Friday, February 27, 2015

Authority and Control in VanderMeer's Trilogy

This whole series is one massively amazing fever dream.  For that reason, I find myself unable to review Authority properly.

I will say that I was a bit, er, over-zealous in my conspiracy theories about the main character, but I wasn't ridiculously off-base.  The style and setting of this one is so different from the first that it throws you, and I'm sure that's intentional.  While the last was a survival story with a mega-dose of unreliability and psychosis, Authority chronicles the vain efforts of John Rodriguez, AKA "Control," to set the Southern Reach facility to rights after the Twelfth Expedition.

It's like if Office Space went the espionage route with a dash of identity crisis and a heavy dollop of The X-Files.

My only complaint is that the last "chase scene" (the marks are intentional, I assure you) was far too drawn out and dull.

Overall, another great book from VanderMeer.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Girl At Midnight

Oh, the soul-crushing feeling when a book that starts out so well comes crashing down around you.

Sorry to be such a downer, but there it is.  I was rooting for this book up until three-quarters of the way through, when it abruptly became more of a "Dear lord, when will this end?" emotion.

So, let's do some pros and cons.


Main character, named Echo, has a hearty dislike of authority (which actually is sustained throughout the book--she doesn't capitulate).
Echo collects esoteric words and deploys them at strategic moments.
There are bird-people (the Avicen) with a stronghold in New York City, who are battling their mortal foes the dragon-people (the Drakharin) who hang out mostly in Russia/Japan (not quite sure there).
The mythical firebird is involved.


Echo's love of words doesn't connect to anything in the narrative, and she doesn't do it often enough for it to be a character trait.  It's more of a series of out of left field moments than anything.
Echo has a boyfriend who is Avicen, but she pretty much dumps him for this other dude that she just met, named Caius.
All Echo can think about is how beautiful her Avicen bf is.  Sooooo pretteeeeeeee.
There's magical teleporting dust but never mind that because we have to find the firebird!
Then there's an oracle and the evil Dragon-Prince usurper, who is a psychopathic lady and twin of Caius.
The enemy totally just follows the MC's breadcrumbs because nobody thought to obscure their trail.
The firebird's main power is that it can shoot black and white fire at the Dragon Prince Tanith, who maybe escapes?  I was again unclear on that.  Pew pew pew pew!

All in all, this is a very uneven novel.  The pacing gave me a bit of whiplash.  It's like la-la-la I am having fun stealing things WHOOM KIDNAPPING MUST SAVE THE WORLD *poof* WORLD SAVED.  Wait, how did that just happen?

Okay, to go into a bit more detail:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday

I can't seem to make up my mind to stick with any one book in particular, so I've got a bunch going at the same time.  Behold!

Authority by Jeff VanderMeer:   I loved the first book in the Southern Reach trilogy.  This one has a very different feel, but it's still quite intriguing.  I have some guesses as to what's going on, but they're probably way off!  (And yes, the rabbit on the cover is pertinent to the story!)

Don't Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon:  I started this last week on the elliptical machine and haven't returned to it, but it was pretty interesting if you suspend disbelief.

The Princess in the Opal Mask by Jenny Lundquist: A fun and sweet riff on The Man in the Iron Mask meets The Prince and the Pauper.

Brood by Chase Novak:  Okay, I admit I picked this up because it looked spooky.  I didn't realize it was a follow-up to Novak's previous book Breed.  Oops.  It doesn't have a great rating on Goodreads, but I'll give it a chance.

The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle by Hugh Lofting: I'm on a quasi-mission to read as many Newbery winners as I can stomach.  I have a nasty little feeling in the pit of my stomach that there might be some racism here.  Here we go.

and finally...

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger: I fully intend to get into her Parasol Protectorate, but this one I got for free, and it's lounging around on my Kindle.  So.

Hey Jude, you're so depressed...

must be those ladies / you keep lovin'. / Remember, your first wife wasn't so great / and life with Sue isn't much better.

I really have very little to say about Jude the Obscure other than a) it is depressing and b) it reinforces my gun-shy attitude about marriage.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Goodbye Stranger

Confession: I did not go to a public middle school.  A lot of what I know about middle school (or real middle school, as I call it) has been gleaned from my little brother's experience as well as anecdotes told by my teacher friends.  Also the internet, but that's always to be taken with a truckload of salt.

In a way, I was extraordinarily lucky to have missed a lot of what happens in middle school: old friendships fall apart, boys go from gross to OMGHOT, and hormones happen.  My "middle school" consisted of me, another girl, and another boy, both of whom I'd known for a very long time.  We were at a very small private school.  I am very glad that I went to public high school, though.  It taught me a lot of things, mostly about how to act around other people.  Yeah, I learned academic stuff too, but it was so regimented that I really only learned when I got to college and was able to question what I was being taught.  But that's a tangent I'll nip in the bud.

But however small your middle school was, or however insular it was, you still have to go through the painful, icky parts of adolescence.  I started wearing a bra in the fourth grade and got wacky hormonal on our sixth grade trip to St. Louis (funny how massive life events sometimes align that way).  I was the rounded, chubby girl while my classmate remained boyish and tall.  I avoided going to gym because I had no idea how to find a proper sports bra and it was ow-painful to run around.  I flung myself into myriad re-watchings and re-readings of Pride and Prejudice with the earnest single-mindedness so peculiar to the tween fan.  Believing that I'd never be pretty or thin enough to get married, I ate my feelings.  I'd rent P&P from Blockbuster over and over again and eat powdered Kool-Aid mix right from the tub.  I had the worst relationship with food but I didn't realize it until my junior year of high school.

See, the other part of this is that I was two years younger than everyone else in my grade.  A combo of a summer birthday and my mom starting me in first grade at five (I knew how to read already, so why do kindergarten?) had me significantly behind in the whole development thing, but I pretended that I was older than I really was inside.  Inside I was still a kid, but I was trying to deal with people dating and relationship drama and friendship drama and all I wanted to do was sing bad karaoke with my friends.

So, yeah, I didn't go to a giant middle school with cliques and horrid teachers and stuff, but I still had to work through that awful phase.  Rebecca Stead opens a window onto middle school life with her extraordinary Goodbye Stranger, and I cried, not just because Stead always moves me, but because kids have to deal with so much crap.  So much.

As a girl, Bridget was hit by a car while skating with her friend.  After her miraculous recovery, she decided to rename herself "Bridge" and do things her way, trying to figure out if there was indeed a greater purpose to her life that she needed to fulfill.  A few weeks into seventh grade, Bridge decides to start wearing cat ears.  Why?  Why not?  People think she's weird, that Bridget Barsamian.

The chapters chonicling Bridget's tumultous year seven alternate with those of an unnamed girl who's experiencing extreme guilt.  She skips school and wanders around New York City, eventually ending up at a coffee shop owned by one Mr. Barsamian (connctions...).  In her chapters, we learn that she has a toxic friend with whom she's been friends forever, but who has lately changed into a nasty person.  Our mysterious narrator has done something unspeakably bad due to the influence of this friend.

Bridge's best friends are Em (Emily) and Tab (Tabitha), who have made a solemn pact over a Twinkie (that's about as binding as you can get, as Twinkies Never Die) to never, ever fight.  Em's dealing with the repercussions of "getting curves" and the attention that draws from boys.  She starts getting texts from a guy on the boys soccer team, which escalates really fast.  Suddenly, Em's the school slut. Meanwhile, Tab nags Em for her new relationship and Bridge has to try to balance the two and her new teachers and her identity.

There was one particularly potent passage (sorry, alliteration is a symptom of librarianship) relating to how society views women's bodies as inherently sexual and tempting.  Victims of poor school heating (been there, done that), the kids wear summer clothes during the winter to survive the heaters that run full force.  After winter vacation, Em shows up in a tatty green sweatshirt and bursts into tears.  She explains, " 'They said ... I have to wear this stupid sweatshirt.  It's from the lost and found. They said'--she wiped her face with a fist--'my shirt was too revealing!' "  Em's spaghetti strap top was obviously just too much for the boys, decided school administrators.  And what better way to encourage self-loathing than to shame a girl for her body?  Unfortunately, this happens all the time.  A girl with large breasts is automatically a "slut."  The next day, the school sends out a copy of the dress code, which is pretty Draconian.  Em feels that it's her fault.  When Bridge points out that other girls wear spaghetti straps and don't get in trouble, Em responds, "The dress code isn't for them ... It's for people like me.  Bad girls."

At this point I wanted to throttle the (fictional) school administration, but I know I could walk into every middle school in this country and find the same double standard applied to girls and definitely not to guys.  And it sucks.  It rots.  It makes girls equate their bodies with "badness" and things just spiral out of control from there.  Good job, educators of America.

Lots of other things happen in Goodbye Stranger as well, but that was the point that resonated the most strongly with me.  You'll tear up at the ending as well, because you'll remember the time you too made an awful mistake that nothing, nothing could reverse or make better, and you just had to learn how to live with it and learn from it.

I sat down to just start this book and ended up glued to my couch until I could finish it.  Stead never fails to move me and make me think.  This is a must read, and for librarians and parents alike, a must-buy.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Return to Augie Hobble

It's A Book by Lane Smith is one of my all-time favorite picture books.  Yes, I like them subversive, quirky, and a little bit dark (see also I'd Really Like to Eat A Child, I Want My Hat Back, and Bear Despair for other examples).  Plus, Smith also collaborated with Jon Sciescka on The Stinky Cheese Man: and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, which is another favorite.  There's a long story behind The Stinky Cheese Man and me, but that's for another time.

Anyway, when I saw Smith had a chapter book out, I requested it right away.

And then I finished it.  And I still have no idea what I read.  Let's try to work this one out:

Augie Hobble's dad owns Fairy Tale Place, a fairy-tale themed amusement park in the middle of nowhere, Kansas.  The description of it made me think of the park at the end of the movie Hanna.   Augie's kind of a jack-of-all-trades, sweeping up trash, making sure the characters stay in character, and painting a field of toadstools (do toadstools grow in fields?  Must look that up).  Unfortunately, Augie failed Creative Arts and has to do a makeup project.  He labels a journal "Return to Augie Hobble" and starts brainstorming.

Okay, first alarm bell: what is creative arts and how does one fail it without noticing?  The teacher seems like a real piece of work anyway, so he should have helped Augie instead of just being like, "Tee hee, you failed, here's some more work that I will hate anyway!"  It seems that "creative arts" is kind of like creative writing, but not.  See what I mean?  I'm so confused.

In the meantime, Augie and his best friend Britt build a treehouse hideout (gravity happens) and it's strongly implied that Britt is gay, but never discussed.  I don't like this tiptoeing around matters.  Plus, it was pretty clichéd.  Britt likes dolls and dress up and drama and he's different, ergo, gay (unless I'm totally reading this wrong).  For example, Augie criticizes Britt for making Fort Ninja too "girlie" with knick-knacks, and when Britt tells him he doesn't like that word, it's obviously hit home.  But Augie's also kind of a jerk, so.

As he tries to come up with ideas for his project (many of which I found completely valid, but he tossed them out, so whatever), strange things start happening in Augie's notebook.  Things he didn't write, critters he never drew.  No matter where he hides the notebook, it's always tampered with.

He enlists the aid of Claire, who runs a food stand, the theme park's psychic Oala, and the psychic's mysterious daughter, Nicoletta, to figure out a) what he should do for the project and b) who's been writing in his notebook.

Warning: after the jump there are spoilers aplenty.  So stop here and continue to wonder why I disliked this novel, or keep reading and spoil it all (do it do it do it!)!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Name of the Star (Shades of London #1)

I have a love-hate relationship with books about Jack the Ripper.  Sometimes they can be fascinating, and other times, the Jack appears as the token red-herring bad guy.

Thankfully, The Name of the Star is of the former category.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Daredevil #III Vol. 7 Mini-Review

So this is the last of the arc written by Waid and with art by Samnee that's set in New York.  Waid begins another story arc in San Francisco, which is up on my list to read.  Honestly, I was expecting a bit more bang for my buck (figuratively, as I got this from the library) from this, but it was still that new, refreshingly fun flavor of not-so-dark Daredevil.

Foggy's still battling cancer, Matt is still trying to figure out how to work with his ex Kristin, and, oh yeah, a group of white supremacists is trying to take over NYC.  With the help of a villain named the Jester, they've infiltrated the justice system and have begun inciting race riots.  Daredevil learns from Doctor Strange that although the Sons of the Serpent are now straight-up neo-Nazis, their roots are in an arcane society that used a special book for all of its spells.  To retrieve this information, Murdock travels down-home to Kentucky where he stumbles into yet another torch-and-pitchfork moment.  Only here, the mob isn't tracking black kids--they're hunting monsters.  Literally.

Daredevil briefly teams up with Frankenstein's monster, the mummy, the wolf-man, a zombie, and a lady who claims to be the devil's daughter to get the pages of this esoteric grimoire back.  It's a really, really, really bizarre issue, and it's what dragged down my rating of this volume.  It was a lot of filler that didn't have much zing to it.

Anyway, back in NYC, Daredevil and Kristin come to an understanding about his identity after the leader of the Sons of the Serpent threatens Foggy's life.  There's a really great scene in here where Matt and Foggy are talking about their options, and Foggy tells Matt that his defining characteristic isn't his supersonic hearing or acrobatic prowess, but his integrity.  That Daredevil's integrity has made the Avengers marvel.  That to give up his integrity to save Foggy's life would invalidated the worth of Foggy's life.  It was pretty cool to see a character trait so highly valued instead of super-speed or x-ray vision.

The ending was pretty cute, and I'm curious to see what Daredevil will do in the city by the bay ... and what happens to Foggy!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Please Remain Calm

It's just not something I can do when there's a Courtney Summers novel around.  She hooked me a few years ago with This Is Not A Test (probably one of the best zombie books around that I've read) and then sucker punched me with Some Girls Are.  I still have two other novels of hers to read, but I'm spacing them out like treats.  Plus, I have an ARC of her newest book, All the Rage, that is burning a figurative hole in my Kindle.

No, I'm not her publicist.  Just a fan.

Anyhoodles, basically, Courtney Summers is the Canadian Zooey Deschanel-resembling Queen of Horror, Psychological Mindtwisting, and Unrelenting Nastiness, and it's amazing.

Although I think that This Is Not A Test stands up very well on its own, I squeed when I found out that Summers had written a follow-up novella entitled Please Remain Calm.  While TINAT was written from Sloane's POV, this is written from Rhys'.  I really liked the switch of narrators and seeing Sloane as others saw her, not just in her self-loathing.

This is a quick read, but it still packs a wallop.  Rhys and Sloane have made it out of their town alive, leaving behind seven fellow refugees who fell to the zombies.  Sloane is in shock over having had to kill her sister, and Rhys is trying to keep his faith while the world crumbles.  After finding a place to crash goes very wrong, the two are separated.  A man named Jess rescues Rhys from drowning in a river, and Rhys joins Jess and his family as they make their way to a Prepper cabin.

Summers describes their journey in unflinching detail, and I think that's why this succeeds.  She's not afraid to talk about zombies eating intestines because if zombies existed, there would be no censors around saying, "Hey, that's too gross for a book!  Show some decency."  Zombies aren't "decent."  I also applaud the fact that we still don't know why people started turning into zombies.  That mystery is left veiled, when too often, in fiction, it turns out to be a *government conspiracy* or *alien virus* or something.  We are as much in the dark as Sloane and Rhys.  Be very, very afraid of the dark.

And that last scene?  Haunting perfection.  Boom.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cuckoo Song

May I call this lusciously creepy without sounding mad?  "Extraordinary" just doesn't seem to cut it.

My first foray with Hardinge's work was Fly by Night, and I was pretty young when I read it.  When I was younger, I thought that since I *got* Pride and Prejudice I could reader whatever I wanted and *get* it.  Now that I am a grown-up (or trying to be, at least), that's not true at all.  Anyway, I didn't particularly like Fly by Night because I thought it was trying too hard to be Dickensian and I was used to fantasy books tying everything up in a neat bow.  Now I prefer unreliable narrators, unhappy endings, and unlikable characters.  So I might retry Fly by Night sometime.  I'll probably be eighty before I ever whittle down my to-read list, but hey.  It's a goal.

I'm finding it difficult to review Cuckoo Song because it's about so many things, but Hardinge manages to arrange them beautifully and give you a perfect package of twisted family life, magic, grief, and love.

Triss wakes up, disoriented.  Her parents, who dote on her to the point of smothering her, inform her that she fell in the grimmer (which I assume is some sort of water-retention area.  I used the OED (my favorite!!!) and found a note that said "grimmer" is a spurious usage of "gimmer," which is a female lamb under the age of one.  I don't think that's correct.  Any help here would be appreciated!) and her already delicate constitution has been severely affected by her dunking and near-drowning.  It seems that Miss Triss is subject to many ailments, all of which require her to be coddled and posseted and kept in her room.  Her younger sister, Pen (short for Penny), is exactly the opposite.  She acts out in the most spectacular ways--it really is impressive to read about her massive tantrums.  The solution? Her parents lock her in her room.  There's a lot of locking-in-rooms going on here, and a lot of tincture taking by mummy dearest.  Ooo, I feel a dysfunctional family coming on!

Hoo boy, are they ever!  Daddy dearest is an engineer.  Mummy, well, she's rather a terror and likes firing maids.  Triss is an invalid and Pen a devil.  There's also an empty space in the family: their older brother, Sebastian, who died in the Great War several years ago but whose room is still a sanctuary and whose name is still forbidden to be uttered.

Triss starts to suspect that Pen may be right in saying that there's something not right going on--for one thing, she's ravenously hungry.  She even starts eating ... things.  Non-food things.  Oh, and did I mention that the dolls are talking to her?  That is some freaky stuff right there.  China dolls are right up there with circuses for me in "things that provoke a visceral fear."  Plus, she keeps finding leaves in her hair and sleepwalking.

As you may have guessed from the title (stop here if you don't want minor spoilers...)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cat Dad, King of the Goblins

Cat Dad, King of the GoblinsCat Dad, King of the Goblins by Britt Wilson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'd like to think I have a decent sense of humor, and that I'm open to lots of different kinds of books. When I read about Cad Dad, King of the Goblins in a journal, I knew I had to read it. It seemed just like the kind of zany I love in my graphic novels and comics.

Maybe I didn't have enough coffee this morning, or maybe I'm just old and crotchety, but this did nothing for me. I love that the story features POC without making a big deal out of it. However, I'm a bit confused as to a) why there's an anthropomorphic frog hanging out at the house, and b) how Mom's yoga practices lead to magical feline transformations.

The basic story is the Mom turns dad into a cat, who runs into the closet, which is being used to house Mom's garden because goblins like to mess with it (yes, it is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside). The goblins capture dad and make him king, while the two sisters and their froggy friend get lost in the goblin caves, conveniently capture dad, and return in triumph.

It's a story that would have benefited from a bit more fleshing out. The art was also a bit confusing. In one panel, we see the goblins carrying an animal crate. The panel shows three crates. Evidently, this represents them carrying it forward. This should have been split into three panels so it doesn't look like there's three cats, you know? Also, the size of Dad the Magical Cat changes drastically throughout the comic and I don't know why.

I don't know who I'd recommend this to or even why. It's by no means the worst thing I've read, but I feel let down.

View all my reviews

Monday, February 16, 2015

Young Avengers: Alternative Culture

This series by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie makes me want to dance around the hilltops like Maria, singing about how much I adore it.  Thankfully for the world, I won't do that, because I can't sing.

What can I say about this besides: AHHH SO GOOD?  In this volume, Speed (Wiccan's brother) is kidnapped by someone who looks like Patriot but isn't.  Witness to the crime, ex-X-Men trainee Prodigy tracks down the Young Avengers at their favorite breakfast joint.  Miss America gets to use her interdimensional hi-yah! kick a lot in this volume, which is awesome.  Kate and Noh-Varr smooch a lot, to Kid Loki's chagrin, and Hulkling and Wiccan have Relationship Drama, all while chasing faux-Patriot across endless dimensions and evading the evil Mother.  Along the way, they meet Leah, who claims to be Loki's sort-of-ex from the future past (I know, things get ca-ray-zee when you're zinging around the multiverse), who warns them against Loki.

Ahh, Loki. Easily the best thing about this comic.  Gillen has his voice spot-on and I was laughing throughout his dialogue.  Forget Thor; I like them small, dark, and devious.  Preferably Tom Hiddleston but I'll take whatever Loki I can get.

Super excited to read the last in this mini-series!  I'm glad that Gillen and McKelvie didn't drag this out but did a quick blip of awesomeness on the Marvel radar.

Friday, February 13, 2015

I just finished another lock-in... I'm super tired and have gotten almost nothing done this week.

There was no blood this time.  I did get out the vomit crystals just in case, but they were not needed.

"When My Heart Was Wicked" Fails in a Tangle of Cultural Appropriation and General Strangeness

The cover was what did it for me with this one.  I said "Ooooo!" and snatched it up at ALA Midwinter.  Plus, it looked short, which would give me a good break from Thomas Hardy (oy).

I'm trying to sort through my ARCs and decide which ones I want to read right away, which ones will go to my teens at work as prizes, and which ones are gifts.  I thought that the size of When My Heart Was Wicked, coupled with the intriguing title, would make it a cool prize.  Since it was short (under two hundred pages in ARC format) and I was sick all weekend (hooray! not really), I decided to read it.

To be fair, I am glad that I read it.  Note that I said "glad," not "happy."  I am not happy with the cultural appropriation in the book, or the bizarre and haphazard use of magic, or the trying-too-hard prose, or the strangely blasé treatment of rape.  I ended up dog-earing almost every other page because I found something odd or offensive or just plain mind-boggling (and not in a good way).

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Hey Jude / are you done yet / because I'm waiting / for things to get better

Remember / Sue Bridehead is your cousin / plus you're still married / so make good choices

I know that's not what happens, but dang, Jude.  Your entire life is one bad decision that you blame on destiny or fate or whatever.  Over halfway through now and it's pretty juicy.

Other things I'm reading:

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey.  Yes, I know this was on last week's list, but I spent my sick weekend reading other things and watching Doctor Who.  But I am enjoying this so far.

Illusionarium by Heather Dixon.  I'm surprised at how many negative reviews this is getting.  It's steampunk and I LOVE steampunk.  I suppose some people were expecting another fairy tale retelling like Entwined?  As long as this doesn't crash and burn, I think it's popping along rather nicely.

Cuckoo Song by Francis Hardinge.  A long, long time ago (I can still remember) I wasn't excessively impressed with Fly by Night, although I think I might like it now.  So far, Cuckoo Song is wonderfully creepy.  Yum.

Last night I started The Trouble with Destiny by Lauren Morrill.  I know a bunch of my teens are going to eat.  This.  Up.  It's not necessarily my cuppa, but I'll see it through.  It's cute.  It's also set on a cruise ship, like Sweet.  Is "cruise ship" a new mini-trend?  Fascinating!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Alone Forever: That's a Bad Thing?

I haven't read Liz Prince's memoir Tomboy yet--I'm on the waiting list and I have a sneaking suspicion someone's keeping it long overdue at their house.

However, Netgalley, that saucy purveyor of tantalizing-sounding comics, had her newest collection, Alone Forever: The Singles Edition up for review, so I snagged it.  As a single person myself (who often gets "set up" with guys because I, too, could be OMG ALONE FOREVER!), I thought, "Hey, this should be pretty fun."

After reading it, I'm more like, "Weeeeell.  This is fun ... for hipsters."

I wasn't quite sure what the whole message of the comic was.  Is it that Liz Prince is horrible at dating?  Is it that she really wants a boyfriend but can't find one due to a dearth of bearded dudes with exactly her taste in music?  Is it that she really doesn't care?  I don't know.  A fellow reviewer likened Prince's style to Jeffrey Brown and James Kochalka--I totally see that, and I kind of prefer the latter two guys.

Maybe this comic and I just didn't click because right now, I'm really okay with being single.  I'm not on OKCupid obsessing about guys with beards and I don't have any cats.

I'm a dog person.

ARC received from Netgalley.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Sweets for my sweet

It's no secret that I love Emmy Laybourne's work.  She hooked me with Monument 14 and never let me go.  I jumped on the chance to get an ARC of Sweet, her newest novel, which is very different from Monument 14 in some respects, but I gobbled it right up.

In the afterword, Laybourne says that she was inspired by b-movies, and I can see that in the work.  It's a clever way of writing a book that addresses body acceptance issues--instead of a long meditation on fat acceptance, or the risk of sounding preachy, Laybourne gets her message across in a gory, smart, and slightly kooky way.  Just the way I like it.  In my early review on Goodreads, I called this a "fluffy thriller," which is sort of an oxymoron, but it fits.

Here's the dealio: this is a book you'll probably either love or hate--which to me, means it's a good book.  Any book worth its salt should elicit strong reactions from readers.  That means it hit a nerve.

Laurel's BFF Viv got her uber-rich dad to pay for both of them to be on a celebrity cruise--wait, actually it's a weight loss cruise promoting a new diet drug called Solu, and the cruise happens to have celebs on it.  Sort of c-list celebs from old TV shows or reality TV, but nonetheless: people who have been on TV.  Laurel doesn't fit in.  She likes wearing cowboy boots and playing classical music on her guitar.  Yeah, she's a little overweight per society's standards, but it doesn't much bother her.  Laurel is cool with who she is, and I wish I could be her.

On the other hand, Viv has serious body image issues.  She could be me, or any other girl/woman in America.  She's seen how her dad reacts negatively to her mother's slight weight gain, and has thus embarked on a series of diets in order to be thin enough.

Acting as the Ryan Seacrest-in-training (he admits it himself, and hates it) is former child star Tom Fiorelli, AKA "Baby Tom-Tom."  Tom used to be chubby, but lost weight, made a series of horrible movies, and recently got totally played by pop star Bonnie Lee Finn.  "Hello, US Weekly!  Here are allll of Baby Tom-Tom's boyishly naive texts!  Where's the moolah?"  It's Hollywood, baby, and nobody's immune.  Laybourne has experience in the film industry so Tom's point of view and his struggles felt really authentic to me.  For the huddled masses (more like the jostling, foul-mouthed masses, but hey, it sounds better the other way, right?), celebrities are like candy: pretty and manufactured, on display for their enjoyment.  And really, who stops to think about what it's like for the gummi bear when you maul it with your molars?  Not many people.  Baby Tom-Tom is that gummi bear.

It all starts innocently enough, a bit like when your favorite TV show does a vacation special and they all go on a cruise (okay, since I don't watch TV I don't know if that happens or not, but I do know that when The Brady Bunch went to Hawaii and met Vincent Price in a cave I was in heaven).  There's your typical squeeing over luxuries and dressing up for dinner and awkward encounters with crushworthy dudes.  But this one's just a teensy-bit different: people aren't here just to have fun.  They're here to lose weight.  The desserts?  Made with Solu.  Drinks?  Sweetened with Solu.  Just don't go over the recommended dosage per day, mmkay? Remember what happened when people ate too many chips fried in Olestra?

Unfortunately, Laurel's discovered that she and boats don't mesh very well.  In fact, she gets pretty darn seasick.  So seasick that the sea makes her go sick all over her childhood crush, Tom Fiorelli.  I've made it 27 years through life and not thrown up on someone, a fact for which I am extremely grateful.  I cannot imagine puking my guts up on an actor.  Having a queasy stomach makes you not want to eat rich desserts, so Laurel picks at some bland food while the rest of the boat gets an exclusive first taste of Solu.

You guys know where this is going.  I knew where it was going, and it was ridiculously fun getting there.  Come on, loosen up.  Live a little!  It's cruise time, baby! (Note: the only experiences I have with cruises are this book and A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace. Soooo, there you go.)

Tom Fiorelli, as it so happens, doesn't eat the Solu either.  He's super careful about what he puts into his body, and has a slight meathead complex when it comes to pumping it up.  When you grow up chubby and everyone watched you grow up chubby, you can totally get a complex.  By bringing Tom's anxieties about weight into the equation, readers see that (gasp!) it's not just girls who have hangups about their bodies.  It's not just girls who have disordered eating patterns.

Despite the puking and Tom's disastrous attempt at breakdancing (he sort of breakdances right on top of Laurel, and then kisses her at the urging of his publicist), the two end up as a really cute couple.  Did I just say that?  I don't generally like cute romance.  But Laurel is just so genuine and Tom really likes her just the way she is.  *cue song*

Meanwhile, the rest of the ship is losing weight, all right.  A lot of weight.  After just a day, Laurel notices that Viv actually looks smaller.  After two days, she's wearing tiny, tiny clothing.  Laurel realizes that something is seriously wrong, especially when the cruise hotshots start rationing the Solu.  And things get reallllllly nasty from there.  The Solu's in your sweat, the Solu's in your blood ... once you're a junkie, you'll do anything--anything--to get it.

This is where the b-movie horror lovingly jumps in.  The idea that people would attack others just to get at something in their blood is crazy, but at the same time, when you think about it, some people show that same sort of obsession when it comes to dieting or working out or plastic surgery or whatever.  It becomes an addiction.  They'll stop at nothing to get thin, and even when they're so thin they're dying, they keep restricting.  That's the illness.  That's the tragedy.  But that's what society has trained people to do.

The endgame with the Criminal Mastermind is a bit over the top, even for me, but it fits in with the whole theme of excess.  We eat to excess, we diet to excess, we crave power to excess, we exact revenge to excess.

And the ending?  Oh, the ending is perfection.  I actually gasped out loud and said, "NO!" but then a slow smile spread across my face, and I said, "Yesssss.  Perfect."

Just to get back to the body image theme a bit: I'm really happy that Laybourne addressed this.  Laurel accepts that genetics affect her body shape, and she'll never be super-duper supermodel thin.  She's okay with that.  She's got her guitar and her family and her friends ... why worry about chub?  There was a conversation between Laurel and Viv that really hit me hard (I have BDD and EDNOS (recovering) so I know the feelings all too well):

[Laurel] "I think that we look perfectly normal.  Why do we have to be thinner, thinner, thinner, all the time?"

"Because when people see this," Viv says, grabbing her belly, "they see weakness.  And I don't want to be seen as weak."

I hate to say this, but Emmy Laybourne totally nailed my disordered thoughts in that one exchange.  It's scary that your brain starts to think that way.  I scare myself, sometimes, especially because I know those thoughts are wrong.

And that's why I wish I was Laurel.  Or that Laurel were my best friend, so her body positivity would lift me up when I feel like a loser.

I didn't intend to gobble this up in one sitting, but I did.  It's as addictive as Solu, but with none of the deadly aftereffects!  It might not be everyone's cuppa, but it pushed all the right book buttons for me. I mean, deadly cruise + conspiracy + fluffy romance + vampirism?  Hello?  Yes, please, and thank you.

I received an ARC of this title from Netgalley.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Criminal, Vol. 1: Coward

This is going to be a pretty brief review:

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips know how to do noir comics right.  I'm hooked on their Fatale series, and when I saw the first volume of one of their most famous titles, Criminal, on NetGalley, I had to request it.  And I have not been disappointed.

This is raw storytelling with excessively flawed (read: human) characters.  I knocked off a star because the ending was a bit pat and I also had an irrational hatred of the main character's goatee.

But really: read this.

ARC received from NetGalley.

For an adventure book, surprisingly nothing happens in Storm

Having never read the Pendragon books, I didn't know what to expect when I picked up SYLO by D.J. MacHale.  Well, scratch that.  I know I didn't expect to like it.  But I did.  How's that for mind-bending?  After all the action and EXPLOSIONS and BETRAYALS in SYLO, I was pretty excited to finally get around to reading Storm.

I made it three hundred pages in before I gave up.  Oh, and there was more to come.  Supposedly.  Especially considering that pretty much nothing had happened in three hundred pages.  Come on, dude.  That would be like having a two-hour long action film wherein the characters spend ninety minutes just looking at each other.

Really, I haven't much to say about this, because there's very little to go on.  Sure, the book was filled with words, which came together to make sentences, but nothing stuck together to form something that's very, very, very crucial to a book (unless you're Proust or Calvino, in which case, carry on): THE PLOT.

There may be some misconceptions about the definition of "the plot."  Some people would say, "Well the plot means stuff happens."  No, no, no.  A plot is when stuff happens for a reason (possibly unknown to the reader) to move the narrative along.  Generally, most readers expect to be led (by the plot) to some sort of resolution (or, if you're reading a series, a cliffhanger).

So, I'll acknowledge that stuff happened in Storm.  But it was all inane.  I skipped to the end and easily half of the book could have been chopped to get from point A to point B.

What kind of stuff happened in Storm?  Well, let's see.  Tucker, the narrator and de facto leader of the group of teen survivors of Pemberwick Island, argue for a ridiculously long amount of time about what to do next.  Our cast of merry survivors includes Kent, the jock; Olivia, the pretty-pretty rich girl; and Tori, the emo girl with Issues.  After finding out that Portland has been destroyed by the crazy light weapons that make people disappear, they hole up in a hospital where they (conveniently) meet a doctor and her assistant, Jon.  Jon has been listening on the radio to a broadcast that's pretty choppy, but our plucky survivors decipher it and realize it's a call for all survivors of the war to come to Nevada.  Olivia wants to go to New York City to see if her mom is still alive.  Kent wants to go to Boston to see if it's been destroyed.  Tori wants to go to Nevada because she has nothing left but vengeance.  And Tucker is a man with a mission.  That mission is REVENGE for the death of his best friend.  O-kay.   So they argue forever about where they should go: Boston or Nevada.

NEWSFLASH: In order to get to Nevada, you'll have to go through Boston if you're coming from Maine.  Unless you want to drive across Canada.
How normal people would get to Nevada

 Instead, they keep making these weird detours like going to Kentucky!  And then Tucker is seen naked!  And he tells Tori that he loves her!  And he's fourteen years old!

I just ... can't.  Why should I care about the continued survival of the human race if they're all going to end up as stupid as these characters?  There's no sense of menace here.  Bad guys come and go, but you never feel that they are really a threat.  Maybe if the author were less interested in writing entire chapters of navel-gazing by the protagonist, we would actually get to Nevada!

Although, no offense to Nevada, but if you were the survivors of a surprise war with near-alien technology, why would you choose to gather in a state that is pretty much all desert?

Oh, right.  Then you can bring Area 51 into the plot.  My bad.  Was trying not to be cliché.  Failed.

If you liked SYLO, do yourself a favor and just write your own sequels in your mind.  They'll probably make a lot more sense than this doorstop does.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Bleeding Earth

Is there a fun German or French term to describe the fascination of watching a train wreck unfold before your eyes?  What is actually happening is horrifying, but at the same time, it engages your brain with its unpredictability and newness.

I was intrigued by the premise of Bleeding Earth, and I thought it would be an interesting paranormal book along the lines of Croak by Gina Damico.  Plus, there is a queer protagonist who's very comfortable with who she is.  I thought this would be a great diverse title for libraries.

Where to start?

The one positive thing I can say about Bleeding Earth is that it held my interest.  I didn't get bored and start reading something else; I powered through to the end because I had to know if the author could get out of the giant, blood-filled hole that she dug.

She didn't.

If you look up "wasted potential" in the dictionary, there is a picture of this book next to it.  I mean, really: cool horror premise + confident protagonist + friendship drama + apocalypse + possible paranormal powers = possibly awesome story.  Instead, we got a story that started, but ... just ended with absolutely no explanation whatsoever.  Let me just try to work my way through this.

Okay, so the book begins with Lea and her BFF Hillary doing grave rubbings for a class project.  All at once, alarm bells started going off, but very faintly.  These girls are in high school.  We did grave rubbings in 3rd grade as part of our local history unit.  I can't imagine a school that would accept a grave rubbing as a completed "project."  Anyway.  Hillary doesn't like graveyards, but both girls freak out when blood starts oozing out of the ground.  Yes, it's human blood.  They squish their way home, where we meet Lea's parents, who fight with each other but support their daughter.  She says they find it "cute" that she has a crush on another girl at school, Aracely.  Lea is out at school, but Aracely is not.

I've nailed down the three main issues with the book as:

  1. Relationship authenticity
  2. Narrative voice
  3. Plot resolution
Warning: from here on out, there are spoilers everywhere.  So if you actually still want to read this, stop now.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Emperor's Blades

I lingered while reading this book.  It's not often that I find a high fantasy that intrigues me as much as this one did.

Told from three alternating points of view, The Emperor's Blades sets up a battle for power for the Unhewn Throne and rulership of Annur.  The emperor has been assassinated, and his three children are spread across the continent.  The heir, Kaden, has been sent to a remote monastery where the extremely ascetic monks have fun training exercises like "try to drown the acolyte" or "bury the acolyte in a pit for a week."  It's basically all of your worst summer camp nightmares come to life.  However, all of these "punishments" have a purpose: the Shin attempt to reach the state of being/non-being called the vaniate.  Kaden's not quite sure why he's been sent to this remote and rocky wasteland, much less why he's training as a monk when, one day, he will be emperor, but Staveley unravels the reasoning behind the training.

Far to the south, Kaden's younger brother Valyn trains to be a Kettrel, the most skilled warriors in the world.  Each Kettral is part of a Kettral Wing, so named for the giant birds that they fly into battle.  Kettral training is equally brutal, but in a different way.  Valyn's story involves more of a murder mystery, but Staveley brings things together quite nicely at the end.

The last sibling, their sister Adare, is prevented, by virtue of being born female, from ever inheriting the Unhewn Throne, but she's always had a passion for numbers and strategy, so she becomes a Minister of the Empire.

Everything starts moving when the Emperor is assassinated, and the three siblings must survive their individual training, attempts on their lives from various and mysterious quarters, and the plotting of unknown enemies to make it back to the capital city.

Now, that's an extremely vague synopsis of the book, and purposefully so.  I can't ruin it for you!  If you love fantasy and intrigue, you need to read this book.  I thought the pacing was excellent and the world-building exceptional.  My only quibble would be the reduced role of Adare; however, I have a feeling she'll be playing a larger role in the coming books.

Highly recommended!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday

I am actually, actively reading both Storm and Jude the Obscure.  So ha!

In addition, I picked up an ARC of The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey at ALA Midwinter 2015.  So far, so good.  I'm not a fan of either of the series that this was compared to, but as long as I don't get a mega love-quadrangle, I think this might work.  Fingers crossed.

And that's it right now!  I'm so worn out from the conference and the blizzard, and now I am pretty sure I am getting some sort of cold/virus thing, because my throat is both on fire and aching.  Hooray!

1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die

I found little to enjoy in this book.  At first, I was quite excited to read it, as I love lists and I love food even more.  Actually, what I really love is crossing things off of lists, but that's neither here nor there.

Some people write about food very well; you can feel their passion in the writing.  Although Mimi Sheraton was a food critic, her writing lacks vivacity and passion.  She comes across as patronizing instead of joyful.  And food should be fun!  I just ate a bunch of Garrett's Chicago Mix popcorn (which they are now calling "Garrett's Mix" but it will always be Chicago Mix to me) and I loved it.  Their caramel corn has a deeper color and richer flavor than others, and their cheese corn is just ... cheesier, as if they've double-dipped each kernel in powdery cheese deliciousness.  When I tell people about Garrett's, I don't blather on about the history of popcorn or how it should be prepared in order to be "real" popcorn, or that you can't order it in America because the customs laws are so dreadfully restrictive.  Cripes.  I just tell them it's the best popcorn ever.

That's the thing about the foods Mimi Sheraton has selected--they are for the most part elitist and Eurocentric.  She's all, "Oh, this specialty cheese from blah-blah-blah is exquisite, but accept no imitations, because you can't get this in America.  Anything labeled XYZ is a poor copy of the original."  Hidden message?  "If you don't have the money to fly all over the world to eat stuff in its natural terroir, sucks to be you.  Also you probably only eat fast food and have no taste."  At this point I started picturing the author flying away on a broomstick, cackling at our plebeian tastes.

The structure of the book was also confusing.  I expected a short blurb about each of the 1,000 titular foods.  Instead, some entries were about restaurants or magazines, neither of which are edible, but which seemed to be included in the "1,000 foods" bit.  Padding the manuscript, eh?  And then you'd hit a section like "Spanish cheeses" and Sheraton would just list a whole bunch of cheeses.  Does that count as one entry or five?

Food being so tasty, lots of it has crossed man-made borders and morphed into regional variants of the original food.  Some of these descendants get their own entries, while others (German Döner Kebab, which is quite different from, say, shawarma) are ignored.  I feel the slight because having eaten a lot of Döner, the ones in Germany were amazing.  And cheap.  And as big as my head.  And washed down with delicious Hefeweizen.  ANYWAY.

Other things that bothered me: Sheraton translates tiramisù as "draw me close" when it really means "pick me up."  Hello?  Editors?  The Polish population in Milwaukee gets short shrift in the Paczki article--and I don't remember seeing anything about deep-fried cheese curds, which are a staple food here.  And you should definitely eat them before you die, even if you die eating them.

There's an insufferable amount of snootiness in (of all things) the Borschch article.  To wit: "Whatever other elements are included in this steaming cabbage-and-beet laden Russian-Ukranian soup, the letter T should not be among them.  Never mind the spelling that is standard in the United States, where this immigrant legacy of the eastern European Jews is written and pronounced "borscht."  These two sentences are loaded with offensive statements.  One being that "standard spelling in the United States" doesn't count, because the U.S. has no taste.  Two: that this soup is the sole possession of people either Russian or Ukrainian, and we must pronounce it as they do.  Three: that Jewish immigrants somehow sullied the pronunciation of this word and maliciously spread it around, so we are all saying it wrong because of Jewish people.  I've got one word for you, Mimi Sheraton, and that's pogrom.  Why the heck do you think so many Jewish people emigrated from Russia?  Hmm, maybe to escape genocide?  And a Yiddish pronunciation is just as valid as any other.  In fact, my non-Jewish Russian-Polish grandmother called it "borscht."  So there.

I also found it interesting that bacon is labeled as an American food, but bacon sandwiches are sold on the regular in the UK and are way more delicious than any BLT I've ever had.

Sheraton fumbles on the "American" sausage article when she states that the toppings on a Chicago Dog are something from which one chooses.  If it is not a beef dog on a poppyseed bun, topped with tomatoes, neon relish, celery salt, onions, mustard, and sport peppers, it is not a Chicago Dog.  And don't you DARE put ketchup on it.

Evidently, the author assumes that all people think poutine is gross.  How can anything be gross when it is a marriage of fries, cheese curds, and gravy?  That's like ... heaven.  Sorry, my Wisconsin is showing.

For an area with such a huge array of foods and cultures, Sheraton does the whole "Asia all-together" thing and focuses mostly on Chinese takeout mainstays or trendy Korean foods or sea veggies.  Never mind that Russia is also part of Asia.

Just eat what you want, and try new things, and live.

I received an ARC of this title from NetGalley.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

I need a Silkwood shower

Right now, for no particular reason that I can identify, I'm really emotional.  Things that would normally just irritate me are sort of burrowing into my soul and festering.  It is unpleasant, to say the least.  While I figure out what's going on, I should realize that this means any book I read will have a magnified impact on my mood, for good or for ill.  And I actually feel ill--sick to my stomach--after reading 35% plus the ending of The Cage by Megan Shepherd.

I've long wanted to read the Madman's Daughter trilogy, and now?  I really don't know if I can or should.

There are three main problems with The Cage.  They are:

  1. I feel like I've read this before.
  2. The characters are all idiots.
  3. It is basically a story about an alien who gets the hots for a human and constructs an elaborate game to get her to "mentally evolve" so she doesn't become a sex slave but can be his personal sexytimes girl.

Yeah, don't tell me this is an "interstellar romance" or any of that bantha poodoo.  This is a perfectly sickening snapshot of a manipulative, unhealthy relationship entirely based on how "tingly and electric" the guy makes you feel.  Oh, and by the way?  That "guy" is actually a morally bankrupt alien who's seven feet tall with metallic skin and black eyes.  Those eyes, man.  

Not to be crude, but I do have just a basic, scientific question: how would this actually work?  I mean, conveniently, the aliens are humanoid (conversely, most of my favorite sci-fi features aliens that are sentient jellyfish or clouds of associated molecules or something utterly, you know, alien).  However, I find it very hard to believe that in the entire universe, Cora, the main character, gets picked up (in more ways than one, if you know what I mean), by an alien who looks human-ish but is really, really tall and emotionless.  What are the odds that the Keepers (the aliens) reproduce the same way humans do?  For all we know, life on other planets could be spread by spores or something.  But no.  We are led to assume that if Cora and Cassian ever get it on, it would totally work out.  


And how would this be accomplished, you ask?  Well, see, the Keepers kidnapped six human teens based on their genetic predisposition for creating superior offspring (think The Wrath of Khan and the "superior intellect" and all that).  They paired each boy and girl with their ideal mate and gave them constellation tattoos in order to indicate who should breed with whom.  Then they put them in a cage with an infinite time/space loop and spy on them, waiting for them to make babies.

Now, at this point, if you were a) kidnapped by aliens and b) then told to have sex with someone you do not know, would you be all like, "Hey gang!  Let's go along with the plan for now until I can make a garrote out of a guitar string and attack the aliens!"?  NO.  NO YOU WOULD NOT.  Personally, I would do what the original Girl 3 did and walk into the ocean and die.  Thanks, but I have precisely zero desire to become the latest breeding attraction in your flying galactic zoo.  

There's also this weird backstory with Cora and a car accident and her soulmate "Lucky" Luciano (that is actually his name.  I am not making this up.) but who cares because Cora gets all tingly whenever Cassian, their Caretaker, is around.  Woo woo.  

And another thing.  There is diversity in this book, but it's not handled well at all.  The New Zealander, who is Maori, is basically painted as a primitive grunt whose solution to everything is to punch people.  The Thai model is nasty, manipulative, and self-serving (at least the author didn't make her the stereotypical genius).  The Norwegian genius thinks his red hair is too girly.  Oh, boo-hoo you.  You have red hair.  ALAS.  Uh, so that's pretty diverse ... except, wait!  No one is black!  I guess they figure a Pacific Islander is good enough.


It's finally revealed that after their ELECTRIC KISS, Cassian is actually the leader of this outfit and has been manipulating events to cause all the other human captives to turn on each other so he can have Cora for his very own.  Wow, that just screams abusive relationship to me!  People think this stuff is romantic?  This is Twilight repackaged with aliens.  Like I said, I feel sick to my stomach just thinking about it.  

And this is a trilogy.  Dear lord.  

I received an ARC of this from Netgalley.

I feel stupid...

Sing it like Maria!

I feel stupid!  I feel naïve!  I feel brainless, and doltish, and diiiiiiiiiim!

I do not like that feeling.  There are certain instances in which it is acceptable (and even preferable) for an author to make the reader feel a bit dense.  When I was in college, I went through this mega-physics phase after I got into reading space opera and Alastair Reynolds, so I decided to read The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene.  I now have a vague approximation of What Quantum Mechanics and String Theory Is Sort Of About, but I would never dream of saying that I actually understand it.  I also like it very much when an author pulls off a twist ending that is totally shocking and yet believable within the context of the story.  

But I finished two books back-to-back that made me feel like I missed the memo somewhere.  The first one I'll discuss is Deep Sky, by Patrick Lee.

The more I work in libraries and work with children, the more I realize how strongly visual I am in my learning style.

I feel that in order to adequately explain this series, I would need an infographic.  So HERE YOU GO:

The idea of a "Breach" that sends through bizarre, mostly useless, but sometimes really, really cool technology is intriguing.  And the breach item that Travis Chase and his paramour/head of Tangent, Paige Campbell, use in this book is pretty cool.  It's called "The Tap" and it allows you to access a memory and then move around in the world of that memory.  It's also heinously painful to use, but such is the price of alien technology.  

Anyway, in the beginning of the novel, a military dude fires a missile from a camouflaged silo.  It hits the White House while the President is giving an address.  The note left for investigators has only two words: "See Scalar."

Well, as it conveniently turns out, there was a super secret project within the already deep, deep black Tangent community with which (also super conveniently) Paige's father was involved.  It was called Scalar.  Unfortunately, almost everyone related to Scalar is dead, and all the notes are gone.  Paige's protégée, a tech wizard named Bethany (okay, confession: I really like that the author gave a character strong tech skills without turning her into a "hot geek" stereotype) tracks down a former Tangent employee who has assumed a new identity and is living in Ouray, Colorado.

Hey!  Ouray!  I've been going there on vacation since I was a kid!  In the ensuing scuffle over the Tangent operative's life (because obviously someone else found out about her and sent a team in advance), there is a) a snowstorm and b) a chase with guns.  Now look.  Ouray is gorgeous.  But it's specified that the operative has an isolated cabin.  I would rate the grade of roads to people's cabins around Ouray as "rollercoaster."  Or maybe "San Francisco."  The idea of Travis & Co. peeling out of there to escape the bad guys during a snowstorm is totally unbelievable, unless they were going like five miles an hour.

Okay, anyway, so it turns out that then Travis & Co. have to get to a remote lake north of San Francisco.  Also, the Vice President is evil and bombed Tangent and destroyed the base.  En route to the lake town, where yet another associate of Paige's father lived, Travis has a really weird dream that the President is being held captive (wait, isn't he dead?) and gives Travis a code.  Unfortunately, Travis has no idea what the code is for, and chalks it all up to stress.  

Even more unfortuantely, the V.P.'s military cronies beat T & Co. to the chase (ha ha pun!) yet again.  Once in town, the gang meets a diner owner who inexplicably agrees to help them, and sends them up past the house being guarded into an old mine shaft with woo-woo stories about it.  After once again miraculously evading scores of guys armed with machine guns, T & Co. drop down the mine shaft, where Travis saves them all by entering the code from his dream.  Now, having encountered a lot of Breach Entities, Travis and Bethany are really used to weird stuff going down, but this is dang weird. They do ... more stuff in the shaft, and discover that the mysterious man was actually protecting a second Breach.  

Miraculously, one of the maybe-dead-President's Secret Service bodyguards shows up and helpfully infodumps the entire Big Secret for Travis and the reader.  Part of this Big Secret (which I will discuss later on) is that Travis will enter the Breach.  Various other things ensue and just as T & Co. are about to rescue the President (who is, yes, alive, but held captive on Air Force One by the Evil Vice President) ...

Travis wakes up.  YES.  In true Dallas fashion, it has all been a memory constructed using the Tap.  Travis is being interrogated along with the President aboard Air Force One, and Paige and Bethany are held captive.  Obviously, since they are women, the Evil Vice President doesn't think they can have anything useful to add.

So, obviously Our Hero kills the bad guys and makes it to the Breach just in time to crawl through ... into the future.

Wait, what?  So here's the deal: the President has known about this all along.  The entire Scalar operation was meant to somehow get Travis into Tangent, except he got himself into Tangent by creating the Whisper some time in the future and sending it back to himself, while a future version of Paige sends a message to kill Travis Chase.  So literally the entire setup of this book (who/what is Scalar and what were they doing?) is rendered null and void by Chase's future actions, which affect the past so that he joins Tangent early.

Still with me?

It's okay if you're not.  I'm just winging this now.

In the near future, a project funded by the President discovers a cure for aging, which allows him (President Garner) and Travis Chase to stay young forever, get on a spaceship, and fly off to a new world.  In the meantime, they set up events so that wormholes created by an unknown race of beings will be activated by Tangent.  These wormholes are one-way streets.  The whole let's-get-Travis-involved thing is so that future Travis and current Travis can turn the wormholes into two-way streets, allowing the Highly Advanced Super Humans of the Future! to come back in time and kill all the people who will eventually ruin the world.  All Travis has to do is recite a string of numbers.

The book ends with him saying that he'd never keep a secret from Paige and that she'd understand.  I guess that means he's going to open the wormholes but ... I don't know!  Was there some hidden clue that I missed?  What is going on here?

Deep Sky is, at least, an entertaining book and a quick read.  Just don't think about anything that's actually going on because it will shatter around you like the Matrix.

Let's just say I really just want to read the sequel to Runner and forget that Deep Sky ever happened.  I could use the Tap for that...