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review 2014-07-10 00:00
Starglass - Phoebe North ***There may be what some people would consider minor spoilers in this review***

I have very mixed feelings about this book. I'm giving it 3 stars for now, not sure if that will change later. There were many things I liked about Starglass. I could hardly put it down, but that didn't make me absolutely love it. I found the inclusion of the Jewish culture an interesting idea and I liked it, I wondered about how it came to be that way through half of the book before I finally got to an explanation. I think it would have maybe been better to have that at the beginning of the book.

I'm really into space operas right now and this one was ok, but not spectacular on that front. It is mostly a dystopian type story disguised as a space opera. There is little technology described. It barely feels like they are on a spaceship. In some ways this book could be compared to Across the Universe, there are quite a few similarities, but this is very clearly a book with a message while Across the Universe was, in my opinion just fun reading and wasn't weighed down by the heavy message. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with messages in books, but I did feel like this one completely took over the whole story.

The message in Starglass is being free to love who you want to love and make the choices you want to make. I'm all for that, but I can't say I agree with some of the choices that were made by some of the characters in the book, even though, yes, they should be free to make them. I very much am opposed to infidelity in marriage for whatever reason, and although I could sympathize with the situation a couple of characters found themselves in, I couldn't condone their actions. I know the spouse was ok with it, but that didn't make me feel ok about it. That being said, neither of them are the main character, but their story was used to push the message.

I liked the main character Terra a lot, at least all the way up until the thing with Silvan and beyond. I understood her confused and conflicted feelings about a lot of things, but I could not understand her feelings for Silvan, or what she actually found attractive about him. First the way he treated her best friend and then the way he was so full of himself and talked down about other people. Really the whole characterization of Silvan bothered me. It is mentioned that his favorite flower is lilies a couple of times, and once he is described as smelling like flowers. And then there is this paragraph describing him at one point in the book:

Silvan stood straight, grinning at me, looking beautiful. He wore a long tunic. At first glance it looked simply white. But when I came closer, I saw that it was embroidered with tiny flowers in threads of violet and gold. It matched his rank cord perfectly. It was a beautiful, fine outfit--and it must have cost a fortune. Seeing how I regarded him, he flicked his curls off his shoulder, preening.

Is this really supposed to be a guy we are reading about here? I really wish that YA books would stop describing guys as beautiful, but when they are written this way what else can you call them? Even more annoying than the way Silvan is described is all the rolling around almost having sex that happens through this part of the book. It was just overdone. Beyond the stuff with Silvan there is also the murder thing involving the main character. Not redeemable for any reason.

This book ends on a big cliffhanger. I've put the next book on my sequels I may or may not read list, but I'm not sure how eager I am to read the next one. I have a feeling it's going to be drowned in YA romance, which I suppose will be fine if I'm in the mood for that, but could get really annoying as well if the romance is written like it was in this one.

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review 2014-01-31 00:05
Starglass by Phoebe North
Starglass - Phoebe North

I'm conflicted about this book, or rather how I think about it. On the one hand it does some things really, really well; others it does satisfactorily, but some things frustrated the hell out of me. I'm going to try and talk about all of these things.

The stuff it does really, really well: Diversity. First of all, this is a Jewish spaceship. Peopled solely by Jewish people. It's so nice to read about some religion other than Christianity, honestly. I loved that. Then there's the fact that the book opens with a letter from a lesbian woman to her daughter. I nearly did a fist-pump at that. The fact that gay is not shuffled to the back like it's something that never happens. I really appreciated the fact that the author used this science fiction setting to explore the issues of homophobia and gay rights. The right of choice is a strong theme throughout the book.

Other things worked for me, but didn't raise that 'hell-yes' feeling in me. Like how Terra reacted in certain situations. How she felt about her situation, and her role in the greater scheme of things. The way the community developed and changed over the 500 years they were traveling to their destination was eminently believable. The writing was straight-forward and easy to read through. This was a quick read - I'd fly through 20-30 pages before I even realized I had. I was glad that romance wasn't a focus, really glad actually, though I think it probably will be in the next book.

But, yeah, there's always a 'but'...But, there were things that left me shaking my head in frustration. I'm a character reader. I love characters, they are what makes me invest in the story first and foremost. Second is the world. Preferably I'd have both of these in my books. Great characters that feel real in a world that fascinates and intrigues. Unfortunately Starglass fell down for me in both categories. The only character that is really developed in this book is Terra. And she's so damn passive that I could never really love her. She accepts whatever she's told, by whomever deigns to tell it to her, and just goes along with it. Eventually she starts to question, but it was a little too late for me. Though she spends a good deal of the book working towards personal agency, time and time again she simply falls into patterns that leave her following someone else's plans. However, this is the first book. I will say that by the end I had hope that maybe, just maybe, Terra would show the growth I might have glimpsed in her last act in Starglass.

I mentioned that I like intricate worlds, and I kind of expect them when you're on a spaceship that left Earth 500 years ago. This could have taken place in a walled community cut off from the rest of the world. There was little to no advancement in technology - except for the fact that kids are grown in hatcheries instead of born now - computers are pretty much a non-entity; jobs are shopkeepers, bell-ringers; guards; bakers; botanists, etc. Then there's the fact that they set sail, as it were, for a planet that they know NOTHING about. Five hundred years flying through space and you don't even know if this planet you're heading towards has air we can breathe, water to drink, or if it's at all habitable. It strained credulity for me. I had a hard time swallowing the lack of advancement in a people that could build a spaceship like this.

I didn't even really get to get a good feel for the fact that we're in space until near the very end - when we finally reach our destination.

Conflicted. Still. I was hoping that writing my review would give me a better idea where to rate this.

I guess I'm ending at 3 Stars.

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text 2014-01-30 22:49
Reading progress update: I've read 381 out of 437 pages.
Starglass - Phoebe North

"That's the problem with picking sides, Terra. You end up fighting for someone else. But who is to say that someone else has ever been fighting for you."


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text 2014-01-30 22:12
Reading progress update: I've read 361 out of 437 pages.
Starglass - Phoebe North

"Population control is fine for commoners."


I swear to god, if he talks about commoners in that condescending tone one more time I'm going to jump into this book and throttle him!!

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text 2014-01-30 18:45
Reading progress update: I've read 326 out of 437 pages.
Starglass - Phoebe North

"I'm here to ask for his hand."


Nothing like getting right down to it! Wow!

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