Well, that's finally over with. Typical of Laini Taylor, this story had a strong start that eventually collapsed under its own weight. I think this au...moreWell, that's finally over with. Typical of Laini Taylor, this story had a strong start that eventually collapsed under its own weight. I think this author is best suited to short story writing, and when she goes beyond her limits, she can't seem to keep her momentum going and just fucks up. I imagine this will satisfy devotees of this series, which has been problematic since the beginning. Initially I thought this book was poised to be the strongest in the set, but it was too long and too epic, and I'm not even totally sure what happened at the end. I mean, I know what happened, but it smacked of contrivance and a real lack of storytelling that made the whole thing confusing and rather unbelievable. I finished this book quickly in spite of its length, but I think that had more to do with Laini Taylor implementing her favorite parlor tricks: emotional blackmail (i.e. cliffhangers) and lyric but often overwritten prose.
The introduction of a new character took up a lot of the space in this book that could have been cut down. The character was merely a plot device that I'm not sure was needed, as the device wasn't introduced until, seriously, the last 30 pages of a 613-page book. There were also a lot of cartoonish villains in this story, and I hate that.
I'm glad I finished this series, as it's highly unique, and I wanted to see how it ended up, but I always felt the real meat of this story belonged in its beginning, focusing on a lonely but plucky girl adrift in a real world that seemed unreal. I think the story might have succeeded somewhat if it had just ended after the first book. I always thought Akiva was a pretty good candidate for bipolar disorder, and this book didn't really dispel that opinion for me. In my head, Karou left behind that mercurial moper in the first book and instead of going on a psychological degradation trip in a vague alternate dimension, she continued globe-hopping around the real world, leaving her past behind her.(less)
Equal to the first in terms of level of depth (there isn't as much as I would like), pacing (which is pretty good for the most part) and level of fun...moreEqual to the first in terms of level of depth (there isn't as much as I would like), pacing (which is pretty good for the most part) and level of fun (fairly high). I like the concept of this series, which riffs on classic fairytales, but thus far the Cinder books don't go deep enough in regard to the themes set forth: what it means to be human, what love is, the nature of oppression. Cinder was primarily about what it might look like if Cinderella was a cyborg mechanic covered in dirt from fixing androids and hover crafts in stead of cleaning the house. The story didn't go much further than that, though it was funny and quick-paced.
Scarlet takes up that same mantle to the same effect: Little Red Riding Hood wears a hoodie instead of a cape, pilots space ships and is not merely tricked by "the wolf," but falls in love with him. This book alternated between Cinder's continuing story as a fugitive and Scarlet's search for her missing grandmother. The wolf in this case is a human sent to kidnap and ultimately kill her. However, he comes to like her and turns out to be a Byronic, conflicted and adoring assassin. The boys in these books are rather flat and underdeveloped, though the girls are just slightly above the mark in that regard.
As much as I find these books lacking, though, I'll be reading Cress to see what happens. The story is so easy to digest, it's ridiculous, and sometimes that's enough.(less)
Enjoyable, but could have been better. The concept was amazing, with Cinderella recast as a cyborg mechanic living in a hyper-mechanized, but utterly...moreEnjoyable, but could have been better. The concept was amazing, with Cinderella recast as a cyborg mechanic living in a hyper-mechanized, but utterly decrepit, future Asia. However, the story fell short of its potential, merely scratching the surface of such issues as what it means to be human, a just ruler and a family. I found the characters fairly shallow and too archetypal to be truly unique and individuated. Still, one managed to root for them all the same, and I found the writing brisk enough to get me to the end, even if at times certain passages seemed pointless. I think I would have liked this better if it wasn't a riff on the Cinderella story, which is a good enough fairytale, but not my favorite. I expect this author would be able to do more with Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel, the characters upon which her next two books focus.(less)
Compilation of adapted fairytales by various well-known graphic novel authors. Some are better than others, but I would definitely give this out to ki...moreCompilation of adapted fairytales by various well-known graphic novel authors. Some are better than others, but I would definitely give this out to kids who like graphic novels but don't necessarily have experience with fairytales. A good mix of stuff.(less)
Not quite why I was hoping for. Margo Lanagan writes strange and often disturbing stuff, and this set was no exception. She writes really well at the...moreNot quite why I was hoping for. Margo Lanagan writes strange and often disturbing stuff, and this set was no exception. She writes really well at the sentence level and really has a knack for creating a unique voice at the first-person level, which is often difficult to do. Still, the main hangup I have with her writing is that she often spends so much time crafting an internal narrative that she fails to adequately build the strange worlds in which her characters live. Some of this stuff made little sense, and one story I read in a kind of daze it was so cloudy. She really needs a whole novel to adequately build her worlds. I also don't know why her work is marketed to teens. Due to the dense nature of her stories and the experimental narratives, I doubt teens would grab this stuff, and primarily because the topics she examines are more adult in nature, even if some of her characters are teens.(less)
This was a really easy and engrossing read, but much like the rest of Laini Taylor's work, it had its' ups and downs. Each story in this set focuses o...moreThis was a really easy and engrossing read, but much like the rest of Laini Taylor's work, it had its' ups and downs. Each story in this set focuses on a kiss and its outcome. Sometimes the kiss is good and sometimes it's bad. Sometimes it's something else. Illustrations bracket the beginning and end of each story, and readers glean their full meaning as they make their way through to the end. I didn't love the illustrations. They were OK. I didn't feel like they added that much to the text that they were a necessity. Still, the concept was original.
This set is an obvious precursor to Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which makes use of the same main ideas and themes found here. Karou from Daughter of Smoke and Bone lives in a real world so surreal it might as well be a fantasy. Her blue hair and artistic leanings, however, serve as a mask to hide her loneliness, longing and unfulfilled sense of self. In Lips Touch: Three Times, the characters are all starving in some regard. They want more than what they have, though they can't pinpoint it, and Taylor does a really good job in each story of depicting this aching void, at first. Her writing usually starts off so pleasantly theatrically, well-paced word by word and propulsive enough to hide the fact that her stories include weaknesses. These weaknesses, however, tend to become apparent a little over half-way through her stories. The writing stops being so lyrical, and the fact that she seems to think all international locales are exotic, magical and filled with their own individual brand of caricatured foreigner is troubling at best. This book drew flawed and anachronistic pictures of Romani, India and the ancient Zoroastrians. Of course these are just stories, but I'm unclear why she repeatedly chooses to portray people from other cultures in such a carnivalesque manner.
The descriptions in her stories, again, are the best part. These tales are no exception, though they tend to peter out in quality as you read on, as I mentioned. The first and second stories, while problematic, were fun and really cool stories about the nature of isolation. The final story was so convoluted and messy that it almost-outright failed. In any case, I enjoyed it, and it was a nice break from some other crap I can't seem to bring myself to finish.(less)
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One of the more interesting examinations of gender I've read in young adult literature. Highly r...moreCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
One of the more interesting examinations of gender I've read in young adult literature. Highly referential and often quite funny, this book forces readers to think about perception by making use of pop culture and fairytales in an unusual way. Bennett Madison creates a heightened reality in this story about 17-year-old Sam's summer vacation with his father and brother; their trip is more like a summer escape, as it transpires suddenly at the whim of their father, who has abruptly quit his job following the departure of Sam's mother for the "Land of Women."
At first what seems misogynistic gives way to a smart and layered examination of how men and other women often perceive what Simone De Beauvoir referred to quite adroitly as the second sex. Those familiar with that philosophy will love this book, which dissects the male gaze and other patriarchal constructs in a way that readers may not even realize at first.
The story is told from the point of view of Sam and also a collective narrative from the Girls, who inhabit the vacation town where Sam is staying. Sam is bewildered, bitchy and depressed following his mother's departure. And, his father and brother aren't dealing well with it either. When they arrive on an island off the cost of North Carolina, Sam immediately picks up on the fact that these Girls, who all seem to look eerily alike, are also all eerily interested in him.
Perception is the point form which this story pivots. That in itself is the force behind the male gaze, so readers should not be surprised that Sam (and his brother and father) still grapples with what he doesn't understand until the last pages, even if his feelings and views originate from a place of benevolence. I like that the author did this. It's worthwhile to leave things open ended in most cases.
Last thing: I loved the setting in this book. By "love" I mean I loved how it was described but didn't actually want to visit this fake beach town. Bennett Madison likely hung around the same shore towns I did growing up, because the way he constructed this place reminded me far too much of the way I felt while visiting the beach as a kid: listless, bored, repelled, disgusted, depressed, filthy, but also sort of at peace in quiet moments. The sense of dread and impermanence and also deflation was all there on these pages. A really interesting read that should justifiably generate a lot of discussion.(less)
I wasn't particularly pleased with this, though it was very easy reading. This was due in part I think to the fact that even at her most middling, Mag...moreI wasn't particularly pleased with this, though it was very easy reading. This was due in part I think to the fact that even at her most middling, Maggie Stiefvater is still effective at moving a story forward. I would put this at the bottom of the pile in her stack of books in terms of quality, but, to be fair, it is her first novel. In that regard, I had low expectations. I was more curious about this than anything and had actually stayed away from this before, because I know how I am with this author (I tend to really like her or really dislike her). While I didn't hate this book, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone but die-hard fans of Celtic mythology or Maggie Stiefvater.
The main problem with this book was that was it was underdeveloped. The characters seemed to spring from the author's head fully formed, without subtlety, nuance, development, flaws, wrinkles: you name it in regard to character development and it wasn't there. The plot just kicks into gear immediately. Dee is an incredibly talented girl who is (of course sadly) a wallflower, unsure of her own worth. She meets a creepy but naturally irresistible supernatural guy at a music competition one day, and his first act in winning her over is to come up behind her in the girl's bathroom and hold her hair back while she vomits. I don't care what the other party's intentions are: I don't want a guy (or a girl either) to come up behind me in a restroom and grab me. I find it particularly silly and an unintended contributor to victim-blaming when I read in a lot of these YA books that the girl in question notes how she *should* be creeped out by her undeniably creepy love interest, but somehow she's so totally *not* [insert narrowed eyes here].
The ridiculous premise aside, I was disappointed by the fact that the author had yet to grow into my two favorite things about her writing with this book: subtlety in plot and character construction and setting description. Stiefvater is known for her descriptions, and in her more recent writing she finds a way to build subtle connections and reveal details in a smart way that rewards a careful reader. I'm not surprised by the fact that her early writing doesn't reflect that, but the presence of those things would have rescued this book a bit. Ah well... I'm not trying to nail this author here. I just like to lay things out.(less)
This wasn't very good. I'm not sure if it's because the source material stunk (in the cases in which I wasn't familiar with it) or because the writers...moreThis wasn't very good. I'm not sure if it's because the source material stunk (in the cases in which I wasn't familiar with it) or because the writers (many of whom I only have a passing familiarity with) stunk. I either didn't finish or outright skipped stories I found totally uninteresting and slogged my way through several others. I sort of enjoyed a couple. The only one that had any semblance of really good quality was the story written by Neil Gaiman, who is probably more talented than most of the writers who contributed to this set.
When I saw that this collection featured retellings of classics, I figured they would be really unusual and project totally new spins on old tales. Many of them seemed to focus more on recreating the story from the point of view of another character (boring), while others just seemed pointless all together. The original stories that I was familiar with probably didn't need to be retold. Though like I said, Neil Gaiman's take on Sleeping Beauty — including Snow White in the plot — was pretty clever.
I would recommend this to people who like folk tales and fairy tales and revisiting classics, but only in a passing sense. I wouldn't put it at the top of my list of readers' advisory recommendations to such an audience. There are far better retellings of old tales in novel form around. This isn't something fans of the genre will miss. I'm not even sure of the intended audience. Many of the authors are YA authors, but the general tone and style reflect an adult population. More of a curiosity than anything.(less)
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This was a highly entertaining selection of Grimm fairy tales, retold by popular author Philip P...moreCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
This was a highly entertaining selection of Grimm fairy tales, retold by popular author Philip Pullman, who adds his own touches to these traditional stories. Each tale includes short but informative end notes, which touch upon how they were disseminated to the Grimms, similar stories from various folk traditions and commentary from Pullman as to what he changed, kept the same, etc. The stories were short and concise, but they got the job done. I flew through this book without much effort.
Teens who love folklore and fairy tales would definitely enjoy this book, and with so much contemporary YA borrowing from these traditions these days, high school kids in particular would enjoy seeing where some of the popular plots they're currently devouring originated. This selection does not include the entirety of the Grimms' fairy tales, but those are easy enough to find. Instead, Pullman pulls the ones he believes are the most interesting and entertaining. He readily admits that a few of these stories have little to recommend them in their raw form, so he attempted to flesh them out a bit more. Some are better than others, but on the whole I enjoyed revisiting tales we were all told as children in some for or another.
One of my first experiences with Grimm fairy tales involved watching an animated series from the '80s that adapted many of these stories as short cartoons suitable for young children. The series appeared during a Nickelodeon segment that aired only on Sundays called 'Special Delivery.' Reading this book took me happily back to occasions when I holed up in my room on quiet afternoons and watched this program and many others.
I filed this book under various headings, including 'gender issues,' because while reading these stories I noticed a rather unpleasant undercurrent of female powerlessness throughout. This was not the fault of Pullman, who simply retold the tales. However, this book would make for a great segue into a discussion on how gender roles are defined and disseminated, among other issues related to women's studies. With the exemption of only a handful of stories, the rest of them separated women into the following categories: women who were pretty, virtuous and obedient, but naive and mostly waiting to be chosen as wives; or ugly, nasty witches with little to redeem them. For the most part, women were either cruel, fickle and prone to betrayal or merely set pieces in stories about heroic men.
All the same, I really liked these stories for their simplicity and pure entertainment value. Something about folklore really showcases the meat of a good story, likely because it's short and to the point. It's easy to see how and why so many of these stories have been adapted over the years in so many different ways. This is a good vacation read.(less)
This was a strange book, which you might expect from the author of Tender Morsels. Much like that book, The Brides of Rollrock Island is captivating a...moreThis was a strange book, which you might expect from the author of Tender Morsels. Much like that book, The Brides of Rollrock Island is captivating and yet disturbing, hard to read and yet a valuable book to experience. This story is based on an Irish legend about women being born from the hearts of seals. An ill-treated and vengeful witch named Misskaella can draw women from the seals of Rollrock and does so for the island's men for a price, but the price the men pay is of course much larger and far-reaching than they bargained for. This book is hard to take but not so hard to take that you question whether to finish it. Much like Tender Morsels there is light at the end of the tunnel. The seal women of Rollrock are beautiful, nurturing and strange. They are also not meant for the land; they are detached and sad and always longing for the sea.
This is a book about thoughtlessness, cruelty, selfishness and selflessness at the same time. It's very cynical at first glance - would all men just forsake their wives, sisters and mothers for the chance to have an enthralling, fantastical seal wife who will wrap them up in a limitless cocoon of devotion? This longing for a seal wife is more than a desire for fantasy fulfillment though. I couldn't help but sympathize somewhat with one of the characters when he asked for a seal wife even though he knew he shouldn't. There's a sense of safety and communion involved with this. Don't get me wrong though - there's abject cruelty involved in taking a seal wife. Readers will see how many layers there are to human longing and suffering in this story.
Just the same, it was hard to read. Margo Lanagan writes in a way that makes you think she's out to paint portraits of senseless misery. It's a hard trek to the light at the end of the tunnel. One flaw with this book is that I didn't really enjoy the vignetted nature of the narrative. While each of the stories was connected, I think I would have preferred if Lanagan worked with a narrower set of viewpoints. I also wanted a stronger viewpoint from the seal wives. They came off too much like a conglomerate of sad, hollow-eyed women without singular identities.
This is worth checking out, but read carefully and set out to work hard. Lanagan is a strange author but a rewarding one. A final observation, Lanagan is marketed as a YA author, but I think her books are too complex, too harsh and too layered to be considered teen novels. She asks her audience to make adult observations. That's not to say teens can't do that, but she's not a YA novelist.(less)
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What a great book, that surpasses Grace Lin's companion novel Where the Mountain Meets the Moon....moreCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
What a great book, that surpasses Grace Lin's companion novel Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. The author has a real knack for making the past seem new and fresh, while still keeping true to the cultural and historic aspects of the folklore traditions she uses.
Rendi turns up in the Village of Clear Sky one day after emerging from a merchant's wagon (he was hiding there and going who knows where). He becomes a chore boy at the village inn, and despite a surly and unsociable beginning Rendi eventually grows to love his new home and the people of the inn.
Shortly after Rendi arrives, the mysterious and sad Madame Chang becomes a resident of the inn. She helps Rendi open up by telling Ancient Chinese stories and asks him to tell stories of his own. Reluctant at first, Rendi soon uses the storytelling as a means of communicating about his own life and problems. There is also another side plot that ties in nicely with the miniature stories within the larger story - the moon has disappeared from the village, and only Rendi is worried. He can also hear a terrible noise every night, but he is unsure what it is or how to stop it.
I loved the prose in this book. Like Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, much of the action also depends upon the miniature stories woven throughout the main narrative, and the children are bright and tenacious and think on their feet. The structure of the story and the way Lin plots the story, the reader can easily and happily forget that there is no real action in this story. No one leaves the village or even the inn for the most part. The action in this story lies in the development of the character relationships and watching Rendi learn some valuable lessons about life, himself and people.
I loved this book. It flowed so well, and it was a real treat to read. One of the best books I've read this year.
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What a weird little book. That was the first thought that came into my mind after I finally fini...moreCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
What a weird little book. That was the first thought that came into my mind after I finally finished this story. The writing in parts was good, and sometimes I found myself caught up in this hard tale about two orphans trying to make ends meet in Victorian London. However, the plot lines never fully gelled for me, even when they finally intersected, and I couldn't get invested in the story. Honestly, Schlitz did a good job replicating a Dickensian style, in all its wordiness, broken dialect and cast of strange characters that ultimately have no real bearing on the story despite how they connect the plot threads. It took a long time and a lot of self-enforced reading to get through this story, which didn't become gripping until the final third.
Schlitz worked hard at constructing a realistic world, and I could see every detail in my mind. You could see how she won the Newbery Award for her non-fiction book about Medieval Times - she does her research and has a keen attention to detail. I just couldn't get fully into this story. It was hard to connect with the characters for a long time, and something about the story felt a little stock. I'm not sure this will find much of an audience. I almost dropped this book several times out of boredom, but I felt guilty about not finishing.
There were some fairytale elements to this story, though I liked that part of the story the least. At one point, a child is turned into a puppet, and later on you learn the villains are more than they appear to be. That aspect just didn't add much to the story for me. An interesting commentary on dealing with grief was outlined throughout the story, but none of the very separate elements in this book came together. Oh well...(less)
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So yeah - one star. I don't normally read books like this. I'm not too into paranormal or horror...moreCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
So yeah - one star. I don't normally read books like this. I'm not too into paranormal or horror, and I'm turned off by urban fantasy a lot of the time, with some exceptions. However, I gave this book a shot because I read a great review on a blog I like on the School Library Journal Web site. It's not hard to find if you're so inclined. I had issues with this book from the start. It's a modern-day twist on the Red Riding Hood fairytale. In this book, the wolf/wolves are werewolves who prey on young, vulnerable girls, and Red Riding Hood is depicted as two teenage sisters who hunt the wolves down and kill them. A little weird, but I was open to it. It seemed like it could have a cool feminist message, and the writer of said blog I mentioned above really harped on how great the bond was between these two sisters - the older of the two, Scarlett, was horribly disfigured protecting her younger sister Rosie when the wolves attacked them as children. Since then, Scarlett has defined herself as an avenging crusader, hell bent on eradicating the wolves. Rosie owes everything to her sister and works with her, but yearns for a different life. She also has a crush on Scarlett's only friend Silas, further complicating the situation.
I have several problems with this book. One, the author isn't that great of a writer. She loves to tell and rarely shows. You don't even really have to concentrate to get what's going on with this story. In fact, I was glazing over through the last third. Second, Pearce's inclusion of certain aspects of the traditional Red Riding Hood into modern-day Georgia don't really add up. For example, the girls wear red cloaks while hunting (yes, the kind with a hood). They don them in broad daylight with regular people around, who don't seem to bat an eyelash at the fact that it's Halloween all year for these kids. And then there's Silas, who comes from a long line of woodsmen who live in the forest and build their homes with their bare hands and who also know all about the existence of girl-eating werewolves. I don't get it either. While these are serious deficiencies, they don't absolutely ruin the book. They just make it pretty bland fare. My major problem with this story lies in how the author ultimately treats the plight of women (hunted by werewolves or in actuality living in a society that condones sexual assault; you may have figured out what's really going on here). It's nice that Scarlett and Rosie know how to kick ass, but by Page 150 or so, I came across an aspect of our culture I dread encountering in real life, let alone in a book: victim blaming.
These werewolves as symbols of sexual predators are attracted to vulnerable, helpless women who flaunt their sexuality. Scarlett and Rosie lure the wolves by exhibiting these tendencies. The wolves thrive on fear. Scarlett is out hunting one night and sees a large number of scantily-clad women, wearing lots of makeup and stumbling around drunkenly without a care. Scarlett dehumanizes them by likening their appearance to dragonflies, while Silas makes the statement that no longer makes this a feminist novel: It's like they're asking [for it]. I made a substitution here because he actually says they're asking to be eaten - same diff. Scarlett agrees with this sentiment. Now, I don't think Jackson Pearce intends to blame rape victims for their attacks; I just think she wrote herself into a corner and couldn't figure out how to get out of it. The protagonists are strong, but the victim blaming negates the good will outlined by the author in the beginning.
Soapboxing aside, I found the characters to be pretty flat. Silas was pretty blank-faced and bordered on creepy, and Scarlett was so consumed by revenge that at one point I thought she might want to consider counseling. I'm not judging - just saying. And here's Rosie caught in the middle of all of this. The poor girl just wants to take a few arts and crafts classes. Does it make her that bad of a person for wanting to make origami frogs for half an hour once a week instead of living and breathing hunting girl-eating werewolves for the rest of her life when there are other issues to be concerned about here? Seriously.(less)
This started off with a great sense of place, but it rapidly went downhill after that. Based on the story of the Snow Queen, Jack is taken by a white...moreThis started off with a great sense of place, but it rapidly went downhill after that. Based on the story of the Snow Queen, Jack is taken by a white witch one day and his best friend Hazel goes after him, braving all kinds of weird and evil things along the way to find him.
Observations of note: The author can't seem to decide on her audience, because it would seem the story is for middle-graders and yet there are illustrations (and not very engaging ones); there is also an intrusive narrative voice, which periodically interrupts the flow of the story to provide random and not necessarily important exposition about how stories usually go; I'm also not sure the author's intent to use blizzard conditions as a metaphor for depression really works, because even though it's a unique concept, she never really connects the two and it's not fleshed out well; finally - the resolution was tied up too quickly and neatly and I lost my ability to care if they made it back or not.
One thing that also really irritated were the hipster-style references to other works of literature, including Harry Potter, A Wrinkle in Time and others that escape me. Most children will not have read all of the books the author referenced throughout this protracted journey through a snowy hell. It was more like a book for teachers and librarians than children.(less)
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A heady work that at first glance might seem like nothing more than a quirky flight of fancy, wi...moreCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
A heady work that at first glance might seem like nothing more than a quirky flight of fancy, with illustrations to match the fairytale-like prose. However, this story for young readers touches upon the ineptitude of adults, the failings of higher powers and religion, egotism — among adults and children alike — and the joy of creating the world on your own terms.
Dissatisfied with the incomplete world around them, three children one day decide to take matters into their own hands and fill in the gaps in the universe left by a bunch of lazy creators, who can't be bothered to do much else but eat, sleep and pat themselves on the back. Things go well, until the children get carried away and create a vicious predator who attacks them. Regretful of their mistake, the damage is reversed by the children themselves (the adult creators are no help), and they are more cautious about their endeavors in the future. But, all is not well. The monster the children created seems to be lurking underneath the peaceful landscape, possibly to re-emerge in the future.
While this turnabout is a little abrupt, it's not an ineffective way to demonstrate that actions do not occur in a vacuum. Everything has some consequence and leaves its mark.
I love Almond's work. He's philosophical and yet playful. He respects children as an audience and allows them to draw their own conclusions. Really nice work.(less)
I love Marjane Satrapi. Her writing is witty, relevant and exciting. Her illustrations are also usually really fun. This book is a short little fairyt...moreI love Marjane Satrapi. Her writing is witty, relevant and exciting. Her illustrations are also usually really fun. This book is a short little fairytale/folktale type story with illustrations that actually I thought were a little below Satrapi's caliber as an illustrator. This book was accidentally shelved in our children's room due to some vague and confusing metadata from the publisher, but it definitely belongs in teen. Some adult themes and typical occurrences akin to real fairytales were present, i.e. betrayal, violence, regret. This book was almost too short. I would have liked to see Satrapi really exercise her storytelling might with this one. A girl is taken from her family one day after her father strikes a bargain with a sigh. The sigh comes back for the daughter a year later, and she goes to live in the kingdom of sighs. There she learns quite a few things about life, love and value.(less)
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I have mixed feelings about this book. It's more of a 3.5 star read that I really enjoyed at som...moreCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
I have mixed feelings about this book. It's more of a 3.5 star read that I really enjoyed at some parts, others I had some issues with. This blog post about Daughter of Smoke and Bone really illustrates my feelings about it: (view here) and that's why I'm left with giving this book less than four stars.
This book is so not the kind of book I like to read, which I admit is partly why I have some problems with it. I can't help but think that the themes the author explored in this story would have had more resonance if she didn't enfold the narrative is this epic war between angels and devils, alternate worlds and main characters that are basically creatures. I also think at certain parts that had the writing not been so good that I would have laughed at how a scene was depicted relative to the world the author created. I mean, we have half-human, half-animals all over the place, people having serious, life-altering conversations while in mid-air... It's just all so..... dorky.
Here's a rundown of what this is all about... Karou is a 17-year-old art student living in Prague. She has a mysterious existence, which routinely alienates her friends. However, she can't really enlighten them about herself because Karou doesn't actually know the truth of her background. She was raised by demons in a store that sells wishes in exchange for teeth, and she often serves as the errand girl who travels the world to pick them up for one of her caretakers. Karou's questions about how and why she came to be in this situation are never answered by her caretakers, and because she is caught between two worlds she never fully feels apart of either and is often lonely. This is Karou's life until one day while on an errand she runs into an angel named Akiva who tries to kill her because of her association with demons - the angels' enemies.
The descriptions of scenes and the pacing were spot-on in this book until about the last third, when the author just slams things to a halt with a massive information dump. That's a description I borrowed from the blog post above, because it's just too accurate. The back story really helps flesh out the mystery of who Karou is, but the forward momentum of the action just stalls and never really recovers. Once you return to the main action, there's almost nothing left to grab hold of before you reach the end.
This story expresses very real feelings of isolation at some points and then is overwritten in others. Karou is a great character, who rises above the fantasy elements of this story as a real teen with real problems and a real voice. She's vain, petty, lonely, defiant, snotty, sad, emotional... in essence a teen. But then occasionally the author gets kind of dramatic and you have to skim over those passages to remember that there are moments of real authenticity here. Akiva is a bit of a YA type - miserable, self-loathing, desperate. He's not a bad character - just not as well-drawn as Karou. Their story feels more born of authorial machination than real interpersonal growth. And yet, I'm not going to lie, you do get caught up in it because of the writing.
This book, though it contains great moments of action, is mostly setup (and a good one at that). I'm curious how things will go for Karou in the second installment. This story was basically a mystery adorned with fantasy elements. The next book in the series seems to be headed more toward basic fantasy quest. Not sure. I would be interested to see a book with a larger perspective from Akiva, to determine whether he's more than a YA personality type. I'm eager to see what happens despite the potential pitfalls this book could encounter because of the great moments that were present throughout a lot of this book. (less)
Quick, easy read about the legend of a witch that turns out to be much more than a legend. I hesitate to classify this as fantasy because it comes off...moreQuick, easy read about the legend of a witch that turns out to be much more than a legend. I hesitate to classify this as fantasy because it comes off more like a fairytale or folk tale. The Near Witch is long since dead when this story about a little village (near a moor) begins. Lexie was raised to respect witches and view them as protectors, but not everyone in Near shares her view. One day a stranger shows up in town at the same time that children start disappearing from their beds at night. There's a bit of a Salem Witch Trials thing going on as the town starts blaming the stranger for the loss of their children, who are seemingly carried away by the wind blowing across the moor.
The author tries very hard to make the wind itself a character in the same way Maggie Stiefvater did with cold in Shiver. While The Near Witch is a well-paced read, I wasn't overwhelmed by her descriptions. This was the first book with the word "witch" in the title in what is becoming a long string of books this year that I decided to pick up, largely because the story seemed to stay within the vein of traditional folk tale storytelling while still feeling original. Witches seem to be the new vampires in YA lit now that the market has become so saturated with vampire stories, tv shows and movies that you can barely breathe. This was a good book for sure, but I'm not sure I'll be any more impressed with witches than with vampires.(less)