As hard as it is to say goodbye to a beloved trilogy (and it seems we’ve been doing it quite often lately) the Monument kids have certainly earned the...moreAs hard as it is to say goodbye to a beloved trilogy (and it seems we’ve been doing it quite often lately) the Monument kids have certainly earned their happy ending. Although it’s not without its problems, Savage Drift is a worthy conclusion to Laybourne’s post-apocalyptic work, a book that inspires both admiration and a healthy dose of introspection.
Laybourne’s version of the apocalypse was never too difficult to imagine, which made it stand out among others of the same genre. In Savage Drift she completed the picture by finally showing us a disturbingly believable reaction by the government, all things we could easily imagine happening to us if disaster struck. The things she chose to do, and especially things that happened to Josie, were horrifying and thought provoking, and they’ll stay with me for quite a while.
This final book is told from two perspectives: this time, Dean shares the narration with Josie, our type O self-sacrificing young heroine. Unfortunately, being inside Dean’s head wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as it was before. The sardonic voice we appreciated so much in the previous installments was lost in favor of jealous rambling and childish behavior. Somewhere along the line, he became almost obsessed with Astrid, who is pregnant with Jake, and the jealousy turned him into someone far less likeable. He handled the entire situation like one would expect from a 16-year-old, which would be perfectly fine, were he not fighting for fatherhood, a task he most certainly wasn’t up to. By the time we reached the last page, we still weren’t convinced that he’s mature enough to handle the responsibilities he was so determined to take on.
While Dean managed to alienate us with his jealous behavior, Josie’s story provoked a completely different reaction. Imprisoned in a camp for people with O blood type and stripped of her rights, this brave young girl gave up on ever finding a normal life for herself. Her plight was devastating to behold, but her defiance and strength were truly remarkable.
While Monument 14 isn’t the best post-apocalyptic YA trilogy out there, it’s thought provoking and riveting, which makes it worth your time.
When this book first came my way, I didn’t recognize the name Rachel Aaron and was surprised when a friend talked about her like she’s someone I’m sup...moreWhen this book first came my way, I didn’t recognize the name Rachel Aaron and was surprised when a friend talked about her like she’s someone I’m supposed to be very familiar with. The joke’s on me though, guys, because Rachel Aaron is Rachel Bach, author of the Paradox trilogy, published by Orbit, which I’m currently enjoying in audio format.
For reasons I can only assume, Aaron/Bach chose to take the self-published route with her new Heartstrikers series, and while I’m sure promoting it will be more difficult, I have a feeling traditional publishers would have tried to tame this book, change it to make it fit into the usual genre confines and definitions. Trying to turn a book like Nice Dragons Finish Last into something less than it actually is would be akin to cold-blooded murder.
Nice Dragons Finish Last has elements of urban fantasy, science fiction and futuristic dystopia, combined in a way that works splendidly. The story takes place in a futuristic version of Detroit called Detroit Free Zone, where magic came back with a bang after a comet strike in 2035. It is the only place where dragons are absolutely illegal and it’s where Julius’s mother decided to dump him, bound in his human form, with merely a month to prove himself as a worthy dragon.
According to his family, Julius is a poor excuse for a dragon. He has very little ambition and no violent tendencies whatsoever. He’s in no hurry to outsmart anyone and he doesn’t much care about collecting treasure. From a dragon’s perspective he is essentially useless and his numerous family members don’t hesitate to tell him so loudly and as often as possible. Even with merely a month to impress them, Julius can’t quite force himself to be the dragon his mother wants him to be. While certainly resourceful, he is soft-hearted and kind, and very reluctant to step on anyone’s toes.
The real fun starts when Julius teams up with a young witch from Nevada. After that, it’s one hilarious adventure after another for the two of them. Aaron did an excellent job with these characters as well as several secondary ones, especially Julius’s brother Bob who is a constant source of amusement.
I hesitate to reveal any plot points since I feel that it's best to go into this blindly. Urban fantasy fans, fans of dragons and especially fans of good humor will find plenty to love about Rachel Aaron’s new series. I certainly did.
2.5 stars For a fast-paced, action-packed book, Scan was unusually difficult to get through, at least for me. The endless string of action scenes that...more2.5 stars For a fast-paced, action-packed book, Scan was unusually difficult to get through, at least for me. The endless string of action scenes that was supposed to be captivating and entertaining was actually pretty tiresome and emotionally flat. In the end, I had to give myself a very stern talking to just to finish reading it.
In many ways, Scan was a pretty big disappointment. It lacked any real emotional depth, especially of the level I’ve come to expect from Sarah Fine. Fine usually uses her background in psychology to give us great characterization and believable emotional moments. To be fair, the tempo of this story didn’t allow for strong character development since things constantly progressed at a rapid pace. The focus was on the action and Tate was the only character that got any attention, and even that wasn’t enough. I’d say Walter Jury’s background in film industry unfortunately prevailed in this one.
The most interesting part of this story – Tate’s overly complicated relationship with his father – wasn’t explored nearly enough. There was so much potential there and I kept hoping it would lead somewhere, but unfortunately, a rarely mentioned sense of regret is all I got from Tate.
I recently read a pretty good article about female characters that are portrayed as strong, but that are essentially pointless. They are there, they are fierce, but they don’t actually do anything. The article itself was mostly about Hiccup’s mother in How to Train Your Dragon 2, but the same applies to our Christina. One can’t find any real fault with her character, but I felt that she was mostly there as a prop, to make the story look better and satisfy readers that are more femnistically inclined.
Despite an interesting (if a bit overused premise), this story didn’t resonate with me at all. When you add to that a rather vicious cliffhanger, I think it’s safe to say I won’t be continuing this series. However, those of you who appreciate non-stop action that is reasonably well done might enjoy this one much more than I did. Perhaps read a sample first and go from there.
3.5 stars Try as I might, I can only think of several YA books with LGBTQ main characters that really took my breath away. In fact, I can probably coun...more3.5 stars Try as I might, I can only think of several YA books with LGBTQ main characters that really took my breath away. In fact, I can probably count them on my fingers. (Not that I need my fingers to count, people! I suck at math, but not that much!) While this saddens me for so many reasons, it’s comforting to see more and more being written every day. And besides, the novels we do have are all pretty spectacular. Just think: Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz; Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff, the spectacular Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford; the Printz medalist Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secret of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz; and, (this I’m assuming because I haven’t read it yet) The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth.*
Naturally, when I discovered One Man Guy, I hoped with all my heart that it would find its place among these brilliant novels. Unfortunately, it fell just a little bit short. It was lighthearted, funny, but not memorable enough, and certainly not set to become a classic. A worthy attempt with something missing. In that, it reminded me of Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan.
The plot is actually pretty straightforward: young Alek meets Ethan, a boy from school and his complete opposite, and starts having feelings towards him. These feelings lead him to conclude that he is not, in fact, straight. Alek doesn’t spend too much time struggling with this fact. He is open-minded by nature and once he connects the dots, he just accepts things for what they are. That fact alone made me like him very much. Overall, Alek is a fascinatingly realistic character – a bit younger than I’m used to, but honest, with typical teen anger issues and insecurities.
However, while I liked Alek very much, I found his relationship with Ethan just a bit too disappointing. Ethan influenced Alek in ways I didn’t particularly like and their dynamic, colored by Ethan’s previous relationship with an older boyfriend, wasn’t something my heart could get behind.
Actually, the LGBTQ theme wasn’t what I appreciated most about this novel. Instead, I was thrilled by the intercultural undertones and the lightly satirical portrayal of Armenian culture. System of a Down has been my favorite band for over 15 year so I’ve made it a point to learn as much as I could about the Armenian genocide, but their culture, things like Armenian cuisine and mentality, remain a mystery to me. It was interesting to see it through Alek’s eyes, colored by his mixed feelings of pride and teen rebellion.
Overall, One Man Guy is a noteworthy debut that left me determined to read whatever else Michael Barakiva writes. There’s room for improvement, sure, but his writing is filled with honesty and warmth one can’t help but appreciate.
*There are, of course, others likeBoy Meets Boy or Pink - great books, but not personal favorites. Feel free to mention more in the comments.