Sparks Rise by Alexandra Bracken

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Rating: 5/5 

Summary: Sam didn’t think things could get worse at Thurmond rehabilitation camp. Then the Reds arrive. Everyone assumed the kids with firepower had been killed years ago. Instead they were taken away, brainwashed, and returned as terrifyingly effective guards. To her horror, Sam recognizes one of them: Lucas, the one spark of light in Sam’s dark childhood. Lucas has a deadly secret–he beat the brutal training that turned his fellow Reds into mindless drones. When Sam defends herself against an attack by a vile PSF guard and faces a harrowing punishment, Lucas must risk his everything to save her.

Anyone who knows my reading history probably knows I am obsessed with Alexandra Bracken’s books. I happened to stumble upon her debut novel The Darkest Minds when it was assigned to my book club. I read it and immediately fell in love with the characters (LIAM!!!) , the plot, .. the everything. As soon as Alex announced Sparks Rise, I added it to my to-read list and bought it as soon as it was available. Let’s be real. I love Alex’s writing style so much, I would read anything she announced no matter what the plot was. However, I especially loved her In Time novella, so I had very high expectations coming into Sparks Rise.

The first thing that really caught my attention was the fact that the novella was about Sam. When I first read the summary, I couldn’t even place Sam. After going through my e-books of both The Darkest Minds and Never Fade, I realized that Sam was the girl who’s memory Ruby had previously erased at Thurgood when she was still baffled by what her powers really meant. I was especially excited for the look into the life Ruby led before she met Liam, Chubs, and Zu.

The thing I liked most about the novella is that both characters had very developed personalities. All too often, when writers write novellas or different characters within their world’s setting, the characters seem to bleed together and mimic each other to the point where it feels like the characters are just remakes of the MCs. Fortunately, Alex avoided that completely. Both characters were completely their own. Sam was the strong girl who hated playing the princess and preferred to be the knight in her fairytale games. Lucas was the soft and sensitive one who wasn’t afraid to cry when he was scared. Normally, I hate MCs who tend to cry repeatedly, but Alex has this way of conveying her characters that make me love them, no matter how I would normally feel about the person. 

The plot is quick paced and constantly had my attention until the end… where it ends in quite the unconventional way. In fact, halfway through reading, it felt more like a novel than any other novella I had ever read. Sparks Rise is a great lead in to get readers excited for the third and final novel in the trilogy and I am so so excited to see how Sam and Lucas’ story continues to develop throughout In The Afterlight. I highly recommend the series and this novella to all YA readers. Seriously. Read it. Love it. THEN SOMEONE TALK TO ME ABOUT IT!!!

~TAYLOR~
You know what the secret is? It’s so simple. We love books.”

BOOK CON 2014

Today was honestly one of the best days of my life.

Well first, let’s have a brief introduction. Hi, I’m Taylor. I’m twenty years old and studying biomedical engineering and pre-medicine biology. While I love what I do, my escape from it all has been reading. The following is a picture from book con today!

To the left is Ann. To the right is Teresa. And the pale one in the middle – well you guessed it, that’s me.

In January, Ann messaged me going “BOOK EXPO OF AMERICA… wanna go?’ I agreed half-heartedly, not knowing if I actually would be able to go. You know when you make plans with your friends and most the time they fall apart? I assumed that would end up happening… except it didn’t. Soon, Teresa was added to our mix, our tickets were bought, and this dream became a reality.

Honestly, BookCon was one of the best experiences of my life. As soon as we got there, I rushed into line to get a signature from A.G. Howard who wrote the Splintered series. She signed a beautiful poster of the cover for her third book, Ensnared. Right after, we rushed to Julie Kagawa to get a picture and signed epub of The Forever Song (which is one of my favorite books!).

My friends and I are very into YA novels in general.  As soon as we got through the initial signings we wanted, we quickly made a schedule.  We made a bit of a pit stop as we got signed ARCs from both Andrew Mayne and Joseph Berger on the fly. Next up on our list was Alexandra Bracken who is another one of my other favorite authors. She signed copies of Never Fade, and I made sure to act like a total idiot. Seriously, I told her I stalked her hardcore on twitter and instagram. After, I was mortified (but she favorited my tweet SO IT MADE IT ALL OKAY).

As soon as we finished there, we ran to get in line to get the ARC of Julie Kagawa’s new book, Talon. Even though we were over an hour early, the tickets had already been given out for the ARC. We were sad, but Julie saw us and came over – especially when she saw Ann’s mother in a wheelchair. She apologized for the lack of ARCs for us, but took more pictures with us and promised to follow us on twitter.

… AND SHE DID FOLLOW US ON TWITTER! ALL THREE OF US!

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After meeting Julie, Ann and I headed downstairs to the Holly Black/Cassie Clare/Maggie Stiefvater panel. We had actually already seen Holly Black and Cassandra Clare earlier that week because we went to the City of Heavenly Fire release party on Monday at the 92Y in New York City. However, we loved them so much (along with Maggie), we knew we had to make it to this panel. And gosh, we were glad we did. Holly and Cassie were super adorable in their matching outfits. Maggie was hysterical. Oh and come to find out… Maggie’s publisher is David Levithan. He was at Cassie’s panel on Monday too, so when I saw him being introduced as Maggie’s editor, I freaked. Ann didn’t think it was him… until she realized it too. I think she almost peed her pants over her excitement. You could tell he was unimpressed when she asked for a signature since he was there as an editor, but he was a great sport and signed her stuff anyways. The panel was literally the best… until we were in for the biggest treat. WE GOT ARCS OF THE IRON TRIALS BY CASSIE AND HOLLY AND SINNER BY MAGGIE! And since we were the last to leave, they let us take the extra ARCs. So we grabbed some for Teresa and some friends who couldn’t come to bookcon with us! I fangirled so hard, I am fairly certain they thought I was having a heart attack.

And while we were in the panel, Teresa headed off to meet Danielle Fishel from Boy Meets World. (Teresa and I both own all the DVDs of the series). She grabbed a signed bookmark for me too…. but this was definitely the best part of her trip.

(Seriously though, how cute is Danielle Fishel?!)

Our final panel was one I was really excited for. It consisted of Veronica Roth, Marie Lu (I love the Legend series so much!), Danielle Paige and Alaya Dawn Johnson. We got excerpts of the stories of Four from VRoth and then the panel started. The best part in my opinion was how educated VRoth was about everyone’s book (since she was hosting the panel). … oh and VRoth’s fashion… because DAMN girl. Homegirl looked awesome!

It was so refreshing that she had definitely done her research for all three of the ladies on the panel. At the end of the panel, we were about to leave until Teresa called our attention to a table. We thought it was just additional Four excerpts, until we realized… IT WAS AN ADVANCED SECTION OF MARIE LU’S NEW BOOK, The Young Elites. So of course, we grabbed a bunch of copies of those because we were last to leave the room once again.

After the last panel though, it was time to go home… good thing too.

This was seven tote bags, three backpacks, and four very tired ladies later.

At the end of the day, Teresa took a picture and inventoried all of her stuff. While there were minor differences between what we collected between Ann, Teresa and I, the majority of it was the same.

SWAG (from top to bottom, left to right): Tuttle Publishing Tote, The Periodic Table of Epic Reads poster, Grumpy Cat Mask, Beat This: A comprehensive step by step drum set method by Mike Shapiro, Grumpy Cat post card, Danielle Fishel card with a free excerpt of her new book (autographed), 2014 New Title Showcase, A Wonder Story: The Julian Chapter postcard, Dr. Suess Button, Ilona Andrews Burn for Me button, 2015 Harlequin Young Adult Catalog, Tuttle: Books to Span the East and West, Nightmares Eye Mask, Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, The Pious Ones by Joseph Berger (autographed, advance reader copy), Angel Killer: A Jessica Blackwood Novel by Andrew Mayne (autographed, advance reader copy), Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken (autographed), Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater (advance reader copy), A.G. Howard Ensnared poster (autographed), The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (advance reader copy), Four by Veronica Roth (free sneak peak), The Young Elites by Marie Lu (exclusive sneak peek), One of Us by Tawni O’Dell (advanced reader copy), The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa (personalized ereader version with autographed picture of Julie and I together) and 2 bookmarks.

 

So all in all, one of the best days of our lives… BookCon was an AMAZING experience and can’t wait to go through it all again next year!!!

 

~TAYLOR~

 

 

Oh, and a few more pictures to warm your heart/make you laugh:

MUCH LOVE AND HAPPY READING

You know what the secret is? It’s so simple. We love books.”