Obviously, I picked up Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures for one reasFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
Obviously, I picked up Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures for one reason: Maggie Stiefvater. I’ve become a big Maggie fan since I read Sinner and The Raven Boys, and I’m super glad I can join with the crowd finally. I was torn on Pip Bartlett’s, because it’s even younger than middle grade. But also it’s Maggie. When I got the chance to review it for YA Books Central, I leaped at it, because I am a curious cat, and holy shit those animals on the cover are super cute. Pip Bartlett’s is fun, even for adults. Come for the Maggie, stay for the silliness.
Unsurprisingly, Pip Bartlett’s is far removed from Stiefvater’s previous works, considering that it’s for a different age group and it’s a coauthor project. The writing style isn’t the ornate, lyrical prose that I’ve grown used to at all. The writing’s perfectly suited to the story and the audience, but it’s definitely a change.
The tone also is a big change. Where Stiefvater’s stuff tends to be dark, though not without humor, and I believe Pearce’s does too, Pip Bartlett’s is all fun. Silly jokes, sometimes even gross ones about purple sweat, abound. The animals are the real bringers of the humor, because each creature that these two authors have created has its own strange and hilarious quirks. I particularly love the grumpy Griffin and the paranoid unicorn, Regent Maximus. The fuzzles are even endearing despite their lack of communication and unfortunate tendency to burn things.
Plot-wise, Stiefvater and Pearce do a really nice job talking about nature, the environment, and ecosystems without hitting the readers over the head with a narrative hammer. After Pip gets sent to her aunt for the summer to learn the proper way of interacting with magical creatures, she gets involved in the fuzzle puzzle. Their little town in southern Georgia is overrun with fuzzy little, dust-eating creatures that love underwear drawers and catch on fire. Yeah, it’s a problem. Pip acts like a little biologist and updates her guide with new information throughout.
Pip Bartlett’s will be ideal for the intended audience, which shouldn’t be a surprise. I think they’ll really bond with the inquisitive Pip and will adore the adorable creatures. Even the creatures I wouldn’t want to encounter look and sound awesome. Let’s be real, it’s fun to imagine unicorns and griffins existing even as an adult.
I don’t know if the rest of you guys do this, but I actually read about half of the book aloud to myself, and it really enhanced my reading experience. The characters really lend themselves well to that kind of presentation, and I especially enjoyed reading Regent Maximus. Whether silent or aloud, Pip Bartlett’s is worth a read if you’re still completely fascinated by magical creatures....more
Some of you may know that I wasn’t a fan of Raeder’s debut novel Unteachable,For more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
Some of you may know that I wasn’t a fan of Raeder’s debut novel Unteachable, unlike everyone else I know who read it. While I liked the writing, I couldn’t get past the teacher/student romance, which I probably should have seen coming, since they only very rarely work for me. Obviously, I was a bit nervous trying Black Iris, despite the great advance buzz, since those same people loved Unteachable too. The funny thing is that Unteachable didn’t work for me because of how fucked up the romance was, but Black Iris is a million times more fucked up, and I loved it. What can I say? I like what I like.
On page one, I was hooked. As soon as I started Black Iris, I had absolutely zero interest in anything else I was reading. This is one of those books that starts out compelling and just gets more and more impossible to put down as you get further into it. The way things unravel is masterful. I’ve been taken for a fucked up ride, but I enjoyed every moment of it.
The difference for me in the two books lies in intent. Unteachable was first and foremost a romance, which tied my enjoyment up in whether or not I shipped it. Black Iris has romance, but I’m not certain I’d call it a romance; that really could go either way. Plus, the book warns you what to expect right out the gate, and I do mean in chapter one:
"I’m not the heroine of this story.
And I’m not trying to be cute. It’s the truth. I’m diagnosed borderline and seriously fucked-up. I hold grudges. I bottle my hate until it ferments into poison, and then I get high off the fumes. I’m completely dysfunctional and that’s the way I like it, so don’t expect a character arc where I finally find Redemption, Growth, and Change, or learn How to Forgive Myself and Others.
This quote is one hundred percent on the level. Don’t expect a surprise twist where Laney realizes that vengeance isn’t sweet; this isn’t that kind of story. Don’t expect good sex to cure her. Black Iris starts out fucked up, and it lives down there in the muck and the blood. It very much doesn’t sound like a Christina book, even though I’ve read and loved it. I’m ALL about character arcs, and I’m very much anti drugs. But in Black Iris all of that stuff works, because it’s all important and the book wouldn’t work otherwise. It doesn’t feel like it’s all in there just to add shock value; it’s intrinsic, and it IS the story.
Raeder does a really good job in Black Iris of walking the line between condemnation of acts and endorsement of them. I think a lot of the fucked up stuff comes off as truly fucked up, and it’s not romanticized, but I think Raeder also makes you consider some of the actions from a different angle and see gray where you might once have seen just black and white.
For me, the fact that the characters know they’re fucked up, and they own their decisions is what really makes dark books like Black Iris work for me. Laney’s not looking for forgiveness anymore than she’s going to give it. Black Iris is a very self-aware book. Ironically, I end this book shipping relationships more unhealthy than in the book where the romance infuriated me; I do see the irony, but the shippy feels cannot be contained. (view spoiler)[I shall remain on the sinking OT3 of Laney, Blythe, and Armin. I feel like they had better balance and more potential long term than Laney and Blythe alone. Plus, they are insanely hot and sexy in every iteration. (hide spoiler)]
Leah Raeder’s writing is poetry like a bat to the face. It’s gorgeous, lyrical, lilting, but it’s also sharp, metallic and bitter. Her prose is the taste of blood on your tongue. Raeder excels at writing feelings in this brutal way where they just punch the reader right in the brain. Everything’s immediate, raw, and harsh, yet oddly lovely in its broken honesty. This dichotomy in Raeder’s writing is what really makes her writing stand out to me from all the other books I read.
Black Iris is told using confusing time jumps, which oddly enhanced the experience. I was constantly struggling to piece things together, but it felt right to have to do so. Laney and her story aren’t straight forward. She’s an unreliable narrator, and she doesn’t want you to be able to add things up until she’s ready for you to add them all up. She leaves things out, mixes them up, and makes the reader unsure.
You know what writing technique I pretty much always hate? The one where the book you’re reading is supposedly by the main character of said book. However, I love the way Raeder uses this trope in Black Iris. For one thing, that’s not used for the final twist; it’s something you know pretty early on, and Raeder/Laney throw this postmodern hyper-awareness that it’s a book at you constantly. We’re told over and over that Laney’s an unreliable character, both directly and through reference. Knowing that this is the novel Laney wrote adds another layer to Black Iris which made me constantly question everything. Even so, I was not prepared and I didn’t see anything coming.
Black Iris is a level of fucked up that the term “fucked up” doesn’t really prepare you for. I’m still not sure if I think of Black Iris as a romance or not. One thing I know for sure is that I will be thinking about Black Iris for a while. I also know that I’ll be ordering a finished copy for myself.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more