October 22, 2013

Robin Wasserman: "Frozen" ("Skinned")

Title: Frozen (previously: Skinned) [on Amazon* | on Goodreads]
   *Note: the blurb is all wrong - they used the 3rd book recap.
Series: Cold Awakening (1st of 3 books)
Author: Robin Wasserman [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi, Dystopian
Year: 2008
Age: 14+
Stars: 5/5
Pros: Not overly original premise brought to excellence. Strong, imaginative world-building. Well crafted, emotion-conveying prose.
Cons: You have to buy the premise, of course (parents willing to shove their kid's brain into a machine and all that). And you have to like the main character despite her past - which, apparently, proved tough to some readers (but not to me).
Will appeal to: Those who aren't afraid to think and speculate.

Blurb: Lia knows she should be grateful she didn't die in the accident. The Download saved her - but it also changed her, forever. She can deal with being a freak. She can deal with the fear in her parents' eyes and the way her boyfriend flinches at her touch. But she can't deal with what she knows, deep down, every time she forces herself to look in the mirror. She's not the same person she used to be. Maybe she's not even a person at all. (Goodreads excerpt)

Review: Revelation: this series was actually one of the reasons why I decided to blog about books. I read the repackaged version, in late 2011 - then I stared at its Goodreads page asking myself "Why the hell hasn't this series gotten more recognition? Why aren't people screaming from rooftops how darn good it is?". 
Now, after a year of blogging and reviewing, I have a theory at last. A theory articulated in 3 points...
1) Lia isn't the most, um, huggable character you may read about. To be crystal clear: pre-download Lia was a conceited bitch (though she was in good company with that, and a product of her own environment), and post-download Lia mainly changes in what her condition prevents her to be the same person that she was, and has her facing things she's never even considered before.
2) Lia is a mind in a mechanical body - which may not appeal to those who favour a blood-scalding approach to human relationships (especially of the romantic kind). She takes the life-recreation issue at the core of a book like The Adoration of Jenna Fox (which, coincidentally, was out at the same time) to a whole new level. Because Jenna is also a product of her own DNA, not just a brain downloaded into a computer shell. (Though the download part is true about her too).
3) Lia is not bent on saving the world or changing it. She's not a spunky heroine like the one made popular by a certain dystopian series (*cough* The Hunger Games *cough* ...which, again coincidentally, was out at the same time). Though she finds herself fighting the ultimate battle and becoming the ultimate hero, in a peculiar way.
See, this series has friendship, love, even a hint of a possible love triangle in it. So everyone should be crazy about it, right? Well, apparently, wrong. But really, I found it fascinating, and Lia did for me even more than Jenna and her friends did. And I hope I'll be able to make you fall in love with this series too...
Book 1 of the Cold Awakening trilogy deals with the aftermath of the incident that took Lia's life and turned her into a "mech", as opposed to an "org". The technology has been around for a while, and basically recreates human experiences and sensations in a synthetic body, downloading the dead person's brain into it. This also means the recipient can live forever, because if the new body wears off (despite being extremely durable), a copy of the mind can be downloaded in a new body, again and again. Of course, all the small and big things that define our humanity along with the mind - like physical pain or the five senses - are either nonexistent or artificially (and unsatisfactorily) recreated/processed. Last, but not least, "orgs" - even Lia's family and friends - can't seem to make peace with what Lia has become. While the point of the download was to keep her around for her loved ones, and to reintegrate her into her family and social life, this turns out impossible. Lia clings to a new friend who is more than willing to accept her as she is, but even this illusion of normality will fall under the ax of harsh reality. [...]

October 14, 2013

Happy Blogoversary to Me...I Stuck with It (^_^)

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Image 1 | Image 2

Offbeat YA turns one today.

I think it's the longest web project I've committed to in my life. I've had (in chronological order) a MySpace page, a forum, a website, a Facebook account - and I gave up on them all after a small amount of months, for different reasons. (I hated FB by the way. Only joined for a specific purpose, but when it didn't work, I was hugely relieved). It's not that I'm erratic or can't keep my feet in one place for too long. I would have liked to stick with those pages (with the notable exception of FB, I guess), but I soon found out I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or maybe I just gave up too early and too easily. I don't mean to do the same with this blog. I really want it to stay, to improve, to become substantial. This may not necessarily mean having tons of followers (though I'll admit I do need to work on a decent fan base still), also because mine is a rather specific blog, not the overly popular-inclined type. But it's my little corner of the net, and I'm proud of it, and I want it to grow. I hope you'll be on my side during this journey.

I know it's custom to host a giveaway to celebrate a blogoversary. Alas, I'm in Italy, and I can't afford to have one. Please bear with me :). Maybe next year...

Huge thanks to everyone who joined and/or commented so far. You are awesome! Keep coming back, and you won't be disappointed.

Many happy readings!

October 08, 2013

Chloë Rayban: "Justine Duval" (Series Review)

Title: Book 1: Wild Child
                        [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
          Book 2: Virtual Sexual Reality             
                        [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
          Book 3: Love In Cyberia
                        [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
          Book 4: Terminal Chic
                        [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Justine Duval
Author: Chloë Rayban [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary With a Twist
Year: 1991-1994-1996-2000
Age: 12+
Stars: 2.5/5 if compared with more "serious" books...3.5/5 in guilty-pleasure scale :). So it's a 3-star rating on the whole.
Pros: Fun, high-spirited books with a deliciously flawed lead. Also, clean novels, if that's what you're looking for.
Cons: Light read. Not very original ideas, though well executed and with some surprises awaiting the reader.
Will appeal to: Those who are looking for a relaxed, humorous read.

Blurb: Book 1: Wild Child. A hilarious story about a stylish, sassy London girl. A bizarre meeting with her future self – ten years older and wiser – gives our hip young heroine Justine the chance to come to grips with her ultimate destiny. Book 2: Virtual Sexual Reality. Justine only goes to the Virtual Reality Exhibition in the hope she might get lucky with fit hunk Alex. Instead she gets unlucky with an Alternative Reality machine and leaves the exhibition as Jake! Once she's got over the shock, Justine starts to see the potential of her new situation. As Jake she has the opportunity to hang out with the lads and find out what really makes them tick. But when her real self develops a major crush on her virtual self, things start to get just a bit too complicated... Book 3: Love In Cyberia. There's only one thing that could induce technophobe Justine to dabble on the Information Super Highway - and it's male. Yes, the chance to share love-bytes with a cool boy-babe is all it takes to get Justine surfing in Cyberspace. But when the black-clad lad, Los reveals his website wanderlust for time travel, Justine finds herself in a datspace dilemma...Just how far should she go? Book 4: Terminal Chic. These days falling in love can happen at the touch of a button and when it happens to Justine, it happens in a BIG WAY! A few e-mails and she's head over Gucci heels in love with Los, but there's just one snag: he's from the year 3001. Justine is going to have to time travel to be with the one she loves but will she adjust to the technically advanced society Los lives in? And will Los be able to adjust to Justine's way of seeing things? (Goodreads & Amazon excerpts)

Review: Sort-of-disclaimer: I read the Italian translation of this book, so I can't really judge the writing style. Also, I don't know if any parts of this novel have been cut off in my version.
First off, this post marks my first time reviewing a whole series instead of its separate installments. I chose this format because I realized that my reviews were probably going to sound much alike, inasmuch as these books share the same main features, and I'm not fond of repeating myself. Of course, since I'm a considerate human being, I didn't feel like boring my readers either ;).
On a formal level, this is not your typical series:
   Evidence 1. The first book was probably meant to stand alone, since its first sequel is dated three whole years later. Justine has roughly grown older in sync with that, for she was 14 in the first book and is 16 in the second...Nevertheless, a couple of years later - when another installment comes out - she is still 16. And in the last one - dated 2000 - only a year has passed from the events in book 3, so she is supposed to be 17, though it's stated in the book itself that she was born in 1981 (which would have made her 10 when the first installment came out, and 19 as of now). So, you could safely say that there isn't any attempt at a serious time and event consequence. 
   Evidence 2. While the first two installments are loosely related (Justine mentions a particular event from book 1 in book 2) and the other two are closely linked, there doesn't seem to be any specific trait d'union between the two couples of books. Also, Justine never addresses her past unusual experiences in any of the sequels (except for her first encounter with Los, of course). On one hand, the pattern of her adventures resembles that of a cartoon character who has uncountable experiences unrelated to one another, as if she was living a bunch of different lives, every one of them standing on its own. On the other hand, Justine is not bidimensional, and she does grow up a bit from book 1 to book 4, even though she mainly remains her old, deliciously flawed self. Also, her friends and family are a constant through all the four installments, and their features are always recognizable. [...]