This Is Not A Test

“The thing no one tells you about surviving, about the mere act of holding out, is how many hours are nothing because nothing happens. They also don’t tell you about how you can share your deepest secrets with someone, kiss them, and the next hour it’s like there’s nothing between you because not everything can mean something all the time or you’d be crushed under the weight of it.”

Title: This Is Not A Test

Author: Courtney Summers

Series: This Is Not a Test # 1

Publication: June 19th 2012 by St. Martin’s Griffin

Pages: 326

Source: My bookshelf


Summary from Goodreads:

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up.

As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?


My Thoughts:

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Courtney Summers is an absolute goddess and the complete queen of my bookshelf. I fell in love with her work last year when I read All The Rage, a book that tore my heart and soul to shreds. Her writing never ceases to amaze me in the powerful message that it carries – and This Is Not A Test is no exception. While reading the synopsis might make you uneasy and question how a book about zombies can be as hard hitting as I claim it to be, trust me when I say this – This Is Not a Test is so much more than just another book hightailing it through the zombie craze. It is raw, unflinching, and it will make you question everything about what makes us human. 

Summers has this amazing ability to basically destroy every single plan you’ve made for a day as soon as you read the first page of her books. This Is Not A Test completely grabbed me by the throat and dragged me around kicking and screaming right form the first page – I was hooked before I’d even reached chapter one. The opening sequence of this book was intense – there is no other word for it. It doesn’t get any better from there to tell you the truth. We’re thrown straight into this complete chaotic mess of the world, starting with a regular morning in Sloane – our protagonist’s life – and then we’re off to the races as it were. There is no break, no time to catch your breath. While certain scenes might not be physically brutal or taxing, those in between the fights for survival are filled with emotional battles that are almost more intense than the ones against the zombies or even each other. This book… just wow.

Sloane. I don’t even know what to say about Sloane. When we first meet her, she has no intention of wanting to live. Her sister abandoned her to an abusive father. The world is ending. She is alone. She wants to die – but she holds on. She holds on despite her best efforts to have it end any other way than with her own survival. It was a very strange, eye opening experience – reading a book from the point of view from someone that doesn’t even want to be there. I am so used to a strong, badass heroine doing everything in their power to keep on kicking – and Sloane was the complete opposite. She is still badass, ruthless, and utterly compelling – but for entirely different reasons. She will make you think. She will make you question everything you’ve ever thought about what it means to survive.

Then there are the other students: Cary, Rhys, Trace, Grace, and Harrison. All of them end up trapped together in the high school. They are together, struggling to survive… and boy, do they add to the story. I think this is part of Summers’ mastery – she has this ability to make supporting characters who are so raw and undeniably essential. We get to know them all. We see them cry, we learn their weakness and their vulnerabilities. They are all simply exposed in this new version of hell. It was heartbreaking. I’m still trying to figure out just how I feel about all of them because they just add so much. They turn an already harrowing scenario into a full throttle mental mine field just waiting to blow up at the slightest provocation. The addition of the supporting characters, and the role each individual plays, really nails down the main question of this book. Who is the real enemy? What if the real enemy is you?

Courtney Summers has once again created something worthy of every possible award known to man. This Is Not A Test will make you question everything you think you know about yourself and what you think you are willing to do to survive. This book will rip your chest open and never let the wound close. What are you willing to do to survive and can you live with the answer?



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Teaser Tuesday # 17

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading

This weeks Teaser Tuesday is for This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers!

“The thing no one tells you about surviving, about the mere act of holding out, is how many hours are nothing because nothing happens. They also don’t tell you about how you can share your deepest secrets with someone, kiss them, and the next hour it’s like there’s nothing between you because not everything can mean something all the time or you’d be crushed under the weight of it.”

“This is not a test. Listen closely. This is not a test.”
But I think she’s wrong. I think this is a test.
It has to be.”



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Hotel Ruby

“Mirrors on the ceiling,
The pink champagne on ice
And she said “We are all just prisoners here, of our own device”
And in the master’s chambers,
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can’t kill the beast

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
“Relax, ” said the night man,
“We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave! “

Title: Hotel Ruby

Author: Suzanne Young

Series: Standalone

Publication: November 3rd 2015 by Simon Pulse

Pages: 288

Source: Author signing at ALA

Summary from Goodreads:

Stay Tonight. Stay Forever.

When Audrey Casella arrives for an unplanned stay at the grand Hotel Ruby, she’s grateful for the detour. Just months after their mother’s death, Audrey and her brother, Daniel, are on their way to live with their grandmother, dumped on the doorstep of a DNA-matched stranger because their father is drowning in his grief.

Audrey and her family only plan to stay the night, but life in the Ruby can be intoxicating, extending their stay as it provides endless distractions—including handsome guest Elias Lange, who sends Audrey’s pulse racing. However, the hotel proves to be as strange as it is beautiful. Nightly fancy affairs in the ballroom are invitation only, and Audrey seems to be the one guest who doesn’t have an invite. Instead, she joins the hotel staff on the rooftop, catching whispers about the hotel’s dark past.

The more Audrey learns about the new people she’s met, the more her curiosity grows. She’s torn in different directions—the pull of her past with its overwhelming loss, the promise of a future that holds little joy, and an in-between life in a place that is so much more than it seems…

Welcome to the Ruby.

My Thoughts:

Well, the best part of Hotel Ruby was the cover. There, I said it. Shoot me.
This book did absolutely nothing for me other than piss me off. The only reason I kept reading was because I wanted to know if my guess was right – and yes, it was by the way. I loved the idea behind this, a book based off of “Hotel California”? Count me in. Sadly, Hotel Ruby neither lived up to my expectations nor enlightened me to the supposed beauty that is Suzanne Young’s writing. I’ve heard such amazing things about her and her other books, but Hotel Ruby sort of killed it for me. If the other books are told in the same style, you can count me out.
The characters were flat – some were simply there to force some sort of sympathy. There is serious insta-love, and I mean serious. Audrey meets Elias, and BANG! A few chapters into it they’re basically having sex in the damn hallway. I mean, really? There was no build up, no relationship building – zip, nada. It was the same way for all of the characters. Basically, we are told that things are the way they are and that’s it. All of the characters have a set relationship right from the beginning – and it made me extremely annoyed. I hate it when a book tells us how things are rather than illustrating it through dialogue and character development. Add that on top of the poor plotting, insta-love, and all the other issues I’m not even delving into and it’s a miracle I actually finished the book.

The only reason I kept reading was because I wanted to know what the hell was going on at the end. I had an idea, and it was mostly on point. There were no surprises, the “big reveal” was no reveal at all. I saw it coming from a mile away. What caught my attention in the first couple chapters drifted off and left me feeling cold and disengaged.
I can’t recommend this book at all. What is meant to be creepy and thought provoking came across as nothing more than a pathetic attempt at turning a famous song into a book. Hotel Ruby is a letdown of epic proportions. If you can’t tell by my lack of review, I really have nothing to say to this book other than “how dare you?”. I wanted to like it, I wanted to fall into this book like everyone else – but I couldn’t. So, how dare Hotel Ruby make me waste my time to figure out something that wasn’t even worth it in the end. I’ve been on a string of bad books lately, it seems as if I find a good one and then I’m stuck in a rut of other books until something amazing comes along and saves me. Ugh. Time to try again.


“Sometimes in life, we do things simply because we’ve always done them. “

Title: Nightfall

Authors: Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski


Publication: September 22nd 2015 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Pages: 368

Source: Publisher at ALA Annual

Summary from Goodreads:

On Marin’s island, sunrise doesn’t come every twenty-four hours—it comes every twenty-eight years. Now the sun is just a sliver of light on the horizon. The weather is turning cold and the shadows are growing long.

Because sunset triggers the tide to roll out hundreds of miles, the islanders are frantically preparing to sail south, where they will wait out the long Night.

Marin and her twin brother, Kana, help their anxious parents ready the house for departure. Locks must be taken off doors. Furniture must be arranged. Tables must be set. The rituals are puzzling—bizarre, even—but none of the adults in town will discuss why it has to be done this way.

Just as the ships are about to sail, a teenage boy goes missing—the twins’ friend Line. Marin and  Kana are the only ones who know the truth about where Line’s gone, and the only way to rescue him is by doing it themselves. But Night is falling. Their island is changing.

And it may already be too late.

My Thoughts:

Well… I liked it, and I didn’t like it at the same time. Do you know how confusing that feeling is? I wanted to like it, and I did like it – but I didn’t like it enough for it to really mean something. At this point, I feel almost indifferent – but I don’t want to. Nightfall had a brilliant premise, though it is a complete rip off of Game of Thrones (I’ll get to that in a moment). This is one of those cases where my excitement took over, and then I was devastatingly let down. Nightfall had the makings of a great novel, of a story that would leave me with nightmares and the chills, but it fell woefully short.
Nightfall follows Marin, a fourteen year old (I think) who lives on a strange island. This island is strange because its days and nights are not the normal twenty-four hour cycle. No, this island runs on a cycle of fourteen years of daylight and then fourteen years of night. In the fourteen years of nighttime, the island freezes over and the entire populace of the island is supposed to vacate the premises and leave it as it was found however many years in the past. The terrain changes, the bad things come out, and you better pray that you don’t get left behind. Marin, our protagonist, has lived all fourteen years of her life in complete daylight – and as this book takes off, the night is finally coming, and the others are coming with it.
Preparations for abandoning the island is not what you think they are going to be. Sure, there is the basic packing up of belongings and cleaning the house, but there are rules everyone must follow. You must leave your house completely spotless, rearrange furniture in weird ways, sprinkle lime juice around the house, remove all the locks from the doors, leave the doors cracked, and make sure that every trace of your existence is basically gone.
Now, as we know from the synopsis, Marin, her brother, and her friend Line do not make it off the island. And, basically, from that point on everything goes to hell.
But, I don’t want to talk about that. What I want to say is this : Nightfall rips off Game of Thrones so obviously I have no idea how it got published and it makes fan fiction look original. Game of Thrones has crazy long winters and summers, sound familiar? In GoT, the summers can last up to twenty eight years or more, as can the winters, and with the winters come the White Walkers. In Nightfall, we get fourteen yearlong summers and then an equally long nightfall where the entire island freezes over and the others come out. Do you see what I am saying here? The entire basis of this book is a play on Game of Thrones. Now, I don’t know if it was intentional, but it was impossible for me to ignore (considering I am a huge GoT fan). For God’s sake, the damn blurb on the back of the book says “Night is coming.”
Now that my mini rant is out of the way, the characters were flat. I hate saying it, and I hate thinking it, but I do. The characters were all so one dimensional, so borderline boring that it almost put me to sleep. The plot didn’t help, either, but that’s for another paragraph. I think the biggest part of my issue with the characters came from the writing style, I don’t think I would have felt the same way if the writing had been more descriptive. Instead, there is a lot more telling rather than showing. We are told this characters is like this, or does this, or thinks this – rather than illustrating it through their actions, descriptions, and thoughts. We are not given any real inner monologue, instead, we are given a constant script that is clearly robotic in structure. I must find my brother. I must get off the island. They must not find out what I am. Nothing more than that. Their thoughts don’t stray, they don’t seem to really feel anything – I literally felt like I was watching one of the worst renditions of a play I had already seen a million times before. It was really depressing, to be completely honest. I wanted to get to know the characters, maybe then I would have actually felt something. But instead, I felt so detached that I didn’t give two shits about what they were going through

As for the plot, it was bleh. I was expecting some terror, some genuine fear and all together hopelessness. I wanted my heart to pound, I wanted to have goosebumps, I wanted to have nightmares. I am completely terrified of the dark, those of you who know me will know that to be the honest truth. So, a book that is supposed to take place entirely in the darkness where monsters are chasing you the entire time? I should have been significantly terrified, but I was not. The attempts at terrorizing the reader in this book are laughable at best and sleep inducing at the worst. The “monsters” weren’t scary, there were basically giant lizards that don’t feel the cold. The darkness wasn’t scary. The fear of being stranded on the island was nonexistent. There was nothing in the plot that drove home the fact that this was supposed to be a thriller and a horror story – it was far too bland for me. What should have terrified me, only made me laugh.
What could have been a wonderful thriller to keep you awake at night was nothing more than a half-assed attempt at marketing Game of Thrones as Young Adult with a new book cover and different title. Nightfall was a disappointment, it tore my heart out and stomped all over it. I wanted to love this, I wanted to be scared by this, instead – what I got was a laughable imitation of some of the most overused horror story tropes out there. There is nothing to fear in this book other than one dimensional characters and giant lizards that look too much like the Kanama from Teen Wolf to be anything original. Nightfall, good job destroying my expectations and making me want to weep for humanity.



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Diary of a Haunting

“There was something about that room. I don’t know what it was, but the moment I walked in, I felt this sort of buzzing, like a vibration coming up through the floor, or maybe through the air even.”

Title: Diary of a Haunting
Author: M. Verano
Series: Standalone
Publication: August 25th 2015 by Simon Pulse
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher at ALA Annual

Summary from Goodreads:

When Paige moves from LA to Idaho with her mom and little brother after her parents’ high-profile divorce, she expects to completely hate her new life, and the small town doesn’t disappoint. Worse yet, the drafty old mansion they’ve rented is infested with flies, spiders, and other pests Paige doesn’t want to think about.

She chalks it up to her rural surroundings, but it’s harder to ignore the strange things happening around the house, from one can of ravioli becoming a dozen, to unreadable words appearing in the walls. Soon Paige’s little brother begins roaming the house at all hours of the night, and there’s something not right about the downstairs neighbor, who knows a lot more than he’s letting on.

Things only get creepier when she learns about the sinister cult that conducted experimental rituals in the house almost a hundred years earlier.
The more Paige investigates, and the deeper she digs, the clearer it all becomes: whatever is in the house, whatever is causing all the strange occurrences, has no intention of backing down without a fight.

Found in the aftermath, Diary of a Haunting collects the journal entries, letters, and photographs Paige left behind.

My Thoughts:

I went to ALA this year not really knowing about this book, but when I was visiting the Simon and Shuster booth and I got to speak with the editor of both this book and Violent Ends, I knew that I had to have it. I have always loved horror movies, and I do particularly enjoy the movies that are “based on a true story” and shown through a video camera lens. Recently, I just went and saw The Gallows, which was pretty cool by the way, and I thought why not grab this book?

What should I talk about first? I really don’t know what to say about this book as a whole. Did I enjoy it? Did I simply tolerate it more than I enjoyed it? I enjoyed the read, at least I think I did. I enjoyed reading this while on break at work, it gave me something to focus on other than shifting charts to electronic copies. I enjoyed that it was a really fast read, though I don’t know if that statement is coming more from the relief I felt when it was over or my actual enjoyment of the book. When it comes to Diary of a Haunting, I think that is about all that I enjoyed.

I hate criticizing a book, I don’t like the way it makes me feel and I don’t like the way it is bound to make other people who were excited about reading this book feel, so I am going to try and remain as fair as possible in what I have to say. I know it is hard to put your work out there, personally, I absolutely hate it when it is time for submissions for my Creative Writing Workshop. It means days on end spent tearing apart each other’s work , nitpicking all of the little things – it’s helpful, but it can still hurt. So, when it comes to writing a bad review – all I want to do is be constructive about what I disliked. For this book, the things I did not like were simply because I did not like them on a personal level – not because of the book itself. You could still enjoy this book even though I didn’t, especially if you are a fan of the Paranormal Activity movies or The Blair Witch Project.

One of the things that made me want to bang my head against the wall was the narration. I usually despise books told through journal and or diary entries. When I read things like this, I feel as if I am not getting the entire story. You only see what the main character chooses to write in their diary, and for me, I find that really frustrating some times. Now, I don’t mind the occasional journal/diary entry here and there as long as there is some serious prose thrown in, but on its own? I find it tedious and almost annoying. In my opinion, it also makes for a bit of awkward story telling. There are some instances where the narrator is suddenly retelling conversations word for word in the midst of explaining what is going on around her. It also becomes very choppy, there are times when the diary post will stop half way through and then randomly pick back up with an apology from the writer. While this style works for movies, I have not found a book where I think it works – and, in all honesty, this is one of the first ones written in that style that I have actually finished.

The second reason I disliked this book also pertains to the narration. I felt as if the pacing was way off. It would change so suddenly that I wouldn’t notice it until I figured out that I had no clue what was going on. The book lost all consistency, things would happen and then it was like it never went down. Someone would say something and it would turn out that they actually didn’t say it. I have no idea if it was meant to be a part of the suspense of the book, but it just didn’t come across that way. It was extremely difficult to keep track of what was going on, and that took away from the enjoyment – I shouldn’t have to back track and try to figure out what was happening in order to keep reading, I shouldn’t have been so confused that my head hurt just trying to piece everything together. I know that some of it was part of the lead up to the reveal at the end, but in those cases I could tell the difference and it didn’t bother me. I’m not talking about details like that, I am talking about just the general plot line and things that shouldn’t have been as confusing as they were – sort of like my review right now. It just didn’t click for me.

Diary of a Haunting does follow some of the oldest and overused horror film stereotypes, as most horror novels and movies do, but I did find myself creeped out at certain points throughout the book. I didn’t care that I had seen it used before, almost every horror movie is the same when it comes to the way they try to scare people, anyway. I don’t want to give it away, half of being afraid comes from the surprise and suspense. I do want you to give this book a try, I might not have liked certain parts – but like I said, it was personal preference only. Believe me when I tell you this, Diary of a Haunting will creep you out at certain moments if you head into reading it with an open mind. I mean, who isn’t terrified of spiders? Don’t ask questions about that, you’ll see and have nightmares just like I did. (Disclaimer, I am absolutely terrified of spiders and snakes.)

Overall, because the book is meant to be frightening, I would suggest that this book be left for readers that are fourteen and older. There is a heavy paranormal element to this story, so if that bothers/offends you, be wary when reading this. There is also use of some basic Native American blessings and the like, so if that also bothers you, don’t read this. As a whole, though, I did find this book to be somewhat enjoyable in the grand scale of things – so go ahead and give it a shot.