In what world would this series of events really happen? Self-indulgent wish fulfillment, thy name is Dash and Lily's Book of Dares.
I had wanted to read this for years -- but friend reviews were all over the place, so I adjusted my hopes to a more reasonable level. It turns out that even that readjustment wasn't enough -- "disappointment" doesn't even begin to describe how much of a let down this was.
My issues came early: I thought Dash was unfailingly pretentious and Lily was so twee that she made my teeth hurt. He's smarmy, she's cutesy. He's a hipster and she is so peppy I don't even know what to do with her. The way the notebook was passed back and forth was believable enough, until the two meet. And the plot turns into some kind of wacky romantic comedy. I know books are up to interpretation, but REALLY. This book strained credulity in so many ways: that someone as hipsterish as Dash would get along with goofy Lily, that what happens with Boris would fall out that way, that this many quirky people would act just so perfectly for the plot to get moving.... It just does not work.
The only thing that saved this from a one-star was that rarely there would be a line or dialogue that felt real, or read nicely. But for a book I expected so much from (I've really loved Levithan's other novels! Cohn has so many fans!), Dash and Lily's Book of Dares was a wash. Based on this, I don't think I will be reading either of these two author's other collaborations (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Naomi and Eli's No Kiss List). This book was just so... irritating. The POVs, the personalities, the plot, etc. It all grated on my nerves and just made me disdainful. Dash and Lily were not characters for me and this was not the book for me. (less)
I'm still not sure how many of those stars are for sheer nostalgia - at least one? - but this was a hell of a wrap up for a 12 year journey. I started...moreI'm still not sure how many of those stars are for sheer nostalgia - at least one? - but this was a hell of a wrap up for a 12 year journey. I started reading these books when I was 13, I am 25 now, and I can say there were times when I didn't see this ever ending. Through its ups (books 1-6), its downs (8-11), its not-bad-but-could-be-better (7, 12) this has remained a big force in my fantasy reading. Forgive me for this pun, but there will be a void where The Wheel of Time once stood.
Favorites died, nations crumbled, deception and betrayal abounded, but fans who flocked to this series for its strengths - the characters, the immense worldbuilding, the complicated plots and plans - will at least be satisfied with Sanderson's strong finale. (less)
As a fan of the ubiquitous, outrageous and beloved show, I had a desire to read the sourc material as I...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
As a fan of the ubiquitous, outrageous and beloved show, I had a desire to read the sourc material as I have always always enjoyed the book over the show/movie/puppet re-enaction. This is the very first time (that I can remember) where that is not the case: I'll take the show and even those two atrocious movies over this crapfest. What was a fun, frothy, sexy show with independent and strong women was a soul-crushing excursion into the minds of characters so flat I could apply makeup while standing on them. Candace Bushnell might have had the right idea but she had no idea about how to execute it. Without Darren Star and the writing team at Showtime, the Samantha, Charlotte, Miranda and even Carrie we all love or love-to-hate would never even have come close to existing. There are no tangible storylines here - just a series of disjointed vignettes.
It is a bleak, and entirely off-putting book. There are no real characters, just darkly humorous facsimiles of modern people in a big city. No one is likable; no one even really has a tangible storyline! I have no idea where the writers of the eponymous show found their inspiration for Charlotte, Miranda, Samantha and Carrie: it certainly wasn't in the pages of this book. This was an incredibly depressing and unfulfulling read for me. I'd rather I'd never even started it, but I can't figure out how to unread this tripe. While it may seem I have a complete total hate-on for Bushnell, this is not true: her expansion into the YA market with the novel The Carrie Diaries had three-dimensional characters and a valid (if weak) plotline that I had fun reading. I just HATED both of these novels to a rather large and voluminous degree, and the characters so so much as well that I'll be needing a nice looooooooong break before I try another of her work. (less)
Though not nearly as hair-pullingly irritating as its predecessor The Red Queen, (which irritated me so...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Though not nearly as hair-pullingly irritating as its predecessor The Red Queen, (which irritated me so much I didn't even review it. Who wants to read four+ paragraphs of "UGH" and "WHY DOES SHE DO THIS!" and "Shouldn't Margaret of Anjou be the Red Queen NOT Margaret Beaufort?") The Lady of the Rivers has its fair share of problems. This time the story follows Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Dowager Duchess of Bedford, historically remembered most as the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of King Edward IV of England. This novel has an additional focus on witchcraft/charms/herbs that the previous novels lack (exception: The Queen's Fool [Tudor Series #4] has a supernatural element for the main character as well, but less hackneyed and also less of a deux ex machina) - and a move I cannot fully support. Using the legend of the mermaid-like Melusine/a as an ancestor to Jacquetta's House (a "fact" which was repeated ad nauseam - one reviewer was keeping a count of mentions and I stopped paying attention after #20) to justify this fantastical element, Jacquetta is shown to be quite adept as well as having considerable powers. I felt that reducing Jacquetta's hard-won influence and knowledge to a charlatan-like propensity to "read the cards" did the character a serious disservice. If the author wants to write a strong, determined historical fiction about a woman in the 1500s - by all means do so! But don't reduce her accomplishments and feats by flavoring the success with "magic". I also was out off by some inconsistencies within the novel (I am not even touching historical inaccuracies) such as Richard being referred to as a squire, a knight, and then a squire once more without any mention as to a knighting ceremony or why he would've been reduced to the status of a squire after achieving knighthood.
Self-important and strident, Jacquetta is not the typical woman of her times (the novel begins in 1430) and the message that she, and strong, commanding women like her, are not welcome and face death for their knowledge. Gregory uses several famous women to illustrate this point - repeatedly - throughout the novel. Joan of Arc(!), Duchess Eleanor of Gloucester, and the even the proud Cecily Neville are all brought low before her eyes, seemingly just to teach Jacquetta caution. I can't say I cared too much for this version of Jacquetta, though I did warm to her particularly in the last fifty pages of the book. She rarely demonstrates a feeling or idea, most of this entire novel is "told" rather than shown. Having married her first husband's squire (Robert Woodville) for love, I found a sad lack of chemistry between the two. Example: how do I know Jacquetta loves Richard? She says she does. That's it, that's all; no real emotion or demonstrances of genuine affection. Stiff and awkward dialog along with clunky exposition do the two lovers no favors either. The first-person perspective was well-used, and Gregory even manages to show a battle scene without randomly/abruptly changing perspective and locales. It also helps that Jacquetta, though often annoying and slightly ridiculous is far easier to read than Margaret Beaufort's cold arrogance in The Red Queen.
Gregory does a fine job with the atmosphere of the story, as she usually does. There's a decent amount of tension constantly teeming around Jacquetta: her witchcraft/magic abilities, her illegal marriage, her husband is far sent away (again and again), birthing 16 (!!!!) children, running from battles, her fear of persecution, etc. For all my complaints, I will say that this is far from a staid novel; the kickoff to the War of Roses is excellent fodder for suspense and ridiculous amounts of tension between royal houses. The frequent and bloody battle scenes add much to the feel of the novel, creating a dark and foreboding air. Intrigue among the court is what Gregory does best and the novel succeeds the most when it is within the confines of the scheming court. While the writing itself can be stiff and overly formal, I noticed less and less over the book. Whether it's because the quality of the writing itself improved or I adjusted to Gregory's "style" is up for debate. I do find the random jumps in the chronology (a year here, three years there) to be very distracting from the flow of the narrative and also FULL of info-dumping. Short, very pointed chapters explain away the missing years but left me feeling very dissatisfied. For instance after Jacquetta marries Robert without permission (a rather big no-no for a Duchess), the story completely skips over the intervening years of poverty and struggle and instead flashes forward to when the newlyweds are re-welcomed at Court. I felt slightly cheated by this particular jump; Jacquetta struggling to earn a living versus the entitled pampered life she led before would have provided a nice dichotomy between the lifestyles of the rich and the poor of England.
A novel that both entertains and irritates, Gregory uses a lot of the same "tricks" that so many deride her over. There is the constant repetition of names with titles, of past accomplishments, who is related to whom... as if she has no faith in her readership to tell characters apart. Added to explanations of "why" and "how" people do things instead of showing them, Gregory can be frustrating to read. I know it's frowned upon to quote from an ARC but this passage exemplifies many readers issues with Gregory:
"'Edmund Beaufort Duke of Somerset...'
'You mean Edmund Beaufort Duke of Somerset? The man who lost us Normandy [...] but for the King's unswerving belief in his kinsman and the Queen's misplaced affection...
'I'll be commanded by the man who gave away Normandy. '"
Instead of just using "Edmund" or "Beaufort" or even "Somerset", the man's name has to be supplied twice, along with his title and his most recent accomplishment in the novel. Furthermore, the author even explains why the Duke is so beloved instead of showing so and trusting her readers to pick up on the plotline. Gregory clearly buys into the "Somerset + Margaret of Anjou = Edward, Prince of Wales" theory so why not try to SHOW such instead of having a character narrate the information? I understand this is a historical fiction, so dates/events might get mixed around and changed but underestimating your readers to the point you have to hammer in every title, every detail is insulting.
The ending felt, to me, rather abrupt and uneven. The finale of this novel transitions to the very beginning of The White Queen: with Jacquetta's beautiful daughter Elizabeth Woodville standing by the road looking to enchant King Edward IV. I had hoped for more time with Jacquetta. I would've preferred less focus on the early years in order to see what Gregory would do with this character later on in the century; I was much more interested in what would happen after the Rivers family switched from Lancaster to the York side. I also wonder why this novel was published third, when it would make the most sense to read first in the series. Not only is it chronologically first,but it is a stronger effort than The Red Queen or The White Queen. I think I may be running out of time and affection for Ms. Gregory. I loved her Tudor novels when I first read them sixish years ago (though I'd probably not in a re-read now) but this series has so far done little to make me fall in love. With such a drama-filled, absolutely interesting and dynamic era, I can't help but feel there should be more substance and less drama/dresses to The Lady in the Rivers. (less)