I was surprised by how much I liked this book. To be honest, I was seduced by that cover and the fabulous title and didn't really expe...moreFeminist poetry!
I was surprised by how much I liked this book. To be honest, I was seduced by that cover and the fabulous title and didn't really expect it to hold that much substance. But, after a slightly shaky start, I found myself wanting these poems to go on and on.
Heppermann retells traditional fairy tales, legends and even biblical myths in her poems, incorporating metaphors for all the issues teen girls face - insecurities, sex, misogyny, eating disorders, etc. The poems were dark and extremely compelling. I especially liked the idea behind "The First Anorexic" - a poem about Eve's first taste of forbidden fruit and the many women after her who would be obsessed with what they ate. I also thought "The Brief History of Feminism" and its clever use of the phrase "Simon Says" worked really well.
It's also darkly comic at times:
The dress code says we must cover ourselves in ample pants, skirts that reach well below our lascivious knees, polos buttoned over the rim of the canyon, a glimpse of which can send a boy plunging to such depths he may never climb back up to algebra.
We say that if a hiker strays off the path, trips, and winds up crippled, is it really the canyon's fault?
But the author sums up best what this little book of poetry is all about in the author's note at the end:
If you find the dividing line between fairy tales and reality, let me know. In my mind, the two run together, even though the intersections aren't always obvious. The girl sitting quietly in class or waiting for the bus or roaming the mall doesn't want anyone to know, or doesn't know how to tell anyone, that she is locked in a tower. Maybe she's a prisoner of a story she's heard all her life - that fairest means best, or that bruises prove she is worthy of love.
But here's a great thing about stories: they can be retold.(less)
"I realized, looking around for the first time, that we weren’t in Dusty Acres anymore."
Disappointment #1: This book was extremely boring for about 8...more"I realized, looking around for the first time, that we weren’t in Dusty Acres anymore."
Disappointment #1: This book was extremely boring for about 80% of the 432 pages. I was tempted to call it slow at first because it certainly felt like it, but I guess stuff was constantly happening - I just didn't care about any of it. Occasionally I would perk up because I read an interesting page and then I would go back to forcing myself to absorb the words properly. It was a lengthy and difficult slog, despite the exciting premise.
Disappointment #2: The quirky Tim Burton-esque Oz didn't work for me. The strong beginning made me wonder if this was actually a contemporary novel with The Wizard of Oz parallels and metaphors woven into it - well, I think that would have been a better book. The story is about Amy Gumm who has grown up in a trailer park with a mother who is slipping further into a drug-induced oblivion. She has been called "trash" her whole life by other kids at school and the teachers never believe her side of the story because they know all too well who her mother is.
Amy is exactly the kind of character I enjoy reading about. The kind who is realistically flawed, complex, well-rounded and interesting. She's had it rough enough that you feel sympathy towards her, but she's no sappy pushover either. I was instantly intrigued - captivated even - by her life, by her relationship with her mother, by the sad loneliness she obviously felt... then she got tornadoed out of Dusty Acres and into Oz and that's when everything went downhill.
"This wasn’t the Oz that I had read about or seen in the movie. It was as if someone had drained out some of the Technicolor and introduced some serious darkness."
I lost all connection with Amy and her story when she landed in Oz and began moving from one group of people I didn't care about to another. In this version of the story, Dorothy returned to Oz from Kansas because she found our world lackluster in comparison. Caught up in a world of magic where she was deemed a hero, Dorothy was soon appointed Princess of Oz and became obsessed with the power awarded to her. Dorothy proves the saying that power corrupts and begins slowly terrorizing the land and people. And it is up to Amy Gumm to stop her. Honestly? I think an interesting character like Amy Gumm is wasted on a quirky fantasy filled with odd laws (reminiscent of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland) and Permasmile lipstick.
It was almost like it tried so hard to be quirky and weird, that I could see right through the charade. And the reality was dull.
Disappointment #3: Instalove or instaromance or instaangst. Who cares, anyway? People and talking animals are being tortured, the world is in peril, your life is in danger... d'ya think you could control your bloody hormones for a sec? Or at the very least stop getting unreasonably jealous at really inappropriate times. I swear some potentially excellent scenes are ruined by petty jealousies and romantic angst. I want magic and nastiness and darkness and twists! Not young lovin'.
Disappointment #4:Dorothy doesn't even fucking die. It's all lies! You better be prepared for that sequel! Or two. Or three. Maybe it'll never end. I'll be walking around with a zimmer frame* and that bitch Dorothy will still be alive. I wish you luck if you're continuing on this journey, but it's time for me to bow out. I'm glad it's over.
................................................................................. *Apparently it's called a walker! Jeez, bloody Americans. Thanks Khanh! :D
• It's a gorgeously written blend of Beauty and the Beast retelling and Greek mythology. • It's at once a powerful, wonderful, heart-breaking love story and so so much more than that. • It's a dark tale that stabs you in the heart at every turn and constantly throws all new levels of craziness into the mix. • And it's the latest addition to my favourite YA of all time shelf.
Cruel Beauty shouldn't work. But somehow it does. It managed to have me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. It shocked me. It creeped me out. I laughed. I cried. I'm still not sure I understand the ending but I am sure that it doesn't really matter. In short, I loved it. It was one of those rare books that literally glued my eyes to the page, had me devouring each sentence in a mad need to find out what the hell was going on and what would happen. It was a bizarrely beautiful little addiction and I only hope this signifies the start of a great year for young adult (after the last was so disappointing).
So... Nyx. The best books are held aloft by a great protagonist and Cruel Beauty is no exception. Nyx is exactly the kind of character I love. She's strong-willed, witty and brave. She's also angry, bitter and ferocious. She's lived her whole life being prepared as a weapon; and as a sacrifice. Her father made a deal with the Gentle Lord - the evil ruler of their kingdom - before Nyx and her twin sister were born. Their mother had been unable to conceive a child, so their father foolishly asked that the Lord grant them children and promised one of his daughters to the Lord in exchange. But he also lost his wife to childbirth in the bargain. The Gentle Lord's habit of cashing in double on his deals is well-known. Nyx, as the child her father loved less, has long-known her destiny to be the wife of the Gentle Lord. When the times comes, she goes with determination, fear and anger. She does not play by the Lord's rules. She is defiant. She tests his patience. I liked her instantly.
Then there is Ignifex, of course. The Lord that has terrorized their kingdom for centuries. The one who carries the blood of countless innocents on his hands. But, unsurprisingly, things are never quite that simple. What I liked best about Ignifex was his wicked sense of humour. There's nothing quite like a villain who is constantly witty and hilarious. The complex layers of each character in this book just blew my mind, no one is ever simple or cliche. The heroine does plenty of bad things and the evil villain... well, be careful you don't fall in love.
Cruel Beauty was just so unexpected. I thought I knew exactly what it was as soon as I glimpsed the cover, title and GR description. I thought I understood perfectly and I thought I'd probably read countless versions of the same book. How wrong I was. This is honestly quite unlike anything I've ever read before. I liked how everything about the book, the setting, the story and the characters was a bit like one of those Russian dolls. Something else within something else within something else. Then there's that whole haunting bittersweet tone that permeates this entire novel. I swear Ms Hodge has perfected the art of raising goosebumps with a perfectly-spun twist on an old Greek myth. And it just got better and better.
I think this review is more of an incoherent mess of feelings, so I'll stop now before the drooling starts. What I want to know is this: when is the author releasing another book?
If the girl could only have spoken to the other boys and girls, the ones that had followed the golden-eyed boy before her, she would have known that there is always something left to lose.
This is a story you know - in a way. You remember how it goes, right? A boy called Peter appears to children and promises to take them to a better place, a place where they will never grow up and never get old. Of course we all know this story. But... what if it wasn't all that it seemed? What if Peter held back dark secrets about the place he takes the children? What if there was a more sinister reason those children never got to grow up?
What I find most surprising is that I never realised how creepy and frightening the basic premise of Peter Pan could be when twisted ever so slightly. Think about it. A mysterious boy of unknown origin creeps through the windows of children's bedrooms and lures them away in the middle of the night. Why was I never completely freaked out by this? Well, now I'm terrified.
The Child Thief is a lengthy, complex, but extremely compelling fantasy that weaves in elements of multiple folklore retellings, Arthurian mythology, historical fact and gorgeously creepy artwork. It should not be mistaken for a young adult novel, it's extremely graphic and disturbing in parts, but beautifully written and tinged with that inescapable sadness reminiscent of the original Peter Pan stories. It's at once a bloody horror story and a lesson in growing up - even the eponymous protagonist of the novel is simultaneously horrifying and endearing.
We are the lost, the wild, the untamable.
In this story, Peter seduces the children who are lost, abused and forgotten - the ones who have nothing left to lose and gladly follow the golden-eyed boy who makes enticing promises. At its core, this is a heartbreaking tale about the abandoned and unloved, and those who don't realise they're loved until it's too late. There are a lot of lessons floating around in this novel, plenty of philosophical musings on life and death. Those who believe this is vastly different from the original Peter Pan have clearly forgotten the darkness of Barrie's stories before the sugar-coated Disney version. I always remember the haunting line Peter says: "To die will be an awfully big adventure."
It is a wonderful retelling for old fans, but it also stands on its own as an intricately-woven fantasy world full of wonder and danger. The characters face multiple threats from faeries, witches, pixies, flesh eaters and - perhaps the most bloodthirsty creatures of all - humans. The ending was sad in the perfect kind of way. I love that Brom has managed to create a main character that is some parts monster and some parts hero, you will probably find yourself wondering at times which he is and deciding that he is in many ways both.
Given the powerful effect this novel had on me and the way that it is completely unlike anything I've ever read before, how could I not give it five stars?
I'd been wondering why lately I've had such bad luck with books. Almost everything I picked up went back down again and more than half of what I read...moreI'd been wondering why lately I've had such bad luck with books. Almost everything I picked up went back down again and more than half of what I read through and reviewed was a disappointment. After reading this first volume of the Fables series, it hit me all of a sudden - Tatiana. Or lack of Tatiana and her excellent book-recommending skills. Thanks for the rec, T, I knew you'd get it right ^_^
The Fables series has been one I've wanted to start since I first heard of it. Adult retellings of classic fairytales with a few touches of sex, violence and humour? SOLD! However, I talked myself out of it about a year ago when I foolishly picked up a random volume - nine, I believe - and didn't get it at all. Perhaps volume nine happens to be a bad apple in an otherwise excellent bunch, or perhaps that particular volume wasn't made to be read as a standalone (IMO, the first three can be enjoyed individually), whatever the reason, I found myself putting off a series which I'd previously been certain I'd love. I've learned my lesson and am now breezing through these fantastic volumes (I'll be starting number four soon) and becoming more and more addicted to the characters, the world and the humour.
Will you enjoy this? Personally, I think it depends on whether the humour is your cup of tea. I also don't believe it would be fair to sell this series as merely a comedy; each volume is very different, some are darker and gorier than others, some are primarily mysteries, others not so much. But the humour is behind it all and is what, for me, turns this into something more than a regular urban fantasy, fairytale retelling. It's what makes these characters memorable and there's not much I like more than a funny villain - everyone has a sense of humour here. I, for one, am finding it more and more funny with every installment I read.
Another thing is the artwork, which I like a lot in this series. The art has to receive a mention when you're reading a graphic novel because it inevitably affects how you read the story and how you view the characters. I tend to prefer realistic drawings, as opposed to arty, scrawly messes that are supposed to set some kind of tone. Give me this instead any day:
This first volume opens with the discovery of Rose Red's destroyed apartment. The place has been turned on its head and blood is splattered on every surface. Bigby Wolf and Snow White must investigate... can all that blood really be Rose Red's? Is she dead? Who would have a reason to hurt her? This first story is enjoyable and, in my opinion, they just keep getting better.
I just want to take this opportunity to also recommend the TV show Once Upon A Time. Originally, they were planning to make a show out of Fables but they modified it a bit and Once Upon A Time came out the other end. And it's a favourite of mine - you should check it out!(less)
I've been highly anticipating this book since I learned of it's coming existence for no other reason...more The Crane Wife, quite simply, didn't work for me.
I've been highly anticipating this book since I learned of it's coming existence for no other reason than the fact that Patrick Ness wrote it. Ness is easily one of my favourite teen/YA writers and I find myself having to read everything he writes - even when he ventures out of his comfort zone and writes a novel for adults. Not only was I eager to jump back inside Ness's brilliant mind, but the promise of a retelling of an old Japanese folktale really called to me. My knowledge of Japanese myths and stories is limited, so I was sure the experience would be something unique and refreshing. And I suppose on some level it was.
The story is about George Duncan who is woken one night by a strange cry. Going outside, he discovers an injured Crane. George finds himself overcome with compassion and rushes to help the bird, removing an arrow from it's wing. The very next day, he meets Kumiko - a mysterious woman whom he falls in love with and together they create beautiful pieces of art. But George is dissatisfied with this existence and feels he needs to know more about the strange woman he loves. This desperation for knowledge is George's ultimate downfall; where the male character in the original story is ruined by his lust for money, it is George's need to know more that is his undoing.
It seems like I am being very harsh and critical to say that I think Ness should stick to his more subtle tales for young adults like A Monster Calls but I don't see it that way. The Crane Wife, though Ness's most ambitious work in terms of language and complexity, seemed somewhat pretentious and overly concerned with the reiteration of its own depth. Ness has evidently tried to take his writing a step further and play with language - but this story feels a lot more strained. The message in A Monster Calls was gentle, sad and powerful. The Crane Wife made me feel like I was being smacked repeatedly in the face with lessons in the philosophy of knowledge. So, yes, I do say that Ness should stick to more subtle tales or maybe he shouldn't write for adults - who knows? - but I don't mean this as a criticism. Ness is brilliant at handling poignant tales for children, whether it be about a boy with a dying mother or an adventure in a dystopian world, but his experiment in the different here was, in my opinion, a failure.
The Crane Wife really plays on the theme of knowledge and truths. I actually love and agree with the idea that the truth is not absolute but dependent on the person telling the story. I expect to see lovers of this book pulling up quotes like these:
"There were as many truths – overlapping, stewed together – as there were tellers. The truth mattered less than the story’s life. A story forgotten died. A story remembered not only lived, but grew."
"No one wanted to hear that people other than themselves might be complicated, that no one was ever just one thing, no history ever just one version."
But I come back to the lack of subtlety again. I feel like Ness keeps making this point again and again throughout the novel until I just wanted to be like "I get it! I swear, I get it!!" I don't know why Ness was so concerned with our ability to understand the message he was trying to put across when he's managed to weave them so gently and brilliantly into his young adult works.
Another thing I really didn't like was George. George is a nice guy, don't you know? Everyone loves George. George is a do-no-wrong, wonderful, women-treat-him-like-crap-cos-he's-such-a-sweetie type of guy. I can't stand that. For one, I can't stand unrealistically nice and good characters (whatever that male equivalent of Mary Sue is - I can't remember); for another, I hated the suggestion that there is something wrong with all the women who come into George's life for not appreciating him.
"a pleasant enough man, but lacking that certain something, that extra little ingredient to be truly worth investing in. It was a mistake women often seemed to make. He had more female friends, including his ex-wife, than any straight man he knew. The trouble was they’d all started out as lovers, before realising he was too amiable to take quite seriously. ‘You’re about sixty-five per cent,’ his ex-wife had said, as she left him.’ And I think seventy is probably my minimum.’ The trouble was, seventy per cent seemed to be every woman’s minimum."
George is that "friend zone" guy that all women adore but cannot be with for any length of time because they're too busy screwing bad guys. Why can't women just notice the nice guys standing in the wings, waiting to be awarded with sex and love for being such good friends? Ugh. This post is a fantastic discussion about the friend zone issue.
The Crane Wife isn't an awful book and, like I said, there were some beautifully written parts that I'm sure many will rush to quote. For me, though, I think I'm going to stay away from any future adult books by Ness and hope he delivers more of what he's good at. It's not an insult to say his power lies in younger books with simpler language; J.K. Rowling is no Proust but there are millions of children and adults around the world that will be forever grateful that she isn't.(less)
“There is no hell, John Temsland. Each man, when he dies, sees the landscape of his own soul.”
This book kind of stomped all over my heart. Not becau...more “There is no hell, John Temsland. Each man, when he dies, sees the landscape of his own soul.”
This book kind of stomped all over my heart. Not because of the love story, which I don't consider a spoiler because anyone with a brain will see it coming from the beginning (Or the cover. Or the description.). But because of the beautiful, magical simplicity of the writing and the world and the characters. I love stories like this, that capture the timeless magic of fairy tales and make you feel like you're reading a story that is centuries old even when it clearly isn't.
The story is about a young woman called Keturah who loses her way in the woods. After days of wandering around and growing weaker and weaker, Lord Death eventually arrives for her. Keturah distracts Lord Death by telling him a love story, however, she cleverly withholds the ending and promises only to tell it to him if he allows her another day to live. One more condition is that, if she can find her true love in that time, he must let her live a full life. And so begins Keturah's mission to find her true love and postpone her date with death. Like all good fantasy, this mission introduces the reader to kings, magic spells, plagues and prophecies. I was mesmerised.
The writing has a beautiful tone to it that is hard to explain with a few simple quotes from the book. It's haunting, a little melancholy even, but this mood suits the setting and nature of the story perfectly. I think I need to be careful with my promises of kings and magic because this is not a wild and crazy tale filled with fast-paced action, it's a relatively quiet novel. But, that being said, it still managed to drag me in instantly and not let go. I think the subtlety of this story actually speaks volumes and carries the emotions better than any fast-paced action could.
An absolutely beautiful novel that was better than I'd ever anticipated. There is something about this last haunting piece of truth that gives me goosebumps:
“You, my lord, are the ending of all true stories.”(less)