Sunday, September 30, 2012

the view from saturday, in september

I've been pretty good about keeping up with my rereading goal this year, and in September I reread The View From Saturday, by E.L. Konigsburg. I've return to this book fairly regularly and find myself thinking of it frequently. As a kid I loved the idea of the Academic Quiz Bowl and, as it turns out, I still love it. It's a bit gimmicky having so many of the quiz bowl questions correlate so perfectly to The Souls own journeys, but at the same time I don't think there's a better way to segue into each of the characters' own stories.

One thing that struck me reading the book this time around is how important Mrs. Olinski's journey is to the book as a whole -- in fact (mild spoiler here) the book ends with her, not the students, finding her place. When I reached the end of the book I thought to myself that hey, maybe this is Mrs. Olinski's story after all.

And in some ways it is. It's the story of her coming back to teaching and finding students that inspired her. It's a story of her feeling more comfortable as herself after becoming paralyzed, and being brave enough to stand up for herself and listen to her gut.

But in other ways it's the story of Nadia, Noah, Julian, and Ethan -- the sixth grade students who are competing in the Academic Quiz Bowl state finals against an eighth grade team. It's the story of how they know each other, how they were brought together, and the things that happened before the school year that helped them discover a bit more of who they are and come out of their shells. For Nadia it's a tale of saving turtles. For Noah it's learning calligraphy.

This tidy little book has a lot of levels to it. There are the interlocking stories, the characters journeys, and not to mention the quiz-bowl-style information. Reading this book the very first time was how I learned about the life cycle of turtles, the origins of the words posh and tip, and more about calligraphy than I will possibly ever need to know.

While I'm not sure I loved this book quite as much as the first time I read it, it's a book that remains great through the years. And honestly I can't expect it to be as amazing as the first time I read it, because reading The View from Saturday for the first time, as a kid, is an experience that made a big impact.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

hug a book: the threads series

I recently read the last two books in the Threads trilogy/series, by Sophia Bennett, but unfortunately I read them too close together to write up individual reviews. (Also, sadly, only the first -- Sequins, Secrets, and Silver Linings, is out in the US -- the others are UK books.) So instead I'm going to tell you, once again, that these books are amazing. They're funny. They're sweet. The characters are wonderful. They fall easily into the category of "so cute," but surpass that category by leaps and bounds. The series mixes things like art, acting, and fashion with some very real issues like forced child labor (just for an example).

Nonie is a funny, frantic, totally winning narrator who reminds me of a slightly more frantic Anna Oliphant (yes, from Anna and the French Kiss). Her friends Edie, Jenny, and Crow are unique and brilliant in their own ways. Her older brother Harry is in the same category as Spencer Martin as far as wonderful-big-brothers-in-YA go. And all of the characters are crazy-talented. Yes, it's unrealistic, but it also gives another dimension to their very real personalities and mundane school-type things. It means they have to make some difficult choices while at the same time allowing for totally fun, fast-paced stories.

I love this series. It's so well-written, so beyond cute, so incredibly brilliant.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

undercover reads

I have exactly one book atop my bookcase to be read. I've recently read The Weird Sisters (good, not mind-blowing) and the second and third books in the Threads trilogy by Sophia Bennett (absolutely, positively ah-mazing). And now all I have left is one book and no job and oh dear oh dear oh dear.


Today I thought I'd give a little love to the recently-published books (this year or possibly the last) that I've read and loved but haven't seen get much in the way of publicity.

1. Mothership, by Martin Leicht & Isla Neal

This book is so good. So ridiculously good. Funny and sweet with a kick-butt heroine I can't help but love to bits. It's the first in a planned series (trilogy?) and I'm so hoping it doesn't end up cancelled like a few other series I've loved. Evie is a feisty, smart teenage girl who has made some questionable decisions and now finds herself fighting evil aliens. It's a sci-fi comedy and it's great fun. Read it.

2. Wicked Jealous: A Love Story, by Robin Palmer
Body image is a tricky thing to tackle and this book handles it excellently while at the same time being an incredibly sweet story of a girl (Simone) coming out of her shell. It's also a modern-day Snow White, and the "dwarves" alone are worth reading it for -- Simone's cast of college boys (her older brother and six of his friends) who are looking after her is often hilarious and heartwarming and ahhhh, this is totally (in my opinion) the best of Robin Palmer's books to date.

3. Fangirl, by Ken Baker
To be fair, this one isn't out until October but I can't stop myself from telling you guys how cute and perfect it is. Prepare for much more spazzing out once it actually hits shelves. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

tuesday 10: unfinished series

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is series we haven't finished (for whatever reason), and this is probably going to be a more negative than usual post because the vast majority of series I don't finish get dropped because I don't like them.

1. Delirium
Lauren Oliver
As amazing of a writer as Lauren Oliver is (Before I Fall is one of my all-time top books), I could never fully buy into the society presented here and the characters and story didn't capture me. I read Delirium and I liked it okay, but not enough to read its sequel, Pandemonium, or the final book (which I don't think is out yet, but I could be wrong). 

2. The Chemical Garden series
Lauren DeStefano
So I read Wither and, to be honest, I was pretty impressed. It was seriously, seriously good. But by the time Fever came out my intense want to see what happens next had waned quite a bit (this is sometimes a problem with series) and a few negative reviews by those I trust put it way down on the list for me. And I still haven't gotten around to it, though I'm not saying I won't.

3. Divergent
Veronica Roth
I heard such, such great things about this book when it came out. But it just wasn't my thing. I found it too violent (and whereas the violence in The Hunger Games series felt warranted and there for the specific purpose of showing how horrible it is, here it just seemed, to me, gratuitous) and never connected with the characters, especially the main character of Tris.

4. Deadly Cool
Gemma Halliday
I read the first book of this series (Deadly Cool) for the Cybils last year and while there was nothing especially wrong with it, it's a sort of episodic series, which works great for me in television but quickly loses my interest in novels.

5. Seeds of America series
Laurie Halse Anderson
This is an odd one. Forge is another book I read for the Cybils and it's actually the second in the Seeds of America series. I really liked the book (although I did feel a little lost with it being the second) and there's really no reason I haven't read the rest of the series. If I ever make myself finish all the half-started series that I've liked, this one will totally be on the list.

6. Sky Chasers series
Amy Kathleen Ryan
Alright, this is maybe even odder than the last one. I read Glow as a coverless galley and was, kid you not, completely entranced in the story, the world, everything. There were some parts that didn't sit well with me, but the book was nearly impossible to put down and it wasn't until after I'd finished and was thinking about the book that I realized how much I really didn't care for it. It was unputdownable, but in the end the way faith, love, and the characters themselves were portrayed really bothered me. And the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. So needless to say I haven't read the sequel.

7. Bright Young Things
Anna Godberson
I absolutely adored Godberson's first Gossip-Girl-esque historical fiction series, Luxe, and was hoping to replicate that feeling with this series set in the 1920s. I'm not quite sure what happened. I know Bright Young Things wasn't as great (for me) as The Luxe was, but I definitely liked the book. Most likely what happened was I got distracted by other books and by the time the second in the series came out I'd all but forgotten about it. (Like I said, a hazard of series.)

8. The Giver
Lois Lowry
Um. Honestly did not realize this book was the first in a four-book series until the annual ALA this year. I've only read this one.

Oh wow, look! I could only come up with eight series. Claps all around. Honestly, I'm pretty good at finishing the series I want to finish. Or maybe it's just that I have less series to read because of how many I give up on. I don't know.

Monday, September 24, 2012

some of the best lines.

I'm feeling a bit lazy at the moment and don't quite know what to blog about, so I've grabbed my quote-book (in this case it's actually quote-book #2, because #1 got filled up) and here are some of my recent-ish favorite quotes.

"Nothing goes away," Esteban says after a long time passes. "Not the things you remember, and not the things you still want." 
~Small Damages, by Beth Kephart (p. 152 -- ARC)

The longer I was around her, the more I could see the colors of her mind and the recesses of her heart. There was a beast in there. But there was also a girl who was afraid of being a beast, and who wondered if other people had beasts in their hearts, too.
~Tiger Lily, by Jodi Lynn Anderson (p. 21)

I hadn't been in the woods in years, and as I started to follow the trail, I realized how familiar it all was, the beads of dew on the moss, the smell of the pine trees, the snap of twigs and leaves underneath my flip-flops. It was... the realization that just because you'd left something behind didn't mean that it had gone anywhere.
~Second Chance Summer, by Morgan Matson (p. 62)

Summer sighed. "You want to have air-quotes fun. I just want to have regular fun."
~Reunited, by Hilary Weisman Graham (p. 173)

Do you have any recent favorite quotes from novels? (I think my favorite of the above is the quote from Tiger Lily.)

Friday, September 21, 2012

books as musical genres

Today the thought occurred to me that it would be awesome to do a blog post on book/music genres. Specifically saying "if you like this genre (of music), you'll like (these books)." Good idea? Bad idea? Whatever, I'm going with it.

country music books -- (topics include: family, rural & small-town living, loss, redemption, love, etc.)

Second Chance Summer, by Morgan Matson
Songs/Artists I think of: Carrie Underwood comes to mind. So does, on a lighter note, Little Big Town's new song "Pontoon."

Tiger Lily, by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Songs/Artists I think of: Miranda Lambert, 100%. Tiger Lily has the same feisty, angry-girl spirit and there's the same longing/desperation in this book as are in many of her songs.

Bittersweet, by Sarah Ockler
Songs/Artists I think of: Taylor Swift (her earlier stuff), especially songs like "Change."

pop music books -- (topics include: love, infatuation, sex, fame, and occasional nonsense lyrics)

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life, by Tara Altebrando
Songs/Artists I think of: Katy Perry's "TGIF" and Ke$ha. Also Hope Partlow. I could probably think of a lot for this one.

Unbreak My Heart, by Melissa Walker
Songs/Artists I think of: Taylor Swift, again. Can't help it.

Reunited, by Hilary Weisman Graham
Songs/Artists I think of: Vampire Weekend and The Veronicas.

rock music books -- (topics include: i don't know - love, anger, and everything in-between?)

Adios, Nirvana, by Conrad Wesselhoeft
Songs/Artists I think of: U2, Tony Lucca.

The List, by Siobhan Vivian
Songs/Artists I think of: Pink, Kelly Clarkson.

Graffiti Moon, by Cath Crowley
Songs/Artists I think of: Boys Like Girls, Coldplay, possibly Paramore.

I know there are more genres -- indie, which is sort of hard to define (at least for me) and alternative (ditto) and a slew of subgenres of pop. And while I'd love to dive more into those and get really specific, I'm also a bit lazy and tired. So what do you think -- do you ever think of books in terms of musical genres or is that just me?

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Lately I've been getting really excited over retellings/reimaginings of classic tales. I somewhat-recently read and loved Jodi Lynn Anderson's Tiger Lily, which is a twist on Peter Pan, and I'm always a fan of Robin Palmer's contemporary updates to the fairytales we grew up with (so far my favorite of hers is her most recent novel, Wicked Jealous). And though the second book in Marissa Meyer's sci-fi fairytale series disappointed me, the concept itself is crazy intriguing.

I may just be going through an odd reading phase, but these sorts of retellings/reimaginings are really calling to me lately. Here are some that are on my radar that I'd love to get my hands on. If you have any suggestions for me to add to this list, let me know in the comments.

A Long, Long Sleep, by Anna Sheehan
This one is a sci-fi/futuristic reimagining of Sleeping Beauty. I don't know if this is the US cover. I haven't ever seen it in stores. But it sounds pretty interesting and has been on my radar for-freaking-ever.

The Little Women Letters, by Gabrielle Donnelly
Strictly speaking this is about Jo's imagined great-great-granddaughters and I'm not sure if it technically qualifies as a reimagining, but it's definitely reinhabiting the story I love so much and sounds right up my alley. Plus, I'd love to find some more great non-YA books ever since I read the incredible What Alice Forgot.

When You Were Mine, by Rebecca Serle
Okay, so I've never actually read Romeo & Juliet, but I'm pretty sure I more or less know the story thanks to cultural osmosis, and this modern twist on the classic tale sounds really, really pretty awesome. Another one that's been on my radar for quite a while. (Have I mentioned how awful I am at actually buying books when I want them?)

For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund
This is the one I'm most wanting to read, despite the fact that I'm not sure I've actually read Persuasion by Jane Austen. (I've read a few Austen novels but I tend to forget exactly which ones.) It sounds great and I've heard amazing things about it.

Any reimagined recommendations?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

review: reunited

Hilary Weisman Graham
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Back in middle school Tiernan, Alice, and Summer were best friends united by their love of the band Level3. Four years later the girls are no longer friends but, after graduation, embark on a road trip in Alice's old Pea Pod (the old RV the three girls used to hang out in) to see Level3 at their one-night-only reunion concert. It's a chance -- maybe -- for reconciliation between the three of them.

Rarely do I think to myself, "you know, I may be too old for this YA book," but with this one it happened. Alice, Tiernan, and Summer made some staggeringly bad decisions that made them seem younger than their 18 years. (These bad decisions included getting super drunk all over New Orleans and also agreeing to go to some swimming hole in the middle of the night with three random college dudes.) The girls encounter plenty of minor catastrophes (the Pea Pod getting stuck in mud, a door coming off, running out of gas...) on their road trip, but many of these problems had to do with their own decision-making skills, or lack of. I mention all of this not to rag on the characters or the book but to point out that sometimes a person such as myself just doesn't entirely fit with a book. I've always been much more cautious than these girls and I found it fairly difficult to see many of their actions as realistic, which put me a little off-balance while reading.

But about the actual book. It's a cute, run-of-the-mill road trip book with a unique twist in the form of the girls' lapsed friendship and their obsession with Level3. Alice, Tiernan, and Summer have grown into three very different people over the course of high school and each of them fits nicely into a "type:" Summer's the popular one; Tiernan's the bad-girl/rebel; and Alice is the good, smart, normal one. The stereotypes are obvious and while there are moments where the girls become a bit more than what they're depicted as, it's not often. For the most part what you see is what you get. I'm a fan of turning stereotypes on their head and this book never quite did that although it tried at times, especially with Summer (who was, not coincidentally, my favorite of the girls). Each of them have their own reasons for coming on the road trip and each is trying to run away from something -- either literally or figuratively. For the most part these reasons are side-stories that provide context to who these girls are in their "real" lives, but in the case of Tiernan, whose running away from the mom she sees as way too strict, the side-story overtakes everything else. The inevitable confrontation between Tiernan and her mother struck me as melodramatic and unearned, especially since many of the big issues in Tiernan's life hadn't really been explored before that moment when they became bigger than everything else. I felt a bit lost at times, as if I was supposed to know more about her life and her family than I did. This is a sample of the biggest problem I had with the book: many issues that the girls have don't seem like problems at all until the moment (usually during a heart-to-heart) when they suddenly become the focus of the story. It threw off the balance for me a bit,

Reunited isn't a heartwarming, emotional road trip novel, though it often seems to be trying for that. What it is instead is a fun, slightly gimmicky story of three ex-friends. For all my issues with it the book was a fun read that I found myself enjoying even though some parts were a little too cringeworthy. It's one that might be best for readers looking for a light, fun, but ultimately forgettable read.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

tuesday 10: books that made me think.

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is ten books that made you think. Though pretty much every book I read makes me think in some way, I only chose five (all fiction) for this list.

1. What Alice Forgot
Liane Moriarty
This book amazed me with how, well, amazing it was. It made me think a lot about the sort of life I'd like to lead; if in ten years I end up with a bump on the head that makes me forget the last decade, I don't want to be depressed or ashamed or appalled of the things I end up learning about myself and my life. That sounds a lot more depressing than I meant it to sound; basically, I just want to be sure that I live my life in a way that I can be proud of.

2. The List
Siobhan Vivian
This one made me think not exactly about myself, but about the ways women and girls view ourselves and others. Especially when it comes to appearances. It's so easy to get wrapped up in one little word and The List shows how complex outside appearances -- and how they effect us on the inside -- really are.

3. Bunheads
Sophie Flack
So often pursuing your dream is shown as the ULTIMATE ULTIMATE, but I loved how Bunheads really showed that sometimes you have to make a choice between your dream (or what you think is your dream) and something that's also important (maybe even more important). I love writing and being an author is absolutely my dream, but I'm not willing for it to be an at-the-cost-of-anything dream. There are some things more important.

4. Legend (Legend #1)
Marie Lu
I love this one. I rarely get sucked up in trying to figure out what's going to happen next as far as world-building goes the way I did with this book. I feel like there's a bit of alternate-history here (or maybe alternate-future, though that's not a thing) and it's a world that I can't wait to discover more about. (I think I've just talked myself into reading my ARC of the sequel, Prodigy, next.)

5. Before I Fall
Lauren Oliver
As with What Alice Forgot, this is one that also makes a person (ie. me. or you, if you've read the book, probably) think about the type of person you and the type of person you want to be. Plus, you know, it's just a masterpiece.

Monday, September 10, 2012

review: overnight sensation

Overnight Sensation
Hal Eisenberg
(ebook sent for review)
When the newest song from Jonah's dad's recently reunited rock band accidentally becomes a radio hit there's only one problem: everyone thinks the song came from Jonah's band. Jonah's fake band, Hitstreak. And as Jonah and his friends reach higher levels of success it starts to sound a lot easier (and smarter) to just come clean about the whole thing -- if only they could do that without risking the wrath of the media mogul who sees Hitstreak as a potential gold mine.

This book requires a pretty serious suspension of disbelief in order to really work. You've got to buy into a string of increasingly improbable events that lead to "Hitstreak's" song being a success to accept the rest of the story, and I admittedly had some difficulty doing this at times. However, once you accept the story and Hitstreak's rise to fame, the rest of the book gets a bit easier to go with. This book doesn't have the realism I went into it expecting, but what it does have is a story that follows in the tradition of crazy teen hijinks and utter ridiculousness. It's a bit campy and though I'm not sure if that was really the intent, the story instantly reminded me of the over-the-top comedy, Big Fat Liar. (Of course, that comparison only makes sense if you've seen Big Fat Liar. And if you haven't, you should. It's funny.)

This book is a comedy that sometimes feels like maybe it wasn't intended as a comedy, which makes finding it funny a little uncomfortable as I never knew if I were laughing with or at the book. The teen dialogue here never quite flowed for me; it always vaguely reminded me of how an adult might think teens talk. Yet despite the fairly cringeworthy dialogue, Jonah's observations and asides were sarcastic, wry, and winning. He's the most level-headed character in the story and his thoughts often echoed my own in thinking ahahaha no, there is no way that's going to happen right before something crazy happened.

This is a short little book with an out-there plot and plenty of shenanigans that make it a quick, fun read. The voice and writing aren't the best, but there are twists in the plot (especially near the end) that are good enough that I found myself overlooking those problems. This isn't a must-read by any means, but it's plenty entertaining.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

review: second chance summer

Morgan Matson
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
(bought finished copy at ALA)
Taylor Edwards is spending the summer back at her family's lake house -- the one she hasn't been back to since she was twelve and had her first boyfriend, a boy whose family also spent their summers on the lake. But this summer, Taylor and her family aren't at the lake house for rest and relaxation: they're there because her dad's been diagnosed with terminal cancer and the family wants to spend their last few months together, without work or school or other commitments intruding too much.

It should be said, first off, that this is a total tearjerker. Books often make me sad, maybe even tear up a little, but they rarely make me all out cry the way the last few chapters of this one did. Like, tears-down-the-cheeks, vision-too-blurry-to-read crying. So yeah, Second Chance Summer is sad.

But beyond that. This is one of those YA contemporaries that fits solidly into the "Dessen-esque" camp (is that a term? if not, it is now) -- family, friends, emotion, and a dollop of romance. As far as characters go, Taylor Edwards isn't great. It's not that she's unlikeable or anything, but her most defining quality seems to be her bad habit of running away, in whatever way she can, when the going gets tough. Aside from that, she's a likeable but uninspiring character. Those around her have a bit more variety, from her ballet-dancing younger sister, her academically-driven older brother, to her strong-but-fading father. There's also Taylor's ex-best friend and Henry, her very first boyfriend -- neither of them all too thrilled to see her at first. There's quite a bit of build up to what Taylor did, at age twelve, that's still a big enough deal to have such a huge bearing on how they interact with each other. I didn't love the flashbacks that told this history, nor the fact that it was built up so much: in short, I was expecting more.

And I did get more -- just not with that particular aspect of the story. This is a slow-moving story, especially in the first half, and that's going to bother some readers. But really, the story spins lazily out in a way that works for what this is: an incredibly emotional read about a girl who, used to running away when things get hard, realizes there are some things you can't run away from and time is fleeting. This book is hefty for a contemporary -- weighing in at 468 pages -- and there were moments when the book was perfect, absolutely perfect, and moments when it so wasn't. The romance between Taylor and Henry was better, for me, in theory than it was in practice: I absolutely saw and felt the deep feelings they had for one another, yet it often seemed that this was a little too perfect. Henry had little dimension and, like Taylor herself, sometimes seemed a bit surface-level.

Better than the story of Taylor's friendships and romance was the story of her family and how she gets to know them all a little better during this summer. The scenes between her and her dad, as she learned all the things about him that she was surprised she'd never known before, were heartfelt and real, as were her deepening relationships with her siblings. But better even than this is the writing of this book. None of the characters are that exceptional and the various elements of the story have been used in many books, many times before, but Morgan Matson's writing brings this story, the characters, and their ripe emotions, to life. I could feel exactly what Taylor was feeling, what she was going through; much like Sarah Dessen and Terra Elan McVoy (and all the best contemporary writers, really), Matson has a knack for getting the emotions right and bringing them to life.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

tuesday 10: fall wishlist.

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is books on your wishlist for fall. Since I'm not great at having wishlists of books actually coming out in the next few months, this is instead a top ten of books I'm hoping to buy/read in the fall. A lot of them are ones I've been wanting for ages, but am hoping to finally actually buy. (I'm also not great at buying books as soon as I want them.)

1. What Alice Forgot
Liane Moriarty
I finally, finally bought this one for myself. I kept hoping that when it came out in the US in paperback it might have a cover more like the original Australian version, but that's not the case. I'm pretty sure Liane Moriarty is the sister of Jaclyn Moriarty, incredible author of The Year of Secret Assignments, so I'm looking forward to seeing if this has the same style of humor as her books. Also I just love the whole idea of it -- of waking up one morning and being ten years older and having to face up to whatever your life is, and whether it's what you were hoping it would be ten years ago. This will probably be my next read. I might have it read by the time this top ten even goes up, actually.

2. Reunited
Hilary Weisman Graham
This is another I have on my shelf: it looks cute and angsty and right up my alley.

3. 40 Things I Want to Tell You
Alice Kuipers
Gahhhh, this looks positively amazing. Unfortunately it's a Canadian book and not readily available here in the good ole US of A, but I'm determined to buy a copy of it somehow. Everything from the title to the cover to the description promises to be really good and I hope I'm not disappointed. (Sometimes I am disappointed.)

4. For Darkness Shows the Stars
Diana Peterfreund
A sci-fi reimagining of a Jane Austen novel? Yes, please. One that doesn't look to be a series? Double yes. I've read nothing else by Peterfreund but I continue to hear good things about this one and I just... ahhh... I want to read it. 

5. Reached (Matched #3)
Ally Condie
(Pub date: Nov, 2012)
Despite being (ahem) less than thrilled with Crossed, I still really really loved Matched and want to see how everything shakes out in this dystopian future series. Also I just really want a lot of Xander in this book because not gonna lie, Ky bores me to tears.

6. The Weird Sisters
Eleanor Brown
I honestly don't know why I haven't bought and read this one yet. No idea.

7. My Life Next Door
Huntley Fitzpatrick
Another one that looks really great and that I've heard really great things about. Family, romance -- the usual subject matters that make up the bread and butter of my reading diet.

8. In Zanesville
Jo Ann Beard
As with a few others on this list, I really don't know why I haven't bought this book yet. It's been on my radar for ages and been recommended to me more than once. But I am DETERMINED that this fall will be when I actually buckle down and read it.

9. Something Like Normal
Trish Doller
This one hasn't been out for very long, but I'm embarrassed to even include it on this list because I'm embarrassed I didn't go out and get it right away -- I've been following Trish Doller's blog and publishing journey for what feels like forever.

10. Meant to Be
Lauren Morrill
(Pub date: Nov, 2012)
Just look at the adorabliss that is that cover. Oh my. Plus, it's set in London, which is fairly rare.

Monday, September 3, 2012

review: flawless ruins

Kieryn Nicolas
Echelon Press
(bought as ebook)
The world that Morgan Waters knows is perfect. She has a wonderful mother, great friends, and access to all the material possessions she could want. Girls train for illustrious careers while still having time to hang out with their friends. And when they turn 17, each girl has an Amora -- a special ceremony where they meet their Like. Their perfect, practically tailor-made mate. The Likes adore them and take care of the less-glamorous aspects of life: laundry, dirty houses, etc. They dote on the women and, as far as Morgan knows, this is the way it's always been: there are women and there are Likes.

But one night, accidentally out past curfew, Morgan meets another type altogether. Neil, who looks like a Like except for the fact that he's messier, louder, and not attached to any woman. He's a man. A boy. Something Morgan didn't realize even existed. And thus follows the typical story arc of Morgan digging deeper into the realities of her "perfect" society and discovering astonishing things -- pasts, motivations, and entire cities -- that she had no idea about.

This is such a weird book, guys. There are some obvious problems in building a society like this -- one made up entirely of women, one where a teenage girl has no idea that men even exist. And while the book explains away some of the inherent problems, if you think about it too deeply it still makes no sense. There's quite a bit of suspension of disbelief needed to make this world work, so I opted to just not think about the world itself and focus on Morgan and her story. Surprisingly, this book is told from both Morgan and Neil's perspectives -- but it's so obviously Morgan's story and while Neil's chapters didn't exactly feel superfluous, they also sort of felt like just biding time between Morgan's chapters.

This book didn't shatter expectations. It's not a masterpiece of dystopic or sci-fi work, but it is a surprisingly enjoyable read. Morgan's pretty shallow on the surface, but this quickly gives way to a very, very determined girl whose principles surprise even her. As she uncovers more startling secrets about her world and how it's run she also finds herself falling more and more for Neil, whose life isn't nearly as cushy and safe as hers (to say the least). The characters here aren't as complex or fully developed as I generally like, but the story itself is a bit lighter than expected as well. Despite the heaviness of the plot and this messed-up society, the writing keeps everything from getting too depressing mostly by the fact that there's rarely much doubt that Morgan will win out against the more nefarious forces in her city.

This is a light, but fully weird book with one of the more messed-up dystopians I've seen (or, you know, maybe just messed up in a different sort of way). It's not earth-shattering, but it is enjoyable enough.