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
Easily readable with a much stronger heroine and clearer writing than McAdams has used in the past, but the utter level of ridiculousness and crazy thEasily readable with a much stronger heroine and clearer writing than McAdams has used in the past, but the utter level of ridiculousness and crazy that's written into the plot blew me away and *not* in a good way. The amount of trauma and abuse to which the main character is submitted by the end of the novel made this almost feel like torture porn by the end....more
Unfortunately, this installment didn't add anything important or moving to the story of Hope and Holder. This novel was nothing more than the exact sa Unfortunately, this installment didn't add anything important or moving to the story of Hope and Holder. This novel was nothing more than the exact same story as found in HOPELESS with the exact same dialogue and merely more angsty moments from Holder. If anything, it made me like Holder even less as a love interest. ...more
Quick & easy read for fans of contemporary YA romance
In Dare You To, Beth Risk lives with her drug-addicted mother under the constant threat of p Quick & easy read for fans of contemporary YA romance
In Dare You To, Beth Risk lives with her drug-addicted mother under the constant threat of poverty and violence. When she's sent to a rural town to live with the uncle that left years ago, Beth struggles to find a way to save her mother and get back to the few close friends who have helped her. Though local golden boy and baseball star Ryan Stone's life appears blissfully easy in comparison, there's more simmering beneath the surface of his family's perfect façade. When Beth and Ryan's lives intersect, sparks fly and each learns that the expected path in life might not always be the best one.
While DARE YOU TO was a bit formulaic, this book was a quick and easy read that will appeal to fans of Simone Elkeles, both in its style of alternating male/female points-of-view and its overall light tone, despite the serious topics involved. One notable strength of the novel was Ryan: he was a great male lead who treated Beth with respect. Though there were some moments when he acted a bit chauvinistic, these instances seemed realistic for his character and the small-town climate in which he grew up. While I always knew where Beth and Ryan's relationship was headed, it was nice to see the progression from attraction and lust to something deeper. In addition, I appreciated how the sex scene was handled; the story featured a virgin hero and did a very good job depicting how sex can be an exercise in trust, not just desire. I also enjoyed the secondary characters, especially Ryan's friends Chris, Logan, and Lacey. The interactions between these friends and their classmates depicted small-town rural/suburban life well without mocking it.
This novel didn't work for me on all levels, though. Some very serious issues were presented in the book (e.g., drug abuse, domestic violence, poverty), but they were glossed over and resolved too easily, even if somewhat sadly. Similarly, significant changes in Beth's character seemed to happen too quickly to be believable, and she felt less developed as a character than Ryan. While I liked Ryan's character, he did some things that seemed to contradict his "nice guy" persona, while also sometimes seeming too idealized to be real.
Even with these misgivings, I enjoyed reading DARE YOU TO and think it will have a wide fan base. This installment was a definite improvement over my experience with McGarry's first book (Pushing the Limits), and I look forward to reading the final book in the trilogy (Crash into You)) when it comes out.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy....more
Beautiful & achingly realistic tale of young love & its aftermath
Very rarely does a book impress me, satisfy me, and affect me emotionally as 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
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
I went into HOPELESS without any real expectations but a decent bit of curiosity because I know that many people consider Hoover's writing to be good. I went into HOPELESS without any real expectations but a decent bit of curiosity because I know that many people consider Hoover's writing to be good. In the end, I found the book readable but not memorable because of the way in which the heavy content was handled. I was completely and utterly disappointed with how the various traumas were dealt with. Not only did the couple have happy, healing sex from the get-go, despite past sexual trauma, but all of the horrible things were dealt with and resolved entirely too easily -- especially given that the big reveals and resolution all happened within the span of a few mere days. The book wasn't as terrible as other New Adult titles out there, but the author tried to force too many issues into one book and used the "true love and sex cures all" trope to wrap things up, which didn't sit well with me....more
Wavering between 2.5 and 3 stars on this one. Despite the ridiculous number of typos, misspellings, and poorly written sentences, the story clipped alWavering between 2.5 and 3 stars on this one. Despite the ridiculous number of typos, misspellings, and poorly written sentences, the story clipped along after an initially slow start and there was no instalove to make me roll my eyes. If the author cleaned this up, I think it would be one of the better titles in the New Adult genre...though that's not a ringing endorsement from me....more
Though slow in the middle with an unnecessarily drawn-out love triangle, this tale’s very Gothic mix of mystery, romance, and the grotesque makes it a Though slow in the middle with an unnecessarily drawn-out love triangle, this tale’s very Gothic mix of mystery, romance, and the grotesque makes it a winner. Not for the faint of heart, though, as Dr. Moreau’s cruel experiments are described in detail more than once. ...more
Poor writing & implausible story made this a non-finisher for me
In an attempt to try out another New Adult title, I downloaded The Coincidence of Poor writing & implausible story made this a non-finisher for me
In an attempt to try out another New Adult title, I downloaded The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden. It is currently sitting in the #4 spot on the NYT Best Sellers list for e-books, and it seemed like a deal at only 99 cents. I even picked up the author's second similar title (The Secret of Ella and Micha) on a whim at the same time. Though I should have been more wary due to the low price and the author's self-pubbed status, I was feeling adventurous.
Oh, how wary I should have been! I have never before given up on a title so quickly as I did with this book (at the 7% completion mark). The two chapters that I read were littered with typos, incorrect pronoun usage, and simply pedestrian and awkward writing. As per usual with YA or NA titles, the characters have trials or past abuses to overcome, but this story laid them out entirely too obviously within the first three pages with clunky statements about "hiding the scars on the inside" and the young woman's obvious fear of men. Then, soon after we're told that the main character hasn't touched anyone outside her family in six years and has never told a soul about what trauma has befallen her, the next chapter finds her at college with a new best friend -- the token gay guy -- whom she touches, laughs with, and has shared her darkest secrets with. The quick character changes, and the obviously forthcoming romance with the also-traumatized football jock from her hometown, just seemed too unbelievable. I simply had to stop reading due to the absolute implausibility of the story and the poor writing.
Though I don't hope to diminish anyone else's interest or enthusiasm for this book, I can't understand any of the hype, high sales, or great ratings for this book and the author's other titles, if they are at all similar. Not only did I declare this a DNF title, but it is also the first thing I have ever digitally returned. Read at your own risk. ...more
Oh, book, I don't know what to do with you, rating and review-wise. I can see what you were trying to do, but it felt too contrived and contradictoryOh, book, I don't know what to do with you, rating and review-wise. I can see what you were trying to do, but it felt too contrived and contradictory in many instances. Let me ruminate further.......more
Though I had heard many positive things about Hopkins’ gritty verse novels for teens, Collateral was my first experience with her work and it left me Though I had heard many positive things about Hopkins’ gritty verse novels for teens, Collateral was my first experience with her work and it left me extremely disappointed. The author’s use of verse never felt poetic; it simply seemed like prose broken awkwardly across a page.
Additionally, while it was clear what message the author was trying to impart about the effects of a military life on both the solider and those around him/her, it came off as heavy-handed and unbelievable; because the reader only meets the characters at the time of enlistment, it’s a big jump to believe that the personality changes described are attributable solely to the stresses of military life, as opposed to some inherent part of their dispositions.
Only recommended to those who enjoy Hopkins’ work and who are willing to read a very depressing tale about military life, abuse, and drug/alcohol use. ...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