This was pretty great. Fun and well-paced, with solid world-building and interesting characters. I'm already excited to see where this series goes! ---This was pretty great. Fun and well-paced, with solid world-building and interesting characters. I'm already excited to see where this series goes! --------------------------------- I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this. I was initially skeptical for a couple of reasons: I had some major logic issues with The Archived, and I couldn’t even get through The Unbound, so the idea of parallel universes seemed a bit hinky. I was worried it wouldn’t make sense, or the universes would be governed by some ludicrous, illogical rules. Thankfully, none of my fears were realized! According to the catalogue markings on my library copy, this book is ostensibly for adults, but there’s definite crossover appeal. I could see it appealing to more advanced teenaged readers, but it doesn’t exist in that weird no-man’s-land of “who is your audience?” either.
Our two protagonists are Lila and Kell. Kell is a magician, one of the only living magicians with the power to travel between worlds. See, there isn’t just one London, there are four, and once upon a time, there were lots of magicians who could travel between them. But in this world, magic is a living entity and Black London eventually succumbed to its power. With all of the worlds at war, Kell tells us that Red London made the call to close (and lock) the doors between worlds. We don’t see Black London in this volume (which was a little disappointing!), but it’s the proverbial end of the line. Then comes White London, where magic is slowly sucking the life out of the populace and people will kill for a bit of power. Red London seems like the utopia in all of this -- magic is out in the open, but still under control -- and they’re protected from whatever is lurking in Black London by White London. (White, for the record, is ruled by a pair of Targaryan-esque siblings who are delightfully unhinged. I would kind of like to see this made into a movie, if only to see those characters fleshed out on screen) “Our” London is Grey, and it’s more or less the world as we know it, ruled by mad King George. My British history is rusty, so I forget what era we’re ostensibly in...sometime in the 19th century, based on context, I’d guess.
Anyway, as a traveler, Kell can move between worlds and acts as an ambassador of sorts for the Red King & Queen. There’s another like him named Holland, whom we’ll later learn (view spoiler)[ is basically owned by the White Twins. I actually wanted more of Holland’s’ backstory. Apparently each traveler is “bound” in a way to their home world, so Holland’s only crime was being unlucky enough to be born in White London. He seems evil, but he’s really just a pawn in the grand scheme (hide spoiler)]. But he has a sort of small business on the side, trading artifacts from one London into another. This is how he crosses paths with Lila, who lives in Grey London. She’s a pickpocket who aspires to be a pirate, and she is awesome. Much as I was fascinated by the parallel Londons, I think I would have been perfectly content to read just about Lila’s adventures. She’s young, probably 19 or 20 at most, and she’s become accustomed to making her own way in the world (and she’s good at it). I pictured her swanning about like V in V for Vendetta. She and Kell cross paths thanks to a small, black stone, a relic of Black London. By all rights, it shouldn’t have gotten out, nothing is supposed to get out. But once it does, all hell breaks loose in Grey AND Red London. Kell has no choice but to attempt to return the stone, but it’s not as simple as just creating a door to Black from Grey -- he has to go through Red and White. And also Lila insists upon tagging along.
This world was absolutely fascinating. I found myself as enamored with Red London as Lila was, and it’s no wonder she wants to stay there! I thought it was a little cheap that, (view spoiler)[since no world is truly without magic, it turns out that Lila probably has powers of her own after all. I was happier with her just being a badass in her own right. (hide spoiler)] Schwab creates a solid balance between logical world building and compelling action. I loved the explanation of how magic works -- that it always exacts a price, and that it’s truly a living...entity. It’s both powerful and seductive, and we see Kell fall prey to that, via the stone. It’s also interesting that while Kell is certainly the most powerful magician in the world, there are still limits to his power (not being able to go directly from Grey to Black, for instance, and not being able to take people with him). And even though the stone is ostensibly all-powerful, its power comes at a price.
What I really wanted, though, was a map. Kell tells Lila a bit about how the four worlds are connected, and we can intuit that certain source of power remain the same (there’s always a river where the Thames is, for instance. And there has to be something important about the bar that’s always on the same corner in each world). While all four cities are called London, each is part of a different country, and although the 3 countries we see are ruled by a monarchy, each monarch has different territory. I wanted to see more of the “wider” world. What are the surrounding countries like? And are there dragons? White London seems like it should have dragons. I’m also really hoping we get a glimpse of Black London at some point in the series -- it can’t just be an empty void, right? And even though (view spoiler)[ the stone is gone, isn’t it possible there could be more artifacts? Plus with the twins dead, some other power hungry despot has to take control of White London...who’s to say he/she won’t have pieces of Black? (hide spoiler)] As annoyed as I initially was about the fact that this is a series rather than a standalone, I’m already excited about the prospect of returning to this world. Major bonus points for not ending on a cliffhanger too. The avenue is open for continued adventures of Lila and Kell, but you wouldn’t have to continue the series to find out what happens to them. I, however, am so on board!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Classic bridge book. Lots of walking and talking and *almost* revelations, and then everything wraps up with a cliffhanger. Stay tuned for book three!Classic bridge book. Lots of walking and talking and *almost* revelations, and then everything wraps up with a cliffhanger. Stay tuned for book three!
What's weird is, nothing really happened in the first book either. Again, more wibbling around, talking endlessly about maybe doing something, and not until the last 50 pages does anything of note happen. Plus there's the world's most poorly thought out rebel resistance ever. We don't get much info on that front, because book two takes place exclusively on the ground. And at first I was on board: it's like our world in the 20s. And also at war. And with a monarchy. Morgan and friends end up staying with the king's advisor Jack Piper and family at a huge, off season hotel. I'm not sure what city this was meant to emulate...obviously one near water. I'd guess New York if not for the fact that there are numerous references to the ocean. And also Internment was probably once part of a nearby archipelago, over which the king is now at war. The islands are the only source of some precious fuel-adjacent resource that could power everything, and...do you see where this is going?
As it transpires, Princess Celeste is keen to make a deal in the hopes of saving her mother (dying of "sun sickness," aka skin cancer). (view spoiler)[ And once Pen and Morgan discover that Internment is powered by this magical fuel, it's only a matter of time before Celeste spills the beans. She's undergone a complete character overhaul, by the way. In the first book, she's written as nuts, gleefully so. But now she has all of this tragic backstory: her mother is dying, her brother is gay, and her betrothed is an abusive gold digger. (hide spoiler)] Woe is Celeste.
I really wanted all of her sob stories to just be a way of manipulating Morgan into sharing the info about the fuel, but no, she's all sincerity. Barf. She reminds me a bit of Dinah from the Queen of Hearts series: I know I'm supposed to feel sympathy for her, but I'd like her better if she just gave in and went mad. Without Celeste, there's no real villain here. Oh sure, the country is at war, and the King is corrupt (aren't they all?), but both of those are sort of shadowy dangers at best. The plot consists mostly of a lot of sneaking out of the hotel, bonding with oldest daughter Birdie, and remarking on all of the differences between Internment and the ground. There's so much space! They have all this open space! Wow, a graveyard is such a waste of space! It felt like sort of a cheap way to get in exposition about Havalais.
Speaking of which, I wanted to know more! I said in my review of Perfect Ruin that DeStephano got around her world building problems by making the world smaller. Here, unfortunately, those problems are on full display. How is Internment more advanced than the ground? I'm not sure if I should shelve this as dystopia or fantasy. Book one was pure fantasy, but by bringing the crew to the ground (which, let's be honest, probably had to happen), DeStephano opened up a whole new set of questions she doesn't seem interested in addressing. Is this alternative history, a la Queen of the Tearling? The fashions and slang and technology all certainly evoke the 20s. But there are mermaids, so we're clearly dipping a toe in the fantasy waters here.
We're told in Perfect Ruin that Internment was created as a punishment, that the city was carved out of the ground and placed into the sky by the gods over three hundred years earlier. But Havalais is basically a tourist attraction: it features a theme park where you can pay to look at Internment through a telescope. And the people on the ground are fascinated by the sky people, but we aren't told what *their* story is for this magical floating island. Pen reads a "sacred text" that bears a great deal of resemblance to the Christian bible. And while it's been a loooooong time since I did any bible study, I'm pretty sure I'd remember a story about God creating a floating city. It's like DeStephano can't quite commit to dystopia or fantasy, so we're stuck in this sort of no man's land with no explanation for the damned island in the sky!
The final book promises a war in which Internment will play a part, but I have to wonder how many of these questions will still be left on the table at the end of the series. I like the idea, but I feel like there's not much *there* there. The concept of Internment itself could have made a nifty short story, but all of the "ground stuff," as it were, needs some work.
I still enjoy DeStephano's writing style, and while I don't hate Morgan as a narrator, I kept wishing that the story were from Pen or Celeste's perspective instead. We're beaten over the head with what a good and proper girl Morgan is, which is completely true...which is why she's not terribly interesting. She's very blah, while Pen is off self medicating with gin and Celeste is falling in love with the king's advisor's son (who (view spoiler)[ is actually a prince, of course, because Piper is the King's heir and I forget why it's a secret, but I'm sure that won't bite anybody in the ass anytime soon (hide spoiler)]) and Morgan is wibbling around feeling sad and out of place. Again. Some more. She and her betrothed aren't that into each other, and she'd really rather mack on Judas, but in the end she and Basil (ugh) just sort of shrug their shoulders and decide to be together anyway. I'm certainly not complaining about the lack of romance here, but the above interaction is indicative of the kind of character Morgan is. She's like "meh" personified.
That having been said, will I be back for book three? Of course. I just can't quit you, YA trilogies!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This is...sort of a prequel to the Lunar Chronicles? It's the story of Levana, the queen of Luna (the moon), whom we've only seen be crazy, manipulatiThis is...sort of a prequel to the Lunar Chronicles? It's the story of Levana, the queen of Luna (the moon), whom we've only seen be crazy, manipulative, and shrouded in the series. And here's her tragic backstory. I don't know that Meyer is necessarily trying to make you feel sorry for Levana, or just explain some of her motivations. Levana's parents were murdered by a Shell (basically this world's version of a Squib: a Lunar without powers) and her cruel sister Channary took over. She's the mother of Princess Selene, who we all know is Cinder, from the previous books. It's interesting that Channary's free loving, bed-hopping ways are just glossed over. She's not sure who Selene's father is, and she doesn't care. In fact, she's constantly making fun of Levana for only wanting the love of one person: guard Evret Hayle. I sort of like that the monarchy of Luna is constructed so that an heir is an heir: regardless of gender, even if she's born out of wedlock. There's no question about whether or not Channary can rule without a king. Her main issue is that she'd much rather flirt than rule. Which is an endless source of angst for her younger sister.
For all her faults (and there are many), Levana truly seems to love her home world. She wants what is best for the moon, but she's also gotten really, really good at convincing herself that she deserves to take any means necessary to make things better. Case in point: getting rid of Selene. I'm not sure we ever got the full story from Cinder, but Levana manipulated a nanny (is this supposed to be Scarlet's grandmother?) into leaving a candle burning inside the princess's blanket fort while the two were asleep. Levana talks herself into the murder by reasoning that Selene will be just as spoiled and awful as her mother, and Luna might never recover from her reign. So she's doing the world a favor, see. It's creepy how quickly she talks herself into this, plans and executes it, and then gets over it. Of course, we know that the princess survived, was sent to earth, and received some nifty cyborg upgrades.
And that love interest of Levana's? Didn't work out so well. After Evret's wife dies in childbirth (and names her daughter Winter!), Levana convinces herself that it's only a matter of time before he will fall in love with her. But...let's just say he needs some persuasion. Conveniently, all Lunars are able to not only glamor their appearance, but also bend people to their will. It's how (view spoiler)[Levana's sister disfigured her in a fire when they were little (mostly out of sheer curiosity, it would seem. Channary's the nuttiest nut here). (hide spoiler)] So she just...bends him a little, all the while believing that eventually he will love her as much as she loves him. Thanks to Tom Riddle, we all know where this is going. Although he doesn't abandon her, it's more out of fear than love.
On the one hand, it's a little tragic to think of Levana being in love with this guy and him still pining away for his dead wife, marrying the princess (and staying with the queen) and being terrified of what could happen if he says no. On the other hand, as much as her feelings for him seem genuine, it's pretty clear that Levana sees people as tools, means to an end. Or obstacles, in some cases. Once she realizes an alliance with earth will solve Luna's issues with dwindling resources, (view spoiler)[she doesn't waste much time dispatching Evret so she can forge a marriage alliance with boring prince Kai. Yes, she's sad, but she's also convinced she's doing what's right for Luna. Levana truly believes that no one's desires (not even her own) should stand in the way of Lunar power. Evret is simply one more sacrifice that must be made. (hide spoiler)]
Thanks to the inclusion of the first three chapters of Winter, I'm left with one question: we've seen from Cress that princess Winter is a little nuts (I actually felt sorry for Scarlet, and I can't stand her!), but (view spoiler)[is she a Shell? There's talk about her not being able to work a glamor, but also she has visions? Which isn't a typical Lunar trait, given what we see in the series and here in Fairest. Did seeing her father's bloody corpse drive her mad? (hide spoiler)] I was hoping for more detail on Winter's background here too, once she showed up. I mean, I'm sure we'll find out in the next book. Meyer's storytelling ability has not disappointed me so far! I just wanted a tiny bit more.
This doesn't add a ton to the series, although it does fill in a few gaps. And although the two books are NOTHING alike, I feel the same way here that I felt about the Tiny Cooper Story: I'm not sure this needed to exist, but it was a fun way to spend an afternoon (and also I'm glad I didn't spent any money on it!). I love this series and I am dying to read Winter, so it was a reasonable fix in the interim. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Wow. This is so wonderful! I'm not normally a fan of stories in verse, but this was absolutely the perfect way for Woodson to tell her story. It's movWow. This is so wonderful! I'm not normally a fan of stories in verse, but this was absolutely the perfect way for Woodson to tell her story. It's moving and beautiful and all about my absolute favorite theme: the importance of telling your own story. I need to buy my own copy so I can reread it (a lovely student lent me hers, which is an ARC, when I mentioned wanting to read it).
It actually made me wish I still taught high school, because I would fight SO hard to put it into the curriculum in place of The House on Mango Street. There were so many moments that felt like echoes of that story, except I would think to myself "I get it now!" It's accessible and affecting in a way that book just isn't. As it is, I'm hoping I can track down enough copies to use in literature circles for next year.
I have a love-hate relationship with stories told in verse. It can go very wrong (read: pretentious) VERY quickly! I’m not much of a poetry fan, as a rule (yes, I wrote my thesis on poetry, and it mostly just made me love Margaret Atwood more), and also, just the physical layout of a poem on the page seems designed to make you read too quickly. There were several times when I had to remind myself to pause or reread and just enjoy the language, instead of speeding through.
Woodson tells the story of her childhood -- growing up in Ohio, moving to South Carolina, and eventually to Brooklyn. Moving around so frequently (mostly at the whims of her mother, it would seem), Woodson and her siblings never quite felt at home in either place: when they were in Brooklyn, they longed to go back “home” to South Carolina, but after that first magical summer, they couldn’t quite recapture the feeling when they did return south. Young Jackie tries to find her place in the world, and her identity -- more than anything, she wants to be a writer, to be able to catch and hold stories forever. But she struggles with reading, which makes writing an equal struggle. It’s a struggle she eventually overcomes thanks to friends and teachers and sheer willpower, and the story is absolutely beautiful. Allow me to descend into simply quoting my favorite passages:
How to Listen #1 Somewhere in my brain each laugh, tear, and lullaby becomes memory.
It’s just like the little boy in MaddAddam! And we all know how much I love making memories... --------------------------------------------------------------
Will the words end, I ask Whenever I remember to
Nope, my sister says, all of five years now, and promising me
infinity. --------------------------------------------------------------- My sister’s clear voice opens up the world for me. I lean in so hungry for it
Hold still now, my grandmother warns.
So I sit on my hands to keep my mind off my hurting head, and my whole body still, But the rest of me is already leaving, the rest of me is already gone.
Gah. I love it -- the magical power of words ----------------------------------------------------------- When I read, the words twist and twirl across the page. When they settle, it is too late. The class has already moved on.
I want to catch words one day. I want to hold them then blow gently and watch them float from my hand.
That may be the most heartbreaking description of dyslexia I have ever heard. Wanting so badly to catch the words and be able to hear the story, but not being able to pin them down fast enough.
----------------------------------------------------------- Words from the books curl around each other and make little sense until I read them again and again, the story settling into memory... I don’t want to read faster or older or any way else that might make the story disappear too quickly from where it’s settling inside my brain slowly becoming a part of me
Where was this book when I was writing my thesis? It’s like Woodson read my mind! -------------------------------------------------------------- If someone had taken that book out of my hand said, You’re too old for this maybe I’d never have believed that someone who looked like me could be in the pages of the book that someone who looked like me had a story
This is from “Stevie & me,” about Woodson’s love of book that were deemed “too young” for her. But this was one of the many passages that brought tears to my eyes, and reminded me that while it’s important to challenge my students, sometimes it’s also important to let them choose what they want. ------------------------------------------------------------ On paper, things can live forever. On paper, a butterfly never dies
Woodson’s first book was a collection of poems about butterflies, which her brother admonished her weren’t worth it, because “butterflies don’t even live that long.” But even as a child, Woodson understood the power of words (ekphrasis!). --------------------------------------------------------------- How to Listen #7 Even the silence has a story to tell you. Just listen. Listen.
Woodson scatters these “how to listen” haiku throughout the book, and they were probably my favorite portions. They’re a rigid 5-7-5, but we’ll forgive her for that. ------------------------------------------------------------
In short, I just adored this book. All the stars!...more
Wow. I'm not totally sure how I felt about this. It was sort of odd and meandering at first, but once I got used to the style I ended up enjoying it.Wow. I'm not totally sure how I felt about this. It was sort of odd and meandering at first, but once I got used to the style I ended up enjoying it. And another protagonist to launch 101 thinkpieces about unlikeable characters. --------------------------------------
This is a hard one to review. The plot is...slow moving, and not particularly linear at the outset. Anna is an American, married to a Swiss man, living in Switzerland. She's always been something of a loner, comfortable in solitude, uninterested (not to mention unskilled) in making friends. After nine years in Zurich, she still feels like an outsider, but she's also lost touch with everyone back in America (her parents died when she was younger and she's an only child). She's a woman without a country, essentially, and she's bored. Anna enrolls in a German class and begins seeing a therapist (both at the behest of her husband Bruno), but neither one seems to make much difference in the loneliness or the boredom. She excels at German, but still can't grasp the odd Swiss-German hybrid spoken by the rest of her family. She makes a friend in the class, Mary from Canada, but quickly becomes irritated by Mary's chatter and neediness. She has an couple of affairs, but it's unclear what she hopes to get out of them. She's still at least attracted to her husband (and reasonably fond of him). And when one of them men starts to express genuine affection, she grows tired of him. Anna's anhedonic, basically. She can't enjoy anything, and while she's aware that she doesn't enjoy anything, she also doesn't seem to know how to break the cycle.
We eventually learn, through flashbacks, the likely source of Anna's angst. (view spoiler)[She had an affair with an American named Stephen, a visiting professor. Their three month affair resulted in a child, Polly Jean, whom Anna has always known wasn't her husband's, but she's kept it secret. Granted, Polly Jean is about to turn one, so she has a ways to go in that regard. Even in flashback, it's clear Anna was always far more into the affair than Stephen. After he leaves, she avoids contacting him, and builds him up in her mind. To me, it seemed like the other affairs were just attempts to recapture what she had with Stephen. But as long as she had Stephen on a pedestal, she could end the other affairs on the grounds that they weren't Stephen. It isn't until she experiences real tragedy: her youngest son is killed in a car accident, and Bruno figures out Polly's not his, that Anna finally breaks down and calls Stephen. And just as suspected, he dismisses her. (hide spoiler)]
Anna's a hard character to like. And I'm pretty sure that's intentional (like I said, I'm sure there are 101 thinkpieces about it!). But whenever I think about unlikeable characters that I truly couldn't handle, I always go back to Nora in The Woman Upstairs (and a little bit Kate in The Engagements, but at least there were other characters in that book to split the focus). Anna isn't particularly sympathetic, and I don't really feel sorry for her, because she's the cause of so much of her own misery. But I still found her interesting, which I think is the difference here. Like the deplorable quintet in The Secret History, I didn't like Anna, but I did want to know how her story would turn out. Given her obsession with fire, (view spoiler)[ (Stephen was a...pyrologist? Someone who studies fire), I figured we would end with Anna setting her house on fire, possibly with Bruno and the kids inside. By the last chapter, when she's alone and wandering the streets and has talked to Stephen and learned he's married with a baby on the way...I thought maybe she was going to set herself on fire. But she steps in front of a train, yes? I like the ambiguity of the ending: for the rest of that afternoon and evening, the Swiss trains ran late. But then I'm not sure what I'm supposed to take away from the fire obsession. Some kind of "playing with fire" symbolism representing the affairs? (hide spoiler)] It felt more like foreshadowing that didn't quite pay off.
I was surprised by how much I ended up liking this, in spite of how bleak it ends up being. I liked the author's style, once I got past the not quite linear storytelling at the outset. I can't say it's definitely a new take on the "bored housewife" story, mostly because I'm not usually interested in that particular trope. But Book Riot made it sound interesting, and the cover is so pretty. It's something I probably wouldn't have picked up otherwise, but I'm glad I did. Yay for broadening reading horizons! ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I read this a million years ago in jr high, but I thought it might make a good read aloud. I used Down a Dark Hall with my lit circle groups & theI read this a million years ago in jr high, but I thought it might make a good read aloud. I used Down a Dark Hall with my lit circle groups & they enjoyed it (one of them fist pumped when he realized this was the same author!)
Update from the end: not a spectacular read aloud. It might make a decent book for literature circles or something, but it's pretty slow at the beginning and nothing much happens until the last 30 pages. Also, it has been "updated" in the clumsiest fashion: everyone has a cell phone, but there's no mention of any sort of social media (which would have been freaking out when April disappeared). Hell, no one even has email! And a pivotal plot point hinges on the fact that April sends a LETTER to her boyfriend. If we're supposed to buy that this takes place in at least the aughts, you can't tell me a typical teenager wouldn't try to get ahold of a smartphone or computer to send a message. Also also, the family's cover story is that they moved to Florida for dad to manage a photo place...which even back in the 70s was not a great career move. Now it makes even less sense (there's no plot dependent reason for it either...make it a gas station or a card store or something!) Either update everything or leave it as is, but throwing in casual references to an iPod and Twilight do not actually an updated story make. I think this was done to all of Duncan's books, and I'm not sure why. If the story is good enough, they don't care that the characters don't have iPhones. ...more