I loved Dark Lord--as an adult I found the novel incredibly charming, but I know it would have been one of my favorite books when I was maybe 8 or 9 yI loved Dark Lord--as an adult I found the novel incredibly charming, but I know it would have been one of my favorite books when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old. It's a little bit warped and dark, and it's funny. Most importantly, though, the presentation of loyalty and friendship is insanely sweet, and I loved all the characters....more
I'm a fan of the Tana French Murder Squad series, and I liked The Secret Place well enough. That said, I didn't fall in love with it because there werI'm a fan of the Tana French Murder Squad series, and I liked The Secret Place well enough. That said, I didn't fall in love with it because there were some elements to the story that never went anywhere--the four girls in Holly's group who discovered they could control electricity, for instance, and what happened to Allison toward the end of the book. ...more
There are many things to like about this novel, and I’ll start with the writing. From the end notes in this book, I know Sappenfield was a3.75 of 5.
There are many things to like about this novel, and I’ll start with the writing. From the end notes in this book, I know Sappenfield was a teacher who decided to leave the field to get her MFA. In many ways, the author’s MFA work shows, in both good and bad ways. The writing is fluid and pretty, with some wonderful language choices.
And it’s the language that kept me moving forward in this book, along with a fantastic characterization of the protagonist, Oona Antunes. Oona comes from a rich family, initially quite cold and stand-off-ish–a white society mother, interested in appearances, and a distant, workaholic Portuguese father. Oona’s family situation makes her deeply unhappy and hopeless, which–we’re led to believe–drives her to suicide. The reader finds out a lot about who Oona is and who she used to be through her relationships with Gabe, her less well off, Latino-American boyfriend; Ash, her white best friend (also wealthy, with a mother much like Oona’s); and Sugeidi, her family’s Mexican (immigrant) maid.
One would think, based on the cast list and the fact that Oona spends a week at the Native American school referenced in the book description (plus some racial tensions that happen at Oona’s high school), race and/or culture plays a critical role in the plot. Much seems to be made of ethnicities. It’s all done in a very pointed, self conscious manner. If anything, it’s a very minor subplot that doesn’t have much, if any, bearing on the primary plot–Oona’s suicide, how her family relationships contributed to that suicide, and how her suicide influences her family. As such, I was left waiting for that loose end to be tied together in some way.
I also assumed from the book description that there would be paranormal elements in the novel–Oona’s disembodied spirit splitting off from her physical body and the witches, talking rocks, and minor deities at the Native American school. In truth, Oona spends only a very short period of time at the Native American school, and the witches, etc. are presented in a symbolic way, rather than a “they’re real” kind of a way. And Oona’s spirit presents a problem with the book’s readability. As I mentioned above, I quite enjoyed the language play in the novel; however, Oona’s spirit is the narrator. She refers to herself and Oona’s physical self (which Oona’s spirit refers to as “Corpse,” hilariously enough) as “we” and “us,” so in a way this is told in first person plural. A bold choice, certainly, but also quite confusing to read at times.
As I said, there are reasons to enjoy this novel. I do think it’s an acquired taste–if you’re someone who loves character-driven novels, you might really love The View From Who I Was. There’s a great darkness at the heart of the novel that makes it a good choice for someone who enjoys bleak, psychologically complex writing. For me, I never felt a strong connection to Oona, nor was I strongly moved by her plight . . . possibly because it felt like an anti-suicide PSA. Oona was so cognizant of what her suicide attempt had done to her parents, to her boyfriend, etc, immediately after she woke up. She was guilt-ridden about it, yet her recovery was self-directed. She never saw a therapist or truly came to terms with herself, which seemed odd to me and decreased my enjoyment somewhat....more
The protagonist of Sweet Unrest, Lucy, moves with her family from Chicago to New Orleans so her father can do an anthropologic investigation of an oldThe protagonist of Sweet Unrest, Lucy, moves with her family from Chicago to New Orleans so her father can do an anthropologic investigation of an old plantation. Like a lot of novels set in New Orleans, Lisa Maxwell incorporates voodoo as an integral part of the plot. There are also ghosts, reincarnation, and photography.
The story itself is entertaining, although the ending requires a bigger suspension of disbelief than normal for a novel with paranormal elements. Surprisingly, I guessed the ending early on....more
So, Phobic. I’ll start with the good. I was initially sucked into the novel because of the house in which Piper, the protagonist, lives. It deserves tSo, Phobic. I’ll start with the good. I was initially sucked into the novel because of the house in which Piper, the protagonist, lives. It deserves to be considered a character in the novel and was very well done. There’s a good progression of what the house can do, beginning with creaks and groans and the spare disembodied voice, and progressing to attacks on people, and, finally, a creepy symbiotic connection to Piper. The external plot having to do with the house and its history and the curse on/promise of those who own it was interesting and layered, and it was extremely well paced. The twists were plentiful and, for the most part, unexpected. For varying reasons, this part of the novel reminded me of a cross between (a less artsy) House of Leaves and the 1999 movie version of The House on Haunted Hill, but toned down for a younger YA audience. If I were reviewing the novel solely on the external plot, I'd probably give it a 4 or a 4.5.
Unfortunately, the secondary plots--the relationship Piper has with her best friend Todd, Piper's acne trauma, and the bullying issue--just weren't for me. Todd suffers from an excess of uneven characterization, I think. Truly, characters can be changeable; however, I expect a certain level of consistency, and Todd was all over the place. He is, by turns, the classic supportive best friend, totally clueless, borderline cruel, remarkably straight forward, sexually aggressive, etc, etc. In many ways, I feel as though Todd is used (and his personality changed according to need) as a plot device to insert additional drama. (view spoiler)[The point at which Piper and Todd move into a romantic relationship falls flat, in part, because Todd doesn't come across as believable and, in part, because the relationship changes so fast. One second they're having their first kiss, and the next Todd is making sexual innuendos and pressuring Piper to keep making out while she's scared to death. I understand that often teen boys' brains shut off when they have an erection, but damn. (hide spoiler)] The acne situation . . . so, Piper has what I'm assuming is cystic acne or something like that, and the kids at school--Todd's friends, no less--make fun of Piper mercilessly. That part is perfectly believable, and I was able to suspend disbelief (view spoiler)[when Piper wakes up with clear skin, having mysteriously traded complexions with the beautiful popular girl Sienna. I did not for a second, however, buy that her skin had nothing to do with why Todd waited to kiss Piper for the first time until her skin was flawless. Todd is meant to be a good guy in this novel, but I never fully trusted him because of his malleable personality (hide spoiler)]. The bullying was perhaps a bit over the top at times, and I think maybe I had problems buying that particular subplot because I had issues with Todd.
After initially being sucked into Phobic, the novel largely lost me at the 40 percent point. I stuck around to see what would happen with the house because that part was so well done. The writing was itself was generally fine, although there were some stylistic choices (primarily some really wacky adjectives) that drew my attention away from the action. I didn't mind the present tense storytelling (normally something I dislike) told from Piper's POV (first person) because there was a fair amount of fast-paced action that made it an appropriate choice; that said, there were two random chapters toward the end of the book told in third person, present tense from Todd's POV that made for some awkward reading.
Lastly, I cannot figure out why this novel is called Phobic. No one in the novel has a phobia. Huh.
There are certain novel openings that will never stop being cliched. One of them is “I knew it was going to be a bad dayThis was a 2 or a 2.5 for me.
There are certain novel openings that will never stop being cliched. One of them is “I knew it was going to be a bad day when . . . “ That is exactly how Doppelganger begins. Couple that with an enormous amount of back story on the first two pages, and I wasn’t primed to love Doppelganger. I’m sorry to say that this story never picked up and, ultimately, just wasn’t for me.
The idea is a good one--it plays on the idea that we’ve all got a twin somewhere in the world. And in Citrus’ world (yes, the main character is named Citrus), this equates to an evil twin. Citrus wakes up late because she was up the night before reading The Hunger Games, and when she arrives at her World History class discovers her doppelganger already in the room, taking her test. As she attempts to make sense of it, her dream boy--Aeden--arrives. His doppelganger is in the room as well, and with no evidence to suggest it could be true, he deems the doppelgangers evil, bad, and dangerous and convinces Citrus to leave school grounds with him so they can talk privately in a nature reserve.
Okay, so being a naturally suspicious kind of girl, I wondered a] why Aeden was so hot to get her off school grounds and into a secluded spot; and b] why Aeden would jump to a conclusion about the doppelgangers. I mean, sure, having a twin randomly show up probably isn’t a good thing, but he immediately assumes they’re aliens out to take over the world. Which leads me to jump to my own conclusion: the Aeden currently speaking to Citrus is the real Aeden’s doppelganger, and he’s purposefully screwing with Citrus. Couple this with the fact that he is not even remotely concerned about his girlfriend being replaced by alien pod people, and it was a lock for me. I was sure of it.
And as it turns out, (view spoiler)[I was right. And having figured out the plot twist in the second chapter, I was spoiled for the remainder of the book (hide spoiler)].
I'm not convinced this novel should really be marketed as a YA novel. Yes, truly, the characters are teens, but they also come off quite a bit younger. The language is quite simplified and basic, the romance part of it is incredibly innocent, and even the violence is downplayed and mostly occurs off-screen, so to speak. It seems more written for an older MG or perhaps a tween audience that isn't looking for anything too complicated (think Disney or Nickelodeon).
In an overarching, meta way, there are some similarities between this and Rick Yancey's The Fifth Wave. However, comparing the two throws into high relief the differences in tone and intended age group.
Wolf Mark begs some obvious comparisons on different levels. The most obvious is the whole Jacob-shape shifter storyline in Twilight. Like that storylWolf Mark begs some obvious comparisons on different levels. The most obvious is the whole Jacob-shape shifter storyline in Twilight. Like that storyline, Wolf Mark uses Native American wolf lore to form the backbone of who Luke is--a skinwalker. I found Wolf Mark use of the legends much more interesting and nuanced than Twilight, though--and it was put to much better use. And since I also recently read Allen Zadoff's Unknown Assassin series, there are also a few similarities there.
Overall, I enjoyed Wolf Mark. I would have liked to have seen a bit more characterization for Renzo and Meena, but I loved the Sunglass Mafia (particularly Vlad). It seems like this could be expanded to a series, but I'm not seeing anything recent published from Joseph Bruchac. Hmm....more
This is a 3.5 for me. I liked it well enough and really enjoyed parts of the book. I was confused about the book description--I could kinda-sorta seeThis is a 3.5 for me. I liked it well enough and really enjoyed parts of the book. I was confused about the book description--I could kinda-sorta see the Hunger Games comparison toward the end of the book, but I never did see anything all that Handmaid's Tale-esque about it. If I had to pick another novel to compare it to, I might have gone with vaguely Anthem-ish.
I did like the relationship between Flora 717 and Linden....more