4 stars · science fiction · young adult

Landscape with Invisible Hand — a great, unique sci-fi read

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Landscape with Invisible Hand

author : m.t. anderson

pages : [hardcover] 149

memorable quote :

The hand that records is also what makes everything unclear.

favorite character : adam

summary :

National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson returns to future Earth in a sharply wrought satire of art and truth in the midst of colonization.

When the vuvv first landed, it came as a surprise to aspiring artist Adam and the rest of planet Earth – but not necessarily an unwelcome one. Can it really be called an invasion when the vuvv generously offered free advanced technology and cures for every illness imaginable? As it turns out, yes. With his parents’ jobs replaced by alien tech and no money for food, clean water, or the vuvv’s miraculous medicine, Adam and his girlfriend, Chloe, have to get creative to survive. And since the vuvv crave anything they deem “classic” Earth culture (doo-wop music, still-life paintings of fruit, true love), recording 1950s-style dates for the vuvv to watch in a pay-per-minute format seems like a brilliant idea. But it’s hard for Adam and Chloe to sell true love when they hate each other more with every passing episode. Soon enough, Adam must decide how far he’s willing to go – and what he’s willing to sacrifice – to give the vuvv what they want.

review :

I’ve been excited to read this book since I received a sampler of it at last year’s Book Con. I can honestly say it was everything I expected and more.

Landscape with Invisible Hand serves up a tone that tastes like a blend of contemporary YA and sci-fi aliens. The Earth has had contact with this extraterrestrial species for years now and those creatures that found Earth came in peace. They promised to cure all disease and end meaningless jobs. They promised to help. And they did . . . didn’t they?

The story revolves around Adam, a budding teenage artist who has many problems. Most extend from the vuvv–those aliens that didn’t quite invade. Because things on Earth . . . aren’t looking so bright. But they aren’t in an interstellar war, or anything, so it can’t be too terrible. The story is told through Adam’s paintings; each chapter title is a different landscape he’s done. It’s an interesting look at the world through his eyes–what comes from the humans, what the vuvv have touched, and what happened when the two species blended on the planet.

I loved this book. It’s so different from anything I’ve ever read before. This isn’t your typical take on sci-fi, it’s no typical coming-of-age. It speaks just as much about our current worldview and society as it does about interplanetary consequences and arrangements. I always love a book that leaves me thinking afterward and I believe this is one that I won’t be able to shake for a while.

This book is very short, at around 150 pages. That’s partially why I don’t want to get into anything more specific. There isn’t much room there for me to not spoil anything important. But if you’re looking for a unique book, with beautiful writing and characters that are funny and a little absurd, definitely pick this one up. If you’re bored of alien and dystopian tales that all feel the same, this one will definitely be unlike any you’ve read before.

And it leaves you to think about what would be worse when humanity finds aliens, or the aliens find us: war, or ‘peace’?

4/5 stars

 

 

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adult · mythology

The Penelopiad – feminist take on the odyssey

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the penelopiad

author : margaret atwood

pages : [paperback] 199

summary :

For Penelope, Odysseus’s wife, running a kingdom while her husband is away fighting in the Trojan War is no simple matter. Already distressed that he had been lured away because of the shocking behavior of her beautiful cousin Helen, Penelope must also raise her wayward son, face scandalous rumors, and keep more than one hundred lustful, greedy, and bloodthirsty suitors at bay.

Margaret Atwood gives voice to Penelope, one of antiquity’s most infamous heroines, so that she can tell her story at last and set the record straight once and for all.

review :

The Penelopiad is a great book. It’s short, it’s powerful, and it gives a voice to a woman who has mostly been overlooked in history and, so far as I currently know, literature. When I saw who the main character of this story is, I had to read it. Feminist spins on classics always shoot right to the top of my list.

The Penelopiad follows Penelope (sort of obviously), wife of Odysseus, main character of Homer’s Odyssey. Having not read any part of it since I earned my feminist lens, I never thought before to question just what the hell Penelope did for twenty years on her own while her husband was off sailing around. What she thought of all those suitors, and if she was really as into Odysseus as the stories want us to think. I mean, dude had to have an ego already.

But this book also talks about the twelve maids murdered by Odysseus after his return (pretty much the only ladies who exist in his world apart from Athena and various other goddesses, his old nurse, and of course that snake Helen). They’re sort of a footnote in the Odyssey, kind of a senseless murder or twelve never mentioned again.

Trigger warnings for this book involve abuse and rape. No graphic descriptions, but there’s . . a lot. Casually mentioned because, you know, all of these women were forced to simply accept that was their lot in life. Which is insane. So here we see Penelope acting on what agency she’s ‘allowed’ within her space.

And it’s really, really well done. I think what was most intriguing was how much it made me really think. Although maybe that’s the dormant English major in me just excited by the prospect of doing some research on all of this.

This is a quick but important but heavy read. If you love feminism, myth, and retellings from unexpected perspectives, definitely pick this book up.

5/5 stars

 

fairy tale · poetry · young adult

the princess saves herself in this one

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the princess saves herself in this one

author : amanda lovelace

pages : [paperback] 156

memorable quote :

repeat after me:
you owe
no one
your forgiveness.

– except maybe yourself.

summary :

A poetry collection divided into four different parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, & you. the princess, the damsel, & the queen piece together the life of the author in three stages, while you serves as a note to the reader & all of humankind. Explores life & all of its love, loss, grief, healing, empowerment, & inspirations.

review:

I don’t read much poetry, but I had some spare time and my library participates in a digital sharing service called Hoopla. I downloaded the princess saves herself in this one and I read, and I read, and I read.

It’s hard to compare to other poetic piece I’ve read. For one, poetry is possibly the most subjective literary form. Poetry is so personalized, which is amazing, but it does a disservice to everyone to compare them to, say, Shakespeare, and not consider how different HIS poetry would have been had he lived in this time period. One of the things I loved most about this collection was how steeped it is in the contemporary. The flow, wording, even this certain type of feminism, all ground it solidly in the present.

It’s all so very relatable. Even though the writing is very simple, vying for message rather than complex symbolism, it’s powerful. And it successfully conveys not only the poet’s story, but her thoughts, her wishes–and she makes it easy for you to have an emotional connection as well.

Of course, I’m excited about any sort of extended metaphor that involves fairy tales–or, perhaps more interestingly, the breaking down of our expectations of those stories. It just makes me so happy to see how the normative narrative can be subverted in such a clever way. To do it as an extended metaphor in such short poems DOES come off as clever.

I want to read more by this poet, really sink my teeth into her writing. It’s different, original, and I can see why it is popular even in the mainstream. I don’t think that detracts from the writing at all.

I’d recommend picking this up and reading to see for yourself what all of the fuss is about. It’s worth it, and you never know what you might find in these poems.

4/5 stars

 

Uncategorized

Archie, Vol 1: The New Riverdale

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Archie, Vol 1
The New Riverdale

by : mark waid

illustrations by : fiona staples, annie wu, veronica fish

favorite character : archie

summary :

America’s Favorite Teenager, Archie Andrews, is reborn in the pages of this must-have graphic novel collecting the first six issues of the comic book series that everyone is talking about. Meet Riverdale High teen Archie, his oddball, food-loving best friend Jughead, girl-next-door Betty and well-to-do snob Veronica Lodge as they embark on a modern reimagining of the beloved Archie world. It’s all here: the love triangle, friendship, humor, charm and lots of fun – but with a decidedly modern twist.

Brought to you by some of the masters of the comic book genre, including writer Mark Waid and the all-star lineup of artists: Fiona Staples, Annie Wu and Veronica Fish, the first volume of ARCHIE presents readers with a new take on the beloved Archie Comics concepts while retaining the best elements from the company’s 75 years of history. ARCHIE VOL. 1 collects ARCHIE #1-6 and features bonus content including scripts, sketches, variant covers and the full first issue of the all new JUGHEAD series by acclaimed writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Erica Henderson.

review :

This volume is literally so much fun. Graphic novels are never very long reads, but I felt like I absolutely flew through this one and immediately wanted more.

This take on Archie is my favorite. I instantly fell in love. It’s very family friendly, but wholesome and heartfelt, not corny. Archie is a complete sweetheart who is also a goofball. He’s constantly in near-death experiences–his friends are desperate to save him from himself–and never notices. I have no idea why it’s so endearing and hilarious to me. Even the rivalry here is fun–Veronica really starts to grow on you. Riverdale itself starts to grow on you. Who knew a town so dang cheery all the time would seem so great?

Particularly with the new show out, I feel like this series needs more attention. Much as I appreciate the TV show, Archie will always be about the comics for me. In a time period were making something ‘contemporary’ immediately means bringing in more violence, grit, and angst, this is such a refreshing burst of creativity. It doesn’t ignore current societal norms and issues, but doesn’t go the easy route of making everything ‘dark’ either. I never expected to love this so much, and now I can’t gush about it enough.

5/5 stars

 

 

 

2 stars · fiction · young adult

The Radius of Us: a unique contemporary

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the radius of us

author : marie marquardt

pages : [hardcover] 304

favorite character : phoenix

summary :

What happens when you fall in love with someone everyone seems determined to fear?

Ninety seconds can change a life — not just daily routine, but who you are as a person. Gretchen Asher knows this, because that’s how long a stranger held her body to the ground. When a car sped toward them and Gretchen’s attacker told her to run, she recognized a surprising terror in his eyes. And now she doesn’t even recognize herself.

Ninety seconds can change a life — not just the place you live, but the person others think you are. Phoenix Flores-Flores knows this, because months after setting off toward the U.S. / Mexico border in search of safety for his brother, he finally walked out of detention. But Phoenix didn’t just trade a perilous barrio in El Salvador for a leafy suburb in Atlanta. He became that person — the one his new neighbors crossed the street to avoid.

Ninety seconds can change a life — so how will the ninety seconds of Gretchen and Phoenix’s first encounter change theirs?

Told in alternating first person points of view, The Radius of Us is a story of love, sacrifice, and the journey from victim to survivor. It offers an intimate glimpse into the causes and devastating impact of Latino gang violence, both in the U.S. and in Central America, and explores the risks that victims take when they try to start over. Most importantly, Marie Marquardt’s The Radius of Us shows how people struggling to overcome trauma can find healing in love.

review :

The Radius of Us is an important book and an interesting book, but not an entertaining book. By that I mean in a contemporary novel, I usually expect a more gripping plot. Unfortunately this one kept the characters at the distance and didn’t delve as deeply into its themes as I thought it might.

I went into this book knowing absolutely nothing about it. That’s how I find some of my favorites. But I have to admit that contemporary has always been a hit or miss genre for me; you have to have some speculator writing, characters, and themes for me to read about life as I already know it. Usually I don’t really need someone else to tell me about the world.

But books like The Radius of Us are usually the exception, because this book presents a viewpoint I don’t think I’ve ever seen before in YA literature. The book is told in alternating points of view. Half of the book is told by Gretchen, a teen from Georgia who has a myriad of issues after experiencing something horrible, and Phoenix, a year or two older than her, having run from El Salvador to seek asylum in the US.

Honestly, I might have liked this book better if it was gold only from Phoenix’s POV. So young, having been through so much, and having to face so much more still in Georgia. I understand Gretchen as a counterpoint–a reference US readers might relate to more easily–but her character felt so flat compared to Phoenix. I rooted for him, hoped for him, felt sympathy for him–and Gretchen could only fail as a comparison.

The Radius of Us did succeed in making me determined to read more books from diverse POV, because these different experiences are so important to try to understand through literature. It discusses privilege, racism, gang activity, immigration, and more. All amazing, important themes that the writing just falls flat on supporting.

2/5 stars

interview

An interview with Yellow Taxi Press

I’m very excited to bring an interview to you all today from the founders of a new and exciting press. What’s so unique about Yellow Taxi Press is its examination of the publishing world and the lack of ‘new adult’ content to bridge the gap between YA and Adult Lit. Co-creators Alyssa and Madeline agreed to answer a few questions about publishing, presses, and what they’ve most recently read.

~~~

  1. Tell us a little background info on Yellow Taxi Press.

YTP actually came out of a class project. We’re both graduate students, and the final project for one of our classes was to come up with some kind of company that fills a void in the publishing industry. As big fans of Young Adult literature, we’ve always wished there was something like YA that dealt with experiences of twentysomethings. There’s of course New Adult, but a lot of current New Adult narratives tend to be very based in romance–while plenty of readers love those stories, they weren’t the kinds of stories Madeline and I were interested in reading.

Yellow Taxi Press was created to kind of bridge the gap between Young Adult, New Adult, and general literature. Months after the class was over, we still found ourselves wishing YTP existed. Readers are craving these kinds of stories, and writers are creating them; we’re just trying to bring those people together.

  1. Why do you think there is such a gap in the publishing industry when it comes to publishing narratives about coming into adulthood (i.e. ‘new adult’)?

I think a lot of that unfilled need has to do with the way more people are “staying young” long. By that we mean that–on average–people are getting married later, staying in school longer, renting apartments instead of buying homes, etc. A lot of the themes of general fiction used to be really applicable to those twentysomething years, but now that time has become kind of a between for a lot of people: not quite “young adults” but not really settled into adulthood yet either.

The way we define young adult and general in publishing hasn’t really gotten around to reflecting that. New Adult was of course meant to, but as I mentioned, a lot of New Adult is really based in romantic plots. While that is certainly a significant part of some people’s twentysomething life, it’s certainly not the only part. With YTP, we’re hoping to explore things like self-discovery, changing family and friend relationships, figuring out how to interact with current events.

  1. What does the Press hope to accomplish by filling this gap?

Young adult books were so important to us in our teenage years. We could see our own struggles reflected in those narratives. With YTP, we’re really hoping to publish stories that readers can enjoy, find companionship in, and see their own lives in.

  1. What do you think readers anticipate from this untold new adult works, both fiction and nonfiction?

One of the great powers of literature is that it lets you into the mind of another person. It’s such a diverse and big world, and there are so many writers telling incredible, difficult, important, stories about this time of life. Hopefully readers anticipate stories that they can both see themselves in and also stories that give them insight into the lives of others.

  1. What are you looking for in your submissions?

A strong voice and good storytelling. Make it unique, and make us keep wanting to turn the page.

  1. What was the last book you read?

I just read I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez and Madeline just read When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.

~~~

Thank you for joining us here on Caught Between the Pages and sharing more about the press!

For anyone who would like to learn more, you can find all info on the press website, https://www.yellowtaxi.press/.

2 stars · Fantasy · young adult

Monstrous Beauty: a gruesome but disappointing mermaid tale

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Monstrous Beauty

author : elizabeth fama

pages : [hardcover] 295

favorite character : ezra

summary :

Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.

Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.

review :

I love mermaids, and I’m forever searching for my perfect mermaid book. I’m still searching, because Monstrous Beauty turned into a monstrous disappointment.

I went into the book only knowing it would involve mermaids in some way–my favorite way to dive into a book involves knowing as little as possible in advance. In the first fifty of so pages, I was in love. The story alternated between two points of view, Syrenka (a mermaid in the 19th century) and Hester (the typical ‘normal’ girl in a contemporary setting). I liked the disparity between the two POVs, though was more invested in the past (because MERMAID). The prose was good, though tight and plain as sometimes happens with contemporary, even contemporary fantasy.

And then.

Things began to go downhill with the dialogue, when I soon came to realize that no one was saying anything that a normal person would ever say. In the chapters from the past, the language choices could be more forgiving, but Hester and her friends in the present didn’t talk at all like teenagers or . . . Actually, anyone that I can think of. For example, she continuously refers to her love interest as her “lover”, and I can’t think of any teenager who’d do so and wouldn’t immediately burst into laughter afterward.

Then the insta-love. Why must mermaid novels ALWAYS include insta-love? It painfully exists here and even then, it can’t seem to remain consistent. On one page Hester claims she’ll never love anyone else again if she loses her beloved. On the next she muses about whether she’ll live to see her grandchildren. Then again, if she falls in love so quickly, perhaps she falls out of love just as fast.

Then the ghosts. Why were there ghosts? Somehow they fit into this version of mermaid lore that we’re never really given clear parameters on. I love ghost stories (and, contrary to my love of mermaids, have indeed found ghost stories I love). But the mermaid mythology here was complicated enough without introducing the spirits, most of whom seemed completely irrelevant apart from adding a few extra pages of attention and making Hester seem like a bit of an idiot. I mean, she wonders why no one else seems able to see or hear these things, and knows about people who died in those exact spots, AND knows mermaids exist . . So can’t put two and two together to decide ghosts are real as well.

I did like how dark this story went with the mermaid myth and the tone it took in the chapters from the past. But that initial attraction wasn’t enough to save it from all of the problems thrown in there.

I can’t recommend this book.

2/5 stars