All admissions forward: I was sent this book by the author, whom I consider a friend. This did not and does not affect my review.
It's been a real pleasure to watch Libby's growth as an author over the last two years. Having read and greatly enjoyed her short story collection back in 2011, I was anxious to see what she would come up with for her first her full-length novel. I can honestly say that I was not disappointed with the end result; Tough Girl is a clever, heart-wrenching novel with adult themes and ideas, but one that will hold appeal for a wide audience. If you enjoy honest, and occasionally harsh, views on struggles like mental illness, neglect and poverty, this is is your book. If you enjoy novels with strong and determined female protagonists, this is your book. If you enjoy unique fantasy and alternate worlds and places, this is your book.
This may get a bit spoilery, though I am going to try my best not to do. It's just hard to review a book with such a tricky plot without letting on about a few minor details. So: be warned.
Tough Girl is the story of Reggie, an eleven year old girl whom fate has not dealt the kindest of hands. From being bullied at school to neglected at home, Reggie's story is a sad, but not had to envision struggle every day. Thankfully for our heroine, Reggie is also smart, resourceful, resilient, and her own best friend. Escaping into various fantasy worlds with a tough-talking, militaristic alter-ego named Tough Girl, Reggie copes with her problems in a unique and compelling way. Like I said before, Reggie's mom, Mona, neglects her young daughter, leading to Reggie's disconnect from her real life in almost-slumlike building they live in, The Apartments. Reggie's story is a sobering one, and a lot of what she sees and goes through can be tough to read. Libby Heily is an author unafraid to examine the rougher side of life, and it's all to the benefit of the novel. For all its desperation, Reggie's story comes to life with ease.
Obviously in the grip of an unnamed and untreated mental illness, Mona forgets about her daughter for days on end, including the important task of feeding a growing girl. A lot of Reggie's narration and thoughts center around food - either getting it or eating it. I find it remarkably telling that even in Reggie's longest-running fantasy with TG, as she is called, is set on a planet named Girth. Bullied, hungry and alone, even in Reggie's dreams food is the most important part of her day. Her other struggles with classmates like Tara or even bratchild extraordinaire Jacob are painful and sadly quite real to life and carry additional weight to the storyline. There's a lot going on in Tough Girl, be it real or imaginary, and in the end, Heily manages to tie it all together with ease.
I did feel that the end was a bit abrupt. I would've like a little more time with the denoument - just to see it all play out visually. I liked the ending for what it was -it was fitting and believable, but just a very fast turnaround from the pacing of the first 240 pages. This is a shorter novel, but it still packs a punch. Another bonus is the price - it's only $2.99 to join Reggie and her alter-ego in the respective struggles. I was and still am very impressed with Libby Heily's imagination and am excited to see how she will grow and where she will go with her talent after this. (less)
Impressive, if chaotic at the end. I love the idea of the novel, as well has how it was executed -- for the most part. I could've done wi...more4.25 out of 5
Impressive, if chaotic at the end. I love the idea of the novel, as well has how it was executed -- for the most part. I could've done with about half the boy-angst, which is why this is a four-star instead of a five. These are two authors who work extraordinarily well together and complement one another in almost every aspect of the novel. Impressive, emotional, well-written, Lucid is more than a good book. It's great.(less)
I did end up liking this, but I can also admit that I am a leeeetle bit disappointed. This falls prey to the "quest" sort of plot that pops up so ofte...moreI did end up liking this, but I can also admit that I am a leeeetle bit disappointed. This falls prey to the "quest" sort of plot that pops up so often in fantasy.... and that doesn't really make for the most compelling read.
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)
Nice, easy, quick, jaunt into Jared's life before heading to England. Just long enough to carry a plot of its own, but short enough to finish in twent...moreNice, easy, quick, jaunt into Jared's life before heading to England. Just long enough to carry a plot of its own, but short enough to finish in twenty minutes, The Spring Before I Met You will temporarily sate fans of Unspoken eager for more.(less)
Good, but could have been better. Clearly a debut, but the author shows a lot of talent and promise. A little more time editing or clarifying some...more3.5
Good, but could have been better. Clearly a debut, but the author shows a lot of talent and promise. A little more time editing or clarifying some events/ideas would help, but this was still a unique and interesting read. I quite liked it, but there's room for improvement. (less)
This is a review for the third and final novel in the series about Twelve Dancing Princesses, but what...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
This is a review for the third and final novel in the series about Twelve Dancing Princesses, but what I say here about Princess of the Silver Woods holds true for all of the books. I so wanted to love these - I had heard great things and excitedly requested this as an ARC, even without reading the first two. Sadly, I was confused, bored, uninvolved from the very start, so I DNF'd 50 pages in. A week or so later, the first two went on sale for ebooks for less than $2 each. I thought I would give it another try - this time with the benefit of reading the series in order. I read the first two... and it wasn't pretty. They aren't the worst books I've ever read, but I am hard-pressed to remember a series as lackluster and unengaging as this was for me.
Each novel tackles a different fairytale, and occasionally Day George would create a new twist or idea that worked well for her books. I liked the spin on Red Riding Hood meets Robin Hood, but it's hard to recall a lot about these novels. What didn't work well, ever, were her characters. Galen, Rose, Poppy, Christian, and here in book three, Petunia and Oliver all come across as wooden and flat for the duration. Their actions are contrived, their dialogue laughable or vague, their magic and abilities too convenient or too unexplained.I wanted to like them, but their trials, tribulations and eventual coupledom were all too expected and very predictable.
Also working against the books is the worldbuilding. Or rather, the lack of any substantial effort to create a real, vibrant setting for these characters to operate upon. The thinly veiled countries that represent a more magical Europe (Breton = Britain, Spania = Spain, Russaka = Russia, so on and so forth) left a lot to be desired in terms of backdrop. It's all too simple and easy across the board - the relationships, the magic, the world itself. I wanted more from Jessica Day George, and what is provided leaves a lot to be desired.At several points in each novel, I would think that these books and characters came across as much more MG than YA in tone and characterization.
This series is too simple and predictable to be memorable. I read all three in a four day span, and I doubt I will remember anything about any of them in a week's time. All in all: third verse, same as the first. Too simple, too easy, too predictable, too short to pack a punch. The magic is too vague, or too silly (the whole knitting aspect just makes me laugh, every time), and once again, none of the characters really stood out as remarkable, or even really three-dimensional. This series is just not for me, though I can see why others are drawn to it and enjoy it. (less)
Well, that's one way to end a book. I may go insane waiting for the third novel, but sure, we can go with that Julie Kagawa. no I am lying tell me wha...moreWell, that's one way to end a book. I may go insane waiting for the third novel, but sure, we can go with that Julie Kagawa. no I am lying tell me what happens because holy shit cliffhanger.(less)