Review: Imposters (Imposters #1) by Scott Westerfeld

Title: Imposters
Author:  Scott Westerfeld
Publisher/Year:  Scholastic 9/11/18
Length:   289 Pages
Series:  Imposters #1

Overview

Deception. Risk. Betrayal. Redemption. Master storyteller Scott Westerfeld is at the top of his game, and back to his most famous realm. A New York Times bestseller.

Frey and Rafi are inseparable . . . two edges of the same knife. But only one of them is ever seen in public.

Frey is Rafi’s twin sister-and her body double. Their powerful father has many enemies, and the world has grown dangerous as the old order falls apart. So while Rafi was raised to be the perfect daughter, Frey has been taught to kill. Her only purpose is to protect her sister, to sacrifice herself for Rafi if she must. 

When her father sends Frey in Rafi’s place as collateral in a precarious deal, she becomes the perfect impostor. But Col, the son of a rival leader, is getting close enough to spot the killer inside her . . . . 

My Thoughts

Seeing the cover of this story brings me back to a great time when I read the series that preceded this one – The Uglies. That story was ahead of it’s time with all the body mods that were possible, the reason for it, the throwback to Rusties society (which is really our time), and now we’re sort of back in it again.

Tally Youngblood was the main character in that series -a girl who did everything that she could to change how people thought about themselves and the world. She started a rebellion, and now we’re back in a time when people are primed for another rebellion, and could use her reappearance but when that doesn’t seem likely, they use her spirit.

As the summary says, Rafia and Frey are twins, half an hour apart, but worlds apart in reality. Rafia is the favorite, the one who’s meant to be the ruler and Frey is the bodyguard and the throw away. Of course though, if we haven’t learned anything in reading these types of stories – it’s always the Throw Away that has the most potential. And that’s where this story takes us.

Frey is traded to a neighboring ruling family as collateral so their father can get a hold of metal which he so desperately wants. The intention is that Frey will impersonate Rafia while she’s there so that he can get what he wants and if something goes wrong, well, then he’s only lost the spare. not the heir.

Giving Frey this kind of freedom, even though she’s essentially a prisoner, well, it’s opening her world up more than anyone could have hoped. She befriends the eldest son to the ruling family and building more than just a close friendship with him. But if Rafia isn’t what she seems, then what’s to say that Col is what he seems?

From the beginning, we’re pulled into this story from an emotional string, and then we’re kept engaged with the hope that these teens can make the world a better place. Our main characters know that how their parents rule and have raised them isn’t necessarily the best way and when they come to terms that they can be powerful as well, in a positive way, then the story explodes.

In addition to Frey and Rafia, and Col even, we have a few additional characters that truly lend good shape to the story. There’s Zura who’s a Special (if you read the other series, you would know that Specials have been modified to be military grade – stronger, faster, smarter etc). She’s proven to be incredibly helpful and perhaps one of the last remaining Victorian House Guard Specials to survive. There’s also Teo who is Col’s younger brother and a boy who’s got an interesting role in the story that we don’t fully know yet. He’s at a private boarding school in Europe when all hell breaks loose and then he goes missing and we can’t wait to see how that plays out. There’s also Col’s friend Yandre who seems to have family connections to the Rebels and we can only guess that the Rebels will be necessary (and perhaps will spawn a pop up by Tally).

What our author does well yet again is paint a picture on how societies truly divided themselves once the Rusties went away and new tech became the norm. People became far more reliant on newer and better technology to make things not only beautiful, but automated and controlled by AI etc. When that happens, as we saw in the Uglies series, people become far too reliant on things outside of themselves and society crumbles.

We go on a roller coaster with this story. Feeling heartbroken for the sisters when they are torn apart, feeling hope for Frey because she gets a chance to be someone else, and then dealing with angst and anxiety when a war breaks out and friends and loved ones are killed or torn apart. We’re left in a very precarious place at the end of this story – where one sister is forced to make a decision that can truly ruin the other one, where enemies are capturing people left and right and people are still missing. there’s almost no closure at the end of this first installment to this spin off series and that’s something that i both love and hate because i need to know more – NOW. So, on that note, i’m going to stalk Mr Westerfeld’s page to find out when the 2nd book is coming out and i’ll be back later! Enjoy!

Review: Extras (Uglies book 4) by Scott Westerfeld

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Title: Extras
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Publisher/Year: Simon Pulse, 5/3/2011
Length: 416 pages
Series: The Uglies Series book #4

It’s funny about this book – see i don’t know why i thought that it was a novella at first – after i read Uglies, Pretties and Specials, I kind of felt like that was the end of the series since we had some sense of finality from Tally.  Guess i was wrong, and i’m glad that i finally got around to reading extras.  It’s great too that we actually got a different POV on things.

So Extras takes us to Japan where we’re immersed in a ‘Reputation Society’ where your ‘face rank’ is what makes you important and gives you value.  Basically this is such a socially tied society where the more you’re talked about, the higher your rank, and therefore the more you get.  ‘merits’ ,property, invitations places etc.

True to form, we meet our lead when she’s 15, basically the turning point in age across all these stories i think, and our lead is Aya – an ‘extra’ meaning basically no one that’s important and the younger sister of Hiro who is relatively famous.  he’s a tech-head and has managed to break into the elite Top 1000 through his tech ability and being a ‘kicker’ which is someone that broadcasts stories or ‘kicks’ then via a live feed.  All Aya wants in life is to get the recognition that her brother has – to be famous and have a better face rank so that she’s no longer an extra and unknown.

So being a kicker herself, Aya has figured out that there’s one story that she could ‘kick’ that would raise her face rank and make her famous so that’s the path that this story takes us down.  Aya tries to become something that she’s not by ‘truth-slanting’ so that she can get in with an elite crowd and from then on her life changes.

Along the way, Aya manages to break through, and at the same time uncovers something that is life changing for everyone in the world and that’s really what gets her well known.  As a result though, she’s managed to get the world into such a tizzy that Tally is forced to come ‘out of hiding’ and get involved herself.  Honestly, it’s a nice tie in to the sign-off that she gave at the end of Specials and actually fits rather organically into this story.

What i found to be really nice about this story is that we meet a whole cast of new folks while we’re reunited with some that we loved from books past.  The Cutters are back to an extent and so is Andrew Simpson Smith.  We have a great new group of Japanese friends and the story takes interesting twists with them all.  It’s also pretty interesting to see how the social society really relates to our present day 2013 life where hubs like Klout determine who’s more keyed into their social networks etc.  it makes you wonder if that’s where our society is going.

anyway – check it out, it’s a nice continuation on the series and definitely a story that you shouldn’t miss.

Review: Specials (Ugglies #3) by Scott Westerfeld

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Title:  Specials
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Publisher/Year: Simon Pulse 5/3/11
Length:  384 pages
Series: Uglies Series #3

Overview 

“Special Circumstances”: The words have sent chills down Tally’s spine since her days as a repellent, rebellious ugly. Back then Specials were a sinister rumor — frighteningly beautiful, dangerously strong, breathtakingly fast. Ordinary pretties might live their whole lives without meeting a Special. But Tally’s never been ordinary.

And now, in the third book in the series, Tally’s been turned into a Special: a superamped fighting machine, engineered to keep the uglies down and the pretties stupid.

The strength, the speed, and the clarity and focus of her thinking feel better than anything Tally can remember. Most of the time. One tiny corner of her heart still remembers something more.

Still, it’s easy to tune that out — until Tally’s offered a chance to stamp out the rebels of the New Smoke permanently. It all comes down to one last choice: listen to that tiny, faint heartbeat, or carry out the mission she’s programmed to complete. Either way, Tally’s world will never be the same.

My Thoughts

Ahh, how i do so love a third installment of a series – especially when my expectations throughout is that it’s the final book just to learn that there’s still more to come.  Scott Westerfeld has managed to really keep us invested in not only Tally Youngblood but the whole concept of all of the procedures that society does in order to keep what they consider to be the peace.

So, this story starts off when Tally awakens to find that Shay has somehow managed to get her to be transformed into a Special.  Not just a special, but a ‘special special’ – a clique made up of the cutters and Dr. Cables pet project.  Tally finds that yet again her decisions have been taken away from her, but what can she do right?

so now in reading this story our new keyword isn’t ‘bubbly’ anymore – it’s ‘icy’ – we hear that a lot to describe the mindset of the Specials.  It’s what they consider to be pure of mind and not foggy at all in what they do.

In any event, in this installment, Tally and the Cutters have set out to discover where the Smokies are and rid them of all their pills that are being distributed among the pretties as a cure to their bubbleheadedness.

This of course doesn’t come without a cost right?  They’ve found that Zane is much worse off than even we thought at the end of Pretties.  the nanos in the pill that he had taken have really damaged his brain, and while he’s back to some extend, he’s still not quite what Tally remembers and since she’s so special now, she’s rather disgusted by him.

Specials takes us on the journey of freeing zane and the other Crims so that they can find the New Smoke, shut down their operation of cure distribution and then some how gain control of what they think they know.

nothing’s ever that easy right?  Tally comes across her friends from the Smoke – David specifically and not on the best of terms.  She also comes across Andrew again, but that’s  not so bad in comparison to everything else.  Dr Cable has her own role in things….

i really don’t want to give away what happens here, but what’s learned is that people do tend to repeat the errs of the past, and cities around the world aren’t quite as different as you’d think yet aren’t quite the same either.

The questions here, ….

1) Shay seems to keep getting angry/jealous of Tally and even says that Tally has a sense that she’s the center of the universe.  how does this play out in the story?  we know that they needed each other in the other stories, so does that affect things in this 3rd book?

2) what happens to the new smoke?  and david to be exact?

3) does zane ever get back to where he was?  does tally come to terms with what he’s like now and determine that it’s ok for her?

4) does Peris resurface?  we know that he chickened out in book 2, does that happen again?

5) what’s the deals with the specials and the special specials?

all in all a GREAT read-  can’t wait to get started on Extras since i’ve just downloaded that one.

Review: Pretties (Uglies Series Book 2) by Scott Westerfeld

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Title:  Pretties
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Publisher/Year: Simon Pulse 5/3/11
Length:  368 pages
Series: Uglies Series #2

Overview 

In Tally’s world, your 16th birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellant Ugly into a stunningly attractive Pretty, and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is having a really good time. Just before her birthday, Tally discovered that turning Pretty comes with a terrible price. She vowed to accept the operation, but with the understanding that her friends on the outside would rescue her, and let her be the guinea pig for the experimental and highly dangerous cure they’re developing.

But in the second book of the Uglies series, Tally’s Pretty. And everything’s changed. The new, Pretty Tally is totally happy right where she is. She doesn’t think she needs any kind of cure at all. When someone from her Ugly life shows up with a message, Tally has a hard time listening. Did she really promise to give all this up? Is she bound by a promise she made when she was a different person? If there is anything left of the old Tally, how will she fight her way out to keep her word and help her friends?

My Thoughts 

After i finally managed to track down the ebook version of this second installment, i have to tell you i was REALLY eager to read it.  I needed to know what was going to happen to Tally and the New Smokies and well, becoming Pretty.  This 2nd book in the series did not disappoint, even if it was some what expected.

What i guess i’ve come to learn and expect from YA books that have a love interest in book 1, there’s ALWAYS going to be a love triangle, and it never ends well for anyone involved.  This series keeps along with this trend, but i guess it adds to things a little bit.

so to back up, we come across Tally after she’s become a New Pretty and is living in New Pretty Town.  She’s reunited with Peris – her guy best friend and with Shay, her friend from Uglytown/The Smoke and well….lots of other trickery.  Anyway, Shay and Peris are part of a clique called the Crims, basically because they are all the pretties that have pulled some pretty amazing tricks in their lives.  So Tally’s trying to get ‘voted in’ although there’s really no reason that she wouldn’t.  She’s the one that managed to get to the Smoke on her own, escape capture of the Specials once they invaded the smoke, pull some tricks to get the smokies out of the Specials lair…and tons else.

so, the night of the party where Tally is supposed to be voted in, all sorts of things start to go awry.  The theme of the party was changed last minute to a costume party.  (why??)  while she’s at the party, Tally keeps thinking that someone’s following her, spying on her and that’s unsettling, and then…well she realizes that she’s right and goes chasing after said person.

turns out to be Croy from the Smoke – come back with a message for Tally – and a way to lead her to finding the cure – since that was the whole point of Tally going back and becoming Pretty.  to see if the cure worked and if it would help everyone get out of their ‘pretty-mindness’ and be ‘bubbly’

this is where Zane, the leader of the Crims really takes a role. He’s taken a liking to Tally and decides to help her in her quest to decipher the message that Croy left, and they manage to find what croy was leading them to – the Cure in pill form.  Alas though, things are NEVER that easy.  while they are pulling an amazing trick to get the pills, the Specials find them and are on the hunt.  Tally starts to get back more memories of her past while on this search, David being one of them, but not full memories, that when she gets the note left by Croy – saying that she wrote it to prove that things aren’t what they seem, she gets even more scared of things.  Zane, well he decides that he’s going to be in this evenly with Tally and they decide to go hand in hand with everything that they do.  they ultimately end up splitting the pills – each taking 1 and then figure out where to go from there.

Good things that happen here, Zane and Tally continue to get close – i didn’t realize it at first that there were SO close – meaning that they were spending EVERY night together, but i finally picked up on that one.  I also wasn’t sure if Zane had true feelings for Tally or was just using her – to be honest, i’m not sure that i trust him fully, and there are lots of hints dropped that kind of build my suspicions.

In Any event, Zane and Tally feel like they are getting cured – although there’s a side effect to Zane – these HORRIBLE headaches that mean that something’s wrong.  They manage however to get the other Crims to try to get bubbly on their own – to get the cure w/o the pills – and things are going along well.  They pull a few impressive tricks – hoping to get the attention of the new smokies since they are plotting their escape.

because we know that this is Tally that we’re talking about, nothing is ever easy.  Does she escape?  as planned?  with whom she planned to leave with? and does everything go as expected?

lots of nos there….but quite a few favs from book 1 show up again, and things get REALLY interesting.  Suffice it to say, very few people are what they seem now or seemed in The Uglies, and i think that it’s a good lead into Specials…since that’s next on my list.

so apologies for all the vagueness here – i’m just really trying not to go into too much detail on any one piece of the story since it all is bound together.  just pick it up – it’s a really great book and you’ll thank me for it.  seems like a good bridge in the series – that’s for sure!

Review: Uglies (Uglies Series Book 1) by Scott Westerfeld

We all clearly know by now that i’m a HUGE fan of all things dystopian and while i’m waiting for January 22nd to roll around so i can read the follow up to Legend by Marie Lu (book 2 being Prodigy), i stumbled across Uglies which is in fact quite a good book 1 of the series.

Tally Youngblood is our lead female and we meet her when she’s on the cusp of her 16th birthday – the turning point for EVERYONE in civilization because that’s the birthday when you are turned from being an ‘ugly’ to being a ‘pretty’.  The mindset here is that one of the key drivers to the downfall of past civilization (namely ours at present) is that people didn’t look the same and therefore there was a lot of jealousy and things weren’t fair.  see….we know this to an extent, yet in Uglies – they actually take a step towards making everyone the same.

So…Tally is one of the last in her class to turn 16 so she’s quite lonely in ‘Uglytown’.  Her best friend Peris (a guy actually) has already turned and she’s constantly wondering if he’s going to care about her, if e misses her and if there’s a future for them…as friends or whatever.  So as she used to do quite often and as she does a bit now still, she sneaks across the river to ‘New Pretty town” – the part of the city that they have set aside for folks that have JUST been turned pretty – aka.  ‘new pretties’ and tries to see if she can find him.  What she finds is that yes, Peris does recognize her, and she him, and he ‘says’ that he can’t wait for her to turn, but that he doesn’t want her coming back to the city until she’s pretty.  This leaves Tally feeling even more rejected.  So – to make her escape back to Ugly town (because it’s a HUGE CRIME to be in Pretty Town when you’re an ugly) she has to pull a trick, causes alarms to sound, and rushes back to her home.  On her trip, she encounters Shay, another girl who’s the exact same age as her, and is in the same habit of sneaking across the river to see how things are.

Shay is our next main character.  Shay has this idea in her head from many of her friends that there’s an alternative to turning pretty and that in fact it’s a really bad thing to become pretty.  She’s heard from friends and seen for herself that there’s a group of people who’ve runaway and gone to live in the Smoke.  she herself hasn’t actually been to the Smoke ,but she’s met people who are from there and even knows their ‘leader’ David.  She tries to convince Tally that it’s much better to go to the Smoke and teaches Tally all she can so that Tally will come with her.

Alas, this is all for naught since Tally actually WANTS to be pretty and wants to join her friends in New Pretty Town.  Shay decides to runaway any way and from that point on, no one’s life is the same.  Shay leaves directions for Tally in case she has a change of heart and kind of prays that it’s the case since they’ve grown close in such a short time.

See….Special Circumstances has been watching the situation with Shay and her friends – noticing that there were bunches of runaways and hearing about The Smoke.  They in a sense FORCE Tally to work with them to find the Smoke and tell her that they won’t turn her pretty unless she helps them find the Smoke.  So…she agrees….and that’s when things get exciting for Tally.

So here are the questions on where the story goes:

1) What happens for Tally?  Does she make it to the smoke?  Does she help out Special Circumstances? Does she turn Pretty?

2) Now that we’ve met Shay, David and Peris, what is their story and how does it unfold?

3) What’s the deal with the Pretties?  Are they all Happy all the time?

so…now my only sadness is that Pretties (book 2) and Specials (book 3) aren’t available in Nook book ebook from Barnes and Nobles so i have to figure out a way to get my hands on the next installments cause i REALLY want to know how things unfold.  It’s definitely going to be interesting based on how the last few chapters of Uglies unfurled.  There were many twists and turns that i was expecting, yet that didn’t take away from the anxiety.