1.5 stars Welcome to yet another teen romance masquerading as a paranormal novel. If you’re like me, you’ve been salivating to read this book for mont1.5 stars Welcome to yet another teen romance masquerading as a paranormal novel. If you’re like me, you’ve been salivating to read this book for months because of the breathtaking cover—and of course, the premise of a girl waking up in a hospital with no memory of how her friends were killed is pretty intriguing. I’m sorry to say, however, that the maddening phenomenon I’m calling “cover fraud” strikes again, since this is another book whose interior does not live up to its beautiful cover art.
Mara Dyer doesn’t know what happened to her friends the day that a building collapsed on them, nor how she somehow escaped miraculously unscathed. The family decides to pack up and move to another town to get away from intrusive attention and so that her lawyer father can take on a high-profile criminal case. Until this point, things are pretty interesting and I wanted to know what was going on just as much as Mara did. Except suddenly, a boy enters the picture, and Mara pretty much loses all common sense interest in figuring out why people around her keep dying. And that’s when I lost my interest in this book, too.
I rarely have trouble adjusting any preconceived expectations about a book’s content, which is why I’m able to go with the flow for books such as Divergent or Delirium, which weren’t quite what I expected but I liked because the authors handled certain aspects of them very well. So if this was going to turn out to be a romance book with the paranormal stuff thrown in as a bonus, well, I’d be fine with it if I was sufficiently entertained. The issue with this is that if the book isn't entertaining and the romance doesn’t work for you, the whole thing is doomed. And this romance did not work for me at all.
Noah Shaw is one of those guys you’re supposed to find charming in spite of yourself. He’s arrogant, he’s got a smart mouth, he has a “deviant grin,” and he’s slept with just about every girl he’s ever looked at. As soon as Mara sees him, she seems to be struck dumb (view spoiler)[hee hee hee, “struck dumb” (hide spoiler)] by his appeal, even if she pretends to hate him. Noah pushes the boundary of being a jerk a little too often for my comfort, however, and it isn’t until later in the book that we find out whether or not he’s actually a good guy. The problem really isn’t Noah, though; it’s Mara. While Mara is admittedly not a completely spineless, annoying heroine, she is incredibly obsessed with Noah, to the point where you’re embarrassed for her. Look, we all notice every single minute detail when we’re into a guy, right? But there’s also family and work and hopes and dreams to think about, and certainly if there are people dropping like flies, you’d think a girl would spend a little more time worrying about that instead of mooning over “the slender muscles in his arms.” (Mara really doesn’t seem to do anything outside of school and her only friend is a very politically correct bisexual black Jewish guy who pretty much functions as a Greek chorus.) The fact that there is so much attention paid to the way Noah looks and what Noah says is pretty sad—and honestly, although he has a few moments where I bordered on liking him, it never really happened. Plus he’s just not that hot.
The amount of wish fulfillment running through this book is also completely out of control. Noah has a British accent, speaks six languages, and mentions his parents’ “la vie boheme” lifestyle. He lives in a palatial house with a valet, a “Greek-inspired fountain,” a “flawless patterned marble floor,” “plush Oriental rugs,” and oil paintings, and his “startling” room has enormous windows overlooking the bay and bookcases that reach all the way up to the ceiling. He reads to her from E.M. Forster, he’s possessive and tells a random guy named Alain off in French, and he wants Mara even though he could have anyone. Although of course, he never slept with the one mean girl who keeps tormenting Mara. And despite his ludicrous wealth--he literally peels $5000 off from a wad in his pocket at one point--he drives a Prius.
There are also the clichés of a tony private school, a prerequisite dance to which Mara wears a “dark emerald green silk dress” that dips “dangerously low in the back” and someone literally goes “OHmigod!” when he sees her, a ridiculous scene in which Mara tells off a cartoonishly unpleasant teacher, and an eye-rolling occasion when Noah crashes her art class and takes off his shirt so that all the drooling girls can sketch him. The more I think about it, the more this reads like the script for a CW television show. And also, what was with (view spoiler)[the prologue? The end of the book doesn't loop events back to that point at all. (hide spoiler)]
Oh, back to the dead people thing. There are some flashbacks to the day of the accident and more people die, but it’s all done with so little interest past the first quarter of the book that it’s really difficult to stay invested in the story, particularly when random events involving alligators, dog rescues, a seminar, a kidnapping, and her father’s court case are so haphazardly strung together. I guessed what the big secret was before I’d even read the first page (view spoiler)[hint: there’s a big clue in her name (hide spoiler)], so it was an exercise in frustration to watch all the clunky pieces strain desperately to fit together into a cohesive whole.
Aside from the flat characters, uneven writing, and loose plotting, what turns me off so much about this story is that it’s all so shallow and all so meaningless. (view spoiler)[The fact that Mara’s temper is causing all of this but she doesn’t feel the appropriate amount of guilt really ticks me off. Her reactions are completely disproportionate to the sins committed against her. (hide spoiler)] I read a lot of fluff books for sheer entertainment, but there’s got to be something in them that I like—and sadly, the best things about this book are the cover and the premise. Like Elizabeth Miles’ Fury, it’s another beautifully packaged book (view spoiler)[loosely based on a myth (hide spoiler)] which is much more interested in indulging in superficial relationships than anything else.
I hesitate to weigh in this next bit as part of my rating because this is mostly a personal preference, but reviews are inherently subjective by nature, no? So I’ll go ahead and say that while I think Fury was technically the more tasteless book in terms detailing the dirty things that teenagers can get up to, there’s something about Mara Dyer that is much uglier to me. The fact that this girl is so obsessed with a boy is so wrong to begin with, but what really made me realize how much I disliked this book was the point when Noah starts jokingly quoting from The Velveteen Rabbit and Dr. Seuss and inserting fellatio jokes. I think most of my friends here know by my reading material that I’m pretty laid back and am not one to get worked up over the choices that fictional characters make that would not be my own. But I do believe strongly in the sanctity of childhood and feel a great deal of responsibility in doing my part in helping to protect that. While I know it’s all supposed to be funny and to show how clever and charming Noah is, I just find that sort of thing incredibly distasteful.
But in the end, I know there are many readers who will find this book a lot more appealing than I do. I don’t even blame anyone who still wants to check it out, because, well, look at that cover! How could it possibly be disappointing? All I can say is that I personally came away from this reading experience with an extremely bad taste in my mouth. It probably wasn’t helped by the fact that I’d recently read so many fantastic books that were not only entertaining, but were also beautiful and moving and actually contributed something meaningful to literature. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer may very well end up being a popular book for now, but it will never end up being one that stands the test of time. What’s most disappointing is that it doesn’t even try to be.
This book has beautiful imagery of shimmering fins and tails and mesmerizing siren songs, as well as exciting nI don't like it when mermaids are mean.
This book has beautiful imagery of shimmering fins and tails and mesmerizing siren songs, as well as exciting near-misses with giant orcas. The author writes lovely descriptions that you can easily picture in your mind, and the book description sounds very intriguing--but unfortunately, neither the story nor the characters live up to the pretty words or the pretty cover.
Aside from juvenile dialogue and a slight plot, many elements of this book are actually also quite disturbing. The mermaids come into being as a result of the extraordinarily cruel actions from the humans in their lives, such as attempted rape, "boiling babies," and slavery. These are serious topics that are mentioned in passing but never fully explored, and such casual treatment of such brutal topics seem both jarringly out of place and completely inappropriate in a book like this.
Luce, the 14-year-old main character, is meant to be seen as an admirable, kind heroine, but the anecdotes that demonstrate this aren't very convincing, and Luce herself seems painfully young and easily duped. The other mermaids, whose characters pretty much all blend together, spend their days playing power games and luring innocent people to their deaths just for fun--it's The Little Mermaid + Heathers with a dose of Mean Girls thrown in for good measure. And whether you're on land or in the sea, a story that primarily revolves around teenage back-stabbing and manipulation just isn't all that interesting to read about. I'd love to see another book from this author, as the writing is very beautiful in parts, but one that has a much more well-developed plot and fully fleshed-out characters.
Incidentally, I'm not really sure what the exact differences are between a siren and a mermaid (the quick research I did online seems evenly divided by those who think they are the same beings with different connotations and those who believe they are entirely different creatures), but regardless of what name they go by, the creatures in this particular book are strikingly cruel and immature. And while the sea they're swimming in is extraordinarily pretty, unfortunately it is also very lacking in depth.
This review may also be found in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
The beginning of this book is pretty good. There's a little bit of set up that explains Emma's nervousness over attending an exclusive school in a newThe beginning of this book is pretty good. There's a little bit of set up that explains Emma's nervousness over attending an exclusive school in a new city, plus some funny one-liners that make her seem pretty likable. But on page 15, Emma meets Brendan and everything goes downhill from there, because her whole life, including the scant paranormal aspects of this book, then revolves around getting him. Here is a sketch of the story, with some spoilers.
Here's what we know about the main characters:
Emma is a high-school junior who lives near Central Park. She likes Brendan. A lot. Immediately after she meets him, she starts obsessing over everything he says and talks about him with literally everyone she knows. When he blows hot and cold, she gets upset. She feels "absolutely crushed" when she walks into a classroom and he's not there.
Emma likes music and she likes to run. (This might be a metaphor.) Her daddy left when she was six and her twin brother died when she was fourteen. Then her mom got sick but found a boyfriend to marry so her daughter wouldn't have to be alone. Emma doesn't like to drink because she was in a car accident with her drunk step-daddy, which is why she's now living with her aunt, who gives her money and doesn't set a curfew. Emma is embarrassed by all this so she lies to everyone about where she came from, although she actually doesn't seem very upset that her entire immediate family has been wiped out. None of this actually has anything to do with the story except that it explains why she is living in the most expensive city in America without a whole lot of adult supervision.
Because she has a necklace that has the same symbol as something Brendan owns and has a couple of weird dreams, Emma is sure that she and Brendan are soul mates who have been searching for each other for 1000 years. Seriously, 1000 years. But her dead twin brother occasionally pops up and makes the lights go out and warns her that their relationship is cursed. This really, really sucks, but her boyfriend is hot so there's got to be a way to make it work. Oh! And she might also be a witch. Her witchy schoolmate looked up some information online and said so.
Brendan lives in a multi-million dollar home in Manhattan, where he has an entire floor to himself. He is "spellbound" by Emma as soon as he sees her. He is awesome because when they're out, he only does a couple of shots and then drinks water for the rest of the night so that she doesn't feel uncomfortable about only having one beer. He gives her his hoodie when it's cold, which is the sign of a true gentleman. Brendan is also a deejay (cool job) and he buys her a diamond Claddagh ring (generous guy) and picks her up in a limo (generous guy with style). When Emma feels insecure about the sneering, baby-pink-gloss-wearing Kristin who's after him, Brendan says "Emma, don't even compare yourself to them. It's like comparing a diamond to...I don't know...a booger." He's also really suave.
This is essentially a book about a girl obsessed with a boy with some convenient "story-enhancing" paranormal elements thrown in. There are cartoonish teenage villains, friends who appear then disappear never to be seen again (and there is no witchcraft involved!), girls who are called sluts, and a drunk, conceited boy who tries to rape girls and hits people, then yells at them for not cooperating.
There's also off-kilter adult behavior, repeated references to the title of the book, some really odd mentions of Martin Scorcese (which I'll give you, but...it's weird to also mention Thelma Schoonmaker later on for no reason), an eye-rolling climax straight out of a television movie, and most mystifying of all, the assumption that $20 will cover a night out in New York.
If you hadn't already guessed it, in a book like this, whether your crush is ignoring you or whether there are unworthy people trying to get in your pants or whether there are Twilight Zone forces trying to keep you and your boyfriend apart, love will totally conquer all. After all, that's pretty much the whole point of being alive. And definitely the whole point of being a woman.
I don't read a lot of realistic YA fiction precisely because of books like this: well-meaning, angsty Books with Messages whose earnest agendas are peI don't read a lot of realistic YA fiction precisely because of books like this: well-meaning, angsty Books with Messages whose earnest agendas are perfectly clear to anyone who skims the jacket. It's funny that a book that wants so very much for people to look past the mark on Terra's face has so much trouble focusing on much of anything except that.
Despite being a decently-sized novel, somehow how the abusive dad, the meek mother, the endless references to cartography, the artwork, and the boyfriends all feel like 2-dimensional filler, much like Terra herself. None of the characters or details really come alive or invoke any feeling for me, and the writing furthers the awkwardness with sentences such as, "Spent, I fell into bed, closed my eyes, and dreamt of torn maps falling on me like fresh snow." The events and emotions just didn't ring emotionally true, although I seem to be in the minority in my opinion on this one!
This isn't really a bad book, but it's not one I would really recommend--unless there's a reader out there that has somehow made it through life thus far without realizing that beauty is only skin-deep. ...more
There are few well-written horror novels available for young adults, so it's great to have a new entry that's both intelligent and imaginative. With tThere are few well-written horror novels available for young adults, so it's great to have a new entry that's both intelligent and imaginative. With the visceral descriptiveness of Stephen King and a black humor all his own, Cliff McNish has created a darkly nightmarish novel with a heroine who possesses a fascinating paranormal ability. Savannah Grey doesn't understand the dreadful thing in her throat, but she knows that she must protect it at all costs.
The narration, most of which is from Savannah's point of view, is decisively British and strikes the appropriate tone for a teenage girl. It's also filled with horrifyingly enjoyable, twisted humor that pops up at the most unexpected times, often right in the middle of a massive fight scene with monstrous enemies. I liked Savannah and many of the smart choices she makes, as well as how the plot zips right along from one exciting sequence to another.
What knocks this book down a whole star for me, however, is the author's choice to leave Savannah's POV throughout so much of the book in order to bring us the back story of the monsters that are pursuing her. This book is sorely in need of a Wise and Experienced One who explains why things are happening and what they mean, something in the vein of a Yoda, Oracle, Magnus Bane, or Haymitch. The explanations are instead big info-dumps written in the third person, treating the creatures as remarkably sentient and reasoning beings. Since these sections are written in a way that's almost like a fairy tale, they completely interrupt the flow of the book and the urgency of action. Readers will also need to suspend their disbelief over aspects which don't quite make sense, such as why surgeons succumb to Savannah's demand for an operation so easily, and why she's lived in the same place all her life if she's really been with foster parents since she was a baby.
Still, this is overall a very enjoyable read and an author gifted with a gruesome touch. Cliff McNish is definitely one to watch.
If you loved the pigtailed, saddle-shoed Ashley, the harbinger of Death in Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, you'll enjoy "Death and Waffles," the short boIf you loved the pigtailed, saddle-shoed Ashley, the harbinger of Death in Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, you'll enjoy "Death and Waffles," the short bonus story released as an online exclusive. It's nice to spend a little more time with one of the best characters from the book, and yes, yes, there are plenty of waffles.
3.5 stars I'm not much of a traditional fantasy person, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It starts off a little unevenly and even had me giggling a3.5 stars I'm not much of a traditional fantasy person, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It starts off a little unevenly and even had me giggling a bit here and there, but it gradually became a complex, epic story full of fascinating mythology and dazzling magic. All of the characters are extremely well-developed, in that all the ones who are good behave with honor and the ones who are evil believe absolutely in the rightness of what they are doing. I really like Ellie and Rain, whose relationship builds slowly and believably, and I love how protective both he and his men are of their future queen.
I'm not really sure how to categorize this book. Is it fantasy? Is it paranormal romance? Somewhere between the two, I think, as there's intricate world-building and politicking but also lots of tenderness and emotion. I normally have very little patience for fairy court business (so much talking and posturing), but everything that goes on here is well-thought out and fraught with potentially dangerous consequences. It'll be interesting to watch Ellie develop her powers and to see where the story goes next.
I've read through dozens of books that try to do what this one does, but none other that ever fully appealed to me. Ignore the cheesy cover and font and try this one if you enjoy this fantasy-written-for-women thing. I'll leave you with the words that sold me on the book: the king is a gorgeous half fey, half winged flying CAT.
Well, well, well. This short story, which is billed as a prequel to The Girl in the Steel Corset, is probably technically better than the actual book,Well, well, well. This short story, which is billed as a prequel to The Girl in the Steel Corset, is probably technically better than the actual book, if only because it feels more complete and is much tauter and better plotted. The mechanical wizardry is still a little nuts, but somehow it's in a more enjoyable way here--it's almost what you'd expect from a film that's been MST3K'd.
There weren't quite as many threads connecting it to the main story as you might hope, aside from a few near-miss encounters with Griffin, but overall it's kind of a fun novella. This is actually quite a bit longer than I expected (maybe a tad longer than it needs to be?), but anyone who enjoys Steel Corset will probably also enjoy this one.
This book is currently still available as a freebie for Kindle and for Nook, although you may certainly download to read on your computer as well.
Never judge a book by its title. I have to confess it took me awhile to get to this one because I think the title is a little cheesy (and it's now obvNever judge a book by its title. I have to confess it took me awhile to get to this one because I think the title is a little cheesy (and it's now obviously impossible to get Elton John out of my head), but this turned out to be a hilarious book that had me laughing out loud numerous times--not a bad feat when a big part of the book is about raising the dead. All the characters are engaging and likable, especially smart-mouthed Sam, strong and beautiful Brid, Sam's little sisters, the...incapacitated Brooke, and the gleefully bizarre Ashley.
"So, you're telling me the zoo commissioned you to make a zombie panda in order to avoid a potential international incident." Hah!
This is probably a 3.5 star book for me, though, since:
* I would have liked to have seen more of Sam's necromancy powers appear earlier on * Douglas would have been more interesting if his character was a little more developed * it would have been fun to see more of the critters that appear later in the book * the flashbacks slowed down the momentum a little too much * the book would have been more pulled together if Sam's narration was in the third person. With focus shifting between him, Douglas, Brid, and then later Ramon and Tia, having Sam's POV in the first person was confusing when it would have been just as good written in the third.
Still, these are minor ticks considering this is a super funny, fast-paced and entertaining book. I enjoyed the big battle scene at the end, am mightily intrigued by the idea of a were-bear, and I love the way the author writes. Can't wait for the next installment in the series! Though now I want waffles. Badly....more
Gave this one over 200 pages, but not much happens. The world-building isn't very complicated/convincing, the heroine isn't particularly interesting,Gave this one over 200 pages, but not much happens. The world-building isn't very complicated/convincing, the heroine isn't particularly interesting, and villains who are merely mindless killers are pretty boring. yawn...more
This is the story of a boy and a girl who fall in love. Lochan and Maya are best friends who have known each other their entire lives and have helpedThis is the story of a boy and a girl who fall in love. Lochan and Maya are best friends who have known each other their entire lives and have helped each other and fiercely loved one another through the many brutally painful experiences of growing up.
The thing is, they also happen to be brother and sister, and the unholy mess of the repercussions from their choices looms over this entire story.
No one who picks up a book like this can be unaware of the potential pitfalls. It's all too easy for an author to resort to the tasteless exploitation of sticky sentiment or breathy fumblings that heighten the excitement of a taboo relationship. What you'll find instead with Forbidden is a book written with stunning insight and incredible compassion, and two characters who will absolutely break your heart.
There is very little dialogue in this novel, and the narrative alternates in chapters between Lochan and Maya's points of view. As such, the reader gets to know both of them very well and experiences in minute detail the complicated terror of their lives at home. The two of them essentially function as the parents of three younger siblings in their household, as they have no father and their alcoholic mother neglects them for weeks at a time. The relationship between 17-year-old Lochan and 16-year-old Maya, already close since they were children, changes subtly and realistically as they gradually become aware of each other as adults.
The clarity of vision and strength and selflessness of both these characters is unparalleled in any young adult book I've ever read, and the way the author draws the reader in with their relationship is astounding. The intimacy and companionship, the joy and maturity, and the self-doubt and heavy responsibilities of these two young people drawn together in a terrible situation is described with extraordinary empathy and understanding.
Without the cruelty and selfishness of similarly challenged characters in books like Ian McEwan's The Cement Garden or the confused, casual amorality of Janet Inglis' characters in the novels Darling and its follow-up Father of Lies, Forbidden intelligently and passionately explores emotions that feel desperately genuine and impossibly tragic. As the book builds unbearably to its unforgettable and devastating conclusion, the things that Lochan and Maya will sacrifice for the ideals of love and responsibility are astounding.
This is perhaps not a perfect book, but it is one that may open up a tiny crack in your armor and flood you with unexpected feeling. Whatever your pre-conceived notions about the sensitive subject of this novel, I defy anyone with a heart to experience the vibrant, pulsing emotions in this story and remain unmoved. I wept like a child--I bet you will, too.
I enjoy a great romance novel now and again, and I like it when there are relationships in most of the YA books that I read. But the key word for me iI enjoy a great romance novel now and again, and I like it when there are relationships in most of the YA books that I read. But the key word for me is romance, not just hormones and sex. I felt like Ari, who is too good to be true in many aspects, was a little too fixated on boys in this book between her long-standing crush on her brother-in-law, her ennui over her ex-boyfriend, her interactions with Del, and her relationship with Blake. While I remember being 17 and dealing with those crazy teenage hormones, that in and of itself isn't altogether that interesting to read about. At least not the way it's done here.
There are a few conversations between Ari and Blake about what they want in the future, but overall I felt like most of the book was about her wanting a boyfriend and her boy troubles, with the occasional friend, family, and SAT drama tossed in. I'd be okay with a book that was all about a relationship if there was more joy or depth or caring to it (see Sixteenth Summer) , but somehow I just wasn't convinced that either Ari or Blake really wanted and needed that specific other person. I think there's actually more time spent on the sex than on the boyfriend/girlfriend stuff...and I found it annoying that infidelity is so casually treated and forgiven. Ari is also a pretty terrible friend in this book. While we all through periods of self-centered sometimes, it's pretty crappy when you realize you've been a bad friend but you can't be bothered to truly apologize for it.
This isn't a bad book by any means, but the subject just didn't really grab me and I didn't feel moved by the relationship or the story. Oh, well. The author does deserve some credit for not going the usual route with the resolution, though. Even if there was some part of me that sort of wanted it after everything that everyone (myself included) had gone through....more
2.5 stars The first chapter in Demon's Lexicon is extremely misleading. The riveting opening scene starts off with two boys bantering in a kitchen unt2.5 stars The first chapter in Demon's Lexicon is extremely misleading. The riveting opening scene starts off with two boys bantering in a kitchen until they're suddenly interrupted by an attack. Someone has sent a magical flock of ravens to destroy their home, and Nick and his brother Alan manage to ward them off in an exciting, action-packed scene. During the aftermath, Mae and Jamie, two kids from school that the boys know slightly, show up asking for help with their own terrible problem--Jamie has been marked for death by a demon, and they have nowhere else to turn.
After such a taut, well-plotted beginning, during which Nick seems to be a funny, quick-witted man of action, I was looking forward to sinking into what I thought was going to be a really great novel. Unfortunately, the structure of the book wobbled precariously throughout the whole thing, and much of the mythology was confusing or inadequately explored. Some of Nick's inner narrative was too belabored and meandering, and the author also relied too much on telling us things rather than showing them. In addition, much of the humor is very dry, and some parts that are meant to be funny fall rather flat.
Most importantly, however, Nick is just a mightily unlikable character. There turns out to be a reason for this, but he is so unkind and (mostly) unfeeling throughout the book that it became very unpleasant to stay in his head, and there's not enough warmth or charm to balance out the relentless onslaught of negativity. It's very difficult to write a book like this without offering redemption of some kind for the narrator.
The end of the book was significantly interesting enough that I'll probably pick up the next one from the library to see where the story goes, but I'll be approaching it with much lower expectations than I'd originally anticipated....more
3.5 stars I resisted this book for the longest time because chick-lit isn't really my thing, but it really is just as super cute as everyone says. I w3.5 stars I resisted this book for the longest time because chick-lit isn't really my thing, but it really is just as super cute as everyone says. I was surprised at how engrossing the story is and by much I liked Anna, who is believably flawed and funny and well-rounded. The relationships between her and her friends as well as between her and her crush feel real and nuanced and warm, and even though they all make mistakes, it's so great to read about teenagers who are actually nice to each other. I like St. Clair a lot too, although I'm not as crazy about him as some of my friends are...he let the "I'm taken" thing drag on a little too much for my comfort. Still, the friendship and the romance between him and Anna are very cute and did win me over.
The author also does a great job of making Paris come alive as a place to live in--not just visit--and the descriptions of Anna exploring a new city for the first time really make me really miss all those summers I spent abroad. A fun, fluffy book for anyone who's looking for a cute romantic story with likable characters and a picture perfect setting....more