God, I freaking loved this book. Fantastic prose, loved the character development and all the emotional upheaval will make your heart ache. I was afraid at first that I would have to reread Aurelia to get the characters fresh in my head and get the story straight, but I went ahead and read a bit of Exile as soon as I got it and realized it wasn’t necessary. I’ll tell you why…
The characters were more alive than ever. They came back as if I’d just finished reading Aurelia. Aurelia was up and fighting, straining against the unexpected bounds her expedition set on her. Robert, frustrated as ever, trying to tell her not to be so reckless and stupid. The two of them are presented so well. It’s so easy to imagine their relationship and with Anne Osterlund’s expressive writing style, everything comes alive—including the increasing heat between our two MCs.
I said fantastic prose, and I meant it. Right away, I found a passage that I just had to make note of. (I’m serious when I say this. I always keep an index card inside the book I’m reading so I can make note of this stuff for my review.)
“Eyes watched her. From behind pitchfork tines and around morning glory trellises, through the gnarled apple trees, and under the long, crisscrossed shadows of orchards…She tried smiling at the onlookers , but they ducked beneath their leafy screens and sank to darker slate-gray depths.”
Excerpted from ARC paperback edition p. 7
I wish I could share some of my favorite bits of prose, but they’re cliffhangers. Oh boy, can Anne Osterlund leave you a cliffhanger. Usually books don’t take me by surprise but I gasped a few times throughout this book. It might have been due to the slight change in her writing style. She had a tendency to write punchier sentences instead of the longer flowing kind. I think it’s what really made the emotion pop out in this book.
IEU: immense emotional upheaval. Aurelia was struggling with her traumatic memories of court, as was Robert. Aurelia was also challenged during her expedition in more traumatic ways than ever. Reading about her heart-wrenching reactions made me feel like a peeping tom. Like being in the room when someone’s crying. I think this feeling speaks of Anne Osterlund’s ability to bring out the soul of a character.
I love how it all comes together. I was so swept up in the adventure, thinking what the characters thought, that my Reality Button was turned off. It’s what usually clues me in on what’s going on—what the author is trying not to tell you. But as I said, the characters…you think what they think and when they put it together, I was suddenly going, “Ooohhhhh!!!” when it clicked for me too.
This is now the third novel I’ve read of Anne Osterlund’s and personally, I hope I have the money and means the day her tenth bestselling book comes out. I was so honored that she thought of me for a review copy. :) Definitely one of the Cucumber Fairies. XD
If you haven’t picked up any of Anne Osterlund’s work, you need to get on that. Like, right now. As in, this second. In fact, why are you still even bothering reading my review, which doesn’t do her work nearly enough justice? You need to be at the bookstore picking up one of her books. Why are you still here?!(less)
I may not be a lover of vampires, but there are more than several reasons why this book didn't exactly call to me.
The writing was so-so. It seemed very half-hearted and there were many mistakes that should have been caught by an editor. There was nothing in the style that drew me in and kept me riveted.
The plot needed serious work. I can understand a little lull now and again and maybe some loose strings but there wasn't any depth. There wasn't a lot of mystery; I didn't feel compelled to figure it out for myself.
The characters: No depth whatsoever. In fact, the most fleshed out character was KiKi (aka: Maybelle Crusher). The main character, Daphne, was portrayed as weak and dramatic, constantly delivering choppy, unrealistic lines. You would think, given the fact she'd been slaying vampires since she was twelve, that she would have a backbone. It felt more like I was watching a soap opera--you know that stuff like this never happens. There wasn't any sense of realism--more like a dream.
There were promising components. There were many ideas that I thought were interesting and original--if only they had panned out. It had great potential at being a really good book if the MC was tougher and more realistic, the love interest not so Ken-like, and stronger supporting characters and atmosphere. I liked the humor even if there were only spurts of it. Kiki was hilarious.
If I were to choose one word to describe this book, it would be "cute". Most of the parts were stock--things you see in late night TV shows that carry no substance. For all the ideas the author had, the book should have been longer to allow the ideas to pan out. It really petered out towards the end.
Overall, not the most enjoyable book for me.
WARNING! Lots of swearing in this book, especially in the beginning and middle--not so much at the end. (less)
A very promising debut. There are pros and cons with both writing style and plot but there’s something in the characters that makes me anticipate the next book’s release.
I love the archetypical hero’s story. It’s what makes me love stories like Harry Potter and Eragon. Griffin is an earth-angel who is realizing the heart of his situation: human versus angel. While he struggles to figure out the balance, he’s haunted by a jaded past. His struggles and obstacles were the perfect challenge for him and created a very enjoyable story.
I rooted for Griffin 100%. What really grabbed me about him was his humor because I’m a sucker for funny guys, but also his sensitivity (girls love a guy in touch with his emotions) and his loyalty. Griffin’s passion for saving people didn’t come off as cliché as I had started to fear it would.
As I read, I started to dread the romance. I was afraid that it would turn out to amount to several pages worth of description about what drew them to each other. But besides the initial, Wow, he/she’s pretty cute there wasn’t much to drag down their relationship. I actually began to cheer for Katie because she’s wasn’t a complete girl about some things.
“Fire, you’re fast! I almost didn’t beat you,” Griffin gasped. “Notice I said almost.”
”Well, I let you win. Frail male ego, you know.”
Excerpted from the ARC edition, page 84
I mean, I wanted to smack her about some things but otherwise, I liked her attitude.
The one thing that bothered me was Nash. The kid was way too much the archetypical bully. Griffin’s reactions were good (Go Griffin!) but the whole thing with Nash just didn’t fly well with me. I could see it coming a mile away and he didn’t put a lot of originality into the story. And the final confrontation between Nash and Griffin just annoyed me because Griffin was such an idiot about it.
In terms of writing: it was rough but I liked the way it was set up—half journal entries, half narrative. The plot was straightforward and I think the story could have been greatly lengthened if more detail and depth had been added.
However, I loved Griffin’s story. I blew through this story so fast; I was sorry to finish so quickly. Now I can’t wait for the sequel! I can see a lot of potential in Darby Karchut’s style. I can see that with time and practice, she will flourish into a household YA name.
This ARC was received in exchange for an honest review.(less)
I don't think it was the thrill of reading it on my new Kindle that had me loving this book so much. The characters, the originality, the plot, everything, worked. It was a great read; I enjoyed it from beginning to end. There are a few things I would have preferred to be different, but it didn't detract from the sheer awesomeness of this book.
I liked the main character, Elisa. Though some of the things she did annoyed me like nothing else, she had such a streak of reality to her. She grew through her experiences and came to be a different person by the end of the book.
I loved the setting and plot, and how closely intertwined they were. I was totally blown away! Some parts were predictable, so I was settling in for a predictable ending and then BOOM. Halfway to the end and everything totally hits the fan. I almost cried.
But I liked the romance, I liked the story, and the characters. The only problem I had with it was how short it was. In retrospect, I could easily imagine the amount of time passing throughout the story. As I read however, it seemed to pass too quickly—to fast to get any depth. I felt as if the author should have taken her time, and let the story expand.
She had great descriptions, though. So great, I used the nifty note-making feature on my Kindle to mark a few passages, this one included:
The tumultuous snarl of sand is so huge and steady, so pure, that it is almost like quiet.
Elegant in its simplicity.
I cannot wait to see where this series goes. I want to read the next book now! (And I'm totally buying this in hardcover.)(less)
I wanted to like this book. It offered a unique story set in an exotic place with a forbidden romance and a compelling mystery. While the book delivered a foreign place, a romance and a mystery, I did not feel compelled to enjoy any of them. The main character was flighty and indecisive; the romance was melodramatic; the plot fell flat, and the locale was not exactly the definition of intoxicating.
Cassandra Caravello and I would not be best buds. I felt no compassion for her, or for whatever situation she'd stumbled into. At every turn she was getting in trouble. And not just finding it, but throwing herself into it! The girl's brain had the consistency of wallpaper paste. She threw herself into danger unnecessarily, and usually had nothing to show for it except that she has a penchant for being saved like a damsel in distress. And if she wasn't following scary lights into the darkness, or rowing across Venice by herself with a killer on the loose while pursuing a thin thread of logic, then she was passing out or throwing a temper tantrum. The girl was moody and a downright irritant.
I didn't find much value in the love triangle, either. (For of course there must be a love triangle!) I normally despise love triangles because they almost always reflect poorly on the main character, and what should be a conflict, or obstacle, really just comes off as melodramatic tension. In this case, I felt no sense of tragedy at Cassandra's loss of her "true love." Partly because I did not care for Cassandra or her troubles, and partly because I felt no compassion for any of the other characters.
Also, I felt no stirring towards the world. I wanted to come out of the book feeling like I had just come back from an adventure. Venice is a place with enormous potential for a magical adventure story, and yet I just felt...very meh. Yes, I was shown gondolas and canals and palazzos, but while they were mentioned, I couldn't really see what was so magical about them. I couldn't sense the magic of the world at all because it lacked a lot of small, important details that would've brought it to life. The lasting effect was...less than intoxicating.
The plot was not compelling. The supposed "danger" to the character was overrated because nothing about the murders in Venice truly disrupted Cassandra's life. I slogged through it, waiting for the stakes to rise, waiting for something unexpected to happen. The plot twists bored me because I had figured them out several pages beforehand. By the end of it, the only thing I wanted to know was a) whodunnit and b) why. Both revelations were tiresome.
Overall, not impressed in the slightest. I don't think I'll be continuing with this series.(less)
The blurb by Nancy Werlin (Impossible) on the back of the ARC edition of this book really said it pretty well in terms of tone: “A surreal little nightmare in book form.” Imaginary Girls files right in there with The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff because it’s as if Nova Ren Suma had a nightmare one night, decided to write it down and just go with it. The setting was deep and creepy, as were the characters. Novels like these stick out for their untraditional way of storytelling, but the distinct differences make them stick out for their brilliance as well.
Imaginary Girls was one of those books that didn’t really have a typical unfolding of events. Nothing is really explained. There’s no handsome hero there to sit you down and say, “This happened because of This and now you have to watch for This, That, and The Other.” So when I finally began to piece together what happened as Chloe did, I got goose bumps. Especially since I wasn’t sure if I was right. Even at the end, I was left thinking that there was a trick and that something would be said in a concrete way. This technique of leaving the reader floundering around for information really adds to the book’s charm.
Also, this incredibly distorted view of sisterhood makes me think, “Who the heck would think of something like this?” Ruby scares me. Seriously. I don’t have any sisters and this almost makes me grateful. I like dedication and loyalty as much as the next person, but Ruby is extreme. It’s creepy. Like something taken off of Criminal Minds. These little things Ruby does that you know she does, yet you don’t have any evidence and you don’t want to believe it…(I think the creepiest thing was the balloons, because it proved that there was something going on with Ruby that Chloe was trying to figure out. But I won’t go into anymore detail because that would be spoiling the story for you…)
I liked how it was set through Chloe’s eyes. She was an honest character who was woefully innocent yet her story was told in this seasoned way, as if told through her unconscious side. The side that knew what was going on. I don’t understand the romance—or attempt at romance—that goes on as it wasn’t deepened and it didn’t contribute significantly to the plot. It did show some personal development on Chloe’s part, however, since it portrayed her and grounded her as a real girl who has unexplainable crushes like everybody else.
The writing was beautiful. In a remember-to-lock-your-doors-at-night type of way. The style made every emotion, scene and setting come alive in this nightmarish quality.
An example would be the opening paragraphs:
Ruby said I’d never drown—not in deep ocean, not by shipwreck, not even by falling drunk into someone’s bottomless backyard pool. She said she’d seen me hold my breath underwater for minutes at a time, but to hear her tell it you’d think she meant days. Long enough to live down there if needed, to skim the seafloor collecting shells and shiny soda caps, looking up every so often for the rescue lights, even if they took forever to come.
It sounded impossible, something no one would believe if anyone other than Ruby were the one to tell it. But Ruby was right: The body found that night wouldn’t be, couldn’t be mine.
Excerpted from the ARC paperback edition, page 1. Subject to change.
For a young adult debut, Nova Ren Suma is astonishing. I definitely recommend this for anyone who enjoys a good creepy read, and/or if you enjoyed The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff.
Special thanks to Holly @ Good Golly Miss Holly for holding this ARC Tour(less)
Not exactly my cup of tea. Maybe it was the idea or the execution of said idea or the characters, but more than likely it was a combination of all three. There was something lacking in the structure and presentation that made the characters, and story inaccessible.
The major problem I had with this book was the main character, Allie. Starting with the character itself and not her circumstances, I was disappointed with how shallow she seemed. Even the description of her family background didn’t give me any interest. I didn’t feel any inclination to cheer for her victories or mourn her losses.
Allie’s circumstances once she reached Galveston were so convenient that it was unbelievable. Her instant connection with her gorgeous tenant and this fabulous house that she wasn’t “accustomed” to, etc. Then, the whole situation surrounding Brody just annoyed me further. This instant physical connection, unexplainable background, mysterious attitude been done dozens—thousands!—of times and it’s almost become a default with paranormal books nowadays. I would like to believe it possible that there are supernatural heroes that aren’t drop dead gorgeous and are capable of being a dork.
There’s an article in the July/August issue of Writer’s Digest that speaks very well on the subject of giving flat characters dimension. The author of this article, Steven James (The Bishop), elaborates on four points that give a character complex dimension and one of the points is status. It’s the difference between being dominant and being submissive and how to vary your character’s status to make them believable(1). Likeable heroes are rarely submissive, and thus lies my problem with Allie. She didn’t have drive. I wanted to read about a character that had her own personal conflict besides the main external struggle and how she was going to deal with this personal conflict.
Of course, all those elements—the spectacular living arrangements, the hot romantic interest—can be pulled off effectively, and even feature characters that don’t have a lot of sass but the writing made reading almost unbearable. It was written so distantly that it had the same effect of a third person omniscient narrator. The dialogue was awkward and sounded like it was excerpted from a manual.
Overall, I couldn’t stand Allie’s seemingly naïve attitude and Brody’s brooding hotness. Nothing was clicking for me.
1 = James, Steven “Raise Your Characters Above The Status Quo.” Writer’s Digest (2011): 25-28. Print.(less)
Where was this book ten years ago? I know that I would have been all over this. It probably would have given me nightmares, too, but I would have loved this book to pieces. Even now, just shy of an official adult, it really connects with my not-yet-buried side of childhood pleasures. Sometimes I just love a good, out-of-this-world, simple read. And Panjandrum and J.J. Telly really delivered.
At first, it took a bit for me to get into it. It seemed too otherworldly for me to grasp into my werewolf-and-vampire-hardwired mind. The simple pleasure of reading a clever children's story eventually took over however and I disappeared into it hours at a time. There was something compelling about Telly's creative interpretation of the alphabet.
See, the Levels are not just letters as we know, like: P, G, and H. It's phonetically written and it's really clever! So it would go: Pee, Gee, and Haitch. Then there's Eff (F), Ess (S), Que (Q)…Isn't that clever?! The amount of detail that goes into the story is awe inspiring.
I love the descriptions, too. There's something about it that pulled me in. Maybe it was because it was so unlike any style you see today in YA lit.
I loved this passage especially:
And Portentia contained the most wonderful laugh. It was the kind that billowed out like a gale, flooding the room. You could hear this laugh on a muggy, crowded bus and no matter how grumpy you were, the laugh would force you to crack a smile.
It was the kind of laugh that stole your sadness from you, though you didn't feel like you'd lost anything at all. Her laugh was a clever thief Bellamy could respect.
Excerpted from the paperback edition, page 124
Panjandrum is a clever story with likeable characters, a thrilling adventure, chilling subplots, and a detailed setting. I cheered Gelsem and the Parasitic Punks all the way. I seriously needed this ten years ago, though. It would have really spiced up my pitiful literary stack at the time.
This review copy was received in exchange for an honest review.(less)
By the summary, it can be accurately guessed what's going to happen. It's a predictable storyline. So it takes talent like Cath Crowley's to take a predictable storyline and turn it into a funny, enjoyable, unique book with great writing and even greater characters.
I liked the main characters, Lucy and Ed. Lucy had real sass—the kind country grandfathers tend to find charming, but she didn't come off as aloof because she had compassion. She was a visionary when it came to art and she was also fearless when it came to standing up for this passion.
Ed was really cool, too. He had a tortured artist's soul, but it didn't come off in this wimpy way. He wasn't this guy who was worldly and just happened to have a crappy life at home. Ed was the opposite: he was real thinker, passionate about art and actually had a good family situation with his mom. His bitter view on life ran deep. This believability really came off true.
The minor characters were also fantastic. They really added a great flavor to the book.
Cath Crowley writes these characters in a very real way. It's hard to explain how, but coupled with the atmosphere, the writing, and the humor, it came off as a great package.
The only thing that bothered me was how the chapters overlapped. I don't have a particular preference when it comes to choosing between alternating POV books and one-character POV books, but this really bothered me because Cath Crowley went back into a scene that had already been covered by another character and rewrote half of it in the other character's POV. I wouldn't have minded if it had happened once, but it was like that in most of the chapters.
I loved Cath Crowley's simple, gently sarcastic writing. Bookmarking on my Kindle is godsend because there were a lot of memorable lines.
The moment of clarity doesn't go any further than that because smacking into a tree in the middle of the night will knock clarity right out of a girl, every time.
Every now and then I think he's here because in the dark Ed looks like a shadow that someone else is casting.
Overall, Cath Crowley has the potential to be up there with Melina Marchetta. Her ability to turn around a predictable storyline and add on with incredible backstory will keep me looking for her next books.(less)
Straight up: probably one of the best books I've read in a while. Robin LaFevers has constructed a story chockfull of political intrigue, breathtaking romance and exciting adventure. Coupled with her incredible writing ability, this is a book I will put time aside for to reread. It was that good.
The main character, Ismae, was fantastic. She started out with a rough life and was given a second chance. She didn't let the chance go to waste. I cheered for her from page one. She wasn't a perfect character. She made mistakes and misjudgments and let her mouth get away from her. She had a wicked sense of humor. She was flawed. She was awesome. Her emotions were raw; Robin LaFevers didn't sugarcoat anything.
The romance was awesome! I liked how Robin LaFevers held out just long enough to put me on the edge of my seat. It's one of those romances that you know they have to get together--they just have to!--but it takes a ridiculously long amount of time. It was satisfying though. So kudos to Ms. LaFevers.
The eerie setting was the perfect backdrop for the compelling plot. The story was brilliantly told and artfully crafted. It's so rare I see such depth to political intrigue. (MCs are generally on the outskirts or indirectly affected by political dealings, so it was nice to have a MC in the thick of it, actively changing the course of the fate of the world around her.)
Robin LaFevers has an enviable writing skill. She transitioned smoothly, almost seamlessly, between the stages of Ismae's character development. She created a story of a strong, scarred young woman called to the life of an assassin. I loved the uniqueness.
Grave Mercy was a thrilling, very satisfying read. I resolve myself to the life of nagging Robin on twitter until the sequel, Dark Triumph, comes out.(less)
I loved the idea, but I had a hard time getting into the story. I didn't have a lot of sympathy or compassion for the characters. They all seemed a bit shallow to me. The story was interesting, if a bit unorganized, and the writing was not what I was expecting at all.
I didn't feel at all compelled to continue reading Kali's story. I liked Kali's character enough, especially this interesting situation she finds herself in: her powers switching on and off every other day. And the problems she faces with her dad. Kali herself had an interesting dynamic--she has little sense of normality, but I felt as if that wasn't portrayed very well.
The sub-characters Skylar and Bethany were interesting, but their group dynamic was typical: girl that babbles, girl that's popular but not actually the b*tch she appears to be, and the screw up in the middle. Bethany can't stand Skylar, Skylar can't stand Bethany, Kali trying to keep the peace because she needs the friendship. I liked Skylar and Bethany, but not enough to really care about them.
Kali's story was...almost typical and expected. Not as complex as I was hoping for. I had no problem figuring out the mystery. I did like Kali's powers, though. That was cool and different, though maybe not described very well.
The real let down for me, though, was the writing. Very simple, and not elegant. There were spots of humor and brilliance, but they were few and far between. I was expecting more from Jennifer Lynn Barnes because I loved Raised By Wolves.
The Butterfly Clues was a gripping, intense story with a fascinating, unique main character. I don't know exactly what I was expecting when I first started in: a quick, easy read, I guess. But Kate Ellison pulled me in fast with her addictive main character, Lo, and heart-racing storyline.
Lo, at first, was a bit off-putting with her psychotic tendencies to steal and her must-do-or-the-world-will-fall-apart paranoia of tap, tap, tap, banana-ing before entering and leaving a room. Her obsession with threes, sixes, and nines would make you raise your eyebrows at the page. Still, there's something vulnerable lurking between all that paranoia and obsession, something tender and fragile that really captured me, and made me want to know more about her and her story.
The setting of The Butterfly Clues was creepy, to put it lightly, but alluring in its own way. I don't think having a tour of the interior of a strip club or a place called Neverland could have worked in any other book. Here, it was fitting. Entirely so. Nothing streamline for this book.
There were only a few things I think lacked. For example, though I thought that the romance was well done, a few of the scenes were a bit too cliche, and moments that should have been crucial were understated. Also, Lo's relationship with her parents was not as well-balance throughout the book as I would have preferred. All of the drama with her parents came at the end, as if trying to fit its bigger role in at the end.
The mystery was fantastic, though. I was very impressed with how it was written--how it played out. I love books that surprise you, but I also love it when your suspicions turn out correct. It's a very satisfying moment.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has a love for mystery and chilling stories.(less)
This book was so ridiculous -- so dramatic, so poorly executed, so pitiful -- that there was no way I could take it seriously. It was shallow beyond compare; it even beat out ABC Family dramas in my eyes. But. It was a very entertaining read. A simple guilty pleasure for nothing but dramadramadrama. If you, dear reader, are expecting a Sarah Dessen/Kody Keplinger style serious story, this is not the book you're looking for. If you wanna kick back, go through the simple act of reading without getting emotionally involved, this is totally it.
My words might seem harsh, but I enjoyed the book. I finished it in two days. I liked reading it. I just couldn't take it seriously. It went from shallow but cute to absolutely, downright ridiculous.
Abby and Travis's relationship was formed and shaped by extremes -- extremes that could've been prevented by good ole common sense. But then it wouldn't be fun, right? Abby was a nightmare. I never bothered trying to like her character -- there was too much that I couldn't agree with from the get go. Didn't help that she was just plain dumb. And she strung Travis around like a broken kite. Their relationship was so messed up, I couldn't even...Good grief. None of it made sense.
If that's supposed to be the point, then kudos. This obviously wasn't the book that would win the gold in my eyes. By the time I'd surpassed the first third of the book, I knew the rest of it would be impossible to take seriously. The plot was predictable, shallow and sloppy. Constant ups and downs -- breakups and takebacks. The whole time, I'm going WTF? They'd break up, sleep together, break up again...and all the while, they're kissing and acting like they were dating regardless of whether they were or not. Two people who couldn't get their senses together enough to pick a decision and believe in it enough to stick to it? They deserve what they get.
The best part, though, was the dialogue. Jamie McGuire did a lot with dialogue -- very little with prose in general. A lot of the characters' personalities came out through what they said, which gave the book its own unique air. It was also hilarious. I loved the humor. I was constantly laughing from what the characters would say, though the rest of the time I was laughing about their stupidity.
This story easily fits any of the top pop love songs. Since it's so cookie-cutter, it fits to: "Payphone" by Maroon 5, "Wild Ones" by Flo Rida, "Glad You Came" by The Wanteds, "It Will Rain" by Bruno Mars and even "Just a Kiss" by Lady Antebellum. Travis totally had that "That's What Makes You Beautiful" thing going on about Abby and Abby...she doesn't get a song because she was so unstable.
It was a crazy story, and I would recommend it to any of you, dear readers, as long as you try not to take it too seriously. Because it's ridiculous. And even though I knew full well it was ridiculous, I read it. It was like taking a break from reality in the best possible way. People doing stupid things, making stupid decisions, feeling stupid emotions. It worked out in the end.(less)
My first experience with Libba Bray's work left me skeptical that I would ever pick up something of her's again. A Great and Terrible Beauty bored me. I found it unenlightening with a picky, uninspiring main character and dull plot. Southern Book Bloggers changed things. I got a week to slave over the immensity that was The Diviners. Chockfull of brilliance of every kind -- from amazing, deep prose to a chilling antagonist -- my experience with The Diviners restored my faith in Libba Bray. I am psyched to find out what the rest of this series holds in store.
I can't help but compare my thoughts on A Great and Terrible Beauty to The Diviners. Given that A Great and Terrible Beauty was published in 2003 and here it is, nearly ten years later, there was an incredible maturation on many levels. This is evidenced mainly in the exponential increase in the page count of Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle series: A Great and Terrible Beauty (403 pages), Rebel Angels (548 pages), and The Sweet Far Thing (819 pages). Now, The Diviners at 578 pages. By the page count alone, Libba Bray certainly gained some polish from her work on A Great and Terrible Beauty.
The Diviners was told in an elegant, haunting style that perfectly suited the plot. Written in large swaths of detail and description, Libba Bray's prose was concise and easy to understand. Five hundred plus pages might suggest that the story amounted to a whole lot of nothing, but every word carried meaning. Occasionally, I thought that a scene was a bit out of place a time or two, like it was put there merely to better paint the backdrop of 1920's New York City. It didn't much affect my overall opinion, however. Paired with subtle humor and a keen eye for lively details, Libba Bray is a study in beautiful language.
Language became a bit of an issue for me during some parts of the plot. While I was impressed and deeply appreciative of Libba Bray's immense knowledge of 1920's lingo, I thought sometimes it was a bit overused. The excessive use drew me out of the story a time or two, like I was suffering from sensory overload.
Though The Diviners was told from multiple points of view, it centered on Evie. Evie was a great main character. She was inspiring because she had the ability to be unbelievably irritating at times with her selfishness, but the fact I found her irritating and likable says to me that underdevelopment or poor character-building wasn't to blame. Rather that she was presented in such a human-like way that I could accept her, rough edges and all, because I could relate to her on some levels. Still, there were moments that I just couldn't believe how selfish, self-centered, arrogant, mean and downright stupid she could be. Those moments were backed up quite convincingly by Libba Bray, so I was left shaking my head and hoping she'd remember her mistakes, as if I were a friend admonishing her for her recklessness rather than a judgmental stranger.
Above all, The Diviners scared me half to death. It's as if Libba Bray had personally snuck inside my head, withdrew all the tiny things that made my skin crawl, and fit them into words. I learned, the hard way I'm afraid, why reading The Diviners before bed was a bad idea. Coupled with the fact that I was sleeping on my grandmother's couch at the time, overall was not conducive to sleeping. Especially since I was looking over my shoulder into the darkness every few seconds, to see if Naughty John was standing there, ready to start whistling while he chased me around the house. Bray made a clever move by putting several of the murder scenes in the point of view of the victim. It brought creepiness to a whole new level.
I'm excited for this new journey that the Diviners trilogy has in store. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters that seasoned this haunting read -- Memphis, Theta, Sam, Jericho and Will -- and I anxiously await the continuation to their story.(less)
When I first read the synopsis for Time Between Us, the overbearing, overanxious skeptic inside of me recognized the signs for a potentially epic fail. Nothing in the book's summary promised any kind of originality, except that the bulk of the story appeared to be set in 1995 and not 2012. I read it only because it's happened before: a dull, predictable synopsis that completely understated an entire novel. In this case, however, a dull, predictable novel was exactly what I got. The main character, Anna, was two-dimensional and irksome, Bennett was far too whipped to be of any interest, and the plot held promise but ultimately fell flat.
Anna was too glossy. Superficial. All shiny surface and no depth. She was the narrator of the story, yet she had no distinct voice. It could've been told from anyone's point of view and I wouldn't have been able to differentiate between them. It was as if Tamara Ireland Stone didn't delve deep enough to discover what was so compelling about this character, and that lack of compassion made me think, Why am I supposed to care about this character? I couldn't get behind any of her childish, immature choices because none of her decisions were backed up by motivation. Bennett was possibly glossier than Anna. While he had bursts of anger and passion that gave him a little flavor, he had no backbone -- it was all mushy from his undying love for Anna. As a result of both the main characters flopping, the romance fell apart for me. I didn't even bother with it.
The plot was entirely too predictable. In every story, there has to be conflict, build ups and payoffs, but conflicts that push characters. While there was some tension created by high stakes, they were not high enough. A story should keep raising the stakes until they build to a breaking point -- a point where my respect for a character is determined based on the character's decision under the ultimate stress. Anna's decision at this ultimate point was painfully obvious from several chapters away. As was the ending. I actually skipped a chapter or two because just by skimming ahead, I could tell what happened. When I can remove entire scenes from the plot, and it still makes sense, it means those scenes shouldn't have been there. The plot wasn't tight enough.
Maybe something could've been salvaged if I had been able to get behind the writing style. But it was all telling. I was told what Anna was doing like it was coming from someone else, even though it was in first person. This created a huge emotional gap between me and Anna. She eventually became so cookie cutter, I wanted to give up halfway through the story.
I really wanted to like this book because time travel is such a cool concept that I haven't spent a lot of time reading about. I don't really even see it that often. While I liked the mechanics behind Tamara Ireland Stone's ideas on time travel, it wasn't enough to make me passionate about the story. Ultimately, I was left dissatisfied and unimpressed.(less)
Salvation set a fire under me the very moment I found out that it existed. I fell head over heels in love with Anne Osterlund's previous books, Academy 7 and Aurelia (and later, Exile). So I knew beforehand that Salvation was very likely to win my heart. And it did. From page one, I was captured. Enthralled, really, by the main characters and the story that wove around them. I liked how Romeo & Juliet it was without seeming like a cheesy remake, and also how the plot was slightly predictable, but exciting all the same. Salvation was a fantastic read, with a set of characters I'd love to have lunch with. Over...and over...and over again.
I was already familiar with Anne Osterlund's envious talent for crafting such depth-defying, lovable main characters, but it still blew me away how much I fell for Salva and Beth, both separately and as a couple. Both had characteristics that I could identify with -- like Salva's loyalty to family and culture, and Beth's need to take her life onto a higher plane. When the two came together, it was electric, though not perfect. The imperfections were what drew me into their relationship like an obnoxious third wheel. Even when they realized their feelings for each other, it didn't magically lay a smooth path before them, and I think that was my favorite part about the book. It made their relationship deep and more realistic.
I love the wealth of culture imbued throughout the story. Reminiscent of Simone Elkeles' Perfect Chemistry series, there are bits of Spanish thrown in. Which, if you're a veteran of the Fuentes brothers, you know is completely hot. But besides that, there was the topic of how Mexican immigrants live in this country and I liked how Anne Osterlund presented and handled it. It gave the story a core of truth that I really enjoyed.
I also enjoyed how the plot progressed. With the essence of a Romeo & Juliet style romance, and fraught with just as much tragedy, I was glued to the pages as the story unfolded. What a breathtaking ending! With an expert hand, Anne Osterlund brought each of the characters to a climax that was both split with tragedy and filled with hope. And while some of the scenes were a bit of a cliche, I was too much in love with the characters to really see them that way.
Salvation is a fantastic addition to Anne Osterlund's repertoire. It was so much fun to read with its subtle humor woven amongst brilliantly devised characters and an exciting plot. Even knowing that I was going to love it, I'm still taken aback at just how much I would turn out to love it. I can't wait for Anne Osterlund's next book.(less)
Perception presented an interesting concept: GAPs (genetically altered person) who live on expanded life spans and reside in glorious cities that give no reason to venture into the "outside." Technology is all there is -- ComRings replace cell phones and circular clocks are a thing of the past. I loved the world and the idea that this is what we could become, and I enjoyed the thought put into how technology has created a mass rift between social classes. However, I didn't enjoy much else.
The writing was extremely unpolished. It allowed for little depth, making the characters superficial and the plot haphazard. It was all telling and no showing, and while there were little gems hidden, they weren't nearly enough to sustain my interest alone.
At first, I thought that my dislike for the main character, Zoe, was based on the fault of the writing. As I read, however, I started to frown at her actions: her inconsistencies and selfish, conceited thoughts. I feel that, had there been more depth, I could've understood why she did what she did, but there was no thought process behind her actions. Zoe was incredibly underdeveloped. She reacted to things in a predictable (if dramatic) way, and was constantly fluttering between beliefs. I couldn't get her at all.
While I liked the world, I couldn't fathom the plot. Something was wrong, I understood that, but I didn't really care. Her brother was missing, but that didn't explain all the things Zoe did to try and understand why he was gone. It got boring. There seemed to be a whole lot of nothing going on.
Ultimately, the story wasn't for me. While I liked the idea and the world, I couldn't get past Zoe's antics or get into the plot.(less)
When I first started into What Happens Next, I didn't know that it was a book with a strong theme of weight loss and self image running through it. Frankly, I didn't know quite what to expect. Certainly it wasn't the multi-dimensional main character, or the absolutely amazing romance, or the fantastic story. Of course I wished for all those things, but I was glad when that's exactly what I got.
The main character, Sid, had her flaws. But it was her flaws that gave her that third dimension. She was realistic by being many different things, not just a one-sided, cardboard cutout heroine. She was chaotic at times and had her hypocritical moments, but I felt she had a good heart because she was incredibly loyal to her brother, and family was important to her. As were her friends, even though they weren't stellar to her. And she was feisty! There's a single scene that sticks out to me where Sid is particularly (and hilariously) vindictive and it makes me laugh just thinking about it. That kind of lasting impression is the result of her awesome character.
What I loved most about the romance in What Happens Next was that it didn't get in my face. It took a backseat to the main theme, and having an emotional theme take the spotlight was a breath of fresh air. It also didn't carry that feeling of inevitability. From the synopsis, it's easy to deduce that Corey "The Living Stoner" Livingston is going to be a love interest, but it wasn't presented that way in the book. There was no insta-love. It felt incredibly natural. That kind of slow-growing romance let the arc of the character development shine through, so I saw how the romance shaped Sid instead of overwhelmed her.
Sid's story was amazing. Colleen Clayton doesn't focus on the horror (which I appreciate) but rather on the aftermath -- hence the title What Happens Next. It isn't depressing like a lot of close-to-home topics are (for example, Dreamland by Sarah Dessen or Willow by Julia Hoban) but instead it's an inspiring and hopeful story of how a teen can recover after a physical and emotional trauma.
I had a few issues with the writing style. It was distracting in the beginning, like it took Colleen Clayton a while to find her stride. I could see where it started to improve because the number of diamonds in the rough started to multiply exponentially. By the end, except for a few cheesy moments, I was very impressed with the way the writing style allowed Sid's story to flow effortlessly.
A great story that would definitely appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti and Laurie Halse Anderson.(less)
There's a reason I never watched any of the Jason movies (weren't there seven of them or something?) or The Exorcist. Somehow, there's a huge difference between the urban fantasy world of Twilight and City of Bones with the vampires, werewolves, and warlocks and what Debra Chapoton brought to life in Sheltered.
I was glued to the pages, but mostly out of fear of stopping than morbid fascination. I am a total scaredy cat, but this was a whole different kind of creepy. It was psychological. Debra Chapoton paired the physical demons with the mental ones and the effect was spine tingling. Maybe my lack of spooky experiences made me uber vulnerable to suggestion, but regardless, the effect was immediate and lasting. I almost couldn't get through it because I didn't want to be freaked out.
Sheltered surprised me with how it appeared to be ordered chaos: a string of seemingly linear events tossed in with mystery but all told with an omniscient POV that I haven't seen outside of the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan. In a single scene, the POV would switch between three different characters seemingly at random. At first I was a bit put off by this because it would happen without pause: no marker that said it was now being told from Ben's POV. An interesting style that, I think, worked for the story.
Sheltered took on a different kind of story for me. I was more concerned, mentally, for the creepy things going on than for the development of the characters or the world-building. Only upon reflection did I think about how much I didn't really like one of the characters, or the romance. It was the tiny details of the possessions that I found myself focusing on, not the characters themselves.
While Sheltered was not a story I would seek out myself, I think anyone who wants a good spooky read for Halloween has found a good one.(less)
I was hesitant to pick this one up since dystopians aren't usually my thing, but I was interested in the dynamic between a bounty hunter and his prey, and how the summary seemed to promise something different, something that would have me falling head over heels for the dystopian genre. Having read it, I'm so glad my spidey senses tingled. With its engaging writing style, depth-defying world and lovable characters, Midnight City is a distinctive addition to the young adult dystopian genre, and a new favorite of mine.
Midnight City was immediately engaging. Mitchell has a masterful command of plot structure, evidenced by the way he starts with external threats that bind the characters together, and then building to a threat that affects them all. And they were threats that mattered to the characters, that affected them directly. Every chapter had a conflict that made sense; nothing felt haphazardly thrown together. This kind of cohesion, in addition to breathtaking action scenes, kept me glued to the pages from start to finish.
The book came alive like a movie in my head. I could envision, with near perfect clarity, how these characters moved, thought, and interacted. What's more, every bond they formed made sense. The progression of their relationships weren't botched by a rush to get them to where the author wanted them. I could fully understand their goals, how they were shaped by their personalities, and how they would come to align. I cheered for them 100%.
My enjoyment of the story was only heightened by Mitchell's edgy writing style. Though a little rusty in some areas, it complimented the story perfectly. I liked how it sporadically alternated between points of view from chapter to chapter, giving the story a depth that otherwise would've been missed.
That was one of the best parts: the depth of the world. I liked how Mitchell built in the history naturally, without having to resort to dedicating a chapter to explaining how the world got to the way it was. I loved the detail that went into the Assembly, and into how the world had changed, without bogging down the story or making it too incomprehensible. It was easy to understand, and to admire.
Midnight City was an incredible dystopian, one that I would love to return to again. I'm so excited for the sequel!(less)