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Last year I wrote about what became one of my favorite books, not just for 2011, but of all time (so far). That book was J.H. Trumble’s Don’t Let Me Go, a fantastic work of gay YA fiction. This past December saw the release of her second book, Where You Are. And folks, J.H. has done it again.
While not a sequel to DLMG, Where You Are picks up shortly after the events of that book and are connected by one of the minor characters, Luke (for those interested, the yet-to-be-released third book looks to bridge DLMG and WYA together with his story).
We first meet Andrew, a 24 year old high school math teacher facing all the trials of being an educator and father to a 2 year old, and Robert, his senior student dealing with his unaffectionate boyfriend and the impending death of the father he resents, thanks to the brain cancer that has left him all but a vegetable. It is through the strain on Robert’s family life brought on by the dying father who may never have loved him that he forms a bond with Andrew, his not-so-secretly gay math teacher. But their innocent friendship doesn’t stay that way long and the two find themselves in a dangerous game of romance and potentially perilous scandal.
Where You Are weaves a beautiful tale of love in the face of adversity from all sides, whether it’s in the form of Andrew’s deceptive ex-wife, Robert’s meddlesome aunts, students with a vendetta or the constant threat of a public shaming and imprisonment should Andrew be found out.
While at it’s core a love story, WYA is also a cautionary tale of what can happen when the sacred roles of student and teacher are broken and passion takes over. In the eyes of society there can never been a reason good enough for a person to break the role of educator and become romantically involved with a student, no matter their age or level of consent and J.H. does a fantastic job conveying that fear of discovery to the reader. Though we root for Andrew and Robert to be together, the fear that they may be found out lurks around every (page) turn. Could someone have seen them? Do the other teachers know? If the people they trust found out, would they expose the two? It’s that desire for their love to succeed and the worry that it will all fall apart that kept me turning the page well past my bedtime night after night.
Where You Are is without a doubt the best book I’ve read in quite some time, and the first in months to keep me so enthralled that I couldn’t help but finish it (my lack of updates and miserable failure at reaching my 2012 reading goal is proof enough of that). While I’m not in love with this book as much I am with Don’t Let Me Go, it was still a fantastic read and one which I wish I had committed to sooner (my usual song and dance), especially since my friend Joshua Ardon over at The Get Under Guy reviewed an advance copy and my friend Rob won copies of both books weeks before I had a chance to start it. Although, Rob did make it up to me by giving me the best Christmas gifts: autographed copies of both DLMG and WYA. (Thanks Rob and J.H.!)
Where You Are now takes its place among my top recommended reading list with a solid 4 out of 5, where I hope it will soon be joined by Trumble’s third novel, Just Between Us. Don’t keep us waiting long, publisher!
Ah, yes. Another steam punk vagina sex book. Is there anything better?
Lots of things, but they aren’t important right now.
Riveted, the third book in Meljean Brook’s Iron Seas series, picks up with an entirely new cast of characters in the same world of nanobugs, zombies and airships. Now don’t take that as a green light to skip the first two and go straight to this one, as Meljean is working in a pre-established universe and makes reference to things a new reader would not understand.
This time, we follow the adventure of Annika, the mysterious engineer of the airship Phaeton, and David, the prosthetic-laden volcano-chasing geologist. Yep.
So look, let’s cut to the chase. You get the expected “does he? doesn’t he?” him-haw romance element as with the rest of the series, though it’s not as in-your-face as was in The Iron Duke. The plot itself isn’t as convoluted as Heart of Steel, but it does take some weird turns with the whole volcano-as-a-means-of-propulsion thing (leaving out the spoilers) and it manages to drag itself lamely across the Icelandic snow more often than not. Most of the time while reading, I got the feeling that the author was writing this just to keep the series going and really had no idea where it would end up after she started.
Honestly, I didn’t find anything about this book exciting or enthralling and I wasn’t particularly driven to finish it, though I did. Maybe Meljean should stick to writing about the characters of the first two books, I don’t know. But I do know that unless you’re really into this series, there’s not much point in picking this one up.
Final verdict: 2.5 out of 5.
It’s been so long, hasn’t it?! I would like to thank my hellish nightmare of a job (which has incidentally now driven me to smoking and drinking heavily) for keeping me so mentally exhausted that all I do now is come home, watch Revenge and surf Indeed.com before passing out. This has lead to my not having cracked a book in some time, which for me is a painful thing.
But that will have to change now that we’re entering two major months for books (or at least the ones I’m interested in).
First up is the new novel in the Iron Seas series by Meljean Brook, Riveted, released September 4th. I’ve posted before about my accidental falling in love with the series after reading The Iron Duke for Felicia Day’s Vaginal Fantasy Book Club. The second book, Heart of Steel, completely bested the first and although Riveted is not a continuation, but rather new characters set in the same universe, my hopes are high that Brook will continue to improve on her steampunk concept. Yes, I still skip the boobies and coochie bits.
On September 11th was the fourth book in the Castle TV show tie-in Nikki Heat series, Frozen Heat. It’s no secret that I’m a super fan of both Castle and the Heat books (let’s choose to ignore the third Derrick Storm ebook for now, mmk?). What I find best about the book series is how well they stand on their own, requiring absolutely no knowledge of the Castle-verse whatsoever. That fact has led to the books being popular with mystery fans in their on right.
Well, this one should need no introduction. The 27th of September is the big day for J.K. Rowling. It’s her first book outside of the Harry Potter universe and the entire literary world is waiting to see what she can do without the use of wizards and wands. The Casual Vacancy is such a big deal, the manuscript has been locked up so tight, some say Deathly Hallows had less security. Or maybe I made that up. Whatever. Either way, expect to be hearing about this one a lot.
And finally, on October 3rd, we have the much anticipated third book in Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series. This time around, we’ll get to hear more of Annabelle’s side of the continuing saga. I loved the original Percy Jackson series, but I’m enjoying the Heroes books even more. Riordan’s decision to tell a much larger story from the perspective of multiple characters has really paid off, and The Mark of Athena is sure to feed fans’ hunger once again.
Looks like I’m going to be a bit busy until the end of October.
If you’re a fan of the Castle show and books (and you should be), then this is for you. And possibly few others.
In an effort to further perpetuate the Castle universe, ABC is releasing a companion series to its line of Nikki Heat books in the form of eBook-only novellas that chronicle the story of Derek Storm, Richard Castle’s “first best seller,” with A Brewing Storm first out of the gate.
The story is short, totaling about 80-something pages, and is quite obviously part of a larger arc, thanks to an ending which is hardly more than a build-up for the second novella. Think back to the ending of National Treasure 2 (for the twelve of you who saw it) and you’ve pretty much got the idea.
While it’s not in any way necessary to be acquainted with the show or book series, this is obviously one for the fans who are salivating over the release of Frozen Heat in September and are in dire need of a Castle fix during the summer hiatus. It’s a good book with a solid mystery/crime thriller story that’s less parody and more homage to the likes of James Patterson and John Grisham, which is exactly how the TV series began.
Many readers have voiced outrage over the fact that these are short novellas without a real conclusion, but for $1.99 a pop I think it’s a great deal for a weekend read and certainly worth the time.
In short, I give it 3 out of 5. I don’t mind the short length, but I would have liked a better conclusion rather than the Rocky and Bullwinkle ending we got. Nevertheless, it is enjoyable and I’ll certainly be reading the rest of the series.
The category of post-apocalyptic, dystopian teen fiction has blown up over the last 3 years or so, thanks to the breakout success of The Hunger Games, which is a tough act to follow. And with that series finally ended, Veronica Roth’s Divergent series is stepping up to the plate. But is it a homerun, or a swing for first base?
Set in seemingly near-future Chicago, the world of Divergent sees society divided into five separate but equal factions, each dedicated to one prevailing virtue: Intelligence, selflessness, courage, honesty and peacefulness. At the age of 16, children of every faction are tested and given the right to choose their group accordingly. But after Beatrice’s test results come back with unusual results, she’s faced with the tough decision of staying with the selfless faction of Abnegation or taking a different path.
It should come as no surprise that this is another novel of youthful self-discovery in a world where harsh decisions are forced upon people at a young age. It’s a growing trend in young adult fiction, and some manage it better than others. In this case, Divergent falls slightly more on the side of “other.”
The concept is a good one and different than anything I’ve come across, and it makes sense. Modern society already has a tendency to split off into sects who share ideals, so why wouldn’t a future government condone placing like minds together? Especially if each group also serves a purpose. e.g. The selfless have majority control of government, the brave protect the people, the intelligent further the course of science, etc.
The story itself strives for excitement, wanting the reader to feel in-the-moment at all times, but Roth doesn’t always succeed at this. Nearly all of the “shocking revelations” are predictable from miles away. I can’t think of a single time where a character divulged some great secret about themselves that I hadn’t already guessed chapters in advance. Miss Roth should really work on that foreshadowing thing.
About halfway through, a love element is introduced into the story, but instead adding a layer of human interest amongst a fight for supremacy, the whole ordeal comes off hackneyed and distracts from more interesting elements. Now, it’s not all bad, but there were some serious moments where the characters might as well have been saying “You’re sweet.” “No, you’re sweet.” Roth is also quick to extol the virtues of virginity here and there. She doesn’t shove our faces in it, but her intention is clear, and that’s fine. We have plenty of trashy teen sex fiction in the world already.
In the end, the slight Battle Royale-esque undertone (these kids spend a lot of time beating the shite out of each other) doesn’t do much to propel the reader forward and I never thought “Oh, crap. I gotta find out what happens next!” But that isn’t saying the book doesn’t have its moments of excellence. It’s not bad, but it’s not great.
Final verdict: a solid 3 out of 5.