I'm not sure if it's my end of the year mood or what, but I just can't seem to get into this. DNFing for now, and will try to revisit later; if it sti...moreI'm not sure if it's my end of the year mood or what, but I just can't seem to get into this. DNFing for now, and will try to revisit later; if it still doesn't work for me, I'll pass it on to someone else. (less)
Whyyyyyyy is this review just now going up? I vlogged about it in DECEMBER. (Well, technically January, but it was my December Rewind). OH I REMEMBER. I was going to put my review of Pure up at the same time Fusecame out...which was last week. Thanks, Brain.
Alright, so: I was really pleasantly surprised by Pure. Not that I was expecting to be disappointed by it, but there's just been such a glut of dystopias and post-apocalyptics for the last few years, and I've learned not oto expect to much... (which is really hard, as it's my favorite genre and I can't help but add these books to my TBR - even when I have suspicions they're going to be crap.) But I've begun pretending to myself that I don't have high hopes anymore (lie), and as I had heard both really, really good and really not so good things about Pure before picking it up, I was curious how I would react to it. As it turns out, it very nearly made it into my top reads of 2012 chat, so clearly I needn't have worried.
I think the first thing that really impressed me about Pure is that Baggott analyzed things the way I do. The little, seemingly inconsequential bits of everyday life, and how those would change in a post-apocalyptic setting, generally go ignored in PA books, and this bothers me. It may sound like the most absurd, nit-picky thing ever, but I have been waiting for an author to think these tiny things through, and Baggot did. Silly little phrases we use now have lost meaning for the new generation in Pure, as they have no frame of reference. So, when an older character uses one of these phrases, the younger characters are puzzled by them, or flat-out just don't know what they mean. I'm really not exaggerating when I say I've been waiting for this. It's something I've always kind of focused in on with dystopian/post-apocalyptic books, and I can't help but be irritated when a character uses a really anachronistic phrase or word that just doesn't fit with what their world is now. Things should lose meaning. This is not our world. Sure, some phrases and words will stick around even when all context for them is gone (we have those types of phrases now); but at some point, people just aren't going to say things that make no sense in their world. Because Pure has an abrupt shift in world paradigm, it makes sense that the younger characters are going to be confused by phrases they no longer have a context for. Baggott points this out (subtly) and I could have cheered/cried with the at last-ness of it. It makes the world so much more believable in a really understated, logical way.
The other thing that impressed me is that this book is really weird. It's super dark and bleak. It's really, really bleak, and not like it's trying too hard to be dark, but just like it is. This world is dark, that's just the way it is. (I mean, it's post-apocalyptic, so...) And it is hella weird. If you haven't read the premise, basically the characters live in a world where, after a catastrophic event, survivors were molecularly fused with anything in too-close a proximity. Things become a part of you, you become a part of things. There's no way to fix it, no way to reverse it. One instant, you're you; the next, you're you plus the pretty little kitty cat you reached down to pet. This is your life now... The main character has a doll's head for a hand, and she can make its eyes blink. (shudder) There's a boy with birds wings flapping on his back. People fused to other people, people fused to animals. People fused to mothereffing dust, I kid you not. They're like a human sandstorm, and it is CREEPY. All of this takes a HUGE willing suspension of disbelief, of course, but it is totally worth it if you're able to just go with it. All of this really dark, bleak weirdness made Pure unlike anything else I've read. It's inventive and unsettling, and I really have to hand it to Baggott that she was somehow able to make this work.
I did feel, though, that it falls apart a little at the end. Most of the book is very slow-burning and almost dense; it certainly wasn't something I flew through, even though I consistently enjoyed it. But at the end, when the giant human-dustball snowball's at its apex and about to come barrelling down on you, things sort of fall apart. Baggott just can't quite handle when the shit hits the fan, and things become a little bit muddled. Everything suddenly becomes too easy and happens way too fast, and there are too many characters and motivations and things in too short a span. The storytelling is a little overwhelmed by it all - which is especially jarring after this very slow-building, very not-easy story. Also, personally, I didn't need any little bit of romance in this, but alas... At least it wasn't too all-consuming. The story is still impressive, though, and I'll certainly be reading more of the series.Though it's a little too convenient in its "local" scope (everyone needed or important is pretty easily at-hand), it is very impressive in its story-scope and its bleakness. The far-reaching breadth of the story, the way Baggott touches on the factors of our society that led up to this cataclysmic event without being heavy handed or didactic, these things all really worked. Baggot doesn't beat the reader over the head with anything, but all of these little tidbits are there for readers who like to suss them out; they're just there, they just are, and I was really impressed by that. Highly recommended for those who are looking for something different and darker than what's generally found.(less)
This was one of my more highly anticipated books of last year (because hello? Fairy tale freak. This is not news to anyone.), and it's sort of shameful that I am just now posting a written review. (Though yes, I did have a mini vlogged one here. But still.) I feel like I've talked about this book a lot, but nothing's all official-like until I write about it. So.
This was my favorite Jackson Pearce book to date. I've enjoyed everything I've read by her, but there's always been something a teensy bit off for me, especially in her endings. As short as her books are, they seem to lose steam a bit at the end, which is disappointing on its own, of course, but more so considering how much I enjoy them up to the steam-loss. But while Fathomless isn't perfect by any means, its come the closest to being exactly what I wanted from it. It has this really good dark streak that is perfectly suited to both the original tale and to the world Pearce has set up in her retellings series. There's this quality of a car crash in remarkably slow motion, a great sense of foreboding over the whole story, that creates excellent tension, and Pearce uses that to get at the unhappiness and emptiness at the core of The Little Mermaid - and is it weird to say I was so very happy to see that? This aspect is one of the things I potentially love most about a fairy tale retelling (especially one as dark as TLM(1)), but it's also often one of the most disappointing and neglected aspects. Modern audiences are so out of touch with original fairy tales that retellings that make use of the actual endings and tones are considered novel and creative, rather than traditional. We've been Disneyfied, and I'm on a tangent, so I'm going to rein myself in and just wrap that up by saying, I love it when a retelling is more traditionally bleak(2)... Fortunately Pearce capitalizes on it, to which I say THANK GOD. This is what I wanted from a TLM retelling. It's a little off. It's a little disturbing. Perfect.
A big part of what makes this work is the characters. The sisters and the romance are means to an end, but the "3" main characters (one of them being a 2-in-1 deal...) are what make this story what it is. How they interact with/react to each other and their colliding worlds, and how they use each other to make sense of their lives - and in a desperate attempt to break away from the things holding them back - is what gives this story that car-crash feeling. It's impossible for them to all get what they want, to all have their HEA(3), but you're made to care for each of them, damaged as they are. And so you know pain is coming, and it's simply a matter of degrees... It leaves you a little conflicted(4) because you both see flaws and feel sympathy for each of them, which makes things excellently ambiguous. Add to this an overall dark tone and sort of desperate, lonely, magical atmosphere with not all of the loose ends tied up, and you've got a book nicely calculated to make for Happy Mistys.(5)
This complements the rest of the series very well, but can also be read completely as a standalone, which is excellent for readers wanting who've been wanting to pick these up, or even just Fathomless specifically, but weren't sure about making a series committment. Though all of the stories are linked, and they will expand the readers understanding of the rest, they work perfectly as potential companion novels to be read on their own. You don't have to feel tied down by them, or obligated to read them (to know what's going on or to have closure), which is something I really like from a series of this type. So if you've liked Pearce in the past or have been wanting to give her a try, I think you can't really go wrong with Fathomless.
1. Originally, of course. I love me some Alyssa Milano-Ariel as much as the next 80s kid, but in case you didn't know, Disney changed the story a whole lot. Like, it's actually a real bummer... 2. Ok, nothing's going to keep me from sounding weird, so whatever. I like the sad, tortured feels.†
3. Happily Ever After. 4. Unless you don't root for non-humans, maybe? I'm not always Team Human. 5. 1 out of 1 Mistys agree. † What's this? A note within a note? Yeah, I only like those feels in fairy tales. Add 'em to some YA PNR and I might have to cut you.(less)
Coming on the heels of Babe in Boyland, I have to say, I was sadly disappointed. There were a number of reasons, but I think the biggest reason was vo...moreComing on the heels of Babe in Boyland, I have to say, I was sadly disappointed. There were a number of reasons, but I think the biggest reason was voice. Natalie from Boyland had such a strong, distinctive, engaging voice - her personality was completely there. Audrey... Audrey is often closer to a stock character. There were moments when her humor and personality would come through more strongly, and I would feel what the book could be, but most of the time, I felt like you could easily swap her with another character from any quickly churned-out paranormal fantasy and not notice too much of a difference. She was never completely cardboard (not a lost cause by any means), but compared to the vibrant Natalie, and knowing what Gehrman is capable of, I was always waiting for that injection of personality, and it made me a little sad (and made the book harder to get into) when it didn't come.
Basically, the book felt a little unfinished to me. It felt...hmm, it felt like I was reading an earlier version, before things were tightened up and streamlined. It's never a good thing when I feel myself wanting to redline things, but I did have that urge. The dialogue needed tightening, the magic needed more of a foundation, and the whole book needed another "pass" - another round of tweaking and perfecting. The magic especially just felt too easy, too Bewitched-wink-and-nod-and-POOF! = magic, y'all. That never works for me, especially when it's combined with the suddenly-I'm-magic trope. I require balance in all things - if there are great advantages, there need to be great drawbacks. And if there are not, if this is just the way your magic works, I need to know more of the Why. I need to believe it, because if I don't buy that, how can I buy anything that happens as a result?
I felt the plot needed some tightening, too. Sometimes it seemed to move too quickly and drop the connections that were needed to build tension, and sometimes it seemed to be stuck in limbo, leaving me wanting to just push through already. It's tricky to review, actually, because there were plenty of times when it flowed along and did what it was supposed to do, pulling me along with it. But there were enough patches that left me frustrated and wanting to fix, that they marred my overall impression.
And though I don't want to go into spoiler territory, I do want to address the pitfalls of having a suddenly very powerful main character and a sort of nebulous Big Bad. Audrey accepts everything way too easily, especially for as smart of a character as she is. If someone shows up at your house (with a boa constrictor wrapped around her neck) and says your mom has been kidnapped because she's magic(k), and then all manner of weird things begin happening and hey, wouldn't you know it, you're magic(k), too, and a maybe rare, powerful, uber-magick, then please, start to question everything. Because if you (the character) do not, your reader will, and they will be put off by the fact that you didn't. You don't just accept things like that, even in the face of flying shit and proofproofproof, because that's a HUGE paradigm shift, and you are required by law (or something) to question whether someone is playing a really elaborate prank on you, or you've lost your damn mind. You just have to, at least for form's sake, before giving in and saying, okay, guess I'm magic(k)! (And same with the Big Bad - I need to buy it, buy who he is and why he's so Eeeevilll! or he'll end up coming off cheesy. This particular Big Bad just walked that line. I didn't fully buy who he was or why he does some of the things he does, though I'm sure that will be explained more in future books. But he did give me the creeps, so that gets him villain points.)
But all this is not to say it's not a worthwhile read, and maybe I should have opened with that before unleashing all of my grievances. But I never seem able to do that because I have to get it out, so...there you go. I think if I'd read this when I was younger, many of the things that bothered me may not have. (And maybe if I hadn't read this just after reading Babe in Boyland, which I really enjoyed, things may not have bothered me as much as they did in comparison.) I do like Audrey, even if she's not quite as "real" as Natalie. There's good tension and romance, even if I did wish for more depth in both. It's very quick, and Gehrman's storytelling is engaging, and I think there are those who will connect with Audrey and love her, and ignore or forgive the story's flaws as a result. But I can't help but wish for something more memorable, knowing Gehrman is capable of it. Still, I'd recommend it for a quick Halloween read without much hesitation - but whether I'll read more of the series is up for debate. (less)
I'll try to review this in full later, but for now:
I read this as part of the A Matter of Magic set, which has this and the next book in 1 volume; sin...moreI'll try to review this in full later, but for now:
I read this as part of the A Matter of Magic set, which has this and the next book in 1 volume; since I'm not done reading A Matter of Magic, and don't know when I'll get back to it, I'll just talk about this individually for now.
Basically, I love Patricia C Wrede. She writes characters that I just adore, and this - mostly - was no exception. Everything was going along swimmingly until suddenly it WASN'T.
I'm giving this a 4 because I'm setting aside this HUGE WEIRD PERIOD at the end that went effing crazy. Turned into a total slap-stick sideshow. I'm pretty sure that EVERY character in the book was gathered in 1 room, and all under suspicion, at one point. And then they all Scooby Doo-ed. You know that thing where everyone just spills their guts and WAY overshares, explaining away every damn thing? That. That happened.
I hate that.
But it was like some weird glitch, or something, because aside from that (and my sometimes-irritation at the slang), I really enjoyed this.(less)
I was really eager for this one: I love the dynamic between Darcy and Col. Fitz, and I wanted to see that explored, as well as get some of the Co...more2-2.5
I was really eager for this one: I love the dynamic between Darcy and Col. Fitz, and I wanted to see that explored, as well as get some of the Col's story. Unfortunately, the characters I found in this were practically unrecognizable. Lizzie sometimes devolved into a shrieking harpy, Darcy was sort of neurotic, Lady Catherine was actually kind of awesome (which I liked, but you know...Lady C is not awesome, so again it just furthered the idea that they characters just weren't themselves. But it was Col. Fitzwilliam who was the biggest disappointment. He was boorish, crude, had what I'd almost call a violent temper, and is just all-around not what I wanted or expected. He was an aggressive control-freak who boozed and whored his way through the world on a scale to make Wickham blush, until suddenly he finds himself mad about some woman he doesn't actually know (but who does seem to be right for him, I will give the book that).
I think it honestly would have been better if it only followed Col. F and his life, and just kept the rest of them out of it. Then, maybe I could have believed that he had gone down this really dark path as a result of his war experiences, and I wouldn't have been distracted by the failings of the other characters. I actually did put it down for awhile and tried to school myself to treat it as general historical fiction rather than an Austen adaptation; I was unsuccessful - I just couldn't separate who the characters were from who they were supposed to be. And in the end, it wouldn't have really mattered: the book struggled in tone and atmosphere, too, so I think I still would have been disappointed with it. It was like Karen couldn't decide if she wanted the book to be serious or silly, and as a result it felt sort of schizophrenic. It did have its good moments, and I enjoyed the relationship between Fitz and Amanda (when it wasn't controlling), but the good moments weren't enough to leave a good overall impression. And if I had to hear Fitzwilliam call Darcy "brat" one more time, I would have thrown the damn thing against a wall.
Verdict: Borrow it from the library, if at all. (less)
Did a video review for this one, but basic thoughts are: *2.5 - Really mixed. *Very fast read. (Very fast. Like, maybe it should have been slower so th...moreDid a video review for this one, but basic thoughts are: *2.5 - Really mixed. *Very fast read. (Very fast. Like, maybe it should have been slower so that things could happen in ways that made sense.) *Sometimes funny, but often flat. *3 characters, 2 authors, and yet only one voice among them... *Rapey scientist says what? *The end.
3.5 It wouldn't be a lie to say that I wanted to read this because of the cover and its obvious Downton Abbey inspiration, but it also wouldn't be a l...more3.5 It wouldn't be a lie to say that I wanted to read this because of the cover and its obvious Downton Abbey inspiration, but it also wouldn't be a lie to say I probably would never have actively sought this out, because of those things, and because reasons. But when its pretty self showed up* in my mailbox before Christmas, luring me in the packets of Walkers shortbread and Twinings English Breakfast tea - well, frankly it was just too tempting a scene to pass up. So picture me, curled up on the couch, dunking my biscuits in a steaming cuppa, ready to sink into a (hopefully) nice little bit of turn of the century escapism. Maybe the tea and sugar (and butter. My god, the butter in those biscuits!) did their job and lulled me after a time, because after a jarring bit in the beginning when I felt sure this book and I were not going to get on, we somehow became reluctant friends. Confidants, even.
But lets get that first bit out of the way, shall we? It's the dreaded insta-love. And I meaninsta. Like, pretty sure it happened on about page 2, with two characters who'd never met, had no business being alone unchaperoned (at night. On a ship!), and both of whom acted out of character/station. It had me gasping behind my fan, I can tell you. With this, my guard was definitely up, and when you add in some of the anachronistic/unrealistic approach to the story, I was all prepared to heartily dislike this. BUT as much as I wanted to be bothered by this (and the complete lack offoundation in their sudden "relationship"), I eventually just gave in. I mean, the times, they were a-changin', and it is the lit equivalent of a soap opera, so whatever. I certainly would have preferred anticipation and build-up in the relationship - in a few relationships, actually, as they were all on the risque side; come to think of it, I would much have preferred this to be a sweeping saga that really wrenched every bit of drama out of the interactions... - but I had to face the facts that this was just never going to be that type of story, and I could dig my heels in or I could enjoy it. And when I came to (grudging) terms with that, I did thoroughly enjoy myself.
Yes, this was heavily inspired by Downton Abbey. Not just the time/setting, but even the plot points - kind of a "ripped from the headlines" approach in some ways, which is fine so long as you make it your own. And that was sort of the point of this book, after all, and the reason I wanted to read it, so I can't really hate... Like Downton, there are a lot of characters to keep track of. Actually, if I'm being honest, there were too many characters to keep track of, especially when they're not all that distinct. There were a few times I had to flip back and figure out who someone was, where they came in, and why they were significant. This is something dealt with much easier on screen, where people have distinct looks and there are all kinds of visual clues in how they dress/carry themselves to remind us where they fit into the story. Much harder on the page, when the story is flitting back and forth between plot-lines and the reader is left to keep track of who's who and how they know each other (compounded by the fact that just about everyone in the book is just now becoming acquainted with one another...). Because of that, I imagine this would be a frustrating book for some people. Eventually I got them all worked out, though, and even grew to sort of care about of few of them (surprise!). It's also very quick-moving, and some readers may feel rushed about. (I've already mentioned I would like a little more lingering... but at least the quick pace kept things lively.)
In the end, I have to say, I enjoyed it. It's anachronistic, but fun; not for diehard traditionalists, certainly - if you like your historical dramas to be sweeping and epic and (most of all) painstakingly researched and historically accurate, this is probably not the book for you. This isn't a book that will have you building ballrooms in your mind, or feeling as if it's so lovingly rendered that you practically lived it with the characters. No, this is not that. But for those looking for something fun to tide them over in between seasons of Downton, or for a nice bit of easy escapism, a good guilty pleasure read, it certainly ticks all the boxes. And though I don't know that the series will ever be one of my jumping-eager, gotta-have-it, breathlessly-awaiting-the-next series, I'm definitely curious to see what happens next at Somerton. I'll have a nice supply of tea and biscuits waiting...
The Archivedhas one of the most interesting concepts I've seen in awhile, vaguely reminiscent of theSilence in the Library/Forest of the DeadDoctor Wh...moreThe Archived has one of the most interesting concepts I've seen in awhile, vaguely reminiscent of the Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead Doctor Who story arc, but for the YA, book/library-loving crowd. The building for Mackenzie's world - the Archive, the Narrows, the Outer, Returns, all of it - is really just spot on and fascinating. Some may find it confusing - there is certainly a lot left to the imagination, the potential for a lot of questions - but most will become completely entranced by the very thought of the world. I like a story with tough choices, a story that lacks easy answers, and I think Schwab played with this well. Also, Big Bonus: the mystery is very well done. The right amount is revealed at the right time, and even though I generally always know exactly where a mystery is going within 1/4 of the book, this time I was left wondering, and when I was right, I wasn't sure if I was. The action is also very nicely played out - not too much, not too little, and coming at the perfect time. The story as a while is paced and plotted really well.
I really liked Mackenzie - actually, I really liked all of the characters, even the not-so-good ones. They were all pretty full, pretty complete. They all seemed to have big personalities, even if we only see them in glimpses - they were distinct, which is impressive when you're talking about an entire cast. I loved watching Mackenzie navigate this secret world, and balance people who know with people who don't; the juggling act she has to maintain day in and day out lends a great tension to the story, and sympathy for Mac, that really worked. I also really liked watching her struggle to come to terms with grief, and to have burgeoning questions and worries, and how the sort of philosophical ramifications of the Archive come to play in her life.
I will say, though, that I do wish this could have been dwelt on more. There was a fair amount of introspection, and her thoughts felt right to me (and very consistent with her character), but I always felt like we were so close to a really powerful statement that just didn't come. Maybe it's because I was spoiled by the sheer beauty and effectiveness of the writing in Schwab's debut, The Near Witch, but it just felt like there was something missing. I was never able to delve as deeply as I would have liked. (Note: even though I did miss the lyrical style of The Near Witch, it would not have fit this story or Mackenzie, and I applaud Schwab for knowing that and for writing in another style just as well as she wrote in her debut.)
All in all, The Archived makes a a good stand-alone, but it certainly leaves you wanting more, which makes me really glad it's not a stand-alone (unless Goodreads is lying to me...). It feels as if the surface has barely been scratched, and there are some really murky areas I think readers (including myself) are going to want to dive into. Because Mac was raised in this, and because she idolizes her grandfather so, she doesn't really think to question anything until close to the end, when she starts to realize just how little she knows. Until then, secrecy is just part of the job, and all of the HUGE questions are still waiting to be asked. Now, knowing what she knows and seeing what she's seen, I think Mackenzie is going to be a force to be reckoned with.
So yes, I know we've still got quite a wait on this one, but I think you wouldn't go amiss to pick upThe Archived - I think you'll find it well worth your wait.
When I came across this one in my preparations for Fairy Tale Fortnight, I was immediately struck by the dark and direct tone of the cover, and took i...moreWhen I came across this one in my preparations for Fairy Tale Fortnight, I was immediately struck by the dark and direct tone of the cover, and took it as an indication of the tales found inside. In some ways this is what I got: the retellings are gritty and dark and very pared down, stripped of any residual fairy dust and ball gowns. Koertge plays on the original tales, in all their dark and twisted glory, but he also plays with our Disneyfied modern expectations.
But even though Koertge did sort of give me what I was expecting, it somehow managed to not be quite what I wanted. The book is very brief, tackling 23 different tales in less than 100 pages, including illustrations and title pages for each story. This means each story averages about 2 pages of well-spaced text or free-verse, and this means Koertge only has the space of a few blinks of the eye to make an impression with each story - blink and it's over...
I will say, I think Koertge certainly tried to create memorable, concrete images that would linger with the reader, plunging straight into the heart of each with a wry, jaded style. There's also a really good mix of well-known and little-known tales, and Koertge changes up the narration slightly in each tale. But even the narration at its most different (like Little Red's vapid prattling) still has a sameness to it. Some readers will appreciate this and feel the sardonic tone running throughout is the thread that holds it all together. Other readers - like myself - will feel that what the book really needs is a shake-up. The stories, different as they are originally, blend one into the next in Koertge's hands, and in the end, I would have been hard-pressed to tell you what happened in which, and how - if at all - the narrators differed.
There just weren't any stand-outs. Maybe it's because of my admitted immersion in fairy tales - maybe others who pick this up on a passing fancy, who don't read and breathe fairy tales, will find this fresh - but I felt like I'd seen it all before. This isn't necessarily bad on its own, because these are retellings, after all (so of course I've seen it before), but if you're going to put forth these "little gem" retellings, every effort needs to be made to make each and every one memorable in its own way. And when they're verse on top of that! well, every little bit of space matters. No word should be wasted; they should all serve a purpose. I know I hold things like this to a high standard, but there should be something, some turn of phrase or image or pleasing sound to the language itself that makes each story stand on its own. Instead, these felt (oh god, you have no idea how much it pains me to write this) amateurish. I cringe to write that, I really do, but the stories felt like writing prompts or Creative Writing 101 exercises. And in the end, whether because of their style or brevity, I quickly forgot them.
So maybe others won't feel this way, I don't know. Maybe people who don't eat, sleep and breathe fairy tales, and who haven't read a flipping shit-ton of short story retellings that take very similar tones and tacks to the ones in this book but do so better, will find this collection fresh and entertaining. At the very least, it's easily read in 1 sitting, so I would advise those who are considering picking it up to actually pick it up and flip through a few stories first - they're all pretty much the same, so if you like one, you'll probably like them all.
[And if instead you're looking for short fairy tale retellings with a variety of stories, styles, and twists, I cannot recommend enough the fairy tale anthology series edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow. Especially Silver Birch, Blood Moon, which I adore.](less)
I might go back to this at some point, but for now, I just don't care enough about any of it, and the writing is too shallow and easy to hold my atten...moreI might go back to this at some point, but for now, I just don't care enough about any of it, and the writing is too shallow and easy to hold my attention, so I'm setting it to the side.(less)
This is...going to be a bit of a weird, catch-all review, because the fact is, I have never listened to an entire audiobook. I've tried, I rea...more3.75-ish
This is...going to be a bit of a weird, catch-all review, because the fact is, I have never listened to an entire audiobook. I've tried, I really have, but generally the reader gets about 3 sentences out before I say, Um, no. The farthest I've ever gotten in an audio was about 1/4 of the way through The Forest of Hands and Teeth - and though I really actually did like the narration, the only reason I even picked it up was to refresh my memory on the story and style. So agreeing to review an audio was a gamble, as I let Laura know. And I'm going to try to address both the story and the audio aspect, but in the end, I feel like I can't quite separate the two, and couldn't tell you whether I liked the story because of the narration, or liked the narration because of the story.
Because I did like it. There was a huge adjustment period, though. Probably the first 40 minutes was spent with me not being able to focus and finding that my mind had drifted and 10 minutes of audio had passed with out me really absorbing a thing. And I can't really blame that on the story or the narration, because I don't think either was to blame. It's just...I don't like being read too. I was the weird kid that didn't say "Read me a story" but said "I can do it myself!" My mom has this habit of bringing magazines or articles to my attention and saying, "Did you see this?" and proceeding to read them to me. I'm sure most people would find them endearing, but my mom should know better. She knows I hate being read to. I really, really do and I couldn't not tell you why. It just makes my brain feel...cluttered. And I'm sure part of it is some insane control thing, too. So yeah, like I said, this was a gamble. I process differently when I'm listening instead of looking, and it took my brain a bit to switch over and accept that this was how the story was being told.
And if this wasn't for review, I probably would have given up. But I didn't. I had chores that needed doing, and where I normally listen to music while cleaning (because that is the only thing that gives me incentive to clean or *gulp* do laundry), I instead put in my headphones and settled into to listen to MSM. I was all prepared to slog through, and you know what? I instead found myself really liking it. I guess having mindless busy work to do gave me enough to focus on that my brain couldn't wander, and I actually started to absorb the story! I did more chores so I had an excuse to keep listening. Guys, this audiobook thing is genius.
So once my brain switched over and I could actually listen to the story, I found I really liked it. It's not necessarily anything I'm going to rave about or push on all of my friends, but my friends with sons will probably hear about it. It's funny and fairly wholesome, and I was surprised to find myself actually smiling on multiple occasions. Smiling is not something that normally happens while I do dishes... Weirdly, I think that the audiobook helped in this aspect. With an audiobook you can't look ahead, even accidentally, so things do take you by surprise and catch you off-guard, and this humor that crept upon me actually made me chuckle as a result.
And the voice acting was pretty magnificent. A.T. Chandler, who does the narration, reminded me a bit of Danny Elfman as the singing voice of Jack Skellington. (And I know, you're like, Why doesn't he remind you of Chris Sarandon, who did Jack's speaking parts? Is there singing in this book? But there's just a way that Elfman uses his voice, and though Sarandon does it too, I'm sure, it's most memorable and noticeable to me in Jack's songs.) Chandler did lots of different voices, and they all seemed seamless; I never had trouble knowing who was talking, because the voices were all distinctive and memorable. And he was good at accents and ages/sexes. The way he used his voice and the accents he used were part of what made me smile. I couldn't help picturing Jack, as I said, or Groundskeeper Willy, and a few other people. It was...neat. Where I generally have issues with the voices of narrators, I couldn't fault Chandler at all.
And in the end, I did end up liking Lord Arkus and his journey. He's a fun, unwillingly round character, who grows a lot and hates every minute of it (he says), and it was pleasant. I most especially loved the symmetry between Arkus trying to be a villain and ending up a hero, while his nemesis is trying to be a hero and ending up a villain. It was a charming, fun story that I think will appeal to young boys looking for an adventure story, and mothers who don't want their kid's adventure stories to be gruesome or age-inappropriate. And it convinced me that audiobooks aren't the devil, so I have to give it points for that. :) (less)
One of mybiggestselling points in any book is tension. I talk a lot in my reviews about tension, and generally it's because I'm talking about the lack...moreOne of my biggest selling points in any book is tension. I talk a lot in my reviews about tension, and generally it's because I'm talking about the lack of it. But what I mean when I talk about tension is a lot of things, actually. It's not just the internal tension in the story, between characters, say, or two factions. That's only part of it. When I'm talking about tension, I'm also talking about the way your gut reacts to a story. The best stories have tension you can actually feel. They cause an actual physical reaction inside of you, making you sit up straighter or curl in on yourself, feel butterflies or feel terror. They make your heart race or give you chills. They making reading a sensory experience, make you feel like you're more in the story. I could feel this story; the tension was beautiful.
This companion novel to Ship Breaker* has a very dark and hopeless atmosphere and is almost unrelenting in that darkness except that there are these bright moments to balance it: trust, love, companionship, hope - things that somehow manage to live on against the odds in the face of child soldiers and fanaticism and all manner of unspeakable atrocities. Don't get me wrong, nothing here is sugar-coated; the story remains incredibly dark, but not so relentlessly grim that you just can't bear to read it.
And the storytelling - the writing and tactics and plot devices - were very well done. This is a great example of shifting narrators that actually worked for me. In the past, I've talked about how this can be hit or miss for me, but this time it was a big hit. It's also a great example of anti-heroic characters that work and that still remain sympathetic and rootforable. Bacigalupi juggles things well and shifts seamlessly, and weaves each character's storylines together to make them more meaningful than they would be on their own. There were so many things that I stopped to read over, not for clarity but for the sheer power of it. It was sometimes breathtaking, but not in the way of any kind of beauty, really. More in the way that a punch to the gut is breathtaking. I just sometimes had to set the book in my lap and just linger over some things, process them or prepare myself for what I knew was coming. I love a book that engages me on this level, because it's rare enough on its own, and rarer still to have that last the whole way through the book.
It's fascinating from the dystopian/post-apocalyptic aspect, and I think those who have gotten used to the watered-down dystopias and post-apocalyptic books flooding the market lately will appreciate the vitality of this. Everything felt very critical, very authentic and very tenuous, with that skin-crawling layer that comes with well thought out dystopias. Vital, truly disturbing dystopias rely on things that could happen and/or do happen, and intelligently distill a future of what could be from what is. Good dystopias/PAs give you glimpses of insight into where everything went wrong, and then how they kept going wrong, and they shock your system with how easily it could all happen. Bacigalupi does this really well, sort of meditating on the choices we make and their snowball effects.
I don't know if there will be a third companion book, but there are loose ends in The Drowned Cities that could leave it open for one. I don't mention this as a drawback, however, as I think the loose ends were done in a good, believable way, and I like to have stories like this left up in the air a little bit. It gives something to discuss, something to think over and work out. This is not the type of book to have everything come together completely in the end, or to have a Happy Ever After for every character; it would have felt inauthentic if this had been the case, and a lot of the power of the story would have been lost as a result. As it is, the story is bittersweet, not bow-wrapped, and that's exactly as it should be.
*Note: To my understanding, The Drowned Cities is a loose companion to Ship Breaker, so if you haven't read Ship Breaker don't let that stop you - it didn't stop me! And I never felt like I was missing anything or not comprehending the scope of things; it definitely works well as a stand-alone, but makes me even more excited for when I finally do read Ship Breaker... Also, this is marketed to YA but there's no real YAness about it. It's just a book, well-written and as such I think will appeal as much or more to adults as to the teens it's marketed to.
Curious about The Drowned Cities? Read the first 11 chapters here for free! I doubt you'll want to put it down...(less)
INITIALLY: Whoa, wait a minute. More September? Woot! Edit: Just read the description, and Holy Effing Velocipedes, I want this NOW.
AND THEN: What can I...moreINITIALLY: Whoa, wait a minute. More September? Woot! Edit: Just read the description, and Holy Effing Velocipedes, I want this NOW.
AND THEN: What can I say that I didn't already say in my review of The Girl Who Circumnavigated? When I finished the first book, it felt complete. That's not to say there wasn't room for more, but it felt like it easily could have been a somewhat open-ended stand-alone book, and I was happy about that. But that doesn't mean I wasn't tickled to death to hear there was a book two - and that it dealt with September's shadow! In fact, I wasn't even nervous going into this that it was going to be a lesser book than the first, as I often am with sequels and 2nd-in-a-series books. I went into this fairly confident that Valente would masterfully avoid the Sophomore Slump, and I think she did. The Girl Who Fell is just as strong as its predecessor, but with a with a more mature, more insightful September at the helm.
Now, I think some people are going to find this a little...hmm - harder? to connect to; I think they'll find it less whimsical and a bit darker, and September a little more serious, and they may interpret that as the story losing some of its magic and charm. But I don't think that's the case, and I personally found it the opposite. I think it's simply that things have changed. September is older now (as our narrator coyly tells us, she now has the beginnings of a heart), and her perception and experiences are different. She's more thoughtful - and more hesitant - which I think for some readers will mean the magic is starting to die. Which in the scope of all things fairy is generally true - the older you get, the more it slips away... But September is still September, even though everyone around her is a shadow of what they're supposed to be (literally), and I think she still comes through very strongly. I actually really really love that September is starting to grow up (as much as we may not want her two); this makes her so much more authentic, AND ALSO this means that a younger audience reading this can potentially grow alongside September and relate to her, and that gives me Happy Reader Shivers.
But even if September is a little older, a little wiser, and a little more introspective, the fact remains that she's still September and she's still going to do Septemberly things and approach the world (both "real" and Fairyland) as only September would. And frankly, Fairyland-Below = awesome. It expands the world of Fairyland really nicely; familiar characters popped up in unexpected ways, and new characters crept in - many of them fleetingly so, as in the way of the first book, but what's so wonderful is that even the minor characters who just pop up and disappear are never confusing. Instead, they make the world full - everything has a place, everything has a purpose, and everything comes into play.
The struggle with the shadows and with Halloween (the Hollow Queen, ie September's sort-of-stolen shadow) are just fantastic. I loved that nothing is ever easy/black and white. I love that you begin to feel for the shadows and for Halloween just as much as you do for their tangible counterparts. I LOVE the idea of everyone's shadows just hanging out, being a part of you but never really getting to experience, never getting credit, never getting to do their own thing. The bittersweet, melancholic streak I talked about (and loved!) in Circumnavigated;is stronger in Fell; (shortest yet), and perfectly suited to Fairyland Below, AND to where all of the characters are now; it's not just September who has grown and changed, but all of the characters - even some you may not expect. There are FACETS. I like FACETS. Makes everything shiny.
Basically, I doubt anyone who liked Circumnavigated will dislike Fell; those that found the beginning of the first slow moving will find the same here, but again, it's a good slow. It's a savory slow. And it will once again charm the pants off kids and adults alike. (Um, scratch that; everybody keep your pants on. You can be charmed with pants.)
Valente is still the Queen of Nonsense, and I still mean that in the best of all possible ways. As far as I'm concerned, she always will be. Long may she reign.
So if you've read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and liked it, you should pick this up. If you haven't, you should do that. But if you can't pick it up just yet, maybe read this Fairyland short story to tide you over? ----->
But before you go, head over to my guest post from Catherynne (and while you're there, enter to win!!) (Ends 10/8/12) And don't forget to check out the other stops on the tour here!(less)
This book took me by surprise. I went into it expecting to like it - it was one of the very fewcontemporary novels of last year that I actually active...moreThis book took me by surprise. I went into it expecting to like it - it was one of the very few contemporary novels of last year that I actually actively wanted, the reviews were just that good. But even though I expected to enjoy it and get something out of it, I didn't expect for it to keep me up all night. I didn't expect for it to be the type of book that I wanted to just flip back to the beginning and start again once I'd finished. I didn't expect it to make me uncomfortable and empathetic, and cringey and butterfly-stomached. BUT IT DID.(less)
I was a little hesitant to read this, I'm not even going to lie. It's not that I don't like Jackson's writing (because I do), or that I thought that s...moreI was a little hesitant to read this, I'm not even going to lie. It's not that I don't like Jackson's writing (because I do), or that I thought that she would be heavy-handed and didactic and...zealous (because I didn't, really). It's just that there was the chance. I mean, a YA book that tackles virginity in terms of purity runs the risk of being much more god how do I say this without sounding close-minded narrow evil jaded awful what the hell I'll just go for it religious and saccharine and gee-golly-gosh wholesome for my tastes. It runs the risks of being a little too brain-washy for me. I like me some free thought, okay? Some exploration of deep issues and personal choice, not just a battle of lustfulness and godliness. (do not want.) [Also: is it wrong of me to say that I was also worried that there was a chance that I would lose respect for Jackson and her writing if that was the path it did take? Because that was part of the trepidation, I'm not going to lie. I avoid religious discussions whenever I can because I don't want to inevitably view people differently afterward... Unintentional moment of truth, there.]
FORTUNATELY, Jackson avoided all of the pitfalls I feared the story might fall into. It's much more coming of age - and coming to terms - than some heavy-handed emphasis on religion and purity. It is about questioning and finding yourself and your beliefs, whatever those may be. Shelby questions God - and questions everything - as she learns to navigate her relationships and discover who she is and what she thinks, feels, and wants. It's funny and poignant - and predictable, yes but not in a bad way. And it's super quick.
Now, here's for the opposite-of-me warning: I think the things I liked may offend some readers.Where I found it well handled and thought it was authentic and relatable, others may find it, uh...sinful? I'd venture to say that reading the synopsis should really be enough to tell you if you'd be offended or made uncomfortable by this book. It's all pretty laid out (pun accidental, but...eh, appropriate, I guess). At its core, it's not so simple, but on the surface, it IS a book about a girl trying to lose her virginity (with someone, anyone - a stranger, if need be) as a loophole in a promise to her parents, and that will inevitably bother some people. If you're one of those, you may want to skip this. (Though I think maybe you're exactly the type of person that needs to read this.)
I think also there are times people may find Shelby's relentless adherence to the "Rules" at any cost a bit ridiculous. Personally, I thought it made sense in a really sad, human way, so it didn't bother me too much. People do this. In real life, people do seemingly bizarre things like this. They hold on too tight and too long, and do absurd things out of love and guilt and fear of what's next, and because they don't know how to stop. They don't know what will happen if they stop, and it's easier not to confront whatever it is that this bizarre thing (like The Rules, or whatever it may be that people cling to) is helping to avoid. Added to the fact that Shelby's so young, and her reaction didn't really seem so farfetched anymore. But there are those who will always think it's farfetched, or will think it's forced for the purposes of the story. Or who just plain won't relate to Shleby.
But those two warnings aside, I think this is definitely worth the read. It was sweet and enjoyable, and engaging and quick. And even if it didn't necessarily knock my socks off and have me pushing it on everyone I knew, it still wasn't something I wanted to put down or pass on, which is really saying something considering how hesitantly I started it. [And it didn't make me think less of Jackson or her writing. If anything, it made me think better of both.](less)
This review has been a hard one for me to sit down and write. Crewelwas one of my most anticipated books of this year (I mean, hello, buzzwords!), and...moreThis review has been a hard one for me to sit down and write. Crewel was one of my most anticipated books of this year (I mean, hello, buzzwords!), and I was all ready to be impressed and count it among my favorites. But sadly, it ended up being one of my biggest letdowns.
Crewel lured me in almost immediately - the intro was strong and compelling, Adelice's predicament in trying to hide her talent, and all of the chaos and confusion of the beginning chapters were really effective and interesting. The world that was set up had all of the building blocks for something cool and memorable (though I sometimes had to fight through Albin's occasionally muddled writing to see those building blocks), and Adelice's voice was engaging - basically, the elements were there, and I was ready to love the story. BUT.
But then it just kind of fell apart. Albin sets up a world that isvery repressive, with very strict rules on pretty much everything, most especially gender roles and norms. There is strict gender segregation in nearly every aspect of life (especially for the young), a limited amount of jobs women can are allowed to perform, and ways in which they are expected to look while performing those jobs. Flirtation and gender-mingling is pretty much non-existent, and talk of sex and sex-related things is, understandably, taboo. This is the world Adelice has known, so when she's thrust into the world of the Spinsters (which is still really regimented and gender-segregated), and suddenly finds herself moving about in the world of lecherous, creepy Powerful Men, she's pretty shaken. This could have been really, really cool (and sometimes was); it had a Mad Men-esque vibe that made my skin crawl, and I really liked seeing the juxtaposition of naive-in-the-ways-of-the-world Adelice (and all of the other young Spinsters and Spinster-wannabes) with the really, supreme ickiness that men brought into this world. It was reminiscent of The Handmaid's Tale (which I love), and it was an element I wasn't expecting, so I was excited. BUT. (Again, there's that but.)
But when these two worlds collided, the characters and the rules became really inconsistent. There was a lot of slang (like, our slang, not slang of the Crewel-world), and attitudes toward sex/boys/attraction that just didn't gel with the world that had been set up. It was really hard to believe that all of these girls who had been raised with strict gender segregation and hardcore rules about sex would suddenly speak very freely about sex and teh hawties, that they'd be borderline predatory - and catty, and jealous, and vapid, and a million other things that just didn't suit - and that nobody would bat an eye. I suddenly found I didn't buy the characters or how they fit into their world - who they are and how they interact, relative to the world, caused a huge disconnect, the world was weakened, and I felt cheated. Things just didn't work with the world as it was set up. They could have* - it would have only taken minor tweaks - but instead things were contradictory and discordant, and they kept shaking me out of my WSOD. I felt deprived of what could have been a really interesting world - but a world very different from our own with characters like us superimposed on it just doesn't work. It feels phony and almost lazy.
Also - this had a serious case of the Typical YA Romance blahs. A touch of romance potential (a lingering look, a fastly-beating heart, a burgeoning curiosity**) to be built up over the length of the series, pitted against the icky aspects of Mad Men-style sexualization would have been much more interesting and believable. Instead, it was all Insta-Love-Triangles™ all over the place, and again, I felt cheated of the build-up and the potential power. Add to this all the jealousies and plots and it all became a little too soap opera for me. It did have some interesting dynamics I'd like to see explored more, but I want to see them explored as I think characters from this world would explore them, and not characters from our world. If you're going to tackle sexualization, sexual intimidation, homosexuality, gender roles, etc., please, Ms. Albin, do it as these characters from this world with this set of experiences would do. That has the potential to be so much more fascinating and powerful and memorable than Crewel as it is now, which unfortunately faded pretty quickly from my mind.
Essentially, I was looking for impact, but I got write-by-numbers - stock characters, lack of believability, and everything built on a foundation of sand. But maybe it wouldn't be such a letdown if I didn't see potential. Then, I could just write it off and be done with it. But the fact that it sort of actively disappointed me means that I saw where it could have been incredible (especially after that strong beginning), and it was so close, that I was left feeling cheated - but also hopeful that the series can somehow get back on track and leave me feeling more fulfilled than this book did. I guess only time will tell.
If you're curious, you can read chapters 1-5 here for free.
*A case can be made that the girls - even in their gender-segregated lives - were raised to be this way. And I would buy that - if it had been shown. There are touches (like girls growing up knowing that they can be only a handful of things, or like the girlish fantasy of being a Glamorous Spinster) that would begin to make a case for...hmm, indoctrination, I guess? into this type of role/behavior. But more was needed if that's the way this story was going to go.
**But good god, nothing so purple-prosey as that. =P(less)
There are always times when you think the concept of a book is so interesting and potentially awesome that you're sure you're going to be let down whe...moreThere are always times when you think the concept of a book is so interesting and potentially awesome that you're sure you're going to be let down when you read it. It's some little failsafe in our brains, preparing us for disappointment because we're pretty sure we're going to be let down. And then, when that doesn't happen, and we actually get what we are hoping for - there's this moment of shock. It's a little thrilling, actually. And it's all the more special for being rare. Thankfully - for me, at least - I Hunt Killers delivers one of those moments.
Barry Lyga gave me exactly what I was looking for. The Nature vs. Nurture debate is one of the most interesting to me, and in a story like this, where a boy is essentially being groomed to be the world's finest Serial Killer Extraordinaire by his, um - talented? - father, Nature vs. Nurture takes center stage. Jazz's father has been in jail for 4 years by the time the book opens, but Jazz can't really get out from under his shadow. He's been programmed to see the weaknesses in people, and his own superiority, and then to use that. Being in his head, the reader gets to see what a struggle it is for Jazz to have any kind of normalcy. He clings to the things that make him human because he's terrified that he's a ticking timebomb - he's just waiting for something to set him off. He tries so hard to remind himself to be normal, because he's so terrified that he's not. It's like N.vs.N. in a petri dish - a one-man psychological experiment in whether we really have any control over who we become.
Psychologically, this book could not have been any more what I wanted it to be. It was exactly what I was hoping for, unsettling and a little heartbreaking, fascinating and creepy. The doubt (both on Jazz's part and on the reader's, for Jazz) was just perfect. The way Jazz pushes people away and tests them to see if they'll finally give up on him - it's almost like a part of him is waiting for someone to give him permission. For someone important to him to show that they think he's hopeless, so that he can finally let go of the tension and the burden of trying not to be his dad, and just give in to what he perceives to be inevitable. He's so hyper-aware of everything, every advantage and disadvantage. Jazz, and the narration, was knowingly calculating, which is chilling on its own, but what's great is that it chills Jazz too - but not enough to stop him from doing what has to be done.
The tone, too, was exactly what I wanted. It's darkly humorous at times, and other times just plain dark, but it's prevented from being completely bleak by the human connections in Jazz's life. It's through them that you know Jazz isn't a lost-cause, because they see the humanity in Jazz that he's tortured himself into pretending doesn't exist. Through them, you know he has the potential to be loving, to be a good person, and you see the burdens he places on himself - and all the while, that good portion of his life is being constantly undermined by Jazz's impressions of himself and his fear that any good he does, any love he feels, is just an act. The blind his inner serial killer hides behind. It's fascinating.
And interlaced with all of this, there are snippets of things Jazz saw or did with his father, as well as snippets of narration from the current Lobo's Nod serial killer, which help escalate the tension and show what Jazz really is up against and why he's so haunted. The way these scenes from his past creep up on him and never let him have peace were a really nice layer to the story. All of it - the killer's obsession and plotting, Jazz's understanding of the horrors and his own calculation, his grandmother's craziness and his father's sociopathic glee - all of that combines to make it a really gripping read. And though it's gruesome, it's never gratuitous. Lyga eschews continual bloodbaths and cheap startles in favor of a layered psychological thriller that is far more chilling as a result.(less)
I'm always a little leery of self-published works, so when a self-published author emails me asking to review, I always go looking for an excerpt firs...moreI'm always a little leery of self-published works, so when a self-published author emails me asking to review, I always go looking for an excerpt first. Almost always, the answer is then a polite, "Um, no." But occasionally the excerpt will win me over and have me intrigued enough to start thinking a hesitant, "Yeah, sure?" The excerpt I found for Titan Magic led to a much more resounding, "Yes, please! Gimme, gimme!" But excerpts can fool you, so I was still a teensy bit hesitant. That is, until I actually picked the book up, because within the first chapter, my hesitancy went out the window and it never showed its face again. Titan Magic is easily one of my favorite things I've read this year. For realsies.
When I finished it, my initial one-line review on GR was 'This is a book to be discussed, not rated' which means this is going to be a difficult review to write. (And yet watch how long I can blather on. Talent, people!) But seriously. As I said in my review of Shadows on the Moon, I would love to read this in a lit class or book club because I would love to have passionate, face-to-face discussions with people about it. It's complex and intriguing, and will potentially make some people uncomfortable, which to me is the hallmark of a good discussion book. But beyond that, it's really readable and engaging - you can't have a discussion if 1/2 the people there couldn't be bothered to finish the damn thing. With this, I don't think that would be a problem.
The world building was fantastic. The world, or more accurately, the setting, is very insular for such a huge story, which was kind of neat. The whole thing is based in mythology, philosophy and religion, but it's done in a very organic way. It's very folkloric, with lots of fairy tale and mythology references, but it's not bogged down by them. The most, um...religiously sensitive? among you may be put off by a few things here or there, but then, I wouldn't expect you to be reading a fantasy about people "playing god" and trying to create life, so... As I said, it may make some people uncomfortable, though I don't think that's ever the intent. (Basically, the people made uncomfortable are going to be the people who are always made uncomfortable. By everything. Ever.) Personally, I found the philosophical and moral implications really fascinating, part of what would make this such a good book to sit and chat about, and it added this great layer to the story and the world. The slight totalitarianism of the society added a nice layer, too. But mostly the idea of love - in all its forms, with no such thing as good or bad love - that comes through strongest in the end added warmth and humanity that really set Titan Magic apart.
From here on out, things get slightly spoilery (not much, but some), so you have been warned. ... ... ...
The main character, Maddy, is so very rootforable. Throughout the story, she learns that not only is she not quite normal, she's not even quite human, and her struggle to understand what she is and to decide for herself whether she can ever be more (or even ever should be more), was really gripping. Like a good philosophical debate, the reader questions how things should turn out and whether there can be - or should be - a happy ever after for Maddy, or anyone else involved. Maddy has to struggle with not only what she is at her core, but whether, as potentially powerful as she is, she has any amount of control. The idea of being a vessel for other people, of being a slave to others emotions and having them rampage through you, yet never feeling your own and not even being sure if you can have emotions, was really intriguing. And as I've statedinthepast, I love an unusual or silent character, and even if Maddy's silence sort of had loopholes, she certainly fits the bill of out-of-the-box characters I love. Her need to find her voice is a good metaphor for her story in general, but even if you don't want to get all metaphor-y, Maddy just works as a character. She's relatable even when her circumstances aren't, and it all just makes for really interesting reading.
More interesting, though, and very impressive, was that it had me constantly reevaluating not only what I wanted to happen, but what should happen and what needed to happen. And Maddy questions this, too, which is part of what makes her a great and intriguing character. Everything is built on shifting sands, and I was constantly wondering where and when the sinkhole was going to open up and swallow everyone whole. This, like some of the philosophical nature of the book, is something I think may make people uncomfortable because they like to have a clear idea of who to root for, who to fall for and who to hate. But for me, the best stories are never cut and dry. Everyone is flawed and even the most flawed can be good. Lamm really capitalized on this.
Now, there was a time about 2/3 of the way through that the train got derailed a little bit. Part of it, I think, was Lamm's exploration of gray area and those shifting sands I was talking about. It seemed to lose focus a touch, or like too much was going on/in the air, for it to really come clear. I think some people would be more bothered by this than I was because I think some people get really irritated when they're confused. But though it began to feel a little chaotic, it worked because it suited the core of the story, and it pulled together in the end, anyway. The only reason it even bears mentioning was because for literally the rest of the book, both before and after this rough patch, I was just sort of enthralled and never doubting a single thing. I read every line rabidly and it all seemed so smooth and perfect that any little deviation from that was bound to stand out.
In the end, I am so very happy Jodi emailed me, and so very happy that I have a habit of looking up excerpts. I enjoyed myself thoroughly reading this, and think it's one I'll want to reread in the future so I can get different things from it each time. And, um, I know I used the word 'philosophical' a lot in this review, but don't be put off by that. That's just me being a Very Happy Geek, but even if you're not the type for philosophical discussions, Titan Magic is a very fun, fast-paced book, too. I can't wait to start pushing it on people because, as I've said in the past, I am a tabber - I have lots of little post-it flags sticking out of this book, and though I'd love to share them with you here, I'd rather not spoil them for you because they're going to be so lovely when you come upon them yourself. But until you do - until someone does - I have no one to discuss them with, so I need to start pushing.
Okay, okay, I'll give you one. I love a strong character who knows herself, and I love a strong statement, so this one kind of gave me chills:
"So what good is a soul to me? I am what I am. The only one who needs me to be anything else is you."
I like Vaudeville. If it wasn't on my list of buzzwords, it should be. I guess it's kind of a subheading under Circus, which is all under the umbrella...moreI like Vaudeville. If it wasn't on my list of buzzwords, it should be. I guess it's kind of a subheading under Circus, which is all under the umbrella of Spectacle, and I love Spectacle. Which is why, even though this is somewhat out of the realm of books I'd normally accept for review, I accepted it. (I mean, early 1900s Old NYC vaudeville? Don't mind if I do!) And though I definitely liked Cameron's view of vaudeville as it sort of crumbles into the past, the rest of the book left me feeling sort of lukewarm.
Mostly I think it was that it felt a bit rushed. I would have liked more development to the characters - all of the characters, because the side characters had the potential to be fascinating, too. I wanted more of their side stories and escapades, and more emotional development throughout. There were some really interesting things going on in the story that gave it the potential to be more compelling (Pepper's unrepentant friendship/closeness to a lesbian character, which would have been fairly controversial; her turn as an unintentional mistress, and general sexual predatoriness, as well as the social mores versus the looser atmosphere of the stage; the clash between stage and the burgeoning world of film, etc.) that I found really fascinating, and wanted more of - but the book just barely scratches the surface of these things. It left me feeling a little unfulfilled, like there was wasted potential.
And the characters - and even to an extent, the plot - were a little lackluster for me. In fact, within a week of finishing it, I found myself struggling to remember names and details. The world was vivid, and I think so much of Cameron's focus went into building an authentic, accurate world, that the other aspects suffered. But until I was able to connect with the characters more fully, the world was the saving grace. I liked Pepper ok-enough, but I actually liked the other characters more. I sometimes found Pepper a little hard to connect to or root for, at least early in the story, anyway, and in general, I preferred Gregory Creighton's narration. I found him a more fascinating character, and scenes with him felt more authentic. I would have loved to see more of his story, and of everyone's story - and a little less of Pepper in her own world.
But for all that I couldn't help thinking it was fluffy and somewhat forgettable as I was reading, I found myself fairly engrossed. It's mostly really wholesome, which works for the time, and opens it to a wider audience, and it was a quick and easy read. I didn't necessarily think much about it when I'd set it down, though - nothing compelled me to pick it up again. But when I did pick it up, I found myself engaged pretty easily, and I did quite like how it ended, and the potential the ending holds for all of the characters. It just was never quite enough to make me feel I had to read it, had to know what was going to happen. And that's probably because, as I mentioned in my Rewind vlog, it felt like a Hallmark movie - you pretty much know the minute you start this where it's going to go and how it's going to end and the emotional investment is pretty much zilch - but for some reason, that doesn't stop you from watching or enjoying them. (less)
3.5ish. Stormdancer was one of my most eagerly anticipated reads of this year, between the excellent premise and the endless rave reviews I kept seeing...more3.5ish. Stormdancer was one of my most eagerly anticipated reads of this year, between the excellent premise and the endless rave reviews I kept seeing of it - but it almost didn't make it out of the gate. (less)