Monthly Archives: February 2015

Book Discussion: Ashfall

Ashfall by Mike Mullinashwall

Summary

The eruption of the super volcano covers the Western United States in ash, killing millions of people and turning the country into a disaster site. 16-year-old Alex, who had been enjoying a free weekend alone, is now desperate to find his family.  But he soon learns how quickly the civilized world breaks into pieces during the apocalypse.


Ashfall

heartRomance Score: A+ Success

I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic romances, but this one is even better than usual. Darla and Alex don’t immediately fall in love, but when they do, their relationship is one of mutual respect and equality. I can’t wait to see where their relationship goes next!

Rosie

Feminist Score: A+ Success 

Darla kicks ass. She’s smart, knows how to survive in the post-apocolyptic world, and doesn’t have any stereotypical “female weakness”. Other female characters have similar strength, though you don’t see them as often.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score: Between You’re Trying  and Good Effort

While the main two characters are white and straight, there are a number of diverse characters – including gay neighbors and a black Christ-figure. My only issue is that it seemed a little bit forced. Every single character was not what you would expect, and it was a little too in your face. It’s not a perfect book, but it does a decent job with the side characters.

wow iconAwesome Factor: Between Good Effort and A+ Success 

This book surprised me. I was very, very impressed with the world and the characters’ relationships.  It was a little gory for me, but that’s just personal taste. I highly recommend this book, and plan to read the next books in the series.


Favorite Character

Darla – She’s tough, street-smart, but not unbreakable. She’s a great character and equal partner for Alex.

Favorite Line

“I was home alone on that Friday evening. Those who survived know exactly which Friday I mean. Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing, in the same way my parents remembered 9/11, but more so. “

What a catchy first line. I was immediately drawn into Alex’s world, and did not leave it for the entire day. I can’t wait to read the rest of this series.

Is this worth a book hangover?

Yes. The story was fast and unpredictable. There was a lot of plot, but no lack of romance or character development.

Fun Author Fact

Mike Mullin’s bio on his website is hilarious. Actually, there are three bios: A Funny Bio, A Serious Bio, and a Boring Bio. My favorite line, “He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and her three cats”.

Read this next:

The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey. It’s a similar post-apocalyptic world with a kick-ass heroine.

Post Author: Anisha 

Anisha

Anisha adores YA romance – and thinks that all love stories should start on the beach and end with the first kiss. Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.  

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Filed under Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Book Discussion: Very Far Away From Anywhere Else

Very Far Away from Anywhere Else by Ursula K. LeGuin

Summary

Owen has never felt like he fit in. Then he runs into his neighbor, Natalie, on the bus and they connect over an awkward joke. As their friendship grows, each teenager realizes they may have finally found the one person that understands their peculiarities.

var away 2

heart

Romance Score: A+ Success

I appreciate the realistic approach to the haze of hormones and social pressure and the self-respect each character has for themselves and their relationships.

Rosie

Feminist Score: Good Effort

There’s not a whole lot here to judge – but even after a mistake, Owen does a good job of listening to what Natalie says. Natalie speaks for herself, so I think this is a good example of how to treat your lady friends.

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Diversity Score: You’re Trying

Not much to go on – although Natalie is “stocky” and Owen has crazy hair. It’s possible that things are intentionally vague, as LeGuin is very clear about her character descriptions and usually makes an effort to be diverse.

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Awesome Factor: Good Effort

This book isn’t for everyone – but it is for people that feel different, struggle against the norm, or want to remember the triumph of overcoming the emotional hurricane of high school.


Favorite Character

Natalie – She is dedicated to her goals, strong enough to say no to something she doesn’t want, and equally strong enough to realize when she may have been wrong.

Favorite Line

[Of the Bronte family] “The kind of frightening thing was that it was the boy, the only son, who couldn’t take it, and cracked up – went on drugs and alcohol, got hooked, and died of it. Because they’d all expected the most of him, because he was the boy. The girls, whom nothing was expected since they were only girls, went on and wrote Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

There were tons of insightful lines in the book as Owen turns his outsider eye on the way life is lived around him, but this one encapsulated the crux of the teens’ issues with their current situations. Their goals and choices don’t conform to the usual expectations and they struggle under the weight of others’ opinions.

Is this worth a book hangover?

I LOVE LeGuin’s work – pretty much all of it. This one is a less common piece for her as it is neither sci-fi or fantasy, but her ability to create characters is still perfectly exhibited. It was a quick read and I think it would be well-appreciated by the target audience. I felt a little nostalgic for high school but also incredibly relieved that I am now a little more comfortable in my own skin than I was then.

Fun Author Fact

LeGuin won the National Book Award and her speech was awesome. 

Read these next:

I hate to recommend it, but Catcher in the Rye is similar in its coming-of-age-ness. For more fantastical takes on teens figuring themselves out: Ender’s Game and LeGuin’s wonderful Earthsea series (especially the first 2).

Post Author:

1202112022 

Jess loves SFF – old and new school –  and is learning to appreciate the more lovey-dovey YA under the careful tutelage of Anisha’s recommendations.

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Filed under Contemporary, High School

Book Chat: Twilight Series

[audio https://e0a42c8fc359fde6f4f58c76dafc67b1e77f7957.googledrive.com/host/0B1btH5LeZjzibk8xRi1SV2xHV2M/Twilight_Both%20FINAL.mp3]

Click HERE for the podcast!Twilight pic

Twilight quartet

Summary

Bella is a perfectly ordinary girl… until she meets Edward. Edward is no ordinary high school student; he is a vampire. Follow the series as Bella and Edward develop their relationship and face immortal enemies together!

Twilight

Favorite Character

Alice – With small stature and feminine tastes, it’s easy to underestimate Alice. I love her intelligence and devotion to her family. I think she’s the closet thing to a feminist in this series.

Favorite Line

“You nicked-named my daughter after the Lock Ness Monster!” 

I’ll be honest – there were NOT many lines I liked in this book. I can’t like the romantic lines, because taken out of context, they make the Edward-Bella relationship seem healthy, and it is so not. This line is kind of random, but also kind of hilarious. Because we all know that despite how much effort parents put into their children’s names, they always get nicknamed.

Is this worth a book hangover?

I was pulled in by the story, and connected well enough  by Book 3 to want to finish the series. However, I wasn’t satisfied with the ending. I give this a meh at best.

Fun Author Fact

Some of Stephanie’s characters are, presumably, named after her family members . Three of her sibling are named Seth, Emily and Jacob.

Read these next:

If you appreciate the Twilight world, but want something with a slightly better message, I suggest reading Beautiful Creatures by Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia. 

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Filed under High School, podcast, Romance

Book Discussion: Forever

Forever by Judy Blumejudy

Note from Anisha: I grew up reading Judy Blume books. My mom taught the fourth grade, and along with her classes, I would read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Super Fudge, and Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great. Until recently, however, I did not know that Judy Blume wrote books for older teens – books that were often on banned book lists for exploring teenage sex, homosexuality and masturbation. Reading Forever, which was first published in 1975, increased my admiration for Ms. Blume ten-fold. She took risks in this book, and dealt with topics that every teenager wrestles with. This is a must-read for any Judy Blume fan who wants to understand the full spectrum of her brilliance.


Summary

Kath is a regular girl who hangs out with her best friend, spends time with her family, and plays tennis. Then she meets Michael – a cute boy from a local school. They quickly fall in love, and Kat starts to think about taking their relationship a step further. How will sex change their relationship?

Forever

heartRomance Score:You’re Trying 

Although I really liked Kath, I was not very attached to Michael and Katherine’s relationship. It was – very rightfully so – very “high school”. 

Rosie

Feminist Score: Good Effort 

For the most part, Katherine has the decision-making power in her relationship and with her body. She also has an amazing grandmother with very progressive views. I would give an A+ success in the 1970’s, but over forty years later (thankfully), we’ve gotten a little further. But thank you to Ms. Blume for leading the way in fiction. 

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Diversity Score: Between Not a Bit and You’re Trying

There is very little racial diversity in this book, but there is a gay character! In the 70s! So … it’s something?

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Awesome Factor: Good Effort 

For a book written in 1975, it has a lot of awesome factor. I’m not sure Forever would hold up as well if published today, but I have huge respect for a book (and author) that pioneered the way to have conversations about teen sex more openly.


Favorite Character

Ralph. Just Kidding.

Grandma, the fantastic parental figure who understood the needs of her granddaughter and proves that age does not indicate stuffiness.

Favorite Line

“In the hold days girls were divided into two groups – those who did and those who didn’t. My mother told me that. Nice girls didn’t, naturally. They were the ones boys wanted to marry. I’m glad those days are over but I still get angry when older people assume that everyone in my generation screws around. They’re probably the same ones who think all kids use dope. It’s true that we are more open than our parents, but that just means we accept sex and talk about it. It doesn’t mean we are all jumping in bed together.”

This line is timeless: it could have come out of a Cosmo article this year. I like that it identifies two universal truths about youth: Sex is on their minds, and their parents think they are having too much of it.

Fun Author Fact

Judy Blume is a bad-ass. Seriously. She’s 76 years old, sold over 80 million books, has been on banned book lists across the country, and writing another book.  Plus she’s married to a man named George Cooper, who is our favorite character in the Song of the Lioness series.

Is this worth a book hangover?

Yes ma’am, especially if you’re feeling angst. Nothing like reading some teenage angst to remind you that … and least you’re not a teenager anymore.

Read these next:

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen. Ms. Dessen writes timeless stories of first love. While they are a little less controversial, her characters are solidly real and relatable.

Post Author: Anisha 

Anisha

Anisha adores YA romance – and thinks that all love stories should start on the beach and end with the first kiss. Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.  

4 Comments

Filed under Contemporary, High School, Romance

Book Discussion: The Girl of Fire and Thorns

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Summary

Princess Elise is the second daughter – unnecessary, fat, and only valued for bearing the Godstone. That is until she marries the neighboring king and comes to understand just what her calling is and how she must use it to serve.

fire and thorns table 2

heart

Romance Score: Good Effort

I appreciated the sparks between Elisa and her man-interest. Negative points for being the mature one in her other relationship.

RosieFeminist Score: You’re Trying

I wanted to like this for its girl power and main character with an uncommonly seen body type. But, all her accomplishments and self-worth come after she walked herself into a more stereotypical body size.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score: You’re Trying

Elisa discusses being darker-skinned than the pale king and nobility, so I saw some effort there. And the enemy is the palest of all  and they’re considered “barbaric,” so that’s a twist. But, each kingdom seemed pretty generic/similar by appearance and relationships were heteronormative only.

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Awesome Factor: You’re Trying

There’s magic, kingdoms, and battle tactics – all things I like. Elisa is different than most characters (at the beginning) and finds a steely backbone by the middle of the book. But, somehow it never all came together for me.


Favorite Character

Cosme – she can help you do pretty much everything and, though harsh and cold at first, will warm up once you show her some competence of your own.

Favorite Line

“I’m not done being naked.”

This line is the only one that really stuck out to me and I think it encapsulates the book. I like that she is reveling in her body, but disappointed that she can only do so once she’s lost a large amount of weight. I know this is a real struggle/reaction for someone with body image issues, but I was excited at the beginning because I thought this would be more body positive and this line killed that. But, I still love that she is taking the moment to enjoy her body and the sense of accomplishment she gained from crossing the desert.

Is this worth a book hangover?

Not so much. It’s a quick read, but more from lack of depth than as a page-turner. It’s a fun, light story, though, so I might recommend it as a beach read. It is the first in a series, so maybe the story grows a little more complex as it progresses. I would love to see this world explored and more explanation given for things that seemed a little too easy. The end wrapped up a little too conveniently, so I would love if they come back as bigger issues in the other books.

Fun Author Fact

At 3, she cried for Rudolph because his red nose made him different. 

Read these next:

Try Eon/Eona (Alison Goodman) or the Abhorsen series (Garth Nix) for some seriously kick-ass ladies with their own kind of magic.

Post Author:

1202112022

Jess loves SFF – old and new school –  and is learning to appreciate the more lovey-dovey YA under the careful tutelage of Anisha’s recommendations.

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Filed under Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy