SHIVER is one of those books I thought about for a long time after finishing it. Not only for the emotional journey, but for the writing itself, whichSHIVER is one of those books I thought about for a long time after finishing it. Not only for the emotional journey, but for the writing itself, which was haunting and lovely, with occasional bursts of quirky. My favorite kind!
Grace and Sam have known each other for years, but haven't exactly had a relationship, since Sam spends his winters as a wolf. When circumstances finally bring them together as two teenaged human beings, their love is simultaneously as passionately epic as you'd find in Elizabethan drama and as simple as holding hands on the beach.
The love story is the main plot arc, and their efforts to remain together despite Sam's peculiar situation. But there are several external complications and a handful of well drawn secondary characters. I was particularly fond of Grace's friend Rachel and the snob-turned-ally Isabel, both of whom were very good for some of that quirk I mentioned above.
One of my favorite things about SHIVER is that after reading it there are several moments that stick with me for their sheer angst, their beauty, and their subtle magic. A golden forest, a summery song, a bathtub, and an achingly lonely trip outside to feed the birds, to name a few.
I could go on for days, but the important thing is that I'd put this book into anyone's hands and that it left me clutching at my heart in all the right ways. ...more
I have a theory that there are three kinds of books in the word, based on my reactions to them:
- I could write better than that when I was 15!
- I canI have a theory that there are three kinds of books in the word, based on my reactions to them:
- I could write better than that when I was 15!
- I can do that!
- I'll never be able to write that well!
There are variations within each category of course. In the "I can do that!" there is the occasional, "But I don't *want* to do that!" or "I'd have to work hard at it, though."
With the last category sometimes I dreamily add, "Maybe in ten years I could consider trying."
SAVING FRANCESCA is one of these. I stayed up until 1:30am reading it, because I couldn't put it down - and you know what? There was hardly any plot. It was all character and brilliant writing. At one point, toward the beginning of the novel, I read a sentence over and over again, and then caught myself holding the book against my chest and stroking it, like it was a beautiful, well-loved pet. I adore this book, and I will squeeze it and love it and name it Bob.
What's it about?
Hmm. A 16 year old girl in Sydney, Australia moves from her all-girls school to an all-boys school that has just opened its doors to the "fairer sex." Her mom falls mysteriously ill. And... that's about it, as far as plot goes. There's not any action, blood, vampires, magic, post-apocalyptic mayhem - none of the things that usually excite me to this level.
It's the characters! THE CHARACTERS! They aren't extraneously quirky or weird - they're high school boys and girls, extreme only in all the ways we really were. It was angsty and very funny and sexy, and for the first time in a long time I remembered all the things I liked about being 17. It's about making friends suddenly and surprisingly, about being who you are, growing up, falling in love - all those semi-cliche high-school things.
Yet there wasn't a single moment of cliche. And I could have drowned in the prose. If it hadn't been 1:30am, I'd have started rereading it right then, after wiping away tears - not because it was a tragic ending, but because it was so good.
If I go on and on, you won't believe me. You'll think I'm exaggerating. Just go buy it and read it for yourself. ...more
In PEEPS, Scott Westerfeld takes the vampirism-as-disease trope to a whole new level.
Cal came to New York for college and adventure. What he got was aIn PEEPS, Scott Westerfeld takes the vampirism-as-disease trope to a whole new level.
Cal came to New York for college and adventure. What he got was a parasite that slowly took over his body. Fortunately, Cal's just a carrier: he gets night-vision, strength, speed, and a taste for red meat (or maybe that's just the Texan in him). His job is to track down the girlfriends he passed the parasite on to before realizing he was infected. They aren't so lucky - they've got the full-blown disease and have turned into savage cannibals.
But things aren't quite right in the world of the parasite-positives (aka PEEPS). Ancient enemies are climbing up from the underworld, and have pushed a new strain of the parasite up into the sewers and basements of New York City. Cal has to figure out who his allies are, and what is the truth about his parasite quickly - because the Apocalypse is on its way.
PEEPS is fast and streamlined. There's no wasted space to be found. The characterizations are tight, the plot snappy, and the mystery intriguing. Cal balances between youth and responsibility, and his voice is together and believable.
But possibly the best part of PEEPS is how Westerfeld (via Cal's narration) weaves in facts about real-world parasites and how they have evolved alongside humanity in a give and take relationship. Parasites have saved the world, and they will again. You slowly start to realize that the parasite vignettes are not merely metaphors for parts of the story, or science lessons - but that the entire book is one huge, beautifully drawn metaphor.
What book that contains the following line could be anything but brilliant:
"God. You mean I lost my virginity to the apocalypse?"
In short, PEEPS is love. It's grotesque, mysterious, tense, and utterly fantastic. It makes me think, WOAH, I want to grow up to write like that!...more
Quick: Joins PEEPS by Scott Westerfield, CROW LAKE by Mary Lawson, and BALLAD by Maggie Stiefvater (yeah, I'm rubbing it in) as my favorite books fromQuick: Joins PEEPS by Scott Westerfield, CROW LAKE by Mary Lawson, and BALLAD by Maggie Stiefvater (yeah, I'm rubbing it in) as my favorite books from the last year. READ IT NOW.
I'm feeling lazy, so here's Stephen King's quick blurb from his review of it in Publisher's Weekly last September:
"As negative Utopias go, Suzanne Collins has created a dilly. The United States is gone. North America has become Panem, a TV-dominated dictatorship run from a city called the Capitol. The rest of Panem is divided into 12 Districts (the former 13th had the bad judgment to revolt and no longer exists). The yearly highlight in this nightmare world is the Hunger Games, a bloodthirsty reality TV show in which 24 teenagers chosen by lottery two from each District fight each other in a desolate environment called the ''arena.'' The winner gets a life of ease; the losers get death. The only ''unspoken rule'' is that you can't eat the dead contestants. Let's see the makers of the movie version try to get a PG-13 on this baby.
Our heroine is Katniss Everdeen (lame name, cool kid), a resident of District 12, which used to be Appalachia. She lives in a desperately poor mining community called the Seam, and when her little sister's name is chosen as one of the contestants in the upcoming Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to take her place. A gutsy decision, given the fact that District 12 hasn't produced a Hunger Games winner in 30 years or so, making them the Chicago Cubs of the postapocalypse world."
I recommend waiting until you have some solid time to devote, because you aren't going to want to put this down. Like PEEPS, THE HUNGER GAMES is tight. Tight characterization, tight plotting, tight gore. You may remember that my favorite thing about PEEPS was the way the interludes slowly built up the over-arching metaphor until that slam-bang moment when you realize what's been going on in the narrative. With THE HUNGER GAMES, you pretty much know from page one exactly what themes Collins is exploring and there aren't any surprises as far as that's concerned - but there don't need to be. You know how the book will end, more or less, but the ride is so thrilling and well woven it becomes real edge-of-your-seat reading.
I was most impressed by the flow of action, which was constant and stressful, without leaving me feeling tired - more exhilarated. The way Collins writes about kids murdering each other manages to be horrible without being hopeless - probably because of the narrator's attitude. Kat is sharp and brave, and her faults are obviously trained into her by the systematic oppression she's faced for her entire life. She doesn't trust easily, and she shouldn't. She's suspicious of everyone, and rightly so. I knew who she needed to trust, and usually when I read a book where the Good Guys are obvious to everyone but the hero, I end up annoyed and flinging the book across the room. But here, Kat is justified in her brand of stubbornness and anger. She's 16, and although she's been witness to some awful violence and hardship, in a lot of ways she's sheltered in her world view. But that world view provided real strength, real fears, and believable motivations.
I could go on and on, I'm sure, (I have plenty of favorite moments), but would eventually break into spoiler zones.
Final word: Buy it, even though it's still in hardback. You can bet your ass I'll be pre-ordering the sequel....more
Two years ago I read SAVING FRANCESCA by Melina Marchetta and reviewed it here at my Goodreads shelf. It was in my top ten books of 2009. Yesterday, ITwo years ago I read SAVING FRANCESCA by Melina Marchetta and reviewed it here at my Goodreads shelf. It was in my top ten books of 2009. Yesterday, I finally got around to reading the stand-alone companion novel, THE PIPER'S SON.
Ok, technically, I started reading it on Wednesday evening. I read perhaps 1/3 of it, and fell asleep thinking about it, analyzing the prose, and wondering how it was going to spin out. In the morning, my intention was to write. Because, you know, it's what I do.
Only I couldn't. I could not put THE PIPER'S SON mentally aside and work on my own stuff. So I picked it back up, and 3 hours later was finished.
Then the problem became that oh-so-rare these days problem: it had been so good, I couldn't write because I'm not that good, because her characters were stuck in my head and overshadowing my own characters.
THE PIPER'S SON is the best book I've read in 2011.
There are no monsters, there's no magic, and that didn't bother me at all.
Here's the GR blurb:
Thomas Mackee wants oblivion. Wants to forget parents who leave and friends he used to care about and a string of one-night stands, and favorite uncles being blown to smithereens on their way to work on the other side of the world.
But when his flatmates turn him out of the house, Tom moves in with his single, pregnant aunt, Georgie. And starts working at the Union pub with his former friends. And winds up living with his grieving father again. And remembers how he abandoned Tara Finke two years ago, after his uncle's death.
And in a year when everything's broken, Tom realizes that his family and friends need him to help put the pieces back together as much as he needs them.
That's seriously all it's about. But it's riveting. The prose is tight and short and cutting, telling more than showing, and yet it slowly builds an entire portrait of a young man. And his disastrous, funny, broken family.
So far all of my books deal with grief in some way (duh, I kill people), and the precision with which Marchetta examines the fallout of tragedy without being at all sad or depressing had me rereading whole pages, trying to dissect exactly how she was doing it. She manages to make me so angry at Tom (and everyone) and also totally in love with him (and everyone). And THAT is exactly what family is about, I suppose - all those contradictory emotions coexisting. It was like I was part of the mess. And very glad to be.
THE PIPER'S SON is a great example of crossover, too. It's not quite YA, and not just adult. The two POVs are Tom, who's about 21, but he's grappling with some basic YA themes, and his 42 year old aunt Georgie. I was less interested in her POV, to be honest, but I doubt that will be everyone's take. It certainly didn't ruin anything for me, and was just as gently and piercingly written.
That's really all I want to say. I'm giving it all the stars, and possibly buying it for everyone in my family this Christmas. And reading it again immediately - or perhaps rereading SAVING FRANCESCA first. ...more
This is the story of Keturah Reeve, a 17 year old girl living in a generalized-Medieval Angleland that might have been. One afternoon she follows a goThis is the story of Keturah Reeve, a 17 year old girl living in a generalized-Medieval Angleland that might have been. One afternoon she follows a golden hart deep into the forest and becomes so lost that Death comes for her. With her story-telling skills, she convinces him to give her one more day. If she finds her True Love before the sun sets again, Death will leave her to live her life.
It's a short, simple fairy tale; recognizable in its patterns, but also just different enough that I don't want to call it a retelling of anything. The search for True Love was both comical, and serious. Most of the characters, though recognizable fairy tale archetypes, were drawn well enough that they came alive for me.
But what really impressed me was the relationship between Keturah and Lord Death. Their conversations and the... respect they held for one another is what kept me ground deep in the story, even as I recognized where all the sub-plots and mini-character arcs were going. I knew how the story needed to end after reading the first 10 pages, and I was completely correct - but completely satisfied.
This is a fairy tale about death - not just the supernatural creature, the grim reaper who is in so many stories, but about what death means. What does it mean that we live side by side with death? How does that affect our choices? Our perspective? Our relationships?
How does death affect beauty? Life?
By the end of the book, I was unable to stop reading. Even though I knew how it had to end. (I admit, at one point I said to Natalie, "If this doesn't end the way it's supposed to, I will be very upset." Fortunately, it did.)
I know some people will be bothered by the prologue and epilogue - but trust me, they're just there to solidly frame the story as a fairy tale. The first chapter is SO PERFECT (could I say that more? Maybe...) that if you're turned off by prologues, just dive straight in. And if you're ever thinking that sometimes the prose gets slightly repetitious, I promise that's only in the beginning and it's made up for with paragraphs like this:
"How thin the air felt at the forest's edge, how ghostly the trees that guarded their realm. I looked around me. The whole world seemed as delicate as a dandelion seed, and as fleeting. Though the sun had not set, the moon had risen, and the village had never looked so beautiful. How sad to know that the figment village of my imagination would not vanish when I ended, to understand that it was not I who had invented the moon the first time I realized how lovely it was. To admit that it was not my breath that made the winds blow. It was not only my own life I mourned. Wouldn't all life end with mine? Reason told me it was not so, but my heart, my heart knew that when I closed my eyes I invented the night sky and the stars too. Wasn't the whole dome of the sky the same shape as the inside of my skull? Didn't I create the sun and the day when I raised my eyelids every morning?"
No really, just *love*
The story reminds me of one of my all time favorite poems, "Sunday Morning" by Wallace Stevens. "Death is the mother of beauty."
And I confess, I might have teared up at the end. Not because it was sad, but because it was so perfect.
So, have I evangelized enough? Go. Go now and buy it (from an indy store)!...more
WORLD WAR Z is one of the most fascinating books I've ever read, and possibly the best "concept" type book, too.
The novel is exactly what the subtitlWORLD WAR Z is one of the most fascinating books I've ever read, and possibly the best "concept" type book, too.
The novel is exactly what the subtitle suggests: a series of interviews with survivors of the world-wide zombie apocalypse, ten years after "VA DAY." The preface sets up the story, introducing you briefly to the man conducting the interviews, and after that he mostly vanishes into the woven narratives of each individual interviewee.
The people (it's difficult to think of them as "characters") are spread across the globe. You being in China, spread to South Africa, Israel, Iceland, Canada, Antarctica - it isn't until part two that you have your first American interview. Many of the narrative voices were quite distinct, though for a section two-thirds of the way through the book the series of militaristic interviews began to blend together a little for me (too many acronyms and weapons-types, though clearly Brooks did his research). For the most part each narrator had strong character and specific ways of talking.
The book focuses on the macro-scale, and that's what makes it so fascinating. You get a very realistic-feeling portrayal of what might actually happen were the dead to rise around the turn of the new millennium. Most of my horror came from the realization that I could see everything going down exactly as Brooks imagines it. And that is mostly NOT a good thing.
The macro-scale never seems cold or devoid of humanity, because of course every story is in a way one human's story. Most of them are talking about their jobs, and there aren't your typical zombie movie cliches like having to shoot your mother because she's been bitten. This is massive scale stuff. The first third (more of less) of the book is about the outbreak, the middle about the Great Panic and the initial stages of the war, and the third about the clean up and "victory."
The best part of the book was the few occasions when the narrative suddenly drops out of macro and into a very real moment of terror, courage, depravity, or hope. Several of these moments were chilling or heartbreaking. (The most chilling moment caused my arms to break out in goose-bumps despite reading outside in 98 degree weather.)
I was never really afraid, so if you're looking for genre horror, this isn't it. This book is more about politics, war, philosophy, humanity, and the world itself, and the device that leads to some great stories just happens to be... zombies.
I'd liken it to the movie INDEPENDENCE DAY, but without any comic relief.
I should add that overall the book is hopeful, since you know from the first page that humanity wins. This is an apocalypse, but not THE apocalypse. You're meeting the interviewees because they SURVIVED. So even in the worst moments you've got that to latch on to.
Overall, an excellent read. I want to reread several of my favorite interviews already. ...more
I just finished reading this and have that warm-fuzzy feeling I get when I read something that was just perfect. I'm not desperate for more, not overwI just finished reading this and have that warm-fuzzy feeling I get when I read something that was just perfect. I'm not desperate for more, not overwhelmed, not too sad or too happy - just content. This is my second favorite way to feel when I finish a book.
Boy Meets Boy is a charming story about friendship, love, and bravery. It takes place in a world I want to believe in, and even though I don't quite, I have hope that some days there are places in real life that are close.
The voice is one of the most pleasant and consistent that I've read in a while, and I was not only entertained by Paul, but genuinely liked him and was rooting for him. The secondary characters were delightful and fun, too, as well as occasionally painfully accurate. Like Marchetta's SAVING FRANCESCA, this reminded me about what I loved in high school, about the friendships I made there and the ways my heart was broken and reforged (and other dramatic teenage things).
If the second chapter were lifted out in its entirety, I would have nothing to complain about. But as it is, there's nothing *wrong* with the second chapter - it just doesn't really fit with the rest of the narrative and forced me to consciously turn on my suspension of disbelief. Push through it! Because the rest is totally worth it. ...more
Basically, I was sold by page 50, and swept up in this hugely satisfying adventure. There was surprise and intrigue and fury and desperation and magicBasically, I was sold by page 50, and swept up in this hugely satisfying adventure. There was surprise and intrigue and fury and desperation and magic! And then that scene at the very end took a story I was already engaged with in my head and imagination, and left an indelible stamp on my heart. It made me realize that like the BEST stories, this one had swept me along perfectly at it's intended pace. I discovered as the hero, Cat, discovered. I was betrayed and educated as she was. I found family and answers when she did. And I loved as she loved. Not too early, not too late, but right along with her.
For a more complete (but spoiler-free) love-fest, see my blog, HERE....more