I've been in a bit of a fictional hangover. Which is to say I binged watched Nickelodeon's The Legend of Korra series and was searching for a book toI've been in a bit of a fictional hangover. Which is to say I binged watched Nickelodeon's The Legend of Korra series and was searching for a book to fill this void. I wanted adventure, world building and action girls so I immediately started browsing YA dystopians. I settled on Reboot after getting a rec from a regular reader.
Wren Conolloy is a Reboot. A person who has died of the KDHD virus but rises from the dead as a faster and stronger creature. The longer a Reboot is dead before rising, the stronger they are. Having been dead for a record breaking 178 minutes, Wren is the best Reboot there is.
Reboots aren't free, they are the red shirt henchmen army of HARC, the mega-corporation/government entity that ended the war (you know how there is always a War) and keeps people "safe". Wren has no issues following HARC and their shady orders, some of which have included killing. She makes no excuses about it and I this attitude makes her a bit of an anti-hero, which I liked.
As a character Wren knows she is the best and she never expects to fail. Her cocky attitude and status as a 178 was very reminiscent of Korra in Legend of Korra. Wren has a pretty dark past, that's based more on reality that I expected from a dystopian.
The story told in Reboot is from a perspective we don't typically see in YA dystopians. I feel like this story could have easily been a Divergent-esque "girl in new environment storyline", but instead Wren is the experienced character and it doesn't feel like we are being introduced to everything. The naive ingenue storyline was handed over to our male protagonist, Callum Reyes.
Callum is a new Reboot, he was only dead for 22 minutes before rising making him more human than cold hard Reboot. As he and Wren begin to train together the usual YA dystopian tropes began to fall into place; evil-corporation-is-extra-evil, secret rebels, secret safe house, class divide. But I liked the characters enough to want to see how this played out.
The world building in this book was a little rocky at times. It seemed like the book was breaking and over explaining its rules. The big one being the explanation behind why only teen Reboots are kept and adults are killed. The explanation didn't work for me, the adults just go "crazy."
The audiobook is narrated and directed by Khristine Hvam who I liked in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. I'd never heard Hvam do first person before and I picked up on some ky differences in her performance. She has to not only find the character's voice but carry it for every sentence as opposed to third person where there can be use more storytelling inflection.
Reboot is a clever send up of the zombie mythology.While this novel did dive into some cliche territory this was exactly what I was looking for at the time; an action packed book with an unapologetic main character. ...more
Cruel Beauty is sold as a Beauty and the Beast retelling but the story feels more like the tale of Bluebeard. A man whose young innocent wife discoverCruel Beauty is sold as a Beauty and the Beast retelling but the story feels more like the tale of Bluebeard. A man whose young innocent wife discovers the benevolent Bluebeard keeps the bodies of his previous wives who disobeyed him. There is this sense of isolation and dread in the original tale that we see a bit of in Cruel Beauty. Nyx is also one of many of wives who have joined the Gentle Lord and, like in the original tale, he allows Nyx to roam the rooms of his magical house---expect for the locked ones. The Gentle Lord also keeps the dead bodies of his previous wives in one of said rooms, so I was really getting Bluebeard vibes
The setting of this world is based on Arcadia, a real civilization, that from what I remember from Art History, was a prosperous and secluded part of this world. Hodge turns it on its head a little in this story because The Gentle Lord takes over Arcadia and physically separates it from the rest of the world.
The Gentle Lord is portrayed as a bit of a magical trickster. He's young and handsome and makes bargains that always end in doom. much like Rumpelstiltskin in ABC's Once Upon A Time.
As I was reading I just kept finding myself going "ehh. . . don't know about this" about the romance in this book. Nyx is stuck in the Gentle Lord's house .I just don't know how I feel about the female protagonist having to fight her attraction to this overly touchy and creepy male character. She goes through this whole "I shouldn't" "but I want to" thing.There are times when she finds herself feeling sorry for him and wanting him after he gets hurt or shows some humanity. . . but I wasn't convinced. I didn't just buy into him stealing her heart. I'm just not for the jerk + vulnerability = acceptable as love interest.
There is another layer to this wold were people practice Hermetic arts or workings, I gather this is a type of alchemy that is controlled by sigils. It's mentioned early on that using the Hermetic arts is how Nyx will destroy him, but it's just seems like a plot point to keep the story going The magic behind this sounded so interesting and I wish we would have been given more details on how this works in this world.
The book mellowed out for me in the middle but really picked up towards the end. I didn't 100% percent understand he ending, but it was a nice wrap up to a stand alone novel. At any rate it took some YA tropes I don't like including Greek/Roman Mythology and books in one setting ( I'm looking at you The Goddess Test) and made it work for me....more
Marguerite Caine's parents are geniuses. Literally. They've invented the Firebird, a device that allows a person to travel into alternate universes. J Marguerite Caine's parents are geniuses. Literally. They've invented the Firebird, a device that allows a person to travel into alternate universes. Just as they are about to go public their graduate assistant, Paul Markov steals the technology, kills Maugerite's father and escapes into another dimension. Now, with the help of their other assistant, Theo, Marguerite is going after Paul to figure out what his plans are and avenge her father's death.
I don’t typically read the trendy science fiction YA books, but this cover is so unique and I always liked Gray's 'I'm not like the other girls' blogpost and I needed to break my contemporary kick.
Jess is always telling me how time travel books can always be hard to understand and as I started this I imagined alternate universes traveling would be even more confusing. I hand waved most of the science stuff, but basically the book says that all around us multiple alternate universes exist where different choices have created different timelines. When you travel you are put into the consciousness of yourself in that dimensions and when you leave the version of yourself has no memory of you being there.
The book gets very twisty, and turny what with all the different people in different dimensions so I won't talk about the plot to much. I will say there are a lot of big reveals and for the most part it's a fun ride as they travel from place to place. Despite the initial main drive of this book being finding Paul Markov and his secrets, this quickly becomes less Dan Brown and more of a romance complete with the typical YA love triangle.
This book hinges on a YA trope I really hate where the (typically) male characters don't tell the female protagonist things for 'their own good' and causes a series of misunderstandings. I hate this because it makes the female character look stupid. I think there still could have been a story if she had known all the secrets that were being kept from her.
I didn't realize this was a series when I picked it up, but I found out midway through the book so I expected this book to end on a cliffhanger, but it actually wraps up most of the plot and I think you could read this one as a standalone. Although I will probably read the next one to see what dimensions Gray has next....more
I've recently become an NPR podcast junkie and I'm really loving their new podcast Invisibilia, about "the intangible things that shape human behaviorI've recently become an NPR podcast junkie and I'm really loving their new podcast Invisibilia, about "the intangible things that shape human behavior." Each week the hosts tell stories of people who have rare psychological or neurological experiences--on of their first stories is of Martin Pistorius, a South African man who spent six years trapped in his own body. After I heard this story, I had to know more and was happy to see his memoir was on Scribd.
When Pistorius (who as far as I can tell is not related to the convicted South African athlete Oscar Pistorius) is 12-years-old he develops a degenerative brain condition that leaves him mute and unable to move. Doctors couldn't diagnose him and his parents were told he had the mind of a 3 month old and to take him home to wait for him to die. Only Martin doesn't die and a few year later his mind comes back, but not his motor skills or speech. He can't tell anyone he's back and he lives like a ghost boy as the people around him assume he isn't comprehending what he sees. It takes six years for his parents to finally figure out he was aware and the book is his reflections on his time as a ghost boy and his journey learning how to communicate using technology.
This book tells a really incredible story. Martin becomes well known in the Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) community and it's interesting to see all the people he meets as he goes to conference. It can be a little nightmare inducing too. One of his friends was paralyzed from the eyes down from a stroke at the age of twenty-five.But it's amazing the amount of technology and work being done so everyone has a voice.
The parts I found most interesting are the parts where he tells the things he sees people do when they think no one is looking. He observes many of his caregivers mostly at their worse, but also some at their best.
The writing and narrative style of the book left a little to be desired. It's in first person, which is good for understanding what Martin is feel at certain, but it doesn't have a lot of context I like in my nonfiction. Martin's memories only begin when he gains his awareness so he doesn't even really know who was as a child. He also never gets into any of the science-y stuff I was curious about how any of this is possible.
I would give this book a huge trigger warning for abuse. At first I thought Pistorious was going to glaze over the negative aspects of his experiences, but there is a chapter that goes into the abuse he suffered at the care centers he stayed at while his parents were at work. I felt like the chapter was really honest, but also incredibly heartbreaking and awful. I do wonder if there was ever any legal action taken against the center.
I kind of go back and forth on the end of this book, which focuses on his relationship with his wife Joanna--who the book is dedicated too so I don't think this is a spoiler. I've been reading a lot of these real life "love stories" lately to contrast with romance novels and I like how real love stories in real life are always a lot more complicated. Basically they talk on Skype, meet twice and then he moves to the UK to marry her. The relationship moves so fast in the book it was hard to connect with them emotionally.
I am kind of curious a to why there wasn't much talk about this story before the Invisibila podcast. A quick Google search will show dozens of news stories about Martin, but they all came out within the last few weeks even though this book released overseas in 2011. I'll be curious to see if being on NPR changes his life any, because at the end of the book he is a freelancer and house husband.
Ghost Boy tells a remarkable story and I think it can be read in a lot of different ways. It's a story about technology, communication, disability, empathy and family relationships. It's a pretty quick read and I think it has some great YA crossover appeal because Martin goes though so much of this as a teenager and young adult....more
The story of an American woman who discovers she is a duchess sounded a lot more interesting when I started this book than when I finished. This conceThe story of an American woman who discovers she is a duchess sounded a lot more interesting when I started this book than when I finished. This concept of normal women finding themselves mixed up with royalty is nothing new with movies like The Princess Diaries and The Prince and Me but I couldn't find the same charm in Suddenly Royal.
Samantha Rousseau is a graduate student working towards her PhD and taking care of her cancer stricken stepfather. Her life is turned upside down when it's discovered she is a long lost duchess from the France-expy country Lilaria. Suddenly this American girl is plucked from obscurity and into the world of royalty, paparazzi and fame all while keeping her eyes out for Prince Alex aka Prince Yummy.
Chase executed the premise well, explaining how the families are being brought together but there wasn't much of a follow through as far as plot was concerned.
I don't know if it was the cookie cutterhero or the low ball conflict but the more I thought about it the more I realized this wasn't the kind of story I expected. We get a lot of Sam going to Lilaria and about her responsibilities, but honestly it wasn't that interesting. . . just a lot of people telling her things. I wanted something more akin to the first season of Downton Abbey. I wanted more awkward dinner parties, culture shock, witty banter and actual tension between the leads..
The start of their romance sort of comes out of nowhere, I mean Prince Alex was so perfect he didn't have to try. He's a handsome blonde haired blue eyed prince, who runs a charity for a cause the heroine is passionate about. All of the men in the books (Except the gay ones and the one who is the hero in the next book) were portrayed as creepy jerks who only served to make Prince Alex even more likeable. Prince Alex's only flaw is that he had a sex scandal a while ago and that is really only mentioned off hand. There was nothing interesting about him.
For me this book read more like YA then NA. I mean sure the character are college aged but it is a pretty tame story until the last few chapters which get unusually steamy, and just don't mesh with the rest of the book.
Suddenly Royal is one out of three in a series and this book is odd to me. I would have though the other boos would have been about the other found royabs, butthe second book Recklessly Royal is about Prince Alex's sister Cathy and the third book Reluctantly Royal is about his offhandedly mentioned brother, Maxwell.
Suddenly Royal is a lukewarm romance that lost its charm for me. I want a little bit more conflict and work for the HEA....more
Right away this book reminded me of one of my favorite chapters from Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things called How To Get Unstuck about Strayed'sRight away this book reminded me of one of my favorite chapters from Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things called How To Get Unstuck about Strayed's time as a counselor to girls whose success was measured by two things; not getting pregnant and getting a job at Taco Bell. This sort of mentality is evident in Skylar's story, her best friend is a teen mom and her mom worked at Taco Bell for 18 years. Skylar herself is trying to get "unstuck" from this life cycle. Creek View is a place where future plans are very short sided and people drink and party to forget about their problems.
I feel like the setting of this book is very important to understanding the story. Creek View is this lower income area with a mix of lower income white people and Mexican migrant worker families. Creek Views represents a town we don't see a lot of in contemporary YA; most YAs tend take place in nondescript suburban bubbles.
Skylar is an art student (why is everyone and their mother in YA an artist ?) but it's never explained how she came across art considering where she grew up. I had such a hard time believing the references to art. It felt like Demetrios was name dropping with no context. I'm really hard on this in books because one of my favorite books , Graffiti Moon, does an amazing job of integrating art into the story.
The love interest, Josh Mitchell, occasionally gets a POV that is written in this short stream of consciousness style. He is usually working through some PTSD or self actualization and at first I thought these were not going to work for me because I'm not one for angst, but they were actually some of the best parts of the book. As Josh recalled his time overseas I started to realize there was something real going on here and judging by all the Marines she thanks in the acknowledgments, I assume many of these moments are based on some real experiences.
I appreciated what Demetrios did with Josh. His POV was extremely unfiltered, I usually have this tendency to gloss over cursing and in YA, but even I was like "we can say this???" I also felt like she kept Josh true to his upbringing. Yes, he's a Marine but he also grew up as kind of a douche-bro in a backwoods town so he can be politically incorrect at times. He uses the term "gay" to mean bad and calls people faggots, which is super cringe-worthy but also authentic.
I wish this book has been all in Josh's stream of consciousness POV and maybe 200 pages shorter because I think it's a type of voice we don't see a lot in YA. Towards the end it felt like there had to be forced drama to keep the will they/won't they of Skylar and Josh's relationship and then it gets folded up all too neatly too quickly.
I think this book tells an important story and a type of story we need to see more of in the future, because the Iraq War has been a formative experience for many young men and women. Young adult fiction is having a moment in the sun right now and I think it's important we have books that look at the current events that are shaping young people's lives.
P.S. I'm calling this book getting a cover change in paperback. This cover really doesn't tell you much of anything about what is inside book. It's almost looks like an adult mystery....more
Which I believe is the only correct response to this book. How do I know this ? Because when I Google Image Searched for this meme I found it on Write Which I believe is the only correct response to this book. How do I know this ? Because when I Google Image Searched for this meme I found it on Writer For Wrongs review of the same book.It also shows up in pretty much every review of this book.
We on Books and Sensibility occasionally use tropes when we review books and if I had to pick some out for Grasshopper Jungle they'd include And I Must Scream, Nightmare Fuel, High Octane Nightmare Fuel, Fridge Horror with a sprinkle of Nausea Fuel
Seriously, bring on the brain bleach. Every time I dove back in to this I was like, well it can't get any worse and then Andrew Smith proved me wrong.
All that said...you can’t deny Andrew Smith is an excellent writer and is doing something very unique with the YA genre. His writing is probably some of the best I've read this year.
If you know this book, then you know the basic plot and it's very WYSIWG
Grasshopper Jungle centers around two major conflicts in 17-year-old Austin Szerba's life; he's in love with his gay best friend. And man-eating bugs the size of refrigerators are infesting his small Iowa town. There are also a few themes about identity and heritage that I liked, but I think the first two are all you need to know.
Despite the squick, I actually really liked this novel. Once I finished I couldn't stop thinking about it, I think it's because of how well Smith built Austin's town of Ealing, Iowa and the characters around it. I feel like I know the characters and how to act if I was dropped in this fictional Iowa. I mean look, these character's aren't in anyway likeable, they are extremely flawed and I think that's what makes them feel so real. You get the sense there is a lot of despair and pent up frustration in this town.That said the female characters do left a lot to be desired, they were like cardboard and maybe that has to do with out narrators perspective, but it was annoying that they didn't seem to have any agency or personality.
In a lot of reviews, Smith's style is often described as being Kurt Vonnegut-esque and I totally got that while reading Grasshopper Jungle. I haven't read a whole lot of Vonnegut, but the narration has this repetitive, rhythmic language like Slaughterhouse-5 and the weird science fiction elements I think Vonnegut is known for. I really loved how this novel was written. From page one you know you are reading a history so Austin will occasionally switch to what other people were doing while he was doing something and it turns the first person narration into a kind of third person with an opinion.
However, if anyone asked me, I would be very cautious in suggesting this novel. I'm laughing at myself because I called Charm & Strange explicit, but it has nothing on this book. Smith examines the ugly side of life, this book has it's gritty moments, so I don’t think that’s going to be everyone’s cup of tea. And while there is a fair amount of stuff related to sex in here, I wouldn't call it titillating or super inappropriate or anything. The narrator tends to be kind of antiseptic about it.
Although I guess graphic content is just Smith's thing. As I was on Goodreads, I realized Andrew Smith is also the author of The Maybury Lens, a book I was going to read but had been warned it was graphic. That all said, I’ll be darned if Smith's next book, 100 Sideways Miles, about a boy who thinks he's a character in his Dad's cult classic novel sounds good (although the cover freaks me out).
Okay, off to find a coming of age contemporary romance to cleanse my brain! ...more
Cheryl Strayed is probably best known for Wild, the story of her journey hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which kicked off Oprah's Book Club 2.0 and waCheryl Strayed is probably best known for Wild, the story of her journey hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which kicked off Oprah's Book Club 2.0 and was recently released as a film with Reese Witherspoon. I feel like a couple years ago I heard her name sprinkled through every literary website and podcast I subscribed to, so when I saw this audio on Overdrive I checked it out.
The set up for this book takes some explaining. It's a collection of advice columns from when Strayed wrote an advice column on the culture website, The Rumpus under the pseudonym Dear Sugar. For each question he usually picks a story from her past to illuminate her advice. Strayed has had such an interesting and full life and her stories are captivating. She's brutally honest about herself and doesn't hold anything back, she shows quite a bit of vulnerability with her readers and I think that's why the columns were so popular.
I'd heard so much praise for this collection, but I wasn't sure it would be for me. I didn't really know what I was getting into when I started, but I really enjoyed this audiobook overall. Strayed's mix of memoir through advice is fun. Strayed does the audio and I think hearing her voice gets across some of her intention in her responses to advice seekers. Like she calls her readers sweet pea and when you read it it can sound condescending, but the way she reads it it sounds more affectionate.
This is definitely a coffee table book to be picked up and read in pieces. You can skip around the essays because they weren't written in any specific order. I think this book showed up on a lot of lists every grad/women/person should read and I kind of agree. While I couldn't relate to everything there were always something I could grasp on to.
This book is great for a YA audience because while they may not be able to relate to her stories they can use her advise for later. It's perfect for maybe high school or college grads. ...more
This book chronicles is the life of Louis Zamperini, a celebrated Olympic athlete, who was drafted into the US Air Force as a bomber during World WarThis book chronicles is the life of Louis Zamperini, a celebrated Olympic athlete, who was drafted into the US Air Force as a bomber during World War II. During a routine flight to Australia, he plane crashes and he and two of his crewmates are stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a 7 foot raft for 47 days, only to become POWs in a camp with some of Japan's most notorious war criminals.
No event in the 20th century has inspired American culture and media more than World War II. It’s a constant source for stories of survival, brotherhood and victory. It’s remembered as time when America threw its weight into a war and won. WWII narratives have spawned novels, memoirs plays, movies, video games and not one but two HBO miniseries. None have ever peaked my interest as much as the story behind Unbroken.
Zamperini ran for USC in the 1930's
One of the interesting experiences I had with this book is that even though I knew Zamperini was still alive when this book came out, I was so nervous he wasn't going to make it through all of the trials. I found myself looking up dates so I would know when he would get out of certain situations. It also doesn't help that there isn't a lot about his crewmates, so I had to go Googling for their fates before I could finish reading.
Needless to say this has to be one of the most brutal reads I've ever read. And it's not all from horrible treatment of the Americans at the POW camps and descriptions of their days lost at sea. When Louis is stationed in Hawaii he witnesses a lot of his fellow Airmen go out on missions and just never come back. The Air Force was making these planes so fast and really had no idea what they were doing and they would crash all the time. And this is the Pacific Ocean, so there are a lot of sharks.
I learned a lot about World War II from Unbroken. I feel like in school we learn a lot about the European side of the war and less about what was going on in the Pacific. I would be interested in reading more. (I started Hiroshima by John Hersey) This is an American book so it may have its own biases. Hillenbrand not only tells Zamperini's story, but gives the entire context of the war so you begin to understand things like why exactly they dropped the atomic bomb....more
So, I'm starting to realize I may have a new book kryptonite and it's the what I like to call "I'm with the band" stories. These are the books were eiSo, I'm starting to realize I may have a new book kryptonite and it's the what I like to call "I'm with the band" stories. These are the books were either a friend, parent, or the love interest is a rock star. I haven't read many of them, but if I see one it instantly goes on to my TBR pile. I'm not sure why I'm so interested in this. Maybe its because my guilty pleasure movie is the Disney Channel Original Movie Starstruck or that Sarah Dessen's This Lullaby was my favorite book as a teen. Either way, pair this knowledge with the fact that I've been meaning to read Susane Colasanti for years and Now and Forever was the perfect choice.
High school senior Sterling is just one month into her relationship with classmate Ethan Cross and she feels like the luckiest girl in the world. They have the same sense of humor, are both passionate about their interests and intend to make senior year there best year ever. But when Ethan's band is discovered and he becomes a teen idol, Sterling isn't sure their relationship will withstand the pressure of the spotlight.
I don't want to say this book disappointed me because Now and Forever wasn't terrible or anything it was just kind of... meh. It lacked the characterization and depth that really invest me in a contemporary YA. I kept reading because the low the low stakes linear storytelling meant that I could read a chapter or two of on my phone while I was waiting in a long line. I read 90% of this book on my phone.
What really interested me was the culture around popstar celebrity. I've always found the phenomenon of young male singers becoming idols seemingly overnight interesting. I've seen documentaries and watched YouTube videos about the Justin Bieber and One Direction fans of the world and I think Colasanti captured the "bandom" aspect well.
There is a section where Sterling eavesdrops on a group of Ethan fans bragging to each other about how big of fans they are and Sterling remarks on how they all want to take ownership of Ethan. I see that all the time in any fandom and even have thought it myself (*cough* Darren Criss, Starkid *cough*). I also liked the way she portrayed the online fans of Ethan's as not just being jealous and hating Sterling, a lot of them start to "ship" them and make online collages and stuff.
I could be wrong, but I don’t think this is the typical Colasanti book. I looked at her website and her other novels seem more issue based than this one. I may try some of her earlier stuff. ...more