I was so, so dubious going into this book. In fact, because of other angel books, I had no intention of reading it at all, until someone who feels sim...moreI was so, so dubious going into this book. In fact, because of other angel books, I had no intention of reading it at all, until someone who feels similar convinced me to read this because she liked it. And though there were a few drawbacks for me, I'm really glad I read it. This puts the other angel books -- and some paranormal YA in general -- to shame.
"I won't be that girl who lets the guy treat her like crap and still fawns all over him." <--- Aaaand we have a winner! I'm sold from this line alone...
I've got to give it to Cynthia Hand -- she didn't write a fill in the blanks novel. It would have been very easy to follow the expected pattern, and to make everything really angsty and melodramatic, with a lot of Romeo and Juliet-esque vows of lovetothedeathbecauseweweremadeforeachother andnothingcancomebetweennussohelpmegod. The romance that was there felt natural and not over the top. It flowed and grew in a realistic manner, and was more charming because of it. I think the relationship itself demonstrates one of the best aspects of the book: Clara and most of the characters in the novel are *gasp* well-adjusted. I know, it's a novel concept, but it was so refreshing to read from the POV of a character who has a brain that she actually uses, and who considers her decisions and the impacts they will make.
I liked, too, that even though Clara is an angel-blood and thus sort of powerful and good at most things, she still struggles to figure things out, and she has to work at some things, as well as still trying to figure out who she is and what she wants, in spite of her angel "Purpose". It made her so much more relatable and likable. The characters may have been a little too easy and perfect at times, but they were more authentic-feeling than a lot of the unrelatable caricatures that generally populate these books.
The few drawbacks I had, big as they are, wouldn't keep me from recommending this, sometimes even enthusiastically. I already mentioned that things were a little too easy and perfect at times, and it can leave you with a slightly saccharine taste if you let it. Some key things are far too convenient (and far too recognizable for the plot devices they are), and I always respect an author more when they're willing to make some tough choices in the name of reality; I don't think this book would have suffered with a little more of that. But I think there are hints of darker stuff, and it is almost balanced by it.
The biggest issue, though, is that, as good as the book was, in the end I was left wondering what really happened. Vampires and Tofu pegged it when she said "Nothing was really resolved and that left me feeling like I had read an extended prologue instead of a complete story. I think perhaps not every story is meant to be a trilogy." It did leave me wondering if it was originally meant to be a trilogy, or if that was forced on Cynthia Hand. It was like the difference between a TV series and a movie: a movie cuts right to the heart of everything because there's a limited amount of time to make things happen. A TV series, though, can bring you in slowly and let you get to know everything and everyone in bits and pieces, and begin figuring things out yourself. This is fine, but if the first season was just a "getting to know you" season that ended before any of the real drama happened -- well, I'm not sure it would be renewed for a second season...
That being said, it wasn't like I felt I had wasted my time reading it. Yes, everything that was built up was sort of undone by the end, and I feel like going into book 2 will feel like just starting the series. But in spite of that, it was still very enjoyable, and I will absolutely be reading book 2, as well as recommending this one.(less)
I'm not entirely sure what I want to say to you about this one. It had its high and low points, as all books do, and in the end it left me feeling a l...moreI'm not entirely sure what I want to say to you about this one. It had its high and low points, as all books do, and in the end it left me feeling a little middle of the road. I think a few years ago, I may have loved this, but now I feel so used to this story (even though I hadn't read it) that it didn't leave much of an impression.
Here's the thing: I find the ideas behind the book really interesting. I like timeslip novels conceptually because I find the whole thing fascinating. It's then down to whether or not the concept is carried off well, and in this case, it was. As a time travel book, it worked for me and was interesting. Yes, the "time gene" and all that was a little muddled. I had my questions, assuredly. But they didn't bother me too much, and I thought the different ways the "time gene" could manifest was very interesting. So it wasn't the crux of the story that sort of threw me off.
Unfortunately, it was sort of the characters. And here's where it gets tricky, and why I'm not sure what I want to say about the book. I liked the characters themselves for the most part. I liked Emerson, I thought she was fun and spunky. I liked Michael, though he was maybe a little flat (I don't particularly care for flawless men. Strange, I know.) I really liked Emerson's best friend, Lily, and am curious to see where her storyline goes. I liked Emerson's brother and his wife, Michael's friends and colleagues. I seemed to pretty much like them all. And yet...they didn't quite work for me. I don't know how to explain it; it was partly that I never really felt too much of a connection with them, and it was partly that they were a little one-dimensional, save those who turned out to be super-crazy. (Like, no joke. Cat-petting, mustache-twirling, hyena-cackling, Bond villain, bald-Brittany cray-cray.) For whatever reason, I just never found myself completely invested in their stories, for the most part. There were moments where I would just start to become attached, and then I would lose the thread. They were never real to me.
Part of this, I think, was because of the insta-love storyline. I have to hand it to McEntire, she certainly tried to make insta-love believable and gave it some legitimate scientific reasoning, which made me not loathe it the way I generally would. (She gave it some good lustiness, too, which didn't hurt.) But it remains one of my biggest pet peeves regardless, so I can't entirely let it slide. And I think it was part of what made me disconnect from the characters. As soon as you get into insta-love, can't live without you, saying I love you and meaning it fanatically in a matter of minuteshours days, I stop believing that you are in any way real. Don't get me wrong, I know there are people out there who completely act like that, but I don't think they're real, either (I think they're crazy). I am a jaded hardcore bitch cynic, so this whole immediate twoo wuv thing just cancels out a lot of my WSOD. So, there, I guess. That's a big part of my disconnect. (Coupled with the caricatures that developed at the end.)
So in the end, I guess it was a bit of a balancing act, trying to decide if the plot and the time-travel and the character-aspects I did like outweighed the things I didn't. And it ended up a pretty balanced scale. I don't see it as a book I will be pushing people to go out and read nao, but it won't be one I'll discourage people from reading, either. It ended with an interesting basis for further books in the series, so I likely will read them, even if I won't rush to buy them. The idea of time paradoxes and the multi-history lines, coupled with the consequences of changing the timeline provides fascinating potential, and the revelations of Emerson's past, and any revelations that I think may be to come, will likely keep me reading, even if the books don't end up on the top of my stack.
Check out my interview with Myra here. Also, you can enter to win a copy of this here (ends 11/5/11)(less)
When I came across this on Goodreads, it became one of those things that just takes over your brain. Or takes over mybrain, anyway... Everything from...moreWhen I came across this on Goodreads, it became one of those things that just takes over your brain. Or takes over my brain, anyway... Everything from the cover to the title to the fantastic little tag line just called to me. So when I was offered a copy out of the blue, of course I casually said, Oh, thanks but nah.... O_O Or HELLS YEAH. It was one of the two. And when it came in the mail (so if you went with Choice 1, sorry, you lose), I promptly sat down and made short work of it. And though the beginning was a little rocky for me, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Juniper Berry for me was interesting in that it pleased both my adult side and the 9 year old Misty that was obsessed with creepy books and made her mother worry that she had "unhealthy" reading habits (because apparently to moms, Goosebumps is acceptable only in small doses. A steady diet of it = serial killer, or something. Or, at least that's what meddling neighbors lead moms to believe. Moving on...) Reading it, I got the same impression I had when I read Coraline: that my younger self would have eaten this up. It was just creepy enough, and unflinching in its darker aspects, that it would have delighted me to no end. It had this fantastic dark circus feel, with fairy tale elements in there as well (hence it's inclusion in Fairy Tale Fortnight), but it still remained its own thing. There were certain little unexpected elements that delighted me (kid and adult) and gave it this great visual appeal, and I have always loved a book that makes you see what is going on and leaves you with lasting images. Certain quirky things are always going to pop into my head when I think of this book, and I love that. This is of course aided by the fantastic illustrations. My copy, being unfinished, only had some of the illustrations, which means I'll have to track down a finished copy to see the rest. But from what I saw, they were perfectly suited to the text, and stylized nicely.
I mentioned Coraline earlier, and I want to bring it up what more time because the comparison doesn't end just in the fact that I liked it as an adult and now I would have loved it as a kid. It also reminded me of Coraline in that it was disturbing in the way that Coraline was disturbing. In Coraline, there was the Other Mother, and good lord, if she is not the creepiest character for a kid to read... And it's not just the black button eyes, or the eating of souls. She's disturbing because she is a parent (or, looks like one and pretends to be one, anyway). Though there is a villain in this (more on him in a minute), what ups the disturbing factor in this is the parents. You know - and Juniper knows - that they are good people, but that something is wrong. Having your parents do these strange dark things ups the creep out factor immensely, and I loved it.
But moving on to the actual villain of the piece, Skeksyl, my reaction to him was...interesting. In some respects, he's a very good villain. He's creepy, he's dark, he's tempting, and he has a raven for a sidekick. (Villain: ☑). But there was one thing that I found off-putting, and this is just because I'm me. I don't think kids would be bothered by this, but every time Skeksyl is described by Juniper, his nasally, high-pitched, screechy voice is mentioned, which just made me want to laugh. I can't take a villain seriously with a nasally, high-pitched, screechy voice (unless it's a wicked witch, and then, sure). I know that's minor and silly, but it affected my overall impression of the villain, and really, I just needed to share that with someone. So there. I could have done with a little more subtlety from him, too, but whatever, it's a kids book.
And Skeksyl was the only one that got on my nerves at all or made me question. I loved all of the other characters, especially Juniper. She's smart and quirky and strong, and above all else, she knows herself. She knows who she is and what she wants (which is kinda the point of the whole thing), and beyond just loving this personally, I think it sends a powerful and much-needed message to young readers. I love having a character for this age group who is so self-aware and confident in who she is. I love that she's not ashamed of her intelligence and her interests. Juniper knows who she is and says so proudly. The book as a whole is a great statement on insecurity and acceptance, and it's refreshing and welcome. That's why, if you know a kid who will be able to handle the darker elements, I would highly suggest recommending them (or gifting them!) this book.
Side note: I absolutely adore it when an author uses big words for young kids, and uses them without being condescending or explaining/excusing the word away. Just unashamedly using a word and meaning it. I love that. Respect your reader (and your reader's intelligence and inquisitiveness), and they'll respect you.(less)
Someone - and I can't remember who - recommended this to me because they said that Clarity (the character) reminded them of Veronica Mars. And I am a...moreSomeone - and I can't remember who - recommended this to me because they said that Clarity (the character) reminded them of Veronica Mars. And I am a leeetle obsessed with that show. Until said comparison, I actually had no intention of buying this. Couldn't tell you why, I was probably just burned out on the glut of YA paranormal books out there, but I just assumed that if I ever decided to read this, it would be a library grab. But no. There was a V Mars comparison, and that meant that I clicked over and bought it that night. And I'm glad I did.
Though I think this book doesn't have quite the sparkle of Veronica Mars, and it's not quite at that level of this-is-perfect-I-want-to-be-this-when-I-grow-up, it certainly does invite the comparison (which equals a win for anyone who loves a smart and sassy character). I truly liked Clare and the intro into her life. I liked the family element - and the family business - and the small town that goes crazy with tourist season; I liked Clare's relationships with her mom and man-whoring yet lovable brother, and her realizations and suspicions about his actions; I liked Clare's outcast status that became a bit less-so as the book went on - it all just worked together for me so that even when it wasn't completely believable, it was still thoroughly enjoyable. Add to that the fact that it's a fairly trim book and a definite quick read, and it made for the perfect fun bit of escapism. Harrington's style doesn't take effort to read - and I don't mean that as an insult, like it's too simple or not taken to the next level; I just mean that she's got Clare's voice down cold, and it reads effortlessly, drawing you along and keeping you entertained.
One thing that was a really pleasant surprise is that it actually kept me guessing. I had suspicions of course, but the thing is - I had a lot of suspicions and I kept going back and forth with who I thought just had to be the guilty party. It's a rarity for me to not figure out, with absolute assurance, any mystery within the first 1/4 of a book. That's why I don't read mysteries. Even if it's still sometimes fun seeing it all unfold and waiting with bated breath for everything to come to a crisis, the whole point of a mystery is the doubt that you have, and the suspicious thoughts you find yourself having about everybody. In this case, I really was having those suspicious thoughts about just about everybody. But it wasn't because the groundwork hadn't been laid and everything was up in the air. It's just that there was enough mystery and enough self-doubt on Clare's part that the reader was able to get caught up in it and doubt their own judgement, too. I love that. It's what a mystery should be. And the paranormal aspects just enhanced this. It didn't feel like it was too much of a stretch and it was worked in so as to amp the tension but not make me roll my eyes, which = impressive.
Yes, of course there were times were I felt like it was a little wish-fulfillment-y. There was a rough patch in the middle where I felt it tread a little close to typical, predictable YA, but for the most part, it was in such minor ways that it didn't really bother me. And yes, things are sometimes too convenient, and Clare has too many people pursuing her (in the true lurve way, not the homicidal maniac way, though...) for it to be believable. Or, if not believable then relatable, I guess. And yeah, there probably aren't any 16 year olds who would get to or even could do the things Clare gets to do. But that didn't stop me from loving Veronica Mars, and it didn't stop me from enjoying every minute of this book.
I feel like I've been really inarticulate through this whole review, but that's really all I can say. It's just a book that I just fully enjoyed that I hand't even planned on reading, and I love it when that happens. I often recommend Paranormalcy as the perfect funk-breaker because of the tone and the enjoyable way it reads, and I think this one is now going to be added to that list. This a great quick read that kind of livens you up and entertains above all else, and I loved that. Perception is being added to the wishlist for sure (no cajoling from forgotten friends necessary). ;)
When I read the first page of this, I got kind of excited. The MC, Brusenna, is simply trying to buy something from the village market and is being...more2.5
When I read the first page of this, I got kind of excited. The MC, Brusenna, is simply trying to buy something from the village market and is being harassed by a vendor without having actually done anything. I love a good outsider/underdog story, and the initial setup gave me flashbacks to Plain Kate, which I loved. I had high hopes. And though that Otherness, that outsider-ness is a part of the story, it turned out to be a sort of minimal part of the story. Which is fine: it's not the story's fault that I didn't get what I thought I was going to get.
But what I did get...I don't have much to say about. I don't know how to make this not sound like a really negative review, because in truth, it's not. I didn't hate this book. I didn't even really dislike this book. But I didn't really love it or like it all that much either. I experienced the typical "Oh I like that, eww that not so much"s that one does while reading, but it never really went one way or the other for me. It was a wash, and in the end I was left feeling a little indifferent.
How do I explain this...
It's like soup. You can make soup from a can and it's good, it's serviceable. But it's one note, usually kinda salty and a bit mushy. Or you can spend hours making soup from scratch, layering the flavors and creating something complex and savory, that bursts with flavor on your tongue. Both are soup. Both can be satisfying in their own soup-way. But I'm not really a canned soup kinda girl. I will spend hours making a frakking bowl of soup, so that when I sit down to eat it I can savor it. I can taste all of those different ingredients in every bite, and the way they play off of each other to make something more. soup vs Soup. You eat soup for sustenance; you eat Soup because it warms your soul. So this was like eating a bowl of soup when what I wanted was a bowl of Soup. Not bad, but not something that's going to leave much of an impression.
If that much-generalized, utterly ridiculous metaphor doesn't do it for you, here are some of the specifics:
Things I liked: * The sort of adventure story, with the traveling and the procuring of horses and boats and whatnot. * The visual aspects of the writing. I was really able to see the world Argyle created and picture how it looked, how it worked, etc. * Brusenna's personal story of growth. It was not quite a coming of age story, but in some ways it kind of was. It was nice to see her open up and let people in after the sheltered life she's led - and it was nice to see her stop pushing people away, which sounds like what I just said, but is different. I was thankful for the time she finally stopped actively pushing people away and being self-pitying. * Gollum Pogg. * Joshen. I really liked Joshen.
Things I liked not so much: * The names. Like, basically any of them. * I felt like the writing could have used a bit less Tell and a lot more Show. It felt like surface writing, like we never got to really dig down deep and discover the world. What makes Brusenna so special? What turned Espen into the Dark Witch? I don't want to be told these things, I want to discover them, and be shown these things and fit them together into solid world-building. * The big BA witches fought with seeds. Like, they had seed pods in their belts and they would throw them at each other like 4th of July snappers. Yes, toxic vapors and killer thorns would come out of the seeds, which is coolish, and yes, the whole seeds and greenery and nature thing is very earthy and Wiccan, and I think what Argyle was going for. But I just kept picturing this Gotta-Save-The-Earth showdown as Gotta-Catchem-All Poké balls being thrown around... * And speaking of the duel, it was...anti-climactic. There was a LOT of buildup, but instead of being really tense during the showdown, I found myself on the verge of giggling. And then it went on for another 50 pages, with a 2nd Big Bad, which I both liked and disliked. * And speaking of ↑↑, I hate even a whiff of deus ex machina.
I have a feeling I am going to end up in the minority on this one. It's getting very high ratings and a lot of praise, so obviously people are connecting with it. And maybe at a different time in my life, when I was younger perhaps, I would have liked this more and connected with Brusenna and her world, and would have cared a bit more. As it is, I neither recommend nor discourage the reading of this. It was middle of the road for me, and will likely fade from mind pretty quickly, but I am sure it will find its audience and ardent supporters. And it's pretty. (less)