**spoiler alert** A lot changes throughout the course of this book. My first impression and last impression could not be more different. First impress**spoiler alert** A lot changes throughout the course of this book. My first impression and last impression could not be more different. First impressions were good. The first 200 pages were quite solid- a diverse bunch of characters with interesting backgrounds. Jacob's childhood experiences in particular were thrilling and touching to read about. So were Sara's. They're both likable, earnest characters.. who devolve into bitterly miserable and unreasonable caricatures.
Their daughters, in turn, start off pretty likable. Each girl responds differently to their frankly cringe-worthy parentage and escape the way most would in that time period- through marriage. It was around page 300 when the writing became excruciating and repeating the same ideas over and over like groundhogs day.
The last two hundred pages- concerning that second generation of daughters and their children is when things have fallen apart beyond repair. It's like watching an over-the-hill soap opera on fast-forward.
Characters meet. Fall in love within two pages. They get married. Something bad happens. They fall in love with others. Marry, something bad happens. Repeat with other characters. Children are born. Financial crisis. Sara and Jacob continue being awful. Somebody falls in love. It's like the author threw 8 possible scenarios into a basket, randomly picks one, and writes about it for a few pages.. rinse and repeat. I should have given up but after getting all the way to page 500, I really wanted to finish. And no matter how awful the plot, it remains pretty simple to read.
There is one very amusing thing I should mention. The back cover blurb speaks of passion, dreams coming true, love, etc. It's a trap!! There is no passion here. The relationships are rushed and wooden. There are no dreams coming true. The central characters spend the greater parts of their lives repeating the same dire patterns and never connecting on a meaningful level. Love? This book approaches marriage in the most cynical and least romantic fashion I've ever read. The only couple that kinda/sorta generated interest was Jacob and Sara. They live 90 years of mostly self-inflicted hell.
Perhaps I've come from a privileged time and background but honestly, the struggles these characters go through are not worth living through. I remember mentioning something similar about The Thorn Birds. Looking back now, that one was still passionate with likable characters and great writing. The characters were endearing and you could feel their pain and lifelong unfulfilled yearning. Which, of course, only makes their unresolved feelings mount to dramatic proportions....more
(*Rating edited- I've changed my mind, this one deserves a 4/5*) Though the Amazon page indicates this book as being aimed at 10-12 year olds, I think(*Rating edited- I've changed my mind, this one deserves a 4/5*) Though the Amazon page indicates this book as being aimed at 10-12 year olds, I think it would entertain older readers and many with an interest in YA. The vocabulary is fairly wide and expressive, the atmosphere has a fantastical charm to it though the book is not fantasy. There are some interesting supernatural elements but at its heart, this is a coming of age tale that centers around the heroine's tumultuous journey from childhood to nearing adulthood and the moral dilemmas to be sorted out along the way. The heroine is Cerinthe, an amateur healer living a commoner's life in an idyllic village town. This all changes after her mother's untimely death and final wish- to see her daughter become a fantastic artist, a dancer. Cerinthe is determined to see it through and enrolls in a prestigious, dreamy academy for privileged young dancers. She has clashing social status with many of the people here, especially with Elliana- a rich, lonely, callous, horribly jealous and conniving girl who makes for an intense and compelling rival. If after the years pass I remember nothing else of this book, I expect at least the slight pinch of remembered frustration caused by Elliana's sharp tongue and evil tricks. And also a little bit of yearning for more facets of the character to be revealed. There are other characters of note- a sweet and kindly young maid who becomes a dear friend, a young man who has an awkward almost-romance with Cerinthe, an older girl who seems on the cusp of having it all but has her own inner turmoil, and others. Lots of surprises along the way and a brisk pace. This seems to be a well-edited book, the chapters are laid out sensibly and fly by. The ending is pretty good and overall this is an empowering book for girls and young women. As for why I have little more than praise for the novel and only give it 3 stars.. that's hard to explain. Something about the writing style is not gripping enough despite the briskness. And I guess I didn't come to love the main character enough. The only thing that really grabbed was Elliana's awfulness and the intensity of the rivalry between she and Cerinthe, the propensity for an evolving relationship. A Cerinthe and Elliana novel with romantic inclinations might get a 5 out of 5 from me, heh. Anyway to wrap things up, still willing to try other books by this author. I know this is only one book but I can already tell she deserves more popularity....more
It's been a long time since I've done a simple pros and cons list. Think I'll do that here.
But some important things to mention beforehand- this is aIt's been a long time since I've done a simple pros and cons list. Think I'll do that here.
But some important things to mention beforehand- this is a third person-perspective book. YA with a pinch of romance. If you go into it wanting a sprawling romance you'll be disappointed. This book was poorly marketed and its biggest qualities are not well-clarified in the blurbs and promotion.
I enjoyed this book a lot but there is more that could have been. The ending however impressed me enough that I almost feel tempted to tick the "this review contains spoilers" box and just babble endlessly about it and the conflicting emotions it aroused.
Pros : Many little details about the unique world (traditions in clothing and religion) were interesting to read about. The romance is less than I expected but Ket Du'Kai, Morgan, and Averie make for a good love triangle. I loved the interactions between Averie and Ket- people coming from such different backgrounds- people who ought to be enemies but have too much fundamental chemistry and fill in each other's blanks charmingly.
I liked Avery. A bright, positive, endlessly curious and open-minded heroine. Naive but grows by book's end.
The biggest pro though is that I found the book so readable and happen to identify with Shinn's viewpoint when it comes to the social commentaries of the book.
I almost forgot to mention Jelessa! A best friend and devoted companion of the main character. She has a few of the best lines in the book. I worried that things were going into the "noble savage" stereotype territory but that isn't so.
As already established, I liked Ket a lot. He is in an interesting position, left with no advantageous options but to work for the people who took over his country and are expanding occupation. He feels conflicted emotions at his choice, and even more conflict as he falls for the least convenient person, Averie. I wish there were more delving into his character. (slight con there)
Cons : Both Avery and the story at large are hampered by the limitations of she being a girl of "gentle breeding" at a time when girls of her station had little agency.
A good portion of the novel feels small in scope (trapped, really) by her lack of options. It's a true and understandable state of affairs but leaves the book as a whole.. quiet, except at certain impressive intervals that explode with excitement. But that approach is not entirely a failure and for me, made the ending and more poignant parts of the book more impressive.
But there are things that could have made it more consistently exciting (portions of the book told from Ket's angle? Avery finding herself in more dangerous positions instead of staying sheltered for so much of the duration of the book?)
I would love to read a sequel if there was one, especially if it strayed from YA. But I doubt there will be one.
Random funny note - I kept trying to picture Ket as actor Sendhil Ramamurthy but images of another actor, Naveen Andrews, kept popping to mind. Later I visited the author's site.. she had envisioned Naveen as Ket the whole time!...more
Holding the mother of all unpopular opinions, I was totally fascinated by the character of Ram and loved the intensity of his every scene with Daisy.Holding the mother of all unpopular opinions, I was totally fascinated by the character of Ram and loved the intensity of his every scene with Daisy. Basically if this book was all about Daisy and Ram it would get a very bias 100/5 and probably be my most favorite ill-fated (and ill-conceived) love- er- love is not the right word- relationship of faux pas and obsession story of all time....more
Tries to aim some place between Barbara Taylor Bradford, Judith Krantz's bigger novels, and Colleen McCullough's The Thorn Birds. This is a big novelTries to aim some place between Barbara Taylor Bradford, Judith Krantz's bigger novels, and Colleen McCullough's The Thorn Birds. This is a big novel that spans two generations. The best of the writing is probably in the enticing blurb, the actual book's writing is less than arresting. As for the heroine, Leonie, if there was a Mary Sue checklist I'm pretty sure her characteristics would fill it out rather nicely. But you could say the same for most heroines in this genre at the time. The plot goes to really stupid, unbelievably wasteful places. So why did I keep reading? Well to Leonie's credit the plot also goes to interesting and unexpected places in the last half. I was more touched by Leonie's daughter's story. I would give it a 3 or 4 but it only makes up a small portion of the book. That said- that small portion held an impressive, gut-wrenching plot twist. Only to end up frustrating me all the more by ending right when it was starting to show some real potential. This happens multiple times in the novel actually, an interesting plot emerges but quickly submerges and frustrates me. There is another reason why I kept reading though- that being the overarching and unusual (though sadly under realized) plot outlined in that blurb I mentioned. A heroine who has multiple lovers at different points in life- but one of those lovers is recurring, won't leave her alone, and ends up destroying himself and those around the both of them with his obsession. I love love/hate relationships, dysfunctional and highly dramatic twisting, turning plots courtesy of crafty evil geniuses. But that's not quite what I found here, more like what I had imposed upon the book and hoped- in vain- would unfurl. My delusions aside, there was other potential here. If I could rewire this novel I would've cut out some of Leonie's go-nowhere trysts and penchant for catatonic do-nothing jaunts and made both she and Monsieur a million times more capable. Then I would have taken Leonie's daughter- who is far more interesting than her mother- gave her her own book, and fleshed out her end-all-be-all relationship that is little more than alluded to at the end. Even though this book mostly bombed, it at least tries to bring some ideas to the table that go beyond one man and one woman who bring the fluff by way of endlessly predictable scenarios and "safe" characteristics....more
**spoiler alert** The first quarter or so of the book I found immersive, around the halfway point I simply liked it, then all throughout the last half**spoiler alert** The first quarter or so of the book I found immersive, around the halfway point I simply liked it, then all throughout the last half I lost interest and don't have a desire to continue on with the next book.
What attracted me at the beginning is the setting the main character is plunged into. It has a pretty fun and intriguing atmosphere. She (and we) are suddenly introduced to a variety of diverse characters. The school bully, the caring teacher, the charming and quick-witted friend Arrianne, the smart and down-to-earth Penn. I quickly became curious about Cam and Daniel, the two guys who will eventually become smitten with the heroine.
Any who, about the heroine.. her name is Luce and she is actually the most major drawback to the book. I have a very high tolerance level when it comes to different character types and have liked many a far from idealistic character and even she got on my nerves. If you're looking for a heroine that you can look up to and admire, run away now. Luce has little else going for her except obsessive singlemindedness toward the boy she loves. Any other aspects about her are pretty glossed over.
This seems at its heart a love story about Luce and Daniel. About Daniel.. he is quite a rude guy, an uninviting jerk through much of the book. I'm one of those who is intrigued by such characters and love watching the tough nut to crack be, well, cracked. The transition from hard to soft is not all that smooth here. Though to be fair, it rarely is. For reasons that end up being plausible but not very satisfying, he sorta goes from being a pain in the neck to sweet overnight. Funnily enough one of the other characters ends up doing the reverse.
Kate tries to draw up some action scenes and conflicts involving supernatural beings. In this case, angels and demons. Plus some odd murky shadow creatures that plague the main character. The couple (Luce and Daniel) are plagued by their own curse too that has continued on for ages. I find all these ideas interesting but the execution is lacking, there is just a standard of believable detail that is not quite met. Might have convinced me ten years ago though so perhaps I'm just too old.
So to round up everything-
Likes - First hundred or so pages, practically all the side characters, troubled love interest, the general ideas and setting of the story.
Dislikes - Execution keeps it from being great and some parts are very unconvincing, never really liked the main character....more
**spoiler alert** I have rather conflicting feelings about this book.
I enjoyed reading it and was actually pretty sad to see it end.. and yet I disli**spoiler alert** I have rather conflicting feelings about this book.
I enjoyed reading it and was actually pretty sad to see it end.. and yet I disliked most of the turns in the plot and was overall embittered by the ending. The writing style is good, earnestly straightforward and detailed without getting convoluted.
There is a major love story here but I wouldn't call it a romance novel. There is so much focus on a myriad of other issues at hand, I'd sooner file it under general fiction / family saga. If I were reading this book looking for what most of the romance novels I've read offer and and aim to be, I would be dreadfully disappointed. Though the love story here is compelling it is not ideal. The moments of happiness they have are like drops of rain amidst torrents of misery. And events toward the end that should have been detailed are glossed over to a point that is cruel. I usually jump for joy at a story of struggle and turmoil far more readily than an easygoing happy ride- but even here I was praying- in vain- for happier results.
What I enjoyed most was the first section titled 'Meggie'. As the book goes on several new characters are introduced and many unpredictable twists, turns, and illuminations occur. That would normally be a huge plus for me but just so many big things happen and not enough tight focus- especially later in the book- to be perfect. There are detailed, often impressive descriptions of harsh living in the Australian outback and other places and events in the characters' distinct worlds and lives.
I am doing an awful lot of complaining for a book that I'm giving four stars to. Honestly, all the drawbacks I mentioned and even if there were dozens more could not cancel out just how captivating the characters and their back stories are. There are at least six who really come to life in these pages. Ralph de Bricassart's dilemma was a very unique idea at the time and ends up being well developed and touching. The 'unpredictable twists and turns' I mentioned before are one of the many things I adore in books and this one has plenty. I really took a shine to the character of Frank, connecting so well with and sympathizing with his situation only to see him be all but booted from the story and later callously glossed over. My feeling about him is very much like my love/hate relationship with the whole book....more
Kind of comes off as an adult griping about "kids these days.." in novel form. The attempts at miming troubled youths can be earnest though, especiallKind of comes off as an adult griping about "kids these days.." in novel form. The attempts at miming troubled youths can be earnest though, especially in the case of the leading character who opens and closes the story, I think she was called Toshi. Anyway, while not intended to be YA, this would make exceptional if quite dark YA. The bleak contemplation and displacement of the characters reminds me a little bit of The Catcher In The Rye. An amusing, fast read with an unexpectedly touching end. The phone call between the killer and one of the heroines (takes place in the middle of the book, where he "hires" her to write a most memorable suicide note for him.) is one of the most dementedly hilarious and memorable scenes from any book I've read, ever....more