Percy Jackson has problems. He has dyslexia and ADHD. He has a stepfather from Hell. He's been kicked out of more boarding schools than he can count o...morePercy Jackson has problems. He has dyslexia and ADHD. He has a stepfather from Hell. He's been kicked out of more boarding schools than he can count on one hand. And one of his teachers just sprouted wings and tried to kill him. Now, kicked out of yet another boarding school and on his way home to New York, Percy realizes that he can add "might be going crazy" to the list. But when he gets to his mother's NYC apartment only to see her rattled and ready to send him to some strange summer camp where all the campers claim to be fathered by Gods, Percy realizes there's more going on than he could have imagined. And he's about to find himself in the middle of a war between three of the most powerful Gods around.
Like many people, I'd had this on my to read list for quite awhile, but could never seem to make myself get around to it. I'm not sure why; I love mythology, and was a bit obsessed with it as a kid. Maybe I was afraid I'd be disappointed. Then a good friend of mine, NL* Jenn read the series and started pushing it hard. Something to know about Jenn: she is a hardcore, card-carrying Harry Potter fanatic. When she compared the Percy Jackson series to HP, I knew I had to read it; Jenn does not toss Harry around lightly.
She was right. There's a definite Harry Potter feel about the book, but not at all in a bad, rip-off way. Percy definitely stands on his own two feet, but some of the magic that was captured by Rowling has been captured by Riordan as well. Percy is thoroughly engaging, and his story is full of humor and tension and the fantastic, while still feeling believable and root-forable at its core. Here's why:
The Characters: I think Riordan made an excellent choice in creating Percy and his other characters. The idea of a hero who's on the surface just a kid with problems is a great move for two reasons. 1) Having Percy have common issues like ADHD, dyslexia, and anger issues, and who is estranged from his parents makes him relatable. There are going to be kids reading these books that have these same issues, or know someone who does. This is going to make readers root for Percy, and feel a connection to him that is deeper and more immediate than it maybe would have been otherwise. 2) It creates balance. As anyone who's heard about the books or seen the trailer for the movie knows, Percy is the son of a god. This could have potentially made Percy to 'Other' -- too powerful and distant to be relatable. Giving him issues to deal with inspite of his lineage grounds him in reality and makes him more likeable. This extends to the other characters as well. They may all be descended from the Gods, but that doesn't mean they lead perfect, care-free lives. Quite the opposite, in fact, and this means great tension and relatability. To go along with this, I also thoroughly enjoyed Percy's voice. The narration is light and engaging, and Percy is a nice mix of wise-ass and scared kid.
The Quest: Percy's journey is also a good choice by Riordan. He started high, with a potential war between the gods looming, its weight pretty squarely on Percy's shoulders. At the same time, he left himself room to grow over the series. There's a clear idea of where it's going, and there's room for the tension to increase as the story arc progresses. There's also a great wealth of mythology to mine, which the reader will learn alongside Percy (*gasp* kids learning while they read for fun? Score!) The mythology is fun and interesting, and Riordan uses it well.
All in all, I don't really have anything negative to say about this. I think it's age appropriate, but still able to keep older audiences engaged. The tone is good, the story's good, and it's a great follow-up for Harry Potter fans, while being able to stand on its own. When I finished this one, I immediately bought the rest of the series. Get it, read it, and enjoy it.(less)
In Moon Called, Mercedes Thompson, the VW mechanic, Mercy for short, has always strived to lead a normal life. Well, as normal a life as a walker (one...moreIn Moon Called, Mercedes Thompson, the VW mechanic, Mercy for short, has always strived to lead a normal life. Well, as normal a life as a walker (one who can shape-shift into a coyote) can expect. A walker who was raised by werewolves, whose neighbor is Alpha of the local werewolf pack, whose former boss is a powerful member of the fae community, and whose friend is a vampire with a Scooby Doo Mystery Machine. That kind of normal. When a newly turned teenage werewolf shows up at her garage looking for work, Mercy finds herself crossing the boundary from her version of normal into much more dangerous territory, where she finds herself at the center of a storm of feuding werewolves, vampire favors and angry witches…
I was basically instantly sucked into Mercy’s world. She is an engaging heroine, spunky but not cheesy; she feels real. The powerful paranormal characters in her life are realistic even in their otherworldliness, which is impressive. Briggs worked in a good base of folklore and real world nature to make even the unbelievable believable. I never really felt myself rolling my eyes or thinking, god this is cheesy. It wasn’t. I thought the first book showed great world-building potential.
The one area where I became a little leery and thought my worries were going to be justified was the end. I hate Scooby Doo-ism, where an author wraps everything up too easily into a neat little package rather than crafting the ending with as much care as the rest of the book. Beginnings and endings, I believe, are the hardest to right and have the most potential for let down, and I was worried I was going to be let down. There was one section where it felt a little too ‘let’s wrap this up,’ but Briggs managed to get away from it and back into a real flow, balancing it out into Mercy’s engaging narration. It was a little blip on my uh-oh radar, but she saved it (though it was a big factor in knocking the book from a 5 to a 4): but she ended with a great closer. Certainly looking forward to the rest of the series, and anything else Briggs writes(less)
This barely squeaked by at a 4 for me. The ending (or the drawn-out lead-up to) were what bumped it back for me. Will review in full later, but for no...moreThis barely squeaked by at a 4 for me. The ending (or the drawn-out lead-up to) were what bumped it back for me. Will review in full later, but for now, let's say it was good and worth my time, but I am glad that multiple people have told me the series improves.(less)
The Luxe is about turn of the century New York socialites falling in love and misbehaving. New York's darling debutant, Elizabeth Holland is poised to...moreThe Luxe is about turn of the century New York socialites falling in love and misbehaving. New York's darling debutant, Elizabeth Holland is poised to marry one of the most eligible (and debaucherous) bachelors in the city, but her perfect life is not what it seems.
I don't know how I managed to forget to put my review up, considering I wrote it months ago...
Briefly: Katniss Everdeen is a 16 year old girl f...moreI don't know how I managed to forget to put my review up, considering I wrote it months ago...
Briefly: Katniss Everdeen is a 16 year old girl fighting to survive in District 12. She hunts illegally in the forests outside of the fence; she does whatever it takes to keep her family alive. When Katniss' little sister's name is drawn as one of the twenty-four tributes to go into the Hunger Games-- a battle to the death, where only 1 of the 24 participants will live -- Katniss volunteers to go in her place and learns what it really means to fight to survive.
If you haven't heard of the fabulousness that is this book, I think you've been living in a hole. It's hard to describe this book or review it without talking in circles or giving something away, so I'm just going to do a quick little review where I rave about its fantasticness. We all know I'm a fan of dystopia, and this one is a prime example. You have the classic struggle: Katniss, and all of the other inhabitants of the twelve Districts, are at the mercy of the ruthless Capitol, where the yearly deaths of the tributes is entertainment. You have the humanist aspect: There are good people in the midst of this, on the District side as well as the Capitol side, allowing you to gauge the "wrongness" of this dystopian world. You have the ♥: a triangle no less, but if you haven't heard of Peeta and Gale...again, hole. You have the questions, the myriad 'why's that come with a great dystopian novel, that make you discuss it with friends and coworkers, and let it invade your brain and analyze yourself and what you hold true.
All of the factors of a great dystopia are there.
But The Hunger Games is more than that. Katniss reads incredibly authentic; I never felt like I was reading Suzanne Collins, it was always Katniss. Collins keeps a great tone throughout, and makes Katniss likeable even when she's being a bit bloodthirsty/obtuse/naive, etc. There is great gray area in the book, which I love. Every one seems so human and flawed, and therefore it is sometimes painful and heartbreaking, but always engaging and powerful. The idea of the Hunger Games themselves -- a Roman arena-style fight to the death, taken to the extremes that modern and future technology make capable -- is brilliant. The idea that the Hunger Games are not just entertainment for the rich Capitol-ites, but are punitive measures taken against the rest of the country (the Districts) for an unprising, is brilliant. There is an ominous tone, and that fantastic eerie psychological quality that abusers use -- "you brought this on yourself" -- taken to the extreme, as well as the fact that the Districts are essentially having to send off their children to fight to the death, while they are forced to watch it on TV -- disturbingly brilliant!
If you haven't read it, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR???(less)
This seems to be one of those books that gets really mixed reactions. I've read more than a few rants that complain of the writing style (present tens...moreThis seems to be one of those books that gets really mixed reactions. I've read more than a few rants that complain of the writing style (present tense), the love aspect, the originality aspect, and Mary herself, saying she's selfish and unlikeable. And most of the things that seem to bother people about this book help me to love it.
I found Ryan's writing beautifully and painfully evocative, and the present tense lent an immediacy to the narration that really worked. There are times when the things that Mary says in the novel are so perfectly phrased as to make me actually stop reading and just dwell on them. I could see everything so clearly, and sometimes just ached with it. It was lovely in a heartbreaking way.
Much like the romance between Mary and Travis. I loved every moment of that, and bought it all. This bit is a teensy bit spoilery, so if you haven't read it, look away.
I know there are people who find the relationship unbelievable, and think that Mary was selfish for a) choosing Travis over Harry for no reason (? did they read the same book I did?), and for feeling like there was something more even than Travis. I understand why people were frustrated by this and thought Mary selfish -- so many people read YA for the easy romance and the lies. I hate to say it, but it's true. I respect Ryan so much more for not making things easy like that. I absolutely loved that, although Mary loved Travis, she realized there was more to the world, and since she lives in a pretty effed up world, there most certainly is. Mary is a woman on a mission, and she doesn't let anything sway her from that. It's a bit maniacal, maybe, but understandably so, and it makes for a much more complex, nuanced, adult novel than people typically get from YA. I appreciated that.
Same goes for the ending. Some people were really upset about the lack of resolution in the end, and I personally loved it. (And even though I know there is a sequel (and 3rd!), and fully intend to read them, I would have been content with 1 open-ended but powerful book.) It would have been a cop-out to have everything wrapped up neatly. I like a book that makes you wonder and makes you think, and even that makes you uncomfortable. It means the writer was working and doing their job, not just churning out some schlocky mess for $$.
This isn't to say I thought it was a perfect book. There were times when the prose was a bit purply, and I was worried on occasion that it was about to go over the top. I originally rated it a 4 on Goodreads, but as time passed, I found myself craving it, and thinking about Mary and the things she went through, the choices she had to make, and respecting it more and more. It's one of those books that I know I will reread and appreciate in different ways, but that I would reread even if that wasn't the case, just to get back to the beauty of Ryan's writing.
I fell head over heels in love with George's Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, so when I saw she was doing a retelling of one of my absolute childhood favor...moreI fell head over heels in love with George's Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, so when I saw she was doing a retelling of one of my absolute childhood favorites, the 12 Dancing Princesses, my interest was piqued, to say the least. And when I saw the gorgeous cover attached to the story...do I really need to tell you I bought it?
Though I don't love it quite as hardcore as I do Sun and Moon, this one's a definite keeper. The 12 Dancing Princesses can be a tricky tale to retell because there's just such a huge cast of characters. The decision has to be made whether to cut some of the sisters (as did Juliet Marillier in the fantasticWildwood Dancing) or try to find a way to differentiate them. George went the latter route, and did an admirable job. Not only did I never have a problem keeping the sisters straight, but she did a fairly good job of making them distinct from one another. Each is named after a flower (which is not an uncommon tack to take in this tale), which could have added to the confustion, but didn't, and for the most part, each seemed like their own person with fairly consistent personalities. It was pleasant to read something with such a large cast and not be constantly going, Who?
One thing I really have to say for George is that she does a consistently damn fine job of staying very faithful to a tale while fleshing it out and bringing it to life beautifully. One of the reasons that this story captured and held my heart from a very early age was the whole mysterious and intriguing underworld the sisters went to every night. I loved how George brought the two worlds, above and below, to life and tied them together. There was this background, this history and mythology to it that made it rich and her own, while still keeping it the world of my childhood. This extended to the above-ground world, too, which felt authentic and interesting.
But the fact is, a story like this hinges on the romance and the characters - the humble soldier who will win the day, and the princess who will win his heart. This does not disappoint. I LOVED Galen and Rose. I mean, they're not the lass or the bear, but I still loved them quite a bit. Their courtship was slow and cautious and made sense given the situation. There was this quiet flirtatiousness to it that was just so cute I wanted to smoosh them together. [And on a side note, I frakking love that Galen knits. Seriously. I know some people are like, "wtf? he knits?" but I really liked that and it made perfect since, as it historically has been very common not only for soldiers to know how to knit, but men in general.]
I could have wished to dig a little deeper into the magic all around (the magic Galen does, which was interesting, and I wanted to know more; the magic that Walter does, which was mysterious - part of me liked that it was left unexplained, but part of me still wondered...). This one also took me a little longer to connect to, but all in all, I'd recommend it fairly highly. It's sweet and wholesome* and completely enjoyable.
*I have been using 'wholesome' way too much lately. If you asked me to describe the types of books I read (or asked one of my friends to...), I never would have thought "wholesome" would make it onto the list...
This is really just under a four. Woulda been a solid 4, but the ending knocked it back to 3.5 territory.
Sally Gardner pulled no punches in I, Coriand...moreThis is really just under a four. Woulda been a solid 4, but the ending knocked it back to 3.5 territory.
Sally Gardner pulled no punches in I, Coriander. Her Cromwell-era England is harsh and full and the perfect backdrop to the very dark - and very darkly human - tale she tells. No one's life is simple or all that pretty in the book, but Coriander's is made even less so upon the arrival of her strictly religious stepmother, Maug Leggs, and Maud's...'preacher' Arise Fell. Maud is pretty damn bad, but Arise Fell is one of the most disturbing characters I've ever read in a kids book, maybe in any book. He is completely repugnant and utterly fascinating. Together, they are so throroughly creepy and villainous that your skin kinda crawls when they enter a scene, adding this great sense of threat and malice and tension to the story. But the best thing (or the worst)? They are believable. These are not over the top and unrealistic villains that yeah, may be scary, but are also utterly ridiculous. No, Gardner created two people who could easily be found on the front page of the news, or in a segment on 20/20. They are creepy and awful and utterly human in it. It's scary. And it can make for a very dark read, so if you don't like that or are sensitive to some things...be warned.
But the beauty of the story? Coriander. She never gives up or loses who she is. When Arise Fell arrives and introduces her to his hands of "Wrath" and "Salvation" things get decidedly dark for Coriander -- and yet, she refuses to give up who she is. She fights to keep her self and her identity, and she actively seeks out ways to make things right. That's so powerful for a young girl to be doing in any time, but especially in Coriander's time, and that's what makes it such a potentially powerful story for young girls. Yes, it is dark, but the fact is, there are plenty of girls who go through similar things, and seeing someone triumph can only be good.
I think, too, that Gardner's use of history is genius. The tale is perfectly suited to the narrow, suspicious, dangerous times it's set in. The setting just really works for the tale, and Garnder uses enough of the history to make it come alive and give it a sense of place, but not so much that it ever start to feel like a history lesson. Her Cromwellian England is almost tangible; I could have wished for a little more of the faerie world, but in the end, I think it kind of works as is on that score.
The only thing I really had a problem with was the ending, and some of the plot-device-y-ness of some aspects. The resolution was far too quick for my liking, and I definitely needed more of the prince and that whole story line. A big part of the reason I felt this was rushed, though, is that Coriander takes great leaps in age through the story, and I needed more from that. Every time she enters the faerie world, no matter how brief it may seem to her, she finds herself aged a few years upon her return to England. This is in keeping with mythology, and I am fine with it in its way - and even as a plot device - except it left me with questions. Like, if Coriander has aged from say 8 to 16 over a few successive trips that have only equaled say 2years at the utmost in England...setting aside the problems that would cause back in Cromwell times, it left me with questions about Coriander, mentally. Does her mind age too? Does her maturity level increase along with her growth? Is she essentially a different Coriander over night, without knowing how it happened, or who she has become? Because if so, yes, it's a little strange, and would have some serious ramifications - but if not, then the WHOLE BIT with the prince suddenly becomes hella creepy. Just saying, if Cinderella featured an 8 year old girl who just looks like a pretty teen about to marry a prince, I don't think it would be nearly the popular story that it is... And whether her mind did age or not, the age jumps happen so suddenly that it's hard for the reader to shift their mind to the new Coriander, and it left me feeling like an 8 year old was being wooed by a prince... Uncomfortable-making, to say the least.
That being said, I don't think it is meant to be creepy, or even that it reads creepy. It's more one of those things you notice on reflection and are like, WTF? But I did thoroughly enjoy myself reading this, and think Gardner has a pretty good talent for crafting a world and a story, and not being afraid of darker elements, which I always appreciate. I, Coriander has elements of the Cinderella tale, and a definite fairy tale-esque feel throughout, but it is certainly its own story, and suitable to those who don't like fairy tales just as much as those who do, and in the end, I would recommend it with only slight caveats.
What can I say, I saved the best for last. Daughter of the Forest is my favorite fairy tale retelling of all time. (So far. Let me know your faves and...moreWhat can I say, I saved the best for last. Daughter of the Forest is my favorite fairy tale retelling of all time. (So far. Let me know your faves and try to prove me wrong!) I did a mini-review of this once before, but I want to expand on that now, and get a little gushy fangirly.
I read this for the first time after having just finished Wildwood Dancing (also by Marillier). It came highly recommended by a friend, so I was pretty gung-ho. But the first 30 pages almost made me put it down. It's not that they were awful, but there was so much info-dumping, and nothing to really grab me and make me read it.
And then that all changed. I lost copious amounts of sleep over this book both times I read it, because when it gets going, it gets going. I was so in it, and I cared so much about Sorcha and Red and the brothers/swans and what was going to happen. The pacing of the relationship is beyond beautiful, perfectly suited to tease you and keep you hungry for more while never losing the tension by drawing it out too much.
When I originally reviewed this, I mentioned some issues I had with the villain and his Scooby-Doo tendency to spill his guts. I had less of an issue with this on rereads, even though it is a pet peeve of mine when characters do this -- I love this so much that I look back on everything with rose-colored glasses on. But why, you ask? Where to begin...
Everything about this book feels fully realized, which is always impressive, and more so when you consider that this was a debut. The characters felt real, and Marillier did an incredibly good job of making each memorable and distinguishable. The 6 brothers spend most of the book off-stage or as swans, and yet I never had any trouble remembering who was who, what they liked, what type of Character (capital C) they had, etc. So much love and layering went into their creation, you can just feel it. So you can only imagine the creations Sorcha and Red became.
There's so much pain in this story, and pain in the telling, and Mariliier doesn't just wipe the slate clean in the end. I really respect that, it makes everything feel more real and authentic and human. There are bad things that happen - as there are in real life - and Marillier did a really good job of not flinching away from that, and in showing the healing process and allowing her characters to work through things, come to terms with things. For those of you who have read the book, I'm not just talking about what happens to Sorcha. Multiple characters in the book face some really difficult things, and Marilier shows real honesty in her writing when allows a good does of realism alongside the fantasty aspects. There's always the wonder, sometimes the certainty, on the reader's part that there are things that they characters may not be able to come back from. There are wounds that may never heal. I don't like a sugar-coated story, and Marillier did a very respectable job of showing the highs and lows.
And this brings me to perhaps the thing that makes this the book of awesomely epic proportions that it is: aside from the info-dumping in the beginning, and the Scooby Doo moment at the end (rough patches), Marillier is incredibly good at Show-Don't-Tell. Sorcha is a silent character (have I mentioned that I love a well-done silent character? Because I do.); everything is sort of filtered through her and her silence, and the pain and heaviness of it, and the shelter that it can provide. I think writing from the perspective of a character that couldn't just spill her guts allowed Marillier to hone her talents in writing a tale that shows a complete picture and lets the audience gather more than what is said. Or maybe she's just naturally skilled at this. Whatever the reason for it, this is one of the most present books I've ever read. I felt this book. I can't tell you how many times I got butterflies when reading this - not just because of the slowly-developing romance, but because something was about to happen. Even rereading this, I still got butterflies - I knew what was going to happen, for crying out loud, and it still made me have a physical reaction.
God, writing this is making me want to read it again. And I know when I do, it will be another all-nighter, because I'll just have to keep reading until I get to _________; and when I get there...well, maybe I should read until I get to ____________. But I promise to go to sleep after that. Well, maybe one more chapter... (less)
This is probably just under a 3 for me. It was cutish, fun artwork, interestingish fairytale-like storylines. Not a great piece of lit, but fun.
The ba...moreThis is probably just under a 3 for me. It was cutish, fun artwork, interestingish fairytale-like storylines. Not a great piece of lit, but fun.
The basic story revolves around a group of goth club kids, some of whom are not so much "kids" as they are -- well, that would be telling, now wouldn't it? The story is slightly cheeky, making fun of the scene in the way that only people who are a part of it and sincere can really do. There are a lot of fairytale elements woven in, and a creepy carnival, both of which I loved, and there are some good funny bits. What held it back though, for me at least, was the constant sense of disconnect. The stories jumped a lot, and though they do fit together, and eventually work as a whole (in one volume) I think they would have been frustrating individually. Also, some of the changes within the stories are very abrupt and underdeveloped. For a light, fun, slightly macabre read, it works, but it doesn't go beyond that.(less)