The short The beginning really pulled me in, but the character development wasn't done well. I really wanted to connect with Tallie; after the initialThe short The beginning really pulled me in, but the character development wasn't done well. I really wanted to connect with Tallie; after the initial pages, however, it was very very hard to do.
The long Some of the Parts deals with a heavy topic: death of a family member gone too soon. I think that part of what draws me to this genre is the fear of losing a loved one.
I haven't had to go through the grief of losing a family member so close to me, so I can't begin to fathom the mix of feelings one goes through. I don't want to imagine how it would feel to lose one of my immediate family members. I think that is part of my fascination with books like this. They give my insight into the emotions and struggles that one goes through upon losing a family member. They give me a safe place to explore loss of a loved one.
The beginning really pulled me in. It's very emotionally driven, especially given the guilt that Tallie feels over the death of her brother. Of course, we don't find out the details until later. All I'm going to say is that her feeling is certainly understandable. I just wish that her brother received more than the meager characterization he did. Tallie seems to deeply admire her brother and think the best of him, which is weird to me. I have a brother, and I certainly don't think he's all that (though I do love him). As all we have to go on is Tallie's claims, I don't see any evidence that her brother was who she claims he was. I would have liked to see more flashbacks—or at least reminiscing on Tallie's part.
Outside of Tallie's brother, the character development wasn't done well. I really wanted to connect with Tallie; after the initial pages, however, it was very very hard to do just that. Tallie's later actions make no sense to me at all. While her actions are understandable given that she seems to lose control of her sanity, I don't know where or why she's losing her grip on reality. In the end, I lost connection with her. I'm also bothered by the fact that there is no real romantic development. This guy just seems to fall in love with her out of nowhere. Not to mention the development with the friend who just drops out of the picture after her startling confession. Or the fact that it turns out that her brother also had a broken relationship (and that his girlfriend and "best bud" turned out to be the people that they were).
What drew me to this story in the first place was the family aspect what with Tallie searching for a connection to her brother after his death. Tallie's actions, however, serve to alienate her from her living relatives (her parents), from real connections to the people who love her (like her friends, though I'm still wondering what exactly was her relationship to her one kind of friend), and from moving forward. This is a novel about losing oneself in an obsessive desire to pick up the pieces after losing a loved one, and most of the healing will come after the last words of this novel.
All in all, I'm happy that more recognition is being given to organ donation, something that can really save lives. I just couldn't connect with the characters and their story, though Some of the Parts is definitely one to provoke discussion given the open-ish ending.
The writing is solid. From what I can see, there is a good balance between dialogue and action, and I find it interesting how Mackenzi Lee makes FRANKThe writing is solid. From what I can see, there is a good balance between dialogue and action, and I find it interesting how Mackenzi Lee makes FRANKENSTEIN a novel in this world. The primary reason I ended up skimming this novel is that I got annoyed by how the church was made out to be bad. (Now, I don't know if anything changes later in the novel; this is just how it was set up.) I've read a few too many works recently in which the characters denounce religion or the church is made out to be in the wrong. It's not like I believe all churches are flawless. We're human; we are liable to make mistakes. However, there seems to be a prejudice against featuring faith in a positive light in novels. At this time, I'm not comfortable with reading this novel from front to back.
Note: I did skim the novel and read the end, and it looks like a decent read. Definitely different....more
There is a sense of narrative distance that simultaneous makes me feel disconnected from the story yet draws me deeper into the characters' emotionalThere is a sense of narrative distance that simultaneous makes me feel disconnected from the story yet draws me deeper into the characters' emotional conflict. The stories in Mendocino Fire don't give us direct insight into the narrators' minds. Instead, the narrators seem to observe the situations they find themselves in and comment on what is happening. The simplicity of the narration serves only to heighten the emotional tension by cutting away any excess that would take away from the story's focus.
It can be a challenge working through these stories. A lot of pronouns are used, so it was difficult at times for me to figure out to whom the narrator was referring. There are also time skips without an immediate explanation for what is happening or what has happened in the duration. Much is left to the reader to decipher the text. That's one of the beauty of short stories though. They're meant to be read and reread with new meaning drawn from the text with each reading.
Mendocino Fire won't be for everybody. It's deep, dense, and complicated. It isn't something that I would pick up for a casual read (though I can think of some people who would do just that). Nevertheless, I can see myself returning to one of these stories when I'm looking for a story that explores the depths of human nature, relationships, and conflicts.
The narration makes it feel like I'm reading a summary of events taking place scene by scene. I don't feel any connection with the characters or theirThe narration makes it feel like I'm reading a summary of events taking place scene by scene. I don't feel any connection with the characters or their story. The plot itself isn't interesting. I just don't feel this book.
What We Saw is a powerful story and one that needs telling. It portrays student life in all its gritty details from the slander and gossip to the langWhat We Saw is a powerful story and one that needs telling. It portrays student life in all its gritty details from the slander and gossip to the language to their addiction to social media and their phones. And how cruel and prejudiced people of any age can be. I'm going to be honest. After the first several chapters, I ended up skimming through many school scenes. The students' lack of compassion for Stacey and their constant victim blaming left a bad taste in my mouth. Hartzler does not slack on the gory details of teen life.
I appreciate Kate's determination to get to the bottom of everything and not to blindly accept what everyone else takes for fact. She's a strong-willed character if a bit blinded by love. I didn't like Ben's character as much. Whereas Kate is drawn to find the truth, Ben wants to leave everything as it is. He takes active steps to maintain the status quo—such as deleting photos he posted online of the drinks at the party to protect his friend—and he doesn't share Kate's desire to help Stacey out. The only things he cares about are Kate and getting out. It's like he's running away from his mom and his origins. I do not care for Ben's attitude towards his mom and how he treats her. The end only increased my distaste for Ben.
One aspect that I appreciate about What We Saw is how it examines why people victim blame. For example, Kate comes to the realization that, if the girls don't blame Stacey, then they have to accept that what happened to Stacey could happen to themselves as well, for they too were at the party. As Kate realizes, she was as wasted as Stacey was. They could have easily traded roles had Ben not driven her home that night. What I wish we saw more of is an exploration of why some people chose to remain silent, why others laughed when they saw the rape taking place in real time, and why they acted the way they did after it all went down. Perhaps some of them are shallow through and through, but if we can learn why people do what they do perhaps we can take action to prevent future Staceys. Ben himself tells Kate that he doesn't want to get involved because it might influence his chances of getting a scholarship and thus a ticket out of town.
Again, I mostly skimmed this novel, so I can't say for certain, but I didn't see much character growth or development. Ben was pretty flat, and no one character showed up enough for me to see much in the way of character dynamics. One example that really sticks to mind is Will, Kate's brother. We see him about to rank a girl on her Facebook photo while laughing with a friend on video chat. Kate yells at him and tells him to delete any ranks he's posted online or she'll tell dad, then she storms out of the room. We never really see anything about this incident afterwards, so I don't know if Will is apologetic and has learned a lesson, if he deleted his rankings because of Kate's threat, or if he never does anything. I wish there was more followup on his growth. For that matter, there is so much focus on getting at the truth that we don't see much of Kate's growth either than some realizations she makes along the way (such as the ones I mentioned earlier).
What I really like about this novel is the difficult moral choices that Kate has to make. For example: what to do when someone you really care about and who isn't a clean-cut villain is involved in something you know is wrong? Do you speak up and name his or her part in the crime (in this case, Stacey's rape), or do you keep quiet to protect the one you care about? There can be no clean ending when presented with these questions. While the end wrapped up rather quickly and we don't see any real growth from the person involved, I like the maturity that Kate shows when faced with this difficult decision, and I love how her family supports her decision and is there for her.
I recommend this novel to readers looking for a novel that portrays the gritty side of high school life, rape cases, and victim blaming.
I have no idea what I just read. I have no desire to read further. The first pages of the story ramble on like a bad summary that doesn't really tellI have no idea what I just read. I have no desire to read further. The first pages of the story ramble on like a bad summary that doesn't really tell me anything. I don't understand the world or protagonist at all....more
The premise is wonderful. I believe in loving your body and who you are. The story itself though is rather fast paced, and I couldn't really connect wThe premise is wonderful. I believe in loving your body and who you are. The story itself though is rather fast paced, and I couldn't really connect with the characters. It may have to do with the writing style / protagonist's voice, which are rather different from my typical reads....more
Walk on Earth a Stranger renewed my love of historical fiction—in particular, historical fantasies.
For some readers, the first third of the novel wasWalk on Earth a Stranger renewed my love of historical fiction—in particular, historical fantasies.
For some readers, the first third of the novel was slow. For me, these pages were the best part of this novel. The first pages reintroduced me to Rae Carson's beautifully descriptive writing while immersing me in Lee's world. Few authors can give you a strong sense of the protagonist's characters in the span of a few pages. The hunting scene not only introduces us to Lee's personality and her abilities, it gives us insight into her lifestyle and the world she lives in. While I would have loved to see more of her life with her family (love the strong, positive family relationship here), events do progress quickly from here on out—in a way that made me feel so much for Lee and her loss.
Lee is a fierce young woman. So much has been taken from her, but she doesn't back down from any challenge. In fact, she not only has a strong will, she can work as well or even better than most men, and she has the resourcefulness and wits to do what it takes to survive. And she is confronted by so very much. She must deal with strongly rooted prejudice: against her gender, against her best friend for being half Cherokee, against African Americans. She must face death and partings. She must face the hardships and dangers of crossing America with little to her name. She must face her fears of trusting others. Not to mention her newfound feelings for her best friend (though romance plays a very small role in this novel—she has much bigger issues to worry about). I like how Lee's powers don't entirely give her an edge over the others while on the trail. She may be able to sense gold, but it doesn't help her much with all the challenges that she must face. There is more historical than fantasy in this novel, and I love it the way it is.
All these challenges create many opportunities for action scene after action scene. Lee is a very brave young woman. While I do wish that she would rely more on others, it was pretty satisfying to see her tackle everything head on and prove that a woman doesn't need a man to protect her. Heck, the other women may not all do "men's work," but they prove fierce in spirit as well. Becky, Lucie, Mary, and Theresa are all women on the trail as well. Each of them show courage in the face of harsh trials. And Rae Carson does not hold back in showing us the dangers of the trail. There is violence, prejudice, cruelty, illness, suffering, and death.
I do wish that the story wasn't as fast paced as it was. I understand that Lee's journey west is a long one, but I really would have liked to see more development of the other characters and her relationship with them as they bond over the course of the journey. In particular, Jefferson was often left out of the picture. I'm usually the one complaining that there's too much romance in a story, but I really would have liked to see more of Lee's conflict over him and how their relationship moves forward over the course of their journey. For example, I wouldn't have known that she was avoiding Theresa out of jealousy if Jefferson hadn't brought it up one time. I would have liked to see more of Lee's non-interactions with Theresa to get the picture before Jefferson brought it up.
All that said, there was one scene that really bugged me as it seemed randomly inserted: someone invites her to travel West with him, but she decides to join the Joyners and never does talk to that guy again. I wonder if he'll play a larger role later on. Otherwise, that was a pretty random scene.
Overall, Walk on Earth a Stranger is a brilliant if not entirely historically accurate work. I am very much looking forward to reading the next installment in the series!
Pre review Much of the story seems to be setting up for future action, and the pace picked up rather quickly towards the end. Most of the tension and intrigue happens at the beginning of the story. Still, I really enjoyed this overall. I'm looking forward to the next book in the trilogy.
FLUNKED is a charming revisit to the world of fairy-tale princesses and their villains.
This is a novel that you have to be in the right mood to read.FLUNKED is a charming revisit to the world of fairy-tale princesses and their villains.
This is a novel that you have to be in the right mood to read. Just from looking at the cover, you can tell that this is going to be a light-hearted, whimsical read. Not to mention the fact that villains from popular fairy tales have supposedly gone good. (Truth or fiction?) I believe that many who read this will be charmed by Gilly and how she makes a place for herself in this world. For me, however, the characters fell flat and weren't all that well developed, and the plot was rather simple. I felt like I was strung along for the ride as Gilly hopped from class to class and checked out all that FTRS had to offer. Not to mention that she just so happens to spot the headmistress walking into the forbidden forrest (because all fairy-tale like schools need one) and decides to investigate.
It was all a bit too cliched and stereotypical and flat for me. If I was in a different mood, maybe I would have enjoyed it more.
When I went back to reread my reviews of the previous books in the Fallen series, a line from my review of Fallen in Love jumped out at me:
"My only reWhen I went back to reread my reviews of the previous books in the Fallen series, a line from my review of Fallen in Love jumped out at me:
"My only regret is that Cam wasn't in the mood for celebrating Valentine's Day along with everyone else, as I would have loved to read his story—and find out more about his type of girl."
Unforgiven has answered this question for me.
It makes me happy that Cam gets his story told because he really deserves it. After all he's gone through, he deserves to find his own love and his own happiness.
Lauren Kate writes beautifully and descriptively. Her words breathe life to Crossroads, the characters, and the characters' personalties. The story is told from both Lilith and Cam's perspective with pieces of the past weaved into their present story. As the story is told in third person, it wasn't much of a struggle switching from POV to POV; it was helpful that the chapter headings included the name of the person telling that chapter. I also like how the chapter headings include the time left that Cam has to win Lilith's love. It gives a sense of urgency while keeping us updated on where we are in the timeline.
While I don't normally like seeing students skip classes (I believe in the power of an education), I believe that many teens will be able to relate to Lilith and Cam. Plus, we see get to see the good along with the bad. Lilith's growth over the course of the novel shows us that our attitudes can change, and once we put in effort to reconcile with our "enemies," we can see a new side to them and even make friends with the people we once resented. As for her changing attitude towards Cam, a lot of things still don't quite make sense, such as how she is quick to blame him for things without solid evidence, but I'm willing to accept that her long history with Cam gives her a bias against him.
Plotwise, this story is all about the romance. Lilith is in this hell because of her love for Cam, and Cam is here because he still loves Lilith and wants to set her free. I wholeheartedly admit that, in general, I hate stories that are all about the romance, and I don't know why I've enjoyed the Fallen series so much. I believe love is an answer, but I don't believe in giving up everything for a romantic love. I did like Luce and Daniel, though I'm not as much a fun of quick-to-burn, fiery love stories like Cam and Lilith's. Maybes it's the writing. Maybe it's the characters. I especially like Lilith's brother in this hell (as longtime readers of this blog know, I'm always a fun of good family relationships in stories), and the side characters are funny. Though they don't play a super huge role in this story, I like how Lilith's changing relationship with the side characters shows her character growth. And I was delighted to see Arianne and Roland make an appearance.
My biggest takeaway from Unforgiven, besides getting to read Cam's story, is that we must fight to make our wishes come true. We can't just lolly around waiting for fate to hand our desires to us, and we can't give up in the face of great adversities for fear of losing what we do have. Like Cam, we must not be afraid to challenge the Lucs in our lives in order to protect those we love and to create our own happiness.
That said, if you're looking for depth of plot, characters, and world building, I wouldn't recommend this novel or any of the Fallen books. If you're looking ot for an easy read to entertain though, you just might be at the right place.
This novel does wrap up a bit quickly for my liking, and it leaves too many questions . . . which leads me to suspect that Cam and Lilith's story can't end here. I believe that there has to be more to come. Nevertheless, whatever Lauren Kate decides to do in the future, while Teardrop wasn't for me (see my review here), I anticipate more from her.
P.S. Cam and Lilith are both musicians. Tracks have been made of the songs that Lilith sings in this book (with one of the songs cowritten by Cam). Find out more at Lauren Kate's site.
Take humor, zombies without the terror elements that permeate post-apocalyptic fiction, overprotective parenting, positive life lessons, and young friTake humor, zombies without the terror elements that permeate post-apocalyptic fiction, overprotective parenting, positive life lessons, and young friendship. Throw them into the pot, and you'll come out with a smile on your face and in your heart.
It's rare to find a middle-grade story -- or any story for that matter -- that is both entertaining and enlightening. I was delighted to find both in Dead Boy. I mean it when I say that it captivated me from beginning to end. I picked this one up in the middle of a reading slump (and general life slump - starting life as a high school English teacher has been a fight for survival). I could not tear myself away from my book. If any chore called, I came with book in hand.
Laurel Gale's explanation for how Crow got his condition is fantastic. I like how she weaves in themes of humans greed, what we do for the people we love, and how we need to be careful for what we wish for. It can come true in unexpected ways. As the story starts with the aftermath and Crow's coming-of-age awakening and pursuit of the truth, we are also presented with the question of what to do when we learn the truth and whether revenge is the answer. (Given that this is a middle-grade novel, I think we know what the answer is.)
Plot aside, the characters were a blast. Middle-grade books generally have stereotyped characters, including adults that can't do anything and need the kids to save the day. I admit that I was a little irked by some of the stereotypes, but these weren't enough to take away from my overall enjoyment of the novel. I'm always happy to see a protagonist that uses his or her brain. In particular, I like how Crow notes the specific details of his conditions and how he doesn't recklessly charge into a situation. I also liked seeing the friendship that blossoms between Crow and his new next door neighbor and the lengths that they're willing to go for each other and to do right by others.
Dead Boy is a funny, poignant, and heartwarming story about friendship and self discovery. I would recommend this to upper-elementary and middle-grade readers.
It's been a while since I read Dead Boy, so please forgive the brevity of my review. Starting a new job is a challenge in itself. Starting a new job as a high-school English teacher straight out of college is