This would be a cozy mystery if it offered any type of recipes or patterns in the back, as it is, think of it as a light-hearted mystery with very litThis would be a cozy mystery if it offered any type of recipes or patterns in the back, as it is, think of it as a light-hearted mystery with very little blood and some steamy kissing scenes. The story transports the reader to Hawaii with lovely described settings and keeps the reader there with an intriguing plot.
A wedding planner in Hawaii is just an interesting job to begin with. Plus, Pali has a bit of mystery to her. She admits from the very beginning that Pali isn’t her name, but the reader never finds out (in this entry in the series anyway) what her real name is. Why is she keeping it a secret? Plus, Pali’s friends (and enemies) are an interesting bunch. Her Native best friend who also runs the general store and officiates weddings is a breath of fresh air to the story. Her gay roommate may feel a bit expected at this point, but the author keeps him from verging too far into stereotype and gives of a hint of the three dimensions he could have in future installments. The bad guys may veer a bit toward caricature sometimes, but that lends the book part of its humor and lack of tension that is key to this type of mystery.
The mystery and plot consist of two main points of conflict. First, Pali is at risk of losing her business. Second, the missing groom and the bride’s family may not be precisely what they appear. This lends some realness to the character. She has more going on than this mystery that fell in her lap. It also gives her a reason for accepting a client who has a clear iffy feeling about them. That said, the will she or won’t she hold onto her business lacks some real tension, as it’s fairly clear that Pali will figure a way out of losing her business. With the missing groom conflict, while we know Pali will probably be safe, since she’s the main character, the rest of the characters are basically up for grabs for danger. This gives it just enough tension to stay interesting but not be stressful. Similarly, this plot was more well-written, with some unexpected yet believable twists. It also takes into consideration the local laws of Hawaii, so events stayed grounded in the real world.
The romance consists of two potential love interests. I am always a bit turned off when a main character has two people interested in them. It will never not feel a bit fake to me. However, the two potential love interests are handled in a balanced and modern way. Neither is the clear “right choice,” and readers could easily prefer one over the other while still liking the main character with either.
I also would like to mention that there is a good minor plot involving characters revealing that they are alcoholics who have been in recovery for a while. It’s good to see people with a mental illness that they have worked on and are actively managing in a positive way. I appreciate this diversity being included in this book.
Given all of these positives, why is it only an average read for me? There was nothing unexpected for this type of mystery. It is very similar to others I have read in the genre. Additionally, the main character can kind of rub me the wrong way sometimes. How she handles her love interests is not as up-front as it should be. It is also unclear as to how she managed to get herself into so much debt. It seems she might just be bad at balancing books but all for taking favors from friends. Similarly, she’s a white woman, albeit raised in Hawaii, but she goes by a Native name and never explains why, beyond the fact that she doesn’t like her own name. Add to this the fact that the romance didn’t really work for me, and this is why I consider this a rather average read. It may be more than average for you, if these factors I have named are not an issue for you.
Overall, this is a light-hearted mystery that transports the reader to the tropical island of Maui. Some readers may be a bit turned off by the main character or the romance secondary plot. Those who enjoy a non-tense mystery set in a tropical locale will most likely enjoy the read, however.
I picked this up because the cover of a green-skinned woman in a desert appealed to me, and then the description seemed like an interesting post-apocaI picked this up because the cover of a green-skinned woman in a desert appealed to me, and then the description seemed like an interesting post-apocalyptic future. This is certainly and interesting and unique read for any fans of post-apocalyptic or dystopian literature.
The future is imaginative with many different groups and reactions to the botanicaust (the destruction of plant matter that is considered this world’s apocalypse). As someone who has studied the Amish, I appreciated how the author imagined how the Old Order would handle such a crisis and address it for the future. Allowing people into the compound if they are willing to convert seems logical, and showing that the Old Order did accept some technological innovation also makes sense. Similarly, the green scientists who seek to photosynthesize everyone and don’t seem to care too much if the cannibals want to be photosynthesized or not make logical sense. The scientists believe this is the solution in a world without enough food, and hey haven’t bothered to do any cross-cultural studying to see if there is any rhyme or reason or value to the cannibal lifestyle. This again is a logical position for a group of scientists to hold. The other group of scientists who live in the mountain and have managed to find the solution to not aging are a great contrast to the groups of greens. Whereas the greens do sometimes do evil but don’t intend to, they only intend to be helping (with the exception of one bad guy character), the mountain dwellers have been turned inhumane by their abnormally long lives. These three groups set up a nice contrast of pros and cons of scientific solutions and advancement. At what point do we stop being human and at what point are we being too stubborn in resisting scientific advancement? How do we maintain ethics among all of this? The exploration of these groups and these questions was my favorite part of the book.
The plot is complex and fast-paced, visiting many areas of the land and groups of people. I wasn’t particularly a fan of the romance, but I can see where others would find that it adds to the book. I just wasn’t particularly a fan of the pairing that was established, but for no reason other than it seemed a bit illogical to me. Then again, romance is not always logical.
The one thing that really bothered me in the book was the representation of Down Syndrome and the language used to refer to it and those who have it. The mountain scientists have children, but as a result of tampering with their own genetics, all of their children have Down Syndrome. First, I don’t like that this makes it appear as if Down Syndrome is a punishment to the evil scientists who went too far with science. Down Syndrome is a condition some people are born with. It is not a condition as the result of anything a parent did, such as fetal alcohol syndrome. Second, all of the characters with Down Syndrome are presented as large, bumbling oafs with hearts of gold. There is just as much variety to the personalities and abilities of those with Down Syndrome as there are in those of us without Down Syndrome. Finally, the author persists in referring to these characters as:
a Down’s Syndrome woman (loc 2794)
or of course, “a Down’s Syndrome man.” First, the preferred term for Down Syndrome is Down Syndrome, not Down’s Syndrome. This is a mistake that is easy to make, though (I have made it myself), and I am willing to give the author a pass for that. The more upsetting element in the way she refers to these characters though is that she always lists the condition first and then the person, not the other way around. It is always preferred, in any illness or condition, to list the person first and the illness or condition second. For instance, a woman with cancer, not a cancerous woman. A man with PTSD, not a PTSD man. A child with Down Syndrome, not a Down Syndrome child. I cringed every single time this happened, and it happens a lot in the section of the book that takes place in the mountain. Given that this is an indie book, and it is thus quite easy to make editing changes and fixes, I would hope that the author would go through and fix this simple aspect of language. It would be a show of good faith to the entire community of people who have Down Syndrome, as well as their families. For more on the preferred language when referring to Down Syndrome and people who have Down Syndrome, please check out this excellent guide, written by the National Down Syndrome Society.
It’s a real bummer to me that the language about Down Syndrome and presentation of these characters isn’t better, because if it was, this would have been a five star read for me.
Overall, this is an interesting and unique post-apocalyptic future with an action-packed plot. Those who are sensitive to the language used to refer to Down Syndrome and representation of people with Down Syndrome may wish to avoid it, due to an unfortunate section where characters with Down Syndrome are referred to improperly and written a bit two-dimensionally.
ETA: The author has written a thoughtful and kind comment on this post (on my blog, click out above to read it). You may view it by going below. To sum up, she cannot make edits to those book, due to it also having an audiobook version. However, she has promised to edit for these issues in future books containing characters with Down Syndrome. This genuine and thoughtful response is much more than the community of those with Down Syndrome and their families and loved ones often get, and it is very much appreciated....more
Whereas the previous book kept us entertained and awake for our road trip, this one left us confused and con*Note: This is a review of the audiobook.*
Whereas the previous book kept us entertained and awake for our road trip, this one left us confused and concerned we might actually be drifting off into sleep periodically, because it made so little sense. (For the record, we were not drifting off into sleep. This book just makes very little sense).
All of the audiobook qualities that were great about the previous book stay great here. Shatner’s narration alternates between hilariously good and hilariously bad but mostly is just hilariously Shatner. The sound effects continue to be stellar and one of my favorite parts of the book. It continues to feel like listening to a Star Trek movie as a radio show, and that it was kept me going through it.
The plot, however, just makes very little sense and seems to fall apart. Whereas in the previous book a continuing plot point is Shatner’s ruined hands, in this one it’s Shatner’s unborn (and then born) son who is all kinds of genetically messed up thanks to the poison in his mother’s system from the cloned children of Tiberius. (Are you confused yet?) This could possibly make for an interesting plot, but it’s dropped frequently to pursue the other plot about the preserver orb things. We read this book and both fiancé and I are still unclear as to precisely what the orbs mean. We’re not even sure if they’re good or bad. This is how confusing the plot is, I can’t even properly sum it up for you folks. In spite of the plot being really confusing, there are still some fun scenes, such as when Kirk meets his son for the first time. It’s a short audiobook, so I’m not unhappy I listened to it, even if I mostly only understood the Kirk’s son plot.
Overall, while this provides very little clear closure to the plot point set up earlier in the trilogy, it does feature the birth of Kirk’s son and all the fun of listening to a radio show version of a Star Trek movie. If you liked the previous books in the trilogy and don’t mind a confusing plot, you’ll enjoy finishing up the trilogy.
This book reads like a radio program version of a Star Trek movie featuring a crazy mash-up of the Original SeNote: This is a review of the audiobook.
This book reads like a radio program version of a Star Trek movie featuring a crazy mash-up of the Original Series, Next Generation, and Voyager.
The action starts right away, which was admittedly a bit confusing, since we hadn’t read the first book. It starts with Tiberius and his crew escaping into our own universe, and Kirk and his trying to battle them. Also, Kirk’s hands are mysteriously mangled from something that happened in the first book. Ultimately, we were able to catch up with the plot and follow it somewhat. Kirk is in love with a woman who is pregnant with his baby. Tiberius seems intent on getting to some orbs that the Federation wants to protect. Kirk wants to stop him, but the Federation and some spy branch of theirs are trying to keep him from engaging in the fight anymore. They even go so far as to lie to him and tell him that Tiberius is dead. It’s a complex, twisting plot that makes some sense when listening to it, although summarizing it is nigh on impossible. Suffice to say, that if you enjoy the concept of the mirror universe and the characters from three series all interacting together, you’ll probably enjoy this plot. Plus, there’s also Kirk’s wedding in this book, and that is just not to be missed. (There are horses! And red leather outfits!)
What really made the book for me was the audiobook presentation of it. It is presented like a radio program, complete with amazing sound effects. The communicator actually beeps! There are impact noises from shots at the Enterprise! There are even whinnies from the horses. If you’re a more serious Star Trek fan, you might be irritated by the relative kitsch of this book and its reading, but if you enjoy Star Trek for its periodic utter ridiculous, then you’ll enjoy the way this audiobook is presented.
Shatner’s narration is sometimes good but often hilariously bad. His voice for women is unnaturally high and soft, making me giggle each time, and mysteriously, he uses the same voice for Captain Picard as for women. Listening to him narrate anyone who is not Captain Kirk is a bit like watching Captain Kirk “fight” in the Original Series. I enjoyed it for its ridiculousness, not for its quality.
Overall, if you’re a Star Trek fan who doesn’t take the show too seriously, you’ll enjoy this radio program like audiobook with a plot mashing up everything from a mirror universe to somehow placing Captains Kirk, Picard, and Janeway on the same ship.
This was an interesting read that kept me moderately entertained, although it wasn’t the rollicking good time I was initially expecting.
The book jumpsThis was an interesting read that kept me moderately entertained, although it wasn’t the rollicking good time I was initially expecting.
The book jumps right in to Jack as already a rock star on Heaven (the alien planet) and tells of his arrival and how he became famous through a series of flashbacks. This nonlinear storytelling works well with the plot. Starting with semi-familiar rock star territory, the book slowly reveals what is different about this planet, as well as about Jack.
It is evident that this was originally a three part series, as the plot consists of three distinct parts that, while connected, keep the book from having an overarching gradual build-up of suspense. Jack has three distinct episodes of action, and that lends the book and up and down quality that feels a bit odd in one novel. I actually think I might have enjoyed the book more if it was kept as a trilogy with each part’s plot fleshed out a bit and the overarching conflict made more evident. An overarching conflict does exist, but it is so subtle that the opportunity to build suspense is mostly missed.
Personally, Jack didn’t work for me as a main character. While I don’t mind viewing the world through a bad guy’s eyes, I usually enjoy that most when I get a lot of depth and insight into who that person is. Jack holds everyone, including the reader, at arm’s length, so I both saw the world through his objectifying eyes and couldn’t really get to know him at all. That said, I can definitely see some readers enjoying Jack and his viewpoint. He lends the unique ability to let people see the world both through a rock star’s eyes and through an astronaut’s. A reader who is into both famous people’s biographies/autobiographies and scifi would probably really enjoy him.
Similarly, the humor in the book just didn’t strike my funny bone. I could recognize when it’s supposed to be humorous, but I wasn’t actually amused. I know other people would find it funny, though. Readers expecting a Douglas Adams style humor would be disappointed. Those who enjoy something like Knocked Up would most likely appreciate and enjoy the humor.
There are certain passages that sometimes struck me as a sour note among the rest of the writing. Perhaps these are passages that would be humorous to other readers, but to me just felt odd and out of place in the rest of the writing. Most of the writing at the sentence level worked for me. It was just the right tone for the story it was telling. But periodically there are passages that made me gnash my teeth. Again, perhaps this is humor that just didn’t work for me. I’m not certain. If you like the concept of the rest of the book, there are only a few of these passages that are easy to pass over. If you enjoy them and find them humorous, then you will most likely enjoy the book as a whole as well.
Overall, this is a piece of scifi with the interesting idea of turning an Earth astronaut into a rock star on another parallel planet. Potential readers should be aware that the book was originally told in three parts, and that is evident in the book. They should also be aware that the main character is both a self-centered rock star and a self-centered astronaut, while this viewpoint may work for some, it will not work for others. Recommended to those who enjoy both celebrity autobiographies/biographies and scifi who can overlook some bizarro coincidences.
Despite its title, this book primarily focuses on achieving health through making permanent changes to your lifestyle, advocating a gradual overhaul wDespite its title, this book primarily focuses on achieving health through making permanent changes to your lifestyle, advocating a gradual overhaul with the focus on improving health, with weight loss as a side bonus.
The book opens with an introduction from Dr. Christine Darwin. It then moves to Jillian giving a brief introduction to her own health journey. It was fascinating to learn about how she became a trainer in her late teens, got her job on The Biggest Loser, and was diagnosed with PCOS. This lends a personal touch to the entire book. Jillian isn’t “naturally fit.” She works hard at it and has an illness that actually makes it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight. This book is honest about the fact that achieving fitness is varying levels of difficult for people, but also takes a no-nonsense, if you want health you’ll fight for it, attitude. That attitude may rub some readers the wrong way, but I appreciate it.
The book next tackles explaining how your biochemistry impacts your health and weight and why it’s therefore important to keep them balanced. Readers who enjoy knowing the why’s behind certain bits of health advice (such as keeping your stress levels low, getting enough sleep, not eating after 9pm) will particularly enjoy this section, as it explains the biochemistry behind this advice. Readers who prefer to just get the advice without knowing the why’s can easily skip this bit and just partake of the advice if they so choose. My favorite part of this section is how kind Jillian is about how people may have beat up their bodies so far in life. She’s very encouraging that what’s in the past is in the past, and every body can be improved.
The next section talks about how various chemicals and hormones in our environments contribute to messed up hormones. Jillian is quite passionate about how things like BPA in cans and hormones in non-organic dairy can pile up to mess up human hormones. Jillian makes a point of saying that even changing one of these things (for instance, buying organic dairy) can help your body, because every little bit helps. However, she is also so passionate about these hormonal and chemical pollutants that it can sometimes seem as if she is telling the reader to change everything all at once, and that can be a bit overwhelming.
Next the recommended diet is tackled, and it’s actually fairly straight-forward. Limit processed foods (and all the HFCS and artificial sweeteners and preservatives that come with it). Focus on eating only things that grew in the ground or had a mother. Limit starchy root vegetables (less than 2 servings a day), alcohol (1 drink per day), caffeine (stick to green tea), soy (2 servings per week), full fat dairy and fatty meats, and canned food (to avoid BPA). She encourages including power nutrients, such as: legumes, alliums, berries, meat and eggs, colorful and cruciferous fruits and vegetables, dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, organic dairy, and whole grains. Perhaps the most difficult part of the diet, besides cutting out processed food, is the timing of eating she recommends. Eat within an hour of waking up. Eat three more times in the day, once every four hours. Eat until you’re full but not stuffed. Don’t eat after 9pm. The explanation for the timing issue is to help balance your hormones. She also states that you must have fat, protein, and carbs at every meal, but to aim for higher protein, particularly in the evening meal and as you age. The reasoning behind this is you feel more satisfied with all three macros and also are more likely to not lack in any particular nutrient. Two other reasons are that protein increases your metabolism and as people age they need more protein to retain muscles. This is not a particularly challenging diet, nor is it far off from what is generally recommended by doctors and nutritionists as a healthy diet. Again, the most challenging part is the timing issue. Not everyone’s life lets them perfectly space out their meals.
For those readers who are new to eating a whole foods, unprocessed diet, the book includes a sample menu (I believe it covers two weeks, but can’t double-check as it was a library copy). The recipes are perfect for beginner cooks with nothing too complex and not too much time required. Jillian teamed up with a professional for the recipes, and is straight-forward about that.
The book next tackles the six most common hormonal disorders, including PMS, hypothyroid, metabolic syndrome, and PCOS. These hormonal issues require special recommendations and guidelines, and Jillian explains them quickly and clearly.
Finally the book ends with some tips on how to live out the recommended lifestyle, including how to afford and/or find organic food, how to clean your house without chemicals, etc… Just as earlier, Jillian is so passionate about this that it’s possible for the reader to feel overwhelmed at the thought of doing everything, even though Jillian does make a point to state that changing even one thing, or one thing at a time, will help. Perhaps it would help if the book ended with a checklist of the most important changes or how to adapt gradually or something like that to make it feel less overwhelming for the reader.
Besides the fact that sometimes the book can make the lifestyle feel a bit overwhelming, my only other issue with the book was when Jillian recommends that women stop taking hormonal birth control pills and use condoms instead. Condoms are nowhere near as good a form of birth control as hormonal methods, and randomly recommending everyone stop using hormonal birth control is more than just a bit irresponsible. It would have been far more responsible to do something such as suggest that if the reader is concerned about the level of hormones in her birth control to speak to her doctor about lower level hormone options, such as the mini-pill or the IUD, and see if those may work for her. Just flat-out saying everyone use condoms is not helpful. Plus, there is a risk/reward calculation that every individual must make for themselves.
Overall, this book mostly recommends diet and lifestyle changes that would also be recommended by most doctors and nutritionists. The timing of eating is something that is up for debate, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt the reader to try it. Jillian sometimes gets so passionate about all of the lifestyle and diet changes that it can feel overwhelming to the reader. Recommended to those interested in the science behind generally recommended lifestyle changes. Just remember that you don’t have to do everything at once and take the advice with a piece of salt. Do your own research and talk to your doctor before dropping medication/birth control.
It’s hard not to pick up a book that basically advertises itself as a vampire killing Nazis and the only ones who can stop the vampires are a Jewish pIt’s hard not to pick up a book that basically advertises itself as a vampire killing Nazis and the only ones who can stop the vampires are a Jewish professor and his daughter. I mean, really, what an idea! Most of the book executes this idea with intrigue and finesse, although the end leaves a bit to be desired.
The characterization of the Germans is handled well. They are a good mix of morally ethical people who are caught up in a regime following orders and see no way out (the army men) and evil men who enjoy inflicting pain upon others and are taking advantage of the regime to be governmentally sanctioned bullies, rapists, and murderers. Having both present keeps the book from simply demonizing all Germans and yet recognizes the evil of Nazism and those who used it to their advantage.
Similarly, Magda and her father Professor Cuza are well-rounded. Professor Cuza is a man of his time, using his daughter’s help academically but not giving her any credit for it. He also is in chronic pain and acts like it, rather than acting like a saint. Magda is torn between loyalty to her sickly father and desires to live out her own life as she so chooses. They are people with fully developed lives prior to the rise of the Nazis, and they are presented as just people, not saints.
In contrast, the man who arrives to fight the evil entity, Glaeken, is a bit of a two-dimensional deus ex machina, although he is a sexy deus ex machina. Very little is known of him or his motivations. He comes across as doing what is needed for the plot in the moment rather than as a fully developed person. The same could easily be said of the villagers who live near the keep.
The basic conflict of the plot is whether or not to side with the supernatural power that seems to be willing to work against the Nazis. Thus, what is worse? The manmade evil of the Nazis or a supernatural evil? Can you ever use a supernatural evil for good? It’s an interesting conflict right up until the end where a reveal is made that makes everything about the question far too simple. Up until that point it is quite thought-provoking, however.
The plot smoothly places all of these diverse people in the same space. The supernatural entity is frightening, as are the Nazis. These are all well-done.
One thing that was frustrating to me as a modern woman reader was the sheer number of times Magda is almost raped or threatened with rape, and how she only escapes from rape thanks to anything but herself. In one instance, the Nazi simply runs out of time because the train is about to move out. In another, she is saved by a man. In a third, she is saved by supernatural devices. While it is true that rape is a danger in war zones, it would be nice if this was not such a frequently used conflict/plot point for this character. Once would have been sufficient to get the point across. As it is, the situation starts to lose its power as a plot point.
The ending is a combination of a deus ex machina and a plot twist that is a bit unsatisfying. There also isn’t enough resolution, and it appears that the next books in the series do not pick up again with these same characters, so it is doubtful there is more resolution down the road. It is a disappointing ending that takes a turn that is nowhere near as powerful and interesting as the rest of the book.
Overall, this is an interesting fantastical take on a historic time period. The ending could possibly be disappointing and not resolve enough for the reader and some readers will be frustrated with the depiction of the sole female character. However, it is still a unique read that is recommended to historic fiction fans and WWII buffs that don’t mind having some supernatural aspects added to their history.
This is a well-researched and written piece of historic fiction that eloquently depicts the minds of elephants as similar to and yet different from thThis is a well-researched and written piece of historic fiction that eloquently depicts the minds of elephants as similar to and yet different from those of humans.
The book opens with a scene of a so-called bad elephant about to be executed. The humans state they are doing so humanely and nothing can be done because the elephant has gone rogue and killed too many humans. The book then flashes back to see the elephant’s life from the elephant’s perspective, leaving it up to the reader to determine if the elephant is actually bad. The humans calls her Topsy, but her elephant name is actually Far Stream. What follows in the flashback is a delicately handled and clearly exquisitely researched tale of the life of a circus elephant in the late 1800s in the US.
From the beginning, the author makes it clear that elephants are intelligent, with lives, families, and emotions of their own. Quite a bit of this is backed up by science, such as elephants crying and also mourning dead members of the herd. There are also those who think that elephants might communicate via sign language and/or telepathically, and the book fully embraces both ideas. What results in telling this tale from the elephant’s perspective is a scene of one intelligent species enslaved by another that is heartbreaking to read. What really makes the story work, though, is that the author strikes the perfect balance between showing the horror of being a circus elephant and also not fully demonizing humans. There are good humans (trainers and non-trainers) who love the elephants and treat them well but simply do not understand that elephants are more intelligent and have a richer emotional life than they give them credit for and by simply keeping them away from the roaming herd life they were made for they are hurting them.
Everything about the circus in the late 1800s in the US was clearly thoroughly researched by the author. The historic setting and ways of life flow smoothly and fit perfectly within the plot. They are presented simply as reality without any unfortunate modern commentary or forcing of unnaturally modern ideas into the plot. Reading this book truly transported me back in time, and it was fascinating and enjoyable, as well as heartbreaking.
Although the reader knows from the beginning that Far Stream will be executed, how she gets there is still a mystery and is handled delicately enough that the plot has momentum.
The one bit that didn’t really work for me is how the book presents what appears to be elephant spirituality. There is one scene where Far Stream and another elephant appear to hallucinate, and it is never entirely clear what actually happened. Similarly the ending goes to an odd spiritual place that just left me confused, rather than in the strong emotional state I was in the moments immediately prior to this. I found the elephant spirituality bits to be a touch confusing that lessened the emotional strength of the rest of the book, which came across much more matter-of-fact. Some readers may enjoy and relate to the spiritual aspect more than I did, however.
Overall, this is a piece of thoroughly researched historic fiction with a smooth moving plot and an empathetic, well-rounded main character. It clearly demonstrates how animals humans once thought were less intelligent and less emotional than we now know them to be came to be mistreated, setting up a precedent for that mistreatment that to some extent continues to this day. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy historic fiction and animal main characters.
I was a bit startled to see that this book featured yet another new perspective, particularly after the return to Miranda’s diary in the third book. II was a bit startled to see that this book featured yet another new perspective, particularly after the return to Miranda’s diary in the third book. I was expecting a turn back to Alex, but instead we get Miranda’s little brother Jon’s perspective. I can understand the reasoning for this shift. Jon is the only young person from the original group living in the enclave. He is a bit of an antihero throughout most of the book, providing a unique look at the privileged elite in this post-apocalyptic society but one that could be alienating to some readers.
Whereas the first two books focused on the actual apocalypse and the third on the immediate aftermath, this book looks at the new society emerging from that wasteland, and it’s not good. It’s quite dystopian. Not everyone who enjoys apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic worlds also enjoy dystopian ones, so this is a bit of a risky move for a series, although it makes logical sense for the plot to progress this way. The dystopia that Pfeffer imagines is interesting. The elite have built up enclaves and use those who are not elite to work supporting them, basically killing themselves slowly mining coal and growing food while the elite stay safe and educated in the enclaves. It allows for a look at social class taken to the extreme while still seeming realistic within the world Pfeffer has created.
Jon also is a realistic character. He’s a bit spoiled rotten, after all, his brother, sister, and mother all routinely gave him extra food while they starved when the apocalypse first occurred. He’s the result of all the coddling they gave the youngest in an effort to keep him alive and healthiest. That said, some readers will be turned off by Jon. He’s unequivocally a jerk throughout at least half of the book before he eventually snaps out of it. While I personally enjoy a good antihero every now and then, not all readers will like visiting one, particularly after the more heroic presence of Miranda and Alex in the first two books.
There is one aspect of Jon’s character that really bothers me, and it has nothing to do with his snobbishness and antihero nature early on in the book.
(view spoiler)[ He lets on early on in the book that something bad happened to Alex’s sister Julie. He at one point misleads a female character to believe that he raped Julie to drive her away from him. This is done to protect her, and the reader is led to believe through this scene that Jon obviously didn’t rape Julie. Yet when we find out what actually happened, it’s not quite so crystal clear. Jon basically was making out with Julie and not stopping when she asked him to the first time. She then runs out into the storm and is killed in the tornado. Jon states that of course he would have stopped, he was just slow about it and reluctant because he didn’t think Julie’s protests were real. He thought she wanted him but wasn’t letting herself want him because of her religion. This is clearly many levels of fucked up. The reader is supposed to just believe Jon that he would have stopped because he says so? The reader is supposed to believe that Julie 100% over-reacted because Jon claims she did? It’s a squicky scene to read about, partially because it comes across as that the reader is supposed to absolve Jon from any guilt since he clearly didn’t rape Julie. He’s also upsetting because no one in the book treats this like the serious issue it is. Everyone just kind of shrugs and goes oh Julie over-reacted and goes on their merry way. Even if Jon really was about to stop when Julie ran out, he clearly needs to be spoken to about listening to your partner immediately, about seeking out enthusiastic consent, and about not victim blaming. Particularly given that this is a YA book and what an important issue this is, the way it’s glossed over left a really sour taste in my mouth. (hide spoiler)]
I’m not against the presence of an antihero, including in a YA book, but I do think that Jon’s worse qualities could have been handled with a bit more deftness. His presence instead dances around the edges of certain issues, rather than drawing them out for examination within the context of a fun dystopia.
The plot gets a bit nuts, and one character in particularly has an ending that is rather anticlimactic. However, the plot does eventually move everyone into a new area of the dystopia that is quite fascinating and sets the series up well for another book that will hopefully be free of Jon’s perspective, if Pfeffer does decide to write one.
Overall, readers of the beginning of the series will enjoy seeing what ultimately happens to Miranda and Alex, although they may be frustrated to have to do it through Jon’s eyes. Jon is an antihero who may irritate some readers, and his presence brings up some issues that are then glossed over, rather than dealt with. Recommended to readers who really want to see more of Miranda and Alex who don’t mind spending some time with an antihero.
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The third book in this series reverts back to the Miranda’s journal format of the first. While I appreciate bringing the diverse characters from the fThe third book in this series reverts back to the Miranda’s journal format of the first. While I appreciate bringing the diverse characters from the first two books in the series together, the use of Miranda’s journal exclusively in telling the story renders the tale a bit less interesting and strong than it could have been.
It should come as no surprise that a YA series featuring a girl in the first book and a boy in the second will bring the two together in the third. I must admit that although when I finished the first book I was very eager to read more about Miranda, when I finished the second I was intrigued at the idea of a series that saw the same apocalypse lived out in different places by different people throughout. That said, getting to know the extensive background of the love interest is appreciated and different but it is a bit jarring to go back to Miranda’s diary after getting to know Alex so thoroughly in the second book. The book could have been much more powerful if Miranda’s journals were interspersed with chapters from Alex’s perspective. Getting this perspective would have helped make their love seem more real, as opposed to just convenient. (Alex is the only teenage boy Miranda has seen in a year). Additionally, in spite of Miranda falling for Alex so fast, he mostly comes across as cold and overly religious in this book, whereas in his own book he was much more empathetic. Certainly the need for survival will make him come across stern, and we know that Alex has a tendency to say important things in Spanish, which Miranda cannot understand. Both of these facts means it would have worked much better to have alternating perspectives, rather than just Miranda’s.
The plot, with the exception of the instant love between Alex and Miranda, is good. It brings everyone into one place in a way that seems natural. The addition of new characters also breathes new life into Miranda’s situation. Plus, Pfeffer does a good job of forcing the family out of their stasis in the home, something that both makes logical sense (these people were not preppers, they are not equipped to stay in their home forever in the apocalypse) and also keeps the plot interesting (one can only read about people holed up in a house for so long). The plot developments also make more sense, scientifically, than in the previous books.
Religion is handled less smoothly here than in the previous two books. Everyone but Miranda’s mother and Miranda has church on Sunday (Protestant or Catholic), and Miranda doesn’t have enough of a reaction to or thoughts about this. She doesn’t really think about faith or spirituality. Church is just something some other people do. This is unrealistic. A teen who has just gone through a disaster and sees her father suddenly take up faith would definitely at the very least have some questions. Given that Alex has a very strong faith and they are interested in each other, one would think they would have some conversations about religion that go beyond whether or not they can have sex before they get married, yet they don’t. The first two books sets a great stage to talk about faith in its many forms, as well as lack of faith, yet the book backs away from actually tackling this issue. If it had, it would have offered something truly thought-provoking in the read. Instead it’s a post-apocalyptic survivor romance. Not a bad thing but not what I was expecting based on the first two books.
Overall, this is an interesting next entry in the series that brings Miranda and Alex back to the readers and moves the plot forward. However, it dances around the issue of faith vs. lack of faith brought up in the first two books, eliminates Alex’s voice from the story, and suffers from some instant romance. Those already invested in the series will still enjoy seeing what happens to Alex and Miranda, although skimming for plot points is recommended.
I inhaled the first book in this series, in spite of the scientific flaws (which I addressed in my review of the first book). Miranda’s journal ends sI inhaled the first book in this series, in spite of the scientific flaws (which I addressed in my review of the first book). Miranda’s journal ends so abruptly that I was eager to get to the next book right away. I was surprised, then, when the second book starts back before the moon is struck with an entirely different family in a different area of the country. This book shows Pfeffer’s abilities as a writer by showing the same apocalyptic event seen in the first book from the perspective of an entirely different family.
Miranda’s family is suburban-rural, agnostic/atheist humanist, blended (divorced parents with one remarried), and white. Alex’s family is urban (NYC), Latino, and devotedly Catholic. Both families are given room to have strengths and flaws, most of which have nothing to do with where they live, their ethnicities, or their religions (or lack of one). I honestly was startled to see Alex and his and his sisters’ strong faith treated with such respect in this book after Miranda’s lack of faith was treated with equal respect in the first. It’s easy, particularly in a book written as a journal, to mistake a character’s beliefs for an author’s, and Miranda, a teenage girl, has very strong beliefs. This book reminded me that those beliefs were just Miranda’s, just as Alex’s beliefs are just his, and it shows how well Pfeffer is able to write characters.
Some readers may find it odd and frustrating to go back in time to relive the apocalypse over again with different characters. I personally enjoyed it, because the world falling apart is one of the best parts of post-apocalyptic fiction for me. I also liked having the opportunity to see differences in how the apocalypse plays out based both on the location (suburban/rural versus urban) and the characters’ personalities and reactions. However, that said, I can see how this set-up of two vastly different sets of characters in books one and two could be off-putting to certain readers. Some religious readers may be turned off by the first book and Miranda’s staunch atheism. Those who read the first book and enjoy it for precisely that reason may similarly be turned off by the second book’s heavy Catholicism and faith. The diversity is a good thing but it also makes it hard to pinpoint an audience for the series. Those who are open to and accepting of other belief systems would ultimately be the best match but that’s a demographic that can sometimes be difficult to find or market to. However, if a reader is particularly looking for a diverse set of viewpoints of the apocalypse that is more than just characters’ appearances, this series will be a great match for them.
It should also be mentioned that this book is not a journal. It is told in third person, from Alex’s viewpoint, although the dates are still mentioned. It makes sense to do it this way, since Alex definitely does not come across as a character with the time or the inclination to keep a journal. It would have been interesting to view the apocalypse from the viewpoint of a boy who did keep a journal, however.
The plot makes sense and brings in enough danger without being overly ridiculous. It would have been nice to have maybe started the book just a bit earlier in the week to see more of Alex’s day-to-day life before the disaster. Instead, we learn about it through flashbacks, which makes it a bit harder to get to know him than it was to get to know Miranda.
Overall, this is a surprising and enjoyable second book in this post-apocalyptic series that lets readers relive the apocalypse from the first book over again with a different set of characters. This approach lends diversity to the series, as well as bringing in a greater variety of scenarios for those who enjoy the apocalypse process. Recommended to those looking for a diverse presentation of beliefs and how those impact how characters deal with an apocalypse.
This book lives up to the expectations set by its summary, offering a fun journal entry take on a natural disaster that turns into a dystopia.
Miranda,This book lives up to the expectations set by its summary, offering a fun journal entry take on a natural disaster that turns into a dystopia.
Miranda, who lives in semi-suburban Pennsylvania, starts out the journal as a very average teenage girl, adapting to her parents’ divorce and father’s subsequent re-marriage, her older brother being away for his first year of college, and hoping to convince her mother to let her take up ice skating again. The book clearly yet subtly shows her development from this young, carefree teenager through angst and denial and selfishness in the face of the disaster to finally being a young woman willing to make sacrifices for her family. Miranda is written quite three-dimensionally. She neither handles the disaster perfectly nor acts too young for her age. While she sometimes is mature and sees the bigger picture at other times she simply wants her own room and doesn’t understand why she can’t have that. Pfeffer eloquently shows how the changes force Miranda to grow up quickly, and this is neither demonized nor elevated on a pedestal. Miranda’s character development is the best part of the book, whether the reader likes her the best at the beginning, middle or end, it’s still fascinating to read and watch.
Miranda also doesn’t have the perfect family or the perfect parents, which is nice to see a piece of young adult literature. Her parents try, but they make a lot of mistakes. Miranda’s mother becomes so pessimistic about everything that she starts to hone in on the idea of only one of them surviving, being therefore tougher on Miranda and her older brother than on the youngest one. Miranda’s father chooses to leave with his new wife to go find her parents, a decision that is perhaps understandable but still feels like total abandonment to Miranda. Since Miranda is the middle child, she also has a lot of conflict between being not the youngest and so sheltered from as much as possible and also not the oldest so not treated as a semi-equal by her mother like her oldest brother is. This imperfect family will be relatable to many readers.
Miranda’s mother is staunchly atheist/agnostic/humanist and liberal, and this seeps into Miranda’s journal. For those looking for a non-religious take on disaster to give to a non-religious reader or a religious reader looking for another perspective on how to handle disasters, this is a wonderful addition to the YA dystopian set. However, if a reader has the potential to be offended by a disaster without any reliance on god or liberal leanings spelled out in the text, they may want to look elsewhere.
I know much more about medical science than Earth science or astronomy, but I will say that when I was reading this book, the science of it seemed a bit ridiculous. An asteroid knocks the moon out of orbit (maybe) so the tides rise (that makes sense) and magma gets pulled out of the Earth causing volcanoes and volcanic ash leading to temperature drops Earth-wide (whaaaat). So I looked it up, and according to astronomers, an asteroid is too small to hit the moon out of orbit. If it was large enough to, it would destroy the moon in the process. Even if for some reason scientists were wrong and the moon could be knocked out of orbit, even in that scenario, the only thing that would happen would be the tides would be higher. (source 1, source 2) I know dystopian lit is entirely what if scenarios, but I do generally prefer them to be based a bit more strongly in science. I would recommend that reading this book thus be accompanied by some non-fiction reading on astronomy and volcanology. At the very least, it’s good to know that you can safely tell young readers that this most likely would not happen precisely this way, and this book is a great opening dialogue on disasters and disaster preparedness.
Overall, this is a fun take on the dystopian YA genre, featuring the journal of the protagonist and dystopia caused primarily by nature rather than humans. Potential readers should be aware that the science of this disaster is a bit shaky. The story featuring an agnostic humanist post-divorce family makes it a welcome diversifying addition to this area of YA lit.
The introduction to the Alkaline Diet in the first half of the book is wonderfully written and easy to understand. The 14 day meal plan and lifestyleThe introduction to the Alkaline Diet in the first half of the book is wonderfully written and easy to understand. The 14 day meal plan and lifestyle guide falters, however, with dull, complex to make meals and a shortage of exercise tips.
For those who don’t know, the Alkaline Diet basically is the idea that our bodies function best with a pH balance between 7.3 and 7.5, but modern lifestyles wreak havoc with this balance, making us too acidic. What impacts our pH balance is our food and lifestyle. Each food can be either acidic or alkaline. Stress is acidic. Meditation is alkaline. Etc… Whether or not this idea that the body should be at a certain pH balance is valid is rather irrelevant, honestly. The tips offered for creating this balance are all good, healthy ones. The book never veers into extremism, indeed cautioning that acidic foods, such as meat and processed items, do not need to be cut out of the diet entirely in order for the reader to be healthy. It encourages a 2:1 ratio. Two parts alkaline food and activities for every one part acidic food and activities. Essentially, the idea that health is not all or nothing. It is a balancing act. Indeed, balance is a theme of the book.
Your body doesn’t want extremes–it wants balance. (loc 480)
The two parts alkaline it encourages are basically fresh produce, time for self-care, and low-stress exercise. So basically, eat whole foods, stress less, and move more. Fairly common fitness and health advice. The acidic parts include processed food, meat, dairy, stress, and high-stress exercise. Again, the reader is not told to stop enjoying any of these things, but simply to find a balance. The only thing I really disagree with is I think the book underemphasizes the importance of exercise for health. In fact, the book seems a bit concerned with not doing too much “high-stress” cardio or weight lifting. It seems to be more inclined toward the lower-impact, more moderate exercises. I don’t think this is an idea that could claim to have much science behind it. Indeed, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is written about in over 200 articles on PubMed (a free biomedical database), and most of these articles are talking about the positive effects of HIIT on abilities and cardiovascular health. (List of articles) So essentially the food and lifestyle advice is mostly good but take the exercise advice with a grain of salt. Advising moderate walking and stretching every other day or so is really only appropriate for the most beginner levels of fitness.
After introducing these ideas, the book next offers a 14 day meal plan and lifestyle plan for the person new to Alkaline. The first week is basically a cleanse, and the second week is supposed to be a model of what the non-cleanse Alkaline lifestyle is like. This is the part where I became disappointed. The recipes, including the ones for the non-cleanse week, come across as bland, dull, and labor-intensive, and this is coming from a person who does an awful lot of cooking to minimize the amount of processed foods in her diet. I usually spend at least two hours prepping food for the workweek and cook a minimum of 4 meals at home a week. This plan seemed like an overwhelming amount of work to me. I can only imagine how it might seem to a reader who normally cooks processed meals or picks up fast food most days of the week. Many of the recipes were also not particularly simple. For both of these reasons, I feel the meal plan isn’t particularly appropriate for a beginner, which is odd given that the rest of the book is toned as for a beginner. I would expect an easier, more approachable meal plan from this book.
Each day also has beauty, exercise, and lifestyle suggestions. I particularly enjoyed the beauty suggestions, as they were mostly things that are easy to do at home and seemed enjoyable, such as an alkalizing foot bath or a hair mask. The lifestyle suggestions were good for beginners who maybe are new to the ideas of meditation and stress relief. The exercise sections suffered from the same issue I went into in-depth earlier.
What the book lacks is a clear idea of who its audience is. Is it a person completely new to fitness and healthy eating who is currently a beginner in every way? Is it meant for every person wherever they are on their journey to health? Is it meant for intermediates, looking to amp up their fitness and health regime? Because it lacks a focus, the content veers around between these three options, suggesting extremely beginner level exercises but rather advanced cooking and preparation ideas. For this reason, it would probably frustrate a beginner who finds the first half of the book do-able and understandable but then finds an overwhelming amount to do for an introductory 14 day plan. It would also frustrate someone who is not new to fitness and health who wants more details on how to amp up their regime and who may be a bit insulted at the idea that they will be fine if they just go for walks every few days. Recommended to those interested in a quick introduction to the ideas behind the Alkaline Diet to tweak their diet on their own but who is not so invested in using a 14 day introductory plan.