ARC provided by Sourcebooks Fire through Netgalley
TW: murder, mentions of rape
I don't own a TV. Yeah, I know you're expecting me to go down the us
ARC provided by Sourcebooks Fire through Netgalley
TW: murder, mentions of rape
I don't own a TV. Yeah, I know you're expecting me to go down the usual pretentious, "I don't own a TV, because books are the superior form of blah blah blah" but the truth is I don't own one because I am so crazy that after I watched The Ring I had to get rid of my TV. There will be NO creepy kids climbing out of a well and into my house!
So when I got approved for this ARC I went, "Oh no, Isa. What have you done?"
I decided to be a big girl and just read it. Here's how The Girl From the Well starts:
"I am where dead children go."
above: an accurate representation of my reaction
I bravely read on and it gets worse. And by worse, I mean better, creepier, scarier, and I couldn't phone my mum because it was past 1 a.m., even though after every paragraph I was whispering, "I want my mother."
But onto the plot!
This is a book inspired by the Japanese ghost story Banchō Sarayashiki. Okiku, in her own words, "an unavenged spirit, a nothing-more", hunts down murderers of children.
The story starts with one such "man" (if we can even call him that), living unconcerned by the weight of the dead he carries. Literally. The girl he murdered, bloated and decaying, has her "thin bony arms clasped about his neck, (...) her legs balanced against the small of his back."
He cannot see the girl he murdered, nor can he see the dead girl who has come for him that night. But both girls can see each other and, in silent understanding, they both know that the man will soon see no one ever again.
Okiku exists in a dreamless, wandering state, she observes life, she counts things. Just as she has for hundreds of years... Until a tattooed boy crosses her path. A boy with something "strange and malevolent hiding inside him".
Though Okiku is mostly a non-entity, it was very easy to sympathise with her. Tarquin/Tark (what an unfortunate name, hopefully there is no Lucretia around) was a bit slower to become likable but, once everything he went through is known, you can't help but feel for him. Tark's cousin, Callie, was the one looking for all the answers to the mystery that haunts her family, she was very easy to like. My favourite character, however, has to be Sandra, the little girl who could see the spirits, and was probably creepier than all of them put together...
There is an abundance of creepy children in this book, both dead and living - personally that's the horror element that gets to me the most. Followed by creepy dolls - which also make an appearance - and unrestful spirits trailing the living. There are many common horror elements in this book: evil spirits, insane asylums, creepy dolls, murderers, creepy children - but the writing is so skilful none of these read as clichés.
The writing is beautiful. Descriptive in a poetic way, which just makes everything even creepier. It achieves the perfect balance of saying just enough by meandering through a series of highly sensorial observations, and then leaving terrible things implied and unsaid, which is extremely unsettling and the best approach when it comes to this genre.
I think this is Rin Chupeco's first book? If so... I don't even know how to properly praise her, but she has to be one of the most talented writers to be published recently, and I wish her all the success in the world.
Seriously, anyone who follows my reviews knows I'm tremendously difficult to please, but Chupeco's writing - be it characterization, dialogue, pacing, plot - is amazing. May this book be the first of many more!
I'd also like to personally blame Rin Chupeco for making sure I'll never set foot in my attic again. ...more
I'm ashamed to admit I started reading this book as a joke.
It hadn't been too long since I was complaining about the scientific inaccuracies in ano
I'm ashamed to admit I started reading this book as a joke.
It hadn't been too long since I was complaining about the scientific inaccuracies in another book, so I thought this would be more of the same, with the added lurid element of romance with a caveman.
I really, really take it badly when a book shows evidence of lack of research, especially scientific research, because I know people read it and form wrong ideas about the subjects approached.
But Shay Savage did the right thing: right before the book started she explained a bit about Broca's area (though, for some reason, not Wernicke's area) and made a point to say something along the lines, hey this isn't right in my book, but I'm claiming artistic licence.
An author needs only make this clear and I'm open to read anything, to be honest.
And I'm so glad that, pretentious though my initial approach to this book may have been, I decided to read it anyway. Because this book is AMAZING.
Shay Savage insists that we're not to take the story too seriously and then proceeds to write an extraordinary book.
Ehd is a caveman. No details of his exact subspecies and, to be honest, since this is sci-fi, no details are needed. It's irrelevant because this book is so well written, the story is so riveting that it manages to have just about 2 lines of dialogue in over 300 pages and you don't even care.
But back to the plot - Ehd is a caveman. He lost his entire tribe in a forest fire and he's been finding it hard to find the will to go on living now that he's alone.
Until he finds Elizabeth in the pit he'd dug.
Elizabeth is, quite obviously to us readers but not something that could even cross Ehd's mind, a time-traveller. A young woman who's terrified to find herself suddenly in the middle of the woods, and even more terrified when she comes face to face with a caveman determined to have her for a mate.
I know many of you are rolling your eyes at this, "Oh, the old mate thing from Paranormal Romances, no thanks." Hold on. It could not be farther from that. Ehd sees her as a mate because there is no one else, she's a woman, he's a man, and that's basically all he knows of life: survive, find a mate, protect her and your children, provide for them. We may scoff, but survival is no joke if we're dropped in the wilderness with all the equipment needed to make it - let alone in the Stone Age with nothing but our wits.
No matter how hard Elizabeth tries to communicate with Ehd, he is devoid of the ability to understand language. He manages to learn her "name-sound" Beh, and that's it.
I think it was brilliant to have the book narrated from Ehd's point of view. We get to see his frustration at Beh's incessant sounds, we get to see his confusion over the fact that Beh is not in the slightest interested in him giving her a baby, we get to see his bafflement at Beh's insistence to never let him see her naked.
And we get to see his patience. His relief at no longer being alone.
It reminded me of the loneliest man in the world - in case you don't know the story, deforestation means that greedy lumber companies think nothing of slaughtering tribes of native Amazonians. In one such case only a single man survived the slaughtering of his tribe (which seems to have been one without any contact with the modern world). Now he lives alone in the Amazonian jungle, going through the motions of the day-to-day life of his people. Alone. He shows no interest in having any sort of contact with anyone and, really, can we blame him?
So with this story in mind, I really felt for Ehd. It must be terrible to be the last of your people. To go on day after day. Alone.
And his happiness at having Beh with him is palpable. Perhaps she's weird, her furs are strange, she's very insistent on bathing, and she keeps making noises with her mouth. But she's his Beh and now he has purpose in his life: to protect her, to provide for her and maybe, someday, she'll agree to see him as worthy of being her mate and they can have children of their own - a new tribe.
And it's... touching to see their relationship grow, even though they want different things, even though they literally do not understand each other. It's slow and it feels real, and it was lovely.
It also is quite accurate depicting their struggles for survival. Every day there was gathering, hunting, keeping the fire from going out. there was fighting off predators, and work, work, work, from dawn to dusk.
And I have to admit it, it made me cry, I can't say what exactly because I don't want to spoil this for anyone, but there were at least two times I was left in tears.
I don't even know how to recommend this book - but please see past the silly-sounding blurb, past the cover, and past the mocking reviews. And please, please, give this book a chance!!
I'm one of the pickiest reviewers in the world and the ebook wasn't enough for me, I need to go buy the paperback.
The people of Deo are divided in two moieties, the Wid and the Zeosil. All of them must, by trad
ARC provided by the author through Netgalley
The people of Deo are divided in two moieties, the Wid and the Zeosil. All of them must, by tradition, pay their debt by producing a child. The thing is, Wid can only mate with Zeosil, and Zeosil with Wid, otherwise the child will be born a Shun. If a Shun baby is lucky, it'll survive past 3 days and grow-up as an outcast, infertile and unable to pay the debt, scorned by all, believed to bring bad luck.
Rhona is a divvy: she can touch a child and sense whether it's a Wid, a Zeosil, or a Shun. She is travelling along the Bone Road, the road that encircles all of Deo, when her mother dies - but not without extracting a final request: that Rhona should help her friend Selina. A dangerous task involving the Rider. This is confusing to Rhona, since the Rider is a story told to frighten children into behaving themselves: a creature who jumps onto the back of a misbehaving child and forces it to run till their forces are spent and they die, the Rider will then jump onto the back of another misbehaving child.
What follows is an intricate story of forbidden love, adventure, a perilous mission, and one of the best world buildings I've ever seen written. The Bone Road is one of those stories you read and you can tell the author did not decide to rush any aspect of its writing. It's a fantastical story devoid of plot-holes, with an amazingly detailed society. Just so you can have an idea, it's one of those books that comes with a glossary and makes you think, "Oh... one of those where I'll spend 3/4 of the book going back and forth because I have no idea what this term means anymore." Instead, the book is so skilfully written that the reader can skip right past the glossary and understand everything as if they've lived within that world all of their life.
The world felt real. The characters felt real. The events that were so fantastical that even the characters had trouble believing in them, felt real. The dialogue was natural and believable, the plot was tight - and even when there was a change of POV (something I'm notorious for disliking, sorry!) the pacing didn't even flag, because every character was interesting. The villain was masterfully conceived, really, you have to read it to believe it. He made everything within the story that much more urgent, his motives were fully fleshed. You'll find no half-hearted fantasy clichés within these pages, I can promise you that.
And I'm sitting here hating myself, because when it comes to bad or mediocre books I have plenty to say, but what can you say about an excellent book?!
I love fantasy and the majority of this type of fantasy is written by male authors - it's good, I'm not bringing up a battle of the sexes here - but, as a woman, it's just so, so gratifying to see delicate issues being treated with the respect they deserve. Up there I placed a trigger warning for rape - yes, there is rape in this book, but it's not just a convenient plot point, and it's always treated as it should - with the utmost respect for the victim, and no forgiveness, no excuses, no pity for the perpetrator. The whole issue of consent, the whole way sexuality was treated in this society was so powerful to read. I wish all fantasy books were written like this!
If you love fantasy books with exquisite world building, a detailed society, compelling characters, an addictive plot and rational, pragmatic characters, ruled by common sense, GO READ THIS!!
As soon as I finished it I bought Mary Holland's Matcher Rules, and if it's even half as good as this one was, it must be amazing.
I was actually sad when I went to the author's page on Goodreads and saw only two books listed. So many mediocre writers keep churning out dreadful book after dreadful book, and Holland has given us only two... But if they're all as good as The Bone Road, I guess I should just be thankful and hope she writes more, no matter how long it takes her, because however she's writing, she's doing it right.
For anyone who, as it happened to me, is having trouble getting into this book - stick with it! I promise it gets much, much better!
For anyone who, as it happened to me, is having trouble getting into this book - stick with it! I promise it gets much, much better!
Lilac LaRoux is the daughter of the richest man in the known universe, Tarver Merendsen is a lower class young man who, due to his feats in the battlefield, was quickly promoted to major, thus outranking most of the officers on the luxury spaceliner in which Lilac and Tarver are travelling. Something goes wrong with the spaceliner and, after getting into an escape pod, Lilac and Tarver crash into a strange planet. It's not just about surviving in the wilderness and trying to flag a spaceship to rescue them - it's about cracking the mystery of the whispers that haunt them in this new planet.
I didn't really like the way this book started, this book could have been worthy of 5 stars, but the start... I read many complaints about finding Lilac unlikable at first, I didn't have that problem, my problem is that the beginning of the book makes the characters sound like a standard YA Mary-Sue and Gary-Stue. Get this: Lilac is a gorgeous redhead, rich, famous, and among a sea of flawlessly gorgeous women she stands out. Not only that, she's a genius in electronics, explosives, and space travel. Tarver is only 18 years old but he is so amazing that, even in an extremely classist society, he managed to be promoted above all the rich people in the military and now outranks everyone on the spaceship. Not only that he is also super handsome and fit, and he is now famous for his battle heroics.
I mean... really?
But I urge readers to ignore this inauspicious start. The story is well worth it. First of all, hurray for a healthy relationship in YA!! The guy is so normal! Yeah, he still notices and thinks about sex, but he respects her and, thinking his advances will not be welcome, does not attempt anything. Which, given the circumstances would have been a bit iffy - I mean, they're stranded in a strange planet, she depends on him for survival... The romance part of the book was masterfully dealt with. Lilac had a say in all of it, the matter of consent was very present in all their romantic interactions. Plus it wasn't a case of insta-love; they started off on the wrong foot and learned to trust and eventually like each other. It was a gradual and realistic build-up, especially considering their circumstances.
The story is told in alternating POVs, we get Lilac, we get Tarver, and we get glimpses of Tarver's interrogation after their rescue, which help frame the chapters that follow them and keep the reader guessing as to what actually happened until the very end. I really liked both characters despite their unrealistic achievements. They were both so likable that I, a notoriously picky reader, managed to just go, "Yeah... I'll just ignore it because aww look at them!"
I loved Lilac. She crashes into a planet while wearing a ball gown and high heels and not once complains about trekking through the wilderness. She tries to keep up with Tarver no matter what, even if it's clear he'd be willing to give her a break, because as she puts it:
"(...) years later, when he looks back at this escapade, I’d rather he think bitch than weakling."
Yes! Girl, tell it!!!
She is not, despite her introduction, a Mary-Sue in the way she behaves throughout the book. She recognises her failings, she knows her limits, she also knows when not to back down. And she was never tstl. Do you know how refreshing it is to read a YA female protagonist like that?
Tarver is also great. Instead of being the usual manipulative, controlling asshole that populates most YA, New Adult and Contemporary Romance books, he's *gasp* a normal guy, who thinks of Lilac as an equal human being - just one he happens to be attracted to, but given everything, that is hardly of importance, not when they're struggling to survive. He understands that Lilac's need for independence is not just a ~feminine whim~ he'll condescendingly indulge or not, as many male characters in his place would have seen it - but a core element of her self-worth and ability to keep going in a dreadful situation. He was very capable and, inarguably, the one most at ease in their environment, but he never took that as meaning he was the one in charge. The great thing about Lilac and Tarver's relationship was the mutual respect and the slow build of trust between them. They asked multiple times throughout the book for the other one's trust and that was the basis for their whole relationship. That is so awesome!
This is not just a survival tale, there is a mystery to be cracked in this planet: whispers and visions haunt them through their trek. Things happen that make them doubt their sanity. There is something... someone there with them. But who or what could it be?
Not going to spoil it, of course, but I have to say that readers should prepare themselves for some tear-jerking moments that come out of nowhere and punch them in the gut, then leave them sobbing and gasping while contemplating the nature of self and what makes a person who they are, and how consciousness and self-awareness may not be enough to make you real. Basically a Descartes beat-down, but it's the reader that ends up curled into a ball, crying.
I honestly cannot wait to get my hands on the next book - even though I already know it won't be about Lilac and Tarvers, though hopefully they'll make an appearance, or at the very least will be mentioned in it. But I trust Amie Kaufman and Maegan Spooner to write a wonderful book - all my respect to them: two authors writing a book and it reads absolutely seamlessly, and they wrote an incredibly engaging plot with a healthy relationship within it. Really, really well done!
Anyway, I don't know how convincing I managed to be, since my aim is to get everyone to read this book, so just in case I wasn't very successful: PLEASE GO READ THIS BOOK! I promise you'll love it! ...more
He swooned while still walking forward, and the angel stood quickly to catch him. Sobran fell against a warm, firm pillow of muscle. He lay braced b
He swooned while still walking forward, and the angel stood quickly to catch him. Sobran fell against a warm, firm pillow of muscle. He lay braced by a wing, pure sinew and bone under a cushion of feathers.
This is Sobran and Xas' first meeting.
Sobran, the son of a vintner in the early 19th century, is drowning his sorrows in wine - Celeste, the girl he loves, he forbidden to him, there is madness tainting her family's blood, so his father has not given his blessing to the match.
It's between two vineyards that Sobran meets Xas, an angel who has only stopped for a moment. Intrigued by Sobran's very human complaints, Xas reassures him that next year they will meet again and they shall toast to Sobran's marriage. And so they do, and from then on, once a year, Sobran, an ordinary French peasant, shares the events of his life entwined with the story of his vineyard.
Sobran brought the angel his discontent, a savour to their talk, a refinement, like a paper screw of salt for a lunch to be eaten out-of-doors, at the edge of a meadow.
Xas doesn't speak much of himself or of the curious double mark on his arm, made by Lucifer and God, who determined that "Xas shall go freely." Perhaps angels are mysterious by nature. But along the years Sobran learns of Xas' love for botany (he's trying to grow a garden, and has a special fondness for roses), of Xas' interest in books, of Xas' other human friends - there was an old monk who passed away and was much mourned, there is a Turkish woman to whom he asks for advice regarding Sobran's troubles - it's difficult for an angel to understand humans, sometimes.
And year after year, wine vintage after wine vintage, what they feel for each other grows. But angels live forever... and men do not.
What he had wanted, with all his heart, was to match this being stride for stride over the miles. But a crippled angel will outstrip a man.
Even if this doesn't seem like the kind of story to interest you as a reader, Elizabeth Knox's writing makes it worth reading the whole thing.
It's not just the fact that she wrote an angel who, from all the emperors and kings and princes, chose to get to know a poor French peasant. It's the fact that the book employs some of the most beautiful language I've ever read. It's the fact that it follows wine vintages, and crisp or earthy flavours, and burgundy tinges, the fact that it's a love story told through the red stain cast by the sun piercing a full glass of wine. It's the fact that it's a love story with characters that feel real, and it's slow and alluring, and you get to taste it and see it slowly mature as if it were encased in an oak barrel.
It's the fact that it'll break your heart, once you finish reading it.
I admit it, I'm a long time fan of Hyperbole and a Half, that site is genius and Allie Brosh is hilarious.
This book includes a few of the stories sh
I admit it, I'm a long time fan of Hyperbole and a Half, that site is genius and Allie Brosh is hilarious.
This book includes a few of the stories she'd already posted on her site and a few (awesome!) new ones. Sadly... no Alot.
But there was plenty of Simple Dog - as an owner of a very Simple Dog I appreciate knowing I am not alone in this plight. I, too, tested my dog and he failed just as miserably.
It's worth mentioning my dog's eternal love for "the cone of shame". He had to wear one when he was neutered and once it was removed he went into severe dog depression (standing on his bed making a penetrating "EEeeeEEEEeeeEEEeeEEeee" noise of anguish). I thought, "Poor thing, obviously missing his balls." But no, it was the cone of shame he missed. Somehow he became convinced that the cone of shame was the height of dog couture, and like an Elizabethan courtier he wanted it around his neck, the bigger the better. So we had to wean him out of wearing the cone of shame, as if it were cocaine, or something.
Right now he's wearing one (he broke a nail, which had to be removed) and he struts everywhere like a model on a runway, filled with the greatest happiness a dog can experience. Not looking forward to the time he'll have to stop wearing it...
Brosh's stories about depression were poignant and, quite honestly, the best way I've come across to describe depression to someone who doesn't suffer from it. Next time I have to explain to someone what it's like suffering from depression, I'll just refer them to this book.
As a person with a lifelong distrust of geese, her goose story was as terrifying as one of Stephen King's books. Think Cujo - but with a goose.
More importantly: Allie Brosh's parents. They deserve all the awards, seriously.
So here it is, my Halloween yearly re-read - the only book that scared me so much, I refused to get out of bed for a glass of water in the middle o
So here it is, my Halloween yearly re-read - the only book that scared me so much, I refused to get out of bed for a glass of water in the middle of the night and ended up drinking from the hot water bottle that had been warming my feet. The things this book taught me to be scared of that hadn't even occurred to me how sinister they were:
- fire hose! - topiary animals! - parents saying you have to take your medicine! - mazes! - hotels! - children's imaginary friends! - 1930's songs! - fancy dress parties! - furries! - children's playgrounds! - the number 217! - little girls dressed alike! - hot water bottles! listen, that was still scalding hot, it really hurt.
I watched the film (yeah, I know King isn't a fan) before I read the book, and while the book is much scarier than the film, I feel like they complement each other well.
First of all, we all know how the story goes, I hope?
One thing I really like about the film is Wendy. King wrote her as this blond goddess straight out of every man's dreams. She struggles with everything that is going on in her marriage but she's a very passive character. Film!Wendy was frailer from the onset, Shelley Duvall was a great choice for the role - go to imdb and you'll find countless discussions about how "ugly" she is (as if Jack Nicholson himself was an oil painting...), I don't think she's ugly at all, she looks normal and sometimes actually pretty, but always believable. And though book!Wendy is all athletic and former cheerleader-like, I find it more believable and empowering to have a normal woman fight her way out of the situation she was in, fight for her child. It made it more real.
One thing I really like about the book is how much scarier it is. We see some of it in the film, of course, but the fire hose, the topiary animals, that scene with Danny in the children's playground! You need to read it, if you don't you're missing out on some prime scary material.
On the other hand the girls:
Aren't actually twins in the book - points for Kubrick! Because you honestly can't unsee this stuff, especially in your nightmares, later tonight.
Another thing I prefer about the film: it's never clear whether or not there were supernatural elements at work. Oh, maybe, probably! - how else would Jack escape from the fridge? But everything else is left vague - it could be that the hotel is coming to life around them, its restless spirits rising to haunt the family... or it could be that Jack Torrance is an alcoholic with cabin fever and his addiction drives him to attempt to murder his family - literally, this time, not the slow death that alcoholism brings to family life.
I love that! I love the uncertainty, I love that it's left up to the viewers to believe what they will. I love sometimes believing one thing, sometimes believing another.
One thing is certain, though, once you start reading it...
Iolanthe's light elixir, over which she had slaved away, was utterly ruined. A notation in The Complete Potion, assured tha
4.5 stars rounded up to 5
Iolanthe's light elixir, over which she had slaved away, was utterly ruined. A notation in The Complete Potion, assured that, "There is no light elixir, however tainted, that cannot be revived by a thunderbolt." Iolanthe is quite adept at fire, water and earth magic, but lightning? That's the stuff of legends! Still, what does she have to lose? No one is more astonished than she is when she succeeds in summoning lightning (and nearly frying herself), not even Prince Titus, who observed everything from his balcony and recognised the start of a prophecy: one which would bound him to this girl so that, together, they could defeat the Bane, ruler of Atlantis, who subjugates their realm.
Pretty standard fantasy trope, right? What if I tell you that the best way the Prince and Iolanthe find to keep her hidden from their enemies while they thwart attempts on their lives, try to interpret capricious prophecies, and defeat evil, is to disguise Iolanthe as a boy, now known as Fairfax, and have her attend Eton with the Prince? Then things get awesome! You'd think this would be ripe soil for clichéd romance, what it is, is a spectacularly paced character development leading to true friendship(s) - and yes, a dash of romance. It was like Enid Blyton's St. Clare's series, only you get to see the boy version of it - disguised as girl, with magic, ribald humour, boyish insults, and deathly peril. It's like Harry Potter, except the wizards are attending muggle school.
But prophecies guide most of our heroes' paths, and what are they to do, when they know one of them is bound to die, and they start realising they do not wish to go on without the other?
Read and find out! I promise you will not be disappointed! I, for one, cannot wait for the sequel! ...more
I had very, very!, high expectations for this book and Claire Legrand (curse her!) met them all, surpassed them, and left me crying brokenly in the
I had very, very!, high expectations for this book and Claire Legrand (curse her!) met them all, surpassed them, and left me crying brokenly in the dust.
Because I am somewhat less than bright, there was a moment when I started reading and completely ignored the characters' names and was struck by the horrifying fear that Olivia was Victoria and Lawrence's child (from The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls) - so I'm going to take a moment here to be thankful that this wasn't something that occurred to Legrand (if she ever reads this review she'll probably go, "Oh no, a missed opportunity to crush my readers' souls!"), though she managed to break my heart every other page, blithely indifferent to my naïve expectations when I picked up what was supposedly a children's book.
I tried my best to be granted an ARC of this book, alas I had to wait what felt like eleven years for the Book Depository to deliver my hardback copy, all the while considering scenarios in which I managed to get the ARC after all, like disguising myself as Harold Bloom and marching into Simon & Schuster requesting a copy of the book (a difficult feat considering I'm neither male, nor white, nor old enough - and most importantly - not Harold Bloom). It may be of interest to some to learn that candles, contacting the spirit world and sacrificing a drawing of a black rooster (I couldn't kill the real thing) didn't work either.
But moving on - unlike The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, The Year of Shadows is told in first person. This was a bit jarring at first, but it was a stroke of brilliance: proper Victoria would insist upon having her tale told in third person narrative mode, and Olivia's tale wouldn't have hit the reader quite as hard if it hadn't been told in first person.
How hard, you ask?
above: an accurate representation of how I felt
When the story starts, Olivia, her frail grandmother, and her broken father are homeless and moving into Emerson Hall, the symphony hall into which her maestro father keeps sinking the family's meagre economies. Olivia's mother, Cara, left the family without a word nine months before. So Olivia is, as you can imagine, a very distrusting and hurt little girl. There's the shame of her mother leaving, now compounded by the shame of having people find out she's living backstage - and by people, I mean mostly Henry - perfect, straight As, popular Henry, who hushers at the Hall and constantly grates on Olivia's nerves. But there are odd things happening at the Hall, sudden drafts of cold air which freeze Olivia right to her bones, slithering shades with pointy nails and teeth burning spots of glittering dark coldness into Olivia and Henry - and it's up to them to find out what is happening!
More than the ghost story, the real strength of this book is, as it was in The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, the relationship between the two main protagonists. I wish some YA, UF, HR, and PNR authors would take a look at how Claire Legrand writes relationships and realise how you can write a completely believable and compelling relationship and still keep it healthy. Yes, they're still kids, but there is no creepy imbalance in their relationship, and go ahead call me crazy, but Claire Legrand writes perfect little one-day-maybe OTPs. But more than the romantic aspect of it, the friendship at its core is brilliantly written - not just with Henry, Joan a very socially minded young lady who is precocious (and obnoxious, according to their teachers), and stands by Olivia's side even when Olivia would rather she's go and stand somewhere else, is also amazing in every way. And best of all? Igor, the cat!! He's not exactly a talking cat, but he still makes his thoughts known (as cats are wont to do).
The ghosts' stories were... how can I explain this properly? One time I tried to pick up my 66 lbs dog, he panicked and kicked me right in the chest - left me lying on the ground, crying and trying to catch my breath, choking on my sobs. Cracked 3 of my ribs. Reading the ghosts' stories, particularly Tillie and Jax's, and Mr. Worthington's, felt kind of like that, except more painful.
Also worth mentioning are Karl Kwasny's lovely illustrations, just look:
I realise I'm not making this out to be something most people would want to read, "Hey, this ruined my life, go read it!" but it was so, so good! I can blab endlessly about books I hate, but I always have trouble convincing people to go read books I love - so, go, read this book! It's amazing, and you'll probably cry, and you'll most definitely laugh, and it'll hurt so much, and you'll love it all the more because of it!
"It took Robert half a minute to realize that he’d waited too long to announce himself. “Aha!” he could imagine himself proclaiming, springing out f
"It took Robert half a minute to realize that he’d waited too long to announce himself. “Aha!” he could imagine himself proclaiming, springing out from behind the curtains. “I was admiring the plaster. Very evenly laid back there, did you know?” She would think he was mad."
And just like that I was hooked.
This story begins with Robert, the Duke of Clermont, hiding away behind the curtains during a social event. Imagine his surprise when a lady joins him in hiding and together they listen to her fiancé say the most insulting things about her.
Minnie, the lady in hiding, is one of the most outstanding female characters I've had the pleasure to read. You see, she's not a particular beauty (and no, she doesn't magically turn into one by the end of the book), she doesn't say much, in fact, one could almost forget she was there. But all this is brilliant pretence on her behalf. Minnie is the cleverest, wittiest, most strategically inclined lady ever.
There is something delightfully compelling about a heroine whose main strength is how clever she is - and this is not just told, it's shown, again and again in almost every thing she says. Whatever is happening, she's two steps ahead. And what's more delightful is how Robert is simply fascinated by her, by how clever she is. Oh, he knows she's cleverer than he is, and he likes it!
So here's the thing: there is a very, very big secret in Minnie's past. And when she's accused of trying to incite workers to sedition - a "crime" she knows Robert is behind - she has absolutely no problem with blackmailing him into submission. What she didn't expect was for Robert to make a complete fool of himself because clever ladies get him all hot and bothered and when that happens, as he himself admits, he doesn't have enough blood left for his brain to function properly.
It's so great to see a very clever hero who is absolutely aware of what a fool he's making of himself and who doesn't care because he knows the heroine is worth it!
Their early interactions go a little something like this:
MINNIE: Ha! You think that is what's going on, when in fact I planned to let you believe this, because I have 675427806 plans going at the same time, which you will never uncover! ROBERT: I seduce you! Please? MINNIE: You aren't listening, my brilliant strategy-- ROBERT: You are so clever and pretty and I want to respect you all day long! MINNIE: Bad move, that! You're not thinking strategically. ROBERT: *say something clever to impress her, man! think, think! say something clever!* ROBERT: Tits.
So now we have Minnie, wanting to expose the duke as the culprit, and the duke wanting her to expose him in any way she likes, because he's just so absolutely enamoured with her. What's Minnie to do?
You had better go read this for the answer, I promise you won't be disappointed!...more
This was a delightful birthday present from Susana (thank you!!!). I had my eye on this book for ages - I'm quite shallow, I'll be the first to admi
This was a delightful birthday present from Susana (thank you!!!). I had my eye on this book for ages - I'm quite shallow, I'll be the first to admit it, and pretty book covers are my siren's call. Mostly, what ends up happening is that the saying "Don't judge a book by its cover" proves itself right more often than not.
But not with The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls! Legrand has a gift for spooky descriptions:
"For a flash of a second, Mr. and Mrs. Prewitt’s pretty smiles changed into enormous, wolfish grins. Mrs. Prewitt’s fingers clutched her bowl so hard that it smashed into pieces. Hundreds of fat black berries rolled across the floor like bugs. Victoria stared and wondered if they really were bugs, because some of them seemed a bit . . . leggy."
Speaking of bugs, the book has an amazing presentation: scattered throughout its pages you are bound to find creepy bugs that will catch you unaware and freak you out.
But it's not just the spooky descriptions that are wonderful: the characters are incredible. Victoria, in particular, is amazing. She's the model child: perfect grades, perfect looks, perfect manners. So she decides to make sloppy, weird, head-in-the clouds Lawrence her very special project.
Not that he's interested in being her project...
"So, at lunch one day, Victoria marched from her lonely table to Lawrence’s lonely table and said, “Hello, Lawrence. I’m Victoria. We’re going to be friends now.” Victoria almost shook Lawrence’s hand but then thought better of it because she feared he might very well be infested with lice or something. Instead, she sat down and opened her milk carton, and when Lawrence looked at her through his skunkish hair and said, “I don’t really want to be your friend,” Victoria said, “Well, that’s too bad for you.”"
In a spooky, gloomy prose, Legrand explores themes such as friendship and the importance (or unimportance) of conforming to societal expectations. Pretty heavy stuff for a kids' book, but it doesn't feel like that at all, the writing is that masterful!
Also worth mentioning are Sarah Watts' illustrations, that match the eerie atmosphere of the book and are just lovely.
BRIONY: Swamp, why can't people be like you? CRAZY SISTER ROSE: Moist? Stinky? BRIONY: Unable to speak to me. TOWNSPEOPLE: Briony, were there witches i
BRIONY: Swamp, why can't people be like you? CRAZY SISTER ROSE: Moist? Stinky? BRIONY: Unable to speak to me. TOWNSPEOPLE: Briony, were there witches in the swamp? Are there witches here? WITCHES! Were they naked? Could they read? ELDRIC: I've come to study or w/e. In a swamp town. So what do you think about evolution? BRIONY: I think it's anachronistic in a book like this. Could you step away from me? ELDRIC: Oh Briony, Briony, you are so smart! BRIONY: I know. Now leave. *sigh* I really hope my witch powers have finally left me. SWAMP MONSTER THING: Pssst! Pssst! Brionyyyy!
What an utterly charming and enchanting story! Everything, from the descriptions, to the characters, to the plot, to the wonderful use of language, was perfect. I have to say, I'm actually giving it a 4.5 because of the title -- very unfair to the reader to make it so "spoilery". But the story is so wonderful and quirky that, even spoiled, was an absolute delight to read!...more