When I first stumbled across the up-coming book’s description, which promised four points of view (I usually love that), flashbacks, a trip – possibly a road trip (Yay!)– to Mexico, fleeing criminals, a high school graduation, and a drug- or alcohol-induced accidental wedding of the goody-two-shoes valedictorian girl, I guessed that the story might provide lots of fun in a Meg-Cabotish-style.
A cover-reveal and some early reviews later my expectations felt a little dampened. That chihuahua and that sombrero, those four stereotypically American Teen Movie kids and comparisons to films like She’s All That, which I have not watched, but which I have come to fear as an allegory for everything soppy and shallow. Still, the possibility to snatch a digital ARC presented itself (Thank you, Jasprit!) and the switching points-of-view kept enticing me. So I decided to have a go and see for myself.
Now I can say that the the novel’s chemistry did remind me a little of one of those few American teen movies I happen to know: 10 Things I hate About You. There is also a slightly prickly girl who wants to gain entry into her dream university, there is also a boy who pretends that everything is sunny and easy-going and problem-free for him, there are some mean girls, there is an embarrassing drunk scene, which involves inhibited dancing, and there are attracted opposites and the probability that the unlikely attraction will be buried under a number of obstacles. I don’t know about you. But I liked that film and did not find it too superficial. And I have been rather surprised by From What I Remember..., its depth, its characters and points of view and by how much I craved to go on reading. The latter, the pull a story has on my willingness to spend time with a book, is a great indicator for my personal enjoyment. I must say that have been very reluctant to let go of this book.
Some might argue that five points of view are main character overdose, but apart from bitchy Lily’s narration I thought they were all crucial to getting the big picture and to growing close to Kylie and Max, the main players. Although I have no means to check his fictional personality against reality, I enjoyed the chapters told by Kylie’s 13-years old brother Jake, who has Asperger’s, and followed his way of thinking with interest. Kylie’s best friend Will felt a little forcefully gay to me - as if for demonstration effect -, but not annoyingly so. Kylie herself is not depicted as the brainy, mousy girl with a secret wonder body under some rags, who always dreamt being one of the in-crowd, but is too shy to make a move. Kylie is someone who has her hands full with balancing her 80s-and-90s-film-addiction, her grades, her scholarship and her much-needed, but only marginally appreciated input at home and is truly contented with having one wonderful best friend on her side. Max learns to his own astonishment that Kylie really did not deem the rest of her rich and inambitious classmates to be interesting enough to spend her time with. All in all, Kylie is someone very spontaneous, very brave bordering on dangerously stupid and very likable. Someone, who - like Max, too - fears to find her family broken into pieces rather soon. Someone, whose conversations with her father, whose realizations about her father and whose introduction to strangers - who consider her family - moved me to tears. Someone, who still has A-Cup-boobs and a rather large behind after shedding her gray jeans. Max’ behavior angered me at times, but I liked it that there was more to Max than what meets the eye.
What I did not buy was Kylie’s obsession with getting her stolen laptop back and the measures she takes for reaching that goal. A girl as structured as her simply has to have some back up files of her private and academic writings, by the way. Also the idea that a teacher might fork out an assignment on the day before graduation, which is to be dealt with in pairs selected by said teacher and will have effect on the final grading of the course, seemed to be eyeball-poppingly farfetched to me. But once the unlikely pair got to Mexico I did not care so much about the unbelievable premise anymore.
One note concerning sex: It occurs as a part of the plot, and I am always grateful, when authors do not turn it into something dirty or inappropriate only because of an underage readership. Thank you, authors, for not being cowardish on that front!
And one last - second - note on the (final?) cover: I wish there was enough time to exchange it. Kylie, for instance, has a mop of dark corkscrew curls and big, light-brown eyes. How difficult would it have been to reflect her being half-Mexican by a fitting stock photo? I personally would have loved a picture of her and Max relaxing together in a frayed garden-hammock with a tray of Sangrias nearby or of the two of them standing dishevelled in front of a small, cosy boutique with that figure-hugging, red evening-dress decorating the window display. I know, I know ... but a girl can dream ... and remember. (less)
Slumber is road trip fantasy fiction set in a parallel world, which some magicians' clans had especially created for their kind in order to evade huma...moreSlumber is road trip fantasy fiction set in a parallel world, which some magicians' clans had especially created for their kind in order to evade human persecution in ours.
A few centuries after the world's construction magical talents have become rare among the newborn, but everybody believes that magic is necessary to keep the small world from tumbling into chaos. After the ruler dies, his young daughter Haydyn is the last known person able to excercise nationwide mindcontrol: Her job is to keep all her subjects from nursing violent or aggressive emotions and certainly from acting upon them. Everlasting peace among the handfull of provinces and the two nomadic clans is the highest goal in Phaedra. It is doubly tragic, that it had been in the name of said peace that the Captain of the young princess' guard employed unnecessarily brutal methods to gather the latest generation of mages at the palace when they were still small: Willing to cooperate or not - he had his soldiers kill every family member of Rogan, Kir and Valena in front of the gifted children's eyes and left their properties in smoking heaps of ashes and bones.
It is quite understandable that Rogan still harbors a deep hatred for the man responsible for slaughtering her family, although the princess has grown to be her best friend, values her opion above all and had the sadistic killer tried and executed for his crimes years ago. It is also understandable that Rogan is a bit weary of the sincerity of his will to protect her, when the former Captain's son Wolfe inherits his father's position and treats her with a mixture of chivalry and cold haughtiness. And, gosh, does the initiary bickering of the two entertain, when princess Haydyn falls into a deep slumber and the royal court sends Rogan on a heavily chaperoned road trip to find the almost extinct antidote plant in far away mountains because of her magical ability to find everything she had been ordered to find.
But what is not understandable and also not amusing at all is Rogan's resolve to keep despising Wolfe on principle because of what his father did to her family even after he repeatedly went enormous lengths to save her life and keep her out of the hands of thugs and rapists and although the dangerous situations she found herself in again and again were mainly her very own fault. For there is a reason the royal court sent 50 soldiers to accompany her on her cross-country journey - namely reports of heightend violence, vagabond thief groups and savage rebels in the provinces. Yet Rogan values her privacy and her own judgement so high that she sneaks off on her own on a regular basis for no urgent reason at all (view spoiler)[ ... kind of like camera-laden, flower-shirted German tourists on a Serengeti Safari chasing the cute lions ... (hide spoiler)], which certainly triggers trouble each time. The repetitions got boring with time and Rogan "evolved" from a tough cookie victim to a snotty brat who doesn't deserve all the loving and worrying.
Because of the good start Slumber and I had, I had been pretty bent on ploughing through, but I started skimming at approximately 60% and lost monumentum shortly before 70%. Now there is no drive left to finish the journey side by side with the annoying hope of her little universe, Lady Rogan of Phaedra. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(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)
It is funny how a few pages more - or less - can change your judgement of a story that as a whole encompasses more than 300 pages.
When I first glimps...moreIt is funny how a few pages more - or less - can change your judgement of a story that as a whole encompasses more than 300 pages.
When I first glimpsed the announcement of The Iron Knight's birth I had mixed feelings. There were three possibilities: A) The author would switch to Ash's point of view to retell the story already known to us in the fashion of Midnight Sun, which would have pleased me immensely, because he is of the albeit sexy, but moody and introverted kind. So looking into his icy head would have added new aspects to the story. B) The author would use Ash's popularity with the female reader to tell a long forgotten, human-free tale of the Nevernever, maybe including Ariella, probably including Mab and her Winter Court, but definitly including Puck and Grimalkin and his icy majesty himself who we all believe to have a tiny, searingly hot heart beating behind his frozen, indifferent exterior. That option I would have welcomed even more. C) The author lost a cat fight against her publicist who demanded a belated happier ending (could have been delivered by a bonus material story sold for a few cents or earned by some elvy internet quest of the reader) and above all more money to be squeezed out of the universally liked trilogy before the fickle faery lover switched his attention elsewhere for swoon-worthy bad guys and life-saving love-triangles. Because Meghan's job as an effective day-by-day ruler does not offer much room for buzz and excitement, Ash's point of view would have to do. This possibility had been my least favorite option. One I - along with the sensible author - would have declared to be pretty superflous and probably destructive for the elegant arch of the existing plotline.
Well, even if you've read only the book's description you know by now which part of Ash's personal history we have been handed:
To overcome the obstacle of his iron allergy in order to live with Meghan happily ever after at the Iron Court, Ash goes on a quest to earn a soul - which conveniently comes in a package with a human, aka iron-resistant, body. This quest leads him road-trip like through a variety of wondrously creepy Nevernever landscapes to the very end of the world. Because monologues would have bored us, Ash takes along some companions: Robin "Puck" Goodfellow - his sassy spunk decidedly upped my rating at least one star, Grimalkin - my favorite talking cat ever (view spoiler)[ I love him even more than Austin the cholersterol-stuffed know-it-all in Summon the Keeper(hide spoiler)], the Big Bad Wolf - because the legends and fairytales about him were already slipping humanity's mind and needed refurbishment - and a really unexpected guest star. Although there wasn't much plot in the plot sense to it, I enjoyed the quartet's Tomb-Raider-style journey. A lot of action, bickering and strength. I think we could safely rename the novel: "Ash T. Croft Soulhunter IV - Nevernever Special Edition" and shout: "Jump, Ash!"
I liked that part of the book astonishinlgy well: I would have given 4.5 stars for pure entertainment and for the bonus of an awwww-inducing reconciliation of the non-romantic sort - inspite of a very unnescessary and rather annoying love quadruple that came paired with it.
Then Ash reached the real "trial" - nightmare-like tests with a hooded guardian in the absence of his friends. Everything went downhill for me. I simply hate extensives projections of the future or flash forwards that show what happenes to that beloved teen couple in the next 20 to 100 years. I disliked in in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I abhorred it in Perfect Chemistry and I especially hated it in The Iron Knight, even though it makes sense to make Ash understand what being 100% fragile human could do to him. I hated it enough to tune down my rating mentally to 2.5.
But somehow the last chapters reconciled my fickle heart on the spot (strange me, I know). I was able to let out a huge sigh and to rearrange Ash's future like I wanted it to be or to be possible in my head (Rainbow reinstalled).
And since my rating mirrors just my ability to enjoy myself with a certain book, I distribute 3.5 stars and tell you: "It's not necessary to read this book. If you are like me, it will not make you happier. But after reading the finale scenes I do not feel compelled to hang out enormous "Caution - Disappointment Right Ahead" signs either. Go ahead and be entertained.
Plus, I loved the integrated "Survival in the Nevernever" booklet at the end of the book. Nicely done, Miss Kagawa.
I am really, really enchanted, but I am still contemplating if I would not have rated the book four stars only, if all my friends here hadn't wished t...moreI am really, really enchanted, but I am still contemplating if I would not have rated the book four stars only, if all my friends here hadn't wished to distribute six or more. I am looking forward to Morgan Matson's future writing.(less)
What a wonderful mixture! I was a little sad today, so I had difficulties to cope with the realistic ending after all those delightful impossibilities...moreWhat a wonderful mixture! I was a little sad today, so I had difficulties to cope with the realistic ending after all those delightful impossibilities and unexpected turns. On a less sad day I would have rated this book and its characters five stars, I am sure. Maybe next time. Yes, certainly there will be a next time. Even before this stoy has been turned into a successful teen-tragic-comedy.(less)