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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Because I'm supposed to be working...

I will of course do a blog post instead!! My good friend Lindsey Roth Culli is celebrating her new blog look with an awesome contest where you can win an ipod shuffle!!! She's a bit crazy if you ask me, but hey, I won't complain if I win. :) Love the picture at the top of her blog - does that say YA or what??

Also, I've been dong a lot of window/browser shopping for used books lately because you all know how obsessed I am with books. Now I know you're all dying to get the great sales from Borders, but since it will be a couple weeks before prices really come down, maybe you'd like to get a jump start? Amazon has some really good ones on sale including Hold Still by Nina LaCour, a couple of Sarah Dessen, Ally Carter (Cross My Heart and Hope To Spy), Courtney Summers (Some Girls Are), The Chose One by Carol Williams... the list is pretty extensive and most are under 4$. Not trying to pimp Amazon here, just the books. :)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A short story by Jennifer Walkup

Hey all, my good friend Jenn has a short story published by the Gloom Cupboard. It is awesome. And kind of creepy in a sad sort of way. I'm doing a pimp here for her even though she doesn't know it. :) The story is called Soggy. The third one down. Check it out!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Goodreads summary:
Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

I've heard conflicting reviews on this book, and after reading it, I can see why. I'm conflicted. Beth Revis is a good story teller, weaving elements of sci-fi, romance, and mystery together into one cohesive plot that really makes you stop and think, could this happen? Would a world such as this really be a bad thing? I love stories that can give me that "wow" factor, and Across the Universe did. But at the same time I can see why some had a hard time with it.

The story is told in alternating points of view, from that of Amy, the girl who goes into the cryo-chamber and that of Elder, future leader of the world (inside the spaceship) where Amy wakes up. Using this alternating POV, we get to see what's happening while Amy is asleep, which is helpful. It also helps us when the mystery is presented because it allows us to see things that neither Amy or Elder can't. But at the same time, the double POV slows the story down immensely. Much of it is backstory and world building - in Elder's world (as we see how the ship/society works) and then in Amy's world (as we see her thoughts as to what her life was like before). Unfortunately all of this made the story drag. I wanted Amy to wake up already so that the story could begin - and she does - on page 70. Once Amy is thawed though, the book does take off, and as with any good mystery, I wanted to keep going until I had figured it all out.

There's another aspect to this book that I think will have people divided, and those are the plot holes and plausibility issues. The science in this book is really one where you have to just kind of take it in faith that it could happen.... someday. But looking at it from today's perspective (and as a scientist), I was cringing at some scenes. A lot of it seemed to be there just to elicit a "fear" or "shock" response in the reader because the why and the how of it all (the genetics and the breeding program) just didn't make a whole lot of sense. In fact sometimes it was downright laughable. There was also one central plot element that is completely wrong, and you don't need to know a whole lot about science (you just need to watch CSI) to figure it out. There were other plot holes, such as the presence of a very young girl who is injecting rabbits at one point (even though we're told early on that Elder is the youngest person on the ship), and there are loose ends that aren't tied up (like in the beginning a big deal is made of the fact that Amy and her family are frozen one year too early, yet this is never brought up again). There are other plausibility issues in the story too, but let me stop there because I think you get the picture. Looking back, I see so many areas where Revis could have avoided digging herself into a plausibility grave that I wonder how much effort she put into thinking things through. Granted, the world building was pretty good; I had an immediate sense of what the ship looked like and how it ran and I marveled at some of the technology just as Amy did. The premise of the whole story was phenomenal; I admire the idea itself. The characters were believable, and I felt emotionally caught up in everything that Amy was going through. It's just the delivery of the science that was off.

To put it in perspective, let's talk a little bit about another book/movie which I know you've all heard of - Jurassic Park. I love Jurassic Park. A couple years after it came out, I also read  a book entitled, The Science Behind Jurassic Park, or How to Build a Dinosaur, by Rob DeSalle and David Lindley, in which JP is picked apart one nucleotide (or claw) at a time. I remember after reading this book that I felt a little let down. Not a lot, but a little. It takes a good imagination to figure out how to build a dinosaur, and keeping in mind that JP was written over 20 years ago, it was pretty darn inventive - even though the whole concept was a wash from the get-go. There were ways in which Crighton could have made JP more believable and in line with what is scientifically possible, BUT (and here is the big but) while the science in JP may have been lacking, the story itself dug at a theme that is at the core of humanity. Across the Universe parallels JP in that the science could have been better (a whole lot better), but it's still a good story, and the themes in it are pretty much universal. And I guess that's where I sit, glad that I was given an enjoyable reading experience, but a little let down that it couldn't have been done better.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Books of June

Wow, I didn't realize I had read so much this month until I added them up. And I even got a bit of editing done to boot! Very productive month. I marked books that are my top favorites with double asterisks. While I enjoyed many from this list, these are books that I'd give 5 stars to and would rave until the cows came home. Still meaning to go around to all the Faves of 2011 posts from Thursday too - after I take care of this nasty sunburn. 99 today. Oy! Have a good 4th of July US citizens!!

1. Looking For Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
This was the last of Melina Marchetta's books that I needed to read, and while I did enjoy it, I think it's probably my least favorite of hers. The MC is strongly opinionated, very out-spoken and that sort of surprised me. She was so different from MM's other characters. It took me a while to get used to it. A central element of the plot was the issue of the Italian/Sicilian culture's view of sex and marriage and how a girl who was born out of wedlock deals with that.  I usually love getting a look at different cultures, immersing myself in the language and the food and the people. In this case, I kind of felt like I was bombarded with all the bad things about the culture to the point where I sort of hated it. Later we see that the MC does love her culture and respects it, but I guess what I'm saying is that I would have liked to have seen some of that early on and that may have contributed to my feeling of this not being as good as her others.

2. Chasing Alliecat by Rebecca Fjelland Davis Yay! A Minnesota book and a Minnesota author. See my review here .
3. Matched by Ally Condie I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. Some have said that there isn't any action and it's slow, but I kind of enjoyed the tension that seemed to build as we learn about all the little ways in which the society controlled its citizens. I'm looking forward to the sequel.
4. Burning For Revenge, Tomorrow Series #5 by John Marsden ** Loved this one - action packed and man, was my heart pounding at times! Seriously the best of the series so far. I'm not sure what's going to happen next and I love that feeling.
5. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi Not sure that I'd call it a dystopian or even an apocolyptic novel. It is set in a future very different from ours, where oil is scarce, the people are poor, and surviving means doing whatever it takes - even committing murder to get ahead. But, when the MC refuses to do so, we see that the human spirit is still very much alive.  I enjoyed the more literary style of the novel, and I can see why it received a Prinz award because of it. But, I also felt like the plot was quite predictable. It's one of those books that barrels forward in a straight line because there's really no where else for it to go.
6. The Knife Of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness** Loved it!! Review here.
7. Touching Darkness, Midnighter's Trilogy #2 by Scott Westerfeld Quick read, maybe not quite as good as the first, but still enjoyable.

8. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging by Loiuse Rennison** This book tickled my funny bone. Such a great voice and wacky character. I'll be checking out some of the others in the series soon.
9. Guitar Highway Rose by Brigid Lowry** I am seriously in love with this book. The prose was so unique and colorful and full of sensations. The plot was precious and quirky and youthful. The secondary characters were delightful (though a little hard to keep track of at first). I didn't quite understand the reasoning behind the dramatic ending, but enjoyed it nonetheless. A new fave!
10. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson I found the first half of the book to be engrossing, albeit a little slow. I was eager to know what was actually going on. But the second half left me with a lot to ponder. There were some believability issues here that nagged me, and the epilogue. Oh man, why did she have to add that? I seriously don't understand what that was all about.
11. Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King It had a very plucky character that I loved, and a plot that was intriguing and felt so REAL. I'm still harboring bad feelings toward the main character's best friend Charlie - big heartbreak there. The only thing about this story is that the writing is almost too straightforward. I felt very strongly moved at times, so sad for the MC and I WANTED to cry for her, but I didn't. I can only think that maybe if the prose had been stronger then I would have had a stronger, tearier emotional response. Still highly recommended though! 

12. Across the Universe by Beth Revis Yikes, I am so torn up about this book. I loved the whole premise of a girl waking up in space and trying to figure out what the deal is with this society she's been thrown into. The mystery was truly great - it gave me that "I don't want to put this down" feeling. BUT after it was   over, I thought about some parts of it and I realized that it is just loaded with plausibility issues and plot holes. I'm sure that those who don't read a lot of science fiction can easily ignore this, and that's fine. It's just that I think the story could have been a whole lot stronger if Revis had thought these things through better.
 13. Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John** I loved this one!! It's about a girl who becomes manager of a high school hard rock band - only she herself is deaf. Hoping to make myself do a review soon. Awesome, tough character with a strong  voice, great family dynamics and such a swoony kissing scene towards the end.



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