August 28, 2016

Alison Goodman: "Singing the Dogstar Blues"

Title: Singing the Dogstar Blues [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None (but there's a companion short story/follow-up, The Real Thing, featured in the new edition of this novel, and first published in Firebirds Rising: An Anthology of Original Science Fiction and Fantasy. Also, here you can read the original story that later would morph and expand into STDB: One Last Zoom at the Buzz Bar. Note: don't let the original story scare you away from the book. They have very little in common...)
Author: Alison Goodman [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi
Year: 1998
Age: 12+
Stars: 4.5/5
Pros: Full-fleshed, snarky, deliciously flawed, resourceful heroine. Adorable co-protagonist. Unconventional friendship. Lots of humour. Tackles themes of identity and gender/sexuality without making them "issues".
Cons: There's no use in racking your brain about the premise/reveal. It just is. Also, the smartest readers would probably solve one of the mysteries early on.
Will appeal to: Sci-fi fans. Not sci-fi fans too, if they like humour, unusual pairings and coming-of-age stories.

Blurb: Seventeen-year-old Joss is a rebel, and a student of time travel at the prestigious Centre for Neo-Historical Studies. This year, for the first time, the Centre has an alien student: Mavkel, from the planet Choria. And Mavkel has chosen Joss, of all people, as his roommate and study partner. Then Mavkel gets sick. Joss quickly realizes that his will to live is draining away. The only way she can help Mavkel is by breaking the Centre's strictest rules - and that means going back in time to change history. (Amazon)

Review: Oh boy, another tought one. Because in this novel there are not one, but two mysteries - largely interwined - and I shall make sure I don't spoil either of them for you. Shucks.

RIGHT ON TIME

First off: you don't have any prejudices about reading a book that is nearly 20 years old - do you? Well, maybe you don't, but come on...you regularly get distracted by new, shiny books, and/or new, shiny books that everyone and their hamster is reading - so what chances does a book written in 1998 have? Well...to its credit...I honestly don't think this particular book reads dated. It has a pretty strong timeless vibe to me. Which maybe should come as no surprise, since it deals with time travel ;D. Maybe a certain detail might have been written in a slightly different guise nowadays (more on this later), but all in all, STDB can easily be enjoyed by readers who weren't even born when it came out. Short book premise: Earth has developed time travel in the recent past, while Choria - Mavkel's planet - hasn't. For once, it's aliens who need human to teach them advanced technology. Cool, isn't it?

GENDER BENDER

I decided to give this book a try for two reasons: 1) time travel (my number-two obsession after dead-not-dead characters); 2) a supposed male/female friendship story (and an unusual one at that) without romantic undertones. I use the word "supposed" because it turns out that Mav (like Joss calls him) is not a "male" alien. "He" comes from a planet where both sexes cohexist in the same body (though Chorian physiology remains a mystery through the book - see: the humorous description of Mav's bathroom), and he's actually referred to as "it" until he becomes Joss' partner in the time travel academy. Only then the two of them agree on using the male pronoun, for the following reasons: 1) the obvious one: "it" is a pronoun used for objects; 2) Joss - when Mav asks her - admits being the kind of gal who would choose a guy as a sexual/romantic partner...so Mav basically argues that, since they are a pair now, she might as well have a male (though, I'll add, totally platonic) partner. The whole thing would probably have been played out a little differently now - maybe (just my guess) Mav would have been addressed as "they/them". I don't know if this detail is enough to turn genderfluid readers off this book, but the thing is, there's no judgement os disrespect for "alternate" sexualities in STDB. Quite the contrary. For example, Joss' mother is bisexual, and her ex long-time female partner, Louise, has a new family with a same-sex lover; also, Louise and her new partner have a son thanks to a sperm donor, who is actually involved in his kid's life. Goodman even took the time to weave a heartfelt memorial to all the AIDS victims into her book. [...]

August 22, 2016

Lindsey Roth Culli: "This Above All" (ARC Review)

Title: This Above All [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Lindsey Roth Culli [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary
Year: 2016
Age: 12+
Stars: 3/5
Pros: Original premise. Funny and heartfelt. Likeable main character, with a clear, pleasant voice.
Cons: The last third of the book takes a dive into tropes land.
Will appeal to: Those who like theater/acting. Those looking for a coming-of-age story.

Blurb: When sixteen-year old Piper is cast as Romeo in her school’s production, she’s as surprised as everyone else. Not only because she’s a girl, but also because she’s from one of the region’s most notorious ultraconservative families. But when the school principal demands that the part be recast “appropriately” or the show cannot go on, Piper faces a choice: become the figurehead to appeal the principal’s decision or accept the message the administration’s ultimatum sends to the school’s gay students, including her new friends. Namely, that they should be ashamed of who they are or whom they happen to love. (Goodreads excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I received this novel from Curiosity Quills in exchange for an honest review. To be more precise, I specifically requested a review copy. That didn't affect my opinion and rating in any way. Here goes...

OFF TO A GOOD START

I have a confession to make: I'm a sucker for stories about teens performing (Fame, anyone? I grew up with it, as this post reveals). Also, in this case, a girl cast as the male lead in a school production was a hell of a premise. Especially since Piper comes from an over-religious, ultra-conservative family. But when I started on the book, I found out that TAA was somehow exceeding my expectations. For one thing, we are thrust mid-action (or better, mid-acting), with Piper auditioning for the main female role in Romeo and Juliet, all while her inner monologue gives us enough backstory about her and her family without sounding info-dumpy. I could practically smell stage dust :) - and I took an immediate liking to Piper's voice. Her passion for acting, and Shakespeare in particular, dates back to when her deceased mother read "secular" books to her younger self - books that, of course, are frowned upon (to put it mildly) by Piper's pastor father. The author is able to convincingly shape a character caught between her family's and church's expectations (and the kind of God she's been taught to believe in) on one side, and her consuming passion for all things theater on the other - which, in turn, will lead her to question her whole upbringing and the dogmas surrounding it. [...]

August 16, 2016

A Round of Appreciation

I don't know what's gotten into me. After I spilled my 10+1 secrets a couple of weeks ago, I realised that not only I am no longer afraid of being a little more personal with my posts, but I indeed NEED to. Of course, there's a valid reason for it...it's not like I really have someone to talk to in real life. I managed to go from lonely child to lonely teen to equally lonely middle aged woman with zero friends - especially the kind of friends you REALLY talk to, the ones who know your real self and your deepest thoughts, the ones whom you can bare your soul to and who bare theirs to you. On a level it's a relief, because I've never been that good at the sharing-everything game - which, of course, it's one of the reasons why I've never had THAT kind of friends in the first place. I am, essentially, a very private person...at least when it comes to certain sensitive matters. What happens at home stays at home - especially if it involves, say, your family or your significant other. I can't allow myself to talk about things that implicate someone else than me. I've never been the kind of girl who goes to the bathroom with her pairs (um, gross?). I've never been one to follow trends or - goodness forbid - to CONFORM. And apparently, I haven't had much luck with finding kindred spirits. This is why, for all purposes, I've been friendless all my life.

August 11, 2016

GL Tomas: "The Mark of Noba" (Blog Tour Review and Giveaway)


Title: The Mark of Noba [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: The Sterling Wayfairer Series (1st of 4 books)
Author: GL Tomas [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Urban Fantasy (more precisely, Portal Fantasy)
Year: 2015
Age: 14+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Unconventional approach to girl-meets-boy and chosen-one tropes. Reversed stereotypes. Funny moments. Diverse characters.
Cons: The worldbuilding is a little confusing. What I thought a pivotal theme in the book gets abandoned later (that's the most I can say without spoiling anything). This is a debut book, so the writing still needs strenghtening.
WARNING! A few references to male physiology and making out.
Will appeal to: Those who like modern fantasy with a solid comedy undertone and a role reversal.

Blurb: Sterling Wayfairer has one goal for his senior year: make his mark. But things don’t go as planned when he starts to encounter his mysterious classmate Tetra. Tetra not only has answers to the recent disappearances, but Sterling will soon find that making his mark isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sterling discovers he shares a spiritual bond with Tetra, and that only their power has the ability to stop the malevolent evil they face. They must work together or risk the destruction of their world. (Amazon)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I have been friends with the authors since I was still a newbie blogger. Therefore, I was reluctant to review their work, for fear of either being perceived as biased or hurting their feelings. But after reading the unedited version on Wattpad, I realised there wasn't any need for me to tiptoe around this book - I found a lot to like, so I thought I'd just review it as if I had stumbled upon it by chance. Also, turns out that GL Tomas are able to handle criticism like the best of them ;). Bottom line: being virtual friends with the authors didn't influence my rating in any way :).

I BEG TO DIFFER

The first thing you notice while diving into The Mark of Noba is that the male white lead (whose POV we get in the first few chapters) is not your average teen. And I don't mean it in the sense that he's MORE - on the contrary. Sterling is insecure, a bit clumsy, and doesn't excel in any sports (actually, he hardly plays any). Also, he has to tend to his schizophrenic mother more often that he would like to. Now, my description might make you think he's the classic nerd with no friends and a house full of books, but nope - not even that. Actually, he does have a couple of friends who are far more popular than he is, but hang out with him no matter what - and his favourite reading material seem to be Playboy magazines ;D. I found Sterling relatable precisely because the authors weren't trying hard with him - he sounded like a normal, flesh-and-blood teenage boy, which was refreshing. As it was refreshing how TMON managed to reverse the classic cute-new-boy-at-school-tells-girl-she's-a-chosen-one trope. Here we have a new (black) girl, Tetra, who comes from a world called Noba and is going to turn Sterling's world upside down with her revelations. Also, she kicks ass. Sterling will need a huge dose of extensive training in order to do that ;D. [...]

August 06, 2016

...In Which I Spill My Secrets

Hi sweeties!
So I thought that - with almost 4 years of blogging under my belt - I'd hit you with a few relevant (but also funny...I hope?) facts about myself. I've seen posts like this around, usually in the TTT meme. I know, I lost a chance to get visitors by not joining the proper TTT when it was around - but you should all know by now how much me and memes don't get along ;D. So, here goes...ten of my quirks, plus a bonus...

1. I would do ANYTHING to have naturally curly hair - the curlier the better - even give all my Christopher Pike books away (...I can hear everyone say "OOOOOH!"). I've been perming my hair once a year (cutting the old bits away) since I was 15 or 16, but of course, it's not the same. Oh, in case you're wondering, I have a nice and healthy mane :). And I'm VERY MUCH AWARE that it's unpopular to have, let alone LIKE, curly hair. It's one of the reasons why I love to wear mine that way (like in my avatar, only much curlier). And I do wear it proudly, because it says I'm wild at heart and I can't be tamed.

This is Brian May from rock band Queen (well, the back of his head) in the '70s. ENVYYYYY.