an old man staring into the distance, with a Newbery medal under the title

Book Review: The Giver, a Quick, Thinking Read

If you’re ever needing a quick but thought-provoking read, check out The Giver by Lois Lowry. You know those times when you’ve got maybe five minutes between picking one kid up from space camp and dropping another off at a friend’s house, or ten minutes after work, before you’ve got to fix dinner and/or clean the house, but you’re not in the mood for some silly beach romance? The Giver is what you should read.

What Is The Giver About?

From GoodReads:

Twelve-year-old Jonas lives in a seemingly ideal world. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver does he begin to understand the dark secrets behind this fragile community.

Printed in 1993, this was the original dystopian novel. It came before Divergent, Matched, and Hunger Games, any of those. It’s fascinating to me that the central premise of this book, and of many others that have followed it in this sub-genre of science fiction, is that society has had to resort to strictly-regimented uniformity and almost-total if not complete separation from the freedom and excesses of the past. It’s like these authors are trying to tell us that there is only one way that the American love of freedom without regard to its attendant responsibility can end up–in ruins–and that, if we survive that ruin, we’ll have no choice but to give up our freedom and our memories of the past if we want to have any hope of surviving as a race. Maybe that’s extreme. What do you think?

Who Will Like The Giver, And Why?

Despite that heaviness, this book is meant for a middle-grade audience: kids between the ages of 8 and 12. Its main character was only 12, and the plot and settings are laid out only as a 12-year-old would describe them.  While there is some hinting at mature content, such as when Jonas, the main character, discovers that some people are purposely “released” (i.e., poisoned and dumped in the trash) if they’re not wanted or considered necessary by The Community (e.g. if they’re an identitical twin or aberrant in some way), there is no swearing, sex, or violence. As such, I would recommend it for middle-grade readers. I would also highly recommend it to those of you who liked the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi, or Divergent by Veronica Roth, keeping in mind that, as adults, you’ll probably thirst for more detail. If that’s the case, just read the book’s sequels because they flesh things out nicely.

What’s The Deal?

You can get a good-condition used paperback from Thriftbooks.com for $3.79. That’s 50% off the original price! And the movie (HD version) is only $9.99 on Amazon. This is one of those classic books that should be in everbody’s libraries.

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.

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: Nothing Human, a Fascinating Read

As I wrap up this week, which has been full of:

  • volunteer hours at my kids’ schools,
  • preparations for Easter and Spring Break,
  • writers’ club meetings,
  • church meetings,
  • family get-togethers, interspersed with
  • gaming (I’m loving Horizon Zero Dawn, by the way),
  • geocaching, and
  • reading, of course…

I can’t help but be thankful for a good life. Some things feel scary, and I have thoughts that I’d really like to get into a blog post to see if I can get some real, constructive conversations going about issues that concern all of us. In the meantime, though, I’ve got a review of Nothing Human by Nancy Kress. Nancy is an American female science fiction writer, which is partially why I bought and read this book, but I was also intrigued by the premise of Nothing Human, which is:

What Nothing Human Is About

…that, in a setting where Earth has been ravaged by global warming, aliens contact and genetically modify a group of 14-year-old kids, inviting them to visit their spacecraft. After several months of living among the aliens and studying genetics, the students discover that the aliens have been manipulating them and rebel. Upon their return to Earth, the girls in the group discover that they are pregnant and can only wonder what form their unborn children will take. Generations later, the offspring of these children seek to use their alien knowledge to change their genetic code, to allow them to live and prosper in an environment that is quickly becoming uninhabitable from the dual scourges of global warming and biowarfare. But after all the generations of change, will the genetically-modified creatures resemble their ancestors, or will nothing human remain?

It’s a fascinating apocalyptic premise borne out by an interesting storytelling structure. It’s very intriguing to consider how we as a species could evolve to survive a slow apocalypse, especially if “guided” by an alien “human” species. It was a very thought-provoking read.

But…

I wouldn’t give Nothing Human a full 10 stars for a few reasons:

  • It didn’t play out as tautly as After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, a book also by Nancy with a similar premise. That book is more YA and more intense.
  • Nothing Human is told in three parts and from various perspectives. I think the story would’ve been told better just from Lillie’s perspective, as she was the one character that all the parts and perspectives had in common.
  • The ebook copy that I got from Amazon was, for some reason, not a finished copy. There were a lot of typos, to the point that it was detracting.

I’d still give it at least 8 out of 10 stars, though. Sometimes, I like books that really make me think, but that also have interesting and relatable characters in thoroughly unrelatable circumstances.

 

Partial nutrition facts label:

Swear words: 55

 

What are you reading this week?

 

 

Book Review: Restore Me, an Embroiling Read

I just finished reading my fourth book this week: Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi. As it happens, it’s also the fourth book in Tahereh’s Shatter Me series. It was an embroiling read, as intense as the three books before it, but less for the action than for the emotion. And, of course, it too, has a cliffhanger ending. Guys. I can’t handle all these books with cliffhanger endings! So frustrating! It was good on so many levels, but you might want to wait until more books in this series come out before you pick this one up, because you’ll get to the end and be like:

via GIPHY

What Restore Me Is About

To tell you that, I have to tell you a little bit about what the previous three books are about, so this section will have some spoilers. The main character, Juliette Ferrars, has a lethal touch. This is in a far-future America where everyone’s all but killed everyone else off, and what’s left of humanity on this continent has organized itself into 50 independently-governed sectors. A group called The Reestablishment endeavors to control all of them, and wants to do so by wiping out all languages but one, all religions, everything that divides humankind up. Juliette has been kept in an asylum’s solitary confinement cell for almost a year because of her touch, until she’s given a cellmate who’s immune to it. He eventually reveals that he’s working for The Reestablishment, and then introduces her to Warner, the son of the Supreme Commander, who has come to free her so that she can use her touch to punish traitors to The Reestablishment.

Juliette doesn’t want to use her touch to hurt anyone, especially not traitors to The Reestablishment, so Adam, her cellmate, helps her escape. They get away, and Adam introduces her to a rag-tag group of people forming a rebellion against The Reestablishment, a crazy feat to even attempt given its size and power. But eventually Juliette reveals her ability and finds out that others in the group have powers as well. Over the course of a couple of books—Unravel Me and Ignite Me—they gather reinforcements, against all odds, and kill the Supreme Commander. Warner, the son, tracks Juliette obsessively, she thinks, because he wants to turn her over to his father, but really, because he is in love with her. He also happens to be immune to her touch, although no one knows that. So, by the end of book 3, the Supreme Commander is dead, Juliette learns how to turn her power on and off at will, and she realizes that she might love Warner too, broken young man that he is (like her).

Restore Me, then, is about Juliette’s first days as the new 17-year-old Supreme Commander of Sector 45, with Warner by her side. Adam, who was an initial love interest, is no longer in the picture. She was able to rally a whole sector of people and some allies to defeat the forces that the previous Supreme Commander brought to bear, but now that she’s in charge, she realizes how little she knows about everything. She’s quickly overwhelmed, especially when an announcement is made that the teenage children of the Supreme Commanders of all the other sectors are all coming to meet her. She finds unexpected allies and enemies in some of them, discovers secrets about her past that she didn’t even know existed but that upturn everything she thinks she knows about herself, and doesn’t discover enough about Warner to merit how deeply she falls in love with him. But she’s desperate for people, for touch, for help.

Who Might Like Restore Me and Why

Restore Me is definitely dystopian, in a way that reminds me of the Obernewtyn Chronicles, a series written by Australian Isobelle Carmody also based on the premise that many hundreds or thousands of years in the future, mankind almost makes itself extinct, to the point that cars and skyscrapers and Netflix and the internet are mere relics of the past, and the bad things we did to the environment before that happened caused mutations to develop in people that gave them certain abilities.

It goes without saying that if you’ve read any of the previous books in this series, you’ll like this one, if you’re okay with cliffhanger endings. If you’re a fan of the Twilight saga, you’d probably also like this book because Juliette, like Belle, is wrapped up in her inadequacies but drawn by some otherworldly chemistry to someone she shouldn’t be drawn to. There is a sex scene, and some swearing.

And, for you science fiction fans, there is very little world-building, so much so that it can be a little frustrating. To a certain extent, the descriptions of the characters’ environment has been taken care of in the previous books, but since they’ve destroyed a lot of it, and are rebuilding, more world-building would’ve definitely been helpful.

And, while I detest the baiting of cliffhanger endings, I anxiously await the release of the next book in the Shatter Me series.

Have you read anything by Tahereh Mafi? What did you think?