“There was something about him. Something worth knowing. That much was certain.”
In life, there are times when you meet someone and realize "there's“There was something about him. Something worth knowing. That much was certain.”
In life, there are times when you meet someone and realize "there's just something about them". Maybe you know what I mean. Those people who may not be the best-looking, not even your usual type, not the smartest, the funniest or the "best" at anything really... but, for some reason, you're drawn towards them. And it's wonderful. You don't have to be a romantic to think there's something incredible about being pulled towards someone by some strange unseen force - God? Fate? The very chemistry of the universe? How wonderful to think your bond with someone goes beyond the physical and the rational.
I understand that. And yet... it doesn't work for me in books. Or, at least, it never has yet. Perhaps it's because this feeling that warrants a "there's just something about him/her" is very personal to the one experiencing it. That's the beauty of it, right? That no one else really gets it. But, as the reader of a romance novel, I kind of need to get it. If I want to fall in love with a couple, I need to feel the chemistry between them. I need to love them too.
And that's why instalove never works for me. "There's just something about him/her" never works for me. For me, ineffable emotions don't work in novels when all I have are the words before me. I appreciate in real life there are times when you can't describe how you feel with words; but, in books, being unable to describe something with words is kind of a big problem. Or, not even describe, but SHOW. No need to tell me how you feel, it's even better if you show me through character experiences, dialogue and the details between them.
This book has an interesting premise. It's historical with a fantasy aspect and in this story "Love" and "Death" are actual beings who select players in a millennia-old game. In the past, Death has always won, but can Love finally prevail when it comes to Henry and Flora?
The best bits about this book are the 1930s setting and the subtle explorations of race and homosexuality going on in the background. Henry is a wealthy white boy with a college scholarship and little to worry about, even though this is Depression-era America. Flora is a black girl who sings in jazz clubs by night, hoping to one day become the next Amelia Earhart. And then there's Ethan, a boy struggling to come to terms with his sexuality in a society that would never accept him. The little subplots were excellent, though sadly overshadowed by the "Game".
When Henry sees Flora, he is immediately mesmerized by everything about her for no real reason except it is their "destiny". What then follows is pages and pages of him being cheesy every time she appears:
“He’d never heard anything like her voice, which made him wish he had his bass in his hands, just so he could return the sounds, a mix of chocolate and cream, something he wanted to drink through his skin.”
Not only that, but people do an awful lot of "sensing" in this book. I've said in the past that I find this kind of storytelling lazy - when the characters either do or don't do something because they "get a feeling" about it. Like not trusting the bad guy because they "have a bad feeling". It's lazy and I don't buy into it.
All this being said, the author writes some beautiful descriptions of 1930s Seattle and the jazz scene. Plus, the subplots about race and sexuality were handled in a sensitive and engaging way. If the author branches off from destiny-inspired romance in her future books, I might come back to her work.
“The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages.” - Virginia Woolf
This book made me cry. And I really wasn't expecting that.
I think the comp“The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages.” - Virginia Woolf
This book made me cry. And I really wasn't expecting that.
I think the comparisons between Reconstructing Amelia and Gone Girl have done this book a disservice. I know that every mystery/thriller with some unconventional female antics is now compared to Gone Girl - inevitable, really, in a world so focused on the marketing and selling aspect.
But Gone Girl (and the books that deserve to be grouped with it) left me shocked and intrigued at the dark psychological exploration of what people are capable of. I finish them thinking they are clever, twisted and totally disturbing. They do not make me cry. They do not break my heart like this book did.
I can see why the marketing department at HarperCollins read Reconstructing Amelia and saw an opportunity to market it as the dark, twisty thriller of the Gone Girl variety. It is about the secrets we all keep and hide from those closest to us. It's about discovering that the people we love most aren't all we believed them to be. And it looks closely at some of the most evil, depressed and fucked up creatures in the world: teenage girls.
BUT. There is one reason this book is so good and it's not some huge, mind-boggling, never-saw-that-coming twist... it's the relationship between Kate and Amelia. Kate is a lawyer from a "serious" family that never showed her any affection. After discovering her ability to fall for and/or sleep with all the wrong guys, she became pregnant with Amelia. Though her mother wanted her to have an abortion, Kate finally saw an opportunity to shower another human being with all the love and affection that lay unused inside her.
Despite having to work the long hours of a lawyer, Kate adored her daughter and dedicated every spare minute to her. She was open with her, encouraged Amelia to talk to her about anything, and loved her so unconditionally. And the reader knows that. I could feel Kate's love for Amelia. I mourned Amelia too because Kate did. How do you deal with the death of your child? How do you deal with the death of the person your entire life revolved around?
And, more than that, Kate cannot come to terms with Amelia's supposed suicide. It's hard enough that her daughter is dead, but she has to also accept that Amelia did it to herself. Because... Kate wasn't there enough? She didn't see the signs? She wasn't a good enough mother? So when an anonymous text informs Kate that Amelia didn't jump, she desperately grasps at this possibility.
Finding new information that reopens the case, Kate sparks an investigation deep into the world of private school teenage girls and all the dark horrors that lie inside their minds. Told in alternating perspectives - of Kate in the present and Amelia in the weeks leading up to her death - the mystery unravels to reveal ever more mysteries.
It shouldn't be grouped with Gone Girl, though, because it is not that kind of book. It's about a mother, a daughter, the love between them, and the mistakes we all make - teenagers and adults alike.
"The trouble with dying," she'd told Jeannie once, "is that you don't get to see how everything turns out. You won't know the ending."
This book was"The trouble with dying," she'd told Jeannie once, "is that you don't get to see how everything turns out. You won't know the ending."
This book was lovely. That's how I would describe it. I'm not going to sell it as anything it isn't - fans of fast-paced action and fantasy should look elsewhere - because this is a quiet, moving family drama; nothing more or less. And yet, that was more than enough to make this one of my favourite, beautifully-written character studies.
Sometimes there are those rare books that capture pieces of real life in such a way that you look at the ordinary as you have never looked at it before. Very few authors can successfully turn the mundane into art. There are those who try to mimic the successful few but they almost always fail. Anne Tyler is apparently one of those authors who can take such a simplistic story of family life and breathe so much humanity into her characters that the everyday becomes compelling.
This is a book about the Whitshank family - several generations of it. I lost the exact quote but I recall one point when a character is described as being "like most people - insufferable but likable". And that is how most characters are in this book. We are dragged into their lives, forced to care about them, and yet they are complex, annoying, difficult, selfish and lovable.
Tyler takes just pages - perhaps even just paragraphs - to weave dialogue into a dynamic we can understand. From the beginning, we recognise Abby for the caring and smothering mother she is and we see Red as the more critical and skeptical of the two. Then as their children are introduced into the story, we see that Denny is intelligent, selfish, rebellious and constantly running from his own life. We see the overbearing and strong Amanda taking charge of most situations, the kindly Stem who always puts others first, and Jeannie - a personality often forgotten in the chaos of family drama.
As Abby and Red get older, Abby experiences some mental blackouts and Red's hearing gradually declines, so their sons and daughters must come together and decide how to help their aging parents (who adamantly do not want help). The relationships, the rivalries and the love all intertwine in this story that combines insights into the Whitshank family history and their modern lives.
Books such as this one are often called "slow", but I didn't find it slow at all. I think if you pick this book up knowing what to expect and are ready to read a story about people and family, then you should be swept along by these fascinating characters. I, for one, read it in a single day.
“The sun kept on with its slipping away, and I thought how many small good things in the world might be resting on the shoulders of something terribl“The sun kept on with its slipping away, and I thought how many small good things in the world might be resting on the shoulders of something terrible.”
When I was about seven or eight, I was at my friend's house drawing pictures and playing with dolls or whatever we were doing. I don't remember the exact circumstances leading up to what happened, but on this day my friend put her hand underneath my school skirt and touched me. Being older now, I realize it was just childish exploration and that it isn't uncommon, but at the time I pulled back like I'd been burned. I went home shortly after that.
This event is not that remarkable. What is remarkable is that I worried about that day for the next four years. That's right - four whole years. Then one day when I was twelve, my mum looked at me and asked me what was wrong. Well, I burst into tears and told her what had happened four years previously.
However, my mum just looked relieved and told me: "That's not that strange. Young children are curious about bodies and sexuality." And then I said: "But... she's a girl. Does that mean... am I... do I have AIDs?" My mum was shocked. She explained that I couldn't get AIDs unless the other person already had the disease and that I definitely couldn't get it from touching. Or saliva.
I'm lucky enough to have a mother who a) I can talk to about anything, and b) is intelligent and open-minded enough to correct my mistaken assumptions about AIDs. But sometimes I shudder to think of how ignorant I could have been if my situation had been different. I shudder to think of where I must have picked up that false information in the first place and how many other ignorant kids (later ignorant adults) believe that kind of crap.
This book is so relevant, even today. We're still, as a society, so uneducated about AIDs. Very few schoolchildren are provided with substantial information about where it comes from and what causes it. Still, today, many people believe AIDs is something that gay people created. And many people believe you can catch it by holding hands with someone who has the disease.
Tell the Wolves I'm Home deals with an important subject and I'm glad there are books dealing with the subject. But I also think it has many flaws and some things were not handled successfully. Not least of which is that I'm not sure it does anything to challenge the perceived relationship between homosexuality and the disease. There are two main characters who are gay in this book - one dies of AIDs and the other is really creepy.
Some people disliked the relationship between June and her Uncle Finn because it becomes apparent very early that June has some kind of crush on him. This didn't bother me. I saw June as a kid, one without any real friends, whose closest relationship was between her and her beloved uncle. Kids are all kinds of weird and many young girls say they're going to "marry their dad" - I don't believe it's dangerous or long-lasting. Finn, as the adult, never behaved inappropriately towards June and that's all I really cared about.
As someone who grew up very shy, I also liked the exploration of June's shyness. The author captures the feeling very well:
I'm okay with one or two people, but more than that and I turn into a naked mole rat. That's what being shy feels like. Like my skin is too thin, the light too bright. Like the best place I could possibly be is in a tunnel far under the cool, dark earth. Someone asks me a question and I stare at them, empty-faced, my brain jammed up with how hard I'm trying to find something interesting to say.
But, as well as some of the failures regarding the depiction of homosexuality and AIDs, I thought June was incredibly stupid at times. She receives a note from a man she believes to be a murderer, telling her to meet up with him and not tell any of her family about it. Er... this is about the time that major alarm bells should be going off in your head, June! Instead, she meets with him, goes to his apartment and allows him to lead her into the basement (like the idiots in a good old horror B-movie), pausing at one point to consider that he might be a psycho but brushing it off without good reason. Stupid.
Such an important subject matter. Many steps taken in the right direction, but many problems too....more
Seriously, the inside of Ms Kuehn's head must be a scary place to live. Here is yet another completely disturbing and engrossing psychological thrilleSeriously, the inside of Ms Kuehn's head must be a scary place to live. Here is yet another completely disturbing and engrossing psychological thriller.
Kuehn really isn't afraid to "go there". Her characters are twisted, her endings remind me of Courtney Summers books in that she refuses to tie them up neatly, and her exploration of the darkest parts of teenager's minds is both unsettling and addictive. She embraces diversity and she's edgy as fuck... so, when is her next book released again?
If I've not made it clear already: this book is dark. Details are not spared and I know some parts of this book may be upsetting for certain readers. The novel portrays sex, abuse, mental illness and a sociopath (well, maybe) with honesty and sometimes graphic description. I appreciated it; some people may not. There are many sick minds in Delicate Monsters, in both senses of the word.
If you would like an example of the kind of characters we're dealing with, let's meet Sadie:
Hurting other people wasn't all that different, though. That was also a form of taking and she did it all the time. Sometimes she wished she didn't. Sometimes the things she took were unforgivable and she'd give anything to have better control over herself. Then again, sometimes Sadie was bored. And oftentimes, that was more than enough.
While the story revolves around a mystery of sorts, the biggest mysteries are of the psychological kind, as was also true in Kuehn's Charm & Strange. The three main characters are Sadie, Emerson and Miles, and the mystery is mostly a character study that takes you deep inside their minds, memories, and the shared pieces of their pasts that tie them all together.
What dark secrets does Sadie know about Emerson? Where does Emerson's overwhelming sense of guilt stem from? Why does Miles believe he can see the future? Can he?
These three characters are so distinct and well-drawn. For a relatively short book to have three different perspectives, you need an extremely talented author to make all three voices strong and memorable. That was apparently no problem for Kuehn. All of them held my attention and there was none of that usual disappointment you get when a less interesting perspective arrives.
I issued the warning before, but I will reiterate: if you need your endings tied up neatly with everything resolved, this book will likely leave you feeling frustrated. Fortunately for me, I enjoyed this fascinating psychological exploration so much that I didn't mind.
I have only read one other Ishiguro novel and that is Never Let Me Go. Nevertheless, I too was intrigued about what would happen when a highly-acclaimI have only read one other Ishiguro novel and that is Never Let Me Go. Nevertheless, I too was intrigued about what would happen when a highly-acclaimed author of literary fiction transitioned into fantasy. Unfortunately, having read the book, I'm still not even sure.
What happened here? It's one of those novels where I can't help wondering if there's some underlying symbolism or metaphorical brilliance that totally went over my head. It's a simplistic, emotionally-detached and - at times - boring story, so I'm inclined to assume Ishiguro was aiming at smarter people than me who would take something deeper from it.
But I don't think so. I find myself leaning towards Craig's interpretation that Isiguro gives us the information and lets us decide what to do with it. Interpret as you will, I guess. Especially with that ending that Kirkus believes to be "one that will shock you". Well, I would not say I was shocked. I would say I was mildly surprised that Ishiguro had convinced me to keep reading the last 300 pages when all I got was a fizzled out ending and no answers.
Screw subtlety and interpretation! I want answers, dammit.
Credit where it's due: I was very intrigued in the beginning. I'm fascinated by all kinds of stories about memory and memory loss, whether it's a thriller like The Girl on the Train, a sad contemporary like Still Alice or a fantasy like this. My memories define who I am and the thought of losing them is terrifying to me. Considering that this book opens on a premise of an entire village experiencing weird memory loss - forgetting people who have left, sons they haven't seen in a while, or arguments they just had that morning - I was ready to love it.
But the exploration of this memory loss with Axl and Beatrice was unsatisfying and really damn repetitive after a while. I guess people who constantly forget what they have said are likely to keep saying it again but, hell, it makes for a tedious read. I grew tired of hearing about how their son was waiting for them, how Beatrice experienced some pain but, oh, it was nothing really, how maybe they had an argument but neither can remember so let's forget it, and pretty much everything about King Arthur was mind-numbing.
Also, I called this emotionally-detached and I'd like to explain what I mean. I don't think we ever develop an emotional connection with the characters. Axl and Beatrice have no personality (does anyone?) and speak so formally to one another. It's so... strange. This has to be the most polite fantasy I've ever read. I know this is set just after the Roman period in Britain but, come on, I find it difficult to believe an old couple spoke to each other like this. And not just them, there are battles and bloodshed and everything is so weirdly polite.
Person 1: I say, old chap, I'm afraid I'm going to have to slay you! Person 2: Dear me, that is unfortunate. But fight I shall and perhaps I will win!
Yeah, that's not a direct quote, but I swear there are pieces of dialogue like that.
And Axl calls Beatrice "princess" all the time. ALL THE TIME. I know you might be thinking that's sweet, but ALL THE TIME. At the end of every sentence, he addresses her as "princess". When they're afraid for their lives, he manages to find time to slip "princess" into every thing he says.
This book is weird enough that I'm sure it'll inspire many exciting interpretations, but my imagination isn't playing. It's a boring journey with boring characters and a fabulously anticlimactic non-ending.
I admit that there are some books I only read to satisfy my curiosity after I see all the hype. You know the kind - they win a bunch of awards, get aI admit that there are some books I only read to satisfy my curiosity after I see all the hype. You know the kind - they win a bunch of awards, get a kirkus starred review, feature in Goodreads "best books of the month"... and yet, you read the description and you're just not that excited for it. But you're curious enough to pick it up anyway and not expect much. Well, I'm so glad I'm one of those curious readers.
Honestly, this book was really good. It's one of those rare stories that manages to blend sad, moving parts, with action-filled fast-paced parts and laugh-out-loud hilarious parts and get the balance just right. And it's a western! So far from the genres I usually find myself in, but oh so very good.
There are some books I sit down to read a little of and suddenly find myself blinking at the clock, which tells me it's three hours later. This is one of those books. So easily readable, so easy to get caught up in the emotion, the action and the wonderful relationship between the two main characters. The blurb promises a book for fans of Code Name Verity - something which I'm sure appeals to many readers out there - but I found CNV to be much slower than this. Under a Painted Sky was hard to put down; I was so completely invested in the characters and the plot.
The author is one of the founders of #WeNeedDiverseBooks so, not surprisingly, this book was refreshingly diverse. Samantha is a Chinese girl living in Missouri in 1849 (i.e. not an ideal situation); when she finds herself in extremely unfortunate circumstances, she must flee West with the help of Annamae - a runaway slave. Disguised as two cowboys called Sammy and Andy, the two set off on the Oregon Trail and make all kinds of friends and enemies along the way.
This was not what I would call a "book about race" - it's a coming-of-age tale about two young girls and their friendship - and yet, obviously, the issue of race is woven in throughout and handled in a way that was sensitive, informative, sometimes funny and sometimes very sad. Take this:
“When I came early, the doctor turned her away because he had never delivered a Chinese baby. By the time Father found us, Mother was dead.”
It's so disturbing to think how prejudiced and ignorant people were in these times.
And it should be said that only a very small number of authors have that talent for making you care about characters instantly, but Lee makes it seem easy. We see so very little of Samantha's father in this book and yet the author uses the smallest touching details to make him a character we warm to and miss.
But I haven't even started talking about the stars of this show properly. Samantha and Annamae are amazing. No exaggeration. They make Thelma and Louise look totally lame. Annamae is a charming and hilarious badass - so goddamn strong, intelligent and funny. The dialogue in the book is PERFECT; so many great scenes between the two of them (and later between them and the cowboys they meet). This is one early scene I liked:
“Quickly, use the book and help me knock in a hole.” She clasps the Bible to her chest. “You want me to be struck down?” “Oh, sorry. Here, hold the pointy part against the strap, like this.” I show her. Putting down the Bible, she takes the belt, and pokes the prong into the leather where I want it. I take up the Good Book myself, then in one swift movement whack it down over the metal prong, driving it into the leather. I pray that nobody heard. “Sweet Jesus!” Annamae cries out. Her mouth opens in horror. “Thank you, Lord,” I whisper piously.
They crack me up so much. And this that Cay says to Samantha:
“Sorry, kid, I owe you one. You can kick me in the nuts if you want, or I can give you all my money.” “I’d go with the nuts,” says West. “He only has four dollars.”
When I'm reading a book that I enjoy, I mostly refuse to let myself fully accept my opinion of it until the end, just in case it doesn't stay good or something starts to annoy me. But I somehow KNEW this book was going to be good from the very beginning. And it was. Very impressed.
"In my nightmares I am alone on a train, heading into the wilderness. Or in a maze of hay bales. Or walking the streets of a big city, gazing at ligh"In my nightmares I am alone on a train, heading into the wilderness. Or in a maze of hay bales. Or walking the streets of a big city, gazing at lights in every window, seeing the families inside, none of them mine."
After my book club chose Orphan Train for our next meet-up, I picked up my copy and started reading just a little of the first page to get a "feel" for what the book would be like. I didn't intend to finish it right now, or even read any more than the first page, but I somehow ended up getting completely sucked into this story for the last few hours.
Firstly, it is a page turner. The pages just flew past as I devoured this story about two very different women who find they have a lot more in common than they could have imagined. It switches between the present day (2011) and the 1920s/30s, and it manages to be horrifying enough to hook you, but ultimately uplifting and charming.
The best kind of historical fiction, in my opinion, is that which introduces you to little pieces of history you'd never known about. I knew that many Irish immigrants arrived in the United States in the 1920s, hoping for a fresh start and a better life, but often received a less than warm welcome. What I didn't know, is that many orphaned children from crowded Eastern cities were boarded onto trains and taken to rural areas of the Midwest.
Families looking for servants, farm labourers, or occasionally more children would come check out the orphans and see if they wanted to take them home. In this book, Vivian is an orphaned Irish immigrant at just nine years old, and she finds herself on one of the orphan trains. The 1920s/30s part of this book tells the story of her life, being moved from one family to the next in Minnesota. In the present, she is a 91 year-old woman with an attic full of painful memories.
So what could she possibly have in common with a bratty teenage goth girl? Well, quite a bit actually.
Molly is in the foster care system and knows her current family only keep her for the extra money they receive. She rebels constantly: with her image, with her attitude and, finally, by stealing a book from the local library and earning herself some community service. That community service turns out to be helping an old lady clear out her attic.
As Vivian's story is revealed, the relationship between the two of them grows. I admit that I felt so much more sympathy for Vivian, though I did understand the importance of Molly's story too. Vivian deals with being constantly unwanted, being underfed, living in a farmhouse without any heating through the winter, and the leery eyes of her foster father. I felt sorry for Molly at times, but she was bratty and not easy to like, though I still quite enjoyed the insight into her mind. Like this:
"But it kind of feels nice to nurture her resentment, to foster it. It’s something she can savor and control, this feeling of having been wronged by the world."
I do think that things felt a little rushed toward the end. A lot seemed to happen in a short space of time, presumably because the main story had already been told and the author was just tying up loose ends. But, overall, that didn't bother me much. I really enjoyed this book; both the emotional journey and the history lesson. And I have to say, in a world that loves sword-wielding heroines no older than 21 and pretty-faced broody boys, it’s refreshing to see such an interesting and fleshed out elderly character.
I think this book starts with a wonderful premise. It's a magical realism story - one of my favourite genres - where our world is inhabited by hekamisI think this book starts with a wonderful premise. It's a magical realism story - one of my favourite genres - where our world is inhabited by hekamists. Hekamists essentially grant wishes through spells, but every wish comes with a price; a price both monetary and otherwise. For example, wishing for beauty would cost you some mental capabilities.
I love a "be careful what you wish for" tale, and this is exactly that. It also has a wonderful setting that fits with the now/then format of the novel. It's set near the beach and the "before" takes place in the summer when teenagers are having fun on the sand and everyone's taking a much-needed break. The "after" is set in January - and is there anything more gloomy and depressing than a beach vacation kind of place in the winter? It looked set to be a very atmospheric novel.
Unfortunately, it wasn't. For a start, there were way too many perspectives and central characters. Ari, Win, Markos and Kay get their own chapters, but Diana and Echo are equally central in the plot. All of these people had their own little stories and, instead of tying together in an interesting way, the book just tried to do too much and tell too many people's stories. I found myself unable to care about any of them.
The basic plot follows these teens as they all make wishes and are forced to pay the price. We begin with Ari purchasing a wish to forget her dead boyfriend (Win) and suffering the physical consequences of it, which leads to her having difficulties returning to ballet. Then we learn of other wishes that have been made and are being made as the story moves along.
I think the biggest problem for me was that the characters and their wishes all seemed a bit immature and stupid. And I just can't deal with immature and stupid characters. Alarm bells started ringing in the first chapter when Ari just seems a bit dense. First, she finds $5000 in the back of her closet and instead of wondering who it belongs to or how it got there, she decides it's a sign and uses it to buy a spell. Just like that. Secondly, the hekamist asks her if she's ever bought any spells in the past because it's extremely dangerous to mix them and she lies and says no.
Ari knows she's a ballet dancer and will suffer physical pain if she gets another wish and yet she lies and goes ahead and does it. Stupid. And all of the wishes seem a bit lame and immature, to be honest. Beauty... forgetting a boyfriend... making sure your best friends can never leave you. I think this will seem silly to most people, even young adult readers.
It's just very not interesting. The characters are bland at best and irritating at worst. There's a silly blackmail subplot going on that didn't interest me in the slightest - I think we were supposed to be worried that the secret would come out, but it was hard to care.
“Make sure they never forget. You are the Calipha of Khorasan, and you have the ear of a king.” She bent forward and lowered her voice. “And, most im“Make sure they never forget. You are the Calipha of Khorasan, and you have the ear of a king.” She bent forward and lowered her voice. “And, most important, you are a fearsome thing to behold in your own right.”
My original plan was to finish this book tonight and then write up a review tomorrow, but after that ending, I just can't stop thinking about it and I need to get my thoughts down right now. In short: I enjoyed this book very much. Way more than I expected to, to tell the truth. And I guess you should know that, though there are many elements of fantasy and action, it is primarily a romance. And yet...
It completely melted my cold, unromantic heart.
Where should I start? The Wrath and the Dawn was a deliciously angsty, sexy romance inspired by A Thousand and One Nights. If you know me, you know how often I complain about romances - either the guy's a jerk, the girl's annoying or they fall into some crazy instalove that just leaves me bored. Well, I finally found a romance where I just loved the characters, totally obsessed over what would happen, and finished the final page with a pounding heart.
My god, what has this book done to me?
This story is about Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan, who takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. When Shahrzad's friend becomes the Caliph's victim, Shazi volunteers herself with a plan to outwit the evil ruler and exact revenge. In a similar way to Keturah and Lord Death, Shazi extends her date with death by telling Khalid a story and promising only to reveal what happens next if he should let her live another day.
As it turns out, of course, nothing is as it first seems and Khalid is hiding many secrets. The relationship between the two develops from seething hatred (on Shazi's part) to reluctant companions to something much more. I've been craving a romance that feels genuine in its development and actually has me wondering how things will turn out (and, god help me, the jury's still out on that last point). The dialogue between them is addictive and feels natural... and don't you just love stories within stories?
Though I said this book is primarily a romance, there are many other things that need mentioning. There are some beautiful descriptions of the palace, for one thing, and a wonderful cast of secondary characters that all feel important to the story and not just throwaway. Jalal is charming and hilarious, Despina is a source of much-needed female friendship for Shazi, Yasmine is intriguing and bitchy (but kinda in a good way) and Tariq inspired a mixture of love/hate feelings in me.
Sure, it's not a perfect book. I definitely think Shazi didn't try so hard to get her revenge and missed a bunch of opportunities, and I was a little frustrated with how long it took Khalid to trust her with his secret. But, oh well.
If you're partial to a bit of romance, then hear me out. A book which contains lines like the following and manages to make me swoon instead of rolling my eyes must be something kind of special:
“My soul sees its equal in you.”
“What are you doing to me, you plague of a girl?” he whispered. “If I’m a plague, then you should keep your distance, unless you plan on being destroyed.” The weapons still in her grasp, she shoved against his chest. “No.” His hands dropped to her waist. “Destroy me.”
“Sometimes I think people take reality for granted.”
I stand by my earlier claim - YA contemporary is where it's at this year. I thought this book wa“Sometimes I think people take reality for granted.”
I stand by my earlier claim - YA contemporary is where it's at this year. I thought this book was excellent. Compelling, addictive, really weird and excellent. It was such an unusual novel; I can personally say I've never read anything quite like it and it's a great book for discussion. Such an unreliable narrator, constantly blurring the lines between reality and hallucination.
Alex suffers from paranoia and schizophrenia. Her world is full of colours, objects, people and noises that may or may not really be there. She cannot trust her own senses, so she takes pictures of the world around her, knowing that any hallucinations will eventually fade and the reality will be left behind in the image. And I just loved the way the story unfolded.
See, years ago, Alex was first diagnosed when she recounted an incident that no one else seemed to think happened that way. Despite being haunted by this strange false memory, she always told herself that it was part of her mental illness and she had to accept that her memory was lying. Only... then she meets Miles and she begins to wonder if everything about that day was in her head, or if maybe there's something more to the story.
It's fascinating. You don't know what's real and what isn't. The exploration of the line between reality and imagination kept me turning pages at a crazy pace to find out the truth. And it's such a charming little read with a cast of diverse and interesting characters. The dialogue is engaging and witty, without feeling strained like John Green's sometimes does.
I think I liked Alex and Miles because they're both kind of unlikable. Hehe. Alex is moody and antisocial; Miles is a total pain in the ass. But the weird relationship between them made me like them and made me care about them both. The story predictably takes the romantic route, but it happens very gradually and feels like a natural progression. Not the slightest whiff of insta-anything.
Very enjoyable and very unique (at least to me). Highly recommended to all fans of YA contemporary.
A Little Life is a strong contender for the award for the most depressing book I've ever read. I swear I'm not even exaggerating.
At this point, I'm noA Little Life is a strong contender for the award for the most depressing book I've ever read. I swear I'm not even exaggerating.
At this point, I'm not certain whether this is a positive or negative review. There's no doubt that this book is beautifully-written and contains some of the most raw and honest prose I've ever had the pleasure or misfortune of reading, but it's a long very long character study - over 700 pages of misery, substance abuse, self-harm, sexual and psychological abuse (and its aftermath), with very little of that "light" promised in the blurb.
There's a section of this book called "The Happy Years" and never has a title been more misleading, if you ask me. But let me give you some idea what this book is about first. It starts with four young friends moving to New York - poor and uncertain of themselves - and trying to make their way. The characterization of JB, Malcolm, Willem and Jude is, to put it plainly, marvelous. They are such complex, well-crafted individuals with their own passions, hopes and fears.
While the book details the lives of all four of them, Jude finds himself at the centre of this story, influencing the lives of his three friends. The more you read of A Little Life, the more you realize that it is really a novel about Jude, and the other three characters - though important - are secondary to the story of Jude's journey from a childhood full of sexual abuse to an unhappy adulthood.
Those promised "The Happy Years" are some of the most heartbreaking chapters I've ever read. I read another review where the person said she had to put the book down because this part of the book was too close and personal. To quote the reviewer:
I feel like someone shoved their hand in my torso and started stroking my organs while a therapist sits there observing and then asks me, "now, how does that make you feel?"
I know what she means. It's brutally, painfully honest. It makes you feel like you're witnessing something you shouldn't be in the relationship between Willem and Jude. And, by the way, it is one of the most interesting, strange and truly depressing relationships I've ever encountered. Jude loves Willem and Willem loves him in return, but Jude is incapable of enjoying sex because of his childhood. The fear he feels that this loving relationship will be pulled apart by his own problems is palpable, and the lengths he goes to in order to conceal his issues made me so sad for him.
It really is the strangest relationship (I'm saying that in a good way), as it's built on friendship and the need for one of them to save the other, even though Willem doesn't even identify himself as gay and has always liked women before. I found this fact especially interesting and especially touching - that the love and bond between them transcended sexuality. I liked how unusual it was and how raw it was.
But I can foresee the future onslaught of negative reviews that call this book "torture porn". It is so helplessly bleak. Everything bad that can possibly happen to Jude seems to happen and even when he finds someone to love him in his "happy years", that too is tainted by his past:
“The sorrow he felt when he realized that even Willem couldn’t save him, that he was irredeemable, that this experience was forever ruined for him, was one of the greatest of his life.”
Also, I find that very few books actually need to have this many pages. Almost all books over 600 pages seem too long to me, with many scenes feeling like they weren't needed and should be cut out. While I appreciated the depth of the character development, I'm certain that at least 100 pages of this book could have been shed without losing any emotional punch. Some of the character development felt dragged out way too long; one instance that comes to mind is the descriptions of JB's art - from his time building models out of hair, to his paintings - I feel like my understanding of JB and his relationship with art could have been achieved in far fewer pages.
This is one of those books that brings a whole lot of genius to the table but very little real enjoyment. It's long, slow in parts, and very VERY depressing. But if you are not put off by the length and the dark subject matter, I would say it's the kind of book that needs to be read. It's the kind of book people will talk about and it's the kind of book that has you saying "this is the most ________ book/relationship/characterization I have ever read".
I get an erection the moment I first lay eyes on her.
Which is a) kinda weird and b) way too fast. Hell, whatever happened to flirtationsFirst line:
I get an erection the moment I first lay eyes on her.
Which is a) kinda weird and b) way too fast. Hell, whatever happened to flirtations and sexual tension? If you want me to give a damn about the guy's penis, then you gotta work a bit harder for it instead of speeding towards the ERECTIONZ. Jeez, just tease me.
Also, please don't refer to a woman's body as her "hills and valleys". Please....more
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Isabelle. Paris is overrun. The Nazis control the city. What is an eighteen-year-old girl to do about all of that?”
What, ind“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Isabelle. Paris is overrun. The Nazis control the city. What is an eighteen-year-old girl to do about all of that?”
I really didn't know what to expect going into The Nightingale. Given the quote about love and war in the blurb, I kind of thought it might be an historical romance set during the Second World War - like the world really needs another The Bronze Horseman. But it turned out to be so much more than that.
There are love stories in The Nightingale, but that's not really what the book is about. It's about women in wartime, and it's an interesting, moving portrait of the Nazi occupation of France and what this meant for all the wives, daughters and widows left behind. We're told in the book that men always assume war is about them - it's true - so this is the untold story of the home front.
These are the women who are forced to house Nazi soldiers, the women who are manipulated into betraying their friends, the women who wish they could fight for their country and the women who secretly do. The main story is about two very different sisters - Vianne and Isabelle - who are trying to survive during wartime.
Vianne is older and misses her husband (who is in a Nazi war camp); she must deal with her rebellious younger sister and the Nazi soldier living in her home, whilst also making sure her daughter doesn't starve. Isabelle is one of those borderline insufferable characters that also inspires affection. She reminds me of fiery, annoying, but ultimately lovable heroines like Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind and Kitty from The Painted Veil. The best thing about her, though, is her growth. She starts out a naive 18 year old who falls in love with handsome young men instantly, and she later grows into someone wiser. I loved the way her characterization was handled.
On that note about falling in love, this book throws up a number of red herrings. When Isabelle instantly falls for Gaetan, I was rolling my eyes and thinking "oh great. It's that kind of book." But don't worry, that isn't the story being told here and Isabelle has a lot to learn. It's a multilayered book and none of the relationships are straight forward.
And it's also incredibly sad and moving in parts, as a book about war generally is. Children in wartime are forced to grow up so fast in order to survive. Take, for example, this exchange between Vianne and her daughter:
“Vianne cupped Sophie’s thin face in her hands. “Sarah died last night,” she said gently. “Died? She wasn’t sick.” Vianne steeled herself. “It happens that way sometimes. God takes you unexpectedly. She’s gone to Heaven. To be with her grandmère, and yours.” Sophie pulled away, got to her feet, backed away. “Do you think I’m stupid?” “Wh-what do you mean?” “She’s Jewish.” Vianne hated what she saw in her daughter’s eyes right now. There was nothing young in her gaze—no innocence, no naïveté, no hope.”
You really get a sense of how the Nazis took over the lives of the French people. How it was subtle and manipulative, built on fear. They gradually caused divisions within communities, scaring people into betraying their friends.
It wasn't a perfect book, if there is such a creature. There were some slow parts that could have been shortened or edited out all together. And I wish the author hadn't used a bunch of American terms and measurements. For example, a "cup" measurement is not used in France. But whatever, I enjoyed it a lot.
In the silence between them, she heard a frog croak and the leaves fluttering in a jasmine-scented breeze above their heads. A nightingale sang a sad and lonely song.
Vanishing Girls pulls out an ambitious reveal towards the end that would have caused uproar of the very besA slow build to a disappointing conclusion.
Vanishing Girls pulls out an ambitious reveal towards the end that would have caused uproar of the very best kind about five to ten years ago. However, I agree with Wendy's summation of the "twist"... in 2015, this just isn't that original or different anymore. A person who's read a bunch of psychological thrillers will see the ending coming from a mile off.
But that's not all. I've steadily developed more and more of a dislike for the way Lauren Oliver writes. Other reviewers and professional critics have commented on how much she has improved as a writer since her early days of Before I Fall and such. I know why they're all saying that, but I adamantly disagree. In fact, I find today's Lauren Oliver to be an author who writes some incredibly awkward sentences, especially when using similes. She compares her characters' actions and feelings to things that a) make me cringe, and/or b) make no sense.
“It bothers me that she calls it the Drink. That’s our name for it, a nonsense nickname that stuck, and it feels wrong that she knows—like a doctor probing your mouth with his fingers.”
I appreciate that this is something personal to me and many people probably understand the relationship between someone knowing a nickname and the sensation of a doctor probing your mouth, but it just reads so clumsy and awkward to me. Okay, I'm not an idiot. I'm guessing that she means the knowledge of the nickname feels intrusive, like a doctor's fingers also would, but it still doesn't seem to fit. Take this sentence I made up:
The weather was breezy and cold, so Sam wore layer after layer of clothing - like an onion.
Get it? She has layers... like an onion. True, but it still sounds stupid. I only wrote down one example, but I've noticed this multiple times in Vanishing Girls, and also in Rooms. One more example from the latter so you can get an idea what I mean:
"His motions are erratic, like a scarecrow that has just come to life and has to compensate for a spine full of stuffing."
I know picking apart the language makes it seem like I'm fussing over nothing, but these comparisons/similes happen often and are so odd that I find myself being pulled out of the story and thinking "huh?"
Still, Oliver draws you into the relationship between the two sisters - Nick and Dara - and their lives. I like how she portrays the intricate layers of love and jealousy they have for each other. The majority of the novel reads like a slow-moving contemporary, but I still managed to be pulled along to the end by the promise of something interesting and twisty happening.
Unfortunately, too much hangs on the ending. I was dragged through the book by my need to know what was going on and what would happen, only to discover that my early suspicions had been correct. If you're new to thrillers, then I can see you enjoying this book but, if not, I don't think you'll find anything mind-blowing.
Becoming Rain is a book about the worst FBI agent ever. No exaggeration.
I've been in the mood for some romance lately so I've been checking out recenBecoming Rain is a book about the worst FBI agent ever. No exaggeration.
I've been in the mood for some romance lately so I've been checking out recent releases that sound interesting. Unfortunately, every book seems to be one more reminder why I keep taking long breaks from the romance genre - there is so much bad. In my experience, though, I have more luck with romances that are combined with other genres - fantasy, historical or mystery - so when I saw that this highly-rated book was romantic suspense, I thought maybe it was time to fall in love.
“I take easy, slow steps, keeping my face calm as I scramble to come up with a story. This is one of my strengths—lying—and yet right now I’m drawing a blank.”
But I did not bargain for the female MC, Clara (aka "Rain") being such a moron. I honestly don't know how she got her job or came out of this undercover mission alive. In the book, she’s undercover with potentially murderous criminals and every few pages she’s like “Oops! Just gave up some info about my personal life! Better fix it with really bad lies." I mean, that's before we even get to the bit where she falls for her target - Luke - because he's PRETTEH. I could be a better FBI agent than her.
We're constantly told how Luke is different from her previous targets because he's gorgeous and charming. According to Clara, that's the difference between the criminals who deserve it and the criminals who are just misunderstood - a pretty face. Oh, give me a break. She's supposed to be a smart, career-focused woman, and yet all of that turns to mush when she's faced with a hot guy.
And that not-so-subtle blow to feminism is nowhere near the end of it. But let me break down the basic plot first before I continue. Clara is an FBI agent going undercover to try and bust a notorious car theft ring in Portland. Luke is the nephew of one of the ring's main guys and his uncle wants him to take over the "business". Clara must worm her way into Luke's life as "Rain" and find out as much information as she can. However, Clara's training could not prepare her for a six-pack and a large penis so, alas, she starts to fall for Luke.
But Clara isn't just stupid, vapid and senseless, oh no, she also hates almost every single woman in the book. She looks down on "that type" of woman:
“These ones stalk through life with their stunning faces and perfect figures—either naturally granted or acquired with the help of a plastic surgeon—with the single goal of climbing the boyfriend ladder until they reach the top and become the wife of a rich husband who will cater to their every high-maintenance need. They’re vapid. Insecure. Unkind. I can’t stand their type. And I can’t stand the kind of guys who are attracted to them.”
You know what I can't stand? Women who shame other women for NO GOOD FUCKING REASON. Like you're so much better, Clara! You can't even stay on the job for two minutes without getting all caught up in those pretty eyes. Moron.
And this one:
“Maybe she made him breakfast. Maybe they did it again before she made him breakfast. Does that kind of girl even know how to fry an egg?”
What is "that kind of girl", anyway? You mean, the kind that has casual sex with a guy? What the fuck does that have to do with her intelligence or capability of frying an egg? Let me tell you, I'd much rather be the kind of girl who has casual sex than the kind of girl who jeopardizes an entire FBI operation because she couldn't get her shit together and do her job. And, by the way, if she's "that kind of girl", then that would make the guy you're falling for "that kind of guy", right? Or is it supposed to be different with guys? Fuck, you might as well just embroider a flag with "Feminism" and set fire to it.
But I saved the worst quote for last. There's a scene in the book where Clara is with a male colleague who is basically implying - correctly - that she is incapable of doing her job because - incorrectly - women have a tendency to get all caught up in their emotions and fall for their targets. How does Clara react?
“I could get offended, chew him out for treating me like a weak woman, but I know his concern comes from a good place, so I simply smile and nod.”
That's right, ladies. When you're talked down to by your male colleagues, remember that it comes from a good place, so just smile, nod and don't make a fuss.
It's amazing how your opinion of a book can do a complete U-turn by the time it's over. For the first third of Hearts of Fire, I honestly thought I woIt's amazing how your opinion of a book can do a complete U-turn by the time it's over. For the first third of Hearts of Fire, I honestly thought I would be writing a positive review. The writing was a little shaky in parts and I think there were a bunch of missed opportunities with regard to the description/atmosphere of the circus, but it was fun, the characters were interesting and it seemed very different.
Back when I was enjoying this book, I thought I would start my review with this quote:
“And then he was walking out onto the stage, two long metal torches in his hands, the tips blazing with fire. My skin prickled with awareness, and somehow I just knew I was in for something truly amazing.”
Ooh la la, right? If someone had told me at this point just how bad this book was going to get, I may not have believed them. In this NA romance craze, so many books look alike that I find myself doing a double take whenever I discover a book doing something different, in a different setting, with different kinds of characters. This book had that.
Instead of being set in the United States, this book starts in Ireland. When Lille runs away with the circus - looking for adventure, independence and an escape from her overbearing mother - she sets off on a trip to France, making new friends and enemies along the way. Like I said before, I think more could have been done with the atmosphere in the book. I can't help myself imagining how much better and more evocative the circus setting would have been if this book was written by someone like Leah Raeder.
Oh well, I still liked the idea behind it. And what I also really liked was the way the relationship between Lille and Jack was developed. The author builds up their trust for one another through banter and then friendship. It was so rare to see a relationship handled this way and I found myself caring for both characters even more because of it.
And then it all went wrong.
Oh dear, where to start. Okay, so first Lille loses all sense of self and finds herself needing Jack to validate her. I actually can't believe this scene takes place:
“You’re a great artist, Lille,” he said. What he said had been so simple, and yet it felt like just a few words from him, telling me that I didn’t actually suck, had legitimised me. For the first time in my life, I felt real.
Then we get yet another of those scenes where a guy attempts to rape the MC and the love interest turns up to save her. Why is this used in every single NA romance? I swear, it's in almost every single one. Why is rape being used to prove what a big, strong, sexy guy Jack is?
Then there's the crazy, slutty ex who literally threatens to hurt Lille if she doesn't stay away from Jack. Okay, firstly, why does every single NA male have an ex who is an evil nutjob? Are we supposed to compare them to the goodness that is our female MC? And secondly, I find it so strange how all these guys basically cheat on or dump their ex immediately when this new girl comes along, but this is legitimised in the book by said ex being a violent hellbitch.
And then there's the fact that Jack turns into a violent, mentally abusive ass after they start sleeping together. He seemed a little angsty before, but afterwards his behaviour was terrible. He is angry and violent (towards objects and other people, not Lille), he treats her like a disobedient child and orders her not to go out walking by herself. When she does, he's all like:
He grinds against another woman while she is watching because he wants to upset her. He says things like this:
“Flower,” he said quietly. The term of endearment didn’t sound the way it usually did. In fact, it sounded a little threatening. “If you lie to me one more time, you won’t like what happens next.”
This is classic, controlling mental abuse! Before, I wanted them to get together. After, I just wanted her to get as far away as possible.
Oh, and he gets off on hurting women sexually because he was abused by his foster mother. Sounds familiar. *cough*Fifty Shades of Grey*cough*
Though Mr Grey was all about the tie-up and spank stuff. Jack's kink?
“The problem is that it makes me want to pour wax over your skin, press hot matches to your thighs. It makes want to leave marks all over your body until no man can refute that you’re mine.”
Seriously, this book. I don't even know how to begin trying to describe how I feel about 5 to 1. Let's look at all the great points. It's a super quicSeriously, this book. I don't even know how to begin trying to describe how I feel about 5 to 1. Let's look at all the great points. It's a super quick read that I powered through in one sitting. It has so much girl power but ultimately imparts the message that everyone is a human being deserving of respect, regardless of gender or anything else. There is absolutely ZERO romance. That's right... none. I really liked both Sudasa and Kiran. It's full of very important issues relevant to both India and the rest of the world...
And yet, the world-building is sketchy, the society poorly-conceived and the ending so... meh.
I think, given the importance of the issues lying beneath this fictional story, the lens was too narrow. The entire book spans a few days and barely steps outside the world of the "Tests". No wonderful glimpses into a culture so rarely seen in YA, no rich world-building. So many missed opportunities.
The plot begins in the year 2054. After gender selection and female infanticide (a very real problem in India) caused a gender imbalance of 5 to 1 and girls became the target of rapists, the women of Koyanagar decided they could build a better society on their own. They erected a wall around their city and established a matriarchal society in which boys must compete in the Tests for a wife. Men are also deemed unfit for law, politics and medicine; they're only purpose in life is to father daughters.
"Boys are taught only useful things. Things that will help them serve the women in Koyanagar."
What the author basically does is reverse gender roles and circumstances - something which had the potential to be fascinating and powerful. However, while the drama of the Tests is compelling, a closer look reveals that this book is built on a very loose premise that only manages to hold up the novel because we are shown such a small amount of this world.
For one thing, how were these women simply able to seize a city and name themselves the leaders? That's like me just deciding one day that I want to build a wall around my home town, declare myself president, and everyone just being all "well, this sucks, but better do as she says". Sadly, that will never happen. Also, we are told that boys are no longer trusted but never told why. I understand how great an idea it is to reverse the gender roles in India and make girls more desired and the boys disposable, but without the whys and hows, it's just an interesting concept that never evolves into a believable story.
It seems like I've been very negative but I did enjoy this book. It was told from two POVs - Sudasa in free verse and Kiran in prose - and I really liked both characters. They were strong, pleasingly rebellious, and I sympathized with both their situations. Oddly, I actually wouldn't have minded a romance between the two of them. Bloody typical. But the lack of romance was a pleasant change. I feel like many authors build up the characterization of their male and female MCs through their romance with each other, whereas Sudasa and Kiran were interesting in their own right.
The ending kind of drifts off and I thought it seemed like a bit of a cop-out, but part of me wonders if the author has deliberately left it open for a potential second book. The many problems aside, if that is the case, then I'd like to read it.
.............................................................. Before reading:
Reasons this could be really amazing:
- It is a dystopia set in a future India - The gender imbalance is a very real issue - It could provide interesting social commentary - It is told in two POVs, one in verse and the other in prose
I am trying not to get too excited that an original YA dystopian concept might exist, but...
2 1/2 stars. Erm. I think I have a love/hate relationship with Hoover's work. I keep coming back for more of her addictive writing style, despite havi2 1/2 stars. Erm. I think I have a love/hate relationship with Hoover's work. I keep coming back for more of her addictive writing style, despite having so many issues with her characters and slut-shaming. Though, I think it's official that I enjoy her far more when she's writing intriguing, possibly supernatural thrillers with Tarryn Fisher, than when she's writing contemporary romance. Never Never is still my favourite. But Confess is not too bad.
One of the things that almost always bugs me about Hoover's novels is the way she characterizes her female protagonists. They're bland, innocent, good girls and often victims. They slut-shame other women, and when they start to behave in a flirtatious or sexual way themselves, we're treated to a piece of inner dialogue where they chastise themselves:
“What the hell am I doing? I don’t do this kind of thing. I don’t invite guys into my home. Texas is turning me into a whore.”
The annoying use of whore aside, what is this, the 1800s?
Auburn Reed is another example of this. But I am prepared to admit that I think this is deliberate in a Bella Swan kinda way. Because Hoover is writing contemporary romance, I think she leaves her female protagonists deliberately open for interpretation so that her readers can imagine themselves in the story. I get it. I just don't really like it.
There's also a bunch of the usual tropes. The guy (Owen) has had many girlfriends but Auburn is inexperienced. There's another total douche in the picture whose attempted sexual assault (yes, another one!) of Auburn is supposed to make Owen look better. Owen is flawlessly beautiful, not a blemish to be found:
“...skin that looks so flawless, it makes me want to chase his father down and give him a high five for creating such an impeccable son.”
I suppose these are all small bits and pieces. My real gripe is that I never really got a sense of the sexual/romantic chemistry between Auburn and Owen. There were many things about their relationship that I liked (and will talk about in a minute) but I never wanted them to be together, which is generally the whole point of a romance novel. Instead of roaring "YES!" when they slept together, I found myself wanting to skim read the sex scenes.
Okay. So there's all the negative. Now, I can talk about what I did like.
Firstly, aside from his good looks, Owen seemed very different from other NA love interests. He was quirky, weird even, and a bit pretentious and hipster in a way that actually made him interesting, rather than annoying. I found his oddness charming. Secondly, there's a reveal about Auburn which I didn't see coming and thought was an unusual addition to a NA romance. I liked it.
I also really like it when authors attempt to do something a bit different, especially in a genre that is defined by cliches and tropes. In Maybe Someday, Hoover combined music and writing by releasing an album alongside the book with songs supposedly written by the characters. In Confess, Owen is an artist and there are some beautiful illustrations in the book. On top of the artwork itself, I really love the inspiration behind his art. He welcomes anonymous confessions in a dropbox at his art studio and his work is inspired by them. Very different.
Owen was a very interesting character overall and it actually seems a shame that he was wasted on a romance novel where I didn't buy into their chemistry. Oh well, at least he had some great dialogue with Auburn.
Definitely not a bad book, but I think I will wait for Hoover's less romancey novels. I'm still excited for Never Never: Part Two.
I really wanted to like this after I loved Golden so much. Jessi Kirby has a talent for writing cute, bittersweet romances, but I think this one is juI really wanted to like this after I loved Golden so much. Jessi Kirby has a talent for writing cute, bittersweet romances, but I think this one is just a little too cheesy for me.
I couldn't get past my disdain for the premise: a girl's boyfriend dies and donates his organs, so she tracks down the recipient of his heart and - would you believe - he's a hot surfer dude with pretty eyes. Still, Kirby's writing is lovely as usual, so I'm sure many others will enjoy Things We Know by Heart....more
I tried to hold things together, but I could feel pieces of myself crumbling, turning to dust. “It’s not fair. I’m a girl.” My voice came out in a whiI tried to hold things together, but I could feel pieces of myself crumbling, turning to dust. “It’s not fair. I’m a girl.” My voice came out in a whisper.
2015 so far seems to be an excellent year for YA contemporary. I'm always the kind of person who finds myself attracted to books that promise breathtaking fantasy, magic, prophecies and fast-paced action, and yet so many of those books feel like carbon copies of older works lately. Contemporary has been kicking fantasy's ass with powerful and important tales that need to be told. All the Rage and Little Peach are two others that come to mind.
Do you remember the controversy over Caster Semenya at the World Championships in 2009? Gender testing had found she had four times the normal amount of testosterone for a woman and "might be part-man". There were those who demanded that it was unfair to allow a woman with male parts to compete in female races. And there were those who were outraged at the way Caster was humiliated and paraded before the press when she was, in fact, a woman but has Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS).
Well, this book is about a teenage girl called Kristin who has a full college scholarship, two best friends and a boyfriend who loves her. Until one night she tries to have sex with her boyfriend and something seems to be not quite right. A visit to the doctor reveals that she has AIS, will never get her period or have children, and has testicles inside her body. Having to come to terms with this would be hard enough, but when her secret is leaked to the whole school, she has to deal with all the bullying that follows.
Will her friends still support her? Can her boyfriend still love someone who has male parts? It's hard not to become so caught up in this story and feel sorry for Kristin at every turn. Kids are so ignorant and quick to judge, and Kristin is finding that out at the hardest time of her life.
The author doesn't miss this interesting opportunity to have a discussion about gender, identity and what it truly means to be either male or female. Is there any difference between men and women, beyond the way we treat them? It's an incredibly important book. Both informative and emotional, balanced between educating its readers and drawing them into the personal turmoil of Kristin's life.
There have been a couple of contemporary YA books lately that have made me emotional, but I've managed to hold off on any actual crying right until the end... and then I read the author's note about their reasons for writing this particular story and the tears just start to come. Fantasy might be full of fast-paced nastiness that has your eyes glued to the page but, believe me, real life does too.
School's out now. It's time to go. Scarlet blood on ivory snow.
When I was about thirteen and in school, this girl said to me in a voice dripping withSchool's out now. It's time to go. Scarlet blood on ivory snow.
When I was about thirteen and in school, this girl said to me in a voice dripping with sarcasm "Nice shoes. Did you get them from Aldi*?" Evidently implying that my shoes were cheap and tacky. Me being the socially clueless specimen I was back then, was totally confused. My shoes weren't even cheap; they were similar to the kind of shoes every other girl was wearing. I honestly thought this girl was mistaken so I tried to explain "Er, do you mean you think they're cheap? Um, no, they're from River Island." The girl looked at me like she'd just scraped me off her shoe and walked off with her friends, all of them rolling their eyes. They probably muttered something like "weirdo" as they walked away. I forget.
Later I understood my error - this conversation had never been about my shoes, it was a power struggle and I had lost. I felt humiliated that I hadn't got it. That I hadn't ignored her, or laughed in her face, or cleverly insulted her back.
This book is about a girl called Rachel who faces the humiliation of losing one power struggle after another. She desperately wants to prove herself but just ends up giving those against her the material they need to look down on her even more. She gradually lets her humiliation and pain turn into hate, rage and eventually revenge.
It's a deeply unsettling novel because it stems from places and emotions many of us will recognise. It takes those familiar situations that inspired embarrassment, frustration and anger... and it gets darker and darker. Rachel is so many things. I felt sympathy for her, I hated her behaviour, I was disgusted by her, I wanted her to get where she needed to be, I wanted her to fail. Despite the title, the one thing Rachel isn't is boring.
This book is a unique blend of Metal music, obsessive female friendships and mass murder. It stands on its own as a compelling story but it also fits in with a new breed of novels that do a twisted, sometimes feminist take on conventional thrillers. Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train and Black Iris are some more that come to mind, and I find myself liking this little sub-genre very much. These are psychological thrillers that are almost more suited to the Contemporary genre - telling the tale of these women's lives, thoughts, desires, insecurities and the madness lurking under the surface. Far more unsettling than the traditional thrillers, in my opinion.
From Rachel's humiliating experience in school, to a guy she liked harshly rejecting her, to the sexist male musicians in the Metal world, we go on this journey with her. She's twisted as fuck, totally unlikable, and yet... the psychological insight we get evokes sympathy for her. Love her or hate her, she's a fascinating character. Being inside her mind makes it hard to put this book down.