Guaranteed to thoroughly shake you up, Lockhart's story about the youngest generation of a Kennedy-esque clan and the secrets their families keep from...moreGuaranteed to thoroughly shake you up, Lockhart's story about the youngest generation of a Kennedy-esque clan and the secrets their families keep from each other basically takes a variation on the fairy tale of the American dream and then gradually pokes more and more little holes in it until the cursed bewitchment behind it all leaks out. Like at least one of the other reviewers, I started the book with the expectation of a big twist coming, because that's how the novel was packaged to me--and to everyone, but that really does it an injustice, I think. This is not one of those gimmicky, abrupt reversals, but more of a complicated mystery told back to front, or maybe turned from the inside out from the point of view of Cadance, the shattered protagonist. Not only does it work, but it works so well that it feels like more like a gradual awakening then a jarring splash of cold water to the face, which is probably merciful to the reader, as the truth of the story, when you do discover it, is brutal enough.(less)
Another book where I sense I'm going against the grain. I feel like I heard a lot of really good reviews for this one, but I found myself becoming inc...moreAnother book where I sense I'm going against the grain. I feel like I heard a lot of really good reviews for this one, but I found myself becoming increasingly impatient with this series. It's not unusual for a trilogy to start with a bang and lose steam, but with this one it was more a case of them picking up momentum--only in the complete opposite direction of anything I wanted. The second book disappointed me, this one I flat-out disliked. I'll explain.
The plot picks up nearly ten years from the events of Graceling. Bitterblue is a young queen with the heavy burden of ruling a kingdom that has been emotionally scarred from her psychopath father's reign of mental manipulation, torture, and overall craziness. She finds herself increasingly buried in details: paperwork, obligations, council meetings, and so on, but without a lot of real information on how to fix all the broken things that need mending--including the people themselves and even her own advisors. Frustrated, she begins to sneak out incognito to do anonymous recon herself in her kingdom, collecting stories, rumors, anything she can, and discovers that the damage goes deeper than she suspected, and she can trust no one.
As I mentioned in the earlier reviews, each of these books takes a completely different tack. The first was more of a survival story, the second, a romance, this one is clearly a mystery. Bitterblue knows she's ruling in the middle of a lie, but whose, and how many are there--how deep does it go? Reflecting this angle, there's even a prominently featured maze in the story and (I grant you, this part was kind of cool) references and use of ciphering and cipher-cracking. Bitterblue is a great, brave, and resourceful character the reader can really support--it makes sense for someone mentored by a great character like Katsa (from Graceling) and Cashore really lets her hold her own in this book despite appearances from Katsa and others from the first installment--she never lets them steal the show back. That's all to the good. Unfortunately, the book is much. Too. Long. If there's one consistent thing between the three books it's that I feel like the flow and pacing of the stories are all kind of rocky. It is managed the best with Graceling because there's so much action that at least everything is always moving, but as the series progresses and the the plots get more convoluted, it grinds to almost a halt until we feel just as stuck as Bitterblue, stuck in her tangle of unanswered questions that continue to pile up around her. At about halfway through the book I felt myself skimming, which is never a good sign. Also, none of the supporting cast of characters ever really feel like they're strong enough of a foil for our heroine. The closest, the thief/rebel Saf (Sapphire) is kind of a cool character, but almost so mysterious that it works against him--we almost know too little about him to get invested. The most compelling character (besides our heroine) actually turns out to be the librarian. Though Bitterblue knows him as a grim, judgmental, and guarded guardian of her library, there is a lot more to him, and the evolution of their alliance is one of the best threads of the book in my mind.
That ties in with what was possibly the most frustrating thing for me though: I could so clearly SEE points that would be so good---I feel like the bones of the story were really strong--just as promising as Graceling, maybe, but the story just gets away from itself. Did we need quite so many long passages from the journals of the psychopath king, or his embattled wife, Bitterblue's mother? Between the two other books we more than inferred what he was capable of, and what she suffered, and it was almost more unsettling knowing without having it spelled out so painstakingly. To do so at this point felt really heavy-handed, and again, slowed things down considerably. In a way, it really reminds me of something our heroine says at he end of this book about finding a way to balance "knowing" (the truth) and healing. Cashore wanted us to know EVERYTHING here, but maybe it would have made it better if we didn't have to have it all spelled out.
If Graceling was a survival/adventure story in disguise as a dark fairy tale-esque fantasy, I would say Fire is a romance in disguise as a survival ad...moreIf Graceling was a survival/adventure story in disguise as a dark fairy tale-esque fantasy, I would say Fire is a romance in disguise as a survival adventure story. Personally, I prefer the former to the latter, but whether readers will be pleased or annoyed by this turn of events really depends on the individual tastes of the person. Since I fell in the "annoyed" camp here, to me this middle book of the Graceling trio felt as if there was a major sacrifice made in terms of plot and flow in order for it to serve as the pillar supporting the trilogy and tying things together. While Graceling could stand on its own, solidly, Fire felt as if it had a split purpose and at times too pulled in opposite directions.
In part, it's an identity story. Fire is the daughter of possibly the most notorious monster her kingdom has ever seen, and the last of her kind. She's a human/monster hybrid with stunning, mesmerizing beauty and the ability to take a walk in peoples' minds. Potential prey for both full monsters (who are drawn to her like magnets) and people (who either want to kill her or maul her, or sometimes both) she lives like an embattled nomad, accompanied by her childhood friend/lover Archer, and her old mentor and teacher, for support and protection. With war and uncertainty in the kingdom reaching a tipping point, Fire has to find an allegiance, take a side--decide for herself what her fate will be after all these years of being under control and protection, and find a way to confront the years of havoc which remain her father's legacy.
Sounds pretty good, right? But too often the story gets mired in romantic complications and loses the thread-partly because of Fire's powers, partly because of the constant presence of Archer, who is a ladies man generally, partly because of the incredibly predictable other love interest that evolves. Unlike Katsa from Graceling, though Fire is fierce in her own way, she does not fully become a woman of action and confidence until fairly far along in the book, too hampered by the ghosts of her father's past and her precarious situation as the most outside of outsiders. Big chunks of the book feel like they're spent entrenched in a camp (or palace, or what have you) waiting things out, strategizing, while the real battles happen off stage, led by the usual crew of action hero male warriors. There's something very old-school Harlequin about the whole thing, with Fire feeling very much like the beautiful and exotic heroine on the sidelines who tries to remain aloof but just can't help herself, and it's a shame coming off such an empowering and unexpected reversal of roles in Graceling. On top of that, the attempts to weave in connections to Graceling interrupt the flow. Disturbing as they are, they're almost the most interesting parts of the plot, but this plotline never feels really integrated, and if anything, just serves as a distraction that makes the other political doings that much harder to follow or get invested in.
It's enough to really make me wonder what we have in store with Bitterblue, but I have hopes that the brave, scrappy, fighter of a princess that we met in the first book will prevail over the can't-fight-this-feeling angst of the second.(less)
I think as my reading prejudices go, I tend to be a little fantasy-averse . Something about the cover rang of elvish armor and royalty and the kind of...moreI think as my reading prejudices go, I tend to be a little fantasy-averse . Something about the cover rang of elvish armor and royalty and the kind of prince-and-princessy epics that I don't normally have a whole lot of patience for if they're not tied directly to a fairy tale retelling. This was quite a bit different than I expected though, and all in good ways. If you wanted to get a little reductionist about it, you could call Gracelinga dark, Savvy all grown up for older audiences-only about as serious as a heart attack, but I feel like it would do the book injustice to suggest that it's about the gimmick and not the story or characters---both of which more than hold their own here.
In this world, certain people, called Gracelings become "graced" with an innate extraordinary ability in their childhood. Once this manifests, these children become wards of their King to determine whether their abilities are useful or not, which basically determines whether they're fated to be sent back home to live out their lives as the village freak or live their life at the mercy of their king's demands. Katsa, born with the killing grace, finds herself in the latter camp, the unwilling muscle of an unreasonable ruler. She eases her conscience through her extracurricular double life as the leader of a secret "council" that dispenses justice and makes amends where unwilling, or unethical rulers when can't be bothered to assist. One of these missions will lead her to something that will forever change the way she sees herself--and will serve as the biggest test of all.
Graceling flies against expectations in a lot of ways. For all the talk of the seven kingdoms, etc. etc. it's really much more of a survival-adventure story than a fantasy-adventure story in my mind, full of combat and difficult treks through extreme and perilous conditions--and I like it better for that. The heroine is not just feisty, she's tough as nails and staunchly true to herself. Adamant not to marry or have kids, she takes risks and does what needs to be done for the greater good without apology or wavering on any count...not for anyone. The young men who are her closest allies, friends (and in a couple cases, prospective love interests) respect this--as they must, as she expects them to. This is no damsel in distress. She is the whole rescue party. This isn't a typical kind of fairy tale. Throw in a serial killer-style psycho-villain (which this has) and you've got the makings of an unforgettable adventure. Admittedly, the pacing is a bit odd at points, but Cashore keeps finding ways to hook the reader in. (less)
So, I'll admit it...I will read basically anything that looks like steampunk and am pretty much guaranteed to derive some amount of guilty pleasure fr...moreSo, I'll admit it...I will read basically anything that looks like steampunk and am pretty much guaranteed to derive some amount of guilty pleasure from it, no matter what. Guilty pleasure is not synonymous with liking, though. I genuinely liked this book.
Katharine Tulman is dispatched on the disagreeable errand of reporting on the activities of her uncle, an inventor of repute who is a rumored lunatic, in order to secure the inheritance for her equally disagreeable guardian. Since her uncle'e estate currently supports a village of 900, however, this means that Katharine is walking into a town of 900 potential enemies, all of whom have a lot invested in making sure that she doesn't get the answers or help that she needs, and there may be reason to believe that at least some of this number may be cooking up schemes which may jeopardize her very life.
As fans of the genre know, steampunk tends to feature a mix of historical tidbits, and sci-fi flights of fancy. The ratio of realism to fantasy can vary dramatically, and the history part of the mix can be interpreted or reimagined pretty liberally. So although steampunk tends to feature a Victorian influence, a lot of stories tend to feel more like events are happening in a completely different world just out of time and place than any particular time period. Not so much in this book. Gadgetry aside, the atmosphere has a pretty consistently and authentically gothic feel, triggering strong associations---at least for me---of some pretty quality (and seriously eerie) predecessors such as James's The Turn of the Screw, The Woman in White and some of Nathaniel Hawthorne's more haunting novels. I almost enjoyed that nice little bit of spine-chilling creepiness even more than the clockwork bits. Now that's a trick.(less)
For those really familiar with the original Baum series, this prequel to the outstanding Dorothy Must Die might be even truer to the original source m...moreFor those really familiar with the original Baum series, this prequel to the outstanding Dorothy Must Die might be even truer to the original source material, only with access to the darkest side of Dorothy's inner monologue. What this means, ultimately, is that the reader is left with something both more familiar but maybe for that same reason, somewhat less satisfying, than DMD. Even so, it holds the reader's attention and can at least make the blow of waiting for the next installment of the story just a little less painful.
Paige wisely chooses to pick up with Dorothy's story after the initial trip so well documented in print and popular culture. Instead, we see Dorothy safe, sound, and thoroughly dissatisfied back on the farm, trying to recondition herself to normal Kansas life, but indulging in re-living memories that she can't share with anyone else. The focal point is the struggle between how she was raised, and who she hopes to be, pitting the simple values of her uncle and aunt whom she really does love against the endless possibility and expectation that Oz represents. In her youthful stubbornness, she feels that there must be a way to reconcile everything, but of course things can never be that easy.
Although the mechanics of how things come to pass are a little different, No Place can't help but strongly call back to The Emerald City of Oz, a critical point in the Baum saga where Dorothy's worlds collide in a similar way. Though we're never privy to Dorothy's dark side in the original books, there's definitely a disconnect in The Emerald City that Baum can't--or won't--merely explain away. Em and Henry can't change their values with their scenery and though seeing may be believing, believing isn't really the same as following. Dorothy may be Ozma's pet and a princess of Oz, but she can't change their minds or make them into anyone other than who they are. No Place Like Oz takes this conundrum and gives it some more meat but maybe gives away too much at the same time. When we know too much, Dorothy's motivations become all too predictable and the weight of the inevitability of it all takes away some of the drama (and dramatic tension) of both the sequel, and the original Emerald City. Luckily, it doesn't take a magic mirror or an enchanted book to guess that what we have in store with the Dorothy Must Die sequel is bound to be better.(less)
An excellent, vibrant, and exciting story with loads of YA/Adult crossover potential, I would give this a 4 1/2--maybe a 4 3/4 if I could, and I eager...moreAn excellent, vibrant, and exciting story with loads of YA/Adult crossover potential, I would give this a 4 1/2--maybe a 4 3/4 if I could, and I eagerly await the next installment.
The Wizard of Oz and I have always had a difficult relationship, but it's a boomerang relationship; I keep circling back in spite of myself. I can't seem to shake it, to the point where I made a point of reading the complete series straight through not long ago to try to understand where my conflict was coming from. Ultimately, I think it's the weirder aspects of Oz I appreciate the most. The dark and twisted bits lurking just under the sparkling emerald surfaces. It's present in the books. Whether it's intentional or not, it's hard to say (I'm still conflicted about that after reading the series) but there's an uncanniness, something a little off that is definitely there that adds complexity to the saga and makes it a little less frivolous and more truly a traditional fairy tale than I think it sometimes gets credit for. You see precious little of that in the bright and glossy movie musical--glimpses between the lines of Wicked the musical, more so in Gregory Maguire's original book, but here---this gets it entirely right in my mind...by exposing everything that's always felt a little---wrong.
Dorothy may have come from Nowheresville, Kansas, but she had a home and family who cared about her. Amy Gumm, known as "Salvation Amy" around school, hails from a more desolate place than that. She's poor, ostracized at school, and basically neglected by her substance-abusing mother to the point where when the tornado strikes the trailer that they live in, it's the best thing that's ever happened to her. She's transported to Oz, which would be shocking enough but it's nothing like the place she knew from the stories and movies. The fairyland looks like a war zone, and the alliances are not lining up in the way that one might expect. When Good becomes Wicked, Wicked just might be the new Good, and a girl from Kansas may have an opportunity to be a savior yet again...if she can just rid Oz of the original first.
It's clear to me that Paige has at least a strong familiarity--if not an actual love, for the original series of books, with teasingly quick references and allusions to characters and events that can only be gleaned deep within the heart of the original book series, which in my mind, is the absolute most perfect way to pay homage. She doesn't recap us to death, doesn't get tedious or obvious with it, but somehow she does justice to everything that's come before while still creating a story that's completely her own. It's haunting, exciting, and just a little bit scary, and it ends too soon for my liking.
If there's any fault it's just that I think Amy has a way to come. She's a sympathetic and fierce heroine, but as her mentors seem to be telling her, she hasn't really found her identity yet. On one hand, I'm kind of glad that it's left this way in the first one because I don't think we need to see everything all at once, but I do hope that we will see it more in what's to come, because she's a character that really seems like she could be worth knowing.
Great book for readers who like their books with a lot of ethical conundrums wrapped up with their action--I'm thinking fans of Evil Genius, Liar, and even Cory Doctorow's Little Brother or Pirate Cinema books as well as fans of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Stroud's Bartimaeus trilogy and Grossman's The Magicians who are no strangers to the strange (and sometimes very dark) places magic may take you.(less)
At first, there seemed to be a lot of love, starting with the Art Deco inspired lettering on the cover that made me think of Libba Bray's Diviners, th...moreAt first, there seemed to be a lot of love, starting with the Art Deco inspired lettering on the cover that made me think of Libba Bray's Diviners, the fact that it was set in Chicago, the allusions to Dante's Inferno and The Portrait of Dorian Gray...but unfortunately, like the glam crowd at the heart of the Lexington Hotel in the book, this is high on style, short on substance.
Mousy Haven Terra is plucked from an uneventful high school life spent blending in with the woodwork to a world of glamour and intrigue when she gets selected for a prestigious, mysterious, and very elite internship at a historic hotel in Chicago, once renowned for being a favorite haunt of Al Capone's. Before they know it, Haven and her two fellow interns are getting a peek of the luxe style embodied by the hotel and its glamorous contingent of behind-the-scenes PR and hospitality staff known as The Outfit. As Haven and her fellow interns soon find out, however, behind the pretty faces, and gilded history lies secrets darker than anything Capone was capable of.
Overall, some cool concepts, but I can't help but the pacing is way too slow, much too slow for the fast lifestyles supposedly lived by The Outfit and their recruits. The main character has nothing but her tragic childhood to recommend her or make her interesting, unfortunately. She's sympathetic--but flat. Although her fellow interns are slightly more colorful, but even they aren't given much time. The setting takes precedence over the character development, to the point where there's actually not a whole lot of sin to be seen in this place supposedly devoted to that very thing, and unfortunately, so much obvious groundwork, is set down in advance of every supposed twist or revelation, that there are no surprises either. In the Lexington, the underground tunnels are the only real secrets out there. You'd think you could expect hedonism to be a little more fun, somehow.
Surprisingly, it appears this is intended to be a series--or at least a trilogy, but the lack of momentum is bound to hurt it going forward.(less)
Finally got around to reading this book, which I'll always kind of associate with the Great Book Award Kerfuffle of a little ways back where Chime was...moreFinally got around to reading this book, which I'll always kind of associate with the Great Book Award Kerfuffle of a little ways back where Chime was the winner but another book was announced (because I guess they both had one-word titles?) Anyway...
Cool, creepy, and twisted. That's what I have to say about this book. The main character has a considerable share of demons to wrestle with. As the preacher's daughter she's expected to be a model citizen, but she's hiding some dark and pretty ugly secrets about herself that are dark enough that the reader isn't even privy to them save for some bits and pieces tantalizingly woven in flashbacks. On top of that, she's basically forced to serve as the head of her household with an emotionally unavailable and twice-widowed father and default caretaker to a twin sister with significant social/emotional issues. Add to this brew a town plague,a sinister supernatural swamp, and witch-burning fervor, and you've got quite a story. I confess that I did kind of figure out some of the bigger plot curveballs but it was still a really interesting read. Some stories you really get lost in the world of the book to the point where you don't want to leave them; with this book the world was so disturbing, that I can't say I wanted to stay there or would even necessarily want to revisit it, but it was kind of morbidly fascinating all the same and it really held my attention. I really have yet to see this author go wrong. Excellent for people who think that Cassandra Clare and Melissa Marr books aren't serious enough, and of course Sleepy Hollow enthusiasts. (less)
I had a few issues with this book to say the least.
First of all, there appears to be a disconnect with the intended audience. I picked up this book a...moreI had a few issues with this book to say the least.
First of all, there appears to be a disconnect with the intended audience. I picked up this book as a reader who has already chosen this option and needed guidance on how to make this work. The title, Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers implies that it's for women who have already made this decision. And yet...the book keeps bogging itself down in research and statistics about why women should choose breastfeeding. The actual "natural laws" get lost in this and it feels really judgey--and really unnecessarily judgey at that, since it's preaching to the choir. Anyone who is reading this book and is having doubts is probably having doubts because they're having difficulties with the breastfeeding and are looking for help on how to make it work, so guilt-tripping by way of a dozen or so lectures seems particularly insensitive and unhelpful. Another area that ventures into judginess territory is the completely (I feel) tangential section on "scientific parenting."
This leads me to my other pretty big issue. Not only did I not find it that helpful or clear because of the way it was structured (and the way the tips kept getting derailed by more lectures) but it was actually pretty discouraging. Although the author tries at one point to make the point that this is natural, that babies are programmed to attach, that you shouldn't overthink things and so forth, there's a recurring section "When the System Breaks Down" that itemizes all the things that could go wrong, and in many cases I felt that this wasn't paired with actual solutions and even (again) comes off as somewhat judgey at times. As in, if it's not working, this is what you must be doing wrong.
Finally, I feel like this has to be said...repeatedly in the book, the mother is encouraged to breastfeed in bed, even allowing herself to nap and nurse. There is only the briefest of mentions acknowledging the safety arguments against this, and I feel like at least half of that section falls back into advocating for co-sleeping and again, citing statistics (only on how common co-sleeping is, but noticeably nothing referencing how safe it actually is). The clear rationale for this is to dispatch with concerns by nursing mothers about how to make constant nursing work in the first few weeks especially, when the baby has their days and nights mixed up, by encouraging women to believe that there's an easy way everyone can win and no one loses out on sleep (this last part is practically a direct quote). In truth, it seems somewhat disingenuous at best, and at worst, irresponsible at the very least. It's true some bulletpoints are given with tips on safe co-sleeping, but the tone of the section really makes it feel almost like it's offhanded advice, as if it's not really that important. For a book that seems so concerned with research and citing medical studies in every other respect, this sudden departure really just confirms the feeling that this book is more agenda-driven than guidance-driven, and that's a shame. If there's one thing this book taught me, it's that clearly, there's a lot more involved than even I thought, and women need all the support they can get. Unfortunately, they're not going to get it here.(less)
Much different than I expected, and not just your run-of-the-mill kids on a quest for magic book. Daniel has been cursed for as long as he remembers w...moreMuch different than I expected, and not just your run-of-the-mill kids on a quest for magic book. Daniel has been cursed for as long as he remembers with the inability to ever tell a lie. Usually this gets him in trouble, but his unique ability surprisingly allows him in the good graces of a government officer stationed in his town. While Captain Sloper takes advantage of Daniel's truthfulness for his own purposes, Daniel unexpectedly finds himself in a position to help his occupied town and possibly learn more about the mysterious and magical island that lies nearby.
This book does not mess around. Not only is the magical island protected by a series of Lost-worthy dangers (quicksand, magic serpents that seem to wear the faces of the people they've eaten along the way, etc.) but the soldiers are flat-out menacing, capable of torture and even murder. Not a book for the faint of heart, and much darker than I would have expected just by picking it up. Don't expect a happy-go-lucky magic romp here, but for a magic quest with some pretty serious issues at stake, this may fit the bill.
I could maybe see this for fans of the Emerald Atlas, The 13 Treasures/Curses books.(less)
Love. Not only are the development pictures stunning but this is the first pregnancy book I've read that actually makes me feel better. it feels reall...moreLove. Not only are the development pictures stunning but this is the first pregnancy book I've read that actually makes me feel better. it feels really well-rounded and balanced with what to expect without a weirdly heavy emphasis on worst case scenarios or litanies of grossness. Seriously, some of the books out there will totally make a girl feel like a troll. I actually had to take a break from reading pregnancy books for awhile because it was information overload (and self-esteem hell)--but this book has been fun to read from day one. So worth the purchase.(less)
I'll admit it: I have a love/hate relationship with Marissa Meyer's books. I love them, and every time I finish one, I hate---really hate--to have to...moreI'll admit it: I have a love/hate relationship with Marissa Meyer's books. I love them, and every time I finish one, I hate---really hate--to have to wait for the next to come out. If you're in a similar boat, about the only relief I can offer here is to at least end the suspense: this is not a trilogy, kids. You're going to at least have to wait for one more (Winter). Extra credit if you can guess the fairy tale inspiration.
Cinder, the android/mechanic/rabble-rouser/refugee princess is busily hatching a desperate plan with Thorne, Scarlett, and Wolf to oust evil Lunar queen Levana from her roost and save Earth in the process. Aaaand if she can also manage to save her former boyfriend (of sorts) Kai from a loveless marriage of horrors to a woman that almost certainly sees his life as expendable, so much the better. As Cinder is more about action than strategy, she needs a secret weapon to help her carry this off. Enter Cress, a genius hacker who has been held as a Lunar prisoner her entire life. When disaster stikes the tight-knit group of revolutionaries however, they not only have to battle for the fate of the Earth, but for their own survival, and it's everyone for themselves.
What amazed me (again) was Meyer's uncanny ability to integrate so much of the origin fairy tale into her extremely sci-fi world, and do so as organically as she does. It's weird to me that it does so much justice to the original but feels like so much more than just an update. Her characters remain riveting, and really nuanced. Even though this piece of the series wasn't exactly Cinder's story---at least not fully---she didn't get relegated to the background either. Her evolution as she has to deal with her new responsibilities and her powers is really interesting. I get the feeling that there's more internal conflict to come, too, as the stakes continue to ramp up for the team. With some trilogies, momentum tends to die out or unlucky turns lose the readers, but I almost could swear I'm enjoying this series more and more the further I get into it. This may have been my favorite so far. It's hard for me to think of a read-alike just now because I feel like Meyer has really staked out some really cool new ground here.(less)