Tuesday Reads: The Body Electric by Beth Revis

“Science can make a heart beat,” Jack says softly, each word falling on me like a caress. “But it can’t make it race.”

22642971I loved Beth Revis’ Across the Universe trilogy (please can we get some more YA in space? can that be the Next Big Thing?), so when The Body Electric came out, I bought it immediately. And I regret nothing, because it’s wonderful.

There’s a lot about Ella Shepherd’s life that isn’t awesome. Her father was killed in a terrorist attack. Her mother’s terminal illness is barely kept at bay by the nanobots in her brain. Ella spends all her time at her mother’s spa, where people come to enter reveries – technology that lets them relive their happiest memories.

When her mother’s illness makes it difficult for her to enter reverie, Ella does something experimental, and possibly dangerous. She enters her mother’s reverie. Manipulates it to be as happy as possible. People aren’t supposed to be able to share reveries, but Ella can do it. The government finds out, and recruits her to enter the reveries of suspected rebels. They want her to learn their secrets. With justice for her father on her mind, Ella’s happy to do it.

This starts Ella on a path to discover the secrets her government and family have been hiding. She meets a boy, Jack, who claims to know her intimately – but she’s never met him in her life. Her memories of him have been entirely erased, and she doesn’t know by who, and she doesn’t know if she can trust him. She pretty quickly realizes she’s not sure if she can trust anyone – not even herself.

There’s so much about this book that I loved. I loved the futuristic world that Revis created. It’s filled with nanobots and androids but doesn’t feel like every other scifi book with nanobots and androids. They’re still fresh and interesting and I enjoyed learning about the world.

I loved that it’s set in the Mediterranean rather than future US. This is a scifi YA with a kickass girl of color as the protagonist. I’m actually pretty sure that there are more people of color in this book than there are white people, so that’s awesome (it was similar in Across the Universe, actually, Beth Revis is great).

I was also really into the romance aspect. It was there and it was swoon-worthy, but it didn’t overpower the plot and it didn’t define either Ella or Jack. It was part of their arcs and part of their characters, but it wasn’t everything, they didn’t drop their entire lives and beings for each other. Plus, Ella had other important relationships in her life, ones that often took precedence over Jack – her family and her best friend.

I honestly don’t have much bad to say about The Body Electric. I thought it was incredibly fun and interesting, I loved the setting and the characters, and I think all y’all should read it ASAP.

STARS: 5/5

Tuesday Reads: Ticker by Lisa Mantchev

“We’ve all had terrible things happen to us,” Marcus said without looking up. “Only the weak use it as an excuse to prey upon others.”

91RBFPPpCNLI’m a huge fan of Lisa Mantchev. If you haven’t read Eyes Like Stars and its sequels, you should do that immediately. Unless you’re reading Ticker. You should finish that first.

I’d been waiting for Ticker for…I don’t know how long. Months. Years. Lifetimes. Lisa would post about it on her Facebook page or Twitter, and then that beautiful cover was released, and even though at that point I wasn’t sure what it was about, I knew I needed to read it.

When I finally got a chance, I was hooked by the first line: “A girl with a clockwork heart shouldn’t be running late, but I was.”

Ticker is about Penny Farthing, the first of the Augmented – someone who has had parts of their body replaced with clockwork. For Penny, it’s her heart, her Ticker, and it’s running out of time. It was only ever meant to be a prototype. She needs a new one.

Problem is, the only surgeon with the skill and willingness to do such an Augmentation, Dr. Calvin Warwick, is in prison for the many murders he committed experimenting with the Ticker now in Penny’s chest. Penny’s happy to have him there, quite frankly, because she’s never been able to feel like the blood isn’t on her hands, too.

Then there’s an explosion at her family’s factory. In the chaos, her parents are taken from their home. In a second explosion at the courthouse, Calvin Warwick escapes. His demand? Penny.

I was a little little bit worried going into this, because I wasn’t sure that steampunk isn’t played out and I wasn’t sure that wouldn’t bug me, but really, I should have known. I should have trusted in Lisa Mantchev, because the steampunk world of Ticker is beautiful. It’s like this Victorian clockwork fairyland decorated with some healthy doses of murder, intrigue, and romance.

The characters, of course, make it. I rolled my eyes in frustration at Penny’s very big-brother-y twin brother, Nic. I fell in love with Marcus Kingsley right along with her. I kind of need her best friend, Violet Nesselrode, to be my best friend. I also really want to be able to go to the SugarWerks Fully Automated Bakery.

(Warning: Whenever you read Lisa Mantchev’s books, you will get hungry. Her description of food is second to none. You know how in Miyazaki movies, something as simple as egg on toast looks like the most delicious thing in the world? Yeah. That’s how this is, only in prose. You may eat your e-reader or book in desperation.)

Lisa gleefully quoted one of her first negative reviews as using the phrase “an over abundance of nonsense”. That is a completely accurate thing to call Ticker, but I don’t see why that’s a bad thing.

STARS: 5/5

Bonus Review: Extraction by Stephanie Diaz

You only have until midnight tonight to enter for a chance to win a bookmark SIGNED BY STEPHANIE DIAZ, and I super enjoyed her debut novel Extraction so I thought I’d post an extra review this week. Check out my post about Stephanie Diaz for more about her and for a summary of Extraction.

“What would you give for a way off the Surface, Clementine?”

Logan’s face slides into my head. The one person I know I’d miss if they took me away.

Looking into my instructor’s shining eyes, I push his face to the back of my mind.

“Everything,” I say.

9781250041173Extraction starts a lot like your usual post-apocalyptic YA novel, which is a genre that I know a lot of people are tired of…but I’m not. It’s my jam, especially if the world and the characters are interesting. I liked Extraction a lot because it’s not actually set on Earth, it’s on another planet in another galaxy, though it is also occupied by humans. It’s a little more space sci-fi than a lot of post-apocalyptic stuff is, and I dig that.

I didn’t hit that point where I needed to keep reading and needed to know more until about 30% of the way in, but once it hit that point, it didn’t let me go. At some parts in the beginning I was still a little hesitant, because I know the tropes of the YA dystopia very well and I worried it would all be too predictable. It’s not. It kept me guessing and kept surprising me.

It definitely plays to a lot of the tropes, but it does that really well. I was never bored. I love the protagonist, Clementine. She’s strong and she’s smart, but she still makes a lot of mistakes. She actually reminds me a lot of Tris from Divergent, in a good way. Seriously, if you liked Divergent you will probably love Extraction.

I really love that there isn’t a love triangle in sight.

I also got into Clementine’s development as a rebel. In the beginning, she’s just thinking about how she wants to escape her shitty life and take her friend, Logan, with her. She’s not thinking about overthrowing the whole system or revealing great injustices. She just wants to be free and to be with the one person left that she loves. Her way of doing that is working within the system: She wants to pass her Promise test, be Extracted to the Core, and become so special and invaluable that they’ll agree to make an exception for Logan and let him live in the Core, too.

But of course things are worse in the Core than she thought. The corruption and control are stronger than she ever imagined, but, for awhile, it’s still just about saving Logan and using the power structures already in place to do it. It’s not until things get to their absolute worse that Clementine goes: Screw it, I need to stop ALL of this, and I need to find my own way.

I will tell you that there are parts of the science and the worldbuilding that might stretch the limits of your ability to suspend your disbelief – there were a couple points that had me go, “What?” – but overall I was able to just go with it and buy into the rules of this world and really have fun reading the book.

The tl;dr of this review is: Extraction is a lot of fun, you should read it, and you definitely want to win one of those bookmarks signed by Stephanie Diaz.

STARS: 4/5

Tuesday Reads: This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

“This is not a test. Listen closely. This is not a test.” But I think she’s wrong. I think this is a test. It has to be.

I have been super craving YA horror lately, and I’m a huge sucker for good zombie stories. This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers gave me a fix for both of those, and it gave me some stuff I didn’t really know I wanted.

First, let me give you a quick summary. The bulk of this book takes place in a school where a group of teenagers is taking shelter from the zombie hoards while they try to plan a way to survive longterm. They’re each carrying secrets, they’re all hurting and scared, and they might be more dangerous to each other than the zombies outside.

12043771The thing is, although This Is Not a Test has zombies and could technically be called a zombie book, it’s not about the zombies. They’re not remotely the focus of the story or even most of the scenes. This is a book that is truly about the characters and their dynamics with each other. They fight, they form alliances, those alliances fall apart and new ones form, they plot against each other, they save each other.

There are a million things in this book that I love – little details, big-picture things – but the one that I really want to talk about is our protagonist, Sloane. See, the day the zombie apocalypse started, Sloane was ready to kill herself. Not just feeling suicidal, not just ready – she had a plan. She was about to do it when the zombies came through her front door and everything descended into chaos. She’s saved and pulled along by a group of fellow students, but she’s not quite there.

She’s not fighting for her life, she just happens to be surviving in a dying world.

She was ready to die. There’s a certain numbness to being so suicidal that you’ve made a detailed plan, and that’s where Sloane is. The zombie apocalypse didn’t magically heal that. It doesn’t instantly wake her up and make her realize that she wants to live. She continues to struggle with it throughout the book, and I love that. In a lot of apocalyptic stories, we see these extreme events either healing mental illness, or exacerbating it to the point that the person just completely breaks and dies.

In Sloane, we see nuances and complexity to her suicidal urges. We see how it’s become part of her, and it’s not something easily shaken off – but she also can’t quite get herself to do it, because now she feels responsible for the others in her group. She doesn’t want to give them a dead body to get rid of when they can’t leave the school safely. There are a lot of storylines and emotional threads to this book, but this is the one I was the most invested in, the one I most badly needed to know the resolution for.

This Is Not a Test is emotionally intense, it’s creepy, and you should absolutely read it.

STARS: 5/5

And, of course, a reminder that you can still enter to win a BOOKMARK SIGNED BY STEPHANIE DIAZ and, if you’re curious about who this new author is, check out my post about her and her debut novel, EXTRACTION.

Tuesday Reads: Her and Me and You by Lauren Strasnick

“Seriously? Your sister hates me.”

“She doesn’t, I swear. She’s actually really great.” He touched my arm, then quickly retracted his hand. “Come.”

If Evie could love someone else, so could I.

her-and-me-and-you-366x550Her and Me and You by Lauren Strasnick is the story of Alex, a girl who’s moved off with her mom to a new town and a new school after her father cheats. She leaves behind her best friend, Evie. At her new school, she falls in with twins Fred and Adina.

Alex likes Fred a lot, and he likes her back, but Adina keeps getting in the way. She lies to keep them apart, she starts fights with both Alex and Fred, she spreads rumors. Alex can’t tell if Adina’s just a sister who’s too possessive of her brother, or if maybe the twins are closer than it seems. She struggles with trying to figure out if her feelings for Fred are worth fighting Adina for.

At the same time, she’s losing Evie. Her best friend is moving on without her, dating a new boy, reaching new milestones. Her dad is moving in with his mistress. Her mom is struggling with alcohol. Basically: Alex’s life is a mess.

Right up to the end, I was wholly invested in the characters and the story, but it’s with the ending that Her and Me and You lost me. It ends abruptly and leaves far too much unresolved. Don’t get me wrong – I love it when some things are left purposely unresolved in a book. I love it when everything isn’t wrapped up in a perfect little bow and presented to the reader. Give me ambiguity about whether or not they truly get their happy ever after. But I need something to feel wrapped up, or else I just feel unsatisfied, like I did here.

I also wanted the relationships to be pushed farther. There were strong hints of a more-than-siblings relationship between Adina and Fred. Occasionally there were moments where it looked like some sort of strange triad could form between them and Alex. These are relationships that can be uncomfortable and weird, but my opinion is that if you’re going to go for it, you should go for it, and I was ultimately disappointed.

My other issue isn’t something that is necessarily a problem with this book, but is something I see in a lot of contemporary YA that frustrates me. When female protagonists in contemporary YA have female friends, they usually lose those friends (either simply from growing apart or, more likely, from fighting). This happens in Her and Me and You with Alex and Evie, and I’m just tired of it. This also ties in to my feelings about unfulfilled relationships, because there were definitely times when it seemed that Alex might have some romantic feelings for Evie (whether or not she would admit them to herself)

I’m saying all of this and it sounds like I didn’t enjoy this book at all, but I actually really liked it. I had my moments where I wanted to punch Adina but I also have a special place in my heart for characters – especially female characters – that most would deem unlikeable. I found myself completely consumed by Alex’s story, especially her interactions with Adina and Fred.

I may have found a few aspects of the book frustrating, but I cared about these characters, and that goes a long way.

Stars: 4/5