Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash

"When you live for stories, when you spend so much of your time immersed in careful constructs of three and five acts, it sometimes feels like you're just stumbling through the rest of life, trying to divine meaningful narrative threads from the chaos. Which, as I learned the hard way this weekend, can be painfully fruitless. Fiction is there when real life fails you. But it's not a substitute..."

Graham and Roxy are best friends. They have been best friends since Graham moved in next door when they were eight. She asked him what Hogwarts house he would be in (Ravenclaw) and he loved her ever since. Now, Graham and Roxy are sixteen. They moved from Harry Potter to comics, especially The Chronicles of Althena*. The two also created their own comic, which Graham writes and Roxy draws, called The Misfits of Mage High.

Graham has decided that he will tell Roxy how he feels at the upcoming New York Comic Con. It seems like fate when it is announced that the author of Althena, Robert Zinc, will be on a panel for the movie adaptation of his series. All Graham has to do is camp out overnight with his friend Casey, convince Casey to give him his ticket for Roxy, then get Roxy to skip school on Friday for the panel. So easy, right?

Unfortunately, Graham's plans implode. After spending the night on the street, the ticket line turns into a mad rush when it opens. Graham and Casey leave empty-handed. Thankfully, they still get to spend time at Comic Con with Roxy and her friend Felicia. It's Felicia's idea to take part in speed dating (A teens session, don't worry). Graham makes friends with a fellow Athena fan (Who managed to get into the panel) named Amelia. To Graham's horror, Roxy meets a handsome British guy named Devin, and they are acting a little too friendly for his comfort.

Poor Graham's Robert Zinc plan fell through, and now he has to witness Roxy flirting with another guy. He expects that things will turn around Saturday, when he planned to surprise Roxy with a John Hughes panel (Graham's deceased mother was a huge John Hughes fan, and Roxy and Graham watched her old movies). It's just his luck that Devin is also there on Saturday, and again sticking to Roxy's side. Our boy then decides that the perfect demonstration of his love is to purchase an original page from Althena from the auction for $500. It's at this point where I started to worry about the kid. Oh, honey, no.

Graham was okay, but sometimes ventured over into "nice guy" territory. He and Roxy have a lot in common, they have been friends for years, and he wants to explore something more. The problem is that he never thought that Roxy might not want that, not to spoil anything. He was also kind of grating when he was upset about Devin. I can't imagine that he had any fun at Comic Con with that attitude, and he really did it to himself.

The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love is mostly nerdy fun. I really wish that The Chronicles of Althena was real, because it sounds awesome. I expected that the book would be cute and sweet, full of geeky love. It's much more complicated than that, but in a good way. There's a happy ending, but maybe not the one that you might expect.

*The Chronicles of Althena is a comic series about an alien named Althena whose only knowledge of Earth is what she saw in 80s science fiction films. She often shapeshifts into characters from the movies, though she can't change her earlobe, which is always green. On their first day at the con, Roxy dresses up as Althena as Pris from Blade Runner, and Graham dresses as Althena as Mad Max. 

I received my copy of The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love from Sarvenaz Tash as part of the Spring Young Adult Scavenger Hunt. It's available for sale now.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Down With the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn

"May all your wishes come true, or at least just this one..."

Lennie Cash has dealt with a lot in her life. Her father is Leonard Cash, the infamous criminal who took her along as he robbed toy stores and Chuck E. Cheeses. Now, teenage Lennie lives with her mentally unbalanced mother and her uncles. The uncles are well known for brewing moonshine, the family business. Because of this, Lennie doesn't have a great reputation at school. Also, if that isn't enough, her best friend was just murdered.

Dylan's murder inspires Lennie to rebel just once. She drugs her uncles and steals three jars of shine to take to the popular Michaela's party. The kids all drink, and Lennie gets them to make the traditional wish. It's all good fun, or so she thought.

It turns out that the wishes, all of the silly, harmless wishes, came true. Her uncles thought that they told her years ago about the powers her family possess (It turns out that there was a silly misunderstanding; her uncle tried to tell her, she thought it was the Sex Talk and said that her other uncle already told her). When they perform the wishing ritual with the moonshine, the wishes actually come true. Because Lennie granted more than three wishes, the powers passed on to her.

Now, everything is a mess. Michaela's party is still going because she wished that it would never stop. Anyone who tries to leave becomes terribly ill. It's a battleground in there. There are gangs of teenagers at war with each other. Most of the wishes were harmless, such as the girl who wanted to be a cat or the boy who wanted to be a sexy old man (Seriously). Then there is the guy who wished to be a giant bat monster, and the surprisingly dangerous boy who wished that everything he touched turned into Cheetos.

Lennie is also dealing with the fallout of two other wishes. Dylan's twin brother Smith made a wish against her, along the lines of wishing that she would get what is coming to her because he blames her for Dylan's death. Lennie told him that he could lead her into Hell hand in hand. Now, Smith has an uncontrollable, painful desire to hold Lennie's hand, and once he does, they are stuck. Meanwhile, Lennie wished that Dylan were alive and safe in her bed. It's up to Lennie, Smith, undead Dylan, and the horribly awesome W2 (Who wished for brass balls and she talked him into steel ones) to save the day and reverse the wishes.

I am a big fan of Kate Kyrus Quinn's books, and Down With the Shine did not disappoint. My favorite part connected the book with her other two:

And then there were his obsessions. The ones he knew of, but couldn't find. A girl who stayed forever seventeen by making a cruel bargain with other girls so she could steal their bodies and their lives, a boy with the power to absorb bullets and magically heal, A girl who grants wishes through moonshine...

Down With the Shine was an inventive fairy tale of a story. I remember mentioning in a review that teenagers probably shouldn't be trusted with magic, and I stand by that statement. At least it's very entertaining to read about the crazy wishes. The story takes a crazy turn towards the end, but I kind of liked it.

I received my copy of Down With the Shine from Edelweiss, courtesy of HarperTeen. It's available for purchase now.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson

"This was so much bigger than the monkey bars. This was the Rebels versus the Empire. This was the Doctor versus the Daleks. This was Ripley versus the Xenomorphs.
This was a real, true, full-scale war..."

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You ended up surprising me. At first, it sort of annoyed me. It's based on Much Ado About Nothing, and the Beatrice (Here, she goes by Trixie) and Benedick (Ben) characters are savage. Every interaction explodes into a fight. In my opinion, it's mostly Trixie's fault. She takes every little comment as an insult and shoots back twice as hard, often going for very personal stuff (His mom leaving his family, his friends turning on him). I'm not saying that Ben is innocent in all this. He keeps up his side of the fight. They just can't seem to get along, they are too different...or too similar.

The kids in the story attend a school for geniuses called Messina Prep, or the Mess. It's highly competitive to the point that the school posts rankings every week. Ben's best friend Cornell is number one, Trixie's best friend Harper is two, Ben is three, and Trixie is four. She vows to change that by the end of the year so that she graduates in third place and can rub her victory in Ben's face. Their rivalry started when he pushed her off the monkey bars and broke her arm, and Trixie will not rest until she wins. 

Things start to change when Harper and Cornell finally get together. They have been dancing around each other for a long time, and he finally asked her to the Harvest Festival. The only thing in the way of their adorable, nerdy love is Ben and Trixie's inability to get along.

At the festival, Harper and Cornell are having such a good time that they end up forgetting about Trixie. She ends up alone in the surprisingly scary haunted house and has a panic attack. Thankfully, a kindly axe-wielding clown escorts her to safety. She actually became attached to her rescuer, to the point that she considers seeking him out as a possible romantic prospect. Imagine her surprise when she finds out that the clown was Ben, and she had been insulting him to his masked face. After that, Ben and Trixie no longer fight. He just ignores her, and vice versa.

In a moment of Shakesperian hijinks, Trixie overhears Harper and their other friend Meg discussing her. They lament how tragic it is that some poor young man is in love with her. There is no way she would ever return the sentiments, she would likely end up mocking him. It could be tragic...he might even kill himself! Who is this poor, lovelorn young man? None other than Ben!

Before, Ben couldn't say a word to Trixie without getting his head ripped off, but now she is civil, even nice. She lets him share her Spiderman umbrella when they walk to class in the rain. She lends him her Buffy comics and he introduces her to Saga. When they were arguing, they got on my nerves, but they made me squee a bit with geek cuteness.

Trixie still isn't ready to tell her friends, or, God forbid, her parents, about her new friendship. Ben buys her a ticket to the Winter Ball and it seems like they might actually be a couple. She buys a new dress, geeks it up, then all hell breaks loose.

Throughout the year, students have been put on academic probation for cheating. It was a couple of athletes and a D&D kid, nobody that they knew well. The Mess is a demanding school, so it's not too surprising. When Jack, twin brother of the class president, is suspended, everyone starts to pay attention. At the dance, Trixie finds out that everything was pinned on Harper. It looks like she framed her classmates for cheating. She is expelled, and Cornell doesn't stand up for her. (This is definitely a better scenario than the one from the play, which involved the Harper character being framed for having sex with a guy who wasn't her fiance. An update was definitely required.) It lands on Trixie to solve the mystery and clear Harper's good name.

Like I said, the book grated me at first, like an episode of  The Big Bang Theory. It's all smart people, Doctor Who, comic books, banter, blah. After I really got into the book, and Trixie and Ben chilled a little, I really loved the story. There were full on smiles and giggles on my end and, of course, happy tears. It's really cute and funny and led to me binge-reading the Saga graphic novels. I highly recommend it!

I received my copy of The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You through the Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for an honest review. It's available for purchase now.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

Stars Above was the final title in my Lunar Chronicles marathon...kind of. I read about half the stories along the way, then finished my project with the remaining stories. The book is a bunch of short stories that don't have a lot of effect on the main series. They're fun, but not strictly necessary.

The stories are:

1. The Little Android
This is a retelling of The Little Mermaid where an android falls in love with a human after saving his life. There is a short appearance by Cinder. This was previously released online.
2. Glitches
We see Cinder first arriving at her new home. I would have liked to have seen more of this, honestly. This story was in the back of my paperback copy of Cinder.
3. The Queen's Army
This one shows Wolf taken from his family to train for Levana's army. The story was in the back of my paperback copy of Scarlet.
4. Carswell's Guide to Being Lucky
Cress asked him about this story, where a young Carswell defends a girl being picked on at school. She thought it showed how good he truly is, but he had ulterior motives. You could get the story by subscribing to Marissa Meyer's newsletter.
5. The Keeper
A new story that shows a little of Scarlet's grandmother, Michelle Benoit, and how she became Cinder's guardian.
6. After Sunshine Passes By
Another new story, it shows a little of Cress' time with the other shells before she is placed on her satellite. 
7. The Princess and the Guard
New, we get to see Winter and Jacin growing up together. We also get to see the sad events that made Winter decide not to use her gifts anymore.
8. The Mechanic
New, it shows Cinder and Kai meeting from Kai's perspective. It's tragically short.
9. Something Old, Something New
A brand-new story that shows a little of what happens after Winter. Someone's getting married!

With this book, the Lunar Chronicles is complete. I really do like these books, and I enjoyed spending a couple months reading them all. 

Winter by Marissa Meyer

“And they all lived happily to the end of their days...”

Finally, we come to the end (Other than Stars Above). You can read the rest of the series here: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Fairest.

Winter is Levana's stepdaughter, cousin to Cinder/Princess Selene. Many Lunars believe that she is the legitimate heir to the throne, and the people love her, so Levana hates her. Winter doesn't use her Lunar gift so she is slowly going mad. In order to get her to break, Levana manipulated her into cutting her face. Winter didn't break, and she still has the scars on her face.

Winter is in love with her childhood friend Jacin Clay. He joined Team Cinder last book, betrayed them at the end, but is kinda on their side anyways. His true allegiance lies with Winter. Winter asks for Scarlet as a pet, and gets to keep the poor girl. They form a strange friendship.

Meanwhile, Team Cinder decides to return Kai. Their new plan is to change the wedding venue to Luna. They will then sneak onto the planet and rally the poor, working class Lunars into fighting Levana. What they don't count on is an outbreak of Letumosis, which we just found out in Cress can infect Lunars now.

So the whole gang is on Luna, reuniting as the story goes. There's some angsty stuff about how far you can go before becoming like your enemy, how much you should sacrifice for the greater good, all that good stuff. We do have a lot of characters at the end, and a lot of plotlines to cover, but I think they are handled well. It was a satisfying conclusion for me, and I'll miss the characters I've come to know.

Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Continuing my Lunar Chronicles marathon, I read Fairest. It tells Queen Levana's origin story. We knew about most of the events in the book, we just get to read about them happening first hand.

The book starts just after Levana's parents died and her older sister, Channery, became Queen. Channery was cruel and spiteful. She used her Lunar gifts to hurt others, including her younger sister. Levana always uses a glamor to cover up her appearance, which is covered in scars from a childhood accident. Her sister mocks her, exposes her true self, is generally a bitch.

Levana is still a teenager when she falls in love with a guard. Unfortunately, he is married and his wife is about to have his baby. She dies after childbirth, and Levana uses her gifts to get the guard to fall in love with her. They marry, and his daughter becomes hers.

Not to be outdone, Channery becomes pregnant and gives birth to a girl named Selene, who we come to know as Cinder. Selene and Levana's stepdaughter Winter grow up together. Channery dies from a mysterious illness, leaving Luna for Selene to rule when she is old enough. Levana serves as regent and starts to think that maybe it would be for the best if she was Queen permanently. There's only the problem of her pesky niece in the way...

I hope that Fairest wasn't supposed to make me feel sympathy for Levana, because I didn't. A lot of terrible things were done to her by her sister, but she ended up doing just as many terrible things, if not more. The book did make me wonder about the Lunar powers. Levana saw herself as good, as knowing what's best for those around her. What if she wasn't just controlling those around her, but was also manipulating herself to act worse and worse, to believe that the horrible things were all for the best? I don't know if this has any basis, it just intrigued me.

Cress by Marissa Meyer

At the end of 2015, I challenged myself to read the entire Lunar Chronicles series, according to Marissa Meyer's recommendations. I had hoped to finish the series by the end of the year, but came a little short. I reread Cinder and Scarlet, as well as the novellas in between the books, and managed to finish Cress just after the new year.

You can read my reviews of Cinder and Scarlet through the links. I am somewhat ashamed that it took me so long to read Cress, but that's the way books are: too many titles, too little time.

The Lunar Chronicles is a fairy tale-science fiction mash-up. Cinderella is part cyborg and Red Riding Hood is in love with a genetically modified super soldier. The earth is being decimated by plague and the only salvation is from Lunar (As in from the moon) Queen Levana, who is evil. In the third installment, we meet our Rapunzel, Cress.

Cress is a Lunar, but she doesn't have any powers. (Normally, Lunars can control other people with their minds.) Since Cress can't control or be controlled, she is labelled a shell. Shells are traditionally rounded up and killed, but Cress ended up being sent to live on a satellite. She has all kinds of technological training and hacking skills and she does lots of secret work for her Mistress, Sybil, the head Thaumaturge/bodyguard for Levana.

All Cress thinks about is the world outside her tiny satellite. She watches videos, looks at pictures, and listens to music from earth, dreaming that she might experience earth firsthand. She also develops a huge crush on Carswell Thorne, the cocky criminal who escaped from prison with Cinder. She read about his various crimes through the years and considers him to be misunderstood.

Thorne, Cinder, Scarlet, and Wolf are all traveling on his (stolen) ship the Rampion when they contact Cress to get some hard evidence of Levana's plans (At the end of the first book, Cress had been the girl in the android's file who warned Cinder about Levana's bad intentions towards earth). They decide to rescue the stranded girl, but are interrupted by Sybil. Team Cinder escapes, but Sybil captures Scarlet and takes her back to Luna. They also end up with Jacin Clay, Sybil's pilot. Unfortunately, Sybil sends the satellite plummeting to earth...with Thorne and Cress still on board!

Fortunately, Cress was able to slow their landing, and the pair end up wandering through the desert. Thorne can't see because of the crash, and they have a terrible time between the hunger, thirst, and foot pain. They eventually come across a caravan of helpful people who escort them to a city. Thorne ends up disappointing Cress by gambling and flirting with an android escort, which gives their rescuers the chance to kidnap Cress and sell her to someone buying Lunars.

Meanwhile, the Rampion crew heads to Africa to meet up with Dr. Erland, the secret Lunar. Erland ends up being the guy buying Lunars, and he is also Cress' father. Team Cinder decides to stop the wedding and save earth by kidnapping Kai. There's some minor betrayal, but it all goes off without a hitch otherwise.

I remember the first time that I read Scarlet, it was sometimes hard to follow the story because I had trouble keeping track of whether the narrator was Scarlet or Cinder. It was easier the second read, but I have a bit more trouble with Cinder/Cress here. I am still a fan of Cress and Carswell Thorne is fantastic, so I love this book. We even get a glimpse of Miss Winter towards the end to gear us up for the last book.