A Thoughtful Apocalypse: WE ALL LOOKED UP by Tommy Wallach – Review

 

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach
Genre: Young adult contemporary/apocalyptic
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release date: March 24 2015
Source: e-ARC from publisher via Edelweiss
Pages: 384

four stars

The nitty-gritty: A beautifully written but uneven story about a group of high school seniors who contemplate life and death as an asteroid hurtles towards Earth.

Eliza liked Kevin, more than he liked himself, at any rate. She wanted to tell him that high school was a little like a play in which everybody got cast prematurely, and he’d ended up with a pretty crappy role. If he could just survive until college, he’d get to try out for a new play, one with plenty of good parts for people like him.

People talked about their days being numbered, but really, everything was numbered. Every movie you watched was the last time you’d watch that movie, or the second-to-last time, or the third-to-last. Every kiss was one kiss closer to your last kiss.

After seeing this intriguing cover last year, I added We All Looked Up to my most anticipated YA reads of 2015. And honestly, this cover is perfect for the story. If you’re expecting a high-stakes apocalyptic tale of impending doom—an asteroid is on course to hit Earth in a matter of weeks—you won’t find it here. This is more of a contemplative story about a group of somewhat messed up high schoolers trying to figure out whether they’re wasting their lives or not. I imagine the kids on this cover seeing the asteroid and saying, “Wow, look. An asteroid. Cool.” This story is all about the characters and their relationships to each other, and the asteroid—nicknamed “Ardor”—is merely background noise, a puzzling and mildly interesting thing that may or may not change their lives forever.

The story revolves around four high school seniors who live in Seattle. Peter is a star athlete and a golden boy who seems to have it all. Eliza seeks escape from the realities of her terminally ill father and a bad reputation at school with heavy drinking and sex. Andy is a struggling musician who is hanging out with the wrong crowd. And Anita is a Princeton-bound senior with a secret desire to be a singer. When a strange blue star in the sky is identified as asteroid ARDR-1388, the news is grim: it looks like it’s on a collision course with Earth, and scientists can even pinpoint the date it might hit.

Faced with the possibility of impending death, the four begin to reevaluate their lives in different ways. Peter wonders if being a football star is all there is to life. Andy and Anita decide to hold an End of the World Party where they plan to perform one of Andy’s original songs. And Eliza, an accomplished photographer, starts to document the sudden chaos around the city caused by the news of Ardor, and starts a blog called Apocalypse Already, which goes viral almost overnight. As Ardor draws nearer, the story culminates in the party of the century, as the characters realize that no matter what happens, their lives will never be the same.

One of my favorite parts of We All Looked Up was Wallach’s writing. He knows how to depict teenagers in a very honest way. When Andy learns about Ardor, his first reaction is to vow to have sex with the completely off-limits Eliza before he dies. Many of the characters seem to turn to alcohol, drugs or sex in order to deal with their fears, but luckily not all of them. Peter in particular suddenly wants to volunteer his time, helping at a restaurant called Friendly Forks that helps rehabilitate drug addicts and alcoholics.

Anita was my favorite character and the one with the most depth. When Ardor appears, she decides life’s too short to do what her parents want her to do—go to Princeton—and so she runs away from home and holes up with Andy. I felt so sorry for poor Anita, who has an amazing musical gift, and yet her parents refuse to acknowledge it. They were my least favorite characters, and I found their attitude about African-Americans very odd, especially since they are African-American. Anita’s father sees Peter as perfect dating material for Anita:

He looked the part too—tall, attractive, and as white as the day was long (not that her parents were self-hating or anything, just that they associated white values with material success, while they seemed to suspect most black kids of being, at worst, drug dealers and, at best, freeloading bohemians.)

I cheered when Anita climbed out her window one night and never came back!

I loved the way Wallach wove the characters’ stories together. Little by little, they begin to interact with each other more and more, until all their lives are entangled in one way or another.

A few things didn’t work for me, however. A slow middle section turned very depressing, as the characters begin to think about death. It seemed at times all they did was sit around and wonder about whether these might be their last days or not, instead of trying to use those last moments wisely. (But then again, these are kids we’re talking about. Using time wisely isn’t really their strong suit!)

I was also startled by the oddly violent turn the story takes near the end, violence that felt out of character with the rest of the book. Society starts to collapse after the news of the asteroid is announced, and it felt like Wallach took the easy way out and used a tried-and-true apocalypse scenario where people devolve into criminals, and police brutality and murder fill the streets of Seattle.

After some shocking scenes, the author brings his story back around to what it should have been all along: a meditative look at how people make choices when those choices may soon be taken away from them. The ending was exactly as I envisioned it would be, and if it weren’t for the violence at the end, this might have been a five-star book for me. Even with my reservations, I did love this story! Highly recommended.

On a side note, Tommy Wallach is also a musician and he’s written an album to go along with the book, which I find very cool. Check out his website for more information.

WALU album

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy! Quotes above were taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book.

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Interview with Damien Angelica Walters, Author of SING ME YOUR SCARS + Giveaway!

Author interview

I’m thrilled to welcome Damien Angelica Walters to the blog today! I recently reviewed her new short story collection Sing Me Your Scars (read my review here) and I loved her pain-infused look at the world. Damien’s writing is simply beautiful, and you will be hard pressed to find stories like these anywhere else. Keep reading after the interview, because Apex Books is giving away (2) copies of the book! (one print copy to a US reader, and one e-book to an International reader)

Welcome to Books, Bones & Buffy, Damien! Thank you for answering some of my questions.

BB&B: First of all, I want to say I loved Sing Me Your Scars. Your stories are some of the most unique and horrifying I’ve read in quite some time. How long have you been writing, and how did you get started in publishing?

DAW: Thank you very much. I’m so glad you enjoyed the collection! Like most authors, I’ve been writing for much longer than I’ve been published. I wrote mostly poetry and vignettes and several unfinished novels. After I finally completed one of the latter (a bad one, I might add, that will never see the light of day), I found Absolute Write, a forum for writers. I knew absolutely nothing about the publishing industry when I joined, but I knew I needed to learn about it if I wanted to try to get published. During my time on AW, I spent most of my time in the horror forums and that’s when I started writing short stories and discovering all the markets for short fiction, which then led to the Shock Totem forum, where I participated in their monthly prompted story contests. From there, I continued to work on my craft and hone my voice, both of which are an ongoing process, and sent my work out into the world.

Your stories have the recurring themes of abuse, loss, pain and body alteration. What is it about these things that compels you to write about them?

I recently wrote a guest post about writing and trauma for Locus Online, and I’m going to borrow a bit from that essay here to answer that question:

Life does its best to break us in ways small and large, and many of my stories, regardless of how fantastical they seem, have their roots in the real. “Sing Me Your Scars,” the title story of my collection, owes its birth, in part, to my frustration with the endless onslaught of memes about what real women look like. Although they’re completely different stories, both “Melancholia in Bloom” and “Glass Boxes and Clockwork Gods” share the common thread of loss of memory and loss of self. I lost my grandmother to Alzheimer’s, and another family member is in the middle stages of the disease right now. I can’t help but use it in my fiction as a way to help make sense of things, to help cope.

But the trauma that seeds my work is not always my own, and the real horror in the world is that it’s everywhere you look. The world sings it scars every day. I could never read the news again and still have enough story seeds to grow a lifetime’s worth of stories. This is what makes my heart hurt. This is why I write of such things.

Sing Me Your Scars

I’m very excited to see that you have a novel coming out soon from Dark House Press! How was writing a novel-length piece different from writing short stories? And do you prefer one over the other?

Novels require a different skill set, a changing of the writer’s toolbox and the focus, but I prefer writing short fiction. While writing a novel allows you to spend more time with a character or group of characters, short fiction allows you to experiment with form and voice and tense and points of view in ways you can’t with longer works.

You are part of the Kickstarter project Genius Loci, edited by Jaym Gates, which by the way is already funded even though it still has a week to go. How did you get involved in the project, and is this your first experience with Kickstarter?

I’ve worked with Jaym before on another project and when she put out the call for Genius Loci, I knew I wanted to try to write something for it. I knew, too, what I wanted to write about and was fortunate that Jaym liked the story I wrote. GL is not my first Kickstarter experience. I’ve written stories for Streets of Shadows, Not Our Kind, and Glitter & Mayhem, all of which were funded successfully via Kickstarter.

Genius Loci

What do you do when you’re not writing? Any pets or interesting hobbies you’d like to share with us?

Here’s where I wish I had a spectacular, dazzling hobby, but I’m afraid I’m rather boring. I spend time with my family and friends, wrestle with my dogs, read a lot, eat dark chocolate, drink red wine, gaze at the stars, watch movies, and secretly wish for a pet velociraptor.

Ha ha, those are all awesome things to pursue;-D What’s next for you? Are you currently working on anything new?

I have several short stories currently in the works, and I’m trying my hand at plotting a novel. Not sure if that will be successful or not, but thus far, my novel first drafts have been a mess and I’d love to find a way to make them a bit less messy.

Publication-wise, Paper Tigers will be out later this year from Dark House Press, and I’ve short fiction forthcoming in several anthologies and magazines, including the UK zine Black Static, Cassilda’s Song, edited by Joe Pulver, a King in Yellow anthology of all new stories written by women, and The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu: New Lovecraftian Fiction, edited by Paula Guran.

Can you tell my readers three things about you that CAN’T be found on your website?

My favorite color is orange (although that might be implied with the color scheme of my website), Damien is my real name, and I think sea salt caramel gelato should be a separate food group so I’d have an excuse to eat it every day.

Thank you so much, Damien!

About the author:

B & W Head Shot - DAW - 2014Damien’s short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in various anthologies and magazines, including The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2015, Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume OneCassilda’s SongNightmare, Lightspeed, and Apex. She is a 2014 Bram Stoker Award nominee in the category of Superior Achievement in Short Fiction for “The Floating Girls: A Documentary,” originally published in Jamais Vu.

Sing Me Your Scars, a collection of her short fiction, is out now from Apex PublicationsPaper Tigers, a novel, is forthcoming from Dark House Press.

Writing as Damien Walters Grintalis, her short fiction appeared in magazines such as Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Strange Horizons, and Interzone, and a novel, Ink, was released in December 2012 by Samhain Publishing.

She’s also a freelance editor and, until the magazine’s closing in 2013, she was an Associate Editor of the Hugo Award-winning speculative fiction magazine, Electric Velocipede. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two rescued pit bulls.

Find Damien: Author Website | Twitter | Goodreads

And now for the giveaway! Apex Books is kindly offering up one print copy to a U.S. winner, and one e-book to an international winner. You do NOT want to miss this book, folks! Simply fill out the Rafflecopter below to enter now:

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Waiting on Wednesday [142] THE HARVEST by Chuck Wendig

WOW 2014 copy

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine, and is a fun way to share upcoming books we’re “waiting” on with other bloggers and readers. I love to highlight recent cover reveals on my WoW posts, and this week I have yet another one! Yep, it’s another book by the prolific Chuck Wendig:

The Harvest

The Harvest (The Heartland Trilogy #3) by Chuck Wendig. Releases in July 2015 from Skyscape. I love Chuck’s YA series, I’ve been reading it from the beginning. And I do love this cover, although I have to say I am NOT happy to see blue ants crawling up the edges, LOL! (I hate ants.) Here’s what Goodreads has to say:

It’s been a year since the Saranyu flotilla fell from the sky, and life in the Heartland has changed. Gone are the Obligations and the Harvest Home festivals. In their place is a spate of dead towns, the former inhabitants forced into mechanical bodies to serve the Empyrean — and crush the Heartland.

When Cael awakens from a Blightborn sleep, miles away from the world he remembers, he sets out across the Heartland to gather his friends for one last mission. As the mechanicals, a war flotilla, and a pack of feral Empyrean girls begin to close in on the Heartland, there isn’t much time to make their next move. But if they can uncover a secret weapon in time, Cael and his friends might just find themselves with the power to save the world — or destroy it — resting in their hands.

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Are you reading this series? Check out the covers of the first two books:

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Interview with Daryl Gregory, Author of HARRISON SQUARED + Giveaway!

Harrison Squared web banner

I’m so excited to have mega-star author Daryl Gregory visiting the blog today! What? You’ve never heard of mega-star Daryl Gregory? Well, you will after you read this post! (And certainly if you are a regular Books, Bones & Buffy reader, you know that I’ve loved his last two books.) Welcome to the strange, tentacle-filled Lovecraftian world of Harrison Squared, which hits stores today. Not only did I have the opportunity to ask Mr. Gregory some questions, but Tor Books is kindly offering up THREE finished copies of the book to U.S. and Canadian residents! So keep reading to the end to enter. You’ll also notice how wonderfully perfect my blog design is for this book:-D

Author interview

Welcome to Books, Bones & Buffy, Daryl!

I’m so happy you’re letting me crash your blog. Thanks!

BB&B: Harrison Squared is a prequel to We Are All Completely Fine, describing Harrison’s teenage years and his misadventures in Dunnsmouth. Have you considered writing prequels for any of the any characters in We Are All Completely Fine?

DG: This is the first time prequels and sequels have been on the menu for me. Before these two books, none of my novels shared a universe. Hardly any of them even share a genre. I’ve written near-future hard SF, a literary zombie novel that talks more about how brains work than how they taste,  a Southern Gothic murder mystery about Tennessee mutants… really, it’s no way to run a career. Thank goodness for the readers who are willing to follow me from book to book.

I never seriously considered sequels for those other novels, because when I finished I felt like I’d told the story I wanted to tell. The world of the story was bound up with the characters who lived there. When the characters’ stories were complete, that world closed down for me. (And often, the main characters were so changed by the end that they were unfit to tell the same kind of story again.)

But with these two books, the characters’ stories aren’t finished. I’ve got plenty more ideas. For example (here comes the plug) the free interactive story online, Harrison Squared Dies Early (http://darylgregory.com/harrison-squared/game), where you take on the role of Harrison on a monster hunt through Dunnsmouth Secondary. Think of those old choose-your-own-adventure books, but running in your browser. It has art by David Hinnergardt, and text and puzzles by me.

So what was your question? Oh, right! I haven’t mapped out prequels for the other characters in We Are All Completely Fine, but I have thought of sequels for them. Let’s see if I get around to writing them!

That’s great news! I thought some of your best characters in Harrison Squared were the side characters, and my personal favorites were Lub and Aunt Sel. What inspired you write such funny and well-developed characters?

Desperation. When I’m writing, I’m madly tap dancing to keep both the reader and myself entertained. Mostly me. I’m the guy who has to type out all those words.

But also, the book seemed to call for these characters. Aunt Sel brings some light into the book, and it was a pleasure to have a hard-drinking Dorothy Parker or Auntie Mame stroll into the middle of a horror novel and demand a margarita.

With Lub the fish-boy, I wanted him to be a real person, as opposed to a “monster.” In true Lovecraft, anything foreign or alien is by definition evil. (Lovecraft, for all he brought to the field, is perhaps our genre’s most famous racist.) I wanted to subvert that mindset. Besides, I’ve always been on the side of the monsters. It’s the humans who scare me.

I have to agree with you:-D I loved all your references to both Lovecraft and Melville, not to mention the famous poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. How did you decide to combine all these bits of famous literature together?

It was all just there, begging to be used. Melville created the prototypical Lovecraftian monster. Moby Dick is unkillable, inscrutable, and cares not a whit for puny humans. All I did was add tentacles. Harrison’s obsessed mother Rosa is our Ahab, though it’s her son’s leg that was lost to the beast. As for Coleridge, his epic poem is at heart a nautical ghost story. It even has zombies in it! One of my goals was to sneak all these references to these authors into the head of some young reader, so that when she got around to reading Lovecraft or Melville or Coleridge she’d think, These guys are ripping off Gregory.

After the dark tone of We Are All Completely Fine, Harrison Squared is almost the complete opposite. Did you deliberately set out to write a book that would appeal to younger readers?

Can I tell you a secret? Harrison Squared was written first. I wanted to write a fun yet creepy Lovecraft novel that would have been something my son was looking for when he was twelve but couldn’t find. He’s a huge Lovecraft fan, and knows much more about the stories and the man himself than I do. The final draft turned into more of an all-ages thing—I kept putting in jokes and references that no twelve-year-old, except possibly my son, was going to get—but the goal was always to keep it light and fast-moving.

Anyway, before I’d started that final draft, I kept wondering about what effects this “light” adventure would have on Harrison, and that led me to think about all those “final girls” and lone survivors of horror stories and movies—surely they needed a lot of intense therapy!  I thought it would be interesting if survivors from various subgenres of horror—the last man in a 70’s cannibal family movie, the 80s slasher-flick survivor, etc—all found themselves in small group therapy together.

These people are adults, and they’re traumatized. The tone had to be darker (though I couldn’t help keeping Harrison’s deep sense of irony). One of the things the grown-up Harrison complains about in therapy is that his horrific past was turned into a series of light adventure novels.

We Are All Completely Fine

Ha ha, I love that! If you could be any of the characters in Harrison Squared, who would you choose and why?

You never want to be one of the heroes of a horror novel–and you really don’t want to be one of the people standing too close the hero. Those guys have the life expectancy of a hamster. If I had to  choose, I think I’d like to be Aunt Sel. She appreciates a good gin and tonic, and she’s witty even when snockered.

I know we’re here to celebrate the release of Harrison Squared, but I have a burning question about We Are All Completely Fine. The point of view you used was a bit unusual. My guess is “first person omniscient,” but even then I feel like you gave that a twist. What made you decide to use this POV?

I’m happy to answer burning questions—and this one has heated up more than a few people. In We Are All Completely Fine, each chapter begins in first person plural: “We did this,” “We thought that.” Then the chapter focuses on the point of view of one member of the group.

So what’s this all about? In my mind, the protagonist of the book is not Harrison, or any one member of the group—the hero is the group itself. The story is about how a handful of individuals, including the therapist, become something larger and stronger than themselves. And as you may have picked up on, that “we” is not quite omniscient­­—it knows only what the group knows. One chapter even leads off with a question about that pronoun: who’s in this we, and who’s out? Is the group that started the book the same group at the end?

And near the end, the point of view starts shifting among multiple group members in one chapter, to show how the group is cohering, even though some members are no longer with the group. (It would be spoilers to tell your readers which ones, and how they leave.)

So, what’s next for Daryl Gregory? Are you working on a sequel to Harrison Squared? Because, that would be ok with me! (I really want to find out what happens to Rosa!)

I’ve got two more books planned for young Harrison, and if the audience wants them, I’d love to write them. In the meantime, I’m working on a multigenerational novel about a family of not-so-powerful psychics who were famous for about ten minutes in the 70s before being “debunked” on the Mike Douglas show.

That is definitely going on my TBR list:-D Please tell us three things about you that can’t be found on your website.

You’d think that because I have so much trouble keeping my website updated that there would be plenty to tell you, but most of what’s left is either too embarrassing or too personal to share in public. So here are three things that are either too embarrassing or too personal to share in public:

  1. I recently tried to grow a beard. It wasn’t pretty. Weird patches of gray appeared, as if I’d been bitten by a were-Dalmatian.
  1. Despite being a grown man who can extrude a bleach-stained beard from his face, my underwear consisted entirely of tighty-whities, the style I’d been wearing since potty training finally took hold. Then a couple weeks ago, I went to Target and bought several packs of black and gray briefs. I felt like James Bond. And now when I travel, I don’t have to wash a load of separate whites! This has changed my life.
  1. This is not something a writer should admit to, but history has shown that I would rather watch a mediocre TV show than read a mediocre book. I just can’t argue with the data. I’ve spent so many hours watching Chopped and Restaurant Impossible that I could have at least have made a dent in my TBR pile. But a good book still trumps a good TV show. Except Justified. And Better Call Saul. And The Flash.

Well, when you ask that question, you never know what you’ll get;-) What a fun interview, thank you so much for letting us peek behind the curtain:-D

About the author:

Daryl Gregory Author PhotoDARYL GREGORY was the 2009 winner of IAFA William L. Crawford Fantasy Award for his first novel Pandemonium. His second novel, The Devil’s Alphabet, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award and was named one of the best books of 2009 by Publishers Weekly. His short fiction has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, and The Year’s Best SF. He has also written comics for BOOM! Studios and IDW.

Find Daryl:  Author website | Twitter | Goodreads

About Harrison Squared:

Harrison Harrison—H2 to his mom—is a lonely teenager who’s been terrified of the water ever since he was a toddler, when a huge sea creature capsized their boat, and his father vanished. One of the “sensitives” who are attuned to the supernatural world, Harrison and his mother have just moved to the worst possible place for a boy like him: Dunnsmouth, a Lovecraftian town perched on rocks above the Atlantic, where strange things go on by night, monsters lurk under the waves, and creepy teachers run the local high school.

Almost as soon as they arrive, his marine biologist mother disappears at sea. Harrison must attempt to solve the mystery of her accident, which puts him in conflict with a strange church, a knife-wielding killer, and the Dwellers, fish-human hybrids that live in the bay. It will take all his resources—and an unusual host of allies—to defeat the danger and find his mother.

Read my reviews: Harrison Squared | We Are All Completely Fine

And if that isn’t enough entertainment for one post, how about this? Harrison Squared Dies Early is an awesome interactive “choose your own adventure game” that you can play online for FREE right now! (Seriously, it’s fun. I tried it:-D)

Finally, it’s time for the giveaway…Open to all U.S. and Canadian residents, THREE winners will received a finished copy of Harrison Squared. Ends April 4th. Good luck!

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A Mind-Bending Adventure: DUPLICITY by N.K. Traver – Review + Giveaway!

Duplicity

Duplicity by N.K. Traver
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Release date:  March 17 2015
Genre: Young adult science fiction
Source: Finished copy from publisher
Pages: 256

four stars

The nitty-gritty: A mind-bending, The Matrix-like story that teens, especially boys, are going to love.

I knew Duplicity was about a teen computer hacker, but I didn’t realize it was going to enter the mind-bending territory of The Matrix. This book surprised me, in a good way, and even if the details of Brandon’s journeys back and forth through the mirror world didn’t always make sense, I had a blast reading about them. Duplicity also had an awesome gender-bending feel to it with one of the characters, and I’ll talk more about that later. Overall, Traver’s story was fast-paced and funny, and had the unexpected bonus of some well-developed characters and relationships.

Brandon is a high-school senior with a bad boy persona (tattoos and piercings galore) and a highly developed skill as a computer hacker. He spends his days avoiding his workaholic parents who barely have time for him, and instead hacks into secure accounts and steals credit card numbers, which he sells in order to fund his fetish for fast cars. But one day, Brandon sees his reflection in a mirror doing things it’s not supposed to be doing. Little by little, his reflection—which he names “Obran” or Other Brandon—begins to physically change his appearance. Obran removes his piercings one by one and even manages to rid him of his tattoos, all the while filling Brandon’s closet with unfamiliar preppy clothes.

As if this weren’t weird enough, one day Brandon blanks out and wakes up in a prison cell-like room, where a voice informs him that he has been incarcerated for computer hacking, and must serve out a twenty-year sentence as part of something called Project Duplicity. A computer entity named JENA now controls his every waking—and sleeping—moments, forcing him to work on computer codes. Brandon knows that Obran, his lookalike, has taken over his real life, and he’s desperate to get home. It will take all his computer hacking skills to break out of his prison and switch places with his computer generated double, before Obran ruins his life.

Duplicity is a fairly short novel with non-stop action, and I found myself lost in the story and loving the voice of Brandon. I loved the idea of Brandon, a skilled hacker, being integrated into a computer system himself, much like the ideas in The Matrix. The difference here is that every mirrored surface is a way to see into the parallel world, and even a doorway to get in if you’re smart enough. “Mind-bending” doesn’t even begin to describe what’s going on here. Between Brandon having to understand that he doesn’t have a physical body anymore, to controlling what his avatar looks like, Duplicity definitely kept me guessing!

My favorite parts of the story were those that take place between Brandon and his only friend inside Duplicity, a boy named Seb, who teaches him the ropes about how to survive his new life. Little by little, Seb and Brandon hatch a plan to escape Duplicity for good, but not before they learn how to trust one another. Seb comes across as a possibly gay character, who calls Brandon “Kathy” and “honey” and seems to be hitting on him. But Seb is the most nuanced and layered of all of Traver’s characters, and there’s much more to him than first meets the eye.

Traver uses the virtual reality idea to its fullest by dropping Brandon and Seb into computer games and forcing them to survive things like ravenous zombies. I did love these scenes, which really didn’t move the plot forward at all, but were fun to read and gave us more hilarious dialog between Seb and Brandon. Even though the back-and-forth between the mirrors sometimes made my head hurt, I eventually just learned to roll with it, even if I didn’t always understand the mechanics.

In the “outside” world, Brandon has a sort-of girlfriend named Emma (“sort-of” because they are fighting when the story begins), and when Obran takes over his body, Emma seems to like the change he’s made from bad boy to upstanding preppy student. Of all the characters, I thought Emma was the weakest, simply because she never felt three-dimensional to me. She seems to exist solely for the purpose of giving Brandon a reason to get back his body, but I never really felt that he cared for her at all, at least until the end. Indeed, one of the points the author is making is that Brandon needs a kick in the pants to move beyond his self-centered life style, and having to spend time in Duplicity certainly turns him into a better person by the end of the book.

Brandon’s parents felt a bit “cookie-cutter” to me as well. They come across as the typical absentee parents that often appear in young adult fiction, working so many hours that they’re rarely present to interfere with the teen characters. When Brandon’s mother finally shows some concern for him, she’s convinced he’s doing drugs, which didn’t endear her to me at all. Because any teen with tattoos and piercings is doing drugs, right?

Aside from this, however, I really did enjoy Duplicity, and I’m especially happy that it will have a strong appeal for male readers, because we need more books like that, in my opinion!

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy!

Find the book:

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Thomas Dunne Books has kindly offered up a finished copy of Duplicity to one U.S. or Canadian resident! Simply fill out the Rafflecopter below to enter. Good luck!

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Over-Booked [21] – A Book Haul Post

Over booked banner

Welcome to Over-Booked, my twice-monthly book haul post! I’m linking up with Stacking the Shelves over at Tynga’s Reviews and The Sunday Post at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. Check out their links and you can see other book hauls! I’m trying to stay away from Edelweiss and NetGalley, or at least if I stalk those sites, I’m trying to only request books I REALLY want to read. So just a few books this week:

The physical pile:

over booked 3-21

Those Above by Daniel Polansky. Purchased from The Book Depository. Thank God for TBD, where one can find UK editions of books that have not yet been released in the U.S.! This is one I’ve read some glowing reviews for, and immediately knew I needed my own copy. Right away.

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman. Right after I finished reading my NetGalley copy, I received a physical ARC in the mail. I’m actually giving this copy away! If you live in the US, you can enter by emailing me at booksbonesbuffy (at) att (dot) net. Simply put “NIGHTBIRD” in the subject line and include your name and mailing address. Ends on March 22!

Bitter Sixteen by Stefan Mohamed. This isn’t up on Goodreads for some reason, so the link goes to the publisher’s page. Another awesome-looking book from Salt Publishing! It’s got a superhero vibe to it, which I love. I’ll be reading this and also interviewing the author next month.

Big thanks to Salt Publishing and Wendy Lamb Books!

From NetGalley/Edelweiss:

Hidden Huntress (The Malediction Trilogy #2) by Danielle L. Jensen. One of two Angry Robot titles that I’m dying to read, and both are second books in their respective series.

Unseemly Science (The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire #2) by Rod Duncan. My second Angry Robot title this week. I cannot wait to get back into Duncan’s steampunk, cross-dressing world!

When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord. I just discovered this book, which comes out next month, and I immediately searched for it and found it on NetGalley. It was clearly written just for me:-D

Big thanks to Angry Robot and Mulholland Books!

Next week is SO BUSY here on the blog…you do not want to miss some new giveaways and author interviews that came up suddenly! Here’s what’s coming up the week of March 23:

Monday: Review & Giveaway: Duplicity by N.K. Traver

Tuesday: Interview with Daryl Gregory, author of Harrison Squared + giveaway!

Thursday: Interview with Damien Angelica Walters, author of Sing Me Your Scars + giveaway!

…and more!

That’s it for me. Tell me about your book haul this week:-D

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Spring Cleaning Giveaway Hop – Win a Box of Secret Books!

spring-cleaning

Welcome to the Spring Cleaning Giveaway Hop, hosted by I Am A Reader! This blog hop is an opportunity to “spring clean” and take stock of the books on my shelves that I just know I’m never going to read, or books I’ve already read that I want to pass along to someone else. Just like last year, I’m not going to tell you what’s in the secret box! (Or it wouldn’t be a secret, would it?) I will give you some clues, and for the discerning readers out there, these clues will tell you what you’ll get if you win.

Giveaway is open to US only this time. There’s quite the mix here, folks! In addition to a glimpse of what you’ll find in the box, here are some hints:

1. There are NINE books in the box. Of those, seven are young adult, and two are adult.

2. The genres represented in this box are: science fiction, fantasy, thriller, and historical.

3. Three of the books are hardcover, four are ARCS, and two are paperbacks.

4. One of the books was listed in my Top Ten Books of 2014.

5. One of the ARCs is signed by the author!

And now for glimpse of the books:

Can you guess any of these? I’m betting you can! To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow the rest of the hop:

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Horror Most Unique: SING ME YOUR SCARS by Damien Angelica Walters

Sing Me Your Scars

Sing Me Your Scars (Apex Voices #03) by Damien Angelica Walters
Genre: Adult horror short stories
Publisher: Apex Publications
Release date: March 10 2015
Source: eARC from publisher
Pages: 200

four and a half

The nitty-gritty: A powerful collection of disturbing but compelling reflections on pain, abuse and loss, beautifully written.

I left the first bridge alone. It didn’t need my Voice. Time would take its own toll. My tears tasted of honey, of loss, yet buried deep within, a hint of steel and stone. Of strength. And when my sorrow dried to salt upon my cheeks, I walked away and left behind all the pieces I’d unmade.

A husband abuses his wife and then stitches her back up with thread from his own fabric lining.

A modern-day Medusa makes a special potion that suppresses her beauty so men won’t fall in love with her.

Two women create bridges by singing them into being, but when one of them gets a taste of power, her creations turn corrupt.

These are but three of the stunning stories in this collection from Bram Stoker nominee Damien Angelica Walters. I had no idea what I was getting into when I accepted this book for review, even though I knew Apex Publications has a great track record when it comes to short stories. Walters’ collection surpassed my expectations in a big way. Each one was strange and unique and unsettling, sad and beautiful and horrible, all those things rolled into sharp, compact observances of pain and loss. Walters takes ideas we’re familiar with—like a dying man who is afraid his wife won’t remember him when he’s gone—and makes them unfamiliar by adding weird twists. Her stories drip with suffering, mostly by women, but each character learns and grows stronger by the end of it.

Twenty stories make up this excellent collection, eight of which are published here for the first time. I loved most of the stories (a few were way too short and didn’t have quite the impact of the longer pieces), but rather than talk about all twenty of them, here are my favorites:

Melancholia in Bloom

Probably my favorite story in the collection. A woman who is dying of Alzheimer’s keeps a secret box full of magic rose petals, petals that each contain one of her lost memories. She uses up the petals one by one, trying to keep her daughter from discovering her disease. What a sad and poignant story about loss, and the tenuous bond between mother and daughter.

Sing Me Your Scars

A woman is trapped in a weird relationship with a man who is trying to make her into his version of the perfect woman. Little by little, he replaces her body parts with those of other women, but his experiment does not turn out the way he wants it to. This story was gruesome and shocking  and had a great twist at the end.

Paper Thin Roses of Maybe

A man and his wife watch the world outside their windows in horror, as a strange two dimensionality begins to creep slowly over their town. This story was a sad and melancholy snapshot of a couple trying to stay together against the odds. Best of all, this one had an awesome Twilight Zone vibe!

Scarred

A girl discovers she has the power to kill the bad people she comes into contact with, by carving their names into her skin. But she hates this power, and one day she discovers how to escape her fate, only to regret it later. This is yet another story about abuse and how hard it is to get away from it.

Paskutinis Iliuzija (The Last Illusion)

The last magician in Lithuania tries to ease his daughter’s illness with small acts of forbidden magic. This is one of the few stories that made me smile at the end—although I did have tears in my eyes. This was beautiful story about a father’s love for his daughter and how he tries to keep her safe from an outside threat.

Glass Boxes and Clockwork Gods

One of the more horrifying tales about (mostly) women who are trapped in boxes, while a man “remakes” them into gruesome combinations of blood and meat and clockwork parts. It’s another story of a man trying to make a woman “better,” and it was shocking.

Obviously, these aren’t the types of stories to read if you’re looking for something light and cozy. But if you’re a discerning reader who isn’t afraid to look at the painful parts of life in new ways, you won’t find any better than the stories in Sing Me Your Scars.

Big thanks to Apex Books for supplying a review copy. Quotes were taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book.

**Side note: I was thrilled to find out that Walters has a novel coming out soon from Dark House Press called Paper Tigers! I can’t wait to see what she does with a longer form. And, she’s also got a story in the Kickstarter project I’m backing, Genius Loci. Check it out!

Stop back next Thursday, March 26, when I’ll have an interview with Damien, as well as a giveaway of Sing Me Your Scars!

Find the book:

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Waiting on Wednesday [141]: CITY OF BLADES by Robert Jackson Bennett

WOW 2014 copy

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine, and is a fun way to share upcoming books that we’re excited about with other bloggers and readers. I just saw this cover reveal, and I couldn’t be more excited! I expect this will be on a lot of WoW posts today:

City of Blades

City of Blades (City of Stairs #2) by Robert Jackson Bennett. Releases in January 2016 from Broadway Books. Wow, I love this cover! I wish I could have found a larger photo to share with you, but this is the only one I could find. I think it goes so well with City of Stairs! Here’s the description from Goodreads:

The city of Voortyashtan was once the domain of the goddess of death, war, and destruction, but now it’s little more than a ruin. General Turyin Mulaghesh is called out of retirement and sent to this hellish place to try to find a Saypuri secret agent who’s gone missing in the middle of a mission, but the city of war offers countless threats: not only have the ghosts of her own past battles followed her here, but she soon finds herself wondering what happened to all the souls that were trapped in the afterlife when the Divinities vanished. Do the dead sleep soundly in the land of death? Or do they have plans of their own?

goodreads-badge-add-plus

Sadly, the release date is so far away!!! Are you looking forward to City of Blades?

City of Stairs

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Tammy’s Top Ten: Books on my Spring 2015 TBR

Top Ten Tuesday new 7-14 copy

Welcome to another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today we’re listing the books we’re most excited to read this Spring, and as is my way, I am defining “Spring” as the months of March, April and May. That means, these are the books I am most looking forward to that will be released in those months. Here they are, in order of release date:

Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz. Out now from Angry Robot. I have a digital ARC of this, and I’ll be reading it this month. Many bloggers have already given it very high praise!

The Mechanical (The Alchemy Wars #1) by Ian Tregillis. Out now from Orbit. Here’s another book that is getting very good reviews, which only makes me more excited to read it!

Persona by Genevieve Valentine. Out now from Saga Press. Saga is a new SF/Fantasy imprint that I’m dying to try out, and I’ve heard amazing things about this title.

The Rebirths of Tao (Tao #3) by Wesley Chu. Releases April 7th from Angry Robot. I’m not sure if this is the conclusion to Chu’s series, but I’ve been there every step of the way, and so I am looking forward to Tao’s next adventure.

Positive by David Wellington. Releases April 21 from Harper Voyager. I have an e-ARC of this book, and I can’t wait to read it next month. Wellington does horror really well!

Unseemly Science (The Fall of the Gas-lit Empire #2) by Rod Duncan. Releases May 5 from Angry Robot. I adored book one in the series, and I can’t wait to see if the second book lives up to it.

Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge. Releases May 5 from Balzer + Bray. I loved Cruel Beauty, and despite the fact that the cover makes this book look like a sequel, it isn’t.

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan. Releases May 19 from Crown. This fantasy for adults sounds amazing! I’ve really been in the mood for stories that take place near the sea, and this one fits the bill perfectly.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Releases May 19 from Del Rey.  I’ve never read anything by Novik before, but I’ve heard great things about her.

The Awesome by Eva Darrows. Releases May 26 from Ravenstone. A story about monster hunters?? You bet! I’m there. Plus I think this cover is AWESOME.

Are you excited to read any of these books?

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