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Fire Watch
Connie Willis
Lonely Planet: Southeast Asia on a shoestring
China Williams, Greg Bloom, Celeste Brash, Andrew Burke
Fodor's See It Thailand 2008
Fodor's Travel Publications Inc.
Life As We Knew It - Susan Beth Pfeffer Meh. The best thing I can say about this one is that it was an easy read. I thought the "everyday apocalypse" aspect was refreshing - I'm sure not every day after a cataclysmic event contains an epic battle between starving survivors in a bleak wasteland, a trope that occasionally makes me tire of post-apocalyptic novels. But as it turns out, without scenes like that a slow apocalypse is pretty damn boring.

Boring is pretty bad, but that's not my only complaint here. I've heard criticisms that the narrative voice didn't feel real, but I actually thought the writing style was pretty authentic as far as (intelligent, reading, writing) teenage girls' journals go. My journal around that age read very similarly. Of course, whiny teenagers with petty problems (before the event especially) and embarrassing obsessions (that male figure skater? really?) are not always my favorite things to read. There's a reason I shredded my own journals when I found them a few years ago. Shit like that is mortifying.

There's also a weird, possibly slightly sexist bent in the novel. There's this assumption by the family (and Miranda herself), that Miranda won't make it, and she's the one who should be sacrificed, and thus should eat less food, etc. than the rest of them. Why was she considered the useless one? I can't remember how many years younger than Miranda her brother Jonny was supposed to be, but in some cases he was even treated older! A few times Miranda mentioned having to be inside while the two boys were chopping wood - um, why couldn't she chop wood too? Instead, she gets laundry, cooking, and washing dishes, which she even refers to once as "women's work". I swear, at some points I felt like I might be reading a novel set in the 1800's. Maybe the author did this on purpose so then later when she becomes the hero it's more of a character change, but it seriously irritated me.

What really turned me off, though, is the obvious lack of science in this book. Normally I can suspend my disbelief pretty far, but for a novel that's presumably set in our world and reality-based, some things just didn't ring true as I was reading. Then, in a group discussion here on GR, one of the author's blog posts came up. In it she basically brags about not doing research and "just guessing" at what might happen. Seriously, in this day and age, you can't spend half an hour googling some scientific facts to improve your writing and make your speculation more believable? That's fine if it's what you want to do, but I can't reward lazy writing with a good review.

I realize my review is overwhelmingly negative and maybe I should be giving it one star, but I try to reserve that for books I really hated. This one does have a lot of issues, but the plot was decent and I never felt tempted to abandon it, so two stars it is.