Oh, this book you guys. I can already predict the mixed reaction people will have to it. Personally, I liked the novel but thought it quite confusing...moreOh, this book you guys. I can already predict the mixed reaction people will have to it. Personally, I liked the novel but thought it quite confusing and fractured until I reached the end. You could have heard an audible click as my brain turned gears and things suddenly made sense. All those loose ends, all those “I don’t quite know what’s happenings,” all of those questions are suddenly answered and it’s a long moment of “Oh snap.”
The book is a thriller, featuring a serial killer with a penchant for nubile young things who will not fight back, a father who cannot get over the death of his wife and two sisters who mix together like oil and water. I liked Rory and Darcy anyway. Though they are not exactly the ideal sisters, they are realistic ones and for once, I was totally on board with the decision Rory makes where the boy is concerned. Even though she likes him and he likes her back, she recognizes on some intrinsic level (or you know, decency) that going out with your sister’s ex-boyfriend is wrong. She chooses her sister over the boy and you know what? This may be the first time I’ve come across a YA novel in which such a thing happened.
Anyway, I thought that was awesome. The setting is well described and there were many times while reading the novel that I wanted to be there where it was warm and sunny and not here where it is cold and rainy but c’est la vie. The other characters are eerie and interesting but you won’t know what their deal is till the end so I won’t say much about them. Reading this novel is an experience that I think you should have without considering anything else. There are so many things about this novel I can’t say without giving it away but I did enjoy how love and romance take a backseat to the primary narrative: that of the serial killer…who is not as frightening as Libba Bray’s villain but is sufficiently creepy.
Anyway, read this book. It may seem a bit fragmented but it’s really cleverly structured. Things don’t fall into place until the end but when they do, they do with a bang. I’m not saying the novel is perfect, it isn’t, but I do think this novel is one of the more interesting ones out there. I can’t wait for the second one in the series.(less)
The Edge of Nowhere was unlike the majority of young adult novels where the reader gets the sense from the first chapter that the novel involved deals...moreThe Edge of Nowhere was unlike the majority of young adult novels where the reader gets the sense from the first chapter that the novel involved deals with teenagers. There was an uneasy balance struck between the tone of the narrator and the events occurring in the narrative. The protagonist sounds older than she actually is and it was rather apparent that the author does not usually write in a teenager’s perspective – in books aimed for teenagers. An awkwardness in the style and the diction that is not quite convincing. That said, the novel is quite easy to read and the main character, despite sounding older than she is, quite likable.
She is remarkably self-contained and makes some rather sound decisions that I looked askance at. There was a bit too much telling rather than showing and the adult characters, interestingly enough, sounded much like the protagonist. The writing could have done with some polishing as there were sentences that dangled awkwardly (I’m sorry, I’m using this word quite a lot but it is an apt description). What I did like about the novel was that the love interest was Ugandan – what I didn’t like was that he spent most of the novel in a coma and thus, was not an active part of the narrative and the least developed of all characters.
I liked the other guy character whose name I cannot, for the life of me, remember. I thought it was interesting that he defied all efforts to categorize him and his relationship with his grandfather is pretty sweet. (The grandfather addressing the grandson as “favourite male grandson” all the time was a tad bit unbelievable as it is human nature to short names and endearments and not, as illustrated here, lengthen them.) The friendship between Becca and this guy is one of the strongest part of the novel and the fact that it is purely platonic is even better. Right, Seth is his name. Seth has enough girl problems of his own with the girl who cheated on him and who has issues she does not want to share but needs to.
The primary issue, Becca fleeing from her criminal stepfather and then being abandoned by her mother on the island, is not solved at all. The so-called mystery that the book is focused on is, I must say it, quite lame. And most annoying of all is the lackluster cliffhanger the author leaves us on. I saw it coming a mile ago and being a passionate hater of all things cliffhangery was not impressed. I will probably read the next book in the series or trilogy but I wouldn’t urge you to go and purchase a copy of the novel. Check it out from the library if you really want to.(less)
I almost don’t want to write a review for this one. I want to keep my feelings for the novel unexpressed so the emotions I felt while reading it remai...moreI almost don’t want to write a review for this one. I want to keep my feelings for the novel unexpressed so the emotions I felt while reading it remain unsullied by the analytical thinking that usually accompanies any review writing I do. However, this book is too beautiful for me to not talk about. Too beautiful for me to not urge you to read.
The writing in this book is what separates The Sea of Tranquility from others of its ilk. The writing is what makes it distinct. The rawness of the pain, the despair in the words, the realness of the characters – these are all things that makes the book so very strong. People who like fast paced, plot driven books will not like this one. The pacing lags, sometimes too much, and things happen very slowly. The book is not devoted to action or to things happening. Rather, the books offers you an unveiled view into how a girl breaks apart into several pieces and then tries to put herself back together in the only way she knows how.
Nastya is one of the strongest protagonists I have read recently. From all the walls she has built around herself to all the little rituals she must do in order to feel safe in a world that has hurt her so badly, she is unabashedly original. While I do not always agree with the actions she takes or the decisions she makes, I understand why she does what she does (except for the whole thing with Josh, that I do not understand). I see the glimpses of the girl she used to be in the cracks in her new personality. As much as she denies who she was, as much as she proclaims that the girl she was is dead, the reader is able to see the truth – to feel the truth. Josh is just as enigmatic and his grief is enormous but where his pain is tampered by acceptance, by numbness, Nastya’s pain flames, sometimes smoldering, sometimes raging.
Drew is a strong character in his own right and a very interesting one at that. He is whole different types of stereotypes put together to create someone new with facets you wouldn't be able to guess, someone layered that you can try to figure out but who keeps on surprising you. While Nastya’s relationship with Josh is made of cookies and a sharing of pain, Nastya’s friendship with Drew is full of acceptance. There are some things Drew does that I don’t understand nor do I like but such is the nature of humanity.
This is not a book that you can sum up prettily and pass a sentence on. You cannot say to read it or not to read it, you cannot say it was nice or mediocre. You need to experience it. It isn’t flawless by any means, there are portions where stuff seems repetitive and the pacing is unbearably slow but the payoff is worth it. The book takes pain, a thousand different kinds of pain, puts it under a microscope and examines it in detail. For all the heavy themes this book deals with, it is very easy to read. Not because the words are so gorgeously arranged into sentences that seem to peer into your soul and speak your pain but because the people you read about probably do exist out there in the world somewhere.
I liked how Nastya thinks she has nothing special left to her now that her music has been taken away from her not realizing that baking is her new talent. She doesn’t just bake, she creates and while it is something so prosaic, so common, it is hers. I loved how that is left implicit, the author lets the reader figure out what Nastya's new talent is.
I was very impressed with Katja Millay’s debut novel and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next. I recommend this to anyone who wants to read a truly excellent book. A book that will linger in your mind, making you think beyond the next sparkly vampire.(less)
I feel that authors should have this mantra running in their heads when attempting lyrical prose or any prose that attempts to be poetic: less is more...moreI feel that authors should have this mantra running in their heads when attempting lyrical prose or any prose that attempts to be poetic: less is more.
Well, that is one of them anyway. While Broken did not lead the terrible assault on my senses as Mafi’s Shatter Me did, it came close. The trouble with poetic prose is that it must be used sparingly in order to have the most impact – I am learning this lesson myself as I study writing. However, poetry does not give a writer the right to string together metaphors that make no sense when analyzed. Metaphors, similes etc are present for a reason other than just to look pretty. I think that many recent authors who attempt this style tend to forget this. When you study literature, read the poetry of the olden times, try Alexander Pope or John Donne (who is my personal favourite). Read Shakespeare. Their rhetoric is brilliant and gorgeous but more than the superficial beauty of the words strung together, it is the meanings held within these words that elevate these poets to the status of masters of their periods.
So stuff like windows hurling themselves may sound pretty but do not hold up to further thought. If I were to give my professional opinion on this novel, I would say it seemed like the first draft of a potentially interesting novel. This novel needs work in the pacing as well as the writing. Ignoring the technical bits, the most detrimental to this novel is its unnecessarily slow pace. There are characters whose roles are limited but who keep on making appearances just to bolster the main characters’ appeal. The locker deal? Been there, done that. Move on. Then there is the pathos, oh the pathos, kill me dead and gone. The most ridiculous of everything is Emma’s insistence on hanging around a cemetery when her dead boyfriend doesn’t even have a grave. She talks about how much she wishes there was a grave…and I wasn’t convinced. I have read other books that depict grief in a very raw form and there was never any need for a grave – just the sense of loss that is prominent in everything the grieving character does, from breathing to eating to existing.
The slut-shaming is also prominent in this novel. The stereotyping and blanket assumptions of a girls’ sexuality turned me off further. The novel does pick up its pace in the last stretch but by then it was too late. My attention had been truly lost and I was reading more for the sake of getting it over with than any desire to find out what happened to Emma. This novel was most certainly not for me. I don’t know how younger readers may feel about it but I wasn’t enamored.(less)
The premise of this novel is not original – amnesia seems to be affecting quite a number of YA protagonists – but the characterization of the main cha...moreThe premise of this novel is not original – amnesia seems to be affecting quite a number of YA protagonists – but the characterization of the main character in all her blank glory reads far more authentically than others. Violet is like a blank slate – I am not certain she is even human. Who she is, what she is, where she is from – these are questions that seem to have no answers to her. It is more than amnesia that affects her, however. Violet doesn’t seem to know anything. Not hugs, not macaroni and cheese, nothing. She is a blank slate and Brody does a fantastic job in portraying that.
The novel is compulsively readable with a rapid pace and sequences with high tension and danger. There are men in black trying to capture Violet and a strange boy who makes Violet feel emotions she doesn’t understand. I thought that the execution of the whole romance portion a bit tired. It didn’t make sense that (spoiler) Violet (aka Sera) would erase not just the boy she purports to love but also the memories of their time together while knowing that the trip they’re planning to take is chockfull of uncertainties and there are no guarantees that things would go as smoothly as they had hoped it would.
Zen has a lot of potential as a character but right now he is limited by his role as a love interest. He is defined by it and he is not rounded as a character with his own dreams, thoughts and desires that exist outside his love for Violet. The plot is very interesting and again, has a lot of space for further development but the latter part of the novel is rushed and the ending, a somewhat cliffhanger, does not answer questions that I really want have answered. Who and what is Sera? Is she human? The manner in which Sera/Violet handles her stepbrother is abrupt and perhaps a bit too neat to suit the story.
While the novel is entertaining, these gaping holes and unanswered questions make for a clunky read with frequent pauses as you try to decipher what’s going on. Perhaps the story will find its rhythm in the second book in the series. For now, I say give it a whirl. It’s not the best one out there, but it is entertaining. You may like it more than I did. (less)
American Born Chinese is an excellent coming of age tale that shows how a boy comes to terms with his culture and cultural heritage. How he finally co...moreAmerican Born Chinese is an excellent coming of age tale that shows how a boy comes to terms with his culture and cultural heritage. How he finally comes to accept his identity. It’s told in a different way than just a straight up graphic novel. The author makes use of myth, illusion and some magical realism to create a very strong graphic novel. I liked how the author makes the protagonist confront his greatest fears about his own self and see all the horrible things as he perceives them about his culture and accept it all anyway. And I like that he does all this without being sentimental or melodramatic. I enjoyed this.(less)
I found this relatively short, wordless, picture book to be amazing. The book is about a girl looking at herself in the mirror and the art is stark an...moreI found this relatively short, wordless, picture book to be amazing. The book is about a girl looking at herself in the mirror and the art is stark and somehow so earnest. It presents this fascinating concept of not just looking at yourself in the mirror but also recognizing the image in the mirror as yourself. What if the image isn’t you? Even though it looks like you, acts like you and seems like you? How do you know? And when you break the mirror, are you also shattering? Fascinating sequences and beautiful art! Check it out.(less)
Stitches is an autobiography in graphic novel form. It tells, unflinchingly, the story of a boy who wakes up with a lump in his throat that goes untre...moreStitches is an autobiography in graphic novel form. It tells, unflinchingly, the story of a boy who wakes up with a lump in his throat that goes untreated even though his father works in the medical field and knows better than to let such things go unchecked. The graphic novel details the life of David Small, his oppressive family, his horrible mother and his absent father. It tells the criminal neglect that lets the cancer in Small’s throat develop until one of his vocal chords has to be removed and it shows how Small regains his voice. And it shows everything with such start simplicity and honesty, that you cannot help but respond to it. It’s admittedly biased but if I were a kid and I went through the things he did, I would be writing a book like this too. I recommend it.(less)
I am going to be brutally honest with you guys. I have never been a fan of Stiefvater’s works. I have read two of her books and thought her overhyped....moreI am going to be brutally honest with you guys. I have never been a fan of Stiefvater’s works. I have read two of her books and thought her overhyped. I mean, I enjoyed Ballad but was decidedly unimpressed with Shiver, plus with the whole “you guys write blog posts instead of reviews” hullabaloo, I thought I may as well keep my distance from her and the books she wrote. Until I went to the library the other day and found The Raven Boys staring at me slyly from the shelves, tempting me, singing sweet siren songs until I was overcome by helplessness and plucked it off the shelf, checked it out and bore it home in my book bag.
Then it sat on my table, waiting for me to give me the attention I simply didn’t have time to give. Until one fated night when I, for some reason or the other, decided to give in and read a couple of chapters. I only meant to read a couple of chapters, I promise. I certainly didn’t intend to read the entire book in one sitting. I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. However, I will say this now, I am glad I gave in to temptation and I am glad I decided to distance the author from her work because The Raven Boys is one of the best books I have read all year.
I like quirky books. Books that present something different, offer something new and The Raven Boys did all that. The characterizations are one of the best aspects of the novel, each character is individuated and holds literary weight. Gansey, Adam, Noah and Ronan are all so strongly delineated with larger than life personalities that almost jump out of the pages and into real life. Blue, refreshingly enough, is not drowned out by the boys but holds her own as do her mother and the other two women. Even the villainous aunt has an individual spark to her as does the Latin teacher. I loved the dynamics of the relationships, all the relationships between the characters. The friendships and the enmities, the desperation, the misery, grief and despair. The love that cannot be and the love that should not be. The give and take of the friendship between the boys and the bewildered genius of Gansey who remains one of the most intriguing protagonists ever. Blue is interesting on her own, her reactions to people, her interest in Adam, her knowledge that her kiss will be fatal to her true love – all these elements come together to create a character with depth, a character you want to read about and go on a literary journey with.
The beginning of the novel is fascinating. Dark, atmospheric and auguring a terrible grief. It spices up the narrative and warns the readers to not get too complacent and not to expect too much in the way of predictability. The plot has twists that you really cannot imagine, especially where one of the characters is concerned. I liked how sophisticated the narrative style is. Even though there is a large cast of characters and multiple viewpoints shown, there is no awkwardness in the transitions. The plot moves smoothly and does not hit a snag in a way that will jar the reader out of the narrative. I was surprised by Adam and Blue’s fledgling relationship because I was sure Gansey was the one but this just tells me that the author has more surprises up her sleeves. Adam is a fascinating character. His trajectory alone, his arc in the story alone could have made for a very readable book but woven into the narrative as it is, his story becomes intriguingly interspersed within the myriad experiences that construct The Raven Boys.
I liked this one a lot, as I said before. If you want a strong story with incredible characters living incredible lives, read this book. I recommend it.(less)
I quite enjoyed Demon Lover, the first in the series so I expected to like The Water Witch just as much. Unfortunately, some elements in the novel pre...moreI quite enjoyed Demon Lover, the first in the series so I expected to like The Water Witch just as much. Unfortunately, some elements in the novel prevented me from immersing myself into the world as fully as I wanted to and this in turn affected my enjoyment of it.
I think there were too many things occurring in the novel and not enough attention given to all of them. There are a lot more supernatural beings added to the mix, the Nordic (I think) handyman gets badly hurt and is stuck somewhere in the ever after, Callie gets dangerously addicted to a faery drug (or not, I wasn’t quite sure), there is another supremely hot male who has ambivalent plans for Callie, Callie’s grandmother waltzes into town, there are Elves who call themselves Seraphim and oh, Liam makes another appearance in the form of someone I won’t tell you who and there’s a handyman called Bill (I am not making this up).
For all the events populating the plot, the story itself seems to lack tension. It’s not gripping and I found it difficult to find myself caring. Even though the odds are high, the door to faery could close, Callie assures the reader she has it under control when that is the last thing she does. I wished the author had chosen one thing out of all the things happening and worked to develop it as much as was possible before introducing something else.
The ending is just too simplistic and not in a good way. I didn’t like the ending and I didn’t like the way the romance angle played out. It seemed a bit too cliché. I don’t know, you guys, the book wasn’t for me. I may still read the third one because I am curious but I certainly didn’t think much of the sequel to the Demon Lover – especially when I think about what the demon lover ended up as.(less)
The Almost Truth is my first Eileen Cook novel and I waltzed into it armed with nothing but the heady feeling of reading a book by a local author. Eve...moreThe Almost Truth is my first Eileen Cook novel and I waltzed into it armed with nothing but the heady feeling of reading a book by a local author. Ever since I started my Masters program, I have been meeting a lot of local authors who write for children and young adults and for the first time ever, I feel a certain fascination with these brilliant people who dig deep into themselves and produce such startling results. Even though I may not personally love all the books I read, I still respect that they write. Anyway, on to the review proper.
The Almost Truth presents a plot that has almost certainly been seen in previous young adult novels. The protagonist is a con artist doing small time cons to supplement her wages so that she can escape the poverty that has ruled her life. When her mother “borrows” the money she had been saving, taking away her chance to escape, Sadie decides to run the biggest con of her life. She sees a poster for a missing child whom she happens to resemble and decides that hey, easy money. I remember reading a book by Lisa McMann that dealt with the same premise with various differences, of course.
What I liked about this book is the angle the author takes to present the premise. The angle is skewed, instead of conning the parents, the main characters decide to be different. I won’t tell you how – for that you have to read but just know that it’s different and it’s interesting. I really liked Sadie as a character. She has a tough life and she has some very obvious flaws but she doesn’t dither and she doesn’t give in to pathos. There is angst but I found it refreshingly juxtaposed with some good sense. The book explores themes of identity and social status. It questions the value of money and the bonds between people whether related by blood or otherwise. The book is quite short so the pacing is very brisk and this works until the very end which I will talk about later.
The romance is interesting but I don’t think the love triangle was particularly necessary in this instance. Cook could have devoted the same time to developing Sadie’s increasing awareness of the wrongness in her life especially since that love triangle somehow fizzled away without adding much to the primary narrative. It also introduced an inconsistency to the character that was at odds with the way he was presented. Also, I liked Brendan a lot and I think more time could have been spent developing the relationship between him and Sadie.
I did not agree with how things pan out in the end and this is probably just me. I am not very forgiving and I thought that the whole issue wrapped up a bit too neatly for my tastes. I wanted some blood, to be honest. I also wanted to know what happens after the book ends – Sadie is such a strong character that I wanted to accompany her on this new journey she was setting out on and I was slightly miffed that I wouldn’t be able to (noooo!!).
However, after everything is said and done, The Almost Truth is extremely readable. It is short and packs quite a punch. It is entertaining but also has depth in the questions it asks its readers. So while I do have some minor quibbles with it, I recommend it.(less)