October 3rd, 2014

smirk by geekilicious

Book 87

The MisshapesThe Misshapes by Alex Flynn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received an ARC via Goodreads which didn't influence my review one way or the other. I have to admit it, I wasn't thrilled with the beginning of this one. Other parts I really enjoyed but if I hadn't felt obligated to read this because that's part of the covenant I entered into in winning it, I might not have gotten to the better parts.

Part of my problem with the beginning was I'm not a fifteen year old girl anymore, like our protagonist is. Sarah spends the first few chapters fan girling over Freedom Boy. Almost every thought is either about him or getting into Hero Academy. Here's the thing, I didn't like girls like that even when I was fifteen.

The story does settle down though, especially once Sarah's mentor Sam enters the picture and is pretty enjoyable from there in. But let me back up to the beginning. All Sarah wants, other than to meet Freedom Boy, is to get into Hero Academy. Her mother used to be the dean there before she went all super villainess. But things aren't in her favor. Not only did Mom turn in her hero cape, Sarah's brother, Johnny, dropped out of the school, opting to go to Harris High with Normals (non-powered kids) and Misshapes (kids whose super powers are frankly not that super). Her dad is a Misshape and frankly Misshapes have a hard place to be. They're looked down upon by the Heroes but they don't fit in with the kids with no powers either.

Sarah's young dreams take a hit. SHe is denied entry into the Academy but Dr. Mann, the new dean promises her, if she shapes up her weather control (she uses emotion for this), then she can get in the following year. For now, she's relegated to the Civics class in Harris High with her fellow Misshapes. However, for some reason, Freedom Boy wants to date her.

And in those early OOoo dating Freedom chapters, I found myself wishing either Johnny or her cousin Betty were the lead. They share the ability to turn any water into alcohol and it could kill them if they aren't careful. Frankly, that was more interesting to me than yet another weather controller.

But then Sarah stumbles over a naked young man who turns out to be another Academy drop out who can control weather and has a very cool job with a local company. Sam is willing to train Sarah.

As the story progresses, Sarah is torn between desperately wanting to be a hero and fitting in with her Misshape friends. Soon there are dark things in Doolittle Falls. The stakes do get very high and none of the Misshapes will escape unscathed if something isn't done.

I did like this over all, in spite of my feelings about the beginning. However, I would have liked to see the hints of bad things ahead coming earlier in the story than we got them. Much earlier. It felt like there was no real threat to the story until about mid-way in. Before that, it was just, can she train hard enough to get into the Academy.

One thing I didn't take into consideration in my review because I had an uncorrected proof and I'm hoping the grammar blips and formatting issues will be taken care of later, is the font. I really hope this isn't the font they're going to use. It's miniscule, very hard to read. So, if you like superheroes, you'll probably enjoy this

View all my reviews

(and judging by some other reviews, they haven't ever read a comic book if they think a bit of violence and comic book names don't go together)

#1: Tomorrow's Magic

#1: Tomorrow's Magic, by Pamela F. Service, is one of my long-time favorite books. I first read it years back, and I still re-read it every so often. It consists of two parts, Winter of Magic's Return and Tomorrow's Magic, originally published separately. The inside cover reads, "It's been five hundred years since a nuclear holocause decimated the Earth's population. In the seemingly endless winter that has followed, small shires have grown throughout Britain, often fighting over land and leadership. But lately, the post-Devastation mutants- and other, stranger creatures-seem to be more aggressive and more organized than ever. Wellington Jones and Heather McKenna are more concerned with trying to keep up at school when their classmate Earl Bedwas amazingly discovers that he is, in fact, Merlin... a two-thousand-year-old wizard! Earl is determined to bring the legendary King Arthur back from Avalon to unite Britain against Morgan La Fay, Arthur's ancient foe, who is controlling the mutant- and magical- forces."
I'd definitely recommend this book for fantasy lovers of all ages, elementary school through to retirement. (At least, I first read it in elementary school.) One rare quality it has for a YA-friendly book, beside the masterful mash-up of bleak future and fantasy, is the way it focuses on the friendship of the main characters, as opposed to any potential romance. It starts by world-building using the characters' everyday lives at their boarding school, and the plot thickens and evolves until the story becomes a tale of high adventure. The three-dimensional setting and characters, plus the gauntlet of obstacles throughout the book, add up to a real treat.

Book 175: The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

Book 175: The Narrow Road to the Deep North .
Author: Richard Flanagan, 2014.
Genre: Period Fiction. 1840s Asia/Australia. War.
Other Details: Hardback. 448 pages.

Taking its title from one of the most famous books in Japanese literature, written by the great haiku poet Basho, Flanagan’s novel has as its heart one of the most infamous episodes of Japanese history, the construction of the Thailand-Burma Death Railway in World War II. In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Death Railway, surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever. - synopsis from Man Booker website.

This powerful multi-layered novel surprised me as given the subject matter I did not expect to be drawn so deeply into its narrative. It deals with the difficult subject of POWs held by the Japanese during WWII in the Pacific. As a result there are many scenes that were hard to read and yet it was so vital to the story that these be as raw as they were. While it would have been easy to demonize the Japanese in charge of the camp Flanagan presents them as bound to a code of honour and a tradition that is very different to that of their prisoners. It does not lessen the cruelty that is portrayed but places it in context.

The novel has quite a traditional structure though it does jump about in time some, chronicling Dorrigo Evans' life in Australia before and after the war as well as the post-war lives of a few of the Japanese and Korean prison guards. Certainly it has the qualities I would consider worthy of a prestigious literary award such as the Man Booker though its accessibility and lack of experimental style may go against current trends in judging such awards.

However, whatever the outcome I felt this was the strongest of the three novels I have read so far on the 2014 short-list. The writing is beautiful even when dealing with the horrors of the POW camp and the love story at the novel's heart was deeply moving. A novel that will remain with me for some time.