So, "Zenn Scarlett". I'm still not entirely how to shelve this book in terms of genre - is it YA, or MG? Or is it riding the fine line between them? W...moreSo, "Zenn Scarlett". I'm still not entirely how to shelve this book in terms of genre - is it YA, or MG? Or is it riding the fine line between them? While this was a really solid debut for Schoon, I think it needed at least one or two more edits before getting to the ARC stage of things because a lot of things needed clarification. While I'm happy this book is yet another we can add to the space western canon within MG/YA, at the same time, I just wish it'd been clearer. Nevertheless, I did have fun with "Zenn Scarlett", and I think other readers will too.
What was good: the worldbuilding, for the most part. We get this really interesting version of Mars - it's not completely safe for human living. In fact, we live in bubbles on this version of Mars, and without them, well, we'll die. I liked that sense of desperation there, and the fact that Earth isn't really talking to Mars in a very American Civil War-esque kind of way makes for a very interesting dynamic between the haves and the havenots, the settlers and the prospectors. And in the middle, we have the Ciscans (presumably descended from the Franciscan order, though this is not really delved into too much) - an order that used to be religious, but now focuses on exoanimal medicine. We get a lot of backstory as to how the "Rift" between Earth and Mars started, and how everything got to this point in Zenn's world, but we're not given solid dates as to orient ourselves in terms of how far in the future we are from right now. Which was a bit frustrating because I like to know where we are in time. All we're told is that it's at least a few hundred years from now, and there's a Star Trek-like Union of planets that Earth and Mars are apart of. When Schoon chose to use sensory imagery and language, he really knows how to do it. But unfortunately, there is a lot of telling over showing (especially in terms of the backstory), and that made things a little difficult to keep up with. I can see how it would work for MG (especially young MG), but not YA.
What really needed work: the character building. While the simple parts of Zenn and her main cast (Hamish was my favorite) were pretty sturdy, I wanted a little more complication in terms of how their characters function. We're given a lot of details (like how age is calculated and used due to Mars' orbit time, etc), but some of the more important and finer aspects as to what drives these characters is more or less glossed over. Example: we know why Hamish is there - because his Queen Mother-Spawn sent him, and that's what's expected of him. I wanted more complication - though Hamish is an insectoid creature, it felt kind of speciesist to keep him so simple and almost robotic in some of his actions. As for Zenn, we know why she wants to be an exovet (the incident with her mother at the beginning was a great way to create tension there), but at the same time, for most of the book, all it's about is not the tension with bandits going around as if in a western novel, or about how resources are starting to run out (kind of important) for the humans on the planet - but just focused on passing her exam. And for me, frankly, that just wasn't enough. I wanted more.
Zenn is 16 - we're told this through the narration, which couldn't seem to settle between 3rd close and 3rd omniscient. However, her actions, her voice seemed to speak more toward 13 or 14, regardless of how age is calculated between Earth and Mars' orbital standards. In so many ways, it felt like Schoon was writing down to the audience, and that was really frustrating, too. Very obvious things that apparently had to be explained to Hamish (give the dude a break, he's an insect and obviously got into the Ciscan order - he's got enough smarts) like "intolerance is bad and diversity is good" and so forth. While I can see the cultural divide into how a lot of the things Zenn and Hamish talked about had to be explained to the poor bugdude, a lot of it could have been cut.
Thus, my confusion - is this YA? Or MG? By the narrative tone, I'd say it's late MG or early YA. But Zenn is 16 - and she should sound (and act) much older.
What I really liked in terms of character building: Zenn's strange superpower with the exoanimals around her. I thought that was great, and I wanted a lot more of that than I actually got. But since we're set up for book two, I may just read it if for more explanation into what's going on with her abilities and how it may change the world around her for good. Also, some more diversity on her animals would be awesome (though I want her cat-like creature, Katie. Can I has? Please?) - not just mammals next time around.
Otherwise? I just think this one needed a bit more cleaning up (and hopefully will get it) by the time it gets pubbed. It was a lot of fun, and I love that space westerns are combining with space opera to make a really fun bastard genre that's finally really making its way into the YA/MG canons in a solid way. "Zenn Scarlett" is out May 7, 2013 from Strange Chemistry in North America, so definitely be sure to check it out. We'll have a guest post from the author on the blog for the tour on May 10, 2013, so be sure to check out what Schoon has to say about his process then!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)(less)
Okay. So, this is a review I really didn't want to write because of the fact that I absolutely LOVED the concept behind it, but the execution of it wa...moreOkay. So, this is a review I really didn't want to write because of the fact that I absolutely LOVED the concept behind it, but the execution of it was just...not awesome. It was extremely confusing to say the least, and it just made me really sad because fighting aliens, time travel, and questionable existences? All of that is awesome, as was the development of most of the technical elements. Most of them. I wish I could recommend "Rush", but the ARC I read? It needed at least two more drafts to make things really readable. Hopefully all of that gets worked out by the time it gets pubbed.
I'm giving an extra star for this one for the concept alone. It sounded SO awesome, and I think had it had a few more drafts (as I said before), it would have been four (or possibly five)-star worthy awesome. Aside from the plot (and a little bit of the character building), all of the other technical areas? Pretty well developed. Which is why this is precisely the review I really didn't want to write.
First: the world. We have three different worlds within the first hundred pages or so - our current world, the alternate universe to our current world, and the space in-between where our main casts fights aliens. It makes me so happy that the space opera sub-genre is finally coming back to YA with a vengeance, and Rush has that in spades. The sensory imagery and language used to describe the Drau reminded me a lot of the Castithans from "Defiance" in terms of their coloring. But what we needed and really didn't get was why the Drau were so dangerous, and why Miki and the other "chosen ones" (a good trope to use in this book, if any) literally "felt" how "wrong" they were, all the way down to their bones. I found it a fascinating concept that Miki and the others could feel things about the Drau this way, but almost a third of the way in and still no explanation about it. Not a word. And that was disappointing (and frustrating).
Second: the characters. Next to the plot, this was the area that needed the most revamping. While we get to know our main cast and MC on a pretty superficial level, which was sufficient for the parts I was reading. There was no insta-love up until I decided I couldn't read on anymore as I was getting incredibly confused with the main plot and all of its arcs, which was a blessing, but at the same time, at the point where I stopped (a third of the way in), there should have been more development than there was.
What Silver does best: action/tension and sensory imagery/language. All of the action scenes were absolutely awesome, but it felt like there were too many of them in a row without enough pause for reflection, so the pacing was a bit off there in the sense that it was too fast. There needed to be some rest between scenes, and maybe a little bit more infodumping (I can't believe I'm saying this as I usually HATE infodumping), or some kind of scene/chapter where we can stop and catch our breath. But the sensory language and imagery was fantastic, and that made up for a lot. A lot, but not nearly enough to save this book for me.
I think a lot of people are going to love "Rush" - I really wanted to, and I loved the idea that started it, but it just got so confusing with so many questions in terms of what came first in building the plot (why having to die? why is killing the Drau a game? why do they need time displacement? and so forth) and how they're all put in order (or rather, lack there of) so unfortunately, this one just didn't work for me. But that's just me! "Rush" is out today from HarperTeen in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)(less)
This one was kinda hard to suss out, guys, I'll admit. I loved all of the action in "Katya's World", and I definitely am interested in the...more3.5/5 stars.
This one was kinda hard to suss out, guys, I'll admit. I loved all of the action in "Katya's World", and I definitely am interested in the sequel, whenever it comes out, but it just didn't feel entirely finished. Something was missing. Still, for those who are interested for just getting their feet wet in the genre pond for sci-fi, this is a great first novel to read.
For me, quite a bit of this book fell flat. Why? The voice was fine, but it fell into the pitfall that a lot of sci-fi genre novels do - technobabble. I don't think I needed to know in detail how all the things worked on the subs and the ships and stuff, I feel like a great deal of that could have been cut without having the rest of the novel itself suffer in integrity. There's also the issue of Katya herself - Howard uses 3rd close POV, so we're a camera riding on Katya's shoulder. And for all the Terran/Independence War might have hardened her and her generation, she sounded closer to 20 than she did to 15 (and it seems like a lot of other readers have noticed this, too).
Because I feel like this book was largely plot-driven (as opposed to character-driven), there's also the pitfall of that sort of book - the characters suffer, and they suffer hard. In the area of development, specifically - when I read a book, I want to see how a character may (or may not) change over the span of the story. Usually this happens with the author giving the character a separate journey arc to the plot, where we see how the character develops over time. Unfortunately, in this book, we don't get to see how Katya develops. From the start she's a very sturdy, awesome female MC that kicks ass and takes names. And while I love it when authors create female MCs like that, I also want to see how they change. This wasn't just with Katya, but with all of the characters of the main cast - yes, including antagonists and pirates.
However, what was really great was the worldbuilding and the tension - Howard definitely knows how to create a world, and knows how to do it well. His development of Russalka is very thorough, and detailed - we get the history of how humans came to the planet, as well as history of what's known about the planet itself. The descriptions and sensory language were really detailed, and that was good, but without characters that really felt alive, there's not much you can do with such great worldbuilding. Or rather, what you can do is extremely limited to the plot-driven genre of things.
The action was also great, tension on almost every single page, which, I will definitely credit to Howard, is very, very hard to do. This book is very engaging, and you'll want to read about this fight between Terrans, Russalkins, and everyone in between until the very last page. The history of all the people in the book as a whole is really interesting and so detailed yet at the same time, very simply presented that it's pretty easy to follow which event happened when and what caused what effect on each group of people. So I think that young YA will be able to follow this really easily, and will enjoy it.
But I just kind of wanted more. This is a great start, but I'm hoping for more details on the characters and how they grow - not just a page-turner - for book two. And I'm definitely interested in book two. But that's just how I feel about it. Read it for yourself and come to your own conclusions. "Katya's World" is out November 6, 2012 from Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry in North America, so be sure to check it out then!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)(less)
You know, guys, I'm starting to see the greater parallels with Sailor Moon (of which Meyer is a great fan) as this quartet progresses. But you know wh...moreYou know, guys, I'm starting to see the greater parallels with Sailor Moon (of which Meyer is a great fan) as this quartet progresses. But you know what? I'm entirely okay with that. That little observation aside, I think that the way that "Cress" is put together is going to throw some of the fans of this series off - I know I was at first - but I encourage everyone to hang in there. "Cress" is just as enchanting and amazing as the other books - if anything, more so, and it was fun to see Meyer playing with how she was structuring her storytelling. Just like "Scarlet" doesn't immediately delve back into the lives of Cinder and co., "Cress" does the same, except with a more extended timeframe. Regardless, "Cress" is AWESOME, and definitely one of my favorites for this year. Definitely on my top ten list for 2014 so far.
This one was a really fun read. I can see the potential for a series within it, but I’m just as glad that it’s a standalone. “A Confusion of Princes”...moreThis one was a really fun read. I can see the potential for a series within it, but I’m just as glad that it’s a standalone. “A Confusion of Princes” is a crazy ride through a crazier universe, complete with biogenetically enhanced “Princes” – “higher” beings within the Intergalactic Empire (far, far in our future) that basically help to rule over the whole universe. But what goes into making a Prince and being a Prince, the differences between what you’re told to do, what you’re expected to do, and what the reality of what you’re doing all come into play, making for quite the juicy story to sink your teeth into. If you want a biopunk story that’s YA friendly, “A Confusion of Princes” is the book for you.
What I love about this book the most is the narrative/POV – and the fact that Khemri might be an unreliable narrator (though I won’t say why or how) is quietly brought up a few times throughout the book. His perception of what he does, compared to what he’s really doing as well as what he was told he was doing as a Prince gets messed with a lot during the course of the story, from his second “birth” as a real Prince, to his third death and beyond. And the best part? Princes can be male or female – there is no “Princess”, but there are both male and female Princes. And the Emperor has a whole new pronoun to use when referring to it – hier – a mix of “his” and “her”. I love it when authors play with the concept of gender in any kind of story in any kind of genre, and Nix does a really good job with using his characters to make us question our ideas of gender in our current time. Though honestly, I did want more information on the female Princes – I think that would have really improved the book to over-the-top awesome. However, with what little we do get to see in terms of Prince Atalin and her misadventures, I can say I’m satisfied, though I’m dying to know more.
Khemri’s POV is also very detailed, but never lags or gets stuck in one particular place. The pace is smooth, quick, but still allows the reader to sink themselves into a very strange new world with the idea that humans are not the end-all highest beings in the universe. The effort put into the worldbuilding really shows – we go to a lot of different places with Khemri throughout his three lives in the story, from his initial birth as a human (or humanoid), through his rebirth as a “Prince”, through his training as a Prince and onward, we go all over the place. However, we never end up on Earth, which was actually kind of gratifying as I wanted to see all of the worlds that Nix could build aside from what Earth might look like at that point in our future.
All of our characters are also very well constructed, but there’s also some mystery to a few that opens the door for a series, a spin-off, etc. We get left with a few questions at the end, but at the same time, the end is satisfying enough that I’m fine with it being a standalone. Not all of the potential that was there was used, but sometimes those are the best kind of books – the ones that keep you wondering after you’re done with them, allowing you to wallow in the world that has been created for you. So overall, I was really happy with the way this one turned out.
Final verdict? This one is really fun if you’re into sci-fi, but if you’re not into sci-fi, it may not be your kind of book. I still recommend it as it’s worth the read. “A Confusion of Princes” will be out May 15th, 2012 from HarperTeen in North America, so be sure to check it out then!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)(less)
Rossi's done it again, folks. If anything, I'd say "Through the Ever Night" beats out its predecessor in almost all technical areas - cha...more4.5/5 stars.
Rossi's done it again, folks. If anything, I'd say "Through the Ever Night" beats out its predecessor in almost all technical areas - character development, worldbuilding, plot/arc development, and sensory imagery/language. The amount of depth and the amount of development, period, in this next installment in the Ever/Never trilogy really just blew me away. Even if you weren't impressed with the first book, I highly urge you to change your mind and read this second book. Rossi grew by leaps and bounds, and when that happens with a recently-debuted author, it's really a joy to watch.
Seriously, guys, I'm not exaggerating when I say that Rossi improved in pretty much every single area. Expanded worldbuilding? You got it. Deeper characters? Yep. We finally get to see Liv and Roar in action (aside from the novella)? Yes we do. So, so much angst in this one (for good reasons, not useless teenage pining angst, either), and I don't think it's ever felt quite this good. There's a lot of hurting that goes on in this book for everyone, but it makes them grow. Rossi has really made her characters better and stronger, and for that, for having the courage to mercilessly torture her characters to get an absolutely wonderful emotional payoff? I tip my hat to her.
Let's start with the world - we get to see the world beyond the land of the Tides, and that of Marron's hold and Reverie which we got to see in the last book. This time we go to the Horns' territory, the Rim, and at the end, we even get a sneak peek at where the Still Blue may be located. Ugh, to end on such a cliffhanger, I'd usually be shaking my fist out of frustration for taking the easy way out, but Rossi does it well by not only offering us a cliffhanger as to where the Still Blue may be located, but she also offers us decent closure for this book as a standalone within the trilogy (if that makes sense). As in, if this series were to end with this book, I'd be okay with it, because I'd feel enough closure. Maybe not enough concerning the tease about the Still Blue and Hess' plans to usurp it, but otherwise in every other area? I'm totally fine with that. And I was surprised to feel that way once I got to the end of the book. And it was a good kind of surprise. The imagery for the world - from the wet sea of the Tides to the frosty mountain steppes of the Rim - all of it was drop-dead gorgeous, and the sensory imagery was incredible. BRAVO.
We get to see our characters really move and grow in this one - the most of which belongs to Perry as a fellow MC, and to Roar, who we really get to see more of in order to make him a fellow MC to Aria and Perry. There's a really great bromance (with the slightest hint of love triangle, but thankfully Rossi doesn't go there!) between Aria, roar, and Perry happening, and I really love it. Specifically, the bromance that develops between Roar and Aria was pretty impressive, and I'm glad that Rossi decided not to go into love triangle territory between them. Why? Because it would have been taking the easy way out. Sometimes the hardest thing is to love someone you have feelings for (though you may not be able to distinguish between romantic love/platonic love for them), and not act on it. Aria and Roar don't, and that was incredibly gratifying to see. Aria grew quite a bit too, just so I don't leave her out, but I do have to say that Perry, with taking on the Blood Lord title, really grew the most. He had to. And it wasn't fun, or easy. There was a lot of pain, and a lot of work he put into it (and Rossi put into it), but it was for the better. This, alongside of the main cast bromance in Laini Taylor's "Smoke and Bone" series, is now my favorite in all of YA. YES. I liked it that much. And seeing Liv...well, her with Roar, god, that was painful, but highly enjoyable.
As for the plot advancement - there were a few places where the pace did drop off a bit, which is why this doesn't get a full five stars. But otherwise, I love the implications of Cinder being a former Dweller, and him possibly might not be the only one able to control aether. So what will happen to all of the Dwellers that Hess leaves behind? I really hope Rossi goes for the gold here and shows us the many possibilities that are here in terms of supernatural abilities, since Aria is half-Outsider, and Cinder is a former Dweller, and both have abilities as Scires. So, in terms of that, that was my biggest area of interest within the plot advancement in the "find the Still Blue" area of the plot. I definitely can't wait for book three now, though I hope we get another novella to tide us over before the next release in 2014.
Final verdict? Even if it you weren't the hugest fan of book one, you NEED to read book two, if just for all of the shiny new improvements and growth in all the technical areas of this book. I'm definitely off to go order my physical copy ASAP. "Through the Ever Night" is now available in North America through HarperTeen, so what are you waiting for? This didn't make my best of 2013 list for nothing. Go and check it out as soon as you can!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, librarything, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)(less)
I only got the first issue/first 30 pages as a preview from Net Galley, so I'm going to have to base my review off of that. Regardless, the 2009 reboo...moreI only got the first issue/first 30 pages as a preview from Net Galley, so I'm going to have to base my review off of that. Regardless, the 2009 reboot of the "Star Trek" franchise is one of my favorites (as only the Abrams/Orci team can do!), so not only am I frothing at the mouth for the next film, but I was quite happy to see that there was a comic adaptation on the way. And now it's here.
So, continuing with the reboot theme, the preview I got contains the story from the episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before" from the original TV series (Pilot, Part 2/Season 01 Episode 00-B). If you've already seen this episode from the original TV series, well, just imagine it with the younger version of the crew as presented in the 2009 reboot, and you have your story. This comic version basically takes the film and puts "Where No Man Has Gone Before" right after it (if we're going episodically). There's nothing really new here except for the new cast. I was raised on these old episodes as a kid (leading up to the "Next Generation" series, I was raised on that as well), so I've seen this episode a couple of times. It doesn't really hold much for me, but I definitely think that this is going to be a really good introduction to the canon as set by the original TV series for newer, younger fans introduced to the franchise by the 2009 Abrams/Orci film.
However, Sulu and Chekov are in this version of the adventure (Chekov didn't come into the original series until season 2), so it was a whole lot more fun with them there. Also, the art is great - very clear and simple, but captures the likeness of the new cast really well, so I really enjoyed it. What was also great was that it brings in stuff from the 2009 film, kind of mixing things up (especially the tension between Spock and Kirk with the whole misadventure on Delta Vega), so it was far from just the old story we've already seen on our TVs before. Well done! I love this new cast, and though this story is one that old fans have seen before, it was still nice to see it fit within the reboot canon and it's a good placeholder until the new film comes out next summer (though it was supposed to be this year, it got delayed).
So if you're a new fan to the series, or if you're an old fan waiting to see what the Abrams/Orci team has up next for you in this new reboot universe, I highly recommend this first volume of the comics. I had a ton of fun with it, and I'm even more anxious and wanting that next film now. The entire volume of this comic comes out in March, so be sure to run out to your local bookseller/comic shop then to see what the reboot team has in store for you next.
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com)(less)
Damn, middle books of 2012! There’s almost no middle book syndrome for any of the #2s in series I’ve read so far this year, and that’s awesome. “Invis...moreDamn, middle books of 2012! There’s almost no middle book syndrome for any of the #2s in series I’ve read so far this year, and that’s awesome. “Invisible Sun” is no exception to that, either – it was absolutely fantastic and I feel like Gill grew leaps and bounds with this book compared to the first book (and his debut) “Black Hole Sun”. This brings back the Space Western and generally gave me warm fuzzies because it was so great. If you’re going to read a Space Opera/Space Western this year, you’re going to have to make it “Invisible Sun”!
I was really surprised at how far Gill’s come from the first book. Where it dragged in parts of the first book, this second book didn’t drag in any places whatsoever and was so finely tuned and airtight it really surprised me. I literally could NOT put it down and finished it within a few hours. Durango and Vienne felt so much more rounded out as MCs this time – they really did feel like real people. The villains this time around were far more tangible and uglier than ever, too. While we don’t really get to see the major Big Bad (Mr. Lyme) too much throughout this book, by the end some of the other characters we did see (Rebecca, for one) really starts to make us wonder as an audience if Durango’s an unreliable narrator, or if the Big Bads really are that cunning. Maybe it’s a bit of both, because all of those reveals knocked me on my ass and left me begging for more.
One thing I will definitely say – I feel like I was hearing the voices of a younger Mal, Zoe, and Kaylee from “Firefly” when reading this – Mal being Durango, Zoe as Vienne (though in “Firefly” there is no romantic aspect to that, and in “Invisible Sun”, there is), and Mimi as Kaylee. I love it when this sort of thing happens, and it’s really rare that it does. There’s a very Whedonesque feeling to the whole thing – the fact that both Asia and the Western World colonized other planets in the future, the way language is used (especially when it comes to swearing – and the Japanese was accurate! Holla!), and the general space western theme. However, it feels like Gill really made his characters his own this time around, and I ended up loving this volume way more than the first because all of these characters really do have their own voices so much more developed. The sensory language improved by leaps and bounds, the settings were breathtaking, and the brawls even more fun than ever. By making his characters go on extremely uncomfortable journeys, he makes them grow, and the character development arc (which is essential in any book), which seems like it’s starting to falter a bit in YA, is really really strong here. Gill also isn’t afraid to torture the hell out of his characters (both physically and mentally) and in my book, that makes him awesome as an author.
I don’t think I can gush about this book enough. Really. It was that good.
But the big reveal leaves room for book 3, and you know what? I’m excited. Really excited. I know that I say I’m sick of series, but there are a few exceptions to the rule, and the “Black Hole Sun” series is definitely one of those exceptions. Especially when the biggest of big reveals concerning how Durango and Vienne met as well as who Mr. Lyme REALLY is (and the final fight scene between Vienne, Stain, and Durango is pretty insane, too!) are laid out – Gill has laid out his cards and quite well. I don’t know if book 3 will be the final book, or when it’ll even be out, but since the first book was out in 2010, it may be another 2 years before we get another one. And the wait is going to be agonizing.
But for now, we have these first two books. “Invisible Sun” is out March 27, 2012 in North America from HarperTeen. If you like space westerns, regular westerns, or stuff on Mars – this is the book for you. But I highly recommend this and it’s made my best of 2012 so far list, so PLEASE go out and read it when you can!
So, uh, can I have that last book now?
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)(less)
This book was a lot of fun. "In the After" has everything a paranoid post-apocalyptic/dystopian YA novel should have, plus it has a little bit of spac...moreThis book was a lot of fun. "In the After" has everything a paranoid post-apocalyptic/dystopian YA novel should have, plus it has a little bit of space opera mixed in for good measure. The only issue I had with this book is how it completely turns into a different creature in the second half the story, which definitely threw me for a loop. This book will definitely keep you on your toes the whole time, and just when you think you have everything figured out? Think again.
The biggest issue with this book: the pacing once we hit part two, when Amy is in The Ward. All of a sudden the frenetic, addictive pace that pushed me to read exactly half of the book within a few hours is gone, and is replaced instead with a desperate, amber-like slowness that Amy feels and that alternates between before going into The Ward, and being in the Ward. The pacing kind of completely goes off the tracks, but eventually, once you get used to the style of how Lunetta kind of reconfigures her entire story when Amy and Baby get to New Hope and all of the secrets that lay within, it gets back on track again. It's just a lot slower. While I see why Lunetta did it (a great way to get us to see that New Hope is definitely not the paradise it seems), I still think there could have been some other way to be able to set the tone of this terrible underbelly of New Hope without breaking the really great pacing we saw in the first half of the book. This definitely brought down my enjoyment of the book by a few notches, and it just kind of threw me off balance in general.
However, the rest of this book is fairly awesome - the world, the characters (more on those later), and the sensory imagery were all really great. Lunetta really shines in the sensory imagery and worldbuilding department, though I do feel like she could have built up New Hope a little bit more. New Hope felt a little fuzzier in the sensory/wordbuilding arena compared to the rest of the After, as did the characters. The characters could have been built up a bit more aside from Baby and Amy - I felt like Rice and Kay were the most real of the characters there, but at the same time, not quite as real as Baby and Amy. And Mom? Well, Mom just felt very flimsy in general until we get the lowdown on what she's really been up to since They came. Only then do we really get a good backstory - not only for the world, but for her character in general, and that felt a little too late in terms of timing. Yes, there were breadcrumbs dropped along the way in terms of paranoia and how something is definitely not right within the safe confines of New Hope when it came to Mom, but at the same time, I wish they'd been more substantial than what we got. What we got was adequate until the final Big Reveals of the book.
Also concerning the New Hope section of the world - the backstory we did get at the end still didn't quite cover a lot of the strange quirks of this establishment. Why the color-coding? It made sense when explained by Rice, but not by much. Why the secrecy with the Guardians - especially when more are needed because they get wiped out so quickly? I feel like a lot more could have been explained, and since it looks like we're getting a book two (yay!), I'm hoping that there will be more explanation somewhere in there when we get to Fort Black. That needed one more edit, I think, to really smooth things out at the ARC stage of things, and I hope by the time this gets pubbed, things will have been reinforced a bit more about the New Hope section of the world.
I can definitely say that Lunetta knows how to build sympathetic protagonists and main casts - I grew very attached to Amy and Baby very quickly. I can honestly say that was one of the quickest bondings on my part with a main cast in YA for the first time in a long while, and I was pretty sad when their adventures came to an end (at least in this installment) during the final pages of the book. And everything that's in the After pre-New Hope is strong, shining, and absolutely addictive reading. I just wish there hadn't been that kind-of disconnect with the pacing once we got to part two of the book.
Also, the big reveals? They're worth waiting for. Trust me. Lunetta definitely gets a gold star for combining two wonderful genres - zombies and space opera - and making them work in a way that Tim Gunn would be proud of.
Final verdict? "In the After" combines a lot of genres that are starting to get a bit stale within YA and creates something totally new and fun out of them all. I definitely can't wait for book two. "In the After" is out June 25, 2013 from HarperTeen in North America, so definitely be sure to check it out when you get the chance!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)
Wow. Where to begin? This book is pretty short at a shade under 300 pages, but it packs a huge punch. I didn't think that Stohl was going...more4.5/5 stars!
Wow. Where to begin? This book is pretty short at a shade under 300 pages, but it packs a huge punch. I didn't think that Stohl was going to go into the space opera area of YA (a sub-genre that badly needs boosting), but I'm glad she did, because she's done right by it. There's a lot going on in this first book in the "Icons" series, and now I'm pretty much slavering for book two. If you're looking for an exciting sci-fi adventure that still stays within the familiar elegance of Stohl's prose, definitely be sure to give "Icons" a try!
So, "Icons". A term for religious art (mostly within the Russian Eastern Orthodox practice of Christianity). A term for someone legendary, worth worshiping. And in this series, a term for the aliens that have come in fifty years from now and have taken control of Earth. Also a term for the weapons that are being shaped to fight them - the Icon Children. We get to see four of them in this book - and the idea of each one symbolizing an emotion does harken back to Russian Icon paintings, which I thought was really clever on Stohl's part. There's a lot of religious imagery tied in with the space opera/alien side of things, and I never thought the two could really mix until Stohl mashed them together.
All of the technical areas of this book are pretty much flawless, not gonna lie there. The worldbuilding is fantastic - using that mix of religion, terror, dystopia, and aliens/space opera really helps build up this world where the Megacities have gone silent, and the ones left are just barely sustaining humankind. We have a mix of chapters from Dol's POV, and documents from both before and after The Day - and it all flows really easily and really well. For worldbuilding, if you have a society that's different from our current one - be it past or future, I love it when authors use "documents" and "diaries" to help explain the world and root it more firmly in our minds as the audience. And slowly (but surely) throughout the book, we get definitions and explanations as to what REALLY happened in terms of The Day, and the what the Icon Children really are, and so forth. Me gusta.
The character building and relationships - while there's a sort-of love triangle that happens, I can see why it did, and why it worked. It felt like a kind of obvious route to take, but it worked. I won't spoil how or why it did - that would be spoiling a large part of the story, but it seemed more or less resolved at the end of this book, and I'm hoping for new characters and a new set of Icon Children for us to play with for book two. Because if there are 13 main Icons...that would mean there has to be 13 Icon Children to take them down, right? Otherwise I was really satisfied with how the Icon Children for this book were built for us, though I could have used a little more on Tima - her time felt a little squished and I felt like she was a little neglected. Lucas was a close second there in terms of lack of development, but it was enough for us to go on, and continued to get stronger throughout the book. But Tima continually was a bit neglected, and she was the weakest character. I hope she gets the attention she deserves in subsequent books. Dol and Ro were fantastic, though, and very strong. As was Doc.
Otherwise? I just love the mash of dystopia, biopunk, space opera, and religion that came with this book, and its pace was non-stop action until the final page. I wanted it to be longer. I didn't want it to end. So you can imagine how excited I am for book two. It looks like it's going to be a crazy bloodbath full of mystery and betrayal, and I am so down with that.
"Icons" is out from LBFYR in North America on May 7, 2013. If anyone thought Stohl might have been a one-trick pony with her work on "Beautiful Creatures", I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how wrong you'll find yourself to be. One of the best of 2013 by far, and I just want that second book NOW.
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, librarything, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)(less)
I’m SO glad they finally reprinted one of the three volumes and with all of the one-off comics that hadn’t been published anywhere but in random omnib...moreI’m SO glad they finally reprinted one of the three volumes and with all of the one-off comics that hadn’t been published anywhere but in random omnibus collections from Dark Horse so far. ;_; I really am. Especially “The Other Half”, as I have a huge soft spot for Wash in my silly little heart. The art has been gorgeously updated, now in hardback for the first time, and if you’re a Firefly/Serenity/Joss Whedon fan, this updated version of “Better Days” definitely belongs in your collection.
“Better Days” takes place before “Serenity” (the film) but after the “Firefly” series, and is basically a fun romp with the old gang on a job gone wrong. Well, more like, when is a job of theirs NOT going wrong?
I have to say, one of my favorite part of “Better Days” was always anything with Jayne. Especially when he’s cursing in Mandarin, which Dark Horse purposely doesn’t bother to translate because some facial expressions are pretty much universal. And the references to “The Hero of Canton” made me shriek with joy. If you want to go back to the good old days with the entire team on board of Serenity, “Better Days” is definitely the good fun you want to read. Such shenanigans. (Bonus! If you love River and/or Simon, don’t miss the scene after The Job Gone Wrong with them. It’ll make you wish for a happy ending for them even harder.)
“Float Out” is one of the newly available stories previously only in other Dark Horse multi-author/series omnibuses, and is heartbreaking it not only opens the old wound of the ending of “Serenity”, but it also very briefly shows us how Zoe is holding up after those events. In short, “Float Out” is an epitaph to Wash and all he was, both the good and the bad, and the very silly. I kind of wish that they’d continued it longer than they did when it comes to what’s going on with Zoe (I won’t spoil it for you, read it yourself!), but at the same time, I’ve gotten used to Whedon’s open-ended answers, so I’m okay with it. I guess it just makes miss Wash and his addition to the family of Serenity all the more. Oh, and did I mention? Jo Chen (master of the “Buffy Season 8″ early covers) did the alternate cover for this one, and it’s included early in this volume.
And then there’s “The Other Half”, which is River “proving” herself on a job with not being permanently crazy and saving the rest of the crew from our good friends the Reavers. I’m glad River got her own little side story and props for saving them so many times with her Alliance-induced psychic abilities/psychosis. It ended on such a good note, and I just kind of wanted to hug River forever by the last page. This is another story that takes place before “Serenity”, but not by much, I’m guessing. As no one’s really officially released a canon timeline of the Firefly/Serenity ‘verse, it’s kind of hard to tell.
Lastly, there’s “Downtime”, another tale before “Serenity”, with hilarity of the snowbound and venereal disease sort, and once again, Jayne takes the cake with being the most hilarious, closely followed by Zoe and Wash as the must adorable couple, and River, as…well, the most kick-ass. There’s an afterword by Adam Baldwin, the Man They Call Jayne himself, talking about his manly feelings about the series, the film, and its cancellation, and more supplemental cover art by Jo Chen to boot!
So really, this is a treasure trove of (somewhat) new stuff with the Serenity crew. I’m glad I didn’t buy the previous softcover version (I’d bought all of the issues of “Better Days” when they were on the newsstand, and since the previous edition didn’t have any extras, I hadn’t and still don’t see a point in buying that edition) because now I have the chance to own a second hardcover edition of the “Serenity” comics. “Downtime” sets things up for the final volume (so far), “The Shepherd’s Tale”, which is all about Book (and the big secret he’s been holding throughout the series, film, and comics thus far). I really hope they release a hardcover copy of that volume as it’s just as lovely as this one.
Dark Horse, great work as usual with catering to the fans. It just makes us love you (and your products, therefore giving you our money) all the more. Let’s hope that the signal never stops, and that like “Buffy”, this series continues to get love (and occasional goodies, like this volume) for years to come.
(posted to goodreads, librarything, shelfari, and witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com)(less)
I’ve noticed that even in pre-publication, this book has gotten a rather bad rap for being “anti-religion”. After reading it through this past weekend...moreI’ve noticed that even in pre-publication, this book has gotten a rather bad rap for being “anti-religion”. After reading it through this past weekend, I can say it is not – in fact, Hawking and Mlodinow ask the question whether there is more room in quantum physics/mechanics compared to traditional (or “classical”) physics instead. This book is a very thoughtful read, and parts of it are a bit hard to get through because you have to sit and really give it a good pondering but nonetheless, it should be a book that everyone should read.
I think the parts that dragged in the book weren’t because the subject matter was dense, but because those sections needed better editing. In anything, I’m blown away by how clean and easy a read Hawking and Mlodinow has put together on things like classical versus quantum mechanics, philosophy, and religion. The parts of quantum mechanics that I didn’t understand before due to the fact that I’m terrible at math are now very clear and easy to understand, and I learned a lot about something I didn’t even know existed – M-Theory. M-Theory is an extension of string theory, and unites/reconciles both quantum and classical physics together in one nice big umbrella. I knew what string theory was but Hawking and Mlodinow, through presenting M-Theory, helped clarify all of the details I was a little fuzzy on.
If anything, this book is a godsend. It’s so accessible that school children could (and probably should) read it and understand everything that’s going on. Hawking starts with the earliest mathematicians and introduces to classical physics/mathematics (pretty much all scientific theory up until the 1920s) and helps make the storytelling easier with funny comics and analogies that will ease even the most uncomfortable of audiences into the subject more or less painlessly. The authors go from there and explain everything that goes on, even stopping to examine how religion and philosophy influenced classical mechanics (and vice-versa), and then goes on to explain quantum mechanics, the Many-Worlds theory, and more while still asking the question whether or not religion and philosophy have a place in the science field today.
All in all? For really tough subject matter, this was done really well. The only parts that needed clarifying were really the areas that needed one more draft or edit, and there weren’t too many of those areas. So if you’re going to read one book on science-y things this year, I’d have to recommend “The Grand Design” because it’s just so well done. It hits shelves on February 7th, 2012 in North America so be sure to get a copy at your local store or library. It really is worth the read.
(posted to goodreads and witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com)(less)
**spoiler alert** Guys, you know how much I love space opera (only second to space westerns). I’m happy to report that “Glow” not only fills that cate...more**spoiler alert** Guys, you know how much I love space opera (only second to space westerns). I’m happy to report that “Glow” not only fills that category, but also gives us a little taste of dystopia (a la “The Handmaiden’s Tale) and teen romance. I really enjoyed this book, and I’m definitely chomping on the bit for the next one (which hasn’t been announced yet!). The question of who to believe, and what to believe, as well as who actually writes history in a situation like this was brilliantly done, and am seriously contemplating a reread sometime soon.
I have always loved “The Handmaiden’s Tale”, and have always wondered how it would look in another dystopic (or semi-dystopic) environment. Now I have my answer! To think that girls are kidnapped to be used for breeding (as well as the scenes in this book depicting it) made me violently nauseous. Not in a bad way, but in a “oh god it feels so real” kind of way. Any book that can move me and make me feel something that viscerally is never a bad book. The actual scenes where Waverly realizes what’s really going on while inside the sick bay of the New Horizon are extremely intense, and I literally could not put the book down. I think I read the whole thing in one sitting, more or less.
And then there’s the question of faith thrown into the mix, masterfully done by Ryan – divide a people into two groups, one secularly-based and one purely faith-based, and see what happens. Now we know. In a tip of the hat to Margaret Atwood, who also used a faith-based dystopia along with using women as breeding stock, “Glow” rightly portrays the horrors of young girls being subjected to having aspiring goals no higher than to breed, as told to them by the female pastor and captain of the New Horizon, along with other lies about what happened to the Empyrean. There are so many awesome twists and turns that it really made me not want to leave this insane little world Ryan cooked up.
If you’re into dystopia and you haven’t yet read “The Handmaiden’s Tale”, you might want to go give that a read before starting “Glow” because of all of the subtle shoutouts to Atwood’s book therein. It’ll help you better understand “Glow” from Waverly’s point of view better.
As for the boys, when Seth is (briefly) in charge, there is a bit of a “Lord of the Flies” feeling about it, and how bizarre it is when Kieran discovers the very thing that will trigger and push Waverly out of his arms at the end of the book (I won’t say what or how – you really do need to read it for yourself!). I wasn’t expecting that turn of events whatsoever, and it was a pleasant surprise to be smacked head-on with such an ending. There’s almost a question of “after all of that, can you ever go home again?” , and when you see what Waverly does and how she reacts after re-boarding the Empyrean, the question lingers long after you’ve set the book back on your shelf. I don’t think you can go home again, after you’ve gone through something like Waverly and the Empyrean girls did. Not when home becomes a mirror of the place you now dread the most.
In short: Awesome, awesome, oh god that did not just happen I can’t even — oh, AWESOME. (My literal thought process as I read through the book.)
I realize I’m being pretty vague in some of the parts of this review, but I’m really trying not to spoil it. It IS that good, and once it hits shelves on September 27th, you really should go out and get a copy (or reserve it at your local library). Ryan is a fantastic new voice in the space opera sub-genre of YA (though she has done contemporary YA before), and I can’t wait to read the second book of this series. Because of all of this, “Glow” has made it to my best of 2011 so far list. Congrats, Ryan. You truly deserve it.
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, librarything, and witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com)(less)