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.
My August Rewind (up late, but better late than pregnant... Err, never. Better late than never.
THE BOOKS: The Fairest of Them All| Carolyn Turgeon [re My August Rewind (up late, but better late than pregnant... Err, never. Better late than never.
THE BOOKS: The Fairest of Them All | Carolyn Turgeon [review] Mansfield Park | Jane Austen (obvs) Among the Janeites | Deborah Yaffe [review] The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. | Adelle Waldman [review] Austentatious | Alyssa Goodnight [review]...more
I mentioned at the end of my quirky little interview with Alyssa that this book is perfect for those looking for a good time. Um. That sounds like sometI mentioned at the end of my quirky little interview with Alyssa that this book is perfect for those looking for a good time. Um. That sounds like something you'd find written on a bathroom wall.* I don't mean that kind of good time. (Probably.) I mean, Austensibly Ordinary is super fun and engaging; the tone and voice were excellent, the main characters were lively, and Alyssa's writing was cheeky, flirty and hilarious. No matter the plot, no matter if the word "romance" makes you cringe, I think characters you connect with are what sell a book - people will put up with just about anything when the characters are lively and engaging, and Cate absolutely is. Exactly what you want when you're looking for a good-time book. And a romance that doesn't take itself too seriously is certainly something I look for, and it's rare that I find it, so that sorta makes me want to sing its praises.
And speaking of things rarely found in romances that makes me want to dance around like a fool sing praises, this actually kept me guessing, which is INCREDIBLY rare for me in general, but especially in anything of the romance variety. It's almost unheard of. (I mean, a romance that actually surprised me on multiple occasions? WHAT IS THIS WITCHERY?) Now, some of these surprises might stretch credibility a little too far for some readers, but really, for any absurdities or lack of believability in the story, I never - not once - cared. Like, for real, at all, couldn't have cared less because I was enjoying myself. This book is just too damn fun to be bothered by any plot points that might usually give me pause, or any obvious wish-fulfillment. And isn't that was this type of book is all about anyway? It's a Jane Austen adaptation, for god's sake - of course there's a healthy dose of wish-fulfillment. But this isn't the cheesy, eye-rolly kind; it's the mmmm, why didn't any of my teachers look like Ethan Chavez? kind - Cate's adventures as her alter-ego, Cat Kennedy,** are the pinnacle of conscious wish-fulfillment, and it was delightful.
One of the things that surprised me was that this has a tinge of magical realism to it, but not in the traditionally weighty way. There's no grandoise meaning; I also hesitate to call it paranormal, or anything like that, though those elements are there. But Goodnight uses a soft touch with these elements; they're a means to an end and a way to enhance the fantasy of the story, but they're not the focus, and so the story doesn't get bogged down in them. At its heart, this is just a good old fashioned romance, pulling in Jane Austen's Emma to great effect, but balancing it with a good dose of pop culture and - of all things - spy fic, and tying it together with a pretty magical realist bow. It's ridiculous how well it all works. (I mean, Jane Austen and Alfred Hitchcock? And it somehow makes sense together? Again, WHAT IS THIS WITCHERY?) All of this adds to the lighthearted, quirky tone of the story, but beyond that, it makes the book appeal to a broader audience, kind of pulling everyone in along the way, and I liked that.
All in all, the book is peopled with interesting, fleshed-out characters, a good sense of place (Austin, TX), a fun mash-up of elements, and a fantastically fun voice. And the healthy dose of
doesn't hurt, either... Highly recommended for fans of Austen adaptations, fun contemporary romance, or those in need of a good funk-breaker book.
*For a good time, call Alyssa Goodnight. Or maybe call Cate-as-Cat? Definitely call Ethan; so say the ladyparts. ** Yes, I know. It adds a whole other layer of hilarious to read about the sassy exploits of a character who shares a name with someone you know... Though I'm sure Kat would approve of Cat's sass....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! ;)
Just to warn you: there really is no way to write a review of a 2nd book in a series without revealing some secrets from the first book. This is especJust to warn you: there really is no way to write a review of a 2nd book in a series without revealing some secrets from the first book. This is especially true where this series is concerned, so this review will contain spoilers for book one!
I mentioned in my review of The Poison Diaries that I liked it better after having read Nightshade. It brought some things together for me, but mostly I think it was because the ending to TPD takes such a strange turn that I think your mind needs time to adjust, and there just wasn't time before the book ended. I mean, yes, you've been somewhat prepared for talking plants from Weed's revelations, but then to actually have plants talking - and plotting murder and world domination - is just a little strange. It takes a big adjustment. A lot of willing suspension of disbelief. But by book 2, it almost seems natural. Partly, I think this is because not just poisonous plants are doing the talking. You start to get a feel for the different "personalities" of the plants, and they become more like characters. But I think it's also because of the way it's narrated - more in Weed's voice, and where Jessamine is concerned, she's no longer fevered, so it reads less...manic, I guess. Whatever the reason, it works now, and makes the ending of TPD go down a little better.
Where it seemed to touch on magical realism in book one, I think it takes a pretty firm turn into magical realism in Nightshade. It also goes really, really dark. Wood explores some pretty deep, scary waters for a YA book, which, coupled with the magical realist feel, is really interesting. When you think "dark" in YA, you tend to think emotional contemporary blahblah. This is a completely different kind of dark, a story of control and manipulation and completely losing oneself to it. It's very Gothic feeling, and I kept thinking as I was reading that it would make such a good, strange little movie. (You know, if you could figure out a way to make Oleander scary and not just silly onscreen.) It's told in that delicious car-crash-in-slow-mo way that just grips you and makes you certain that it's going to be a first-rate tragedy. [I mean Tragedy-capital-T; you know, the cosmic irony, world is against us, every step I take in what I think is the right direction makes everything worse...that type of thing.]
Part of what makes this work so well is the split narration between Jessamine, who is slowly losing herself with the help of Oleander, and Weed, who is coming into his own. I wasn't a big fan of the split narration in book one, but here it really works. There is good balance to their story arcs, and getting to see every false step from two angles, seeing it all plotted out by Oleander, and how successful he is at pulling the strings, really contributes to the Gothic tragedy feeling. I also just plain liked Weed's voice in this, so I was happy to be in his thoughts and have his world opened up more. He keeps it all together, but it's Jessamine who steals the show. I mentioned at the end of my TPD review that book 2 is definitely worth reading because Jessamine is kickass, and I meant that. She is...dark and dangerous and a complete 180 from the charmingly naive girl she was in the beginning. And what's more, it's believable. It's sometimes painful to watch, and you sometimes want to cheer for her and sometimes want to yell at her, and it all just works to push us toward an ending you can't help but fear.
As for the ending itself, I have to say I loved it. Now, this comes with a caution, because, just as in book one, I think this is the type of ending that may really piss people off. It is certainly not for fans of the cliff-hanger ending. But, going back to the movie comparison, the whole thing feels very episodic and it works for me. The feel of the ending is really haunting and an interesting blend of optimism and pessimism. It's perfectly in keeping with the darker tone of the book, and I respect it as a result. And I have to say, without giving anything away, the final image is just... just brilliant.
So if you've read book one and were on the fence about whether to continue the series, I would strongly urge it. It's really going some interesting places, and I think you'll like the two books almost as a set. If you haven't read book one, but ignored my spoilers warning and read this review, and now have your interest piqued (talking plants? Oleander? Tragedy?), I would strongly recommend picking up both books at the same time, so that you can head straight into Nightshade after finishing TPD. Don't worry, they're both quick reads...
3.5 One line review: What a strange little mindfuck of a book...
Not-one-line-review: **This review is going to be somewhat informed by the fact that I r3.5 One line review: What a strange little mindfuck of a book...
Not-one-line-review: **This review is going to be somewhat informed by the fact that I read the first two books in the series before writing either review, so I know what happens next and how it all fits together. Because of that, there will be times that I will reference book 2, which I wouldn't generally do, and I am sorry for that, but I promise to try to avoid spoilers.
I have to start by saying that I found The Poison Diaries to be really different from other YA books out there, and for the most part, I mean this in a really good way. It's rare to have anything these days that actually feels unique or inventive. The book almost has a magical realist feel to it, which, though a lot of MG and YA books have magic in them, is not a genre often tackled for this age group. There's a surreal strangeness to the writing and plot that I really enjoyed.
But it's because of this that I think it is going to be one of those off-putting books for a lot of people. There are times, especially toward the end of the book, where it's just plain weird. And though I really like that, I know there are plenty of people who won't. When I was finished, my one-line review called it a "strange little mindfuck of a book" and I know not everyone likes to be mindfucked...
But whether you do or not, I think you should give it a chance. It's a kickass concept, for which we apparently have the Duchess of Northumberland to thank. She has spent a considerable amount of time and money constructing an epic garden at her castle (uh huh), and this garden includes an ambitious poison garden, which she thought would make a great backdrop to a story and voila! now it is. And as much as you may want to be irritated and find the whole thing pretentious, the thing is, it really does make a great backdrop to a story. Alnwick Castle, Hulne Abbey and the Luxton's poison apothecary garden makes for a really rich, compelling setting for Jessamine's life to revolve around.
And speaking of Jessamine, though I think some of the (very few) characters in the book can be static and one-dimensional, I found Jessamine very interesting and likable. She's sort of charmingly naive, but with a thirst for knowledge and recognition that I thought worked and gave her depth. And in a weird way, I thought the narrowness of the other characters in her life to actually aids in her character development, because they were kind of representative of her limited scope and her very confined world. They made interesting counterpoints to her narration and her diary.
The diary itself was a little strained as a concept. It felt forced to me, like "The Poison Diaries" sounds like a great name for a series, so we need to work this in somehow. But Jessamine's diary was overkill; it wasn't necessary - her father, Thomas, has a true poison diary that comes into play in a huge way in the series, and was more than enough to carry the name and give it purpose. Very little of the narration actually takes place in Jessamine's diary, and what does could easily be worked into the internal monolgue that makes up the bulk of the book. I felt like the diary bits could have been cut and made the book smoother as a whole, which was something that it especially needed in the end, when the narration is split. But maybe I just over-think these things.
The one real drawback for me, though, was the end. As I said, the narration is split in the end, and is...scattered for a number of reasons. The very simple prose of the first 3/4 of the book just sort of unravels and can feel a little chaotic. This is intentional in part, I think, and I can't get too into why without spoilers. But while it may be interesting to have the narration match the chaos of the story conceptually, it didn't quite work for me in practice. The change was too abrupt, and the ending even more so, and the two combined turned me off a bit. I felt like I was tearing through this really absorbing, weird, fast-paced read and loving it, and then it just started to fall apart, and there weren't enough pages left to put it back together. It was weird, because it was the kind of ending that I respect and a part of me likes, but that just couldn't inspire the enthusiasm in me that I wanted to feel for this book when I was done.
And this is the part where I reference book 2, because the thing is, I liked it enough that I definitely wanted to keep reading, hoping that book 2 would cast book 1 in a different light and make things work. And it did. It did and then some. But the enjoyment of one book shouldn't be dependent on the next; it always feels like a cheap gimmick to me when this is the case, and it pisses me off a little on principle. And though I don't think the ending was completely a cheap gimmick (because I think it was partly a pessimistic streak in-keeping with the rest of the book, which I applaud), I still can't help but be a little miffed on principle. It's just who I am.
And my god, if this isn't the most rambly, convoluted review. Maybe it's symptomatic of the poisons found inside... The fact is, I liked this on its own well enough, and liked it a lot more on reflection after book 2. Though it's certainly not everyone's cup of poison tea, I think those in the right mindset are going to find it really interesting and memorable, and I promise you, if you're weird enough (like me) and are eager for the 2nd book, the series will impress you. 'Cause Jessamine? She's pretty kickass.
[Psst! Don't forget, you can enter to win book 2, Nightshade, here- but it ends soon, so hurry!]...more
This review has been in the making for ages. It's kind of ridiculous how long it's taken me to write it - to the point that I was wondering if I'd havThis review has been in the making for ages. It's kind of ridiculous how long it's taken me to write it - to the point that I was wondering if I'd have to read the book again before I could - because it's hard to know what to say. Part of me just wants to say: Get it; read it. Part of me wants to say: A.S King should already be on your auto-buy list. But how else to talk about this complex, weird, painful, triumphant book without giving away some of its magic?
I guess I'll start with Lucky. I love Lucky Linderman as a narrator, and I think nearly everyone will. He's very relatable and rootforable, and his deceptively calm way of narrating just really works. And the pace at which things are revealed by Lucky is just damn near perfect. He's just this really well-designed gateway into what can be a very difficult (technically and emotionally) story. On the surface, his story is about bullying and self-worth, but it would be too easy to write it off as just those things, because the story is more complex than that, and Lucky is more complex than that - Lucky doesn't exist as just a victim of bullying, he is not defined purely in terms of what is done to him, and this story explores that and teaches Lucky that.
I normally talk about WSOD (willing suspension of disbelief) in stories when it doesn't work - when an author doesn't quite pull it off, and I'm not really able to suspend my disbelief. But when I am able to - when it's successful - it normally isn't addressed because it seems so natural. But I want to make a point to talk about it here because I think King's writing really drives this home - the entire concept and presentation of this story requires a huge WSOD, but it's done in such a way that you almost don't even need to be willing - it just happens, you just go with it, and before you know it, you're like, "Yeah, talking ants, state-shaped scabs, mother = squid/father = turtle, real-world dream-travels back to Vietnam to chat with your MIA/POW grandpa. Of course." It all just seems like such a completely logical way of seeing the world around you, and dealing with that world, that the reader's willing suspension is not only never broken, but it's not even really threatened. That's a pretty impressive feat in a story like this, which brings me to:
A.S. King should be on your auto-buy list. She has such an unflinching quality to her writing that I absolutely love. Combine that with a magical realism streak (yay!), and it's pretty much a guarantee that I'm going to like what she writes. But I don't think that's just me; I know magical realism isn't something that everybody is comfortable with (it's weird, it ignores boundaries, it makes you uncomfortable), but King uses it judiciously and she makes it work. She confronts things, and she does so in a unique, powerful way that affects the reader. She takes on a topic that many have tackled before (bullying and self-worth, and finding your place in the world and among your family, etc.), but she does so in what is very uniquely her own way. She also understands how to find a balance between a "normal" contemporary story and something a little more weird and quirky, so that fans of contemporary find themselves reading something more challenging in presentation, and fans of weirder stuff find themselves enjoying the contemporary story they may normally forego - both get genre-shaken, and I think that's a good thing.
And I...I don't want to say too much more than that, really, because I don't want to give even a tiny bit of the story away. Every little thing, down to the tiniest ant, has its place in this story, and sometimes those tiny things will creep up on you out of nowhere and hit you so hard that it takes your breath away - and that is the type of story that needs to be readunderstood experienced. ...more
This is one of the most engaging stories/narrators I have read in awhile. I tried hard to think of something I didn;t like, just for some balance (notThis is one of the most engaging stories/narrators I have read in awhile. I tried hard to think of something I didn;t like, just for some balance (not because I am such a negative person), and I still have yet to come up with something. There's a great magical realism/tall-tale feel to it, which is refreshing in a ya book.
Savvy is the story of Mibs (Mississippi) Beaumont and her rather unusual family. At 13, every member of the Beaumont family discovers they have a "savvy," a special power of some sort. Mibs' brother, Fish, can manipulate the weather (he caused a hurricane on his 13th birthday), and her brother Rocket manipulates electrcity (his 13th birthday was pretty unusual, too). Mibs' father is the only member of the Beaumont family with no special powers, having married in. When he is involved in a terrible car accident the day before Mibs herself turns 13, Mibs stops wishing for a grand, mind-blowing savvy and wishes instead for something that will help her save her father. With two of her brothers and her pastors kids in two, Mibs leaves her tiny community in the middle of nowhere, between Kansas and Nebraska (or Kansaska-Nebransas, as they call it -- Kansaska Monday-Wednesday, Nebransas Thursday-Saturday) to get to her father and work her savvy. The resulting story is a discovery of self for each character, from their own talents and savvies, to their loves and feelings and inner stength.
I know I made that sound really cheesy, but it's not. Ingrid Law deals with some heavy stuff in a light and engaging manner. The language and Mibs' narration is absolutely perfect. It's charming and funny and unusual. It's addictive, begging to be read aloud. The alliteration and silliness of the language may irritate some people, but I adored it. I don't see how it's possible not to fall in love with Mibs and the Beaumonts, and all of the peripheral characters.
I sort of feel bad for rating this a two, because I know it took an INSANE amount of work to create this book (14 years worth by Niffenegger's reckoniI sort of feel bad for rating this a two, because I know it took an INSANE amount of work to create this book (14 years worth by Niffenegger's reckoning), but honestly, it really was just okay.
Told mostly through pictures (painstakingly created but still only 'ehh' most of the time), the text in this book is really just a series of captions for the pictures. The story is loosely held together through that, and even though it is there -- and a rather disturbing story it is, too -- it never feels like more than a series of vignettes.
The story; three sisters, Bettine, Ophile and Clothilde live alone and carry on their lonely lives near a lighthouse. When the lighthouse keeper dies and his son comes to stay, he shakes up things among the sisters, falling in love with one and causing another to descend into madness (the third? Already mad, I think...). What follows is a rather disturbing tale; story and art somewhat reminiscent of Edward Gorey or Tim Burton's The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories.
There are parts of the story, and panels that tell it, that are rather striking. And because it is told in pictures, it's not like it takes up a huge chunk of time. Still......more
Beatrice "Bertie" Shakespeare Smith has lived in the Théâtre for as long as she can remember. She loves the crazy cast of characters who populate herBeatrice "Bertie" Shakespeare Smith has lived in the Théâtre for as long as she can remember. She loves the crazy cast of characters who populate her life and she loves getting up to crazy antics with them. She loves the stories and the Stage and everything about it. (Well, maybe she doesn't love the Stage Manager...) But when Bertie's antics go too far, the Theater Manager asks her to prove herself to be a valuable member of the Théâtre -- or leave. Desperate not to be exiled from her favorite place in the world, the only home she's ever known, Bertie sets out to find her place in this zany world -- and she may find more than that.
I had been foaming at the mouth wanting to get my hands on this book ever since the cover was released. When my bookclub decided it was going to be one of the books we read this year, I agreed to be a good girl and wait to read it. And hey! I actually kept my word and was a good girl! Go figure. So after all that anticipation -- which is sure to kill anything -- that month's bookclub meeting was one of the most disappointing for me, ever. [frowny face:]
But here's the thing -- I loved the book. It's just that I was the only one, and after the cursory "ehhs" from all around, everyone moved on to what else they've been reading. This disappointed me, because though I love that portion of our meetings, I actually did want to talk about this book, but I wasn't going to keep dragging the conversation back to a book no one liked and listen to them bash it.
So my warning is, if you're a smart woman well into adulthood, you may hate this book. That seemed to be the consensus. But I loved it, and I'm about to tell you why...
I dig literary allusions. I accept that I am a nerd and embrace it. I was a bit worried about the allusions in this going in, though, not because I didn't think I'd like them, but because it is a YA book, and I wondered if it would even be accessible to the YA audience. Since I'm not a teen, I can't speak to this other than to say that a)I was the kind of annoying, precocious/pretentious teen that thought herself very literary, and I would have eaten them up, and probably looked into the ones I didn't get and expanded my drama base; and b) I've read a few reviews of the book that were written by teens, and they all seemed to love it, literary allusions included. Oddly enough, it was among adults that there seemed to be a problem. Except those of my friends actively involved in theater, the adults did not like the allusions; they appreciated them, but they admitted that 1/2 the time, they didn't get them. So I'm thinking that maybe I underestimated teens (and overestimated adults), and that really, Mantchev didn't take as big a risk here as I thought, because teens are still in school, after all, and the references are more current for them than they would be for an adult who doesn't read or watch dramas. Personally, I loved the allusions. There are a few in the quotes section below that tickled me to no end; they become these little inside jokes for those who do know about -- or enough about -- theater to get them, but I think you can still enjoy this without knowing all of them.
Another big draw for me was the world and the style in which Mantchev presented it. I loved the Théâtre and the Players and the world Mantchev created. It was really fun to become immersed in, and it was very visual and interesting. She took something well-known (the world's most famous stories and characters) and made them her own while still staying true to the original, and it came off very nicely. I could picture everyone, I could see them in my head -- her dramatic almost-play style was very effective and made me feel like I was, indeed, a part of the audience. The whole thing came off as very fresh and creative and unique, and I love that. There's just not enough of that.
But perhaps the biggest draw for me was Bertie. I never thought I'd like a character named "Bertie," I'm not going to lie, but like her I did. Berite is funny and feisty and creative and I adored her. There's a quote below that demonstrates her feistiness quite nicely, so I won't waste your time going into all that other than to say that she will win you over. She just will.
So that's why I liked it. But to be balanced, I am going to give you a few of the drawbacks that my bookclub found, and that you may not like, either:
The tone does come off a bit young. Not unbearably so, and I think it's really just a part of the lightness, the breeziness of it, but it does read younger than I expected, and than my bookclub was willing to stomach.
The allusions, again, may not be everyone's bag.
The love triangle(ish). This is actually a drawback of mine. It's not that I didn't like the 3 characters involved, or the tensions between them, because I did. [side note: Ariel is one of my fave lit characters, so I loved his role in this. And nothing to do with the triangle, but Ophelia is another fave, and I loved her role, too.] But I am so sick of the Team _________ shit, really I am, that I just kind of cringe when I see someone using that formula. You will never hear me say that I am Team anybody. It irks me. Someday there will be a rant on this, but I'm not going to take up this review to do it. But seriously. Enough with the Teams and the triangles.
There is a certain predictability that may bother people, but I don't think it's overwhelming or detracts all that much from the story. Just a fair warning.
Some of my favorite scenes and quotes: "What are you doing here?" "I heard the water running." Ophelia lifted her arms up and smiled into the ghostly, aquamarine lighting. "I thought I'd come and drown myself. I won't be in the way, will I?"
~ ~ ~
A sudden, trumpeted fanfare sent them leaping apart, the blast of noise precefing the messenfer from Act Four of Richard the Third. He entered Stage Right, unrolled a parchment scroll, and cleared his throat. In a strong, sonorous voice, honed to cut through the bedlam at court or merely backstage, he proclaimed, "And now, the bane of your existence, the killer of all joys, the Stage Manager --" He was interrupted when the murderers from the same production leapt from the flies and stabbed him repeatedly with big rubber knives. The messenged pulled crimson scraves from holes in his tunic and did a lot of unnecessary groaning before his assassins dragged him offstage by the ankles. "What was that all about?" Nate demanded. "Early detection system," Bertie said. "I get advance warning that the Stage Manager is coming, and the messenger gets extra stage time."
~ ~ ~
Something darkly tempting and longing-filled bloomed under the sun-warmed grass and damp earth. She opened her eyes, wanting to ask a question she didn't yet know, but before she could find the words, Ariel turned away.
~ ~ ~
"I think they'll make excellent mummies, as they've already had their brains removed."
~ ~ ~
Mrs. Edith had told her once that the costume made the character, but only now did Bertie understand what she'd meant. The corset was dainty, demure, pin-striped, and it wanted her to slap Ariel across the face. But Bertie was more than the sum of her clothing, so she cocked her arm and punched him as hard as she could in the stomach.
~ ~ ~
Gertrude pointed at Macbeth, who was holding up a cruller and muttering, "Is this a doughnut I see before me?" Then he noticed the raspberry jam on everything and started to shriek.
~ ~ ~
The Brigands charged in with weapons drawn. "Who are you?" Young Bertie asked. "We're the bad guys!" their leader announced. "What are you going to do?" "Plunder and pillage!" one of them yelled. The others immediately shoved him "Not in front of the kid. Ralph! Fer cryin' out loud..." "Oh, yeah. Sorry! We're here to take your candy!"
I am a big fan of dystopic & post-apocalyptic fiction, and The Knife of Never Letting Go is one of the most compelling pieces of dystopia I have rI am a big fan of dystopic & post-apocalyptic fiction, and The Knife of Never Letting Go is one of the most compelling pieces of dystopia I have read in awhile. I am all sorts of in love with this book. Find out why at The Book Rat....more
A Certain Slant of Light is the story of a ghost who attaches herself to human hosts to avoid going to what she assumes is hell, for a crime she doesA Certain Slant of Light is the story of a ghost who attaches herself to human hosts to avoid going to what she assumes is hell, for a crime she does not remember. While attached to her current host -- a high school english teacher -- she realizes that a boy in the classroom can see her. She eventually learns he too was once a ghost, and is now inhabiting the body of an overdose victim. This begins their romance and her realization of herself. I liked this book for its breezy style and interesting premise, which was handled nicely and thoughtfully. I wasnt too pleased with the heavy-handedness of the religious aspect at the end, but overall would recommend this as a fun, somewhat thought provoking read, with the caution to parents that there is sexuality in the book, and a not always pleasant view on religion (for those of you whom that concerns)....more