When I reviewed book one in this series, Meridian, last year, I said overall I liked the story, but. I think I'm basically going to be saying the sam...more When I reviewed book one in this series, Meridian, last year, I said overall I liked the story, but. I think I'm basically going to be saying the same thing this time, and for mostly the same reasons. This worries me a bit because it means that either there hasn't been growth OR this is just Kizer's style, in which case I will never be completely satisfied. Whichever it is, the result is the same: I was left at times feeling a little underwhelmed by what I think could be a really good story.
There are times that it is. The mythology is interesting, and Kizer is very, very talented at creating in Meridian a character I believe. There are things that she thinks or says or feels that ring so true to me, and scenes that are so cringingly, awkwardly realistic that I feel Kizer nailed her. She shows great insight into the emotions and reactions and feelings of her MC, and it brings her to life. Wildcat Fireflies sees the addition of a few new characters, one of them another Fenestra by the name of Juliet, and Kizer breathes the same life and believability into her as she does Meridian. These two girls have personalities, flaws and strengths, that feel very in keeping with the lives they've led, and I respect that.
But there are counterparts to the dynamic main characters, and these counterparts are often very flat. In fact, most of the side characters are pretty flat; they tend to be either wholly dark or wholly light, and there's never any doubt which. You know from the minute they enter the story which side they are on, and they never deviate from it. I said in my review of Meridian that the bad guys and good guys may as well come with big declarative flags over their heads, and that remains true for this second book. As the reader, we never get to have doubts or form our own opinions because everything is basically handed to us: we have merely to wait to see how it all plays out.
It's akin to the HUGE pet peeve I mentioned last time, and that's the use of deus ex machina. <----- That makes an appearance (pun intended) again in this book, but I'm going to try not to go off on too much of a tangent because I've covered it before. Suffice it to say, I haaaaaate it when authors use DEM, because why should I care if I know that no matter what happens, someone is going to come along and wipe the slate clean? Where's the tension, where's the struggle? There's no need to worry about anyone, ever, because it doesn't matter what they do: someone is going to wave a magic wand and fix it.
Hand in hand with the use of actual DEM is the obviousness that I was talking about before I did in fact go off on a bit of a tangent. There's an easy convenience to it that robs the story of potential for tension, and that's a letdown. So much in the story, signs and magical aids and white knight helpers everywhere Meridian turns - it all falls under the umbrella of divine intervention or something along those lines, and maybe it's just that I'm not religious, but this doesn't work for me. Why make everything so easy and obvious? And if all of these magical helpers and whatnot can be sent, why are Meridian and the other Fenestra even needed? Can't the baddies just be obliterated, and everything be peaches and puppies? It just doesn't work for me. And it's a shame, because I think it's doing a disservice to what is otherwise a fascinating story.
Kizer does dark really well, and she doesn't shy away from things, which I respect. I would have liked to be able to explore this without knowing that it's all going to be swept under the rug in a lightning fast showdown, where the Ultimate Bad Guy that was so impossible to beat is defeated or scared off in all of a paragraph. This, after nearly 500 pages of build-up. It feels like a lot of work for very little payoff. [And while I'm mentioning the length, on a technical note, I could have done with a heavier editing-hand. I did read an ARC, so I'm sure things will be tightened up, but this was a looong book, and though some of that can be chalked up to it essentially being two stories interwoven, it still could have used some trimming and some all-around editing. There were times when the sentence structure was damn near unintelligible.]
So, where does that leave us? If you were a fan of Meridian, I'd say definitely pick this up. If you're not adverse to clear cut Good v. Bad, and a fair dose of divine intervention, pick this up. But if these things bother you, my recommendation is hesitant. It took me a good long while before I was able to feel invested in the story; I did get there, and I do like these characters and the bones of the story, so if you're willing to set some things aside, this can be quite enjoyable at times. There is enough there to keep me willing to read more from the series, but I don't think it will ever make it to the must-have list.(less)
I was so, so dubious going into this book. In fact, because of other angel books, I had no intention of reading it at all, until someone who feels sim...moreI was so, so dubious going into this book. In fact, because of other angel books, I had no intention of reading it at all, until someone who feels similar convinced me to read this because she liked it. And though there were a few drawbacks for me, I'm really glad I read it. This puts the other angel books -- and some paranormal YA in general -- to shame.
"I won't be that girl who lets the guy treat her like crap and still fawns all over him." <--- Aaaand we have a winner! I'm sold from this line alone...
I've got to give it to Cynthia Hand -- she didn't write a fill in the blanks novel. It would have been very easy to follow the expected pattern, and to make everything really angsty and melodramatic, with a lot of Romeo and Juliet-esque vows of lovetothedeathbecauseweweremadeforeachother andnothingcancomebetweennussohelpmegod. The romance that was there felt natural and not over the top. It flowed and grew in a realistic manner, and was more charming because of it. I think the relationship itself demonstrates one of the best aspects of the book: Clara and most of the characters in the novel are *gasp* well-adjusted. I know, it's a novel concept, but it was so refreshing to read from the POV of a character who has a brain that she actually uses, and who considers her decisions and the impacts they will make.
I liked, too, that even though Clara is an angel-blood and thus sort of powerful and good at most things, she still struggles to figure things out, and she has to work at some things, as well as still trying to figure out who she is and what she wants, in spite of her angel "Purpose". It made her so much more relatable and likable. The characters may have been a little too easy and perfect at times, but they were more authentic-feeling than a lot of the unrelatable caricatures that generally populate these books.
The few drawbacks I had, big as they are, wouldn't keep me from recommending this, sometimes even enthusiastically. I already mentioned that things were a little too easy and perfect at times, and it can leave you with a slightly saccharine taste if you let it. Some key things are far too convenient (and far too recognizable for the plot devices they are), and I always respect an author more when they're willing to make some tough choices in the name of reality; I don't think this book would have suffered with a little more of that. But I think there are hints of darker stuff, and it is almost balanced by it.
The biggest issue, though, is that, as good as the book was, in the end I was left wondering what really happened. Vampires and Tofu pegged it when she said "Nothing was really resolved and that left me feeling like I had read an extended prologue instead of a complete story. I think perhaps not every story is meant to be a trilogy." It did leave me wondering if it was originally meant to be a trilogy, or if that was forced on Cynthia Hand. It was like the difference between a TV series and a movie: a movie cuts right to the heart of everything because there's a limited amount of time to make things happen. A TV series, though, can bring you in slowly and let you get to know everything and everyone in bits and pieces, and begin figuring things out yourself. This is fine, but if the first season was just a "getting to know you" season that ended before any of the real drama happened -- well, I'm not sure it would be renewed for a second season...
That being said, it wasn't like I felt I had wasted my time reading it. Yes, everything that was built up was sort of undone by the end, and I feel like going into book 2 will feel like just starting the series. But in spite of that, it was still very enjoyable, and I will absolutely be reading book 2, as well as recommending this one.(less)
Quickly: no, the two boys are not about to make out; they are 'twin souls' -- twins who lead separate lives on different...moreReally more like a 3.5 - 3.75
Quickly: no, the two boys are not about to make out; they are 'twin souls' -- twins who lead separate lives on different planets, not knowing about each other until, well, they do... Myers designed the cover herself! Titus and Atreus is slightly out of my usual realm, but as you know from the Wild Things Challenge, I am trying to push myself to try new things. For the most part, this 'new thing' was a success for me. Titus is hauled off my an intruder in the night, taken to a planet called Typhon, where he meets his twin soul, Atreus, loses his memory but gains glimpses of Atreus' life, and becomes involved in Atreus' plans to defeat a bloodthirsty enemy. Typhon is like Earth a few centuries gone, in may ways, but it is still distinctly its own place. I liked Myers' concept of the twin souls and they way they affect each other's lives, and I also liked Titus' memory loss* because it gave a way to get personal glimpses into the mind of Atreus, while at the same time upping what's at stake for Titus, and adding a potentially ominous level -- he doesn't know who he is except through Atreus, who needs him for his own ends. It left things open for many possibilities, and I liked that.
There were some drawbacks for me, though. At first I was excited to learn that there is a cast of angels in the book, as they've always fascinated me. And I liked that there were 7, and they were all female, all named after flowers, and all resembling -- in personality and appearance -- those flowers. It was a fun and easy to remember concept, and I thought I was going to really like it. But most of the time, they acted so juvenile and weirdly immature that I just wanted them gone. I'm not sure why Myers made the choice to make them act like silly girls from junior high, but it irritated me. This spilled over a bit to Atreus, too, and other Typhon characters. Come to think of it, not much time was spent on Earth, so maybe that's just how Myers writes characters, and I didn't see it in Titus because he was a memory-blank. Whatever the reason, it made the book feel young. I also felt that there were some rookie moves -- I don't want to call them cop-outs, because I don't think that was the intention, but... Basically, you could see where it was plotted out and what was going to happen, and there was a little too much in the way of intervention to make me feel real tension. With angels and world-travel and magical healing, etc, it's hard to think it won't turn out well, so there's no real worry on the part of the reader, which lessens your investment in the book. Things were wrapped up so neatly, and I was left with questions**, especially regarding Titus' future. And it needed more editing and proofreading.
Now, those things being said, the negatives didn't outweigh the positives by any means. It was a good book, and I never felt like I just had to put it down when I was reading it; I just didn't always feel compelled to pick it up, either. It was a good story, but it did feel like a first work. I'm sure there will be growth in the next book.
* For the most part I liked Titus' memory loss, but I also questioned whether it was just an easy way out, to make Titus pliant. He didn't fight or question being in a new world away from the life he's known, and I missed that element. It could have been interesting and built conflict. ** Where will Titus live? On Typhon? Back on Earth? What about his family? What would his role be on Typhon when he's been a big secret?(less)
Olivia is Damned; a vampiric fallen angel of desire, she feeds off the living seeing herself only as they see her in their lust, longing to know what...moreOlivia is Damned; a vampiric fallen angel of desire, she feeds off the living seeing herself only as they see her in their lust, longing to know what she really looks like and who she really is. Dominic is Cursed, a brilliant neuroscientist working to discover a way to erase memories so that he can rid himself of his deep, dark secret: memories of centuries of past lives and loves that he shouldn't have, shouldn't be able to remember. When both find themselves drawn to Ireland, to the underground L'Otel Matthilide, the Hotel of the Damned, their worlds collide. Will these two desperately lonely, searching beings complete each others worlds, or tear them apart?
I know what you're thinking: there is a glut of vampire books out there, and fallen angels are closing in fast. And you're right. There certainly are. But and Falling, Fly is a different take; it really is its own thing. With a touch of the eroticism that marks the adult vamp books, a basis in mythology and religion, a whiff of steampunk, and a heavy smattering of literary allusions, AFF stands apart as a bit of a thinking-persons vampire book. But let's be honest: you'd still read it even if it weren't. We as a culture are obsessed with the vampire mythos. And with the angel mythos, for that matter (and we especially like our angels fallen). So let's just get to it, shall we?
There were things I loved and things I didn't, but the good outweighed the bad. Characters: Dominic and Olivia are fascinating, completely able to carry the story. They both live on the fringes of their worlds. Unlike her sisters, Olivia is tired of being what she is. She wants more from life* and she's taking steps to get it. But it's one of those situations where you can't force it, but you can't help but force it, and that is interesting and relatable to read. She's so strong, but so desperately lonely, and even though she feeds off people and is sort of dark, you can't help but feel for her. It is lovely watching her come awake to the world and begin shedding her hard shell. All she wants is a new beginning. Dominic is brilliant and haunted, and capable of such amazing love, but he's terrified to let it in because he has memories of lifetimes worth of love dying and dying and dying. His position is heartbreaking, and all he wants is an end. When these two come together, it's lovely to see, and Skyler White wisely doesn't make it easy. I don't want to give anything away, but she uses cosmic irony to great effect in this story, of which I am a fan.
The side characters are interesting, too, and flesh out the story nicely. As a reader, you can see things that the characters don't, and you can watch the pieces fall into place, for good or ill, while the characters blithely play their parts. It adds a nice layer of tension, and the characters don't seem obtuse to not see what's coming.**
World: Another thing I really liked was the world building. White did extensive research, and it shows. The world is believable even when unbelievable, if that makes sense. Even within L'Otel Matthilide, where all the things that shouldn't exist but do come for a holiday, everything is grounded in reality enough that it rings true. The hotel itself is a fascinating mix of old-world Europe and new-world punkishness, trimmed in steampunk and steeped in all Ireland has to offer. I could visualize it just enough that it was present and fascinating but still enough of a mystery that I wanted to see it for myself.
Romance: It's there. Olivia is a fallen angel of desire, after all, and Dominic is a brainy beefcake. There's a good balance of chemistry and passion, and reluctance and leeriness. The two are combustible in a very nice way. There's a nice edgy eroticism to the story, too, that adds a nice element.
Language: White's writing is often very lyrical and poetic, and sprinkled with allusions, as I said. Here is where the bad(ish) comes in. Though I did like this for the most part, there is some trouble in having a very poetical style in a prose piece. Some things just don't work outside of stanzas, and that was occasionally the case here. Sometimes the poetic style was lovely and visual and striking. But there were times, too, when the poetic phrasing just felt off or confusing or clunky. Sometimes, when trying to turn a beautiful phrase, the meaning was lost and I had to read a few passages over a few times before I got the heart of it. I think some of this might just be the result of this being White's debut. But for the most part, this wasn't much of an issue, and it became less so as the story went on, but I anticipate some readers have trouble with it, especially as some struggle with poetry and poetic phrasing in general. Same goes with the allusions. Though I caught a ton of them and didn't have much trouble, I am sure there are going to be people (those who hate with a fiery passion the game Trivial Pursuit) who just don't get the references and perhaps get a little lost. This isn't necessarily an issue; if you're not the type to like poetry and/or allusions, you probably wouldn't read this one. I just thought it bore mentioning, as people want to know these things going in. (<-- and I suppose while I'm on the topic of advanced warning, if you don't like sexually charged stories***, you may want to skip this one.)
* I use the term loosely, of course. ** Not that all readers will, either. White does make you work for some things, and I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing. *** Quick test: how do you feel about the word 'cock'? If you just cringed, skip this. If you sat up straighter and said 'where?' go out and grab a copy.(less)
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.