Remember how I was just saying I wanted a YA thriller that would actually, you know, thrill me? Here it is.
Those who liked certain elements of CharmRemember how I was just saying I wanted a YA thriller that would actually, you know, thrill me? Here it is.
Those who liked certain elements of Charm & Strange and Wild Awake might like this, and certainly you'll like it if you enjoy books like Dangerous Girls. Not a perfect book, but a really, really good one, so I'm bumping it up in star ratings in support. I had never heard of Nick Lake until now, but I'm definitely reading his other books! Review to come. ...more
4.5 stars So fun. I love the surprises in this one, and as always, the humor and unexpectedly serious stuff with Maggie's parents and brother are well4.5 stars So fun. I love the surprises in this one, and as always, the humor and unexpectedly serious stuff with Maggie's parents and brother are well done. Kristan Higgins does cheerful, charming small town life so well--if she could get over her habit of always writing in ridiculously cartoony bad dates that don't work out for the heroine, her books would pretty much be my idea of the perfect romance books.
Also, I normally am not a huge fan of pets taking up a lot of time in books, but they're always written so lovably in KH books! (view spoiler)[Tears flowed for awhile when Colonel died. (hide spoiler)] And the story turning and the taciturn love interest were such a nice change of pace, too. Really enjoyed this one. ["br"]>["br"]>...more
I don't even care, I can't stop thinking about this book so I'm bumping my original 4.5 star rating to a 5. Plus it made me cry! I don't think anotherI don't even care, I can't stop thinking about this book so I'm bumping my original 4.5 star rating to a 5. Plus it made me cry! I don't think another 2014 book has done that this year.
I cannot believe these were written as prequels, they give readers such an enormous breadth of understanding for Celaena's character and history, as well as enormous sympathy for what she's been through, faults and all.
4.5 stars Well, clearly I'm going to be kicked out of the cool kids' club, because I fucking loved this book. A good reminder to always try things ou 4.5 stars Well, clearly I'm going to be kicked out of the cool kids' club, because I fucking loved this book. A good reminder to always try things out for yourself to see what you think.
The pacing and more introspective heroine will likely be issues for some readers (and I fully admit that I think this would have worked better as pure historical fantasy, rather than middle-ages-in-this-weird-future-time period), but I can tell you that these were not problems for me at all, being that I devoured all 400+ pages in 24 hours and am dyyyying for the next book.
4.5 stars Marie Rutkoski is cruel to our little falcon, my friends. This book is filled with anger, betrayal, sacrifice, and yearning--not to mention secret messages, delicious cat-and-mouse dialogue, and despairing subtext. If you love impossible romances set against the backdrop of war, give this series a try--though be forewarned that the ending is TORTURE. Pure torture.
This is such an odd, lovely little book. The usual magic and mystery at a boarding school, a most unfortunately named heroine,I like cat-smiles. <3
This is such an odd, lovely little book. The usual magic and mystery at a boarding school, a most unfortunately named heroine, a romance that creeps steadily up on you, and incredibly strange, touching bird/cat POVs! None of it should work, and yet it does. The pacing was a bit uneven, and at times I wished for a bit more from certain scenes, but overall, a really wonderful debut. You might like this if you enjoyed Blythewood.
Kim's review is the one that persuaded me to read this: http://www.themidnightgarden.net/2014... with her promises of wish-granting feral space cats, and being that she's the one who got me to the only two books that have made me cry this year, I was right to trust her with this one.
4.5 stars Months ago, I had to put Love Letters to the Dead down because it was making me so desperately sad. Almost a full year later, I read the las4.5 stars Months ago, I had to put Love Letters to the Dead down because it was making me so desperately sad. Almost a full year later, I read the last half of it with a lump in my throat and tears dripping down my face. This is a profoundly moving meditation on grief, written with rare sensitivity and the kind of prose that nearly stops your heart with moments of quiet, anguished beauty.
Creepy, complex, genuinely frightening, thrilling, sad, and unbelievably tender and hushed and beautiful all at once. This is a dark, violent fairy taCreepy, complex, genuinely frightening, thrilling, sad, and unbelievably tender and hushed and beautiful all at once. This is a dark, violent fairy tale, it's a mystery, it's a fantasy, it's horror, it's historical, it's gothic, and it's also the story of a girl trying to find a place for herself among a grieving family torn apart by war. The family dynamics and sister relationship are so well done, as are the way the book handles loss and longing. And on top of that? Feminism and jazz and tea shops and plates and plates of cake! (view spoiler)[Not to mention shrieking dolls, shudder-inducing but poignant consumption of various things, and a fantastic play on the fears of parents re: changelings. (hide spoiler)]
I haven't read a middle grade book with this much nuance and wild imagination and feeling since The Golden Compass--and I'm betting those who liked Coraline or the original Grimm's fairy tales will like this. I was thrilled by the intense creepiness and dread of the mystery behind Triss' illness, I was outraged by what she has to endure, and I teared up over what was to become of her. Best read knowing as little about the plot as possible--just enjoy the wonderfully descriptive writing, the perfectly paced plot, and the experience of not knowing where the story will go next.
Love love love love love. And now I have to read everything else Frances Hardinge has ever written.
Gorgeous, riveting, and heartbreaking all at once. Parts of this book made me desperately sad, even though I knew they were coming--and that is nothinGorgeous, riveting, and heartbreaking all at once. Parts of this book made me desperately sad, even though I knew they were coming--and that is nothing short of spectacular writing.
This is the story of a girl, locked in a room, who is strapped into a chair every morning while a man holds a gun to her head. She’s wheeled into a clThis is the story of a girl, locked in a room, who is strapped into a chair every morning while a man holds a gun to her head. She’s wheeled into a classroom in which there are other kids strapped into chairs just like hers, where a woman teaches them lessons that they will probably never need to learn.
This book is like a fantastic combination of
the scrupulously researched medical thriller aspects of Mira Grant's Deadline + the queer, feral curiosity of a child who's not what she seems, like Octavia Butler's Fledgling + the wandering survival aspects of The Reapers are the Angels and its badass heroine Temple + the dichtomy of high-functioning/degenerate beings in Warm Bodies the poignant, impossible need in Let the Right One In.
But with a fascinating pathogen, distinctly drawn characters, and unexpected (and AWESOME) ending of its own. First 5 star read of 2014!
Everything, everything, everything a violent crime thriller should be, and the best Slaughter book to date. (view spoiler)[ I am even more irritated wEverything, everything, everything a violent crime thriller should be, and the best Slaughter book to date. (view spoiler)[ I am even more irritated with The Shining Girls now. Grrrrr. (hide spoiler)]
One of the most beautiful parts of the Unearthly trilogy was seeing how Cynthia Hand wrote about grief. Reading this novel is an incredibly painful exOne of the most beautiful parts of the Unearthly trilogy was seeing how Cynthia Hand wrote about grief. Reading this novel is an incredibly painful experience, particularly if suicide has touched your life in a significant way, but I wouldn't trade this book, with all its blurry, unfinished truths and messy, gut-wrenching feeling, for a thousand more showy, "clever" stories on the same topic.
A simple, emotional tribute to those who leave us all too soon. And a small reassurance to the rest of us that we're not alone in our sorrow....more
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 is the fantastical story of a boy tormented by nightmares that literally--literally!--become real. Set shortly after the events of The Raven BoysThis is the fantastical story of a boy tormented by nightmares that literally--literally!--become real. Set shortly after the events of The Raven Boys, the students of Aglionby Academy are still on the hunt for a legendary sleeping Welsh king. This time, while we continue to get perspectives from multiple POVs, the story primarily focuses on Ronan Lynch, a troubled and angry 17-year-old who pulls dark objects out of his dreams. But when ley lines running through their sleepy town are awakened, incredible power is unleashed, and none of the boys are prepared for the ordeal that awaits them.
I liked The Raven Boys so much that I was nervous going into this one--but I think this book actually surpasses its predecessor, in no small part because of its sharp-eyed character sketches. Adam still worries me. I feel tremendous love and pity for poor Noah. I'm eager to learn more about the entire Lynch clan. And I'm finally starting to feel something for Gansey, as well as to feel the lovely pulse of connection between him and Blue. Add to that a pair of compelling, nuanced antagonists in The Gray Man and one willfully destructive Joseph Kavinsky, and this world is filled with a host of unforgettable players. The author has the ability to create such fierce depth of feeling towards her characters with a single phrase such as "a teddy bear of a boy," in reference to Ronan's younger brother Matthew, whom you immediately want to cuddle and protect all at once.
I haven't been able to stop thinking about this book since I finished it. I have so many crazy theories about where this quest will lead, and I desperately want to know what happens to everyone. Aside from thrilling, nightmarish scenes, gorgeous prose, wild revelations, shocking deaths, and clever humor, there are also delicious layers to this novel that you may not fully appreciate until after you're through, including distinct symbolism (both subtle and powerful), sly hidden jokes, and a deep complexity of thought and plot and emotion. It's such an interesting meditation on the power of dreams and how hidden desire can influence our actions, from Ronan's waking nightmares to his mother and father's unusual relationship to...more yearnings that I won't spoil for you.
I could also write an entire essay about how The Dream Thieves contains one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking kisses in the history of kisses. (Yes. The ENTIRE HISTORY of kisses.) It's a delicate moment that's suffused with the breathless wonder of discovery, and it's all the more poignant because it's entirely unexpected, and because you are well aware of its context for both parties. Tears are literally welling up in my eyes again as I write this, because that type of longing and sadness pulls so deeply at my heart.
There isn't any way for a single review to do justice to this book, but this line from The Dream Thieves sums up its own story rather nicely:
Magic was real, magic was real, magic was real.
And it runs deep and true through Maggie Stiefvater's veins.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
P.S There's a huge spoiler-tagged discussion going on down below with theories on what everything MEANS, if you'd care to speculate. But please use spoiler tags!
I also participated in a rather epic chat with several authors about this book, including Sarah Ockler and R.J. Anderson--and let me tell you, there are no better companions to discuss a story like this with than a bunch of smart, passionate authors who are just as excited about the book as you are. One of the mind-blowing takeaways from that discussion: consider the characters as tarot cards.
Wow, what a huge surprise this was! Unexpected layers, a heroine who develops over the course of the book, and a seriously, seriously crush-worthy guyWow, what a huge surprise this was! Unexpected layers, a heroine who develops over the course of the book, and a seriously, seriously crush-worthy guy.
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
This book is a wild, abstract beast that demands terrible pity--yet it's written with such unerring discipline that it never becomes unruly or mundaneThis book is a wild, abstract beast that demands terrible pity--yet it's written with such unerring discipline that it never becomes unruly or mundane.
4.5 starsIf You Find Me is a stunning debut that explores the consequences of child neglect.
The heart of this book is beautiful. There is poetic soul4.5 starsIf You Find Me is a stunning debut that explores the consequences of child neglect.
The heart of this book is beautiful. There is poetic soul beneath the rough edges of backwoods dialect and unpolished story, and the honesty in the book's emotional journey shines through even when Carey is angry or scared. And while the ending may have felt a little too neat in some ways, there is redemptive and truthful quality to this girl's story that I respond to strongly. After all those years of living in awful circumstances, Carey's physical well-being is finally assured--but the truth is, none of us are whole until our hearts are mended.
The full text of this review appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
Read the incredibly touching story behind If You Find Me through the author's guest post for our blog. It made me cry. ...more
What makes us fall in love--and what makes us who we are?
Those are the questions at the heart of this novel, which tells a thoughtful, touching storyWhat makes us fall in love--and what makes us who we are?
Those are the questions at the heart of this novel, which tells a thoughtful, touching story that will surprise readers with its sentient literary style and gentle feeling.
Everyone longs for human connection, but 16-year-old A.'s search for it seems to be a losing proposition. Every day, for as long as he can remember, he wakes up in a different body: sometimes as a girl, sometimes with a different ethnicity, sometimes with a different sexual orientation. He's long recognized the futility of trying to create lasting relationships, but everything changes when he meets Rhiannon, a girl who makes him want things he's never thought possible.
This story reminds me of one of my favorite TNG episodes with a similar concept, and A. also follows a sort of prime directive in his self-imposed policy not to interfere too much in his "host's" life. He is, for the most part, a very likeable protagonist who doesn't wallow in self-pity or maudlin emotion, and it's interesting to see how skillfully the author retains A.'s sense of self and personality even within very different people in very different circumstances. One of my favorite things about this book is how we catch a glimpse of all the lives that A. touches; some of the manifestations are humorous, some of them are incredibly sad, and some of them are downright harrowing. There is also a tension and urgency in the story from various different sources, most notably in the form of someone who is relentlessly pursuing A. for his own dangerous reasons.
The things that some more logic-hobbled readers (heh, I am coining that term!) won't like about this book are precisely what I do like about it. I like the book's more quiet, philosophical bent, and I actually like that we don't get any answers as to why this happens to A. Frankly, they're not necessary--this story isn't about that, and had the author attempted to invent specious reasoning for the wheres and whyfores of this concept, this would have been a very different book. A. obviously makes some mistakes in judgments--haven't we all?--and I do think his relationship with Rhiannon developed rather suddenly, as she's a fine enough girl, but I never really understood why he liked her so much! But for me, this all worked within the confines of this story concept. I accepted that in the course of living countless lives in A.'s lifetime, something in this girl at this time called out to him. And sometimes people just come along at the exact right time in your life when you desperately need it, and A. is very much in need of being loved. And perhaps even more importantly, he is very much in need of being acknowledged.
"The tenderness between two people can turn the air tender, the room tender, time itself tender. As I step out of bed and slip on an oversize shirt, everything around me feels like it's the temperature of happiness."
Things become very difficult, of course, once Rhiannon learns about A.'s unique circumstance. It's hard to fault anyone for having trouble accepting the fantastical premise, as well as the reality of living with it, because after all, a big, big part of love relies on both the thrill and the comfort we find in another person's familiar presence. The struggle that these two have to reconcile what they want with what is realistic is poignant though ultimately, still very hopeful. By the end of this pensive, bittersweet novel, your heart may rend in two, because the purest form of love is perhaps when it involves some form of selflessness or self-sacrifice. But there's a great deal of beauty--and comfort--to be found in that, too.
This is my first time reading David Levithan. But it won't be my last.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
Recommended for: fans of A Certain Slant of Light, for those who were intrigued by the body-switching concept in Mercy, and for those who might've yearned for a more mature, tender feeling from Tempest.
Win an Every Day ARC! And make cookies, too!
We're giving away an Advance Readers Copy of this book on the blog. And hey, this review was powered by peanut butter cookies! By special request from Cassi you can download the free recipe card, too.