Tag Archives: Guest Reviewer

Guest Reviewer: Maria V Snyder
Guest Reviews
April 3, 2009 posted by Nikki

Guest Reviewer: Maria V Snyder

A few days ago we posted an interview with Maria V Snyder, author of Storm Glass and the Study Series. Maria was kind enough to sit down and write a review of one of her fave novels at the moment. Enjoy guys!

Maria V. Snyder’s Book Review – Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

After you read this book, you’ll never look at the moon the same way again. The premise of the story is rather straight forward—an asteroid slams into the moon (this isn’t a spoiler – it’s written on the back cover).  The moon is then knocked closer to Earth.  What follows is an extremely realistic account of how life on Earth is altered—and not for the better.

The story is told by 16-year-old Miranda.  She’s writing everything that happens in her journal.  It’s first person point of view.  As most of my readers know, I’m very fond of first person. :) And it works for this gripping story.  Miranda details the catastrophe.  She has a unique perspective and being in her head is a skillful way for the author to show how Miranda’s family deals with the ensuing craziness.  It’s fun to read about her mother’s quick intelligence while Miranda rolls her eyes and swears she’ll never wear the long johns her mother buys.  The reader can see the importance of the mom’s actions, without it being preachy.

The only thing that bothered me with the journal format is I had to wait to find out where Miranda lives.  The author’s efforts to be true to life should be commended—a person writing in a journal wouldn’t use their names or the city’s name very often (maybe not at all).  However, I was annoyed—especially when tidal waves are taking out New York City and I wanted to know where the story characters are in relation to them.  Readers get a hint on page 43 that she is in northeastern Pennsylvania, but I didn’t learn her town name until page 174 (Howell).

This story really made me appreciate the basic things in life, like hot food, a warm house, and electricity.  And as the story progresses, it’s like watching an auto race knowing a big crash is coming and unable to look away. I also wanted to start stockpiling can goods and medicine in my basement.  This is definitely not for the feint of heart – but Miranda’s character arc is well done and by the end of the book, I was very proud of her.

When I’m reading a book, I’ll get to page 50 and ask myself this question: Do I care?  If the main character were to die on page 51 would I be upset?  If the answer is yes, I keep reading.  If no, then the book is tossed into my library donation box.  Did I care about Miranda and her family?  Yes – very much!  I even thought about them when I wasn’t reading the book (another sign of a good story).

My favorite part was when Miranda’s mom asked if she or her brothers were doing any school work, “Well, of course not.  We tried to look shamefaced.  Bad us for not doing algebra when the world is coming to an end.” I loved that last line!

There is a companion novel to this book called The Dead and the Gone.  It is from the point of view of a teenaged boy living in New York City during the same time.  I’m not sure I have the courage to read it, yet I can’t stop thinking about it.  Guess I’d better fill my basement first.

Guest Reviewer: Lauren McLaughlin
Guest Reviews
February 14, 2009 posted by Nikki

Guest Reviewer: Lauren McLaughlin

Lauren McLaughlin is the author of the quirky tale, Cycler. We interviewed Lauren a few months ago and now we’ve got another McLaughlin treat for you. She’s been kind enough to sit down and review one of her own fave YA novels for your reading pleasure.

She chose Cintra Wilson’s Colors Insulting to Nature.

Colors Insulting to Nature – Cintra Wilson

Cintra Wilson’s Colors Insulting to Nature is a teen novel that’s not quite a teen novel. Though it follows the escapades of fame-hungry Liza Normal throughout her teen years and into young adulthood, it does so with the knowing backward gaze of someone who’s survived the whole ordeal.

Liza Normal is a singer of very modest talent who, largely because of the deluded longings of her topless juggler mother, dreams of being famous. No amount of failure or rejection can weaken this desire and we follow Liza all the way from her mother’s disastrously comic re-staging of The Sound of Music (complete with topless juggling) to her cabaret debut as dominatrix, Venal de Minus. Liza never achieves her goal of becoming so famous that “people will see me and cry,” and that is the subversive point of this novel. You can’t have everything you want if only you try hard enough. Dreams don’t come true. And why is that? Because your dreams are stupid, that’s why.

Talk about a refreshing twist on the coming of age tale.

The story takes place in the eighties and is so chock full of achingly detailed cultural references that reading the novel is like re-living that decade. If you’ve ever seen the movie Ice Castles (and if you’re over thirty, be honest, you have) the novel is worth the price of admission merely for Wilson’s brilliant deconstruction of that film. I never realized until I read this novel just how central to my development as a sexual being that underwear scene was. Colors is full of just this sort of cringingly self-aware detail. And smack in the middle of it all is a love story that is as brutal as it is sexy. Liza’s high school relationship with the cruel, witty, and gorgeous Anton is in many ways a mirror image of the savaging she receives from the world at large. That she loves him just the same is the extra twist of the knife. But then who among us hasn’t, at one time or another,fallen victim to a disastrously potent longing for someone who has contempt for us? And isn’t this in essence what we’ve done to ourselves as a society by allowing mass media to re-engineer our most primal human desires into a vain quest for fame. In the end, it’s this unflinching examination of our unhealthiest desires that distinguishes Wilson both as a storyteller and as a cultural critic. That she also manages to evoke genuine vulnerability and tenderness˜especially in Liza’s relationship with her best friend–elevates the novel above mere satire. Wilson is not pointing a finger and laughing at these characters. Nor is she asking us to laugh at ourselves. That would be letting us off too easy. This is a novel of ideas that implicates the reader by making us want Liza to achieve her deluded goals,even as we criticize her for having them.