Sep 30, 2014

Let's Talk Books - Dystopia, Cyborgs, and Self Help

I'd been in a bit of a slump at the beginning of this year, but then the Semi-Charmed Summer Book Challenge really shook me up and got me going again!  (Plus, I was #4 to finish the challenge and was granted the honor of choosing a category for the next challenge!)  Since then, I've read a few books that I loved and want to share.  And there's one book that I didn't love so much and I need to tell someone why!!!

SPOILER ALERT: I'm terrible with spoilers, but I'll do my best not to give too much away.


The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer ♥♥♥♥♥

I love these so much!  It's a dystopian, futuristic fairytale adaptation, with cyborgs, aliens, genetically altered beings, and a few non-traditional princesses thrown in just for fun.  I actually bought this on a whim.  I think there was a Kindle sale and the price for the first one was something like $3.  That was an excellent marketing tactic, because now I'm hooked and will be buying the rest at whatever cost.

What makes these so awesome, you ask?  Honestly, I'm not sure.  I think a part of me is just blown away by how original the story is.  The characters are primarily teenage girls, but the books manage to portray them with a few youthful foibles without making them entirely obnoxious (as is the case in the next book I'll talk about).  There's a teeny bit of romance, but not enough to detract from the story, and overall these are some of the best young adult books I've read.

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

I bought this for a book club that I was super excited to join because the focus is fantasy/sci-fi.  But then I hated it and was sad because most of the other members seem to like it so I didn't end up having anyone to discuss it with.  Here's what makes it terrible:
  1. Teenage angst = lots of pouting and feeling sorry for herself
  2. Teenage boycrazy = lengthy descriptions of beautiful hazel eyes and perfect hair
  3. Teenage first person point of view = total ignorance of any other character's thoughts or feelings
While the idea was interesting (it's like dystopia but in Oz), and turned The Wizard of Oz on its head, it was really dark and grim and not a lot of fun to read.  Couple that with the lack of depth of the main character and there really wasn't much for me to enjoy about this book.

Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews ♥♥♥♥♥

I love the whole Kate Daniels series, so I was super excited when the latest one was published.  The books are set in a futuristic Atlanta, where magic and technology battle (almost dystopian, but more chaotic than anything else).  It took me a few chapters to warm up to the setting, but once I got used to the idea of "our world but different," I fell in love with this story.

The main character, Kate, is a super strong, kick-ass woman on the run from powerful enemies from her past who eventually falls in love with an equally kick-ass male counterpart.  One of the things I like about this is that it's no sappy, unrealistic love story.  They fight, they argue, they struggle to get past certain issues.  It's a much more realistic look at how relationships work in real life - if a bit too Mr. and Mrs. Smith.  Another thing I find fantastic - the story doesn't just end with a fairytale wedding.  Their romance happens, and then life keeps going.  The tone of the story doesn't change completely just because after book 3 or 4 Kate is in a relationship.

So yeah, strong female lead, along with other strong female characters, so this gets my feminist thumbs up, along with a fantasy-enthusiast's "Hell yeah!"

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry ♥♥♥

This was very strange.  On the surface, it's an unusual, little children's story with some fun illustrations.  I'm pretty sure there's supposed to be some deeper meaning hidden behind the children's story, but I'm not great at that sort of thing.  If anyone would care to explain it to me, I'd love to hear what you have to say!

Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Got Married by Gary Chapman ♥♥♥♥

I've read another book by Gary Chapman, The 5 Love Languages, and liked it so much I wrote a post based on the concepts in that book.  This one I picked up because Significant and I were talking about seeing a pre-marital counselor.  Just to discuss the typical issues a marriage runs into and to go over tools for getting past those and improving our communication overall.  Well, it turns out the majority of counselors in our area are either religious, or spiritual in some other way, and we didn't like the idea of seeing someone who would base the discussion on a philosophy we don't actually believe in.

So we gave up on the idea of seeing someone and instead did some research on our own.  This book is one piece of that and, so far, it's doing a good job.  In each chapter, the author discusses a fairly major issue he and his spouse encountered, and how to best deal with it.  He uses examples from his life and some of his clients, and, like his other book, is very down to earth about it.  I haven't finished this one yet, but so far it's been great topics to cover with a potential spouse (or even a spouse).

Have you read any of these and what did you think?  What books have you read lately and would you recommend them?

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