Isaac Marion’s debut novel sparkles with effervescent prose and compelling, heartrendingly human characters—whether they are alive or the undead. R, t...moreIsaac Marion’s debut novel sparkles with effervescent prose and compelling, heartrendingly human characters—whether they are alive or the undead. R, the undead protagonist, is a homage to classic Night of the Living Dead zombies with a twist—his pensive and brilliantly verbose inner life contradicts his shuffling, moaning personage. He remembers nothing of his own past, but experiences the addictive pleasures of live by snacking on the brains of the living. One of these brains belonged to Perry, the melancholy "artiste" boyfriend of one Julie—the very girl he finds himself starting to fall for. As R struggles with his feelings for Julie and whether they are real, or the shadows of the love he glimpsed in mouthfuls of Perry’s brain, Warm Bodies asks: is life merely the daily motions of our cells, or a state of being fueled by love, hope, and the human connection? A must-read for zombie fans aching for something new, or anyone with a taste for brains and gore, action scenes begging for a film adaptation, and a little bit of transformative romance. (less)
Matt Haig is known for his dark takes on “ordinary” family life. The Radleys—literary fiction about the modern nuclear family with an oddly metaphoric...moreMatt Haig is known for his dark takes on “ordinary” family life. The Radleys—literary fiction about the modern nuclear family with an oddly metaphoric vampiric twist—is Haig at his best. Peter—limping towards a midlife crisis—and Helen—plagued by secrets and regrets—have lied to their unpopular, awkward children Rowan and Clara since they were born. They’re all “abstainers”—vampires who refuse to drink blood. Their practiced lies and feigned suburban banality fall apart when shy Clara gives in to her violent nature and Uncle Will, a practicing vampire, visits to unearth the secrets and habits of a sordid, bloody past they thought they could forget. Haig’s dark humor and wit pulled me in to the Radley’s dramas; teenagers and adults alike will also find it easy to relate to the characters. Through domestic derangement and vampire lore, Haig crafts a satisfying, well-paced novel that explores denial, hard bargains, the bonds of family, and what sin can cost—or win—us. (less)
With The Lost Gate, the debut novel of The Mither Mages Series, Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game) proves that he might be one of the most prolific and i...moreWith The Lost Gate, the debut novel of The Mither Mages Series, Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game) proves that he might be one of the most prolific and imaginative sci-fi/fantasy writers still publishing today. Combining a heady mix of vivid world-building, multicultural mythology, urban fantasy, and science fiction, Card starts out the wholly unique saga of Danny North—exiled heir to a family of once great “gods” cut off from their power source. Fans of Tolkien will appreciate the unique premise of Card’s universe and his lush descriptions, while younger readers will find it easy to identify with the teen protagonist—whose identity and voice are remarkably well-crafted in a sea of sci-fi/fantasy novels featuring unsatisfying character development. Readers will also appreciate Card’s genre-savvy humor, especially when he turns his wit to satirizing the usual plot devices of urban fantasy. All in all, this is novel that really shouldn't be missed; the brutal sequel-baiting ending left me with more questions than answers, and eagerly awaiting the sequel. (less)
Even with disturbing tales of student suicides evoked by ruthless bullying screaming from recent headlines, few of us are willing to delve into the un...moreEven with disturbing tales of student suicides evoked by ruthless bullying screaming from recent headlines, few of us are willing to delve into the unremarkable daily tortures behind the spectacle. Lelic brings the issue of bullying—in the school and in workplace, by children and adults—home with his unsettling, penetrating debut novel. Through his protagonist, police investigator Lucia, he asks, “Why was the onus always on the weak when it was the strong who had a liberty to act? Why were the weak obliged to be so brave when the strong had license to behave like such cowards?” His characters are unremarkable and average—which makes their inaction, their cruelty, all the more chilling. Through cutting prose, he masterfully evokes the gut-wrenching betrayal that bullying victims feel when their cries for help go unanswered, and authority tacitly endorse, or even encourage, unspeakable barbarism. A Thousand Cuts leaves you with the disquieting question: what do we cause when we scorn the weak and plea ignorance in the face of cruelty? (less)
I read this book in one sitting. Wow, what a rush! The action grabs you from the first chapter and doesn't stop until the very end. Roth has another T...moreI read this book in one sitting. Wow, what a rush! The action grabs you from the first chapter and doesn't stop until the very end. Roth has another The Hunger Games on her hands. I can't tell you how happy I am that weepy useless girls obsessed with unhealthy romances with supernatural bad boys is losing ground to badass sci-fi girls with spunk and bravado. My inner feminist is very pleased with this book and another example of what teen literature should be: exciting, gripping, addictive, and a total rush.
Parts of the book are a bit silly, but it's too be expected of the genre. Roth could have spent more time world-building, but given the context of her plot, it's forgivable. Beatrice is a great example of a strong female protagonist, and all of the author's other female characters are just as good. She masterfully skips the stereotypical sexist trappings of the YA genre as Divergent passes the Betchel Test with flying colors. And she even manages to include a fairly believable romance subplot without turning her female protagonist into a shrinking violet or her love interest into a bodice ripping storm of muscles and cliches.
This is a really dark and gritty addition to the slew of dystopian YA novels that won't get swallowed up in the pile of mediocrity. A combination of excellent plotting, totally thrilling action (there seriously wasn't a boring or dull chapter in the entire thing!), and believable characters that actually grow and learn make me practically salivate for a sequel. Readers be warned though: this isn't Twilight. There's plenty of drinking, seriously bad behavior, violence, gore, and death. Also, I'd like to take this time that I am insanely jealous of Roth, who's an entire year younger than me and has already published such an awesome book. It makes me feel so unaccomplished, and I would love to dislike her, but I can't because her book is just that good.(less)
Disappointing after the sweeping epic that was Eon: Dragoneye Reborn. I would have rated it lower, but I figured I wasn't being fair. My expectations...moreDisappointing after the sweeping epic that was Eon: Dragoneye Reborn. I would have rated it lower, but I figured I wasn't being fair. My expectations were high after Eon, which was an extremely unique entry into the bloated YA fantasy/supernatural genre -- featuring dragons, Eastern influences, and subversive gender issues.
Eona concludes the story started in Eon. Goodman's prose and plot are rushed; I felt that the events would have been better spread out over two novels to make the saga a trilogy. What started as fairly epic high-fantasy in Eon got dumbed down to very "teen" romance, some of which really grossed me out. I felt that the romance was mostly unnecessary, or so poorly developed that it should have been left out. There's a really disgusting love triangle that involves a guy who tried to rape her in the first book; which is incredibly ill-conceived. All of the book, frankly, has humungous consent issues to the point it's a stomach-churning theme. Most of her main characters behave very badly -- the "good guys" include a man who's a murderer and rapist, a girl with some serious control issues, and a boy with hilariously (and not in a good way) self-defeating pride. So it's no wonder that the "bad guys" are parodies, detailed as even more unscrupulous rapists, power-mongers, and outright demons.
It's really disappointing that such a good set-up had to scrimp on the plot for developing characters I frankly didn't give a damn about -- because they all crossed the Moral Event Horizon five times and turned around to spit on it (oh, and she kills off the only "good guys" that do not do terrible things). Read it only if you've already read Eon and anxious to see how it ends. Otherwise, this is a train-wreck of everything terrible about teen fiction: anti-feminist stomach churning themes, poor character development, and more nasty unhealthy sex (this includes rape, prostitution, sexism, and coerced sexual activity, not to mention really unhealthy relationships based on lies and mutual lust for power) than anyone could really stand. (less)
I was packing to move when I found an advanced readers copy of this lying about. I must have grabbed it years ago, and never gotten around to reading...moreI was packing to move when I found an advanced readers copy of this lying about. I must have grabbed it years ago, and never gotten around to reading it. Probably because I was enthused with other post-apocalyptic novels at the time, like Hunger Games.
Anyways, Day's debut novel isn't really what I'd call a sci-fi/fantasy tale. It has elements of it, true, but the pace is much slower and more meandering. The characters look inwards rather than outwards, and it reads more like a coming-of-age tale than a sweeping epic. Day does have a gift for character development, and a good instinct for emotional drama that is poignant without becoming overwrought, silly, or cliche.
A Strong and Sudden Thaw reads a bit like Brokeback Mountain, only with a bit more fantasy and a lot less angst. There's plenty of mystery and intrigue, and you're not always certain where the plot is going. I like that in a book. Day's novel is very hard to shoehorn into a genre, and that's a good thing. It's romantic, but it's also dramatic. It has fantasy, but it's also a bit western. There's action, but there's also slow pacing and character-driven introspective narration. If anything, I'd say that this is speculative fiction, with some romance and coming-of-age angst to give the readers something familiar to hold on to.
All in all, very good. I'd read it again too, because half of the reason it's good is not because you want to find out what happens next, but because you care about the characters and enjoy their lush inner monologues and very human dilemmas. It's the kind of book that ought to be savored. If there's a sequel, I'll be buying it!(less)
I'd be generous to say that manga is a hit-or-miss for me... most of the time it's a (very thankful) miss. Not so for Arakawa's Fullmetal Alchemist. A...moreI'd be generous to say that manga is a hit-or-miss for me... most of the time it's a (very thankful) miss. Not so for Arakawa's Fullmetal Alchemist. After being badgered by friends who reassured me that it was good, even to people reluctant to read manga like me, I finally picked up a copy. Intellectually, I'm really glad I did. Financially, I'm not, because now I think I need to go splurge on the rest of the series.
I got to volume 5 before I wrote this review, and I can honestly say that the hype is very well-deserved. The characters are all very well-developed, with their own quirks and distinctive personalities. The mood whiplash between quite gory (for a comic book geared towards children) scenes and themes to irreverent humor takes some getting used to, but it doesn't detract from the story at all.
And what a story it is! FMA is the pinnacle of steampunk/fantasy plotting -- lots of Victorian touches with none of the cliche. The "magic" system the characters use is alchemy, which is a heavily bastardized version of chemistry with just enough science behind it to make suspension of belief easier. The background plottings and machinations of the military society the characters operate within is a very nice touch too, adding another layer of steampunk flavor. The themes are universal enough to resonate with any audience, humanizing the characters and getting you invested in them.
I'm tentatively giving this 5 stars. The other manga series I eventually gave up on all suffered the same defect: their plots eventually just became an excuse to milk the franchise for more cash, with plot twists that made no sense and totally derailed the characters. In the first 5 volumes, Arakawa has hinted at a cohesive story line with a finite ending and a unified vision -- something that I NEED in a series of books, and the reason why I avoid manga. Since I see that the series is now concluded, I'm going to suppose that FMA doesn't fall prey to the usual failings of manga.
Extremely highly recommended. FMA gives me faith in manga and steampunk again. Seriously, if Arakawa can produce something as addictive, poignant, and unique as this in this medium and genre, there's no excuse for the piles of cliched crap I've slogged through in the past.(less)
I didn't expect to like this as much as I did, honestly. I picked it up because the premise sounded semi-interesting, but I wasn't expecting much. I w...moreI didn't expect to like this as much as I did, honestly. I picked it up because the premise sounded semi-interesting, but I wasn't expecting much. I was had. Wetta's compelling prose hooked me by the end of the first couple of chapters, and by that time, it was a race to the finish two days later.
I give it 5 stars. Wetta's characters are unbelievably raw and real, he breathes life into the nuances of the individuals -- never stereotypes -- of the people populating his insular small town in the midst of all the upheavals of the '60s. Jack Witcher, his twelve year-old protagonist, is extremely well developed. I typically hate books told at the perspective of anyone under the age of 18, because I've found that most authors have a terrible time trying to capture the despair, angst, self-involvement, and confusion of kids on the cusp of puberty. Not so with Wetta's Jack, who is in turn hilariously naive, achingly self-conscious, youthfully reckless, and completely unforgettable. I haven't read such a memorable child in fiction since To Kill a Mockingbird! His family are all developed with the same mastery -- his brutish brother, his complex and troubled father, and his self-restrained, demoralized mother. Likewise, the neighborhood Jack haunts bursts off the page in full color, with all the ideology and politics of the 60s. There's hippies, racism, antisemitism, atheism, John F. Kennedy, poverty, drugs, cigarettes, GTOs, and "white flight", all mulled over through the eyes of 12 year-old Jack.
There's enough sub-plots to keep any reader interested: a robbery, a fight, some mystery, young love, one boy versus the prejudice against his family, and a murder. All of which tie together to form a cohesive whole that is never jumpy, poorly developed, or cliche.
This is really fantastic fiction, and a work of startlingly deep thought on dilemmas that still plague the world, fifty years after the '60s. Highly recommended!(less)
I've been a fan of Barry since Jennifer Government, and Machine Man doesn't disappoint. In fact, it might be even better.
The story is told from the pe...moreI've been a fan of Barry since Jennifer Government, and Machine Man doesn't disappoint. In fact, it might be even better.
The story is told from the perspective of Charlie, an anti-social scientist who opens the door to the possibility of "upgrades" after an unfortunate accidental amputation of his leg. Barry expertly captures Charlie's single-minded focus on engineering, his awkward ignorance of human empathy and emotion, and his obsessive possessiveness of his projects. His clinical, cold, and often amoral narrative voice is strangely compelling, even as it ventures right up to edges of morality and eventually (your mileage may vary on this one), tips right over.
The novel was originally serialized, and it feels like it when you read it. The perspective and narrative jumps around in the middle of chapters, and takes some getting used to. I believe it suits the story, as the narrator spends a lot of time undergoing traumatic "upgrades" or unconscious -- the products of grave injury or surgical intervention. I didn't mind it -- I prefer my speculative fiction short, sweet, and plotty, so I can mull over the issues myself instead of struggling to get through overly wordy prose.
Ultimately, this is a very speculative novel, with an emphasis on exploring the metaphysical boundaries of the self and the mind-body duality (or singularity, according to your philosophy). Charlie's unsettling romance with Lola -- a prosthetic specialist with an amputee fetish -- is poignant, sweet, awkward, and not a small bit disconcerting.
There's a lot of moral and philosophical gray areas to mull over in this novel, which is exactly the areas in which Barry shines. This novel would probably be a miss for anyone who needs to identify with their protagonist and has problems reading narratives told through fairly abhorrent perspectives. Highly recommended, though, to fans of speculative fiction and near-future sci-fi (and hard sci-fi, no fantasy mumbo-jumbo).(less)
I've never read anything by Evans, but I noticed that he was well-known for romantic fiction. I hate romance. So I was surprised to see that this is a...moreI've never read anything by Evans, but I noticed that he was well-known for romantic fiction. I hate romance. So I was surprised to see that this is a YA novel, and one that dodges the ever-so-popular "supernatural romance" trap.
I was pleasantly surprised by Michael Vey. The protagonist has a distinctive voice and is very easy for teens or tweens to relate to with the usual teen foibles -- bullies, irrational authority figures, an absent father, unpopularity, a hopeless crush -- and the not-so-usual ones -- dangerous superpowers and Tourette's Syndrome. On that note, Evan's explanation of Vey's electrical powers -- how they work, where they come from, and how they relate to his Tourette's -- requires a lot less suspension of belief than many other YA tales featuring superpowered teens. There's a little bit of science in there to satisfy the more discerning reader. Likewise, Michael's disability is adequately developed and shown as something that doesn't define him, even though it is ever-present. Teens with related disorders -- AD(H)D, depression, anxiety, and Autism-spectrum disorders -- will find Evan's development of Michael's Tourette's adequate, moving, and easy to relate to.
Evan's protagonist also receives high praise for sharing the spotlight with a cast of similarly powered teens. Taylor, his crush, is adequately developed, although she takes a backseat to Michael and comes off a bit weak in some chapters. Nevertheless, she does not feel like the token romantic interest, which is appreciated. Likewise, Michael's ragtag group of friends -- two bullies with bad home lives, an overweight socially-awkward super brain, and other superpowered teens -- have their own backstories that, thankfully, do not revolve around the protagonists or make them into rather empty stereotypes. Readers will find that Evan's characters are adequately developed, even if they are minor characters.
Another plus is that Michael doesn't suffer from the "superpowered orphan with a destiny" syndrome. He actually has a mother, that's alive no less, and has a succinct developed voice of her own. Even though she's absent through much of the book, her positive influence on her son shines through. Their positive mother-son relationship is a breath of fresh air in a genre that glamorizes unstable, broken, or missing family ties.
A few minor quibbles for me -- some of the plot twists are not adequately developed, in that they come out of left field. Others were painfully obvious. Even more, I felt, didn't give a lot of space to the emotional impact they supposedly had. That's one complaint of the book: Evans does not spend a lot of time developing the "head space" of his characters, so when really terrible things happen to them -- such as torture, being asked to murder people, facing down goons with guns -- it all feels a bit surreal and rushed, and reads more like a news report than a fleshed out action scene.
I'm willing to give it a pass though, since the book appears to be written for the younger teen or older tween set. Michael is a freshman in high school, and his voice feels very preteen-on-the-verge-of-teen. There's not a terrible amount of angst, which is thankfully not missed. Evans writes more towards fans of action-packed books like Ender's Game rather than sleepy romantic hits like Twilight. As a huge fan of the former, and not of the later, I appreciated that.
The bottom line is that Michael Vey was compulsively readable (I finished it in a night without feeling like the plot dragged anywhere), and heavy on the action -- it would actually make the transition to a graphic novel really well. Fans of the superhero genre will find Evan's book compelling and interesting, and it'll attract a wide set of fans -- tweens, teens, and everyone sick of paranormal romance and postapocalyptic novels.(less)
This is probably one of the best books I've read this year, and if it doesn't sell well and get shortlisted for a slew of awards, there's something se...moreThis is probably one of the best books I've read this year, and if it doesn't sell well and get shortlisted for a slew of awards, there's something seriously wrong with the world.
When She Woke is The Handmaid's Tale for the 21st century, except I found Jordan's prose much more compelling, and her characters more present than Atwood's. Likewise, the dilemmas that Hannah faces feel less and less dystopian as the years march on. As I write this review, there's over 1000 anti-choice bills rotting in state legislators, pregnant women who fall down stairs are being arrested for attempted murder, and most states have less than a dozen doctors willing to brave death threats and constant harassment to perform a totally legal procedure.
In that way, the dystopian future that Jordan envisions comes off less as a thought exercise and more of a dire warning of what is to come. There's also hints of other moral dilemmas we're ignoring: as she describes her characters moving from place to place, locations that should be rather temperate are uncharacteristically hot or cold. The "shout out" to global warming rings just as true.
But where Jordan most shines is the development of her protagonist, Hannah. The devout, demure daughter of evangelists, Hannah falls tragically in love with the married reverend of her family's super church (and the eventual Secretary of Faith -- yes, Jordan's dystopian USA takes the loony woman-hating religious right and runs with it), and conceives a child in their affair. Except abortion is totally illegal in the US (which isn't exactly what I'd call something I can't see happening in the next 20 -- hell, the next 10 -- years). If she has the baby, she has to identify the father (not doing so is a crime too) and ruin his career. Instead, she has an abortion, and is caught.
What follow is the heinous account of a world in which religion is all about fear and hatred, where the natural processes of reproduction, sex, and love are perverted spectacles that the state uses to shame, torture, and imprison (literally and figuratively) women for daring to exist as women rather than walking wombs submitting to the authority of anyone but themselves.
Hannah, through a gauntlet of some of the worst suffering I've read in fiction, emerges from her cocoon of silence to come into her self -- and become a woman with full agency, who isn't going to let herself be told what to do and pushed aside by the authority of the state and the absolutely disgusting misogyny it demands from its citizens. She learns to be something other than what men define her as, and Jordan describes her transformation in some of the most poignant and unflinchingly painful and simultaneously beautiful prose I've had the pleasure of reading.
When She Woke is unabashedly feminist, pro-choice, and not afraid of showing the terrible, horrifying consequences of the road conservatives in my country want us to travel.
So, in a glut of dystopian novels, Jordan's brilliant novel stands heads and tails above the rest for its shear chutzpah and authenticity. I feel like I need to go back and rate some of my other reviews down, because they don't deserve the same rating as this. When She Woke is everything that the dystopian genre was created for. Likewise, Hannah's journey, and Jordan's world-building resounded so deeply that I felt myself moved to emotions that I haven't felt in response to fiction in a very long time. Like the pro-choice "terrorists" in the novel say, "it's personal."(less)
I honestly thought that this book was going to be a terrible storm of cliches. I was totally wrong. Written when the author herself was in high school...moreI honestly thought that this book was going to be a terrible storm of cliches. I was totally wrong. Written when the author herself was in high school and 17 (did I mention I'm jealous of young successful writers?), The Duff expertly captures the angst, farce, and cynical humor of being a teenager.
Bianca (called "B" by her friends) reminds me a lot of myself at that age: unbearably cynical and hostile to the world, surrounded by things she takes for granted until they fall apart. Her two best friends are just as developed as Bianca -- jealous Casey who gets huffy when B doesn't go to her to unload her teenage woes, and bubbly Jessica, unbearably sweet but authentically so.
Bianca is very insecure about her looks, her height, and her weight. She is convinced that her two best friends, both tall, thin, and blonde, are better looking than her. She finally has a name for the feeling when Wesley, an attractive, arrogant "man-whore" at her school tells her that she's their "DUFF": the designated ugly fat friend. He flirts with her at the local hangout in order to attract the notice of her friends, whom he thinks will think of him as a nice guy because he's chatting up their "duff".
Wesley and Bianca honestly hate each other at the beginning. Or at least Bianca does, Wesley doesn't really seem to care enough about anyone but himself in order to develop strong feelings, even negative ones, about them. But soon, both start using the other sexually in order to escape their pasts and present pains. When Wesley begins to care about her, Bianca's troubles can't be ignored anymore (and Wesley, and the feelings she develops for him, become a trouble too when he's finally nice to her when an issue blows up in her face and she figures it's not "no strings attached" anymore).
Bianca winds up running again, to something that she thought she always wanted, only to figure out that it's more important to do what makes you happy and be who you are than to do what's right and be what you and everyone else thought you should be.
Likewise, she also figures out that everyone feels crappy about themselves in high school, and that her friends probably wind up thinking that they're uglier than her when she angsts that she's uglier than them.
The book is full of some really awesome feminist messages. Bianca has some serious agency, and a lot of personality. None of the sex (and there's a lot of it, making this a book for MATURE teens), is at all coerced. Bianca might do things that are stupid and destructive, but everything she does is totally her own choice. She has agency and serious sexual desires, which is a very positive message to find in teenage literature (hell, in any romantic literature). The book skillfully avoids sexist romantic crap about how women are whores and conquests, and how their sexuality is totally involved with what boys think of them. In the beginning, Bianca doesn't care much at all what Wesley thinks about her. She does what she does anyway, out of a need to satisfy her own sexuality, even while convinced that Wesley doesn't find her attractive.
The author even explicitly castigates the rumor mill that is willing to use sexism to bring any girl low with accusations of being frigid, being a slut, being fat, or being ugly. And obviously, the author doesn't think poorly of girls that have premarital sex or sex while they're teens. I found that really awesome, considering how woefully popular that conservative cult of virginity has gotten in teen literature.
There's a lot of feel good, body positive, feminist messages in The Duff. For mothers or friends of teens who love the kind of regressive sexist bullshit that is so popular today (like Twilight, ick), get The Duff for your girls. Their self-esteem and burgeoning sense of self and agency will thank you.(less)
Weird, horrific, and erotic, Burns expertly captures the alienation and angst of the sexually-budding teenager on the cusp of adulthood. I read it in...moreWeird, horrific, and erotic, Burns expertly captures the alienation and angst of the sexually-budding teenager on the cusp of adulthood. I read it in one night, and feel like I need to read it again to understand, or at least attempt to, all the symbolism he packs into what would otherwise be a fairly bland story. The use of mutation and vile body-horror to capture the confusion of puberty was perhaps my favorite part. Don't read this at night -- you'll have really bizarre and disturbing nightmares, colored by the memories of horror we all share from those lost days of teenage "blossoming" and angst.(less)
Dark Eden brings me back to those days when I stuffed myself on a heady diet of young adult horror and dark fantasy. I'd read Goosebumps prolifically,...moreDark Eden brings me back to those days when I stuffed myself on a heady diet of young adult horror and dark fantasy. I'd read Goosebumps prolifically, and refuse to touch anything with a happy ending or lacking a liberal heaping of gore and dark mystery. It's through that nostalgia that I happily read Dark Eden.
Carman's newest YA novel is great for those who like to be frightened. The entire book is told from the limited perspective of a frightened 15-year-old boy who knows nothing about the horrors he faces. The reader accompanies Will through his fears, being kept in the dark until the terrifying end. There's enough plot twists to keep even the savviest horror reader on their toes, and even a few I didn't see coming.
A hallmark of satisfying horror is the ability to leave you discomforted and a bit off-kilter after you put it down. Carman's Dark Eden fits the bill perfectly, driving readers toward the bitter end with fantastic pacing.(less)
Under the Never Sky is everything you like in YA dystopian lit: peril, bleak settings, and the usual teenage foibles. Unfortunately, that means it has...moreUnder the Never Sky is everything you like in YA dystopian lit: peril, bleak settings, and the usual teenage foibles. Unfortunately, that means it has a lot of the same stumbling blocks: narrative that rushes over character development and climatic sequences, squicky retro gender roles (come on YA authors, it's 2011!), and angst that can fall a bit flat. What makes Rossi's novel stand out from YA I'd give 2 stars is that its plot is nowhere near as derivative as the early buzz would have you think. Although it's compared to Collins' The Hunger Games and Roth's Divergent (both of which I've read), I got way more "Final Fantasy" vibes from it, especially with the mystical Aether and strange mutations.
What I mean to say is that Under the Never Sky reads was less urban fantasy and more like the bizarre sci-fi/fantasy blends writers like McCaffrey and Scott Card are known for. Mix with some teenage angst and the "big epic journey" RPG fans know and love, and you get Under the Never Sky. (You also get what an incredible nerd I am).
Best of all is that the book manages to develop Aria's character without making her one-dimensional or leaving no room for further development. She's still naive, the product of a cloistered upbringing, but coming into herself. Perry's character is a bit more squicky powerful violent he-man, but he doesn't infantilize Aria (see: Edward and Bella from Twilight), and does some growing of his own.
What holds Rossi's novel back is that the ending is totally rushed. There could have easily been 50 or more pages added on the end to make Aria's character development read a lot more genuine than it actually did. All told, it's not terrible, but it does detract from the tension the rest of the novel creates.
Note to the parents: like Hunger Games, there's explicit violence, and other things like discussion of mental illness, cannibalism, and attempted rape. There's also teenagers having sex, but not explicitly. More liberal parents: there's discussion of bride prices, little inversion of gender roles (all the boys tend to be fighters, women are not), some subtle racism (civilized people are white, crazy/violent/savage people are brown), and the usual assumption that everyone is heterosexual.(less)
For fans of purple prose and Twilight-esque angst, you'll love Shatter Me. For those of us who are really tired of helpless retro heroines (it's 2011!...moreFor fans of purple prose and Twilight-esque angst, you'll love Shatter Me. For those of us who are really tired of helpless retro heroines (it's 2011! Come on!), you want to give this one a miss.
Mafi's prose is packed with metaphors. If you took out 90% of them, it would be okay. But instead, they just fill the pages with distracting imagery that, at least half of the time, doesn't work at all. Juliette is a painfully developed heroine. I used "developed" and "heroine" in the loosest sense.
For a teen book, there's an awful lot of smut. I'm no prude, but this smut is really really corny. If you suffered through Twilight like I did, there's only so many metaphors for a dude's abs you can take before you roll your eyes hard enough to sprain them. Also, why would a frightened, imprisoned girl throw herself at a boy? In fact, why would she throw herself and flirt with every single boy that shows her the slightest interest?
And ALL the boys show interest for her. For teenage girls that dream of a world filled with 17-year-old boys with suspiciously developed abs (seriously, how many teenage boys did you know that were built like adult men?) that are all completely available, Shatter Me is great wish fulfillment.
But it's just that: wish-fulfillment. Problem is, I can't think of anyone who would wish themselves in Juliette's shoes. That mix of suffering and pure hormonal fantasy was utterly bizarre. And fell really really flat.
Cinder is exactly what the bloated YA apocalyptic fiction genre needs: a strong female protagonist and a plot that keeps you guessing.
Meyer's main cha...moreCinder is exactly what the bloated YA apocalyptic fiction genre needs: a strong female protagonist and a plot that keeps you guessing.
Meyer's main character, Cinder, is loosely based on Cinderella. Think Cinderella, add some Sailor Moon, and then a bit (okay, a lot) of Bladerunner, and you get the setting. Then you mix in some good ol' fashioned political intrigue, mortal peril, and seriously evil villains, and you have your story. Cinder's pretty visceral for a teen book. It's not as gory as Hunger Games, but it has enough gross body horror to make it feel properly apocalyptic, even if the plot is based on a fairytale and draws some elements from a "magical girl" Japanese anime.
Cinder isn't as ground-breaking or unique as Hunger Games, but it's a solid entry to the YA genre, and a strong start to a trilogy.(less)
Anya -- teenage Russian immigrant, self-conscious about her body, and on the outs with her only friend -- is not fitting in very well at school. She's...moreAnya -- teenage Russian immigrant, self-conscious about her body, and on the outs with her only friend -- is not fitting in very well at school. She's going to need a new BFF to help her cope. The one she finds, however, just happens to be dead and haunting the bottom of a well. Vera Brosgol captures all the teenage angst and paranormal murder-mystery misadventures of her protagonist in a strong, unique style that even hardcore graphic novel readers will appreciate. There's a strong message here too: it's better to embrace what makes us different, even if sometimes all you want to do is turn invisible and assimilate.(less)
Is there a better war epic than the Iliad? That's a rhetorical question. The answer, of course, is no.
Imagine my unabashed glee when I read that the O...moreIs there a better war epic than the Iliad? That's a rhetorical question. The answer, of course, is no.
Imagine my unabashed glee when I read that the Orange Prize was awarded to a debut author who wrote a book based around my favorite of Greek epic poems. With trepidation, I bought the hardcover (I rarely buy hardcovers) and braced myself for disappointment.
Disappointment which never came. Praise Zeus! Every theme of the perfect and timeless Greek tragedy is here: the melodrama, tangles with fate and heartless divinities, senseless war, decadent empires and royalty, self-defeating pride, and deep and immortal love. I finished this breathless and weary, filled with nothing but the desire to read it again. Miller fills her characters with such life and vitality that I felt each of their passions and defeats, petty annoyances and prideful defects as if they were my own.
This is an amazing, triumphant book. There's absolutely nothing I would change about it. The pacing, her gorgeous writing... everything is perfect. A must-read for a lover of the classics.(less)
Chase Novak, the pseudonym of prolific novelist Scott Spencer (Endless Love), masterfully straddles the careful line between horror and literary fict...moreChase Novak, the pseudonym of prolific novelist Scott Spencer (Endless Love), masterfully straddles the careful line between horror and literary fiction in Breed. Here, Novak slowly, savagely peels up the pretense of the Upper East side of Manhattan with unkempt claws and bloody teeth, gruesomely satirizing a wealthy couple's selfish quest to preserve their privileged legacy through any means necessary. With an impressive body count, lyrical descriptions of gore and mayhem, bestial children, and a basement macabre enough to give The Silence of the Lambs a run for its money, here is a novel for anyone looking to take the Urban and Romance out of Horror.(less)
Meyer continues to please with her heart-pounding followup to Cinder. Scarlet has all the action of its prequel, and then some. This time, Meyer tackl...moreMeyer continues to please with her heart-pounding followup to Cinder. Scarlet has all the action of its prequel, and then some. This time, Meyer tackles the "Little Red Riding Hood" fairytale, introducing a new female protagonist -- Scarlet -- and Wolf, her love interest. The stakes are even higher this time. Cinder is on the run, pursued by both the Eastern Commonwealth as a traitor to the crown and by the fearsome Lunar Queen who failed to kill her as a child. Her character remains constant from the last book: cautious, resourceful, slow to trust, and reluctant to face the truth of her origins and destiny. Scarlet is her more headstrong counterpart: quick to speak her mind, good with guns and piloting ships, and willing to turn France upside down in search of her kidnapped grandmother. Her love interest, Wolf, is more fleshed out as a character than Emperor Kai, Cinder's love interest from the last book. Meyer expertly keeps a firm hold on her expanding menagerie of characters. Scarlet and Cinder are both fierce female protagonists, but Meyer takes care to differentiate their backgrounds and personalities. Likewise, she expands the world-building she started in Cinder with ample glimpses of the the world outside New Beijing and insight into the Lunar military and society. Scarlet is faster paced than Cinder, with a shifting point of view that ramps up the tension of the parallel story lines. This is a great read for fans of the prequel, and for those who like fractured fairytales, strong female counterparts, and some meaty and unusual world-building (is it fantasy? Is it sci-fi? Who cares, it's awesome!)(less)