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review 2018-01-09 00:46
Unutterably brilliant dystopian SF
Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe) - Neal Shusterman

Disclaimer: review based on an uncorrected digital proof via NetGalley.

 

Guys. Guys, listen. This was ridiculously good. I feel like the first time I picked up a Scott Westerfeld book (it was Uglies, btw). One for the record books.

 

Ok, yes, Scythe was brilliant and I loved it and it got one of my very rare 5 star reviews last year, but it just KEEPS GETTING BETTER. This is dystopian SF at its best; insightful, natural, emotional, relatable, engaging, stress-inducingly tense, original, shocking . . . how many more adjectives can I cram in here?

 

The technology and vision of a utopian AI-controlled future feels like a plausible extension of our current moment. And how many authors can make an entire series about death and still make it readable? The way the Thunderhead explores a Judeo-Christian vision of a personal god is also fascinating.

 

Book 1 scythe apprentices Citra and Rowan have graduated to next-generation leader and antihero respectively. I can't get over how great newcomer Greyson's progression is, too. And the way the Thunderhead AI has a character arc? What? The twists and reveals in this are gonna kill you. And if they don't, that ending just might. I CAN'T wait a year for more!! TToTT

 

Ok, so Citra is now Scythe Anastasia, and is rocking the boat by giving her (victims? gleanees? um.) time to come to terms with and define the method of their deaths. Rowan's gone rogue as an underground vigilante scythe murdering all the corrupt scythes. Greyson's an isolated loner that the Thunderhead brought up when his parents abandoned him. His dream is to become a civil servant out of appreciation for it. The Thunderhead's just trying to help everyone and keep them from destroying themselves and their world, dammit. Everyone's hopes and dreams get twisted around and undermined and melted and there's betrayal and shock and horror and lots of murder and also grand conspiracies and sacrifice and emo teen rebels and some mostly offscreen romance and the ending is brutal and I can't wait for more.

 

So pardon me while I go and binge-read everything Shusterman's ever written. BRB.

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review 2017-12-17 15:39
The Only Girl in the World: A Memoir by Maude Julian
The Only Girl in the World: A Memoir - Maude Julien,Adriana Hunter

 

THE ONLY GIRL IN THE WORLD: A MEMOIR is a powerful true story I choose to see as a triumph of the human spirit.

 

Maude's father wanted a superhuman child and set out with single minded purpose to achieve his goal. He found a young girl and adopted her. When she was old enough he married and impregnated her. When his daughter was born her training began.

 

I'm not going to go into everything Maude went through, because it's grim. Extremely grim. Also, a lot of what she went through might not seem believable at first. As I was reading though, I realized that Maude's story is altogether too possible. What a scary and depressing thought: to have every aspect of your life controlled. To have to hold a chamber pot for your father. To have any family pets used as objects to control you. The only good things in Maude's life were books and music-and even those were controlled by her father.

 

To be clear this book never descended into the area of torture porn. Everything is presented in a rather detached way, whereas you are just an observer. The things that happened were indeed horrific, but you never felt like you were a part of them. Instead, your heart just ached that these things ever happened.

 

An interesting component to this tale was the pop psychology theories the father would come up with and how he used them to devise mind controlling techniques. Seriously, I think this guy could have developed a cult of his own if he wasn't so lazy and stupid. His family were actual blood relations and unlike Manson's family could never have left even if they tried. If you can imagine what Manson could have done to a daughter, you have a good idea of what Maude's dad did to her.

 

I can't get into what happened to Maude in the end, because that would ruin everything. However, she did survive to write this book so that should tell you something.

 

Highly recommended, especially for those interested in the psychology of brainwashing.

 

*Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

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review 2017-10-27 15:42
Strange Weather by Joe Hill
Strange Weather: Four Short Novels - Joe Hill

 

Strange Weather is the novel I most anticipated this year and I'm happy to report that it lived up to my high expectations. It consists of four short novels, (Joe Hill dislikes the term novella), and I enjoyed them all!

 

Snapshot is a story about memory and a camera that steals them. Set in the 80's with a teenage boy as the protagonist, this story packed some powerful imagery along with a bit of nostalgia for good measure.

 

Loaded is a tale about guns. Joe Hill says it's not political, but I think that both pro gun and anti gun proponents will bring their own views to the party. I tried to keep my politics out of it and enjoy it for the fast paced horror story that it was. Oh yeah, and the ending was KILLER.

 

Aloft was the story of a man on a cloud. It wasn't cloud 9, in fact, it wasn't a cloud at all, really. What imagination and creativity this story showed! I can't seem to put my finger on why this tale appealed to me so much, but the fact remains that it did. It reminded me somewhat of Hill's short story Pop Art , in that the tale doesn't break its back trying to provide explanations or reasons why...it just IS. And what it IS, is fantastic. (Junicorn!)

 

Rain was my favorite story in the book. The protagonist, Honeysuckle Speck, was one of the most interesting characters I've ever met. She is so much more than what you first suspect and I would love to read more about her in the future. It's hard to say what one would do if the sky suddenly began raining sharp crystal nails. I would love to think that I would act with the same bravery and smarts as Honeysuckle did, but I suspect I don't have the strength. Hill says in the Afterword that this book was sort of his anti-Fireman story, but one thing they both have in common is strong female characters and I like that. I like it a lot.

 

I received a digital review copy of this book from Edelweiss, but I also received my own (signed) copy, (whoohoo!),courtesy of Joe Hill at a book festival. This gave me a chance to check out the VERY cool illustrations, before and after each story, and also the little icons at the top of each page. They give the book a unique look and feel.

 

I've come to love and admire Hill's work over the last few years and I think he has developed a strong voice, independent of, but respectful, of his father's. Strange Weather was worth every minute of my time and I'm sure I'll be devoting more time by reading it again in the future.

 

Highly recommended!

 

You can get your copy here: Strange Weather

 

*Thank you to Edelweiss and to the publisher, (who I unabashedly emailed for the e-ARC of this awesome book), in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

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review 2017-09-27 18:45
The Girls by Emma Cline, narrated by Cady McClain
The Girls: A Novel - Cady McClain,Deutschland Random House Audio,Emma Cline

Evie Boyd was 14 when she joined a cult, even though they didn't call themselves that. They were more like a group of teenage girls surrounding one main guy and a few other male hangers-on. There are few things in this world that can be as cold and selfish as a young girl on the cusp of womanhood.

 

I listened to this on audio because the premise interested me and it was available. I've always been fascinated with cults and how people get caught up in them. In this case, Evie was young, her parents had just gotten divorced and she was at loose ends for the summer. (Idle hands and all that.) To me, she came off as a spoiled brat looking for attention, but I did come to feel a little sorry for her as the story progressed.

 

Even though I did enjoy this book, looking back on it-the "cult" members didn't have much depth to them. I can tell you how they looked and what they did, but why they were like they were? I have no clue. I think the charisma that generally pulls people into cults, (think Koresh or Manson), was missing here. I would have liked to know more about them and how they got together.

 

Cady McClain, the narrator, was excellent and reminded me of the audios of Megan Abbott's books, which I loved.

 

Overall, I enjoyed The Girls more than I thought I would and I would recommend it to people who, like me, are fascinated by cults and what draws people to them.

 

Thanks to my awesome library for the audio book loan!

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review 2017-05-02 18:45
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger -The Little Sisters of Eluria
Dark Tower: The Gunslinger - The Little Sisters of Eluria #5 (of 5) - Robin Furth,Peter David,Stephen King,Luke Ross,Richard Isanove

 

This was a disappointing foray into a side story of the Dark Tower.

 

What I liked about it was its connection to King/Straub's novel, The Talisman. (Which is one of my favorite books.) If you've read it, you know that young Jack is trying to save his mom, (who is a Queen in another world), and she is very sick. When we first meet her, she is in a huge tent, fighting for her life. That huge tent is the main setting for this story. (A nice explanation of this comes in the foreword.)

 

This tale comes before the last entry in the graphic novel series, so we've gone backwards a bit in the timeline. I was okay with that but I'm not really okay with the change in how Roland looks and the artwork. While I loved the pencil drawings in the back, Roland looks like an entirely different person than in all the previous comics. I am having a hard time dealing with that. I think that the graphics in the previous novels are superior than the ones in this volume.

 

Overall, I liked the story and the setting, just not as much as the previous entries in this series.

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