courtcat: (Pandemonium)
2011-09-10 06:06 pm

Book Review: Legend, Marie Lu

Title: Legend
Author: Marie Lu
Publisher: G.P Putnam's Sons (Penguin)
Genre: SciFi, Post Apocalypse, Dystopia
Release Date: November 2011

This book's gotten comparisons with Hunger Games, it seems (I don't know first hand; someone said so on Twitter), but I'd compare it more to Matched (Ally Condie) or Across the Universe (Beth Revis), really - similar subgenre, but not quite the same.

We start with the formula (this isn't criticism by any stretch - formula becomes so because it works) that any dystopia starts with, though it's more vague in this than in many.  One assumes that there was a war and the Republic split from the Colonies and everyone had the best of intentions for a brighter future in mind, but it's not made clear.  At any rate, some unnamed time in the future (from the revolution or what have you), something's caused havoc with weather (I've never heard of hurricanes in California, and not even a slight earthquake?  But I'm a midwestern girl, so what do I know) and a good deal of the southwest has cut itself off from the rest of the country, forming a sharp divide between this new Republic and the Colonies.  There is, of course, unhappiness and upheaval - the socioeconomics of the Republic are a mess.  The rich are, comparatively, obscenely so and the poor grovel in what sounds to me like not long post-Katrina New Orleans.

It gets better!  The Republic's government, which is a near Caesarean god-head sort of thing backed by the military but without that pesky council.  There are, of course, Things Afoot, but the people are, in general, too afraid to challenge this god-head president (Elector Primo, I think it was).  They're too poor in the poor sections where there's discontent, and in the rich sectors they're too complacent (and, in no few cases as we find out later, complicit).

Amongst all this, we have a boy and a girl.  One is the Republic's darling and one is an exile of sorts - a Romeo and Juliet, perhaps, or Tony and Maria.  We're led on a great tracking expedition for the Republic's darling, June, to find the criminal and suspected murder, Day.  Only Day is really just a Robin Hood, and of course he's being set up to take the fall almost from the beginning.

All in all, it's a great read - it's fast paced and interesting, and it promises to make a better movie than any of the other things that I think may well get picked up (rights were sold to CBS, so everyone go buy the books and make it happen, yeah?) by virtue of the way it's written.  The exposition is woven in so that it doesn't seem unwieldy or an interruption of the action, and the voices of the two main characters (who are in some ways a bit too perfect and in others delightfully flawed) are better done than any alternating POV stories I've read in awhile.  It seems like this will be a trilogy or more, and I can't wait to see where Ms. Lu is going with it.
courtcat: (Adventure)
2011-08-23 04:32 pm
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Book Review(s): Chaos Walking trilogy, Patrick Ness

Title: The New World (short story)/The Knife of Never Letting Go/The Ask and the Answer/Monsters of Men (all Nook)
Author: Patrick Ness
Publisher: .....someone
Genre: SciFi, Post Apocalypse, Dystopia
Release Date: 2010?

Oh, these books.  So. very. good.  Short synopsis is: Earth/home planet got screwed up.  People left at various times for various reasons, the better to settle this new planet that had a lot of the same things earth did, geographically speaking.  It was life bearing - there were indigenous plants, animals, and people.  Something happened that drove no small number of the first settlers to varying degrees of insanity, and there was a war that nearly wiped out both sides and quite a few of the human settlements.

We start our journey in Prentisstown, where there are only men and boys - or a boy, who is about to hit the magical age of thirteen, at which manhood is . . . well, enforced for lack of a better word, but we learn more about that later.  Our young protagonist, Todd, is unhappy.  He's lonely, and he knows something is wrong.  One day, not long before his birthday, he wanders out into the swamp near his village and runs into Viola - who is introduced better in The New World, the short story prequel, than she is here - and is terrified out of his wits, because he's never seen a woman (or girl, as Viola is roughly the same age as he is) before in the time he can remember.  Also because there's a trait that marks her out as starkly different than the men he knows, but to reveal that here would be telling, wouldn't it?

At any rate, Todd meets Viola and his world falls apart.  His village (with the exception of his foster fathers, who took over his upbringing when his mother died), intent on turning him into a man in the creepy, horrifying way they've agreed on for the majority of his thirteen years, go on the hunt for him and Viola both.  There's the dystopic dream team of politics and religion, and Todd and Viola escape death at the hands of a madman so often I lost count.  In the end - which, in this first book, isn't really an end; it reads almost like a serial - Todd and Viola are on completely uncertain and unfamiliar ground, and on opposite sides of what appears to be shaping into a civil war.  This is, all told, some truly amazing world building, and the character building isn't far behind.

In the second book, we pick up exactly where we left off; this is a device I wasn't particularly familiar with before The Hunger Games, though of course it must have been in use.  Todd and Viola are still on opposite sides and everything they think they know about this planet and their surroundings (both environmental and societal), their trust in each other and their endurance (physical, mental and emotional) continue to be tested.  This is, in fact, the darkest YA fiction I've read in . . . perhaps ever, really, and I love it all the more for that.  When I actually was what most people consider YA, there didn't seem to be a lot of light in the world, and that continues to be a theme.  Regardless, there are factions - made up of women which exist in far more abundance than Todd knew of (obviously) and men, in a large part.  Which isn't to say there aren't men in the Answer (one of the factions, clearly), but there truly aren't any women in the Ask.  (The settlers who were on New World, who Viola and her bunch of people didn't know about, are very Old West meets Puritan.  The grammar and writing in the parts Todd tells reflect this well, and often made me twitch.  Dialects in dialog are fine - entire books written in them require my poor little middle class American brain to translate.)  The character progression throughout is fantastic, and Mayor/President Prentiss may be one of the best written villains I've ever come across in any sort of literature, from children's up through adult, in any and all genres.  Aside from Prentiss, the characterization and progression both are phenomenal, though it's truly this man who shines through this and Monsters of Men.

Ah, the final book.  I read these three in a row with no break between them and by the time I hit this one I was ready to be done - not because I didn't like them, obviously, but because they were so very draining.  It's not every book that makes you feel like you're there in that Bastian-fighting-the-Nothing sense, but Ness was fantastic at that throughout, and I was exhausted.  Here, though, is where - if you'll pardon the vernacular - shit got real.  There was violence, there was mind control, there was genocide and all of those things that, in a war, make monsters of men.  Here, Todd and Viola are still uncertain of each other and who they can trust.  Here, Todd thinks he can 'save' Prentiss.  Here, we find out that the 'aliens' - that indigenous species mentioned earlier - aren't as rare as we thought, and they're pissed off.  This is a suitably dramatic and horrific end for an awesome - in all senses - trio (plus a bit) of books.

Five stars.  Superb.  What are you waiting for?  Go read it now.
2011-08-23 04:12 pm
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Book Review(s): Last Survivors Trilogy, Susan Beth Pfeffer

Title: Life As We Knew It (hard copy)/The Dead and the Gone (hard copy)/ This World We Live In (Nook)
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Post-Apocalypse, SciFi
Release Date: 2008, 2010

So, I just found out there actually is a fourth book to this coming out - goes to show how much I pay attention.  So really, that subject line up there should read 'soon-to-be quartet' or something where it says trilogy.  But since I've only read the first three books, I think we're good.  First, I should say the first two of these were largely an impulse buy because my Borders was going out of business and because one of them had a John Green quote on the cover, and I adore everything that man's written, that I've read, so clearly he must have good taste in things to read, right?  And he really may, but . . .

The science in this is just solid enough to make it a little better than that movie where the earth's core stops spinning or The Day After Yesterday.  Which . . . is probably fine to the intended young adult audience, but when it's presented in a very nearly hard sci-fi format, it seems it should be a little better researched.  I'm not spoiling anything when I say that the moon is knocked closer to the earth by an asteroid/meteor and this causes all sorts of havoc - that's all spelled out in the cover copy.  Even the one liner on the front says 'The weather's finally broken . . . for good' or similar.  Anyway, I could probably get past this if the story itself were good (it's rather repetitive in the first two, and quite horrifying on a human scale) or if there was some redeeming quality in the main characters . . . but there really isn't much.  And given the decline in writing quality between the first and third books, I really only stuck through it for completeness' sake, which is the same reason I'll probably grab the fourth for my Nook when it comes out.

Life As We Knew It is written from the point of view of its teenaged 'protagonist', in journal format, and is a bit more interesting than the others simply for that, I should probably say.  This World We Live In follows that, but it doesn't save it.
courtcat: (Adventure)
2011-05-25 12:22 pm

Book Review: Wither, Lauren DeStefano

Title: Wither
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Genre: Distopian-ish, Scifi, Mystery, YA
Release Date: 2011
Sort of maybe spoiler-y but not really. )

Clearly, this book has problems.  However, it's the first in a trilogy so I'm willing to give it a bit more leeway than I would many others.  It's also written quite well, despite the use of present tense which always throws me for at least a few pages; it's very immersive, and one of those things that makes you feel like maybe you could be in that world.  There are some things that are fairly difficult to believe given the problems mentioned behind the cut, the youth of various characters, the relative nearness to the singularity, etc, but I'm willing to set those aside (more so than I am what appear to be flaws in research that I hope are fixed in the subsequent books).  Many people have likened this to The Handmaid's Tale for young adults, and I can certainly see it, to an extent.  The comparison's flawed, but then most are.

It's harder to write a non-spoiler-y review of this than it has been with previous reads!  I'm not sure why.  But, I gave it a five star rating for readability and the likeability of the main secondary character more than anything else, and also the part where I'm really kind of dying to know more about the universe DeStefano's built.  I really hope it pulls together for the sequel(s).
courtcat: (Shadow)
2011-04-09 03:35 pm
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Book Review: Dreamland, Sarah Dessen

Title: Dreamland
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Speak (Penguin)
Genre: General Fiction
Release Date: 2000

This is a well written treatment of a delicate subject - it's a story that needs to be told to a generation that didn't grow up with after school specials.  Covered inside are a lot of teenage problems, some more technically serious than others, and I can't find fault with the way it's done.  My problem with it all, I suppose, is that I did grow up with after school specials.

I don't mean to trivialize the subject or anyone who's been victimized on any level.  And by all means, it was a decent book.  It's simply that I've read it before by various and myriad authors, not to mention seen it on TV and in the occasional movie.  In this particular case, there's very little redeeming about the main character; there's nothing with which I can empathize, though maybe that's part of the point.  It's not just the ones that seem like the 'type' who fall into these behaviors and have to come out of them.

In short, I didn't love or hate this book.  It didn't stand out, and I'll probably forget about it completely in a couple days.  It made me think of any number of books by Lurlene McDaniel (without the potentially mortal illness), Nicholas Sparks or Jodi Picoult, and will blend into the same background noise quite nicely.  I've been told by more than one person, though, that this was their least favorite Sarah Dessen book, so I may go back and give another a try when the vague discontent this one left me with has dissipated.

courtcat: (WTF)
2011-04-07 11:46 am
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Book Review: Incarceron, Catherine Fisher

Title: Incarceron
Author: Catherine Fisher
Publisher: Firebird (Penguin)
Genre: Sci-fi?  Yeah, we'll go with that.
Release Date: 2007

A key.  I have a thing for keys - modern ones, antique ones, toy ones, real ones, it doesn't matter.  I like keys.  I'm not sure what this says about my personality or psyche or whatever, but there it is.  So there's this book, and it has a key on it - not just any key, but an opalescent foiled key in the midst of black and silver and gray with the coolest font I've ever seen used for the title splash.  And under that, there's this little splash for rusty, bloody red and I'm in love and avoided it for years (or as long as I've been seeing the trade paperback edition that looked like this) because I knew it would swallow me whole.  They key, the book, both, whatever.  Anyway!

From the beginning, there are comparisons that can be drawn.  The first thing I think of is the Cube movie franchise, particularly Cube Zero where some of the back story is made clear.  It's a very different future-world that's painted, but no less oppressive for it; everything in this world revolves around a vaguely Regency-seeming 'Protocol', with very obvious social castes and a less parliamentary monarchy than England's current one, but the governmental system is quite clearly influenced by the author's experiences in Great Britain as much as her study of history.  I also think of Beth Revis' Across the Universe to a somewhat lesser extent, though the writing here is more taught, more suspenseful.  Several times in the first handful of chapters I found myself be-goose bumped and with my heart racing a little, yelling at the characters to the point that my children wanted to know what I was reading and what they were doing.

We find out early on that this stalling of time in the Regency era came because a king somewhere back along the line thought life simpler and more idyllic then.  At what I think is roughly the same time a prison that was meant to become a utopia was designed and executed and the earliest prisoners - political dissidents and liberal academics along with murders and the like - put inside to start the experiment.  Each chapter is begun with a quote by some person from that time period, or by a quote from the legends of Sapphique, which I can only imagine will be plumbed further in the sequel titled with his name, and at these beginnings there are vaguely ominous chips and gears and things that match those on the covers.  But these things are light and easy compared to what comes later in the chapters.  Our characters are butterflies pinned to a backing and labled for us, or so we think.  Outside of the obvious prison's confines there are the angry, haughty, rebellious daughter (Claudia) of the cold, seemingly uncaring father (who happens to be Incarceron's Warden), her loyal teacher and friend (Jared), the staff who are all well paid spies and double agents, for the most part.  Inside, we have the amnesiac and unwilling hero, prone to visions and seizures (Finn) - seen as both weak and fearsome by those around him, and daring near to stupidity to make up for it - the loyal-for-his-own-reasons oathbrother (Keiro, which I keep pronouncing in my head as Kiero, like Fiero in Wicked), the teacher (who is of the same . . . race?  Family?  Classification, anyway) as Jared, and the life-debt (and possibly love, of a sort) bound Attia who is far more clever and stronger than she seems at first.  Around them, through them, there are plots and counter plots, some Courtly, some known, some only hinted at until the end.

There's the clear set up for the sequel, though this could be read on its own and left like that if you're not me - the story is tied up neatly enough at the end that, if you don't care about the secondary characters, there's no real need to read Sapphique (and I think there's another - it's a trilogy, isn't it?).  However, given the writing and the tension I still feel, hours after having finished Incarceron, there's no doubt I'll be at my local bookstore as soon as I have the cash and car to do so, just to pick it up.

In short, this is a must read.  And!  A good part of that is because of the setting-as-character; Beth Revis (again, I mention her!) wrote an entry about it on the Leage of Extraordinary Writers blog somewhere, and Catherine Fisher has made her world so masterfully.  I'm breathlessly (almost literally!) waiting to read more.

courtcat: (Storytime)
2011-03-26 01:42 pm
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Book Review: Imaginary Girls, Nova Ren Suma

Title: Imaginary Girls
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin)
Genre: Supernatural
Release Date: 14 June 2011

This book is stunning to look at - there are no sparkles to the finish, but something about colors, contrast, etc.  It's a trade sized paperback (the ARC is, anyway), which I've decided is the perfect format for most books; there's a heft to it that just isn't there in a pocket paperback, and yet it isn't as unwieldy as a full hardcover would be.  But all that's just aesthetics and while they're important?  They aren't necessary to carry the book as they can be sometimes.

In the about the author, it mentions that Ms. Suma studied photography and it shows in the way she writes; there's a visual in every scene, every movement, and I feel like the phrasing she's using is as much a frame for the image as it is anything else.  In an age where so much YA fiction reads like it's intended to be edited into a screen play, this doesn't and yet it still screams to be presented in a visual medium.  I can see shots, I think, or at least how I'd do them; I have a general idea of who I'd cast in most of the parts.  (This, I think, is a trouble with literature getting made into movies - if there's a strong description of a character, it's distracting to not have said character look as s/he does in type.  But that's me.)  More than that, though, I feel as if I'm sitting with Chloe and Ruby on the bench in the Village Greene, or with London, Owen and the crowd on the rec field.  This book reaches out and twirls itself through your hair, into your clothes, like a fog and you don't realize you're in the thick of it until you've been reading for two hours and you're half way through it.  You don't realize that you're creeped out until you come up for air and your heart is beating a bit faster than it should be and you're looking over your shoulder to make sure no one's watching you.

It's not the story that's something new - it's supernatural fare, complete with ghosts and strong willed not-quite-witches - but the way of executing it.  It's the rich history of the Hudson River valley and how it's been incorporated and made a part of everything.  But mostly?  Above and beyond all that?

It's how I'm still half afraid of Ruby, and I look for balloons trailing red ribbons out of the corner of my eye.
courtcat: (Storytime)
2011-02-14 05:47 pm
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Book Review: If I Stay, Gayle Forman

Title: If I Stay
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin)

I bought this book because I received an ARC of its sequel from Penguin Teen - and I felt about it roughly like I thought I would.  It's a teeny-bopper love story of the variety that I didn't even like when I *was* a teeny-bopper.  This isn't to say it has no redeeming qualities, because despite proclaiming 'LOVED BY PEOPLE WHO LOVED TWILIGHT' or something along those lines, it wasn't nearly that bad.  I loved. Loved. LOVED all the music references (which is probably why I gave it three stars instead of two, especially when paired with the author's thoughts on being so heavily compared to Twilight).

People who loved Twilight probably will love it (sorry, Ms. Forman), as will a lot of the 13-18 set.  And I'll still read the ARC, because . . . well, because I read.  But this one, at least, isn't something that will stick with me for long.
courtcat: (Adventure)
2011-01-07 10:06 pm
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(no subject)

Title: Across the Universe
Author: Beth Revis
Release Date: March 2011 (according to the spine, though I've heard January and 'Spring' as well)
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin Young Readers Group)
Genre: YA dystopian sci-fi

First things first - I'm pretty meh about the aesthetics of this book.  It's fairly brilliant conceptually (I think), in that there's the plain, white world behind Elder and the complicated cosmos behind Amy, but there's nothing that really makes it pop, despite the vaguely holographic sheen with Amy and the stars.  All of this is okay, though, because . . .

Characterization.  Oh. my. gods.  It was fantastic, really - I think Revis got the teenage voice (at least that of my own teenage years) pretty spot on.  So much YA stuff (or stuff with teen-early twenties main characters) comes off as treacly or trying to be cool, or . . . just off, really.  And I wanted SO VERY BADLY  to write this off as the same, except that both Elder and Amy thought and/or said things that I thought or said in the throes of adolescence.  In addition, the world in which the story is set is so wonderfully fleshed and nuanced that it becomes a character itself (and reading a post on Revis' blog, I understand why), but in a wonderfully contained way.  While there's certainly room for other books written in the same world, it doesn't scream with the need for more, more, more the way a lot of serial stuff has lately.  This is because of this fantastic world-build, I'm fairly certain.

Plot-wise, it's solid.  Not unique (I honestly think 'unique' is a next to impossible thing to achieve), but different enough from the stuff that I want to set it beside that it doesn't seem repetitive; it just seems as if I've read a lot of the same books the author must have.  We have a small population on a space ship headed for somewhere far away, a catastrophe, and the resulting chaos that leads to a totalitarian sort of government that becomes more and more of a dictatorship as time goes on.  Like in Ally Condie's 'Matched', the language and phrasing in the beginning (well, that of the male lead, anyway) are fairly simplistic, and indicative of the life he thinks he's leading in the world in which he thinks he lives.  This changes as things progress, as moral and ethical dilemmas - and a certainty that he doesn't know everything he needs to know - change his view of his world and all the people in it, including himself.

The dual points of view are difficult to follow sometimes, largely because the two 'voices' become a bit to similar in places, and is often distracting though the only way to fix that would be to have two separate books.  My trouble with this is simply a stylistic preference.  It will be interesting to see what Revis brings to us in the future!
courtcat: (Quieter)
2010-12-30 09:56 pm

(no subject)

Title: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Release Date: March 2011
Publisher: Philomel Books (Penguin Young Readers Group)
Genre: YA historical fiction

In mid-June of 1941 (June 14th, to be exact) wholesale deportation of skilled and educated people of the Baltic states began; I've known this for ages, but not known much about it other than that because of course the focus of most (American) education on the subject of WWII is the German and American fronts (in the way that America had a 'front', eg. Pearl Harbor), with side trips into the various Russian occupations.  It saddens me to admit that, as the history obsessed person I am, I didn't look more into this until I was presented to this book.

As always, for me, it begins with the aesthetic; the book is marbled and matte but for the shoot of some plant (perhaps potato, given events in the story) pushing up through snow crusted ground.  It feels like leather or silk (or some delicious hybrid) to hold, and I can only hope this holds true in the retail release.  There are some errors in the construction that I can only assume will be fixed in the finished product (bits of section two inserted into section three, for instance).  But this, of course, is not as important as the content.  It's just a thing that made me pick to read it before the other ARC that came at the same time.

The main character's name is Lina, and she's part of an upper middle class Lithuanian family (if such things existed in Lithuania at the time - it's what it equated to in my head, anyway) - two parents and a brother, cousins and an aunt and uncle.  Her father was a university professor and her mother a well educated housewife, and they were, of course, fairly radical and met with people of similar mind to discuss politics and the like.  At some point, not really as part of the story, the cousin and aunt and uncle escape to repatriate in Germany, while Lina and her family remain to be a part of the mass deportation of June 1941.  It's not at all an unfamiliar story in most ways; it's been told about Danes and German Jews and various people going through France with a great many different details.  What marks this out is Lina's voice, which is that of a strong willed, independent girl who wants to be an artist with every bone in her body and every breath she takes.

This is something different from most female protagonists in most fiction about the time; most people write them as uncertain, confused and weak.  While Lina certainly has her moments of all of that, she finds strength she didn't know she had and perseveres when countless around her are dying, being killed, or being used to various ends.  The tone fits wonderfully with both the story and what the author is trying to get across - that hope and love, in the end, will win against even the most dire of situations.

The one thing that irks just a bit is the end - it seems abrupt, almost hurried, as if the author came up against deadline or hit the proscribed number of pages (or words) and quit while the quitting is good.  It was a small thing, though, and didn't detract much from the enjoyment of the story, or the fascination of learning a bit about a section of history I didn't know much about before.  And yes, it has inspired me to research . . . so thanks are owed to Ms. Sepetys.

(Cross posted all over the place.)
2010-12-02 11:40 am
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Book Review: Matched, Ally Condie

Title: Matched
Author: Ally Condie
Genre: YA Sci-fi, Distopian future

I received an ARC of Matched from Penguin Teen sometime in early-mid November, and I'm going to do this with as few spoilers as possible, though I think we all know the story whether or not I tell it here.

Society's gone to hell in a handbasket.  There were wars that tore apart the US (because this is fairly obviously set here, I'm guessing somewhere in the general vicinity of the author's Utah though it's generic enough to not be obvious), and possibly the rest of the world, after which a Big Brother type of government has taken control.  This government is in charge of everything, from what people eat to when (and who) they marry and breed and die.  There are methods of keeping control; humans are, after all, herd animals.  Regardless, with this government (the Society, it's called) come strict rules and guidelines, and also pills.

The blue pill is nutrition, the green pill is calm and no one seems to know what the mysterious red pill does, though it becomes fairly obvious when there's some fairly heavy handed conversation about the symbolism of the color red in this world, between the two main characters.

So basically, we have your classic distopian world a la 1984, Farenheit 451 and Harrison Bergeron combined.  I haven't read Lois Lowry's "The Giver", but this book draws a lot of comparisons in other reviews I've read (though, all of you who are rabid about saying Ms. Condie plagerized or stole her ideas or owes credit or whatever, seriously, go back over your junior high and high school reading lists.  It was done many times long before "The Giver" came out).  I can't fault Ally Condie for any this, not really; there are only so many ways a distopian future can go, after all, as far as our minds know.  Which is to say, this book presents nothing new.  It's safe, and known, and certainly enjoyable, and immersing enough that I'm eager for the next two books to come out (because yes, it's a planned trilogy).  The characters are not particularly unique or memorable either, though they're hardly cookie cutter; they are, in fact, at least as nuanced as the main trio in the Hunger Games trilogy or Harry Potter.  We have the girl who thinks she's safe in her rule following, who ends up paired with her perfect match who also thinks he's safe in the constraints of the Society.  Then we have the outsider who is so perfect in his mediocrity that he stands out, until the girl begins to see the cracks and he begins to challenge her an she him.

This is, of course, where the teenage romance drips in, and I'm not going to spend a lot of time on it - it's cute, but a bit too cute.  I am, granted, an adult - but it feels a bit too formulaic to me.  Of course it was what was going to happen, and it came to the obvious outcome, down to the cliffhanger-ish ending.

But, for all this book's plotting issues (which aren't really so much issues, obviously, given the success of so many like it before and quite likely a great many to come), I really loved this book.  It's not the plot or the characters that drew me in, not really.  My love for it started with the appearance.

We have a largely white book, though there are sparkles and rainbows in the white, on which there is a girl in green trapped in a bubble that she's trying to pop.  The girl part is fairly melodramatic and expected, but the rest is as austere and clean as the world presented inside.  The aesthetic matches the impression given in the book, in a world where an entire street's trees are cut down because they aren't uniform (and for other reasons as well, but you'll just have to read it to find out).  And then, inside!  There's a world that makes me think of straight lines, of white walls and steel.  It feels like Camazotz in Madeline L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time".  Despite not being a big fan of present tense writing in my fiction (outside of gaming, because yes, I'm that kind of geek), there are many places where I don't think the writing would have been as effective in the past tense.  It felt immediate, as if I were there in this austere world where everyone does what they're told, except when they don't.  It's a world full of beautiful lines (I came across one of my favorite YA lines I've read in awhile here: "The books' backs are broken; their bones, thin and delicate, fall out.") and imagery even amongst the sparse description.  This is why I think this book is the best, and where it is - it leaves room for people to imagine, where so few stories do these days.  It doesn't tell us what to think or how to feel.  It doesn't paint the Society as purely evil or the rebels as purely good.  There is no black and white, only shades of pearl, with rainbow sparkles within.  It leaves room for the reader to find him or herself inside.

As I said earlier, I eagerly await the sequels.
courtcat: (Cure)
2010-06-03 09:30 am
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Another Con Post (or, In Which Courtney Decides She Needs a Lot More Costumes in Her Life)

What: World Steam Expo
Where: Hyatt Regency Dearborn
When: Memorial Day Weekend, 2010

We got there Friday, kind of late by the time everyone was home from school and work and the two littler kids were off to Camp Grandparents for the weekend - I had a vision distorting, head splitting migraine, and so forgot a few things.  Important things, like booze (but not so important as clean underwear) and books for when I was in the room letting Morgen take a rest.  There were lots of really cool costumes - in fact, our little family were some of the few without, which was okay because this was a learning experience!  What I know about steampunk, I know from anime, for the most part, or literature.  I'm rather fond of the aesthetic, much as I am of the medieval aesthetic, but that's about all I know!

Friday night, after my husband and oldest daughter were in bed (which was after a mediocre dinner at the hotel restaurant, during which we met Phil and Kaja Foglio of Girl Genius fame and their children), I went wandering and ended up in a Penny Dreadfuls panel about steampunk on a budget, which was fun and informative and gave me lots of ideas.  I also saw Tartanic's teaser show after that panel, and dear lord, it was balm to my marching band geek's soul - so many drums!  And bagpipes!  (Granted, we never had any bagpipes in marching band, but still.  There were times I couldn't help marking time, and I noticed that one of the performers was as well.)  Sofia and Jill, the dancers, were amazing with their blend of ballet, Irish step dance and belly dancing and the energy they had as a group was amazing.  They seemed happy to be there, and it made me happy to be there too.  Not long after that, I ended up heading to bed - between the fatigue brought on by the earlier migraine and the lack of obvious room parties, there wasn't much point to staying up unless I wanted to find the movie room.  Even the gaming rooms, both tabletop and video, closed pretty early, which was somewhat disappointing.  I'm not used to getting even a reasonable amount of sleep at a con, though Friday night, I did!

Saturday started with 'Bridesmaid Redux', which was about turning hideous bridemaid (or prom, or . . .) dresses into steampunk loveliness.  I went to this with Morgen (who, for those of you who don't know, is eight years old), and we both enjoyed it greatly - she got some ideas for things to do with old dress-up dresses of hers, which is always fun.  Unfortunately, she grows like a weed, so while harvesting an old dress would be great?  There are few that would fit her long enough to bother.  After that, Morgen wanted to go to the dance lesson but understandably, no unattended minors were allowed.  Instead, we went to 'Steampunk Archetypes' which turned out to be less about that and more about Repo's story, which was interesting but not what I went for - so I cornered Mr. G.D. Falksen (who is younger than I by a couple years and a successful, published author and thus insanely intimidating) and asked him the questions I had that pertained to the billed topic of the panel.  This was way more interesting than the rest of the panel, quite frankly (and I love Repo! as much as the next girl), and I wish it had lasted longer, but people had places to be, including me.  There was shopping and getting books signed (one of which is a surprise for someone, and I can't wait to send it so it can get there and there can be squeeing) before heading up to listen to Phil Foglio read from the Girl Genius novelization with Morgen and one of the Foglio children (the two of them were hard to keep apart, let me tell you!  Morgen's decided that she wishes the Foglios lived here), after which we went up to the hotel room to hang out in relative quiet relaxation for a half hour or so before heading back down.  Morgen was handed off to her dad so that I could go to the Tartanic/Bawdy Boys/Abney Park show, which was loads of fun, especially the Bawdy Boys and Tartanic.  I love Abney Park's music, but I read someone else saying that it seemed like they just weren't that much into being there, and I tend to agree with that assessment - they had moments, of course, but the energy just wasn't the same.  From there it was random wandering around until time for the midnight carnival which wasn't as entertaining as the name promised (though it could be because it made me think of The Forbidden Game by L.J. Smith, and was not anywhere near what I wanted it to be).  I ended up in bed around 2am or so - not as reasonable as Friday night, but still, better than most con-nights.  And still no room parties, which made me sad.

Sunday was composed mostly of wandering around - there was the mad science fair which was pretty awesome, more shopping, some swimming with Morgen and the Foglio girl-child (I hesitate to put her name online without permission), up until time for the concert.  Again, Tartanic was great, as were The Men That Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing.  Again, Abney Park seemed lukewarm about being there; I'd love to see a show that they were really into.  During this show, Adrian from Tartanic hijacked my camera and took some video, which was hilarious, and during Abney Park's set, Morgen ended up on stage (twice!) in her dress inspired by [livejournal.com profile] yuki_onna 's Fairyland - or rather, the main character therein.  Afterward, she asked The Men That Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing's bassist (I think), Marc something, if he was a droog, which made me laugh.  A lot.  Then there were pictures with the entirety of Abney Park, and with just Nathaniel, who is my favorite member of the band.  Then, Jerry took Morgen off to the gaming room (video, tabletop, I don't remember) and I went to the Repo shadowcast.  My feeling on this is that it should be done often, and possibly with forensics rules.  Morgen and Jerry went to bed at some point, and there was more wandering for me until I ended up watching Doctor Who (the latest British episode) with a bunch of staff and guests (meaning band members, mostly), which was all kinds of awesome, and I finally made it to bed at around four, which is more what I'm used to.

Monday was sparse - the tiny top hat panel that Morgen was interested in but bored with quickly when she realized she didn't actually get to make a tiny top hat, and then another Tartanic show with Morgen and the Foglio girl-child.

All in all, I had a great time - a lot of things, especially the concert, were way off schedule (like, an hour or more), and panels that were supposed to be never were while others that weren't on the schedule cropped up all over the place, which made it difficult to do all the things I wanted to do.  I also thought the programming was pretty minimal and that for a con built around a very DIY community, there wasn't much doing.  It was a good con, but not great - I think it has the potential to be much better, for all that I enjoyed myself.

And look!  It's a review written.  Now to do one of the others I have fluttering around in my head.