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://i2.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

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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:

The Eternal Kiss by various authors, edited by Trisha Telep

I actually tend to like anthologies because it gives me a chance to “try out” or find new authors I may not have tried out on my own. Usually there are always hits and misses, but what I liked about The Eternal Kiss was that although it is a young adult anthology and it’s about vampires it doesn’t make the mistake of only being about teenage romance, and it doesn’t shy away from the darker side of vampires. I picked this ARC up at BEA.

I did something a little different here – I wrote up my review as I read the book, just jotting a couple of sentences on each short story. Very brief reviews follow (my two favorite stories were the ones by Karen Mahoney and by Sarah Brennan):

1) Falling to Ash by Karen Mahoney – Vampire girl (Moth) comes home to find her sire wants her to get the ashes of a recently staked vampire. Really like this one, this author has been on my radar on LJ, but I hadn’t connected the the LJ user with “Karen Mahoney” (sometimes things get past me), until I had already read and liked this.  This is the introduction to a series about Moth, so now looking forward to it.

2) Shelter Island by Melissa de la Cruz – 15 year old Hannah has a mysterious visitor at night. I couldn’t connect with this one. I think the characters, particularly the female protagonist were a not substantial enough in the amount of pages this story was for me to grasp them.

3) Sword Point by Maria V. Snyder – Girl fencer discovers that the prestigious fencing school she goes to is more than it seems – interesting at first but then I started to lose interest halfway when the relationship part occurs. The action at the end felt very perfunctory.

4) The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black – A bitten girl tries to stay human, but then learns her ex-boyfriend and a neighbor girl have run away to Coldtown, the vampire section of town. A dark story about the glamorizing of vampirism. Liked it, nice and chilling.

5) Undead is Very Hot Right Now by Sarah Brennan – A nineteen year old who has been a vampire for a year joins a boy band. Hilarious. I laughed aloud so much reading this one. Another author I plan to look for in the bookstore.

6) Kat by Kelley Armstrong – A teen is awoken by her vampire guardian and try to escape would-be captors in the middle of the night – Interesting. Ending makes me want to read more, maybe the start of a series?

7) The Thirteenth Step by Libba Bray – Teen gets a job at a halfway house which may not be all that it seems. I think my own experiences cloud the way I read this story. It bothered me that the protagonist become like the addict sister she considered selfish.

8 ) All Hallows by Rachel Caine – Vampire boyfriend of the narrator gets into trouble and she goes in to save him. Readers may need to have read other Morganville books. This is a short story in that world that seems to fit in the timeline after the first 4 or 5 books.

9) Wet Teeth by Cecil Castellucci A vampire begins to feel alive for the first time in a long time after meeting a strange girl in the park. This one seems to focus on the ending, and left me a bit wanting for the rest of the story, but seems to be in the right vein for horror.

10) Other Boys by Cassandra Clare- A girl begins to get interested in the new boy in school, who says he’s a vampire. This one had elements of nice old school horror.

11) Passing by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié – A girl has to pass the final class in her vampire hunter academy – only one student will get a special elixar. A bit too complex of a back story to cram into a short story space.

12) Ambition by Lili St. Crow –  Smart but poor schoolgirl meets boy at club. Girl falls out with rich best friend. Boy may be supernatural. Dreamy, sort of hazy relationship that may be dangerous à la Heavenly Creatures. I keep re-reading the last three lines, wanting questions answered.

13) All Wounds by Dina James – Girl discovers her grandmother and the bad boy in detention aren’t exactly who she thought they were, and neither is she. Looks like the start of a new series so there’s a lot of plot set-up, but not much time for more than brief character sketches.

The Eternal Kiss will be released July 27th.

Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder

Fire Study (Study, Book 3)
Maria V. Snyder

Fire Study is the final book in the Study trilogy which follows Yelena Zaltana, a prisoner turned food-taster in Ixia, then magic student and ambassador in Sitia.

I reviewed Magic Study (the second book) last month here – vox | livejournal . Poison Study is the first book.

When I read Magic Study I was comparing it to Poison Study (which I loved), and noticing the differences in the books. They felt like very different reads despite being in the same series. Besides a different "feel" they are also not set in the same location and we see an almost completely new cast of characters.  Magic Study moves away from the people Yelena knew in Ixia. Instead we start to learn about Yelena's family and Sitia and about Yelena's problems with coming back home where she isn't exactly welcomed or trusted.

In comparison, Fire Study fits very well with Magic Study. The plot of Magic Study seems written with Fire Study in mind, so there are strings left in Magic Study that directly relate to much of what goes on in Fire Study. These two books have the same feel – mostly set in Sita, with a lot of Yelena's rushing into things and hoping things will work out. Her modus operandi. We have the same villians in Fire Study as with Magic Study, and the her brother Leif along for the ride in both books. The story continues where Magic Study left off with Yelena trying to pursue the villians, and she travels throughout Sitia to do so. In the meantime she is also trying to understand her magic and what it means because she's discovered that she's a Soulfinder – which isn't taken well by some people.

The main thing in Fire Study is Yelena finally finding her place in the world. I think that's probably why this time we see more Ixians – the Commander makes a couple of appearances, Valek is around a bit more, and so are Ari and Janco. The point seems to be so the reader sees Yelena someone who bridges both Sitia and Ixia. Before I read this I saw reviews that it was worth the read also to see what it meant for Yelena to be a Soulfinder - her real role gets revealed. This is true, though I sort of figured out the point a long time ago and was a bit surprised that it wasn't obvious to many people. Maybe I've just seen a lot of shinigami anime. Anyway, here too Yelena finds her place.

Good bits and nits:

Good:

  • I liked all the parts where Valek was around. I think the chemistry between the two is well written, and you feel that despite the long-distance relationship, they still feel strongly about each other.
  • As I said above, It did feel more cohesive with Magic Study.
  • I've commented on this in other reviews: usually Synder's villian's aren't black and white, we see why they are motivated to do what they do and they kind of make sense in a twisted way.

Nitty:

  • There was a complete wild goose chase in half of this book. It seemed like a lot of effort was put into getting Yelena to go off somewhere running around in Sitia, but why? I wasn't completely sure. Maybe it was the villians' diabolical plan, muhahahaha? but still rather… well, it's strange and I'm confused about it.
  • I didn't buy into the parts of the book where everyone was angry at Yelena. The reasons were silly, and then I just saw that everyone is annoyed at her, but I didn't see her as being particularly worthy of all the snits everyone was in. The only argument I bought was the one with Valek. And when these issues got resolved it was really quickly without much discussion.
  • So many villians. Making things too complicated – as in I"'m not sure I believe that there could be so many villians all up in here! Why, another one! Where'd you come from!".  I think because of this, the villians started becoming more caricature-ish than in past books.

Overall: worth reading to finish the series. I'd say a decent read and nice to see how the people in Poison Study turned out. However Poison Study remains my favorite book in the series by far. Loved that book when I first read it, probably should reread it.

Did you know there is a Study livejournal community? I did not until today.

Also cool thing – Maria Snyder has short stories online to read:  Assassin Study (starring Valek), and Power Study (with Janco and Ari).

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Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder

Magic Study (Study, Book 2)
Maria V. Snyder

Magic Study is a fantasy novel and  the second book in the Study trilogy.

In book 1, Yelena, our protagonist and narrator, is a woman imprisoned for murder who was given the choice between death or being the poison taster for the Commander of Ixia. Yelena chooses to become a poison taster, learns a lot about poison, and soon becomes involved with the political intriuge around her. The story was gripping because to keep Yelena in check, Valek, the Commander's assassin and spy-master has poisoned her. Yelena and must take a daily dose of the antidote to stay alive. In Magic Study Yelena has been freed and sent to Sitia to meet her family and to learn to control her magic.

I found Poison Study so compelling because of Yelena being on the edge of death every day while dealing with the intruige and the growing romance with Valek. It was difficult not to compare Magic Study to the previous book, and while it was still well written and compelling, it didn't seem to be on the same level as Poison Study (I'm not sure it COULD be, because the same situations that made Poison Study such a page-turner can't really be repeated again in a second book). On the other hand there were relationships which were interesting (when she meets her brother for the first time, he hates her on sight and is sure she is a spy), and a magical serial killer on the loose, and Yelena is still learning her magic so there are enough things going on to keep me reading. It just didn't feel the same. Maybe because I wanted there to be more of Yelena learning her magic than running headlong into trouble and trying to save people, and there sure was a lot of disastrous situations happening one after another – it started to feel manufactured that as soon as one thing is dealt with, something else happens. The plot felt like a string of Yelena solving everyone's problems, and that made the story as a whole suffer, despite it being well written. I think taking out one or two "Yelena runs into trouble and figures out some new thing with her magic to save herself/someone else" scenes and adding some more character depth scenes (like the resolution with her problems with her brother needed more than what it got), I would have been happier with the story. In any case, the fact that there are grey characters that had competing views they had of the same situation and their attitudes change as they grow is something I liked. This still is a keeper for me.

Side note – Opal, Cowen a glassmaker who has a small part in this book is getting her own series starting with Storm Glass which comes out in 2009.

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