I am very partial to fairy tale retellings. I love the unique ways modern authors come up with to treat such old stories. In particular, I have a diff...moreI am very partial to fairy tale retellings. I love the unique ways modern authors come up with to treat such old stories. In particular, I have a difficult time turning away a Beauty and the Beast retelling. My favorites (Robin McKinley's Beauty and Rose Daughter) tend to be traditionally set versions of the tale. Although Alex Flinn's recent Beastly is a wonderfully modern retelling of the tale set in present-day NYC. Master of Shadows resides in a rather odd place somewhere between the two. Set "Once upon a time toward the end of the 20th century," the story is definitely set in our modern world, but Lorimer keeps places and details purposefully vague so as to retain that timeless fairy tale feel.
And it works. A bit too well. I got the feeling this book wasn't sure what it wanted to be. Fundamentally a cross between The Phantom of the Opera and the tale of Beauty and the Beast, it works really hard to be a rather creepy murder mystery as well, with the result that I felt confused and a bit jerked around for the majority of the book. I wanted to fall in love with the characters, but Louvel (the Beast) is kept at such a distance from the reader that it's difficult to care about him. All we know is he has a deep, dark secret and that he can somehow be ten places at once. Ariel (Beauty) is likable enough, but she does seem a bit more overwhelmed than I would have expected by her loss of fortune and rich fiance.
I liked that Ariel had to unravel the many threads of the mystery before she could truly understand Louvel and the motley cast of odd characters he surrounded himself with. I liked that Louvel wasn't suffering from an evil spell, but was simply a man born into a pack of troubles. I liked the frequent references to the many other fairy tales that made up the fabric of Ariel's life. I think my main concern with the story was that these two characters spent a total of five days together (a week at the most) before Ariel was unceremoniously sent back to the world. And already they're soul mates. There was no time to develop a bond. It was simply there and, apparently, unbreakable. The whole book followed that pattern. Logical, at times gruesome, explanations for everything. Until finally, there was just no "magic" left. I am a consummate willing suspender of disbelief. But, unfortunately, the whole thing was too big a leap of faith for me.(less)
Better late than never, right? I've got good excuses, though. Had a baby. Was reading it aloud with DH. Snatching moments to read whenever and whereve...moreBetter late than never, right? I've got good excuses, though. Had a baby. Was reading it aloud with DH. Snatching moments to read whenever and wherever we could...you get the picture. The problem is, what to say now that I finally finished it. Because the truth is the real reason it took me so long to reach the end is that it was....well....boring. Not just the ending, which was utterly lacking in anything resembling a climax, but the entire story. By the end of Book Two I had been sapped of the will to live. Let alone the will to care about the characters anymore.
So, yeah. I'm sitting here feeling a bit betrayed and a bit disappointed. But mostly I'm mystified. I sat there shaking my head throughout the entire third book, my brow furrowed, one sentence on an endless loop in my head, "Wh-, wh-, what happened?" To Bella who was first and foremost an everygirl and not a superhero. To Edward who was vivid and dangerous and not a mere vehicle for exposition. To Jacob who was a protector and friend and not Edward's best bud, stripped of his will and happy about it. And to Alice who was lovely and awesome and present, not absent and useless for the majority of the 700+ pages. None of the characters I'd cared about for three books were themselves in this final volume. Not one.
So set aside the fact that Bella would never name her child that. Set aside the fact that the only enjoyable section (Jacob's) ended in the most absurd (read: revolting) way imaginable. Set aside even the fact that nobody had to sacrifice anything to get their heart's desire (and thus the fact that they achieved that desire is rendered null and void in my mind). The important thing is the characters were not true to themselves. They, like the carefully laid out rules of their world, were summarily bent and reformed into unrecognizable shapes for the sake of providing the bewildered reader with a universal happy ending for every. single. character. It wasn't what this reader wanted and it wasn't what the story needed. But it's what we got.
All of this said, I am glad this most unfortunate of endings hasn't tainted Twilight for me in the least. It remains a favorite and one I'll certainly reread. I'll just stop there.(less)
I waited for this one to become available at the library for quite awhile. It was always checked out and that, coupled with the rather rave reviews I'...moreI waited for this one to become available at the library for quite awhile. It was always checked out and that, coupled with the rather rave reviews I'd read, made me excited to get my hands on it. The cover is decidedly hokey, but I've come to regret bouts of cover-snobbery many a time before. So I resolved not to let it get to me this time. Besides. I finished the book and still can't wrap my mind around what the tairen actually look like. So the creature on the cover is as good a rendering as any, I'm sure.
Essentially, it is a Cinderella story. One in which the prince is actually a king. A massively overbearing, centuries old king at that. Rain Tairen Soul is well-known throughout the world as the man who almost destroyed it all when his beloved was killed. His rage was of such a magnitude that it nearly scorched the world. Thousands upon thousands died as a result. This all took place nigh unto a thousand years ago and Rain has spent the intervening years basically trying to hang onto his sanity and not give into his anger and sorrow. Enter Ellie--found on the side of the road as a child and taken in by a woodcarver and his wife. In a moment of utter terror, her soul cries out and Rain's hears it. He comes immediately to her rescue and the two of them attempt to make sense of what has happened to them. And what has happened is that they are soul mates. That's right. Rain has love thrust upon him centuries after he thought he was through with it for good. And Ellie has it swoop down upon her for the first time in her life. It's all very anguished and touching.
Except it's not.
I don't know if it's just that the story's been done before and in more compelling ways. Or if it's the he's older than Methuselah and she's a spring chicken ick factor. But it didn't do it for me. It's like the whole time the story was telling me, I am So Epic. Bask in my epicness! And Rain was storming around yelling at me, I am So Tortured. Revel in my anguish! Meanwhile, Ellie was tip-toeing around in his wake whispering, I am fragile but with a Core Of Steel. Underestimate me at your peril! But none of it felt real. It just felt like the veneer of epicness and torture and steel cores. There was also a string of women drugged and manipulated against their will which really rubbed me wrong. And did anyone else think Ellie should totally be with Bel? Or was that just me? Now the story certainly had its sweet moments. How could it not? At just over 400 pages, it never gets beyond the courtship stage of Rain and Ellie's relationship. But even then, I didn't feel like they got to know each other well. But I didn't feel like I knew them either so it wasn't that great a loss. I do have to say that this book (and series) is dearly beloved by many so, clearly, your mileage may (and probably will) vary. It may very well fly for you. But, for me, it never got its feet off the ground. (less)
First published in ebook format by Samhain Publishing, The Trouble with Kings was just recently released in print format. I read and loved Crown Duel...moreFirst published in ebook format by Samhain Publishing, The Trouble with Kings was just recently released in print format. I read and loved Crown Duel several years ago and this one caught my eye because it sounded similar in a delightfully swashbuckling sort of way. This book is also being billed as a fantasy romance--a genre I'm beginning to feel is a bit finicky (for me at least). It seems very difficult to strike just the right chord.
Flian is a princess. Though when we first meet her she does not recall that rather important fact about herself. She does not, in fact, recall anything about herself as she apparently took a fall off a horse, a bump on the head, and lost her memory. She awakes in an old woman's cabin and is soon whisked off to a castle by her "cousin" Garian. Garian seems very keen to let Flian know she was on her way to see him when she took the fall. Oh, and she was also on her way to her marriage to a dour king named Jason who is also in residence at the castle. Despite the fact that she feels nothing for Jason (and is pretty sure Garian is drugging her drinks) Flian goes along with the plan. That is until another overbearing prince crashes through the window on horseback and whisks her off to a cave in the back of beyond. This prince turns out to be Dour King Jason's brother who is very intent on selling his version of events. Naturally. Eventually Flian manages to remember herself and get home. She even has a loving father and pretty awesome brother waiting for her there. Not that she gets to enjoy them long. Dour King Jason swoops in in the middle of a poetry reading and carries her off once more.
Okay. Enough with the plotliness. I had a problem with this book. For one thing, it was very light on the fantasy and even lighter on the romance. I kept waiting for something magical to happen or for there to be some semblance of chemistry between characters (in any sense), but it never came. I really wanted to like it. And parts of it I liked very much. It has a great premise: the amnesiac princess who gets carried off not once but thrice (it's actually even more than that) and has to determine which prince/dour king is lying to her and who to trust, etc. The thing is the abductions got to be too much. And Flian wasn't compelling enough to carry the whole thing off. If she was just so freaking awesome that it was clear why these nutjobs wanted her and you wanted to stick with her and watch her be awesome and figure out which nutjob was actually a cool cat, then that would be one thing. But Flian is just. so. boring. And the princes three? Turns out they're just nutjobs. Pretty creepy ones, in fact. Nothing more. None of the characters get any decent development and when you do find out which one has been telling the truth the whole time (even though he SO has not) he doesn't get any cooler. He's just no longer the one who wants to marry her for her money then kill her. Hardly my idea of The One. Now it did keep me reading all the way through because I kept hoping at some point the story would delve beneath the surface and I'd get to know these perplexing characters in some more profound way. But satisfacton was not in the cards this time. (less)
I'm going to warn you upfront that I had an extreme reaction to this book. An extreme and unexpected reaction. Just ask DH. He had to listen to me ran...moreI'm going to warn you upfront that I had an extreme reaction to this book. An extreme and unexpected reaction. Just ask DH. He had to listen to me rant ad nauseam until I'd exorcised the demons enough to move on. The thing is I haven't reacted so strongly to a book for quite some time and it took me a bit by surprise. Oh, well, who are we kidding? It threw me for one hell of a loop and I had an extremely hard time shaking it off. Despite all this I'm going to try to continue my tradition of spoiler-free reviews and, as a result, won't be able to tell you the precise reasons why I reacted the way I did. I won't be able to go into excruciating detail explaining exactly how and when my emotions bounced back and forth. But let's be honest. That's probably for the best. So.
Becky Jack is a Mormon housewife living in Layton, Utah, pregnant with her fourth child. She has just sold a screenplay to a film agency in LA and is meeting them there to sign the contract, when in walks Felix Callahan--sexy British star of Becky's favorite romantic comedies. The two of them clash right from the start and, despite their visible disdain for one another (and the fact that Felix has long been Becky's movie star crush), they find themselves staying at the same hotel and eating dinner together that night. Becky returns to Utah sure it was some fluke, a fun story to tell the fam, and that she'll never see Felix again. Au contraire, Becky. Turns out Felix hasn't been able to get their abrasive encounter out of his head and the next time he has a layover in Salt Lake City, he turns up to see her and figure out what the deal is. From there these two unlikely characters become the very best of friends. Talk on the phone daily, stay up all night long talking, drop everything to jet off to New York at a moment's notice kind of BFFs. As you might expect, a whole host of factors get in the way of their "friendship," including at times concerned/jealous spouses, their different faiths (or rather Becky's strict one and Felix's utter lack of one), their diametrically opposed lifestyles, etc. Self-proclaimed platonic lovers, these two weather the small and large storms of life as their friendship and story stretches out over a decade and more.
I'll preface my comments by saying I have read all of Shannon Hale's YA books. I love her Books of Bayern and thought her first adult novel Austenland was a fun, light romp for Austen fans. I expected to like this book just fine. I knew it would be quirky and different and fun. I certainly didn't go in expecting a happy ending because, well, given the subject matter who would? I laughed my way through the first 100 pages because any scene Becky and Felix share sparkles. I even cried. Once. At a scene about 80 pages in or so that was just so real (and a little close to home) it struck me in the gut. However, I felt that the next 250 pages were an uneven roller coaster ride of conflicting emotions, increasingly hard-to-swallow turns of event, and very inconsistent characterizations. Every aspect of the story felt so deliberate and pre-planned that it got in the way of my reading experience. It was strangely a prime example of too much telling and not enough showing. The narrator and Becky herself told me over and over (and over again) how much she was in love with her solid-as-a-brick-wall husband, how little Felix meant to her compared to Mike, how she would never do anything to jeopardize her marriage, etc. Her actions spoke differently. The actual depiction of her marriage was lukewarm at best. The rock Mike was too vague an image to grasp onto. Next to Felix he was a mere smudge. Felix clearly meant an inexplicable amount to Becky. And vice versa. These two cannot function properly without each other. They will always be returning to each other. The crystal clear, most evocative, and resonant depictions were of Becky and Felix. And it was simply too difficult for me to buy everything Becky was saying in the face of what she was showing me page after page. THE ACTOR AND THE HOUSEWIFE is an exploration of whether or not married men and women can be friends and just friends. The answer is, of course, yes. But that is not what Becky and Felix are. I know that's what they're supposed to be. But they're not. They are intimates. They are soulmates. That is the way every encounter, ever glance, every touch is characterized. The intent seemed to be some sort of Humphrey Bogart-Ingrid Bergman-Paul Henreid triangle a la Casablanca. The result was a Rock Hudson-Doris Day-Tony Randall anti-triangle a la Pillow Talk. And by the time the overwrought, rushed ending arrived I felt so completely jerked around I was unable to deal with the melodrama a moment longer.
I'm really sorry it ended this way, THE ACTOR AND THE HOUSEWIFE. I know you've gotten a lot of positive reviews and it's quite possible it's me and not you. Fortunately, each reader can decide for herself. And I hope they do. As for you and me, I think it's time we start seeing other people.(less)
I was pretty excited to get a hold of HUSH, HUSH after I saw the cover, which is completely awesome, and began hearing murmurs of dark goodness floati...moreI was pretty excited to get a hold of HUSH, HUSH after I saw the cover, which is completely awesome, and began hearing murmurs of dark goodness floating around the verse. Then I was fortunate enough to win an ARC over at Steph Su Reads. Thanks, Steph and Becca! I'm going to preface my comments by saying that if you really want to know what I thought of this book you should go read Chelle's review over at Tempting Persephone because I agree with every single thing she said. No joke. Chelle and I are often one on our reactions to a book, but this time I felt exactly the same way. In every particular. Unfortunately, in this case, it was a book neither of us loved. We wanted to. But we didn't. Several things got in the way.
Nora Grey is your average high school sophomore. Intent on getting through the year with her grade point average intact and her best friend Vee at her side, she is dismayed to find herself partnered with the broody, mysterious Patch in biology class. Patch seems to delight in intimidating the hell out of Nora. He goads her, teases her, persists in getting to know all her hidden quirks and fears and exploiting them. No one seems to know where he came from or who he really is and, as he continues to pursue Nora, she becomes obsessed with finding some answers to the mystery of Patch and his mercurial smile. Against her friend's, her counselor's, even her mother's advice, Nora spends more time in Patch's questionable company. Bit by bit, as she puts two and two together, Nora develops an impossible theory as to stalkerboy's origins...along with a pretty healthy attraction to her dark shadow.
Let's start with the good. Becca Fitzpatrick displays some solid writing skills in her debut novel. I enjoyed her way with words, the honest and wry observations Nora made about her world, and the deft descriptions of bad boy Patch. And you've got to hand it to Simon & Schuster's packaging job. That's one gorgeous cover, coupled with a killer title given the subject matter of this YA paranormal. Lastly, the whole idea behind this book is top notch. The Paradise Lost fangirl in me loves the notion of fallen angels, struggling to reclaim their former glory and still maintain their fierce independence, tangling their destinies up with mere mortals. It's a recipe for a cracking good story. The problem I ran into was in the characters themselves. Everyone knows I'm a sucker for the bad boys. I'll take Spike over Angel, Logan over Piz, Eric over Bill, and George over Jonathan any day of the week. On the surface of things Patch seemed made to order. Except he never won me over. He was just bad. No boyishness at all, really. Don't get me wrong, there was plenty of chemistry between these two. But when he wasn't smoldering, Patch was pretty creepy. And not in a good way. He felt cold, alien, and like your worst stalker nightmare. I was unable to find romance in his meanness and I didn't want Nora to be with him. Unfortunately, I didn't really want him to be with her either. Nora didn't wear any better for me. She felt like a stand-in for a cool character and I couldn't seem to summon the energy to care whether or not she died, fell in love, or passed biology. Not necessarily in that order. The rest of the characters felt annoyingly one dimensional and forgettable and this proved to be the ultimate stumbling block for me. There were also several unfortunate and distracting similarities to Twilight (I'm sorry, but it's just no longer possible to have your smart-but-uncoordinated heroine meet and become lab partners with the dangerously-handsome-and-supernatural-to-boot bad boy in biology class), some strangely pointless plot threads, and an unconvincing denouement. But my lack of enjoyment remained rooted in the unsympathetic characterization. Now, this reaction is mine alone and will certainly not be true for all (or even very many) readers. I see HUSH, HUSH finding a very fond, dedicated readership (just check out some of the glowing reviews below). As Chelle said, it just wasn't for me.(less)
I've been looking forward to this book ever since I finished Jellicoe Road and heard Melina Marchetta had a fantasy novel already out in Australia. It...moreI've been looking forward to this book ever since I finished Jellicoe Road and heard Melina Marchetta had a fantasy novel already out in Australia. It took awhile but eventually word went out that the wonderfully titled FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK would be making its American debut this February and I settled back, somewhat impatiently, to wait. Jellicoe Road was my first experience reading a Marchetta book and I consider it a pretty much perfect reading experience. To say that my anticipation for her next book was high would be something of an understatement. Though the fact that it was high fantasy gave me some pause. I read quite a bit of fantasy of all kinds and I was fascinated to see how the very modern, fragmented style of writing I loved in Jellicoe Road translated to such a wildly different genre.
Once the son of the King of Lumatere's warlord, Finnikin of the Rock ran wild and happy with his best friends and rivals Prince Balthazar and Lucian of the Monts. As boys they make a blood pact to protect their homeland no matter what. Then, in Finnikan's ninth year, the five days of the unspeakable occur and the world changes. An imposter ascends to the throne, butchering the royal family and causing a curse to be laid on the the few remaining survivors. The walls of Lumatere close and the rest of its mangled population are scattered to the four winds. Years later, his mother long dead, his father long gone, Finnikin is a young man. Having spent his life wandering neighboring lands with his mentor Sir Topher, he refuses to give up hope of returning and reclaiming the land he loved and lost. When they are joined by the young novice Evanjalin, Finnikin is certain the off putting young woman who is sworn to silence will do nothing but slow them down. It is not long, however, before he discovers he could not be more wrong. For Evanjalin herself burns with a thirst for justice and it will be all Finnikin can do to keep up with her.
Truly this book has the makings of an absolutely divine epic fantasy. I was all set to fall in love. And the first section is very encouraging. However, not long after Finnikin and Sir Topher encounter Evanjalin, I began to run into problems on two fronts. First, the overall storyline began sounding eerily familiar and I realized it reminded me strongly of another epic fantasy I love and have read several times--Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. Unfortunately, once I made the connection, I could not get it out of my head. The once lovely land fallen to a conqueror's control, all but wiped out and a curse laid upon its survivors that they may always remember and never reclaim what was theirs. The rebels in hiding, circling their forbidden home, determined to mount a rebellion, fulfill a prophecy, and restore a lost royalty. And though I found these resemblances uncanny, I still would have happily sunk into Ms. Marchetta's writing were it not for the characters. They were so cold, so far removed from me as the reader. As I said, all of the elements I love were present--the deceptively simple young woman with an agenda of her own, the dispossessed young man desperate to become a man like his heroic father, the dire curse, the mysterious disappearances. A few hundred pages in I was struggling to figure out what was wrong with me, why I wasn't enjoying this read, when it suddenly occurred to me that I didn't like the characters. Not one. I didn't care at all what happened to them. And, as a result, I went through the entire novel essentially unaffected by the sweeping events of the tale for a lack of caring and closeness. I found both Finnikin and Evanjalin in large part tiresome, petty, and prickly (not in a good way) and could not for the life of me feel the connection they supposedly had. Though I was told it was there, it never felt real to me. There was so much potential that just never found a grounding point. I've held off writing this review because I felt so bad about my reaction (or lack thereof), especially considering how much I assumed I'd like it. I even took time off to make sure it wasn't simply my mood at the time. But when I came back nothing had changed. They were still them and I was still me and we none of us cared much for each other so it was best we part ways. Now, I am definitely a lone dissenting voice on this one. So I certainly recommend you give it a shot because, though there was a decided barrier between me and them, I could tell that if these characters turn out to be your cuppa there's a good chance you'll love it even if I couldn't.(less)
I was so happily surprised (and intensely affected) by Leaving Paradise that I couldn't wait to start in on the sequel, the inevitably titled RETURN T...moreI was so happily surprised (and intensely affected) by Leaving Paradise that I couldn't wait to start in on the sequel, the inevitably titled RETURN TO PARADISE. Honestly, I loved Maggie and Caleb so much that I savored the thought of them back on the page together, dealing with the awkward and ambiguous place they were unceremoniously left in at the end of the first book. Naturally, snagging an ARC of RETURN TO PARADISE was pretty high up on my list of things to do at BEA. And I hadn't even read the first book yet! I have to say I'm not loving the cover, though. The newer cover of Leaving Paradise struck just the right note, when it comes to the fear and pain and connection between these two characters. The cover of the sequel just doesn't measure up, in my opinion. It probably doesn't help that that's not how I picture either of them and that kissing under the moonlight by a lake (while it may happen in the book) just doesn't really encompass the whole of what's going on in this story. But enough about that. On to the insides.
Maggie has worked for eight grueling months to put Caleb Becker and his inexplicable desertion behind her. She's gone over and over it in her mind and come to the conclusion that if he wasn't willing to tough it out and stay and fight to keep what was between them alive, then she's not going to waste her life crying over the loss. And she's doing a fine job of moving on. Getting ready to leave for Spain on study abroad, Maggie is spending her summer participating in a teen outreach program wherein she travels with a group of other kids whose lives were altered by substance abuse or violence or unutterably bad decisions, giving talks to other teens who might be on the verge of trouble. Unfortunately, Maggie's resolve is put to the test when Caleb abruptly joins the group. Dragged back from wherever he'd disappeared to by his former transition counselor Damon, this trip is Caleb's last chance to redeem himself and avoid being sent back to jail for living with drug dealers for the last several months. Against their better judgement, Maggie and Caleb set out on the venture, unwilling and unhappy trip mates. Of course there are a few other misfits along for the ride and their stories get interwoven with this one, but the focus remains on the emotional damage these two have undergone in the last year and the large chasm that has cropped up between them when once they were so close.
I don't really know how to put this. But this book was a very big disappointment. Where the first was such a wonderfully absorbing surprise, this one meandered on and on until I had to force myself to finish it. The writing was simply not up to par with that of her previous books and this was one instance of the uncorrected mistakes in the ARC frequently distracting me. I realize these will be corrected in the final version. But the main problem I had with it were actually the odd changes in the two principal characters. Caleb was rough in the first book. As a direct result of spending a year in juvie, he was necessarily changed by the experience. But he was never mean. Coarse and frustrated and full to the brim with anger, yes. But never mean. In an unpleasantly snarky way. And certainly not to Maggie. That hesitant reserve he had when it came to her was such a highlight for me. But in RETURN TO PARADISE, he is mean. Downright lousy sometimes. I didn't buy it, I didn't like it, and it was painful to read not only because of how it affected the other characters but because it felt inauthentic to me as the reader. Maggie was vulnerable and afraid in the first book. As a direct result of the accident that left her maimed, she was understandably that way. And she does grow a spine in this book. Or at least we're to believe she has. But she seems to waffle back and forth all over the place when it comes to taking what Caleb deals her and that, too, felt wrong to me somehow. These two knew each other better than that. Their connection was real and fine and worth reading about before. And I know there needs to be conflict and tension to provide fodder for a sequel at all, but it just came off as messy and immature here. Which is such a shame, as I truly missed that breathtaking, organic connection from Leaving Paradise. So definitely don't miss the first book. But unfortunately I'd recommend giving this one a pass and just imagining up the ending you'd like in your head instead.(less)
I am having difficulty believing it was almost a year ago that I read Going Too Far. It was a solid swallow-in-a-single-gulp read and, I have often th...moreI am having difficulty believing it was almost a year ago that I read Going Too Far. It was a solid swallow-in-a-single-gulp read and, I have often thought of Meg's "I am full of fear" mantra and smiled. I'm happy it's received the welcome attention it has in the blogosphere and I knew her next romantic drama would meet with a host of eager readers. When I first read the synopsis for Jennifer Echols' FORGET YOU, I admit I was completely sucked in by the amnesia angle and the whole waking up to find you have a different boyfriend from the boyfriend you thought you had bit. I mean, who's not up for that? So many great possibilities when the protagonist herself doesn't know exactly what's going on. Plus, I enjoyed Ms. Echols' writing quite a bit in Going Too Far. And nearing the end of July as we are, this book was fast starting to sound like the perfect summer read to me and I looked forward to it with a high degree of anticipation.
Zoey works at her dad's water park--Slide with Clyde--along with all seventeen other members of her high school swim team. All except Doug Fox. The boy who did a year in juvie and always seems to give Zoey a hard time. As captain of the swim team, Zoey runs a tight ship in and out of the pool. Her friends respect her and admire her for her work ethic and her seemingly perfectly put together exterior. Then her dad knocks up his 24-year-old human resources manager and Zoey finds herself racing the gossip home to her mother before things get any worse. And for awhile it seems that everything will be all right. Yes, she and her mother are on their own now as her father is going to leap into his midlife crisis with reckless abandon and marry Ashley. In Hawaii, no less. But then Zoey comes home to find her mother unresponsive on the bed next to a dangerously empty bottle of pills. And suddenly her vaunted ability to keep tight control over her life has disappeared without a trace. Forced to move back in with her furious father, while her mother resides indefinitely in a mental institution for evaluation, Zoey tries to exert a modicum of control over her life and decides to sleep with her longtime friend (and player with a capital P) Brandon. The next thing she knows she wakes up in the hospital, having apparently crashed her car after the party. And, even more mystifying, Doug Fox is attached to her hip. The large gap in her memory appears to include several vital things and Zoey is determined to find out what they are.
I'll just go ahead and start by saying that FORGET YOU is an example of another great setup that fell very flat for me. Much of the problem was plotting issues, along with an abundance of confusion throughout the story. So many character traits and decisions just didn't add up and I felt like I was constantly scratching my head, like I was missing more puzzle pieces than poor Zoey. I liked Zoey. I felt incredibly sorry for her. Her mother attempts suicide and then gets locked up in the hospital, where no one will allow Zoey to visit. Her father is like something out of a nightmare and the boys that she lusts after are neither of them anything to write home about. Her commutation of a one-night stand into a full-blown relationship with Brandon can be chalked up to her completely understandably disordered mental state. For awhile. But unfortunately I was only able to suspend my disbelief so long. She knows his reputation. She knows the reality of him. And, smart as she is, it seems beyond unlikely she would persist in such an unbelievably unrealistic scenario, when presented with the lovely young hottie by the name of Doug, who clearly wants her. Yesterday. And despite the fact that she so wants him back, she treats him pretty poorly. And he takes it! I mean, he snarks at her a bit, and definitely tries to get her to see the light. But ultimately he takes it. It was hard for me to keep a torch for Doug burning when he kept turning belly up. And not treating her very nicely either, come to think of it. These two were undeniably drawn to each other, but they didn't seem to much like each other. I have difficulty signing on for that sort of deal. I guess I just need a little more than attraction to go on. I couldn't feel the connection between them, much less want them to be together. They didn't leap across the page at me and their magnetism alone just wasn't enough. And so what I hoped would be an absorbing, sweet read ended up an extremely confusing and fractured one. As evidenced by the links below, some people feel similarly and many do not. If you've not ready any Jennifer Echols yet, I highly recommend starting with Going Too Far and working your way out from there.(less)
So I approached WHERE SHE WENT with almost equal amounts trepidation and excitement. It's hard to follow up an ending like th...moreOriginally reviewed here.
So I approached WHERE SHE WENT with almost equal amounts trepidation and excitement. It's hard to follow up an ending like the ending of If I Stay. In many respects, I felt like the mere existence of a sequel might mar the beauty of the first book. I just . . . I loved how it ended so much, I wasn't at all sure I wanted to know what happened next. And if you know me at all you know how hilarious that sounds. I always want to know what happens next. I regularly fill my life with beloved series I can't quit. But I am also an enormous admirer of standalone volumes, particularly those featuring a judicious and perfect ending. Such was the case with If I Stay. But the tenor of my emotions for Mia and Adam by the end of that book ensured that I wouldn't be able to stay away from a follow-up in the end. Especially as that follow-up was set three years later. So I only lasted about 24 hours in between finishing the first book and plunging into the second.
A warning: If you have not yet read If I Stay, I suggest doing so now before proceeding any farther. It really is worth it, and there is simply no way to discuss the sequel without ruining the surprise both books have in store. Also, the nature of my feelings regarding this one demand a discussion of the ending. So. You have been warned, yes?
It's been three years since Mia awoke to find Adam there waiting for her. And, as happy as she was to see him (and he her), it turns out three years is more than enough time for everything to fall apart. At first, everything seemed fine. More than fine. She was awake. She was alive. She had Adam there to help her through her recovery and convalescence. She had an acceptance letter from Julliard. But none of those positives were enough in the end. They weren't enough to outweigh the loss of her family. They weren't enough to keep Mia in the town where it all happened a moment longer than she had to stay. And, though neither of them could have seen it coming, they were not enough to sustain her relationship with Adam. So Mia makes the command decision to break things off entirely and leave, leaving behind an utterly demolished and dumbstruck Adam. Over the course of the next three years, both of their lives change beyond measure, as Mia embarks on the concert career she's always wanted, and Adam is skyrocketed to stardom in a whirlwind of success and good fortune. But time catches up with them. And when they both find themselves in New York over the same 24-hour period, they are forced to deal with the detritus that is all that remains of who they once were.
WHERE SHE WENT is the opposite of If I Stay in every way. Where If I Stay was quiet and elegantly somber, WHERE SHE WENT is chaotic and jaggedly painful. Where If I Stay was told from Mia's self-contained, removed perspective, WHERE SHE WENT is told from Adam's very different point of view. And, unfortunately, where If I Stay has a breathtaking ending, WHERE SHE WENT has an ending that left me with my mouth hanging open at how inadequate it was. I know it was the ending so many readers were hoping for, and the truth is I wanted that ending as well. Especially after I followed Adam around and watched with such sadness the person he had become, my heart practically bursting with sympathy for him. I loved Adam so much in this book. It's his story in every sense of things, and it's written incredibly well. I soaked up his version of events and how he never got over Mia and how all the riches life deposited in his lap weren't enough to compensate for the loss of love and friendship. Full of rage, sadness, and basically every negative, hurt emotion I can think of, he absolutely steals the show. Enter Mia and everything that has happened to her in the intervening years. I loved the setup, and I loved how it was simultaneously easy to be together again and awkwardly ruinous at the same time. From their halting physical proximity to their loaded verbal exchanges, everything was handled so well. I couldn't wait to get to the culmination of things and the inevitable decision they would have to make. And this is where we come to the inadequacy. I wanted that ending, but not this way. Not at the expense of my respect for the characters. After all of that, all of the thought and heartbreak and complexity that went into these two people who loved each other as kids and have surmounted tragedy to become adults all on their own, how could it wrap up so easily? How could either of them be satisfied with the meager resolution that was proffered? I wasn't. I wanted more for Adam and more from Mia, and that's all there is to it. All of that excruciating growth and hard-earned experience deserved more than a token apology on her part and a grateful acceptance on his. It was too fast, too simple, and too saccharine even for my romantic heart. I ended it in dismay, wishing it wasn't so. In other words--the exact opposite of how I felt at the end of If I Stay. Each reader's reaction will be different, of course (see a myriad other reviews). This was mine and mine alone. I'm so very glad Mia chose to stay. I just really wish I hadn't found out where she went.(less)
I was warned about reading this book. And I did go back and forth for awhile before deciding it wasn't for me. Or I wasn't fo...moreOriginally reviewed here.
I was warned about reading this book. And I did go back and forth for awhile before deciding it wasn't for me. Or I wasn't for it. That I wasn't that intrigued. Or that I didn't want to hate myself in the morning. Take your pick. You're familiar with the hype/trainwreck induced cycle of warring self-doubt and insatiable curiosity, yes? Then you understand. And I honestly didn't give it a second thought after making that decision. Then I read and loved Easy. And I immediately started running across comparisons, mentions of similarities. Plus, several of these new-ish, self-published new adult authors have been all over the place lately, and, well, all that curiosity washed over me full force once more. So I decided I wanted to decide for myself. I think I went in expecting one big hot mess from start to finish, albeit a hot mess I couldn't look away from and would be compelled to see through to its inevitable overwrought ending. You see? I had been warned. But BEAUTIFUL DISASTER still managed to surprise me. In both good and bad ways.
Abby is cardigans and pearls. She's straitlaced and together and interested in finding a dependable, going places boyfriend. Except she's totally not. Abby is dedicated to getting good grades and keeping all her ducks in a row. She's not at all interested in attending one her university's underground fight clubs just to see what it's like. Except she totally is. And that's how she meets the infamous Travis Maddox. His name alone inspires men to sit up straighter and glance over their shoulders. His rakish reputation precedes him, and it seems women fall at his feet as a matter of course. But when these two seeming opposites meet at one of Travis' fights, sparks fly as it were. And a friendship is born in lieu of a romance, as Abby is determined not to become another one of the hapless females Travis leaves in his wake, and for his part, Travis seems unable to look away from a girl who seems to like him well enough but clearly doesn't want him. While their respective friends are somewhat skeptical, somewhat intrigued by their burgeoning friendship, it's what they're hiding from each other--the combustibility of it all--that might cause this fragile new thing to go up in flames before they can figure out just what it is they're dealing with.
I loved the first half. Loved it, I say. Right from this first encounter:
When I finally reached the front, Marek grabbed Travis with his thick arms and attempted to throw him to the ground. When Marek leaned down with the motion, Travis rammed his knee into Marek's face. Before Marek could shake off the blow, Travis lit into him; his fists making contact with Marek's bloodied face over and over.
Five fingers sank into my arm and I jerked back.
"What the hell are you doing, Abby?" Shepley said.
"I can't see from back there!" I called to him.
I turned just in time to see Marek land a solid punch. Travis turned, and for a moment I thought he had dodged another blow, but he made a complete circle, crashing his elbow straight into the center of Marek's nose. Blood sprayed my face, and splattered down the front of my cardigan. Marek fell to the concrete floor with a thud, and for a brief moment the room was completely silent.
Adam threw a scarlet square of fabric on Marek's limp body, and the mob detonated. Cash changed hands once again, and the expressions divided into the smug and the frustrated.
I was pushed around with the movement of those coming and going. America called my name from somewhere in the back, but I was mesmerized by the trail of red from my chest to my waist.
A pair of heavy black boots stepped in front of me, diverting my attention to the floor. My eyes traveled upward; jeans spattered with blood, a set of finely-chiseled abs, a bare, tattooed chest drenched in sweat, and finally a pair of warm, brown eyes. I was shoved from behind, and Travis caught me by the arm before I fell forward.
"Hey! Back up off her!" Travis frowned, shoving anyone who came near me. His stern expression melted into a smile at the sight of my shirt, and then he dabbed my face with a towel. "Sorry about that, Pigeon."
Adam patted the back of Travis' head. "C'mon, Mad Dog! You have some dough waitin' on ya!"
His eyes didn't stray from mine. "It's a damn shame about the sweater. It looks good on you." In the next moment he was engulfed by fans, disappearing the way he came.
They were just too much fun. In fact, my favorite thing about Abby and Travis was their friendship. The motorcycle rides, the dancing, the doing homework together, the laughing. I mean, it was always headed for a conflagration relationship-wise, but the friendship was honestly just so much fun while it lasted. So for the first half of the book, this book and I were BFFs. The problem came at right about the halfway mark, at which point things got monumentally sketchy. The romantic tension was pretty high throughout. The good kind of high. So I was strangely underwhelmed (when the romance actually started going places) at how uninvolved Abby seemed to be when it came right down to it. The character depiction led me to believe Travis was utterly invested, but Abby never seemed to be on the same page. She said she was. But I never felt it. Which resulted in the whole thing feeling very one-sided just at the moment when it should be expanding and growing. It through me right out of the narrative, this empty gap in the arc of their relationship. I bought that he loved her, in as unhealthy a fashion as he did. But Abby's lack of response confused and disappointed me. And it really did feel like a flaw in characterization. Then right on the heels of this blip, the whole book goes right out to lunch. And it never recovers. The plot, the characters, the writing spin away into the void. All that fun, careful development (much more restrained than I was expecting) of the beginning disappeared in what felt like the space of a page.
So I didn't hate myself in the morning. On the contrary, I actually mourned the characters in the morning. How's that for unexpected? The Travis and Abby of the first half were hard to let go. They were so full of life and danger and laughter and jagged edges that I loved them. I went through my day wanting to be around them. Unfortunately, they up and left on me. And the characters who took their place left me utterly cold. The what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, frothing at the mouth frantic, we suddenly haven't learned a thing from the past 200 pages shenanigans that littered the second half had me dropping my nook in my lap in bewildered exhaustion. To be led to care so much for half the book and then to wind up caring so little it didn't even register on the scale was quite the feat and an ignominious one at that. I don't regret my time with them. I just regret their premature loss. It was always a bit of freak show, but it could have pulled it out in the end instead of crashing and burning so spectacularly. Turns out violence and angst and absolute dysfunction for violence and angst and absolute dysfunction's sake just doesn't do it for me. And the thing is, the characters of the first half deserved better. I suppose I can't complain too much. After all, I was warned. So long Travis & Abby. You rocked. And then you really, really didn't.(less)
Once again I fall prey to the hype monster. Coming off the high of Easy and the complicated mess of the aptly-named Beautiful...moreOriginally reviewed here.
Once again I fall prey to the hype monster. Coming off the high of Easy and the complicated mess of the aptly-named Beautiful Disaster, I ran smack-dab into PUSHING THE LIMITS. Fairly ecstatic reviews piqued my interest, and before long the little click button on NetGalley was calling my name. I think I was hoping for something along the lines of the fun that I had reading Perfect Chemistry for the first time. Maybe Going Too Far. Upon further perusal, it certainly looked like there would be added personal drama on both sides and that hinted-at mystery aspect encouraged me even more. Perhaps it would be a touch . . . complicated. This is Katie McGarry's first novel, and so I had no idea what the writing would be like. These expectations in mind, I downloaded it to my Nook and dug right in.
Echo Emerson is back at school and thinking she should possibly be anywhere but. After the "incident," she dropped off the face of the planet. Now, after countless social workers and counseling sessions, she's decided to give finishing high school a go. This means weekly meetings with the newfangled guidance counselor who seems to have several motives behind helping Echo. Which means she's forced to sit in a room with her impatient father, her clueless (and pregnant) stepmother, and her nosy guidance counselor and talk about feelings, memory, her mother. All things she's working hard to keep to herself. Noah Hutchins also has weekly meetings with Miss Collins. Noah's consultations are of a different nature entirely. Having lost his parents in a fire, Noah's been through hell in the form of a string of foster homes. Separated from his younger brothers, his one goal is to graduate high school and get custody. Then the three of them will be a family again, independent and free of the abuse and interference that seem to run rampant through the social care system. It's when Echo is assigned the task of tutoring Noah that they begin to find some common ground. And soon a plan hatches to get out of their intolerable sessions and set them both on the path to emancipation.
It really was a nice setup. I liked the possibilities. I definitely wanted to find out (along with Echo) just exactly what happened to her that night at her mother's apartment. And I rooted for Noah to get his family back together again in the most intact form possible. But I'm sad to say that the writing was a far cry from what it needed to be to engender any emotion or affection in me as a reader. Where Perfect Chemistry handily straddled the line between swoontastic and cheesy (at least for me), PUSHING THE LIMITS tried painfully hard for that balance and just couldn't manage it. It ran headlong over the cheese precipice and coughed up a side of empty heart for good measure. I could not get over the stumbling block that was the uninspired writing and lackluster plot construction. The whole buildup to Echo's missing memories was drawn-out and fraught with tension, only to fall flat upon the big reveal. Together, Echo and Noah were fun enough (Noah's truly cringeworthy internal dialogue aside). But separately they were given little depth to flesh out their incredibly complex backgrounds. I felt inundated with manufactured emotion and went ahead and finished it just in case the whole thing righted itself in the end. It didn't. It is certainly worth pointing out that I seem to be in the decided minority. Not the first time. Won't be the last. Check it out for yourself if the premise leaves you at all curious. As for me, I'm off for a palate cleanser. Suggestions?(less)
What's that you say? You love a good dissenting opinion? Well, that's works out well. Because here I am. Not th...moreOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville.
What's that you say? You love a good dissenting opinion? Well, that's works out well. Because here I am. Not thrilled, but certainly prepared, to be the lone voice of dissent on this one. I went ahead and read an ARC of Katja Millay's THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY after sifting through the seemingly universal ecstatic reviews that have been pouring in from all and sundry. And when I say universal, I mean universal. Readers across the board are going out of their ever loving minds over this book. Yeah. I kind of had to get in on that action, especially when a review copy floated my way. This is Millay's debut novel. She self-published it a couple of months ago, and it has (as has become the way of things) since been acquired by Atria Books for paperback publication this summer. A change of cover went along with the acquisition (as is usually the case), and I have to say I'm likely in the minority on this subject as well. I much prefer the self-pub cover. But as the overall package didn't work for me anyway, that's really neither here nor there.
Nastya doesn't talk. Ever. She's recently moved in with her aunt and is starting school in an unfamiliar environment. And she knows very well how the student body is going to react, not just to her lack of voice but to her unorthodox appearance as well. In fact, she courts it. Ever since . . . what happened to her . . . Nastya has adopted a forbidding public facade. When she's alone, the clothes include colors, the makeup is washed off, and she runs. As if for her very life. And yet a couple of people at her new school attach to her anyway, including uber-lascivious Drew and his best friend (and opposite in almost every way) Josh Bennett. Nastya's not sure why, but Drew seems to view her as his next conquest, while Josh watches her from afar, walking around inside a force field of his own. And, somehow, without even wanting to, Nastya becomes incorporated into their daily and weekly rituals. But it's when she stops in the middle of her nightly run and sees Josh in his garage, laboring away over his woodworking projects, that her routine really changes. Unfortunately, neither of them are quite prepared for how that one alteration in routine is going to overhaul their lives. For two people keeping as many dark secrets as they are, even the most minuscule of human connections could spell disaster.
I feel bad about this, but wow was I expecting more. I went in not knowing anything about this book at all, which was exactly the way I wanted it. But I did expect to be engaged. I expected to want to finish it. Unfortunately, I felt neither. I understand how the setup worked so well for many readers. The secrets, the slow buildup between characters, the angry, angsty girl that so often I adore. It makes sense on paper. But I felt such a distance between myself and these characters, a wall of ice separating me from the agony and the longing they experienced nonstop for close to 500 pages. This separation extended to the characters' talents and passions as well. Nastya's love for the piano, Josh's passion for woodworking, Clay's artistry . . . they were spelled out on the page but never brought to life in my mind. Barring that connection to anything but isolation and pain, I simply could not connect or care what happened to them. Instead of exquisite, slow-building tension, what I felt was a terminally lifeless pace and a drab persistence in skirting actually meaningful moments. THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY felt like an oddly antiseptic mash-up of Easy and If I Stay/Where She Went, with more of an emphasis on the pain and violence and less of an effort at character depth and growth. I soldiered through to the end, wanting to make sure I didn't miss out on any sudden flashes of light. But the storytelling remained business as usual to the very end, at which point we got a parting line that sort of pushed me over the edge. It seemed to encapsulate every promise this book ever held and never lived up to. It felt like a last-ditch attempt at the sort of emotional manipulation I detest. Too little, far, far too late. As I mentioned, I am not remotely within a stone's throw of the majority of opinions on this book. So grain of salt, mileage may vary, onward and upward, etc.(less)
Wow, did I not like these two. I like my characters flawed. The more jagged the edges the better. But there was just nothing to hold on to with Pete a...moreWow, did I not like these two. I like my characters flawed. The more jagged the edges the better. But there was just nothing to hold on to with Pete and Jack. All they were were jagged edges, no substance inside. By the end, I couldn't care less what happened to them. (less)