Not many books start out with the heroine getting shot in the chest with a flying arrow. Fortunately, Tevra is wearing chain mail and astride her hors...moreNot many books start out with the heroine getting shot in the chest with a flying arrow. Fortunately, Tevra is wearing chain mail and astride her horse, however, so she doesn't even bat an eye. She merely pulls out her sword, narrowly avoids the keening magical orb pursuing her, and rendezvous with the men under her command. The king himself has charged her with ending the corruption in the Forest Province, and as the youngest Colonel in the Light Cavalry, she takes her extraordinarily powerful role as the king's viceroy quite seriously.
I rarely traditional fantasies because I often don't have the patience to learn all the new customs and names--and so many fantasy books seem so focused on the world building that an engaging story sometimes falls by the wayside. Not so in this book, however! We are thrown into the action as soon as the story begins, and we are quickly caught up on the issues at stake. For a short book in which sword battles, politics, romance, and magic play nearly equal roles, it is exceptionally well-paced, entertaining, and accessible, whilst pleasing most fans of high fantasy, adventure, and romance.
Tevra is an unforgettable heroine, one who imperiously commands war-scarred men and dispatches corruption with ease, but who is also capable of expressing herself subtly with a cool lift of her brow or a gracious tilt of her head. The author has created in Tevra a sympathetic protagonist who is believably authoritative, but whose inner dialogue also shows a more vulnerable, emotional side that is immensely appealing. In the middle of the sensitive political issues she must deal with, Tevra is also struggling with an unwanted attraction to the Forest King, and her tingly encounters with this man made me clutch the book a little more tightly more than once. Complicating matters is the headstrong young Hetwith, who has been at her side for more than a decade and whose strengths and weaknesses somehow seem a perfect match to complement her own.
Written with brisk economy that still manages to convey a great deal of expressiveness and emotion, Tevra's story excited me and moved me in ways that I didn't expect. It is thrilling to witness her decisiveness and determination in the heat of battle (the woman takes a harpoon through her side at one point!), it is unbearably sad to hear about her past as an Unchosen maid, and it is scandalously pleasing to see her discover her feminine side for the first time. It's always tricky with first person narrative to make the reader cognizant of clues that the main character herself may not necessarily be aware of, but somehow the author managed to do that here. I also loved the cheerful humor and witty language with which nearly every scene was met--I don't think I've ever chuckled so much in a fantasy adventure.
While it's true that you might predict some of the plot lines or you may guess some of the secrets that Tevra keeps hidden even from herself, it really doesn't matter. This book fulfills every demand you would want from a story like this--and it does so with style, playfulness, and latent emotion. I couldn't have loved it more.
Spread the Love
If you ever wonder about whether word of mouth is influential, by the way, this book is another great example of how readers discover and share hidden gems. Gail Carriger chose a moment from this book as her favorite romantic scene on my blog for her guest post. Since I started reading it, more than 100 people have shelved this book and I know a number of friends have purchased it (along with a few of the author's other titles) as well. Taming the Forest King is sadly out of print, but you can easily obtain a copy through secondhand bookstores or online through Amazon, Half.com, Alibris, etc. Good luck! It's well worth the $5 or so you'll spend.(less)
Overall, this is probably a 4 star book, but it gets bumped up to 5 stars for having my favorite children's poem of all time in it. It's called "The K...moreOverall, this is probably a 4 star book, but it gets bumped up to 5 stars for having my favorite children's poem of all time in it. It's called "The King of Cats Sends a Postcard to His Wife" and you can read the poem online!
Clouds are gentle walls that hide Gardens on the other side Tell the tabby cats I take All my meals with William Blake
Lunch at noon and tea at four Served in splendor on the shore at the tinkling of a bell. Tell them I am sleeping well.
I love the gentleness and beauty in the idea of a cat worrying about his household in the afterlife; it's a lovely way to think about heaven. And of course, the illustrations are just perfect, too.
I've often given this charming picture book as a gift to friends. Sometimes those friends even have children who enjoy it, too. :) (less)
It's the fifth of January, so I just re-read this story since it takes place on that date. Graham Greene's The End of the Party is the unsettling dram...moreIt's the fifth of January, so I just re-read this story since it takes place on that date. Graham Greene's The End of the Party is the unsettling drama of twin brothers who go to a children's party that will change their lives forever. The short story can be read online here.
The first time I read this, I was in English class in the ninth grade. I didn't expect to find anything special when I opened the anthology of required reading, but I found myself absolutely mesmerized by the dynamic between the two brothers as well as the casual scornfulness of the girls in their class. As the events unfold and the boys are forced into the most seemingly benign of games, I remember tearing through it with my heart thumping as I experienced Francis's mounting tension and dread. The idea that a person could be so overwhelmed by his own fear was absolutely horrifying and fascinating to me, and I've never been able to forget the terrible sadness and pity I felt for the boys, and for all children really, after I read the last line.
If you enjoy fiction about the power of suggestion that's reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe (minus the baroqueness), this is an exceptionally well-written short story that will take you just a matter of minutes to read.
Of course in the end, Wendy let them fly away together. Our last glimpse of her shows her at the window, watching them receding into the sky until the...moreOf course in the end, Wendy let them fly away together. Our last glimpse of her shows her at the window, watching them receding into the sky until they were as small as stars.
In the beginning, it starts with a single feather drifting slowly down from the sky. When 17-year-old Penryn sees this simple sight, she is filled wit...moreIn the beginning, it starts with a single feather drifting slowly down from the sky. When 17-year-old Penryn sees this simple sight, she is filled with incredible dread, because this lovely, floating, ephemeral thing is an unlikely sign of terrible things to come.
Six weeks after a devastating attack on earth, the world has been torn apart by a war between angels and humans. Caught up in a battle she doesn't understand, Penryn watches in horror as an angel named Raffe is cornered and brutally stripped of his wings. In trying to help, she antagonizes one of the perpetrators and is forced to watch as her wheelchair-bound little sister is taken away. Penryn angrily demands that Raffe provides information and assistance in finding her sibling, and the two natural enemies must work together to outwit danger at every turn.
If you've been searching high and low for a worthy successor to The Hunger Games, the wait is finally over. Susan Ee's stunning debut novel is the perfect combination of post-apocalyptic YA + cannibals + badass angels + kickass heroine, and it blew me away with its perfectly paced blend of action, story, and emotional tension. Penryn is a fantastic heroine, a whip-smart, funny girl who happens to be awesome in combat. I also found her interactions with her schizophrenic mother to be very touching, and it's impossible not to admire how her desperate resolve to find her sister never falters. As for Raffe...who the hell thinks of writing an agnostic angel? Brilliant! And so intriguing. Raffe is clearly hiding secrets, but it's impossible not to be drawn to him anyway. His relationship with Penryn develops slowly and naturally as they struggle to find shelter and to survive in bleak circumstances (yeah, they eat cat food at one point), all against a bleak backdrop of a war and all kinds of unspeakable horrors.
Readers who are uneasy with more gruesome books should be warned that there are some pretty intense scenarios, although they are tastefully (view spoiler)[hah hah, tastefully! (hide spoiler)] done and mostly appear in aftermath, rather than in present action. For my somewhat twisted sense of humor and enjoyment of creepy visuals, it was exciting to find an author who writes such dark and vivid imagery, however, and I'd say that if you're someone who's comfortable reading zombie books, you'd probably be okay with what happens here. Not that I didn't want to run around screaming when Penryn and Raffe happen upon the...things hanging in trees, mind you. But that's all part of the fun.
I have a few minor quibbles, mostly about Penryn's failure to ask and demand enough answers, as this seemed completely out of character for someone who grits her teeth and cool-headedly calculates whether she can keep someone alive long enough to be of use to her. It was frustrating and implausible that in such forced intimacy, a girl like this wouldn't have mercilessly hounded the information out of her traveling partner. I also wish we'd learned a bit more about the war and about the ghoulish experimentations that were going on, although you can certainly put some of that down to my general impatience to read the rest of this 5-part series. My quibbles are far outweighed by my rampant enthusiasm over this book, however, as the action-packed story, sharp and funny dialogue, macabre touches, unforgettable characters, and well-researched angelology all make for an incredible read. The twists and turns in this story are superbly done, and even if you happen to guess one of the major plot points that will have a major effect on the future books, it's not going to matter. And that's the mark of a book that can and will be read again and again.
I'd strongly recommend this book for: readers who were mesmerized by the grim beauty of The Reapers Are the Angels, zombie enthusiasts who enjoyed the spectacular first half of Ashes, people who loved the creepiness of Anna Dressed in Blood, anyone who was drawn to the idea of evil angels in Angel Burn, skeptics who thought that chick in Aftertime should have spent more time thinking about her daughter, action junkies who enjoyed the fight scenes in Divergent and Blood Red Road and Legend but wanted a little more substance, anyone who liked Daughter of Smoke and Bone, anyone who expected more from Smoke & Bone. And finally, anyone who appreciates a truly original and exciting story. Period.
Buy this book NOW! It's only 99 cents as an ebook at the moment for Kindle and Nook, and may also be read on your computer or Smartphone. If you're undecided even after seeing all the phenomenal reviews of this book, you should read the first 5 chapters on the author's website. Update: the book is also available for purchase as a paperback from Amazon.
And believe it or not, this book also happens to be self-published. I'm not sure why Susan Ee decided to go the indie route with this book, but I'm quite sure it was by her choice and her design. Regardless of whether you read it now or whether you read it later when it's available as a print book, I can't imagine that most readers won't have a tremendous time with it. This is an author worth supporting, and how exciting it is to find her so early in her writing career.
A Thank You to My Lovely Friends
This is one of those cases where GoodReads must be thanked for providing such a great platform for all of us to find out about such incredible books. If it weren't for the amazing reviews written by Michelle and AH back in July and for Jen's nudging a few weeks ago, I never would have read it, and neither would many of my friends. If you've found your way to this book and enjoyed it, I hope you'll please do your part in helping someone else find it as well.
Every once in awhile, a children's book comes along that whisks you away to another world--and if you're very lucky, at the end of the story, it's one...moreEvery once in awhile, a children's book comes along that whisks you away to another world--and if you're very lucky, at the end of the story, it's one that also illuminates your own. Liesl & Po extends a delightful invitation to wizardry and adventure, but it’s also a gentle and poignant rumination on love and loss.
Liesl has been locked away in her stepmother’s attic for a very long time, ever since her beloved father got sick. One night, a pensive ghost named Po appears in her room and lifts the veil between the everyday world and the one Beyond. What follows is a wonderful journey overflowing with heart and hope and humor.
I was thoroughly charmed by Liesl, whose plucky courage and ingenuity are matched by the thoughtful, drifting Po and the hopelessly smitten Will, a young alchemist’s apprentice who accidentally sets off a troublesome chain of events when he misplaces a box full of magic. The trio is joined by an unforgettably madcap cast of characters, each with their own identities and worries and dreams, and the author deftly weaves all their interconnected threads together into a story that feels fresh and funny and thoroughly original.
Not at all as mannered or as self-conscious as Breadcrumbs, which ultimately showed its seams perhaps a little too much, this fairy tale adventure is tripping with charm and written with exceptional intelligence and sensitivity. The author’s note indicates that the book was written in just two months following the sudden death of her best friend, and the extraordinary love behind that inspiration hovers wistfully over every page.
...he had imagined it perfectly: how he would come around the corner and see that tiny square of light so many stories above him, and see her face floating there like a single star.
He might have begun to blur, letting the infinity tug on him gently from all sides, like sand being pulled by an eternal tide. He might have already begun the process of becoming a part of Everything. He would begin to feel the electricity from distant stars pulsing through him like a heartbeat. He would feel the weight of old planets on his shoulders, and he would feel the winds of distant corners of the universe blowing through him. *******************************************************************
My heart swells with ineffable love for this book, which has instantly found its place beside classics such as Peter Pan and The Secret Garden--and yes, it really is that good. Between the dizzying adventures and the sly cleverness of the writing and the quiet emotion, Liesl & Po reminded me especially of Mary Poppins in a huge way—particularly in the moments when you catch a fleeting glimpse of something bigger than your own story and your own self.
If there’s a child in your life or a child in your heart who still longs for shining adventure, Liesl & Po will take her there. It’s beautiful. It’s transformative. It’s magic.
I'd highly recommend obtaining the hardcover of this book if you can. The cover is gorgeous (click on it to enlarge and see for yourself!) and there are wonderfully simple pencil drawings throughout, some of which can be seen on the author's website here. It will make a spectacular gift for the right person for the holidays. Mwark.(less)
Here is a most edifying (and highly scientific) quiz you may use to ascertain whether this novel is one that you will enjoy.
* Is your bookcase overflo...moreHere is a most edifying (and highly scientific) quiz you may use to ascertain whether this novel is one that you will enjoy.
* Is your bookcase overflowing with strong, decisive heroines? * Do you chuckle over the animated Gorey titles preceding a PBS “Mystery!” presentation? * Are you fond of the Victorian era? * Does witty prose make you positively giddy with excitement? * Have you ever lingered over a bit of lace or wistfully touched a velvet coat? * Are you delighted when someone brews a pot of tea? * Does the notion of shape-shifters tickle your fancy? * Are you fascinated by the seductive appeal of vampires? * Have you a penchant for strong, handsome men? * Do you look discreetly and longingly at other people’s plates?
If the answer to most of these questions is “yes” then you musn’t hesitate—it’s quite possible that Soulless will thoroughly please your palate and leap right onto your “favorites” shelf. If the answer is “no,” then clearly there is no romance in your soul this is a book to be most assuredly avoided.
You will have to forgive my enthusiasm in this review. I was positively in ecstasies over the witty language as I was reading this deliciously dotty book, and even as I write this it’s hard to keep from smiling. The story follows Miss Alexia Tarabotti, a preternatural being who has the ability to remove supernatural powers as long as she is touching the other person. Alexia is a clever bluestocking with revoltingly independent tendencies and an unfortunate weakness for treacle tarts. As a spinster, she’s resigned herself to hovering on the edges of glittering social engagements--that is, until she gets caught up in the mystery surrounding a strange vampire attack that flaunts all the rules of polite society. Not to mention that such attacks are a serious breach of good manners.
Meticulously detailed and overflowing with good humor, Soulless is a like a cozy mystery run mad, set in an inventive alternate universe populated with a dizzying array of colorful characters. I’m quite sure that Gail Carriger has been busily spying my bookshelves to see all of the different kinds of books I enjoy and wrote this just for me, as I jotted notes continuously as I read because I found so much to exclaim over. If you’re curious about the writer’s style, I would strongly recommend downloading the preview chapter to try or having a look at my status updates, since I quoted a fair number of my favorite lines.
I haven’t read that many steampunk novels yet, but it’s hard to imagine that there could be another one that blends the Victorian era and imaginative paranormal fiction as seamlessly as this one does. I loved the marvelous descriptions of glassicals, carriages outfitted with tea kettles and viewing lenses, and the various steam-powered machines and engines. (view spoiler)[I am still disturbed by all the octupuses, however. That is never explained! (hide spoiler)]
What I appreciate most about this book, however, is that the author did a splendid job of melding mystery, steampunk, and romance together in such a wonderful way while observing the customs and attitudes of the Victorian era. I have such a pet peeve about novels that are set in this time that largely ignore traditional views towards women or the rules of society; while I don’t expect every historical novel I pick up (especially light-hearted entertainers like this one) to be completely accurate, it is a joy to find a book that is so thoroughly researched and comfortable with the manners and mores of the period. Although Alexia is obviously a supernatural being with unusual powers, she also has the same concerns as other women of her time: the feminine role in society, the need for security through marriage, the uncomfortable marginalization of thinking women, etc. I felt enormous sympathy for Alexia when she says simply, “I would so like something useful to do.” The author spends just enough time working these details into the story before she transcends those issues and gives our heroine the means to overcome her problems in a completely enjoyable way.
Once the big confrontation occurs towards the end, however, I did feel that the book lost a bit of its momentum since it would have been better if things were wrapped up more quickly, and the paranormal aspects of Alexia's abilities are perhaps a little on the slight side. There was also a bit more romance in the novel than I expected, but you know, I’m as willing to be seduced by a handsome werewolf as the next lady, so I was happy to go along with that part of the story. It’s not a hardship when Miss Tarabotti and Lord Maccon are such well-matched individuals. And, um, some of their scenes together made this reader fan herself more than once.
I had such a wonderful time reading this novel. This style of writing and humor and story will not be for everyone, but I found it to be hysterically funny, swooningly romantic, and thoroughly entertaining. I absolutely adore it.
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ And I want to pepper it with kisses. ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This review does not contain spoilers for either FEED or DEADLINE. One year has passed since Shaun and Georgia Mason found more than they bargained fo...moreThis review does not contain spoilers for either FEED or DEADLINE. One year has passed since Shaun and Georgia Mason found more than they bargained for as they investigated the truth behind the Kellis-Amberlee virus, a mutated cure for human disease that led to the uprising of the dead. The events that transpired then have an enormous impact now as the high-profile bloggers from After the End of Times uncover a conspiracy that is even bigger than they ever imagined. A CDC researcher fakes her own death in a spectacular fashion and shows up at their headquarters, and soon the whole team is battling zombies, mutant dogs, and the ever-present ghosts of their past.
When I finished this book late last night, my thoughts were "I have not a single criticism to offer. Not a single one." And this still holds true. Without exception, every question and doubt I raised with Feed is answered here. The action is incredibly intense, the story is densely and intricately plotted, and the book is exceptionally well-paced and exciting. Readers who are leery of zombies still shouldn't have much of a problem, because although there are more tense encounters with the undead, the violence is relatively contained and there are no gross or gratuitous scenes. Most of the terror comes from heart-pounding action and chase sequences, as well as the knowledge of the overwhelming consequences if the team fails in its quest for truth and justice.
Shaun, Georgia, and Buffy all loom large in this sequel, but we also get to know the other staffers better, including the elegant Mahir, the fiercely determined Becks, the quietly steady Alaric, and the sad, tragic Maggie. Most significantly, however, the narrator has shifted to Shaun, whose personality comes through loud and clear in his bitterly funny words, his decisive handling of his team, and his desperately emotional struggle to hang onto what he loves most. Mira Grant met and exceeded every expectation I had for this book, particularly in the devastating truth that comes to light about what might have been. I knew from Feed to expect an emotional reaction, but I could not have prepared myself for the terrible knowledge that these characters have to face. I was literally whimpering from the pain, and tears were streaming so hard that I couldn't see the page.
This is my third 5 star review for a 2011 book, and it is given with no reservations or qualifications. This is a searingly intelligent novel, with hard questions about medical ethics, government responsibility, and the nobility and folly of human nature. And just when you think the author has delivered everything she possibly could, there is a HUGE twist at the end that made me bolt upright and scream in the middle of the night. This twist has far-reaching consequences for both the characters and for society as a whole, and it also answered questions I had about the future in a crazy and unthinkable way.
It will be another year before the third book in this trilogy will be released, and I'll spend much of that time waiting in agony to find out what happens to the characters I've come to care about so much. But oh my stars, what a pleasure it is to be so incredibly excited and thrilled and moved by an author's work.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
REMINDER: DO NOT read the synopsis for this book anywhere if you haven't already read FEED, as it contains potential spoilers for the first book. And please do be careful of reviews that may spoil this one.(less)
If you've never read Mary Poppins, you're missing out on one of the great classics of children's literature. It's been a long time since I've read the...moreIf you've never read Mary Poppins, you're missing out on one of the great classics of children's literature. It's been a long time since I've read these books that I loved so much as a child, but I immediately felt as though I was visiting with old friends.
The thing of it is, I'm quite sure that I felt this way the very first time I read the book as well. P.L. Travers writes incredibly imaginative stories that tickle the fancy and will surprise even the most jaded reader. Many of the elements and events will be familiar to fans of the very fun Disney film (which did a wonderful job of capturing the spirit of the book while making the story their own), such as the chalk picture drawings, tea on the ceiling, and the Bird Woman. But readers also get to experience the magic of gingerbread wrapped in gilt paper stars that later get glued to the night sky, a funny night zoo in which the main attractions are people, the awful Bad Tuesday in which Michael is hateful to everybody because he just can't help it, and the tale of Mrs. Lark's Andrew, a silky little pampered pet who wants nothing more than to be a common dog.
My favorite chapter in this book, however, is the bittersweet story of the twin babies John and Barbara, who delight in talking to the wind and the birds who visit them in their nursery. When they learn that one day they will no longer understand the language of their dearest friends, they weep piteously and are determined that they will never forget and they will never be changed. Not long afterwards, the jeering Starling comes to visit and wheedles a bit of treat from them, but they don't respond.
The Starling stared at her. "Ha!" he said suddenly, and turned and looked inquiringly at Mary Poppins. Her quiet glance met his in a long look.
Then with a darting movement, the Starling flew over over to John's cot and alighted on the rail. John had a large woolly lamb hugged close in his arms. "What's my name? What's my name? What's my name?" cried the Starling in a shrill, anxious voice.
"Er-rumph!" said John, opening his mouth and putting the leg of the woolly lamb into it.
With a little shake of his head the Starling turned away. "So--it's happened," he said quietly to Mary Poppins.
The Staring gazed dejectedly for a moment at the Twins. Then he shrugged his speckled shoulders. "Oh, well--I knew it would. Always told them so. But they wouldn't believe it." He remained silent for a little while, staring into the cots. Then he shook himself vigorously.
"Well, well. I must be off. Back to my chimney. It will need spring cleaning, I'll be bound." He flew on to the window-sill and paused, looking back over his shoulder.
"It'll seem funny without them, though. Always liked talking to them--so I did. I shall miss them." He brushed a wing quickly across his eyes.
Written with brisk humor and deep tenderness, it's passages like these that stir a sweet ache in anyone who still longs to respond to the lovely, wondrous call of childhood. (less)
4.5 out of 5 stars This is a gruesome and beautiful book. This allegorical tale of a 15-year-old girl wandering a barren wasteland should not be beaut...more4.5 out of 5 stars This is a gruesome and beautiful book. This allegorical tale of a 15-year-old girl wandering a barren wasteland should not be beautiful, because she's fighting off zombies and a guy who's dead set on executing her. But it is. The writing is lush and gorgeous, the kind that makes you want to sink down and roll around in it until some small part of it is absorbed into your skin.
It was deep night when she saw it, but the moon was so bright it cast hard shadows everywhere on the island...a school of tiny fish, all darting around like marbles in a chalk circle, and they were lit up electric, mostly silver but some gold and pink too. They came and danced around her ankles, and she could feel their little electric fish bodies, and it was like she was standing under the moon and in the moon at the same time.
And that is just the first page. Six pages later, Temple stands over a zombie on a beach and crushes its skull with a huge rock. This author does not spare the terrible violence of encounters with the undead, and each confrontation is absolutely brutal and wince-inducing in its savagery. But there are some things you just have to do in order to survive.
Temple is also one of the most unforgettable fictional characters I've ever come across. She is bold, fiercely independent, and terribly damaged. Left on her own by an infected uncle and parents she doesn't remember, she encounters all kinds of people in her travels: a commune of frightened survivors, a group of men who have resorted to creative ways of finding food, a band of vicious mutants, a pitifully tragic family wasting away in their elegant manor, and a mute, helpless man she takes on against her better judgment. And of course, there's also the guy who's tracking her, hell-bent on justice because she dared to kill his brother in self-defense. It's an interesting situation when you have to fear both the living and the undead...as well as the mistakes you've made in your past.
This is a fairly short novel that is written almost like a post-apocalyptic western, but it is one that is packed with incredible power. It's been a few days since I finished reading this book, and I can't seem to forget the bleak intensity and magnificence of its imagery. I suspect that I never will.(less)
My favorite of the Little House books from start to finish, but especially the chapter where Ma and Pa go a...moreMy annual re-read, this time with Heidi! :)
My favorite of the Little House books from start to finish, but especially the chapter where Ma and Pa go away for a week and the house falls into disarray as the children eat cake, slice watermelon, blacken the parlor wall, and most importantly, use up all the sugar making ice cream. Still no other author has ever captured the life of pioneers in quite this way, and the good eats will make your mouth water!(less)
This is a series I reread every year. No one else has ever captured the early 1900's in the Jewish Upper East side of New York like this, and it's fas...moreThis is a series I reread every year. No one else has ever captured the early 1900's in the Jewish Upper East side of New York like this, and it's fascinating to read about the holidays and customs and everyday life that this little troop of girls experiences. I still wish I could walk through those streets teeming with peddlers selling big dill pickles, candied orange slices, and spiced chick peas!
These books are great for those who love old-fashioned stories about growing up, like the Little House, Ginnie and Geneva, Betsy-Tacy, Moffats, or Beverly Cleary books. These authors understood that everyday life at home and in school held wonderful adventures and mysteries all their own.(less)
My favorite book of all time . . . .with timeless themes of love and loss. If you've never heard Meryl Streep pitch-perfect reading of this book, or s...moreMy favorite book of all time . . . .with timeless themes of love and loss. If you've never heard Meryl Streep pitch-perfect reading of this book, or seen David Jorgensen's beautiful drawings, you've never really experienced it properly.(less)
**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)
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.