I love, love, LOVED this book. I gave it an A+ in my own review list (which is NOT easy to do; I give quite a few 5 stars on GoodReads, but only a fewI love, love, LOVED this book. I gave it an A+ in my own review list (which is NOT easy to do; I give quite a few 5 stars on GoodReads, but only a few A+s a year) and it's on my list of I-will-buy-so-I-can-read-it-again books (also quite elite status).
I wasn't very thrilled with Osterlund's first book. When I went back to read my review of it (not on GR) it could best be summarized as "eh, this is okay. Didn't really like it but a lot of authors I love to pieces (Patricia C. Wrede, Sharon Shinn) had mediocre early books. I'll give her next book a try and hope it's better." Thanks Past Me, for keeping an open mind! Because I was well-rewarded when I read this book.
I knew I was hooked when I read the first 50 pages in the library and would’ve just kept reading if the sun hadn’t been setting and I still had to go for my run. I in fact kept it until bed time so I could read it through without being interrupted again. How do I describe my love for this book? Well, it’s about a love/hate relationship with the leads where the guy ISN’T acting like a complete douchebag to the heroine in a way the author thinks is "sexy & mysterious." In fact, the leads don’t get along at first because there’s an actual innocent misunderstanding (instigated by the resident Mean Girl). Once they actually talk they bond. And their romance is just too cute.
I liked both Aerin and Dane. I liked that they were named Aerin and Dane and not some horrible impossible too remember “futuristic” names (Aerin has weird spelling, but given naming trends nowadays it is not unforeseeable that this will become a common spelling of Erin in the future). Did I say how much I loved Aerin and Dane already? I love my leads broken (Give Up the Ghost, anyone?) and I love when they’re not healed by sex or the power of love or any of that stuff that is used in poorly written books to deal with angsty leads. Instead, they heal each other because they come to understand and trust each other. I love Dane and he is definitely in the running for literary crush, but I think my favorite character in this book by far is Aerin. She is tough and a loner without being a bitch. She uses silence as a weapon, but also eventually admits to herself she hates being isolated.
I’ve spent the past week or so kvetching about books that need a goddamn editor (I’m reading Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest now, so there will be more of that to come) but this book could really have been expanded and I would’ve loved it. There was so much more to explore about Dane & Aerin’s school life. There’s one Mean Girl, but the other students barely get names. There could be so much delicious school drama going on that I would’ve loved. There could be a sequel, which I would definitely read, but this book feels very complete as it is. I almost don’t want a sequel because this book is so wonderfully self-contained and nothing needs to be added after the ending; I just would’ve liked it to be longer.
There were still some plotholes and the whole bit with Aerin's & Dane's fathers' past was a lot less exciting that I thought it would be (or, really, I cared a lot less about the fathers' drama then I cared about Aerin/Dane). But the overall book was so good that I can shrug off any weakness. There's definitely some Fridge Logic involved, just as it is in most books, but I just do not care to complain about it because I love this book so much (unlike SOME books I've just read where I fill pages complaining *cough* Last Sacrifice*cough*).
WHERE DID THE GOAT COME FROM?!?!?!? Don’t get me wrong, the goat was the most badass character in the book, so I’m glad he was in it. But I kept expecWHERE DID THE GOAT COME FROM?!?!?!? Don’t get me wrong, the goat was the most badass character in the book, so I’m glad he was in it. But I kept expecting some kind of reveal that he was the re-incarnation of one of Lucinda’s relatives or a magic goat or something. He comes out of nowhere, instantly befriends Lucinda, and is more intelligent than most of the human characters. AND IT’S NEVER EXPLAINED WHY!! Are we supposed to think he’s a normal goat who just fortuitously appears and happens to be clever? Was there a subplot cut out that explained the goat? WHY IS THE GOAT SO SPECIAL?!?!?
Despite that really bothering me, it wasn’t a bad book, I wasn’t bored through it and in fact it was a quick read. Pretty average fantasy YA (some plot holes and leaps in logic and a love story which wasn't as compelling as I'd hope, but still a good way to pass a few hours) ...more
I totally wanted to be snooty and anti-establishment and hate this book. "Book club favorite? Best seller? Feature film? How common!" I'd laugh, as II totally wanted to be snooty and anti-establishment and hate this book. "Book club favorite? Best seller? Feature film? How common!" I'd laugh, as I listened to bands you've never heard of.
It was funny, touching, absorbing, emotional. All standard praises apply.
I know Stockett has caught a lot of flack for writing in the voice of black characters, especially in dialect, but I think that’s unjustified. If people only wrote about what they really knew or their own experiences...we'd get a lot of books about struggling authors and what it's like to be a copywriter or whatever. As long as the story is good and the characters come alive, then I don't care (so if this book had stunk, then I would've maybe agreed with the haters).
I will say now: this isn't a love story. If you think it is and you're super excited when Skeeter gets a seemingly nice boyfriend...this isn't a love story. This is a story about friendship and adversity and growing up.
To conclude: loved it. The buzz was absolutely right about this one. ...more
**spoiler alert** Truth: one of my biggest fears is a Zombie Apocalypse. I can take any other monster in fiction. Vampires? Awesome. Werewolves? Just**spoiler alert** Truth: one of my biggest fears is a Zombie Apocalypse. I can take any other monster in fiction. Vampires? Awesome. Werewolves? Just as awesome. Killer Clowns? Scary, but I can handle it. Zombies? Oh my God, run for the hills!!!. I can handle horror films, but I avoid zombie flicks like the plague. So this book is one the first times I've had to face a Zombie Apocalypse straight on. Zombies are still scary. This book could've been a lot more horrifying.
It started out strong. It was eerie and horrifying and the zombies (aka, Unconsecrated) constantly trying to claw through the fence surrounding the village were creepy. The thought of having to kill your zombified loved ones or alternatively being eaten by them is chilling.
But then I realized all the characters were dumb and stopped caring. What if we're the last survivors? What if we're all humanity has? the intrepid group of zombie escapees wonders after the main village is attacked. Oh, boy. Humanity is in trouble then because it seems to have already lost all common sense and personality (on the other hand, in true Apocalypse Movie fashion, they bring with them the cute factor in the form of a little boy and a dog, so maybe not all hope is lost).
Let's start with Mary's Mommy Dearest. The more I think about her, the angrier I get. She gets zombified early on, but I think her selfishness and blind adherence to a dream, damn the consequences, are traits her daughter has unfortunately inherited. Mary's father has gone missing before the story takes place, and Mary and her brother are worried their mother is going to throw herself to the zombies if she sees her husband among them. And that is exactly what happens. Mary's mom gets bitten and then is given a choice of being executed or to go through with the zombie process and let loose in the forest when she is full zombie. The mom wants to "be with her husband" so she becomes a zombie. How utterly and sadistically selfish can you be to choose to become a zombie? Not only will her children, friends and neighbors have to kill her if they see her, but she is very likely to kill them in the future. Mary's brother is a Guardian, so he mans the fence and kills zombies. He now has to not only kill his Zombie Father if he sees him, but also his Zombie Mother. And Zombie Father and Mother may in the future chew their children to death. Mother of the Year award to choose that fate. This book initially made me think of The Hunger Games (it's a first person present tense sent in a dystopian future, okay? It's an easy comparison but probably not a very apt one) and Mary's mom makes Katniss' mom look like The Best Mom Ever. Katniss' mom may have been weak and useless and laid down to die when her husband was killed. But Mary's mom was weak and useless and went out to become a mindless, bloodthirsty monster whose future was to BRUTALLY CHEW INNOCENT PEOPLE'S FACES OFF when her husband was killed.
Next is Mary. Oh, Mary. She was set up to be a normal heroine: brave, inquisitive, adventurous, someone who believes there is life beyond the village and wants to go find it. And then she spends the entire book doing...nothing. She gets sent to the Sisterhood, where I thought, "Oh goodie, now we will learn the Sisterhood's secrets!" Hahaha, what an innocent. Of course not! Mary is far too useless! Even when she gets up the gumption to eavesdrop and do some illicit exploring she finds basically nothing of any substance. She spends time mooning over Travis (because It Is Love and He Is Hot or some such...the romance was not very well done) and whining about her fate and she does discover that a young girl from beyond the fence has appeared. But...that's about it. We never learn (and judging from what happens in the book will never learn) what the Sisterhood knew about the Zombie Apocalypse (aka, The Return) and why they decided to isolate themselves when they had a perfectly good fenced path connecting different villages.
Then Mary is betrothed to Harry for realz and spends her time...whining about how much she likes Travis and how much she doesn't want to marry Harry and that there must be something out there! But she doesn't make any plans or do anything useful. I am certain that if zombies hadn't destroyed her village, she would've spent her life married to Harry being miserable and would never have tried to go beyond the fence. Mary isn't really one to be proactive.
The part that angered me the most was when Mary was trapped in the house with her One True Love Travis. WHAT THE HELL WERE MARY AND TRAVIS DOING IN THE HOUSE THE WHOLE GODDAMN TIME?!?!? They didn’t have any TV or books or anything. They were the only two people there besides the dog. They had a house and a walled garden and zombies pressing around the edges the entire time. Did they talk? NO! Did they make out on every available surface? NO! Did they make escape plans or try to get to the treehouse before the zombies burst through the door? NO! Did Mary discover the newspapers until she was being chased by zombies? NO! I wanted to know what the New York Times said about the outbreak of the Zombie Apocalypse, dammit! (Zombies were breaking down the door when she finally saw the Not-Hidden-At-All newspapers, so she only got a chance to read the headlines). Did Mary and Travis just go to separate rooms to stare at the walls and then eat meals in silence? I guess so. Mary did have two mental breakdowns while in the house. So I suppose she did occupy herself a bit.
Seriously, Mary reacted to everything. She very rarely acted. Every time she needed to do something, like escape from zombies, it was because some outside force (zombies, more zombies, fire) forced her to do something or be killed. HARRY of all people was the most heroic. He saved a child from being nommed by zombies (risking his own life by doing so) while Mary stood around passively and averting her gaze so she didn't have to see the child be chomped. He also came up with the system of communication between the treehouse and the safehouse. At that point I was trying to figure out why she preferred Travis to Harry and why she had been so cruel to Harry the entire book.
I realized halfway through that Mary almost never talks to anyone. Seriously, she’s in her own head A LOT. And since that’s all we get, the reader thinks Mary is very expressive until you discover that she's not sharing her thoughts with anyone. Mary spends pages and pages philosophizing and having very pretty, poetical musings on death and loss and duty and similarly pretty and poetical whining binges about how much she hates being in the village and how much she is in mad love with Travis and how Harry is vaguely repulsive (despite the fact he's her childhood friend and I'm pretty sure she slept with him the night before their planned wedding). But she spends very little time actually TALKING to anyone. She’s in love with one brother and trying to dodge the affections of the other brother. So does she TALK to Harry about how he has to let her go, because she’s in love with Travis and this situation is just going to end up breaking them all? NO! Does she TALK to Travis about how they need to figure out how to make this work or why he was going to let her marry Harry or about his favorite color or their dreams or whatever she wanted to talk about with the love of her life? NO! She in fact specifically points out later how much she didn't know about him (despite the fact that they grew up in a claustrophobic village). Well, they were trapped in a house alone with nothing to do for days. Why WEREN’T they talking (they also were not constantly making out, so again, what WERE they doing)? Does she TALK to her brother about the fact that she was really hurt that he shut her out and that she loved their mom too and how hard it was for her and reminisced about their childhood as siblings do? NO! She does have a few conversations with her "best friend" (whom she seemed lukewarm on in their interactions, despite professed feelings of friendship) that had substance, but that was about it.
Lastly, because zombies scare me so much, I try to deconstruct Zombie Apocalypses and point out how unrealistic it is so I feel better. This article is my safety blanket, in fact.
So now onto the Zombie Apocalypse. This is a trilogy, so I’m going to assume more information will come out in the next two books. I really thought Mary would be, y’know, useful, and learn the secrets of the Sisterhood, but of course Mary is much too useless to learn anything. Mary also fails to wonder how the much better prepared village got completely taken over, with no survivors. Ummm....how DID the zombies kill everyone? How did they get into the unbreachable houses? How were there plenty of supplies in the treehouses and no one living in the treehouses? C’mon, Ryan, you aren’t even going to give us one crazy survivor to play exposition fairy? And how did the zombies get the people in the treehouses in Mary’s village? Can zombies actually climb or did people start pushing each other off the ledges?!?
Also, most importantly, how do zombies live for decades on no food? Zombies appear immortal. This works in fantasy, because they are powered by magic. In the real world, everything needs food. Even plants and algae. Do the zombies become plants and are powered by photosynthesis when they don’t have adequate food? Why don’t zombies eat each other for sustenance? Why don’t they slowly starve to death? They can’t hunt so they likely wiped out all the creatures they could get at and now have no food source outside the occasional person. It was mentioned that the villagers let their animals out into zombie land to forage because they couldn’t be zombified and possibly also because zombies don't eat them (am I misremembering this?)
Also, how did the villagers sustain themselves? Did they have enough land fenced off to farm? Because there was no mention of fields and yet they couldn’t exactly go hunting/foraging in the woods. They would also need things like, say, metal for tools and flint for arrows and yet they had no trade and no mines so I don’t know what was going on with that. And if they had those awesome forest passageways with no breaks in them why exactly were they so isolated?
And why was Mary so intent on getting to the goddamn beach? I thought maybe she thought that there would be other people there or that something about it made it special and a good place for Zombie Apocalypse survivors to go. But no. In the end she just seemed like she wanted to go to the beach and didn’t even think there would be any actual humans there. What was her plan for after the beach? Nothing. Because Mary does not think, plan or strategize.
So many questions. So many plotholes.
Ryan can turn a nice phrase and the idea is excellent. She just should've had Mary be a better heroine (AND ACTUALLY TALK TO PEOPLE AND FIND OUT THINGS) and either create actual sparks in the romance or drop it altogether.
Reflecting some more, I solved the village's zombie problem. I know! I'm brilliant. Or really I'm not constrained by the plot (there's no book if the villagers are actually capable of keeping down the zombie hordes). My plan: (1) Build a zombie crematorium behind a series of gates so you can control the flow of zombies. I'm talking about bricks or stone or some other non-flammable material (2) Set up bait [probably a person safely tucked behind metal grates the zombies can smell but can't get to] (3) Let the zombies wander in (4) Trap them (5) Burn them all (6) Clear out the bodies (7) Rinse and repeat. After weeks of continuous zombie horde burning, the numbers are going to thin down considerably. And since zombies are incapable of strategy or learning (apparently) they will continue to wander in like carnivorous sheep no matter how many times you massacre them. You wouldn't clear out the forest completely, but the herd would be thinned down A LOT. And every time there was a group of zombies, that's how you'd clear them out.
Also, NO ONE TURNS VOLUNTARILY. They're infected, they're mercy killed. It's dumb to give a choice. You can't decide who you'll marry or change your mind and divorce but you can decide to become a flesh eating monster who endangers the entire village? Don't give me bullcrap about "what separates us from the zombies" when your entire shtick is that duty is the most important thing. You know what separates humans from zombies? One is not trying to EAT everybody they encounter. ...more
Completely underwhelmed by this one. The romance had been set up decently well and then nothing cute happened in this book. Even when Aphra and Seth sCompletely underwhelmed by this one. The romance had been set up decently well and then nothing cute happened in this book. Even when Aphra and Seth shared scenes, I was too overwhelmed by the stupidity of their actions to get excited by the fact that they might actually end up together.
The characters stayed flat, the villain was ridiculous and while there were some thrilling bits it wasn’t insanely action-packed like the last book (which just rode through the silliness with sheer momentum).
Also,Aphra’s super spy mom never taught her daughter decent kung fu? Lame. ...more
I think I'm out. Either I've outgrown this series or this is like Babysitter's Club or Boxcar Children and the pressure of pumping out so many books iI think I'm out. Either I've outgrown this series or this is like Babysitter's Club or Boxcar Children and the pressure of pumping out so many books in a series has led to quality decline, but I'm just not enjoying any of the books in Once Upon a Time.
There's no character or substance. Half of this book was about Mulan’s childhood. HALF. The love interest doesn’t even show up until nearly the end, they talk about twice then they fall in love. And the pivotal battle scene takes place entirely within one chapter. And an important character death is dealt with in like a sentence.
I know Dokey loves writing about her characters' childhoods but CUT THAT SHIT. It’s okay to start the story where the fairytale begins — Mulan taking her father’s place in the army and then moving on for there. That’s the meat of the story. If you only have 200 pages, you don’t waste 100 of them on background. ...more
I really feel that Briceland could do a good job with a grown-up fantasy. The fantasy world itself is really worth reading about: the idea of a faux-FI really feel that Briceland could do a good job with a grown-up fantasy. The fantasy world itself is really worth reading about: the idea of a faux-Florence (or whatever Italian city was the inspiration) with Seven entitled families and Thirty noble families who are waiting for the day that one of the Seven will fall and they can rise up the ranks is awesome. The fact that all the families of the Seven (and though it’s unclear, I think also the Thirty) have particular crafts that they are good at to literally a magical degree is ALSO awesome. And the fact that the Seven have to perform a particular ritual every night or have their castle collapse and all the things in their household tied to their particular talent EXPLODE is even MORE awesome. And the main character having to watch as the other Seven families one by one lose everything is pretty intense. See? World building is THERE.
Unfortunately, the characters were all paper thin. I liked the idea a lot and in the hands of another writer it would’ve been amazing. But the girl is standard “Oh woe, I’m so average and unwanted, wait a minute, I’m super special awesome?!?!?” and the boy is boring “I loved you right away! And I have no personality, but I can protect you with my sword!”. Apparently Briceland did not follow my train of thought of where his talents lie, because he’s written two more books in this series (I didn’t even know it was a series…) instead of turning to adult fantasy. I won’t read any more in this series, but if he does try his hand at grown-up fantasy, I’d be willing to try that.
It's always best to know where your strengths are. Here: world-building. Not romance. Like, seriously, not romance. (it's okay Briceland, A LOT of YA authors ALSO think that having a cute guy declare "You're so pretty, I love you forever, let me stalk you!!!!!" is romance. Hint: it's not). ...more
I really liked Beastly. I thought it was romantic and cute and a pretty all-around adorable take on an old fairytale.
This one...this is like going froI really liked Beastly. I thought it was romantic and cute and a pretty all-around adorable take on an old fairytale.
This one...this is like going from Disney's Beauty & the Beast to Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame. Giving up the solid meat-and-bones enchantment and solid writing to pop culture references and a breezy plot.
This is a dull and generic young adult novel. A (rather dumb) American whose favorite hobby is whining wanders away from his European tour group and into a little kingdom that the world has forgotten because of the magic spell cast on its sleeping (and rather dim-witted) princess. I like the idea for the story, average American awakens a sleeping princess (done much better in Orson Scott Card's Enchantment), but everything felt so flat. And the characters were not engaging at all. Especially Jack. DUDE YOUR PARENTS PAID FOR A EUROPEAN VACATION AND ALL YOU CAN DO IS BITCH ABOUT IT. SHUT IT....more
Evie: Oh no, I have to go to this stupid boarding school since my grandmother is sick, my dad’s in the army and my mom is dead! Stupid boarding schoolEvie: Oh no, I have to go to this stupid boarding school since my grandmother is sick, my dad’s in the army and my mom is dead! Stupid boarding school!
Me: Well, that’s pretty sad about your family and all, but at least you get a good education for free, you know?
Evie: And the stupid cabman wouldn’t even drive me! He just used weird words like “yonder” and muttered dark, cryptic things about the boarding school!
Me: That’s pretty weird. This is a tiny village, right? I have to just assume this, because you barely leave the school grounds and never really meet townspeople again. But anyway, how many places does this cabman have to drive to? You’d think most of his business would involve ferrying students to and from school.
Evie: I didn’t think about the stupid cabman very much because I had to WALK and it was gross and then this boy tried to run me over with his horse. He didn’t even care about ME getting hurt, just about his stupid horse.
Me: Jerk! I bet you hate him.
Evie: I was SO mad! And then I cried because he broke the frame of my dead mother’s picture. And then he felt bad. And he’s super dreamy. How can you stay mad at someone so hot? Besides he’s, like, so mysterious with his talk about dangers and meeting again and me being from the sea.
Me: Yeah, sounds like a real catch. Okay, so what about the boarding school?
Evie: Stupid boarding school! With stupid, shallow rich girls and a stupid, mean headmistress. And then just because I’m a SCHOLARSHIP student I have to do stupid chores like Cinderella!
Me: Scholarship students doing chores is a pretty strange policy. What’s that all about?
Evie: Oh, whatever, it never comes up again. It was just a way to introduce me to Helen Black, this weirdo other scholarship student who everyone else despises.
Lady Agnes: Dear Diary, blah blah blah exposition. My beloved best friend S. has returned from his travels! Delightful! Although I talk about everyone else by name, I only refer to him by his initial. I do so love being mysterious! Also, my mother will likely try to marry me off to some bore with a title. I shall do no such thing! I shall only marry for love, regardless of wealth or rank! And I hate corsets! And women should get to vote! And have whichever job they choose! And be paid equally with men! I-I’m sorry. Sometimes I do get carried away with anachronistic thoughts! Ta!
Me: What was that?
Evie; What was what?
Me: Didn’t you—never mind. Okay, go on. You’re at the stupid boarding school with a bunch of stupid people.
Evie: Yes. And this girl Celeste is rich and popular and she HATES me. And she and her cronies threw my clothes on the floor and put black silk and rose petals on my bed and surrounded it with funeral candles!
Evie: IT’S NOT FUNNY!!
Me: Yes it is! Where did they get rose petals? And black silk? And funeral candles? That’s a lot of effort for such a lame prank.
Evie: IT WAS TRAMAUTIZING!
Me: I’m sure it was. So, why did they do this?
Evie: Because this girl Laura who was, like, Celeste’s bestie, drowned in the lake. And they said I took her bed. I was sleeping in a dead girl’s bed. I mean, eww!
Me: I hope they at least changed the sheets.
Evie: Eww. Anyway, then I kept seeing this ghost girl who looks like me. Well, she has red hair like me. And she wears funny clothes! And rooms suddenly have strange people and look different and I keep fainting. It’s weird.
Me: That is strange. So what do you do about it?
Me: Yeah. Do you talk to anybody about it? Do some research? Anything?
Evie: I don’t understand.
Me: Of course you don’t, sweetie. Okay, what’s next?
Evie: Well, then I talked to Sarah. She likes animals. She told me about Lady Agnes and how she lived here and then she DIED and it became a school. And Sarah’s, like, a gypsy! Her great-grandmother was a Roma adopted by this English couple and she was sent to this school which has always been the most exclusive school in England and they didn’t want to accept a gypsy. But her parents donated a lot of money and so she got in.
Me: Wait, wait. Didn’t Lady Agnes die in 1884? And Evie’s great-grandmother probably went to school in about 1900? So the school was AT MOST about 15 years old? How was it already “always” the most exclusive school in England?
Evie: I don’t know. Stop asking me questions.
Lady Agnes: Dear Diary, my dearest friend S. found a mysterious book in the Orient. It is called The Mysticke Way. No, diary, I do not know why it has such a silly name. Apparently the vendor just gave him this book! He asked for no money at all! How silly foreigners are! The book makes me quite nervous, but S. is very intent on using it. I’m sure it will just be a little game. Spiritualism is all the rage nowadays, but I shall make no mention of actual historical people or events or ideas in this diary.
Me: Seriously, why does this story keep getting interrupted by these useless diary entries?
Evie: Stop talking about things that aren’t me. All the teachers are so mean. They won’t even let me wear my grandmother’s very super special necklace. Did I mention my grandmother gave me a necklace? And I always wear it? And it’s my grandmother’s? I hid it under my shirt so the teachers certainly can’t see it. Also, I keep getting demerits. I HATE this school.
Me: Yeah, them’s the breaks, kiddo.
Lady Agnes: Dear Diary, I used the book with S. It is in somewhat oldish language, but mostly it is regular spelling with “e”s added to the ends of words. Rather queer. S. and I did a ritual and I was touched by the Secret Fire. I feel so powerful! S. was quite put out that I gained power that he did not.
Evie: Well, I suddenly really wanted to go swimming. So I decided to sneak out at night and go swimming in the lake.
Me: Wait, wait, wait. You wanted to go swimming in the lake? Alone? At night? Without telling anyone what you were doing?
Me: Didn’t your mother drown?!?!?
Me: Didn’t that girl Laura drown in the lake?!?!?
Me: Do you have a death wish? Why would you do something so incredibly stupid? Do you have no sense of self-preservation?
Evie: I don’t understand what you’re talking about. I like swimming.
Me: Shoot me now. Please.
Evie: I’m really glad I decided to sneak down to the lake because there I ran into the dreamy boy who tried to kill me with his horse and was really rude to me earlier.
Me: What, he was just lurking by the lake hoping you’d go for a suicidal swim that night?
Evie: IT WAS ROMANTIC. He said he just knew that I’d be there because he’s, like, my soulmate. And he said that he wanted to know everything about me and that he had been waiting for me his whole life. His name is Sebastian. What a dreamy name.
Me: So you seem to like him. I can’t understand why.
Evie: I told you. He’s dreamy. And we, just, like, connect. Plus, he’s super smart. He’s going to Oxford. And he’s really deep. He doesn’t want to just drink and show off like all the other boys at Oxford. He wants to know about immortal truths. Isn’t that, like, dreamy?
Me: Okay, so he’s smart and deep. So what do you talk about? Why are we here? Why do we die? Why, if there is a God, He lets terrible things happen to innocent people?
Evie: BORING. No, we talk about me. About how he loves me and always wants to be with me and how beautiful and wonderful I am and how dark and mysterious he is.
Me: This is such a shallow and dull relationship.
Evie: SHUT UP!! IT’S WONDERFUL AND ROMANTIC AND EPIC!
Lady Agnes: Dear Diary, S. is my dearest friend and I love him so, but sometimes he scares me. He wants more power. The book says a male must have a coven to gain true power. I refuse to be part of S.’s harem! I also keep seeing this strange girl who looks like me. Well, she has red hair like me. I know that she is S.’s true love. Even though I love him as well, I am oddly content with the idea that this queer girl is his destiny.
Me: Seriously, WHY do these diary entries keep appearing? What do they add?
Evie: What diary entries? Why do you keep muttering strange things? It’s only okay to be cryptic if you’re a hot guy or a random villager. ANWAY back to me, Sebastian and I had a fight. It is SO TRAGIC. Sebastian said we couldn’t be together anymore because it was too dangerous. I bet he was just ashamed to show me to his family! Sure, all we do is hang out at night by the lake and talk about me and mysterious things I don’t think too hard about but OUR LOVE IS EPIC. We are meant to be together forever.
Me: Okay, this is just dragging on. So, Sebastian is dreamy or whatever and you love him but he keeps saying he’s too dangerous and refuses to reveal anything important about himself. The girls at school are mean, except for Sarah who is nice and Helen who is weird. The teachers are weird and mean. You go to class but never seem to do homework or learn anything. Get to the good stuff.
Evie: The teachers are an evil coven! I KNOW! You totally didn’t see that coming, right? And they serve Sebastian as their Master because he’s going to give them immortality! They’re not worried about the fact that they’re the third generation of this coven and no one’s got any immortality yet. And Sebastian is immortal! Except he isn’t! He is kind of a ghost or something now but will become a demon if he doesn’t get the Talisman. Which is my grandmother’s necklace. Which is a family heirloom. Because Lady Agnes, is my great-great-great grandmother! She put all her power into the necklace to keep it from Sebastian! Because Sebastian is S.! Who saw that coming?!?!? And Sebastian was the one to kill Lady Agnes. But it was an accident! And he feels bad about it now!
Me: Wait, WHAT?!? Sebastian killed your ancestor and you don’t even blink?!? He’s a murderer and you don’t even care a little bit?
Evie: He’s dreamy and I love him so much! What’s a little thing like murder in the face of a love like ours? Besides, he told me he never wants to hurt me. Though he might in the future when he becomes more of a demon and has to kill me to get the Talisman and become truly immortal. Sigh. Isn’t that the most tragically romantic thing you’ve ever heard?
Me: You say tragically romantic. I say miserably stupid.
Evie: And the evil coven has been searching for the Talisman. They knew I was related to Lady Agnes, but didn’t question me or try to take my SuperSpecialAwesome necklace ever. Oh, and if you get three demerits they send you to detention but REALLY they steal your life force.
Me: Why do they wait for three demerits? Why don’t they hand out demerits more easily so they can get more life force? Why don’t they just steal a little bit of all the students’ life forces? Why didn’t they just try to steal your life force when you arrived because they knew who you were and kept giving you demerits anyway?
Evie: *confused* You keep saying things I just DON’T understand.
Me: You know what? This is dumb. This is beyond dumb. And I just don’t care anymore. Go off and pine for your murderous demon boyfriend and fail to do anything useful ever and stop talking to me. I’m done with you. ...more
Sweet, frothy fun (I know, I know, cheesy wordplay, but how could I resist?). When I got it from the library I was surprised how slim it was. And theSweet, frothy fun (I know, I know, cheesy wordplay, but how could I resist?). When I got it from the library I was surprised how slim it was. And the plot and characters are a bit thin. It’s wholly predictable and hits my pet peeve of scholastically inept teenage girl heroines (why is the main character in so many teen lit books an academic slacker?). But it is also cute and hits the right romantic notes. Perhaps not memorable, but a good way to pass the time and quick enough that you can finish it before your latte gets cold. ...more
The characters were one-dimensional. The romance was nonexistent. The humor was strained. I thought Kai and Grace were going to be the canon couple. I mean, that’s what happened in the original tale. But now the Snow Queen is the Winter’s Child (a good guy) and she gets with Kai. Grace gets paired with the peregrine falcon. THE FALCON! Seriously, this is how it goes:
Grace (to Kai): It's totally cool with me that you’re going to marry the Winter’s Child. I love you, but not in the marriage kind of love. What I really love is the unknown. Falcon: Hey, that’s me! Everyone: What the hell?!?!? You were just a falcon! Now you’re a man! Falcon: Yep, see, I was cursed to remain a falcon until someone fell in love with me. And by me I mean the unknown. Because I’m the unknown. Because...well, I don’t know. Grace loves to travel. I was a bird. Birds travel. Whatever, let’s get married! Grace: Well, I just rejected Kai’s marriage proposal because I’m 16 and wanted to do something with my life before getting married. But whatever! Double wedding everybody! Woohoo!
It was a total WTF moment. Also: really not romantic. Because he was a FALCON up until the last 5 pages of the book. Oye, Dokey, you can be better than this. ...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
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
"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