I really wanted this to be the next thing after Crown Duel, in terms of story style, characters, romance, and fantasy world. And on the surface, THE H...moreI really wanted this to be the next thing after Crown Duel, in terms of story style, characters, romance, and fantasy world. And on the surface, THE HEDGEWITCH QUEEN certainly seems promising in all those fields: Vianne is a humble minor noble lady who gets tangled up in the political court intrigue of a magical world that takes its inspiration heavily from a bastardized version of France and the French language. There's the strong and silent love interest who believes in the heroine long before she believes in herself. Doesn't that just remind you of Crown Duel and all that goodness?
Alas, the similarities end there. Vianne is no Meliara. I didn't get far into the story before Vianne was tripping over herself in an effort to prove herself to be the most tearful, pathetic, and un-self-confident female in all of Bastardized France. Vianne suffers from that literary syndrome I suppose I shall have to give a name to from here on out: the Anti-Histrionic Female Character Syndrome, in which the female MC goes out of her way to convince readers that she is worthless, plain, boring, uninteresting, by virtue of her lowly status, ordinary looks, absolute lack of character, (lack of intelligence), etc. Far from gaining my readerly sympathies, these females simply goad my ire. For this syndrome is wish fulfillment; it's trying to say that females don't have to actively improve themselves mentally, intellectually, or emotionally--because, of course, the hot guy loves them just the passive and pathetic way they are!
The way in which Vianne and Tristan d'Arcenne interacted simply made me feel tired. Everything they said to each other was riddled with misunderstandings--misunderstandings that didn't seem to be necessary to the main plot but rather only served to further the romantic intrigue. What's so romantic or intriguing about constant misunderstandings brought about by Vianne's lack of self-confidence, may I ask? Yeah... that's what I thought.
In the end, my lack of feelings for either of the main characters led to this being a DNF for me. I give Lilith Saintcrow props for trying, but the blandness, patheticness of the main characters could not hold my attention for the duration of the story.(less)
WHAT COMES AFTER is a powerful and heartwrenching YA contemporary read. Watkins slips effortlessly into Iris’ voice and gives us a gorgeously told sto...moreWHAT COMES AFTER is a powerful and heartwrenching YA contemporary read. Watkins slips effortlessly into Iris’ voice and gives us a gorgeously told story about both the extreme cruelty and the endurance of human nature.
It’s hard to believe that this book was written by a man, because Iris’ voice is so convincing. She is a bit on the quiet side, due to the upheavals she’s had to endure, but she is far from weak: from the start, I admired how Iris respected her aunt yet did not let Sue trod all over her. This is a girl who has the capacity to love deeply, whose capacity to do so is tested by her circumstances. WHAT COMES AFTER was a gorgeous read primarily because of how believable Iris is.
It’s easy to caricaturize villains, but Aunt Sue, Book, and other troubled characters in the book are well-rounded; we can believe that these people could exist in real life, even if we may not understand or agree with their attitudes or decisions. Watkins also knows his way around a farm: his depiction of the goats will tug at even a non-animal lover’s heart, and I empathized with them as much as I would with a human character.
Overall, WHAT COMES AFTER is arguably one of the strongest contemporary reads I’ve had the pleasure of discovering this year so far. It’s a shame that this book hasn’t gotten much notice so far, but I’m hoping that, with the endorsement of well-respected authors such as Francisco X. Stork (Marcelo in the Real World), this book will find its way into more readers’ hands.(less)
ROT & RUIN, acclaimed horror novelist Jonathan Maberry’s first venture into literature for younger readers, is so much more than simply a zombie b...moreROT & RUIN, acclaimed horror novelist Jonathan Maberry’s first venture into literature for younger readers, is so much more than simply a zombie book. It blends great storytelling, adventure, and tender human moments for an altogether satisfying read that is both exciting and emotional.
Benny starts off as a pretty irritating boy, smugly confident in his narrow-minded convictions, but it is the mark of a great author that Benny eventually grew into a mature and more complex young man, a protagonist that I could really get behind. His interactions with Tom are tense with residual anger over the loss of his parents on First Night—a little childish, perhaps, but alright, believable if we cut him some slack. Other than his relationship with Tom, Benny is a pitch-perfect teenage boy regarding his interactions with others: friends, other grown-ups, zombies, etc., a relatable mix of cluelessness, anxiety, and bravado.
The world of Mountainside and the Rot and Ruin is a well-realized one, with plenty of opportunities for secrets, hideaways, and dramatic showdowns. All that Benny knew used to be only what was within the fence that surrounds Mountainside, but as his apprenticeship takes him far out into the Rot and Ruin with his brother, his worldview grows, and with that opportunities for more exciting things to happen. Maberry has brilliantly constructed a world that will never feel too claustrophobic for ideas: there will always be more things for Benny and his friends to discover out there.
And can I just mention how awesome it is that Benny is half-Japanese, half-Irish…and it’s not a big freaking deal? Get out your lassos so you can get me down from where I’m floating over the moon!
ROT & RUIN is not flawless: Tom comes off as a bit too perfect, and there are some epic monologues in there that couldn’t hide the fact that they were pushing an agenda. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the heck out of my time spent reading this book, and may even dare say that this book will probably appeal to younger fans of The Hunger Games, those who are craving another thrilling yet firmly humanistic series.(less)
Wow. Just…wow. An unassuming concept for a story glows in the talented hands of Holly Cupala, who captured my attention on the very first page.
Miranda...moreWow. Just…wow. An unassuming concept for a story glows in the talented hands of Holly Cupala, who captured my attention on the very first page.
Miranda’s narration is easy on the eyes and mind. Through her, problems that could’ve been easily overdramatized become painfully real expressions of emotions that anyone can relate to: grief, fear, desire, and more. While there is never much physical movement throughout the story, the emotional arc is so poignant that, towards the end, I found myself bursting into tears at certain lines or gripping the book with shaking hands as I rushed to find out what would happen, if things will turn out alright, in a way that reminded me of the frantic and passionate mood swings of PMS.
It’s true that very little seems to happen, and that Miranda’s past with her sister doesn’t entirely convince me that it’s driving her present-day decisions. Miranda herself is definitely a quiet protagonist, so those who like their female main characters snappier and wittier will not find that here. Still, there is a way about Miranda that endears her to readers, that draws us into her problems and concerns and misconceptions. Quite, “good girl” Miranda is a fully realized character: we see her flaws but love her all the more for them.
TELL ME A SECRET is a heartwrenchingly good contemporary YA read. Holly Cupala proves herself to be a powerful writing force with this one, and I can’t wait to see what Holly will write next.(less)