Saturday, December 7, 2013

Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

The Testing
by Joelle Charbonneau

Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 336
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Publication date: June 4, 2013
Suggested tags: young adult, dystopia

First in The Testing series. From Goodreads:
"Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one in the same?

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.

Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies--trust no one.

But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.

{ I received this as an ebook ARC from NetGalley. }

To me, The Testing kind of sounded like The Hunger Games with an academic twist. So since I'm a huge Hunger Games fan and an academically-inclined person (meaning, I'd totally be a professional student if I could), I grabbed up The Testing on NetGalley as soon as I saw it offered. I found it was quite similar to The Hunger Games in a lot of ways, so I guess that might be a negative for some readers. But I thought it had some interesting ideas that made it its own, and I did find myself wanting to read the next book in the series.

The synopsis above sums up The Testing quite well. There's not a lot of time spent getting to know Cia or her world before she goes off to the Testing, which I was kind of disappointed in. I felt like I didn't really get a chance to know who Cia was or who her friends were or how she lived, so that when she left it all behind it was just kind of an "eh" moment for me, rather than feeling her loss. However, the upside of that is that it does jump into the action pretty much right away, so we get right into the story.

The trials in the Testing were interesting, although at some points it did seem a little over the top or a little needless-violence-y. But then again, The Hunger Games was pretty violent, and I liked that. I had a hard time trying to figure out why I felt differently about the two, but I came down to the fact that I guess it's the justification - the Hunger Games are a fight to the death, a fight for survival mandated by a corrupt government, and the Testing is essentially an application process. I guess I had a harder time accepting death and dismemberment when the unsuccessful applicants could have just as easily been sent back home. The corruption and secrets and all that regarding the Testing and the University do start to emerge, but I just felt like it was missing earlier on, or maybe it was there but too subtle for me.

The Testing ends with a good bit of suspense and lead-up into the next book in the series, and as I said I do want to read the next one. But I feel like it might be a make-or-break book. I finished The Testing feeling like the next book, Independent Study, needs to grab me right away in order to keep my interest in the story. I really hope it does.

If you haven't read The Testing yet and you like challenge-type books in a dystopian setting like The Hunger Games, I'd definitely recommend it. It's familiar yet different; it follows the pattern but it adds some ideas of its own. But, in all honesty, if you're a reader who's had enough Hunger-Games-type books, you may want to pass; it might be a little too familiar for you. Personally, I don't mind reading different interpretations of similar ideas, so I liked it.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars

More about Joelle Charbonneau }

Joelle Charbonneau's website
Joelle Charbonneau's Goodreads profile
Follow Joelle Charbonneau on Twitter
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{ The Testing series }

               The Testing         Independent Study     Graduation Day
                   Book 1                      Book 2                      Book 3
                                        Expected Release Date:     Expected Release Date:
                                         January 7, 2014             June 3, 2014

Monday, December 2, 2013

New Release Round-Up: December 2-8, 2013

Young Adult

Ink is Thicker Than Water
by Amy Spalding

Release date: December 3, 2013
Available as: paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 320
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Suggested tags: young adult, realistic fiction, contemporary

From Goodreads:
"For Kellie Brooks, family has always been a tough word to define. Combine her hippie mom and tattooist stepdad, her adopted overachieving sister, her younger half brother, and her tough-love dad, and average Kellie’s the one stuck in the middle, overlooked and impermanent. When Kellie’s sister finally meets her birth mother and her best friend starts hanging with a cooler crowd, the feeling only grows stronger.

But then she reconnects with Oliver, the sweet and sensitive college guy she had a near hookup with last year. Oliver is intense and attractive, and she’s sure he’s totally out of her league. But as she discovers that maybe intensity isn’t always a good thing, it’s yet another relationship she feels is spiraling out of her control.

It’ll take a new role on the school newspaper and a new job at her mom’s tattoo shop for Kellie to realize that defining herself both outside and within her family is what can finally allow her to feel permanent, just like a tattoo.

Rain of the Ghosts
by Greg Weisman

Release date: December 3, 2013
Available as: paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 240
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Suggested tags: young adult, paranormal, ghosts

First in the Rain Cacique series. From Goodreads:
"Rain of the Ghosts is the first in Greg Weisman's series about an adventurous young girl, Rain Cacique, who discovers she has a mystery to solve, a mission to complete and, oh, yes, the ability to see ghosts.

Welcome to the Prospero Keys (or as the locals call them: the Ghost Keys), a beautiful chain of tropical islands on the edge of the Bermuda Triangle. Rain Cacique is water-skiing with her two best friends Charlie and Miranda when Rain sees her father waiting for her at the dock. Sebastian Bohique, her maternal grandfather, has passed away. He was the only person who ever made Rain feel special. The only one who believed she could do something important with her life. The only thing she has left to remember him by is the armband he used to wear: two gold snakes intertwined, clasping each other’s tails in their mouths. Only the armband . . . and the gift it brings: Rain can see dead people. Starting with the Dark Man: a ghost determined to reveal the Ghost Keys’ hidden world of mystery and mysticism, intrigue and adventure.

Other YA new releases for this week:

Middle Grade

Glitter Girl
by Stephen Webb & Toni Runkle

Release date: December 3, 2013
Available as: paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 256
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Suggested tags: middle grade, realistic fiction

From Goodreads:
"True Confessions of a Trendsetter

Hi! I'm Kat. Welcome to my blog. I may be from a small town but I'm also Glitter Girl Cosmetics' newest trendsetter. Thanks to my flair for fashion and my popular style blog, I've been chosen to be an Alpha Girl, which means I get to try out all the Glitter Girl products before they hit the stores.

Forty-eight hours after she blogs about the goodies in the new line, every girl at Kat's school is sporting the gear. Kat's popularity skyrockets, but Jules--Kat's BFF--seems to be the only one who's not buying into the Glitter Girl lifestyle. Is Kat willing to sacrifice her friendship for life in the fab lane?

Other Middle Grade new releases for this week:

Sunday, December 1, 2013

{ bon voYAge! } December 2013

The destination for November 2013 was

{ Japan }

And here are the YA & MG books we found...

The destination for December 2013 is...

{ Texas, USA }

Some examples of YA & MG books set in Texas:

Please send me links to your posts and reviews by Monday, December 30 so I can add them to the next { bon voYAge! } post!

Want to play? Here's how it works...

{ } At the beginning of each month, I'll post the name of a destination: a city, state, region, province, country, etc.
{ } Throughout the month, you can:
       1. look for a YA or MG book (or books) set in that destination to share.
       2. read a YA or MG book (or books) set in that destination and write a review.
{ } You can post the books you found or the reviews you wrote any time during that month. Just send me a link so I can link back to your post!
{ } At the beginning of the next month, I'll share everyone's books and reviews. Then I'll post another destination and we can start again! :)

Want to check out the books we've already discovered? Browse all the locations that we've explored on the { bon voYAge! } tab above!

Have a location you'd like to explore? Let me know in the comments here or on the { bon voYAge! } tab above, or email me at pidginpea (at) yahoo (dot) com!

Want to put a { bon voYAge! } button on your blog? I'd love that! I made it using deviantART stock resources from SneakyTomato and artist00 and fonts from