Book-cation Location: Atlanta, Georgia Book: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Literary Fiction Print Date: February 2018 Goodreads Score: 4 stars Short Review: A captivating and sad story of the American justice system! Book Summary Newlyweds Celestial… More
Book-cation Location: Abandoned Undergrounds
Book: The Initiation by Chris Babu
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Dystopian, Sci-Fi
Print Date: February 2018
Goodreads Score: 4 stars
Giveaway: Print Copy of The Initiation
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
Short Review: If you like books like Hunger Games and The Maze Runner you will love this one!
Everyone is equal. But no one is safe.
In a ruined world, Manhattan is now New America, a walled-in society based on equality. But the perfect facade hides a dark truth.
A timid math geek, sixteen-year-old Drayden watches his life crumble when his beloved mother is exiled. The mystery of her banishment leads him to a sinister secret: New America is in trouble, and every one of its citizens is in jeopardy.
With time running out, he enters the Initiation. It’s a test within the empty subway tunnels—a perilous journey of puzzles and deadly physical trials. Winners join the ruling Bureau and move to its safe haven. But failure means death. Can Drayden conquer the Initiation, or is salvation out of his grasp?
Long Review: I love a good sci-fi/dystopian style novel! The reason that Drayden’s New America exists is all thanks to a super bug and what I liked about that is it’s such a plausible reason for the world to descend into chaos. This new world that is a giant quarantined area is divided into sections and Drayden just happens to live in the worst of them, the Dorms. The other sections include the Lab, Precinct, and Palace. While they are constantly telling you that all sections are equal, I immediately have my doubts and want to know what The Palace zone looks like. The start of the book you find out a little bit about New America and the family life of our hero, and then he enters the Initiation and everything gets real from that point on. I could not stop reading after it began. You have adventure, back stabbing, plots of murder, and so much more!
My favorite part about the Initiation was the challenges as I was trying to solve them right along with all the other pledges…I didn’t even come close to figuring most of them out though. I would not have even made it past the first one! When the book started I wasn’t sure how I felt about Drayden, but as the book went on I began to really cheer for him. He starts out so unsure of himself with the weight of the world on his shoulders after his mother is exiled and he ends with him realizing he can do more than he ever realized. I do wish that there would have been a little bit more character development, especially for some of the other pledges. I want to know more about Catrice than what I was given in the book. I also would have liked more backstory on why Alex is the way he is before entering the Initiation.
I don’t want to spoil anything else so I will just say that overall this is a great read and I can’t wait for the sequel!
About the Author
Chris Babu grew up in North Haven, CT, playing soccer and the violin in his free time. After devouring The Shining under the covers with a flashlight when he was eight, Chris was hooked on fiction. He’s always had a thing for young adult books. But he’s also a major science and math nerd – physics being his favorite – and he has a math degree from MIT.
For nineteen years, he worked as a bond trader on Wall Street, riding the subway to and from work every day. He traded mortgage-backed securities for Bank of America and then Deutsche Bank, where he eventually ran the MBS trading desk. Now Chris writes full-time, always with his trusted assistant Buddy, a 130-pound Great Dane, who can usually be found on his lap. They split their time between New York City and the east end of Long Island. Their omnipresence at home drives his wife Michelle and daughter Lily crazy. The Initiation is his first novel. Website│Goodreads│Twitter│Facebook
As I mentioned above the Book-cation location for The Initiation is Abandoned Undergrounds! The actual location of that the book spends a lot of time in does exist, however it’s still filled to the brim with people. To feel like you are a pledge in the Initiation I recommend taking a few of these tours!
- Beijing’s Underground City. This abandoned city is from the 1970’s and was built as a bomb shelter. It’s made up of approximately 33 square miles with various tunnels and includes places such as a roller skating rink, warehouses, schools, and restaurants.
- Seattle Underground. Due to a fire and repeat floods happening it was during the mid-19th century that Seattle decided to build up their streets leaving the old city underground. The buildings at one point in time were used for a variety of things such as gambling halls and speakeasies. Portions have now been restored for tours.
- The Speakeasy Tunnels of Moose Jaw, Canada. Originally built so workers did not have to endure the harsh winter weather when going from building to building. During the prohibition the town became a hub for rum running and gambling and filled the underground tunnels and hideouts with all sorts of characters.
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“You have five minutes to solve the riddle…”
you force heaven to be empty
Book-cation Location: Moscow, Russia
“There was a time when flying didn’t mean looking over my shoulder for death coming at me.”
World War II. June 1941. Hitler’s war machine turns to the Soviet Union.
Escaping her hometown ahead of the Nazis, 16-year-old Aelya Makarova seizes a chance to live her dream. Obsessed with flying, she joins a women’s fighter squadron to defend her homeland against the invaders. She’ll go faster and higher than she’s ever gone before.
But the harsh reality of Air Force life shatters her expectations and forces her to grow up fast. The squadron is split by petty rivalries, male pilots treat them like a joke, and the ideal country she thought she was fighting for doesn’t really exist.
Finally given a chance to prove herself in battle, Aelya is pushed to breaking point. With all her talent, the help of her comrades, and a lot of luck, she might just make it through. But will there be anything left of her humanity?
With fast-paced action and a heart-rending mix of humor and tragedy, Sparrow Squadron is an adventure novel for young adults that brings an overlooked episode of history to life.
I don’t know about you, but this book sounds amazing! I’m a sucker for Historical Fiction and can’t wait to dive into this book! Check out the excerpt from the book below.
Aelya leaned back and focused on connecting the scenery below with what was on her maps. Flat, grassy terrain, cut with many rivers stretching to every horizon. She hated being a passenger, but that couldn’t stop her from taking in all that she loved about flying: shadows cast by intermittent clouds distorting the landscape, the sway of the plane, the thrum of the engine.
Stitches was right; it required the utmost concentration not to get lost under these calm conditions, let alone during combat. Far off, dark clouds of smoke marked the one unmistakable feature: the ruined city of Stalingrad.
“So what’s your background?” Stitches asked. “When did you decide to fly?”
“I’m supposed to be watching the landscape.”
“I’m testing you. A good pilot pays attention to multiple things at once.” He laughed.
“Now you’re interested in my story? I thought I didn’t have enough missions.”
He turned his face so she could see his strained smile. “Much as I hate to admit it, I saw enough during that interception. You’re not without skill.”
“Thanks, I guess.” Was he telling her to be proud of herself? That was patronizing. The more she thought about it, the worse her performance had seemed.
“I don’t doubt your ability,” Stitches continued, “but combat’s not just about being good. Only luck will determine when you go out. Whether you get shot down next week or make it through this war without a scratch, the odds are the same.”
He seemed happy to hear himself talk. Stitches was a veteran. With four confirmed kills, he was almost an ace. She shifted to the edge of her seat, gripped with the urge to take advantage of this moment of openness.
“I probably could have done better.” A lot better. “Any suggestions?”
“It’s impossible to know what’s going on with so many planes in the air. Half the time I have no clue what anyone else is doing. To be honest, I have no idea how well you did, but that you dived into a swarm of Junkers and came out all right speaks well of you.”
“Wait . . . you saw enough to confirm I damaged one, right?”
“Caught me in a lie, I’m afraid.”
She slapped him on the shoulder. “I don’t need your pity.”
“It’s not pity.” He lowered his voice, and she strained to hear him over the canopy rattling against the wind. “It’s what we do for each other. Everyone plays up their numbers. Damaged planes don’t count for anything anyway, just kills. If you added up all the planes we say we shoot up each month, it would be more than all the planes in Europe.”
She had to calm down. Although it seemed patronizing, she realized that Stitches’s little lie meant she was one of the group. In some small way, she belonged.
“To be honest,” she said, “I barely hit anything before using up my ammo. Any ideas how to get better?”
“Thanks, that’s very helpful. Doesn’t matter—I’m a crack shot in practice.”
“Do you hit the towed targets every time?”
“When you fire in combat, do your tracers always fall behind the target?”
“How did you know?”
Stitches chuckled. “This happens to a lot of greenies. When you practise, you’re tracking the plane towing the target and not the target itself, aren’t you? That messes up your range. You fire too early and don’t lead your target enough. Wait until you’re close enough to see the rivets in the enemy plane—then fire.”
“But if I wait to get that close, won’t they have a chance to hit me?”
“Not if you get your positioning right. That’s the difference between an ace and a dead man. Positioning. And luck.”
Suddenly it was all making sense, although it didn’t explain why Roza or Tonya had no issues hitting their targets.
“So it’s not some sort of mental block? I thought I was going mad,” she said.
“It doesn’t hurt to be mad in this line of work.”
About the Author
DL Jung has been an enthusiastic student of history since grade school, when he spent lazy afternoons flipping through an old Encyclopedia Britannica set. He enjoys blogging about history and writing historical fiction. He also writes fantasy and horror fiction as Darius Jung.
Jung is married, with two children, and lives in Toronto, Canada. They are lucky enough to spend part of the time in New Zealand. Outside of writing, he has tried stints as an industrial engineer, a film and TV script supervisor, an IT consultant, a professional game show contestant, and a grossly under-qualified business wear model. Sparrow Squadron is his debut novel.
As I mentioned above the Book-cation location for Sparrow Squadron is Moscow! While the book wasn’t located in Moscow the entire time, when I think Russia I think Moscow. Check out my recommendations below!
- Red Square. This is a must visit area of Moscow. A place of history and architectural beauty!
- The Central Museum of Armed Forces. What better place to immerse yourself in the actual history of Russia’s part in World War II and more than spending a day here.
- St. Basil’s Cathedral. This is probably one of the most recognizable locations for most people when they think Moscow so this is a must see on your visit!
- The Kremlin.
“Fair maiden, do you come from Mars?
Borne on wings to softly dance through the air
You fly, crowned not with gold but stars,
To conquer and tame the skies that few men dare,
Practicing a warrior’s art,
And thus, you vanquish my heart.”
~DJ Jung, Sparrow Squadron
Book-cation Location: Castles & Gardens!
Book: The Selection by Kiera Cass
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Dystopian
Print Date: April 2012
Goodreads Score: 4 stars
Short Review: It’s a dystopian version of the Bachelor only better!
For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.
But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.
Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.
Long Review: Okay, I am very behind the game on this one! I’ve had several people recommend this book to me and I am so glad I finally had time to read it! Overall I love the story. It reminded me of Hunger Games where it has a sort of reality show display of something to make the people of the lower caste groups feel like they have a chance. It really is a dystopian version of the bachelor tho as 35 women are chosen to take part in the Selection to try and win the Prince’s heart/the crown. On the first day they meet the prince they all take turns talking to him and then he chooses which women he wants to keep to move forward in the competition. You have all the typical characters too, the mean girl, the over dramatic types, the little miss goodie good, and of course the jealousy! Add in a little bit of war and politics and you have the Selection. I’m going to be honest here, I don’t like the Bachelor. (Cue the gasps of horror as what woman doesn’t love it) However, I did like this version of it in the book which I admit, surprised me. I enjoyed meeting all of the characters and I look forward to seeing how they all work together throughout the series.
Prince Maxon, so far, has surprised me. He wasn’t as much of a pompous jerk as I expected him to be. I actually really liked him by the end! As for the other man in America’s life, Aspen, I both loved and hated him throughout the book. He just wants to be good enough for her and he is so dedicated to his family. This of course has me torn between which man is best for America, but you will have to make up your own mind about that.
I really enjoyed the world that Kiera Cass has created here. The idea of your status in life never changing based solely on your ancestors abilities and being assigned a number one through eight. Our main character America is a 5 which makes her leap into the Selection all the more exciting. I very much enjoyed the history that was provided in the book and the way it was done. Rather than reading a boring chapter in the beginning of how Illea came to be, we learn it through a history lesson that the Selected are receiving.
Based on the reviews I’ve read, you either love or hate this book. While it has not sky rocketed to the top of my best book ever list I did enjoy it. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series!
As I mentioned above the Book-cation location for The Selection is Castles & Gardens! The actual location of Illéa doesn’t exist, and hopefully a place like it never does, but I think by visiting the castles and gardens you will feel like you have stepped into the palace as a Selected.
- Borthwick Castle. This castle is toward the top of my list of places that I would like to stay while traveling through Scotland. This beautiful 600 year old castle was once home to Mary, Queen of Scots! https://www.borthwickcastle.com/
- Olissippo Lapa Palace Hotel. This hotel is located in Lisbon, Portugal and was built during the 1800’s. There is a palace wing, villa lapa, and a garden wing. I bet America would recommend the Garden wing! http://www.olissippohotels.com
- Sheffield Park & Garden. This is what I envision when I picture Prince Maxon and Lady America walking the grounds together. Just beautiful! https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk
- Longwood Gardens. Located in Kennett Square, PA and has over 1,000 acres of garden to explore. America loved the outdoors, and especially the garden, so I imagine this is a perfect place to visit to channel her character. https://longwoodgardens.org/
“I don’t think any girl in all of Illéa could have been smiling more than me.”
~America – Kiera Cass, The Selection
Book-cation Location: New York, NY
Book: The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Romance
Print Date: November 2016
Goodreads Score: 5 stars
Short Review: My slightly cynic heart was filled with love!
Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.
Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.
The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?
Long Review: I have found an author that I will forever pick up each of her new books. Nicola Yoon does a spectacular job with this story. It’s a story that has such a heavy topic overall yet it was still a light and fun read! I wasn’t kidding when I said I have a slightly cynic heart. I’m a bit like Natasha in that regard. I could totally relate to her feelings on the whole love at first sight, fate, and destiny ideas. I will say this tho, if a guy like Daniel ever comes along I think I will become a believer!
The characters were all amazing. Even the small ones that at first I found myself wondering why they even had a chapter in this story! Every single character mattered and I loved seeing how it all pieced together in the end. It was very interesting getting to see the thoughts/story from so many different points of view. While I related more to most of Natasha’s views, Daniel was my favorite. I spent the majority of this book smiling and laughing and 90% of that was due to him. Trust me, you are going to fall in love with him before the book is over.
I’m big on not having an spoilers in my reviews so there isn’t much else that I can say other than grab this book as soon as you can and read it!
As I mentioned above the Book-cation location for The Sun is Also a Star is New York City! While there are so many things that you can do in New York here is a list of a few places that you absolutely have to see to feel as if you have stepped within the pages of this amazing book!
- Museum of Natural History. https://www.amnh.org/ While you are there I challenge you to find the Ahnighito within the Hall of Meteorites. This is a location that you will find yourself relating to Natasha in!
- Korea Town. Enjoy some authentic Korean food and follow it up with some Karaoke, or as Daniel says norebang!
- Central Park. Need I say more.
- The Subway. You can’t properly experience New York without taking the subway! Daniel and Natasha both spent quite a bit of time on the Subway too!
- Ellis Island. https://www.nps.gov/elis/index.htm While Daniel and Natasha did not visit this destination in the books, I feel I would be doing them a disservice by not recommending it. How can you visit these spots in honor of a book that talks about immigrants without experiencing all the history that Ellis Island has to offer on just that!