In the dark of night, when the house is still, what fears creep into your heart? For Conor O'Malley, his nightmares take the shape of a very old and v...moreIn the dark of night, when the house is still, what fears creep into your heart? For Conor O'Malley, his nightmares take the shape of a very old and very dangerous monster who visits him every night at seven minutes past midnight. He's half-convinced that these must be dreams of his fevered mind. But how can they be, when the visits are so vivid and when he finds physical evidence of the monster's existence the next day?
Conor's nightmares begin shortly after his mother starts her treatments for cancer. He's also dealing with a father who lives far away and is engrossed with his new family, a brisk and determined grandma who doesn't understand him, and schoolmates who don't seem to see him anymore. As readers learn more and more about Conor's story and the terrible monster who comes to visit, it is impossible not to feel worry and fear and sadness for this boy, whose must shoulder problems that have toppled many adults before him. But even in his anger and pain, Conor's defiant spirit shows flashes of dry humor and painful hopefulness that are difficult to witness, but make him impossibly endearing.
A Monster Calls is a middle grade children's book, but it's a children's book in the way that Roald Dahl or Shel Silverstein wrote children's books--that is, the surface stories are certainly well-written and compelling, but underneath that are the themes of confusion and loneliness and sadness that elevate them to timeless works of literature. And while A Monster Calls chooses to confront its demons more literally than some other books may, it does so with such fierce intelligence and ease that it never feels didactic or forced.
...the fire in Conor's chest suddenly blazed, suddenly burned like it would eat him alive. It was the truth, he knew it was. A moan started in his throat, a moan that rose into a cry and then a loud wordless yell and he opened his mouth and the fire came blazing out to consume everything, bursting over the blackness, over the yew tree, too, setting it ablaze along with the rest of the world...
This an incredible book about the enormous burdens of responsibility and grief and loss. I read most of it with anxiety in my heart and as the story intensified, the ache in my throat got worse and worse. By the time I reached the end, hot tears were dripping onto the last two pages, and continued to fall as I immediately read those pages again, and as I read them yet again.
But more than anything else, I felt a great deal of love as I was reading this. Love for Conor, love for his mum, love for his grandma, and love for everyone who has ever experienced a profound loss. This is such a beautiful book, such an important book, and one that I think so many children and so many adults will appreciate. I cannot imagine that there will be another children's book written this year that will provide such a moving and emotionally truthful experience, or one that will so easily become an instant classic. In just 215 pages, A Monster Calls shatters your heart and then wraps it up tightly again so that you can go and be present in the world as an infinitely wiser, more loving human being.
About the Illustrations:
The words themselves are powerful and full of terrible beauty and latent emotion. But if you're able, do try to get your hands on a copy of the hardcover, which is illustrated with wildly expressive artistry that complement the story perfectly and captures exactly the right feel for the book. I've included some of the illustrations from the book here in this review, but if you'd like to see more images, please visit Jim Kay's website to learn more about the process the artist used.
About the Story:
The story behind this book makes it even more poignant. Siobhan Dowd, the award-winning author of numerous young adult novels, conceived this idea and the characters and the beginning--but died of breast cancer at the age of 47 before she could write the novel. Patrick Ness was asked to write the book based on her idea, and he succeeded in achieving a work of fiction that both transcends its genre and painfully wrenches your heart.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
It's a tricky situation when you're really looking forward to reading a book and it ends up being a disappointment. I normally post my reviews fairly...moreIt's a tricky situation when you're really looking forward to reading a book and it ends up being a disappointment. I normally post my reviews fairly quickly after reading, but I put off writing this one for some time because I was so conflicted over my feelings.
The thing is, I really enjoyed Stork, the first book in this series, for several reasons: the strikingly original paranormal concept of a girl who is destined to be part of a mystical order of women, the fresh and funny voice, the cute relationship between Katla and Jack, and the bits of Icelandic lore. I thought that the paranormal stuff could have been more fleshed out, however, and I was hoping that this second installment would more fully explain what Katla's duties and powers actually are and we'd get a little more immersed in the mysterious Stork society.
But that's not the case. The story goes off onto a different adventure, most of which involves how Katla deals with Jack and his new obsession with learning about his power, which made a bizarre appearance towards the end of the previous novel. So all the things I enjoyed about the first book go out the window pretty fast, particularly the Stork ladies (this storyline is half-heartedly revisited, but quickly abandoned) and the relationship between Jack and Kat. There's now a giant wedge between them in the shape of a Professor Brigid Fonnkona, an icy environmental researcher who is determined to take him to Greenland. Frost is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, so those familiar with the tale will have an inkling of how those elements take shape in the modern version.
What would have been impossible to predict, however, are all the subplots that kept piling on in this book. Something weird is going on with Katla's afi. The kids are doing a musical version of The Snow Queen at school. Kat's mom is pregnant. Her dad is around, but...extraneous. Her friends are fighting. Hulda is sick. Kat may or may not be seeing ghosts. Dorit has been kicked out of the society and has disappeared. There are so many new people and new plots to assimilate, and none of the old ones were at all adequately explained. It seems as though most of these problems could have been fixed during the outlining process, so I am very surprised that they were not.
After awhile, I realized that I was never going to get the answers to my questions from the first book and I probably would never get answers to the new ones popping up. Because frankly, I'm not sure that there is an overall plan figured out for these characters, either. While there were occasional moments towards the beginning that recalled what I enjoyed about the first book (Yule Cat, Santa, Pig-Pen), overall reading this book and watching the story line derail was an extremely frustrating process.
I wouldn't rule out checking out another one of this author's books sometime down the road because I do like her voice, but it will be with an extremely guarded and wary eye. I was really sad when I closed this book 10 days ago, and I'm still sad that the promise of the series' premise will apparently never be fulfilled.
3.5 out of 5 stars It's rare that I spend so much time frustrated with a heroine and then have such a complete change of heart as the story progresses...more3.5 out of 5 stars It's rare that I spend so much time frustrated with a heroine and then have such a complete change of heart as the story progresses. I went through literally the first half of this book annoyed with Rosalinda Fitzroy, a sixteen-year-old girl who has just been awakened out of stasis sleep with a kiss. She doesn't really ask enough questions to find out what's been happening since she was last conscious. She falls in love far too easily. She narrates with too many exclamation points. She says that "she's not really that smart." She says that again to someone else at a later date. Frankly, all in all she's kind of wimpy, and as such, she almost got categorized that way on my virtual GoodReads bookshelf.
But then I found out why she does all this. And the reason behind it is really, really sad.
The story also seems to take off at that point, as Rose discovers the terrible truth behind her chemically-induced slumber and realizes that she not only has to stay awake, but she also has to live. This futuristic retelling of Sleeping Beauty would, on the surface, seem like it would be just another boy-awakens-pretty-girl-slays-dragons-and-lives-happily-ever-after tale, but that's not the case. Instead, it's actually a very interesting science fiction story about a girl who finally finds out who she is and starts to figure out who she wants to be.
Along the way, Rose deals with a complications including Bren, the attractive boy who awakened her from her sleep; her grief over the loss of her dead parents and her long-lost boyfriend Xavier; her stalled attempts to study art; her memories of her childhood ally, Asa; and her friendship with an unusually appealing, lonely alien named Otto. There's also a really cool killing thing that is chasing her for unknown reasons, the details of which I won't spoil, but whose every appearance made me sit up and do a happy little wriggle in my seat. I also really enjoyed the cool stasis technology and the action sequences that show up towards the end, all of which were very well written and well thought out.
I do wish, however, that some of the dialogue wasn't so clunky in parts, that there was more showing and less telling, that some of the world-building was a little more complex, and that some of the names weren't quite so cutesy. (Unicorn Estates, really?) It would also help if it didn't take us quite so long to get to the point where we understood why Rose's character took the shape it did. However understandable the big picture, it's hard to feel sympathy in the moment for a character who decides to go away for two weeks and opens up a bag of dog food on its side for her pet, saying that she knows he'll be able to drink out of the toilet. All because she's depressed over a boy. Not cool, Rose! Not cool at all.
In the end, however, the story won me over with a very original concept, some really cool futuristic technology, some fairly bittersweet emotions later in the story, and best of all, the promise of a heroine who is just developing into a pretty interesting individual. The author pulled off a neat trick with her risky gamble in presenting the story the way she did, and I enjoyed the last half of the book enough to be curious about whatever she chooses to write next.
As always, great action sequences and awesome Jack Reacher-ness. This particular story gets a little muddled with the huge cast of characters, it's pe...moreAs always, great action sequences and awesome Jack Reacher-ness. This particular story gets a little muddled with the huge cast of characters, it's perhaps a little too easy to guess what's going on, and there's not as much underlying tension/emotion as usual...but Lee Child writes such electrifying thrillers and the stories are such page-turners that I find it impossible to rate these books anything less than at least a 4. (less)
3.5 stars It's pretty much impossible to read this book and not smile throughout most of it. Impossible, I say! I've never read this author before, bu...more3.5 stars It's pretty much impossible to read this book and not smile throughout most of it. Impossible, I say! I've never read this author before, but the quirky cover appealed to my sense of humor and the premise reminded me a of A Different Twist, one of those Scholastic paperbacks I really liked in grade school.
Have you ever wondered why guys don't call back when they say they will? Natalie has, so she decides to go undercover at a boys' prep school for some inside info for her newspaper story on how the other half thinks. She cuts her hair, puts on a school uniform, applies some fake stubble, and throws herself right into the project. How hard can it be to figure out what makes boys tick, right?
The set-up and many of the details are obviously far-fetched and silly (and have been used in many stories before this one), so you're going to have to just run with them if you're going to read this book. It's not hard to leave your analytical brain at the door, though, as I was hooked from the very beginning by the breezy tone and fast-moving plot. I loved Natalie's smart and funny voice as well as her sly observations about the world around her.
My personal favorite, however, is the brief and appropriate nod to My Fair Lady during the transformation scene with Nat's friends. "By George, I think you've got it." Love love love!
There are really great girl-girl friendships and cute boys, as well as some interesting revelations that come to Nat about friends (and trolls) hiding in unexpected places. I also liked the author's depiction of the natural exuberance in the way girls interact with each other, and the way Nat comes to appreciate both the opposite sex as well as her own pleasure in being a girl.
This is a super cute book that is a lot of fun to read. I highly recommend it for the next time you want a fast and fluffy, uncomplicated but not shallow book. It's something we can all use from time to time.
There is a certain rough beauty which can be found in urban environments. Anyone who has stood on a rooftop at sundown or noticed a patch of wildflowe...moreThere is a certain rough beauty which can be found in urban environments. Anyone who has stood on a rooftop at sundown or noticed a patch of wildflowers poking out of a concrete sidewalk will appreciate the strange duality of natural and manmade aesthetics, as well as the occasional difficulty of finding security and happiness in such surroundings.
For Kid, who has been living on the streets for over a year, the city of Brooklyn offers both strength and sadness and love and loss. Kid's parents can't seem to accept a lifestyle that doesn't fit neatly into a box, and Kid turns to one person after another looking for fulfillment that can't be found at home. This is a slow, gritty coming of age story that deals with painful family relationships, small but impossible dreams, unexpected kindness, hopeful love, and the hard truth that sometimes friends can understand you better than the people you've known your entire life.
Written in matter-of-fact prose that is ever more affecting because of its lack of sentimentality, Brooklyn, Burning offers a troubling look at what many kids go through when their families can't or won't accept their fundamental sexual identities. The author pulls off the incredible trick of never revealing Kid's gender to the reader, and it's clear that Kid's father's refusal to open his heart to his son/daughter is the direct cause of Kid's desperate struggle to find some measure of peace and happiness outside of self and outside of home.
Despite its pragmatic style, there is incredible beauty and a great deal of latent emotion in this moving book. Kid's longing for human connection lingers over every conversation and every thought, and the author's descriptions of love and music leave a lovely ache.
I just stood, watching him, listening to the melody he hummed. Even without words, it haunted me--filled the room and everything in it. The visions it gave me: they were dark, but beautiful. They took me out of the cellar, up to the rooftops at night on the lower East side, down into the subway, onto the tracks, and into the tunnels. They brought me deep into the city, deeper than anyone can ever really go: into its heart.
Can you miss someone before they're gone, when they're still smiling up at you with closed eyes, and their beautiful face, with its deep-set eyes and two days of beard, is rolling slowly between your knees?
I was drawn in by Brooklyn, Burning in ways that I never expected, but was so touched to find. This is a brave and unique story, and as unlikely as it might seem, I know I'd be hard pressed to find a book written this year that has more toughness and heart and spirit and beauty than this one.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
Please note that there may be some mild spoilers in the discussion below! (less)
Let's see if I can sum up this book in two short paragraphs:
The concept behind Still Waters reminded me a lot of The Shining*, in that it's about a no...moreLet's see if I can sum up this book in two short paragraphs:
The concept behind Still Waters reminded me a lot of The Shining*, in that it's about a not-very-bright girl named Hannah who goes to an isolated lake house for a romantic getaway, and once they're there, her boyfriend Colin starts acting really weird. Except that, unlike that other masterpiece of horror, there isn't any snow. Or tension. Or creepiness.
Unfortunately, while I liked the basic idea behind the book, this very short novel could have used much more intricate plotting and better character development than simply the drama of Hannah bringing herself to tell her boyfriend she loves him. Smoothing out some of the rather lackluster writing and awkward dialogue would have helped, too. It's pretty disappointing when the most I can say for a psycyhological "thriller" is that it isn't actually a terrible book...just a terribly uninspired one.
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.
*Or perhaps I should say (view spoiler)[The Shinning! D'ye want to get sued?
2.5 stars Um...I'm not really sure why I read this book! But I think I was in the mood for some light relief after all the post-apocalyptic novels I'v...more2.5 stars Um...I'm not really sure why I read this book! But I think I was in the mood for some light relief after all the post-apocalyptic novels I've been plowing through lately. Sometimes you just need a little mindless filler while you're between stories about girls with supernatural powers and stories about flesh-eating zombies.
There are a lot of reasons why I shouldn't have liked Sometimes It Happens. I hate books (or anything, really) that involve infidelity. I'm not a big realistic YA fiction person. I'm not usually interested in books that are solely about high school boy-girl drama. I think the title is...pedestrian. But much to my surprise, I actually found this book to be pretty entertaining.
Hannah's best friend Ava has gone away for the summer, leaving her depressed and mopey since her ex-boyfriend cheated on her. Ava's assigned her boyfriend Noah to cheer up Hannah. The two of them start hanging out, they bond over french fries and Sting, one thing leads to another, and...sometimes stuff happens. (I still can't say that without wincing.)
It's not the most riveting of plots, but somehow the author makes the story very readable. The narrative flips back and forth between the first day of senior year and the events of the summer, so there's some OMG WHY IS SHE ACTING SO WEIRD? type suspense as you follow along. The author does a good job of gradually developing the relationship between Hannah and Noah from friendship into something a little more, and there were some good reasons provided as to why there is a certain discord between both Ava and Noah and Ava and Hannah. What I particularly appreciated, however, is that both Hannah and Noah own up to their mistakes and don't make any excuses for them. I like that the author had them take responsibility for their actions even while you get an understanding of how this kind of thing can take place.
This is a quick, entertaining read if you're in the mood for some light YA. It's not a particularly complex or memorable book, though, since it gets a little bogged down by a subplot with a coworker and Hannah herself spends so much of her time crying, first over her ex and then over Noah. Also, the relationship is cute enough but it's not all that outstanding, either. While I understand that the author may not have wanted to go into tasteless Oh this is so wrong but it feels so right type territory with the make-out scenes, it does feel like a little bit of a cheat that Noah's kissing scenes with Ava are way more appealing than his kissing scenes with Hannah.
This is my first time reading this author and I liked her voice enough, however, to give another one a shot sometime. 2.5 stars for keeping my interest and getting me through to the end of the book! Now back to regularly scheduled programming.
I never, ever would have read Sarah Dessen if it weren't for my GoodReads friends. I'm not much on chick lit and I only occasionally come across reali...moreI never, ever would have read Sarah Dessen if it weren't for my GoodReads friends. I'm not much on chick lit and I only occasionally come across realistic YA fiction that I truly enjoy, so I was extremely wary of what lay behind those pretty book covers, even though most of the reviews were positively gushing.
I fell for this book really hard, really fast, however. I expected a light, hopefully somewhat amusing read but what I got instead was a quiet, deep story that I absolutely loved reading from beginning to end. I felt so much empathy for Macy, who struggles to be the perfect daughter but feels small and unimportant in so many aspects of her life. The author also wrote incredibly touching examples of how people process grief in different ways, especially in how Macy witnessed her father's death as well as the funny and bittersweet packages that continue to arrive for him. I also found Macy's relationships with her mom and her sister to be painfully familiar as well as believably awkward and flawed.
This isn't a doom and gloom Message Book, however; it's surprisingly sweet and warm and grounded in a way that so many of these types of books are not. I loved the way Macy's friendships with Kristy and Monica and Delia and Bert, as well as her more-than-friends relationship with Wes, are portrayed. (view spoiler)[Lamest ex-boyfriend ever, though. But the uppity mean girls at the library were totally believable. (hide spoiler)] Their interactions when they're working or hanging out are somehow relaxed and fun and full of self-discovery all at the same time. I truly believe that it's important to have people in our lives who bring out different sides of us, and sometimes the very truest friends turn out to be the ones who see things in us that we didn't even know are there. I'm so glad that this book spends just as much time on Macy herself, her family, and her friends as it does as on figuring out which boy she really wants.
I will say that although I enjoyed the small triumphs leading up to the end when Macy finally takes the big step towards changing her life, I do wish that there was a little more time spent with the characters afterwards. After roughly 370 pages of buildup and a really adorable friendship between Macy and Wes, I felt a little disoriented and cheated when the story ended just a few pages after the really big and sweet scene I'd been waiting for. But overall, this book was very well-written and was truly a pleasure to read. It gave me more than I expected, it put a big smile on my face, and it made me feel wonderfully warm and happy...especially because I now have so many more Dessen books to look forward to.
Big thanks to my GoodReads buddies for giving *me* the push I needed to find such a great author!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
It's really weird to not know how to rate a book. I don't normally use images in my reviews, but in this particular case, there's no better way to cle...moreIt's really weird to not know how to rate a book. I don't normally use images in my reviews, but in this particular case, there's no better way to clearly explain the yo-yo-ing of my opinions as I was reading this novel.
See what the problem was?
The beginning of the story thrusts us into the unlikely scenario of Ava suddenly switching schools because she wants to go to a place where it's okay to wear pink. "Pink" is the code word for not only the freedom to wear girly clothes and sport your natural hair color, but also the freedom to date boys and to be a decent student. (!) Ava has a too-cool-for-school girlfriend named Chloe, but Ava thinks she wants to do some more exploring in other pastures. And apparently being cool and a liberal means that you're not supposed to care about anything and you're shunned for wanting to do well at academics.
Anyway, I've accepted many a more far-reaching scenario than this, so I just went along with it, primarily because the writing is admittedly very good and Ava's voice was extremely readable. But after awhile, I realized much to my dismay that Ava didn't really have much of a personality. It's true that the main theme of the book is about exploring options and deciding who you want to be, and there's a certain amount of confusion that goes along with that. But Ava subverted so much of her personality, made so many mistakes, and lied to so many people, that it became more and more difficult to feel any sympathy for her. Particularly when I had no idea who Ava really was.
The huge low point of this book, however, came about two-thirds of the way through when Ava does something really terrible to one of her friends--for no reason whatsoever except that she wants to fit in and to look cool. I really hate it when people are mean, especially in the guise of superiority, and I absolutely despise the fact that this was done in conjunction with a subject of great sensitivity. (view spoiler)[Ava's friend Jen has just come out to her, so she drags her to the cafe where the popular lesbian girls hang out. She joins in with her friend Chloe in making fun of Jen at one point, and Jen overhears and is devastated. :( (hide spoiler)] Ava had already exhibited lots of character traits I didn't like, including being a reactionary show-off, but after this I got really annoyed with her. If that weren't enough, she continues to make more and more stupid mistakes with not admitting what she did, hard-partying, and (view spoiler)[cheating on her girlfriend. For the second time. (hide spoiler)]. She did redeem herself in the end in a way that surprisingly, did not feel emotionally manipulative, although it relied a great deal on one-note characters, a Hollywood-style grand gesture, and one character behaving in the complete opposite way than she'd been presented throughout the rest of the story.
I think overall, I just found it very hard to like a character who doesn't exhibit a very strong personality and who lies so much. She seemed very young for her age, and many of her actions seemed more like those of a juvenile or middle grade character than one in high school. I did like that the author did such a great job of showing how good Ava is in math, however, and I also liked the snappy dialogue, Sam (who has a great scene of putting Ava in her place by explaining the difference between Greek homo and Latin homo), and the many Battlestar Galactica and other nerdy references. It's a shame, because I liked the writing quite a bit and there were a number of quotes that tickled my fancy, including:
He just spread his arms, and gathered me into a warm embrace. It's what I imagined being hugged by a bear might feel like, giant and soft and utterly comforting, and smelling strangely of marshmallows.
In the end, though I tipped up the rating for the writing and for saving Ava somewhat, these two quotes sum up perfectly how I feel about Ava, and therefore about the book:
She became someone different when she was around those other girls--someone mean and aloof, her cool hardened into cold.
"No," said Sam. "I don't care if you're a lesbian or not. I don't want to know you anymore because you're a bitch."["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)
3.5 stars Free download info below. It's actually pretty reassuring to read this book. After the goofiness of the TNT show and the good-but-not-great...more3.5 stars Free download info below. It's actually pretty reassuring to read this book. After the goofiness of the TNT show and the good-but-not-great Ice Cold, it's nice to be back in the familiar world of Jane Rizzoli and the gruesome crimes she investigates with the help of Medical Examiner Maura Isles.
Freaks is a short story that the author wrote for her fans in anticipation of The Silent Girl, which will be out in July. As with all short stories, the pacing is occasionally a little rushed and the end might border a tiny bit on the dramatic side. But overall, it's very well-written. I enjoyed once again watching Jane authoritatively handle gritty Boston crime scenes with her partner Barry Frost, and to see the deductive reasoning behind Maura's hypothoses. In some ways, this short story is a pretty old-fashioned one in that the crime is presented, investigated by traditional detective work, and resolved in the final act, with very little muss or fuss in between. It's a satisfying bite and a great read for fans of the series, or for any readers of suspense who might be interested in trying out the author's work.
My thoughts on the series as a whole: Tess Gerritsen was a pathologist before she became a bestselling author, and her education and training shows through both the assured medical expertise and the sensitivity with which she writes her forensic scenes. She's an intelligent thriller author who also knows how to write great characters and to plot interesting stories. My favorite of her books are actually her early but gripping medical thrillers Harvest, Life Support, Bloodstream and her space thriller Gravity. (Really fun for Michael Crichton fans.) I also prefer the Rizzoli & Isles books that focus on more Jane, or at least the ones that don't dwell as much on Maura's personal life, which I find pretty humdrum and frustrating. Fortunately this short story doesn't disappoint on both those fronts and stays focused on the mystery at hand, which is a big plus, in my opinion.
Unlike many bestselling authors' freebie ebook releases that end on cliffhangers or simply offer sample chapters of the next book they're shilling, this is a self-contained story that trusts that you'll be interested enough in Jane and Maura to keep reading the series. Download the free ebook for Kindle or for Nook, which can also be read on your computer. Don't let the awful cover or ridiculous title turn you off--this one is a pleasantly chilling way to while away some time as you wait for the next installment in the series. (less)
Dear me. This book puts me in a quite a predicament, because I'm not quite sure what to make of it.
First off, the good stuff:
I liked the Victorian wo...moreDear me. This book puts me in a quite a predicament, because I'm not quite sure what to make of it.
First off, the good stuff:
I liked the Victorian world that the author created. Dress, customs, and attitudes are meticulously detailed in the beginning and the book is very well-written. I'm partial to books set in this time period, so it's always a pleasant surprise when the world-building feels authentic to me.
The not so good stuff:
* the mystery is a snooze. It's very easy to guess why Lady Julia's husband has been murdered, so it's rather tiresome that the characters aren't catching on sooner. * sometimes the turn of a page means that a whole year has passed. * there is far too much feminism presented in this book. It didn't bother me in the beginning, but after awhile, there was just too much of it, and most of it is inserted rather clumsily. * you'd think that with so much raging femininity going on, Lady Julia would play a more pivotal role in uncovering the mystery. She does eventually pursue clues (after a long period of being pretty clueless), but there is a certain lack of urgency and intellectual reasoning about the way she went about it. * Julia herself is interesting...but not quite compelling just yet. * our hero is a Nancy Drew! Nicholas Brisbane can do it all: he is a detective, a prizefighter, a violinist, a (view spoiler)[half Rom (hide spoiler)], a (view spoiler)[psychic (hide spoiler)] (for no apparent reason), and a delectable morsel of a man all in one. At one point our fair damsel actually thinks about dessert while she's looking at him.
The most important thing, however, is that there is just far too much going on in this book. There are murders, an excessive amount of siblings, interactions with prostitutes and mistresses, pretty boxes full of secret (view spoiler)[condoms (hide spoiler)], feminist agendas, gypsies, fully out lesbians, and (view spoiler)[secret homosexual affairs (hide spoiler)] all cobbled together in a rather haphazard fashion. I also didn't realize when I purchased the 3-book bundle from Amazon that this is published by Mira, which is an imprint of Harlequin--which means that there is both more swooning than I expected, but also less of it, as the romantic angle really doesn't go anywhere. I suppose this will be developed in the later books, but the tone this first book strikes for Julia and Nicholas' relationship is very confusing.
Overall, I was fairly entertained, but the enjoyment is very nearly outweighed by puzzlement and disappointment. I'm going with 3 stars because the author did do a really great job with building Victorian London--but I do hope that all the other elements, particularly the mystery, will be better presented in future installments of the series. I am very grateful, however, that Lady Julia does not don a pair of breeches in this book. Not even once. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
1. She doesn't take any crap from anyone. 2. She's sarcastic and occasionally rude and always hilarious. Who e...more3.5 stars
10 Reasons to Love Kate Daniels:
1. She doesn't take any crap from anyone. 2. She's sarcastic and occasionally rude and always hilarious. Who else would greet a snarly Beast Lord with "Here, kitty, kitty...?" 3. She knows all the rules of diplomacy when dealing with shapeshifters, vampires, and other supernaturals. 4. She knows how to break all those rules and commands respect in spite of it. 5. She admits when she makes mistakes. 6. She's comfortable with herself and who she is. But she's lonely too, and she isn't afraid to acknowledge it. 7. She has a lot of men in her life that she likes for different reasons. But she won't hesitate to call them out if she thinks they're crossing the line. 8. She has a huge amount of decency and integrity. Exhausted, hurt, bleeding, and hungry, she'll still stop eating when she thinks someone else is being slighted. 9. She wields a mean sword that she calls "Slayer" that she uses to kill all kinds of vicious creatures. 10. She kicks serious ass, with or without magic.
I have a hit-or-miss track record with most urban fantasy books that I've tried, but I think Kate and I are going to get along just fine. Can't wait to read the next book! And the one after that, and the one after that... (less)
Believe it or not, this is actually a really funny book. You wouldn't think so based on the title and the subject, but 15-year-old Jeff will have you...moreBelieve it or not, this is actually a really funny book. You wouldn't think so based on the title and the subject, but 15-year-old Jeff will have you laughing out loud throughout his story. He's in a mental hospital because he tried to slit his wrists on New Year's Eve, he's surrounded by kids who are clearly crazier than he is, and his doctor (nicknamed "Cat Poop") doesn't seem to understand that there's nothing wrong with him and won't leave him alone. Neither will the various patients who come and go who keep wanting to fool around with him in the wee hours of the night.
All Jeff wants to do is to do his time and to get home--partly because his sister Amanda might call dibs on his vacant room. And he does not want to talk about what happened with his best friend Allie, and how their relationship changed after she started dating her boyfriend Burke.
The novel is set up so that each chapter follows a single day in Jeff's 45-day treatment program. As the narrator, Jeff is hilariously dead-pan, self-deprecating, and easy to listen to. He is also kind, curious, confused, and sad beneath the typical teenage guy "I'm fine" attitude, but this takes a little while to come out. What's really interesting about the book being from Jeff's point of view is that the author reveals Jeff's avoidance and self-delusion without our main character really being aware of it, which is a pretty neat trick. And it's all all done with a deft hand and an unerring eye for genuine emotion.
I'm still undecided as to whether I should go into detail about what this book is actually about, but I will say that it's pretty important that readers who go into this story are fairly open-minded. In the middle of the drama involving the various patients at the hospital, there are frank discussions about (and depictions of) suicide, abuse, identity, sexuality, and self-loathing that are realistically and honestly portrayed. I did, however, appreciate the author's choice to make Jeff's secret both more complex and less of an extreme situation (view spoiler)[i.e., it was not abuse in his case that led to his suicide attempt (hide spoiler)], as I think it's important that we see more stories from this standpoint. The confusion and embarrassment and hurt and fear can sometimes be enough.
Maybe I can convince my parents to move to France. No one in France cares if you tried to kill yourself. In fact, I think they like you better because you're all tragic.
It's not like I've never jacked off. I'm fifteen years old. Of course I do it. Any guy who says he doesn't is lying. That would be like having the coolest video game ever and never playing it. No one's that stupid.
The humor and the depth in this exceptionally well-written novel felt incredibly true to life and poignant. I worried about this boy and his denial about himself and I was anxious about whether the people in his life would accept him. We don't get to read stories like this nearly often enough, but they are such an important part of the human experience and I hope we'll see more of them.
I also really appreciated the hopeful and optimistic tone that this novel takes, however. It's nice to be reminded not only that there are kids out there who are hurting, but also that there are people out there who care. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
If you gently shook a snow globe, you might find that the snowflakes come down on an enchanting story much like this one. Hazel’s best friend Jack has...moreIf you gently shook a snow globe, you might find that the snowflakes come down on an enchanting story much like this one. Hazel’s best friend Jack has disappeared, and the quiet, scrappy fifth grader must overcome her fears—not to mention a mysterious witch and numerous other challenges—in order to save him.
This lovely story, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, unfolds slowly and beautifully. As an adult who still reads or rereads a lot of children’s books and an avid lover of fairy tales, I was very much looking forward to reading this novel. Hazel turns out to be a brave, imaginative heroine whose love of books and quiet wonder at the world made me overjoyed to find such a kindred spirit. My heart also ached in sympathy for Hazel’s puzzlement and pain over the real life problems she faces, including her adoptive parents’ divorce, her sense of being an outsider as a child of Indian descent, and Jack’s sudden coldness to her before he goes away.
The strongest and most compelling part of this book for me was how the author so seamlessly modernized this classic story. It is extremely difficult to retain the fairy tale elements of timelessness and mystery and magic while working in unforced contemporary references, but the author managed to do so with a great deal of ease and charm. Above all, the rift between Jack and Hazel, which is explained away by a cold shard of magical glass that got into his eye, works exceptionally well as a metaphor for growing up, much as it worked for the children of Narnia. The writing is just gorgeous, with wonderful descriptiveness and moments of true beauty. You can practically feel the sting of ice and the flurry of snow on your face as you read this story, and you can definitely feel Hazel’s wistfulness and longing to simply…belong. And to matter, to someone, somehow.
I am a little puzzled by the audience for whom this book is intended, however. The jacket copy lists ages 8 – 12, but the narrative really sounds more like it’s a bedtime story for adults—or perhaps one that’s meant to be read aloud to children. It doesn’t really get into Hazel’s head so much as explain to you what she’s thinking or what it might mean, as there’s a little too much exposition for the reader to be unaware of the adult who is writing it.
And while I was so thrilled with the literary references in the first half of the book, with subtle nods to everything from C.S. Lewis to Philip Pullman to J.K. Rowling, I have to confess that this eventually became a little distracting to me because there were so many of them. I appreciate that Hazel is a voracious reader, and the reader in me rejoiced to be reminded of so many beloved classics, but even with the knowledge that books are her windows to understanding the world, it all became a little too much. The writing is so strong, the images so evocative, and Hazel so thoroughly winning that I didn’t feel as though it was necessary to spend so much time focusing on other books. Some of the fairy tale elements that Hazel encounters later in the forest did interest me quite a bit, especially considering their dreamlike quality, but again, I think this would have been a perfectly strong book on its own--with its own mythology and its own unique feel—without relying so heavily on other people’s stories.
The ending also feels very rushed and rather underdeveloped, in both story and emotional satisfaction. Overall I found that the first two-thirds of the book, as readers get to know Hazel and her quirks and her insecurities, is much more compelling than the last act, when things finally get moving with the big rescue. For while the idea of a child being so immersed in stories is certainly a bewitching one, at some point that child must step out of that fairyland in some way in order for this to be a true story of personal growth.
Still, this is an exquisite book in many ways, and one well worth reading. (Certainly more so than the other recent YA nods to The Snow Queen story, Stork and Frost.) I wouldn’t be surprised to see this as an awards contender when all is said and done, and the book will no doubt deserve it on the strength of its writing and its premise alone. I do wish, however, that this fairy tale had trusted in its own merits—and those of its valiant little heroine—a little more. It could so easily have been something more than merely a charming and well-written homage.
3.5 stars I'd love to hang out with Katla LeBlanc. She's just moved from LA to frozen Minnesota, where the fashion scene is non-existent and the weird...more3.5 stars I'd love to hang out with Katla LeBlanc. She's just moved from LA to frozen Minnesota, where the fashion scene is non-existent and the weirdly wonderful ladies of the Icelandic Stork Society insist that she is destined to be part of their mysterious clan. I absolutely love Kat's voice, which is smart and funny and made me laugh out loud several times. It's such a nice change when there's humor in YA paranormal novels and I think the author shows a lot of promise in possibly becoming another Rachel Hawkins or Lish McBride.
I really enjoyed learning about Icelandic customs and the author makes the frozen midwest sound absolutely beautiful. What I did find a little confusing, however, are the paranormal aspects of the book. The beginning induction scene is very cool, but there's not much that's done with Katla's gift after that in this particular book. After a strong start, the story goes off the path and focuses primarily on how she's fitting in at her new school, which involves drama with her onetime hook-up Wade, as well as the confusing signals she's getting from the attractive but standoffish Jack.
The basis of this gift Katla has is also just plain weird. This story is loosely based on Norse mythology and inspired by some elements of Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, though the author really has created her own unique mythology. Kat has the responsibility of deciding who gets pregnant in her small town, and there are four possible candidates whose futures she touches in her dreams. It's such an intriguing but strange concept for a YA novel, and since that plot line doesn't really get tied up in this first book, I'm not really sure where the author is going with this idea.
I liked that Katla is a flawed but sympathetic protagonist, however. She's a good friend and has a great, though believably conflicted, relationship with both of her divorced parents. I also really liked Katla (I keep wanting to type Katsa here) and Jack together--they are adorably cute as a couple, which is a good thing since so much time is spent on them. I will say that it always makes me uneasy when there's such a "I'm meant to be with you forever" feel in teen relationships, but I'm willing to accept it here since it's part of the mythology of what's going on.
This is a pretty quick and entertaining read, despite the regrettably cartoony showdown at the end of the book that doesn't really seem to fit in with the rest of it. To make the series really great, however, the author will need to develop the paranormal parts more fully in the next installment Frost. I hope the brand name dropping is toned down a bit, too; I really hate this trend in YA, and while I was more okay with it here because of Katla's interest in fashion, after awhile it still grated on my nerves to read about her endless array of designer clothes and accessories. Some authors may need to rely on that to add texture and interest to their books, but this one doesn't.
Still, I like Katla quite a lot and I'm looking forward to seeing where the story will take her next.(less)
Imagine a place where there are no Elders. No rules. No punishment. Only music and laughter and freedom.
Deadly pleasures await on Ixion, an eerie isla...moreImagine a place where there are no Elders. No rules. No punishment. Only music and laughter and freedom.
Deadly pleasures await on Ixion, an eerie island where young people are transported twice a year when they want to indulge in hedonistic pursuits. It is always night here, and every conceivable vice is available and encouraged. Retra has gone to Ixion in order to find her brother Joel, but her sheltered upbringing makes her cringe at the excess on display. She knows, however, that she cannot stand out and must give into pleasure before she can find what she most desires.
This is a wildly exciting novel filled with visual splendor. There are balloon gondolas. Sleek, stingray-shaped powerboats. Female pirates. Cloaks made of bat skins. Electro-eyes that spy on citizens. Obedience strips that control people with pain. And deadly night creatures who pounce if anyone dares to stray off permitted paths. The island of Ixion feels cool and edgy and treacherous, and the author does a fantastic job of allowing the reader to clearly visualize the thrilling world into which Retra is thrust. I love this passage in particular, which describes the clubs on the island:
Despite her nervousness a thrill pimpled her skin as she absorbed and made sense of the view: lights of every colour, some in soaring arcs, some in clusters, others scattered--ruby, glowing cobalt and bullion gold. A streak of emerald snaked through the middle, dividing the vista in two. The light haloes bled into each other, forming a misty night rainbow.
Ret wants nothing more than to find Joel, so she's determined to forgo the dancing and the music and the drugs and the sex. But she's constantly thinking about Markes, an attractive musician who catches her eye, as well as Lenoir, a dangerously seductive and powerful member of the Ripers, who are the guardians of Ixion. I have to say that I'm not quite sure what Retra sees in Markes other than outward attractiveness, as he seems relatively indifferent to her attention...but it's hard to say what's going on with Lenoir too, since he's holding so much back.
I was incredibly excited by the atmospheric lure of the island, and I liked many of the characters that populate it. I was surprised to find, however, that some of the dialogue was not nearly as elegant as the surroundings, and actually bordered on being a little stiff at times. I would also have liked to have seen more emotional depth with the relationships between Ret and her brother and her friends and her love interests. The author describes the sensations of pain and confusion and temptation so well that it would have been great to see that matched with equally vibrant emotional connections.
Still, the story is really fascinating, and the world is superbly immersive in a way that most dystopian YA novels are not. It's also very daring, in that there are frankly sexual (though non-graphic) encounters in Ixion as well as startling violence. There are interesting ideas about the pursuit of pleasure and the nature of human beings surviving in a totalitarian society, and it will be exciting to see whether the whiff of rebellion fully forms in the second installment of the trilogy. There is dark, seductive beauty in the world that Marianne de Pierres has created, and I think most readers will quite enjoy their visit.
This book was part of the Aussie YA Reading Challenge, hosted by my friend Nic over on Irresistible Reads! It's the second book I've read by an Australian author this year following Rebecca Lim's Mercy, and I'm really enjoying this challenge so far. Sadly, Burn Bright is currently only available in Australia and New Zealand, but hopefully Random House will give it a wider international release soon. If, like me, you cannot wait and would like to order it in the meantime, it's available for international shipping from the Australian bookseller Dymocks.
After being so moved by Tabitha Suzuma's incredible Forbidden, I was very interested in finding more books by this author. It's hard to engage readers...moreAfter being so moved by Tabitha Suzuma's incredible Forbidden, I was very interested in finding more books by this author. It's hard to engage readers intellectually and emotionally when you're tackling such touchy subjects, but the author managed to do so with extraordinary grace and dignity. None of her other four novels are currently available stateside, but thanks to the fabulous Book Depository I managed to get them all in my hot little hands from the U.K. at a very reasonable price.
The first thing I should mention right off the bat is that From Where I Stand is definitely a book for readers in the younger end of the 12 - 18 YA spectrum. This took me by surprise after the rather adult nature of Forbidden, so it took me awhile to adjust to the somewhat simpler framework and characterizations of this novel. Raven is a troubled foster child who thinks that his mother was murdered, and he's on a mission to find justice for her even as he struggles to adjust to a life with new foster parents and a new school.
The author touches on a lot of subjects here, including abandonment, bullying, murder, suicide, and self-mutilation, in addition to all the usual teens-in-trouble types of problems such as anger, isolation, resentment, despair, and loneliness. Given that the protagonist is only 14 (and presumably, the book's intended audience is young as well), it's hard to delve into those subjects with a satisfying degree of depth or detail. As I was reading it, I kept thinking how similar the set-up and feel are to The Great Gilly Hopkins, a book I liked a lot as a pre-teen, except that of course, this one is much more dark and urban. I would say that the narrative, while certainly riddled with more immediate obstacles than Gilly's, is not too far off in what it explores and what it does not.
The book is overall pretty well-written, although I have to say that after awhile Raven's gullibility and tendency to dissolve into tears became a little repetitive. He has a lot of reasons to be upset, but some of that has to be balanced with initiative and strength of character in order to keep the reader's sympathy. Still, it's a book that younger teens may find very compelling for its subject matter. And I'm still eager to try out the author's other books.(less)