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Thea’s Smugglivus 2013 Feats of Strength

The Feats of Strength are an integral part of our annual Smugglivus Tradition. In previous years, the Feats of Strength were a challenge in which we dared each other to read a book that we knew was so far beyond the other’s comfort zone as to put it in another galaxy altogether. This year, we changed the rules: we each get to read and review 5 books (including one Dare book, one What She Said book and now one Joint) and with the following TWIST: each review can contain no more than 50 words. For people like us whose reviews are generally written with no less than 800 words and often with more than 1000, this is a true Feat of Strength!

Today, it’s Thea’s turn. *cracks knuckles*

THE DARE:. Ana’s original review HERE.

StrayTitle: Stray

Author: Andrea K. Höst

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: Andrea K. Hösth
Publication date: March 2011
Ebook Edition: 273 pages

How did I get this book: Bought (ebook edition)

On her last day of high school, Cassandra Devlin walked out of exams and into a forest. Surrounded by the wrong sort of trees, and animals never featured in any nature documentary, Cass is only sure of one thing; alone, she will be lucky to survive.

The sprawl of abandoned blockish buildings Cass discovers offers her only more puzzles. Where are the people? What is the intoxicating mist which drifts off the buildings in the moonlight? And why does she feel like she’s being watched?

Increasingly unnerved, Cass is overjoyed at the arrival of the formidable Setari. Whisked to a world as technologically advanced as the first was primitive, where nanotech computers are grown inside people’s skulls, and few have any interest in venturing outside the enormous whitestone cities, Cass finds herself processed as a ‘stray’, a refugee displaced by the gates torn between worlds. Struggling with an unfamiliar language and culture, she must adapt to virtual classrooms, friends who can teleport, and the ingrained attitude that strays are backward and slow.

Can Cass ever find her way home? And after the people of her new world discover her unexpected value, will they be willing to let her leave?

50-word Review: Stray is an epistolary survival-cum-scifi novel about an Australian girl who inexplicably finds herself on an alien planet. At turns funny and always observant, Cass’s narrative is endearing as hell. Loved this story very much, and I’m happy to be on the Andrea K Host bandwagon! More please.

Rating: 7 – Very Good

WHAT SHE SAID: Ana’s review

ConjuredTitle: Conjured

Author: Sarah Beth Durst

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy, Horror, Young Adult

Publisher: Walker Children’s
Publication date: September 2013
Hardcover: 368 pages

How did I get this book: Bought (print edition)

Eve has a new home, a new face, and a new name—but no memories of her past. She’s been told that she’s in a witness protection program. That she escaped a dangerous magic-wielding serial killer who still hunts her. The only thing she knows for sure is that there is something horrifying in her memories the people hiding her want to access—and there is nothing they won’t say—or do—to her to get her to remember.

At night she dreams of a tattered carnival tent and buttons being sewn into her skin. But during the day, she shelves books at the local library, trying to not let anyone know that she can do things—things like change the color of her eyes or walk through walls. When she does use her strange powers, she blacks out and is drawn into terrifying visions, returning to find that days or weeks have passed—and she’s lost all short-term memories. Eve must find out who and what she really is before the killer finds her—but the truth may be more dangerous than anyone could have ever imagined.

50-word Review: A girl is placed in a supernatural witness protection program to stop a magical murderer. Problem is, she can’t remember anything or work magic without wiping out her most recent memories. Repetitive and kinda cheesy, Conjured still manages to entertain and the ultimate payoff is solid (if predictable).

Rating: 6 – Good


SagaTitle: Saga (volume 1)

Author: Brian K. Vaughan (Writer), Fiona Staples (Illustrator)

Genre: Fantasy, Graphic Novel

Publisher: Image Comics
Publication date: October 2012
Paperback: 160 pages

How did we get this book: Bought

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.

From New York Times bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina) and critically acclaimed artist Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, North 40), Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.

This specially priced volume collects the first six issues of the smash-hit series The Onion A.V. Club calls “the emotional epic Hollywood wishes it could make.”

Collects Saga issues #1-6.

50-word Review: GORGEOUS. Saga is the story of Marko and Alana, soldiers from opposite sides of a brutal war, who fall in love and have a child. Beautiful, unexpected art, with a brutal, whimsical edge punctuates the interspecies/star-crossed love story. Love it & want more of it immediately.

Rating: 7 – Very Good (and I’ve read volume 2 already!)

The KillablesTitle: The Killables

Author: Gemma Malley

Genre: Dystopia, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date: March 2012
Paperback: 372 Pages

How did I get this book: Review Copy (print)

Everyone accepted that people were different physically. But inside? Inside, they were different too. You just had to know how to tell, what to look for. Evil has been eradicated. The City has been established. And citizens may only enter after having the ‘evil’ part of their brain removed. They are labelled on the System according to how ‘good’ they are. If they show signs of the evil emerging, they are labelled a K …But no one knows quite what that means. Only that they disappear, never to be seen again …

50-word Review: Ridiculous science frames this dystopian society (in which people have their amygdalas removed are graded with arbitrary letters). Cheesy love triangle ensues between heroine Evie and two brothers who vie for her heart. For the ludicrousness and paint-by-numbers plot, I actually massively enjoyed this book… in a guilty pleasure way.

Rating: 6 – Good

The Princess of CortovaTitle: The Princess of Cortova (The Silver Bowl # 3)

Author: Diane Stanley

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication date: October 2013
Hardcover: 320 Pages

How did I get this book: Bought (print)

With tensions rising between the kingdoms of Westria and Austlind, Molly and Tobias accompany King Alaric to Cortova, where he hopes to form an alliance with King Gonzalo—an alliance that would be sealed by Alaric’s marriage to Gonzalo’s daughter, Elizabetta. But the devious Gonzalo has many surprises up his sleeve, beginning with the revelation that Alaric is not the only suitor.

As the days pass, Alaric is trapped in a nightmarish bidding war, in which the price keeps spiraling up and the terms become ever more outrageous, yet he can’t afford to walk away. Then comes the first attempt on Alaric’s life.

Through it all, Molly is powerless to help him, for her magical Gift sends her nothing now but terrible forebodings, and visions of an enormous cat who speaks in metaphors of chess. As for Princess Elizabetta, who is as clever as she is beautiful—is she really Molly’s friend, or just another player in her father’s crafty game?

The thrilling story that began with the acclaimed novels The Silver Bowl and The Cup and the Crown comes to a spectacular and surprising conclusion in The Princess of Cortova.

50-word Review: Courtly shenanigans and double-crosses abound in the conclusion to the series as Molly fights to save her king & figure out whom to trust. I was not a fan of a cruel ending for a beloved character, or the way Molly’s fate shakes out. Disappointing.

Rating: 5 – Meh

Final Thoughts: These 50-word reviews are TORTURE! I always wish I could say more, so I’m going to cheat and throw out a few more thoughts here: Saga is bloody brilliant and totally not what I was expecting. Fiona Staples’ art is inspired and breathtaking and I love the whimsical, fantastical side of the comic. The Killables was patently ridiculous and hit all of the most irritating dystopian standard plot tropes – requisite love triangle (with two brothers, no less!) and light on the science – but somehow it all kinda worked together in concert… and I’m eager to read the second book in the series (which I thankfully have on my TBR). I’ve heard nothing but praise for the various works of Andrea K Höst, and finally I am glad to jump on the bandwagon – Stray was unexpected, funny, smart, and wonderful. Finally, The Princess of Cortova and Conjured weren’t quite up to expectation, but I still found myself reading the books quickly and overall enjoying them (Conjured moreso than Princess).

Overall? I’d say this was a pretty successful Feat of Strength – challenging, but rewarding.

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  • Regina (@badassbookreviews.com)
    January 5, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    I am not a fan of graphic novels but Saga looks really interesting. Thank you for sharing, I am picking it up from the library this afternoon.

  • Estara Swanberg
    January 5, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    Yay, welcome to the Hösties ^^ , the more the merrier – and now I’ve read five trusted people recommending Saga, so I’m off to Amazon to get it.

  • Lindsay Elizabeth
    January 5, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    I just have to say, I read Stray and loved it. I read the second one and loved it less, but still enjoyed it. I would not advise reading further.

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