Rachel Aaron/Bach has yet to disappoint me. With characters like these, writing like this, originality that bursts from the seams -- she is rapidly as...moreRachel Aaron/Bach has yet to disappoint me. With characters like these, writing like this, originality that bursts from the seams -- she is rapidly ascending my list of auto-buy authors.(less)
THIS BOOK. This book right here. It just... It wrecked me. It played with my emotions. It gleefully tossed me form the height of happiness to the depths of despair. You know that saying "heart wrenching"? That is Crown of Midnight in two words. I get it now. I am wrenched; my heart is so wrenched it may never recover.
I wasn't expecting to have such an emotional, visceral reaction to this book. I readily admit that I went into it with a lot of trepidation. Though there were things I enjoyed from Throne of Glass (Chaol, strong female characters, hints of magic, Chaol), there was a lot of room for improvement as well. Celaena herself was a bit of trope, she didn't assassinate nearly enough people to back up her incredible arrogance, the mystery tied into the plot was overt and way too obvious, and don't even get me started on the love triangle. But, here in the series' second outing, almost none of those issues reappear. Maas has grown into a much more deft and subtle author; I understand and can empathize with her characters better; Celaena's romantic life is an important facet of the story but not a main focus.
Crown of Midnight may not be technically perfect. I can see some of the technical issues others will have, but my rating is 4 stars for the writing, plot, characters and another star for how much I was engrossed and captivated by the entire novel. This book left me feeling so very many things. Vindication because I called it - a big reveal. Despair because Maas whiplashed me from joy to despair so many times in just 440 pages. Anxiety because I don't have a sequel in my hands waiting to be read. Excitement because Celaena kicks so much more ass in this installment. Hope because I refuse to give up. Envy because this book is so good and I know I will never write like this. Worry because I absolutely can't predict where the story will go from here.
The plot of the novel is more straightforward than the murder mystery/race to the finish at the heart of Throne of Glass. There are some minor questions that Celaena has to work out, but she does, and not dozens of pages after readers have already figured it out. The mysteries are less intrinsic to the plot, and the more subtlety Maas writes with, the less predictable her books and plots become. The solid hints about Celaena's past are also woven into the story with more care, and though I had that figured out before the start of the book, the big reveal at the end was set up very neatly and works well to hint at future plots in the next books.
Celaena was a big obstacle for me in Throne of Glass. I didn't exactly sympathize or identify with her before. Thankfully, I was directed to read the four prequel novellas before embarking on this heartbreak of a book (thank you, Gillian!), and it really adds to Celaena's depiction. I understood her better going into Crown of Midnight, and Maas took more time to flesh out her protagonist into a truly three-dimensional person. I like a flawed, human character better than any paragon of perfection, and oh boy is Celaeana flawed. She's stubborn, arrogant, tends to underestimate anyone without the last name Sardothien, and she makes a lot of mistakes. However, for all her imperfections, this is a great, strong female character. She might make mistakes, but she learns from them too.
Let's talk about love triangle, because it's still hanging on here in Crown of Midnight. Happily, Maas doesn't jerk her main character from love interest to love interest as she did before. Both Dorian and Chaol may have tender feelings for the deadly Celaena, but for all her flaws, the girl isn't indecisive. She makes a choice, and though there are complications between the two, it isn't about what man Celaena wants to be with. I can't say the love triangle is entirely dead (this is YA, after all) but Maas handles it with maturity and I didn't mind how it was used for tension amongst the three principles.
I may have been a tepid fan before, but no longer. I'm fully on board this ship (and the Chaol + Celaena ship), and will be buying copies of this series. I was so entertained by this actiontastic thrill ride; I was heartbroken at some of the twists and turns; I was emotionally whiplashed as Maas kept the reveals and betrayals coming. For better or worse, I am invested in this series, these characters, this world. It's going to be a long hard wait for book three, but I am counting down the days. This is an author that has grown into her story and really impressed me with her sophomore effort.
If you're on the fence like I was, if you liked but didn't love Throne of Glass -- don't give up. Read the prequels. And then read the second because you won't be disappointed. Crown of Midnight is the rare sequel that exceeds expectations and surpasses its predecessor. This is YA fantasy - with a female main character! - done so right.(less)
looks a lot like Dave Grohl has a lot of imagination a tendency to pull no punches the ability to craft a viable, complex, interesting world breaks my brain with every book he has written
Last year, Jay burst onto the scene with his steampunkian fantasy of an almost-Japan (here called the Shima Imperium) with his debut novel, Stormdancer. The hype began early, built over months of anticipation, and swelled to immense proportions before the book dropped. And when it did, Jay delivered -- Stormdancer was a tour de force of fantasy, steampunk, kickass characters, and rebellion. Immense in scope, in creativity, and filled with unforgettable writing, and complex, realistic characters, it exceeded my expectations in every way -- and they were HIGH.
I am here to tell you that Kinslayer, book two in this Lotus War series, is even better. You want more death, destruction, struggle? You got it, in spades. The scale is bigger, the stakes are higher, and this is an author that can, and does, improve on his already-impressive first book. If you liked what Kristoff had to offer in Stormdancer - chainsaw katanas, a fresh and inventive take on steampunk technology, an incredibly well-drawn world, betrayals, secrets, conspiracies, rebellion, action aplenty - then you'll love what he serves up for round two. The Lotus War is a story told on a grand scale and one that doesn't shy away from making readers flinch.
While in book one we were told, "the lotus must bloom", now the rebels have modified it to the more ominous, "the lotus must burn." This is a darker book. The lines have clearly been drawn and a civil war is on the brink. Yukiko wrestles with her role, with what she has done, and with what she will do. People die. People you like will die. People you like will surprise you -- and not always in a good way. The risks that Jay Kristoff takes with his plotting and characters more than pay off. He creates suspense with ease as well a genuine fear that no one -- and nothing -- is truly safe with Shima on the brink. He writes with a clear eye for the visual and a lot of the action scenes read cinematically. The detail is dense, the worldbuilding intricate and complete, and it all serves to create an Empire that feels dangerously real and frighteningly familiar.
Kinslayer is epic. It's an epic story with several major plotlines across an empire; there's Yukiko and Buruu going about doing what they do (no spoilers!), there's the Kagé stronghold in the mountains, and there are the subversives hiding in Kigen city, waiting for a chance to hit back at the authorities. Widening the focus of the story allows for more prominent characters than just Yukiko and the antagonist of the soon-to-be-Emperor/Yukiko's former lover, Tora Hiro. Both Yukiko and Hiro play important parts, but they are mostly removed from the main action - Hiro through the dense administration system surrounding a clan Daimyo, and Yukiko through her own struggles to rectify what has happened to her life in the previous novel. Buruu remains a key participant in Yukiko's storyline, and remains one of the best animal characters to ever grace a page. However, even he is full of surprises as the hundreds of pages race by.
We've met Michi before as a minor character, but here in Kinslayer, she gets the time and pages to shine. Her storyline is taut, full of deception and suspense. While Yukiko has spearheaded the fight against the Guild and the Emperor, Michi is in the trenches (credit for that line goes to the lovely Christina at Reader of Fictions!) fighting however and whoever it takes to win. She emerges as a major player and easily surpassed Yukiko in my affections, due to her pragmatic and bad ass approach. Hana, another newcomer with more to her than meets the eye, also more than proves her worth. Between her characterization and Michi's, it's obvious there is more than one strong, dangerous woman in Shima. Yukiko may be the Arashi-no-odoriko, but these two women are capable, smart, cunning, and each play pivotal parts in all that plays out in the pages. While most of my appreciation, character-wise, is for these two newish characters, older and more familiar faces continue to operate in various functions. Akihito, Kin, Kaori, etc. all are prominent and important, but do lack the liveliness of Michi and Hana's storylines.
Though there are clearly the good guys and the bad guys, Kristoff creates a cast that is not black and white. Yukiko is the heroine, but not everything she does is heroic, or even right. The Kagé are the good side, compared the power-hungry Guild and the omnivorous Empire, but not all of its members are truly good people. Similarly, the people that surround Hiro, the book's clear antagonist and foil for Yukiko, are not all evil power despots. The shades of grey that the author imbues into his characters make them all more realistic, more complex, and thus, interesting. Clearly the most sympathy will lie with the Kagé and their struggle to topple a corrupt government, but I appreciated how deftly Kristoff handled the creation the characters on all sides of the conflict. I always say I want a complex antagonist over a one-dimensional psychopath, and that a conflicted heroine is better than a perfect paragon, and I am proved right by the layers each of these two key characters possess. I may not like either of them too much, but I can understand where both are coming from and what they hope to gain.
The worldbuilding is truly some of the best I have ever read in the fantasy genre. It's on par with series that have taken twice as many volumes to create their version of Earth. In just two books, Jay Kristoff has created a viable, deadly, believable world. He has shown how a once-prosperous country can find itself on the verge of failure. From the mythology to the government, there is more than enough detail to flesh out the culture of the Shima Imperium to a reader's satisfaction. No stone has gone unturned, no idea unexplored. New cultures are shown, and new ideas are explored. Above all, Kinslayer never stagnates or dawdles. While the steampunk technology is less featured here (exception: Earthcrusher, clockwork arm!), it retains its originality, usefulness, and flair. Jay proves that less is more and doesn't oversaturate his plotline with nifty gadgets and chainsaw katanas. This isn't a version of steampunk featured on dirigibles and tea -- this is steampunk focused on war, domination, and destruction. And it. is. AWESOME.
Kinslayer is a book with everything you could hope for in steampunk fantasy with arashitora and sea dragons. It's packed to the brim with action, drama, and suspense. It takes characters we know and changes them, makes them evolve and hopefully grow. It proves that in war, no one is safe and anyone can betray you. It shows all sides of a conflict and doesn't flinch from murdering off favorite, beloved characters. It's a brash, loud, completely fun read. It's dense, and detailed, and still the pages fly by. If you want originality, or an inventive fantasy, or a book that combines dire straits with a dash of humor, or all of the above, this is the book you want to read. This is one of my favorite books of EVER, and I will be rereading it for years to come.
My only worry is how Jay Kristoff will manage to top this.
--And when I can get a copy of the third book. (less)
I love this book wholeheartedly. Kate Morton rocketed to my absolute favorite author list last year on...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I love this book wholeheartedly. Kate Morton rocketed to my absolute favorite author list last year on the strength of The Distant Hours and The Forgotten Garden, but this latest novel absolutely cements and guarantees her continued place there. The Secret Keeper blew my mind. Honestly, it might even rival The Distant Hours for my all-time favorite Kate Morton and mystery novel. It's just that good great; it's more of what Kate Morton does so very very well. All the time taken and careful preparations of the plot, scene, characters clearly show, and add up to make this novel a compulsive read filled with vibrant and flawed characters. I wanted to stretch out my reading experience - it's one of those few times when 480 pages seems like too little for a novel rather than a good size. For all my restraint and desire to keep this going as long as possible, I inhaled this novel in 14 hours - eight of which I was sleeping. An impressive fourth novel from a very talented author, fans and newcomers alike will eat The Secret Keeper up.
When I first started this, I was sure I was going to like it, but it didn't immediately grab me the way her first two novels had. I was curious, and intrigued where the multiple plotlines across various periods of time would eventually go, but it wasn't until about 100 pages in that I was truly gripped and aware that I was reading something truly special. The tension slowly builds as main character Laurel uncovers more and more about her mother's life before children and marriage, evoking both intensity and curiosity as her revelations show a very different woman than the mother she had known her whole life. The shifting perspectives of various characters (Laurel, her mother Dorothy, and a woman named Vivien) from 1941 to 1961 to 2011 allow for a wide view of the plot across the many eras that impact the story. The merging of the different plotlines and timeliness works so well under this author's capable hands. I did not want to put this down to eat, to sleep, or anything. It's hard to write this review because the reveal and payout are so rewarding, and I don't want go give anything - ANYTHING - away that might spoil the deft authorial sleight of hand that Morton has going.
I had high hopes going into reading The Secret Keeper, and if anything, this book exceeded any and all expectations I had for it. Morton's obvious and immense talent for prose, for setting, and for crafting such realistic, concrete characters to operate upon the page - alive in all their wishes, hopes, pasts, flaws, and mistakes - marks her as one of the best authors I have ever had the pleasure to read. With twists and turns and huge reveals that I never predicted and never once came off as hackneyed, this is an author that continually proves she knows how to write a story, as well as a truly mystifying mystery. An impressive storyteller with talent across the board including an-all-too-rare talent for subtlety and foreshadowing, her latest novel is heavy on detail, inner observations, and contemplation, but is never slow or boring. Themes of unexpected consequences, and desire are explored with caution and care, further adding to the complicated plot of the novel. With one of the top three best endings I've ever had the surprise of reading, The Secret Keeper is thoroughly satisfying and totally unpredictable.
Kate Morton is amazing. I am a huge fan, and I won't let too much time go before I dig into the only novel of hers I've yet to read - The House at Riverton. Her style is uniquely her own, and her ability to create such detailed, well-characterized novels truly sets her above most other authors. Nuanced, emotionally involving, original, and completely wonderful, The Secret Keeper further proves that my fangirling extreme love for Kate Morton's novels is more than founded - it's necessary. I haven't had such a strong reaction to a novel in far too long; I cared intensely about the characters, I was caught up in every timeline shown. This is an author who will be a favorite for a long, long time. I can only hope that a fifth novel is on the horizon for this immensely talented writer. (less)
This is just so so good, from start to finish. I'm still having a hard time putting coherent thoughts a...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
This is just so so good, from start to finish. I'm still having a hard time putting coherent thoughts about it together, but If I Lie made me cry, oh, once every 75 pages or so. It's gripping, and touching, and altogether beautiful in several ways. This is a book that made me feel things (All the feelings!), that made me care intensely about its wide cast of multi-dimensional characters people; all in all, this is a damn good book and I literally have zero complaints. It and the themes and issues explored in those 276 pages brought to mind The Scarlet Letter and another novel I recently read, Speechless by Hannah Harrington, on how inaction and silence can be as harmful as telling secrets. And, however much I was initially reminded of those novels, this is very much its own novel. Corrine Jackson is undoubtedly an author to watch and she more than proves her talent with this contemporary debut. Though I read an ARC of this, I fully plan to buy my own copy when it's available. Heart-breaking in a variety of ways, If I Lie is easily one of my best of 2012 reads.
This book is so much more than the blurb seems to let on. It's not the same tired old highschool angst and melodrama about a girl caught in a cliched love triangle. If I Lie is anything but that. It's heartfelt and emotional. In the end, it's about hope, love, trust, family, and ultimately, what it means to be your own person. It's about growing up, moving on, and learning how to live with curveballs life can and does throw at you. Though I called the secret even before starting, the heart of the novel isn't uncovering what happened those two days before Carey shipped out, but in watching how that secret affects and continues to impact the characters various lives after he's gone.
Main character and chief protagonist Sophie Topper Quinn is one of those few and far between heroines: she's strong, passionate, honorable, stubborn, flawed, and real. I absolutely loved Sophie and reading about her life, through her ups and downs, her stubbornness and her pride. This is the kind of character I can care about, root for and invest in heavily. Her voice is... real, organic -- it gets under the skin and makes you care about her and her life. She has hopes and dreams, is an active protagonist, even if some of what she does is more harmful than goo in the long run. This book is a great example of how first-person POV can be used effectively to make a reader identify closely with the narrator. I felt what Quinn felt, her full spectrum of emotions caught me early. Her inner monologue is just so realistic and further reinforces how authentic and grounded this character is. Corrine Jackson has this characterization, voice, plot all down pat here in If I Life, and I was impressed even as tears were streaming down my cheeks, multiple times.
Though my family isn't nearly as military-oriented as Quinn's is shown to be, I do have a brother who is a Sergeant in the Marines, and who has served two tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. And while, thankfully, he has never been MIA or wounded in action, the actions of the characters in this novel really hit home for me. The simple fact of not knowing where they are or how your loved one is is stressful and can lead people to do things they otherwise wouldn't. I'm not just talking about Quinn here (though her case is obviously not the same as others), but Carey's parents and friends as well. While their actions towards Quinn can be and often are abusive, I understand how it is to act out of fear for someone you love but cannot do anything to help. Corrine Jackson's skillful writing and my personal experiences makes it so that I understand them, even if I disagree with how they act. One of the best things, out of a multitude of options, about If I Lie are how human all these characters are, even the antagonists of Jamie and the Breens. They're practically alive with their flaws, mistakes, and errors.
I picked this up yesterday morning, intending to read a few chapters before I went to work out. I ended up pushing back my workout by several hours because I absolutely could not, and did not want to, put this down. If I Lie is compulsively readable, even as it repeatedly shatters your heart and wrangles all your emotions. Though the ending is more open-ended than anything, I choose to see it as a hopeful finale, for Quinn, for Blake, (view spoiler)[ for Quinn and Blake together as a couple after the summer ends (hide spoiler)]. It's perfect. This is a great book. Read it and love it. I can't recommend it highly enough. Well done, Corrine Jackson. You have made a fangirl out of me with just one novel alone and I eagerly anticipate whatever else you publish.
Eventually, I did get to my gym. But first, I went to see my brother and gave him a big hug and a 'thank you' for all he has done. Though the military is far from perfect, I am eternally grateful for what they all - every branch and every individual servicemember - have sacrificed for this country. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
#1. Do you like strong, flawed and inherent compelling female narrators?
#2. Do you enjoy reading new twists and interpretations of old fairytales?
#3. Does historical fiction with excellent place-as-character (for both Versailles and Venice) appeal to your reading tastes?
#4. Do you like a little magic subtly interwoven into your historical fiction?
#5. Have you read and enjoyed similar books like Kill Me Softly, Strands of Bronze and Gold, or The Brides of Rollrock Island?
#6. Are you attracted to novels with romance, but ones that don't focus solely on the love connections of the main characters?
#7. Are you constantly looking for a novel with length that will keep you engaged and curious from start to end?
#8. Has it been a while since you've had the chance to read a fresh and original story?
If you answered yes to the above questions - and really, I can't imagine why you would say no - then Bitter Greens is a book for you. An interesting and unique mashup of fairytale lore, court politics, and thwarted love, this captivating and darkly fascinating look at three intriguing and multi-faceted women is unlike any other book I've come across. I put it down when I reluctantly finished, and I immediately wanted to start it all over again; to spend more time in this world, and with these distinctive characters. This is an author with talent, and one that can clearly and easily spin an engrossing and compulsively readable story. This is my first Kate Forsyth novel, but you can bet it will not be my last.
Without hesitation, Kate Forsyth's newest novel is my favorite novel of 2013. It may be only March, but with 60 books under my belt, this was far and away the standout of the group. It's beautiful, sad, creative and compelling. Bitter Greens is so much more than just a simple, historical fiction retelling of Rapunzel's well-known and often-told fairytale. It's a story about love and power, about destiny and desire, and about what lengths a woman will go to to fight for her love, and to find her freedom. With her three capable main narrators, either in first person or third, Kate Forsyth brings this novel, these characters and the various locations to life. A vibrant read on all counts, Bitter Greens is sprawling, ambitious and impressive. It more than succeeds where it tries for something different and manages to breathe some fresh air into historical fiction.
All three women the novel focuses on in turn have passion, determination, and talent. Their lives are complex, and their characterization three-dimensional - not even neglecting the villain/anti-hero of the piece. Though their lives span different eras and troubles, there are parallels between the stories of all three. Each want something they cannot have; one thirsts for perfection and power, one for love and an independent life, and one for family and freedom. But despite their various wishes, each story meshes well with her compatriots. For each, life is full of unexpected twists and surprises - and those, usually out of their control. One is doomed by the choices of her parents; another by the capriciousness of a spoiled King; and another by the harsh retribution of a vicious nobleman. In each disparate arc, the loves and lives desired by Charlotte/Margherita/Selena are lost in favor of power, revenge, or dark magic. I couldn't pick a favorite from the three of them - all of them are compelling and interesting, and all of their stories demand attention.
The court of Versailles and the water-world of Venice are the most described locations (the homes of Charlotte and Margherita respectively), and they are exquisitely well-rendered. Set in the time of Louis XIV, the Sun King, for Charlotte's tale, Versailles, and occasionally Paris, create the perfect backdrops for her story of religious, romantic and independence struggles. Romantic, oppressive, and opulent, Charlotte's frustrated endeavors to control her own life in the time of a divine despot provide a nice dichotomy to the supreme will Louis exerted over his people, and his court in particular. Venice is another supremely romantic city, and one that lends itself well to the beautiful but deceptive stories of the other two characters. There is more than meets the eye to the tales of these characters, as the settings chosen more than illustrate.
Clocking in at a respectable five hundred pages, Bitter Greens has some heft to it. Thankfully, Forsyth has the capability to keep interest high and the pace moving along. I was never bored, and I never wanted to put the novel down once I had cracked the cover. This is a book I finished in one day, though I kept trying to extend the time I spent with it. I would put it down, only to mull over the plotlines in my head until I had to pick it back up again to see where Kate Forsyth was going to take her characters. There were a couple twists that came into play later in the story, and though I called one, the other was a genuine and believable surprise.
Sadly, this seems to be a rather hard novel to get a hold of. So far, I've only found available copies for sale on FishPond - no listings on Barnes and Noble or Amazon. However, if there was a book worth that steep $30 price, this is it. If more copies become available, I plan to do a giveaway. But you can rest assured my own copy is never leaving my house. I'll need it for the several rereads I plan to do in the near future.(less)
This was the perfect novel to bust me out of my bad book reading funk. The majority of last several boo...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
This was the perfect novel to bust me out of my bad book reading funk. The majority of last several books I've read had been frustrating, time-consuming, and often, disappointing. Happily, that is far from the case with What's Left of Me. Though this debut novel is far from being free of all errors, Kat Zhang's first novel in the Hybrid Chronicles manages to be innovative, engrossing, unique, and affecting. I absolutely could not, and did not want to, put it down; this was another one-day read for me. With shades of The Golden Compass, Never Let Me Go and Unwind, all three of which are among my favorite-ever books, this novel is sure to entertain and engage, all the while making its rapt readers think. This is one of those rare YA novels that could, and does and will, hold a wide appeal for readers of different ages and genre preferences.
There's a lot to recommend about this novel. It's action-packed and also contemplative; it's filled with remarkable, highly individual characters and strong characterization; it's a fresh, innovative concept coupled with great storytelling. I love it wholeheartedly, even with its issues. The few things that missed with What's Left of Me only slightly detract from the overwhelming good about it. There are some sections that could use some tightening, some periods where the fluid pacing gets a bit stuck, but on the whole, this is a great book. One I would easily and happily push on my fellow bloggers, friends, and family. I felt that the ending was a bit rushed, with some key plot points left too vague and undetailed (the surgery, the tech, the drugs, etc.), but I was left with a unquenchable need for the second book as soon I as I metaphorically turned the last page.
The dystopian elements of the world shown are bare, and sketched in only slightly more as the story progresses, but I... didn't mind all that much. I often harp on worldbuilding, especially with fantasy and dystopian novels, and while What's Left of Me left some principle explanations missing in action, the characters and the plot of the novel more than made up for the lack. This is a solid, well-constructed novel and while the book's momentum hits a few snags as it moves quickly along, the emotion and relationship I had invested/built in Addie/Eva's struggle for life was more than enough to keep me fully engrossed. The other characters are almost uniformly remarkable and well-rounded, highly individual even in their twinned souls, but it was the two main characters that meant the most to me.
A few other quibbles: I found the main antagonist of the novel to be rather weak, and sadly one-dimensional in his presentation. I wished for more of a presence for him, felt that would have added more of a sense of tension to the atmosphere of the book, and for what he represented for the hybrids, but that never materialized. I also thought that the "twist" revealed at the end was a bit too open-ended and an obvious lead to buy the next book and it felt superfluous to the already-engaging plot of the novel. But like I said, these are minor complaints in the face of all the awesome shown and revealed here in What's Left of Me.
This is a great novel; entertaining and horrific at the same time. It's one that I will be buying a finished copy of as soon as it is available, because rereads of What's Left of Me are going to be necessary. I'm very impressed with Zhang's storytelling ability, as well as her obvious talent for innovative, creative plots and for crafting real, flawed, human characters. Read this book, especially if you're a fan of Unwind, Never Let Me Go and/or The Golden Compass -- for once the hype and the comparisons are dead on. I can't recommend this one highly enough.
Also: I have to note that the cover is completely perfect. Two people in one body? Creepy, awesome, eye-catching. This is not one to miss, for many reasons! (less)
Every Day is another remarkable novel from a very talented and thankfully prolific author....moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
4.25 out of 5
Every Day is another remarkable novel from a very talented and thankfully prolific author. Just when I start to feel again that YA sticks to and retreads the same trends, ideas, themes, constantly, Mr. Levithan publishes such a starkly original and thoroughly readable novel. Unlike anything else I've read (though I can see slight shades of both The Time Traveler's Wife and Quantum Leap in components of Every Day), this is a thought-provoking and emotional novel that stands firmly on its own two feet. Levithan has proved himself as more than capable of creating unique scenarios, coupled with compelling characters, along with completely original plots and themes, and he is at his best here with this latest, engrossing novel. While Every Day may not be perfect - the ending and a few other issues I had preclude me from anything higher than that 4.25 - I absolutely loved reading this novel every chance I got to sit down and devour it.
This is a novel that made me feel, that made me really think about life, love, and relationships. Those kinds of books are rare -especially in a genre that, unfortunately, tends to romanticize alpha males and submissive female characters - and I appreciate Every Day all the more for its fresh take on love, gender, religion, and even society. It is centered more on love and a relationship than anything else - A's drive to see Rhiannon and make it work drives the narrative - but it's not cloying or saccharine. I didn't read his instant connection with her as instalove - more as a desperate need to connect with somebody, anybody, who might be able to accept him as he was.While the social commentary aspect is prevalent throughout the short-ish 336 page length, it can come across as occasionally heavy-handed (and is one of the very few reasons this book is not a 5-star read for me). But, happily, for the most part it's meshed within the overall plot quite well and with aplomb. A may not be perfect and occasionally judgmental and preachy, and his/her views are certainly their own, but this starkly original journey through grief, first love, loneliness is one that will resonate with many, many readers.
Once again, Levithan exhibits the same talents I have come to expect and treasure from such an able writer. No one else can write like he can. If I could, I would quote from nearly every chapter in this touching novel. Levithan is that good. Every Day is alternatively bittersweet, creepy, aching, interesting, and compelling. For once, this is a book where the execution of the book itself matches the high level of the idea behind the plot. With Levithan's beautiful, thoroughly readable way with words leading the way, the novel's wandering through philosophical questions about life, identity, human nature are explored maturely and with appropriate emotion. Under a different hand, Every Day could have easily been an overwrought, melodramatic angsty mess, but it never is. What it is, is a wholly genuine and wonderful book that explores so many of the prevalent issues that kids of this age have to deal with.
Every Day is a book about possibilities. It's not one for definitive answers or for totally complete resolutions. If you as a reader can suspend your disbelief enough to buy into the premise - a body jumping "person" - then the rest of this lovely novel will be an evocative treat. Give this one a chance - I highly doubt you will be sorry that you did.
"I don't have the heart to tell him that's the wrong way to think about the world. There will always be more questions. Every answer leads to more questions. The only way to survive is to let some of them go."
"If you stare at the center of the universe, there is a coldness there. A blankness. Ultimately, the universe doesn't care about us. Time doesn't care about us. That's why we have to care about each other."
Afterwards was a lot of things for me: frustrating, alienating, weird, intriguing, and eventually, quite moving. There's a lot of hype built around this newish author, largely due to the wild success and continued love for her first novel, Sister. With that in mind, I went into this sophomore effort with high hopes that were never quite met. There's a lot of potential in this novel about mothers and daughters, love, and independence but it never quiiiite reaches the heights it could. I want to clarify my 3.25 out of 5 up there - it's the result of knee-jerk reactions deep thinking. The first 300 pages were a solid, disappointing 2 out of 5 stars. An awkward and jarring style (second person POV, told with the present tense), a somewhat overly perfect main character, and a truly irritating overemphasis on italics on nearly every page (and I am an italics, bold and strikethrough addict) mar an intriguing and thoroughly gripping mystery. The final 100 pages of twists, turns, "Oh my god!" and "No way!"s do much to alleviate the various, now-previous problems I'd had and also made me happy I hadn't given up early on this one.
The second person POV rarely, rarely works for me as a reader. In fact the only time I have actually appreciated it as a storytelling medium were for the rare interludes during The Night Circus which used it sparingly. Here, with Grace narrating everyone's actions to/at them ("You do this, say this, want this" etc.), it's very cumbersome and unwieldy to read as a non-involved observer. By the time I grew inured to the strange and uncomfortable style used throughout Afterwards (and it took a while, trust me), I could start to appreciate the subtlety of the mystery that Lupton has created. It's both layered and nuanced in its inception and execution - truly the strongest element to the novel is the whodunit. This is not one of those thrillers where the culprit or culprits is/are transparent from the beginning - several cleverly manipulated red herrings lead the police investigation, and my theories, jumping from character to character. I have to applaud such deft narrative sleight-of-hand - I was curious from the start. Even when I was close enough to giving up, the question at the heart of Jenny's problems wouldn't let go of my imagination.
I wish I could appreciate the spectral-astral plane-ghost-spirit-whatever the main characters have going on. The fact that what's going on with the two main characters isn't really explained in depth was another misfire for me - it came off as gimmicky and rather calculated. Another disconnect was with the main character and narrator, the mother, Grac(i)e. She, her husband, her daughter and son were all too perfect to be entirely believable. And as the novel went on and revelation led to revelation, it becomes apparent that Grace doesn't really know anyone outside her family at all. (view spoiler)[Her closest mother-friend has been abused for years? Elizabeth Fisher was left by her husband? Knows nothing about Rowena even though Maisie is very knowledgeable about Grace's own family? Her snap, inaccurate judgements of Ivo due to her own feelings? (hide spoiler)] Her love for her children was certainly compelling and believable, but her harsh judgement of sister-in-law Sarah further spoke to Grace's own shortcomings and didn't inspire any likeability. Sympathy is entirely another matter, because as a "spirit-whatever", her interactions with Jen do allow Grace a bit of growth and personal evolution even though it takes forever.
The story at the heart (heh) of Afterwards is definitely a good one - the mystery well crafted and thought out, but the style really does take a large adjustment. I'm obviously of two minds about this because there's much to love and a lot to lament. There are intense moments of brilliance book-ended by the awkward style and gimmicky status of the main character, but for all its faults, I ended up mostly enjoying Afterwards. It gave me emotional whiplash and I'll keep my eye out for what else this author does in the future. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I loved this book from the start. It is good. No, it's great. It's Gothic and sassy and fun...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
4.5 out of 5
I loved this book from the start. It is good. No, it's great. It's Gothic and sassy and funny and clever and thisclose to being perfect. I love it to pieces. I stayed up til nearly one in the morning to finish it, on a night where I had to get up at 4 the next morning. If that isn't a clear enough picture of how thoroughly entertaining and engrossing this gem of a book is, I don't know what to tell you. A surefire winner. Unspoken is unique, it's fun, it's populated with amazingly real, fleshed out characters operating with a strong plot about magic, and secrets, and history. It's a breath of fresh air in a genre that tends to stick to the same ideas and themes and plots. Even when Unspoken does veer into well-tread territory for YA, it ends up being the exception to the rule. The first novel I've ever read from Irish young-adult author Sarah Rees Brennan, it left me eager for more and unwilling to close the cover. The first in a new Gothic and paranormal series, despite a few flaws and missteps, the premier novel in the Lynburn Legacy sets a high bar for any of the other novels to live up to. It can be creepy, genuinely funny, and completely real - all often on the same page. A promising start to begin a new trilogy, I finished this impressed and anxious for more. This was my first Brennan, but it most definitely won't be my last.
It's always a pleasure when an author takes the time to create and develop a character with as much depth and personality as Kami Glass. It's easy to self-identify with can-do and hilarious Kami (even if I recognize I lack her original and hilarious way with words): she's a strong character with wants and desires all her own, she isn't defined by who she likes, but what she does, and she grows and learns as she works her way to the bottom of the twisty mystery and aura around the feared Lynburns. Diversity and wit are another two things sorely lacking in a lot of novels geared towards a young-adult audience, but that is not the case here. Kami's Japanese heritage is important to her, and the slight xenophobia shown towards her in her firmly English village help reinforce her uniqueness. I just loved Kami and reading about her. Even with the third person POV distancing her a bit from the audience, this is a perfect example of a well-written, realistic, concrete character. There were so many quotes from this girl that I either laughed at, or giggled at, or just plain amused me. Kami is one character that will stick out in my memory as wonderfully executed and developed.
Kami isn't the only standout character from Unspoken, amazingly enough. The secondary cast of characters are also distinct and well characterized. Kami's hilarious dad takes the award for second-funniest, but really, from sleepy, world-hating best friend Angela to creepy, remote Rosalind, this is a novel with a strong core of characters that all pop from the page. Even when I didn't like certain characters (Ash, etc.) I could appreciate the variety and originality they brought to the novel. Not just in tune with her friends, I loved the interactions of Kami's family - they aren't set pieces created for Kami to gloss over, but important and meaningful parts of her everyday life. Her mother is especially important to the plot of the novel, and the stumbles in the relationship between protective mom and curious Kami strike a delicate, but compelling, balance. Happily minus a lot of the tropes in YA used to get characters to operate autonomously, there are no Missing Parent Syndrome or abused/ignored/lonely kid ideas here; Brennan is too smart to fall for those overused plot devices.
The plot is strong, the dialogue pitch-perfect, and the mystery well-crafted, but there are certain sections of the novel where the tension seems to flag as the kids uncover more and more clues without any meaningful revelations. I didn't mind overmuch, because when the atmosphere matters, it's done well... and I always enjoyed the side trips and adventures Kami cooked up for her friends to get into. It cannot be denied that Unspoken is an entertaining and engrossing novel. The Lynburn family, once they come into play a bit more, supply a lot of the tension with the unexplained acrimonious interplay between the Lynburn cousins, Ash and Jared. I am most definitely not a fan of the love triangle, but as it is used here, I found it at least palatable. Kami doesn't fall into the trap of instalove - even though she's "known" and maybe loved Jared for years before meeting him, and she doesn't bounce back and forth between the cousins just to foment melodrama instead of plot momentum.
I did have a few problems with Unspoken as I progressed through its nearly 400 page length. Most notably: the end. A lot of reviewers have been disappointed with the way and place Brennan chose to end her story, and I am certainly one of them. It's a hell of a cliffhanger, and though I don't buy Jared's final words and attitude for a minute, Brennan certainly knows how to leave her readers wanting more. The plot extends eaily to book two, but it was an abrupt end to such a slow burn mystery. I also felt that the magic aspect could use some strengthening. What is explained is interesting, but I couldn't get a firm grasp a few parts of the mythology. A little more time and paragraphs to explore those elements would've been appreciated, but there at least will be two more novels to expand on what's been laid down here in the first novel.
From even pacing to creative plot to wonderful, zing-filled dialogue, Unspoken is a book I most definitely will be buying and rereading. Carried by a complex and brave protagonist, coupled with a thoroughly well-done Gothic vibe, there is much more to love about this novel than to lament. I for one, will be counting the months until the arrival in the next book of the series. Brennan has impressed me, and I can't wait to see what she does with the foundation she has laid down. (less)