Rick Yancey Signing and a Few Thoughts on The Last Star

So I’ve been meaning to write this post for two months now… oops… But better late than never, right?

When I heard Rick Yancey was coming to Parnassus Books in Nashville on a SATURDAY (I hate when authors come on weeknights… so not convenient…), I decided I definitely needed to consider an outing to see him. I really enjoyed the psychological nature of The 5th Wave, and Rick continued to mess with my mind in The Infinite Sea, so I was looking forward to seeing how it would all conclude in The Last Star.

So I made the trip, and thankfully had a friend, who also happens to be one of my writing critique partners, to sit and chat with as we waited.

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At this point, it’s hard to remember too many details of what Rick said, but like pretty much every YA author I’ve ever seen speak he was so funny. (I really hope one day someone will say the same about me!) Someone asked him if he was a plotter or pantser, and he was like, “What’s a pantser? Like fly by the seat of my pants? Is that an actual term?!” And when we confirmed yes, that’s what a pantser is and yes, that’s a real term, he said, “Oh, I’m totally a pantser!” This surprised me because his plotting seems so intricate, but of course, that sort of thing can be helped through multiple drafts. He explained how the idea for The 5th Wave was really born out of an image he had of a young girl running from something, frightened.

Also, plotting or no, Rick Yancey had his plans disrupted when his editor read The 5th Wave for the first time and asked, “What happened to Ben Parrish?” In this version of the story, he is just mentioned in passing by Cassie. So Rick was like, “I don’t know, I guess he dies just like everyone else Cassie knows.” And then the editor went on to say, “Oh no, Ben Parrish does not die.” And thus, a whole new narrative ended up being weaved into the story. And then when Rick Yancey tried killing Ben again in the second book, his editor again insisted, “Ben Parrish does not die.” To which Rick exclaimed, “Seriously?! The guy’s a cockroach!” The trip to the signing was worth it alone to get in on this “inside joke” that is definitely referenced in The Last Star.

He talked very briefly about the movie, which I had just seen the week before and liked well enough, even if it didn’t encapsulate all the intricacies of the book, but it was clear that it wasn’t all Rick hoped it would be. However, I could also tell he was grateful for the opportunity.

IMG_1900I never know what to say at these signings, but I asked Rick if he was allowed to talk about his next project, to which he resolutely said, “Nope.” Oh well, had to ask.

IMG_1923 I read The Last Star not too long after the signing, and sadly, I ended up being a little underwhelmed. Rick warned us that he pulled no punches, which is true. The stakes are high. But I found myself not caring too much about the characters, sadly. Here are the thoughts I shared on Goodreads after finishing the book and trying to decide between 3 or 3.5 stars (no spoilers):

This rating is definitely a reflection of my thoughts on the book as a whole. The ending will no doubt be controversial among fans but I didn’t have an issue with it. I just feel the book could have been half the length and gotten the same point across, though thankfully the pacing wasn’t too bad; it’s just so little happens in these four days even though so much is at stake. I never felt the danger and I realized that I cared less about the characters in this book than I had the previous two. But maybe that’s part of the point, as humanity is slipping away? Still though, the stakes couldn’t be any higher and I was pretty chill through most of my reading. I expected a doomed ending, so maybe I just didn’t stress over it.

The trilogy as a whole though is still a very interesting take on the alien invasion story line, as well as an exploration of humanity and psychology, things which I appreciated most about the books. I feel the ending is pretty satisfactory, and it’s a surprising who the character with the most growth and resolution ends up being!

Have you read The 5th Wave trilogy? If so, what are your thoughts on it?

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Mini Reviews: Steelheart, Popular, The 5th Wave, & The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

I have been cranking out the reading lately, but not the reviews, so I thought I should remedy this with a slew of mini-reviews!

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

GR-steelheartI was really anticipating this read from all the positive things I heard about it and the author, plus I listen to Brandon Sanderson on a podcast that I thoroughly enjoy. Overall, I enjoyed the read, but it was just slightly less than what I was hoping for. Some bullet points:

– The book is mostly action-packed (in fact, the first ten or so chapters was one consecutive scene), but for some reason, I felt that part of the story was missing. There were some gaps in time that were only vaguely mentioned and I wasn’t really confused, I just felt something was lacking there.

– The concept and the world were very interesting, and Sanderson did a good job of naturally describing the world through David the narrator.

– I never really fully connected with any of the characters. This was the one thing that disappointed me about the book. I liked everyone well enough, and wanted things to go well, but I really did not feel like I got to know them super well, even though…

– The characters were mostly well-rounded. There were a couple of characters who felt inconsistent to me, but then it turned out there were reasons that made sense later in the book. And then there was Cody… who was maybe just too quirky. I almost felt like Sanderson came up with too many quirks for a character and gave most all of them to Cody. He’s spent much of his adult life in Nashville and says “y’all,” yet he says it to address a singular person as well as multiple people (no one I know does that, and I live in the Nashville area!), and he also says all these Irish and Scottish and British things and… I don’t know. It was too much for me. I know some pretty quirky people, but Cody just didn’t feel real.

– The ending was great, pitch-perfect really. The last 10% of the book was what sold the whole thing for me and made me excited for the next.

Content advisory: Violence and a few mild swear words

4stars2

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenan

Popular_comp9.inddThis was loaned to me by a co-worker, and it was a cute, light read. It’s a memoir that follows author Maya’s eighth grade year as she follows the advice of a 1950s popularity guide written by model Betty Cornell. The book was clearly written by a teenager and includes many relatable awkward junior high school  moments that I never EVER would have shared about myself when I was that age (or probably even now, ha!), but the honesty of it is refreshing. And through even the silly and awkward mishaps, Maya learns some really valuable lessons about how we treat others that I think we can all learn from.

Content advisory: Talk about sex (mostly in an educational sense, nothing too graphic) and a few mild swear words

3.5stars

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

GR-the5thwaveMy complaints about The 5th Wave are very few, so I’ll get them out of the way upfront. I was never fully engaged with the characters, so I didn’t feel a whole lot. For me to rate a book 5 stars, I need to feel ALL THE FEELS. That didn’t happen for me here. But, I was always intrigued and so much of the story juts hit so right for me.

The book started out pretty slowly, which almost always bothers me, but something about Cassie’s desperation, even if I wasn’t completely engaged with her as a character (though I did like her fine) kept me hanging on. I wanted to understand exactly what she went through with each of the waves The Others delivered.

One other small complaint: the shifting POV’s were confusing. Each part offers a new POV, usually first person, and usually it’s Cassie or Ben, but there are also some third person POV’s of other characters. Before the storylines become more distinct it was sometimes hard to know whose head I was in, but I figured it out eventually. I enjoyed both Cassie’s and Ben’s POVs pretty well. I liked reading Cassie’s story more, but what was going on in Ben’s story was really interesting.

Which brings me to something this book did majorly right: it made so much sense psychologically. Everything about the way the humans reacted made sense. We love the alien stories like Independence Day where we can easily whoop some alien butt, but this felt so much more real. And certain aspects of this made me think of Star Trek.

(Side note: If you enjoyed The 5th Wave, you’ll love Star Trek!)

There was some more swearing in this one than I generally like, but in the middle of an alien apocalypse it felt way more natural than when it’s just angsty teenagers who want society to understand them and their love life…

All that to say, I really liked it and am really interested in reading the next book. Even though I wasn’t super engaged with the characters themselves, I was really into the story.

Advisory content: Language (mostly mild but a few harsher words are used) and violence

4-5stars-edit

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

GR-thestatisticalprobabilityThis book was pretty much exactly what I expected from it: a cute, fluffy contemporary.  I was a little wary of the whole “love at first sight” idea, even though I knew to be prepared for it, but it’s obvious Hadley doesn’t think she’s necessarily in love. She doesn’t even know what to think about love and marriage with everything that has happened with her parents. And though there was serious content along with the romance, it pretty much played out like a Disney movie (despite Hadley saying, “I know this isn’t a Disney movie”).

I enjoyed it overall, but have a few complaints. What I disliked the most was that the story was told in third person present tense. I am pretty sure I have never read this combo before and I don’t think it really works all that well. It should have been first person present or third person past, in my opinion. I know many times it feels it would make a huge difference, but I don’t see that being the case here.

I appreciate that Oliver wasn’t perfect, but the deal with the whiskey was a bit too much for me. And his Daddy issues… yikes! Let’s just say didn’t fall for Oliver.

One last issue is that despite the fact that this book only takes place over a 24 hour period, Smith still manages to cut out a significant amount of time from the airplane ride and we just catch glimpses of these conversations in flashback. I understand why she didn’t want to include hours of conversation, but… I don’t know, I just would have liked a little more.

Content Advisory: A few mild swear words. 

3.5starsPlease share your thoughts on any of these books that you have read!