*** Oh, yes! There will be plenty of spoilers. *** But first, let’s have an authentic taste of the story: "'I'm Shayne. Remember?' [...] 'We've been s*** Oh, yes! There will be plenty of spoilers. *** But first, let’s have an authentic taste of the story: "'I'm Shayne. Remember?' [...] 'We've been sitting by each other all year,' he says. I glance around the room and notice half the girls in the class staring at him. But he either doesn't notice them or doesn’t care. It’s like he only has eyes for me." ... and ... "'I would do anything for you, Piper. Anything you want'. Reese won't take his eyes off me. 'If I can’t have you, it'll kill me.' My mind tells me this is not the standard first date conversation." ... and ... "Tanni tightens the grip on my wrist. 'Only you can stop Global Warming, Piper.'"
When someone not so content with my uncommented one-star-rating accused me of being a jealous wannabe writer (it's true that I am still mourning the inexplicable disappearance of my masterwork, a novel in verse about flowers and blood-red rain composed and illustrated when I was three), an author basher (I have no reason to assume that P.J. Hoover is anything but perfectly nice) and an altogether horrible person in general (well, maybe, but I do love books and fluffy kittens), I noticed that I had promised to bash this very book a long time ago. I will to proceed to do so, and I have to emphasize, that my view on fiction is a very personal one and reflects only my very own taste in novels.
When I started reading the low-price e-version of Solstice, I had not read a single review and knew only what the Amazon blurb told me about it: I would be facing paranormally tinted dystopian young adult fiction about global warming, parallel worlds, triangle romances and a girl who has the power to change things. Well. Apart from the triangle hair in the broth I felt optimistic and thought: Mrs. Hoover, bring it on. And in the beginning she did bring it on. The setting in fact kindled my interest:
High School senior Piper lives an almost normal life in Austin, Texas. It’s approximately the middle of the 21st century and exactly 18 years after the official beginning of the GHC (Global Heating Crisis) had been proclaimed. Whereas the remaining population of the African continent has relocated to underground settlements, the Americans still try to survive on the surface. They spray themselves with heat-regulating gels, have a good, working emergency-shelter-system for smaller heat waves and large steel beams that support the growths of protein-based, glass-like domes, which keep whole cities under the lethal temperature level for days when necessary. Piper’s mother is a unhealthily clingy control freak, who calls in the middle of random lessons to keep tabs on her daughter’s whereabouts and safety. Piper herself has a "green thumb" – plants bloom and burst with seed like mad around her -, which is convenient since a lot of plants have gone almost extinct, plants in general struggle to thrive, and Piper’s mom makes as living by selling herbs and other rare vegetative stuff via mail-order – although she keeps moving herself and her daughter and her huge, tree-filled greenhouse "Botanical Haven" from place to place in order to avoid getting caught by Piper’s dad, a supposed eco-terrorist.
You might have noticed: By now we have crossed the barrier between a believable climate apocalypse and "paranormal-as-usual". After that all brakes fail and the novel runs full throttle into a superhuman-double-instant-love sequel of the Persephone myth featuring reincarnated and remodelled Greek gods: Piper opens a mysterious wooden box and releases a secret and slowly tickling, forgotten memories, two new, irresistible guys appear at school and fight successfully for Piper’s attention, strange women try to warn Piper concerning her fate as the planet’s savioress, people die, people resurrect, and Piper makes the occasional trip to the underworld.
I have to admit, the times Piper aka Perserphone explores Tartarus, Elysion and the Asphodel Meadows are actually rather vividly depicted and tickle the reader’s imagination the right way. If the author had written a non-anachronistic retelling, I possibly would have enjoyed it as much as Radiant Darkness, for example.
But, alas, the dystopian rehash included three major obstacles that made me passionately despise the novel as a whole: A) a set of intolerably obnoxious main characters, B) a web of gross, unhealthy and destructive interpersonal relationships sold as friendship, love or motherly care and C) the dirty – but admittedly elegant – trick of excusing the looming, manmade climate catastrophe as the reversible result of a personal feud between deities. The latter is, to me, an absolute, fat no-no in a work of teen-targeted fiction, because getting rid of our guilt and our environmental responsibility is an attractive idea which should never gain the slightest foothold in our minds.
A) A Spot in My Top-5-List of Disgustingly Weak Heroines Piper is a very self-centered, whiny girl, who likes to sulk and to disregard urgent warnings. Other people’s happiness means very little to her when her own comfort is challenged. In addition, she is too stupid to understand that the souls living a tormented never-ending afterlife in Tartarus would actually have the means and the motivation to seriously harm her – her, the wife of the person responsible for their damnation. On top of that she is the shining poster child for a double-standard-girl: While she doesn’t muster the slightest hint of guilt after going on dates and indulging in heavy petting-orgies with her best-friend Chloe's crush Reese/Ares, because she had been seduced into wanting him by his superhuman pheromones, she is willing to resume her relationship to 'soulmate' Shayne only after the rumors about his supposed infidelity during the 18 lonely years, which she spent as a child who had no recollection of her real identity, prove to be unfounded. Piper’s mother Demeter is a frightening maniac. Spare love interest Reese/Ares is a jerk so mean, slimy, manipulative, condescending and vile that the heroes of Obsidian, Hush, Hush and Evermore appear harmlessly angelic in comparison to him. Shayne/Hades is the good guy, but oh so proud, bland and colorless. My pretty elastic imagination could not stretch far enough to imagine the combo of uncharismatic Shayne and spineless Piper deciding every single soul’s eternal future, being busy having sex or overseeing sand castle competitions in the Elysian Fields in between.
B) In the Name of Love and Friendship My guess is that it is pretty impossible to transport the strange behavior, the exaggerated emotions and the dysfunctional relationships which are the norm in Greek mythology into a modern day setting. I snickered, when I consumed the rather ridiculous effort Starcrossed, but failed to see anything funny in Solstice. Here every relationship is founded on pure selfishness, but has the gall to call itself love or friendship. Demeter just wants to be always and forever with her daughter instead of just during the summers as had been negotiated with Zeus. The reason is not clear and not relevant. She risks her daughter’s life and the survival of a whole planet to reach her goal and she even stages the prerequisites for Piper’s rape by Reese to ensure that she gets what she wants; her daughter's unhappiness or her daughter's wish to be with her husband are completely inconsequential to her. Piper delays her best friend’s death because she herself would be lonely without her although she is told that Chloe's shot at receiving a place in paradise (Elysion) will be gone afterwards. Reese is one of those guys who are perfectly charming on the outside, but ruthless, unconcerned and violent behind closed doors. He manipulates his victim by magical pheromones and does not accept refusal. He says things like "I swear I'm in love with you" or "I’ll never stop. You are everything to me" and forces himself on Piper, who is a bit puzzled, but again and again flattered, thrilled and turned on. While the sexual encounter with Shayne is covered by the vague phrase "I’m with Shayne then and it’s wonderful", the kissing and the incidents of almost-sex with Reese amount to the romantic highlights of the novel. Everyone demands eternal commitment from Piper. Even 'soulmate' Shayne. I cannot say how many times I have read sentences like "Promise you’ll never leave me." In Solstice love is a concept firmly intertwined with the idea of possession instead of all the good things I would like it to represent. And I wondered how somebody like Persephone, who has a painful history of being bossed around by her mother and being imprisoned in her garden, is willing to give her word without hesitation. Still, the worst blow to me was Piper’s dad Zeus who tried to coax his daughter into finally giving in to Reese's/Ares' advances. Why didn’t she mate with her half-brother although he had lusted after her since the moment she was born? And if she wasn’t interested there was another handful of sons to choose from in the family. The term incest is never ever mentioned, not even by the conventionally brought up Piper.
C) Demeter’s Everlasting Summer Blues I had already mentioned the "clever twist": Demeter managed to create uninterrupted summer in order to keep her daughter by her side and hid her from Zeus and Hades by burning and resurrecting her and by locking away her memories in a wooden box. And voilá: Humanity has a climate crisis to deal with. Usually I would be willing to applaud creativity regardless if the outcome was believable or not. But nowadays there are in fact people who deny that the melting polar caps are caused by our blatant abuse of the planet’s ressources. That makes me furious. Certainly, believing in fate or in inevitable warm periods and ice ages is much easier than the decision to change the way of things. Letting some gods take the blame suggests resuming blissful passivity. Especially, since these gods can make the problem disappear with a flick of their fingers. Maybe I am obstinate, maybe I sound like a party pooper. Yet, in my eyes this is not acceptable.
I do not recommend this book. But if you – unlike me - are addicted to stories featuring manipulative jerks, guy-dependent heroines, love triangles, utterly strange parents and horrible paranormal solutions to realistic problems, gorge yourself. You have the right to read what pleases you, not me. ...more
If I were a fan of young adult psycho-thrillers "Unraveling Isobel" would surely represent a jackpot:
High School Senior Isobel, who has just moved witIf I were a fan of young adult psycho-thrillers "Unraveling Isobel" would surely represent a jackpot:
High School Senior Isobel, who has just moved with her girly and gullible mom from Seattle to a small island, because her mother decided to marry recently widowed mansion owner Dick, pardon Richard, after a mere three months long internet-based aquaintance, narrates the Northanger-Abbey-touched story with much spunk and verve and an altogether cheeky, slightly angry (understandable) and very funny voice. Stepbrother and potential love-interest Nathaniel ads a deliciously creamy layer to the Far-away-from-my-best-friend-help-I-am-recruited-as-a-cheerleader-by-the-queen-bee/bitch drama (Really, he is cute enough to eat), and ghostly apparitions at night throw some wholesome thrill in the mix.
But to me Isobel's helplessness and insecurity, when her new set of "parents" starts to accuse her of being mentally ill - like her father, whom her money-and-fame-crazed mom quickly shoved out, when he couldn't hand her the perfect future she had wished for - without caring or listening a tiny, little bit, plus the slowly crawling, yet ungrappable danger of the mansion Morrigan and its former and recent inhabitants were definitely too "thrilling" and too severe for me to enjoy. Though I should not leave the fact unmentioned that neglectful and blatantly selfish parents in children's and young adult fiction always give me, personally, the boiling blisters (view spoiler)[I'd like to turn Isobel's mom into minced meat (hide spoiler)]. For other readers the psychotic thrill might be only lukewarm and the mom-caused reader's rage young adult standard fare.
Should you happen to like your young adult romances paired with haunted mansions, crime, manipulation and looming possibilites of craziness, "Unraveling Isobel" might become your next favorite.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
- I liked "Past Perfect" and I think it was a really cute and enjoyable, well-tied story. - I liked both the 16-years-old heroine, Chelsea, and hHmmm.
- I liked "Past Perfect" and I think it was a really cute and enjoyable, well-tied story. - I liked both the 16-years-old heroine, Chelsea, and her love interest. - I even came to like Chelsea's best friend Fiona as the story progressed. She redeemed herself in my eyes at the end. - I liked the trampoline scene. It was sufficiently romantic. - I didn't like Chelsea's parents at all, but I think normal, but rather unlikable parents are something which can happen to anyone in real life. For instance, I can totally relate to that forever talking, but unobservant Dad. - I like the title. Although the cover has no connection to the plot whatsoever - apart from the chalk-board rain, which reminds of the make-believe-lives of the colonial times reenactors - the book's title is pretty perfect for the story for several reasons: * Both the people working for the Essex Colonial Times Village and the staff at the Civil War Reenactmentland are required to represent "their" own era as a rather faultless one. Paying Tourists shall be sprinkled with interesting tidbits about American history, but they are not to be weighed down by dark and ugly pieces of their ancestors' lives during their family holdiday trip. Slavery is something not existing at Essex and African-Americans seeking a job as historical interpreters are assigned historical middle-class jobs and inserted into normal fake-families like everyone else of the crew. * For the reenactors the past never turns into past perfect, because their days are like those in the film "Ground Hog Day": Everything that ever happened within a certain time span on the grounds - or even far from them - is treated as something that has happened just now, because the tourists want the illusion of the past being present. * Chelsea's problems at accepting the present and the future are anchored to her way of memorizing the past: Our definition of what happened to us, the essence of what we determine the true past to be depends on what we choose to remember. Do we remember the happy moments and filter out the ugly scratches? Do we see mainly the sunless days and bury the picture of raindrops gleaming in the rain in inaccessible archives of our brain? Are we able to mix and match so our past resembles that of others? Is a perfect memory of anything possible at all? Were our feelings of yesterday real although we don't feel them anymore today? (view spoiler)[I was very unlikely, though, for Chelsea to forget that she had picked her own colonial name because of her favorite gravestone. (hide spoiler)] - I was a bit annoyed by the War game between the teenage summer staff of the Essex village and the underage Civil War crew. Although I didn't mind a similar plot element in "Jellicoe Road" at all, I thought that the sincerity of the whole hateful set-up in "Past Perfect" was more than a bit childish and forced and strange for a bunch of high schoolers, who partly were about to start college. Especially the forbidden-love-element felt absolutely unbelievable to me. - Each historical interpreter was handed one costume including undergarments for one long and hot summer? Really? Boy, those kids must stink. I wonder how the mentioned vistors can be hungry all the time. - I do love ice-cream, too. I can eat it all year round, I can fit a big helping into my stomach when everything else threatens to burst through my belly-button, I never tire of it's cold creaminess and I would like to be an connoisseur, too.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I've finally read the almost unobtainable young adult novel Fury by the wonderful Australian author Shirley Marr (You see what I mean when you encountI've finally read the almost unobtainable young adult novel Fury by the wonderful Australian author Shirley Marr (You see what I mean when you encounter her in one of the discussions here on Goodreads. Shirley is one of thoses authors who also dare to stay readers with their own opinions on books and the world, which means - like you might have noticed - being among the very last of an almost extinct species.)
Since crime-focused fiction is usually not my cup of tea, my rating (3.5 stars altogether) means that I do recommend the book to readers who spend their time in the the criminal thriller corner more often than I do.
And that is because Fury is very dark and excellently structured. Marr uses the a story-within-story concept (if you have read the adult thriller The Earthquake Bird by Susanna Jones you know what I mean): The outer layer has the stubbornly evasive heroine sitting in a police questioning room with an officer - or in Eliza Roberta Boans' case a youngish, attractive humane psychologist employed by the police - who tries to pry out of her what really happened prior to her arrest under suspicion of murder by knife, the inner layer tells the heroine's story in her own pace, meaning that she withholds the information which interests patient Dr. Fadden and the reader most (how many were murdered, who was murdered, what are the reasons for the deed and is the heroine really responsible or even sane enough to receive a punishment) for a long, long time, feeds choppy bits and hints along with random episodes of her school life, of her childhood and of her ueber-rich and sheltered neighborhood in the ditch-lined suburb East Rivermoor. This choice of narration keeps up the reader's attention without fail - it had even me turning the pages with only a dinner-break in between - and makes us hunt frantically from clue to clue. I wondered who much calculation and how many burned brain-synapses were necessary to sprinkle just the right facts into the story in the right places and in the right order.
What forces me to rate the reading experience lower is the almost complete lack of connection between most of the characters and myself. I did not mind Eliza to be a spoiled teen who has it all and expect it all. I did not mind Eliza to be probably a murderess who might or even might have not a good reason for having wielded a knife. But I did mind Eliza to fail at winning me over to her side although the potential was there: Absent father, indifferent and perpetually traveling high-society mother, utter loneliness, the feeling to be unimportant and overlooked in spite of many efforts to get attention in school by smart and not so smart means. No, Eliza and I simply did not click. But at least I was able to puzzle together a vague picture of Eliza’s personality during the second half of the story, to anticipate what she would feel or do; and I admired her sassiness in the interrogation room. As the rest of the cast, Eliza’s friends, her parents, teachers, classmates, neighbors and the authorities of East Rivermoor, were concerned, I simply found no familiar handle to grasp. Half of the time I did not understand at all what they were doing and saying or why. Yet I guess the complete intransparency of the character set has been assembled intentionally to create a certain eerie atmosphere. The reader is supposed to be at unease, to enter unknown territory, to feel the need to constantly turn uncomfortably around in nervous circles.
Unfortunately in order to thorougly enjoy and adore a book of any genre I, personally, need solid, life-like and likable characters who also show the notable promise of some development. While reading Fury I felt like I was trying to sift plancton out of a vast ocean using my own clumsy hands. I felt that I kind of hated Ella Dashwood, the new and newly-rich girl, right after she was introduced, but I could not pinpoint why. Something about her just did not add up properly. With Eliza’s other friends I could not even say if they were really friends or only a pupose-focused group with Eliza as the self-declared leader, if they actually liked Eliza or if they descpised her. Although I have experienced a friendship with a manipulative control-freak in primary school myself, I had no chance to understand the dynamics of Eliza’s triangle. Lexi and Marianne are beautiful. Lexi is obsessed with weight and is maybe kind of kind, Marianne is gifted and obsessed with school and is sometimes a bit mean or spontaneous or snarky. One of them is blond, I forgot who. Sometimes two or three of them bonded, sometimes they did not. They were friends or enemies with some boys at school and some girls, too. The principal of the private school had zero interest in really changing his students’ behavior for good, the school councelor turned out to be a mischief and gossip lover without an ounce of work ethics, the teachers declared openly which students they prefered or spent their lessons watching the clock with propped up feet. In addition there was Eliza’s childhood-friend Neil, an intelligent trouble-maker, whose relationship to Eliza and Marianne was also undefinable and who I would not be able to describe properly. And finally the unfamiliarity of East Rivermoor itself: The suburb had a fantasy-like sheen to it. Eliza hints at the difficulty to leave, at the ditch and the wall surrounding it, at disappearing girls and a strict curfew on work days. The only “normal” person in my opinion was Dr. Fadden, although I did not understand why he would risk his job by letting his criminal charge out of the questioning room.
Sooo... If you like dark crime-stories involving strange places that play with your mind and make you thoroughly uncomfortable - and if you do not mind that the quirky characters are nothing like you and the people you know -, do try to get hold of a copy of Fury. For those of you who speak and read German: The soon available translation might be easier to obtain than the Australian original. ...more
I liked it, but I have to say it was completely different from what I had expected - but not in a bad way, not at all. The titles of this series, combI liked it, but I have to say it was completely different from what I had expected - but not in a bad way, not at all. The titles of this series, combined with the heroine's name and the leg-stressed covers said light, funny and fluffy - but bold on the sex-side - teen-chick-lit. I had expected a cross between - let's say ... Sophie Kinsella, Louise Rennison and Meg Cabot. To be completely honest, apart from being open to surprises because of my Goodreads friends' loving reviews, I did not really expect many bubbles beneath the pink and frothy surface of the usual high-school drama.
Thus I was rather hit in the chest by the depths of the story and its constantly emanating sadness. We follow our likable, but utterly lonely, insomniac, super-brainy heroine through a year of high-school, feel her miss her moved-away best - or rather only - friend like the permanent hurt of an infested wound, which is enhanced by the the author's withholding said friend's responses to the heroine's monthly letters, and experience to be at loss: We would like to help Jess to crawl out of that lack-of-persons-to-speak-to dump, her thinking-too-much-and-too-pointlessly-about-life hamster's wheel, her underdog position as the second-best daughter, whose success at acing important subjects and the track-team are taken for granted and rated as being inferior to being a boy-magnet and Miss Popular at home.
On top of that we had the heroine contemplating whether to give in to the temptation of acquiring a popular boyfriend out of pure convenience or whether to decide to get to know the multi-layered former druggie Markus Flutie better in spite of her far-away best friend Hope hating him whole-heartedly, since he was friends with her brother Heath when he overdosed on heroin and died.
It's really easy to see how much time and thought debut author Victoria Schwab has successfully invested into the wording of her witchy kidnapping ta It's really easy to see how much time and thought debut author Victoria Schwab has successfully invested into the wording of her witchy kidnapping tale. Each sentence has been set carefully into the mosaic of legends, winds that have a soul and everyday life inside of the small town of Near, which is located within an endless stretch of moor and forest, far away from the rest of the pre-industrial civilization.
Although the description did not interest me at all, when I first encountered an announcement of its publication, enthusiastic reviews of fellow readers whose opinion I value high, made me change my mind: The language skill, the fairytale-like atmosphere, the notions of horror and suspense and a sweet supernatural romance with an unpredictable boy convinced me that I had dismissed a probable future favorite too carelessly.
I bought the book and I moved it up the waiting line. I started reading - and although I truly admired the style, and although I can understand how talking winds, buried witch bones from centuries before and boys that fade in the air lead to fairy-tale comparisons and how the disappearance of one child per night in a tiny, inaccessible community can be labeled "thrilling", I felt neither noteworthily thrilled or bespelled or horrified. On the contrary: Apart from being angry at sexist and mulish uncle Otto, his side-kick Bo and occasionally heroine Lexi herself, I just felt disappointed ... and rather bored. The title of the book gives a lot away, so I practically knew what caused the disastrous deduction of the town's number of inhabitants even before Lexi, who was only convinced of mysterious Cole not being the culprit and who wanted to track and play detective just like her deceased father, who - in contrast to Otto and chauvi childhood buddy Taylor (in search of an obedient little wife among the handful of maidens) - did not look down on his daughter for wanting to do men's work. In addition the rather slim volume turned out to contain a lot of repetitive scenes (looking for clues in the village, listening to the wind, trying to steal out of the house etc., etc.)
Maybe the love story will be grand, I still hoped after a third of the story had been ingested with some drag to the spoon. Well. You have seen my rating. You know how this story ends: Looking leads to wanting to meet, meeting leads to hand-holding, hand-holding leads to kissing and to blind trusting and to secrets being revealed and so on: Instant attraction - or "cabin lust" - for a raven-eyed, silent stranger, because all the other boys are like brothers. Besides, all the time Lexi has no problem at all finding Cole when she wants to, although the angry mob of the whole male population is out for his blood.
Both the dark, restrictive, claustrophobic community and the relationship the heroine had with the boy everybody expects her to wed reminded me strongly of "The Forest of Hands and Teeth", although the latter is a post-apocalyptic zombie story and develops a completely different story-line. If you got the same vibe and know why, please tell me.
I do not want to persuade anybody against reading or buying this beautifully written story with its fitting cover. But if you are still undecided and on the verge of being pushed over the brim by infatuated reviewers, I do advise you to wait a little longer: For more reviews balancing things out and making things clearer - or simply for the paperback....more
Double-Yay for me!! I have finished reading Instructions for a Broken Heart not skimming or skipping one single page although I was less interested thDouble-Yay for me!! I have finished reading Instructions for a Broken Heart not skimming or skipping one single page although I was less interested than I had expected during the first half of the book and quite bored during the second half....more
”Everything would be better tomorrow, I thought: a new day, a new dawn. It would have to be better than this. I was wrong. There was no new dawn the”Everything would be better tomorrow, I thought: a new day, a new dawn. It would have to be better than this. I was wrong. There was no new dawn the next day.”
Cedar Falls, Iowa. Almost 16-years-old Alex has just experienced a major break-through on his way to adulthood: His parents stopped arguing with him and have taken off to uncle Paul's goat farm in Illinois with only his sister Rebecca in tow. Alex luxuriates in his freedom of choice between doing his homework and collecting gold-nuggets in "World of Warcraft", when something huge drops on his house and starts to burn. After freeing himself of collapsed furniture he learns that even outside his bouse nobody has electricity or a phone connection. The fire brigade arrives in spite of that, the next door couple takes him in and things are supposed to settle down, when hell literally breaks loose: Earth- and ear-shattering thunder that lasts for hours and results in a roof-breaking, sun-darkening, perpetual rain of grainy ash. Alex' initial fear and his helpless indecisiveness change into a fierce determination to get away and find his family when the first armed looters crash Joe and Darren's house and turn the supposed nightmare into something horribly real. A backpack filled with bottles of toilet-tank water, cans of food, matches, a tarp and a raincape taken from the remains of his home plus his father's pair of skis and his teacher’s taekwondo staff represent the gear of Alex' lonely roadless road trip towards Illinois. Through the eyes of Alex we face thirst, hunger, exhaustion, cold, fear, pain, greed, murder and rape, but we also experience compassion, charity, faith, cleverness, lust, love, loyalty, braveness, strength, the will to survive and hope.
You could easily tell how much I revelled in reading “Ashfall” by debut author Mike Mullin just by taking note of two facts:
1. The urgent frenzy with which I tore through the 466 pages. I reluctantly shut down my Kindle only to change trains and to walk from the station to my apartment building. Apart from these very unwelcome interruptions I practically read the book in one go. 2. The pure engrossment which made me literally forget that I was reading “Ashfall” for review and which resulted in my having to find the right words in hindsight and to install something resembling a structure into the gushy mush threatening to pour out onto the page instead of relying on previously saved bookmarks and margin notes. I am sorry that I am in no position now to say something profound about the author’s use of language or the quality of his writing style. I simply had no attention to spare.
There is even a third aspect, but it may sound quite unbelievable to those who know my reading habits: I did not read a single chapter for two whole days after finishing "Ashfall" although I had more than one opportunity to grab a chunk of time. Part of my post-Ashfall book abstinence could be explained by my resolve not to shove reviews that should/want/deserve to be written aside anymore. But I am also certain that part of my hesitance was caused by my reluctance to let go of the story, its characters, its grip on my mind and the still sharp-edged imprints on my inner eye.
Who – apart from the handful of readers who meticulously study all bookflap texts - would have guessed that a young adult novel bearing such a – admittedly fitting, but – boring, colorless, and - I say it: ugly - cover (it does remind me strongly of German young adult fiction published in the 80s of the previous century), would encase such a wonderfully moving, deep and breathtakingly vivid addition to the realistic dystopian genre? I harbored some relatively high hopes, but only because some of the earlier reviews sounded pretty convincing. Now I really wish I owned a paper copy – and I would even take one with a pink bulldozer embossed on the dust-jacket.
The two most important aspects that determine whether I will fall in love with a certain book or not are interesting, multi-layered characters who – if they are not likable - can at least be understood from a certain angle, and the believability of the setting and the actions – regardless of how strange or different the fictional world seems to be. Therefore it is essential for me to point out how unartificial Alex voice felt in my opinion and how the author somehow made me swallow everything he handed over in sweet docility without letting me even think of talking back. Whether he describes a desperate family sifting through the rubble of a collapsed gas station and getting aggressive when Alex turns up with a seemingly well-filled backpack, whether he has Alex fighting or building a shelter or kissing a girl, or whether he shows Alex’ embarrassment when Darla discovers his fear of heights, it fit the whole and it felt real and right.
I cannot pinpoint the scene, but at some point I knew that I had fallen head over heels in love with both Alex and his love interest – maybe especially his love interest: Darla is a very resourceful, strong and outspoken girl. After her father died she took over the corn and cattle farm single-handedly and failed school miserably because of that. Her cheerful, religious and rather naive mother certainly did her share - physically - but she completely relied on her teenaged daughter to calculate costs and labor, let unused land, sell their produce and repair the big and small argricultural machines from the start. Without Darla's inventions and Darla's watchful eye the two of them would never have had the chance to survive the vulcanic catastrophe longer than the contents of their pantry lasted. Darla is also fiercely loyal, funny, sexy and astonishingly vulnerable. She teases Alex because of his farm-related ignorance, but she does not scoff or gawk at his real shortcomings. I never expected her to crash so hard (view spoiler)[after the convicts raped and murdered her mother (hide spoiler)]. When Alex first meets Darla (view spoiler)[He is embarrassed to discover that she must have undressed and stitched him. Such a cute scene! (hide spoiler)], immediately several of Hayao Miyazaki's wonderful female heroines popped into my mind: Cheerful airplane mechanic Fio Piccolo in Porco Rosso, brave and compassionate princess Nausicaä, Iron Town’s tough leader Lady Eboshi in Monoke Hime and even Arietty, the Borrower. Although Darla is the one with the physical strength and the inventive brains, Alex makes her feel safe. That sense of safety is not induced by Alex brown belt in Taekwondo or by his manliness, but by her deep conviction that she can count on him and his concept of responsibility. I love the mixture of character traits that make up Alex. He is a bit nerdy and quiet, but he is also a calculating fighter. He does not waver when he has made up his mind. He never loses his compassion, although he occasionally has to quarrel with his conscience, because securing his immediate survival rivals being responsible for the possible demise of others by not sharing with them. But even when sympathy takes over and makes him risk his life, he is not uncautious, stupid or sickly samaritarian. I like the normality of his relationship with his parents, his resolve to act grown-up enough to be taken seriously, his ability to adapt, and his slowly blossoming, tender love for Darla.
Let me also tell you how relieved I have been to read a young adult novel that was completetely devoid of instant-love and paranormally-induced dependencies, but surprised me with a lovely, lovely, love-story that depicts the slow birth of a realistic, strong relationship. A relationship that includes sex as one of the normal components:
"So I thought I’d feel different afterward, after the visible neon sign proclaiming 'virgin' had blinked out on my forehead. I’d spent years obessessing about it, so it seemed like somthing should have changed. Maybe it would have if I’d still been at Ceder Falls High School surrounded by the gossip and the braggadocio of teenage boys. But on my uncle's farm, nobody noticed, or at least nobody said anything. The next day, like every day, we dug corn, chopped wood, and carried water. And it didn’t really change much between Darla and me, either. Yes, making love was fun, but it wasn’t really any more fun than anything we’d already been doing together. Just different."
There is frustration, there are mistanderstandings, there is teasing, there is companionship, there is trust, there is risking a lot – even your life, and there is gentleness and care. For instance, I loved the scene in which Alex helps Darla pee in the refugee camp trench by "being her tree" to lean on and gets splashed in the process.
Speaking of pee: It is mentioned often. At least 14 scenes, to be exact - thanks to my Kindle’s text seach function - revolve around the act of urinating. I didn’t mind. On the contrary, there are people dying of dehydration in "Ashfall". Alex stinks. He uses his spare shirt to cover his mouth with wet cloth-stripes. Not glossing over body functions, but making them part of the whole catastrophic mess adds another layer of believability.
When I was reading "Ashfall" I automatically compared it to two other dystopian road-trip stories I have read recently: Released by Megan Duncan and Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick. Both dystopias deal with catastrophic circumstances, too, wave in a kind of love story, the coming-of-age-process of the main character and an episode at a kind of community or camp where people try to survive together. But both stories feature zombies and monsters.
In "Ashfall" there are no zombie-turned humans or other supernatural phenomena to fight against or to survive. There is no bomb or no alien invasion to blame. There is just a plain old natural desaster – the unpredicted erruption of an existing supervolcano sleeping under the Yellowstone National Park – that takes away the sun’s warmth and daylight, the usual means of communication and transport and the access to clean water and fresh food. The author makes us realise the painful way that we do not need a rampant zombie-virus or galactically enhanced physical abilities to turn us into ugly beasts:
"My sorrow dissolved in a wave of pure fury. What kind of place was this, where tens of thousands of people were herded together without adequate shelter, without decent latrines? A cattle pen, not fit for humans. And the guards, Captain Jameson, there were people just like me. For the first time ever, I felt ashamed of my species. The volcano had taken our homes, our food, our automobiles, and our airplanes, but it hadn’t taken our humanity. No, we’d given that up on our own."
The concentration-camp-like refugee camp, which had been advertised via radio as one of America’s safe havens where people would receive shelter, help and food, was what enraged and saddened me the most in "Ashfall" – much more than the also prison-like communities in Released and Ashes did. In the latter two novels the leaders at least act true to their strange religious believes. (view spoiler)[The FEMA camp in Galena exists for reasons of personal enrichment and greed only. People are collected on the road by soldiers cruising though the ash and have no chance at resisting being detained. They are stripped of most belongings, there are not properly registered, they are lucky if tent space is available for them, they get a cup of rice each day and nothing else – while the camp managers receive provisions per refugee, drink coffee and sell all the grain they discover in warehouses to the highest bidder on the collapsing international market. (hide spoiler)] Somehow this realistic situation in "Ashfall" showing “normal” people acting selfish under the cover of welfare turned me into a hot and cold and shivering lump.
But to wrap it up: Basically "Ashfall" turned me into a fan. Mr. Mullin, that does not happen too often. Especially not after just one book.
A short statement concerning the ending: Maybe I was already biased when I reached it, but I refuse to call the open, but hopeful, maybe even hesitatingly cheerful finale a cliffhanger. Now that I have found out that there will be a sequel (Ashen Winter) I need to read it, no question, but when I sucked up the last words of the last chapter of "Ashfall", I was quite ignorant of the fact and strangely content with the few lose strands I saw hanging in the breeze.
A million thanks to Netgalley and to Tanglewood Press for being so awfully generous with electronic review copies. I immensely enjoyed reading Ashfall and as you can see I gladly will spread the word. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["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
Kind of interesting with astute observations about how life can change your goals, your personality, your dreams, your values, your love - everythingKind of interesting with astute observations about how life can change your goals, your personality, your dreams, your values, your love - everything - without anybody really noticing the process. The twist at the end was surprising, but also pretty realistic. The whole book lacked something in my opinion. Sadly, I cannot pinpoint it.
Street Corner Bookers’ Pile Reduction Challenge 2011, #22 (challenger: Nomes)...more
Bookers, I have to admit I pulled an Alexa on this group read. Sorry, girls and Teccc. Do not punish me with a reading ban or something like that. I hBookers, I have to admit I pulled an Alexa on this group read. Sorry, girls and Teccc. Do not punish me with a reading ban or something like that. I have three days off this week and when I woke up this morning I really believed it was the 14th already. But now I see it is Santa Lucia Day. This mix-up wouldn't definitely have happened to me if people in Germany ran around the house with candle crowns on their honey-blond heads like they do in Sweden on December 13th. The lack of tradition has done me in!
I look really forward to discussing this over at the Corner!!!...more
This could have been so good - and the beginning was indeed extremely promising: A young English Lady born into an alternative version of the GeorgianThis could have been so good - and the beginning was indeed extremely promising: A young English Lady born into an alternative version of the Georgian era who is able to fly! A society which has chosen to shun gentryfolk with magical abilities, but embraces the "tainted blood" in commoners out of convenience. A gothic, prison-like boarding-school that is meant to un-magic the rich boarders, who represent a burden and a genetic embarrassment for their families. And finally ... a club of secret magic users, romance and time travel!
My high-flying hopes plummeted pretty quickly to the ground like a stone ... or rather like Lady Victoria Markham, who - in the couse of the whole story floats only four times altogether. Think of the wasted possibilities! Who wouldn't have loved a hidden, female superwoman in stays and laces instead of ill-fitting spandex? Alas, our overtly nicey-nice, goody-goody heroine opts not to talk about her elating gift at all and – after finding out that she possesses the more commmunity-friendly and boring skill of channeling other mages' energy and taping into other peoples' magical ressources on top, she concentrates solely on promoting that one. Maybe because she shrewedly noticed the match-making potential of hand-holding within a circle. (The reader shall not begrudge her since her value on the matrimonial market is pitiful.)
Certainly there were additional aspects that often peeve me – like the obligatory rich, bitchily mean roomate -, but they would have been forgivable, if the heroine and the majority of the supporting cast were life-like and interesting characters who constantly kindled my interest. In the case of „Dark Mirror“ the muscles operating my eye-balls felt well-trained quite soon.
As far as the girly part of the storyline is concerned, I feel rather cheated and not really taken seriously as a regular reader. I had always thought that the average author roughly sketches the main turning points / important landmarks before plunging into a wild scribbling marathon. Apparantly I guessed wrong. I imagine Mrs. Putney inserted the first hint at a later budding romance when introducing the love-interest; then she was distracted by all the action in her head and wrote and wrote and wrote about Lady Tory’s adventures. When the the story started to reach the climax (after about three quarters oft he plot), she suddenly remembered promising her publisher a paranomal romance and broke out in panic. That resulted in a rushed, melodramatic I-cannot-live-without-you-and-am-about-to-ruin-you-since-you-are-my-sun-and-my-moon historical soap opera. B.t.w., the narrator speaks of the love-interest like of a healthy horse – admirable pedigree and all.
I really had to force myself to finish reading „Dark Mirror“. That reluctance on my side had not been something I had anticipated after enjoying the first one or two chapters. However, if you like historical, paranomal teen-romances like „A Great and Terrible Beauty“ (Bray), you might enjoy Dark Mirror“ as well. So inspite of my ranting I do not want to un-recommend it in general. ...more
In short: I kind of liked the hero, but the family, especially the parents (so many kids but almost zero interest in them, plus "Dad hates Noah", theIn short: I kind of liked the hero, but the family, especially the parents (so many kids but almost zero interest in them, plus "Dad hates Noah", the eldest ...), was so very weird and displayed strange dynamics. In addition the sad undercurrent carried the later crashing tragedy with it almost from the beginning like a slowly built-up tsunami which caused me flipping the pages with very little enjoyment. I am a hope-or-spark-of-hope-focused kind of reader. I need a healthy dose of it even in the darkest story. "Invincible Summer" does not belong into the darkest corner, don't misunderstand, but it had me reading with a hollow feeling in my guts that I do not like at all....more
First of all, thank you, Robin, for providing that Smashwords coupon which enabled me to download you latest short story on my Kindle. Since I love yoFirst of all, thank you, Robin, for providing that Smashwords coupon which enabled me to download you latest short story on my Kindle. Since I love your two YA books Fat Cat and especially Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature, I was so very giddy about the opportunity to read some more 'Brande' before Into the Parallel gets released.
But then I have to say that - because of my high expectations probably - I was disappointed, because the short story is really short (I read it cover-to-cover while my train was rolling into it's final stop and this morning. And when the last person was hopping off I activated the snooze-switch of my Kindle and shook my head in confusion.) I do not even want to rate it, because for me there is not much to rate apart from a quite interesting idea, a rushed beginning without many introductions and a few hesitant steps into the direction of a possible plot. In my stubborn opinion a story should have a beginning, a middle part and an ending. Maybe that's why I am lurking around in the Young Adult corner so much, because these hidden-meaning-open-ending modern adult stories do not really reach me.
I guess that readers who like snipped-like SciFi stories set in High School will enjoy Gamemaster. So, by all means go ahead and read it. I will faithfully and impatiently wait for an ISBN of Into the Parallel to be generated so I can pre-order it....more