Philip Pullman might have the biggest pair of balls in YA Lit. In my first foray into Pullman's work, he killed God and encouraged teen sex to heal th...morePhilip Pullman might have the biggest pair of balls in YA Lit. In my first foray into Pullman's work, he killed God and encouraged teen sex to heal the world. In The Ruby In The Smoke: A Sally Lockhart Mystery, his teenage heroine is encouraged to use drugs to fill in the plot-holes of her life, and she shoots and kills an evil pirate, with a gun she had locked and loaded in her handbag. Lolz - love it!
The setting of The Ruby... is perhaps my favorite setting ever: Victorian London. The East End, Wapping, The Seven Dials - been there before in real Victorian novels - and this felt just as authentic to me as it did when I was reading the literature of the period. (In fact, because of this book, I can't get the setting out of my head, and have followed with Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell).
As you might expect, there are several Victorian-y or "Dickensian" moments in The Ruby..., including some very lucky coincidences and an inheritance plot. This was a very enjoyable read...but, it's hard to imagine a young-YA feeling the vibe of this ultimately-kind-of-dark mystery. Tell you what though - I'd want to hang out with the totally-rad-actual-YA that did read the Sally Lockhart mysteries...Yeah, we'd be friends...(less)
While I have to say that I appreciated the versatility of the author's style - and especially the way he would nod to the reader as they followed his...moreWhile I have to say that I appreciated the versatility of the author's style - and especially the way he would nod to the reader as they followed his tales forward and backward through time - overall this book was not a fun, exciting, or stimulating read for me. Honestly, It was a chore to slog through. And I am a bit surprised that so many of my Goodreads friends, and especially my REAL-life friends thought so highly of it. It was okay, but only just.
Maybe this is a case of me not being in the right "place" or the right "time" or the right "mood" for this book. It happens... "I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready..."
Honestly? I'm glad it's over.
*wait* you know, I really liked the escape-from-the-retirement-home and Sonmi parts. For the record...(less)
I think if you asked me, I would tell you that 'war stories' are not my thing. Reading Josh Ritter's debut novel, Bright's Passage reminded me that I...moreI think if you asked me, I would tell you that 'war stories' are not my thing. Reading Josh Ritter's debut novel, Bright's Passage reminded me that I would be lying to you. Some of the most beautiful stories come out of terrible wars, and I cannot deny their effect on me: surprise at my reaction toward them ("But, I don't like war stories!"), sadness for the tragedy and horror, too... But, they are also books that stay with me. You know, the good kind of literature that follows you around and doesn't let you forget it. And, why, so often are they so lyrically beautiful?
When I was younger, my relatives undoubtedly viewed me some kind of book-reading-anomoly-child. Having never read books themselves, they didn't ask what kind of books I liked or wanted to read, but they bought me books just the same: they just bought me books that they found in dollar stores and at Walmart for 2/$1.00. I appreciated the effort, but rarely read those things. At one point, I had three copies of The Red Badge Of Courage. But, I said..."Blah, blah, blah, a young soldier? Ew. I read about baby-sitters with dangling parrot earrings!"
So, I didn't read RBoC until I was twenty-six. And when I did... I was floored. It was a gorgeous, gorgeous teeny tiny book. Stephen Crane, who was so young when he wrote RBoC, was also an accomplished painter. And I could tell: RBoC was f*cking artwork. It was a beautiful pile of saturated descriptions and well-turned phrases on a goddamn canvas. I shook my head, thinking of all the copies of RBoC that sat in my bedroom as a kid, collecting dust. Well, whatever, I was an idiot.
The entire time that I was reading Bright's Passage, I was reminded of The Red Badge of Courage. Like RBoC, Bright's Passage is a teeny book (barely 200 pages). Bright's Passage is a book about WWI, RBoC is a book about The Civil War - but, they are both books about naive, wide-eyed American country boys who are given guns and told to kill for their country, and then left dumbfounded by the chaotic, frightening din of actual battle. Like the protagonist of RBoC, Ritter's main character is named Henry, and he is a mere nineteen or twenty years old after he returns from The First World War. And like RBoC, Bright's protagonist undergoes a somewhat frightening spiritual awakening.
Like Stephen Crane, Josh Ritter was/is a primarily different type of artist (songwriter), and the writing reflects, at times, a lyrical poetic style. It's just pretty, you know? Some really beautiful writing. So, it reads a little more gimmicky than RBoC. But, I felt Ritter's language and story unfold just as wonderfully as Crane's.
I mean - I'm comparing Bright's Passage to one of the greatest works of American Literature, here. And, for the most part, I really mean it! Josh Ritter, that indie-songwriter-guy, is not just a novelist - he is a great writer!
The plot of the story unfolds (fairly) masterfully. The narration moves from the novel's present-day (West Virginia, 1918/19), back in time through the trenches in France and the yucky-pretty tales of the battlefield, and it traces the protagonist through his homecoming from WWI to the birth of his child, and the flight to save him from some evil creepy-Appalachia-style in-laws.
Through all of this, Henry Bright is being led by his talking horse, who is possessed by a presence he calls Angel. Whether Angel is an angel, sent to protect Henry and his son, or a serious form of shell-shock (ahem, PTSD), the author does not say. But, Ritter has done a remarkable job of capturing the desperate sense of urgency and displacement that our protagonist soldier feels.
The rating: (BTW - disclosure: I got this for free from a Goodreads giveaway.). However, this did not affect my review in the slightest. I decided to give this book four stars. I thought about giving it five, at first. But, I think the surprise of Ritter being so talented at novel-writing wore off enough for me to give it a well-deserved four. I mean, this could be someone's five-star book, for sure. But, the only books I give five stars to are the books that I personally want to marry and have babies with. So, you know... I'll go with four.(less)
I am really surprised at my own reaction to this book. I was expecting to be impressed - blown away, even, maybe. In other words - a lot of hype surro...moreI am really surprised at my own reaction to this book. I was expecting to be impressed - blown away, even, maybe. In other words - a lot of hype surrounds this book: youngest winner of the orange prize; comparisons to the magical-realism of Marquez, et al.; allegedly the best debut novel in the recent history of debut novels...
Yeah, well... It was boring as hell. I actually said "yeah, blah, blah, blah" out loud while reading this thing. Please don't get me wrong - it is meticulously written. It is careful, deliberate, MFA-ish, almost absolute in its perfection of sentences. The descriptions and imagery are beautiful...its the characterization that was lacking for me.
Sure, I can read all about "sun-smeared windows," or about the "determined way the blue paint clung to the shutters..." But I can only care about what I'm reading when you give me a reason to, Tea Obreht. For instance, the blue-paint-sentence was on a page that also featured dialogue, and three different characters, all in a first-person narrative voice. Yet, we've got a problem here...because the blue paint clinging to shutters is the most interesting thing happening on that page.
In other words - the narrative voice (the main character, on the whole) is one of the things dragged this book down for me. Natalia, our protagonist, was a character who had recently lost a loved one - she is actually described as "grief-stricken" - and yet, she is flat, unfeeling, vague, shapeless, a shadow: the opposite of a disembodied narrative voice - she was almost voiceless, a vessel letting the other character's voices speak through her and hold up her amorphous form because Obreht's narrative failed to hold the character up on her own.
It would be one thing if this was a literary device (maybe it was intended to be) - if Natalia was a personality-less vessel telling the stories and myths and legends of her war-torn country. I mean, it is a novel about legacy, the power of storytelling to immortalize mere mortals, shared mythology, and the way that identity is shaped by personal narrative - the stories we tell ourselves to define who we think we are. <-- I saw what you were doing there, Obreht! I think I got it.
I just wish that there was more feeling! Depth. Grief. Pain. I wish the characters had some heart, some hunger, some anger, a sex-drive...ANYTHING! Instead, the two main characters on whom the story is built - Grandfather and Natalia - are so goddamn flat and boring! You wanna talk about the "deathless man"? What about the "personality-less" characters? Heartless. Witless. Cock-less. Nary a personality-flaw in sight! Even family secrets, once unearthed, were boring.
Only the tertiary characters, and the titular character (The Tiger's Wife, a secondary character) were drawn with any kind of charm, complexity, or... thought, really. I got the feeling that the author was perhaps using Natalia as a kind of Mary-Sue - a stand-in that she personally "knew" so well she forgot to give it personality at all.
But, you know, even though I didn't enjoy this book I think this author is off to a great start. Some people really loved the shit out of it. And some of the stuff about the kooky villagers was really, really good.
Think about it: she's got her subtle, semi-autobiographical, deep-thoughts-about-the-nature-of-life-and-death debut novel out of the way! And not only was it good enough to publish, it was good enough to shower with awards! Honestly, the good writing is there - Obreht just needs to find her voice and stop stifling it with such carefully-rendered prose about paint on the wall (Paint! On. The. Wall).(less)
This book was a little bit frustrating at times. Gemma Doyle, the series' heroine, needs to get her act together, make some decisions, act like a grow...moreThis book was a little bit frustrating at times. Gemma Doyle, the series' heroine, needs to get her act together, make some decisions, act like a grown up and figure it out. I won't say exactly what she's got to figure out [spoilers, and all]...But, there are some dire consequences to her actions (or inactions). But, at points in this book, you'd never know it!
I had a hard time with Gemma's inaction and indecision. I didn't think it weighed out compared to the "girls-can-too" mentality that Libba Bray has been reinforcing throughout the rest of the narrative.
I also had hard feelings about the author's choice of ending for the ongoing love story. (view spoiler)[She sacrifices an Indian boy for an English girl, essentially. (hide spoiler)] I found it to be an easy way out. I'm a bit torn by it actually. On the one hand, Gemma is (view spoiler)[not forced to make a lifeling decision regarding her lovelife or marriage when she is sixteen (hide spoiler)]. On the other hand, Gemma never had to make that tough decision - (view spoiler)[do I give it all up (and I mean ALL, it was 1895) for an Indian boy? Or do I choose to move on and live my life a different way? Do I walk away? Should I walk away? (hide spoiler)] - Instead, Bray makes her dilemma easy. Yet another decision Gemma is not forced to make. I have mixed feelings on this to say the least.
Regardless, this was a fast-paced book with some truly scary parts in it! Those Poppy Warriors? The Mummers? It got quite creepy in the final installment. My love for Felicity grew. My fear for Pippa was tangible.
I really enjoyed it. By the end, the author had become so much better - as a writer - in my opinion, too. Her character's voices became more cohesive and confident. Her choices of characterization and motivation became more believable.
Finally - those book covers? Is there anything more beautiful staring down the shelves at you?
This is a great book for those who like their YA on the paranormal-side, sans vampire love triangles, with the slightest touch of romance.
For the most...moreThis is a great book for those who like their YA on the paranormal-side, sans vampire love triangles, with the slightest touch of romance.
For the most part, the novel takes place in Victorian England at an all-girls finishing school. If the words Victorian England usually frighten you away from books, have no fear: the girls of Spence Academy ring truer as modern-day characters than Victorian characters any day.
For those purists who titter with excitement at the words Victorian England: approach with caution, these characters could infuriate you (see Reviews).
And for those spec-fic/paranormal lovers who insist on good world-building? Forget it. This world was built, I imagine, by an author flying by the seat of her pantaloons. But, its okay... I love Libba Bray and her nonsense pantaloons!
Gemma starts the book with a bratty (not to mention somewhat racist) sensibility, but she loses her mother and her imperialist sense-of-entitlement quite early on in the book, and quickly forms into an intelligent, witty character with a good heart - albeit one who is incapable of recognizing foreshadowing (you, reader, will always be a few steps ahead of darling Gemma).
The girls at school are very much like Victorian Mean-Girls, and just when I honestly can't see the appeal of winning them over - they turn into characters with multifacted personalities. Eventually, they become likeable.
You'll notice that I've only given this book 3-stars. That's because
1) I liked it (and that's what a 3-star rating stands for, dammit) 2) All the things I did not like about the series take their fall in my rating of the first book.
See, A Great And Terrible Beauty is the first in a trilogy about Gemma Doyle and her "magical powers." The other books in the series, Rebel Angels and The Sweet Far Thing, get higher ratings from me. And one of the reasons is that all of the things that annoyed me about Bray's anachronistic characterization ((view spoiler)[a girl who cuts herself?!?!?! O-come on! If that's not a 20th Century Teenage Epidemic, what is? (hide spoiler)]), her shoddy world-building, or her "I'm-equating-whiteness-with-beauty" physical descriptions, either paled away in the second and third installments or stopped bothering me.
Otherwise, I think that this is an engaging and exciting read about the power of friendship. It is an F-you in the face of the ladies-in-corsets Victorian agenda. I mean, this book has plenty of girls rolling around in the dirt and drinking booze in a cave, or girls being vexed and distraught by the choices they never even get to the chance to make...
Since Libba Bray is writing 110 or so years after the period, she injects some commentary into the mix, but does so without being didactic or uptight.
I frequently troll the rec-boards seeking people who are fans of "paranormal romance" who have not yet read this book. I recommend it to all the ladies out there reading Twilight and Twilight knock-offs, hoping they can see a world where magic exists, where girls have almost no rights of their own, but claim them anyway.
And especially, I want them to read a book where the sexy love-interest waits patiently in the background while the main character takes care of all the other shit she has to do... like saving The Realms.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Summary: "Moving Pictures is the story of the awkward and dangerous relationship between curator Ila Gardner and officer Rolf Hauptmann...set in World...more Summary: "Moving Pictures is the story of the awkward and dangerous relationship between curator Ila Gardner and officer Rolf Hauptmann...set in World War II while the Nazis were pillaging much of Europe's great art collections."
Thematically, this is a work about art that has gone missing. It is also a work about people who have gone missing. And it is a work about a lot of things that are left unsaid between the story's two main players. I cannot think of a better use of all the heavy, negative space in Immonen's artwork. It's amazing. The artwork is sharp and angular - and at the same time sparse and controlled - just like the dialogue!
This work was really well done! What an amazing team Kathryn & Stuart Immonen are. This was a mature, literary, striking book.
It lost a star for a rather abrupt ending. And the fact that it is difficult to tell the characters apart (which left many readers confused...)(less)
Why do I like Rebel Angels so much more than A Great And Terrible Beauty?
That's easy: Balls.
Not THOSE kinds of balls. These kinds:
Maybe because all t...moreWhy do I like Rebel Angels so much more than A Great And Terrible Beauty?
That's easy: Balls.
Not THOSE kinds of balls. These kinds:
Maybe because all those par-tays made the pace of the novel seem faster and the story more compelling. But, also, we get to see Gemma interact with her family and the snooty-high-society all around her. This makes for some excellent characterization of both the major and secondary characters.
Would this series have been able to sustain itself without a love-triangle? Someone should have researched that... Hellooooo, Simon Middleton! I guess you're here to try to coax our Gemma out of The Realms. By getting her drunk and unlacing her corset... (Victorian date rape?) I think we'll take Kartik any day, thanks.
Meanwhile, is Felicity Worthington the best character in this series, or is it just me?(less)
I never thought that at the end of a 900-ish page novel, I would be so sad to close the book. Sure, this book is so big that it made my bus rides ridi...moreI never thought that at the end of a 900-ish page novel, I would be so sad to close the book. Sure, this book is so big that it made my bus rides ridiculous for the better part of two weeks, so heavy that I would knock myself in the forehead with it while I was reading in bed. But, these magicians have been my BFFs for weeks! I already miss their bro-mance.
I absolutely adored this book, and would recommend it to just about anyone, as long as they are fond of one thing: simply amazing storytelling. Run and get yourself a copy. Buy it, because you will be sad when you have to give it back to the library (or your friend). Don't be daunted by the length! Don't be daunted by the British-ness! Or the time period (1806-1817)! Or the magic! This book was written for you, I promise.
Come back, Jonathan and Gilbert. I miss you already!(less)
Once Upon A River was a surprising book. I did not expect it to be so gritty and realistic - but I ended up really enjoying that aspect of it. The pro...moreOnce Upon A River was a surprising book. I did not expect it to be so gritty and realistic - but I ended up really enjoying that aspect of it. The protagonist, Margo, was very well rounded and defined. She was determined and real - fascinating even while being completely unrelatable. She's a unique and strong character. However, I will say I want to slap every male character in this book: don't look for romance in this book...just a buncha rapists.(less)