The words "Atlantia" in large white script above a seashell just touching water and sending out a small ripple. "Ally Condie" below that.

Atlantia by Ally Condie: Well-Crafted and Inexpensive

Can you believe it’s time to start getting kids ready to go back to school? On the one hand, I’m looking forward to watching my oldest start high school and my youngest go into fourth grade. On the other, though, I’ve enjoyed the good times we’ve had this summer, playing at Lagoon, going to the movies, and taking “road trips” (i.e., fishing expeditions where I didn’t catch anything but everyone else did). I’m thankful for the relative peace we’ve had, and our health! I also love that I found Atlantia by Ally Condie, and that I can share a great deal on it with you! It’s such a well-crafted book.

What Is Atlantia About?

The words "Atlantia" in large white script above a seashell just touching water and sending out a small ripple. "Ally Condie" below that.From Amazon:

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamed of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose. Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.

Who Would Like Atlantia, And Why?

I love when a well-crafted plot draws you in as it unfolds to reveal many pleats and twists, and then closes in around you as all those twists fold back in on themselves to make a nice little braid of detail. The fact that this plot takes place primarily in an underground city that is vivid and clear adds to the charm of this book. The only thing that keeps me from giving this book 10 stars is that, in the end, I couldn’t quite identify with the main character, Rio. I’m not sure that I could put my finger on the reason why, but it has something to do with a slight lack of emotion, or lack of the whole spectrum of emotions in her. Other than that, this was a great read. So, anyone who likes a well-written book will like Atlantia.

Also, if you like fantasy books like The Selection by Kiera Cass or the Matched trilogy, also by Condie, you’ll like Atlantia.

What’s The Deal?

You can get the hardcover version of Atlantia, which sells for $18.73 on Amazon, for $4.59 on Thriftbooks. Dude. Hardcover. You can get a used paperback copy in decent condition for $3.79.

Book Review: The Lie Tree, A Spellbinding Read

You know those books that you can’t stop reading? You get so immersed in them that you read them for hours at a time, like you were watching a movie, and when you’re done, you feel…a little empty. Not only do I enjoy those kinds of books, but I take copious notes as to exactly how they achieve it. It’s one thing to feel it, it’s another to understand why.  The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge was one such book for me, but honestly, I’m still not sure if I fully understand why it moved me so much. Let me tell you about it, and see what you think.

What Is The Lie Tree About?

Here’s the description from the back cover:

Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is modest and well mannered–a proper young lady who knows her place. But inside, Faith is burning with questions and curiosity. She keeps sharp watch of her surroundings and, therefore, knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing–like the real reason her family fled Kent to the close-knit island of Vane. And that her father’s death was no accident.

In pursuit of revenge and justice for the father she idolizes, Faith hunts through his possessions, where she discovers a strange tree. A tree that bears fruit only when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit, in turn, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father’s murder. Or, it might lure the murderer directly to Faith herself, for lies–like fires, wild and crackling–quickly take on a life of their own.

Faith, in her pursuit of an outlet for her cleverness and answers to the questions posed by her father’s murder, nurtures the tree and ingests the fruit, but the things she discovers aren’t the things she thought she would.

What Makes It Great?

So picture a brambly English moor, like the one in Wuthering Heights, and a turbulent coast that hides lots of caves, like the kind in Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince, Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper (another great book I need to review here), or Willowkeep by Julie Daines. It’s moody and creepily magic. So a mystical setting is one thing that sets this books apart, but it’s not all.

And the prose is strong, as in this paragraph:

She was very aware of herself, of her own lungs filling and emptying. She could feel where the china saucer dented her fingers, and the shapes of her teeth against her dry tongue. Something warm was spilling from her eyes down her cheeks. Suddenly she was hotly, unbearably alive.

The whole book is like that, a great example to me as a writer of “showing” and not “telling.” But it’s more than the setting and the prose.

Its underlying theme of seeking respect, particularly women seeking respect from men who aren’t willing to give it, is one that was artfully woven into the plot and is relevant today. It’s Faith unwittingly seeking an answer, through the process of trying to solve her father’s murder, to the question of whether one should seek to demand respect from those who withhold it, or not worry about what anyone else thinks, even if that limits your circumstances. I think that’s a question all of us have sought the answer to at one time or another. So, it’s the setting and the prose and the theme.

But that’s still not sufficient. What makes The Lie Tree extraordinary is something that I’m not sure can be adequately articulated by anyone, and that is how it makes one feel. The reader wants Faith to get the notice she desires from her father before he dies, to have people recognize her intellect and help her nurture it, and to solve the mystery surrounding her father’s death. She’s a good, well-drawn robust character.

So, Who Would Like The Lie Tree, And Why?

There’s no romance, so if you like romance in your books, don’t read this. If you like mysteries like Shatter, you’ll like this. If you liked any book in the Harry Potter series, you’ll like The Lie Tree. It’s also a little like Colorless by Rita Stradling. It’s just a really good book!

 

These Broken Stars cover

Book Reviews and Deals: These Broken Stars and This Shattered World: Tidal Wave Reads

I must start this book review by mentioning another book review site, The Book Smugglers, because it is from that site and its really good, in-depth reviews that I learned about These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. The book is sometimes called “Titanic in space” because the crash of a giant spaceship is what sets off its main conflict. The daughter of the richest man in the universe, and a poor, orphaned soldier are the only two survivors on a terra-formed, unpopulated planet, and they both hate each other. But they have to get along in order to survive. This is not the first time that such a conflict forms the centerpiece of a story, but it is the first time that it has been done with such original effect.

What Is These Broken Stars About?

From Goodreads:

Luxury spaceliner Icarus suddenly plummets from hyperspace into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive – alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a cynical war hero. Both journey across the eerie deserted terrain for help. Everything changes when they uncover the truth.  The Starbound Trilogy: Three worlds. Three love stories. One enemy.

These Broken Stars cover

Why I Liked These Broken Stars, And Why You Might Like It Too

I, for one,  loved the uniqueness of the plot and the premise, two young people marooned on a planet struggling to overcome the mindsets that keep them apart. They must search for other survivors and a way to communicate an SOS signal. In that sense, the plot is tied inextricably to their movement along their days-long hike.  The evolution of their dynamic feels very real, especially since the story is told from alternating points of view. Lilac, the daughter, learns how and why she should really rely on herself more. Not only that, her eyes are opened to the dark deeds of her father, who has kept her under his gilded thumb her entire life. And Tarver–his discovery of the fact that there are things worth protecting, not just dying for, but living for and taking care of–it’s a beautiful thing.

Were it just for those things, I would have rated These Broken Stars highly. But then, a twist developed that was wholly unexpected, that brought in more of a fantasy feel, that made it even better. I was, in fact, a very bad person when I read this, because I had to read it all through in one day! I felt like this book was well-paced, walking a perfect line between conflict and emotional development. It can be such a struggle to develop both simultaneously. It was one of those books that pulls you inexorably forward to find out what happens. A joy to read.

What’s the Deal?

You can get These Broken Stars for $3.98 on BetterWorldBooks with free shipping.

Nutrition Facts, Anyone?

Swearing (d*, sh*, f*, h*, g*d*): 56

Sex: none, although there’s some making out

Violence: little bit

Stars: 10 out of 10

Second Book in the Series: This Shattered World

The second book in the series, This Shattered World, did not disappoint either, although it was about completely different characters. Here’s its description:

Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met. Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet’s rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the rebels. Rebellion is in Flynn’s blood. His sister died in the original uprising against the powerful corporations that terraformed Avon. These corporations make their fortune by terraforming uninhabitable planets across the universe and recruiting colonists to make the planets livable. They promised better [lives]. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion against them.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war. As Flynn and Lee attempt to uncover the truth about Avon, they realize that there is a conspiracy on the planet that runs deeper than either of them could imagine.

Why I Liked This Shattered World, And Why You Might Too

Everything about the second book is different–the characters, the setting, the conflict–but there is the same vividness of setting, starkness of conflict, and unforgettable characters. I wrote this in my Amazon review:

This was a 10 on my not-able-to-put-down scale! I loved everything about it. The plot had the impetus of a tidal wave. It was built around a conflict that was stark and very tense. Though this book’s setting is on a world very different from our own, I didn’t have a problem visualizing where things were taking place. The characters were marvelously believable and wonderfully drawn. There was exactly the right balance between internal monologue and external action; enough of the former to make the extreme changes the two main characters go through seem not only feasible but necessary, and enough of the latter to continually glue my eyes to the pages. Such a joy to read!

This Shattered World cover

What’s The Deal?

You can get This Shattered World through BetterWorld.com for $3.95.

Nutrition Facts, Anyone?

Swearing (d*, f*, sh*, h*, g*d*): 51

Sex: same as in book 1

Violence: same as in book 1

Have you read the third book in the series, Their Fractured Light? If so, what did you think?

Book Review: Echoes of Silence by Elana Johnson

You guys. Have you read anything by Elana Johnson? She’s written almost thirty books, under either her name or the pen name Liz Isaacson. She’s local (i.e., Utah), super nice, and an awesome speaker. And her books are addictive. I just read Echoes of Silence by Elana, and it was not-put-downable.

Echo of Silence cover

Here’s the blurb:

Twenty-three-year-old Echo del Toro doesn’t know about the bride-choosing festivities the tyrannical Prince of Nyth has planned–until she’s taken from her home by five armed soldiers. She’s led under the cover of a magically produced storm to an opulent compound to join hundreds of girls, each vying to be chosen as the next Queen of Nyth.

As she plays the charade of falling in love with the Prince, Echo realizes three terrifying truths: He is hungry for her song-magic, he has a secret plot to dethrone his father, and he is not wholly unlikable. Faced with the strongest dark magician in centuries, Echo must know when to let her voice fly and when to hold her tongue, or she’ll find herself caught in the lasting notes of a song that can’t be unsung.

It is YA speculative fiction, set in a kingdom of indeterminate chronology and history. Most of the book takes place within the walls of the prince’s castle, and there are noble people, city gates, markets, and so forth, but no dragons or elves. There is magic, and it is a unique kind. It is based on music, wielded with song. In that respect, it is like my book Forced, which I wrote to explore the idea that the emotions one often feels when listening to music, or making it, could develop into actual powers. The magic system of Echoes is intriguing to imagine as it incorporates both the ability to create ethereal beauty, and to kill, as well as everything in between, depending upon the mindset of the wielder. That system, essentially, forms the basis of the plot of the book, as Echo, the main character, uses it to provide for and protect herself and her sister, and to avoid being taken advantage of for it.

Elana Johnson
Elana Johnson

Echo is a great main character, both despite and because of her lack of ability to control her tongue. She says whatever comes to mind, which often gets her into trouble. The combination of her musical power and lack of a verbal filter make for a great irony. The other characters, too, are equally as intriguing for the things they possess in spades and the things they don’t: Castillo, for his determination and lack of trust; the Prince (Cris), who carries little power but a great ability to understand people, Echo’s grandmother, who passes away before the story begins but whose memory and example linger on almost every page of the book.

This was an excellent read, full of the interactions of these fascinating characters and wonderful prose that made the story flow like a sonata. Ten out of ten stars.