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
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
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
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 darkn4.5 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
I think I'm kind of alone in this, but I wasn't entirely... satisfied with the ending of The Iron Knight. IASDFGHJKLHFDJAFD. SO SWEET. AND ROMANTICAL.
I think I'm kind of alone in this, but I wasn't entirely... satisfied with the ending of The Iron Knight. I liked the ending of The Iron Queenmore, as there was hope, and room to imagine my own happy ending. TIKn's Happily Ever After worried me. Was Ash going to die? How mortal is he? And will everything be OK with Meghan?
I'M A WORRIER, OK?
Anyway. Seeing them together here was a sweet, sugary balm. Like swimming in a pool full of CUPCAKES.
Pure wish fulfillment, this made me HAPPY. You can read it here, if you missed it....more
From the post-apocalyptic wastelands of Obernewtyn, to the stark contrasts of poverty and lavish opulence in Pan Am, Dystopian – YA’s enduri3.5 Stars
From the post-apocalyptic wastelands of Obernewtyn, to the stark contrasts of poverty and lavish opulence in Pan Am, Dystopian – YA’s enduring wunderkind – comes in many shapes and sizes, and never has it seemed it so normal and suburban, yet so alien, cruel and wrong as in the alternate reality of Kat Zhang's What’s Left of Me.
The Story It's an accepted certainty that every person is born with two souls, two girls or two boys, opening their shared eyes for the first time, as separate and unique as they are one and whole.
It's just as certain that one of those souls will evanesce. Dominant and recessive, one soul born to lead, and to live, the other destined to disappear. Two children within the body of one, with their family, friends, and their world, expecting one to die. Hoping one will fade.
Addie and Eva, Eva and Addie are two such souls. Addie, strong, in control, destined to live, and Eva, destined to... not. But Eva didn't fade when it was her time. Eva clung to life, and now the two girls go about their life, Addie leading, and Eva an ever-present witness, both hiding. Because having two souls, being a 'hybrid', is illegal. Eva and Addie hide in plain sight, from everyone. Even their family. Until someone notices the girl hiding inside, and offers her the unthinkable: a chance to walk again. To breathe. To speak. Trapped inside her sister's body for years, how could they say no? The 101 While, in many ways, Kat Zhang’s debut is an introspective, reflective story, it also carries in its pages a suffocating unfairness, an immense corruption and cruelty that seeps deep enough to rattle bones. I’ve always felt this ‘type’ of novel can go two ways: leaving the protagonist – and reader – feeling empowered, rallied, ready to fight; or adrift in a world of corruption so vast they feel hopeless. What’s Left Of Me left me feeling frightened and small, unconvinced that, hybrid or not, a protagonist so ‘ordinary’ and powerless, so much a normal schoolgirl, could ever overcome a system and government so corrupt, and, honestly, I’m not entirely sure how that makes me feel, or how I feel about the book on a whole.
While it may sound oxymoronic, the lack of grounding in our world, the sense of ‘this could really happen, gives What’s Left Of Me a fantastical feel, but also robs it of frightening impact often granted by the same, yet it feels peculiar to comment on as, in all ways but the obvious – of two souls sharing a single body – there is a profound sense of normalcy to What’s Left Of Me, and an almost Stepford-like suburbia. But this suburbia doesn’t last for long, and despite sixteen years of practice for Addie/Eva, neither does the ‘normal’ façade.’
The relationship between Addie and Eva is the tale’s strongest facet, their pull and push, and the conflict between two very different people with very different desires forced to share one body, one life, is beautiful and painful to witness. This aspect alone is enough to make What’s Left of Me compelling, but a book is never one thing: Animal Farm is not a story solely about talking Animals, and The Hunger Games is not only a story about a girl who’s a decent shot with a bow falling for a baker. Great books are the product of many pieces falling into place cohesively. What’s Left Of Me was like a jigsaw with matching shapes, but not colours.
When we talk of series – and What’s Left Of Me is planned as a trilogy, I believe – it’s not uncommon to hear the term ‘Middle Book Syndrome’ referring to a slump mid-series, or a book two which serves as little more than filler. What’s Left Of Me, being book one, does not have this problem, but ‘Middle Of The Book Syndrome’ may be a more appropriate term. A shocking change in scenery mid-book lends the book a very different – and far darker – tone than that with which it starts, but it also trips pacing. It’s worth noting What’s Left Of Me is very much a character-driven story, but its contemplative tone has moments teetering dangerously close to dull in what should be the novel’s most tense moments.
While What’s Left Of Me is not without its flaws, it remains a lovely story. Quiet, meditative, heavy with stifling oppression, it offers moments of extraordinary insight. Reflecting on what we leave behind as we turn from youth to adulthood – in the case of this world something profound and tangible – What’s Left of Me serves as powerful allegory for the sacrifice of self, of youth, of the self-imposed requirement to conform we each battle.
The Verdict: Filled with achingly beautiful moments of contemplation, and a dystopian side so oppressive, suffocating and cruel in its subtleties and familiarities it’s crushing, What’s Left Of Me is a wonderfully unique story. The concept is extraordinary, and the interplay, the push and pull, the balance between Addie and Eva is compelling and beautiful and heartbreaking. At its worst, it dances close by the boundary of boring, but at its best? It’s breathtaking. I liked What’s Left Of Me. A compelling start to a very promising series....more
You know, I run hot and cold with Becca's books. I love/hate the Hush, Hush books. But it's not really a question, is it? Of COURSE I'm going to readYou know, I run hot and cold with Becca's books. I love/hate the Hush, Hush books. But it's not really a question, is it? Of COURSE I'm going to read this.
And if I wasn't convinced, this is what seals it: "BLACK ICE is gritty and frightening, twisty and sexy. There's a touch of paranormal. The stakes are high and there is a definite case of it's-not-what-it-seems going on..."
What I loved most about Hush, Hush (and missed in Crescendo), was the WTFery. The creepiness, the never quite knowing if Nora was losing it, if it mas magic, or hallucinations.
BONUS POINTS: Check out the opening line of Ch.60 in Unravel Me:
"We can hide in a cupboard under the stairs our whole life and it'll still find us. Dea
BONUS POINTS: Check out the opening line of Ch.60 in Unravel Me:
"We can hide in a cupboard under the stairs our whole life and it'll still find us. Death will show up wearing an invisible cloak and it will wave a magic wand and whisk us away when we least expect it."
IS THAT A HARRY POTTER REFERENCE I SEEEE? --- Once upon a time, on a day much like any other, a girl had An Idea: What if Rogue had a purple suit? And a boyfriend? She sat down to write, and Shatter Me was born. Soon to follow was a sister named ‘Unravel Me’, and the other X-Men joined the tale. Unravel Me was fair and lovely, quickly surpassing her older sister, and, oh yes, she got all the boys.
What a broken heroine Unravel Me has. We join Juliette two weeks after we left her, but for all that hope Shatter Me offered in its dénouement, Juliette is shattering all over again. Adam is distant, and, if she thought she found a place she belonged, with people like her, who could accept her, the wary stares and constant isolation say otherwise.
Broken, isolated and misunderstood are familiar places for Juliette, but was there ever a lonelier place than the kind felt surrounded by people? Juliette is a most singularly damaged heroine, and I found it difficult to find her withdrawing into her shell and shouldering so much blame for problems outside her control – both from herself and those around her. While it would be easy to find fault in her anxieties and self-pity, it’s important to acknowledge her unique position: while Juliette runs afoul of good opinion with her inability to assimilate in the new community in which she finds herself, surrounded by 'special' people who can relate to isolation and discrimination, it's important to understand there is no way she could.
A girl who has never known love, never known the basic necessity of human touch, thrust into an established, tight-knit community would not function. While certainly not the most scientific source, livestrong.com features an article discussing the essential nature of touch in human development. Not only can touch, in infancy, affect physical health, it has a huge impact on psychologic development. Children robbed of touch, of contact, can suffer anxiety, stress, and emotional disorders. It's painful watching a character like Juliette so misunderstood, and there's an interesting parallel here, however intentional, to the failures of our own society in caring for, and understanding those outside the sphere of what we consider 'normal', but it also seems Mafi enjoys the odd poke at the elevated emotions and angst of the typical YA heroine and hero.
But. Juliette grows in Unravel Me, develops new strength, and discovers new steel. She makes many, many mistakes, but she is a very human heroine and, for all her melodramatic angst, an eminently likeable one, her urgent stream-of-consciousness flowing in that uniquely Juliette/Mafi style making it easy to slip inside her head.
From Juliette’s narration, to the scalding romance, to the ominous cloud of impending war, Unravel Me bursts with feeling, and it carries a sense of immediacy. It’s impossible to pass that ‘romance’ with only a sentence, as Unravel Me, like Shatter Me, is sexually charged, each glancing touch carrying a weight intensified by a life filled with its absence. Adam returns, sweet and kind and with scorching chemistry – if not a little bland personality-wise – and Warner, the uncomfortably compelling villain of Shatter Me, appears in a new light entirely. More than a few readers may find themselves surprised by interesting feelings as Shatter Me's villain becomes something... more.
The Verdict: For all this talk of intensity and dark matters, Unravel me ultimately aims to entertain, and succeeds. Sexy and gripping, filled with bone-melting romance and gripping intrigue, Unravel Me is an outing stronger, even, than its extraordinary predecessor. Mafi’s prose dances swiftly across pages, dropping metaphors like bombs, and it feels a tighter book on a whole, with a stronger focus on plotting. Unravel Me sizzles with passion and chemistry, and offers surprise twists to keep those pages turning well into the wee hours. Fans will delight in Unravel Me as it unravels its spectacular heroine just in time to leave them desperate for more.
Initial thoughts: Amazing. Better than Shatter Me, in the sense that it seems to have more direction. It's a more (but still NOT) plot-driven novel while maintaining the intimacy and intensity of Juliette's inner world.
Definitely a FEEEEEELING book where you FEEL all the FEELS and... this book was just addictive. I wouldn't want to be Juliette for a moment, but I love her world. Review to come....more
First Thoughts: Read, finished, LOVED. I have so many FEELINGS. Happy. Sad. Hope. Sorrow. Everything about this book...there's a greater sense of urgencyFirst Thoughts: Read, finished, LOVED. I have so many FEELINGS. Happy. Sad. Hope. Sorrow. Everything about this book...there's a greater sense of urgency and purpose, and... Oh, the characters. WOWOWOW.
Sequels are tricky things; even more so 'middle books'. With a happy romantic union cemented in book one, how does the author sustain chemistry? With a journey underway, how does she maintain momentum on route to a distant conclusion? Is it time to answer questions? Pose them? Fans are demanding creatures—the more ardent, the more so—but, as readers, our favourite authors win our trust for a reason, a reason Veronica Rossi demonstrates in Through the Ever Night.
We left Aria and Perry locked in a joyous embrace in Under the Never Sky, and it is where we find them in Through the Ever Night. But their reunion is not to be a drawn out, happy thing. Peregrine of the Tides is now Peregrine, Blood Lord of the Tides. Where once he enjoyed unfettered freedom, the weight of hundreds of lives now rests on his teenage shoulders, and his people do not take kindly to a daughter of the people who stole their children sharing their home.
Aria finds herself no less entangled. Charged with the hope of those who exiled her, Aria must find the Still Blue, a fabled land free from the deadly storms of the Aether sky, or face the death of all she holds dear.
It’s a dark place to find Perry and Aria, and where Under the Never Sky ended with hope, Through the Ever Night quickly forms fractures and wears it down. Aria, exiled from her home, without family, and trapped as a pawn of the manipulative Consul Hess, is isolated, even from Perry. She’s strong and selfless, and, having developmed a quiet wisdom, finds herself torn between love and sacrifice. Though Perry owns her heart, Aria—an outsider amongst the Outsiders—can see her presence undermining Perry’s new and fragile leadership. She’s faced with difficult choices, and each direction leads to pain and isolation. It’s the first of many obstacles the couple faces, and creates a wedge, forcing larger cracks.
The story separates the couple quickly and, apart, Through the Ever Night shows Perry’s analogous strengths and weaknesses. It seems that, in story, nuance and detail, Rossi may be playing favourites with her children. There’s a weight given to Perry’s story, an extra layer of complexity which render Perry’s pages the most memorable. If, perhaps, Under the Never Sky was Aria’s tale, this is Perry’s. Perry is caught in an unenviable position between right and wrong, instinct and reason. Seen as ‘rash’ by his tribe, he is judged not entirely by his actions, but a violent undercurrent of desperation. He’s torn between the ability to act with the freedom he has always known, and his responsibility for hundreds of lives. It is a painful thing to witness, but Perry, as Aria, demonstrates remarkable growth over of the course of the story. Both battle very real internal foes, as well as external: doubt, fear, desperation and betrayal are demons they both face in varying degrees.
While Aria and Perry are separated by distance much of the novel, they are never far from each other's thoughts, and each grows stronger individually. While second instalments frequently see couples breaking up and angst filled confrontations, the couple share something profound, and it shapes them, but they have purposes and goals. Neither abandons their friends and responsibilities because they cannot live without the other.
It seems as though Through the Ever Night could easily pose as a parable for the pressures of childhood and young adulthood in the modern world; the conflicting worship of youth, but the push to learn faster, grow faster, mature, absorb, and assimilate. The burdens its young heroes face are crushing and unfair, yet ultimately the story concerns itself more with love and friendship and family. There are messages to be found, certainly, but they are much like images seen in clouds on lazy days: there for those who choose to find them, regardless of their creator's intent.
The Verdict: With the final page turned and many months of time free for reflection (the trilogy's conclusion is, after all, not expected for a year), I find myself reluctant to leave Aria and Perry's world behind. The Aether sky shines and flows in my imagination, and its characters whisper, beckoning my return. Rossi proves a talent for creating hope, sweet and pure, as, despite the tale's darker moments (of which there are many) I find myself lingering not on the pain, but on its hopeful final pages, on reunion, smiles, and a wish for tomorrow....more
I'm sorry. I tried. I tried, and I can't. I just can't.
People LOVE this book. Others hate it. I'm not sure if it's just me, but I can'tUGH. DOUBLE UGH.
I'm sorry. I tried. I tried, and I can't. I just can't.
People LOVE this book. Others hate it. I'm not sure if it's just me, but I can't make myself read it. And you know what? I wish I could say it was because of my moral high-ground on the squicky male characters, or that I'm repulsed by the idea of Evie 'having' to give her v-card up to her boyfriend for, you know, being so awesome by not cheating on her over Summer Break. Afterall, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a boyfriend in possession of a fortune and lusting after the hot, skanky new chick at school must be rewarded for keeping it in his pants with the gift of his girlfriend's virginity.
OK. Maybe that's a little bit of it. But really? I can't read it because... it's boring.
One more chapter of Evie's mind-numbingly inane narration, of the banal minutiae of her day-to-day existence before the story even starts and my brain may just turn to mush and roll out my mother-trucking ear.
I GET why people loved this book. I do. And I have a strong feeling that it has to do with what goes on AFTER the chapter after chapter after chapter of Evie recounting her school-life pre, well, anything of interest or import to the story happening. I just couldn't get that far.
This review is the closest I can come to explaining how I feel about it.
I'm sorry, Princess. I'd say it's not you, it's me, but I'm just not so sure....more
Alice in Zombieland. The name alone screams Burtonesque-Resident Evil promise. Yet readers approaching Gena Showalter’s latest Young Adult offering wiAlice in Zombieland. The name alone screams Burtonesque-Resident Evil promise. Yet readers approaching Gena Showalter’s latest Young Adult offering with such hopes will find themselves disappointed. Instead, Alice in Zombieland will appeal to fans of the likes of Twilight and Vampire Diaries, those desperate for unrequited romance, dark teen angst and dangerous secrets. Leave your expectations at the door, and climb down the rabbit hole...
The Story: Alice’s father’s always been nuts. He sees monsters—walking corpses, hungry for the living. But that’s the thing: only he sees them—until her entire family, Mum, Dad, and beloved little sister, are killed in a car accident, leaving Alice the lone survivor.
Now Alice sees them, too. And they see her.
The 101: I know, I know, I used the dreaded ‘T’ word up there, but, in truth, Alice in Zombieland is the closest I’ve come to Meyer’s progeny’s cousin. Perhaps this is the point which needs addressing first: Contrary to the promises of its name, Alice in Zombieland is not a fantastical take on the zombie apocalypse. It’s a straight up YA paranormal, heavy with the tropes of its genre: Absent parents, protagonist with previously unknown power, new school, small town? Check. Controlling, untouchable bad boy with a dark secret? And then some. Alice in Zombieland is, in fact, a compulsively readable addition to its category, but in a genre turgid with paranormal tales of angst driven romance, it does little to set itself apart.
While Alice does have much to recommend it—amongst them a fascinating, eminently creepy take on zombie lore, and a wonderful cast of secondary characters (none less than Alice’s fantastic best friend, Kat, and her sweet, funny grandparents)—it’s let down by two its most crucial players: Alice, and her love interest, Cole Holland.
Alice, whilst a fairly engaging protagonist, feels somehow spurious, her voice sounding more like an adult attempting to channel a seventeen-year-old than an authentic teenage narrative. While people seldom speak precisely what they think, there seems a disconnect between Alice’s inner vulnerability and uncertainty, and the brave, ballsy girl she projects when she speaks. Alice’s dialogue is one of the highlights of the book, her tenacity making for fabulous verbal smackdowns. She is never at a loss for the right thing to say, her words as fierce a weapons as her fists—this girl can fight–but everything admirable about Alice crumbles around one boy: Cole Holland.
Condescending, controlling, and a borderline sociopath, Cole Holland screams ‘bad boy,’ and not in a good way. He’s a deeply disturbing YA paranormal archetype, second perhaps only to Patch Cipriano of Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush ‘Saga’. Yet, while even I admit to Patch’s appeal (and the guy is a confessed attempted murderer), Cole left me cold. The connection Alice and he share is disturbingly intense, and the power gradient in their relationship unhealthily balanced. While the Alpha archetype irks me little in adult romance with a female lead who can hold her own, it leaves me profoundly uncomfortable in young adult. Nevertheless, the chemistry between Cole and Alice is palpable, and will hold strong appeal for readers looking for heady, smoking-hot romance—it certainly kept me reading.
The Verdict: Alice in Zombieland is a book with many problems, yet it’s also compulsively readable, with a teen romance boasting unparalled heat and chemistry. Paranormal readers will devour the tome, just don’t look too deep. The reading experience is kind of like making mud pies: Fun at the time, but leaves you feeling dirty.
First Thoughts: Eh. How is it that a book can be this much of a mess, yet so compulsively readable? It's a lot like watching a car wreck - I couldn't look away.
The chemistry is smoking, but I have a big problem with the love interest, Cole Holland--the unholy offspring of a messed up Edward Cullen/Patch Cipriano coupling. Controlling, condescending, and a borderline sociopath. Uh-huh. So hot.
I hate making this comparison (comparing anything to this seems lazy), but Alice in Zombieland really is the closest thing I've ever read to Twilight.
Alice in Zombieland has a LOT of problems... but I couldn't put it down. Kind of like making mud pies. Fun at the time, but leaves you feeling dirty.
With the likes of Cinder, Unravelling, Obsidian—not to mention dystopian as a genre—it seems sci-fi’s been making a comeback of late. But whi3.5 Stars
With the likes of Cinder, Unravelling, Obsidian—not to mention dystopian as a genre—it seems sci-fi’s been making a comeback of late. But while hi-tech, high-stakes and twisty plots are to sci-fi what teen angst and pointy teeth are to paranormal, sometimes, it’s just fun—and the Grant/Applegate dream-team deliver ‘fun’ in Eve and Adam by the bucket-load.
The Story: Evening Spiker expects to wake up dead after she mangles an arm, loses a leg and a whole lot of blood in a brutal car accident. Turns out hospital’s the next best thing. But she’s not there for long. No sooner is she waking up from surgery than her control freak, biopharmaceutical billionaire mother is whisking her away to her state-of-the-art research facility. Well, having her hot, blond, teenage errand boy, Solo, do the whisking for her.
Five-star luxury recovery wards are nice and all, but Eve is going out of her mind from boredom. To keep her busy, mummy-dearest gives her a task: design the perfect boy. Using state-of-the-art software designed to teach genetics, Eve’s the Beta tester for an interface that makes The Sims look like Kindergarten cut-and-paste.
But things don’t seem quite normal at Spiker Biopharm. Eve’s healing quickly—too quickly—Mummy’s keeping secrets, and errand boy Solo may not be quite what he seems.
The 101: Three letters, vastly underrated, sum up Eve and Adam in a nutshell: F-U-N. Husband and wife writing team, Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate set out to entertain and do just that.
Eve and Adam starts out at rocketing pace, with main character, Evening, losing a leg and having it sewn back on in a space during which you could hold your breath, and continues until the final page. Fast, funny, and irreverent, this a light read filled with exciting plot twists, nicely bridging the space between middle grade and young adult fiction. Grant and Applegate manage a masterful balance between pace, plot, entertaining characters and light romance, hitting all the right marks, while never getting weighed down in genre or category tropes.
Told through the split point of view of Evening Spiker and Solo Plissken, each character has a distinct—but equally exciteable and delightfully humorous—voice, and one gets the feeling that, between these two, there’s nothing they couldn’t accomplish—corporate espionage is merely their first stop. But Eve and Adam is very much a plot-driven tale, rather than a character driven-one. It’s a story about protoscience, gene ethics and high-stakes corporate conspiracies far more than a story about Eve, Solo, or indeed, its titular Adam.
There’s a space for Deep Thoughts and a time for existential angst. Grant and Applegate don’t maintain pretentions about either. Eve and Adam aims for fun and delivers.
The Verdict: A fast-paced, plot-driven, sci-fi thriller, Eve and Adam is quick, electrifying and enormously fun fiction from a much loved authorly dream team. Readers looking for end of the world high stakes and ‘I can’t live without you’ romance may be disappointed, but those who are looking for fast, exciting entertainment will be thrilled. Pitch-perfect MG/YA cross over, Grant and Applegate deliver in this inventive, entertaining sci-fi romp.
--- First Throughts An enormously fun, fast-paced, plot-driven read. Love the characters, love the world, love the setup and premise, and that it's a good fun sci-fi thriller with no pretentions.