fantasy (7)

Book Review: Oasis by Katya de Becerra

Book Review:

Oasis by Katya de Becerra

Pub Date: 07 Jan 2020

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I so wanted to like this as much as I started out liking it. It really pulled me in quickly. I can see how it was initially described as Lost mixed with Twilight Zone, but I guess I was hoping for more Twilight Zone mixed with Lost. I personally enjoy more scifi than fantasy, and Oasis was definitely more fantasy than scifi.

Confession: At first I thought the "diversity thing" was over the top, but I quickly understood the setting was absolutely appropriate for scholars from all over to participate in an archaeological dig. I was glad to find the mix of characters was not just a ploy for inclusiveness. I did have a bit of a struggle with some of the characterization (Would a 13 year old boy run to greet an older teenager girl and hug her? What about a brooding, moody, slightly older assistant would appeal so strongly to a teenage girl?) On the other hand, I give de Becerra props for being able to provide two different personalities to each character depending on the plot influences.

From what follows you might get the feeling I really didn't like the book, but I did. I just liked the beginning and where I thought the dig plot was going more than I did where it ended up. So what follows in this review are things that detracted from my fuller enjoyment of the book:

  • I get the teen hormone thing, but the kissing did seem to appear at random (or inopportune) times. I guess that's how it is with teens. I know the kissing was the plot device to imbue the main character with self-consciousness and doubt, but it seemed to belie her strength and wisdom as a strong female character.
  • In one scene, the brooding, moody character tells the main character, "It'll be all right," after she says she has doubts about their situation. It reminded me of the insurance commercial where the frightened teens agree to run into the chainsaw shack instead of escaping into the running car. A bit too obvious that danger lurked ahead.
  • Another short scene was full of psychobabbly, new-agey philosophy. I wondered at the time I was reading it if teens like that mumbo-jumbo and would buy into it.
  • For me the depth of the stolen tablet's insight into the characters was lessened by the fully developed characterization of the main players previously by the main character. I just thought the part where the tablet "made things clearer for its host" really just reiterated the things that main character had already revealed about her friends.
  • When the characters each experienced the tablet in different ways, why was Rowen's depiction one of a tree? Nothing else in the story implied that vision, so it felt random to me.
  • Is it me, or was it too obvious for the author to use the terms "alternate reality" and "parallel universe" toward the end of the story. Did that need to be spelled out so blatantly? And what about the use of "alien threat"? That TOTALLY changed what the dark essence was for me and took me even further out of what I had come to find comfort in while trying to stay engrossed with the story. An alien threat is a very specific choice of words that restricts the reader's imagination.

The book had a really strong beginning; I'll give it that. I was compelled to read it, and then I was compelled to read it to see if it dug its way out of the hole it fell into. If you're a fantasy fan, it did. If you're a scifi fan, it stayed buried.

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Book Review: Flutter

by Gina Linko
Pub Date: 23 Oct 2012  
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Note: I, too, received this as a galley copy to review many years ago, but I just got around to posting about it.

This was a quick read, well, a compelling read, because I was pulled along by the plot, the mystery of Emery's illness, and the connections all of the characters had. Time travel always messes with my head (think Back to the Future), so I had fun trying to piece the story together at the same time Emery was. Then... and I agree with other reviewers on this, too ... I had my WTF moment at the end. If I hadn't read the print version and instead read the Netgalley digital version, I might have missed the author's note that she likes to pursue "What if...?". Only this note, that the author was purporting that alternative inevitabilities are her passion, allowed me to understand why Linko surprised her readers with this twist.

Overall, this was good, interesting YA writing. Yet, though I understand why Linko couldn't have built up to this ending earlier, it really did come out of nowhere with the minor exception of a conversation Emery and Ash had late in the story.

This book would be hard to classify as scifi, because it turns into fantasy. Recommend this book to readers who like the book The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold or the movie The Sixth Sense.

Caution: Spoiler alerts:

  1. Where did Dala go when she fluttered with Emery? If the past was an afterlife, then did Emery kill Dala somehow?
  2. How could Emery take people/things from the present back and forth to the afterlife? Did they temporarily die, too?
  3. Why could Emery see her grandmother, Ash's brother, her mom, but not Ash's mom in the afterlife?
  4. In hindsight, it makes sense that Emery couldn't see Ash's father in the afterlife, but that still doesn't explain why she didn't see his mother.
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Pub Date: 02 Apr 2019
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Mera: Tidebreaker is an origin story of Mera and Aquaman. It says so on the back cover. Otherwise, I never would have known these characters already existed. I'm not a comic book hero follower, so this was a total introduction to these characters for me.

As a graphic novel, it fell a little flat. As others have opined, the romance developed too quickly in story form; although, I could see the foreshadowing of Mera being unable to fulfill her plan and to end up loving rather than hating her father's foe. That's part of the story's flaws, too; it was really a quite predictable story. But there was confusion, too; without background knowledge of the characters, I had to read others' reviews of the graphic novel to know that Xebel was a penal colony.

I was enthralled by the drawing, however. It's difficult to give the ocean a personality, and illustrator Stephen Byrne's portrayal of water was fantastic. On the other hand, his portrayal of Mera was inconsistent.

Because of the terse treatment of the plot, I don't know whether or not this would best be recommend to fans of DC Comics or to people who are newbies of the DC Comics franchise. Both might be disappointed.

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Book Review: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars
by Christopher Paolini
Pub Date: 15 Sep 2020 
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Although I usually don't enjoy fantasy, Paolini makes it accessible to me. He doesn't confuse me with featureless, flat characters with too many weird, similar names - that alone is a win for me. I really enjoyed To Sleep in a Sea of Stars since it falls in that nebulous alley between fantasy and scifi; it was able to pull off both genres in one story.

Every character has a personality; the characters are ones for whom I want to cheer and root, and I don't really have to spend too much time understanding or hating the 'bad guys.' Kira and the Soft Blade do that for me. Engaging, fun, (long), and quite epic.

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Bitterblue by Kristen Cahsore

Bitterblue (Graceling Realm, #3)Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved this book! I enjoyed Kristin Cashore's two other books, Fire and Graceling, and this book was just as suspenseful a read. Characters like Katsa and Po and Fire grace this book and the evil father of Bitterblue, Leck (even though dead) continues his evil even after his death...Bitterblue is one of those strong female protagonists, but she doesn't know it throughout most of the book. She has been queen since the age of 10 but now she is eighteen and so bored with all the meaningless papers her advisers push on her daily. She hasn't ever left the castle, except for once...and she has begun to see the castle as a sort of jail. She disguises herself in pants with a large hood that covers her head and late in the evening goes into her kingdom and into a bar where stories are told about Leck and Katsa. Bitterblue is entranced with these storytellers but disagrees with some parts of the stories. Her first night out when she orders a drink, she realizes she did not bring money. She takes money off the counter and realizes she has been seen by a man who winks at her. Later, she runs into him and tells him she is employed in the Queen's castle baking bread but never reveals her name. The young man is names Saf (Sapphire for the color of his eyes)and he is a Greaceling but doesn't know what his grace is. Bitterblue comes to know Saf and his best friend Teddy as colorful characters who like to fight and lie. Bitterblue begins to find out she doesn't know her subjects (many can't read- but her advisers tell her they have a high literacy rate) and even those within the castle walls. Bitterblue's mother Ashen was murdered by her father Leck as she tried to rescue her daughter from Leck's evil. Leck tortured, raped, kidnapped and killed many children, women and men in his kingdom. As Bitterblue tries to become a queen that is revered; she runs into so many insurmountable problems. But she does not veer and along the way---uncovers deceit, murder, and so many other horrors she almost shuts down. But she finds advisers she can trust, and wades through the those advisers Leck destroyed with his mind games with the help of Katsa, Po, Giddon, Hava, and so many others. The rich characters and storyline are Cashore at her best (she gives credit to the many readers who helped her make this a truly believable story of triumph) and I was just so sorry the book ended! I liked the glossary of characters and drawings of the bridges, her kingdom and artistry included at the end. Highly recommended.

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The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio RacesThe Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lauren, thank you so much for highly recommending this book! It was so right up my alley with what I truly love to read. Maggie Stiefvater crafted such a great story with a believable storyline about "water" horses, orphans, the rich vs the poor and a romance that slowly grows between Kate "Puck" Connolly and Sean Kendrick, a horse-whisperer of the carnivorous sea horses. The island of Thisby is a hard scrabble place that needs the tourists the annual Scorpio Races brings, to survive. Puck and her two brothers have lost their parents to the flesh eating horses and life has been very difficult since then for them. Whereas Puck and Finn love the island, older brother Gabe has announced he is leaving with his two friends, because he can't take it anymore. Sean Kendrick and Puck alternate telling their stories. Sean Kendrick loves his Capill uisce, Corr and Puck loves her quarter pony; and it is Sean who stands up for Puck as the first female rider, against those islanders that challenge her. I really disliked both Mutt Malvern and his father. I wanted to like Mr. Malvern, but I could see that he was like Sean Kendrick (poor) but he was never going to let Sean or Corr go. I saw true evil in Mutt and it was difficult to read when he tried to "hurt" those associated with Sean Kendrick. But it was the slowly moving, delicate relationship of Puck and Sean that I applaud. Stiefvater takes two people who are animal lovers and through deliberate situations, moves them from strangers, to acquaintances, to friends and then a mutual respect and love. Highly recommended!

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Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia

Beautiful Darkness (Caster Chronicles, #2)Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I waited quite awhile to read this 2nd book (loved Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles, #1)!!!) because sometimes the 2nd book is disappointing if you read it too close to the first one. Even though I am giving it four stars---many books I read I give 5 stars because I love them, this 2nd book was really, really good but you had to really hang in there with Ethan and Lena because their relationship is so unsettled---so you as the reader question what is really going on. I particularly enjoyed Ethan's best friend, Link because he ALWAYS is there for Ethan, even when he is scared to death! He is a real hoot, he doesn't push Ethan away with questions or judgments, he truly cares about Lena and still pines for Ridley and her lollipops! Ridley reappears and gets a come-uppance, we will see what the future hold for her. A new character I really liked was Olivia, the British Keeper-in-Training with Margaret, where Ethan has a summer job in the human library. But that doesn't stop him from exploring the tunnels under the library, trying to figure out why Lena is slipping away from him, a little bit each day, until one day she is gone from Gatlin. I love all the history in this book about the war, about the normals and the Casters. There is lots of horror, fantasy, and Ethan's love for Lena is definitely put to the test. I love their telepathic thoughts to each other (Kelting) and the odd cast of characters that mean them harm and vow not to allow a Mortal/Caster union. I look forward to #3!

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