 2008 by Scholastic. It is, in my opinion, the book that catapulted dystopian fiction to the top of the YA map, and the book that set the stage/formula for almost all future dystopian YA novels. Collins’ website can be found here. 

Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult, Survival


“In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.”

~Inside Flap


“Prim!” The strangled cry comes out of my throat, and my muscles begin to move again. “Prim!” I don’t need to shove through the crowd. The other kids make way immediately allowing me a straight path to the stage. I reach her just as she is about to mount the steps. With one sweep of my arm, I push her behind me.

“I volunteer!” I gasp. “I volunteer as tribute!”

~Collins 22

“You are a fool,” Haymitch says in disgust. “Do you think he hurt you? That boy just gave you something you could never achieve on your own.”

“He made me look weak!” I say.

“He made you looked desirable! And let’s face it, you can use all the help you can get in that department. You were about as romantic as dirt until he said he wanted you. Now they all do. You’re all they’re talking about. The star-crossed lovers from District Twelve!” says Haymitch.

“But we’re not star-crossed lovers!” I say.

~Collins 135

I know what to do. I move into range and give myself three arrows to get the job done. I place my feet carefully, block out the rest of the world as I take meticulous aim. The first arrow tears through the side of the bag near the top, leaving a split in the burlap. The second widens it to a gaping hole. I can see the first apple teetering when I let the third arrow go, catching the torn flap of burlap and ripping it from the bag.

For a moment, everything seems frozen in time. Then the apples spill to the ground and I’m blown backward into the air.

~Collins 220-221

Cover Art

Warnings: Violence, death.

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Rating: 5/5

What I Liked:

Ah, The Hunger Games. I got introduced to Collins through her Underland Chronicles, and I liked her enough to start paying attention to what she came out with next. That’s how I read The Hunger Games, and loved it. I haven’t read it in a while (since Mockingjay came out), and I could only really remember what they included in the movie (which I enjoyed thoroughly and thought they did a good job of taking a first person POV and turning it into third, although Katniss’ motivations are not as clear), so I was excited to read this book once again and see if I still enjoyed it as much as I did the first time. And, I did!

Reading this book again, knowing what’s going to happen in the next two…it really makes little things pop out at you. For example, Katniss’ continuous remarks that she will never have children because she doesn’t want to bring them into the Hunger Games world. Remember that, because it will be important later (and I will talk about it when I review Mockingjay). Also, Katniss’ thoughts about Gale while she’s in the arena, setting up the inevitable love triangle (which, when I first read, I didn’t much care about because I was unused/ignorant to the dearth of love triangles in YA fiction. I still say that The Hunger Games is what made that so popular).

Isn’t that beautiful?

The action in this book is so seamlessly done, with just the right amount of downtime to relieve the tension. It really just keeps you at the edge of your seat from the time they enter the arena until they leave it.

I wonder how long Haymitch and Cinna have been planning on rebelling, and when they first saw that Katniss would be an excellent vehicle to fuel that rebellion. It’s incredibly obvious that they are milking her as a symbol for all their worth (or maybe that was just Haymitch’s way of keeping her alive…?). And Katniss is exactly the right type of symbol to use, because she isn’t unaware of it, or against it. She works with them and helps them, in her own way, through her actions.

When I first read the book, I knew that Katniss would survive and inevitably win. It’s so obvious, simply because Katniss is the first-person narrator. What I didn’t expect, however, was the twist at the end with the nightlock and Peeta. I really thought that Peeta would die, or something. And Collins uses this twist really well because through it, she conveys not only Katniss’ feelings and character, but her desire to stop the Capitol’s injustice, which will in turn fuel the eventual rebellion.

Another thing I noticed is that certain characters stand for certain things. Peeta represents goodness and hope. Gale represents familiarity (in this book). Prim represents innocence. Remembering these representations will really give a whole new meaning to what Collins is saying in the series as a whole. More on that in the next two books (but more probably Mockingjay).

What I Didn’t Like:

It actually took me a little bit to get into this book simply because of the sentences and the writing. It was a little choppy and didn’t quite flow. Once I got into the book, however, I stopped noticing it.

It is not pleasant to read about teenagers killing each other.

Overall Review:

The Hunger Games is fast-paced and action-packed, and Collins doesn’t try to disguise what she is trying to show. Some of the set-up and themes that she is using in this book will come into play much more in the next two books, and, from what I know of the ending, will really give a complete picture of Katniss’ development as a character and the evolution of her thoughts and beliefs. For now, though, we are only seeing the surface, and can only sit back and enjoy the ride. A wonderful, wonderful book that I highly recommend simply because of the discussions that can be held about it, as well as for its entertainment (read: nail-biting) value and depth.

You can buy this book here: The Hunger Games (Book 1)

And the movie here: The Hunger Games

Coming Up Next: Catching Fire on Saturday, Mockingjay on Sunday, and then back to the regular schedule on Tuesday with The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison

The Raft: Robie Tastes The Rainbow

The Raft is written by S. A. Bodeen. It was published in 2012 by Feiwel and Friends. Bodeen’s website can be found here.

Genre: Survival, Young Adult, Realistic


“Robie is an experienced traveler. She’s taken the flight from Honolulu to the Midway Atoll, a group of Pacific islands where her parents live, many times. When she has to get to Midway in a hurry after a visit with her aunt in Hawaii, she gets on the next cargo flights at the last minute. She knows the pilot, but on this flight, there’s a new copilot named Max. All systems are go until a storm hits during the flight. The only passenger, Robie doesn’t panic until the engine suddenly cuts out and Max shouts at her to put on a life jacket and she sees him struggle with a raft.

And then…she’s in the water. Fighting for her life. Max pulls her onto the raft, and that’s when the real terror begins. They have no water. Their only food is a bag of Skittles. There are sharks. There is an island. But there’s no sign of help on the way.”

~Inside Flap


“As we bounced around, tears started sliding down my face. I stopped myself and wiped my eyes with the back of my hand.

You baby.

There was no need to cry over a little turbulence.

Tons of things are worse than this.

And then there was a hush.

Not totally quiet, but there was just less of a drone than there had been. I leaned over and peered out the window at the starboard engine. At the end of the wing, a blue light winked. Usually, the propellers were nearly invisible in flight, because they were turning so rapidly. But as lightning flashed, I could very clearly see the propeller, circling slowly, turning only with the movement of the plane.

That engine had stopped.”

~Bodeen 26

Here there be Skittles.

Hunger, thirst, pain from the infected piercing in my nose. And my lips. They were so dry I was afraid to move them. I forgot once, and licked them. My hands turned into fists until the stinging passed. I made a mental note not to ever lick my lips again.

I thought about The Hunger Games, how when the main character was about to give up, a little silver parachute would come floating down with exactly the item she needed.

At that moment, if I could have a silver parachute bring me anything, I would want some kind of lip balm. Well, no, that would be dumb. I needed food. Maybe some Power Bars. No, I wasn’t supposed to eat if I didn’t have water. So I’d want the silver parachute to bring water. A gallon of water. No, I’d use that up right away. I’d want a water purifier thing, so I could convert salt water to fresh water. But was I going to get any of those things? No. There were no silver parachutes coming my way.

~Bodeen 111

Cover Art

Warnings: None.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Rating: 3/5

What I Liked:

This was a decent survival novel. I’ve read some that were a little better, but this one was pretty good. I prefer Bodeen’s other novels, but this one was really good at portraying the emotions that people go through in a situation like Robie’s.

For a brief time, I thought that Bodeen was going to put Max and Robie together. The way she handled it, though, was a lot better than I was expecting. It was also realistic, and slightly eerie.

Here there be tiger sharks.

Oh, man, Robie did some really stupid things. But it contributed to the overall feeling of despair and confusion and hysteria that was going on.

Also, Hunger Games reference for the win.

What I Didn’t Like:

Um, what’s up with that ending? What’s it supposed to mean? Was there something supernatural going on? It was actually mildly creepy.

Oh, man, Robie did some really stupid things. I actually almost yelled at the book a few times.

Overall Review:

The Raft captures the emotions of someone in Robie’s situation really well. It’s also really accurate in terms of ways to survive, the way the body reacts, etc. It’s not fantastic, but it’s pretty okay. I actually would have preferred Robie’s time on the island to be a little longer, but maybe I’m thinking too much Swiss Family Robinson.

Coming Up Next: Shift by Em Bailey

Ashen Winter: Lackluster, No Emotional Connection, Snore

If you’re wondering why I’m updating on a Monday and not a Tuesday, it’s because I am going to be working all day tomorrow and I will not have time to upload this.

Ashen Winter is written by Mike Mullin. It is the sequel to Ashfall (which I reviewed here) and there is a third and final book, Sunrise, coming out next year. It was published in 2012 by Tanglewood. Mullin’s website can be found here.

Genre: Young Adult, Survival


“It’s been over six months since the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano. Alex and Darla have been staying with Alex’s relatives, trying to cope with the new reality of the dark, cold, and primitive world…

It’s also been six months of waiting for Alex’s parents to return from Iowa. Alex and Darla decide they must retrace their journey into Iowa to find and bring back Alex’s parents to the tenuous safety of Illinois. But the landscape they cross is even more perilous than before, with life-and-death battles for food and power between the remained communities.

When the unthinkable happens, Alex must find new reserves of strength and determination to survive.”

~Inside Flap


“We rounded the corner and passed a burned-out building on our left. The sign in front read GALENA STATE BANK & TRUST. We raced on past a whole series of burnt buildings, but none of the rest of them had signs.

Peering around Darla, I saw something surreal. A few hundred yards ahead of us, a line of cars stood upright, resting on their front bumpers with their trunks in the air. They formed a wall that stretched as far as I could see to the left and curved away from us to the right. Where U.S. 20 passed through the car-wall someone had built a heavy timber gate across the road. Almost before I’d processed what I was seeing, church bells began ringing furiously. A line of men popped into view one by one, their heads and shoulders above the low log gate.

Every one of them was pointing a rifle at us.”

~Mullin 47-48

“How many shells we got?” I said to Ben.

“This is a Remington 870 pump-action shot gun. It is the most popular shotgun ever made. Law enforcement and military all over the world use this gun.” Ben tried to pump the shotgun, but the slide wouldn’t operate. “It is loaded.”

“So how many shots are in it?” I asked as I started the truck.

Ben clicked a lever on the side of the gun and started pumping the slide. Chunk-chunk. Chunk-chunk. Each time he pumped the gun a shell flew out, landing in the footwell. “None,” Ben said when he finished.

~Mullin 319

Warnings: Crude language, sexual situations, violence, death

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Rating: 1/5

Cover Art

What I Liked:

Ben is a great character. He’s probably the one thing I would look forward to in the final book.

Mullin really does his research here. Everything is portrayed accurately and realistically, from medical procedures to food to supplies.

What I Didn’t Like:

I didn’t really enjoy or like Ashfall all that much, but this book was worse. It is action-packed, yes, but I didn’t feel it. It was more like: “I took the gun and shot it. The bullet hit the driver’s shoulder;” very matter-of-fact, very…informative, for lack of a better word, very emotionally-lacking. I felt no emotional connection to the characters. None. I could not care less if Alex found Darla or not. I could not care less about their relationship. I did not feel happy when Alex finally found her. I felt nothing at all, and that’s probably the worst feeling a reader can have.

It’s the return of Darla!

This is a good example of how sometimes action does not make for a thrilling good read. I felt no thrill and it was not a good read. It was all tell and no show. I couldn’t wait until I finished this book. I’ll probably read the last book just to finish out the series, but I’m not impressed with it. Ilsa J. Bick has a similar survival series (except hers has zombies-of-a-sort) and it is ten times better. I’d much rather read hers than suffer through this one again.

Overall Review:

Ashen Winter, while packed with action, elicited exactly the opposite of a heart-pounding, thrilling read for me. It went on and on until every connection I had with the characters was sucked dry and I stopped caring about everything. There are much better survival stories out there. Don’t waste your time with this one.

Coming Up Next: Syren by Angie Sage

Ashfall: Not For The Faint of Stomach

Ashfall is written by Mike Mullin and was published by Tanglewood in 2011. It is Mullin’s first novel and the first in what will probably be either a duology or a trilogy (the second book, Ashen Winter, is due out in October). Mullin’s website can be found here.

Genre: Realistic, Survival


“Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park don’t realize that the boiling hot springs and spraying geysers are caused by an underlying supervolcano, so large that the caldera can only be seen by plane or satellite. And by some scientific measurements, it could be overdue for an eruption.

For Alex, being alone for the weekend means freedom from his parents and the chance to play computer games and hang out with his friends without hassle from his mother. Then the supervolcano erupts, plunging his hometown into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence. Alex begins a harrowing trek, searching for his family and finding help in Darla, his travel partner. Together they must find the strength and skills to survive and outlast an epic disaster.”

~Inside Flap



“I heard a cracking noise, like the sound the hackberry tree in our backyard had made when dad cut it down last year, but louder: a forest of hackberries, breaking together. The floor tilted, and I fell across the suddenly angled room, arms and legs flailing. I screamed by couldn’t hear myself over the noise: a boom and then a whistling sound—incoming artillery from a war movie, but played in reverse. My back hit the wall on the far side of the room, and the desk slid across the floor toward me. I wrapped myself into a ball, hands over the back of my neck, praying my desk wouldn’t crush me. It rolled, painfully lipped my right shoulder, and came to rest above me, forming a small triangular space between the floor and wall. I heard another crash, and everything shook violently for a second.”

~Mullin 5

“I stood nearby and watched them, feeling utterly helpless. All my fury washed away in a wave of despair. What could I do or say? Less than a month ago I might have dialed 911 on my cell phone, asked Mom or Dad for help, or run to Darren and Joe’s house. Now none of those options were available. Darla and I were alone with her dying mother and the corpse of some guy called Ferret. Alone on a vast plain of unforgiving gray ash.”

~Mullin 206

Warnings: Violence, sex, lots of gory death

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Rating: 2/5

What I Liked:

I tend to like survival novels and this one was very realistic. It was a plausible event and people reacted in plausible ways. The ending had that “Oh you’ve got to be kidding me” punch and feel to it, but the last few sentences wrapped everything up nicely—a cliffhanger ending, but one that made the book feel like its own book instead of just the first of a two-parter.

The suspense was well-executed and the characters’ growth was pleasing to see (if a bit too nicely wrapped up and explained by the main character himself at the end).

This is the world of Ashfall

What I Didn’t Like:

This was a good book. But there were a number of things that I just didn’t like about it. If you read my review of Willow, then you know how I feel about teenage sex (for those who didn’t: I don’t like it). And this book was really just chock-full of it (not the actual sex itself, but thoughts, emotions, and just plain talking about it as if it was the most important thing ever, never mind the fact that you’re starving to death and really should be talking about, I don’t know, procuring food. Then again, maybe that’s actually an accurate portrayal of how a teenager’s mind works, especially a boy’s).

There was a lot of violence and descriptions of disgusting, gory things, like a man who was eaten by pigs. Textually, the stuff doesn’t really affect me that much (it’s more when it’s visual), but this was just…a lot.

Alex’s talk with his uncle at the end was supposed to show Alex’s growth as a character, but to me, really just came out ridiculously over-the-top, corny, and just plain wrong. The character is not supposed to tell you about his growth and why he grew and how and when and this is why this other character must let him do this. Arrogant much?

Also, whenever I think of the name “Darla” I think of that girl screaming “Fishy!” and banging on the aquarium and killing fish by shaking the bag in Finding Nemo.

This is not the picture you want in your head when reading about someone called Darla

Overall Review:

Ashfall, while being fairly realistic and a good survival story, just doesn’t sit well with me because of the actions of the characters and the graphic descriptions of violence. It’s not my cup of tea, but that’s not to say that you won’t like it.

Coming Up Next: The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley