Tag Archive | retro friday

Retro Friday Review : Santa Olivia

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time!

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Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey
Pages : 341
Genre : Dystopia, Sci-Fi, GLBT
Series : Santa Olivia, Book 1
My Rating : 

From Goodreads :

Loup Garron was born and raised in Santa Olivia, an isolated, disenfranchised town next to a US military base inside a DMZ buffer zone between Texas and Mexico. A fugitive “Wolf-Man” who had a love affair with a local woman, Loup’s father was one of a group of men genetically-manipulated by the US government, engineered to have superhuman strength, speed, sensory capability, stamina, and a total lack of fear.

Loup, named for and sharing her father’s wolf-like qualities, is marked as an outsider. After her mother dies, Loup goes to live among the misfit orphans at the parish church, where they seethe from the injustices visited upon the locals by the soldiers. Eventually, the orphans find an outlet for their frustrations: they form a vigilante group to support Loup Garron who, costumed as their patron saint, Santa Olivia, uses her special abilities to avenge the town.

My Thoughts :

I read Santa Olivia in 2009 and loved it so much, I couldn’t write a review for it. I wanted to do the book justice, and in the end, I never found the right words. Go me!

This book was a great experience for me on two levels : first for the book itself, and secondly because it was one of the few books that both the Man of the House and I read, which means we got to talk about it. He is a huge fan of Carey’s fantasy series, but this book was my first time reading her, and I just fell in love with her writing. There is something different about it, something I couldn’t pinpoint but, combined with great story and characters, made the book a compulsory read for me.

While not the most original out there, the idea, a kind of “superhero-meets-government-conspiracies” story, was really intriguing. But what hook me into the story, really, was the character of Loup. I’ve met few characters that had that quality of both puzzling me and being easy to figure out. And I know it does sound contradictory, but it’s still true. The fact that, physically, she wasn’t completely “normal” made her motivations and her reactions clear enough; the fact that she wasn’t “normal” also placed her in a different spot than the rest of the characters, or than the readers, meaning that her reactions were often different than what you would expect from a “normal” person.

The romance between Loup and Pilar also plays an important part in the story, and I loved how contemporary it felt. For me, that relationship was one of the really strong points of the book : everything Loup felt, I felt through the words. Also, I loved having a non heterosexual main character in a book, without the book being all about dealing with sexual identities. It is part of the story, a really important one, but it’s really not the only focus, and while books dealing with GLBT issues are a necessity, I believe it is also necessary to show that a GLBT character can have a story outside of his/her sexual identity – that sexual identity, while important, isn’t the only thing defining an individual.

I did think the book had some faults. I felt like some aspects of the setting weren’t fully explored or explained, that many questions were left unanswered. At the time, there wasn’t a second book planned, so that really puzzled me. I still loved it though, because sometimes when it comes to books, I’m just irrational like that : I see the flaws and I choose to ignore them. I’m not the only one, right?

Although Santa Olivia is NOT a teen/YA novel, it would be really on trend with many YA books currently on the market :  it has a dystopian world where a disease made most people sick, it’s a bit futuristic without being full-on sci-fi, there’s a government gone bad, action, a strong female lead, etc. But since there are many YA readers who are, like me, of grown up age, I think it might be something that would interest some of you too! 🙂

I’m placing this one on my shelf and planning on re-reading it soon, hopefully, as book two is on its way for October. Yay!

Series Reading Order :

  1. Santa Olivia
  2. Saints Astray (coming October 2011)

Retro Friday Review : Looking for Alaska

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time!

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Looking for Alaska by John Green
Pages : 221
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand alone
My Rating : 

From the author’s website :

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words–and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

My Thoughts :

I read Looking for Alaska in June 2009, for my first participation in the 48h Book challenge (and I will be participating again this year; to join the fun, visit Mother Reader!) I never got around to review it : I had loved the book, yet finished it in a state of such tiredness that I didn’t feel I could give it the review it deserved. Angieville’s Retro Friday meme seemed like the perfect occasion to do so, as I still have my notes from my first reading but also took the time to reread parts of it. I was surprised by how much I remembered of it : John Green really created unforgettable stories and characters! I am also forever impressed by how Green can get inside the mind of a teenager, yet write in a way that doesn’t feel juvenile.

I have to say, it was definitely a different read from An abundance of Katherines. Not in a bad way : just different. It’s as clever for sure – it is written by John Green, after all – but it also carried a lot more weight, if I can say. I loved every character of the story, and even though I’ve never been a teen boy (obviously), I felt I could understand what Miles was going through. His relationship with Alaska is exactly what a first love would be : a little unsure, a little nervous, but strong, somewhat passionate.

The book is split in two parts, Before and After. The chapters are titled by a countdown : Fifty-one days before, Forty-six days before, etc., and it gives you that nervous feeling that something will happen, something bad. I found it difficult to resist flipping the pages to the After part of the book, to know what happens. The second part of the books has a countdown in reverse, counting the days after. It carried the sense of “going forward despite the event”, and for me it reinforced the idea that there is no magical number of hours or days to get over something, and sometimes you carry it with you forever; you just learn to live with it.

I have to conclude by saying, you can’t go wrong with John Green. Looking for Alaska will make you laugh and break your heart at the same time, and take you through an incredible, unforgettable story.