I'm going to warn you upfront that I had an extreme reaction to this book. An extreme and unexpected reaction. Just ask DH. He had to listen to me ranI'm going to warn you upfront that I had an extreme reaction to this book. An extreme and unexpected reaction. Just ask DH. He had to listen to me rant ad nauseam until I'd exorcised the demons enough to move on. The thing is I haven't reacted so strongly to a book for quite some time and it took me a bit by surprise. Oh, well, who are we kidding? It threw me for one hell of a loop and I had an extremely hard time shaking it off. Despite all this I'm going to try to continue my tradition of spoiler-free reviews and, as a result, won't be able to tell you the precise reasons why I reacted the way I did. I won't be able to go into excruciating detail explaining exactly how and when my emotions bounced back and forth. But let's be honest. That's probably for the best. So.
Becky Jack is a Mormon housewife living in Layton, Utah, pregnant with her fourth child. She has just sold a screenplay to a film agency in LA and is meeting them there to sign the contract, when in walks Felix Callahan--sexy British star of Becky's favorite romantic comedies. The two of them clash right from the start and, despite their visible disdain for one another (and the fact that Felix has long been Becky's movie star crush), they find themselves staying at the same hotel and eating dinner together that night. Becky returns to Utah sure it was some fluke, a fun story to tell the fam, and that she'll never see Felix again. Au contraire, Becky. Turns out Felix hasn't been able to get their abrasive encounter out of his head and the next time he has a layover in Salt Lake City, he turns up to see her and figure out what the deal is. From there these two unlikely characters become the very best of friends. Talk on the phone daily, stay up all night long talking, drop everything to jet off to New York at a moment's notice kind of BFFs. As you might expect, a whole host of factors get in the way of their "friendship," including at times concerned/jealous spouses, their different faiths (or rather Becky's strict one and Felix's utter lack of one), their diametrically opposed lifestyles, etc. Self-proclaimed platonic lovers, these two weather the small and large storms of life as their friendship and story stretches out over a decade and more.
I'll preface my comments by saying I have read all of Shannon Hale's YA books. I love her Books of Bayern and thought her first adult novel Austenland was a fun, light romp for Austen fans. I expected to like this book just fine. I knew it would be quirky and different and fun. I certainly didn't go in expecting a happy ending because, well, given the subject matter who would? I laughed my way through the first 100 pages because any scene Becky and Felix share sparkles. I even cried. Once. At a scene about 80 pages in or so that was just so real (and a little close to home) it struck me in the gut. However, I felt that the next 250 pages were an uneven roller coaster ride of conflicting emotions, increasingly hard-to-swallow turns of event, and very inconsistent characterizations. Every aspect of the story felt so deliberate and pre-planned that it got in the way of my reading experience. It was strangely a prime example of too much telling and not enough showing. The narrator and Becky herself told me over and over (and over again) how much she was in love with her solid-as-a-brick-wall husband, how little Felix meant to her compared to Mike, how she would never do anything to jeopardize her marriage, etc. Her actions spoke differently. The actual depiction of her marriage was lukewarm at best. The rock Mike was too vague an image to grasp onto. Next to Felix he was a mere smudge. Felix clearly meant an inexplicable amount to Becky. And vice versa. These two cannot function properly without each other. They will always be returning to each other. The crystal clear, most evocative, and resonant depictions were of Becky and Felix. And it was simply too difficult for me to buy everything Becky was saying in the face of what she was showing me page after page. THE ACTOR AND THE HOUSEWIFE is an exploration of whether or not married men and women can be friends and just friends. The answer is, of course, yes. But that is not what Becky and Felix are. I know that's what they're supposed to be. But they're not. They are intimates. They are soulmates. That is the way every encounter, ever glance, every touch is characterized. The intent seemed to be some sort of Humphrey Bogart-Ingrid Bergman-Paul Henreid triangle a la Casablanca. The result was a Rock Hudson-Doris Day-Tony Randall anti-triangle a la Pillow Talk. And by the time the overwrought, rushed ending arrived I felt so completely jerked around I was unable to deal with the melodrama a moment longer.
I'm really sorry it ended this way, THE ACTOR AND THE HOUSEWIFE. I know you've gotten a lot of positive reviews and it's quite possible it's me and not you. Fortunately, each reader can decide for herself. And I hope they do. As for you and me, I think it's time we start seeing other people....more
I waited for this one to become available at the library for quite awhile. It was always checked out and that, coupled with the rather rave reviews I'I waited for this one to become available at the library for quite awhile. It was always checked out and that, coupled with the rather rave reviews I'd read, made me excited to get my hands on it. The cover is decidedly hokey, but I've come to regret bouts of cover-snobbery many a time before. So I resolved not to let it get to me this time. Besides. I finished the book and still can't wrap my mind around what the tairen actually look like. So the creature on the cover is as good a rendering as any, I'm sure.
Essentially, it is a Cinderella story. One in which the prince is actually a king. A massively overbearing, centuries old king at that. Rain Tairen Soul is well-known throughout the world as the man who almost destroyed it all when his beloved was killed. His rage was of such a magnitude that it nearly scorched the world. Thousands upon thousands died as a result. This all took place nigh unto a thousand years ago and Rain has spent the intervening years basically trying to hang onto his sanity and not give into his anger and sorrow. Enter Ellie--found on the side of the road as a child and taken in by a woodcarver and his wife. In a moment of utter terror, her soul cries out and Rain's hears it. He comes immediately to her rescue and the two of them attempt to make sense of what has happened to them. And what has happened is that they are soul mates. That's right. Rain has love thrust upon him centuries after he thought he was through with it for good. And Ellie has it swoop down upon her for the first time in her life. It's all very anguished and touching.
Except it's not.
I don't know if it's just that the story's been done before and in more compelling ways. Or if it's the he's older than Methuselah and she's a spring chicken ick factor. But it didn't do it for me. It's like the whole time the story was telling me, I am So Epic. Bask in my epicness! And Rain was storming around yelling at me, I am So Tortured. Revel in my anguish! Meanwhile, Ellie was tip-toeing around in his wake whispering, I am fragile but with a Core Of Steel. Underestimate me at your peril! But none of it felt real. It just felt like the veneer of epicness and torture and steel cores. There was also a string of women drugged and manipulated against their will which really rubbed me wrong. And did anyone else think Ellie should totally be with Bel? Or was that just me? Now the story certainly had its sweet moments. How could it not? At just over 400 pages, it never gets beyond the courtship stage of Rain and Ellie's relationship. But even then, I didn't feel like they got to know each other well. But I didn't feel like I knew them either so it wasn't that great a loss. I do have to say that this book (and series) is dearly beloved by many so, clearly, your mileage may (and probably will) vary. It may very well fly for you. But, for me, it never got its feet off the ground. ...more
And so ends the trilogy that began with A Great and Terrible Beauty, continued with Rebel Angels, and concludes in this final volume. I liked the fiAnd so ends the trilogy that began with A Great and Terrible Beauty, continued with Rebel Angels, and concludes in this final volume. I liked the first one well enough because of its unique blend of a wild, magical, mythical realm barely constrained behind stiff Victorian curtains. I really got into the second one as the plot became more complex, Gemma came into her own powers, Felicity and Ann's stories became more layered, and poor beautiful Pippa was relegated to the Realms indefinitely. When I saw how thick the third one was, my eagerness ratcheted up a notch. After all, I have been sitting around lately asking for longer books. Suddenly, here one is.
Unfortunately, 800 pages later, the best thing about it remains the first four words, it's lovely title, taken from a poem by W.B. Yeats. And it does capture the extremely bittersweet feel of the last portion of the book. But somehow this installment failed to capture my imagination. It frustrated me more than anything. Instead of making good use of everything she fought for in Rebel Angels, Gemma spends the entire novel trying to decide whether or not to do what she decided to do at the end of the last book. Not until the final pages does she get a grip on herself and do what needs to be done. I thought we were done with crippling indecision in the previous books. I wanted the Gorgon to just let loose and throttle her! Meanwhile, Felicity and Ann are apparently thirteen again and spend the majority of their time being petty and distrustful, backstabbing Gemma whenever they get the chance. Pippa is the most interesting of the original friends, munching on the berries of the dead in all her Miss Havisham glory. But her path is extremely predictable. And Kartik? Fiery, beautiful Kartik? Sigh. The end to his story had far too much in common with Merlin's fate for my taste. I will say that the scene where Gemma and Kartik place their hands inside the stone was achingly beautiful. But, as with much in this hefty book, it was too little too late and I'm left feeling sad. Wishing, somehow, it could all have gone differently....more
If I tell you that each book in this series just gets more and more exceptional, will you believe me? Or will you believe that I, like Eugenides, am sIf I tell you that each book in this series just gets more and more exceptional, will you believe me? Or will you believe that I, like Eugenides, am simply telling you a version of the truth to get you to do what I want you to do? (In this case, to get you to read these books yesterday). Both things are true, by the way. The King of Attoliais even better than its predecessor and I will tell you anything to get you to read these books. Yesterday. Plus, check out my favorite cover of the three. Look at the feather scar on his cheek. Her hand on his shoulder. His grip on the sword. So awesome.
Eugenides has just embarked upon his self-imposed life of exile in Attolia. And to any and all onlookers, he is ill at ease in his new home. The queen appears to despise him, the court thinks him an idiot of epic proportions, and the guard are ready to murder him on their queen's behalf. The story follows a young lieutenant named Costis who is having a shockingly bad day. In a fit of righteous indignation, he hauled off and punched the king in the face in front of several witnesses, including the captain of the guard. Certain he will hang in the morning, Costis is shocked and discomfited to find himself assigned to be the king's personal assistant. Forced to serve the man he hates, Costis soon finds himself on the receiving end of a most unorthodox education of a lifetime. Through his eyes, the reader gets an intimate, exquisitely poignant look at the relationship between the King and the Queen of Attolia.
This third installment is the big payoff in many ways. The Thief set up the key characters, briefly sketching out their backgrounds and motivations--all against a background of a grand quest--and it did it with humor and style. The Queen of Attolia delved into the complicated psyches of the two main players, word by artfully chosen word, making your heart ache for them, ensuring you fall in love with them. The King of Attolia cements the whole gorgeous package. This is where Eugenides comes into his own. This is where you realize he's smarter than you. And so is Megan Whalen Turner. And you wouldn't have it any other way. This book is the real deal. Every scene is choice. Every sarcastic exchange. Every vicious riposte. Every hidden glance. It's a rereader's paradise and, as Oscar Wilde said, "If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all." The King of Attolia is so worth it. I can already tell I will be reading about these characters for the rest of my life. ...more
I felt a bit blue last night as I finished Fire Study, the third and final volume in Maria V. Snyder's Study Trilogy. Though she is currently workingI felt a bit blue last night as I finished Fire Study, the third and final volume in Maria V. Snyder's Study Trilogy. Though she is currently working on a new series following a side character from the Study books, this is the last one to center on the adventures of Yelena, the convicted murderer, turned poison taster, turned diplomatic liaison. I felt blue because I'd been expecting more and I ended up finishing it more out of a feeling of obligation than because I was truly engrossed.
The story picks up shortly after the events of Magic Study leave off. Yelena, her brother Leif, and the mercurial Moon Man are busy trying to mop up the Soulstealer's mess and dealing with accusations from the Mage's Council. First Magician Roze Featherstone is calling for Yelena's head on a platter and there is little rest for the weary on the horizon. The problem is, very little happens from this point on. Or rather, very little new stuff happens.
What there is is page after page of no one believing Yelena that Roze really is That Evil. Page after page of people stabbing each other with curare left and right (and waking up from being stabbed). Page after page of no Valek. And when he is there Yelena's not letting him help her. Instead she spends the majority of her time worrying about his potential demise and trying to protect him from a threat he's much better equipped to deal with than anyone else in the book. Towards the last three quarters of the story, the characters do start to wake up and act like themselves. They begin to deal with some of the meatier issues hanging over them just as the book reaches its end. And I felt myself wondering what took them so long? And wishing that the wonderfully dark, emotional atmosphere and tension from Poison Study were present here. Because I missed them....more
I'm still just a little bit protective of my feelings over this book. Do you ever feel that way after finishing a book that completely threw you for aI'm still just a little bit protective of my feelings over this book. Do you ever feel that way after finishing a book that completely threw you for a loop (in the very best way)? I feel distinctly protective of our relationship, the book and I. I'm still mulling over the way things ended on my lunch break and as I lie in bed waiting to fall asleep. Because it took me by such surprise, and because I fell in love with it so fast and hard, I'm just not at all sure I'm ready to talk about the experience. But enough of my book reviewing eccentricities. I've held onto my feelings long enough and it's time to let them see the light of day. Because UNSTICKY did a bit of a number on me. This is my first foray into Sarra Manning's body of work and I'm kicking myself for waiting so long to find out for myself what the rest of you have been going on about. For those of you not familiar with her work, Ms. Manning is known for her contemporary young adult titles, which have been published on both sides of the pond. This is her first contemporary adult title and it, unfortunately, it's only available in the UK. I ordered my copy from Awesome Books after reading Sabrina's excellent review over at About Happy Books. I seriously ordered it that very day and looked forward to its arrival in my mailbox each day after that.
A side note: I do love reading a novel that's never been edited for an American audience. I get lost in the wonderful wording and in the different sensibility that seems to pervade the whole. Definite bonus factor here.
Grace is having a bad 23rd birthday. Make that a very bad birthday. Her boyfriend decides it's a good idea to dump her in the handbag section of her favorite department store on her birthday and then storm out in a huff of seriously dubious righteous indignation when she doesn't handle it with the utmost grace and decorum. But things get even weirder when she is shortly spirited out of the shop by an unidentified male who seems both appalled at her tears and bent on absconding with her to have a drink. Monumentally confused and emotionally wrung out, Grace gets as far as sitting down at a table with the mysterious Vaughn before her common sense kicks in like a champ and she beats a path out of there. But it's not the last she's heard of Vaughn. He has a proposition for her that involves a six-month stint of playing the role of his girlfriend at a series of high-profile art soirees in exchange for, well, cold hard cash. Appalled and offended, Grace has no intention of accepting his outrageous offer. But then she gets to thinking. Her life hasn't exactly been coming up roses lately. She's massively, massively in debt due to a pesky habit of binge shopping whenever things get too grim. And things get grim pretty often, what with soaring credit card bills, her demeaning and thankless job in the fashion industry she loves, and her inability to extend a meaningful relationship beyond the three-month mark. And so it is with much trepidation and not a little bit of terror that she accepts Vaughn's offer, signs a contract, and enters a whole new world.
There's no denying it. I just . . . I just could not tear my eyes away from this story for the entire 448 pages of the book. Something about Grace and Vaughn immediately dug into my character pleasure center and made a home there. They were so real, so horribly, horribly isolated from the world around them. And it was incredibly gratifying to watch them come to grips with both the extremely unpleasant and the achingly beautiful aspects of their own realities, when forced to see them through the lens of the other's perspective. Especially as they hailed from diametrically opposite worlds and there is little to no incentive to be anything other than brutally honest when your "relationship" is built on the most unsentimental and mercenary of contractual terms. Honestly, there was just so much pain, possibility, and ruthlessly reined in emotion lying between these two that I was an absolute goner. All I could do was watch in exquisite agony as they hurt each other and misunderstood each other and loved each other over and over again until something had to give. I was so involved it almost didn't matter to me what that something was or how it ended. Almost. Of course it mattered to me. But the ride itself was such a pleasure, I would have loved UNSTICKY for that alone. Happens that I love it for its ending as well. Though I (as always seems to be the case) could have done with a teensy bit more in the way of declarations. But that's me. Part modern-day Pretty Woman, part up close and personal, present-day Pygmalion, it's a winner in my book. If you're a sucker for immeasurably flawed characters, blistering romance, and vintage clothing, then this is the book for you. UNSTICKY rocked my little bookish world and instantly transformed me into a card-carrying member of the Sarra Manning fan club....more
So this series just keeps getting more and more intense. And in such unexpected ways. I love it when an author has the ability (and the guts) to slipSo this series just keeps getting more and more intense. And in such unexpected ways. I love it when an author has the ability (and the guts) to slip in a real shocker without compromising her characters or the story as a whole. In a series, that's particularly hard to do without making it seem like a gratuitous plot twist inserted merely to keep the series going. Patricia Briggs has a 7-book deal for her Mercy Thompson series and book three has shown that not only does she know exactly what she's doing, but that we can trust her. To keep her characters and her world consistent. To take them down the right paths and introduce them to the right people...or werewolves and vampires in this case.
Mercy lives in a world where werewolves, vampires, and the fae exist side by side with humans. The first book, Moon Called, focuses on the werewolves. The second, Blood Bound, centers on the vampires, including Mercy's quirky Scooby Doo loving friend Stefan. In this third installment, coyote shape shifter and VW mechanic Mercy Thompson is called in to help the fae solve a series of murders on the local fae reservation. Soon after, her friend Zee is arrested for the murder and, just like that, Mercy's in the thick of it, determined to clear Zee's name no matter what. Add to that the increasingly imperative choice she must make between the two werewolves in her life: Adam Hauptman (the Alpha of the local pack who's already claimed her as his mate) and Dr. Samuel Cornick (the wolf she fell in love with at 16). In what is becoming classic Briggs style, Iron Kissed combines an intriguing mystery with a streak of compelling romance, interspersed with glimpses of your worst nightmares. The combination is the height of entertainment. And what holds it all together is Mercy herself. The girl doesn't know the meaning of the words back down. I absolutely love these books. ...more
I tossed Magic Bites into the my last Amazon order, mostly because of the Patricia Briggs quotes on both front and back covers as well as several posI tossed Magic Bites into the my last Amazon order, mostly because of the Patricia Briggs quotes on both front and back covers as well as several positive blog reviews I'd read. The most fascinating thing about this book is that the author's name, Ilona Andrews, is actually a combination of Ilona and Andrew Gordon's first names. They are the husband and wife team who create the Kate Daniels books. That is to say, together they come up with the characters and plot, then Ilona writes the book, and finally the two of them wrangle over editing/general clean-up. Awesome, no?
I have to say what I liked best about this first book is the crazy, psychedelic Atlanta it takes place in. This alternate city is saturated in daily waves of magic that doggedly eat away at any signs of civilization and/or technology. The city's skyscrapers are no more than dwindling piles of granite and steel. Magic and technology are basically anathema in this world and the inhabitants of Atlanta live a sort of refugee-type half life. Having adapted to the dark surges when the electricity and cars stop working and people take to horse-drawn carriages and camp stoves. During these times the supernatural rules and mere humans get by. It reminded me vaguely of the gritty, post apocalyptic world Robin McKinley created in Sunshine. The vampires share a few common characteristics as well, their extremely gruesome appearance being at the top of the list. It's nice to see someone else bucking the current beautiful and seductive trend. Not that I have anything against your run-of-the-mill sparkly vampire. It's just fun to see the ubercreepy version as well.
The reader is dropped into Kate Daniels' life without a by-your-leave. Being the somewhat cantankerous reader that I am, I like it when a book challenges me to keep up, grabs me by the throat, shakes me once, and says, "Immerse yourself or be left in the dust!" In this world where humans exist side by side with creatures straight out of mythology and nightmare, it was a treat to attempt to navigate it without having everything spoon fed to me. I like Kate. She does share some characteristics with Briggs' Mercy Thompson. She has a sense of humor and she ruthlessly guards her independence. Kate's a bit rougher around the edges than Mercy. She's had a rough past, undoubtedly, but one of the strokes of genius in this series is that the reader doesn't know what Kate is. We know she's something. But we don't know what. And Kate is determined not to tell anyone. Not even the reader. Oh, we'll find out eventually. But I'm all tingly with the mystery of Kate and her powers....more
I know this is an almost unpardonably early review. But honestly, I waited on it as long as I possibly could before the effoOriginally reviewed here.
I know this is an almost unpardonably early review. But honestly, I waited on it as long as I possibly could before the effort of holding it in caused me some sort of bodily harm. I've been anxiously looking forward to FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS for going on two years now, and the day an ARC showed up on my doorstep was just a very good day indeed. When a book you've been dying to read finally falls into your lap, do you ever just hold onto it and savor the possibilities? I do. I did with this one for a little while. Don't get me wrong, sometimes I just tear into it immediately. But sometimes I don't. Because sometimes dreaming about it while you're actually holding it in your hands is special, too. So I savored and I dreamt and I started reading and . . . I was gone. My first reaction to finishing it was a sense of complete satisfaction mingled with sadness that it was over. My second was thinking that I cannot wait to see FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS work its magic on readers far and wide. As post-apocalyptic retellings of classics go, it pretty much killed it on all levels for this devoted Austen girl.
Elliot North knows how to work hard. As a member of the elite Luddite nobility, she has a keen sense of what is expected of her, of which actions are acceptable and which ones could get you disowned and out on the streets. It is that very sense of duty that kept her from following her childhood friend Kai four years ago, when he fled servitude on her father's estate for a life of uncertainty and, just possibly, freedom. Their friendship was forbidden from the beginning, as Kai belongs to the Post-Reductionist class, and ever since the catastrophic Reduction, matters or birth and class ruthlessly define every aspect of a person's life. But now, four long years have passed, and at eighteen years old, Elliot is the only thing keeping the family lands going. As her father and sister grow further distanced from reality, the world as they know it is changing. Determined not to be left behind, Elliot convinces her family to lease the land to a group of unusual shipwrights known as Cloud Fleet. Hoping the extra income will save her home, Elliot is, well, gobsmacked when one of the renowned shipwrights turns out to be none other than her old friend--no longer playful, open Kai, but smart, remote Captain Malakai Wentforth. Elliot knows how to work hard, but even she may not be up to the task of withstanding the flood of guilt and longing that threatens to overtake her with his return. Especially given the suspicions that being to swirl in her head regarding just what he and his fleet are up to.
Everything about this book soars, from its supernal setting to the dreams its characters hold in their hearts. Having read (and adored) Persuasion for years now, it was extremely gratifying to see the massive amounts of care and thought that went into the crafting of this story inspired by Jane Austen's final novel. In fact, I felt a healthy dose of admiration for the storytelling the entire time I was reading it. But the wonderful bit is that it won me over on its own strengths entirely. The world and its sinister history, the characters and their eerily perfect names, the writing and its effortless flow--they're all so interlocked and balanced, coming together so as to make hours go by like seconds. I may have been predisposed to like Elliot, but the way my heart launched itself into my throat when hers did, the way my temper rose on her behalf, and the way I held my breath at her restraint and cheered her adamant refusal to be downtrodden . . . I more-than-liked Elliot. I more-than-liked Kai (even when I wanted to hurt him). And most of all, I more-than-liked the brilliant ending. Here is one of my favorite non-spoilery passages (taken from my uncorrected ARC), in which you get a feel for the way the writing lauds the original while extending it to support the strengths of these new characters and their spectacular world:
Elliot had had enough. "If you can't be civil to me, Miss Phoenix, I wish you'd leave me in peace. I have never done anything to you, and if you seek to punish me for past misdeeds, there is nothing you can devise that I haven't already suffered." Four years of worrying about Kai, followed by all these weeks of having him back here, but hating her. Was that not punishment enough?
"You baffle me, Miss Elliot," Andromeda replied in the same high-wrought tone. "I can't reconcile the young woman I see before me with the reports I have had."
What lies had Kai been spreading abroad? "I'm sorry to hear that, but it's none of my concern. I am the same person I've always been." She turned her face away from Andromeda, away from the crowd and from Kai. "Maybe you should ask yourself why, if I am the person you've been led to believe, someone would put their faith in me at all?"
"People are foolish when it comes to love."
Elliot hadn't been. She'd been rational, logical, reasonable, prudent. She'd been cold and cruel and disloyal and distant.
She hadn't been foolish.
She'd been the most foolish girl on the island.
Great, no? The killer thing about Elliot (have I mentioned how much I love her?) is that she has all the layers. She's the perfect blend of unmitigated strength and harbored regret. Every moment of every day she embodies dedication and resolve, all the while trying to mask the hope and the pain she lives with every moment of every single day. Here is Elliot:
No one came. Not her sister or her father, not Benedict or the Fleet Posts or even Admiral Innovation. No one appeared in the hall all afternoon but the mute, shuffling figures of the Reduced housemaids as they went about their chores. Time passed, and Elliot sat in the chair, waiting for the verdict from Felicia.
How much of her life had she spent waiting? Waiting for a plant to sprout? Waiting for her father's judgment? Waiting for another letter to appear in the knothole from Kai? Waiting for years after Kai left to feel at peace with her decision? She fed the Reduced, she did her chores, she avoided her father and her sister, and she waited. She did every duty she'd been taught as a Luddite, and she lied with every breath.
I'd say I don't know what to say, but I do. And it's this. Snatch it up the day it comes out--this beautiful book--this meticulous, breathtaking retelling of one of the greatest love stories ever penned.
What's that you say? You love a good dissenting opinion? Well, that's works out well. Because here I am. Not thOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville.
What's that you say? You love a good dissenting opinion? Well, that's works out well. Because here I am. Not thrilled, but certainly prepared, to be the lone voice of dissent on this one. I went ahead and read an ARC of Katja Millay's THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY after sifting through the seemingly universal ecstatic reviews that have been pouring in from all and sundry. And when I say universal, I mean universal. Readers across the board are going out of their ever loving minds over this book. Yeah. I kind of had to get in on that action, especially when a review copy floated my way. This is Millay's debut novel. She self-published it a couple of months ago, and it has (as has become the way of things) since been acquired by Atria Books for paperback publication this summer. A change of cover went along with the acquisition (as is usually the case), and I have to say I'm likely in the minority on this subject as well. I much prefer the self-pub cover. But as the overall package didn't work for me anyway, that's really neither here nor there.
Nastya doesn't talk. Ever. She's recently moved in with her aunt and is starting school in an unfamiliar environment. And she knows very well how the student body is going to react, not just to her lack of voice but to her unorthodox appearance as well. In fact, she courts it. Ever since . . . what happened to her . . . Nastya has adopted a forbidding public facade. When she's alone, the clothes include colors, the makeup is washed off, and she runs. As if for her very life. And yet a couple of people at her new school attach to her anyway, including uber-lascivious Drew and his best friend (and opposite in almost every way) Josh Bennett. Nastya's not sure why, but Drew seems to view her as his next conquest, while Josh watches her from afar, walking around inside a force field of his own. And, somehow, without even wanting to, Nastya becomes incorporated into their daily and weekly rituals. But it's when she stops in the middle of her nightly run and sees Josh in his garage, laboring away over his woodworking projects, that her routine really changes. Unfortunately, neither of them are quite prepared for how that one alteration in routine is going to overhaul their lives. For two people keeping as many dark secrets as they are, even the most minuscule of human connections could spell disaster.
I feel bad about this, but wow was I expecting more. I went in not knowing anything about this book at all, which was exactly the way I wanted it. But I did expect to be engaged. I expected to want to finish it. Unfortunately, I felt neither. I understand how the setup worked so well for many readers. The secrets, the slow buildup between characters, the angry, angsty girl that so often I adore. It makes sense on paper. But I felt such a distance between myself and these characters, a wall of ice separating me from the agony and the longing they experienced nonstop for close to 500 pages. This separation extended to the characters' talents and passions as well. Nastya's love for the piano, Josh's passion for woodworking, Clay's artistry . . . they were spelled out on the page but never brought to life in my mind. Barring that connection to anything but isolation and pain, I simply could not connect or care what happened to them. Instead of exquisite, slow-building tension, what I felt was a terminally lifeless pace and a drab persistence in skirting actually meaningful moments. THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY felt like an oddly antiseptic mash-up of Easy and If I Stay/Where She Went, with more of an emphasis on the pain and violence and less of an effort at character depth and growth. I soldiered through to the end, wanting to make sure I didn't miss out on any sudden flashes of light. But the storytelling remained business as usual to the very end, at which point we got a parting line that sort of pushed me over the edge. It seemed to encapsulate every promise this book ever held and never lived up to. It felt like a last-ditch attempt at the sort of emotional manipulation I detest. Too little, far, far too late. As I mentioned, I am not remotely within a stone's throw of the majority of opinions on this book. So grain of salt, mileage may vary, onward and upward, etc....more
My lovely book-gifting mother gave me a nice, healthy stack of books for Christmas and among them was THE SUGAR QUEEN. I read and loved Sarah AddisonMy lovely book-gifting mother gave me a nice, healthy stack of books for Christmas and among them was THE SUGAR QUEEN. I read and loved Sarah Addison Allen's first novel, Garden Spells, last year on the recommendation of my good friend Michelle. Incidentally, I actually gave my mom Garden Spells for Christmas so there was some fun karmic reciprocity goin' on there. Garden Spells was the perfect autumn read and I finished it itching to get my hands on Allen's second book, which, as it turns out, is the perfect winter read. I love it when my book and the season serendipitously mesh. Set in a small ski resort town in North Carolina with magical snowflakes falling and the smell of peppermint in the air, I had no interest in resisting its spell. I just sat back and let THE SUGAR QUEEN carry me away for a couple of wintry nights.
Josey Cirrini loves candy. And I mean Josey LOVES candy. Sweets, snacks, baked goods of any kind. She keeps them in a stash in her closet and retreats there whenever she's feeling particularly anxious or down. Which is pretty much every day, several times a day. You see Josey lives alone with her aging, patrician mother in their aging, empty mansion. And every day her mother reminds her how plain she is, how she should never wear anything but black or white but for-the-love-of-all-that-is-holy no RED, and how she was such a trying child and should spend the rest of her life making it up to her poor, beautiful, widowed mother. Gah. The only bright spot in her day is the moment when their mailman Adam walks up to her door to deliver the mail. Then there's Chloe. Lovely, orphaned, loves to read, lost in love Chloe. She runs a small fast food stand in the local city courthouse lobby, lives with her lawyer boyfriend Jake, and dreams of owning her own home one day after having had to sell the only home she'd ever known when her grandparents passed away. Neither of these girls sees her life changing anytime soon. But on one fateful day a local tramp shows up in Josey's closet and Chloe discovers her boyfriend cheated on her but won't tell her with whom. And, just like that, everything changes.
Like its predecessor, THE SUGAR QUEEN is one part magical realism, one part fairy tale, and one part contemporary fiction. And like before, I fell immediately under its spell. I don't know if I was just in the mood for something pretty and sweet and romantic in the dead of winter, or if there's something about Allen's kind, honest characters that speaks to me, but I absolutely loved this book. Possibly even more than Garden Spells, I think, because I liked Josey so much. With her unselfconscious awesomeness, her straightforward goodness, she was vulnerable but never beaten. The slow, pleasantly-deceit-free way she and Adam negotiated their relationship was delightful to me. And Josey and Chloe's friendship, in particular, was extremely well done. I love how helping and being needed by Chloe makes Josey brave. How Chloe recognized Josey for what she was and took her in even when she was the one who was slowly but surely drowning. In a Sarah Addison Allen book, you can always count on a little organic magic and my favorite instance of this in THE SUGAR QUEEN was undoubtedly the way books literally popped up around Chloe whenever she needed them. For example:
She could remember very clearly the first time it happened to her. Being an only child raised by her great-grandparents on a farm miles from town, she was bored a lot. When she ran out of books to read, it only got worse. She was walking by the creek along the wood line at the end of the property one day when she was twelve, feeling mopey and frustrated, when she saw a book propped up against a willow tree.
She walked over and picked it up. It was so new the spine creaked and popped when she opened it. It was a book on card tricks, full of fun things she could do with the deck of cards her great-grandmother kept in a drawer in the kitchen for her weekly canasta game.
She called out, asking if anyone was there. No one answered. She didn't see any harm in looking through the book, so she sat under the tree by the creek and read as much as she could before it got dark. She wanted to take it with her when her great-grandmother called her home, but she knew she couldn't. The owner of the book would surely want it back. So she reluctantly left it by the tree and ran home, trying to commit to memory everything she'd read.
After dinner, Chloe took the deck of cards out of the kitchen drawer and went to her bedroom to try some of the tricks. She tried for awhile, but she couldn't get them right without following the pictures in the book. She sighed and gathered the cards she'd spread out on the floor. She stood, and that's when she saw the book, the same book she'd left by the creek, on her nightstand.
For awhile after that, she thought her great-grandparents were surprising her with books. She'd find them on her bed, in her closet, in her favorite hideouts around the property. And they were always books she needed. Books on games or novels of adventure when she was bored. Books about growing up as she got older. But when her great-grandparents confronted her about all the books she had and where did she get the money to buy them, she realized they weren't the ones doing it.
The next day, under her pillow, she found a book on clever storage solutions. It was exactly what she needed, something to show her how to hide her books.
She accepted it from then on. Books liked her. Books wanted to look after her.
You can imagine the smile of contentment on my face after I read that passage. It was clear this book and I would get on well. And we did. I absolutely loved it. And you can bet I will be picking up Ms. Allen's upcoming third novel, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, the day it comes out....more
I am a huge fan. There’s just no use starting out with any other introduction than that. A clever friend giftedOriginally reviewed here @ Dear Author
I am a huge fan. There’s just no use starting out with any other introduction than that. A clever friend gifted me a copy of Garden Spells several years ago, and it was love at first sight. I quickly devoured each of your successive books, and while I can never quite decide if The Peach Keeper is my favorite or if The Sugar Queen owns that spot, what I do know is I have loved each one of your beautiful stories. So it was with great pleasure I sat down with this latest blend of magical realism and southern comfort. As a child, I spent several formative years in Virginia. My mother’s sister and her family lived a few hours away in North Carolina, and every spring and summer we eagerly climbed in the car and drove south to spend a few weeks with them. These trips were magical to me, and these novels, with their humid nights, slow-roasting barbecue, and softly lilting drawl send me right back to night games with my cousins and catching fireflies in cupped hands.
Eby Pim never expected to marry the man she did. Coming as she does from a long line of women determined to marry money, Eby was always the sad exception to the rule. Less lovely, less ambitious than her mother, sister, grandmother, she was perhaps the most surprised of all when she and George fell in love. He was rich. But the money was new and meant very little to either of them except as an escape from their interfering families. And so Eby and George embarked on an indefinite honeymoon, spending months and months in Europe. Paris, mostly, where they acquired a troubled young woman by the name of Lisette. Lisette never speaks, preferring to write her thoughts and questions down on a notebook she keeps around her neck. When word of a death in the family cuts their time in Europe short, Eby and George return home to Georgia with Lisette in tow. And when the lure of their money proves too much for Eby’s family, they decide to wash their hands of it, getting rid of it all and buying a stretch of land known as Lost Lake, where they set up a small summer resort amid the swamps and cypress knees. Years later, Eby’s widowed niece Kate finds her way back to Lost Lake. She brings with her her free spirited 8-year-old daughter Devin and a fledgling determination to take up and make some sense of the scattered threads of her life.
Lost Lake is very pleasant. It is a very pleasant novel. And there’s the rub. Pleasantness abounds, along with a very nice level of quirk and charm. But it never crosses over into deeper waters, at least not for me. Most of Ms. Allen’s novels trade point of view chapters back and forth between a couple or three “main” protagonists. Sometimes I gravitate more toward one than the others, and sometimes I fall for them equally. Either way the overall balance generally works for me. But in Lost Lake, quite a few different characters share the limelight (what there is of it), and I was never allowed to spend enough time with any one of them to develop genuine feelings for them and their fate. I wanted to. The chapters from Eby’s past are heady and lovely. I followed her through the streets and over the bridges of Paris and would have happily spent the rest of the novel unraveling the threads of Lisette’s mysterious past. Likewise, I was just as willing to accompany Kate on her journey to revive herself and her faltering relationship with her young daughter.
Kate had been thirteen when her father died. No more weekend road trips. No more hours spent after school in her father’s video store, watching movie after movie. Her mother had gone a little crazy after that, like she’d pulled the in the event of an emergency switch that the women in her family told her to pull if her husband ever died, and this was what happened.
She wouldn’t come out of her room for months. Kate had lived on bagels, sandwich meat, and microwaved popcorn for most of eighth grade. She had hidden when well-meaning neighbors knocked on the door, after the first time she’d let them in and they’d worried why her mother wouldn’t see them.
There was still a place inside Kate that resented her mother’s grief when her father died. She still remembered what her mother had said to her on the day Kate and Matt went to the court house to get married. I hope you never lose him. It had felt like a portent. Kate hadn’t been as obvious about it as her mother, but, sure enough, she had still pulled that same switch. And she should have known that Devin had caught on. Children always know when their mothers are crazy—they just never admit it, not out loud, to anyone.
Goodness, it is lovely writing. Strong enough to see you through to the end even when you’re not as invested as you would have liked. In theory, I liked the idea of Kate and Eby (two women living under the same family curse) coming together in this place apart from the rest of the world and . . . figuring things out. In practice, its meaningfulness felt muffled. Neither story was given enough page time to really land. I didn’t dislike any of the wispy and enticing peripheral characters. In fact, I liked them all: brazen Bulahdeen, shameless Selma, diffident Jack, imperious Cricket, and the heartbreaking trio Wes, Luc, and Billy. I just didn’t love any of them. The painful part is that I could literally feel that potential love of mine ghosting out there on the horizon for the entire length of the book. I knew it was possible. It just never materialized. Instead I felt distracted and removed, not disgruntled per se, but just gently fond when I wanted to be infatuated, like I was reading an abridged version of the full story....more
I felt myself getting more and more excited about this book as the release date drew closer. I've enjoyed the Twilight books and I'm looking forward tI felt myself getting more and more excited about this book as the release date drew closer. I've enjoyed the Twilight books and I'm looking forward to their conclusion in Breaking Dawn, but I found myself pretty intrigued to see what Stephenie Meyer would do when she set out to do something different. Plus, I was just in the mood for some science fiction. I've loved sci fi ever since I picked up my first Ray Bradbury and, even though Meyer states it's science fiction for people who don't read science fiction, it certainly qualifies. What with the aliens and all. And there ended up being more (and a wider variety) of them than I was expecting.
You're undoubtedly familiar with the premise of this novel already, so I'll leave it at this: it's invasion of the body snatchers, but the body snatchers are benevolent and the humans are, well, human. Flawed, emotional, corruptible. You name it. And there are very few of them left at all. But the few there are are....tenacious. Especially Melanie, the human whose body has just been taken over by the soul called Wanderer. Known for her extreme skill at taking over a body, as well as her penchant for never staying on one world for more than one life, Wanderer has been hand-picked for insertion in the rebellious Mel in the hopes that she will be able to glean details from Mel's memory about possible leftover humans in hiding. As you might expect, all does not go smoothly for Wanderer. Or Mel.
The great thing about The Host is that the main character is one of the "bad guys." As a result, the reader's emotions (and loyalties) are wonderfully conflicted throughout the beginning of the story. It doesn't take long, though, to fall in love with Wanderer and I really liked the way Meyer interspersed Wanderer's narrative with flashbacks from Mel's life as she hurled them, one after another, at Wanderer's mind in a bid to save herself as well as the ones she loves--her younger brother Jamie and her human love Jared. I was pleasantly surprised to find that, contrary to the whole love story being central to the plot scenario I'd been prepped for, the book was not at all ruled by romance. It is a story about love, but it's more a story about what it means to be human and humane. The love in the story encompasses all forms: familial, friendship, platonic, and romantic. I was particularly drawn to Wanda's fierce love for Mel's little brother Jamie and the lengths she went to to protect him. The Host is in many ways (despite its length) a small, intensely personal story. I loved it, was sad when it was over, and will reread it again soon....more
I remember seeing Poison Study on the shelves when it first came out, but passed it up several times because of, yes, I admit it, the cover. It was thI remember seeing Poison Study on the shelves when it first came out, but passed it up several times because of, yes, I admit it, the cover. It was this older mass market paperback cover and not the lovely new trade paperback one. The girl on the old cover looked just a little too haughtily seductive for me. And I knew that Luna was the fantasy division of Harlequin and so I was suspicious it was a romance thinly disguised as fantasy. So when the new trade paperback came out, I went and read a few dozen more reviews just to "make sure" and decided to go ahead and give it a shot. I'm so glad I did. You'd think I'd have learned by now not to judge a book by its cover. Archangel, anyone?
Poison Study opens with a young woman named Yelena imprisoned for murder. A murder she freely admits to committing. When a pair of guards yank her from the dank dungeon she's languished in for almost a year, Yelena is certain she faces imminent death. She even welcomes it in light of the hell her life has become in the past few years. More to come on that bit of nastiness later, we learn. But instead of the gallows, she finds herself in the office of Valek, the chief of national security (i.e. the Commander's Personal Assassin) being offered a choice. To be hung by the neck until dead or to become the Commander's Personal Food Taster. The last one having recently died on the job. Yelena chooses life and immediately begins a crash course in the art of poison detection. To complicate matters, Valek slips Yelena a deadly poison known as Butterfly's Dust to ensure she won't attempt to escape the first chance she gets. In order to survive, Yelena must show up at Valek's door each morning for the antidote. Skip one morning and she'll be dead within 48 hours. And all of this happens within the first few pages of the book. I was completely sucked in by page ten.
The pace never slows throughout the rest of the book as we come to care more and more for this young woman who is forced to court death on an hourly basis. Piece by piece we learn more about why she was in the dungeon in the first place, her complicated background, and the demons that haunt her. Fortunately, her unquenchable will to survive and her quick mind earn her a few choice friends within the compound and these supporting characters are delightful and funny. Then there is Valek, the ruthless assassin who employs his vast array of frightening skills to protect Yelena even as he poisons her, convinced she is the missing piece of the puzzle in his quest to discover who is attempting to overthrow the government and why. I loved this book and I can't wait to read the sequel, Magic Study....more
Confession: I sent my husband out last night to retrieve this book for me while I made dinner for the kids and tried to breathe deeply. This pregnancyConfession: I sent my husband out last night to retrieve this book for me while I made dinner for the kids and tried to breathe deeply. This pregnancy . . .it palls, you guys. The thing is, he was happy to do it and even (after some creative detective work) snagged the very last copy at our local bookstore! I was incredibly relieved. Because all I wanted to do last night, after dinner and talking to my two squirts, and reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows with Will, was get comfortable on the couch and drift off into the wonderful world of Walls of Water, North Carolina. I'm telling you, there is nothing, but nothing like a brand new Sarah Addison Allen book when it comes to comfort reading. You just know you're gonna get the full southern treatment, that the prose will be lighter than air, and that magic will swirl through your veins like cream in one of Rachel's red-and-white striped coffee cups. These are the things you can count on, and THE PEACH KEEPER doesn't disappoint in the slightest.
Willa Jackson returned to the stifling confines of her hometown of Walls of Water, North Carolina eight years ago when her father died. Despite her eternally restless nature, Willa resolved to buckle down and be the docile daughter her father had always wanted, even though it was now too late. So she bought the local organic sporting goods store and settled into a life of safe monotony. She visits her elderly grandmother once a week in the nursing home, even though Georgie doesn't recognize her anymore. She does her laundry every Friday night without fail. And if she sometimes drives up to sit and look at the old Blue Ridge Madam mansion and wonder, well, that's her business. Paxton Osgood is determined to restore the Blue Ridge Madam to its former glory and put on the best gala the Women's Society Club has ever seen. But things start going wrong from the get go, and obsessively detail-oriented Paxton is afraid everything will fall apart at her feet. It's now when she needs this success most of all, especially as her stalwart friendship with former outcast Sebastian Rogers is bleeding into uncharted waters. Then Paxton's twin Colin returns home to help with the renovation and, when he runs across Willa, remembers all the reasons he left in the first place. Meanwhile, a strange presence is swirling its way through the town, stirring up old ghosts better left hidden. Against her better judgement, Willa is drawn into the disturbing events up on Jackson Hill and into the lives of the Osgood family once more.
I'll go ahead and say that I went in wondering whether THE PEACH KEEPER would fall more along the lines of Ms. Addison's first two novels (Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen) or her most recent third book The Girl Who Chased the Moon. I've read and loved all three, but there did seem to me to be a slight divide between the first two and the third. The characters felt more even, a bit stronger in the first two, the flow smoother and more balanced. The writing, as always, is of the highest quality across all of her books. For example, here is the opening passage of THE PEACH KEEPER, just to whet your appetite:
The day Paxton Osgood took the box of heavy-stock, foil-lined envelopes to the post office, the ones she’s had a professional calligrapher address, it began to rain so hard the air turned as white as bleached cotton. By nightfall, rivers had crested at flood stage and, for the first time since 1936, the mail couldn’t be delivered. When things began to dry out, when basements were pumped free of water and branches were cleared from yards and streets, the invitations were finally delivered, but to all the wrong houses. Neighbors laughed over fences, handing the misdelivered pieces of mail to their rightful owners with comments about the crazy weather and their careless postman. The next day, an unusual number of people showed up at the doctor’s office with infected paper cuts, because the envelopes had sealed, cement like, from the moisture. Later, the single-card invitations themselves seemed to hide and pop back up at random. Mrs. Jameson’s invitation disappeared for two days, then reappeared in a bird’s nest outside. Harper Rowley’s invitation was found in the church bell tower, Mr. Kingsley’s in his elderly mother’s garden shed.
If anyone had been paying attention to the signs, they would have realized that air turns white when things are about to change, that paper cuts mean there’s more to what’s written on the page than meets the eye, and that birds are always out to protect you from things you don’t see.
See what I mean? You can just count on her. I'm delighted to say that THE PEACH KEEPER is one of Sarah Addison Allen's best works to date. It fully lives up to the promise of each of her previous novels and instantly shot to my keeper shelf. I read it in one sitting last night, and it was an infinitely blissful experience spending time with Willa, Paxton, Colin, and Sebastian. The wonderful thing about this book is that I was equally enamored of and involved in the story lines of both main characters. I mentioned before that I tend to identify with one heroine over another in Allen's books and, since the point of view alternates back and forth between them, I occasionally wish I was back with the other before I actually am. This was happily not at all the case here. Willa and Paxton are so different in personality and background and yet I loved them both equally. And not only them, but their relationships with their family members and their respective young men. It was very interesting (and amusing) watching Willa struggle to come to grips with a possible relationship with Colin, who is Paxton's twin. Even more moving was Paxton's relationship with Sebastian--a troubled young man on the fringe of society, who caught her eye once in high school and has now grown into an incredibly complex and magnetic adult who, despite his respectable job and tailored suits, still exists just on the edges. Their interactions brought tears to my eyes multiple times. I ached for them. And the few scenes that all four share together are breathtaking and funny. THE PEACH KEEPER is at once haunting and charming, in that perfect blend of magic and realism that Sarah Addison Allen has worked into an art form. Highly recommended....more
What a beautiful cover. I remember when I first saw it my initial thought was, Oh, please don't let it suck. I know that souOriginally published here.
What a beautiful cover. I remember when I first saw it my initial thought was, Oh, please don't let it suck. I know that sounds harsh, but sometimes a cover just calls out to you and you know when you finally hold a physical copy of the book itself you'll just want to stroke it and love it and tell it it's found its home on your shelves. Unfortunately, the innards (as my boy is fond of saying) don't always match the outtards. And then I am forced to cry. Because . . . so pretty. So when a review copy of Stacey Jay's JULIET IMMORTAL came my way, I held my breath. Just a bit. Okay, maybe for the first five pages or so. Thankfully, that's all it took. Because this innovative retelling (of sorts) of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet has teeth. And they sank into me with delicious ferocity. This was my first foray with Stacey Jay, though I know she has a handful of books already out. After this encounter, I look forward to checking out her other work.
Juliet Capulet's nightmare is never going to end. No one knows what really happened to her. Murdered by her true love, Juliet is saved at the last minute by powerful but nebulous forces of good (known as the Ambassadors), who recruit her immortal soul in their timeless battle against the powers of evil (known as the Mercenaries). Filled with grief and hate at Romeo's unforgivable action, Juliet accepts the offer and finds herself pitted against Romeo, who essentially sold his soul to the Mercs for promised immortality. And the two of them face one another over and over and over again. For seven hundred years, they've been racing against the clock and each other to save (in Juliet's case) or damn (in Romeo's) pairs of soul mates, literally slipping into human bodies (in Juliet's case) and dead ones (in Romeo's) in order to sway their charges for good or ill. Each and every time Romeo tries to kill Juliet and Juliet fights back and escapes, though she is forbidden from taking his life as part of her mission for the Ambassadors. But this time--this mission--something is different. And they can both tell. This time more seems to be riding on the outcome than just a point scored for one side or the other. This time it's difficult to tell just who exactly are the soul mates, just who loves who. This time Juliet may not escape with her immortal soul intact.
JULIET IMMORTAL wins because it is both a competent retelling and re-envisioning of the most famous star-crossed lovers of all time, while managing not to forget the ruthlessness, violence, and eerie inevitability of the original. In fact, I thought Stacey Jay's clever explanations went a long way toward fleshing out the characters and events of the play. I certainly loved the life and depth she breathed into both leads. How brave Juliet is. And evil Romeo? Where have you been all my life? There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. This Romeo is evil, he's out for Juliet's blood, and the enmity between them is real. The story starts off with a bang, literally, as Juliet is flung into the body of a girl who has just decided to end it all and drive the car she's in off a cliff, taking her shoddy date with her. It's one of my favorite scenes in the book and the first one to give me real chills. Right after the crash (taken from my uncorrected ARC):
Dylan's eyes flutter open.
Even in the moonlight shining through the ceiling they look dark, peculiar. There's something strange about this boy, something warped inside him. I'm not surprised that he played a cruel trick on Ariel, but I'm curious to see what he'll do next. How will he deal with the fact that she nearly killed them both?
"Ariel?" he asks, his voice slurred. "Are you okay?"
"Ye-yes, I think so." Maybe he doesn't remember how the car crashed? If so, I won't be helping him with his recall. I keep my expression carefully blank. "Are you okay?"
"I think I'm fine. I . . . think I might be . . ." His words fade as he leans closer. He's staring at me. I can feel it, though his chin is tipped down, creating hollows the light through the roof can't touch.
The roof! I look up, and a sigh of relief escapes my lips. Glass. It's made of glass! Thank goodness. Getting out of this car seems like a better idea with every passing second. If Dylan is this disturbing at eighteen, he'll be a serial killer by the time he's twenty.
"We'll be fine. We just need to get out." I lift blood-slicked fingers to pry at the latch, ignoring Dylan when he leans even closer.
The sunroof is manually operated. I see that the glass panel can pop out, but the mechanism gives me a bit of trouble. Still, I'll get it open and there will be plenty of room for us to fit through the hole. Me first, of course.
"I'm sorry, could I--" He exhales, his breath hot on my neck. I fight the urge to shudder. "Could I ask you something?"
He wants to talk. Lovely.
I sigh. "Sure." I pull on the hinges, then realize I should have been pushing and sigh again.
"Has anyone told you your hair looks silver in the moonlight?"
I glance in the rearview mirror. My new hair does look silver, like something from a fairy tale. And the rest of what I can see of myself is equally haunting--shocking, really.
Why does Ariel think herself so repulsive? Huge blue eyes dominate my new face, dwarfing my small nose and thin lips. The scars on my cheek and jaw are visible, but they aren't as terrible as Ariel thinks. The face looking back at me is attractive, compelling. There's something about it that makes you want to look twice.
So I do, staring a little too long, giving myself away.
Dylan laughs, his lips suddenly far too close to mine. "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?"
No. It can't be. We've never-- He's never--
"Did you miss me, love?" He kisses me on the cheek, a rough, playful kiss that leaves a bit of wet behind.
Dylan has died after all. And Romeo has found a corpse. It's my last thought before his hands are around my throat.
Yep. Chills. There's also a pretty sweet love story going on within the pages. I was delighted with who Stacey Jay chose for Juliet and how she updated him for a contemporary take. Their initial encounter is another of my very favorite scenes in the book, and my affection for them lasted for the duration the story. So much so that I actually could have done with a little more connection between the modern boy and the one from the play as it would have enriched the bond for me. That part, along with one section in which Juliet sort of uncharacteristically fails to make a few connections, are the only instances that bothered me a bit. Otherwise, the novel's strengths stood out, particularly older-and-wise Juliet herself. She's such a strong character, able to contain a plethora of rich and complex emotions. She is clawing her way toward revenge or peace, whichever comes first. I loved her fire, and I loved how the writing reflected her rage and pain, without marring that original, first love between the two kids from Verona. Rather, it supports its authenticity in all its breathless perfection. Which then only highlights the atrocious betrayal and the loss she feels. It's all very affecting and enjoyable. As is Juliet's foray in young Ariel's body. Her interactions with Ariel's well-nigh estranged mother and her problematic best friend Gemma are nuanced and gripping. Lastly, I do have to say that my favorite thing about this book is that it scared me. There are a couple of scenes in particular that gave me the cold shivers, and I just love it when that happens. All in all, JULIET IMMORTAL is an unexpectedly visceral read. I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to handing it around....more
Wicked Lovely, Melissa Marr's first novel, was on my Best of 2007 list and I've been very excited about the sequel, Ink Exchange. The storyline foll Wicked Lovely, Melissa Marr's first novel, was on my Best of 2007 list and I've been very excited about the sequel, Ink Exchange. The storyline follows Aislinn's friend Leslie. Leslie is surrounded by a fog of secrets and unable to break through the fog because of something that happened to her while Aislinn was caught up in her own set of the tumultuous events in Wicked Lovely. The gulf between the two girls only grows wider as they find themselves unable to talk about how they have each been irrevocably altered. While Aislinn negotiates a tricky truce between Keenan and Seth, Leslie is left to fend for herself, waitressing tables to pay the bills, and avoiding going home for any length of time. She is also storing away a little cash to get a tattoo as a symbol of taking her life back and escaping the terror that's dominated it for too long.
Turns out she's not completely alone, though. Aislinn has commissioned Niall, Keenan's friend and right hand man, to watch over Leslie, haunting her steps in order to protect her from the Dark Court faeries who seem to have developed a sudden, unhealthy interest in her. Chief among Aislinn's worries is Irial, the Dark King himself. But, unbeknownst to any of them, Leslie has chosen Irial's tattoo to ink on her back, a process which will link the girl and the Dark King, allowing him to feed off human emotion through her, and thereby keep his people from starving. Add to that the complication that Niall is falling in love with Leslie. Irial is falling in....something....with Leslie. And Niall and Irial have A History. A long, dark, twisted, and surprisingly moving one.
The thing about Ink Exchange is, just when you think it can't get any worse, it does. With a vengeance. A sort of hazy, starbursty kind of worse. Until you want to run screaming onto the page, snatch Leslie (and Niall, and, yes, Irial, too) in your arms and stash them away somewhere warm and safe and dry until they're able to heal. Short of being able to do that, you keep reading. I liked Leslie. I liked her a lot. And I hated that she had so few choices available and that, for the majority of the book, she was being manipulated left and right. By those who loved her, wanted her, and hated her alike. It made me mad. At all the characters, even as I loved them. Even my beloved Seth who seemed to see clearer than anyone, except perhaps Irial. And it made the ending a very satisfying one. But it wasn't an easy read. And it wasn't a pleasant one. And I still, epilogue be damned, have the aforementioned urge to run in and save them all. But I will wait. Somewhat impatiently. For book three....more
Have you ever seen Out of Africa? It's this old Sydney Pollack film starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, andOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
Have you ever seen Out of Africa? It's this old Sydney Pollack film starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, and it is sort of loosely based on Isak Dinesen's (pseudonym of Danish author Karen Blixen) autobiographical book of the same name. I ask because it (and its soundtrack) was a staple in my house growing up, and when I first read the brief synopsis for Deanna Raybourn's latest standalone novel, A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS, it was literally the first thing that popped into my mind. They just sounded fairly similar what with the same setting, though the time period is a good decade later in Raybourn's novel than in Pollack's film. Since I have fond memories of the movie as a girl, this only upped my eagerness to read the book. I get all excited when an author I love changes things up on her readers. I am a devoted fan of Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey Victorian mystery series and I thoroughly enjoyed her standalone Gothic novel, The Dead Travel Fast. As far as I was concerned 1920s Africa complete with a British/American flapper fish out of water could only spell bliss.
Delilah Drummond is a household name among the London and Paris socialite sets. Daughter of an infamous society wife in her own right, Delilah has worked her way through a few marriages of her own. Unfortunately, the latest crashed and burned so luridly that her mother and current stepfather have called Delilah home for a little Come to Jesus. In fact, they're packing her off to Kenya so she can cool her heels a bit while the scandal back home runs its course. It so happens her stepfather (the best in a long line of her mother's spurious husbands) has an estate called Fairlight on the Kenyan savanna. Accompanied only by her cousin and sometime maid Dodo, Delilah arrives at Fairlight to find the place crumbling around her feet. Determined not to let the man (or men) in her life get her down, she immediately starts issuing orders, procuring help from the local Africans in setting the manor to rights. It doesn't take long for the European expat social life to find Delilah and she is more than happy to dive into the swirling politics and pandering that involves. She even runs across a few old friends in the process, as well as encountering some new ones. Most notably a Canadian transplant by the name of Ryder White--a man as wild as the African wilderness he inhabits and one who just might be larger than life enough to measure up to Delilah herself.
I do love this setting and time period. And what a master Deanna Raybourn is at capturing the sights, tastes, and sounds of the worlds her characters inhabit. The descriptions of everything from the scrumptious clothes to the sweeping landscape positively drip with vibrancy. And the writing, as always, is exquisite. Where I ran into trouble was, oddly, with the characters. Delilah is hard as nails. She's as bright and devil-may-care as they come, and she has zero interest in anything that does not involve pleasure. Interestingly, that was not always the case. We are given a few meager hints that indicate a more sedate and driven past, one in which she married for love (for once) and worked as a nurse during the war. All that was smashed to smithereens, of course, and she is who she has become--a woman who barely resembles the girl she once was. Now doesn't that back story sound intriguing? Add to that the truly crushing details of her last marriage and the fallout it must have left somewhere inside her, and we have got ourselves a recipe for some serious character depth and development! The thing is . . . it never happens. I mean it rather dismayingly never happens. The bits of depth we get are distributed seemingly at random, in too small quantities, and in entirely the wrong places to maintain the thread and drive of Delilah's story. The result being that she is by and large wholly unsympathetic. Sort of monumentally callous and insipid, as a matter of fact. She dashes about her story taking pleasure where she will, heedless of the consequences, lifting her hand for a dubious good deed here or there, but more often intentionally risking her neck and courting destruction by toying with the caged lion that is Ryder. Who, by the way, I found little better than Delilah as far as his ability to secure any scrap of my affection goes. The potential was there on the grand scale. But somehow the decadence of Delilah's life and that of almost every other person around her completely overwhelmed the more subtle possibilities of her story. Her relationship with Dodo remained distressingly unexplored. The unfolding of the plot continued flat and unsurprising. And the crisis, when it came, failed to incite my sympathy given how little I cared for anyone affected by it. I finished it feeling tired out and sad. It could have easily gone so very differently. It's worth pointing out that while I can't recommend this one, it is the only misstep I've had from Raybourn, and I wholeheartedly recommend her other books, all of which are on my Beloved Bookshelf....more
Finding Silent in the Grave turned out to be one of those beautiful, stumbling across the perfect book to fit your mood moments. Here I am, staring doFinding Silent in the Grave turned out to be one of those beautiful, stumbling across the perfect book to fit your mood moments. Here I am, staring down the barrel of this pregnancy, willing the last few days to pass faster, and this absolutely delightful Victorian mystery proves just the thing to take my mind off the all-too-slowly ticking clock. Even better, it's the first in a series with the second one already out and the third due to hit shelves in March.
Silent in the Grave starts out with one of the best opening lines I've read in ages.
To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.
Ha! Honestly, who wouldn't want to continue reading after that? Does she care? Does she not care? Is she as calm and composed as she sounds? And just who is this Nicholas Brisbane and why is he significant? You have to find out. Each question is answered, but slowly and carefully, spread across the rest of the novel. After her husband's untimely collapse, Lady Julia Grey finds herself a young and surprisingly wealthy widow. Having suffered from a heart condition his entire life, his sudden demise was not altogether unexpected. That's why, when confronted with an unusual and mysterious private investigator's claim that her late husband employed him to find out who was threatening to kill him, Julia dismisses the notion as preposterous and sends Mr. Nicholas Brisbane on his way. Nearly a year later she (naturally) comes across a clue leading her to believe dear Edward was, in fact, murdered. Managing to track down Brisbane, she apologizes and convinces him to reopen the case. Intrigue and mayhem ensue and it's all just perfectly delicious.
I so enjoyed Julia and her measured narration, her bizarrely large but loving family, and her cautiously fresh observations on the world and the people around her. It is as though her husband's death removes a film from her eyes, and she is unnerved to realize she hardly recognizes where she is and who she has become. One of my favorite lines is Julia reflecting on her oldest and most pompous brother who is scandalized to hear she intends to manage her inheritance herself.
He had nothing to call his own except dead men's shoes, and I think the highly Oedipal flavor of his existence sometimes proved too much for him.
As you can tell, I was completely taken with the characters and Deanna Raybourn's well-paced writing style, both of which made for an incredibly absorbing, enjoyable read. I'll be picking up the sequel ASAP. Recommended for fans of Laurie R. King's Mary Russell books....more
I couldn't believe it when I heard that Juliet Marillier was writing another Sevenwaters book. It's been eight years since Daughter of the Forest waI couldn't believe it when I heard that Juliet Marillier was writing another Sevenwaters book. It's been eight years since Daughter of the Forest was first published and six since Child of the Prophecy and I honestly thought that ship had sailed. I had accustomed myself to the notion that all I would ever have would be the original trilogy to keep me warm on those cold nights when only the Sevenwaters magic will do. And then the unbelievable happened and she announced a fourth volume. And instead of following its predecessors and taking place a generation after the previous book, Heir to Sevenwaters would be set just three years after the events of Child of the Prophecy.
The story follows Clodagh, the third of Sean and Aisling's six daughters, and the one the entire household looks to in times of strain and dissension. Known for her exceptional domestic skills and attention to detail, Clodagh is forced to take the reins as her mother approaches the delivery of her final child--the long-awaited son and possible heir. At the same time her father is preparing to host a council of warring chieftains and dealing with the possibility that his son-in-law is plotting against the alliance. When her new baby brother is stolen from his nursery while in Clodagh's care, everything changes, and Clodagh finds herself completely outside her realm of experience, on a journey to reclaim her kidnapped brother from the realm of the Fair Folk and prove not only her own innocence, but that of the unusual young warrior Cathal who is also under suspicion. Together, Clodagh and Cathal risk everything as they face the Lord of the Oak and bargain for their lives.
I don't know what it is about the world of Sevenwaters, but it has some kind of hold over me. And it was so good to be back. Clodagh is a different kind of heroine from her aunt Liadan and her grandmother Sorcha. Though, like those two women, she finds her life drifting radically from the path she was sure it would follow. She also displays a large quantity of courage when called for.
The book stands out to me because of the beautiful, even writing and because of the likability of its two main characters. Clodagh is an ordinary young woman who, when thrust into extraordinary circumstances, finds resources she didn't realize she had. The courage to risk her life for her brother, but also the courage to try to be friends with a lonely young man who is not interested in being her friend, who goes out of his way to be prickly and unpleasant, who fights himself at every turn, and who no one believes in. Including himself. I loved this story. I loved its glimpses of old friends and its hints of future possibilities. As only the best ones do, it surprised and delighted me and made me long for more....more
Hale has proved herself adept at finding obscure fairy tales and reworking them in mouth-watering new ways. Her latest offering is based on the littleHale has proved herself adept at finding obscure fairy tales and reworking them in mouth-watering new ways. Her latest offering is based on the little-known "Maid Maleen" by the Brothers Grimm. A lady and her loyal maid are locked in a tower for seven years as punishment for the lady's refusal to marry the man her father wants her to. The story details their imprisonment in the tower and the adventure that follows. Hale's version is told in diary format from the point of view of the maid--Dashti. I finished this one with mixed feelings. The conclusion I came to is that I wanted more. There was so much potential yet I felt I wasn't allowed to scratch past the surface of things. I liked Dashti, but she didn't have to struggle that hard to get what she got. Or at least her struggle wasn't given the gravity it deserved. Lady Saren, who had quite clearly been driven mad by some atrocious event, was so wonderfully vacant and creepy. I wanted to get to the root of her madness. When I finally found out, it was appropriately weird but it wasn't given enough time or depth. I wanted more. More psychological exploration, more emotion, more pages in general. Her previous books are chock full of it and so this one came off a bit...flat. These comments aside, I always recommend Shannon Hale highly and I eagerly await the fourth Bayern book....more
Okay, deep breaths all around. Are you ready for another one of those retro reviews in which I regale you with nostalgic views of my childhood readingOkay, deep breaths all around. Are you ready for another one of those retro reviews in which I regale you with nostalgic views of my childhood reading and rhapsodize on another heroine who contributed to making me who I am today? If you're not (and I totally would not blame you in the slightest--I know how I can go on about these things), you should probably just swish on by, cause Alanna is sort of the mother of them all when it comes to characters who own a little piece of my soul. She's right smack dab there in the company of Harry, Aerin, Meg, and Dicey. As I think about those girls and the effect they initially had (and continue to have) on me, I'm back in that familiar circle of awe. What would I do without them? Alanna got me through being 13, and years later I think about her on a regular basis. I realize so much of your connection to characters and their stories has to do with the age at which you as reader make their acquaintance. And, truthfully, I'm not at all offended if you come to the Song of the Lioness quartet later in life and don't find yourself as fully bowled over as I was (though I will likely nudge you in the direction of finishing the series just to see because they're short, what can it hurt, plus the characters grow up, the books get better and better, and really no one should miss that ending . . . ). But all fangirling aside, I will say that it is impossible to overstate how hard I fell for this series and that imagining my life without them is not only distasteful but unfathomable.
Faced with being unwillingly separated and sent away to the palace and the convent respectively, twins Thom and Alanna of Trebond take matters into their own hands. Born out of Alanna's determination, the twins decide to switch places. Thom will go to the convent to train as a sorcerer. Alanna will masquerade as Thom's twin "Alan" and train to be a knight. When she's won her shield and proved her worth to king and court, she will reveal her true self and make her way as a knight-errant in search of adventure. It all seems so easy initially. But, of course, the unusual course she chooses reaches into every aspect of Alanna's life and alters it. Because, her obvious deception aside, she has also been gifted with certain abilities that she fears, abilities that could ruin her chances at the life she wants if they come to light at an inopportune moment. It is therefore with a certain reluctance that Alanna makes friends among her fellow pages at the palace and the denizens of the capital city of Corus. Going it alone feels like the safest course. But Alanna soon learns that she will need what friendships she can cobble together if she is to embrace all of who she is and survive the swirling danger lurking in the bowels of the castle.
"That is my decision. We need not discuss it," said the man at the desk. He was already looking at a book. His two children left the room, closing the door behind them.
"He doesn't want us around," the boy muttered. "He doesn't care what we want."
"We know that," was the girl's answer. "He doesn't care about anything, except his books and scrolls."
The boy hit the wall. "I don't want to be a knight! I want to be a great sorcerer! I want to slay demons and walk with the gods--"
"D'you think I want to be a lady?" his sister asked. "'Walk slowly, Alanna,'" she said primly. "'Sit still, Alanna. Shoulders back, Alanna.' As if that's all I can do with myself!" She paced the floor. "There has to be another way."
That first page still makes my stomach all jumpy. And basically those of you who love girls in disguise tales can sign up here. Alanna was one of my very first experiences with such a story line, and the danger and audacity and excitement got to me something fierce. She captured my loyalty and affection in one fell swoop. Because she knew what she wanted, and she was going to get it if it killed her. But along with that dedication and, yes, ruthlessness, came incredible loyalty, the voracious desire to learn, and a great capacity for love and friendship. Far from perfect, however, Alanna screws up. Royally. She says the wrong thing, she stumbles over her doubts and fears, and she occasionally doesn't see what's right before her eyes. But she's so vibrant and hell bent on being the first female knight in more than a century, and she always, always owns up to her mistakes and rectifies them. Happily, she is surrounded by a killer cast of mischievous pages, loyal retainers, wise women, gallant knights, dubious dukes, one noble prince, one arch nemesis, and one steal-your-heart-and-never-return it thief. And it's these secondary characters who provide such wonderful fodder and foils for our would-be knight. Because of them, the humor and the grand coexist in top-notch harmony. Returning to Tortall is like returning home. And Alanna? She still feels so real to me, it's as though I could reach out and grab her arm. When she grimly deals with her changing body, I feel her frustration. When she awakes from countless nightmares of the obstacles and responsibilities awaiting her, I gulp along with her and wipe the sweat off my brow. And nothing, but nothing, will keep me from reading her story to my daughter when she's old enough. Because Alanna is one of those girls she will need to know. Who will remind her that it's okay to be different, it's okay to rail and rage at life, that she can hold in her hands the dreams closest to her heart, that she is strong, too....more
Once again I fall prey to the hype monster. Coming off the high of Easy and the complicated mess of the aptly-named BeautifulOriginally reviewed here.
Once again I fall prey to the hype monster. Coming off the high of Easy and the complicated mess of the aptly-named Beautiful Disaster, I ran smack-dab into PUSHING THE LIMITS. Fairly ecstatic reviews piqued my interest, and before long the little click button on NetGalley was calling my name. I think I was hoping for something along the lines of the fun that I had reading Perfect Chemistry for the first time. Maybe Going Too Far. Upon further perusal, it certainly looked like there would be added personal drama on both sides and that hinted-at mystery aspect encouraged me even more. Perhaps it would be a touch . . . complicated. This is Katie McGarry's first novel, and so I had no idea what the writing would be like. These expectations in mind, I downloaded it to my Nook and dug right in.
Echo Emerson is back at school and thinking she should possibly be anywhere but. After the "incident," she dropped off the face of the planet. Now, after countless social workers and counseling sessions, she's decided to give finishing high school a go. This means weekly meetings with the newfangled guidance counselor who seems to have several motives behind helping Echo. Which means she's forced to sit in a room with her impatient father, her clueless (and pregnant) stepmother, and her nosy guidance counselor and talk about feelings, memory, her mother. All things she's working hard to keep to herself. Noah Hutchins also has weekly meetings with Miss Collins. Noah's consultations are of a different nature entirely. Having lost his parents in a fire, Noah's been through hell in the form of a string of foster homes. Separated from his younger brothers, his one goal is to graduate high school and get custody. Then the three of them will be a family again, independent and free of the abuse and interference that seem to run rampant through the social care system. It's when Echo is assigned the task of tutoring Noah that they begin to find some common ground. And soon a plan hatches to get out of their intolerable sessions and set them both on the path to emancipation.
It really was a nice setup. I liked the possibilities. I definitely wanted to find out (along with Echo) just exactly what happened to her that night at her mother's apartment. And I rooted for Noah to get his family back together again in the most intact form possible. But I'm sad to say that the writing was a far cry from what it needed to be to engender any emotion or affection in me as a reader. Where Perfect Chemistry handily straddled the line between swoontastic and cheesy (at least for me), PUSHING THE LIMITS tried painfully hard for that balance and just couldn't manage it. It ran headlong over the cheese precipice and coughed up a side of empty heart for good measure. I could not get over the stumbling block that was the uninspired writing and lackluster plot construction. The whole buildup to Echo's missing memories was drawn-out and fraught with tension, only to fall flat upon the big reveal. Together, Echo and Noah were fun enough (Noah's truly cringeworthy internal dialogue aside). But separately they were given little depth to flesh out their incredibly complex backgrounds. I felt inundated with manufactured emotion and went ahead and finished it just in case the whole thing righted itself in the end. It didn't. It is certainly worth pointing out that I seem to be in the decided minority. Not the first time. Won't be the last. Check it out for yourself if the premise leaves you at all curious. As for me, I'm off for a palate cleanser. Suggestions?...more
This cover. This cover remains one of my favorite covers ever! I had never heard of Paula Volsky before or read much historiOriginally published here.
This cover. This cover remains one of my favorite covers ever! I had never heard of Paula Volsky before or read much historical fantasy at all when a copy of ILLUSION arrived at my house. I was fifteen and my Aunt Claudia sent it to me for my birthday. She's a great reader, my aunt, and she has flawless taste. When they were kids, she and my dad would ride their bikes to the library and each check out a stack of Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys, go home, read them, switch, read, return, and repeat. She loves Dickens and Georgette Heyer and all manner of good ones. So I knew this one would be good. And I loved how reassuringly thick the mass market copy was. Slick gray pages and 674 of them in all--absolute bliss. I ended up reading the majority of it during a couple of late night babysitting stints. After the kids brushed their teeth and went to bed, I curled up in an oversize chair in the living room and lost myself in the crazy elaborate world Ms. Volsky created. I had honestly never read anything like it, and sadly, I have yet to actually talk to anyone else (besides my aunt) who has read it.
Eliste vo Derrivale (wow, did I love her name when I was 15 . . . oh, who are we kidding? I still do) is a member of the ultra-privileged Exalted class in the land of Vonahr. Having grown up on a rather idyllic estate in the countryside, she can hardly focus on anything else when the summons comes to move to the capital city of Sherreen and become a lady-in-waiting to Queen Lallazay herself. And so she packs her bags and trips off to make her debut at court without a backward glance. Unfortunately for Eliste, her timing is catastrophic. While she is primped, prodded, and ruthlessly trained in the intricate ways of court life, the nation's serfs are rising up. Sick of centuries of subservience to the Exalted class, whose rule is based on their much-lauded but rarely-seen magical abilities, the peasants have united. Before she has fully adapted to her new life, violence breaks out in the city and the life she longed to lead is ripped from her grasp. Forced out onto the streets, Eliste comes to grim terms with a very different way of life. And a past uncharacteristic and seemingly insignificant action comes back to haunt her, as one of the key members of the rebellion is none other than Dref Zeenosen--a serf she once freed from her father's tyranny in a fit of momentary pity a long time ago. If she is to survive, Eliste must develop a whole new set of skills and avoid the dreaded Kokette--the death machine that awaits any Exalted the rebels can get their hands on.
Just thinking about this gorgeous epic sends pleasant little sparks to the tips of my fingers. And I do mean epic in the long and drawn out sense of the word. Densely written, ILLUSION is expansive and filled with exquisite, minute descriptions of everything from the lace in Eliste's hair to the bloody spikes on the horrific, possibly sentient Kokette. Based on the events of the French Revolution, Eliste's world is richly evocative of that period in history and, while some of the events in the story may not surprise you as a result, the elaborate and sympathetic characterization and the delicious magical overtones will reel you in. I love that Eliste is such a spoiled brat at the beginning. She's the epitome of snobby upper crust debutante with a disdain for anything she deems beneath her--which is pretty much everything. She's young and thoughtless and incredibly annoying. But. She is often a keen judge of character. She is always a survivor. And she's unwittingly in for a real nightmare. The joy is in the transformation that is wrought and the growth she achieves as a result of having front row seats for the devastation of her world. I very much like who she becomes. Everything about this book takes its time, from the main character's evolution, to the extremely subtle and slow-building romance, to the final quiet and bittersweet conclusion. It could get tiresome, but to me it felt earned. If historical fiction is not your thing, you might find it difficult to sink into the slightly affected vocabulary and speech mannerisms of the principle characters. For me, the unusual blend of historical tapestry, magic, and early steampunk (in the form of crazily creepy machinery used as part of the revolution) worked like a charm. I would love to hear what fans of any or all of those genres think of it as it has long been a favorite....more
I look forward to this season every year because it means I get to reread SUNSHINE. This is one of my few solid seasonal reads. I revisit it every yeaI look forward to this season every year because it means I get to reread SUNSHINE. This is one of my few solid seasonal reads. I revisit it every year for so many reasons. Because it originally came out in October. Because it absolutely encapsulates autumn for me. And Halloween, of course, what with all the vampires and the midnight outings and the smell of fallen leaves and cinnamon rolls in the air. And because it's just one of the biggest Angie books there is. I remember being almost apoplectic with excitement when I heard Robin McKinley was writing a vampire novel. The whole notion filled me with tingles. And imagine how happy I was when it turned out to be better than I could ever have imagined. I know people have strong feelings on this book, one way or the other, and it's certainly not your run-of-the-mill urban fantasy (thank heavens for that). But for those who love feisty girls with thoughts of their own, ugly vampires with developing senses of humor, and wonderfully rich, dense, smart writing, this book may very well have your name on it. As for me, I bought it the day it came out (almost exactly eight years ago). I took it home and read it aloud with DH. And to this day favorite passages and scenes come up in our daily conversation. So as Halloween approaches, a review of my very favorite spooky read.
A side note: I'm not even slightly embarrassed to admit I own all three U.S. editions. If a new edition of SUNSHINE comes out, I buy it. End of story. It helps that they're all so very pretty. If pressed, I will admit that the original hardcover with the chandelier is my favorite. But I adore all three. And the important thing is that they're there. On my shelves. So that when the urge arises, I can take them out and stroke them and know that they're there and that they're loved. I know. But like I said--not even a little embarrassed.
It was a dumb thing to do but it wasn't that dumb. There hadn't been any trouble out at the lake in years. And it was so exquisitely far from the rest of my life.
These opening lines set the scene. Sunshine just wanted some solitude. Just a little time away from the strange and chaotic life she leads as the head baker at Charlie's and as her mother's daughter. She gets up every morning at the butt crack of dawn to get the dough going for her famous Cinnamon Rolls as Big as Your Head. And for Sunshine's Killer Zebras. And for Bitter Chocolate Death. And any number of awesome, original desserts and pastries she whips up on a daily basis at Charlie's--her stepfather's diner. She gets up and fights another round with her overprotective, obsessive mother. She gets up and goes out with her former soldier/reformed biker/cook boyfriend Mel. She gets up and gets through another day in New Arcadia--one of the few remaining spots that wasn't utterly demolished by the Voodoo Wars. And all she wanted was a moment alone in a peaceful place. So she drove out to the lake to sit. And that's when they came. And that's where they got her. As everybody knows, you don't hear them coming. Not when they're vampires. And you don't come back either. But Sunshine does come back after her extended and terrifying encounter with one vampire Constantine. She comes back and comes home. But. Even though she's home once more, nothing is the same. For all her surviving the encounter, she may not survive living with herself after.
Sunshine is one of those sarcastic, supremely set-in-her-ways tough girls that I seem to live for. The girl holds my heart in her flour-dusted hands. And because she is rendered in Robin McKinley's trademark prose, she's even more quirky and meandering and tangentially-inclined than those girls usually are. The tangents and meanderings bother some readers, I understand. If long internal monologues aren't your cup of tea, then they're not your cup of tea. But nobody can say that Ms. McKinley didn't go all-out hardcore when she sat down to write an urban fantasy. Because she did. And I love SUNSHINE with the fierce kind of love I reserve for those characters and stories that take no prisoners and make no apologies. I knew I would love Sunshine herself on page two when she set out to describe her stepfather.
Charlie is one of the big good guys in my universe.
There's so much fight and heart in that simple statement. Her relationship with Charlie is a highlight of the book, as he took her in as his own, gave her a job and a way out, and understood her when her mother could only scream. The way she introduced him made me love her. Many of Rae's rambling monologues include wry, self-effacing asides that always make me grin. For example:
I didn't want to know that the monster that lived under your bed when you were a kid not only really is there but used to have a few beers with your dad.
Set against the backdrop of almost certain doom, these barbs of humor secured my affection the way nothing else could have. I laugh a lot when I read SUNSHINE. I also shiver deliciously with fear. Which brings us to Con. As if Sunshine wasn't enough, Robin McKinley had to go and write Con--a vampire as far removed from the sexy-sparkly variety as is inhumanly possible. I really don't know of any other author who could make me fall in love with a vampire with skin the color of old mushrooms and a voice that unhinges your spine. But fall in love with Con I did. Or, more precisely, fall in love with the unlikely alliance of Sunshine-and-Con I did. It is this unprecedented friendship between human and vampire that is the real heart of the book. And it is made more believable (and much more valuable) by the lengths to which the author goes to to display how antithetical, how other, they are from one another. These two are not drawn together by attraction or random circumstance. They are bound together by the will to survive, by the refusal to live at the expense of another life, and by a slow-simmering, if uncomfortable, mutual admiration. The combination of Sunshine's jittery rambles and Con's remote and ominous silences gets me every time. As does the smart, knotty writing, Sunshine's passion for what she does, and the wonderful, wonderful restraint exercised to let the story unfold in its own way. Every time I read it, I find extra nuance and sympathy. And a perfect ending. As only she knows how to write them. This book, you guys. This best of all combinations of fairy tale, urban fantasy, and horror story. Neil Gaiman notably described it as "pretty much perfect," and I have to concur. I never tire of it. It's October once more, and I'm feeling that familiar SUNSHINE pull. Which copy shall I read this time?...more
And today we have the first in yet another series I had heard much good about but avoided picking up for a variety of no good reasons. I think my reluAnd today we have the first in yet another series I had heard much good about but avoided picking up for a variety of no good reasons. I think my reluctance stemmed somewhat from an uncertainty as to just what kind of series Michelle Sagara's Cast series was. I think at first I had the impression it was a paranormal romance, possibly an urban fantasy (the covers influenced me this way). A few chapters in I was surprised to find CAST IN SHADOW much more a mix of dark and high fantasy, peopled with a smattering of solid gold, humorous, and truly sinister characters living in a fully developed, layered, and fascinating world.
Kaylin Neya is a Hawk. The youngest of that number, in fact. In the city of Elantra, the Hawks are charged with policing the streets and guarding the citizens. They share that responsibility with their sibling organizations the Wolves and the Swords. Together the three forces are headquartered in the Halls of Law. Elantra's citizens are made up of a mix of humans like Kaylin, winged Aerians, furred Leontines, and the immortal Barrani. Seven years ago Kaylin left a life of squalor on the streets of the fief of Nightshade, gave herself a new name, and made her way to Elantra in search of a fresh start. Now her past has caught up with her as a series of murders takes place in Nightshade. Disturbing in their own right, they also bear an eerie resemblance to events in Kaylin's past she thought for sure she'd left behind.
CAST IN SHADOW starts at a good clip and doesn't slow down once. The writing is uncluttered and engaging and Kaylin is an extremely likeable heroine. She runs from a past so dark she has avoided revealing it to her closest friends. She has a gift for healing and will drop everything at a moment's notice to deliver a baby or rescue an orphan in trouble. It was actually kind of refreshing to read about a kick-a** heroine with a soft spot for children. So often they have an allergy to kids or have issues with some of the "softer" emotions and I loved Kaylin because she was both fierce and compassionate. I cheered her on when she was fighting and I wanted to help guard her secrets. Of which she has many. She has friends, enemies, comrades, and those who would use her for her unusual abilities, yet Kaylin remains a little aloof from them all, determined to make her own way. She's my kind of girl. Only a handful of pages into the book and I was completely invested from that point on. I loved this story and can't wait to move on to the next installment--Cast in Courtlight....more
Okay. You are all familiar with my . . . what's the word . . . thing . . . for thieves. And Robin is perhaps the thief I've loved the longest. So it sOkay. You are all familiar with my . . . what's the word . . . thing . . . for thieves. And Robin is perhaps the thief I've loved the longest. So it should come as no surprise when I say that I was filled with glee when I first heard about A. C. Gaughen's upcoming retelling--SCARLET. I liked the cover and, without running down too many spoilery details, I looked forward to the focus on Will Scarlet and the fact that it hailed from a debut author. All of these things add up to that most wonderful of things--possibility. I've reviewed both my favorite Robin Hood retellings here already. And I've read quite a few more. They have all been interesting reads aimed at a variety of types and ages of readers. This particular one is being marketed YA, and I wondered idly, as I anticipated the book, what form my beloved characters would take in this incarnation.
Scarlet is a thief. And a liar. She's a thief and a liar and about twenty different kinds of deadly with her knives. And she's loyal to one person on this earth and one person only--Robin Hood. Also known as Robin of Locksley or (less commonly now) the Earl Huntingdon, Robin gave her a place and a hood to hide behind when Scarlet needed it the most, and now she forms an integral member of his band in Sherwood Forest. Standing up to the ruthless Sheriff of Nottingham, Robin, Scarlet, and the lads (Little John and Much) are determined to spare the good folk of Nottinghamshire from the sheriff's wrath for as long as it takes. Outside of her three comrades, few folk have any idea Scarlet is a girl. The boys refer to her as Will, and she has no intention of disobliging anyone of that particular notion. You see, Robin is not the only one with demons in his past. And when the sheriff goes and hires the dreaded Guy of Gisbourne to hunt down the Hood and his band, Scarlet knows her days may at last be numbered. It's only a matter of time before her past catches up with her, and then even Robin's protection may not be enough to keep her from the hangman's noose.
SCARLET is massively entertaining. I was caught up in this unusual thief's story from the first page. At the point in which we meet her, Scarlet herself is eighteen years old. The same age as John and just a couple or three years younger than Rob (I love that she calls him Rob). This age spread worked nicely as Robin is home from the crusades--an old man in a young man's body--and Scarlet herself is an old soul, having prowled the streets of London before Rob hauled her off to Sherwood to join his noble cause. These two broken youths find something akin to hope in each other despite the harshness of their previous lives, and I can't tell you how many times my heart contracted with sympathy for them. The characters in SCARLET like to keep their secrets. Every one of them is holding onto something they'd prefer not come out into the light of day. Nobody more than Scarlet herself, of course, but I appreciated the various histories and enjoyed the ways in which A. C. Gaughen incorporated the many traditional threads of the tale. I'm always a fan of girls in disguise, and this one has the bite to match her bark, if you will. She has few soft spots--possibly just the one--and that one is so rife with impossibility and unspoken hope that it hardly warrants the name. But I happily plunged into those impossible hopes with her and adopted them as my own. Which is to say, Scarlet had my affections from the get go. The boys I liked at first and grew to love (and sometimes hate) as the game unfolded. I like that Robin isn't portrayed perfectly. Don't get me wrong. He's a hero through and through. But he has his fair share of shortsightedness. And ghosts. And I wasn't always sure he deserved the ending I wanted for him. I also wished for a bit more complexity on the part of the villain. There was so much potential for Gisbourne in this retelling, and I felt as though he came off a bit, well, ridiculous at times, when he should have been terrifying. But despite these smallish quibbles, I stayed up hours past my bedtime devouring the final chapters in this delightful debut. If you're at all a fan of Robin Hood and women who know their way around a weapon, you won't want to miss it....more
You May authors, you. What are you trying to do to me? I toss and turn in reading slump hell for what seems like weeks on end and then you present meYou May authors, you. What are you trying to do to me? I toss and turn in reading slump hell for what seems like weeks on end and then you present me with a string of top-notch books and it's like emerging from a drought into hip-deep water. With mermaids. And flying fish. And seals. What? I like seals. I have to thank the tremendously benevolent KMont of Lurv a la Mode for seeing that an actual living, breathing (oh, you know what I mean) copy of MAGIC BLEEDS made it into my hot little hands before I expired from the intense longing I've been suffering from ever since I closed the cover of Magic Strikes just over a year ago. I thought husband-and-wife duo Ilona Andrews raised the stakes incredibly high in that third installment in the Kate Daniels series, launching it instantly into my top two urban fantasy series right up there neck and neck with Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson books. And I have to say, it's been an absolute delight getting to read the latest volumes in both series within two months of each other. Spring is a killer season when it comes to my favorite urban fantasy and I just love it.
Kate is pissed off. And I love it when Kate is pissed off. It means that all manner of mayhem can and will happen. It means she's gonna be swinging her enchanted sword Slayer in seven different directions. It also frequently means Curran will be involved because, quite often, the Beast Lord is the cause of Kate's fury. These are just a few of my favorite things. And the opening of MAGIC BLEEDS is no exception. All of the above apply. Except that Kate manages to rein in her anger to a degree, enough to set her issues aside and answer the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid's call when they need an agent to head out and investigate a bar brawl gone horribly wrong in the seedy outskirts of Atlanta. Once there, she encounters the damning detritus left in the wake of a powerful, cloaked being who skewered a shapeshifter and left a plague-like calling card. With a ponderous amount of mythical lore at her fingertips, Kate tries to work with the Order, the Mercenary Guild, the government, and the Pack to uncover the villain's identity before Atlanta becomes a wasteland, its population decimated by any number of heinous diseases. And because the murder involved a shifter, Curran will inevitably want to control matters. Tightly. As things are not going so well in Kate-and-Curran land of late, sparks (and body parts) may fly when they're forced to face (and work with) each other to stop the threat to the city they both call home.
So I could just say, "Every single expectation met. And then some." And leave it at that. But that wouldn't be any fun. You guys really wanna know how good this book is, right? It's so good I stopped more than once mid-book to immediately re-read whole sections, savoring the interaction between these characters I've come to care about with a fierce kind of love. It's so good I laughed out loud. On multiple occasions. Loud enough to make DH smile at me, nod knowingly, and say, "I love it when you're in love with a book like this." It's so good it surprised me, even when I thought I knew it so well. With its addictive blend of a non-stop parade of monsters, and hell beasts, and demons, oh my! and quiet, revealing scenes between Kate and the people she loves most (even if it is wholly against her formidable will), MAGIC BLEEDS had me at hello and didn't let go its choke hold on my throat and emotions until the final page. Things played out even better than I imagined. And that's saying something, as I wanted so much for Kate. You see, she tries to keep her hope, along with her heritage, hidden in case the worst happens and everyone she loves is forced to suffer for her sake. Me, I'm willing to lay all mine out on the table. If anyone deserves happiness and safety and love, it's her. And, come hell or high water, I want her to have it! And yet, everyone remained themselves. No one sacrifices integrity for the sake of moving the plot forward. Including the hilarious and most excellent Saiman, who, judging by his actions in this one, may actually have a death wish. But, amoral propositions aside, I love the guy. I'm glad Kate has him, even if he does put her in the most awkward situations. This book goes a long way toward addressing all these issues and the question of whether or not her background and training will, in fact, be too much to overcome when it comes to having such dangerous things as friends, family, and relationships. And, as with the last installment, we get another piece in the puzzle of both Kate and Curran. Such pieces never come without a price. And these two warriors know it. Perhaps too well. But they're not that strong for nothing, you know? It was the highest kind of pleasure spending time in their company. My expression shifted from wide grin to intense focus to desperate concern throughout the course of the book. But I closed it with a grin on my face. And you will, too. Because there's nothing but awesome here. Happy reading, my friends. MAGIC BLEEDS is due out May 25th....more
I've been looking forward to this book ever since I finished Jellicoe Road and heard Melina Marchetta had a fantasy novel already out in Australia. ItI've been looking forward to this book ever since I finished Jellicoe Road and heard Melina Marchetta had a fantasy novel already out in Australia. It took awhile but eventually word went out that the wonderfully titled FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK would be making its American debut this February and I settled back, somewhat impatiently, to wait. Jellicoe Road was my first experience reading a Marchetta book and I consider it a pretty much perfect reading experience. To say that my anticipation for her next book was high would be something of an understatement. Though the fact that it was high fantasy gave me some pause. I read quite a bit of fantasy of all kinds and I was fascinated to see how the very modern, fragmented style of writing I loved in Jellicoe Road translated to such a wildly different genre.
Once the son of the King of Lumatere's warlord, Finnikin of the Rock ran wild and happy with his best friends and rivals Prince Balthazar and Lucian of the Monts. As boys they make a blood pact to protect their homeland no matter what. Then, in Finnikan's ninth year, the five days of the unspeakable occur and the world changes. An imposter ascends to the throne, butchering the royal family and causing a curse to be laid on the the few remaining survivors. The walls of Lumatere close and the rest of its mangled population are scattered to the four winds. Years later, his mother long dead, his father long gone, Finnikin is a young man. Having spent his life wandering neighboring lands with his mentor Sir Topher, he refuses to give up hope of returning and reclaiming the land he loved and lost. When they are joined by the young novice Evanjalin, Finnikin is certain the off putting young woman who is sworn to silence will do nothing but slow them down. It is not long, however, before he discovers he could not be more wrong. For Evanjalin herself burns with a thirst for justice and it will be all Finnikin can do to keep up with her.
Truly this book has the makings of an absolutely divine epic fantasy. I was all set to fall in love. And the first section is very encouraging. However, not long after Finnikin and Sir Topher encounter Evanjalin, I began to run into problems on two fronts. First, the overall storyline began sounding eerily familiar and I realized it reminded me strongly of another epic fantasy I love and have read several times--Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. Unfortunately, once I made the connection, I could not get it out of my head. The once lovely land fallen to a conqueror's control, all but wiped out and a curse laid upon its survivors that they may always remember and never reclaim what was theirs. The rebels in hiding, circling their forbidden home, determined to mount a rebellion, fulfill a prophecy, and restore a lost royalty. And though I found these resemblances uncanny, I still would have happily sunk into Ms. Marchetta's writing were it not for the characters. They were so cold, so far removed from me as the reader. As I said, all of the elements I love were present--the deceptively simple young woman with an agenda of her own, the dispossessed young man desperate to become a man like his heroic father, the dire curse, the mysterious disappearances. A few hundred pages in I was struggling to figure out what was wrong with me, why I wasn't enjoying this read, when it suddenly occurred to me that I didn't like the characters. Not one. I didn't care at all what happened to them. And, as a result, I went through the entire novel essentially unaffected by the sweeping events of the tale for a lack of caring and closeness. I found both Finnikin and Evanjalin in large part tiresome, petty, and prickly (not in a good way) and could not for the life of me feel the connection they supposedly had. Though I was told it was there, it never felt real to me. There was so much potential that just never found a grounding point. I've held off writing this review because I felt so bad about my reaction (or lack thereof), especially considering how much I assumed I'd like it. I even took time off to make sure it wasn't simply my mood at the time. But when I came back nothing had changed. They were still them and I was still me and we none of us cared much for each other so it was best we part ways. Now, I am definitely a lone dissenting voice on this one. So I certainly recommend you give it a shot because, though there was a decided barrier between me and them, I could tell that if these characters turn out to be your cuppa there's a good chance you'll love it even if I couldn't....more
I talk about my love for Robin McKinley's books a lot. I know everyone's read Beauty. It was her first book. It's essentially a classic of fairy taleI talk about my love for Robin McKinley's books a lot. I know everyone's read Beauty. It was her first book. It's essentially a classic of fairy tale retellings now. And I love it and will always love it for giving me a Beauty who was not beautiful and avoided mirrors at all cost and a Beast with a library of books from all the ages, including ones that hadn't even been written yet. Makes my little heart sing just thinking of it and the way I absorbed it when I was twelve. But fewer people are as familiar with Ms. McKinley's second retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast. If you have a free moment, it's really worth hopping over to her site to read the wonderful essay, "The Story Behind Rose Daughter." It's lovely. When I discovered she was returning to her favorite fairy tale twenty years later and giving it a fresh new take in an entirely new novel, my skin tingled with anticipation. And not a little curiosity at just how she would give the story she'd done so well by a fresh take and whether or not it would capture my imagination the way the original did. People seem to be very divided on their loyalties to these two books. Some would fight to the death for Beauty and don't give ROSE DAUGHTER a second glance. Others feel quite the opposite and gravitate toward the slightly more lush second version. I've listened to these conversations. As for me, my heart is big enough to love them both. And I am so glad she wrote both books. Because someone who understands and loves that particular fairy tale the way it seems she does should never stop telling it, in my opinion. I would read a third and a fourth version and I will re-read these two for the rest of my life.
Her earliest memory was of waking from the dream. It was also her only clear memory of her mother.
Beauty and her two older sisters Jeweltongue and Lionheart live with their father in the city. Their lives have been rather gentle ones, filled with plenty to eat, soft beds, and the best society has to offer. Though they lost their mother early on, they have managed to make a good life with their father, each pursuing the hobbies and talents they love, as represented by their names. Lionheart is brave and strong and loves riding and sport more than anything else. Jeweltongue knows exactly what to say in every situation, sets people at ease, and sews and embroiders the most beautiful dresses. Beauty loves nature. She loves flowers and gardens and especially roses, in all their varieties and iterations, because they remind her of her mother. Then tragedy strikes. Their father loses all his wealth and they are forced to move to tiny Rose Cottage far away in the countryside. The sisters' talents are put to good use earning what meager money they can and their lives are changed in starkly unimaginable ways. But none more than Beauty's. All her life she's had the same dream. More of a nightmare, really. In which she is walking down a long hallway, uncertain of the mystery she will find behind that final door, but dreading it all the same and filled with the terror that she will both eventually get there and not get there in time. The usual events follow and Beauty takes her father's place and finds herself living in the Beast's home, where his lovely rose garden is dying. But, of course, everything is more than meets the eye, and Beauty will, in the end, have to make the hardest decision of all.
Roses are for love. Not silly sweet-hearts' love but the love that makes you and keeps you whole, love that gets you through the worst your life'll give you and that pours out of you when you're given the best instead.
Sigh. I love this book so much. It is, without a doubt, a more adult retelling of the fairy tale. And I don't mean that there is any potentially objectionable in it at all. I merely mean that you can feel the depth of experience and emotion in the work, which I think represents what the author brings to the tale twenty years after she first retold it. The sisters feel a bit older, a bit more mature, though I always love that McKinley represents them as loving and kind to one another and as in the whole thing together. The Beast himself feels more ancient to me, closer to the end of his long existence, and we get even more background information on how he came to be the way he was and what his interminable penance has really been like. And the love of beauty and gardens and all living things permeates the page in such a way that I, who am the most unskilled and amateur of gardeners, go looking for a spade and seeds the minute I put the book down. The language in ROSE DAUGHTER swallows me up as well. I find myself eternally charmed by the archetypal names and the various village denizens the girls encounter: Miss Trueword, Mrs. Words-Without-End, Mrs. Bestcloth. Each personality is distinct and you can tell that they each have their own vital stories playing out, even as the focus remains on Beauty and her path. Each time I read it, I relish getting lost with her in the ever-changing castle that is the Beast's home, as the words and the corridors wrap their twisty novelty around me and the heady magic that suffuses the place and the world has its way with me. The romance is wonderful and just as it should be. The magic is dense and carefully woven. And the descriptions so visual I can call them to mind on any given day, so vibrant are the impressions they made on me. And the ending, you say? Well, you shall have to find out for yourself. To me, it is perfect. I'm interested what it is to you. ...more