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)
Read the short story on Cassandra Clare's website. As with all the shorts, a fun glimpse behind the scenes, and especially great for fans of Magnus. (...moreRead the short story on Cassandra Clare's website. As with all the shorts, a fun glimpse behind the scenes, and especially great for fans of Magnus. (And who isn't?)(less)
It's hard to feel interest in characters who are so shallow and dull. An interesting concept, but a book lacking in any real depth or beauty or emotio...moreIt's hard to feel interest in characters who are so shallow and dull. An interesting concept, but a book lacking in any real depth or beauty or emotion.(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've read about a lot of different crimes, in far more detail than I'd care to remember. In all the tragedies that I've read about, manmade or otherwi...moreI've read about a lot of different crimes, in far more detail than I'd care to remember. In all the tragedies that I've read about, manmade or otherwise, no act of violence has ever made my heart wrench more than the prolonged imprisonment of a human being for sexual purposes. It's also the crime I have the most difficulty in comprehending, as I cannot imagine the amount of inhumanity it would take to capture someone and look her in the eye, day after day for years, without mercy and without pity. I still get very upset when I read about these things, even years after the events which no doubt inspired this book.
To say that I was very interested in reading this book is therefore an understatement. The subject matter and the editorial accolades made this sound like a novel that was not to be missed, and the author's other work is very well-reviewed. And in the beginning of the book, I was content enough with the developments of the story, as the reader gets to know Jack and his Ma and the Room in which they've lived for so many years.
About halfway through, however, I started to become impatient with the constraints of the format the author had chosen. Having a 5-year-old narrator became an extremely frustrating exercise, both in terms of his (understandable) unwillingness to comprehend or listen to certain things and in terms of getting a truly emotional take on the experience. I don't fault the decision to write this from a child's point of view, but I do think it would have been a deeper, more rewarding story had it been narrated from an older child's perspective--perhaps from a 10-year-old's POV. I'm not certain that the voice was entirely convincing in and of itself, either; after awhile, the tendency to name every object as if it were a proper pronoun became a little tiresome, and there are interjections of thoughts and passages that are far too mature for Jack's thought processes. (view spoiler)["In the world I notice persons are nearly always stressed and have no time," for example, shows up towards the end. I also refuse to believe that any 5-year-old could go to a Natural History Museum and not be enthralled by the dinosaurs. (hide spoiler)] Filtering this story through someone so young also meant that the reader gains far less insight into his mother's pain and his captor's background than you might hope.
The author does include convincing details of Jack's attachment to Room itself, nice moments of closeness with his Ma, and attempts to provide adult insight and terminology through overhead conversations or snippets on tv. Overall, however, this novel was a big disappointment to me. I expected to feel something for these characters--and if it could not be something profoundly deep and empathetic, I'd at least hoped for something more than simple intellectual interest and pity.
Updated 4/27/11: I've given this a lot of thought, and based on GoodReads' ratings system, I've changed my rating from a 2 to a 1. In the end, there are two things I wanted from this book: to have some degree of deeper insight into the suffering that these characters endured and to be moved by their plight. For me, this book offered neither.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This review is really about the whole Sweep series, but I'm putting it with Book One because that's where people will go to find out whether all of th...moreThis review is really about the whole Sweep series, but I'm putting it with Book One because that's where people will go to find out whether all of them are worth reading. I started out really enjoying the series, then HATED WITH A PASSION what seemed to be going on, and then am left now feeling really sad and cheated. I've never started out liking a series and then turned around and felt so angry and disappointed and sad after it ended.
Firstly, I have to say that I really enjoyed books 1 - 6. Some are stronger than others, but overall they are well-written and packed with action, plus the whole wicca thing is well-researched and really interesting to read about. Morgan is also an interesting character who goes through a lot of personal growth and development, and her attraction to the new boy in town and her feelings about her friend Bree and her parents and her sister (et al) are completely relatable. I also liked books 8, 9, and 12, and would give these nine books 3.5-4 out of 5 stars.
Spoiler-free things I never cared for, right from the very beginning:
* the books are too short. They're literally half the size of a typical YA novel (way to drag out a series) and nearly every one ended on an abrupt cliffhanger. I kept clicking forward on my Kindle, thinking there was something glitchy going on with my e-reader, but it turns out the writing just...stopped. Annoying and unnecessary, since there is a way to both give closure to a volume and whet an appetite for the next novel without making your readers feel as if you've yanked the covers off them.
* the stories that did not relate directly to Morgan's narrative diluted the books. Some detail is enjoyable, but when so few characters really have anything to do at all (back to this later) and there is so much time spent re-hashing everyone's mundane dating details in every single book when it doesn't affect anything else, it gets really boring really fast. As such, I never really cared for the bit at the beginning of each chapter that was an "excerpt" from a journal entry or book on magick. The only time I felt it really added to the book were when you got a glimpse of what Hunter was feeling in towards the earlier part of the series. And yes, this means Alisa too--one of the least interesting secondary characters who shows up late and then suddenly got POV narrative and her own book. The more the series went on, the more time was spent with other characters, and the series was less strong as a result.
I did think narrating a book from Hunter's point of view was interesting, until his story went way far away from Morgan's. This might've been okay if the book had been longer and their relationship more fleshed out after he returns AND....
**SPOILER ALERT for the rest of this review*
* ....if he didn't freaking cheat on her while he's gone. (for just two weeks! in Canada!) This was such a slap in the face after everything that happened with Cal and drawing out their will they-won't they relationship for more than 10 books. I don't understand why this was put in at all, because there is nearly no time devoted to resolving how Morgan would really feel about this happening afterwards. There are literally maybe 5 short paragraphs contained over two books to deal with this, which is completely unrealistic for any girl, no matter what else was going on. And for someone like Morgan, who was already betrayed by his brother? Completely impossible that she would have gotten over it so quickly.
* By the time I finished Book 13, I was so ready for Morgan and Hunter to get things resolved already. Since I was already pretty much skimming through anything that wasn't Morgan or Hunter's narrative, I skipped Book 14 entirely and then I read about the HUGE thing that happens in the beginning of Book 15. After reading the sample chapter (read it, read it, it's linked on Amazon), I couldn't believe an author would invest so much of her readers' time and emotion only to kill off a main character like that for no apparent reason. I felt so angry and so cheated, and I swore I would never read anything by this author again. It was only after I read the spoiler-y reviews on Good Reads that I decided to read the rest of the book--and even after things were resolved, I still have very mixed emotions about the whole thing.
You barely spend any time with Morgan and Hunter in the beginning before things end (literally, maybe 15 pages in) and the whole thing just goes off-kilter from there. Morgan doesn't learn anything from Hunter's death and we have no time at all to mourn him ourselves until all the sudden she's married, had a child, and had her husband die on her. Everyone whose lives you heard so much about in the series is also pretty much dumped here, with just a couple mentions of what happened to Bree and Mary K. This is because they don't matter in the big scheme of things, and apparently they never did.
Like many of the other readers here, I was fine with Moira but I really could have done without her and mostly just skimmed the book impatiently until Hunter shows up again. And while I'm happy they got a happy ending, I still feel drained and sad and upset over the whole thing. Poor Hunter is hugely diminished in this book, and you never really get a sense of how awful his island imprisonment was. You also don't get much emotional satisfaction once he comes back--so little time is spent on his homecoming and recovery, and as another reader pointed out, is he really going to stay in the guest bedroom once he (soul mate and father) comes home? There is no anguish, no comforting, no healing, no real emotional truth or connection. It all just felt completely unrealistic and sad.
I've never been so disappointed in a series that I liked. Because of the way everything was dragged on and on (these would have been better condensed into maybe 5 - 6 books, with a lot of things edited out) and because of the huge emotional battering that did NOT make me feel fulfilled and happy at the end, I would not recommend this series to anyone. I started out giving this series a 3 out of 5 stars, but as I wrote this review I realized a more accurate rating would be a 2. Because no matter how much I enjoyed some of the books, the others were not worth the time and money and emotional investment. (less)