I finally get this book reviewed a year after reading it, after I just re-read it, and everything was fresh in my mind... and then I delete it by acciI finally get this book reviewed a year after reading it, after I just re-read it, and everything was fresh in my mind... and then I delete it by accident??? Sobs.
I don't suppose anyone has a Goodreads email with my review they could send back to me?
This was such an amazing end to the trilogy. End? Cue more sobbing. ...more
It is a great testament to this book's magnificence that I read it without once being reminded of another book (except for a nod to the dangerous OldIt is a great testament to this book's magnificence that I read it without once being reminded of another book (except for a nod to the dangerous Old Willow in the Lord of the Rings) and yet when I breathlessly finished reading it I could immediately say: this had the classic feel of my favorites: it had the awkward, strong girl hero like in The Blue Sword; it had the darkness and danger and complicated magic of Sabriel in it; and it's definitely a top notch girl friendship book even though the friendship of Neishka and Kasia is nothing like Karou's and Zuzana's in Daughter of Smoke & Bone. But it's just as golden. And that ending, oh, it had a surprising, beautiful, soul-wrenching quality to it that reminded me of the climax of A Wrinkle in Time while being utterly different.
But Neishka herself is so unique I can't think of another heroine to compare her too. I loved that she was at one point mistaken for a young (and more trustworthy) Baba Yaga; she had that orneriness about her. (Speaking of Baba Yaga, this book had the wonderful feel of Eastern Europe and Russia about its edges and in its names). Neishka also reminded me of a mischeivous wood elf. Not a proud Lord of the Rings type, but more like Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, or Anne of Green Gables always getting into one of her scrapes, if these girls had been a little older and allowed to run more frequently barefooted through the woods and track mud back into the house.
Which brings me to the Wood, and what an enigma it was. It was evil, oh so very evil, and I really struggled with that because, you know, Ents!! And even Huorns (scary things, but they used their dreadful power to destroy evil). This Wood was like that scene of Snow White running through the forest with the trees snagging her dress and trying to grab her that terrified me endlessly when I was 5 years old. This Wood made you feel five years old again, surrounded by trees with horrible eyes staring out of them. This was much worse than the Old Willow trying to swallow up Merry and Pippin. This was so WRONG. But there's a reason for the wrongness that finally makes sense in the end.
Then there is this interesting tangle of a - romance? - not quite the right word! about it too. I expect a lot of people to go up in arms about 17 year old Neishka taking advantage of 150 year old Sarkan; I expect even more outrage over the horrible way he mocked and name-called our heroine, but I've thought about it carefully and I think the author took care to explain the complicated creature that was the Dragon (Sarkan). He was like an army drill sargeant in charge of shaping a spindly raw recruit into a fighting machine, only to discover she was his equal, but in an entirely unexpected way. It was when they discovered that their magic was so different but complimentary that I truly fell in love with this story. And Sarkan's crankiness is so very adorable (in a sort of Gandalf way), because along with it we'd get these tantalizing hints that under all the crusty salt he was golden:
I darted a quick glance at him. He was staring down at the dough trying to keep his scowl, and flushed at the same time with the high transcendent light that he brought to his elaborate workings: delighted and also annoyed, trying not to be.
Oh another I loved about Sarkan are all the spells he planted in his tower. Neishka is creeping down one of this hallways and THIS happens:
The carpet widened until it filled all the hallway I couldn't see and stretched away beyond. It didn't feel like wool anymore. I stood on warm lapping scales, soft as leather, rising and falling beneath my feet.
And oh gosh there is so much more that I love about this story. The wizard's library, the Charovnikov:
"Oh, - " Ballo hesitated, and then he went down the hall to a shelf of ledgers, each of them nearly half his own height: he muttered some small dusty spell over them as drew his fingers along, and one page gleamed out far down the shelf. He lifted out the heavy book with a grunt and brought it to the table.
I loved the Dragon's library too in his tower, and how of all the books in his library, Neishka happened to grab the one about Summoning the Truth. Even better though is how she and the Dragon used the Truth both in the first half of the story and then een more stunningly at the end.
I had the feeling the Summoning wasn't really meant to be cast alone: as if truth didn't mean anything without someone to share it with; you could shout truth into the air forever, and spend your life doing it, if someone didn't come and listen.
In stark contrast to the time Neishka chose to conjure illusion instead of Truth because that was what the courtiers wanted: "they wanted to feel themselves part of it, of the queen's rescue they wanted to be living in a song." The same courtiers that puzzle her when she first arrives at the King's city but after three days she immediately sees through them.
It had never occurred to me that Alicja had been looking for a target of malice. We weren't stupidly cruel to each other in Dvernik. Of course there were quarrels....But when harvest came, your neighbors came to help you gather and thresh, and when the shadow of the Wood stole over us, we knew better than to make it any darker.
This was just one of the themes running through this book like the river Spindle running through the valley and the Wood. Of all magic spells, Truth is the strongest but how many people actually want truth? How many of us seek illusion instead? And how hard it is to face Truth in another person, how they REALLY see you? What Neishka and Kasia had to face in each other?
So. well. done. Oh, by the way, speaking of Kasia, I grinned at this about her:
There had been a tourney to celebrate Stashek's coronation, and he'd asked Kasia to be his champion, much to his grandmother's dismay.
Another more subtle theme swirled around Sarkan and his tower and how he stayed away from the people of his valley, walled up behind enchanted stone.
He'd kept himself apart for a century behind these stone walls full of old magic. Maybe he would let me come in, but hed want to close the doors up again behind me. He'd done it before, after all. I'd made myself a rope of silk dresses and magic to get out, but I couldn't make him climb out the window if he didn't want to.
Which leads me to this drop of loveliness:
But I realized now without quite thinking it through, I'd half-imagined myself a place here in the tower. My little room upstairs, a cheerful rummaging through the laboratory and the library, tormenting Sarkan like an untidy ghost who left his books out of place and threw his great doors open, and who made him come to the spring festival and stay long enough to dance once or twice.
Note: this is not a young adult book, even though Neishka is a 17 years old. There are two extremely violent battle scenes and two sex scenes.
I received a digital copy of Uprooted for my honest review. I was not paid or in any way compensated for raving about it. I truly, honestly, deeply enjoyed this book. I plan to buy myself a copy to always keep, but thank you to Del Ray and Net Galley for giving me a sneak peak....more
Almost makes me want to go on a first date again! The scuppies really made it fun, but just as fun were the real elements too, like the nervous jitterAlmost makes me want to go on a first date again! The scuppies really made it fun, but just as fun were the real elements too, like the nervous jitters - "does he like me???" and the treasure map and the ice orb and the silver tea service and the violin. oh yes, the violin playing.
But I think the best part of all was the pre-date, in fact the Puppet That Bites story. That was so perfectly Duaghter of Smoke and Bone and Karou. Even Brimstone would have approved of that one.
And bonus!! You get to learn some quirky facts about Czech culture. Like how a monk sprinkled Golgotha dirt in the Kutna Hora graveyard in the Middle Ages, making it the most popular graveyard in Central Europe... the graveyard where the coffins in the Poison Cafe come from!!! And speaking of the Poison Cafe, the cream and sugar dishes were engraved with arsenic and strychinine, hemlock and cyanide. Cute, right? But back to Czech culture. So their version of St Nicholas goes around on December 5 giving candy and small gifts to children, accompanied by an angel and a devil. In a holiday tradition that is the stuff of nightmores, the devil threatens to scoop bad children into his sack and carry them to hell (and you thought coal in your stocking was harsh?)
The Daughter of Smoke and Bone books were all written in third person, and this story was in first person, but the feel was just the same. Now that's impressive. Just as impressive was how Mik's voice stood out from Zuzana's, managing to be just as funny and intimate but also distinct and so very Mik.
Do take a moment and look at all the quotes for this book (not just mine, below, but the whole Goodreads list. They are all wonderfully silly and smart, quirky and romantic.
"The faintest tug at the left corner of her mouth, captured like a smile on pause. I want to unpause it and watch it unfurl."
"My head feels like a snow globe that's been shaken, and glitter is swirling around in it like unmoored stars."
Maybe my favorite quote, Mik saying to Zuzana:
"Imagining you doing, like, secret errands over the rooftops, or vanishing through trapdoors that leave no seam when they close, just traces of silver dust."
It's like he's describing Karou. Secret errands and vanishing aand trapdoors? And it hits me that Mik thinks I'm mysterious. It is, hands down, the best compliment I've ever been given.
Oh, but this one is awesome too, because it describe exactly my kind of favorite conversation too:
She rolls with random things like peacock footprints so that every threat gets woven in and every topic gets bigger, weirder, more fun. It's the best kind of conversation. We're laughing a lot.
And the perfect adjective to match with happiness? Layer-cake happiness. Because the best kind of happiness is like a layer cake, with different textures and tastes all through it.
Another amazing description for that feeling we all KNOW (but rarely experience), often less imaginatively described as chemistry, or sparks:
the mysterious connectivity of nerves, little rivers of fire that zither through your entire body awakening sleeper cells of feeling, each one adding another dimension to this mysterious inner landscape that is so much bigger than it seems, possibly infinitely, unknowably bigger.
What I loved most about this book: The way the lives of two children in Nazi Germany are changed forever by picking up a shortwave broadcast of a childWhat I loved most about this book: The way the lives of two children in Nazi Germany are changed forever by picking up a shortwave broadcast of a children's science radio program, broadcast from France. And in France, I loved "seeing" the world through the senses of young blind girl, Marie-Laure, and how she changes the broken life of her great-uncle Etienne. How they read Jules Vernes together and when Marie is left alone, she reads her braille copy of 20 Thousand Leagues under the Sea out loud into her uncle's transmitter and broadcasts it on radio waves, to feel a little less alone.
I loved how all the light we cannot see - both outside the visible spectrum, and perhaps another kind of light, maybe hope? maybe finding the strength to face fears, to stand up for the truth? - is woven into this story in various ways.
They hear a program about sea creatures, another about the North Pole. Jutta likes one on magnets. Werner's favorite is one about light: eclipses and sundials, auroras and wavelengths... he likes to crouch in his dormer and imagine radio waves like mile-long harp strings, bending and vibrating over Zollverein, flying through forests, through cities, through walls. At midnight he and Jutta prowl the ionosphere, searching for that lavish, penetrating voice. When they find it, Werner feels as if he as been launched into a different existence, a secret place where great discoveries are possible, where an orphan from a coal town can solvessome vital mystery hidden in the physical world.
I enjoyed how the entire book was constructed of one page to two page vignettes, first in Werner and Jutte's world in Germany, then switching to Marie-Laure's world in France. Each vignette was a beautifully crafted tiny story, and all these tiny stories connected into a perfectly paced larger story... and yet each vignette could also stand one its own.
And the descriptions. Oh my. I've read plenty of novels set in Paris, and I've been to Paris myself, but never has it come more alive than described in this story, entirely through Maire-Laure's hearing, taste, touch and sense of smell.
All summer the smells of nettles and daisies and rainwater purl through the gardens. She and her father cook a pear tart and burn it by accident, and her father opens all the windows to let out the smoke, and she hears violin music rise from the street below.
I loved the museum of natural history where her father worked as a locksmith and keeper of keys (how very many keys are needed by a museum!). The museum almost became like a home to me, because it was like a home to Marie, full of dusty collections of bones and snails and minerals and pressed plants and eccentric, distracted collectors, curators and scientists. Ancient elephants' teeth, exotic jellyfish, herbarium sheets.
The hardest part of the book were the scenes set in the terrible school Werner attends in order to escape being sent into the coal mines. Here is where the inhumanity of the Nazis was bred; here at last I could see how boys could be turned into monstrous men in such numbers. Werner ducks his head and does what he must in order to survive, while at the same time dying a little bit inside everyday. His friend Frederick, who is a dreamer, a gentle old soul, who loves bird watching, is destroyed by the school and yet in a way is freer than Werner because when asked to do something terrible, he is able to resist and say no.
Frau Elena is a minor character but precious on each page she's mentioned, for how she raised and loved a houseful of orphans in Germany. Also Madame Manec who became part of the French resistance at age 73, I think, and who cooked the best omlettes in the world.
This last bit is spoilery. Proceed with caution.
I loved the irony in how the radio system of triangulation that Werner perfects for the Nazis to hunt down their enemies is eventually what leads him to Marie-Laure, to the same house that years before broadcast the radio program that opened a wonderful world of possiblity to Werner. ...more
Lots of things to love in this book. It's wonderful when you have so many things you love in a book that you start numbering them because you're so exLots of things to love in this book. It's wonderful when you have so many things you love in a book that you start numbering them because you're so excited to see how high your numbers will go.
1) A secret room in the New York City Public library where Echo actually lives and hoards books.
2) Echo's whip-smart but vulnerable character: "she had the unflappable compsure of those who have lived too long in too short a span of time"
3) the interesting use of travel via the "in-between"
4) The collection of foreign words that don't have equivalent meanings in English (but should). "Kalverliefde. The euphoria you experience when you fall in love for the first time. For a word that contained only four letters, love felt like a monumental leap"
5) Wonderful characterization! "Echo did not giggle. She chuckled. She cackled. Occasionally, she even chortled. But giggling? Heavens, no."
6) Laugh out loud moments! "If her hormones had a face, she would slap it"
7) A Lord of the Rings reference! "Greatness is not always good." "Yeah, yeah, one ring to trule them all, I get it"
8) Real life truth for teens. Actually, great advice for any age. "The young always think they are invincible. Right up to the moment they learn otherwise. Usually, the hard way" "To know the truth, you must first want the truth"
9) a delicious new mythology developed out of the real Serbian mythology of the Ala, a female spirit associated with bad weather, sometimes seen as a raven, whose traditional enemy is the dragon.
10) The clever reimagining of the firebird as the only possible bridge for peace between two warring mythical races: the bird-like Avicen and the fire-breathing dragon-descended Drakhar.
11) the symbolism of the magpie and the mirror!
"They make excellent thieves, you know." There was something unbearably sad about him. For a brief moment she saw the person he might have been long ago, before the war had taken its toll. "They're smart, too... they are the only birds that pass the mirror test... The humble magpie is the only bird that can recognize it's own reflection."
12) the hints about Echo's name. "The firebird?" Yes. The word held an echo, as though it were spoken by many voices at once.
13) masks and the past: "just because it's in the past doesn't mean its over"
14) an epic betrayal
15) An interesting collection of settings, from delicious but too-short moments in Scotland and Kyoto, to Strasbourg (needed more of that, too), followed by the Black Forest in Germany. I've decided I love fantasy settings even more when they are intermixed with with real settings that I might have the opportunity to visit someday.
Though the book is a respectable 360 pages, I wish it could have been longer. I dearly wanted to see more of the marvelous settings and characters (definitely want more of the Ala!) Perrin was developed so well I thought he would be critical to the story, but he had only one early-on scene!
I thought all the characters were memorable (even Ruby), and I wanted to see more of them; I wanted this to be an EPIC fantasy cast. I wanted more back story! More history! More world-building! I got fantastic HINTS of all this, but I wanted MOOOORRREEE; and not as a sequel. Sequels give you more, yes, but what I mean is I wanted THIS book to give me more. I still felt an itch when it finished.
Many reviewers have compared it to Daughter of Smoke and Bone and I definitely see the same appeal. The parallels between the stories didn't bother me; I don't think The Midnight Girl was a copy cat, but it didn't quite have the same depth as Daughter of Smoke and Bone. However I think it will appeal to readers who want more action and less description and introspection. I've only read one of Cassandra Clare's books but my gut feeling is it will appeal more to her fans than to Laini Taylor's.
Disclosure: there is some kissing in this book and sexual innuendo but no sex. There are two male side characters that become romantically involved.
Many thanks to Random House and NetGalley for the free advance copy. It did not influence my review in anyway. ...more
This is about a human girl rescuing a vampire, and then forming an alliance with him, and eventually even bonding with him.
I didn't think there was a
This is about a human girl rescuing a vampire, and then forming an alliance with him, and eventually even bonding with him.
I didn't think there was a word for human so sicko as to rescue a vampire, because no human ever done it. Before.
Interview With the Vampire appealed to our curiosity about life from a vampire's perspective, and made the vampire sympathetic; this book follows a similar track with a sympathetic vampire that a human girl could be moved to rescue, and eventually bond with (but not quite fall in love with), but Twilight went all out and turned it into a love against all odds. Sunshine was published in 2003, two years before Twilight was published.
What I thought was really clever about this story, besides the unexpected reversal of a human rescuing a vampire, was how the author takes the "opposites attract" theorem to the extreme. The main character, Rae, is so much a creature of light, of sun, that her nickname is Sunshine. Sunlight is anathema to vampires. Constantine is a creature of the dark. She pulls him into the sunlight; he pulls her into his shadowy realm - and they are both changed as a result of it.
(Side note: unlike most of McKinley's books, Sunshine is not in the young adult category. It's more graphic than her other books. Body parts are described graphically in several scenes).
Despite McKinley's incredible talent for world-building in some of her other books, she rather more focuses on the world-building of Charlie's coffeehouse than of Constantine's (the vampire's) life. We only get one sparse glimpse of his lair, and even less of his history, or even of his present, aside from his occasional appearances in the story. I wanted more than just hints about the Wars and the bad spots. What are bad spots? I suppose that's what makes them so creepy, is that we don't really know what they are. (These aren't really complaints, by the way, because I do like a book that leaves me hungry for more). Here's one genuine complaint though: McKinley's typical underdeveloped antagonist doesn't appear until the very end, and none of the evil vampires are given due representation; they are just there to add necessary conflict.
But despite a few issues, I enjoyed the convoluted journey, mostly in a girl's head, that was this book. I was already familiar with this rambling, musing, head-dump type of story from Dragonhaven and though Sunshine didn't have the same level of world-building as Dragonhaven, it did have impressive character building. Sunshine, Mel, Charlie, Pat, the mother, the grandmother, and Yolande all grew on me. Despite being emotionless and devoid of character, Constantine did have an interesting manner of speaking that grew on me too.
He was silent for a while, and then he said, dispassionately as ever, “I had feared that even if you could, as you claimed, protect my body from the fire as we crossed the open spaces, that the sun would blind me. This did not happen. I am relieved.”
It's been done with Spock and many others, but it works, so why not do the same with emotionless Constantine? - have him try to make a joke:
“My kind does not surprise easily," he said. "You surprised me, this morning. I have thus used up my full quota of shock and consternation for some interval." I stared at him. "You made a joke." "I have heard this kind of thing may happen...”
Here's a touch of Sunshine's voice, for contrast, after a screaming match with her mother:
Mel began collaring the staff who had crammed into the office door to watch and be kind of a Greek chorus of horror, one by one heaving them physically toward what they ought to be doing, like minding the customers, before they all came back to see what was going on too, which given Charlie’s kind of customers, they would be quite capable of.
Here's a bit of why I really loved Mel's character:
There are two very distinct sides to Mel. There’s the wild boy side, the motorcycle tough. He’s cleaned up his act, but it’s still there. And then there’s this strange vast serenity that seems to come from the fact that he doesn’t feel he has to prove anything. The blend of anarchic thug and tranquil self-possession makes him curiously restful to be around, like walking proof that oil and water can mix. It’s also great on those days that everyone else in the coffee hose is screaming.
More on Mel that made me smile:
He was absentmindedly rubbing the oak tree tattoo on his shoulder. He was a tattoo rubber whn he was thinking about something else, which meant that whatever he was cooking or working on could get pretty liberally dispersed about his person on ruminative days.
I couldn't help adding this one, too:
“I wondered what you'd have on the side with a plate of Deep Fried Anxiety. Pickles? Coleslaw? Potato-strychnine mash?”
Though the world-building for the vampires, weres, pixies and other "others" in this story was a little thin, there were still some fascinating tibits. This is classic McKinley: When Sunshine gains the ability to see in the dark, McKinley doesn’t just think through what it would be like to see in the dark, but she goes one step further: recognizing the fact that when you can see in the dark, you can also see into shadows. And what would be the implications of seeing into shadows?
It throws your balance off, seeing through shadows. Your depth perception goes wrong, like trying to look through someone else’s glasses. Everything has funny dark-light edges to it…You get your new looking through bad spectacles distortion on everything, including your own hands, y our own body, the faces and bodies of the people you love and trust.
...I blinked my treacherous eyes, watching the things in the shadows slither and sparkle. I had plenty to worry about already. I didn’t have to worry about vampires too. One vampire. The last thing I wanted to be doing was worrying about him… I hadn’t thought I’d had any – did I mean innocence? – to lose, after those nights on the lake. I didn’t know you could go on finding out you’d had stuff by losing it.
The ending reminded me of the endings of Spindle's End and the Hero and the Crown, drawn out and over-told (at least for me). Sometimes I just need some action minus all the commentary. I felt like Mel was given short-shrift at the end. And why was the goddess of pain built up to be this big worrisome character: "watch your back, Sunshine" repeated over and over again... and then nothing comes of her at all but an interrogation with no resolution? Maybe McKinley meant to write a sequel wherein the goddess would be the new main antagonist?
But forgive my harping over minor details: overall this book was why I keep reading McKinley, to get really immersed into a character's head, to get really immersed in another world, or a fascinating twist on our world, and to enjoy all the odd (and yet true) comparisons she comes up with, like this one: "I still wasn't expecting my stomach to hop back and forth like water on a hot griddle."
And I also have to admit I went back to that scene in Constantine's lair and re-read it because I loved it so much. The goblet, the gargoyle buttons (first faces, then buttocks), the lavender shadows, the hydras, the infestation of triffids, the entire chariot race from Ben Hur, and the cupboard wih curlicues leaping out of its lid:
Con stared at the ugly door for a moment as if making up his mind, and then opened it. Inside were rows and rows and rows of tiny drawers. I could feel the - well, it wasn't heat, and it wasn't a smell, and it wasn't tiny voices, but it was a little like all those three together. There were dozens of things in those drawers and not an inert one in the lot. They were all yelling/secreting/radiating a kind of ME! ME! ME! ME!... Con opened a drawer and lifted out a chain. The other voices/emissions subsided at once, some of them with a distinct grumble (or fart).
My daughters read this one for book group and loved it; I confess I only read parts of it but what I read I liked, especially the dragon, Star. (I lovMy daughters read this one for book group and loved it; I confess I only read parts of it but what I read I liked, especially the dragon, Star. (I loved where his name comes from: how his body shines like stars at night). I also loved the concept of a luck dragon, but really wished it had been developed more in the story....more
There is no better way to fall in love with history than to time-travel back into history via a story - especially if you are time traveling with younThere is no better way to fall in love with history than to time-travel back into history via a story - especially if you are time traveling with young King Tut hismelf. I read an early version of this story and loved it, and am thrilled to see the published version available now! ...more
Written from the perspective of a 5th grade girl, Rose, diagnosed with high functioning autism. My 7th and 5th graders were assigned this for book cluWritten from the perspective of a 5th grade girl, Rose, diagnosed with high functioning autism. My 7th and 5th graders were assigned this for book club, and we were all surprised how much we liked it! It was insightful (and fun) to see the world through the eyes and voic) of someone who sees things very differently than us. Rose likes routine; she times everything done to the minute. She is very serious about rules and is not allowed to ride the school bus because she yells at the bus driver for breaking rules - like forgetting to signal (grin). Her two most important things are her homonyms list and discovering new homonyms, and her dog Rain (Reign, Rein).
This books tackles all kinds of issues but in a graceful, non-intrusive way. Her single father is an alcoholic and struggles to her understand her. Her classmates also struggle with her lack of social skills and her obsession with homonyms and rules, but the teachers really make an effort to help Rose navigate the difficulties of socialization, and it's neat to see how things work out with the other kids.
My favorite part (but also the hardest part) was how the importance of keeping rules gets Rose into a thorny situation with her beloved Rain. It's all tied in with a hurricane that sweeps through upstate New York and throws everyone's lives awry....more