It's been a good long while since I've had to do one of these, but: This is a DNF review. That means I did notfinish this book, and am going to attempIt's been a good long while since I've had to do one of these, but: This is a DNF review. That means I did not finish this book, and am going to attempt to tell you why, so if these types of reviews are not your cup of tea, or you don't think someone is able to form an opinion without having seen a book through to the last page, then you'd probably be better suited looking elsewhere (and I won't blame you -- there are plenty of glowing reviews out there). But for those of you who are curious to hear my thoughts, or wonder why I couldn't see this one through, I'm going to do my best to lay that out, and I want to start by telling you a bit about me as a reader: 1) I try my best to give a book multiple chances when it's not working for me -- I don't have a super happy DNF trigger finger (though it does itch from time to time). 2) BUT that said, I know myself as a reader, and I know when I'm unlikely to enjoy a book. Life is short, and I've grown unwilling to force myself to finish something that I'm not enjoying. 3) A book doesn't have to be horrible for me to DNF it. Actually, it's more common that I'll give up because I'm indifferent; if I am truly hating a book, I might finish it out of spite, just to be able to fully explain why I loathe it so. But indifference is often the death knell... 4) When I've decided to DNF a book, and still "review" it, I try to make sure I've read enough of it to feel like I've got a handle on the things I want to say, and a clear indication that it's probably going to remain so throughout the book. In this case, I stopped at about 25% of the way through, which is a bit shy of the 100 page mark.
So, all of that said, these are the reasons that I just couldn't bring myself to keep reading:
It does feel overly reminescent of other things out there, most notably Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It's not that DOSAB was so wholly original in every element, because I'm sure there were things in it that seemed unique but had been done before. There's nothing new under the sun, and all that. But there are times that this feels like a straight knock-off: not just influenced by, but actively used as a format /slash/ jumping-off point. When I love a book the way I loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone, comparisons to it can go two ways: either, 'yay! hopefully that'll be really good!' OR 'it can't even compare, I already know it.' When a book is as stylistically strong as, well, any of Laini Taylor's books, it's likely that the comparison will go the second way, and not work out in its favor. If, the entire time you're reading something, you're comparing it to something else that was excellent, then it's bound to suffer in comparison. If someone does something exceedingly skillfully, and then someone else does nearly the same thing, but less so, all of the flaws are going to stand out FAR more than they would have otherwise. ***Weird Misty Food Analogy in 3...2... If you've only ever had Rice-a-Roni, it's fine. But then if one of the world's top chefs makes you a delicious plate of risotto, and then someone hands you a plate of the Rice-a-Roni you were used to, and calls it risotto, it's probably going to make you a little angry. You've had it before, and you know how much better it could be... It may seem unfair to compare it to someone else's book, and honestly, it probably is. But sometimes these things stand out, and when they're so reminiscent as to seem like they're maybe ripping off that other book, it bears mentioning. (FYI, I've seen people compare it to other books as well, and say much the same thing, so something to bear in mind, especially if you've read one of the books it's compared to, namely Daughter of Smoke and Bone, the Grisha series, and The Mortal Instruments. If you haven't read these books, the similarities will be lost on you, so you may like it much better than I.)
Probably the biggest issue: I couldn't help but find it cheesy. Everyone has different triggers and levels of tolerance for this, so the things that bothered me may not bother you. BUT I found myself rolling my eyes quite a bit more than I'd like, especially for the amount of pages I read. I found the names cheesy (the types of names I would have come up with and been very pleased indeed with myself in middle school); I found the setup and the way the conflict between these two factions was kind of talked around a good bit before it was actually addressed, and I found it cheesier when we were given info, always in very obvious setups and clumsy attempts to work the info-dumping into dialogue. (This is generally something I appreciate, but it's gotta be subtle. This ... was not.) And I found cheesiest of all the main character, Echo; her interactions with others, and really, her entire being. And I felt this was likely to get worse.
And it was this cheesiness that lead to the death knell: I was indifferent. I couldn't connect, and there came a time that I just had to admit to myself that I'd been putting off reading it for a month, and hadn't been reading anything else because I didn't want to let myself get sucked away and find excuses not to finish it, and that it was just dragging down my reading pile for the month of May, when really, did I even care what happened? I did not. I couldn't make myself care about these characters and their war, and their search for the "firebird;" I couldn't get past the jarring way that their otherworldly and high-fantasy selves didn't mesh with their uber-modern, carefree styles of interaction, and how I was never quite able to believe in any of them, at any time, enough to take a leap into the world and begin building my willing suspension of disbelief. I just couldn't.
And so that is why I had to give up. I am hoping that if I set the book to the side for a good long while, enough to clear my head of it and reconcile myself to what it actually is, versus what I was hoping it was, that I can come back to it and try again. Maybe like it more than I have this time around. Maybe even enjoy it. I'm borderline curious to see what is actually going on in this world, and I want to know what the fuss was about for my friends that have read and loved this. But for now, I know that any further reading is just going to make me resentful, and ruin any chances of me liking this down the road, so I've got to let it go. For now, at least. ...more
Have been in the middle of this one for awhile; listening to it on audiobook, but have the hardcover too, so I'm in this weird limbo where I want to lHave been in the middle of this one for awhile; listening to it on audiobook, but have the hardcover too, so I'm in this weird limbo where I want to listen (narration is really good), but have no commute or whatever to listen to it on, and I don't want to switch over to paper, so it's sitting unread... I need to just finish it already, because I do like it....more
I've mentioned a few times that I've been in a strange reading funk for months now, where I'm really struggling to concentrate on what I'm reading, anI've mentioned a few times that I've been in a strange reading funk for months now, where I'm really struggling to concentrate on what I'm reading, and stick to one book. It's a pretty serious case of Ooh, Shiny Syndrome, so even when I've been really enjoying a book, I've found myself setting it down in favor of giving something else a try (and then liking that, too, and yet putting it down for something shiny, in its turn). It's like some weird avid reader's-version of an auto-immune disease: my TBR is attacking itself*... Though there has been the oddbook that has broken through this happy-reader's malaise, they've been few and far between, and for the love of all things bookishly holy, praise pen-and-ink, this was one of them.
I fell into this story, face-first and whole-heartedly. It's likely a case of the right book at the right time, and who knows how I'd feel about it years down the line, but right now, it gave me exactly what I needed; I'd read it before falling asleep at night, and pick it up again first thing in the morning. The story and the writing flow beautifully, and it has a cast and world I connected to and wanted to explore. I liked basically all of the characters (good, bad, and indifferent), and how they interacted with each other, and I liked that in nearly all of them, there was gray area to explore. They very rarely fall into the trap of being perfect (and perfectly boring), and characters that you think are probably going to stay one dimensional don't —they are explored and become dynamic as Feyre herself grows and learns more about herself and how to let people in and see them for who they really are. I'm VERY eager to see what becomes of some characters in particular, in future books (Rhys, and surprisingly, Nesta, spring to mind), and I may have already begun calculating the days until ARCs of book 2 are likely to become available...
That's not to say it's wholly without flaws (is there such a thing?); it's a little too on the nose where the curse is concerned, for instance. It's all laid out very specifically, which makes it seem contrived (and also makes me question the relationship more than I'd have liked to), and I find that in general, curses and prophesies that are a little more ambiguous in their terms tend to lead to more nuance and interesting interpretations, and more general believability, when they come into play. But things like this (which were minimal and infrequent, honestly), are very much outweighed by the things this book got right. To that end, I love love love LOVE how sexuality is dealt with in this. I always hesitate to talk about presentations of sex being "empowering" because it can sometimes sound belittling and just sort... I don't know, of over the top, I guess? But I really can't think of a better descriptor for Feyre's relationship with sex, and Maas' presentation of it. Feyre is fully comfortable with herself, sexually, and the entire approoach is very mature and thought out without taking away any of the sizzle — and sizzle it does, in doses, but without every sliding into being cheesy or tawdry. The relationship is built believably, and Feyre's sexuality is natural and VERY well done, feminist in the best way. I was consistently happy with how the entire thing played out, and how much agency Feyre has (another buzzword I hesitate to use), especially in a storyline such as this one. I really have to tip my hat (fun point of fact, I am actually wearing a hat right now) to Maas for this.
I thought the fairy tale inspiration was nicely handled, too. It's there, with lots of little easter eggs for those who are looking, but it's not heavy-handed, and doesn't overpower the story. It remains its own thing, a complete fantasy novel on its own, but with a sort of comfortingly familiar feel to it, as a result of being a retelling. Overall, there's really good balance to the story, both as something complete of itself, and as part of something larger; A Court of Thorns and Roses has a good story arc all its own, but also good build up for what's in store for the rest of the series. It left me satisfied, but also wanting more, which is exactly what a book should do — it's basically just well done and thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish, and I'm eager to see where it goes!
*I should not have to clarify this, but it's the internet, so I feel like I'm probably going to have to: This is a silly, hyperblic comparison, some may even go so far as to call it a joke, and no it is not meant to make light of those who have autoimmune diseases. Or those who've literally had their to-be-read piles turn on them and attack them. [moment of silence] Many papercuts were had that day. ...more
Many of you know how much I loved last year's Tin Star, which I never seemed to stop talking about. If you don'tknow, here's a refresher. As soon as IMany of you know how much I loved last year's Tin Star, which I never seemed to stop talking about. If you don't know, here's a refresher. As soon as I found out there was going to be a sequel, my fingers started itching for it, and it planted its self pretty firmly near the top of my must-haves list. So of course, I was very eager indeed to be part of the Stone in the Sky blog tour, and share my thoughts on this highly-anticipated book with you.
[And since this is a sequel, it should go without saying that there may be spoilers for the first book. I say should because it never ceases to amaze me, the things people will cry 'spoiler!' at...]
Now, it should be said, I'm always a little hesitant going into a follow-up to a book I loved. Sophomore Slump and all that, but the truth is, it's not just hard to capture the things that made me love it in the first place; sometimes it's downright impossible. I think such is the case with a series like this, because what made me love it so thoroughly the first time around was the isolation and cold-fish-ness of Tula, which is slowly chipped away by new connections and a new life forged. You can't really recreate that in a sequel, because Tula is beyond that. So the trick for a sequel, then, is not recreating what I loved, but about giving me something new to love. Castellucci does this by sending Tula out into the Great Unknown, forcing her out of the comfortable niche she's carved for herself on the Yertina Feray, and out of the arms of my favorite alien, Tournour. She's alone again, and in peril, so it echoes her experiences of Tin Star, and allows her to prove herself once again, but it's a new venue, a new set of challenges and goals, and I appreciated that.
I like exploring more of the world(s), and that there are still hard times for Tula and the people she meets. In both Tin Star and Stone in the Sky, Castellucci has not shied away from pain and heartache, and just the stark realities of trying to cobble together a life out of barren, hardscrabble worlds. In some ways, this book goes even darker in the actual subject matter, but because of the things Tula has experienced and the people she finds herself now surrounded by (no longer alone!), there is a strong savor of hope. There's a tenacity about Tula that I absolutely love, and I also love that people she meets admire and respond to it. It's a quality that would be very helpful, if not downright necessary, in such a setting, I would think, and Tula puts it to good use. Even when she's selling herself short or downplaying her own role in things, she makes things happen, she fights for what she wants to happen, and I am a big fan of that. From the very beginning of the first chapter of Tin Star, when Tula is literally fighting for her life, straight through to the end of Stone in the Sky, she never gives up reaching and growing and making things happen -- even when the odds are practically non-existent.
And at the core of the story, Tula is still Tula. I said in my review of Tin Star that part of the reason I love the book and Tula is because "I gravitate towards prickly people and hopeless situations," and Tula gives me that, both in her being somewhat prickly and often in seemingly hopeless situations, but also because I feel like she gravitates toward prickly people and hopeless situations. She doesn't shy away from daunting challenges, and she draws people to her against all odds, and by the time Stone in the Sky comes to a close, Tula has really come into her own. She's grown, but she's still her, in all of her prickly, cold-fishy tenacity that I adored the first time around. The same disclaimers from the first book still apply, in that I don't think this is the book/series for everyone. It is slow, in a slow-burning way that I personally enjoy (so I don't really feel it's slow, but that was the complaint I saw most), and I'm sure some people still just won't connect to Tula or her world. I also felt that there were times, especially as it neared the end, that it felt a little rushed or chaotic, and I actually wished it would have slowed down and lingered over some things. But no book is the book for everybody, and for me, I'll always gladly take more Tula Bane (and Tournour!), and this series that isn't really like anything else out there right now. And I have a feeling that these characters will stick with me for some time to come, and when you fly through things and then promptly forget them, the way I do, saying something's memorable is high praise indeed....more