Very rarely do you see sex handled well in YA--at least, not in paranormal YA. Sometimes you do come across a contemporary novel that handles it, but...moreVery rarely do you see sex handled well in YA--at least, not in paranormal YA. Sometimes you do come across a contemporary novel that handles it, but it’s rarely ever the focal point of such a novel. I’ve always been a little disappointed about this, since, despite what people seem to believe, teens do have sex and masturbate and do all kinds of things society tries to tell them not to do. To not acknowledge this in a novel focusing on teens continues to do them a disservice.
Sex takes up a large part of Anatomy of a Boyfriend. Specifically, meeting someone you realize you want to have sex with, and having sex for the first time. And it’s handled well. The build up from heavy petting to the actual, awkward first time is believable and genuine, and it was nice to see a teenage girl in a YA novel who wanted sex and wasn’t punished for it.
Even better, the sex isn’t wonderfully epic the first time--there are a lot of missteps between Dom and Wes, and Dom doesn’t even have an orgasm herself from anything Wes does because he doesn’t know what he’s doing. And best of all, at one point in the novel, Dom experiments and manages to get herself off with a personal massager. When do we ever see that in a YA?
Fortunately there were a lot of other good things about Anatomy of a Boyfriend. The writing style and Dom’s voice were very real and believable as a teenager, and her experiences going through her first real love made me alternately laugh and cringe at memories of my own first love experience.
I enjoyed Dom as a character but she’s one that readers are going to be divided on; either they’ll love her or they’ll hate her because she is a very realistic seventeen year old. She has her flaws and her judgmental attitudes about things, and she can behave like a real brat at times. She tried my patience once or twice, but honestly the moments where she acted like a brat just made her more likable because she felt real.
I do wish her best friend Amy had gotten the same kind of depth--basically she’s just a really horny 17 y/o and every conversation she’s a part of includes some kind of sexual innuendo, which got old fast--but I did appreciate how close she and Dom were. Wes was a cute enough love interest, and Snadowsky did a good job of showing us why Dom would be attracted to him while also giving really subtle clues as to why he and Dom wouldn’t work out in the long run.
If there were any quibbles I had with the novel, it’s that in the first few pages there’s a pretty ridiculous and offensive portrayal of a fat woman. It’d be one thing if Dom were judging her for being fat, but the writing backs it up by fulfilling pretty much all of the stereotypes of a fat person. I get the intent was to have Wes and Dom’s first meeting be horrifically humiliating, but there were other ways to go about it than that. As a fat person myself, it left a bad taste in my mouth and did not set a good first impression for the rest of the book. Thankfully I did end up enjoying it, but still.
Dom also has a few moments of slut shaming, although sadly I could see how this is realistic for a teenage girl to both be sexually active and still judge others and call them “sluts”, or worse, judge herself as possibly being slutty. It’s not very often that Dom does this, though, thankfully.
Given all of this, I’m interested in seeing what comes next in Dom’s story in Anatomy of a Single Girl. Hopefully I’ll be just as impressed.
See more of my reviews at On The Nightstand. Finished copies of both this book and the sequel were provided by the author for an honest review.(less)
**spoiler alert** I’m a fan of Patricia C. Wrede’s work, having become one when I read Sorcery and Cecelia, which was co-written with Caroline Steverm...more**spoiler alert** I’m a fan of Patricia C. Wrede’s work, having become one when I read Sorcery and Cecelia, which was co-written with Caroline Stevermer. The Enchanted Forest series is probably her best work written by herself, so I had high hopes for this novel when I bought it.
I didn’t end up as in love with the book as I had hoped. Wrede does present a good retelling of the original story, which itself is not a fairy tale that can easily be turned into a story that makes sense. But it was a difficult book to get through, mostly because of the dialogue. The dialogue sounded authentic, right down to sentence structure, but it was mismatched with the description that was written in a more modern language. It was in a style different enough to be noticeable when two characters have finished a long conversation in Elizabethan language, and then large paragraphs of relatively modern description follow. The constant switching of styles was distracting and hard to keep up with, causing the dialogue to be frustrating at times. On top of that, there often seemed to be infodumps in certain places, where we were told things happened and characters did such and such, just so we could get on to the next plot point.
There seemed to be a few too many villains as well. We have three villains in Faerie, who in turn are using the two villains in the mortal world, then at one point a villager named Joan Brewes becomes a slight villain. I don’t honestly believe Joan was needed. She didn’t feel like a natural part of the story, except to fan the flames concerning the Widow Arden and her daughters witchcraft. That was all she was, really; a plot point, a character existing solely to get things moving to the next plot point. I wasn’t pleased how she was portrayed as a promiscuous woman, either; everything she does is to get some man into her bed, and the subtext I was finding was that only bad women are sexual. She did things that were morally wrong, yes, but I still wasn’t happy with her character much.
The three villains in Faerie at least served some purpose, though they weren’t exactly well written either. Madini, a lady in waiting for the Faerie Queen, is your standard bad guy. She smirks evilly, smiles cruelly, and denigrates her cohorts, ensuring that they’ll later betray her. And they do indeed betray her later in the story. Their motive was clear--they wanted to separate Faerie from the mortal world because they hate mortals--but other than that they didn’t feel like actual characters, not like the main five did. Like Joan they were there simply to serve a purpose and add more danger to the story, with varying success.
The two human villains, John Dee and Ned Kelly, were at least better written than Madini and her minions. Dee is somewhat sympathetic, having more of a moral code than Kelly, and I found myself actually kind of hoping he wouldn’t die in the end. Kelly is less sympathetic in his greed and lust for power, but somehow he’s still somewhat likable. He and Dee have an interesting dynamic and relationship, and at times it was more fun to read about them than it was Blanche and Rosamund. They were better villains than the three Faerie characters, at least.
The romance, at least, is better written than the rest of the story. Wrede allows the characters to interact and we see why they would be good for each other--though it felt like she neglected Blanche and Hugh at times in favor of John and Rosamund. Though, with Hugh unable to speak for some of the novel and other things having to happen, it’s understandable if still a bit annoying. It truly did feel out of the blue when Hugh asked his mother for Blanche’s hand in marriage at the end of the novel, because we’d seen so little of them up until that point, even though you know they’re going to end up married to each other. Perhaps it’s just an extension of the characters themselves, though; John and Rosamund are the more up front, outgoing personalities, so maybe it was a stylistic choice to have their romance more looked at than Blanche and Hugh’s. Blanche and Hugh are the quieter, more introverted of the siblings, and their romance is likewise slow and not paid much attention to save for a few throwaway descriptions.
As for the ending, I was left unsatisfied with it. There was too much going on all at once and it seemed like Wrede didn’t quite know how to pull it all together cohesively. We have Dee and Kelly confronting the Widow Arden, Blanche, Rosamund and John as they try another spell to free Hugh of his enchantment; they were followed by a random character who was sent to investigate the rumors of witchcraft in the town, and he could have been completely removed from the story without hurting it one bit; then Madini shows up, and there’s a whole lot of talking for an ending. Kelly makes threats, Dee tries to lure him away as yelling at women is not a favored hobby of his. After they are scared away by Hugh, who shows up as a bear, Madini trades snipes with the family and does absolutely nothing except make vague remarks and threats. The good guys all talk in front of her about what they should do before she finally leaves, and with Hugh transformed back into a person, they go back to Faerie to talk to the Queen.
The Faerie Queen allows the Widow Arden and her daughters to travel between Faerie and the mortal world whenever they wish, for saving her sons. She casts John out as a mortal, but then extends the same offer to him. She allows Blanche and Rosamund to marry her sons, and it’s said at the end that they all lived in Faerie for the rest of their lives. But what happens after that? Madini could not have been the only fairy who had a dislike of humans; surely someone else would have made a fuss over the Queen allowing mortals to marry into the throne. It’s said that no one would dare go against the Queen, but obviously Madini did, and other fairy creatures dislike mortals as well. Were there not some rumblings of dissent in Faerie because of this? It didn’t seem to be of any consequence that two mortal girls were joining the royal family when it should have been.
Snow White and Rose Red isn’t a horrible read, but it’s not great either. You can definitely tell it’s one of Wrede’s first works, and it’s not as polished as her later novels. There’s simply too much going on in the story; too many villains and minor villains that serve no real purpose except to be evil and lead the plot along. I know Wrede wanted to accurately portray the atmosphere of the 1580s by adding in the witch hunter, but he ultimately served no purpose except to further clog up the ending with unneeded details. In everything else Wrede portrays a 1580s England beautifully, down to the dialogue and the setting descriptions. Blanche and Rosamund are okay leading ladies, though their personalities are a little one dimensional. I found myself liking the human villains and the Widow Arden more than the main four characters. It’s not horrible, it’s not great; it’s very much so-so. Stick with Wrede’s Enchanted Forest series or Sorcery and Cecelia if you want to see her at her best.(less)
For all that there is very little information on Angelica Voglia outside of what Queen Christina wrote, Dines has done a great job of fleshing out and...moreFor all that there is very little information on Angelica Voglia outside of what Queen Christina wrote, Dines has done a great job of fleshing out and embellishing her life into something believable. Never did something make me stop and go, “No, come on, that would not have happened”. Everything was realistic and Dines has obviously done her research well, despite the fact that there are very few accounts of common life in 1600s Italy.
I think what I liked the best out of this story was the numerous women characters and their relationships with each other. It occurred to me about half way through that the amount of women characters vastly outnumbered the male characters, and none of the women characters were set up as villains to Angelica. In fact, while there are jealousies and competition in the book, they’re not spent a lot of time with, and Angelica’s friendships with other women outnumbers the ones who try to harm her. Angelica even stands up for a few who, if you went with modern YA story lines, she should be jealous of and hate. In fact, most often in the storyline, Angelica depends on other women to help her through tough times, and her escape into Queen Christina’s court is aided by another woman. It’s sad to think how rare this is in most books, especially YA, but it’s wonderful to see it in at least one book.
The relationships that were written the best, in my opinion, were the ones between Angelica and the Queen, and Angelica and her family’s maid, Lucia. Angelica and Lucia were really good friends who could depend on each other no matter what, and they were willing to do anything for each other. Even though at times I do think Lucia was bad for Angelica, in the end I really admired their friendship. Queen Christina and Angelica had a very sweet, mother-daughter relationship. You can tell that Angelica truly does respect and love the Queen, even when she starts to doubt that Queen Christina will keep her around all that long. The way Angelica can easily decipher what mood the Queen is in just by how she holds her hands, for example, is a great way of showing how close the two have become. There’s definitely a lot of respect and admiration between the two, and it was nice to find a mother figure who could love Angelica in a way her mother didn’t.
I do wish that maybe Angelica’s relationship with her sister, Bianca, had been given more focus, but considering how much Dines packs into a 320 page book, I can understand why it wasn’t. What we’re given is good, though, as the two sisters are very different in their ambitions in life, and Bianca feels betrayed that Angelica has started to confide more in Lucia than her. In the end their rift is too wide to really do anything about, and they grow too far apart.
Another good point was how the villains weren’t stereotypical villains, and while they did things that greatly disadvantages the protagonists, they’re never seen as wholly evil and misguided. In fact, the main reason Angelica’s life is so hard, Pope Innocent XI, is probably the most surprising character in that he and Queen Christina have a strange sort of respect for each other, and while they disagree heavily, they remain kind.
The writing, also, was very nice. Most of the important characters are fleshed out and given motives and flaws and strengths, and Angelica’s voice in particular comes through quite strong. The pacing is slow, encompassing about two or three years of Angelica’s life and the major events that happened within those years, but I never felt bored with it.
There were some things that I didn’t really like, namely the romance between Angelica and a French artist named Theodon. Personally I was far more interested in Angelica’s journey to the castle to pay much attention to her growing romance with Theodon. I never really thought they would work out; I mean, they don’t even talk to each other face to face until maybe more than a hundred pages away from the end. Their relationship must be kept secret in case Angelica’s mother finds out, so they send notes to each other, and Theodon stands outside her window to hear her sing. It’s great if that’s the kind of romance you’re into, but it never really worked for me, sadly.
The Queen’s Soprano is a great book that needs more attention. It has a strong cast of characters, good writing, and while there were a few problems here and there, all in all it’s a wonderful book that I’ll likely read again in the future. (less)
I read and loved Fisher’s book Incarceron, which I found to be a very smart fantasy book, so I was interested in reading what else she’d written. Most...moreI read and loved Fisher’s book Incarceron, which I found to be a very smart fantasy book, so I was interested in reading what else she’d written. Mostly so I could fill the gap between Incarceron and Sapphique. This one caught my eye due to the unique mix of Greek and Egyptian cultures. Plus, working to overthrow a conspiracy? Sign me right up.
I was entertained by The Oracle Betrayed, but it didn’t quite blow me away. That’s not to say it was horrible or mediocre, but it definitely didn’t draw me completely in. There’s a lot of good about the book; it outweighs the bad, in fact. But it just didn’t completely impress me.
I’ll start with the bad since there’s not a lot of it. The pacing was odd at times and it was especially slow in the beginning. Once all the main characters meet up it picks up, but there were still a few passages where it felt like it was going slower than it should have. The villains didn’t really get enough exposure, although since this is the first in a trilogy I hope they’re better fleshed out in the next two books. They were just there to be evil and stuff, although there were a few instances where they did actually feel threatening and like they really could win. I hope we get more of their backstory and motivation in the next two books.
The world building in this book is great. It’s obviously a fully realized world and Fisher does a great job of describing it and fleshing it out with little throw away sentences or paragraphs. I really enjoyed the mixture of Greek and Egyptian cultures, although honestly in this book it’s more Egyptian than it is Greek. A few mentions are made to the Island which is obviously the Greek counterpart in this world, but we don’t really see much of it. Still, it’s an intriguing world and I’m looking forward to reading more about it in the next two books.
I did like the characters, even though they weren’t particularly deep. As I mentioned above with the villains not having much of a backstory or motivation in this novel, I never wondered which side Seth was on. It was obvious at times we were meant to wonder if he was going to stay out of the whole ordeal and abandon everyone, but honestly, we know he’s going to keep up the fight and help Mirany and the others. There was some great conflict that could have been set up for Mirany, who doesn’t believe in the god she’s supposed to spend her life serving, but it was only addressed a few times and did not impact her choices that much. Near the end of the book, the god says that “at one time she didn’t believe he existed”, and she responds with “I’m still not sure.” Um, well, it’s kind of late to worry about that now, since you’re fighting for him and all. So I’d hope you’d have a better idea of what you’re fighting for than that. It’s just never brought up unless the scene calls for it, so that was a little disappointing.
I did like Mirany, though, and watching her gradually change from a shy, soft spoken, non-confrontational girl to someone who was taking control and trying to win this strange situation she’d been thrown into. Her growth probably could have been better planned, since it is a trilogy, but at the same time Fisher is very much a plot driven writer instead of character driven, so I suppose the sudden change in character we get from Mirany makes sense.
Another aspect I liked about this book was the romance, or namely, how little of it there was. There are hints that Seth and Mirany may get together, but it isn’t the focus of the story at all, and their relationship in The Oracle Betrayed is a good set up for the growth that should happen in the next two books.
All in all it’s a solid, entertaining novel that should satisfy a reader who’s in the mood for some good old fantasy. While it isn’t anything spectacular, there is a good set up for the rest of the trilogy, and the book stands on its own outside of that. I’m interested enough to see what happens so I’ll definitely be checking out The Sphere of Secrets and Day of the Scarab.
Trigger Warning(s): There are mentions of child abuse in this book. (less)