Life in Outer Space is a romcom in YA book form. It's cute, it's sweet, it's adorable, and it's predictable. It's a fun, fast read that doesn't demand attention but provides a lot of entertainment and pop culture references. It's full of interesting, if slightly under-characterized characters, and Keil spins her story rather well. Life in Outer Space is funny, authentic and full of great moments, though it does falter when it comes to secondary characters especially.
Where the book floundered the most for me was where the female love interest, Camilla, was concerned and how Sam acted around her. It's not a spoiler to label her the love interest because long before Sam has his "a ha!" moment, the reader is acutely clued into his feelings for her. There is a real connection between the two main characters. It just took Sam way way too long to catch on to what he wanted. Though I appreciated the slow-building of a real relationship between the two, it made the storyline feel stretched rather thin. The romance is sweet, and funny, but it could've been tighter.
-Quirky and idiosyncratic? Check. - Wild hair choices and unique approach to fashion? Do Leia buns count? I say they do -- check. -Opens up the love interest to a wider experience of (high school) life? Double check. -Fixated on the main character from the start? Oh yeah - but not in a creepy way.
There's more to both the trope and to Camilla, but she fits within the designation fairly well.
She does differ from the trope in that Camilla has a realized inner life and struggles of her own. She struggles with family issues, abandonment issues, and more. The fact that Keil fashioned her into a more evolved MPDG is what saved both Camilla and the love story. I liked her, despite how she was occasionally presented. She was interesting, she wasn't dependent on Sam for meaning, and she was funny.
The other side characters aren't as defined as Camilla and Sam. Mike seems to be sadly defined by his homosexuality, despite the author's clear attempts to do otherwise. Adrian never evolved into more than comic relief, and though the parents are featured, they lack presence. They're likeable enough, but they aren't memorable. They just seem to exist in the periphery of Sam and Camilla's love story and lack any agency on their own.
There's angst, there's romance, there's a high school dance. All in all, Life in Outer Space constitutes pretty typical contemporary fare, but it's fun to read and the nerdery of the main characters makes for a fresh feel. It could have been more original, and the secondary cast could have used some more time and definition, but it was a fun and pretty adorable read. I'd read it again, and I would recommend it to a friend looking for something light and quick. (less)
#1. Do you like strong, flawed and inherent compelling female narrators?
#2. Do you enjoy reading new twists and interpretations of old fairytales?
#3. Does historical fiction with excellent place-as-character (for both Versailles and Venice) appeal to your reading tastes?
#4. Do you like a little magic subtly interwoven into your historical fiction?
#5. Have you read and enjoyed similar books like Kill Me Softly, Strands of Bronze and Gold, or The Brides of Rollrock Island?
#6. Are you attracted to novels with romance, but ones that don't focus solely on the love connections of the main characters?
#7. Are you constantly looking for a novel with length that will keep you engaged and curious from start to end?
#8. Has it been a while since you've had the chance to read a fresh and original story?
If you answered yes to the above questions - and really, I can't imagine why you would say no - then Bitter Greens is a book for you. An interesting and unique mashup of fairytale lore, court politics, and thwarted love, this captivating and darkly fascinating look at three intriguing and multi-faceted women is unlike any other book I've come across. I put it down when I reluctantly finished, and I immediately wanted to start it all over again; to spend more time in this world, and with these distinctive characters. This is an author with talent, and one that can clearly and easily spin an engrossing and compulsively readable story. This is my first Kate Forsyth novel, but you can bet it will not be my last.
Without hesitation, Kate Forsyth's newest novel is my favorite novel of 2013. It may be only March, but with 60 books under my belt, this was far and away the standout of the group. It's beautiful, sad, creative and compelling. Bitter Greens is so much more than just a simple, historical fiction retelling of Rapunzel's well-known and often-told fairytale. It's a story about love and power, about destiny and desire, and about what lengths a woman will go to to fight for her love, and to find her freedom. With her three capable main narrators, either in first person or third, Kate Forsyth brings this novel, these characters and the various locations to life. A vibrant read on all counts, Bitter Greens is sprawling, ambitious and impressive. It more than succeeds where it tries for something different and manages to breathe some fresh air into historical fiction.
All three women the novel focuses on in turn have passion, determination, and talent. Their lives are complex, and their characterization three-dimensional - not even neglecting the villain/anti-hero of the piece. Though their lives span different eras and troubles, there are parallels between the stories of all three. Each want something they cannot have; one thirsts for perfection and power, one for love and an independent life, and one for family and freedom. But despite their various wishes, each story meshes well with her compatriots. For each, life is full of unexpected twists and surprises - and those, usually out of their control. One is doomed by the choices of her parents; another by the capriciousness of a spoiled King; and another by the harsh retribution of a vicious nobleman. In each disparate arc, the loves and lives desired by Charlotte/Margherita/Selena are lost in favor of power, revenge, or dark magic. I couldn't pick a favorite from the three of them - all of them are compelling and interesting, and all of their stories demand attention.
The court of Versailles and the water-world of Venice are the most described locations (the homes of Charlotte and Margherita respectively), and they are exquisitely well-rendered. Set in the time of Louis XIV, the Sun King, for Charlotte's tale, Versailles, and occasionally Paris, create the perfect backdrops for her story of religious, romantic and independence struggles. Romantic, oppressive, and opulent, Charlotte's frustrated endeavors to control her own life in the time of a divine despot provide a nice dichotomy to the supreme will Louis exerted over his people, and his court in particular. Venice is another supremely romantic city, and one that lends itself well to the beautiful but deceptive stories of the other two characters. There is more than meets the eye to the tales of these characters, as the settings chosen more than illustrate.
Clocking in at a respectable five hundred pages, Bitter Greens has some heft to it. Thankfully, Forsyth has the capability to keep interest high and the pace moving along. I was never bored, and I never wanted to put the novel down once I had cracked the cover. This is a book I finished in one day, though I kept trying to extend the time I spent with it. I would put it down, only to mull over the plotlines in my head until I had to pick it back up again to see where Kate Forsyth was going to take her characters. There were a couple twists that came into play later in the story, and though I called one, the other was a genuine and believable surprise.
Sadly, this seems to be a rather hard novel to get a hold of. So far, I've only found available copies for sale on FishPond - no listings on Barnes and Noble or Amazon. However, if there was a book worth that steep $30 price, this is it. If more copies become available, I plan to do a giveaway. But you can rest assured my own copy is never leaving my house. I'll need it for the several rereads I plan to do in the near future.(less)
That was fun. Amelia and Chris really know how to get to you, don't they? I can see so much of my former teen self in her, and so much of a lot of mal...moreThat was fun. Amelia and Chris really know how to get to you, don't they? I can see so much of my former teen self in her, and so much of a lot of males I know now in Chris. Relateable, realistic, and a charming read.(less)
That was pretty damn good. I didn't cry, but I was very very invested in (and conflicted about both) these characters. Stolen may be quite...more4.5 out of 5
That was pretty damn good. I didn't cry, but I was very very invested in (and conflicted about both) these characters. Stolen may be quite short, but it definitely packs a punch. Intense, thought-provoking, creepy, and emotional, this is a novel that reminds me a bit of one of my all-time favorite novels (Code Name Verity), but still is a highly original and unique piece of literature. A rewarding, if difficult at times (view spoiler)[that poor camel! Taken from her herd, grows to adore her new owners, and then abandoned! That part hurt my heart the most, honestly. (hide spoiler)] to read, novel.["br"]>["br"]>(less)