Monday, April 7, 2014

The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey, a book review

The premise:  An alien invasion happens upon the earth, taking place in five stages (or waves). These are not your friendly candy-nibbling aliens on a mission to gather plant samples; these aliens have been living amongst us for years, waiting until the right time to kill off the majority of the human race. The Host meets The Puppet Masters.
The story is told in varying POV’s, predominantly from the perspectives of 16 year old Cassie and high school football hero, Ben (a guy Cassie was hardcore crushing on in school prior to the invasion). With aliens that look and act exactly like us, it is nearly impossible to trust anyone, creating a climate where it is smarter to kill first and ask questions later, destroying what little humanity the remaining 3% of the world’s population has left.

What I liked best: I have a history of not being terribly impressed with female protagonists in general, my opinion of them ranging anywhere from a mere “meh” to a primal scream whilst I hurl the book across the room. But I really liked Cassie. Here’s a girl whose parents are killed in the waves of the invasion. Her little brother is taken away to an unknown location for unknown purposes. And she is living completely and utterly alone, terrified to die, even more terrified to live, the only thing keeping her going is the desire to get her baby brother back. Oh, and she’s snarky. I always love a character whose tongue is as sharp as her wit, especially in the wake of tragedy.

The second thing I liked best: Evan. A gun-toting, plaid shirt wearing, hunky guy worthy of any Tumblr nature blog, minus the beard (thank goodness). He’s polite, he’s sweet, he’s mysterious, he’s emotionally tortured, and oh yeah, he might just be the enemy. All things to keep this swoon-addicted girl turning the pages.

But don’t get me wrong, the romance in this novel is well-balanced and not too heavy. The 5th Wave is full of bleakness, action, tension and suspense. The romance is a needed break for the reader, a respite from the calamitous conditions of the world Mr. Yancey has created.

Bottom line: Okay, so let’s be honest, there’s nothing terribly new about the premise, especially for hard core sci-fi fans. But I can suffer a recycled plot as long as an author makes me care about the characters. I read to be emotionally invested. And Mr. Yancey has effectively crafted together a number of well rounded characters, ones to love and (sometimes more importantly) ones to hate. I finished the book from the halfway point to the end in one sitting. Definitely a page-turner. Is there a movie deal? Yup. It is currently classified as “in development.” Will I be going to see the movie? Heck, yeah (Dear Hollywood, you have a history of mucking up sci-fi movies. Please don’t do it. Thank you). Will I be reading the next book in this series, The Infinite Sea? You bet your sweet bippie I will.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Making of Nebraska Brown, by Louise Caiola (A Book Review)

The book begins with the protagonist Ann Leigh running through Nebraskan cornfields to escape Shane, a boy she doesn’t want to marry. The next thing she recalls is opening her eyes in a botanical garden in Campania, Italy, strangely able to understand the Italian language, living in an apartment with an attractive young man named Tommy who calls her Ana Lisa instead of Ann Leigh.
 Stuck in Italy with people she has only fractured memories of, Ann Leigh plays the part she’s assigned, the girlfriend of a rich businessman—one she is not entirely sure she can trust. All the while she drifts back and forth from a life in Nebraska with parents, siblings and a relationship with Shane, who loves her dearly. Is Nebraska just a dream? Another life? Or some kind of alternate reality? Ann Leigh must piece together the parts of her fractured mind to discover the truth of who she is, where she came from, and what she’s lost along the way.

Confession time: This is my very first time reading a NA (New Adult) novel. I am a live-and- breathe-YA-for-life kind of girl so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the relatively new world of college-aged characters. But Ms. Caiola’s complex characterization and rich narrative quickly and thoroughly subdued my trepidation. I became invested in the mystery surrounding Ann Leigh/Ana Lisa. The author successfully weaves enough clues throughout the story as to keep the reader hooked, enough hints to keep the reader from becoming frustrated (a flaw I find too often in YA novels, ones which keep the main character oblivious for far too long).
Thank you, Ms. Caiola for making my first time treading the waters of NA to be an enjoyable one. I just may have to take a swim again. J