Pennsylvania was a strange state. No one knew who Ruby was. Should you - like me - love beautiful, dream-like writing and glittering, complex character...morePennsylvania was a strange state. No one knew who Ruby was. Should you - like me - love beautiful, dream-like writing and glittering, complex characters who constantly hover just outside your grasp in a gray area between evil, half-good and plain crazy, yet do not mind not getting solid answers at all, there is a serious chance for you to fall for 'Imaginary Girls' by Nova Ren Suma.
I read the eerie, eerie debut novel featuring a tight, strange bond between two sisters, a siren-like femme fatale clutching a whole small-town in her fickle fingers, an alcoholic, hippie mother, some sexual awakening, some painful growing up and growing a conscience, a caring father, deaths, ghosts and hot, lazy summers with a Goodreads group of 'German Girls Reading English Books' - thank you, girls, for voting for this gem as our January group read; without you it would be still gathering dust on my Kindle - and I was delighted by the rich multitude of explanation possibilies the plot offered as our order-seeking minds tried to press the book into a fitting genre corner and to make sense of heroine Chloe's subjective narration. Although only a dozen readers went into discussion, a colorful palette of constructions presented itself - and almost all ideas sounded quite sound: Drugs, dreams, traumata, split personality disorders, deal-offering monsters, paranormal gifts that are limited geographically, even painfully staged pretenses of paranormal gifts to mislead and mind-control the heroine.
... To me, personally, Ruby came across like a twisted and dangerous, yet somehow caring variation of Mary Poppins. I am not exactly sure why. Probably because of her spontaneity, her cheerfulness, her firm reign, her randomly offered secret bits and pieces from her personal Knigge, or simply her magnetic personality?
The book which 'Imaginary Girls' reminded me the strongest of is my beloved 'Chime' - which is not for everyone either. Since Franny Billingsley is so slow in producing another masterpiece I can blissfully roll around in, I am happy when something remotely comparable in style turns up to entertain me in between.
You see, I am rather reluctant to issue a general recommendation, but I also do not want to leave my positive rating uncommented and my praise unuttered. You might be disappointed or frustrated, but you might also miss something unusual and great.(less)
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair. And I have many curious things to show you when you are there.
I still have to meet a librarian who can...moreThe way into my parlour is up a winding stair. And I have many curious things to show you when you are there.
I still have to meet a librarian who can visit a foreign country without making at least a super quick dash into the second-hand bookshops or local libraries he or she comes across. I believe for most of us digging through shelves stuffed with never-seen-before titles or editions is an urge as compulsive as picking flowers in the forest is for Little Red Riding Hood.
Last week my colleague returned from a week-long trip to Ireland and slapped a battered something on my desk, that looked like a slightly misshaped record cover, saying possessively "I’ve brought something for you – but just to look." I gingerly picked up the scary looking black booklet with the glowing, white, scratchy letters on the cover and fell in love. Under the grinning gaze of my fellow picture book connoisseur I turned the pages of Tony DiTerlizzi’s The Spider and the Fly, squealed in happy delight again and again and pointed out all the little extras that make this all black-and-white illustration of the well-known, moralistic poem written in 1829 by Mary Howitt so perfect:
- The eerie, dark and dusty attic atmosphere - The greasy, smoothly cajoling, fat spider who weaves his web of cunning compliments around the naive and vain, young fly with the half-closed eyes and the cocky smile of a successful underground ruler, while elegantly resting his many watted-house-suit-clad, spindly legs on a ladybug footstool. - The silly, but beautiful heroine herself: She uses her four arms so coquettishly and bats her lashes under that pretty twenties’ hat. She reminded me a little of Blanche DuBois in her hunger for attention and flattery.
- And, most of all, the props: The thimble wine-glass, the soap-box bed, the book titled "The Joy of Cooking Bugs", the fly-and-spider-themed wallpaper, the bottle cap mirror and, last but not least, the butterfly wings that stand in as a bedroom curtain. Half-hidden and wonderfully macabre!
Before I was finished answering the library's patrons’ e-mails that morning I had nicked enough time to slip behind Amazon’s well-polished doors to order my own equally battered copy and felt very pleased with the way I had just spent my money.
I have to admit, though, that I would not have been brave enough to revel in a story that quite unprettyfied shows a vain, yet lovable heroine stuck inside a heap of spider silk thirty years before. I have been one of those kids who scream their heads off in an amusement park, because the tottering old kiddie-train just passed a couple of grim looking wooden Indians, or who would not go to bed before their mother promised to permanently glue shut all the pages of the Struwwelpeter. So, if your kid is as easily impressed or affected by nasty antagonists and gory details as my younger self had been, I suggest you savor this gloomy gem in secret. (less)
"Ashes" is a uniquely-set example of zombie dystopia that manages to keep the reader on her or his toes with a lot of action, a compassionate, brave a...more"Ashes" is a uniquely-set example of zombie dystopia that manages to keep the reader on her or his toes with a lot of action, a compassionate, brave and stong heroine, a cute-kid-sidekick, who repeatedly puts a strained smile on the worried reader's face, a loyal dog and a likable, but difficult-to-grasp kind-of-love-interest (Forget what the book-flap says. Don't expect a romance novel, please.):
After two years of chemo and nano-pebbles and other ineffective treatments seventeen-years-old orphan Alex has given up on fighting her tennis-ball-sized brain tumor. Armed with some gear and a heavy case (I pretty much guessed from the beginning what it contained, but it was kept a secret for three quarters of the book. (view spoiler)[If you want to surprise the reader, don't put the secret into the title, dearest publisher. (hide spoiler)]) she sets out to hike through the wilderness toward Lake Superior.
She has just shaken hands with an an old guy on a fishing-trip and his whiny eight-years-old grand-daughter Ellie, when something later identified as an electromagnetic pulse kills off all electronics - including Jack's pulse-maker and a lot of birds and game. Interestingly Alexs instantly not only gets back the sense of smell her tumor had previously eliminated, but is able to use it at a superhuman capacity, too. In addition she loses the slight tremor in her left hand and shortly after that - because of Ellie - most of her outdoor equippment and food. After surviving a couple of kids who were gorging themselves with the intestines of a lone camper, Alex starts to develop alarming theories about what happened to whom, in which perimeter and why Ellie's and her own brain did not turn them into juvenile cannibalists. But there is not really time to ponder, because the girls are attacked by a small pack of wild dogs and later by another "brain-zap" - who gets shot just in time by the youngish soldier Tom. Tom claims to be on holiday leave from his duty in Afghanistan and seems to have his own difficult past.
At this point the road trip/hell ride really takes off, takes some shocking, some ruthless and some unexpected turns and finally lets us hang on a real, stomach-droppingly, fist-in-the-mouth, blink-blink-blink-do-not-mess-with-me cliffhanger that costs my rating a fully filled-in and carefully lined star. (view spoiler)[I can stomach not knowing about Tom. But Ellie? The author deliberately made me love Ellie. How can she not tell us if she survived and if yes under which circumstances? (hide spoiler)]
Otherwise I liked "Ashes" (at least the first, "road-trip-style" part) quite well. But not well enough to rate it five stars (if you put the cliffy aside, I mean). And not well enough to buy the sequel, either. Some strange things about the settlement "Rule" and the relevation about it works bothered me a lot in the last third, but I am too exhausted to pull them out of the fogginess of my setting-saturated mind. Maybe I will prod/study some enlightening reviews later.
If you consider reading a rather interesting, no-filter-gruesome Zombie dystopia, "Ashes" is definitely no bad choice. But if you asked me, I would in all likelihood say: "Buy Enclave first!", because it was simply better rounded, had a far stronger pull on my emotions and a hero that stole a larger chunk of my heart. Still, "Ashes" is better constructed than the also fast-paced, pretty similarly-set, but city-based, romance-induced and self-published monster apocalypse Released, which is to be had as a Kindle version for almost nothing.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I am sure The Monstrumologist is an excellent middle-grade horror novel and one that deserves the Michael L. Printz Honor award, too. More gore and bl...moreI am sure The Monstrumologist is an excellent middle-grade horror novel and one that deserves the Michael L. Printz Honor award, too. More gore and blood and brains (the splattered variety) and monsters and mad, amusingly single-minded and selfish professorism are simply not possible. The etching-style 19th-century medical textbook illustations enhance the lost-diary-illusion the story-in-story narration successfully crafts for the reader. A male point of view ties the bow of the altogether perfect package. But I am usually not someone who feels drawn by horror books written for any kind of audience. And after my 82-pages-long foray into the genre this morning cements my guess that my preferences will not shift into that direction anytime soon. I am really not unhappy that I spontaneously agreed to swap the book for one I wanted to get rid off and experimentally had a go. If my train ride this morning had taken longer, I would even have kept on reading. But as it is and as I am, I will resort to reading Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories on my ride back home tonight. The Monstrumologist has already found a cozy space inside a colleague‘s handbag. I am positive Will Henry James and she will have a fabulous time together. (less)
I breezed through 'Outpost', the sequel to 'Enclave', in a matter of hours and I wish I could go with Deuce and her friends on her next frighteningly...more I breezed through 'Outpost', the sequel to 'Enclave', in a matter of hours and I wish I could go with Deuce and her friends on her next frighteningly dangerous journey through freak-infested territory by devouring 'Horde' right now. It doesn't happen so often that I am that contented with a second/middle volume.
I suppose, I definitely could do without the love-triangle - although it's not a very sharp-angled or annoying one since the heroine's preferences are pretty clear and remain that way. Another tiny blotch is the occasional use of words which Deuce with her cut-off-from-topside-life-and-civilization-background should not know yet.
The rest has been almost perfect: The post-apocalytic setting, the action, the mystery of the fast evolving zombie freaks, the extraordinarily wonderful heroine, her clashes with an equally strict, but completely different society - world, even - from what she is used to that do not cause her to cower or back down, but also do not tempt her into gloryfying her former life as a Huntress in the College enclave; plus I liked the the accute picture of how circumstances and good or bad experiences form or damage people and how important and necessary second chances can be.(less)
"That puke was the most wonderful thing I'd ever seen. It was green and a little red. Technicolor, really, the color puke is supposed to be. It defini...more"That puke was the most wonderful thing I'd ever seen. It was green and a little red. Technicolor, really, the color puke is supposed to be. It definitely wasn't black, and it didn't smell like toasty poop. This was a good sign."
I breezed through this book in one day. And let me tell you: I had an awfully good time, although I was very relieved that my commuter train compartment did not emanate the penetrating stink of stale sweat, geasy hair, beer and hamburgers gone bad like it usually does at rush hour in late August. I might have not been able to reign in my activated imagination otherwise and would have stared down the nose-offending passengers with a zombie-alert x-ray-expression disorting my face.
"Bad Taste in Boys" combines a wacky, deliciously hilarious story about "the world's worst football team" getting infected with a vampire virus instead of getting enhanced muscle-power thanks to being injected with the untested "Playwell" fluid and the female, geeky student coach assistent who saves the small town from being digested by them with a cute, wobbly-footed romance reminiscent of earlier Cabot books. A definite plus is the relationship between heroine Kate and her fifteen-year-old brother Jonah, a scifi-nerd who has recently joined the cheerleading team in order to impress a girl:
"Jonah squealed, jumping up and down and shaking his pom-poms. His skirt swished around his scrawny yellow knees. 'Jonah, can I give you a piece of sisterly advice?' 'Yeah' 'If you ever want to lose your virginity, don't do that again. Ever.' He dropped the pom-poms. It wasn't much of an improvement."
The best, however, is all that fun-dipped, unaffected goryness and the way aspiring future doctor Kate relates her experiences with gnawed-on ankles, ripped-off feet and black-putrid goo drizzling on the homecoming pancake grill. It felt like a trip down memory lane back to those times when a friend and I tried to outdo each other with nauseating stories from the make-belief "sanatorium" we both were stuck as the patients "Rrroberto and Alberrtina". (If you are shocked don't ask what other games I used to invent).
Since I had started with a quote, I will close with one as well:
"'Excuse me if I feel skeptical,' I said. 'Coach's foot fell off. How exactly do you propose to cure that? Superglue?'"(less)
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...more 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.(less)