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Monday, March 5, 2012

What I've Been Reading

Excuse me while I dust off this place.

There. That’s better. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, but I blame it on the fact that I moved 500 miles and still can’t find my jeans.

I can, however, find my books, which means I can tell you about some of the books I’ve read recently. None of these are my top pick for February, but that one’s getting its own review. Because I play favorites like that.

I loved Beth Revis’ debut, Across the Universe, so I’d been itching to read the sequel, A Million Suns, for about a year. Friends, it was worth the wait. As much as I liked Across the Universe, I thought A Million Suns was a better book.

I the second book of Revis’ trilogy, we’re still trapped on the claustrophobic spaceship Godspeed with Elder (now the ship’s captain) and Amy (an Earth-born loner in a world of ship-born people). Again, we learn secrets about the ship and its trip to Sol-Earth, and again we’re faced with a mystery.

The story’s a quick read as we flip between Elder’s point-of-view as his control over the ship disintegrates and Amy’s point-of-view as she unravels a clues hidden by Orion. The mystery and uncovered lies and conflict on the ship were enough to keep me up way past my bedtime.

The relationship between Amy and Elder is strained here, especially once Amy starts doubting her love for him: Does she really love Elder or does she only think she loves him because he’s the only other teen on the ship? The “do I really love him” question is a refreshing dilemma and is authentic to the story. I also loved the conflict created as Amy deals with the sexual assault that happened in Across the Universe and the pain of missing her parents, who are still frozen on the ship.

Also appreciated: Revis isn’t afraid to kill. More than that, she’s not afraid to kill characters she’s first made us love. She’s also not afraid to hit her characters with tough choices. Here, Elder’s faced with a decision I’m not sure I could have made. Which is to say, the characters of Amy and Elder were more real to me in this book than the last. Also, I’m antsy for the final book.

I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out how to classify this book. Is it fantasy? Well, there are dragons and sylphs. Sci-fi? This society has futuristic technology. As for the world, it seems to take place at once in the past and at the same time in the future. The result is a land where you can’t take anything for granted. Just because the archives are paper journals doesn’t mean the citizens don’t have electronic communication devices. Somehow, though, it works. The strong world-building was my favorite part of the novel. We’re slowly introduced in to the laws and customs of the world, and become immersed quickly.

The story unfolds much like the world: without hurry. Because the story revolved around a mystery (namely, why is Ana the only new soul in a world where everyone is immortal and reincarnated?), I never found the story sluggish. The slow-building romance between Sam and Ann was believable and sweet—even if it’s technically between 16-year-old Ana and a teen boy who’s lived for thousands of years. My only gripe is with The Big Reveal. I wanted to love this story—the world is so original, the romance is real, and the writing beautiful—but when we learn why Ana was born as a new soul I was kind of disappointed. But I’ll say this: I seem to be in the minority here. Most people seem to have adored this book.

I love fairytale retellings and I love sci-fi, so you can probably guess what I thought of Cinder. For starters, I was happy to see that most of the Cinderella story had been changed. Yes, there was a wicked stepmother and awful stepsister, but there was also a sweet stepsister and cyborgs and a moon colony at war with Earth. And right about now you’re probably thinking, “How can all of that possibly fit into a Cinderella retelling without making for a ridiculous story?” Well, I don’t really know how. It just does.

Cinder, who’s part human, part cyborb, is a likeable character who’s tough and vulnerable at the same time. Most of the characters are well rounded and interesting, especially Cinder’s sidekick droid Iko, who might be my favorite character in the book. That goes for Prince Kai, too, who’s infinitely more interesting than Prince Charming ever was. The romance is particularly well done, and Cinder’s worries about getting too close to Kai are justified and make for great believable conflict.

I’ll admit: I was a bit worried about the ending. Would she run from the ball only to have Kai find her and give her a missing boot? While I did foresee exactly how the whole missing glass slipper came into play and guessed the twist early on in the book, the ending didn’t disappoint and I’m looking forward to the next book.

I never, ever read more than one book at a time. Except this one time. When John Green nearly killed me with my own tears.

So I was in the middle of The Fault in Our Stars and something happened in the book that made my face turn beet red and the veins at my temples bulge and my body heave with sobs. When I finished using up the last of my tissues, I put that book down and bought Ditched. I read this book before finishing The Fault in Our Stars and I’ll be honest: It was just what I needed.

It’s not too serious. I won’t make you cry. It’s goofy at times. And while it’s not The Fault in Our Stars, it’s a fun book with some lovable characters, including a middle-aged 7-Eleven clerk, an older 7-Eleven customer, and two potheads. Seriously.

The story is told as a What Happened Last Night tale to two women at 7-Eleven by a teen girl who was ditched at prom by her best friend. Who also happens to be the boy she likes. The story itself is funny (she’s accompanied most of the night by two potheads and their dates, all of which are totally entertaining), but it’s made even better by the two older ladies’ commentary on the night.

Plus, Justina is pretty funny herself—in a totally pathetic, sometimes cringe-worthy way. For instance, her note to us about the part of the story she’s just told the ladies at 7-Eleven:
“I don’t tell Gilda and Donna the part where I considered tying my dress together with the tampon string before realizing the darn thing was too short.”
So as you can see, this is the perfect book to read if you’ve been recently humiliated and need to laugh at someone else’s humiliation.

What have you read recently and loved?

One more thing: A week ago (or so), Google decided to remove Google Friend Connect from Wordpress blogs because, well, it’s Google and it can do whatever it wants. Anyhow, my dear friend Erin Bowman lost her GFC widget. If you follow her blog (and you should; she writes about YA fiction, books, the publishing process, and writing), go here to resubscribe and continue getting her posts in your feed. 

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