September 29, 2015

Sarah J. Schmitt: "It's a Wonderful Death" (ARC Review)

Title: It's a Wonderful Death [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Sarah J. Schmitt [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Afterlife
Year: 2015
Age: 12+
Stars: 3/5
Pros: Funny and bittersweet story with an unconventional premise for a YA book. Colourful set of characters.
Cons: The main character's moral switch is pretty wide and the butterfly effect is a bit extreme - they stretch believability.
Will appeal to: Those who like humour and sarcasm alternating with sweet interactions and emotive moments.

Blurb: Seventeen-year-old RJ always gets what she wants. So when her soul is accidentally collected by a distracted Grim Reaper, somebody in the afterlife better figure out a way to send her back from the dead or heads will roll. But in her quest for mortality, she becomes a pawn in a power struggle between an overzealous archangel and Death Himself. The tribunal presents her with two options: she can remain in the lobby, where souls wait to be processed, until her original lifeline expires, or she can replay three moments in her life in an effort to make choices that will result in a future deemed worthy of being saved. It sounds like a no-brainer. She’ll take a walk down memory lane. How hard can changing her future be? But with each changing moment, RJ’s life begins to unravel, until this self-proclaimed queen bee is a social pariah. She begins to wonder if walking among the living is worth it if she has to spend the next sixty years as an outcast. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I received this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review. As a matter of fact, I wrote to Sarah J. Schmitt as far back as December 2014, when the first blurb of IAWD was released. She replied shortly after and in a really kind fashion, promising a PDF copy of her book to me as soon as it was ready to go around. Many months passed, during which I made a point not to bother Schmitt again, hoping for the best but prepared to find out she had probably forgotten all about this small blog and its owner - and I wouldn't have hold a grudge against her if she did. You know, so many blogs, so little time :). But, true to her word, in August Schmitt reached out to me again, and confirmed that I was going get IAWD from her publicist, which happened in a few days. So, a huge THANK YOU to Sarah J. Schmitt and SkyHorse Publishing for sending me an eARC! As usual though, this didn't affect my appreciation of the book in any way. Same for the fact that the author is a self-proclaimed fellow Heroes fan :). Here goes...
Afterlife novels. I simply can't have enough of them. And the best thing about them is, I still have to come across an afterlife story that isn't original in some respect. IAWD is no exception to this unwritten rule. I don't know about adult fiction, but as far as YA lit goes, I've never read a book before where the main character gets "collected" by mistake and ends up pleading demanding to be restored in her timeline in front of a heavenly tribunal.
IAWD starts with a bang - a tragicomic one. Instead of being gradually introduced to the main character - seventeen year old RJ - we meet her at the very moment of her accidental (and bizarre) reaping. But RJ's reaction to the event gives us a definite flavour of her personality. She realised that the Grim Reaper wasn't originally aiming at her, and of course she won't volunteer to get collected - but the way she fights and demands for answers (and for her destiny to be reverted to its natural course) lets us know all there is to know about her...except it doesn't. Because for all her spunk and egocentrism and supposed mean-girl attitude, RJ is essentially guilty by association, and weak when it comes to leave the protective umbrella of the actual mean clique at school - as we are to learn soon. Not to mention, a potential good girl who has progressively lost her track.
Anyway, RJ's real nature and her chances of redemption if restored in her original timeline are not, turns out, the main concern of the afterlife bureau. Since RJ's case is apparently unprecedented, and many different interests are involved, the "legal" battle about her destiny doesn't exactly revolves around righting the wrong she endured. This is the part of the book I enjoyed more, because the limbo setting, the characters and the tribunal fight are plain fun. Schmitt populates her afterlife with a mix of characters from the Scriptures (the angels, Saint Peter), other religions (Buddha), Greek mythology (Cerberus) - all reimagined of course - plus a few originals (Al, Death-Himself), and no one is what they seem, or what you'd expect them to be. Also, RJ's reactions to the events and her banter with the supernatural beings are really enjoyable. [...]

September 22, 2015

Screen Time #3: "Heroes" (2006)

Welcome to Screen Time, my own feature where I ramble about spotlight some iconic and/or favourite TV series from the '80s, '90s and 2000s!
I'm a child of the '60s *big shock*. This accounts for me fondly remembering some oldies I grew up with, or having some of them in my all-time favourite list. But don't worry, I'm not stuck in the '80s ;). There are plenty of series I've liked and followed in the most recent years...and some current favourites too. So tune in with me, and don't forget your popcorn...

Logo property of NBC - no copyright infringement intended

Genre: Sci-Fi, Drama
Genesis: From an original idea by by Tim Kring
Time span: 2006 to 2010
Seasons: 4 (80 episodes)
Main characters & cast: Claire Bennet (Hayden Panettiere) - Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka) - Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia) - Nathan Petrelli (Adrian Pasdar) - Niki Sanders/Tracy Strauss (Ali Larter) - Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg) - Sendhil Ramamurthy (Mohinder Suresh) - Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman) - Ando Masahashi (James Kyson Lee) - Sylar (Zachary Quinto)
Story setting: Mainly New York and Odessa (Texas), but other places around the world feature as well. Most of it is make-believe though, because the series was primarily filmed in Los Angeles.
Theme song: Original theme (and score) by Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman (known in the '80s as the pop duo Wendy & Lisa)
Spin-offs and remakes (to date): The sequel/reboot Heroes Reborn is starting on Sep. 24th in the US
In three words...: Exciting, surprising, adrenalinic

September 02, 2015

Confessions of a Senior Blogger: My Take on Ageism in the Book Blogging Community

My darlings, this will be a very long post, I'm sure.
I was already debating the post title theme with myself, when the book blogging community got hit (so to speak) by the New York Daily Times bomb a few days ago. I use the word "hit" in a heavily ironic way, of course. The plain truth is, everybody just laughed at the NYDT for portraying such community as a squad of mature readers who only cared for threesomes.

Most people ironically pointed out that "love triangles" and "threesomes" hardly have anything in common. Only a few, as far as I could see, mentioned that YA is full of stories that don't necessarily imply (graphic) sex, or that barely skim it altogether. It's so obvious, there's no need to state it - not even in order to delegitimate a short-sighted article (not that I blame those who did, or am trying to lessen their efforts). But such article did hit the community, in an oblique way. After reading it (and denouncing its ridiculousness), someone voiced their concern about teens getting the short end of the stick in the YA book blogging world. The latest - and probably best articulated - post about this issue is The Unspoken Ageism in YA by Christina Li. I'm quoting a passage from it, though you should read the whole thing (I recommend that you read the comments, too):

We are not your perfect high school fantasies. We are not your constantly witty, gorgeous, and sexually confident characters. We come from all races and from every type of social situation. We develop all kinds of identities of sex and gender. We can love boldly or hesitantly, or not at all. There is no one “right” way to write YA. The next time you write about teenagers, listen to us. Respect us. And please, please don’t try to speak for us without considering our voices.

Christina's post mainly deals with the strong impression that YA has become "adult property", for a bunch of reasons. Its authors, of course, are adults (more than 18 years old at the very least). Its publishers, of course, are adults. But also most of it readers (beta, too) and reviewers are adults by now. And real teens are beginning to feel marginalised, as if adults were teaming up to decide what teens should look, think and talk like in books, without them getting a say in it.