This week's Sunday Sunshine covers a few cool upcoming releases I read through NetGalley and Edelweiss, and best of all--they'll all be available within the next month!
What I Read This Week:
Glitch by Heather Anastasiu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Well, I guess I'll start from the beginning: it took me quite a while to get into this book. I can't tell exactly how much of it, since I read it as an e-galley, but definitely a big chunk of the book passed before the first "whoah" moment. But then there was that first "whoah" moment, and in short order a second, and a third. By the end they were coming pretty fast and I'm definitely curious about what happens next.
A little bit about what actually happens, with as few spoilers as possible: Zoe (or "Subject Zoel", as she is officially known) lives in a community where everyone is connected through computer chips in their brains. Then one day her chip starts glitching. Basic enough, right? Ok. Then she finds out that she is not alone. And when she meets others like her, she starts to learn secrets about her world and the people who control it. (I'm not great at summary and also don't want to give away any of the "whoah" moments. But this much, I figure, is just sort of genre standard.)
In the interest of writing a balanced and honest review (and explaining what made this a three-star read--which, it bears repeating, means "liked it" and is still, on the balance, solidly positive), I will mention that two things bugged me a little: one was the slang terms, which felt a little arbitrary and which were used more often than I would have liked (BUT which did signal a plot element at one point, so I at least see the purpose) and the other was a little bit of InstaLove (although I guess if you'd never felt feelings before, and suddenly you FELT ALL THE FEELINGS, that kind of thing could happen.) So, not huge issues, but ones which I'm hoping will ease up a bit in the second book. (Yes, I did like this one enough that I plan to read the second book.)
NOW, the good stuff! The moments when I thought this book really stood out were some of the big reveals and action sequences. In particular, the first thing that made me sit up and take notice was one of the most horrifying action sequences I've ever read. Heather Anastasiu, I want you to know that I will be having nightmares based on your words, so, well done there. I was also impressed with the number and variety of obstacles thrown at the characters, particularly Zoe. They were never allowed to get comfortable for too long, and I thought the twists and turns were often surprising (I gasped at least once, having been caught totally off-guard in the best way--the "oh my god DUH" way) and definitely made me want to keep reading. That's hard to do and I think it was managed pretty deftly here once the story really got flowing.
To sum up: if you're a fan of stories about dystopian societies with heavy romantic elements, give this a shot, and be patient if the first few chapters don't grab you. Once this one hits its stride, it plays out really well, and I think the potential conflict that's set up by the end could make for an even better second book.
Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Oh man, I just finished this book, and my pulse is racing. I am slowly starting to come around to the idea that I think zombie books are pretty awesome. This one is a little different from others I've encountered, though, in that the zombies are created and controlled by a necromancer--they're not contagious, just terrifying. I was a little iffy on that twist at first, because I *am* a little bit worn out on books with dark magic plots. Ultimately, though, I thought it was really well set up and it definitely worked for me. I don't want to give anything away, because this book definitely surprised me a couple of times. It took me a little while to get into it but for the last two-thirds or so I couldn't put it down. You may not know that you're a fan of steampunk zombie mysteries, but once you read this, you will be!
Between You & Me by Marisa Calin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm so all over the place on this one. I think it does a lot of big things well, certainly, and I would recommend it for plenty of people. On the other hand...there were some things that bugged me.
1) This book depicts the feelings of a teenage girl who is dealing with a crush on a teacher--a female teacher--when previously she has only had experience with boys her age. While I am a bit touchy about anything that even remotely resembles teacher-student relationships that cross the line, I thought this book handled Phyre's feelings in a way that realistic and sympathetic while also making clear that Mia (the teacher) cared deeply about Phyre as a student--and nothing more. I appreciated the deft handling of what could be really tricky subject matter, and I give bonus points for working in the especially strange and often intense bond student actors sometimes feel with their adult directors (here I'm relating through my own remembered experiences on the student side; my directors and theater teachers rivaled only my parents in terms of influence in my teenage life.)
2) This book did pretty well, I thought, in portraying the way high school theater works; I draw the line at the swimming pool, which I didn't totally think was necessary, but fine--there's no indication that this school district is in any way cash-strapped, so maybe they did go crazy and build a swimming pool in the stage, what do I know (no amount of time will lessen the bitterness my perpetually broke inner-city high school peers and I felt toward the ritzy suburban high school ten minutes away. There were rumors that while I was devoting my Saturdays to building rickety staircases and re-painting old flats for our sets, the suburban kids were doing Titanic the musical with a hydraulic mechanism to sink the ship right into the stage.) But I liked the degree to which the play actually shaped the way Phyre thought about things; that's definitely something I experienced.
3)POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD; ONLY AS MUCH AS YOU CAN READ IN THE GOODREADS SUMMARY, BUT HEY, NOW YOU'VE BEEN WARNED (loudly, sorry for that.) I liked the screenplay and play-within-a-screenplay formats, if only as a novelty--I believe that a kid like Phyre would tell her story that way. That rang true. And I like the idea of the ambiguously-gendered, second-person best friend--but I wish that I hadn't been told from the beginning that the character could be read either way. (I thought maybe that was just the note at the front of the ARC, and that the finished copy wouldn't do that, so I was going to leave it out of my review--but then I realized it's right there in the Goodreads summary. So, the cat's outta the bag, I guess.) I think I would have loved to realize that at the end--like, hey, this character that you thought was a [gender 1]? Could have been a [gender 2], couldn't it? It's a cool device and a lot of care was taken with it. However, going in with that primed in my brain--I couldn't decide. It was a little like reading a choose-your-own-adventure book and checking out all the choices before actually turning to a page (which, ok, I did all the time; yes, I know that's cheating at books; sue me.) So I wound up doing double readings of each scene as I went, where I think I would have preferred to read the whole book again after realizing there was another option. OK, SPOILERS ARE DONE NOW.
In short--this is definitely a story worth reading. I actually talked myself up a star while writing this review, because as I thought back over the story I realized how much I liked. A few distracting things don't take away from a really original, truthful story, and I would recommend this to the following groups of people:
--theater people, especially people who were theater people in high school
--anyone who's been confused about their feelings toward someone
--anyone who's felt ignored by someone they cared about
--anyone who's ever realized they were being a jerk to someone they cared about
--so, basically, all the people, because if you show me someone who says that none of the above apply to him/her, I'll show you a liar.
View all my reviews
**Disclosure: I received free e-galleys of all three of these books in exchange for honest reviews.**