Before Scotland, there was Caledonia. Rowan and Fiana are two powerful magicians whose impending love marriage will bring peace and happiness to their...moreBefore Scotland, there was Caledonia. Rowan and Fiana are two powerful magicians whose impending love marriage will bring peace and happiness to their people. However, enemies interrupt the ceremony, forcing Rowan to hide inside his wand. Fiana swears to do anything to find Rowan…including using black magic.
Over a thousand years later, among the redwood forests of modern-day California, twelve-year-old foster child Cullen Knight stumbles across an odd-looking stick of wood. Life is harsh on Cullen: his foster family treats him with no love, and he is bullied in school for his diminutive size and young age. When he picks up the wand, however, the spirit of Rowan also occupies Cullen’s body, coming out in times of trauma or stress. And Cullen’s life is changed forever. Will he be the one to reunite Rowan with his fiancée, and save Fiana from the grips of evil?
To start, this book will not be an easy read for what can only be called the “Harry Potter” generation. Despite its uncanny similarities to Harry Potter—the cruel foster family, the magic, the protagonist’s isolation from “normal” school society—ROWAN OF THE WOOD does not have the easy engagement and attraction of Rowling’s series. The writing is often heavy and stilted; adults will be able to appreciate it much more.
Once you get past the often amateur-sounding writing, however, the result is a decent fantasy story that runs between two time periods. Fiana’s trek through magical time is interesting, and Rose does a good job of painting the harsh realities of middle school, a place where bullies lurk. I would recommend this for parents with kids who enjoyed Harry Potter and want to read similarly styled books. (less)
Ah, man. Have I committed some sort of YA felony by not finishing and not thinking much of this book? I have heard honestly nothing but good things ab...moreAh, man. Have I committed some sort of YA felony by not finishing and not thinking much of this book? I have heard honestly nothing but good things about this book; many readers likened it to The Hunger Games trilogy, for goodness’ sake! And yet I fear that the only reason I read as much of the book as I did before finally putting it down was because I was on a dull plane ride with nothing else at my disposal to read.
I have nothing against its unique writing style. It definitely artfully hints at Todd’s illiteracy and lack of education. I think that Ness also does well with the social implications of the Noise and what it is critiquing in our world.
However, the importance of that theme, I felt, was lost in the muddled and not very captivating (for me, at least) plot. Todd literally gets pushed out of Prentisstown and into this journey, stumbles around and runs into people whom he knows nothing about but who all apparently know what he doesn’t know about Prentisstown…and on and on and on, all the way down the road, through and past more and more villages. I simply don’t care for plots that involve an endless running away from big bad doodoo men, with no explanation ever given. It’s device-y, damnit! I’m sure, Patrick Ness, that you know exactly what Todd’s world is about, I don’t doubt your skills in worldbuilding, but then to resort to an endless chase as your entire plot—it just kills me.
And I don’t know about you, but it just makes me so MAD when there’s one big thing that the author refuses to reveal to the reader, and yet all the characters seem to know what it is, or they figure it out, and YOU don’t, because you CAN’T. It feels so device-y to me, like it’s been deliberately left out to string you along in the hopes that you’ll read to the end just to find out this horrible thing that they all know but you don’t. Uh, thanks, but no thanks, bud. I will resist your games and I will live without knowing what horrible thing all the characters know and all the people who have read this book know, and I will be just fine.
I mean, by all means, read this review just for laughs if you’re a fan of the trilogy. I find it pretty amusing myself, how I couldn’t get into this book. I hope that I by no means discourage you from giving this book a try. But perhaps you may be a little better informed as to what you’re getting yourself into.(less)
I have to admit, I did not take to this book. Excellent writing clashes with unsympathetic characters and a snail-like plot to make ALL UNQUIET THINGS...moreI have to admit, I did not take to this book. Excellent writing clashes with unsympathetic characters and a snail-like plot to make ALL UNQUIET THINGS a difficult read for me.
There is no question that Jarzab’s writing is great. Like Curtis Sittenfeld, Jarzab meticulously analyzes nearly every facet of Neily, Audrey, and Carly, making them feel as if they could be your flawed classmates. However, also like Sittenfeld’s characters in Prep, Neily, Audrey, and Carly simply aren’t very likable, sympathetic, or appealing. We know their history and their thought processes as if they were our therapy patients—an overly intimate and annoying form of relationship that I, as a reader, found disturbing and unenjoyable.
I don’t really mind psychoanalysis—at least not when the person has some ultimately redeemable qualities. However, the three main characters in ALL UNQUIET THINGS are just so unlikable. Neily spends most of his time sulking and remembering the past, his relationship with Carly, while Audrey bullies Neily into helping her uncover the mystery behind the identity of Carly’s murderer.
I also found an unsettling disjuncture between how Audrey and Neily are in the present time, and who they were in their flashbacks. I think this is a result of all the telling-not-showing that went on in the narration. I don’t want Neily to tell us that he hates Carly’s new friends, then be shown a passing moment in which they snap off, like, two biting remarks to one another; I’d rather see the tension between the characters, the strain of the past versus the present, of what they think of one another versus who they truly are. As a result, I couldn’t connect to the main characters as real people, so much like untouchable character sketches they were.
I mentioned earlier that Anna Jarzab is a great writer, and I’m not contradicting myself by saying so: if you enjoy ultra-complete character analyses, you’ll find this a great book, a wonderful achievement by a debut author. However, I felt that her writing skills were unfortunately used in the wrong way—too much in the telling and flashbacks, and not enough in the playing out of a genuinely interesting story arc—which led to my lack of connection with the book.(less)
Janet Carter, an English major, starts college at Blackstone, a liberal arts enclave in the Midwest. She and her friends fall in with a group of beaut...moreJanet Carter, an English major, starts college at Blackstone, a liberal arts enclave in the Midwest. She and her friends fall in with a group of beautiful and talented male Classics majors (and they all quote from heavy literature 24/7—why??). It’s a retelling of the Scottish ballad of the same name, where Janet must battle a faerie queen (Professor Medeos?) for the possession of Tam Lin’s (Thomas Lane’s) heart and soul.
I feel like this is one of those books that you either lovelovelove or hatehatehate. Those who love it do so because of Pamela Dean's skillful descriptions of life at a liberal arts college in the mid-70s. Those who hate it complain about the fake, pretentious characters, the slow pace, and the too-detailed descriptions and dialogue.
Me, I guess I'm in the second camp. I heard such good things about this book and so ordered it with high hopes. However, I found the characters annoying and unrealistic. I'm attending a liberal arts college now, but no one I know speaks in such a high-fallutin', quote-filled manner. I found myself irritated at the overexuberant descriptions of the campus; must NOTHING be left for me to imagine? Must I know the location of every building, bridge, rock, and tree on Blackstone's campus?
TAM LIN is more a detailed sketch of college life rather than a retelling of a fairy tale. I was disappointed that there was not more fantasy in it--guess I was expecting some. I have a feeling that those who love this book are those who can relate to the liberal arts college student life back in the 70s. It's the 21st century, college is so much different, and I just couldn't get into this book. (less)
Secret society activity is usually pretty cool, though easily clichéd. However, Tom Dolby’s debut novel just doesn’t cut it. SECRET SOCIETY reads like...moreSecret society activity is usually pretty cool, though easily clichéd. However, Tom Dolby’s debut novel just doesn’t cut it. SECRET SOCIETY reads like a tired retake on a cloak-and-dagger Gossip Girl-esque world, with flat characters and a marked lack of action.
While I thought that all the characters’ initial setups were quite well done, the character development in the rest of the development unfortunately doesn’t follow through with it. Phoebe, Lauren, and Nick’s personalities blend together into a monotonous swirl of uncertainty and fear at their new statuses. Possible romances and family troubles are told—never shown—to us, as are many other things about the characters and plot.
These rich high school kids’ lives aren’t nothing you’ve read before. Readers may be interested in the various clubbing and society scenes generously scattered throughout the book, but the thread connecting everything together is thin. There’s a lot of potential for suspenseful and exciting moments, but I found it difficult to connect with the story, and thus never felt invested in the outcomes of these characters and their involvement with the society.
Still, if you haven’t read too many secret society novels in your day, you might be able to enjoy this one. Dolby paints an intriguing picture of New York rich-high-school-kid life, one that will be good for reluctant readers looking for a guilty pleasure. The more well-read reader might have trouble finding anything original or attention-holding in this book, though.(less)
THE TEAR COLLECTOR attempts to work an interesting spin on the well-established genre of vampire lit, but fails miserably at raising readers’ sympathi...moreTHE TEAR COLLECTOR attempts to work an interesting spin on the well-established genre of vampire lit, but fails miserably at raising readers’ sympathies and holding their attention. The characters are flat and the interactions unbelievable.
Cassandra is an unlikable protagonist, and not because she’s a girl with questionable morals and intentions—there are many “mean girls” in YA lit whose faults and funky attitudes I embrace fully. However, Cassandra is often difficult to connect to emotionally: we hear that she is frustrated by her family, scornful of her classmates and ex-boyfriends, but we don’t see or feel it. This emotional distance makes readers unable to sympathize with Cassandra’s difficulties. She’s really a character in a fictional story, not someone who could be our classmate or a person we knew back in school.
Cassandra’s interactions with the other characters in the book are far from interesting. Most of the time, conversation falls flat as stereotypes attempt to catfight with one another…while neither of them have real claws. Cassandra and Scott’s relationship is also dull: there’s about as much successful chemistry between the two of them as remedial science classes.
Perhaps that was a bit harsh, but that’s the problem: THE TEAR COLLECTOR doesn’t know what harsh is. Jones comes up with a brilliant premise, one that could really go places, but ends up only playing on stereotypes and surface emotions. And it’s really a shame. THE TEAR COLLECTOR will appeal to those not as well read in YA vampire lit or those who are willing to overlook uninspiring writing for the sake of an original concept.(less)
I'm really sad about how disappointed I was with this! I read Part One, which was a retelling of what had happened on and before that fateful day, and...moreI'm really sad about how disappointed I was with this! I read Part One, which was a retelling of what had happened on and before that fateful day, and I couldn't take it anymore. In attempting to stick to the facts and only the facts, I think the author lost sight of readability, of humanity: all those emotionally charged scenarios were presented very blandly. It is with great sadness that I set this aside. Perhaps I will read something else about Columbine instead eventually.(less)
VERY LEFREAK is an unfortunate disappointment by a highly respectable author. It contains the chatty, witty, and pop culture reference-loaded writing...moreVERY LEFREAK is an unfortunate disappointment by a highly respectable author. It contains the chatty, witty, and pop culture reference-loaded writing of her previous books, but lacks cohesion and the ability to make us empathize with the characters.
Very is an appealing character because her thoughts—and therefore her narration—are refreshingly fast-paced, modern, and slightly scattered in the way that many 21st-century teens are, whether we admit it or not. She is unlike any character I’ve encountered in literature before, with her ever-ready repertoire of pop culture, random tangents, and connections we’d never make ourselves, but which seem perfectly logical coming from Very’s mind.
However, the fact that we are in Very’s head so much makes it extremely difficult for us to grasp what is going on in the story. Very’s observations are certainly interesting, but there is a lack of narrative cohesion tying together Very with the people in her life. The little we glean of Very’s friends is so colored by Very’s desires for who she wants them to be that we don’t get even close to a solid picture of who they are. While I understand that this may in fact be the manifestation of the typical limitations of fiction writing—everything we know about the characters, we know through a biased lens—the paradox doesn’t completely translate into reader enjoyability and comprehension here.
Similarly, there seemed to be a lack of plot in VERY LEFREAK. The book is so much a dissection of Very’s thought processes that it oftentimes forgets to effectively move the story along via relevant events, conversations, and even overarching themes. The technology addiction that the book’s synopsis claims Very suffers from actually doesn’t even play a major role in the book—which disappointed me, as I thought it was an interesting and pertinent topic that could’ve better been explored. I read about half of the book before realizing that absolutely nothing pertaining to character growth had happened yet. One can get away with that in an adult book, but for YA fiction, that just might be the kiss of death.
Overall, I believe VERY LEFREAK might be an interesting read for writers and academics curious about issues regarding fiction’s metalanguage—are the supporting characters really incohesive, or is that just a product of the intensely close third-person narration of this book? Can a story be a story without character development or plot?—but I fear it may be a struggle for the YA audience it’s being marketed at. Appreciators of well-written, character-driven novels might give this one a go and find that they enjoy it immensely.(less)
It’s unfortunate that the premise is so appealing, because, for me, INTERTWINED was an overwritten, confusing, and crowded paranormal mess. Too much w...moreIt’s unfortunate that the premise is so appealing, because, for me, INTERTWINED was an overwritten, confusing, and crowded paranormal mess. Too much was implied and told directly to readers, the characters were unappealing, and the whole thing was just way too long to hold my attention.
Showalter has the unfortunate penchant of telling, not showing, and making her characters take agonizingly slow paragraphs to undergo a simple thinking process. Any story that relies heavily on the main characters’ romantic appeal must work on showing us readers the attraction and potential, instead of telling us over and over again, “X couldn’t resist Y. Z was scared to show her feelings” etc.
As a staunch fan of Showalter’s adult Harlequin romances, I was disappointed that she seemed to feel the need to “dumb down” her writing for the young adult crowd. Please. It’s the R-rated sexual thoughts and scenes that need to go, not intelligent character development. Teenagers can tell the difference between an author who knows the teen voice and an author who typically writes for adults and is just trying to make his or her way into the YA genre.
It goes without saying, then, that I couldn’t make myself care for the characters. They were self-absorbed, overbearingly introverted when it came to pondering, and didn’t do anything really worth mentioning. So Aden attacks a werewolf, gets bullied, and wants to lavish the vampire princess. So Mary Ann has a few conversations with her friend and boyfriend, and continues to hang out with the werewolf even though his monstrous presence supposedly frightens her because she never knows what’s going on.
By this point, a discerning reader will simply ask the important question: so what? Where are all of these disconnected and emotionally distant events leading up to? In the end it didn’t matter, because I was already tired of being narrated to like I have an IQ of 50 by a bunch of unlikable characters. I put the book down.
I have to give Gena and Harlequin TEEN this, though: they certainly have the right idea of what story elements will appeal to today’s Twilight audience. Readers looking for equally emotionally tortured paranormal romances will no doubt find their way to this new line. I have not read Showalter’s other YA books, but unfortunately I just cannot tolerate stories that insult my intelligence—and nor should I have to. Next time, Gena. Next time, Harlequin TEEN.(less)
ROUGH MAGIC will appeal to lovers of ambitious fantasy chronicles, but not those looking for Shakespeare-related literature or well-written characters...moreROUGH MAGIC will appeal to lovers of ambitious fantasy chronicles, but not those looking for Shakespeare-related literature or well-written characters. Indeed, I was more than disappointed especially as the premise sounded interesting and promised the discussion of issues such as feminism. Unfortunately, it is a poorly written and narratively overdone tale.
ROUGH MAGIC was difficult to swallow because it tried to tell four characters’ stories in the course of about 200 pages. The story moves over several decades and lifetimes; as a result, important, character-defining events are merely glimpses that poke in and out within one chapter, never to be mentioned again. Additionally, nearly every chapter tends to awkwardly explain in flashbacks the life-altering events that occurred since the last chapter. This skipping-stone method of narration ensures that we readers never feel as if there is any action going on, since everything important seems to have happened invisibly between the chapters!
All of the characters are weak because they did not have the time and room within the book to develop. I had immense difficulties connecting with and understanding the motivations of any character, so either vaguely or lumberingly were they when they took up space on the pages. ROUGH MAGIC reads more like an extensive character study of four very different characters rather than an actual story.
That being said, the world that ROUGH MAGIC creates for us is a rough-and-tumble, fantastical one. I enjoyed the idea of the island’s wildness being almost a character in itself. While the enormous task of developing four characters over a period of several dozen years was ultimately unsuccessful, the storyline did bring up a number of interesting “mini-stories” that I would’ve perhaps liked to see in short story format—in particular, Sycorax’s development from reckless sorceress to repressed courtwoman under her husband’s hand.
Unfortunately, ROUGH MAGIC was not very successful in telling a clear and intelligible story, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its attractions. Readers and writers may do well in considering this book as an example of what not to do with one’s own writing: overly ambitious and directionless saga-stories will drag a perfectly intriguing idea down to its death.(less)
A fascinating premise and setting, but the writing style and flat characters reveals the author's youth when she wrote this. It could have done with s...moreA fascinating premise and setting, but the writing style and flat characters reveals the author's youth when she wrote this. It could have done with several complete rewrites as her writing matured, but alas, we get dramatic, unoriginal writing; a too-angelic-to-be-true protagonist; and brashly drawn Baddie Bad Badd villains.(less)
I have problems with stories with inauthentic narrative voices. Just WHO is Claire, exactly? Her bland everywoman narration ensured that I could not c...moreI have problems with stories with inauthentic narrative voices. Just WHO is Claire, exactly? Her bland everywoman narration ensured that I could not connect with her on her arduously long journey across time. She's a 1940s British homemaker who doesn't sound like a 1940s British homemaker, but more like a middle-aged contemporary housewife naively delving into horrifying situations that are out of her control.(less)
EVERLASTING is an ambitious novel that spans continents and seas, but it sadly did not live up to its promising premise, due to the lack of immediacy...moreEVERLASTING is an ambitious novel that spans continents and seas, but it sadly did not live up to its promising premise, due to the lack of immediacy within the albeit beautiful writing. Angie Frazier’s prose has the capability of creating sensational imagery: it is real literary art. But overall, the plot ran so slowly, scenes unfolded with such deliberation and explication, that I ended up being unable connect with the story.
No doubt Camille and Oscar are good people, but the way in which they constantly and unendingly suppressed their true feelings and wandered on tiptoes around one another and the world around them made it hard for me to actually understand them. Perhaps this is a product of the time period in which EVERLASTING is set: the Victorian era, after all, was stifling and repressive not just to the British. But I felt that, unfortunately, the beauteous modernity of the prose clashed with the historical setting, leaving me with a story that is interesting, but perhaps not written in the way that would’ve best let it stand out and enthrall us.
Nevertheless, I would encourage readers interested in historical fantasy to give this one a try. Perhaps you may be able to see things in it that you like that I did not.(less)