Monday, June 17, 2013

Double Review: Ghost Time - Courtney Eldridge

Ghost Time
Courtney Eldridge
Series: Saccades Project, #1
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Science Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Mind boggling
On Goodreads

I must admit, when I started reading Ghost Time, I was very put off by the writing style – I found Thea's shallow, valley-girl speech quite off-putting. However, as the plot progressed and we started to see some depth in Thea, I found myself more and more drawn into this story.

I received an uncorrected proof of Ghost Time from Amazon Children's Publishing at Book Expo America, and I was very excited to start it after reading the blurb – math-genius hacker, the voice of a mute girl, mysterious happenings... count me in! However, at the start of Ghost Time, the reader gets some of the prized dialogue that almost made me stop reading this book.
"It was cold, and I was just like, Brrrr!"
"...there was still a red outline of my lip gloss on his left hip bone, from when I'd knelt down, kissing him, because his hip bones drive me crazy."
"...and his bone structure, like his cheekbones, are to die."
" Because Cam has this really cool old car–it's so boss."
Ugh. Luckily, this shallow Thea didn't last too long, which gave way to her insightful side - a side that is much darker and deeper. The way Thea grows throughout the story is astounding. Gradually, the reader gains more and more information about Thea's past and her relationship with her missing boyfriend, Cam, as well as her new friend Melody, a girl who speaks to Thea in her head. Despite how she sounds at the beginning, Thea has depth that I'm not sure many 15-year-olds can understand. Throughout her life, Thea has been through many hard times, but even after Cam, a boy who taught her to see the world through a different light, disappears, she still does her best to stay strong and keep going. Thea was a surprising heroine for me. When I find a heroine I really love, it's almost always immediate, – I'm usually drawn in by her strength and general disregard for society – but Thea is completely different. Thea is weak, she cares what people think of her, she needs other people – she is a 15-year-old girl, a teenager thrown into a terrible situation. The way Thea survives throughout the story is truly heroic. No matter how bad things seemed, she kept going and hoping for the best.

And then there's Cam - who is, surprisingly, in very much of the book considering the fact that he is missing. Cam is probably definitely my favorite character in Ghost Time. While Thea may not be a scholar, Cam is very intelligent. The things he says to Thea are so insightful and captivating. Cam sees the world very different from most people, especially Thea, and he makes her see things differently. The title of the book, Ghost Time, comes from the equation that Cam is working on, regarding time moving in more than one direction at the same time. Courtney Eldridge does a brilliant job mirroring Cam's equation through the structure of the book, alternating between before and after Cam's disappearance. I love Cam. He is so loving and patient with Thea – it's kind of heart breaking. I wish there had been more Cam in Ghost Time – perhaps in Ghost Signs?

While most of Cam's appearances are from before he disappeared (obviously), Melody appears afterwards. Mel is the daughter of the cop who is investigating Cam's disappearance. While Mel is paralyzed and mute, Thea has strange visions of Mel's "true self" and hears Mel's voice inside her head. Mel is one of the only people who can make Thea forget about Cam and all the drama surrounding his disappearance. Although Thea’s past contributes to her growth in the eyes of the reader, her friendship with Mel augments this growth, allowing the reader to see a nurturing side of Thea. Thea will do anything to help Mel feel like a normal teenage girl. The way Thea takes Mel under wing makes their relationship so charming and heartwarming.

Overall, I really would have liked to give this book a higher rating, but the way Thea is portrayed in the beginning of the story just gets to me. When I compare the way Thea is in the first few chapters in comparison to the rest of the book, it's like she is a completely different character. I just don't see her being so different in the time lapses. Despite that, Courtney Eldridge crafted a wonderful novel filled with so many aspects of life: love, friendship, anger, sadness, family, longing – I could go on for a while. Even though I was skeptical about this book in the beginning, I'm glad I kept reading because the story was well worth it. The ending was very abrupt, leaving me asking, "WHERE IS THE REST OF THIS BOOK?!" but I'm hoping all will be resolved in Ghost Signs. The structure of the book along with the meticulous details, suspense, and insight made Ghost Time a great read.

Also, there's this cool thing: Saccades Project
Courtney Eldridge teamed up with some artists to gather inspiration for Ghost Time. It's really cool.

- Kiersten

Marlon's Ghost Time Review
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Incredible

Ghost time was absolutely miserable, the sort of miserable that one can only find after stubbing one's toe on a particularly blunt end-table and then promptly being made the live sacrifice to an Aztec sun god. While I agree that Deep Thea is a welcome distraction from the waterfall-of-consciousness writing style, and that bits and pieces of Cam spilling through the net of drama kept me going, this novel had a few too many disconnects and failings to warrant more than three stars.

Those three stars came from the impeccable construct of the book: Eldridge's seamless integration of scenes and story arcs is astonishing. Spoiler alert (but not really): the book successively runs scenes from both the future and past, each timeline splaying farther from the epicenter as the book progresses. Even at the beginning, this novel constantly blindsided me with this kind of construct. Each of Cam's stories grow from the insightful and intriguing bits they are into story-arc masterpieces in a matter of pages, simply because Thea connects it so bloody well.

Sadly it was not enough to save the rest of those tiny stars...

Seriously, "I was just like, Brrrr!" for the first hundred or so pages.

I absolutely despised Thea, who is undeniably a shallow bitch and yet somehow a deep, mysterious, and dark character whose love of music and media puts mine to shame . . . that didn't make sense at all. There was far too much of a disparity between the two sides of Thea. I'm not saying a deep character with a dark past should be foreboding and hesitant, of course, but only that someone who can see the world so much more vividly than the rest of us – with such a coursing imagination to boot and such a telling history – should at least make an attempt at maturity.

But no, what do I get? An insanely weak, angst-ridden annoyance that manages to represent the things I hate most: caring what other people think, selfishness and shallowness, and desperation.

And then, of course, I met Mel.

The most powerful connection in the book came to me when Thea first sees a ghost-like version of Knox's daughter, Melody. I thought back to the first few pages: "What if God was a teenage girl?" I was reflecting on what Melody had wanted from life, speculating on the insight and quality she could add to the story. I mean, after having to deal with a shallow teenage girl archetype that was a falsity, I was having a bit of a trust issue with this book. Shortly after, I realized that maybe Thea was the god of the situation. The simple fact that annoying-prissy-ugh Theadora was seeing things that shouldn't exist started to make her a tad less annoying-prissy-ugh, which coincidentally made reading a whole ton easier. (Would it KILL you to use quotation marks?)

And then Hubble started shifting reality and this book just kept getting freaking cool.

Honestly, that's my best description after this book picked up: freaking cool. The insights into reality (such as Thea's Balloon World bit) are to die for. And, for some reason, Melody brings out the kind of Thea that is slightly more enjoyable: deeply caring and concerned and giddy. All of the positive qualities Thea possesses seem to have been bottled up on a shelf for a good third of the novel, but when she begins to open up to Mel and, more importantly, the reader, she truly allows us to see what it's like to be her: the constant war of the world Cam has opened for her and the pressures of her past.

Also there's a climax and end but Kiersten's got that bit covered. Where is the rest of this book? It just dropped, in the middle of a scene.

In all, 3.75 stars, for dazzling construction and insight sorely missed by common eyes. Too bad the narration takes days to get used to and is absent entirely of everything this novel comes to represent.

- Marlon

How would you feel if your best friend just went missing?
Let us know in the comments!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

So I Met Brandon Mull

Literally rapt.
Just minutes before his book signing at BEA 2013. If you stare long enough you will notice that I am in the picture,
touching Brandon Mull . . .
breathing the same air as the person who penned the Blind King into existence.
What . . .

I would paint this picture upon every ceiling I ever call home if my artistic skills went beyond shoddy stick art.

But anyway . . .

Prior to that moment I had promised myself I'd treat the celebrities of my life as people and not the images and impressions of them that we develop that so often mislead and constrain us.

Unfortunately, upon walking up to him, every atom in my body shaking quite a bit more than usual, I totally exploded inside. Somehow I managed to contain myself with words I hoped were enough. I told him simply with all the grace of a slab of dog food, "thank you."

I meant every letter. Mr. Mull, if you ever happen upon these words, know that your mind has truly been a gift to me, one I hold just inches from my heart.

Back to the past: I smiled as wide as I think I ever have on the onset and far after our bit of dialogue. Around halfway through I had to look back at my best friend, gesture to myself and say, “definition of rapt,” (kindof a reference to Macbeth at the time but not entirely) which brought a laugh out of him and by consequence almost causing me a sudden dose of unconsciousness by way of fainting.

He asked me what I'd read of his, and I told him (The Candy Shop War, Fablehaven, and Beyonders series), and he said something along the lines of “oh, you're dedicated!” And I was. He then told me about a new series he was working on and I don't think I will ever forget how fantastically human he seemed (and was) when he gazed up up, fingers to his chin, the light catching his eyes, and said “hmm” while describing the series, which was to be five books.
That moment brought him down to earth for me but damn I was still breathless.
I relayed to him I was off to London in the fall – probably forgot to mention it was for a year – and that I'd written a novel and three quarters of another, but I never really got to tell him how exactly he changed my life because I'd love to credit him with giving me my love for books or something huge, but really, it was a new pair of eyes into the depth of an adventure, how words could curl so fluidly into one another and spin a tale that seems so blindingly deep you can't help but feel dizzy.
Immediately then I caught how important it is – that magical moment when you realize someone who has changed your life isn't just books and words, but flesh and blood. And I told him “It's staggering to know you're so much more than words.” And he thanked me, and smiled that wonderfully regular-guy smile in his red flannel (I think it was a red flannel) and I moved on with my day ( a Niel Gaiman was next) as if I had been struck by lightning.

- Swordfish Horski