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Science Fiction

18249281Title: The Infinite Sea
Author: Rick Yancey
Pages: 300
Year: 2014
Publisher: Penguin
Time taken to read: 1 week
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads synopsisHow do you rid the Earth of seven billion humans? Rid the humans of their humanity. Surviving the first four waves was nearly impossible. Now Cassie Sullivan finds herself in a new world, a world in which the fundamental trust that binds us together is gone. As the 5th Wave rolls across the landscape, Cassie, Ben, and Ringer are forced to confront the Others’ ultimate goal: the extermination of the human race. Cassie and her friends haven’t seen the depths to which the Others will sink, nor have the Others seen the heights to which humanity will rise, in the ultimate battle between life and death, hope and despair, love and hate.

I finished this book a week ago, so I’m going to do my best to remember my feelings on it.

According to my review of The 5th Wave, I do not like Evan. I don’t particularly remember feeling this way, but I believe it. I didn’t not like him in The Infinite Sea, although I didn’t actively like him either. The character I really didn’t like was Ringer. I guess I just don’t buy her hardness. It’s not that easy to never smile, or maybe that’s just me because I’m compulsively polite, but either way it was irritating. I don’t like people who think they’re better than everyone else. I don’t think that attitude makes her cool or interesting as a person or a character. It just makes her obnoxious and exhausting to read about.

As for the plot, I don’t think I even understand what happened. It sounded like now they’re questioning whether or not there actually are aliens, which is interesting but dumb if it’s true. I’m glad Yancey isn’t ignoring the obvious question of why the aliens or whoever are doing all this. I feel like a lot of books have these crazy plots that are fun and interesting to read about but actually make no sense, but at least it seems like we’re going to figure out a concrete reason for all of this.

Poundcake was my favorite character in this one. His background was honestly so heartbreaking, and his final moments made me sad in all the right ways. He was written absolutely flawlessly in my opinion, and I will miss him greatly in The Last Star. I liked Razor too, and I like that Yancey kind of pulled us back and forth wondering if he was good or evil. At the end of The Infinite Sea he seemed to be one of the good guys, but personally I hope that turns out to be another fake-out.

I gave this four out of five stars because I was tearing through the pages, desperate to find out what happens, but the writing was definitely lacking in this one. It was a bit repetitive, mostly via Ringer, but I have high hopes for book number three, whenever I have time to get around to that one.

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20657437Title: Salt & Stone
Author: Victoria Scott
Pages: 320
Year: 2015
Publisher: Scholastic
Time taken to read: 3 days
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads synopsis: In FIRE & FLOOD, Tella Holloway faced a dangerous trek through the jungle and a terrifying march across the desert, all to remain a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed for a chance at obtaining the Cure for her brother. She can’t stop – and in SALT & STONE, Tella will have to face the unseen dangers of the ocean, the breathless cold of a mountain, and twisted new rules in the race. But what if the danger is deeper than that? How do you know who to trust when everyone’s keeping secrets? What do you do when the person you’d relied on most suddenly isn’t there for support? How do you weigh one life against another? The race is coming to an end, and Tella is running out of time, resources, and strength. At the beginning of the race there were one hundred twenty-two Contenders. As Tella and her remaining friends start the fourth and final part of the race, just forty-one are left . . . and only one can win.

First of all, hello my readers. I haven’t posted a review in a while because I’ve been reading like four books at the same time, and I’ve been working on moving out of my apartment so I haven’t had a lot of time to read. However, I finally picked up Salt & Stone from the library on Wednesday and I absolutely tore through it, just like I did with Fire & Flood. Last night I kept saying to myself, “Just one more chapter and then I’ll go to bed,” but each chapter left me more and more desperate to get to the ending. Victoria Scott wrote on Goodreads that she “believe[s] in continually raising stakes, testing characters, and strengthening relationships,” and that’s exactly what she did throughout this entire novel. She really allowed us to watch these characters learn about themselves and each other and humanity in general, and it was an amazing journey.

I still love Tella, Harper, and Olivia so much. Guy is 5000% annoying and a great example of why I don’t talk to men if I can avoid it. All the deaths in this book absolutely wrecked me. (Actually…I didn’t care for Willow that much. She was a giant brat.) Especially because the causes of death were straight out of my worst nightmares. I hate sharks so much, I won’t go in the ocean. Because things like that happen. (They don’t really, but like…they could.) I thought it was weird that no one else in the book thought it was weird that there was a guy named Cotton. That’s not even like a cool hipster name like Willow. It’s just weird.

As for the ending, I am completely losing my mind because we do not get very many answers. I love writing like that, with crazy cliffhangers that there are no answers to, because it definitely makes your readers feel something, and then they get to sort of decide what happens for themselves. I’ve decided what happens in my version of Tella’s life post-Brimstone Bleed, but maybe Victoria Scott will write another book and it’ll be completely different. But honestly, I believe that her answers are no more true than mine, because that’s how fiction works, and that’s why I love it so much.

By the way, I had my final interview with Random House on Thursday, and my interviewer said she loved my enthusiasm!! I think she’ll find that few people are more enthusiastic about YA than I am. Although I fear that “I love your enthusiasm” actually means “You are completely crazy and you need like seven chill pills.” Which is not wrong.

16069167Title: Fire & Flood
Author: Victoria Scott
Pages: 305
Year: 2014
Publisher: Scholastic
Time taken to read: 2 days
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads synopsisTella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can’t determine what’s wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She’s lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she’s helpless to change anything. Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It’s an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother’s illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there’s no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race. The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can’t trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?

I will start off by saying that I am biased here because I met the author, Victoria Scott, in my Barnes & Noble a couple weeks ago. She came upstairs while I was doing bookseller training and introduced herself, and I had never heard of her or her books, but she was so sweet, and she was patient through my rambles about how much I want to be a writer, so therefore I love her and everything she does, and I was not feeling like my normal judgmental self while reading this. But I tried to stay objective, so it’s hard to tell whether this book was actually really great or if I just love the author. Either way, I loved Fire & Flood, and I’m confused about why The Hunger Games is popular and this is less so, because The Hunger Games is garbage, and this is similar but way better.

I think Tella is so funny, like when she woke up in the box thing in different clothes, and she was like, oh my god, am I wearing my good underwear. Hashtag me. She is a feminine badass, and I love her. And her lil fox friend is adorable. I was really weirded out by Guy at first because for some reason I pictured him as like at least 30 years old, and then all of a sudden she was like in love with him, and I was like, wait, but he’s old…but he’s not actually old, so I don’t know why I thought that. No judgment from me even if he was old, though, for real. Anyway, Titus was like 100% horrifying and should have been in jail forever. Hashtag I’d rather die than be on the same planet as him, so I feel for Tella. I feel like interacting with him in any way would be traumatizing. OH, and Dink!! I’m just going to say that I called it. As soon as he got in the river to save Caroline, I knew it. But not in the way that it was so obvious and therefore so dumb–it was like, I thought I knew it, but I wasn’t 1000% sure, but I was excited to be proven right and to see how exactly that would play out. And it was creepy and great. At first it bothered me how Tella kind of barely mentions Cody once she’s in the race, and she gets all obsessed with Guy, but actually the whole situation reminded me of residential treatment. I told myself going into res this year that I was not going to get caught up in any drama, that I was going to keep my head down and work on getting better and remember who I was there for, but when you’re suddenly submerged in a completely different world with no contact from anyone else, you can’t help but get swept up in everything. You forget that you have a life outside of there.

So I’m giving this four out of five stars instead of a full five stars because of the whole Cure thing. I am impressed by the fact that there was a reason for this whole race and that it wasn’t completely absurd, but also, I really cannot imagine anyone being in mourning for their child and then setting up this elaborate race. That’s not what you do when you lose a loved one. I don’t know exactly what you do, but it’s not this. Also, why would you make a cure for any illness and then make this race when you could just sell your magical science and make, like, unlimited money? Why torture people when you could cure everyone and live in a castle? I guess the answer is because then we wouldn’t have this book, and that’s how it is with most stories like this, which I can accept, I guess. It’s similar with The Hunger Games. There’s no way that any society would end up doing anything like that, but it’s interesting and exciting to read about. Except The Hunger Games sucks, and Fire & Flood is good, so read this instead. Tell your friends.

25733990Title: Sleeping Giants
Author: Sylvain Neuvel
Pages: 302
Year: 2016
Publisher: Del Rey (Random House)
Time taken to read: 4 days
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads synopsisA girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand. Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected. But some can never stop searching for answers. Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

I thought Sleeping Giants was going to be about actual living giants, perhaps giants that were asleep. I was not expecting a robot. (This probably has something to do with having seen the trailer for The BFG recently.) While I used to like Doctor Who very much, I have never considered myself a huge Sci-Fi fan, but oh my god, someone send me the sequel to this novel immediately. I’ve been staying up until like 2 AM reading this the past few nights. (Also, I can’t sleep anyway because I’m waiting to hear back about an interview I had at Random House. That’s right. I said Random House.) I haven’t stayed up late to read since I was in middle school, probably, besides the few times in college when I was feeling really emotional and stayed up to read Harry Potter and cry. I’m a grandma who likes to go to bed at 9 PM, okay?

Anyway, I was skeptical of the style of this book at first. It’s mostly set up like an interview between the people involved in the robot project and some unknown person whose role is a mystery. It’s funny, I automatically assumed the interviewer was female, until several chapters in when someone called him “sir”. It took a while to adjust to that. As for the style, though, I eventually realized that if each of these chapters had been written out in full description, this book would have been, like, a thousand pages long, and far fewer people read it. I wouldn’t have, for sure. But I did read it, and I was desperate to get to the end and find out if the robot was going to work and what it was for and what the symbols meant and so on and so on. And then we end on a major cliffhanger. I know this was only published a month ago, but seriously, where is my sequel? Oh, also, can we talk about Vincent’s knee surgery for a minute? That is the grossest and weirdest and most amazing thing ever. I would probably cry and throw up if I ever saw anything like that. But I guess when you’re putting together a giant alien robot, there’s not much left to be surprised by. I would have liked to have actually met some aliens, but maybe they’ll show up in the next book.

The only reason I ended up giving Sleeping Giants four out of five stars is because there were a lot of military things that made absolutely no sense to me, and I didn’t understand the politics of the project. I just wanted to hear about the robot. I don’t understand what Russia has to do with it, nor do I care. Also, I thought it was weird how they were like, “Hey, let’s dump the robot in the ocean just to go get it back a few months later.” What was the point of that? Maybe the point was explained in the politics part that I didn’t understand. I don’t know. Either way, y’all should read this book. It’s good. Also, wish me luck at Random House. I’ve been perpetually nauseous since my interview on Tuesday. Pray to all your gods and all the alien robots.

16101128Title: The 5th Wave
Author: Rick Yancey
Pages: 457
Year: 2013
Publisher: Speak (Penguin Group)
Time taken to read: 1 month, 5 days
Rating: 5/5

Goodreads synopsisAfter the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one. Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave. On a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, until Cassie meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan may be her only hope for rescuing her brother and even saving herself. Now she must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up. Cassie Sullivan gets up.

This book took me a long time to read only because I’m getting paid to write up a chapter-by-chapter summary for a graduate education class. If I hadn’t been doing that, I probably would have read this in a day. I absolutely loved this book. It was full of twists and mysteries that had me totally hooked from the very beginning. I was actually surprised that I liked this book so much because I normally hate when the point of view bounces between characters, but somehow Yancey did a great job with that. Cassie is possibly one of the most well-written characters I’ve ever come across. She felt so real to me. I knew I was going to love this book when Cassie mentions her stash of tampons. Finally a writer mentions the fact that girls have periods! I never would have expected this from a male author, but he did it. (I’m looking glaring at you, Suzanne Collins.) And right after that, Cassie says she still carries her cellphone around, even though it won’t even turn on anymore. That detail made me weirdly happy because I know I would do the same thing in an alien invasion–I just couldn’t leave it behind no matter how stupid it was to bring it along. That’s what I liked about Cassie, that throughout this whole book and all the trauma she went through, she was always a teenager. She was always thinking about her high school crush even though the world had gone to hell. She was a real person.

(MAJOR SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON.)

This is going to sound harsh, but I was really glad that Evan died at the end. If she had ended up with him, I probably would have liked this book a lot less. Like, he is an alien. I was afraid there would be some sort of cliché “After all this time of being obsessed with Ben, I’ve got a new guy now and he’s, well, very interesting.” You could say that the suggestion at the end that she’s with Ben now is cliché as well, but all it is is a suggestion. It isn’t said for sure that they’re actually going to be together and stay together. (Although, I guess I’ll find out in the sequel.) And that’s better than Evan anyway.

The only thing that didn’t add up for me was the fact that, upon waking up after being rescued by Evan, Cassie didn’t immediately suspect him of being an alien. Her mind was trained to assume guilty until proven innocent, and since that can’t really be proven, just assume guilty. I can only contribute this to being instantly distracted by his good looks or feeling woozy from just having been unconscious for a while, but I still felt like she should have been panicking a little more. And of course, she eventually got there, but it wasn’t soon enough in my opinion. I was also very much bothered by the line, “…hiding behind a tree like a girl.” It’s very obvious why that makes me mad, but it was the only time that I felt like there was anything anti-feminist in this book and, in a world that is slowly unlearning its sexism, one bad sentence is pretty good.

I am very rarely interested in sequels but I will definitely be picking up the next one in this series, The Infinite Sea. I’d recommend The 5th Wave to absolutely anyone, even if you’re not normally a sci-fi fan. Sci-fi is normally too complicated of a genre for me, like my brain can’t keep up with it, but this was so excellent. Good job, Yancey.

Update: Okay, I guess Evan didn’t actually die?? What the heck??