Outside In by Maria V. Snyder

Outside In
Maria V. Snyder

I really enjoyed Outside In when it came out last year so I’ve been looking forward to the second book for a while. I snapped this one up on Netgalley.

*** The premise of this book has spoilers for the ending of Outside In, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, go check out the review for the first book: https://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg ****

Have they gone yet? OK.

The Premise: Trella and her band of Sheep have managed to overthrow the dictatorship of the Pop Cops and the Insiders now know they are in a giant spaceship and that Outside is really Outer Space. The good news for everyone is that their ship has many more levels than they previously thought – plenty of room to expand, but the whole ship suffers from growing pains as a result of the recent changes and revelations. A committee has been created to lead the ship, but it can’t seem to agree on anything, scrubs and uppers still treat each other with the same disdain, and Trella wants nothing more than to explore and let others take care of the current mess.

Read Chapter 1 of Outside In here

My Thoughts: The story begins again with Trella trying to get back into her old habits – which are to do her own thing and let others fend for themselves. Although Trella notes that the committee is having difficulties and that there is a general sense of dissatisfaction on the ship, all she wants to do is let someone else take care of the problems for once. She doesn’t feel comfortable making decisions responsible for the people of the ship, but when saboteurs appear, Trella doesn’t hesitate to jump in and help. That Trella is willing to risk her life for people on the ship, but not willing to lead them, frustrates Riley. This frustration is compounded by Trella’s usual reluctance to let him know what is going on.

I thought that the first half of this book was promising, albeit without the same sort of pull that the first book had on me. I felt like there was a little awkwardness in its execution – a lot of dialogue and a plot that feels oddly episodic (a string of events following each other with cliffhanger-ish endings to each that segue into the next event). I had mixed feelings about Riley’s character in this book as well – his reaction to being unhappy with Trella didn’t sit well with me, but I was willing to see where their relationship went.  I still felt that the story had some interesting ideas that I was willing to follow where the plot led. I liked that things were not easy for the Insiders – after what happened in Inside In, things aren’t all solved. Instead there’s chaos as people try to figure out what to do next and what their roles are. Although the story wasn’t as strong as the first book’s, the science fiction concepts are interesting enough as an introduction to the genre, and comparing it to a similar book with people in a spaceship (Across the Universe), I felt like I liked this book better. There are a lot more secondary characters which influence the running of the ship and the conflicting personalities made me hope for some compelling drama. The mystery of who was behind the explosions and why also captured my imagination. I wondered what it would take to fix these problems and to get the people of the ship to band together.

Then the concept of Outsiders is introduced. (This is not a spoiler, it’s mentioned in the back blurb).

At first I was still relatively optimistic about this. It seemed to be just the igniter for Trella’s determination to save her ship and for the Insiders to band together. But then the plot sort of dissolved into a bunch of vignettes in which Trella moves forward only to find another setback. One disaster followed another but they happened so quickly, without pause between each that there was no room for Trella to do any self-analysis or any contemplation before she’s moving on into the next fray.  The constant action felt forced, and it made events blur into one another in a meaningless jumble. By the time the end came, I found myself disappointed in the direction of the story.

To be honest, in the midst of reading this book, I read a review of it over at the Book Smugglers where Thea pointed out “once the outsiders become known, they change the trajectory of the story, shifting the focus from internal strife to banding together against an external threat – which feels like a writerly cop-out”. I don’t think I am one to be influenced by others opinions but I did read this before the Outsiders began to really influence the plot – take that as you may. I still don’t dislike this book as much as Thea ended up disliking it, but I did end up agreeing with her on the above point.

What compounds my disappointment beyond feeling like using the Outsiders was an easy way out is that with this addition to the story we have the first book all over again. All you have to do is replace the Outsiders with the Pop Cops and the Trava family. Trella begins with her usual exploration, she ignores others, she is pulled into current events, she and others unite against a common enemy.  I don’t see anyone else remarking on this, so I am definitely in the minority in seeing this pattern. At any rate, I wish I didn’t see it, because I’d prefer if Outside In was more distinct from its predecessor. When I compare this book to the first one, it makes me wonder if the series was planned beyond book 1. There doesn’t seem to be a long-running story ARC, just a sort of repetition of the same concepts.

Overall: I have mixed feelings.  This is still a fine story for newcomers to the science fiction genre. If you loved Beth Revis’ Across the Universe, I’d recommend this – I like it as much if not better. It has plenty of urgency and action as well as a twisty plot. However, Outside In suffered from an awkwardness that I didn’t find in the first book, and the direction of the story was disappointing. I wanted things to be less pat, and more complicated. I wanted harder lessons. I’m not sure how others would weigh the mix of likes and dislikes I had, but they sort of balanced each other out and put this book under “it was OK” in my mind. So I recommend the first book but feel that your mileage may vary on the second.

Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository

Other reviews:
All Things Urban Fantasy – 4 bats (out of 5)
Galleysmith – mixed review (I had similar feelings to hers)
Squeaky Books – 5/5
Presenting Lenore – 4 zombie chickens (out of 5)
Yummy Men and Kick Ass Chicks – 3.5 (out of 5)
Good Books and Good Wine – positive
Tez Says – positive
Larissa’s Bookish Life – 4 Loveys (out of 5)
Reading with Tequila – 5 shots (out of 5)
The Book Smugglers – 4 (Really Bad)
Genrereviews – 3.5 pints of blood (out of 5)
Calico_reaction – Like, not love

Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder

Inside Out (Harlequin Teen)
Maria V. Snyder

I got a copy of this book for review from the publisher, HarlequinTeen, through NetGalley.

The Premise: Trella is a scrub, a worker who cleans pipes and air ducts in the world of Inside. She’s a loner and has been nicknamed The Queen of the Pipes because of her habit of hiding and sleeping in them. She hates the scrubs and her job, and her only friend is Cog, one of her care mates. Cog’s a dreamer and popular with the scrubs. He believes in Gateway, a way out of Inside, and one day introduces Trella to a prophet who claims he can prove it’s existence. Broken Man, the prophet, once lived among the Uppers, the group that lives above the scrubs, and he claims he hid some disks above his sleeping quarters before he was captured by the Population Control Police (aka the Pop Cops). He asks Trella to try to get the disks but when she’s almost caught, it unleashes a series of events that changes Inside forever.

Read an excerpt of Ch 1-3 of Inside Out

My Thoughts: I *loved* Snyder’s first book Poison Study, but after that one I didn’t find myself as in love with the rest of the series and I didn’t really have high expectations of Inside Out. I was wrong. I started it late at night thinking I’d read a couple of pages and then go to bed, but before I knew it I was 60 pages in and not wanting to go to sleep. Eventually there were some lulls for me in the reading but for the most part I found the book an easy read.

I think it hits a few things that I personally like in my books:

  • A strong female protagonist with a great voice – I’m glad I liked the main character because it’s from her first person POV. At first Trella is a cynical loner who thinks she knows everything, but as the book continues she becomes more positive. She’s smart, she’s resourceful, and she’s also growing and learning that her preconceptions need to be questioned. I loved seeing how she changed from when we first meet her when Inside Out begins and when the book ended. I think it helps that I never disliked Trella even when she was negative. She had some bad experiences when she was young and she closed herself from others and she built a wall around herself. I couldn’t blame her for it.
  • Strong relationships – I liked how Cog’s personality was the complete opposite of Trella’s, but he still supported her and was a positive force in her life. I loved Cog. I think we should all have one in our lives – the friend who is open and genuinely LIKES people. I liked how he accepted Trella no matter what.
  • Great world building – At first I wasn’t sure what to make of Inside, but once I decided to imagine something like the City of Ember, I imagined the world as a maze of white corridors and rooms, lots of people wearing colored-coded jumpsuits and endless pipes and ducts. And it’s an integral part of the story. I already like science fiction so I warmed to the world quickly.
  • A little bit of romance – it’s not a big focus and the romantic interest has a small role, but it was a nice counterpart to all of Trella’s stress to have one person, Riley, a boy who is an Upper, who had her relaxing her constant guard.

When I look at some of the other blogger’s reviews of this book I was initially surprised to find negative reviews. The problem it seems is that the world building can feel too confusing and Trella can come off as unlikeable. I am more surprised that people didn’t like Trella than I am about the world building. I will agree that the dimensions of Inside plus imagining a three dimensional blueprint of it can get tedious at times. There is some awkwardness in describing Inside as a tic-tac-toe board in 3D, and then labeling each square, and I skimmed over the explanation of weeks and centiweeks, workdays of 10 hours on, and 10 hours off. I am still iffy on Trella’s age in our system.. I think it’s 17 years old. But Trella never really felt unlikeable to me. Anyway, it just illustrates how you never know what will make or break a book for people!

The ending to this book has a bit of a surprise to it, but in a good way I think. The book slowly adds up to the end, and I had my suspicions for a while but I still liked the way Snyder presented it. I felt that the book ended quite nicely and I am not sure what the author can come up with for the next book Outside In. I hope it’s something good because she set the bar high for me with Inside Out.

Overall: This went above my expectations and I really enjoyed this young adult science fiction story. I felt satisfied by the way things ended – it got a rare happy sigh from me. I recommend it highly, but I think you have to be a reader who likes imperfect protagonists and has patience for confusing world building.

Bonus – Check out the Inside Out website
(there’s a quiz to see what you’d be assigned to in Inside. I got ” INVALID: You are too confounding to place. Inside has no use for anomalies. Report directly to the Chomper.”  *CRY*!?)

Buy: Amazon | Powells

Other reviews (mix of disliked and really liked)
Book Love Affair (7 out of 10)
Genre Reviews – 4 pints of blood (out of 5)
Reading with Tequila (5 shots out of 5)
Lurv a la Mode – 4 out of 5 scoops
The Last Blog in the Universe – a negative review
Tez Says – found the concept befuddling
Presenting Lenore – 5 zombie chickens (out of 5)

Book Trailer:

Intertwined by Gena Showalter

This is a review for an ARC copy that I got at BEA. Intertwined is another offering from Harlequin’s new line: Harlequin Teen (I reviewed another of their books, Rachel Vincent’s My Soul To Take on this blog in July – LJ | wordpress).

The Premise: Aden Stone is a teen who has been in and out of trouble for a really long time. The reason is that he can hear voices that no one else does. When he replies to them out loud, people think he’s crazy. What’s really going on is that Aden has four souls trapped inside him, who each have an ability which means Aden also has that ability. One day he runs into Mary Ann Gray, a girl who completely stops the voices inside him. They feel an interesting bond between them, but soon afterwards they meet a werewolf who has an interest in Mary Ann and a vampire princess who Aden is pulled towards.

My Thoughts: I liked that Aden Stone was a character with very serious past mistakes, the kind that means treatment options and people not trusting him. This is something you don’t always see in YA, but I’ve seen in before in another Showalter YA novel, Red Handed (where the main character was a drug addict in recovery). For this reason I found Aden the strongest character in the book, although the focus sometimes shifted off him onto Mary Ann. Mary Ann had a happier past, but she also had some depth, particularly in her relationship with her father and best friend.

There are two romances in here and although the blurb pretty much gives you an idea of who is interested in who (so this isn’t a spoiler), the first people who meet in this book are Aden and Mary Ann.  The third person narration focuses on them, so I thought they were being set up as a couple, but they’re not. They meet the other two main characters and immediate crushes are fostered. I would have liked the getting to know you to happen before each character decided they were smitten, and less telling rather than showing, so the romances didn’t do it for me, but were a couple of sweet moments. I of course had my cynic’s cap on regarding the vampire princess being 80 years old, but that’s a personal pet peeve, and here vampires mature less slowly (the equivalent of terrible twos is several years for example) which made it feel a bit more acceptable.

Besides the action in the very beginning of the book, it was a lot of set up into the world and the pacing felt slow at first. It is a long book (442 pages in this ARC) and about 200 pages of it is the protagonists meeting, finding out about each other’s powers and basically going to school. Things became more interesting when Aden’s time travel came into play. From that point on, I was reading at a happy speed, but once the significance of what he saw when he time-travelled was resolved the book sort of fast forwarded through to a quick ending that left me a little unsatisfied. It wasn’t quite a cliffhanger, but it felt really abruptly (and conveniently!) done.

A biggest problem I had with the book was that there were a lot of ideas being thrown at the reader. It’s hard to list them all. There’s all of Aden’s abilities, his past, Mary Ann’s affect on Aden, their relationship to each other, romances with others, and several kinds of supernatural creatures for starters. There felt like a lot of story arcs without a distinct focus. I think I’d have preferred that the author concentrate on Aden and his story rather than bringing in all this outside elements and jumping back and forth between Aden and Mary Ann.

Overall: As escapist fun, this was OK but flawed (uneven pacing and too much going on, things where YMMV). If I think about it there were a few things plot-wise which I hope get cleared up in later books, but the start of this series hasn’t wowed me.

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers – Ana liked it and gave it an 8

Steph Su Reads – 2 out of 5 (had some similar complaints as me re: too much going on)

There’s Intertwined sweepstakes with a $10,000 grand prize! You can enter every day until November 16th

My Soul to Lose // My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent

My Soul to Lose is a free short story prequel (free!!!) which is available here at Rachel Vincent’s site.

The Premise: This is prequel happens about a year before the events in My Soul to Take, and is referred to in the book. Kaylee is shopping in the mall with her best friend Emma when she sees someone who triggers an attack. It is so bad that Kaylee’s aunt and uncle go to extremes for her own safety- they put her into a psychiatric hospital.

My Thoughts: A substantial freebie and worth reading. My Soul to Lose fills in some back story mentioned in My Soul to Take, while hinting at Kaylee’s problems in that book. It also was a little illustration on Kaylee’s relationship with her friend Emma – who sticks by her through everything. The setting seemed well researched as well. I’ve visited psych wards and Vincent does well to describe the setting, although I would say in my experience there is a mixed bag – friendly and not so friendly people, not all scary which seemed to be the perception here. I found it interesting that the reader finds out some things in the short story that Kaylee doesn’t remember in the first Soul Screamers book. I’m curious if she begins to remember in later books.

I wanted to read My Soul to Take after I saw Tez’s review, and was happy to the ARC at BEA at the Harlequin booth. Harlequin is starting a new Teen line (Harlequin Teen) and My Soul to Take is their first offering.

The Premise: Kaylee Cavanaugh is a teen with a secret problem. Sometimes she sees people and knows they’re going to die, and this causes an unbearable compulsion to scream – loud, scary, wails that she has no control over which scares everybody and herself. Her family treat her like she has some kind of panic attack and seem afraid of her episodes. One night Kaylee and her best friend sneak into a nightclub and run into Nash, a very popular guy at school. Remarkably, Nash seems interested in Kaylee, and when she starts feeling an episode coming along, he has an idea of what to do and how to help. But things don’t end there, girls Kaylee’s age keep dying for no visible reason, and Kaylee begins to feel convinced that they were never supposed to die.

My Thoughts: Kaylee seems like an average, run-of-the-mill teenager. It seems to be an unremarkable life except for her strange “panic attacks”. I prefer hearing about a “normal” teen, not someone who is a teen cliche, like “the cheerleader” or some other stock character.  She isn’t too angsty despite her problems either – she has a balance and a small, but good support system.  She approached her problems with a level head even though she was confused and frightened about what was going on. As heroine’s go, she’s not too bad: I wouldn’t call her voice distinct, but she has interesting abilities and life.

The world building is the best part of the story. When you first get into the book there are a series of questions that as they get answered, provide the basis for a whole world unbeknown to most. What Kaylee’s screaming really is and why it’s happening. What the people around Kaylee know. How the world we don’t know about works. What Nash knows and how he fits into things. I enjoyed the way the author took a seldom used aspect of the supernatural in this book and put her own spin on it, but I won’t go into detail because that would be spoilerific. I DID come into this with a guess as to what Kaylee was because: girl who senses death and cannot stop a scream? It points to one obvious thing. However, Vincent makes it a little more complicated than that. This is told from the first person point of viewpoint of Kaylee, so we learn as she does at a natural pace as events unfold. I thought this was well done and made me keep turning the pages to learn more.

One thing I have to say though: What the hell is up with the adults in this book? They did some questionable things, particularly Kaylee’s dad and his decision regarding her upbringing. I guess his past was his excuse but I found the excuse a little flimsy and felt as annoyed as Kaylee at all the adults around her when she discovers what had been going on. It seemed to be more of a convenient way to keep Kaylee ignorant rather than believable parenting. I hope they redeem themselves in some way in the next book because I wasn’t satisfied here.

The other minor issue I had was to do with the romance. I believed that Kaylee and Nash made a cute couple, and Nash seemed to care about Kaylee once he made it known he was interested, but I couldn’t quite trust his explanation for why he was interested in the first place. He’s a known player in school, going from girl to girl and tossing them aside like Kleenex, and suddenly he seems genuinely interested in Kaylee. Kaylee herself half expects his attention to be a big joke and for him to ignore her the next day at school. It’s true that they have more in common then you would initially suspect, but I can’t believe it’s just what Kaylee really is that attracted him, yet that’s what seems to be his reason for noticing her. This didn’t satisfy me as a reason to date someone, and his explanation to Kaylee contradicted his mom’s comment about “finally” meeting her. I hope more is explained in the next book because right now it makes me feel a bit like something is “off”, despite the pacing and other aspects of the romance being fine. Kaylee genuinely seems to connect with Nash, and he is the only one who can calm her or know what’s going on with her “panic attacks” which brings the two of them closer fairly quickly. It just bugs me that his motivations don’t seem clear, and that I know why Kaylee likes him (he’s charming despite her reservations), but not vice versa (but this could be a downside of the first person POV). Hmm.

Overall: A solid read. It didn’t bowl me over, but I really liked the world building in this one and there’s enough mystery and suspense in it to keep me reading. There’s a decent teen romance here as well, secondary to the main plot.  Although the romance’s pacing is fine I still have an unexplained niggling feeling about it  (expounded on above), which may be splitting hairs. I’m interested enough to probably read the second book My Soul to Save which comes out in January 2010.

My Soul to Take is released August 1st.

Jess is giving away a copy but deadline is TONIGHT (July 24th)

Other reviews of My Soul to Take (Most I see so far loved it):
Sci Fi Guy gave it a glowing review
Anna’s Book blog gave it a 5/5
Book Reviews by Jess – she gave it an almost perfect score
Tez Says – also a good review with a profound reaction
Reviews of My Soul to Lose
Dear Author gave it a C-
Anna’s Book blog gave it 3/5