This book was ridiculous, and I really liked it. It was a perfect summer read, and it served up exactly what I wanted: an exciting action adventure sc...moreThis book was ridiculous, and I really liked it. It was a perfect summer read, and it served up exactly what I wanted: an exciting action adventure science fiction medical thriller YA with the flimsiest of plots but a strong voice. Though all its flaws shined through, still I read on, enjoying every popcorn-y moment of it.(less)
Hey so apparently Code Name Verity wasn't Elizabeth Wein's first rodeo on the emotional brutality circuit. The Winter Prince is just as ruthlessly pre...moreHey so apparently Code Name Verity wasn't Elizabeth Wein's first rodeo on the emotional brutality circuit. The Winter Prince is just as ruthlessly precise in its restrained depiction of wild and complicated feelings under stressful situations. And, okay, I feel like that description is something that only makes sense to me, but the beauty in Wein's writing is in that contradictory dynamic: careful narrators committed to truth, and all sorts of hard love blooming underneath the surface of that narrative. That hard love seeps to the surface in ways that feel like punches to the gut.
The Arthurian mythology isn't really my thing, and prior to reading this book, I couldn't recall anything about who Medraut was, but I found the story easy to follow, easy to enjoy. The characters were fully inhabited, not just placeholders falling into particular roles or fates. The climactic scenes tore my heart out, but I wished for an ending that left more resolved, that lingered more on the changes that had occurred in the relationships--though I understood clearly just how exhausted the characters were and how they deserved to get ushered off the page and sleep for a few days. But my feelings re: the ending don't diminish the story at all: there are four more books after this AND the series moves off to the Aksumite Empire next, so I'm a happy reader.(less)
I don't gravitate toward fantasy, but I quite enjoyed this one. A princess secretly married to the king of a neighboring country, on what seems to be...moreI don't gravitate toward fantasy, but I quite enjoyed this one. A princess secretly married to the king of a neighboring country, on what seems to be the eve of war! A lack of ridiculous YA romance! (The middle of the book suffered from the addition of a rote crush, but from a plot standpoint, I was pleased how that resolved, but I am an awful person, so. I'll refrain from spoilers.) Adventure! Awesome, consistently strong plotting! A fantasy culture that was distinctly non-WASPy! Nice little twists on what it meant to be a Chosen One, particularly when one is in a long line of Chosen Ones.
And, in general, I really love stories that are about faith, community, and developing agency, and on those themes, The Girl of Fire and Thorns didn't disappoint. It was thoughtful about choices/decisions, choosing, and being chosen, and I looooved that. I loved that Elisa realized, in the middle of the book, that being the Chosen One was not about her. It was about her service, what she can do for others, what she must do for others. I also believed in her transformation into a veritable warrior princess; the book established from the start that Elisa was a good learner, and logically, I could follow how she picked up on things, and how she grew more confident in leading.
Emotionally, however, Elisa fell a little short of feeling real to me. Though I could understand her and sympathized with her, and I loved the story of her gaining agency, I never felt the real girl underneath the princess or the warrior. (And maybe that was purposeful and part of Carson's aim, but I still felt like I was missing out on something.) And because of that, what should have been huge emotional moments fell flat for me. I had mixed feelings about Elisa's fatness; on one hand, I totally appreciated having a protagonist whose physical body falls short of perceived perfection. (I mean, I read lots of romance novels, in which it's a basic matter of course for a heroine to catalog her physical flaws as "too skinny" and "legs that are too long"; in comparison, in The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Elisa's weight has narrative weight and isn't an unimportant part of who she feels she is, at least at the beginning. And I liked that.) On the other hand, it's so unique to have a kickass protagonist who's overweight, that it was disappointing that there was no reflection about her overeating, even though it was painfully obvious that it was emotional overeating, and it was all resolved very patly by her losing-weight-and-becoming-awesome. Ooooookay.
It was a little too incomplete for my tastes; I understand there are more books to come, but I had a few lingering questions that gnawed away at the satisfaction I felt, because I wasn't sure if they were just convenient plot holes or little wormholes that'll be exploited for dramatic effect in future books. The ending itself, however, did a good job concluding and settling the major threads of the book, and it left the protagonist in a positive, warm and fuzzy place, so.(less)
It's the turn of the 20th century in the rural English village of Swampsea. Briony is a witch, and she's about to be hanged. She's asking, very polite...moreIt's the turn of the 20th century in the rural English village of Swampsea. Briony is a witch, and she's about to be hanged. She's asking, very politely, to be hanged right now and to just get it over with, but for us, she loops back to narrate her story. It's a twisty one.
This book, a YA historical supernatural fantasy, does not hold your hand. It's a watch-where-you-step sort of read, in which there can be no readerly skimming of sentences, because you never know when a sentence, a paragraph, or an idea might twist and turn. Even when carefully reading, there weren't a lot of toeholds to be found; I didn't always understand what was going on, or what the creatures in this were, or which way was up, basically. I'm not usually a reader who likes to work at reading (what, I'm lazy and I do this for enjoyment, what do I look like, an English major?) but I worked for this one, because I loved Briony. A lot. She's a tough girl who is very, very, very hard on herself, and she has good reasons for it.
The pacing was sometimes frustrating, and the resolution was a bit neat for my tastes, but I loved so much about this book. The voice. (Franny Billingsley may do whatever she wishes to the English language, because ALL THE WORDS are at her command.) Briony. Rose. Eldric. The way sexism is depicted in this story, lightly but ever-present, that made it feel like the real world (sadly), despite this taking place in an alt-version of England, and how it surprised me when I got near the end of the book and one of the characters brought up the issue of emasculation and I went, wow, that too was here all along in the book, wasn't it? The way that the time period depicted was important, to the characters and to the plot, and the oncoming changes in the world were subtly palpable.
Oh, and ignore the generic cover that could be swapped on to almost any paranormal YA. The book is way less bland than the cover (pretty as it is).(less)
A sneaky, funny, tenacious high school journalist uncovers a gothic mystery in her quiet little village. Also, she has awesome friendships, and her im...moreA sneaky, funny, tenacious high school journalist uncovers a gothic mystery in her quiet little village. Also, she has awesome friendships, and her imaginary friend turns out to be not as imaginary as she thought. The book overturns expectations and YA tropes in really enjoyable ways, ways that create a unqiue, rich, and emotionally-grounded story.
I absolutely loved this book except for the ending. It's not a cliffhanger; I just found it unsatisfying and too "and thus ends Act I!", even for a first book in a series. (I admittedly had such high hopes for the ending, given the first book of SRB's first trilogy, The Demon's Lexicon, has one of the most sublime endings I've ever read.)(less)
I read this charmingly funny book approximately a million times when I was in elementary & middle school, and I spent many hours daydreamingly Mar...moreI read this charmingly funny book approximately a million times when I was in elementary & middle school, and I spent many hours daydreamingly Mary Sue-ing myself into the world. I wish I still had my copy!(less)
A move to a new apartment, the Science Unit of Destiny, slobbery dogs and wild parrots and Seurat and umami. It's a story about the importance & u...moreA move to a new apartment, the Science Unit of Destiny, slobbery dogs and wild parrots and Seurat and umami. It's a story about the importance & unimportance of details, rule-breaking and rule-making, and the choice to act. Rebecca Stead writes with such emotional clarity without sacrificing emotional complexity. While I think the ending to the book might have wrapped up a little too neatly--a disservice to all the imperfection and subtleties that came before it--Liar & Spy was still an engrossing, weighty, funny, sad read. I'm a little sad I only have one more book by her left to read, but considering how frequently I get to reread When You Reach Me, I'm still a lucky reader.(less)