Hello friends! We're reading THE GOLDEN COMPASS together throughout the next few weeks as part of our goal to read more classic YA/MG books this year....moreHello friends! We're reading THE GOLDEN COMPASS together throughout the next few weeks as part of our goal to read more classic YA/MG books this year.
Please join us if you can!
-- Discussion on blog: February 28th -- Hashtag #tmgreadalong if you'd like to discuss as you read on Twitter.
Wildly imaginative and thrilling, this complex and beautiful story follows brave, fierce Lyra Belacqua in her quest to save her childhood friend. The book is filled with dazzling adventure and marvelous inventiveness, as well as many scenes that will fill readers with utter horror and pity.
There are witches, gypsies, daemons, and best of all--armored polar bears! The warrior bears have a spectacular battle scene towards the end that still shakes me to the core when I read it. There aren't words enough to describe what an important work of literature this is, not only for children, but also for thinking, feeling, dreaming adults as well.(less)
Ray Bradbury really defines imagination and inventiveness to me. I have been inspired by his writing since I first read it in middle school, and it st...moreRay Bradbury really defines imagination and inventiveness to me. I have been inspired by his writing since I first read it in middle school, and it still stands up to the test of time. It's amazing that all these years and technological advances later, the book still remains so original and so relevant. (less)
A superbly written novel, full of great twists and turns. You may be able to guess some of what's going on, but the author will still surprise you wit...moreA superbly written novel, full of great twists and turns. You may be able to guess some of what's going on, but the author will still surprise you with daring prose and unexpected red herrings. If you've never read the author before (as I had not) I'd recommend not reading ANY reviews about the book, not even the Amazon general description. The book jacket and this http://orangeprizeproject.blogspot.co... should whet your appetite enough. Trust in the author to do the rest.(less)
A well-written, twisty puzzle of a mystery, filled with fantastic clues, unforgettable characters, and countless red herrings. Turtle Wexler will alwa...moreA well-written, twisty puzzle of a mystery, filled with fantastic clues, unforgettable characters, and countless red herrings. Turtle Wexler will always be a hero to me.(less)
In reading the gothic psychological novel Affinity, it is nearly impossible to shake off an overwhelming feeling of gloom and pervasive dread. Followi...moreIn reading the gothic psychological novel Affinity, it is nearly impossible to shake off an overwhelming feeling of gloom and pervasive dread. Following a failed suicide attempt, a young "lady visitor" named Margaret Prior develops a relationship with an inmate named Selina Dawes in a Victorian women's prison, and both their lives are forever changed by their acquaintance.
Narrated in alternating chapters by the two very different women, this dark, moody story incites fear, melancholy, and terrible pity. As always, with this author's work comes a thoroughly researched story and a compelling look at women in oppressive circumstances, as well as how their limited choices often lead to desperate attempts to control their own destinies. There's also an erotic undercurrent of forbidden attraction running deep in this novel as Margaret finds herself increasingly drawn to the mysterious Selina Dawes, who has been imprisoned for a spiritualist reading gone horribly wrong. Their subtly blooming attraction is heightened by the misery of the contrast with Selina's living conditions at Millbank Prison (an actual London prison, by the way), and it's a certainty that in Margaret's desire to save Selina, she is also desperate to save herself.
And what will your sister do if her husband should die, and she should take another? Who will she fly to then, when she has crossed the spheres? For she will fly to someone, we will all fly to someone, we will all return to that piece of shining matter from which our souls are torn with another, two halves of the same. It may be that the husband your sister has now has that other soul, that has affinity with her soul--I hope it is. But it maybe the next man she takes, or it may be neither. It may be someone she would never think to look to on the earth, someone kept from her by some false boundary...
Sarah Waters writes in dense, elegant prose and tells stories that unfold with exquisite deliberation. Affinity is similar to The Little Stranger, in that there are such evocative, spine-chilling moments (including a particularly vivid one involving (view spoiler)[dripping wax and a dimpled baby's arm :-O (hide spoiler)]) that I literally had to put the book down and step away from it. She masterfully creates an atmosphere of suffocating melancholy and builds the tension to an almost unbearable point, so that when the characters finally break, there is a blessed emotional release and relief in the confusion and madness that follows.
As with all of the authors' novels, it's important not to read too many reviews or interviews lest important surprises are spoiled. I've read enough of her books to know that I needed to pay attention to every word that is uttered, but she still kept me guessing until the devastating end. If you decide to read this, try to save it for a day when it's cold and dreary and drizzling; I did, and my imagination nearly went wild over the awful conditions of the prison, as well as the evocative seances I could picture perfectly in my mind. Affinity isn't the typical jump-out-of-the-closet horror novel, but for the reader who appreciates subtlety and who might feel a fine shiver when things don't feel quite right in the house, it can offer an incredibly suspenseful and terrifying read.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Lovely, lyrical, and achingly sad. Shiver is more introspective than most YA books and is sometimes criticized for being too slow or wordy, but I foun...moreLovely, lyrical, and achingly sad. Shiver is more introspective than most YA books and is sometimes criticized for being too slow or wordy, but I found it to be beautifully written, tragic, and a gorgeous take on werewolf lore. Sam's desperate struggle to hold onto his humanity is incredibly poignant, and his heartrending relationship with Grace is deeply emotional and sweet. It's a book that makes me cry every time I read it.
Sam cupped my face in his hands and looked me in the eyes. His eyes were yellow, sad, wolf, mine.
"These stay the same. Remember that when you look at me. Remember it's me. Please."
PS--this book is NOTHING like Twilight, despite the inevitable comparisons because of the subject matter. It's in a class all its own.(less)
A lot of people don't like this Vampire Academy book as much, but it's one of my favorites. There are breath-taking battle sequences at the end, and a...moreA lot of people don't like this Vampire Academy book as much, but it's one of my favorites. There are breath-taking battle sequences at the end, and a devastating aftermath that leaves Rose forever changed. My respect for her grew leaps and bounds in this book, and the series really kicked into high gear both in story and in emotion.(less)
I don't give many 5 star reviews, but this one is definitely a 5 star book for me. While I liked Mortal Instruments, I wasn't as rabid a fan as I know...moreI don't give many 5 star reviews, but this one is definitely a 5 star book for me. While I liked Mortal Instruments, I wasn't as rabid a fan as I know many people are, so I read Clockwork Angel out of curiosity more than anything else...and I'm so glad I did!
This book is spectacular, with everything I'd wanted in the TMI series and more. The magic and mysteries are compelling and Victorian London is a fantastic backdrop to this steampunk tale about a girl who discovers she has incredible powers...and an incredible past. Tessa is a vibrant, fascinating heroine and all the secondary characters, including Will and Jem and Charlotte, are engaging and sympathetic. I thought this book was much more mature than the TMI series, so I'm very much looking forward to reading the next two Infernal Devices installments. I *loved* the clockwork army and the clever way Tessa learns to use her powers to overcome her enemies.
Jem is really great, but I LOVE Will. I have theories about his deep, dark secret...and I think he's being cruel to Tessa for a very good reason. Can't wait for Clockwork Prince!(less)
Still my favorite gothic novel of all time. A troubled love interest, an unwelcoming housekeeper, a house haunted by the memories of its previous mist...moreStill my favorite gothic novel of all time. A troubled love interest, an unwelcoming housekeeper, a house haunted by the memories of its previous mistress, and a young girl who is ill-equipped to handle everything...all the elements for a wildly mysterious and romantic story that is unforgettably and beautifully written.(less)
A fantastic series that I loved as a kid and still holds up for adults. Well-written, engrossing mysteries with engaging characters and just enough of...moreA fantastic series that I loved as a kid and still holds up for adults. Well-written, engrossing mysteries with engaging characters and just enough of Sherlock himself to whet the appetite for investigation and adventure.(less)
"I am sorry," sighed the tree. I wish that I could give you something...but I have nothing left. I am just an old stump. I am sorry...." "I don't need...more"I am sorry," sighed the tree. I wish that I could give you something...but I have nothing left. I am just an old stump. I am sorry...." "I don't need very much now," said the boy, "Just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired." "Well," said the tree, straightening herself up as much as she could, "Well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting. Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest." And the boy did.
This book has zombies in it, but to call it a zombie or horror novel does it a disservice. There are some awesome action sequences, but no gratuitous...moreThis book has zombies in it, but to call it a zombie or horror novel does it a disservice. There are some awesome action sequences, but no gratuitous feeding scenes, screaming teenagers, or B-horror movie cliches or gore. It's more of a novel about journalism, the right to information and free speech, and the personal and political ramifications of a wide-spreading disease. With occasional zombie action.
This is also not necessarily a young adult novel. Not because it's inappropriate in any way, but because the themes it addresses are hard and sometimes the narrative is pretty dry. In the year 2039, Georgia and Shaun Mason, along with their friend Buffy (recognize any zombie-related names there?), are invited to cover Senator Ryman's presidential campaign in a world in which the Kellis-Amberlee virus has decimated the country's population and resources. Traditional news organizations have given way to the rise of internet journalism, and the trio of young bloggers must uncover a terrible conspiracy and disseminate information to their readers, all while risking their very lives.
The strengths in this novel include incredibly well thought-out world-building, strong characters, snappy dialogue, unexpected plot twists, and excellent action sequences. Mira Grant's attention to detail in Feed regarding precautionary measures, sterilization procedures, and waiting for heart-pounding test results all rang very true. (Richard Preston's The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story scared the bejesus out of me when it was first published in 1999, and for awhile I was fascinated by the CDC and read a lot of books about various outbreaks and plagues.) Georgia, who is the primary narrator, is a butt-kicking heroine with a huge amount of integrity, and I loved her adopted brother Shaun, who sports both a cheerfully bantering demeanor and a crossbow. I have a healthy amount of respect for their efforts to survive and for their pursuit of truth, which often came at great cost to themselves and to those they hold dear.
This is not to say that this is a perfect novel. There are overly long info-dumping passages (they are intelligently written and provide necessary back story, but they are info-dumps all the same) that would have been better served with more dialogue; a surprisingly uncomplicated, easy-to-spot villain; and some aspects of Georgia and Shaun's relationship that were teased but perhaps a bit unexplored. I wish there was also better build up of tension, a few more zombie encounters, less politics (a personal preference, though, since I find politics a big snoozefest), a less prolonged ending following a major game-changing event, and a little more emotion throughout the book. Overall, I think the spareness of prose and Georgia's all-business approach worked within the context of the story, but because I'm always looking for emotional connection, I would liked to have seen it spread out in more than just a couple of places.
However...the scenes with emotional impact pack a gigantic wallop. It's hard to surprise me these days with unexpected story twists, but this one managed to do it not once, but twice--and the outcomes of both those revelations ratchet up the stakes in a way that nothing else could have. I had early, anxious worries about the ending, but things didn't unfold the way I expected--and it still didn't prepare me for the tears that flowed freely and the awful ache in my throat, both of which still come and go as I think about the book. That characters would still, in such extreme and tragic circumstances, behave with such integrity and nobility and selflessness and love, just wrenches my heart.
To be honest, this would probably normally be a 4 star review because of points I mentioned. But because of its heartrending and unforgettable ending, it gets 4.5 stars from me. I think as readers, most of us go through dozens and dozens of books hoping to find that one book that shatters our expectations and leaves us speechless with unexpected feeling. For me, Feed is one that definitely does that.
Here is my spoiler-free review of the sequel (which is okay to read even if you haven't read FEED). Reminder: DO NOT READ the synopsis for the second book in the trilogy, however, as it spoils major plot points for this first book. (less)
Have you ever pictured yourself wandering among the tombs at Westminster Abbey, marveling at the sheer wonder of being among the greatest literary fig...moreHave you ever pictured yourself wandering among the tombs at Westminster Abbey, marveling at the sheer wonder of being among the greatest literary figures in history? Sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray is taken to Poets' Corner by someone who understands exactly what such an experience will mean to her, and this lovely little moment in the sequel to Clockwork Angel perfectly encapsulates everything I love about the Infernal Devices series. Tessa is a shapeshifting Shadowhunter who is becoming accustomed to her powers, but in the middle of all the magic and mystery in Victorian England, the relationships between Tessa, the enigmatic Will, and the thoughtful, sensitive Jem remain the very heart of the story.
Following a rather, ahem, provocative prologue, the story really begins as the London Institute of Shadowhunters is given two weeks to find the evil Magister, who is still determined to gain control of Tessa’s powers and bring down the Enclave. Tessa and the Shadowhunters must battle dreadful clockwork creatures, demons, and even treachery within their own ranks before everything around them is forever altered. Readers who agonized over the last book will be happy to know that we see the beginnings of the ties between the Lightwood and Herondale families, find out what the initials "JTS" mean, and spend more time getting to know all the characters, including Magnus, Jessamine, Henry, Charlotte, and Sophie.
Here are the other important elements that I loved from this story:
Tessa, Will, and Jem
Tessa becomes more sure of her unique position and powers, and her relationships with both the boys in her life deepen in a life-changing way. Jem unexpectedly reveals an incredibly alluring side to him that we’ve never seen before, and we finally discover the devastating secret in handsome Will’s tragic past. This is one of the most well-written love triangles I’ve ever read, with a strong girl torn between two very attractive and honorable boys; there are good reasons for Tessa to love them both, but also excellent reasons for her to give her heart to neither. It is nothing short of torture to feel Tessa’s deep pull towards Jem and Will, both of whom have swooningly romantic and wildly sensual moments with our heroine. Believe me, the infamous Dirty Sexy Balcony Scene more than lives up to its promise, and I clutched my pearls more than once while reading this book!
What Tessa never forgets, however, is that as confused as she is about her feelings for Jem and Will, there is also a lifelong friendship between them that she must honor. Jem’s illness, Will’s love for and dependence upon him, and her own need for self-respect all contribute to an intensely difficult situation, and one that made me hurt for everyone involved.
The Victorian details in this novel make me quite ill with pleasure. That's right, ill with pleasure. I'm not even speaking solely of catnip such as the clothes and carriages and the like, but of a finer, deeper authenticity that has to do with a way of truly immersive thinking, rather than just trifling details. It seems to be so difficult for many YA historical fiction authors to refrain from projecting anachronistic modern attitudes onto period characters, but Tessa Gray stands out as a true Victorian heroine. She shows courage and spirit, but it's within the appropriate behaviors and thinking patterns for a girl living in the 19th century; if she breaks tradition, she thinks about it (and we know it's unusual) before she does so.
Even while she's being trained for self-defense by other Shadowhunters, Tessa spends a great deal of her time struggling to reconcile her magical powers and responsibilities with her upbringing and social decorum. The role of women in oppressive circumstances has always interested me, and Tessa’s internal dialogue and conduct (along with Sophie’s) are notably in keeping with all the other spot-on period details, which are meticulously researched and beautifully woven into the story. Before she began writing this series, the author rather famously moved to England for six months and read nothing but books written or set in the Victorian era, and even walked all the streets that her characters might have traveled. There is a certain mood and style that is decidedly steeped in the foundations of this research, and the dexterous language and witty dialogue feel pretty nearly perfect and true to the time—with allowances for fantasy and magic, of course. Tessa transcends the thinking of the time and uses clever magic and thinking to outwit her adversaries at every turn.
A Love of Literature
Another thing I also adore about this series is how much appreciation all the characters have for literature. I still remember the awe I felt the first time I went to Westminster Abbey, and it struck a chord to hear Tessa say, “I can’t explain it. It’s like being among friends, being among these names.” Upon traveling to the countryside for the first time, she also says, "I feel as though I have seen it before. In books. I keep imagining I’ll see Thornfield Hall rising up beyond the trees, or Wuthering Heights perched on a stony crag.“ It is nearly impossible for any lover of books, particularly those with an unruly bit of romance in her soul, to fail to thrill when reading words like this. Tessa is a kindred spirit for me, and I think she would be for many other thinking, dreaming readers as well.
If you were dying for this second installment in the Infernal Devices series, rest assured that it has been more than worth the wait. It's full of great action scenes, a clever use of magic, and the hilarious dialogue that we've come to expect from these characters. It is, however, also an intensely emotional read for those invested in the characters, so be prepared with tissues—I cried several times near the heartbreaking end and it's going to be so hard to wait another whole year for Clockwork Princess. Was the book satisfying? Yes. Was it agonizing? A thousand times, yes. But it was painful in the most exquisite and emotionally truthful of ways.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
**Our Cynthia Hand Interview, where she addresses many of the questions that arise from this series is here and here. Enjoy!**
There aren't words enoug...more**Our Cynthia Hand Interview, where she addresses many of the questions that arise from this series is here and here. Enjoy!**
There aren't words enough to express how gorgeous this book is. Fans of the Unearthly who might have worried whether Cynthia Hand could deliver a second installment that would do justice to the story need worry no longer. This sequel lives up to and exceeds every expectation I had for it, and I only wish I could hand this book to every single would-be author who is even considering writing a YA paranormal romance. Because this is the template for what every teen romance/sophomore/angel book should aspire to be.
As the story opens, Clara is still recovering from the fire in which she went against her "purpose" as a part-angel in order to follow her heart. Her brother Jeffrey is still acting strange, Angela is helping Clara to test her powers, and eventually, we are introduced to an important congregation of angels and learn more about their purpose on earth. Best of all, we get some fabulous time with Tucker as he and Clara further enjoy what has to be one of the sweetest and truest young adult romances ever put to page. I could not stop smiling as I was reading the story, because their relationship is just so warm and happy and perfect. I love that, in the middle of all of Clara's bigger-than-life abilities and problems, she and Tucker still have such an amazing time together doing such blessedly normal and human things.
We all knew what was coming next, though, right? Christian was such an attractive enigma throughout so much of the first book that I was really hoping we'd get to know him better in this one. And while I dreaded the thought of this turning into a horrible love triangle situation that would devastate everyone while dishonoring them as well, I hoped against hope that the author would handle this tricky situation with as much honesty and grace as possible. And boy, did she ever come through. I am a huge fan of Tucker's, but Cynthia Hand somehow does the impossible and shows us how the flicker of friendship between Christian and Clara grows incrementally stronger everyday. By the end of the book, he has shown himself to be a rock-steady, understanding, and fun presence in Clara's life (view spoiler)[not to mention an incredibly hot one :D (hide spoiler)], and it's pretty near impossible not to fall in love with him in a pretty deep and meaningful way as well.
This book made me so very happy in so many ways, and there are unbelievably beautiful angel moments in it, with descriptions of gorgeous feathered wings, flying, and luminous "glory" that are just marvelous. I've always appreciated the wry honesty and warmth with which the relationship between Clara and her mother was written, and here we discover so much more about her as a mother, as an angel, and as a person in a way that is incredibly touching. Clara learns a great deal about her family and about herself in this novel, and her deepening strength and maturity combined with her funny, sensitive narrative only made me love her further. I also enjoyed the distinctly outdoorsy feel of the mountains in this book, the presence of many of the adults, and the nuanced portrayal of the bad guy, as well as the thoughtfully considered mentions of angel lore, religion, and references to Paradise Lost. Oh--and big, big bonus points for a prom scene that didn't make me want to do violence!
But this book also broke my heart in more ways than one. There is an exquisite tenderness to this story that I never could have imagined, and while I think some elements of it may upset some fans, I hope readers will go into it with an open mind and an open heart. I had many theories and opinions and hopes going into it, and I can honestly say that coming out of it, all of that has changed--and I am firmly convinced that it is for the better. I am tremendously moved and inspired by this story, and it's a testament to Cynthia Hand's pitch-perfect writing that we are so gently eased into new realizations and growth in a way that feels so right and so emotionally true.
My heart was aching when I turned the last page. But it was also overflowing with love and deep appreciation for the splendid journey that I didn't even know I wanted to go on. After reading a second fantastic YA book from this author, I have absolute faith in Cynthia Hand, and I am so looking forward to seeing where she will take us next.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
P.S. I am dying to discuss the specifics of what happens in this book in the comments below, so please, tell me what you think of where this story went in spoiler tags! I can't keep this to myself any longer. Please be aware that the spoilers tagged in the comments are REAL, so please don't click if you haven't read the book yet! But the spoilers in the review are all in good fun, and safe to click. ;)
Also, a spoiler for people who were worried about Midas the horse in the last book: (view spoiler)[They're still looking for him in the beginning of this one. (hide spoiler)] ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)