I gave it a fair shot. I was listening to the audio and was about 4 hours in. That's just over a third.I hate doing this, but I'm marking this one DNF
I gave it a fair shot. I was listening to the audio and was about 4 hours in. That's just over a third.
Here's my reasons:
1) Ridiculously slow pacing. I'm a third in. Something should have happened by now, even if its just the idea of what's too come. 2) The Women - The women in this book are ridiculous. They have no substance, no value. They are completely defined by their performance in bed. He says he loved his wife but other than how good she was in bed, I have yet to hear what it is he loved about her. 3) Sex for the sake of sex. - I don't care if there is sex in novels. People have sex. It's normal. However, Sex for the sake of sex, when it isn't actually necessary, or is drawn out, is no better than violence for the sake of violence. It's a cheap tactic to get people to be shocked by your book. It's like watching a slasher film. Yeah sure it's fun sometimes, but no one will take it seriously. For something that is described as "literary" is reads an awful lot like erotica. 4) Jake - Jake annoys the hell out of me. I can't put my finger on it exactly but I just can't connect with him. Characters (to me) are the most important aspect of the book so I find this lack of connection disappointing.
Finally I will say this, double points to Glenn Duncan for the amount of different ways he's come up with to say testicles - balls, plums, gonads, I heard them all in my 4 hours on the Last Werewolf. *rolls eyes*
Maybe I'll try this again one day in print, but at the moment it seems highly unlikely. ...more
The Red Phone Box story cycle is one of the most imaginative and unique stories I have read in aThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
The Red Phone Box story cycle is one of the most imaginative and unique stories I have read in a long time.
I can only begin to imagine how much time and hard work went into assembling this collection. I’ve had some experience with anthologies myself and I know how difficult it can be to organize a project around so many different contributor’s – each with their own schedule and deadlines. But what Salomé Jones has done with Red Phone Box is on a whole different level. This isn’t just a random selection of stories. Instead this book is made up of various pieces of a larger puzzle. And each piece carries the distinct style of it’s author. Jones has arranged the stories in such a way that the story unfolds slowly for the reader, the mystery building bit by bit.
Some of the stories were incredibly interesting. I particularly enjoyed the story of Amber, Stuart and Jon and how each installment left you wondering what was real and what was imaginary. And I liked how the characters Amber/Stuart/Jon interacted with would pop up in other stories. It kept me alert, constantly looking for clues or hints dropped by the various contributors. You never knew exactly where each story was going to take you – only that the mysterious Red Phone Box was going to show up at some point.
However, while some of the stories were fascinating, others left me wanting more. The characters would come out of nowhere, or the plot would be jerky or just plain confusing and sometimes the style itself just didn’t work for me. I found myself either loving a story or wanting to skim through it. There wasn’t a lot of middle ground, which made some parts of the anthology feel disjointed. Had some of the rogher stories been smoothed out a bit more I think this collection could have been truly great, but ultimately it fell just a little short of that goal.
At it’s heart Red Phone Box is a very atmospheric and dark story. Image Doctor Who and the TARDIS but much darker and more disturbing. It’s a great concept and will keep you on your toes. If you’re looking for a more unusal read or one that will allow you to flex your puzzle solving skills, this is the book for you. But if you prefer more straightforward narratives you may want to pass....more
Lauren Oliver wrote a great review of this book for the New York Times and in it she talks a bit about dualitOriginally posted at More Than Just Magic
Lauren Oliver wrote a great review of this book for the New York Times and in it she talks a bit about duality and dichotomies. Jude and Noah often feel like one half of the same whole and much of their life is overlapping. They both crave their mother’s attention. They’re both applying to the same art school etc etc. And they start their story seeing the world as something that can be easily split up – in more ways than one. Things can be divided into good and bad, but they can also be divided into Jude’s and Noah’s. The format/style of the book is a manifestation of those same themes.
I will admit however, that in the early stages of the story, I did struggle with Jude’s chapters. Her chapters take place “after” the accident that drove them apart and for the first little while there wasn’t a lot of energy behind them. Everything was reflection and vague references to what had happened. It wasn’t until she met Guillermo that things started to take off for her character.
Jude and Noah’s relationship felt incredibly honest all throughout this book, especially since it went through so many ups and downs. I think having a sibling is a bit of a double edge sword and Jude and Noah are the perfect reflection of that. No one understand Noah and Jude like they understand one another. But that also means that they can hurt each other like no one else can. But it also means they can feel incredibly close and then miles apart at the drop of the hat. Which definitely describes the relationship most people I know have with their siblings.
I think it’s easy to identify with Noah right from the start of the novel because he’s different and doesn’t fit in as easily as his sister does. A lot of people can relate to that. Which is why when he meets Brian it’s like his whole world shifts, because here’s someone he doesn’t have to pretend around, someone he can be his full self around. And not only is that other person okay with that, they want it that way. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight, I think many of us can relate to that search for someone who understands you (romantically or platonically).
I also really liked that, while Noah did struggle with his sexual identity and did come out in the course of this book, that’s not what it was about. It’s more about how that aspect fits into everything else going on in his life. I think it makes Noah a much more complex character, because instead of all his emotions and drive funnelling into coming out, he’s also got to try and balance it with family drama, grief, school work etc. And that makes for a more realistic character.
I have never been a (visual) artist. Believe me I have tried. I took painting classes and pottery classes and have tried every craft imaginable. I’m not bad at knitting but I can’t do anything more than the basics. But the point is I have always wanted to be good at art and I think I keep trying everything because one day I’m hoping to stumble across a medium that works really well for me.
So I really liked that Nelson presented two different artistically inclined people with two very different approaches to their art. And that their art doesn’t always come easy to them. I think sometimes we have this glamorous idea of the artist being inspired and everything else just comes so naturally. But with Jude and Noah their art was often something that caused them a great deal of suffering.
If I take a step back from this book the reliance on destiny/coincidences can almost seem like a bit too much. But when you’re in the book you want to believe. You want to believe that things will happen for a reason and that people will find their way back to one another....more
The Valley of Amazement is the story of Violet Minturn, a half Chinese, half American girl livingThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
The Valley of Amazement is the story of Violet Minturn, a half Chinese, half American girl living in Shanghai in the early twentieth century. The story follows her from when she was a small girl in her mother’s courtesan house, to becoming a courtesan herself, to married life and beyond. It is a rich and detailed tale and is really a testament to Amy Tan’s skill as a storyteller.
From the first few pages I felt transported into the world of Chinese courtesans. It’s a snippet of history I know very little about but it is definitely a fascinating one. Though at first glance many may dismiss their profession as high class prostitution, it was also interesting to see the ways these women wielded some power over men. Especially in a time when women had almost no power at all. No matter how bad Violet’s situation got she carried on. All the women in this book did. The men on the other hand were a different story. There were times I become enraged by their actions in the story and I had to remind myself they were a) from a different time period and b) fictional to keep myself from throwing the book across the room. (The exception to this being Edward who I will adore forever).
Though the setting is beautifully articulated it is the characters who really make this story shine. Not just major characters like Violet and her mother Lulu, but minor ones as well like her mother’s business partner Golden Dove and an old friend named Danner. I found myself growing attached to so many of the characters and didn’t want to stop reading because I missed them when I was away from the book.
A lot of coverage of this book (including the synopsis above) focuses in on the relationship between mothers and daughters. That is a huge theme throughout the story. Both the relationship between Violet and her mother, Lulu and Violet and her own child. They have a challenging relationship. But what I found myself focusing on the most was the tumultuous relationship Violet has with her father. His lack of presence from a young age is something that shapes Violet’s personal identity right from the get go and as pieces of him keep popping up throughout her life she is constantly forced to revisit her feelings towards this man she barely knows and who didn’t want her because she was a girl.
Be warned, however, this is a long book. If you’re the kind of person that wants to know every detail of a story, you will love The Valley of Amazement. But if you’re the kind of reader that prefers fast paced, plot driven novels, you may find this a bit too dry.
I personally found The Valley of Amazement to be a fascinating, rich novel about a period of history that isn’t often talked about. The story will shock, surprise and amaze you as you follow Violet and Lulu’s struggles to survive on their own and be a stronger person than they were before. If you liked Memoirs of a Geisha or family sagas like The Pillars of the Earth and the House of the Spirits, The Valley of Amazement will appeal to you....more
Laurie Halse Anderson has a reputation for writing books about tough subjects. And it’s well earnThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Laurie Halse Anderson has a reputation for writing books about tough subjects. And it’s well earned. Her books have always been raw, emotional and above all honest. The Impossible Knife of Memory is no exception.
This is the story of Hayley Kincaid. A young girl living with her father. Her father, an army veteran, is suffering from pretty severe post-traumatic stress disorder and as a result has a whole host of other problems as well (unemployment, alcoholism etc.) The book explores Hayley’s attempts to balance taking care of her father with having a normal life – high school, friends, boyfriend the whole deal.
I absolutely adored Hayley. She reminded me a lot of the kind of female character Courtney Summers is known for. Complicated, often quite sarcastic and not at all the perfect model of beauty and intelligence that we often see in Young Adult. Hayley is quite intelligent but she hates school, in fact she’s flunking quite a few of her classes. She’s surly and sometimes down right rude. But as you get to know her, you realize that she underneath her defensive barrier she’s actually fiercely loyal and even a little sentimental. She’s a complicated character and because of those complications it feels like she’s a real person. Like someone I would want to get to know if she would let me.
I blogged months ago about Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, and how it was the book that changed my life. I read Speak back in high school and I found so much of myself within the pages. Now years later, reading The Impossible Knife of Memory I found myself transported right back to how Speak made me feel. I could relate to so much of what Hayley was thinking and the motivation behind her actions. And I don’t think I will be the only one – anyone who has ever lived with someone suffering from not only PTSD, but any sort of addiction is sure to feel a sense of camaraderie with Hayley.
I think Laurie Halse Anderson has conveyed something important here about how hard it is to give up on someone – not because you’re scared, or weak or threatened but because you don’t want to give up on them. Because they’re someone you love and want the best for and you can see how their demons (be they memories from the war, alcoholism, depression or whatever) are tearing them apart from the inside despite their best efforts. But I think that this book also conveys how important it is to ask for help. That no one should have to face this kind of situation alone. I liked how Laurie Halse Anderson developed Hayley’s relationship with Finn, and to a lesser extent her step mother Trish. Originally they were people Hayley tried to push away, but as she grew as a character she learned that it was ok to lean on them when she needed to.
The Impossible Knife of Memory sheds light on the reality that is PTSD and it is important topic to discuss, especially with ongoing conflict in the Middle East. But this novel also touches on family, bravery, love and growing up. There is a dark comedic edge as well that made me smile consistently, despite it’s serious themes. It’s a layered and important novel that will appeal to new and old Laurie Halse Anderson fans alike....more
Where to begin when talking about One Night in Winter? It is a dark and intriguing tale of secretThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Where to begin when talking about One Night in Winter? It is a dark and intriguing tale of secrets, paranoia and love all stemming from a single event – the death of two teenagers during the Victory Parade. Had these been the children of lesser known families their deaths may have been unremarkable. But instead they were the children of some of the most well known and important people in 1945 Moscow. The investigation into their death – ‘The Children’s Case’ – quickly escalates into an even more suspenseful case of suspected political sabotage, secrets, lies and forbidden love affairs.
It is obvious that One Night in Winter is written by a historian. This novel is so rich in historical detail I truly felt as though I had been transported back to Soviet Russia. Many of the characters are real historical figures – including Stalin himself – and I loved getting this little (albeit fictional) glance into what their lives were like. When I was in university I read Simon Sebag Montefiore’s biography of Stalin but it was very factual and took a long time to get through. This book was the perfect comprise. I got to learn all about a fascinating period of history wrapped up in a high stakes novel of political intrigue.
The theme of paranoia is built into every scene, every character, every bit of dialogue. At one point well reading I remarked that “Soviet Russians must make the best chess players because they’re always thinking five moves ahead just to stay alive.” Every seemingly innocent or helpful statement can be misconstrued. It’s easy to talk about paranoia abstractly but One Night Winter illustrates how fast it can get away from you and what the costs of that paranoia can be. One character compares secrets to mine fields. You never know when one is going to blow up on you. I can not think of a more perfect way to sum up the fate of the teenagers in this novel.
My one complaint about this novel is that I didn’t quite find it as emotionally stirring as I had expected. While the first half of this novel focuses on the teenagers (and their creation of the Fatal Romantics club) the second half focuses on more specific love affairs. They are just as gripping as the interrogations and produce some fantastic lines, such as “Every love story is a requiem.” and “Heartbreak is an agonizing disease that you’re delighted to have.” But nevertheless I never felt emotionally invested in what was going to happen to them. I wanted to feel more for these characters then I did. It’s possible this was done on purpose (emotions being a bourgeois sentiment and all) but it didn’t quite work for me. It’s something I would love to discuss in a book club setting.
Overall, One Night in Winter is a fascinating glimpse into the life of Soviet Russia and the difficulties that people faced on a day to day basis. It’s an unpredictable story, so despite its somewhat cold sentiments you can’t help but keep turning the pages, wondering what spin Stalin and his officers can come up with next....more
I am not a werewolf person. Not for any particular reason, I have just found throughout the yearsThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
I am not a werewolf person. Not for any particular reason, I have just found throughout the years that the typical werewolf stories don’t work for me. This is why I never finished the Mercy Falls series beyond Shiver. But Sinner isn’t a typical werewolf story. In fact it’s barely a werewolf story at all. Which is perhaps a big reason why it managed to hook me when so many others have not.
Sinner is a spin off from Maggie Stiefvater’s previously released Mercy Falls series. It tells the story of Cole and Isabel, two secondary characters from the original series. Cole and Isabel are two incredibly damaged individuals. Cole is a recovering addict, former rock star werewolf and Isabel is the child of a broken home, in love with a werewolf and just about as angry as possible all of the time.
Sinner is not a complicated story plot-wise: Rock star-turned-werewolf Cole returns to LA to win back the girl he loves (Isabel) and stage a comeback for his career. But it is an extremely complex story emotionally. Cole and Isabel are such damaged characters. Cole has more demons than you can count and circumstances have made Isabel one of the angriest girls you’ll ever meet. They’ve both lost a piece of themselves and amid the tangle of relationships and fame they are trying to find that piece again. Sinner is a story of their struggle to get back to who they were as much as to get back to one another.
Since they both had a clear story to tell, Stiefvater’s use of dual narratives added depth to the novel. It gives the reader a distinct perspective into both characters. Each had a unique voice and nothing they did felt convenient or calculated, it was simply a natural extension of their character. I found the depiction of Cole as a recovering addict in particular to be very honest. He truly wants to stay on the straight and narrow path but his demons haunt him whenever and wherever he goes. Addiction is not something to be defeated once, it’s something you continually struggle with. What also rang true of his character was that he pinned all his hopes and recovery on Isabel rather than himself – a good way to avoid personal responsibility so you can have someone else to blame when/if it all goes wrong.
As I mentioned before, I wasn’t a big fan of Shiver, but Sinner felt different. It was written in the beautiful and poetic prose that I have come to love in Stiefvater’s newest series, The Raven Boys. She has a way of getting right to the heart of things. Because Cole and Isabel are so troubled once you peel back the surface this is a story with sharp edges and the writing style reflects that.
Whether you’re a Mercy Falls fan or not is irrelevant. Whether you’re a werewolf fan or not is irrelevant. If you like stories about complex individuals with high emotional stakes, Sinner is a must read....more
I am so tired of hearing books compared to Gone Girl. Seriously. It’s getting to the point that aThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
I am so tired of hearing books compared to Gone Girl. Seriously. It’s getting to the point that as soon as I hear that book mentioned I back away slowly before anybody sees me. So fear not. I will not be referring to Gone Girl in this review. This book is not “like” Gone Girl or “better” than Gone Girl or anything like that. Instead, Night Film is a stand out unique and frightening novel that grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go, despite it’s 600+ pages.
We follow the mystery of Ashley Cordova’s death with journalist Scott McGrath. I have to admit that right off the bat I didn’t like Scott McGrath as a person. As a character he’s very complex. But as a person? I just wanted to kick him sometimes. Especially when he talked about the women in his life. But I enjoyed that he wasn’t the most likeable protagonist. It kept things interesting and kept you more invested in the mystery than the players.
And what a crazy mystery is was! Night Film is nothing like you would expect. It’s dark, twisted and will keep you on the edge of your seat. As you fall further and further into the mystery of “who is Cordova?” and “what happened to Ashley?” you soon learn that nothing is as it seems and nobody can be trusted. I love a mystery that can keep me on my toes and doesn’t fall back on traditional conventions or twists to keep the story moving. Night Film is a wholly original tale and it is guaranteed to surprise you.
In addition to the mystery, one thing that really impressed me about Night Film was the amount of planning and research that must have gone into this book. Pessl leaves no detail out, no rock unturned. Even Cordova’s films. All completely fictional but she clearly has full plots and characters mapped out for each one. I don’t know how she kept everything straight, but she did.
One final thing that really sets Night Film apart is the multimedia angle. The book is full of pictures, websites, newspaper articles etc. And there’s even an app you can get for more information. I was worried all these extras would seem gimmicky, but they had the opposite effect. They really made me feel like I was the one investigating the Cordova family. The unique format gave the whole book a really modern feel that might appeal to younger or more reluctant readers.
Recommendation: Don’t be intimidated by its large size. Night Film is a dark and haunting read that stays with you. If you like mysteries, thrillers or spooky stories of any kind this is the book for you....more
That was everything I wanted it to be. Lots of fun, great pacing and I felt like I could hear the original cast saying the lines as I was reading themThat was everything I wanted it to be. Lots of fun, great pacing and I felt like I could hear the original cast saying the lines as I was reading them.
Now to try and wait patiently for the next issue and the first issue of the Vader and Leia series.
I can definitely see why this book is addictive. It is one steamy read. But overall the writing just isn't that great. Most lines/scenes feel repeatedI can definitely see why this book is addictive. It is one steamy read. But overall the writing just isn't that great. Most lines/scenes feel repeated from earlier scenes in the book. Christian and Ana even have catch phrases (oh please and laters baby) which make them feel kind of like cartoon characters. Really sexual cartoon characters but still. I also felt uncomfortable with the explanation given for why Christian is into BDSM. I think it casts a more negative light on it and makes it seem like he needs to be "fixed". I don't think this is always the case. Also just because someone is a Dom doesn't mean they're that controlling in their daily life and the way he treats Ana sometimes (outside of the bedroom) is just not ok. Finally, if I had to hear about Ana's inner goddess one more time I was going to throw the book out the window. I blame razor blade commercials for that nonsense. ...more
This book, like the first in the series, in a perfect example of down right gorgeous writing. Each linOriginally reviewed at Christa's Hooked on Books
This book, like the first in the series, in a perfect example of down right gorgeous writing. Each line dripped with beautiful prose. You really felt like you were being swept away, not only into another time period, but to a whole other world.
One of the best things about this book is Jane. She is such a wonderful, headstrong heroine. I loved how determined she was and how willing she was to fight for those she loved. Belgium, during the time of Napoleon was not the safest place for anyone, let alone an English couple but Jane refuses to run away when things get dangerous. She knowingly puts herself in harm's way in order to help those around her. Her bravery was something I could respect, so even those times where I didn't agree with her decision, I still supported because I could see her intentions were noble.
Jane is wonderful, but the real star of this novel is the glamour. For those who haven't read book one, glamour is a type of magic, which people can be trained in and is used for artistic creations. It's almost like painting with magic. I am absolutely infatuated with glamour. I wish I could be a glamourist. I would quit my job tomorrow if it was a real thing. Similar to how salt in the Gilly Salt Sisters, the glamour plays such a central and important role, it's almost like a character itself. There's nothing like and you'll quickly find yourself enraptured with it.
Glamour in Glass, (and Shades of Milk and Honey) are often described as Jane Austen with a magical touch. This is an apt description. The setting and descriptions of society, echo Jane Austen and similar writers perfectly but Mary Robinette Kowal expertly mixes just the right amount of magic and fantasy to make this a completely unique reading experience. And don't worry if you're not a Jane Austen fan, there's plenty here for non fans as well.
Final recommendation: Read this series. It's beautiful and magical and you won't be disappointed....more
Earlier this year I read In One Person by John Irving – the story of Billy Abbot who has crushesThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Earlier this year I read In One Person by John Irving – the story of Billy Abbot who has crushes on the wrong people. I think Billy and Allison Lee would have a lot to talk about.
You Set Me on Fire is one of those books that manages to be both dark and funny at the same time. There’s a dry sort of humour at work here, and there were a number of times when I caught myself laughing even though the scenario I was laughing at was cruel, or sad – or a bit of both. There’s this sort of spiral of darkness going on here, and it made the book extremely compelling. You wanted everything to turn out ok for Allison, but a part of you also wanted to see how bad things can get.
Though Allison is only seventeen she is in her first year of college and I found I could relate to that experience a lot. I think college – at least the first year of it – can be a bit of a dark time for a lot of people. I never understood those people who seemed to adjust to this massive change in their life with such perkiness and ease. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my time at university, but it did take some getting used to. People experience homesickness, many break up with their high school boyfriends, classes are a lot harder. There’s a lot of identity crisis going on and it’s easy to lose track of yourself, or make a few too many poor decisions. I think a lot of people will easily be able to relate to Allison and the other characters in this book.
Further more Allison is an incredibly sympathetic character. She has been through a lot. She’s bitter and lonely and in way too deep with Shar. This is a toxic friendship if I ever saw one, but I appreciated how complicated Mariko Tamaki made it as these things are almost never purely black and white. There was a bit of a romantic angle to it. But I actually think it was more about relationships in a more general sense. I think Tamaki made a strong point about the inequality of certain relationships and how damaging they can be – both mentally and physically. As a result I think LGBTQ or not will find traces of their own past relationships in this story.
Recommendation: You Set Me on Fire is a dark yet comical novel about toxic friendships, being on your own and finding the strength to be yourself. Overall this is a compelling and dangerous story that doesn’t pull any punches. Recommended for anyone who’s ever been made to feel small or insignificant by a partner or friend and those who remember the good old days of trying to find yourself after high school....more
I finally worked up the courage to tackle The Casual Vacancy. I am a fanatic Harry Potter fan andThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
I finally worked up the courage to tackle The Casual Vacancy. I am a fanatic Harry Potter fan and was understandably nervous to read Rowling’s first non-Harry Potter novel. And then the reviews came out and they were well…let’s just say mixed. But I kept my expectations in check and jumped right in and I am happy to report that I genuinely enjoyed this book. I wanted to know what would happen next and how the events that transpired would all play out.
The plot of The Casual Vacancy is a seemingly small story. A man dies, leaving his position open on the parish council – also known as a casual vacancy. But J K Rowling, being the expert story teller that she is, weaves it all together in a huge story, with deceit, lies, intrigue and disaster. She peels back the surface story and exposes something raw and dark. And true to form, Rowling really knows how to turn a phrase and I found myself flagging a ton of clever passages that I wanted to return to later on.
Story aside I found the best thing about this book was the characters. There are A LOT of them! But they were all integral to the plot and they helped keep the story moving. I loved how distinct everyone’s personalities were. Maybe it’s a small town thing but I know people exactly like everyone in The Casual Vacancy. I think this is a testament to just how well Rowling develops her characters. Especially the children. That’s not to say her adult characters were poorly written – anything but. But at the end of the day it was the children I was the most drawn to and that will stay with me the longest.
On the subject of characters I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Wheedons specifically. I thought that she gave them really fair treatment. It would have been easy for her to fall back on some old stereotypes but they truly felt like three-dimensional people. This goes with for everyone in the book but especially this family. Through the Wheedons and the people connected to them Rowling makes some excellent points about social services and the people who depend of them, and proves just how wrong it is to make assumptions about people and abandon them when they need our help the most.
The Casual Vacancy is not without its problems however. Most notably – it’s long. Way too long. I don’t mind books that are over 500 pages. Not in the slightest. But if they are going to be that length they should be making use of every page. Frankly, I don’t think that was the case with The Casual Vacancy. Some scenes felt overly long and dragged out and I’m not convinced all of them were completely necessary. I think this book would have benefited greatly from a more thorough editing process and I think had it been any other author it probably would have received it. I think this happens to a lot of best selling authors and it really does them, the publishing house and the readers a disservice. But even still, I was definitely caught up in the story and wanted to keep reading to see what happened next.
Recommendation: A intense and well plotted read. But don’t read this book just because it’s written by J K Rowling. If this doesn’t sound like something you would like, well you probably won’t like it. But if you like literary fiction I definitely think there’s some interesting things being said in The Casual Vacancy. It’s all in your approach....more
When I opened this small grey book a few days ago I had no idea what to expect. I had been hearinThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
When I opened this small grey book a few days ago I had no idea what to expect. I had been hearing some buzz about this title and how great the writing was but didn’t really know what it was about. And the gold horses combined with the blurb from Erin Morgenstern made me think I was in for some sort of magical circus story. In case you were under the same impression let me set the record straight – that is not at all what this book is about. In actuality The Enchanted is a dark yet gorgeous novel about life, hope, and the death penalty.
The story opens on Death Row. Our narrator has been in the “dudgeon” for some time now. He doesn’t speak, he simply observes. But the world he observes is much different then the one you or I might see should we visit that same place. Everything he sees and hears is affected by his belief that the prison is an enchanted place, and that gives his words a magical quality. He is particularly focused on the comings and goings of “the warden,” “the priest” and perhaps most importantly, “the lady” – a death penalty investigator who is on the case of the inmate in the cell next to him. All the characters are interesting but “the lady” was the one that stood out for me above all the others. She had a foot in both worlds – in the darkness of the prison and in the light of hope and humanity.
Before reading this novel I had no idea that “death penalty investigator” was even a job and I was fascinated by the lady’s process and the information she discovered. She looks into the childhood of one of the inmates and some of the things she discovers are incredibly disturbing. It’s not that her efforts are trying to excuse the crime but simply better understand it. I think through her eyes the reader is given a very balanced look at both perpetrator and the consequences of his actions.
In addition, The Enchanted provides a bit of an inside look into the correctional system. It’s a very honest and at times difficult account of what that life is like. This takes place in the United States, so of course there are a number of differences from our own system. But there are a lot of similarities as well. I have a number of family members who work in corrections and from listening to them I can attest that there are definitely some issues in this book that pop up in the Canadian system as well. Things like food, corruption, contraband, rape etc. Denfeld doesn’t sugar coat anything, but rather lays out the truth for you to draw your own opinions and tap into your own humanity.
What really amazes me about this book is how Denfeld uses such beautiful prose to describe such horrific things. Her writing is lyrical and poetic and I dog eared so many pages of my copy because I knew there were passages I would want to come back to over and over again. The way this book touches on hope, on love, on compassion – even in the midst of all the darkness and despair – is a beautiful thing. There is magic inside this book, just not in the way I expected. The magic is in the prose, in the characters and in the story. Trust me when I say this book will defy your expectations and blow you away....more
I am the first to admit that I am a huge Margaret Atwood fan. She is by far my favourite writer and I could read her work over and over again. So I f I am the first to admit that I am a huge Margaret Atwood fan. She is by far my favourite writer and I could read her work over and over again. So I finally read Surfacing, after having it recommended to me a number of times,and though I went in with high expectations I found that the book wasn't as good as I had hoped. True to Atwood style the novel was beautifully written. Despite any reservations I may have, it was nothing if not poetic. Her description of the Canadian wilderness was incredibly vivid and made me want to hop in my car and drive a few hours north to get back in touch with my roots. The elements of survival and the fear over wilderness destruction were particularly well pronounced and made parts of the novel incredibly gripping and lifelike. Nevertheless, I just had some trouble really getting into the novel. One of the main reasons I had trouble getting into the novel was the characters. I found them all quite despicable and there were points where I didn't seem to care what happened to them, except for Joe whom I found too...innocent, for lack of a better word, to dislike. It is completely possible that I was reading the characters too much at face value but the fact of the matter is I just didn't like them. My opinion of the main character changed however at the point of her transformation. This in my opinion was the turning point of the book! Too bad it didn't happen until the book was almost over. My final thoughts on this book was that it was a little dated. In a way this made it an interesting read. It was first published in 1972 and its references to the Quebecois and Americans made me take a second to think about what was happening in Canada/America at the time. This was an incredibly dynamic time, with Trudeau trying to handle the separation movement in Quebec, the assassinations of R.F.K and Martin Luther King JR, and the juxtaposition of Nixon's elections and the hippie movement. It was interesting to read in Surfacing how this atmosphere could affect average Canadians, who though removed from the events were still affected by them. On the other hand the book being dated was also a bit of a drawback, as some of the references were hard to place or are no longer relevant/effective. This is a chance every book takes, however, when being read in a time period different from when it was written. All in all I didn't think this was Atwood's best work but I still found it an interesting and at times engaging read. Her writing is beautiful and it is an important piece of Canadian literature, that should be enjoyed by all who have an interest in Canadian history and identity...more
Early on into Clockwork Princess you come across the following passage:
“Tessa craned her head back to look at Will. “You know that feeling,” she said, “when you are reading a book, and you know that it is going to be a tragedy; you can feel the cold and darkness coming, see the net drawing tight around the characters who live and breathe on the pages. But you are tied to the story as if being dragged behind a carriage and you cannot let go or turn the course aside.”
For me this quote set the tone for the entire novel. You are in a constant state of anxiety wondering what is going to happen to these poor characters you’ve grown to love so much.
Being the third (and final) book in an amazing series, there’s really not much I can say about Clockwork Princess without giving too much away. I will mention that I enjoyed the character development that goes on here – particularly that of more secondary characters, like Sophie, who really comes into her own and Cecily, who is just like a female Will. The complex relationship that is Tessa-Jem-Will is still going strong but like the first two books this is most definitely a love triangle done right. Unlike other books it’s actually a triangle and the line connecting Jem and Will is probably the most touching of them all. I’m happy that Clare gave their friendship as much weight as their romantic feelings for Tessa.
I also think that Cassandra Clare has done the best possible job of making sure everyone is happy. And by everyone I mean the readers. There is something for everyone here, no matter what outcome you are rooting for going in.
I read Clockwork Princess with my heart in my throat, unable to focus on anything else until I reached it’s conclusion. However it was also one of those books I found myself purposefully slowing down for. Not wanting it to end. It was the perfect mixture of urgency and excitement and it will forever remain one of my favourite series.
Recommendation: A fantastic and action filled end to a breath taking series. Clockwork Princess is the perfect farewell to a cast of unforgettable characters...more
Cults are fascinating. They’re horrible and frightening as well but as an outsider looking in youThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Cults are fascinating. They’re horrible and frightening as well but as an outsider looking in you can’t help but be intrigued. How did it start? What convinced people to join? And more importantly what makes them stay. But despite the curiosity around them I’ve only ever read one other YA novel – Escape From Eden – that takes the reader inside a cult.
Essence is an interesting approach to the cult narrative because it tackles two significant elements of cult life. Autumn was raised inside the Centrist Movement and as a result has their teaching deeply entrenched in her psyche. She eventually gets the courage to leave the movement but those teachings are hard to shake. This element of the story shows just how hard it is for cult members to leave the community and walk away from everything they’ve been told is true.
After Autumn leaves the Centrist movement she unknowingly ends up in another cult – The Community. This was the part of the novel I found the most interesting. The reader is shown first hand how new members are won over and slowly manipulated over time until they’re in too deep....more
Archetype starts out with Emma waking up. She doesn’t know who she is or where she is but it’s okThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Archetype starts out with Emma waking up. She doesn’t know who she is or where she is but it’s ok because her husband, Declan, is there to help her through it. But as she starts to recover something doesn’t seem quite right…Archetype is intense and suspenseful right from the get go and once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down.
I loved the world building, partially because it was reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale, which is one of my favourite books of all time. It will disturb you but unfortunately will not surprise you. In the future imagined by Waters fertility is way, way down. Which makes fertile women a rare commodity. And the world proceeds to treat them as such – property to be bought and sold. Girls are raised in what are essentially work camps and rich men can bid on them. It’s disgusting and disturbing but I have no doubt that if this fertility situation were to arise a similar set-up wouldn’t be far behind. Maybe not so extreme but enough for Emma’s society to give you the shivers.
The way Emma is set in this world was really interesting. We get two different versions of the same character at the same time. Who she is when the story starts – a confused, disoriented, shell who believes everything her husband tells her and who she was before her “accident.” Her previous self speaks to her both mentally and through dreams and helps her rebuild her memory bit by bit. In the beginning it is difficult to become attached to her because she is so one dimensional, but you got tiny glimpses of who she could be, which was awesome and made you want to learn more.
The only thing I couldn’t really get into was the love story element. I liked it and it did add an interesting dimension to the story but ultimately I thought both of her potential love interests were wrong for her. It’s hard not to be immediately suspicious of Declan and I’m not impressed with how Noah treated Emma for part of this novel. However, that being said I found both Declan and Noah to be very interesting characters overall. They both had some very complex motivations, which resulted in a number of surprising plot twists.
Overall Archetype is a very intense read that is a mixture of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and S J Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep. It’s an incredibly addictive read that will leave you begging for more – especially after that ending. And the best news? We don’t have to wait long for the sequel, Prototype, because it will be out this July!...more
I’ve been hearing more and more about East of West as the months go on so when the first trade paperback was available I figured it was about time for me to check it out.
East of West in a nutshell is the story of the four horseman of the apocalypse. Well actually it’s about three of the Horsemen (War, Famine and Conquest) trying to track down the fourth (Death). But it’s also about this group called “the Chosen.” The world leaders of the future, who are purposely working together to bring about the end of the world. And it’s about Death’s missions to retrieve what was taken from him and be reunited with his wife.
Ok so there’s no “in a nutshell” for this series.
As you’ve probably determined, there’s a lot going on. But the action is very slow going, there’s a lot of set up, a lot of characters to be introduced and a lot of relationships and back handed deals to be explored. At first I wished it would just tell me what everyone was after but as I kept reading I began to appreciate the deliberate style, as it meant there was a surprise around every corner.
Death is the character that most of this book centres around. He takes the form of a wild west cowboy in a futuristic world and he is pissed! There is a lot of violence committed because of him or at his hands. I guess this shouldn’t be surprising -he is death after all. (But seriously - violence!!)
He’s also a very real and interesting character - which was a nice surprise. He has very clear goals and motivations and the love he feels for his wife is downright moving. I appreciated that Hickman didn’t make this character clichéd or boring. You can tell from these first five issues, he not going to be what you expected.
There is some really fascinating world building in this book - a futuristic world blended with the Wild wild west. And it’s complexities are communicated through some very crisp, very detailed artwork. Dragotta is very talented and though I loved all his work throughout this book, I was particularly a sucker for the full page spreads that would appear throughout. Such as this one:
It is both complex and straight forward all at the same time. These first four issues are excellent set up and they have me curious about what’s to come. This is a dark and gritty book and if that’s your style you’re going to love it. However the slow pacing makes me feel like buying the monthly issues could get tedious and frustrating while you wait for something big to happen. This one might be better in trade paperback form. ...more
Earth Girl is an exciting new science fiction novel, with a foot in both the young adult and adulThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Earth Girl is an exciting new science fiction novel, with a foot in both the young adult and adult fiction worlds. I would hesitate to classify it as either one and because of that I think it will appeal to a wide range of fans once it hits shelves.
In particular, readers are going to fall in love with the setting of this novel. The idea that Earth is no longer our primary location in 2788 was fascinating to me. Janet Edwards develops a really creative new system for our society to grow within and I liked learning about the different planets and what each one was known for. That being said, I was happy that the majority of the novel took place on Earth. Though it is interesting to see what would happen once we spread out across the galaxy, the history buff in me is fascinated with what would happen to the Earth after we leave it behind.
This focus on history continued throughout. This was nice to see in a science-fiction novel - which are usually so focused on the future. Because Jarra is a history student the reader gets a slow and steady exposure to what has happened between the present day and the year 2788. We got to look back over the years and learn what we did wrong. This interesting perspective of looking back on things that haven't happened yet, might be just the thing needed to keep us from making some horrible mistakes in the future.
In addition to the history, Earth Girl's complex and unique plot was able to explore some interesting questions. Such as the effect labels can have on a person and the importance of self identity. Jarra becomes an interesting character study over the course of this novel and I was fascinated with watching her change, devolve and evolve as the story progressed.
Unfortunately, this character study was both a positive and a negative. Though this made her an interesting case to look at, it also made her hard to relate to as a person. I never felt a very strong connection with Jarra and because she was so central to the plot, I also never felt a strong connection to the novel.
I also had some problems with the science behind this story. I'm willing to suspend a certain amount of disbelief with science fiction novels. It's one of the requirements of the genre. But Earth Girl pushed the boundaries of this suspension to the limit. Some things were just too far fetched, or just didn't make scientific sense. I think some better science could have greatly improved the believability of this novel.
Earth Girl is an exciting novel with some unique and interesting ideas worth exploring. However, the character development wasn't as thorough as I would have liked and I often found it difficult to believe the explanations for what was happening. It's not a bad read, but it wasn't one I particularly loved either.
Final recommendation: May appeal to science fiction and dystopian fans, but not recommended for those who enjoy the more "heady"/innovative versions of the genres. ...more
After reading, and loving, The Gypsy King earlier this year I couldn’t wait to get my hands on AThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
After reading, and loving, The Gypsy King earlier this year I couldn’t wait to get my hands on A Fool’s Errand and continue the adventure.
I am a sucker for the quest-style fantasy novel – Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Alice in Wonderland. All of them. I love the journey. Particularly the way characters grow throughout. But I also think this style of fantasy novel provides a broader view of the world and the people in it. Authors spend so much time world building in this genre it’s a shame when they can’t show it off and let the reader explore as well. A Fool’s Errand is so rich with detail you can tell just how much thought and planning Fergus has put in it. It’s not just a city or village you’re immersed in. It’s an entire kingdom.
Another huge draw for this series is the romance between Persephone and Azriel. It doesn’t distract from the central plot but is still totally swoon worthy. I love the kind of relationship where the couple is so similar they’re constantly butting heads. It makes for more than a few laughs. I also loved that no matter what they were going through, no matter how many doubts they had at the romantic side of the partnership, they could always depend on one another. They weren’t just in love, they were friends and comrades. They shared a common goal and they respected each other. This kind of healthy partnership is one I would like to see more often in Young Adult novels.
My one real complaint about The Gypsy King was that we didn’t know anything substantial about the Regent or his motivations. Just that he was a gigantic, evil creep. But the Fool’s Errand definitely expanded his character. Chapters would alternate between Persephone and Azriel’s voyage, and the Regent’s evil plans back at the castle. His conversations with an imprisoned servant really helped draw out some of the intricacies of his character and if anything made him even more terrifying.
The characters continue to be the strongest elements of this series. Everyone has such large, beautiful personalities, good and bad. I was extremely happy to find that we got more time with Rachel and the Gypsies. Out of all the groups we meet along the way, they remain my favourites. But I also loved that we got to know Finn better as well. Though he’s physically weak, he is such a strong, beautiful person and I found myself getting very attached to him.
A Fool’s Errand is an action packed, funny and addictive read. It draws you in from the first page and keeps you hanging on with every twist and turn. Fantasy fans – you need to read this series!...more
Based on a traditional Japanese ghost story, The Girl from the Well is the extremely creepy storyThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Based on a traditional Japanese ghost story, The Girl from the Well is the extremely creepy story of a young girl who was murdered centuries ago. Now she walks the earth in a threadbare shift and long, black matted hair. She has one purpose – vengeance. She looks for men who have other dead children tied to their backs and she sets those children free. She moves from city to city, country to country, leaving a string of inexplicable murders in her wake.
Until she meets Tark, a teenage boy covered with strange tattoos. And he’s being possessed by his own ghost. She doesn’t know exactly why she is drawn to him and his cousin, but she decides to stick with them and watches as Tark struggles with his possession.
I really enjoyed the narrative style of this novel. It’s told from the girl’s point of view and she has a unique voice. She’s invested in and curious about what’s happening but she’s also a little unstable and emotionally blank. She observes but she doesn’t really comment, leaving you to draw your own conclusions about Tark, his cousin and his mother (the person who gave him the tattoos). I enjoyed the freedom of making up my own mind about these characters, rather than having the narrator’s opinions thrust upon me.
Though I liked all the characters in this novel, Tark was easily my favourite. Despite is dire circumstances he was always quick with a joke or a bit of sarcasm. For example, “Dad says there are more than three thousand letters in the Japanese alphabet, which could pose a problem. There are only twenty-six letters in the English alphabet, and I get into enough trouble with them as it is.” This attitude helped lighten up some of the darker parts of the novel. The Girl from the Well can be quite gruesome at times, so I enjoyed these brief interludes.
In addition to a rather unique narrator the writing style itself is unlike most YA books you’ll find today. It was very atmospheric and lyrical in nature. There is a rhythm to the text, which would probably make an excellent audiobook. It’s a short book but you’ll still lose yourself in the story. It’s so suspenseful and since the “monsters” are ghosts/demons they were extremely unpredictable. I wanted the best for all of these characters, but always feared for the worst.
If you like horror movies like The Ring or The Grudge or just regular dark and suspenseful tales, I recommend The Girl from the Well....more
When I was younger my family had a cottage out near Westport Ontario. On the road to the cottageThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
When I was younger my family had a cottage out near Westport Ontario. On the road to the cottage there was a house that had a large cage out in it’s side yard. My mom used to regale us with stories of the bear they kept there. His name was Tony and they used to stop by in the summer to see him and feed him treats. I was too young to have ever met Tony the Bear but I’ve heard so many stories I feel like he was a part of my life too. So all throughout reading All the Broken Things I secretly imagined “Bear,” the young cub Bo trains, was inspired by Tony, which made me fall even more in love with the book then I would have anyway.
But even if you don’t have a random pet bear story from your childhood I think you’ll love this book. It’s a heart warming story about a boy trying to survive despite the odds. I couldn’t help but fall in love with Bo. When he was younger he came over to Canada with his parents from Vietnam, unfortunately his father didn’t make the trip. Now in Canada he has to balance the regular pressures of being a kid with an alcoholic (and slightly agoraphobic) mother and his little sister, Orange, who was born with some pretty serious birth defects because of Agent Orange. His coping mechanism for all these? To get into almost daily fights with another boy from school.
Bo is a fighter both literally and figuratively. He does what he needs to in order to survive. When a local carnival man, Gerry, see’s him fight he asks Bo to come wrestle bears for him. Now I think most kids would run in the opposite direction from an offer like that, but Bo see’s it for the opportunity it is – not just to make money, but also to have a place where he belongs. His situation gets a lot worse before it gets better but he keeps fighting all the way through. And you’re sure to become one of the many fans cheering him on from the stands.
I think most readers will also adore Bear. Throughout the course of the novel you see her grow from a cub to her full size, but no matter her size she will charm the pants off you. It was occasionally easy to forget it wasn’t a dog Bo was leading around Toronto. She was so loyal and obedient it was amazing. But she was more than just a pet. She had a strong personality of her own and that could make her unpredictable. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time – half worried something horrible was going to happen to Bear and half worried she was going to do something horrible. You’ll just have to read for yourself to find out if either scenario came true.
I had a few small issues with the novel. I thought the choice of Orange for the sister’s name felt a little off. Early on the reader is told that it is short for Orange Blossom. A nice name but given that her deformities were caused by Agent Orange it seemed a little too on the nose for me. I also struggled a bit with “Teacher” – Bo’s teacher and one of the church members who sponsored their immigration. At times she seemed super involved with their lives and at other times she became incredibly distant. Of all the characters she was the only one who felt inconsistent.
Small nit picky things aside All the Broken Things is a beautiful, unique and slightly bizarre book. It tackles a lot of issues – from family, to freedom and survival, to the effects of Agent Orange and the roll Canada played in it. It’s an interesting and thought provoking novel that I think would work great for book clubs. The story is quite layered so there would be a lot of pick a part and discuss (and if you’re not in a book club feel free to tweet me and we can discuss!) All the Broken Things is an original coming of age story about a boy and his bear against the world and I highly recommend you check it out....more
Ink is the story of Katie Green. After the death of her mother, Katie goes to live with her auntThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Ink is the story of Katie Green. After the death of her mother, Katie goes to live with her aunt in Japan. It’s a difficult transition for her – not only has she lost a parent but she’s experiencing some pretty intense culture shock. And while it may be difficult for Katie (at first), easily my favourite thing about Ink is the Japanese setting. I’ve always wanted to go to Japan but have never made it (yet). It was interesting seeing it through Katie’s eyes, as someone who is just dropped into a whole new world and forced to adapt. After university my partner and I had considered going to teach in Japan and I like to think my experience would have been similar to Katie’s (without the ancient gods and gangs of course).
I really appreciate the care Amanda Sun took with the detail in this novel. Shizuoka, where Katie goes to stay, comes to life on the page. Every little detail is present in her descriptions of the setting, the food, the clothing and the school. This made the pacing a bit slower than your average YA novel, but at the end of the day I think the novel was richer because of it. I don’t mind a writer taking the time to slowly unravel the world if it means I get to experience it more thoroughly.
I also really enjoyed how unique the mythology was throughout. I’ve never read a book that featured paper gods before and it made for a very intriguing story. I did find, however, that the romance overshadowed the mythology a little too much. Katie and Tomo’s relationship was a little intense for my taste. It happened so fast and stood in stark contrast to the slower, more purposeful world building. But overall I enjoyed the novel and the high stakes of their situation. And I’m definitely intrigued to see where the series goes next....more
So many strong emotions when it comes to this book. SO MANY. My final few updates on Goodreads whThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
So many strong emotions when it comes to this book. SO MANY. My final few updates on Goodreads while reading went like this:
“I am not pleased with what just happened”
“No no no no no. I do not accept this.”
“Well if anyone needs me for the rest of the day I’ll be sobbing under my desk. Full review to come when I’ve pulled myself together.”
And I think I’ve finally pulled myself together enough to write this review! The Darkest Minds is such a unique concept. I was worried it would be just another dystopia – the YA market is littered with them. But it’s more like a survival story, mixed with dystopia, mixed with superhero fiction. Government “rehabilitation camps,” teens with supernatural abilities, a resistance where things are not what the seem. It’s a little bit of everything and it keeps you entertained and alert.
But concept alone isn’t enough. Thankfully The Darkest Minds has a great cast of characters to live out the action. The reader spends the majority of their time with Ruby, Liam, Cubbs and Zu. And each is unique in their own way. Ruby and Liam essentially became the leaders of the group but despite that Chubbs and Zu are given equal attention/importance. They don’t get demoted to sidekicks. And thank goodness for that! I love Chubbs and Zu. I adored Chubbs because he was intelligent but didn’t fall into nerdy stereotypes. He was just a guy trying to survive. And how could you not like Zu? She is super sweet and one the bravest characters out there.
I was not, however, completely sold on the romance. It felt a little forced to me. I appreciated that it didn’t take over the story but I also feel like it warranted a little more attention. At the end of the book I wasn’t convinced by Ruby and Liam’s relationship. I felt like I was being told there was something between them. And when all was said and done I was actually rooting for a love triangle that wasn’t even there! I would have preferred Ruby and Chubbs together because their interactions were just so fantastic. They both have such strong personalities and I think they would really challenge one another. It’s a small point and not one that makes or breaks the novel for me – but if anyone else is part of the RubyxChubbs fan club let me know!
There’s also a certain plot point at the end that kind of irked me. I can’t go into without spoilers but I was really frustrated that it went this route. I can’t stand when one character, let’s call them Character A (who think they’re doing what’s “best”) unmakes the decision of another character – Character B. I do not accept any scenario where Character A takes away the agency of another. It is wrong. Even if Character B’s choice is dangerous or life threatening – it is their own choice. You know who you are Character A. *eyes suspiciously from here on out* Again this didn’t ruin the novel for me, but these kind of plot devices really bug me. If the concept and characters hadn’t been so strong, I probably would have abandoned the series because of it.
All in all I really enjoyed The Darkest Minds. Though it wasn’t a perfect read, I love with books really make me feel things. And I especially love when books make me feel ALL THE THINGS – from happiness, to fear, to anger, to depression. I still can’t talk about one particular part of the ending. It makes me too upset (read: tears. All the tears). But the book is also funny. It brought a smile to my face and it made me feel good while I was listening to it. It’s safe to say that I can’t wait for Never Fade!
“Let’s carpe the hell out of this diem.”
Notes on the Audio
Amy McFadden did a great job breathing life into each individual character. She had a huge cast to work with but she did each one justice. They all felt like very distinct people to me, and that’s key in a book like this. I adored the way she did Liam’s accent. Soft and southern and incredibly soothing. (Even though I wasn’t completely sold on the relationship between him and Ruby, I still adored him. Maybe I wasn’t sold on the relationship because I wanted him for myself?)
But I especially loved the way so portrayed Clancy. Right off the bat I thought he was slimy. He doesn’t actually do anything wrong at first and he’s nothing but kind and welcoming but I had the warning bells ringing in my head right from the get go. Part of that was Alexandra Bracken’s writing of course. But part of it was the voice.
I would definitely listen to more books narrated by McFadden. I noticed she also narrated Elizabeth George’s The Edge of Nowhere so I may need to get to that next!...more
The more I read this series the more I love Alma Katsu’s writing. She is a mystery/paranormal/historical fictionOriginally reviewed at Hooked on Books
The more I read this series the more I love Alma Katsu’s writing. She is a mystery/paranormal/historical fiction mastermind. She’s got three genres going on here and doesn’t drop the ball once.
The Reckoning reunited us with Lanny and Luke a few months after The Taker ends. They’ve settled into a life together and Lanny is learning to let go of her past, to really let herself be free. This plan hits a snag however when the building keeping Adair prisoner is demolished and he is finalley freed, ready to seek vengeance on Lanny.
Despite being horribly evil Adair is easily my favourite character of this series. He’s just so…bad. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the page when he’s in the scene. So you can imagine I was happy to see him return in The Reckoning. Not only does he return – you get to know his character in some very new and personal ways. It was really interesting to get a look inside the mind of the Devil himself.
The Reckoning also goes back and fills in the gaps. It tells the reader, in amazing detail, what Lanore goes through all those years that Adair was buried in the wall. She travelled all over the world and Alma Katsu devotes equal attention to all the different locations she visited. From Moracco, to Italy, to Barcelona – it is so easy to get swept up in the epic nature of this story.
Final recommendation: if you haven’t picked up this series yet, go out and find a copy of book one, The Taker, immediately. If you’ve already read (and loved) The Taker you will not be disappointed by The Reckoning. It is a sequel that is every bit as good as the first....more
I admit that going into The Jewel I had my doubts. It was described as The Selection meets The HaThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
I admit that going into The Jewel I had my doubts. It was described as The Selection meets The Handmaid’s Tale. One of those books is one of my favourite novels of all time and one of them is a series that I abandoned halfway through. One of those books is an interesting commentary on sexism and body politics. The other is a dystopian-esque version of The Bachelor. My fear was that The Jewel would be closer to the latter. But I decided to give it a shot just in case.
Ultimately, however I should have listened to my original doubts. Though The Jewel does share some similarities with The Handmaid’s Tale, it’s mainly the forced surrogacy and the dystopian society. It doesn’t share one of the most important elements—the social and political commentary on our current society. Instead it has more in common with the sea of Young Adult dystopian novels we’ve seen in the wake of The Hunger Games and Divergent. It has a great premise but it’s execution is shaky.
The basic premise is that almost all women are unable to conceive, so the girls that can are shuttled off to covenant-like houses, until it’s time for them to go to The Auction. The Auction is exactly what it sounds like, rich women bid over which girl they want to carry their child. I think I can pinpoint this part of the novel as the point where my scepticism began. The Auction is when the reader is told just how special, Violet, the protagonist, is. Out of the hundred girls being auctioned she’s in the top five. Everyone wants her. There’s even a bidding war over her.
All of which would be fine, except that as the novel progresses there’s very little evidence that supports her ranking. She admits to being quite clumsy and that she was never very good at remembering the wealthy households that run their society. All of which make her more relatable to a reader, I suppose, but don’t support her high rank. Her rank seems entirely based upon her ability to play the cello and her aptitude for something called the Auguries.
The Auguries are a set of magical abilities that only the surrogates have. There are three of them, one allows the user to change the colour of something, one allows you to change the size and one allow you to change the shape. I’m willing to accept the convenience that the only girls who can have children also have the magical ability to tailor-make those children. However, when Violet is informed that’s what she expected to do with the Auguries, it comes as a total surprise. Surely that would have been part of their training in the covenants? How else could they guarantee that they would disfigure or harm the babies?
I will say that Ewing did an excellent job describing the physical world around Violet. Her new life in The Jewel easily sprung to life in my mind and I would have liked to explore that world a bit further. I can’t say for sure whether that’s enough to make me continue with this series. There is definitely some interesting directions it could go in, but based on what’s happened so far, I’m not sure that it will....more
I’m just going to call it now. This is one of my favourite books this year. It’s like MiddlesThis review was originally posted at More Than Just Magic
I’m just going to call it now. This is one of my favourite books this year. It’s like Middlesex meets The Casual Vacancy – full of touching prose, well crafted characters and an extremely compelling story.
Golden Boy is the story of an intersex teen named Max. Raised as a boy his life is turned on its head when he is sexually assaulted. This book hooks you in right away. I started reading it before bed one night and I was up so late devouring every last page because I needed to know what was going to happen to Max. Golden Boy was an incredibly emotional book. At times it could be hard to read (trigger warning for rape) but it was always honest and realistic.
The unique thing about this book is that it rotates perspectives between a wide variety of characters – people of different ages and genders. Max, his younger brother, his parents, his doctor. It was incredibly fascinating to see how people at different stages of their life cope with the same situation. In a similar vein, Abigail Tarttelin also gives the reader a wide range of medical perspectives. It was interesting to see how different education or societal pressures (or lack there of) influenced people’s opinions and prejudices.
Out of all the different characters however I think I liked Max the best. He is definitely a sympathetic character. It absolutely broke my heart watching him cope with being a victim. We see him go through all the different stages. Guilt, blaming himself for not fighting back more, shame, withdrawl from friends and family. I just wanted to reach into the page and hug him.
I reviewed another intersex novel earlier this week (Pantomime) and I am glad to see they are out there but would still like to see more and to see more people talking about them. These novels are uniquely able to raise questions about gender – particularly what is means to be male/female and how social constructs shape who we are and who we think we should be.
Recommendation: Though Golden Boy is not technically a YA novel I do think it is a book with massive cross over appeal. It’s an inspiring and heart breaking story for fans of literary fiction and those who like to questions society’s expectations....more
Moon at Nine is the touching story of two people trying to find love in a dangerous place (I can’This review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Moon at Nine is the touching story of two people trying to find love in a dangerous place (I can’t help but think of that Barenaked Ladies’ song “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” while writing this review). To be specific that time is 1988 Iran. Farrin is a silent observer of the turmoil that is erupting all over her country. She comes from a wealthy family and they live in fear of the newly instated religious government. Though her parents attending nightly parties may suggest otherwise, when you realize they’re partying to block out the sounds of the bombing and because every night might be their last night on Earth you see how precarious their situation really is. She goes to a good school and she keeps her head down, not wanting to draw any attention to herself. The Revolutionary Guard is always ready to swoop in and arrest/punish those who don’t live up to their standards.
That is until she meets Sadira. Sadira comes from a very different homelife – her mother was killed in the bombings and she lives with her father in a house not nearly as nice as Farrin’s. She values books and education, whereas Farrin prefers to watch illegal videos of American television and write fantasy stories. But nevertheless they are drawn together. They are unlikely friends but they soon grow into much more than that. Their romance helps Farrin find courage within herself. Whereas previously she kept her head down and stayed out of everyone’s way, now she wants to fight for the girl she loves – a dangerous prospect as being gay in Iran is punishable by death.
Their story is beautiful and their love for one another intense, but the story takes a sad turn after they are caught kissing one day at school. The horrors they are put through, just because they’ve fallen in love, are at times difficult to read. What makes it even harder is knowing that this was based on a true story. The prose is very sparse and straight forward and while I’m not a fan of that style I think it was a appropriate for this story. Ellis was sharing a story of two women that she had been entrusted with. She wanted to get it out there for the world to read. Adding more flowery language or taking extra poetic license would have detracted from their struggle.
I do wish more of the history was woven into the story instead of placed in the afterword. While reading you learn that Iran was previously governed by a Shah, but now the Ayatollah is in charge and they are facing constant attacks from a US-backed Iraq. After reading I was curious about who the Shah and Ayatollah were so I did some of my own reading. It’s a fascinating and complex history and as someone who regretfully doesn’t know that much about Iran I think I would have gained more from having it in the text itself.
Moon at Nine is an important story. Diverse books like this are important because they educate us about other cultures and they’re an opportunity for people to share their stories when others want to silence them. Previous to reading I had no idea things were so bad in Iran for the LGBTQ community but now I know about organizations like Rainbow Railroad and want to do what I can to support them. I recommend Moon at Nine for those who enjoyed The Tyrant’s Daughter by J C Carleson and If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan....more
Emily finally knows what it's like to be in love. Unfortunately for her she's in love withThis review originally posted at Christa's Hooked on Books
Emily finally knows what it's like to be in love. Unfortunately for her she's in love with Zach, her best friend, Gabby''s, boyfriend. And now Gabby is going away for Christmas break, leaving Emily and Zach all alone. The temptation is too great to resist.
They're not the only one's succumbing to temptation. Chase has done something really terrible. A really cruel trick, which he justified as payback. Neither Chase and Emily could have ever imagined the real repercussion of their actions but their actions have been noticed. Three mysterious and beautiful girls have set their eyes on Chase and Emily and it's only a matter of time before their punishment is delivered.
Fury is based on a really interesting premise. That there's a set of mythical beings going around determining that people should be punished for their actions. In a lot of ways I can see the attraction. We've all been hurt/betrayed by someone and we've all wished that they could know how it feels. It seems from a lot of reviews I've already read that I'm not the only one who see's this appeal. A lot of people like the Furies (the three mysterious girls). Though I understood this admiration (for lack of a better word) I am not one of those people. I, in no way, condone Emily and Chase's behaviour but they don't live in isolation, does their actions mean the innocent people in their lives should also suffer? What about their friends and family members? Why should they be punished?
But anyways I digress. Regardless of whether you side with the Furies or not this book is fast paced and intriguing. It draws you in. I started reading it at 10 pm and stayed up all night finishing it. I was dying to know what happened and what nasty tricks the Furies had up their sleeves. In addition the setting of this book was absolutely perfect! Middle of winter, often at night – it was very much like the Furies, dangerous, harsh and unforgiving. There were times the vivid descriptions of the snow and ice would make me shiver and pity the poor people stuck in the middle of it.
Your Fury experience will be a matter of perspective. You may love the Furies or you may pity Chase and Emily. The beauty of this book is that it can go either way. No matter which side you fall on you'll still enjoy the story. This is a great debut from Elizabeth Miles and I can't wait to find out what happens next!...more