Showing posts with label dystopian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dystopian. Show all posts

Monday, August 10, 2015

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Title: Brave New World
Author: Aldous Huxley
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: December 12, 1932
Source: personal purchase

Summary from Goodreads

Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs, all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations, where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his 

Huxley's ingenious fantasy of the future sheds a blazing light on the present and is considered to be his most enduring masterpiece.

My Review:

Brave New World has been on my TBR list for a long time, because it seemed like one of those books that everyone was assigned to read in high school/college, except me.  Beyond that, I had no idea what the book entailed, and it was nice going into it without any preconceived notions.  Huxley has created quite an interesting version of the future--not so much post-apocalyptic as it is post-war.

After many battles the world over, society has settled upon a structure focused upon our base nature (defined here as the pursuit of pleasure, and tangent to that, consumerism).  People no longer procreate through sex--all humans are "hatched" in labs, then brought up in massive nurseries, where they can be taught only the lessons that the new society deems correct.  Social structure dictates that there are different classes of people (Alpha, Beta, etc), with the Alphas doing complicated, thought-focused tasks, down to lowly Epsilons who happily do the menial work (as they were conditioned to do all their lives).

I didn't expect this book to be so philosophical (not usually my forte), but Huxley presents his arguments about human nature and social control in a fairly uncomplicated way.  Certainly the thing that made my wheels turn the most was the clash between the idea of simple (but socially-controlled) happiness, versus allowing people to have free will (which will certainly lead to unhappiness, in some instances).  Take, for example, the lower-class (Epsilon) group.  These people are genetically engineered to be physically and mentally lacking from birth.  They are then conditioned to want to do menial jobs, and to be glad they don't have to do the hard work reserved for Alphas.  In the end, they are happy, because they are doing exactly what they've always "wanted" to do.  But does their lifelong happiness mean anything if it has been socially/governmentally enforced?  Even if they don't realize it's been forced upon them, and that they're "missing out" on anything?  Is it worth it to sacrifice free will (and all the things that go along with it: disappointment, heart break, passion, etc) if it means contentment for life?

There is a lot more to the novel than that, but much of the plot is based around those central questions, so get ready to have your thinking cap on.  As far as how the story flows, the first part of the book is easy to fall into, because as with any dystopian world, you spend a lot of time learning the ins-and-outs of Huxley's imagined future.  After the first 25% or so, I did start to think it was a little overdone (he really goes to some extremes with certain aspects of the society), but once the plot twisted a bit (after a non-socially-controlled "savage" is introduced to the story) things evened out, and I got more involved in the philsophical questions being raised.

Overall, Brave New World is a quick read, but one that is worth your time if you're into a book that will challenge your critical thinking.

What books do you feel like everyone else had to read for assignments in high school/college, but you missed out on?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Title: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of  King Lear . Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten's arm is a line from  Star Trek : "Because survival is insufficient." But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition,  Station Eleven  tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.  

My Review:

A novel in which everyone (well, almost everyone) dies of the flu!  As a low-grade germaphobe, this book review is brought to you by my favorite little friend, Waterless Hand Sanitizer.  Which I have been using a lot more of since I read this book.
Don't leave home without it!
Anyway...another well-hyped, new-ish novel!  I just can't stay away from the New Releases shelf at my library the last few months.  Plus, this one won The Morning News's Tournament of Books (think Final Four for books) this year, so that's saying a lot.

I suppose that Station Eleven could be summarized as an apocalypse novel.  Catastrophic flu, 99% of the population dead, bye bye Internet, etc.  If you're into that sort of reading, you'll certainly find it here.  However, that simple description also does the book a bit of a disservice, as it has a lot of the literary merits that might be lacking in a more action-based novel.  It's not entirely an Oryx and Crake, or The Road, but it's also not The Hunger Games or Feed .  Somewhere in the in-between.

I loved this book.  Mandel wrapped me into the post-apocalyptic world that she created right from page one, and I never wanted to put the book down once she did.  Though truthfully, I'd be lying if I said that it left me feeling happy at the end.  Bereft would be a more likely descriptor.  There's just so much sadness to process here.  Of course, you have the devastation of the pandemic, but then there's all of the interpersonal relationships between the characters--lots of divorce, death, abandonment, violence.  Don't get me wrong, the book is amazingly well-written, it's just not a feel-good story by any means.  I was deeply affected by these characters by the end of the book, flu pandemic or not, which says a lot about the quality of the writing.

I can't pinpoint the one thing that made this book great for me.  It's just all of it...the alternating storylines (which cover both pre- and post-pandemic), the world building, the story-within-a-story (as the title comes from a comic book that is introduced in the novel)...this book is a puzzle that Mandel put together perfectly.  I can't think of an adult fiction reader who this would not appeal to in some way.  (Unless a germaphobic-reader-who-only-loves-happy-books is out there...then by all means, avoid.)

Station Eleven.  Read it.  Love it.

Be honest, people--based on your survival/sanitation skillz, what are your chances of surviving the flu-based apocalypse??

Friday, December 27, 2013

Book Review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Title: Allegiant  (Divergent trilogy #3)
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: October 22, 2013
Source: personal purchase

Summary from Goodreads:  **WARNING: contains spoilers from Divergent and Insurgent**

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories. 

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love. 

My Review:

OMG y'all, my first book review since Tater Tot was born!  And only 2 weeks after his arrival.  Let's all give a mighty HOORAY for the Kindle app for iPhone, which makes for easy one-handed reading during middle-of-the-night breastfeeding.

As for the book: you should probably skip this review if you haven't read Divergent or Insurgent, the first two novels in this trilogy.  I would direct you to my reviews of them, except I read them before this blog started, so you'll just have to use these short summaries of my Goodreads reviews as guides:

Divergent: did not love it in the beginning (started too slowly, hated Tris (the main character)), but about midway through the twists and action picked up, and Tris became a badass, so by the end I was hooked.

Insurgent: again, started to slow for me, and Tris was way too angsty (like, Bella Swan angsty...ugh), but the last third was awesome and the cliffhanger ending made me SUPER MAD that I had to wait over a year for the third book to come out.

Great, now that we've recapped the whole series in two run-on sentences, let's talk about Allegiant, the final installment of the trilogy.


Allegiant's first big difference from the other two novels is that it is told from two perspectives: Tris and Four.  This is a very obvious change from the other two books (narrated by Tris only), and I determined early on that there could really be only one good reason for it--which kind of spoiled the ending for me.  I won't give it away for you, but you don't have to think about it too hard to figure out a reason why they would need two narrators this time around.

That said, the dual narration could have been okay (even if spoilery), except that Roth could not have made Four's voice more flat and uninteresting.  Seriously, does this guy have a personality?  He bored me to tears.  Tris was angsty and annoying (again) but at least she had some spunk.  Four's chapters had no real emotion behind them, which again made the dual narration seem like a necessity for the ending vs. a well-developed POV choice.

Also, I am so over Tris and Four's relationship.  This may be because I am not a big YA romance person in general (most YA romance makes me gag, to be honest), but if I had to read one more time about how Four smelled like rain or wind or freedom or whatever (is this an Old Spice commercial?) before Tris kissed him, I was legit going to die.

And last but not least, the plot action.  It just wasn't there.  The ending of Insurgent left me SO SO SO excited to see what was outside the borders of Chicago...and instead of really getting to explore that, we spend most of this novel inside the Bureau of Genetic Welfare, just outside the city limits, waiting around for Tris & co. to figure out their rebellion.  Total letdown.  Roth had this great world-building opportunity and I felt like she dropped the ball on it, big time.

A lot of people have complained about the ending, because it's not all happy-go-lucky, though honestly I think that's one of the things that bugged me the least.  I am okay with a somewhat sad ending, as long as the rest of the book is strong enough to support it.  But in this case, the ending was overshadowed by how much I disliked the rest of the novel.  A seriously disappointing ending to a trilogy that I so badly wanted to adore.

Have you read Allegiant?  What did you think in comparison to the rest of the series?  And if you haven't read this trilogy--have you ever read one with a final installment that just didn't do it for you?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

GIVEAWAY! and Review: Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans

Title: Level 2
Author: Lenore Appelhans
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Publication Date: January 15, 2013
Source: won a giveaway copy from the author

Plot Summary from Goodreads :

Three levels. Two loves. One choice. Debut novelist, Lenore Appelhans has written a thrilling otherworldly young adult novel about a place that exists between our world (Level 1) and what comes after life (Level 2).

'I pause to look around the hive - all the podlike chambers are lit up as the drones shoot up on memories ... I've wanted to get out of here before, but now the tight quarters start to choke me. There has to be more to death than this.'

Felicia Ward is dead. Trapped in a stark white afterlife limbo, she spends endless days replaying memories, of her family, friends, boyfriend ... and of the guy who broke her heart. The guy who has just broken into Level 2 to find her.

Felicia learns that a rebellion is brewing, and it seems she is the key. Suspended between heaven and earth, she must make a choice. Between two worlds, two lives and two loves.

My Review:

I was pretty psyched when I found out that I won a copy of Level 2 from Lenore Appelhan's blog, Presenting Lenore.  I'd heard a lot of good hype about this YA dystopian release ever since I started the blog last year, so when Lenore asked me if I wanted the UK edition (available immediately) or if I wanted to wait for the US edition (releasing next week), it was no contest. 

(Bonus while reading the UK edition: they use cool words like "torch" instead of "flashlight".  LOVE THE BRITS.)

Level 2 sucked me in early on, as I tried to figure out Felicia's past, as well as her current surroundings.  After death, she arrived in a bright-white "hive" with thousands of other "drones"--humans like her who have died, and now spend the majority of their days watching the happy memories of their lives.  No one in the hive questions their existence--until Julian, Felicia's ex-boyfriend, suddenly breaks in and tells her he's coming back for her.  At this point, Felicia realizes that something more than her happy memories exist in this afterlife, and she has to find out what it is.

First off, what a cool way of thinking about life after death!  Appelhans incorporates both Biblical and mythological beliefs in her creation of Level 2.  It's a perfect mix, because it's not overly Biblical (for the less-religious readers), but at the same time, I think most Christians could see the possibilities in this interpretation too.  Plus, Felicia considers a wide variety of other possibilities along the way, as she gathers more details about her environment.  In the end, Appelhans gets an A+ for clear and concise world-building, while also leaving room for readers to put their own spin on things.

Felicia is an engaging character.  Because her entire past isn't revealed right away, you see many conflicting sides of her personality throughout the novel.  This leaves you to question her true nature--was she a rebel who was forced to reform?  Or was she a good girl in unfortunate circumstances?  You don't find out her full story until the end, and the guessing game makes her an intriguing protagonist.  Plus, her relationship with Neil (her boyfriend at the time that she died) is awesome.  I thought it was a little sappy at first, but as I got to know Felicia and her troubled past, I grew to see it as a perfect match for her.

After the initial excitement of the introduction, the novel keeps up a good pace.  I like how Felicia's memories of her life were used to break up the action in the hive--it kept the story moving and continually left new questions to be answered.  Every new memory revealed felt like Pandora's box when its implications were added into the plot.

My one disappointment was in the ending.  It felt entirely too rushed.  So rushed, in fact, that I went back and re-read the last 20 pages, to be sure that I didn't miss something.  There's an entire battle with the opposing side that felt like it could have taken up half the book, but instead is covered in just a few paragraphs.  And when the "bad guys" actually show up for the first time, it happens very quickly and feels anti-climactic after all the build up.  There's also a poorly-timed reveal of a memory of Felicia's 13-year-old self that makes part of the ending a bit confusing.  I think the memory should have been explained a bit earlier in the story so that it's later significance could be more clear.  In general--it was just a very messy outcome for me, which was unfortunate after such an otherwise evenly-paced and well-explained novel.

Despite my concerns with the conclusion, I am interested in reading Level 3, the next installment in this series.  Level 2 ended in a very different place than I originally expected, which leaves me curious about exactly what direction Level 3 could take.  For that reason, I will certainly be on the lookout for the sequel in 2014.

Now, who's ready for a GIVEAWAY?  
(My first international one, no less!!)

Lenore was kind enough to autograph my copy of Level 2 when she sent it along (woot!).  So I'm not giving that up, sorry y'all.  :) 
HOWEVER!  I decided to buy a copy of Level 2 for one lucky reader, so that I can share the reading love that Lenore passed on to me.

One "grand prize" winner will receive a copy of Level 2, as well as a Level 2 postcard (signed by Lenore!) and a Level 2 magnet.
Seven (yes, SEVEN!) runners-up will receive a Level 2 postcard signed by the author (thanks Lenore for all the swag!).

Sound good?  Then ENTER!  Check out the Rafflecopter below.  This is an international giveaway (because I'll be sending the book via Book Depository)!  So come one, come all!  Giveaway ends on release day (January 15).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Book Review: Matched by Ally Condie

Title: Matched
Author: Ally Condie
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Publication Date: November 30, 2010
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from  Goodreads :

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate... until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

My Review:

I am late to the Matched party.  But with book 3 in this trilogy (Reached) getting so much hype, I HAD to see what all the fussin' was about.

Let's start with the good stuff.  Matched draws you in at the beginning.  I love seeing what kinds of crazy dystopian worlds YA authors can come up with, and the Society in this novel gave me a lot to ponder.  In the Society, everything you do (down to the calories you consume and the dreams you have) is monitored by Officials.  Citizens are only taught information that they must know (so if you're a doctor, you wouldn't ever be taught something a carpenter knows, and vice versa).  And their lives are strictly regulated in order to ensure production of high-quality offspring.  So enters the Matching ceremony, where 17-year-old Cassia finds out who the Society has decided she will marry.  You don't have a ton of information about the Society at the beginning of the novel, so this immediately left me wanting to read more.

Another thumbs-up goes to the romance in this book.  I often find teenage love triangles high on the eye-roll scale (Twi-hards, DO NOT even get me started), but Cassia/Xander/Ky had a great dynamic.  I love how the Society created so much doubt in the relationship between Cassia and Ky--they were constantly left to wonder if what they were feeling was true, or just pushed upon them by their environment.  Kind of a cool spin on the whole thing.

However, despite these plusses, I struggled with the novel.  Let me be more clear: it was kind of dulls-ville.  "It's DYSTOPIAN!," you proclaim.  "How can it be boring?"  Ooooh, but it is, my friends.  Trust.

My first issue with Matched is that it is not an original concept.  It only took me a few chapters to realize that I was basically reading Divergent again, but with different characters and goals. The Society, with its strict rules and classification system, runs very similarly to Veronica Roth's dystopian Chicago in Divergent.  The characters realize that they want to rebel against this society for one reason or another.  Their family members harbor secrets that complicate the situation. There is a love story involving a boy with a mysterious past.  Etcetera.  It all felt very repetitive.

That is not an entirely fair thing to say, because Matched was actually released before Divergent, but the fact remains that anyone reading both series is going to see the overlap in theme, setting, etc.  (If I read Divergent second, I'd be telling you that that one didn't have an original concept either.)  I've heard similar comments about the Delirium series, which also generally gets high ratings, so maybe it's just a YA dystopian thing and I have to get over it.  But as someone who reads this genre once in a while (rather than all the time), it irked me.

Also, Cassia.  Ugh, Cassia.  She seriously underwhelmed me as a protagonist.  She just didn't have any FEELINGS for such a large part of the book.  I felt like the first 200 pages involved all these crazy revelations being thrown at her, and she blandly took them in without any forceful emotional reaction.  There was finally one scene where she gets in an argument with her brother, and responds to him with "acid" in her tone, and I was like, "YES!  ANGER!  LET IT RIDE, GIRLFRIEND!!  FEEL THAT RAGE!!"  I wanted more volatility from her.  Tears, screams, throwing things.  By the end, I would have taken an eye twitch.  Really, anything.

That "flat" feeling unfortunately ran all the way through the novel, even through the conclusion.  I was hoping that the end would sucker-punch me with a huge cliffhanger,  There are questions at the end, but absolutely nothing that makes me want to jump out of my seat and go buy Crossed rightthissecond.

Overall?  Matched left me scratching my head about all the hype around it.  If the romance angle is what draws you to YA fiction, then this could work for you.  But if you want anything that falls into the "gut-wrenching" or "emotionally-charged" categories, I'd say: look elsewhere. 

Will I read Crossed and Reached?  Eh...maybe.  Part of me feels like I should (stopping after part one of a trilogy feels like only finishing a third of a novel to me...and I hate to DNF).  And maybe things will pick up in those installments?  But I won't be scrambling for them anytime soon.

If you liked Matched, what sold you on it?  And if you haven't read it yet, have you read any other YA dystopians that you'd recommend?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Book Review: The Uninvited by Liz Jensen

Title: The Uninvited
Author: Liz Jensen
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Source: e-ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review

Plot Summary from  Goodreads :

A seven-year-old girl puts a nail gun to her grandmother's neck and fires. An isolated incident, say the experts. The experts are wrong. Across the world, children are killing their families. Is violence contagious? As chilling murders by children grip the country, anthropologist Hesketh Lock has his own mystery to solve: a bizarre scandal in the Taiwan timber industry.  Hesketh has never been good at relationships: Asperger's Syndrome has seen to that. But he does have a talent for spotting behavioral patterns and an outsider's fascination with group dynamics. Nothing obvious connects Hesketh's Asian case with the atrocities back home. Or with the increasingly odd behavior of his beloved stepson, Freddy. But when Hesketh's Taiwan contact dies shockingly and more acts of sabotage and child violence sweep the globe, he is forced to acknowledge possibilities that defy the rational principles on which he has staked his life, his career, and, most devastatingly of all, his role as a father. Part psychological thriller, part dystopian nightmare, The Uninvited is a powerful and viscerally unsettling portrait of apocalypse in embryo.

My Review:

I requested this ARC from NetGalley because the description instantly grabbed me.  Hello, that first line?  Terrifying.  I think we can all agree that the idea of child-as-villain is extremely creepy (think The Omen, The Grudge, The Ring...gah).  What would make an otherwise innocent seven-year-old do something so random and horrific?  Do I need to clear all the sharp objects out of my house?  I had to find out.

The beginning of the book only served to heighten this intrigue.  It starts off by describing the event above, with the girl killing her grandmother.  Then it jumps to Hesketh Lock, our protagonist, who is investigating corporate sabotage cases in Taiwan.  The disconnect is huge between these two subjects, but it left me glued to the book until I could find out the relation between them.

Let's talk for a minute about Hesketh.  What a distinctive choice of narrator!  It took me a little while to get used to his manner of speaking.  Living with Asperger's, Hesketh has a very "materialistic" view of the world.  He sees and focuses on physical things, rather than the complicated thoughts or emotions behind them.  This means he often describes things rather abruptly (maybe even callously), but this is a result of his disorder, rather than a conscious choice in thinking.  (Also, this leads to some unintentionally humorous quotes:
"Is she beautiful?  Most of my male colleagues think so, emphatically.  They also claim to like her 'as a person.'")

Jensen did a great job fleshing out his character, and this alone adds so much to the story.  Plus, Hesketh's materialistic POV puts him in a unique position to deal with the pandemic of child violence without letting extreme emotion get in the way.  As becomes evident in the novel, almost no one else connected with the story is able to do that.  And for good darn reason--hello, a bunch of possessed third graders are killing their families!  It's freaking disturbing!!

So, how does it all wrap up?  No spoilers here, but I thought the ending walked some fine lines.  A fine line between being thoughtful or preachy.  A fine line between being abrupt or perfectly placed.  I took a few days to let it sink in, and I've decided that overall, Jensen walked those tightropes well and gave the book a solid finish.  She obviously had a message that she was trying to convey at the end, and she managed to do it without taking away from the hard-hitting impact of the rest of the plot. Timing-wise, I do think it was a tad abrupt--the novel suddenly jumps forward several weeks, and then wraps up in a few pages, which is a tough leap after a story that was otherwise so evenly paced.  But the content was good, and it wrapped things up while also leaving you with a lot of questions to ponder.

I've seen several people place this in the "horror" genre on Goodreads, but I think "dystopian" is far more appropriate.  Yes, there are some terrifying events in this book, but they are more thought-provoking than horrific, much of the time.  If you can handle some violent scenes, this is an absorbing read that's worth the creep-factor.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Review: Blackout by Mira Grant

Title: Blackout (Newsflesh Trilogy #3)
Author: Mira Grant
Publisher: Orbit Books
Publication Date: May 22, 2012
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads :

The year was 2014. The year we cured cancer. The year we cured the common cold. And the year the dead started to walk. The year of the Rising.

The year was 2039. The world didn't end when the zombies came, it just got worse. Georgia and Shaun Mason set out on the biggest story of their generation. They uncovered the biggest conspiracy since the Rising and realized that to tell the truth, sacrifices have to be made.

Now, the year is 2041, and the investigation that began with the election of President Ryman is much bigger than anyone had assumed. With too much left to do and not much time left to do it in, the surviving staff of After the End Times must face mad scientists, zombie bears, rogue government agencies-and if there's one thing they know is true in post-zombie America, it's this:

Things can always get worse.

Blackout is the conclusion to the epic trilogy that began in the Hugo-nominated Feed and the sequel, Deadline.

My Review:

I have already said so much about this trilogy in my other two reviews (HERE and HERE).  If you don't want the trilogy spoiled for you, you should probably start with the other two books first!  Otherwise, do read on.

First and foremost--this was an excellent conclusion to a truly action-packed trilogy.  This third installment does not have a single dull moment.  **Spoilers**   Now that Georgia is back, the book alternates between her POV and Shaun's POV.  This alone made me never want to put the book down, because each Georgia chapter would end on a cliffhanger, followed by a Shaun chapter ending on a cliffhanger, and on and on.  Until their stories intersect in the middle of the novel, you're constantly bouncing back and forth between them, which I loved.  Just like the other two books, this one gets an A+ for action, and the zombie stuff is suspenseful without being gory or overdone.

Also, the world building continues to shine.  The author obviously knows her stuff about virology, and incorporates it into the novel in a way that is easy for the lay-reader to understand.  This adds SO much to the trilogy in terms of believability.

I only had a few small complaints, and one of them will not be new to you (given my review of Deadline ).  I really...really...REALLY do not like Shaun as a narrator.  He constantly reminds us that he's so crazy, he's on the brink of insanity, he's going to punch someone in the face, yada yada gets very old, very fast.  Having Georgia back as a second narrator was helpful though, because I only had to listen to him half of the time.

The other issues were focused more on writing style.  I would love to count how many times the characters "wince" or "grimace" in this novel.  Nobody winces or grimaces that much in real life, even if they are being pursued by the undead.  And this book (along with Deadline) spends significant amounts of time reviewing things that happened in the previous books.  I don't understand why authors do this, especially in trilogies.  Who is jumping in at book #3 without reading book #1??  All that review stuff is just space filler for everyone who read the other two books.

But just like with Deadline, those complaints just don't matter as much as the good stuff.  The action and suspense is awesome, and I developed a love for a lot of the side characters as well.  I felt invested in all of them.  There are some great twists (weird, but great), and the ending is satisfying without being all tied up with a bow.  If you want an addicting trilogy with some smarts, Newsflesh is definitely for you!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Deju Vu Review (4)

The Deja Vu Review is hosted every Sunday by Brittany at The Book Addict's Guide.  It's a chance to mini-review books that I read in my pre-blogging days.  This week's topic is novels with strange names.  And both of mine happen to be dystopian!

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

I loved Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, so when I saw the unique title on her list of other novels, my interest was piqued.  And the first chapter helped, too--the main character, Snowman, wakes up in a world where it seems that all other humans are dead.  How can you not be taken in by such a scenario?

While I did find the book enjoyable, I wouldn't say it's one of my favorite dystopians.  As you learn more about Snowman's problematic situation, you get his backstory, which includes Crake (his former best friend) and Oryx, a woman they both loved.  After the initial "OMG what is happening here" moment in the first chapter, I felt that the plot got a bit slow and disjointed.  For a dystopian novel, it doesn't have a very energetic pace, and it jumps around in a way that is very confusing.  However, in the last quarter or so, things started to come together, and the climax at the end left me interested enough to seek out the novel's sequel, The Year of the Flood.  Overall, not the best dystopian I've ever read, but it's intriguing in terms of world-building, and you'll like it if you have your thinking cap on.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Oy vey, this book.  This book is the first book I ever (EVER!) did not finish.  This and Middlemarch (I gave up on them on the same day. It was a frustrating day).

I still feel I have the right to (mini) review it though, because I spent over 6 weeks on it.  Which is eternity for me!  It's 954 pages long and I read about 600 of them in that time, so I have to get a little credit here.

Most people I talk to ADORE 1Q84.  Cannot say enough good things about it.  I, on the other hand, found it extremely tedious and boring.  It centers on Aomame, a young hit-woman who enters 1Q84, a parallel existence to her life in the year 1984.  At the same time, it follows Tengo, a writer whose complicated story begins to mingle with Aomame's as time goes on.  The plot is much more complex than all that, but Aomame and Tengo's relationship is the basis for all else in the novel.

Why did I dislike it?  One, it was just so.darn.slow.  I don't mind wordy/long novels, if they actually take me somewhere, but I felt stuck in park for the majority of these pages.  And two, the characters.  They were weird and quirky in a way that made me completely unable to connect with them or their intentions.  Plus, one of them always speaks in a completely flat, monotone voice (always states questions, doesn't "ask" them), which drove me nuts.  I found none of them likeable and after a while, just couldn't muster the energy to care about their lives anymore.  Overall, a huge no-go for me.

Do you have any good books with weird names?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Book Review: Deadline by Mira Grant

Title: Deadline  (book #2 in the Newsflesh trilogy)
Author: Mira Grant
Publisher: Orbit
Publication Date: June 1, 2011
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Shaun Mason is a man without a mission. Not even running the news organization he built with his sister has the same urgency as it used to. Playing with dead things just doesn't seem as fun when you've lost as much as he has.

But when a CDC researcher fakes her own death and appears on his doorstep with a ravenous pack of zombies in tow, Shaun has a newfound interest in life. Because she brings news-he may have put down the monster who attacked them, but the conspiracy is far from dead.

Now, Shaun hits the road to find what truth can be found at the end of a shotgun.

My Review:

You may remember that I reviewed book #1 in this trilogy (Feed) not too long ago.  To summarize, I loved it--I thought the world-building was excellent, the zombies weren't overdone, and the voice of Georgia as narrator was awesome.  Overall, great start to this series.

Let me start with all the good things about Deadline (because overall, I did enjoy this installment of the series as well).  First, the action!  I thought that Grant did an even better job building suspense in this book than she did in FeedDeadline deals with a pretty short time period (a week or two), but the suspense is drawn out, and the climactic scenes are worth the wait.  I was constantly wondering who in the group was a double-crosser...I was often wrong, but the suspicion was always there.  And as with Feed, there is a big oh-snap-didn't-see-that-coming (actually, I'd say two of them) right towards the end.  I will have no problem running out to read the last book in this trilogy, Blackout.

Also, as with Feed, the author's grasp of virology is awesome.  Total A+ in the world-building department.  Part of what I love so much about the Newsflesh trilogy is that it's a zombie book with a pretty solid science background.  Zombies in and of themselves are not entirely believable creatures, but with the virological explanations that Grant weaves into her novels, it makes you want to run out and buy a shotgun.  Just in case.

However, I felt kind of bipolar about this book at times.  On the one hand, I was completely addicted to the action, the scientific whys and hows, and wanting to know what happened next.  On the other hand, I found myself completely annoyed for significant sections of the novel.

(Now, HERE THERE BE SPOILERS .  Read on only if you want Feed ruined for you!)

In Deadline, the narrator has switched over to Shaun, now that his sister George is dead via zombie conversion and subsequent bullet to the head.  In my review of Feed, George's death at the end was the "risky move" that I applauded Mira Grant for.  It's pretty ballsy to kill off your protagonist in any book, but especially in a trilogy.  I didn't see it coming, and I thought it was a bold slap-in-the-face to your typical reading structure.  So I was very excited to see what book #2 had in store.

Unfortunately, I was immediately disappointed to see that George isn't 100% "dead", at least by Shaun's standards.  He still continues to hear George's voice in his head, to the point where he carries on conversations with her pretty much at all times (and even hallucinates visions of her occasionally).  This is explained away as Shaun's inability to grieve/let go of George's death, but as a reader, it felt like one thing: the author's inability to stand by her decision to kill George off.  I feel like Grant saw George's death as too risky, too vulnerable to losing readership, so she decided to keep her present as the voice in Shaun's head.  I found his conversations with her to just be downright annoying (along with his repeated threat to "punch in the face" anyone who mentioned said conversations).  Not to mention, they take a turn for the awkwardly-weird when Shaun starts to get romantically involved with another character.

Now, if you've read Deadline, you know that the finale of the novel SORT OF supports George's lack of disappearance from Shaun's mind...and Blackout might give me more information on that too.  But as of now, I am still not entirely convinced that Shaun needed to be hearing her voice throughout the entire novel.  It really grated on me, and was the #1 thing that kept this from being a totally smooth read.

**End Spoilers!**

So overall--I'd still give this book 4 stars on Goodreads.  The narration was super (super super) annoying at times, but the world of the Rising and the action that ensued was too good to make me stay away.  I'll be reading Blackout for sure...and based on Deadline's ending, I doubt I'll be having the same qualms about the narration anyway.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Book Review: Feed by Mira Grant

First off--apologies for not being a very good comment responder the last few days.  I'm home with a sick little boy, so things have been crazy around here!  I promise I will come back to Earth soon.

Title: Feed
Author: Mira Grant
Publisher: Orbit
Publication Date: May 1, 2010
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads :

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED. Now, twenty years after the Rising, bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives - the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will get out, even if it kills them.

My Review:

First and foremost, I will take this opportunity to share a zombie joke.

What do vegetarian zombies eat?


Okay then.  Now that you've survived my poor attempt at humor, on to the book.  I love zombies.  I'd heard good things about this novel (the first in the Newsflesh trilogy) for a while, and with Halloween coming up, I figured I could use some zombie-chomping goodness in my life.  However, despite what the description sounds like, this is not a book about the zombie apocalypse, per se.  It takes place 20+ years after the zombie horde has arrived--so the world has already had ample time to fight and contain the infection.  That's not to say the zombies aren't a threat anymore (because they are...oooooh yes they are), but the world's survivors have had time to figure out how to live around it.  There's an entire generation that never even remembers going about their lives without zombies.

That's the generation that Georgia and Shaun are a part of, and they come equipped with a cynical worldview to match.  Georgia is the primary narrator, and I quickly took a liking to her voice.  She's persistently sarcastic and skeptical, which is a POV that could easily get annoying as the sardonic one-liners start piling up.  But I thought that Grant wrote it well, and I appreciated Georgia's humor paired with her overall bitterness towards...well, everything except her brother, and the pursuit of truth.

On top of that, the world-building in this book is phenomenal.  Grant thought through every part of what this post-infection life would include, from the virology behind the disease, to the social ramifications of its containment.  I got caught up in it early on, and it's a big part of why I'll be looking for the next two Newsflesh books soon.

As for the action--DUH, there's zombies.  Biting, moaning, flesh-hungry zombies.  So you will get your fill of that.  But there's also political corruption, media wars, and conspiracies.  (Oh, and fellow bloggers will be happy to hear that bloggers have taken over the media in 2040, so there is hope for us yet!)  It's important to realize that the zombies are not always center-stage in this book--they are the reason for everything that's happening, but the actual story here goes far beyond that.  I could see how that might throw people off, given the description.  But I liked that Grant took the often-done zombie idea and put a new spin on it.

There is one ginormous "OMG, WTF" twist that had my jaw hanging open and my eyes glued to the page.  I don't want to give anything away, but I think Grant did something very risky there.  I'd love to chat about it with anyone who's read the book.

Overall, this one was a win in my book.  Great narrator, non-stop plot movement, and a dystopian world that's believable enough to suck you in within the first few pages.  I'm excited to see what the second book of this trilogy has in store!

What are some of your favorite zombie reads?

(And hey, don't forget my audiobook giveaway is still going on, HERE!)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Teaser Tuesday!

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.  Here's the rules:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
•  BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
My Teasers:
“It's always best to question the survivors before they can start deluding themselves about the reality of what they just went through.  After the adrenaline fades, half the people who survive a zombie attack turn into heroes, having gunned down a thousand zombies with nothing but a .22 and a bucket of guts, while the other half deny that they were ever close enough to the undead to be in any actual danger.”

I can't wait to give you my full review on Feed later this week!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

BBAW Day 4: Pimp This Book!

Today's Book Blogger Appreciation Week challenge is to promote a book that you love, but other people don't know much about.  This was tough for me, because so many of my favorite books are well-known ("Oh wow, you love The Hunger Games?  HOW UNIQUE.").  However, I do have one fiction and one non-fiction book to highlight for you today!

My fiction pick: The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist

I got this book on sale from B+N a couple of years ago, and got around to reading it last year.  If you like dystopian fiction, this is a phenomenal read.  The only reason I don't think it gets more attention (at least in the US) is because the author is Swedish and the book is a translation.  (Apparently there's only room for 1 bestselling Swedish author in this country.)  Anywho, whatever the reason, I think this book deserves way more popularity!

The novel follows Dorrit Weger in a fictional future Sweden, in which all childless women over age 50 and all childless men over age 60 are considered "dispensable".  Thus, they are sent to isolated units where their organs are essentially harvested to the more "essential" citizens that need them.  They are harvested until they die.  This has been a fact of life in Sweden for a while, but Dorrit starts to question if this is really the way her life needs to end.

This book captivated me from start to finish.  I was especially intrigued by how the author makes you contemplate the meaning of being "needed" in, are you really only "needed" in society if you have children? What about your siblings, parents, pets...can they "need" you in the same way?

Overall, I found this novel to be very unique, and I was surprised by the ending. The writing style makes it a quick read, but one that is guaranteed to stay with you for a while. I'll admit that my predominant emotion while reading was sadness...but that wasn't enough to keep me from wanting to find out what happened anyway.  READ IT!

My non-fiction pick: Field Notes From A Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change by Elizabeth Kolbert
I read this book a few years ago, and I still find it fascinating.  Kolbert did extensive research about global warming and climate change by traveling to various locations around the world (Greenland, the Netherlands, Alaska, etc) and explaining the specific ways that temperature shifts are affecting their environments.  These are real-life illustrations of how global warming is changing our daily life.  Kolbert also spends a bit of time talking about why many corporations and politicians are trying to downplay the effects of climate change.

I don't want to get all political on you, dear bloggers, but this is a politically charged book, no matter what side of the aisle you're on.  However, I recommend going into it with an open mind, because I think this book has important, down-to-earth information about an issue that is so often spoken of in generalities or impossible-to-understand data.  Read, learn, and reflect.  If any of you have read this, I am very interested in your thoughts!

What lesser-known books have YOU enjoyed lately?
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