Book Review: ‘When We Have Wings’ by Claire Corbett

when we have wings cover

Book Title: When We Have Wings

Author: Claire Corbett

Genre: Speculative Fiction

Summary: Only the rich and powerful can afford to fly – the cost of the surgery, drugs, and gene manipulation is too great for anyone else. So why does Peri, a poor girl from the regions, have wings? And why would she throw it all away? Private investigator Zeke delves into the mystery of Peri’s disappearance and unravels a dark world beneath the glamourous facade of flier culture and politics.

Favourite Scene: Every scene describing what it’s like to fly – wow!

Favourite Character: Zeke Fowler

Review: This is a stunning novel – beautifully written and gorgeous with its imagery, the novel is more than just words on a page. The implication of technological advancement and how it will influence class (and even generation to generation) is represented through the ‘haves’ (wealthy fliers) and the ‘have nots’ (everyone else). The cost of wings, however, is more than just monetary – as Zeke finds out. What makes this story compelling is the narrative, split between two voices. It begins with a third person narrative from Peri’s point of view and then alternates between this and Zeke’s first person narrative of his investigation into her disappearance. Within these perspectives we have Peri’s search for truly understanding what it means to fly, and Zeke’s struggle to make the right decision for his son, knowing that whether or not his son is successful in the future could well be defined by whether or not he has wings.

The plot is, essentially, quite simple and straightforward. What I really loved about this novel was the obvious amount of research that went into its composition. Not only do we have considerations for science but also for the very nature of flight. Being able to fly like a bird means having lighter bones, burning more calories, and learning how to read the sky. Having a population of people who can fly changes how buildings are designed and constructed, how clothes are worn, and how we interact with others. The world constructed in the novel is intricate and flawless, and the characters are complex and flawed. It’s a beautiful combination!

There are subplots within the novel that weave together to create a sense that there is much more to come – not necessarily a sequel to the novel but definitely a real-life need to seriously consider the implications of technology and its role in creating (or at least redefining) human life – if we can choose a child’s eye colour, why not choose to give them wings?

I am gushing, I know. I really loved this book – it is a unique novel that stands out in a sea of rather predictable YA fiction and I cannot recommend it enough! 5 commas!

5 commas

Book Review: ‘Ready Player One’ by Ernest Cline

Book Title: Ready Player One

Author: Ernest Cline

Genre: Science Fiction / Speculative Fiction

Summary: In 2044 the world is a grim place – overpopulated and under financed, there is little hope for the future of the people living in it. Respite from this world comes through OASIS, a virtual utopia that usurps reality. Here you can attend school, go to work, and be entertained – and this is exactly what Wade does. Like many, he is searching for a way out of his grim and depressing reality, a way that is attainable but virtually impossible; OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden puzzles within OASIS, but that was years ago and no one has found any clues or signs that the prize will ever be won. The prize? Halliday’s fortune and ultimate control over OASIS. When Wade stumbles across and solves the first puzzle, the race to the final prize becomes more than just a game.

Favourite Scene: Too many. I especially loved the nature of the second puzzle! (Go on, read the book.)

Favourite Character: Ogden Morrow – he plays a minor role but he seems like a pretty cool guy.

Review: Love. Love. LOVE. This book was recommended by the ever wonderful Katy and the promise of ’80s pop-culture and gaming references was too good to refuse. And I am so glad I got my hands – and mind – on this book. In typical Stef-style, I churned through the book in a single sitting, absolutely absorbed by the characters, setting, and plot. The narrator’s voice was unique and easy to follow, so much so that it was easy to imagine this was a conversation being had over coffee.

The world constructed in Ready Player One was eerily believable. As is the case with most good dystopian novels set in “the not-too-distant-future”, Cline utilised the harsh realities of the early 21st Century to create a frighteningly plausible future. The book was published in 2011 and this makes the dates and characters especially relevent right now – the setting is 32 years away and the generations depicted in the novel are uncomfortably familiar. Referring to his aunt, Wade laments:

“Her generation had it the hardest. She’d been born into a world of plenty, then had to watch it all slowly vanish. More than anything, I remember feeling sorry for her.”

The characters were it. I could easily imagine some of my gaming friends sitting in and contributing to the conversations that took place in the book, and the ’80s pop-culture references and gaming scene were nerd-tastic.

I’m keeping a vague list of books I’ve reviewed this year that have been added to the “If you read ONE book this year” pile (let’s face it, I’ve said it a few times) and Ready Player One is definitely up there.

Read it. If you’re ready. 😉

Book Review: ‘Ruined’ by Paula Morris

Book Title: Ruined

Author: Paula Morris

Genre: YA Fiction / Paranormal

Summary: While her father is away for a year, Rebecca is sent to New Orleans to stay with family friends. The girls at her new school want little to do with her and the only person who seems remotely friendly is the very gorgeous Anton. It is not until one night in the graveyard that Rebecca meets Lisette and the two become friends, but with the friendship comes the unravelling of many secrets … and a family curse.

Favourite Scene: When the secrets about Rebecca’s past are revealed … I’m fairly sure Morris didn’t intend for it to be comical, but I was in hysterics.

Favourite Character: The cat.

Review: I read this book in a single sitting, not because I was enamoured with the characters but because I was hoping it would get better. The setting and the author’s knowledge of New Orleans is commendable – some of the descriptions of New Orleans had me ready to book a ticket there right now, and it remains on my “to go” list partly as a result of the ‘nooks and crannies’ detailed in this novel.

The story itself was … disappointing. While the idea behind the characters and plot were interesting, the overall execution was quite frustrating. Aside from being ‘a ghost story’, elements of the paranormal and the occult are sidelined for want of a love story. And that love story is pretty predictable and boring, to tell the truth. Remembering that this is a paranormal novel, there were aspects that were simply too far-fetched. In a paranormal setting I’ll accept most things with an open mind, but when [SPOILER ALERT] Rebecca’s past is revealed to her and “a friend in the CIA” assisted with changing her birth certificate (or some such nonsense), I couldn’t help but laugh. I mean, seriously?

Maybe I’m getting too old for YA fiction …

Book Review: ‘The Amazing Mind of Alice Makin’ by Alan Shea

Book Title: The Amazing Mind of Alice Makin

Author: Alan Shea

Genre: Historical Fiction / Magic Realism

Summary: In the bleak post-war landscape of 1940s London, Alice’s imagination brings colour and excitement to the old bomb sites and rubble-littered streets. Yet in the company of her new friend Reggie, the imagination that drives her stories and provides them with entertainment becomes more real, and what is imagined becomes reality.

Favourite Scene: When Alice imagines the local bullies getting stuck in bubble gum – there is a gorgeous childish aspect to the humour that I found endearing!

Favourite Character: Norman – his imagination might not turn real, but it was so real for him (and Alice’s perspective indulged this) that I couldn’t help but remember playing with friends and anything – through our imaginations – was possible. Maybe that’s why I’m a writer now …

Review: There were, without a doubt, some gorgeous aspects to this novel. The characters are children – not teenagers wanting to be adults, but children who want to play and enjoy themselves. This is a childhood when old tins are full of treasures and the neighbours look out for them. The nostalgia for childhood is obvious in the narration – the innocence of a child, the power of the imagination, the desire to belong – which I found irritating at times because I saw it as cliché. While the plot was slow-moving and the ending very rushed and abrupt (please don’t tell me there’s a sequel … you know how I feel about sequels for the sake of sequels), the children and their imagined games and adventures were thoroughly enjoyable. I would be interested to know a child’s perspective of the book, as I feel my opinions around representations of childhood have given me bias against the novel. I simply cannot rave about The Amazing Mind of Alice Makin, but I can say that Norman is adorable!