3.75 I have been wanting to read this book for awhile because it has one of my absolute favorite opening sections ever (which I did read. A few times....more3.75 I have been wanting to read this book for awhile because it has one of my absolute favorite opening sections ever (which I did read. A few times. But never the whole book), but I was saving it to read with my book club, since I knew it was on the schedule. We finally read it for last month's meeting, so now I can share it with you for Helluva Halloween.
I want to start by saying that all in all, I would recommend this, I did like it, but.
But I felt like it let me down a little. Maybe it was because I loved the prologue so much. Maybe it was because I had been building it up in my head for months and months. And it's never that it was really bad, don't get me wrong. But though I liked it as a whole, there were a few things I couldn't get past.
Here's the breakdown:
Meridian had an original feel. It was interesting, because I think it did follow a formula we're all familiar with in YA. There was a predictability, so much so that there were things you could see coming through the entire book, and you begin to wonder why none of the characters see it. The villain is so obvious the entire time that it becomes on of those irritating things that makes you say: how do you not see this? That's a little frustrating. (The good guys were really obvious, too, and you can always tell who's going to be coming back into the story to save the day.) But in spite of this, there is still a feeling of freshness about the work. Kizer's fenestra mythology is interesting and new, and the issues that it raises and is bound to cause for Meridian add noticeably to the story. The religious zealotry in the story, though admittedly over the top, was also an interesting aspect. At least for me, as there's little that freaks me out more.
And even though the bad guys and good guys may as well come with big declarative flags over their heads, they're still interesting. I genuinely liked Meridian, Auntie and Tens (especially Tens), and wanted more of their backstories (again, especially Tens). I thought some good groundwork was laid for the future of the series with the little snippets of information that we did get, but at the same time, it was frustrating. Don't just give me good groundwork for future books -- give me a good book now. Make me want to read your future books on the writing alone, not a hook, or a plot line I want to see finished.
Which brings me to the most irritating part of the book (other than the obviousness that wasn't obvious to anyone) -- the ending. I've said it before, I'll say it again, I am not a fan of deus ex machina. At all. The end of this was a disappointment for me on a few levels. It was just all too convenient, every last detail. And so, so quick. Blink and you missed it. I want some meat to it. What happened? Break it down, drag it out a bit, give me something to chew on and savor. This was the biggest point of contention for my book club, actually. I think we all felt a little cheated, like we'd been given the brush off.
But in spite of this, most of us still said we liked the book, me more so than many. (Two haaated it) It was engaging, and what wasn't fulfilling I could supplement with my mind. (<-- I don't think a book should make you do that, but at least it means there was something there to work with.) And like I said, it managed to somehow be fresh, and there were some issues raised that I hope to see (and should certainly be) in book 2. It felt like Kizer has yet to hit her stride, but that when she does she'll be an author to watch. (less)
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 (not...moreThis 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.
Hush, Hush is the story of Nora Grey, an average high school student going about her business as usual -- until her Bi...moreNOW WITH SPOILERY RANT @ BOTTOM!
Hush, Hush is the story of Nora Grey, an average high school student going about her business as usual -- until her Biology teacher rearranges the class seating and places her next to the dangerous-looking new kid, Patch Cipriano. Nora gets a weird feeling from Patch, and things just keep going from bad to worse as Nora becomes convinced that she is being stalked, and may even be the target of murderous intentions. Add to the list Nora's strange feelings about the Archangel ride at the amusement park and her constant near death experiences, and well, Nora's life is becoming anything but average.
When I finished reading Hush, Hush, I had to mull it over for awhile. I really wasn't sure what to say. I am absolutely enthralled by the cover (athletic looking, darkly mysterious fallen angel, contorted in mid-air in grayscale? What's not to like?). I had to have it because of that cover*. But I had a sneaking suspicion that a cover that good had to be masking something. Yep. It's a bright light to dazzle the eyes and make you *ahem* overlook any faults. It didn't work.
Inside was the most confused, schizophrenic piece of writing I've read in some time. Becca Fitzpatrick didn't seem to know quite what she wanted, only that it had to be Ominous and Scary and Dangerous -- and Titillating, of course, and Mysterious and Sexy. So with those buzz words in mind, she threw a bunch of things together and let her narrator, Nora, sort them out. Nora, understandably, had some trouble with this, and the result is a thoroughly frustrating heroine who jumps to insane conclusions based on inane evidence one moment, and the next goes blithely along into obvious danger.
Patch is intriguing, and perhaps the most consistent character**, and I was fully prepared for an 'anti-hero as the hero' story. I wanted a little boundary-pushing and a not entirely likeable or trustworthy male lead who may or may not redeem himself, but who gives you the dangerous and alluring in spades. For the most part, Patch wasn't a let-down in this regard, and as screwed up as it is to like him, he was the stand-out character for me. (Not to say I didn't have issues with him, too.)
But it wasn't enough. Patch's bad boy antics couldn't save this book from itself. It was self-indulgent, cheesy, melodramatic in the worst sense, and confusing. I wanted to like it; I loved the fallen angel premise, the idea of an anti-hero, and bits and pieces of the writing throughout. But Hush, Hush suffered from too many villains and too much shock and awe, and not enough thought and follow-through. Maybe Fitzpatrick can pull it together for round two, and with some strong convincing by trusted, like-minded people, I may be willing to give her another chance (never gonna happen). But this was a monstrous let-down for me. You've been warned.***
*We all know how that whole so-pretty-I-just-had-to thing works out. See my guest post on Jo's blog about this. **And by 'consistent' I mean he was consistently a douche. Vee was pretty consistent too, and was a lot of fun, but she started to get annoying and a little strange... ***You're still going to read it, aren't you? Damn you, James Porto and your beautiful, beautiful cover!
***HERE THAR BE SPOILERS***
If you haven't read Hush, Hush and intend to, or if you don't want me dissing the melodrama that is Patch and Nora, look away....NOW!
You already know I had issues with this book. I think a lot of people are going to take offense to the idea of Patch as the hero, as teen girls' fantasy, just as they did with Edward in Twilight. Patch goes beyond the simple term "bad boy" in that yes, he does actually mean Nora harm. Consistently.
I'm not going to go into that, because frankly, I don't care. He can be an anti-hero all he wants, whatever. If that's where the story's going, fine. Most of my issues -- but not all -- lie with Nora.
Here's the thing:
Nora is that girl you yell at in the horror movie, the idiot that goes up the stairs instead of out the door, or reaches to turn over the downed bad guy just to make sure. We all know that's frustrating, but we've come to expect it in movies, and that dumb big-breasted, scantily clad girl normally gets killed off.
Nora is so much more frustrating than that.
The many sides of Nora: She continually suspects Patch (and Elliot, and just about everyone else in this story), and with good reason. However, she then continually ignores her instincts and puts herself in danger. In fact, she can't seem to agree with herself. She will think to herself that Patch is stalking her and trying to kill her, and then within pages think 'Oh, but he could never hurt me.' This just cycles and cycles throughout the story.
Also throughout the story, Nora makes insane jumps in logic -- whether they turn out to be true or not, it's not believable when she immediately jumps to the most bizarre conclusions and then acts on them. At the same time, she will be directly confronted with some piece of real evidence, something that would make a normal, non-fictional person take notice and say something's not right here -- and she will completely ignore it. It's like she's being willfully obtuse.
* Early(ish) in the story, Nora hears a voice in her head and thinks Patch has "breached normal communication methods and could, at will, speak to me without ever opening his mouth." Naturally, she thinks she's delusional. Hearing your name and a few inane comments would make one think they are imagining things, and this I could buy. Even Nora not being exactly sure what happened and being creeped out I could buy. But she proceeds to ask Patch how he's able to speak directly to her mind, making her look like a loon. I wouldn't be even all that bothered by this, if it was consistent throughout the story; if Nora either consistently thought that she was going crazy because of all the implausible things that are happening, I could buy it; if she wanted to prove she wasn't crazy and kept confronting Patch and sleuthing, I could buy it. It would be 1 solid choice on Becca Fitzpatrick's part. She could be the ultra-paranoid girl who thinks she's going crazy and jumps to conclusions about everything. Annoying, but doable. But to present this as if it's normal...and I'm out.
* Conversely, near the near the end of the story when the shit's really beginning to go down and nearly everyone has become a villain, Nora and Patch walk out of a movie theater to find that "...both the tires on the driver's side were flat: '"I can't believe it!" I said. "I drove over two nails?"'
She thinks she's being stalked, she thinks her best friend has been kidnapped by a teenaged murderer named Elliot, and by this point she thinks she's the target of not one but two murderous angels, and yet all she can come up with is that she ran over two nails? Come on! If Nora will jump to conclusions on the barest of evidence, how in hell does she not comprehend the obvious?
* Throughout the story, Nora thinks everyone's out to get her (she's right, but I'll get to that), especially Patch. Patch is Ominous, capital 'O', and yet...And yet, no matter how much Nora thinks he's badbadbad, she trusts him. Why? Weirdest of all, when Nora confronts Patch about his intentions, he admits he wanted to kill her; her reaction? 'I know Patch could never hurt me' -- and she trusts him implicitly from that point on. Really? The whole story, you've suspected him and been insistent that you should stay away on the barest of evidence, but once he's confessed his (albeit previous) intentions of murder, you trust him. Really. Her sudden bizarre trust of Patch comes too late for any real belief in their romance. Or her sanity.
There is no consistency in Nora's thinking. I just can't understand why Becca Fitzpatrick couldn't pick one Nora to write and stick with her. She could have just always thought she was losing her mind; self-doubt would have been interesting, and made her root-forable. If she had just been reckless and always convinced that yes, maybe something is a little off about Patch, but she still found herself attracted to him, it would have been interesting, and could have been used to slowly reveal the truth and up Nora's anxiety. If Nora had just been naive and always convinced that everything was fine despite any indicators, it would have built tension. But combining it all made Nora seem confused and a little off herself, and made the writing seem schizophrenic.
Too many villains: Fitzpatrick makes the rookie mistake of lack of restraint. Nora suspects everyone, and everyone does in fact seem to be a villain. This makes the book seem unfocused and sort of cheesy. When everyone is under suspicion, and everyone seems to be a bad guy, it makes it seem like no one really is. It's like if you use a really great word once or twice it's going to stand out. But if every word you use is some great, unusual word, none are going to stand out. There's no negative space, no background to make the focal point pop. Everywhere Nora turns, someone's trying to kill her. It just gets silly after awhile. Also, it has the added negative effect of making it hard for Fitzpatrick to "top" as it were. Where does she go from here? If there are 4 different people trying to kill Nora in book 1, how many people will there be out for blood in book 2? She didn't leave any room to grow the suspense.
Another bad thing about the amount of villains and Nora's instant suspicion (and the overall over-the-top nature of the book) was that there was precious little suspense. By giving everything away rather freely, Fitzpatrick deprived the reader of the slow build-up and the privilege of the mystery; we never got to have any suspicions of our own, or choose sides. There was too much in the way of ominous overtones, and not enough restraint.
On a side note, not that I'm calling Vee a villain, but even she became a little weird* as the story went on. It's one thing to be the wild and crazy girl in the best friends dynamic, but constantly trying to get your best friend alone with a guy who she says makes her uncomfortable, who she believes broke into her house and may be stalking her, and who she knows was a murder suspect is reckless beyond the pale, and shitty, shitty friendship.
*By which I mean she goes from being quirky and funny to a godawful, shitty friend. You know, for no other reason than apparently to help lure Nora into bad/ridiculous situations. Plot device: ☑
The writing overall: I saw glimpses in Fitzpatrick's writing that demonstrated how this could have been a good book. She does sexual tension and confrontation scenes fairly well, and there is some good humor. Vee -- in the beginning, at least, before she becomes a really reckless, really bad friend -- was pretty amusing as the traditional sidekick. Patch had great one-liners, both funny and smoldering. But for all the occasional good, there was quite a bit in the way of bad. The dialogue was often stilted and weird. The analogies were completely out of left field. They were those turns of phrase that you can tell were used because they sounded cool, or because one was needed, but they don't mean anything, or they leave you thinking wtf? "His eyes looked like they didn't play by the rules." What does that even mean? What rules do eyes usually play by? Does he not blink? This is a mild example, but I got sick of making note of them. I got this really hit-and-miss feel about the writing and the language in the book. Pieces of literary crap mixed in with the really good bits blended to form a "throw it all in and something's bound to work" style. A total lack of finesse made it hard to want to keep reading -- and made me feel like if I kept rolling my eyeballs, they were going to roll right out of my head.
Brightly Woven was one of those books I found myself inexplicably excited about (there's a wizard named North?!), and as is the case with most books I...moreBrightly Woven was one of those books I found myself inexplicably excited about (there's a wizard named North?!), and as is the case with most books I get randomly excited about, it didn't quite stand up to the pressure. This isn't to say I didn't like it, because I did. Just that it suffered a bit from build-up, which left me a little wanting. But I think most people, especially the younger crowd, would enjoy this, and probably wouldn't be bothered all that much by the little things I just can't let go in life.
Things sometimes felt incomplete: too easy, too fast, in need of more defined transitions, etc. It needed a better sense of time, of the length of time, and the struggle and travel. It would have made everything seem more real and important. The romance, too, could have been more rounded, with more clearly defined transitions, rather than 'one day we're enemies (or pretending to be) and one day we're soulmates, no discussion needed'. [At the very least, without getting into spoiler territory, the idea of what Sydelle could do for North should have been addressed more, because that would raise some SERIOUS trust issues.]
And Sydelle, the main character, was a little petulant and youngish for my tastes. I sometimes wanted to smack her and say "There are more important things!" This wasn't helped by the fact that throughout the story there was this "Everybody Loves Sydelle" thing going on that had me like NOES. It's one of my absolute biggest pet peeves to take a girl who's always been "nobody" and then one day have EVERYONE IN THE WORLD seeming to be obsessed with her. So imagine my surprise when it actually ended up working for the story. There was actually a purpose and a basis for it, and I ended up giving in and saying, 'Well, okay. Yeah." (Because I'm eloquent and shit.)
But the fact is that I did like Sydelle, and I think she does grow throughout their adventure. And I did like the story, and felt that anything it was lacking in the way of development didn't really hurt it too much. And, well...I liked North. Don't know that I should have, but I did.
It was really enjoyable for the most part, quick and engaging, and I enjoyed the world building quite a bit, despite any flaws. It had the added (unexpected) bonus of actually surprising me a few times. There were some revelations that I either wasn't expecting, or were more than I was expecting, which always makes me happy. I would love to dig in a bit more and explore Sydelle's reaction to one revelation in particular, and though I'm pretty sure this is a stand-alone, I can see room to build it into a series. And I'm sure with time and experience, any deficiencies (that I forever feel the need to mercilessly pick apart) in the writing will be smoothed over as the very young Alexandra Bracken grows into her story telling scope. (less)
Review: When Ava loses her boyfriend Jackson in a horrible accident, she feels like her world is goi...moremeh... will revisit
[later:] still meh. Review to come.
Review: When Ava loses her boyfriend Jackson in a horrible accident, she feels like her world is going to end. She blames herself for his death, she shuts herself off from her friends and her life, and spends her time wishing she had Jackson back. And then, suddenly she does. Whenever she's alone, Jackson comes to her. He haunts her, speaking to her in her mind, touching her with cold ghostly caresses. Ava is so happy to have him back, but she knows it can't last; she has to make a decision: remain alone, with Jackson, or face the world again.
Lisa Schroeder writes in verse, so when I got my hands on this, I was kind of excited for that aspect. When done well (see Sharon Creech's Love That Dog or Karen Hesse's Out of the Dust) it can be very effective. The verse aspect builds an interesting story, layers some magic into the words. Unfortunately for this story, that wasn't the case. Rather than being an asset to the story, Schroeder's verse was distracting and forced. Though there were a few instances of the verse being what it should have been (a unique way of showcasing what Ava was feeling), most of the time it read like diary entries that were arranged funny. This is laziness and/or overconfidence, in my opinion. You can't just chop up lines or arrange them funny and call it verse. There has to be a real attention to language and words, to the way things sound and flow together. They should be read aloud and tweaked minutely again and again until they are precisely what they should be. Poetry should add something overall, its own unnameable something. It isn't just there because the form is non-traditional, you have to create it. I didn't feel Schroeder did an adequate job of creating it. Also, the titles for each "poem" just added to the feeling of it feeling really forced, and broke up the flow a bit for me.
Also, I found Ava to be a little crazy. I mean, I know she is really young, and as such won't always handle things the way she should, but when she starts to feel held back by Jackson's presence, when she is ready to move on with her life, she comes off really whiny and immature. I did like Jackson's role in this, and that she mistook his reason for haunting her, and I liked the healing process aspect, and even the mystery that Ava dances around in her poetic diary entries. But in the end, those things weren't enough for me, and I picked this book up twice and put it back down again before I got through it -- and it's something easily read in an hour or so. With a little more attention to the "poetic" aspect, or if that was discarded and it was treated as a diary instead, it could have worked a bit, and I would have liked it more, but as it was, I don't think I'll be reading more from Schroeder for awhile. But if you're interested in it still, grab it from the library -- it's not like it will take up a ton of your time, after all.
Slightly under a 5, but really, not even playing: I loved it.
Review: I'm not going to lie, I was resistant to this. When it first came out and bloggers...moreSlightly under a 5, but really, not even playing: I loved it.
Review: I'm not going to lie, I was resistant to this. When it first came out and bloggers the world over lost their sh*t over Anna, I just figured it was another in a line of contemporary books that I would not read or care to. It looked and sounded so girly and cutesy and fluttery and things that I try to deny I am or ever was... But the hype just built and built and everyone kept saying how funny it was, and I thought, "Well okay, I can do funny. And I have been saying I am going to try more contemporary and more *gulp* romance." So I added it to the to-read list and didn't really think much more about it. It was always a "some day" read.
And then Liz and Allison cornered me on Twitter and insisted that I read it as soon as humanly possible. And since I was in the planning stages of the whole Beach Reads thing, I said okay. Maybe. We'll see.... And then it showed up in my mailbox. Okaymaybewe'llsee is not good enough for Liz, it seems.
And thank god for that.
For real, you guys. I don't even know if I can explain why I love this book so much. I mean, it's not like anything earth-shattering ever happens. It's just a slice-of-life kind of story, and one that I would expect to be a little disconnected from (you have to be pretty fancy-pants rich to go to a French boarding school, afterall. I don't much care for reading about fancy-pantses trying to make out). Thank god it's not some Richie Rich boarding school story. Though Paris is a bit of a character in its own right and plays a role in Anna's awakening, the boarding school is almost incidental. This is much more a story of friends and family and how, sometimes your family is what you make it (and friends are the family you choose, and any other cliche you'd like to insert here).
It just felt real. The characters are funny and flawed and they interact with each other in such an authentic way. There are times when an author is trying to write a funny teen book and everyone becomes very quippy and witty and over the top. They're caricatures, and it makes them hard to connect to. The characters in Anna aren't like this. They are funny, but in the way that your friends are funny. It's situational and comfortable, and it feels really true. They all have their issues and they grow and change, and sometimes that means they grow apart, and it's all very believable. It's not just The Anna & Etienne Show. All of the core characters felt like real people and - more importantly - real teens on the cusp of adulthood.
But of course I can't talk about this book without talking about the romance. I judge a good romance on whether it gives me butterflies. This passed the butterfly test easily. And it's not because it's so swooning and lusty and hawt. Like the characterization, the romance felt really real. It is flawed, and there are times you think it's never going to come together, and times you think maybe it shouldn't come together, and all the while you're breathless with anticipation. It's not the melodramatic, substance-less fare that is typical to YA romance. There is a basis to it, Anna and Etienne do and will work at it, but most importantly of all, it's backed by friendship. It's a companionable romance story, which I trust so much more than a lust-at-first-sight, death do us part, manic "romance". There's a really solid, strong friendship being built throughout the story, and that, I think, creates longing and satisfaction in the reader just as much as any hoped-for french kiss.
And of course, Paris makes everything romantic.
So if you're dragging your feet, doubting whether to read this and keeping it on the back burner for "some day", or are embarrassed to read something with this title/cover combo, do yourself a favor and bump it up on your list. Remove the dust jacket if need be, find yourself a quiet, comfortable place to hide your flutters, and commence equal parts laughing and swooning. (less)
I've read other things by Dunkle before (The Hollow Kingdom, The House of Dead Maids), and one of the things I really like about her is that she seems...moreI've read other things by Dunkle before (The Hollow Kingdom, The House of Dead Maids), and one of the things I really like about her is that she seems willing to confront the darker aspects, the things that make you uncomfortable. This is something I've come to associate with her, and I really do like it. But another thing I've come to associate with Dunkle is stories that come so close to making me feel the need to push them into everybody's hands, but not quite making it. This was true of By These Ten Bones. I think I wanted to love it more than I did, and I wanted to want to push it on everybody - but I didn't. This makes it sound like I didn't like it, or even that I was disappointed with it, neither of which is very accurate. I do want to push it on recommend it to some people, but not everybody. I just...it always felt like there was just some barrier we couldn't push through. The story and I were held back by something, something was missing and I don't know what it was. But I could feel it.
Alright, this is the weirdest analogy ever (maybe only topped by my soup vs. Soup analogy), but say you were eating your favorite ice cream sundae, and it's delicious; it has scoops of rich chocolate and fragrant vanilla ice cream topped off with nuts and cherries and sprinkles and whatever the hell else you put on it. And you like it, it's good - but something's missing, and you can't figure out what until you get to the last bite and you realize you forgot the damn caramel sauce. It's still a really good sundae, but you know how much better it can be with the little addition of that salty-sweet caramel, and now you're disappointed.
That's sort of how this is. Or maybe it's not like that at all. (I mean, it's a book, not a sundae. And why do all of my analogies have food?) But something about this book left me feeling incomplete, and it wasn't big enough to really stand out, but rather left me with that subtle nagging feeling that something that would put it over the top, something that would make me love it instead of like it, was missing. And I really don't know how else to explain it.
Part of me feels like maybe it was just a by-product of the style. It's very folkloric, very sparse in style and even in plot, pared back and bare bones. It's told very simply and somewhat slowly, too, and maybe that's what left me with that nagging feeling - maybe I wanted something more lyrical, or something I could connect to more, emotionally? Either way, the style does work for the story and does help build something really atmospheric and foreboding. There's a good sense of place and tension, and I worried for the characters and how everything would turn out. I also feel like it's something I would read again, maybe even multiple times. But I don't think everyone will connect to it - I think it will be too spare, too simple, or too weird for some people to get past.
But for those who do, they'll find a really interesting tale of Otherness unlike most of the YA fare out there, and one that is worth their time. Even if there is an indefinable something missing... (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)
I am a fan of Jessica Day George. There is no denying that. But most of what I've read by her has been more on the YA side than the middle grade side,...moreI am a fan of Jessica Day George. There is no denying that. But most of what I've read by her has been more on the YA side than the middle grade side, so even though I was super excited for Tuesdays at the Castle, there was still the question of whether I would like her MG stuff. I'm not sure why I was worried. It flowed along so well and kept me going. Two sittings and I pretty much engulfed it all, continuously telling myself "I should stop after X, I should stop after Y..." and I just couldn't seem to do it.
Tuesdays at the Castle is absolutely darling. I don't know how to make that not sound like a creepy old aunt who wants to pinch people's cheeks, but it's true, it was darling. There is an...effervescence to George's characters that I just love, and Celie was no exception. [I guess if I'm being honest, I kinda did want to pinch her cheeks...] George has a talent for writing books that are wholesome without being boring or saccharine, and are just plain fun to boot. Parents will find little that is objectionable in Tuesdays at the Castle - for the most part. I mean, an assassination attempt on a 14 year old might be a little harder to explain to someone on the younger side of the scale, but generally it is very clean and handles delicate situations without being too adult or inappropriate, but ALSO without making light and taking away the tension. And even though it will get the parent approval stamp, it's never in that way that it ends up being off-putting for kids (mom said I can read it and now I don't want to...). It's a great adventure story with kids at the helm, and because of that, it is delightful.
I think so many kids are going to read this and root for the children of Castle Glower as they outsmart and one-up the scheming adults in the story. I think this is one that will capture a lot of hearts and imaginations. The added fantastical element of the living Castle Glower and Celie's relationship with it lends a great magic to the story. It feels so companionable, and the Castle really becomes a character of its own, and you care about it just as much as you do its inhabitants. The relationship amongst the siblings was nice, too, with good dynamics and distinct personalities. They each have their thing that sets them apart, and their take on the situation and what to do, and they work together and play off of each other nicely. But it's the the relationship between Celie and the Castle that really stands out and sets the book apart. It's such a fun fantastic take on a story, and to give a place such personality will really appeal to young readers (and old readers. and those in between). It's just this great adventure story, without ever having left home.
I think what I like the most though is that even though it's a series, it makes a great stand-alone. It's so rare to get any book that functions as a complete story in and of itself these dayss. This is the beginning to a series (of course), but George understands the need for completion and she doesn't leave the reader hanging as so many do, or toss in some cliff-hanger or hook for the next book. She (and her publishers, thank god) seem to realize that if you just do the book well people will read the rest. No gimmick required. It's so nice to get a self contained story where everything is wrapped up nicely, there is a beginning/middle/end, etc - a clear cut everything, settled and whole, that leaves you feeling as if it's complete. I appreciate that, I really do, even if I do intend to read the next book (and I do).
This one hits stores in about 1 month, and if you're a teacher or have kids in this in-between age where they need something that will hold their attention without being too adult, this is definitely one for the to-get list. :) (less)