Let's kick this year off with a review of a book about a guy who deserves to survive more than anyone I've ever known. ThisFirst off, welcome to 2015!
Let's kick this year off with a review of a book about a guy who deserves to survive more than anyone I've ever known. This book has been lurking around in my Goodreads feed, gaining hype, and all the positive reviews from my friends eventually got too much for me - so I had to check this out for myself. I'm glad I gave in.
The Martian has so many good things going for it. First and foremost, it is a classic tale of survival against very huge odds. In this book, Mark Watney becomes one of the first people to walk on Mars but after an accident causes him to be believed dead and abandoned by his crew, it looks like he will be the first person to die there. Like Cast Away x a million, Mark must battle extremely foreign territory, the likelihood of starvation, and the possibility of technical failures.
It's pretty hard to see an outcome where he isn't totally screwed.
The best thing about this book is the juxtaposition between the very scientific nature of everything Mark must do to survive - gave me a renewed level of respect for how damn smart astronauts have to be - and his absolutely wonderful personality. Mark maintains his sense of humour throughout every hardship he faces - it's pretty much impossible to not be charmed by him.
Here are some quotes:
“The screen went black before I was out of the airlock. Turns out the “L” in “LCD” stands for “Liquid.” I guess it either froze or boiled off. Maybe I’ll post a consumer review. “Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10.”
“As with most of life's problems, this one can be solved by a box of pure radiation.”
This book is part "serious" science-fiction, part an hilariously dark comedy that imagines a horrifying situation infused with humour and the overwhelming human desire to stay alive. It's hard to imagine that anyone who picks this up won't find themselves dragged into Mark's world, desperately needing to know what will happen to him.
I'm dark matter. The universe inside of me is full of something, and science can't even shine a light on it. I feel like I'm mostly made of mysteriesI'm dark matter. The universe inside of me is full of something, and science can't even shine a light on it. I feel like I'm mostly made of mysteries.
Oh my... Magonia is one hell of a rare novel.
Not only does it offer an intriguing blend of reality-infused science fiction and highly-imaginative fantasy, but it is also unlike anything I have ever read before.
I've always said that - for me - originality is one of the best and rarest compliments a writer can get. Not "this is the next Hunger Games or Harry Potter" but "this is completely different to everything else I've read". How unusual it is to read a novel and be taken to places so new, fresh and wonderfully magical.
One of my favourite things has always been when authors manage to weave fact and fiction together in order to create a fantasy story with added realism. Especially when they introduce me to parts of history I'd never heard about before. Did you know that in France in 815, sailors claimed to have come from a secret realm in the clouds they called Magonia? This was one of the first recorded instances of UFO-related occurrences and it was completely new to me.
Many times I have wondered why YA authors insist on using the same old recycled mythology when there's a whole universe of weird and wonderful shit out there just begging to be turned into a story. Here we have a fine example. This book opens up an entire new world full of detailed and exciting mythology. I was like a kid in a toy store, staring wide-eyed at all the colourful weirdness and longing for more as the pages flew by.
The author uses language that deserves the comparisons to Neil Gaiman - a rich, atmospheric style of fairytale storytelling. And with this, she creates a cast of wonderful characters who I can only hope will reappear in sequels.
The main character in Magonia is Aza Ray and she is dying. The doctors are unable to discover what is wrong with her and have failed at all attempts to cure her of the mysterious disease that is causing her to essentially drown in the Earth's atmosphere. Then one day, circumstances see Aza awakening in a whole new world where she is no longer weak and sickly, but a powerful creature at the centre of a longstanding feud that will take her to places she never could have dreamed existed.
Suddenly, she discovers the truth about her life, her past and who she is; maybe this new world can offer her a place to live the kind of life she's always wanted? Or maybe nothing is as it seems. Stir in plenty of action, romance, and well-developed family dynamics and you have something pretty damn amazing. I should also point out that the love triangle I had feared might occur never went in that direction.
Looking for a genre-defying blend of magic, love, flying and family?
I've been considering abandoning this whole silly "NA experiment" thing a bunch of times and getting ba
"If nothing else, humanity excelled at war."
I've been considering abandoning this whole silly "NA experiment" thing a bunch of times and getting back to books I'm more likely to have a good chance of enjoying. But I decided to have one last browse through some of the recently released New Adult; I moved my search to further down the pile, past all the popular "this is the next 50 Shades" titles and to the ones with fewer ratings. That's where I discovered this book. A book that promised to be all kinds of wild and crazy scifi-ness combined with a steamy romance. I wasn't really expecting much. But damn, not only did this book deliver the promised goods, it hooked me from the start and gave me an exciting combination of everything I love: spunky heroine, great writing, an imaginative world, humour and, yes, sexual tension so thick you could cut it with a knife.
In this novel, the world we all know is the "old world" and this futuristic tale plants us right in the middle of space. And conflict. Don't be fooled by what you would usually expect from the New Adult "genre", this is very much a hardcore, detailed and sophisticated piece of science fiction. It is as much a story about war, slavery and military operations as it is a sexy romance. But both aspects of the book complement each other and make for an exciting pageturner. The author doesn't neglect her world-building, space politics or action scenes. She has written one of those creatures that I love above all others: a genre-defying beast that takes all the best elements of my favourite genres and mixes them together to create something even better.
Then there's the chemistry between Renna and Finn. She knew him as Hunter a long time ago and she always thought he'd died until fate throws them together again for the most important mission of their lives. Their history hangs in the air between them making the verbal sparring even more entertaining and hot. God, I love Renna. Finn's a bit of a jerk at first (we learn the reason later) but she gives as good as she gets:
Renna lowered her voice to match his tone. “I don’t mind you on top, darling. It’s when you start pushing me around that we’ll have a problem.” She smiled at him coldly. “So I’ll do my job, don’t you worry. Just don’t expect me to play by your rules. You know I was never very good at following orders.”
I love how bitingly sarcastic, funny and totally unapologetic she is. She is exactly the kind of heroine I love. This isn't supposed to be a humour book but there are a number of great lines scattered throughout - which I won't quote because you should discover them yourself - and I found myself laughing out loud a number of times. It was also very refreshing to get a female MC in New Adult who wasn't obsessed with being virginal and shaming other women for being "slutty". Renna is very comfortable with her sexuality and with other women. I liked this quote:
The woman stood up straighter and puffed out her chest. She did have a nice rack. Renna would have puffed them out, too.
The book does end on a bit of a cliffhanger but I still recommend you go pick this up now. I honestly liked how everything was handled - it was well-written with lots of plot but provided me with the kind of romance I could happily stick around for. There was a realistic progression with all the relationships in the story and I particularly liked how the dislike and suspicion between Renna and her other crew mates blossomed into mutual trust and respect over time. Very, very impressive and entertaining. And I'm sure all your inner nerds will perk up at the science-y language, the artificial intelligence and the cybernetic implants. You know I'm right:)
Let me break down my thought process on this book from the very first time I noticed it on goodreads because somewhere alonI am crazy minority lady :(
Let me break down my thought process on this book from the very first time I noticed it on goodreads because somewhere along the way something went really really wrong. Just a quick scroll down the GR page and I can see all my friends' ratings of five or four stars... but the attraction is lost on me.
1) The description appears on goodreads. We are promised science fiction and space and "a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain". A setting in space, a story of survival and a couple of horny teenagers? Sounds like it could be a wild ride. I don't know about you but I love space stories and the vast arena of possibility which they open. I've enjoyed everything from Revis's Across the Universe series to Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Because anything could happen. There's an extra layer of possibility to the fantasy that makes you wonder if it could be true because there are so many unexplored corners where our science fiction tales could very well be fact.
2) The cover reveal. Uh oh. And there it is. Not that I don't like the cover, I love myself some glitter and pretty dresses as much as the next magpie, but you can probably guess why my hopes started to crumble. I remember the first hardback edition of Shatter Me. Do you?
I'm dystopian, I swear! I'm big, I'm bad and... shit, I think I broke a nail. I remember how I told myself it would be fine. I mean, the description was promising hardcore dystopian fiction! It wouldn't lie to me, would it? Weeellll... I wrote a review about that.
3) The reviews start rolling in. It seems as though I was very wrong to judge this book by its cover. Reviews from some of my most trusty friends appeared and they LOVED this book. Is it even possible? Could I be completely wrong? I mean, Beth Revis's Across the Universe was all pink and twinkly and romance-like and I enjoyed that book. I must read it to find out!
4) I think I read the wrong book. I think we all know those moments when we've heard so many great things about a book and we pick up said book only to discover that the magic hasn't touched us. But I was really disappointed with These Broken Stars and should have listened to my instincts when I saw the pretty cover.
Most of the actual space action in this book happens in the first couple of chapters. After the two main characters - Lilac and Tarver - crash land on a planet, it becomes a long-winded trek through a jungle-like setting. I was disappointed to say goodbye to the sky and stars so soon but would have easily forgiven the book if I'd enjoyed the survival part of the story which followed. But, honestly, I found it painfully slow and boring. And all orchestrated around the romance.
This book is predominantly a romance. Description aside, survival/space parts aside, this book is about getting Lilac and Tarver together. Which may be exactly what you want. If you like your romance heavy and your action on the side, then pick this up. But it's not really my thing. And I got a distinct sense that everything in this book was built around the romantic aspect. Each scene felt deliberate in a way that would put the characters in such a situation that Tarver would have to save Lilac or they would have to remove their clothing or sleep huddled together. The action never felt real, it felt like a series of flirtations between the two teens. Finding new clothes is an excuse for Tarver to admire Lilac's body. A chilly night is an excuse for Tarver to sleep with his erection pressed against her ass.
But I think the most disappointing thing of all is the sheer lack of world-building. The setting of this novel is enormous and holds huge and fabulous opportunity - we're in a whole new part of the universe! And yet, there is almost zero world-building. I feel like I know nothing about the society that Lilac and Tarver come from. I appreciate that this is going to be a trilogy but, hell, give me something!
I think it's fair to say that These Broken Stars wasn't the book for me. Maybe I'll learn to follow my initial instincts about those jazzy covers in future....more
Cotter leaned forward. “Where do you get off being such a bossy bitch?” I looked him dead in the eyes. “I was born a bossy bitch, so you can either roCotter leaned forward. “Where do you get off being such a bossy bitch?” I looked him dead in the eyes. “I was born a bossy bitch, so you can either roll with it or get rolled over."
Normally, I wouldn't use the word "formula" in a book review for a good reason. Do any of us really want to read a novel that's formulaic? I would think not. However, Fortune's Pawn does something very interesting - it combines a breathtaking universe full of imagination, mysteries and new creatures... with that particular formula I love so much in adult UF series like Moning's Darkfever and Kane's Unholy Ghosts.
What is that formula?
Well, it goes something like this: totally unapologetic, badass heroine + fascinating supernatural (in this case "alien") creatures + mysteries within mysteries within mysteries + a touch of romance with a hot guy who isn't a complete douche + twists and turns + an ending that isn't a cliffhanger but leaves you desperate for more anyway.
There is no formula for a "good" book, obviously, but if you do this^ kinda shit well, then you are pretty much guaranteed to have me hooked. And Bach just completely nails it all: action, humour, sexual tension, and a mystery that will take the reader all the way across the universe and back. There's murder and sex and secrets... don't pretend you aren't intrigued ;)
The story opens with our heroine and narrator - Devi Morris - who is a fiery and ambitious mercenary. Not content to work her way up the ranks and be promoted to a desk job, she seeks out more exciting things, the top of the top, and her only way to get there is by joining the crew on The Glorious Fool, a ship famous for its high mortality rate. At first, all she wants to do is carry out her job and stay alive long enough to get the position she longs for, but life has other plans for her.
Devi gets pulled into a mystery that gets bigger with every chapter. People on her ship are up to something and she starts to wonder who she can really trust. Friendships are formed, sexual tension runs wild, betrayal could be around any corner.
But, for me, there is one huge winning factor of this book above all others: I love Devi Morris. She is officially up there with my favourite heroines of all time. I like her both because she's tough and smart, but also because she's delightfully flawed, sleeps with all the wrong guys, maintains a perfect level of sarcasm throughout, and drinks like a fish:
“I’m going to see if I can’t trick Cotter into playing us for serious money. You count the cards, I’ll bluff, and we’ll get enough out of him to keep us both in drinks for the next month.” “But I don’t drink,” Nova said as I ushered her into the hall. “That’s okay,” I assured her. “I’ll drink yours for you.”
I literally mean it when I say I couldn't put this book down. It's such a perfect balance of hard sci-fi and page-turning goodness. I can't wait to read the next one.