Say "kitchen witch" and I'm there. (Especially when said kitchen witch tells me, personally, that I should eat nasturtiums, which I love...) There's jSay "kitchen witch" and I'm there. (Especially when said kitchen witch tells me, personally, that I should eat nasturtiums, which I love...) There's just something so. . . charming and quirky and endearing in stories around the theme of kitchen witchery, and this was no exception. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it's like magical realism's more universally palatable cousin (and we all know how I feel about magical realism). Think Practical Magic. Just Say Yes is the even more palatable cousin, actually – the kitchen witchiness is subtle, never beating you over the head with quikry magicfulness, which I imagine many people will appreciate.
If you’ve been around for awhile, or follow my Austen event, you’ll probably already be aware that I tend to find Goodnight’s stories equal parts cute, funny, and sexy; they never fail to win me over and put a smile on my face. This was fun and funny and quirky and cute, as expected. There's charm and warmth to her characters, always balanced by a sharp, incisive humor, coated in a veneer of light sarcasm (never bitter or obnoxious, just witty). She seems to do well at fleshing out her casts, too, with great side/peripheral characters that you always want to see more of (which means you’re seeing just the right amount of them – always leave ‘em wanting more, and all that). There’s a great mother/daughter relationship, and other friend and family relationships and interactions that help ground the story and build it up nicely. There were times I questioned Max, the male lead, and whether he’d really be so gung-ho about all of the goings on, and the way Jade consistently pushes him away, but I still think it worked – and frankly, maybe that's my own biases clouding my perception of him. But it was never enough to thrust me out of the story or make me dislike either of the romantic leads, or their relationship.
Speaking of the relationship, which is kind of a central focus in a romance, this one was sexy and fast-building in a way that could go really wrong and feel like it’s fleeting and meaningless, but it managed to keep from going off the rails into cheesy territory. It's – for the most part – believable, and there seems like a solid-enough foundation and chemistry for it to go somewhere after the book has run its course. Goodnight wisely tests the romance and characters, beyond that initial getting-together/will-they-won’t-they. She gives them obstacles, and opportunities to grow stronger together, which is something that really elevates a romance novel for me. It takes it out of the realm of quick fluff, and makes it that much more believable. On top of all that, there’s a good streak of nerdery that pop culture/nerdom fans will appreciate. All in all, I’m glad to hear there's more in the series AND I totally want there to be an offshoot business, with recipes and label designs and all of it.
As I'd mentioned in my rewind, I have a feeling that people are going to end up at opposite ends of the like/dislike spectrum when it comes to thi3.75
As I'd mentioned in my rewind, I have a feeling that people are going to end up at opposite ends of the like/dislike spectrum when it comes to this book -- I don't think there will be a lot of middle ground, and it certainly won't be the book for everyone. I, myself, wasn't entirely convinced in the beginning, because I didn't really love the main character, which made me feel a little disconnected from the story, which can then translate to indifference, which is the death-knell of any book. I read something recently about "unlikable" characters that's been bothering me a bit (among other things that I read in the piece, and it's something I want to address in the coming days, because I have things to say), so I want to clarify by this that I don't think you need to have a lovable, huggable main character for a book to be successful, and unlikable can mean a lot of things; some use it to mean poorly written/realized, but when I use it, I'm almost always going to mean, kind of an ass. Zoe's kind of an ass. Her boyfriend is most definitely an ass. Rocher, yep, he's an ass, too. (I like Agathe, though. She gets a pass.) So it's a book peopled with characters that don't necessarily make you love them or root for them, which can leave people feeling ambiguous (or disconnected, as I said), and that's why I think it may be divisive and cause some irritated reactions.
But a book with unlikable characters is still capable of being successful, and developing a rich, interesting world -- plenty of classics and acclaimed books have unlikable characters; some unlikable characters inexplicably become fan-favorites -- so I'm always willing to go with it and see how things turn out, especially when it's as quick a read as this. And fortunately, though I was so hesitant with Zoe in the beginning, and found her to be a bit bratty, the story remains engaging and interesting, and has a streak of honesty (ironic, amidst the dishonesty at the heart of the book) that kept me entertained and pulled along, and I'm glad of that. Because for all that the characters are kinda d-bags, it all became more amusing for me as it went on, all the way up to the twist at the end, which I won't spoil, other than to say, that's another thing that might irritate people, but I found it oddly delightful. It was an absurd little bit of poetic justice that, even though heavy-handed, was so darkly humorous and fitting that I couldn't help but be tickled by it.
I found the simple style and muted colors of the art expressive and charming, and the clean understatedness really worked well with the story. Again, that may not be to everyone's taste, but stylistically, it was distinct and I felt it suited the story, and added to the overall feel. So all in all, there are certainly "outs" to the story -- there are things across the board that may make some readers check out and not like it. But there are plenty of "ins" too, and the expressiveness and personality of the story, characters and style, combined with the poetic justice and humor of the end work together to make it something I actually quite enjoyed, and would recommend -- for the right reader.
I'll give a more in-depth review when I have a chance, but quickly, I just want to say:
When I initially flipped through this on arrival, I thought I wI'll give a more in-depth review when I have a chance, but quickly, I just want to say:
When I initially flipped through this on arrival, I thought I was going to be disappointed. It wasn't nearly as snarky and/or vulgar as I was expecting it to be... (though, maybe since Zest Books is geared at a YA audience, the fault was in myself for expecting or wanting heaps of vulgar snark. *Shrug*) But once I actually read through and sort of adjusted my expectations, I started noticing a different, most subtle approach to the humor, and I have to say, it really worked. I think those buying this for a smart-ass coffee table book might be a bit let down, but really, only a bit. It's very fun and cheeky, but the surprising thing is that it actually seems like a silly-but-well-intentioned primer meant to honestly teach people how not to be dicks. Real world good advice here, folks.
But regardless, still makes a nice discussion-worthy coffee table book. ;)...more
You ever have those late nights where you can’t sleep and you find yourself being sucked down the rabbit hole? No, I don’t want to say sucked. EverythYou ever have those late nights where you can’t sleep and you find yourself being sucked down the rabbit hole? No, I don’t want to say sucked. Everything sounds dirty now... Where you find yourself making bad decisions...Like buying crap from infomercials. Texting people you shouldn’t text. Reading bad books because the reviews crack you up... I found myself reading reviews of this, and then I found myself reading a few pages, just to see, and then a few hours later, I found myself ending the book and saying, Well - that was...that.
Here's the thing: this is not great writing. I doubt this is up for debate. It has a strong tendency towards cheesiness, and some of the euphemisms are pretty cringe-worthy. BUT it's actually sort of hilarious. And not in the, this book is crap, unintentional way. Clayton - and her desperate-for-an-O main character - are genuinely funny. As silly as it all is, it's engaging. So while it may not be great writing, it is good storytelling. So now, at 4am, feeling like my eyeballs are going to dry up and roll out of my head, as silly and cheesy as it could sometimes be, I don't find myself regretting falling down this particular rabbit hole. It was worth it for the surprising laughs and fun voice.
So. That happened.
[Also, for those of you put off by the fact that it started as Twilight fanfic, I can honestly say - don't be. These characters and their plots had to have similarities in name only, because nothing here really resembles Twilight. I'm not saying there's no resemblance, because I guess it peeks through a teensy bit now and again, but really - I could not have bore the last few hours if it had been Bella moaning about her lost O and Edward being a control freak. I really think Twilight must have just been a jumping off point to get Clayton writing, because this isn't a Twilight regurgitation with the, ahem, banging of walls...] ...more
4.5 I listened to this one on audiobook, so you guys are actually going to get 2 reviews in 1, here: my thoughts on the story, and my thoughts on Jani4.5 I listened to this one on audiobook, so you guys are actually going to get 2 reviews in 1, here: my thoughts on the story, and my thoughts on Janine Hegarty's narration of it. And I might as well just jump the gun and tell you I loved both. Okay, so yes, I may have made it pointless for you to read the rest of this review now, but I trust you'll stick around for my dazzling wit. No? Unceasing charm? Nothing. Because you've got nothing else to do, and reading & commenting on this review earns you an extra entry in the Austentatious giveaway? Ahh, there we go...
Now, as I was saying, I couldn't really help but love this. The only thing I was torn on was whether I wanted to experience the book on audio - those voices! That sly humor! - or on the typed page, where I could tab all the things I found funny. Which was basically all the things. I already knew I liked Goodnight's style from having read Austensibly Ordinary, but you never know if something's a one-off, or, since AO is the 2nd book, maybe she Goodnight had dramatically improved and the first one was...dramatically unimproved, or something. Basically, you never know. And with an audio, you also don't know how well the narrator is going to convey any humor that is there, or how well you'll connect to the narration style. Added to the fact that I just don't do audios often... it wouldn't be inaccurate to say I had reservations, especially once I began the book and the narrator sounded a little too "documentarian" for my tastes. This was only in the beginning, though, and it actually worked really well with Nic's character; it changed beautifully (but subtly) as the character loosened up, and I got a better sense of who Nic was as a result. It didn't take me long to decide the audio was worth my time, and by the first time Hegarty did a Brit accent, she had won me over. By the time she got around to doing a Scottish accent as well, I was thoroughly smitten. She conveyed emotion, humor and a number of personalities with ease, and I was always able to not only keep them straight but instantly recognize them. It was kinda fantastic.
I'm sure it helped that Hegarty had a very engaging story to narrate. There was lots of emotion, lots of humor, and just a shitload of personality. Excuse me, Janeites. How crass of me. It had a well-trimmed bonnet-ful of personality. But seriously - Goodnight's style is personable and hilarious, and Hegarty conveys every drop of it. I was smiling so much while listening to this that my face hurt. My face actually hurt. Listening to this while doing dishes? ---> Grinning like a loon in the kitchen window.---> Face hurts. Listening while checking the mail? ---> Laughing out loud for no apparent reason. ---> Face hurts. My neighbors had to have thought I'd lost my mind. But I don't even care,* Nic's combination of buttoned-up neuroses and Sean's casually-sexy prodding was delicious, and I ate up every minute of it. [I like Sean MacInnes. I want one.] I liked Nic and Sean together, I liked the side characters, I liked the romances and the magical realist aspect. I liked the style and I liked the narration, and I liked all the bursting-at-the-seams personality, and - there's really just nothing negative I have to say.
It was cute, it was charming, and it won me over just as easily as Austensibly Ordinary did. And hell, as much as I liked Cate from AO, I might like Nicola more, and that's saying something. When it comes to Sean or Ethan, though... Well, I'll just take one of each, please! ;)
Perception was one of my eagerly-awaited books of 2012. I read Clarity last year for HH, and was pleasantly surprised to find that all of the peopPerception was one of my eagerly-awaited books of 2012. I read Clarity last year for HH, and was pleasantly surprised to find that all of the people that pushed it on me were right. I loved Clare's voice and Harrington's breezy, engaging storytelling. I couldn't wait to get back into Clare's world. And though I think Perception suffered a bit from sophomore slumpage, I have to say, it was nice being back in her world.
There were times when, I'm not going to lie, I was a little disappointed. The book - and Clare - seemed somewhat lacking in spirit. I missed Clarity. In the first book, she reminded me so much of Veronica Mars - as this sassy, really smart, no nonsense, strong girl - and I loved that. In Perception, she lost some of what made her stand out from the rest of the YA pack. Her sassiness peaked through and definitely became more pronounced as the story went on, but for awhile she became just a little more typical, a little more predictable, and that made me sad. Strong Clarity somehow lapsed into an average YA heroine, caught between 2 boys and the popular and unpopular groups. She wasn't really her anymore. Her spark was missing.
Now, she did reclaim it. And part of me even thinks that, given all she went through in book 1, it kind of made sense for her to be a little...less, somehow. But still. Her voice was a big part of the reason I liked the series in the first place. And part of it, too, was - OH GOOD GOD with the love triangle already. Don't get me wrong, if ever there was an excuse for a love triangle in a book, this book gets it. Certain things needed to be addressed after how the 1st book ended, and it should have merited a good amount of page space - there were some major things to be worked through. But seriously. There's only so much you can take before you want to yell "Let's get on with it already!" Also, NO WAY would those boys ever have been as saintlike as they were.
So, there was that. But as for all the rest, it was just as enjoyable as ever. It was strange, because much like book 1, I felt like I had it pegged the whole way through, yet felt like I didn't. I basically called it as soon as one specific character entered (because there was no other reason for the character to be there, really); but still...even though I was pretty sure, Harrington does a really good job arousing suspicion of everybody. The red herrings are just a-flyin' and at some point, you doubt just about every damn body. Part of me always knew, and part of me always doubted - it's a really interesting way to read a book. I have to give Harrington props for that.
Another thing that got points was that there were good repercussions from book 1. Some serious shiz went down, and there's bound to be fallout from that. And I don't just mean where Clare is concerned. Everyone went through some majorcrazyscary, and they have to deal with that. And though, no, this is never going to be one of those books that wins awards for depicting How People Cope, Harrington (fortunately) isn't the type of writer that just throws the trauma away and lets the characters move blithely forward. She not only didn't ignore the fallout and the trauma with the whole cast of characters, but she used it as a way to explore Clare and what she wants from life. I so very much liked Clare's burgeoning sense of self and purpose as a result of what she went through.
So all in all, there's a lot of good growth, though it is a kind of in an in-between book. They're inevitable in a series, I guess, but a little slumpy all the same. Still, it's worth the read, and Clarity does come back into her own (and makes a damn decision), and a lot of ground work is laid for the series to grow and for Clarity to become a really strong, kick-ass heroine. Plus, despite any faults, it's always quick and engaging.
The Gert Garibaldi's Rants and Raves series is what I imagine the Georgia Nicolson series to be like (sorta). There's a frenetic smart energy to it, and a frankness that will strongly appeal to some readers and strongly turn off others. (And I do mean strongly turn off. I wouldn't be surprised to hear about a parent reading this and pitching a fit, and calling for a banning.)
I'm not going to lie, it was a bit of a slow-starter for me. Gert is funny in the beginning and all, but she's sort of funny in that "too much, enough already" way. And she's got a decided bitter streak which, coupled with some whininess, was off-putting for me. I didn't really connect to her as much in the beginning and she was starting to actually get on my nerves and make me doubt I wanted to finish when suddenly - something changed. It's hard to explain without giving things away, but it's sort of like Gert is at that dreaded teenager stage where you haven't really come into your own yet, or even realized that it was a possibility, but you can't let the sharks scent blood in the water so you fake it, and mask it with this extreme nonchalance that borrows a bit from Asshole Land. We've all been there, we all go through it, but once you are through it, you don't necessarily want to revisit it.
Gert's got a lot of scorn, but much of it is borne from having a lot of questions. She's a little oblivious to her world and the reality of who she is (and she's completely oblivious to the fact that she may be oblivious - she thinks she's got it all pegged), so when things start changing and she has to open her eyes a bit and risk putting herself out there, she becomes much more likable. She still keeps her biting wit, but it becomes more universally funny and less whiny. Gert started opening up and growing, and I thoroughly enjoyed the book from then on. What really made it likable though was how unabashed Gert is. Part of it may be that she's still a little bit clueless, but part of it is this really fun mix of eagerness, curiosity, dubiousness and naiveté. She asks all of the questions that you wanted to ask but were too afraid to as a teen. Her narration and her rants are frank and often hilarious. I think many teens will connect to this and find their voice in Gert.
Now, I mentioned above that I can see this getting some very strong negative reactions. As I said, Gert is very unabashedly curious. There are frank (and frankly hilarious) discussions of masturbation, pubic hair maintenance, homosexuality, whether or not to ignore a boy's erection at a school dance, etc. Some teens may be uncomfortable having it all laid out on the table like this, and some parents will likely blow a gasket over the topics. But don't kid yourself: These are things that every teen thinks about. They may not think it as loudly as Gert, but it's hilariously realistic. Now, I'm not saying you should force yourself to read it if it makes you uncomfortable. And I'm not saying anything is gratuitous. But what it is is honest. Gert reminded me a bit of Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower; she's not as guileless as Charlie, but she is as hilariously (and innocently) unfiltered. I don't think most people will have a problem with this once they get to know Gert, but it does bear mentioning.
[Also, one tiny little pet peeve of mine: I haaated the font choice for the Rants sections and page numbering. It was almost illegible.]
All in all, I think you can probably tell from this review whether this is the type of book for you. If it is, give Gert a chance - though she may annoy you in the beginning, I promise you will grow to love her and find yourself choking on your own surprised laughter along the way. ...more