First five star book of 2014 and I don't begrudge a single star (I must be getting soft in my old age). Eleanor & Park achieves epically sweet, em First five star book of 2014 and I don't begrudge a single star (I must be getting soft in my old age). Eleanor & Park achieves epically sweet, emotionally complex and infinitely satisfying without ever once spinning off into maudlin or melodramatic (which is an amazing achievement when your two protagonists are teenagers in the grips of love's first rush).
Speaking of: Eleanor and Park are wonderful. It's always such a treat when you get characters this fully realized that you can swear you've met them, that you actually know them. Their story is sweet but not saccharine, and as uplifting as it is perilous and nerve wracking. It's tough being a teenager, forced to navigate a capricious world known for its wanton cruelty; where life, as Eleanor so eloquently puts it, "is a bastard."
Isn't it though?
This is a book about how music is its own language that can be used to speak to someone when words fail us. It's a book about family: how much it can save us, and how much it can devastate us. It's a book about two misfits finding each other and discovering what it is in each of them that's worth falling in love with.
This is one creepy-ass unsolved mystery, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. The true story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident and the inexpl This is one creepy-ass unsolved mystery, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. The true story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident and the inexplicable deaths of nine experienced hikers is one of those strange but true tales that leaves a person shuddering from the heebie-jeebies.
Remote and inhospitable Ural Mountains, Russia. February 1959.
A group of nine university students -- 7 men, 2 women -- set up their tent for the evening.
The experienced hikers begin the ritual of settling in for the night ahead, removing packs and boots and outer layers of clothing.
The stove in the middle of the large canvas tent remains unlit. Whatever happens next, occurs before the evening meal.
For reasons unknown to this day, all nine hikers suddenly abandon their tent and go running out into the frigid night improperly clothed and in sock feet. So desperate were they to get away, some of the hikers cut their way out of the back of the tent rather than go out the front.
When the bodies are later recovered some have died from hypothermia, others are found in a deep ravine with violent injuries such as crushed ribs, fractured skull, and one of the hikers is missing her tongue.
What force or event could have possibly compelled nine seasoned hikers to all lose their shit at the same time and act in such an erratic and life-threatening manner? To leave the sanctuary of their tent and flee into the frozen night barely dressed to certain death?
It has been established that it was no avalanche. So what else does that leave?
Over the years, theories have abounded, from the plausible and sane to the completely nutty. Donnie Eichar goes on a quest halfway around the world to retrace the steps of the Dyatlov group searching for the truth of what happened that night. In his quest he meets some colorful Russian characters, including a tenth member of the Dyatlov group who turned back at the last minute, a decision that saved his life.
This book is really three narratives woven together -- 1) the Dyatlov Incident pieced together from photos and journals the doomed hikers painstakingly kept along the way 2) the search and rescue which followed and 3) Eichar's trips to Russia and his own trek to Dead Mountain.
As I followed in the hikers' footsteps, reading their journal entries, seeing their smiling faces in the photographs, I couldn't help become emotional for the horror I knew was waiting for them. It's a story that's as sad as it is unsettling.
After three years of research and exhaustive interviews, Eichar is able to put forth an interesting theory about what exactly happened that night, one that certainly has more substance than UFO's or the Abominable Snowman. Yet, it's still only a theory. The maddening, pull your hair out aspect of this story is that we will probably never know what happened that night. It is a secret that the young hikers took to their untimely and tragic graves.
Photo: Yuri Yudin hugging Lyudmila Dubinina as he prepares to leave the group because of illness, as Igor Dyatlov looks on smiling
I want to make sure that my three stars don't discourage any curious readers away from this genuinely sweet, fun read. Three stars means I liked it, a I want to make sure that my three stars don't discourage any curious readers away from this genuinely sweet, fun read. Three stars means I liked it, and I did very much.
The Rosie Project falls firmly into the Rom-Com genre, is very cinematic (and yes, fairly predictable in its execution), but despite its flirty familiar territory it's WELL WORTH giving over an afternoon of reading. Don Tillman is a delightful, unusual narrator -- though he did keep reminding me of Jack Nicholson's character in As Good As It Gets (a movie I love).
This is the book you reach for when you're craving something smart but uncomplicated, funny and compelling that delivers all the feels of a safe, happy ending. ...more
“I feel sorry for you, and I'm going to be your friend." "I don't want to be your friend," Cath said as sternly as she could. "I like that we're not fr
“I feel sorry for you, and I'm going to be your friend." "I don't want to be your friend," Cath said as sternly as she could. "I like that we're not friends." "Me, too. I'm sorry you ruined it by being so pathetic.”
“There are other people on the Internet. It's awesome. You get all the benefits of 'other people' without the body odor and the eye contact.”
At first glance, Fangirl positions itself to be a silly, fluffy piece about identical twin sisters and their freshman year at college, and how one sister in particular must navigate her way through this perilous and confusing time, all while trying to churn out chapter after chapter of fanfiction to her adoring online readers. And it is that book, sweetly refreshing, never taking itself too seriously, but it also manages to be so much more -- about mental illness, friendship, sisters, mothers, living as an introvert in an extrovert's world, and falling in love, safely and sensibly with someone who deserves it (no creepy pouty vampires here ladies and gentleman! and no love triangles! hooray!)
I really related to Cath and her introverted, super anxious in social situations ways. I got her Simon Snow obsession and her need to escape into that world rather than dealing with real life. A lot of times, that is why we're reading in the first place, isn't it? To escape? To fall down the rabbit hole and be somewhere else, be someone else?
The compulsion to create fanfiction is just taking it one step further, so in love are you with a particular world and characters, that you are willing to write your own stories about them just to keep the magic from ever ending, and keep the reality wolves away from your front door for just one more day.
I love what the author has to say about the act of writing, its highs and lows, obsessions and doubts, how telling the story can be as profoundly transformative an act as reading it. When you stop to think about it, the synergy between author and reader is a gobsmackingly powerful, beautiful thing. Neither can exist without the other.
I'm home today with a horrible cold and this was the perfect book to help me escape the realities of my bodily suffering. Fangirl is a complete rabbit hole, and down I went. I was going to use this review to confess to some of my own fangirl proclivities, but I think I'll save that for another time. ...more
Bottom line, this book has *a lot* to recommend it: it is a dark, dream-like, post-apocalyptic landscape with sharp turns and compelling plot twists. Bottom line, this book has *a lot* to recommend it: it is a dark, dream-like, post-apocalyptic landscape with sharp turns and compelling plot twists. I experienced a few moments of genuine shock (remarkable for a jaded reader like myself) and not once did I ever want to stop reading. I just had to know how it was all going to come out. The only way to really know if this book is for you is to go on this journey with Zoe, our narrator, and see for yourself.
This is one of those books that when I finished it, I sat for a moment and didn't know quite what to do with myself, pondering "what the hell did I just read?"
Zoe is a difficult narrator to get to know. She speaks and thinks in metaphors and similes (more on that later). Part of her story is constructed of remembrances of things past -- the THEN -- the other half is told in urgent tones of events unfolding in the moment -- the NOW. While Zoe's story is sympathetic, it took me a long while to warm up to her, even when the only religion she has in this dead and deformed new world is to hold on to the last remnants of her humanity. This means rushing in to "do the right thing" even when the choice to do so is stupid, dangerous or even meaningless.
But her compulsion brings some interesting people into her fractured life, and some monsters as well.
About those metaphors and similes? This is probably what irritated me the most about the book, for if a strong-willed editor had cut half of the flowery phrases from the myriad of thousands to choose from I could see myself giving the novel four stars no problem. Unfortunately, all of the "like a" and "as a" sentences often took me right out of the story, standing out like heavy oak coffee tables that you stub your toe on in the middle of the night (see what I did there?)
Not all of the language in this book makes you want to howl and curse in pain. Some of it is quite beautiful, poetic, startling even. It creates a pall over the story, a tension and a mystery. Zoe's dreamlike narration made me feel like I was moving through heavy water. When the jolts come (and they do, trust me), they really bite you because you've been lulled into a state of complacency.
I did warm up to Zoe eventually, and I keened for a happy ending. White Horse is the first book of a planned trilogy, but the good news is, it ably stands as a complete and satisfying story for those readers wary of committing to yet another series. ...more
This book ripped my heart right out of my goddamn chest and crushed it while I watched curled helpless and whimpering in the fetal position on the floThis book ripped my heart right out of my goddamn chest and crushed it while I watched curled helpless and whimpering in the fetal position on the floor. Oh how I wanted to SCREAM, and kick and throw a right tantrum like I haven't done since I was three. If the author had been standing in front of me I may have done her some bodily harm. I would have gone Medieval Annie Wilkes on her ass, okay? You dirty bird...how could you? I would have said with murder in my eye.
But before that very unpleasant, mucous-filled momentary loss of reason, came heaping spoonfuls of joy and wonder. I was kept so giddy I felt drunk, swooning and sighing, cheering and laughing, thinking and feeling. Oh yes!!!!
Let's get something straight - this is not your average, flirtatious chick-lit romance. Don't let that siren red cover fool you. Me Before You is an exquisitely paced, remarkably insightful, bonafide LOVE STORY. For all you YA readers out there tired and bored with the insta-love trope, gather round -- THIS is how two very real people really fall in love.
There is so much sweet, smouldering tension in these pages I am truly at a loss how to capture it. (view spoiler)[The concert scene where Louisa must rip the tag from the neck of Will's shirt with her teeth is perfection - the delicious intimacy of the act left me breathless. As did the beautiful, heart-stopping moment when they danced at Alicia's wedding. Am I disappointed there wasn't an actual sex scene? A little. I was so worked up and so keen for these two bodies to crash together it was a near physical ache. Jesus, that's good writing. Despite the lack of actual consummation, what passes between Will and Louisa is SO HOT it makes anything found in the pages of Fifty Shades of Grey read like somebody's grocery list.
I did not want Will to choose death. I wanted him to choose life, to choose Louisa. When he looks at her and tells her that her love is not enough to make him want to go on living, a small part of me died. I was positively gutted and ANGRY. But now I get it. I get why he had to, and why it was only his choice to make. (hide spoiler)]
This is a keeper ladies and gentlemen. That is all.
Liked it overall, but I did have my problems with it.
1. The zombies (aka zeds, shamblers, revs (short for revenants)) -- there is nothing uLiked it overall, but I did have my problems with it.
1. The zombies (aka zeds, shamblers, revs (short for revenants)) -- there is nothing unique about Jacobs' zombies: they are slow, and gooshy, and stink. They are dangerous in hordes and are attracted to sound. All this we've seen before; nevertheless, the descriptions are remarkably vivid -- skulls shattering, teeth splintering, intestines bursting, and always the terrible, gag-inducing smell of rot.
2. The first 121 pages are a complete adrenaline rush. Action begins on page 1 and does not relent for a moment. We meet Dr. Lucy Ingersoll on the afternoon her hospital succumbs to chaos. An inexplicable virus is causing people to seizure, auto-cannibalize, attack, die and re-animate. Lucy is our entry point into the start of the end of the world. She assesses her situation and realizes she must abandon the hospital if she is to rescue her son, Gus, at home with his father. In her attempt to get to her family, Lucy crosses paths with Knock-Out, a giant of a man with a gentle and kind way about him. These 121 pages are strong enough to stand on their own as a rip-roaring novella of zombie insanity, replete with nuclear detonations.
The shifting character POV did not work for me. The first 121 pages grabbed me by my short hairs. I loved the brutal immediacy of the story. Everything feels so *urgent* and *perilous*. I loved Lucy and Knock-Out. Then the book shifts gears and we are getting Tessa's story. Okay, I'll keep following you. Tessa's story is sad and icky. But intense. I found her very sympathetic. Just as I was getting emotionally invested, the story shifts again. Now it's three years later and Lucy's 14-year-old son Gus takes over narrating. Then the POV shifts *again* and we have some chick Barbara sharing the minutes from the various committee meetings of the Bridge City survivors enclave. And there will be one more POV change before the novel concludes.
So many shifts in narration, from first to third person, lost me by the end of the book. It was hard to sustain emotional involvement with any of the major characters. The book ends up reading like a collection of interconnected short stories, and on their own, each of the chapters are actually quite strong. It's when you force them to act as a novel where things fall apart. That's when huge problems with pacing and characterization appear, along with a natural momentum towards a meaningful and satisfactory climax (of which there isn't one).
Despite these issues, there's something about this book that recommends itself. It's got that gritty, western kind of vibe going, a little Mad Max, a little The Road and of course Kirkman's The Walking Dead (it's just not possible to read about the slavers and Captain Konstantin and not be reminded of the Governor).
If you're craving zombies, and a bleak and desperate post-apocalyptic landscape, you could do a lot worse than This Dark Earth. ...more
Hope, I've discovered, is a sad nuisance. Hope is a horse with a broken leg. ~The Gods of Gotham, Lyndsay Faye
New York City, 1845. Helped by an explo
Hope, I've discovered, is a sad nuisance. Hope is a horse with a broken leg. ~The Gods of Gotham, Lyndsay Faye
New York City, 1845. Helped by an explosion of combustible saltpeter, a great fire has once again decimated Lower Manhattan, claiming the lives of four fireman and 26 civilians.
Across the Atlantic, a terrible potato blight is beginning to take its toll, and shiploads of desperate, starving Irish pour into the city despised for their race and religion. Despite having traveled so far, work and food continue to be scarce commodities. Gang violence is commonplace as Dead Rabbits clash with the infamous Bowery Boys.
The city forms its first police department. The men are greeted with a mixture of fear, hostility and suspicion. Pinned to the men's chests is a roughly cut copper star.
Welcome to Gotham, where the streets of Five Points are plagued with filth, prostitution, spilled blood and political corruption. Children are left to fend for themselves hunted by disease, hunger and predators who will draft them into a life of thievery or sexual exploitation.
The Gods of Gotham is historical fiction at its best -- filled to the brim with vivid characters, authentic dialogue, and a sense of place so strong you can taste it in the back of your throat. As an audiobook, it is a marvel, drawing you in, caressing your ear, transporting you back in time.
In one fell swoop, Timothy Wilde is left unemployed, disfigured and penniless. In an attempt to save his brother from utter desperation, Valentine gets Tim a job on the newly drafted New York City police force. One fateful evening walking home to his modest lodgings atop a bakery, Tim crashes into a young girl clad in a blood-soaked nightdress. She is frantic, almost delirious, and murmurs "They will tear him apart." And so Tim is pulled into a tangled and depraved web of conspiracy and unholy murder. It will change him irrevocably, as the streets of New York hold their own council and wait to see what the remaining 19th century has in store.
I loved this story, everything about it. Timothy Wilde is a great character as is his vice-ridden, brawling brother Valentine and the prickly relationship they share, weakened by years of mistrust and animosity. Little Bird Daly, just ten years old, is memorably precocious and heart-breakingly real, a symbol of the abominable acts perpetrated on orphaned children in the years before the law started to identify and protect them in earnest.
And New York City -- how grand and tawdry and exciting and perilous you really are. You've been romanticized as often as you've been vilified. You are notorious, legendary, epic, and any story set in your streets must be all of these things too or become lost in your long shadow. The Gods of Gotham is that story. You two are well-met and well-matched. I cannot wait to return.
***For anyone interested, BBC America has created the series Copper set in 1860's New York featuring a young Irish cop tasked with policing in the Five Points. I haven't seen an episode yet, but you can bet I'm going to give it a try....more
This book contains all the ingredients of a great read for me, and while I opened it with keen anticipation, I closed it feeling painfully disappointeThis book contains all the ingredients of a great read for me, and while I opened it with keen anticipation, I closed it feeling painfully disappointed. Despite the subject matter, at no point did the story or characters ever grab me and whisk me away into their world. I remained restless throughout, skimming passages, and eager to get to the end just to say I finished it. I’m left pondering why it doesn’t work with so much going for it … I guess great ideas really can be poorly executed. What’s worse than a bad book? A bad book you think is going to be great. Why even two stars? Since I didn’t actually hate it, and I felt compelled to finish it, also for the “idea” behind it. ...more
Beautiful! Delightful! Left me feeling warm and fuzzy all over. Certainly by the end you couldn’t knock the goofy smile from my face with a two-by-fouBeautiful! Delightful! Left me feeling warm and fuzzy all over. Certainly by the end you couldn’t knock the goofy smile from my face with a two-by-four. I love genre books that surpass genre, whose stories and characters are so richly drawn they cannot be contained, but rather burst forth from the limiting confines of convention. Yes, this is YA fantasy, it is also a romance and a rip-roaring adventure story; it is all of these but the result is so much greater than the mere sum of its parts.
Katsa and Po are flesh and blood and bone; their discovery of one another is filled with such tenderness and believability I wanted to cry. Their separate and distinctive journey toward self-discovery and self-acceptance is one of the best I’ve read in a long time.
I am crushed to realize that Fire does not continue Po and Katsa’s journey. But I can concede that Cashore has done a remarkable job offering readers a complete story here with a wholly satisfying ending. ...more
Loved this! So unexpectedly weird and creepy. I was not expecting to become so enthralled in a story told strictly with pictures and no text. The horrLoved this! So unexpectedly weird and creepy. I was not expecting to become so enthralled in a story told strictly with pictures and no text. The horror of House sneaks up on you and I for one, did not see it coming. Thanks to Jessica for passing this along to me about a year ago, and helping me remember it today!...more
Immensely enjoyable adventure-quest tale; loved the characters and loved the resolution at the end, two major plot twists I did not see coming but reaImmensely enjoyable adventure-quest tale; loved the characters and loved the resolution at the end, two major plot twists I did not see coming but really appreciated. Gen is a delightful scamp and I look forward to reading more about his exploits....more
This book made me so uncomfortable for so many reasons...gritty, raw, powerful. At times I almost felt complicit in the brutality and dehumanizing actThis book made me so uncomfortable for so many reasons...gritty, raw, powerful. At times I almost felt complicit in the brutality and dehumanizing actions of the Beckoners. Mac's immense talent is obvious; she remains in total control of her narrative and I as a reader was swept along for the ride, grimacing, white-knuckled, and nauseated, all the way to the bitter end. My one criticism is that the ending seemed a little too "and they all live happily ever after" for me. Perhaps Mac felt she had put the reader through enough and this was her way of apologizing...of offering a message of hope and optimism. But for me the almost trite resolution seemed out of place in a novel so fierce in its unflinching look at teen violence -- how savage, tribal and unrelenting it has become. ...more