An epic tale of friendship, forgiveness, and sea travel, The Very Itchy Bear reveals messages that will resonate in the minds and hearts of its readerAn epic tale of friendship, forgiveness, and sea travel, The Very Itchy Bear reveals messages that will resonate in the minds and hearts of its readers. A profoundly moving story chronicling the complicated mechanics of inter-species relationships, and the struggles they must face in the journey for acceptance... of each other. ~fin~...more
It's been a long time since I've so much as read a book, and I'm so glad I dove back in here.
As always, Jeaniene's prose is punchy and fun, her charaIt's been a long time since I've so much as read a book, and I'm so glad I dove back in here.
As always, Jeaniene's prose is punchy and fun, her characters familiar friends, and romantic chemistry electric (see what I did there, huh?).
Vlad and Leila make a great match, and I've enjoyed their journey immensely, though I have to admit I was surprised to learn it wasn't where we would be leaving them. Book four, ahoy! We don't see much character growth here, because, well, they're already great, well fleshed-out characters. We DO see their relationship grow, their love deepen, and Vlad finally shed the last layers of his emotional armour towards Leila. Which is sweet.
And you know what? I'm going to stop trying to pretend I can offer an intelligent, objective review on the subject of anything Frost offers. At the end of the day, I enjoy these books too damn much to care about their flaws, or even notice them. This book could have been a train wreck for all I know, but it was FUN. It offers, in perfectly balanced servings, everything I want from a 'forget myself' book (Action! Humour! Romance! Magic! Scorching chemistry!), as do all of Frost's, and that is precisely why I keep coming back for more.
And to think I didn't know it existed yesterday. What a treat, meeting Shadow again. His is entity's no longer a secret, but he's still a mystery. AndAnd to think I didn't know it existed yesterday. What a treat, meeting Shadow again. His is entity's no longer a secret, but he's still a mystery. And he's got himself in trouble. Again. ...more
Leigh Bardugo's shorts are almost too good. I'm beginning to seriously think she's holding out on us.
My dream: one day, when the Darkling and Alina haLeigh Bardugo's shorts are almost too good. I'm beginning to seriously think she's holding out on us.
My dream: one day, when the Darkling and Alina have long since had their happily ever after, and Mal has run off with a pretty, dark-haired thing and had a small army of babies, and spends his days happily buzzed from all that kvas, Leigh will sit down at her computer, and finally decide to put together her collection of fairytales. Which, of course, she's had sitting, typed up on her computer, for years but is holding back to torture us.
Because, you know, torture is kind of what she does. She's just like that....more
It's not often you can call a book a train wreck in a good way. Yet it sums up the plot of Good Omens nicely.
Despite six thousand years of planning, aIt's not often you can call a book a train wreck in a good way. Yet it sums up the plot of Good Omens nicely.
Despite six thousand years of planning, a great deal of prophecy, and the combined efforts of the forces of Heaven and Hell, it seems rather fitting that Armageddon wouldn't go down smoothly.
Thus, an angel and demon find themselves allies (and, though they may not admit to it, friends); a witch and a witchfinder lovers; and an eleven year old boy and his three best friends the key to making it all happen. Or not.
A Gaiman/Pratchett coupling was always going to straddle the line between whimsical and absurd, but it is, perhaps, one of those straddlings that has to be experienced to really be appreciated and understood. It's kind of like sex--you're never quite gonna get it until you do it. And there's a reason so many do do it--and go back for more.
The book reads most closely, with its blithe, distant narrator, footnotes and absurdism, like a Pratchett novel, but the whimsy, youthful mahem and smooth prose scream Gaiman. For fans of either of its artificers--and most especially for fans of both--that Good Omens is a must-read goes without saying; indeed, most of them will have beat me to the punch in doing so--but this is a book that will appeal to many, while not comfortably sitting in any one genre or category for ease of recommendation.
Simply put, Good Omens is funny. The laugh-out-loud, highlight, bookmark, and force your spouse to listen to 'short' passages recited through barely stifled chortles kind of funny. It possesses a dry, silly wit fans of the late, great Douglas Adams, or of the the equally great, but perfectly punctual, Jasper Fforde will relish. But it's clever. The kind of smart and funny book, that if you met at a party, you'd be hoping to find yourself drunk on the sofa or locked in an empty bedroom with at the end of the night. Indeed, I found myself (albeit sober) locked in a darkened bedroom with it well into the wee hours, and believe that most who give it a chance will find themselves equally charmed with this satirical romp from two of our greatest living fantasy writers. ...more
I've loved this series, but I've never been happier to see one close. Sometimes, it's just time to say goodbye. I'll miGlad I read it, glad it's done.
I've loved this series, but I've never been happier to see one close. Sometimes, it's just time to say goodbye. I'll miss Sookie. I'll miss Eric and Bill and Pam and Sam, and the whole Bon Temp crew, but, for the most part, they've been left in a good place.
As Sookie reached her inevitable (and predictable) happily ever after and conclusion, I smiled a warm smile, put her final book down, and you know what? I didn't feel sad. Not even a little melancholy. This is not the book you'll read, finish, and feel instantly bereft that there's no more. It's just a happy goodbye between old friends. I know we'll always be there for each other, and have 13 books to fall back on if the urge so calls.
But for now? Farewell, Sook. It's been fun. ...more
Rating for Night Huntress 6.5: OK, this was superb. Cat and Bones and... IAN? at the top of their game. I haven't seen them this strong, this fun, thiRating for Night Huntress 6.5: OK, this was superb. Cat and Bones and... IAN? at the top of their game. I haven't seen them this strong, this fun, this sexy and clever for a few books now, and it's a joy to witness.
I don't often think novellas are must-reads, but this one can't be missed. It's just too good....more
Wow. I expected nothing less from Janet after the truly extraordinary Don't Let Me Go, but... The pleasure that comes from reading a truly great, chalWow. I expected nothing less from Janet after the truly extraordinary Don't Let Me Go, but... The pleasure that comes from reading a truly great, challenging novel, is a thrill all the same.
And challenging Where You Are certainly is. It's another of those books which is painful to read, yet all the better for it. Flying from uncomfortable taboos to the gritty realities of grief to sweet, breathless forbidden romance in the space of heartbeats, it's not the book to snuggle up with on a sleepy afternoon. It's confronting, it's heavy, and the most astutely I could put it upon turning its final pages was 'stressful'.
But the best books challenge us. They ask us difficult questions, force us to look inside ourselves, and change us. So. I'm a little rattled, a little distressed, and little bit better.
Janet, I love you. (In a not creepy way. Promise)....more
I've read just one other novella I've enjoyed this much – Gentlemen Send Phantoms by Laini Taylor, and those who know me will know what praise this isI've read just one other novella I've enjoyed this much – Gentlemen Send Phantoms by Laini Taylor, and those who know me will know what praise this is. I worship Laini (it's not creepy. I promise. We all wear clothes to the bi-monthly ritual sacrifices).
A sometimes whimsical, sometimes creepy, retelling of Hansel and Gretel, Bardugo retells the classic fairytale with the ease and mastery of my other hero, Neil Gaiman, who I've long considered master of peculiar folk stories.
Fairytales have a certain quality, a certain texture that, when done just right, do not seem childlike (though still appeal to children), do not seem sweet (though offer their just-desserts), and frighten, while thrilling at the same time. I return to that word, 'whimsy', as I'm quite fond of it. It carries a certain subtlety I love, as, just like the word 'dream' (which is offered when searching for synonyms), not all dreams are sweet ones.
I guessed the outcome of The Witch of Duva many times over – predictable endings each – and I was wrong each time. Leigh took the expected and twisted it just so, wringing out a little extra wonder. Magical, charming, with a pinch of the Darkness which has long torn at Ravka’s heart, The Witch of Duva will appeal to any love of folk stories, acquainted with Shadow and Bone, or not....more
My father once wrote a ‘Letter to the Editor’ of a major Sydney newspaper. The paper in question had run an article discussing the dangers of certainMy father once wrote a ‘Letter to the Editor’ of a major Sydney newspaper. The paper in question had run an article discussing the dangers of certain breeds of dogs. Now, my father was not a particular fan of the breed; he was, however, a big fan of dogs in general. Having owned many in his life, he argued that there is no such thing as a bad dog, and that those animals which are dangerous are so for a reason: Abuse; training; mistreatment—themes which all rear their ugly heads in Kelley York's Hushed.
It recalls that well-worn argument of nature verses nurture. Take a child, a human being who is, for all intents and purposes, a blank canvas—a sponge. Expose that child to horrors; rob him of innocence, and what will remain? If that child reaches its darkest most desperate moments, what will he be capable of? Hushed looks at nurture: that we’re a product of our environments. But what it is far more interested with is a far more compelling question: how far is too far for redemption? Can a monster ever really change?
Archer is just such a monster, and saying as much is no secret. Hushed opens as he, ahem, supervises a ‘suicide’. He would do anything to free his best friend, Vivian, from the ghosts of her past, from those horrors, and if he has to murder to do it? Good. He’s never questioned his actions, until a boy named Evan forces his way into Archer’s life. Archer’s beginning to see that there’s more to the world than Vivian; that he’s capable of happiness, and not only that he’s capable, but he wants it. But is it too late for him to change and, perhaps more importantly, will Vivian let him?
Hushed is a tale with very few bright points. It’s bleak and cruel; a book about terrible people doing terrible things to one another. Its characters—Archer and Vivian especially—fascinated me, but I can’t admit to liking them. Archer draws to mind a teenage Dexter. He shows, and feels, no remorse for his actions until he learns to want something more for himself, and it’s rather heartbreaking to watch him doubt ‘more’ is something he can ever have, or deserves.
There are two key relationships are the core of Hushed: the sweet and tentative developing romance between Archer and Evan, and Archer’s toxic friendship with Vivian. The two prove rather antithetical of each other. The relationship and tangled history between Archer and Viv is complex and disturbing. It’s not co-dependent, exactly, but warped and twisted and rotting. While, in many ways, Vivian proves the narrative’s villain, she also represents Archer’s past and choices, and it’s not hard to draw parallels to any abusive relationship, where one party is terrified to leave. What is fascinating, here, is that it goes both ways, and as Vivian’s behavior grows more needy, callous, and cruel as the story progresses, it’s difficult not to step back and ask if Archer is really any better than she.
I’m sure I comment on this weekly, that a review is ‘hard to write’, but, truly, what makes Hushed so much so is the experience of reading it: I cannot admit to enjoying reading it. It’s compelling, fascinating, and I liked it immensely, but I took no sense of joy from it. No-one in this tome, even the ‘good’, is innocent, and no-one leaves with their hands truly clean in this story of manipulation, grief and horror.
The Verdict Hushed is tense, bleak and gritty and boasts complex, layered characters. It offers a sweet, atypical romance worth reading for alone. But what Hushed does best is ask uncomfortable questions about the nature of redemption and revenge, and the difference between monsters and men, if, indeed, there are any....more
First Thoughts: It took me an age to warm to this book, but once I did? Wow. The world is terrifying and fascinating, the characters' pain is palpable aFirst Thoughts: It took me an age to warm to this book, but once I did? Wow. The world is terrifying and fascinating, the characters' pain is palpable and the romance? Phwoar. Book 2, please!
In Sanctum, Sarah Fine's début offering, nightmares walk the streets of a hellish city, normal girls can be fierce warriors, and tortured boys so much more. The world of Sanctum is terrifying and fascinating, the characters’ pain palpable, and the romance? Phwoar.
"Would you risk your afterlife to save your best friend’s soul?" I’m not sure I would if the friend was Nadia, but, Lela would. Especially since she owes Nadia her life.
Nadia helped Lela recover from the darkest point of her life; overcome a history of neglect, abuse and depression... Only to succumb to darkness herself. When the seemingly perfect, sunny Nadia takes her own life, Lela is shattered, unable to comfort herself with thoughts of Nadia being in a better place. She’s haunted by dreams of a shell-shocked Nadia wandering the streets of a place Lela knows all too well--the place all suicides go on their death. A place worse than the life they fled from. Lela will do anything to save Nadia from her fate, even risk death, itself. But Sanctum is not Nadia’s story. It is Lela’s. And while it is a story of love, and a kind of selfless friendship that crosses worlds, it’s a little something more.
Sarah Fine approaches her story with a unique background -- she’s a psychologist. Sanctum deals with suicide, and it’s done well, Fine capturing conflicting feelings of guilt, despair, anger and betrayal from its ‘left behind’ protagonist, but what sat uncomfortably true was its departed Nadia’s hopelessness and pain.
It’s a dark book, dealing with dark matters, but, for the most part, it doesn’t feel like a book about suicide. It reads as Urban Fantasy, with all the dark, gritty hallmarks of the genre. What Sanctum does well is the creepy, the visceral, the haunting. Tortured souls wonder the streets of Suicide City, grasping at ‘things’ to fill their empty spaces; monsters hide within the shadows, and without. Nightmares grow and grasp like living creatures, and in one particularly disquieting scene, a building which feeds people their own fears in order to consume them left me with chills.
Sanctum’s heroine, Lela is tough, brave and damaged. At times she felt forced, and with her voice to guide me, it took me some time to fall into the story’s flow. But, once she held me her grasp, it did not let go. When she’s not posturing and telling the reader she’s tough and people don’t mess with her because she done time on the inside, yo, I liked her immensely. It’s the fragile, aching inside of her, not the tough girl exterior, I grew to love. She’s capable of great selflessness, as indicated by her willing trip to hell to save her friend’s soul, but there are times when her selflessness puts others on the line, teetering dangerously close to its antonym. There’s an interesting theme of choice here, or perhaps, if not choice, the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’. The lines between both in Sanctum are vague, as they can be in real life.
Of course, at the core of Sanctum is a romance, intense and sexy as could be wished for. Lela falls for Malachi, King of the Underworld. Okay, okay, he’s not at all King or ruler. He’s a guard, a protector, with some very dark secrets. The two share an instant attraction and fascination with one another, and it develops, while alarmingly fast at first, into something far deeper. To put it succinctly, when I finished the book, my thoughts on the romance could be distilled into one word: phwoar — It’s totally a word, right?
That romance aside, Malachi himself was, for me, the story’s greatest draw, and as his long history unfolds in Sanctum’s final pages, I found it hard to look away.
The Verdict So there you have it. Sanctum. Combine scorching chemistry and a creepy, living world, built of old and new. Add swords, knives, a kickass heroine and dashing, tortured hero. Then take another girl — a broken one; a friendship and loyalty powerful enough to reach across worlds, and you’ll have Sanctum. To quote another, far more eloquent, reviewer, Sanctum is “an amazing story of loss and redemption and courage and grief, but I know you’re all skimming this paragraph to hear about the boy, right?” Well, the wait was worth it, and I’m sure you, ‘dear reader’, will find it so, too....more
I'm sorry. So sorry. I wanted to love this book, because I LOVE Jordan. And I'm not prepared to say it's the book's fault, because hey. I'm a mood readeI'm sorry. So sorry. I wanted to love this book, because I LOVE Jordan. And I'm not prepared to say it's the book's fault, because hey. I'm a mood reader. I'm self aware enough to know it.
But... this book and I... we have problems. A few of them, and each of them narrators. All... oh... nine of them, if I count correctly.
Rayne seems a fairly typical 'loner girl' type: angry and cagey, alone against the world. She's resilient and determined, possessing all the traits necessary to make a fine heroine, but... she felt forced, to me. She seems the obvious choice for main character, but she shares the book's narrative with a half dozen other characters, so it's kind of hard to say.
There's a terse, matter of fact, quality to Dane's writing, and it gives the book... an adult sensibility, which feels odd to say, as I'm not even sure what I mean by that. When Rayne, Mia and antagonist, O'Dell, narrate, Indigo Awakening reads somewhat like a nineties crime pulp: dark and gritty, a little bit angry. I got a similar tone reading Jim Butcher's Storm Front, but there was a difference: that was funny and clever. When the book's titular Indigo Children take the reins, it becomes something else, preternatural powers, strange connections and over-generous servings of teen angst taking centre stage. I suppose the book feels a little bipolar?
But for all these strange powers and mysteries, Indigo Awakening is not a book with answers. None of its many narrators are forthcoming with them. We discover Gabriel and Lucas' talents as they do. While its constant action, events, situations and stakes that should create suspense, that suspense felt strangely lacking, and I found it difficult to fully invest in the story. While events don't feel contrived, relationships DO. Characters develop instant, unshakeable connections with people they should distrust or fear.
Ah, and on that note: the villans. Where Doctor Fiona could prove a compelling Bad Guy, she become dull, a caricature as her actions are spelled out, as with O'Darby. There is no mystery, and thus no real sense of danger to what would otherwise be a pair of genuinely frightening and morally bankrupt villains. Fiona was the biggest disappointment for me, as she's intriguing. A cold scientific mind, unburdened with ethics or empathy.
It's nearly 60% of the way through the book before we're offered explanation of the book's 'Indigo' and 'Crystal' children jargon, which... you know, fair enough. Create suspense. Questions. This? I was confused. It's worth noting the language isn't unique to the book. A quick search of Indigo Children will bring up a plethora of results in Google discussing pseudoscientific term, topped, of course, by Wikipedia. Yet I don't believe this is a part of the collective cultural psyche enough to pass it off as given, and I felt I was navigating blind through the tale's pages.
Indigo Awakening comes across as cinematic crime thriller -- something between X-men and the Bourne Legacy, but... it doesn't live up to that promise. It's an OK book from a good writer. Just not the book for me....more
Amazing. Somehow bleaker than UtNS ever felt to me, but wonderful. It's lovely and heartbreaking seeing Roar and Liv's story, but as the lovely KeertanAmazing. Somehow bleaker than UtNS ever felt to me, but wonderful. It's lovely and heartbreaking seeing Roar and Liv's story, but as the lovely Keertana points out, it also provides wonderful insight into Perry.
Really enjoyed Roar's first person for a change, also....more
With a world both beautiful and brutal, skies of liquid blue fire over endless wilderness, fearless savage warriors and beautiful lost girls, Under thWith a world both beautiful and brutal, skies of liquid blue fire over endless wilderness, fearless savage warriors and beautiful lost girls, Under the Never Sky reads something like a fairytale. With all the sex, blood, magic and violence one can find in those Grimm tales, perhaps it’s not so poor a comparison, for Rossi weaves as certain strange, familiar magic into her story, making for a spellbinding debut.
The Story: Aria has lived her whole life safe within her enclosed society, safe from deadly aether storms, toxic air and savage cannibals under a protective dome. But When her search for answers about her missing mother goes terribly wrong, Aria finds her friends dead, and herself as good as: exiled into the world outside.
But perhaps the outside is not quite as it seems.
Aria is rescued by a 'savage' boy named Perry. A boy who is also searching for someone dear. Together, they set out in search of what they've lost, and find something in each other entirely unexpected...
The 101: Under the Never Sky is a hard book to label, and perhaps that’s a good thing. To call it ‘dystopian’ doesn’t quite fit — like squeezing into too-small pants and seeing everything overflow. Rossi’s world is vast and deep and lovely, and the book carries a sense of wide-eyed wonder at the world more than it does a sense of suffocating oppression.
Almost a character itself, Rossi’s world, and its eponymous ‘never sky’ are captivating. Each facet of the world, from the swirling blue Aether sky, to the desert, to the lush forest flooded with blue light is spectacular, and it’s shown through new eyes, each scene vivid and fresh and filled with a child’s wonder as Aria truly sees for the first time.
In Rossi's take on a post-apocalyptic world, the people in Under the Never Sky are split into two separate societies: ‘Dwellers,’ safe from the world’s fiery sky in futuristic domes, and ‘Outsiders’– those who survive the climate’s fury in more primitive tribes. Aria has lived her whole life ‘inside’, where her days are spent with her friends in Virtual realities as limitless as imagination. Aria’s entire civilisation runs digitally, with classrooms, entertainment and work existing in the ‘Realms,’ a reality which pronounces itself “better than real.” When Aria finds herself expelled from this world, from her home, to an outside she has never seen before, she truly does begin to see. Each flower, storm, stone and tree are new, exciting, and her curiosity and surprise in the most basic elements of creation — of the real — carry a sense of magic – not to mention the talents of outsiders she encounters which really do border on magic themselves.
The novel’s other star – and perhaps its brightest – is Peregrine. Perry is not a mere love interest, a boy created simply to admire. He is rich, layered, conflicted and rash. He’s passionate, kind and unpolished. For all his faults – and both Aria and he have their fair share – he’s near impossible to dislike, and he carries an authenticity to him; he feels like a real teenage boy. Filled with fire and drive and conflicting confidences and insecurities; he does not always know the right thing to say, nor does he possess a flare for grand romantic gestures – his best friend, Roar, is the polished, urbane one – yet he is more beautiful and perfect for his imperfections.
For Aria and Perry there is, of course, a love story, and it’s a wonderful, sweeping one, reminiscent of that much beloved John Green quote: “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once.”. The connection shared between Dweller and Savage develops slowly, slyly, underneath the noses of both, followed by a tide of emotion and a sudden connection, like a jigsaw finally falling into place. The tentative bond, with all its words unspoken and feelings unshared is tender and touching and devastatingly romantic. It feels like first love, the powerful rush of feeling so overwhelming it’s blinding. But both keep their heads, and there is much left unsaid by the novel’s close. A close which left me desperate for more.
The Verdict: Under the Never Sky is a tale of a rare quality: it is not writing, nor imagination, nor characters or world building alone which make it what it is, but a complex alchemical formula artfully combined to create something splendid and beautiful and unique, even in its genre similarities. It is no difficult task to discover why Rossi’s debut is lauded as one of 2012’s finest. Fantasy quest meets breathtaking dystopia in a novel which feels like a dream I still don’t want to wake up from.
First Thoughts: I liked Penelope a lot. Sweet, funny and charming, Penelope has this delightfully oddball naivety, and she's a joy to read.
It’s not eveFirst Thoughts: I liked Penelope a lot. Sweet, funny and charming, Penelope has this delightfully oddball naivety, and she's a joy to read.
It’s not every day a book like Penelope finds itself in one’s hands – or mailbox. Accompanied not by a press release, but by a personalised note singing its praises and a double-sided page of gushing commendations from the staff of its Australian publisher, Penelope made grand promises, and charmed me from page one.
The Story: Those of us who didn’t have our day in high school, are often advised to wait. That high school isn’t everything. That, eventually, the popular kids will wind up selling cars or hamburgers, while for us, the awkward, the quiet and the outsiders, the best is yet to come. As Elizabeth Halsey sagely advises in Bad Teacher, “I’m thinking college is your window.”
So it is, with years spent cultivating personality, peculiar anecdotes about car seats and a Tetris addiction to rival Elvis’ love of cheeseburgers, Penelope arrives at Harvard ready for her day. And her first year is going to be a very long day.
The 101: Now. I loathe the word ‘quirky’ with an irrational intensity. Yet I can think of no term which better suits Penelope and its titular protagonist. With its sweet, intellectual humour and matter of fact whimsy, there is a touch of fairytale to its pages.
Penelope herself is a peculiar character, hapless and naïve, yet practical – somewhat. There’s something of Amelie to her and, despite claiming to loathe whimsy in all its forms at one point in the novel, she’s possessed of a certain matter-of-fact dreaminess which fits the word perfectly. What makes her so utterly charming is how relatable she is as a character. From her social awkwardness and proclivity for playing Tetris on her phone instead of talking to her vaguely neurotic way of seeing any given situation, I rather felt I knew Penelope as I know myself.
With the familiar tone of a humorous observer and a plot concerned not with what is happening, so much as to whom, Penelope has been likened to the work of Wes Anderson, and it is not difficult to see why. There’s a delightful incongruity between Harrington’s writing and the book’s semi-adult subject, and it is this which lends the book its fairytale leanings. After all, infant-eating witches are not light reading, but when told with childlike honesty it lends new perspective. Penelope is hardly this dark, but the deceptive simplicity and levity of its tone hides something sweeter and deeper.
The Verdict: Penelope is not a love story, nor a coming of age story, but a simple insight into Penelope and her friends' life with often humorous honesty. With an affable and ‘quirky’ protagonist and Rebecca Harrington’s charming prose, Penelope's delightful naïveté will prove a welcome balm to all who have ever felt out of place....more
A hero doesn't always need a name. Or to be particularly heroic. Sometimes the most memorable heroes are the most unassuming. Yet the unnamed protagonA hero doesn't always need a name. Or to be particularly heroic. Sometimes the most memorable heroes are the most unassuming. Yet the unnamed protagonist of The Ocean at the End of the Lane--a grown man reflecting back on his seven year old self--is not so much a hero as a mirror, and familiar as an old friend.
When a seven year old boy finds himself caught up in the aftermath of a houseguest's death, a doorway is opened to another world--a world of nightmares and fairytale monsters, of magical kittens and brave eleven-year old girls who are older and wiser than creation. And it's there his adventure starts and, just as abruptly, ends.
Sitting down to 'review' any product of Neil Gaiman's mind seems the ultimate act of narcissism. That a mind unburdened by the genius that has offered tales of a little boy named Nobody, or a hulking man as sad and invisible as a Shadow, or a little girl and the talking cat that stole her story, could offer any form of criticism seems absurd. Yet there's something offered in each of his novels that cries out to be retold, to be discussed, because, at his core, Gaiman is a true storyteller, and a folklorist, and the kind of stories he tells are the kind that have always lived in imaginations more than pages.
Gaiman writes fairytales. Not fairytales for grown-ups, really, but the kind of fairytales that have not forgotten where they were born, and came from, or that they belong in nightmares every bit as much as sweet dreams. Fairytales for people who like fairytales, and for people who like stories.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the most fairytalesque-fairytale of Gaiman's since, perhaps, Stardust, and it was over, like its narrator's boyhood, far too quickly. It comes as little surprise it began as a short story, as it reads, in the most delightful sense, as one just slightly overgrown. A fast, thrilling tale with adventure and excitement condensed into a substance all the sweeter for its brevity.
As fond and nostalgic a view on childhood as it is a melancholic meditation on growing up, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is whimsical and magical, and both everything I longed for and not enough from Gaiman. Simply put, I loved this story like I love Hogwarts or Narnia, or any of the hallowed locations of my fondest, warmest imaginations and dreams of homecoming and, just like departing those places, it hurts to leave behind. ...more
4.5 Stars Following Daughter of Smoke and Bone was never to prove an easy task. How could any book trump the romance, the beauty, the glittering dark4.5 Stars Following Daughter of Smoke and Bone was never to prove an easy task. How could any book trump the romance, the beauty, the glittering darkness of its predecessor? Of course there was no cause for concern. While Days of Blood and Stalight may not ‘trump’, Laini Taylor builds, breathing life and magic into an Eretz yet unknown to readers. She abandons romance. This time, it's war.
Returning Karou and Akiva’s world and doomed love is a painful journey. We left them in horror and pain at the end of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and they are found, in Days of Blood and Starlight, even deeper in darkness. The opening pages are like those few brief moments of peace, of happiness, between falling asleep with the knowledge of some terrible, asphyxiating grief, and waking, the world crashing down twice as dreadful as before.
Karou and Akiva are separated, but fighting. A war is being faught, and while the Seraphim believe themselves victorious, and the Chimaera population is decimated, all is not as lost as it may seem. It’s a story different in tone from its predecessor. Where Daughter was filled with light and love and hope, even in its darkest moments, Blood and Starlight is a tale beautiful, still, but bleak. It carries a feeling worse than that of hopelessness, but of hope lost – but perhaps not forever. The hope tangled in its pages will be drawn more from readers – lovers of these characters and their world and their creator – and faith that things must get better. After all, at the tale’s conclusion, it is difficult to see how they could get worse.
Days of Blood and Starlight is a tale of war and vengeance – of all the associated horrors and atrocities and needless violence. Readers are shown much of its greater impact, of genocide, of murdered or twisted children, of a pervasive learned hatred, and while Taylor never seems to be pushing an agenda, or concealing an underlying message, it’s fascinating to consider how this applies to life; especially in light of a recent quote she posted (do go read it. It’s short, and brilliant).
It is certainly the greater impact of the eons old war between Chimaera and Seraphim which carries Days of Blood and Starlight’s greatest horrors, but it’s the personal, more intimate facets shown that drive it home. Through the eyes of an escaped slave girl, a seraphim sentry, a soldier, and our beloved Karou and Akiva themselves, Taylor shows the price of hatred, of greed, of bitter, empty bloodshed for its own sake.
And it is, of course, Akiva and Karou who form the book’s emotional core, and its most crushing moments. Where once upon a time, the lovers dreamed together of a new world, a better one, one free from endless war and killing, they are now separated by more than distance and race and ancient enmity.
The two work separately, clinging to their tattered dream. There is still innocence in that dream, however bloody it becomes, but innocence, while a beautiful garb, is not always the best armour. Akiva, consumed with gnawing agony and guilt, is a shell, and Karou as beautiful as ever, is lost. Where, once, Karou could almost be synonymous with life, she is robbed of it, drowning in grief and anger and sorrow. It’s devastating watching such beloved characters suffer so greatly, but even more so as it blinds them to the machinations and manipulations of others.
There is light in this dark tale, however, in the form of Zuzanna and Mik who, separated from Karou by worlds, don’t give up on their friend. Zuzanna brings laughter, and Mik humour, and together, a friendship and romance which grounds the otherwise fantastical tale in reality, where the human world would be otherwise lost to Ertez.
The Verdict Told between two worlds and the yawning pit between them, Taylor weaves her tale of war, of magic, and of course, blood and starlight, in a fashion uniquely hers. Crushingly sad and beautifully written, Days of Blood and Starlight is, as its predecessor, a triumph of fantasy and of prose, but it offers precious few answers, instead building towards a yet unknown climax and conclusion I’m not quite sure if I should dread or celebrate, but one I most keenly anticipate. Once again, Taylor delivers magic....more
Love. It’s romanticised, mythologised – frequently sanitised – and at its most beautiful, its most pure, there is no single greater force for good inLove. It’s romanticised, mythologised – frequently sanitised – and at its most beautiful, its most pure, there is no single greater force for good in this world. Yet soured or corrupted, or viewed from aside with a poisoned heart, the hatred it incites is perhaps the most destructive, and it is this – love and hate, and the price of both – that Don’t Let Me Go examines – in often heartbreaking extremes.
It’s a basic right, particularly in the Western world, that we may love who we choose, or, should the adage prove true, who our hearts decide we must. Yet many who take this simple freedom granted for themselves do not believe it a right, but a privilege, one earned by merit of religion, the colour of one’s skin, position, or gender.
We meet Nate, our narrator, and Adam, the Juliet to his Romeo – or vice versa – on page one, which also happens to be the middle of their story. Through a series of flashbacks, Trumble shows the couple’s past and present: sweet romance and horrifying brutality in parallels to a present of petty fights and bickering, of distance which renders hearts strangers, not stronger in their affections. Yet to talk of Don’t Let Me Go in context of romance or of ethical allegory alone is to do it an injustice, for it is so much more than each, or either.
It's a story of extremes, of shining love and blackest hate, of marginalization and bullying, and about a gay teen dealing with a world who views him as a thing which must be ‘dealt with’, rather than a boy with feelings and a beating, hurting heart. Concerned as it is with hate and homophobia (though I suppose the two are, truly, synonymous), it is far more than a simple parable. Dealing with the broader meaning of love than romance alone, family, friendship, and, above all, finding oneself, Trumble handles her characters with sensitivity, warmth and humour. The story’s heartache is balanced with joy, and a love story so tender and pure in its honesty, its messiness, its good and bad, it’s intoxicating. Don’t Let Me Go a ‘feeling’ book, an emotional one, one driven very much by its vividly real characters.
The cast of Don’t Let Me Go is varied and disparate, and amongst its friends and families and heroes, is a love so beautiful and fierce it is humbling to witness. Yet none of them are perfect. Some are certainly more so than others – Adam’s family, Nate’s grandmother, the lovely Juliet and hilarious Daniel Quasimi among them. Others are profoundly flawed, with Nate – broken, combative, and self-destructive – winning that race by a country mile. Nate is not always easy to like. He makes impulsive, foolish decisions, acts in anger and hurts those who love him most. Yet there’s a painful authenticity to his actions, and Trumble doesn’t make excuses for her characters, showing them simply as they are: human. Despite his failings, readers will find in Nate a sympathetic hero, even more so as his story and history unfolds in heartbreaking clarity.
Four hundred years ago Shakespeare penned his now famous maxim on the path of love and, while comic in context, it rings, loudly, true in Don’t Let Me Go. Marrying (500) Days of Summer and Hannah Harrington's Speechless with the raw emotional authenticity of Brigid Kemmerer's Elemental series, Don’t Let Me Go is a powerful story with a profound message.
Don’t Let Me Go starts with goodbyes, and ends with hope, with promise of a future just beyond a not-so-distant horizon. It’s not possible to take the journey through this tale without seeing horrifying truths and the blackest sides of humanity, but, ultimately, it is ‘much to do with hate but more with love,’ and it is this – love – which makes it such a powerful story. Interwoven with a deep appreciation of music, a warm sense of humour, and profound understanding of how much our world needs books such as this, and needs to have such conversations, Don’t Let Me Go is a gem – one uncut and unpolished, authentic and untainted, and immeasurably precious.
I sometimes wish simply saying 'read this book’ were enough – because this book has something very important to say, and to teach, and it's also (when it's not utterly heartbreaking) an absolute joy to read. So perhaps I'll say it anyway, if I may: Read this book. And love. Above all things, in all things, love....more
Huh. Surprisingly bittersweet in the end. After back-to-backing Moira Roger's Last Call series (they. are. so. gooooooood.) I've come to expect sweetHuh. Surprisingly bittersweet in the end. After back-to-backing Moira Roger's Last Call series (they. are. so. gooooooood.) I've come to expect sweet with my sexy, and a healthy serving of romance and happy endings.
The Mystic Valley books seem a little darker. No less hot, oh no, and the leads still have a strong fascination with... uh... 'toys'. This was a quick read -- shorter than any other MR novellas -- but no less compulsively readable or flesh out for it. In fact, this couple may have more backstory than any other couple I've encountered in this series, or Last Call yet. I liked it. Not more than others, but certainly not less. A fairly middle of the road Rogers, for me.