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)
And then: Alright, let's just get this out of the way: Seraphina is one of my favorite books I've read this year. Hands down, without a do...moreInitially:
And then: Alright, let's just get this out of the way: Seraphina is one of my favorite books I've read this year. Hands down, without a doubt, straight-up adored it. And I'd say it's my single most-pushed book this year; I've been pushing it on everyone. Obnoxiously. And I'm going to try to tell you why, and I'll do my best to avoid spoilers, but if you take nothing else from this review, understand that I want you to pick this up. Find out why HERE.(less)
I am bound to judge any story that uses Persuasion pretty harshly. I can't help myself; I'm a huge Persuasion fan, and there haven't been enough adapt...moreI am bound to judge any story that uses Persuasion pretty harshly. I can't help myself; I'm a huge Persuasion fan, and there haven't been enough adaptations of it to dull my senses to the inconsistencies yet. So it's a risk - as much as I look forward to stories that make use of it, there's a good chance that I just won't be able to let things go. I think I probably was harder on this that I would have been if it didn't use Persuasion and instead was just another dystopian YA. But it was inevitable that I would judge it harshly - though even then, I couldn't help but love it.
It was unputdownable. It had that indefinable something working for it, and the heart of it, the way it mirrored Persuasion but adapted to fit a wholly different environment, was really compelling to me. There were always parts of me saying, Anne wouldn't say what Elliot just said, Anne wouldn't do what Elliot just did - but then I'd catch myself thinking, but she would feel it... And that was why it worked. No, Elliot is not a carbon copy of Anne. She has Anne's basic traits (she's loyal, she's smart, reliable, and compassionate, and everyone pushes her around), but she is also a product of her environment, and the two work together to create a character that strongly resembles Anne (is very Anne-like), but is also her own creation. I really have to applaud Peterfreund for being able to balance the two so well. The story is at once a clear retelling of Persuasion, and its own very different story entirely. It's not just a regurgitation of Persuasion in an exciting dystopic setting. It's its own creation, and though there are these changes in the core of who the characters are, I think for the most part, they're suited to the story Peterfreund created. It feels more "inspired by" than a straight retelling. I think you can really tell how much Peterfreund likes Persuasion and Austen, and respects her source material, and that's part of what really makes it work as a whole.
That isn't to say there weren't things that bothered me, or that didn't work from a retelling standpoint. Because this is written for YA, the timing doesn't have the same impact. In Persuasion, Anne and Wentworth fall in love and are separated when Anne is 19, and then meet again nearly a decade later. Moving up the timetable to suit a YA audience means that Elliot and Kai are separated at 14 and come together again at 18, and I have never been enough of a romantic that I would consider separated 14 year olds to be tragic lovers, and a reunion at 18 to be a triumphant return... It lessens it somehow; lessens the tragedy and the sadness of pining and being alone for almost 10 years, takes away the pain of feeling like the character will always be alone, like she's lost her only chance... It makes it all a little lighter, which is sad because there's really nothing that Peterfreund could do differently and still have it suit the audience. The way, too, that they are separated - with Elliot first of all in mourning, and second, legitimately making the right decision for everyone around her - means that it becomes a lot harder to like Kai. I did like him, don't get me wrong, but I think that was maybe only because I knew who he was supposed to be, and how he was going to turn out. Otherwise, I think I would have found him really callous and almost cruel, both in the manner and timing of their separation, and in his treatment of Elliot on his return.
Other things that niggled at me: It feels like the beginning to a series. I don't think it will be, but that's just because I know it is a retelling. If I picked this up just as a sci-fi read, I'd be sure it was going to be a trilogy. There's so much that feels like it could still be explored, and for all of the doom and gloom of the situation, and Elliot's internal debates over what's right and what the future should hold, things are far too easily wrapped up once she's (re)secured Kai's affections; in fact, the entire book ends too abruptly for me, with it feeling like Elliot is being rash, and a number of characters being ushered quickly off the stage... Also, I didn't like the letters that begin and punctuate the book. I got used to them, and I like what Elliot did with them, and the knothole, etc., but the letters themselves felt forced on the story to me, and they didn't work as a way to draw me into the story.
See? See how nitpicky this all turned out, when I really do want to push this book into everyone's hands? Ugh, okay: Despite my obsessive attention to this as a Persuasion retelling, and my too-harsh judgement as a result (because I have to, I can't not, it's one of my all-time faves), Peterfreund crafted a really compelling story that: a) is one of the most unique Austen adaptations I've ever read. And I mean unique in a good way - P&P&Z was "unique" too, but my god, was it ever terrible. This is both unique and functioning as a story, compelling and interesting, very very different from other adaptations, but showcasing the same love of the original as the best adaptations do. b) works both as a retelling and as a complete original, which I don't know I have ever said - or even thought - about any other adaptation. It can be read by fans of YA, fans of Austen, and fans of both, and each group will get something different out of it while also enjoying it for what they came to it for, adaptation or YA sci-fi (And they won't feel like they're missing anything by not being familiar with Austen and/or YA). c) presents a really interesting, engaging world with characters and conflicts that intrigued me.
So yes, as much as I notice all these little things, and feel compelled to say "But wait - but what about - but then - " I really did thoroughly enjoy this and think Peterfreund did a fantastic job of making it work so very far out of the box. So get it. Read it. And enjoy it immensely with me even while we pick it apart...(less)
I'm not entirely sure what I want to say to you about this one. It had its high and low points, as all books do, and in the end it left me feeling a l...moreI'm not entirely sure what I want to say to you about this one. It had its high and low points, as all books do, and in the end it left me feeling a little middle of the road. I think a few years ago, I may have loved this, but now I feel so used to this story (even though I hadn't read it) that it didn't leave much of an impression.
Here's the thing: I find the ideas behind the book really interesting. I like timeslip novels conceptually because I find the whole thing fascinating. It's then down to whether or not the concept is carried off well, and in this case, it was. As a time travel book, it worked for me and was interesting. Yes, the "time gene" and all that was a little muddled. I had my questions, assuredly. But they didn't bother me too much, and I thought the different ways the "time gene" could manifest was very interesting. So it wasn't the crux of the story that sort of threw me off.
Unfortunately, it was sort of the characters. And here's where it gets tricky, and why I'm not sure what I want to say about the book. I liked the characters themselves for the most part. I liked Emerson, I thought she was fun and spunky. I liked Michael, though he was maybe a little flat (I don't particularly care for flawless men. Strange, I know.) I really liked Emerson's best friend, Lily, and am curious to see where her storyline goes. I liked Emerson's brother and his wife, Michael's friends and colleagues. I seemed to pretty much like them all. And yet...they didn't quite work for me. I don't know how to explain it; it was partly that I never really felt too much of a connection with them, and it was partly that they were a little one-dimensional, save those who turned out to be super-crazy. (Like, no joke. Cat-petting, mustache-twirling, hyena-cackling, Bond villain, bald-Brittany cray-cray.) For whatever reason, I just never found myself completely invested in their stories, for the most part. There were moments where I would just start to become attached, and then I would lose the thread. They were never real to me.
Part of this, I think, was because of the insta-love storyline. I have to hand it to McEntire, she certainly tried to make insta-love believable and gave it some legitimate scientific reasoning, which made me not loathe it the way I generally would. (She gave it some good lustiness, too, which didn't hurt.) But it remains one of my biggest pet peeves regardless, so I can't entirely let it slide. And I think it was part of what made me disconnect from the characters. As soon as you get into insta-love, can't live without you, saying I love you and meaning it fanatically in a matter of minuteshours days, I stop believing that you are in any way real. Don't get me wrong, I know there are people out there who completely act like that, but I don't think they're real, either (I think they're crazy). I am a jaded hardcore bitch cynic, so this whole immediate twoo wuv thing just cancels out a lot of my WSOD. So, there, I guess. That's a big part of my disconnect. (Coupled with the caricatures that developed at the end.)
So in the end, I guess it was a bit of a balancing act, trying to decide if the plot and the time-travel and the character-aspects I did like outweighed the things I didn't. And it ended up a pretty balanced scale. I don't see it as a book I will be pushing people to go out and read nao, but it won't be one I'll discourage people from reading, either. It ended with an interesting basis for further books in the series, so I likely will read them, even if I won't rush to buy them. The idea of time paradoxes and the multi-history lines, coupled with the consequences of changing the timeline provides fascinating potential, and the revelations of Emerson's past, and any revelations that I think may be to come, will likely keep me reading, even if the books don't end up on the top of my stack.
Check out my interview with Myra here. Also, you can enter to win a copy of this here (ends 11/5/11)(less)
Slightly under a 5, but really, not even playing: I loved it.
Review: I'm not going to lie, I was resistant to this. When it first came out and bloggers...moreSlightly under a 5, but really, not even playing: I loved it.
Review: I'm not going to lie, I was resistant to this. When it first came out and bloggers the world over lost their sh*t over Anna, I just figured it was another in a line of contemporary books that I would not read or care to. It looked and sounded so girly and cutesy and fluttery and things that I try to deny I am or ever was... But the hype just built and built and everyone kept saying how funny it was, and I thought, "Well okay, I can do funny. And I have been saying I am going to try more contemporary and more *gulp* romance." So I added it to the to-read list and didn't really think much more about it. It was always a "some day" read.
And then Liz and Allison cornered me on Twitter and insisted that I read it as soon as humanly possible. And since I was in the planning stages of the whole Beach Reads thing, I said okay. Maybe. We'll see.... And then it showed up in my mailbox. Okaymaybewe'llsee is not good enough for Liz, it seems.
And thank god for that.
For real, you guys. I don't even know if I can explain why I love this book so much. I mean, it's not like anything earth-shattering ever happens. It's just a slice-of-life kind of story, and one that I would expect to be a little disconnected from (you have to be pretty fancy-pants rich to go to a French boarding school, afterall. I don't much care for reading about fancy-pantses trying to make out). Thank god it's not some Richie Rich boarding school story. Though Paris is a bit of a character in its own right and plays a role in Anna's awakening, the boarding school is almost incidental. This is much more a story of friends and family and how, sometimes your family is what you make it (and friends are the family you choose, and any other cliche you'd like to insert here).
It just felt real. The characters are funny and flawed and they interact with each other in such an authentic way. There are times when an author is trying to write a funny teen book and everyone becomes very quippy and witty and over the top. They're caricatures, and it makes them hard to connect to. The characters in Anna aren't like this. They are funny, but in the way that your friends are funny. It's situational and comfortable, and it feels really true. They all have their issues and they grow and change, and sometimes that means they grow apart, and it's all very believable. It's not just The Anna & Etienne Show. All of the core characters felt like real people and - more importantly - real teens on the cusp of adulthood.
But of course I can't talk about this book without talking about the romance. I judge a good romance on whether it gives me butterflies. This passed the butterfly test easily. And it's not because it's so swooning and lusty and hawt. Like the characterization, the romance felt really real. It is flawed, and there are times you think it's never going to come together, and times you think maybe it shouldn't come together, and all the while you're breathless with anticipation. It's not the melodramatic, substance-less fare that is typical to YA romance. There is a basis to it, Anna and Etienne do and will work at it, but most importantly of all, it's backed by friendship. It's a companionable romance story, which I trust so much more than a lust-at-first-sight, death do us part, manic "romance". There's a really solid, strong friendship being built throughout the story, and that, I think, creates longing and satisfaction in the reader just as much as any hoped-for french kiss.
And of course, Paris makes everything romantic.
So if you're dragging your feet, doubting whether to read this and keeping it on the back burner for "some day", or are embarrassed to read something with this title/cover combo, do yourself a favor and bump it up on your list. Remove the dust jacket if need be, find yourself a quiet, comfortable place to hide your flutters, and commence equal parts laughing and swooning. (less)
Brightly Woven was one of those books I found myself inexplicably excited about (there's a wizard named North?!), and as is the case with most books I...moreBrightly Woven was one of those books I found myself inexplicably excited about (there's a wizard named North?!), and as is the case with most books I get randomly excited about, it didn't quite stand up to the pressure. This isn't to say I didn't like it, because I did. Just that it suffered a bit from build-up, which left me a little wanting. But I think most people, especially the younger crowd, would enjoy this, and probably wouldn't be bothered all that much by the little things I just can't let go in life.
Things sometimes felt incomplete: too easy, too fast, in need of more defined transitions, etc. It needed a better sense of time, of the length of time, and the struggle and travel. It would have made everything seem more real and important. The romance, too, could have been more rounded, with more clearly defined transitions, rather than 'one day we're enemies (or pretending to be) and one day we're soulmates, no discussion needed'. [At the very least, without getting into spoiler territory, the idea of what Sydelle could do for North should have been addressed more, because that would raise some SERIOUS trust issues.]
And Sydelle, the main character, was a little petulant and youngish for my tastes. I sometimes wanted to smack her and say "There are more important things!" This wasn't helped by the fact that throughout the story there was this "Everybody Loves Sydelle" thing going on that had me like NOES. It's one of my absolute biggest pet peeves to take a girl who's always been "nobody" and then one day have EVERYONE IN THE WORLD seeming to be obsessed with her. So imagine my surprise when it actually ended up working for the story. There was actually a purpose and a basis for it, and I ended up giving in and saying, 'Well, okay. Yeah." (Because I'm eloquent and shit.)
But the fact is that I did like Sydelle, and I think she does grow throughout their adventure. And I did like the story, and felt that anything it was lacking in the way of development didn't really hurt it too much. And, well...I liked North. Don't know that I should have, but I did.
It was really enjoyable for the most part, quick and engaging, and I enjoyed the world building quite a bit, despite any flaws. It had the added (unexpected) bonus of actually surprising me a few times. There were some revelations that I either wasn't expecting, or were more than I was expecting, which always makes me happy. I would love to dig in a bit more and explore Sydelle's reaction to one revelation in particular, and though I'm pretty sure this is a stand-alone, I can see room to build it into a series. And I'm sure with time and experience, any deficiencies (that I forever feel the need to mercilessly pick apart) in the writing will be smoothed over as the very young Alexandra Bracken grows into her story telling scope. (less)