Saturday, March 28, 2015

Short Story Saturday: Defy the Dark, Now Bid Time Return

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Defy the Dark.

Story: Now Bid Time Return
Author: Saundra Mitchell
Summary: Dacey, a suffering insomniac, wins a spot in a student exchange program and heads to Tromso, Norway where in her sleepless nights she has visions of Kristian, a boy from local legends.
Thoughts: SWOON! I loved this one! The dreaming, the amazing setting, the twists on time, the boy, the girl! I've read books by Mitchell before, but this short story struck me in a completely new way. I will have to revisit her works because I absolutely adored this story.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Short Story Saturday: Defy the Dark, Shadowed

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Defy the Dark.

Story: Shadowed
Author: Christine Johnson
Summary: Esme lives with a cursed shadow that tries to attack her whenever it gets the chance, requiring her to live a sequestered life far from any light until a gallant young knight makes her see that a life in the dark is hardly a life at all.
Thoughts: Hmmmm. I was really liking this one - fantasy, magic, curses, knights, secret meetings - and then literally on the last page there was a twist. I definitely didn't see it coming, but I can't decide what I think about it. I'll be keeping an eye out if this author has any other fantasy works to explore in the future.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A New Age for Sci-Fi: These Broken Stars

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Starbound #1)
Disney-Hyperion, 2013

Lilac LaRoux is the daughter of the richest man in the universe, untouchable even to the galaxy's elite. Tarver Merendsen is a lower class kid turned war hero, out of place rubbing elbows with people who consider social trivialities a matter of life and death. They only thing they have in common is the Icarus, the luxury space liner their both traveling on. But when something goes terribly wrong and the ship plummets into an unknown planet, Tarver and Lilac are all each other has. Will this socialite and this soldier be able to survive the wild terrain and the secrets this mysterious place holds?

I have a long and complex relationship with the science fiction genre. I grew up loving Star Wars and love space adventures, but I'm incredibly picky when it comes to reading it. Books like These Broken Stars remind me how much the genre has to offer, and one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much was that it was completely unlike any sci-fi I've read before.

In this first installment in their Starbound series, Kaufman and Spooner unleash a story in a delicious slow burn. That's not to say the story is slowly paced - it's not. Lilac and Tarver are constantly on their toes - their lives depend on it. It's the secrets of this planet and within each of them that are peeled back slowly, the anticipation building until I almost couldn't stand it. In chapters alternating between their points of view, it was captivating how they misinterpreted each other over and over again, then eventually come to understand each other in a way that was completely believable. Even though their circumstances are extraordinary, they way they handled themselves felt authentic. It's a brave choice to write a novel with only two characters for 90% of it, but these ladies pulled it off in stunning fashion.

Since I don't want to spoil anything about this book, I'm being purposely vague. However, I'll leave this thought: I'm completely obsessed with this series now. I enjoyed every page. This was the type of book where I was always looking for a spare moment so I could sneak in another page or two, and yet, I also didn't want it to end because I didn't want the story to be over. Thank goodness for companion novels, such as This Shattered World, available in bookstores and libraries now.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Amie Kaufman's Website
Amie Kaufman on Twitter
Amie Kaufman on Tumblr
Meagan Spooner's Website
Meagan Spooner on Twitter
Meagan Spooner on Tumblr

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Short Story Saturday: Defy the Dark, Naughty or Nice

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Defy the Dark.

Story: Naughty or Nice
Author: Myra McEntire
Summary: On the annual senior ski trip in Bavaria, Bex must not only confront her growing romantic feelings for her longtime best friend Henry, but also fierce monsters during the traditional Krampus Walk.
Thoughts: Aw! This story was both terrifying and cute! I'm amazed at how often I've run into the Krampus story in the past few years, especially since I'd never heard of him before I was 26. This story had an engaging setting, just enough characters and twists to keep me on my toes, and an actual conclusion which I find can often be lacking in short stories. I really liked this one!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: If You Find This Letter

If You Find This Letter: One Girl's Journey to Find Purpose Through Hundreds of Letters to Strangers by Hannah Brencher
Howard Books, Expected Release Date: March 10, 2015

*ARC provided by the publisher - thank you! This in no way impacted my opinions of this book.*

In 2010, Hannah Brencher graduated from college and moved to New York City. She knew she wanted to make a difference, to make the world better, but she wasn't quite sure how to do that. She believed in God, but the belief and relationship was complicated. She was surrounded by millions of people and yet, she was lonely. But things started to change with one choice she made riding the subway and she saw a woman who looked as tired as Hannah felt. She pulled out her notebook and wrote this woman a love letter. Not a romantic love, mind you. Just a note to give her a push, making a connection to let her know someone was thinking of her and wished her well. When she looked up from writing, the woman was gone and eventually Hannah decided to leave the letter (and the doezens of others she wrote like it over the following weeks) behind, simply addressed "If you find this letter, then it's for you." From there, a movement of sorts grew along with Hannah and her faith in God and in people, eventually taking shape in her organization More Love Letters.

It's hard for me to not be personal when talking about this book. In so many ways, I can empathize with Hannah. We both graduated from college in 2010, both wanting to make the world better but not quite sure how, both afforded opportunities while at the same time being stifled by a crippled economy. Reading this book made me feel like I had immediately made a friend; there was that instant connection of "this person gets me," an "I wish we could hang out in real life" sort of feeling. Her fears, as she comes to realize as her year in New York goes on, aren't quite as singular as she thought - they're universal, especially, I believe, among Millenials.

Hannah's story is nicely paced, moving along linerally while at times providing flashbacks, filling readers in on past events to explain her opinions and point of view more completely. Some people may find her quest or voice a bit cheesy at times, but I saw it as a person fighting to stay hopeful, especially in the face of depression.

This is a book for people who keep on trying, who have maybe lost sight of the good things in the world in the face of so much bad. The world does need more love letters, and it needs books like this and people like Hannah who aren't afraid of saying "this is who I am, this is what I believe, and if we work together, maybe we can make this world a little bit better one page at a time."

Which is to say, this book was absolutely for me and I can easily see myself rereading this and recommending it to people for years to come.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Hannah Brencher's Website
Hannah Brencher on Twitter
More Love Letters Official Website

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Short Story Saturday: Defy the Dark, There's Nowhere Else

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Defy the Dark.

Story: There's Nowhere Else
Author: Jon Skovron
Summary: Sebastian feels like there's something not quite right about the exceptionally strange dreams he's been having.
Thoughts: This story started stronger than it ended in my opinion. I really liked the various elements at play - a boy with a difficult home life who finds himself with the ability to occupy other people's bodies when he's sleeping. Very interesting! However, the voodoo elements that came in later didn't quite hold my attention. A fine story, but not my favorite.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The End?: Vivian Apple at the End of the World

Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle (Vivian Apple #1)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015

*ARC Provided by the publisher at ALA Midwinter 2015 - Thank you! This in no way impacted my opinions of this book.*

Ever since the evangelical Church of America announced three years ago the date of the rapture, life has gotten strange for Vivian Apple. Her parents become Believers (as do thousands of others), but Vivian just doesn't buy it. However when the day comes and her parents are gone, maybe it really is the end of the world. She eventually grows restless and sets out on a cross-country road trip with her best friend Harp and the mysterious Peter, desperate to find the truth.

A recent pick for the Tumblr Reblog Bookclub, Vivian Apple has been all over my social media feeds lately so I was glad at the opportunity to pick it up for myself. In her debut novel, Coyle keeps the pace of the story clipping along and presents a diverse cast that keep readers thinking. The story really gets interesting once Vivian and friends set out on their road trip, but it does take a while to get there.

Coyle takes on a lot of big questions that hit particularly close to home to me. Vivian sees the world, especially post-Rapture, as black and white: there are the Believers and the non-Believers. However, she her categories don't allow for nuance, for differences. While it's true that the Church of America has taken over many aspects of everyday life, it's not the only religion that exists or that people believe in anymore. This is best showed in a scene in which Vivian is critical of a former teacher whom she looks up to and her parents for being Catholic - to her, believing in God at all puts an individual in the evil Believer camp, fanatical and closed minded, never to be trusted. She firmly does not believe in any sort of higher power, which is perfectly fine. But to me, Vivian is just as closed minded as those she criticizes when she refuses to consider that faith and religion has never been so cut and dry as she imagines it to be.

So I do have some objections to Vivian and how she tries to divide the world. It also took a while for the story to gain some steam, but eventually it got there. All in all, I like that this book challenged me. I like that it made me think, that it didn't shy away from big, often taboo topics. I like that most of the characters felt fully formed and that the situations, for the most part, felt realistic. I'd even be interested in borrowing the sequel from my local library when it comes out eventually.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Katie Coyle on Twitter
Katie Coyle on Tumblr