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)
The Accused: The Chaos of Stars' cast, writing, plotting
The Offense(s): Criminal waste of time, cover fraud, squandering a great premise, using cliches and juvenile writing
The Prosecution: Jessie, a disappointed reader
Opening Argument: Ladies and gentleman, I present to you a blurb that promises Egyptian gods, a creative new take for young adult supernatural fiction, and an interesting plot. The Chaos of Stars delivers Egyptian gods, sure -- but shallow, lifeless representations of them. Instead of a new, fresh plot, the same old tropes and themes are trotted out to the reader's exasperation. It is a boring affair - full of instalove, a cheesy romance, and lackluster execution.
Exhibit A: Isadora's lack of personality. Surliness and self-absorption do not a character make. She doesn't even qualify for antihero status. She's boring, she's immature, judgmental, and impossible to care about. If it doesn't directly concern Isadora herself, she is uninterested. It's hard to stomach such a badly-written character.
Exhibit B: The Chaos of Stars uses the same theme so many other young adult novels fall prey too - magical girl, who is beyond gorgeous (of course) must wrestle with familial expectations while trying to figure out what she wants from life. If you're going to use the Egyptian gods as your main characters, make use of them. Don't make them fade into the background until it's too late.
Exhibit C: The writing. It's juvenile. It's unpolished. There's no subtlety, no depth or any real emotion evoked in the nearly 300 pages of the book. You can skim the last 50ish pages and miss nothing. That is not good. There should be ethos, pathos, building tension, a dramatic conflict. There is sadly none of that to be found here.
Exhibit D: The plot. Where was it for most of the book? Your guess is as good as mine and I read the damn thing. For the most part, White focuses on a romance with an impossibly gorgeous Greek boy who is more than he seems to be (think about that for more than two minutes and you will have figured out a twist.) and who is in love with Isadora because...well... who knows.
Closing Argument: I was disappointed by this book from the beginning. For so much potential, the premise is neglected and the execution is lackluster. The characters are one-dimensional AND unlikeable or wooden, and the conclusion lacks emotion.
Verdict: Do not waste your time. It's not worth it, and you're honestly not missing anything by skipping this. Don't be lured in by that cover, or the promise of something original. There's none of that to be found in The Chaos of Stars.(less)
I love when books can surprise you. I had a general idea of what to expect with Karen Thompson Walker's...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I love when books can surprise you. I had a general idea of what to expect with Karen Thompson Walker's meandering, character and thought-driven novel about the end of the world, but I had no idea how bittersweetly she could spin this science fiction-adjacent tale of change, hope, young love, and death. I somehow assumed that this thoughtful exploration of the Earth's "slowing" would be a young-adult effort, but though protagonist and narrator Julia is a preteen, The Age of Miracles should not be confused for a simple young-adult story; don't be deceived as I was. Karen Thompson Walker proves herself more than adept at crafting a unique, easily-envisaged scenario in which for her characters to live or die here, and it is contemplatively engaging from the get-go. Though this is a debut author, there is clearly a lot of talent at play within this new author's fertile and expansive imagination — this is one novelist whom I will be sure to watch in the future.
I was struck by the author's writing within pages. Simple and spare, Walker and Julia are gifted with an easy but strong voice, alive with imagery. Walker has a gift for striking descriptions and a unique way with words, one easily lent to creating atmosphere and tension within the novel (from the ARC, page 8: "We did not sense at first the extra time, bulging from the smooth edge of each day like a tumor blooming beneath skin.") Her style fits this loosely apocalyptic story; the focus is not on the extreme events that happen as a result of the slowing (like "solar superstorms" or "gravity sickness"), nor in finding/explaining the cause for the change, but rather on the effects of the aforementioned on Julia and her family. As the world and the things taken for granted fluctuate and stretch, so too do the inner lives and previously unassailable facts of life for Julia, her father and mother.
Julia grows up, and into her role as narrator, quite fast in a world where "dark days" and "white nights" are the norm, and her character is neither stunted nor fully-dimensional. Hampered, perhaps, by the very short length of this novel (only 212 pages in ARC form), I never quite connected to Julia. I was curious about whether the cards would fall as I predicted, but I never fully invested in her as character. Like the particularly apt reference to the Gary Paulsen novel Hatchet and akin to its protagonist Brian, young Julia finds her way alone in an unfamiliar, and hostile world. I rooted for her in her suburban catastrophes; I just didn't love her. All the characters, from dad Joel to hippie Sylvia, feel sketched-out, rather than fully drawn and realized. Despite this, I was fully involved in the story unfolding throughout The Age of Miracles - the steady stream of new revelations, the twists and turns of the more mundane plotlines and above all, Thompson Walker's inimitable prose, kept my attention firmly affixed to the page.
Though quite short and not completely perfect, The Age of Miracles is a bittersweet and worthy addition to the science fiction/apocalyptic genre. Karen Thompson Walker's foray into writing is largely a success on many counts - it is original and compelling and distinctly written. It is, I hope, a pleasant harbinger of more to come from the debut novelist. I will definitely be tuning in as well as going forth and recommending this book for those seeking a slower-paced, more introspective take on the end of the world.
#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)
(Even watching that trailer now, after the fact, I am excited and impressed. And then I remember. And then woe.)
The book sadly doesn't live up to the awesomeness that advertised it. I'm not even a fan of book trailers, but the promotion department for this book deserves a big raise. The editing department might not. But, if you're just now hearing about this YA/MG fantasy about fairytales and witches and princesses, this might end up being the book for you. It's a tad long, a tad overwrought, but it's got a lot of heart and, at times, can be very entertaining. Soman Chainani creates a vibrant world with two interesting and diverse leads, and I can say they paths and plots he takes them through isn't predictable, though it can be a tad pedantic at times. The comparisons to Gregpry Maguire's work is apt and appropriate and I can see his fans enjoying this less adult look at magical children.
The School for Good and Evil reminded me of a younger Harry Potter at times. There's the obvious: magical children spirited away for their edification (for either good or ill), there's the obvious good guys, the obvious bad guys, magical beings like werewolves, fairies, and a multi-headed dog inside a mysterious, hidden castle(s). There are pranks, a ball, a love story that is not what you expect, and in the end, a grand battle for the school itself. That all sounds well and good and like fun, and it can be. The main problem is that The School for Good and Evil takes too long to get anywhere. It becomes too predictable to shock readers and the final conflict... well, veered on deus ex machina. That's never a good way to resolve a story readers have spent so much time investing in.
This is a looooong book for almost any genre (I'm looking at you, Epic Fantasy), but for a very young YA/verging on MG fairytale, 496 pages is just much too much. The pacing lags, events feel drawn out or stretched beyond feasibility, and the plot takes too much time to really form. There's a lack of tension and suspense before key events because the author takes too long to develop any sort of meaningful conflict. Outside of plotting and pacing, Chainani is an obviously talented, very visual, writer. Scenes pop and creatures both big and small, humor or non, all burst from the page. The School for Good and Evil can project an image, but fails to deliver real substance to go with how pretty/evil everything is on the surface.
The main characters are adaptable, and pretty well-rounded. There's more to both Sophie and Agatha than what meets the eye, and the author's switcheroo can be pretty clever. However, like most things in this novel, the realizations that come to both girls about their roles in future fairy tales takes far too long to foment into something meaningful. I could have done without the romances that pop up and complicate the girls' relationship and the plot, but Prince Charmings (and Not So Charmings) are to be expected in a novel so concerned with fairytales. The characters are another strong aspect of the novel, and I'm curious to see what will happen after the final events of book one.
The School for Good and Evil isn't a bad book by any means. It's just not as good as you, or I, or that book trailer want it to be. Those looking for a saccharine-ly sweet Disney tale should look elsewhere, and readers in search of a vibrant setting with complex and contradictory characters will find The School for Good and Evil a good fit, if not a particularly memorable one. There's some room for improvement, and editing, but Soman Chainani has a satisfactory beginning to his new series.(less)
Monument 14 seems to have a lot of things going for it: killing hailstorms, a bus explosion, death and...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Monument 14 seems to have a lot of things going for it: killing hailstorms, a bus explosion, death and abundant destruction... and all that's just within the three chapters of the novel. This sounds like an action-packed read and like a thrill-ride from that promising initiation to main character Dean's survival story somewhere in the vague future. And it is all that, right? Right? Well....kinda, for a while. Monument 14 unfortunately falls prey to the trap of becoming mired in high school melodrama and love-triangles instead of focusing on the more original and striking aspects of the novel (things like the megatsunamis [not just regular ones, but megatsunamis], the kids abandoned on their own in a poor man's Walmart), which not only bummed me out but brought down the overall enjoyment I took away from the book. This one is going to get a bit spoilery, so DO NOT READ ON if you don't want to read some plot twists in the novel.
The 5- 17 year old cast of characters here are largely defined by their age, and their respective attitudes. None of them is particular defined outside stereotypical roles (The Jock [Jake], The Bully/Jerk [Brayden], The Perfect Girl [Astrid], The Mom [Josie], The Troubled Teen [Sahalia], The Brain [Alex], so on and so forth...) or experiences a whole lot of growth. Dean, the main character and the sole POV for Monument 14, is supposed to be the type of guy that's quiet and awkward, bookish, not quite mature but working for it, and overall, a likeable and relatable guy. But for me, he wasn't. I was iffy on his "voice" from the start as it didn't feel authentically male to me, but gave him the benefit of the doubt enough to keep reading past the first few pages of holy-shit-killer-hail-oh-hey-there's-already-a-dead-kid. Several things added up to my overall dissatisfaction with Dean as the main character: though I didn't love him, it took time for my antipathy to set in. Now, young Dean has a crush on Astrid, a senior to his junior, and worships the ground she walks on. We get to hear about Dean's fervent love for a girl he doesn't really know often. It gets repeated ad nauseam. C'mon kid: the world as you know it is dead, surely you can ignore Astrid's perfect back for another twenty pages. Or until you've had a real conversation with her, jeez.
Another problem I had with the characters here in Monument 14 are their attitudes. Not necessarily the expected teenage 'tude, but the intelligence and self-awareness that takes years to acquire shown in 5, 8, and 13 year-olds. I had expected the older bunch of high schoolers to act wiser than their years in a survival story and definitely got that in spades (I don't buy that Niko's Scout Training was that comprehensive for all the skills/abiltiies he has. I'm not a Scout, but it's awfully convenient) but the younger kids were abnormally aware when the book needed them to be. I'm talking 5-year old twins correcting adults' traveling plans because "no one travels at night" - what child knows that? And there's Max, the way way wise-beyond-his-years elementary schooler who knows about guns and domestic violence, and also Batiste the 2nd grader obsessed with sin and taking the Lord's name in vain and creative chef. I'm not saying it's impossible for children to be and do these things, but all of them, together, so aware and smart? It strained my credulity for a book about a chemical leak that can attack people differently based on their blood type..
Once the kids are in the store and safe from the killer hail and exploding bus, Monument 14 gets way too invested in teenage bullshit drama. Yes, this is a young-adult novel so I was expecting some form of romance to worm its way into my nice post-apocalyptic survival novel filled with murder machines. What I wasn't expecting was how much of the book is caught up in lovelife machinations, whining, and just overall drama. Why should I care if Niko harbors a secret love for Josie but Josie is with bad-boy Brayden if none of them have been developed into real characters? Why do I care about Dean getting to be with Astrid when he spies on her having sex with her boyfriend? (Also: is naming a girl's boobs a "thing" nowadays with young people? I'm only 24 but I find that: laughable, stupid and the opposite of arousing..)
So much of this novel seemed distasteful (like Dean's spying), over-the-top (like Jake's journey from sobriety to druggie to recovered addict) or just plain silly (all the damn love-triangles) that what was awesome about it gets lost early on. Megatsunamis, people, think about the poor neglected megatsunamis. While I was interested in the life in the Greenway Superstore and the kid's self-government there, and recovery is a necessary part of any survival tale, I wanted more on what had forced them into the store and kept them there so long. With the chemicals affecting people with O-type blood with bloodlust and loss of all reason, this should have been a much more suspenseful and creepy tale. Three of the kids in the store have just that type and Hulk out into murder machines if exposed, but beyond one slight threat, the O-ffected (heh, puns) don't really factor into the novel at large. There's a teen offed in the first ten pages but the rest of the novel doesn't live up to that level of death - which as macabre as this sounds, I was disappointed by. In tragedies, people die. In cataclysms and natural disasters like on this scale, even some of the initial survivors would die. While the kids sadly don't devolve to Lord of the Flies status (there's only one real fight and it's pretty one-sided and deserved), I had hoped for a more cutthroat approach to the 'after' part of this.
The ending does redeem Monument 14 a bit because it went an entirely different direction than the previous 280 pages had seemingly lead to. The surprise alone helped his pull a higher rating that the one I had preemptively assigned to it. I actually liked the bait-and-switch and think it will lead to a hopefully better, less romantically-inclined sequel. With all that said, the best line of the book: "I can always spare a moment to delouse a friend."(less)
Written as a prequel to the well-loved Ender's Game, Johnston's Earth Unaware tries to fill in some of...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Written as a prequel to the well-loved Ender's Game, Johnston's Earth Unaware tries to fill in some of the holes and unexplored history of the "Enderverse" and the first Formic War that led to Battle School, and Ender's adventures in vanquishing the "hormigas"/Formics. When this book works the most, it succeeds predominately on misplaced nostalgia for the earlier-published-but-later-in-the-chronology novels like Ender's Game, Xenophobe, Children of the Mind, etc. I found Earth Unaware to be a weak, ghost-written book that lacks the easy charisma, dynamic characters, and unique storyline that the other books possessed in abundance and which made them so memorable.
There are obviously some good, interesting ideas at play here (the asteroid mining and the cultures that sprout up around them [free miners versus corporations, etc.]) but Aaron Johnston is primarily a graphic novelist, and it shows quite obviously here. Nothing about the novel is realized to its full potential -- from characters to plot to even the action, almost all about Earth Unaware felt contrived, weak, and overdone all at the same time. This is a superficial and shallow adaptation of Ender and the world's backstory, obviously written primarily to lure in fans of Ender's Game and its subsequent sequels. The plot is minimal, the characters are in dire need of more/or a rounded personality (or in Wit's case, a connection to the actual story. His Earth-bound plot will surely coincide with the events of the sequels, but for Earth Unaware, they are more filler than anything else, Mazer Rackham cameo or not.)
Wonky pacing, uneven and unconnected storylines, cliched or predictable characters, and more made this a miss for me. The few things I found interesting were often and quickly glossed over to focus on the less developed ideas and characters. There are people who will absolutely love this and gush over the finally explained and explored first contact with the Formics, but Earth Unaware is nowhere near the league of Ender's Game in any area. This review is much shorter than most, but my disappointment with this and OSC's raging homophobia make it almost impossible for an impartial thought.
And other thoughts:
When I first read Ender's Game, I was 10. It was my first scifi novel and Ender was a protagonist seemingly created just for me to love. I still love it to this day, but more for nostalgia and my first sense of how powerful children could be than for anything else. It was revelatory: kids can be heroes and save the world too! Now that I'm older, wiser, and more exposed to the kind of hate that OSC regularly spews towards homosexuals, I find myself less and less inclined to pick up anything he's written (or was written for him.) I debated whether or not to even review this (though it's far from a glowing review) because I don't want to promote OSC in any way, shape or form, negatively or not. In this recent climate, among all these debates about author behavior and how it affects readers, I find it hard to justify my read of this/these books. Sure, OSC has never attacked a negative review or reviewer (to my knowledge, but I certainly try to ignore anything that comes out of his mouth at this point), but how authors behave does impact their work and those who read it.
As I was reading Speechless by Hannah Harrington right after this novel, it made me think about silent compliance, ignoring the bad stuff, and just doing what everyone else does for the sake of not making waves. I'm done, I'm gonna make my own wave about this; I just can't support an author who thinks it's right to discriminate against and dehumanize other people. I was granted an ARC of this, but you can bet this author will never see another penny of my cash. I won't be finishing the First Formic War series, and though I thank TOR for the generosity of reading the ARC, even an ARC of the sequel won't tempt me. Goodbye, OSC. I will still reread Ender, but I won't recommend it anyone anymore.
So long, Enderverse, and thanks for all the fish.(less)
This is a mess. I've long since grown out of most of my misguided, uneducated affection for Philippa Gr...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
This is a mess. I've long since grown out of most of my misguided, uneducated affection for Philippa Gregory novels, but any lingering chances I will read her subsequent novels were firmly ended by this read. From beginning to end, this is a dull, vapid and uninvolving novel. Full of undeveloped, one-dimensional and just plain boring characters, with little to no plot to speak of, there's nothing to recommend about Changeling. It's a sloppy and anachronistic mess of a book, and one that doesn't leave much hope for the rest of this series. Simply and best put: Changeling is a disappointing mess, even for those who have grown inured to Gregory's ham-handed attempts to write historical fiction.
Changeling is supposedly the tale of two (very dry, very flat) protagonists, Luca Vero and his female counterpart of Isolde of Lucretili. It's hard to connect with these cardboard cutouts masquerading as characters, and even more difficult with their cliched background characters of Freize and Ishraq. I don't have anything to say about either protagonist; both Luca and Isolde failed to come to life as people, nor gave me cause to invest in their respective stories. There's no real "mystery" to anything that Luca investigates, nor is the "changeling" label ever fully explored by the author. It's mentioned maybe twice, and then... just dropped in favor of a ill-fated (and inauthentic) romantic plotline between two sets of characters.
With no plot to speak of and with the adventures the group encounters coming across as sporadic, unrelated vignettes, it's hard to get a clear picture of the world that Gregory is attempting to create here. Is the supernatural real? Where are my alchemists and death dancers I was promised? This is an "Order of Darkness" novel, the first in an expected series, but bare lip service is paid to the idea of an overarching theme or message. This is Gregory's weakest effort on many fronts, and it shows throughout the dialogue-heavy novel, and badly. Events and reveals, plot twists are all predictable - from the twist about Isolde's fortunes to the "mystery" of the stigmata and poisoned nuns - each new revelation failed to achieve the any impact author was going for.
Changeling is affected, obvious and anachronistic. This review is unexpectedly hard to write because I cared so little about anything that was going on, nor about the main characters. Gregory's earlier novels aren't "good" per se, but they at least managed to entertain the reader, instead of bore them to tears, as this one does. You would think a novel with a trail about possessed and poisoned nuns would be a little more riveting. You'd be so so wrong. Lacking any significant character development, with a staid and predictable plot, Gregory is better suited to staying in the genre she's come to dominate. Stick with her fluffy, bodice-heaving novels and stay far, far away from Changeling.(less)
My first -- and far from last -- Richelle Mead novel, Gameboard of the Gods could not have b...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog
4.5 out of 5
My first -- and far from last -- Richelle Mead novel, Gameboard of the Gods could not have been a better or more fun introduction to this popular author. A mix of futuristic science fiction, mystery, old school mythology, dystopia and post-apocalyptic genres, this book is weird and odd, and above all, really, really good. It takes a while to build into the tour de force of awesome it is, but the slow start is more than worth the time and wait. Gameboard of the Gods is creative, fast-paced, full of action and just plain fun. As the first in a new series, it's a promising beginning and one that leaves the reader eagerly anticipating what else Mead will cook up next for her adaptable protagonists.
The first hundred pages present the hardest challenge - there are a lot of terms, ideas thrown around and this is an author that doesn't believe an infodump of explanations are the way to immerse her readers into a new world. Rather, Mead doesn't immediately lay out her worldbuilding, but slowly reveals it through the characters' dialogue, actions, and inner monologues. And this created world, post-"Decline" - is a fascinating, thoroughly original one. There are still some gray areas left in how the Republic of United North America formed and operates, but with the first in the series, a remarkable amount of information is subtly dispensed to the audience. I have faith and the patience to see how Mead further carries the ideas she's laid the foundation for here with the sequels that are forthcoming.
Character-wise, this book is just as strong as it is in writing and plotting. Lead characters Mae and Justin complement each other very well, despite (or maybe because of) their many differences. They have palpable chemistry, and a complicated relationship that evolves just as much as the two of them do individually. Tjeir interplay and banter are consistently top-notch. I loved the typical-role reversal between the two as well. Usually it's a strong man protecting a brilliant woman, but Mae is the muscle (and has her fair share of brains), with Justin relying on her to protect them as they race to solve a mystery that tests everything both of them have been raised to believe.
If you like a well-crafted mystery, with two likeable and flawed protagonists (with intense chemistry), or if you like mythology with a fresh spin, or if you like well-done and thought-out dystopias with a side of post-apocalyptic world-building, Gameboard of the Gods is your newest best book friend. Great action scenes, a clever mystery and two great characters make this a very involving and compelling book. If this is how the series begins, I am very curious to see what happens next for the praetorian and the servitor. I only hope the next book isn't too long in coming!(less)
Eleanor and Park really is quite a cute story at times, though it isn't afraid to try and t...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
2.5 out of 5
Eleanor and Park really is quite a cute story at times, though it isn't afraid to try and tackle heavier topics during its exploration of first and real love. However, despite its and the authors best attempts, the romance is the focal point of this short-ish novel about two misfits in the 80s. A book seemingly made for easy reading on a lazy day, Rainbow Rowell's second novel is quiet, charming, if sometimes a bit too sweet, but still a novel that is worth reading. It's cute, occasionally both funny and saccharine. Eleanor and Park is filled to the brim with: 80's nostalgia, sad circumstances, fluff. All in all, I found this to be a fast, if not completely realistic read.
Eleanor and Park are two misfits who find each other in an unlikely, though pretty creative way. I have to admit Rowell's use of the meet-cute was new and fresh how she used it here. These two main characters bond over a love of comic books and good music from their time, and it feels normal and authentic. They grow closer and closer fairly quickly, and their attraction is solidly built on more than just pheromones and looks. I did hope that the plot would have more direction than just a love story, and while I didn't get that, I did get a believable love story between two distinct characters.
I did somewhat like this, I had fun reading it and spending time in each narrator's head, but Eleanor and Park wasn't all it could have been. Like I said earlier, there are some heavy topics and issues at play for such a romance-centric novel. Not all of it really works, sadly. And some subplots feel short-changed and heavy-handed when all is said and done. The problems between each character and their respective parents - Park with his Dad, Eleanor with her mom and her stepdad - really never feel fully realized or resolved by the end of the book. They add complications and complexity to the lives of the two teenagers, but are never really explored for a deeper impact. It's all too neatly fixed or ignored by the end of the book, and I was disappointed with the quick fix.
Though not a perfect novel, Eleanor and Park is a quick and mostly enjoyable read. It's not as deep or meaningful as it could have been, but what is good about it - Eleanor, Park, their relationship - is good enough to carry the dead weight. Frustrating at times though it may be, this is a good example of teenage romance done well and right - I would read more novels from Rowell, and hope that her execution continues to grow and allow her to explore her deeper plots without shortchanging the fun. If you liked her first, or if you're looking for a sweet love story, this is the one to pick up. Also: that cover is absolutely lovely and fitting. Well done, there.(less)
No. Just no. Am I reading the same book as everyone else? This was awful across the board. A smattering...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
No. Just no. Am I reading the same book as everyone else? This was awful across the board. A smattering of a (very) few good ideas, scant worldbuilding (and what is there is very unoriginal), and very poor execution coupled with two unlikeable protagonists make for a very unsatisfied Jessie. This is not going to be pretty. I'm pretty damn disappointed with this novel, as well as being supremely frustrated with it. I had passed this over several times on my frequent go-throughs of NetGalley - PNR/UF is far from my favorite genre as they tend to be predictable and all vaguely alike - and I should've stuck with my initial, quite wary, thoughts. Misled by all the 4 and 5-star reviews I'd then subsequently seen for this, I thought Blade Song might be the exception to my UF/PNR rule... and no. Absolutely not. Not by a long shot. The few, creative things I liked about it in the beginning pages were soon abandoned to the mess that is the rest of this cliched and poorly-executed book.
What I Liked:
-new kind of supernatural being - the aneira - warrior women with magical abilities, aka amazons -new ideas on typical vampire mythology -lose more and more of their soul as they age, feed on humans for blood, but also emotions they have lost as a result - a POC for a love-interest (too bad his actual personality is as nails on a chalkboard. For 250 pages.)
What I Hated Did Not Like:
Okay, seriously, I'll go through a few of my many, many issues with this book. It made me too angry to go through them all, and I have many other books I'd like to read, so here's the short rundown.
For a novel that started so strongly, Blade Song devolves fairly quickly. A lot of my problems with this first in a series stem from the weak main character of Kitasa herself. She's just so incredibly brainless, thoughtless, heedless. For the ENTIRE NOVEL. Also, for a half-amazon assassin, this is a pretty worthless fighter. She's always fainting, passing out, or just plain needing to be rescued. Where is the strong warrior character I was promised? Cause she for sure never showed up past chapter two. Instead, I got a weak-willed pushover who confuses a controlling asshole for a worthy love interest. Kit is much more a weak-willed damsel in distress waiting for her man to come save her. No. Just.. no. Especially when I was promised an active, capable heroine. Not cool.
Damon is an asshole, and I hated him from start to end. Though spared from his POVs (thank you!), his actions and disalogues with/to Kit show him to be a Bad Idea. Alpha males are far from my favorite type of love interest, and here is no exception. For about 90% of the novel, he's abusive, or controlling,or just plain rude. His abrupt switch from unagreeable aggressor to lovaaah is just too quick, foundation-less, and unbelievable. You don't get to "wring [Kit's] neck" black and blue, and then oh-so-love her a week later, with all forgiven. No. I'm sorry. I don't buy that. You don't spy on her texts and control her actions and then get to be the hero over and over. Bad Damon, very bad.
This was a big miss and a huge disappointment for me; I was prepared to and really wanted to love it, based on the reviews I read from trusted friends. It just wasn't meant to be, for me. The few good ideas were easily and quickly glossed over in favor of typical and standard genre fare - power games, a human(ish) woman caught between a powerful vampire and a powerful weresomething in an human/supernaturally incorporated city - and Blade Song never delivered on its promise of a fun, smart, deadly Amazon assassin. Simplistic, cliched, with flat and unlikeable characters, I won't be continuing this series with Night Blade, the second book due out sometime in the near future.
If you're morbidly curious or wish to try out Kit's special blend of stupid and reckless for yourself, the good news is that Blade Song will only set you back about $5 to read. Just be warned: may induce feelings of incredible frustration and severe disappointment.(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)
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."
Three stars and a 'read' tag because I made it almost to 60%; it just shouldn't require this much effort to read. As is indicated by the three stars i...moreThree stars and a 'read' tag because I made it almost to 60%; it just shouldn't require this much effort to read. As is indicated by the three stars instead of a 1 or a 2 as I was tempted, there are several redeeming aspects to The Printmaker's Daughter. The relationship between Hokusai and Oei is more important and complex than any other in the novel (in fact, she defines herself by him/his work as is hinted at in the title), the city of Edo itself is vibrantly drawn and realized, from the Corner Tamaya bordellos to the markets. But on the other hand are the weird and somewhat random accents and 1990's California-valleygirl speech patterns of 1800s courtesans, the interminable stretches where nothing happens, and awkward, jarring transitions between third and first-person narration. I wanted to love this; I'm halfway there thanks to the cover alone. I may try this one again, in the final version, but the ARC I had wasn't working for me. I was entranced for 50 pages, then bored for 220 before calling it quits. Longer, disappointed diatribe to follow.(less)
It's a rather large understatement to say I had high expectations for Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It was - and still is - pretty ubiquitous and lauded everywhere you find it mentioned. I was so keen on reading this novel I preordered it. I rarely preorder anything; bookbuying before seeing/touching the actual novel is one of the few area I can exercise some patience in. For example, the last book I preordered was George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons after nearly six years of anticipation. But, lo and behold, even before the promised release date of September 27, a beautiful copy of Daughter of Smoke and Bone appeared on my doorstep. I devoured it in two days, only stopping because of a headache so bad I literally couldn't see straight. Laini Taylor's amazing novel more than met my high hopes: she exceeded them in every way. It's a novel that delights and entertains, neither stinting on the drama and humor nor on acutely attractive brooding male characters.
It's hard to review something you love - I've had trouble reviewing this as well as The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman and Kate Morton's epic The Distant Hours. I sat on this particular review for over a week trying to analyze how I felt about it and how to express my opinions other than just fangirl squeeling ("Oh my god, I wish I was Karou. Oh, My. GOD. Akiva.<33," etc). When you love a book, it's personal in a way few things are: you want everyone else to love it unconditionally, too, and hiss at any detractors. While Daughter is not the end-all be-all my review might sound like, it is one of my top favorite reads of the year/all-time. From the tagline "Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well," alone I knew I was in for an epic star-crossed love affair and had faith that Laini Taylor would handle it with aplomb and not melodrama. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a fresh read with unique elements, and note as well this is a young-adult novel that is certainly not just for young-adults.
Daughter is not a paranormal romance. Daughter is not an urban fantasy. Daughter is not a fantasy. Daughter is not a coming-of-age young adult novel with significant supernatural elements. Or rather - it is not just one of those genres individually. It is a marvelous and utterly unique mix of all four. It's the story of Karou, a blue haired, tattooed, lonely artist in Prague. A girl that "moved like a poem and smiled like a sphinx," and an utterly striking protagonist. Though clearly 'special' Karou is a magnetic character and one I like immediately without reserve. She's funny, human in the most defining sense of the word and not above a little petty revenge against those who need it. Surrounded by a cheeky best friend, the "master of the eyebrow arch" Zuzanna and her strange (more on that later) family, Karou manages to come across as a lonely and very alone young woman trying to balance a hidden demanding supernatural life with human problems like exyboyfriends, though without straying into self-pity. As the mysteries pile up around the young artist, I felt questions piling up in my head, wondering if the author would pull of answering all of them to my satisfaction: who is Karou? What is Karou? Where did she come from, and where/who are her parents? And like most reviews note: what exactly is up with the creepyass teeth?! While I thought the mystery went on too long at the time, the pacing and reveal feel absolutely perfect when they are - finally - uncovered. I should never have doubted.
The secondary characters are also mysterious, powerful... and above all, different. Hinted at in the tagline, Karou's adopted family is firmly in the "devil" camp - though the correct name is chimaera and one and all, from the snakelike Issa to the giraffe-necked Twiga, are never anything less than kind to the bluehaired waif they raised. I enjoyed the "humanness" Laini Taylor brought for her monsters. No side is black and white in this eternal way between angels and devils, and I thoroughly appreciate the 'human' monsters/crazed angels over a more black/white/ absolute scenario. Karou runs messages for Brimstone, a mysterious chimaera collector of teeth and granter of wishes - which allows her to eventually run into the angel foretold: the sexy and dangerous Akiva. A beautiful and forbidding seraphim sworn to fight the chimaera, Akiva sells his brooding mysteriousness and past pain without overplaying it. It took me a while to buy into more than his obvious superficial appeal, but the haunting backstory added a layer of depth to his personality. His looong life is a nice foil for Karou's shorter mostly conflict free existence of whim.Their chemistry is palpable and sizzling: one of the more exciting YA romances I can think of, honestly. (Wow, this is still waaaay fangirlly. It's just that good.)
More love: Laini's writing. Not only is it lyrical and poetic, but she manages to personalize everyone and everything - often with a dab hand at humor or image. Like Zuzanna'a master eyebrow mastery perfectly creates a sardonic, but caring face. Zuzana bursts with flair and personality: all the fun isn't reserved for lead role Karou. And the sparkle is not just reserved for the people: the setting benefits from the author's talent as well. Prague. Oh my godPrague. Between this and Wasserman's addicting The Book of Blood and Shadow I'd say this has rocketed to the top of my "Cities I MUST Visit in Europe" list. From poetic and vibrant passages like this,
"The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century - or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreams, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies."
to the day-to-day life of Karou, I was struck again and again by Ms. Taylor's narrative, consistently in love with the vibrant prose and the very-much-alive city it gave birth to. I loved the beautiful, not purple, prose, which consistently evoked colorful imagery of the setting, the characters, and the amazing world (in, within, around Prague) that wordsmith Laini Taylor has crafted. In a vibrant city of such history - and supernatural myths too of foundation by a witch - Laini Taylor breathes fresh life into old themes of forbidden love, fallen angels, and even the battle between good/evil/Heaven/Hell.
My few, teensy complaints: the "big reveal" to Zuzanna wasn't. It was offscreen and almost hastily brushed aside with a demonstration - and I wished for more time with the diminutive Czech scenestealer. I also felt that Karou and Akiva had a teensy bit of an instalove situation a la Twilight, but that fear was happily quashed. SPOILER AHEAD, please do not read if you've yet to get your hands on a copy. Seriously it's the next sentence. I also worry that the Karou I liked so much, identified with so closely - might "disappear" due tothe big twist/revelation near the end. I worry that the essential "Karouness" will be lost and I'll feel different about her in the second book. I hope not and have almost every faith Laini Taylor will not steer me wrong.
The story is striking and imaginative and unforgettable. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a genre-blending exercise of win, unlike anything I have read. It's a new, charismatic spin on the angel/devil/seraphim/nephilim/chimaera theme, populated with real characters with actual personalities - relayed by dialogue and deed rather than an infodump. I loved the nicely tuned balance of action and wit, drama with imagination and wordbuilding on a grand-scale. When's book two out? I cannot and hope not to wait long for another installment in this spellbinding world.(less)
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)
Just amazing. This delivered on all counts, on so many layers. Intricate, heartbreaking, darkly humorou...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Just amazing. This delivered on all counts, on so many layers. Intricate, heartbreaking, darkly humorous, The Book Thief is not a novel to be missed.
There are books that you read, that sink tendrils into your heart and never leave. These are almost the very best kind of books, books like: The Hunger Games, The Onion Girl, The Dogs of Babel or The Alchemist. Then there are those books that you feel, down to your very soul and in your bones. Books in which almost every word resonates perfectly within the reader, creating an enveloping, complete and often heart-wrenching story. Markus Zusak's alternately heart-warming and heart-breaking The Book Thief is one of those latter type of books: completely affecting, gorgeously written and endlessly readable. The Book Thief is not just a book of deeply affecting and believable characters: this is a book with living, breathing people upon its pages. Even Death, that fearful and unknowable force, is shown as compassionate and caring while watching the story of Liesel Meminger's life unfold. It's rare enough for me to add a new author to my favorites list, but Markus Zusak has done so with one novel, and one read of that novel, alone.
This is going to a different kind of review than my normal ones. It's very hard for me to articulate any kind of coherent thoughts about this book, even weeks after reading it. The Book Thief is impressive in scope, in character, in its vast, tangible emotions. Liesel Meminger is a burst of life and color from the page: real in all her imagined flaws, pains and triumphs. Spending over 500 pages with this determined foster child is revelatory and profound. It is best and most easily said succinctly: read this book. You will not be sorry you did. Yes, you will cry. Probably more than once (I definitely did at least three times), but The Book Thief is a novel deserving of your emotion and constant attention. Reading The Book Thief is an experience: draining but oh so worthwhile and rewarding. Encompassing love, war, hatred, fear, anger, infatuation and grief, this is a novel that is utterly unafraid to explore human emotion and human nature across the board.
Though this is by nature a more serious, emotional read, Zusak can come through quite unexpectedly with a sly or subtle humor that keeps the reader from veering into moroseness. I heartily appreciated the smattering of light-heartedness when they came about because this is a sad book, make no mistake. It's ultimately about the triumph of human will, of love and hope, but this is a sad novel to read.What I like best is that even when humor makes an appearance in the novel, it is used to prove or illustrate a point being made. I'm not going to go into detail about how vibrant and real I found Liesel Meminger, or her clinging to the written word in a world of uncertainty and denial. I won't go on about how a simple sentence like, "You never told me you had a son" would make several tears fall from my eyes.
The Book Thief may not be a "life-changer" for me as a reader (I don't know if any book is a life-changer), but it is definitely one I will take with me everywhere I go. And one I will recommend and throw at you until you give in and love read it. With a lyrical and mellifluous style for the chilling (and often heart-rending) events in The Book Thief, it is immensely readable despite the hard subject matter. This is a work of art in novel form, moving and poignant from its start in 1939 to its all-too-soon finish. Zusak's portrayal of these stand-out characters (Liesel, Hans, RUDY) will linger long in your memory. Don't dismiss this novel out of hand as just "another YA", especially if you are an adult. This book will resonate with and affect you even if you're long gone from the dreaded teenage years.
"Many jocular comments followed, as did another onslaught of 'heil Hitlering.' You know, it actually makes me wonder if anyone ever lost an eye or injured a hand or wrist with all of that. You'd only need to be facing the wrong way at the wrong time or stand marginally too close to another person. Perhaps people did get injured. Personally, I can tell you that no one died from it, or at least, not physically. There was, of course, the matter of forty million people I picked up by the time the whole thing was finished, but that's getting metaphoric..."
Lastly, a final quote from Death that I found particularly apt and poignant:
" *** A SMALL BUT NOTEWORTHY NOTE *** I've seen so many young men over the years who think they're running at other young men. They are not. They're running at me. "
BUY THIS BOOK.
You won't just passively read it: you'll experience Liesel Meminger's world in all its horror and beauty. I can't recommend The Book Thief enough. If you take one recommendation from this blog at all this year, let it be this one.
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)
I struggled mightily with this book. I liked the idea for the story (descendants of the Olympian Gods h...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I struggled mightily with this book. I liked the idea for the story (descendants of the Olympian Gods have a hidden, secret Empire in present day and also vampires, werewolves, etc). However, it was a good idea poorly executed in many parts of this looong book.
Coming in at 662 pages, this is far from the longest book I've read this year. However, I feel like I was counting every single one of those six hundred odd pages; it literally sapped my strength to finish this book. Why? Well, my first issue was the pacing. Incredibly, ridiculously slow and filled with little real content. The beginning suffers the most from the meandering pace, and thus made it hard for me to connect to the characters or to be invested in the outcomes for Delia, Evan, Beth, Niko and Victor.
Additionally, the writing itself seemed very awkward and stilted at times. It simply didn't flow the way a novel should; there were abrupt transitions and awkward dialogue and exposition many times in the pages. Also, THE GRAMMAR. Abysmal. Truly, truly abysmal. I am aware this is a self-published author so she may not have the same resources, but it was truly egregious. "There" for "their/they're" many, many times, "here" instead of "hear", not correctly using quotation marks, or not even using them at all, among other offenses. The amount of editing errors were very distracting from the story and also just plain aggravating after a while.
Delia is the main character of Betrayal, a descendant of Zeus and soon-to-be Empress of the gods remaining Empire. She is not original, there is very little to differentiate Cordelia from thousands of teenage protagonists in YA paranormal fiction. Delia is a distant and aloof character, both with the remaining cast and with the reader. She's hard to sympathize/empathize with, and tends to keep everyone in the book at arms length. She is more likable as the novel progresses, but continued to be a source of frustration for me. She's meekly accepting when she should be demanding and questioning. She relies on others to protect her constantly, never once taking an imitative to defend herself, and often flouts the protection that is extended to her. I know the author was striving to make Delia appear independent and determined, but she ends up more careless and self-centered. She has genuine chemistry with her love interest, Evander the descendant of Poseidon, and therefore, the second most powerful descendant besides herself. Evan himself and the centaur Nikolas are probably the only characters I came to care about throughout the course of the novel. However, Evan does seem a bit too perfect.
Evan's younger sister, Bethany, was one of my least favorite characters this year in any novel. She's a very unfriendly character and fails to connect with anyone in the book besides her brother and her lover. I found her actions and attitude toward her "best friend" Delia to be completely perplexing and rude. She was a veeeery grating character; demanding when she should be helping, controlling instead of supportive. She's ridiculously inconstant and secretive, only showing a softer side to her love, Niko.
All in all, this was a very mixed effort. I really, really wanted to love this book and in the end, all I feel is underwhelmed and relief that I managed to finish. (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."
Utterly, starkly different from the seven books that made her a household name and a world-famous author, JK Rowling illustrates that her talent for t...moreUtterly, starkly different from the seven books that made her a household name and a world-famous author, JK Rowling illustrates that her talent for the written word extends far beyond the Harry Potter universe. Impressive, bleak, engaging, original, The Casual Vacancy isn't afraid to use hugely flawed characters, nor to rack up a body count to show life in its many, twisted forms.
This is a book that will stick with me. This is a book that reaffirmed my fangirl status for this author. Not for everyone, but this was definitely a book for me. Well done, Jo. (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)
Though the blurb used most for this truly spine-chilling tale is the one above, all the publishers and...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Though the blurb used most for this truly spine-chilling tale is the one above, all the publishers and author really need to do in order to freak their audience out and interest them at the same time is is use the poem in the prologue:
"Said my lord to my lady, as he mounted his horse, Beware of Long Lankin that lives in the moss. Said my lord to my lady, as he rode away Beware of Long Lankin, that lives in the hay. Let the doors be all bolted and the windows all pinned, Except one little window, where Long Lankin crept in..."
Effective, yes? It continues in that same grisly, eerie tone and snared me without hesitation. I was both creeped out by the third stanza and interested before even starting the actual novel. There is a reason that I refused to read this book at night (and am writing the review in daylight) and that is because this book? Is effing creepy as fuck. And yes, expletives are needed because this book got under my skin in a way that few other suspense novels have, especially ones in the YA genre, geared at kids younger and supposedly less mature than me. Long Lankin is a deliciously creepy treat that perhaps persists just a bit long for the thrill to last entirely but one that exceeds at building tension and setting an excellent atmosphere and presence for such an intimidating but rarely-seen-on-the-page creature.
Cora and her sister Mimi are the girl leads of this venture and they are paralleled in their male counterparts, Roger and Pete. In each case, I found the elder to be the more interesting and worth attention. The POV shifts between Cora and Roger were hard to discern, but that can hopefully be laid at the feet of formatting for an ARC copy instead of the final product. So while it was distracting trying to constantly figure out the who's who of a dialogue, it was easy to like both inner monologues of the kids. Cora is what my mom would term "a handful." She's adventurous and interested in the world around her and is smart, if not exactly the most obedient of nieces. It's easy to root for her and her spirited nature when one realizes how alone and abandoned this child and her sister really are; Cora realizes that she is literally all Mimi has and is quite caring. Roger is like Cora in many ways; he's from a house that really can't keep him, he's open to adventures and exploring and he's always followed by his brother. Though this is YA, neither Cora nor Roger talk down to the audience or overact their fear; Long Lankin is largely so effective as a antagonist because of how sparsely and eerily he's presented to the quartet of kids.
Ida, the aunt of Cora and Mimi, and the owner of Guerdon Hall, is also a POV character. While I could understand the necessity of having the children as POV characters and they grew into the roles naturally as the book went on, I got the most from Ida's inner monologue. I have to admit that Lindsey Barraclough establishes herself early as a talented writer and storyteller, one that favors lots of creepy descriptions in very tactile narrations. Ida benefits the most from this as she's not innocent and eager; she knows only too well what happens when the tide goes out in her little haunted English village.
The first two hundred and thirty pages of this smashed me, absolutely knocked me back a step with its flair. I was in awe of how creeped out I was, how very much I loved how creeped out I was, and how effective the author was at setting such a tense atmosphere and then.. it died. There's a lull midway through the novel where there is too much rushing about and old letters and no one talking things with the other party and all that accomplished was a sharp decline in my overt interest. The incredible amounts of tension built up to that took a while to climb back to their previous heights (my shoulders were literally riiiight under my earlobes), but climb back they did. I may complain - slightly - about the extended lull midway but the ending was entirely satisfying. It was tension-wracked and emotion-filled and thoroughly engrossing. I am dutifully impressed by this book, even though I won't reread it. My nerves can't take it.(less)
I did it: I finished this loooooong, dry book full of flat characters, endless repetition and tons of o...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I did it: I finished this loooooong, dry book full of flat characters, endless repetition and tons of of the hated "showing not telling" way of expanding the history. Though my experience with round two of this "straynge band of mysfits" was sliiiightly better than with its predecessor The Girl in the Steel Corset, I want to express this loudly and clearly: This series is not a good example of steampunk. Also, why I am just griping: whyyy the random, painful bastardization of "strange band of misfits"? (SPOILER for first in the series) If you've read book one, you know that "Jayne" is not in fact Finley's surname, nor does she go by it at all during this novel... So enough with the strange application of "y"'s. A lot of my issues from the first are present oce again here: Finley herself continued to be a bit of a disappointment and an erratic and brainless main character, continuing my lack of enthusiasm for her, most of the background characters remain flat and one-dimensional, and the villain/twist is telegraphed very early on in the book. This review might get a little long and spoilery, or even a lot, so keep your eyes elsewhere unless that's what you want.
Things I Am Vastly Tired Of Reading About In The Steampunk Chronicles:
Emily's "ropey" hair (what does that even mean? Dreadlocks? Braids?)
any kind of overwrought love triangle (Jasper-Mei-Emily or Jasper-Mei-Wildcat - either/or - no, thank you)
Sam surliness/moodiness (less of an obvious page-to-page problem than in book one, but still not redeemable)
How Finley's drawn to the darker side of life (it's been two books, countless examples [Felix, Jack, fights, Dalton] and something like 800+ pages - we get it already!)
Finley's worries about being worthy for a Duke (I'm pretty sure the boy that can be ~one~ with the Aether doesn't care about society, given that he already lives unsupervised with two young women of not exactly sterling repuation)
Griffin's "I-trust-you-now-I-don't" wishywashy bullshit with Finley + worrying over whether he is exciting enough for the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-ian girl he loves likes (Have some self-respect, dude.)
Anything involving the word Organites (including Darwin and this books misuse of his theories on evolution)
I think some of the problem with this series is that it wants to be X-Men but with a steampunk background. On the surface it seems to sort-of/maybe fit the mold cast by Charles Xavier and his motley crew: there are a bunch of mutated kids with special abilities like super strength and speed and healing, the ability to talk to machines, dual natures, etc. that all live together in a big mansion, owned by a family with a lot of money. But such a comparison starts to fall apart upon closer inspection - most aspects of this historical steampunk young-adult novel are rather run-of-the-mill and cliched, easy to find in slightly different forms all over the paranormal teen novel market.
Though this takes place merely a fortnight after the events of the first book, a lot of the superficial details have changed, including the cast of characters. At first I was, well, not really excited, but less apprehensive to start this based on the cover. For one - it's not a generic, whitewashed cover. Mei is an important part of the plot - in fact the whole book falls apart without her participation - and I'm really happy that an Asian young woman was selected to show and advertise for ya novel. But there's always a but, and here is no exception. Mei is a new character and her race makes her stand out in this largely English cast, but I'm bothered and disappointed that the author chose to name her "Mei Xing." As in the word "Amazing" - how awkward and shallow of a choice! But that was just the first of many character issues I found here. I also wish there had been more subtlety with her role in the plot (subtlety from the woman who named her main male character/love interest Griffin King? My bad) - while I wasn't sure at first, it's rapidly apparent what's going on. A lot little more authorial sleight of hand would make the unraveling of the plot and characters much more engrossing to read.
Main character Finley has been a problem from me since early on in the first chapter of The Girl in the Steel Corset and sadly, she is no better here in round two. Her previous problem of acting brainlessly and without thought for repercussion shows up early and often but good ol' Fin now drags her friend Emily into her messes. I know that the big 'deal' with Finley is constantly-battling dual nature, but the author's depiction of her lead's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-type tendencies is really over the top here. She's supposed to dance on the fence of morality and legality, but considering backhanding another girl for a look? That's extreme and just makes Finley look like a judgmental and unhinged maniac - not a fiercely protective and loving friend, which is I think what the author was trying to impart? I may have missed the finer point of it because Finley was devolving into an autocratic violence machine.
Once again I felt there was a superfluous amount of POVs used here - just like I thought for the first book; Finley's alone would be sufficient if grating on my nerves. So much of the text feels like repetition - even if it's Finley, or Jasper or Griff, they all think along the same lines. I mean, Jasper explains and re-explains his plans to hide a device multiple times. It gets old, quick. It must be said that Jasper's voice is the most identifiable, but that's largely because of his affected and annoying accent. (Also? Being from San Francisco and wearing a ten-gallon hat does not make one a cowboy. OK?) The lack of Jack Dandy is lamentable, but at least the love triangle tension and drama was slightly scaled down as well. The charming but fake Cockney crime lord is one of my few liked characters, even if Griff is slowly climbing his way up in my estimations to give him a run.
In the end, I'd have to say that The Girl in the Clockwork Collar is ultimately just as energy-sapping and time-consuming as its immediate predecessor. It's also just as frustrating to slough through for over 400 pages. It feels amateurish, characters haven't grown or evolved, there's too much focus on fripperies instead of potential awesomeness, and infodumps and love triangles run rampant. There seems to be some love-connection type resolution for Finley and Griff (until she gets back to London and Jack...) as well as the main storyline. With a rushed ending that was over veeery quickly, I can't say I'm sad to say "goodbye!" to this series - for forever - even if there's a book three. (less)
Hype is a strange beast, and one that is certainly no stranger to this long-anticipated fantasy novel g...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Hype is a strange beast, and one that is certainly no stranger to this long-anticipated fantasy novel geared towards young-adults. It can prime the pump for a well-deserved novel, or it can drag down an otherwise entertaining but not very well executed novel with unfulfilled expectations, as is the case here for my read of Maas's Throne of Glass. Advertised as a "Game of Thrones" for teens meets an assassin version of The Hunger Games, the similarities and comparisons to other young-adult fantasy novels (particularly Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder -be sure to check out Amanda's great comparison review!) are unavoidable and lamentable. In addition to the misplaced hype and the whole "been-there-done-that feel", Throne of Glass suffers from a wide array of issues that kept me from loving this. I've had several days to digest and work out my-not-so-happy feelings towards this (and vacillate on my rating!), and while I will inevitably pick up the sequel, I do think Maas has a lot to learn about the fantasy genre, writing a credible romance, and crafting a better method of authorial sleight-of-hand.
Celaena Sardothien is a complex character, that is without a doubt, but one that is a little too enamored of her own looks, instead of worrying about, oh I don't know, LIVING. Even Katniss, for all her faults and flaws, doesn't worry about her good-looks when confronted by the people who ruined her life, and oppressed her people. I think Celaena will be divisive among readers: some will respond to her hard-edged confidence and others will be much less enthused with her inability to look at the bigger picture. There are many sides to her personality, and I will admit that she is admirably flawed and realistic for a YA protagonist. She's a strong, smart, capable, and decisive young woman, while only slightly suffering from Special Snowflake Syndrome. She's also arrogant beyond belief (though I didn't start to dislike that aspect until her arrogance about her skills was never backed up by her actions! One sparring match does not a Master Assassin make! And, after all, how many times, exactly, can Dorian sneak up on Celaena before she loses all credibility as The Greatest Assassin Ever?), cunning, deadly, and way, way, too invested in the superficial facets of Court life. The sheer amount of time clothing, especially Celaena's and Dorian's wardrobes, are described, lusted after, and compared is simply exhausting and dry.
Another main issue I had while reading this was the clear and present focus on romance, a love triangle and angst instead of THE ASSASSIN-TASTIC DEATH MATCH. It's supremely frustrating to be told that Celaena is an amazing assassin and then see no proof of it, outside very few isolated events. What is the point of a Hunger Games death match between assassins if it's all offsides and offscreen? For almost the entirety of reading about the tournament, I was thinking "KILL SOMEONE, DAMNIT. Prove you're what you've been so enthusiastically saying about yourself." It's too much telling about Celaena's prowess, and far too little actual "showing" on Maas's part. The Tests and trials are glossed over, or focus on the least-actiontastic events (a poison ranking? Really? Harry Potterish much?) to the overall detriment of what was actually the most compelling aspect of the whole novel. Instead, the author ignores the good stuff in favor of awkward flirting, and endless descriptions of what every character is reading. It's a shame and a glaring misstep for any novel that seeks to be compared for the bloody and dark Game of Thrones.
Maas is a capable author, but sadly not one readers will be able to call subtle after reading first-in-a-series Throne of Glass. Celaena's mysterious past and real identity are both easy to suss out, and it's remarkable that none of the other characters manage to do so in the 400+ pages of the final edition. The super-obvious plotting and writing, the easy-to-spot red herrings, and not to mention the heavy-handed approach to the love-triangle that takes up 75% of the novel, make for a very predictable novel. The "mystery" of who is behind the competitors death...isn't. It's both obvious from the start and then subsequently, hilariously frustrating how long it takes Celaena to cotton on to the real culprit. (view spoiler)[ Celaena's whole "Nehemia has a secret! Therefore, she must be the killer or maybe just politically savvy. Never mind that I've been lying the entire time we've known one another!!1!" subplot is particularly dumb. Be smarter than that, Celaena. Respect your readers more than that, Maas! (hide spoiler)]
Third-person omniscient makes it easy for the POV to rotate around Celaena, Dorian, the Crown Prince of Ardalan, and Chaol Westfall, the earnest and awesome Captain of the Guard, and show a wider view of the world. It also caused me to feel a bit distant from the characters and kept me from fully investing. (Exception: Chaol. MOAR PLEASE.) Were the other two perspectives really needed? No, but nor do they detract from the narration. The love triangle manage to do that allll on its own. You can see it forming from the first chapter, and Maas never makes it worth reading about. It's all overwrought glances and touching, with little real emotion to back up the overused trope. It's not used to illustrate that Celaena is torn between two men who genuinely appeal to vastly different sides of her character, but rather to show how beautiful and alluring she is. No, thank you. The writing itself can be bloated with over-description (the clothes! the glass castle! WE GET IT!), but Maas does reign it in occasionally to let a plot emerge.
Fun, but very flawed is my final verdict. Great ideas need great execution and that is not at all what happened here with Throne of Glass. Though Throne of Glass has been grossly overhyped and is quite often amateurish in its presentation, I can't deny that there are moments of great entertainment... but, sadly, they are not enough to earn this novel more than 3/5 stars. ["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)