Aussies supposedly write some of the best books out there. Unfortunately, they choose not to share many of them. Okay, maybe it’s that American publishers choose not to purchase them for years on end, but, either way, I end up missing on quite a lot. This little Aussie gem became available in the US, and when I had a chance at a review copy, I snagged it. Be forewarned that this book is not science fiction. That’s lesson number one. Life in Outer Space is an adorable, nerdy contemporary novel about first love, finding your passion, and pop culture references.
For much of the novel, I was enjoying it but concerned that Life in Outer Space was headed for manic pixie territory. Camilla arrives in Sam’s school and completely changes his life. She’s beautiful, quirky and somewhat mysterious, the daughter of a famous music critic. She’s lived all over the world and dresses in weird clothes that only she could ever pull off. The amazing Camilla transcends social group, immediately accepted by the popular kids, but able to choose to spend time with the nerds without facing any repercussions. Girl is magical, basically.
Thankfully, there’s more to Camilla than that. Sam really gets to know Camilla, and the two have oodles in common, and, perhaps more importantly, they’re open to learning about the interests they don’t share. He educates her on horror films and she teaches him a bit about music. They’re supportive of one another and admittedly adorable. She doesn’t exist just to make him better; they help each other improve. Other than a point I’ll note later, I definitely shipped this so much.
I adored the nerdy bits about cinema, from the horror movie marathons to Sam’s absurdly terrible sounding attempted screenplays. Throughout the novel, various jokes about horror movie cliches are woven. For example, at a party Sam thinks a particular girl would be the first to die, which is admittedly kind of terrible but also hilarious. Though I don’t know much about horror movies, since I can’t watch them, I know I missed out on some awesome stuff there, but it was still great. There are also numerous science fiction and 80s movie references, which are more my speed.
The characters are pretty fantastic. Sam’s group of friends, Mike, Adrian and Allison, banded together because none of them fit in and formed this awesomely nerdy haven. They eat lunch in a teacher’s office because they feel unsafe in the cafeteria due to bullying, but they get to watch movies while they eat, which is win. I’m an especially large fan of Mike and the LGBT subplot, and the fact that, unlike so many gay best friends in YA, he actually gets a resolution to his plot line.
My only reservation about Life in Outer Space is Sam. He freaking rivals Hamlet for his inability to make the decision on whether to act on something. Basically, you will spend the whole book trying to make him help his friend Mike or tell Camilla how he feels. Of course, to tell Camilla how he feels, he’d have to know how he felt and he’s one of the least self-aware people that ever existed. I get that people are like that sometimes, but Sam still felt absurdly hesitant to me. Given how close that group of friends is, SOMEONE should have said something without it taking so freaking long. Plus, if things happened quicker, the ending wouldn’t be quite so incredibly sappy. Oh, and also the fact that all of the nerds clean up and are rather attractive at the end felt a bit too She’s All That: (view spoiler)[Mike has the abs, though that makes sense, but then Sam looks like Luke Skywalker in A New Hope, Allison’s apparently a pretty close ringer for Audrey Hepburn, and even Adrian is less ridiculous looking. No. Too much. (hide spoiler)]
Life in Outer Space is a nerd’s dream of a book. Though it got a bit too idealistically fluffy for me at times, it was still a delight to read and gave me many happy feels and made me laugh, so it’s one I’ll definitely be recommending.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Though I did not love Ultraviolet quite so much as I had hoped, I was still curious enough to break my NetGalley embargo to run out and request QuicksThough I did not love Ultraviolet quite so much as I had hoped, I was still curious enough to break my NetGalley embargo to run out and request Quicksilver. I mean, why wait until freaking May if I did not have to, right? Thankfully, I was approved, and I got to reading pretty promptly, because of my resolution to do better about reading series books back to back if I can.
Ultraviolet begins largely as a contemporary, then making a dramatic twist to science fiction. As I said in my review then, I really preferred the first half of Ultraviolet, with its focus on synesthesia and mental illness. Quicksilver does not have this issue, and is a much more even novel without the crazy twist that made the first book so incredibly compelling for many readers.
Anderson switches main characters in the second book of the series, a daring move that she pulls off brilliantly. I enjoy and the synesthetic beauty of Alison's narration, as well as how unreliable she is as narrator. However, Tori's no-nonsense, starkly honest personality captivates me. From Alison's point of view, Tori comes across largely as a stereotypical, popular, gorgeous mean girl. Now, having this window into Tori's mind, it is so apparent how much that isn't and never has been her.
Having made it back to Earth at the end of Ultraviolet, Alison and Tori go their separate ways, trying to settle back down despite the media frenzy at their return. When a lab begins asking questions of the Beauregards about Tori's odd genetic makeup, Tori's parents decide that the family must leave Sudbury. The family announces their move to Vancouver, but heads instead to Southern Ontario with new identities.
Tori, now Niki, gets a job at a grocery store and does her classes online. She remains aloof from others, including the obnoxious guy at the grocery store who reminds her of her slobbery ex-boyfriend. Her goals in life are not to be noticed and to work on her engineering, for which Tori has a passion. I love how this passion is exhibited in the chapter headings, all complex engineering terminology.
As is perhaps unsurprising, Tori's peace cannot last long. Sebastian arrives bringing news of trouble, and a detective is poking around looking for her. A coworker from the grocery store, Milo, gets caught up in everything and becomes her first real friend. Oh, Milo. He's Korean and athletic and such a good guy. Now that's what I'm talking about. He and Tori develop a complex bond, one that I loved to watch unfold. Also, this is the first time I've read a novel in which a main character was asexual, so that's awesome.
I raced through Quicksilver, intrigued by everything. Anderson pulls out all the stops and does not go easy on her characters; I saw that ending coming, but was still surprised when Anderson went through with it. Anderson's series is a must-read for science fiction fans....more
Lauren Morrill is awesome. I’m privileged to know her IRL as well as through her deliciously fluffy novels. So, yeah, that’s aActual rating: 4.5 stars
Lauren Morrill is awesome. I’m privileged to know her IRL as well as through her deliciously fluffy novels. So, yeah, that’s a thing. Funny story: she’s in my book club, but I totally didn’t know it the first time that we were at a meeting together. Someone mentioned Meant to Be, and I was all “I love that book,” and then the room released a collective held breath and was all “oh hey, that woman is Lauren Morrill and that could have been hella awkward.” Thankfully, I did love it; knowing me, that’s not always the case. Getting more on track, Morill’s sophomore novel proves that Meant to Be wasn’t a fluke. Being Sloane Jacobs is every bit as fun and fluffy as Meant to Be, with bonus family drama, pop culture references, and rarely covered (in YA at least) sports.
I read a lot of dystopian/post-apocalytpic fiction, but, in the last couple of years, I've primarily read YAOriginally posted on A Reader of Fictions.
I read a lot of dystopian/post-apocalytpic fiction, but, in the last couple of years, I've primarily read YA ones. Sometimes I forget just how much bleaker the adult ones are. Whereas in YA dystopias, the youth with newly opened eyes joins a movement and you know they have pretty good chances of defeating the evil government, in an adult dystopia, odds are a lot higher that the bad guy will win. Blood Zero Sky is one hundred percent dystopian, not watered down or limited to a small population.
The opening scene hooks the reader right off. The heroine runs, bullets flying around her and through her. The men and women nearby pull away, trying to avoid her and make it to work on time. That's all you get and then it's back in time, the novel progressing forward to that opening scene. This narrative technique is tricky, as the audience now has a pretty good idea of the ending. In this case, I think this opening sets the reader up for what to expect: lots of pain and fighting and powerful bad guys.
Our heroine has a pretty perfect life. Her father is the CEO of N Corp, one of only two corporations in the world. N Corp runs all of the western hemisphere. People either work for N Corp or they struggle to survive as Unprofitables. Essentially, most of the world's population works in indentured servitude to the Company, living in Company apartments and buying on credit, with very little chance of their salary every matching their spending. Those few that do manage to pay off all their debt are known as blackies.
May Fields will be a blackie in a matter of years. She runs the Marketing division, coming up with ways to convince the population that they simply must have the new version of this or that technology, which, honestly, doesn't differ much from the previous version. Like everyone else, she spends almost all of her time working. She has one friend, Randal, a genius, so brilliant that he was put into a special team, whose intelligence is enhanced by pills that have the side-effect of weight gain, stuttering, and sterility.
May has a secret, however, that proves her undoing. She is a lesbian, still dreaming of her childhood love, Kali. She also likes to dress in men's clothing, another taboo. The Company, you see, is smart, and pushes Christianity on the population, choosing to stress the stories that advocate hard work. They're big on morality, on behaving a particular way. Jimmy Shaw, the Company's face for religion, creeps me out so much. He's only in a couple of scenes but they are shudder city.
N Corp basically terrifies the shiz out of me, because it's just so incredibly soulless and in control of everything. They implant crosses in everyone's face, sold for convenience's sake as they allow the user to control technology with their brains. However, these can also be used for tracking. N Corp sells one person cars to ensure that every single person has to buy their own. Employees that are late to work are fined. People are charged money simply for entering a store, whether or not they make a purchase. Gates paints a gruesome picture of capitalism run rampant.
Gates' dystopian world building is marvelous, and I applaud him for that. I relished the return to a classic dystopian framework. As I feel like I'm always saying though,, I did not feel a huge connection to the characters. Only for three of them do we really get any kind of back story, one of them being May. Without a back story, the others are a bit one dimensional, either part of the Company or the resistance. May herself is icy cold and pretty much emotionless for most of the book. Towards the end she defrosts a bit, but she's the kind of heroine that sort of pushes the reader away. My favorites actually ended up being McCann and his son, Michel.
I recommend this book highly to readers that enjoy the works of Max Barry, as I felt a lot of the themes really spoke to my memories of his book Machine Man. When you get frustrated at a lack of world building in other dystopias, you can come revel in Blood Zero Sky....more
Life sucks right now, and, I'm not going to lie to you. High school is awful, but at leaOriginally posted on A Reader of Fictions.
Dear Teen Christina,
Life sucks right now, and, I'm not going to lie to you. High school is awful, but at least middle school is over, and, so far, that exists as the nadir of your life, and I hope that does not change (it hasn't yet). Also, in junior year, you'll make a friend, a real one, the kind of friend you'll still talk to when you're unspeakably old (aka 25). Also, teen self, you should know that your fantasies of showing up at your ten year reunion incredibly hot and successful and falling in instalove with [insert one of the innumerable boys you crush on during high school] will not be coming true. Also, instalove is awful. Even in your daydreams, I expect better quality material, okay? Just know, young self, that it will get better.
There's a lot more that I could tell my teen self, because there's a lot that I've learned, even just to the extent of realizing how much I don't know. None of these authors had quite the same experience that I did, but a comment here and an embarrassing moment there spoke to me, just as others would to anyone who picks it up.
Robin Benway wrote one of my favorite letters in the anthology. Her second point begins, "High school stops mattering the second you graduate from it." This is both the truest and least accurate statement in here, I feel, and sort of sums everything up. All of these stories are people coming to terms with their middle school, high school or college experiences. In some stories, you can still feel the vitriol or the sadness, emotions still very close to the surface. These moments have a profound impact on your formation as a person. However, once I graduated from high school, I hardly looked back, and I barely remember a lot of it. The late nights frantically trying to produce a two-week science experiment in three days (you won't get a good grade on that one, self, but you weren't going to anyway) really just won't matter. And, if you don't want to, you won't ever have to see those people again.
At Decatur Book Festival, the moderator of a panel I attended made an observation that no authors of young adult fiction were popular in high school. Well, Dear Teen Me shows that this is not true. In fact, I'd say there's a pretty decent representation of different social cliques in here, although, unsurprisingly, the nerds do predominate. There are some cheerleaders, though, and at least one jock. I liked that, and getting a window into other people's high school experiences has a cathartic feeling to it, because no one had it easy. Growing up hurts.
Dear Teen Me is a brief volume, composed of short snippets, generally two to four pages long. About half of the authors go for silly self-mockery, giving an entertaining account of their teen awkwardness and playing for laughs. Most of the rest focus on a specific issue that will haunt their years, something dark and painful: eating disorders, self-harm, rape, abuse, grief over the loss of a loved one. The honesty of these stories and the bravery of the authors for putting that out there is incredible. A couple stories, sadly, didn't really say anything at all. These I did not approve of.
I whipped through Dear Teen Me in a single evening. For teenagers struggling with feeling at home in their own skin (aka all teenagers) or for those of us who still have some things from our teen years we need to get over, Dear Teen Me is a powerful read to help us feel just a little bit less alone. Also, you can see what all of the authors looked like in high school (in fact, Sean Beaudoin's letter will be all about his emo, artsy photograph), which I love. ...more
As a huge fan of superhero stories, I could not resist Mike Jung's debut novel, Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities. Yet again, my instincts for middlAs a huge fan of superhero stories, I could not resist Mike Jung's debut novel, Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities. Yet again, my instincts for middle grade novels have served me well, because Jung's novel is every bit as stupendous as its main superhero.
Packed with superhero stunts and villainous mayhem, Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities will surely delight any and all superhero fans. The tone matches up well with the movie The Incredibles, fun, action-packed, focused on family, and with a little bit of romance on the side. For older readers, Jung throws in cute references to classics of the superhero genre. For example, I noticed a street named after Brian Michael Bendis.
Vincent Wu and his friends run their own (unofficial) fan club for the city's famed superhero Captain Stupendous. Vincent, Max and George are not remotely popular, but they have each other and can comfort themselves in the awareness of their superior knowledge of Stupendous' exploits. Their lives get changed for the more exciting when they learn the secret identity of Captain Stupendous...and he's not anyone they ever would have expected.
Vincent, Max, and George make such a convincing group of nerdy friends. They squabble, have their own sets of inside jokes, tease each other mercilessly, and, most importantly, have each others' backs when need arises. The inclusion of Polly is my favorite part, because she shows them how powerful girls can be, even though they have trouble believing that at first. Polly totally rocks, and I love the wonderful message that Jung sends about strength through her character.
Vincent's parents are largely absent during the book, divorced and both busy with their jobs, father as a genius inventor and mother as school superintendent. However, despite their lack of physical presence, there is no doubt of how much they care for their son. They call him and check on him, and do their best to protect him. Perhaps most touching is his relationship with his mother's boyfriend, Detective Carpenter. He treats Vincent with respect and honors his opinions in a way Vincent hasn't ever really felt from adults, which helps him open up in this new set of challenges.
Serious messages aside, this book is almost entirely hilarious. There's the awkwardness of first crushes, the superhero/villain banter, and plenty of gross scenes, including one rather spectacular one involving a lot of vomit. Young readers will no doubt love all of these things. To top it all off, there's a scary robot and a bunch of epic battles. What more could you ask for?
The supervillain plot follows well-tread lines, and will not be shocking to older readers. Really, though, the focus is not on the supervillain, so much on heroism and how size doesn't really matter when it comes to defeating the bad guy. Though a bit anticlimactic, the showdown with the villain is hilarious and fitting. Just know that this isn't one of those stories that ends with the defeat of the villain.
I highly recommend Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities for anyone who enjoys superhero tales, young and old alike. The book reads quickly, and comes with a bunch of perfectly-matched illustrations by Mike Maihack....more
There are two basic methods by which dystopias nee utopias are formed: through force or through peoplReview originally posted on A Reader of Fictions.
There are two basic methods by which dystopias nee utopias are formed: through force or through people agreeing to give up their rights in exchange for an easier life. Angler's Swipe series falls into this latter category, along with Anthem. There's something so entirely horrifying about people giving up rights in exchange for peace. Don't get me wrong: I like peace, but I like being able to be myself more.
Despite my worries, I read Swipe last year, and was pleasantly surprised. With actual dystopias somewhat thin on the ground as a broader definition takes over, in an effort to make the most of the genre's popularity, Swipe comes as a nice refreshing dose of old school dystopian. Also setting Swipe apart is the youth of the heroes. Though still a YA and not an MG, the main characters are but 13.
They are, however, a rather mature 13 for the most part. Most incongruously for their age is Erin's hacking skills. This is something that happens all of the time in fiction: young people who can outhack anyone. I just have a little trouble accepting that child of privelege Erin has picked up these skills. Where did she learn them? However, their youth does shine through when it comes to their romances. This one has less romance than Swipe because the kids are busy with other things, but they react so childishly to romantic things, which is about the only time they read as their age.
My favorite aspect of this series is how powerful the two main female characters, Erin and Hailey, are, particularly in comparison to the main male characters. Though Logan has become the figurehead of the Markless movement, he really is not good for much. Mostly he causes trouble and makes unwise decisions. The girls, though, have the talent and the cleverness to really accomplish the group's goals. You all know how much I love books where the female characters are not portrayed as weaker than the men or in need of saving.
My favorite character by far is Erin. I love her for her acerbic, antisocial nature and her brutal honesty most of the time. When Logan and Dane are missing at the beginning of school and everyone wants to know where they are, she's the kind of girl who will tell it like it is and say they aren't coming back, who wants to yell at everyone to stop pretending like they care Logan and Dane are gone when they didn't care about them when they were in school. Plus, I love that Erin isn't all good. She totally buys into the Mark and Cylis and everything. She's more complex for her imperfections and her darkness.
There are two really wonderful new elements in Sneak that were not in Swipe. First, there's the River. Following the same concept as the Underground Railroad, the Markless have formed the River. This is not an actual river, but a road along which assistance can be found for the Markless if you know how to read the signs. For example, a boat means that there's a person there to help guide you, a captain. There's another sign indicating that a person therein will give you food or a place to sleep. I loved the way he brought history back and thought it was totally authentic. There was, however, some seriously obvious plotting here, because there's a symbol that's a hook, which means, basically, "It's a TRAP!" As soon as I saw that, I knew the kids would miss seeing it and get hooked. They, of course, did. Chekhov rule.
Second, there's a literary reference which is unbelievably cool and mad props to Angler for this. He brings in Dante's Inferno. In Sneak, their whole goal is to get to this prison, Acheron, where Logan's sister is supposedly being incarcerated. Well, Acheron is modeled after Dante's vision of Hell, which was just awesome. Acheron won't be less creepy if you haven't read Dante, but, if you're familiar with the Inferno, it adds another level (or 9) of awesomeness.
Lastly, I have to talk about religion. As you may or may not know, Thomas Nelson is a Christian publisher. That was what initially gave me pause, but I found little to no religious reference in Swipe. In Sneak, I can now see why a Christian publisher would have chosen this work, but the religion remains very light. I was never annoyed by it, and I'm touchy about such things. In fact, at one point someone sneezes, and the response was 'Gesundheit' and not 'Bless you,' which seems like a little thing but indicates to me that he has no intention of shoving his views down anyone's throat.
If you enjoyed Swipe, Sneak will not let you down in the slightest. If anything, I would say Sneak is actually a bit stronger than its predecessor. ...more
Writing reviews for anthologies or short story collections is always difficult for me. Should I just talkOriginally reviewed on A Reader of Fictions.
Writing reviews for anthologies or short story collections is always difficult for me. Should I just talk about the book as a whole, of my general impressions? Should I review each story? Highlight some? Rating them is difficult as well, since the individual stories vary so greatly. What I've decided to do is give a general overview and then some 'awards' to particular stories.
As with any anthology that I've ever read, there were some stories I really loved, quite a few that I had no strong feelings about, and some that I loathed. That's just how it goes. The stories have a nice variety, none of them really plumbing the same ground. Some of the authors surprised me, both in good and bad ways. There wasn't much humor, but dystopian humor has always been somewhat rare.
One notable aspect of this anthology is the dearth of romance. Most of the dystopias/post-apocalyptic novels being cranked out these days have a major romance element, but that is almost entirely absent here. There are a few couples (mostly lesbian, interestingly enough) or implied romances, but the focus definitely goes to the world building in all cases.
Actually, the world building was one of my issues as well, perhaps because of the prompt. The authors were told to write of what the world is like AFTER some calamity or the switch from utopia to dystopia or whatever, not to write about the transition. As such, many authors did not bother to explain how things evolved into their particular After. The perfect example is a story I would have really liked, except that there was no reasoning behind it: "Blood Drive" by Jeffrey Ford. In "Blood Drive," gun control lost. Kids take guns to school; every single one. They have quick draw contests and all sorts of accidents when people forget to take the safety off. Unfortunately, without knowing HOW the world went from metal detectors in schools to prevent kids bringing weapons to encouraging it (even the teachers have weapons), I can't appreciate the story.
Overall, there were more stories I either didn't like or didn't care about than ones I did, which is why I'm just giving this a three. Some stories obviously would rate much higher with me, but altogether there were a number I had to suffer through. If you feel free to skip the ones that don't resonate with you, I think it's well worth reading After, because there are some amazing stories in here.
Best Concept: "Faint Heart" by Sarah Rees Brennan - A fantasy world where a perfect woman has been created to be the queen. Men compete to the death to become her consort, thus eliminating the most troublesome aspects of society. Honorable Mentions: "After the Cure" by Carrie Ryan, "Rust with Wings" by Steven Gould
Best MC: "The Valedictorian" by N. K. Jemisin - In a world where succeeding can lead to a scary future, Zinhle still tries her hardest and wants to be the best, not for others but for herself. She's clever and brave. Honorable Mentions: "The Segment" by Genevieve Valentine, "Faint Heart" by Sarah Rees Brennan
Most Horrifying: "Rust with Wings" by Steven Gould - In this story, there are bugs that eat metal. This is terrifying, because I hate bugs, also because they can eat a car in a matter of minutes. They may also kill you for the fillings in your teeth. Honorable Mentions: "After the Cure" by Carrie Ryan, "Blood Drive" by Jeffrey Ryan
Most WTF Inducing: "The Great Game at the End of the World" by Matthew Kressel - From what I gather, there was some sort of alien attack, in which bits of Earth were pulled into space. Somehow, people are still able to breathe. Most of the humans are now transparent and without personality (Kens and Barbies). A brother and sister decide to pass time with a baseball game against the creepy alien creatures. NOT KIDDING. It's like vampire baseball on acid. (Dis)Honorable Mentions: "Reunion" by Susan Beth Pfeffer, "Blood Drive" by Jeffrey Ryan
Most Painful to Read: "How Th'irth Wint Rong by Hapless Joey @ Homeskool.guv" by Gregory Maguire - Allow me to translate: How the Earth Went Wrong. You may know how I feel about dialect (note: not favorable), and the whole story is written in this way. It hurt my head. (Dis)Honorable Mention: "Visiting Nelson" - Katherine Langrish (MORE dialect)
Most Forgettable: "Before" by Carolyn Dunn - Immediately after reading each story, I made notes to myself about them. I couldn't remember what this was about RIGHT AFTER I FINISHED. Honestly, I think I forgot as I read. (Dis)Honorable Mention: "Fake Plastic Trees" by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Story That Most Confused Me: "Gray" by Jane Yolen - Here's the thing. Yolen's piece was beautiful and I understood it. What confused me was why it was here. In an anthology of short stories, Yolen's contribution is a poem. Of less than 2 pages. A longer poem I would get, but this seemed very out of place.
Author That Most Surprised Me: Carrie Ryan - Those who know me well are aware of my distaste of Ryan's Forest of Hands and Teeth books. I read the first two and, though they weren't the worst books I've ever read, they rank among the books that most piss me off. I've also read a short story by her from Zombies vs. Unicorns, which I thought was similarly awful. This one, though, I liked. "After the Cure" did something entirely different from her prior world. I would like to see her do more stuff like this.
Author That Disappointed Me: Beth Revis - I like Beth's Across the Universe series. In fact, I read and reviewed A Million Suns this month and I rated it 4 zombiecorns. She's a very talented writer, and I like the world she created. However, I was no pleased to see it here. The way I see it, an anthology like this is a great opportunity for an author to branch out and do something different, really highlight their writing skills, and writing a lackluster story about a prior Elder on Godspeed added nothing to my understanding of her series or to this anthology, at least for me.
Author I'd Never Heard of But Want More Of: Genevieve Valentine - Valentine's story "The Segment" was not my favorite story, but I enjoyed it. Of all of the ones in this collection, I think it had the most humor to it. The topic was unique and this one had more social commentary on today than a lot of the others.
My Top Three: "Faint Heart" by Sarah Rees Brennan "The Valedictorian by N. K. Jemisin "Rust with Wings" by Steven Gould...more
When Love and Other Perishable Items came out, there were a lot of reviews that saiFor more reviews, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
When Love and Other Perishable Items came out, there were a lot of reviews that said they really didn’t get the point of it, since it’s not got much of a plot. It was very character-driven, they said. Of course, this made me want the book, even if many others were seriously whelmed by its contents. It was one of those times where reviews that actually weren’t highly positive totally reeled me in and convinced me it might be a book for me. Plus, I’ve heard so much about Aussie YA and Melina Marchetta totally panned out, so why not Laura Buzo? And yet. Here I am, a bit surprised not to have loved this one.
Love and Other Perishable Items does a lot well. There are two POVs and they’re very distinct. Amelia and Chris do not sound remotely similar and I think she effectively set up their timelines. They’re talking about the same things, but their views of them are so different. I would always look forward to seeing things from Chris’ side, after seeing Amelia’s interpretations.
Amelia, fifteen and seriously infatuated for the very first time, suffers from a pretty standard teenage problem: insecurity. Her lack of self-worth is exacerbated by her parents’ inattention. They’re present, but lost in their own worlds. Amelia thinks of herself one way, but through Chris’ eyes it’s obvious that her view of herself is flawed. It’s a reminder that what we see isn’t necessarily what others see looking at us, a very important lesson in life.
What I think I liked best in Love and Other Perishable Items was watching Amelia learn through fiction. She’s reading book primarily for school but she really takes the time to think about what they say and to try to apply their lessons to her own life. I wish I could say that I thought that much about everything I read as a teen. This, too, is how Amelia bonds with Chris, her crush. He’s in college, 22, and he enjoys talking with the intellectually curious youngster who works with him at the grocery store. In these moments, I was able to take Amelia’s crush seriously and to see where the two might really get along. It’s also the only time I found Chris likable.
That said, the romance in the book did not work for me, such as it is. Chris annoyed me to no end. He’s constantly whinging about the manic pixie dream girl of his past, a girl he failed to understand and who treated him like shit but whom he continues to feel is the one for him. Meanwhile, he seeks out the “perfect girl” even though he already met his perfect girl and she dumped him hard. I’m a fan of drinking, sure, but Chris worries me. He drinks like he wants to die. Plus, he does other drugs and makes just terrible life choices all around.
The ending has me side-eyeing this book. I feel like it all ties into the discussion of Great Expectations that Chris and Amelia have. Let’s just say I’m skeptical like Amelia about things. On a side-note, the discussions of feminism in this book are really interesting. It’s all about the different ways people have defined it and misinterpretations. Amelia actually hates feminism because she doesn’t really get what it is. Nothing’s really settled with regards to that, but I think it’s a book to make people think if they’ve never really considered those issues.
Did I like Love and Other Perishable Items? Well, kind of. I’d say it’s a good book and I liked it more than I didn’t, but it also never really coalesced for me. Authentic though their voices are, neither Amelia nor Chris really leapt off the page and felt real to me the way the best characters do....more
Touch of Power ranked among my very favorite books I read last year. Needless to say, I wanted Scent of Magic like my cat wants deli meat. With such hTouch of Power ranked among my very favorite books I read last year. Needless to say, I wanted Scent of Magic like my cat wants deli meat. With such high expectations, it's perhaps not surprising that the book fell a bit short. This is definitely not her best book, but still ensnared me. Scent of Magic may not be as beloved to me as the first book in the series, but there's plenty of action and powerful women.
One of the best thing about reading Snyder books is that they will always be chock full of incredibly strong, sassy women. Avry, the heroine, of course, has healing powers, which can also be used to fight, in addition to being well-trained with weapons. On top of that, she's incredibly bright and willing to do just about anything to help friends, and almost as much to help people she does not even know. What I love about her is how little vanity she has; at one point, she offers to heal a friend's facial injury to save her from the scars, even though then Avry would have to bear them instead. She also prefers practical clothing to beautiful dresses.
However, Avry's not the only strong woman in the book. Jael and Celline are varying degrees of bad guys, but are incredibly powerful. Even better, women fight in the armies of this world and can even rise to positions of authority. Women like Leah and Wynn do not have any powers to aid them, but they still kick so much butt. A lot of novels have strong heroines, but, in order to emphasize her uniqueness, otherwise contain only meek female characters.
Snyder also gets the villain just right. Tohon ranks pretty high up on the list of villains that horrify me. He has insanely powerful magic, which he can use to make zombies and to make Avry weak in the knees (I did not like what happened with that at all btw). Aside from that, he's crazy. He goes from friendly to murderous in no time; his moods are unpredictable. Not only that but Tohon's the brilliant kind of crazy: he pretty much equals Ryne for military strategy. Basically, he's terrifying because it's very easy to imagine him winning.
Sadly, I didn't feel the same love for this installment as the previous. I think a lot of that had to do with the separation of Kerrick and Avry. At the end of the first chapter, Kerrick and Avry part ways to accomplish different things in the war against Tohon. One of my favorite things about Touch of Power was the dynamic between the two of them, which obviously can't happen if they're not together. Plus, now that they're a couple, they don't have the same sexy banter that they did before even when they're together.
The other issue with the two of them being apart for most of the novel is that Snyder changed the narrative style. All of Touch of Power was from Avry's first person perspective, even when the group separated from what I recall. In this one, Snyder added relatively brief chapters from Kerrick's perspective. Avry's perspective remains in first person, but Kerrick's bits are in third person limited. This device might have worked better for me had his sections been counted as chapters (only Avry's are numbered, while his are headed merely Kerrick) and been written in first person as well.
These next couple of points will reference spoilers, though without specifics. While I love these characters and want them all to survive, you guys know how much I appreciate an author that will make their characters really suffer. Snyder can do this, I know she can, but she doesn't exhibit that ruthlessness here. Everyone freaking kept coming back to life! It's to the point of absurdity. Sure, a few people Avry cares about dies, but the main characters can apparently not be killed. That really lessens the impact of the plot.
Despite those issues, I was still debating between 3.5 and 4 for the rating, since I did really enjoy the book and get caught up in it. The deciding factor ended up being the ending. The fact that she ended this installment on the exact same cliffhanger as book one makes me want to throw all the things. Avry and Kerrick are once again united and temporarily safe, but one of them might die of a disease! Oh noes! Goddammit! Obviously neither of them is going to die permanently, so why even bother? Plus, this is so incredibly redundant. I hate everything about the ending.
In spite of everything, I did still quite enjoy reading Scent of Magic and will be eagerly awaiting book three, and really anything Maria V. Snyder chooses to write. I need to find time to read her first series, because I've heard it is worlds better than this one, which I like a lot.
Like I do with most books, I went into this one blind. I had no clue what it was about, so I was a bit surprised to be readingOriginally posted here.
Like I do with most books, I went into this one blind. I had no clue what it was about, so I was a bit surprised to be reading about the popular kids having a party. I did like the narrative voice, though, and the group dynamic. Then I hit the end of that first chapter, which is one of the best hooks I've read. I defy you to read to the end of that chapter and not NEED to know what comes next. Of course, the blurb will tell you what's going on, so I guess I'll talk about it too, but still, going in with no clue, it was epic. (If you don't want to know, probs skip to the end of the review).
So, yeah, here's what happens in the opening of this novel: Joey jumps, Joey dies, and Maggie doesn't remember what she happened in the first chapter, because of some sort of amnesia. Grieving, she faces cops, friends and Joey's family members, all wanting to know what happened, and she would like to know too. In the process of sorting out her memories and her feelings, she learns a lot of things she never knew, things about Joey and about her friends. I really enjoyed this, but I will say that I had all of the big revelations figured out within 20 pages. Reading how they happened and learning the details was still fun though.
What drove this book, though, were the characters. Although they definitely are not going onto my mental list of best characters ever, they worked. This group had a real and believable dynamic. Actually, my only concern about them as a friend group is that all 6 of them were friends from childhood. I don't think I've ever encountered a group of friends from childhood that all stayed that close through high school. Obviously, things will be changing for them now, but I don't know. Maybe that happens, but I've only seen it in pop culture. Most of the people I know only talk to a couple of people from high school any more, let alone elementary school.
The funny thing is that, in other circumstances, I would have hated these people. Joey and his crew are the popular kids at the school. They party every week, they do fun things, they drink a lot, and are generally admired by everyone. Had this not been about a serious crisis, carrying about their dramas would have left me cold. Even so, I don't like Joey. Even early on before everything came out, I didn't care for Joey: he's reckless and cocky. No thanks.
Maggie is better and I did like her voice. She had a real feel to her, although one I have trouble reconciling with her usual social status. It's really hard to say if she was like that all the time or if this was a weird side of her. I rather suspect the latter, because she was never comfortable in this book. Even in the opening scenes before tragedy struck, she was paralyzed by her fear of heights, worried, concerned and afraid of judgment. Only a the end did I see a slight vision into what she might normally be when confident and happy, but I'm still not sure.
One Moment is a wonderful contemporary that makes you think about the power of a moment and about how well we actually know even our very best friends. There will definitely be more Kristina McBride in my future!...more
When Unbreak My Heart first appeared on NetGalley, I actually didn't request it. I haven't read any of Walker's prior novels, IOriginally posted here.
When Unbreak My Heart first appeared on NetGalley, I actually didn't request it. I haven't read any of Walker's prior novels, I don't have much history reading contemporaries, and I have a very black and white view of cheating in relationships. All of that told me this might not be the book for me. I went back and requested it when I saw some very favorable reviews roll into the blogosphere.
As I started reading, I was initially regretful of that decision. The opening of the book is so mopey and nothing really happens. All Clem thinks about is the horrible thing she's done, which slowly unfolds in front of the reader. Every other chapter goes into the past (at least until that's all explained). The others are about her summer, in which her family (mom, dad, little sister, and herself) sail down rivers on a boat. I really wondered how Walker was going to pull off a book where the characters are stuck on a boat.
Thankfully, the book picked up the more you learn about the past, and the better you get to know the other people taking this same boating trip. I know absolutely nothing about boating. Honestly, I had no clue people could take a sailing trip like this down rivers. Color me surprised. Early on, they meet four other people who are on the same timeline and route they are (an old couple, and a father and son).
The cheating aspect of the story, the frame of it, never really coalesced with me. It mostly made me angry in a way I was not expecting. Clem has become a social outcast because she fell for her best friend's boyfriend. That's bad, for sure. I mean, having those feelings and not confessing definitely violates the 'hos before bros' pact. What's incredibly NOT cool (slight spoiler) is that Clem didn't even initiate anything and yet she is the one who becomes a social pariah. Her best friend even takes the guy back. All we see of the friendship is them keeping secrets from one another. And, so far as I can glean, Amanda doesn't really even seem to like Ethan that much, so I have a lot of trouble figuring out why she would want him back, unless it's to prove something.
I think that my biggest issue was with Amanda's character. It might have helped to have better context for their friendship. We learn very little about Clemanda pre-Ethan. As it was, I never got a great sense of Amanda as a person. She seems to be a showoff. Clem definitely suffers from an inferiority complex, since Amanda is the kind of person everyone likes and can have any guy she likes. Amanda's also strange for not having been more afraid of Clem and Ethan happening, since they have this crazy obvious chemistry, and she even encourages them to go on a date. That's just weird.
What really worked in this novel were the character relationships. I loved how real Clem's family felt. The mother with her crazy cookbook, the dad with his hat, and, most especially, adorable annoyance Olive. It's so obvious how much Clem's family cares for her. They give her space for a while and they let her know that they're ready to listen when she can talk about it. They put up with a surprising number of tantrums with good grace. When she finally confesses what she's been so upset about, they are just so sweet and non-judgmental.
I also can't leave this review without talking about the adorableness of James. He may be one of the most genuinely sweet guys in YA literature. Girls, let me just say that you want a guy like this, not an Edward or a Jacob or a Noah. You want someone real who will never try to change you or tell you what to do. He has advice, sure, but he doesn't pressure you. Plus, he's a ginger. Oh, how I love redheads. He is cute, upbeat, and funny, and their chemistry is so moving.
Unbreak My Heart is well-written and touching, despite the slow start. There's a lot to be learned from Clem's story. I see more Melissa Walker in my reading future!...more
Even though I love this cover, my expectations going into this were pretty low. I haven't seen anyOriginally posted on A Reader of Fictions.
Even though I love this cover, my expectations going into this were pretty low. I haven't seen any reviews for it, but I've heard from people who read reviews that they've seen less than encouraging ones. As such, I adjusted my hopes down a bit and set off. Actually, I ended up really enjoying Dark Star. Is it perfect? No. Is it a fun? Heck yes!
The very best part of Dark Star is the characterization. Recently, though I've been on a really good reading streak, I feel like most of my star deductions have been for characters that didn't feel real to me or that I simply could not connect with, so I really needed this character-driven read. Audrey has a huge personality, funny and clever and a little bit rebellious. I loved her voice so much that the writing style, which leans a bit more to the choppy fragments style than I generally care for, didn't bother me much.
Not only is Audrey awesome, her friends are great too. She has two best friends, Gabriel and Tink. Gabriel is the only one who has been trusted with her mother's secret (that she's the superhero Morning Star, though she prefers to be called a Guardian, and fights bad guys with her younger partner Leon). Audrey trusts Gabriel implicitly, the only secrets she keeps from him being ones she's not allowed to tell. Tink, who I totally pictured as the character of the same name from The Guild, is outgoing and tiny and a little bit terrifying. They have a real bond and I love to see that in novels.
Perhaps even more rare, Audrey has a loving, protective, approachable, attentive mother. Can such a thing truly exist in YA? Apparently so! Audrey's mother, Lucy, does go out all night to fight crime, but she's in no way an absentee mom. She manages to spend a lot of time with her daughter. While definitely not an overprotective hardass, Lucy does keep informed of her daughter's whereabouts and try to keep Audrey safe, except for that one flashback where Lucy totally battles this demon preggers. Plus, they totally have the mother-daughter banter down. Of course, to fulfill the YA parental drama, her father's out of the picture, but I was still so glad to have a loving family dynamic in this book.
The romance, which does exist, satisfied, even if it was totally predictable. Of course, if a romance has to be predictable, I'm not going to complain too much when it's my favorite of the cliched romance patterns, which this happens to be. Also, the best part is that the romance totally isn't the focus. It's there and believable and has chemistry, but flirting is minimal and Audrey doesn't spend the whole book mooning over boys.
The first half of the book, had it continued in that vein, might even have gotten four stars from me for the sheer fun of it and the awesome characters. However, the book took a bit of a turn, and, though I didn't hate it, I would have preferred for the book not to have a paranormal twist. If you don't want to know what the twist is, skip to the last paragraph now.
In true YA fashion, it turns out that mom is not in fact a superhero; she fights demons. Basically, the book takes this whole twist to the paranormal when I really just wanted to read a fantasy novel where some people have a little bit of extra power for who cares why and do some vigilante justice, okay? Mom has super strength, Leon can teleport, and Audrey Knows things, or, in otherwords, is a little bit psychic. That was all awesome and I had accepted it and then it was all because of paranormal things, which wasn't bad, but I've had enough of that and was so excited for something a little different.
The bigger problem with the paranormal plotline was that it was weird and a little haphazard at the end. Like, the final confrontation was so abrupt. There's this small battle and it's dramatic, but then instead of the BIG crazy showdown, it just sort of ends. I want my epic battle of powers and superheroes, dang it! Also, the book didn't really feel wrapped up plot-wise at the end. I haven't heard rumors of a sequel, so, if this it, poorly done on that.
But, you know what? I still had so much fun reading this that I'm giving it a bonus .5 for keeping me engaged in the story. Of course, now I really want to reread After the Golden Age, which is about a woman who's the daughter of superheroes that are actually just superheroes and so, so good....more