I read this for a book club, and the other book club attendees loved it. They loved it because it was new and different and fresh, because it compelle...moreI read this for a book club, and the other book club attendees loved it. They loved it because it was new and different and fresh, because it compelled you to continue reading because you just had to know what was going on, and because it was beautifully written.
I concede all of the above points. It is new and different and fresh, it's beautifully written, and this isn't a book you can really bring yourself to DNF. But when I reached the end, my reaction was, "Huh. Well, that was...weird." I spent the day leading up to my book club discussion trying to figure out if I thought it was good-weird or bad-weird, but in the end, it was just...weird. I didn't like it, but I didn't really dislike it either. I just find it kind of bafflingly odd.
If you like weird, you might love this. This book is weird from top to bottom, inside and out. It's got a weird structure, weird characters, weird interconnected stories, and a weird blend of myth and reality. The book is divided into seven parts, and each part is weird in its own unique way.
This isn't something I would have picked up without the book club impetus, and this is one of those times when I really could have lived without that extra push. I don't feel like precious hours of my life were wasted with this one, but I don't feel like they were really put to good use either.
In sum: Just really strange, leaving me with feelings of ambivalence.
P.S. I also have no idea why this is marketed as YA, other than the length and the fact that Marcus Sedgwick had previously published in that genre. It's really not YA in theme, tone, or the age of its central characters, so, uh, what else is there?(less)
I struggled for a long time about how to rate this book and how to write this review, because here's the thing: Even though this book wasn't my favori...moreI struggled for a long time about how to rate this book and how to write this review, because here's the thing: Even though this book wasn't my favorite, reading this book and seeing things here and there on the internet has made me a huge fan of its author, Corinne Duyvis. And even though this was a "meh" book for me, there are several really awesome things about it that make me absolutely sure I'll be recommending it over and over in the coming years.
Otherbound has two protagonists, Nolan and Amara. Nolan lives in our world, and from the time he was very young, whenever Nolan closes his eyes he finds himself riding along as a passenger in another person's life. It has cost him a normal life (and, when he was younger, his leg, gone in an accident caused by one of his "seizures" when he blinked), and his entire family has suffered. Nolan's unwitting host is Amara, and she inhabits a completely different world, where she's an indentured servant on the run with a cursed deposed princess. For over a decade, Nolan has been a helpless passenger, tagging along with Amara. But then, something changes, and Nolan is able to take control of Amara's body. Suddenly, Amara becomes aware that not only does she have a shitty, dangerous life, she's got a parasitic person tagging along in her mind, and her body isn't completely her own. As Amara's life takes a turn for the even more dangerous, Amara and Nolan must learn how best to work together to ensure that both of them have safe and happy futures.
The first thing I loved about this book is that it had a new and interesting premise. I've always loved the mental connections trope, and this was a completely different spin on it, with characters who share a mental connection across worlds. I haven't read anything like it before, so that was refreshing.
The other thing I loved about this book--and the reason I wholeheartedly recommend it despite my three stars--is that Duyvis made a clear and conscious decision to write protagonists with racial, ethnic, sexual, and body diversity. In a single book, she's got a Mexian-American boy with Nahua heritage who has one leg, and a bisexual dark-skinned girl who had her tongue cut out as a child and communicates via sign language. And none of those characteristics really define or overwhelm the characters--this isn't an "issue" book, this is just a book with characters who happen to be the most diverse protagonists I've ever read in YA. Amara is bisexual? No big deal, just a fact. Nolan speaks a mixture of English and Spanish with his family and misses out on Nahuatl language lessons because of his disability (the "seizures" that land him in Amarra's world, not his leg).
I was so prepared to love this book. And yet it took me two and a half months to read. Yikes. I kept setting it aside to pick up other books. It was easy to set aside. Things were happening, but it felt like they were happening in slow-mo. For whatever reason--and I still can't put my finger on any one thing that was wrong--I just couldn't engage with this book. This isn't a particularly huge book, but when I finished, I breathed a sigh of relief that I was finally--finally!--done with the Book that Wouldn't End.
But despite the fact that this book ended up not being my cup of tea, I will champion it because it represents what I dearly hope is the beginning of a wave of diverse, original speculative fiction written by people who are committed to making the fiction landscape one that is representative of our diverse world.
Thanks to Amulet for providing me with an ARC of this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.(less)
I won the paperback reissue of this book in a FirstReads giveaway, and I am really happy I did.
For me, this book is the epitome of YA litera...more4.5 stars.
I won the paperback reissue of this book in a FirstReads giveaway, and I am really happy I did.
For me, this book is the epitome of YA literature. By which I mean it takes practically all of the most pervasive and important tropes of young adult lit and handles them really, really well. Identity, coming of age, monstrousness, feelings of not fitting into your own skin and your own life, the realization that life isn't as black and white as it seems, etc. I could write papers about this book and how it tackles the teenage experience, teenage fantasy, and coming of age.
It is also really, really fucking well-written. There is practically no easier way to scare me away from a book than to tell me how beautiful the language is. To me, beautiful language = plotless bore. I had heard a lot about how pretty this book's words were, which is probably one of the reasons I held off on reading it for so long. But this book's lyrical cadence, tone, and language are in aid of a story about a war between angels and monsters, with a quirky teen girl caught in the middle. There is humor and fun alongside darkness and moral ambiguity.
I have read books I enjoyed more. The fact that this book tackles so many familiar tropes meant that at times I was bored. Karou is the stunningly beautiful and magically powerful protagonist who has just enough of a quirky loner edge that readers want to be her instead of hating her (she is an ~artist~ with ~blue hair~ who hangs out at a hipster coffee shop with her spunky sidekick BFF). It's not my favorite archetype. But even that aids in making this the perfect example of young adult literature. So when someone asks me, "So, what is young adult literature all about, anyway?" I can hand them Daughter of Smoke & Bone and say, "This. All of young adult literature is contained in this book: the good and the bad, the powerful themes and the cliches. This is everything you need to know about YA."(less)
This book surprised me. I don't know why I wasn't expecting much. Possibly it's because I'm skeptical of any book that claims to be similar to two of...moreThis book surprised me. I don't know why I wasn't expecting much. Possibly it's because I'm skeptical of any book that claims to be similar to two of my favorites (Graceling and Seraphina). But it was quite good! I actually think the comparisons were apt, which is a huge compliment coming from me.
Cécile has always dreamed of traveling the world and singing. But on the eve of her departure for the big city, she's kidnapped and carried deep underground to a subterranean city of trolls, where she's expected to fulfill a prophecy by marrying ("bonding") the trolls' prince, Tristan, and freeing the trolls from the spell that keeps them trapped under the Forsaken Mountain. Soon Cécile becomes enmeshed in troll politics, earning friends and enemies and being forced to decide between freedom and justice, safety and bravery.
I have exactly one bone to pick with this book, and it's this: Jensen shows us a race of people who have become deformed physically and mentally due to inbreeding, especially in the upper classes (who remain untainted by cross-breeding with humans). There are trolls with two heads, conjoined twins, trolls with lopsided faces, trolls with mental issues, and trolls with bleeding disorders. But our love interest, Prince Tristan? Totally perfect. Dreamily handsome, not so much as an ugly birthmark. OF COURSE. I am so sick of reading about perfectly beautiful people who are beautiful by default because they're the protagonists. Gag.
But once I heaved my giant sigh of despair over the state of YA beauty tropes and moved on, the book was grand. I loved how nuanced the politics of Trollus were, and how the solutions to the trolls' problems aren't as simple as they first appear. I love how conflicted Cécile and Tristan both are, and how Cécile doesn't assume Tristan's views automatically once she learns to trust him, but rather does her own independent research to try to figure out what she believes the best course of action is.
I read this page-turner in just a couple days and am super excited to continue on with the series. However, shortly after this book was published, the publisher, Strange Chemistry, announced it was folding effective immediately. I so hope this series is picked up by another publisher! It deserves to be read. (Danielle Jensen has announced that book two, Hidden Huntresswill be released, but not the hows, wheres, and whens.)
I won a copy of this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.(less)
Gretchen's father died when she was young, taking bullets meant for his old friend from the war, Adolf Hitler. Ever since, Gretchen has been the "litt...moreGretchen's father died when she was young, taking bullets meant for his old friend from the war, Adolf Hitler. Ever since, Gretchen has been the "little sunshine" of her "Uncle Dolf," a frequent guest of Herr Hitler and the well-known darling of the National Socialist Party. But when a mysterious young journalist--a Jewish journalist--appears claiming that her father's death wasn't as straightforward as she has been told, Gretchen soon finds herself doubting Uncle Dolf, his past, and his plans for Germany's future.
When I saw the description for this book, I was so, so hoping that it would have the same sort of depth and emotional resonance as Code Name Verity. Alas, this book fell flat for me.
What I hoped for was a girl struggling to cope with the idea that the propaganda she's been fed at Hitler's knee for her whole life might not be truthful, that Jewish people might be actual humans deserving of respect and equal treatment, that maybe, just maybe the National Socialist Party isn't the best thing for Germany. I hoped for a historical thriller full of danger and daring. I hoped for a mistrustful, tentative, slowly growing romance between the Aryan darling Gretchen and the outspoken-but-afraid Jewish boy Daniel.
What I got was Daniel telling Gretchen that "you're different from the others" because he saw her stop her brother from beating a helpless Jewish man to death. (Which she did, mind you, because Hitler frowned on street fighting because he thought it made the Party look bad, and also because she had never seen violence--or a Jewish dude--up close. Not because she fancied herself a defender of innocent Jews.) I saw Daniel immediately trusting and freaking inviting into the home he shared with two younger cousins one of Hitler's closest companions whom he had no reason to trust. I saw Gretchen shedding her beliefs as easily as she chopped off her hair.
I got an author making clumsy comparisons between Gretchen's Evil with a capital "E" sociopath brother and Hitler, a veritable SS and SA name-drop-fest, and friendships with Eva Braun and Geli Raubal that could have been meaningful but were instead just more historical figure cameo fun times.
I got a protagonist who was overall reactive instead of proactive, and who just kind of went with the flow. I got stakes that managed to feel really freaking low in pre-WWII Germany surrounded by Hitler and his cronies WTF how is that even possible?
In short, I got nothing that I hoped for and a lot of things I actively do not like in my fiction. It could have been worse--there was nothing I was truly offended by here--but I wanted it to be so, so much better.(less)
This book wasn't what I expected, I think because the cover screams contemporary at me (SO MUCH EYELINER). This isn't contemporary. It's a l...more4.5 stars.
This book wasn't what I expected, I think because the cover screams contemporary at me (SO MUCH EYELINER). This isn't contemporary. It's a lovely and dark and heartbreaking and triumphant historical novel about a girl named Judith who is back in her suspicious small town after a prolonged absence during which time who-knows-what happened to her--Judith can't say, since she no longer has a tongue. Judith's mother and brother don't treat her terribly well, and she continues to carry a torch for her neighbor, Lucas, who seemed inclined to return her sentiments until she disappeared. Now he's engaged to the town's Mean Girl, but Judith can't help but cling to her crush since he's the bright spot in her otherwise awful existence.
This book was very choppy and the style was unusual, things that are usually big book turnoffs for me, but for some reason this book grabbed me and wouldn't let go. Seriously, I stayed up all night to finish it. This book made me cry, cringe, and cheer. I ached in sympathy for Judith, I rooted for her as she fought to overcome all sorts of challenges (including but not limited to: confronting her past, keeping calm in battle, standing up to her mother, embarking on a new friendship, fighting to educate herself against the odds, being brave enough to speak, being brave enough to speak up, giving the smackdown to pedophiles, going after what she wants out of life), and in the end, I wanted to hug her.
This is one of those books you want to snuggle when it's over because your emotions have been yanked around so much that you feel that you and the book have been through an ordeal together. Much love.
Updated 5/21/14 to add trigger warnings: (view spoiler)[Physical and emotional abuse, extreme sexual harassment, attempted rape (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Fair warning: This may be the goriest novel I've ever read, adult or YA. If you have a weak stomach, steer clear of this one.
You weren't a...moreFair warning: This may be the goriest novel I've ever read, adult or YA. If you have a weak stomach, steer clear of this one.
You weren't as stupid as your friends in this book, so I'll give some of the stupid things you did in this book a pass. You at least comprehended some of the possible outcomes and, y'know, looked before you leaped, at least marginally. I still love you.
WTF. Just. Seriously. What the fuck? I thought you had some brains, and your handling of your relationship with Jazz was actually pretty intelligent and cool. I liked you. But then. THEN. What on earth possessed you to think that going on a serial killer's scavenger hunt could possibly have a result that wasn't (view spoiler)[neatly delivering yourself--literally--to the serial killer in question (hide spoiler)]? SERIOUSLY. I am this close to saying that you deserved what you got. Because really, come on.
Dear G. William,
You only got two very brief scenes in this book, which is probably why I still think you're dope. Keep on being awesome, last sane character in this series. You are probably the rest of the cast's only hope for survival in book three.
Dear Mystery Plot,
You were actually kind of badass! The game was very clever, actually, and when Jazz made his big leap into revelation territory, I was impressed. It was tricksy enough that I hadn't caught on miles ahead of the characters, and it was one of those reveals that makes you go, "Oh my God, that makes so much sense!" and not one that makes you scratch your head because the logic leap just didn't track. Your logic tracked. Much <3.
It's too bad your awesome mystery plot was ruined by idiots. If only things from here on out could be G. William and Jasper versus EVERYONE. I would watch that TV series.
This is not my kind of book. If I wrote a blurb about this book and showed it to my past self, my past self would raise a skeptical eyebrow (my past s...moreThis is not my kind of book. If I wrote a blurb about this book and showed it to my past self, my past self would raise a skeptical eyebrow (my past self has powers I don't, apparently) and wonder what on earth inspired my future self to even bother with this book. It is so not my thing. Before I read this, I thought I would hate it, or at least find it boring. But I had to read it for book club, so I heroically took on the task, starting well in advance so I could take as many breaks to read better books as I needed.
...150 pages later I emerged blinking into the real world in shock. I loved it. But I stopped after that 150 pages because I was totally, 100% convinced that the second half of the book would ruin it for me. I lived the next week in dread of needing to pick it up again. Then I finished it. And...still loved it. SERIOUSLY. I couldn't believe it. When I turned the second to last page (more on that later), I was in complete awe of Rainbow Rowell and Eleanor and Park and this book because it was amazing. Somehow. Even though this kind of book really isn't my thing.
This book is a boy meets girl story. There honestly isn't much else there. But it is a great boy meets girl story, one that will bring back vivid memories of high school (for better and worse) and make you ache for the wonderful, flawed, real characters and their wonderful, flawed, real relationship.
The thing that killed me about this book is the very. last. freaking. sentence. (Mild spoiler ahead, so... (view spoiler)[It was one of those "open to interpretation" endings that drive me absolutely bonkers. JUST TELL ME WHAT HAPPENS, DAMN IT. I hate it when authors do that to me. They think it's all artsy, but from my perspective, it's just a huge cop-out. Like they tried to write an ending but it all came out horribly awkward (and I can relate, believe me), so they decided to just cut out the last paragraph and maybe people would think them artsy and creative and not realize that the author just sucks at writing endings. (hide spoiler)])
I would recommend this book to everyone, simply because I have no idea who this book would appeal to. I wouldn't have said it would appeal to me, but there you have it. Read three chapters. If you're not hooked by then, the rest of the book will probably leave you unmoved. But if you're like me, you won't even realize when you breeze past the end of the "trial" third chapter, so engrossed in Eleanor and Park's story that you will totally lose yourself. Enjoy.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Fun, entertaining voice. Doesn't read like it's over a century old. However, my enjoyment was lessened by the existence of Pervy Jervie (thanks to Tan...moreFun, entertaining voice. Doesn't read like it's over a century old. However, my enjoyment was lessened by the existence of Pervy Jervie (thanks to Tandie for that appropriate moniker!) a.k.a. Daddy-Long-Legs, who gave off huge creeper vibes.(less)
This book and I got off to a rocky start, but its Southern charm won me over in the end. I had a hard time identifying with Homecoming queen...more3.5 stars.
This book and I got off to a rocky start, but its Southern charm won me over in the end. I had a hard time identifying with Homecoming queen hopeful Harper and her "opposites attract" love interest, ultra-hipster David (and their awkward love triangle with Harper's poor boyfriend)--but the book's fast paced plot kept me turning pages, and there were enough moments of hilarity to keep me from getting too frustrated with the characters. This is the start to another cute YA paranormal series from Rachel Hawkins (author of the Hex Hall series).
Thanks to Penguin and Edelweiss for providing me with a review copy.(less)