I've been reading this a chapter a day (with some interruptions), and it definitely lends itself to that pace. Each chapter can be read on its own, bu...moreI've been reading this a chapter a day (with some interruptions), and it definitely lends itself to that pace. Each chapter can be read on its own, but together they form a thoughtful picture of a sensitive, intentional Christian life. There are sections I want to revisit and bits I underlined that I hope to find again in years to come. But overall, it was less a profound kick-in-the-pants, and more a considerate reflection on the way we approach God, the Bible, relationships, and daily life.(less)
Jessica Warman's Beautiful Lies came out in August, and I haven't heard much about it since. Which I'm sure is my own fault, though I'd like to blame...moreJessica Warman's Beautiful Lies came out in August, and I haven't heard much about it since. Which I'm sure is my own fault, though I'd like to blame the unremarkable cover design.
The novel tells the story of two identical twin sisters, Rachel and Alice, so uniquely alike that they share an almost psychic bond. When one sister disappears at an autumn fair, the other knows that something is deeply wrong, even though no one will take her seriously. Alice has run away before, after all. They will take it seriously in the morning.
When the morning comes, her sister's only proof that something really is terribly wrong is the wound she finds on her own head, her two black eyes, and the increasingly disturbing turns of her own mind. No one will believe that she's carrying her sister's wounds, but if they don't believe her, they'll never find her.
The novel tells a number of stories at once - the mystery of a missing girl, the bond between two sisters, and the devolutions of a fragile mind. It's a perfect example of an unreliable narrator that you want to follow whether you trust her or not.
There are so many twists and turns in Beautiful Lies that it's hard to write about without giving something away. Normally the first third-to-half of a book's reveals are somewhat fair game, but with this one, it would just be wrong. Which is why I'd be very careful about reading other casual reviews before picking it up.
I haven't read many teen thrillers since I was actually a teen, so I'm not sure what to compare this to. If you need one reason to read this, it would be for the secondary characters. Rachel and Alice are a fascinating center, but their family and friends are just as interesting - most of them deserving whole books all on their own. You should read this, but only if you don't mind being confused, panicked, and occasionally disturbed every now and then. Because it will do that to you. (less)
Sharon Cameron's recent novel The Dark Unwinding is a wonderful example of what can be done when traditional historical novels are allowed the freedom...moreSharon Cameron's recent novel The Dark Unwinding is a wonderful example of what can be done when traditional historical novels are allowed the freedom to play with the modern world. When the historical era in question happens to be the Victorian age, and when the modern world takes form in gidgets and gadgets, that's generally referred to as steampunk. If you don't read steampunk, however, there's nothing in The Dark Unwinding that will turn you off.
Granted, there are clocks and gears aplenty (at the risk of sounding too much like a Disney song), tunnels and explosives and mysteriously moving parts. But this is not a book that would sit on a science fiction shelf. It bears more resemblance to a Victoria Holt novel than to H.G. Wells, and since I've long been a fan of Holt and her ilk, the novel was a welcome diversion.
Yes, I'm talking like a fake Victorian woman. That happens when one has read books such as this.
I'm excited that people are reading this book, because I hope it will inspire a new generation to explore other novels like it. I expect Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle series was a starting point for many (though I confess I couldn't get past the first few chapters of Bray's writing), and if so, this is a welcome improvement.
In brief: Katherine Tullman finds herself with the unpleasant task of ascertaining whether or not her distant uncle is, in fact, insane. Knowing that this will result in his being sent to an asylum, she doesn't relish the task. But when she learns that hundreds of people's livelihoods have been built on his supposed insanity, whether she will confirm his mental state to her aunt and the solicitor becomes less certain. Over the course of a month, she grows more and more devoted to her uncle and the people on the estate, all while suffering her own steady decline into a world of madness sure to rival even her uncle's instabilities. Intrigue and romance ensue!
It's been quite a while since I've added a review here, and I'm glad I jumped back in with this one. I read the book in the space of a day, and it gripped me on every page - if not with anticipation (though there was also that), then certainly with enjoyment. The book doesn't need a sequel by any means, but I'd be happy to revisit Simon's Child, Lane, and dear Uncle Tully for another adventure.(less)
There's a category of fantasy that seems particular to YA fiction. It requires no sequel or series (note: it may have them anyway), though it builds a...moreThere's a category of fantasy that seems particular to YA fiction. It requires no sequel or series (note: it may have them anyway), though it builds a world rich and complete enough to sustain epics. It's built on fairy tales and legends, or the sense of them, and combines romance with adventure in a way that embraces magic as something inherent in nature.
Most readers would agree that it began with Robin McKinley, and it's been sustained by Shannon Hale's Goose Girl, Kristin Cashore's Graceling (which, for the record, I did not like), and more recently Rae Carson's Girl of Fire and Thorns. There are more - Mette Ivie Harrison, Jessica Day George, Sarah Beth Durst, and some with only two names - though there are degrees to each of them. Graceling, for example, features a less accessible heroine than Girl of Fire and Thorns, though the latter is higher fantasy.
Even within an author's canon, there are degrees (Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Days is stronger than Goose Girl, though they're both excellent, and Jessica Day George's titles are more playful with this category than others). The strength of each is not in the magic of their fantasy, but in their characters. Magic becomes a burden as well as a gift. Victory over the enemy - which is often a seductive enemy, harnessing its own brand of magic - comes at the last possible moment. It also comes as a last ditch effort of sacrificial strength.
If this seems like a strange way to define a category, just take a look at the titles I'm talking about. They all do something like this: Unlikely heroine discovers a position or power that seems bigger than her, must learn that her inner strength is greater than the mystical strength of her enemies. It's not cliche; it's good fiction.
Shadow and Bone does this. Shadow and Bone does this better than a lot of other books.
Alina and Mal grew up together as orphans, were conscripted into the army together, and have stayed friends despite their very different positions. Alina is a mapmaker; Mal is a tracker. Alina is weak and awkward; Mal is strong and handsome. They are utterly different, but they are best of friends.
Until Mal is almost killed trying to save Alina in the Shadow Fold, and Alina discovers her own power. It's a power she didn't ask for and does not want, the source of her own weakness and the potential for great strength. It's proof of just how different they are, and it will tear them apart - perhaps forever.
Leigh Bardugo has answered whatever call Robin McKinley and those of her ilk have sounded into the vast reaches of the writer's ether. Shadow and Bone is fantasy at its best, displaying a Russian landscape of magic and legend almost as rich as the characters that move in it. This is a book to loan friends but demand that they return. It's hands down one of the best books of the year. And if you need any more convincing, the cover art is beautiful enough to frame. (less)
Hat Trick is one of those novels you keep thinking about long after you're through. It tells the story - or stories - of Gordon Lake, a Chicago native...moreHat Trick is one of those novels you keep thinking about long after you're through. It tells the story - or stories - of Gordon Lake, a Chicago native who moves to Los Angeles to redefine himself and escape grief over the death of his father. Arriving in the brand new city, Gordon can't decide between three potential roommate situations - as though whichever he chooses will somehow define him. He realizes just how little he knows of himself, how absent he has been in his own life, and chooses not one situation, but all three. Balancing four roommates, three living spaces, two romantic interests, and the lone hotel room he keeps to record the experiment proves to be more difficult than he anticipated. But it's in that tension that he begins to figure out who he is, what he wants, and what parts of himself he's ready to leave behind. (less)