If you had hoped for something more from the much-lauded Landline, look no further than Liane Moriarty. She writes well-plotted, engrossing, and increIf you had hoped for something more from the much-lauded Landline, look no further than Liane Moriarty. She writes well-plotted, engrossing, and incredibly funny stories with believable women that also happen to put marriage and friendship under a microscope. Every book I've read by this author has been terrific. ...more
I think it's pretty easy to tell if you're going to like this book fairly early on. I felt a disconnect with the writing style from the very beginningI think it's pretty easy to tell if you're going to like this book fairly early on. I felt a disconnect with the writing style from the very beginning, which unfortunately never went away--and if anything, I got more and more frustrated and bored with both the story and the style.
Story: I never really understood what the Game was that these kids played in the woods. (Intial cap is not mine.) The collars and such seemed so silly to me that I couldn't really wrap my mind around what was going on. It also seemed incredibly obvious that the central mystery was going to be resolved in a certain way, even if the mechanics were variable: that is, that (view spoiler)[ a. her father wouldn't be the one responsible for the killing and b. Damon wouldn't be, either. Who it was beyond that would be only a limited number of candidates/red herrings. (hide spoiler)] I guess the other game that the victim was playing was also meant to be shocking? It wasn't very well explained/explored in either case.
Style: The story conveniently hinges on one character not being able to explain what happened that night and another character not being able to remember what happened, and waiting hundreds of pages to uncover the facts when the characters are so uninteresting got to be pretty tiresome. It was also annoying that so much of both their narratives consisted of questions to themselves, especially later on in the story when there were more action scenes. People just don't think in such a literal way most of the time, and overusing that device felt obtrusive and unimaginative.
I'd recommend reading the samples on Amazon if you're interested in trying the book. The style presented in the opening chapters doesn't deviate, and there isn't much difference in what you know about the characters from the very beginning. But if you read a lot of thrillers, there probably aren't too many surprises to be found here.
All three of us ended up liking, but not loving it the way so many of our feThe final discussion post for our Book Thief Readalong is up on the blog!
All three of us ended up liking, but not loving it the way so many of our fellow readers seem to. What did you think?
3.5 stars I loved Max, "The Standover Man," Hans, and few other moments, but overall found that the writing style distracted from the story for me. Disappointing that I don't love this as much as so many of my fellow readers seem to.
You know what I don't like in fiction with erotic content?
A sexual relationship that seems rather pathetic and silly.
A sexual relationship that is viYou know what I don't like in fiction with erotic content?
A sexual relationship that seems rather pathetic and silly.
A sexual relationship that is violent. Not pseudo violence/BDSM games, mind you, extreme physical pain inflicted by both parties.
A sexual relationship where someone is repeatedly used. And often raped.
A sexual relationship that's literally filthy--sex in a crap hole of an apartment, up against a dumpster with rotting food and rats, etc.
A sexual relationship with seriously unsexy sex.
And worst of all: A sexual relationship where both parties pretentiously quote literature at each other as foreplay.
I won't even get into the other ways in which this book proved to be disappointing, in every conceivable way--psychologically, plot-wise, writing-wise, dialogue-wise, character-wise, and beyond. Everyone's fucked up and no one is in the least bit likeable or nuanced or even marginally interesting.
Hated. This. Book. In case that wasn't obvious....more
Well, I stayed up all night reading this one. A well-crafted story that's humorous, but also a serious look at all the secrets we keep from one anotheWell, I stayed up all night reading this one. A well-crafted story that's humorous, but also a serious look at all the secrets we keep from one another--and ourselves.
Definitely looking into other books by this author.
I don't know about you, but I feel as though a vast majority of YA seems to portray teenagers as hypersmart, sophisticated creatures who are borderlinI don't know about you, but I feel as though a vast majority of YA seems to portray teenagers as hypersmart, sophisticated creatures who are borderline perfect, or "carefully flawed" in exactly the right and tolerable way. As fun as that fiction can be, I always feel a certain amusement for characters like that, because how many of us actually were that spectacular at that age?
I think part of the appeal of contemporary Aussie YA for me is that it consistently offers teenagers who act like teenagers; whether they're snarly and vindictive or fumbly and sweet, a lot of them just seem very real. That's certainly the case with the students in Wildlife. Sybilla and Lou are spending one school term doing an outdoor education program, where they find that surviving the wilderness is easy in comparison to surviving deceptive friends, tricky, needy boys, and their own uncharted feelings.
Things I loved about this book: the funny, good-natured byplay between the characters; smart dialogue that zings; the way Lou's deep and private pain is slowly unpeeled until she's laid bare and vulnerable; the complex interplay between all the girls; and the way one first love is portrayed in a deeply earnest, embarrassing way. The author's writing feels fresh and unstudied, and I was startled into both laughter and tears on more than one occasion.
Perhaps the most unusual aspect of this book, however, is how sexually frank Wildlife manages to be without being laden down with angst and melodrama, nor breathless with rapture over its magical life-changing properties. Consider these quotes, which I love because of how painfully and truthfully this girl's first sexual experience is portrayed.
...neither of us mentioned the four-letter word that comes before this three-letter activity in all my schemes and dreams.
Afterwards I feel wobbly and slightly shocked, climbing up from under the rubble to check out the new world...Did we really just do that? I want to hide my face. I want to look into a mirror in private, to check if I'm still me.
Because there's been so much discussion (read: hand-wringing) recently about how much sex is too much sex, we've invited author Fiona Wood on the blog to share her thoughts on this issue: do realistic sex scenes in YA fiction have value?
I think you'll be interested in hearing what she has to say.
-- This story is incredibly original, and unlike any other scifi book I've ever read before. Leaps and bounds a4.5 stars Here's what you need to know:
-- This story is incredibly original, and unlike any other scifi book I've ever read before. Leaps and bounds above most YA science fiction for sure, and with an interesting mood/tone that you don't often find in this genre.
-- Much of the book is also a survival story, so if you like that sort of thing (as I do!), this one will probably interest you.
-- The writing is terrific. Don't let the "Titanic in space" idea fool you; while technically true (and a spectacular crash indeed), there's much more complexity to this story than that.
-- The two main characters are fantastic, both as individuals and together.
DNF around 122 pages Some things I do like about this, but I just don't really care about any of these girls yet--and it's well past the time that I sDNF around 122 pages Some things I do like about this, but I just don't really care about any of these girls yet--and it's well past the time that I should.
3.5 stars Some amazing angel imagery and shocking scenes, though I think Mercy is the stronger book of the two. It's disappointing to have to wait so3.5 stars Some amazing angel imagery and shocking scenes, though I think Mercy is the stronger book of the two. It's disappointing to have to wait so long between installments in the US, though! All four have already been published in other countries.
Well, I don't know what to say. Despite weepy reactions from a few friends, I didn't cry at all as I was reading this book, although I certainly feltWell, I don't know what to say. Despite weepy reactions from a few friends, I didn't cry at all as I was reading this book, although I certainly felt a great deal of sympathy for the two young lovers who have to deal with one of them becoming terminally ill.
But 15 minutes after I finished the novel, I suddenly found myself bawling over something totally unrelated for no good reason at all. Bawling, as in I couldn't stop for a long time, despite my best efforts to control myself. Even though I'm prone to be rather emotional these days, I have to believe that part of the reason this happened is that the feelings this book brought to the surface still lingered.
While it's true that there are probably aspects that could have been more developed for a more well-rounded book, that's not the story the author chose to tell--and I'm okay with that, since it's not altogether unrealistic that it feels as though the world revolves around these two kids and what they are going through.
I thought this was a thoroughly frank, poignant portrayal of the way relationships and perception can change because of a serious illness, and the book deals honestly and respectfully with the human need to grieve, as well as to hang onto what we love most.
And as always, part of the joy of reading contemporary Aussie YA is experiencing the day to day life and slang and humor of teenagers halfway across the world. A terrific book, and an author I'm looking forward to reading again.
Obtaining a Copy
If you'd like to read this Aussie YA book, it's available online from Fishpond.com.au with free international shipping....more
4.5 stars When a book arrives with a massive amount of fanfarRead our hilarious and informative interview with Buruu! THERE ARE MORE ARASHITORA. Ahem.
4.5 stars When a book arrives with a massive amount of fanfare, in the form of glowing advance praise and accompanied an agreebly affable author, it's necessary to take a step away from all the hype to ensure that a review isn't influenced by outside factors. Which I did--I avoided reviews, fled the country (okay, that wasn't just to read this book), and read it away from much of the joyful noise that surrounded the book's release.
After the promise presented by the author's description of the story as "telepathic samurai girls and griffins in steampunk feudal Japan," I'm happy to find that this particular novel proved to be an exciting and memorable a reading experience.Stormdancer is nearly operatic in its scope and grandeur, and young Yukiko's reluctant quest to find a supposedly extinct griffin--and her subsequent relationship with the fierce, noble beast--is both thrilling and moving.
The thing is, the reasons why this book is so fantastic are partly why I also had trouble with its beginning. The writing is beautiful, with strong world-building and a meticulous attention to detail that left me slack-jawed with awe at times. But there is far too much description in the first 100 pages or so, where the story plods along very slowly, weighed down with ornate descriptors and exhaustive detail. Reshaping the opening chapters and weaving the history and world of Shima into the narrative more seamlessly would have helped tremendously with tension and pacing.
There is a sincerity and purity in this prose, however, that I very much appreciated. Nowhere did I get the sense that the author was trying to flaunt showy words or to distract the reader with "purple prose" sleight of hand. Rather, it seemed to me that words just poured out in an intensely focused, if seemingly endless, stream in an earnest attempt to make us thoroughly understand this devastated society that Yukiko lives in. It's true that isn't until the thunder tiger Buruu puts in an appearance that the spark of imagination really catches fire. But oh, what a fire it is! The magnificent aerial battle as twenty men strain to contain this furious legendary creature is unforgettable--and Yuki's relationship with Buruu is definitely the strongest and most appealing facet of this book for me. It's impossible not to be touched when the proud, crippled arashitora says succinctly, FEATHERS GROW BACK. SISTERS DO NOT.
Other things I loved: the action and fight sequences. Chainsaw katanas. The scenes in which Buruu's humor peeked through. The dangerous politics of an empire controlled by ambitious and ruthless men. The (quite topical) cry of mercy for a dying land.
I do wish that I felt more for the somewhat under-nuanced secondary characters, however, and that the romance in particular felt more urgent and anguished and real. I've also seen, in passing, a number of reviews that have touched on inaccuracies in Japanese culture and customs. It seems perfectly reasonable and understandable to me that specific knowledge will influence a reader's review of this book; I am mostly and somewhat blissfully unschooled in that area, however, so I found nothing in particular that bothered me. I also tend to look on fantasy with a more lenient eye (true story: there weren't griffins in feudal Japan, either!), similar to the way I might indulgently overlook broad caricatures in martial arts films and the like--but it's fair to say that those who are intimately familiar with Japan may well find more sticking points than I did. Still, it seems worth noting that this is Shima, a place inspired by Japan, not the actual country.
This isn't a book that all readers will enjoy and it's certainly not a perfect one, but for many fans of traditional fantasy--or even occasional fantasy readers like me--this wildly imaginative adventure is lightning that strikes in just the right place. Remember the name Jay Kristoff, because this spectacular debut blazes a fiery trail across oft cloud-laden skies. I for one, cannot wait to be swept away with the next installment of the Lotus War. And I may even get to ride a thunder tiger next time...
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
I had a horrible sensation in my stomach only because, like, a billion things could go wrong when you try to tell a girl that her Eighties-flavoured boyfriend from a past life was trying to hook back up with her.
Preloved is the story of 16-year-old Amy Lee, a girl who lives in the fictional Australian town of Middlemore with her Chinese mother. On her school's Eighties Theme Day, she's dressed up as Buttercup from The Princess Bride and battling her love/hate relationship with her best friend Rebecca when she accidentally stumbles upon a silver locket with a picture of a boy from the 80s inside. Her life gets complicated when the boy's ghost appears and begins to haunt her--but not for the usual reasons you might expect. First of all, Logan wears his collar popped. And he's persistent. And he's annoying. But as Amy grows closer to her ghostly companion, her heart begins to yearn for the things it cannot have. Because Amy wasn't meant to pick up the locket at all...Rebecca was.
Distilling the essence of what this book is about doesn't even begin to hint at the reading experience, however. Written with fast and funny prose that is bubbling over with good humor, this is a ghost story that doesn't happen to be scary and a love story that doesn't happen to be about dating. Amy has a lot going on in her life even before Logan appears, since she feels overshadowed by nearly everyone in her life, even though she deals with it with amusing offhandedness. She describes herself as Rebecca's "short, awkward, Asian best friend. Which did have its advantages, because everyone instantly believed I was O-Ren Ishii from Kill Bill, with martial arts skills." She's also trying to figure out who she is, since she doesn't quite fit in with the nerdy Asian kids at school, but also chafes at her mother's superstitious adages and old-fashioned beliefs.
While Preloved is chock-full of Shirley Marr's trademark humor and moves along at an entertaining clip, it is admittedly very different from her first novel Fury, which had a darker, more subversive edge. The plot is a little looser and more free-form as well, and the madcap zaniness of many of the scenes seem more suited to younger YA readers. There are also so many 80s pop culture references that it will be interesting to see if most 13 - 18 year olds will respond to that.
Still, adult readers will likely appreciate the flashback to a more innocent time and the trip down memory lane, and it's hard not to be won over by the author's writing style. Her sharp observations about human behavior and quick character sketches are right on target, such as when Amy observes that her nemesis Nancy "Fancy Pants" Soo is "stereotypically good at maths" and "exactly the sort my Chinese mum would love to have as a daughter. Me? Until recently, I thought an algorithm was a type of dance move."
I would love to see the author delve a little more into emotional themes in her next novel, however. There are so many flashes of deep feeling in Fury and we skate around the edges of some serious emotions in Preloved, but I'm convinced there are even more depths to be plumbed that the author hasn't shown us quite yet.
"I see you, this girl who lives inside herself, invisible to everyone, even to herself. You're hungry for your mother's touch, hungry for your missing father. You're hungry for life and you're hungry to be a proper character in your own story."
There is an appealing sweetness and sadness in Amy and in this book, and there is also an additional love story that I didn't expect--specifically, the one between Amy and her mom, which is actually my favorite part of the story. I've known a lot of Asian mothers and the loving exasperation with which Amy deals with her rings very true. What may seem a bit of an exaggerated cultural caricature isn't really exaggerated at all, nor are the occasional emotional blackmail, Amy's consciousness of her potential unladylike behavior, her expectations for her daughter, etc. It's a pleasure to see the wry closeness between the two of them, as well as how the relationship changes and develops as the two of them learn more about each other.
I thought about Mum's vintage shop. How she believed that if she found something broken and lovingly put it back together, that someone would come along and love it again.
Isn't that a lovely way to look at things? And it makes the title of the book, as well as Logan's situation, all the more poignant. Amy is a very different character than Eliza from Fury, but she too embraces what life throws at her, even if they both do a little kicking and screaming at first. When it comes to smart, flawed, memorable characters and vivacious prose, Shirley Marr's flux capacitor is totally functioning at full throttle--and I can't wait to strap in for the next ride.
This Aussie YA title is available in Australia and New Zealand, as well as through Fishpond.com. Check back with us next week, however, because Shirley Marr is stopping by our blog as part of the Preloved Blog Tour! We have an autographed copy of the book to give away as well as a beautiful prize for one of our lucky readers.
Check out my Preloved Inspiration Board on Pinterest, too! It might give you a little feel for the mood of the book.
Make Amy's Preloved Snack!
I was very intrigued when I read about a popular Australian snack that Amy likes to munch while she's watching The Princess Bride: popcorn with icing sugar! After much discussion with my GoodReads pals, especially the helpful Taneika, I decided to make a batch, except I thought it'd be fun to make the the popcorn pink and give it a little subtle flavor as well. Since Amy drinks strawberry milk in the story, it seemed like a no-brainer to make strawberry popcorn.
If you'd like to try it out yourself, download the 4 x 6 recipe card for Preloved Strawberry Powdered Sugar Popcornon our blog.
I hardly ever read straightforward fantasy, but every once in awhile a book comes along that blows right past all my usual objections to become a newI hardly ever read straightforward fantasy, but every once in awhile a book comes along that blows right past all my usual objections to become a new favorite. As gently but strongly as a wisp of incense, Eon beckoned until I was completely in the thrall of its magic, and I hate to think how sad my life would be if didn't have this vividly imaginative novel in it.
For years, 16-year-old Eon has been training to be a Dragoneye apprentice, a coveted position in which the student serves as the conduit between energy dragons and the human world. Eon's whole way of life is cloaked in secrecy and danger, however, because Eon is actually Eona--a girl forced by necessity to live her life as a boy. If her secret were discovered, her life would be danger, as well as the lives of those around her. To make impossible odds even more impossible, Eona is also crippled, so the deck is very much stacked against her. But on the day the apprentices are chosen, it is revealed that Eona has the unusual ability of seeing all the energy dragons, not just one--and she is chosen by the powerful Mirror Dragon, a being that has not been seen in hundreds of years.
There are gorgeous dragons and epic sword battles, all against the backdrop of an incredible setting that takes its influences from a blend of Japanese and Chinese cultures, but is still a unique world of its own. I really like the idea of stories with girls disguised as boys, and though the concept is certainly nothing new, it's definitely not something we see too much in young adult literature. What makes this an exceptional book is the intricate tapestry of characters and themes that are deftly woven together, as well richly textured and evocative writing. You can practically hear the whisper of heavy silk robes and see the glow of majestic dragons as you read this book, and every night when I closed my eyes, I kept thinking about the creak of wooden wagons and the clang of swords that I'd read about that day.
You are wrong when you say there is no power in being a woman. When I think of my mother and the women in my tribe, and the hidden women in the harem, I know there are many types of power in this world...I found power in accepting the truth of who I am. It may not be a truth that others can accept, but I cannot live any other way.
For me, the book's greatest strength is its depiction of gender and the roles that women play in a parochial society. This is definitely a novel for mature young adult fans because of the situations and themes explored with transgendered characters, eunuchs, forced intimacy, and physical assault. I found it fascinating that the author chose to write a book focusing on a world where power is forbidden to women, and my favorite character was the indelible Lady Dela, Eona's "contraire" mentor who is a man living as a woman...who is in love with a noble eunuch. I mean, really! Who could fail to be intrigued by such a scenario? And who could fail to admire the gutsiness of a YA author in exploring such impossible loves?
The book is by no means perfect, however. Eon has a problem connecting with her dragon, and as soon as the problem was presented, I knew immediately--as I suspect most readers will--what the issue was. So it was frustrating to watch her further sabotage herself for several hundred pages before she finally realizes what the solution is near the end. (view spoiler)[Just say no, Eona! (hide spoiler)] I also wasn't crazy about the fact that one of the most interesting things about Eona's character is just...negated, in a very fairy tale sort of way when (view spoiler)[Eona's lameness is suddenly and conveniently cured in the climax of the story. (hide spoiler)] I mourned the loss of that trait, because it unnecessarily removes an obstacle she had already proven she was able to overcome.
As frustrating as the novel occasionally became--and it is admittedly very slow in the middle--I really, really liked this one. It's so uncommon to find a book with such an engaging fantasy story and an intriguing heroine, let alone one that also seamlessly blends magic, a historical feel, and thought-provoking themes. And the fact that this also happens to be a YA novel means that it's a very rare animal indeed. I'd strongly recommend picking up Eon if you find the synopsis even remotely appealing; I think most readers will be just as enthralled as I was.
Believe it or not, as much as I liked Eon, I loved the sequel Eona! And yes, yes, I will attempt to put my thoughts down on paper at some point. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Currently free for Kindle in the U.S. and Andrea says it's also free on B&N, Smashie, Amazon UK, etc., too. Grab before it's gone.
3.5 stars Love lCurrently free for Kindle in the U.S. and Andrea says it's also free on B&N, Smashie, Amazon UK, etc., too. Grab before it's gone.
3.5 stars Love love loved the beginning survivalist part! And the worldbuilding was incredible, though I think some of the humor I liked so much, as well as the characterization, got a bit lost in the last half.
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 cleIt'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"]>...more