Oh! How I wanted to LOVE this. I was certainly impressed by Krokos' Q & A on the fabulous blog: the midnight garden. And quite honestly, it was th...moreOh! How I wanted to LOVE this. I was certainly impressed by Krokos' Q & A on the fabulous blog: the midnight garden. And quite honestly, it was this Q & A post that compelled me to check out his book in the first place. (He also makes some pretty insightful comments on author-reviewer relationships.)
So you see...I was so ready to love this.
It really pains me to say I don't. Right off the bat, I knew I was heading into rocky territory. The first few scenes didn't fit very well with what I expected of an amnesiac: a girl finds herself without any memory and she calmly tells a mall cop "Hello. I lost my memory. I was wondering if you could help." If I was in her shoes, I think I would probably appear frantic, confused, and more anxious about what was happening to me. Haven't you ever walked somewhere, like to the pantry to get something but then when you get there, you've forgotten why you were there in the first place? Well, sadly that happens to me ALOT. And I always feel out of sorts afterwards trying to remember. So it made me think: what if you lost ALL your memories? Wouldn't you feel a little more...unrestrained? Wouldn't you be scared? And in Miranda's case, wouldn't you expect her to manifest those fear waves immediately?
Then later on, I felt that some parts of the story seemed off: when Miranda meets Peter, it feels weird that there is so much drama and mystery of how he knows her. Why was he acting as if it was some kind of game to him? And if you just met a stranger, would you eat his mango chicken? uh. gross. And for someone who is supposedly a top notch weapon, why does Miranda make so many mistakes--like forgetting to grab the gun when she fights Grace? I also completely missed the point of Miranda feeling like kissing these 2 boys all the time; she kisses one and then she immediately wants to kiss the other. If I had a better sense of her, I think I would have understood her motivations better. But the part that bothered me the most was that the Roses were created to cause destruction--just because. Very little light is shed on the creator's motivation for making them--aside from them being "mad scientists." I think that's an easy explanation but not a compelling one; I wished there was more background to the story to make it believable.
I do think the concept for the story is interesting: teenagers used as weapons, with amnesia as a side effect, and I admire Krokos's challenge for writing a female perspective. It seems like it's received good reviews so you might like it. But for me, I found the story to be choppy and flat in places. I would have appreciated more character development in such a plot-driven story. Unfortunately, I lost interest in the characters and plot by by the last 1/3 of the book, skimming and skipping to the end. (less)
Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe I thought the story would center on the adventures of a female "James Bond." Inst...moreAs seen on Zombie Mommies.
Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe I thought the story would center on the adventures of a female "James Bond." Instead, all I got was a bad taste in my mouth. It's not that Graceling was so poorly written: I actually found the writing style and world building nicely done. It's just that...I think I was lied to.
First, Cashore refers to Graceling as growing "from her daydreams about a girl who possesses extrodinary powers--and who forms a friendship with a boy with whom she is insurmountably incompatible." So imagine my surprise when Grace meets Po (the insurmountably incompatible guy) and I end up waiting...and waiting...for the big "reveal" only to find out their incompatibility is due to her being a fighter and him being aware of his surroundings. Now how exactly is that insurmountably incompatible? See...incompatible would be an angel hater saving an angel (like Angelfall). Or a demon falling in love with an angel (like Daughter of Smoke and Bone).
Second, there's the problem of Katsa. Obviously, this girl is carrying around some childhood baggage because she's got some major anger management issues. In one scene she "swung at (Po's) jaw with the side of her hand" bruising his jaw because she didn't like what he was saying about King Randa's hold over her. Whhhaat?! In another, she refuses to understand Po's reason for keeping his Grace a secret. Is she really that clueless? Of course, she eventually comes to her senses and end up in his arms.
Which comes to my second point: a lover or a husband? While Katsa has her own view on what these two definitions mean: freedom or imprisonment, what it really boils down to is commitment. There's just something that doesn't feel right with Katsa and Po's relationship. Basically, she wants to be with Po but without being tied to him and all it requires..."For once she became his wife, she would be his wife forever. Her freedom would not be her own." and "How will you feel if I'm forever leaving? If one day I give myself to you and the next I take myself away--with no promises to return?" It just seems to me that if you are in a relationship (married or not), there should be a certain level of commitment: loyalty, sacrifice...If the tables were turned and Katsa were a man, he most certainly would be considered a player.
My biggest disappoint is that the messages of feminism are poorly characterized in Katsa. Does Katsa have to behave like a stereotypical man (or feminist) in order to further the feminist movement? If a man hit a woman or didn't commit to a relationship, would we honor him for using his manhood? So why should it be okay for Katsa to behave this way? That's not what feminism is about: it's about embracing womanhood and striving for equity between the sexes.
Of course, there were also some minor character/plot development issues like: Katsa finding out that her grace is not actually in killing but in survival (which doesn't really make sense because how then is she able to inflict accurate pain on someone else when she's not being threatened?); or how Princess Bitterblue has the clarity of an adult when she's really only ten; or why the urgency to protect Bitterblue from her father (why she was so important to the King; if she died, then what? what's the consequence?); or why King Leck decided now (and not before) to spread his power across the kingdoms.
Overall, this was a desperately painful read but I was determined to finish...why? maybe I thought there was some redeeming grace at the end. But sadly, the entire time, I just begged it to be over.(less)
Plagued with guilt over her twin brother's death, Araby tries to escape her subconscious at the Debauchery night club. Outsi...moreAs seen on Zombie Mommies.
Plagued with guilt over her twin brother's death, Araby tries to escape her subconscious at the Debauchery night club. Outside the entire world is broken. The "weeping sickness" is only kept at bay through porcelain masks (I can't help but imagine "Darth Vader" type coverings), worn only by the wealthy and prestigious. Araby's father is the inventor of these masks and as Araby's world begins to crumble by those that seek power, she must decide who or what she's capable of fighting for.
Based on the short story by Edgar Allen Poe of the same title, Griffin took an idea and grew it into a fascinating and complex story. This is one of the very few, if only, steampunk stories I've ever really held onto. Carriages that run on steam; new inventions with a feel of the 19th century. The world is spot on for gothic dystopia: dark, dreary, foggy...so Edgar Allen-painted with so much imagery and feeling that I could clearly picture the devastation and turmoil.
Also, try saying debauchery without getting the chills.
But what really struck me were the characters. Talk about complex. To explain, let me refer to a post I came across by Laurie Halse Anderson in which she discusses characters who have dimension and depth. Masque of the Red Death is a perfect example of those characters. Araby, Will, and Elliott all behave both admirably and despicably. Which if done poorly can make a reader go crazy but here Griffin balances their character traits so that you realize no one is absolutely good or absolutely evil. Mind you, there were some parts that made me go "huh?" but for the most part, it kept me on my toes. At times I couldn't help but wonder if given the choice, what I would decide.
My only discontent or puzzlement I have with the story is that the "Red Death" is not introduced into the plot until much later. I was a bit confused because I thought the masks were to prevent the "Red Death." I'm not so much bothered that it stopped me from enjoying the story but I think it would be an interesting idea to discuss.
If you are in the mood for a dark and captivating story, check this one out. I definitely think it's one to put on your to-reads shelf.(less)
I was SO looking forward to reading this one but when I finally sat down to read it, it was all sorts of disappointment. First, there was the initial...moreI was SO looking forward to reading this one but when I finally sat down to read it, it was all sorts of disappointment. First, there was the initial dance encounter between the mysterious Finn and Wendy where out-of-the-blue, he starts insulting her. Afterwards he tries to apologize and later we find out it's because he didn't want to get too "involved." Okay, uh...Can we please move beyond the "I'm going to be mean because it's for your own good" phase?
I was also under the impression that the story was about the Fey because well..uh, Wendy is a changeling (and isn't that what Fairies do?)...but it's actually about trolls...and so, I got all confused and just couldn't keep going. Unfinished around page 114.(less)
As a story, I wasn't that impressed. The plot line was pretty simplistic and fairly predictable. Only a third of the way thr...moreAs seen on Zombie Mommies.
As a story, I wasn't that impressed. The plot line was pretty simplistic and fairly predictable. Only a third of the way through and I already had a lingering suspicion of who the culprit might be. There were also a few unrealistic moments. For instance, when the target is finally revealed, I kept wondering why they didn't just google "Ortolan & video game," a hundred pages ago instead of just "Ortolan." Which by the way is evidenced when Nick says, "We should have done more research...Then we would have found him a lot earlier." Yes, my thoughts exactly. I also didn't feel that much for any of the characters: an eyeroll every once in a while and an exasperated sigh. The pacing was also somewhat slow for a thriller and quite honestly, I felt like it was consuming up too many hours of my time. And when a book makes you wonder if "it is ever going to end?"...well, that's not a good sign.
HOWEVER, I really did like the writing style. And while I wasn't impressed by the plot, I was impressed by the way the characters became totally consumed by the game. I'm not a gamer myself so I can't fully understand the draw...but I've always wondered what keeps them hooked. As the story switches back and forth from the gaming world and the real one, I began to get a better feel for what keeps them going. There's the secrecy of the game and its rewards. Once Nick gets his hands on Erebos, he becomes completely consumed by it: just one more level...just one more reward... My favorite parts were when Nick must accomplish a task in "real life" in order to obtain a reward in the game: Nick acts nearly psychotic and desperate.
AND I did appreciate the fact that the story is more multicultural than most high school settings. Erebos takes place in London, and I expected a completely homogeneous group of people, so I was pleasantly surprised to read references to descriptions and names from different races. It made London feel so real!
But towards the end, I just wanted the story to be over. The romance with Nick and Emily was too forced...like the author just had to make it work. The pacing was too slow for me, and I expected more plot twists, more suspense. Also, I'm a bit surprised that Nick's parents never mention a word to him about Erebos. It is an interesting read but not as entertaining as I would have liked. I would have to recommend this as a "Maybe" read.(less)
There is a delicate balance between a story that is too simplistic and a story that leads to information overload. Too simpl...moreAs seen on Zombie Mommies.
There is a delicate balance between a story that is too simplistic and a story that leads to information overload. Too simplistic and the reader falls asleep; too complex and the reader is left in the dust wondering what just happened. Unfortunately, The Obsidian Blade falls into the latter category.
I should have known from the first chapter that I was heading into a bad mix of Star Trek vs The Twilight Zone. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy both. I'm just not sure they work well together...well, at least in this setting.
At the start, we are given a brief historical account of the Klaatu Disks (or time portals) invented by one discorporeal being in the postdigital age but made by Boggsian corporeals. Is your head spinning yet? It took me a few minutes to come to grips but I had to put that aside because then comes Tucker and his Reverend dad who finds themselves drawn to these time portals. And well...the adventure confusion begins.
From there, we discover that the Reverend has lost his faith and his wife is slowly heading into mental instability as a result of playing Sudoku. (Beware all you Sudoku fans!) The Reverend wants to cure his wife and disappears into the disks. But Tucker suspects this and eventually follows them.
In his journey, he meets such bizarre beings as futuristic autistic medical attendants (medicants) who use you in their product assembly line, futuristic priests who sacrifice pure girls to the disks, the last day of earth with a single mysterious woman who has secrets, a retelling of the crucifix of Jesus (who instead of dying and returning to earth, actually got delivered to the medicants: repaired and returned in 3 days), discovers that the Reverend got "cured" of his belief in God, references to the Digital plague, maggot disk eaters, and then being reintroduced to the Reverend as now Father September who will somehow return every one to a state of grace (from technology).
Wait a minute, I was under the impression I was going to read a time travel novel. Instead, the time traveling aspect is just a set up for introducing new bizarre circumstances. From what I can gather, the point of the story is about how we eventually become corrupt from technology...but why all the religious references? Is there a subtext I'm not understanding here. It's just all too complex and unrealistic; is there such a thing as unrealistic science fiction?
Sadly, I felt like I was reading a foreign language. I didn't feel anything for the characters and the story was just bizarre. Then a few days ago I was watching "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and ironically discovered that the main character is named Klaatu... coincidence? Why name the disks after one of the most popular sci-fi characters? I'm not sure, but I'm already too confused to think about it any further.
Sadly, a recommendation I can't make to anyone. If anyone has suggestions on a true time traveling novel, please let me know.(less)
It has been HIGHLY unusual for me to be reading so much contemporary/chick-lit fiction. Typically, I'm all about the paranor...moreAs seen on Zombie Mommies.
It has been HIGHLY unusual for me to be reading so much contemporary/chick-lit fiction. Typically, I'm all about the paranormal fantasy world...so I've been pleasantly surprised that I've liked what I've read so far: Story of a Girland How to Save a Life. Although I may need to take a break from such emotional themes...
I love the uniqueness and creativity in which Speak is written. Anderson took a difficult and sensitive topic and was able to balance it with the humor of high school life. There's "Mr. Neck" the teacher, "Principal Principal," and "Hairwoman." Each section is also divided not by "chapters" on a new page but by "headings" that continue until the final "Report Card" at the end of each "marking period." In this way, Melinda's voice really carries you through to the end.
And it's this voice that goes right to your heart. As a rape victim, Melinda's cynicism, sarcasm, fear, hurt, pain, sadness are all evidenced in her experience. In how she now views her world and how she copes to survive. What she can say and what she can't. And the consequences of both.
Principal Principal: "Melinda. Last year you were a straight-B student, no behavioral problem, few absences. But the reports I've been getting...well, what can we say?"
Mother: "That's the point, she won't say anything! I can't get a word out of her. She's mute."
Mother: "She's jerking us around to get attention."
Me: [inside my head] Would you listen? Would you believe me? Fat chance.
As a parent, it is always particularly hard for me to watch how some parental characters treat their children. I'm somewhat sensitive to this because I never ever want to become the characters that I read about: how Melinda's parents think they know the reason for their daughter's behavior. I wonder what the parents could have done differently. And so at the end, I did have a wish for a better resolution with her parents: Would they have acted differently if they had known what happened? And if Melinda had a closer relationship with them, would she have spoken sooner? However, given the parent's behavior, as a teenager, I wouldn't have talked to them either.
The only other part that I thought was a bit unrealistic and somewhat uncomfortable was when the male teacher offered a ride to Melinda. Could this have happened in 'real life?' I'm just not sure. But aside from that minor "hmm...not sure about that" moment and the previous parental non-resolution, I very much enjoyed Speak. My favorite quote of the book is: "You can't speak up for your right to be silent. That's letting the bad guys win." I highly recommend this for both parents and young adult readers alike. This is definitely one for your to-read list.(less)