Gutting. That's what this collection of short stories is. One story after the next left me gutted, almost always uncomfortable, and often disgusted anGutting. That's what this collection of short stories is. One story after the next left me gutted, almost always uncomfortable, and often disgusted and dismayed.
Though I had heard high praise for Gay's work, this was my first experience with her writing, and I found myself initially racing through the stories, impressed with her incredibly strong writing and characterization. On more than one occasion, I had to put the book down and walk away from it for a bit because the content was so searing and uncomfortable, but in an important way. But then, the story lines and the themes and the horrible abuses suffered by each character became repetitive. I felt gutted after each story still, yes, but I felt weary, and the impact of the previous stories lessened as they all began to run together in my mind.
Gay doesn't dance around any of the topics she addresses in these stories, all about women who are not truly difficult but who have been placed in difficult or cruel circumstances. Every story includes at least some detailed or graphic sexual content, and other triggering content includes physical abuse, sexual assault, rape, gang rape, child sexual assault, and pregnancy or infant/toddler loss. These are not stories for those looking for something uplifting about women who have pulled themselves out of difficult or painful situations. These are stories that say this: Life is painful and hard. Life is unfair. This is what our lives as women often are. Gay doesn't gloss over any of the pain and injustices women experience, most often at the hands of men, and I don't think she intends there to be any calming or comforting messages that come from this, other than the possibility of seeing a shared experience in the characters' lives.
I would recommend reading a few of these stories at a time and then coming back to it later or using a single story as part of a college course's reading selections, but not all of them at the same time....more
Oh, this was such a lovely book. I was impressed with the writing, the characterization, and the distinct sense of time and place from the beginning a Oh, this was such a lovely book. I was impressed with the writing, the characterization, and the distinct sense of time and place from the beginning and that continued throughout the entire novel. These are characters who the reader will love and sympathize with, despite their flaws and quite possibly because of those flaws, and the story that intersects these three generations of women was just spellbinding while still being completely realistic and not over-the-top in the least. Though this is officially classified as YA, it very much reads like better adult contemporary fiction and should appeal to anyone who likes introspective contemporary women's fiction. I've had Downham's other books on my shelf for years without having read them; it's definitely time to finally pick them up after reading this....more
A very solid and moving contemporary title, complete with a swoon-worthy boy, a supportive and present family, and a flawed and realistic main charact A very solid and moving contemporary title, complete with a swoon-worthy boy, a supportive and present family, and a flawed and realistic main character. While the plot trajectory was too obvious and the ending wrapped up too quickly and easily, I still enjoyed reading every page of this fourth novel by Jessi Kirby. Based on this book and her debut (Moonglass) that I read, I believe Kirby should be considered one of the best voices in today's contemporary YA market....more
Complex, dark, and evocative tale – Gratton’s best book yet, 4.5 stars
Tessa Gratton has penned her best book yet with Book 2 of her United States of Complex, dark, and evocative tale – Gratton’s best book yet, 4.5 stars
Tessa Gratton has penned her best book yet with Book 2 of her United States of Asgard series: The Strange Maid. I stayed up late into the night, with goosebumps raised on my arms, to finish this book. The story, the writing, and the characterization are all beautiful, deep, and complex. I love a book like this that prioritizes character development over plot, but The Strange Maid still manages to combine the two well. Most of all, though, I love the risks that this book takes with characterization, theme, and source material.
Signy Valborn is a girl on the verge of Odinist glory as a Valkyrie, and she embraces the dark things she believes that should include – blood and death and violence and chaotic, passionate things stirring inside her soul. I love that Gratton was willing to create a wild, out-of-control, and fearsome female character; in doing so, she affirms that madness, desire, and a longing for revenge can be felt by all, not just males. Signy, however, is not a one-note character; she also experiences fear, doubt, and love. The other characters who flank and support Signy are also well-developed, from Soren Bearstar of the first book to Ned the truth-teller who hides behind his poetry to the gods and other Valkyries themselves. I also so appreciated the themes conveyed in the story about loss and revenge, the balance between chaos and control, choice versus destiny, and the types of relationships that matter in our lives.
In addition, Gratton skillfully plays with and updates Norse mythology to create a modern tale that pays homage to the violence, strength, and madness that was celebrated in Old English works like Beowulf. Because of this and the adept way the characters are portrayed, this book felt more mature than most other YA titles I’ve read. This is a complex and evocative tale that will be best appreciated by readers who aren’t afraid to feel uncomfortable from time to time while reading. Reading the first book in the series or having a background in Norse tales isn’t necessary to understand and appreciate the story, but it will likely help.
I have always been a fan of Gratton’s work, but my appreciation for her craft and the intentionality of her writing has been taken to a new level after my reading of The Strange Maid. I can’t wait to see what the next book in the series brings, and I will definitely be recommending this title to my friends and older students alike.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy....more
Thoughts wavering on this one. Initially after finishing a few hours ago, I was feeling very positively and felt that it was certainly a 4-star or eve Thoughts wavering on this one. Initially after finishing a few hours ago, I was feeling very positively and felt that it was certainly a 4-star or even 4.5 star read. The writing is gorgeous, the romance slow-burning, and the plot well and evenly paced. However, I still can't get past some worldbuilding flaws and character inconsistencies that are now niggling at the back of my mind....more
Beautiful & achingly realistic tale of young love & its aftermath
Very rarely does a book impress me, satisfy me, and affect me emotionally a Beautiful & achingly realistic tale of young love & its aftermath
Very rarely does a book impress me, satisfy me, and affect me emotionally as much as Katie Cotugno's debut novel, How to Love, did. This novel is a beautiful and achingly realistic portrayal of one couple's doomed teenage love affair, the aftermath, and their eventual coming to terms with one another.
HOW TO LOVE stands out among the crowd of other YA contemporary novels most notably due to Cotugno's lyrical, evocative writing. The author creates beautiful mental images throughout the novel by including details that add nuance and feeling to the story. Every detail or repeated image seems intentionally placed and well-considered. I would often stop reading to admire a passage and think to myself "THIS is what good writing looks and feels like." Another strength lies in the two main characters, Reena and Sawyer. Both are complex, flawed characters with multifaceted family members and friends surrounding them. While I often didn't like Reena or Sawyer, the writing allowed me to understand them and their actions and motivations.
In addition to her strong character development, Cotugno also does wonders with the plot and the structure of the novel. There is a careful interweaving of plot threads about family pressures, work, alcohol/drugs, religion, school, and friendship to make the characters' lives feel real and palpable. I especially liked the presence and impact of Reena's best friend, Allie, on the relationship between Sawyer and Reena. The plot of HOW TO LOVE never hurries nor dallies; the juxtaposition of the "before" and "after" chapters are perfectly aligned with mirrored events that follow one another naturally. When the book came to a close, the ending left me satisfied, even without answering every plot question directly.
Though this book was a perfect fit for me, there were a few phrases or sentence choices that threw me at times, and other readers may not be able to look past Reena's and Sawyer's flaws in order to find them sympathetic.
In all, though, HOW TO LOVE is the best young adult book that I've read in the past two years. I can't wait to see what moving, realistic, and emotionally arresting stories Cotugno writes in the future. I know that I'll be reading every one of them.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.
Immediate reaction: My first five-star book in two years! I am so incredibly impressed with the quiet but compelling story this novel tells and the style and lyricism with which the author tells it. I can't wait to see what this author writes in the future....more
Beautifully written fairy tale best suited for younger YA readers
As the book blurb states, Far Far Away is a tale of a boy, a girl, and a ghost. But Beautifully written fairy tale best suited for younger YA readers
As the book blurb states, Far Far Away is a tale of a boy, a girl, and a ghost. But it is also more than that: it is a beautifully written story about friendship, love, regret, and the evil that can lurk under the most benevolent of façades.
It's infrequent that I read a book and can tell how much time and planning an author put into it by the way the story unfolds, by how the details that seemed initially irrelevant are brought into play. However, this craftsmanship was readily apparent by the time I finished reading FAR FAR AWAY. Tom McNeal uses his words to describe a sleepy, small town called Never Ever where every person, place, and situation has the hint of a fairy tale embedded into it. The ghost, Jacob Grimm of the famous Grimm Brothers, was a wonderfully insightful and sympathetic narrator whose voice sounded genuine, and the other characters, all quirky in one way or another, will delight many readers. The plot points wove together in small, nuanced ways that all coalesced by the conclusion. And when the plot turned dark, it went very dark, and in doing so, the story stayed true to its roots in the original Grimms' tales.
Even with all of these strengths, I felt oddly disconnected from this story. For much of the book, I felt unsure of whom the intended audience was meant to be or how much of the town, its people, and their stories were meant to be taken seriously. The plot develops very slowly and does not pick up until nearly 70% into the text. Though I appreciated how everything came together, it felt as though it took a very long time to get there. When the pacing does change, the tone also shifts abruptly from one of small-town musings to that of a very dark and sinister variety. Most of the characters were described in broad strokes, and some were little more than caricatures. I believe this framing was intentional, as the story is a fairy tale about fairy tales, but I longed for more character depth. The two main characters, Jeremy and Ginger, also spoke and acted much younger than their purported age of fifteen.
If I were to rate this book based solely on my enjoyment of it, I would give it three stars, but McNeal's obvious mastery of his story and the language he uses to tell it make me bump it up to four stars. I would recommend this story most to those between the ages of 11 - 14 or to adult readers who want to immerse themselves in the Grimm-influenced lore. Given the right reader with a patient disposition, FAR FAR AWAY should be a treat of fairy tale proportions.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy. ...more
Quite possibly the most well-crafted novel I have ever read. When I read this back in 11th grade, I was taken aback by the artistry and the complexity Quite possibly the most well-crafted novel I have ever read. When I read this back in 11th grade, I was taken aback by the artistry and the complexity and the symbolism that all appear wrapped together in this novel. Though I have never worked up to reading it again, it remains in my mind as one of the most influential pieces of literature I have ever read (or likely ever will)....more
What an impressive and moving tribute about the atrocity of Emmett Till's death and its influence on the burgeoning U.S. civil rights movement of the What an impressive and moving tribute about the atrocity of Emmett Till's death and its influence on the burgeoning U.S. civil rights movement of the 1950s. The author's use of Petrarchan sonnets in the round (a corona) was outstanding, and the artwork complemented it perfectly....more
Solid & engaging start to new series based on Norse myth
Tessa Gratton begins her new series, The United States of Asgard, with The Lost Sun, a t Solid & engaging start to new series based on Norse myth
Tessa Gratton begins her new series, The United States of Asgard, with The Lost Sun, a tale of two teenagers and their race to find and save the sun god, Baldur the Beautiful. Soren Bearskin has always feared the fire in his chest, the berserking, that might lead to a murderous rampage like that of his father. Conversely, Astrid Glyn, a young prophetess, lives in the shadow of her mother’s great seething and seeks to embrace it. When fate throws them together and the country erupts in chaos after Baldur goes missing, the two strike out on a cross-country trek to find the missing god and return him to his rightful place.
The Lost Sun is a solid and engaging start to Gratton’s new series, and its strength lies in the writing and the depth of emotion and conflict depicted in the characters. Set in an alternative United States filled with the creatures of Norse myth, this is a story that could have easily been overshadowed by the flash and action often associated with retold myths. Instead, however, this is a novel (and likely a series) about the characters, their struggles, and their humanity. Soren, Astrid, and Baldur are all sympathetic characters, but Soren is especially so; the dilemma that Soren faces as a berserker feels genuine and heart-wrenching. While there is a romance, it’s not the focus. This is foremost a story about friendship, loyalty, self-discovery, and self-definition. When romantic moments did occur, I also felt twinges of swoon despite the too-quickly-realized romantic connection.
Having said that, though, this novel also excels at its interpretation of Norse myth, even when playing loosely with the original tales. I enjoyed reading about this reimagined U.S. where mortals walk among demi-gods, gods, and Valkyries. The writing is rich and full of description that allowed me to easily envision every setting and situation, from dilapidated farmhouses with trolls inside to the emotional conflict roiling in Soren's mind. The story then concludes with a bittersweet ending that avoided the easy solution, which I also appreciated.
Even with these strengths, there were a few instances in which I longed for more. The romance and some friendships developed quickly and a bit unbelievably; I wish there had been more development in the initial stages of each relationship. The mythology, including the trickery involved at the climax, was a bit hard to follow at times, and I was grateful that I had at least some background in Norse mythology. And, while I love Gratton’s style, the abundance of descriptors and metaphors/similes became noticeable and distracting at times.
Regardless of these small qualms, The Lost Sun is a winning start to a new series with a unique and relatively unexplored mythos, and I’m looking forward to the coming books in the series. Norse mythology is likely to be the next big thing, and I’m glad Gratton is in on the front end of it. Highly recommended to fans of Maggie Stiefvater and Brenna Yovanoff.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy....more
Beautiful and evocative writing creates satisfying tale
Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races takes readers to the small island of Thisby, a place wherBeautiful and evocative writing creates satisfying tale
Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races takes readers to the small island of Thisby, a place where nothing is earned easily, whether it be money or respect. Sean Kendrick has found that out himself, scraping by as a stable worker. He’s no ordinary stable hand, however, since he is the only one able to truly control the fearsome capaill uisce, the carnivorous water horses that emerge from the sea. Each year, Sean races his beloved water horse, Corr, in the potentially deadly Scorpio Races. Despite the odds in his favor, there’s much more at stake in this year’s race. Puck Connolly, on the other hand, never meant to go near the Scorpio Races, but her own hard luck has changed that. As the two navigate the difficult paths given to them, they must decide which risks are worth taking.
THE SCORPIO RACES stands out as Stiefvater’s most well-written book to date. Her writing remains beautiful and evocative, and it does so this time without ever feeling overdone. She constructs a palpable sense of mood and place using her words, and the characters have authentic personalities and motivations based on what’s shared about their pasts. Certain emotional and haunting scenes have stayed with me long after I finished, and I got goosebumps while reading more times than I could count. As a standalone novel, the story was satisfying and complete in itself, and the aching closing scene had me thinking about it for days. Other strong points of the novel included its unique water horse mythology (which was explained well without too much telling) and the focus on the strengths of Sean and Puck and the meaningful relationship each had with his or her horse. When a romance did surface, it was reflective of the characters involved and based on mutual respect and admiration.
Despite these strengths, I wasn’t able to give the book five stars due to a few weak points. The story was very slow in the beginning and didn’t pick up until about page 160. Told in alternating first-person perspectives, the voices also felt too similar at times. Though this is the best book overall that I’ve read from Stiefvater, I didn’t get caught up in the characters and their emotions like I did in her faerie books (Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception and Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie). I expect that this story will appeal to a smaller audience than her Shiver novels due to its focus on the human-horse relationships and its slow pacing and quiet romance.
Even with these few small qualms, I greatly enjoyed THE SCORPIO RACES because of its gorgeous writing, tangible sense of place, and strong, resilient characters. After reading this, I can’t wait to see what Stiefvater’s two forthcoming standalone novels will bring. It feels like her work will continue to get better and better.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy. ...more
3.5 stars: Some parts shine, some disappoint in bittersweet ending to trilogy
In Maggie Stiefvater’s Forever, the final book in the Wolves of Mercy Fal 3.5 stars: Some parts shine, some disappoint in bittersweet ending to trilogy
In Maggie Stiefvater’s Forever, the final book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, Sam is waiting for Grace to become human again as winter melts into spring. Cole is taking huge risks to try and find a cure, and Isabel continues to struggle with her brother’s death. The stakes are raised when a hunt to kill the wolves is approved, and Sam, Cole, and Isabel must race against time to save Grace and the pack. With no easy solutions in sight, nothing is certain regarding who will live and love into another season.
Like always, Stiefvater’s lyrical prose impressed me with its ability to create distinct imagery and to evoke emotion. Isabel and Cole shined as characters that grow, both by themselves and together, and I found their shared moments to be the most touching. All of the characters, even those whom we’re supposed to love, are shown to have significant flaws, and the story deals openly with the issue of what is forgivable and what is not. Strong themes about selfish versus selfless behavior, self-destruction and suicide, the value and worth of love, and the importance of consent and choice also ran throughout. I appreciated seeing these themes woven into the story, and I appreciated even more seeing Stiefvater note some of them in the dedication, author's note, and acknowledgments. The novel also finished with a somewhat open ending that allows readers to imagine an uncertain but hopeful future for the characters, which I found more believable than a pat ending.
Even with all of these strong points, FOREVER didn’t provide the satisfying conclusion for which I had hoped. Like in Linger, the voices of the different narrators were often not distinct, and I sometimes found myself checking the chapter headings to identify the speaker. The prose in this installment also felt too intentional: I often felt like passages were written for the mere beauty of the words, not because they represented a character’s voice well. While I loved Isabel and Cole, they outshined Sam and Grace in this book, much to the detriment of the two main characters. Despite the hardships their relationship undergoes, the cautious nature in which Sam and Grace treated each other felt artificially strained. Because of this, I never reconnected to their love story. Some parts of the resolution also felt too convenient, and the werewolf pathology remained unclear. Finally, while I did appreciate aspects of the open ending, some things felt just as unresolved as they were at the end of the two previous books.
After falling in love with the author’s writing in her faerie novels (Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception, Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie), the Shiver books unfortunately never grabbed me in the same way. Despite this lack of connection with the series, I continue to be very impressed with Stiefvater’s writing and her ability to connect readers to the emotions of her characters. I’m looking forward eagerly to her upcoming stand-alone novel, The Scorpio Races, to see if I can find that connection to her writing again....more
In LINGER, Maggie Stiefvater takes the reader back to Mercy Falls and the world of Sam and Grace. A fewEmotions and writing linger, but plot does not
In LINGER, Maggie Stiefvater takes the reader back to Mercy Falls and the world of Sam and Grace. A few months into his cure, Sam is starting to embrace his new humanity, albeit skeptically, while Grace seems less and less comfortable in her own skin. Isabel continues to wrestle with the aftermath of her brother’s death, and new pack member Cole surfaces as a cocky and potentially dangerous disruption. As all four grapple with their own doubts and inner demons, they are left to uncover whether love (of oneself, of each other, of humanity) will be enough to allow them to survive.
Compared to SHIVER, this book sat better with me due to its writing, character development, and the absence of any off-putting overtones to the animal-human relationships. As always, Stiefvater draws in the reader with lyrical writing, burning imagery, and an amazing ability to evoke emotion. Due to her talents, there are scenes in this book, namely one with Cole and a deer, that won’t soon leave me. Character development also remains as another one of her strengths; Stiefvater’s ability to show the damage within each character in this novel was superb. As new leads, Cole and Isabel stood out in their exploration of their broken selves and how they related to one another through this filter. The writer’s ability to transport me back to the rawness and immediacy of one’s emotions as a teenager was also remarkable. In addition, this installment expands and complicates the mythology regarding the wolves, their curse, and their cure.
Despite these many strengths, LINGER let me down in some ways, just like SHIVER. Told in first-person, the chapters alternated between four different voices. Though I enjoyed the addition of Isabel and Cole as narrators, each character’s voice was not always distinct, and the frequent switching of voice mid-chapter often felt abrupt. Pacing slowed and dragged in the middle third. The book’s ending was predictable and heavily foreshadowed, even if the path to get there was a mystery. Also, unlike the conclusion of SHIVER, which felt distinct and finished, this book closed with the most cliffhanger-like ending I have encountered from Stiefvater. While things changed for the characters emotionally, the plot didn’t move forward a great deal.
Even with these concerns, I’ll continue to look forward to reading anything Stiefvater writes. I hope that the final installment in the trilogy, FOREVER, provides a satisfying conclusion to the series and a little bit of healing for everyone involved, even if not in expected ways. If you’re looking for something with the same beautiful writing but more action, I highly recommend Stiefvater’s faery books, LAMENT and BALLAD....more
Interesting twist on werewolf love w/room for improvement, 3.5 stars
After reading Maggie Stiefvater's debut novel, Lament: The Faerie Queen's DeceptiInteresting twist on werewolf love w/room for improvement, 3.5 stars
After reading Maggie Stiefvater's debut novel, Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception, I couldn't wait to get my hands on Shiver. Sadly, it didn't grab me in the same way.
Shiver tells the story of Grace, a high-achieving but quiet high school junior, who is engrossed by the pack of wolves that roams outside her Minnesota home each winter. She has a special connection with the wolf with yellow eyes, as this wolf saved her from the pack's attack when she was eleven. We quickly learn that the wolves are actually shape-shifting humans that turn into wolves each fall and winter and then become humans again in the warmer months; as time passes and the cycle repeats, each person gets less and less time as a human until he/she ceases to change back anymore. The yellow-eyed wolf is Sam, an eighteen year old boy who has cared for Grace since he saved her six years prior. Due to some unfortunate events, Sam changes back into a human during cold weather, but he is finally able to meet and be with Grace in his human form. Sam and Grace must fight against the increasingly cold weather and other forces to keep him human and prevent what may be his last change into a permanent wolf.
I liked the author's variation on the werewolf fable, even though there were a few times that the temperature/season argument didn't work. The romance between Sam and Grace is believable in its human form, albeit sometimes boring, as they do regular things that grow a relationship, like watch TV together, go to the book shop and candy store, steal kisses, etc. Their love was sweet and sometimes sexy, with all the trappings of a first real relationship. However, the relationship seemed inauthentic in how easily they got along, with little conflict other than trying to keep Sam warm so he didn't morph back into a wolf. Even though they claimed to have been in love for the six years since the wolf version of Sam saved Grace, it was questionable and a little bit creepy to have that love translated automatically and without hesitation into a human form.
This book is told from both protagonists' POV, as indicated by a name at the top of each chapter. However, the two voices of the characters weren't distinct enough, and I found myself sometimes checking the top of the page to see who was speaking. Sam's voice was also a bit too overdeveloped and wordy to be believable for a boy of eighteen who's spent much of his life as a wolf. Each chapter also shows the current temperature. Other reviewers didn't like the temp being shown, but I thought it provided a heightened sense of urgency regarding the risk to Sam and his impending change that the book would have lacked otherwise. Compared to other YA authors, Stiefvater has a wonderfully lyrical and well-written style of prose, full of description and imagery. However, it went overboard at times as each description was flowery and dramatic. There were also some gaping plot holes in that Grace has completely absent parents, who never noticed that a boy was sleeping in their daughter's room for weeks; the whole "cure" was implausible in how the characters came about obtaining it; and the maturity, sensitivity, and emotional development of Sam seemed unlikely given his past.
Despite these qualms, it was a nice, enjoyable read overall, even if it didn't impress me like Lament did. I look forward to more from Stiefvater in the future, though, and I hope that some of the weaknesses in this book will be resolved in the next two in the trilogy, Linger and Forever. ...more
After reading Maggie Stiefvater's first novel, Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception, a few months ago and loving it (asIntriguing follow-up to Lament
After reading Maggie Stiefvater's first novel, Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception, a few months ago and loving it (as my previous review on it can attest), I waited impatiently for Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie to come out. I dove into it this past weekend, and though I enjoyed it a great deal, it didn't bind me like Lament did.
Ballad picks up a few months after Dee and James barely survive their first harrowing experiences with the world of Faerie. Dee has left home to attend the prestigious music boarding school, Thornking-Ash, and best friend James, who's in love with her, follows. Ballad tells its story through the alternating points of view of James and a dangerous faerie muse called Nuala, who has chosen James as her next conquest. As the best bagpiper in all of Virginia, James finds himself with little to gain at the new school, other than the opportunity to be near Dee, who has entered onto a path of self-destruction.
Ballad is a portrait of James coming to terms with his unique talents, his unrequited love and concern for Dee, his perceived isolation from others, and his growing temptations towards Nuala on multiple fronts. James is a well-drawn character, with quirks, snark, and witticisms that fully embody him. As the book progresses, you become more and more concerned for him and what compromises he may make, even at the risk of his life or soul, to stand out and feel worthy. His narrative counterpart, Nuala, also comes into focus as the story develops, and even though she starts out as a nemesis, the reader learns her weaknesses and becomes sympathetic towards her too. This book differs from Lament's fast pace and immediate draw; instead, the development of James and Nuala as characters, as well as James' mentor and friends, grows at a steady but sure pace.
Like Stiefvater's other novels, this book is very well-written, with smart characters and quick dialogue. The book differs from Lament, though, as it's more of a character study interspersed with events that show us the depths of struggle that James experiences. It's also darker in its descriptions of faeries and the thoughts of the main characters. Though I love sarcasm and wit, James' continual barrage of comments can make one weary at times and I found it unbelievable that any teachers (even the intriguing Mr. Sullivan) would put up with it for very long. There are some weaknesses to the plot, in that the climax doesn't seem too climactic and some of the characters don't show the strong emotional reactions one would expect given what they've experiencing. There are also some plot points that weren't terribly clear, but they didn't detract too much from the reading overall; I hope these will be cleared up or expanded in the books to come in this series.
Overall, a good read but with room for more in what I hope will be multiple coming novels set in this universe. Though this can be read as a standalone novel, I would recommend reading Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception first to get the backstory on James and Dee, their relationship, and what happened during the past summer. Knowing their history will provide more understanding and empathy with their characters. ...more
Riveting debut w/romance, suspense, and lyrical prose
Maggie Stiefvater's debut novel, Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception, tells the story of DeirdreRiveting debut w/romance, suspense, and lyrical prose
Maggie Stiefvater's debut novel, Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception, tells the story of Deirdre, a talented but introverted young woman, and Luke, the soulless faerie assassin that's been assigned to kill her. The reader also gets to meet Deirdre's loyal best friend, James, and the world of faerie.
Very rarely do I connect so much with a book, its writing (which was superb and richly detailed), and its characters, as I did with Lament. As an adult reader, I found Lament and its characters thoroughly believable, likeable, and flawed in realistic ways. Her writing doesn't condescend to either teens or adults and provides depth, strength, and development to its characters. There were parts in the book where I actually felt a physical ache in my chest for the characters and the situations they experience.
Steifvater's style is lyrical and smooth, and it moves the book along easily. There were absolutely no slow parts. The writing is so rich and descriptive (without being overly flowery or purple) that I could easily imagine all of the scenes and related emotions with ease. This is an author who shows you what she wants you to imagine and see, instead of simply telling you. Her characters, while not overly developed, are very human and relatable. The romance between the two main characters is palpable and pulls at your heart. While there are some predictable elements to the plot, these pale in comparison to the inventive world of nefarious and mischievous faeries she's created alongside the human, modern world. The protagonist, Deirdre, also holds her own as a female lead, which is something sorely lacking in many current YA novels.
After finishing Lament on Friday evening, I happily traipsed down to our local, independent bookstore the next day to buy my own copy (I originally got it from the library) and to purchase Shiver, Stiefvater's new novel. After reading that, I'll be looking forward eagerly to the release of Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie, Lament's sequel, in October.
In sum, I consider this the thinking person's Twilight - much more well-written with better characters and no dull points! Cheers to that. ...more