When I was 10 pages into this book, I debated putting it down. For some reason, I felt like I wasn't going to be into the book. That I would keep pick...moreWhen I was 10 pages into this book, I debated putting it down. For some reason, I felt like I wasn't going to be into the book. That I would keep picking it up for the sake of finally finishing it. I forged on because I've already abandoned a book this month and I'm so happy that I did. After those initial ten pages, I found that I could just not put this book down.
Strange as it may be, but I find that I'm drawn to stories about insane asylums especially if a sane person was locked in one. I loved the character of Esme. She was willfull, strong, and someone who wouldn't conform to what her parents and society thought she should do. If I'm drawn to the main character, then it's easier for me to finish a book. I ended up caring a lot about Esme and found myself angry on her behalf because of what she's been put through. I was emotional throughout this book and found myself wavering from anger to sadness to bitterness. I was so enthralled in this book and I absolutely loved it.
So, if I loved it, how come the four stars? While the writing is magnificent, the format was a bit weird. It alternates from Iris's thoughts to Esme's thoughts (which variated between present tense and flashbacks) to Kitty's Alzheimer-riddled thoughts. This often got confusing and I had to double check to make sure whose p.o.v. I was following. Also, this whole book was an amazing page turner except that the ending sort of fizzled. There was very little closure in it and just something that vaguely looks like resolution. I thought that it should've been a little bit longer. Also, the whole thing between Iris and Alex...not enough yuck in the world.
Anyway, even though it had a couple of shortcomings, I highly recommend this book. It was such a great page-turner that I ended up finishing it in a day (variating between reading and homework...and my professor says it's impossible to multitask? HA!) and don't regret it one little bit.(less)
Okay, let me first start out by saying that I am fairly new to the "horror" genre. I've only read about six or seven horror novels in my lifetime and...moreOkay, let me first start out by saying that I am fairly new to the "horror" genre. I've only read about six or seven horror novels in my lifetime and those were all within a year (2008-2009 year, in fact). There were some that I didn't find scary at all (yes, Amityville Horror, I'm glaring at you), but the majority of them I thought were great.
Alexandra's Sokoloff's "The Harrowing" (her first novel) was one of the great ones. I thought it was incredibly creepy and frankly, it scared the crap out of me. So, of course, I was excited to pick up her second novel "The Price" (which I picked up today). I love that her novels are quick reads (man, do they keep you turning the pages!); the author seems to understand that to tell a great horror story, you don't have to have a 1000+ page novel (yes, Stephen King's "IT"; that one's for you).
Anyway, at first, I was a little disappointed because while the first 50 pages were interesting, it really didn't spell out "horror" for me. That notion was changed pretty quickly while I delved in deeper into the story. While I do think that "The Harrowing" was scarier than "The Price", I definitely liked "The Price" better. It keeps you turning pages faster than "The Harrowing" (I finished that one in two days, but finished "The Price" in about four hours). I think it's more of a suspense novel, if anything. Don't get me wrong, it's still plenty creepy (you'll think so too once you read a certain "nun scene". Dude, nuns are already creepy to begin with, but this just made me that much more terrified of them), but the "creepy" factor was not what kept me turning pages.
What did keep me turning pages was the whole mystery of what exactly was happening in the hospital. Throughout most of this story I was thinking "What the hell is going on?!!!" I also kept reading because I was intrigued by the main character (moreso than "The Harrowing" since a couple of the characters in that one annoyed me to no end). While you are on Will's (the main character) side the entire time, you can't help, but wonder if he's going mad or if what's happening is real. It's that whole "What the hell is going on?!!!" thing all over again. The novel also raises an interesting question, "How far will you go to save a loved one?" The humanity factor is what made me like "The Price" more than "The Harrowing".
So, definitely pick up "The Price" (and "The Harrowing", too). It was creepy, heart-breaking, and suspenseful all in one. Alexandra Sokoloff is also coming out with another book in May. And for me, May cannot come fast enough. (less)
Due to the ratings here on Goodreads and on Amazon, Her Fearful Symmetry seems to be one of those books were most people either love it or hate it. No...moreDue to the ratings here on Goodreads and on Amazon, Her Fearful Symmetry seems to be one of those books were most people either love it or hate it. Now, I didn't LOVE it, but I didn't fiercely HATE it either. In fact, I really, really liked Her Fearful Symmetry and was kind of surprised by that considering that I never made it through The Time Traveler's Wife (although to be honest, I don't think I gave it a fair chance. I put it down after about 10 pages in the middle of a reading slump. I will be giving it another try, though). However, I think that worked out in my favor considering many people were comparing this book to TTTW. I, on the other hand, had a clean slate, so to speak.
First things first: I think the atmosphere had a lot to do with why I enjoyed Her Fearful Symmetry. I love the whole gothic, spookiness that the book had going for it. So, it seemed fitting for the weather outside to match. I read this book in the middle of a snowstorm (I was safely inside, though, so no worries) and I think it added a bit more to the story (considering that the best time to read anything even remotely spooky is on those cold, snowy days). I think if I would've read this in the summer, I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much.
Now that I got that little weird tidbit out of the way, I'll go to the next thing. What I noticed almost immediately was the beautiful writing. Again, I couldn't make it through TTTW and I didn't really notice the writing then, just the thrumming in my head and my inner voice yelling "It's a romance...You WON'T enjoy it!" However, in Her Fearful Symmetry, I was captivated by the prose from the first sentence. It was raw, emotional, yet it did all of this with a quiet intensity.
I am going to admit that I was a little annoyed by some of the actions of the characters. I spent most of the book agitated with Julia. She was just so bossy and controlling. I then spent the remainder of the book agitated with Valentina and wanting to tell her to grow a friggin' backbone and stand up to Julia. The twins' relationship was so stifling and exhausting (seriously, if this is how every twin relationship is, I feel sorry for the both of them). However, their relationship was also the most interesting part of the book for me.
Another confession is that I sort of loved Elspeth (which is weird considering how everything ended up playing out). I just felt so sorry for her, being alone and stuck in the flat with nothing to do. I was also very endeared by her, like one would be with a puppy who has done something it wasn't supposed to. You want to scold it while simultaneously petting it. I think, despite my inital annoyance with the twins of hell, that I really liked every single one of the characters found them all necessary. I liked Martin and Robert and Edie, just all of them.
So, I definitely recommend Her Fearful Symmetry. It was a beautifully written (I seriously didn't think the writing would affect me that much) ghost story with twists and turns. It was just an all-around great read.
So, my criteria for Horror books is the same as it is for Horror movies. For me to actually be scared, the book or movie has to be generally scary. It...moreSo, my criteria for Horror books is the same as it is for Horror movies. For me to actually be scared, the book or movie has to be generally scary. It has to be about the chills, not just the thrills. Which means it just can't be a whole lot of gore, because goriness is not scary. The plot has to be a bit understated. And lastly, the mood has to be set. The Haunting of Hill House follows this criteria and does it magnificently.
You have these four characters who are staying at Hill House, and you start to genuinely care about them. So much, that you don't want anything bad to happen to them. But this is a haunted house story, so some trauma to the characters is kind of expected.
The thing I most loved about this book is that the mood is set from early on. Things don't start going bump in the night as soon as they get to the house. They start slowly unweaving and you start getting this sense of dread everytime the dark approaches. I thought this book wouldn't be that scary. I don't why I thought that, but I just did. So, I started reading it at 12 in the morning. I then put it down an hour later because I started getting too creeped out. Plus, I live in a pretty old house and people say that things have gone bump in the night here. I've never had any experiences, but who knows?
This is just a wonderful book. The writing is excellent and the characters aren't one dimensional. Sure, there isn't any gore, no gratuitous sex, and other things that have become the norm for horror books/movies. But it has what any good horror books should have and that is a level of creepiness. I think this is one I'd re-read again, but maybe closer to Halloween.(less)
Every single time I review a YA-Fantasy novel, I start off with saying that I'm always holding my breath while reading and I'm always waiting for the...moreEvery single time I review a YA-Fantasy novel, I start off with saying that I'm always holding my breath while reading and I'm always waiting for the other shoe to fall if I'm enjoying it. I also mention that I blame Twilight for the holding of my breath...which I do. But I also blame Twilight for making me lump this with that series without even reading it. Why? Because it made me put off Beautiful Creatures for so long (cause I think Twilight sort of sucks...my opinion...deal) and I hate that I did that...because it was sort of awesome.
The Good: I love southern books to begin with, but Beautiful Creatures not only had a southern setting, but it also had a gothic atmosphere. That made this book all sorts of win. It wasn't like this book just threw a castle into the plot and then said "Look! We're GOTHIC...and oh-so-cool". Every thing about Beautiful Creatures actively FELT gothic...from the somewhat stereotypical castle to the loneliness the main character feels due to the shunning, this was all deliciously gothic. Was it an accurate representation of southern people? That I don't know since the closest I've come to living in the South was the brief year I lived in Florida (and some people, I don't know why, don't consider Florida to be south-enough), but I bought it.
More Good: I loved the fact that Beautiful Creatures was, for the most part, written in the point of view of the male. A lot of the time, or at least in fiction, I find that the men are less "gushy" when it comes to romance and therefore, I don't have the urge to strangle myself when they're talking about their respective other. Unfair? Probably, but I can't help it. And while Lena is deliciously angsty and doesn't seem like the "oh my God, I LOVE YOU SOOOOOO MUCH!!!!" type, I think even she would have annoyed me if it was all written in her POV.
The Absolute BEST: I LOVE Ridley! I don't apologize for the fact that I am utterly drawn to somewhat evil yet completely compelling characters. I have been ever since I saw Hocus Pocus when I was like 6 and loved Sarah. Evil witches just fascinate me and I just want to HUG them, while wanting to keep my distance because I'm terrified of what they'll do to me. Ridley was just such an interesting character with the MOST awesome and intriguing power (the evil witches always have those) that I wanted more of her in the book. I'm praying (and hoping and wishing) that she shows up in the other installment of the series cause I'm not ready to say goodbye to her.
The Somewhat Annoying: The only thing that bothered me about Beautiful Creatures was the insta-love that seems to be the norm for YA Fantasy novels. Don't authors want to create a slow-burn of attraction followed by the madly-in-love-ness anymore? Because the cliché "the fell madly in love at first sight" thing is ALWAYS old and always so eye-rollingly pathetic.
Consensus (FINALLY!): Overall, I found Beautiful Creatures to be AMAZING! It was oh-so-interesting, it had an awesome atmosphere, and the romance didn't make me want to stab my eyeballs with a rusty nail. I'm hoping the next installment is just as good (and has more Ridley...cause she just rocks in so many ways). I call this one a win. (less)
So, I have raved to anyone and everyone about how much I loved Kate Morton's The House at Riverton. Seriously, that was my favorite book for 2009 and...moreSo, I have raved to anyone and everyone about how much I loved Kate Morton's The House at Riverton. Seriously, that was my favorite book for 2009 and one of my favorite books ever. I also loved The Forgotten Garden, though I didn't rave about that one quite as much as I raved about The House at Riverton. However, The Distant Hours deserves the most praise out of all three books. Why? Well, because it takes what's amazing about The House at Riverton (the moodiness, the atmosphere) and what's tremendous about The Forgotten Garden (the airiness, the enchantment) and puts it together into one fantastic novel.
I loved every single word of The Distant Hours. Yes, the book is long as hell, but every single page was worth it. Book lover that I am, I loved the character of Edie and could completely understand why she would be so enchanted with Milderhurst Castle (as I am also a Gothic Literature Lover or GLL as I like to call it) and her fascination with the written word was something that I could relate to. I was so connected to everything in this book. MILD SPOILER: LIKE VERY MILD: During one part, Edie is talking to Saffy and Saffy is concerned that Percy will catch her doing just that, and I felt just as worried as Edie that Percy would catch the two conversing and Saffy wouldn't be able to tell her story. I just didn't want them to be interrupted. END OF EXTREMELY MILD SPOILER.
I was so enchanted with The Distant Hours. One of my favorite things about it was the whole history of The Mud Man. It came to the point where I really wished that book existed because it just sounded so utterly fascinating and captivating. (And since we're being truthful, if J.K. Rowling had written The Distant Hours, The Mud Man would be a published best-selling novella by now. So, maybe it's foolish, but I want The Mud Man published.) The same thing happened in The Forgotten Garden. I found Eliza's fairytales enchanting and just as enjoyable (if not more) than the overall story.
There were a lot of twists and turns in The Distant Hours. And no I'm not going to mention not even one of them. However, I will say that I discovered one of the twists before it had been revealed, but there were many more were that came from (but not in that annoying "mystery writer" type of way. Each of these twists seemed necessary and weren't necessarily red-herrings). Every time I thought that I had something figured out, Morton would throw a curveball at it and everything would unravel again (again, not in the annoying mystery writer way).
So, I definitely, whole-heartedly, recommend The Distant Hours. It was an amazing, enchanting, captivating read that just flew by since you're desperate to figure what really went on. Read it if you want a read with any of these things. Also, The Distant Hours is best read in the evening in the middle of a storm (rainstorm, snowstorm, sandstorm, it doesn't really matter), just to feel the full effect. I read some of it yesterday in the middle of a snowstorm, at night, and ended up creeping myself out just a little. Anyway, read The Distant Hours. It was amazing and Kate Morton is an amazing writer.(less)
I'm always weary when it comes to reading paranormal young-adult novels because while there have been a few that I have liked, most of them leave a ba...moreI'm always weary when it comes to reading paranormal young-adult novels because while there have been a few that I have liked, most of them leave a bad taste in my mouth and I'm left with a desire to throw the book against the wall. Dark Companion started off really strong and I thought "Yay! Here's a good one!" It pretty much went on like that until I reached the halfway point. The halfway point of Dark Companion made me want gouge out my eyes so that I wouldn't have to read anymore and had it not been a review book, I would have thrown it against said wall and not bothered to read it anymore. By the time I finished, my instinct to throw the book had passed, I still found that the middle left a bad taste in my mouth and I couldn't fully get over it.
Here's the thing about Dark Companion: you have this heroine who is smart, rational, and a bit of a badass. You have supporting characters that are interesting in all of their flaw-filled glory. You have a gothic, somewhat spooky atmosphere. You have gorgeous writing. And all of that lures you into a false sense of security regarding how good this book is going to be (i.e. my "YAY!" at the beginning). But then you see the main character changing a little bit...and then you see her changing a little bit more and getting less rational, and then you see her change a little bit more than before until you realize that not only is she not as rational anymore, she's also lost some of her badassery. And once you keep reading, you realize that not only has she lost all this, she has now become a full-fledged pathetic idiot because she is "in love." And then you scream and groan at how you thought SHE was going to be different from most of the rest, and how DECEIVED you are, and how this wasn't supposed to BE this way...or at least you do if you are me. Non-spoilery explanation up ahead.
Jane just does a full 180 halfway through the book when it comes to Lucian and allows herself to be used in the worst possible way. The worst part is that it doesn't mesh with the character she was at the beginning of the novel. Someone who complains about how others are being used by their circumstances should not then allow themselves to be used by their own circumstances. It just doesn't make any sense. And former smart, badass heroine wants to be used because she thinks this is going to make the tool also known as the object of her affection fall deeply in love with her even though there is tons of evidence that points to the contrary. Again, it does not make sense for someone so street-smart, rational, and badass. Sure, Jane got a bit better towards the end of Dark Companion, but by that time she had already become implanted with the "dumb heroine" stamp. And those stamps...not easily washed off...at least not by yours truly.
So, if I had a major issue with the main character of Dark Companion, why the 3 stars as opposed to 2 (or 1)? Mary Violet. She was the ray of sunshine this novel needed. She was cute, adorable, and had the best one-liners that I am FOR SURE going to steal, so that my friends also think I'm fabulous. I loved her from beginning to end and was kind of saddened that she sort of tapered off towards the end of the novel. Oh, another reason why this book got 3 stars was because the writing was gorgeous, the atmosphere deliciously gothic, and the premise forever intriguing, even if I feel it didn't reach its full potential.
Overall, I found Dark Companion merely okay. It would have been better had Jane not insisted on being like her obvious soul-sister Bella, but the other aspects of this novel make it feel as though it's at least deserving a read. Just don't purchase it and take it out of your local library instead. And try not to throw it too hard when you reach the middle since you won't own it.(less)