I’ve Been Asleep for a Long, Long Time: When We Wake by Karen Healey

When We Wake
By Karen Healey
304 Pages
Published by Little, Brown BFYR
Publication Date: March 5, 2013
Source: ATW Arc Tours

From Goodreads:

My name is Tegan Oglietti, and on the last day of my first lifetime, I was so, so happy.
Sixteen-year-old Tegan is just like every other girl living in 2027–she’s happiest when playing the guitar, she’s falling in love for the first time, and she’s joining her friends to protest the wrongs of the world: environmental collapse, social discrimination, and political injustice.
But on what should have been the best day of Tegan’s life, she dies–and wakes up a hundred years in the future, locked in a government facility with no idea what happened.
Tegan is the first government guinea pig to be cryonically frozen and successfully revived, which makes her an instant celebrity–even though all she wants to do is try to rebuild some semblance of a normal life. But the future isn’t all she hoped it would be, and when appalling secrets come to light, Tegan must make a choice: Does she keep her head down and survive, or fight for a better future?
Award-winning author Karen Healey has created a haunting, cautionary tale of an inspiring protagonist living in a not-so-distant future that could easily be our own.

This is my second book by Karen Healey, and after The Shattering I was very excited to read something else by this author. I thought The Shattering was a really good contemporary with a slight paranormal bent, and I was looking for some good sci-fi out of this book. I wasn’t disappointed, which makes me happy. And it takes place in Australia and I have yet to read a bad book set in Australia/New Zealand or written by an Aussie/NZ writer. Pretty much every one so far has been a home run.

As it says in the blurb – so this is not a spoiler – Tegan dies and is revived 100 years later. As you can imagine, she has a bit of a difficult time coming to grips with this. To her, it feels like mere moments have passed…like she fell asleep briefly and woke up to find that everyone she has ever loved and the world as she knew it is long dead. As you can probably also imagine, this makes Tegan an extremely sympathetic character. While at times she comes dangerously close to petulant, I really couldn’t help but forgive her because I wouldn’t have done nearly as well as she did under the same circumstances. I literally would have locked myself in some kind of hyperbaric chamber with a week’s supply of Ben & Jerry’s (you know it’ll still be around 100 years from now, probably still making delicious flavors that will annoy the hell out of you because they’re “limited edition” or only sold in certain stores). The secondary characters are also strong here. Even ones that I was initially sure I wasn’t going to like turned out to be wonderful and for the most part pretty well-developed.

It’s worth mentioning that there is quite a bit of social commentary here, some of it subtle and some less so. Healey has plenty to say on the state of our world, the state of our politics (those of the world collectively and those of Australia), and our behavior toward our fellow man and the path that it’s leading us down. It’s extremely well done and it never came off as preachy to me at all, but it may rub some readers who are of certain political or religious persuasions the wrong way if they’re very sensitive. It does touch on a lot of the issues that the world is currently having in terms of environment, social persecution, religion, etc.

What I found most interesting is that in Healey’s version of the world 100 years from now, things are different but also the same. Things are better in some ways but significantly worse in others. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but while there is a lot of advancement socially, the world collectively has reaped what it has sewn.

There were a few loose ends at the end of the book that I would have liked to have seen tied up better, but considering the way the book ends I can see why they were kind of left dangling as it added an additional element to the story.

Overall, When We Wake is a fun, quick read but it has a deeper message as well. And I really loved how each chapter is titled after a Beatles song – the Beatles are Tegan’s favorite band (and yes, they’re still around 100 years from now).

Definitely recommended.

4/5 Stars

 

 

Lassiez Les Bon Temps Rouler: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Out of the Easy
By Ruta Sepetys
348 Pages
Published by Philomel Books
Publication Date: February 13, 2013
Source: ATW Book Tours

From Goodreads:

It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street.

Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.

Out of the Easy was one of those books where I had a very strong suspicion going in that I was going to love it. For one thing, I’ve read nothing but rave reviews of Sepetys’s book Between Shades of Grey (please, tiny baby Jesus, not to be confused with the soul-stealing word vomit that is 50 Shades of Gray). I haven’t read it myself – though after reading Out of the Easy it’s getting a hefty bump on my backlist to-read – but I literally have never seen a bad review of it. It’s also got two of my total book weaknesses going for it – set in the 1940s (plus 1950, if you want to be really persnickety) and New Orleans, a town which fascinates me. I was right…I loved this book so much.

If you’re looking for a book that is heavy on action, this isn’t for you. If you’re looking for a book that’s heavy on romance…this one also isn’t for you. Don’t get me wrong, there is some, but it’s far from the central issue of the story. This book is all about the characters, most specifically Jo, and how she desperately wants to escape her upbringing as the daughter of a prostitute. She dreams of bigger and better things for herself and wants nothing more to escape the shadow of her mother’s reputation and the shame she feels as the result of it. She dreams of going away to college in a place where no one knows her, no one knows what kind of life she’s lived, and she’s free of preconceived notions and sideways glances.

Jo. Is. Awesome. Guys, this is seriously one of the best main characters I have read in a LONG TIME. She’s simultaneously a sympathetic character because you feel so sorry for what she’s had to deal with over her life and a total badass for wanting to better her life and making a plan to do so. In fact, all of the characters in this book are exceptionally well written, even the ones who don’t get as many pages. They’re all interesting. Some of them are fabulous people, some of them are the scum of the earth, but I found them all totally believable and it really made the story come alive for me.

Another thing that made the story come alive was the setting. The time period is so well written that I could almost feel like I was a part of it. It was like being in 1950s New Orleans -  a year long before I was born in a city I’ve never been to. And amazingly, it was done without a lot of gratuitous references to set the scene. Not a bunch of mentions of things that would immediately lead one to think of New Orleans like voodoo or certain types of food. To me, that was a seriously strong point of the writing. I felt transported back in time and I loved it.

I really can’t say enough good things about this book. I was never bored and I actually was irritated when I had to put it down and do things like, oh, go to work. I really, really loved everything about it, from the story itself to the characters to the writing. Most definitely highly recommended.

5/5 Stars

So Dawn Goes Down to Day: Prodigy (Legend #2) by Marie Lu

Prodigy (Legend #2)
By Marie Lu
384 Pages
Published by Putnam Juvenile
Publication Date: January 29, 2013
Source: ATW Tours

From Goodreads:

Jan. 4. 1932 Hours.

Ocean Standard Time

Thirty-Five Days After Metias’s Death

June and Day arrive in Vegas just as the unthinkable happens: the Elector Primo dies, and his son Anden takes his place. With the Republic edging closer to chaos, the two join a group of Patriot rebels eager to help Day rescue his brother and offer passage to the Colonies. They have only one request—June and Day must assassinate the new Elector.

It’s their chance to change the nation, to give voice to a people silenced for too long.

But as June realizes this Elector is nothing like his father, she’s haunted by the choice ahead. What if Anden is a new beginning? What if revolution must be more than loss and vengence, anger and blood—what if the Patriots are wrong?

A few months back I read and really liked Legend by Marie Lu, and I couldn’t wait to read the sequel, Patriot. No wait…Prodigy. Seriously, whyyyy not stick with Patriot? What a cool freaking title, and I’m pretty sure that’s not just the history nerd in me talking. It fit in so well with the events of this book!

I was wishing strongly that I had had the time to go back and read Legend. One problem for me with reading as many books as I do is that sometimes I forget the little details. Not the main stuff, but the little things. Fortunately most of it came back to me as I read.

Like Legend, Prodigy switches between the perspectives of June & Day. And like in Legend, I liked Day way, way more than I liked June. She’s come a long way but she still hasn’t totally outgrown the characteristics that annoyed me in the first book – like snobbery, questionable loyalty, money grubbing, etc. Day is still fantastic and utterly likeable (though June is still more of a badass, which is a point in her favor). The text colors switch off in this book too – in this one, Day’s chapters are in very dark blue – or at least they are in the ARC. I thought this was way more effective and also way more easy to read than the dark gold text in Legend. It’s super helpful for those who occasionally forget whose chapters we’re actually reading in a book told in multiple perspectives. Not that I’d know anything about that.

I had a bit of a hard time getting through this book if I’m being totally honest. Not that I found it boring, but it was a little slow at times and definitely had that whole “second book in a trilogy” thing going on. There was lots of action, though, which sounds contradictory to saying it’s slow. I don’t really know how to explain it. I also want to be careful not to sound like I didn’t like the book, because that’s not the case. I did like it, just not as much as Legend. It felt like it was missing something, I dunno what. Maybe some of the suspense, maybe the friction between June & Day. To me, this one felt like it focused more on love triangle stuff than Legend did and that’s not really my thing. I also felt like whatever tension there was between Day & June seemed kind of manufactured. In the last book there was genuine animosity and an aversarial relationship between the two and in this one they just had lovers spats and relationship insecurities, which seemed contrary to either character’s personality. In Legend there was a good solid reason for the two to act paranoid and suspicious toward one another, here it was just weird.

I guess the bottom line is that I liked it well enough, but it really felt like the middle book in a series to me. Granted, the middle book in a really good series – which is probably why it seems like I’m being tough on it. It’s still very much worth reading and I’m definitely looking forward to the finale.

3.5/5 Stars

Review: The Yard by Alex Grecian

The Yard
By Alex Grecian
432 Pages
Published by Putnam Books
Publication Date: May 29, 2012
Source: Library

From Goodreads:

Victorian London is a cesspool of crime, and Scotland Yard has only twelve detectives—known as “The Murder Squad”—to investigate countless murders every month. Created after the Metropolitan Police’s spectacular failure to capture Jack the Ripper, The Murder Squad suffers rampant public contempt. They have failed their citizens. But no one can anticipate the brutal murder of one of their own . . . one of the twelve . . .When Walter Day, the squad’s newest hire, is assigned the case of the murdered detective, he finds a strange ally in the Yard’s first forensic pathologist, Dr. Bernard Kingsley. Together they track the killer, who clearly is not finished with The Murder Squad . . . but why?

Filled with fascinating period detail, and real historical figures, this spectacular debut in a new series showcases the depravity of late Victorian London, the advent of criminology, and introduces a stunning new cast of characters sure to appeal to fans of The Sherlockian and The Alienist.

Note up front since I normally review YA: this book is not YA, it’s adult fiction. However, a reader of older YA & new adult might be interested in it.

I was definitely interested in it. Historical fiction! Period piece in London! Loosely related to Jack the Ripper! Serial killer! Mystery! Scotland Yard detectives! Honestly, there was nothing about this book that didn’t interest me.

This will be kind of a short review in the interest of not giving away spoilers. For the most part, I liked The Yard a lot. I felt like it accurately captured the mood of Victorian London (I mean, as far as I know…I wasn’t actually there) and there were lots of twists and turns to the story. I also liked that there were several story lines going on at once and they were all fairly intriguing. I liked seeing Scotland Yard work from the inside, and I thought that setting the story immediately post-Jack the Ripper was a pretty great move by the author. London is very uneasy and there’s a simmering resentment of police, so there are plenty of suspects when officers begin to turn up dead. I also liked seeing the early world of forensics, and throwing in real people from history is always amazing.

There is some grossness/gore here and there so those who are especially sensitive should be aware of that. It’s nothing too awful, but there are some fairly vivid descriptions of murders and of dead bodies.

Overall, it’s a really good read.

4/5 Stars

Review: A Girl Named Digit by Annabel Monaghan

A Girl Named Digit
By Annabel Monaghan
192 Pages
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: June 5, 2012
Source: Library

From Goodreads:

Farrah “Digit” Higgins may be going to MIT in the fall, but this L.A. high school genius has left her geek self behind in another school district so she can blend in with the popular crowd at Santa Monica High and actually enjoy her senior year.

But when Farrah, the daughter of a UCLA math professor, unknowingly cracks a terrorist group’s number sequence, her laid-back senior year gets a lot more interesting. Soon she is personally investigating the case, on the run from terrorists, and faking her own kidnapping—all while trying to convince a young, hot FBI agent to take her seriously. So much for blending in…

Want to hear the nerdiest confession of all time? Yes? You know that show NUMB3RS about the crime-solving Doogie Howser-like math professor that used to be on tv? The one geared toward a demographic decades older than me? Well…I liked it. I did. In my defense, I think it’s because I absolutely hate math. Or more accurately, I am awful at math. Turrible. So bad at it that I fear it on a visceral, primal level. When I encounter a math problem in my daily life my reaction usually looks something like this:

I find it fascinating that there are actually people out there who are good at math and don’t wet themselves if they have to do something more difficult than long division. Who are these freaks?

Well, one of them is the fictional Farrah Higgins. She’s so good at math that she has earned the “nerdy” nickname Digit. Hey listen kids…maybe it’s not cool to be good at math in high school, but it sure as hell would be nice to be a math genius as an adult. Rumor has it that being a professor or consulting with the government or being an astrophysicist pays much better than having a liberal arts degree in, say, history. Ahem. Digit has spent most of her high school existence hiding from what she is – namely, smart – and acting like the rest of the unwashed masses in order to fit in with the popular crowd. I found her likeable when she was being herself instead of trying to go with the crowd.

I did find it a little tough to believe that terrorists would use broadcast television to pass their secret messages, and even *I* know what a Fibonaci sequence is (or the definition, anyway…thank you, NUMB3RS). You’d think they’d be a little more careful with their information. I did appreciate the fact that Monaghan made them domestic terrorists and created an entire fictional crusade when it would have been so easy to take the lazy way out.

A Girl Named Digit is a light, beachy read. Granted beach season is basically over now, but it can be read in other places as well. I read it in my living room, for example. And it’s super short and a quick/easy read, so if you’re looking for something a bit fluffy you might give this one a try. It’s cute but not really challenging in any way, despite it being about satan’s favorite subject, math.

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