We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

Following the premiere of season 10 of The X-Files, I decided to pick up We Are the Ants.

Henry has been continually abducted by aliens since he was 13 years.  If that wasn’t bad enough, his dad abandoned the family when he was a child, his single mom is struggling to hold the family together while his grandmother is suffering from Alzheimer’s, his brother Charlie knocked up his girlfriend Zooey, and Henry’s boyfriend Jesse committed suicide last year.  It’s a lot to sort though – oh and the aliens have told him that the world is going to end in 144 days and Henry has the power to stop it but right now Henry doesn’t feel like he or the world are worth saving.

Full Goodreads synopsis found here.

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I feel like I’m in the minority here but I thought We Are the Ants was just so-so.  This book reminds me of an Andrew Smith novel which I’m sure for some readers is a major selling point but for me it means a book about a 16 year old boy that thinks about sex a lot while being consfused and angry along with a really weird premise.  I love the weird plots in the background but not the inner monologue of the boys (good thing I’ve got 16 years until I have a teenaged son).

Some things I liked -> The chapters are interspersed with journal entries of how Henry thinks the world could end.  Henry’s estranged best friend Audrey.  Jesse’s mom. Henry’s grandmother.  Apparently all the ladies.

Some things I didn’t like -> Description of the sluggers (aliens), I had no clear picture of their appearance.  Diego (love interest), I couldn’t get a good grasp on him.  Marcus (bully/love interest – enough said).  ANGST.  How Charlie/Zooey’s storyline played out.  SO MUCH ANGST.

It’s not a bad story, it’s just not for me but if you’re looking for an angsty contemporary novel with a sci twist check out We Are the Ants for yourself.

I received an ARC from Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, GA.

Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl

I can’t describe to you my triumph of nabbing the ARC of Black Widow: Forever Red off the Little Shop of Stories’ ARC shelf before anyone else in my bookclub could get to it!  Bwahaha!  Black Widow is beloved by my bookclub and pretty much all superhero-loving, women-kind.

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Nastasha Romanov stands out as the lone female in the testosterone heavy group of the Avengers.  But being the only woman is tough because we hold her to a higher standard, she’s the only one we have to look up to.  We want her to be all the things – she can’t be perfect but she can’t be too flawed, she has to be relatable but still awe-inspiring, and so on and so forth.  It’s a tall order for sure.

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It’s no surprise after the Avengers movies that women (and men too) were clamoring for more Black Widow (hello Marvel where is our stand alone Black Widow movie??).  Coming out this October is a new Black Widow YA novel from Margaret Stohl (co-author of the Beautiful Creatures series and author of the Icons series) – here’s the Forever Red synopsis from Goodreads:

Natasha Romanoff is one of the world’s most lethal assassins. Trained from a young age in the arts of death and deception, Natasha was given the title of Black Widow by Ivan Somodorov, her brutal teacher at the Red Room, Moscow’s infamous academy for operatives.

Ava Orlova is just trying to fit in as an average Brooklyn teenager, but her life has been anything but average.The daughter of a missing Russian quantum physicist, Ava was once subjected to a series of ruthless military experiments-until she was rescued by Black Widow and placed under S.H.I.E.L.D. protection. Ava has always longed to reconnect with her mysterious savior, but Black Widow isn’t really the big sister type.

Until now.

When children all over Eastern Europe begin to go missing, and rumors of smuggled Red Room tech light up the dark net, Natasha suspects her old teacher has returned-and that Ava Orlova might be the only one who can stop him. To defeat the madman who threatens their future, Natasha and Ava must unravel their pasts. Only then will they discover the truth about the dark-eyed boy with an hourglass tattoo who haunts Ava’s dreams. . . .

For starters, look at this badass cover – it’s amazing!

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Forever Red reads like a movie script, it’s fast-paced and action-packed and with some familiar faces (namely Phil Coulson and Tony Stark) it’s impossible not to read the dialogue using the actors’ voices (not that that is a bad thing!).  This book is written like a movie in your mind.  The story is told from 3 different POVs – Natasha’s, Ava’s and Alex Manor’s (a seemingly normal American teenage except that Ava has been dreaming about him for months even though she has never met him).  There is at least one chapter that was titled as an Ava chapter and halfway thru it turned into a Nastasha chapter, I’m hoping that gets cleared up #eek.

Overall, I liked the story/adventure/mission/whatever you want to call it, the novel is also full of witty dialogue and entertaining cultural references though I would have liked some more feels.  There is backstory (primarily referring to Natasha) but I want more – there can never be enough origin story.  I think maybe because it read like an action movie, it lacked some depth, the story was bam bam bam scene scene scene.  The downside – the climax was over in an instant (insert sex joke), it happened so fast that I didn’t really have time to process that the final showdown was happening.  Had it been a bit more drawn out, I would have had more feels because I was definitely supposed to.  The story wrapped, no cliffhangers but there are unanswered questions so I wouldn’t be surprised if this became a series.  All said and done, I really enjoyed Forever Red and can’t wait to let my bookclub fight over and then we can all dissect it!

Moral of the story is WHERE IS THE GODDAMN BLACK WIDOW MOVIE???

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Book Review: Random by Tom Leevan

I received an ARC of Random from the Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, GA. Random is marketed as a novel along the same lines of Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver and 13 Reasons Why by Jason Asher. I am a huge Lauren Oliver fan, reading Before I Fall made me cry in public – not that crying in public is something I make a habit of doing. Additionally, 13 Reasons Why has been staring at me from my to-read shelf since Christmas. All in all, it seemed like Random would be right up my alley!

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Random introduces us to the Hershberger family, currently in a state of upheaval. Sixteen year old Victoria ‘Tori’ has irrevocably changed life forever when she becomes known as a member of the Canyon City Seven. The group of teenagers are being prosecuted for manslaughter following the suicide of a fellow student from online bullying. On the eve before the trial, Tori receives a phone call from a stranger, Andy, claiming to be on the verge of committing suicide. Andy tells Tori he dialed her number at random and it is up to her to prove to him that life is worth living before sunrise. Initially, Tori believes this to be an elaborate prank but as the night goes on it becomes apparent that Tori does hold yet another young man’s life in her hands.

While I find the subject matter incredibly relevant, Random did not pack the same emotional punch as Before I Fall (hence the crying in public) while exploring the motives of high school bullying. I found Tori incredibly irritating and though the novel takes place in less than the span of 24 hours, I didn’t feel Tori exhibit any growth, let alone express any remorse at the death of fellow student Kevin. We live in a world where anyone can hide behind a computer screen and say whatever vile or malicious comments come to mind without repercussions. Leevan attempts to explore the backlash of online cruelty. The chapters of Random are interspersed with facebook-esque posts from the past illustrating the evolution of Tori from her weak attempts to defend Kevin to the eventual acceptance her friends’ online behavior to her ultimate betrayal of Kevin as she becomes a vicious bully herself.

There is a twist at the end of the novel involving Andy that I didn’t see coming and I’m still not sure how I feel about it but I won’t spoil it here. HOWEVER, the final scene SPOILERS!! in which Tori leaves an unanswerable voicemail for Kevin was the most heart wrenching part of the book which did lead to a brief misting of my eyes. Random is poignant must-read for all online teenagers.