This series has lost all direction (just look at the cover). Though I probably have no right to judge seeing as I've been skimming since book 2. But I
This series has lost all direction (just look at the cover). Though I probably have no right to judge seeing as I've been skimming since book 2. But I judge on anyway!
(view spoiler)[Why are we getting Hana's perspective all of a sudden? She's been gone since book 1. How are we suddenly expected to feel anything for a character we know so little about?
Lena. Lena was stagnant. Indecisive. My problem is that she developed across the first two books then she suddenly seems to have hit a wall. A wall of majestically frustrating emotional disarray. But I can't blame her too much. Love is a fickle bitch, after all. The problem is that Oliver wrote Julian a little too well. Gave him a little too much time. And made us readers fall for him a little too desperately. Why waste our feelings getting invested in the decoy?
Alex. I just don't get Alex. Sacrificing himself for Lena's happiness? The first time, it was because he was caught. He just told Lena to go. Heroic, yes. I'll give him that one. This time, I believe Lena begged him to forgive her and made promises of together...but he bolts. For her sake. How, exactly?
The ending. Yeah, wtf. I can understand somewhat, however. The whole point could've not necessarily been about fighting the cureds, or the government, or finding true freedom for the Invalids. That's merely the plot (and in that, this kinda bombed). But the point could've been about the trying. The not giving up. Knowing what is true and never forgetting it. Opening your eyes and making sure you never close them. Knowing that however difficult, love is worth fighting for. Except it wasn't really written that way.
Falling Kingdoms is a high fantasy about Mytica, a continent on the verge of a war, drawing with it the fates of four young people into chaos and tragFalling Kingdoms is a high fantasy about Mytica, a continent on the verge of a war, drawing with it the fates of four young people into chaos and tragedy. The synopsis, while not entirely unique, is intriguing. It seems to promise all the staples of a good fantasy novel: heroes, princesses, politics, magic, romance, death. And all of this it delivers...on a young adult level.
Morgan Rhodes' tale tells of Cleo, Jonas, Magnus, and Lucia and the destinies they are called forth to fulfill as their land teeters on the bloody edge of conflict and grapples with menacing want-to-be-kings, sly sorcerers, and an ancient magic long lost. The world building is convincing enough. The map, the descriptions, the names, they all work to compel a reader to believe. Rhodes provides history, folklore, climate, culture, and civil struggle to make each country solid. That is laying the groundwork after all. A badly built fantastical universe risks too many questions to make the rest of the story digestible. But Rhodes succeeds in that each place stands individual.
As do the characters. Cleo, the privileged, rashly fierce yet genuine young princess; Jonas, the grief-stricken, angry, damnedly determined rebel; Magnus, the dark, unloved, misunderstood and dangerous prince; and his sister Lucia, the beautiful, the soft, the innocent. They are written to be as distinct from each other as the colors of the rainbow.
Some, however, shine just a little brighter...though that might have something to do with page time. Cleo and Jonas come off as central characters, while Magnus and Lucia as secondary central characters, if there is any sense in that. Perhaps it is that Cleo and Jonas' personal fight has much more at stake; their own doom much darker. The path of these two characters' growth is tangible. Cleo reins in her childish boldness and softens her impulsivity, shaping these qualities into a resolute, unwavering courage. Jonas, acting upon fresh grief and a relentless hunger for justice, is able to open his eyes when needed. He grows to see beyond his sorrow to understand the trouble at hand. They mature. And we see it.
Oh, this praise. Yes, Falling Kingdoms is surprising and satisfying. But it has its limits. The story, so concentrated on the goings-on in the lives of these four young protagonists, does not expand much. While they do battle with sorcery and war, while they do undertake grand ambitions such as searching for ancient magic and forming revolutionary groups to overthrow a tyrant king, the storylines still feel very...narrow.
Which is why I think younger readers will be even more impressed. The more experienced reader you are, the more likely you'll feel the limitations. The plot is simple and straightforward. It isn't very introspective. But it is perhaps the language that needs the most development. In fantasy, there needs to be a certain sophistication in diction. But from the set up of scenes to dialogue, I could almost feel Rhodes trying to write high fantasy. The language didn't yet feel natural. Organic. This is still an attempt. Which is totally fine! This is her first high fantasy novel after all, and she found herself on the New York Times Bestsellers List.
Overall, Falling Kingdoms is success enough that I am most certainly interested in the futures of Cleo, Jonas, Magnus, and Lucia. And Mytica. I keep harping on about how it was so good...on a ya level. Then I hit myself in the head, reminding my little brain that this is, in fact, a ya novel. Grieve. Game of Thrones has ruined me.
You know how, after reading a disappointing YA novel, we list a bunch of things we wish the author had done...well, Gayle Forman actually does them. JYou know how, after reading a disappointing YA novel, we list a bunch of things we wish the author had done...well, Gayle Forman actually does them. Just One Day is a coming-of-age story. It's about a girl who meets a boy on a train. She abandons her plans and they spend a day together in Paris. In one day, the girl lets slip all of her inhibitions and takes chances; confesses thoughts that have never until now fully made themselves known; and begins to hope for a future she never realized she wanted. And then it is taken away from her. At the brink of a new beginning, it is ended. The girl leaves a lot of herself in Paris, in that one night, with that boy. The struggle now is to learn to live on, to move on. Only she can't.
Forman sculpts compelling characters. I say this because Allyson is an ordinary girl. A little scared, a little sheltered, a little unlived. But, like she says, and like so many of us, she feels there is this other girl inside, another girl who is brave and outspoken, a girl who dares. Only she is trapped somehow. Like so many of us, she wants to set her free. And this is what Forman captures for us to witness: Allyson's expansion, the moment she finally reaches out, stretches out, to touch life.
Allyson's relationships with other characters are developed. Forman is able to grasp and portray the awkward and sometimes regretful consequences of becoming an adult. Allyson's strained and frustrated dynamic with her mother, which at times I thought was a little excessive but then again maybe not, after you read the reasons behind her overbearningness. Her friendship with childhood best friend Melanie is beautiful and bittersweet; how friends grow, change and drift away but also how they may drift back. And, of course, her relationship with herself. They are well-written. They all hit the chord of truth.
Her relationship with Willem. It is short and romantic and I missed him when he was gone. There is a little more mystery than I appreciated, too many half smiles for answers and not enough actual explanations. But he had moments, moments when he'd do his thing and observe then say something and I'd think yes, I want those words said to me. What I love most is that their "thing" is about substantial things. They meditate about life, love, and how they see themselves. They talk to each other. They listen to each other. And they mean it.
To be fair, I'm talking about the bare bones here. It isn't entirely free of flaws. For example, I thought little by little, this became akin to a scene of a parade in a romantic comedy -- when the main character decides to brave the world and all her friends clap and march by her side in support with big goofy grins on their faces. The sudden momentum and happy "accidents" Allyson gathers near the end seemed mildly preposterous. Mildly.
Allyson's story isn't special (other than the fact that her self-discovery unfolds in Paris). It is simply about a girl trying to find herself. About a girl who wakes up one day and realizes she wants more, more, more. But she doesn't know how. How do you make friends? How do you just close your eyes, pick a place and go? How do you just take what you want instead of waiting it to be offered to you? How do you even figure out what you want in the first place?
Familiar questions. We ask ourselves the same. And we all have whims and fancies, we have imaginations and daydreams. But then responsibilities and duties get in the way. What this book offers is a rejuvenation. That light bounce in our step, that gentle push on our back. That soft voice reminding us to keep looking for our answers.
Dare You To is the second installment in the Pushing the Limits series. It's a companion novel and follows the story of Beth Risk, a character we meetDare You To is the second installment in the Pushing the Limits series. It's a companion novel and follows the story of Beth Risk, a character we meet in the first book. This is a contemporary romance and this kind in particular, I tend to call "giddy books". You know, the ones that make you feel all of seventeen again -- all gigglish and sweet. Le sigh. Unfortunately, it failed to actually make me giddy.
The first thing I noticed was the page count. My arc had 462 pages. 462. No contemporary novel should be 462 pages long. That's high fantasy. Epic romance. Not a book about a girl and a boy and a high school.
Okay enough, I'm not being fair because this does explore some very serious issues. Beth Risk is seventeen, has a drug addict for a mother, an absentee for a father, protective and loyal stoners for friends, and a once-failed rescuer for an uncle. Ryan is a football star, the son of a prominent family, and a closet writer. There's sex, drugs, violence, law, cussing, and discrimination all wrapped up in the budding yet painfully drawn out romance between the two leading characters.
In pretty much all ways I can think of, this is your typical run-of-the-mill (dark) contemporary romance geared towards young adults. I say dark because it is slightly more graphic, both physically and emotionally, than others. McGarry definitely asked for censorship to be lifted on this one for sure.
Dare You To gives you what you want, when you want. Which isn't really what I wanted at all. It's predictable. It has those moments when something is said just so that a character is given yet another opportunity to profess unconditional love...yeah, you know. There are too many coincidences. The internal monologues are extensive. And the language is often cheesy. Case in point:
"My hands roam over his back, clawing for the hem of his shirt, eager to explore the glorious muscles underneath."
I hate finding faults because, obviously, as a reader I wish every book I read was perfection. But even the characters I didn't entirely get. Beth (for good reason so really this is all me) is too high-strung, stubborn, and morbid. But it's all understandable. She's had a lot to deal with making her disposition difficult to warm up to. And Ryan is too good to be true -- and a little contradictory. For a young man so adamant about respecting women, he certainly has no problem participating in schemes that objectify them. There's no problem asking a girl for her number, but to say you respect females then go all night collecting their digits for game and leaving them in hope of something you have no intention of giving is a bit hypocritical. But he was sweet, I'll give him that.
This had potential. There were issues that were engaging and I hoped McGarry would've focused on Beth healing herself and her life a little more than Beth finding someone to save her. Don't get me wrong, we all need help but...sigh. I could go on and analyze and deconstruct her character but that would both spoil and bore equally. I also think that I might've missed a layer of understanding...or a sense of familiarity because I hadn't read the first book, meaning that there are backstories I wasn't privy to. Bottom line is, this was a tricky book. Most of my book friends rate this highly. I rate it average. It all depends on you.
I love a good Gothic novel, so I could not have been more eager to finally be able to sit and crack open this story. Amber House delivers a gothic/horI love a good Gothic novel, so I could not have been more eager to finally be able to sit and crack open this story. Amber House delivers a gothic/horror/scary tale in all its intrinsic glory. It involves a young girl, called Sarah, who returns with her family to the old family estate, Amber House, to bury the matriarch of this strange, strange dynasty. They decide to stay for a couple of weeks and very soon Sarah discovers shadows, echoes, and mysteries in every corner of this ancient place. Mysteries of her ancestry, of the past lives that walked among the halls and rooms she now occupied; disturbing revelations about her cold, abrupt mother, ones that threaten to loosen the already delicate ties holding the two of them together; and frightening enigmas about the house itself, a house that seems to have a life and purpose of its own.
So let's check the list, shall we? This book includes all the right horror fundamentals: faint laughter of children who aren't there; visions in mirrors, in dreams, and even when awake; that cold, pointed feeling that raises the hair on the back of your neck because you know someone is watching you; characters descending into madness; little girls in white dresses darting from corner to corner always in your peripheral sight; wet footprints on wooden floors as main character gets out of the bath to follow a noise (I mean, goodness gracious on that one!)...and et cetera. In many ways, due to the absolute readablity of this book, it read like a film. Which I don't think diminishes its "writing pedigree". It was just so vividly detailed that the scenes were seamlessly imaginable.
It felt like these characteristics came from a handbook on how to write scary stories -- and yet, the supernatural niche of it is pleasantly original. It suggests the theory that some houses hold memories of the past, where, quite literally, images or imprints of specific moments are seared into objects long-loved by their long-gone owners. And that these "echoes" let you enter into another time, allow you to peek in on the before. I won't lie, it did get a bit confusing, especially near the end when they sort of introduce a semi-new notion which turns out to be a very critical tool in the climax and denouement. It was lightning-bolt fast, intense, and satisfying. And I forgive the confusion -- besides, I blame that largely to my mental inadequacy.
The characters are all pretty wonderful. Sarah is a funny voice to listen to; she isn't anything too special but she's down to earth, soft, shy, harsh, angry, polite, and brazen in all the right places. Her younger brother, Sammy, is a sweet little thing, and as they say, "his enthusiasms are infectious". The mother is effectively distant, and as Sarah discovers more about her childhood, we come to understand why.
Now, the two love interests. I only fell for one. And I fell for the right one. But of course, because this book is near 400 pages, Sarah spends some time being oblivious. Frustrating because, hello, the other guy is totally generic and gross...but oh, just wait. Just wait. Because this particular romance is different, and complicated, and oh so heart twisting. Yes, it twists your heart -- painfully, hopelessly, shockingly. It held me at arm's length for a long time so that when those yearned moments came, my heart exploded the tiniest, tiniest bit. It was like my lungs were deprived of oxygen and the story kept teasing them with the anticipation of a deep breath. However, I do think The Right Guy could've been further developed because while he does feature quite a lot, he is still shrouded in mystery...having said that, I still want one of him. Please and thanks.
And now to the heart of the story...it's about family, and the parts of your ancestors' history that contributes to shaping your identity. Exactly how much is passed down to us, without our knowing? How much of our nature have we inherited? What part of us is us, and what part is them? It's also about belonging to a line of memories, of past achievements and failures and ambitions and our responsibility of keeping these memories alive. It's about the complexities of our choices and the power of will; how endless branches of what-might-have-beens erupt from a single point of contact. And of course, family dysfunctionalities. The bizarre, tense dynamics between members who must co-exist but cannot connect. It is most exemplified in the relationship between mother and daughter...when, as we get older, we learn that our parents too lived a life just for themselves, that they too have demons they must hide -- sometimes, especially from us. This is a story of a broken family, severed by many things: infidelity, running away, alcoholism, lack of communication, mental disability, death, and the unceasing consequence of grief and guilt held for far too long.
This was such a good and satisfying read. I urge anyone who reads this review to please mark this book as to-read. Just leave it there on your shelf. If this isn't your cup of tea, let it sit patiently, until you have a free afternoon, or a quiet evening when you can devote a few moments to the first chapters of Amber House. I couldn't wait to get home to continue reading and when I did (and if there were witnesses), I would've been found gripping my hair, shouting at my Kobo, pinching the bridge of my nose, huffing and puffing and all those spells we readers are susceptible to when in the clutch of terrific storytelling. Despite my enthusiasm, I'll concede that it wasn't technically flawless, as there were loose ends I wished were tied up, little things that weren't explained, and the ending left me with some questions I desperately need answers to. And I don't think the weight of the theme of family was executed as smoothly at the close (as it was rushed and left me winded), but that may just be me still feeling bitter over the too-soon Epilogue. I did not see it coming, and I was not ready.
An advance copy was provided by the publisher....more