4.5/5 stars. Loved it so much, I practically read it straight through and forgot to take any notes. D'oh. Review soon.
I hate staring at a blank pie4.5/5 stars. Loved it so much, I practically read it straight through and forgot to take any notes. D'oh. Review soon.
I hate staring at a blank piece of paper when I’m trying to write a review. Conversely, I love that I was so engrossed in the novel that I neglected to take a single note. Luckily, I’m caught up on reviews and not having to write this three weeks after I read it, so this should be relatively painless.
I loved Saundra Mitchell’s The Vespertine when I read it last year. I hadn’t read much in the way of historical fiction up to that point, but I was blown away with how easily the story pulled me in, and it turned me into a massive fan of the genre. The companion novel to The Vespertine was no different. You don’t have to have read the first novel in this series, but it will help explain some things that the author touched on in The Springsweet.
I didn’t fully appreciate Zora’s character in the first novel. She seemed pushy and flighty, and when things turned out badly for her, she withdrew into herself. That’s the Zora you first meet in The Springsweet. It’s been a year since her beloved Thomas was taken from her, and she’s still depressed and at a loss for what to do with herself. Her mother doesn’t know what to do with her sullen, yet impetuous daughter either. When things take a turn for the worse, Zora is shipped off to Oklahoma to help her young, recently-widowed aunt sustain her homestead.
Zora doesn’t believe she deserves happiness without Thomas. She doesn’t believe she will, nor should she ever, find love again. And so she is content with the manual labor necessary to maintain her aunt’s farmland, and for the most part, it keeps her from dwelling on the past much. But along the way, she unearths some things about herself. She is a springsweet, a water witch, a dowser. Zora can put this previously latent power to good use for other homesteaders and help support her aunt and cousin in the process. But as she learned from her cousin Amelia’s situation in the first book, powers of this nature can be taken for granted…and used against you.
Zora also discovers that she is still alive. That her heart can belong to another, even after the tragedy she has survived. She only has to let herself want it. But there are two boys vying for her heart, and though her aunt pushes her toward the better match, Zora is pulled much more strongly to the boy deemed the wrong choice in the eyes of her aunt.
The characters in The Springsweet are so well-written, so believable that I could envision them perfectly and could almost hear them speaking in a Southern drawl or in a genteel manner, depending on the speaker. Zora narrates the book, and she is from a respectable background, but she has a mouth on her, a tenacity that I found endearing. Her new locale only aids in the loss of her more refined manner. West Glory isn’t quite what she expected, but through the beautiful prose, I could picture it quite clearly. And it made me yearn to go back and read the Little House on the Prairie series.
This isn’t a throw-you-for-a-loop kind of book, and I did find some situations a little predictable, but it wasn’t irritatingly so. As I was reading, it felt as if the book kept growing shorter. I wasn’t ready for it to end! And now that it has, I want the next book, especially after that ending. I expected it, but even so, I’m glad to have my suspicions confirmed and can’t wait to see how it plays out. From gorgeous gowns and balls to open prairie and yummy cowboys, this series just keeps getting better!
Storyline was decent, but characters and interactions left something to be desired. Full review soon. Still debating rating...
Forgive me, friends, I'mStoryline was decent, but characters and interactions left something to be desired. Full review soon. Still debating rating...
Forgive me, friends, I'm kind of working backward on reviews. :(
It’s always easier for me to review a book I purchased myself, mostly because I only buy books I’ll assuredly enjoy. Nonetheless, I received this audiobook from the publisher, and I will try my best to provide an honest review without being too disparaging.
As I said in my preliminary review of this book on Goodreads, the storyline was decent. It’s actually what kept me listening through all eight CDs. I could see where the author wanted to take the story, and it made it easier to understand the character’s actions and motivations. I just wish it wasn’t all so nefarious.
As for the characters, I just couldn’t connect or identify with any of them. If I had to pick one that I actually liked, it would have been Waverly. She made some mistakes, but she realized that, and she still showed true heroism in the end. She did what was needed to ensure survival of her people…if not for all, at least for those it mattered most. The character interactions and the dialogue between the characters, at least when told through Kieran’s POV, were just unpleasant to listen to. Not that the events told through Waverly’s were much better, but at least they were of a more mature nature, with much less name-calling and violence.
I think my biggest issue with this novel, is the fact that SO much is crammed into one book, despite the fact that this is the first book in a series. The synopsis makes it sound as if the love story (possible triangle?) is first and foremost, but it really takes a backseat to the colonization of New Earth. Not a problem for me, since I find that sometimes the romantic elements can really bog down a terrific story, but if you were hoping for a love triangle, you’ll be upset, at least in this first installment.
I think there are some that will say that if you like the Across the Universe series by Beth Revis, you will enjoy this series as well, but I cry foul. The premise is slightly similar, but Revis unravels her sci-fi tale beautifully, keeping the reader engrossed while hinting at things to come. But I felt that Glow rushed through so much with no time for reflection and barely any time for reaction.
One thing I would like to point out, with regards to the audiobook, is that I have a newfound appreciation for narrator Ilyana Kadushin. I didn’t much care for her narration of All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin because it felt like she wasn’t involved in the story…couldn’t care less about the characters and what happened to them. However, upon listening to her performance of Glow, I realize that maybe her interpretation of the Zevin story was that Anya didn’t care so much. Because her rendition of Glow was such that I actually felt sad for Waverly’s circumstances. As for the other narrator, the voice of Kieran, my feelings are neutral. It’s not his fault the dialogue between the boys left on the ship was so mundane and juvenile. I do think that I might have preferred the audio with one single narrator, but as the story was told from two separate points-of-view, from two separate ships for the majority of the book, I guess that couldn’t be helped.
An aside: I also received a finished copy of this book from the publisher at ALA Midwinter, and had I been reading from the text myself, I might have thrown the book across the room a few times out of frustration.
I loved Incarnate. I love the whole idea of reincarnation and soul mates. Add to that dragons and sylph and other mythical creatures, and you’ve got aI loved Incarnate. I love the whole idea of reincarnation and soul mates. Add to that dragons and sylph and other mythical creatures, and you’ve got a book that I would have read in one sitting, had work and sleep not interfered.
This is the kind of book you need an open mind for. The premise is very unique, which means the author has to explain A LOT. And, understandably, she doesn’t explain everything in this book since it’s only the first in a series. But the world that’s been built up to this point is phenomenal. One does have to make some assumptions about the setting of Incarnate, such as what planet, when, or what dimension this story takes place in – at least for the time being – but I think that those with a more active imagination will consider this a flight of fancy and can overlook the more minor details.
The cast of characters in Incarnate was well-fleshed out, and I think that they were described well enough that should I run across them on the street, I’d recognize them immediately. Ana is a newsoul, though she disparagingly refers to herself as a nosoul throughout the entirety of the book because she was raised by her crass and unloving mother to believe that she had no soul and would therefore not be reincarnated upon death. She is the first of her kind, and no one really knows what to do with her. For the most part, she is ostracized for being different, but there are some who either take pity on her or simply don’t feel that she should be made an example of, especially considering her birth and resulting newsoul status is through no fault of her own. Sam is her most strident supporter, and he quickly becomes her closest friend and companion, once she allows him to get close to her.
And, yes, as her closest companion, Ana ends up spending the majority of her time in Sam’s company, and as is the way with these things, feelings of more than friendship blossom. The love story is a familiar one in young adult novels: naïve girl falls for much, much older man-boy, and in order to protect the girl, the guy tries to keep his distance and keep his feelings in check...to no avail. The guy always ends up falling for the girl in the end. The romance in Incarnate is much the same, but it’s still unbelievably sweet, and it progresses gradually.
The reincarnation aspect of the book is fascinating. It’s been going on for 5000 years, but with the sudden appearance of Ana, everyone begins to wonder if she’s a fluke or if her birth means the beginning of the end of reincarnation. It’s also interesting how many times the citizens of this world have been reincarnated, and that they keep their memories from previous incarnations. Stranger still is the idea that soul mates can transcend individual lifetimes, and though they may be different sexes or ages, they are still inevitably drawn to each other in the next life. Essentially, they’re all building on previous lives, not starting over each time. Well, everyone except Ana.
I really wanted to give this one the full five stars because I really did enjoy every minute I was reading it. But there were a couple of things that bothered me. First off, I really dislike the word stupid. It just carries such a negative connotation, no matter the manner in which it is used. And the word was repeated a lot throughout Incarnate. I just feel there are many, better alternatives to this word. Also, I felt that it showed no faith in the reader that the origin of the book’s title had to be pointed out in the text, rather than leaving us to infer how the title came to be.
Aside from that, this story was simply lovely, and I am already counting the days till book two is released. Rarely have I read such an inventive and imaginative story, and I was blown away with how it was all executed. This novel was one of my top picks for 2012 debuts and deservedly so.
Maybe my expectations for this book were too high, or maybe it was just too hyped to begin with, but I just couldn’t connect to the characters or theMaybe my expectations for this book were too high, or maybe it was just too hyped to begin with, but I just couldn’t connect to the characters or the story the way I would have liked. I love the whole aspect of time travel, but rather than be mysterious and science-fictiony (yup, another review where I make up my own words) like I had anticipated, it felt more like a rip-off of that movie Jumper. And not in a good way.
The premise is intriguing, though not all that original. However, the time travel itself is rather different, though that doesn’t mean it’s easy to understand…at all. Some things are explained well enough, like how Jackson got stuck in 2007 in the first place, but I found the logic questionable when it came to traveling along the same timeline or departing from one’s own timeline altogether. The general rules for time travel definitely needed some clarification, but maybe the reader is supposed to learn about them as Jackson does. Though he clearly had no idea what he was getting into when he started his little time travel experiments with his friend Adam and landed himself in all of this hot water in the first place.
I found the characters lacking and generally cliché. As formulaic as the plot was, the characters should have been exceptional and well-rounded, but they just fell flat. Jackson is supposed to be your typical hot, rich guy with commitment issues. And he totally fits the bill. But through this ordeal, he should show some growth, and though there are times when his character shows promise, he never truly lives up to his potential. His sacrifice is just as much selfish as it is noble.
Holly is your average girl-next-door who somehow manages to land the super-hot, rich guy, though he’s clearly not her type. Adam, who was friends with Holly before he ever met Jackson, is suddenly best buds with him, but that’s predictably because he’s the nerdy, science type, and he’s helping Jackson figure out this whole time-travel thing. And, of course, neither of them thinks to tell Holly what’s going on until it’s too late and the evil “Enemies of Time” are hot on Jackson’s trail.
I think that too much focus on time travel itself detracted from the actual storyline, and the fact that so much time travel occurs in a relatively short span of time left me reeling. I understand that the role of the first book in a trilogy is to grab the reader’s attention and guarantee that they’ll want to read the rest of the series, but I found much of this novel to be an information dump rather than an actual story. Considerably less time could have been spent on Jackson being chased through time and instead spent on aspects that are clearly going to be important in Jackson’s future (or past or present or wherever he ends up), such as his dead sister and the little girl who travels from the future (or a future timeline?) who just happens to look very much like his dead sister. Also, the romance was sweet, but most of it was just fluff, only serving as a detour from Jackson’s true purpose or calling or whatever you want to call it.
Despite my feelings toward this novel, it’s received quite a bit of buzz. The film rights have already been snapped up by Summit Entertainment, even before the novel has been officially published and released into the wild. And as I mentioned before, this is only the first novel in a planned trilogy, and a massive marketing campaign is in the works. I wish I could say I think it deserves all of the attention it’s garnering, but regardless of my thoughts on this first installment and how it’s being handled, I’m definitely intrigued enough by what I suspect is to come that I’ll pick up future installments.
Much appreciation goes out to Wendy Darling for offering up her ARC for this tour. The link to the ARC tour can be found here....more
Please stop by The Starry-Eyed Revue for an interview with Fracture author Megan Miranda and a GIVEAWAY -- an ARC of Fracture and a bookplate signed bPlease stop by The Starry-Eyed Revue for an interview with Fracture author Megan Miranda and a GIVEAWAY -- an ARC of Fracture and a bookplate signed by Megan! Giveway ends 2/29!
This story was so unexpected and surprising. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I almost didn’t even give it a try. I passed it up several times on Netgalley because I was afraid it would be too contemporary for my taste. I’m glad I did eventually read it, though, because it’s now going on my favorites shelf. Seriously…it’s not very often that I’m left completely satisfied at the end of a novel. And it appears that this is a stand-alone…bonus points for that.
The entire time I was reading this story, I kept thinking to myself, she could be writing about me. The mistakes, the heartbreak, even the academic aspect felt all-too familiar to me. At least, the teenage version of me. And yet, the story was unpredictable. It doesn’t skip a beat getting right to the action, and though it’s not explosive action, there’s never a lull in the storyline. When I wasn’t reading the book, I was thinking about it, and I stayed up way past my bedtime trying to find a good place to stop for the night. (There’s not one…I suggest you read it straight through if you can.)
Fracture is reminiscent of Kimberly Derting’s The Body Finder series, except instead of being lured by the imprints of dead bodies as Violet is, Delaney seems to be drawn to those who are on the brink of death. Even the best friend/potential boyfriend angle is similar, but it’s handled so differently in Fracture that that’s where the similarity ends.
The characters were very realistic, as were the character interactions. I never once thought, A real teenager wouldn’t say that. Delaney was impulsive and stubborn and afraid of being hurt, just like any other girl. Her relationship with her best friend Decker was strained after the accident because everything had changed, and he was harboring some serious guilt. Her parents treated her like she was someone else, someone they didn’t know. And yet Delaney persevered, threw herself into her studies to try to get back to normal. Enter Troy. Like matters weren’t complicated enough.
If the story itself wasn’t perfectly orchestrated, that ending sure was. Wow. I’m not one to be easily surprised either. I’ve been reading for a long time, and I’ve come to expect certain things from the writing in this genre, and most of the time, those expectations are met, be that good or bad. But with this novel, I can honestly say I did not see that ending coming. Actually, I didn’t see a lot of what was coming in this story. I know many are raving about this book, and I have to agree…this is definitely one book not to miss!
After reading Fracture, check it out on Facebook to read a short story told from Decker's POV from the eleven minutes Delaney was under the ice to when she wakes up, six days later. Your only payment is a tweet or a Facebook share. Enjoy!
I’m going to be honest. This is going to be a hard review to write. Not because I didn’t like the book – I LOVED IT – but because I’m so afraid of accI’m going to be honest. This is going to be a hard review to write. Not because I didn’t like the book – I LOVED IT – but because I’m so afraid of accidentally spoiling something. I didn’t read a single review before plunging into this book, and I can honestly say I was pleasantly shocked at the direction the novel took at times, throwing me for loop after loop. I respect and admire a book that can keep me guessing, and The Book of Blood and Shadow did just that.
Robin Wasserman expertly weaves a beguiling tale, full of rich history and the menace of an unseen threat. It’s clear in the writing and in the story that the author did extensive research in preparation for this book, and she even discusses it briefly in the afterword. Though much of the story is based on actual events, much more is based on a fabled device that would allow the user to converse directly with God. The knowledge of the very existence of this mythical machine has put the lives of Nora – and her closest friends – in jeopardy.
The first half of the story is set at a leisurely pace, carefully crafting the back-story for our characters, showing how well-developed their friendship was and how they were simply normal teenagers, working on an independent study project for school. The story may develop gradually at first but it never feels bogged down in the history of the study group, nor is it weighed down by the actual history of the subject matter being researched. The author balances each focus well, and the end result is a book shrouded in mystery and secret societies, every bit as intellectually stimulating as The Da Vinci Code, which it will almost inevitably be compared to.
The second half of the book is set at a more rapid pace and really ups the ante for our heroine. Nora and what’s left of her friends – after a devastating blow from those who seek the contraption – are in mortal peril. At this point, I’m just going to say it: TRUST NO ONE. Even the hot cousin. Especially the hot cousin. It seems cliché to say that nothing and no one is as it seems, but in this story, there is not a truer sentiment.
This book is not all dire situations and fleeing from crazy religious zealots, though. There’s a good bit of humor laced in there, with witty banter and a hilarious episode where two of the characters pretend to be engaged in order to gain access to an off-limits collection of astronomical manuscripts. There’s also the letters Nora translates from Latin that almost come to consume her in her search for answers. I very much enjoyed the correlation between Nora’s translations of Elizabeth’s letters and the situation Nora is currently faced with in the novel.
There is some romance in the book, as well, but it took a back-seat to the real problem at hand, and I appreciate that no matter how the love story was going at any particular time, it never overshadowed the rest of the story. The only thing that could have done that would have been the setting. Prague became a character in its own right. With the author pouring such beautiful and vivid descriptions into the story, it was no trouble envisioning myself as Nora, searching for answers and pieces to a puzzle she didn’t even know existed.
I’m not sure if this is slated to become a series. Though it’s over 400 pages long, I still had doubts that the author could wrap up the story before the book’s end. However, the ending was immensely satisfying and though left slightly open-ended, I would be content to leave things the way they are on the last page. Conversely, I wouldn’t be disappointed to learn that the author was continuing Nora’s story, either.
Of Poseidon was my first mermaid book, but the merfolk have found a friend in me. It was funny and clever and highly entertaining. I will definitely pOf Poseidon was my first mermaid book, but the merfolk have found a friend in me. It was funny and clever and highly entertaining. I will definitely pick up the other mermaid offerings scheduled for release this year because of it.
By the second page of this novel, I already knew I was going to love the sarcastic, snarky voice of the main character Emma. However, each chapter alternated between Emma’s present-tense, first person point-of-view and a third person point-of-view with Galen’s perspective. Each POV has its perks, but you can deduce more of the story from Galen’s vantage point. Admittedly, this did lead to my own theories as to Emma’s origins, and it became a tad predictable from there.
I enjoyed how strong the female characters in this novel were. Emma may become a pile of goo whenever Galen is near her, but when her safety is compromised and he gets a little controlling, she lets him know in no uncertain terms that she doesn’t take orders from him. And Galen’s twin sister Rayna has all but taken a vow of celibacy to avoid a forced marriage to Toraf, her brother’s best friend and her would-be mate. Of course, that all changes later in the book, but it was nice to see the girls taking charge of themselves and their relationships in the beginning, at least.
I do wish more of the world of the Syrena had been explored, but I realize that the focus of this first novel is getting Emma to acknowledge her gift and everything that entails. The story developed rather quickly after that initial encounter between Emma and Galen, and even with the somewhat predictable nature of the story arc, there was never a dull moment.
If you’re a fan of mermaids, snark, and/or romances with a twist, I’d recommend Of Poseidon. It was a light, fun read and it helped me break out of my reading slump. Of Poseidon was an engaging debut and I can’t wait to read what happens next!
Here are a couple of quotes I found humorous and snarky:
"It's almost as frustrating as Galen's game of hot and cold. Thing is, I'm not sure it's a game. From his expression, there's out-and-out war going on behind the scenes. He leans in, pulls away. Leans in, pulls away. It's like a battle between good and evil. I'm just not sure which one he thinks kissing me is." -- p. 183 of ARC
"So it's a good thing I'm being proactive about my own recovery by going on a date, even if it is a rebound -- and even if I'm rebounding from a relationship that didn't actually exist. My feelings were real. That's all that matters, isn't it? There's no stipulation in the broken-heart rule book that states the relationship had to actually be authentic, right? Sure, I'm gray-shading the line that separates stable and crazy, but the point is, there is a line. And I haven't completely crossed over to lunatic." -- p. 284 of ARC
I've had this book on my shelf since I got a finished copy at ALA Midwinter 2012. I'd heard great things, but I just had-- Mini Review of Audiobook --
I've had this book on my shelf since I got a finished copy at ALA Midwinter 2012. I'd heard great things, but I just hadn't gotten around to it yet. Then I read/listened to Ockler's newest book, and I knew I had to make time for Bittersweet. And magically, it arrived on audio shortly thereafter.
I'm rating this book the same as I did The Book of Broken Hearts, but in all honestly, I think I liked this book better. The narrator was great, and she sounded just as I'd expect a Hudson-like character to sound: independent but also a little whiney. And for some reason, I always find myself really digging stories centering around a figure skating career. My sister was always the one who watched those competitions, but somewhere along the way, I must have developed a taste for the sport myself. Though, it probably does help that there are hot young hockey player studs in this book, as well. =)
My only real complaint with this story, as with may contemporaries, is the use of miscommunication to further the plot or draw out the story. So many misunderstandings and hurt feelings could have been avoided if the characters would have just talked to each other. Aside from that, I really enjoyed this audiobook, and I'll definitely make it a point to read Sarah Ockler's other books.
This. Book. Wins. If this had been the book given to me as my first foray into comtemporary YA -- and granted, it has supernatural elements, what withThis. Book. Wins. If this had been the book given to me as my first foray into comtemporary YA -- and granted, it has supernatural elements, what with the MC being dead and all -- anyway, had this been my first contemporary read, it might have easily led me to decide that contemps were my favorite subgenre. Instead, I've shied away from most anything contemporary and consistently read paranormals with a heavy dose of romance to satisfy my cravings. This book may have changed all that. Don't think that means that I'll forego supernatural stories in favor of lighter, fluffier reads. But I will give all contemps a second thought, instead of immediately dismissing them due to their lack of imaginary beasties.
The Catastrophic History of You & Me is not a book I'll soon forget. It's cute, funny, heart-breaking, sad, beautiful, honest, and a whole slew of other adjectives. Pretty much, I ran a full gamut of emotions while reading this novel. I teared up -- okay, bawled like a baby because I tend to be overly sentimental -- twice within the first two chapters alone. But I also laughed -- a lot -- throughout the book. And I swooned...oh, did I swoon.
Basically, this book takes you through the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance) as Brie deals with each of them after her death. And she's got dreamy lost soul Patrick to help her through them. (Cue the swooning.) I absolutely adored the voice given to Brie. She's witty and sarcastic and well, adorable, even when she makes some questionable decisions. But honestly, who among us wouldn't take the opportunity to spy on our loved ones after we're gone?
The story was one of redemption, of love lost and found again, and of understanding and compassion when others need it most. I thoroughly enjoyed the subtle hints placed throughout the story, and though I figured out what was really going on half-way through, I was still pleasantly surprised at how it came to fruition. It was slightly predictable without being obvious. Also, the chapters are titled after songs, some of them popular love songs, some of them corny songs from the 80s. And Brie herself is a big fan of 80s music. Because I really needed a reason to love her more.
You want to know something else I've decided I like about contemporary novels? A lot of them are stand-alone novels. I love a good series as much as the next girl, but sometimes, you just want to finish a novel in one sitting and revel in that sense of accomplishment, in knowing how the story ends without having to wait for the next installment. So, there's another plus for this story...as if I needed another one. :) I will recommend this debut novel to everyone, and I mean everyone. And if there's any doubt as to why, see the first paragraph of this review again. It's not everyday that a novel can convert me to the lighter side of YA.
And now, one of my favorite passages from the book. (Mind you, this is taken from the ARC I received and may not appear in the final version of the novel...but I'll be really sad to find out if it doesn't make the cut.)
From pages 42 - 44:
I crossed my arms and clenched my jaw, feeling my inner five-year-old beginning to act out. "I. Don't. Have. A. Pen." She pointed at my right hand. "Yes. You. Do." Before I could argue with her, I realized that actually, I did have a pen. Right in my hand, ready to go. I almost fell off my chair. How the hell did that get there?! The weirdest part? I recognized it. No. Way. It was the exact same pen I'd had back in third grade. Back when I was an even bigger dork who got so excited I couldn't sleep before School Supply Shopping Day. The pen was white on top and sky blue on bottom, with six (six!) color options, depending on which button you pushed down. You could even press two buttons down at the same time and mix the colors. (I know.) To a third-grade bookworm who'd spent her entire summer practicing her signature in cursive, this pen was a complete and total thing of beauty. I'd left it in my desk one Friday afternoon, but when I looked for it the following Monday morning, it was gone. We're talking Real Life Elementary School Tragedy. But then, in a very suspicious turn of events, Chloe Lutz--a girl who wore her hair in pigtails every day, for god's sake--showed up with a similar (and by similar I mean identical) pen a few days later. Et tu, Chloe? I knew she took it. Emma, Sadie, and Tess knew she took it. But tattling wasn't an option because our teacher Mrs. Arden had a very harsh No-Tattling policy. I wanted to confront her at recess, but I figured that was a bad idea, considering a) she was a whole foot taller than me and b) she was a brown belt in karate. In the end, I spent the whole rest of that school year watching Chloe have the time of her life pushing my beloved color buttons. Red! No, blue! Oh, isn't this fun? Yes, Chloe Slutz, of course it's fun. That is obviously why I bought it. And now, all these years later, here I was in a grungy pizza parlor in Half Moon Bay, dead since Monday, and holding the very same World's Greatest Pen. SO weird.
First, I had that pen! Second, I think that passage highlights how funny and normal Brie is, and it gives you a little insight into her character.
I’ll admit it. I picked up the ARC of Illuminate simply because of that gorgeous cover. Yes, I’m usually one of the first to complain about the girl-iI’ll admit it. I picked up the ARC of Illuminate simply because of that gorgeous cover. Yes, I’m usually one of the first to complain about the girl-in-a-pretty-dress cover trend. But did you notice the shadow wings? And the pretty curly cues? Pretty cover aside, I had read nary a synopsis, summary, or even the title of this book prior to receiving the ARC. I’ve decided that’s my favorite way to start a book: with no expectations.
I thoroughly enjoyed Illuminate. The story is not wholly unoriginal, but it is a refreshing take on a classic. The allusions and direct references to Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray help ease the reader into the novel and provide a basis for the storyline. But you don’t need to know Dorian Gray’s story to understand the premise of Illuminate. The idea of soul-stealers isn’t new, by any means. I did find the story a little predictable, but not in an obvious way, if that makes sense. I’ve complained about show vs. tell before, and in this story, the reader is given clues to make reasonable assumptions, which made it easier to predict where the story was headed.
Haven is a normal teenage girl, in an atypical sort of way. I immediately connected with Haven’s character because she’s a hard-working student who doesn’t really fit in anywhere – and that pretty much describes my experience throughout school. On the very first page*, she says, “I’ve never much been one for participation. I generally know the answers -- I just don't appreciate the attention that comes from knowing them. Answer correctly and you have further cemented your reputation as a brainy, hopeless outcast. Answer incorrectly, and not only are you considered a bookish nerd, but now you're even bad at that. It was a lose/lose situation." That was me in a nutshell. And upon reading that first page, I was able to transport myself into the pages of this book and become Haven’s character. I freaked out over the weird messages in the mysterious book, just as she did. I fell for Lucian, too, even as Haven was discovering that there was more to the beautiful people working at the hotel along-side her and her fellow interns. And I wanted so badly for us (ha!) to make it out of this thing alive.
The romance between Haven and Lucian is kind of a big deal, but it’s really not. You’ll see what I mean once you read it. Lucian is Mr. Tall, Dark & Handsome, with a side of danger thrown in for good measure. Haven is enamored with Lucian, but amid the impending doom, she keeps her wits about her and doesn’t forget that there are more important matters to deal with. She never fully trusts him or his motives, even if at first it’s only because she can’t fathom that this gorgeous man would choose her company over Aurelia’s – their beautiful, enticing boss at the hotel.
Had it really been me in Haven’s position, I don’t know if I would have been as open-minded and easily swayed by what appeared in that mysterious book. It would be a hard pill to swallow, indeed. I like that she doesn’t second-guess herself too much and gets right down to business, though, and that we get to see how the other two interns are handling the stresses and strangeness of the hotel, even if it’s only from Haven’s perspective. And it’s through Haven that we also see one friendship on the brink and another alliance forging. Haven’s going to need all the friends she can get in a place like that!
This 2012 debut may not have been on my radar, but I’m hoping to help put it on yours. It’s a lengthy book, but it never felt long to me. The writing was gorgeous and the story flowed beautifully because of it. The characters were well-developed and essential to the story, some more for their comedic relief than anything else. Pretty much, I loved everything this book had to offer.
Illuminate follows the winding and twisting path of a girl who’s only just realizing who she is, and it’s a book that is not to be missed.
*Mind you, this quote was taken from the ARC and may not appear in the final book.
When I picked up a copy of Shadow and Bone at ALA in January, I hadn’t the slightest inkling how much hype it would receive in the*** 4 1/2 stars ***
When I picked up a copy of Shadow and Bone at ALA in January, I hadn’t the slightest inkling how much hype it would receive in the coming months. Once I did begin to hear whispers about how fabulous this book was, I was scared that it would be over-hyped as books so often are, and that I would walk away from the book, frustrated that it had not wowed me in the least bit. Two things I must get through my thick skull: 1) stop judging books by their covers because a pretty cover does not a pretty story make, and 2) let a book speak for itself, meaning stop listening to the rumors of awesomeness and reading the reviews that deem books unworthy.
In this particular case, the hype was justified. I read the book in about two days, though I could have sat and read it cover to cover if I’d had the opportunity. I was so swept away by this story, so engrossed in it, that I couldn’t even be bothered to take notes. But I personally think you should go into this story with low expectations so that you, too, can be completely blown away. It’s equal parts fantasy, romance, magic and destruction, and it’s 100% awesome.
Let’s start with the characters first, shall we? After all, they were what initially caught me off guard and continued to surprise me throughout the entirety of the novel. Of course, I have to make the obligatory mention of the handsome and powerful antagonist who shows just enough kindness to make me fall for him. This evil character is common enough, but the Darkling fits this description to a tee, much like Warner in Shatter Me. There’s just something about a bad guy who wants to exploit the beautiful, naïve protagonist but also has a soft spot for her. Even better when said protagonist is conflicted and MIGHT actually be falling for our villain. But Alina isn’t quite as naïve as she appears. She may have stumbled upon a hidden power, one she’s not yet sure how to control, but having grown up in an orphanage, she’s learned not to take everything at face value. Alina’s had a hard life, and it just keeps getting harder.
Alina does have one close confidant, one person she trusts more than anyone or anything: her fellow orphan and best friend, Mal. This guy takes the cake. He’s seen Alina through a lot, but when she needs him most, Mal seems to have found greener pastures. While she’s toiling away as a less-than-average mapmaker, Mal is proving himself a worthy tracker, rising in the ranks of the army. And he’s taken notice of a Grisha, completely oblivious to how Alina feels about him. I wanted to deck this guy for a good part of the book, but he does redeem himself later, so I’ll let it slide.
The world-building in this novel was incredible. Even without the help of the map you see below, I was able to accurately picture the layout of the land. The Fold is exactly as I imagined it, and I couldn’t imagine a more terrifying place. Devoid of light and inhabited by deadly creatures that would tear a man to shreds, attempting to cross means imminent death.
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This novel is a debut, but you wouldn’t know that from the writing. The words are powerful and thoughtful and they weave a story that stretches the boundaries of one’s imagination. Despite the horrors in the novel, I found myself wanting to be transported to the world between the covers, to experience every hardship right along with Alina. Maybe if the story had been more predictable, I wouldn’t have wished for that, but not knowing where this book was headed made for an exhilarating ride, one which I expect I shall be hopping on again and again.