The Room by the Lake by Emma Dibdin

34818163The Room by the Lake
Emma Dibdin
Goodreads

When Caitlin moved from London to New York, she thought she had left her problems behind: her alcoholic father, her dead mother, the pressure to succeed. But now, down to her last dollar in a foreign city, she is desperately lonely.

Then she meets Jake. Handsome, smart, slightly damaged Jake. He lives off-grid, in a lakeside commune whose members practise regular exercise and frequent group therapy. Before long, Caitlin has settled into her idyllic new home.

It looks like she has found the fresh start she longed for. But, as the commune tightens its grip on her freedom and her sanity, Caitlin realizes too late that she might become lost forever…

Review:

Though I finished this book in two days, I wasn’t very impressed by it.  The summary intrigued me and I always do enjoy fictional accounts of cults and those ensnared by them but I wanted this book to be different and it wasn’t.  It was same old ‘character wants a different life, character gets taken in by a charismatic man, character thinks she’s found her life, character realizes that this is not a good place, character escapes.’

I was waiting for the sense of ominous foreboding that I expected with a book like this and I just didn’t get it.  Everything was serene and strange but nothing stood out to me as being a precursor to the bad stuff I knew would be coming.  It was fine and then it wasn’t.  Everything seemed to happen in like twenty pages which made the journey up to that seem pointless.

It didn’t help that the author went for a huge cliche with the main male bad guy in regards to what he was using his power for.  I was disappointed and didn’t really feel anything when he got his comeuppance.

This book was merely all right.  A good fast read for when you need something to do but nothing that I’d highly recommend.

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America, Vol. 1: The Life and Times of America Chavez, by Gabby Rivera

34380219America, Vol. 1: The Life and Times of America Chavez
Gabby Rivera
Goodreads

At last! Everyone’s favorite no-nonsense powerhouse, America Chavez, gets her own series! Critically acclaimed young-adult novelist Gabby Rivera and all-star artist Joe Quinones unite to shine a solo spotlight on America’s high-octane and hard-hitting adventures! She was a Young Avenger. She leads the Ultimates. And now she officially claims her place as the preeminent butt-kicker of the entire Marvel Universe! But what’s a super-powered teenager to do when she’s looking for a little personal fulfi llment? She goes to college! America just has to stop an interdimensional monster or two first and shut down a pesky alien cult that’s begun worshipping her exploits before work can begin. Then she can get on with her first assignment: a field trip to the front lines of World War II – with Captain America as her wingman! COLLECTING: AMERICA 1-6

Review

I was really looking forward to this since I really liked America in Young Avengers, but…it tries too hard. It tries SO hard, in so many different ways, that it ends up being nonsensical and falling flat on its face.

There are one or two really good moments — usually when America is reflecting on her past or her parents — but they’re overshadowed and beat into submission by the fact that America is kind of an asshole and every other character in the book is some kind of shallow tumblr stereotype. Representation matters, but it doesn’t help in this case.

So disappointing, but at least it provided one of my favorite comic covers of the last few years:

america

And and this beautiful variant cover by Jen Bartel:

tumblr_otbg9gko1r1qerie7o1_1280

Warcross by Marie Lu

29385546Warcross
Marie Lu
Goodreads

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

I’m upset that I’m no longer reading this book.  I really am.  Marie Lu’s always been a consistently good author but this is probably my favorite of all the books of hers I’ve read.  It was high octane, fast paced and speeding towards a satisfying resolution from the get go.  I wanted to get to the end to see if some of my guesses were right but I didn’t want it to end.

I was, at first, worried that Emika was going to fall into the ‘quirky, whimsical, too cool for her own good’ trope that some main characters are, unfortunately, slotted into but she wasn’t.  She was layered and complex, full of dark places and flaws that made her all the better in my eyes.  I could have done without the frequent mentions of her rainbow colored hair but it’s a small quibble that’s easily forgiven.

Hideo Tanaka’s my new boyfriend.  I’m gonna write my name and his all over my slam books.  But, then again, maybe that’s not the best idea.

The twist (one that I don’t want to go too far into to avoid outright spoilers) left me both incredibly surprised and incredibly deflated (because it involved a character I’d come to love).  I’m intrigued to see how this all plays out in the sequel (that’s too far away) but I’m definitely in this series for however long Marie Lu wants to write it.

 

The Child Finder, by Rene Denfield

32223884The Child Finder
Rene Denfield
Goodreads

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight years old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as The Child Finder, Naomi is their last hope.

Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl too.

As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

Review

I started this on a whim and ended up reading it late into the night in one sitting. What a magical, wonderful, powerful, painful, engrossing piece of work.

Every character touched on in this is fascinating. Though there are two main characters that the book surrounds, each secondary character feels like a fully developed and real person despite some having very little page time.

I do have to warn that this novel is dark and doesn’t stray from the darkness that surrounds the topic it covers, but…it’s a beautiful way of writing about it, with absolutely none of the sleaziness that a lot of slash-and-kill thrillers write about crime and violence. Every character makes sense. Every scene is beautiful, even when painful. The ending is optimistic without losing any of it’s realism — which is a bit amusing to write, considering half the novel deals with the power of imagination in dealing with trauma.

The last time I can remember wanting to immediately re-read a novel when I finished the last page was with Burial Rites, another novel that deals with cold and dark themes but is beautiful and treats them with respect and weight.

I want everyone to read this book even though I know the topics within are very tough to deal with. IT’S JUST SO BEAUTIFUL, OKAY???

Miles Morales, by Jason Reynolds

32793053Miles Morales
Jason Reynolds
Goodreads

“Everyone gets mad at hustlers, especially if you’re on the victim side of the hustle. And Miles knew hustling was in his veins.”

Miles Morales is just your average teenager. Dinner every Sunday with his parents, chilling out playing old-school video games with his best friend, Ganke, crushing on brainy, beautiful poet Alicia. He’s even got a scholarship spot at the prestigious Brooklyn Visions Academy. Oh yeah, and he’s Spider Man.

But lately, Miles’s spidey-sense has been on the fritz. When a misunderstanding leads to his suspension from school, Miles begins to question his abilities. After all, his dad and uncle were Brooklyn jack-boys with criminal records. Maybe kids like Miles aren’t meant to be superheroes. Maybe Miles should take his dad’s advice and focus on saving himself.

As Miles tries to get his school life back on track, he can’t shake the vivid nightmares that continue to haunt him. Nor can he avoid the relentless buzz of his spidey-sense every day in history class, amidst his teacher’s lectures on the historical “benefits” of slavery and the importance of the modern-day prison system. But after his scholarship is threatened, Miles uncovers a chilling plot, one that puts his friends, his neighborhood, and himself at risk.

It’s time for Miles to suit up.

Review

I gave this a solid three stars on Goodreads because that’s what it feels like – I like the book, but it’s nothing incredible or mind blowing. It’s an important book that will mean a lot to many people (I wish I’d had this when I was still a teen growing up in NY!), but for me right now, it’s just a solid like.

The book follows Miles as he deals with being a high school kid, having a crush on a girl, worrying about his parents’ financial issues, wondering if he has bad blood in his veins like his uncle Aaron. Oh, and being Spider-Man, of course.

I found this book presented a very different take on the Spider-Man dilemma: it’s not just about Miles’ personal life, but his personal life in that it represents an entire livelihood, his way out and up. I really liked this aspect of it, which made the actual super villain (if you can call it that?) plot fall a little flat for me. I can absolutely see where Reynolds was coming from and going with the idea, but something about it rubbed me the wrong way.

Like I said, I gave this three stars overall because I liked it for what it is – an important book with some good storytelling that kind of falls flat in the end for me.

Waste of Space by Gina Damico

28473381Waste of Space
Gina Damico
Goodreads

Cram ten hormonal teens into a spaceship and blast off: that’s the premise for the ill-conceived reality show Waste of Space. The kids who are cast know everything about drama—and nothing about the fact that the production is fake. Hidden in a desert warehouse, their spaceship replica is equipped with state-of-the-art special effects dreamed up by the scientists partnering with the shady cable network airing the show. And it’s a hit! Millions of viewers are transfixed. But then, suddenly, all communication is severed. Trapped and paranoid, the kids must figure out what to do when this reality show loses its grip on reality.

Review:

Waste of Space is a harmless, fun little book.  I’ve always enjoyed Gina Damico’s brand of humor and heart so I was pretty excited to read her latest.  This book is a little heavier on the humor and lighter on the heart.  It’s still good but I think the  book suffers just a bit from having such a large cast of characters that you can’t really fall in love with any of them.  There’s just not a lot of background on any of them.  You get brief insights, little visits to their pasts and some slivers of their backgrounds but no one is really fully developed.

Still, I laughed quite a bit.  The book takes the reality television craze and shoves every single stereotypical character into it and revels in how cliche and predictable reality television can be.  There’s the requisite villain, the quiet one, the disabled one, the minority, etc etc.  Everyone is a caricature of their ‘trait’ and, thankfully, the book moves fast enough and doesn’t focus too much on that to make it offensive or boring.

The ending of the book threw me for a bit of a loop because, up until then, it had been a funny and superficial romp.  It had been funny and witty and, at times, poignant but the ending was actually very serious and sad.  It wasn’t bad by any means and I could see where it was coming from as I thought about the whole novel once I’d finished reading but, at the time, it made me tilt my head.

Still, it’s a good, funny book.  Perfect for a quick read or to decompress after reading something heavy and angsty.

Want by Cindy Pon

32333174Want
Cindy Pon
Goodreads

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits that protect them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother, who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is or destroying his own heart?

Review:

What a good, good book.  I wasn’t sure, at first, how what read as a light plot (boy from the streets is given a chance to infiltrate the ranks of the rich in order to bring them down from the inside) could sustain a three hundred plus page book but Cindy Pon wove a beautifully poignant story with vivid characters and evocative, gorgeous prose that really brought Taipei to life.

One of my favorite aspects of this (and any book, really) is the found family trope.  This book centers around a close knit group of friends who truly care for each other, who love each other and support each other.  There’s no angst, no drama within their circle and nothing that threatens to rip their family apart.  They all need each other for different reasons and I felt those emotions to the bone.  It was beautifully written.

This was one of the few books I’ve read where I wanted it to be longer. I  would have loved a few hundred extra pages that focused on Pon’s stellar cast of supporting characters (Iris and Lingyi specifically) but I was glad to get what I got and I’m even more pleased that a sequel is in the works though it’s far out.