I'm resting around 3.5 stars right now, and haven't decided whether to round up or down, so rating to come whenever the review does. Things I really lI'm resting around 3.5 stars right now, and haven't decided whether to round up or down, so rating to come whenever the review does. Things I really liked, things I really didn't... I think for many, this will be a very polarizing book, based almost solely on the style, which I think is interesting, 'cause that's not something that is discussed (over plot/characters/Team Blahblah, etc) very often, honestly....more
It's hard to know where to start with Dark Parties. There were times I really liked it and times I had serious reservations. Dark Parties starts off iIt's hard to know where to start with Dark Parties. There were times I really liked it and times I had serious reservations. Dark Parties starts off interesting (if a little weird) with a literal "dark party" - Neva and her best friend Sanna organize a party held in pitch blackness. It's a little bit random makeout session and a little bit teenage rebellion. Two things happen at the dark party that are basically catalysts for all of the action of the story: Neva accidentally makes out with Sanna's boyfriend in the dark, and the teens plot a protest. We'll start with the protest, which starts as a vow not to have sex (so they don't bring more babies into the Protectosphere - though if you have a vow to not have sex, why are you tempting yourself with a "dark party" group makeout sesh?) and evolves into vandalism and plans for a rally.
I couldn't really tell you what the early rebellion was against. Ostensibly it's against the Protectosphere, the dome in which they live. But really it's just against The Man and everything the governement represents. We're given glimpses throughout the story of the governmental control, resource shortages, propaganda,missing people, etc., but I never really saw the motivation for the teens' rebellion. I mean, with Neva, there is some substance there because she lost someone close to her, her grandmother, who fed her a steady diet of secret righteous indignation. Neva keeps a list of the people who go missing (mostly girls), and she's unsettled by the things her grandmother taught her and her grandmother's disappearance. So on the one hand, I get a bit of her rebellious inclinations. But for the group of teens as a whole, I never really got how they all came together and why they were all so anti-government.
I mean, there are legitimate reasons to distrust their government and even to rebel. But the thing is, they don't know that through most of the story. They seem to just be a little pissed off that life isn't pretty, but if that's what they've grown up knowing...do you fight if you don't know any better? The reasons behind their rebellion and their vehemence never really gelled for me. They seem angry that they all look alike (a product of the limited gene pool imposed by the Protectosphere), but again, if that's what you've grown up knowing - would it really seem strange to you, or a reason to get angry? Maybe there is a case to be made for an innate desire for individuality, I don't know. But I think, as the reader, I could have used a little more guidance or a little more back story early on to understand where the rebellion comes from.
But maybe I just wasn't getting the full impact of the rebellion because it felt like it was muddled by the relationship, which brings me to the second point: Neva makes out with Sanna's boyfriend, Braydon, whom she claims to distrust and actively dislike until she makes out with him. Apparently his kisses must be magic, because the rest of the book from then on is basically Neva waffling back and forth between "But I like him! We can't, he belongs to Sanna! But I just want him so bad! But Sanna, but Sanna, but what if we make out in this abandoned shack? Oh noes, Sanna!!" I know a lot of people have expressed dislike for the story because they can't like Neva since she's screwing her BFFFFFF over by (almost) screwing her boyfriend. I could care less about this, her emotions regarding the betrayal are actually done pretty well, even if I do make light.
It's just...I don't think it was a necessary layer for the story. It didn't add anything to me, and more often than not, it detracted. As the story goes on and Neva begins to find out some disturbing things that actually make a rebellion seem more plausible and even necessary, she becomes more and more distracted by her desire for Braydon, a boy she hated but suddenly can't stop kissing. (And (view spoiler)[The truth about Braydon being an undercover cop sent to bust up the rebellion was completely obvious (hello, Neva, he has a GIGANTIC house, drives a motorcycle, flouts the rules - all this in a repressive and broke-ass society? AND you distrusted him from the beginning, but you didn't see this coming? REALLY, NEVA. (hide spoiler)]) It just all felt unnecessary to me. Look, not EVERY book has to have a romance, and not EVERY romance has to be angsty. It needs to serve the story, there needs to be a reason for it, and in this case, I didn't feel there was a reason, and it did a disservice to the story. It lessened the impact of the story: these two things (dystopian revolution/cheating with your BFs boyfran) were held up side by side, and if I'm supposed to believe they are just as important as each other, well then, in the scheme of things...it makes the dystopia less compelling which was really the point of the story. It showed a lack of focus, Grant was trying to do too many things, and it just didn't work for me. I kept seeing things that couldhave been taken advantage of, and things that should have been cut.
But here's the thing: in spite of all that, the muddled focus and the not always compelling dystopia/world-building and the potentially hard to like MC, I actually did enjoy reading this. It's a very quick read, and there are some compelling things going on that do make sense as a dystopia once you finally get to them. With the popularity of dystopia these days, a lot of them are becoming really watered down and the label dystopia is being applied to just about everything. This, once it gets going, actually works for me as a dystopia, and the idea of the Protectosphere and the homogenization of the population, and (view spoiler)[the idea of the forced breeding of young girls (hide spoiler)], these things actually make for a really compelling dystopic theme. When Neva finally gets her head out of her ass and finds out what's going on - I felt like the story should have started there. Even though it didn't, I did enjoy this. If it sounds interesting to you inspite of the somewhat dubious lead and the muddled focus, I do think you should pick this up. It may not be the best, most focused and impactful example of dystopian lit out there, but it has its moments and it's certainly entertaining.
*Dark Parties was provided to me by the publisher, Little, Brown Books in exchange for a fair and balanced review.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
2.5 I wanted to like this so much more than I did. It felt really flat and shallow in the development, and there was a level of coincidence and over-th2.5 I wanted to like this so much more than I did. It felt really flat and shallow in the development, and there was a level of coincidence and over-the-top ability that made it a bit cheesy. But it was a fairly quick read; I may or may not read book 2....more
1.5 I feel bad about what I'm about to do. Honestly. I'm not one of those people who just writes snarky, mean-spirited reviews, just for the sheer blac1.5 I feel bad about what I'm about to do. Honestly. I'm not one of those people who just writes snarky, mean-spirited reviews, just for the sheer black-hearted, puppy-kicking glee of it. As tempting as that sometimes is, I just am not that reviewer (generally). I like puppies...
[Do I feel bad? Do I? Do I even really like puppies? I don't know. What I DO know is this review couldn't be contained in words, so there's a chart. You know you wanna click.]
When this popped up on Goodreads toward the end of last year, I thought 'Ooh, that's a cool title, picture's kinda neat' and that was tJust under a 5.
When this popped up on Goodreads toward the end of last year, I thought 'Ooh, that's a cool title, picture's kinda neat' and that was the end of it for awhile. I didn't think it was going to be a gotta-have for me. And then during Fairy Tale Fortnight, Bonnie wrangled us an interview with The Near Witch author Victoria Schwab... I hadn't realized The Near Witch had a sort of fairy tale/folkloric element! Add to that the fantasticness of the interview, how much Victoria amuses me on Twitter, and her incredibly awesome author photo, and my interest shot through the roof. So when I Disney Hyperion gave me the opportunity to review The Near Witch, my response was a very polite HELL YES.
Excuse me for a moment while I take this opportunity to stare at you through my computer screen.
Did you feel that? That burning, zealous look? I'm sorry if it made you uncomfortable, but I'm trying to mindmeld you into going out and picking this up. And reading it aloud to someone. This book begs to be read aloud like a bedtime story. The language is just so lovely and lyrical. I want to call it poetic, but first - so I don't scare off those of you who see "poetry" and shudder - let me explain what I mean. Poets have such attention to detail and word choice. Every. single. word. a poet uses is meant to be there; it's chosen for not only its exact meaning but for the way it sounds in relation to everything else. The sounds matter just as much, and the way it rolls off your tongue when said aloud. It's musical, in a way, and a teensy bit magical. Victoria Schwab has this kind of mentality, this attention to detail. The things she does with language in this, the way it sounds and the turns of phrase, are so perfectly suited to the story. It's sometimes breathtaking, like your favorite fairy tale told perfectly.
I could probably go on about this for days. I want to sit each of you down around a giant campfire, and pass this book around so we can all read it to each other. So we can glory in the language and the way a good story, well told, makes you feel. Schwab understands the communal nature of storytelling and Lexi, the main character, is a perfect vehicle for it. Lexi's narration weaves the story and all of these important elements together with insight and sympathy and bravery. Through her, the village and the inhabitants and the wild moor come to life beautifully.
Aside from the language and beautiful form of the novel, the story itself is enjoyable. I'm not going to say it's not predictable (there's little these days that is), but it's predictable in the way that fairy tales and folk tales are predictable. You're pretty sure who the good guys and bad guys are, and you're pretty sure there's a lesson to be learned, but it's not necessarily a bad thing to go in knowing. It lends a sense of familiarity to the story, rather than detracting from it. You may sort of know what's going to happen, but it's really all about getting there. The story is in the journey, you know?
I respect Schwab and the story, too, for understanding the gray nature of things, and not presenting it all as black and white. Though many people in the novel may think and act under an Us vs. Them mentality, Lexi and a handful of others realize that there is always more to it, and this is really what drives the story. There is a mystery, yes, and something bad happening, but it's a story about understanding and acceptance more than anything. And it's never heavy-handed with any kind of moral. There is a pervading sense of acceptance and open-mindedness, a knowledge that things once were better and a hope that they can be again. But it's not an afterschool special: it's never didactic with it. It's just that there's love and it just is. (Does that make any sense?)
The only thing I had questions about was the romance. I like Cole, and I like Lexi's interactions with him. I'm even not opposed to the almost-triangle with Tyler, because it was believable. But I don't know that it was necessary. Or maybe it just didn't need to be amped up quite so much. It almost felt like a split focus, and I think hints of a blossoming attraction and early-stage intrigue would have been plenty. The story only takes place over a few days, afterall, so anything more than an awareness of each other can feel a little melodramatic and silly to me. But I am self-admittedly cold-hearted, so.... (And I did enjoy the two of them together. It is really a minor thing.)
So yeah, that's it. It was lovely and I'm going to be keeping my eye on Schwab to see where she goes from here.
And I don't know why you're reading this when you could be reading The Near Witch......more
When I read the first page of this, I got kind of excited. The MC, Brusenna, is simply trying to buy something from the village market and is being2.5
When I read the first page of this, I got kind of excited. The MC, Brusenna, is simply trying to buy something from the village market and is being harassed by a vendor without having actually done anything. I love a good outsider/underdog story, and the initial setup gave me flashbacks to Plain Kate, which I loved. I had high hopes. And though that Otherness, that outsider-ness is a part of the story, it turned out to be a sort of minimal part of the story. Which is fine: it's not the story's fault that I didn't get what I thought I was going to get.
But what I did get...I don't have much to say about. I don't know how to make this not sound like a really negative review, because in truth, it's not. I didn't hate this book. I didn't even really dislike this book. But I didn't really love it or like it all that much either. I experienced the typical "Oh I like that, eww that not so much"s that one does while reading, but it never really went one way or the other for me. It was a wash, and in the end I was left feeling a little indifferent.
How do I explain this...
It's like soup. You can make soup from a can and it's good, it's serviceable. But it's one note, usually kinda salty and a bit mushy. Or you can spend hours making soup from scratch, layering the flavors and creating something complex and savory, that bursts with flavor on your tongue. Both are soup. Both can be satisfying in their own soup-way. But I'm not really a canned soup kinda girl. I will spend hours making a frakking bowl of soup, so that when I sit down to eat it I can savor it. I can taste all of those different ingredients in every bite, and the way they play off of each other to make something more. soup vs Soup. You eat soup for sustenance; you eat Soup because it warms your soul. So this was like eating a bowl of soup when what I wanted was a bowl of Soup. Not bad, but not something that's going to leave much of an impression.
If that much-generalized, utterly ridiculous metaphor doesn't do it for you, here are some of the specifics:
Things I liked: * The sort of adventure story, with the traveling and the procuring of horses and boats and whatnot. * The visual aspects of the writing. I was really able to see the world Argyle created and picture how it looked, how it worked, etc. * Brusenna's personal story of growth. It was not quite a coming of age story, but in some ways it kind of was. It was nice to see her open up and let people in after the sheltered life she's led - and it was nice to see her stop pushing people away, which sounds like what I just said, but is different. I was thankful for the time she finally stopped actively pushing people away and being self-pitying. * Gollum Pogg. * Joshen. I really liked Joshen.
Things I liked not so much: * The names. Like, basically any of them. * I felt like the writing could have used a bit less Tell and a lot more Show. It felt like surface writing, like we never got to really dig down deep and discover the world. What makes Brusenna so special? What turned Espen into the Dark Witch? I don't want to be told these things, I want to discover them, and be shown these things and fit them together into solid world-building. * The big BA witches fought with seeds. Like, they had seed pods in their belts and they would throw them at each other like 4th of July snappers. Yes, toxic vapors and killer thorns would come out of the seeds, which is coolish, and yes, the whole seeds and greenery and nature thing is very earthy and Wiccan, and I think what Argyle was going for. But I just kept picturing this Gotta-Save-The-Earth showdown as Gotta-Catchem-All Poké balls being thrown around... * And speaking of the duel, it was...anti-climactic. There was a LOT of buildup, but instead of being really tense during the showdown, I found myself on the verge of giggling. And then it went on for another 50 pages, with a 2nd Big Bad, which I both liked and disliked. * And speaking of ↑↑, I hate even a whiff of deus ex machina.
I have a feeling I am going to end up in the minority on this one. It's getting very high ratings and a lot of praise, so obviously people are connecting with it. And maybe at a different time in my life, when I was younger perhaps, I would have liked this more and connected with Brusenna and her world, and would have cared a bit more. As it is, I neither recommend nor discourage the reading of this. It was middle of the road for me, and will likely fade from mind pretty quickly, but I am sure it will find its audience and ardent supporters. And it's pretty. ...more
Someone - and I can't remember who - recommended this to me because they said that Clarity (the character) reminded them of Veronica Mars. And I am aSomeone - and I can't remember who - recommended this to me because they said that Clarity (the character) reminded them of Veronica Mars. And I am a leeetle obsessed with that show. Until said comparison, I actually had no intention of buying this. Couldn't tell you why, I was probably just burned out on the glut of YA paranormal books out there, but I just assumed that if I ever decided to read this, it would be a library grab. But no. There was a V Mars comparison, and that meant that I clicked over and bought it that night. And I'm glad I did.
Though I think this book doesn't have quite the sparkle of Veronica Mars, and it's not quite at that level of this-is-perfect-I-want-to-be-this-when-I-grow-up, it certainly does invite the comparison (which equals a win for anyone who loves a smart and sassy character). I truly liked Clare and the intro into her life. I liked the family element - and the family business - and the small town that goes crazy with tourist season; I liked Clare's relationships with her mom and man-whoring yet lovable brother, and her realizations and suspicions about his actions; I liked Clare's outcast status that became a bit less-so as the book went on - it all just worked together for me so that even when it wasn't completely believable, it was still thoroughly enjoyable. Add to that the fact that it's a fairly trim book and a definite quick read, and it made for the perfect fun bit of escapism. Harrington's style doesn't take effort to read - and I don't mean that as an insult, like it's too simple or not taken to the next level; I just mean that she's got Clare's voice down cold, and it reads effortlessly, drawing you along and keeping you entertained.
One thing that was a really pleasant surprise is that it actually kept me guessing. I had suspicions of course, but the thing is - I had a lot of suspicions and I kept going back and forth with who I thought just had to be the guilty party. It's a rarity for me to not figure out, with absolute assurance, any mystery within the first 1/4 of a book. That's why I don't read mysteries. Even if it's still sometimes fun seeing it all unfold and waiting with bated breath for everything to come to a crisis, the whole point of a mystery is the doubt that you have, and the suspicious thoughts you find yourself having about everybody. In this case, I really was having those suspicious thoughts about just about everybody. But it wasn't because the groundwork hadn't been laid and everything was up in the air. It's just that there was enough mystery and enough self-doubt on Clare's part that the reader was able to get caught up in it and doubt their own judgement, too. I love that. It's what a mystery should be. And the paranormal aspects just enhanced this. It didn't feel like it was too much of a stretch and it was worked in so as to amp the tension but not make me roll my eyes, which = impressive.
Yes, of course there were times were I felt like it was a little wish-fulfillment-y. There was a rough patch in the middle where I felt it tread a little close to typical, predictable YA, but for the most part, it was in such minor ways that it didn't really bother me. And yes, things are sometimes too convenient, and Clare has too many people pursuing her (in the true lurve way, not the homicidal maniac way, though...) for it to be believable. Or, if not believable then relatable, I guess. And yeah, there probably aren't any 16 year olds who would get to or even could do the things Clare gets to do. But that didn't stop me from loving Veronica Mars, and it didn't stop me from enjoying every minute of this book.
I feel like I've been really inarticulate through this whole review, but that's really all I can say. It's just a book that I just fully enjoyed that I hand't even planned on reading, and I love it when that happens. I often recommend Paranormalcy as the perfect funk-breaker because of the tone and the enjoyable way it reads, and I think this one is now going to be added to that list. This a great quick read that kind of livens you up and entertains above all else, and I loved that. Perception is being added to the wishlist for sure (no cajoling from forgotten friends necessary). ;)
When I came across this on Goodreads, it became one of those things that just takes over your brain. Or takes over mybrain, anyway... Everything fromWhen I came across this on Goodreads, it became one of those things that just takes over your brain. Or takes over my brain, anyway... Everything from the cover to the title to the fantastic little tag line just called to me. So when I was offered a copy out of the blue, of course I casually said, Oh, thanks but nah.... O_O Or HELLS YEAH. It was one of the two. And when it came in the mail (so if you went with Choice 1, sorry, you lose), I promptly sat down and made short work of it. And though the beginning was a little rocky for me, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Juniper Berry for me was interesting in that it pleased both my adult side and the 9 year old Misty that was obsessed with creepy books and made her mother worry that she had "unhealthy" reading habits (because apparently to moms, Goosebumps is acceptable only in small doses. A steady diet of it = serial killer, or something. Or, at least that's what meddling neighbors lead moms to believe. Moving on...) Reading it, I got the same impression I had when I read Coraline: that my younger self would have eaten this up. It was just creepy enough, and unflinching in its darker aspects, that it would have delighted me to no end. It had this fantastic dark circus feel, with fairy tale elements in there as well (hence it's inclusion in Fairy Tale Fortnight), but it still remained its own thing. There were certain little unexpected elements that delighted me (kid and adult) and gave it this great visual appeal, and I have always loved a book that makes you see what is going on and leaves you with lasting images. Certain quirky things are always going to pop into my head when I think of this book, and I love that. This is of course aided by the fantastic illustrations. My copy, being unfinished, only had some of the illustrations, which means I'll have to track down a finished copy to see the rest. But from what I saw, they were perfectly suited to the text, and stylized nicely.
I mentioned Coraline earlier, and I want to bring it up what more time because the comparison doesn't end just in the fact that I liked it as an adult and now I would have loved it as a kid. It also reminded me of Coraline in that it was disturbing in the way that Coraline was disturbing. In Coraline, there was the Other Mother, and good lord, if she is not the creepiest character for a kid to read... And it's not just the black button eyes, or the eating of souls. She's disturbing because she is a parent (or, looks like one and pretends to be one, anyway). Though there is a villain in this (more on him in a minute), what ups the disturbing factor in this is the parents. You know - and Juniper knows - that they are good people, but that something is wrong. Having your parents do these strange dark things ups the creep out factor immensely, and I loved it.
But moving on to the actual villain of the piece, Skeksyl, my reaction to him was...interesting. In some respects, he's a very good villain. He's creepy, he's dark, he's tempting, and he has a raven for a sidekick. (Villain: ☑). But there was one thing that I found off-putting, and this is just because I'm me. I don't think kids would be bothered by this, but every time Skeksyl is described by Juniper, his nasally, high-pitched, screechy voice is mentioned, which just made me want to laugh. I can't take a villain seriously with a nasally, high-pitched, screechy voice (unless it's a wicked witch, and then, sure). I know that's minor and silly, but it affected my overall impression of the villain, and really, I just needed to share that with someone. So there. I could have done with a little more subtlety from him, too, but whatever, it's a kids book.
And Skeksyl was the only one that got on my nerves at all or made me question. I loved all of the other characters, especially Juniper. She's smart and quirky and strong, and above all else, she knows herself. She knows who she is and what she wants (which is kinda the point of the whole thing), and beyond just loving this personally, I think it sends a powerful and much-needed message to young readers. I love having a character for this age group who is so self-aware and confident in who she is. I love that she's not ashamed of her intelligence and her interests. Juniper knows who she is and says so proudly. The book as a whole is a great statement on insecurity and acceptance, and it's refreshing and welcome. That's why, if you know a kid who will be able to handle the darker elements, I would highly suggest recommending them (or gifting them!) this book.
Side note: I absolutely adore it when an author uses big words for young kids, and uses them without being condescending or explaining/excusing the word away. Just unashamedly using a word and meaning it. I love that. Respect your reader (and your reader's intelligence and inquisitiveness), and they'll respect you....more
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 lI'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)...more