“Solara and the Little Spaceship that Could”: Starflight Review

“Solara and the Little Spaceship that Could”: Starflight Review

Starflight by Melissa Landers is my latest read– and it was just plain fun! 🙂 Before I get into my personal list of pros and cons, I want to point out that the cover, the jacket synopsis, and the excerpt on the back are all beautiful and inviting. This is the first work by Landers I’ve read, and I’ll definitely be back.

The novel is a young adult sci-fi set in a future where humans have colonized other planets. The tourist and scientific industries hungrily eat up resources in space. Solara Brooks searches for a new life by hitching a ride with an old classmate to escape arrest her for former crimes…and from there, we travel to an endlessly interesting and action-packed array of extraterrestrial places.

My Personal Pros of Starflight:

  • The Imagery: There are just enough details– sensual and concise– to incite the imagination. Along with this strong point is Landers’ world building. Solara and her friends visit a large variety of beautiful settings. The book evoked that sensation of transcending one’s time and place and traveling amidst others.
  • Characterization: None of the people are perfect: I see that as a strong point. They’re not always likable; but in the moments they aren’t, they’re still people we can get behind. Backstories are plausible; conversations are (mostly) not cliché; and relationship dynamics are complex and mature, especially (in my opinion) for the young adult genre. There’s honestly good development in everyone.
  • Pacing: Plot developments came about in (largely) believable ways and times. Most of the progressions didn’t seem forced or rushed. Events were polished and things came full circle in a way that felt natural and exciting. And there were genuinely surprising plot twists! Yaay!
  • Aaand, lastly, I’m gonna geek out for a second: The Sci-Fi Elements! New tech, new worlds, ships and shuttles and artificial beaches and all of that good stuff lie inside Starflight, as well! It’s clear Landers did research on the science of it all.

All right, now that that gushing is out of the way, a few cons…

  • Some Cliché Moments: There were a few quotes/speeches/descriptions that either seemed blatantly cheesy, or made me question why said character was allowed to be in authority. This happens a bit in YA literature (See Insurgent and Allegiant every time Tris enters a room full of older people). In Starflight, however, this was extremely muted, and only happened a handful of times.
  • Love on a “Rusted Bucket of a Ship”: Love in a vacuum is difficult. The pacing was good, but certain “jumps” felt rushed. Things would progress naturally, and then a major development would happen…often secluded and around the occurrence of mortal threats. The issue of isolation is discussed once; however, certain *ahem* activities take precedence over its resolution.
  • Ain’t No Party Like A Holy Gh…Oh.: As a Christian, I’m not always expecting God in either sci-fi or young adult lit. The book does references communities of faith and the Holy Spirit a few times. For the most part, these are neutral and part of someone’s history. There’s one place, however (at a party) where the Holy Spirit is said to not belong. The reason is probably because the two conversing want to make out; however, this slightly offended me, because there was more merrymaking going on around them: dancing and festival stuff. I mean, guys– have you ever seen a Holy Ghost Party? Just sayin’. Apart from my feelings, I don’t see how much purpose this quote had, other than to make its speaker sound a bit (more) self-righteous.

Sooooo those are my thoughts! Anyone else read this yet? What did you think of it? Or what’s your own latest read?


Symbolically Heartwarming Alien Children: “Dawn” Review

Symbolically Heartwarming Alien Children: “Dawn” Review

This is by far the most interesting book I’ve read all semester. Usually, I check the pages often when reading for school—Dawn by Octavia Butler was an exception. When I did check my progress, it was much faster than I expected. And I didn’t ever really fatigue of reading it or want to set it down for too long. I got lost in this story, and if you’re like me in a few ways, you probably will, too.

First, a word of caution: this book is about aliens and humans. The humans are sparse and have been isolated from one another for a long time. The humans sometimes behave like animals. The aliens are involved. If you’re 15 or younger, I’d consider waiting a while. In addition to mild (alien-involved, psychologically trippy) sex scenes, there is also violence. These elements aren’t the meat and bones of the novel, but they are present.

The thing that sucked me in from page 1 was the novel’s nature: it’s a sci-fi (arguably dystopian, though the opposite could also be asserted) written by a woman of color. It’s encouraging to see another woman in this field doing such amazing work. Butler gives just enough details that you have to augment them with your own imagination. The science fiction elements captured my attention: the way the futuristic rooms are laid out, the landscape outside of those rooms, the concept of a living ship and alien languages and different foods…I tend to be attracted to stories about humanity surviving eons after their original lifetimes. Maybe that’s why I’m so enamored with the Portal franchise…

Octavia Butler’s imaginative world does more than stimulate creativity—the tests her narrator goes through push readers to test and examine our current society. The concept of “others,” struggles of different regions and customs, and different levels of authority in the homestead are all observed. She poses human questions about community: the book’s sections, “Womb,” “Family,” “Nursery,” and “Training Ground” delineate the stages of coming into the world, but also describe Lilith’s emergence into her new environment. Should she come out of hiding? How will she get along with others? Do we really ever progress from childish disputes, or only pretend to do so? These questions are skillfully cloaked within the story.

The characters become increasingly endearing the more time we spend with them (or, if not, they are at least minimally sympathetic). One of the alien children became pretty much my favorite character in the entire book even though at times I didn’t particularly like this character. The impact of what’s happened to humanity in the book didn’t really kick in for me until the last page; but it left me feeling depressed. This book will entertain you and make you think; but if you don’t want to think too much, take it in doses. 🙂

Well, that’s about it for this review. Let me know what you’re reading or what you want to read next!

Book Pastry Tag

Book Pastry Tag

Hey, guys! I have another book tag to fill the time between reviews. This one, I got off of B O O K W O R M I A C ‘s blog—it’s called the Book Pastry Tag. Let’s get right into the prompts:

1. Croissant: Name a popular book or series that everyone (including you) loves.

For this one, I’m going to go with The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Everyone seemed to know about this book when its popularity exploded, even people like me who didn’t normally read historical fiction.

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Additionally, the movie was fairly well-received when it came out in 2013 (its Rotten Tomatoes rating was average). The story’s plot structure and emotion were two strong points.

2. Macaron: Name a book that was hard to get through but worth it at the end.

There were several books I considered here; but many weren’t worth the effort. I chose C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce. A good number of Lewis readers can probably attest to the fact that his theology, even when blended with fiction, can be mentally tiring in large doses.

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And The Great Divorce isn’t even that long! Still, reflecting on the implications of what I was reading took some time. At the end, when I was able to reflect on the entire work, it was satisfying and definitely made it worth the read.

3. Vol-au-vent: Name a book that you thought would be amazing but fell flat.

Wondering what in creation a Vol-au-vent is? So was I! According to the Internet, it’s “a small round case of puff pastry filled with a savory mixture, typically of meat or fish in a richly flavored sauce.” I suppose the writer of this prompt doesn’t care for meat in the middle of his or her pastry.

For this prompt, I’m going with Inkdeath, the third installment in the Inkheart trilogy by Cornelia Funke. While the first book merited enough attention to garner its own movie, the sequels (and said movie) fell flat. The second and third books had action that was as drawn out as taffy.

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By the end of the third book, I just wanted it to be over. Funke has definite skill; I just saw less of it in the second half of the trilogy.

4. Pain au Chocolat: Name a book that you thought would be one thing but turned out to be something else.

Basically, this pastry is bread with chocolate in the middle—self-explanatory. As a past, seasoned Fanfiction writer, I assumed Rainbow Rowell’s great novel, Fangirl, would center less on Cath’s real world and more on her beloved imaginary one. However, this didn’t turn out to be a disappointing surprise. In fact, it was necessary for Rowell to center on reality: any book can provide fantasy. But the point of Fangirl was that Cath has to come to grips with her identity in reality.

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Minimizing the fantasy world and digging into the real one caused this message to be delivered in the best way. As someone who’s struggled with this, it struck several chords with me. But it wasn’t exactly what I initially expected. 😉

5. Profiterole: Name a book or series that doesn’t get enough attention.

Have any bread left? Good. Take that bread, make it into a small, circular shape, and slather it in cream/chocolate. Now you’ve got this delicious-looking thing that I really want to try right now.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, though written in 1938, has the classic charm and a character cast that reminds me of Austen.  While not as popular or as refined, perhaps, it’s a unique story about a new bride who arrives at an estate called Manderley, where mysterious clues hint at more than what’s on the surface.

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The ending genuinely surprised me, and the action never falls flat. Today’s readers may not love the difference in style, but, as far as literary merit goes, it at least deserves more attention, if not more acclaim.

6. Croquembouche: Name a book or series that’s extremely complex.

I’m not really sure how to describe this pastry; but if you Google the name, you’ll get some very pretty pictures of pastry towers! My pick for this one is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. This is one of the classics that taught me how intricate plots and character relationships can be.

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I admire Dumas’ way of showing consequences for actions—something you do today can have an impact on another’s life (and your own) years from now. And all the characters’ choices played into this skillful spider web in a way that brought the book to a natural climax and conclusion (or several, if you want to look at it that way). Dumas’ grip on plot is something I gleaned from in high school and something that has stayed with me.

7. Napoleon: Name a movie or TV show based off a book that you liked better than the book itself.

Maybe it’s that I’m slightly hungry, but my inclination for this one was to say it looks good and you’d want to eat it, instead of actually telling you what it was. I’m not going to tell you what it is—you all have search engines and local bakeries. At least, I think so.

Normally, I’m in the traditionalist, read-that-book-before-claiming-to-be-a-fan, “movies are merely adaptations” camp. However. However! Sometimes, movie additions can enhance the story presented. I didn’t used to think so. But Lois’ Lowry’s The Giver movie added a completely different ending than the one presented in the book. But I loved it!

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It did homage to the story continued in later novels while still seeming natural and building realistic suspense. This movie taught me that the merits of the film industry are by no means confined to a certain printed volume.

8. Empanada: Name a book that was bittersweet.

Think taco ironed around the edges, with filling inside. That’s an empanada. I think. Heck, this is a book blog, not a cooking show!

I’m going to go with a popular one here, just to prepare y’all. I honestly thought this was a good choice for this category, though. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

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Sure, everyone goes into these stories expecting to feel sad emotions. But it’s not just the presence of cancer that makes it bittersweet. It’s the fact that the novel examines something immediate to us: life doesn’t last forever. We do meaningful things on earth, but ultimately our time has to end. And we don’t get a guarantee that it’ll be a convenient end date, either. Everybody has an expiration date. It hurts especially when those bodies are young.

9. Kolompeh: Name a book or series that takes place somewhere other than your home country.

As far as I can tell, these look like really decorative, round cookies filled with stuff. Hey, I’d try them.

In middle school, I picked up a book by Wayne Thomas Batson called The Door Within. The best way I can describe it is C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe mixed with some Lord of the Rings, for middle school aged readers.

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The protagonist, Aidan, enters a world accessed from his own mind and heart, where the people live in “round table” times and things like dragon-esque creatures and giant, moving mazes are normal…ish. Everyone’s eyes reveal the status of their soul—whether they serve the good King, are undecided, or serve the King’s enemies. The trilogy was one of my favorites in middle school and continues to have a place in my heart.

10. Pate a Choux: Name one food from a book or series that you would like to try.

These literally look like biscuits…I don’t know what else to say about them! For my food of choice, I would pick any meal from the Hunger Games Capitol city. One of those banquets—I’d grab some of that pea soup or something with bread and cheese!

All right, that’s it for this book tag! I tag anyone who wants to do this tag. Feel free to leave a comment so I can read yours as well. Later! 🙂