If you ever thought a book couldn’t wax philosophical with a zombie infestation as background, you are so wrong.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth is an ab...moreIf you ever thought a book couldn’t wax philosophical with a zombie infestation as background, you are so wrong.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth is an absolutely remarkable debut novel by author Carrie Ryan. In it, Mary is a member of a community confined to space within a forest, protected by a wire fence that constantly is bombarded by the Unconsecrated; in modern day terminology, we are talking about zombies. I pictured a much less friendly version of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village as I read. The members of Mary’s village occupy three distinct groups: the Sisters, who set up structure of the village, its rules and control day-to-day life of the inhabitants; the Guardians, who protect the village from the Unconsecrated and are under direct control of the Sisters; and everyone else, who all perform various functions within the village. There is no leaving the village, both by direct order of the Sisters and because of fear of the Unconsecrated. Mary seems to be something of a quiet maverick, as is her mother. Both are believers that the world was a far differnt place before the Return of the Unconsecrated, a world where the ocean existed and people were free to make their own choices. Such thinking threatens to undermine the structure and carefully planned way of life which the Sisters have implemented. However, all this starts to crumble when a series of events give Mary the opportunity to seek the answers to the questions she has always held in her heart. At the core of the book is the idea that personal freedom is life, and the loss of free will is death. This idea is constant throughout the novel. The zombies, who are literally the living dead, are mindless shells that have no reason for existing other than to consume human flesh – literally, they constantly seek to destroy life. Mary sees her compliance in living within the confines of the village as death, and seeks a life filled with personal choice. As Mary starts to wonder which side of the fence is better to live on, other ideas come into play: *life without love is not a life worth living *all choices have consequences, both good and bad *ignorance only protects for so long, and ultimately causes death *taking risks over playing it safe *personal freedom vs. the greater good *distrust of authority
You will not always like Mary as a character – desperation and desire pull cruelly practical actions from various characters in the book, and she is no exception. I personally felt that Ryan never truly answers whether Mary’s actions were the right ones; only that Mary, and everyone living, has the right to personal freedom. However, the right to make personal choices comes at a cost, sometimes to those whom Mary loves.
What I primarily like about this book is that it is truly Mary’s story. There is forbidden love, unrequited love, sibling issues, and best friend jealousies. Despite this, this novel is about Mary and her decision on whether she lives a life filled with choices she can live with, or whether she takes a risk and lives the life of choices she will not, cannot live without.
This is a haunting novel, and if you ever had the question, “Which I is I,” you will find it an invigorating read. Ryan is a wonderful writer of vivid imagery, sound dialogue, and she is able to give us intrusive insights into Mary’s conscience and soul. I look forward to reading her other works and heartily recommend this book.
“As a child I dreamed of love and sunlight and a world beyond the Forest. I dreamed of the ocean, of a place untouched by the Return. And suddenly I wonder what right we have to believe our childhood dreams will come true. My body aches with this realization. With this truth. It is as if I have cut something important away from myself. The loss is overwhelming.” Pg. 105
“Getting lost and tangled together in the late-afternoon sun as if there were nothing else in the world that mattered besides twisting along a path that led to nowhere but the middle of a field. When finding the end of the path was not quite as important as the journey to getting there.” Pg. 119
“’The Sisterhood had it wrong,” he says. “It’s not about surviving. It should be about love.... that’s what makes this life worth living. When you live with it every day. Wake up with it, hold on to it during the thunder and after a nightmare.” Pg. 155
“. . . I realize that sometimes death comes before you expect it. That while we are rarely prepared for our friends, family and loved ones to die, we are never prepared for our own deaths. Never prepared to reconcile our own regrets.” Pg. 184
“Suddenly, the roof of the attic is too close. This house is not enough for me anymore. I know that this solitude will never settle through me bones and I realize that I still long for the ocean and it’s not enough to just sit in this life and be safe.” Pg. 211(less)
My immediate reaction: I liked it, it was enjoyable, but I am not going to make it a permanent addition to my personal library. I started reading it a...moreMy immediate reaction: I liked it, it was enjoyable, but I am not going to make it a permanent addition to my personal library. I started reading it around 7:00p.m. one evening and I finished around 11:00p.m. It wasn't an "Oh, I gotta see what happens," feeling; the book simply held my interest, and I had no need to stop. I like a literary bad boy (hey, who doesn't), but Patch didn't just reek of danger; he seemed to be the kind of 'don't-go-there-girl' sort of guy who takes relish in causing havoc. Actually, between his rude arrogance and his down right manipulative and threatening mind games, the word 'sociopath' frequently flashed in my head. He truly seemed to get a high kick out of giving Nora the extreme heebie-jeebies, and in the process, gave them to me, as well (kudos, Becca). In one instance, he does something towards Nora that, were I her or were she my daughter, cops would have been called. Of course, I would have done that a few different times in this book with more than one guy, but no spoilers here! A HUGE annoyance were Nora's frequent comments about how Patch's physical proximately made her feel and her struggles with those feelings. At those times, I just thought, "Shut up, Bella Swan."
Overall, it was a fun book, and I likely will read its recently released sequel, Crescendo. If Hush, Hush had come out in the early 2000s, my personal opinion is that it might have been the book to kick the nation's love for the paranormal back into action (Patch would have needed to be a wee tad more personal). As this is the author's first book, I look forward to seeing where her writing goes from here. In conclusion, Hush, Hush didn't give me the squealy delights, but if you are looking for a good escape one evening, this might fit the bill.
"When I spotted him at a seminar on a hypertext version of Finnegan's Wake, I knew he had to be European." So begins Elizabeth Bard's attraction to a...more"When I spotted him at a seminar on a hypertext version of Finnegan's Wake, I knew he had to be European." So begins Elizabeth Bard's attraction to a future lover in her 2010 offering Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes. The man in question happens not only to be European, but French to boot. What follows is a witty and well-written chronicle of a relationship with that man, his culture, family, and, of course, the food.
I am sure many of us have been nervous about meeting a significant other's family, but I could not imagine a trial by edible fire. Love is indeed the stuff of bloody meat and smelly cheese in France, and for an American girl looking for a love to last, she will face many obstacles on her way to sitting at that table. The relationship is chronicled by food, but not in an overbearingly obvious manner; particular dishes make appearances in each chapter the same way a beloved cousin or grown-up sibling pops in to say hello. Like the food itself, these eating rituals (along with family and social etiquette) add texture and culture in a way that fascinates Bard and also makes her wonder what her true role is and where her place in the world lies. Bard struggles with her identity as an individual - the person she always planned on being has not just made a right turn, but at times, the road to that very definite vision has disappeared completely. Mix that in with moderate discussions of U.S. vs French viewpoints on everything from grocery shopping to career planning, it is little wonder that Bard did not flee for the kindness of her homebase of New York City at times.
Particularly poignant to me on a personal level are recollections of her father and commentary on her mother. Like Bard's, my parents are divorced, and very often, I caught myself nodding in agreement when she made certain observations. The good thing about being an adult is that you start seeing your parents as people; the bad thing is that you start seeing them as people. It's a catch-22 that is confounded further by painful memories.
This book is wonderfully written, although things get tied up rather quickly in the end. I would recommend it for any woman looking for a good 'real' love story that's built on equal parts of frustration, adjustment and compassion. Anyone who has every felt out of step, out of time or like a stranger in a place they love will connect with it. Of course, any cook will appreciate it, too - I got my copy from the library, but I plan on purchasing my own copy for the amazing recipes alone.
Remember that old TLC song “Waterfalls”? Oh, poor Coraline; had she only listened. . .
Coraline is the only child of parents probably not unlike yours...moreRemember that old TLC song “Waterfalls”? Oh, poor Coraline; had she only listened. . .
Coraline is the only child of parents probably not unlike yours and mine. They are busy, working people who sometimes forget that a child needs to be engaged and interacted with. Coraline has a touch of loneliness and is gobsmacked with boredom. She is sick and tired of the grown-up people around her talking around her and not with her, of them telling her to go and occupy herself. Like any child (and more than a few grown-ups), Coraline goes in search of an adventure, of something new in her life, and so she sneaks an old key from her mother that belongs to an old door that leads to nowhere in her new home. Except that one day, it does. Coraline is delighted at first, but just like Alice and Dorothy before her, realizes that there is no place like home, for that is truly where the heart is.
This was my first Gaiman, and after reading Coraline, I certainly will be back for more. The book was a creepy tale of adventure and hard lessons learned. The fright factor is such that it is completely appropriate for children, but I think adults will gain just as much from it. The most wonderful thing about Gaiman’s writing style is that every word is truly used – there are no superfluous adages in his storytelling. Consequently, the story never drags and keeps a brisk pace.
Central to the book is the development of Coraline’s sense of family and the importance of her parents in her life, and hers in theirs. Coraline also learns about the importance of courage, commitment to others, understanding and tolerance of others, that appearances can be deceiving, and that the grass is not always greener on the other side. This is a simple book, but a grand adventure – it’s a perfect story to make a part of your family’s Halloween tradition.
The cat yawned slowly, carefully, revealing a mouth and tongue of astounding pink. “Cats don’t have names,” it said. “No?” said Coraline. “No,” said the cat. “Now, you people have names. That’s because you don’t know who you are. We know we are, so we don’t need names.” pg. 37
For a moment she felt utterly dislocated. She did not know where she was; she was not entirely sure who she was. It is astonishing just how much of what we are can be tied to the beds we wake up in in the morning, and it is astonishing how fragile that can be. pg. 67
“I don’t want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I really wanted? Just like that, and it didn’t mean anything. What then?” -Coraline, pg. 120
Okay, first things first: the overall book look. I love the roughly cut, old school pages that they gave his book. That’s a literary bonus for me that...moreOkay, first things first: the overall book look. I love the roughly cut, old school pages that they gave his book. That’s a literary bonus for me that sets me up right from the start. However, I do not like the cover. I am not a purple girl, and stunning models on book covers don’t do much for me except make me think that this is a girly whirl book that I will not enjoy. According to Calla herself, she is not a girly girl either, so the heavy eye makeup just didn't feel like her to me. It's pretty eye candy, though. And then there’s the tagline:
She can control her pack, but not her heart.
Eeeeee, it just feels wrong like a bad 1980s romance with Fabio. Even though I don’t like the cover, it could have stood alone without the tagline.
Now, here’s the good news: Andrea Cremer’s writing more than makes up for any misgivings I have over the cover.
In this book, wolves are known as Guardians. There are two packs of Guardians in Nightshade: the Nightshades and the Banes. Calla is the alpha of the young Nightshades, and Ren Laroche is the alpha of the young Banes. Their bosses/masters are known as Keepers, and they have ‘matched’ Calla and Ren to be mated and form a new pack with their respective young pack mates. Yep, you read that right. Calla is heading into an arranged marriage right from the get go, and on her eighteenth birthday, too. Calla seems to have mixed feelings about it, but her sense of loyalty and duty stays her course. However, those mixed feelings intensify quite a bit after wonderfully intelligent and attractive Shay enters the picture. She does something for him that puts her in jeopardy and makes her start keeping secrets. Those choices start opening her eyes to a lot of other issues at hand, ones that not only have huge consequences for herself, but for her friends’ and family’s entire way of living.
I had a lot of fun reading this book. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve had this much fun drawing connections since the Harry Potter series. To be honest, I wasn’t sure this was going to happen for me with Nightshade. The first chapter puts Calla in unfamiliar territory, and the way with which she handles the situation had that paranormal same old, same old, “I-feel-compelled-to-help/protect-this-person-even-though-I-shouldn’t-but-I-just-can’t-help-myself” tone. Very Edward Cullen. Edward is so not my type.
Now, stick with it, true believers, because the rest of the book is freaking rad. Andrea took a common paranormal group and gave it a completely new mythology and society. If you like a good old-fashioned love triangle, philosophical and historical references (political or otherwise), gender issues, good vs. evil with a twist and a right hook, and mix in something of a dystopian flair, then oh, baby, you are going to like this read.
On top of that, the characterization is great – it seems like everyone, even the minor secondary characters, has a good backstory or personal conflict. Andrea paces the narrative so it comes out at a natural flow, and it’s very cool how she shows that personal issues affect group dynamics. Then, there’s the main show of the Calla/Ren/Shay love triangle. Calla has genuine affection for both, although she feels a greater pull towards Shay. Personally, I am not convinced that always will be the case. Her choice (if she ever gets one) would be a lot simpler if one of the guys was awful. However, Ren is not the asshole he initially is painted to be, and I suspect that Shay will give us a few surprises as we continue in the series. In a way, both guys represent the choice that Calla will have to make: despite Ren’s cockiness, he truly believes in his duty to care for and lead the pack (group identity), and Shay is a staunch advocate of personal choice and open knowledge (personal identity). Both care for Calla with a genuine fierceness that is both touching and overwhelming. Now, if that weren’t enough for our soon-to-be-of-age heroine to deal with, add in some parental pressure, realizing your bosses possibly are not the good guys (or maybe they are), and feeling responsible for everyone else’s happiness before your own. . . well, you can see why our girl Calla might be a wee bit stressed.
Here are the chief issues/ideas in this book:
*hierarchy and class issues (you think wolves would be at the top, but oh nooooo) *gender inequality (seriously, some of the guys in this . . . shudder) *personal identity/choice vs. group identity/responsibility *lack of control over one’s own life *duty vs. freedom *ignorance and comfort as control devices
Also, if you are not familiar with philosophy, I think Andrea does a great job of giving the reader enough information to understand the story through dialogue. The way she does it is fantastic and keeps your attention. However, if you aren’t so familiar with classical philosophy, you may miss her fabulous nod to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.
And that’s all I’m giving you. Seriously, read the book. You will feel in the dark in the beginning, but I assure you, you will know everything about this world as you need to. Andrea keeps the book moving between the knowledge reveals and, all of the sudden, you realize that you are learning about this universe right along with Shay.
If you look for your vamp lit with accessible supes, the kind who can be redeemed with luuurve and are actually misunderstood creatures, you got the w...moreIf you look for your vamp lit with accessible supes, the kind who can be redeemed with luuurve and are actually misunderstood creatures, you got the wrong book here. Kirsty Eagar's vamps are made of equal parts evil ambition and diabolical craftiness.
That's not to say there isn't redemption. But it's not where you think it would be in a paranormal tale, nor is it received with everything folded up neat and even. No, this is a tale of choice and consequence, of truth and action, with an actual historical incident as its foundation and group of friends as its heart. There are three plots to the story that are woven together:
**four rouge vampires who made a pact 400 years ago are planning a new, evil event **a vampire apprentice from a society in Holland races against time to find the four, but for what reasons? **a once-upon-a-time group of friends, still connected but splintered and strained, comes together to save two of their own
The first two are marvelously intertwined - I had the same feeling reading it as I did The DaVinci Code with its historical emphasis blooming into modern mystery. The supernatural factor, the demand for secrecy, and the very nerve-wracking feeling that every person is most sincerely out for only personal gain added a true level of creepy suspense - when the synopsis says thriller, it means it. That's not to say that we don't see evil portrayed in other YA; it's simply that in this book there is a level of detached sophistication in certain characters which makes their actions entirely believable and extremely cold-blooded. I more than once thought that this is a book that adults, particularly ones who enjoy thrillers, would find intriguing, as well.
Which is why I was delighted to find the story of 15-year old Jamie and his friends to be not only seamlessly ingrained around the vampiric past and present, but also provided an emotional core not always present in thrillers. Usually, we find the suspense in thrillers to mimic the emotion we would otherwise miss, but here we have a former group of friends whose ties have been skewered through various means, but must make their way around their own past to be a united front in the present. And they are a wonderful, entirely believable group of friends - their affection for each other is authentic, as are the hurt feelings that keep them apart. They each are wonderfully written characters, and we get to know them, their flaws, desires, bravery and fears in great detail. The interaction between them is natural and tangible, whether it's filled with anger or affection. And here is something I particularly love about Eagar's writing: she really lets her characters feel the full weight of actions rendered and choices made. There is no easy peace here, no neatly tied up resolution; what's given are the decisions one can live with, and the consequences a person has to live through. This just as easily could have been a book without the supernatural element and been about friends falling apart and coming together again. The tying in of historical fact and mythical evil does not diminish this aspect of the book, but makes Saltwater Vampires a unique, noteworthy and very welcome addition to YA paranormal.(less)