This book and I were getting along just fine until about half way through when the UTTER RIDICULOUSNESS kicked in and it lost me completely - so complThis book and I were getting along just fine until about half way through when the UTTER RIDICULOUSNESS kicked in and it lost me completely - so completely that I got angry I was even reading it.
Look - I love the plot idea. A rich, lonely man in small town Wisconsin has placed an ad for a "reliable wife." The man, Ralph Truitt, is proud, bleak and remote as the frozen landscape, and eaten up by guilt. A woman, Catherine Land, who has done nothing but lie to Ralph about who she is and what she wants, arrives to be his wife. I thought Goolrick had tipped his hand a little by revealing within the first couple chapters that Catherine had answered the ad in order to pull a black widow (marry a rich man and then kill him). The "twist" in the story that comes in Part 2 felt hugely telegraphed because of this knowledge, but maybe I've just been watching too many soap dramas so I totally expect things like that to happen (view spoiler)[(Catherine's lover is Ralph's son, who wants to kill his daddy) (hide spoiler)].
I also liked that both Catherine and Ralph come from convoluted backgrounds. Ralph especially - I would never have expected this stiff, reserved man to have spent a pleasure-seeking youth filled with drugs and women.
The writing is a little choppy, but the style works for the feel of the book. I do feel like the background info dumps were a little too much. Ralph actually sits down and goes, "Okay, I'm going to tell you my entire background now" (which makes it even weirder that he had already info dumped most of it during a fever dream in the previous chapter). And, even though I totally believe it's true that guys think about sex every 4 seconds, I've never met a character before Ralph where this is actually expressed. Most of the time in Ralph's point of view he's either thinking about the sex he has had, the sex he wants to have, or the sex he's having. It's mostly just mind-numbingly repetitive.
What started grating was that both Ralph and Catherine were saddled with ungrateful, miserable, terrible family members. At least Ralph’s son (Antonio) has a reason – his father was physically and emotionally abusive (and even if Ralph feels terrible about it now, I’m not sure if I could forgive a dad who beat me bloody through my childhood; plus the son is obsessed with the idea that his father killed his mother). So the fact that Antonio turned out to be violent, indolent, and pleasure-seeking – and very, very angry – is not surprising.
But what the hell is up with Catherine’s sister Alice? Catherine spent their childhood whoring herself out to protect her little sister and make sure she could live comfortably. And then all of a sudden her little sister hates her and goes out to be a cheap whore herself because, unlike Catherine, the best Alice can do is streetwalking (Catherine has the smarts and the wits to become a high-end hooker). But Alice remains incredibly bitter and hateful to Catherine during her entire miserable life. Why? Was Catherine actually condescending? Was Catherine suffocating in her care of Alice? This is never explained and it just made me mad that this ungrateful idiot for no apparent reason constantly rebuffed her only surviving family member who had done nothing but try to help her.
But what REALLY got me was that when Ralph realized that Catherine was poisoning him HE WAS TOTALLY OKAY WITH IT. Glad, even. Because I don’t even know why. Guilt? It was stupid. This was stupid. When I got to that point I just gave up, because why bother with such a ridiculous book? ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I didn't love it. It's an easily digestible book of a painful subject - the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent during World War II (fI didn't love it. It's an easily digestible book of a painful subject - the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent during World War II (for other books on this, see: When the Emperor Was Divine, Snow Falling on Cedars, and Garden of Stones).
Henry Lee is a young boy dealing with family pressure, generational divide, and general prejudice. He is the son of Chinese immigrants, and his father is fiercely pro-China (and therefore anti-Japanese, since Japan at that time had occupied and brutalized the Chinese mainland). Henry's sent to a white school for the prestige, but is mocked and isolated by his peers and teachers. His only friend is the new girl, a Japanese-American named Keiko Okabe. It's a coming-of-age at a time when racism, fear, and ignorance are the only real winners.
It's a quick read, but even with the tragic subject material, it just doesn't feel like it's substantial enough to be memorable. ...more
I will be honest here...it's a little dry. But that's because Darwin's original The Origin of Species, while incredibly brilliant and highly readableI will be honest here...it's a little dry. But that's because Darwin's original The Origin of Species, while incredibly brilliant and highly readable for the scientific tract it is, can also be very dry.
This graphic adaptation is pretty much what it says on the box. There's a bit of biographical information on Darwin in the beginning (in graphic novel form, of course) and then after that it's just a graphic novel version of The Origin of Species, putting illustrations to Darwin's original text.
It's an incredibly lovely effort to make a classic text come to life, and the illustrations are excellent and help to heighten understanding of the words (which is exactly what good illustrations should do). ...more
This was one of those books sitting on my TBR for so long I had forgotten what it was about and why I added it. I vaguely knew from the book descriptiThis was one of those books sitting on my TBR for so long I had forgotten what it was about and why I added it. I vaguely knew from the book description that it was about a woman running a bakery who had a famous sister. It wasn't until the mention of "Sandy" that I realized, Oh duh, Gesine Bullock-Rrado is Sandra Bullock's sister. Thaaaat makes sense, what with the last name and the author photo where you can see the resemblance.
Still can't remember for the life of me why it was added to my TBR list, but it was an enjoyable read. Bullock-Prado is a proficient writer. And I’m not saying that in a snide or rude way. She’s not a professional writer and it shows, but she has a breezy enough style, the few anecdotes she relates she does well, and I thought the introductions to her recipes were actually the best bits of writing in the book, style-wise. I’d read Bullock-Prado's cookbook or blog.
On the other hand, Bullock-Prado has actually lived a really interesting life and really needs a proper memoir-writer to do it justice - a professional journalist or ghost writer. Instead, Bullock-Prado skims along the surface level of her life. I know she has a husband who she adores and is super helpful – but that’s about it. I’ve got no sense of personality from him except “good husband, nice guy.” I know she HATES Hollywood and thinks it’s a shallow, superficial, catty mess but the actual examples are few and far between. Tell me stories! And as much as I’d love more Hollywood gossip, I’d settle for just more day-to-day insight into what it’s really like to be an outside-insider – connected to fame, but still treated like the help by most people. Don’t just tell me people in Hollywood are judgmental and always peddling something – show me! The few anecdotes Bullock-Prado does throw in are great and she can write them well (like the time she went out to dinner with a group of people that helped make a big movie happen – and she was the only one not given a T-shirt, because she wasn’t considered important enough for even that).
The same thing happened when Bullock-Prado was in Vermont with her small bakery. Montpelier seems fun and quirky. This could be like Gilmore Girls' Stars Hollow or whatever other charmingly-weird-small-town reference point you want to use. But in this book there would be only a sentence or a paragraph about the regulars or the workers, which is a damn shame because some of them were really interesting. Tell me more about Everyone’s Favorite Regular – the grumpy old guy with the heart of gold! Tell me more about the crazy female worker who turned out to be a registered sex offender! Tell me more about what it’s like to live in a town with no law against public nudity! Make this town come alive!
There is also a lot more to be mined from Bullock-Prado’s family life. What’s it like to be the sibling of someone so famous? I get that you have to deal with crazy people trying to get to your celebrity sibling through you, but what else? I think Bullock-Prado handled the telling of how her mother died of cancer after doing everything “right” to stay healthy – organic food, marathons, etc., etc. – very well. But there might be something more there. And her father is barely touched on.
I would love to read a real biography of Bullock-Prado (or a fictional story based off her life). ...more
One of those rare middle grade books that is completely as entertaining for an older reader to enjoy.
Calpurnia Virginia Tate is a spunky, clever 12 yeOne of those rare middle grade books that is completely as entertaining for an older reader to enjoy.
Calpurnia Virginia Tate is a spunky, clever 12 year old who bonds with her Grandaddy over Charles Darwin and the exploration of the natural sciences, after hitherto being ignored by him (Grandaddy seems to be one of those stern, cantankerous, heart-of-gold-in-the-right-mood old men types).
Kelly manages to do the near-impossible task of telling the story of a very bright, very ambitious girl well-grounded in her times. This is the turn of the 20th century, where opportunities for girls like Calpurnia are few and far between - and her parents (and Grandaddy, but he seems to care more about having a decent research assistant now than worry about what will become of her in the future) are concerned about what will happen to Calpurnia when her expectations meet the harsh reality of the world. This book ends on a we-don't-know. Maybe Calpurnia will fulfill her dreams, maybe not. Other women were going out to do seemingly impossible things at the time (Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart) so who says Calpurnia couldn't? I like that Kelly doesn't shy away from what life really would have been like - it would have been easy to make Calpurnia too modern or the solution too easy. But no, it feels genuine, but at the same time it's never mournful or depressing. Calpurnia is really too chipper and imaginative to let things drag her down (and too innocent to see how hard her path will be).
I would love for this to be a series, like Anne of Green Gables. In fact, this book has a lot of the same feel as that series (which is a high compliment indeed)....more
I surprisingly didn’t hate this. I really, really thought I would based on the reviews I was reading. Stiefvater is a talented writer. It’s really a sI surprisingly didn’t hate this. I really, really thought I would based on the reviews I was reading. Stiefvater is a talented writer. It’s really a shame she wasted her skills on such a lame book.
(1) No love triangle. Now, don't get me wrong. I love a good love triangle as much as the next girl. There's nothing like a little competition to make some romantic sparks. But it is overdone ESPECIALLY nowadays in YA paranormal. And there is the bad tendency of me preferring the love triangle loser. I mean, there are romantic rivals, per se, in this book. For Grace, it's Olivia's brother. But he barely appears and presents no challenge to Grace/Sam. For Sam, there's crazy, homicidal werewolf Shelby. He is REALLY just not that into her so it's not a love triangle; it's a couple with a crazy stalker.
(2) No "Oh no! I am too dangerous! I must distance myself from you for your own good!" bullshit. I think Sam makes some mutterings in this vein, but it's never really an issue.
(3) What comes between Grace/Sam is an ACTUAL problem, not stupid misunderstandings or contrived excuses. How do you argue with the fact that your boyfriend is going to become (and stay) a wolf? It can be considered dull that Grace/Sam automatically become a couple and never break up. But the kind of arguments that usually lead to BOOKS of together/broken up/together/broken up get discussed and dealt with in a few pages. Which is at least refreshing.
(4) Stiefvater can actually write. This is something that should not be overlooked. It's sadly rare. She is really very good. I think "lyrical" gets thrown around a lot when discussing her writing. Even when nothing is happening, I still didn't feel the urge to skim because the writing at least was holding my attention.
(5) It's heartbreaking. Not Sam/Grace. That's a little whatever for me because (1) As I will mention many times, they fell in "love" when he was a GODDAMN WOLF. (2) They are obviously going to be together. It's how this genre works. Few people are ballsy enough to permanently separate the canon couple (for a REASON). No, what's heartbreaking is Sam's relationship with his parental figures. First his parents. Then Beck. Poor kid can't catch a break. And Stiefvater deals with it in such a way that I hope she next turns to contemporary YA and becomes the next Melina Marchetta (who Stiefvater reminds me of, as an author who writes heartbreaking/bittersweet/funny/ultimately happy novels but who has the good sense to stay away from such a stupid concept as this).
(6) It's funny. Mostly I laughed at inappropriate times because this book takes itself so darn seriously when it is being cheestastic. But I also laughed at parts that were SUPPOSED to be humorous.
(7) It has some great supporting characters. Beck was surprisingly complex. The tragically underused super hyper friend Rachel was hilarious. And bitchy frenemy Isabel was my absolute favorite. She mostly seems to care about her clothes, her appearance and her fashionably small dog, but she still tries to rescue her brother-turned-werewolf (whom she doesn't seem to like, but does love) and (grudgingly) helps out Grace & Sam. I loved the scene when she is called on to find Sam, who is trapped in a shed on her property. She's annoyed she has to inconvenience herself to save Sam, but nevertheless does her best. On the phone with Grace (who's yelling at her to hurry up), she gripes: "I'm freezing my ass off for you. I'm walking across the yard. I'm walking across the part of the grass my dog used to pee on before my damned brother ate her...The door's stuck like the other one. I'm kicking it with my expensive shoe and it's pissing me off." Oh, Isabel. Don't ever change.
(8) My Werewolves Are Different, but in a plot-relevant way, not a stupid way. Everyone has to put a little "twist" on the vampire/werewolf/angel/fairy/whatever folklore nowadays. Usually it's dumb. Or simply a way to make your character SuperSpecialAwesome. But here, it's important to the whole story. Werewolves don't change at the full moon. They change when it gets cold. No explanation why (yet) but it's unique and innovative without coming off as overly-contrived. So, kudos Stiefvater.
(9) Stiefvater addresses plot holes head-on.
Q: Why don't the werewolves just move south, then, if they don't ever want to change (You could travel the world, but nothing comes close to the Golden Coast!)? A: Well, because your body becomes sensitive to the slightest temperature changes and a stray air-conditioner can do you in. Q: Okay, so why don't you put food aside for the winter so, y'know, you don't try to munch on little girls who might turn out to be your One True Love? A: And feed random woodland creatures as well? If wolves can reach the food, all the other creatures of the forest can, too. Q: Yeah, okay. But...can't you set up a system so that it requires some combination of pressing buttons with noses/stepping on levers/whatever by 2+ wolves to open the door to the stored food? Rats can be trained to press things to get their food. You think you could figure out a system that even your wolf brain could process. A: Ummm. THAT'S NOT HOW WOLVES DO THINGS. Q: That's...not an answer. That's still a plot hole A: Most people don't overanalyze things like you. I glossed over the plothole. That's all that's required of me. Q: Fair enough. Some authors don't even give the readers that much.
(1) Grace has been in love with a WOLF for six years. A wolf, I might add, who seemed pretty okay with letting the rest of the pack EAT HER until they made eye contact and fell into True Lurv. Lucky your soulmate was a wolf, girl, or you'd be dead now. It's just SO utterly ridiculous and the author plays it SO straight as if this isn't weird at all. It is. It's weird. It's creepy. It's not the start of an epic love story. Every time Grace talked about "her wolf" I giggled uncontrollably at the absurdity.
(2) Sam writes emo song lyrics. A lot. It's his schtick. Cheer up, emo kid.
(3) Some of the supporting characters were NOT great. Grace's parents are pretty much cliches. The flaky artsy mom. The workaholic dad. Sam stays at Grace's house for WEEKS and neither parent realizes he's sleeping in their daughter's bedroom (and Grace isn't even hiding him very well). I mean, their daughter almost died (twice!) in the space of a month (first the wolves tried to eat her and then her dad, true to form, forgot he had a daughter and left her locked in the car. Grace, true to form, refused to either fight off the wolves or unlock the car door from the inside and get out. I think 10-year-old Grace had a death wish). Despite their daughter's constant brushes with death, her parents still are too wrapped up in themselves to pay the least bit of attention. How did Grace not die for realz before reaching puberty with such wanton neglect? I mean, if nearly dying (twice!) doesn't get your parents to notice you, what will? Also, Olivia (Grace's other friend) is bland. Why does she show up more than Rachel? I hope she isn't much of a presence in the sequels.
(4) Human Sam has naturally yellow eyes. Wait. What? Why? Will this ever be explained? Because if not, it's dumb. And unnecessary. And dumb.
(5) Wolves can't have human eyes. Period. Stiefvater makes a BIG DEAL out of the fact that the werewolves retain their human eyes. I'm sorry, have you SEEN a wolf's eye? They don't have any whites in them! It's a pupil and then color. No white. You know how strange it would be to see a wolf with the SAME EYES it has as a human? EVERYONE would figure out right away that these weren't normal wolves. Apparently the Twilight special effects team had to deal with this. This is what they said:
The book described the wolves as having eerily human eyes. “We were told early on that they literally they wanted us to plop the actors eyes into wolf, which always sounds like a good idea on paper but it does not work visually,” said Fredenburg, “so we had to play how much to accentuate them as human eyes and how much to push them towards wolf eyes. The eyelid shape around them is definitely wolf. For the eyeball itself we tended to play a little bit dark so they wouldn’t stick out as these funny white eyeballs in the head of the wolf.”
The wolves can have the same COLOR eyes as the human form. They can have HUMAN-LIKE eyes. They can't have HUMAN EYES. Geez, Stiefvater.
(6) What the eff was Sam doing in the end? Washing his hair? Did he have no sense of urgency? I can't explain this one better without going all spoilery, but if you've read the book you hopefully know what I'm talking about.
(7) Grace stopped caring about everything and everybody besides Sam. Her family is already basically nonexistent, so I guess they don't count. But her friends get dropped (Olivia goes missing for days and she doesn't even stop by to see what's going on. Rachel keeps mentioning that Grace has been distant and Grace handwaves it away). And school is something that interferes with her time with Sam. Grace, despite being "independent" and "responsible" has no goals, no dreams, no hobbies, no sense of self outside of "her wolf" (later, Sam). That's just kind of sad. I'm told that this is typical high school girl in first love behavior but since I wasn't lucky enough to have that I can't relate. Grace has inklings of being a strong, vibrant character. I just wish she had been developed outside of her love of Sam (as a wolf or human).
(1) Sam and Grace as a couple. I don't hate it. I don't love it. It's just kind of there. It's actually really weird, because I like Sam (and, seriously, my heart breaks for this poor kid over and over and over in this book) and I like Grace well enough. But I can't get over the fact that Stiefvater keeps acting like the fact that he was a wolf for 6 years of their "love" story isn't weird. It's actually so bad it's good again, like a cheesy old horror film, but it certainly it's romantic.
(2) The overall plot. Also weird, because I liked the book, but I just found the central premise so silly that my feeling toward the plot as a whole was "Oh, Stiefvater. Such a waste of your talent." It's like Leonardo DiCaprio starring in The Man in the Iron Mask. Such a talented guy in a film that was such a waste of his abilities. It's better when he's in a film where he can truly shine. Whatever reason Stiefvater is writing a werewolf love story, it's a cliche at the moment. And even if it was never her intention, it certainly feels like she's hitching a ride on the Twilight Cash Cow Express. It's a B-list plot by an A-list author. Stiefvater can do better than this. And when she does, it's going to be EPIC.
(3) It's the first in a series. This is actually a self-contained story. Everything that needs to be is wrapped up. It feels complete. It doesn't end on a cliffhanger. It just doesn't cry out for a sequel like some books. I mean, maybe the sequels are great books in and of themselves. But if this was the only book about Sam & Grace, I wouldn't feel like something was missing. ...more
I just...I just couldn't. I tried, I really did. I read the first quarter and when that dragged and dragged and dragged I turned to the audio book. AnI just...I just couldn't. I tried, I really did. I read the first quarter and when that dragged and dragged and dragged I turned to the audio book. And still! I couldn't! I kept listening to other books - any other book - and then try to claw my way back to listening to this for another chapter or two before I couldn't take it anymore.
The thing is, I should love this book. Historical fiction? YES. Clever, complex, puppetmaster anti-hero? OF COURSE. Political intrigue? SIGN ME UP.
And yet. AND YET. The writing style in this is teeth-grinding. I never know what is going on or when it is or who is there. It is painful to get through.
So I gave up. I actually gave up. I have finished more horrible books than I care to count and yet this is the one who made me raise the white flag....more
I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up this book. A Twilight wannabe? A deconstruction of Twilight? It ended up being kind of both.
The beginninI wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up this book. A Twilight wannabe? A deconstruction of Twilight? It ended up being kind of both.
The beginning was good. Regular farm girl Jessica is followed around by a hot guy who keeps staring at her and acting strangely. Her reaction? The very realistic, "Okay, he's hot, but OHMYGODCREEEEPY. STOP STALKING ME!" I liked that. I liked that she was presented as kind of the anti-Bella.
The guy is vampire Lucius. First off, Lucius as a name was all well and good in the Roman Empire but now it reminds me of (1) Harry Potter and gross Malfoy senior and (2) the word "luscious" and not in a hot way, but in a weird, campy way. So, poor name choice Fantaskey. But Lucius (I can't even type that name without giggling...I'm just going to call him "Luc") is totally an a-hole in the beginning. INCREDIBLY arrogant and condescending. And Jessica, in her stronger moments, recognizes that this is completely unattractive and refuses to accept their engagement (because, of course, they are both vampire royalty and were engaged since practically birth. Of course). The great thing about Luc is that he shows actual character growth. Over the course of the book the arrogance fades away and he turns into a decent person. Plus, his letters home are pretty hilarious.
Sadly, Luc's character growth only highlights the fact that Jessica doesn't grow as a character. She gets "stronger" or whatever, but really she just gets obsessed with Luc and kind of dismissive of her human boyfriend. I liked Luc a lot more as the book went on, but kind of liked Jessica less as she turned into a vampire book heroine cliche.
And the story arc in Romania was just dumb. Luc went from being realistically troubled to whiny and angsty (it is very hard to do a Oh noes! I'm doomed by my eeevvvilll nature! very well). And, I'm sorry, but Jessica makes a horrible leader. She REALLY needed to develop more over the book and show some kind of tactical or leadership ability in America (even just being captain of the soccer team or SOMETHING) for me to buy her as a potential vampire queen.
This is not the worst vampire book I've read by far, but it's not the best. It's bad when I like the hero overwhelmingly more than the heroine. I think if Fantaskey had concentrated more on the humor (and Luc's letters show that she has a knack for sarcastic humor) and mined the deconstruction of vampire novel cliches some more, this book could've been much better. ...more
I find it fascinating that I enjoyed the book despite Quentin's complete douchiness (for the most part, wheQuentin Coldwater is an irredeemable tool.
I find it fascinating that I enjoyed the book despite Quentin's complete douchiness (for the most part, when I didn’t want to reach into the book and kill Quentin myself). The writing is good – clean, flowing, distinct. The world is fascinating (moving animal shrubs at Brakebills, School For Unlikeable Magicians! Ominously ticking clock trees in Fillory, aka Narnia!). The plot hums along nicely enough.
The problem is that I don’t know if Grossman purposely made Quentin so terribly unlikeable. I mean, he gives Alice a speech that points out Quentin’s problem:
“Even if this whole thing came off without a hitch, you wouldn’t be happy. You gave up on Brooklyn and on Brakebills, and I fully expect you to give up on Fillory when the time comes…look at your life and see how perfect it is. Stop looking for the next secret door that is going to lead you to your real life. Stop waiting. This is it: there’s nothing else. It’s here, and you’d better decide to enjoy it or you’re going to be miserable wherever you go, for the rest of your life, forever.”
Preach it, sister! I mean, this is calling Quentin out. This is exactly his problem. And yet…nothing changes. Quentin NEVER gets better. He doesn’t even have the grace to die. No, he stays as arrogant, selfish, irritating and miserable as he has always been. He gets an extra layer of mopiness, but that’s about it. I was really hoping that the end of the book would lead to a slasher-style conclusion where one by one the hateful characters get slaughtered (Quentin, Eliot, Janet...). Then the few likeable ones (Alice & Penny) survive and triumph.
When that didn’t happen, I was excited at the prospect that maybe what Grossman was doing was setting up the Rise of a Villain. Quentin is a bitter, horrible human being who blames everyone else and keeps searching for the thing that can make him happy. (view spoiler)[I mean, this was basically Martin Chatwin's path. It would've been foreshadowed and everything!! (hide spoiler)] And I was like, yes! Quentin is a villain! When he goes fully darkside instead of being the hero of this tale, I will be awed!
But, nope. Instead Quentin is again rewarded for being a dick by being crowned a king of Fillory. Oh, Fillory. If it’s true you get the rulers you deserve, then you deserve less than nothing.
Besides being annoying, Quentin is beyond useless. Seriously. He spends the entire time complaining about things handed to him and then failing at crunch time. He gets sent an invitation to this magical school and he whines. Penny shows up with the magic buttons to take them to Fillory, the land he’s always wanted to reach, and he bitches Penny out and acts like a spoilt brat whose friend got the first cookie. During all the fight scenes, when other characters step up, he stands around frozen. And yet none of this tamps down his arrogance at all. If I was those mercenaries in Fillory, I would’ve slit his throat while he slept. I mean, why risk your life for such an unthankful asshole? This is how officers get fragged.
I really wanted this story to be about Penny. He was so much better. He didn’t get everything in life handed to him and he actually retained a sense of joy and wonder. Yet because he wasn’t Quentin, there had to be something wrong with him. He punched out Quentin (yes! More of that!) because he felt like Quentin was being a little shit (which he was, though the specifics might have been inaccurate) and Quentin plays the victim and portrays Penny as insane. Penny wasn’t. He was awesome. Oh, and Quentin’s discipline can’t be categorized, so the school puts him with the “cool” group, the Physical Kids (by cool, I mean the most miserable collection of posers imaginable). Penny’s discipline can’t be classified and…he gets put into no group and remains a weirdo loner. Seriously? What makes Quentin so fucking special? Why does he have friends? Why do people keep including him in adventures?
I think this book would’ve been a billion times better with multiple POVs. Like if Quentin was part of Game of Thrones, his POV would be annoying but manageable. Because, props to Grossman, he was able to give a really good portrayal of how a self-absorbed twat sees the world. But that doesn't mean Quentin makes a worthwhile protagonist.
ADDENDUM: I just was pointed to this brilliant take-down of Quentin Coldwater and his and the author's treatment of Alice. It is here. Read it and revel.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
A dark book about a salacious subject (the slaughter of a family with two survivors – one of the little girls and her brother, the supposed killer).
ThA dark book about a salacious subject (the slaughter of a family with two survivors – one of the little girls and her brother, the supposed killer).
The atmosphere was appropriately creepy but I thought the characters were a bit thin. It felt like the bad characters were inherently bad - it was all nature, little nuture. And the ending was a little ridiculous.
One of my greatest fears is being in a car accident that kills my entire family; and I don’t know if dying or living is a better option in that scenarOne of my greatest fears is being in a car accident that kills my entire family; and I don’t know if dying or living is a better option in that scenario. And this book is set in Oregon (my guess is that Mia lives in Corvallis or Eugene) and Mia is sent to a Portland hospital. Being from Portland, this hits close to home.
It's powerful and beautiful and heartbreaking and surprisingly, despite all the sadness, incredibly gripping and good. Now I know why everyone has been going so head over heels for it.
My one complaint is all the flashbacks. It's quite a slim book (only 196 pages) so it's not that it should be shorter. And since the book starts the morning of the accident and the majority of the "current" timeline takes place while Mia is in a coma and her spirit/consciousness/whatever you want to call it is roaming the hospital, flashbacks are certainly necessary to establish Mia's past, especially her relationships. But it got repetitive. Mia was part of an incredibly close knit family. She was shy and studious and loved her cello and got accepted into Julliard. Her boyfriend Adam was sweet and though it was awkward at first, since they were so different, they worked through it and were happy (though worried about the future, with Mia moving so far away). And this was all established during the first several flashbacks. And established well. I could feel how painful it would be for Mia to decide to stay, without her loving, supportive family. And how it would be just as painful to leave the people who were still alive. By the end, I wanted to spend more time with "current" timeline Mia and what was happening in the hospital, not another scene of "past" Mia and how much she loved her cello/her boyfriend/her family. That sounds harsh, but I felt that the point was proven and I was more concerned with what Mia was going to choose and what it was like for everyone in the hospital.
And since music is so important to this book (both Mia and Adam are musicians), I will say I played two songs on repeat while reading this book (maybe not the best idea, because they just made me cry harder) because they felt very appropriate to me: "Kettering" by The Antlers and "Biko" by Bloc Party....more
This book had a lot of potential and the beginning was pretty adorable. It’s set in a weird in-between world where all the characters of all the playsThis book had a lot of potential and the beginning was pretty adorable. It’s set in a weird in-between world where all the characters of all the plays ever written coexist. And some bits of it are told in play format, inserted throughout the regular narrative. It was twee, but I liked it.
And then it became very much a middle grade book. Much too young YA for me. Overly simplistic, very obvious twists, very shallow characters. I am also creeped out that Ariel (from The Tempest) is apparently the second point of a love triangle, despite the fact that he was old before Beatrice Shakespeare Smith was born and was kind of a mentor figure to her as a child. Uh, yeah, I don’t know what that’s about.
I did like the beginning a lot, and the idea of all these characters interacting (think of the possibilities!) and the drama of a regular girl growing up in this fantastic environment, a part-but-not-a-part of it and the threat of her being kicked out of the Theater, the only home she's ever known. Sadly, the momentum of this book quickly dissipated.
The author has talent, but the long and short of it is that it falls below my age range. I always feel kind of bad for books like this. It's like a movie critic who hates horror movies trying to review Scream 4. The actual merits of the movie suffer from the lack of fit of the critic with the genre. Unfortunately for this book, I can't give a book a higher rating than my own enjoyment, no matter how much I think the target audience will like it.
"In an interview with The Guardian Byatt says: "I started with the idea that writing children's books isn't good for the writers' own children. There are some dreadful stories. Christopher Robin at least lived. Kenneth Grahame's son put himself across a railway line and waited for the train. Then there's JM Barrie. One of the boys that Barrie adopted almost certainly drowned himself. This struck me as something that needed investigating. And the second thing was, I was interested in the structure of E Nesbit's family — how they all seemed to be Fabians and fairy-story writers."
So the whole complicated family dynamic - many children, messed-up parents, tangled family trees, external stress from the fame - was good. But. The characters seem like types not people. It feels like a "Let’s illustrate Victorian and WWI England with these incestuous little families!" There’s the suffragette (Hedda)! There’s the new-career woman (Dorothy, the doctor)! There’s the socialist (Karl/Charles – also, how stupid was it that people call him that. Like, who do you know that you’re like, hey! Mary/Maria! – maybe friends as a joke, but everybody???) There’s the useless, self-absorbed mother (Olivia). There's the young boy who’s famous from his mother’s stories and can’t handle life (Tom).
It got the worst in the LET US ALL BE EXAMPLES OF VICTORIAN/WAR TROPES during WWI. There’s the two brothers in the same unit who are both killed, the person gunned down, the one killed in the trenches, the one who returns shell-shocked, the one thought dead but was really a POW and made it back alive, the one cut down like wheat with his fellow soldiers. And I’m pretty sure all the foreigners were German so when the war hit it would all be even more poignant & relevant (why no French connection? No Swiss? Yeah, it was important that they be German).
It all felt so...calculated.
And Byatt (unlike, say, George R. R. Martin) doesn’t know how to deal with so many characters. Every chapter is like “here is a paragraph on how Dorothy is doing. And here is a paragraph on Tom. And here is a paragraph on Philip. And here…” They didn’t even necessarily get their own chapters, and their updates were like status updates. Tom is still wandering! Dorothy is still studying to be a doctor! Nothing would even really be happening but we were still “checking in” (maybe so we didn’t entirely forget these characters existed?). ...more
I think I've got a thing for prickly, angry, sarcastic heroines when done right. They aren't sickly sweet or blandly normal or faux action girls likeI think I've got a thing for prickly, angry, sarcastic heroines when done right. They aren't sickly sweet or blandly normal or faux action girls like a lot of heroines. They will stand up for themselves, call people on their crap, not follow along with the crowd and, in the end, learn that they can't live on bitterness alone and that eventually they have to open up and let others in.
I liked Cass and I liked that the love interest, Tim, wasn't some White Knight come to rescue her and show her the Joys of Being Social. He was equally broken and it was because he was so broken that Cass had to start looking at herself and realize that she was capable of caring about someone who wasn't dead.
I also liked the side characters, especially the ghosts, Norris, Bitzy and Paige (Cass' sister). I would love to have undead spies getting dirt on my classmates for me.
In a nut shell, I loved, loved, LOVED this book. It rang true and pulled me in completely (one sitting, didn't want to put it down, annoyed when a phone call interrupted me). I really, really hope for a sequel because I think there's still enough story to tell (we don't even know how Norris and Bitzy died!) and I would love to have Cass narrate another book. ...more
One of the more original apocalypse/dystopian novels I’ve read recently, which is saying something.
This one has the FEY as the cause of the world’s enOne of the more original apocalypse/dystopian novels I’ve read recently, which is saying something.
This one has the FEY as the cause of the world’s end. Humans have somehow discovered gateways to Faerie and launch an attack. Fey strike back with magic that destroys Life As We Know It, and the fallout causes magical abilities in many humans AND the plants to get all homicidal.
However, despite this pretty wicked premise (I'll forgive the inscrutability of what actually caused this human/fey war to break out) and the quick pace, there was something lacking.
I was also surprised at the complete lack of romance between Liza and Shifter boy (forgot his name…sorry Shifter boy). He was extremely protective of her and yet…nada. I kept wondering if it would turn out they were half siblings. I guess the author didn’t want to add too much in such a slim novel?
Still, well-done on making a fairly original dystopia!!...more