Those of you who watched my First Impressions video on Interference will likely have suspected I was going to love this. I was smitten right from the first page, couldn't get over the voice and the fantastic dry humor, and well, everything, basically. There may have been "delighted jazz hands" in the video, so. . . Basically I said it was on track to be a favorite of 2016, unless it took a nosedive, so now the question is: did it?
Thankfully, thankfully, it did not. Interference was strong from beginning to end. It was warm and endearing and funny, and captured the place-feel very well. As I said in the video, it set up a lot of interesting contrasts well right from the beginning (there vs here, then vs now, us vs them). I can't speak to the Friday Night Lights of it all, as I've never watched it (couldn't get past the nauseating shaky-cam of the first episode; someone tell me if the camera work gets better and its worth sticking around?), but I'd imagine that any YA small town slice-of-Americana that heavily features football probably garners the same comparison.
What I can speak to is the Austen of it all, and I gotta say, it hits Emma notes in very clever ways, much the same way Clueless did: not over-the-top, but with all these little nods and easter eggs for Austen fans, while interpreting and reinventing the story in fresh, fun ways. There's some really smart thinking in using the daughter of a politician to reframe the story of Emma for the modern day -- the theme of manipulation for the greater good and that sense of well-meaning superiority that is such a part of Emma's world fits perfectly with a daughter who has been raised on the campaign trail and in front of cameras. It's one of those strokes of perfect obviousness that is borderline genius — of course! Of course a modern Emma would get her manipulation skills and ability to spin things to her benefit from a politician father! Of course someone whose grown up in a world where people are both passionately fighting for what they feel is right while also being absolutely sharks would pick up some of Emma's puppet master tendencies. It's really a very clever mash-up.
Now, like Emma, whom many readers have MAJOR likability problems with, some readers may never connect to Kate, or may want to jump ship before she learns some lessons and wins her likability points. But as I've always said, Emma is one of my favorite characters, and I relate to her a lot. I relate to her hard, y'all. I've got as much Emma in me as I do Lizzy (that's right, I'm a self-important smartypants who knows whats best for everyone else, but never takes her own advice. Soz!), so I loved Kate from the start. One of the joys of Emma for me is that, even when Emma is getting herself (and those around her. Oops) into colossal snarls, following her own misguided compass, you can always see why she thinks she's right. Her actions, though inevitably wrong, make sense. The same is true of Kate; she doesn't listen when people tell her that she's interpreting something incorrectly, and she doesn't kowtow to someone else's greater understanding of a person's character that they've known their whole life — she knows how things have worked for her in the past, where she's from, and she knows how she'd expect people to react, and why should here be any different? She goes full-steam ahead with her schemes, convinced that she's right and someone just needs to try, and that may frustrate some readers, but I get her — because how do you know if you don't try? And frankly, I like a confident (some may say cocky, I say confident) YA heroine or young woman in general. (I think that's part of the reason that I actually resent Knightley a little bit. He just had to be right. =/)
I don't know what else there really is to say. In many ways, it's a typical, familiar story; that doesn't bother me, because it just makes it seem relatable and familiar-like-a-friend, rather than just the same old, recycled storylines. (And I mean, it is a retelling, so... I expect that feel.) Its main character may put some people off, but I love her; but then, I do tend to love the MCs that no one else does (and I'm okay with that). As always, I'd say just know yourself as a reader: if you're not a fan of Emma, there's a good chance you won't like her rewritten. If you love fluffy, fun contemporary,* you might like this. And if you're not, you won't.
I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments, especially if you've read this or watched my First Impressions and have thoughts on the style! Also, can I hear from some fellow Emma lovers out there? It was many, many years before I realized that a lot of people didn't actually like her (like, seriously, many years. I read it when I was 17, and I think I only realized last year when our read along was Emma. I was baffled(ish), startled, and a little bit heart-broken.) And if you end up picking this book up, please come back or find me on twitter and let me know what you thought!
*Speaking of, the synopsis compares this to Elizabeth Eulberg (with which I agree) and Sarah Dessen, and now I wanna know: is this how Sarah Dessen writes? Is this the kind of story she tells? Because if so, I've been missing out and need to change that. Someone who's read this, let me know, pls!
Noelle Adams is steadily going downhill for me. She's had some really fun stories with strong characters, both as Noelle and as her other pen name, ClNoelle Adams is steadily going downhill for me. She's had some really fun stories with strong characters, both as Noelle and as her other pen name, Claire Kent, but she's gotten into a rut of super quick cookie-cutter novellas that are underdeveloped in plot, tone, and (her usual strong point) character. Only a few days after reading this one, and I'm struggling to remember what it was even about -- other than that I found it pretty uninspired and insipid. I have a few more of hers that I'll likely work my way through (they're my cheap/free go-to when I don't know what to read, or want something quick between books), but honestly, if I don't see her moving away from exceedingly short books with ridiculously compressed timelines (one week, one night), I'll likely be giving up on her entirely. ...more
In the very near future, I have a Book Chat video coming out about the book trend of 2016 -- dark, gritty YA -- and Kara Thomas' The Darkest Cornersco In the very near future, I have a Book Chat video coming out about the book trend of 2016 -- dark, gritty YA -- and Kara Thomas' The Darkest Corners could not be a more perfect example of that. It's part of a new wave of crime novels that eschews the lurid crime-porn approach of previous thrillers and mysteries, and instead seeks to really dig into the idea of good guys and bad guys, and play with reader perceptions and biases in fascinating and complex ways.
Building upon a familiar scenario (creepy serial killer + pretty young girls = Very Bad Things), and then slowly and steadily picking it apart, The Darkest Corners keeps the reader constantly doubting and guessing (and I say that as someone who is rarely kept guessing). There are lots of twists and turns, false starts and sudden realizations, but it's all done in a very believable way, with excellent pacing; things are revealed at just the right moment to keep readers on their toes, and to keep the whodunit aspect fresh and present throughout, without ever feeling overdone or cheesy. Though there are a lot of suspects -- and a lot of suspicious things -- it's not really a "Villain du Jour,"an inexpert attempt to twist things and shock the audience. Instead, it feels very authentic, in the way that communities who are faced with tragedies like this begin to question everyone and everything, and at the same time, turn a blind eye to any answers that hit a little too close to home.
Thomas pulls in real-life crime scenarios, grounding the story even more in something the audience can relate to and recognize (the Casey Anthony case, for example), and spins those real life influences into just-distorted-enough versions to hold up a mirror and reflect the reader's biases back at them; each successive reveal or piece of doubt makes the reader examine how easily things can be distorted, and how biases and extraneous circumstances can override impartial judgement and justice. And -- as the forward from editor Krista Marino points out -- how unreliable eyewitness accounts and memory can be, especially when the damning evidence is gathered through the eyes of a child.
What really elevates the story for me, though, is that it doesn't just rest on being an intriguing mystery, well-told, but also adds in fantastic depth through the character of Tessa, her interactions (or lack thereof) with the people in her life, and the brokenness that so many of the characters deal with that's not even necessarily related to the murders. Though much of the problems in the book of course are related to the crimes and the feeling of insecurity and helplessness that resulted, there are problems outside of that, too, and Thomas doesn't ignore that. Real world, everyday problems like domestic and substance abuse, bad family situations, poverty, mental illness, etc., are all rolled up into the characters' lives and their responses to the murders, just as they would be in real life -- we none of us have just one problem to deal with, and all other problems don't cease to exist just because one bigger one has come along. Thomas uses this to build a story that feels very real and authentic, and much more related and rooted in reality than just another mystery novel. And all of it together builds tension and anxiety in a really good way -- my heart was actually pounding towards the end.*
I have a LOT more to say on this and a number of other gritty, dark YAs, so make sure to keep an eye out for the next Book Chat discussion (which is coming up in the very soonish). Until then, let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Oh, and PS: Some of you may remember might excitement when I unboxed this book & shared its contents on instagram (seriously, some of the best marketing, ever); well, it gets better! The website for The Darkest Corners contains more of the newspaper clippings I was going on about, and a whole bunch of other stuff, too, making the book a more immersive experience! I would definitely recommend checking it out, if you end up reading this. The attention to detail is just. . . ...more
This was cute, had great humor throughout, and the art was very clean, crisp and colorful (yay, alliteration!). Also, roller derby. What more could yoThis was cute, had great humor throughout, and the art was very clean, crisp and colorful (yay, alliteration!). Also, roller derby. What more could you want? =D...more
3.5 This started out pretty strong, and in some ways I really liked it, but man, there were some really questionable plot and character choices; once y3.5 This started out pretty strong, and in some ways I really liked it, but man, there were some really questionable plot and character choices; once you hit the 2/3 mark, things start falling apart. Full review to come....more
I got off to a rocky start with this one (frame stories like this, especially where the frame can seem very intrusive, often have a bit of an uphill bI got off to a rocky start with this one (frame stories like this, especially where the frame can seem very intrusive, often have a bit of an uphill battle to win me over), and so I didn't think I was going to like this one (and even thought I'd probably end up DNFing). But once I got over the hurdle of the first 30 or 40 pages, and really into the meat of the story, it became very engaging and interesting, and from there I flew through it pretty quickly. More thoughts in this video review (along with a few others). ...more
2.5, maybe. The characters were by and large obnoxious, and most of the dialogue and internal monologues (which is most of the book), were cheesy and2.5, maybe. The characters were by and large obnoxious, and most of the dialogue and internal monologues (which is most of the book), were cheesy and amateurish. I've never read Samantha Chase, but I expect more of Noelle Adams, at least as far as enjoyable characters go -- even if the plots are often throwaway fluff. But eh, at least it was free....more
I'm holding off on a star-rating while I mull this one over, but really interesting and engrossing read where you vacillate between distrusting everytI'm holding off on a star-rating while I mull this one over, but really interesting and engrossing read where you vacillate between distrusting everything and just going with it and letting yourself trust. Review to come....more
4.5 This had a fantastic opener, and was pretty damn solid throughout. Really enjoyed this, and now it makes me want to dig out my copy of Struck, Jen4.5 This had a fantastic opener, and was pretty damn solid throughout. Really enjoyed this, and now it makes me want to dig out my copy of Struck, Jennifer's debut, which has been sitting around on my shelves since it came out, and see if it's as good. ...more
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.
This one is a mixed bag; there are times where the things I love about Adams' writing shine through, and plenty of other times where it feels like sheThis one is a mixed bag; there are times where the things I love about Adams' writing shine through, and plenty of other times where it feels like she's phoning it in....more
3.5 This was definitely one of her cuter romances, to the point that I wish it hadn't been a novella. I would have really liked to see this relationshi3.5 This was definitely one of her cuter romances, to the point that I wish it hadn't been a novella. I would have really liked to see this relationship be a slow-burn, and build some anticipation....more
I enjoy Noelle Adams as a fun diversion, but sometimes it feels like she's phoning it in. Things are a little too easy and too simple, and I would likI enjoy Noelle Adams as a fun diversion, but sometimes it feels like she's phoning it in. Things are a little too easy and too simple, and I would like some more genuine conflict and lingering tension in her stories in general. That said, this was cute, quick and fun, as all of her books generally are....more
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.