This was one of those books that I wanted to love but just didn’t, and I think a lot of my fellow YAcks felt the same way. While the writing was ratheThis was one of those books that I wanted to love but just didn’t, and I think a lot of my fellow YAcks felt the same way. While the writing was rather beautiful it just dragged on for far too long, it gave us a relationship that didn’t make sense, and possibly three different teaser endings before the book actually ended. It was a struggle for me to finish, starting right around the last 20% of the book or so, and I ended up begrudging that last bit because it JUST WOULDN’T END.
Agni is an okay character but I never felt truly involved in her story. I was just kind of coasting along, reading what was happening, instead of being a part of it. Kasia was far more interesting and a much more robust character and a total BAMF at that that it was hard to take my eyes off of her. Meanwhile we have Agni who starts getting wishy-washy over a guy who’s a total dick to her and she struggles to progress in her education because the Dragon’s never heard of encouragement. She becomes largely self-taught and then stuff happens and she ends up leading the charge to fix it. At the same time she’s still this awkward young adult who doesn’t know how to maneuver a lot of social situations and ends up fumbling her way through things and getting lucky on the other end. Thinking back on it she really wasn’t that stand-out of a character at all, even before Kasia.
The Dragon was just a dick. A curmudgeon who squatted in a castle and took women every ten years. How the relationship between he and Agni even existed is beyond me. Other than perhaps a small eye flicker or maybe a misconstrued signal the Dragon is nothing but antagonistic to Agni, shows next to no kind feelings toward her, and yet ends up bedding her. Neat. While the two scenes were rather hot and well-written they were wholly unnecessary and added nothing to the plot. They didn’t even make sense because the Dragon has next to no redeeming qualities about himself. Seriously. The only admirable thing this guy likes to do is fend off the Wood. That’s pretty much it. He’s a jackass to everyone else, Agni included.
The world, though, was rich and glorious. I liked how the world was known in that it appeared somewhat Polish and referenced other known areas and countries but existed unto itself with this Wood and this problem. How Novik portrayed this forest as being not only sentient but vindictive was kind of terrifying. And the things it did to people only amped up that horror. This was the best part of the book. I loved reading the Wood scenes, both the good and the terrifying, because it added so much depth to this pseudo-known world that it was a breeze to visualize it.
With that being said, especially toward the end the descriptions got bogged down in themselves and with my frustration at this never-ending book already being high it just started to annoy me when I would get a paragraph about a leaf, or some other such minutiae. Add in to that the teaser endings throughout the book where it appears the plot could be done but it’s not because you’re only halfway through the book. It got worse the closer to the end it got because IS THIS THE END? No, there’s still more. NOW? Nope. Still going. Like tripping over stones you think that last one was it and then your toe catches another. It got annoying.
On top of that I really lost interest once Agni and the Dragon parted ways temporarily. When was that, the halfway point or so? Maybe a little later but not much. We got introduced to the political order of the kingdom with balls and politics and showboating and it was just blah. Despite the fact that the Dragon is a pretty crappy character, outside of the un-relationship those two had I did like their interactions. They are what made the story seem so easy to read despite how dense it was. End that and I have to slog through a kingdom capital and by the time I make my way out the other side I’m just over it. I wanted the book to end.
So UPROOTED is one of those books that actually has pretty glorious writing in it and a wonderful world. Very lyrical and engaging when it comes to just the story but it also has a sagging middle and that sagging middle leads to a rough ending because you just had to slog through a bunch of fat. Not to mention Agni is more pushed along in the story with Kasia taking center stage whenever she’s in the scene, being a far more dynamo of a character. Agni does stuff but it’s more reactive where Kasia is a bit more proactive. Plus she’s just more interesting. And the Dragon? No. Crappy character all around, he’s basically a tool to make the plot work. He’s not appealing, he’s not endearing, he doesn’t do anything that would make him likeable but I’m just supposed to be on board with him and then he and Agni’s relationship? No. Doesn’t work for me. Overall it’s a tough one. It’s not that I didn’t like it but I don’t know if I’d necessarily recommend it. I certainly wouldn’t read it again. I’ll put this one in the middle somewhere.
This is another case of where the blurb didn’t hit the mark with what the book was really about. The majority of it alludes to something a bit more teThis is another case of where the blurb didn’t hit the mark with what the book was really about. The majority of it alludes to something a bit more terrifying, perhaps horror-filled, when that’s not really the case at all. At. All. WHAT WE KNEW is actually a contemporary issue book. The blurb goes a bit too much into what is really a minor, background part of the book. The real meat of the story is what’s going on with Tracy and Lisa. And even though the blurb largely got the book wrong, I ended up really liking it.
Stewart went into my head, pulled out teen me, and put her in this book and named her Tracy. I connected with her character on a such an incredibly surreal level that I couldn’t help but having flashbacks to my own high school years. It was pretty eerie. But it made the book feel all the more real to me. While I never went through what Tracy did, because I connected with her as a character so much I ended up feeling incredibly moved by everything that came to a head. We’re talking tears here. I’m not ashamed.
The notion that someone is watching them from the woods is the very thin thread that strings the story together. It actually has very little to do with the story itself and merely the vehicle that drives all of the crap out of the closet with these characters. So at the beginning you get a little bit of that eerie, creepy feeling as the group of teens is walking through the woods and they’ve come across this little camp site after talking about the creepy guy who lives in the woods. And that vibe lingers in your periphery as the story unfolds but because it was made such a prominent point in the blurb I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop with that. It never did, and for a reason. But I was sort of distracted by what was going on over here that it drew me away from what was the more important stuff going on on this side of the story and I think it lessened the impact of the end for me.
To put that into perspective I didn’t have snot just completely flowing out of my face. I was able to keep it in check. Barely.
Even though I was misled in terms of plot it still ended up being a compelling, gripping story with wholly realistic, tangible characters that might as well have been acting it all out in front of me for how real it all was. Everyone was so fully flawed but without being caricatures or just downright unbelievable. They were so incredibly human that when put into perspective with everything else I read I realized that I don’t often find characters as realistic as these in my readings. Sure, I’ve read characters that are real enough but it’s rare that characters are this three dimensional, this life-like, and this relatable to me.
Which would probably explain why I cried like a baby at the end. Like snot-faced, sort of ugly, crying. Well, I guess it technically wasn’t the end. Near the end where everything exploded. My eyeballs went with it.
To put it plainly, this is not a horror novel. Not even close. It’s a bit more Lifetime, a lot more issue-filled than what the blurb even comes close to letting on. But I felt that Stewart got the teens right. I was hooked immediately because I saw so much of myself in Tracy and even though I was following the wrong plot the book brought everything back around in the end with a satisfying, if far from happy, ending. Unfortunately I feel like this is one of those books that’s going to get lost in the shuffle because not a lot does happen, there’s nothing extraordinary with the characters, and the blurb is misleading. It’s unfortunate but I’m glad I stumbled across it.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review....more
Well, here’s another Helen Grace novel that I’ve devoured in its entirety. Seriously, these books are like crack. It’s not that they’re simply writtenWell, here’s another Helen Grace novel that I’ve devoured in its entirety. Seriously, these books are like crack. It’s not that they’re simply written; you just get slingshot from one end of the book to another. The story is concise, written in a succinct, efficient manner that digs into the story, fleshes out characters, and doesn’t leave room for fat. There’s very little not to like here.
The BDSM part that I had some trouble with in EENY, MEENY? Far less of an issue in POP GOES THE WEASEL. It doesn’t happen as often and the dynamic between Helen and her dom is changing and developing and I like where it’s going to I’m softening to that little aspect of her life a little more than what I was before.
Where I had the ‘why isn’t anyone using the emergency function on the cell phones?’ issue in the last book I really didn’t have anything hinging me up in POP. Maybe, in hindsight, what the antagonist did was a bit of a stretch from what she was coming from but that’s purely speculative and I’m playing devil’s advocate. I bought into it all and I loved every second of it. That probably makes me a little demented but that shouldn’t come as any surprise.
Helen’s got a lot of baggage she’s carrying around but it does seem like she’s starting to unpack some of it. After her life blew up for all to see in the last book she was pretty much forced to deal with what’d happened in her life and I think she’s moving toward a better place. That doesn’t mean it’s easy for her or that it won’t be a difficult trip to make but she seemed less wound up, less chilly, and more receptive to people around her despite all that she’d lost previously. She’s making progress but it does make me wonder, considering how damaged a character she is and how egregious these plotlines are, how sustainable it all will be. How much will Helen be able to handle before she just up and breaks entirely? Not that I want a short series but it does make me wonder how long such things can reasonably be drawn out (kind of like the TV show The Following, LOVED the premise but I knew from the beginning they’d only be able to drag something like that out so far and, well, I was right).
I like how we get different perspectives as the story goes on. I think 100% Helen all the time would end up being too much considering her character so we get a little bit of Charlie as she adjusts to what happened to her and going back to work and what it’s done to her home life. And we get Tony as he battles with himself, his wants and needs, and his bed-ridden wife whom he still loves. Plus all the little snippets of story from the victims’, killer, and various others’, perspective. It mixes things up, keeps things constantly interesting without being at all confusing. Despite the fact that the chapters were short I never felt like the story was bouncing around and I never felt thrown out of the story at all. It just worked.
The ending was tragic. That’s all I’ll say to that one.
All in all I think I liked POP GOES THE WEASEL better than EENY, MEENY. It’s not too often I like a second book over the first one. Which only leads me to believe that this series will get better and better. No pressure, MJ. NONE AT ALL.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review....more
I wasn’t as blown away by THE ANATOMY OF CURIOSITY as I was by THE CURIOSITIES but that’s not to say it wasn’t good. Truly, it was. I just didn’t feelI wasn’t as blown away by THE ANATOMY OF CURIOSITY as I was by THE CURIOSITIES but that’s not to say it wasn’t good. Truly, it was. I just didn’t feel as absorbed by it as I did the last one. Maybe because this one was a digital copy and the first one wasn’t and it involved so much more complimentary STUFF to reading the stories and I was missing that here. I don’t know. I don’t have a hard copy of this one so I can’t rightly compare if I’m missing doodles and little notes and tiny asides that would just add to the overall Merry Sisters of Fate reading experience.
But I liked the stories and ANATOMY was more focused on teaching writing to others where CURIOSITIES was more internalized with the authors teaching writing to each other and the readers got to watch their process from the sidelines, munching on popcorn. As a writer I was more involved on a studious level with this one as I read the notes, saw how each other approached writing and just how deeply they all delved into it. I felt wholly inadequate but it also made me think that maybe that’s what I’m missing. That my stuff’s good but not GOOD because it’s missing that level of authorial depth that Stiefvater, Gratton, and Yovanoff put into it. Or maybe my style is just far more chaotic (I seemed to match up with Brenna a bit more here with approach) and I’ve just never been forced to face my own process. My process just happens but maybe if I actually sat down and thought about it I wouldn’t be too far off from these ladies. I don’t know, because writing is so varied.
I liked the “real world” examples of their writing being put up for dissection. ANATOMY isn’t about critiquing but about studying an already polished novella and breaking it down to its basic parts. Basically breaking the finished puzzle apart piece by piece and getting an explanation as to why this corner was laid out first, followed by this blotch of red in the middle, and then this edge section. So even though their finished products were broken apart by the end, it still gave me not only a complete picture of each story but three completely different processes on how each world was created.
It all made me content. ANATOMY is less about telling a story for a story’s sake. Don’t go into this one thinking that you’re going to get a Maggie story, a Brenna story, and a Tessa story. You are but I don’t think they’ll affect you in the same way they usually do. But as a writer it’ll rile up your world and put you at peace with it as it showcases three very different writing styles, the depths of writing, and the glorious finished products that come with it. As a reader it’ll give you a behind-the-scenes look as to how something that really is so short is put together and the incredible amount of brain power used to glue it all together. The amount of work required to make a great story so that you don’t actually see that work is awesome in the true meaning of that word. So while I second-guessed everything that I’ve written I also had my eyes opened even wider and I learned from this book. Had I gotten nothing out of it 1) that would have been a crime and 2) I wouldn’t have been listening (or reading, as it were). If you are receptive to letting these women into your space they will have much to teach you.
Read THE ANATOMY OF CURIOSITY to get a peek inside the brains of three great authors. And read it to make yourself grow as an author. I’m going to file this away with my love for FICTION EDITING (Browne/King) as a tool for helping me. Getting rules talked at you is helpful (to an extent). But seeing authors deconstruct their work just adds a whole other level of learning to writing that I feel greater knowing.
I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review....more
What a lovely book. I don’t think there’s a better word for it than that. Lovely. I really enjoyed myself reading it.
Rachel is an endearing characterWhat a lovely book. I don’t think there’s a better word for it than that. Lovely. I really enjoyed myself reading it.
Rachel is an endearing character who finds herself with her world crashing down around her ears as she discovers her father is still alive and has another family while she and her mother lived from paycheck to paycheck in as respectable a manner as possible. Rachel goes through varying degrees of feelings spanning love, guilt, vengefulness, and forfeiture. She wars with herself constantly as she wants to hate her half-siblings but finds that she can’t because they’re merely products of their environment (which isn’t all money and parties). She wants to hate her father and she does for a while, but after more information surfaces about the whole situation she finds herself waffling on that cause too, and rightly so. What I liked even more about all this is that the situation isn’t neatly tied up in a pretty bow at the end. Rachel hasn’t come to terms with her feelings, has just barely accepted everything that’s happened, but the end note is one of growth and progress. What she does isn’t necessarily a problem-solver, and could actually pose quite a few more problems of its own, but it was the best of the options she had before her and it kind of kills me a little to say that and if you’ve read the book you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s a decision that I could kick back my inner feminist a bit (considering the setting and people involved) and take it for what it was meant to be, which is a really solid, positive ending. I wish there would have been even more independence for Rachel but all things considered it is nice to have someone to lean on.
The story itself was gripping and I had a hard time putting it down when I had to. It didn’t help that the chapters would often end with some kind of exclamation point moment that, in order to find out reactions or what happened, you needed to read the next chapter. And it wasn’t just a few of them. It was pretty much all of them. So much difficulty walking away from the book when I wasn’t finished with it.
I liked the world Willig painted, all glitter and glam on the surface but underneath, and what Rachel saw, was the sloshing, the drunkenness, the vulnerabilities hiding behind facades. Rachel starts off the book thinking money equals having it all but by the end she has a very different opinion of that, watching people like Cece and her step-mother and her half-sister’s fiance and how they maneuver, and react, through life. She had a very narrow view of this world before going incognito and infiltrating their parties but once she was in she had a hard time maintaining her facade. Even the most put-together people had dirt under their nails in some fashion, despite all the show they talked and had unappealing leanings and ended up viewing Rachel as Vera as someone beneath them, even with the guise. It made it all the more real and brought a realistic perspective to a situation that would have otherwise been glamorized.
As the story really picked up I found myself rooting for the best possible outcome and, shock to my black heart, a truly happy ending. I got close. Like I said before the book had a sense of closure at the end without everything being so final. There’s a lot of room left there to explore but Rachel reached her objective and she came to terms, in her own way, with how it all ended up. There were heart-rending moments and points of tears (because I really am a sap) but it was all so satisfying that I had nothing left in me but joy for THE OTHER DAUGHTER.
It’s such a good story. It does the period justice and gave me such wonderful characters that I was ensnared by all of them. Even Simon, who was so aloof and barbish with his words to the point that he must have been hiding from something. There were even characters not to like but they were so richly developed that it was hard not to admire, at the very least, their presence. So I don’t think I have anything bad to say about this book because at this point I’m rambling and fangirling and just read the book, okay?
I received this book fro the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review....more
If a book were ever a smear of shit ground into a white carpet and blasted with a hairdryer, it’s AMBER SMOKE. I’ve never read any of the HOUSE OF NIGIf a book were ever a smear of shit ground into a white carpet and blasted with a hairdryer, it’s AMBER SMOKE. I’ve never read any of the HOUSE OF NIGHT books and I’ve never read a New Adult book so this was a first for me a couple of times over. The blurb just sounded interesting to me. Ignoring every screaming instinct inside me, I requested the book to read. I wanted to give it a shot. Now those instincts are smugly drinking wine and going ‘fucking told you so, didn’t we?’ Yes, yes they did. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a lulz book. September of 2014 was the last one. Before that it was 2012. I don’t come across these too often. But when I do . . .
What I know of NA is that it’s Cinemax for the YA set, which is kind of creepy. But again, benefit of the doubt here. My doubt was pooped on. The MC is this petite little thing with tits like Jenna Jameson and hips like Marilyn Monroe, giving her a GORGEOUS hourglass figure. She’s 23 and still in college. While I certainly can’t complain about that (I didn’t officially get my BA until I was 24) what I can complain about is that Eva isn’t allowed to work because her mom, who’s paying her way, says she wants her to focus on school. With all that FOCUS Eva ends up on the 10 year track because she can’t decide on a major. While I was busy amassing student loan debt, had my parents been paying my way I one: wouldn’t have been able to live at home as if I were in high school while my parents paid for EVERYTHING (that didn’t even happen when I was in high school) and two: that generosity certainly wouldn’t have been bottomless as I farted my way through school trying to find myself. Fuck that.
On top of that she looks like she’s under 17 (there’s mention that she gets carded for R-rated movies). That’s not squicky AT ALL. The dream sex scene that happens later on doesn’t make me cringe IN THE SLIGHTEST. And also, despite her beauty she’s homely BECAUSE SHE HAS GLASSES. How awful. And her daddy abandoned her. What would NA be without a damaged heroine? Nothing, I tell you.
So what we have here is every shitty cliche, with absolutely nothing done to them, rolled into a single book. The chosen one syndrome and insta-love come in a little later. DON’T WORRY.
What was even worse than this line:
Eva felt like her stomach was going to fall out of her butt.
(used to describe Eva’s nervousness when talking to her crush, because anal-expelling stomach contents is the kind of imagery I want in my head when a character is crushing on a guy she’s hot for) was the pseudo-rape scene as a means of building character. Because I couldn’t tell the writing was subpar already, I needed the main character to get sexually assaulted so she could have something to moon over (which she doesn’t so it appears that assault scene was in there for absolutely no reason, which makes it even worse). Look, guys? If rape isn’t necessary to the plot DON’T FUCKING USE IT. There were a million and one ways to show Eva’s crush being a total douchebag that didn’t include her nearly getting raped by him. Just like needlessly killing animals for the sake of character motivation is an abhorrent and unforgivable act of writing, so is using rape to show character, for anyone. Stop it.
Then there’s the scene of the big-boobied MC running away from her attacker (another one, she attracts them) in inappropriately fashionable high heels. Add that to the cliche list. Another to the check list, everyone in positions of authority are absolutely fucking derp heads. Like so dumb how they brush their teeth in the morning without shoving their toothbrushes down their throats I have no idea dumb. From the police to the doctors and nurses, everyone’s a fucking idiot except the MC and her love interest. Best friend helps break you out of the hospital and everyone actually knows that fact. Where’s the safest place to go where no one will THINK to find you? Why, your best friend’s country house, of course. DUH. Derp OMG whur iz she? Alek, the love interest, is Thor. He’s so Thor that the book actually recognizes that like OMG LOOK HOW SELF-AWARE I AM BUT NO REALLY GUYS HE’S TOTALLY MY OWN CREATION BUT HAHA HE ACTS LIKE THOR. Stop it. I’m pretty sure Cast had just watched the Avengers or something before writing this. And the best friend drops that she may be bi-sexual but it’s in more of an attention-seeking “if someone were hot and had money and wanted to protect me I’d fuck ’em, guy or girl” instead of an actual bi-sexual character sort of way. So we have pandering to a marginalized demographic in a completely insulting sort of way. Fun. But, you know, big up to bi-sexuals. Or something . . .
And the relationship between Eva and Alek? The first time they meet she’s unconscious and he rescues her from a torture situation (for real, torture) and by the time he leaves she still hasn’t regained consciousness so EVA hasn’t actually met him yet so we’re looking at maybe 3 minutes of interaction where one party was not in commission and it’s love. For real. And these two are going to come together and fuck for the future in order to save the world. Or something. That’s alluded to in the story.
But I wouldn’t actually know because the book doesn’t have an ending. It’s merely a cut-off point and read the next book to find out what happens. I keep seeing these more and more and it’s infuriating. Don’t pitch me a book as if it’s an actual complete book when it’s not. This is not a complete book. Nothing is actually resolved in it. Shit just keeps getting piled on top of shit and it’s left to fester as the last page ends. That’s not a book. That’s part 1.
So yeah. This made all my worst fears about NA come true. I know I shouldn’t judge a genre by a single book but from what I hear from people whose opinions I trust and have read far more NA than I have, it’s all the same. This trash wasn’t even amusingly awful. I couldn’t enjoy myself at all because it was just atrocious. The writing, the character development, even the other world itself was blah and not what it could be because it was described as little more than caves. There was nothing here for me to latch on to to even nominally enjoy. It was insufferable and made such a short book seem to go on forever.
I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review....more
A bunch of mystery/thrillers set in New York during various decades? Yes, please. Anthologies can end up being a mixed bag (no pun intended) and you nA bunch of mystery/thrillers set in New York during various decades? Yes, please. Anthologies can end up being a mixed bag (no pun intended) and you never know how many of the stories you’re going to end up liking, if any. Most of the writers pitching in to this one I’ve never read so I was going in blind. New York was what drew me, coupled with mysteries.
Luckily MANHATTAN MAYHEM didn’t disappoint at all. It was wonderful, actually. There wasn’t one story in this book that I didn’t like, and that doesn’t happen all that often. None of them were overly long and, in fact, most were rather poignant and didn’t give me a lot of fat to wade through. A lot of them ended rather abruptly with some eye-popping, oh snap! endings that made me a little giddy. Endings that are just like you’re walking along in the story, soaking up the details, and then BOOM. Revelation. End. I was never pissed that that happened (and I sometimes can be) because none of the stories that did end like that ever felt unfinished.
‘The Five Dollar Dress’ by Mary Higgins Clark, the first story in the book, was phenomenal. Short, sweet, to the point and with one of those BOOM endings that with one tiny piece of evidence it said everything it needed to say. ‘Red-Headed Stepchild’ by Margaret Maron was another good one. The BOOM ending was a bit more subdued but it was devious and exquisitely deceptive that I couldn’t help but laugh.’Dizzy and Gillespie’ by Persia Walker was a sad one. I don’t believe it had a BOOM ending but it all wove together like a finely honed blanket and really touched my heart. ‘The Baker of Bleecker Street’ by Jeffrey Deaver was a more classic spy tale from WWII-era New York that had you trying to sift through the details to find out who the double agent was. I was surprised by the ending, of course.
Another great thing about the book was that each story was set in a different Manhattan neighborhood. From Harlem to Hell’s Kitchen, Alphabet City to Wall Street, it covered a good scope of New York and allowed you to read about a wide variety of people all across the island. For a place so small it always amazes me how a few blocks completely changes everything.
An excellent compendium of stories written by some fantastic writers, I highly recommend MANHATTAN MAYHEM to anyone even remotely interested in a good mystery. Or someone looking for a new author to read but doesn’t know who to choose. You have a whole slew of them right here!
I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review....more