A collection of familiar fairy tales with an unusual twist: these stories are told from the point of view of the villains! As with any collection of sA collection of familiar fairy tales with an unusual twist: these stories are told from the point of view of the villains! As with any collection of short stories and poems, some are better than others, some stand out, some are less than stellar, but overall, it is a solid collection. The stories consist of:
* "Wizard's Apprentice" by Delia Sherman * "An Unwelcome Guest" by Garth Nix * "Faery Tales" by Wendy Froud * "Rags and Riches" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman * "Up the Down Beanstalk: A W Remembers" by Peter S. Beagle * "The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces" by Ellen Kushner * "Puss in Boots, the Sequel" by Joseph Stanton * "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" by Holly Black * "Troll" by Jane Yolen * "Castle Othello" by Nancy Farmer * "`Skin" by Michael Cadnum * "A Delicate Architecture" by Catherynne M. Valente * "Molly" by Midori Snyder * "Observing the Formalities" by Neil Gaiman * "The Cinderella Game" by Kelly Link
I could go into specifics with each story, but I think I'll pass on that. These are written by some of the finest fantasy authors around today, and even though I may not have enjoyed some of these tales as much as others in the collection, they are all still well written and worth reading. I will say, though, that my favorite was "A Delicate Architecture" by Catherynne M. Valente. This story, telling the history of the witch from Hansel & Gretel was so thought provoking and carried such a sense of melancholy that I couldn't help but understand why the witch became the way she is. It's a hauntingly beautiful story.
In an attempt to eliminate disease and create a perfect person, science has doomed the human race. The first**spoiler alert** Some possible spoilers!
In an attempt to eliminate disease and create a perfect person, science has doomed the human race. The first generation of this new miracle are healthy and live normal lives. However, it's their children and all following children who are doomed. All men now die at 25, women at 20. It's a genetic virus that scientists and geneticists are scrambling to find a cure for, but in the meantime society is slowly unraveling at the seems. Orphans will try anything to find home and shelter, even selling themselves to science; girls are kidnapped and sold to polygamous marriages in order to bear children. Rhine is one such girl who is kidnapped. At sixteen, she still has 4 years left to bear children for her new husband, Linden Vaughn, before she succumbs to the virus. At first all she can think about is escaping the Vaughn mansion and fleeing home to her twin brother, Rowan. Eventually Rhine begins to think that Linden is just as much a captive in the mansion as are her other two sister wives, all prisoners of Linden's father, Housemaster Vaughn, who seems to be willing to go to any means to keep his son happy and find a cure for the virus.
The premise of the book was really good, but there just seemed to be a whole lot of nothing going on here. We're thrown very quickly into the story with Rhine being kidnapped and chosen to be a bride, and then the rest of the book takes on a significantly slower pace. I also couldn't help thinking from the very beginning that Wither was the lovechild of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games. I can't pinpoint exactly what made me think of this so early on in the book, but I couldn't help shake this thought as soon as it popped into my head.
The main part of the story deals with Rhine and her adjusting, with her two new sister wives, to their new life at the Vaughn mansion. Jenna, the oldest, at first refuses to let Linden touch her but eventually seems to soften toward him. Cecily, the youngest, is all to willing to escape her life as an orphan and fervently vies for Linden's attention and is all too willing to bear a child for him. Rhine seems to fluctuate somewhere in the middle, and Linden obviously bears the most affection for her, especially due to her resemblance to the love of his life, Rose. The problem here, I found, is that while we are given bits and pieces to the puzzle surrounding Housemaster Vaughn and his interference in everyone's lives, including his own son, there isn't a whole lot that happens that moves the story forward. Quite a bit seems to happen in the background, without much presented in the way to show it happening. For instance, the seemingly out of the blue (at least to me) love connection between Rhine and one of the household assistants, Gabriel. They only meet a handful of times and suddenly they seem to be completely infatuated with each other. AS the story progresses, their relationship is then given time to grow, but their relationship growing so close, so quickly, at the beginning of the story seemed too convenient a plot point for me.
Another problem that I had with the story was one portion of the worldbuilding, and that had to due with the orphans. It's mentioned frequently that there are numerous orphans who live on the streets, and it makes sense since the parents are dying so young. Yet, it would seem to me that if the whole idea in this world is to try to keep the human race alive, there would be contingencies in place for these orphans, to try to find a way to help them live and not let them die on the streets. Maybe I'm missing something here, but it just seemed that this entire idea seemed a little off to me.
Given the problems I had with the story, I'm still impressed with the premise behind the idea. While this first volume ended in a way that I would have been willing to accept as the type of vague ending where the reader can take their own ideas on where the characters will be going next and leave it at that, I'm also interested to see where DeStefano is going to take these characters, and to me that's what really makes for a good book. So, problems aside, DeStefano sucked me into her world and I want to know what happens next....more
**spoiler alert** Following in the current hot trend in YA (as a friend put it the other day, "Dystopian is the new angels is the new zombies is the n**spoiler alert** Following in the current hot trend in YA (as a friend put it the other day, "Dystopian is the new angels is the new zombies is the new werewolves is the new vampires..."), Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi is very much your typical dystopian YA. In an undisclosed time in the future, there is something drastically wrong with the world; the weather patterns seem to be shifting haphazardly; the government, now known as the Reestablishment, may or may not seem to have some knowledge into what's going on; there is civil unrest. Shatter Me is also your typical YA; Juliette, the protagonist, blames herself for something that may or may not have been her fault, and eventually falls for the extremely good looking Adam, who may or may not have her best interests at heart. However, there is plenty in this story that makes it NOT your typical YA.
Spoilery bits ahead!!
First off, and this is something that really can't be overlooked, is the purple prose. There's a LOT of it in this book, and at first I found it a little distracting, only because it seemed so conspicuous. However, the more I thought about the book afterward, I can't imagine how Mafi could have told this story any other way. Juliette is almost an unreliable narrator; at the beginning of the book, she has been locked up in an institution for 264 days with no contact with any other people, and there is some question right from the beginning as to her sanity. Since we're in this story from her POV, the purple prose does seem to become a little more stream of conscious, so it appears that what she's thinking may not always be the most sane thing you've ever read, which leaves the reader guessing throughout about her sanity, thereby creating the feeling of the unreliable narrator. It's a nice little circle that was either done by design or happenstance, but either way it ended up working for me in the big picture.
The other thing that seemed to stick out for me that made this seem a little more than your typical dystopian YA story is the superhero angle that is thrown in. Perhaps Juliette is really more than what she seems, and maybe there are more like her out there. It made for a nice little twist, taking what seemed like a typical dystopian tale and creating something a little more science fiction out of it.
The story opens with Juliette having been locked away for 264 days, with no contact with anyone, for a reason that we're not privy to at the start. Much to her surprise, a guy ends up being incarcerated with her, a guy that she seems to think is from her past, but she's not 100% sure. Eventually, we come to understand that she can kill with a touch, and that it doesn't seem to be something that she can control. Her ability comes to the attention of the Reestablishment, and they want to be able to use her as a weapon against the civil unrest that is broiling across the country. Adam, a member of the Reestablishment army who was planted in her cell to learn more about her, is actually there to try to protect her, and eventually the two escape, after Juliette learns that her abilities may be more than even she is aware of. From here, the game of cat and mouse is on, as Juliette and Adam try to keep one step ahead of the Reestablishment.
This isn't a perfect book. There are certain turns of phrase and words that are used just a little too frequently for my taste; how many different ways can you count when reading Shatter Me that describe Juliette's jaw dropping? I think I had lost count at something like five of them. And the word million is used too many times. The writing can sometimes almost seem a little over the top, but like I said before, by the time I finished the book, I couldn't really imagine the book written any other way. Even the inconsistencies in the writing and the flaws became part of Juliette's voice, still leaving me wondering just how a reliable narrator she is.
Then book doesn't end on a raging cliffhanger, which I'm thankful for. Not every book needs to end that way. (I'm looking at you, Suzanne Collins.) Sometimes the story can just come to a nice breaking point, waiting for the next book to pick. Mafi ends her book this way. Juliette and the other characters come to the natural ending point for this chapter in their story, and I honestly am looking forward to the next book in the series, Unravel Me. Juliette grew so much as a character throughout Shatter Me, I'm curious to see where Mafi takes her next. What I viewed as flaws in the book notwithstanding, Shatter Me is a really great story, and I think Mafi brings something fresh to the dystopian YA table.
**spoiler alert** I'm going to be right up front, there are probably going to be spoilers in this review, because I'm fairly sure I can't say a thing**spoiler alert** I'm going to be right up front, there are probably going to be spoilers in this review, because I'm fairly sure I can't say a thing about this book without giving something away. Just an FYI.
In a couple of weeks, Leah Clifford will be hosting her InsaniTEA Party at my local bookstore for the release of the second book in her A Touch Mortal series, A Touch Morbid, so I thought I should probably get around to reading the first book. I picked up A Touch Mortal last year when Leah was at Schuler Books promoting the book. I had had every intention of reading it then, but for those following along, a lot happened between then and now, and I didn't, plain and simple. So I picked it up the other night and pretty much read it in two sittings.
It's a fairly quick read, which honestly surprised me. It was also easy to get into. I find that I have a hard time getting into the flow of a story with some books, but Leah seemed to make hers relatively easy, and I found myself reading along, enjoying where the story was going, even when it was becoming apparent what was going to be happening to out heroine, Eden. I feel like I should be up front with about what happens, because if someone is reading this who might have a problem with the subject, maybe this will give them fair warning. Eden commits suicide. She does this fairly early on in the book, after she met the love of her life, Az, an almost Fallen angel. Az is afraid that the Fallen are going to find out about Eden, and torture her to try to get Az to complete his Fall, so he plays a hand in her committing suicide, to protect her. This is where some will need to have a little suspension of disbelief, because that doesn't really sound like a win/win situation for Eden, does it?
Anyway, I was going with the flow of the story up to the point. Eden becomes a Sider. She is more or less alive again, but her entire mortal existence has been erased from the memories of everyone she knew. She'll live forever; and she now has Touch. What is Touch, exactly? I have no idea. I don't know if the characters know what it is. I don't even know if Leah Clifford knows what it is. This is where I started to dislike the book. A lot. This key element, Touch, is never really explained, unless I missed a big chuck of the story. Eden is told she has Touch, needs to pass off Touch to mortals so that it doesn't build up in her system, and she just accepts it and carries on. No explanation. No questioning what it it. She just accepts it at face value, and the readers are forced to accept it at face value because there is never an explanation. By the time I realized how much I was frustrated by this one lacking key explanation to a key plot point, I was well over half way through the book, so I figured at this point, it was a quick read, so maybe Clifford explained it by the end. Just for those keeping track, she doesn't.
However, at some point through the last 1/3 of the book, I discovered that I was really enjoying the story, was engaged with the characters, wanted to see how things were going to end with this book, questions about Touch be damned. I had already figured out some of the twists of the story and was fairly sure I knew why things were happening the way they were. My reservations and questions about the purpose of Touch aside, I really ended up finding that I enjoyed A Touch Mortal. I'm just hoping that these questions are answered in the next book....more
If we could give 1/2 stars in GR, this would get a solid 2 1/2.
Well, that was fairly disappointing.
Alas, I really dislike writing reviews like this, bIf we could give 1/2 stars in GR, this would get a solid 2 1/2.
Well, that was fairly disappointing.
Alas, I really dislike writing reviews like this, but it is what it is. I wanted to like Daughter of Smoke and Bone. In fact, at the start of the book, I loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I did! There are fantastic characters, fantastic world-building, fantastic story-telling, everything that I like in a book seemed to be here, so I was pretty pumped. Karou, our heroine, is smart and sassy, while Brimstone and the other Chimera are great foils for her. The mystery surrounding her past is just intriguing enough to keep my attention; the errands that Brimstone has Karou running for him just as mysterious (what are the teeth for?). The banter back and forth between Karou and her best friend, Zuzana, is laugh out loud funny in parts. Even the city around Karou, Prague, takes on a life of its own and practically becomes a character unto itself. I loved it all.
And then Akiva, the love interest, is introduced into the story, and as far as I'm concerned, this is where the book falls apart completely for me.
As soon as Akiva shows, it's off to romance-trope, purple-prose land, and it was endless. Chapters and chapters of "moonlight in his eyes, starbursts in my chest" sort of writing. For me at least, it ripped me right out of the story and made the second half of the book arduous at best. I think if the entire second half of the book had been written more like the first half, I would have been fine with it. Even if it remained the same, but was at least trimmed down a little so that it didn't go on and on for chapters of pining for Akiva...
Anyway, I can see the potential of a fantastic story here. The world-building is really strong, and I think Karou is definitely a better character without Akiva (and not to spoil too much, but given the way Daughter of Smoke and Bone ends, there is a little hope for the follow up, Days of Blood and Starlight - even though that title doesn't fill me with much confidence). However, if Days of Blood and Starlight ends up like Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I'm going to be hard-pressed to continue on with the story (I'm assuming this is a trilogy, since almost all YA fantasy is a trilogy these days).
So, there it is. A fantastic book that completely loses itself in its over-the-top love story. Laini Taylor is a great writer. Her imagery is vivid and her prose is fluid, but I just feel like the second half of the book got away from her and carried her along in its excessiveness. I'll definitely give her a try again, and more than likely it'll be with the next book in this series, but I'm hoping she can rein in the purple prose a little.
And a word on the audio production. I really think this was the saving grace for me for this book. Khristine Hvam does such a bang up job with her narration. She handles all of the characters perfectly, and she is clear and easy to understand. I really think that if I had been reading this book, I would have given up well before the end, but Hvam does such an admirable job narrating the book, I was able to stick with it. I will definitely be listening to the next book in the series as opposed to reading it, as she is narrating that one as well....more
Well, the best thing I could probably write about The Demon's Lexicon is stop reading my little blog, and go out, buy the book and experience it for yWell, the best thing I could probably write about The Demon's Lexicon is stop reading my little blog, and go out, buy the book and experience it for yourself. It's that good.
My friend Gail has been bullying me into reading these books for quite some time, and finally left me with no choice but to read them, as she sent me the entire trilogy as a combined holiday/birthday/just because present. I finally sat down the other day and started the first book, The Demon's Lexicon, and read it in two sittings. I was immediately drawn into the world of the two main characters, Nick and Alan Ryves, brothers who are on the run from magicians who are trying to reclaim something from the family, an item that may have something to do with their mothers' past. When brother and sister Jaimie and Mae come to the Ryves brothers for help, secrets start to unravel themselves around everyone, all leading up to an ending that I did not see coming, and was such an attention grabber that I was kept up late into the night finishing the book on my second sitting, just so I could see how everything played out.
Sarah Rees Brennan has created quite the story here. She developed such a powerful relationship between Nick and Alan that at times I felt actual concern for them and what was going to happen to them. Brennan moves the story along swiftly, but still takes time to introduce us to new characters and locations along the way. One of my favorites is the Goblin Market, somewhere I hope we get to visit again in later books. I won't give anything away about the ending, but it was quite the turn of events and deftly brought the whole story together. I'll definitely be moving right along to the other two books in the series, The Demon's Covenant and The Demon's Surrender.
Do yourself a favor, go and pick up this book. You won't be sorry....more