What does an urban-fantasy-love-story addict need more? Nothing really – apart from a good story line, carefully built-up suspense, changing points ofWhat does an urban-fantasy-love-story addict need more? Nothing really – apart from a good story line, carefully built-up suspense, changing points of view between the two main characters who should get dear to the reader faster than a heater warms a car’s interior in a Minnesota autumn. Shiver has all that – and more: friendship, mistakes, the pain of growing up, savouring the time you’ve got, desperately wishing for miracles, pounding hearts, not letting go and letting love win, a lot of insight into what it is that makes us human and poetry. What I liked about the werewolf concept was that the shapeshifters shed their humanity completely when becoming wolves: They weren’t mythical in-between-beings. They were wolves. They thought in pictures, lost memory of their names and their past and depending on whether they liked their own human selves or not, they welcomed the obliviation or tried to fight it. Instead of immortality they got animal-sized lifetimes with human summers that shortened from year to year. A wonderful set-up for a werewolf falling in love during his last summer with the girl he saved six years ago from an attack by his pack mates, don’t you think?...more
Rumpelstiltskin and the Industrial Revolution End of the 18th century, somewhere. Seventeen-year-old, down-to-earth Charlotte Miller has taken over theRumpelstiltskin and the Industrial Revolution End of the 18th century, somewhere. Seventeen-year-old, down-to-earth Charlotte Miller has taken over the family's wool mill Stirwaters after her father's death. She stubbornly refuses to believe in the stories circulating among the mill-hands and villagers about an ancient curse, which is supposed to be the cause for the string of misfortunes happening to the Millers and the mill - including the fact that none of the previous owner's sons managed to reach adulthood and that renovations of the mill building tend to undo themselves almost overnight. Eventually, facing pecuniar pressure - i.e due to Pinchfield, the new mass-producing cloth factory in the neighboring town, her father's debts being collected by the bank, mysteriously destroyed cloth stocks and broken mill equipment, Charlotte is forced to overturn her scorn for her employees' superstition. In order to save her beloved mill and the welfare of all her workers' families she strikes the first bargain with Jack Spinner, a strange fellow, who turns a room full of hay into gold thread and asks only for a cheap ring in return. When Charlotte repeatedly has to rely on Mr Spinner's services, the fate of the mill turning worse and worse, and gives birth to her first son, she decides, she has to break the mill's curse once and for all - or she will lose her child like all the Miller mothers before her.... My opinion: Mrs. Bunce weaves a true thriller. The pull the mill has on Charlotte is chilling as is the rich and pretentious uncle Wheeler who installs himself in Charlotte's household right after the father's death. The story is exasperatingly gloomy and keeps the reader out of breath. But what I like best about the book is that the fairytale I've known magically lost it's black-and-white taint: Rumpelstiltskin aka Jack Spinner is not depicted as entirely evil or mean without a reason. In the end you are able to understand his motives and even to feel compassion for him. Satisfactory, don't you think?...more
Girl in the Arena is a science fiction novel. Yet it does not tell a future story; it is firmly anchored in a – only slightly altered – ‘now’ by usingGirl in the Arena is a science fiction novel. Yet it does not tell a future story; it is firmly anchored in a – only slightly altered – ‘now’ by using plenty of pop-culture references to today’s society (Youtube, Second Life, Sofia Copolla ...).
Closing one eye the fictional turns of the past decades and the imagined outcome for the present even seem almost likely. But the likelihood of the exact setting does not strike me as so important. If you peel away the alterations, you basically find the engaging story of a young woman who grew up inside a very constrictive and conservative sub-culture - comparable to a religious sect minus a deity – whose present leader cunningly makes tons of money by selling his congregation’s members as both admired and dreaded celebrities to the media (fan merchandising included), by feeding the masses’ delight in violence and death and by having a tight grip on the members’ private fortunes.
The heroine has started having doubts about her community’s harsh set of 128 rules and wonders if the founder’s original ideas are misinterpreted by the leader. The reader wishes for her to be able to break herself free, but she is – quite realistically – aware of the effects her refusal to comply would have familywise and moneywise: Not fulfilling her family’s expectations would mean abandoning her emotionally disabled (maybe autistic) younger brother she fiercely loves, upsetting her manic-depressive mother, who has a couple of unsuccessful suicide attempts behind her, and could result in losing the house. In spite of her resolution not to become a replica of her fanatic, unhappy and heavily dependent mother, her beliefs and her behaviour show that her childhood spent inside the community has rooted deeply and the only friends she can turn to for advice and support are members as well who offer only limited comprehension or none.
Lise Haines has found a clever way to make us wonder about restrictive communities, about good intentions / idealistic theories turned fundamentalistic without (mis)using the concept of an existing church or association to demonstrate. I admire that. Also she points out how only slight changes in the law or even one-time exceptions can result in a chain of unforeseen consequences that alter society and for instance it’s view on the matter of life and death. A third sociocritical impulse deals with the power of the media and how a single powerful person can play the media. An incident noted casually that shocked me, for instance, was the promise of free-parking for all spectators who left the arena within 20 minutes after a show: The arena management speculated on the “good trampling” to occur, recorded as a body count on the margin of the TV coverage, which guaranteed the undivided interest of the viewership.
Last but not least it remains to say that all this would not have sufficed for a four star rating. The family problems and how Lyn dealt with them, the tender relationship to her brother, her slow personal growth, her strength and also her surprise, when she recognized she liked her enemy in a way, were well done in my opinion. Even the unusual use of hyphens for direct speech added to the quiet melody of the enfolding drama.
A comment about the cover: I love it, but it is not correct. Lyn has a shorn head at the time she enters the arena as a gladiator....more
Read for the first time from February 18 to 20, 2010.
Up to the middle of the book I would have rated solid four stars, but then I noticed the characteRead for the first time from February 18 to 20, 2010.
Up to the middle of the book I would have rated solid four stars, but then I noticed the characters had sort of attached themselves to my heart and the plot twisted and turned and I had to take the book with me on a seven-minutes-train-ride in order to go on reading. So ... I loved this piece of fantasy, give it five stars and reverently place it on my for-keeps-shelf....more
The writing is beautiful (4 stars), but the story is too sad and the characters are too disturbing for my taste (2 stars). But I believe, if you likeThe writing is beautiful (4 stars), but the story is too sad and the characters are too disturbing for my taste (2 stars). But I believe, if you like tragic stories with inhibited, morbid characters and a cold, monochrome landscape paired with some paranormal elements and a little mystic sprinkling on top, you will rate this even 4 stars....more
Utterly lovely. Cried several times and did not resent it - which I usually do. Review follows, book will be sent to Teccc. (Want to borrow anything eUtterly lovely. Cried several times and did not resent it - which I usually do. Review follows, book will be sent to Teccc. (Want to borrow anything else?). My mom comes to visit at noon. Have to get some sleep and do some more speed-cleaning. Once again: Thank you, dear Nic!...more
*** contains some smaller spoilers *** What a brave and beautiful little book. Sarcastic Grace Manning is fifteen and has been living with her mom, who*** contains some smaller spoilers *** What a brave and beautiful little book. Sarcastic Grace Manning is fifteen and has been living with her mom, who is manager in a branch of "You Say Potato" and her only slightly older sister Lolly in a women-only household since her religious father, who took his daughters out for church and pancakes each Sunday, left the family to move in with a Sunday School teacher. Grace and Lolly have a wonderfully realistic relationship: They cover for each other and they both feel the deep bond between them, but there are also walls between them: Popular Lolly believes that Grace is jealous of her boyfriend Jake and refuses to listen, when Grace subtly tries to warn her about Jake's infidelity. Most of her ups and downs Grace shares with her best friend Eric, who recently made the school's basketball team and started to hang out with the other team members and the female groupies his new fame brings with it. I have read several best-friends-turn-into-lovers stories, but I thought the execution in "God is in the Pancakes" sublimely well done: The sudden tingling, the awkwardness, the difficulties to talk about accidental touches, the insecurity in the shadow of other girls' advances. The bitter-sweet love story is not the center around which Grace's narration revolves, though. I am not sure even if one of the several strands can be picked out and labeled as the defining theme. But surely Grace's relationship with Mr. Sands, a spunky senior who lives in Hanover House, an old people's home, where Grace works as a candy striper in the afternoons, is the one that made me think the most. Mr. Sands has turned into Grace's confidant and father surrogate. He knows how to take Grace's humor and moods and teaches her poker but his health is deteriorating quickly: He suffers from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) which shuts down the muscles he still can use. When he hands Grace an envelope and begs her to help him die, Grace digs out old habits: She bakes pancakes and she experiments with praying. The latter connects her with someone old enough to "have been God's babysitter" who loves to answer prayers: Mr. Sand's wife Isabelle ...
I am glad I didn't guess the outcome of Grace's dilemma, but I was very satisfied with the note on which Robin Epstein ends the story. The book deals with difficult questions: The existence of a higher being, euthanasia, hypocrisy, friendship and love, truth and hurt, getting old ... but offers no cheesy solution. Still, there was hope and warmth all over this book. And the part where my eyes misted was pretty unspectacular, but real. Lolly says: "I am not going to tell on you. I'm your sister." Recommended....more
Oh, boy. Large parts of the book were so funny and gut-warming, I could quote every second page. But in the end my eyes burned from held-back tears. SOh, boy. Large parts of the book were so funny and gut-warming, I could quote every second page. But in the end my eyes burned from held-back tears. So, so sad. It is a war-time story, I KNOW, but, Mr. Kluger, couldn't you just let him survive to humor me?
Oct. 18th: I've just re-read the last 40 pages and got wet eyes again. How can a book be so hilarious and so tragic at the same time? I just love Steve Kluger's style....more
All three books by Jaclyn Moriarty that I have read until now were a good mixture of a lot of fun and humor (often kindled by the changing perspectiveAll three books by Jaclyn Moriarty that I have read until now were a good mixture of a lot of fun and humor (often kindled by the changing perspectives), good, good writing (Mrs. Moriarty really makes me believe different persons must have composed the different points of view instead of just her), close observation and some tragedy. In Amelia the tragedy ingredient came in larger portions into the mix. I would label the book as "sad but not hopeless". Also a lot of mystery was stirred in, since, as the title "The Ghosts of Ashbury High" suggests, we have been dealt a ghost-themed story.
I truely liked the book and its messages and its way of tying up all lose ends (even that of Toby's father and Toby's relationship to his mother - I was contented) and I was looking forward to picking up the book again each day after work, but I have to admit I liked The Year Of Secret Assignments and Feeling Sorry for Celia more. Both I plan to reread in the distant - or even nearer - future - if only to enjoy some of those hyperhilarious letters pinned to the fridge or the strange conversations Lydia had with that creative-writing-tutorial-notebook. As "Amelia" is concerned, I believe reading once is sufficient for me - withougt implying I had anything but a swell time with this story. Maybe part of the feeling derives from the fact that all mysteries are now revealed to me and finding out about them has been half the thrill. I don't know. ...more
This reads like a perfect mixture of Hilary McKay and Jane Austen. (Style-wise and situation-wise. For instance, doesn't "Almighty Lou" remind you ofThis reads like a perfect mixture of Hilary McKay and Jane Austen. (Style-wise and situation-wise. For instance, doesn't "Almighty Lou" remind you of Lady Catherine?) I had a lot of fun with the story, the characters and the writing - especially the effortlessly witty, but natural dialogues - and I want to get my hands on How to Say Goodbye in Robot even more than before now. As the description already reveals, "The Confessions" are told from different points of view. I love that, but not everybody does. If you are put off by multi-angled stories because you are bored by repetitions, you do not need to skip this one. The plot touches the same moments now and then (because naturally the sisters meet and there are certain key situations), but basically each sister has her own confession to make, her own voice and her own life. Everything is tangled masterfully and the end surprised me beautifully. (I snorted my self into laughter - and consequently startled a couple of commuters at my bus-stop.)...more
4.5 stars. I hope I'll take the time to elaborate later. It was a great, thrilling story with some great and lovable characters, but it had some unnec4.5 stars. I hope I'll take the time to elaborate later. It was a great, thrilling story with some great and lovable characters, but it had some unnecessary lengths and some points that bugged me.
And when I compare it to Brenna Yovanoff's The Replacement, which I have rated four stars going on five as well, I have to say that I think although the romance is done better in Nevermore, the writing style / language is more beautiful / better crafted in The Replacement and also the scenes and the characters of the horror parts where eerier, more unsettling, in my opinion more imaginable, vivid. I found myself repeatedly skipping passages in Nevermore - partly driven by the urge to know what would happen, partly because they failed to install the pictures quickly enough in my head. I think if a scene description is truly well done, it keeps you glued to each and every word regardless of the danger lying ahead.
And ... I do not mind hints at sequels and some unresolved aspects, but I do not like having only half a story in my hands. Some solution should be given. That's my opinion....more
4,5 stars!! I am quite overwelmed by how much I liked Ballad, since after reading Lament I expected a sequel that would also barely make it into the "4,5 stars!! I am quite overwelmed by how much I liked Ballad, since after reading Lament I expected a sequel that would also barely make it into the "It-was-enjoyable-but-didn't-touch-me" category. In most cases sequels even take a slight - or not so slight - drop for me. Surprisingly Ballad turned out to be what I wished Lament had been: A beautiful but eerie story in which humans meet dangerous, but alluring and likable faeries. Both worlds are shaken up. Both main characters change because of the encounter. James was the character I liked best in Lament, anyway. And his story told in turns with faerie muse Nuala tucked at my heart strings in a way Deidre's narration would not and could not. (Oh, how I wished for a miracle in the end! A sure sign of success of the author's efforts to engage the reader.) I was so very afraid of Nuala hurting James in the beginning, but after a few chapters she started to grow on me, which is how it should be in my opinion. Ballad, which was featuring Deidre, too, in the form of unsent text messages, confirmed my slight dislike of "the cloverhand" and opened my eyes to why Lament and I could not and did not really click. A short comment on the cover: It fits "like a fist on an eye" as we would say in German.
P.S.: I am sorry, Jessi, for stowing Ballad away on my keepers shelf after having set up your hope. Borrowing is certainly possible ;-)....more
I have selected the authors I want to display as my favorite ones with care - writing one of my favorite books does not automatically switch me into fI have selected the authors I want to display as my favorite ones with care - writing one of my favorite books does not automatically switch me into fan mode - yet one of my very first thoughts - when thoughts were more or less possible again after ripping myself away from life in Charyn and Lumatere - was: "I need to persuade Goodreads maintanance to install a huge, visible gap between word magician Marchetta and the rest of the writers I unquestionably adore."
Some more coherent brain activity and a fond trip down the Memory Lane of Reading History shoved things back into perspective, for what would my childhood have been like without the influence of Astrid Lindgren's books (I even went to evening school with a bunch of summer-house-owning adults for three years to learn Swedish) and I cannot imagine my university years without repetitive re-reads of Jane Austen's work (including her letters and the so-called Juvenilia). Still, as far as my contact to books-which-caused-dangerous-infatuation is concerned Melina Marchetta belongs into her very own category of powerful writers, too. The emotions, the reading experiences her books offer, are incomparable to everything else I have encountered and they grab me and squeeze my heart from an unguarded angle each time – even though I fully expect to be tackled by now.
I love all of Marchetta's stories and I treasure the collection of funny, witty and wise dialogues about friendship and family and life in general that I have underlined or copied from her novels. Orphan Froi's journey into the country of his adoptive homeland's enemy as a trained assassin-spy-fake-impregnator of crazy Princess Quintana, who - as the last-born female - is supposed to end her nation's infertility curse by giving birth to the first baby, is no exception:
Although my fickle memory failed to provide me with all the geographic, political and social details I should have remembered from inhaling Finnikin of the Rock a year before, the lush scenery, the danger, the fragile past-war negotiations in Lumatere and the complicated schemings at both courts roped me firmly in and had me flipping the pages at inhuman speed. But everyone who interupts to say that other authors manage to connoct equally thrilling fantasy plots is certainly not wrong.
On the contrary: Admirable as Marchetta's stories are – fantastic or realistic with twists and turns and satisfactory solutions and all that stuff favorites are made of – their true, distinctive magic is hidden inside the characters. When it comes to Marchetta-made characters I feel like a snake dancing to an enchanted flute's song: My loyalty, my love and my repulsion place themselves at the author's whim.
Let's have a look at Froi. Holy Snot, that boy! I could not really understand why Evanjalin forgave him and insisted on dragging him along after what he attempted to do to her. I mistrusted him until the end of Finnikin of the Rock, I imagined him to be ungracefully bulky and I found his disability to pronounce Lumaterean words pretty inattractive. I admit I even had been a tiny bit apprehensive and wondered "How will she keep my interest by lugging me around inside his head for a whole middle volume? Probably an impossible task." And now here I am having delayed writing a review for almost two month, because my love for "that boy" and his own mottled crew of side-characters had rendered me speechless. Froi is still Froi. No question. But he turned out beautifully. Even his flaws (all of Marchetta's characters are equipped with just the right dose of flaws) were beautiful to me. Froi even made it into my "Top 5 Male Heroes of 2011" without having to battle other opponents. When I was reading his story I repeatedly got annoyed by Finnikin and his royal wife and consequently had to snicker, because in those moments I recognized the firm hold Melina Marchetta's writing has on my emotions.
After Froi let's focus on Quintana. You've probably read some strange quotes or studied Flannery's review featuring the now almost famous ugly-witch-sketch of Charyn's bird's-nest-hair-bearing princess. It is true: The schizophrenic girl is unspeakably filthy, has no table manners or fashion sense, and totters through her prison-like castle engulfed in an unkempt mass of brownish hair when she is not stuffing her face with food from other persons' plates. Yet right along with Froi I inexplicably fell in love with her. Making something like that happen requires some serious voodoo.
Therefore I bow my head in awe and impatiently await the publication of Quintana of Charyn, the final volume of the trilogy. I refuse to take sides (view spoiler)[Isaboe or Quintana (hide spoiler)] in advance, because I know Melina Marchetta will push my devotion and my hope into the direction she wants them to be anyway.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more