I loved Imaginary Girls, so I was a bit disappointed with this one. I read this under its new name, Fade Out, and I was relieved to find out that it...moreI loved Imaginary Girls, so I was a bit disappointed with this one. I read this under its new name, Fade Out, and I was relieved to find out that it was her first novel. (less)
Miller's writing is easy to read and just a tad aggravating. Every little thing that protagonist Haven is think...moreI would really call this 2 1/2 stars...
Miller's writing is easy to read and just a tad aggravating. Every little thing that protagonist Haven is thinking is included in the novel. Every. Little. Thing.
If you can get past the writing, the story itself is not terrible. Basic synopsis: Haven grows up in a small religiously driven town in Tennessee. Because she is prone to suffering from visions of her previous life, said town is lead to believe she is possessed by the devil. When she is nearly 18 events prompt her to run to New York City and find her long-lost love from a previous life...but when she does, can she trust him?
Unfortunately, I found Haven herself to be pretty annoying. She is easily steered in any direction by anyone who speaks to her with the exception of her grandmother. If she gets advice from a character who she has known for about ten minutes she is more than willing to follow it until she receives contradictory advice from yet another character. The love interest is not much better. He is physically beautiful, but I could not tell you really anything about his personality. Their budding romance is pretty hard to swallow. Haven and Iain just might be "destined to be together" (an idea that rankles to begin with). By the time I was halfway through the novel I found myself completely ambivalent to whether or not they actually ended up together (no spoilers, you'll have to read it to find out).
If I liked the main protagonist a little more, and the love interest a little less Adonis-like and a little more of a real person, I would definitely bring this rating up a notch or two. (less)
This is one of the best books about growing up that I have read, perhaps in my entire life. Precocious and humorous Calpurnia Tate is an almost twelve...moreThis is one of the best books about growing up that I have read, perhaps in my entire life. Precocious and humorous Calpurnia Tate is an almost twelve year-old with the gift of an inquisitive mind and a grandfather who will help her on the path to learning the Scientific Method. Unfortunately, the year is 1899, and Calpurnia must also deal with the social expectations of being a young lady a few years away from her debut.
What seems like a simplistic story is really a complex assessment of the age, vividly told through the introductions of new inventions (like the horseless carriage, the telephone, and Coca Cola), the exploration of different species characteristics, and the navigation of social mores. The age of the main character may be eleven, but I have read adult novels with less sophistication than Jacqueline Kelly has put into this book (so I broke even and settled for calling it appropriate for both the adolescent and YA communities).
The relationship between Calpurnia and her grandfather is so poignant and nuanced that I caught myself smiling on multiple occasions. All characters are in fact well thought out and portrayed. Calpurnia lies in birth order in the middle of six brothers, and each has a distinct personality (you will want to hug Travis and smack Lamar upside the head). I can absolutely see why this won so many distinctions, and will keep a look out for the next book Kelly publishes. (less)
I loved the A Great and Terrible Beauty trilogy and Going Bovine, but I was not sold on this one. It took me the first half of the book to fall into a...moreI loved the A Great and Terrible Beauty trilogy and Going Bovine, but I was not sold on this one. It took me the first half of the book to fall into a rhythm with this novel - mostly due to the fact that Bray seems to have written it purely to poke (sometimes mean-spirited) fun at various aspects of American society. Using thinly-veiled characters, the "Corporation," which serves as an omnipotent narrator, and periodic "commercial breaks" let her make fun of the blonde bimbo stereotype, every realty TV show in existence, Sarah Palin, the cosmetics industry, women who use cosmetics sold in the cosmetics industry, Texans, vampires, pirates, romantic comedies, boy bands, and of course, the world of the beauty pageant. While interesting in the first few pages, after a while this style of writing made it felt like I was reading one long gripe session. Even when I agreed with her opinion I wished Bray would just get on with the plot. Luckily, once I hit the halfway point I could largely ignore these things and focus on the story, which turned out to be pretty entertaining in spite of itself.
Basically, the novel opens with a plane crash that strands a small number of beauty pageant survivors on a remote island. When they were left to fend for themselves, I expected this to turn into an America's Next Top Model version of The Lord of the Flies. It did not. And though painfully one-dimensional at first, the beauty queens do grow on you, and then they become endearing...
...you just have to deal with a lot of chatter to see it happen. (less)
The Twelve Dancing Princesses (or the Worn-Out Dancing Shoes) has been my favorite fairy tale since I was a child. Naturally, this made me both want to read and steer clear of Entwined, the brand-new take on the tale by Heather Dixon. I have to say, I am very glad that I picked this up.
Dixon has a brilliant way of writing - it is not dumbed down (for which I am grateful, given the current state of affairs in the YA literary world), and is at turns illuminating, endearing, and funny. She has been faithful to the original story while simultaneously creating something new.
I read this between The Rum Diary and Catch-22, and it has been the perfect form of non-patronizing escapism (as well as a way to keep sardonic humor from taking over my entire brain). I will definitely be paying attention to Dixon's work yet to come.
This is a top quality first novel, and if it weren't my follow-up to In the name of the Wind, I may well have given it five stars. It was certainly go...moreThis is a top quality first novel, and if it weren't my follow-up to In the name of the Wind, I may well have given it five stars. It was certainly good enough for me to want to buy my own copy one day (rather than the somewhat questionably worn library copy I ended up with).
Ilena is a strong main character, and it is really easy to see that Malone did quite a bit of research on the era - not only regarding the political upheaval of the time, but also daily rituals, customs, garb, and food. She paints a vivid picture, and the novel sucked me in quickly. I recommend this to anyone looking for a decent YA historical fiction (because let's face it, a lot of the historicals out there, for teens or adults, are simply not good).(less)
How nice...a teen vampire book in which the characters actually sound/act like teenagers. This is not to say this is my new favorite or anything, but...moreHow nice...a teen vampire book in which the characters actually sound/act like teenagers. This is not to say this is my new favorite or anything, but it was refreshing.(less)
Wow. I haven't been this pleased with a collection of short stories since Neil Gaiman's Smoke and Mirrors.
This book is like those dreams you wake up...moreWow. I haven't been this pleased with a collection of short stories since Neil Gaiman's Smoke and Mirrors.
This book is like those dreams you wake up from, wishing you could return in order to see how things turn out. There is a sense of anticipation pervasive through all three stories, and it follows you after you are done reading. I lost my morning to "Hatchling" - as those people who meditate pass hours in seemingly minutes - and I do not regret the time at all. It is one thing to read an author's retelling of a set of fairy tales; it is quite another to read fairy tales that are new. It is a rare and pleasant experience.
The synopsis tells you as much about these tales as one could without giving important plot points away, so I won't breath a word about the stories themselves...except to reiterate how entranced I was by their telling. This is one of those books that makes you ecstatic to be literate.
Back in the good ol' undergraduate days, the students in one of my lit courses spent an entire class period arguing with the professor about Briony, t...moreBack in the good ol' undergraduate days, the students in one of my lit courses spent an entire class period arguing with the professor about Briony, the main character in McEwan's Atonement. Our take was, "this kid is one of the most manipulative, wenchy characters we've ever read, and it spoiled the whole book." She argued that since Briony was a fictional character, we should be able to look past her faults in order to evaluate the plot and technique of the novel. Every time I come across a main character that threatens an otherwise good book I am reminded of this argument, and it happened again with Dramarama.
Sadye is so self-absorbed she makes teens I have meet (and been) in real life look absolutely saintly by comparison. She spends her time in the summer acting program believing she knows what is best in all productions, refusing to learn during any new types of acting exercises, and displaying nothing but wide-eyed shock when her best friend refuses to agree with her. And speaking of that best friend...when good things happen to him, she is unable to be happy for him (along the lines of a petulant child screaming "it isn't fair!" when they don't get what their friend gets). She also manages to be completely condescending to Candie, even after she can no longer justify thinking of herself as "better." I have known plenty of drama kids in my time, and some of them displayed a few of these tendencies, but when said tendencies are wrapped into a single character like this it bogs down the story. After all, when told in first person like this, the reader is inside Sadye's head. If that head is not fun to be in, what can you do?
That is a shame, because the story is otherwise perfect. Lockhart captures the nuances of the other young dramatics perfectly. Demi, Nanette, Iz, and Candie are all vibrant characters with their own motivations and foibles. The plot is curvy in the way that real life is unpredictable, but not in a way that some authors degenerate to (where they throw in random events just for the sake of doing so).
So I am lead back to this: is Dramarama a good book despite the irritating nature of Sadye? I confess that I am actually stumped, and will just have to go middle of the road with three stars. I really dislike the idea of giving it less since Lockhart was so adept at every other aspect of the novel. Maybe I learned something in that lit class argument after all...(less)
**spoiler alert** Here is the deal: Stiefvater is a good writer most of the time. I could put forth some examples to the contrary, such as the metapho...more**spoiler alert** Here is the deal: Stiefvater is a good writer most of the time. I could put forth some examples to the contrary, such as the metaphors that are just plain bizarre, or some of the dialogue.
But for the most part, Stiefvater writes very intelligently, and so I did not realize that my opinion of the story itself was falling until it was too late. Over the course of reading this novel I moved from interest to irritation to vague disappointment. This downward slide centered mostly around Grace, the hapless main character in this story, and her lack of real interpersonal relationships (or at least ones that I saw that qualified as real interpersonal relationships).
Grace seemed to have one facet to her personality - obsessive (I give the author kudos for her having the balls to even have Grace admit to this obsessiveness). She is obsessed with the wolves - particularly Sam - and this obsession continues through the time they have while he is human. Sure, Sam is an intelligent, Rilke-reading, lyric writing-on-the-fly, "sexy" guy, but I got the distinct impression while reading this that if he were not part wolf (her wolf, no less), Grace would not have been interested. I suppose I can forgive all of this because of Grace's unique tie to the wolf world, but man! Because Grace is nothing but obsessive, all she is offering Sam is that obsessiveness, and would an intelligent, Rilke-reading, lyric writing-on-the-fly, "sexy" guy really be happy with just plain obsession? Maybe. I am not an expert on teenage werewolves.
But what actually bugged me more was that void of interpersonal relationships. The obsession with Sam is the closest intimacy we have a glimpse of in the book. She has more of a connection with the wolves than her friends or her parents. The former are in her life for no discernible reasons - the most we get from Stiefvater is that Olivia also likes wolves, and Rachel is the extroverted glue that holds her introvert friends together. Most of the time I was hard-pressed to find evidence of the three truly even liking each other. There certainly was no trust between them. As for Grace's parents - both are too absorbed in their own lives to pay her any attention. More minor characters are relegated to plot movers, though I assume there will be more of Beck and Isabel in later novels. In this installment, the lack of other important relationships results in the Grace-centered portions dealing almost exclusively with her obsession with Sam. By the time I finished the book I had the disquieting impression that I was obsessed with Sam, which did not improve my mood at all.