4.5 stars September already promises to be a month of successful debuts. There have been several excellent first works already, but none as shiny, wel
4.5 stars September already promises to be a month of successful debuts. There have been several excellent first works already, but none as shiny, well written or as deeply romantic as The Next Together by Lauren James.
James tells the tale of one love affair in four different places and four different time scapes. Matthew and Katherine are, at once, a wealthy young lady and her servant, an ambitious journalist and his assistant, married young scientists uncovering a conspiracy and two college students intent on clearing the names of their relatives. In every time scape, Katherine and Matthew are different, but the love they feel for each other is immutable. We watch them time and time again as they discover each other and inevitably collide, desperate to be together despite so many obstacles.
The narrative itself is beautifully assembled as one story bleeds into another seamlessly. The pacing is pure perfection – James somehow achieved simultaneous crescendo in all four stories, thus ensuring our equal interest in them all. A single small mistake had the potential to ruin everything, to make us care more about one couple than all the rest, but all the threads were handled masterfully and the result is a thing of beauty.
If not for Katherine’s extraordinary sense of humor, the story would have been suffocating and grim at times. Instead, I found myself laughing out loud when the sense of foreboding threatened to overwhelm me, swooning when I should have been biting my nails in terror, and generally reacting unexpectedly to anything Lauren James had to offer. Even more spectacular than the book itself were my reactions to it, my emotions manipulated so skillfully by an author with so much to give. The Next Together demands your full attention and dedication and it simply refuses to settle for anything else. As someone who reads a lot of romance, I shouldn’t have been blindsided by my reactions to this book, a novel that’s not primarily a romance. However, I found myself in utter disbelief and more than a little awestruck. This is one of the most deeply romantic books I’ve read in ages.
Overall, The Next Together broke my heart time and time again, but it was a sweet pain. I wouldn’t change a second of it.
2.5 stars Having read several negative reviews back when The Here and Now was first released, I nevertheless decided to give it a fair chance hoping I2.5 stars Having read several negative reviews back when The Here and Now was first released, I nevertheless decided to give it a fair chance hoping I would feel differently, as I sometimes do. The opening part seemed very promising, which allowed me to think my stubbornness would be rewarded, but it quickly became clear that my opinion would align with those of several trusted friends. The Here and Now is not a bad book as such, but I found it lacking in characterization, scientific background and sometimes, unfortunately, even common sense.
My main problem with Brashares’ novel is that it completely neglects any scientific theories involving time travel. It addresses possible consequences superficially, choosing not to base them on one of many existing scientific debates. This lack of research, especially when there’s so much material to draw from, is truly the only thing I can’t overlook or forget.
Prenna starts out as an excellent character. She lives in a community of time travelers from the future under very strict rules. Her world was ruined by the plague and while those that traveled seem to be immune, they can nevertheless be extremely dangerous for the so called time natives. Unlike her peers, Prenna is no stranger to critical thinking and she’s ready to defy her elders when their many rules make little sense. Although I liked her at the start, I soon noticed that Prenna was a pretty generic character, with nothing that would make her stand out and be remembered. She was rebellious, but not convincingly so, and it didn’t take long for her to lose my affection.
After four years of living by the rules, Prenna breaks them because of a boy. Ethan was present when she first arrived to her new life, but she doesn’t actually remember him. Still, there’s an undeniable closeness and a strong friendship that develops despite all the lies. Despite genuinely liking him, I was a bit perplexed by Ethan’s character because he seemed to transform into anything the story (or Prenna) required. He had access to tiny tracker devices, he understood very advanced physics, was able to run away with Prenna and rescue her from a well-guarded facility. His many talents were so unlikely that they constantly challenged my suspension of disbelief.
The upside of this book is that it’s fairly short and very easy to read. Even though it’s severely flawed, it’s pretty entertaining while you’re actually reading it. The story may not be able to withstand close scrutiny, but parts of it are enjoyable nevertheless.
I’ll be perfectly honest here and say, not for the first time, that the very idea of time travel confuses the hell out of me. Perhaps I’m not overly bI’ll be perfectly honest here and say, not for the first time, that the very idea of time travel confuses the hell out of me. Perhaps I’m not overly bright when it comes to these things, or perhaps the concept is just too complicated… or maybe it’s a little bit of both. From where I’m standing, time travel is nothing to be messed with, so I can’t help but admire authors who tackle it so bravely. Although science is not at the forefront of this book, the little that was offered was both convincing and crystal clear. I understood what was happening and why at all times, which is more than I can say for the vast majority of time travel books I’ve read in the past.
Bianca Butterman, our lovely tour guide, is a girl after my own heart. She is a lot like me, in fact, a workaholic dedicated to a fault. It takes a lot for her to loosen up, and I must say I admired her sense of responsibility. Even when she was changing and adapting, she stayed true to herself.
I was somewhat less fond of Tristan, I’m afraid. He charmed me a bit toward the end, but I still don’t quite see the appeal. I suppose self-entitled poor little rich boys that never once face consequences for their actions simply aren’t attractive to me. Also, as a former addict who keeps falling back into his old patterns, Tristan infuriated me more often than not. Fortunately, my dislike of him didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of this story, and for the most part, I was able to relax and just go with it. I learned that from Bianca.
The little detour that Bianca and Tristan took was the most exciting thing that happened to me in a very, very long time. They ended up in the middle of a huge historical event, something I tried my best to learn everything about while I was growing up. I don’t know how this will resonate with younger readers, I honestly don’t, but those who know their classic rock will be just as thrilled as I was.
Butterman (Time) Travel, Inc is, in all honesty, a surprisingly good book. Based on the reviews I’ve seen so far, most readers agree with me completely. It is charming, different and very well researched, so please make sure to give it a chance.
I knew very little about Catherine Fisher before reading The Obsidian Mirror, only that she wrote Incarceron, which I have yet to read, so it’s safe tI knew very little about Catherine Fisher before reading The Obsidian Mirror, only that she wrote Incarceron, which I have yet to read, so it’s safe to say I went into this with no expectations whatsoever, just the usual excitement over a pretty cover. In a nutshell, The Obsidian Mirror is a Middle Grade adventure that combines Science Fiction elements (time travel, to be exact), with fairy lore. Had I realized this in time, I doubt I would have requested it since I normally avoid MG like the plague, but it would have been my loss. Fisher is an excellent writer with a good sense of pacing and wonderful imagination.
Time travel always confuses me a bit, but Fisher didn’t make it too complicated. Many questions were left unanswered, but enough was revealed for me to enjoy the story. The obsidian mirror itself, a time portal of sorts, remains a mystery, but one that will surely be resolved in the next installment. The only piece that simply refuses to fit are the fairies. They might be colorful and deliciously creepy, but they contribute nothing to the story and I can’t for the life of me understand their purpose. Perhaps it will be clearer in the second book, but for now, they’re nothing more than a decoration. (Not for me, though, I’m so scared of them.)
I am not a fan of multiple points of view and I think I would have liked this book more were it told from Jake’s perspective alone, preferably in first person. Third person, multiple points of view is my least favorite narrative choice as it often prevents me from creating emotional bonds with the characters and the entire experience can somehow seem cold and clinical. Switching from Jake to Sarah and back, with a few short chapters with other narrative voices broke the natural flow, and all the diary entries by the mirror’s original owner, although essential, certainly didn’t help.
I did like Fisher’s writing a lot, although it’s nothing like what I usually enjoy. Her sentences are short and clear, her style refreshingly concise, and yet she somehow avoids making it seem stilted. It worked well for The Obsidian Mirror, mostly because it’s a Middle Grade adventure and not very emotional at all, but I’m curious to see how it worked in Incarceron.
The Obsidian Mirror left so many questions unanswered and I simply can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel. I will also read Incarceron and Sapphique as soon as I can. Great job, Ms. Fisher!
I’ll start this one with a confession: time travel stuff makes little to no sense to me. It’s true, myForget everything you know about time travel…
I’ll start this one with a confession: time travel stuff makes little to no sense to me. It’s true, my mathematical-logical intelligence is lower than my shoe size, and when I try to make sense of all the time lines and paradoxes, I get this throbbing headache in my temples that refuses to go away. Because of that, the opening sentence (Jackson’s words to Holly) meant very little to me – I knew next to nothing to begin with, but I’m happy to say that Cross’ version, at least, made sense. To me. Sort of.
Ever since it came out, Tempest has been receiving a lot of mixed reviews. Most of my friends and bloggers I usually agree with gave it a low rating, which is why I waited so long to give it a chance. But somewhere deep inside, I had this strange feeling that Tempest and I would get along, and as it turns out, we did.
As it usually happens, what I expected from Tempest and what I ended up with were two things a million miles away from each other. I obviously knew it was about time travel, but I thought it would focus entirely on the romance and saving the life of a girl our time traveler can’t live without. Boy was I wrong! It’s true, Jackson’s girlfriend Holly gets shot by the so called Enemies of Time and he jumps back in the hopes of saving her, but Tempest doesn’t focus on their undying love. In fact, Jackson approaches his relationship with Holly very maturely. Instead, this book is full of secret medical research, CIA agents, agents called Enemies of Time, parallel dimensions and guns. Sounds fun? I thought so.
A lot of reviewers thought that Holly was plain and unworthy of Jackson’s attention, and I agree that she doesn’t really stand out. But people we feel attracted to are often plain in the eyes of others, and it wasn’t me who was supposed to fall in love with her. So in a way, I'm glad she was pretty, but not stunningly gorgeous, smart, but not a Nobel prize winner, generous, but certainly not Mother Teresa. It made the entirety of their relationship seem that much more real to me.
The usual tropes were all there: no mother, dead sister, best friend the science geek, but the seat-gripping action helped me accept it all more easily and in the end, those 412 pages simply weren’t enough. I read this book at the beach, before going to sleep, during hours of insomnia, while I was eating and pretty much everywhere else, until I finished it. (I even fell asleep with it and I sort of dropped it on my own head, but that’s neither here nor there.) Of course it had its flaws, but it’s summer, it was fun, and quite frankly I just don’t care.
4.5 stars I’ve been having some troubles with paranormal YA lately, to the point where I started wondering if it was somehow my fault. After the umptee4.5 stars I’ve been having some troubles with paranormal YA lately, to the point where I started wondering if it was somehow my fault. After the umpteenth book I’d read and hated, I figured that I’m either becoming too old for YA, or that I read too much (which is a distinct possibility). Wander Dust helped me realize where the blame really lies. To all those other young adult paranormal novels, I can finally say: It’s not me, it’s you.
Wander Dust is not without problems or without clichés, but all things considered, it certainly stands out in a very, very good way. Time travel plus a prestigious school (think Hex Hall with time travelers instead of witches and shapeshifters) plus a smart heroine and a swoon-worthy hero, extremely good worldbuilding and a great set of secondary characters equal a noteworthy book by anyone’s standards.
As soon as it becomes clear that Seraphina Parrish is not just an ordinary girl, she is sent to the prestigious Washington Square Academy, a boarding school for exceptionally gifted teens such as herself. There she is told that she is a Wanderer, a person with the ability to travel through time, just as her late mother was. She is to be trained and properly educated about the many laws that time travelers need to abide to. She is also introduced to her two other team members, as each team is made of a Wanderer (such as Seraphina), Seer and Protector. Seers have the ability to see the life path of inanimate objects, where they’d been and who they belonged to, which allows Wanderers and the Protectors to use these objects to travel to a specific time and place. Sera’s Seer is a blonde 13-year old girl named Sam, and her Protector is the mysterious boy whose photo she received in the mail while she was still living with her father. His name is Max Bishop and he is, of course, absolutely gorgeous, kind, and well-read. He is also dating another Protector named Perpetua.
In the army of YA heroines I’ve been reading about in the last year or so, Seraphina Parrish is one of the best. She is strong, she is fierce, she has principles she adheres to at all costs, she isn’t prone to rash decisions or self-indulgent behavior, but she also has just enough flaws to make her realistic and identifiable. When it became clear that she’s a Wanderer, she took everything in stride and dealt with it as best as she could. I also liked that she refused any kind of relationship with Bishop because he already had a girlfriend, regardless of how much she was drawn to him or how mean and obnoxious his girlfriend seem to be.
Unlike Sera, Bishop has no flaws that make him more real. I didn’t see him just as Sera’s love interest, but a hero in his own right, and he certainly proved to be worthy of the title. (His only flaw that I can think of is that he ever allowed himself to be in any way associated with a girl named Perpetua.) The only thing I’m still puzzling over is the matter of his photo in Sera’s mail (received long before they met) that was never properly explained, but I’m kind of hoping the sequel will take care of that.
(On a side note, I need to have a serious conversation with my mailman about the stuff he keeps bringing me. Books are fine and all, but I never get pics of mysterious hot guys in my mailbox, which is a damn shame, if you ask me.)
Wander Dust is self-published, but quite frankly, I barely even noticed. The self-publishing industry just keeps throwing surprises at me. Sure, there were a few grammar mistakes (by ‘a few’, I mean five or so, not more), and a spelling error here and there, but nothing that would stop me from thoroughly enjoying the book. I for one am more than willing to forgive such things (in reasonable amounts) as long as the story is good enough to keep me interested from start to finish. This one was that and much more.
Even though it’s not among my favorite urban fantasies, not anymore, the Cassandra Palmer series is, at the very least, consistently good. Admittedly,Even though it’s not among my favorite urban fantasies, not anymore, the Cassandra Palmer series is, at the very least, consistently good. Admittedly, Karen Chance’s writing takes some getting used to – her action scenes tend to be somewhat confusing and often cartoonish, and the emotional sides of her characters are rarely believable, but overall, these books can be counted on to amuse and entertain.
Unfortunately, Cassie remains emotionally immature and often frustratingly dense. Her inability to face her emotions and her tendency to cheat on the person she claims to love continue to drive me insane. Despite Cassie’s blissful ignorance, the solution to the Mircea – Cassie – Pritkin love triangle is finally starting to take form, and while I can’t say I like the direction it’s taking, I know most people will. However, I’m at least comforted by the fact that the whole thing is coming to an end.
I still much prefer Karen’s spin-off series, Dorina Basarab (because, among other things, I get to spend time with Mircea without the stress of seeing him cheated on), but it’s always a joy when one of these comes out. The next book is titled Reap the Wind and will be released sometime in 2014.