Monday, June 1, 2015

Review: 5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

5 to 1
by Holly Bodger

The Goodreads Summary Says:   
In the year 2054, after decades of gender selection, India now has a ratio of five boys for every girl, making women an incredibly valuable commodity. Tired of marrying off their daughters to the highest bidder and determined to finally make marriage fair, the women who form the country of Koyanagar have instituted a series of tests so that every boy has the chance to win a wife.

Sudasa doesn’t want to be a wife, and Kiran, a boy forced to compete in the test to become her husband, has other plans as well. Sudasa’s family wants nothing more than for their daughter to do the right thing and pick a husband who will keep her comfortable—and caged. Kiran’s family wants him to escape by failing the tests. As the tests advance, Sudasa and Kiran thwart each other at every turn until they slowly realize that they just might want the same thing.

This beautiful, unique novel is told from alternating points of view—Sudasa’s in verse and Kiran’s in prose—allowing readers to experience both characters’ pain and their brave struggle for hope.

I Say:
3 stars

5 to 1 is Holly Bodger's YA novel debut, and it was really interesting. Sort of a "Hunger Games" meets "The Selection." As the story opens, Sudasa is preparing to watch the "Trials," or the different rounds of competition that her suitors will go through to win her over. The story is told in alternating POVs between Sudasa and male "Contestant 5." Sudasa is written in beautiful verse. The text is laid out in a way that's supposed to reinforce the idea of the words (like "n#mber" instead of "number") I thought that was unique, if occasionally overused. Contestant 5 is written in prose, and had a distinct feel from Sudasa. I liked the writing, the setting was intriguing, and the tension between the characters was just right.

The only problem I had was that I wanted more of just about everything. The book is super short (I read it all in one sitting), and it almost felt like I'd read a short story instead of a novel. I liked Sudasa and Contestant 5, but I didn't really understand their motivations or their back stories. (How did they both end up so independent? Why wasn't Sudasa interested in milking her privileged female-ness for all she could?) I also wanted more from the world. The idea of a huge gender imbalance would be fun to play around with, but it wasn't explored much. And for a book set so soon in the future, it lacked influences from current Indian culture. I kept wondering why the specific tasks were part of the Trials, and what that said about the culture, and their view of what men were good for. In the end almost all of these aspects were left untouched. I enjoyed what I did get from the story, but overall would have liked more to flesh out the world and characters. The writing was good, though, and I'd definitely read another book by Holly Bodger.

Just So You Know:
I received a free review copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest opinion. 5 to 1 is now available.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Read This: Not In The Script

Not In The Script
by Amy Finnegan

The Goodreads Summary Says:   
Millions of people witnessed Emma Taylor’s first kiss—a kiss that needed twelve takes and four camera angles to get right. After spending nearly all of her teen years performing on cue, Emma wonders if any part of her life is real anymore . . . particularly her relationships.

Jake Elliott’s face is on magazine ads around the world, but his lucrative modeling deals were a poor substitute for what he had to leave behind. Now acting is offering Jake everything he wants: close proximity to home; an opportunity to finally start school; and plenty of time with the smart and irresistible Emma Taylor . . . if she would just give him a chance.

When Jake takes Emma behind the scenes of his real life, she begins to see how genuine he is, but on-set relationships always end badly. Don’t they? Toss in Hollywood’s most notorious heartthrob and a resident diva who may or may not be as evil as she seems, and the production of Coyote Hills heats up in unexpected—and romantic—ways.

This novel in the deliciously fun If Only romance line proves that the best kinds of love stories don’t follow a script.

I Say:
5 stars

You know how sometimes you find a book that is the perfect fit for your reading mood? That's how reading Not in the Script was for me.  I just wanted something funny, cute, and swoony. And that's exactly what I got.

The book focuses on Emma, one of the biggest young stars in Hollywood, and Jake, a chaps-wearing model turned actor. Emma's had really bad luck in her past relationships and a lot of pressure to now keep her life simple. Jake has his own reasons for leaving modeling for the TV show he, Emma, and a couple other people star on. They have enough problems to give them depth, but not so many that it becomes a Serious or "issues" book. The characters and the plot stay incredibly lighthearted, and it makes everything very fun. Jake and Emma are interesting characters on their own, but they're adorable together. The book is full of banter and flirty moments. Finnegan does a great job writing the romantic aspect of the story. I was really invested in their relationship and wanted everything to work out for them.

The other thing I thought was cool was the look at what it's like filming a TV show. Reading about the long hours and hair/makeup and craft services were all fun and interesting. (And also made me hungry. There's a lot of food in this book). I liked that it showed some of the downsides too: having no privacy; tabloids twisting anything to make a good story; worrying that people are taking advantage of you for money or fame, even if they're family and friends. I felt for how normal the characters were, even though they were not in normal situations. My only complaint was that the book was a bit unrealistically G-rated. The characters are all 18-20, but live in a version of Hollywood where no one swears, smokes, drinks, has eating disorders/body image issues, does more than kiss, or does drugs. I would have been fine with a story where characters personally avoided those things, but it was more like they didn't exist at all. But it's a small quibble for an otherwise really cute, fun story. Not in the Script is a new favorite of mine.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Dune Readalong: First Discussion Post

Jenni has been trying to convince us all to read Dune, one of her favorite books, for the longest time. Thus, the Dune Readalong was born.

Truth be told, I didn't finish Book 1. I read about a quarter of it before I went for a plot summary on sparknotes. But here are my thoughts on Jenni's discussion questions. Link up at her blog if you want to play along.

Have you ever read a high sci-fi book before?
Nope. I didn't even realize that was a category. 

Is this your first time reading Dune?
Yes. I'd never heard of it before Jenni talked about it.

If this is your first time reading Dune, is the book anything like you expected it to be? If this isn’t your first time reading it, have you noticed anything different this time around?
Not at all. In my head sci-fi is about regular people with cool technology. This book feels more like high fantasy to me. (Anything with the word fief in it has to be fantasy, right?) I wasn't expecting it to be so big, either. 

Were you surprised that you knew who the traitor was before everything went down at the end of this book? Did it help prepare you? Or, were you bugged by it?
I always like when I know about something as a reader that the characters don't.  I was more surprised that the Duke knew he was going into a trap but ultimately couldn't do anything about it. I kind of liked him so that was a bummer.
I wish there were a little more mystery, though. I felt like I knew what every character thought about everything through all the internal monologues. It'd be nice to have to guess their motives or feelings more often.

What do you think of the idea of recycling the water from your body to survive in such an arid climate?
That's cool. (Is that the thing that makes this book sci-fi instead of fantasy?)

What was your favorite part of this section? Why?
From what I read it was the quote about "Parting with friends is a sadness. A place is only a place." It's an idea I like to think about. (I think I mostly agree, although I'm pretty sentimental about some places) I like feeling like I can connect with ideas from the story.

Which character(s) do you find the most interesting? Why?
I didn't connect with anyone. I know, that's terrible. Besides the super detailed writing, I think it's one of the reasons I'm having a hard time with the story. I guess Paul is the main guy, so I hope I'll get more of a feel for his personality as I go on.

Are there any revelations in this section that surprised you?
I actually accidentally spoiled myself on this. I read one of the appendices in the back of my book when Jenni mentioned them and saw who Jessica's dad was. I thought I'd just not caught it when she was introduced, but it turns out that's the big reveal at the end of book 1. Oops.

What do you think of Dune so far? Are you having a hard time following what’s going on? It is engaging? Boring?
I feel like it's very dense and detailed. I liked reading the summary for the part I did read because it helped me better understand the book. But I hated that it was nearly 80 pages of reading that got summarized in a few paragraphs. This is not an efficient book.  I think the writing will bother me throughout but I'm hoping I can get into the plot.

Do you have any predictions about what’s going to happen in the next section?
Action? Maybe a spice-induced trippy part? I hear there are worms that people ride on, so I'm looking forward to that.