2.5 Me and this book went on a strange journey together and the end result was very conflicted feelings.
It all started when I decided I wanted to beco
2.5 Me and this book went on a strange journey together and the end result was very conflicted feelings.
It all started when I decided I wanted to become more involved in one of my goodreads groups and actually pay attention to the monthly book reads. In the past, I used the group for challenges and recommendations but didn't participate in the group read-along, so I decided that I would read every book voted for except the ones that a) I had already read or b) I couldn't obtain for whatever reason. I then made my way to the page to see what my first book club read would be and found it was a book I was sent months ago and never read due to the atrocious cover and my belief that it would be little more than an annoying teen romance series that set out to find each hot guy a girlfriend with every volume. This book was Storm. But, even with my reservations, I can't resist challenging myself to something I wouldn't normally pick so I settled down to give this novel a try.
And at first I was very pleasantly surprised. I found myself devouring chapter after chapter and enjoying all aspects of the story. I liked Becca, I liked Hunter, I liked the Merrick brothers, I liked the urban fantasy aspect of it that wasn't neglected even with the book's romantic focus. Being someone who isn't usually a fan of young adult romance, I couldn't believe how quickly I became interested in these characters and their relationships with one another. The banter is superb, I love a touch of witty sarcasm to make me laugh. Plus, ridiculous good looks aside, the Merrick brothers seemed to be realistic portraits of teen boys.
Secondly, the main character/heroine can make or break a book like this and Becca immediately got into my good books by saving Chris Merrick in the very first chapter - no damsels in distress here. But she also has weaknesses and flaws so she isn't allowed to fall perfectly into a predesignated mold called "kickass heroine". Becca starts off so well that I think this was why it became all the more disappointing later on when she began to change into someone who criticises other women for what they are wearing and behaves stupidly on numerous occasions.
The nasty girls in this novel can be spotted by their revealing clothing ("boobs were going to explode from the neckline of her shirt in a minute") and their tendency to hang drooling all over the Merrick brothers. There seems to be a suggested relationship between sexual promiscuity (implied or otherwise) and evilness in Storm. Characterization ends with descriptions of their slutty clothing and behaviour. Oh, and they're all cheerleaders. I'm being serious when I say this: can someone please explain to me this obsession with cheerleaders? I live in England and don't know any schools that actually have cheerleaders but they're so popular in American movies and books. They appear to be a kind of tribe of beautiful, evil women that are out to destroy all other women with their perfect hair and bodies. I don't understand it at all.
The saddest thing is that this story could easily have been an excellent tale about the "slut issue" and the damaging effects of the war on female sexuality because it starts where Becca has a reputation of being the school slut. Girls won't be associated with her (apart from her one friend) and guys pass lewd notes to her in class, she is rumoured to have slept with most guys in her school but the truth is quite a different story and these rumours are actually lies spread by her ex. This is all fine and dandy but I would ask - what if she had slept around? What does it matter? This isn't tackling the slut issue, it's actually making it worse: everyone thinks she's evil because she's a slut but they're wrong because she's not a slut? No, they're wrong because these matters do not define a person... and that should have been the message.
Not surprisingly, this is not an issue that both genders experience and the author does nothing to challenge the double standard. The Merrick brothers are supposed to appear even more sexy because of the comment about it being a common occurrence to find a random girl in the house for one of them. Yet, despite the little pat on the back the brothers like to give themselves for sexual conquests, Gabriel specifically warns Chris away from Becca because she has "played around the block". Real nice. The sexism makes it impossible to let the good outweigh the bad and it also made it impossible for me to continue to like or care about the Merrick brothers when they behaved like such dicks.
Some spoilers in this paragraph (sorry) Another thing that stood out to me was some of Becca's unrealistic behaviour (in my opinion, anyway). I just don't believe that someone who went through a trauma like that would behave in the way she did and constantly put herself in harm's way again and again after the event. Even her actions in the very first chapter are questionable when you know what she's been through, never mind going to the house of the guy who raped her and getting drunk whilst there or going around the side of a building at night with him. That's not brave, it's just plain stupid, even if I do have to applaud the author for looking into reasons why victims of sexual assault don't always report the incident.
Sadly, after a beginning that made me think I'd been wrong to judge a book by its cover and genre, Storm came full circle and managed to disappoint me anyway. Better luck next month, I hope....more
This was Amber House, after all, where the past was never really over and done with.
I had absolutely zero expectations of Amber House when I decide
This was Amber House, after all, where the past was never really over and done with.
I had absolutely zero expectations of Amber House when I decided to pick it up, I'd read no reviews about it and there's been very little hype surrounding the book. So I went into it with a completely blank slate, knowing nothing but the little I was told in the GR description, which is something that I don't do too often. But, this time, the chance I took on a random book I knew next to nothing about really paid off in the end. This is a super-creepy, paranormal mystery (not historical fiction, as some might think, but it does contain some delving into family history) with a likeable heroine, centuries-old secrets and a look at several generations of one seriously dysfunctional family.
The story is about a girl named Sarah whose grandmother has just passed away and left her mother with the centuries-old Maryland estate that has been the home of their family for generations. Sarah doesn't know what it was that drove such a wedge between her mother and grandmother but she knows there are dark secrets hidden in the very walls of Amber House. Secrets that may be dangerous. When Sarah begins to see visions of her ancestors throughout the house, she finds herself pulled into a search for the treasure rumoured to be somewhere in the vast mansion, but soon it becomes apparent that more than just buried diamonds is waiting to be unearthed.
Let me tell you now: this is a creepy book. It uses a lot of traditional horror elements but puts an unusual spin on them. The big, scary mansion is not exactly anything new, but the characters make this a worthy addition to the already sky-high pile of spooky house books. Plus, the historical parts that are woven into the modern day story add a touch of something different; in this case, Sarah's ancestors include a slave-owner, a sea captain and a woman driven mad by grief. Sarah herself is likeable, especially because of her relationship with her autistic brother and the way she puts his comfort and safety before her own. I also really look forward to hearing more about her relationship with her mother in the sequel, it's rocky at best but I think they are not as different as either one believes.
I got distracted, back to the scary. Well, quite a few parts of this reminded me of The Woman in Black, but I'll let you work out why for yourself, just proceed with caution if you get scared easily. As much as people like to sneer at those who use old, overdone ideas in their work, there's a reason why certain things appear in most horror movies - because they're effin' scary! I can easily name the top three things I find the scariest of all in movies and books: 1) creepy children, 2) mirrors and 3) clowns/jokers. Sadly, there are no clowns in Amber House, but that's where the disappointment ends. Both creepy children and mirrors feature strongly in this story. Really, I don't know why kids manage to be so creepy:
And mirrors. Bloody mirrors. Every time I see a mirror in a horror film, I watch it like a hawk for anything weird appearing in it. Because we all know the horror-genre rule of mirrors, don't we? What's in the mirror, never stays in the mirror.
Are you scared yet? Hehehe. Of course, if this book was perfect I would have given it five stars. And it might have been perfect if it wasn't for the - gawd, can I even say it - love triangle. AHHHHHHH!!!! Not another one!!!! But really, it's not so bad when weighed against all the good, also, the thing that makes this one somewhat more bearable is that both guys seem worthy and equal candidates for Sarah's heart, it isn't like Twilight where it's so painfully obvious from day one that Bella will end up with Edward and Jacob will have to find love elsewhere (though even I thought Meyer wasn't low enough to pair him with a baby). So, you actually don't know who Sarah's going to end up with.
I would highly recommend this, even with the love triangle. Amber House is quite different from most young adult books and did I mention it's really creepy? But just in case you were really let down by the lack of clowns too:
I really feel like I gave this book a fair chance, I read it all the way to the end because I kept wanting to love it and get caught up in the atmosp
I really feel like I gave this book a fair chance, I read it all the way to the end because I kept wanting to love it and get caught up in the atmosphere of this Victorian horror story - but it was not to be. Not everything I have to say about The Madman's Daughter is bad, so thankfully this will not be a wholly negative review, but there were a number of things I didn't like and those elements combined with long periods of slow, plotless boredom made me feel this was no more than a two-star read.
But let me offer you something good first because my initial impressions of this novel were entirely positive. Firstly, though this won't matter to many readers, I adore this cover. It's creepy, atmospheric and it caught my eye instantly. I actually prefer covers that are a bit different and edgy to the usual close-up of a girl pouting in a ballgown. Anyway, aesthetics aside, this book immediately introduces the reader to a strong, sassy protagonist who isn't afraid to kick ass or get her hands dirty. I felt sure that myself and Juliet Moreau were going to get along great - and we probably would have if I'd cared more for the story. I also thought the first couple of chapters set the scene well with a touch of the macabre to draw the reader in. So, I will happily admit that the first chapter or two elevated my hopes for this book a great deal.
Then, I don't even know what happened... it was like for seventy pages things just came screeching to a tremendous halt.
Basically, Juliet and Montgomery (possible beau number one) got on this boat and there were all these ships and sailing and sailors and...
Then, of course, there was a romance and - even worse - a love triangle. I don't even hate love triangles that much, I just can't stand it when that becomes the main focus of the story. This book is described as a "gothic thriller" but the truth is that everything either gothic or thrilling came second to the romance which was filled with the same old cliches and annoying gushy phrases like "I couldn't deny the way I floated inside when he touched me". The two candidates for Juliet's heart - Montgomery and Edward - were presented as complete opposites: the gentlemen vs the wild man... ooh, haven't heard that one before!
What astounded me most of all about this relationship was the way Juliet's mind jumped so quickly from one to the other and back again. One minute she was thinking about Montgomery's pretty eyes and the next she had moved onto Edward's sexy charms. This is one example from the book that had me snorting aloud in disbelief:
"Didn't Montgomery remember last night, during the storm, running his fingers down the bare skin of my back? I did. I could barely think about anything else."
directly - as in, the actual next sentence - followed by:
"Edward sat across from me, deep in his own thoughts. His hands still bore the scratches from our escape. I wondered if his ribs still hurt him. I absently touched my own, remembering the feel of his hands holding me there behind the waterfall."
Then we come to some more slow sections like the walking through the jungle scenes and the needlepoint explanations - I wanted monsters, not sewing...
One thought that I had through most of this was that so many parts of the book seemed like pointless filler to stretch out a weak plot. My theory is that Shepherd may have stretched the story too thin in order to make it into a series instead of a standalone - or perhaps she's just a fan of slower-moving plots - either way, large chunks were too uneventful for me and I had a hard time making myself finish it. Though the stories are not alike, the way I feel about The Madman's Daughter is similar to how I felt about Grave Mercy, they both started great but quickly became bogged down by slowness and romance. To give one final bit of credit where it's due, I will say that there was a pretty nifty twist near the end that I didn't see coming, unfortunately it was all just too little too late....more
4 1/2 You know all those young adult books that feature the stereotypical blonde, popular and bitchy high-schooler? And the movies with the same? Usual4 1/2 You know all those young adult books that feature the stereotypical blonde, popular and bitchy high-schooler? And the movies with the same? Usually there's a girl-next-door kind of heroine who is supposed to look so much better beside Ms Blonde & Popular? I know you all know what I'm talking about. Well, this is the book that kicks apart and destroys all those old stereotypes and brings to you the story of that popular girl everyone thinks they know but no one really does. There are a whole bunch of secrets hiding behind that pretty face and Anderson expertly uses them to tell a story interwoven with the exploration of sexism, racism, sexuality and mental illness.
I was unsure about my feelings on the first book - Ultraviolet - and my enjoyment was occasionally threatened by the purple prose which was a product of Alison's synesthesia and unusual abilities. However, this book is an entirely different breed of novel. With Tori Beaugrand, no time is wasted waxing poetic about letters and numbers, we get straight into a fast-paced, well-structured action story that never slows for a second. Anderson pulls out twists that this time actually came as a huge surprise and she introduces new sides to her old characters that make them so much more well-rounded.
Tori is so many things all at once and the author even does something entirely new (to me, anyway) with her character here and explores an area I have never seen touched upon in any novel. Tori is the perfect balance of strong and flawed, she manages to be brave but struggles with normal human fears that make her someone the reader can relate to but also cheer on. The author even pauses to look at what it's like to be female in one of the most male-dominated professions of all - engineering. It's amazing how many social issues Anderson incorporates into this novel without making the novel about them or taking anything away from the main plot.
One of the other things I really appreciate in Anderson's novels is that she doesn't concern herself with writing the story the reader wants to happen; she isn't fuelled by a need to find a happy ending or to resolve every character's problems. And I like this. It means that her stories will always be unpredictable because anything could happen, bad stuff happens to the good people and not every relationship will end with hand-holding as they walk off into the sunset. This is an element that can make even the most unrealistic paranormal novel seem somewhat real.
I am deliberately avoiding saying anything about the plot itself because it's very easy to spoil the first book. But I would highly recommend these novels so much to everyone, I'm even willing to say now that it's worth making it through the first book even if you aren't keen just so you can read Quicksilver. My only hope is that this isn't the last we hear from Tori, Alison and Sebastian, the questions opened by these two books are just too delicious to go unanswered....more
I know a whole bunch of my GR friends have heard me say this before but I'm going to say it again for the benefit of any newcomers who stum3 1/2 stars
I know a whole bunch of my GR friends have heard me say this before but I'm going to say it again for the benefit of any newcomers who stumble across this review: because rating a book can be a tricky process and three stars can mean anything from "I was totally unmoved by it" to "it was pretty good for the most part", I tend to take the GR system literally. By this I mean that three stars is "I liked it" and is a mostly positive rating. Therefore, Ultraviolet hovers somewhere halfway between "I liked it" and "I really liked it" because there were parts I absolutely loved but also many things that got on my nerves and had me mentally lowering my rating. I will say one thing for certain: I need to read the sequel. NOW.
The suspense that Anderson builds up in this book is almost palpable, you find yourself questioning everything and experiencing the frustration of someone who is imprisoned in a mental institution when they feel they are innocent, then later the confusion of someone who begins to doubt their own sanity. Being inside Alison's mind is a scary place to find yourself but, though there is a paranormal element to this novel, you soon find that the author has weaved fact with fiction and incorporated a real-world factor into her story - synesthesia. This is something I had only heard of in passing before I read Ultraviolet, but I have since been inspired to do some more research on the topic. I enjoyed this addition to the novel immensely, simply because it would have been far easier - and what I first expected - to explain away a character's special abilities as some weird supernatural phenomenon.
However, Alison's synesthesia leads me perfectly onto what was at times the greatest threat to my enjoyment of the book and at other times what made me go wide-eyed with adoring book love - the prose. Some of it reminded me of Shatter Me (but it wasn't that bad or I wouldn't have finished it) and the explanation of synesthesia for the use of colour-based metaphors might make sense but it didn't make it any less annoying for me. Take this:
Not only was his voice amazing, so was his name: violet to match his eyes, tranquil and playful at the same time, full of shimmering highlights and unexpected depths. And the Sebastian part wasn't bad either - all oregano and woodsmoke, with a hint of sensuality that made my skin flush just thinking about it.
I preferred handwriting, where every loop sent a flush of aquamarine up my arm as though I'd dipped it in a tropic sea.
"There. Are. No. Stars," she hissed, her voice full of icy peaks and seething valleys.
To me, these sentences are not beautiful but eyeroll-worthy. Unlike Shatter Me, though, the use of them wasn't as constant and I didn't have to hurt myself trying to understand the similes and metaphors. The writing in this book walked a very fine line between stunning and grotesque at times, some passages I could have read over and over for hours without getting tired of them and others made me cringe. To balance out the negative, I wanted to include this little paragraph that I thought was beautiful:
I heard the universe as an oratorio sung by a master choir of stars, accompanied by the orchestra of the planets and the percussion of satellites and moons. The aria they performed was a song to break the heart, full of tragic dissonance and deferred hope, and yet somewhere beneath it all was a piercing refrain of glory, glory, glory. And I sensed that not only the grand movements of the cosmos, but everything that had happened in my life, was a part of that song.
Also, while this novel was highly original for the most part, the romance and the love interest were not. Or at least not for the first two thirds of the book. It began as it usually begins with descriptions of his male perfection, everything from his eyes to his hands to his voice was crafted by the gods, apparently. He is the nicest of the nice, the hottest of the hot... the, um, perfectist of the perfect. Later, he is allowed a few imperfections that help to shape his character and made me like him more but the lack of chemistry at the beginning made it hard to buy into their relationship. Not only that, but it also seemed very inappropriate at first due to the circumstances under which they met.
Now, I have to say that I knew what the big twist was before I began this book but I enjoyed it anyway and I don't really think it had much effect on my overall rating. The thing is, it's ridiculously easy to spoil this book for yourself just by looking at its tags and shelves on goodreads - so, you know, try not to glance over to the right side of the page when you add this. Which you totally should do right now. This is a gripping psychological paranormal story that offers a new spin on a very formulaic genre, it is not faultless but it will keep you on the edge of your seat. I am betting that 99% of people who read this will have to read the sequel even if they shared the same problems I had with it....more
This is a hard book to recommend because it doesn't fit nicely into any category, some people will gush about it and others will hate it. There are maThis is a hard book to recommend because it doesn't fit nicely into any category, some people will gush about it and others will hate it. There are many good bits that are weakened by a touch of poor writing, often weighed down by cliched phrases and the author's tendency to underestimate the reader's intelligence - like her frequent use of irony, only to then explain why that's ironic as if we couldn't get that on our own. The guy who abducts her (who she calls "The Freak") gives her a book about natural pregnancy and she has to say: "Yeah, that was The Freak, because, you know, abducting a woman, locking her in a cabin, and raping her is real natural." We got it, already. Then there's the part where she says "that's irony for you" and it actually isn't.
This is not a comfort read, but it doesn't strike me as something that will impress the more serious, harder-to-please readers either. But it's not only the irony, I also think Stevens made the wrong decision when choosing to write her novel in the style of someone talking to their shrink post-abduction and return. The chapters are called "Sessions" and the informal language used throughout gives the impression of bad writing (whether Stevens happens to be a good writer or not). Obviously, if you recorded a real person's sessions with their psychiatrist and wrote them down this would not make a well-written novel, and whatever effect she wished to create by doing this - perhaps she thought it would seem more real? - just kind of fell flat.
If you like books that are dark, creepy and gritty, then the plot should sit well with you. It's about the kidnapping of a realtor, Annie O'Sullivan, who is taken to a cabin in the woods (haven't heard that one before) and subjected to physical, mental and sexual abuse. I think this book's greatest strength and the reason I still gave it three stars despite its many faults is the exploration of a victim's mind and how someone facing abuse day in and day out can learn to almost accept it as a way of life. This is something I have always been interested in when it comes to such as domestic violence, how so many people stay with their abuser and are even unsure of how they could cope without them.
By starting in the present and looking back over the period of abuse, Still Missing looks at a number of issues relating to abuse, reasons why Annie is unable to deviate from her captor's rules after escape, reasons why she didn't always hate him. The idea suggested is that when life goes wrong in a way we could never have foreseen, when things turn upside down, we cling to anything we can find in our lives that remains consistent and, sickening as it seems, for some people that happens to be the rules and patterns laid out by the perpetrators of the abuse. Stomach-turning, but an interesting look at the psychology of it.
This novel works far better as a psychological thriller than it does as a mystery. The twist towards the end is not particularly good, it didn't feel natural, almost as if it was an afterthought of the author (which it probably was but you shouldn't be able to tell) and not something that the story had been progressing towards. But if you are looking for a creepy page-turner and are not too demanding of the mystery genre, then this could be just right for you. If you'd like a twisted mystery that's more sophisticated, you should check out Gillian Flynn instead.
2.5 This is a cute story about a father-daughter relationship after the mother has died... This is a religious/philosophical tale about the nature of f2.5 This is a cute story about a father-daughter relationship after the mother has died... This is a religious/philosophical tale about the nature of faith and what lengths you should go to for the sake of your beliefs... This is a cute story about a father-daughter relationship after the mother has died... This is a religious/philosophical tale about the nature of faith and what lengths you should go to for the sake of your beliefs...This is... I don't even know. But more about that in a moment.
Purity gets an extra half star for Pearce's ability to be entertaining enough that you don't mind reading to the end even when the story kind of falls flat on its face. I found the same to be true with the only other novel of hers I have read - Sisters Red - in that the plot and especially the mystery weren't as satisfying as I had hoped for in a Red Riding Hood retelling but you could enjoy it and didn't experience any deep regret for having read it. But, having said that, I still think this may be where me and Ms Pearce part ways, I just don't have any desire right now to search out her other works.
The biggest question I have about Purity is: what the hell are you? What are you supposed to be? Where do you fit in? Are you serious or lighthearted? Because, on a serious note, the issues raised in this book about sexuality and religion are very relevant at this moment - more so in the United States than in Britain where I live. In some countries, politics and religion are so inextricably linked that questions about sexual conduct often come under political and public scrutiny: is it okay to have sex before marriage? Is it okay to have casual sex? Does god want people to be "pure"? So it wouldn't be surprising if Pearce was trying to make some kind of political or religious statement here, or alternatively just looking to explore this aspect of sex. But...
This book was very light-hearted. I get the feeling that Pearce wanted to explore a serious issue without scaring people off with too much religion and politics, but the result was a weird mixture of serious and light that really didn't work for me. She occasionally brings up deep questions about God and faith that feel out of place and, before any development is made in that direction, she quickly counteracts it with the light fluffy stuff again. This book was obviously suffering from an identity crisis that could have been solved if Pearce had stuck to one tone or the other. Personally, I think the lighter tone suits her work better and would have been more fitting with the characters, plus the religious aspect wasn't central enough in the novel to justify the occasional and random wandering off into philosophy land. If you are looking for a novel that handles the serious issue/light tone balance well, then I would recommend Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.
I would only recommend reading this if you're particularly looking for a new approach to the overdone "grief novel", it does take that kind of story in a new direction. But I wouldn't expect to find anything mind-blowingly original or thought-provoking here. ...more
What an exciting debut! However, I feel the need to point out immediately that fans of steampunk may be disappointed by The Dark Unwinding which to meWhat an exciting debut! However, I feel the need to point out immediately that fans of steampunk may be disappointed by The Dark Unwinding which to me belongs firmly in the historical fiction genre. I would define steampunk as a kind of Victorian science fiction and wouldn't count merely having an inventor who creates a few wacky machines - you're likely to believe this novel is steampunk if you believe Frankenstein is steampunk. But whatever, this was an incredibly enjoyable story that gets better and better as the book progresses so I would suggest you persist a little longer than usual if you are not gripped straight away. Upon finishing it, I was absolutely delighted to discover that there will be a sequel.
Frankenstein, by the way, is a terribly inappropriate comparison. I would say this book reminds me in many ways of The Wicked and the Just: historical setting, somewhat bratty protagonist (but not as much), large portion of the novel held up by the extremely charismatic set of characters, main plot line kicks off in the latter half of the book, etc. The story starts off fairly simplistic and the stakes seem relatively low to the reader. Katherine Tulson is sent by her inheritance-greedy aunt to have her uncle committed to a lunatic asylum and, by doing so, release the family fortune to her aunt. What she finds at her uncle's estate is not a lunatic, but a genius inventor who I believe - though it is never stated - to be autistic. Not only that, but her uncle also employs more than nine hundred people from workhouses who would have nowhere else to go otherwise. So, Katherine becomes torn between protecting her inheritance and protecting this strange community.
When the plot starts to really get going in the second half, it packs a punch. There is a mystery complete with twists and tension, perhaps more astute readers will fail to be fooled by this book but I was surprised numerous times. There is also a little romance going on but it comes second to the bigger issues and doesn't swamp the story - my favourite kind. The novel is not without faults; for example, some events were a little rough around the edges and perhaps could have been explained better, but the good most definitely outweighed the bad. For me, anyway.
But you might be thinking "if the plot doesn't really start to happen until the second half, then what keeps you reading during the first half?" And the answer is quite simply: the characters. I will use The Wicked and the Just as an example again because that book had me wildly entertained even when very little was happening. The Dark Unwinding is the same. You can't help but be charmed by all the different, weird, not always nice characters floating around in here and the way they interact with one another.
The best character has to be Uncle Tully, I'm straining my mind to think of a character in something else to compare him to but he's pretty unique. I imagine him as a kind of autistic Santa Claus, one of those sweet, harmless and brilliantly intelligent old men that you can't stand anything bad happening to. So, naturally, you hate Katherine's aunt for even daring to threaten this man's peaceful existence. Mary, Katherine's maid, is another delightful character and I like the way the friendship develops between her and Katherine with the latter being a "lady" of a higher social class but Mary frequently has to scold her for being tipsy and roller-skating with guys. Hehe.
And, of course, the friendly and cheerful Ben Aldridge. And the dark, brooding Lane Moreau. Smell a love triangle? I did too, but you have nothing to worry about.
I was really pleased with this book that I nearly almost didn't read! If you like young adult historical fiction then don't make that mistake, there's much to love here and Cameron seems like an author we need to watch out for. I only hope the sequel is as entertaining.
After a beginning I wasn't too sure about, Falling Kingdoms surprisingly became an extremely enjoyable - if somewhat unoriginal - story. Rhodes' worl
After a beginning I wasn't too sure about, Falling Kingdoms surprisingly became an extremely enjoyable - if somewhat unoriginal - story. Rhodes' world was a fascinating and exciting place that I am eager to explore more of in the sequel, her characters were complex individuals often torn between political and moral duty, and the tensions between the lands of this world (Limeros, Paelsia and Auranos) were highly convincing. My final opinion of this novel is such a turnaround from my first impressions that varied from indifference to a little disgust at Magnus' not-so-brotherly love for his younger sister (but more about that in a bit).
Rhodes puts her characters through several levels of hell in this story and she doesn't shy away from unpleasant events. One of the best things that she does is pulls you inside the lives and minds of those within each kingdom - people who are enemies and wish one another dead - and gets you to sympathise with each and understand every point of view, even those that contradict one another. For example, she introduces you to Cleo's world and her desire to escape her forced engagement to a man she does not care for, she is flawed but still thoroughly likeable - that is, until you see her through the eyes of Jonas whose brother was murdered while she stood idly by and let it happen. There is more than one side to every character in this story and it makes for a very interesting book.
At the end of the day, the plot of this novel is really nothing different from the vast majority of high fantasy novels out there already. It features the usual political battles for the throne, a touch of romance, a fair bit of magic, throw in an ancient prophecy for good luck and you have the perfect mixture to create a fantasy novel like all the others. But... the difference is in the details here, the way Rhodes builds up such a complex set of characters and the relationships between them, and it is this which has made it so I have to pick up the next book. There's such a fine line between good and evil in Falling Kingdoms that you find yourself reevaluating your opinions of certain characters and their actions all the time. I cannot wait for more.
But, yeah, I can't put a status update about incest and then not address the issue properly. Technically, biologically, the feelings that Magnus has for Lucia are not incestuous because she isn't his real sister by birth but I have two things to say about that. For one, he isn't aware of this fact and he believes her to be his sister by blood. For another, whether you agree with me or not, one of the weirdest things for me about incest is the fact that these people have grown up with one another, maybe ran around naked together as toddlers, been brought up to love one another as siblings... I've read those news stories where siblings separated at birth have by some weird chance ended up meeting in later life and becoming lovers, only to then discover the horrible truth, but this seems less weird to me than two youngsters who do not share the same genes being brought up together and then getting it on. This is why I prefer to view Wuthering Heights as a kind of gothic tragedy, rather than a romance, even though Cathy and Heathcliff are not blood relations. Though, I will say for those of you who are put off by incest in books, so far Magnus' feelings for Lucia have been viewed as disgusting by Lucia and the other characters - hopefully, nothing will come of it.
However, let's not get carried away with the negative! This is pure fast-paced entertainment with characters who you can't help but care about. Definitely worth reading if you're a fan of fantasy books filled with Kings, Queens and magic....more
“I don't like you, Park," she said, sounding for a second like she actually meant it. "I..." - her voice nearly disappeared - "think I live for you."
“I don't like you, Park," she said, sounding for a second like she actually meant it. "I..." - her voice nearly disappeared - "think I live for you." He closed his eyes and pressed his head back into his pillow. "I don't think I even breathe when we're not together," she whispered.
Three stars is not a wholly negative rating but I have to admit that I'm disappointed with this one. Eleanor & Park has enjoyable parts, but the only real difference I can see between this and Pushing the Limits is that the characters in the latter are meant to be hot. Which could have been interesting because I've always preferred reading about the so-called freaks, losers and ugly people, but these two books follow the same generic pattern of teen love stories with a whole ton of behind-the-scenes angsty issues.
Though this one was less entertaining.
It's 1986. Eleanor is the new girl and she is not only genetically made to look like a victim but she does herself no favours by pairing her looks with a bizarre fashion sense. Having nowhere to sit on the school bus, she takes a seat next to the clearly reluctant Park. Park is half-Korean in an extremely white school, but he is given enough respect by the popular kids to help him get by. His home life, unlike Eleanor's, is pretty much perfect apart from a bit of badgering by his dad.
Slowly over time, these two individuals develop a relationship that is formed around stuff like reading comics together and exchanging mix tapes. And other nerdy things like Star Wars and Shakespeare - which I could easily relate to. I think one of the major problems I had with this book is that I failed to get a sense of the attraction between them. Their relationship to me seemed more suited to friendship than love. The progression from reluctant bus partners to friendship was natural in the story, but I then felt that the jump from that to romantic and/or sexual feelings was too fast and unbelievable.
Not only that, but where I felt the start of their relationship avoided the usual cliches and did something a bit different (like the way their relationship begins without them speaking to one another), I felt that once they were "together", it quickly dissolved into the usual sweet nothings and thoughts like "I'll die if I never see him again" after knowing each other for a few weeks.
This isn't instalove, but it's silliness. Or perhaps I really am just a cold-hearted, unromantic person. And I also didn't like the way chubby Eleanor receives self-validation through Park:
“He made her feel like more than the sum of her parts.”
I did like the well-rounded feel of both characters, though. The author gave them many different levels, making them experience a range of emotions in a realistic way. I also thought the darker element of this novel were mostly handled well. Eleanor's home life is revealed gradually in a frightening way. But it does just make it easier to compare this book to Pushing the Limits. And I don't like it when serious issues like domestic violence are used to fuel the love angst and create a Romeo and Juliet kind of forbidden love scenario. It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Eleanor & Park will be great (hopefully) for fans of quirky, nerdy romance stories with an underlying dark angsty side, and for those who love nerdy references. If you don't usually like young adult romance and were eying this up as possibly being the book to change all that... you'll probably be disappointed. It has good parts, but it's not that different from anything else out there.
Recently, I've read a number of short stories with the intention of cutting down my huge reading pile and I've been largely disappointed. ParticularlyRecently, I've read a number of short stories with the intention of cutting down my huge reading pile and I've been largely disappointed. Particularly by common favourites like Edgar Allan Poe and his many famous horror tales - I was surprised to find them rather lacking.
The Lottery, however, is one of the best short stories I've read. It's very rare that I would give five stars to a short story because I reserve the top rating for meaty, well-rounded, often complex and/or clever novels, so a four star rating means a lot in this case. Jackson's tale is undeniably creepy and tells a story that, though seemingly unknown to us, draws parallels with our world and the ridiculous way people are prone to behave at times. Her story is pure fiction, it is not about any world from the present or at any time in history... but it's meaning is something that applies still today.
It all comes down to one simple three-syllable word: tradition. Oh, what silly nonsense has been committed in the name of tradition. How often progress has been halted in favour of an outdated practice that remains simply because "that's the way it's always been". In Jackson's short story, every person in the town where this novel finds its setting is forced to draw a ticket in The Lottery. In the end, only one person can be the "winner", but this game has a sinister twist. Will you see it coming?
As the story builds up to its climax, we see the town citizens discussing the tradition of The Lottery. We are told that other towns nearby have started to ban the practice, that there has even been talk of banning it in this town. But everyone brushes this off with distaste - how can you ban something that has been going on for so long? How will people cope without this routine that they've come to rely on? I found this story fascinating. Both simple and clever and, ultimately, very effective.
Warning: I talk about a really gross and disturbing scene from the book in this review, please do not read if you're going to be upset and/or offendedWarning: I talk about a really gross and disturbing scene from the book in this review, please do not read if you're going to be upset and/or offended by talk of graphic sexual violence.
This book is one of my dad's favourite books of all time, I don't know how many years he's been telling me to read it now and we've always had similar opinions on books before. But The Painted Bird did not live up to my expectations and the whole idea of it just left a very bad taste in my mouth.
Pretty much anyone who's ever had some level of history education will have heard of some of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust, no matter how many times you read about human beings burning the children of other human beings and watching people slowly starve to death because of their race, religion or other factors, it is still just as shocking and horrifying. One of the areas sometimes neglected in these accounts of wartime cruelty is the suffering of non-German Jews and it may come as a shock to some to learn that more than 70% of those Jews murdered during Hitler's reign were actually from Poland and Russia. Also, all six extermination camps - as opposed to concentration camps - were located in Poland. [ * ]
So when Jerzy Kosinski came stumbling out of communist Poland with a story about a young boy who was sent to the Polish countryside by his parents to hopefully protect him from the horrors going on in that area of Europe during this time, a young boy who moved from remote village to remote village, finding and enduring the worst kind of horrors imaginable along the way, most of Kosinski's readers wrongly assumed that this book was autobiographical. Rather than correcting his audience, Mr Kosinski rode the wave of popularity and did nothing to change these misconceptions. I suppose if someone wanted to give me a million for something I hadn't done I'd probably take the money and run too, so I don't really care that the author wasn't more vocal with the truth of this book. But... what I do think is that the knowledge that this novel is complete fiction - even if this stuff did happen somewhere - turns a potentially moving tale into a gratuitous torturefest.
Just to compare this with S. - another fictional book about atrocities committed during war - I'm not saying that people cannot write successful fictional stories set during the holocaust or that it needs to be a memoir to be effective. But, where S. is a deeply moving tale that focuses on the internal effect had by the abuse which the captors inflicted upon their victims, The Painted Bird tells of a series of gruesome acts that vary from extreme beatings, to brutal rape scenes, to a man gouging out another man's eye with a spoon... and you have to ask yourself what he achieved other than making you feel physically ill at times. Pointless, mindless, disgusting scenes of violence that seem to me to be nothing but shock tactics.
After a while of reading all these disturbing scenes, you start to feel like you're in a Saw movie, like the author is trying to create scenarios that are each more repulsive than the last just to play with the characters a bit more, make their lives a bit worse. Like raping a woman with a glass bottle and then kicking her abdomen until the glass shatters and she bleeds to death. And I do not mind reading gross scenes of violence as long as I feel it contributes something and isn't just there to keep me wide-eyed long enough that I forget the book isn't very well written and there's been no character development. I find it somewhat insulting to all those people who genuinely suffered during the holocaust that Kosinski would use it in a such an awful, emotionally-manipulative way.
I feel like if I'd really wanted to experience violence, torture and rape without being moved in any way, then I could have just watched Game of Thrones. At least that has hot men for me to look at....more
I am trying so hard to like this series. Dark Inside was three stars for me and I'm also giving this three stars even though it is a better book thanI am trying so hard to like this series. Dark Inside was three stars for me and I'm also giving this three stars even though it is a better book than the first. The way I feel about Roberts' series is similar to how I feel about Revis' Across the Universe series. I like them well enough to be curious about what happens next, enough to search out the next book and hope I will like it more than I did the last one... but I do not care one teeny tiny bit for the characters. Where Revis' characters lack personality, Roberts' are too many.
It is rare to find a situation where five perspectives (four main ones) works and I do not think this is one of them. Even towards the end I was still getting mixed up between Mason and Michael - which I initially put down to them having the same first letter in their names - but then even Aries and Clementine. Names aside, I find them uninteresting and recognisable only by facts such as "she's the one trying to find her brother". It's a good job their names are written at the beginning of every chapter and that it's written in third person because it would be impossible to work out who was who from their "voices".
Though, like I said, Rage Within is better than book one, largely because the four protagonists face bigger moral dilemmas and they are allowed to make crucial and shocking mistakes that get people killed. I'm weird, I know, but I like that things are not all nice and there are no "heroes" in this story. Also, I have to give Roberts major points for two twists she decided to throw in. I saw neither coming and, though clever readers might pick up on one of them, I doubt many people will get the biggie. Twists are good, even otherwise bad books deserve a little cheer for well-placed twists.
I like Ms Roberts' plots and twists and moral dilemmas a lot more than I like her characters, which is somewhat problematic. But I also dislike the lack of answers. I understand and appreciate the reasons why you don't want to give everything up at once, that would be silly. But... we're two books in now and I feel like I know nothing more about why the earthquakes happened and why people started randomly going crazy and killing others than I did when I read the blurb for book one. The action scenes are cool, but I think Rage Within should have delivered more on the answers front. Let's hope they're seriously epic when we get them!
There is one more thing that stops me from giving these novels a higher rating and it's strange because it's at odds with other parts of the books. They sometimes seem juvenile in their handling of certain matters... which is weird when you think that the stories actually contain plenty of violence and scenes of torture. Very weird indeed. Or perhaps the word I'm looking for isn't juvenile but "cheesy", like when one of the girls - I forget which - is in a bad situation and she hears the voice of her mum speaking to her and she is able to overcome her immediate problems. That's a little Nicholas Sparks-ish, right?
Oh, and I think I'm a little morally incompatible with the characters at times, I don't understand their ways of thinking.
"Stealing from the dead! Clementine was horrified. She'd seen a hell of a lot of bad things over the past six weeks. She'd even done some of those unmentionables herself. But taking personal items from the dead... well, that seemed wrong on levels she couldn't even begin to imagine. Clementine didn't think. The anger surged forth, forcing her into action. Raising her baseball bat, she charged."
Okay. So it's wrong to steal from the dead but perfectly fine to bash a living person's brains in with a baseball bat? Right. Also, get real. It's the end of the world, just be thankful you don't have to eat the dead... yet. Another issue of morality arises when Mason and Daniel are faced with some child Baggers (what they call the people who were affected by the earthquakes) and Mason is unsure whether he can harm them: "It was one thing to kill Baggers. But child Baggers?"
Let me ask you something. Could you harm this?
Only if you're a psycho, right? So how about this?
One would bloody well hope so. Sometimes children are monsters when the apocalypse comes and if you don't kill them they're going to eat or do something equally nefarious to you. When it's you or the evil freaky children there's no need to pretend to think about it, we won't judge you.
So whether this is a trilogy or a series or whatever, for now I am reading on. This is quite a big thing because I don't often carry on after three star books. I expect a really good ending. Or else....more
A feels an inexplicable, seemingly supernatural, attraction to B. However, B is sexy and gorgeous and also just super-duper awesome, whilst A is plain A feels an inexplicable, seemingly supernatural, attraction to B. However, B is sexy and gorgeous and also just super-duper awesome, whilst A is plain and ordinary. So B could never be interested in A. Except, oh my, B is interested in A. But B has a secret, he isn't who or what A thinks he is, and this secret could tear them apart.
Does this sound even vaguely familiar to you? If the answer is no, I'm guessing you have yet to journey into the land of young adult paranormal novels. In that case, welcome! But to those of you who are familiar with the genre I am talking about, I would not approach this novel expecting anything particularly original. At least where the characters and relationships are concerned, anyway. The setting is another matter, I thought the Carnival of Souls and The City to be quite a fascinating and promising world that was wasted as a backdrop to two forbidden romances stories.
I gave this book as much as a chance as I have ever given any other book, and much more than most. I saw it through to the end and I reluctantly kept picking it back up even when I got to that point where I'd put it down to check goodreads updates for about an hour, then have that "I'm sure I was doing something before I got distracted" moment, *looks around room and sees book* "oh yeah... that". Chapter one was bad and I kept on reading only because I desperately wanted an excuse to buy the audio which is read by the wonderful James Marsters. I should have just followed my initial instincts and stopped.
Some of my status updates were about this book so I apologise if some of you are reading things I've already said but they're an important part of what I want to articulate in this review. In the very first chapter (which is thirteen pages in length), we are told no less then eleven times that Mallory cannot be with Kaleb even though she wants him sooooo bad. Kaleb's name comes up so many times when we are reading Mallory's point of view that I think I'm sick of the name for life. We also have the old young adult special: the absent parent. One or both of them are always dead or missing or unknown. Originality, wherefore art thou?
The thing that saves this book from being a total disaster is that it is split into two perspectives - Mallory and Aya - and Aya's is better and more interesting than Mallory's typical young adult paranormal romance story. In fact, at first I thought I was going to be proven totally wrong about the book when Aya marched in to chapter two and began to turn the story in a new direction and chapter three I would say is the high point of the whole book. But my interest in Aya also began to wane when her story became a tale of forbidden love as well. I just don't get it... there are daimons and witches and fights to the death - why focus 99% of the story on romance? Wasted potential.
Carnival of Souls will probably suit fans of paranormal romance, but I think it will disappoint those who like a more sophisticated plot with bigger problems than if they'll end up together because - look away now if you want to avoid a spoiler - they undoubtedly will....more
There is love. Oh, there is so much love that I am having for this book and Ms Bray right now. Even taking the length into account, this novel took meThere is love. Oh, there is so much love that I am having for this book and Ms Bray right now. Even taking the length into account, this novel took me longer than usual to read because I had to read everything more than once and swoon for a little bit before I could move on. I am thrilled to hear that there will be a sequel.
If I were to write a novel, I wouldn't want to hear claims like "this is the next Hunger Games (or Twilight or Harry Potter)" but I think one of the greatest compliments must be "this is like nothing I've ever read before... and it's awesome". Yeah, if I was to write a book, I would want to create something as beautiful, clever, magical and unique as this. I cannot guess how current Libba Bray fans will respond to this story which is a million miles away from A Great and Terrible Beauty and Beauty Queens and - though I haven't read it - I'd bet money that it's nothing like Going Bovine either. There are so many different elements brought into this story, but they are all well-balanced and manage to complement each other, rather than being scrambled together in a random mish mash. It's such a hard novel to categorise, part historical fiction, part supernatural, part murder mystery, with just the slightest touch of romance.
Evie O'Neill is a fabulous character who experiences a great deal of development throughout. When the story starts she is silly and naive, but as time progresses we see her face bigger challenges and begin to change and develop massively. Also, I understand why some people would find the 1920s slang irritating, but I was so charmed by the characters and story that I really didn't mind. One of my favourite elements of the novel is the way in which Bray portrays and develops Evie's relationships with the other characters. I loved the relationship between her and her Uncle Will, two very different people who are forced to team up and work together to solve the murders; what starts out as rather reluctant teamwork becomes a strong bond and I can't wait to see more from them. Evie and Sam's relationship was perhaps the funniest, their dialogue is superb and at times they reminded me of a Bonnie and Clyde-style criminal duo. Similarly, Evie and Mabel's friendship gave me quite a few giggles.
And one word that kept popping into my head throughout the entire reading experience is: atmospheric. I was right there in 1920s New York, after the War and before the depression, in a whirlwind of jazz and flappers and speakeasies. Libba Bray breathes magic into this city at the height of its glory whilst also showing the darker side of America at this time with the KKK and xenophobia, the amount of research that must have gone into this book is astounding. There is so much history and mythology and even a touch of politics. I was wowed. In fact, I am still wowed. This is a magical wonderful book that deserves to win a gazillion awards. The only slight problem that I could see annoying people is the slang... well, I ask you to look past it if you can, I believe you'll be glad you did.
But, of course, I must also talk about our murderer. I really want to applaud Ms Bray for doing so many different things and getting them all right. Because this book is magical and it is funny and it is clever and it is... really freakin' scary. Books and movies do not scare me often, I avoid horror because I'm mostly immune to it. But this... Naughty John with his creepy whistling and reciting of his freaky little rhyme as he stalks his victims... I slept with the light on. Seriously. Don't laugh.
I think, though, what I most want to say is that Libba Bray brings all of these things together into one. Her novel uses history and mythology and humour to create one hell of a story. The characters are vivid and detailed, you can almost feel the city air as you read. Maybe there are faults to be found but they certainly didn't bother me, even the length was completely worth it. I am just blabbing and gushing now so I'm going to stop before I start drooling, but this book is a definite addition to my all time favourites. ...more
My favourite books are always those that prove me wrong, that break my own rules. I used to say I didn't like the traditional or "high" fantasy genre,My favourite books are always those that prove me wrong, that break my own rules. I used to say I didn't like the traditional or "high" fantasy genre, and then Megan Whalen Turner and Melina Marchetta proved that I had actually just not found the right brand of traditional fantasy to suit me. As a rule, I tend to avoid like the plague young adult books that are about dealing with the death of a loved one or teenage pregnancy... but Please Ignore Vera Dietz and How to Save a Life proved that I just needed to find the novels that dealt with it in a way I could appreciate. And then there are those young adult books with protagonists who deal with their problematic lives through creativity: art, music, literature... etc. I often find in these kind of stories something horribly cheesy and cliche, so when Mr Schmidt came along with this book and The Wednesday Wars and introduced me to two characters who find comfort in drawing pictures of birds and Shakespeare... I should have hated it.
But Schmidt somehow manages to handle his characters so expertly that it's okay. No, more than that, it's bloody brilliant. In this book, Doug Swieteck - a character we first meet in The Wednesday Wars - comes back to tell his own story, one which is far more painful and sad than Holling's. At first it seems like the entire world is out to get Doug, his family have had to move to a small crappy house in a small crappy town, his father is abusive, his brother is a bully, everything good that comes into his life is eventually taken from him. Not only that, but Doug has a few secret problems that it is becoming increasingly difficult for him to hide. And I'm sure that so far it sounds like every typical teen "issue book" filled with the usual melodrama. But no.
Because people are not what they seem and even the worst have the capacity for good and change. What I love most is the way Schmidt makes every character count, he introduces many people into this story and you will find yourself forming opinions of them straight away, only to discover that they are way more multidimensional than that. The author throws up constant surprises and when you think you've finally figured out what kind of novel you are reading and what sort of story this is supposed to be, it turns out you're wrong. Every single character in this novel gets the chance to be a person not just an archetype, they are made up of good and bad, they all have faults and they all have positive qualities also. To build so many complex individuals into your story must be challenging and this novel has firmly cemented Mr Schmidt into one of my favourite authors of all time.
I said at the beginning of this review that some of my favourite books are the ones that challenge and break the rules I have made for myself about what I like to read, and I think I'm starting to get some idea of what makes these rule-breakers so special: it is because that, even though they fall into the category I typically don't like, they are actually so much more than that. And it is mostly to do with the characters. To simplify Marchetta's Lumatere series by calling it merely "traditional fantasy" is unforgivable when I think about the richness of the world she has created and the range of personalities in it. Same with Please Ignore Vera Dietz and How to Save a Life, they are not simply about death and teen pregnancy, they are about colourful characters that are so well-crafted they feel real. And Okay for Now is the same.
This book is about a lot of things. It is about small town gossip and how you can be ostracised because of the mistakes and failures of those close to you. It's about learning to see the world in a new way - which sounds totally trite but, trust me, it works. It really works! I think that is this book's real triumph: Schmidt takes a few simple and overdone ideas, mixes them up a bit, and churns out something completely original. And isn't that the best kind of story?...more
I am finding it hard to put into words the vast range of emotions I experienced whilst reading this little tale of hope, perseverance, truth and humanI am finding it hard to put into words the vast range of emotions I experienced whilst reading this little tale of hope, perseverance, truth and humanity. When it comes to science fiction, I would hesitate before declaring myself a fan, simply because there's only a certain amount of aliens, spaceships and intergalactic battles I can take before I start to become distracted. A good action scene on a distant planet only takes my enjoyment so far and the books I have enjoyed most from this genre tend to be the softer, more humanity-focused stories. I'm a huge fan of science fiction that doesn't seem too far away, something that I could imagine lingering just around the corner after a few more scientific experiments - and that's how I feel about Flowers for Algernon, I can imagine it as a possibility and that makes it all the more meaningful for me.
This story is about Charlie Gordon who with an IQ of 68 can only hope to sweep the floors at the bakery... well, that is until he is invited to participate in an experiment previously only tested on animals. The experiment is an operation that will gradually make him a genius and allow him to become the person he's always longed to be. But, as with Adam and Eve in the genesis story we all know, intelligence comes with a price. Charlie learns that the people he's known for years are not what he'd always thought, where he once associated laughter with friendship, he soon learns that it is mockery. Stephen Fry once said that intelligence is almost entirely about the strength of your memory - and Charlie Gordon finds that out the hard way. Memories that had been forgotten come flooding back, bringing pain with them.
Flowers for Algernon looks at so many different things: mental disabilities, human nature, intelligence and love. It made me feel sad, angry, frustrated and hopeful, it made me shake my head at people's behaviour and it made me incredibly thankful for so many things - I know how cliche that sounds but it's true.
Even though Charlie's intelligence grows to beyond that of a normal human, he is emotionally still very much a child and has to learn the things other people learned long ago. He doesn't understand what is happening when his body becomes sexually responsive to a woman and he often doesn't understand why people say one thing but mean something completely different. The abuse he has endured because of his disabilities runs back through the years to his first public school and even his own mother. This is a very sad story that made me think about so many things and the ending just about broke my heart....more