Monday, June 24, 2013

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson is about June Costa, the "best artist in Palmares Tres" in her own words. Palamares Tres, a city built inside of a pyramid in futuristic Brazil, is inhabited by a matriarchal society with a tradition of electing a "Summer King" who is then sacrificed in the wintertime and chooses the queen as he dies. Everybody, especially the wakas (young people), loves the newest Summer King, Enki, whom June sees as a fellow artist. Together, she and Enki create art, fuel a movement to let new technology into Palamares Tres, and even though they know what happens to Enki, fall in love.

The beginning of the book was very confusing. Right away I was bombarded with familiar words used in unfamiliar ways. I at first thought Auntie Yaha was June's actual aunt - until I was surprised to learn that Auntie was a title for a woman in the government and Auntie Yaha was actually June's mom's wife. After the first chapter or so, I was able to better navigate through this new and very liberal society, and as the book went on, the journey kept getting better and better. The characters and setting were very vivid, and since I had read the ending sentences before I finished the book, I loved the twist at the ending and was glad it wasn't a sappy, melodramatic ending. Overall, while the beginning was a little strange, I liked this book, and I'm still fascinated that both of the books about matriarchal societies that I've read so far seem to portray that matriarchal societies are so much more flawed than patriarchal ones. Maybe that's just me, but that's another discussion for another time.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey is about Cassie, a sixteen-year-old girl who has survived four waves of an alien invasion that has decimated most of Earth's population through illness, hiding in human hosts, and raising ocean levels. Now as the dawn of the fifth wave approaches, Cassie must rescue her little brother Sammy, although she's going to need some help along the way even though she doesn't know whom to trust.

The beginning of the book was very disturbing because Yancey portrayed how low humanity can sink so well, but after a while the feeling plateaus and one easily forgets about it. The plot and the characters were vivid and realistic and kept me hooked. According to it's the start of a new series, and I am definitely excited to read the next book when it comes out. One should really hope there aren't actual aliens like the ones in the book around because if they do discover us, we are in trouble.

Friday, June 7, 2013

A review of Tim Powers' "The Anubis Gates"

It's rare that I describe a book as "delightful". "Delightful" implies, for me, at least, a book so good that I actually feel physical buoyancy while reading it. The Anubis Gates is one of those rare "delightful" books. It's about a man named Brendan Doyle who, at the behest of an eccentric old man, travels back in time to 1810, and gets stuck there. At first, it seems a little like Back to the Future in the Regency era, complete with goofy misunderstandings and fish out of water antics, but takes a sharp left turn when Ancient Egyptian magic gets involved.

I won't ruin too much, though, because a majority of its appeal comes from being surprised at how everything connects. The great part about it, though, is its lack of pretension. It doesn't make a big deal about its own cleverness: instead of flaunting its elaborate worldbuilding and knowledge of history, like some other historical fantasy and science fiction novels, it lets the audience fill in the gaps, and doesn't assume too much. If you don't know about the Regency, it doesn't matter, because Powers doesn't constantly hit you over the head with things specific to that time. I also appreciate the lack of put-on Britishness: normally, when an American like Powers writes a book set in old time England, you hear a lot of lines like "Give us some bees and honey guv'nor but watch out for the bloody bobbies", and often sound like they're trying too hard.

Fortunately, there's none of that here. One minor issue I have with this book, is that it's a bit slow in points, especially in the beginning, but once it gets going, it reaches delirious heights of "I can't believe he's doing this." Another is the slightly politically incorrect Egypt sections, with their cheesy, descriptions of that country's inhabitants, but they're milder than all three Indiana Jones movies combined, really. Other than that, this book was great. A perfect brainy beach read for the warmer months ahead.

Grade: A

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett

 The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett is about Dusty Everhart, a Nightmare who feeds off people's dreams. One night, she is feeding off a boy that she knows and sees that he's dreaming about a murder that takes place at Dusty's school for the magickind. When the murder the boy, whose name is Eli, dreams about actually happens, he and Dusty must join forces to catch the killer and keep him from killing again.
While there wasn't much background given on what was going on, the plot was easy to follow and actually didn't really require a backstory about the magickind. Dusty, Eli, and their friends were very relatable, realistic characters and the plot was different and awesome. While it wrapped up well and doesn't really require a sequel, there are several elements in the story that can definitely use a sequel.

Triple Post! - Umineko When They Cry, Pretty Girl-13, Scowler

Umineko When They Cry by Ryukishi07 is about a teenaged boy named Battler who goes to a family reunion at his grandfather's home after six years of not seeing his uncles, aunts, and cousins. Battler is happy to be back among his cousins, but his aunts and uncles and parents are more interested in arguing about who gets the inheritance after the patriarch, Battler's grandfather, dies and Battler's youngest cousin, Maria, tells of a bad omen. Battler also doesn't believe in the witch that supposedly inhabits the island and gave his grandfather his fortune, but after a storm strands his family and his grandfather's servants on the island and six of the eighteen people on the island disappear and are brutally murdered, he starts to have his doubts.

I really loved this book because it was the first manga I had read in a while and I was immediately hooked by the plot. Although some of Battler's characteristics contrasts his overall personality (he's kind of sexist), he and his cousins are very intelligent, likable characters. Fans of Maximum Ride will like Maria; she reminded me of a slightly more creepy, occult-fascinated Angel.

Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley is about Angie Chapman, who thinks she has only been missing from a Girl Scout camping trip for only three days, but instead learns that she has been gone for three years. The book follows her as she tries to go back to living a normal life, figure out what happened to her, and why she doesn't remember.

I liked this book more than I thought I would because the characters were very complex and realistic and the plot, although a bit far-fetched at times, also was realistic yet fantastic. However, the book dealt with dissociative identity disorder and talking to Angie's different identities through hypnosis, and since I had taken psychology this year and knew that both of those things are very untrustworthy, very suggestible and very easy to manipulate and act out, I was a bit turned off. However, as the story started to reach its climax, I became more engaged and almost forgot that they weren't so reliable.

Scowler by Daniel Kraus is about Ry Burke, whose abusive father was finally checked and thrown in jail thanks to Ry's three favorite toys and imaginary friends (a British teddy bear named Mr. Furrington, Jesus, and a bloodthirsty monster named Scowler). However, just when Ry, his mother, and his younger sister are about to leave behind their home and the memories that went along with it, a meteor shower strikes their area, and with comes the return of Ry's father. Although he has rejected them for years, Ry must call on his imaginary friends for help once again.

I was kind of let down by this book because while the beginning and middle were very good, and the character of Ry and his mother were well-developed, the ending was very chaotic and confusing and I didn't understand what was going on very well. I wasn't sure if Ry had become Scowler or if the toy Scowler had been burned up on the stairs or if Ry had been seriously wounded and if he had, why he was up and about trying to kill his mother and sister. Even though the book wrapped up nicely, I was still left wondering what the heck had just happened.