4 stars · science fiction · young adult

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


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



4 stars · adult · mystery

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: loved it as much as the movie


gone girl

author : gillian flynn

pages : [paperback] 415

memorable quote :

There’s something disturbing about recalling a warm memory and feeling utterly cold.

favorite character : amy

summary :

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

review :

I really enjoyed this book. I’m not one for thrillers, or mysteries, or the like. On top of that, I watched the movie before ever picking up the book, so I knew what all of the twists would be before page one.

And I still enjoyed it.

Gone Girl is . . . Well, I’m sure almost all of you have heard of it, even if you haven’t seen or watched it. At its core it’s a crime novel, following the timeline of an investigation and considering the impact that modern TV and film has had on police work. Not to mention how public perception tends to warp opinions long before anything goes to trial.

I loved that the book has alternating points of view. We hear from Nick, husband of the missing woman. We hear from Amy, who disappeared with hardly any clues left behind, through her past diary entries. The disparity between the written word and the first person account of Nick’s POV was surprisingly compelling. Flynn doesn’t underestimate a reader’s intelligence. She isn’t one of those authors who feels the need to hold the audience’s hand and walk them through step by step what is happening. Instead she trusts them with the mystery and the suspense, leaving them the pieces to draw their own conclusions. It works well.

I think another thing I loved about this book, that would perhaps turn off others, is how realistic and flawed all of the characters are. None of them are very likable. None are portrayed as perfect. Sure, it makes it easy to hate all of them, but by then you’re so wrapped up in the story you don’t care. You don’t know who to root for. You don’t know how you want it to end!

I will definitely read more by this author. I love that she’s unexpectedly won me over and who knows? Maybe I’ll love this genre a little more because of her.

4/5 stars


4 stars · science fiction · series

Reread Review: The Woods Vol. 1: The Arrow: let’s see how crazy this space high school can get


the woods, vol 1: the arrow

by james tynion iv

artist : michael dialynas

pages : [ebook] 128

summary :

On October 16, 2013, 437 students, 52 teachers, and 24 additional staff from Bay Point Preparatory High School in suburban Milwaukee, WI vanished without a trace. Countless light years away, far outside the bounds of the charted universe, 513 people find themselves in the middle of an ancient, primordial wilderness. Where are they? Why are they there? The answers will prove stranger than anyone could possibly imagine.

reread review :

The Woods is a very interesting concept with an okay execution. The writing is okay, the characters are okay, the monsters are okay–and it definitely has potential. But when I read volume one for the first time it was the only one available at my library. By the time I found the following volumes, I needed to reread this one. Because I remembered . . . barely anything about it. And maybe that says more about this volume than anything else ever could.

Would I recommend it? Yes. It’s a quick read and it’s a creative concept. But it doesn’t immediately stand out as a favorite graphic novel for me–doesn’t pack as much of a punch as a first volume potentially should.

3/5 stars


4 stars · science fiction · young adult

Full Tilt by Neal Shusterman; a crazy ride


full tilt

author : neal shusterman

pages : [paperback] 208

memorable quote :

Who am I? The sum of your dreams, the thrill you refuse to grasp, the unknown you fear.

favorite character : blake

summary :

Sixteen-year-old Blake and his younger brother, Quinn, are exact opposites. Blake is the responsible member of the family. He constantly has to keep an eye on the fearless Quinn, whose thrill-seeking sometimes goes too far. But the stakes get higher when Blake has to chase Quinn into a bizarre phantom carnival that traps its customers forever.

In order to escape, Blake must survive seven deadly rides by dawn, each of which represents a deep, personal fear — from a carousel of stampeding animals to a hall of mirrors that changes people into their deformed reflections. Blake ultimately has to face up to a horrible secret from his own past to save himself and his brother — that is, if the carnival doesn’t claim their souls first!

review :

love Neal Shusterman’s writing. He’s been on my insta-buy list for years when he comes out with new books. I’m fairly certain this was one of his first novels, and it’s the only one of his I’ve read that isn’t part of any series. It’s my least favorite, but that isn’t saying very much, because I still really liked it. It’s creative, it’s fun, and I feel like younger audiences will definitely fall in love with Shusterman’s writing after reading this.

Full Tilt at its core is a story of two brothers. It’s also a story about not letting your past overtake your entire life. Blake and Quinn are nearly complete opposites. Whereas Blake is quiet and reserved, Quinn is reckless and an adrenaline junkie. Blake is the one invited to this very strange, very dangerous carnival, but Quinn is the one who actually wants to go and Blake only arrives because he needs to save his brother from himself.

I love the creativity here. The carnival rides are simultaneously things from nightmares and also things that kids love seeing in movies or video games–but it’s another thing entirely when the players are gambling with their lives. If they die at the carnival, it’s game-over forever, and they’ll be trapped there forever. Blake isn’t sure what the rest of the world will think happened to them, but isn’t sure he wants to find out. Although he just wants to take Quinn and get home, it isn’t as simple as all that. It feels like this carnival has been built specifically to cater to each individual’s personal fears.

I was rooting for Blake, because I wasn’t sure if I’d do as well in his position. This carnival can literally read into your mind and worst nightmares–I don’t think I’d be able to beat the kind of games he has to play. It was interesting to see how every individual has their own strengths–for example, what’s impossible for one person to get through, another can overcome quite easily. I loved how Full Tilt managed to show that on an even playing field, there can still be an individualized experience. Not everyone reacts to identical life experiences in the same way. Just like Blake and Quinn need to learn to empathize with one another, readers do too. I feel like this is an important book to be read, because of those important messages linking these thrills.

I’m so glad that I reread this book, and Neal Shusterman continues to be one of my top recommended authors. His books are so fun, creative, and smart–everything you could want in a YA novel.

4/5 stars


4 stars · dystopia · Fantasy · reread review

Reread Reflection: Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken


How do you review a book after you’ve already read it? Review the reread!

I absolutely loved The Darkest Minds which was the first book in this trilogy. When I finally got my hands on book three, I remembered pretty clearly what happened in that book and was less certain about Never Fade. That calls for a reread!

First of all, I have to admit Never Fade suffers from the second book slump. I like it, but nowhere near with the passion of how I loved book one. This involves more of the political intrigue, a lot less of the action. There’s a lot happening but it’s all verbal plot twists, not exactly action scenes, except for probably the very first and last scenes of the book. Ruby shuts down so much when she’s around the League that it’s hard to get a read on her for . . kind of anything, which leads to an unfortunate monotone in places when she’s trying not to feel and all.

There are some pretty good plot twists in here, though, and those easily kept me reading. I mean, it’s kind of like you’re thinking nothing else could go worse, and then everything goes much worse than you could ever think possible.

Before this reread, I couldn’t remember too much about Never Fade apart from pieces of the end of the book. And then I kept thinking, no, that couldn’t possibly be how it ends . . . but it does, and it still makes me a mixture of sad and angry. All in all, it made me unsure if this is a trilogy I’ll reread in its entirety again. I still have a special place in my heart for The Darkest Minds, because when I read that it felt so clever and unlike anything else I’d ever read. Never Fade brings in more dystopian tropes, and, well, I’ll be putting up my review of book three in a few days.

So, while I really liked this book, I don’t feel like I absolutely need this book.



4 stars · fiction · young adult

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven: An important book about mental illness and suicide


All the Bright Places

author : jennifer niven

pages : 387

memorable quote : The thing I realize is, that it’s not what you take, it’s what you leave.

favorite character : violet

summary :

The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning!
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

review :

Wow. This book.

For starters, I snagged this book at a library sale in perfect condition for only $1 and, after vaguely recognizing the cover and summary, thought it was a brilliant deal. Now I’m sure that I’ve gotten the better end of it, because I feel like this is a book you’ll need to read more than once. I’m sure in a year or so I’ll return to it, in spite of how difficult it was to read. This is a book about mental illness, suicide, and how those who haven’t personally experienced either may react to these important issues.

I think that an important thing to realize going into this is that the book isn’t perfect, but for the most part it’s realistic. Finch and Violet are both exaggerated and unrealistic in that they don’t feel like actual teenagers. Like a lot of YA, these teens are extremely eloquent, seem able to run around wherever they want at whatever hours of the day they want, and are obsessed with ‘cool’ things like 80s music, records, and the online equivalent of zines. It’s kind of annoying that all of the things that YA main characters scoff at are the ‘normal’ things that teens do, and it’s like they need to reach back thirty years to really express themselves. Honestly, I’m not sure how much of this phenomenon is the fact that most YA authors haven’t been young adults for a long while.

Another important thing about this book is how mental illness can be perceived and ignored by adults AND  young adults. Those who are ‘there to help’ might not always be there to help. For example, guidance counselors may not catch the same warning signs that another trained professional might. A friend might accept those signs as just part of their personality. When something might finally be seen as more than just a teenager acting out, getting into trouble–typical teen angst–it might be too late. In reading a few reviews, I could see how frustrated some readers were that no one was helping Finch or Violet even though in the first chapter they literally meet on the school’s roof because they’re both contemplating suicide. I was just heartbroken by how realistic it is that nothing is really done about it. People are so good at hiding what they’re feeling and what’s really going on in their heads. There’s such a stigma about acknowledging mental illness that most people don’t want to contemplate it about themselves, let alone suggest its existence to the people surrounding them.

Let’s talk about Finch and Violet’s friendship. It really isn’t healthy, even though it brings out great things (mostly hope) for both of them. The big red flag for me is how much Finch is bullied at school, most prominently by Violet’s closest friends, and how she does nothing to speak against this. Even in the portion of chapters that are through her POV she never mentally acknowledges that he shouldn’t be spoken to in this way, if she’s too afraid to speak up. In this case, silence speaks louder than anything else. Another wholly unrealistic aspect is how willing Violet is to go along with Finch’s random adventures, even at times like 3 A.M. She hardly knows this guy, owes him nothing, knows her parents will never trust her again if she’s caught–but she risks everything for him.

This book was nearly impossible to put down once I started to read it. The writing was captivating, the chapters alternating between viewpoints flowed together incredibly. I loved reading about the roadtrips (and now want to plan my own trip around my own state doing crazy things that no one really knows about). I loved that this was a story about two teenagers trying to take care of each other and seeing how much the support of just one person can affect someone.

I’d recommend this book to anyone. It’s a fast, meaningful read that will leave you thinking about the major topics discussed in the novel.

4/5 stars


4 stars · fiction

Me Before You reads exactly like the movie


Me Before You

Me Before You #1

author : jojo moyes

pages : [hardcover] 369

favorite character : louisa

memorable quote :

You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.

summary :

They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose . . .

Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

A Love Story for this generation and perfect for fans of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?

review :

Me Before You was an interesting read for me because I watched the movie first. I know, I know, that’s an extreme sin to some people. But I honestly can’t remember the last time I did that, and then read the novel afterward. Usually when I know that it’s coming, I take the time to read the book long before I get to the theater. Me Before You was a little different because I knew nothing about it before I went to see it. I’d literally only seen the posters for it, knew I loved the lead actor and actress, and it was what my friends wanted to do for the day. I thought it would be a nice, light-hearted romantic comedy.

Me Before You is something . . . other. I’m sure most people know what they’re getting themselves into, but when the “event” happens two minutes into the film, I grabbed my friend and demanded to know what they’d dragged me into. And then sat back for the rest of the ride.

Well, the novel reads exactly like the film. There was a few months’ gap between watching it and reading the book, so there may be some pieces that I’m missing. Altogether, apart from a few chapters of the book that are told in other characters’ perspectives, everything else is exactly like the movie. Which could mean either that the film was a great adaptation and exactly what readers who want every moment of the book included are looking for, or that the writing needed a little something extra. I think both are true. Both, because the plot does translate so well to screen, and I think part of that is because Moyes doesn’t provide us with anything superfluous. No real subplots that would need to be cut from a movie script. No minor characters that only pop in for a chapter or two.

It’s the kind of writing that I know appeals to a lot of people–and it shows, from the popularity of the book. It’s also the kind of troublesome book that is very entertaining, but doesn’t provide much meat for the mind, if you know what I’m getting at. The writing isn’t clunky, or awkward, and manages to make a plot that could have been predictable, entertaining and endearing. But it isn’t exceptional. It does the job, telling the story, without leaving behind much by way of style.

I think it’s kind of like a Nicolas Sparks novel (or at least like several I’ve read by him until they all, I realized, were basically the same), riding on peoples’ emotions for the tragedy of it all. And it works! I enjoyed it. Do I see myself reading the sequel? Probably not, because I don’t really see the necessity of there being a sequel. Would I read another book by Moyes? Maybe, but also a probably not because the back of my book included a few summaries of other novels she’s written and they don’t seem like my kind of book.

Did I enjoy Me Before You? Yes. Would I recommend it? Definitely, for a nice and easy read. But watching the movie was easily just as enjoyable.

4/5 stars