Captured me from page one, it did. The first little bit I read at the JoBeth in Cincinnati haunted me until I broke down and bought it online. Finishe...moreCaptured me from page one, it did. The first little bit I read at the JoBeth in Cincinnati haunted me until I broke down and bought it online. Finished it within two days. If I had a hat, I'd tip it to Ruta Sepetys.(less)
For a long time I've claimed that short stories aren't really my thing -- I don't read them, I don't write them. Now, I find myself doing both! These...moreFor a long time I've claimed that short stories aren't really my thing -- I don't read them, I don't write them. Now, I find myself doing both! These three authors have rekindled my faith in short stories. Each of their pieces are electrifying and exciting. Truly inspirational. Love it, love it, love it!(less)
At least once in your life, a book comes along that forges an instant connection before page one is even started. Skinny was that book for me. I knew, from the moment I heard Donna Cooner give her story behind Skinny, that I wanted to read it. I have always had private issues with my self image, but what drew me to this book was the concept of the little voice in the back of your head having a name: Skinny. With a Cinderella-esque format, a brilliant main character held up by brilliant supporting characters, and a little shoulder devil, Skinny was the book that, for me, could do no wrong.
I say "Cinderella-esque" because it is not a retelling of Cinderella with a few shoddily hidden parallels. Cooner curves the story so that it is entirely its own creature. From the moment I started it, I couldn't put it down. I loved the main character, Ever (though I will forgive her for her name), with her edgy narrative voice that was tinged with a depth that went beyond the pages. My only issue was how I wished -- so wished! -- that she would stand up for herself more. But even when she didn't, I could deal with it, and move through the story with her without it diverting my attention.
I love Lauren Myracle's blurb for Skinny:
The best -- and truest -- depiction of the joys and pangs of transformation I've ever read. Deeply moving, totally addictive, utterly fabulous.
I love how Skinny wasn't about preaching the warning signs of obesity or low self esteem. It was a beautiful story of a girl who transformed inside and out, so it doesn't come off as depressing or heavy. While it dealt with a very big subject and showed the not-so-friendly sides of human interactions, I didn't feel weighed down when I closed the book. I felt enlightened! It was a book that I could fully identify with, and learn from. And I loved that.
Cooner's writing style was simple and elegant, and effortless morphed between scenes of skipping and laughing happiness, to edgy betrayals and bitter anger. It carried along a story that built to a climax that had me grinning like a moron in my chair. Cooner packed a thrilling conclusion within a mere few pages. It was electric.
Skinny is a book that crosses boundaries. It's a book that can be read by anyone and everyone, because there isn't a person out there who doesn't feel insecure about something. Or who doesn't that that little voice of doubt niggling in the back of their mind. With its wit and universal message, Skinny is a book I'd recommend to anyone.(less)
Rules of Attraction was an incredible story with two cheer-worthy main characters bundled together with rib-cracking humor. While this book wouldn't win any awards from me for writing style, Rules of Attraction was teeming with undeniable wit and a great story of romance.
Rules of Attraction is a rehashing of Perfect Chemistry. It was set up the exact same way as the first only with a "new" situation: the plot progressed the exact same way and, since it dealt with a lot of the same characters, it made the similarities more recognizable. My main problem was the climax. This quote by Robert McKee put my issues with Rules of Attraction's plot exactly:
If [the climax] fails, the story fails... If you fail to make this poetic leap to a brilliant culminating climax, all previous scenes, characters, dialogue, and description become an elaborate typing exercise.
Coupled with Simone Elkeles's a little too-simplisitic writing style and her tendency to tell and not show, the supposed "action scene" to cap off the book really fell flat and left me with the bitter taste of disappointment.
I cheered for the romance, though. Despite how inevitable the progression of the characters' relationship was, the two of them made me smile and laugh and sigh with frustration. Carlos and Kiara are definitely not a boring couple: their constant banter, their power plays, the give-and-take... It all culminated into a relationship to cheer for. Also, I think Simone Elkeles did an excellent job in alternating between the two main characters. (Quite a few scenes made me blush, though. Maybe not an issue for readers who're seasoned in the more risque side of romance novels, but I'm still in denial over slowly losing the innocence of my childhood.)
I wouldn't pin any writing awards on the cover of this book. While the style (mostly) worked to set a humorous and heart-breaking tone for the story, it wasn't as in depth as I would've preferred. I was mostly drawn in by the humor because almost any book that makes me laugh is considered a keeper on some scale.
I think, for all its faults, Rules of Attraction would make an excellent movie. It's a bit more original that Alex and Brittany's story in Perfect Chemistry and more enjoyable a story overall.
I hesitated slightly about picking up Chain Reaction, the third book, right away, but then I read the excerpt that came in the back of Rules of Attraction and was instantly hooked.(less)
I've always been a huge fan of Patricia Briggs, ever since I picked up the first Mercy Thompson novel (Moon Called) at my good friend, Smash @ Smash Attack Reads, request. This short story in the On the Prowl anthology is the prerequisite story to the Alpha & Omega series. I've already read and fell in love with the Alpha & Omega series, so starting in on a short story where that series began was a sure win for my affection.
If you've never read anything by Patricia Briggs, taking a look at this short story would be a good test drive to see whether you, dear reader, would enjoy pursuing her work. For patrons of the Alpha & Omega series, this short story really set up the series nicely. Though the events were alluded to in the first book, Cry Wolf, it was merely given as background information to provide a foundation for the story.
The one thing I absolutely love about Patricia Briggs' writing is how she can pack so much character into a few paragraphs. There's an immediate sense of both Anna and Charles's characters as the POV switches between them and this skill, though very helpful for writing an appealing short story, carries over into her full length novels as well.
Even though I've read the entire Alpha & Omega series, reading this short story makes me want to read it all over again. (Which, as a matter of fact, I'll be doing since I read them before but never reviewed them.) Patricia Briggs created a well-balanced, well-rounded story with nothing forced or sloppily done.
So, dear reader, try this out for a test ride and see how far you can get without completely falling in love with the story.(less)
This was...amazing. I don't know if I would necessarily recommend this to someone who has yet to read Under the Never Sky, simply because the story is set up under the assumption the reader knows what is what and who is who, etc. However, if you've read Under the Never Sky and loved it, I have a strong conviction that you'll love this, too. Roar was a beloved character in Under the Never Sky for many readers, so given that this novella is set entirely in his point of view will appeal to the many fans Roar has accumulated.
I loved the insight. Veronica Rossi created a whole new voice. Roar was given a breadth that we readers didn't get to really see in Under the Never Sky. There was a whole swath of vulnerability and longing underneath all that wit and bravado. Though I would never have thought Roar underdeveloped before, I still loved the further depth that came from a story from his point of view. He seems much better fixed in my mind now.
With her brilliant writing style, Veronica Rossi captured, and gave depth to, the already-explored world of the Tides, making it come alive within the sixty pages. The world of the Tides had become faded in my mind in the time since I'd finished reading Under the Never Sky. This novella brought it back to life almost instantly. Veronica Rossi has created a world that I absolutely would love to live in.
Roar and Liv is a great sampler of Veronica Rossi's work. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed Under the Never Sky.(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)
I'm a big fan of Rae Carson's debut, The Girl of Fire and Thorns. When I saw this one, I immediately rushed to buy it, even though I've never bought anything on my Kindle before. This historic buy was not disappointed. Rae Carson packs a lot of plot and character development into the equivalent of 54 printed pages. This time, we see Elisa through the eyes of her sister, Alodia as they encounter a problem in a remote part of their kingdom.
I was struck by the immediate sense of character. Within the first few pages, I felt well acquainted with Alodia, and because she is so self righteous, it was with a put-upon kind of amusement that I observed her character. She had so little faith in Elisa, it was disheartening, but I liked the transformation that goes down throughout the story.
And the story was a well-rounded one at that. Well-rounded, yet leaving a taste for more. The plot was exciting and coupled with Rae Carson's eloquent writing style, the shock factor of some of the twists actually made me gasp.
A reader doesn't have to have the history of The Girl of Fire and Thorns to get a grip on this novella. For those of you who have read The Girl of Fire and Thorns, this novella provides a great insight into Alodia's character, something that isn't really offered in the full-length book. It isn't exactly a refresher course of the book, however, since it takes place when Elisa is younger and her journey hasn't really started.
An amazing story; I don't regret the three bucks I spent on it.(less)
The last Artemis Fowl book. What a thrilling end! This book marks the very first to make me, Amelia Robinson, shed a tear. Part of me always worries about what kind of hell the author will put their characters through in the series finale, and with these crazy MG authors anything is possible. In Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian, I really enjoyed the maturation of the characters set off by Eoin Colfer's signature humor. Colfer pulls out all the stops to create a fast-paced, intriguing topper to his beloved Artemis Fowl series.
As is the case of book eight of any series, there's some preconceived ideas about how awesome the book is going to be -- and if a reader is eight books into a series, we're gonna assume the series is awesome. So there isn't much to add that hasn't already been said before. It's established that the Artemis Fowl series, which has been in my life since I was ten, is justifiably the definition of awesomeness. Moving on...
This final installation was sheer genius. Colfer opens with a bold and exciting conflict -- I mean, maybe that's a bit of an understatement when the "bold" conflict was the utter destruction of the known world. The stakes were upped like never before, creating a nail-biting ride. I liked that Colfer went into this kind of territory: most books, dystopians especially, take place after the world has been destroyed and been refitted into a semblance of order. The Last Guardian takes place during the destruction. I really appreciated Colfer's imagination.
I liked how there was a definite maturation of the characters. While Artemis Fowl has always been credited for speaking and acting a decade older than he should've been, emotionally there was a step up. There was a wealth of history to draw upon and the characters had (finally) truly accepted each other. I really enjoyed the camaraderie between them -- especially when it's accented with Colfer's signature humor.
The ending...was sheer brilliance. Sheer, utter brilliance. I have never seen a full circle executed so beautifully in the very last paragraph. And the climax made me cry! Me! Cry! Maybe I wasn't sobbing like a baby, but the words did go a little blurry and I had to wipe a tear away. But, of course, what would you expect from the last book in a series?! Ironically enough, the only other book that had me on the verge of tears was The Supernaturalist also by Eoin Colfer.
As sad as I was to see this beloved series come to an end, I really enjoyed it. It was funny, exciting, satisfying... If you haven't ever read the Artemis Fowl series, I'd highly suggest you try it out. It's middle grade, but it's short, enjoyable and terribly clever and imaginative.
My only regret, to those of you who have read the whole series: Seriously? Why was Minerva never brought back in? She was brilliant! (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 Legend first popped up on my radar, I was turned away by the amateur-style cover. I was intrigued, however, when the hype drove me to read a sample of it. I was impressed by how there was an immediate sense of character and that allowed the also-immediate conflict to take effect. Paired with Marie Lu's effortless writing style and propelled by a both heart-wrenching and thought-provoking plot, I never wanted the story to end.
Legend tells the story of two awesome main characters. June, with her Holmesian-like logic but warm heart; and Day, the guy we girls would all like to run into on the streets. I was pleased (and impressed) with how June, the government's prodigy, didn't come off as a cold-hearted anti-hero. She had a heart -- a big heart -- that wasn't impervious to breaks. The criminal Day reminded me a lot of Han from Cinda Williams Chima's Seven Realms series, only Day doesn't have silver cuffs branded to his wrists. Mentally, I connected them because they're passionate, flirty, and street smart, and they always take care of their families.
The world of Legend was magnificently displayed. Lu doesn't fall into the trap of having to explain how everything worlds. By letting the world affect (or not affect) her characters in certain ways, she lets the world build seamlessly. It's this showing and not telling that is so effective in creating the swaths of color into the world around the characters. Sometimes it has a fantasy-like feel to it, and sometimes it feels more sci-fi or dystopian, giving it a well-rounded atmosphere.
What I was most impressed with from Legend was the way Lu built the story. I understood what was at stake, I knew the risks, and I felt each obstacle resonate within the characters. It was a story that built stakes like kindling for a fire -- they pushed the characters; they didn't come at a conveniently inconvenient time. At every turn, I would mutter, "What are they going to do now?" or "How are they going to get out of that?" The plot was tightly compacted: nothing was wasted, but there are threads to be continued in other books.
So while there were predictable places, it was the moments that took me by surprise that defined my liking for Legend. With it's fantasy/sci-fi like world and lovable characters, Legend should be a book to get on your shelf. I'm glad it's on mine.(less)
Pushing the Limits had the blogosphere foaming at the mouth before it even hit shelves. Normally, I steer clear of books like this -- the ones that explode so drastically that it makes me just a little bit suspicious. (No, seriously, Twilight anyone?) I bought Pushing the Limits after reading the first two pages in Barnes & Noble. No book can be that good, right?
Wrong. So wrong. Pushing the Limits totally deserves the hype. It was amazing from start to finish. I was delightfully surprised by the depth and clarity of each main character, and by the stakes they faced. I was never once pulled out of the story by insincere or sloppy writing. Everything about it makes me conclude, This is how a good book is supposed to be written.
Besides the dynamic main characters, my favorite thing about Pushing the Limits was the writing style: McGarry didn't preach anything. Information came out naturally, because the circumstances required it. There was none of this boring the reader with paragraphs of explanation. McGarry shaved away all the excess writing baggage that has become the staple of young adult literature. Each sentence brought the respective character more and more to life, adding depth and clarity instead of adding mindless prose to equate to a whole lot of nothing.
McGarry didn't shortchange the characters, which made my emotional connection with them stronger. Echo and Noah were independent, but inextricably linked -- the more they learned about each other, the more they learned about themselves, and I think that's what makes their romance so great. (Of course, some blush-worthy make out scenes certainly help a great deal.) I'd predicted that Echo was going to be whiny, but I was wrong. I was impressed with McGarry's ability to build motivations and thought processes into the character's prose so that every triumph and complaint is justified. This aspect really made the characters pop off the page for me.
Pushing the Limits has the revolutionary feel of a book that sets new standards. McGarry took two issues that are very real, relevant things in today's society, and brought them out of their dusty corners, showcasing them in a way that made them easier to approach, and to understand. Katie McGarry set out to do something:
I wanted to write a story in which my characters felt strong enough to leave their pasts behind and create new futures for themselves... Two, I wanted to write two characters who were facing overwhelming issues and who, through battling these issues, found hope at the end of their journey.
McGarry's passion shines through the prose; her cleverness, through the playful, witty banter between her two main characters. Pushing the Limits is the physical manifestation of stark honesty and brilliance. Katie McGarry certainly put herself on the map with this one, and I think she's going places.(less)
I was in a bit of a bind when I started Sapphire Blue. In the nine months since finishing the first book, Ruby Red, I had nearly forgotten what was going on. With only a slight memory of how the first book ended, I plunged back into Gwen's story of heinous extended family members, impossible boys, and mind-boggling time traveling excursions. Thanks to Kerstin Gier's carefully built in reminders of how the characters got to where they were, I was able to settle back into the world with minimal hardship, and fully ready to enjoy a good story.
Sapphire Blue was a good continuation from the first book: an awesome main character armed with her signature humor, an exciting plot, and exquisite writing style. It was all business as usual. Until you're forced into a fancy corset and sensible shoes to visit a possibly evil count who, upon your last meeting, tried to strangle you. Points to Gwen, the feisty main character, for not flaking. Much. I love her slightly self-deprecating humor, even though I wish she would stand up for herself when some of her family members start railing on her. Her narrative was fun and easy to understand.
The only thing I couldn't really understand was the plot. Time traveling makes my head hurt, which is why I generally steer clear of all the time traveling adventures. I couldn't really see a connection between most of the events. Something was decided and I was left thinking, "Why?" Because I was enjoying the narrative so much, I just went along with it. Though I came out of the other side with a question mark still hovering over my head.
If there's one thing Kerstin Gier does extremely well, though, it's dialogue. It seems to be her main mode for setting the tone of a character. Why bother with copious descriptions when a single line of speech could tell you just as much, if not more? Gier really brings characters to life and presents them in a dynamic way that give them a 3D effect. I loved the two main characters, Gwen and Gideon, as well as Gwen's best friend, Lesley, and her demon ghost friend, Xemerius. Peppered with such lovable characters, I could really settle into the story.
Behind dialogue, the world is absolutely amazing. It's a world with a defined set of rules and interlaced with details to make it pop off the page. It also reminds me why time travel doesn't appeal to me. (Really, it's all rather confusing and complicated, isn't it?) Throw on top all the British slang, and I feel as if the whole thing could be real. (As if I needed more reasons to want to go to England.)
Thus far, the Ruby Red trilogy has been an enticing read that continues to thrill. With the way Sapphire Blue left off on such a cliffhanger, I'm dying for the third and final book!(less)
Silver would not have been the kind of book to hit my radar if I hadn't met Talia Vance at a local event and heard her speak on a panel. When she read out loud a passage from Silver, I immediately thought to myself, "Man, I want to read this." After finally having read it, I'm so glad that I did. It lived up to my expectations, but my experience reading it was a curious one: I felt there were so many things that should have pissed me off, like an insta-love and a series of events that felt strung together instead of inextricably bound. And yet, I really enjoyed it.
There weren't many things that I absolutely loved, but for some reason I didn't dislike the story. There was an insta-love, for instance. I'm not a huge fan of love at first sight, but what I liked about the romance in Silver was that Brianna and Blake were hardly lovebirds from start to finish. They may have hit it off, but their path was far from smooth. I feel like a lot of romances don't show how a relationship shifts slightly from day to day, and evolves over time. Blake and Brianna had arguments and doubted each other, and at those moments, a lot was divulged about the characters.
I really liked Brianna's character. There were a lot of times when I felt she deserved a cosmic-sized slap to the back of the head, but the girl had grit. She wasn't perfect, and I could deal with that. I liked how her responses would surprise me sometimes. I love it when a character surprises me, because it usually means that they're deviating from a cookie cutter template. When Brianna showed her fangs, I got behind her 100%. I felt that Blake could've had a little bit more depth to him, but he wasn't without surprises either. My only issue in the character department was how Brianna interacted with her friends. I didn't really get a sense of epic tightness there, and that disappointed me because her friends were a constant throughout the story.
There was definite room for improvement, but instead of condemning those areas, I simply saw them as a place where Talia Vance will grow. Maybe it's having met her that instills that confidence in me, but this is Vance's debut novel. Of course she's going to grow. I could tell by the way the plot had direction, but not cohesion, that said she's just finding her stride.
I loved the mythological background in Silver. It was obvious by the depth of the prose that Talia Vance knew was she was talking about, even if there could be improvement in the way she presented information. The descriptions were lacking, so occasionally, I lost track of where the characters were in time and space. It also made it a bit difficult to keep up with the mythology, but it only slightly brought me out of the story. The prose was unpolished, but not irredeemable.
So despite its rusty areas, Silver really shined for me. I'm so excited for the sequel, Gold. I feel that, with time, Talia Vance will be a force to be reckoned with.(less)
I love the instances when a book lives up to its hype. I didn't have to read any reviews to know that Shadow and Bone was amazing because of the breadth of its readership. I bought it on a whim, still wary from the last time I'd bought a book before reading it. In retrospect, it was a grand decision, and one that saved a lot of time since I probably would've ended up buying it anyway. I was instantly hooked with Bardugo's masterful hand at atmosphere, the unique world she created, and the characters that populated it. As soon as I began the first page, I was hooked.
Finally, here was something vastly unique -- a bright beacon of originality in this sea of cookie cutter dystopians and high fantasies. I love how Bardugo transported me to a world highly influenced (or possibly, loosely based on) Russia. I have been fascinated by Russia for years now and to see Bardugo's incredibly crafted world based on Russian culture? I was ecstatic.
I was slightly worried, however, that poor character development would make the whole thing crash and burn. Wrong! I was a big fan of Alina's character -- I love how she had the inner conviction and courage to stick up for herself. So when a stranger runs into her, blames the collision on her, she defends herself. Small things like that made me really enjoy her narrative.
I love this world Bardugo created. It was so detailed, I could feel the passion behind it, and the amount of energy and time that must've gone into creating all the different facets of the world. The atmosphere was so unique. This is a world that I would love to live in (but only if I get a cool power).
The plot was exciting with all the twists, turns, and new developments. It was also easy to follow because Bardugo took the time to set up the world without bogging the story down. So by the time the climax rose ahead, I knew what was at stake, and I was as afraid for the outcome as the characters were. The ending left me absolutely buzzing for the sequel!
Shadow and Bone truly deserves all the hype that is circulating around it. (I am so excited to hear that DreamWorks has optioned it for a movie.) Anyone who loves high fantasy, or wants a step away from dystopian, Shadow and Bone is a good book to pick up next.(less)
It's almost unbelievable to try and think about all the awesomeness that Maggie Stiefvater possesses in a singular person. She has established herself so thoroughly and built up such a reputation that, for a moment, I was worried that The Raven Boys might be just a little bit of a letdown. It was not. Maggie Stiefvater delivers, once again, 100%. The crowning factor for me was her stunning writing ability but also how that ability amplifies the motivations and desires of her characters. The Raven Boys was not so much an entertaining paranormal read, but a psychological display of greed, revenge, shame, and a lust for power and importance. Which makes it sound so hardcore and depressing, when really the ugly human stuff allows for the beautiful human stuff to shine brighter. It's Maggie Stiefvater's understanding of what drives human behavior that really made this book so enjoyable for me.
In retrospect, and after much forced consideration, I realized how ironic The Raven Boys turned out to be. In the book, there's a constant reminder from Blue of how impressive they are, but what's truly impressive is how much they actually dominated my view of the book. Looking back on it, I almost completely forgot about Blue. Only when I searched for quotes to use for this review did I realize that I had never -- even once -- mentioned Blue's name. Blue was a major character (and an awesome one), and yet the boys' personalities had totally clouded her out in my mind. I think this happened partially because several parts of the story are told in the boys' point of view. The narration style for The Raven Boys was more omniscient, and though it didn't just go around dropping into people's heads randomly, characters who I would deem "secondary" (like, funnily enough, the antagonist) were given their own voice in the story.
This style gave the story a more rounded feel, like it had matter-of-factly encompassed an entire world in three hundred pages. Right off, I could get a sense of what the rules of the Raven universe were. I didn't have to trawl through the prose to try and figure out if any of the preconceived notions I had were going to hold up. Throughout the entire novel, I was amazed by the details and amount of possibility in the world. And with Maggie Stiefvater's succinct writing style, information was given neatly without having to resort to word vomit.
Maggie Stiefvater's writing skills are wonderful. Ever read a how-to book on fiction writing? Every bit of writing advice boils down to show, don't tell. Don't bother with the how-to section anymore. Just read Maggie Stiefvater. I recall one of the occasions where I was floored by the writing: when, in the space of a few sentences, I had, in my mind, a complete sense of a character. And another time when the atmosphere of a place was brought completely to life in a single paragraph:
Mornings at 300 Fox Way were fearful, jumbled things. Elbows in sides and lines for the bathroom and people snapping over tea bags placed into cups that already had tea bags in them. There was school for Blue and work for some of the more productive (or less intuitive) aunts. Toast got burned, cereal went soggy, the refrigerator door hung open and expectant for minutes at a time. Keys jingled as car pools were hastily decided. (p. 29)
At times, the writing was almost too good. Time and time again I was pulled out of the story to marvel over how well something had been said, which admittedly is most likely a byproduct of a writer's insecurity in the face of a superior being, and also, how can writing be too good?
As a psychology fan, I was extremely impressed by the motivations clearly built into the characters -- motivations more in line with the uglier side of human nature, like greed and shame, and the battles that occur on the outside with friends and family as well as on the inside with morality and choices. Which sounds very grandiose, but it makes me thrilled to see this kind of depth in a young adult novel. Finally, something with actual substance and not mere fluff that smudges the shelves at the bookstore. Here is something worth reading.
A long time fan of Maggie Stiefvater's work, I was happy to know for myself that The Raven Boys did not disappoint.(less)
Insurgent picks up right where Divergent left off. It continues much in the way that Divergent did, following Tris as she battles with her disintegrating world. Just like with Divergent, I enjoyed the world and the symbolism surrounding human nature being forced into five different factions and how the city reacts to those refusing to be molded. However, the polish wore off in the sequel. Tris's character was almost unbearable to me--I could barely keep myself from throwing the book across the room at her constant stupidity. The plot was chaotic. The romance was irritating. The goal was lost on me. Overall, not a promising second installment.
Tris was a total spazz. She would make a decision one chapter then change her mind in the next. She would leap to new stages of development within the space of a paragraph instead of a convincing build up. That was the core problem with her character: lack of conviction. If her motivations had actually been explained, her Messiah complex might have been believable, but she was useless expect for making trouble. Always doing something inevitably stupid before thinking it through...and everyone got it -- even random Erudite kids -- except her.
The plot was all over the place. I couldn't keep track of who was doing what and where the stakes were. The reasons for one faction to do something were almost never explained very well. I felt like the whole thing was just a collection of events strung together in some semblance of order. The ending was a nice save for me since I was barely holding on. Now, because of the way it ended, I'm compelled enough to figure out what happens in the third book, but if there isn't some kind of character improvement, I won't bother anymore.
What I took for simplistic writing in the first book turned out to be too simple the second time around. There was way too much telling and not enough description. I couldn't sympathize with Tris's pain because it was simply put: "It hurt."
The only part I truly enjoyed was the symbolism behind the five factions and how their world is being torn apart by each other, and Tobias. Though he was a complete spazz right alongside Tris for large sections, he had enough wits about him to be able to put his foot down about their relationship. Thank God. I had cheered for their relationship in the first book, but was not a fan by the end of this one.
I was not impressed, overall. The writing had lost its luster and Tris was just too irritating for the story to be enjoyable.(less)
I liked this second installment, even if the writing gave me a little bit of trouble.
Janice Hardy seen through the eyes of her awesome blog, The Other Side of the Story, is a master at her craft. The reason I picked up her series was because I was so impressed with her writing advice. However, when I read Blue Fire, I found myself distracted by her writing. Perhaps my expectations were lifted a little higher in light of her blogging prowess, but the moments I expected the writing to delve into and prolong were short, practically butchered. The times where I expected rushing action came off rather flat.
On the writing style front, I was a tad bit disappointed.
The story, though, completely rocked. I like Nya--she's a great character. She has many personal faults but is a hero for all intents and purposes. I love stories like that: Harry Potter-like stories where the main character doesn't set out to be a hero but is aimed that way because what they're wired to believe in and fight for is, in the eyes of the public, what makes them a hero.
Nya is also one of those character who just cannot catch a break. This kind of story, where the characters are always the underdogs, really gets me to the edge of my seat. I fear for Nya's safety and sanity every step of the way. With every situation, I always ask myself, "What can go wrong? What are the chances that it will go wrong?"
That's a great way to pull a reader in, which is why I am, again, so impressed with Janice Hardy's work.
The story is gritty and intense. I loved the new relationships that were formed in this one, as well as the ones that were deepened. My heart almost broke towards the end.
The incredible width and breadth of the world makes me think of Tamora Pierce. Great detail and fantastic atmosphere. Two thumbs up for worldbuilding.
A great installment, though lacking in the writing arena. I've got Darkfall all fired up and ready to go.(less)