Review: ‘Life in Outer Space’ by Melissa Keil

Life in Outer Space

Sam Kinnison is a geek, and he’s totally fine with that. He has his horror movies, his nerdy friends, World of Warcraft – and until Princess Leia turns up in his bedroom, he doesn’t have to worry about girls.

Then Sam meets Camilla. She’s beautiful, friendly and completely irrelevant to his life. Sam is determined to ignore her, except that Camilla has a life of her own – and she’s decided that he’s going to be part of it.

Sam believes that everything he needs to know he can learn from the movies … but now it looks like he’s been watching the wrong ones

This book, you guys. I wish it had been around when I was at school, because I really could’ve used a story about Australian nerds suffering through high school and falling in love. It was so ADORABLE, and it spoke to me.

The first thing to mention about Life in Outer Space is the voice. It’s told from Sam’s perspective, and he has a distinctive narrative style. He’s always making “objective” observations about his world, and doing things like noticing exactly how many seconds it takes for something to happen. But at the same time he was so awkward and oblivious to social cues. (Seriously, I knew people exactly like this when I was at school.) I’m not a movie buff, so some of his references were lost on me, but he definitely could’ve been a young version of some of my nerdy, adult male friends.

The other characters are just memorable. The dearest to my heart is Camilla. She’s moved around a lot (and has the benefit of having a famous dad), so she’s a veteran at making friends and fitting in. But she’s not a sheep — her philosophy on high school can be summed up by this quote: “You can rock the boat, but you better make sure you have a very safe seat first.” Despite being instantly popular, she’s a music nerd and likes World of Warcraft. She’s the sort of girl every geeky female wants to be: quirky without being weird, and able to tame the bullies — not just for herself but for the other nerdy kids too. (Or maybe it’s just me who wished I was like that?)

I also loved Sam’s other friends. There’s Allison; I would devour a book about her if one were to become available (hint hint!). I couldn’t shake the mental image of her looking like a young Willow from Buffy, only in anime t-shirts rather than daggy clothes picked out by her mother. She had that same awkward earnestness. Mike, Sam’s best friend, is a taciturn and increasingly aloof black belt in karate who is partially out-of-the-closet. And Adrian is a scruffy nerd who is utterly tactless and enthusiastic about life.

I won’t talk too much about the plot, except to say that it was so wonderful to see a relationship built on friendship, hardship and mutual understanding rather than the typical “love at first sight” fare. The pacing was quick enough to keep me interested, and though there weren’t any surprising plot twists or anything, the story had a lot of heart and kept me entranced to the last page.

Five stars


Top Ten Tuesday: Sentimental Favourites

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a bookish meme where you get to make lists and talk about books, which is as awesome as peanut-butter-and-chocolate frozen custard*. Today’s theme is “Top 10 Books From My Childhood (Or Teen Years) That I Would Love To Revisit”. I have a bunch of sentimental favourites. The Stone Cage and The Hobbit were from primary school; the rest are from high school.

As you can see, Anne McCaffrey featured prominently. I couldn’t choose just one of her books. And in every instance bar one (The Stone Cage, which is a Rapunzel retelling), the book I’ve listed is the first in the series. So this isn’t a list of ten so much as a list of sixty or seventy. There are forty-odd books in the Discworld series alone.

And if you don’t think I cried when Terry Pratchett, Anne McCaffrey and Douglas Adams died, you’re crazy. Those three writers — as well as Stephen King and Mercedes Lackey — got me through the hell that was high school. I hope they’re all dining at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, having bubbly pies and something dodgy from an Ankh-Morpork pie seller.

* If you’re not dairy intolerant and allergic to peanuts.

TheHobbitStoneCage

Dragonflight

The Crystal Singer

The Ship Who Sang

Magic's Pawn

Hitchhikers

Daughter of the Empire

The Colour of MagicThe Many-Colored Land

 


Plotting (and scheming): the bad guy

I’m halfway through drafting a historical fantasy inspired by Ancient Greece. I’ve had this idea in my head for two years — since before I wrote either Lucid Dreaming or Melpomene’s Daughter — and I’d dedicated a lot of daydreaming hours to it. I mean a lot. So I knew the story pretty well.

Or at least, I thought I did until this week, when I had a bit of a crisis.

I’ve done all the setup. My plot notes got me to where I’m at, and they just sort of … stopped. It was basically:

  • the characters do something cool
  • there’s a big battle with the bad guy
  • the end

IT WAS A PLOTTER’S NIGHTMARE.

I lamented this to a friend of mine. Peter is my alpha reader. He doesn’t provide advice on the “girly bits”. (I think they make him roll his eyes.) But what he does do is tell me when he thinks the villains aren’t being villainous enough, or when they don’t seem to have considered an obvious flaw in their bad guy plan.

Kissing book.When I was struggling with the length of Lucid Dreaming — it was on track to being around twenty thousand words too short — Peter was the one who said, “Well, if I were that bad guy in that situation, this is what I would do.” (So when that book comes out later this year, you know who to blame for one of the plot twists. Just btw.)

So if I’d have thought about it, I’d have realised what his answer would be to my whinge: take it back to the bad guy. What’s his story? What is he trying to do while the characters are trying to foil him? I hadn’t really considered it, because the bad guy in this story is a bound demon. He’s sort of … static. It’s not like he can wander around. But, even bound, he is driving some of the plot. I just had to figure out how. And what.

Sweet Dancing Buffy

I sat down on Friday and wrote out the backstory from the demon’s point of view. I brainstormed what the implications were as a result of that, and then detailed what he wanted to happen next. Of course, I already knew a lot of this, but writing seven pages of notes really clarified things for me.

As a result of all this villainous brainstorming, I came up with a new and exciting plot twist, and figured out what the “something cool” is that the characters need to do. I’ve got a road map. Of course, I still have to write it out and, characters being characters, we’ll no doubt take some detours. But at least I know roughly what the journey will be.

There’s nothing more frustrating to me as a reader than a book where the main characters have no agency, where they spend all their time being reactive. Maybe as a result of that, I’d gone too far the other way with this story; I knew I wanted my characters to be driving the plot, but I’d forgotten about the inevitable pushback that should come from the bad guy driving his own plot in the other direction.

Because although my good guys might not agree, it’s no fun when the bad guys are a total pushover. Amirite?

Evil duo Buffy


My Autumn TBR list

toptentuesday

I haven’t done Top Ten Tuesday for a while, mostly due to my epic lack of forward planning. As it is, it’s almost 8.30pm on Tuesday here and I’m just sitting down to draft this post. Go, team me!

This week’s theme is: “Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR List”. But it’s autumn here. So autumn.

These books are in no particular order, because I’m fickle like that. I’ve got a selection of young adult, new adult and adult, and contemporary, mystery, urban fantasy, and dystopian. (They are all by women though. Interesting.)

I’m looking forward to all of these, although I have heard mixed things about Allegiant. But I really should find out for myself — and besides, a friend loaned me the book and I reeeeeeallly have to read and return it. She’s holding two of my Harry Potter books hostage for its safe return! :O

Eleanor & Park The Intern

The Summer I Became a Nerd Every Breath

SplitSecond

AutumnBones

The Dream ThievesEnsnared

Last Will and Testament

Allegiant_DemiJacket_WetProofTest.indd


Review: ‘The Problem With Heartache’ by Lauren K. McKellar

The Problem With Heartache

The problem with heartache is that there’s no one-size-fits-all relief package. You can go to classes; you can try to embrace change. But when you wake up at two in the morning, a smile on your face because you’ve dreamt about the could have—the should have—nothing will console you.

Because seconds later, you remember.

And remembering can rip you apart.

Kate will do anything for her family. It’s why she took the job with Lee. It’s why she’s attempting to forget her pain. But it’s hard to forget, when you’re desperate to hold on. Even if Lee Collins is the perfect package.

Lee will do anything for the ones he cares about. It’s why he hired Kate.

It’s why he keeps his secrets; and it’s why he cannot, will not fall in love. Not with Kate—not with anyone.

Ever.

Note that this review by default contains some spoilers for The Problem With Crazy. If you haven’t read that heartbreaking story yet, go. Buy it and a box of tissues, and come back to me later.

I’ve been hanging out for this book since I read the first in the Crazy in Love series, The Problem With Crazy, which was one of my favourite 2014 reads. (You can read my review of that here.) The second book in the series, Eleven Weeks, covers the same period of time as the first, but looks at what Stacey, one of the supporting characters from the first book, is going through.

In Heartache, we finally get back to Kate, our leading lady from the first book. It’s six months after the tragic events in the first book, and Kate is still overwhelmed by the pain of Lachlan’s death. When Lee-freaking-Collins, lead singer of Coal, offers her a job in a clear attempt to bypass her “no charity” rule and help her ill father, she finds she grows increasingly attracted to him. But she doesn’t want to be, because she feels like she’s being unfaithful to Lachlan, or that she’ll lose him all over again if she lets his memory go. Poor girl. I wanted to make her a hot chocolate and give her the biggest hug.

Then there’s Lee, whose story is the main focus of Heartache. Ah, Lee. I liked him, I wanted to punch him in the nose, I wanted to throw him down on the bed and — um, never mind. He’s got a whopper of a dark secret in his past, and his own fair share of tragedy, and he’s decided as a result that he doesn’t deserve love and can’t have a relationship. I alternated between feeling bad for him and wanting him to stop being so damn melodramatic about everything. I’m so mean! :p

But still, Lee isn’t a typical bad boy. He’s actually a genuinely nice person who, when he’s not feeling guilty about his past, is a caring employer and family man. He’s also protective, which can result in some bad rockstar behaviour, but I forgave him for that.

My favourite thing about Heartache, far and away, is the storytelling. It’s dual point-of-view, and the voice was so clear for Kate (Aussie female) and Lee (American male) that it was easy to tell whose chapter we were in at any given time. Lee’s chapters often contained a flashback as well as some present-day narration, which slowly let us see the events in his past. Also, McKellar makes very cute use of letter-writing; Kate and Lee write to each other throughout the story, and are often able to tell each other things on paper that they never would be able to face to face.

One supporting character I was very ambivalent about was Lottie, Coal‘s stylist and mother of super-cute preschooler Jay. There was something off about her for me. But I’m pleased to say that it all made sense by the end.

I stayed up way past my bedtime, bingeing on the second half of Heartache; it’s definitely worth your time and the lack of sleep to do the same!

Four-and-a-half stars


Cover reveal: ‘Dragons Are People Too’ by Sarah Nicholas

Today, I’m revealing the cover for Dragons are People, Too, a young adult contemporary fantasy by Sarah Nicolas releasing April 28th from Entangled Teen. I signed up to share it because dragons. Duh.

Read all the way through and scroll to the bottom for a giveaway.

Never judge a dragon
by her human cover…

Sixteen-year-old Kitty Lung has everyone convinced she’s a normal teen — not a secret government operative, not the one charged with protecting the president’s son, and certainly not a were-dragon. The only one she trusts with the truth is her best friend—and secret crush — the über-hot Bulisani Mathe.

Then a junior operative breaks Rule Number One by changing into his dragon form in public — on Kitty’s watch — and suddenly, the world knows. About dragons. About the Draconic Intelligence Command (DIC) Kitty works for. About Kitty herself.

Now the government is hunting down and incarcerating dragons to stop a public panic, and a new shape-shifting enemy has kidnapped the president’s son. Kitty and Bulisani are the last free dragons, wanted by both their allies and their enemies. If they can’t rescue the president’s son and liberate their fellow dragons before getting caught themselves, dragons might never live free again.

 

Add to your Goodreads shelf

DRAGONS-ARE-PEOPLE-TOO cover

 

About the Author

 

 

Sarah Nicolas Author PhotoSarah is a 30-something YA author who currently lives in Orlando with a 60-lb mutt who thinks he’s a chihuahua. She believes that some boys are worth trusting, all girls have power, and dragons are people too.

 

She’s a proud member of the Gator Nation and has a BS in Mechanical Engineering, but has switched careers entirely. She now works as an Event Coordinator for a County Library and as a freelance book publicist and author’s assistant.

 

Website: http://www.sarahnicolas.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/sarah_nicolas

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorSarahNicolas

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/presidentsarah

Tumblr: sarahnicolas.tumblr.com

 

Giveaways (plural!)

Since Sarah couldn’t have written this book without coffee, she’s giving away a $10 Starbucks Gift Card! (Open anywhere Starbucks Gift Cards can be used.)

Win a free signed paperback copy from the author via Goodreads (US only)!


Notions of Beauty, or Why I Hate Seinfeld

I’ve never been traditionally beautiful. Even when I was a fit seventeen-year-old, walking an hour a day with a backpack full of books and a high metabolism, I wasn’t. I’ve got some major eye issues — which my poor boy has unfortunately inherited with a side-order of extra crap that is recessive in me and I never knew about. I’ve had glasses since I was a toddler and my left eye tends to wander, especially when I’m tired. My sole criterion for a good photo of me when I was younger was, “Are both my eyes pointed the same direction?”

If my curly hair wasn’t frizzy, that was a bonus.

This was basically me.

This was basically me.

Still, one of the benefits of getting older — at least for me — is that I’ve grown more comfortable in my skin. I’m no longer the fit seventeen-year-old that I was, but I’ve at least figured out which way to stand to get that bloody left eye to cooperate, and found a hair product that tames the frizz.

But there’s a health issue that’s recently cropped up for me. One that’s made me as self-conscious about my appearance as I was when I was a pimply teenager.

When I was in my early 20s I was diagnosed with nodules on my thyroid. They were small and benign, and the specialist said that he wouldn’t do anything to treat them until I was done having kids. I was meant to get them scanned every couple of years, but with one thing and another I kind of lost track of it. For over a decade. (Oops…)

Then, last year, I went to a friend’s birthday party. He was running around with his new camera, and snapped a few pictures of me. When I saw them, I was quietly horrified. Sure, the Eye was behaving and my hair was okay, but what the hell was going on with my throat?!

Turns out that, in the last decade, those nodules have been slowly growing. Now the biggest of them is over 3cm long, and it’s got a bunch of smaller friends. The end result is that I have a visible goitre. It’s been increasingly noticeable in photos over the last year or two, and now I’m aware of it, it’s all I can see. (It’s even in my profile pic on this blog, which makes me want to set everything on fire.)

And, dear glob, I hate it. Because books and fashion magazines tell us that women are meant to have swan-like necks. And because, not long before I got the original diagnosis, I saw an episode of Seinfeld where Elaine went to see a person with a goitre and oh god, cue the laugh track.

Because physical deformity is funny, yo.

I’ve got a friend who’s a Seinfeld nut, and he assures me that the source of the show’s humour was in the characters’ inappropriate, awful reactions when presented with things that were abnormal. And that may be true, but it doesn’t really help me be comfortable with my “abnormality”. (And since I hate pranks and laughing at others’ expense, that’s why I will always and forever hate that show. Sorry, Mikey.)

Anyway, I got a referral to a specialist back in December, and am waiting impatiently for my appointment. Because now I’m not planning more children. And maybe it’s just because I’ve become more aware of my throat over the past three months, but I can feel the pressure when I swallow now. It’s like having something stuck in my throat. Not cool, body! So it’s definitely time to treat this sucker.

Apparently my choices are radioactive iodine treatment or surgery. I’m barracking* for the first option, because I’m hopeful I’ll get superpowers. And the idea of deliberately letting someone cut my throat makes me want to run screaming.

* Barrack (Australian English) v:to shout boisterously for or against a player or team; root** or jeer.

**Root (Australian and NZ English) v: a replacement for the f-bomb. Eg “you’re rooted” or “let’s root”.

I feel like I should end this post with a well-constructed argument about how people should be careful when making fun of something that another person can have or be. And there is something to that. But the truth is that I’m terrified about posting this in the first place — especially since I almost never post personal things on the intertubes — so a well-constructed argument is beyond me. So instead I will end with a cat giving a high five.

Superpowers, ahoy!

High five


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