Okay. Let's begin with the fact that I got a digital copy of this early, which -- no, no, no, let's go back farther. Let's begin with the fact that IOkay. Let's begin with the fact that I got a digital copy of this early, which -- no, no, no, let's go back farther. Let's begin with the fact that I met MVS back in November (and I never posted pictures or notes of the rollicking good time that was had by all), and at dinner, she told us about the book she was working on that was due to come out in, oh, 1/2 a year (the tease). It was a YA dystopian novel she says, and then I drifted out a bit, because could she have said anything more up my alley? Maria V. Snyder, she of the series' and the characters that make my book club get really loud and inappropriate and, dare I say, fangirlish, was writing a YA. DYSTOPIAN. NOVEL. She somehow read my dreams.
But I didn't want to get my hopes up. Too 'up', anyway, because that's not fair, and there were all kinds of what ifs. YA dystopia is not her norm -- what if she can't write YA? What if she can't write dystopia? What if I *gulp* hate it.
What if I drive myself crazy with worry slash ineeditnow, when I know damn well that it's going to have her talent and character-driven goodness behind it. Back to the "getting the digital copy" bit, I found it on NetGalley and snagged it for review, and what was I worried about?
All of the things I loved about Snyder's adult books are her in Inside Out. I care about the characters, I see a budding romance, but on a YA level, the writing is super fast paced and catching, and it flows wonderfully. Trella is definitely rootforable, and ya love her even when you want to shake her. There was great tension and edge-of-your-seatness, and the world is fully realized and intriguing, just as her worlds always are. All of this I've come to expect from Snyder. AND there are 2 more good things, which I wasn't expecting. 1 - the beginning had me right from the start. Now, this isn't to say that her beginnings don't generally grab me, because that would be a lie, but they sometimes feel like beginnings to me -- they feel clunkyish or awkward. This was a "plunge right in, sink or swim" beginning, and it worked beautifully. #2 - she shocked me. ME. I'm never surprised by anything that happens in a book. I always see it coming, at least in part, and it's generally a question of how well it's done. But even though I perhaps should have known -- clues were dropped, I'm not an idiot -- she shocked me. I didn't think it could be done. Hats off, Maria.
So I think that's all I can say. I don't want to give anything away, I just want you teased enough that you'll go out and grab this, because trust me, it is well worth it. And then you can sit and wait anxiously with me for the sequel, Outside In. [laughs diabolically:]...more
This is one of the most engaging stories/narrators I have read in awhile. I tried hard to think of something I didn;t like, just for some balance (notThis is one of the most engaging stories/narrators I have read in awhile. I tried hard to think of something I didn;t like, just for some balance (not because I am such a negative person), and I still have yet to come up with something. There's a great magical realism/tall-tale feel to it, which is refreshing in a ya book.
Savvy is the story of Mibs (Mississippi) Beaumont and her rather unusual family. At 13, every member of the Beaumont family discovers they have a "savvy," a special power of some sort. Mibs' brother, Fish, can manipulate the weather (he caused a hurricane on his 13th birthday), and her brother Rocket manipulates electrcity (his 13th birthday was pretty unusual, too). Mibs' father is the only member of the Beaumont family with no special powers, having married in. When he is involved in a terrible car accident the day before Mibs herself turns 13, Mibs stops wishing for a grand, mind-blowing savvy and wishes instead for something that will help her save her father. With two of her brothers and her pastors kids in two, Mibs leaves her tiny community in the middle of nowhere, between Kansas and Nebraska (or Kansaska-Nebransas, as they call it -- Kansaska Monday-Wednesday, Nebransas Thursday-Saturday) to get to her father and work her savvy. The resulting story is a discovery of self for each character, from their own talents and savvies, to their loves and feelings and inner stength.
I know I made that sound really cheesy, but it's not. Ingrid Law deals with some heavy stuff in a light and engaging manner. The language and Mibs' narration is absolutely perfect. It's charming and funny and unusual. It's addictive, begging to be read aloud. The alliteration and silliness of the language may irritate some people, but I adored it. I don't see how it's possible not to fall in love with Mibs and the Beaumonts, and all of the peripheral characters.
Months ago, someone on Goodreads posted this as to read and I went a little wild over this cover. I mean, come on. I was determined I was going to getMonths ago, someone on Goodreads posted this as to read and I went a little wild over this cover. I mean, come on. I was determined I was going to get my hands on it, but it's not all that often that I'll actively pursue a review copy of something. I figured I'd just have to wait until it's release to read it. So imagine my excitement when I got a copy of it at ALA. (*ooh, little frisson of excitement still*) So that was a little too easy. And we all know what generally happens to me when I go gaga over a cover (*cough*Hush, Hush*cough*). Also, even though I like them lots, faerie stories tend to disappoint, too. So this was bound to let me down, right?
Didn't matter, I still wanted to read it. But I decided I was going to save it for Helluva Halloween, and that made me happy and gave me something to look forward to. I can't even count all the times I started to pick it up early, but I was trying to be good. (And I was successful. Point for me!)
Now it's Helluva Halloween, and I finally go to read it. And what can I say? Maybe, just maybe, the cover/faerie curse is broken. This has been one of my favorite reads this year, and I have no hesitation in saying that. When I went on vacation earlier in the month, when everyone else was gathered around a bonfire drinking and getting rowdy, I went upstairs to read this. Yeah. I've been hesitant to write this review because, as I've said before, it's sometimes just as hard to write about something you loved as it is something you hated. I don't even know where to start.
Mackie is a replacement, what would often be called a changeling, and he spends his life struggling to fit in and keep this very dangerous secret. But as hard as he's always tried to pretend -- and to be -- normal, Mackie can't hide who he is forever. The iron that fills the modern world is toxic to him, and he's slowly dying of it. This struggle was sort of enthralling to read. I felt bad for Mackie, partly because he's so very much an outsider (of the community's doing, yes, but more so of his own. Not w/o reason, but still...), and partly because he just doesn't realize how miserably he's failing. He's hurting, and he's scared and lonely, and he's so grateful for the people that love him -- it's like reading about yourself at your most raw and insecure. I don't think it's possible to not relate to Mackie or feel for him.
But I don't want to give them impression that this is some pathetic sob-story, because it's not. There's just this level of thought and insight, this depth that I wasn't expecting, but that heightened the whole experience for me. Mackie's story, and the town of Gentry, is really dark and unflinching. I've read a lot of reviews that call the book scary, and I don't think that it's ever really that. It's more that it can be so unsettlingly real and human in the best and worst ways that it gets under your skin. And that can be scary.
I don't want to go too into detail because I don't want to start giving things away, but I do want to talk a little bit about the Yavonoff's writing and the choices she made. On the former, the writing is lovely. It flows beautifully, and I always had a clear image of the characters, the town and the emotions behind it all. Which leads me to the latter -- Yavonoff did some really wonderful things with a straightforward story. It's a typical outsider tale, very appropriate for YA with its discovery and near-coming of age quality. But it's enriched with so much emotion and understanding that it's sort of transformative. Yavonoff does something really lovely with human connections in this book, with both romantic love and familial love, and (to be really repetitive) I loved that. Her depiction of love isn't sugary and sappy and over the top as it is in many YAs, and it's balanced with the dark and creepy that exists side-by-side in the book. All together it gives this great dimension*, these highs and lows that make it dynamic and unputdownable and delicious.
So read it. Preferably now, as the days are getting short and dark.
A lot of what I said n my review of Impossible applies to Extraordinary, too, but my reaction was unfortunately less pleased overall. The odd juve2.5
A lot of what I said n my review of Impossible applies to Extraordinary, too, but my reaction was unfortunately less pleased overall. The odd juvenile streak I saw in Impossible became an actual tendency in Werlin's writing in this. There were times when it felt very young - not in content but in execution - and I hate to say it, but almost amateurish.
Don't get me wrong, there were parts I absolutely loved, and I think there are going to be a lot of people, many of them teen girls, who are going to connect with this book. And there was a very dark streak that I liked and was prepared to explore. But part of me felt like Werlin was holding back a little, and part of me felt like the story wasn't her story, but was a means to make a point. This caused a whole mess of problems for me, in that to get where she wanted to go, things would happen that were silly or happened in a silly way, and a lot of explanation was put into people's mouths. [I hate this] These two traits, this way of telling the story and trying to move it forward, and using and changing Phoebe to do it, felt unnatural and is what ultimately gave me that amateurish feel.
What was weird - and I noticed this in Impossible, too - is that parts would be really strong and unflinching, and then something would come along that didn't gel and halted me in my tracks. It was like something someone would write in your HS English class, when they have a point and they know where they're going, but they don't know how to get there, so they fake it hoping to make it. There was so much potential to finesse a great story out of this, but it just didn't happen for me.
And I think (but I could be wrong) that I've figured out why this is. From the way Nancy goes along with a very dark, adult tale, and then throws in explanations and juvenile-ness, I think maybe she doubts her audience (or her editor does). It feels like someone flicks a switch and says "This is too dark, this is too hard to handle, this is too mature, this is too ______" and so she throws in something to explain or lighten or make convenient for a reader - but all it really accomplishes is undoing the work she's done and taking what could be a great, albeit dark and challenging, story and turn it into something laced with second-guessing.
That being said, I think she is talented and would read her again, and I read an ARC, so the problems I had could have been fixed or lessened in the final version. ...more
Briefly: Around a 3.5, at least for the ARC. I did have some issues (and some of them were big ones), but none of them seemed to keep me from enjoyingBriefly: Around a 3.5, at least for the ARC. I did have some issues (and some of them were big ones), but none of them seemed to keep me from enjoying myself while reading this.
Full: Like many, many others, I've fallen in love with this cover. A little less so with the story it contains -- I like it, sometimes a lot, but I don't love it. Though I hate to compare things to Twilight (it seems like nearly every YA book these days gets the comparison in some way...), Nightshade has the same addictive readability, so that even when you're rolling your eyes, you keep right on reading.
I really did like the core characters, especially Calla -- I questioned her "alpha-ness" at times, but I was willing to set that aside and go with it, and like her despite some pet peeves (which others have gone into, so I'll just let them take it and run with it, and move on myself). I was (pleasantly) surprised to like Ren, as their was a definite dick aspect to him, as he's uber-alpha male. But Cremer chose not to make it a clear cut thing -- Calla is set to marry Ren, as they are both alphas and expected to form a pack, but she finds herself drawn to new (human) boy, Shay. It would have been very easy to make the reader hate Ren and love Shay, and feel pity for Calla for the situation she's in, but instead, you see that there are good and bad things about all three characters, and it makes it much more appealing and believable with this complexity and gray area.
Another thing I really liked about Nightshade was the mythology Cremer created to back her story. There are legends passed down, and a secret "history" that shadows real human history. It's all layered with real-world philosophy and actual thought, and it just adds so much to the story and the believability of the more fantastic elements.
There were some drawbacks for me, though. There were a few things -- key things -- that happened very, very quickly, and it sort of shocked me out of the whole "willing suspension of disbelief" thing. If something book-changing is going to happen, I can get it being fast-paced. Things happen quickly sometimes, and maybe it's necessary. Without giving away something critical, there was one instance in particular that I have a feeling the rest of the series hinges on, and it just failed for me. It felt rushed and forced, and the entire set up was just...weird and I didn't buy it. As soon as there is that disconnect, you start to doubt everything, and I just wasn't pleased. I felt like a lot of the work Cremer had done to build veracity was just tossed out the window*.
But all in all, even when I doubted or rolled my eyes, I enjoyed myself reading this. I fully intend to read the next book, and even will go so far as to say I have high hopes for it; I see this series having a big following, and though I'm not unreservedly gaga over it, I certainly recommend it.
*Please keep in mind, I read an ARC, so this could have changed for the better... ...more
...hope will break the heart better than any sorrow...
Plain Kate is the type of book I wish I could have read when I was younger. As much as I loved K ...hope will break the heart better than any sorrow...
Plain Kate is the type of book I wish I could have read when I was younger. As much as I loved Kate and her world now, I think it would have absolutely worked its way into me when I was a kid. At the same time, though, there's so much to the story that I appreciate as an adult that maybe would have gone unnoticed as a child.
I love a good outsider story, and this one does it really well. Kate, of course, is an outsider, barely eking an existence out of her carvings, waiting for the day the world will turn on her. But she's not the only outsider in the story, by a long shot. Plain Kate is peopled with those who never quite fit in, or cannot fit in, who live on the edges and deal with their pain and Otherness alone. As a kid, I would have just seen that Plain Kate found some other outsiders to share her outsiderness with, but as an adult, I have to praise Bow for subtle injections of reality, even when reality isn't so pretty. I especially appreciated this when it came to Plain Kate's relationship with Linay.
Linay is the villain of the piece, sure. Or, I suppose Linay is a villain of the piece, because really, there are plenty of people not shown at their best, especially in the cities. But Linay is the central Big Bad -- he's got possession of Kate's shadow, and he intends to use it to do some very bad things. But this is where it gets interesting, and where I began to respect Bow as a storyteller. Where most people would leave it at that -- Linay = villain, 'nuff said -- Bow weaves together this relationship between Linay, who is hurting and alone, and Kate, who is hurting and alone. As much as they both know that each wants to undo the plots of the other, they worry about each other and care in this weird, sometimes sweet, almost unhealthy, occasionally heart-breaking, utterly human way*. There's so much gray area in the relationship to connect to and explore on your own, and I absolutely love that. It's one of the most interesting and subtly complex relationships I've read in a book for this age group in awhile.
But beyond impressing me in that regard, Plain Kate is a just-plain-fun read. I loved the characters -- Taggle, especially -- and the adventure. It's essentially a race against time, so there's that fantastic edge-of-your-seatness which makes it fun to read. There's also great world set up, and I liked exploring it with/through Kate. Bow took a culture (or, a couple of them, I guess) that are familiar enough to fall into, but distant enough to be intriguing, and she added her own spin. The only thing that knocked this back from near-perfect was the ending. Don't get me wrong, and don't let this hold you back from reading it, but I wasn't as happy with the end as I was with the rest of the book. And it's not necessarily what happens, either (though I was frowny-face at times); it's more that there was a sparkle and power to the rest of the book that I felt was a little lacking at the end. It was still good, but it -- hmm, there was a slight disconnect, if that makes sense.
But all in all, a definite fun, fast read with characters you'll remember. I would especially recommend this to teachers for their classrooms, as I think a lot of school kids could get a lot of enjoyment out of this.
*I'm sorry, that was a really long sentence. But I meant all of it. ...more
I got this at ALA, and maybe I will eventually get to it, but considering that it's number 21 in the freaking series, I think it will be some time befI got this at ALA, and maybe I will eventually get to it, but considering that it's number 21 in the freaking series, I think it will be some time before I do....more