Marissa Meyer's debut, Cinder, made mylist of faves in 2011, so of course I was really looking forward to the second book in the Lunar Chronicles seMarissa Meyer's debut, Cinder, made my list of faves in 2011, so of course I was really looking forward to the second book in the Lunar Chronicles series, Scarlet - especially 'cause LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD ZOMG! Ahem. Excuse me. LRRH is one of my favorite tales for a number of reasons - not least of which is because of how really fricken disturbing it is - and I love to see what people make of it when they retell it. And though I think Cinder still has a (cyborg) leg up for sheer uniqueness, for the most part, Scarlet was thoroughly engaging and happy-making, just like its predecessor.
I talked a bit in my review of Cinder about how I love when a fairy tale retelling can stand on its own - when the original fairy tale elements are clearly there, but the story isn't mired in them. Cinder did this really well, and fortunately Scarlet stands on its own as well. I think with LRRH this is a little harder to do; I mean, a red cap or red hair, a trip to/search for grandma, a wolf of any kind - the barest whiff of any of these screams Little Red Riding Hood to people. We're used to rags-to-riches stories, so it sometimes escapes a heavy Cinderella parallel, but with LRRH, it's harder to not be obvious. (Am I making any sense?) But I think Meyer uses the fairy tale elements judiciously (and wisely, judging from the changes she made, which she highlights in her guest post at A Backwards Story), and though the LRRH-ness is always there, it never overwhelms the story. In this version, Red (aka Scarlet Benoit) and Wolf (aka, um...Wolf) retain some measure of their fairy tale aspects, but they each stand on their own quite nicely. I really, really liked both characters quite a bit (though not always together, though I'll get to that). Scarlet is strong, smart and fierce, and I couldn't help but love her. Wolf is enigmatic, a bit dangerous, but charming, and has a slight Bad Boy tang, but without the unsavory aftertaste (Wolf he may be, and Alpha he may be, but an Alpha A-hole he is not, and Hallelujah for that). The more minor characters are fantastic as well - the old familiar ones who pop up again, as well as the new additions. Meyer crafts great characters for readers to love and/or love to hate.
The one problem I had, though, was sort of character-related: there are a lot of them. It's not that it's ever confusing, or that the cast of characters is even all that huge. The problem lies in the fact that they each have to have their time in the spotlight: there are multiple narrators/POVs, multiple plot-lines going on, and as a result, it sometimes felt like the focus was split. Cinder got an entire book to herself, but Scarlet has to share, which makes me worried for Cress and Winter. Now, this is tricky, because I love Cinder, and I would have been disappointed if she didn't have a part in this (and I liked her part in this, truly). Also, I think there would have been mutiny if Cinder didn't have a part in this, because hello? book one's cliffhanger... But it's hard to build as much tension and make readers care as much for the new characters - and any romance that may be developing - when they're giving up a lot of their screen time to everybody else. I loved Scarlet and Wolf, but as for loving them together, I think I mostly did because I was supposed to, and not necessarily because I was given no choice but to - there are some excellent moments of tension and building chemistry, but there's not enough there yet to make me love their love, or whatever may come. (Especially given the time frame of the book.)
Now, this is not in any way to say that I don't see chemistry there, or that I didn't like either of them, because that would be totally false. The chemistry was palpable, and I loved Scarlet and Wolf almost as much as Cinder and Kai - just not as swoon-worthy couple (yet). But I can see it getting there, and I certainly liked what each brought to the story, not just in themselves, but in the way their characters and backgrounds expanded the world of the story. Each brought new pieces of information to the table that embellished the world and added to the understanding of the Lunars, their powers, and Queen Levana's endgame. The story grows nicely as a result, and Meyer has set up a strong basis for where the series is going, making me very eager for Cress and Winter, which frankly, can't come out soon enough. And on a side note: I'd sure love to see these made into films; I have a feeling they could be pretty kickass. ...more
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 IINITIALLY: 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!...more
4.5. I guess I should start by telling you how much I love the classics - how I was this weird little girl who read Oliver Twist like 45 times, or got4.5. I guess I should start by telling you how much I love the classics - how I was this weird little girl who read Oliver Twist like 45 times, or got more excited about the box of illustrated classics I got for Christmas when I was 9 than I was for the toys (in fact, I remember none of the toys, but still have most of the books). And I should probably tell you about how much I adore Francis Hodgson Burnett, and have read The Secret Garden more times than should be mentioned in polite society.
I should tell you this so that you understand the equal parts excitement and trepidation I feel when someone says they are rewriting a classic, especially one so beloved. There's always the chance that it's going to be a giant fail, and that I will be stuck with forever associating it with a favorite book of mine. But thank you, grilled cheesus, this was not even a little bit fail. Ellen Potter really managed to capture the things I loved about The Secret Garden but still make them her own, which is no easy feat. She managed to capture the atmosphere of TSG, which is impressive because we live in a much less isolated world now. But for all that, people still feel isolated, which is one of the keys of the story. Potter captures both senses of isolation, the actual physical isolation and the way people close themselves off, and she worked them together beautifully.
Potter also captures the tone of the original. There's a dreaminess that I think a lot of children's books fail to capture, but that Burnett and Potter have. It makes me wistful, makes me miss being a kid, exploring and lounging in the hazy days of summer. Reading these books is almost like a memory - something is triggered and you can almost feel it again. And there's a longing that comes with that, a sort of knowledge that it can't go on forever, so it's bittersweet. Potter weaved this atmosphere, this feeling, throughout the book, and it made me connect to it in the way that I absolutely love, and that all children's books should strive for. It was a lovely reading experience because of it.
But what's most impressive is that she captured the heart of the book. I really, really liked Roo's blossoming. OMG that was a horrible pun. But I'm leaving it because it's totally true, and is an element that was carried over nicely from The Secret Garden. The whole story at its core is really about blossoming, about growth. About making connections to something outside of yourself, sending out your roots and flourishing. This is true of the garden and the characters (metaphors!!! *jazz hands*), and is part of what makes the story so charming and so relatable. Potter captures that growth and that sort of awakening really well.
Roo was charmingly dysfunctional. And just charming in general. As were most of the side characters. I think some of the negative aspects of personalities from the original were removed or sort of shifted. There wasn't really much of a mean schoolmarmy thing going on, or as much of a petualant, sick child. It was there, just a little milder. Roo was much more likable early on than Mary was. I think because you can immediately see how much she is hurting, where as Mary just seems spoiled. There is still a tinge of darkness to the story, but I think it's a more understandable darkness for a modern audience, and it never intrudes to the point of making a character unlikable.
My one drawback was that it ended a little too abruptly for me. Well, maybe not abruptly, but the end was lacking a little of the finesse that had made it so lovely. It's such a short book, so when a short book that is well developed throughout suddenly lets off at the end, it always makes me feel a little cheated. I can't help thinking in such instances, You weren't running out of room - it's a short book! Add a little, finish it out nicely for me. I hate loving and loving and loving something, only to end it saying "Oh..." [This is not to say it's a bad ending, necessarily, or that the book is any less worth reading. Just that - it didn't match up, and it left me a teeny bit disappointed.]
But that being said, it is a highly enjoyable story for those who have read The Secret Garden, and for those who haven't, as well as for middle grade and adult readers alike. Plus, there's the Faigne. Worth reading, if only for that... ...more
I've read other things by Dunkle before (The Hollow Kingdom, The House of Dead Maids), and one of the things I really like about her is that she seemsI've read other things by Dunkle before (The Hollow Kingdom, The House of Dead Maids), and one of the things I really like about her is that she seems willing to confront the darker aspects, the things that make you uncomfortable. This is something I've come to associate with her, and I really do like it. But another thing I've come to associate with Dunkle is stories that come so close to making me feel the need to push them into everybody's hands, but not quite making it. This was true of By These Ten Bones. I think I wanted to love it more than I did, and I wanted to want to push it on everybody - but I didn't. This makes it sound like I didn't like it, or even that I was disappointed with it, neither of which is very accurate. I do want to push it on recommend it to some people, but not everybody. I just...it always felt like there was just some barrier we couldn't push through. The story and I were held back by something, something was missing and I don't know what it was. But I could feel it.
Alright, this is the weirdest analogy ever (maybe only topped by my soup vs. Soup analogy), but say you were eating your favorite ice cream sundae, and it's delicious; it has scoops of rich chocolate and fragrant vanilla ice cream topped off with nuts and cherries and sprinkles and whatever the hell else you put on it. And you like it, it's good - but something's missing, and you can't figure out what until you get to the last bite and you realize you forgot the damn caramel sauce. It's still a really good sundae, but you know how much better it can be with the little addition of that salty-sweet caramel, and now you're disappointed.
That's sort of how this is. Or maybe it's not like that at all. (I mean, it's a book, not a sundae. And why do all of my analogies have food?) But something about this book left me feeling incomplete, and it wasn't big enough to really stand out, but rather left me with that subtle nagging feeling that something that would put it over the top, something that would make me love it instead of like it, was missing. And I really don't know how else to explain it.
Part of me feels like maybe it was just a by-product of the style. It's very folkloric, very sparse in style and even in plot, pared back and bare bones. It's told very simply and somewhat slowly, too, and maybe that's what left me with that nagging feeling - maybe I wanted something more lyrical, or something I could connect to more, emotionally? Either way, the style does work for the story and does help build something really atmospheric and foreboding. There's a good sense of place and tension, and I worried for the characters and how everything would turn out. I also feel like it's something I would read again, maybe even multiple times. But I don't think everyone will connect to it - I think it will be too spare, too simple, or too weird for some people to get past.
But for those who do, they'll find a really interesting tale of Otherness unlike most of the YA fare out there, and one that is worth their time. Even if there is an indefinable something missing... ...more
When The Sea is Rising Red was a little bit of an odd reading experience for me. It was one of my most anticipated reads of 2012, so when3.5-4 range.
When The Sea is Rising Red was a little bit of an odd reading experience for me. It was one of my most anticipated reads of 2012, so when I got my hands on it awhile back, I was super excited and maybe holding it to too-high a standard. I think it suffered a little for that, because it couldn't quite live up to my enthusiasm and was a little lackluster as a result. It grew on me but it wasn't as powerful or gripping as I was hoping for. There are times when I thought it was going to be, little moments that shined or things that Hellisen does well that made me almost fall for it, but there was something always holding me back just a bit.
Mostly, I think the thing holding me back was Felicita. As a protagonist, she is hard to like. She's spoiled and self-centered, and even though she does take this huge, admirable leap to take control of her fate and be strong, she's still very much a product of her upbringing throughout. Though I can't really fault her for that (or Hellisen; it is realistic, after all), it does make it hard to root for her. But she does grow considerably, and part of me knows that this was the point of her character, but it still was hard to cheer for her or want to read her story at times. It always made sense that she'd think the way she does, that she'd look down on people and be somewhat narrow-minded, but chances are it will put some readers off - those who are not fans of anti-heroes or aren't patient or willing to wait for things to come around and for her to get with it. But even beyond that, I couldn't help but feel that Felicita was sort of incidental at times, that she wasn't really needed; that she was just the gateway into the story, and that things probably would have happened exactly the same with or without* her. This is not necessarily bad; it can be kind of intriguing, actually. But I didn't get as much out of her as I would have liked, other than that she brought me to these other characters that I loved. But she can be introspective and she is curious, so she does bring things to light and allow us to see this world through her eyes. I was able to forgive her most things because of that.
[*I'm sorry if I just put Bono in your head...]
What made up for Felicita, though, was Pelimburg and the creatures who populated it. The world-building was excellent (for me, at least. I'm sure some will find it confusing and frustrating, but I ate it up.) Pelimburg was genuinely interesting and felt very lively and full. I liked Felicita's exploration of it, and her attempts to let go of "Felicita" and become "Firel" so that she could escape into something else (even though she can never seem to leave Felicita behind). The rest of the characters are fun and I adored a number of them. They made me wish for a longer book because I wanted more pagetime for them; I wanted to get more of their stories, more of their thoughts and actions and how they came to be together (even though the slight mystery, always-has-been-ness of it all really worked). I also really liked the take on magic and folklore, with different cultures, backgrounds and superstitions adding a really nice layer to the story. And it all had a sort of desolate, dreary, hopeless feel to it, which I loved, and which kept me going where Felicita sometimes did not.
Another thing I absolutely did love was the treatment of love - or not so much even that, but attraction. Hellisen avoids a lot of the pitfalls of most YA, portraying attraction and romance in a much more realistic, muddled, confusing way. It's not the stereotypical YA romance, even though there is a love triangle(ish). What love is there, what romance and triangularness and flirtation and confusion, etc., felt more human and authentic in its treatment than you generally find; it's bumbling and cringe-worthy in that really good, awkward, realistic way, and (thankfully) completely ignores the idea of swooning, mushy lovestuff. This alone means that I'll be keeping an eye on what Hellisen does in the future.
But the fact remains, when I finished the last page and closed the book, I didn't feel the need to immediately tell someone about it or push it on anyone. I knew that any pushing I did do would be qualified ("Read this, it's neat, but..."). Again, I think part of this was just because of my own expectations and inexplicable excitement for the book, and that's not really fair of me. And there's part of me that wonders if I may appreciate it more on further readings. There is something there that lingered with me, and there is certainly a part of me that wants more of the world and its cast of characters. So it did sort of worm its way into me, and that's a plus in my book. (I mean, it stuck with me well enough that I'm able to review it and recall things months after reading it, which can be a rarity for me.)
As I said, it was an odd experience. In the end, I do recommend this, but with qualifiers - know yourself as a reader. If you aren't put off by the negatives I've listed, and are intrigued by the rest, definitely pick this up. But if you're easily confused or frustrated with complex, unusual world-building or oft-times frustrating MCs, or you like your romances immediate and swoony, you might want to skip it. As for me, I think I might read it again at some point, when I can come to it with fresh eyes. And I'll certainly be keeping a lookout for what Cat does next, since this was her debut and all; I'm intrigued to see what she'll do next and how she'll grow. ...more
There has been a huge upswing in the amount of dystopian and dystopian-like books written in the past few years. Some are excellent. Some have excelleThere has been a huge upswing in the amount of dystopian and dystopian-like books written in the past few years. Some are excellent. Some have excellent premises that are just not quite carried off. And some have premises that leave you kinda scratching your head. Despite all of the good things I've heard about Gabrielle Zevin, I was afraid this was going to fall in the latter category. I mean, a world where chocolate and caffeine are banned, but alcohol is not? And since that was all that was really being said about the book, it seemed like a pretty thin basis for a dystopia - hell, for a book in general. I was...hesitant. I've been burned by a thin premise before.
But here's the thing (well, the things): 1. The dystopian-like elements of this are almost incidental. They play a part (a big part), but it's not a dystopian story. 2. No matter how questionable elements in your world are, if you do them well, they will work. If you build it they will come. If you back your shit up, I'll buy in.
And I did. So, to break it down: This is being tossed around as a dystopia, and like I said, the elements are there. But I am a firm believer that dystopia means something. Dystopia - like satire - is used to highlight some aspect of society, to show us what could be from what is. It's a magnifying glass held to our flaws, our society taken to its logical extremes, and all with the mantra that it's for our own good. All These Things I've Done does have a smidge of that, but it's lacking the verve, the fervor, the ardency that comes with A Message. And the reason is that it's not really about that. Zevin's dystopian society just is. It's not being used as a spotlight, and not even completely as a catalyst, but more just as a backdrop to the real story. It's no different than an alien world or a fictionalized contemporary world. It's simply a matter of 'this is what it is, and this is what we know.' No one's fighting (yet), no one's being made martyrs - it's not about that. It's more that this is just the world that is, and this is one girl's story in it.
This is a simple story of a girl who gets caught up in a whole lot of mess when the world starts noticing her and she starts noticing it back. So let's move on from the dystopia into what it really is. I've read reviews from a few friends who felt like they weren't able to connect to the characters or that Anya and the narration was really detached. This was one of my favorite things. The main character, Anya, is a bit of a cold fish. She has led a really hard life and has an insane amount of pressure on her shoulders, all the while trying to get out from under the shadow of her family and what they represent (which, as the daughter of a slain mob boss, is no easy feat). Anya's reservedness and tendency to go cold in her narration, to recap things and make less of them - I found this perfectly in keeping with her character and the world/character-building. I understood her thoughts and reactions, and her standoffishness and fierce need to protect. I liked her reluctance and pragmatism, especially where Win is concerned. It made her seem more real to me, and in some ways, more relatable. Everything she is and does has a basis in her past, and that comes through palpably.
Generally, I felt this was true across the board. I found all of the characters pretty relatable and I thought they added to my understanding of Anya and her world pretty nicely. Yes, some are cardboard and I could have wished for something more dynamic, but in the telling, somehow it still works. Anya's constant "Daddyisms" - wise words from her mobster father - made sense and helped build the picture. The whole family unit, who they are and how they react and are portrayed, that all worked for me. Win was a little too good and Gable a little too bad...But I do think Win is a good love interest, even if the whole thing creeps dangerously close to something that would normally irritate me (Romeo & Juliet bullshiz. Which this is, as it is essentially a retelling, star-crossed lovers and all that jazz). But Anya's behavior saves it for me, cold-fish that she is. I could have done more shades of gray, but that is all really in hindsight because, as I said, as I was reading, it all just worked for me.
All that said, there were 2 things that bothered me. I mentioned the choc/caff banning as being a BIT ridiculous, but I can see a banning happening. I can even see coffee speakeasies and black market extra dark chocolate bars. What I CANNOT see is people getting high off of a candy bar. I mean, we all joke about being chocoholics, but come on now. I don't buy an honest-to-AA caffeine addict, I just don't. But this was minimal-ish and I got over it. The second thing that bothered me hit me like a ton of bricks and is spoilery, so if you don't want to know...
PRE-SPOILER (you can read this, it's safe) I reallyreallyreallyreallyreallyreally liked the relationship between Anya and Scarlet, her best friend, through most of the book. I was so damn happy to be reading a book with a female main character who gets along with other female characters. We all had a best friend in high school and for the most part, they weren't back-stabbing c*nts. I am so beyond sick of this Mean Girl trend I CAN'T EVEN TELL YOU. So I was reading, and there was no Mean Girl-ness - even from the school gossip, who I was just waiting to turn bitchy - and I was giddy with the idea that there was going to be a healthy female relationship in a YA book. And it wasn't even saccharine and fake - these two do have problems, they do have arguments and disagreements. But then they do this miraculous thing where they talk about them and remain friends. It was heaven. And then.
SPOILER(view spoiler)[ And then Scarlet did something that I can't forgive, even if Anya could. Scarlet began dating Gable, Anya's ex-boyfriend, who'd tried to date-rape her and then told the school she was a slut when she wouldn't sleep with him. And then Aw-hellll-no Misty came out, and I was ....argh. My Book Chat on pet peeves came out shortly there after, in which I mentioned that I am working my way up to the "douchebags and Mean Girls" rant because I can't make it past unintelligible cursing quite yet. So no points for Scarlet. Pissed me RIGHT the fuck off. And they get it back on track. There are reasons Scarlet dates him, and she's a big softy, and Anya forgives her so I guess I'm supposed to, too. BUT I WON'T. (hide spoiler)]
That flaw knocked it back some, but it didn't ruin my enjoyment of the book by any means. I'm confident Anya can take care of herself, and Gable certainly gets what's coming, and probably will forever and ever amen, so I'm good with that. Scarlet's bad choice wasn't enough to spoil my the book for me, and Anya's voice and the overall dark tone of the story worked for me enough that, coupled with the hints of where this series is going, I'm certainly eager to see more.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Initial excitement: Ok, I DEFINITELYneed to getHAVE this!!! Thanks, Ksenia!
First I want to start with a HUGE THANK YOU to Ksenia of Polish OutlanderInitial excitement: Ok, I DEFINITELYneed to getHAVE this!!! Thanks, Ksenia!
First I want to start with a HUGE THANK YOU to Ksenia of Polish Outlander for being awesomesauce and surprising me with a copy of this.
I kind of don't know where to begin other than to say I fell in love with this. The illustrations are just perfectly stylized and atmospheric, and incredibly expressive. This probably has less text than any graphic novel I've ever read (entire pages go by with no words), and yet it doesn't lack for story. It's always so clear and complete - I never felt it was lacking simply from not having a lot of text. The story is fully there in the pictures, which not a lot of graphic novels pull off or even attempt. Furthermore, her style was distinctive and memorable. It reminded me somewhat of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis in the simplicity and almost cuteness of the black and white illustrations, but Brosgol has definitely put her stamp on it.
Beyond the fact that the illustrations are just perfect, the book works on so many levels. Brosgol has a great sense of humor - in Anya and in the illustrations - that acts as a good counterpoint to the growing tension and unease regarding her ghost, Emily, who she meets when she falls down a well.
And speaking of Emily - oh, I loved her. I mean, you don't ever not see what's coming with her (did that make sense?), but it's so delightful watching her morph from this little lonely ghost to this maniacal sort of poltergeist with a vengeance. She's a sweet little nutjob, and I loved it. And Brosgol's depiction of her and the way her character evolves as her story is slowly revealed is fantastic.
She goes from this:
and I loved every minute of it. On that level, it was a great classic ghost story, a creepy story of control and obsession and longing.
But it's not just a ghost story. Anya's Ghost is also a bit of a coming of age story, and an immigrant/Outsider story that makes Anya relatable and lovable (even when you want to smack her). Brosgol created Anya's voice really well, and captured both her desire to be normal and mainstream as well as her awkwardness and insecurity and bitterness about what it means to actually be mainstream.
Do you ever have those books where, when you try to recommend them to someone, all you can come up with is "Just read it"? I know I've kind of rambled, and just shoved pictures in your face, but - just read it....more
Even though I'm normally a little hesitant about books that have really pretty covers and lots of excited squeeing attached, when this came out last yEven though I'm normally a little hesitant about books that have really pretty covers and lots of excited squeeing attached, when this came out last year, it went straight on my wishlist. To balance the squeeing, I did see some pretty thorough reviews from trusted people, so I figured there was a good chance I would like this one, despite the pretty cover curse. So imagine my delight when the Polish Outlander sent it to me for Christmas!
Just after Christmas, I was in a little bit of a reading funk. Even though I have a lot of great stuff that I'm excited to read, and even though I know there are a lot of books on my TBR that I'm fairly sure I will like (some even love), I just couldn't seem to find something to suit my mood. In fact, I couldn't even figure out what I was in the mood for; it was just one of those listless funks you go through every now and then. On New Years Eve, I was sick in bed but wide awake, and I really wanted to read something, so I grabbed a big stack of books and decided I would read a page of each, and whatever captured my attention would be the one I'd go with -- first book of the new year. Flash-forward about 5 hours, when I'm still wide awake with no idea of the time (really, really late), laughing aloud as I tear through Paranormalcy.
I'm always hesitant to write a purely glowing review. Even amidst all the good of a book, there's generally something that I caution people about. But when I think about Paranormalcy, I'm hard-pressed to come up with negatives. It was the prefect funk-breaker. The world Kiersten White creates is a lot of fun, and there is great room to grow over the course of the series, which I love. Evie is an absolutely delightful character. She's fun and fresh and youthful in such a great way, but she's rounded enough -- she begins to question and doubt enough -- to make her more dynamic and fully fleshed out. And she's a great narrator to have leading you through the book because she's got a really enjoyable voice and great sense of humor (which means White has a great sense of humor. It shows through out the book). It's a really refreshing read, and I think Evie is really relatable in such a great way, even when the circumstances she is in are not. On a purely for-fun level, I think you can do a lot worse than Paranormalcy.
But what's great is that there is more to it than that. I sense more to the story for each character that's introduced. I know there's something lurking in all of their pasts, and I love that we don't get to see all the cards. It adds depth to balance the lightness of the story. Also, White doesn't shy away from showing some heartbreak. In spite of all her kick-ass attitude and abilities, Evie has had a very lonely, sad type of life. She never really gets to be a girl, or to be care-free, and occasionally you can see the strain it causes. And there's more, and I have to be careful here, because I don't want to give anything away, but I do want to mention that I absolutely Loved (with a capital L) Evie's interactions with Vivian. A lot of YA authors -- debut ones, especially -- would have gone the easy route and made everything black and white/good and bad/right and wrong. But life is never that easy or clearly defined, and White knows this. I get Evie, and her actions and motivations, and I get Vivian's as well. The scenes with Evie and Vivian, especially towards the end, and the sadness that pervades them was really authentic and beautiful to me. Even more so because of the fact that I wasn't expecting it in such a funny-sometimes-silly book. I think Carrie Ryan captured it completely when she said "Kiersten White creates the perfect blend of light and dark." She really does.
Very nicely done; I will certainly be keeping an eye on Kiersten White....more
First off, I've got to give a big THANK YOU to the Polish Outlander, who sent this to me for Christmas, just because she's fabulous like that. This boFirst off, I've got to give a big THANK YOU to the Polish Outlander, who sent this to me for Christmas, just because she's fabulous like that. This book boasts a Newbery Honor medal, and having read it I can say it's really no surprise. It has a lot of things going for it. It's a great middle grade read, very fresh and fun (an accomplishment, I think, for a book set over 100 years ago), and I think Calpurnia's voice will appeal to a lot of kids, girls especially.
There's also a great wholesomeness to it, and I have to say, I'm always hesitant to use that word -- it always makes things sound a little too religious-channel-Little-House-on-the-Prairie, as saccharine as you can get. But I don't think that's the case here. It is wholesome, it is something you can share with just about anyone, and even though the topic is evolution, I think even the most conservative of folks would still enjoy this book. It uses the backdrop of scientific discovery and a changing world to impart a sense of youthful wonder.
Calpurnia is smart and precocious, and not a very girly girl, so she's kind of at odds with her era. But the relationship she has with her reclusive scientific grandfather is absolutely perfect, and gives her an outlet for her scientific side. I loved watching their relationship bloom, and watching each grow to be more complete and in touch and alive, through each other. It was lovely.
But there's a balance to this, too, that keeps the book from melting into a puddle of sugar. Calpurnia does live at the turn of the century, which was not the best time to be a free-thinking girl. She's at that time of her life where she's still able to get away with childish things, and scamper off and do as she pleases, but that time is almost over, and people are beginning to take note of her, which in turn makes her realize that her blissful free time is nearly over. People are beginning to want to mold her into a lady, to get her to take interest in the "women's work" of cooking and cleaning and darning and hostessing, and being always, always the proper perfect thing, but never anything true:
I had never classified myself with other girls. I was not of their species; I was different. I had never thought my future would be like theirs. But now I knew this was untrue, that I was exactly like other girls. I was expected to hand over my life to a house, a husband, children. It was intended that I give up my nature studies, my Notebook, my beloved river. There was a wicked point to all the sewing and cooking that they were trying to impress upon me, the tedious lessons I had been spurning and ducking. I went hot and cold all over....My life was forfeit. Why hadn't I seen it? I was trapped. A coyote with her paw in the trap.
She has to confront this in bits and pieces throughout the book, and try to find herself and determine if she can break the mold and be the full, thinking person she wants to be, rather than the role she's supposed to be.
Beyond this, though, the wholesomeness and the realistic struggle, the book is just plain fun. Calpurnia is feisty and precocious in the way that some of my favorite characters are. And though she may not be as completely memorable as an Anne, she's certainly in good company with Flavia and Merricat and Cassandra. Her narration is charming and funny, with some very relatable spunk to it. Take this scene, for example, just after Calpurnia has gone to a large library out of town to try to get a copy of Origin of Species:
I bolted for the river. I ripped off my bonnet and pinafore and dress and threw myself into the water, casting terror in the hearts of the local tadpoles and turtles. Good. That lady librarian had ruined my day, and I was determined to ruin someone -- or something -- else's day. I ducked my head under water and let out a long, loud scream, the sound burbling in my ears. I came up for air and did it again. And one more time, just to be thorough. The cooling water gradually soothed me. After all, what was one book to me? Really, it didn't matter. One day I would have all the books in the world, shelves and shelves of them. I would live my life in a tower of books. I would read all day and eat peaches. And if any young knights in armor dared to come calling on their white chargers and plead with me to let down my hair, I would pelt them with peach pits until they went home.
Long story short, pick it up. And when you're done with it, share it with a young girl in your life. They need more books like this....more
"I hate skin; I hate bones and bodies. I want to curl up inside of him and be carried there forever."
Earlier this year, I fell in love with Lau2.5 - 3
"I hate skin; I hate bones and bodies. I want to curl up inside of him and be carried there forever."
Earlier this year, I fell in love with Lauren Oliver's debut, Before I Fall. So understandably, I was very excited to hear about her next book, Delirium. A dystopian world where love is a disease, written by the clearly very talented Oliver? Yeah, I can get behind that. I settled in to wait the long, cruel months until the February release date, when I got a surprise package in the mail from the Polish Outlander -- her ARC of Delirium! Imagine my delight. I held off reading it for a few days, just to give myself some distance from Matched, which has a very similar concept, and which I'd just finished. But I didn't want to wait too long, so, similarities be damned, I went ahead and read it.
I'm going to try to not keep comparing this to Matched, which isn't fair -- Matched had its own review, after all -- but I do have to say that, though each is its own thing, the similarities are pretty strong, and my reaction to each was the same -- I wanted so much more than I got.
Lest you think this review is wholly negative, let me start with the things I did like. I love the concept, and think it has the potential to be really powerful and fascinating. There is a flow to it most of the time that kept me reading even when I was frustrated by other things. And there are these moments that shine through, these beautiful little word gems that Oliver creates, that reminds me of why I loved Before I Fall, and why I was so excited to read this. But.
But I was so very, very excited for this that I think I was even more let down by it than Matched, which was also something I was eager for. Before I Fall was fresh and compelling, and I felt like so much of Oliver, so much heart and so much work, went into it. I didn't feel the same about Delirium. I'm not going to accuse Oliver of selling out or hopping on a trend, but I do wonder how much passion was behind this story. It seemed sort of sloppy (and yes, I know, I read an ARC, and that may account for some of it). But there were so many inconsistencies and questions I had that I couldn't ever commit. I could only go along so far until logic would intrude. I would be forced to ask myself things like, If Lena was just bitten (badly) in the leg by a dog, why does Alex kissing her seem to erase not only any pain, but even any mention of the bite, until it's like an afterthought? How does her family not notice that either a) she's wearing pants in the middle of sweltering August, and limping, or b) she's not wearing pants and the scar is showing and she's limping? Because it has to be one of those 2 things. And though the "cure" may not make them care for her safety so much, it doesn't take away their suspicious natures. [Also, setting aside the fact that she walked home, how did they just walk home? Just like that. With raiding parties everywhere, and her bitten terribly, they just strolled on home, illegally, down the street? How do they get away with all the shit they get away with, in this repressive society? Hmm...] Things like this were peppered throughout the story, and they just made it nearly impossible to buy in to what was going on.
Smaller things, too, like words and phrases and things we have now that I don't see any use for, or don't believably buy would be in the world Oliver created. And, of course, the much bigger things, like how did all this -- the discovery of the "deliria", the cure, the restrictions, the beliefs, all of it -- come to be? I know it may not be what Lauren intended, but with such a seemingly science-influenced dystopia, I need some good scientific reasoning, some "evidence" -- real or gov't created -- that backs everything up, some explanation or plausible scenario that lets this total overhaul of human beliefs and passions come to be in a matter of 60 years or so. That's a very, VERY brief period of time for such a huge and total change to take place, so I need reality to intrude a little. I need either some hints of a really big conspiracy, or something so huge and devastating that people as a whole almost go into a state of shock or numbness that allows this to happen. Because, as a general rule, people don't willingly submit to mass lobotomies or the eradication of their feelings for the people they love -- or hate -- without some serious something acting as a catalyst. Petty strife and crimes of passion may make you think of Eternal Sunshining your mind spotless, but in an abstract, angry, wouldn't-it-be-lovely kind of way, and not a bring-on-the-procedure kind of way. Some science, some history, some dogma, some thing beyond the sometimes eerie, sometimes meh snippets of "texts" that start every chapter, would have gone a long way toward helping me willingly suspend my disbelief.
But even if I could have set the worldbuilding and believability aside -- no easy task in a concept novel like this -- for it to be saved, the characters and plot would have had to really shine. But I felt like everything was a little wooden, a little cardboard, a little less than believable and real. The love interest, Alex, was okay enough, but why should Lena care about him, and why should I? I understand why he cares about Lena, but that's not something we really find out until Lena is already head over heels infected/in love, and I don't understand how she got there. As a reader, in order to take that leap with a character, we need to know why, we need to feel it. All I got was that he was a boy who payed attention to her, he winked, he smiled, he seemed a bit smarmy and she's hooked. Now, yes, I get that's enough for a teenage infatuation, and it may be heightened by the taboo nature of it. I even get that his more easy manner reminded Lena of her mother, who was incurable.
But for Lena, who has always been terrified of the deliria, which tore her world apart, and who has always looked forward to her procedure, and been so afraid of stepping out of the box, who is afraid to say, to even hear, the word love -- for her to completely flip and become reckless and passionate and all the other stuff that comes with being the things she's always feared...hmm. The only way this really works for me, the only thing that would make me buy it and appreciate it, was if it took the slant that the deliria was real and she'd become infected. Otherwise, I have no choice but to think this is a cheesy, run of the mill YA romance where one look from a guy makes a girl throw her entire being out the window and become a swooning, fluttery mess with no relation to the person she once was, and who would die for the roguish boy she knows nothing about. Which is, apparently, what every teenage girl is secretly waiting to do. Maybe the deliria is real.