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
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 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
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
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
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
Further Out Than You Thought is the story of twenty-five year old Gwendolyn Griffin. Life has notThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Further Out Than You Thought is the story of twenty-five year old Gwendolyn Griffin. Life has not been easy for her recently. In order to put herself through grad school she started stripping. It was only supposed to be temporary, but with her boyfriend out of work and bills piling up it’s gone on longer than expected. To make matters worse she’s just found out she’s pregnant and the LA riots have broken out. It’s a tumultuous time and Gwen isn’t entirely sure how she’s going to make it through it all.
There are three main characters of significance throughout this novel, Gwen (or Stevie Smith when she’s on stage), Leo her boyfriend and their depressed, gay best friend Count Valiant. Though they are all important to the story, the real focus is Gwen herself. In addition to being a grad student, she’s an aspiring poet, and it shows. She will take every opportunity to wax poetic, whether she’s watching the other strippers, fighting the roaches in her apartment, or witnessing the city aflame. At first I really enjoyed the lyrical writing style, it was an interesting perspective to view Gwen’s world through. But after awhile the overuse of metaphors grew tiresome.
There also wasn’t as much about the riots as I expected. Though they are taking place over the course of the novel. and though they influence Gwen, Leo and Valiant, they are not the focus. At first I was a little disappointed. I was pretty young when the riots actually happened and I was curious to learn more about them. But as the book went on I was so wrapped up in the drama of the characters I didn’t mind as much. Further Out Than You Thought is a character driven novel. It is about the trials and obstacles they face and the growth they experience along the way. If you’re a fan of character-driven stories you’ll really enjoy it, there is plenty to dissect and examine.
Further Out Than You Thought is a gritty, emotionally raw novel that explores the intertwined lives of three troubled people. It’s a fascinating read, if not a little verbose, and one that I would recommend to more adventurous book clubs. It’s dark but it will leave you will a lot to talk about....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
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
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
“‘So I’m finally going mad,’ she thought, ‘like everybody else. What a nuisance. Though I suppose it will be a change.’
The Edible Woman is easily one“‘So I’m finally going mad,’ she thought, ‘like everybody else. What a nuisance. Though I suppose it will be a change.’
The Edible Woman is easily one of my top 3 Atwood novels. I can not believe this is a début - the writing is excellent, the ideas and themes are expertly built into every scene and despite it’s rather serious message it’s a fun and captivating read.
This is Atwood’s first novel – published in 1965. A lot of the groundwork for themes that pop up throughout her body of work are outlined here. It explores female identity and societal expectations but Atwood claims it isn’t a “feminist” text. It’s more proto feminist – a book that touched on some of the very ideas/opinions that were soon to come in the feminist movement. I think it’s fair to say that Atwood was a bit a head of the curve. But she didn’t just predict what was to come. She also penned – in my opinion – a novel with enduring themes. There’s a timelessness to it. Though it takes place in 1960s Toronto, so much has remained the same. Change the fashion and the food prices and this novel could have easily taken place today.
Loss of Identity
“You didn’t tell me it was a masquerade. Who the hell are you supposed to be?”
The Edible Woman is the story of Marian. A young woman living and working in Toronto, she has a pretty normal life. Has an apartment with a room mate in a decent neighbourhood, works Monday-Friday, and is dating a nice boy. It’s the kind of life she’s supposed to want. Her life is “on track”. But when her boyfriend proposes she has an…unexpected reaction. She loses herself, while she’s trying to fit the model of what society and her fiancée want her to be – the loving, adoring soon-to-be wife who is supposed to quit her job, love wedding planning, ready to have babies etc.
These expectations begin to weigh down on Marian and she sort of disconnects from her life. She begins a pseudo-affair with a graduate student named Duncan, she disconnects from food – first meat and then other foods as well. There’s this fantastic scene at the party where Marian’s fiancée is trying to take her picture. The scene is set up to show how Marian feels like she’s in the cross hairs, being hunted – at one point she even confuses his camera with a gun.
Atwood demonstrates this dramatic change with a narrative switch. I haven’t seen too many other books employ this tactic, so maybe that’s why it stands out for me so much. The first section of the book is told in first person. But after the proposal – when her life begins to turn upside down – the narrative switches to third person, like an outsider looking in. And then finally when she gets things back on track the novel switches back into first person. I think it’s kind of brilliant, and it’s actually more subtle than it sounds. I didn’t even notice it during my first read through.
“For an instant she felt them, their identities, almost their substance, pass over her head like a wave. At some time she would be — or no, already she was like that too; she was one of them, her body the same, identical, merged with that other flesh that choked the air in the flowered room with its sweet organic scent; she felt suffocated by this thick sargasso-sea of femininity.”
The other thing about The Edible Woman that really stands out for me is the food. Particularly the descriptions of food and how Marian reacts to various pieces. She begins to identify with the animals (and later with vegetables and even the mould growing in her sink) and the food begins to taste differently to her. The muscles and tendons between her teeth. At times it can get quite disturbing.
Food has been a fascinating subject for me, ever since my first attempt to become a vegetarian in the 9th grade. I began to read books like In Defence of Food, Fast Food Nation, Food Inc and the like. I find the more I read about food and the consumer culture around food, the more fascinated I am by it. I’ve been a vegetarian now for a number of years and there’s a lot of moments in The Edible Woman I could relate personally too. I don’t think Atwood is advocating for vegetarianism at all in this novel – but there is something to be said about the expectations surrounding our food, misconceptions about what’s “essential” and what’s “healthy” and consumerism in general.
Furthermore, the ideas surrounding food extend to Marian herself, and the way society can sometimes seem to consume women. This is demonstrated when Marian begins to see her co-workers as entities that can be consumed.
‘They were ripe, some rapidly becoming overripe, some already beginning to shrivel; she thought of them as attached by stems at the tops of their heads to an invisible vine, hanging there in various stages of growth and decay.”
It’s also demonstrated by the final scene. Which I love, but I’ve learned that people have interpreted it in a variety of different ways. I’m going to share my interpretation and I would love to here your thoughts as well.
Warning SPOILERS for the ending of the book!
“‘You’ve been trying to destroy me, haven’t you?”, she said. ’ You’ve been trying to assimilate me.But I’ve made you a substitue, something you’ll like much better. This is what you really wanted all along, isnt it? I’ll get you a fork”
At the end of the novel, Marian makes the cake in the shape of a woman – effectively a cake of herself. She offers it to her finacee, telling him that he;s been trying to consume her so he might as well have the whole thing. When he bolts (as most people would) she proceeds to eat the cake herself.
Here’s where my question lies. The eating of the cake – what does it mean to you? Some people find it quite depressing. They see it as her becoming a consumer again. Entering back into the world of expectations and ignorance. But I see it in a more positive light. She’s re-claiming herself. Taking back the power over her life (hence the switch back to first person). Which version do you subscribe to?
I love The Edible Woman, I think it’s a darkly funny and insightful novel. It definitely leaves you with lots of food for thought (pun intended – sorry). I know a lot of people don’t care for it but it will always be one of my favourites no matter how many times I read it.
“Being a person is getting too complicated”...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
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
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
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
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
I would like to consider myself a superhero fan. Comic books make up part of my weekly – if not dThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
I would like to consider myself a superhero fan. Comic books make up part of my weekly – if not daily – reading. And I love that we’re starting to see more superhero fiction. Which is why I jumped at the chance to read Dangerous by Shannon Hale.
I was initially pulled in by the fast pace of the book. The story starts right away and it is non-stop action the whole time. From Maisie’s arrival at space camp, to the space elevator, to the alien tokens and beyond, you’ll feel like you’re reading Dangerous at a run. I also loved all the science. I always wanted to go to space camp as a kid, so I felt like I was getting to live vicariously through Maisie and her friends. Hale doesn’t skimp on the details, she gives you the full experience. And even after they leave space camp the crazy inventions and technology keep coming. I felt a bit like a kid in a futuristic candy store.
One more thing that you may not know about Maisie “Danger” Brown – she only has one arm. You don’t see a lot of characters with disabilities in YA so it’s great to see some diversity added to the landscape. I appreciated that Hale didn’t portray Maisie as someone less capable because of her disability. She keeps hoping and fighting for her dream. I only wish Hale had kept it for a little bit longer. At a certain point of the story she gains a robotic arm that is so advanced you often forget she was even missing an arm in the first place. There was an opportunity here that Hale didn’t quite grasp.
There were a few other problems I had as the story moved forward as well. The romance felt topsy turvy. Maisie is torn between two guys – her long time best friend (Luther) who she seemed to forget about most of the time, and the new, cool guy (Wilder) she meets at space camp. Her feelings seemed to change in a snap leaving me reeling and confused. I was also not a fan of how Wilder treated her – he would run hot and cold and would often talk to down her because he was the “leader” of their group. I think the whole book would have been better as a straight action story with no romance at all.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review I am a big comic book fan. And while you think that would be an advantage, I think it ultimately worked against my enjoyment of Dangerous. Everything felt a little too familiar – like the Fantastic Four rolled together with the X-Men. As with every genre there are certain tropes and archetypes and you get tired of seeing them all the time. Dangerous embodied quite of few of these so it might be better for people not so steeped in the Marvel Universe.
Dangerous is a fun book that is not without it’s problems. It’s very different from the kind of books I’m used to to seeing from Shannon Hale and ultimately it fell short of my expectations. However, if you like science fiction but aren’t such an avid superhero fan you may have better luck....more
Mystery and thriller writers pay attention – this is how it’s done.
Last year I picked up I Hunt Killers after seeing non stop great reviews about it. I thought it worked well as stand alone but when I heard there was a sequel I was excited for more Jasper, Howie and Connie! In Game Billy Dent has escaped from prison but that’s not Jasper’s only problem. There’s a new killer on the loose in New York City and the desperate FBI and police have asked him to come to the Big Apple to help.
Like I Hunt Killers, Game provides an interesting psychological insight into a boy who is struggling between nature vs. nurture. Jasper desperately wants to prove to himself and the world that he is not about to follow in his father’s footsteps. But there’s some things that are so ingrained due to being raised by one of the world’s most famous serial killers. Jasper is such an interesting character. He’s complex and layered and simultaneously good and dark. Though the mystery is Game is compelling I think it is Jasper’s internal struggle that really kept me reading.
As if Jasper weren’t enough I also love the supporting cast of this novel – particularly Howie and Connie. Howie is by far my favourite character. He’s hilarious and brave and just down right awesome. I was a bit sad that he didn’t have as big of a part as he did in I Hunt Killers. But on the bright side Connie had more of role this time! She’s a sassy, independent woman. And even though her relationship with Jasper explains her role in this story, it doesn’t define who she is.
The plot for this novel was incredible. Full of twists and incredible turns that I never saw coming. I’m the type of person who is constantly trying to guess what’s going to happen but I was totally floored by Game. There are some creepy and twisted people at work here. And Game switched points of view throughout, building the complexity and intricacy of the mystery throughout. Honestly, I think I liked Game better than I Hunt Killers. I thought it was more complex, more intricate and more detailed.
Recommendation: This series is a must read for mystery and crime novel lovers. You’ll love Jasper Dent and have a fantastic time trying to guess what’s really going on in New York City....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
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
When I started reading Above World I was expecting a pretty basic middle grade title. A fun fantasy story that IOriginally reviewed at Hooked on Books
When I started reading Above World I was expecting a pretty basic middle grade title. A fun fantasy story that I could lose myself in for a little while. Something along the lines of Disney's The Little Mermaid. What I found, however, was a delightful fantasy mixed with some science fiction and a strong story I could really get behind.
Unlike many fantasy stories, this book takes place in a futuristic version of our world. In the future, over-population has led humans to find more creative places to reside – the ocean, the mountains, the desert. Various advances in technology have allowed humans to adapt to these environments and for awhile everything is fine. However, when the technology begins to fail, one young mermaid (or Kampii) Aluna makes her way to the surface to find the solution to the problem and save her underwater people. I was fascinated by this futuristic society and the unique ways humans adapted.
I also enjoyed that this novel revolved around a full, strong cast of characters. Though Aluna is a key character, it is not simply the case of one amazing do-it-all heroine, surrounded by a bunch of side kicks. All four characters – Aluna, Hoku, Calli and Dash – are unqiue, they come from different worlds and they all have something important to contribute.
I found there were some important messages in this book – in particular the dangers of relying to heavily on technology. This is a particularly relevant and insightful message given how “plugged in” the younger generation (as well as my own) has become. Above World is an enchanting and inventive middle grade title, with a stunning cast of characters and an interesting way of looking at the future. I may have been expecting a standard mermaid tale but instead I got something much more complex and engaging. ...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
The Chemical Garden trilogy continues and without a doubt it is better than ever!
Now if you remember my review of Wither, I wasn't overly sold on this trilogy. Primarily because the hype monster built this book up to such outlandish proportions there was almost no way it could live up to its reputation. Because of this I went into Fever with my expectations lowered. I was happy to find that I enjoyed the story of Fever significantly more than that of Wither and noticed a significant improvement in the quality of the narrative and characters.
For starters, I loved the conflict and imagery in this story significantly more than the last. Wither was limited to the world of Linden's mansion and while it was an interesting setting there was only so much it could do. Fever opens up a whole new world for the reader - exposing the reader to the dysoptian setting Rhine grew up and helping us learn more about what the world has become. This did more than just create a more dazzling world to read about, it also helped explain many of the motivations of the characters, which is something I'm always obsessed with.
I also felt like Rhine has significantly grown as a character. In Wither I found her kind of flaky and always in need of saving. In Fever she was stronger. She took action for herself. She become a force to reckoned with and I finally felt myself bonding with her. Unfortunately, however, my feelings towards Gabriel remain the same. I find him a complete blank slate and he spends much of Fever out of the way. Further proving to me that he really doesn't need to be there.
I still gave so many questions - particualrly about this virus. How does a virus target by age/gender? Is it really a virus in the traditional sense? etc etc. But I'm hoping questions like that are addressed in book three (which I am now eagerly awaiting). Just like Rhine, Lauren DeStefano has really grown with this book. She's had a chance to stretch her creative muscle and the results are something to be admired....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
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