Proxy by Alex London

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Proxy by Alex London Published June 2013 by Philomel Books 379 Pages (Paperback)

Proxy is the first book in a dystopian sci-fi series by Alex London. It follows Sydney Carton, orphan and proxy to wealthy and reckless Knox. When Knox crashes a car and kills his date, it’s Syd who must pay for the crime. One daring escape and unlikely meeting later, the two boys are running across the country toward a secret rebel society, neither one knowing who to trust or what to believe in. It ultimately was a story with huge potential that it didn’t quite live up to: 3/5 stars.

The bones of this story were quite good. Syd and Knox are both complicated characters. They faced difficult situations and decisions and made believable missteps. Syd is bitter and Knox is lonely and they’re both highly selfish and that all makes them each genuinely imperfect. They don’t have token faults simply to make them endearing. They’re memorable characters, not stand-ins for a reader, or soulless, stereotypical action heroes. 

This is still ultimately an action book, though, and most of the action was excellent. London’s writing style lends itself to action scenes quite well and the plot held many unpredictable twists and turns. It also had that delightful sense of constant suspense, the feeling that any character could die at any time. This is a quality so often found in a first series installment, because we really have no idea which characters will become the most important. And the shock value in some of the scenes in this is sky-high because of that.

I found a lot to enjoy in most of the plot, but I didn’t like a lot of things about the ending. As a capstone of character development, it was awesome, but when I stepped back and looked at the set-up, it made no sense. Hard to explain it without actually explaining it, but suffice it to say that the climax was compelling, but the reasons why the situation happened as it did were nonexistent. Bad science is my biggest pet peeve in any dystopian novel and this book had it, or, at least, did not pause long enough to explain itself in any way.

I also found myself rolling my eyes several times over some of the writing. The exposition lacked subtlety. Metaphors were forced, and then explained, which defeats the purpose. Take this line, which is slipped in moments after every animal in a zoo escapes its cage and Syd and Co. have just saved a kid from being mauled by a polar bear

“Knox was mesmerized by the madness. The zoo had unraveled like everything else in his life” (228).

I already understood that Knox’s life has been turned upside down at this point, just from events alone. The zoo madness clearly highlights that upheaval, without the dot to dot connection. There were lots of little goofy lines like that that bothered me, each pointing out connections and realizations that any halfway intelligent reader is going to make just fine on their own.

I couldn’t hate this, but I had rather high expectations and they weren’t met. But I did enjoy myself while reading it, I don’t regret starting it, and I will probably pick up the sequel at some point. I think Alex London is a writer with a lot of potential who’s built a pretty fascinating world that serves up a good action story while making striking, thought-provoking social commentary about debt and wealth and privilege. 

There are like a bajillion teen dystopias out there these days, though, and this isn’t the best of them. But if you’ve read all the best and you’re looking for a quick thrill ride with some fun to-read characters, then I don’t discourage you from picking this up, it’s not awful, just not my favorite.

BookTube-A-Thon Wrap Up

So the BookTube-A-Thon is less than two hours from ending, and though I didn’t put too much effort into participating, I did promise myself to write three posts this week and this is the last one of them I need to do. I finished almost none of the books I said I was going to, but I did complete three of the challenges: to read a book with red on the cover, to read a book from a genre you’ve read little of this year, and to read a book with pictures. Specifically I:

I had mixed feelings about this, review already written and scheduled for Tuesday morning, so be looking for that!

I bought and read this on Friday afternoon. I kept seeing at the bookstore and not getting it and I finally caved. It was good. Short and sweet and simple.

  • Read The Assassin and the Healer by Sarah J. Maas (the only story I hadn’t yet read from The Assassin’s Blade novella bind-up)

I read the other four as ebooks and then bought the bind-up when it came out anyway (probably my only known cover-buy; it’s just so pretty!), and I finally just got around to the one story I hadn’t yet read from it. And it was just okay, felt like filler. The other novellas were much better.

Super good. Unique and strange and overall awesome. I feel like Space Opera as a whole was a genre custom made for me. Already ordered the next two volumes and cannot wait for them to arrive.

Liking both of these so far. Anne Frank’s diary is extremely compelling, but just too much for me to speed read. And Just One Day is meeting all of my expectations. I love the way Gayle Foreman writes such dreamy, transporting romance.

That’s a total read of about 650 pages. A decently successful week, and one that saw me pick up a few books that have been kicking around my TBR for a while, which is always good.

Hope to see you around for some of the reviews coming up on these books, and that you are having a blast with whatever read-a-thons you’ve taken on this summer. Seems like there’s always one going on.

Bookish (and Not So Bookish) Thoughts #4 (?)

Haven’t done one of these in a while! 

Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts is a weekly meme hosted by Christine at Bookishly Boisterous. It’s got a self explanatory title, which help me out. Normally I’d write some explanatory sentence here.

-So I finally moved away from my parents house. Hooray to being 23 and financially independent! It’s been fun. Meaning that I’ve mostly been eating a lot of fast food and watching a lot of television.

-The TV watching dealt a heavy blow to my reading and blogging, but between my 3-month HBO trial and Netflix, I’ve been watching some fabulous stuff. Multiple people had recommended Sherlock to me for ages, but I refused to watch it (partly because everyone always talked about how agonizing it was to wait between series). I freaking loved it. Good mysteries and brilliant acting. Also, it’s hilarious. The most intense episodes are the funniest too, which is so great. I’m using the HBO access to watch Girls, which started off a bit rocky for me, but the middle set of episodes in season 1 have been hilarious. It’s like a more awkward, funny, gritty version of Sex and the City, so of course I love it.

-I did go two weeks without cable and internet in my new place, and I did spend that time span doing more bookish things. I read the available two volumes of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series (The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance) and loved them. Can’t stop thinking about them. The characters were so great, living, breathing, flawed little masterpieces, all of them. The world is so vast and fascinating too, it makes total sense that he’s planning another eight 1000-page volumes. There will definitely be more Brandon Sanderson on my shelves soon enough.

-Still sort of participating in BookTube-A-Thon this week. I finished Alex London’s Proxy last night. I wasn’t a huge fan of it, but it was good. Definitely a good one to write a review for, with all the mixed feelings I had about it. Hopefully that will get finished and go up soonish.

-I switched gears after Proxy and started The Diary of A Young Girl today. Still have no idea how I managed to not read that in high school. Everyone read it in high school. Even, like, friends I went to high school with read it in high school. Anyway, I won’t be finishing seven books this week or anything, but it’s pushed me to read a little more than I have been in the post-cable installation world, which is all I really wanted.

-I did a lot of other things in my blogging hiatus that I haven’t mentioned. I went to Ikea the Saturday after the Fourth of July, which was insane. Bought a sweet new bookcase though.

-Last week, I was lucky enough to go see Hank Green and Harry and the Potters and Driftless Pony Club in concert in Denver, which was the nerdiest thing I’ve done, probably, and also insane. It was at the Summit Music Hall, which is decently sized, for a smallish venue, and it was packed. I almost didn’t go, because I wound up having to go alone, but I ran into an old friend of a friend from high school and had the chance to catch up and hang out with her great friends and get a great spot on the balcony and have a really, really great time. 

-I think that’s all I have to report! Hope you all have a good weekend! I’ll be sitting around waiting for my new couch to get delivered….after which I’m sure I’ll just continue to sit around, because of the novelty of the new furniture and all.

Top Three Books I Read Because of BookTube

I write about books on the internet, but I got my start in part because I enjoyed watching people talk about books on the internet. BookTube is a big part of what inspired me to start seeking an audience for my reviews broader than the handful of Facebook friends with Goodreads accounts. It also, of course, has highly influenced what books I’ve picked up in the last year. There are many, but here are three now-favorites that I never would have started without the influence of one BookTuber or another:

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (Review!)

I was not unaware of the Percy Jackson series before I heard it mentioned on BookTube. I knew it was popular with tweens and had seen the commercials for the movies, but I had never thought to pick it up myself. I was an adult reading YA books, but middle grade fantasy (and a Harry Potter knock-off to boot!) was just too juvenile for me. It wasn’t until I started watching people my age or a touch older (like Katytastic and PolandBananasBooks) on YouTube rave about the series that I realized I might actually not be above enjoying it. 

Although I wound up a little underwhelmed by the first couple of books in this series (I didn’t completely understand the hype right off the bat), I loved the last few books. I adore Heroes of Olympus; I can’t wait any longer for book five (85 whole days to go!). It’s definitely a series I’m glad I was convinced not to miss. 

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

I would have never ever heard of this if not for BookTube. I don’t specifically remember everyone who raved about it. (JessetheReader for sure. PadfootandProngs07 as well, I think) but it seemed like whenever a BookTuber picked this up, they had nothing but amazing things to say about it.

So back in February, when I was looking for ways to entertain myself on my newly acquired long commute, I purchased the audiobook. The audiobook performance wasn’t terrible or wonderful, but the book itself was fabulous. I loved the storytelling, the complicated, fascinating characters, the way it made me think about perception and heroism. It was an excellent read overall, and I am so happy to have had the help discovering it.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (Review!)

This book, you guys. I love it so much. Sad and sweet and funny all wrapped up into one. I know I had never heard of Rainbow Rowell before watching BookTube, but I can’t recall what video exactly made me want to read this. It’s so sad to think that I might have never discovered this now-favorite listed book of mine.

Honorable Mentions (Because three is a small number, and I just keep thinking up more):

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King (Review!)

I hope anyone doing BookTube-A-Thon is off to a great start! I am about to start for real (unless I decide to watch more Sherlock. Which I probably will. Because it’s awesome.)

BookTube-A-Thon Themed TBR

The Booktube-A-Thon is aimed at Booktubers, obviously. I don’t have a YouTube channel, and have no desire to start one. However, I’ve been in something of a reading slump the last week or so (probably caused by both the installation of my cable and internet last Tuesday and my decision to restart my Netflix subscription) and a blogging slump for ages, so I decided to make a TBR to stick to for the next week that attempts to complete the BookTube-A-Thon reading challenges.

These challenges have the lovely side effect of forcing me to choose books off my shelf that I have wanted to read, but keep just not getting around to. All but one of these was purchased more than two months ago, with some lurking around for over a year unread.

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BookTube-A-Thon reads, against the backdrop of my new bookshelf. Nice, right?

A Book with Pictures: Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

I read Miss Pergrine’s Home for Peculiar Children probably about a year and half ago. I don’t remember too much about it, but I do remember liking it. I got the sequel for my birthday back in March and keep putting off reading it because I keep meaning to reread Miss Peregrines, which I don’t even own, so it’s probably not going to happen. Time to just trust that my memory will return once I crack open this one…

Start and Finish a Series: Just One Day by Gayle Foreman

Everyone’s picking duos for this challenge and I am no exception. I bought Just One Day months and months ago, and picked up Just One Year when I discovered an autographed copy at the bookstore. I’ve been extra excited to read this series after finishing the If I Stay duo last month. Gayle Foreman writes an excellent contemporary romance.

A Book with Red on the Cover: Proxy by Alex London

I kept hearing about this on Booktube and I had to pick it up. The glowing blurbs by Marie Lu don’t hurt either. This is the only book that is a recent purchase, the only one for which the initial purchase excitement hasn’t worn away yet.

A Book Someone Else Picks Out for You: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

My friend Savanna bought this for me when I told her I had never had occasion to read it. I somehow missed all the English classes that studied it, apparently. It’s been more than a year since she gave it to me and I still haven’t picked it up. It’s one of the most guilt-inducing books on my TBR shelf and it’s finally time to read it.

A Book from the Genre You’ve Read Least of This Year AND A Book to Movie Adaptation: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Adult literary fiction is something I used to read a lot more of and have only read one book of so for this year. I bought Cloud Atlas back when the movie was coming out, so more than a year ago, I think. Picked it up last summer and didn’t get very far into it, though I don’t think I gave it enough of a chance.

Unfortunately, Netflix doesn’t appear to have the movie available to stream, but I’ll see what I can do about also watching the film.

So, anyway, that’s what I’m going to try to read this weekend and next week. (The BookTube-A-Thon starts on Monday, but I already started Proxy) I won’t complete all of the books up there, but I might clear out a few TBR shelf lurkers. I probably also won’t be doing daily updates, like I try to do for the Bout of Books read-a-thons, but the first video challenge, top three books you read because of Booktube, might make a fun post to write sometime this week. I’ll do a wrap up next weekend as well, let you know how everything went.

Six books, three posts, definitely a challenge for this next week in reading and blogging. Any other book bloggers out there sneaking in to the BookTube read-a-thon? Any words of excitement over any of the books I’ve picked?

June Reviews

I haven’t posted in ages and ages. Trying to rectify that right now by writing a bunch whilst camped out at my new Starbucks. I just moved and don’t have internet and won’t for like another week.

Anyway, I only have a few books to share with you this month, so this will be a much quicker post than usual!

Books I Read in June

June Read

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo-4 Stars (Recommended)

This was a thought-provoking read. As someone who doesn’t read much non-fiction, I especially liked it because it was written as a narrative. It follows a handful of people living in one slum in Mumbai and it shows rather than tells of the twisted injustices that influence their lives. It challenges all kinds of schools of thought about how to change the structures that cause poverty and it’s clear Boo, in the style of all great journalists, exhaustively researched every aspect of her story.

It was much more narrow in it’s focus then I anticipated, after hearing people talk about it. I was expecting some sweeping reveal of everything wrong with urban poverty, but it’s not that. It’s not even trying to be that. It is the story of a few years in the lives of a handful of families. It’s thoughtful and well constructed and revealing, but it’s not a grand treatise on poverty. It is fascinating, though, a jumping off point for further discussion, especially since Boo doesn’t make an argumentative point with her story. She just tells the story and lets you draw your own conclusions.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson-4 Stars (Recommended)

I’ve been loving Laurie Halse Anderson’s books the last few months. The Impossible Knife of Memory was amazing, Speak was equally wonderful. This was fabulous as well.

Fabulous is a weird word to use. I suppose I’m simply redefining fabulous to mean wholly engrossing in the most torturous possible way. Wintergirls sucked me in to Lia’s experience, making me relate to her so strongly, even though I’ve never experienced–nor even knowingly known anyone who has–her disease.

My one small complaint with it was that it seemed to wrap up too quickly. There’s a pivot point with massive stakes and then the book ends with a pretty quick resolution. It’s a bit jarring, and it seemed to me a bit of a disconnect from the otherwise painful reality of the rest of the story.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart-3 Stars

So. Much. Buzz.

“If anyone asks you how it ends. Just LIE”

“Go into this without knowing ANYTHING”

So I swore I wouldn’t pick it up and then I did. I don’t regret doing so, it’s smart and suspenseful. The writing style is fairly poetic in nature. Fragmented sentences, hyperbolic imagery. I liked it, though not everyone will.

It wasn’t a terrible book, I just had this super hyped up expectation of it because of the “OMG it’s so MYSTERIOUS” marketing. I was expecting something big and when it happened it was good, but it was still a letdown. There was no other thing for it to be. Also, there’s totally been at least three movies in the last fifteen years with a similar twist. That’s all I could think about when I was done, the comparisons.

I also found myself extremely apathetic about every character. They’re rich people with rich people problems, which is fine and their problems are valid and it does internally sort of disdain them for this, but it was still irritating to me. They’re shells, they’re uninteresting and unrelatable, and I just didn’t care about them. I wouldn’t have made it through this if I hadn’t been so stupidly curious about the ending.

I hate to say it, but I’d suggest skipping this one. It might be really great if you could discover it on your own, but for me this was a case of jumped-up expectations without any real follow-through.

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson-5 Stars (Recommended!)

This 1000 page beast is why I only read like a third of the usual number of books this month, but I’ll take quality over quantity every time.

The Way of Kings is the first book in a planned epic (6 books? 10? Not sure.) fantasy series, The Stormlight Archive. The Way of Kings is a bit of an exercise in exposition, explaining background in politics, magic, culture, and the plot lines of three major characters, so very little of note happens before the last 200 pages of the book. It could have been tedious, and it did take me a long time to read through it, but the world is so interesting and the characters so complex that it never felt boring.

I freaking loved it. All of it. But the end especially. Mysteries revealed with even more questions raised, it was exciting and shocking and so, so satisfying. I already picked up the second volume…and four other of Brandon Sanderson’s books. The world-building is just that good.