Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Sea of Tranquility (review)

4/5 stars

The Sea of Tranquility (GoodreadsAmazon) is a rare novel.  It's been a couple weeks since I've read it and I hadn't reviewed it because I was still pondering.  The writing is so evocative it almost feels like I need to step away and look at it with fresh eyes. But once I start thinking about the story, the feelings hit me again.  If this book does anything it makes you feel.  The emotions are so vivid that I can't imagine not emotionally connecting with this story, even if it's not your typical type of story.

Written in dual point of views, The Sea of Tranquility follows Nastya Kashnikov and Josh Bennett, two very different very broken people.  Nastya has just transferred schools, an attempt to get away from her old life and everyone who knew her before a terrible attack ruined her future as a professional piano player.  Nastya couldn't deal with former friends and family, especially since she made the decision to stop talking.  At a glance, Josh Bennett is strong and solid.  At school he's set apart, not because he's a loser or a loner but because he wants to be left alone.  After losing his family one-by-one, Josh is alone and that's how he likes it.  If he doesn't care about anyone, he can't lose them.

You can probably see what worries me about this novel.  Two broken people falling for each other and magically being fixed.  People can't be fixed like that.  Relationships don't fix people.  However, this book realizes that.  Nastya and Josh are drawn to each other because they both want to be left alone. Even unspoken, they recognize that they both have experienced a tragedy.  The book is self-aware enough to realize that this isn't and, under the circumstances, can't possibly be a healthy, lasting situation for the two of them.  As broken people, they have to make a conscious decision to save themselves.
"When I walk through the front door of the very out of place Victorian-style house I grew up in, I feel home. The feeling only lasts a moment. It's not real. It's just a knee-jerk reaction; an echo of a feeling that used to exist.  Just once, I'd like to go home and have home be what it used to be.  Then again, maybe I'm just imagining some sort of halcyon days that exist more in my memory than they ever did in real life." 
The writing feel very authentic, often powerful in it's simplicity.  It's meant to make you feel the emotions rather than paint a picture.  To me, this is more powerful than any overly descriptive prose because it invokes the readers feelings and concept of home.

Another strong point about this book is the characters.  Rather than depending on the cliched high school personality, this book delves into the characters deeper.  Creating a pretty playboy, who is not just a jackass, "mean girls" who really aren't that mean and have personalities themselves and even villains that are complex.  Nobody is perfect. Nobody is wholly evil.  This is how I like my realism, with an awareness that everyone has a story and normally there's more to it than meets the eye.

This book impressed me, addressing all my misgivings and creating a character-driven story that transcends the dual narrator, broken people trope.  For those whole like contemporary or complex character, this is a book well worth reading.

I received an advanced reading ebook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Indexing (Episodes 1 -5)

Despite being a bit in love with Indexing (Goodreads | Amazon) I can't review it.  Between Seanan McGuire and re-imaginings of fairytales I was doomed from the start.  So why can't I review it? Because well, frankly, it's not done yet.

Indexing is this really cool urban-fantasy Kindle serial written by one of my favorite authors Seanan McGuire.  It's based on the premise that fairytales are real and that the fairytale narrative tries to force it's way into our world attempting to destroy reality as we know it.

Indexing takes place in the ATI Management Bureau a super secret branch of the government tasked with stopping the fairytales before they get started.  Our main character is Henrietta, a Snow White in abeyance who is in charge of a team agents, a combination of normal people alongside fairytale characters including an aborted Wicked Stepsister, who fight the fairytales every day. It's everything you expect from McGuire -- gritty, funny and compelling.  It's the type of read that keeps you on the edge of your seat.  I flew through the first five episodes and can't believe I have to wait two weeks for the next chapter.

But you know what? I'm pretty excited about the concept of Kindle Serials.  In two weeks without any extra work or money the next episode will automatically download to my e-reader.  It's nice to know that every two weeks I'm going to receive a kindle-present from one of my favorite authors.  When you're a blogger buried by unpredictable galleys it's nice to have something reliable drop into your e-reader every so often.  It's like the literary-gods are saying "Here I think you need this."

And they're right.  I do need Indexing, like Cinderella needs her fairy godmother, except oh goodness not really because I don't want to be a fairytale character.  If you're expecting something fun and frothy you should probably step away, because this book has all the darkness the Brothers Grimm infused in their original fairytales, but more unpredictable, twisty and compulsively readable.

If you want more of an explanation of how the Kindle Serials works check out Seanan McGuire's blog post.  And did I mention this gem is only $2.99? Because for this type of story and this quality of writing, that's a bargain.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sexism and Feminism in Geekery 7

There have been no major blow ups this week (at least when I wrote this post earlier this week).  Or I've just missed them.  Sometimes I do unglue myself from the computer and miss things that happen online.  So I'm going back a few weeks with some of my links but that's okay because I pretty much make up the rules for this column as I go.

A Publisher's Perspective - the Gender Divide in Sci-fi

In the last few years I have seen numerous articles deploring the lack of female SFF writers, in science fiction in particular. And usually, the blame always comes back to the publisher’s doorstep. Every time I’ve seen one of these articles I get a little hot under the collar because, guess what? I work in publishing. I work in genre. And here’s the kicker – I’m a woman. Yes, a female editor commissioning and actively looking for good genre – male AND female.

The article itself has submission statistics, something I geekily love, which I think it is interesting.  However some people have taken offense to what comes across as a defensive tone and had problems inability to recognize the impact of years of institutionalized sexism.  So women aren't submitting as much, could the years and years of sexism in the industry have discouraged women away from writing genre? Maybe there's more to the picture that writers just not submitting and the article doesn't address the why or really acknowledge that sexism is still is at play in the industry.

There are a lot of comments and feminist YA-author legend Tamora Pierce (SQEEEE) comments quite a few times.  Apparently I need to add a lot of authors to my to-to-read list based on her comments.
I did find an area of adult science fiction that I *did* enjoy: interestingly, it is written by women for the most part–Nancy Kress, Kathleen Goonan, Catherine Asaro, Nicola Griffith, Sarah Zettel, and Geoffrey Landis, and in short stories by Michael Burstein. I once saw a male sf writer tell Nancy Kress–to her face!–that her genetics and sociology based works weren’t “real” science. Catherine Asaro has gotten the same. Thank heavens, they keep writing. It’s people like this, the space opera folks, and the men who are loosening their hard science garters who are tempting me back to science fiction . . . a bit.
Read More Here

Feminist Taylor Swift

If you've been living under a rock you may have missed Feminist Taylor Swift on twitter. So for those rock dwellers or people like myself who occasionally leave the internet here you go.

Obligatory Shannon Hale Tweet

Guys I swear I'm not just including Shannon Hale every week on purpose.  I just favorite some of my favorite pertinent tweets every week and she's always there.  Her commentary of the lack of women in the movie industry is clever, poignant and funny.  Gold stars Shannon Hale, gold stars.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Follow Friday - You've read it. Now what?

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Question: What do you do with your books after you’re done reading them?
I mostly read ebooks nowadays, so those stay on the Kindle.  Other books I keep.  I can't seem to throw away or destroy a book in any way.  I have an audiobook that I ABSOLUTELY loathed (I even vlogged about it. Now I have haters. YAY) but I still have it.  Someone suggested donating it to Goodwill or the library but I honestly can't in good conscience let anyone else to suffer through that book but at the same time I can't knowingly destroy a book.  So for the moment it's on my shelf, wasting away until CD players go away or someone else throws it away for me.

Why you are here why don't you enter this CONTEST to win an ARC of A Really Awesome Mess and like my brand new (quite lonely) blog facebook page.  I'd love you forever and like any pages in return. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Vigilante Nights (review)

1/5 stars

Vigilante Nights (Goodreads | Amazon) is a book I probably should've DNFed (Did Not Finish for those who don't know).  However, the book seemed casually racist so I wanted to finish so I could talk about that without drawing out the trolls who insist on finishing a book before reviewing it.  I think the racial problems were probably unintentional and due to clumsy writing, but nonetheless were a huge issue with the book.

Basic story, Lucas's twin sister Silver dies in a car crash.  Lucas is driving down a backroad when they're surrounded by gang members who stop the car and taunt them with rude gestures.  His car then stalls in the middle of an intersection leading to the crash.  When he wakes up and realizes his sister is dead (though her ghost appears throughout the book) he wants vengeance against the gang.

All the villains of this novel were in "Latino" gangs.  They were all either hispanic or half hispanic.  Aside from what felt like a token under-developed half-hispanic friend, all the hispanics were caricatures and villains.  I'm not saying that your bad guys can't have a different ethnic background than your protagonists, but I'm saying you have to be very conscious of what you're writing implies.  If you're going to deal with gangs and you're going to make them totally one race, you need to include more developed characters and some discussion of the socio-economic factors that lead to gang activities.  You can't just paint a picture where everyone who is bad is brown.
"The spic stopped a yard away from us, reeking of tacos. What else did a Mexican gang reek of?"
I understand the main character hates hispanics because of what happened to his sister. However, I'm just not okay with reading that line in a book.

That's not even the only problem with this novel.  This is a romance author's first attempt at writing young adult fiction.  Not only that, she's writing in a male POV and you can tell.  The character reads neither male nor authentically teenager.  The writing tries too hard, throwing out actual band names (Linkin Park), attempting slang, TMI about the main characters groin, etc.

Some examples of the writing:
Mom rushed after me, catching my wake. "The accident wasn't your fault. We don't blame you." I was sick to death of the MP3 on replay. Despite the words tumbling out, I knew she directed some of her emo towards me.
MP3 on replay? How much you want to bet that was record or something else in the first draft? This is trying, and failing, to sound teenage.
"Thick and short, golden brown hair framed an angel's face. From this distance, I saw her long dark lashes flutter over bright blue eyes. Her sunny smile caused my throat to clog. I had the strangest desire to touch her, to sift my hands through her hair, to absorb her energy forever. To fill my black hollowness. How crazy was that? Was mystical fairy magic storming the horizon"
Not only is the author's background as a romance novelist showing with this extremely purple prose, the text doesn't actually make that much sense.  Absorbing a girl's energy? Also this is a case of insta-love.
"Her fresh floral scent invaded my senses, leaving me drowning in a warm, bubbly pool of ether." 
And this we'll file under lines that don't make any sense.

This book is problematic on many levels.  I kept underlining examples of bad writing and began wondering at what point have you underlined too much to be useful for reviewing purposes (All of these examples are from the first 50% because I had to stop looking at my notes. There was too much I could've used).  Between the racial undertones and the bad writing I can't really recommend this to anyone.

I received an advance e-galley of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Really Awesome Mess (review and giveaway)

3.5/5 stars 

A Really Awesome Mess (Goodreads | Amazon) is fun and cute, as fun and cute as you can possibly expect in a book about teenagers with mental illnesses at a boarding school for troubled teens.  For a topic that's decidedly unfunny, this book reads like a lighthearted romp where it could've just as easily been a dark book about modern teens.

The story follows two points of view, Emmy, a girl adopted from China who gets expelled from her old school after some particularly nasty facebook tactics, and Justin who struggles with depression.  Dual point of views always makes me think "oh no romance" and while there's some of crushes and kissing, the book isn't one of those typical stories of two broken people trying to fix each other.  It's about a group of broken people working together to fix themselves, even if that's not really what they're trying to do, and to me that's an important distinction.

Emmy and Justin's anger-management support group has to work together to earn privileges, and out of this unholy alliance friendships and misadventures emerge.  The huge big messy adventure/project they all undertake is a little ridiculous, but it's a whole lot of silliness and fun and you'll probably have to suspend your disbelief a little. But that's okay, because even if it's slightly unbelievable it's enjoyable and even hilarious at times.  I would say more but I'd rather let you be surprised.

For me one of the biggest flaws is that sometimes the characters seem to parrot what their therapists would say.  These moments feel forced, like someone else's words are put into the characters mouth so the reader can understand heathy coping mechanism.  But in the grand scheme of things that's not terribly important and only disrupts the story a little.

Overall this book is really enjoyable and worth the read.  It's nice that A Really Awesome Mess dealt with such serious topics without becoming too heavy or taking itself too seriously.

Because I have a lovely ARC of this book I've decided to do a giveaway!  US/Canada may enter.  Use the widget below to enter.  Giveaway goes until midnight Sunday, July 28 (or technically Midnight Monday morning if you find Midnight confusing like me so I put the day early so you'll know when you can enter). 

I received an advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Follow Friday - Reading vacay

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Book Vacay: Where is the best destination reading spot for you? (Where do you like to go to read other then your home)
I like to read in airports/airplanes.  I know that sounds weird and sadly I do not travel enough. But when you're traveling alone and wifi costs money you can have dedicated reading time with few distractions.  Last week I was waiting for some friends who donated blood (I am too small to donate blood. I'm not just selfish with it) and it ran over by nearly 2 hours.  But you know that was okay. I sat in my car and read.  I got really far in my book.

Another place I like to read is at the local gluten free bakery Annie May's Sweet Cafe.  It's quiet and cute.  Sometimes I go there on Saturday because it's so nice to be able to eat a sandwich and order dessert (I have a gluten intolerance).

The thing is I'm a reading addict so I read pretty much everywhere I go.  So I've read in foreign countries, at a beautiful state park lodge in West Virginia, in Montana, etc.  I steal reading time wherever and whenever I can.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Breakdown of a Heroine: Mattie Gokey

A Northern Light (Goodreads | Amazon

Who is Mattie?
Mattie is a sixteen year-old girl from the Adirondack Mountains.  After her mother died of breast cancer and her brother leaves town, Mattie is forced to grow up quickly, almost becoming a parent to her younger sisters.  Despite the hardships and poverty surrounding her, Mattie has big dreams of going to college and becoming a famous writer.

Strength of Character
Mattie has the quiet type of strength.  She may not be much in a fight, but she's got steel at her core and handles herself well in stressful situations like when her family falls ill or her friend goes into labor and she's the only one there.

Mattie's Storyline
Mattie is a poor farm girl with a stubborn Pa.  He loves her, but since his wife died he relies on Mattie to help run the household.  Mattie dreams of graduating high school and going off to college in the city, whereas her father wants her to stay at home and help run the family farm.  When they need some financial help Mattie takes a job at the Glenmore, a local hotel, in hopes of both helping her family and saving for college.  When a young woman staying at the hotel asks Mattie to burn a bundle of letters, then later turns up drowned in the lake, Mattie begins to read the letters and unravel the mystery of Grace's life and tragic death.

Romantic Entanglements
Mattie, who considers herself plain and bookish, is pretty smitten when Royal Loomis starts giving her attention.  She quickly falls head over heels, though she is more in love with the idea of a relationship than Royal himself.  Even though she's dreamed her whole life of being a writer, she realizes that most women writer's don't have families.  She's faced with a choice between her dreams and her relationship with Royal.  Mattie struggles with competiting desires for Royal and for the future she's always dreamed of. Very few books actually tackle this topic, how children and family limit women's dreams in a way that feels authentic and isn't divisive, but a Northern Light handles it perfectly.

What I like about Mattie as a heroine is that she grows throughout the novel.  Earlier in the novel, she has dreams but struggles to stand up for herself against what feels like impossible odds.  But through working at the Glenmore, things life throws at her and reading Grace's tragic letters she becomes stronger.  By the end of the novel she realizes that sometimes you have to make difficult decisions for yourself even though it's easier to let life sweep you away from your dreams.

This book is excellent all around, following both Mattie's story and Grace's story through her letters.  It's well-written, with a complex interwoven narrative and characters that are believe, imperfect and wonderfully developed.  This book has such a wonderful sense of place and time period, while being timelessly relevant.

Audiobook Narration
The narration for this audiobook is perfection.  The narrator does different accents and captures Mattie wonderfully.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Days of Blood and Starlight (review)

4/5 stars

Days of Blood and Starlight (Goodreads | Amazon) was a better book than I expected.  By the end I liked it a whole lot more than I expected to at the beginning.

For most of the book Karou frustrated me.  She seemed to be wallowing, blaming herself (for something that wasn't really her fault) and atoning for those sins.  What bothered me most is that she spent the vast majority of the book seeking revenge at any cost yet hating Akiva because he attempted to avenge her "death." Karou is weak throughout most of this book, not physically but mentally and emotionally.  At first I didn't think the book would address this, but by the end I felt like Laini Taylor was aware and knew what she writing.
“Dead souls dream only of death. Small dreams for small men. It is life that expands to fill worlds. Life is your master, or death is”
What made this book successful was not Karou, but the other characters.  Zuzana is excellent, still the zany little spitfire.  Not only is she hilarious, but she proves herself as a force to be reckoned with, not only to humans but to chimaera.

The relationship between Akiva, Liraz and Hazael is really developed.  We begin to understand the Misbegotten and finally see the surprisingly strong sibling bond among the three.  When Karou is trying to prove that she's with the chimaera, the three warrior angels begin to show that they aren't just robotic warriors, but people with hopes, dreams and most of all the potential to change.
“As long as you're alive, there's always a chance things will get better."
"Or worse," said Liraz. "Yes," he conceded. "Usually worse."
Hazael cut in. "My sister, Sunshine, and my brother, Light. You two should rally the ranks. You'll have us killing ourselves by morning.”
This is less a love story than the first book, with fight scenes, rebellion, political manuerving and a full-on war brewing, which is a nice change of pace.  The story builds tension slowly, adding some unexpected twist that give every decision more meaning and leaves Karou and Akiva with difficult, near-impossible choices.  Best of all the ending hurtles you towards the next book, with promises of an action-packed, high-stakes plot.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Sexism and Feminism in Geekery 6

Sorry there was no Sexism and Feminism post last week!  I actually did not intend this to become a weekly feature but my blog felt kind of sad without it.  So it may be weekly or every-other-week depending on what's happening.  But yes this is here to stay. Damn does that mean I need to make a graphic?

Amy Poehler YAY

One of my friends from Goodreads and twitter,@Ceilidhann tweeted about Amy Poehler having a webseries. I amazed that I have never heard of this. It's a completely adorable series called Amy Poehler's Smart Girls which is targeted at and stars young smart girls.  Like this adorable and brilliant 7 year old:

SFWA Facists

Someone made what is supposed to be a parody twitter account but either they don't understand parody or they're not very funny. Or actually both.  It's called @SFWAfascists. They claim to be "Screeching Feminist Witches Association - parasites destroying institutions and society with political correctness" Hilarity ensued when they made a list (that they've already changed the name of once so I'm worried about hyperlinking but really you can find it on their page) of feminists/people they were trying to shame. Almost everybody on the list immediately got a bump of around 60 followers while the original account hovers at a measly 19.  So yeah that plan backfired.

Doctor Who

Jezebel pointed out that none of the episodes of Doctor Who were directed by a women this season. Somehow this doesn't surprise me but it's still sad.
That’s the thing about institutionalized sexism: it’s woven into the fabric of an industry, so much so that people — men and women — start believing that certain jobs are for women while other jobs are for men, that men are intrinsically suited to sit behind a camera or build a bridge, while women are best left to manage a home or become nurses.
(Read more here)

Sports, Sexism and Body Shaming

You think winning the Wimbledon might be the best day of Marion Bartoli's life.  Actually it probably was.  But the people of the internet, sitting on their lazy asses watching from a screen, were very disappointed that she wasn't a skinny mini blonde.  Probably more than other recent incidents of sexism really angered me. Why? Because it reminded me that the world still sees a woman's worth not through her accomplishment but by how attractive they look.  They don't give a damn that she's obviously physically fit and that she just achieved her dream. They care how she looked while doing it.  You see this a lot with women's sports, but also when women are accomplished at anything it's either noted that it's amazing they worked so hard despite being pretty or that they work so hard because they aren't pretty.  Pretty isn't everything.

(Read more here)

Follow Friday - photobomb

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Activity: PHOTOBOMB!!!! Photobomb a picture with your favorite book. Share it of course.

 Oddly I don't currently have a copy of my favorite book (Jellicoe Road) at my apartment.  But here is a stack of some of my favorites.  I love the Leviathan trilogy (review here), adore the Boyfriend List all all other Ruby Oliver books (review) and who doesn't love Pride and Prejudice?

I tried to take the "photobomb" portion of it more literally but this is very hard to do on a cellphone alone in your apartment at night. But points for effort, right?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Quick reviews - Monstrumologist, Tricked, Dramarama

The Monstrumologist

4/5 stars (Goodreads | Amazon)

As a fantasy reader, I'm always looking for something different. Though as soon as I type that sentence I realize this book is arguably just as much horror as fantasy, but that's kind of the point.  This is a genre-bending unique book.  Following the story, as told in retrospect through journals, of Will Henry assistant to Dr. Pellinore Warthorpe a Monstrumologist, this book looks as the creepy and fantastical through a more scientific lens.  Which might make it sound boring, which it's not.  This book is a edge-of-the-seat, terrifying adventurous book about a young boy who faces monsters while trying to impress his mentor (the monstrumologist) who doesn't even seem to notice him.  Will Henry is an orphan, completely alone, and working for a brilliant and occasionally mad man who's got his own host of issues. This book does pretty much everything right.

Tricked (The Iron Druid Chronicles #4) 

3.5/5 stars (Goodreads | Amazon)

This is not my favorite of the Iron Druid series.  Obviously I'm continuing but this one was a bit of a letdown.  These books are always irreverent about religion, which I absolutely enjoy, but this one got a little political for my taste.  Okay I get it you're anti-coal.  I'm a coal miner's granddaughter who's mother works in the coal industry (and would not have been able to afford college without the coal industry in Eastern KY).  But in my fun urban fantasy I don't really want anti-coal or any political diatribes.  But a lot of this book follows Atticus trying to put a coal mine out of business without any concern for the human impact. I get it. He's a druid and lived a very long life so a few miners at the unemployment line doesn't rub him the wrong way. I don't even care that he shut down the mine, more that his lack of caring about the human impact really bothered me. The planet matters and humans matter too.  Aside for getting too political for my taste, this book also got longwinded in the Let's teach Granuille about Druidism.  Went a lot into his different "headspaces" he used for different magics and druidy mumbo-jumbo that I didn't care for.

Oberon, however, was the predictably hilarious Irish wolfhound we've grown to love. My favorite part of the book by far.   I'm hoping this book got us through most of the training exposition and we can move forward in the next book.


3/5 stars (Goodreads | Amazon)

Always a fan of E. Lockhart, I was somewhat disappointed in this book.  Yes it was fun and full of drama camp dramarama.  But it just wasn't as fun or impacting as her other books.  Even though I participated in drama/plays in highschool (true story) I can't really connect with Sarah (aka Sadye) as a main character.  She just seems too hard and to demand too much of everyone around her.  She's a very realistic teenager, at times mopey, at times a terrible person but at other times a good friend, but she's kind of hard to cope with.  I wanted fun hilarious adventures with Sadye and her gay best friend Demi, but what I got was a lot more mopey. There's nothing horrible or offensive of this book, but considering I love all of E. Lockhart's other book, feeling meh about this book is pretty bad.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

vN (review)

3.5/5 stars

vN (Goodreads | Amazon) surprised me.  I went into this book with low expectations for all the wrong reasons.  None of my friends had read it and as a blogger I'm probably too reliant on the opinion of my friends, especially if the book has been out awhile. Also I'm a little nervous about some of the recent science fiction books because they seem more romantically driven than science based.  Fortunately Angry Robot was moving offices and send out an email newsletter which brought me and this book together.  Feels a little like fate.

In all actuality I want to rate this book 4 stars.  My enjoyment level was on par with a lot of books that get that rating.  However, my confusion level was a little high for a book that I enjoyed that much.  vN is very interesting -- the story of robots that have achieved sentience and independent though not completely.  In most ways they are people.  However, built into their programming are two things that limit their freedom 1. A failsafe that disables them when they harm humans or see humans being harmed 2. A built in attraction and desire to please people.

However, Amy Peterson is different.  Raised in a synthetic family (human "father" and robot mother, she's been taught to be as human as possible.  When a rogue robot, her grandmother, attacks a student at her kindergarten graduation Amy jumps into action to protect the family she loves.  In order to save her mother from her grandmother, Amy joins fray and ultimately eats her grandmother. Turns out her robot lineage has a major flaw.  In a lot of the von Neumann model of robot the failsafe has stopped working.  Amy grows up quickly (Literally, Grandmother provided lots of nutrients) and goes on the run.  Nothing scares the humans more than a malfunctioning robot that could attack anyone at any time.

This book is very action-packed, with Amy running from the law, teaming up with another robot Javier who's a chronic reproducers (which is also against the law).  In some ways Amy is very much a 5-year-old girl trapped in an adult body, but in other ways due to programming and advanced intelligence she's a grown woman.  She's confused, scared and wants to be reunited with her family.  You get conflicting innoncence and awareness that makes Amy a fascinating complex main character.

This book deals with a lot of interesting issues.  Everything from the simultaneously religious and perverted reason robots were created, to what makes someone sentient, without getting weighed down with a lot of exposition and philosophizing   This book's biggest flaw is that at times it confused me.  Sometimes I would have to re-read passages and still could not understand what was happening.  Passages about how Amy's software glitches worked or how there was a house that could expand itself always left me a little baffled and unable to picture what was happening.  Those sections took me out of the story and often slowed the pace of the novel.

Despite my occasional confusion, Amy's plight really drew me into the story.  Even though she's a robot, she reads very realistically and very human. All the problems I expected we're entirely in my imagination and this book really impressed me.  Bring on book two!

FTC Disclosure: This book was given to me by Angry Robot because they were cleaning out their offices.  I'm not sure if the FTC really cares about this type of exchange since the review is entirely because I want to review it (not because they asked me to) but I'm giving this disclosure anyways.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Follow Friday - Fave War

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.

Question: Today’s is the US’ Independence Day. Share your favorite book with a war in it, or an overthrow of the government.

My favorite book with war is going to be a fictional war.  Quintana of Charyn (review here) is excellent because it deals with the complexities of war. It shows both sides perspectives, what led to the war, the horrors of wars, and shows that generally speaking both sides are trying to protect their people in their own way.  Like everything Melina Marchetta writes it captures humanity brilliantly.  It's the 3rd in a series, the first being Finnikan of the Rock.  These are must reads.

If you're curious about my favorite actual war, reading-wise, it's got to be the French Revolution.  That conflict was just batshit crazy and fascinating.  I'll read it every time.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Chomp (review)

4/5 stars

Chomp (Goodreads | Amazon) is a fun, fluffy, adventurous book.  I randomly grabbed this audiobook from the library and it's perfect for a car ride, I suspect the whole family would enjoy it. Wahoo Cray doesn't have a normal life.  He's surrounded by alligators, snakes, monkeys and all other animals that are tempted to eat him.  Even though he lost his thumb to Alice the Alligator (totally his fault he reminds us throughout the novel), he's got a pretty good life with his animal wrangler father.  Sure they're behind on the mortgage, and his father has an iguana-induced concussion, but his parents both love him.

When reality TV-star Derek Badger decides to film an Everglades episode of his famous show Expedition Survival, it looks like it might be Wahoo's family's financial salvation.  Only problem is Derek isn't much of a survivalists and Mickey Cray, Wahoo's father, has a low threshold for bullshit.

This story is a rollicking adventure that takes you through the everglades, following Derek's misadventures as he tries to "put the real back in reality TV" and Wahoo's attempts to keep the job to save his home and keep their buffoon reality star alive.  When his classmate Tuna joins the shoot, taking a break from her abusive father, it only complicates an already crazy situation especially when her father arrives in the everglades with a gun.

One flaw you could say about this book, is that it goes down too many bunny trails.  But that was part of the fun.  Yes you have Mickey's concussion, the diva reality star, the mortgage crisis, Tuna's abusive father -- which all sounds like a bit much.  Yet, it works.

This book was perfectly narrated.  The humor and ridiculousness was captured perfectly.  It's hard to imagine the book without the narration.  Oddly enough, it had a celebrity narrator but I didn't realize that until he introduced himself at the end of the last CD.  Bravo James Van Der Beek, you captured this book so perfectly that I never even realized your voice was familiar.  Sometimes famous actors as narrators make me nervous (though mostly they've all been good) because I worry they're selected for name-recognition not talent.  But this book was excellent so I will look for him as a narrator again.