I'll admit, I was a little bit wary of Clockwork Prince. Cassandra Clare's last effort, City of Fallen Angels, was enjoyable but felt like a transitioI'll admit, I was a little bit wary of Clockwork Prince. Cassandra Clare's last effort, City of Fallen Angels, was enjoyable but felt like a transition book to me. And second books in trilogies are hard. It's hard for a second in a trilogy not just to be a transition from the introduction of the first book to the conclusion of the third.
How foolish it was of me to doubt! Clockwork Prince immediately assuaged my fears. It hit all the right notes and was notably better than its predecessor (a book that I loved). Everything was tighter, crisper, cleaner. Not a work or scene felt extraneous or indulgent. And the character development. The character development! At the center of the Inferanl Devices trilogy is its characters, all of whom are lovable in their own way. (Yes, even Will, and I was not much of a fan of his after Clockwork Angel.)
Tessa Gray has catapulted herself to status as one of my favourite YA heroines. She is strong but not invincible, clever but in a show-offy way. She takes action and changes the world around her. It was impossible not to ache for her throughout the book. Though the readers all know what species they are, Tessa's search for identity is still relateable and painfully real. Jem Carstairs takes center stage, and this is really his book, his moment to shine. He's still the same kind, patient boy that readers came to love in Clockwork Angel, but Prince brings him to earth, shows him to be not invulnerable to suffer, not immune from anger and rashness. He is still lovable -- perhaps even more lovable because he is more human.
Just enough plot points were resolved and enough new questions raised to make the book extremely satisfying. Sure, I can't wait for Clockwork Princess, but I also found Clockwork Prince to be an extremely satisfying reading experience. So, it was definitely a five star book and one of my favorite YA reads of the year. ...more
What really makes Contested Will the fairest look at the so-called "authorship controversy" is that Shapiro soSpoilers: Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare.
What really makes Contested Will the fairest look at the so-called "authorship controversy" is that Shapiro so thoroughly examines the reasons that the anti-Stratfordians came to believe that William Shakespeare did not, in fact, write his own plays and poems. Shapiro very clearly knows what he's talking about, and he thoroughly documents the compelling reasons that all mainstream scholarship is 'Stratfordian.'
What really makes Contested Will interesting is that, rather than dismissing each of the Baconian and Oxfordian arguments point by point or ridiculing them, he looks into the cultural, literary, and personal forces that led so many people to dismiss the man from Stratford as the author of his plays. He writes thoughtfully and with sympathy, in a manner that many mainstream scholars simply haven't bothered. There's a lot to be learned, not just about the authorship controversy, but the history of Shakespeare studies in this book.
If I had one complaint, it would be that the book sags a bit in the middle from too heavy a focus on famous anti-Stratfordians, particularly Freud. Freud has an important place in his discussion, but it seemed to go a little long. Nevertheless, it's still a very worthy read....more
I intended to read A Great and Terrible Beauty years ago, when it was first released, my friends raved about it, and I was actually part of its targetI intended to read A Great and Terrible Beauty years ago, when it was first released, my friends raved about it, and I was actually part of its target audience (ie, a teenage girl). I'm just now getting around to it, and I was glad to see that my expectations were not let down, and I found A Great and Terrible Beauty to be a lovely book.
Doyle really understands the psyche of the teenage girl. Her characters are sometimes selfish, foolish, and mean, but they ultimately have good hearts. It was really great to read a book in which the characters make petty mistakes, not just big, life-changing ones. Scenes in which the girls at Spence were cruel to each other were particularly refreshing, as their behavior stemmed not from reasonless, Mean Girls cattiness, but real conflicts that go on between young women, conflicts about class, status, and jealousy. I found each of the girls likable in their own way, as well as the side characters.
The plot is a page turner with just enough space to breath. The Victorian setting is used to its full advantage. All in all, A Great and Terrible Beauty has a lot to recommend it.
However, if I had one complaint, it would be about the mythology of the book. I didn't find it as compelling as the other elements of the story. The sources of magic and how it's performed feels a little bit muddled, as though Bray wasn't completely sure what kind of a system she wanted to set up. I hope that the sequel will clarify things and fix that problem. Nevertheless, I would definitely recommend it. ...more
After Matched, which I had quibbles with but enjoyed, Crossed came as something of a disappointment. Oh, sure, I tore through it in about 4 hours -- aAfter Matched, which I had quibbles with but enjoyed, Crossed came as something of a disappointment. Oh, sure, I tore through it in about 4 hours -- and with a bad head cold at that. However, if I hadn't already been invested in Cassia's story from reading Matched, I'm not sure that Crossed would have kept my interest up.
The problem with Crossed? It suffers from a problem common enough in the second book of a trilogy, but more so than any other #2 in a series I've ever read. Crossed is very transparently a bridge from Matched to the finale of the series. I will give Condie that some important events happen, and some important information is disclosed. But that could have been accomplished in half the word count, if not less. The rest is padding. There are meaningless digressions that aren't detailed enough to feel like worldbuilding and aren't significant enough to feel plot-important. I have to wonder whether Condie realized there was a certain irony and symbolism in having her characters spend all their time traveling in a book that exists just to move us from one place to another.
The digressions are enjoyable, in nicely rendered prose, and the book kept my interest. But it was in no way satisfying to read. One feels as though Cassia had her big moment of growth in Matched, and Crossed doesn't change her very much. Some of the conflict feels manufactured, but at the same time, there is interpersonal conflict left mostly unexplored.
I have a feeling that when I get my hands on the final book of the trilogy, I will feel that Matched should have been two longer books. ...more
Hunted was a fun follow up to Lindsey Buroker's first Flash Gold novella. My review of her earlier effort sums up my feelings on the series, but I'llHunted was a fun follow up to Lindsey Buroker's first Flash Gold novella. My review of her earlier effort sums up my feelings on the series, but I'll reiterate it here: the Flash Gold series is fast and fun. I appreciated getting some of my questions from the first novella answered. Fun dialogue, interesting, likeable characters, and a quick moving plot all make Hunted well worth the money you'd spend on it and the hour or so it takes to read.
A few things, however, could use some polishing. There were a few moments when the characters used obviously modern slang (I'm thinking of Sebastian saying "sexed up" in particular) that pulled me out of the story. In a steampunk work, I don't expect exact historical accuracy, I expect an imitation of historical speech that readers can understand. There were a few other such moments, I think, but this example is particularly egregious and easily fixed, so I hope that modern slang is something that Buroker will be more aware of in her next effort. Also, I felt that at times, the action scenes were a bit drawn out, particularly towards the end. As a reader who prefers less dialogue, more action, I'd like to see a bit more of a balance there.
That said, I am looking forward to another Flash Gold novella! ...more
Meticulously and lovingly researched, it's hard not to respect the effort that went into The Lost Crown. However, I felt that the effort fell a bit flMeticulously and lovingly researched, it's hard not to respect the effort that went into The Lost Crown. However, I felt that the effort fell a bit flat.
The first problem with The Lost Crown is implicit in its premise. Because the reader knows that the Romanov family was murdered by Bolsheviks in July of 1918, it's hard to keep up much sense of suspense. This is made worse by the family's captivity. As many writing instructors will tell you, bored people are boring. Therefore, a bored, scared family doesn't make for the most fascinating topic for a book.
Miller does her best to keep tensions high between family members and their captors. As the book is not dreadfully dull, she succeeds at making what could be a very boring affair interesting, at least. The pace is, at times, a bit plodding and repetitive, but I have a hard time imagining the topic handled better as a novel.
Miller's biggest stumble, however, is in her decision to split the POV and give each of the Romanov daughters a chance to tell their story. The voices of the grand duchesses aren't very distinctive. In fact, even their personalities meld together a bit. With the constant switching between who is 'I,' it can be hard to keep track of what each sister is like. It takes a very, very long time for each of the young women to become their own person, and in the end, only Anastasia is a truly distinctive character. I believe the book would have been a stronger one had Miller chosen one sister and stuck with her POV.
Still, it's hard to disparage such a heart-felt, lovingly written book. Miller's compassion for the Romanovs is truly what makes the story work. Though to the reader may at times find them outrageously uninformed, it's also easy to settle into the general mindset of the family -- naive, sheltered, and unprepared for the changing world around them.
If you're looking for a page turner, The Lost Crown is probably not the best choice for you. However, if you are looking for a well-researched and entertaining introduction to this period in history, I can't think of a better novel....more
I waffled a lot between three stars and four for Matched. Really, it deserves three and a half, and I bumped it up to four because I enjoyed it quiteI waffled a lot between three stars and four for Matched. Really, it deserves three and a half, and I bumped it up to four because I enjoyed it quite a lot.
Matched is a dystopian novel, but it is not an action-packed thriller like many other dystopian YA books that have been published in the last few years. Personally, I liked the more introspective look at bringing down a dystopian society. There aren't fight scenes, but the action (that is, the events of the story) clips along at a nice, quick pace. I found things exciting, and there was plenty of mystery and tension to keep me reading. I liked the characters and overall, it's a worthy effort I would recommend, especially to anyone who likes the genre.
However, it does suffer from some problems. Because the action is so internal, the heroine, Cassia, seems to spend a lot of the book crying, which makes her become a bit soppy and wearing. For the most part, she was an interesting character and showed a lot of strength at various points in the novel, and I think the crying was meant to balance the outer strength with her inner turmoil, but at some points, I was left thinking, "Good grief, AGAIN?"
Secondly, Matched suffers from a problem that a lot of female YA writers seem to have, which is that their male characters seem underdeveloped and not as compelling as the female lead. To be fair, this is even more a problem for male writers with female characters, but the issue was especially glaring in Matched, where so much of the conflict comes from which boy Cassia loves. Neither Xander nor Ky were particularly interesting until a reveal at the very end, and it's too little, too late.
With so much of Cassia's development being internal, it's hard to see why two boys would be so interested in her. Her thoughts are interesting, but her interactions, especially with Xander, aren't very exciting. We're told again and again how much they love each other and that they're best friends, but we don't really see them having fun together, and the depth of their bond, again, doesn't become clear until the end.
At some points, Condie becomes a bit over-philosophical in the narration. On one hand, Cassia is a seventeen year old girl, and seventeen year olds often think that they have very deep, philosophical thoughts when really, their ideas aren't that interesting. But Condie seems to think that yes, Cassia's revelations and questions are very deep and meaningful and we should all pay attention to them! It wasn't a major problem, but like the crying, at points it caused this reader to roll her eyes.
Lastly, I should probably stop reading so many dystopian novels, because I find it very hard to suspend my disbelief that the totalitarian states described ever came to be, when they are ludicrously far-fetched in terms of the level of control and cultural erasure that people simply accept.
Hopefully, these problems will be addressed in the sequel, which I will read, because, as I said, I did enjoy the novel a lot and would recommend it. But these problems prevented me from giving it a fully-deserved four star or five star review....more
The Alchemyst had a lot of potential, but suffers from quite obviously being the set up to a longer series. It was frustrating that I read 300+ pagesThe Alchemyst had a lot of potential, but suffers from quite obviously being the set up to a longer series. It was frustrating that I read 300+ pages and none of the conflicts were ultimately resolved. Every time that it looked like we were going to get some answers or some closure, more questions come up and it was just a hair-pulling experience. In fact, it was so disappointing that, rather than wanting to read the sequel to find out what happens, I am left eeling like the rest of the series won't be rewarding.
Furthermore, though the mythology kitchen sink has the potential to be interesting, stealing a bit of this and a bit of that left the mythology feeling kind of haphazard and shallow. Scott obviously knows what he's talking about when it comes to myths and legends, but they could have been used to better effect.
Also damning was that the characters felt rather flimsy and tallow. It was hard to get invested in any of them. Overall, the effect of the book was one big "meh," but I read the whole thing and didn't hate it, hence two stars rather than one. To be honest, sometimes I prefer it when a book can give me something to hate, rather than just leaving me feeling indifferent. ...more