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)
Welcome to a London come alive with voice-eating spiders, mirror-dwelling aristocrats, and talking ligh...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Welcome to a London come alive with voice-eating spiders, mirror-dwelling aristocrats, and talking lights that literally dance upon the streets. A London where Gods and Goddesses walk the roads unnoticed by the normal human population, and fight one another for preeminence and control over their decaying world. Welcome to Tom Pollock's The City's Son, a novel that redefines both the 'urban' and 'fantasy' in the urban fantasy genre; a novel that brings a whole new meaning to the idea of place-as-character. Though the beginning can be hard to understand and uneven, the reward is outstanding. A fast-paced and action-packed novel packed to the brim with unique, strange, and thoroughly charismatic characters, the first novel in the Skyscraper Throne series is a whole lot of win.
Beautifully written and extensively detailed, there is no area of London that Pollock has not re-envisioned and changed -- for the stranger. Through the eyes of the two main characters - human Beth and Son of the Streets Filius Viae, Pollock takes the reader on a thoroughly original and weird (the kind of weird I tend to expect from China Mieville) journey to self-realization, personal power, and more. Though I am not usually a fan of POV shifts from third-person limited to first person during narrator changes, it works here for Beth and the Urchin Prince. Beth is outside the city; Fil is literally part of it and how they spin their inner monologues help to illustrate that point. Both characters have their individual strengths and weaknesses, but it is the feisty, charismatic, damaged, and fully concrete character of Beth that is the strength of this novel.
The characters here are on par with the talent and time spent setting the scene and creating the original plot. Beth is a wholly rounded and concrete girl. She's realistically flawed, even in a book that suspends disbelief so well. She is feisty, and smart, and loyal, if not always right in her judgements. I have a lot of respect for Beth and the character evolution she goes through during this long but easily read novel. Filius is likeable if unknowable - he's as unique a character as this version of London. Part street rat, part teenage boy, and all heart - the relationship between the two matures organically and best of all, slowly. If I have one issue, I had hoped that Parva's storyline with the teacher would've had a more firm resolution, but she stands strong as a secondary character with motivations and aspirations all her own.
There is just so much creativity and imagination at work in The City's Son, and it can be a lot to take in, especially initially. The author drops the reader into his darkly, dirtily magical world without exposition or infodump.The sheer scope of the world that Pollock has created for his characters to operate in is expansive and all encompassing, from the made-of-trash Gutterglass who operates as a seneschal for the missing Lady of the Streets, to the war between the Sodiumite glass girls and the Blankleit clans, to the train battles between Bahngeists. Like I said, this is an author that brings the city of London to life - literally - it's place as character on a whole new level.
I loved this novel. Though it is one of the longer books I've read lately, it holds up admirably under the weight of all those pages, and plots, and schemes. With an imagination as big as London itself, Tom Pollock renders a finely-tuned and thoroughly evocative novel aimed for readers of all ages. Fans of urban fantasy should take note and give this weirdly awesome and awesomely weird novel a chance. You won't regret giving The City's Son a chance. I eagerly await he second novel, The Glass Republic -- it definitely can't come out soon enough.(less)
I LOVE THIS BOOK! I normally try to refrain from all-caps declarations of love (exception: Christian Ba...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I LOVE THIS BOOK! I normally try to refrain from all-caps declarations of love (exception: Christian Bale), but it is unavoidable and White Cat is worthy of them. This was a quick read but I had so much fun with Cassel that I immediately bought book two, Red Glove, literally right after I finished the final page of this. It's addictive - an all-male POV ya novel that's entirely credible and authentic in its voice, set amid a unique and compelling plotline within a magically-infused world. Fast-moving and nearly unputdownable, this is the book newcomers should try for this author. After starting and DNFing the first Spiderwick novel early last year, I was nowhere close to expecting the level of reaction that White Cat caused within me - this is one that has rocketed up to be among my favorite YA novels of recent years.
Cassel was a strong, unique, male voice with a genuinely compelling and individual tale. This was just... so fun to read; an effortless reading experience as well- the pages flip by without even noticing. I loved the slow reveal of both the history of the 'dab hands' as well as Cassel's own personal evolutionary arc.This isn't a character or a world that you want to leave - both characters and world make an impression and it is a very favorable one. This is a lol-worthy novel, largely due to Cassel himself. He exhibits the trademark teenage self-deprecation and hatred, but unlike most teens, Cassel has the unhappy history to back up his darker emotions. He's quick, and smart but humanly and believably flawed, lonely kid. He uses a complex system of bets on other people's daily lives to feel as if he has some measure of control, as well as to feel like he has a life of his own. Cassel is easily the highpoint of the entire novel, through all his ups, downs, and quotable moments. (“She says that what you did was a cry for help." "It was," I say. "That's why I was yelling 'Heeeelp!' I don't really go in for subtlety.”) If he is occasionally a bit too. . . naiive. . at the expense of pacing and plotting, I'll take that bargain. He's a very relatable and often introspective character for a male teen (“We are, largely, who we remember ourselves to be. That's why habits are so hard to break. If we know ourselves to be liars, we expect not to tell the truth. If we think of ourselves as honest, we try harder.” and “The easiest lies to tell are the ones you want to be true.”) but it works, it genuinely does.
Everything is not perfect here, despite my overwhelming love for the first in the inventive and fun Curse Worker's series - Holly Black is a talented and humorous storyteller, but her expertise doesn't encompass all there is to White Cat. For a novel about con men and deception, several of the twists and turns taken throughout are thoroughly predictable and/or transparent. Not all reveals and outcomes are predicted but some are rather obvious from the get-go. Black takes care to show and not tell with her prose, but her foreshadowing could use some work. This is a novel that isn't full of surprises but one that leads you to a conclusion and then turns that predicted conclusion on its head. It's rather nicely done and impressive on the author's part. I wish that the Mafia families here had more bite and shows of power - I never quite bought the danger of the threat of the Zacharov family, for example. A larger focus on those in charge of the criminal curseworkers would be appreciated.
I was never bored while reading White Cat. On the contrary, I was constantly entertained by this fucked up family dynamic, the first I've seen to really match The Chronicles of Amber in the level of lies, manipulation, outright betrayal and felonies attempted. This is a series made of the winning mix of mafia and magic - intriguing in its conception and execution, filled with complex characters and just plain fun. I read this in early March and I think it will remain one of my favorite novels for the entire year.
Working on the review now, but it won't be up til May-ish. All I can really say, and I can't stress this enough, is:
READ IT. READ IT NOW.
That is all....moreWorking on the review now, but it won't be up til May-ish. All I can really say, and I can't stress this enough, is:
READ IT. READ IT NOW.
That is all. And I need book two like I need... something drastic but not too melodramatic that I can't think of because my mind is stuck in all the AWESOME that this is made of. I'm pre-ordering it because rereads are necessary. (less)
Thoughts upon finishing: emotional. touching. infuriating. lovely. Full review to follow but I knew this was a 5-star read for me early on - Craig and...moreThoughts upon finishing: emotional. touching. infuriating. lovely. Full review to follow but I knew this was a 5-star read for me early on - Craig and especially Lio have forever a place in my heart.(less)
I loved this. Absolutely. Frikkin. Loved it. I tried to draw out the experience and couldn't make mysel...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I loved this. Absolutely. Frikkin. Loved it. I tried to draw out the experience and couldn't make myself stop reading the second day. Without a doubt, this impressive second novel in the newer Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series is going into my "best of 2012" shelf as well as my much less used "all-time favorites." I think I may even have loved this book like I love my hallmark series of steampunk, Gail Carriger's formidably funny and inventive Parasol Protectorate series. I literally have nothing to complain about here, and that is rare. That's a lot of praise for a book to live up to, but The Janus Affair is that rare novel, the one that manages to be delightful, zany, action-packed and original from inception to execution. Please excuse and recognize my blatant and epic fangirling for what it is -- that classic kneejerk reaction of happiness that happens right after finishing an unexpected treat - not everyone in the world will be wowed with this foray into Edwardian steampunkery but boy I was. Though the first novel Phoenix Rising wasn't quiiiite as perfect, this is the steampunk series everyone should be reading now that Alexia has wrapped up her five novel arc hung up her written parasol duties. While the main events of book two of the MoPO were neatly and explosively wrapped up without my predicting the outcome (once again, thanks to the amazing Eliza Braun), I will count the minutes wait patiently until I can get my grabby little hands on whatever else next springs from the fertile minds of Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris.
By far and away, a third of my love for this book is due entirely to the two main characters at the heart of everything, Eliza Braun and Wellington Books. (The other 2/3rds are reserved for steampunkery, excellent/unpredictable and intelligent antagonists and sheer madcap adventure.) Their banter and genuine camaraderie are prone to bustups and petty fights, but it's the underlying respect and genuine feeling of friendship between that makes reading these two feel less like characters and more like real people. It helps that Eliza is a heoine to shame most other heroines - she's brash and coarse and willful and exactly whatever she wants to be. I love Eliza - I always liked her, from the first chapter of book one, but midway through this, I knew I loved her. (This was the exact moment: "In New Zealand, there had been such sweetness to their courtship, but back then she had been quite a different person. Still a little reckless, but in the way of a young woman not yet as familiar with black powder and explosions.") Her characterization is seemingly blunt and obvious (EXPLODE ALL THE THINGS!), but through interactions and over time and pages, with her Ministry Seven, Welly, and the women she relentlessly helps, Eliza is revealed to be much more than just a mere colonial or pistol-loving walking armoury. Wellington Books has been my absolute favorite character from the start and that is only reinforced through his evolution during the last two novels, but The Janus Affair particularly illustrated him as a man of many facets. His dry humour is still very much in tact ("Once more into the breach.." "Sorry, Welly, what was that?" "Shakespeare. I always recite it just before placing my career in harm's way.") but other, less...gentlemanly aspects of his character are brought to the fore. These are definitely not stagnant characters - they grow and change, make mistakes and adapt, and most importantly, they help one another. The working relationship between the two has evolved to be effective and natural - Books can more than count on Eliza to save him from danger as many times as he saves her.
Steampunk itself seems to be evolving to blend quite naturally with two other, less fantastical genres - mystery and romance. The Janus Affair does have more than a bit of both and handles each element quite admirably - as Books would say, with aplomb. I never felt that one was cheated at the expense of the other - never does any romantic entanglement supersede the plot, nor does the mystery overwhelm the sense of compatibility and chemistry between the Sherlockian main characters. I have to think that these two authors work together more cohesively than any other pairing I've yet come across - Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine complement each other naturally. Though a lot of steampunk novels have the secret organization paired with "agents" used to protect Old Blighty from the supernatural (Parasol Protectorate, Newbury & Hobbes Investigations) and solve paranormal crimes, co-authors Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris go to extremely awesome lengths to create a wholly enveloped and imagined alternate universe for their characters to play within. (They even have a ton of novellas - often by other authors - in the same universe with different characters! There are editions you can purchase, or as free podcasts.) Much like their imagined version of 1800's Britain, the steampunk machines and gadgets used by the cast are wholly original, fun and useful without becoming deux-ex-machinas. I especially liked that something from the first book was referenced and used as a slight part of the plot for the second (the "aethergates" anyone?) - it reinforces the feel that this version of England is an ongoing world, not just unconnected vignettes into random episodes.
The Janus Affair, simply put, is a book that has a lot to offer across a wide variety of areas. Original plotting, genuinely twisty and murky mysteries with a high body count, several strong female characters, amusing banter, original and highly creative use of steampunk and gadgets, veeery smart and fully capable antagonists, the slight but oh-so effective romance, double agents, explosions and more. As I said, the main events and plot of this book have been neatly and effectively wrapped up, but there are some few exceptions to the rule. I don't want to spoil anything from the novel because this really is a fun mystery to try and solve independently, but there are juicy, unresolved plot tendrils enough to ensure that readers from books one and two will want to read the planned third to figure out the Maestro's plans.
I bought the first book, Phoenix Rising, on sale for Nook for a $1.99 late last year and waited several months to dig in. (I guess I like to wait on my books before I read them? Sit on them like a dragon with its hoard, jealously guarding any potential enjoyment I might have when/if I start...? I have 100+ bought and waiting to be read...I'm crazy.) The publishers were generous enough to send me an ARC copy of The Janus Affair just in time for me to realize how much I was going to love this book, series, characters and how much I needed the sequel the second I finished book one. After the last 800 pages with Wellington Books (whom I always call "Boots" in my head before I realize) and Eliza, I can say that I will be buying my own physical copies of both these books because I love them that much. Hey now that I've finished book two, any chances of a draft of book three? Philippa? Tee? Anyone? Please? In the meantime, I'll have to go read the short stories and wait patiently for whatever these creative authors are cooking up for round number three.(less)
I don't even have words right now. This was so good, in so many ways. From characters to the writing, to themes and setting, I am in love with th...moreWow.
I don't even have words right now. This was so good, in so many ways. From characters to the writing, to themes and setting, I am in love with this novel. It reminded me a lot of Never Let Me Go; it made me cry; it made me feel.
Hats off to Sangu Mandanna - she broke my heart in all the right ways. (less)
Wow, wow, wow. This is one of the best Cinderella retellings I've come across. The story is rich, the writing lovely and the romance heart-breaking. T...moreWow, wow, wow. This is one of the best Cinderella retellings I've come across. The story is rich, the writing lovely and the romance heart-breaking. This book just got so so many things exactly right. Zoe Marriott, I am impressed and saddened that I have no other books of yours to read at this very moment.
It's hard to duplicate a success - countless series and books that follow-up first-in-line beloved stor...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
It's hard to duplicate a success - countless series and books that follow-up first-in-line beloved stories can easily attest to how hard a feat that is to accomplish. Happily, that is so far from the case here with Catherynne Valente's second foray into her magical, modernish fairytale series with The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There. Told once again in the same wistful, cheeky tone, and with the same immediately immersive feeling as the first one, but with a more mature September and a more convoluted journey, Catherynne Valente once again proves how imaginative and capable a storyteller she is. Set a year after the first novel wrapped up, readers will have all new marvelous adventures, new anthropomorphic creatures, more wondrous and weird locales to sink into as they go along with September in her fight to once again save Fairyland.
These two books have been absurd, funny, poignant, and filled to the brim with odd, hard-won wisdom. The second adventure with September in Fairyland and Fairyland-Below has lost none of the originality or charm that so defined the first. Without a single doubt, this newest novel from the author is another winner from prosemaster Catherynne Valente. I loved this. Even more than the first, which I would've bet wouldn't've happened before I got a chance to read an ARC of the eagerly-awaited second.
With the same narrator, who frequently breaks the fourth wall to directly address his audience about the goings-on of September and her "new" motley band of misfits, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There is as highly imaginative, and uniquely told as its predecessor. Though told in the same inimitable and thoroughly cheeky prose brimming with deeper meaning, Valente has a subtle way of intertwining hard-won wisdom amid her world of absurd and wonderful creations. With just as many quotable sections as the first, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland... benefits from a larger focus on plot than the novel before. The novel still reads more like episodic vignettes than a straight-forward novel, but the overarching need to save Fairyland from Fairyland-Below drives September ever on.
The first September novel came across as an original and compelling mix of a modern fairytale, with a lot of ideas and events borrowed from the ages-old Persephone myth. The forced return for eating food, the regular mention of pomegranates further reinforced that feeling for me as I progressed in my read. Here in the second, I caught vibes of the Orpheus myth - someone sent into the underworld to retrieve something vital to her/others. Though in The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland..'s case, it is not someone but something that must be retrieved. So far, both novels in this hopefully-ongoing series have uniquely and successfully blended adult themes, ideas into an easily readable and immensely enjoyable, highly original take on fairy tales. This is a series and book like no other.
More mature, and darker than the first novel, September's journey shows how much the main protagonist has grown and her battle with her darker self will appeal to readers of all ages. Filled with "mad and savage beasts", September's journey to save the world and put herself right easily blends classic fairytale ideas with new, more modern adaptations. With hints at a third, and more secrets than previously imagined, I anxiously hope that this is not the final adventure with September, Ell, Saturday, and everyone else. Full of brilliant prose, multilayered meaning, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There is another winner from a very talented and original author. These books -and this author - are nothing short of remarkable.
"The sky glowed deep blue and rose, and a little yellow star came on like a lightbulb in the warm evening. That's Venus, September thought. She was the goddess of love. It's nice that love comes on first in the evening, and goes out last in the morning. Love keeps the light on all night."
"[September] did not know yet how sometimes people keep parts of themselves hidden and secret, sometimes wicked and unkind parts, but often brave or wild or colorful parts, cunning or or powerful or even marvelous, beautiful parts, just locked up away at the bottom of their hearts. They do this because they are afraid of being stared at, or relied upon to do feats of bravery and boldness. And all of those brave and wild and cunning and marvelous and beautiful parts they hid away and left in the dark to grow strange mushrooms – and yes, sometimes those wicked and unkind parts, too – end up in their shadows.”
"A book is a door, you know. Always and forever. A book is a door to another place and another heart and another world."
Just.. wow. This is such a novel. I don't even have the words to articulate how rich, lovely, and special this book is. I knew I loved the first,...more Wow.
Just.. wow. This is such a novel. I don't even have the words to articulate how rich, lovely, and special this book is. I knew I loved the first, with its blue-haired, quirky protagonist and it's legions of monsters and angels, but this one is better.
Days of Blood and Starlight is a far cry from Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but it s a deeply magical and thoroughly unique, beautifully written piece of art.
This is the type of book I am constantly looking for in the historical fiction genre, and rarely seem t...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
This is the type of book I am constantly looking for in the historical fiction genre, and rarely seem to stumble across; it's very engaging from the outset, it's lively to read with actualized characters in stead of cardboard historical cutouts, and it's mostly, somewhat accurate. Sophie Perinot may indeed be a first-time author, but you certainly wouldn't know that from reading her debut novel. The Sister Queens tells the captivating and contrasting stories of two proud sisters from Savoy and I was never bored reading about these two fascinating and strong women. This novel is an impressive and lengthy addition to the Tudor-heavy historical fiction genre, and miraculously, one that despite its nearly 530 page length, never bores. I personally read a lot of Tudor-era historical fiction, but this was just the right palate cleanser for all the Howards, Boleyns and Stuarts I usually see re-imagined. Thus, I may not have known as much about or been as familiar with the facts and history of the times the novel takes place during (1234-1255) going into this, but the characters were so vivid and alive that I felt compelled to research the actual personages upon finishing. Ms. Perinot's creation is indelibly her own, but I appreciate the factually-influenced way she presented both her story and her characters.
Marguerite and Eleanor are both sisters and, eventually, Queens, but it is the first bond more than anything that defines them the most. They are each others touchstone, especially once they are separated with Marguerite in France and Eleanor in England. Especially since each country viewed their foreign "Savoyard" Queens as less than appealing, their dependent relationship with the other is realistic and sympathetic. The Sister Queens interjects epistolary (fabricated) letters between the two before every chapter and each missive between the two reinforces just how close these women remained, though separated by years, wars, religion, distance. The POV shifts back and forth between the two, usually at the chapter breaks. While this could've been easily confusing, the "voices" of each respective Queen is very distinctive and identifiable. I didn't even really notice the use of present-tense for the first few chapters: I just felt that everything in the novel very immediate, in a good way. I could tell when I was reading Eleanor and when I was reading Marguerite before names/places popped up in their thoughts. The relationship between Marguerite and Eleanor, proud daughters of Savoy is the most compelling and emotional of the entire novel: unlike the relationships with their respective husbands, the relationship between the pair is as close to equals as the two can find in their lives. Their is an obvious amount of love between the two, but Perinot early on creatively slides in subtle hints of discord and strife that mar every sisterhood and that will eventually come to affect their bond.
Eleanor is the younger, covetous and more strident of the two, and my personal favorite of the novel. She is a woman very concerned with "fairness" and what's right, at least what's right according to her - character traits that will cause her unforeseen problems with both her husband and sister later in life. While I liked the personal evolution that both women undertake during the events of the book, I felt that Eleanor was more personally identifiable for me as a reader. Marguerite, especially as her marriage and happiness in that marriage, waned was more trouble for me to invest within. Perinot's deft foreshadowing on the troublesome piety of Louis IX sets the scene for Marguerite's woes early, but I only cared when she finally took some happiness for herself, rather than sit and pine and wait for her husband to extend some to her. Eleanor grows from an imperious, headstrong girl mostly concerned with what she possesses and controls into a gracious, intelligent queen that is both capable of reigning solely (unheard of at that time in history) and tampering her less-able King and husband's governing impulses. While neither husband-King of either sister could be rightly termed a "good" king (Henry is very ignorant of the feelings of the populace/Barons that control his country, Louis IX abandons his France for the Holy Land for SEVEN YEARS), both women show their ability to step up and make hard decisions when the menfolk can't seem to get the job done right.
While Eleanor was my self-professed favorite character, I do love a good villain. Blanche of Castile comprises that role for the bulk of the novel for Marguerite, and the "Dragon of Castile" made a malicious and well-mannered antagonist. The tête-à-têtes between Blanche and her daughter-in-law show a different side to the usually meek and accepting Marguerite; the first hints of future independence are shown clearly in her lack of deference to the dowager Queen. While later duties of antagonism were ably handled by her bumbling and ascetic son, Blanche commands attention even when not on the page. Her tussles with her daughter in love over her son/Marguerite's husband illustrate perfectly how alone and powerless Marguerite was in France. Not for her was her sister Eleanor's life of mutual love and respect, which itself was far from typical of the Royal couples of the day. Because of Blanche, Marguerite is a nonentity at the court of which she is Queen. This disparate use of power and control contrasts tidily with the life of Eleanor who schemes and manipulates her own court outright. The difference between the sisters is that Eleanor makes things happen, whereas (view spoiler)[until Jean (hide spoiler)] Marguerite is content to sit and wait for things to fall her way
One of the most enjoyable aspects of The Sister Queens is that no matter how convoluted the relationship, how twisted the tale, how unfamiliar the person at Court, Sophie Perinot never talks down to her readers. The tone of condescion from other historical fiction writers is absent entirely from these pages. Events are explained precisely and meticulously, nobles are referred to by their various names without reference to their every title or land (no "Lord Edward Sudbury, 2nd Earl of Westchester-on-the-Green, a Stuart and son of Lord......" type business before a character speaks/etc,) with a clear belief and respect that her readers can ably follow along.
I do wish that more had been shown of Eleanor's "toute seule" reign over England while her husband King Henry III was away. As Eleanor was my favorite and a very capable governor, a view of her directly in charge would've made a good contrast to the usual role she was forced to take. Elanor repeatedly maneuvers her husband into the Royal decisions and decrees which she deems correct before the regency, so a view into her own government would've been interesting to read. I'm also disappointed by the time that the novels ends at - 1255 - when both women have decades of still-tumultuous life ahead of them (Marguerite dies in 1295, Eleanor in 1291). I can't complain about the cut-off point too much or loudly because there is a lot of novel in what is provided (all 500 pages of Court intrigue, betrayals, war, love, uprisings) but I just want more. I want more about these two and their complicated, engrossing relationship from this author specifically.
With her debut novel, Sophie Perinot brings to life, once again, two fascinating woman about whom not much is concretely known. Perinot's Eleanor and Marguerite are not just historical figures reimagined and operating upon the page: they are vibrant, strong, flawed and above all: fascinating and refreshing to read for the entire 528 page length of the book. This is a book that makes me want to read more in the same vein: I've pre-ordered another novel just because it focuses on the four daughters of Savoy who would all marry Kings. This is a book that makes me want another from the author immediately. This is a book that I would love to see spun into a sequel completing the years of the lives of the two main characters. This was a wonderful read and one of my favorites so far this year. Move over Tudors, I think I have a new historical royal family obsession.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Excuse me if I am extremely a little fangirly right now. I just finished this whirlwind novel of advent...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Excuse me if I am extremely a little fangirly right now. I just finished this whirlwind novel of adventure, humor and mystery just minutes ago, and friends, I am impressed. And in dire need of a reread, just for fun. And, now, I am a stalwart fan of both India Black and the author behind this highly creative and immensely fun novel, Carol K. Carr. Reading this was easy, entertaining, and so very fun; this is one of those novels that grabs you from the very first page and never really lets go. Another of my done-in-one-sitting reads, India Black has set a high standard for the rest of the novels that will follow in this promising series from a talented author. I admit that I am not one for historical mysteries all that often - I usually stay more on the straight historical fiction side of the genre - but I will willingly make exceptions for any and all further India Black novels to come.
In such a fast-paced novel, with adventures and turnabouts and surprise revelations and secret pasts every other chapter, it is main character India that really makes the novel something really quite special. I truly enjoyed the fleshed-out secondary characters (French and Vincent are both, quite disparately charming fellows) and antagonists, but India is what makes this one of my best-of-2012 novels easily. India is a madam, among many, many other attributes (and vices). Skilled in multiple fields (I do enjoy a girl who can shoot a gun/defend herself/use her wits) and India does each and every one of those multiple times. She is the equal of her unofficial government counterpart, and her charm and humor had me laughing out loud on multiple occasions. Smart, cunning and opportunistic, India is a fully-formed, distinct character, and one I related to quite easily - despite our very different backgrounds and attitudes. She bursts forth from the page with her witty comebacks and her handy way around a weapon. She is resourceful and wonderfully three-dimensional with her frank honesty, forthright attitudes - a heroine to remember in a sea of forgettable leads.
India is nicely complemented by her comrades-in-arms, the mysterious and charming French and the street urchin of questionable but useful talents, Vincent. The verbal and occasional real sparring between India and French is another highlight to this well-rounded novel. So often during my experience, I was tempted to update my status on GoodReads with a bon mot or a choice comment from either droll character. Their chemistry is palpable, their interactions full of authenticity, and though this is far from a romance novel, the attraction between the opposites works really well to add an extra layer of tension to a novel already brimming with it. French is a charismatic character, and one that kept me intrigued and very attentive through this all-too-short read of just under 300 pages. Not as open as India about his life, or even his name! - which is to be expected as she narrates the novel, often breaking the fourth wall to address her readers - but is still one that manages to hold his own against the formidable and crafty madam. Vincent adds a certain charm, if his role as a street smart urchin in a Victorian novel is somewhat formulaic, he does add to the novel another easily likeable and distinct character.
This is a mystery, but midway through the novel, that premise is readily concluded and then it's a madcap race of adventure through England and various hostage situations in a race against the agents of the tsar of Russia. India Black is by turns amusing, exciting, hilarious, and always full of constant surprises and upheavals. It's light and fun read and I can't stress enough how good of a time I had with this novel, from start to end. India Black is well worth a try if a feisty protagonist with a brain is high and a unique way around a retort are on your list of favorites. All the rest is an added bonus to a convoluted plot, populated with such vibrant characters.
(A copy of the novel was generously sent to me by the author to review. This in no way influenced my opinion. Because seriously: THIS BOOK IS AWESOME.)(less)
I absolutely loved this. Ismae's inner monologue was enjoyable and oh, boy do I have a bookcrush on Gavriel Duval. Full review to follow but this one...moreI absolutely loved this. Ismae's inner monologue was enjoyable and oh, boy do I have a bookcrush on Gavriel Duval. Full review to follow but this one definitely lived up to all the hype for me.
Assassin nuns sound like fun, and in Grave Mercy, they definitely are.(less)
This strange novel definitely, understandably is not for everyone, but it was a perfect fit for me. Billingsley's et...moreThis. Was. Beautiful. Odd. Unique.
This strange novel definitely, understandably is not for everyone, but it was a perfect fit for me. Billingsley's ethereal and lovely prose is filled with vibrant imagery and, coupled with such a strange and mysterious plot, help to make Chime such a clear standout for 2012 for this reader.
Review to come after my trip to Vegas this week!(less)
Jellicoe Road was my first Marchetta novel - though this is an author highly touted and often recommended, I was strangely hesitant to read any of her books. Example? I bought Marchetta's acclaimed ya fantasy Finnikin of the Rock for Nook over two months ago, when it was on sale for $2.99, and haven't yet peeked at a page. Hype is often a double-edged sword, as many other anticipated YA novels can attest and I didn't want to feel the sting of disappointment here. I have to say that the first 50 pages of Jellicoe certainly intriiigued me, but they didn't quite convince me as I had hoped. I can certainly see why some readers find the beginning off-putting and hard to comprehend initially, but even after the dual narrative of past and present were cleared up, I just didn't get It, the Big Deal about this book and this author. Then, near about 100 pages later and a "save yourself, Taylor," I got it in a big way. This book made me Feel Things. All of the feelings really: happiness, amusement, sorrow, anger, fear, love. I'm stuck with the feeling that no matter how much I edit and revise and rethink, I will never be able to do this beautiful novel justice.
As soon as I finished this, I knew I didn't want to think about other characters, other stories. I wanted to stay here, in Jellicoe, with these characters. So I did the only thing that made sense and flipped the book over and immediately began rereading all my favorite parts. It still packs a punch the second time around, even knowing explicitly what will happen.
I grabbed this on a whim three days ago, having been close to finishing the excruciatingly emotional Code Name Verity but with 100 pages and hours of work to go, I opted for a longer novel that hopefully wouldn't make me cry at work. How wrong I was; tears were streaming down by my lunch break (aka p. 255) I engulfed this absorbing, heart-breaking tale in just over twelve hours, covering work and family dinner, starting just before I left at 9 am, sneaking in pages whenever - wherever - I could. Melina Marchetta is the real deal: an imitable and simple but striking style, a masterful storyteller with impressive authorial sleight-of-hand, capable of rendering complex, fallible and damaged characters I still wholly and completely loved.
This novel is a masterpiece of young-adult fiction (the 'territory war' was obviously the weakest part of the novel, but it brought together the core four [Taylor, Santangelo, Raffaela, Griggs] initially and eventually was revealed to have a larger purpose) and Melina Marchetta deserves all the accolades she's garnered. As the lovely Emily May so aptly put it: "[She] plays my emotions like Jimi Hendrix played guitar." Skillfully, elegantly, and above all subtly, Marchetta takes utmost time and care with crafting both her storylines and her compellingly damaged and so so real characters.
And let me tell you: oh boy, did I ever care about Taylor, Jonah, Jude, Hannah, Tate, Jessa, Webb, etc. While it took a while for these many personalities to manifest, I think this might one of my most beloved ensembles. From Jonah to Jude, these characters are real, vibrant, and dear to me. Jonah Griggs: I officially Get It. I officially Want One of My Own. Everyone take note for in Jellicoe Road, with Melina's hand at the wheel, there is an authentic, believable and touching YA romance with a swoon-worthy broody love-interest. I don't go in for broody as much now that I'm not 17 and I certainly don't say "swoon-worthy" as a descriptor for men I like, but Jonah Griggs defies that. He is broody and swoon-worthy, but that's not all he is. Like Taylor and Jude (Oh, Jude <3. I think he broke my heart as much as Griggs did.) this damaged young-man is developed and rounded. The scenes between him and Taylor - fighting, teasing, loving - all have electricity, a palpable tension, and their relationship is one of the few credible romances in YA.
Jellicoe Road is moving, powerful and dramatic without being emotionally manipulative - when Taylor lashes out at whoever is convenient (not my Griggs!), I feel for her wild pain instead of rolling my eyes at her melodrama. Most of the characters have significant tragedies in their pasts, especially Taylor and Jonah, but this is an author that appreciates retraint and how to show emotion without overdoing it and making it a Production. I finished this novel nothing if not in awe of the talent shown throughout from the author - from plot development to character reveals, this is one of the best.
Before, I was scared to read Marchetta because I feared she/the novel wouldn't live up to expectations. Now I just don't know where to start - I've ordered hardback copies of Finnikin, its sequel Froi of the Exiles, and Saving Francesca. I just can't do this novel justice - whatever I say feels inadequate. This book moved me, like The Book Thief did - at my core, in a place few novels and characters truly reach. I said before that Melina Marchetta could have been a victim of the hype machine but now all I want to do is force all my family and friends to read her novels. I've decided that the hype around this author and this book isn't big enough yet - everyone should be reading this author.
Jellicoe Road is a gripping read, one that inspired a wide, fully-felt spectrum of emotions and reactions - all of them complimentary. I love this book like I love few others.
My reactions by page, because by 250 I couldn't think critically, I could just fangirl absorb the words as fast as my eyes would move and jot down impressions/thoughts:
p. 250: Oh my god. I <3 Jonah p. 255: WTF! NO! What! Yass! p. 297: I want a Griggs. p. 304: This is heart-breaking, gut-wrenching and still so lovely. This book... "Who will be my memory" I can't.... this book... p. 315: Could he be any more adorable? p. 343: And THAT, ladies and gents, is how you write a credible, romantic teenage relationship. p. 371: oh no oh no oh no I think I know where this is headed oh no p. 394: damn right you better keep Raffy around - the rare female sidekick that is fully developed and awesome p. 399 and on: tears p. 407: Griggs. p. 416: I love the narrative structure, the symmetry. (view spoiler)["My father took a hundred and thirty-two minutes to die. I counted." "My mother took seventeen years to die. I counted." (hide spoiler)] "Wonder dies." "I wonder."
Wow. I am impressed and so sad that this adventure in reading is over. I completely loved and inhaled Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Having read and thor...moreWow. I am impressed and so sad that this adventure in reading is over. I completely loved and inhaled Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Having read and thoroughly enjoyed two of David Levitan's novels several years ago in college (Boy Meets Boy and The Realm of Possibility), I knew I loved and appreciated his unique style. What I absolutely didn't expect was just how well his individual and unique flair would meld so seamlessly with John Green's own style. I now totally, totally get all the John Green-love and fully participate within it. This is going to be one of my favorites for the year, hands down. (less)
This was a magical experience for me - one that was completely charming but not without depth or darker themes. It's a light and breezy read with an innocent tone for the most part - a (sadly) short-ish book that can easily be completed in a day but be warned; this novel about young love made my bitter old heart grow three sizes when I finished it. Vaclav & Lena is, at the heart of everything, a novel really all about love. Love between friends, lovers, parents - Haley Tanner made sure all types are shown; from the various ups and downs of lives of the two main characters, and through the cast of big-hearted and small-vocabularied Rasia, to the whimsical and adorable young-Vaclav, to the more remote but alluring Lena.
I mainly love this novel based on the strength of the complicated, endearing, realistic and lovable main characters, the eponymous Lena and Vaclav. Yes, there are several issues first brought to light by minds brighter than mine (Vaclav is not a Russian name, the iffy speech patterns, Rasia/her husband Oleg could be viewed as a sad stereotype of Russian emigres) but my overwhelming appreciation and love for these two made the rest worth it. I am not blind to the faults that will surely turn others off completely but for me this was always about the two kids and the rest was just atmosphere or set-pieces. Rasia is the most important secondary character but outside of one crucial act that changes everything, the reader's attention remains wholly on the would-be magician and his beautiful assistant.
Haley Tanner is a good storyteller, especially for a debut novel - I was hooked on this tale from the first chapter. The early sweetness of the beginning chapters really captured the feeling, the hope essential to both Vaclav and Rasia's and their hopes for life in America. The author's gift for descriptive, detailed prose sets all the scenes with atmosphere and feeling. For me, this was a beautiful, emotional and lovely read - a book with a lot of heart and promise. I was vastly impressed with the author and only the quibbles mentioned earlier (why must all ex-pat Russians drop pronouns and articles?) kept this from being perfect. Even so, 5 stars because of how beautiful Tanner's writing often was, and for my immense love for Lena and Vaclac, especially Vaclav. Wonderful.
"Lena is like an egg hitting the floor, she comes apart everywhere."
"Of course they were with each other the whole time. Even when they weren't looking, they never had to check. She was always there; he was always there. Outside her bedroom, somewhere in the darkness, like the moon."
"Vaclav has said goodnight to Lena every night since the night she went away. Out loud. In a whisper. [...] He filled the words with all his love and care and worry for Lena and launched them out to her, and like homing pigeons, he trusted them to find her."
"'What have you been up to?' She smiles; it is so strange to ask him what he has been up to. Like meeting the president and saying, 'Hey, how are you doing?'
'Same, thing,' he says, meaning still magic, still trying to take care of you with my mind, still trying to control events using supernatural powers."
"Lena's real mom, Emily, knew that this was not the truth, but she also knew that Vaclav was not lying. Vaclav knew that he was telling the truth. Lena knew that it was a lie, but she loved it and believed it, like a fairy tale, like a song, like a bedtime story, like a magic trick. She loved Vaclav until it became the truth and so it was."
Even better then Eon. Complex, intricate worldbuiling, with obvious Asian influences, a strong, conflicted and above all, realistic main character mad...moreEven better then Eon. Complex, intricate worldbuiling, with obvious Asian influences, a strong, conflicted and above all, realistic main character made this easily one of my favorites for this year. I'm seriously impressed with Alison Goodman and how much she grew as a writer over the course of these two novels. I was so riveted, wracked with emotional whiplash over the course of the novel that I finished this 630+ page novel in one day. It's consumingly readable.
-told in inimitable and thoroughly cheeky prose brimming with deeper meaning
-filled to the brim with adventures
-creative with new fairytale creatures
-a wonderful mix of classic fairytale staples blended with new interpretations
This book is not:
-just for children
I've had my eye on this particular book for a while - with that cover, it's not hard to see why - and, thankfully, it is that rare novel that holds up to hype, expectation, and hopes. From the first page with the cheeky omniscient narrator to the last with its hints to a sequel, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is delightfully absurd tale of magic, corrupted power, friendship, and perseverance. Catherynne Valente can spin a tale like no other (as I learned reading the heartbreaking Deathless earlier this year), and her adaptation of the fairytale genre is like no other I've read.
One part Persephone myth, one part Alice in Wonderland, and one part odd and wonderful, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland is not just a children's story. With darker elements and themes subtly wwoven into the episodic frame, Valente creates a story that will resonate with readers of all ages. While I wouldn't say there is an exces sof plot - or even much of a general one, as the story weaves its way around the Fairyland - the Wyverary, Gleam, Saturday and September herself will more than keep the audience firmly tuned in.
With sly humor, and subtle allusions to other famous novels, this weirdly charming, occasionally quite funny little book balances wisdom with adventure, creativity with evil, and the modern with the fantastical. It's a highly original novel, full of some of the best prose I've had a chance to read in some time. Nearly perfect, engrossing and lively, I can't really express how much I loved my read of this. Without a doubt, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is more than worth a read. It's a winner from beginning to the too-soon end.
"But luck can be spent, like money; and lost, like a memory; and wasted, like a life."
"All children are heartless. They have not grown a heart yet, which is why they can climb tall trees and say shocking things and leap so very high that grown-up hearts flutter in terror. Hearts weigh quite a lot. That is why it takes so long to grow one. [...] (It is well known that reading quickens the growth of a heart like nothing else.)"
"Only because you are small. You are young and far from your Death, September, so I seem as anything would seem if you saw it from a long way off — very small, very harmless. But I am always closer than I appear. As you grow, I shall grow with you, until, at the end, I shall loom huge and dark over your bed, and you will shut your eyes so as not to see me."
"Do not ruin today with mourning tomorrow."
(I also think it's delightfully fitting that I read this book in September.)(less)