I had eyed the Plain Kate cover for quite a while before I bought it. Every time, I’d pick it up, think “Ooooo, pretty” and then decide that it wasn’tI had eyed the Plain Kate cover for quite a while before I bought it. Every time, I’d pick it up, think “Ooooo, pretty” and then decide that it wasn’t what I was in the mood for right then (read: angsty teenage romances). Because I’m an idiot. And then when I finally bought it, I kind of did the same thing. I read a little and thought, ok, yes, I like this, but this is not what I need right this immediate second. See: because I’m an idiot. And that perhaps my favorite thing about Erin Bow’s Plain Kate: it surprised me. It wasn’t at all expected when I was hemming and hawing over it, and, even though I’d (stupidly) ignored this book for much too long, when I started really reading, I couldn’t put it down.
Plain Kate tells the story of, well, Plain Kate. Plain Kate is a wood carver with a true gift, one her father cultivates until a sickness that devastates Plain Kate’s town takes him away from her. Alone in a town that distrusts her gifts, Plain Kate struggles to get by, alone except for her cat, Taggle, who can talk. When a mysterious stranger comes ashore, all of that changes. Plain Kate can no longer hide in the shadows because, thanks to this stranger, the townsfolk thinks she is a witch. Plain Kate flees with Taggle, joining a band of roamers and discovering the dangers of magical prejudice and the consequences it brings.
This book was magic. I’m not just saying it because it was about magic. I mean it was magic. Because, I’ll admit, the first fifty or so pages were pretty bleak. I found it hard to get through them. But then I did and I knew exactly why Erin Bow had written them that way. The buildup of tension in this book was one of the best I’d read in a long time. You build up revelations in yourself as you read. I thought Taggle was adorable for the whole book and so cat-like. But out of nowhere, the plot shifts and I am borderline sobbing over how much I love him. And it came out of nowhere for me. I couldn’t believe it. The whole book was the same way. It was complex and dark and yet so hopeful. Because Plain Kate is hopeful when almost no one in her situation would be able to muster up the will to go on.
Plain Kate has a hard life. A ridiculously hard life. A life that seems to get harder and harder with every turn of the page. But those first fifty, terribly bleak pages showed me that Kate is a survivor. She survives, and she doesn’t need much to do it. She’ll also break your heart into a million pieces. She’s so fragile and lonely and vulnerable and all you want to do is cuddle her and let her carve you some adorable wooden trunks and things in whatever time is leftover after you have force fed her delicious hot food and cookies and let her have hot baths and lots of love. I think Kate may be one of my top five YA girls ever.
I said I loved this book because it surprised me, and it really did. Because the “villain” was not a nice man. But he wasn’t just evil. He wasn’t evil for the sake of it. His path was tortured and dark and, if her weren’t doing what he was doing, maybe my heart would have broken a little for him too. For me, a well-drawn “villain” is the mark of a superb novel.
Plain Kate had not one but two villains. The second wasn’t even a person. It was an idea – an idea that if someone is different or strange you should tie them to a stake and burn them. Or, at the very best, run them out of town to starve. If someone is different in a way that scares you, blame them for your problems and beat them to make yourself feel better. And watching Kate survive that – the persecution even by those who themselves were persecuted – was terrible and wonderful all at once. Wonderful because Kate is the kind of role model you hope young girls have. Someone who sees beyond her own misery and her own persecution to look at the future and at the rest of the world. This was what made Plain Kate so powerful for me. Powerful enough to stick with me for days and even now.
Basically, I’m kind of obsessed with this book. Because I’m afraid of building expectations so high that nothing could meet them, I’ll say that this wasn’t a perfect book. In the beginning, I found the use of “Plain Kate” to be kind of a lot, and that was one of the things that slowed down my progress. And…ok that was my only real complaint. But it doesn’t matter, because I really think this book can stand up to the expectations I may have built for it.
Plain Kate was one of the best books I’ve read this year. I can’t believe it was a debut novel, and I can’t believe it took me so long to read it. I loved this book so much that my review is rambly and effusive and maybe a little incoherent, and I don’t even mind. It wasn’t the kind of book I’d normally pick up just because there wasn’t a romantic subplot, but that made it even better. Please give Plain Kate a shot. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed....more
I think that if these were 3 separate books, I'd have enjoyed them quite a lot more. Everything just felt so rushed, for me. The Carolyn bits were gooI think that if these were 3 separate books, I'd have enjoyed them quite a lot more. Everything just felt so rushed, for me. The Carolyn bits were good to tie the threads of the story together, but those pages could have maybe been better spent on the couples in question. And honestly, Hugh and Georgiana's tale ended up being my least favorite, though at the beginning I was looking forward to it most. Hugh just did what felt like a complete 180 from the character that had been established throughout the book. And really, what seven year old would forget something like (view spoiler)[swimming naked with a boy, especially in THAT time period? (hide spoiler)] Overall, I think that this was just a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. Flashes of fun and romance, to be sure, but ruined by the fast pace with which the stories had to be developed....more
Fundamentally, I don't know why this was marketed as a young adult book. It's not a young adult book. Jane may have been 19, but she was written likeFundamentally, I don't know why this was marketed as a young adult book. It's not a young adult book. Jane may have been 19, but she was written like a 19 year old 160 years ago. And the Mr. Rathburn (why change his name? I don't get it) never really has an age stated, but we have to assume late twenties at the least. I had very different expectations for this book based on the marketing. And really, I was hoping for more than just a retelling. For me, the book was almost exactly the same but without the emotional punch of the source novel. It kept details, sure (see: tarot card readings) but completely ignored what made those scenes special or important. And really, the ending was conveniently happy for me. I missed the drama of Mr. Rochester's injuries and the permanence of them.
Really, though, I think what killed me was that for Mr. Rochester to lock Bertha in an attic was one thing in 1840. It's quite another now. With everything we know about diseases like schizophrenia, it just didn't work at ALL that Mr. Rathburn would lock up BiBi in an attic with a crotchety housekeeper. Why not reinforce that wing of the house? Why not hire, you know, an actual nurse and staff? It just made him seem more heartless. This isn't a man who was tricked into a marriage by his father. This was a man who admittedly ruined a girl.
I don't know. I loved Jane Eyre. I thought everything about it was tortured, from the characters to the circumstance even to the happy ending. This book didn't leave me feeling any of that. And, because it was basically an exact retelling except for, you know, Rochester being transformed into Nico Rathburn the FAMOUS rockstar, I didn't really get into this.
Jane was an ok book, I suppose, but it ultimately wasn't for me. It gave me a watered down Jane Eyre plot that was totally lacking in the passion of its source material....more
I just could not get over that the male lead is the same man who kidnapped and planned to forcibly marry one of the female lead's best friends. He wasI just could not get over that the male lead is the same man who kidnapped and planned to forcibly marry one of the female lead's best friends. He was a rake and an asshole in the last book and in the first quarter of this one, and I love reformed rakes as much as the next regency romance addict but...KIDNAPPING! Not ok. It ruined for me what might have otherwise been a decent story. I also really missed character details - I felt like I didn't know anything about the characters except that Sebastian was a rake and that Evie was shy. So much (somewhat random) plot was happening that the characters were completely 2 dimensional for me....more
I thought this was funny and well-written. I liked Lucy and I liked Jeremy. I thought they were a good match and had good chemistry. I also thought, hI thought this was funny and well-written. I liked Lucy and I liked Jeremy. I thought they were a good match and had good chemistry. I also thought, however, it was a tiny bit lazy. There was a lot of buildup about Jeremy being so cold etc., but we never really saw that and we never really saw WHY. The back cover talks about a past full of secrets, but I didn't really find that the man had ANY secrets. I don't have a problem with that at all, but the blurb (which isn't the author's fault) had me expecting it. And because Lucy and Jeremy had known each other for such a long time, we didn't have the getting to REALLY know the person time, which I missed. It was more of an "Oh, look, you suddenly having womanly curves" thing, and I wish there'd been a little less of that. This seems like a lot of complaining, I know, but I still liked this book and I'll definitely be reading more by Tessa Dare....more
I'd probably give this three and a half stars if I could. I certainly enjoyed it, but I think there might have been one too many misunderstandings forI'd probably give this three and a half stars if I could. I certainly enjoyed it, but I think there might have been one too many misunderstandings for me to truly love this book. And I didn't mind the early misunderstandings because, plot convenient though they may be, misunderstandings happen so often in life. But. They just kept piling on to the point that I almost felt like I couldn't let myself enjoy any of the happy moments in the book. Even still, I think Ian and Elizabeth were great characters with unique voices to the genre, and that ...more
This book sounded so promising but fell really, really flat for me. I didn't feel tension or a connection to the characters. I didn't follow the plotThis book sounded so promising but fell really, really flat for me. I didn't feel tension or a connection to the characters. I didn't follow the plot particularly well. And there were weird things in the writing and point of view that left me confused. I loved the idea at the foundation of this novel, but the support structure and the finishes just didn't do it for me. I think with a little more heft (read: if it were longer), this could have been written as an adult fantasy novel and made a lot more sense/fit a lot better. It just didn't read at all YA to me because the journey of the main character was missing. I mean, she WENT places, sure, but her thoughts and feelings about everything were completely lost in the plot and I missed that a lot, especially considering how glacially things seemed to move (even though a lot happened). I didn't hate this book by any stretch, but one star says you didn't like it and, well, I didn't....more
I loved the idea of this book. I loved the idea that maybe living in a time where every little details about ourselves is online isn’t such a great thI loved the idea of this book. I loved the idea that maybe living in a time where every little details about ourselves is online isn’t such a great thing. And I really loved the idea of looking forward into the future and thinking…how did I get there? Because, for me, this book really hammers home the idea that life is what we make of it. Sometimes there are things that are completely out of our control, but how we react to those things is a choice. Seeing two seventeen year old not-quite-kids-but-definitely-not-adults struggling with their whole future? Some of us graduate high school and pop off to college and pick a degree without really thinking about what that will mean for our futures. And some of us think about it too much. This whole plot was a great play on what would otherwise be the usual high school theme of self discovery and etc.
I liked the Emma and Josh because I thought they fit the plot and because of their history. I liked seeing where they’d been and what had happened when things didn’t go the way either one of them had planned. I liked seeing the consequences of their decisions in their now and in their future and how they handled the idea of what all of that meant. And I really liked how long it took them to figure it out because, cheesy though this seems, that’s life.
Emma’s and Josh’s voices were similar enough that you can see that they’d know each other for their whole lives but different enough (yay for a working two author system) that they didn’t feel like one person. More importantly, each of them was a complete character. I got to see how they were when they were happy and sad and determined and confused. I got to see them experience sitting all alone without anyone else around. I got to see them as individuals, so I understood them by the time the book ended in way I’ve missed in a lot of YA books lately.
The book was predictable, I have to admit, but it’s not the type of book that shouldn’t be. It’s the kind of book you curl up with on a rainy/snowy fall/winter day (assuming you’re not as unlucky as me and live in a place that doesn’t have two seasons: early summer and late summer ), and just read to enjoy. It will make you think, sure, but that sort of delicious nostalgia kind of thinking and that awesome “my future is what I make of it” dreaming. I finished this book smiling, and really, I don’t know if I can ask for much more than that from any author. Now I just need to go find a bunch more Carolyn Mackler books because I am apparently missing out.
Many thanks to Penguin for sending me this book early. It was exactly what I needed this week....more
I think my problem was that this book was too much history and not enough story. It read like everything was being told to me. I didn't really know thI think my problem was that this book was too much history and not enough story. It read like everything was being told to me. I didn't really know the characters or their feelings about each other because I didn't spend any time in their heads. It was a great idea with a good setting and plot, but the characters fell completely and totally flat....more
I didn't enjoy this nearly as much as some of Julia Quinn's other books. The plot was a good one in theory, but it stayed so basic that it was almostI didn't enjoy this nearly as much as some of Julia Quinn's other books. The plot was a good one in theory, but it stayed so basic that it was almost too simple. And, while I liked Sebastian and Annabel fine as individuals, I was disappointed that we didn't see a connection build between them a bit better (one of my favorite things about Julia Quinn's other books). Sebastian's "secret" from the world felt a little out of place at times. I expected the reveal to be maybe a little more subtle. And maybe if Annabel had figured it out on her own, that would have helped me see their connection better than being told it....more