I got back to my apartment in Bulgaria and thought I'd read a little bit of this novel before I went to bed. 2 hours later I was still sat in my orig
I got back to my apartment in Bulgaria and thought I'd read a little bit of this novel before I went to bed. 2 hours later I was still sat in my original position but by this time I was sobbing my heart out. Literally sat there crying like a baby to myself. I doubt this book will be everyone's cup of tea but, whatever it has, it really worked it's magic on me.
I thought A Monster Calls was pretty much amazing in every way; from it's darkly beautiful illustrations (worth buying a paper copy for) to the great big touching metaphor that is the backbone of the story.
Didn't like The Knife of Never Letting Go? Not a problem. Forget it's by the same author whether you liked his previous books or not. Pretend you've never heard of Patrick Ness before because this is nothing like anything he has ever written. It's nothing like anything I've ever read. Where the Chaos Walking trilogy was a fast-paced adventure story, this is a very moving, well-written tale of a boy who's mum has cancer. It's about loss, and that doesn't necessarily mean death, and it's also about learning to let go and forgive yourself and others around you.
Think you've got it? Think you've worked out that the 'monster' is going to be cancer itself? Think again.
Like I said, this is a very different sort of idea (credit to the late Siobhan Dowd) and not the kind of book where you can guess where it's going. It's odd and unpredictable and very sad. Conor is one of those tragic but believable characters that you feel for all the way through. He faces constant battles in every aspect of his life. There's the obvious problem of his mother's illness, but also the fact that his dad has moved to America to start a new life with his new wife and baby. School offers no escape from Conor's miserable reality either as he finds himself between bullies who pick on him because they can and teachers who make their pity obvious every time they talk to him.
Then one night a monster visits Conor. A dream? An ancient creature that appears to those in need? Anything is possible, none of which is important. This monster is here for one purpose... to tell Conor three stories in exchange for the truth. Conor begins to learn that things aren't always as they seem and right and wrong are not so easily defined.
I loved it. It was nothing that I expected but I hope Siobhan Dowd's idea will inspire Patrick Ness to write more like this. ...more
It's probably been about five or six years since I first read this book but I can still remember it to this day, it really affected me. I don't tend tIt's probably been about five or six years since I first read this book but I can still remember it to this day, it really affected me. I don't tend to review books that I haven't read in years for the obvious reason that they won't be as detailed or accurate. And I unfortunately don't have this to hand in order to pull some miraculous quote from it. The reason I want to write a review is because this little unheard-of gem greatly deserves one. When I added it to my 'read' shelf on goodreads I couldn't believe just how few people have read, rated and reviewed it.
The story is about a girl (Justine) whose extremely strict and religious father sends her to a boot-camp-style rehabilitation centre simply for acting like most teenagers her age do - going out and getting drunk. Her one night as a regular teen lands her in this facility where she is mentally and sexually abused. The story constantly alludes to Justine's brother - Joshua - and we gradually get some kind of picture of what happened to him as the plot unfolds. It becomes clear early on that Joshua has died and was also sent to the rehab centre prior to his death.
It's a book that is both horrifying and sad, and definitely should have more reads than this. It's one of those that left me feeling slightly shell-shocked and wondering just who I could recommend it to. I don't know how available it is anymore and I don't know if anyone will actually read it following this review but at least I've done my part for a book that's still a favourite to this day. ...more
"Wouldn't we all look guilty, if someone searched hard enough?"
Why, hello there, awesome book. You managed to take me straight out of this whole Goodr"Wouldn't we all look guilty, if someone searched hard enough?"
Why, hello there, awesome book. You managed to take me straight out of this whole Goodreads censorship/deleting reviews fiasco and plant me right inside another time and place; many brave books have tried and failed this past week to do what you have done. So, thank you.
Dangerous Girls is in danger. It's in danger of being underread. It's in danger of being given a quick once over and then dismissed as something vapid, senseless and probably crap. It isn't, my friends. It's damn good. Dangerous Girls is one of those multi-layered books that does several different things at once and still manages to do each one equally well. Haas does what, in my opinion, all good mystery writers should do: she doesn't hang everything precariously-balanced on her reveals. The ending is fantastic but it doesn't matter because the book is also about so many other things. It is a satisfying story from start to finish that took me through so many different emotions.
So, what is this book? It's a mature YA mystery. I use "YA" with some hesitation here because it's full of all the kinda stuff that will make some parents clutch their rosary beads - sex, alcohol abuse, drug use... oh yeah, and there's that whole murder thing too. It's about a teen summer vacation gone wrong. Anna, her best friend - Elise, her boyfriend - Tate, as well as others, all go to party hard, get laid and have fun. Then, one day, Elise is discovered stabbed to death in her bed and Anna and Tate are the prime suspects. From there, we are taken on a journey through a murder trial that seems to paint Anna in a worse light with every piece of "evidence" provided. The story of the present is also broken up with flashbacks into how Anna and Elise became friends.
This is a dark story that takes you through the many nasty corners of teen girl friendships but it also shows the other side, the importance of friends to one another and the complicated psychology behind it all. Elise is such a wonderfully complex character. I think most people know an Elise. That reckless, volatile person who is always the life of the party, so confident, often overtly sexual and looking for a new adventure at every turn. But underneath there's something a bit different, a sadness or an anger or loneliness, that hides beneath the mask they've created.
My knowledge of the law and judicial system is limited to one year at AS that I hated, so I'm far from an expert on what is realistic or not. But I've always been fascinated by the portrayal of court trials as a kind of show or circus where everyone plays their parts. Where it isn't about guilty/not guilty, but about the performance you put on and how convincingly you deliver the script. Like in the musical, Chicago. Anna's trial resembles a circus and it horrifies me at the way each little piece of a person's life can be taken out of context and manipulated to mean whatever the prosecutor chooses. Scary.
I honestly loved everything about this wild little gem and I'm now going to recommend it to everyone I know. That means YOU too. ...more
If you're female and between the ages of about 12 and 25, I cannot think of a single reason why you shouooh... secret societies and gender politics...
If you're female and between the ages of about 12 and 25, I cannot think of a single reason why you shouldn't read this book. It's fantastic. Both highly political and incredibly funny - it's the book I wish I'd been given to see me through being a teenager and to prepare me for later life. And no, I never went to an elite prep school with a bunch of stuffy trainee 'old boys' and a 60 year old all-male secret society... but I, like every girl I know, could have done with the reassurance that being your own person is more important than fitting the mold and that women are worth more than just a chest measurement. The story spoke to me on many levels and addressed issues that I have written articles on and feel very strongly about.
On the surface, it's a high school tale of cliques, first loves and mischief - quite like the author's The Boyfriend List: 15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs and Me, Ruby Oliver and the other Ruby Oliver books. I enjoyed reading about Ruby and frequently related to her but, for me, Frankie Landau-Banks was all the more kick-ass, funny and just so memorable. She's a 5-star heroine and the perfect partner in crime... if only she were real.
The writing in this novel was flawless with some hilarious dialogue between the characters, particularly regarding some of Frankie's ridiculous neglected positives, it's such a silly idea that shouldn't be so funny but I have no idea how many times I must have laughed. Little scenes like this are what made the book for me:
"They're not puppets, they're muppets," said Frankie. "I have a serious and justified love for Kermit that I will parage to the end." "Parage?" "Parage. The neglected postive of disparage." "You mean defend. You will defend Kermit to the end." "Parage." "Praise?" "Parage. I will parage him. And Animal, too. I love Animal. I used to watch that show on DVD all the time when I was little." Trish changed the subject. "We should do facials and paint our toenails Friday before they pick us up. What do you say, blow through dinner and come back here for girlie stuff?" Frankie said, "You're on. When we're finished, we'll be absolutely sheveled." "You'll be sheveled," said Trish. "I'm a normal person."
I mean, come on, that's funny. And she's so effin' stubborn it's great. I just loved Frankie and loved the plot and loved the book. I took notes on the damn thing. No, really, there are parts of this book that you just have to note down. By 'you', of course, I actually mean me.
I also want to point out for all you cynical people who "bah humbug" at novels set in high schools following a girl through her relationships and pranky misdeeds... this really is a great political statement. But it's in the dialogue and Frankie's awesomeness that it's revealed, sometimes subtle and sometimes not. My favourite thing about it is how the school represents today's society as a whole and the truths about the equality myth. Because, sadly, even though men and women are supposed to have the same opportunities and they are now allowed into the same professions, they sit at the same tables and they even become friends, beneath it all there is still an inner circle - rather like a secret society - that continues to slam the door in a woman's face. But better than this metaphor is the message behind it: that if you put your mind to it, you don't have to accept the way things are. That you have the ability to change the way of the world. Or the way of a prep school. Like Frankie does.
When your country is at war with another, or perhaps many others, you are aware of the risk to human life. You know soldiers will die, you know that sWhen your country is at war with another, or perhaps many others, you are aware of the risk to human life. You know soldiers will die, you know that some of these may be people you know or even your loved ones. But, though the civilians at home worry about those who are away fighting for their country, they rarely see themselves as part of the war. The threat to them seems far away, almost unreal. So when the occupying forces marched into the Bosnian village where S. lived, her immediate reaction is not of panic. She is mildly annoyed for having been woken up, but she still has faith in the human capacity for reason and she believes that if she surrenders her jewellry and valuables without making a fuss, then no one will do her any harm. In other words, she is naive.
The civilians are captured and taken away to work camps, one for men and one for women. But deep within the female camp is the room that every prisoner dreads - the women's room. A room where women become objects to be used by the soldiers, a room of pain and despair where all hope dies and a person is forced to become empty. Being empty in your mind, abandoning your body at will, this is the only way to survive. Drakulic shows the extent of human depravity in one of the most disturbing accounts of captivity during wartime. Her use of the first letter in place of the women's names is important in understanding the ability to dehumanize the enemy, they become things and not people. It is repulsive, scary and sad.
But the author, in my opinion, never slips over into the gratuitous because her focus is on S.'s inner turmoil. It is not just about the sexual abuse, the beatings and cruelty, it's about the effect this has on the victims, how they retreat inside themselves and the lengths they go to in order to keep their sanity in a world gone mad. Not only that, but she even looks at what it's like to be a soldier blindly following orders, dehumanizing yourself to find the ability to commit atrocities during war. It's easy to have enemies and it's easy to hate, but what does it take to make you someone who can torture another human being? What must they become in your mind? What must you become?
When showing the crimes men commit towards women, when showing a group of male soldiers laughing at a woman's pain, it becomes so easy to delve into misandry. You hate the Serbian soldiers, you hate the things they do to the women. But this is only partly a gender issue. Drakulic wants to tell the many untold stories of women during the Bosnian war (there are an estimated 60,000+ rape victims), she wants us to know about the suffering they faced because of their gender. But, for the author, humanity has one common enemy regardless of your race, religion or gender... and that is war. War makes us all something other than human, it allows those with the power to become monstrous and it allows those without it to be seen as vermin.
Though the author chose to focus on the Bosnian war and particularly the way women were treated during this war, the backbone of this story is universally applicable. She expertly tells a story about some of the vilest, most horrific things that can happen to a human being, she captures humanity at it's best and worst, showing exactly what we are capable of - both the good and the bad....more
4.5 When I wrote in my review of Battle Royale that there were only two manga series I would recommend, it made me realise just how much in need of a r4.5 When I wrote in my review of Battle Royale that there were only two manga series I would recommend, it made me realise just how much in need of a review this was. I am not a manga fan, I know some people love it like crazy, but I've tried starting the most commonly loved - Naruto, InuYasha, Fullmetal Alchemist, etc. - and been left believing that I would never appreciate these Japanese graphic novels. Death Note was a complete accident which I found one day whilst browsing youtube. I ran into the first episode and watched out of curiosity, then I watched the next and the next until I'd seen the whole thing and knew I had to read the novels too. Both are brilliant. The whole series has only one flaw for me, though quite a big one, and that's why I deducted half a star from the rating. I will talk about this issue later on.
Just so you know, this is going to be a review of the series as a whole because I'm not going to review every single volume, but I promise to leave out any spoilers.
Here goes: Death Note is brilliant. It's incredibly clever and will challenge your views on justice and power, but the challenges it puts your way are far from simple. I guarantee that you will change your mind multiple times during each volume, you will switch sides constantly, you will one minute think Light Yagami is evil and the next you'll think him a hero. This is a very complex moral story about right and wrong, about how power corrupts, and about what is a just punishment for the wicked.
Light Yagami is an over-achieving student who is fed up with the world around him, day by day he hears the news report listing murders and rapes and other atrocities committed by human scum. When one day a Shinigami (Japanese death god) drops his death note into the human realm, Light Yagami picks it up and holds in his hands the power to kill people just by writing their names and picturing their faces whilst doing so. He starts out with the most noble intentions - rid the earth of the foulest criminals - but there's a price to pay for playing god. As people start to realise that somehow someone is murdering criminals and disregarding Japan's law methods, questions about justice begin to arise - is the killer doing the world a favour, or is he showing a complete lack of respect for human rights?
When more people begin to stand in Light's way, he is forced to write the names of more and more individuals - some criminals, some not. The power granted to him begins to change him, force him deeper into his obsession with this god-like role. All the while, Ohba maintains a brilliant pace and throws up many obstacles and challenges. This story will really appeal to people who want something to think about and are sick of reading novels with the same old pattern.
On top of all this, Death Note has possibly my favourite detective of all time. When the Japanese police force realise that they are unqualified to catch the killer, they appeal to L Lawliet for help. Now, I don't want to say too much about L because I could spoil it, but he's intelligent, lovable, brilliant... even if the rest of the story doesn't work for you, I doubt you'll be able to resist loving L Lawliet. And this is one of the things I love most about the series: there's no clear line between good and bad. The novel pits Light and L against one another, they have very different ideas about justice and right and wrong, but the brilliance of it is that you can see it from both points of view, in a way you find yourself on both of their sides. Just amazing.
So why did I knock off half a star? Because of the portrayal of women in Death Note. At the end of the day, this series was made to mainly appeal to young adult males. There's no kickass heroine, very few main female characters appear throughout the whole thing. Plus, the biggest female character is Misa Amane, she is beautiful but useless a lot of the time. She is silly and fickle, and she is mostly regarded with contempt from the other characters. This would probably annoy me more if the rest of the story wasn't so excellent, but it is, it really is.
This is my favourite book. I do not say that lightly, I've read quite a lot from all different genres and time periods, but this is my favourite book.This is my favourite book. I do not say that lightly, I've read quite a lot from all different genres and time periods, but this is my favourite book. Of all time. Ever. The ladies over at The Readventurer kindly allowed me to get my feelings of utter adoration for Wuthering Heights off my chest in their "Year of the Classics" feature, but I now realise it's time I posted a little something in this blank review space. I mean, come on, it's my favourite book so it deserves better than empty nothingness.
So, what do I love so much about Wuthering Heights? Everything. Okay, maybe not, that wouldn't really be saying it strongly enough.
What I love about this novel is the setting, the wilderness. This is not a story about niceties and upper class propriety, this is the tale of people who aren't so socially acceptable, who live away from the strict rules of civilization - it's almost as if they're not quite from the world we know. The isolation of the setting out on the Yorkshire moors between the fictional dwellings of The Heights and Thrushcross Grange emphasises how far removed these characters are from social norms, how unconventional they are, and how lonely they are.
This is a novel for readers who can appreciate unlikeable characters, readers who don't have to like someone to achieve a certain level of understanding them and their circumstances. People are not born evil... so what makes them that way? What torments a man so much that he refuses to believe he has any worth? What kind of person digs up the grave of their loved one so they can see them once again? Heathcliff was not created to be liked or to earn your forgiveness, Emily Brontë simply tells his story from the abusive and unloved childhood he endured, to his obsession with the only person alive who showed him any real kindness, to his adulthood as an angry, violent man who beats his wife and imprisons the younger Cathy in order to make her marry his son.
It would be so easy to hate Heathcliff, and I don't feel that he is some dark, sexy hero like others often do. But I appreciate what Emily Brontë attempts to teach us about the cycle of violence and aggression. Heathcliff eventually becomes little more than the man he hates, by being brought up with beatings and anger he in turn unleashes it on everyone else. And Cathy is no delicate flower either. What hope did Heathcliff have when the only person he ever loved was a selfish, vindictive, little wretch? But I love Emily Brontë for creating such imperfect, screwed-up characters.
This is a dark novel that deals with some very complicated individuals, but I think in the end we are offered the possibility of peace and happiness through Cathy (younger) and Hareton's relationship, and the suggestion that Cathy (older) and Heathcliff were reunited in the afterlife. I had an English teacher in high school that said Cathy and Heathcliff's personalities and their relationship were too much for this world and that peace was only possible for them in the next. I have no idea if this was something Ms Bronte intended, but the romantic in me likes to imagine that it's true....more
Cast your pitchforks aside, I'm going to try and explain. Explain why this book which is lauded by critics but generally hated by goodreads (and many Cast your pitchforks aside, I'm going to try and explain. Explain why this book which is lauded by critics but generally hated by goodreads (and many of my friends on the site), criticised as being misogynistic and disgusting and appalling and many other colourfully negative words... was a completely different experience for me. I'm sick of hearing the word but, in the end, it all comes down to interpretation. And I think this book more than most I've read depends on that interpretation. I'm not here to say anyone's wrong, some of my closest GR friends despised this book (you know I love you, Blythe) and hell, I'm the queen of seeing a book in strange ways (remember that awkward time I thought Lolita was a love story) but, for me, this book wasn't sexist at all. For me, it was the very opposite.
For one thing, I don't believe that showing something in a book or showing characters behaving in a certain way makes the book a positive message for such behaviour. I was one of the few who disagreed about League of Strays being homophobic just because some of the characters happened to be. There are people who are homophobic or racist or sexist and I think a book can show that without being a representation of the author's views. I certainly don't think Margaret Atwood believed that women should be treated the way they were in The Handmaid's Tale - in fact, that was the point, right? She was showing the consequences of radical Christianity and feminism in order to criticise it. Characters are not always their authors. Unless, of course, you're reading a John Green book.
Mr Madison seems to be of the exact same opinion as me in this case. His previous book - The Blonde of the Joke - was criticised for having homophobic characters and the author replied:
A writer’s job isn’t to create saintly characters as models of good behavior for readers. Characters without flaws– even, at times, ugly and discomfiting flaws– are bad characters, and bad characters make bad literature. In order to be interesting, characters must sometimes behave in ways we don’t approve of. (The ill-tempered murderer Raskolnikov, racist-mouthed Huck Finn and pill-addled/ego-crazed Neely O’Hara all spring instantly to mind.)
To which I find myself nodding my head. If you're curious about his full response, click the spoiler. (view spoiler)[
I’m the author of The Blonde of the Joke, and although I usually try to let reviews lie, I surely don’t want anyone getting the impression that I intended this book to be homophobic. In fact, I am an open and enthusiastic gay myself!
And although it’s certainly possible to be both gay and homophobic– just as it is of course possible for a novel to carry meaning outside and beyond the intentions of its author– I do think it’s a little unfair to label a book as homophobic simply because the characters use slurs. Characters are characters.
I’d rather not get into a discussion of why the Francie and Val behave the way they do and use the words they do, because I think that those deliberations should be left to the reader. It’s part of the process of reading the book.
But a few questions that I hope readers consider: Why are the girls using these words? What does it say about them and their own relative positions of power that they speak this way? Are Francie and Val homophobes? (Hint: the answers to these questions may be different for each girl!)
When Val reassures herself that her bathroom makeout with Francie is “not a lesbo thing,” what are the implications? Is it realistic that she would think this way?
When Francie dresses as a ho for the supposed benefit of Val’s gay brother, is it because she really thinks she can “turn” him? Either way, what does it say about Francie that she says this?
And let’s say that Francie and Val are indeed at least a little homophobic. Does this mean that they’re not suitable characters for fiction?
The last question is the one I can answer easily: no, it doesn’t. A writer’s job isn’t to create saintly characters as models of good behavior for readers. Characters without flaws– even, at times, ugly and discomfiting flaws– are bad characters, and bad characters make bad literature. In order to be interesting, characters must sometimes behave in ways we don’t approve of. (The ill-tempered murderer Raskolnikov, racist-mouthed Huck Finn and pill-addled/ego-crazed Neely O’Hara all spring instantly to mind.)
Many have suggested to me that a writer of books for young people bears an added responsibility when it comes to matters such as these. After all, mightn’t some impressionable youngster read my book and come away with the notion that it’s okay to go around calling people “fag”?
I mean, possibly, sure. But I give my audience more credit than that, even if it’s largely underage. I have no choice as a writer but to trust that my readers understand that I’m not endorsing any of the questionable behavior that the characters in my book engage in. There’s a lot of it. Besides the occasional homophobic slur, Val and Francie also perpetrate countless feats of extreme shoplifting, indulge in outrageously profligate cigarette-smoking, drink while underage, smoke a little weed, skip class and curse without remorse, and– worst of all in my mind– inflict several cruel and petty betrayals upon each other.
So am I telling teenagers to go out and act this way? Of course not. Am I telling teenagers not to? No, not that either. It’s not my intention as a writer to tell anyone what to do. Everyone can do as he or she pleases. All I ask of anyone who reads my work– teen or otherwise– is to think about it carefully and questions.(hide spoiler)]
Anyway, back to this book. I truly find myself seeing it as the very opposite of sexist/misogynistic. What I saw here was actually a challenge to the way society and other people teach boys to become men, the expectations they place upon them and the misogyny that is openly encouraged. I saw it as a challenge to social constructs of gender, masculinity and femininity. What does it mean to be a man and why? Can a woman be free and independent as well as being a wife and mother? Whilst reading this book, a Gloria Steinem quote came to mind:
“We've begun to raise daughters more like sons... but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.”
It's this whole idea we have that traditional masculinity is superior and it's far easier to be a woman with masculine traits than it is to be a man with feminine traits. We've begun to accept the "manning up" of modern women, the rise of female ambition and their slow climb to higher paid jobs. It's not ridiculous for women to want a career anymore because that's a masculine - and therefore a positive - pursuit. But the way we treat men who act in a traditionally feminine way might be the biggest hindrance to equality. And Sam (this book's protagonist) is struggling with the expectations placed upon him to "be a man".
I, for one, thought Sam's character development was excellent. He starts off as someone who separates women into categories (e.g. sluts) because of the influence of the society he lives in and his brother, but over time he learns to accept DeeDee simply as herself and not as part of something a patriarchal society has defined, seeing women as individuals on a level that goes beyond physical appearance: "Starting to understand her was less like learning and more like forgetting the DeeDee I'd created in my mind. Now, outside Ursula's, in the grass by the highway, she was just DeeDee. She was only herself." Linking in to what I said about questioning the concept of masculinity, Sam experiences things that are not deemed typically masculine. When DeeDee comes onto him, he admits to being afraid and feeling less of a man for it. The idea of virginal women being scared and anxious is explored in many novels but it is taken for granted that men have no such qualms, that they are only interested in doing the deed. This book allows Sam to be more than a man, it allows him to be human.
I also, unlike many many others, absolutely loved Sam's mother and what her character seemed to be saying about women. Sam tells us how she became obsessed with Facebook and found a group of radical women online who live by the SCUM manifesto. I can see why this could be viewed as a brushing aside of feminism and placing it all under the SCUM umbrella, but that's not what I took from it. I saw it as the author looking at the other side too, the expectations placed on women and the way they are torn over who to be. It's about a woman struggling with what it means to be a woman today, wanting to be a good wife and mother but at the same time confused by radical feminist ideals that tell her she is being exploited in that position.
This is a paranormal book, but that just forms the background of a story which (I feel, anyway) is full of depth and complexity. In my opinion, this is one sophisticated piece of young adult fiction that is guaranteed to continue angering people. It does have very coarse language that may be off-putting for some, as well as graphic sexual content (or talk of it). But this doesn't really bother me.
I've always seen feminism as being the wrong word. My definition of it is about equality and freedom and choice; but the very word itself doesn't say equality, it says we're excluding half the population. For some, it even says "men are the enemy" and there's no wonder people often consider it a dirty word. Because, really, feminism is about both men and women. Patriarchy and sexism place restrictions and expectations on both sexes that are equally damaging. The concepts of masculinity and femininity create misogyny and I believe this book is primarily about the messages delivered to young men and how these men can easily become casually misogynistic through the masculine expectations of them. Evidence of it is everywhere. Groups of teenage boys trying to prove they're each more virile than the next by whistling and catcalling at girls. It's an attitude which is thrust upon them. But this book is also about how they can be more than that.
I've pretty much exhausted myself and I hope I don't get too hated for this review. I feel like finishing with this quote:
"Fuck it," I said. At a certain point, it's just time to be a man. Actually, no. Fuck that too. Being a man is bullshit; maybe trying to 'be a man' had been the problem all along. At a certain point you just have to trust someone. Even if it's only yourself.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
"The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas,"The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals himself. The reason I will not exhibit this picture is that I am afraid that I have shown in it the secret of my own soul."
And so begins this tale of art and sin. I would highly recommend first watching the movie Wilde starring the wonderful Stephen Fry, it is a film which takes the audience on a journey through the life of the tormented writer, from the beginnings of his fame to his later incarceration for "gross indecency" - a charge used to imprison individuals when it was impossible to prove sodomy. Wilde was sentenced to two years hard labour and died not long after being freed due to health problems gained during those two years. Looking at Wilde's story from a twenty-first century perspective, it is sad and horrifying to realise this man was indirectly sentenced to death for being gay. The "hard labour" prescribed was carried out in various ways but one of the most common was the treadmill:
This machine made prisoners walk continuously uphill for hours on end and had many long-term effects on people's health.
Why do I think it's important to know this? Because, as Wilde claims, in every piece of art there is more of the artist than anything else. And I believe this is especially true of The Picture of Dorian Gray more than perhaps any other fictional work I've read. In this novel, Wilde explores the nature of sin, of morality and immorality. The homoerotic undertones between Dorian Gray, Basil Hallward and Lord Henry Wotton are, I think, the author's little expression of his own secret "sins" within his work. Rarely does a work of fiction so deeply seem to mirror elements of the author's life.
By 1891, when The Picture of Dorian Gray was published, Oscar Wilde had met and fallen in love with Lord Alfred Douglas and they had begun a semi-secret affair, by which I mean that many were suspicious of the relationship but didn't argue with Wilde's claims that they shared a Socrates/Plato love that is between a close teacher and student. The idolisation of Dorian Gray's youth and beauty, his tendency to be mean at random, these characteristics all fit with the description and personality of Lord Alfred Douglas. For me, there is no real question as to whether part of Dorian is meant to be Mr Wilde's lover.
I think if you familiarise yourself with Oscar Wilde, this becomes a very personal novel, much more than just a disturbing horror story where a man sells his soul. But even without any additional information, I think this is a sad and haunting book that tells of the joyful naivete of youth and the sad wisdom of maturity....more
Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone tells the age-old tale of forbidden love with a beautifully constructed mythological twist. Karou and Akiva are a Romeo and Juliet unlike any other and Laini Taylor has managed to encapture love, loneliness and desperation in a masterpiece of a novel that deserves to be read by anyone of any age who truly appreciates quality writing and story-telling.
Karou is a 17 year old art student living in Prague. She gossips with girlfriends, works on her art and has a nightmare of an ex-boyfriend who won't take the hint. But behind all of this, Karou has a secret. She was raised by and frequently runs errands for a demonic 'wishmonger'. In this secret world, wishes are the currency and monsters will do anything for their ultimate wishes to be fulfilled. Living between worlds, Karou senses that she doesn't quite belong in either... then one day she runs into the angelic Akiva, who not only makes her question where she belongs but who and what she actually is.
Laini Taylor, unlike numerous young adult authors, never patronises her readers and writes with a magical flair and sophistication that is a true rarity. Though she writes in a genre dominated by authors like Stephenie Meyer and Becca Fitzpatrick, her stories are richer, her characters more highly developed and interesting, and her style is just a true work of art.
I cannot stress highly enough just how much I enjoyed this novel. The literary nerd in me was in awe of the author's poetic expressions, whilst the girl in me was caught up in the whirlwind of fantasy, romance and mixture of seraphim/chimaera mythology. I thought Lips Touch: Three Times was one of the best young adult novels I've read in a long time and the best paranormal romance I have probably ever read... but, Daughter of Smoke and Bone was even better in my opinion. I was thrilled to discover that we can expect a sequel and there's no doubt in my mind as to whether or not I'll be reading it.
The thing that really struck me most was the way Laini Taylor uses old, often cliched, ideas like: forbidden love, the divine battle of angels and devils, fallen angels... and manages to turn them into something entirely new and extraordinary. I have never enjoyed a young adult book about angels. Never. However, this is not a stereotypical angel/devil story about good vs. bad. In fact, this novel shows how something can be perceived as evil by being different and how it's possible to be born and raised into the hatred of something else just because they are what they are. It's an incredible and touching story that explores prejudice as well as romance in a spectacular fantasy world.
Everything the author writes is important and not one word is wasted nonsensically. That's what I love most about Laini Taylor, there's a sense in each of her novels that she mulled over every sentence and made it the best it could possibly be. It's something not done too often outside of poetry and it's marvelous to read. There's also a wicked sensuality amidst the darkness that's just irresistable. A truly fantastic read!
Many thanks to Hodder and Stoughton for kindly providing an arc copy of this book for review. Please note: this had no effect whatsoever on my rating and/or review. ...more
Cloud Atlas is a book which is not particularly easy to read, requires patience and perseverance, but is ultimately very rewarding. It is a story spanCloud Atlas is a book which is not particularly easy to read, requires patience and perseverance, but is ultimately very rewarding. It is a story spanning more than one hundred years that combines an entertaining - even humourous - plot with far bigger and more important issues like slavery and exploitation. The novel's language changes and develops with time and every new character introduced is as fresh and interesting as all those who came before. In the end, it is pure genius. It is also not a novel that I can adequately put into any kind of review, so I suggest instead that you watch this beautiful trailer created for the 2012 film adaptation - it convinced me to read it, after all:
Still my favourite Shakespeare play? I think so. Language-wise, Shakespeare is always a master. He invented many a word and phrase that we all use evenStill my favourite Shakespeare play? I think so. Language-wise, Shakespeare is always a master. He invented many a word and phrase that we all use even today, centuries later. But some of the stories and characters are better than others. Macbeth, in my opinion, sits near the top of the pile. The witches and their fateful prophecies, the bloody betrayals, the madness of Lady Macbeth, and the tragedy of Macbeth himself. Bringing about his own prophesised downfall, step by step. Nothing short of genius....more
“I may bring other women here, to this place, and I may tell them I love them, and make love to them. But they will be impostors. And I will be a ghos“I may bring other women here, to this place, and I may tell them I love them, and make love to them. But they will be impostors. And I will be a ghost. Because it means I will have lost you. My body, my brain, my lungs, my stomach, my guts, legs, arms will be here but I won't be. I will be out there, looking for you. And if we meet somewhere, at a restaurant, or a party and I'm with someone, I want you to know that they are by my side only because you are not. And she will be beautiful. And I will be laughing and smiling and she will be laughing and smiling, but she will be laughing at a lie. Because all I will have done to that person is lie to them. All I will do to anyone else, forever, from this moment forward, anyone who isn't you, is lie. I have no choice.”...more
I can't imagine why Courtney Summers' novels aren't more widely read, I guess it might have something to do with Cracked Up to Be and Some Girls Are being marketed as your typical high school clique-y/boy-obsessed novels. Their covers suggest something you'd find in every American high school movie and even the quote from the School Library Journal about Some Girls Are is: "Fans of the film Mean Girls will enjoy this tale of redemption and forgiveness".
Well, let me tell you this... Courtney Summers' books are incredibly raw and emotional, they are addictive in that "just one more chapter" way, even when it's 2am and you have to get up early. She gets right inside the mind of her protagonist like so few authors manage to do. Even this book, a story so different from her two previous novels, was utterly mesmerizing. Though, if you only like happy books she probably isn't the right choice for you.
It's insane how many popular novels tackle the same subjects such as loss, sexual assault, and bullying but are far less effective. So many try and fail to capture the sadness, loneliness and guilt that Courtney Summers repeatedly manages to deliver so expertly. These books need to be read.
As for Fall for Anything, it's the story of Eddie, a girl whose father has just commit suicide. Desperate for answers as to why a successful photographer would choose to end his life, Eddie teams up with his ex-student in an attempt to decode what may be the troubled artist's final message to the world. With her mother sinking deeper into depression and her mother's friend taking over their home with little regard for Eddie's grief, this could be her only chance to regain some of her previous life back... but what if the answer she finds is the last thing she wanted to hear?
Well... finally, a much-anticipated book that actually delivered. After being so hyped up about 'Matched' and then being let down with it's mediocrity Well... finally, a much-anticipated book that actually delivered. After being so hyped up about 'Matched' and then being let down with it's mediocrity, I tried not to get too excited about this book and prepared myself for another monumental disappointment.
I'm always rather dubious when it comes to romance novels; if you find a good one then you can be reeled in and swallowed up, it can stay with you for a very long time... but so often this is not the case. The amount of times I've dared to enter into a romance story with high hopes and found nothing but cheesy, star-struck "I can't live without you"s are countless. They are often plagued with cliched characters and storylines and I found myself awaiting something similar from 'You Against Me'.
And I loved it. No, seriously, I really did. The chemistry sparked off the pages without being over-emotionally cheesy. There was no getting lost in their eyes, no "oh gosh, did our hands just accidently touch?"
I liked and genuinely cared about both characters. Plus, it was so much more than a love story, the dark backdrop of sexual abuse is told through different eyes, tackling the 'slut' issue that is a very real hindrance to prosecutions in rape cases. The fact that anyone can even ask the question: "If a girl is wearing revealing clothing, is she asking for it?" just shows how important this novel is.
Was it perfect? No. I had an issue with the ending, or lack of if you want to be precise. Perhaps the author was leaving it open for a possible sequel but nothing has been mentioned so far. There are very few cases where ambiguous endings work (The Handmaid's Tale is one) and this book required something more at the end. But I liked it so much that I would happily say yes to that sequel.
“We can't behave like people in novels, though, can we?”
A few years ago, I read The Age of Innocence and thought it was okay. It has something of an“We can't behave like people in novels, though, can we?”
A few years ago, I read The Age of Innocence and thought it was okay. It has something of an Austen-esque feel - criticisms of middle/upper middle class society, paired with a subtle and clever humour and a love story (here deliciously scandalous). But it's taken me a few years to come back to this novel and appreciate the magic Wharton has brought to the table.
This little book is so clever. Everything about it from the damn title to nearly every piece of dialogue is perfectly-placed and often ironic. Things that didn't hit me fully the first time around became so much more important in this reread. Wharton knows 1870s New York City like the back of her hand; she knows its habits, its traditions, and its expectations of people. She creates a rich, twinkly picture of parties and social standards that is both delightful and ultimately ridiculous - then she throws a spanner in the works.
Never has a love triangle been so welcomed by me. This isn't the modern affair we're used to, where a girl must choose between hot guy #1 and hot guy #2. Nope, in this story, Newland Archer is torn between the stability, comfort and duty he can be offered by the socially-favoured match with May Welland... and his passionate, all-consuming love for the unconventional, rebellious and ostracized Ellen Olenska.
“Each time you happen to me all over again.”
It's as important as it is beautifully written. Wharton casts an eye over this society, both disdainful and affectionate. Incorporating issues of female emancipation into the story, never has the idea of a woman enslaved by marriage and convention seemed so unattractive from a male perspective. Newland Archer is full of modernity and the call of new ideas, but finds that any freedom he poses to May she would receive only with the intention of pleasing him. Though, it should be said, I believe May is far more than she seems.
It's hard to read the ending of this book without feeling emotional, but the exact emotion may differ with your interpretation. Ambiguity reigns supreme as this novel finds its close and even the coldest of unromantics will surely have their hearts pulled along for this... ride. One of my favourite tragic love affairs.
“Only, I wonder – the thing one’s so certain of in advance: can it ever make one’s heart beat as wildly?”
EDIT: I'm adding a honorary star to the first two books in this series, just because Frost has been consistently awesome throughout.
If you know me atEDIT: I'm adding a honorary star to the first two books in this series, just because Frost has been consistently awesome throughout.
If you know me at all, you'll know about my teeny tiny obsession with a certain TV show, and one certain character in particular... even if you don't know me, anyone who's read this book has probably guessed it, right?
So, let's see:
Platinum blonde hair... check.
Killer cheekbones... check.
English accent... check.
Eloquently employed British slang ("sodding, blimey, shagging & bollocks")... check.
"If I've learned one thing today, it's that teenage girls make Moriarty look like a babe in the woods."
Tana French takes on the world of teenage girl
"If I've learned one thing today, it's that teenage girls make Moriarty look like a babe in the woods."
Tana French takes on the world of teenage girls. This book was 100% worth waiting for and, though I've loved all of French's mysteries, I think this could actually be my favourite. It was just so wonderful to get back into a book full of great characterisation, intricate relationships, clever red herrings and a writing style that so wholly fits my tastes. French writes the only kind of lengthy, descriptive books I can get fully absorbed into - because her description is so engaging and interesting that I just want more and more. Nearly 500 pages and I didn't want it to end.
Maybe the reason I read so much YA is because I find teenage girls some of the most interesting, scary, complicated, ridiculous, obsessive and crazy of characters. With French's trademark well-developed characterisation that delves deep into the minds of nearly everyone the novel introduces us to, the insane world of teenage girls becomes an intense bubble of hormones and insecurities mixed in with a spot of murder. Could an angel-faced, upper middle class girl of 16 really murder someone in cold blood? It won't take you long to be convinced.
Teen girl politics fascinates me. The strength and/or fragility of friendship ties, the capacity for evil and bitchiness, the unspoken rules that have to be learned. If you think this book can't be frightening, then you had a better time in high school than I did. French makes school even more creepy and terrifying, and breaks it up with her usual life insights that I always enjoy reading.
As always, this book is as much about the detectives as it is about the suspects and the crime. When Holly Mackey brings a photo to Detective Stephen Moran, he sees an opportunity to get out of Cold Cases and play with the big guys over at Murder. The photo - of a murdered boy with the words "I know who killed him" written on it - could change everything. Teaming up with Detective Antoinette Conway over in Murder, Moran heads into the world of private school girls and attempts to uncover the truth about what really happened to Chris Harper. It soon becomes apparent that more than one girl has skeletons in her closet.
Moran and Conway work so good together. They both come from poor backgrounds and have worked their way up, but Moran longs for the flawless beauty of the wealthy, whereas Conway resents it. They bicker and they bond. The relationship between them is crafted excellently and I'd love to see them working together in future books - though, knowing French, that seems unlikely.
"Things don't make sense, when you're that age; you don't make sense."
I've always said that the best kind of mysteries are those where the reveals don't matter so much. Those where the story and characters are fascinating enough to carry the book regardless of whodunnit. Tana French ALWAYS writes those kind of books, IMO. This latest addition is as wonderful as always and is a really great look at the bittersweetness of youth, friendship and growing up. And it has a captivating cast of crazy teen girls (as if there's any other type). French does have the odd habit of introducing a few things that never get solved; red herrings some might say, frustrating others will tell you, but I like it. I like the constant mystery of not knowing whether this is an important clue for the murder or just another crazy part of life. Now I just need her to write more.
Shit seriously just went down. Oh wow, where do I start with this sequel? I wasn't even sure I was going to read it when I recently finished Throne of
Shit seriously just went down. Oh wow, where do I start with this sequel? I wasn't even sure I was going to read it when I recently finished Throne of Glass and found it entertaining but a poor excuse for fantasy. You want to know what Crown of Midnight felt like? It was like the author listened to every piece of criticism I could have thrown at the first book, listened to everything I loved and everything that irritated me... and then wrote a perfect kind of book. The kind I wanted the first one to be; the kind I hadn't dared to hope she might produce in this sequel. There was more action, more nastiness, more character development, more surprises, more complications, more sexy, no love triangle - all of this and a well-placed, never-saw-it-coming twist. Ms Maas, consider me impressed.
Crown of Midnight takes a huge step away from the tame romantic/bitchy drama of its predecessor and opens up a story that is a bigger, bloodier and meaner than I think many readers will be expecting. Celaena gets to fully explore all aspects of what it means to be an assassin in this book; she is tested constantly and you can see her growing and changing and learning as the story progresses. And this story is one tumultuous journey of extremely high ups and unbelievably low downs with Celaena taking relationships to all new levels and watching others fall apart. Old enemies resurface and we start to get a glimpse of just how big the picture Maas is painting for us actually is.
One of the strengths of this book is having no idea how it's going to end. You might think that's a given, but Throne of Glass introduced us to a plot that was fairly easy to see mapped out. We are told of the challenges Celaena must compete in and win, we know that's what the book is moving towards, and it isn't too much of a leap to assume that (one way or another) Celaena is going to emerge victorious. Not in this book. This book starts with a blank slate, any mysteries or troubles that are to come are completely unknown to us - so every turn the plot takes is a surprise and every surprise is thrilling. I can't wrap my head around just how much better this sequel is. Maas has already grown as a writer and storyteller, making me wonder what she can possibly have in store for us next.
The characters are also so much better developed in this book. Maas is brave enough here to allow the main characters to make mistakes, do the wrong things and test our ability to like them. Well, I don't know about you, but the new dimensions to their personalities, their faults and weaknesses, only served to make me like them more. Dorian surprised me most of all. In Throne of Glass, Dorian feels like something of a plot tool, a pretty little obstacle to Celaena and Chaol's romance. The scenes with him felt like filler between the parts I was actually waiting for. But not in Crown of Midnight! In this, Dorian emerges as an interesting character with secrets of his own; he makes sacrifices for the people he loves and his importance to the bigger story starts to become apparent.
Throne of Glass... Romance, love triangle, pretty dresses, one-dimensional characters, little action...
Crown of Midnight... Badassery, twists, nastiness, betrayal, more action, magic, secrets...
If you were so-so about the first one and considering *maybe* reading this, you have my thumbs up....more
• 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?
I'm always hesitant when it comes to reading books categorised as for 'children', but this is one of those books that is so important, clever and gripI'm always hesitant when it comes to reading books categorised as for 'children', but this is one of those books that is so important, clever and gripping it does not deserve to be limited by calling it merely a 'children's' book.
I'm finding it difficult to put into words just how much I loved this novel, I could not put it down. It makes you think, makes you laugh, makes you cry... this really is a literary triumph. It should be compulsory reading for everyone.
It tells the story of Todd, the last boy in Prentisstown, who will become a man on his 13th birthday. Prentisstown, though, is unlike any you'll have ever come across, because everyone can hear each other's thoughts, which they call 'noise'. In a town like that, you'd think keeping a secret to be the least possible thing.
But we soon find out that noise can lie and that Prentisstown has some very dark secrets. What really happened to the women of Prentisstown? What lies on the other side of the swamp? And why is it so important that Todd, just one boy, reaches his birthday and becomes a man? This is a fast-paced, gripping tale of the adventure of growing up and the difficult decisions we face along the way....more
EDIT: I'm adding a honorary star to the first two books in this series, just because Frost has been consistently awesome throughout.
I really really enEDIT: I'm adding a honorary star to the first two books in this series, just because Frost has been consistently awesome throughout.
I really really enjoyed this book but I just can't quite bring myself to award it 5 stars when you compare it to, say, Margaret Atwood's genius in The Handmaid's Tale or the deeply entwined mystery/romance/mythology of Darkfever and the rest of the Fever series. This is an easy-to-read addictive series with a heroine who is likeable, brave (without being unrealistically so), and pretty much always horny. That last point being awesome when you have a sexy character like Bones as the love interest.
People may say Bones is a complete rip-off of Spike from Buffy, and they're right - he is. But since when did that become a bad thing? Spike is the one true love of my media-saturated heart and Bones does everything he did, says most words and phrases that he said (sodding, shagging, bloody hell) and has a lot of hot, kinky sex like Spike also did with Buffy :D Not to mention the fact that he is a very selfless bed partner. Still, I don't feel right giving 5 stars to a novel that is, when all things are said and done, just a really good and really smutty Buffy fanfic.
But I do also like the way Bones can be caring without having to play the over-protective male. It happens all the time in paranormal romance that the girl's weaknesses are played upon and in swoops Mr gorgeous-and-usually-dead to save the day. But in this series, Cat and Bones are a team, working to watch out for one another without it being one-sided; and Bones never underestimates Cat's ability or judgement. You may be guessing by now that I sort of really love Bones.
What this book claims to be and just isn't that much is Urban Fantasy - the lines tend to blend between UF and paranomal romance sometimes but this series is definitely the latter of the two, regardless of what the library sections try to say it is. It is heavily focused on character relationships and sex, not that this is a bad thing in my opinion but the bad guy (or girl) of the moment often gets put on the back burner in favour of the protagonist's sex life. Like I said before - smutty fanfic.
So this book, in fact this series, is not perfect. I could complain on and on about the story not being particularly great because Frost focuses her energy on what Bones can do with chains and blindfolds (the answer - a lot), but what would really be the point when I enjoyed reading this so much. Goodreads' rating system doesn't offer opinion on quality of plot or writing in particular, just "liked it", "really liked it" and so on... well, yeah, I really liked it....more
4.5 Sometimes a book is just all that much better for being so disgustingly horrible. For not glossing over the gruesome details, for keeping the read 4.5 Sometimes a book is just all that much better for being so disgustingly horrible. For not glossing over the gruesome details, for keeping the reader hooked in wide-eyed horror. This is that kind of book. The author doesn't waste his time on niceties, this story's about the harsh realities of survival and the unfortunate lengths that people have to go to in order to just stay alive. This book is nasty and gritty, and yet none of the violence and gore felt gratuitous, and above all else Paolo Bacigalupi is actually an incredible writer.
For those of you - like me - who felt that Ship Breaker was a little bit too much of a "boy book", despite being impressed by the writing and the imagery, I want to let you know that you should have no such concerns about The Drowned Cities. Not only is this a much better book than its predecessor, it has a broader reach. This, in my opinion, is about so much more than high-action scenes to please teen male readers, there are strong messages about war and loyalty and survival.
The story mainly focuses on three individuals, Mahlia, her companion Mouse, and a genetically engineered soldier which combines parts of various animals and human DNA to make the ultimate killing machine (called Tool). War plays a big part in this book, it is what threatens the safety of the characters, what forces them on, what challenges them to make a number of big decisions. Mahlia, with only a stump at the end of her right arm, is already a victim of this war. A war that is a lot more familiar to humanity than most of us would like to think.
To digress slightly, tomorrow I will be taking an exam in international relations and one of the key topics is what we call "new wars". These are a certain type of wars that have been on the rise for the last couple of decades, the kind that sees new technology creating cheap and light weaponry that can be handled by children. Some of these children are five years old when they are recruited and forced to kill or be killed. The relevance? Mahlia and Mouse are children also caught up in a war, a war where the "soldier boys" are nothing but children with attitudes and big guns. Children who've been brainwashed into seeking cruelty and violence - because their only other option was to become a victim. The Drowned Cities may seem to be a futuristic/dystopian novel, but the war that the characters are facing is nothing that hasn't already happened in our world, nothing that isn't happening right now.
This is a very sad, honest tale of war, with particular emphasis on the effect it has on children. There are many questions being asked here that I think Paolo Bacigalupi wants us to seriously consider. It is so easy to forget that children are being forced into this kind of life through fear, not in a different world or dimension, not in a possible future, but right now across the globe. This is a much deeper and thought-provoking book than I imagined and I know I'll be thinking about it for quite some time....more
As we all should know, reading and enjoying a book is largely about interpretation. People are not theNow, this is going to be embarrassing to admit.
As we all should know, reading and enjoying a book is largely about interpretation. People are not the same and we all view things differently, one individual might see a relationship in a book as "passionate" while another could see it as "damaging". When characters make bad decisions, some will view it as stupidity and others will view it as an accurate representation of humanity's imperfections. Not only that, but time often changes the way one person sees things. A teenager does not usually have the same outlook on life and relationships that someone of thirty does, and neither of them have the same outlook as someone of seventy does.
So it's time that I admit, when reading this at thirteen, my younger brain actually romanticised Humbert's depravity and saw the relationship between him and Lolita as some tragic love affair that could never work out for the obvious reasons. It was (surprise, surprise) Tatiana's review that made me wonder if I'd had a screw loose when reading this years ago, her interpretation was so far from what I remembered that I simply had to find time for a re-read. This summer, I did just that. I am going to point my shameful finger of blame at my age when I first read it, I was as fooled by Humbert as the young Lolita was.
Humbert is not a reliable narrator, his declaration that Lolita was responsible for seducing him is repulsive and wrong. Because, in the end, an adult has no excuse for having sex with a child, even if they're walking around half-naked and offering it up - adults have a responsibility not to take advantage of children, and I now realise how this case is no exception. This is not some tragic romantic tale about forbidden love, it is the story of how a grown man repeatedly raped a young girl. The fact that it is so easy to be taken in by him either says something about how brilliant a writer Nabokov is (which he is), or how much society still loves to blame the victim.
I don't know whether to feel better about my original feelings or be horrified that even the description for the audiobook describes the novel as: "a love story almost shocking in its beauty and tenderness." And I also know that I have no right to criticise other people who saw it in such a way, but I would ask you to read it again, to look beyond Humbert's snivelling and self-pity, to see the man who considers murdering a woman so he can be free to have sex with her twelve year old daughter, the man who feels sorry for himself when a pubescent girl doesn't want to have sex with him because she's still hurt from the last time. Is that love? Maybe it was for a thirteen year old looking through Humbert's perverted eyes, but I'm glad I understand it better now.
Nabokov has written a brilliant and disturbing novel, my opinion of it hasn't changed in that respect. I found it surprisingly easy to read and became absorbed quickly - even all those years ago. His portrayal of Humbert's perverted mind is scarily good, perhaps even too good if people can so easily be convinced to side with a paedophile - which is often regarded as the ultimate crime of all, isn't it? Even cold-blooded murderers go after prisoners who've messed with kids. And, as much as I feel ashamed for being so taken in by Humbert, I know that it's not just me who was fooled. Hell, even the GR description proves it. But, believe me, Lolita is a victim and no amount of saddening flashbacks to Humbert's past can change that.