The Archived has one of the most interesting concepts I've seen in awhile, vaguely reminiscent of the Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead DoctorThe Archived has one of the most interesting concepts I've seen in awhile, vaguely reminiscent of the Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead Doctor Who story arc, but for the YA, book/library-loving crowd. The building for Mackenzie's world - the Archive, the Narrows, the Outer, Returns, all of it - is really just spot on and fascinating. Some may find it confusing - there is certainly a lot left to the imagination, the potential for a lot of questions - but most will become completely entranced by the very thought of the world. I like a story with tough choices, a story that lacks easy answers, and I think Schwab played with this well. Also, Big Bonus: the mystery is very well done. The right amount is revealed at the right time, and even though I generally always know exactly where a mystery is going within 1/4 of the book, this time I was left wondering, and when I was right, I wasn't sure if I was. The action is also very nicely played out - not too much, not too little, and coming at the perfect time. The story as a while is paced and plotted really well.
I really liked Mackenzie - actually, I really liked all of the characters, even the not-so-good ones. They were all pretty full, pretty complete. They all seemed to have big personalities, even if we only see them in glimpses - they were distinct, which is impressive when you're talking about an entire cast. I loved watching Mackenzie navigate this secret world, and balance people who know with people who don't; the juggling act she has to maintain day in and day out lends a great tension to the story, and sympathy for Mac, that really worked. I also really liked watching her struggle to come to terms with grief, and to have burgeoning questions and worries, and how the sort of philosophical ramifications of the Archive come to play in her life.
I will say, though, that I do wish this could have been dwelt on more. There was a fair amount of introspection, and her thoughts felt right to me (and very consistent with her character), but I always felt like we were so close to a really powerful statement that just didn't come. Maybe it's because I was spoiled by the sheer beauty and effectiveness of the writing in Schwab's debut, The Near Witch, but it just felt like there was something missing. I was never able to delve as deeply as I would have liked. (Note: even though I did miss the lyrical style of The Near Witch, it would not have fit this story or Mackenzie, and I applaud Schwab for knowing that and for writing in another style just as well as she wrote in her debut.)
All in all, The Archived makes a a good stand-alone, but it certainly leaves you wanting more, which makes me really glad it's not a stand-alone (unless Goodreads is lying to me...). It feels as if the surface has barely been scratched, and there are some really murky areas I think readers (including myself) are going to want to dive into. Because Mac was raised in this, and because she idolizes her grandfather so, she doesn't really think to question anything until close to the end, when she starts to realize just how little she knows. Until then, secrecy is just part of the job, and all of the HUGE questions are still waiting to be asked. Now, knowing what she knows and seeing what she's seen, I think Mackenzie is going to be a force to be reckoned with.
So yes, I know we've still got quite a wait on this one, but I think you wouldn't go amiss to pick upThe Archived - I think you'll find it well worth your wait.
When I came across this one in my preparations for Fairy Tale Fortnight, I was immediately struck by the dark and direct tone of the cover, and took iWhen I came across this one in my preparations for Fairy Tale Fortnight, I was immediately struck by the dark and direct tone of the cover, and took it as an indication of the tales found inside. In some ways this is what I got: the retellings are gritty and dark and very pared down, stripped of any residual fairy dust and ball gowns. Koertge plays on the original tales, in all their dark and twisted glory, but he also plays with our Disneyfied modern expectations.
But even though Koertge did sort of give me what I was expecting, it somehow managed to not be quite what I wanted. The book is very brief, tackling 23 different tales in less than 100 pages, including illustrations and title pages for each story. This means each story averages about 2 pages of well-spaced text or free-verse, and this means Koertge only has the space of a few blinks of the eye to make an impression with each story - blink and it's over...
I will say, I think Koertge certainly tried to create memorable, concrete images that would linger with the reader, plunging straight into the heart of each with a wry, jaded style. There's also a really good mix of well-known and little-known tales, and Koertge changes up the narration slightly in each tale. But even the narration at its most different (like Little Red's vapid prattling) still has a sameness to it. Some readers will appreciate this and feel the sardonic tone running throughout is the thread that holds it all together. Other readers - like myself - will feel that what the book really needs is a shake-up. The stories, different as they are originally, blend one into the next in Koertge's hands, and in the end, I would have been hard-pressed to tell you what happened in which, and how - if at all - the narrators differed.
There just weren't any stand-outs. Maybe it's because of my admitted immersion in fairy tales - maybe others who pick this up on a passing fancy, who don't read and breathe fairy tales, will find this fresh - but I felt like I'd seen it all before. This isn't necessarily bad on its own, because these are retellings, after all (so of course I've seen it before), but if you're going to put forth these "little gem" retellings, every effort needs to be made to make each and every one memorable in its own way. And when they're verse on top of that! well, every little bit of space matters. No word should be wasted; they should all serve a purpose. I know I hold things like this to a high standard, but there should be something, some turn of phrase or image or pleasing sound to the language itself that makes each story stand on its own. Instead, these felt (oh god, you have no idea how much it pains me to write this) amateurish. I cringe to write that, I really do, but the stories felt like writing prompts or Creative Writing 101 exercises. And in the end, whether because of their style or brevity, I quickly forgot them.
So maybe others won't feel this way, I don't know. Maybe people who don't eat, sleep and breathe fairy tales, and who haven't read a flipping shit-ton of short story retellings that take very similar tones and tacks to the ones in this book but do so better, will find this collection fresh and entertaining. At the very least, it's easily read in 1 sitting, so I would advise those who are considering picking it up to actually pick it up and flip through a few stories first - they're all pretty much the same, so if you like one, you'll probably like them all.
[And if instead you're looking for short fairy tale retellings with a variety of stories, styles, and twists, I cannot recommend enough the fairy tale anthology series edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow. Especially Silver Birch, Blood Moon, which I adore.]...more
This is...going to be a bit of a weird, catch-all review, because the fact is, I have never listened to an entire audiobook. I've tried, I re3.75-ish
This is...going to be a bit of a weird, catch-all review, because the fact is, I have never listened to an entire audiobook. I've tried, I really have, but generally the reader gets about 3 sentences out before I say, Um, no. The farthest I've ever gotten in an audio was about 1/4 of the way through The Forest of Hands and Teeth - and though I really actually did like the narration, the only reason I even picked it up was to refresh my memory on the story and style. So agreeing to review an audio was a gamble, as I let Laura know. And I'm going to try to address both the story and the audio aspect, but in the end, I feel like I can't quite separate the two, and couldn't tell you whether I liked the story because of the narration, or liked the narration because of the story.
Because I did like it. There was a huge adjustment period, though. Probably the first 40 minutes was spent with me not being able to focus and finding that my mind had drifted and 10 minutes of audio had passed with out me really absorbing a thing. And I can't really blame that on the story or the narration, because I don't think either was to blame. It's just...I don't like being read too. I was the weird kid that didn't say "Read me a story" but said "I can do it myself!" My mom has this habit of bringing magazines or articles to my attention and saying, "Did you see this?" and proceeding to read them to me. I'm sure most people would find them endearing, but my mom should know better. She knows I hate being read to. I really, really do and I couldn't not tell you why. It just makes my brain feel...cluttered. And I'm sure part of it is some insane control thing, too. So yeah, like I said, this was a gamble. I process differently when I'm listening instead of looking, and it took my brain a bit to switch over and accept that this was how the story was being told.
And if this wasn't for review, I probably would have given up. But I didn't. I had chores that needed doing, and where I normally listen to music while cleaning (because that is the only thing that gives me incentive to clean or *gulp* do laundry), I instead put in my headphones and settled into to listen to MSM. I was all prepared to slog through, and you know what? I instead found myself really liking it. I guess having mindless busy work to do gave me enough to focus on that my brain couldn't wander, and I actually started to absorb the story! I did more chores so I had an excuse to keep listening. Guys, this audiobook thing is genius.
So once my brain switched over and I could actually listen to the story, I found I really liked it. It's not necessarily anything I'm going to rave about or push on all of my friends, but my friends with sons will probably hear about it. It's funny and fairly wholesome, and I was surprised to find myself actually smiling on multiple occasions. Smiling is not something that normally happens while I do dishes... Weirdly, I think that the audiobook helped in this aspect. With an audiobook you can't look ahead, even accidentally, so things do take you by surprise and catch you off-guard, and this humor that crept upon me actually made me chuckle as a result.
And the voice acting was pretty magnificent. A.T. Chandler, who does the narration, reminded me a bit of Danny Elfman as the singing voice of Jack Skellington. (And I know, you're like, Why doesn't he remind you of Chris Sarandon, who did Jack's speaking parts? Is there singing in this book? But there's just a way that Elfman uses his voice, and though Sarandon does it too, I'm sure, it's most memorable and noticeable to me in Jack's songs.) Chandler did lots of different voices, and they all seemed seamless; I never had trouble knowing who was talking, because the voices were all distinctive and memorable. And he was good at accents and ages/sexes. The way he used his voice and the accents he used were part of what made me smile. I couldn't help picturing Jack, as I said, or Groundskeeper Willy, and a few other people. It was...neat. Where I generally have issues with the voices of narrators, I couldn't fault Chandler at all.
And in the end, I did end up liking Lord Arkus and his journey. He's a fun, unwillingly round character, who grows a lot and hates every minute of it (he says), and it was pleasant. I most especially loved the symmetry between Arkus trying to be a villain and ending up a hero, while his nemesis is trying to be a hero and ending up a villain. It was a charming, fun story that I think will appeal to young boys looking for an adventure story, and mothers who don't want their kid's adventure stories to be gruesome or age-inappropriate. And it convinced me that audiobooks aren't the devil, so I have to give it points for that. :) ...more
One of my biggest selling points in any book is tension. I talk a lot in my reviews about tension, and generally it's because I'm talking about the laOne of my biggest selling points in any book is tension. I talk a lot in my reviews about tension, and generally it's because I'm talking about the lack of it. But what I mean when I talk about tension is a lot of things, actually. It's not just the internal tension in the story, between characters, say, or two factions. That's only part of it. When I'm talking about tension, I'm also talking about the way your gut reacts to a story. The best stories have tension you can actually feel. They cause an actual physical reaction inside of you, making you sit up straighter or curl in on yourself, feel butterflies or feel terror. They make your heart race or give you chills. They making reading a sensory experience, make you feel like you're more in the story. I could feel this story; the tension was beautiful.
This companion novel to Ship Breaker* has a very dark and hopeless atmosphere and is almost unrelenting in that darkness except that there are these bright moments to balance it: trust, love, companionship, hope - things that somehow manage to live on against the odds in the face of child soldiers and fanaticism and all manner of unspeakable atrocities. Don't get me wrong, nothing here is sugar-coated; the story remains incredibly dark, but not so relentlessly grim that you just can't bear to read it.
And the storytelling - the writing and tactics and plot devices - were very well done. This is a great example of shifting narrators that actually worked for me. In the past, I've talked about how this can be hit or miss for me, but this time it was a big hit. It's also a great example of anti-heroic characters that work and that still remain sympathetic and rootforable. Bacigalupi juggles things well and shifts seamlessly, and weaves each character's storylines together to make them more meaningful than they would be on their own. There were so many things that I stopped to read over, not for clarity but for the sheer power of it. It was sometimes breathtaking, but not in the way of any kind of beauty, really. More in the way that a punch to the gut is breathtaking. I just sometimes had to set the book in my lap and just linger over some things, process them or prepare myself for what I knew was coming. I love a book that engages me on this level, because it's rare enough on its own, and rarer still to have that last the whole way through the book.
It's fascinating from the dystopian/post-apocalyptic aspect, and I think those who have gotten used to the watered-down dystopias and post-apocalyptic books flooding the market lately will appreciate the vitality of this. Everything felt very critical, very authentic and very tenuous, with that skin-crawling layer that comes with well thought out dystopias. Vital, truly disturbing dystopias rely on things that could happen and/or do happen, and intelligently distill a future of what could be from what is. Good dystopias/PAs give you glimpses of insight into where everything went wrong, and then how they kept going wrong, and they shock your system with how easily it could all happen. Bacigalupi does this really well, sort of meditating on the choices we make and their snowball effects.
I don't know if there will be a third companion book, but there are loose ends in The Drowned Cities that could leave it open for one. I don't mention this as a drawback, however, as I think the loose ends were done in a good, believable way, and I like to have stories like this left up in the air a little bit. It gives something to discuss, something to think over and work out. This is not the type of book to have everything come together completely in the end, or to have a Happy Ever After for every character; it would have felt inauthentic if this had been the case, and a lot of the power of the story would have been lost as a result. As it is, the story is bittersweet, not bow-wrapped, and that's exactly as it should be.
*Note: To my understanding, The Drowned Cities is a loose companion to Ship Breaker, so if you haven't read Ship Breaker don't let that stop you - it didn't stop me! And I never felt like I was missing anything or not comprehending the scope of things; it definitely works well as a stand-alone, but makes me even more excited for when I finally do read Ship Breaker... Also, this is marketed to YA but there's no real YAness about it. It's just a book, well-written and as such I think will appeal as much or more to adults as to the teens it's marketed to.
Curious about The Drowned Cities? Read the first 11 chapters here for free! I doubt you'll want to put it down......more
INITIALLY: Whoa, wait a minute. More September? Woot! Edit: Just read the description, and Holy Effing Velocipedes, I want this NOW.
AND THEN: What can IINITIALLY: Whoa, wait a minute. More September? Woot! Edit: Just read the description, and Holy Effing Velocipedes, I want this NOW.
AND THEN: What can I say that I didn't already say in my review of The Girl Who Circumnavigated? When I finished the first book, it felt complete. That's not to say there wasn't room for more, but it felt like it easily could have been a somewhat open-ended stand-alone book, and I was happy about that. But that doesn't mean I wasn't tickled to death to hear there was a book two - and that it dealt with September's shadow! In fact, I wasn't even nervous going into this that it was going to be a lesser book than the first, as I often am with sequels and 2nd-in-a-series books. I went into this fairly confident that Valente would masterfully avoid the Sophomore Slump, and I think she did. The Girl Who Fell is just as strong as its predecessor, but with a with a more mature, more insightful September at the helm.
Now, I think some people are going to find this a little...hmm - harder? to connect to; I think they'll find it less whimsical and a bit darker, and September a little more serious, and they may interpret that as the story losing some of its magic and charm. But I don't think that's the case, and I personally found it the opposite. I think it's simply that things have changed. September is older now (as our narrator coyly tells us, she now has the beginnings of a heart), and her perception and experiences are different. She's more thoughtful - and more hesitant - which I think for some readers will mean the magic is starting to die. Which in the scope of all things fairy is generally true - the older you get, the more it slips away... But September is still September, even though everyone around her is a shadow of what they're supposed to be (literally), and I think she still comes through very strongly. I actually really really love that September is starting to grow up (as much as we may not want her two); this makes her so much more authentic, AND ALSO this means that a younger audience reading this can potentially grow alongside September and relate to her, and that gives me Happy Reader Shivers.
But even if September is a little older, a little wiser, and a little more introspective, the fact remains that she's still September and she's still going to do Septemberly things and approach the world (both "real" and Fairyland) as only September would. And frankly, Fairyland-Below = awesome. It expands the world of Fairyland really nicely; familiar characters popped up in unexpected ways, and new characters crept in - many of them fleetingly so, as in the way of the first book, but what's so wonderful is that even the minor characters who just pop up and disappear are never confusing. Instead, they make the world full - everything has a place, everything has a purpose, and everything comes into play.
The struggle with the shadows and with Halloween (the Hollow Queen, ie September's sort-of-stolen shadow) are just fantastic. I loved that nothing is ever easy/black and white. I love that you begin to feel for the shadows and for Halloween just as much as you do for their tangible counterparts. I LOVE the idea of everyone's shadows just hanging out, being a part of you but never really getting to experience, never getting credit, never getting to do their own thing. The bittersweet, melancholic streak I talked about (and loved!) in Circumnavigated;is stronger in Fell; (shortest yet), and perfectly suited to Fairyland Below, AND to where all of the characters are now; it's not just September who has grown and changed, but all of the characters - even some you may not expect. There are FACETS. I like FACETS. Makes everything shiny.
Basically, I doubt anyone who liked Circumnavigated will dislike Fell; those that found the beginning of the first slow moving will find the same here, but again, it's a good slow. It's a savory slow. And it will once again charm the pants off kids and adults alike. (Um, scratch that; everybody keep your pants on. You can be charmed with pants.)
Valente is still the Queen of Nonsense, and I still mean that in the best of all possible ways. As far as I'm concerned, she always will be. Long may she reign.
So if you've read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and liked it, you should pick this up. If you haven't, you should do that. But if you can't pick it up just yet, maybe read this Fairyland short story to tide you over? ----->
But before you go, head over to my guest post from Catherynne (and while you're there, enter to win!!) (Ends 10/8/12) And don't forget to check out the other stops on the tour here!...more
This book took me by surprise. I went into it expecting to like it - it was one of the very few contemporary novels of last year that I actually activThis book took me by surprise. I went into it expecting to like it - it was one of the very few contemporary novels of last year that I actually actively wanted, the reviews were just that good. But even though I expected to enjoy it and get something out of it, I didn't expect for it to keep me up all night. I didn't expect for it to be the type of book that I wanted to just flip back to the beginning and start again once I'd finished. I didn't expect it to make me uncomfortable and empathetic, and cringey and butterfly-stomached. BUT IT DID....more
I was a little hesitant to read this, I'm not even going to lie. It's not that I don't like Jackson's writing (because I do), or that I thought that sI was a little hesitant to read this, I'm not even going to lie. It's not that I don't like Jackson's writing (because I do), or that I thought that she would be heavy-handed and didactic and...zealous (because I didn't, really). It's just that there was the chance. I mean, a YA book that tackles virginity in terms of purity runs the risk of being much more god how do I say this without sounding close-minded narrow evil jaded awful what the hell I'll just go for it religious and saccharine and gee-golly-gosh wholesome for my tastes. It runs the risks of being a little too brain-washy for me. I like me some free thought, okay? Some exploration of deep issues and personal choice, not just a battle of lustfulness and godliness. (do not want.) [Also: is it wrong of me to say that I was also worried that there was a chance that I would lose respect for Jackson and her writing if that was the path it did take? Because that was part of the trepidation, I'm not going to lie. I avoid religious discussions whenever I can because I don't want to inevitably view people differently afterward... Unintentional moment of truth, there.]
FORTUNATELY, Jackson avoided all of the pitfalls I feared the story might fall into. It's much more coming of age - and coming to terms - than some heavy-handed emphasis on religion and purity. It is about questioning and finding yourself and your beliefs, whatever those may be. Shelby questions God - and questions everything - as she learns to navigate her relationships and discover who she is and what she thinks, feels, and wants. It's funny and poignant - and predictable, yes but not in a bad way. And it's super quick.
Now, here's for the opposite-of-me warning: I think the things I liked may offend some readers.Where I found it well handled and thought it was authentic and relatable, others may find it, uh...sinful? I'd venture to say that reading the synopsis should really be enough to tell you if you'd be offended or made uncomfortable by this book. It's all pretty laid out (pun accidental, but...eh, appropriate, I guess). At its core, it's not so simple, but on the surface, it IS a book about a girl trying to lose her virginity (with someone, anyone - a stranger, if need be) as a loophole in a promise to her parents, and that will inevitably bother some people. If you're one of those, you may want to skip this. (Though I think maybe you're exactly the type of person that needs to read this.)
I think also there are times people may find Shelby's relentless adherence to the "Rules" at any cost a bit ridiculous. Personally, I thought it made sense in a really sad, human way, so it didn't bother me too much. People do this. In real life, people do seemingly bizarre things like this. They hold on too tight and too long, and do absurd things out of love and guilt and fear of what's next, and because they don't know how to stop. They don't know what will happen if they stop, and it's easier not to confront whatever it is that this bizarre thing (like The Rules, or whatever it may be that people cling to) is helping to avoid. Added to the fact that Shelby's so young, and her reaction didn't really seem so farfetched anymore. But there are those who will always think it's farfetched, or will think it's forced for the purposes of the story. Or who just plain won't relate to Shleby.
But those two warnings aside, I think this is definitely worth the read. It was sweet and enjoyable, and engaging and quick. And even if it didn't necessarily knock my socks off and have me pushing it on everyone I knew, it still wasn't something I wanted to put down or pass on, which is really saying something considering how hesitantly I started it. [And it didn't make me think less of Jackson or her writing. If anything, it made me think better of both.]...more
This review has been a hard one for me to sit down and write. Crewel was one of my most anticipated books of this year (I mean, hello, buzzwords!), anThis review has been a hard one for me to sit down and write. Crewel was one of my most anticipated books of this year (I mean, hello, buzzwords!), and I was all ready to be impressed and count it among my favorites. But sadly, it ended up being one of my biggest letdowns.
Crewel lured me in almost immediately - the intro was strong and compelling, Adelice's predicament in trying to hide her talent, and all of the chaos and confusion of the beginning chapters were really effective and interesting. The world that was set up had all of the building blocks for something cool and memorable (though I sometimes had to fight through Albin's occasionally muddled writing to see those building blocks), and Adelice's voice was engaging - basically, the elements were there, and I was ready to love the story. BUT.
But then it just kind of fell apart. Albin sets up a world that isvery repressive, with very strict rules on pretty much everything, most especially gender roles and norms. There is strict gender segregation in nearly every aspect of life (especially for the young), a limited amount of jobs women can are allowed to perform, and ways in which they are expected to look while performing those jobs. Flirtation and gender-mingling is pretty much non-existent, and talk of sex and sex-related things is, understandably, taboo. This is the world Adelice has known, so when she's thrust into the world of the Spinsters (which is still really regimented and gender-segregated), and suddenly finds herself moving about in the world of lecherous, creepy Powerful Men, she's pretty shaken. This could have been really, really cool (and sometimes was); it had a Mad Men-esque vibe that made my skin crawl, and I really liked seeing the juxtaposition of naive-in-the-ways-of-the-world Adelice (and all of the other young Spinsters and Spinster-wannabes) with the really, supreme ickiness that men brought into this world. It was reminiscent of The Handmaid's Tale (which I love), and it was an element I wasn't expecting, so I was excited. BUT. (Again, there's that but.)
But when these two worlds collided, the characters and the rules became really inconsistent. There was a lot of slang (like, our slang, not slang of the Crewel-world), and attitudes toward sex/boys/attraction that just didn't gel with the world that had been set up. It was really hard to believe that all of these girls who had been raised with strict gender segregation and hardcore rules about sex would suddenly speak very freely about sex and teh hawties, that they'd be borderline predatory - and catty, and jealous, and vapid, and a million other things that just didn't suit - and that nobody would bat an eye. I suddenly found I didn't buy the characters or how they fit into their world - who they are and how they interact, relative to the world, caused a huge disconnect, the world was weakened, and I felt cheated. Things just didn't work with the world as it was set up. They could have* - it would have only taken minor tweaks - but instead things were contradictory and discordant, and they kept shaking me out of my WSOD. I felt deprived of what could have been a really interesting world - but a world very different from our own with characters like us superimposed on it just doesn't work. It feels phony and almost lazy.
Also - this had a serious case of the Typical YA Romance blahs. A touch of romance potential (a lingering look, a fastly-beating heart, a burgeoning curiosity**) to be built up over the length of the series, pitted against the icky aspects of Mad Men-style sexualization would have been much more interesting and believable. Instead, it was all Insta-Love-Triangles™ all over the place, and again, I felt cheated of the build-up and the potential power. Add to this all the jealousies and plots and it all became a little too soap opera for me. It did have some interesting dynamics I'd like to see explored more, but I want to see them explored as I think characters from this world would explore them, and not characters from our world. If you're going to tackle sexualization, sexual intimidation, homosexuality, gender roles, etc., please, Ms. Albin, do it as these characters from this world with this set of experiences would do. That has the potential to be so much more fascinating and powerful and memorable than Crewel as it is now, which unfortunately faded pretty quickly from my mind.
Essentially, I was looking for impact, but I got write-by-numbers - stock characters, lack of believability, and everything built on a foundation of sand. But maybe it wouldn't be such a letdown if I didn't see potential. Then, I could just write it off and be done with it. But the fact that it sort of actively disappointed me means that I saw where it could have been incredible (especially after that strong beginning), and it was so close, that I was left feeling cheated - but also hopeful that the series can somehow get back on track and leave me feeling more fulfilled than this book did. I guess only time will tell.
If you're curious, you can read chapters 1-5 here for free.
*A case can be made that the girls - even in their gender-segregated lives - were raised to be this way. And I would buy that - if it had been shown. There are touches (like girls growing up knowing that they can be only a handful of things, or like the girlish fantasy of being a Glamorous Spinster) that would begin to make a case for...hmm, indoctrination, I guess? into this type of role/behavior. But more was needed if that's the way this story was going to go.
**But good god, nothing so purple-prosey as that. =P...more
There are always times when you think the concept of a book is so interesting and potentially awesome that you're sure you're going to be let down wheThere are always times when you think the concept of a book is so interesting and potentially awesome that you're sure you're going to be let down when you read it. It's some little failsafe in our brains, preparing us for disappointment because we're pretty sure we're going to be let down. And then, when that doesn't happen, and we actually get what we are hoping for - there's this moment of shock. It's a little thrilling, actually. And it's all the more special for being rare. Thankfully - for me, at least - I Hunt Killers delivers one of those moments.
Barry Lyga gave me exactly what I was looking for. The Nature vs. Nurture debate is one of the most interesting to me, and in a story like this, where a boy is essentially being groomed to be the world's finest Serial Killer Extraordinaire by his, um - talented? - father, Nature vs. Nurture takes center stage. Jazz's father has been in jail for 4 years by the time the book opens, but Jazz can't really get out from under his shadow. He's been programmed to see the weaknesses in people, and his own superiority, and then to use that. Being in his head, the reader gets to see what a struggle it is for Jazz to have any kind of normalcy. He clings to the things that make him human because he's terrified that he's a ticking timebomb - he's just waiting for something to set him off. He tries so hard to remind himself to be normal, because he's so terrified that he's not. It's like N.vs.N. in a petri dish - a one-man psychological experiment in whether we really have any control over who we become.
Psychologically, this book could not have been any more what I wanted it to be. It was exactly what I was hoping for, unsettling and a little heartbreaking, fascinating and creepy. The doubt (both on Jazz's part and on the reader's, for Jazz) was just perfect. The way Jazz pushes people away and tests them to see if they'll finally give up on him - it's almost like a part of him is waiting for someone to give him permission. For someone important to him to show that they think he's hopeless, so that he can finally let go of the tension and the burden of trying not to be his dad, and just give in to what he perceives to be inevitable. He's so hyper-aware of everything, every advantage and disadvantage. Jazz, and the narration, was knowingly calculating, which is chilling on its own, but what's great is that it chills Jazz too - but not enough to stop him from doing what has to be done.
The tone, too, was exactly what I wanted. It's darkly humorous at times, and other times just plain dark, but it's prevented from being completely bleak by the human connections in Jazz's life. It's through them that you know Jazz isn't a lost-cause, because they see the humanity in Jazz that he's tortured himself into pretending doesn't exist. Through them, you know he has the potential to be loving, to be a good person, and you see the burdens he places on himself - and all the while, that good portion of his life is being constantly undermined by Jazz's impressions of himself and his fear that any good he does, any love he feels, is just an act. The blind his inner serial killer hides behind. It's fascinating.
And interlaced with all of this, there are snippets of things Jazz saw or did with his father, as well as snippets of narration from the current Lobo's Nod serial killer, which help escalate the tension and show what Jazz really is up against and why he's so haunted. The way these scenes from his past creep up on him and never let him have peace were a really nice layer to the story. All of it - the killer's obsession and plotting, Jazz's understanding of the horrors and his own calculation, his grandmother's craziness and his father's sociopathic glee - all of that combines to make it a really gripping read. And though it's gruesome, it's never gratuitous. Lyga eschews continual bloodbaths and cheap startles in favor of a layered psychological thriller that is far more chilling as a result....more
I'm always a little leery of self-published works, so when a self-published author emails me asking to review, I always go looking for an excerpt firsI'm always a little leery of self-published works, so when a self-published author emails me asking to review, I always go looking for an excerpt first. Almost always, the answer is then a polite, "Um, no." But occasionally the excerpt will win me over and have me intrigued enough to start thinking a hesitant, "Yeah, sure?" The excerpt I found for Titan Magic led to a much more resounding, "Yes, please! Gimme, gimme!" But excerpts can fool you, so I was still a teensy bit hesitant. That is, until I actually picked the book up, because within the first chapter, my hesitancy went out the window and it never showed its face again. Titan Magic is easily one of my favorite things I've read this year. For realsies.
When I finished it, my initial one-line review on GR was 'This is a book to be discussed, not rated' which means this is going to be a difficult review to write. (And yet watch how long I can blather on. Talent, people!) But seriously. As I said in my review of Shadows on the Moon, I would love to read this in a lit class or book club because I would love to have passionate, face-to-face discussions with people about it. It's complex and intriguing, and will potentially make some people uncomfortable, which to me is the hallmark of a good discussion book. But beyond that, it's really readable and engaging - you can't have a discussion if 1/2 the people there couldn't be bothered to finish the damn thing. With this, I don't think that would be a problem.
The world building was fantastic. The world, or more accurately, the setting, is very insular for such a huge story, which was kind of neat. The whole thing is based in mythology, philosophy and religion, but it's done in a very organic way. It's very folkloric, with lots of fairy tale and mythology references, but it's not bogged down by them. The most, um...religiously sensitive? among you may be put off by a few things here or there, but then, I wouldn't expect you to be reading a fantasy about people "playing god" and trying to create life, so... As I said, it may make some people uncomfortable, though I don't think that's ever the intent. (Basically, the people made uncomfortable are going to be the people who are always made uncomfortable. By everything. Ever.) Personally, I found the philosophical and moral implications really fascinating, part of what would make this such a good book to sit and chat about, and it added this great layer to the story and the world. The slight totalitarianism of the society added a nice layer, too. But mostly the idea of love - in all its forms, with no such thing as good or bad love - that comes through strongest in the end added warmth and humanity that really set Titan Magic apart.
From here on out, things get slightly spoilery (not much, but some), so you have been warned. ... ... ...
The main character, Maddy, is so very rootforable. Throughout the story, she learns that not only is she not quite normal, she's not even quite human, and her struggle to understand what she is and to decide for herself whether she can ever be more (or even ever should be more), was really gripping. Like a good philosophical debate, the reader questions how things should turn out and whether there can be - or should be - a happy ever after for Maddy, or anyone else involved. Maddy has to struggle with not only what she is at her core, but whether, as potentially powerful as she is, she has any amount of control. The idea of being a vessel for other people, of being a slave to others emotions and having them rampage through you, yet never feeling your own and not even being sure if you can have emotions, was really intriguing. And as I've statedinthepast, I love an unusual or silent character, and even if Maddy's silence sort of had loopholes, she certainly fits the bill of out-of-the-box characters I love. Her need to find her voice is a good metaphor for her story in general, but even if you don't want to get all metaphor-y, Maddy just works as a character. She's relatable even when her circumstances aren't, and it all just makes for really interesting reading.
More interesting, though, and very impressive, was that it had me constantly reevaluating not only what I wanted to happen, but what should happen and what needed to happen. And Maddy questions this, too, which is part of what makes her a great and intriguing character. Everything is built on shifting sands, and I was constantly wondering where and when the sinkhole was going to open up and swallow everyone whole. This, like some of the philosophical nature of the book, is something I think may make people uncomfortable because they like to have a clear idea of who to root for, who to fall for and who to hate. But for me, the best stories are never cut and dry. Everyone is flawed and even the most flawed can be good. Lamm really capitalized on this.
Now, there was a time about 2/3 of the way through that the train got derailed a little bit. Part of it, I think, was Lamm's exploration of gray area and those shifting sands I was talking about. It seemed to lose focus a touch, or like too much was going on/in the air, for it to really come clear. I think some people would be more bothered by this than I was because I think some people get really irritated when they're confused. But though it began to feel a little chaotic, it worked because it suited the core of the story, and it pulled together in the end, anyway. The only reason it even bears mentioning was because for literally the rest of the book, both before and after this rough patch, I was just sort of enthralled and never doubting a single thing. I read every line rabidly and it all seemed so smooth and perfect that any little deviation from that was bound to stand out.
In the end, I am so very happy Jodi emailed me, and so very happy that I have a habit of looking up excerpts. I enjoyed myself thoroughly reading this, and think it's one I'll want to reread in the future so I can get different things from it each time. And, um, I know I used the word 'philosophical' a lot in this review, but don't be put off by that. That's just me being a Very Happy Geek, but even if you're not the type for philosophical discussions, Titan Magic is a very fun, fast-paced book, too. I can't wait to start pushing it on people because, as I've said in the past, I am a tabber - I have lots of little post-it flags sticking out of this book, and though I'd love to share them with you here, I'd rather not spoil them for you because they're going to be so lovely when you come upon them yourself. But until you do - until someone does - I have no one to discuss them with, so I need to start pushing.
Okay, okay, I'll give you one. I love a strong character who knows herself, and I love a strong statement, so this one kind of gave me chills:
"So what good is a soul to me? I am what I am. The only one who needs me to be anything else is you."
I like Vaudeville. If it wasn't on my list of buzzwords, it should be. I guess it's kind of a subheading under Circus, which is all under the umbrellaI like Vaudeville. If it wasn't on my list of buzzwords, it should be. I guess it's kind of a subheading under Circus, which is all under the umbrella of Spectacle, and I love Spectacle. Which is why, even though this is somewhat out of the realm of books I'd normally accept for review, I accepted it. (I mean, early 1900s Old NYC vaudeville? Don't mind if I do!) And though I definitely liked Cameron's view of vaudeville as it sort of crumbles into the past, the rest of the book left me feeling sort of lukewarm.
Mostly I think it was that it felt a bit rushed. I would have liked more development to the characters - all of the characters, because the side characters had the potential to be fascinating, too. I wanted more of their side stories and escapades, and more emotional development throughout. There were some really interesting things going on in the story that gave it the potential to be more compelling (Pepper's unrepentant friendship/closeness to a lesbian character, which would have been fairly controversial; her turn as an unintentional mistress, and general sexual predatoriness, as well as the social mores versus the looser atmosphere of the stage; the clash between stage and the burgeoning world of film, etc.) that I found really fascinating, and wanted more of - but the book just barely scratches the surface of these things. It left me feeling a little unfulfilled, like there was wasted potential.
And the characters - and even to an extent, the plot - were a little lackluster for me. In fact, within a week of finishing it, I found myself struggling to remember names and details. The world was vivid, and I think so much of Cameron's focus went into building an authentic, accurate world, that the other aspects suffered. But until I was able to connect with the characters more fully, the world was the saving grace. I liked Pepper ok-enough, but I actually liked the other characters more. I sometimes found Pepper a little hard to connect to or root for, at least early in the story, anyway, and in general, I preferred Gregory Creighton's narration. I found him a more fascinating character, and scenes with him felt more authentic. I would have loved to see more of his story, and of everyone's story - and a little less of Pepper in her own world.
But for all that I couldn't help thinking it was fluffy and somewhat forgettable as I was reading, I found myself fairly engrossed. It's mostly really wholesome, which works for the time, and opens it to a wider audience, and it was a quick and easy read. I didn't necessarily think much about it when I'd set it down, though - nothing compelled me to pick it up again. But when I did pick it up, I found myself engaged pretty easily, and I did quite like how it ended, and the potential the ending holds for all of the characters. It just was never quite enough to make me feel I had to read it, had to know what was going to happen. And that's probably because, as I mentioned in my Rewind vlog, it felt like a Hallmark movie - you pretty much know the minute you start this where it's going to go and how it's going to end and the emotional investment is pretty much zilch - but for some reason, that doesn't stop you from watching or enjoying them. ...more
3.5ish. Stormdancer was one of my most eagerly anticipated reads of this year, between the excellent premise and the endless rave reviews I kept seeing3.5ish. Stormdancer was one of my most eagerly anticipated reads of this year, between the excellent premise and the endless rave reviews I kept seeing of it - but it almost didn't make it out of the gate. ...more
And then: Alright, let's just get this out of the way: Seraphina is one of my favorite books I've read this year. Hands down, without a dInitially:
And then: Alright, let's just get this out of the way: Seraphina is one of my favorite books I've read this year. Hands down, without a doubt, straight-up adored it. And I'd say it's my single most-pushed book this year; I've been pushing it on everyone. Obnoxiously. And I'm going to try to tell you why, and I'll do my best to avoid spoilers, but if you take nothing else from this review, understand that I want you to pick this up. Find out why HERE....more
3.5 I've mentioned before that I was excited for this one (I mean - the title alone...). But I also just read an excellent fantasy maybe a week or so b3.5 I've mentioned before that I was excited for this one (I mean - the title alone...). But I also just read an excellent fantasy maybe a week or so before this, so it sort of had a lot to live up to, on top of the hype. That always makes me a little wary. And I think, in this case, deservedly so; at least, in the beginning. For a good chunk of the beginning, I was hesitant and not completely sold. It's not that I ever wanted to put it down, exactly, but there was a sameness to it; a typical YA, unoriginal feel that had me worried for what the rest of the book would hold. And this lasted for awhile, and had me questioning whether I was going to find this one a throwaway in the end: quick and enjoyable enough, but forgettable and predictable. Fortunately, there came a point where that changed and it didn't fall back on formula (or at least, not entirely.) It had a strength of its own and went to the places I was hoping it would go eventually, even if not always fully.
The characters were interesting to me, and what kept me hanging on in the beginning, though oddly enough, they started out much the same. They would come into the story as sort of somewhat fleshed-out stock characters, and just when I would get worried that that's all there was to them, they'd show me they weren't. They had dimensions and personalities and little bits to set them apart and make you care, but it was just something you had to be patient for. (I know not everyone will be patient, but I want to reiterate that the story is not unenjoyable before they start to stand apart from the crowd. It's always engaging enough to keep you going, but it takes awhile to sort of step into its own.) I am a big fan of explorations of the type of belief and fervor that lead people to do bad things in the name of good, and this aspect of some characters really heightened things for me. Belief and fervor, and the murkiness of right and wrong is what could set this book apart, and was one of the things I got from it that I wasn't expecting. [pleased face]
And - at the risk of being very repetitive - the world-building was much of the same. It was good, and enough to keep me engaged and visualizing it, but it started out with a sameness, feeling a touch lackluster and flat, and then becoming something more as the story grew. Bardugo seems to like finding a balance between originality and stock, and sort of building off of that. It works, it's serviceable, but something that doesn't catch me or impress me right off the bat isn't something I'm necessarily going to rave about as I do the world-building or characters or plot of some other books of a similar nature. But as I said, those all come around in the end.
I would have liked the nuances that were there to be explored more fully, though. In a story about light and dark, I want to really explore the shadows. This, for me, is where the wow factor comes in. The nuances and explorations were there and were touched on more than I'd dared hope after the way the story began, but less than I could have wish for. Part of this I'm sure is me being a little hyper-critical because I saw the potential for some heartier fare. Whenever I see that potential, whenever it's so close, I just want to keep pushing, and that sometimes lets me down more than if the potential had never been there to begin with.
But there was some exploration there, and Bardugo did ultimately build up some of the gray areas that I wanted to linger over, and I'm grateful for that. If this were really an unoriginal, "typical" YA, that wouldn't have happened, and the fact that it did at all gives me hope for the rest of the series and her growth as a storyteller. For those of you that are unsure you want to start a series with this sort of back-and-forth type review, let me mention 2 things: 1) I rated it 4 stars on Goodreads, so it's not like I didn't enjoy it by any means. (In fact, I'm going to a Fierce Reads signing so I can get mine all fancied up.) 2) This would work quite nicely as a standalone with the future left open, I think. Personally, I'm curious to see where it's going, as it is the start to a series, but I think you could easily read it and leave it as is, with some threads hanging and possibilites endless; it's a well-rounded enough ending to leave you feeling satisfied. But as I intend to read the next book, I'm hoping (fingers crossed) that the murky gray areas, the vagaries of belief, fanaticism, control and power, etc., will be capitalized on, as I think that's the only thing that would make me want it to be a series rather than an open-ended stand-alone.
[And on a side note, if you are the type to be bothered by an author taking liberties with a culture or language, I'd suggest checking out Tatiana's review before picking this one up. This did not bother me the least little bit (well, except the female names not ending in female forms and v.v.) but I can understand why it would maybe work under someone's skin, especially if they have ties to that culture (in this case, Russian). So, worth checking out.]...more
I am bound to judge any story that uses Persuasion pretty harshly. I can't help myself; I'm a huge Persuasion fan, and there haven't been enough adaptI am bound to judge any story that uses Persuasion pretty harshly. I can't help myself; I'm a huge Persuasion fan, and there haven't been enough adaptations of it to dull my senses to the inconsistencies yet. So it's a risk - as much as I look forward to stories that make use of it, there's a good chance that I just won't be able to let things go. I think I probably was harder on this that I would have been if it didn't use Persuasion and instead was just another dystopian YA. But it was inevitable that I would judge it harshly - though even then, I couldn't help but love it.
It was unputdownable. It had that indefinable something working for it, and the heart of it, the way it mirrored Persuasion but adapted to fit a wholly different environment, was really compelling to me. There were always parts of me saying, Anne wouldn't say what Elliot just said, Anne wouldn't do what Elliot just did - but then I'd catch myself thinking, but she would feel it... And that was why it worked. No, Elliot is not a carbon copy of Anne. She has Anne's basic traits (she's loyal, she's smart, reliable, and compassionate, and everyone pushes her around), but she is also a product of her environment, and the two work together to create a character that strongly resembles Anne (is very Anne-like), but is also her own creation. I really have to applaud Peterfreund for being able to balance the two so well. The story is at once a clear retelling of Persuasion, and its own very different story entirely. It's not just a regurgitation of Persuasion in an exciting dystopic setting. It's its own creation, and though there are these changes in the core of who the characters are, I think for the most part, they're suited to the story Peterfreund created. It feels more "inspired by" than a straight retelling. I think you can really tell how much Peterfreund likes Persuasion and Austen, and respects her source material, and that's part of what really makes it work as a whole.
That isn't to say there weren't things that bothered me, or that didn't work from a retelling standpoint. Because this is written for YA, the timing doesn't have the same impact. In Persuasion, Anne and Wentworth fall in love and are separated when Anne is 19, and then meet again nearly a decade later. Moving up the timetable to suit a YA audience means that Elliot and Kai are separated at 14 and come together again at 18, and I have never been enough of a romantic that I would consider separated 14 year olds to be tragic lovers, and a reunion at 18 to be a triumphant return... It lessens it somehow; lessens the tragedy and the sadness of pining and being alone for almost 10 years, takes away the pain of feeling like the character will always be alone, like she's lost her only chance... It makes it all a little lighter, which is sad because there's really nothing that Peterfreund could do differently and still have it suit the audience. The way, too, that they are separated - with Elliot first of all in mourning, and second, legitimately making the right decision for everyone around her - means that it becomes a lot harder to like Kai. I did like him, don't get me wrong, but I think that was maybe only because I knew who he was supposed to be, and how he was going to turn out. Otherwise, I think I would have found him really callous and almost cruel, both in the manner and timing of their separation, and in his treatment of Elliot on his return.
Other things that niggled at me: It feels like the beginning to a series. I don't think it will be, but that's just because I know it is a retelling. If I picked this up just as a sci-fi read, I'd be sure it was going to be a trilogy. There's so much that feels like it could still be explored, and for all of the doom and gloom of the situation, and Elliot's internal debates over what's right and what the future should hold, things are far too easily wrapped up once she's (re)secured Kai's affections; in fact, the entire book ends too abruptly for me, with it feeling like Elliot is being rash, and a number of characters being ushered quickly off the stage... Also, I didn't like the letters that begin and punctuate the book. I got used to them, and I like what Elliot did with them, and the knothole, etc., but the letters themselves felt forced on the story to me, and they didn't work as a way to draw me into the story.
See? See how nitpicky this all turned out, when I really do want to push this book into everyone's hands? Ugh, okay: Despite my obsessive attention to this as a Persuasion retelling, and my too-harsh judgement as a result (because I have to, I can't not, it's one of my all-time faves), Peterfreund crafted a really compelling story that: a) is one of the most unique Austen adaptations I've ever read. And I mean unique in a good way - P&P&Z was "unique" too, but my god, was it ever terrible. This is both unique and functioning as a story, compelling and interesting, very very different from other adaptations, but showcasing the same love of the original as the best adaptations do. b) works both as a retelling and as a complete original, which I don't know I have ever said - or even thought - about any other adaptation. It can be read by fans of YA, fans of Austen, and fans of both, and each group will get something different out of it while also enjoying it for what they came to it for, adaptation or YA sci-fi (And they won't feel like they're missing anything by not being familiar with Austen and/or YA). c) presents a really interesting, engaging world with characters and conflicts that intrigued me.
So yes, as much as I notice all these little things, and feel compelled to say "But wait - but what about - but then - " I really did thoroughly enjoy this and think Peterfreund did a fantastic job of making it work so very far out of the box. So get it. Read it. And enjoy it immensely with me even while we pick it apart......more
When I covered this for Fairy Tale Fortnight, I only did a silly little review-teaser that consisted of my weird, random notes on the book, since publWhen I covered this for Fairy Tale Fortnight, I only did a silly little review-teaser that consisted of my weird, random notes on the book, since publication was still quite a ways off. But now publication is right around the corner, so it's time for me to actually give you an idea of whether you'll like this quirky little book. First off, I have to mention it's a retelling of The Ugly Ducking, so points for that. And it's certainly...non-traditional, and requires quite a bit of WSOD. But if you're willing to go with the weirdness, the story is actually quite charming.
I think the characters are what make it so easy to connect to this story. You like them, so you go with it. Emmeline is a fantastic ugly duckling heroine; she's plucky and stalwart and even though she continually finds herself at a disadvantage, she fights to make things right and to keep her spirits up. She's very loyal and smart, and I couldn't help but like her. And as silly as the whole "she has a connection to cows" thing sounds, I actually loved that. It was so unexpected and quirky, but actually perfectly suited to fairy tales (I mean, how many tales have MCs who can talk to some kind of animal? Lots and lots, they've just never been cows, which makes it seem silly at first, but actually ends up being warm and sweet.) Owen Oak, the man from the "good" side of the kingdom, who is set up as Emmeline's love (very quickly, but not wholly unrealistically), made me a bit leery in the beginning, but it wasn't long before I was rooting for him just as I did for Emmeline.
And - unexpectedly - I liked the treatment of the villains. I like villains who are either somewhat rootforable (you can understand their motivations, or they show doubts, or they grow - anything that makes them dynamic), but with fairy tales you don't often get dynamic villains. Instead, you tend to get the mustache-twirling blackguards that you know will be defeated, because that is their purpose. And the way a couple of people were set up in this book, I figured that's what would be the case here. But eventually new sides of these characters are revealed that makes them a bit more understandable, and at least lest detestable, if not rootforable. (Able. I just wanted to say it again.) Though I guess it turns out they were actually only pre-villains, because the main Big Bad - she's not so dimensional...
I think the world is what requires the biggest suspension of disbelief. The magic of churning milk (plain milk) into chocolate, well...that requires you to ignore logic and real-world facts, pretend there's not a cocoa tree in this world (or even necessary), etc. Though the idea that chocolate is the most prized thing in the kingdom isn't hard to believe. I have a feeling that most people who read fairy tales aren't going to be too put off by this, but I'll admit that, as much of a fairy tale lover as I am, I did struggle with this - it kept threatening to break me out of my suspension, and that's not a good thing. It never did, but it threatened, so those less disposed to be forgiving of fairy tales will probably be put off by some of the shaky logic of the world. That said, I think the other aspects of the world-building make up for it. I love the political aspects, and the forced segregation of society to the point that Emmeline didn't even realize there was more to the world, or people unlike her. The world of the "dirt-scratchers" was a really good contrast to the rest of the country (which is loosely England-like), and I really liked that there were bigger issues at play than just Emmeline's story.
All said, I think those who are willing to go with it will find a really enjoyable story in The Sweetest Spell. Unfortunately, I worry that the really bizarre cover synopsis will keep a lot of people who would enjoy it, from even picking it up to begin with....more
INITIALLY:4.5 Maybe even a 5. And I couldn't even tell you why...Though of course, when I get around to reviewing it, I'm certainly going to try. ;D
IINITIALLY:4.5 Maybe even a 5. And I couldn't even tell you why...Though of course, when I get around to reviewing it, I'm certainly going to try. ;D
I ended up rounding up after consideration. Growth, my friends. Still can't quite put it all into something coherent, but I connect to Anya a lot for some reason. Review to come closer to the release. :)
AND THEN: After being told about Gabrielle Zevin for years (after having her relentlessly pushed on me by certain people, and 1 in particular, who shall remain Naughty Librarian Ashley nameless), and resisting for no apparent reason, I finally sat down to read something by her last year: All These Things I've Done, which, lo and behold, I loved. Anya's cold-fish narration won over my blackened, shriveled little heart with ease. Needless to say, I was looking forward to book 2. (Even more so when info was released about it, because ohmysweettitleobsession, if that isn't a damn good title!)
I was hesitant, though. Of course I was. I'm ever-leery of the sophomore slump, and Anya's life has undergone some big changes in a very short time, which could mean the magic was going to be lost. But this was one of the rare cases of me liking a 2nd book just as much as the 1st, though for completely different reasons (which is also a good thing, because that means it's not just a regurgitation of book One). This was also an even rarer case of me liking something more after sitting with it for awhile than when I first finished. Anya is different in this, but understandably so. She's starting to lose a little bit of her cold-fish tendencies and put herself out there more. It's growth, and though I'll miss cold-Anya, it's good growth; she begins to move away from her Daddyisms (another of my favorite things from ATTID), even going so far as to question some of the things he told her, and question why she so blindly held to them rather than figuring things out for herself. She's still very long-suffering, but she's starting to grow out of that. She's becoming a little more ruthless and a little less afraid of being so (which pleases me); she understands and is embracing what being Anya Balanchine - being part of her Family (intentional capital F) - really means. By the end, she's not running anymore. (And this really pleases me.)
Because It Is My Blood finds Anya in Mexico, learning more about the chocolate trade, the history of the Prohibition, and just what it is her family does. I loved this new facet to the story - the detour to Mexico, the cast of Mexican characters*, Anya's growing familiarity with chocolate, all of it. It helps facilitate her growth and questioning, and it gives her some sense of purpose - a measure of self-understanding that she didn't quite possess before. The family/Family drama is still good, but it's less about that now, and more about Anya coming into her own. I mean, family/Family drama is still a big a part of the plot, but the filter is even more through Anya, and making tough choices, growing up, letting go and standing strong. This aspect was there in ATTID but it wasn't fully realized because Anya wasn't ready yet. Now she is, and Zevin confronts things beautifully.
*I mean, Theo might be my favorite person of ever.
But not all of this book takes place in Mexico, as much as I love the expansion of the world and that little bit of escapism. Anya still has to deal with things (a LOT of things) at home, and I like how Zevin confronted these issues, too. I'm not going to lie, I'm still really mad at Scarlet and I STILL REALLY HATE Gable. [And honestly, I'm starting to not give a shit about Win...I like him, but more because of Anya's reactions to him - the slightly-tortured, definitely in love, but not willing to compromise who she is** aspect of their relationship is excellent, but as I said above: Theo might be my favorite person of ever.] But mostly, I REALLY loved where this went with Charles Delacroix. I don't want to risk spoiling anything, but it actually went where I was hoping it would go, and even though I was expecting it, it was still really nice to see it happen (but also unsettling). A lot of YA authors wouldn't have dared. And while we're being cryptic - the same is true with Kipling/Yuji, etc. Zevin didn't pull punches with the relationships, and they had me feeling all turmoily and anxious and FEELS. I'm curious to see where things stand in the future with all of the characters/relations, as many are very open and very tenuous. But I loved the handling for now. It was very adult, very unforgiving, and yet another sign of Anya's development that I both liked and bought.
All in all, I liked the expansion of the world, and the better explanations of the chocolate/caffeine prohibiton, and I really liked Anya's conclusions/goals. I'm definitely curious to see where the series goes from here. Garbielle Zevin and her cold-fish-Anya have won me over. You win, Naughty Librarian Ashley world. You win.
**Do you know? Do you know how much I love this about her?!...more
Marissa Meyer's debut, Cinder, made my list of faves in 2011, so of course I was really looking forward to the second book in the Lunar Chronicles sMarissa Meyer's debut, Cinder, made my list of faves in 2011, so of course I was really looking forward to the second book in the Lunar Chronicles series, Scarlet - especially 'cause LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD ZOMG! Ahem. Excuse me. LRRH is one of my favorite tales for a number of reasons - not least of which is because of how really fricken disturbing it is - and I love to see what people make of it when they retell it. And though I think Cinder still has a (cyborg) leg up for sheer uniqueness, for the most part, Scarlet was thoroughly engaging and happy-making, just like its predecessor.
I talked a bit in my review of Cinder about how I love when a fairy tale retelling can stand on its own - when the original fairy tale elements are clearly there, but the story isn't mired in them. Cinder did this really well, and fortunately Scarlet stands on its own as well. I think with LRRH this is a little harder to do; I mean, a red cap or red hair, a trip to/search for grandma, a wolf of any kind - the barest whiff of any of these screams Little Red Riding Hood to people. We're used to rags-to-riches stories, so it sometimes escapes a heavy Cinderella parallel, but with LRRH, it's harder to not be obvious. (Am I making any sense?) But I think Meyer uses the fairy tale elements judiciously (and wisely, judging from the changes she made, which she highlights in her guest post at A Backwards Story), and though the LRRH-ness is always there, it never overwhelms the story. In this version, Red (aka Scarlet Benoit) and Wolf (aka, um...Wolf) retain some measure of their fairy tale aspects, but they each stand on their own quite nicely. I really, really liked both characters quite a bit (though not always together, though I'll get to that). Scarlet is strong, smart and fierce, and I couldn't help but love her. Wolf is enigmatic, a bit dangerous, but charming, and has a slight Bad Boy tang, but without the unsavory aftertaste (Wolf he may be, and Alpha he may be, but an Alpha A-hole he is not, and Hallelujah for that). The more minor characters are fantastic as well - the old familiar ones who pop up again, as well as the new additions. Meyer crafts great characters for readers to love and/or love to hate.
The one problem I had, though, was sort of character-related: there are a lot of them. It's not that it's ever confusing, or that the cast of characters is even all that huge. The problem lies in the fact that they each have to have their time in the spotlight: there are multiple narrators/POVs, multiple plot-lines going on, and as a result, it sometimes felt like the focus was split. Cinder got an entire book to herself, but Scarlet has to share, which makes me worried for Cress and Winter. Now, this is tricky, because I love Cinder, and I would have been disappointed if she didn't have a part in this (and I liked her part in this, truly). Also, I think there would have been mutiny if Cinder didn't have a part in this, because hello? book one's cliffhanger... But it's hard to build as much tension and make readers care as much for the new characters - and any romance that may be developing - when they're giving up a lot of their screen time to everybody else. I loved Scarlet and Wolf, but as for loving them together, I think I mostly did because I was supposed to, and not necessarily because I was given no choice but to - there are some excellent moments of tension and building chemistry, but there's not enough there yet to make me love their love, or whatever may come. (Especially given the time frame of the book.)
Now, this is not in any way to say that I don't see chemistry there, or that I didn't like either of them, because that would be totally false. The chemistry was palpable, and I loved Scarlet and Wolf almost as much as Cinder and Kai - just not as swoon-worthy couple (yet). But I can see it getting there, and I certainly liked what each brought to the story, not just in themselves, but in the way their characters and backgrounds expanded the world of the story. Each brought new pieces of information to the table that embellished the world and added to the understanding of the Lunars, their powers, and Queen Levana's endgame. The story grows nicely as a result, and Meyer has set up a strong basis for where the series is going, making me very eager for Cress and Winter, which frankly, can't come out soon enough. And on a side note: I'd sure love to see these made into films; I have a feeling they could be pretty kickass. ...more
With dystopian books being as popular as they are right now, it always makes me a little wary when I pick one up. I mean, I love them, don't get me wrWith dystopian books being as popular as they are right now, it always makes me a little wary when I pick one up. I mean, I love them, don't get me wrong. But it's inevitable when you have a lot of something that they each get a little farther from the core of what makes that something good. Each dystopia seems to be a little...fluffier than the last, and a little more farfetched. To me, you can see the truth in a good dystopia. As bizarre as the society portrayed may be, some little part of you is made extremely uncomfortable while reading it because it feels like it could maybe happen. Dystopias hold up a mirror to some aspect of our society, and then project that aspect to its logical extreme.
While Slated may occasionally fall into some of the fluffy-dystopia traps (not every book needs a romance, dammit!), it generally wiggles itself right back out of those traps, and more importantly, touches on what makes dystopia dystopia - it feels like it could happen.
The idea of Slating, of a forced mind-wipe, is intriguing because it's something I could easily see being researched in a lab somewhere right now. I mean, it's reprogramming, essentially, and we already do that in one form or another. But what makes it so eerie, what makes it seem so plausible, is the idea of it being presented as something altruistic and just - the best, boldest, kindest solution to a problem. Why lock criminals away and let them rot? What good is that doing? What if instead we could simply remake them? What if we could reach into their brains, give their memory Etch-a-Sketch a little shake, and begin anew? And as a failsafe, we'll just have this little brain monitor that would zap the hell out of you if you tried to hurt someone - and maybe even if you get too sad...Wouldn't everyone be better off then? The criminals would get a chance to be productive and happy, and the criminalized would get to feel safe again. Problem solved. See how easy it is to justify something like this? I guarantee there are people in our society now who would absolutely see the benefits in this and would even promote the science.
That is, if it weren't for one little thing: abuses. Because let's be honest, there's NO WAY this wouldn't be abused. And there you have it: the crux of dystopia. How far can you go before the potential good is outweighed by the potential bad? Terry walked this line really well and as the book went on, was clearly able to convey the snowball effect something like this would have, and the way this kind of legislature/propaganda would creep up on the general public until they find themselves having agreed to a totalitarian society with no real recourse to change things back.
But getting beyond the dystopian aspect, the book is just thoroughly readable. It's engaging right from the start, and Kyla is an intriguing main character. She's fascinating because she doesn't know who she is now or who she was before, but she lives in fear of her unknown past - what must she have done to be slated? The reader is right there with her, wondering if Kyla was part of a terrorist organization, wondering if she was an abused child who turned the tables - wondering what could possible have gotten this bright, artistic, seemingly sweet child slated. As a character with no past, she could have seemed substance-less, but she didn't at all. In fact, she is a sharp counterpoint to many of the other slateds around her, and she only becomes more complex and intriguing (and even more mysterious) as the story goes on.
Now, as I mentioned above, there is a romance, and frankly I could have done with out it. But that's because I'm heartless. I think it was actually pretty well handled (for the most part) and didn't seem forced on the story for the sake of having the Obligatory YA Romance. And there was one thing that happened in the end that redeemed the story-as-far-as-romance-goes for me, and it's spoilery so I'm not going to tell you what, but when you read it you're going to say, Man, she wasn't kidding about being heartless...
And that's all I'm going to say, other than this: When I started this, I stayed up very late into the night and read the first 100+ pages in one sitting. But this was just before Fairy Tale Fortnight, so I really had to put it down, because frankly I should never have picked it up yet. I didn't mean to read the first 100+ pages, I just wanted to get a feel for the story. Putting it down and not coming back to it for almost a month could have really backfired. Sometimes a story grips you in the beginning and you read it voraciously and LOVE IT at the time, and then once you've had some breathing room, you're like, What exactly did I like about that again? It's book crack, and though you love it initially, you regret it later. Putting this down could have revealed this as book crack, if it wasn't a good story. But when I came back to it, I was right back in it like I'd never left. It engulfed me again, and when I was finished, all I could think was how l o n g the wait was going to be until the next book. So. Long.
So now I need you to read it so we can commiserate. ;D...more
***This review is SLIGHTLY SPOILERY. You have been warned.***
It took me awhile to get around to writing this review, in part because it took me foreve***This review is SLIGHTLY SPOILERY. You have been warned.***
It took me awhile to get around to writing this review, in part because it took me forever to read the book, and in part because I just felt like I didn't have a lot to say...
It's a very typical YA. Girl moves to small town. Girl sees pretty boy. Boy has a girlfriend (and is dogged by rumors of violence and rages), but girl falls for boy anyway. And (oops) puts a spell on him that makes him lover her, too. Did I mention the girl is a witch? No. It's okay, she didn't know either until she was able to do, um, everything, so it's cool. We've seen this before. It's been done. To death.
And maybe if I was younger and was ever the type of girl to be wooed by insta-lovey swooneyness - I wasn't - this would have won me over. It's a quick read, certainly, so it's not like I had to drag myself from one swooning-and-sighing perilous encounter to the next. Though I guess that's not entirely true: I couldn't for the life of me muster up the desire to pick this up most of the time; took me ages. Partly I think this was because everything felt like a foregone conclusion, so it felt like a waste of time - I knew what was going to happen, so why waste the couple hundred pages getting there? - but I also think it may have felt like a quicker read than it was because when I did pick it up, I sometimes resorted to skimming. I just could not make myself want to read Anna's thoughts. There were times when I just had no choice but to skim through her anxieties and woe-is-mes and flutterings, and just get to the next plot point or bit of dialogue. It was skim or give up, and I chose to skim.
But it just all just feels VERY young, and very almost silly in it's emotions and Mary Sue-ness (Here comes Miss Powers Out the Ass to bungle everything up, and maybe, if she can get it together, save the day). There was just not enough development or slow-burn to anything, so I knew exactly where it was going from page 1. Everything was laid out and obvious. Yes, it's a fantasy, and yes, Winter is an interesting town with a really interesting history. And yes, Anna has powers, and now she also has questions, and those could have all made the book something special, a tale of discovery and and secrets and intrigue. Instead it was very much a book about a girl's inexplicable love for a guy she doesn't know, and then his unfortunately explicable love for her (he's under a spell - and then he's not, but he still super-duper loves her), and it just doesn't ever get past that or turn into anything more than that. I think if this had taken a different turn, if it had delved more into the history of Winter, and had a more slow-slide into Anna's discovery of things, I could have actually liked this a great deal. But it didn't.
Its one saving grace is that it does pick up at the end, and Warburton is not so flowery and sentimental a writer that she won't give her characters legitimate consequences. This is HUGE for me, because when a book has really high stakes and a ton of really crazy super-powery stuff or mega-villains or Good vs Evil, etc., and all of the characters are in danger all the time, I expect something legit to happen. If all the good guys come through unscathed and all the villains get crushed into oblivion or escape with their tails between their legs, Imma be pissed. (And no, for those of you reading this in the UK, I do not mean I'll be drunk, but after all that, I'll want to be.) FORTUNATELY, the last 1/4 of the book or so moves along at a very brisk pace, and actually had some pretty enjoyable moments, and FORTUNATELY, it does end up having some good consequences that made me glad I did stick it out and finish the book. UNfortunately, I don't think even that is enough to make me want to pick up book 2...
But this will find a rabid, happy audience in young girls and those looking for a light throwaway read.
Okay, so what had happened was, I wrote a very glowing review of this last year after I read it, and apparently somewhere along the line, it got deletOkay, so what had happened was, I wrote a very glowing review of this last year after I read it, and apparently somewhere along the line, it got deleted. Couldn't tell you when, as it was around the holidays that it would have gone up (and who can focus on anything except yummy turkey dinners (mmm, gravy!*), ugly holiday sweaters and family dramz around the holidays?); all I know is that I went to link to it for something a few weeks ago and noticed it was no more. =/ [*But seriously, though? I am a gravy MASTER. So full of yumz, you want to pour that shiz on everything.]
I was going to try to rewrite it right then, but then I realized that, though it's not a fairy tale retelling, it has a strong folklore and mythology basis and style to it that actually makes it a really good fit for FTF! And here we are. So though it's now been months since I read this, and I'm sure I was dazzlingly witty the first time around, I'm just going to give you guys a quick rundown of why I think this book is awesomesauce, and you should pick it up.
I have to start, of course, with the world building, which is such a stunner that I'm pretty sure it will be what comes to mind first for just about everybody. It was so amazingly strong, detailed and unique; I think Durst really did a knockout job of creating a world that felt complete and utterly fascinating. It manages to be both realistic and completely fantastical; because Durst really built the world from the ground up, history and all, there's a really strong foundation that the story is rooted in, which allows the more fantastical elements to kind of play on top of that. Its strong real-world basis - a culture which felt really believable, with authentic customs, superstitions and interactions and a strong folkloric feel - just lures you right in, and makes you see everything that's going on, and the layering of the mythos on top of that was flawless. And the truly amazing thing, is that all of this fantastic world-building is done with almost no info-dumping. Everything about it just feels so utterly natural - from the first page, you're immediately plunged into this world that just feels right, and you don't event have to think about it. There's no overly-detailed infodump, and there's no confusion - just a beautifully realized world to immerse yourself in. The religion and fantasy elements Durst has created are unique and executed really well, and I think even if I hadn't connected to the characters, I still would have loved this book on the strength of the world alone.
But I did love the characters! The main character, Liyana, is easily one of my absolute fave female leads of recent memory. The same is true of the male lead, Korbyn. I defy you not to love Liyana and Korbyn. But it's not just them - I like even the not-likable characters. All of their interactions; their individual strengths and weaknesses; the way they related to their worlds, religions, clans and each other; they way they fit as pieces in the larger puzzle - all of it worked brilliantly for me. There's a perfect amount of different types of tension (a ticking clock, looming war, romantic tension and the kind that comes when clashing personalities have to work together), and it made for a really compelling reading experience that I could feel. I love it when a book makes me physically feel something.
There was a slight bobble at the end, when things began to feel a little more rushed or just...not as strong as the rest of an otherwise extremely strong book, I guess? But I still endorse it wholeheartedly; it ticks all of my boxes for a stand-out, reread-worthy fantasy:
Compelling world building with a believable real-world basis ✓
Believable, intelligently conceived and carried-out mythology and history ✓
Thoughtfulness and complexity ✓
Unique "visual" elements, like sandwolves (ie, they are literally sand-wolves - they show up in sandstorms, and howl in the howling wind!) and flying glass serpents ✓
Strong, intelligent, competent female lead ✓
Intriguing male lead (who happens to be a trickster god!) ✓
a "love" story (dare I say, a triangle, even) that is complex and lacking in foregone conclusions ✓
and tension, tension, glorious TENSION ✓
Durst gets stronger with every book, in my opinion, and has become one of my top authors to watch....more
4.5 I listened to this one on audiobook, so you guys are actually going to get 2 reviews in 1, here: my thoughts on the story, and my thoughts on Jani4.5 I listened to this one on audiobook, so you guys are actually going to get 2 reviews in 1, here: my thoughts on the story, and my thoughts on Janine Hegarty's narration of it. And I might as well just jump the gun and tell you I loved both. Okay, so yes, I may have made it pointless for you to read the rest of this review now, but I trust you'll stick around for my dazzling wit. No? Unceasing charm? Nothing. Because you've got nothing else to do, and reading & commenting on this review earns you an extra entry in the Austentatious giveaway? Ahh, there we go...
Now, as I was saying, I couldn't really help but love this. The only thing I was torn on was whether I wanted to experience the book on audio - those voices! That sly humor! - or on the typed page, where I could tab all the things I found funny. Which was basically all the things. I already knew I liked Goodnight's style from having read Austensibly Ordinary, but you never know if something's a one-off, or, since AO is the 2nd book, maybe she Goodnight had dramatically improved and the first one was...dramatically unimproved, or something. Basically, you never know. And with an audio, you also don't know how well the narrator is going to convey any humor that is there, or how well you'll connect to the narration style. Added to the fact that I just don't do audios often... it wouldn't be inaccurate to say I had reservations, especially once I began the book and the narrator sounded a little too "documentarian" for my tastes. This was only in the beginning, though, and it actually worked really well with Nic's character; it changed beautifully (but subtly) as the character loosened up, and I got a better sense of who Nic was as a result. It didn't take me long to decide the audio was worth my time, and by the first time Hegarty did a Brit accent, she had won me over. By the time she got around to doing a Scottish accent as well, I was thoroughly smitten. She conveyed emotion, humor and a number of personalities with ease, and I was always able to not only keep them straight but instantly recognize them. It was kinda fantastic.
I'm sure it helped that Hegarty had a very engaging story to narrate. There was lots of emotion, lots of humor, and just a shitload of personality. Excuse me, Janeites. How crass of me. It had a well-trimmed bonnet-ful of personality. But seriously - Goodnight's style is personable and hilarious, and Hegarty conveys every drop of it. I was smiling so much while listening to this that my face hurt. My face actually hurt. Listening to this while doing dishes? ---> Grinning like a loon in the kitchen window.---> Face hurts. Listening while checking the mail? ---> Laughing out loud for no apparent reason. ---> Face hurts. My neighbors had to have thought I'd lost my mind. But I don't even care,* Nic's combination of buttoned-up neuroses and Sean's casually-sexy prodding was delicious, and I ate up every minute of it. [I like Sean MacInnes. I want one.] I liked Nic and Sean together, I liked the side characters, I liked the romances and the magical realist aspect. I liked the style and I liked the narration, and I liked all the bursting-at-the-seams personality, and - there's really just nothing negative I have to say.
It was cute, it was charming, and it won me over just as easily as Austensibly Ordinary did. And hell, as much as I liked Cate from AO, I might like Nicola more, and that's saying something. When it comes to Sean or Ethan, though... Well, I'll just take one of each, please! ;)
Not a lot of fairy tale retellings take on the men in fairy tales. Or at least that's the perception. So I was excited to see that an entire series wa Not a lot of fairy tale retellings take on the men in fairy tales. Or at least that's the perception. So I was excited to see that an entire series was going to take on just that - the nameless Princes Charming and who they really were. And I have to say, Christopher Healy does a good job of taking their teensy little bits of fairy tale text (Prince: dances, notices shoes. Prince: doesn't have a thing to do with story until he kisses girl in coffin. Prince: climbs strangers hair... etc.) and uses those little bits + public perception of the them to extrapolate real personas for the characters. They're really more of caricatures, actually, very funny and over the top, and all very distinct from one another. And they come alive on the page in a way I think middle grade readers will really love.
And it's not just the Princes that are brought to life and made adorably eccentric/silly/zany, etc. It was a fun take on all of the characters; the Princes were a bit bumbling, and I went back and forth with who was my favorite, while the Princesses were more heroic and daring, but also impetuous and/or sometimes bratty. My favorite, though (and this always seems to be the case) was the silly side characters - I love a good side character, and this book had lots of them. Like the Princes and Princesses, I went back and forth on who was my favorite (I mean, there's an excellent Wicked Witch, a lovably doofy giant, a hilariously tyrannical 10 year old Bandit King, etc) until I came upon the trolls. The trolls win. They are my favorites, hands down. I mean, they're all named Troll.
"Troll's name is Troll," the troll said, flashing a toothy smile. "All trolls' name is Troll." He pointed to a number of other trolls in the crowd. "That's Troll. And that's Troll. And that's Troll... All Troll." ... [Frederic said] "This will affect all you trolls. Yes, even you, Troll. And you, too, Troll." Once troll in the crowd leaned over to its neighbor and said approvingly, "Personal touch is nice."
I mean, how can you not love that? I really liked Troll. (not the be confused with Troll. Or Troll.) And I liked the fact that they're not quite what you expect of them, actually being law-abiding (though odd) herbivores who are very upset by the human notion that they're brutish people-eaters. It was so fun and memorable, which is a pretty good description of the book as a whole.
The storytelling itself is charming, very exuberant and enjoyably silly. It was like reading a Pixar/Disney film, if that makes any sense. In fact, I could actually see it in my head ala Pixar - the character movements, the voices, everything. It was strange and neat, and made me thing the story would lend itself really well to film (and it's been optioned, so yay!) It's equal parts adventure and slapstick, and I think will appeal to a pretty wide MG readership because of that, especially where reluctant readers are concerned. The laughs and the antics will pull them along and make them keep reading what otherwise could be a dauntingly thick book for a MG reader. And what's nice is that it will appeal to both boys and girls almost equally, I think, and to parents, too, who want something adventurous but still wholesome for their kids.
Now this is not to say that everyone will be taken by it; I have a feeling it may not translate well for all adults. I mean, some will love it (most of my GR friends rated it 5 stars), but those that don't normally read middle grade may find it toomiddle grade. You have to either be a kid or easily slip into a kid-like frame of mind for it to work. It's very lighthearted, and some adults just aren't. And there were times it was a little too easy to put down. I have a feeling this was mostly just my state of mind, because I liked it when I was reading it, but it didn't make me have to read it. Some books beg you to pick them up as soon as you have a free moment, and they want to be read all night. This one I could read a bit and put it down and go to sleep just fine, but I think it was just that I, myself, wasn't quite light-hearted enough to sustain a long reading session with it. But as a kid? I would have eaten this up. (And as an adult, there were plenty of times I actually LOLed...)
I think this one is a definite to-buy for those with middle grade children or students, or neighbors, nieces or nephews. It's a great summer reading book, a great feel good, fun book, and a very nice start to the series. And to top it off, it has fantastic artwork! =)...more
Teensy tiny (feels like it should be tinsy-long-I) bit below a 5, but I have to say, I really love this Nastasya chic.
Review to come here:
I think manyTeensy tiny (feels like it should be tinsy-long-I) bit below a 5, but I have to say, I really love this Nastasya chic.
Review to come here:
I think many of the things I said in my review of Immortal Beloved apply here as well. I mean, as much as I loved Immortal Beloved, I still went into this one a little leery (she leaves Rivers Edge? WTH?), so I was prepared to face some sophomore slumpage. But again, Cate Tiernan thwarts me. There was a teeny bit of the slump, but for the most part, I loved it again.
Here's the thing about the dreaded Sophomore Slump: it's nearly unavoidable. The shiny wears off. The things that made a book new and exciting aren't new any more, and so they're normally not as exciting either. The courtship phase is over. A second book in a serious really relies on growth and tone, and in the pursuit of one, authors often lose sight of the other. Fortunately, Tiernan doesn't seem to have trouble with this. There is a good deal of growth, for all that Nas takes a huge step - well, maybe not wholly backwards, but sideways at least. But the tone, Nas' fantastic voice, is still there and just as enjoyable as ever.
I chose the quote at the top because to me it represents the book - and what I love about it - really well. As I've said before, Nas has the potential to be really annoying (460 yr old whiny club kid? Pass.) but she manages not to be, and part of it is that she does actually realize what a screw-up she is, and she does realize that it's time to stop being one. It gives her just enough leeway for you to go with her and give her a chance, and see that she's not as big a screw-up as she thinks she is. Just...profoundly damaged and ready to heal.
There's Whiny Nas. Scared Nas. And it couldn have been much more annoying than it was, but it wasn't. Nas is still Nas, and you always know that there's something going on, that her actions are a little more excusable because of the life she's had, and because you suspect someone is pulling the strings. So even though she pushes people away, and even though you're screaming at her like a horror movie bimbo for the love of god not to leave Rivers Edge, you know that there's more to it. And you also know that it really is necessary - it reconfirms that Nas didn't just overreact when she came to Rivers Edge, or when she started to doubt Innocencio. It wasn't just melodrama, and it wasn't just a burnout. There is something insidious going on, and she sensed it, and now it's come back for her. So any steps back-and-siedways she may take are needed and not nearly as frustrating as you would think. Plus they add great tension.
When I wrote my review for Immortal Beloved, I ended up tossing most of the notes I'd written in favor of a "just read it, gahhhh!" review, but a few that I didn't include I think remain true to this book. So I'm un-tossing them:
** The side stories and bits of info on the other characters really round the story out and drive home my favorite thing about the series: everyone has shit. Everyone has to deal. There is still darkness and wallowing in Darkness Falls, but more than that, Nastasya starts to really see that everyone has shit to deal with, and everyone has darkness to battle. Her understanding of this begins to pave the way for her to become a very sympathetic, more (I almost hesitate to use the word) enlightened character. I just love it when good world-building is combined with good character-building. Plus it just adds so much to the story for the reader; really enjoyable, and this coming from someone who often cringes when the word "flashback" is used...
** It's less like a concrete episodic story, and more like a journey that is just beginning. This may bother some people, loose ends and all that, a fairly minor villain and a reversal of a bigger one in book 1, then an expansion of the one we thought was the Big Bad, while the a potentially Bigger Bad is out there roaming around off stage, etc. But I liked that. It made sense, and was a bit of a coming of age story, which is funny for someone Nas' age, but also just a bit...epic feeling.
** It handles the concept of immortality better than most. I mentioned this in the other review, but it bears mentioning again. There is thought to it, what it would really be like - pieces you would carry with you from your old lives, habits and thoughts, people you'd mourn, things you'd miss and how that would all shape you. All the way down to how tall you're likely to be if you were born 500 years ago. I really liked that it was clear Tiernan thought about these things. And it's all super quick and fun to boot.
So yeah. Once again, if you haven't picked up this series - what are you waiting for?...more
Alright, I have some catching up to do. And if Twitter and Tumblr and Pinterest would just leave me alone for five minutes*, I could do it... Um. YeahAlright, I have some catching up to do. And if Twitter and Tumblr and Pinterest would just leave me alone for five minutes*, I could do it... Um. Yeah... So I'm going to kick off the catch-up with a VERY belated mini-review of The Statistical Probability of the World's Longest Title of Love at First Sight, which I read in February and really should have talked about by now. So. Let's talk....more