I'm so glad I finally read this! And I'm at a complete loss for reviewing it!
I'll have to think carefully about this, because The Stand was not quite what I expected it to be. I thought there would be a bit more action and not quite so much introspection, and I really ought to have known better. Stephen King has a reputation for being the master of horror, but he's a good one for insight. Step one: set loose a deadly virus on humanity and see what happens. Chaos. Pandemonium. Mass hysteria. The total breakdown of society as people die by the millions, the powers that be try to cover up a huge mistake, and the world itself falls to pieces. Step two: leave the few survivors scattered and leaderless and see what happens. Through the agents of God and Satan, they rally together and try to start again, one group with survival as the goal and the other intent on annihilation and control. Mr. King's thoughts of how we humans would react under such circumstances are fascinating. Would we take the opportunity given to create a better world, or would we merely pick up where the old left off in its own arrogance and folly?
The survivors were all well-drawn and all grew as the book went along (at over 1400 pages, they'd better grow, right?). Some matured, as in the case of Frannie Goldsmith, some emerged as leaders, like Stu Redman and Nick Andros, but my favorite was Larry Underwood. He started out as a "taker," incapable of looking after anyone but himself, and he evolved into something greater, who other people could rely on and who could stand for something. Harold Lauder had less of a character arc than an ellipsis, but I can't get into that--spoilers! Same deal for Nadine Cross! But both accounted for most of the suspense, and both were fascinating to watch. I loved Mother Abagail, but as for Randall Flagg...hmm...scary, sure, and I like how, as the face of evil, he can't really be destroyed, but he's not among my favorite of the King villains. Or monsters, for that matter.
The only thing keeping me from handing out a 5-star rating is that I think there could have been more action. There was plenty in the first third and the last quarter (those fractions don't quite match up, but oh well) and then a long weary journey in the middle that felt like a long weary journey. It all makes sense, and it's in this section where most of the insight comes in, courtesy of Glen Bateman, but...I don't know. I think it could have moved a bit faster, or been woven a little tighter together. I lost some steam there when I had been so blown away by the superflu apocalypse.
All things considered, this one is a keeper. You have to commit to it, but it's worth the effort. It's a (very) solid epic from a brilliant storyteller, its message more powerful than I expected. And I wouldn't have missed it for anything. My favorite quote sums it up nicely: "Love is what moves the world, I've always thought...it is the only thing which allows men and women to stand in a world where gravity always seems to want to pull them down."...more
Well…hm..aha, I’ve got it! The perfect metaphor! This was supposed to be a gritty, gruesome crime novel, but I think grimy suits it better. You can see the dirt, but it’s smeared and indistinct in a few places.
I liked this enough to want to leave you with a decent impression, so I’ll do my complaining first. The plot meandered around through the middle of the book and did a complete and highly disorienting one-eighty in terms of story line. Characters appeared, then disappeared, then reappeared almost at random. Worst of all was the time lapses. I was thrown for a loop when fourteen months went by with no sign posts or fair warning, and I was lost for the next few chapters until I figured out what happened. Those are my complaints, and they are big enough to knock two stars off my overall rating.
Onto the positives. While meandering, Stewart still tied up all his loose ends, and even kept me guessing as to the identity of the communion killer. Vince Cardozo made for a good lead, and only one of two characters that made constant appearances among a cast that’s a bit too large and treated by and large like they are all disposable. I honestly couldn’t predict what would happen next, and while it was lacking in suspense it was engaging enough to keep me reading.
Overall, this wasn’t a bad way to pass the time. It was pretty enjoyable, and I can see myself reading it again. I’ll probably have to, actually, just to be sure I didn’t miss anything important the first time around. I can’t feel more than lukewarm about Mortal Grace, but Cardozo interested me enough to want to read the other novels. Score for the detective!...more
First things first: This is without a shadow of a shadow of a doubt one of the best books I have ever read. I generally hesitate to use the word masterpiece, but I don’t know what else to call this. The scope of the work, the detail, the writing itself…this is ART! I had to savor it, reading entire paragraphs over and over again and saying a few of them aloud because the words fit together so beautifully on the page I had to hear them on the air as well. I was really impressed it always managed to be two things at once: high brow and down to earth, refined and coarse, funny and serious, tragic and romantic. Mr. de Bernieres takes all the great topics of great literature and gives them a rendering that drives them home. It’s pretty amazing.
And so lively! There’s always something going on, which sounds obvious, but what I mean is that everything, down to the most mundane occurrence, is treated with such vigor and to-do that it seems like the most important thing that ever happened. It’s hard to have a one-sided conversation about the characters, they’re all so eccentric and quirky. They all start off well-developed, too. The only ones that had to grow were Pelagia and Mandras, by virtue of their beginning as teenagers and maturing along the course of the story. In particular, I love how the characters get along with each other, Pelagia and Iannis, Stamatis and Kokolios, Carlo and Velisarios, Corelli and everyone else, and my favorite, Iannis and the goat.
If I have one complaint, it’s that the apparent lack of focus at the beginning makes it easy to walk away, but I can tell you that would be a mistake. What follows is something special. I think anyone who can read this, should. In terms of ranks, I think it stands somewhere between Les Miserables and Hamlet…you know, the giants of literature. I’ve rarely been so amazed by the written word, and never so humbled as I was reading this, and that’s saying something....more
I’m glad I finally got around to reading this (that seems to be a pattern this year, doesn’t it?). I picked it up well over a year ago hoping for a few new pointers, and forgot all about it. *sigh* What are you going to do with yourself, girl?
Being nothing but quotes, it read super easy and had the advantage of being funny and informative. I learned a few new tricks of the trade, you might say, and had a good laugh while I was at it. Just about every aspect of writing is covered, and presented where each opinion contradicted each other and thus proving that the art of writing itself is a mystery; what works for some just doesn’t do it for others. It was a lot of fun to ponder every bit of advice and occasionally run across something that literally made me start jabbing the page with my finger saying I KNEW IT!! Its greatest value, for me, was inspiring the necessary hunger and passion to write. The more I read other people talking about writing, the more I wanted to hurry off and do some writing of my own. Priceless!
An interesting read, for writers and book lovers in general. I think I’ll hang onto this one....more
Wow. This was hardly I expected, but I’m not in a mood to complain. I didn’t have to wait forever to read this, like other fans of the series, and I came in wanting only one thing: a happy ending. Everything else took a backseat. I’ve read some snarky reviews, and I can see where those people are coming from (for starters, Rebecca Donovan still hasn’t amazed me with certain aspects of writerly prowess and I doubt she ever will), but all of that is minor compared to the things that won me over. Out of Breath was definitely the best of the series.
The storytelling was murky in the opening chapters and I felt flung into an entirely different world with no warning, but I saw enough to know I was in for a ride. Emma’s slant towards self-destruction scared the hell out of me, because I had come to care so much about her and it hurt to see how lost she was. That slant seems to be one of the biggest complaints about this book, but it felt realistic to me. After everything Emma has already gone through, I would expect her to take a downward spiral like this. Evan’s reappearance in her life when she was so determined to save him from herself gave me hope at first, then I went into a tailspin again when she continued to push him away. Safe to say that became a standard pattern for this book; everything seemed like it was on solid ground, and then there would come another earthquake. Emma would make progress towards healing at last, then she would shatter all over again. I was exhausted, physically and emotionally, by the time I finished reading.
It’s worth repeating that this series does NOT skimp on heart, and especially not this installment. This one, possibly more than the others, was honest. It’s the greatest struggle to not only survive abuse, but to live with the damage every single day afterward, and Ms. Donovan didn’t hold back with just how much of a struggle it is. It affects everything and everyone, and the strength, love and courage it takes to come back from are, to be frank, miraculous. This was a fight not just for a girl’s life, but for her soul. That’s the plain and simple truth of it.
All right, I did have some nitpicks apart from a murky start. I floundered through the beginning, trying to adjust to the two-year gap between books two and three and learning who was who in California. There was never any introduction of the new characters, they were just plopped in like we should already know who they are. The whole Jonathan thing had me up and down. I like that he wasn’t completely dropped, as he played an important part in Emma’s decision to run off from Weslyn, but I wish he had been more…there. The plotline was handled logically, but that’s all I can say for it. I just felt like something was missing, especially by the end of the book. The increased use of language and sex in comparison to the rest of the series felt out of place, and had it been like that from the beginning, I wouldn’t have any complaints, but to bring it in at the last minute felt jarring. And while I LOVED reading from Evan’s perspective, Ms. Donovan didn’t handle the transitions well at all. Alternating POV is one of my favorites, but there’s a trick to pulling it off, and she hasn’t mastered it yet.
All of that was only stuff I couldn’t help but notice as I went along. I read this with all thoughts of reviewing it playing second fiddle to my need to see once and for all what would happen to Emma. I was focused on the soul of the book, and in that I was no way disappointed. This was without a doubt one of the most moving, emotional books I’ve read this year, and a brilliant end to a series that blew my mind from the beginning. You know when you find a book that has such a powerful impact on you that you have to share it with someone, because someone else has to know how amazing it is? This ranks as one of those, and I know I’ll be coming back to it over and over....more
I was prepared for something dense, long-winded, verbiose, and saturated in symbolism, and I got what I was looking for. In an unexpected twist, I enjoyed it all the same. It reminded me of Tess of the d'Urbervilles, which still stands very high on my list. Hawthorne fails only in being so freaking wordy! I had to search for the point he was trying to make amid a lot of narration that sounds impressive, but never really goes anywhere.
Enough complaining, onto the rest of it. I didn’t understand Hester’s loyalty to Dimmesdale in taking the ignominy (Hawthorne used that word often enough, so I might as well) upon herself and not exposing him as the father of her child, but I came around to feeling sorry for him soon. She bore her punishment publically and even dressed her daughter to reflect her shame, but he had just as bad a time of it, with a conscience that wouldn’t leave him alone and a position in society that made confession impossible. Once I heard his side of the story a little more, I wasn’t so harsh with him. I didn’t know what to make of Roger Chillingworth, other than he blew my mind with his vindictiveness. If he hadn’t been so bent on making Dimmesdale suffer–and succeeding–I don’t think I would have felt as strongly about either of them.
Forget the symbolism, as that’s more of a group discussion thing. I want to talk about the themes. Hester’s strength and endurance in the face of the people’s scorn were amazing. She carried on in spite of the label she was literally forced to wear and not only rose above it, but became a woman of importance in the community, not just an outcast in disgrace. Dimmesdale’s plight struck a little deeper, to be honest. Outwardly, a man of God just a mark below sainthood, and inwardly a writhing mess of guilt and self-abasement. Which is he, the town’s beloved minister or sin-stained scum? Neither, he’s human. But since humanity is an intolerable imperfection among the Puritans, it sure sucks to be Arthur Dimmesdale. I thought him cowardly and hypocritical at first, but as I understood him better, I also understood his predicament. He was still devoted to his ministry, and anything that damaged his reputation would also damage the work he was trying to do. His admission on the Election Day, finally taking his place beside Hester on the pillory, actually had me speechless. It was perhaps more cowardice, given the circumstances, but I think he suffered quite enough in private without bearing the judgment of his flock.
Well, all in all, I’d have to say I liked this one. Once Hawthorne got to the point, he made it pretty clear. It definitely made an impression, and that’s for sure.Tess of the d'Urbervilles...more
I had to come down a star; Rebecca Donovan's deficiencies as a writer were a little more obvious. I had to read several passages five or six times to be absolutely sure I knew what was going on, and infer who the author of those never-ending texts was on my own, because no one was about to tell me.
Barely Breathing was nowhere as intense as Reason to Breathe, but I didn't expect it to be. Emma is just trying to pick up the pieces after Carol's attack, but it's by no means easy. She's still damaged by everything she went through, her mother has finally made a reappearance but won't stop drinking, Mom's boyfriend has baggage and a thing for Emma, and there's a little tension between Emma, Evan and Sara. In short, this book deals with a lot of fallout.
At first I found it hard to believe that things like this could still be happening to Emma--how much more can we put her through, for crying out loud?--but bad stuff doesn't pass us over just because we've already been through other bad stuff. The more we learn about Emma's life, the more she makes sense. More light is shed on her relationship with her mother, we have an explanation for why she gets along so well with boyfriend Jonathan, and there is a reason for her distancing herself from her friends. I still don't agree with all the choices she makes, but I get where she's coming from.
I was pretty disappointed to see a love triangle emerging...it's not a spoiler! Anyone could see it coming once we found out Jonathan was not much older than Emma! My question is, does every teen series need a love triangle? I mean, really? I could tell things would come to a head eventually and I guessed how they would end--in another cliff hanger. At least this one wasn't quite so dire.
This one lived up to its predecessor in that, while it lacked in some aspects, it delivered plenty of heart. The emotions were just as turbulent, and the relationships just as complex. Emma and Rachel in particular were tough to watch. Rachel's selfishness and bad habits caused most of the tension and heartache, more so as the truth about her life with Emma's father is revealed along with Emma's forgotten childhood. Rachel was just as bad as Carol in her way, and I hated her by the end of the book.
The key feature of this installment, to me, was catharsis. After the suspense of book one, book two dealt with the emotional hangover. Emma continued to grow in baby steps, developing her self-confidence and letting out all that anger. I feel like I've invested a lot in her so far and I would like to see her happy and at peace by the end of the series. I'll just have to read and find out....more
3.5 stars is a little more accurate, but it was good enough to round up.
Good thing I decided to take on a book bingo challenge, as it gave me the push I needed to finally start this series. All three books have been sitting on a shelf for about a year, and I haven’t touched them until now. Now, I’m kinda wondering what took me so long.
I had issues with Reason to Breathe, don’t get me wrong. I find it hard to believe that a girl being abused at home manages to be so well-rounded and I really didn’t buy that Emma goes from unapproachable to one of the most sought-after girls in school overnight, just for showing up at a football game. Her initial reaction to Evan was a little over the top and didn’t feel in line with her character, based on what I already knew about her and even what I learned about her later. The characters themselves felt two-dimensional at best, and I’ve definitely read better writing, especially in the YA genre.
But, BUT, I don’t often find a book in the YA genre that causes so many (take a wild guess) feels. That’s right, they’re back again, the gut-twisting, heart-wrenching cavalcades of emotion that leave you a jacked-up mess inside. Whatever it’s lacking elsewhere, Reason to Breathe doesn’t skimp on heart. I had no choice but to feel everything with Emma, though there were times I wanted to shake some sense into her for being such a tragic hero and enduring Carol’s abuse for the greater good. I kept urging her to stand up to that–er, freaking witch, and was so proud of her when she did. She’s got a long way to go, but she’s got a better sense of her own worth.
I could have done without the boy trouble (how does a girl go from “invisible” to most eligible bachelorette in 2.2 seconds?!) but I loved Evan. So sweet and thoughtful, and always trying to look out for Emma while helping her to live, not just survive. Best friend Sara was great too, and if I found her frustrating at times, it was because she came from a priveliged environment and didn’t always see where Emma was coming from.
On a side note, as a home schooled student, I was fascinated by Emma’s high school experience. Is it really like the stereotypes? The cliques, the gossip, the whole nine yards?
And of all possible cliff hanger endings! It was written like a dream sequence, so I had to read it a few times to be sure what I thought was happening was actually happening, but holy cow! Onto the next book, pronto!...more
It's official. Just when I think Michelle couldn't possibly get any "more" than she already is, she goes and does it. This might be her darkest work yIt's official. Just when I think Michelle couldn't possibly get any "more" than she already is, she goes and does it. This might be her darkest work yet, which makes the love and passion in it stand out clearer.
No angels, fallen or otherwise, in this romance. No, these are straight up demons! Not just demons, but Lucifer's sons! Our focus is on Caspian, bad boy to the max. Having a mortal mother seems to have been his saving grace, because I don't know if he would have fallen in love with Lorelai otherwise. I love how he uses tricks and deception to assert himself into her life, as it fits his demon blood, but he needs nothing to win her heart. Good Lord, he broke mine before he realized it, though! Lorelai was a blend of innocence and passion that worked so well, bringing out the good in Caspian while being able to keep up with his darker side. I loved the two of them!
We have another good supporting cast on our hands, from Lorelai's cousins to Caspian's brothers. I thought they served as excellent examples of the vastly different worlds our lovers come from. One is society and etiquette, the other is quite literally hell. They clashed in their factions, but they both had love for family in common. Gaspard in particular impressed me and I adored Bess. And while this installment might not feature angels as the main players, a few familiar faces make their appearances. I won't say who, but I was glad to see them!
Gah! Lucifer keeps getting worse and worse! While I dread his interference, he's still such a good villain that I would never dream of the series without him. A detail that I appreciated most: people look at Caspian and see his demonic sign right away, yet the same people see Lucifer and not only find him beautiful, but are actually drawn to him as if he's not evil at all. Chilling indeed, and I think it captures Satan's power of temptation perfectly. I predict his part is going to be even bigger before long! In fact, I sense this whole thing heading towards something huge...Snow Angels can't come fast enough!
All in all, I'm walking away happy. This was everything I've come to expect from Michelle, and a little more besides. More people should be reading this series! I think every paranormal romance fan should take a crack at it. It's been a brilliant escape so far, and I'm looking forward to the next book!...more
I struggled with rating this book. On one hand, I enjoyed it and think I might have found a new favorite. On the other, I felt like something was missing. It struck deep, but it wasn’t as harrowing as I was led to believe. It was simple, but there was some underlying complexity that kept me reeling. In some respects it was just plain boring, the man and the boy making their way through a world full of death and ash. Where did all of that ash come from, by the way? I understand everything burned, but how about a little origin story here? Shouldn’t this terrible apocalypse have been covered a little more?
The whole thing was vague, come to think of it. It was not a book for action as opposed to introspection, doing more thinking about life and death than actually living or dying. Not much is revealed about the characters, other than they are a father and son that have been surviving in this world for quite some time amid tragedy and the man’s dead wife’s prophecies of doom hanging over them. Less is revealed about the world they live in. It burned, and now there’s hardly anything left. End of story. The survivors are split into good guys, who keep to themselves, and bad guys, who eat other people to stay alive. The only thing that was made clear beyond doubt was the duo’s struggle and their love for each other.
I had problems with this book, but once I got started I couldn’t stop reading. It’s pretty short, but apart from that there was poetry in the language. The image was bleak and the words were quiet (too quiet, one might argue), but the whole picture was stunning. I even managed a few tears on occasion. It was definitely one of the most quotable I’ve read in awhile, my favorite being “This is what the good guys do. They don’t give up. They keep trying.”
This isn’t a book for everyone, but I don’t regret spending time on it. There was something about it that gripped me for all its flaws and I already know I’ll re-read it. I wouldn’t call it win or lose, but more of a draw. It could have been so much more than what it was, and yet…...more
This installment is certainly the darkest of the series so far, and yet still so much light shines through. Michelle, you wonderful person, you, how dThis installment is certainly the darkest of the series so far, and yet still so much light shines through. Michelle, you wonderful person, you, how do you do it?
I noticed right away how this one parallels The Devil's Galley, but it also takes a different trajectory. Sebastian, an angel fallen by choice and still not condemned to hell, was out to save the world from itself. Gillian Galloway, tempted by the voice of the devil, is also out to save the world...from her. The story progresses much faster than its predecessors, but as we're on the third book of the series it's not necessary to spend so much time laying out the groundwork. The reader can get right to the action. And as previously stated, that action includes some heavy subject matter. Let's just say Lucifer is definitely not one to play nice.
What better way to dispel the tension than with a wise-cracking sidekick, and aren't we the lucky ones? There are two! I think everyone needs a best friend like Felix, who more than lives up to his name (it means happy, if you were curious). He was funny and loyal, and goodness gracious, did he care about Gillian! He was my favorite...well, he tied with Topher, the young angel always trying to meddle in Sebastian's favor. He was always eavesdropping, showing up unannounced, and all but telling Sebastian and Gillian what they needed to know. He reminded me of Foster and Julian from the second book, but maybe a little less rebellious. Gillian's little sister Heloise got off to a rocky start with me, but I changed my mind when she changed her tune and she turned out to be a sweetheart.
Can't leave here without saying anything about Lucifer. He was bad enough in book one, but he was even worse this time around. Seductive and scary in turns, which is just the kind of villain I like best, able to pull you in and repulse you at the same time. He just took the number one slot as Michelle's creepiest bad guy, as far as I'm concerned. Eek!
To wrap this up, it's every bit as good as its companions. Plenty of romance, passion, humor and conflict, with more beautiful flight scenes and glowing angels. I love it when they glow! Another lovely addition to the series, and I'm willing to bet money the next book lives up to its fellows....more
*closes book* Now what? I've been reading these things since last September, and they've become a habit!
All moaning and groaning aside, let's get on with the review, and I'll do my complaining first. Whatever happened to chapter headings being named after the character...by proper name? It's confusing! And it can't ever be the same nickname, because how boring and conformist is that? No, that's why we have the Kraken's Daughter/The Wayward Bride/The King's Prize, etc., along with Cat of the Canals/The Blind Girl, The White Knight/The Queen's Hand, you get the idea. I still feel like Dorne is just deadweight, even more so here. The subplot with Quentyn Martell just seemed so...pointless. And for the love of God, Martin had better get some good mileage out of Young Grif before he inevitably kills him off!
I think that's most of the complaining done, so I'm onto the rest of it. I'll skip Bran because there wasn't much action on that front. So how about Dany? The situation with Hizdar feels like a step backward from the unbreakable queen she's developed into. And while I wish she would hightail it back to Westeros already (you have your army of fearless soldiers! What are you waiting for?!) I get it. She set the people in Slaver's Bay free, and she wants to make sure they stay that way. Were she any different, I wouldn't love her so much. I loved the bit in the fighting pit and with Drogon; it felt more like the warrior queen I had gotten used to.
Jon Snow...OMG! WTF? How could you leave me on a cliff hanger like that? How? I think I prefer Jon Snow to Lord Commander Snow--think Richard Cypher vs. Richard Rahl--but still, the poor guy's in a tight spot with so much opposition and having so many different factions to put up with. I wonder if he's stopped evolving as a character...he developed nicely in A Storm of Swords but looks like he lost a lot of forward momentum. And in light of that cliff hanger...I don't know, man. I really don't.
Tyrion has gotten to be a little more self-serving, but that makes sense under the circumstances. I liked his interactions with Ser Jorah and Penny, but my favorite bits were in the beginning--"Where do whores go?" And Martin has messed with my emotions yet again! I don't WANT to root Cersei on, damn it! The man has a knack for turning the villains inside out and showing you their humanity, forcing you into their corner whether you want to be there or not. I don't know if I'm ticked off about it, impressed that he pulled it off, or jealous of the skill it took. Maybe all three. It was the same story with Theon, or Reek, or whatever we're supposed to call him now.
Theon. Those were the moments that kept me in the most suspense, even though he had more names than Gandalf the Grey. I spent most of the second book wishing he would fall off the face of the earth, but what can I say? He became sympathetic, and I became a fan. I'm curious as hell to see what happens next there.
All in all, this was better than the last one but nothing tops A Storm of Swords. Now, everyone join me in saying WHERE THE BLOODY F**KING HELL IS THE WINDS OF WINTER?!
I would have liked this a lot better had it not come after A Storm of Swords. I needed a breather after all that action, but Martin seems to have responded here with a lack of action. Don't misunderstand me, a lot happens (in a book over 900 pages long, something better happen) but it was more plots and intrigues and searches than the battle scenes that were all over Book Three.
Quick rundown: The escapades in Dorne were the hardest to get through; they felt like deadweight. I get how they could be important later on, but at the moment...and Cersei's plotting against Margaery, while fascinating, slowed me down. I'll say this, though, I loved learning more about Cersei herself through her eyes. While I still don't like her, I understand her a little more. My favorite political machinations were among the ironborn and the kingsmoot. Asha Greyjoy shot up to the top five as far as my favorite characters go. Brienne of Tarth is up there as well, but number one is definitely Jaime in Tyrion's absence. I'll be damned, the Kingslayer does have honor!
Quick question: What the hell is Arya doing in Braavos? And when is she going to be reunited with Nymeria?!
I think it bears repeating that I would have liked this better if it didn't follow Book Three. I didn't exactly need a whole book to illustrate how everyone in Westeros is picking up the pieces after the War of the Five Kings, and while the last book was so good I was prepared for the next to fall short, I at least expected more from it. The series is still amazing, but whereas its predecessors came across like a sucker punch, A Feast for Crows was more like a nudge. When stacked up against A Storm of Swords, I really want to give it just three stars, but to be fair I'll tack on the last one anyway. It's still a good read, and I've wasted my time with worse....more
Well, the good news is, Davos survived. The bad news is, a lot of other people died. Like, a LOT of other people. I knew about a few beforehand, being dumb enough to read the appendices at the back of book five ahead of time, and you would think having forewarning would lessen the shock a bit, wouldn't you? Yeah, no. It doesn't. And yes, I'm talking about the Red freaking Wedding. It's not a spoiler to mention it by name, because there are so many weddings and betrothals going on in this book you won't know which one is THE one until you read it, so I haven't ruined it for anyone. See?
This book was a lot worse than Mockingjay for messing with my emotions, since Martin is a much better writer than Collins (hey, I call them as I see them). In fact, I can safely say that Martin is the best writer I've read in a long time. Rich world building, characters so vivid and true-to-life they really do feel real, more suspense than I could cope with, twists and turns so unpredictable I couldn't see them coming to save my life, and a certain ruthlessness that makes it impossible to stay rational while you read; you cannot--CANNOT--get attached to anyone, because the odds are excellent that Martin will kill him/her off at some point in time. And trust me, it's going to hurt. I lost count of how many times I burst out "I can't handle this! Holy God and Jesus at Olive Garden, I can't handle this!"
The Red Wedding wasn't the only thing that shocked me. Another bombshell came in the form of Jaime Lannister. Remember him? Through books one and two, he's the Kingslayer, the man who bangs his own sister, sires evil malicious bastards through aforementioned incest, throws children from towers, breaks oaths that are binding for life, ambushes good guys in the street, kills a few more good guys in battle thus stirring other good guys into vengeance, stands back while innocent men are cooked alive in their own armor, and generally has shit for honor. All that is turned on its head here, and I started to see what motivates this guy. Finally hearing his side of the story went a long way towards understanding him, and by the time I finished the book, I liked him as much as Tyrion.
Tyrion! Holy crap! I've seen a few people complain about the turn his character takes in the last few chapters, but I think that's only a natural progression given *cough* events. A Lannister pays his debts, after all. He's still my favorite of the series so far, and I'm the most anxious to see what's going to happen with him over the other characters...except perhaps Jaime. And Sansa, now there's a nice mess if I ever saw one. Daenerys really started coming into her own, and I finally made up my mind about Jon Snow. He's still far from my favorite character, but I liked him a lot better once he stopped being so freaking perfect. If I'm allowed a nitpick, I would have liked to see Ygritte stay in the action a little longer. After what happens to Jon in the Night's Watch, it would have been interesting to see what came about if that relationship carried on. Oh well. It's your universe, Mr. Martin, and you're doing well enough without my advice.
Wonder what I'm going to do when I catch up with the series and the sixth book isn't out yet......more
Chanson de l'Ange Book One: Orphan in Winter was such a strong start to the Chanson series I wasn't sure how the rest would stack up to it, but The Bleeding Rose kept things rolling. There's a LOT more intrigue than the first book, not to mention more tension and unrest, but with Erik moving out of the shadows and finally revealing himself as a man instead of an angel there was less magic...*sniff* I missed all the magic...
That's not to say there wasn't a lot going on here. I spent most of the book in utter exapseration with these people. I've been plenty irritated with the characters when reading Leroux, but good grief! Where are all the adults?! Erik is throwing temper tantrums, Christine is being an airhead, Madame Giry is keeping secrets, and Philippe is an ignoble ass! Who is responsible for these children? The only two among them who seem to have heads on their shoulders are Meg and Raoul. Raoul, how my heart bleeds for thee! Christine doesn't deserve someone as selfless, kind and forgiving! She's stomping all over you, man, just ditch her fast!
Ugh, Christine! Yep, she's a teenager all right. She's fickle, immature, and doesn't seem to realize how her actions are affecting the people around her. She shows occasional wisdom, and I particularly liked her composing a new aria for the Joan of Arc opera with Erik, but for crying out loud, girl, make up your mind already! Hamlet didn't take this long to make a decision!
Christine is only one out of an entire cast that needs a stern talking-to. I'd say Erik is definitely high on that list. He's showing more of the aggression that was missing from the first book, but it's definitely about time he quit projecting it onto everyone else. It's your own damn fault you're in this mess, mister! You're the one who thought it was such a good idea to pretend to be an angel for seven years, and now you wonder why Christine is so confused? Start taking responsibility! I defnitely see the adolescent in a grown man's body angle that was prevalent in the '04 movie, and it fits right in line with the way Paisley has interpreted Erik. He's infuriating, and he's still touching at times.
It strikes me that Erik and Christine probably don't need to be in a relationship with anyone, let alone with each other, the way they're acting. They have some serious growing up to do, a fact that makes me more than eager to see how this works out. That mother of a cliff hanger doesn't hurt, either! I picked up on some Chaney insanity there! Quick! Onto the next book!...more
Overall, the sequel was every bit as good as A Game of Thrones. In fact, it was better! If I could give it a 4 1/2 star rating, I wouldOne word: whew!
Overall, the sequel was every bit as good as A Game of Thrones. In fact, it was better! If I could give it a 4 1/2 star rating, I would. There was more action, more of my favorite characters, and more suspense than I was prepared for. Martin pulls no punches, so there really is no telling what's going to happen next, and I felt compelled to stay objective and avoid getting too attached to anyone. It's like being on safari; you can't interfere under any circumstances, you just have to let nature take its course. My only complaints: the chapter length was infuriating (not enough time with my faves while other POVs seemed to never end) and there were a few--only a few!--red-light green-light moments when things seemed to slow down unneccesarily. Other than that, I'm only an amateur in awe of a master.
In regards to old characters, there was more of Arya (yay!) and not much of Dany, but Dany wasn't up to anything that was all that interesting this time, so I was fine with that. There was also more Sansa, and I'm still holding my breath for that girl. As far as character arcs go, I'm ranking hers as one of the most interesting. She's definitely not the hoity toity, castles-in-the-air little twit that first left Winterfell! She's growing up, and while she's still got a long way to go, I really hope she makes it through the series. Tyrion is still rolling strong, and was once again my favorite character, no contest. It's weird how that happened, considering I'm in no way rooting for the Lannisters and Tyrion is doing his level best to keep that (unprintable) Joffrey on the throne. I skimmed a lot of Jon and Bran and Catelyn was stop-and-go through most of the book, but the scene at Riverrun with Jaime was excellent.
New characters! I really liked Davos, and I hope the cliff hanger he was left on is resolved *cough* properly. *glares at GRRM* Melisandre scared the hell out of me, I'm not going to lie. I'm predicting a lot of trouble out of that one farther down the road. Brienne of Tarth, while being rather minor so far, has enough promise that I hope to see more of her in the series. And then there's Theon Greyjoy...hmmm. No sympathy on my end, buddy boy. You made your own damn mess! The general rule is that you don't have to like a character, you just have to be able to live with them enough to get through the story, and Theon is a prime example.
I discussed themes and potential messages in my review for the first book, but I'm not going to do that here. I'm way too involved in the struggle and the turmoil to search for deeper meanings. Dare I commit fantasy-nerd heresy and say I like this BETTER than Lord of the Rings? You're forced to question everything, second-guess everyone's motives, and don't you dare think someone is trustworthy! It bears repeating; I'm only an amateur in awe of a master!...more
FINALLY! Years and years of patience have been rewarded! I haven't even been waiting as long as some readers, and certainly not as long as the author herself. Ten years of love and labor are richly paid off. Congratulations, Swannie!
Book one sets the stage for what is bound to be an amazing journey into the world of The Phantom of the Opera. One of the things I missed in Gaston Leroux's original was more detailed characters. There is solid framework in the rather short novel (too short for my liking!), but Erik, Christine, and Raoul remain archetypes. I wanted deeper psychological profiles, and Paisley didn't disappoint me. The focus of Orphan In Winter is the beginning of Christine's relationship with the Angel of Music and her slow entrance into adolescence and adulthood, so I'll start with her.
Christine is usually portrayed as an insipid, insufferable child, complete with the trademark Sarah Brightman vacant stare. Paisley brushes that aside, showing us a lost little girl grieving her father and so desperate to have him back that she clings to his final promise to send an angel to watch over her. The Angel appearing while she is still a child makes her seem less gullible and more like a kid believing in Santa...and when Santa remains a constant presence for seven years straight, it's no wonder she still believes in him. She inspires empathy and love--I would call her one of the few Christines that have inspired such feelings apart from the original. She is fanciful, not simple, and her slow awakening to womanhood is remarkable.
Which brings me to Erik. Very well-written, capturing all the power, mystery, and tragedy of his character. He is a complex man, to say the least, and difficult to write, and it spells disaster for any writer who fails to pull him off...fortunately, Paisley did. His eroticism and masculinity were thrilling indeed, but I was even more moved by his changing feelings for Christine. He becomes her benefactor on a whim, like he has nothing better to do, then comes to care for her as a guardian until his love becomes the obsessive, consuming passion that drives him onward. A gripe I always had with the '04 movie's attempt at a backstory was how it contradicted what the audience already knows about Erik, and I appreciated how neatly Paisley sorted out that tangle. I would have liked to see more of his dark side, since he is by no means a selfless, benevolent, rational man, but the story has only just begun...
Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny. I can't clear out of here without saying something about him. Oft abused, usually the victim of horrific character assassination by extremely biased writers that refuse to give him any credit whatsoever. I was ready for all of that when he showed up in the last half of the book, but I was delighted with the accurate portrayal! A sensible, caring, impulsive young man head over heels in love with his childhood playmate. After seeing him trampled so many times I've taken to carrying pom poms for him, and I'm glad he wasn't written into an abusive/alcoholic/unlovable loser we've seen so often (by simple virtue of his not being Erik! What gives?)
To wrap up my discourse on characterization, I applaud Paisley's portrayal of the Girys! They were precisely what I've imagined, and I love that they play a key part!
The rich detail and stunning imagery are wonderful, but what I loved most about Orphan In Winter was the budding romance paired with the disturbing aspects of Erik and Christine's relationship. It's complex, as it should be. She has known him as an invisible Angel. He's been a father figure to her, and so twined with the memory of her father that any idea of a romantic relationship seems, well, disturbing. Music remains the binding force between them, and Christine's song "The Bleeding Rose" serves as a brilliant theme, tied to her past and foreshadowing the triangle to come. Ending with Christine's debut in Faust was absolutely breathtaking, and thank God I had Book Two ready to pick right up!
Chanson de l'Ange outstrips most Phantom retellings I've read. There is a genuine love and understanding of the story that is too often lacking, making it all the more amazing when you find it. I put it on the shelf directly next to Gaston Leroux with select other retellings, and there it will stay. If the other books are half as good, they will have earned it!...more
A vague blurb, a gloomy atmosphere, and a pretty cover. That pretty much sums up Bellman and Black. It is by no means a ghost story, though I suppose it has a passing resemblance to one due to its focus on death and memory. All I know for certain is that I had to think, think, and think some more before I felt comfortable forming an opinion.
My feelings are mostly mixed. On one hand, Ms. Setterfield’s eye for detail is meticulous, but on the other I was left with such a vague overall impression that I didn’t know what to make of the book. The story itself only starts to make sense once you piece it with the bits of folklore surrounding rooks interspersed with the narrative, yet even that only raises more questions. Who is Black? What is his deal with Bellman really about? And what’s going on with Bellman himself? In burying himself in work (quite like most of his family gets buried…this would make a GREAT book club book) he escapes grief and memory, but he loses himself in the process. Without giving too much away, I think Black helps him find himself again. Girl No. 9 felt like a red herring to me. I kept expecting much more to happen with her. And while this is supposed to focus on young Bellman’s childhood act against a single rook, I would have thought rooks carried even more weight, not just myths and such, but…
To get the most out of this book, I think you have to consider it on a cerebral, symbolic level. You have to really sit and think about it to understand it. And you’d better not get your feelings hurt when you still find loose ends. Not a bad read, but it could have been a lot better....more
I can't say anything about Michelle's writing that I haven't said before, and yet I can't say enough in praise of it, either. She consistently remains among my favorite authors, and this collection is excellent proof why, with her best and most daring Phantom retellings to date. As with the original Manifestations, I'll break this review down with a few comments on the highlights of the collection.
"Haunted" - a previously unpublished story that was definitely a surprise. Michelle crosses territory not usually covered and puts in it a bittersweet light. The outcome is bleak, but she rarely leaves off without some ray of hope, and this is no exception. I appreciated Erik's view on how faithful music always is to him, and yet it's still a cold comfort without Christine. This line in particular got me: "But he beckoned insanity and convinced it to possess him to every corner and fingertip. When she nodded and set her hand in his, it felt real, and he knew he was crazy and welcomed it."
"Ordinary" - another unpublished one, another bittersweet one that ends with hope, and another of her famous filler fics. This one flip-flops the original obsession angle, putting Christine in Erik's shoes and makes him her obsession, which intrigued me right away. The masquerade theme made this one, just as it made "Monsters and Masks" in the previous Manifestations, and Christine's earthbound angel costume felt perfect in the light Michelle painted the story. I loved the imagery of an angel chasing Red Death across a crowded dance floor, and the story opens up some interesting questions about what it would truly mean for Erik to be ordinary. Exquisitely done!
"Captivated" - holy flying sheep in a ship wreck! This one is more territory that is very, very, VERY rarely covered, and I give Michelle a standing ovation for going there. Not many Phantom writers dare to, whether out of blind love for the characters or fear of backlash from readers, and it's about time we took the blinkers off! There's some intense moral complexity in this one...Erik's actions as a captor are, on the surface, despicable, and yet his motivations are desperate enough to inspire pity. The decisions he makes are appalling, and yet there is always the chance of redemption in his love for Christine. And in the end, it's love and nothing less that matters. Love through desire, and desire through love...yes, you can read between the lines and tell that this one definitely isn't for the faint of heart. But if you like steamy, kinky stuff, forget Fifty Shades of Grey! Don't even give it a thought! This is what you should be reading!
"Forget Me Not" - an amnesia story, as you might have guessed from the title, and one of the most haunting Michelle has ever written, in my opinion. A classic fanfiction twist, and I have to call this one my favorite rendition. If "Ordinary" and "Haunted" are bittersweet, then this one is doubly so. Again, Erik's actions are deplorable, but his motives still drive it home. This is a man desperate for his beloved to love him in return, and it drives him to do desperate things. This one is probably the most tragic Michelle has ever written, because it might have ended happily! If not for another lie, it would have! I don't really blame Christine for her reaction, but my heart still breaks!
"A Twist In My Story" - an oldie, but a goody. I love angry Christine! You never see enough of her in other retellings, as most authors opt for the bland, one-dimensional airhead (thanks a freaking lot, Webber). Christine as Leroux wrote her had backbone, and she was rightfully furious that Erik had deceived her by pretending to be the Angel of Music, and I'm so glad Michelle explored that aspect in greater detail. It hurts to see him trying so hard to make up for the lie and getting nowhere, but I'm 100% on her side in this one. It takes a monster to manipulate someone like that, and his further actions do nothing to atone for it. Under close examination and after deep thought, I'm going to call this one my favorite of the book. Nice psychological insight, and more of the music that binds these two together, no matter how irritated Christine is by that simple fact. Brava!
"Let It Bleed" - no, wait, this might also be a contender for the favorite...Too many people shy away from an Erik that's this aggressive, but I love it! His duality is summed up perfectly here, with anger and rage followed by tenderness and repentance and topped off with a little of his trademark self-loathing. The aspect of the original story that always attracts me is the symbolism of mirrors, and Michelle uses it to good effect here. She brings her story full circle, from a monster reflected in a mirror to a man in need of forgiveness and understanding and back to his determination to be a monster if it means he can have the woman he loves. Christine's line from the musical comes to mind: "It's in your soul that the true distortion lies." Erik in a nutshell!
So, bottom line; if you like The Phantom of the Opera and you want more, you need to give this one a shot. Everyone is guaranteed to find something to love here, and definitely something to think about. The face doesn't make the man. It's what's in his heart and the choices he makes that reveals a flawed but beautiful human being. A worthy addition to any Phantom collection, and I'm already eager for a third volume!...more
I ping-ponged back and forth on my rating for a second, then decided to round it up. What I liked outweighed whatever little nitpicks I had.
First off,I ping-ponged back and forth on my rating for a second, then decided to round it up. What I liked outweighed whatever little nitpicks I had.
First off, I wish this could have been longer. Some parts were nicely developed, and others were good enough that I would have liked more time spent on them. I never got bored while reading (which happens too often when reading Phantom of the Opera retellings and sequels, only a handful of which are worth the time and effort) and enjoyed the story so much I hated to see it come to the end.
I admit, I had my doubts at first. In the beginning, it felt like déjà vu with a heroine similar enough to Christine it could have served the same purpose just to drop thoughts of an original character altogether and just rolled on with the existing one. Is this the same story all over again? No, wait, Antoinette is spunky and stubborn and the exact opposite of Christine, barring the fact that she has a near-perfect voice that needs tutoring. Oh no, it's worse than I thought! It's a Christine 2.0!
Ha ha, not. Antoinette looked like a potential Mary Sue, but as the story went along she grew. She got more and more interesting, and soon enough she was interesting on her own, not just for the way she managed to push Erik's buttons. She didn't behave like most OCs I've read in various fan fictions, which was a huge relief, and she did a few things I've never seen ANY characters do in various fan fictions, which was a breath of fresh air.
Erik's characterization was spot-on. Ms. McQuinn nailed the vital traits such as sarcasm, arrogance, bad temper, odd humor, and a little self-pity. The interaction between him and Antoinette took up most of the book, and I'll repeat the phrase "ping-pong" to describe it. They bounced back and forth, bickering and pestering each other and trying to wear each other down, then everything moved from there. And the best part about the E/A love story? It didn't happen right away! There is nothing more annoying than a sequel in which Erik miraculously forgets his all-consuming obsession with Christine in favor of a girl who just walks into the lair, sees past the hideous disfigurement that has made him an outcast his entire life, and instantly falls in love with him. The instance of Antoinette finding herself in the lair to start with seemed a bit unlikely, but the important plot point was not.
The second half of the book was my favorite, with all of those rare plot twists that actually work, but it's where I found most of my developing nitpicks. I would have liked to see more about the rivalry between Antoinette and Juliet and a little more of a transition between the Comte as a smitten suitor and the Comte as an abusive a-hole. On the other hand, I have no beef whatsoever with the climax and the ending. If the Erik-has-a-deformed-child ending is rare, then this one is just about unheard of. In fact, I haven't seen one like it yet, and I applaud Ms. McQuinn for pulling it off.
Let's see, what else? It was an enjoyable read, and certainly not one I regret, like others I could name *cough*The Phantom of Manhattan*cough* There were enough Leroux elements to satisfy me, with a few Kay and Webber twists to keep me on my toes. Tired of the same old, same old in the world of Phantom fan fiction? Give this one a try! ...more
Aw, crap. More teenage vampires that attend high school and fall in love with mortals as opposed to eating them. These at least didn't appear to be ofAw, crap. More teenage vampires that attend high school and fall in love with mortals as opposed to eating them. These at least didn't appear to be of the sparkling variety, so I thought I would give them a shot.
I knew what I signed on for the instant I read the preface and learned the two rules of the Night World: don't tell mortals about it, and don't fall in love with mortals. Thanks for spoiling the ending. There was a bit of sameness about all three stories and I started rolling my eyes at the repetition of the soul mate principle, but overall it made for fun, quick reading.
-Secret Vampire- What can I say? This one exceeded my expectations. I like the idea of born vampires and made vampires because I haven't seen that one often enough for it to feel boring yet, and I haven't seen the need to drink blood going beyond simple thirst at all. Poppy was spunky but not insufferable, and I liked twin brother Phil, but I felt in the middle of the road about James. He wasn't what I would call a bad character, but he didn't jump out and grab my attention. The mental link during the actual blood drinking was my favorite part and I liked the conflict about Poppy's transformation, but the ending just felt too easy for me, like Smith suddenly got bored and decided to wrap things up as quickly as possible and took the path of least resistance. Too feeble! I loved Poppy's reaction to James confessing what he is. If I had a terminal illness and the best friend I grew up with claimed to be an immortal vampire, I'd be pissed, too. Nice start, lousy ending...I'll give this one a three.
-Daughters of Darkness- Shucks, more vampires. I thought there were more creatures in the Night World! This one was the exact opposite of Secret Vampire. It took me forever to get involved in it, but I actually liked the ending. Rowan, Kestrel, and Jade never made it past two-dimensional for me, but I liked Mary-Lynette a lot and Ash was a lot more appealing on the whole here, lazy, arrogant smart ass and all. Theirs was the most interesting plot line of the lot, though I had brief doubts when Jeremy became a major player. In fact, I could have done without the Mark and Jade love story entirely. Come on, two sets of soul mates among the same two sets of siblings? It seemed obnoxious and redundant. But the ending! I must return to the ending! I was sad to see it come to that conclusion all around, but it was a nice, solid finish that made up for the slow start. I'll give this one another three.
-Spellbinder- This one was the strongest of the book. It grabbed me and didn't let me stop until I read the whole thing...which I did in one sitting. Ugh, again with the instant soul mates thing that seems to be some sort of epidemic in the Night World, but I like how this one played out the best. Blaise was the most complex, unpredictable character by far, the subplot of a vengeful spirit on the loose actually supported rather than detracted and distracted, and the love story reminded me pleasantly of a book I read years ago and enjoyed quite a bit. Score! Aside from the insta-love that strikes within the first three chapters, I have no gripe with this one. It started good and ended even better, and even if the first two stories let me down this one made the whole book worth it. I give it a five!
So, calculating the overall rating based on the individual ratings and rounding up according to the decimals, I give volume one four stars out of five, and I stand behind it. Now get me volume two!...more
So, when I started reading this, I took notes with the intention of writing a review based on my opinions as I read. Instead, it turned into a littleSo, when I started reading this, I took notes with the intention of writing a review based on my opinions as I read. Instead, it turned into a little play-by-play commentary, which I decided to use anyway. It summed up my opinions better than a review could. So here it is, verbatim! Spoilers ahead! And language when I couldn't control my enthusiasm!
PROLOGUE -Bernice seems intriguing, active with a morbid imagination -Immediate mental correlation w/ Dracula--"Leppington, the town built on blood" -As always w/ horror: I want to keep going just to see when it gets scary -What is B's obsession w/ Mike Stroud?
ONE AND TWO -Chapter structure similar to "It"...bad sign? -David Leppington seems...arrogant? Have to wait to see what he'll do
THREE -Skinhead punk on the train is going to get it, isn't he? At least, I hope so. He's annoying me. A lot. -Wait...I thought fag meant something else across the pond?
FOUR -Leech farm...huh?! -*cough* Disney World! -Now a slaughterhouse...pretty grisly so far -Who the flying fart is Katrina? -Nice touch w/ slaughterhouse and sewers -Should I start tallying use of the word "fatalistic" already?
FIVE -And "flippant" while I'm at it?
SEVEN -Katrina = variation on Renfield
EIGHT -I definitely like Bernice -Electra might be twisted -Jason Morrow is in denial -Red felt-tip scar again...Clark has redundancy issues -OK, make that Dracula/It crossover
TEN -Skinhead seems to be telepathic. Boy, I wonder how this will work out? -Definitely Dracula/It crossover
ELEVEN -George seems to have some hellacious longevity. Suspicious?
TWELVE -George...what do you know? -Norse gods, descendants of Thor...I need a break -Oh Lord, now stories about magic swords. And conquering empires w/ supermen. Vampires, you mean?
THIRTEEN -Is George setting the vamps loose? The plot thickens... -Could be...this legend seems to point that way. You know, this isn't much like the blurb described, and it has yet to get scary
FIFTEEN -Uh oh...watch out, Dianne -Told you so.
SEVENTEEN -Because it's not real horror w/out an abundance of horny people getting ganked in the middle of fu-- uh, fornicating -Bernice, I thought you were smarted than that! You NEVER go into the basement! -And you never ever EVER open the door! Don't open the door, don't open the door, don't open the--
EIGHTEEN -Saved by the skinhead! Who'da thunk it?
NINETEEN -now we're getting somewhere! But still not scary, damn it! -Still not entirely sure about David...
TWENTY -Skinhead, perhaps a hero? You know, maybe we ought to stop calling him that and start using that stupid alias he gives everyone. -Holy crap, I really think Jack Black might be warning them. -Feeling sympathy for a troubled past? But he was such an asshole a few chapters ago! -Jesus H. Christ...I know that one! -Don't worry, Dave! They've recognized their overlord!
TWENTY-ONE -Electra...what do you know?
TWENTY-TWO -A guest named Matt Smith...cue Whovian enthusiasm! -All right, Electra, what the hell do you know that you're not saying?
TWENTY-THREE -Bingo! Jack's got it! -Oh, so now we think of Katrina? -Watch out, fella, she bites. *morbid chuckle* -Watch out, lady, that ain't your husband. -Well, I notice Clark has finally utilized the insidious nature of modern vampires and he isn't skimping on blood and death...but this still ain't scary.
TWENTY-FOUR -Wait, so George isn't the overlord? -Oh, shit, he turned them loose! -Well, if setting them loose would annihilate mankind, why the hell did you do it?
TWENTY-FIVE -This thing is inventive, if nothing else. -Oh, she's having fun, Dad, don't worry. -David Leppington is in denial. -Electra is definitely twisted. -Bingo! Bernice is getting there!
TWENTY-SIX -Wait one damn minute! I thought this was Norse myth! What does the Middle East have to do with it? -David is in serious denial. Electra has been in some serious denial. -Well, you're all making progress and maybe Jack Black isn't such an asshole, but what do you mean, you're going into the basement?!
TWENTY-SEVEN -You know, I want David and Bernice to end up together. I really do. -Tunnels under Leppington...and sewers under Derry! -There's that word again, flippant. Why do you keep using it? I don't think it means what you think it means. *snicker* -Well, if he doesn't believe after all that, he's a hell of a lot dumber than I thought he was and I give up on him. -Hell yes! War council! Now we're talking!
TWENTY-NINE -So the slaughterhouse was on purpose...I knew it! -And here comes Hindu reincarnation. Holy shit, man, make up your mind.
THIRTY-ONE -For want of a better word, for want of a better word--I tell you, this man Clark has redundancy issues. -But he researched his names. Impressive!
THIRTY-TWO -I saw the reincarnation coming, so I wonder if I can guess how all this ends... -All right, now that made my skin crawl. About damn time, too. -Man up, bitch! These things want to eat you! -I predict either Black will turn on the others and David will have to kill him, or that Black will turn noble and sacrifice himself. Either way, the vampires will be destroyed somehow, and Black bites the dust. Just my guess.
THIRTY-THREE -Something big is about to happen, isn't it? -Watch it, Bernice! -Oh shit! -OH SHIT!
THIRTY-FOUR -Tom and Jerry reference. I approve. -And George's sword is going to figure into saving the day, isn't it? -That's how you take care of old-school vampires, you nincompoops! Good old decapitation!
THIRTY-FIVE -Take back everything I said about Jack Black. He's not so bad after all. -Cocaine in Coca-Cola...coke squared! -Ooh, Electra's smoked them! But just what the hell is going on here? -Yes! I knew there was something about Maximilian!
THIRTY-NINE -Even the name "Harker" made it in here. -George, you old coot, what have you done now? -Man up, bitch! They'll kill you as soon as they get the chance! -Uh oh, it's fixing to get bloody.
FORTY -OH SHIT! -Ew, gross. -Ah, and Bernice has an epiphany! -Oh come ON, man! Humane, my ass! You are an idiot! -She's going to wake up, I know she is. -TOLD YOU! -Ew, gross.
FORTY-ONE -Aw, shit yeah. That's the ticket! -CHAINSAWS!
FORTY-TWO -So...this is getting pretty bad ass. -HUH?! -Oh shit. -I suppose it's only fair that the American is the bad guy in a British novel. After all, how often are the Brits the bad guys in American movies? So long as we stay friendly outside the realm of fiction, I'm cool with it. -Oh shit. -Damn. That's a good speech.
FORTY-THREE -See? Told you. Kinda sucks, though. -Run, Forrest, run! -WHOA! -Oh come on, Electra, you won't take the bait. -Whew, close one, and I'm relieved and all, but I still think it's going to end badly. -Oh NO! -Uh oh. No no no no no no.... -NO NONONONONO! -DAAAAAAMMMMNNNN IIIIIIIIITTTTTTT! FUCK! SHIT! SON OF A BITCH!
FORTY-FOUR -Aw, shiiiiiiiitttt.....
FORTY-FIVE -God, I hope I can finish this before work. -GAAAAH, YOU BASTARD! -YEAH! FUCK YEAH! -Aw, man, this is going to suuuuuuuck....
EPILOGUE -Oh, poor thing. -OK, that was a bit cheesy for me, but it's minor. -You know what, that was actually kinda good.
I was in the fourth grade when I read this for the first time, and when I picked it up again for the first time in years I was worried I might not lovI was in the fourth grade when I read this for the first time, and when I picked it up again for the first time in years I was worried I might not love it the same way anymore, that it would seem too "juvenile" as my taste in books evolved.
Not true. It's still every bit as good as it was the first time. Mattie wasn't an insufferable child (something I've noticed tends to be a bit more pronounced in other childhood faves I've reread as I grew older), the language wasn't dumbed down, and there was still the old terror and urgency that made it so appealing in the first place. And bonus points for nostalgia! The chapters are a lot shorter than I've gotten used to, but since this is aimed at younger readers it's only natural, and it made the action move a lot faster.
I still cry and cheer at all the same parts and have greater appreciation, dare I say more learned appreciation, for the extracts heading every chapter. They add a dose of realism that strikes home, giving a personal view of what it was really like that summer in Philadelphia, and it gave me chills. Heck, the whole book still gives me chills! Plague stories scare me as much as dystopia, and this one more so because it's based on historical FACT. The breakdown of social order, the widespread panic, the struggle to survive not just the fever itself but how it impacted everyday life...*shudders* I'm glad I wasn't there for all of that!
So you've got your main event, the big plot element, and now all you need is a good, strong character to drive things along? Gotcha covered. I cared about Mattie in the fourth grade, and I still care about her. She's smart and capable, she can fend for herself when she has to, and she's not some annoying brat that abounds in YA lit. She is still in some ways a child, but you could see she was beginning to grow up and mature, adapting to her circumstances as best she could. All in all, a good, strong character worthy of driving things along.
Bottom line is, it's a tough feat to write a book for young readers that adults can enjoy as well, but I think Ms. Anderson scored with this one....more
Rose Abbott may be my favorite of Michelle's heroines so far. I identified with her so well and so quickly she couldn't help but shoot to the top of tRose Abbott may be my favorite of Michelle's heroines so far. I identified with her so well and so quickly she couldn't help but shoot to the top of the list. Living in a dream world, always full of stories with some too close to her heart to share lightly, determined not to settle when it comes to love, "beautiful and brilliant," and definitely not a damsel in distress. Then on the other end of the spectrum, we have Channing, the eighty-something vampire who, to all appearances, doesn't look a day over twenty-two. Channing is deadlocked in reality and on a mission for vengeance that has spanned over sixty years. You could say his personality is prone to obsession, and you would only be more convinced once he set eyes on Rose.
Beautiful language, humor, conflict within and without, and true love; this has everything I've come to expect from Ms. Rodriguez, and lest you get too comfortable, she threw in a few curve balls. Misuse of supernatural powers, a hero behaving like a villain in many different ways, the vampire equivalent of drug use, and what I feel is Michelle's creepiest baddie to date. It's just as dark as Opera Macabre, her previous vampire novel, but it's balanced with Channing's wise-guy sidekick Schuyler and Rose's two sisters, Millicent and Prudence. The interaction and the bond between the sisters really made the story for me, especially in light of the book's dedication, and it felt much more personal and (if possible) more heartfelt because of that.
Michelle has told her fans this has a Phantom of the Opera flavor, and I can see that element in play, but I thought of it most as "Beauty and the Beast." Through a terrible curse, and ordinary man becomes a monster, and the key to breaking that curse is through the love of a woman who sees beyond the monster. Rose's story of the rose and the weed was one that will stay with me for a long time, and her tales of the Dark Man in her dreams were the best part of all.
All in all, another great story and one that's earned a place of honor on my bookshelves. And now, I leave you with a few of my favorite quotes!
- Perhaps I've believed in fairy tales too long, but I want someone who would adore me in a way that alters every bit of my world. I will not settle for plain love when I want explosions of firelight.
- Do you believe in shadows? Shadows with hands that come out of the night and can steal you away if you wish hard enough?
- Yes, he was her nightmare, and she was his dream, and that made them as far from each other as possible.
- I've always been a little in love with a character in my head, and not a single one of those ridiculous gentlemen could live up to my fantasy.
- She doesn't look like the violent sort, but the deadliest ones never do.
- You know what monsters lurk in the dark, and yet you embrace it anyway. ...more
I saw the movie first, and came into the book understanding that the two were very different...so much so, in fact, that it doesn't even seem fair toI saw the movie first, and came into the book understanding that the two were very different...so much so, in fact, that it doesn't even seem fair to me to say one is better than the other. This focused a lot more on Holly's grief, but it was still downright hysterical at times and balanced humor and sadness rather well. That's a quality I like in a book, and a skill I admire in a writer.
Oh, look! A readers' group discussion guide! I'll use it to write a review! (Spoilers ahead!)
At what point does the book hook you? What makes you keep reading? Well, not to be cliche, but I was hooked from the first page. It had some slow points and Holly's constant bellyaching got old a few times (I know she's in mourning, but can we please move on with the story?), but it was mostly the humor that kept me going. I couldn't wait to see what kind of hijinks was around the corner.
Keeping in mind that Cecilia Ahern was twenty-one when she wrote P.S. I Love You, discuss her strengths as a storyteller. Being, ahem, a young storyteller myself, I was rooting for her, and she stacked up a hell of a lot better than other young authors I've read. Her prose was light and funny, but also impressively mature and moving. There were a few times her inexperience showed in the way she told her story and the language she used to tell it, but that's only my opinion, for what it's worth. For the most part, the narrative was so good that I couldn't believe a twenty-one-year-old had written it. It had much more depth than I was expecting, based on prior experience, from such a young writer.
Look at the first two paragraphs of Chapter One. What information does Ahern provide at this early stage to set up the story that follows? Oh, wow. Like I said, I was hooked from the first page. That was a pretty powerful opening, and I knew I was going to cry before the book was over. The impact of Gerry's death on Holly and the loss she feels hit me right in the head like a frying pan. I repeat: this was very mature and moving coming from someone so young.
What is so compelling about a list left by a loved one who has died? How does the list help Holly? What a premise to base a story on! It was so intriguing and felt so novel! Gerry was gone, but he was still there with Holly through his notes, and I felt her anticipation and excitement as she waited until it was time to read another. Ultimately, though, the notes had to come to an end, but they were a way to ease Holly into letting Gerry go and moving on with her life, and it was such a bittersweet and thoughtful way of doing it.
Think about Holly's reaction to Gerry's karaoke instruction. How does the experience help her? The karaoke! One of the best parts! A little lump came to my throat when I read Gerry had planned it months in advance, knowing he wouldn't be there with her and that she would have to go through with it for her own sake. It was good for Holly to step outside of her comfort zone and face an old fear with the actual karaoke, and then to be surrounded by family and friends without Gerry at her side. She had to find an identity outside of his wife, and the karaoke was just another step towards moving on.
Even though Gerry is dead, how does he come alive in the book? See, now, he didn't really "come alive" for me. It felt more like hearing everyone talk about this wonderful person, but never actually meeting this person for myself, and that came as a disappointment. To be fair on Ms. Ahern, it's hard to resurrect the dead for the reader, and I think it would have been tough to pull off. It was such a shame for a character with such impact on the story to come off so...ghost-like, especially when the others were so vivid they just seemed to fill my head, but I guess it's only fitting that it worked out that way, given what the book is about.
Discuss who experiences a transformation in P.S. I Love You. I'm taking the easy way out and going with the obvious answer. At the beginning of the book, Holly is a devastated widow. She won't leave the house, she won't eat, and she's lost the other half of her heart. I cried for her and with her. Then little by little, she starts taking baby steps towards recovery, and it's wonderful that Gerry was still able to help her move on, even while she mourned him. She has her triumphs and setbacks when she reverts back into the wreck she was at the first, but by the end she emerges stronger, a woman who has learned to shape a new life for herself, to find herself and a sense of purpose, and to just live, period. It started so sad, but it ended so hopeful I had a smile on my face when I finished reading.
All in all, I enjoyed reading this. It made me laugh, cry, and think, and as far as I'm concerned, that makes it a success with me. I was pestering both my mother and my sister to read this once I was done with it, and I would be quick to recommend it. I felt a sense of camaraderie with Holly that doesn't often happen with other books. She felt so genuine and so real, and it's rare that I feel so close to a character so quickly. That Ms. Ahern was able to pull that off was terrific. ...more
Finally! I get to review my absolute favorite! Yay!
I'm going to try to avoid reminiscences about the first time I read this...back when it was postedFinally! I get to review my absolute favorite! Yay!
I'm going to try to avoid reminiscences about the first time I read this...back when it was posted online, and the wonderful suspense of waiting for the next chapter...but if I venture down memory lane on occasion, forgive me. Overall, it's even more wonderful to just sit down with the book and read and read and read some more, then turn around and re-read it all again the instant you come to the last page. Which I did!
So, moving on...simply put, this is my favorite retelling of The Phantom of the Opera I've read. Period. The love Michelle Rodriguez has for the story and the characters is undeniable, as is her spot-on skills for putting the reader right there with them and making them feel every emotion and then some. She pays tribute to both the Leroux and Webber versions, and also makes the story her own. Her take on the much-beloved, oft-massacred character of Erik leaves nothing to be desired. He is every bit as arrogant, dangerous, and terrifying as he should be, but also passionate, tender, vulnerable, and just plain Erik in a way most authors never manage to pull off. It's so easy to sacrifice the dark side of his personality in pursuit of an ideal romantic hero (which, let's face it, he isn't), but that never happens here. Erik himself is responsible for the majority of the emotional thrill ride when his rage, pain, love and desire come spilling out; Like I said, you feel every emotion as you read it. In particular, the unmasking scene and the infamous Chapter Eighteen hit me the hardest. All the impact of a punch in the face, and so much feeling that I cried and couldn't stop!
Christine is another tough character to get right. She can come out insipid, co-dependent, idiotic, boring, etc. when not handled carefully. Here, though, she remains in character. She loves the Angel of Music but fears the Opera Ghost, and must reconcile each as mere roles Erik must play before she can truly love him. She must also be strong enough to face what life with him will mean, and she grows as a character with every step. Erik's character arc is fascinating, but Christine's growth into a woman who can be a match for Erik is truly impressive. She begins as a naive young girl, full of fantasies and in love with a heavenly angel. To watch that childishness fall away and blossom into maturity, strength and passion that equals Erik's own is one of the most gratifying things about reading this. Her relationship with Erik, contrasted with her interactions with Raoul, shift and progress from timid/uncertain/passive to confident/assured/assertive. Comparing her first and last scenes with both men drive it home how much loving Erik transforms her, as much as loving her transforms him.
I always appreciate Michelle's treatment of Raoul. There is never any character assassination whatsoever; he is simply the spoiled, self-assured, stubborn boy he is in Leroux. He honestly loves Christine, and tries to act in her best interests, but...he has listening problems and he just won't leave well enough alone! He has his moments of being sweet and charming, but there's always that trait that's so visible in the novel: He refuses to understand what he doesn't comprehend. He is the moral compass of the story and the voice of reason, but he is blinded by his own love and prejudice to see where Christine's heart lies. And again, that infamous Chapter Eighteen...damn you, Raoul! Damn you!
As always, I adore the language and the words themselves. Each character has a definite voice (that remains true to each character...bonus points for that!) and there are so many quotable bits, my favorite still being Meg Giry's "Bright lights distract me! And I sometimes forget to look beyond my own nose!" Adorable! Then from Erik: "...what good is a clean soul in a blemished vessel? Being penitent won't put me one step closer to heaven. Curse salvation! You are my salvation. If you can love me, I'll be sorry." That's just...oh wow.
Looking over my comments posted on each chapter as it went up online, I notice that I refer to Michelle as the Diane Warren of fiction and that I idolize her as much as Robin McKinley, and I still stand behind those words. This is still one of the most beautiful, gorgeously written, kick ass things I've ever read, and that's even outside of Phantom! This was the story that cemented my admiration and respect for Ms. Rodriguez, and I'm so happy to have read it. Even happier that she published it! Brava!...more
I like my chances at getting a novel of my own published by a major company, because it looks like they'll print anything these days...
I'd be really pI like my chances at getting a novel of my own published by a major company, because it looks like they'll print anything these days...
I'd be really pissed off that I spent money to buy this if I hadn't gotten it dirt cheap at a thrift store. Two dollars buys a book worth only two stars, who'da thunk it? In the end, I went with two because I couldn't even muster the energy to out and out dislike this book. The most it got out of me was a "meh." As a vampire novel, it failed. The word didn't even appear until halfway through the whole thing, not counting the title. As a Pride and Prejudice sequel, it failed. Darcy was stiff and boring, and Lizzy was never this slow, insipid and needy. As a Jane Austen retelling, it really failed. Grange completely lacked the wit, humor and charm of Miss Austen and can barely stand on her own merit without trying to cash in on someone else's.
I'm not saying that a P&P-with-vamps story can't be done. As a matter of fact, I'm tempted to try it myself. I'm saying that this ain't that story. This is more like a rip-off of Twilight than P&P (and I paid for this crap?!). Darcy may not sparkle, but he turns transparent at dawn, so that's close enough for me. And hell, even Bella freaking Swan figured out about Edward Cullen before Lizzy found out about Darcy!
That's not what ticked me off the most. It was the constant, direct quotes from the original that did that. Always verbatim, and always at least three in a chapter. What was the purpose of this, exactly? To prove that Grange read the original? Not very well, it seems, as both hero and heroine are so far out of character to the point of assassination. Was she trying to separate it from Twilight by throwing as much of Jane as she could in there? Was she trying to be clever, in putting such a spin on a classic? In this, she also failed.
The atmosphere threw me off as well. P&P is bright, cheery and playful. This is not. Decent vampire stories are dark, full of mystery, and occasionally scary. This is not. I have no idea what this is, but I can only call it bad fan fiction. Not the worst, as I've read some pretty nauseating garbage, but bad enough to be getting along with. It was dull and uninteresting, and I only finished it because it was so short and I literally had nothing else to do. This thing only serves to prove that if you pander to the folks in charge at the publishing houses and give them what sells--in this case, vampires and retellings of classics--then regardless of talent or worth, you too can see your name in print!...more
My knowledge of Katherine of Aragon is limited to five facts: 1) she was the daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand, king and queen of Spain, 2) she was fMy knowledge of Katherine of Aragon is limited to five facts: 1) she was the daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand, king and queen of Spain, 2) she was first married to Arthur Tudor, Henry VIII's older brother, 3) she was Henry's first wife, 4) she was a devout Catholic, 5) she was Princess Mary's mother. For all I know, her life story is as Philippa Gregory wrote it, but after the misinformation of The Other Boleyn Girl, I highly doubt it.
Yet it bears repeating that Ms. Gregory is a good storyteller, in the sense that she made me finish reading what might as well be a novelized soap opera. My liking for Katherine carried over from TOBG and grew as she was portrayed with greater detail. She transformed from an obedient daughter to an independent, if troubled widow, and from there into a victorious queen. I grew so attached to the love story with Arthur that it fairly broke my heart when it ended, and my initial ambivalence towards Henry was cemented once again into dislike. Arrogant, selfish, demanding, and with the power to have you put to death if you annoyed him--yikes!
But back to Katherine, or Catalina, as she's called here. Her initial motive was to fulfill her destiny to please her parents, and that made for a dull start (one of the books problems, but I liked it as a whole, anyway). Her love and passion for Arthur, once it took off, got me caught up in no time, hopeless romantic that I am. It was her vow to become Queen of England no matter what that set things rolling. Was it really her determination to keep her promise that drove her, or did the promise just give her an excuse for her ambition? Did her pledge to Arthur really inspire her to cast him off and publicly denounce him, or was she serving her own purposes? And even after denying they were ever truly husband and wife, she still loved him heart and soul, and remained constant to him even as she was married to Henry. See? See what I did there?
No, really, "constant" could refer to many things about Catalina. Constant determination, patience, perseverance, deception, pride, and constant devotion to her dead husband and lover. The next time I read TOBG, my view of Queen Katherine will have changed quite a bit...
About the shifts from third to first person--I didn't mind in the slightest. The reader has the omnipresence to see what's going on everywhere else in the story, and the intimate, personal account of the heroine herself. I'm partial to alternating POV, myself, so I was already slanted in Ms. Gregory's favor on that part. I would have liked to split the time mostly between Catalina's marriages without the long portion focusing on her widowhood, as that's when things lost a lot of steam, but other than that, I enjoyed this more than TOBG. *gasp* I really did.
The closing with Katherine ready to defend her marriage to Henry with her--paraphrasing here--having the courage to lie again knowing he would never be brave enough to tell the truth, and fighting for her daughter's rights as a legitimate princess, her queenship, and (truly, this time) the promise she made Arthur...brava. Highest point of the whole book, seeing she was all but defeated and yet anything but. My favorite scene by far, and that, if nothing else, makes this one worth it.
In closing: historical inaccuracies likely, reminiscent of daytime TV, less opulent than TOBG but with more...spirit, shall I say? This one has less grandeur, but more of something else that I can't quite put my finger on. Either way, I liked it, plain and simple, flaws and all....more
Oh my goodness gracious...I had to read this one twice. I raced through it the first time and realized I hadn't paid enough attention to give it a decent review, I was so caught up in the poetry of the narrative. No exaggeration, I've never read prose this lyrical. I doubt I've read anything written with such detail, either. This is how you write historical fiction, painstaking research woven in so seamlessly that the world comes to life and the research itself becomes invisible. The Venice of the novel, the everyday life at the Pieta, the class distinctions, the ballrooms and the theaters, all were so vibrant and alive it was breathtaking.
We have the author's assurances that Anna Maria dal Violin really lived and taught at the Pieta, but I couldn't imagine her any differently than as Ms. Quick described her, a lonely girl in search of her mother, music the only constant in her life. Her misadventures with her friends were funny and heartwarming, if the consequences were severe, but her relationships with Sister Laura and her beloved maestro Antonio Vivaldi fascinated me the most. Her story, told in letters from her fourteen-year-old self and from her mature, middle-aged perspective was engaging, discovering her place in the world and learning the truth of her birth.
Life at the Pieta is sheltered and rigid, rocked by politics and the occasional scandal. Anna Maria's secret sojourns outside to the opera, the Jewish Ghetto, and the ball of one of Venice's premiere aristocrats kept things lively, but my favorite passages always concerned music. Through Ms. Quick's descriptions, it becomes a faithful, breathing entity, the ultimate gift from God brought to life by even the lowliest of His children. They are hidden from the world, but they give Venice the music of Heaven.
There is a spiritual aspect to the book I can't quite put into words, centered around family, music, and the beauty of a well-kept secret. The story itself was lovely and the writing enchanting; I sense a recommending spree coming on...if you are interested in eighteenth-century Italy, music, Vivaldi, historical fiction, short books, well-written books, and purple prose (but not too purple), you've got to read this!...more