Now, my reaction is in part due to the near universal love I know this book has from readers. And part due toWARNING: Ranty potential spoilers ahead.
Now, my reaction is in part due to the near universal love I know this book has from readers. And part due to my own high hopes after taking a self-imposed Marchetta break after falling MADLY in love with Jellicoe and then being thoroughly let down by Finnickin. But I told myself this year would be the year I read more Marchetta and that the time off was just what I'd needed. So I went in with . . . well, pretty high hopes.
Dude. Are we seriously supposed to like Will?! I mean. We're supposed to feel sad he's going away to Europe for a year and hope when he gets back they'll be together? Because the boy is laaaaaaaame. He kept wringing his bloody hands and moaning how complicated it was as a reason for NOT BREAKING UP WITH HIS GIRLFRIEND AFTER KISSING FRANKIE. And I kept breathing heavily through my nose and telling myself surely he had good reasons and they would be super complicated (and hopefully a smidgen sympathetic) and then I would not be forced to dislike him so intensely and maybe come around to wanting them to be together. And what do we get? NADA. No explanation, no nothing. He just realized it would be easier than he thought and so he did it. And Frankie's supposed to be thrilled. And worse? SHE IS. I mean, the two of them had maybe one good exchange where I smiled and thought ah, maybe. And she talked a good talk about being strong and not needing him and even in the end wanting to save herself. But I wasn't buying it. I couldn't. Nothing in this book felt deep enough to me to dig into my emotional center and elicit anything.
And I feel terrible about that. Not enough to wipe away my anger and disappointment, but I finished last night feeling pretty terrible at not loving it the way I wanted to and the way I know so many of you do. It's like Frankie-Landau Banks. OMG, DO I HAVE SOME KIND OF BLOCK WITH FRANKIE BOOKS???
Anyway, I saw what Marchetta was doing and it had good shape and potential and whatnot, but I never fell in love. I never really felt her relationship with her mother. I wanted more of their history, more bonding with her "new" friends at St. Sebastian's than a couple of nights watching Austen, more Thomas Mackee and Jimmy Hailler, and more for the love of all that is holy from William Freaking Trombal.
All right. I can accept that I am coming monumentally late to the party with this one. And I have no excuses forOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
All right. I can accept that I am coming monumentally late to the party with this one. And I have no excuses for myself. Plenty of you sang its praises, and that many award stickers plastered all over a cover generally indicate there is something of value inside. To say nothing of that ridiculously gorgeous cover declaring to all and sundry that herein lie beautiful things. Basically, everything pointed to win and I just failed to pick up on the signals. To the degree that I didn't even really know what Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was about. At all. Fast forward a couple of years to the present day when I run across Forever Young Adult's review and finally have my ah-ha moment. I ran to my local library, snagged their lovely copy, and took it home with me to see how these fancifully-monikered boys and I would get on. Spoilers: SPLENDIDLY.
I had all kinds of tragic reasons for feeling sorry for myself. Being fifteen didn't help. Sometimes I thought that being fifteen was the worst tragedy of all.
Aristotle narrates his life about as bluntly and intimately as an aggressively lackadaisical fifteen-year-old boy can. At least until that patently private boy meets one Dante Quintana and sees just how open and welcoming a boy (and his family) can be. It's the summer of 1985 and Ari spends most of each day struggling to find reasons to leave the house, ways to occupy himself aside from brooding about his father who seems to have dealt with his experiences in Vietnam by adopting a policy of silence. When he meanders over to the pool one day, Ari meets a boy with a squeaky voice and the kindred name of Dante who offers to teach him how to swim. Ari begrudgingly accepts. From that point on, a friendship develops that takes both boys by surprise and bids good to change their lives permanently. Accompanying them on this journey are their parents who love them unreservedly but who have their own struggles as they deal with their individual histories and the ways in which they reach into the present to shape their sons' lives as well as their own.
I have always felt terrible inside. The reasons for this keep changing.
Benjamin Alire Sáenz had me at Richie Valens. He had me somewhere amid the opening lines, at Ari going to bed wishing the world would be different when he woke up and then waking up to wonder what went through Richie Valens' head before the plane crashed. He had me at, "Hey, Buddy! The music's over." This book crushed me, it's that beautiful. I began it one night after tucking my kids into bed and—a few dozen pages later—blithely accepted the fact that I would be staying up however long it took to read it through to completion. The novel is told entirely from Ari's perspective, and it's difficult for me to tell you how much I grew to care for that boy. In simple and occasionally halting terms, he ruminates on his unease around other boys, his admiration for his mother, his longing to broach the subject of his imprisoned brother. The folding of lively, loquacious Dante into his life happens almost without Ari or the reader noticing, it is that seamless and that natural. Having some experience with friends coming into my life unexpectedly and yet at precisely the moment I so needed them to, my heart lodged itself firmly between these two boys and informed me it would be going nowhere. Since we mostly get our impressions of Dante through Ari's eyes, I occasionally worried a bit (perhaps taking my cues from Ari's deep seated anxiety) that he would flit away too soon. Before Ari or I had parsed out how to make room in our lives for such a bright star. Loving Dante is a foregone conclusion, with his inability to wear shoes, his love of reading, and his complicated relationship with his Mexican heritage.
I love how time passes in this novel, how the summers felt exactly as unlimited and free as they do in high school, how being separated from your dearest friend for a year can hurt in ways you've never experienced, and how you try to fill the hole with the distraction of work and smaller friendships. Perhaps the most beautiful experience of reading this book, though, was the privilege of watching Ari awaken (on so many levels), of watching his dual relationships—with Dante and with his father—grow and increase his understanding of himself and humanity in general. The nature of Ari's observations are always arresting, but by the end they become so very rich and simple in their beauty. Here, a lovely example taken from a moment when Ari struggles to convey his feelings when faced with a show of gratitude and love from Dante's parents:
"What am I supposed to do?" I knew my voice was cracking. But I refused to cry. What was there to cry about? "I don't know what to do." I looked at Mrs. Quintana and I looked at Sam. "Dante's my friend." I wanted to tell them that I'd never had a friend, not ever, not a real one. Until Dante. I wanted to tell them that I never knew that people like Dante existed in the world, people who looked at the stars, and knew the mysteries of water, and knew enough to know that birds belonged to the heavens and weren't meant to be shot down from their graceful flights by mean and stupid boys. I wanted to tell them that he had changed my life and that I would never be the same, not ever. And that somehow it felt like it was Dante who had saved my life and not the other way around. I wanted to tell them that he was the first human being aside from my mother who had ever made me want to talk about the things that scared me. I wanted to tell them so many things and yet I didn't have the words. So I just stupidly repeated myself. "Dante's my friend."
All four of the parents are such nuanced and present characters in this story and I adored that and them. Throughout the narrative, Sáenz explores the ways in which we need our parents, in which love between a parent and child is endlessly complex and often so difficult to encompass and express in any adequate way. This complexity resonated with me so profoundly, as did basically everything about this beautiful, beautiful love story. Finest kind....more
What a disappointment. I realize my expectations may have been a touch high for this conclusion to the His Fair Assassin trilogy, but I did not see thWhat a disappointment. I realize my expectations may have been a touch high for this conclusion to the His Fair Assassin trilogy, but I did not see this level of jumping of the shark coming. Everything about Annith's tale was set up to be fantastic. And then . . . Nothing. Of. Note. Happens. And poor Balthazaar's identity just pushed the whole thing over into ridiculous land. It's sad on several levels, but mostly because this highly entertaining and well-written trilogy didn't deserve to go out with a whimper....more
I may have fallen victim to the hypemonster with Wildlife. The comparisons to Rainbow Rowell and Melina Marchetta, combined with how often I fall forI may have fallen victim to the hypemonster with Wildlife. The comparisons to Rainbow Rowell and Melina Marchetta, combined with how often I fall for contemporary Aussie YA and NA, made me snatch this title up at the first opportunity. Unfortunately, I felt as though there was a persistent and impenetrable barrier between me and Sibylla and Lou. Nothing seemed to break through that layer so that I could actually experience in some meaningful way what they were going through. I expected more of the writing, perhaps, as this was my first outing with Wood and I had heard great things. Either way, it was simply not a good fit....more
Teenage Sherlock Holmes, Watson is a girl, and the story is told from her perspective. This is essentially all thOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
Teenage Sherlock Holmes, Watson is a girl, and the story is told from her perspective. This is essentially all the information I needed in order to make the decision to dive into Every Breath at the earliest opportunity. But in case you're wavering, it's also fun to know that this is Australian author Ellie Marney's debut novel, that it is a YA contemporary mystery, and the first in a series to boot. Next up, I think we should just take a moment to talk covers. I have yet to purchase my own copy (that's earmarked for the next paycheck), but both the US and Aussie covers have a lot going for them. The Aussie one gets tons of points for having Watts actually on the cover, for one thing. But in a very rare move, I'm leaning US if only because it's not a photo of actual people (never works out well for me) and because, well, his throat. Also his hair and his entire posture. But his throat. That's Mycroft. I love him this cover.
Rachel Watts' friendship with her neighbor James Mycroft is something of a full time job. Newly (and unwillingly) arrived from the countryside, Rachel struggles to find a place for herself in Melbourne. Unused to navigating city life after the loss of the family farm, she and her older brother and parents find themselves acting almost like strangers as they adjust to their new home and environment. But then Mycroft enters her life, with his jittery brilliance, his obsession with forensics, and his ongoing allergy to school. And soon her days are not quite as numb, filled as they are with contributing her powers of observation (and cooking skills) to the latest in a long line of Mycroft's investigations. But this most recent involves a murder. And not just any stranger, but that of Homeless Dave—a man they both knew. Unable to accept the official police verdict, Mycroft and Watts set themselves to the task of tracking down the truth behind Dave's violent death and bringing the mysterious killer to justice.
I'll admit, I was a little nervous at first. I was nervous the high school setting, and possibly the nature of the relationship between Watts and Mycroft, would pall too quickly or somehow not resonate with me in just the right way. As nerves go, basically your run of the mill stuff. But I've read one fantastic Sherlock Holmes adaptation and I was so keen to find another. Happily, Rachel herself was the first to set me at ease. Her transition to the city has been a particularly difficult one, and the dry but upfront way in which she expressed that difficulty struck a chord of sympathy within me:
I like it in his room—the starry lights, the feeling of sanctuary. I'm still not used to dealing with a lot of other people. I've known Mycroft, and Mai and her boyfriend, Gus, since last November, and they still feel like "a lot of other people." Actually, Mycroft alone could probably qualify as seeming like "a lot of other people." He does so much crazy stuff you could imagine more than a single offender.
That passage could just as easily been an entry from one of my high school journals. Other people, man. Not for the faint of heart. I love that the story is told from Watts' perspective. She has very honed powers of observation, though she herself might decry that claim. But it means that not only is she vital to Mycroft's ongoing efforts, she also does an incredibly effective job of introducing the reader to her singular friend. And if her focus is more frequently drawn to to Mycroft than it is anyone else in the room, it isn't any wonder as his magnetism and zaniness and pain fairly claw their way off the page. Gratefully, his presence never overshadows Watts. Not even a little bit, as we are firmly grounded inside her viewpoint and know just how hard she works to keep everyone in her life afloat and not lose track of her own needs, even if she is reticent about voicing them aloud. The mystery itself makes for a fun, often dark ride, and I enjoyed sitting back and accompanying them in their rounds. But the heart of Every Breath is, without question, the chemistry between Watts and Mycroft. Ms. Marney quite simply nails their need on the head. The pacing and development of Watts-and-Mycroft is one long and delicious thread running alongside the unfolding of the murder investigation. As the precarious hold they each have on their lives begins to unravel against the backdrop of Watts' uncertainty and Mycroft's desperation, the solace they take in being together, the rightness of their fit, is so soothing it is tangible. I currently have the sequel on order from Australia and am sitting here feeling antsy just thinking about what these two might be getting up to without me....more
First of all, that cover. I love everything about that cover. And, as such, deciding whether or not to read JackaOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
First of all, that cover. I love everything about that cover. And, as such, deciding whether or not to read Jackaby involved me sitting on my hands, dithering about whether or not the insides would match the outsides. As I am wont to do. But the truth is the mash-up of historical fantasy and the Doctor Who-meets-Sherlock Holmes teaser made it no kind of question at all as to whether or not I'd be picking it up. This is William Ritter's debut novel and the first in a series (happy day) as the ending clearly indicates. I picked it up a few weeks back on vacation and read it through in one big swallow. And while my body may have been sitting on the beach, my mind was far away tramping down a cold, winter street in New Fiddleham. The whole experience was deliciously dark and dreary. Of course, it was also ineluctably charming and smart. Which is to say I didn't stand a chance and cannot wait for the next one to come out.
The year is 1892. The place: New England. Abigail Rook has fled her staid life. Leaving her disbelieving parents behind in England, she has sailed to the new world, specifically to the dockside town of New Fiddleham in search of . . . she knows not what. Gifted with the ability to parse the importance of ordinary details, she is sure that with a little fortitude (and a lot of luck), she will be able to make a place for herself in this unfamiliar clime. And it turns out, she's right. Her first night in town, she runs across an extraordinary personage who appears to carry an unholy amount of bits and bobs on his person and who goes by the unlikely moniker of R.F. Jackaby. Jackaby, it turns out, is a private investigator of the unusual variety. He takes cases that involve the inexplicable, the paranormal, the ones that regularly stymie the local constabulary. Stumbling into Jackaby's latest case, Abigail is intrigued and finds herself following the odd man home and inserting herself into his daily routine as an investigative assistant. She is, of course, not the first to fill that role (the fate of the last one remains a bit murky) and she fears she will not be the last. But for the present, she can think of nothing else she would rather be doing. And so the two are off as they trace the footsteps of an increasingly erratic serial killer.
Abigail and Jackaby are immediate magic. I say that acknowledging that there is not a romantic note between them, though there are a couple of jokes along that vein and their reactions are priceless. There is a lovely hint of romantic potential for Abigail and a certain young detective who is not as disbelieving in Jackaby's ability as his supervisors are. But the hint dances around, remaining in the realm of potential for this volume at least. And that is all to the good, because this entertaining and absorbing debut is a charming and twisty mystery at heart. Chock full of Celtic mythology and regularly terrifying glimpses of the macabre, Jackaby is a recipe for a ripping good romp. I loved how excellently Abigail and Jackaby complemented each other and how quietly but firmly they came to respect and care for one another as colleagues and as accomplices (only when the occasion required, of course). Every scene that features them rambling around Jackaby's home is a delight, as the house itself constitutes one of my favorite characters. The hysterical fate of Jackaby's former assistant, along with the mysterious and heretofore lonely fates of a few of his other lodgers captured my affections. I know why Jackaby chose Abigail, but I was so pleased Abigail chose him. They needed each other. Their enjoyable banter and madcap dashes through the seedy underbelly of New Fiddleham kept me on my toes all the way to the exciting conclusion. As I believe a good book never reveals all its secrets, I know there is much more just waiting to unfurl in the sequel. I am all anticipation....more
The seemingly universal love for this debut contemporary YA led me to expect quite a bit more than I got. Coming from a military brat with a colonel fThe seemingly universal love for this debut contemporary YA led me to expect quite a bit more than I got. Coming from a military brat with a colonel father herself (in other words, I felt predisposed to like this tale), this book was a big fat snooze fest. Nothing about it stood out to me—not the writing, not the characters, not the plot. It all looked fabulous on paper and had such potential (first crop of girls at an all boys military academy), but when it came to execution I connected with no one and was surprised by nothing. Mac's story read like a particularly numbing laundry list. I kept trying to fall into it, but the very genuine traumas in her life never seemed to translate into any actual emotional impact for her let alone me. And so it goes....more
I originally heard about Graffiti Moon around about the time I read Raw Blue and thought to myself, is every AustOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
I originally heard about Graffiti Moon around about the time I read Raw Blue and thought to myself, is every Australian YA author crazy talented or what? (The answer, by the way, appears to be an unequivocal YES). Then some of the Usual Suspects read and reviewed and loved it, and so Cath Crowley got noted down on my mental TBR, despite the fact that it, too, was not published in the U.S. yet. Then a little while after, it showed up on NetGalley and there were no more excuses to be had.
Lucy's time is running out. Year 12 is about to end and she still hasn't tracked down the graffiti artist known as Shadow. Though his work is all over the streets and walls and broken down buildings of the city, he only comes out at night. And despite her best efforts, Lucy hasn't been able to be in the right place at the right time to see him at work. He works in tandem with a street artist named Poet. Together they put words to pictures and grace the worn out sections of the city with their unique blend of poetry and urban art. Lucy would be happy to find the mysterious Poet as well, but when it comes down to it, it's Shadow she cares about. Something about the pictures he creates strikes a chord deep inside her and she feels as though a chance will have been missed if she never meets him. Never gets the opportunity to tell him, even for a moment, what his work means to her. Then one night she and her two best friends Jazz and Daisy are out and run into Daisy's on again, off again boyfriend Dylan, and his two friends Leo and Ed. Dylan knows Shadow and Poet, and the group decide to visit the two's known haunts and see if they can find them. Lucy is reluctant to go as she and Ed have had encounters in the past that did not end well. Ed is just as loathe to renew the acquaintance. But Jazz and Leo talk them into it. And they're off.
Graffiti Moon is a gem--a breath of fresh air. The narrative alternates between Lucy's, Ed's, and Leo's points of view and I enjoyed them all equally. Okay. I may have been just a teensy bit more partial to Leo's sections when it comes down to it. But that's because they're poems. Just freakishly good poems. I wanted to share my favorite of Leo's poems because they were such a highlight of the book for me. Here it is, fairly early on in the book:
Where I lived before
I used to live with my parents
In a house that smelled like cigarettes And tasted like beer if you touched anything The kitchen table was a bitter ocean That came off on my fingers
There were three doors between the fighting and me And at night I closed them all I'd lie in bed and block the sounds
By imagining I was floating Light years of quiet Interrupted by breathing And nothing else
I'd drift through space And fall through dreams Into dark skies Some nights
My brother Jake and I would crawl out the window And cut across the park Swing on the monkey bars for a while One the way to Gran's house
She'd be waiting Dressing gown and slippers on Searching for our shadows She'd read us
Poetry and fairy tales Where swords took care of dragons And Jake never said it was a load of shit Like I thought he would
And then one night Gran stopped reading before the happy ending She asked, "Leopold, Jake. You want to live In my spare room?"
Her voice Sounded like space and dark skies But that night all my dreams Had floors
That last line has been haunting me ever since. In such a good way. "But that night all my dreams had floors." A line so good it had me swallowing hard, brushing back sudden tears in my eyes, and turning to my husband to read it aloud, because I just had to share it with someone instantly. I love Leo. Comparisons between this book and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist abound, and I certainly understand why. Graffiti Moon is to be preferred, in my opinion, as the characters are more fully fleshed out and the writing is just a cut above. Here the focus is on art instead of music, and the combination of Shadow's evocative paintings and Lucy's burgeoning glassblowing skills is a lovely feast for the imagination. I could picture, without any trouble at all, the heart growing grass. That perfect shade of blue he's been searching for. The birds--their wings bound--struggling to break free. I could see it all. Truthfully, this book reminded me more of Lisa Schroeder's Chasing Brooklyn or Donna Freitas' This Gorgeous Game. It shares with those stories a certain elegance in the telling. I loved each of the main characters, with the real draw being the ethereal connection between Lucy and Shadow, and the complicated friendship between Ed and Leo. There's much of humor and heartbreak within these pages, and I read them through in one sitting, so happy was I to be with these kids, inside these words, as they expressed themselves the only way they knew how....more
Once again I surface from a haze of mandatory rereading of each and every one of my favorite parts in the previouOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
Once again I surface from a haze of mandatory rereading of each and every one of my favorite parts in the previous two novels in the Raven Cycle to write this review of the third and latest installment. I finished Blue Lily, Lily Blue and lay awake in bed, staring at the ceiling, seeing nothing but the quicksilver leaves of Cabeswater, hearing nothing but Adam's soft drawl over the tune of Ronan's inappropriate Irish jigs, and tasting nothing but mint on my tongue. It's a heady experience giving yourself over to one of Maggie's novels and not a decision to be taken lightly. Knowing that she persists in ending each book on a cliffhanger teaser (of sorts), I prepared myself for the worst (though I know she's really saving that for the fourth and final book). And, as ever, as the whole thing crashes to its temporary conclusion, some threads are flung far and wide even as others (the core ones) tighten their hold, both on each other and on me.
This is the third book in a quartet, guys. I shall attempt to minimize the spoilers. But not at the expense of THE FEELINGS. As Ronan might say, Vos admonitos.
Given her druthers, Blue Sargent would eat yogurt for every meal. She would grow a handful of inches taller. And she would spend each and every day with the boys. And while her mother disapproves of at least two of those three choices, her mother is not around anymore. To put too fine a point on it, Maura has up and disappeared. And the women of 300 Fox Way are at a loss as to know exactly what to do to fetch her back. And so Blue eats her yogurt. And she bemoans her diminutive height. And she spends as many and as much of her days as possible hunting with Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah. And all the while she quietly tries to will her mother back before the nameless evil that threatens to awaken does just that. Meanwhile, Adam is holding tightly to every shred of sanity and temper he possesses in order to mend his fences with Gansey, continue to heal Cabeswater as needed, and come to terms with his role in the group and in the grander scheme of the search for Glendower. And in many respects his work is rewarded with greater clarity on several fronts. Ronan Lynch continues to live with every one of his secrets (and to be keeper of a not insignificant portion of my heart). And Noah . . . vacillates . . . as only Noah can. To say nothing of the Gray Man's adopted quest, Calla's fiercely protective eye, Persephone's training of Adam, and Gansey's sometime mentor calling for tea. More threads are added to the weft with every step of this penultimate tale.
"You can be just friends with people, you know," Orla said. "I think it's crazy how you're in love with all those raven boys."
Orla wasn't wrong, of course. But what she didn't realize about Blue and her boys was that they were all in love with one another. She was no less obsessed with them than they were with her, or one another, analyzing every conversation and gesture, drawing out every joke into a longer and longer running gag, spending each moment either with one another or thinking about when next they would be with one another. Blue was perfectly aware that it was possible to have a friendship that wasn't all-encompassing, that wasn't blinding, deafening, maddening, quickening. It was just that now that she'd had this kind, she didn't want the other.
In the words of Whitman, "We were together. I forget the rest." This is precisely how I feel whenever I sit back down with Blue and her Raven Boys. Okay. We're together now. Everything else can fall away. I love how, despite Maura's absence, everyone felt less alone to me in this one than they did in the last. In Blue Lily, Lily Blue, three books in, they genuinely have each other. Even more importantly, they acknowledge that they have each other and just how much that means. Sometimes, in the case of Ronan, they acknowledge it in remorseless and epithetical Latin. Sometimes, in the case of Adam, in the minutest acceptance of an unexpected kindness. And sometimes, in the case of Gansey and Blue, only in the most glancing and breath-holding of looks or moments, drifting along the tenuous line of a telephone. But acknowledge it and rely upon it they do. And that seemingly simple step goes miles and miles to shoring up a few of this reader's myriad anxieties. The trust and surety that previously extended unilaterally here and there within the group expand in this volume to each relationship, in every combination. They find themselves reaching out, across status and gender and ley lines. And, as a result, Gansey (who has arguably been the most alone of all these kids who have been so very alone) is no longer quite so internally isolated. And the same goes for each of the magnificent individuals he has gathered around him. With all dark things looming ahead of them, this one change felt vastly important to me. And dark things do loom ahead. So dark at times it is difficult not to flinch. But there is always the glorious light to match the darkness—the lightning humor in Gansey's eyes, in Ronan's laugh, and on Blue's tongue.
Sometimes, Gansey forgot how much he liked school and how good he was at it. But he couldn't forget it on mornings like this one—fall fog rising out of the fields and lifting in front of the mountains, the Pig running cool and loud, Ronan climbing out of the passenger seat and knocking knuckles on the roof with teeth flashing, dewy grass misting the black toes of his shoes, bag slung over his blazer, narrow-eyed Adam bumping fists as they met on the sidewalk, boys around them laughing and calling to one another, making space for the three of them because this had been a thing for so long: Gansey-Lynch-Parrish.
This thing. Oh, this thing. The three of them. The five of them. The quest for the sleeping king. It's just that I love them, you know? I love that we get the sure sense they were going on before us and that they will continue on without us after the fourth book comes to a close. As for that close, we shall not speak of it. For I am full to the brim of fears and awful premonitions. As such, I plan on tucking myself away at 300 Fox Way until next October. Just to be safe. Safe as life....more
I remember thinking nothing could top Shiver and then being introduced to Cole St. Clair in Linger and realizingOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
I remember thinking nothing could top Shiver and then being introduced to Cole St. Clair in Linger and realizing Maggie Stiefvater had several more tricks left in her bag. Then Cole and Isabel proceeded to go for each other's throats and I forgot to worry at all. I loved them so much, though, that the continuation of their storyline was perhaps my biggest problem with Forever—the "conclusion" to the "trilogy." The two of them were just left hanging. And because at that point I really felt like Sam and Grace's story was winding down just as Cole and Isabel's was ramping up, I had a hard time with the wide open, barn door left swinging in the wind ending they were given. The funny thing is that I desperately wanted more but really didn't give any thought to the possibility of her writing more. That ship had sailed, we'd all moved on to killer water horses and dead Welsh kings. Which is why when the news hit that there would in fact be a companion novel to the Shiver trilogy and that it would clue us in on what was going down with our favorite emotional assassins, well, that my friends was a good day.
Cole St. Clair is back from the dead and better than ever. He's landed in L.A. and is slated to record his new record as part of a reality webseries with the notorious Baby North—a Hollywood producer known for destroying her subjects as a matter of course. But that's not why he's really in L.A. Not really. Cole is there because that's where Isabel Culpeper is. And in Cole's book, Isabel is pretty much the only thing worth pursuing. If he can revive his music career and make a killer album along the way, so much the better. But Isabel is supremely less than thrilled to see the former NARKOTIKA rocker darken her doorstep. That is to say, it is achingly good to see him. But everything about Cole has spelled nothing but trouble for Isabel, especially his addictive tendencies, be they for drugs, women, or turning into a big, bad wolf whenever the notion (or temperature) takes him. And so begins this epic dance between the two unhappiest people in L.A. Isabel refuses to be drawn into the glitzy hell that is Cole's life, and Cole refuses to be put off his dogged pursuit of the one girl he can be himself with. And as they dance, they're forced to step around Cole's former bandmates (both alive and dead), the new ones Baby North foists upon him, and the last dying gasps of Isabel's parents' marriage. The question is whether the whole cast and crew of the Cole & Isabel show will drag them under or whether they'll find a way to be. Together.
What I had earned was a trophy for generalized disinterest. It felt as if it had taken all of my energy to be so limply disengaged.
As I pulled aside the linen curtain to the back room, I heard the front door open again. If it was Christina returning to make a second effort at my leggings, I was going to be forced to get loud, and I didn't like getting loud.
But it wasn't Christina I heard at the front of the store.
Instead, a very familiar voice said, "No, no, I'm looking for something very particular. Oh, wait, I just saw it."
I turned around.
Cole St. Clair smiled lazily at me.
I gave so many damns at once that it actually hurt.
This is the passage that started me smiling, and I really did not stop until several hours after closing the book. If ever a pair of ruthless protagonists launched a full-scale assault on my emotions, Cole & Isabel are the ones. And just as I was hoping it would be, it was so crazy good to be back in their presence and to just listen to them snipe at each other and put an icily blank (Isabel) or dazzlingly jaded (Cole) face on things. The bright and shameless L.A. setting proved to be such a solid change-up for Stiefvater and the rest of the Wolves of Mercy Falls series. Gone are the freezing temperatures, wooded forests, and quiet ennui of Minnesota. Bring on the baking sun and the sand and the concrete jungle that barely masks too many emotions, too much energy and life being shoved and sculpted into ill-fitting, empty boxes. They are both so strong in this book, Cole & Isabel. The signature alternating POV chapters sing with the distilled and chilled 100-proof vodka that runs in their veins in the place of warm blood. What's more, every side character worked for me, from Isabel's psychotically domestic cousin Sofia to Cole's clear-eyed ex-bass player Jeremy and his hilariously deadpan driver Leon. It was good to be somewhere new with new faces and new threats. The entire paranormal side of this series was notably dialed down in favor of the more human element. Sometimes Cole is a wolf. Sometimes he chooses to become one in lieu of shooting some other form of oblivion up his arm. Sometimes these two facts make Isabel want to murder someone. Preferably him. And that's it. These things are real. But more real, more tantalizing, is the possibility that if they could each just stop killing themselves trying to prove they don't give a damn—just for a minute—they might find a space in which the pain is held at bay. And the hope of that minute, that swoony, devastating minute of peace that could turn into two minutes and then an hour and then a kind of life worth something? That's worth reading....more
So we'll just agree to go into this review knowing that I really enjoyed Rosamund Hodge's debut novel Cruel BeautOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
So we'll just agree to go into this review knowing that I really enjoyed Rosamund Hodge's debut novel Cruel Beauty, shall we? In general, fairy tale/Greek mythology mash-ups complete with lovely words are welcome in these parts. And so I confess I was excited but just a little bit sad when I found out the next entry in the world would be a novella. Give me all the pages, please. But. It was to be a Cinderella retelling set in the same world and, as that was clearly awesome, I resolved to take what I could get and be grateful for it. I like this cover, although it's a bit bland for my taste and doesn't inspire quite the same swirling dread as the cover of Cruel Beauty. I do like what they're doing with the stairs. I think I might have liked a hint of Maia somewhere in there to humanize things. And, as it happens, there is a whole heaping helping of dread in this little book, so something more sinister would have worked splendidly. But, as I said, take what I can get, etc. etc.
Maia lies all the day long. From the moment she gets up at the crack of dawn to prepare the morning meal for her stepmother and stepsisters to the moment she curls up at night and gives in to oblivion. She lies and lies and lies some more just to be on the safe side. Because if she doesn't, if she lets on for one moment how impossibly dreadful every moment of every day is, her mother will exact revenge on the people around her. And no matter what they've done or what they call her, they don't deserve that. Maia's mother passed away when she was a little girl. But on her deathbed she made a bargain with the Gentle Lord that she be able to watch over her only daughter from the other side of the grave and that any who hurt her would be cursed. And so Maia is never truly alone. She must marshal every thought, every wayward impulse, so that the only quasi-family members she has left are not torn asunder. And it is a grief-filled existence to be sure. Her stepmother went mad upon her father's death. Her stepsisters expend all their energy scrabbling for their mad mother's approval. And it is Maia barely holding the whole decrepit thing together. Until one day her beautiful and desperate stepsister Koré sends her with a letter for the prince. A letter she is certain will spark his interest and potentially lead to a union between them. Against her will, Maia makes her way to the palace to deliver the missive. And it is there she meets Anax—a man she can talk to, who could all too easily become another person she must protect from her mother's dark curse.
My mother loved me more than life itself. That's how everything went wrong.
The brilliant twist on the fairy godmother absolutely made this book for me. That it is her own mother who unwittingly made Maia's life a living hell. That Maia is simultaneously forced to serve and trying to save the people who despise her. That everyone seemingly had such good intentions and that those intentions are now literally tearing their loved ones apart from the inside. Well. It's a feast for the imagination. And it is just such a wicked fun Cinderella retelling. What this tale needed was a little more in the way of savage, black-hearted deceit and Rosamund Hodge brings it. I loved Maia immediately. It was suffocating, her life—her exhausted, interminable insistence that she was happy, that everything was okay. I loved Anax, too. He's so far from the sort of blank and charming male that often fills the prince role in this story. He, too, has an impossibly painful past and looks to his future with little to no joy. Each time Maia is sent to deliver a letter, they talk. They just . . . talk. And it's a moment to breathe for each of them. Of course it grows to mean more to both of them, despite the sizable gap in their understanding of what the other's life is like. It is as though each character in this rich novella is operating under the thinnest veneer of sanity. The deeper in the reader goes, the more apparent this tenuous hold on reality becomes. But those scenes in Anax's study. Their lovely conversations. They provide such a quietly affecting and sweet counterpoint to Maia's internal chaos.
When the footman eases the door open, Lord Anax is sitting at the piano with his back to us, pounding out a rollicking dance tune as if his life depends on it. The footman opens his mouth to announce me, but I shake my head and slip inside silently.
The sofa is soft as newly risen bread dough. I sink into it. Lord Anax is slamming out the notes of the song as loud and as fast as he can, but I'm asleep in moments.
When I wake up, he's playing a different song—slower, more intricate, with a multitude of trills. He stumbles over every one, and though he manages to keep his playing gentle enough to suit the piece, the whole thing feels shapeless.
He hits the final chord a little too fast and loud. Then he looks over his shoulder at me. "Should I be flattered or insulted that I sent you straight into the arms of Morpheus?"
I stand and walk to his side, digging into my pocket. "I have a letter for you."
"Of course. Did you think it was any good?"
"My playing." He's staring at the piano keys, and his voice is light, but I can hear the tension underneath. "Did you think it was any good?"
I consider the question. He's never punished me for telling the truth yet.
"It wasn't terrible," I say. "But it wasn't good. It wasn't anything, really."
He laughs softly. "Did you like it?"
"Don't be tactful now. You were thinking something."
"I was thinking," I say, "what does it matter if I liked it or not? You won't stop or start playing for love of me. You don't care what I think, and I don't care what you play."
"I would have been a piano player," he says abruptly. "If I weren't the duke's son. I know it's not genteel, but if I weren't my father's son, I wouldn't be a gentleman."
"You'd get tired of it," I say.
"No." He stares at the keys. "I'd never get tired of music. But I'd never be much good at it either." Gently, as if he's closing the doors of a shrine, he lowers the lid back over the keys. "Just as well I'm the duke's son and everyone has to flatter me."
I remember this morning, how I yawned and immediately whispered, I'm so happy to be awake, Mother, as I stirred the porridge. I remember Koré looking at the dress I sewed for Thea and saying, I'm glad you've found something that stupid girl is good for, Mother.
"You're not alone," I say. "Everyone has to flatter somebody to survive. Besides, I didn't mean you'd get tired of music. Being a commoner isn't easy, you know. You'd get tired of the work."
"Every day. But unlike you, I don't have a choice. Here's your letter. I suppose I'll see you tomorrow."
He catches my wrist. "Maia," he says, "thank you. Thank you for telling me the truth about my music."
"Just for that?" I ask.
"You're the first one, can you believe it?"
I feel the opulent room weighing down on me, as heavy as the smiles I craft for Mother.
"Yes," I say. "I can believe it."
His music really is terrible.
But it echoes in my head, all the rest of the day.
I read it in one sitting (not a difficult feat as it clocks in at a scant 111 pages) and my only complaint was the eternal one when it comes to novellas—I wish it were longer. It didn't need to be. But my greedy heart will always ask for more....more
I love science fiction and I love fairy tales. Both loves go back a long way. All the way, really. Put them togeOriginally reviewed here @ Dear Author
I love science fiction and I love fairy tales. Both loves go back a long way. All the way, really. Put them together and, if it’s done well, I am the happiest of happy campers. The Lunar Chronicles have such a brilliant concept. Four (yay for quartets) books, each set in Meyer’s fictional and futuristic Earth, each focusing on a heroine from a well-known fairy tale. From Cinder and Scarlet to Cress and the upcoming Winter, I’ve loved the covers, I’ve loved the titles, and I’ve loved the smart and inventive ways in which these stories have had new life breathed into them. I did wish for a little more emotional payoff in the first book, but Cinder herself was such a highlight that there were no questions about whether or not I would be reading the second. Then Ms. Meyer went and wrote Scarlet and launched me into full-fledged fangirl status. I wouldn’t change a single thing about that book, people. Not one. So my anticipation for Cress was just a wee bit on the high side. We get the tiniest of snatches of Cress herself in the first two books, and given how much I loved the first two heroines, I felt pretty sure my love for this orbiting computer hacker would be something of a foregone conclusion.
Cress has spent the last seven years shut up tight in an orbiting satellite. Her solitude is broken only by the occasional terrifying visit from Miss Sybil, the Lunar Queen’s henchwoman sent to monitor Cress. With years and years of nothing but her netscreens to keep her company, Cress not only becomes a considerably talented computer hacker, but she develops a pretty substantial romanticized view of Earth, its inhabitants, and especially the noted rascal Captain Carswell Thorne. Most recently, Cress has been tasked with putting her hacking skills to use tracking down the most wanted Earthen criminal: the cyborg rebel Linh Cinder. Having had her own secret contact with Cinder and her band of motley rebels, Cress is instantly dismayed and sets about working as hard as she can to deflect Queen Levana’s sights from Cinder’s actual location. For their part, Cinder, Wolf, Scarlet, and Iko are careening about space trying to avoid capture and work out a plan to save the world from the encroaching Lunar threat. But Cress can only do so much, trapped as she is. And when Cinder’s ship, the Rampion, is spotted, the two groups are set on a literal collision course. In the aftermath, the dashing and derelict Thorne and Cress herself wind up crashing to Earth in the smoking remains of the only home Cress has ever known. And so it is up to them to trek through the wilderness and try to find their way back to Cinder and Co. in time to stop the unholy wedding of the century before Levana weds Emperor Kaito and closes her wicked fist over Earth for good.
It’s difficult to say I wasn’t enchanted with this one, but that is the bare truth of the matter. It was all set up to be a knockout installment in the series, but nothing. ever. happens. Until the end when the inevitable Rescue Poor Kai mission is finally set in motion and events begin trundling along nicely. But Cress is one thick book (a trait I usually love in novel), and it takes far too long to get to the meat. Most of that time is spent trudging with the hapless Cress and Thorne through the Sahara Desert, an expanse of time and space that could have been put to good use developing their relationship, which naturally had a lot of potential. Instead, it was a numbing eternity of the naïve and incapable Cress mooning over Thorne and wailing at each bump in the road. And Thorne. Wherefore art thou, dude? You were the perfect scoundrel in Scarlet, a delightful combination of Han Solo and Malcolm Reynolds. But the Thorne of Cress was a watered down buffoon at best. He was given a couple of truly winsome and hilarious lines, a far cry from the leading man I felt justified in looking forward to. Together they lacked all of the spark, paling in comparison to the serious sweetness of Cinder & Kai and the deep swoon of Scarlet & Wolf. It was honestly a relief to be pulled away from their uninspiring exploits to find out what was happening with Cinder and the gang, although I couldn’t help but sigh more than once at how little page time Scarlet and Wolf were given. In that instance, I understand the game is afoot and we must work our way through some plot twists in order to achieve the necessary series climax in the next book. But still. Their relative absence was harsh for this Scarlet-loving girl’s heart.
Romantic subplot(s) aside, I just never engaged with Cress, the book or the character. The creeptastic Levana was all but absent. The exciting and long-awaited knock-down brawl and (hopefully) makeup fest that has been brewing between Cinder and Kai since the end of Cinder was wedged too tightly into the literal last couple of pages. The timing and pacing felt decidedly off in general, uncharacteristically so. I don’t know if the onus of that rests on the fact that Cress herself wasn’t up to the challenge of carrying off a whole book on her own or if it was a dose of third-book syndrome or what. But it was a struggle to finish. I did finish, hoping all the way that meat would grow on the bones before my very eyes. I still like each of the main characters (Cinder’s irrepressible android sidekick Iko made me laugh on more than one occasion), and the glimpse of the certifiably crazy Winter near the end gives me hope for the final installment. But it’s going to have to be one hell of a strong finish to wash the disappointment out of my mouth after Cress....more
So last year, as you probably recall, I lost my crap over Fangirl. It was not my first Rainbow Rowell book, but iOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
So last year, as you probably recall, I lost my crap over Fangirl. It was not my first Rainbow Rowell book, but it was the first time I fell good and hard. After uneven results with Attachments, I just sort of avoided Eleanor & Park when it came out, despite its ridiculously charming cover. Then Fangirl came along with it equally adorable cover and I gave Rowell a second chance. It went so unbelievably, fantabulously well that I purchased a copy of Eleanor & Park before I even finished Fangirl, just knowing that skipping it had been a huge mistake. Possibly a fatal one. But it has taken me this long to get around to it, so afraid was I that it wouldn't live up to Fangirl. This book is an entirely different beast, to be sure. But I read it through from cover to cover the other night completely unable to stop. It was one of those rare and beautiful situations in which the level of my feelings for a book is so high that I feel an obligation to see it through in one sitting. Like I owe the book that much. I will follow a book that good through the deep, dark hours of the night, wherever it leads. I regret nothing. I am bleary-eyed, but unregretfully so.
That girl—all of them—hated Eleanor before they'd even laid eyes on her. Like they'd been hired to kill her in a past life.
All right. I'm going to just go ahead and break with tradition here, because the thing is I don't even want to summarize this book. I don't want to take anything away from the experience for you. And going through all the ins and outs of the story of Eleanor and Park, even the highlights, feels like cheating each individual reader out of discovering it for themselves. So I'm going to leave it at a few teasers, if you will, the facts that fell out of my mouth the morning after as I incoherently tried to tell my co-workers why they had to pick it up right now. So here they are. All the facts you need to know:
- It's set in 1986. In Omaha. - It opens when Eleanor boards a school bus and no one will let her sit. - Until Park lets her sit next to him. - And they don't talk. - At all. - Until he realizes one day that she's reading his comic book over his shoulder. - And he stops reading it during the day so that when they get back on the bus to go home, they're still in the same spot and Eleanor hasn't missed a thing.
I'm pretty sure that's all you need to know.
As far as what my experience reading the book was like? Quite simply, I laugh-cried my way through every page of Eleanor & Park. When I wasn't laughing or tearing up, I was quietly fixated, the air leaving my body in a whoosh multiple times as this depiction of first love (of so many firsts) had its way with me. It's been awhile since I spent the entirety of a book in such a heightened state. And I don't say that lightly. Rowell's words were always the right ones, and they so carefully sketched out and filled in her two leads that I was truly at their mercy. I worried going in that I wouldn't connect with one of them as well as the other. In a story told from alternate points of view, that can sometimes be a problem. I worried that Eleanor would be too . . . something, that Park wouldn't be . . . enough. I have silly worries sometimes, guys. But I admit I was utterly unprepared for how much I would love them both. I would read a book about just one of them, no questions asked. Just Eleanor stoically stumping her way through each day, snarking in English class, and taking terrifyingly quick baths. Just Park quietly passing at school, excelling at tae kwan do, and pretending his relationship with his dad isn't slowly killing him. I would read those books. But together? Put those stories together and I struggled to remember (or care) where I was. I was with them. Nothing else mattered.
He wanted to ask her not to be mad right now. Like, anytime but now. She could be mad at him for no reason all day tomorrow, if she wanted to.
"You really know how to make a girl feel special," Eleanor said.
"I've never pretended to know anything about girls," he answered.
"That's not what I heard," she said. "I heard you were allowed to have girl-zzz in your room . . . "
"They were there," he said, "but I didn't learn anything."
They both stopped on his porch. He took her bag from her and tried not to look nervous. Eleanor was looking down the walk, like she might bolt.
"I meant that you don't look any different than you usually look," he said softly, just in case his mom was standing on the other side of the door. "And you always look nice."
"I never look nice," she said. Like he was an idiot.
"I like the way you look," he said. It came out more like an argument than a compliment.
"That doesn't mean it's nice." She was whispering, too.
"Fine, then, you look like a hobo."
"A hobo?" Her eyes lit.
"Yeah, a gypsy hobo," he said. "You look like you just joined the cast of Godspell."
"I don't even know what that is."
She stepped closer to him. "I look like a hobo?"
"Worse," he said. "Like a sad hobo clown."
"And you like it?"
"I love it."
As soon as he said it, she broke into a smile. And when Eleanor smiled, something broke inside him.
Something always did.
Golden, right? The way they have a care for each other, while still striking out when striking out is called for, and without lessening any of the very real troubles they deal with on a daily basis. The way they're so far apart and so believably afraid of the ramifications of their relationship. The way his thumb brushes her palm. The way she is strong and solitary and memorizes his face. The whole thing was an irresistibly struck note for me, ringing and throbbing and beautiful.
The first time he'd held her hand, it felt so good that it crowded out all the bad things. It felt better than anything had ever hurt.
And I'm just going to leave it at that quote. Because this book? This book feels better than anything ever hurt. ...more
I've decided that Laura Wiess' books scare me. She is not afraid to incorporate the unfortunate and often hellishOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
I've decided that Laura Wiess' books scare me. She is not afraid to incorporate the unfortunate and often hellish details of everyday life into her contemporary novels, and I have learned that I have to tread carefully if I am to imbibe, if you will. In fact, I didn't even pick up her last couple of books because I was leery of being hurt. But I was (and am) such a fan of her debut novel, Such a Pretty Girl (despite it's hellish subject matter), that I have been biding my time until I felt ready to pick up another of hers. And when I heard about Me Since You, I decided now was the time. It took me only a few pages in before I felt my mind repeatedly shying away, but I liked Rowan and her parents (and Eli) so much that I kept on reading. I read it all through in a single gulp and have been twitching my shoulders here and there all morning, trying to shake off the heavy feelings it left behind.
Rowan Areno used to worry about cutting class and being caught by her policeman father. She used to worry about what to wear and what to say to boys and whether or not she'd be allowed to spend the night at her best friend Nadia's. Now she mostly worries about her dad. Or rather the empty-faced man who has taken his place, who sits on the couch listlessly when he used to stride about confidently protecting Rowan and her mother, their town, and each of its inhabitants from all bad things. What she never realized was how bad those things were and just how many of them he'd seen in his twenty years on the force. Until the day he failed to save two of those inhabitants and the town (and his own mind) turned against him in the grief and aftermath. Now her mother does all the heavy lifting and Rowan struggles to reconcile the hatred that arises around her, directed toward her father who only ever did his best. At the same time, she strikes up a friendship with a boy named Eli who was there on the bridge with her dad the day tragedy struck, and who himself hasn't recovered from that day or the one before when tragedy uprooted him and left him scrambling to stay afloat. Together they find a bit of hope, a bit of peace. But it isn't long before it all starts to unravel again and Rowan is the one going under.
I don't know, guys. Beyond this point there be pain. I knew that going in. The way in which Wiess narrates Rowan's and her parents' struggle with tragedy, depression, and anger is thoughtful and mature and very real. In fact, it was the lovely family dynamics that held me suspended in their story, the story of this small family of three who love each other and who are utterly blindsided by the disaster that engulfs them. At first, it is Rowan's relationship with her dad that mesmerizes, and then as events progress it evolves somewhat into her reliance on her mother and the ways in which they fail each other but keep trying and promising to go on. I guess what I'm trying to say is I appreciated the dignity and integrity of their portrayal. The same goes for the quiet and sweet friendship that arises between Rowan and Eli. Wiess always handles the element of romance well, and this time is particularly restrained yet open. That said, most of the other characters felt one-note to me, especially Rowan's so-called best friend who acts in consistently insipid and appalling ways and who I struggled to even take seriously by the end. The level of grief and horror in this novel also proved to be nearly my undoing. It reminded me strongly of the feelings I experienced reading Elizabeth Scott's Heartbeat, though I feel like I came out of that one slightly less dissatisfied than I did here. I could always see Emma; she stayed clear in my head. Whereas Rowan's voice got lost for me in the sheer waves of awful that swept off the pages of her story. As such, I began to feel the puppet strings more forcefully than I'd like and the quickly manufactured acceptance and hope at the end failed to lift me out of the despair that held sway the rest of the novel....more
I've had an ongoing relationship with Elizabeth Scott's books for some time now. Ever since I picked up Bloom andOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
I've had an ongoing relationship with Elizabeth Scott's books for some time now. Ever since I picked up Bloom and settled in with a nerdy girl like me who played the clarinet. And then there was that one out of this world kiss in the kitchen . . . I'm sorry, where were we? Right. Since then, I've dipped in and out as Scott has continued to write. But it had been awhile since my last outing, and so when Heartbeat began showing up on the early radar, I felt like it was time. I didn't even really delve too much into what it was about before starting. And so I was, well, maybe a little ambushed by the guns this book was packing. Not that I wasn't expecting reality in all its graininess. But. Scott really steps up her emotional stranglehold with this latest contemporary. Let's just say a lot of time has passed since I finished it. It took me that long to decide what I wanted to say and figure out where my feelings were situated.
Emma remembers a time when things were normal. When she could breathe in and out and complain to her mom about the boy she thought she loved and the way her day went. When her stepfather Dan was a welcome, bright addition to their lives. She can remember it all so clearly, it's difficult to accept how vastly things have changed. How now if she wants to talk to her mom she has to go to the hospital room where she's being kept alive on life support while the baby inside her stomach grows to viability. How Dan has become the agent of her misery, as it was his idea to have a baby in the first place. His insistence that they keep her mom alive just long enough for the baby to be born. How if she wants to breathe in and out she has to lock her door and concentrate as hard as she can. Her best friend Olivia is an outlet of sorts, but the chasm between how things were and how they are presents itself on a daily basis. When Emma makes the acquaintance of renowned Bad News Caleb Harrison, no one is more surprised than she to find he's not precisely what everyone in town thinks he is. What's more, what he actually is might be someone who can understand her loss.
The thing about Mom dying is that the world didn't stop. It didn't even slow down. It's flowers and cards and everyone understands but no one does because Mom wasn't Mom to them.
I may have identified more than most with Emma's solitude by virtue of being an only child myself. The similarities may end there (thank heavens), but that passage? I am conversant with the somewhat shattering adult realization that when it comes to your parents, there's no one but you. Mom isn't Mom to anyone else. And so in times of joy and loss, you can look for someone to experience the same moment you are inhabiting, only to find yourself alone. The towering sweeps of emotion in Heartbeat kind of flattened me. I was forced to pause periodically and look up and remember it wasn't happening, to give my rage on Emma's behalf a period in which to cool. I could see Dan's perspective. I could. I just . . . it was never okay. Not for me. And, yes, I did find myself evaluating whether or not the whole agonizing setup and execution was proving too manipulative for this reader. It was a close call at second. But the development with Caleb spared the whole thing from imploding. It was honestly a palpable relief when he arrived on the scene. I appreciated that Caleb and Emma were equals. Neither one cornered the market on pain. It was pretty much sixes from beginning to end. But they discovered each other, slowly and with great reserve. And they held on. And because Emma (and by extension the reader) is able to look away from her own train wreck and see Caleb's version of it, because she's able to worry and care about him, it saves . . . everything. Processing his pain allows her to approach and deal with her own. And vice versa. There are parts of this book I don't ever want to read again. But there are parts I've reread numerous times since. So when you find yourself in need of a balanced and competent delivery of equal parts anger, sadness, and hope, this just might be the one to grab....more
I picked How to Love up off my stack last night after finding my mind wandering listlessly away from the book I wOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
I picked How to Love up off my stack last night after finding my mind wandering listlessly away from the book I was trying to read. The writing kept losing me, the characters insisting on overstating everything and questioning themselves ridiculously. I was lost. So I grabbed Katie Cotugno's debut novel and flipped to the opening page. Now this is writing, I thought almost immediately. I'd read almost universally positive reviews of this one, and I had high hopes for a contemporary with meat on its bones and characters I could see and hear and care for. From the first page, Reena's gasping, tight narrative sucked me in. And I settled in happily for a late night.
Reena Montero always planned on seeing the world. She planned to be a travel writer and share her experiences with other worldwide vagabonds. She even got accepted early into Northwestern's writing program and was all set to kick the dust of her hometown behind. Except she didn't. Instead, she got pregnant. The baby's father, her sometime boyfriend and all-time crush, left town before she could tell him. And she's spent the last couple of years becoming a mother, raising her baby girl Hannah, working at her father's restaurant, and taking community college night classes. She doesn't even recognize her life anymore. And then Sawyer comes back to town. They cross paths in the local 7-Eleven, and he acts like everything's fine. Like he didn't disappear without a trace, leaving her heart in smithereens and her baby without a father. But there's so much water under the bridge between Reena and Sawyer at this point, she can hardly summon the will to fight anymore. And so Sawyer works his way back into her life once more, just like he's always done. But whether or not they can see past all the old pain to find a kind of life together is another question entirely.
"My mom told me," he says now--trailing off, trying again. "About . . . "
I imagine letting him dangle there indefinitely, a hanged man, but in the end I'm the one who breaks first. "Hannah," I supply, wondering what else his mother told him. I can't stop staring at his face. "Her name is Hannah."
"Yeah. I mean." Sawyer looks uncomfortable, like he's waiting for something else to happen. For me to just come out and say it, maybe--Welcome back, how was your trip, we made a baby--but I keep my jaw clamped firmly shut. Let him wonder for once, I think meanly. Let him sweat it out for a change. The Slurpee's bright green, like a space alien. My braid's left a wet spot on my shirt. Sawyer shifts his weight awkwardly. "She said."
We stand there. We breathe. I can hear the hum and clatter of the market all around us, everything chilly and refrigerator-bright. There's a huge, garish poster of pretzel dogs over his left shoulder. I have pictured this going differently.
The opening scene in How to Love is one of the best I've read. Reena's observation, "I have pictured this going differently," is absolutely breathless with stunned pain and weighted history. I felt punched in the gut along with her for those first few pages, that first encounter in years. Katie Cotugno captures a heady swirl of being young and infatuated and older and wiser and still desperately in love with her beautiful words. I felt sure I was taking part in something special. And it is. Or it was. The rest of the book is something of a gradual decline from the dizzying heights of that rainy day at 7-Eleven. And none of it quite lives up to the punch of the beginning. I mean, the wordsmithing remains top notch throughout:
I told my father I was pregnant and he didn't speak to me for eleven weeks. I only blame him a little: His own parents died when he was seven, and he was, quite literally, raised by the nuns in Saint Tammany Parrish in Louisiana. He fully intended to become a priest until he met my mother; he confesses every Friday and keeps a Saint Christopher medal tucked inside his shirt. In his heart he's a musician but his soul is that of the most serious of altar boys, and the fact that he didn't send me away to some convent until I had the baby is probably a testament to the mercy of the God that we've always prayed to in my house.
I really love the way she writes. But as I read through the alternating chapters between the present day and the past, I found myself less and less enamored of the way it was all going down. And absolutely disenchanted with Sawyer LeGrande. The more time I spent with him, the less there was left of him. Until I was sitting there holding a pile of dust in my hands where once there was a young man who'd run away and returned home years later to find he was a father. The farther back we went in time, the more distressed I became at the realization that Reena's lifelong love was . . . empty. And, what's worse, there seemed to be so little explanation offered for Sawyer's blankness, for his wild youth and his inexcusable treatment of Reena. Honestly, it was an excruciating place to find myself as a reader, wanting so badly for them to work things out because of Cotugno's mighty skills with atmosphere and Reena's very real feelings for Sawyer, and at the same time filling up with a growing sense of betrayal as page after page revealed Sawyer to be . . . just no one to hold on to. And there was little evidence of him having changed in the present day chapters. No more bad boy, but nothing really good either. I missed the Sawyer of those first pages. The Sawyer and Reena of those first pages. The ones who had so much to say and no words to say it in. Who were facing a mountain to climb. I wanted to see them climb it. I wanted them to fight for something precious and worth having. Instead, the past revealed too many cracks and the present proved hopelessly inadequate at sealing them up. Add to this the couple of occasions of ham-fisted coincidental drama for nothing but drama's sake, and I wanted to go wash my hands of the whole debacle. Such a shame. Because that opening scene? That was something special....more
If I stop and hold still for a minute, I can still feel the tingles I felt after finishing Scarlet last year. ItOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
If I stop and hold still for a minute, I can still feel the tingles I felt after finishing Scarlet last year. It was that good to read a new and, more importantly, impressive Robin Hood retelling. And it was impressive. From the gender-swapping and Scarlet's dialect to the individual members of the young band, each of them keeping their own secrets. I really had no idea where Ms. Gaughen would take them after everything spiraled so maddeningly out of control at the end. And now, having read it, I love how many times, and with what unflinching force, she surprised me in LADY THIEF. I never saw things coming. I mean, I saw a couple of things coming. But by and large I gasped more than I nodded knowingly. And even now I can hear my husband laughing. He is used to my gasps. He is also used to me looking up with glassy eyes and whispering something along the lines of, "Everything is not okay." But more on that later.
Some spoilers for the end of the first book I found impossible to avoid. Proceed with caution.
Scarlet's been living on borrowed time ever since her unwelcome marriage. Inexplicably willing to bide his time, Gisbourne has been gone. And Scarlet has been somewhat free to periodically slip away from the keep and check on the boys. What she's seen has not been encouraging. Robin's past haunts his nights. He rarely sleeps and when he does it always ends violently. Occasionally, Scarlet or John get a little too close and it comes to blows, which improves exactly none of their moods and does not bode well for the little band's sense of unity. But now her husband has returned, and Scarlet must play the role she bought when she agreed to wed a monster in exchange for Robin's life. Just what Gisbourne wants remains a mystery as there is zero love lost between the two of them. When Prince John and his entourage arrive, Scarlet's life only gets more difficult as the machinations at work take on a much grander scale than she imagined. And with the people of Nottingham starving and no relief in sight, Scarlet must force herself to fully inhabit her role as a noble if she is to spare her people (and her small family) from the prince's wrath.
I believe my favorite thing about this book (and series) is the perspective we get through Scarlet's eyes. It is her view of Robin Hood we see. She marks his flaws. She knows them as well as she does her own. And so the whole tale feels unusually honest and decidedly spare. It works incredibly well. Especially because, while she sees a hero in Rob, it is her bravery and endurance (and grief) we are closest to. Scarlet's a hero. And she's going to save her people. I have no doubt of it. That said, I will admit I was not expecting the level of sadness in this book. You guys. It is so sad. It is also riveting, exciting, unquestionably romantic, and I absolutely loved it. But, you guys. A.C. Gaughen is not kidding around. Her characters are stalked at every turn. By their own demons as well as the ones foisted on them by their impossible circumstances. The whole twisted web only becomes more knotted as events progress and the villains keep shifting chairs. And can I just say Prince John is simply splendid if you're in the mood for despicable tyrants. And let's be honest. You're here reading this review. When are you not in that mood? My hatred for him was and is unswerving. And while we're talking bad guys, Gisbourne came through in spades. My feelings for him were nowhere near as single minded as my feelings for the prince. Gisbourne and I, we were all across the map. But without spoiling anything, I can tell you his story is one of the most compelling. All that potential he carried in the first book is present and accounted for and deliciously explored here in the second.
I wanted to quote any number of passages between Scarlet and Robin, because their relationship travels in such lovely and aching ways in this installment. But they were all a little too special to take out of context. So instead I'm sharing a scene between Scarlet and Much. Because I love them and the way they love their friend.
"You look a little lost."
I turned to see Much steps from me. He smiled under a big farmer's hat in his crooked, half-sure way, and I hugged him. He hugged me tight with a laugh. "John and Rob are awfully boring without you around."
I mussed his hair with a laugh. "I'm certain they are. So what do you reckon, will someone make me a widow today?" We went and leaned on the fencing that were meant to keep the common folk from the grounds. We were low, back, and to the side, and from there the whole thing looked vicious and fierce, less like a game and more like gods stomping about for notice.
"I doubt it," he said, honest as ever. "Gisbourne is a very good fighter."
I rubbed my still swollen lip. "I know."
"He slept, you know," Much told me. "Last night, whole way through."
This thrilled my heart like a holy fire. "It's fair strange, talking about Rob like he were an infant or such."
"It's good news."
I shivered. "It's perfect news."
I shivered throughout this worthy sequel, both in response to the ever-unwinding intrigue as well as the prevailing chill it exudes. If ever there was a winter book, it's this one. I read it huddled under my blankets, fear and delight close at hand, as I watched Scarlet, Robin, John, and Much, the ice clutching at the hems of their cloaks, threatening to freeze any vestige of warmth inside. It's going to be an immeasurably long wait for book three. But, like Scarlet, I aim to survive....more
So I read another Beauty and the Beast retelling. As one does. Cruel Beauty has been on my radar for several montOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
So I read another Beauty and the Beast retelling. As one does. Cruel Beauty has been on my radar for several months now. The truth is I was a goner when I heard it blended my favorite fairy tale with Greek mythology. Having read it now, another truth is that, in my humble opinion, it would be better billed as a Cupid & Psyche retelling. Not that all the lovely elements of Beauty and the Beast aren't there and thriving. As a matter of fact, threads of several different fairy tales run through the veins of this crazy, lovely book. And I appreciated all of them. But the Greek mythology aspect of it is real and very important to the story as a whole. As such, I think it bears the strongest resemblance to the tale of beleaguered Psyche and the god she weds. I've read a myriad different reactions to Rosamund Hodge's debut novel, and I can credit all of them because Cruel Beauty is a twisty, mercurial cracker of a tale and most readers are not going to feel mildly about it one way or the other. I do hope you'll give it a shot and see which way your feelings lean.
Nyx is a sharply honed blade. Raised from a child knowing precisely what was expected of her, she has never known the simple happiness of her sister Astraia, the noble firmness her father, or the proper domesticity of her aunt Telomache. All she has known is dread and hate and unscaleable walls. So when the day finally comes when she is to fulfill her duty and marry the Gentle Lord as befit the terms of her father's bargain with the demon, there is very little she will miss about her home or the family members who claim to love her yet are willing to send her off to a fate worse than death if it means it will save their own skins. In fact, despite the primitive terror she feels when the heavy castle door shuts behind her, she is ready. She is done with waiting and ready to avenge her mother's death and defeat the evil lord who brought an ancient curse on the land of Arcadia. Either that or she will die trying. It's doesn't make much difference to Nyx. Until she makes her new husband's acquaintance, that is. Until she looks into his blood red cat's eyes and listens to his mocking voice as it tells of past wives, all of them useless, all of them dead. How very glad he is she's arrived to provide the next course of entertainment. Then? Why then she wants to kill him very, very much indeed.
I love immeasurably flawed protagonists. I love them, love them, love them. So I experienced something akin to glee when I realized Nyx and Ignifex were the real thing. She wants to kill him. When she says she hates everyone in her life, she is not kidding. And that hate flows off the page. In a good way. He finds her endlessly amusing and he fully expects her to join his eight past wives in the family tomb, as it were. When he says the people who come to him to bargain get what they deserve, he really believes it. Their verbal (and physical) sparring gets underway the very first night Nyx arrives at his home, and it just doesn't let up. Basically, I wore a deranged grin every time they exchange parries. And every night as Nyx set off to explore the castle and find the path to destroying her husband, I relished the beautiful and terrifying descriptions of the ballroom that is also a midnight lake, the library full of books she cannot read, the mirror that bears a keyhole, and the shadows that lick at her heels. It is worth pointing out that while I enjoyed myself throughout the book, it wasn't until roundabout the halfway mark that things reached unputdownable status. But reach it they did, and I read the last half through in one headlong rush.
There is one other denizen of the Gentle Lord's home. One who remains there against his will and who sets out to help Nyx on her bloody quest. His name is Shade. He is quite literally Ignifex's shadow, and he believes that this time, this wife might actually be his hope of escape. I never knew quite what to think of Shade. My feelings for Ignifex were immediate and sure, but Shade left me alternately hot and cold. His role in the tale is a murky one, and I will admit to resenting his presence at times, even up through the end. But much of that can be chalked up to the sheer sparkle and force imbued in every scene in which Nyx and Ignifex share the page. I quite simply couldn't look away from the girl intent on murder and the quicksilver demon who has been the agent of murder for centuries. Because something remarkable and elusive was happening to them both, even as they threatened each other with all manner of bodily harm and eternal torment. And the fact that Ms. Hodge managed to quietly craft this fragile something inside a fortress of fury, without compromising her characters, well, it impressed me. I love them so very much for all their vengeful hearts and angry, clenching hands. But perhaps most of all for the ultimate mercy they show (not to themselves, but to one another) in spite of the suffering they've undergone.
In closing, my favorite passage:
"You don't think our plan will work."
"I'd give it rather low odds."
I leaned forward, hoping that for once his gloating temperament would be useful. "Why not? Explain to me how I'm stupid, husband."
He poked my nose. "You're not stupid and neither is your plan. But the Heart of Air is utterly beyond your reach. And your people have not even begun to grasp the nature of this house."
"Then tell me." I tilted my head. "Or are you scared?"
"No," he said placidly, and abruptly dropped to the ground, resting his head in my lap. "Tired."
I swallowed. The easy comfort of the gesture touched me in a way his kisses had not. I couldn't understand why he kept acting like he trusted me.
"I had a long night," he added, looking up at me from under his lashes.
"I told you I'm not sorry," I growled.
"Of course not." He smiled with his eyes shut.
"You deserve all that and more. It made me happy to see you suffer. I would do it all over again if I could." I realized I was shaking as the words tumbled out of me. "I would do it again and again. Every night I would torment you and laugh. Do you understand? You are never safe with me." I drew a shuddering breath, trying to will away the sting of tears.
He opened his eyes and stared up at me as if I were the door out of Arcadia and back to the true sky. "That's what makes you my favorite." He reached up and wiped a tear off my cheek with his thumb. "Every wicked bit of you."
How long has it been since I read a really good horror novel? And how did I not realize going in that that's exacOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
How long has it been since I read a really good horror novel? And how did I not realize going in that that's exactly what SORROW'S KNOT was? I read Erin Bow's debut novel Plain Kate when it came out and was suitably impressed with her writing, even though the book as a whole didn't work for me perfectly. But as soon as I heard that her sophomore novel was to be an indigenous tale of ghosts and the generations of women who bind them, I felt certain I would be reading it as soon as I got the chance. It just sounded too intriguing to miss. I wasn't entirely sold on the cover, and now after having read it I kind of wish they'd gone with something darker (less mystic blue) to more accurately match the chilling content hidden within its pages. Because make no mistake—SORROW'S KNOT is an unapologetically terrifying gem of a tale. In fact, it rather resists classification. It's fantasy, but oh, it's horror. It's young adult, but it's really very middle grade, too. It's sad. But its moments of happiness are blinding. Which is why you really must read it so you can find out what it is for you.
Otter is the daughter of a long and distinguished tradition of binders, the women of her pinch who protect their people from the rising dead. Her mother Willow is widely expected to be the greatest binder who ever lived. And that is taking into account the legendary Mad Spider who set the standard for binding and setting wards and holding off the deadliest of all undead: the White Hands. And so Otter's life has been open and sure, certain in the knowledge that her path would take her in the footsteps of her ancestors, that one day she, too, would take up the calling as binder for her people. And life has been good. Together with her two best friends the ranger Kestrel and the storyteller Cricket, she's been free to run and laugh and play tricks on the more grave elders of her band. Until the old binder Tamarack dies and her mother Willow reluctantly steps into her shoes. From that day on, nothing is right. Sure that something is wrong with the knots she ties to bind the dead, Willow drifts farther and father away from them. As her mother's words and actions become more erratic, Otter's fear grows. And then one day Willow reveals she will never take Otter as her apprentice. And Otter's life unties itself before her very eyes, her footsteps haunted by the terrible secret behind her mother's decline.
Bow's writing folds you into its clutches so gently you have no defense left when the terror beneath the words reveals itself. I think it's best to just start with one of my favorite scenes, so you know what we're dealing with here:
Otter tried to breathe deep, but each breath made her shudder and shudder. Kestrel put her hand between Otter's shoulders: steady. The summer stones were rough and warm to the touch. They were not alive, but if they were dead, it was a simple kind of dead: They were only themselves. They needed nothing.
Otter was thinking this and not watching the world, and so when someone moved just behind her, her heart leapt like a startled grasshopper. She spun and had her bracelets thrust up before she saw who it was.
"What happened?" said Cricket.
"Once our dogs were wolves," said Cricket, when no one answered him, "and though we loved them, we watched them carefully."
Kestrel half laughed. "They're watching Willow."
"No, they're sure she's rabid." He turned to Otter. "They're watching you."
Otter trailed along the edge of the sunflower row, away from the lodges and the open space of the palm. She could feel the eyes of the pinch on her back. "I didn't do anything," she said. "It's only that I'm—I'm—" This girl is a binder born. "—her daughter."
Slowly they walked away from the lodges of Westmost, as if they were deer browsing. As if they were not afraid. Kestrel put out her hand and skimmed it along the top of the grass as the meadow became wilder.
"What happened?" said Cricket again. "Have mercy on a storyteller: Tell me a story."
"It's not just a story," said Otter. Something broke out of her that sounded like anger.
"They never are," said Cricket softly.
Those three. They form the magnetic center of this wild book and I loved them so very much. What a beautiful rendering of a trifold friendship. The playful storyteller, the stalwart ranger, and the tier of powerful knots who walks with the dead. I would have followed the three of them anywhere. And, in fact, I followed them much farther than I expected or (in some cases) wanted. Their story is deceptively small, geographically as well as emotionally. And while the marvelously imaginative and complicated rules and history of Otter's world exist on a grand scale, the whole thing rests very much on what it means to three children who have grown into their adult roles and found the world a larger, infinitely more disturbing place than they believed it to be.
Which leads me to the White Hands. I'm still repressing shivers, days later, my friends. The alarmingly apt descriptions of the quiet ways these beings kill you had me glancing up for reassurance on a continual basis. I couldn't bear their encroaching presence around the characters I'd come to care for. To be honest, the bleak, growing dread of it all got to me at one point and I had to put the book down and come back to it the following evening when I had a little more perspective (and summoned a little more hope). This may or may not have coincided with a supremely sorrowful moment. Suffice it to say I spent some time grieving. It's oppressive at times, but in an undeniably well-crafted way. When I did return, I read it through to the end, closing the book wholly satisfied, if a little winded. The unexpected, understated, and sweet romance in the last third of the book may have had a little to do with my sigh of contentedness at the end. It's a story I will remember for quite some time, and one that really should not be missed. Recommended for fans of Tiger Lily. I know....more
I feel like I've been waffling on whether or not to read this book for years now even though it's only been a fewOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
I feel like I've been waffling on whether or not to read this book for years now even though it's only been a few months. The thing is, I really enjoyed the first half of Rainbow Rowell's Attachments. I really, really did. And then I was summarily disappointed with the second half. I don't know if it was me or the fact that I read it immediately after giving birth and that just rarely ever works out for me or what. But the direct result was that I stayed away from Eleanor Park, despite it's adorable cover and quirky premise. And I was apparently still shell-shocked enough that I was going to just go ahead and pass on FANGIRL if it wasn't for Janice's enthusiastic review some weeks back. I thought I was just sort of waltzing around lacking the Rowell gene, when in fact I simply hadn't found my gateway book. So, Janice. Can I send you a book bouquet or a fruit basket or some such gift of gratitude? Because I'm kind of having a hard time imagining my reading year without this book. This hilarious, complicated book that induced all the feelings in the general vicinity of my heart.
Cath doesn't do social situations. Outside of her twin sister Wren and her dad, few people have been able to penetrate the force field of solitude with which she surrounds herself. Even her high school boyfriend Abel was really just a placeholder, a nice idea of a boyfriend. But there has always been Simon. And Baz. Ever since they were kids, Cath and Wren have teamed up to write Simon Snow fan fiction. And when the more vivacious Wren's social life took flight, Cath soldiered on alone. Dedicated to the fictional world of Simon Snow, her followers grew to number in the tens of thousands and sating their voracious appetites became a full-time job. Which is why college seems to be getting in the way so much. Having to make small talk with her roommate Reagan and Reagan's kinda sorta ex Levi sends Cath into paroxysms of exhaustion. Not to mention her demanding class schedule and not knowing where the cafeteria is and worrying about leaving her dad all alone at home to fend off loneliness. Cath is a basket case. Fortunately, her roommate can read the writing on the wall and stages an intervention. And thus begins Cath's tentative exploration of life off the page. But when Wren's life threatens to run off the rails and their long-estranged mother re-enters their lives, Cath's only refuge remains with Simon and his sometime nemesis, sometime partner Baz.
I fell on page one. It was laughable how fast I fell. And I'm not even a little bit hesitant to admit it, because I laughed and giggled and gasped my way through this absolutely delightful book. And not just your run-of-the-mill out loud laughing either, but the silent smiles that slowly grow until they take over your whole face and you have to stop and just let the moment happen and savor it before continuing on. Those moments occurred basically any time Cath was thinking, speaking, writing, or sitting in the same room with Levi. Honestly, the boy deserves a moment of silence all his own. I don't remember the last time I grew so fond of a nice guy so fast. In fact, here are a couple of my favorite Levi moments:
She didn't look over at Levi again until they were standing together in front of the elevator. (Condition: smiling, stable). When it opened, he put his hand on her back and she practically jumped in.
"What's the plan?" she asked.
He grinned. "My plan is to do things that make you want to hang out with me again tomorrow. What's your plan?"
"I'm going to try not to make an ass of myself."
He grinned. "So we're all set."
And now a somewhat spoilery exchange (because I literally cannot help myself with these two and trust me, there were way more spoilery bits I somehow managed to resist):
"I just want to know—are you rooting for me? Are you hoping I pull this off?"
Cath's eyes settled on his, tentatively, like they'd fly away if he moved.
She nodded her head.
The right side of his mouth pulled up.
"I'm rooting for you," she whispered. She wasn't even sure he could hear her from the bed.
Levi's smile broke free and devoured his whole face.
I will never tire of Levi's smiles. But as smitten as I was, the focal center of the book remained Cath for me. And I'm so glad Ms. Rowell kept the whole thing so tightly focused on Cath's struggles, both with the world inside her head as well as with the world around her. Initially, I was wary of the actual Simon Snow excerpts (to say nothing of Cath's fan fiction sections). But Rowell surprised me with her deft interweaving of Cath's own life and the life she breathed into Simon and Baz and the whole Watford School gang. To be perfectly frank, she surprised (and wowed) me with the level of nuance on the grand scale. And before long, Cath's dorm room felt like home to me, felt disturbingly like my own dorm freshman year, papered with clippings and memorabilia declaring who I had been, threaded through with anxiety and hope for who I would become. I knew who Cath was. I could see her with perfect clarity. Last of all, one of the most visceral moments in the book, in which Cath confronts the woman who gave birth to her and abandoned her ten years later.
"You don't just leave somebody alone in a hospital," Cath said. It came out aflame.
"Wren's not alone," Laura said sternly. "She has you."
Cath jerked to her feet and swayed there. Not Wren, she thought. I didn't mean Wren.
Laura wrenched her handbag straps higher. "Cather—"
"You can't leave like this—"
"It's the right thing to do," Laura said, lowering her voice.
"In what alternate universe?" Cath felt the rage burst up her throat like a cork popping. "What sort of a mother leaves the hospital without seeing her kid? What sort of a mother leaves? Wren is unconscious—and if you think that has nothing to do with you, you are skimming the surface of reality—and I'm right here, and you haven't even seen me for ten years, and now you're leaving? Now?"
"Don't make this about me," Laura hissed. "You obviously don't want me here."
"I'm making it about me," Cath said. "It's not my job to want you or not want you. It's not my job to earn you."
"Cather"—Laura's mouth and fists were tight—"I've reached out to you. I've tried."
"You're my mother," Cath said. Her fists were even tighter. "Try harder."
And that is how it's done. That is how you secure my everlasting loyalty for a character. She's so strong in that scene. Her fists are tighter. And I love her so much for saying what she needed to, for getting it out. I loved every word of FANGIRL. As my friend Laura says, some books move in. I had a bed all made up for this one faster than Levi can crack a smile....more
In a somewhat amusing turn of events, I actually picked up a copy of Sherry Thomas' debut young adult fantasy THEOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
In a somewhat amusing turn of events, I actually picked up a copy of Sherry Thomas' debut young adult fantasy THE BURNING SKY because I read one of her adult historical romances several months back and really loved it. How's that for a commentary on the state of affairs in my neck of the woods these days? And while I really do love the cover after having read it (and for blessedly not featuring any actual human beings or, worse, a young boy reaching out to a young girl in space), I really don't know if I would have picked it up on its own. In my experience, when an author transitions from adult to YA, it is often (sadly) an absolute train wreck. As though the writing has been . . . sanitized or lobotomized . . . and all I want to do is wipe my mind clean of the lost chance. This is not always the case, of course, and there are instances of the exact opposite. And when that happens, everything is beautiful and nothing hurts. But. I do tend to hold my breath. Especially when it is a beloved author. But knowing how much I loved Ms. Thomas' writing before, I just had to see what she would do with a whole new world and a whole new readership at her disposal.
Iolanthe Seabourne has spent her life in relative isolation, living in quiet scholarship, moving from village to village with her increasingly unreliable guardian. And then one unsuspecting morning, as she is busy preparing for a local wedding, her life splinters into tiny, unrecognizable pieces. As an elemental mage, she is able to control three of the four elements, and her powers with fire (her best element) are often sought for weddings and other local celebrations. But when she succeeds in summoning an actual bolt of lightning, all manner of hell breaks loose and Iolanthe finds herself unceremoniously magicked away to a far corner of England where a strange young man insists she disguise herself as a boy. At Eton College, no less. Prince Titus of Elberon has been nothing more than a figurehead his entire life. With his country all but occupied by the fearful Empire of Atlantis, and the dreaded Inquisitor breathing down his neck day and night, Titus has retreated deeper and deeper within himself in an effort to keep the secrets he so carefully guards. And as long as Titus can remember, he's waited for his mother's prophecy to come to fruition. For the most powerful mage in the world to show himself and make it possible to join forces with the prince in his mission to save the world as they know it. When that most powerful mage turns out to be a 16-year-old girl, Titus is forced to regroup and convince her his cause really is worth risking her life as they train together to face the nightmare that is Atlantis.
The whole thing begins with the following irresistible opening lines:
Just before the start of Summer Half, in April 1883, a very minor event took place at Eton College, that venerable and illustrious English public school for boys. A sixteen-year-old pupil named Archer Fairfax returned from a three-month absence, caused by a fractured femur, to resume his education.
Almost every word in the preceding sentence is false. Archer Fairfax had not suffered a broken limb. He had never before set foot in Eton. His name was not Archer Fairfax. And he was not, in fact, even a he.
This is the story of a girl who fooled a thousand boys, a boy who fooled an entire country, a partnership that would change the fate of realms, and a power to challenge the greatest tyrant the world had ever known.
As you can tell, I really stood no chance at all. In fact, the almost immediate affection I felt for this book caught me unawares. The writing is there in all its subtle glory, which was the first relief. The worldbuilding is both cheeky and charming, which was the second. But the characters. How I love these characters. What impressed me the most was how Ms. Thomas was able to make me both hate and weep over Titus, this prince who has given everything, including his heart, to destroying the evil force that haunts his homeland. There is little but lies left to Titus when he first crosses Iolanthe's path, and none of them nice ones. Similarly, I devoted every reading moment to wishing Iolanthe would vault herself as far away as she possibly could from Titus and his impossible desires, while at the same time hoping somewhat feebly that she would see why he had molded himself into this callous instrument of vengeance and perhaps find a shred of something there worth saving. There is little but unexplored potential to Iolanthe when she first dons a boy's trappings and insinuates herself into life at Eton. But my, do they grow. And down such twisty paths, too. It was so much fun following these two along their dreadful road to confrontation. The stakes managed to be at once epic and intensely personal. And that is all I ever ask of a book. Well, that and a real villain. Interestingly, the villain in THE BURNING SKY is something of a double one. I feared the one I could see and the one I couldn't in equal measure. Of the Inquisitor, Titus makes the following chilling observation:
Gazing into her eyes was like looking at blood running down the street.
Talk about a Madame Defarge moment. That is exactly how I felt whenever she inhabited a room. Her malevolent emptiness made me want to turn tail and head for the hills, which means that I understood Titus' old terror as well as Iolanthe's fresh one. It was an altogether unsettling and addictive sensation. To say nothing of the Crucible, which was spectacular in every way and which I think I'll let you discover for yourselves. As you can tell, THE BURNING SKY comprehensively exceeded every one of my expectations. I closed it incredibly satisfied and perfectly delighted that there will be two more in this excellent new trilogy from such a talented writer....more
I figured I might as well go ahead and write this review while my stomach is still all twisted and jumpy from finOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
I figured I might as well go ahead and write this review while my stomach is still all twisted and jumpy from finishing it last night and being unable to settle down for hours afterward. Truthfully? I was so caught up I had to go pull my copy of The Raven Boys down off the shelf and reread my favorite bits to help me come down off the high of the second book. Honestly. I'm as bad as Ronan coming out of one of his dreams. Only I don't have a Gansey or a Noah to help harness me back to reality. So. You all will be my Gansey and my Noah, yes? Because I need you after the whirling dervish that was this book had its way with my emotions. It's not that I don't know what I'm getting into when I immerse myself in Maggie's latest book. It's that I'm utterly unable (and entirely uninterested) in distancing myself from these boys and this girl I love. And so when the gloves inevitably come off and the humor eases deceptively into anguish, I am left huddled in a fog of anxiety and murderous affection that lingers for days. Cue all you Ganseys and Noahs out there. Clearly, I could use that grounding right about now.
Mild spoilers for The Raven Boys follow.
Ronan has suspected a number of awful things for some time now. And whether he's aware of it or not, he's about to put several of those suspicions to the test. Up close and personal style. After Adam's unexpected and controversial activation of the ley line, things have been thorny between the boys and Blue. Yet the indefatigable Gansey soldiers on. And where Gansey goes, so goes Ronan. Or at least it's always been that way. Ever since Ronan moved into Monmouth Manufacturing and found a cause and a brother worth fighting for. But with the search for Glendower faltering up against the inexplicable whims of the ancient forest of Cabeswater, the onus of the quest shifts to Ronan's tattooed shoulders as he explores his strange new ability to form and snatch things from his dreams, bringing them back whole and perfect to the thick heat of Henrietta and Gansey's discerning eye. And while Ronan is tearing his way through the mists of a dream world he does not understand, Adam Parrish is stumbling along his own dark path. Unclear as to the status of his friendship with Blue and absolutely firm on his refusal to accept any help from Gansey, Adam's isolation increases even as his friends work to keep a hold on him. And underneath it all is Gansey's tireless thirst for the sleeping king and Blue's unchangeable fortune of true love and certain death.
Ronan Lynch lived with every sort of secret.
There is such a beautiful symmetry to this novel. And I don't mean just the lovely prologue and epilogue (though they are lovely and I do mean them). I also mean Ronan's and Adam's parallel journeys that nearly sent me into a state of collapse. I mean the space between Blue and Gansey growing thicker and more choked. And, most of all, I mean the unparalleled words. Maggie's writing always leaves me eyeing the other books on my nightstand askance. I'm afraid they'll peek inside the pages and see what they have to live up to. This time around, these particular words were used to sometimes devastating but always beautiful effect as they drove Ronan, Adam, Gansey, Blue, even Noah to the edge of their capacities. There were many painful and beautiful side effects, not the least of which was one truly spectacular kissing scene (not the one you're thinking of) and (perhaps more importantly) the development of my feelings for Gansey. Heretofore the boy has remained stubbornly distant in my mind, despite his open demeanor and infectious grin. To say nothing of his downright pivotal role in the whole cycle. As Ronan rather astutely notes:
There were many versions of Gansey, but this one had been rare since the introduction of Adam's taming presence. It was also Ronan's favorite. It was the opposite of Gansey's most public face, which was pure control enclosed in a paper-thin wrapper of academia. But this version of Gansey was Gansey the boy. This was the Gansey who bought the Camaro, the Gansey who asked Ronan to teach him to fight, the Gansey who contained every wild spark so that it wouldn't show up in other versions. Was it the shield beneath the lake that had unleashed it? Orla's orange bikini? The bashed-up remains of his rebuilt Henrietta and the fake IDs they'd returned to? Ronan didn't really care. All that mattered was that something had struck the match, and Gansey was burning.
I love this. I love that Gansey is finally burning. But more than that I love that it was Ronan's keen eye that allowed me to finally see Gansey. Because Ronan loves Gansey, I do, too. It was so deliciously dangerous being inside Ronan's head for the duration of this dark, dark book. Of course, this also made his pain mine. I gathered a few of my own suspicions regarding this most jagged of young men and the secrets he lives with. And I really don't know how I'm going to soldier on with these raven boys through all the nebulous, sharp-toothed things I fear are coming. But what I do know is that I will be there with them all at the end. As I remarked to my husband last night and to a friend of mine this morning, The Dream Thieves holds an eye-opening quantity of pain and gut-wrenching tension for just the second book in a quartet. Make no mistake, I am not complaining. But it does give a girl pause. At this rate, I will need the time in between installments to gear up for the second half. But as always in the intervening time, these precious few will never be far from my thoughts. Especially Adam. But then you probably knew that. If you're looking for a story worth living and breathing, The Dream Thieves will take you there....more
It doesn't happen very often in life, that utterly unexpected sequel that drops in your lap years after the origiOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
It doesn't happen very often in life, that utterly unexpected sequel that drops in your lap years after the original book came out. Most of the time, you discover series you love and blow through them at lightning speed and then are left to pick up the shattered pieces of yourself when the whole glorious thing is over. Or you stumble across gold with the very first book and are forced to not-so-patiently wait one year (or more) for each new installment. But occasionally an author hits you with one out of left field. I first read and adored A Certain Slant of Light not too long after it was published in 2006. It felt like a perfectly contained standalone novel to me at the time. And it still is. If you only read that one, you will be left content. But there are a couple of . . . I hesitate to call them side characters . . . that you certainly would not object to spending more time with, if you know what I mean (series addicts: I know you know what I mean.) So when I discovered that Laura Whitcomb was writing a companion novel (sequel of sorts) told from one of those character's perspectives, well. I was more than okay with it.
Jenny is not okay. Having returned to her body after unexpectedly vacating it for a period of time, she has no real recollection of what happened in the interim. All she knows is that she was . . . gone . . . for awhile. And when she came back, there was a boy who seemed to know her but not know her. Billy held in his hand a Polaroid of the two of them together. They looked happy. They looked like they belonged together. And yet Jenny and Billy do not know each other. They don't have the kind of shared memories that the photograph suggests. Instead, what they have is a disturbingly similar (if different in the details) history of shame, painful family issues, and a longing for escape. And, as it turns out, Billy was gone for awhile, too. What they begin to discover is that a fair bit happened while they were away. And one of the presences involved is not through involving herself in their lives. Meanwhile, real life has gone on around them. Jenny's father has moved out and is threatening (as he always has) to control everything about her life. Billy's brother is suspicious (as he always is) of his little brother's activities. The two lost teens attempt to get to know one another and, perhaps, puzzle out their bizarre connection. But it seems the ramifications of the events they have no memory of will impede their fledgling attempts and impact their presents in very real and unsettling ways.
And that's where every ghost story begins, with a death.
Laura Whitcomb uses all her words and that is all there is to it. It was so comforting (and not a little emotional) to be back inside the beautiful canopy of language she creates. Somehow she manages to return us to that absolutely unique atmosphere evoked in A Certain Slant of Light, and it is as though we were never away. Helen is a point of view character this time around as well, and it was easy to fall back into the cadence of her thoughts. But since I felt her story resolved nicely in the last book, Jenny was the one I really wanted to be with. So it proved to be somewhat of a distraction when Helen's presence in the story occasionally threatened to overwhelm Jenny's. I fully understood her preoccupation with Jenny's fate, but I could have done with a little less from her directly. Because when Helen fades into the background and allows us an unfettered view of Jenny and Billy together . . . it is magnetic. As in the final chapter of A Certain Slant of Light, the bond between these two is breathtakingly tentative. I would have followed them anywhere they wanted to go. And Whitcomb does take them places, beyond the boundaries of time and space, in fact. A favorite passage that takes place fairly early on and far, far away:
He lifted his foot and rested it over my ankle, gently pinning me down.
Then he pointed into the heavens. "Want to go there?"
"That star." He gave his finger an extra stretch toward the dozens of stars in that general direction. "The one by those other two stars."
"What do you mean?" I lifted my arm so it was touching his, our hands and fingers aligned, and pointed. "That one?"
"No," he complained. Then he swiped his fingers across our view of the sky, like he was flicking away a speck of dust or a drop of water, and the night surged forward. The stars, staying perfectly aligned, curved across the sky--time had sped into the future an hour.
I gasped at this and grabbed his hand, pulling it back toward our bodies as if he might accidentally throw the earth off its rotation. The stars slowed again, appearing to have stopped.
"How did you do that?" I whispered.
"I took us somewhere we hadn't been yet," he said. "Forward in time."
He said it so matter-of-factly, but the idea made me shiver on the inside.
"Just a little," he reassured me.
"Thats . . . so cool." I pointed at one particularly bright star and gave it a push with my fingertip in the air. The map of stars glided forward again, constellations staying aligned as they gracefully passed over us, not a long way, just a bit into the tail of the night, an hour or two closer to morning.
He made a sound of alarm, a fake cry, and then laughed, "Here." He lifted his arm to mind, our hands together, our index fingers pointing up. As one, without saying aloud what we would do, we moved the stars a few minutes westward, then froze. "Look what we can do together," he said.
And so while the story spends a rather unnecessary amount of time detailing Helen's anxieties and desires for her former host, it redeems itself by winding its way around again to the heart of this sequel--two shell-shocked and lonely young people who find each other and, in each other, hope....more
I feel like contemporary YA and I are going through a rough patch. We're having trouble seeing eye to eye. We seeOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
I feel like contemporary YA and I are going through a rough patch. We're having trouble seeing eye to eye. We seem to be going in different directions. We don't want the same things anymore. Take your pick. I realize this is likely just an unfortunate string of mismatches, but after a little while it's hard not to take it personally, you know? So much good chatter surrounded today's release of Jessi Kirby's GOLDEN. Not having ready Kirby's previous two novels, I found myself curious about the fervor. Then I heard whispers of a decade-old unresolved mystery and something about Robert Frost and I was on board. Somewhat uninspiring Generic Sunlit Girl cover aside, I like that it doesn't lead the reader too much as to what to expect inside. That combined with my lack of knowledge of the author's work in general made it possible for me to go in with fairly untouched expectations. Which is always a nice thing.
Parker Frost (yes, that Frost her father maintains) is on the cusp of greatness. She's ready to blow the Popsicle stand that is her small-town home and head off to Stanford for some real living. She's got Valedictorian status in her hip pocket. The only obstacle remaining between her and her dream is a scholarship speech. Knowing Parker, she can slap that puppy out in her sleep and still have time for coffee with her best friend Kat. But when her English teacher asks her to send out a stack of journals to his old students, she stumbles across something that might force her to throw all her carefully laid plans by the wayside. That something is the personal journal of Julianna Farnetti. Presumed dead (along with her longtime boyfriend Shane Cruz) in a violent car crash ten years ago, Julianna has achieved the status of local legend by now. But as Parker gives into temptation and reads the journal, she realizes that not everything in the young lovers' lives was as it seemed. And now, inexplicably, Parker finds herself on a mission to resolve their deaths and, just possibly along the way, find the answers to her own burgeoning questions about the life that she leads and the kind of person she wants to be.
It started out well. I liked Parker fine. I liked the cute, somewhat fuzzily arrogant boy who seemed to have his eye on her. Though her best friend Kat immediately felt like the usual carboard cut-out, wilder than the heroine but with a heart of gold best friend that so frequently populates coming-of-age novels of this ilk, I figured as long as she didn't play too obnoxiously large of a role, we should be able to rub along tolerably well. Her mother was an irritatingly nebulous, overbearing presence in her life, but the mystery felt intriguing and, most of all, important to Parker. So I read on and found myself wanting to know more of Julianna and Shane and the mysterious Orion. Soon, I was far more interested in spending time within the pages of the journal than with the living, breathing teens in the present day who were fumbling to unravel the past. I had no trouble understanding Parker's preoccupation with Julianna's story, but I lost my preoccupation with Parker and hers. And since not all that much time is actually spent inside the pages of the journal, I found my emotions invested in the areas guaranteed to give me the least payoff. The boy (and his interest in Parker) never materialized, always shunted to the backseat. Kat did stay in the picture. And while I bought her affection for Parker, I longed for more depth between them. And then there is the title and the whole Robert Frost thing. And let me tell you, it is a Thing. Frost poems herald the start of each chapter, they run through Parker's head, they insinuate themselves into every fold and crevice of the story. And it was just too much for this reader, too much browbeating with the theme. I get it, Ponyboy. Nothing gold can stay. You've got to grasp life by the horns when you have the chance. I just don't respond well to the painfully earnest shoving of these truisms down my throat. I finished GOLDEN actually angry. Angry at my time spent with another undifferentiated, underdeveloped, well-meaning contemporary. There. Is that cantankerous enough for you? For what it's worth (and as is the trend lately), I am alone in my high dudgeon....more
It's difficult to resist the siren song of an as-yet-unread contemporary author, isn't it? For the most part, I tOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
It's difficult to resist the siren song of an as-yet-unread contemporary author, isn't it? For the most part, I tend to dip into those waters with caution. Sometimes I make out like gangbusters. And others I wind up feeling as though I was force-fed treacle, or that I was curiously emptied while reading the book rather than filled. I tell myself it's worth it, though, to find those gems that make your blood pump and the tips of your fingers tingle. I tell myself it's worth the racing anticipation and the occasional deep disappointment. And it is. Even if an author's entire bibliography doesn't work for you. It's worth it if that one, perfect match does. Cause then you get to hold onto it for the rest of your reading life, and pull it out and revisit those characters and that place and those moments whenever you need them. All of which is a rather long winded way of explaining how I found myself giving Sarah Ockler a try for the first time. I wasn't too drawn by her previous titles, but the well-nigh universal love for her latest, THE BOOK OF BROKEN HEARTS, persuaded me it was time to dip my toes in those waters again.
Jude Hernandez has spent her entire life living in the wake of her three older sisters. Now that they've all gone the way of the wind, pursuing their own lives across the country, Jude feels it's only fair she have her turn. After all, she just graduated from high school. She has one single, solitary summer before it's off to college and more buckling down. She's always been the good girl, following her sisters' advice to the letter, certainly never getting tangled up with a Vargas boy the way two of her three older sibs did. That road only leads to ruin, they told her, in the voice of bitter, bitter experience. But it isn't to be. The easy, breezy summer or the surviving her teenage years Vargas-free. Because this summer is going to be dedicated to helping her sick dad. And the way Jude sees it, that means restoring his old vintage Harley. The one he rode when he was a carefree young man back in Argentina. The one that's been sitting in their storage unit collecting dust and grime for decades. And so she does her research. And she takes her dad down to the local mechanic shop in search of a man who can do the job. What she gets is Emilio Vargas. The youngest of the Vargas clan, and the last boy she wants to see during this summer of lost chances and long goodbyes. But the more time she spends with Emilio, the less like his older brothers he seems. As much as it makes her cringe to think it, Emilio might be different.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but I finished THE BOOK OF BROKEN HEARTS mystified as to its appeal. I finished it feeling the same way I've felt finishing every Sarah Dessen book I've ever read. Which is to say, I read the last word, I close the book, and I think to myself, that's . . . it? I wanted to like it so much, to be swept away for a couple of hours in the lives of two kids struggling under more weight than their shoulders are ready to hold. And since this is my first Ockler book, I was sort of hoping to find a fresh, new (to me) voice in contemporary YA. Unfortunately, it felt as though she was simply checking off the boxes on a list of standard YA contemporary tropes. Hot boy? Check. Drama geek heroine? Check. Shallow best friends who are allergic to real family issues? Check. Dismayingly indistinguishable older siblings? Check. Heartwarming life lessons learned amid personal tragedy? Check, check, check. If the writing had been something special, things might have been different. If the secondary characterization had been more layered and compelling, things might have been different. And, yeah, Jude's relationship with her father is wrenching and touching and every other thing it should be. But the impact failed to land because I saw it all coming fifty miles back, you know? There was very little in the way of something new here, the realizations she came to lessened for lack of a deeper treatment. This may be a case of supreme mismatch between book and reader, as I have yet to see a sub-stellar review. So make of that what you will. As for me, I can't say as I'd recommend it. But if you're in the mood for contemporaries with some meat on their bones, allow me to steer you in the direction of Deb Caletti, Holly Goldberg Sloan, and Kirsty Eagar. And, of course, if you require a good swoon, Stephanie Perkins and Huntley Fitzpatrick have got your back....more
So. I am a longtime Madeleine L'Engle devotee. It started back when I was 10 with A Wrinkle in Time and it has stretched out over the years into a lifelong love affair. One of the more treasured and personal ones in my life. And while I love all her worlds, this little series, this family, holds a couple of my most beloved. This is actually the third full-length novel in the series, and it's something of a dark sheep, if you will. It's the departure novel, for lack of a better term, the one in which dark things happen and you question whether or not these young characters whom you love will be able to rebound after the fallout. It surprised me when I first read it, coming as it did after the gentler and more staid introductory installments. But the setting, the language, the new characters all wove their spell around me and I always return to it when I am in the mood for whistling in the dark.
The Austins have up and moved to New York City. Dr. Austin is working on a research project which requires his residence in the city, and so the family has uprooted itself and settled in Manhattan, not far from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. It is there that Vicky, Suzy, and Rob meet a young girl named Emily Gregory. Emily is a piano prodigy studying with the brilliant and temperamental Mr. Theotocopulous (Mr. Theo for short). Emily is generally accompanied by an outsider boy named Dave whose job it seems to be to look out for her and be suspicious of things in general. Vicky is sure there's something in Dave's past he's hiding. But the rag-taggle group quickly become fast friends, and the Austins are willing to let Dave tell them his story when he is good and ready. It isn't until Rob, on one of his many rambles through the neighborhood, makes the acquaintance of a genie that danger strikes. This encounter with the genie (complete with magic lamp) leads the children on a journey through the darker underworld of their new home. A gang called the Alphabats dog their heels, with a particular emphasis on Dave. A strange man by the name of Canon Tallis has taken up residence at the Cathedral and appears intent on following the children as well. Everyone's motives are unclear, and soon events are spiraling out of control as the Austins and Co. race to uncover the thread connecting them all.
Just to whet your appetite, here's a favorite scene from the first couple of pages of the book:
The man in the fur hat left the shadows of the doorway and followed the oddly assorted trio: the dark, shabby boy; the definitely younger and rather elegant girl; and the fair little boy who couldn't have been more than seven or eight years old.
They reached the corner and turned down Broadway. The bitter wind whipped a few brown leaves and bits of soiled newspaper across the sidewalk. Strands of Emily's fine, dark hair blew across her face and she pushed it back impatiently. As they passed a shabby little antique shop with a gloomy bit of oddments on the sidewalk in front of the dusty windows, Dave paused.
"It was here," Rob said. "Right here."
Emily pulled impatiently at Dave's arm, but the older boy stood, looking at the shop window, at the door with the sign PHOOKA'S ANTIQUES, then moved on, more slowly.
Shortly before they reached 110th Street the man with the fur hat pulled ahead of them and merged with a group of people clustered about a newsstand. He held a paper so that he could look past it at the children as they came by.
The little boy, who had made friends with the crippled man who owned the newsstand, looked up to wave hello. His mouth opened in startled recognition as his eyes met those of their follower. He didn't hear the news vendor call out, "Hi, Robby, what's up?"
The man in the fur hat smiled at the small boy, nodded briefly, rolled up his newspaper, and turned back in the direction of the Cathedral.
Dave and Emily had gone on ahead. Rob ran after them, calling, "Dave! He's the one!" He tugged at the older boy's sleeve.
"Who's what one?" Dave pulled impatiently away from the scarlet mitten.
"The man we saw yesterday, the one who talked to Emily!"
Dave stopped. "Where?"
Rob pointed towards the Cathedral.
"Wait!" Dave ran back around the corner.
"Emily, he was the one," Rob said. "I'm sorry, but I know he was."
"I don't want to talk about it." Emily's face looked pale and old beyond her years. She was just moving into adolescence, but her expression had nothing childlike about it. "It couldn't have been the same one," she whispered.
"But it was real," Rob persisted. "It did happen."
Dave returned. "I didn't see anybody. Anyway, how do you know he was the one?"
"Because he had no eyebrows."
Emily gave a shudder that had nothing to do with the cold.
What an opener. This book reminds me in many ways of Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart series. Mysterious. Dark. A sense of impending doom drooping over the whole thing. I eat this stuff up with a spoon. I love THE YOUNG UNICORNS because it branches out so ambitiously. Dave, Emily, and Mr. Theo burst onto the scene and into the reader's heart without even a by your leave, and the Austins almost take a back seat to their new friends, their new neighborhood, their new life. I love L'Engle's New York City. I love the way she just plops her quiet family down in the middle of a boiling and boisterous city and allows them to explore and be worked upon and changed by its life and color and variety. The cathedral itself is essentially a character in its own right, serving as the perfect backdrop for the secret plots and underhanded machinations that take place within the pages of this story. Ms. L'Engle was writer-in-residence at this very cathedral for many years, and her knowledge of (and love for) its halls and corners and denizens is evident here. To say nothing of the crossover characters with which she graces the tale. Canon Tallis is a particular favorite and one I am always relieved to see show up, both for his keen intelligence and his checkered background. I knew the children would be safer with him at their backs. But things do get decidedly bleak (and a fair bit deranged) before they get better. But if a love of mystery lurks anywhere in your heart, you do not want to pass this one up. L'Engle's lovely words wrap around these precocious children and see them through to the very end. I think I've been in love with Dave ever since I first read this book, and it is his journey that is the most compelling to me. A true standout in the middle of an excellent series....more
I fell hard and fast last year for Robin LaFevers' first novel in the His Fair Assassin trilogy. Historical fictiOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
I fell hard and fast last year for Robin LaFevers' first novel in the His Fair Assassin trilogy. Historical fiction with a touch of fantasy to spice things up, this series reads like a breath of fresh air (to me) amid so many contemporaries and paranormals. Not that I don't love many of those. I absolutely do. But give me some top-notch court intrigue and I am one sated readergirl. I loved everything about Grave Mercy, and so it went without saying that DARK TRIUMPH would occupy one of the top spots on my most anticipated reads of 2013 list. I will say that I worried just a bit about spending all of my time with Sybella. I loved her scenes in Grave Mercy, but I definitely resonated more with Ismae and her desperate mission. But I am always up for a sequel, and I had a number of questions about Sybella's past and future that I looked forward to having answered. I also held onto fond memories of Beast from the previous book. More of him was nothing but fine in my book.
Sybella has returned to the viper pit of her youth. Or rather, she has been returned to it on the orders of the Abbess of St. Mortain. Given strict instructions to ferret out the plans of the notorious d'Albret and forward them on to the Abbess and the duchess (presumably in that order), Sybella has donned her former persona within d'Albret's keep. Playing the bloodthirsty wanton woman has always come naturally to her, at least as far back as she can remember, and Sybella finds the second skin fits as uncomfortably well as it did before she escaped to the convent and found a cause worthy of her desire for vengeance. As loath as she is to return, Sybella holds fast to the promise the Abbess made, that it would be her hand and hers alone that would finally take d'Albret's life. That surety is what sees her through the interminable weeks and months at the mercy of a horror of a man who has betrayed his country and his people over and over again. What Sybella doesn't count on is another message from the Abbess with instructions to ascertain the status of one of the most well-known knights of the realm. The Beast of Waroch was believed to have fallen in battle holding off d'Albret's soldiers while his duchess rode to safety. But when Sybella reluctantly delves into the Beast's fate, she finds much more at stake within the bowels of the castle that has always haunted her.
DARK TRIUMPH starts of with gusto! I was instantly caught up in the familiar trappings and machinations of the beleaguered court of Brittany. And I do mean instantly. I love that we jump right back into things without any summing up or recounting. It helped me feel an early attachment to and sympathy for Sybella by not reminding me how much I loved Ismae (and Duval). And so it was without a single hitch that I fell in love with this most burdened of young women. I felt like falling down on my knees myself and praying for vengeance to fall in her hand like a bright blade, allowing her to put her most vicious demons to rest. She deserved that much. Such strong storytelling on Ms. LaFevers' part, transferring readers' emotions and loyalties in this seamless way. As vile as it was, the time spent in d'Albret's clutches was expertly written. I crept around corners and into dark rooms with Sybella, heart in my throat for what she would find (or what would find her). When she does make the acquaintance of the man she is to save, the story takes a turn as they set out on a mad journey to warn the duchess of the villain's plans. And it is during this section that we are treated to the lovely unfolding of a most unlikely friendship. Thus, the heart of this very personal novel is revealed. One of my favorite scenes between Sybella and Beast:
We hit the road at a full gallop and cross it in a few swift strides. Beast reaches the cover of the trees first, then Yannic. Just as my horse leaves the road, a shout goes up from behind. We've been spotted.
"Faster!" I shout to the others, but the forest is a tangle of fallen limbs and gnarled roots, forcing us to slow down. Beast falls back to ride beside me. "Return to the road and keep riding. Yannic and I will lead them away."
"You're daft!" I shout, ducking a low-hanging branch. "I'll not leave a wounded man and a cripple to stand alone against so many."
"Now you're being daft. Did you see how many there were?"
"Twenty. Maybe more. Here!" We have reached a small clearing with a ring of tall, jagged ancient stones, some of them high and wide enough to hide us from sight. At least until we are ready to make our stand.
Beast's mouth is set in grim lines as he nods Yannic toward one of the stones. His jaw is clenched--at first I think he is in pain, and then I realize he is furious. "Go!" He puts the full force of command in his low, urgent voice. "I'll hold them off."
I look at him in disbelief. "Your fever has eaten your brain if you think I'll leave now."
He leans out of his saddle as if to grab me, then stops as his ribs bite him. "This is no fight."
"I know." I steer my horse toward one of the stones. The sword is not my favorite weapon, but its longer reach will be of greater value here. Once I take out a few with my throwing knives--
"No!" Beast makes a grab for my reins, but he misses and nearly falls off his horse. "I will not stand by and watch you struck down before me." His eyes burn--with anger, I think, until I see that he is also afraid. Afraid for me.
His concern inflames my own temper, for I do not deserve such consideration, and certainly not from him. I will not abandon Alyse's brother like I abandoned her. "And I will not stand idly by and watch you die a second time," I tell him.
Then d'Albret's men are hard upon us. Resigned, Beast draws the sword from his back with his right hand while his left closes around the handle of the ax. "I will not let them take you alive."
Of all the things he could have said, that is the one thing that comforts me the most. "Nor I you," I say around a strange lump that has formed in my throat.
Then he smiles his great big maniacal grin just as our pursuers burst out of the trees, their horses' hooves churning up the forest floor.
And so it goes between the two of them, neither willing to give up on the other and both hell-bent on achieving their goals. While quite different from the more refined dance that occurs between Ismae and Duval, it's a deliciously entertaining slice of swordplay. Rooted in mutual respect and a shared history of violence and sacrifice for their gods, this core of understanding and affection that grows between Death's handmaiden and the wildest of soldiers is quiet and strong and something to behold. As is everything about this most excellent of sequels....more
Jennifer E. Smith gets the cutest covers in the world, doesn't she? I picked up The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight almost entirely on the merits of its adorable cover alone. And when I saw the cover for THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE, I immediately began daydreaming about how happy they would look next to each other on my shelves--an activity I engage in all too often when it comes to books of a feather. And given how much I loved The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, I felt that my feelings for her next novel were sort of a foregone conclusion. Especially when you take into account the much-billed You've Got Mail meets Notting Hill premise. I ask you--who can resist the wild potential of that setup? No one. That is who. But one of the things I loved the most about The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight was how it packed so much more of a punch that its name or cover suggested. It was deeper and wider than its slim-ish page count and 24-hour time period foretold. I don't think I realized going into this one how much I was counting on the same thing being true of it.
Ellie O'Neill and Graham Larkin don't know each other at all. Ellie is the daughter of an ex-waitress turned shop owner in the backwoods town of Henley, Maine. Graham is an all American kid turned movie star from California. The two have nothing at all in common (except perhaps a love for Charlotte's Web) until Graham mistypes a single email address, hits send, and it winds up in Ellie's inbox way on the other side of the country. His misplaced missive ignites what evolves into a lively correspondence in which the two teenagers exchange jokes, detail their day-to-day goings on, their hopes, their dreams, and ruminate on what "happy" looks like. Neither of them quite realize how much the burgeoning virtual friendship means to them until the location for Graham's upcoming rom-com falls through, and he finds himself suggesting Henley as a possible alternative. And with that one act, he somewhat wittingly, somewhat unwittingly sets the two of them on a collision course. The results are both enlightening and unexpectedly fraught as Graham finds a kind of home in the most unlikely of places and Ellie grapples with a secret she promised never to tell. Soon Graham's time in Henley will be up. And where will they go from there?
THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE has a great deal of charm going for it. Graham and Ellie are eminently likable. The lovable happenstance of their "meeting" is difficult to resist. And the small-town Maine setting is one I've enjoyed in the past and that is once again used to great effect here. Smith's writing is capable and occasionally lovely, if not as consistently so as it was in The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. One of the lovelier observations here (taken from my uncorrected ARC):
No matter how long it's been or how far you've drifted, no matter how unknowable you might be, there were at least two people in the world whose job it was to see you, to find you, to recognize you and reel you back in. No matter what.
I feel that one of Jennifer E. Smith's real strengths is the upfront, sensitive way in which she depicts families. Her characters' romantic entanglements are not resolved in place of their familial relationships, but as a result of their dealing with them first. Sometimes the one unfolds along with the other, and often they help one another work through their baggage. What I'm saying is their priorities are generally in order, and I dig that about Smith's characters (and her books). Like Hadley, Ellie struggles with father issues. These issues are, in fact, meant to be pivotal to the story. But where Hadley's felt incredibly real and meaningful to me, Ellie's rarely cross the border from the tepid into the profound. So when the plot takes a turn to explore that vein, I felt ambivalent when I should have been riveted. As for Ellie and Graham, I liked them all right. But I never truly fell for them in a way that made me unable to look away. They are both good people. They're good and they're well-intentioned and they're dedicated to achieving their goals for the future. I was happy that they found one another. I wanted them to find a way to be together. I just didn't feel compelled to stick around and watch it happen. They "looked" like happy to me, if you will, but they failed to inspire the real emotion behind the exterior. In the end, THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE has all the key elements of a competent, if somewhat bland romantic comedy, but it lacks that certain spark that makes it a keeper....more
I'm relieved the Cover Gods decided to repackage this series. The "I'm gonna eat you for breakfast" model photo fOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
I'm relieved the Cover Gods decided to repackage this series. The "I'm gonna eat you for breakfast" model photo from the original cover of Shatter Me was seven different kinds of wrong. The only thing I loved about that original cover was the slashed title. I do miss that and kind of wish they'd ported it over in the repackaging. And while I'm not a huge fan of the sky blue and pink they've opted for in the new covers, I applaud the general direction and the nod to some of the overarching themes of the series. Most of all, I hope it reels in new readers for Tahereh Mafi, because she (and her books) really deserve them. Not long back, I caved and read Destroy Me, the e-novella Ms. Mafi wrote from Warner's perspective. It takes place in between the first and second books, and I finished it even more crazy devoted to that crazy psycho than I was before (and that is saying something). And, of course, I've spent the last handful of months impatiently waiting to see what insanity he would perpetrate next in this the second full novel. And I can tell you now, as far as Warner goes? I was not disappointed.
I do apologize, but beyond this point there be unavoidable spoilers for the first book. Proceed with caution.
Juliette is not adjusting to Omega Point. Not even a little bit. Of course, it's pretty hard to relax and let your guard down when every single unusual inhabitant of the secret haven stares at her askance, afraid they'll accidentally brush up against her and pay the price with their lives. Her reputation, as always, precedes her. And so life at Omega Point is, in many respects, not so different from life at the compound. With Warner. No one is actively trying to kill her, and that is a definite plus. But no one is telling her anything either. And, as the days go by, even Adam grows more and more remote, preoccupied with something he won't can't tell her. The ever-boisterious Kenji tries to bridge the gap by sitting with Juliette in the cafeteria and trying to teach her a little of what they do there and why they need her to get over her inhibitions and put her unparalleled powers to work on their behalf. But she's spent 17 years distancing herself from those around her. It's going to take more than irreverent humor and overtures of friendship to break down the barriers she's erected. It's not until she's allowed out on her first mission that a crack appears in her armor. She comes face to face with Warner once more, and the resulting emotions (on both sides) are . . . not what she expected them to be. It seems he is to play a part in her life whether she likes it or not. The question is, will either of them survive the encounter, whether Warner can touch Juliette or not?
Sticks and stones keep breaking my bones but these words, these words will kill me.
My love for this book is entirely tied up in my love for Warner. This should come as no surprise to any of you. And I fully own up to my inexplicable attachment to this scary, broken antihero. I referred to him as a villain in my review of Shatter Me. But I no longer think of him as such. No, he pretty much singlehandedly slides into antihero territory in this installment. Which is exactly what I was hoping would happen and which just complicates my mess of feelings, all of which mirror Juliette's. But I'm telling you, the scenes in this book that crackle are the scenes in which Warner is in the room. That's all there is to it. It's almost as though he consciously wraps himself in the most urgent and beautiful language Ms. Mafi has at her disposal. And it works like a spell to draw Juliette (and the reader) to him and to his explosive existence. When he's not in the room, the whole thing dims a bit. One of my favorite moments comes when Juliette looks into Warner's face and realizes,
It's the kind of face no one believes in anymore.
And she's right. There's something hesitant and fine about him here and I, for one, was mesmerized. Don't get me wrong. Adam and Juliette's relationship is as sweet as ever, but I did feel as though it relied a bit too much on its portrayal in the first book. That their connection wasn't as present and tangible as it was then. Oh, who are we kidding? It's all about Warner and Juliette for me. Poor Juliette. She doesn't have an easy time of it this go round. I love her. I feel for her and the lot she's been given. Her constant internalization and self-flagellation didn't bother me as I gather it has some other readers. She felt as consistent to me as ever, and I understood and sympathized with her at every turn. Interestingly, I did miss the sweeping, throbbing language of Shatter Me. There are smatterings of it throughout, of course, but it is decidedly dialed down in this sequel. And I missed it. This is ameliorated to a degree by the added humor present in the form of Kenji. The larger-than-life rebel is a razor wit and an utterly welcome addition to the we-take-ourselves-so-seriously-we-can-barely-crack-a-smile duo of Adam and Juliette. They need him. Every nutty denizen of Omega Point needs him. And I giggled helplessly at every arrogant, hysterical word that comes out of his mouth. Humor aside, though, I was a bit bothered by a couple of key plot points, a couple of manipulative moves that took the wind out of the book's sails right when it needed the most momentum. They felt unnecessary to me, too rich for a book already wealthy with words and angst and impossibility. But where Shatter Me wound up to a crazy, out of left field ending, UNRAVEL ME kicks butt and takes names with an ending that shot me to the moon and back. No joke, chapter 62 is enough to lay you out flat. And so I'm gonna leave you with my favorite bit from that most excellent of chapters and hope it gets under your skin enough to send you running to the bookstore to get your own copy.
He's holding me like I'm made of feathers.
He's holding my face and looking at his own hands like he can't believe he's caught this bird who's always so desperate to fly away.His hands are shaking, just a little bit, just enough for me to feel the slight tremble against my skin. Gone is the boy with the guns and the skeletons in his closet. These hands holding me have never held a weapon. These hands have never touched death. These hands are perfect and kind and tender.
And he leans in, so carefully. Breathing and not breathing and hearts beating between us and he's so close, he's so close and I can't feel my legs anymore. I can't feel my fingers or the cold or the emptiness of this room because all I feel is him, everywhere, filling everything and he whispers
A couple of years ago I stumbled across a new-to-me book by new-to-me author Lisa Schroeder. I cracked open ChasiOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
A couple of years ago I stumbled across a new-to-me book by new-to-me author Lisa Schroeder. I cracked open Chasing Brooklyn with what you might describe as less than high expectations, with the result that I was utterly blindsided by the reality. I am a decided fan of well-executed novels in verse. Have been for awhile now. And this was just such a one--an expertly crafted study of grief and its aftermath, on survivors reaching out to each other. I read it in a single evening and looked forward to more from Ms. Schroeder. Somehow I never made good on that resolution, though. I think it was that I was nervous her others wouldn't live up to the perfect moment that was Chasing Brooklyn. Like maybe I shouldn't go out on any more dates with her books for fear none of them would quite match that heady first date. So I held back. But when the early buzz for FALLING FOR YOU began to swirl so enticingly around me, it wasn't long before my resolve dissolved in the face of a pretty, pretty cover and the potential for such pretty, pretty words.
Rae needs someone to want her. Someone to care about her and for her to care about in return. It's been years since she's gotten any of that from her mother, let alone whichever man they're currently dependent on for money, food, and shelter. That's why the arrival of Nathan Sharp seems so timely. Nathan is almost immediately into her, and it's difficult for Rae to see past his flattering, affectionate manner. Encouraged by her two best friends who've quietly watched her avoid meaningful relationships in the past, Rae decides to give something with Nathan a shot. And, boy, do sparks fly. The undeniable physical connection between them makes itself both felt, seen, and heard. And before Rae knows it, she has a full-fledged boyfriend, complete with obligatory hand-holding and locker-kissing. Unfortunately, Nathan also appears to come with a monstrously large load of jealousy and neediness. So much, in fact, that she finds herself avoiding him in order to catch her breath. Trouble is, Nathan doesn't really do breathers very well. Any separation at all fills him with despair. And what with her home life being about as bad as it can be, and her need for time and space in which to work and write and avoid her increasingly unstable stepfather, Rae realizes she needs to break things off before she gets in too deep and Nathan's need for her becomes more than she can handle.
I wasn't too fussed when I found out FALLING FOR YOU was not in verse. I mean, I had kind of hoped it would be, but I was also eager to see how Ms. Schroeder fared in prose. I enjoyed the initial structure and set-up, starting out at the end and then interspersing Rae's account of the past six months with short bursts of the crisis that is to come. I liked Rae fine. She was smack dab in the middle of a nightmare and yet she kept on getting up and going to school and work and fixing an endless string of dinners for her worthless stepfather. But I never really got inside her skin, you know? I understood what made her tick, but it never went beyond skin deep emotion for me. The writing was fine as well. But I quickly found myself missing the wonderful poetic turns of phrase I know Schroeder is capable of. Since Rae is a poet herself, there are excerpts from her poetry journal, but none of them lifted me off the ground. They never felt as genuine or revealing as I was looking for. I also liked the idea of exploring a relationship with one utterly co-dependent partner and one increasingly disaffected one. But Nathan and Rae never surprised me. I could see the turns they were going to take several steps ahead. And minus a deeper emotional investment in Rae, it was hard to stay as present in her predicament as I'd like to have been. And while I liked Leo (it's impossible not to like Leo), I wished I'd gotten more of his perspective. He remained a sort of innocuously good presence in Rae's life, never quite crossing over into vital or vibrant enough to fully inhabit his place in the story. He has a couple of elegant moments that gave me cause for hope. But they (and Rae's journey) were overshadowed by the heavy messages that permeated the novel. Where such themes were delivered subtly and impressed me deeply in Chasing Brooklyn, here they felt too overt, too . . . simple and monochrome and easily swallowed, if you will. I rather suspect I shall sit on this underwhelmed bench alone. And that is just fine. I hope FALLING FOR YOU finds the readers it's meant to....more