Oh man, I loved this book. Possibly my favorite of the year, and definitely exactly what I needed. Will be looking into more by Naomi Novik (and apoloOh man, I loved this book. Possibly my favorite of the year, and definitely exactly what I needed. Will be looking into more by Naomi Novik (and apologies to my former bookclub, 'cause I'm pretty sure numerous people recommended her, and I never looked into her books. I will rectify that)....more
2.5 if I'm feeling generous. There were parts that I kind of liked, and there were definitely moments where I saw potential for a great story, or for2.5 if I'm feeling generous. There were parts that I kind of liked, and there were definitely moments where I saw potential for a great story, or for me to like Ahdieh's writing, but those parts never overcame my general negative feelings for this book. Full review to come where I'll get into all of it, but for now, I was definitely underwhelmed and a little squicked out....more
This review was part of a blog tour in which I also talked about my 2 favorite fairy tale adaptations, so if you'd like to hear me gush about those, mThis review was part of a blog tour in which I also talked about my 2 favorite fairy tale adaptations, so if you'd like to hear me gush about those, make sure to check out the full post.
Mighty Jack is a retelling of one of my "problem" fairy tales, Jack and the Beanstalk. Like all kids, I loved this tale as a kid, because it frankly doesn't get much more silly or whimsical than this (in mainstream fairy tales, at least). THAT SAID, even as a kid, Jack really bothered me. REALLY bothered me. I mean, selling the cow for beans is bad enough (you fool!), but repeatedly breaking into a giant's house and stealing his ish is a whole other level — and then Jack has THE NERVE to kill the giant over it! And is considered a hero! That's messed up.
So Jack and the Beanstalk has never sat right with me, even though I still kinda love it. (It's iconic!) But a Ben Hatke retelling of the story. . . now that's something I can get behind. Hatke interprets the tale in very clever modern ways, but the smartest thing he's done is to capitalize on the whimsy while also giving Jack a lot of heart. He's not the thoughtless, foolish, selfish boy of the original, but a caring, compassionate and only-sometimes-foolish brother, son, and friend. Circumstances (and beans. Lots of beans) conspire against him to make him seem thoughtless, when really he's trying so hard, and has so much weight on his young shoulders, and it makes for such an engaging and sympathetic take on the character. He's a young kid who genuinely cares for and is trying to protect his overworked mother and autistic sister, and he kinda keeps drawing the short straw— mostly due to magic beans. (Of all kinds. Hand-beans that throw things at you. Beans that explode. Beans that want to eat you...)
One of my favorite things about Hatke's stories is the amazing female characters he creates. I'd imagine it's in large part due to the gaggle of fierce, creative, amazing daughters he has, but whatever the reason, these are the types of stories and characters I longed for (and struggled to find) as a kid. Of course, his characters are great across the board, always; it's one of the things he excels at, and one of the reasons I love his stories so. And he always gets me with those damn quirky, should-be-inanimate characters. Rocks. Robots. An onion/turnip/mandrake thingy that, okay, I don't even know what is this or why, but I love it and I want one. (But a not-probably-evil one. A Gizmo, not a gremlin.)
And of course, the art is fantastic. The line work is delicate and fantastical, the coloring soft and dreamy, and all of it expressive and clean and beautiful. I've never, in any of Hatke's books, had a single complaint about the art or his ability to craft a story. (And fans of the Zita series might see a familiar face or two...) Also, it's really funny; did I mention that it was really funny?
And that's probably all I should say, other than: you should definitely pick this up. If you're a fairy tale fan, pick it up. If you're a Ben Hatke fan, pick it up. If you're a comic and graphic novel fan, pick it up. If you have kids (in your classroom; visiting your library; expelled from your uterus), pick it up and read it with them. It has the heart and the art I've come to associate with Ben Hatke, and both of things are all you really need to know to know it's going to be good. And I'll just be over here, *patiently* waiting for book 2.
...and, err... Sorry for all of the ellipses and parentheses and em-dashes and run-ons... I ramble when I talk about fairy tales and things I like....more
Initial thoughts: Just under a 5 for a bit of a rush-job on the ending, but for the most part, lurved it. And really lurved Vassa.
Review: Now, I’m goiInitial thoughts: Just under a 5 for a bit of a rush-job on the ending, but for the most part, lurved it. And really lurved Vassa.
Review: Now, I’m going to say right off the bat, this story is certainly not for everyone. It’s weird and it’s odd (and somehow those are different things). The nights are getting longer and longer, even though the clock stays the same (weird), and there’s a talking doll who could eat several times her weight in…well, anything (odd). But more than that, it’s an occasionally non-linear story (something some readers struggle to follow or stay engaged in), where nearly everything is off-putting and slightly discordant—or should I say diskordant, because every single ‘dis’ word that has a C in it (and you’d be surprised how many there are), instead has a K—and this is yet another layer of the strange and bizarre and weird and odd that will be found in Vassa’s pages. And yes, though that may not seem like much, it is a symbol of just how thoroughly The Odd pervades this book. It’s written to make you a little uncomfortable, to keep you more than a little unsettled. Plenty of people struggle enough with “weird” books when it’s just the contents that are weird, but when the storytelling itself goes wonky, that’s enough to drive some readers away.
What’s more, it’s disturbing and it’s dark, and yes, those are most definitely separate things, though they certainly go hand in hand. I mean, there’s a dancing store on giant chicken legs (disturbing), surrounded by a fence of heads on spikes (dark). There are glitter nail polish –wearing disembodied hands (disturbing) who wield axes and are bloodthirsty to tear people apart (dark). There is a missing father who has made possibly one of the strangest fey deals in any story I’ve ever read (no spoilers, but…disturbing and odd and weird), and a half sibling who sends her sister to the dancing chicken-legged store at night, knowing it could very well end with her head on a spike (and hoping it will—dark). There are no cookie cutter happy endings here, where resolution is given to each bit of each story line; where the good guys always win and the bad guys always get what’s coming to them, and any real damage done is undone. Vassa’s world is one that is pretty downtrodden and unsettling even before she gets snarled up in Babs’ murderous machinations*, and even if she should prove victorious and manage to survive her very long nights at BY’s, she still has to go back to that small, unhappy world.
But—there is hope. As with any fairy tale worth its salt, there is some small chance of a silver lining, an improvement in one’s lot. And there is the realization of self that only the really good fairy tales possess, that newfound understanding of one’s own power and competency and agency. And all of these things—these weird, odd, disturbing, dark things—are what drew me in and made me love the book. No, it won’t be for everyone, and the lack of perfect resolution may mean that even some readers who were enjoying the book will feel as if the rug has been pulled out from under them by the end, or as if they’ve invested their time for not enough pay off. But for those—like me—who enjoy the surreal and the bizarre, who like their fairy tales dark and their retellings darker, and who appreciate a good Coming Into One’s Own type of story, you may find it doesn’t get much better than Vassa. It’s fantastical and strangely compelling and has a great voice, and it hits a lot of right notes (the thrills! the chills! the funnies and tinglies!).
I’ve seen some people say it was slow, but you all know I’m not the person to ask about a book’s slowness, because I always seem to love them more when they build and burn and luxuriate in setting the scene.** (Though I will definitely agree with those who felt the ending seemed rushed by comparison, because it most definitely did.) Though it doesn’t seem there are plans as of yet for a sequel, I’m hoping there will be, because I would like to fall into Vassa’s world again, to see what becomes of her and some peripheral characters, and also to see if we get any resolution of some of the weirder storylines—but all in all, I find myself heartily recommending it to those who think they are likely to like the weird things I like, and only cautiously recommending it to those who don’t – and fully curious to know the thoughts of any who do end up reading it!
*Claiming for future bad punk band name… ** To an extent, because there are definitely some books that my godddddd are too slow. And I can not abide info-dumping, which makes a book insta-slow.
I love this series. I'm a huge mythology nerd, and have been for literally as long as I can remember (one of my earliest memories is of repeated watchI love this series. I'm a huge mythology nerd, and have been for literally as long as I can remember (one of my earliest memories is of repeated watchings of Clash of the Titans with my dad. I think we drove my mom nuts with how much we watched that movie, and similar others), so this series is always a win for me. This one is interesting because it's told by each of the Muses, in turn, so you're kind of getting a two-for-one: Apollo and the Muses. On a personal note: I delighted in seeing Apollo get called out for his general douchebaggery. ^_^...more
It's been months now since I read this, and since I skipped the 3rd book (couldn't get into it at the time and still haven't gone back), I don't knowIt's been months now since I read this, and since I skipped the 3rd book (couldn't get into it at the time and still haven't gone back), I don't know how much my reading & memory of this has been affected -- but I definitely don't think anything's captured the magic of the first book. Still fun, though, and I liked the new perspective. I love a good whimsical created world, I truly do, but I think the thing I love even more is when that whimsy spills over into our own world, seeps into our history and our ways of life, and tints it all in rose-colored magic. I love the places your mind can go with the alternate universes's"new information," and I love seeing how real people and events shape the authors decisions, and then our world is reshaped by those decisions, and on and on in this intricate tangle of real and make-believe. It delights the child and the creative person in me, as well as the absurdist, and this scene let me know that Fairyland number 4 would give me that in abundance — at least for a little while... ...more
It's been a good long while since I've had to do one of these, but: This is a DNF review. That means I did not finish this book, and am going to attemIt's been a good long while since I've had to do one of these, but: This is a DNF review. That means I did not finish this book, and am going to attempt to tell you why, so if these types of reviews are not your cup of tea, or you don't think someone is able to form an opinion without having seen a book through to the last page, then you'd probably be better suited looking elsewhere (and I won't blame you -- there are plenty of glowing reviews out there). But for those of you who are curious to hear my thoughts, or wonder why I couldn't see this one through, I'm going to do my best to lay that out, and I want to start by telling you a bit about me as a reader: 1) I try my best to give a book multiple chances when it's not working for me -- I don't have a super happy DNF trigger finger (though it does itch from time to time). 2) BUT that said, I know myself as a reader, and I know when I'm unlikely to enjoy a book. Life is short, and I've grown unwilling to force myself to finish something that I'm not enjoying. 3) A book doesn't have to be horrible for me to DNF it. Actually, it's more common that I'll give up because I'm indifferent; if I am truly hating a book, I might finish it out of spite, just to be able to fully explain why I loathe it so. But indifference is often the death knell... 4) When I've decided to DNF a book, and still "review" it, I try to make sure I've read enough of it to feel like I've got a handle on the things I want to say, and a clear indication that it's probably going to remain so throughout the book. In this case, I stopped at about 25% of the way through, which is a bit shy of the 100 page mark.
So, all of that said, these are the reasons that I just couldn't bring myself to keep reading:
It does feel overly reminescent of other things out there, most notably Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It's not that DOSAB was so wholly original in every element, because I'm sure there were things in it that seemed unique but had been done before. There's nothing new under the sun, and all that. But there are times that this feels like a straight knock-off: not just influenced by, but actively used as a format /slash/ jumping-off point. When I love a book the way I loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone, comparisons to it can go two ways: either, 'yay! hopefully that'll be really good!' OR 'it can't even compare, I already know it.' When a book is as stylistically strong as, well, any of Laini Taylor's books, it's likely that the comparison will go the second way, and not work out in its favor. If, the entire time you're reading something, you're comparing it to something else that was excellent, then it's bound to suffer in comparison. If someone does something exceedingly skillfully, and then someone else does nearly the same thing, but less so, all of the flaws are going to stand out FAR more than they would have otherwise. ***Weird Misty Food Analogy in 3...2... If you've only ever had Rice-a-Roni, it's fine. But then if one of the world's top chefs makes you a delicious plate of risotto, and then someone hands you a plate of the Rice-a-Roni you were used to, and calls it risotto, it's probably going to make you a little angry. You've had it before, and you know how much better it could be... It may seem unfair to compare it to someone else's book, and honestly, it probably is. But sometimes these things stand out, and when they're so reminiscent as to seem like they're maybe ripping off that other book, it bears mentioning. (FYI, I've seen people compare it to other books as well, and say much the same thing, so something to bear in mind, especially if you've read one of the books it's compared to, namely Daughter of Smoke and Bone, the Grisha series, and The Mortal Instruments. If you haven't read these books, the similarities will be lost on you, so you may like it much better than I.)
Probably the biggest issue: I couldn't help but find it cheesy. Everyone has different triggers and levels of tolerance for this, so the things that bothered me may not bother you. BUT I found myself rolling my eyes quite a bit more than I'd like, especially for the amount of pages I read. I found the names cheesy (the types of names I would have come up with and been very pleased indeed with myself in middle school); I found the setup and the way the conflict between these two factions was kind of talked around a good bit before it was actually addressed, and I found it cheesier when we were given info, always in very obvious setups and clumsy attempts to work the info-dumping into dialogue. (This is generally something I appreciate, but it's gotta be subtle. This ... was not.) And I found cheesiest of all the main character, Echo; her interactions with others, and really, her entire being. And I felt this was likely to get worse.
And it was this cheesiness that lead to the death knell: I was indifferent. I couldn't connect, and there came a time that I just had to admit to myself that I'd been putting off reading it for a month, and hadn't been reading anything else because I didn't want to let myself get sucked away and find excuses not to finish it, and that it was just dragging down my reading pile for the month of May, when really, did I even care what happened? I did not. I couldn't make myself care about these characters and their war, and their search for the "firebird;" I couldn't get past the jarring way that their otherworldly and high-fantasy selves didn't mesh with their uber-modern, carefree styles of interaction, and how I was never quite able to believe in any of them, at any time, enough to take a leap into the world and begin building my willing suspension of disbelief. I just couldn't.
And so that is why I had to give up. I am hoping that if I set the book to the side for a good long while, enough to clear my head of it and reconcile myself to what it actually is, versus what I was hoping it was, that I can come back to it and try again. Maybe like it more than I have this time around. Maybe even enjoy it. I'm borderline curious to see what is actually going on in this world, and I want to know what the fuss was about for my friends that have read and loved this. But for now, I know that any further reading is just going to make me resentful, and ruin any chances of me liking this down the road, so I've got to let it go. For now, at least. ...more
This is from my blog, and may not make total sense in the context of Goodreads, but it's late and I don't want to type a new review. This review is foThis is from my blog, and may not make total sense in the context of Goodreads, but it's late and I don't want to type a new review. This review is for ALL of the Olympians books, essentially. ______________
I mentioned in a book haul not long ago that I was asked to be part of the blog tour for the next installment in George O'Connor's Olympians series, Ares, and that when I said yes (yay, mythology!), the fine folks at FirstSecond not only sent me that book, but the entire boxed set — further cementing that they are amazeballs. And yes, I still said amazeballs in 2015.
Now, the reason for this (beyond said amazeballs), I'd imagine, is that I expressed a little trepidation at jumping into the series at book 7. Though I know it's a retelling of Greek myths, I wasn't sure what kind of retelling it'd be; so though I'm very familiar with Greek mythology, that's not to say that I'd be familiar with O'Connor's spin. I mean, Kendare Blake's Antigoddess is fabulous, but it's hardly a traditional retelling; same: Percy Jackson; same: everything else out there. But I needn't have worried — there's no spin! I mean, that's not to say there's no interpretation, or picking and choosing which aspects of which tales to highlight, because of course there is. But the series is more like careful curation; it presents these timeless stories just as they've always been, but in the fantastic modern medium of the graphic novel. It's faithful, but playful. And this may be weird to say, but it's kinda ballsy. In a time when everyone's looking to bank on their own twist of the well-known, it's refreshing to see someone say, Nope, these stories have stood the test of time for millennia now, so I'd much rather give you an excellent presentation of them than a modern, watered-down version*. *She says, fully loving the "modern, watered-down versions" too. I'll take 'em any way I can get 'em.
This means that you really can pick the series up at any volume. You can stock your classrooms & libraries with them, or give it to newly minted mythology buffs to fall in love with — and let me tell you, I would have adored these as a kid, when I was just getting into mythology and wanted everything I could get my hands on. And though I loved Hercules and Xena and Clash of the Titans as much as any other weirdo 12 year old obsessed with the Greeks, I was a very particular child, and would get a little grumbly about the things they *shudder* GOT WRONG. A faithful and yet lively adaptation such as these would have been an instant favorite. (And still is, now.)
Art copyright George O'Connor / FirstSecond books
But beyond the faithfulness and clarity of the presentation, I would have fallen in love with (and have fallen in love with) the artistic and narrative choices O'Connor makes. I had a feeling from almost the first moment of Zeus that I was going to love these (and I say first moment, but actually I think it was literally the first, nearly-blank page, that gave me the love-this feeling); little touches like this recurring thematic thread (right) of having 'too much of his father in him' cemented it. Which means by page 10, I was in love. This example might seem a little silly or meaningless to some of you, but it struck me for a few reasons: 1) it's a solid storytelling & artistic choice, to have the "father" (the stars) physically represented as being a part of Kronos and Zeus, 2) it's a striking image, and 3) it so perfectly and simply encapsulates the core of these myths, and how its actors are doomed to repeat the mistakes that came before them. So many Greek myths are about inescapable-ness and self-fulfilling prophecies, and to succinctly and strikingly capture that aspect so simply basically immediately won me over.
But whether those little details are likely to win you over or not, the fact remains that this is a very strong adaptation of Greek mythology, both in the art and the storytelling, and I highly recommend them.
Like my thoughts on Beastkeeper, this is an interesting one for me: on one level, I really like it, and on another, I have some pretty major issues wiLike my thoughts on Beastkeeper, this is an interesting one for me: on one level, I really like it, and on another, I have some pretty major issues with it. We'll start with the things I liked:
This is a retelling of The Princess & the Pea set in a crime family, about a girl with a rare disease that makes her incredibly delicate, and that is kinda genius. The Princess & the Pea can be a kind of problematic story, and it's certainly always been one that required a HUGE suspension of disbelief: there's a girl who's so fragile, a single pea under a massive stack of mattresses (which somehow don't just squish the pea into oblivion) causes her massive discomfort; this is somehow a desirable trait... It's one of the more odd fairy tales out there (though by no means the oddest). Both the affliction that Penelope has, and her status as a result among the various crime Families, really works to tie in the retelling aspects and make it actually believable. There are a lot of clever nods to the story, most of which subtle enough to be unobtrusive, but well-developed enough to add that extra layer.
(And then some are more over-the-top, like one of the male leads, a "prince" of a rival Family, whose name is Ming, but she calls him Char, so he is literally Prince CharMing, and it's so cutesy and on the nose that I simultaneously chuckled and gagged a little...)
The crime family aspect, and even some of the general plot, hit some of the same notes as the Birthright series, which I love. Penny isn't cold like Anya, though, so it's like getting the plot elements -- crime family, questions of legalization, constant danger, grief for those lost -- but filtered through a completely different character. This may be a comparison that will be lost on those who haven't read All These Things I've Done and the rest, and it may even be personal to me entirely, but I think if you like any of the things I mentioned, either here, just now, or in any of my reviews for the Birthright series, then you may like this as well.
And speaking of grief, it does that extremely well. I wasn't expecting it, and I didn't feel that I was particularly emotionally invested (and also, I saw some of the grief coming), and yet it still hit me like a punch to the gut. I barely knew the characters at the point that things start to unravel, and yet I felt their pain, and I felt for them. The core characters, those affected, said things and did things in their grief that felt so real to me that I grieved -- it all felt very real, and it reminded me of my own moments of grief and loss, of witnessing the grief of those I care about, in a really visceral way. I'm honestly still a little amazed at how real the pain felt at times, and how well it was carried through the story
Sometimes everything was far too easy. Penny spends her life being coddled and living in a perpetual state of fear for her life, essentially, so that even though you know she wants to break out a bit and experience life, it's still jarring when Penny's finally off-estate and running for her life, health at a near all-time low, and acting rather recklessly, frankly. I mean, I love the subplot of her finding her independence and her voice, and proving to herself (and everyone else) that she's more capable than the china doll they treat her as. But it goes beyond that simple desire to live life, into basically flouting all the rules she's ever known -- which yes, I get, is often a teenager/independence thing... But when you're on the run for your life, could easily DIE, even just left to your own devices, I'd think you'd be a little bit more careful, no matter how much you hate that word...
To also be seemingly already in love with someone she's always known, to then be so immediately and obsessively drawn to someone new, whom she's just met, who she knows nothing about and who followed her home and she keeps finding waiting outside her apartment (keep in mind: she's in hiding, so people watching her apt should set off MAJOR warning bells...) -- it all starts to get a little TSTL, which is a term I hate, but come on now! And even though I pegged who this new guy was immediately, and I understand the need to work him in somehow, I have to say, I didn't love the way it played out. Though it ended up kinda endearing, it took me time to wrap my head around, and it was time that I felt like it should have taken Penny. It happened to fast to feel like there was any real basis for it; it reads as a flight of fancy, on both their parts. Forced love-triangles aren't my thing; nor are ultra-convenient coincidences. And to accomodate this new player in town, it has to throw other things into chaos, which is also something I saw coming a mile away, and also didn't like how that played out. Again, it felt shallow and somewhat baseless, and for a story that started strong and was reminding me of a fast favorite, it sure didn't end that way. The shift was so dramatic that I almost stopped reading.
In the end, I did enjoy myself, and am even curious enough to see how it plays out, that I'll likely read the next book -- eventually. I think plenty of readers will be able to get lost in and enjoy this, though, and if you are a lover of fairy tale retellings, it's worth it if only for the clever (and actually pretty solid) spin on The Princess & the Pea. But it is a mixed bag, and if some of these things are pet peeves of yours, know that going in, because this may not be the book for you....more