Video Game Review: Horizon Zero Dawn for PS4: Rich Gameplay, Minimal “Teen” Content

Do you hear that? It’s the Hallelujah Chorus being sung by thousands of moms who play video games and/or have kids that play video games, upon realizing that a new feature of HeadOverTales.com will be reviews of video games from both a gamer’s perspective and a mother’s perspective.

via GIPHY

No longer will those mothers have to piece together information about games their teens are playing or that they themselves want to play from inarticulate, profanity-using, indiscriminate gamers on YouTube, reviews on Amazon, and ratings on CommonSenseMedia.Org. Those are all great resources, but hopefully, the reviews and deal discoveries I provide will provide a more comprehensive picture. Video games played well and appropriately can be really fun.

What’s The Game?

Courtesy of Amazon

The first game I’ll be reviewing will be Horizon Zero Dawn by Guerrilla Games. It’s an RPG (role-playing game) set on a far-future Earth where most of humanity has been wiped out by a race of machines that vaguely resemble the animals we have now, but that are bigger, much more powerful, feed on organic material, and self-replicate exponentially faster than humans. What humanity does survives lives in relatively primitive tribes, with no clue about what happened before. The main character, Aloy, starts out as a little girl raised only by a man she knows as Rost, in isolation for no known reason. He trains her to fight and be tough, and when she gets older, ends up being asked by the very tribe who exiled her to seek answers to the question of why half their tribe was killed. What she finds during that quest, and who finds her, is bigger and more mysterious than she could have ever imagined, even reaching back centuries.

 

The storyline is rich, easy to follow, and factors in the personal choices of the player in terms of how Aloy responds to certain situations. She is usually offered three options; I’ll call them the tough one, the passive one, and the nice one, for lack of better terms. The graphics are amazing, showing what places like Denver, CO, Lake Powell, southern Utah, and Alaska would look like in this kind of future. Aloy mostly fights machines, but sometimes has to clear bandit camps and save fellow seekers from bandits who would kill them and leave them for dead, so there is some bloodshed. There are also a few swear swords (mostly the D-word) in the narrative. There’s no nudity. There are plenty of hours of entertainment and thought to be had, whether one just wants to play through the game’s story, which takes a gamer to about 70% of the way through the game, or find all the collectibles and complete all the side quests, which takes a gamer to the full 100%. I’m almost to 100%. There are the usual health and skill points to be acquired, as well as currency to be earned and spent, so I recommend this game for kids 10 and up. Any younger than that, they’re likely to get frustrated and give up.

 

Courtesy of Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s The Deal?

When we bought our copy of Horizon Zero Dawn last year on Amazon, it was $60. The Frozen Wilds expansion pack (which I also highly recommend) was an additional $20. You can get the digital code for the whole thing (only for PS4) on Amazon now for $37.98, which is less than half of what we got it for . Totally worth it. And if you buy from this link, I get a small commission as an Amazon affiliate that enables me to keep writing these reviews and finding deals for you guys!

 

Book Review: Steelheart, A Steely Read

Challenges can be tough, y’know? Mine right now is hard to put into words, but I’m lightened by friends and family who reach out to me and let me know that they care. I read Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart, and I think there are a lot of you that would enjoy this book and the deal I found for it!

What Is Steelheart About?

From Amazon:

How far would you go for revenge if someone killed your father? If someone destroyed your city? If everything you ever loved was taken from you? David Charleston will go to any lengths to stop Steelheart. But to exact revenge in Steelheart’s world, David will need the Reckoners—a shadowy group of rebels bent on maintaining justice. And it turns out that the Reckoners might just need David too.

The premise is that twelve years before the story begins, an object dubbed Calamity appeared near Earth and burst in the sky, emitting a strange radiation that gave a small group of humans super powers and near invincibility in apparent defiance of the known laws of physics. They all have different types of powers and weaknesses, with no apparent rhyme or reason. Dubbed Epics, these super-humans took to crime. Existing government proved absolutely incapable of controlling the Epics, the most powerful of which replaced government authority and enslaved the rest of humanity. there are a bunch of people with superpowers, but they’re all bad and have taken over the world. The Reckoners is truly intriguing and generates a good conflict for the main character. David, in witnessing his father being killed by Steelheart, the Epic who took over Chicago and enslaved everyone there, thinks he knows the Epic’s one weakness and bands together with the Rebels to defeat him.

Who Would Like Steelheart, And Why?

Fans of Brandon Sanderson’s Wheel of Time, Mistborn, Way of Kings, or Elantris books might be a little surprised by the YA superhero angle of this story, but it’s still an amazing story, and should be read by all of Sanderson’s fans. The characterization is thorough. Though the middle seemed to go really slow for me, the first third is action-packed and the last third, once it gets going, is super intense. I finished the book having thoroughly enjoyed how he tied all the threads together into a compelling tapestry. 

What’s The Deal?

The cheapest you can get the paperback of Steelheart on Amazon is $7.99, unless you get a used copy, and even then, the cheapest you can get it is $4.99. If you get it through Thriftbooks, however, you can get a used copy in good condition (I get these all the time) for $3.79. And, since I recently became a Thriftbooks affiliate, I’ll get a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Obviously, this doesn’t affect your cost. The commission will enable me to keep reviewing books and finding deals for you, my wonderful readers!

 

Book Review: Trail of Lightning, A Visceral Read

Because I’m trying to get published, and because I have this wonderful book blog on which I get to talk with you guys about cool books, I follow a lot of publishers, literary agents, and authors on Twitter. A few months ago, an agent I follow tweeted about a new book coming out from one of her clients: Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse. It’s post-apocalyptic, written by a Native American woman. How cool is that? I tweeted back to Sara that I had to have a copy of this because it sounded so awesome, and she sent me a galley copy! I just finished reading it, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a heart-in-your-throat, visceral read:

What’s Trail of Lightning About?

From Goodreads:

While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters. Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology. As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.

Who Would Like This Book, and Why?

Anyone who likes

will like this book. It’s really intense, told in first-person present-tense from Maggie the Monsterslayer’s perspective. She’s convinced she’s a monster, a supernaturally gifted killer on the outside but on the inside a scared human who’s seen and caused way too much death. In that respect, she reminded me a little of Edward in Twilight. She goes around killing monsters, so there is ALOT of violence. She thought she’d found a redemption of sorts in her one-time mentor Neizghani, but spends most of the book mourning his abandonment of her a year before the book starts. The book’s plot is propelled forward more by the appearance of monsters and those who would either help her fight them or feed her to them than by decisions she and Kai make, as she’s trying to distance herself from her evilness and any reminders of it, the main one being Neizghani. Because of that, Maggie seemed a little hard to follow and even harder to empathize with, but I still dearly wanted her to find happiness…and romance, if possible.

The main reason I liked this book, other than the premise, was the writing. Amazing, techni-color writing.

Nutrition Facts?

Swear words (D*, F*, S*, H*, G*D*): 72

Sex scenes: 0

Violence (some extreme [i.e., references to cannibalism, etc.]): 8

positive messages/relationships (e.g., love + effort, charity, hard work, goals, etc.): 2

negative messages/relationships (e.g., no love, or love +(-effort), meanness, laziness, selfishness): 5

LGBTQ+ relationship(s): 1

Visual?

via GIPHY

Deal?

This book doesn’t come out until June 26th. It’s priced at $7.99 on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, for their respective ebook editions. If you preorder the ebook or paperback version from Barnes & Noble, using the code SUMMERFUN at checkout, you’ll get 15% off, which means the ebook would be $6.79 (USD) and the paperback would be $11.03, both of which are very good deals for a not-yet-released book.

Book Review: Glimmer, an Intense Read

To deal with the challenges of looking for a job, and while enjoying summer with my kids, I’ve been reading a lot, because that’s what I do! I recently finished Glimmer by Phoebe Kitanidis. It’s a YA amnesia book with a beginning similar to one of the books I’ve written. It’s a somewhat disjointed but very well-written, compelling read that kept me on the edge of my seat, scratching my head, sometimes gasping for air. I’d say it’s an intense read:

What Glimmer Is About

When Marshall King and Elyse Alton suddenly wake up tangled in each other’s arms with zero memory of how they got there or even who they are, it’s the start of a long journey through their separate pasts and shared future.

Terrified by their amnesia, Marshall and Elyse make a pact to work together to find the answers that could restore their missing memories. As they piece together clues about their lives, they discover that they’re in the idyllic mountain resort town of Summer Falls. Everyone seems happy there, but as Marshall and Elyse quickly learn, darkness lurks beneath the town’s perfect facade. Not only is the town haunted by sinister ghosts, but none of its living inhabitants retain bad memories of anything—not the death of Marshall’s mom, not the hidden violence in Elyse’s family, not even the day-to-day anguish of being a high schooler.

Lonely in this world of happy zombies, Marshall and Elyse fall into an intense relationship founded on their mutual quest for truth. But the secrets they’re trying to uncover could be the death of this budding love affair—and of everyone, and everything, they love in Summer Falls.

Who Might Like Glimmer, And Why

If you like intense reads, especially if they’re told in first-person dual POV present tense, like Claudia Gray’s Defy the Stars, which I reviewed here, you’ll like Glimmer. Because it follows Elyse’s and Marshall’s different but intertwining journeys to getting their memories back, and then, (spoiler alert) once they regain them, their efforts to hide them from themselves and a certain antagonist (end spoiler alert), it’s somewhat disjointed. It jumps from scene to scene for quite a while, with the only common thread being that everyone seems to collapse into what are called “heatnaps” any time anything unpleasant happens, and Elyse sees ghosts.

If you like teen romances, you’ll like this book for that aspect too. Kitanidis adeptly maneuvers her two main characters through the plot compelled by realistic and heartfelt thoughts and feelings that recognize the frailty and fear of adolescence, but also the yearning for independence and power that also comes with that stage of life.

One of the coolest, most unique features of this book is the fact that it combines paranormal elements with magic. In that respect, if you liked Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal, you’ll probably like Glimmer, although the magic systems are different. And if you liked Beyond, you’ll like this book.

I bought it on Amazon, but I found it for a much better price on ThriftBooks.com for $3.79 (used).

Visually, it’s this:

via GIPHY

plus this:

via GIPHY

Nutrition Facts:

Swear words (D**, S**, F**, H**): 66

Sex scenes: 0

Positive messages (e.g., love, charity or helping others, family, value of hard work): 2-3

Positive role models: 2

Violence: not really

Mentions of drinking alcohol, drugs, or smoking: 20

Big Announcement! More Reviews and Deals For You!

You may have noticed that my blog’s starting to look a little different, with a different layout/theme and the addition of Video Game and Movie Reviews. I’m excited to announce that these are just a few of the changes that my site will be undergoing in the near future, all so that I can provide you with more entertainment information and deals! Don’t worry, there will still be at least two book reviews a week, but I’ll be adding:

  • information about special deals on books and other entertainment products. I’ve been scouring the internet for really good deals on books, and want to pass them on to you! ‘Cause I’m just that nice. I’ve partnered with a few select vendors of books, video games, movies, and related entertainment products so that I can have better access to deals, deals that you won’t find in other places.
  • video game reviews: In my ample spare time, I game (and fish, dirt bike, camp, etc.). I also have a teenage boy who games a lot. I’ll be sharing reviews and deals on video games, both from the perspective from a busy mom who games (i.e., if you don’t have a lot of time, you only want to spend your money on those games that are really worth it), and a mom of a teenager, trying to stay on top of the kind of content he consumes. For those five other momgamers out there (yes, that is a thing because I just invented it), and for those other moms of teenagers trying to monitor their kids’ media consumption as well.
  • movie reviews: detailed and sometimes even with spoilers, so you can spend your money wisely and be entertained.

So, over the next few weeks, watch for these changes:

  •  switch to HeadOverTales.com, to cover broader content. You’ll still be access HeadOverBooks.com, but if you see HeadOverTales in the header, don’t be surprised. You’re in the right place.
  • header will be a little fancier, more “doodlier.”
  • addition of video game and movie content

Thanks for following me, and let me know what you think!

 

Book Review: The Immortalist, A Thrilling Read

In between fishing yesterday, updating my blog’s look, and writing a short story as part of a job interview process, I finished reading The Immortalist: A Sci-Fi Thriller by Scott Britz. It was definitely a thrilling read.

I didn’t catch any fish, but I really enjoyed the surroundings!

 

This is my where-have-all-the-fishies-gone face

 

What Is The Immortalist About?

From GoodReads:

World-renowned virologist Dr. Cricket Rensselaer-Wright abruptly abandoned her research in Africa after watching her colleague die tragically from the Ebola virus. When she returns to the States to reunite with her teenage daughter Emmy, her plans are sidetracked. No sooner does she set foot on the campus of Acadia Springs—the research institute where she grew up and Emmy now lives—than her onetime mentor Charles Gifford announces his discovery of the Methuselah Vector, a gene therapy agent that can confer immortality on a patient after a single injection.

Gifford’s air of triumph is marred when a young woman on campus dies suddenly from a horrific viral infection, eerily similar to the Ebola that drove Cricket out of Africa. Despite Cricket’s pleas to slow down the rollout of the Vector and run more tests, Gifford refuses. And when the unthinkable happens—when Emmy falls ill with the same mysterious disease—Cricket is forced to take matters into her own hands. But is it already too late?

Gifford will stop at nothing to release the Vector into the world. Mobs are clamoring for it. Cricket has only a few hours to find a cure for Emmy, and to convince the public that Gifford’s quest for eternal life may cost the very lives he hopes to save.

Would You Like The Immortalist?

  • Yes, if you like lots of detail in your books. Because it’s a medical sci-fi written by a professor at Harvard Medical School, his depiction of the science behind how gene manipulation could conceivably cause immortality with one injection, and, if done even the slightest bit wrong, rampant superviruses that could just as easily kill everyone on the planet is very realistic and chilling. The book’s level of detail reminds me of The Hero and The Crown by Robin McKinley, which I just reviewed here. It also kind of reminds of the DaVinci Code.
  • Yes, if you like smart, conflicted women. Cricket is brilliant but thoughtful, introverted but able to see and care about the bigger picture. She’s conflicted about her relationships with her daughter and her ex-husband, about her career, etc. In some respects, she kind of reminds me of Addie in Love & Luck, even though the two books are totally different.

Nutrition Facts

Swear words: 207

Sex scenes: 1

Functional relationships (featuring love+ effort, or some kind of formal promise): 4

Dysfunctional relationships/characters (feature love – effort = discord, or just plain animosity or greed): 3

 

Should You Buy It?

Yes! The Kindle version is $4.99 on Amazon right now!

 

 

Book Review: The Rose and The Crown, a Nice Read

I’m still elbow deep in my hunt for an editor/content manager job, and have been transitioning my kids to summer, which always includes a neighborhood getting-out-of-school party:

What my neighborhood does to celebrate the end of the school year.

A post shared by Jamie Moesser (@jmoesser) on


…as well as more substantial chore charts (with the accompanying wailing and gnashing of teeth), and shopping for shorts, summer clothes, and braintime activities. We like to do lots of hands-on things—read-a-thons, science experiments, art projects, museum visits, etc.—and have accumulated a lot of materials and resources over the years for that, but I like to take them shopping for new kits, books, etc., whatever gets them excited about continuing to learn over the summer. Of course, I pay them for their chores, with Braintime being one of them, so there’s that. As the summer progresses, I’ll share ideas and stories of our learning escapades, and I hope you’ll share yours with me too, in the comments section below!

In the meantime, I read The Hero and The Crown by Robin McKinleyIt’s a speculative fiction book about a young princess who doesn’t look the way people of royal birth in her kingdom look, and doesn’t feel like a princess because she’s been told since she was born that her mother, upon giving birth to her and seeing she was a girl, turned her face to the wall and died of despair. Aerin is shy and retiring, but when a power-hungry village in the north of her father’s kingdom starts causing problems that he has to go and tend to, she’s left to deal with the threat of a dreaded dragon. She struggles, not only with the burden of figuring out how to do that and strengthening her fortitude so she can, but also against the perceptions that everyone has about her and she has about herself, that it will be impossible for her to defeat the dragon.

What I Thought of It

Although the plot knits together fairly well, it takes a while to get going, and the climax is over in two seconds, which makes it feel somewhat anti-climatic. She’s led to a dark wizard who wants to take over her father’s kingdom, but she strikes him down (rather easily actually), which indirectly helps her save the whole kingdom. It was a nice read.

Who Might Like The Hero and the Crown

If you liked The Waking Land by Callie Bates, Dark Breaks the Dawn by Sara B. Larson, or Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold, you’ll like this book.

If you’ve got a Kindle, it’s available on Amazon for $5.38, which is 23% off the paperback price.

 

 

If You Don’t Read, Tell Me Why…Please

No, I don’t have an agent or a job yet, but I’m still actively writing and looking. I’ve still been reading too—two books, in fact—but can’t really recommend either one. Let me  tell you a little bit about Glimmer by Phoebe Kitanidis and Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, because I think they’d both be worth reading for the right audiences, and then give a pre-announcement of sorts.

Glimmer

From Goodreads:

When Marshall King and Elyse Alton suddenly wake up tangled in each other’s arms with zero memory of how they got there or even who they are, it’s the start of a long journey through their separate pasts and shared future.

Terrified by their amnesia, Marshall and Elyse make a pact to work together to find the answers that could restore their missing memories. As they piece together clues about their lives, they discover that they’re in the idyllic mountain resort town of Summer Falls. Everyone seems happy there, but as Marshall and Elyse quickly learn, darkness lurks beneath the town’s perfect facade. Not only is the town haunted by sinister ghosts, but none of its living inhabitants retain bad memories of anything—not the death of Marshall’s mom, not the hidden violence in Elyse’s family, not even the day-to-day anguish of being a high schooler.

Lonely in this world of happy zombies, Marshall and Elyse fall into an intense relationship founded on their mutual quest for truth. But the secrets they’re trying to uncover could be the death of this budding love affair—and of everyone, and everything, they love in Summer Falls.

It’s well-written, but because Marshall and Elyse are amnesiatic, their lives are somewhat discombobulated and fragmentary, which makes it a little hard to follow and harder still to connect with them. I feel like I’m going to have to read this one at least one more time to fully understand it, but it may turn out to be much better on the second reading.

It is $3.99 on Amazon right now, for Kindle. It’s very much worth it, especially at that price, despite my perspective.

 

Life As We Knew It

From Audible, which is where I bought it:

Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when a meteor knocks the Moon closer to the Earth. How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun? As summer turns to Arctic winter, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove. Told in journal entries, this is the heart-pounding story of Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all, hope, in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.

It’s a story about the end of the world, told from a teenager’s perspective. As a writer, I’d say the author did a really good job with the voice of the book; it very much sounds like a teenager telling the story. As a reader, though, I think she did a little too good of a job. Her bubble-gum-popping tone and focus on things like dates and friends made me feel like the real plot was passing me by unnoticed by Miranda. Indeed, there didn’t seem to be much of a plot other than day after day of she and her family surviving the slow destruction of Earth. To tell the truth, I can’t finish this one, even though I’m more than halfway through. Very little has actually happened.

Life As We Knew It is only $6.19 on Amazon right now, which is a pretty good price too:

Announcement?

Preparatory to an announcement of some additions that I hope to be making to HeadOverBooks in the next few weeks, I’m doing some research. Would you mind completing this very short, three-question survey if you read 10 or fewer books a year, or even sharing it with your followers and friends online? I watched this dispiriting Jimmy Kimmel clip the other day, about how little people actually read, and want to understand why.

Don’t worry: I’m not doing this survey so I can try to convince more people to read; I just want to understand where they’re coming from so that I can plan changes to my website that will meet people’s needs. Hint: those changes might involve video games and movies. What do you think?

Book Review: Defy the Stars, a Roller Coaster Ride of a Read

Defy the Stars is one of those books that makes your head spin as your brain strives to process all the images being thrown at it. It’s classic space opera, with lots of space travel and planet hopping.

So What is it About?

It follows the stories of two main point-of-view characters: Noemi, a young female soldier from a far-away Milky Way planet called Genesis, and Abel, an artificially-intelligent android that she finds. Noemi, in an effort to save a friend who had been gravely injured in a space battle against their heavy-handed oppressors from Earth, boards what she thinks is an abandoned space ship looking for first aid supplies, but finds Abel and loses her friend. Her goal becomes to free her peaceful planet from Earth’s tight grip at all costs, and Abel’s goal, because he’s an android, helps her in that quest, even though it becomes apparent that, if they succeed, it will mean his own destruction, since his creator, someone he thinks of as his father, is a leading Earth scientist committed to the cause of Earth’s supremacy throughout the galaxy. 

The thing that I thought was most interesting about this book, other than the premise, the main characters, and the cool images of other planets, was the fact that Noemi’s whole motivation, and thus most of the book, is based on her desire to save a planet that we, as readers, are told relatively little about. While the space travel is definitely cool, and the relationship that develops between Noemi and Abel is heart-warming, one would think that one would need to see the planet more to understand her desire to go through all that she goes through to try and save it.

The focus, in fact, is very much the development of that relationship, as this is a YA sci-fi book. It’s a good read just for that. It’s also really fast-paced, which, as you know, I love. I would’ve liked to see a little bit more of Genesis, perhaps in her flashbacks, so that I could’ve understood Noemi’s motivations. In some ways, I understood and sympathized Abel better than I did Noemi, due to his frequent memories of his “father,” and his drive to return to him.

Visuals, Anyone?

via GIPHY

 Who Would Like Defy The Stars, And Why?

If you like anything by Beth Revis, particularly the Across the Universe series, you’ll like this.  If you liked Claudia Gray’s Thousand Pieces of You series, with its breakneck pacing, you’ll like Defy the Stars.  Obviously, if you like anything Star Trek, you’ll like this. If you like action, tough female characters, or romance, you’ll like this book.

 

Book Review: Love and Luck, A Supremely Enjoyable Read

What makes a book “supremely enjoyable” to read, as opposed to “spellbinding,” “rich,” or “charming?” For me, it has to be a mix of good writing, clever lines, fun characters, strong relationship building, and most importantly, heart. Jenna Evans Welch’s latest book Love and Luck is such a supremely enjoyable read because it has all of those things. To wit:

Good Writing

It takes a very steady writer’s hand to dole out details of a relationship, world, or situation fast enough to keep the interest of readers with short attention spans but not so fast that a story becomes predictable one-third of the way in. At the core of Love and Luck is the relationship between the main character, Addie, and her brother Ian, right after she goes through a really rough break-up with her boyfriend, and during a family trip to the Emerald Isle. They’re there for her aunt’s destination wedding, but Ian keeps bringing up the break-up, which gets him into all kinds of trouble with Addie. Then, she’s more-or-less forced into a whirlwind road trip with him and his Irish buddy Rowan. Addie finds a guidebook entitled “Ireland for the Heartbroken: An Unconventional Guide to the Emerald Isle” at their hotel, and uses that as her survival mechanism, but finds that she doesn’t need to rely on it so much as she needs to learn how to trust Ian, own her mistakes, and rely on her friends and family. Welch peels back the layers of Addie and Ian’s relationship bit-by-bit, through revelations of details about her relationship with Cubby, then wraps it back up again using the chaotic stitchwork of their shared roadtrip experience and previous history. It’s endearing and heart-warming, that’s what it is.

Clever Lines

Some examples:

(in a conversation with Ian and Addie’s older brother, Walt, and their mother):

Walt leaned forward, shaking himself free of me also. “Mom, please stop swearing. You’re awful at it.”

“You can’t be awful at swearing,” she said shakily.

“You have single-handedly disproven that theory,” Walt argued. “There’s a science to it; some words go together. You can’t just throw them all out at once.”

“I’m going to throw you all out at once,” Mom said.”

Or this:

(as Addie’s getting into Rowan’s tiny car and beginning this forced road trip):

I rushed over, eager to keep up the goodwill, but when I looked inside [the car], the glow that Ian’s smile had created instantly faded away. He had somehow managed to stack Rowan’s items into a teetering pile that almost touched the ceiling. The only actual space was behind Ian’s seat, and it was just the right size for three malnourished squirrels and a hedgehog. If they all sucked in.

Fun Characters

credit: Jenna Evans Welch. All rights reserved.

Addie is a high-schooler in the swamp of murky self-identity, yet her narrative isn’t angsty or depressing. In fact, it’s anything but. Through her interactions with Rowan, who becomes a co-commiserator in the Land of Heartbreak, she is revealed (to herself and others) as a kind, impulsive, dedicated, angry, helpful Person. Through her interactions with her brother Ian, which could have shown her to be nothing but selfish and mean-spirited, she is shown to crave harmony. In the end, her biggest problem is her ability to own her past mistakes, which is a very relatable character flaw. Somewhat whimsically, she follows the advise of the writer of “Ireland for the Heartbroken,” making paper airplanes out of losses and standing in the waters of Inch Beach until her legs are numb. It’s a joy to follow her journey.

Strong Relationship Building

All books, when it comes right down to it, are about relationships (all good books anyway), no matter the genre. To take a relationship–a sibling relationship no less–from a knock-down fist fight to a hug, realistically, is no small feat, but as I said before, it’s done in this book.

Heart

“What is heart?” you say. It’s that indefinable quality of (good writing + fun characters + strong relationship building) + emotion. The emotion has to be deep and woven throughout, not dramatically expressed in fits and spurts like a bas relief sculpture, just for show. It’s interesting to me that at the launch for this book, which I attended at Kings’ English in Salt Lake City, Utah, Jenna stated that this book came out of one of the toughest years of her life. It doesn’t feel like it; it’s too light-hearted for that. Or rather, maybe because of that, between the clever quips and mad dashes, the heart of this book reaches a very universal core:  who we are as human beings and whether we’re sufficient by ourselves or need others.

Who Would Like Love & Luck?

If you liked Love and Gelato, it’s loosely-related predecessor which I reviewed here, you’ll like this book. If you’re going to the beach and want a light read, you’ll like this book, although there’s not much romance per se. If you want a book for your teenage girl to read, one that has no sex and very little language, you’ll like this book.

My sister Heather, who is Jenna’s friend.