The Rest of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness

RestofUs

The Rest of Us Just Live Here
by Patrick Ness
2015
HarperTeen

Source: Public Library

Format: Print

Summary from Goodreads: What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?
What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.
Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshiped by mountain lions.

Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.

This book was amazing! I read it halfway through as an ebook, had to return it, then finished it once the hard copy came in at the library. The characters were real people, with flaws. Events that would have been melodramatic in another book were emotional in this one, because they focused on Mikey’s relationships with his family and friends.

Mike lives in Washington state with his mom, dad, and two sisters. Their small town is overrun every generation or so by some creature or other–Gods and Goddesses, vampires, aliens, the walking dead. The “indie kids” are the heroes and heroines of YA paranormal/fantasy novels: “That group with the cool-geek haircuts and the thrift shop clothes and names from the fifties. Nice enough, never mean, but always the ones who end up being the Chosen One when the vampires come calling or when the alien queen needs the Source of All Light or something. . . .They’ve always got some story going on that they’re heroes of. The rest of us just have to live here, hovering around the edges, left out of it all, for the most part.” As a regular kid, Mikey just wants to hang out with his friends before graduation casts them out into the world. And make out with his friend Henna, before she leaves for Africa with her doctor parents.

His sister Mel, aka Melinda, is a year older than him, but was held back by a eating disorder. Mike struggles with his OCD–washing his hands until they bleed, counting anything over and over. Fortunately, he has his best friend Jared to get him out of “loops.” Jared is gay, and possibly in love with Mikey. He’s also a demigod of cats. Mikey’s sister Meredith is ten, a genius, and the only one in the family not messed up, according to him.

I liked the way Ness told two stories in one book. The main story in each chapter was Mike’s story. The other story was a basic YA paranormal novel told in the chapter headings. For example: “Chapter the First, in which the Messenger of the Immortals arrives in a surprising shape, looking for a permanent Vessel; and after being chased by her through the woods, indie kid Finn meets his final fate.” Mike and his friends only see Finn run into the forest, followed by strange blue light. That way of storytelling made the book more than just a spoof of popular YA fiction.

I also liked that the emotional scenes were about Mike’s family for the most part. His dad is an alcoholic, but the sad depressed kind, not the scary abusive kind. His local politician mom appears to care more about her run for U.S. Senate than her family. His grandma has Alzheimer’s, but not “kooky Alzheimer’s” where she says cute things, the real kind where she doesn’t know who she is anymore. So Mike just talks at her when he visits her. His life sucked relative to the indie kids’ lives, which became part of the main theme of the book, friendship. He loves his family and friends for the messed up people they are, and makes do the best he can.

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A Counterfeit Betrothal by Mary Balogh

Cover of A Counterfeit Betrothal/The Notorious Rake by Mary Balogh: A woman in a pink Regency dress holds a finger to her lips.

A Counterfeit Betrothal

Mary Balogh

2013 (1992)

Dell

Mass market paperback

Source: Personal copy
Lady Sophia Bryant wants to get her estranged parents back together. Her solution is to pretend to be engaged to her childhood friend, Lord Francis Sutton. Her parents, Olivia and Marcus, have to help prepare for the wedding. In turn, they pretend to still be in love for Sophia’s sake. Alternating points of view  of the four of them showed how they miscommunicated with each other.
This was well written, though a little repetitive. (In an early chapter, it said twice on the same page that her parents had been separated for fourteen years!) The characters all had depth and clear motivation. There were a few times I thought, “Why doesn’t she just ask him if he loves her? Well no, then the book would be over too soon.” The plot was mostly the miscommunications, but I liked this book overall. As a reprint of an earlier novel, I see Balogh’s strengths lie in characterization more than plot. Now I’m interested in reading more recent Mary Balogh books, like her Survivor’s Club series.

What I’m Reading 

I’m reading the historical romance A Counterfeit Betrothal by Mary Balogh right now. It’s one of Balogh’s early books, so it’s a little repetitive. The characters are engaging, though. I’m looking forward to reading her more recent books!

Upcoming Reads

Some of my upcoming reads are:

Herland and Other Selected Stories, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, edited by Barbara H. Solomon: Picked up at  a bookstore in Maine.  I read the famous story “The Yellow Wallpaper” back in high school. I’m interested in reading more of her works!

Highland Scandal by Julia London: Another historical romance read from a used bookstore. It looks fun!

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen: I realized back in August during #AusteninAugustRBR 2015, this is the only main Austen novel I didn’t own. Now I do!

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #2) by Ransom Riggs: A pick for a Weird Wednesday post. I also own and enjoyed the first book in this YA fantasy series, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

Harness the Sun: America’s Quest for a Solar-Powered Future by Philip Warburg: A book I received from LibraryThing Early Reviewers in August or early September, and accidentally forgot to review before it was released.

Lexicon by Max Barry

LexiconLexicon by Max Barry

2013

Penguin

Source: ebook from public library

What an exciting thriller! Lexicon is one of those books I feel I can’t say too much about the plot, as it would spoil the book.

In alternating chapters, we have the stories of Wil and Emily. Wil is meeting his girlfriend at an airport when a mysterious man with a gun kidnaps him. A secret organization recruits homeless teen con artist Emily to attend their Academy. Eventually they meet each other, Emily having learned how to control people using words.

Barry brought up timely themes about the use and misuse of words in the Information Age. Yes, you lose privacy online, but the bigger issue is someone can take your information and use it to manipulate you. He also brings to mind the question “Who or what is controlling the people who control you?”

There was good character development throughout the novel, using the alternating viewpoints of Wil, Emily, and sometimes other characters. The only part I had trouble with was figuring out what was a flashback and what was in the present. That might have been because I read it so fast, though!

Like his previous novel Jennifer Government, Max Barry makes a compelling story out of current events and ideas.

Ironskin by Tina Connolly (Ironskin #1)

Ironskin

Ironskin (Ironskin #1)

by Tina Connolly

Tor, 2012

This book is a historical fantasy set in a place very much like England. It’s loosely based on Jane Eyre. It was nominated for a 2012 Nebula Award.

Five years after the Great War with the fey (fairies) ended, Jane Eliot comes to work as a governess for the mysterious and handsome Edward Rochart. His little daughter Dorie has had a “fey-curse” from birth. Jane thinks she can help, as she was also cursed by the fey during a battle. She has to wear an iron mask over half her face, so her curse won’t hurt others. In a subplot, her newlywed sister Helen and her husband are also keeping secrets.

The world building here was very good. Jane finds it amusing that her book of children’s tales (a spoof of A Child’s Garden of Verses) tells how to protect yourself from the copperhead hydra, but also has “fictional” stories about dragons. I thought that was a good choice–in a world where humans live with dwarfs and fairies, something else magical doesn’t exist in this world! As Helen is into fashion, there were many descriptions of clothes. The pre-war fashions were long Victorian-type dresses, and the post-war ones were short dresses with fringe, like the 1920s.

Besides the clothes, the theme of the book reminded me of England after World War I–a sense that the wonderful easygoing time of the aristocracy is now lost, and how those times won’t return again even if Jane wishes they could.  Both Jane and Rochart have regrets about what happened during the war. The fey gave humans technology to run their cinemas, cameras, and lights. This magical light was blue. After the war, the fey disappeared, so humans must go back to using coal and steam, and no more blue-and-white movies or photos.

Now, about the Jane Eyre connection. The name “Rochart” was too close to “Rochester” for me, but they are different characters with different motivations for their secrets. (From what I remember of Rochester at least; I haven’t read Eyre since high school.) Jane Eliot is young, in her early twenties, but more worldly than Jane Eyre due to her wartime experiences. Connolly does mention “no madwoman in the attic” and mentions Charlotte Brontë in the acknowledgments.

This is the first book in a trilogy. The second book, Copperhead, is about Helen, and the third, Silverblind, is about a grown-up Dorie.

Besides writing, Tina Connolly reads flash fiction stories on her podcast Toasted Cake.