Teaser Tuesdays (April 24)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading.

How it Works:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teasers:

“The glitches were sudden, random, and more intense than anything I’d felt before. I had no idea why, which made it all the more terrifying.”

“I wanted to close my eyes and stop up my ears. I needed to escape, to hide. But there was nowhere I could go. Nowhere I was truly safe.”

– 38% of the way through digital galley of Glitch by Heather Anastasiu

Review: The Host by Stephenie Meyer

I know, I know. I just reviewed Twilight, so why the heck am I reviewing another Stephenie Meyer book so soon? Well, two reasons:

1. The Host is nothing like Twilight.

2. The trailer for the movie was recently released, and it is weird and kind of confusing. So if you are one of those people who saw The Hunger Games recently and wondered what that weird trailer with all the eyeballs was about, I am here to enlighten you.

The Plot

The Host is the story of two characters: A human, Melanie Stryder; and an alien, Wanderer. The kicker is that they’re both inhabiting the same body.

Melanie was one of the leaders in the human resistance, fighting to keep Wanderer’s alien race from taking over their bodies and consciousness, even after the aliens — or “souls,” as they refer to themselves — have already conquered Earth.

Obviously, she fails.

Wanderer is surgically inserted into Melanie’s body, reboots the hardware, takes a look around…and discovers Melanie’s still in there. Her consciousness, which is supposed to be snuffed out when a “soul” sets up shop, is very much present. And cranky.

What follows is an internal struggle between Melanie and Wanderer, as both fight to take control of the host body. And things only get more complicated when Melanie convinces Wanderer to seek out her allies in the resistance, bringing them both face-to-face with Melanie’s brother and boyfriend.

My Thoughts

First off, yes. This basic plot device has been used before: aliens who come to Earth and take control of our bodies. But really, most interesting plot devices have been used before. As long as it’s interesting and the author’s spin is unique and fun, I don’t care.

As for the book itself, I really enjoyed The Host. Ms. Meyer has come a long way from Twilight. Gone were most of the endless, repetitive descriptors; the grammatical errors; the absurdly cheesy metaphors. No, her writing is still not the gold standard against which all others can be measured, but then again, neither is the writing in most of the books I enjoy. But I can honestly say that if I didn’t know, going in, that this was the same woman who wrote Twilight, I would never have guessed it.

That’s a good thing.

Technicality aside, it was a good read. The pace was a little slower than that of your average YA novel; but then again, this technically isn’t a YA novel (although it’s perfectly appropriate for a teen audience). It’s definitely more character-driven than action-driven. There were parts that dragged, but I never got bored. And I have a bone to pick with part of the ending (Meyer left it open for a sequel, which is fine, but how she did it I found a bit creepy).

I don’t want you to think The Host is all plodding inner monologues, though. There’s definitely some good action and suspense in it, as well as a hefty helping of romance. Twilight it is not, but don’t be fooled: Meyer is a sucker for love triangles. Although, to be fair, The Host has more of a love square.

Bottom line: I enjoyed The Host. It’s not “great literature.” It’s not going to change the way you think about anything (unless you have very strong views about alien colonization. No judging here). But it’s interesting, it’s exciting, and it made my heart race and my tummy flutter at all the right times.

I found myself thinking about it after I finished (always a good sign). I’m looking forward to the sequel (The Soul, which Meyer may write someday if she feels like it) and for the film adaptation. Even if the trailer is weird.

Grade: A-

Content Guide: contains mild violence

Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

I confess, I had absolutely no idea what I was about to read when I was given a copy of The Time Traveler’s Wife. I had heard the title, of course, as it was a popular book club book for a while there, and I think Oprah may have endorsed it at some point. But as I am not a member of a book club and never watched Oprah (except when she gave stuff away, because I like to live vicariously), I didn’t know anything about it.

I was kind of expecting the title to be a metaphor for something. I wasn’t exactly sure what.

But no. This book is about a time-traveler. And his wife.

The book opens on the day when Henry DeTamble, a 28-year-old ponytailed librarian, first meets Clare Abshire, a bubbly and beautiful girl of 20. Let me be clear: it’s the day Henry first meets Clare. It’s not the first day Clare meets Henry, because Clare has known Henry since she was 6.

Confused yet?

Henry DeTamble, through no fault or effort of his own, is a time traveler. Sometimes when he is under stress, or looks at a blinking light, or is excited, or for no reason whatsoever, he finds himself involuntarily traveling through time. He arrives at an unknown time and place, stark naked, not knowing how long he will be there or any way to get back.

Henry knows all of this, since he has been time traveling since he was 5 years old. What is news to him is that an older version of himself will travel back in time, many times, to visit Clare as a child and teenager. Clare has grown up with Henry as her best friend, her confidante, her protector, knowing that she will someday marry him.

Now, before you start thinking “Ew, so this middle-aged guy travels back in time to a little kid and falls in love with her? Gross,” let me assure you that’s not how it happens. (No Twilight comparisons here). For Henry, he meets Clare as an adult, falls in love with her, marries her, and then finds himself constantly pulled unwittingly to her childhood, where he puts forth every effort to be entirely proper and appropriate with her younger self.

The only reason that Clare knows they will get married is because she’s a really wily and persistent teenager, and eventually manages to weasel the information out of him.

The book mostly follows Henry linearly through his nonlinear life. It details his courtship and marriage to Clare, and the trials and joys they face in their relationship. The only catch is that throughout the course of their relationship, we also accompany Henry as he visits the past and future, crossing paths with younger and older versions of himself, Clare, and their family and friends. It also, as the title suggests, shows us Clare’s struggle as she tries to have a normal life with a decidedly abnormal man.

As with most stories involving time travel, this one operates according to its own set of rules. My only rule when dealing with time travel stories is that I need the rules of the story to make sense and be consistent. Ms. Niffenegger (side note: I love the author’s name) does an excellent job making sure her characters and narrative adhere to the rules of their world.

The first-person narrative alternates between Henry and Clare’s voices. It is very easy to follow, since each time the narrator changes, the paragraph is headed with the character’s name, age, and the date.

I really enjoyed this story. When you boil it down to its bones, it’s simply a story of two people trying to make their relationship work, in spite of the world not always working in their favor. I would probably like it if that was all there was to it; however, the fact that the main thing working against them is the sci-fi element of involuntary time travel adds a freshness and uniqueness to the story that I loved.

I loved the characters of Henry and Clare. They both have their strengths and flaws. Ms. Niffenegger gives them each a distinct voice and personality, so I felt like I really knew them. I could understand how they fell in love, how they complemented each other, how they frustrated each other. Their relationship seemed real and substantive to me, and I found myself fully invested in these characters.

Also, while it’s easy to assume a book about time travel would fall solidly into the genre of science fiction, it’s not that simple. Henry’s time traveling (which is explained in the book as a genetic anomaly) is the only fantastical element of the story. It takes place over the last few decades. There have been no great leaps in science, evolution, medicine, space travel — basically, this is the world we are all familiar with. So although I love a good sci-fi story and therefore may not be the best person to judge this, I think this book would appeal even to those who have never read or enjoyed a sci-fi book in their lives.

The Time-Traveler’s Wife is in turns sweet, melancholy, exciting, and heartbreaking. It is a lovely story about normal people in both ordinary and extraordinary circumstances. I loved journeying through the struggles and triumphs of Clare and Henry, and I missed them when the story was over.

Grade: A-

Content guide: Contains sex, profanity, occasional drug use and violence.

Review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

I’ve decided that if I’m going to have a blog where I review books, I need to review my favorites, even if they’ve been out for years and years. I owe it to the world (well, or at least whatever small percentage of the world reads my blog) to let them know why these books are amazing. And I couldn’t think of a better one to start with than Ender’s Game.

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Plot:

It is the future. Earth has survived an attack from an insectile alien race – barely. Population control laws are in effect. Families are limited to 2 children. Young children are monitored to see if they have military potential, and those that show promise at an early age are whisked away to train in the military’s Battle School, in the hopes that by the time they reach adulthood, they will possess the necessary skills to defend the Earth, if the aliens – “buggers” – ever return.

Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is a rare third child in his family. His older brother and sister showed intellectual promise, but his brother was too ruthless and his sister too compassionate to qualify for Battle School. So the Wiggin parents were permitted a third chance to produce a military prodigy. And they succeeded.

Ender is whisked away to Battle School at the ripe old age of 6. The School, located on a space station orbiting the Earth, is populated by military officers and child prodigies. Ender is one of the youngest.

And these are not your average children.

They train daily in space military tactics, weaponry, and combat. Although they are all at an age that we associate with Dora, Spongebob, and Hannah Montana, these kids are nothing like the children currently roaming your local elementary school hallway. They are calculating, intuitive, sometimes ruthless, always dangerous.

One of the main focuses of the School is the battleroom, where the children are equipped with special suits and laser guns that allow them to fight each other in zero-gravity. On Ender’s first trip to the battleroom, it becomes quickly apparent that he is a cut above the other students. Some of his peers respect this. Some are threatened by it.

And as Ender works his way up through the ranks of Battle School, his teachers take notice, and wonder if perhaps Ender is the child they’ve been waiting for. The child who can change everything. The child who can save Earth.

Why I Love It:

Don’t let the summary throw you off. Ender’s Game may be a book about children, but it is by no means a book for children. The children in this book are nothing like how we picture children (as the mother of an almost-6-year-old, I can say this pretty definitively). Everything about this book is aimed at an adult audience.

Ender’s Game is not a thriller or adventure story, although some of the battleroom scenes are exciting. More than anything, it’s an examination of the mind of Ender Wiggin, the culture he lives in, and a world under military rule. And it’s all fascinating.

Mr. Card writes Ender in a way that while you understand he is just a child, you can still be awed, chilled, and amazed at his thoughts and actions. As a matter of fact, all of the characters are interesting and intriguing, from his friends at the Battle School, to his sociopath brother Peter, to the Commander of the Battle School, Colonel Graff.

There is a twist at the end of Ender’s Game. You may see it coming; you may not. I did, but it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book one bit. The fact that I have read this book over and over again, in spite of knowing the twist ending, speaks to the strong writing of the rest of the book. The book doesn’t exist just to throw you off at the end. The book exists to make you think, to draw you completely into the character of Ender, and to absorb you in the science-fiction world he lives in.

Grade: A+

When one book just isn’t enough:

There are 4 sequels to Ender’s Game. They follow him into adulthood, far past the end of Ender’s Game. I love the sequels, but they’re very different in tone and scope from Ender’s Game; however, I did find that they resembled each other. So my suggestion is that if you enjoyed Ender’s Game (and I really, really hope you do), check out Speaker for the Dead from your local library, read the whole thing, and then decide if you want to keep going.

The sequels are:
Speaker for the Dead

Xenocide

Children of the Mind

Ender in Exile 

There is also a companion series to the Ender’s Game series, paralleling Ender’s story from the point-of-view of one of the secondary characters. It sounds weird – why would you want to read the same story all over again, knowing how it ends? But the Ender’s Shadow series is wonderful (only the first book parallels Ender’s Game. After that, its sequels detail events barely alluded to in the Ender’s Game sequels).

Content guide: Contains some disturbing scenes of violence towards and committed by children.