Magnificent Monday: The Invaders (A Tournament of Books Selection)

Posted 8 February, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Magnificent Monday: The Invaders (A Tournament of Books Selection)The Invaders by Karolina Waclawiak
Published by Simon and Schuster on July 7th 2015
Genres: Fiction, General, Literary
Pages: 240
Format: Kindle Paperwhite
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Over the course of a summer in a wealthy Connecticut community, a forty-something woman and her college-age stepson’s lives fall apart in a series of violent shocks.
Cheryl has never been the right kind of country-club wife. She's always felt like an outsider, and now, in her mid-forties—facing the harsh realities of aging while her marriage disintegrates and her troubled stepson, Teddy, is kicked out of college—she feels cast adrift by the sparkling seaside community of Little Neck Cove, Connecticut. So when Teddy shows up at home just as a storm brewing off the coast threatens to destroy the precarious safe haven of the cove, she joins him in an epic downward spiral.

The Invaders, in a word, is magnificent. It’s a modern day rendering (I suspect intentionally…) of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening.

I love the parallels that it brings out in modern society (and U.S. politics) Lori, the neighbor in the upper-upper middle class neighborhood with more money than sense erecting a fence the keep ‘the Mexicans’ out. The idea that being poor is equivocal with being dangerous and the upsetting idea of people pooping in the ocean. Despite touching on points of white privilege, isolationism, and class politics it’s also a story about family and marriage.

Told through the voices of Cheryl, the second wife of a man who has lived his life behind the walls of white country club money and privilege, and Teddy, the son from his first marriage. Both voices are equally heartbreaking and at times, equally unlikable.

Despite having been married to Jeffery for ten years, Cheryl is still an outsider and wonders how these people who seemingly have nothing to be unhappy about — as they have everything — are.

I wanted to know which of these women were still having sex with their husbands. I wanted to know if I was pathetic of if this was just how it turned out for everybody.

As Cheryl’s isolation becomes more palpable, a hurricane moves in.

At the same time we have Teddy, who should be an ‘insider’ being born and raised in the country club enclave, but still somehow ends up as an ‘invader’. He has his own demons to conquer and ways of battling them that drag out in the open the idea that we can literally give our kids everything and despite that (or perhaps because of it) they will still have their problems and there’s nothing that we as parents can do to help.

For sure, The Invaders is a dark book, but it’s highly readable, with fully fleshed out, complex characters. What I don’t understand is the poor ratings that The Invaders has on Goodreads and Amazon. My only guess is that it was badly marketed as ‘women’s lit’, which I think that if you pick it up with that mindset, of course, you’re going to hate it.

What do you think, Readers? Has anyone out there read this one? I obviously think that it’s highly underrated… what about you? How do you think it will fare in the Tournament of Books?

April

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Sunday Salon: Lazy Days

Posted 7 February, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in memes, musings

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I’m too lazy even to format this post with much. I’ve been doing a lot of reading this past week I’m making some good headway into the Tournament of Books 2016. Managed to devour the entirety of The Invaders yesterday and I thought it was fabulous. Finished Bats of the Republic, started on The Tsar of Love and Techno, I’ve make it through the first two stories and I think it’s going to prove an excellent read as well.

What else? Started Weight Watchers last Monday and I’m pretty much feeling hangry all the time. I’m thinking of just re-reading Dietland and reminding myself that my health is the most important thing. I’m happy enough with my size most of the time…

Sort of zoning out while I’m writing this post half watching whatever the Sunday Morning ABC show is, talking about New Hampshire. I hate to say it, but I think Hillary is fucked. There are people out there with such vitriol towards Clinton for reasons that they are unable to articulate. That being said, I love me some Bernie Sanders.

In a similar yet unrelated vein I find myself quoting Ronald Regan at work, mostly on probation days, “Trust but verify.” What is happening to me?

My plans for the day are few… more reading, maybe playing some internet card games… sitting around… not eating. :/ Being lazy.

Tomorrow is the best day of the year, the farthest point of the year until I have to start hearing about football again.

Whatcha reading, Reader?

April

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Science Friday: Seveneves

Posted 5 February, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Science Friday: SevenevesSeveneves by Neal Stephenson
Published by Harper Collins on May 19th 2015
Genres: Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic, Fiction, General, Genetic Engineering, Science Fiction
Pages: 880
Goodreads
five-stars

What would happen if the world were ending? A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remains . . .  Five thousand years later, their progeny—seven distinct races now three billion strong—embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown . . . to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.

First, let’s get the title pronunciation for Seveneves out of the way, it’s Seven Eves. Yeah, if I hadn’t ‘read’ the audiobook I never would have gotten that. Prior to starting it, I keep reading it as ‘Sevenses’ (Like multiple sevens…). I know Book Worm Problems.

Anyway, despite the rather awkward title, Seveneves is a phenomenal masterwork of hard science fiction. It reminded me of The Martian because it takes highly technical science details and makes them exciting. It brings science closer to the reader, which is especially astounding when that reader is me, a liberal arts focused attorney. I like science, but in my every day life I don’t science (or math, for that matter). So when a book can bring astronomy, engineering, biology, etc and help me to understand them better in some way – without the dryness of a textbook – well, I’m thrilled. It’s unlike The Martian in that there are many more characters and much more going on.

The story itself is excellent as well, it starts with the moon being broken into seven pieces by some unknown ‘agent’… then a popular scientist, reminiscent of Neil deGrasse Tyson,  realizes that all hell is about to break loose on Earth in about two years – at which point the world gets to planning. It’s full of action, suspense, and spacewalking with added bonuses of politics and sociology to boot.

I thought this was a fantastic read. It’s a chunkster for sure, but I think every page is worth it.

As to the audio, it was well done and not distracting from the story – which is exactly what I look for in my audiobooks. I’m not sure the switch between a female and male narrator for part two of the book was necessary, but in the end it worked.

What about you, Reader? Have any real science people taken a gander at Seveneves? How does it sound?

April

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Re-Release Day Review: City of Legends

Posted 2 February, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Re-Release Day Review: City of LegendsCity of Legends by Cheyanne Young
Series: City of Legends #1
Published by Alloy Entertainment on February 2nd 2016
Genres: Coming of Age, Dystopian, Fiction, Girls & Women, Superheroes, Young Adult
Pages: 262
four-half-stars

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Maci Knight has grown up in the shadow of legends. Her father and her brother, Max, are Heroes, worshipped by humans and Supers alike for their strength and valor. All she’s ever wanted is to follow in their footsteps, to fight villains and protect humankind. But Maci has a secret—one that could change everything.

Maci had a twin sister who died the same day they were born. In their world, one twin is always good, while the other always eventually turns evil. There’s no way to tell which twin will go rogue . . . which means no one knows if Maci will suddenly become a villain.

The closer she gets to her eighteenth birthday, the more she has feelings she can’t control: Violence. Rage. Revenge. Maci wants to be a Hero. But she may not have a choice . . .

The first in a trilogy, City of Legends introduces a new superhero mythology and an unstoppable heroine.

This is a new edition of the previously self-published novelPowered.

Note: I read this book under its original title Powered, I’m not sure how much editing has gone into the re-release – but if the premise remains the same, it can only be better under City of Legends.

I was really pleasantly surprised by this book. I’ve been kind of burnt out on YA titles these days, especially trilogies, but this is actually a pretty exceptional and well-written piece of YA fantasy. 

City of Legends brings back memories of NBC’s Heroes or even X-Men. One of the primary differences seems to be that in the City of Legends universe ‘Supers’ have lived alongside humans for most of appreciable history and they have their own society and civilization that humans seem to know about, but don’t try to penetrate. This really doesn’t come into play a whole lot in the book, I just found it to be a unique piece of world building. 

I also loved the absolutism found in the Super-society (blonde hair/blue eyes = good; dark hair = evil; Heroes don’t have bad dreams, the twin thing, etc.) This absolutism requires Maci and her allies to fight to overcome the stigmas that society puts upon her. This felt like a great allegory to the challenges that girls (especially girls of color) are sometimes forced to handle in life.

Maci isn’t the most likable character that you’re ever going to find in the annals of literature, but I did find her to be relatable and her feelings to be representative (enough) of teenagers. 

Many readers gripe about the fact that many YA trilogies introduce pointless love stories, but unlike other recent YA fantasy/dystopian trilogies the love story in City of Legends actually serves a purpose in the narrative more than just making Maci ‘softer’ and more relatable. 

All this being said, King City felt a little bit like the Capitol in The Hunger Games (with fewer dystopian elements) and Pepper was almost a photo-copy of Cinna. Neither of these things detract from the story though. 

I’m looking forward to the next one.

What do you think, Readers? Sound compelling? Different? Amazing?

April

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Mmmmkay Monday: The Only Ones

Posted 1 February, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Mmmmkay Monday: The Only OnesThe Only Ones by Carola Dibbell
Published by Two Dollar Radio on March 10th 2015
Genres: Dystopian, Fiction, Literary, Science Fiction
Pages: 344
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Inez wanders a post-pandemic world, strangely immune to disease, making her living by volunteering as a test subject. She is hired to provide genetic material to a grief-stricken, affluent mother, who lost all four of her daughters within four short weeks. This experimental genetic work is policed by a hazy network of governmental ethics committees, and threatened by the Knights of Life, religious zealots who raze the rural farms where much of this experimentation is done.When the mother backs out at the last minute, Inez is left responsible for the product, which in this case is a baby girl, Ani. Inez must protect Ani, who is a scientific breakthrough, keeping her alive, dodging authorities and religious fanatics, and trying to provide Ani with the childhood that Inez never had, which means a stable home and an education.

The Only Ones for Carrolla Dibbells’ first novel is actually quite good. I want you to think of a cross of The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night meets clones and dystopia.

Inez’s first person prose reminds me very much of what I have come to expect from authors attempting to recreate voices from the autism spectrum. The way that The Only Ones is unique is that it takes that sub-genre of mental health literature and catapults it into a near future scenario where  pandemic flus and diseases are common and ‘dome’ communities are typical.

Quite frankly, I found The Only Ones is an interesting commentary on parenting, the way Inez refers to herself as ‘I.’ feels highly symbolic (maybe as parents we’re all struggling to do the best we can and should stop judging the way each one of us does it?)

On motherhood and other mothers:

So that’s it. They just wanted to watch what I do and tell me what is wrong with it.

C’mon, who among us with kids hasn’t felt that way in the presence of ‘superior’ moms?

The Only Ones is very different from your standard dystopian/epidemic/apocalypse novel. It’s about a society that is functioning, if barely and the grit, determination, and sacrifices that it takes for one poverty stricken woman to subsist in it, with a child no less.

Science minded readers might also be interested… or infuriated. I don’t know enough about genetics or cloning to know how viable (ha! get it?) the science behind it is.

Surprisingly, I found that I really enjoyed this book, Readers. There were points where it lulled just a bit but for the most part it is extremely readable. Has anyone else read it? Anyone else interested?

April

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Sunday Salon: Night Post

Posted 31 January, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in memes, musings

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Time // 8:38 PM EDT

Feeling // Injured. I tore the shit out of something in my knee last night. Probably something to do with three inch heels at The Girl’s ‘Winter Ball’. It was a fundraiser for the school — the new school, not the beastly place she was in. (Yep, gonna keep on linking that until half the world has seen it…) I also seem to be brewing a headache.

Planning // BEA is coming up. Deciding what to do about that. I should be able to spare three days in May, depending on whether or not it falls during a trial calendar.

Reading // Bats of the Republic. Guys, it’s not only a compelling story told in a new way, it’s a beautiful looking book. I love the way Tournament of Books introduces me to books that I wouldn’t have otherwise have picked up.

Watching // Broadchurch, finished the first season and the first few episodes of the second season. I love how it’s revealing the differences between the British and American justice systems. Makes me think I should read more about it. The Children Act was good for that, but I’d like to learn more.

Okay, enough for now, Readers. How was your week?

April

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Friday Fail: The Children’s Home

Posted 29 January, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Friday Fail: The Children’s HomeThe Children's Home by Charles Lambert
Published by Simon and Schuster on January 5th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Literary, Psychological, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 224
Goodreads
two-stars

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

For fans of Shirley Jackson, Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl, and Edward Gorey, a beguiling and disarming debut novel from an award-winning British author about a mysterious group of children who appear to a disfigured recluse and his country doctor—and the startling revelations their behavior evokes.In a sprawling estate, willfully secluded, lives Morgan Fletcher, the disfigured heir to a fortune of mysterious origins. Morgan spends his days in quiet study, avoiding his reflection in mirrors and the lake at the end of his garden. One day, two children, Moira and David, appear. Morgan takes them in, giving them free reign of the mansion he shares with his housekeeper Engel. Then more children begin to show up. Dr. Crane, the town physician and Morgan’s lone tether to the outside world, is as taken with the children as Morgan, and begins to spend more time in Morgan’s library. But the children behave strangely. They show a prescient understanding of Morgan’s past, and their bizarre discoveries in the mansion attics grow increasingly disturbing. Every day the children seem to disappear into the hidden rooms of the estate, and perhaps, into the hidden corners of Morgan’s mind. The Children’s Home is a genre-defying, utterly bewitching masterwork, an inversion of modern fairy tales like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Golden Compass, in which children visit faraway lands to accomplish elusive tasks. Lambert writes from the perspective of the visited, weaving elements of psychological suspense, Jamesian stream of consciousness, and neo-gothic horror, to reveal the inescapable effects of abandonment, isolation, and the grotesque—as well as the glimmers of goodness—buried deep within the soul.

My first mistake was falling prey to the horrifically classic, “…for fans of…” when will I learn that this is always a bad idea? I am completely unable to find the resemblance to Dahl, Gaiman, or Jackson — all three authors which I have read extensively.

This is another one of those books with a compelling premise and an excellent description that just fell on its face for me. I mean:

…a mysterious group of children who appear to a disfigured recluse and his country doctor, and the startling revelations their behavior evokes.

Sounds great right? I wanted it to be, I did… the writing isn’t awful, but it is unremarkable. The story itself fails to make much sense at all and the ending itself is unsatisfactory in the extreme. I’m okay with an ambivalent ending, in fact most times I find that type of ending more satisfying but here… I don’t know.

“Maybe I’m not smart enough to understand The Children’s Home” was the first thought that I had, but legions of reviewers on Goodreads assure me that this isn’t the case.

The good news, if you decide to read it, is that The Children’s Home is a fairly quick and compact read. I can’t really think who I would recommend this novel to, it just made too little sense for me to get a feel on who might like it.

Sorry I didn’t have more to say about The Children’s Home, Readers. I almost didn’t post this review for lack of things to say but felt like I got far enough that maybe this could be useful to someone. Anyone else read it? Thoughts? Feelings?

April

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Whatever Wednesday: The New World (A Tournament of Books Selection)

Posted 27 January, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Whatever Wednesday: The New World (A Tournament of Books Selection)The New World by Chris Adrian, Eli Horowitz
Published by Atavist Books on August 12th 2014
Genres: Fiction, Psychological, Technological, Thrillers
Pages: 158
Goodreads
two-half-stars

What is the purpose of life? If you could send a message to the future what would it be? Why do you deserve, not desire, to live forever?

Acclaimed author Chris Adrian (The Children’s Hospital, The Great Night) joins the award-winning creators of The Silent History – Eli Horowitz and Russell Quinn to create an innovative digital novel about memory, grief and love. The New World is the story of a marriage. Dr. Jane Cotton is a pediatric surgeon: her husband, Jim, is a humanist chaplain. They are about to celebrate their eighth wedding anniversary when Jim suddenly collapses and dies. When Jane arrives at the hospital she is horrified to find that her husband’s head has been removed from his body. Only then does she discover that he has secretly enrolled with a shadowy cryogenics company called Polaris.Furious and grieving, Jane fights to reclaim Jim from Polaris. Revived, in the future, Jim learns he must sacrifice every memory of Jane if he wants to stay alive in the new world. Separated by centuries, each of them is challenged to choose between love and fear, intimacy and solitude, life and grief, and each will find an answer to the challenge that is surprising, harrowing, and ultimately beautiful.

I wanted The New World to be so much better than it was. For the first half I was absolutely entranced by the idea. It was complex and beautifully written. I liked the alternating viewpoints between Jim in the future and Jane grieving in the past. The world building was done well and the idea of cryogenics as something real and sustainable – eventually to the point where people are able to be ‘resurrected’ was even believable to a point.

The anger that Jane felt towards the Polaris Corporation was palpable and extraordinarily well done. I loved the attempt she made at suing the company and the subsequent consequences. I enjoyed Jim as a ‘humanist chaplain’, this naturally appealed to my atheist side – seeing how Jim handled people grieving with faith as an atheist and how he handled grieving in the future in the same way.

About …. ‘eh … 60 to 70 percent of the way through the novel it seems like something gets lost. All the interesting and compelling plot points kind of fall to the floor and the authors of The New World just seem to lose interest. It meanders for awhile before ultimately taking a nosedive and leaving me wondering what the hell just happened to what was such a gorgeous little novel to begin with.

I felt the way that many Goodreads reviewers seemed to feel that this novel(la) would have been better off as a short story because it was only towards the end that things got bad. Sometimes a quick and mysterious ending is better for me.

Anyone out there read this one? It’s a contender for Tournament of Books 2016, how do you think it’s going to do?

April

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It’s Monday… Tournament of Books 2016 is ON!

Posted 25 January, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in blogging, books and publishing, Reading

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I don’t often participate in the ‘It’s Monday…’ posts, but it’s the most wonderful time of the year! I have the Tournament of Books 2016 short-list in hand and am readying myself for battle. Unfortunately all the books I decided to read from the long-list failed to make the cut, but I enjoyed most of them heartily so really there’s nothing to complain about.

So let’s take a look at the work ahead of us:

Tournament of Books 2016 Short-List

  • The New World by Chris Adrian and Eli Horowitz – review
  • The Sellout by Paul Beatty – Currently in DNF status. Will be revived.
  • Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson – Read
  • The Turner House by Angela Flournoy – I have no plans right now on this one.
  • Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff – review
  • Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf – Read
  • Ban en Banlieue by Bhanu Kapil – I’m worried about the availability of this one.
  • The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli – Owned and on the list to read.
  • The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra – Currently Reading!
  • The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen – Owned and interested, we’ll see.
  • The Whites by Richard Price – Read
  • Oreo by Fran Ross – Probably the next one I’ll read.
  • The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard – Owned, I can’t turn down a good Holocaust book.
  • The Invaders by Karolina Waclawiak – review
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – review

Play-In Round

  • Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving – Just bought the audio, let’s face it… I was going to read this anyway.
  • A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler – Zero interest. Might read it if it actually gets in.

Updated 7 February 16

Taking Stock…

Out of the fifteen definite books I’ve read three, I own twelve, plus the John Irving in the play-in round. To make any of it count I need to get to reading! A little sad that Look Who’s Back from the long-list didn’t make it but, c’est la vie, this gives me more books to read! I also may still review Mort(e) from the long-list because, man, that book was weird.

Anyway, Reader… are you taking part in the fun? What books from the Tournament of Books 2016 short list look like they appeal to you? 

April

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Sunday Salon: “Yeah, Keep Ranting. We Know Who’s Really Doing the Planting”

Posted 24 January, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in blogging, memes

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Time //  11:46 A.M. EDT

Happenings // I’ve been dealing with a lot of family/childrearing drama. See my Open Letter to Nameless Atlanta-Metro Montessori, but I think that nightmare has run itself down. Thank goodness.

Thinking // About the community. I’m coming up on almost three years of book blogging. Of course I’ve been blogging since, ’99 or 2000 using sites like Xanga, Livejournal, and Deadjournal respectively. I suspect I’m not alone in having been a personal blogger long before becoming a book blogger. In fact I know I’m not alone (hi Monika!!).

There’s been a lot of Twitter chatter and subtweets that seem to be floating around that, whether their authors intend so or not, make the authors themselves seem like crotchety old hens (or cocks). I don’t understand the need for these people to tear down “new” bloggers through subtweets on how wrong they’re doing things. Whether it’s what we choose to read, how we choose to set up our blogs, or whatever I just wonder why people concern themselves with so much of it.

Can we also talk about // how it’s okay to write about things that have already been written about before? Everything under the sun has been done once or twice before, so why do we take the dismissive attitude of ‘been there done that’ when another blogger brings up a discussion point? My personal bugaboo is when people dismiss discussions on plagiarism, but that’s not the only thing that we tend to get dismissive of.

Subtweeting // Drives me battyI know, let he without sin… etc. But there are those out there who do it way more than others almost whimsically. If there are posts that bug us so much why are we taking the time to read them, let alone subtweet about them? Why not leave a constructive comment on the post and let the person know how we feel? What’s the use of subtweeting?

Yes. I see the irony that there are those who will view this post as a massive subtweet – but I’ll go ahead and tell you right now, I’m not talking about any one person, or any groups of people – I’m just putting this out there for everyone’s consideration.

Look // I’m not the blogging police, nor do I have the time, energy, or inclination to be. I just don’t understand why we can’t be decent to one another.

Well, that’s all she wrote, Reader. I’m done with the ranting. Admittedly I’ve been less than active in the community lately, but the cracks seem to be widening and I wish there were a way to reverse it.

April

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