Monthly Archives: July 2013

When the World was Flat (and we were in love)

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Title: When the World was Flat (and we were in love)
Author: Ingrid Jonach
Rating: ★★★★
Synopsis: When sixteen-year-old Lillie Hart meets the gorgeous and mysterious Tom Windsor-Smith for the first time, it’s like fireworks — for her, anyway. Tom looks as if he would be more interested in watching paint dry; as if he is bored by her and by her small Nebraskan town in general.
 
But as Lillie begins to break down the walls of his seemingly impenetrable exterior, she starts to suspect that he holds the answers to her reoccurring nightmares and to the impossible memories which keep bubbling to the surface of her mind — memories of the two of them, together and in love.
 
When she at last learns the truth about their connection, Lillie discovers that Tom has been hiding an earth-shattering secret; a secret that is bigger — and much more terrifying and beautiful — than the both of them. She also discovers that once you finally understand that the world is round, there is no way to make it flat again. 
 
An epic and deeply original sci-fi romance, taking inspiration from Albert Einstein’s theories and the world-bending wonder of true love itself.

Review: Overall I REALLY enjoyed this book. I grabbed it because I liked the cover and I wanted to know WHAT the secret was. Well, without giving it away, I can’t say too much (don’t want to spoil it) but it was thankfully NOTHING that I thought it was (I was so worried that this was going to become another Twilight).

This book reminded me a lot of FRINGE (the TV show) and I loved that so much. There were a bunch of things that went over my head (and confused me) and I know that a lot of the science probably didn’t add up in the ‘real world’ but for me… that kind of stuff doesn’t effect how much I enjoy a story or not. To me… science is always changing and just because we believe something now doesn’t mean that it can’t change in the future… so yeah, while the science stuff might bother some readers, for me it did not.

I really liked all of the characters in this, the friends were a very dynamic group, and while Tom was your ‘gorgeous rich guy’ on the surface I did like that he didn’t fall prey to some of the typical tropes that most guys like that do.

The romance was pretty good, it was very slow burn, but I would have liked something a little more intense. The main character, Lillie, is obsessed with him, but it didn’t feel over the top, which was refreshing.

I HIGHLY enjoyed the writing in this, but… I did have a problem with the liberal uses of British phrases. This book is supposed to take place in small town America but… there are a lot of British phrases used (and not by Tom, who would have reason to use them). So this just felt a bit off…

Overall though, this was a very enjoyable read and if you get a chance you should check it out!

I received this ARC from Netgalley and wrote an honest review to say thank you!

Frozen

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Title: Frozen
Author: Melissa de la Cruz & Michael Johnston
Rating: ★★★
Synopsis: Welcome to New Vegas, a city once covered in bling, now blanketed in ice. Like much of the destroyed planet, the place knows only one temperature—freezing. But some things never change. The diamond in the ice desert is still a 24-hour hedonistic playground and nothing keeps the crowds away from the casino floors, never mind the rumors about sinister sorcery in its shadows.

At the heart of this city is Natasha Kestal, a young blackjack dealer looking for a way out. Like many, she’s heard of a mythical land simply called “the Blue.” They say it’s a paradise, where the sun still shines and the waters are turquoise. More importantly, it’s a place where Nat won’t be persecuted, even if her darkest secret comes to light.

But passage to the Blue is treacherous, if not impossible, and her only shot is to bet on a ragtag crew of mercenaries led by a cocky runner named Ryan Wesson to take her there. Danger and deceit await on every corner, even as Nat and Wes find themselves inexorably drawn to each other. But can true love survive the lies? Fiery hearts collide in this fantastic tale of the evil men do and the awesome power within us all.

Sam’s review:

This book was won in a giveaway held by @RazorbillCA. Thank you for allowing me to read this book in advance!

This book had a ton of potential to score points with me. Frozen is a roller coaster ride from star to finish, but it’s a book marred with some moments that destroy its potential in favour of usual, overplayed YA tropes.

One thing I adored about Frozen is the world building. I wouldn’t necessarily call this book a dystopia, but rather it comes across more post-apocalyptic and the aftermath of a frozen wasteland (complete with trashbag icebergs, which admittedly, I liked the sound of). This world feels like it draws from many influences like Fallout: New Vegasor even a hint of Firefly, but it still does enough to be its own world. I loved the descriptions of the frozen wastes being tied into the idea of a “Vegas Heat.” De La Cruz does a great job of justifying a lot of the world building without making it feel gimmicky or hokey.

The characters in this story are very hit and miss. I actually loved a lot of the secondary characters so much more than Nat and Wes. Shakes was adorable and raw, Avo was a nutcase, but the protagonists didn’t really do a lot for me. I think Nat had some shining moments in the story, but she’s a character who is “marked” (lo and behold, different), which gives her all the angst because she’s different. I found she was a better character at the beginning of the novel when she was participating as a dealer or during heists. She had a lot more personality and for the most part is a strong leading lady. In the second half of the novel however, she gets way too fixated on her romance with Wes that some of her more can-do personality traits go out the window in favour of love.

Wes was also hit and miss with me. He had some great dialog, and reminded me a bit of Mal Reynolds from Firefly in that he has a tough outer shell with tons of inner layers to peel back, I actually liked that he and Nat were not madly in love with each other right away, but once the romance was set in play, its like they forgot their roles at times in the story.

I was especially disappointed in the last forty pages. De La Cruz has this amazing moment where she gut punches the reader with emotion and then it like she did “take backies” on the whole event because the romance was so much more important than actually going through with what could have gave Nat some great character development. She had the potential to make this scene so moving and beautiful and just destroyed with by putting the romance first and the post-apocalyptic/fantasy elements second. I have a huge problem with authors who remove the possibilities of having awesome character development, and remove it in favor of YA tropes that just come across more annoying than engaging.

Truthfully, I didn’t buy the romance between Wes and Nat. It just felt too perfectly placed and convenient throughout the story. I found when the characters were separated, the story did a great job of developing them as people, but the moment they were together, it just felt so blase and uninspired. I personally do not like romances that come across too perfectly. It just kills the dramatic tension, and it definitely happens here.

However, I will give De La Cruz some major points in that she does write some very fun, fast-paced action sequences. A lot of the action in this book feels well placed and very engaging. Also, it’s Vegas, you expect a few shoot ’em ups from time to time.

This had the potential to be a 4 star book at least, until I got to the last forty pages wherein I was like “If De La Cruz goes there, that will be awesome” only to muck up the awesome because the romance was too damn important. It’s frustrating to become to invested in the world building and seeing how its going to develop only to have an uninteresting romance be put first. Frozen has tons of potential, some great ideas, but its priorities are something that may need to be reconsidered.

Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl

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Title: Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl
Author: Emily Pohl-Weary
Rating: ★★★★
Synopsis: Sometimes Living in the Big Apple Really Bites!

Eighteen-year-old rock star Sam Lee isn’t like other girls. She’s the super-talented bass player and songwriter for an all-girl indie band and an incurable loner. Then one night after a concert in Central Park, she’s attacked by a wild dog. 

Suddenly, this long-time vegetarian is craving meat–the bloodier, the better. Sam finds herself with an unbelievable secret and no one she trusts to share it. And so begin the endless lies to cover up the hairy truth… 

When a new girl gang appears in the city–with claws and paws–Sam suspects there’s a connection to her own inner beast. Trapped in a tug-of-war between her animal and human selves, forced to choose between the guy who sparked her carnal appetite and the one who makes her feel like a normal teenage girl, Sam has to unravel the mysteries of the werewolf world before her bandmates, her mother, and the media catch up to her.

Sam’s review:

Thank you to Penguin Canada and Netgalley for this advance readers copy.

I adored Emily Pohl-Weary’s novel A Girl Like Sugar. I remember grabbing the book after Weary was a guest lecturer in one of my classes at York wherein she discussed zine culture in Toronto, but also promoted some of her non-zine works. I remember being hooked to the narrative in Sugar, and it easily became a book that I passed around to friends.

Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl is not that book, but it’s a surprisingly fun story about identity with a quirky cast of characters and a strong, likeable heroine. Sam is a bassist-turned-werewolf who has to cope with her new found abilities. Trying to weave her new identity, Sam struggles to accept that her life will never be what it once was, and chooses to try and embrace her curse.

I loved the paranormal side of this story, especially when looking at how Sam works towards accepting herself. It was interesting to see how Weary was able to make a strong lead with identity issues be someone who teens/new adults could perhaps relate to (even without the paranormal elements). Sam’s very likeable and she wears her flaws on sleeve, something I always appreciate in a protagonist. Anytime Sam was contemplating herself and the world that surrounds her she is such an insightful person. She truly was a wonderful character to engage with.

Oddly though, when the novel was about Sam’s night life, male troubles and not werewolf fun-times, the story lost its speed for me. I had a harder time falling into the normalcy Sam would try to achieve in her daily life. It’s important to the story, but often her daily exploration wasn’t very tedious to read about, especially when a lot of it was related to her desperate needs for caffeine. I get it, you like coffee, it’s cool. These moments of tedious detail were tricky to enjoy, and it made me want to just go back to the narrative and mystery behind Sam’s new found abilities.

One thing I did love however, was her bonding experiences with a lot of the women in the story. The relationships she forged are beautifully woven into the narrative and I feel like Pohl-Weary does a great job of getting us to care about this group of women. This story has such empowering female characters, which for me, is always something I want in a story. I want to cheer for the characters and feel their highs and lows, and I think Pohl-Weary captures all the emotion of feeling lost and being different, yet finding strength in those differences to make one feel less strange.

While the detail and pacing were the drawback for me, I think Emily Pohl-Weary is a talented storyteller. I had a lot of fun reading this novel, but I won’t lie that it didn’t make me crave a reread of A Girl Like Sugar. Overall, I think the female cast of characters is fabulous, the writing has a lot of spunk to it, and for those who enjoy books like the Kitty Norville series by Carrie Vaughn, there’s a lot here to enjoy.

Earthbound

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Title: Earthbound
Author: Aprilynne Pike
Rating: ★★★
Synopsis: Tavia Michaels is the sole survivor of the plane crash that killed her parents. When she starts to see strange visions of a boy she’s never spoken with in real life, she begins to suspect that there’s much about her past that she isn’t being told. Tavia will soon to discover that she’s an Earthbound—someone with the ability to create matter out of nothing—and that she alone holds the key to stopping the Reduciata, an evil society that manipulates global events for its own shadowy purposes. Tavia will ultimately have to make a choice: to come into her powers and save the world from the evil Reduciata or to choose free will and a love of her own.

Sam’s Review:

Thank you to Razorbill and Netgalley for this advance readers copy.

3.5

I have to admit, Earthbound managed to surprise me. When I think of Earthbound, I usually think of the SNES game from 1995, not an intriguing mystery about a girl with the ability to create matter out of nothing. The book is not without its problems, but there was something about the narrative that kept pushing me forward.

I’m going to jump into the negatives right away simply because the story has a good chunk of them. For starters, the pacing in this book is a mess. It jumps around from being quick as a bunny to slow as molasses and it really never finds it groove until 75% into the story. The amount of bouncing around, admittedly, drove me crazy at times. The writing is solid throughout, but it does suffer from a lot of “he said” and “she said” in spots, which admittedly, got a bit annoying.

I also thought the insta-love and love triangle in this story was awful. I couldn’t see the positives or attraction to Benson or Quinn. I’m unsure of what had Tavia attracted to the two of them since Benson came across to insincere and Quinn was “special”. The main leads in this story just never hooked me the way the secondary cast did. I found the villains interesting, the world-building to be both frustrating and fascinating at the same time. Earthbound in a lot of ways is a mixed bag, because no one is truly likeable in the story.

I have to admit, Tavia was a decent lead. She admits to her flaws, she’s always seeking self improvement, and she’s trying to come to terms with her power as well as her “identity”. It certainly made for an interesting read most of the time, because Tavia does a great job of painting her world for the reader and giving us insight into her fears and frustrations. However, then she has these moments where she makes a lot of silly decisions that have an obvious right answer that clearly she can’t seem to figure out right away.

Those complaints aside, I found the story really engaging despite the pacing issues. There was certainly a great mystery to uncover, and I feel like Pike does a great job of not giving away all the answers, but only giving bits and pieces for the reader to put together. I also devoured the last 75% because I found myself wanting to have all the answers. Once the mythology elements were added in, I thought it actually added a nice extra layer to the world-building. I also loved the villains, and the surprises towards the end — I dug them quite a bit.

This is the first book I’ve ever read by Aprilynne Pike, I doubt it will be my last. While her characters aren’t amazing, she really does a great job of keeping you engaged with the story and wanting to know more about the mystery, people’s agendas, and of course, how the conflict will resolve. I’m definitely curious as to where this series will go, but it looks like I may have to bump Life After Theft up the reading queue!

Contemporary Summer Fling: IN HONOR

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Title: In Honor
Author: Jessi Kirby
Rating: Rating: ★★★★~★
Synopsis: Honor receives her brother’s last letter from Iraq three days after learning that he died, and opens it the day his fellow Marines lay the flag over his casket. Its contents are a complete shock: concert tickets to see Kyra Kelly, her favorite pop star and Finn’s celebrity crush. In his letter, he jokingly charged Honor with the task of telling Kyra Kelly that he was in love with her. 

Grief-stricken and determined to grant Finn’s last request, she rushes to leave immediately. But she only gets as far as the driveway before running into Rusty, Finn’s best friend since third grade and his polar opposite. She hasn’t seen him in ages, thanks to a falling out between the two guys, but Rusty is much the same as Honor remembers him: arrogant, stubborn . . . and ruggedly good-looking. Neither one is what the other would ever look for in a road trip partner, but the two of them set off together, on a voyage that makes sense only because it doesn’t. Along the way, they find small and sometimes surprising ways to ease their shared loss and honor Finn–but when shocking truths are revealed at the end of the road, will either of them be able to cope with the consequences?

Sam’s Review:

4 Stars

I’ll admit, I’m new to the whole Jessi Kirby lovefest that seems to be happening with the bloggers. I enjoyed Moonglass, still haven’t quite gotten to Golden, but I have to say: In Honor had me impressed.

Perhaps its the simplicity of the story or the extremely well fleshed out characters, but I found myself glued to this story. On the surface its a road trip story with a young girl wishing to honor her dying brother’s wishes, but deep down, it’s so much more than that. In Honor is a story of self-discovery and learning what it means to grow up when you lose someone important in your life. I felt like I really connected on a personal level with the story, as I’m currently going through with the death of a family member, but Honor is such a strong, touching character that I really loved watching her grow, make mistakes and then hike up her boots and try again.

There’s no coincidence that Honor’s name is metaphorical in this text. She is, in a unique way, a young lady who upholds truth and honor, and yet she struggles with what it means to do honorable things for the right reasons. I found the way Kirby handled the metaphor was quite interesting, and I loved how it was woven not just into Honor’s character, but the story on a whole.

And then there is Rusty. I hated Rusty at first, but all of a sudden his goofy, geeky ways, won me over. I’m pretty sure I fell for him after he gave Honor a lecture about why “Carry On My Wayward Son” is one of the best car driving songs in the world. Rusty has a lot of of wisdom, even if he hides it in his stupidity and shamelessness. His reveals at the end of the story gave me a lot of feels and it made me love him more for trying to help not just himself be a better person, but Honor as well.

I really didn’t care for the secondary characters in this novel. I felt like they were one note, one-dimensional people who didn’t entirely serve too much of a purpose. It’s also weird how MANY secondary characters there were considering it’s a road trip story, but I’ll be forgiving towards that considering how much I enjoyed the ride. Jessi Kirby knows how to tell a touching contemporary story about what it means to grow up with loss, and still have a sense of humor about it. I definitely recommend this book to those looking for a road trip without having to actually get in a car!

River’s review:

5 Stars

This was my third Jessi Kirby book (I started with Golden and followed that up with Moonglass) and I love the way each book hits me. This time… I was hit with a huge wave of homesickness. I recently visited the USA and while most of the time I’m very happy to be in Japan, I am reaching this point where I want to go back to the States and just… buy a damn muscle car, get my own house, and drive myself around without having to worry about following some stupid train schedule.

As much as I loved the story, and the messages in it, and the characters… I really just felt incredibly home sick. I missed being young, missed having a car, missed boys like Rusty and nights filled with too many shots and hang-overs the next day.

Every stop that Honor made hit me in some weird way. I’ve never even been to the south, I’ve never driven across America, but I was seized with this need to do it. Now I can only hope that when I do move back that my husband will go for an awesome car and a road trip.

As with all Kirby books, the writing was phenomenal. I love her prose and I just want to sink into it and bathe myself in the beautiful words. The emotion soaked text really moved me to tears a few times (much as Golden did… I cried over that too and it wasn’t even SAD) and I loved Honor and Rusty. I loved how fleeting their moments were together, while at the same time they were crushed with so much history.

And Honor, I loved her all the way down to her red cowboy boots. She’s probably my favorite Kirby heroine. I love that Kirby doesn’t write wilting flowers with no life experience. These girls are all tough, sassy, and I really enjoy that they can hold themselves together. Honor’s temper tantrum’s were pretty hilarious, but I also liked how she was able to let the grief over her brother in and how she was able to deal with it without becoming a clingy baby.

Now that I’ve read all of Kirby’s books I REALLY need her to write another ASAP!

Did you read IN HONOR? If you did what did you think? We’d love to talk about it in the comments! Also link us to your reviews! And don’t forget to check out last few Flings with:

This Song Will Save Your Life
The Moon and More

Next week: SMART GIRLS GET WHAT THEY WANT

Prep School Confidential

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Title: Prep School Confidential
Author: Kara Taylor
Rating: ★★★★
Synopsis: Anne Dowling practically runs her exclusive academy on New York’s Upper East Side—that is, until she accidentally burns part of it down and gets sent to a prestigious boarding school outside of Boston. Determined to make it back to New York, Anne could care less about making friends at the preppy Wheatley School. That is, until her roommate, Isabella’s body is found in the woods behind the school. When everyone else is oddly silent, Anne becomes determined to uncover the truth no matter how many rules she has to break to do it. With the help of Isabella’s twin brother Anthony, and a cute classmate named Brent, Anne discovers that Isabella wasn’t quite the innocent nerdy girl she pretended to be. But someone will do anything to stop Anne’s snooping in this fast-paced, unputdownable read—even if it means framing her for Isabella’s murder.

Review: This book was so fun! I’ve never been a huge fan of mysteries, but I enjoyed this one a lot!

Enter Anne, upper East side prep school queen B. She sets fire (accidentally) to her prep school and her parents send her to boarding school to hide her/appease the school/save face. Anne can hold her own at her new school, but she instead befriends her nerdy, quirky roommate… who gets killed just a week later.

WHO DUN IT. That’s what I wanted to know through the entire thing. There were lots of red herrings and everyone was basically set up to take the fall, but the one who actually did do it… really surprised me! And I loved that I didn’t call it. Nothing bothers me more than calling a plot twist halfway through the book.

I loved how gutsy Anne was. She didn’t really know her roommate, but she liked her and wanted to find out the truth.

The only thing that I didn’t really care for, and why I gave it a 4 instead of a 5, was the love story in it. I honestly didn’t feel that it was needed, and while it was really light, it could have just not been there. I don’t know, I just wasn’t feeling it… but the rest of the relationships, the friends, and the twists between them all, totally worked for me.

I can’t wait for the next one!!!

I received this from Netgalley and wrote an honest review to say thank you!

Contemporary Summer Fling: The Moon and More

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Title: The Moon and More
Author: Sarah Dessen
Rating: ★★★★~★
Synopsis: Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.

Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo’s sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby.

Emaline’s mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he’s convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby?

Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she’s going?

Sam’s review:

4.5 stars

I miss Sarah Dessen. I went though a phase where I’d buy and devour each one of her books the moment I got them. While I wasn’t huge on her previous novel, Whatever Happened to Goodbye, I still couldn’t wait to get my hands on The Moon and More. Sarah Dessen always writes these perfect summer reads, the kind that sweep you away to beautiful beaches, crystal clear skies, and the smell of salt water. This book made me love her even more for that.

Emaline is a fabulous narrator. She’s quirky, sassy, and wants more than her life can actually handle. While she is given a semi-proper life with her mom and dad, her estranged father keeps trying to make attempts to get back into the picture. Admittedly, while many of Dessen’s novel look at missing parental figures, this book is interesting in that we have an estranged parent trying to get back into the picture, but not for the best reasons.

I actually loved the interaction between her and her estranged father just because it felt very natural, awkward, but I equally loved Emaline’s relationship with his son, Benji. Dessen does an amazing job at writing likeable children. It’s like she has magic powers, but they feel so realistic and innocent, so when confronted with the real world, they have just enough naiveness to be child-like, but they also have the mental capacity to understand the types of changes they may have to face. Benji was my favourite character and I adored his relationship with Emaline — they needed each other to feel whole and it’s very touching.

Funny enough, I didn’t find myself team Theo or Luke in this book. I thought both male leads were very unrealistic (in a good way) about their expectations from life and people. Expectations, particularly realistic ones, are a huge focus in this story, yet Luke and Theo came across to ideal and lost, and I loved that Emaline starts to see right through both of them. While both male leads have their genuine moments, I never found myself intrigued by either of them (None of them are Dexter from This Lullaby, after all), and I just found that I disliked how they try to tell Emaline to live her life and deal with her estranged father. It bugged me a fair bit, more so from Theo though in this case.

I always love Dessen’s descriptions of the world around her heroines, and every time I return back to Colby, I’m always smiling, no matter what. I always love the people that inhabit Dessen’s worlds because they are full of flaws, but still redeeming in a lot of ways. I loved Morris and Daisy, I was so happy to see Auden’s cameo, and seriously, if you’ve never read a Sarah Dessen book, make sure you try one this summer. She really does write the perfect summertime reads.

River’s review:

5 stars

Back when I was into Twilight and all things that drank blood and went bump in the night I was very much against contemporary ‘chick lit’. My sister on the other hand was a huge fan of authors like Picoult and Dessen. In between paranormal or fantasy books I secretly read one of the Dessen books that was laying around and… I was sunk. I grew to LOVE Dessen after that and even though I was totally anti-contemporary (until very recently) I always put aside the monsters and demons for the perfect summer read.

I received my copy of THE MOON AND MORE directly from the publisher because I won it on facebook. You wouldn’t believe how happy I was!!! I felt a special connection to this book because over the past few years I started to follow Dessen on twitter and I basically watched her work on this book the entire time. I was really excited about her progress and when it finally came I knew I had to have it.

I agree with so much of what Sam said in her review. Emaline’s voice was perfect, and I loved her relationship with her family. I loved the tension between her and her ‘father’. I didn’t go for either boy in her life (but I HATED Theo with a passion by the end of the book).

My favorite thing about this was her relationship with her half brother Benji. Maybe she can’t have a relationship with her father, but at least she was able to make a strong connection with her brother, and in a sense, stay connected with that part of her family.

I love that Dessen’s books are not sequels or prequels of each other, but they all connect somehow. And I was cracking up when I found all of the little name-drops she did of her favorite Good Morning America anchors. These little things really make Dessen’s books seem even more real and I feel like she’s the type of author that, no matter how famous she might be, will always have these little things connecting her to her readers and just the world we all live in.

This is an amazing summer read and I encourage you to pick it up while the temps are still hot and the beaches are still busy.

Did you read THE MOON AND MORE?! If you did what did you think? We’d love to talk about it in the comments! Also link us to your reviews! And don’t forget to check out last week’s Fling with THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE