Sunday, June 7, 2015

Alienated by Melissa Landers

Author:   Melissa Landers
Publisher:   Disney Hyperion
Release Date: February 4th, 2014
Source: Audible Audiobook
Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them. 

Handpicked to host the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket.

Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking.

But when Cara's classmates get swept up by anti-L'eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn't safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara's locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class. 

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she's fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.

Sci-fi romance is one of those genres that can quickly go from cool to cheesy. Alienated managed to exceed my expectations though. By starting 2 years after the initial alien arrival, we get what could be be described as an intergalactic exchange program with some romance thrown in. An independent main character with a less than perfect love interest made this one of my favorite reads of the summer.

One of the best things about Alienated is the characters. Cara is a strong willed teenager, valedictorian, but she's worked hard to get where she is. When she's chosen for an exchange program, she jumps in with both feet and fights to make the most of it. I love Cara because she doesn't back down. She stands by Aelyx even before feelings develop, and everyone is against her. It's more than just a career opportunity, it's fighting for something she believes in. 

I also like Aelyx because he isn't perfect. While he's attractive, a large portion of the local population hates him. Cara is protecting him in many ways, trying to make him comfortable. Meanwhile, he only has the interests of his own planet in mind. I think this book did a great job of balancing Cara and Aelyx. Neither is completely put together or flawless. They both mess up, but they build a relationship together as time goes. It's a slow process, and much more satisfying than fast paced romance novels I've read before. 

The plot itself is also interesting. The humans really are screwing things up, and the dystopia twist is fun. But the L’eihrs are also hiding things. I like that the L’eihrs are human in many ways and relatable, but there planet is still unique in it's own ways. There's a sense of culture and identity developed by the author. 

It's hard to comment too much on the end of the story, because...spoilers. But I will say, I am looking forward to the sequel. As much as I hate when sequels separate the two primary love interests, I do want to see how it all works out in the end.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Author:  Rainbow Rowell
Publisher:   St. Martin's Press
Release Date: September 10th, 2013
Source: Audible Audiobook
Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan...

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words... And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Full disclosure: I listened to this book in audio book format, which may have had some impact on how much I enjoyed it. While I liked the story, the audio book makes it feel super melancholy the whole time. If you read this, I really don't recommend listening to it. 

Overall, I liked Fangirl. Cath is socially awkward, and a little relatable if you're a nerd. Her terror of getting to know people and new situations may be a bit extreme, but I like her family and the people around her. I usually don't enjoy stories that turn main characters into writers, so that was one thing, (I think it ends up being a little cliche. Thankfully, this one didn't do the whole "the story I was writing in that class was this one!" thing) Levi was really likable, and I was satisfied with the ending. 

And her dad. I loved her dad. Seriously, her dad is like one of the best people in the book. 

There were some things I didn't completely enjoy, however. 

First, I really didn't get the constant descriptions of eyebrows and hairlines. Seriously, I just don't stare at guys eyebrows and find them attractive. I guess that made Cath unique, but it made me feel really disconnected to her at points. And I know it's a romance, but it also gets repetitive when we hear descriptions of guys over and over again. I get he has hair that sticks up. That gets redundant, especially in the audio book. 

Second, I felt like the Simon Snow segments seemed a bit disjointed from the rest of the story. They didn't always feel like they were feeding into the rest of the book. It was like Simon Snow was spontaneously sprinkled along. I like when excerpts or quotes have something to do with the chapter. Maybe I was missing something, but it didn't always feel that way in this story. 

I also don't get why you would reference Harry Potter in a book that's supposed to be replacing Harry Potter with Simon Snow. Side point, but it was irritating. It took away from the story.

Last, the plot. I didn't really feel like there was one large driving force in this book. There was sister stuff, and mom stuff, and class stuff, and boy stuff, but I could never tell when it was all going to tie itself up. Was the main conflict the writing assignment? The boy? Her relationship with Wren? It didn't feel like it was about being a fangirl. More like just being socially awkward. The book sort of floated along at some points. I just wanted something more concrete to carry me to the end.

Good story, but still room for improvement for me.