(Note: This is rather an atypical review in that it's less of a study of the book and more a study of characters, so...you've been warned.)
It should b...more(Note: This is rather an atypical review in that it's less of a study of the book and more a study of characters, so...you've been warned.)
It should be said that I'm a huge Loki fan. (No, not Hiddleston!Loki. Okay, not JUST Hiddleston!Loki.) My affection for this trickster god probably began years ago when I watched the anime Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok, which painted Loki in a softer light than he's usually portrayed. After the fact, I dabbled in reading Norse mythology, but there was always one thing that niggled in my mind as I read through various myths: why, among the capricious and sometimes immoral whims of these gods, was this giant-turned-Asgardian so reviled among them all? Was it simply because this outsider had no qualms about making these gods face themselves, their flaws, and sometimes even their fears? Even with the unfortunate events that lead to the Twilight of the Gods (also known as Ragnarok), Loki's character never struck me as outright "villainous": rather, he almost seemed a misguided, god-powered class-clown character who does anything and everything to try and gain the attention -- and respect -- of his peers. In the end, however, he strikes out against those who have never fully accepted him into their fold.
With all that in mind, I had a feeling I would love Mike Vasich's Loki because his Loki is in tune with my own head-canon take: though crafty and true to his moniker "the Sly One," Loki yearns for the approval of the Asgardians and has long pledged his loyalty to Odin and the well-being of Asgard. However, every action Loki takes for Asgard's sake -- often lampshaded as a betrayal of Asgard -- is seen with scorn by the other gods. Even as the Allfather who sees and knows all, Odin never corrects these assumptions even though they harm Loki's place within Asgard. Why? Because Odin does only what fate bids him to do.
"Fate" is a large crux in the plot of Loki. Many of the characters within this story paint it as a certain thing, something that is set in stone no matter which winding paths are taken, yet Loki rails against this mentality even as he irrevocably plays into its hands. The sequence where his fate is laid before him within the Well of Urd, the dwelling place of the three fate-seeing Norns, is tragic due to his bewilderment and incomprehension of the weight each word bears on his eventual future. Vasich's take on Loki almost has a Macbethian quality to it in that sense. (There are actually a few parallels that can be drawn between Loki and Shakespeare's Macbeth, and I found that fascinating because I had never really pondered those likenesses between Loki of myth and Macbeth.)
Of course, the theme of fate and its inevitability would bear little weight without Odin, the Allfather, the one who constantly reminds all the gods of how much he sees even as he explains to them very little beyond what they "need" to know. Vasich's Odin is a wanderer of the mind: he may sit in Gladsheim among the other gods, but his mind ever drifts among past, present, and future. His greatest power of seeing the future also proves to be a great flaw that detaches him from the gods and any responsibility he bears with them. Given how much faith they place in his wisdom even as he sees their ruin approaching, it's no wonder Odin sometimes has reminders of what role he's truly playing among the gods:
It was ironic that [the gods] found deceit and treachery in Loki's every word and deed, that they would condemn him for his actions, when he was merely a tool for the High One. In truth, Odin was their greatest enemy. (Pages 72-73, Kindle Edition)
The above quote is actually really telling of Loki and Odin's true roles and how they relate: they're foils to one another, both tools to fate's workings and possessors of great (and sometimes ill-used) power. The expression, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions," quite honestly fits both Loki and Odin within this novel. Loki believes that he is acting in Asgard's best interests when he follows Odin's commands just as Odin himself believes he does "right" by not trying to fight the fates of himself or the other gods. All of this culminates in a tragic scenario which sees Loki eventually spurned from Asgard and his vengeance ploy against his once-home begun...and the tragedy extends much farther than Loki or his own flesh and blood.
Though not without some flaws, Loki is more than a simple retelling of Norse mythology: the story shows how blatant neglect and disregard can plant seeds of malice and mutiny; how the idea of fate is kind to no one -- not the powerful or the weak, the good or the bad; and how even those deemed "good" can be riddled with unlikable qualities while those labeled "bad" can bear quite a number of sympathies. It proves to be a journey filled with betrayal, chaos, bloodshed, and death.
After I finished The Raging Quiet, a part of my heart wept for this sad truth: many wonderful young adult books are going out of print and being overs...moreAfter I finished The Raging Quiet, a part of my heart wept for this sad truth: many wonderful young adult books are going out of print and being overshadowed by books with shiny, flashy covers and dime-a-dozen plots and characters. Imagine fifty or a hundred years from now: will the "classic" books for young adults be some paranormal insta!love angst fests that (sadly) have the large audiences (and large print runs) in the here and now? What will happen to these hidden gems that sadly go out of print before their time? Will they be left to collect dust in libraries, sold off at used book stores, and forgotten as we continue to plough our way into an all-digital age? When people look back (if they look back at all), will this era of booming young adult literature merely be categorized by the easy sells and the cheap plots? If so, what a sad, sad thing that is to me.
In a way, The Raging Quiet left me with many of the same feelings I had upon finishing Keturah and Lord Death (another hidden gem which is sadly out of print) and many of Melina Marchetta's books (particularly her fantasy offerings). All the stories mentioned show realistic shades of suffering, pain, longing, redemption, and love -- but The Raging Quiet felt even more resonant, given that I could almost imagine such a tale occurring long, long ago.
Marnie Isherwood has not been dealt the kindest blows in life: she finds herself married to a much older man after her father's health declines and her family's well-being is threatened by jealousy and lies. Though at first she thinks her husband a kind and honorable man, she quickly learns that he is far from the man she had thought him to be. Now nestled in a cottage by a cove, just outside the small town of Torcurra, Marnie feels more alone and hopeless than ever. But there are glimmers of hope in two people she meets: a kindly priest and a mad boy believed to be possessed by demons.
The Raging Quiet is a thoughtful book, the kind that comes along rarely and catches you off-guard with its sincerity in showing both the joys and pains of life. The novel is one-part morality play, one-part coming-of-age journey, and one-part love story. Though all those elements on their own are not noteworthy or unique by any means, together they wield surprising weight in making this tale -- of prejudices and punishments, bonds and brokenness, realizations and rejoicing -- an unforgettable read.
Undeniably, however, what really makes this novel pull at the heartstrings is the cast of characters, namely Marnie and the "mad boy" (who comes to be known as Raven). It's amazing and heartwarming to read how the two characters grow into both themselves and their friendship over the course of the story -- and how their companionship is often what saves them when they are in threat of losing themselves to darker thoughts and actions. That kind of character growth and depth isn't found often, so I relished every page I had with these two characters.
Needless to say, The Raging Quiet is a book I wholeheartedly recommend for its great heart and meaning. Even if historical fiction isn't your fancy, I can guarantee that there is at least something you can glean from reading this book. Just think: odds are that you'll likely enjoy it as much as, if not more than, the commercial young adult books out there on shelves now. Do yourself the favor and consider it, for you may find yourself surprised in the end.
(My thanks go out to Lora, without whom I would never have even known about this book. I owe you a great book recommendation, darling, for steering me towards this wonderful gem of a novel!)(less)
Nearly sixteen and sheltered for much of her life by two overprotective guardians, Mirabelle Lively decides to take destiny into her own hands by runn...moreNearly sixteen and sheltered for much of her life by two overprotective guardians, Mirabelle Lively decides to take destiny into her own hands by running away from home and to Beau Rivage, the site of her parents' deaths...and the place she has been strictly forbidden never to go. When Mirabelle arrives in Beau Rivage, she catches the attention of two brothers -- one prickly and hostile, the other kind and welcoming -- and finds herself caught up in the strange workings of a place she believes to be ordinary when it's anything but.
Honestly, I don't know how someone who's not familiar with the deeper themes of fairy tales (beyond the glossy veneer of Disney movie retellings and to the heart and bone of the original darker tales) will react to Sarah Cross's sophomore novel, Kill Me Softly. I could see many people becoming bored or disinterested in the story because they believe it's the "same old, same old" thing: untried and naive heroine who finds herself with a strange new destiny, check; the jerky boy who warns her to stay the hell away and who's not afraid to use force to do it, check; the understanding guy who swoops in and acts as the hero to the heroine's damsel-in-distress, check; the stirrings of romantic feelings in the span of hours and days instead of weeks and months, check; and a seeming love triangle in the making to stir up a lot of angst and drama among the characters, check. You want to believe that's all it is, don't you?
Well, I'm here to say, "Not so fast."
The preface alone promises that you shouldn't trust everything on the surface level:
Birthdays were wretched, delicious things when you lived in Beau Rivage. The clocks struck midnight, and presents gave way to magic.
Curses bloomed. [...]
Girls became victims and heroines.
Boys became lovers and murderers.
And sometimes . . . they became both.
Just like a true fairy tale, Kill Me Softly is so much more than what the surface would have you expect, and it is as much a mish-mash of fairy tale characters and themes as it is an examination and sometimes a deconstruction of many common fairy tale elements. What if you're locked into a fate you can't control? What if you try to fight against it, only to be forced into playing out your destiny by outside forces? What would that do to a person? Would you dread the inevitable, would you embrace your role wholeheartedly...or would you try to forge your own fate even though doing so might end up being pointless and fruitless?
I'm not going to lie: some readers are going to moan and groan as they follow Mirabelle, the protagonist. Why? One word: insta!love. (Cue groans all around.) I get it, really, since I'm usually the first on the "SAY NO TO INSTA!LOVE" train. But you know what? Even though Mira herself isn't aware of all the dangers of her insta!love journey, Sarah Cross as the writer obviously is. All the clues are there that Mira is thinking with the rose-colored glasses of infatuation for much of the story as she naively falls under the illusion of a "relationship." No reader is meant to believe that the "love" she finds is desirable. Instead, we're all meant to shake our heads in concern and pity as Mira ultimately stumbles into territory she isn't prepared to face. In truth, I couldn't help but be reminded of some of Angela Carter's fairy tale retellings as I read Mira's (sometimes upsetting, sometimes heartbreaking) story.
To focus merely on Mira and the insta!love, however, slightly takes away from the messages and themes of the story itself. I love that Cross questions the workings of fate and "true love" in the wrappings of fairy tale destinies. You have a Snow White who looks in the mirror every day and hates being told, "You're beautiful," because her growing beauty spells the quickening pace of her story becoming reality; you have a Beauty who knows who her Beast will be and loathes the very idea of saving him from himself; and you have a prince who has waited for his princess all his life even though he seems more interested in "playing the hero" than in hearing whether or not his princess wants him the same way. Through Mira's narrative, Cross explores all these stories and more and shows them in their good lights -- and their bad.
Aside from how much food-for-thought this novel gave me (since I love fairy tales and exploring their themes), I thoroughly enjoyed Kill Me Softly. I smiled as I read and imagined certain scenes; I laughed at the witty banter and interplay among the characters; I groaned as scenes developed in ways I hadn't quite anticipated or wanted; and I choked up during a few scenes, especially towards the end when -- just like in a real fairy tale -- all hope seemed to have been lost and heartbreak assured. It was the kind of reading experience that embraced me and wouldn't let me go until I had finished.
Overall, my verdict is, quite simply, that I loved Kill Me Softly, flaws and all. I don't know how other readers will fare with it, but I would recommend it to fairy-tale enthusiasts (probably the same ones who are enjoying ABC's Once Upon a Time at the moment). And I can only hope that Sarah Cross will revisit Beau Rivage in subsequent novels and follow other characters in their attempts to change their fairy-tale fates.
(Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.)(less)
Angelfall. It's pretty amazing how one self-published novel could spread like wildfire through the Goodreads community in only a matter of days...and...moreAngelfall. It's pretty amazing how one self-published novel could spread like wildfire through the Goodreads community in only a matter of days...and for the right reasons and not excuses for snark-ridden reviews. There's been a lot of gushing about this book (and some thoughtful criticism as well), so I can't say I'll add anything new to the conversation or word of mouth about this book. But I promised a review, so here it is.
To be honest, reading Angelfall left me in a daze, and I rated it in my dazed state, ready to join the gushing factions and say, "Yes, yes, yes, you need to read it NOW! DO IT NOW, I SAY, OR I'LL SEND THE ANGELS AFTER YOU!" Five stars seemed so appropriate a rating since (a) I really, really enjoyed it and (b) it handled the premise of ambiguous angels in an apocalyptic setting so very, very well. But I didn't rush to write an uber-positive review as I normally do with five-star reads. I let it sit and mulled over my thoughts.
There's no doubt in my mind that Angelfall is very readable and enjoyable, and with it comes a great commercial appeal akin to what made novels like The Hunger Games and even Twilight so popular with legions of YA readers. Angelfall takes something we think we know -- the concept of angels -- and adds new layers and dimensions to them for fictional purposes. I mean, has anyone recently had the guts to write agnostic angels in fiction? Or non-fallen angels not wholly intent on following divine will and purpose? It's mind-boggling simply because no YA author has yet tackled such ideas. Susan Ee has bragging rights for this and may she sue the hell out of any author, self-published or traditionally published, who tries to jump on the bandwagon by "borrowing" her ideas, so of course we YA readers are a little awed by it all.
But. But, at the end of the day, Angelfall is a novel full of so much potential that isn't always wielded to best effect. I'm not saying this novel would have fared better through traditional means (on the contrary, I think it would have gone through edits and rewrites that would have left it without much of the charm and ingenuity it contains in self-published format), but I think that Ee has yet to expand her novel's world and characters to all their potential. This isn't a criticism so much as this thought: "Since she started her story this well, I hope she will keep improving with each novel she writes." There are some authors whom I can be assured of such a thing, but Ee is still new to me and I'm distrustful by nature. I can only hope that the Penryn & the End of Days series will be one that continues to soar and does not eventually crash into the pit of "good series gone bad." Luckily, Angelfall leaves me with enough optimism to say that my pessimistic imagining will likely not occur.
All I can say as I end this review is that I recommend Angelfall for all the things it does well and that I am ecstatically looking forward to owning my own paperback copy of the novel sometime soon. I'll be crossing my fingers and hoping that the majority of you will enjoy it.(less)
It seems fitting that I devoured Prized on Valentine's Day as if it were a box of chocolate -- but this book was so much better than chocolate to me.
I...moreIt seems fitting that I devoured Prized on Valentine's Day as if it were a box of chocolate -- but this book was so much better than chocolate to me.
I don't think a book in recent memory has made me dread or hope as much as this one did.
Prized made my heart a knotted mess, and then slowly -- painfully -- the knots began to untangle and leave me even more stricken.
This book and its predecessor Birthmarked are so much more than run-of-the-mill YA dystopian novels. They are rife with important topics (and even some criticisms): the merit of choice for women, their bodies, and their love lives; the shades of sexism that can lead to one sex dominating over the other; and the truth that difficult circumstances ultimately try who you are, what you believe, and who you will become.
I love Gaia, the heroine, for being a confused sixteen-year-old who is still more sensible, honest, and free-willed than most heroines in YA today.
I love Leon, the hero, for not being the "perfect guy," the be-all-and-end-all for Gaia. He has deep layers and dark shades, but he is not the "bad boy" stereotype many of us have come to loathe.
I love that their romance is sometimes difficult, sometimes easy, yet always passionate.
I love the story for speaking out about so many important things in quiet and subtle ways.
And I love Caragh O'Brien for giving me these books that I'll want to devour again and again. Please keep challenging me, making me ponder, making me fall in love with your characters in both their good moments and their bad. You even have permission to break my heart with your words and your characters (as you did with this installment), so long as you offer enough hope for me to piece my heart back together again.
I wait with an anxious (and dread- and hope-filled) heart for the third book, Promised, and can only hope that the characters I have come to love will reach the places they need to be.(less)
But truth seemed to be changing. I had thought that truth was always simple and clear. A thing was true or it was a lie, but now as time seemed simult...moreBut truth seemed to be changing. I had thought that truth was always simple and clear. A thing was true or it was a lie, but now as time seemed simultaneously to stand still and to rush by me with the startling speed of a meteor, I knew that truth was as complicated as time.
It's been a while since I read anything from Madeleine L'Engle, author of the children's book A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels. (Actually, if I remember correctly, I read only the first two books of the Time Quintet. It was a very weird, confusing series -- especially for a ten year old.) I came across Camilla completely by accident: I was scanning the shelves of a used bookstore's young adult section, and the name-title caught my eye. Intrigued, I pulled it out, only to be faced by the 2009 reprinted edition's moody and atmospheric cover (and moody was exactly what I was looking for that day!). The back cover blurb made me less wishy-washy about buying it, and I eventually decided to give it a go.
I am so glad I did.
The story opens with Camilla Dickinson coming home from school only to find her mother and her mother's 'friend' Jacques in the living room. As always, Camilla feels unease and disquiet upon seeing her mother with Jacques, but she doesn't say anything, pretending not to notice the big fat elephant in the room. Then her father arrives home early, tension straining immediately in the Dickinson household, and you just know that all is not well in this New York family. . .
It's sordid, certainly. You just know it's going to be. But does it descend into soap opera territory? No, I wouldn't say so -- but it does have its moments of feeling too 'movie-esque' in some of the dialogue and scenes. However, I was captivated by L'Engle's writing here because it just felt so right and Camilla's voice was so believable as her family life crumbles around her and she tries to withstand the changes.
The story itself is divided into hit and miss areas. Though I liked Camilla as a heroine, all the other characters were gray in the sense that Camilla's rose-colored glasses, prejudices, and preconceptions affected the portrayal of every character. I was suspicious of everyone -- best friend Luisa, love interest Frank, Camilla's mother Rose and father Rafferty, and war veteran David -- because I know not to trust first-person narration since even characters in novels can become biased and, frankly, blind to what's right there in front of them. Then again, I'm a distrustful person, so maybe I was just looking at the characters and their actions/words/decisions too negatively -- except for Rose, whom I hated for her pettiness, selfishness, and childishness. However, all the other characters had their high and triumphant moments and their low and despicable moments. There were no heroes and villains in this novel -- just struggling people living their lives the best ways they could.
I would say I liked this book because it showed me stark reality that wasn't afraid to throw punches and kicks from time to time. Camilla was definitely not a feel-good novel even though there was a coming of age story with a bit of first love at the center. There were awkward moments, controversial issues, numerous doubts, unmet expectations, personal disappointments, and quite a bit of heartbreak. Even the Camilla-Luisa friendship (something I actually liked considering that good modern YA friendships are hard to find) began to fray through the course of the story. Every choice bore a consequence here.
My favorite parts of the novel undoubtedly were the discussions Camilla and Frank shared when it came to God, faith, and religion. However, unlike many modern novels that throw religion into a story to sway a person to be an atheist or a convert, L'Engle has her believers struggling and doubting and her non-believers hoping and praying. That was definitely refreshing to me (especially given that I'm a struggling, doubting believer myself), and it made the novel all the more realistic and meaningful to me.
The only reservation I had that kept this book from getting a full five stars is that I sometimes felt Camilla was objectified and demeaned within the plot. First, you had a scene early on, while Camilla and her father were in a restaurant, where he joked that the waiter likely thought that her father was 'her sugar daddy.' Then you have Frank later saying how he disliked his sister 'monopolozing' Camilla. And you have a full-grown man stealing a kiss from Camilla. Not to mention how many times people mentioned her 'beauty' or her 'pretty looks.' The girl wants to be an astronomer, dang it, so don't demean her by making her just another useless pretty face like her mother! I get that the novel was released in 1951, but many of these things just really rubbed me the wrong way. I just don't know what L'Engle meant by all the undertones. Perhaps it was a way of drawing similarities between Camilla and her mother and how Camilla could potentially shadow her mother's footsteps in the future? I don't know. All I know is that I didn't like it.
Many flaws aside, I do think this is a novel worth reading since it has a lot to say and share. It resonated with me because it wasn't trying to be escapist fiction; it was trying to be real in all shades and colors of the generation post-World War II. And I respect that since I think that is the hardest thing for any author to do: keep it real even if it means some brutal and harsh moments along the way.
(Added Note No. 1: I can already tell I won't be liking the 'adult fiction sequel,' A Live Coal in the Sea. I read spoilers on Wikipedia, and. . .yeah, it sounds like bad fan fiction. How disappointing.)
(Added Note No. 2: For those of you who prefer movies to books -- especially when it comes to classics -- there is a movie adaptation that will be releasing this year.)(less)
I turn around now, and see them laughing, but unlike Beethoven, I could already hear them. I always knew they were there. Be...more(Actual Rating: 4.5 stars)
I turn around now, and see them laughing, but unlike Beethoven, I could already hear them. I always knew they were there. Behind me. Even this whole year, when I didn't see them, I always knew they were there.
The lack of surprise doesn't make it any less awesome. Because I get a different revelation now, better than Beethoven's. I'm in love. . .with my stupid, fallen-apart family.
Chase "Everboy" McGill lives for the summers he spends with his family in their summer home by the beach. Rather than feel fulfilled by the other dozens of weeks in the year, Chase defines himself and his family by summer because, to him, summer holds the most meaning, the most answers, the most everything. Summer is the constant even while his life changes and spins out of his control. Spread over four consequent summers in Chase's life, Invincible Summer embodies everything there is to love about summer -- and everything there is to mourn about it too.
Just as summer is a constant, Chase's family are his constants, his crutches, his rocks, his burdens. His parents try to hide their marital tension for the sake of upholding the summer goal of vacation and relaxation. His older brother Noah disappears as he pleases as a way to tear himself away from the weakness of caring too much about his family. Younger sister Claudia is forever trying to act older than her age, wearing bikinis and make-up and trying to flirt and seduce in equal measures, while younger brother Gideon lives his life without the aid of hearing.
Then there are the Hathaways, their summer neighbors, who are also constants in and of themselves: beautiful Melinda who quotes Albert Camus and eyes both Chase and Noah at different times; wily boy Shannon who hopes that the Hathaway and McGill clans will join through marriage someday; and sweet Bella who has a crush on Chase.
There are just so many things to love about this book. The characters. The prose. The story. The intensity and uncertainty of youth. The unpredictable quality of life itself. Even the Camus quotes, which could have been high-handed or (at worst) completely unnecessary, somehow just fit so well.
Chase's story isn't a fun one -- or, at least, it's not this ideal 'picture perfect summer' story. Pain, regret, resentment, and bitterness all play a part in this tale, but that's life. Life can be so many things just as this book is so many things.
While I can't say this book was perfect, it meant something to me. It resonated. It spoke. It voiced so many things so eloquently and powerfully.
Take it from me: Invincible Summer is worth the time to read. You will feel nostalgic for your own summers of fun and regret. You will close your eyes and recall a time when life was simpler but not necessarily better -- but your perspective was different. You were young, you were invincible, you were everything. Summer was everything and more.
Read this book. Remember those days. You may learn something from the reading and remembering.(less)
You Against Me by Jenny Downham (author of Before I Die) is one of those books where the book blurb reminds you a lot of a Lifetime movie. You have a...moreYou Against Me by Jenny Downham (author of Before I Die) is one of those books where the book blurb reminds you a lot of a Lifetime movie. You have a boy and a girl, joined by the sordid details of a crime and accusation involving their siblings. The boy is planning revenge in some form while the girl, unaware of the boy's intentions or identity, slowly begins to fall for him. It almost sounds like Romeo and Juliet meets a Dateline crime special. How can this end well on either side?
Mikey is struggling to balance work and family as he copes with the aftermath of his sister Karyn's alleged rape. Though his dreams lie in living in London and learning to become a chef, he instead toils away to help his family because his single mother is an alcoholic who spends more time hung-over than with her three children. What were the fraying threads of his family life now threaten to rip apart entirely after what happens to Karyn; police officers and social workers become parts of the family's life, much to Mikey"s dismay. But even though the future is unclear, Mikey knows one thing: Thomas Parker caused all of this.
Thomas "Tom" Parker is Ellie Parker's older brother -- the one who was accused of raping Karyn. Though her family hides behind the gates leading to their home, Ellie too is dealing with a family on the brink of self-destructing. Because the allegations against Tom are of the "he said, she said" variety, Ellie feels a great pressure since she was home the night the alleged rape occurred, and she will likely be detrimental to her brother's defense in the upcoming trial. However much her parents assure her that helping her brother prove his innocence is the right thing, Ellie feels even more doubtful and uncertain the longer she processes the memories of that night and the truth of what really happened. . .
Mikey and Ellie meet under the guise of lies and a pursuit for revenge. Their initial relationship is based more of Mikey's attempt to glean his own personal justice upon Tom, but nothing works quite as planned once Mikey and Ellie begin to realize that they like each other. Whatever their differences or flaws, they are connected by the crime and its ripple effects through both of their families. How will they survive it? And will they be able to look at each other the same way after the fact?
You Against Me is definitely a very fascinating book, especially with how it delves into the psychology of how families cope with crimes (from aspects of both accuser and accused). . .but it is also very frustrating. No, this book is not a romance -- or, at least, not in the traditional sense. Instead, it's a portrait of realism, falsehood, truth, fear, doubt, family, and healing. The characters don't take easy paths -- and, even when decisions are made, the answers are not so clear-cut and simple. This is an ambiguous book showcasing that there are always two sides to every story and that, instead of black and white, our world is a very gray place of villains masquerading as heroes and heroes being portrayed as villains.
However much I loved this book for challenging my mind and my own judgments, I honestly don't think it's a book for everyone. It's the type of story that you mull over, that you ponder and contemplate, that makes you think, "Okay, what would I do?" Not every reader is comfortable with that kind of introspection, so that's why I hesitate to say,"YOU MUST READ IT." Still, You Against Me is very fascinating and thought-provoking, so I hope it will find the readers who will appreciate it the most -- and who come away better and stronger because of it.(less)
I loved this book (as much as or even more so than Moskowitz's latest novel Gone, Gone, Gone), and now I wish I had mates who were young enough at hea...moreI loved this book (as much as or even more so than Moskowitz's latest novel Gone, Gone, Gone), and now I wish I had mates who were young enough at heart to play a few rounds of Zombie Tag with me.(less)
(This novel tore my heart out and then handed it back to me, all the while giving a sad but sheepish smile. My love for this book is probably not enti...more(This novel tore my heart out and then handed it back to me, all the while giving a sad but sheepish smile. My love for this book is probably not entirely rational, but I will attempt to write a coherent review that doesn't descend into gushing and babbling.)
I'm not always certain why some books affect me more than others. Sometimes I think a few of them merely catch me at the right times and places, hitting me when I'm emotionally weak or mentally exhausted. Then, when I look back at the reviews I've written, I often think, "Okay, jog my memory. Why did this book affect me so much, and why did I rate it so highly?"
In a few months' time, I hope that thought won't creep into my head when I think of Brenna Yovanoff's sophomore novel, The Space Between, a darkly beautiful story about demons and mortals, grief and pain, healing and redemption. Here and now, I know exactly why it pierced my heart and left me so moved: the novel, despite being filled with supernatural and otherworldly elements, spoke of honesty and humanity...and it didn't hold back a shred when it came to the painful and heartbreaking bits. But it wasn't cruel in its execution because it still nonetheless offered hope, a kind whisper that said, "Everything may not be all right now, but it can get better. Just wait and see. You'll never know if you don't give your life a chance."
I know those words well, but even when I'm faced with them I don't always believe in their truth. There have been so many times in my life when I've felt like skidding to a halt, digging my heels into the dirt, and saying, "No, this is too much. I can't take it anymore. Just give me some peace already." But I didn't always think it out of grief or pain or depression. Sometimes I thought it simply out of boredom, out of the dread of continued monotony in my colorless life, out of the terrifying thought that this may be all my life will ever be. Those dark days, however, are like unruly elements: I may have weeks of overcast skies, some days with pouring rain and lightning-torn clouds, but they eventually pass...even as I secretly harbor the fear that the day may come that the clouds never recede. With those experiences of mine, I read this book with an open heart that managed to resonate with these characters and their own emotions, all jagged edges and unfulfilled hopes and disquieting fears.
The Space Between follows a girl and a boy, two strangers embroiled in the dark (and sometimes deadly) matters of hell, heaven, and earth. In Pandemonium (the city of demons, otherwise known as Hell), Daphne is a bored girl, the daughter of Lucifer and Lilith, who finds comfort in the familiarity of her surroundings but gleans no true happiness from it. On the mortal plane, Truman is a teenage boy, teetering on the edge of self-destruction as the waters of grief pull him down more and more each day. These two, who otherwise would never have known of each other's existence, meet in one haunting moment, leading them through a series of seemingly unconnected events that draw them closer to one another...and toward inevitability.
Brenna Yovanoff's take on demons (and angels) is unique yet still faithful to various mythologies, beliefs, and legends. Though I'm usually always wary when it comes to any angel/demon fiction these days, I knew as soon as I read Yovanoff's gorgeous prologue – telling the tale of Lilith through the narration of Daphne – that I never should have worried. Yovanoff has done her research, all the while adding her own personal flair to the familiar names (like Beelzebub, Azrael, etc.) and elements found in demon mythos.
As usual with Yovanoff's work, her writing is stunning, and I found myself rereading passages and contemplating them even though I always felt the need to turn the pages to find out what happened next in the plot. But her writing is not simply "pretty prose": instead, her words bear weight and meaning due to the characters, their struggles, and their emotions. No one should ever accuse Yovanoff of having lifeless prose, for hers is some of the most honest I've ever read.
As for the story itself...I found myself surprised and twisted and turned quite a bit throughout the novel, and I would have been disappointed if there hadn't been surprises (and some sucker-punched moments) in store for me while I read. There were plenty of scenes that tugged at my heart and drew sighs (and even some tears) from me. It was sometimes very much a painful reading experience for all the emotion of it, but I felt relieved (and a bit elated) once I finished. However, even as I read that final page, I knew I would miss the characters, their world, and everything this novel had offered me. That in and of itself says enough about how I felt about this story, don't you think?
Now that I've gotten all my gushing out, I am sad to say that The Space Between won't be for everyone, but I urge anyone who's interested in it to give it a try. Daphne and Truman may even manage to win your heart just as they did with mine.(less)
Authors like Melina Marchetta leave me in an uncomfortable position. As a reader, I'm overjoyed to read books such as hers since they challenge my min...moreAuthors like Melina Marchetta leave me in an uncomfortable position. As a reader, I'm overjoyed to read books such as hers since they challenge my mind, make me smile and gape alike, and steal away pieces of my heart. As a writer, however, Marchetta's books...intimidate me. Never before have I read work from an author that just keeps getting better and better with each successive novel (and those who have read Marchetta's debut novel, Looking for Alibrandi, know that she has never been even a mediocre writer). I don't know what it is about Marchetta, but it always seems to me as if she is raising the bar higher and higher for herself with each book she writes. It's such an impressive thing that I'm left envious and awed, my writer self and my reader self at war with one another, but one thing is shared between my two halves: the utter respect and admiration for Melina Marchetta as a driving force in young adult literature, whether it be contemporary, fantasy, or any genre she chooses to write.
Froi of the Exiles, the sequel to Marchetta's first fantasy novel Finnikin of the Rock and book two of the Lumatere Chronicles, is quite honestly her finest novel to date. The novel is hefty at just about 600 pages, but the pages fly by as you start to read and immerse yourself in the land of Skuldenore with its various kingdoms vying for power, plotting to conquer, or just struggling to survive.
The wonderful thing about Marchetta's fantasy writing is that she never loses focus on two key things that are necessary to make any fantasy story succeed: high-stakes intrigues to keep readers captivated and a sense of honest humanity to the world and characters, so much so that readers find themselves empathetic to the characters in both the light and dark moments. Marchetta's "good" characters are just as flawed and conflicted as any villains to be found, adding a very realistic shade of gray to anyone and anything in this fantasy story.
No character is more gray than the hero, Froi, first introduced in Finnikin of the Rock as an ex-slave boy who often acted more foe than friend. Though Froi is much reformed when we meet him at the start of this second novel, set three years after the first, there is still a darkness following him, one that he recognizes and fights to keep at bay even as he works for the still-recovering kingdom of Lumatere. But there is something brewing in the kingdom of Charyn, something that may prove deadly for anyone involved with the cursed land...
To say that Froi of the Exiles ups the ante from its predecessor is an understatement: Marchetta is in top form with this novel, the threads of the plot seemingly appearing haphazard or inconsequential at first, only to come back later to play in surprising and astounding ways. Nothing is "meaningless" in this novel; everything has its purpose, whether for plot or character development.
No matter how tightly plotted, however, this novel would have been a failure if not for the characters -- characters who feel so strongly and so deeply that they feel like flesh-and-blood incarnations simply because their emotions are so palpable. The whole cast of characters are what make this novel so different, so human, compared to stale fantasy worlds and archetypes to be found en masse in hundreds of other novels out there. To be honest, this novel made me want to weep not just for the characters...but because of the plot, the words, the utter talent there must be to craft such an amazing story that holds so much depth and soul to it.
This book is a wonderful testament to the fact that truly dedicated and talented authors do not need to be tied by the bounds of genre to create all manner of stories that sing and make readers' hearts ache. For those reasons and more, Froi of the Exiles is definitely the best book I've read in 2011 and one that I would recommend to anyone who wanted a more realistic shade of fantasy.(less)
So much has been said about A Monster Calls that I honestly don't know what I can add to the discussion about this book. It's a very straightforward s...moreSo much has been said about A Monster Calls that I honestly don't know what I can add to the discussion about this book. It's a very straightforward story, one that's an even more powerful read if you've experienced some of the same distress that Conor O'Malley (the protagonist of this story) feels as his mother battles cancer. But, at the same time, this novel isn't trying to rip emotions out of you; instead, it attempts to try and soothe the aches and scars you as a reader have endured in your own life. And it also gives an honest look at grief in all its shades.
I remember that, years and years ago, I prayed every night with a list in my head: one by one, I would tick off my worries and my fears. Almost all of them dealt with sicknesses or ailments of some kind, but not for myself. For my parents. It became a ritual to use prayer as a way to ward off all those unknowable things that might someday afflict the people who meant the most to me.
But no amount of prayer or hope can stop some fears from becoming reality. And when reality hits you must cope, lest you break.
Some of my fears came true, and sometimes it was so horrible that I wished I could have gone back in time to warn my younger self. Maybe then the Jillian of the past would have grown to become a better, stronger Jillian who would have acted and reacted much better than I, in the present, had. Maybe then I would have been smarter and kinder and left with fewer regrets.
Honestly, most days I'm not certain what is the greater evil: experiencing sickness and suffering or watching it. I don't have serious knowledge of the former, but I definitely know the latter. And that leads to another debate: is it more sorrowful to be the one leaving or the one being left behind?
I don't have the answers, but A Monster Calls offers some relief to the doubt and frustration associated with life and death alike. So many people have found themselves in this book, so I can only hope that the people who need this book the most will be able to find it and gain some comfort through it. I know that I did.(less)
This one falls more on the scale of "I really liked it" because, even though the second half of the novel left me feeling mo...more(Actual Rating: 3.5 stars)
This one falls more on the scale of "I really liked it" because, even though the second half of the novel left me feeling more and more dismayed (distressed for the characters, annoyed by them, etc.) as I read on, I could imagine such a sequence of events occurring in real life. Anyway, full review to come.(less)
Disclaimer: For anyone reading this review, I just want to let you know that this is not a book in the vein of Where She Went or The Piper's Son, two...moreDisclaimer: For anyone reading this review, I just want to let you know that this is not a book in the vein of Where She Went or The Piper's Son, two books which also earned five star ratings from me and that contained music within their plots. Although this book has its moments of treading harsher issues much like the books I mentioned, it is also a story where you must suspend belief for a while, much like how you have to do so while watching movies dealing with teen bands that suddenly hit it big one day within a short period of time. Dumb (yes, that's the name of the band) is one of those bands. Please give the story a chance, even so.
I must be doomed to eat my words again and again this year while my preconceived notions go flying out the window. I'll be honest: the title for this novel, Five Flavors of Dumb, isn't very promising. The word dumb itself doesn't really give anyone a vote of confidence. Most people really wouldn't take such a book with this title seriously (then again, some readers don't even take young adult literature as a whole seriously, but that's a topic for another day), but I was feeling daring on the day I picked this one up. Sure, my pessimistic side wanted to scream, "What are you doing? You said you wouldn't buy books that you weren't sure about anymore!" (I'm sorry, neurotic mind of mine, but I lied.) Optimism won out, and now here I sit.
I am really, really glad that my pessimistic side hadn't been ruling that day since otherwise I would have missed out on this awesome, awesome book.
Five Flavors of Dumb is really intriguing to start because it features a female protagonist named Piper who is deaf (I, for one, had not yet read a book with a deaf character, let alone as a main character) and who eventually comes to manage a rock band from her school. Sounds intriguing, right? I thought so too. But, like most books that end up exceeding my expectations, it turned out to be so much more than I thought it would be.
I expected Piper to be mousy and uncertain. That wasn't who she was. I expected the love interest to be the silent rocker mentioned in the cover flap blurb as one of the band members. Didn't happen (thank God). I expected her family to be shadow characters who didn't quite exist or have prominent roles in the novel. Not so! I expected the five band members of Dumb to be mere stereotypes instead of fleshed-out characters. Alas, I was wrong!
What I didn't expect was to love Piper even in spite of all her flaws, mistakes, misconceptions, and naïveté over the course of the novel. What I didn't expect was to be so moved by the love interest who showed, showed, showed how much he cared without confessing undying love. What I didn't expect was to fall in love with Piper's family (especially her brother Finn; yay for realistic brother-sister relations in YA!) even though they infuriated me at various points in the story only to make me undeniably love them later on. What I didn't expect was to find real people in the band members, every one having issues and roles that were conducive to the plot and Piper's individual growth as a character.
The real winning part of this novel was that I felt invested in the outcome because Piper was a realistic teenage voice to me. Piper struggles with herself and the Dumb band members throughout the novel, and -- even though she has her moments of copping out, handing over the reins to someone else, or misleading for personal and/or professional sake -- I could understand it from the teenage perspective. As a teenager, there were times I just wanted to shove responsibility onto someone else or just beg my parents to please, please take over. . .but those times of weakness, insecurity, and loss of logic can lead to growth, as it did with Piper and the band members in this novel.
Of course this novel wasn't perfect, but I loved it because it captured the intensity and passion that comes with being a teenager. How often do I get to read a novel where the characters do seem like realistic teenagers to me without any of the drinking, drugging, and/or partying that the media often attributes to them? That was the instance here, and I have even more respect and love for this novel because of it.
Take it from me: Five Flavors of Dumb is so far from dumb. It is smart, funny, endearing, and just plain wonderful while being perfectly flawed and honest. It is definitely a young adult book worth reading and, hopefully, cherishing.(less)
To give some perspective before I launch into my review, I want to say that this book left me with many of the same feelings...more(Actual Rating: 3.5 stars)
To give some perspective before I launch into my review, I want to say that this book left me with many of the same feelings that I had after finishing Stolen by Lucy Christopher. Forbidden is just that kind of book to slowly carve out your heart, possess it for a short while, and then hand it back to you right after you finish the final page.
The plot blurb lays it on the table straight: Forbidden is about incest. Now, the only books I can recall reading that dealt with incest are literary novels (unless you count the pseudo-incest of The Mortal Instruments. . .which I don't), but here's the thing: those novels contain incest usually for shock factor or some kind of dark revelation about a character or his/her past (I'm thinking The Thirteenth Tale when I say this last bit). Forbidden instead explores the question, "What circumstances could lead two siblings to develop romantic and sexual feelings for each other? And how would such a relationship likely progress. . .and end?"
Lochan and Maya Whitely live in a home teetering on the edge of chaos. Only thirteen months apart in age, they are the oldest children who take care of their younger siblings (Kit, Tiffin, and Willa) while their divorced mother neglects them all for the sake of alcohol, late nights out, and boyfriends who will never marry her. Juggling schoolwork and household responsibilities, Lochan and Maya try to keep up a nice charade for the outside world and cover for their mother's absences at every turn with the fear that Social Services will be called with one wrong move.
It's a maddening, frustrating situation, for both the characters and the readers who delve into this tale. Many times in the story, as the mother's appearances at home became less and less frequent, I found myself just getting angry and thinking, "Why the hell shouldn't these two try to find a shred of happiness in their insane family life? They'd be more broken without each other."
But the feelings themselves are not without their consequences. When Lochan and Maya finally admit to themselves that their feelings won't just disappear and can't be buried, guilt eats away at them, testing the bounds of their sanity and beating at their consciences. There are many points in the story where, out of anger or frustration, they turn on each other and say things that they don't mean and which end up driving wedges between them. Suzuma doesn't pretty up the idea of incest or condone it with her story; instead, she shows how the two characters get tossed and turned by the very real emotional and mental strains that come with committing such a taboo. Paranoia and extreme caution seep into their daily lives, yet still they can't deny the attraction between them.
As gripping as a story as this is, Forbidden is not without its flaws. The story shifts between Lochan and Maya from first-person perspective, but sometimes their voices were so similar that I had to double back and make sure whose POV I was reading. The writing itself is like an adolescent, awkward at times yet strikingly beautiful during others. Lochan, despite being such a fascinating character with all his issues and inhibitions, at times vaguely reminded me of paranormal YA love interests who are always saying, "I'm dangerous/crazy/angsty! Stay away from me! No, I won't sleep with you!" (When, really, are boys ever like that when it comes to sex? I don't mean to say that this book wasn't realistic in Lochan's disgust for himself and his desire to keep his sister safe from legal consequences -- but too much is too much, especially to the point where it becomes such a crutch for angst in the plot.) Maya herself is much more of a shade of a character than Lochan, who struggles with panic attacks and social stagnation, and she thus fails to elicit much sympathy beyond her family circumstances and the eventual relationship with her brother.
With all that being said. . .I really did like this book. It made me think, it made my heart ache, and it made me choke back gasps and sobs alike (especially in the denouement of the novel). I was charmed by the younger siblings, even ornery and rebellious Kit, and the story just was very well done given the subject matter. I would be wary to recommend it (since the sexual moments have the potential to off-put any reader, conservative or not). . .but, if you think you can take it, please read it. I doubt you will regret it.(less)
The founders of The Republic sought to deny the individual, and in doing so they ignored a simple truth.
The only thing binding individuals is ideas. I...moreThe founders of The Republic sought to deny the individual, and in doing so they ignored a simple truth.
The only thing binding individuals is ideas. Ideas mutate, and spread; they change their hosts as much as their hosts change them.
Ideas. Thought. Choice. Meaning. Humanity claims to have a monopoly on all these things, but is that really true? What, at the core, makes any individual human? And, even if that element can be narrowed down and captured, can it be replicated? Should it be?
Such are the thoughts and ideas roaming around in Bernard Beckett's Genesis, a futuristic novel following young Anaximander as she undergoes her Examination to get into The Academy -- but soon she must realize that everything she thought she knew may just be only the outermost surface of a many-layered sphere of knowledge and history. Putting it in trite terms like that, I must admit that it sounds along the lines of young adult fiction's watered-down dystopias (think Delirium, Wither, likely any other YA dystopia coming out in the next few years), but it isn't. Get that out of your head right now if you're thinking it. Rather, Genesis is of the ilk that could put any YA dystopian's world-building, themes, messages, and overall knowledge to shame in half the pages. Astonishing, isn't it? One must hope that this novella will be the one to outlast every single one of them. . .
Quite honestly, Genesis is a brain-bending little bugger of a story.
Bernard Beckett frightened me with this novel. Heck, humanity frightens me. We're filled with so much potential, so much utter possibility, yet we squander it by warring with each other, making each other miserable, and just being downright closed-minded and apathetic to one another's plights. (I know. I am treading the lines of generalization, but would you really try to say that humanity is more good than bad? Sometimes I wonder.) It makes me angry that all the events leading up to The Republic's creation seemed so plausible, so utterly possible, that I just had to gape at the book. Are we really so transparent? So predictable? I like to think better of humanity as a whole -- but, again, sometimes I really wonder. Good dystopians have a way of highlighting just what makes us most uncomfortable but what also ends up making us face ourselves more bravely. Realizing the truth is the first step towards trying to correct it.
The characters here are few, but each leaves their own indelible marks because their words are what carry the story and its messages through until the very end. Did I find everything in this novel plausible? Well, no. . .but that doesn't mean I didn't find it chilling and haunting all the same. It's a futuristic fable that still hands out quite a bit of caution to its reader, and hopefully each reader will come away with greater thoughts and understanding because of reading it.
In the end, do I think Genesis is worth your time? Oh, definitely. It's a quick-paced tale that offers much insight and food for thought with a fair bit of apocalyptic storytelling. Definirely worth the time it takes to read 150 pages and definitely a worthy dystopian for any reader.(less)
If someone could take all the pain away from your wounds and scars, would you let him do it even if it mean all the more pain and sorrow on his part?
B...moreIf someone could take all the pain away from your wounds and scars, would you let him do it even if it mean all the more pain and sorrow on his part?
Bruiser by Neal Shusterman (author of the haunting Unwind) asks that question and more. What if an empath, practically a miracle man for how he could take people's ills onto himself, walked the earth? What type of person would he be? What would his struggles be? Would be be forever alone because of his ability, or would he be able to manage a normal life even despite all the potential downfalls to such a startling gift?
Neal Shusterman's answer to all these intriguing questions is a character by the name of Brewster, nicknamed Bruiser by his classmates because of his hulking big-boned form. He was never more than just a blip on lacrosse player Tennyson's mind until the day Tennyson's twin sister, Bronte, announced that she was going on a date with Brewster. Suspecting the worst of Brewster because of his classmates voting him "most likely to die by lethal injection," Tennyson follows Brewster home one day to see just what kind of wrecked family life the Bruiser has to make him such a strange loner. . .
Shusterman took an intriguing approach to writing this story, dividing the book into sections told from the perspectives of Tennyson, Bronte, Brewster, and even Brewster's little brother, Cody. The different sections really made the story seem fuller than it might have if only Tennyson and Bronte had perspectives or if Brewster himself was the only one to have a voice in the story. It was fascinating in an eerie way, kinda like an extended Twilight Zone episode.
Honestly, this book struck similar chords in me that Unwind did. Shusterman is amazing with the way he can take a seemingly implausible story idea and shape it into something that's startlingly real and human because of the way he folds in emotions like fear, helplessness, love, and hopelessness to make something that just batters down on your heart and mind. Ever since finishing Unwind, I had been hesitant to start reading any of Shusterman's other works, but now I think that was a grievous error on my part. It's difficult to write anything that's haunting, but Shusterman has achieved it at least with Unwind and Bruiser.
I hope that Bruiser will find nests in other people's hearts and minds as well.(less)
Note: Be warned that this is one of those reviews that in no way can do justice to the actual novel, but there's no harm in trying. Regardless, I grea...moreNote: Be warned that this is one of those reviews that in no way can do justice to the actual novel, but there's no harm in trying. Regardless, I greatly urge anyone who has even the slightest interest in this book to procure a copy when it's released on September 27, 2011.
Seven Perfect Reasons Why You Should Read Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor:
1. The writing is fantastic, dang it.
Now, I loved Laini Taylor's first young adult offering, Lips Touch: Three Times (You've read it, haven't you? HAVEN'T YOU?), but I have to admit that the short story format of it left me craving something. . .more. I mean, it's difficult to find really beautiful writing – the kind that digs its way inside of you and then makes you ache as if it's stolen a bit of your heart – so when you come across such delectable writing you really want to savor it. When I found out that Daughter of Smoke and Bone was a little over 400 pages, I was ecstatic because a longer length meant more wonderful prose from Laini Taylor.
And the writing does not disappoint. Whether Taylor is describing the various eccentricities of Prague (one of the main settings in this novel), the pulse-pounding action of a human girl fighting an angel, or even just the emotions threading through the heroine, Karou, the prose simply blazes in a way that's beautiful, ethereal, and unforgettable.
One of my favorite examples of Taylor's prose comes from this passage (no spoilers):
Karou wished she could be the kind of girl who was complete unto herself, comfortable in solitude, serene. But she wasn't. She was lonely, and she feared the missingness within her as if it might expand and . . . cancel her. She craved a presence beside her, solid. Fingertips light at the nape of her neck and a voice meeting hers in the dark. Someone who would wait with an umbrella to walk her home in the rain, and smile like sunshine when he saw her coming. Who would dance with her on her balcony, keep his promises and know her secrets, and make a tiny world wherever he was, with just her and his arms and his whisper and her trust. (Pg. 71, ARC edition)
Isn't that just lovely? Can't you just feel the longing as if it had been your own?
Such is the power of Laini Taylor's writing – and that's only a small glimpse into what she has in her writing arsenal.
2. Ever feel like you're reading the same old thing over and over again? Well, listen up: this book takes everything you think you know and spins all your assumptions on their heads.
True love. Magic. Supernatural happenings. A heroine who is more than she believes herself to be.
Yawn, yawn, yawn, yawn.
You think you know where all of this is going, don't you?
HOLD ON! Daughter of Smoke and Bone may have all those elements, but I bet you won't be able to guess how they all tie together. You may think it's a "girl meets boy"-type deal with love overshadowing everything, but the story is far more than that. Without giving anything away, it's the way paranormal books should be written – with supernatural enticements, fantastical wonder, and even a bit of grim horror.
Oh, twists and turns too. You can't have a great story without some killer twists and turns – which, you may be happy to know, this novel has in abundance.
3. You think you know angels and demons? Think again.
True to form, Laini Taylor – an obvious lover of lore and mythology from all cultures, given the tales of Lips Touch – offers a fascinating new spin on angels and demons. What if everything you had ever supposed about the divine realm was only a part of a greater truth? What if angels and demons warred for supremacy in a land all their own?
Are you intrigued? You should be because the mythology built in this story is one of the most thorough and imaginative I've ever seen in a young adult novel. I can only imagine what Laini Taylor has in store for the furthering and deepening of this fantastic world she has created.
4. Lovers of fairy tales, myths, and/or legends will find a kindred spirit in this story. The very essence of the story thrives on all kinds of superstitions and beliefs, so of course it's going to appeal to anyone who has an appreciation for all those things that challenge human minds and logic.
5. Karou is a kick-arse heroine. In a nutshell: she's not afraid to do what has to be done.
6. You know that feeling of never wanting a book to end? Well, expect to feel it here. You will start to dread, dread, dread as you near the end of the book because you just know that you'll want the next book as soon as you finish.
7. Hope. What can I say? It's the crux of the novel.(less)
He hears her voice and swings around quickly, alarm on his face. Fear. Terror. Such despair. She knows that feeling too. Of believing that each...more"Tom?"
He hears her voice and swings around quickly, alarm on his face. Fear. Terror. Such despair. She knows that feeling too. Of believing that each time someone says her name, it's to tell her that something bad has happened.
I could have given you any number of quotes that struck home with me while I was reading Melina Marchetta's fifth novel, The Piper's Son (a pseudo-sequel to her second novel, Saving Francesca), but I chose the one above. Why? Well. . .I understand it. And have felt it far too often in my twenty years on this earth. Every year has chiseled me out so much that I tend to think, "Okay, the waters are still right now -- but when's the next tidal wave coming? I just know it's out there." And I can't relax because I get restless and angry with myself for thinking the way I do. But I can't seem to fight it since I just hide and lose myself in mundane life, not truly living because I am just waiting for the other shoe to drop, the dung to hit the fan and splatter all over me. It's not a healthy way to live (especially since we can never see the tidal waves until they're right upon us and it's useless to make ourselves sick with worry over things we can't control).
Thus, I can understand the Thomas Mackee who exists for much of this novel far too well. While other readers might become irritated with him, I empathized with him on his road of grief. He's wanting, longing, searching, but he won't admit all of those things even to himself most days. He's a lost soul who's pretending he's not lost, present in body even though his spirit's just not there. The only parts of him that he allows anybody to see are the poisonous, bitter bits that strike out and wound without any thought.
Then there are the rest of his family, still lost in their own forms of grief and pain and suffering. Georgie Finch, Tom's aunt, is pregnant from a lover who hurt her deeply in the past even as she still struggles with the loss of her younger brother. Dominic, Tom's alcoholic father, is MIA as his family is slowly breaking apart. Everybody in this book has issues, loads of them, but Melina Marchetta doesn't make it feel melodramatic: she makes it feel so real, so heartbreakingly real.
Then there are the rest of the Saving Francesca cast -- Francesca, Justine, Will, Tara, and Jimmy -- but the gang's split up, fragmented across continents, physical and emotional distances straining their relationships with each other. Marchetta gives each character his or her own spotlight (almost making me wonder if -- miracle of miracles -- we may someday have a plethora of Francesca-based sequels/companions on our shelves) to the point where you as a reader just know that Marchetta knows these characters as closely and intimately as if they were beloved family members. She treats them as such, lovingly but sometimes harshly (we're all harsh with the ones we love, yeah?), and you love the characters even despite their choices, their mistakes, their undeniable flaws. They become your family, your burden, but you don't care since you just want to see them be all right, living and thriving and enjoying every minute there is of life. That is the kind of novel this is, so don't come looking for a joy ride. It is a ride, for sure, but it is not so happy-go-lucky even though it does have its wonderful giggle-inducing moments.
If my words do not sway you to read this novel, then just read any five-star review of this book. There are others who have articulated their feelings about this book much better than I ever could. My advice? Just read all of Melina Marchetta's novels. Seriously. They are the creme de la creme of young adult literature with stories that pack a punch and characters that move and speak as if they were flesh and blood beings inhabiting our world. They are amazing pieces of storytelling to devour, and The Piper's Son is no exception.
Read it. Love it. Savor it. Enjoy it.
(Also, a quick note: I find it disgraceful that I could not track this book down in any of my local bookstores. Not even one copy. I scanned the shelves on March 8th and onward until I finally relented and ordered a copy through Amazon a week ago. I thought Marchetta was making a name for herself in the United States, but I suppose bookstores are all still so blinded by vampires, werewolves, fallen angels, and the like that many of them aren't even bothering to order and stock the non-paranormal or non-hype YA books. It's a shame, it really is.)(less)
***WARNING: THIS IS NOT A CONVENTIONAL REVIEW, AND THERE MAY BE SPOILERS***
Dear Gemma and Ty,
I have just finished reading your story -- yes, I do con...more***WARNING: THIS IS NOT A CONVENTIONAL REVIEW, AND THERE MAY BE SPOILERS***
Dear Gemma and Ty,
I have just finished reading your story -- yes, I do consider it a story about the both of you -- and I'm still wondering how I should react. Should I feel relief for what happened? Should I feel sadness for what was lost? Should I feel something like restlessness in my own soul as I wonder what awaits you two? Or should I feel a mixture of all three? I don't know what to feel.
Gemma -- I thought you were braver than another girl in your situation might have been. You were gutsy. You took chances. Even when the risks didn't pan out, you still tried -- and you survived. You didn't just accept your situation, and you kept fighting until it brought you very near to death. Then you found yourself drawn in spite of yourself when it began to dawn on you that maybe you weren't going to be "done away with" after all. I don't know if what you felt was love for Ty. . .but it was something. That feeling may never outweigh the feeling of hatred and violation -- but at least it was a light in the darkness.
Ty -- I think, had you been given the right people to take care of you and had the world not warped you in some ways, you would have been a real winner, a boy any girl would want and would have been lucky to have. Yes, you may have all the traits that make you appealing and attractive. . .but you still made so many wrong choices along the way. Just think: if you had approached Gemma any other way. . .ANY OTHER WAY. . .you might not have needed to steal her away to get her to stay with you. That's the greatest violation of all: you stole her choices, her options, and gave her something she couldn't even know that she wanted. What if you had stolen her heart first and then let everything come naturally afterward? It could have happened. It really could have. It makes me sad to think that you had all the possibilities before you -- but now all of them are left to ashes. However, despite everything -- I don't think you're insane. Eccentric and odd, perhaps, but not insane.
Gemma and Ty -- I know your situation was not the norm. Kidnappers never feel such profound love or responsibility for the people they abduct -- or at least, in my world, they don't. In my world, Ty, you would have been most likely a rapist and potentially a murderer. Gemma, you were done wrong -- but I know it could have been so much worse.
I fell in love with you two characters, I really did. Even though I know your story is over -- at least in book format -- I have hope for you two. I want to believe that you'll rise above the mistakes you have made, Ty. I want to believe that you'll overcome the doubt and confusion in your mind and heart, Gemma. I want to believe that you two will be all right. You two, at least, have the potential for happy endings even after tragedies.
So many others don't.
In the end -- I know that I feel one thing: compassion towards you both. I wish you the best, and your story will definitely stay with me for a long time to come.(less)
I felt all those emotions while reading this book -- and, even though the story twisted and turned so ver...moreLove. Disgust. Conflict. Despair. Indecision.
I felt all those emotions while reading this book -- and, even though the story twisted and turned so very much that it was a bit frustrating, I have no doubt of one thing: Madapple was utterly haunting.
The main character of a novel can tell you a lot about its story and what you can hope to expect. Aslaug, the teenage heroine of Madapple, is a bit of a quandary just like the novel itself: she can best be described as Knowledge without Experience, having read numerous books and learned various languages under the strict guidance of her strange hermit-like, plant-obsessed mother Maren, without venturing much beyond the small world of her house. Aslaug is a dutiful daughter even though her mother's moods are as changing as the winds. When sudden events turn Aslaug's life on its head, however, she finds herself in mystifying circumstances that get stranger and stranger as the book progresses. . .
This book snagged me from the start since I adored how it at first seemed almost a modern-day fairy tale -- the Grimm Brothers kind, not the Disney kind -- and Aslaug seemed more like a victim of circumstances and others' actions than a deranged, homicidal girl. (The truth behind her, however, is one you slowly have to realize throughout the book.) The plant lore, while not wholly interesting or fascinating to me at first, fit into the story and actually became rather intriguing as the story progressed. Also added into the mix were many mentions of various mythologies and religious beliefs throughout the world (none of which are presented in a preachy respect -- but more like a commentary style), which gave the plot more depth than a simple mystery and suspense novel. What really made me love this book, though -- beyond the twisty-turny plot -- was the writing style that read more like an adult novel than a young adult novel. Very refreshing! Basically -- I was very impressed by this entire book (especially when I hated it only to come back and love it a few minutes later; that's a mark of masterful storytelling right there).
As much as I was taken by the book, I won't lie: the story isn't for everyone. It might take a while to get into the book itself, and even then the tale has its moments of being unlikable and quite despicable. The issues and conflicts here might make many readers uncomfortable or uneasy. Some people may become bored or frustrated by it, put it down, and then never pick it back up again. In my opinion, they would be missing out on a very engrossing tale about truth and deceit, illusion and reality, love and hate. What is real? What is not? Can a life become so convoluted that even truth seems fantasy or vice-versa?
Note: This isn't a traditional review, so I feel the need to apologize for that. I managed not to gush, at least.
Endings. They are melancholy, bitters...moreNote: This isn't a traditional review, so I feel the need to apologize for that. I managed not to gush, at least.
Endings. They are melancholy, bittersweet things – farewells to stories and characters, worlds and words, victories and defeats. Sometimes as a reader you just do not want to meet the end, but you must. You must. That is your duty as a reader, especially if you care anything at all for the story you happen to be reading.
But what makes me dread endings? Ah, my answer is simple: the characters. I always worry for the characters, especially if I come to love them as if they were long-lost friends. Thus, before I even had Forever in my hands, I dreaded, dreaded, dreaded what would come to pass for these characters I had come to love so much.
Maggie Stiefvater's The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy and I haven't known each other very long: I discovered Shiver the winter before last, met Linger a summer ago, and then (im)patiently awaited the release of Forever. What made this series so compelling to me and raised it on a pedestal above other paranormal young adult series? The beautiful prose that left me aching with awe and envy alike. The characters whose hearts were laid bare with each chapter. The emotional depth that made the series dark yet honest. The haunting way the story crept into my heart before I'd even realized it. The thoughts and emotions that lingered in my own mind and heart long after I finished reading. Very rarely do I manage to find all those things in a story, yet here I found and cherished them.
To say I had high expectations for Forever. . .well, that's putting it lightly. What did I want from this novel? I wanted. . .peace for the characters, first and foremost. I wanted there to be hope for them, no matter what losses or sadnesses occurred. I wanted a surefire cure for the werewolf ailment. I wanted Sam and Grace and Cole and Isabel to thrive off one another. I wanted, wanted, wanted.
Did Forever deliver for me? Yes. . .and no. As an ending, Forever did leave me satisfied, but there's a little niggling part of me that hungered a bit for more. Just like its predecessors, Forever is quiet, thoughtful, and introspective. It's not a high-octane story (though I'm sure Cole sometimes wishes it was), and most of the big conflicts are born out of character drama. Is that a bad thing? No, not at all. But it's saying something that the scenes I adored the most were the ones that were less focused on the werewolf dilemmas and more so on character interactions.
The label "modern-day fairy tale" fits Forever even more so than the first two books – and, like all true fairy tales, the story doesn't just lead to a straight 'happily ever after.' There are risks, sacrifices, and losses. Honestly, I wouldn't have had it any other way. It makes the story all the more powerful that the end isn't wrapped and tied up with a bow. I like endings that offer readers the freedom to come to their own conclusions about the futures of the characters; those types of endings are special gifts, in a way. Forever may have closed a door for this series, but Maggie Stiefvater made sure to leave a window open for readers to glimpse the characters' futures in the comfort of their own imaginations. And that's a wonderful thing.
All I can really conclude with is that I'm glad I came to know this series and these characters. As strange as it may sound, I feel that I have become a better writer, reader, and person because of them, so. . .while goodbyes may be in order, instead I'm going to say, "Thank you." Thank you to these wonderful characters, thank you to the beautiful writing that squeezed my heart, thank you for this heartfelt story that managed to be meaningful in all the right ways.
As for goodbye. . .well, I won't say it – because I know I'll be revisiting this series again and again in the years to come.(less)
Jellicoe Road. I had heard so many wonderful things about this book. It's a Printz award winner, it's by Melina Marchetta (author of the amazing Finni...moreJellicoe Road. I had heard so many wonderful things about this book. It's a Printz award winner, it's by Melina Marchetta (author of the amazing Finnikin of the Rock), and it's garnered a lot of love. So why didn't I read it sooner?
Honestly, I have avoided it for over six months even though I've owned the book just that long. Maybe I was hesitant to read it because I thought it wouldn't meet my expectations. Maybe I thought the book would be preachy, cheesy, or both. Or maybe, deep down, I had an aching suspicion that this book would twist in my heart and leave me as no other book ever has.
I don't think a book has left me in such a sobbing mess before -- and I'm talking the can't-see-through-the-burning-tears, heart-drumming-in-your-chest, mouth-gasping-for-air kind of sobs. It was brutal. But was it worth it? Oh, yes. The story of Taylor's journey of discovery, growth, and understanding ripped my heart to pieces time and again only to sew the bits back together. This book meant poison tears and heart balm for me in equal measures.
I don't know how to describe all that goes on in this novel -- nor do I want to since I feel every reader should go through their own journey when reading this book -- but I can summarize it with these simple words: Family.Friendship.Grief.Love.Forgiveness. It's just that simple. . .even though the characters like to make things complicated.
Readers may start this book with some confusion, but I offer this advice: please press on even through the slow beginning. You're getting the groundwork for the whole story. No, you may not understand it when you first read it. . .but then, pages later, it will click and you will go, "Ah," in that perfect lightbulb moment. In that moment, when everything fits into place and the picture of the whole puzzle is revealed, you will know the brilliance of what Melina Marchetta crafted with words and emotions. You will smile, you will laugh, you will cry. I can guarantee it.
Now get going to Jellicoe Road. The journey is worth it. (less)