The Weight of Feathers is an achingly lovely and highly imaginative story that fuses Romeo and Juliet with the tale of The Bird and the Fish,3.5 stars
The Weight of Feathers is an achingly lovely and highly imaginative story that fuses Romeo and Juliet with the tale of The Bird and the Fish, and gives them a setting that reminded me of The Night Circus and The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. Full of entirely welcome racial and ethnic diversity, splendid magical realism and pretty writing, The Weight of Feathers makes for a delicately enchanting novel. Too bad for me, then, that I was bored most of the time.
This novel should've been a a perfect hit with me. During the last couple of years, I've come to the realization that magical realism is the quickest way to my heart and this novel had in abundance the mesmerizing atmosphere and wondrous qualities that makes me love the genre. However, for some reason, I had a really hard time staying focused on the novel, and thus, I was never as captivated by the novel as I wanted to be. The novel has an admittedly slow pace, the plot progressing at a measure pace that worked pretty well with the air of the story, but that failed to make it all that enthralling to me. I must admit, however, that I think the fault resides on me this instance, for the novel was exactly the way it was supposed to be and very easily measured up to other quality novels of the kind, it seemed I was simply not in the particular mood for it, for this is definitely a novel you must be in the mood for because of how heavy on romance it is.
While the romance angle takes a while to develop, it has a very strong presence since the beginning, and though there's not much kissing and touching until later in the book, from the first 50 pages, the romance pulsed through the story, becoming the orbit around which everything else moved, including the characterization and plotting. Subsequently, most of the technical aspects of the novel faded to the background in order to make space for the developing romance between the main characters. My biggest problem with that is the resulting lack of world-building, which got in the way of understanding most about these two clans and their particular characteristics beyond what the author chose to impart on the reader to make more dramatic the relationship between the star-crossed lovers. We hear a lot about the defining traits of these two clans, the feathers and the scales, the shows they put on, but most of their development rests on superficial notions of the cultures of France and Mexico the author expects the reader to just know. The narration is also constantly intersected with French and Spanish aphorisms and words, depending on whose perspective that particular scene was being told, which effectively added a mystifying quality to the whole affair, but quickly lost its appeal because of its relentlessly repetitive use.
I did enjoy very much how the two main characters, Cluck and Lace, were characterized. It's strange to read a YA novel where the two main characters aren't perfect (and completely oblivious to the fact) and where their entire relationship is based on a very shallow physical attraction. It's strange because, while I never actually felt like I knew either Cluck or Lace too much (probably an effect of the 3rd Person POV in this case), I genuinely believed they liked each other in a very emotional level and because of how each of them became a soothing balm to the internal wounds of the other. These are two very damaged characters, physically, emotionally and psychologically, and I really felt like they got each other in a very profound level. That's really important to me in a romance-focused novel, and I think this novel achieved it to a very commendable extent.
This is a rare and lovely novel that I honestly wish I could've love as much as it deserved to be loved. A heavy reliance on romance is not something I'm usually partial to, especially in magical realism where intense magical world-building and deep introspection are very strong preferences of mine, but the truth is that, in all likelihood, I just read this novel at the wrong time and I'm almost certain that, under different circumstances, I probably would've loved it. This is a very strong debut novel that foretells of a very sensitive writer with imagination and talent to spare. ...more
I thought it would be very difficult to read, never mind enjoy, A Thousand Nights shortly after having read and deeply liked The Wrath and th3.5 stars
I thought it would be very difficult to read, never mind enjoy, A Thousand Nights shortly after having read and deeply liked The Wrath and the Dawn. But both books were wildly different experiences, on a subjective and objective level. While TWATD focuses on mesmerizing romance, seduction and revenge, A Thousand Nights is a character-driven, slow-paced and empowering exploration of mysticism and women, the power they wield and the bond that unites them. There's no romance in this novel, no heart-pounding action, no double-crossing or twists and turns. There aren't even names in the story. A Thousand Nights is a more mature, almost literary take on the classic that uses magic and myth to slowly and thoughtfully weave together a tale of quiet but powerful feminism.
This book reminded me quite a lot of my experience with Sorrow's Knot. Both novels use fantasy to delve deep into historically rich and complex cultures, respectfully borrowing elements from them to create wondrous new worlds with strong and compelling cultures that serve as the stage to subversively showcase and explore the strength of women. This novel is focused almost entirely on the strength of sisterhood (blood and otherwise), the bonds that binds the women experience, and the great capacity for fierce love and sacrifice in women. Most importantly, this novel is concerned with the strength, power and bravery of the unnamed, how the unrecognized and unclaimed truly carry the weight of progress and change. That most of these unnamed have been women throughout history is exactly the subtle message of this novel.
A Thousand Nights is a very slow novel that's not concerned with entertaining or being enjoyable - or with explaining anything thoroughly. The pace is unhurried, the story unfurling delicately and gradually, taking its time to thoughtfully consider and explore and challenge. It is a very well written novel, with a very lyrical and contemplative style that I found compelling, though I will admit is dangerously close to boring for some. Our nameless main character is fascinating in the sense that she seems to personify womanhood, to represent each and every single one of us, and she did it wonderfully. Brave, smart, strong, and caring, the novel and its main character speak to the idea of female weakness inherent to the softer nature that has been assigned to us for ages and subverts it entirely, beautifully showcasing the iron strength in it, and that it does it through the retelling of a classic, sexist tale is quite amazing.
This book might be short, but it is dense and very slowly built. If you like more literary, atmospheric and contemplative works, I'm sure you'll be pleased with what Johnston achieved with this retelling. It is a very elegant and beautiful novel, a subtly powerful one that blew my expectations away because of how different, compelling and thoughtful it was. I was an unexpectedly exquisite experience and I can't wait to see what else this author has in store. ...more
From a completely objective standpoint, Never, Never is a decent novel with some surprising moments of poignancy and a Peter Pan retelling that is sucFrom a completely objective standpoint, Never, Never is a decent novel with some surprising moments of poignancy and a Peter Pan retelling that is successful to a certain extent in humanizing one of literature's most iconic villains and in providing a new perspective to the original tale. The original Peter Pan allows for some pretty imaginative, creative and unbelievably touching retellings because of the great cast of engaging and largely unexplored characters that tantalize the reader into fascination. One of my very favorite books, Tiger Lily, is a haunting, very near flawless novel that goes deep into several of the classic characters and drives right through the heart the message of human imperfection. As far as imagination goes, I think Shrum succeeded well enough at least in telling Hook's story from a different perspective even if she added very little else to the original story of Neverland, but, ultimately, I found nothing special in this retelling.
First off, the tone of this novel is a hard one to get used to particularly as the story progresses, for it was extremely jarring to make the transition from a seemingly Middle Grade tone and style to an unexpectedly mature one from a moment to the next. What makes the transition even harder is that, while the tone shifts greatly and without much warning as Hook grows, the writing is pretty much the same, so from one second to the next we are reading about this little boy admiring fairies and then admiring breasts with very little change in the writing style. It make me uncomfortable and made it really hard to stay connected to what was happening in the story.
Moreover, I was also troubled by the very objectifying gaze with which Tiger Lily was described all throughout the novel. I'm well aware that the novel follows the perspective of a male character, one that grows into a man with mature inclinations, but all throughout the novel, Tiger Lily is only spoken of in superficial terms of beauty, her voice and actions consistently flirtatious, and with recurrent passages dedicated exclusively to describing her body. The romantic relationship that develops in this novel is a purely physical one where Tiger Lily is nothing more beyond a bold, beautiful and sensual woman there for the wanting and who does very little else beyond being hopelessly love-sick.
I never connected with any of the characters, which is why I initially said that the author is only marginally successful in humanizing the character. The truth is that while there is some degree of profoundness and complexity given to the character beyond its known role as villain, I wouldn't exactly call him a rounded, well-developed character. His development is marked almost exclusively by his sexual and physical growth. For a novel that spends such a long time describing in painstaking detail the motivations and thoughts of Hook, he never came across as a concrete character to me. His motivations never appeared realistic and his emotional development seemed inconsistent to me. Furthermore, I don't think this novel goes very deep into the character at all. For the sake of the angle that this story took in the telling of the original, the novel was staunchly determined to vilify Peter Pan to extremes (which is as character I've always hated, so it says a lot that this is a complaint of mine) in order to make Hook more of a tragic figure.
I considered dropping the novel several times through the course of the two days it took me to read it. I went into this novel wishing to find some of the magic and tragic human beauty that I found in Tiger Lily, even in Second Star which is as loose a Peter Pan retelling as I can think of. But this book confuses haunting with depressing, infusing the tale with barely any life or light. It was just a flat line for me, one with which I was never able to connect with, regardless of the whimsical nature of Neverland, the magic of the story or the tragedy of the characters. It didn't even seem like the story wanted to put in the effort to be anything else besides a deep, dark void of despair and self-pity, which can be fine when there's a connection to the characters and their experiences, but here the whole thing ended up becoming boring and repetitive.
My expectations for this novel were almost brutally dashed away and instead I ended up forcing myself to read a book that, while not entirely horrible, had no impact whatsoever on me. The writing is decent, but I couldn't connect in any level with this story or the characters, couldn't take anything from it either emotionally or intellectually. I didn't even derived any measure of entertainment from it. After the 50 page mark, it became a struggle with myself to become interested at first and then to simply make it to the end. I would blame my lack of interest in Peter Pan as a classic, but the original has given way for many retellings I've enjoyed deeply, so I can't entirely take the blame for this one, even if I recognize that this novel is okay under most standards, though I reassert my notion that there's just nothing magical, riveting or special enough to make Never, Never something beyond a book I'll probably forget about very soon. ...more
This may come as a shock, judging by the mediocre average rating of this novel and the extremely valid 1 star reviews that top the GR page, a3.5 stars
This may come as a shock, judging by the mediocre average rating of this novel and the extremely valid 1 star reviews that top the GR page, and it certainly was a shock to me, but... I actually liked this novel. Quite a lot. Having said that, let me be clear on something: I would not recommend this novel to anyone, because all those 1 stars reviews are completely right: this is an extremely depressive novel that features what's probably one of the most disturbing, despicable and unhealthiest relationships I've read about, along with some pretty infuriating characters to boot. I can see why that wouldn't work for most readers, but, ironically, those were the things I loved the most about the novel.
Most YA retellings of classical works of fiction, - as opposed to fairy tale retellings, which give the authors a lot more room to make the stories their own -, struggle with capturing the essence that made the original a classic, like Great, most of them never actually succeed at convincing the reader of the connection between what they present and the work and author they are trying to honor, like Of Monsters and Madness, and even less do they ever manage to make a good case for the necessity of this retelling, like Thorn Abbey or Ashes on the Waves, but I actually think Hutchinson managed to do every single of these things beautifully. I honestly believe that Hutchinson captured the spirit of Shakespeare's Hamlet because she really understood the work, from the story to the characters, and portrayed them as they really are in all of their twisted glory. She didn't try to break the bones of the story to reset them into what she wanted the story to be, and she didn't reshape the characters to her convenience. She filled in the gaps in the story, rounded up the characters and brought a timeless story into our own times, but it stayed Hamlet from a different and, I would argue, necessary point of view. That is not to say that the story always worked, particularly in this setting, but Hutchinson achieved the impressive feat of capturing the essence of Hamlet and making it feel like Hamlet.
This book is told from Ophelia's point of view. We all know how this story ends, we know the events and some of us even know the monologues by heart, but all of that, in no way diminished my enjoyment of the novel or made me any less excited about reading what would happen next. The book is certainly slow and undeniably depressive. This is not an entertaining book, and definitely not a feel good novel. This is a sad, depressive, bleak work that's heartbreaking and sorrowful every step of the way. Being down in the dumps while reading this novel is not entirely optional. The book is written in such a way that it drags to down to the depths of Ophelia's despair and it is almost impossible to break from that.
This is a beautifully written novel, with a lovely, evocative and lyrical prose that I had a really hard time tearing my eyes away from, and Hutchinson put it to really good use in breathing life into Hamlet's most innocent victim: Ophelia. I felt like the really gave dimension to this character, and most importantly, managed to give her a duality that she lacked in Shakespeare's original. Here, Ophelia was no less a victim than she was in the original, but she was also not as innocent, incapable or foolish. She certainly allowed herself to be manipulated by Hamlet and her feelings for him, but there was a degree of willingness and determination from her in Hutchinson's retelling that painted the character in a new light. I really liked how Hutchinson played with Ophelia's madness and she used it to create a world of impossible things that still felt possible. I liked how the lines blurred between reality and fantasy and how that helped to create the atmosphere of the story.
The novel also attempts to give a lot more depth to the rest of the characters, which I greatly appreciated, for in Shakespeare's original there had been very little space to explore other characters besides Hamlet. Here we get a more introspective look at Gertrude, and maybe get some understanding of why she acted the way she did, even though it can't possibly excuse her, and we see more of loyal Horatio. What I liked the most about the characterization in this book is that, while it went a lot deeper than in the original, it didn't break away from the original, it didn't change the essence of the characters in any way and actually felt quite natural to them. There were a couple of characters that didn't really work for me, particularly Polonius, who felt very inconsistent in characterization and whole actions later on in the novel felt disjointed from the character he had been in the first half of the story. But mostly, the characterization really worked for me, especially Hamlet, who I felt Hutchinson captured beautifully.
There's a bit of an issue with the modern setting of the novel and the narration, dialogues and customs of the characters. This would've probably being an issue for me under other circumstances, but I honestly think it worked well here and that it was done on purpose. It will definitely feel disjointed at points, but I quite liked the juxtaposition of the modern setting with the narrative style, the dialogues and the ideals that the characters embraced. I feel like that helped to maintain the Shakespearean feeling of the novel. Had Hutchinson forsaken that and opted for a more modern style, I feel like the novel as a whole would've lost its appeal, its originality and beauty, and would've ended up being yet another Shakespeare retelling for me. That's particularly strange considering that that's the very reason why I didn't like Baz Luhrman's Romeo+Juliet, for I felt the juxtaposition in that movie grated on my nerves, but for some reason, I feel like the author made it work in this format.
I was a bit uncomfortable with the visualization of women in the novel, but, really, this is a pretty faithful Hamlet retelling, which is an appallingly sexist play all by itself, so I can't praise the faithfulness of this novel one second and then hold it against it the next. But it would also be a lie to say that this novel is sexist in its own right. Quite the contrary, actually. Hamlet's claims that his mother is a whore for marrying his uncle is about 60% of his psychological issues in the original play. If Hutchinson had done away with that, a very important aspect of his madness would've been lost. Countless books have been written about Hamlet's obsession with his mother's sexuality, hell, I wrote a freaking essay on it in one of my literature classes, so it would've done the original a disservice to ignore that part. Moreover, the novel makes it particularly clear that Hamlet is not a character whose judgement is to be trusted, for Hamlet is pretty much the pinnacle of inconsistency and selfishness. Aside from that, Ophelia's comments about being a good girl are nothing but the indoctrination forced upon her by this outdated institution that's trying to cling to the ideals of the past. Hutchinson actually makes a point out of portraying just how wrong these ideals are by mentioning several times in the novel that there's another school trying to get Elsinore Academy to change its curriculum for girls and make it as challenging as the boys so that they can grow into their own people and not somebody else's wife and support, an idea both Ophelia and Hamlet support later on in the novel.
And finally, the abusive relationship. There really isn't much I can say about this, for clearly, it is a sick a relationship as I've ever read about. Normally, this type of relationship would've immediately earned a 1 star rating, maybe a rant, but here it made sense. We are talking about classical characters who are famous for being so very fucked up. It makes sense that the author would've chosen to portray a relationship between the two about as fucked up as them, especially when one considers the fate that awaits these characters. I wouldn't have made sense for the relationship between Ophelia and Hamlet to be portrayed in any other way. And I personally never felt like the author was supporting this type of relationship, like she was trying to paint it in a positive light or to even imply that it was acceptable under any circumstances. Unlike other novels that romanticize abusive relationships, this one didn't try to surgarcoat the ugliness, didn't try to make it sexy or made the characters heroes for going along with it. On the contrary, the most sensible characters, the ones portrayed in a positive light in the novel, repeatedly told Ophelia and Hamlet just how fucked up the whole thing was, and even Hamlet and Ophelia were pretty much aware that this was horrible, that their relationship was doomed and that it was a sick, ugly thing. The novel portrayed the relationship as it was, without any discernible encouragement on its part. Not every novel that features a disturbing, abusive relationship is trying to make it out as a beautiful, positive thing, though that certainly is the tendency in YA and NA nowadays. The author makes the reader aware every step of the way that this relationship is a hideous, abusive thing that spelled the doom for the main character because she refused to walk away from it.
Okay, wow, I feel like I just wrote a thesis on this novel, so if you read this review all the way to the end, thank you for sticking with me. I just had a lot of things to say about this novel because I honestly believe Hutchinson did a fantastic job, and in light of the mediocre rating and bad reviews, I felt like I had to explain myself. This book just felt right to me. I did a wonderful job at capturing the essence of the original Hamlet, and it was honest with how it portrayed the characters and the plot. The author never tried to make out of this characters something that they were not. They were ugly, selfish, weak, cowardly and twisted beings that did ugly, selfish, weak, cowardly and twisted things to each other, and that's what makes Hamlet the classic it is, and I wholeheartedly believe that A Wounded Name succeeded in honoring Shakespeare's Hamlet just the way it deserve to be honored. ...more
While reading this novel, I sometimes felt like I had written it. Certainly not true, of course, but it was a strange feeling because at points it fel While reading this novel, I sometimes felt like I had written it. Certainly not true, of course, but it was a strange feeling because at points it felt like something I'd thought about several times, something not meant to see the light of day, but that I might've as well written. In fact, I would even dare to say that thousands, maybe millions of people wrote at least half of the plot of this novel in their heads after binge watching any of the Sherlock series featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as the irresistible sociopath Sherlock Holmes, probably while they daydreamed their way into the amazing story of the series, most likely in the shape of a brilliant, compelling, strong and fascinating person who matches Sherlock point by point, and who he simply cannot resist - ignoring his whole asexual, sociopath thing, of course. If you're thinking I'm comparing this novel to self-insert fan fiction... you'd be right. That's exactly what I'm doing, because that's exactly what this novel feels like: nicely written, absorbing, but ultimately, just a wish-fulfillment romantic fan fiction in which the iconic main character is changed to fulfill the romantic expectations of someone who is irresistibly attracted to what the character is like, but knows that, if the character were to remain that way, their romantic fantasies would never come to pass. I'm not saying that's what the novel is or that that was the author's idea or what inspired it, but it just felt like that to me the entire time I read the novel.
Sherlock Holmes is a timeless icon at this point. He's had many different incarnations and forms, but the core of his characterization usually stays the same. I'm all for taking liberties with retellings, the more original the better, but Lock & Mori obviously borrows from Sherlock's most recent (and definitely sexiest) incarnation and wishes to built upon that. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, there's nothing unforgivably wrong with the characters either, but I never quite shook the feeling that this novel was, more than a retelling, a take on Sherlock for fantasy fulfillment purposes, with all due respect to the author. The thing is, when in a novel of Sherlock Holmes, the most used word is "kiss" or a variation of that, well, I think that tells you something all by itself.
There's certainly a mystery here, preposterous and ridiculous, of course, but it was not all that bad, except for that whole thing where they tell you who the criminal is about a 100 pages into the novel and the rest of the book is just the waiting to do something about it. Not that it is not predictable, but the mystery was built interestingly enough to take the spotlight away from how obvious the murderer was. But then, less than halfway throughout the novel, the killer is known to the main character, and she just waits around refusing to do anything about it. And that's just because the mystery isn't even the point of the novel. It was just an excuse, a background for what the real point of the novel is: romancing Sherlock.
In theory, I actually liked this novel. I genuinely love the idea behind it and I appreciate what the author did with the story and the characters, and after the end, how she plans to develop that relationship. It's all fascinating, and it shows a remarkable interest in deepening and exploring the timeless, complex relationship between Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty. I really liked all that. The bare bones of the novel were actually kind of great, it was the rest what bothered me.
Moriarty is an interesting character, certainly an interesting girl and I could see how she fit with Sherlock, why they would be attracted to each other. But her characterization was a bit inconsistent sometimes, far too heavy-handed at others, and when it came to her decisions concerning the identity of the murderer and the life she led at home, incredibly stupid. I think the author tried to make her to be something that the character herself wouldn't allow herself to be. I probably would've liked it better and believed her character more strongly if she had been an unreliable narrator, if there had been something off about her. She's the heroine here, so she's the good one, and while she might be somewhat morally ambiguous for the sake of what the character of Moriarty has been in the Sherlock Holmes canon, but, in the end, she is still the good guy. All that means she's supposed to care, to love, to be compassionate, or at least, that's what the author tried to do and where she failed for me because she tried to present Mori as this caring sister, as this worrying person, as this hurt friend and, realistically, she was none of that. She said she cared about her brothers, about her only friend, but she didn't, not at all. They were all plot devices, convenient props for her. She never actually showed that she cared about any of them, and that would've been amazing had that been the intent of the characterization, but it wasn't. The novel really tried to drive the point home that she loved them and was willing to do anything for them, but that was just telling instead of showing, because not once in 250-something pages I got that from Mori herself. She remembered her brothers when it was convenient to the story and she remembered or cared for her supposed best friend, who showed up about 3 times in the entire novel, when it was crucial to the development of the story.
Speaking of which, if there's something I hate is when novels try to emotionally manipulate me, particularly when they bring out sympathetic characters with no particular role in the story only to make them suffer in some way in order to develop or motivate the main character. In spite of its flaws, this novel was a solid 3 star read for me until that happened, until the story shamelessly used a character it had barely bothered to develop and brutalized them to emotionally manipulate me as a reader and to use as motivation for Mori and force the development on her that would change her for the next two books. The build up to it was ridiculous, the plot point itself was unnecessary, and it was cliched, lazy writing technique that pretty much ruined the novel for me. I can deal with deaths in stories; in fact, I dislike it when authors refuse to sacrifice characters to make the story better, but here the story didn't get better, it wasn't necessary at all and, in the end, the character itself didn't matter, it was all about Mori and what she needed at that particular moment.
Sherlock himself was yet another inconsistent aspect to this novel. He was there for most of it, but he hardly had any presence at all. I would've been fine with that as well had this meant that the novel would focus on Mori and her development as a character, but while that might've been the intent, the truth is that Sherlock was another convenient device to pull in an out when the story demanded it. Mori needed to get involved someone with the mystery, Sherlock was there to pull her in and the conveniently fade into the background. She needed help or saving, he would swoop in and provide what was needed and then disappear once more. Even worse, the other 90% of the novel, he was just there to provide make-out sessions, hugs, awkward touching and to whisper sweet nothings to Mori's ear.
Like I said, I could understand the attraction between them, but it progressed so fast, so unrealistically for characters with this particular set of personalities and inclinations, it never felt authentic and instead felt rushed and forced where the characters themselves had the tools to make this feel perfectly realistic. In the end, this was basically the story of a girl who seems extraordinary and that just makes her worthy of making out with Sherlock. And that's just it: this didn't even have to be a Sherlock retelling, as it barely contains anything relating to Sherlock Holmes besides a couple of names and the street they live in. This could've been any other half-assed mystery/thriller YA with tons of fluff romance and it would've changed absolutely nothing.
The writing was awkward some times, the narration a bit repetitive, and a whole, failed to convey any sort of emotion. Again, that would've been great if it had been part of Mori's characterization, but it wasn't. The reader gets constantly told about all the things she feels, all this anger and sadness and angst, and yet, the narrative voice is so dry, you never quite get that Mori is feeling anything at all. Moreover, this novel relies on unexplored and unexplained character motivations for why they do things, most of then nonsensical and stupid, and the characters themselves, in spite of being hailed as the two most brilliant minds, made highly illogical and stupid decisions for the sake of prolonging a plot that was already spread far too thin, in spite of how short this novel is.
Somewhat entertaining, definitely a quick, mindless read, but that was just it: I didn't want a mildly entertaining, mindless read. I wanted a YA take on Sherlock Holmes that lived up the the complexity of the characters, to the nuance of their relationships and to the fascinating, absorbing and twisty mysteries that made the original stories classics. If it couldn't be done, at the very least, I wanted something besides a half-cooked mystery and tons of fluffy romance that was so wildly out of character, it made me damn near uncomfortable. A huge disappointment this one, my dear Watson. ...more
I could blame the ridiculously long amount of time it took me to finish this novel on the fact that I was abruptly2.5 stars generously rounded up to 3
I could blame the ridiculously long amount of time it took me to finish this novel on the fact that I was abruptly forced to cease all reading by the dreaded season of cramming and studying-until-eyeballs-bleed for finals, but, to be perfectly honest, I was actually kind of relieved about getting a break from this novel. You see, there's nothing particularly wrong with this book, in fact, it's a very decently crafted novel. But the truth is that I did struggle with reading this novel, and, about 50 pages into it, I was reminded in a rather harsh manner of why this author's first novel, The Dark Unwinding, is the only book I've ever left unfinished: Her writing and pacing are frustratingly, maddeningly, mind-numbingly boring. Even when things are actually happening, the rest of the novel has placed you in such a strong state of comatose boredom, you can't find it within yourself to summon any sort of emotion or excitement, not even a desperation to just get done with the novel. You're just there, in a weird state of complete indifference, which is a pity because Cameron's stories are actually good. I started to really enjoy the book about a 150 pages before it ended, which made quite an impact on what had been an unshakable 2-star experience, but while I can readily admit I see what would make this appealing for other readers, the slow built-up of this novel made it a forgettable, mediocre reading experience for me.
I genuinely liked the concept behind the novel, the characterization and development of the characters and the plot, but their execution left much to be desired because the writing made it really difficult to connect with any of it. Cameron's writing is perfectly decent, and I don't know if it's the cadence or its lengthiness, but something about it makes me lose focus, makes it seem like it just goes on and on without much actually happening. Personally, that made it really difficult for me to care about the novel, to feel invested in the story or the characters, or to be particularly interested in any aspect of the novel. The one thing that I was legitimately interested in the novel was the character of René. The novel just took too long with absolutely everything. I don't think I've ever complained about a novel's thoroughness before, but this novel is about twice the length it should've been simply because of how specific and detailed every single plot point is in the novel.
Cameron gave a lot of development to its two main characters, Sophia and René, and I actually enjoyed the chemistry behind them. But, whereas René was a very interesting, well-developed and refreshingly original love interest in YA, Sophia, while well-rounded a character, was far too perfect for my taste. While it is commendable that Cameron didn't use her own novel as a sort of shrine to the perfection of her main character like some other authors do, it is undeniable that Sophia lacks any sort of human flaw that would mar in any way or form her perfection, which made her a particularly hard character to feel invested in. I also didn't like that her abominable selfishness was presented as kindness, particularly went it came to how she handled the third wheel in this love triangle. That was not being kind or selfless or sacrificed or considerate as the novel tried to paint it, Sophia was not confused or afraid to hurt his feelings, she pretty much strung Spear along, knowing perfectly well that he was in love with her, and kept him around because she needed him.
If either Sophia, the story or the writing had acknowledged this as a character flaw, I actually would've been okay with this because it would've added a layer of human imperfection to Sophia that would've made her a lot more fascinating to read about. But no, like everything she did, this was painted over and made out to be just another example of her perfection: she loved her childhood friend so very much, she couldn't bear to hurt his heart because she didn't reciprocate his feelings. Essentially, Sophia's only flaw was that she was reckless and impulsive, but when has that ever being a flaw in a YA heroine, especially when the love interest loves her for that? Sophia was certainly brave and clever, and I genuinely think she is a good heroine as far as YA standards go, but to me she is not a particularly interesting or engaging character by herself.
That doesn't mean, however, that I have any sort of sympathy for Spear. This novel presents a strange sort of love triangle because, from the beginning, everybody knows there is no way Sophia would ever choose Spear. It is quite obvious his feelings are not returned, and besides, no one in their right mind would ever root for Spear. He was controlling, possessive, inconsiderate, obsessive and a bit of a sociopath. The characters themselves did make a point of outright telling that this was not affection or love, but a desire for possession, but this was at odds with how the story simultaneously tried to portray him as loyal, passionate and committed. I actually like that the author gave him this duality to his character, this seemingly contradictory and complex dimension, which definitely worked to some extent, but I found it really hard to like/care/be-anything-but-intensely-creeped-out by this character.
Ironically, I was a whole lot more creeped out by one of the "heroes" than by the actual villain. In fact, all I felt about this villain was derisive skepticism. He was a cartoon of a villain, almost bordering on sheer absurdity. He was supposed to be this absolute psychopath, but he was so entirely one-dimensional, so thoroughly inconsistent in characterization and behavior, that it was very hard to see him as a threatening villain, and it was particularly painful to get through the parts of the story told from his point of view.
I came pretty close to DNFing this novel a couple of times. It wasn't holding my attention, it felt uneventful and consistently failed to be either engaging or entertaining because it just took too damn long to get anywhere, but, surprisingly, shortly after the 50% mark, the book actually improved vastly and I was legitimately interested in seeing where it would go. The story itself is twisty and conceptually compelling, the interactions between the characters were actually pretty well written and the world itself was original and fascinating, but up until that point, its snail-like pace had hindered my enjoyment of just about any of those things. But things do get in motion about halfway through the novel, which saved the book for me and made me feel generous enough to give it that extra half-star and bump it up to a 3 star rating. I don't think I've managed to convey this very well, but this is actually a decent novel. There are plenty of good things to it, certainly more than bad things, but I personally found it really hard to enjoy much of it because this author's writing and pacing bored me to near death. The book somewhat redeemed itself for me towards the end, or maybe I was just in a much better mood after having taken a long break from it, but it managed the impressive feat of reigniting my interest after hundreds of pages of absolute indifference.
I have very conflicting feelings about this novel, which should be evident given my rambling review, but I do actually think this is a decent novel that simply needed a bit more editing. 100 pages less and a bit more tightening with the writing, and this could've easily been a fantastic read. In spite of that 3 star rating, I think this is my last Cameron read. I tried with her debut novel and failed miserably, and now I barely made it out of this one. I respect her imagination and her craft, but it is now obvious her writing is not for me. ...more
I did not expect to like Stitching Snow in the slightest. First of all, it sounded far too much like Cinder, and yes, the similarities are th3.5 stars
I did not expect to like Stitching Snow in the slightest. First of all, it sounded far too much like Cinder, and yes, the similarities are there all the way through the book. They may have distinct plotlines and, in the end, different executions, but there are undeniable elements from the Lunar Chronicles in this novel. Second, after reading that description, I was under the impression that this would be a rather silly book. It was how wrong I was about this second idea what saved Stitching Snow for me entirely.
This novel is nothing if not serious. It has strong, disturbing elements, and a very jaded, emotionally-stunted, and very rough main character. Essie is almost impossible to like at points because of the way she treats those around her, especially the love interest. She was harsh, inconsiderate and brusque, and annoyed me sometimes, but then it was explained and it all made sense. It was only logical that Essie would be this way, and I didn’t have to like it, but the author made it possible for me to understand her, which resulted in some very interesting characterization and an even more impressive character development for Essie in the end. Even when I didn’t like how jaded Essie was, I had to appreciate how thorough and consistent the author was with her characterization. Essie was a really well-developed and rounded character. She was the perfect product of her upbringing, and who she was permeated every single thing she did. There was never a flaw in her characterization, and yes, she was too rough sometimes, outright terrible and selfish at others, but it went perfectly with whom the author intended her to be and, in the end, that made her a very realistic and well-written character. She is not perfect and she was never intended to be so, which made for a very interesting take on Snow White, considering Essie was nothing like the original character – quite the opposite, really. Aside from her really rough aspects, Essie is an extremely competent main character. She is absolutely brilliant, misses nothing and never lacks common sense, she is tough and perfectly capable of taking care of herself.
The only problem with Essie’s incredible characterization is that, as a result, all the other characters in the novel paled by comparison. There was no other character in the novel that was even half as interesting as her and that included the love interest. Dane was a decent but forgettable character, but I did like that his character made a transition between who he was before he met Essie and who he turned into after, since he was a bit condescending and selfish when he met her but then turned into a very decent love interest when he fell in love with her, though the love did happen a bit fast and the L-word was dropped seemingly out of nowhere and without much preamble. I like the person he became after he fell for Essie. He was supportive and understanding, even protective without controlling her, but he did take a bit too much of Essie’s abuse stoically. What I liked about him the most is that he gave Essie her space and waited for her to decide and make a move, to decide the path their relationship would take.
The author was clever with how she placed the original elements of the story into her retelling, like the dwarfs and the poisoned apple, but in the end, this was a very loose retelling and the story wouldn’t had been hurt in the slightest if the apple design on the necklace, her real name or the number of robots had been changed.
The novel is full of technological terminology and elements, which did wonders for the sci-fi atmosphere of the novel, but got a bit overwhelming at points. The plot was a bit erratic sometimes and, truth be told, I never quite got the point behind King Mathias and Queen Olivia’s evil reign. It actually seemed kind of silly to me and it lost me a bit when the truth was revealed. Truth be told, I didn’t care for this novel for over half of its length. But somewhere along the line, without me even realizing it, I started caring and, for no discernable reason, I was suddenly very invested in the story and eager to know what would happen next.
In the end, it wasn’t the story itself what made me like it. The story was okay, the action entertaining and the romance was interesting and occasionally sweet, but I am far more intrigued by this rough, jaded main character who departs from the usual YA heroine mold and was definitely not what I expected. When it comes down to it, yes, the Lunar Chronicles is better, but somehow, I ended up liking this book far more than I expected. ...more
A harrowing and brutally gorgeous book that effortlessly but firmly positioned itself among recent favorites of mine about unapologetic, stro4.5 stars
A harrowing and brutally gorgeous book that effortlessly but firmly positioned itself among recent favorites of mine about unapologetic, strong, maybe a bit twisted, lost girls forged by the fire of their horrible circumstances, like The Walls Around Us and All the Truth That's in Me, managing to capture with a terrifying sense of reality a situation previous YA books like Gated and Winterkill had failed to do for me. The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly isn't only a very impressive debut, it is a downright amazing novel on its own right.
This novel reels you in from the very first page, the very first word. It unravels slowly, taking its time building a dark, engrossing atmosphere through a gorgeous but cutting narrative and presenting this hardened main character whose voice is razor-sharp. This novel is at times oppressive and claustrophobic, sometimes even horrifying, but it balances it with beautiful writing, deep and meaningful human connections, and surprisingly profound pondering about human nature and the meaning of life. Amidst all the pain and horror and despair, this book always carried at its core a spark of hope that transcended the page and made this one a very memorable novel with a very lasting impact. A couple of months after I read it and I still can't get it out of my head.
I would've been really easy for the Oakes to simply make this a horrifying, sexist, oppressive and sensationalized story about a girl in a cult robbed of every choice and freedom, one that maybe fights her way out of it and finds loves along the way, and we still would've empathized with her and loved her story, and with Oakes' talent, it would've probably still been amazing. But she went further than that with this book. All that is already well behind Minnow when we meet her on that first page. This book is not simply about how Minnow survived that ordeal, but about what's left after the survival is done, about figuring out what was there to survive for, if the cost of living through that was worth what came next. And that's what makes this book so powerful. We live Minnow's past and presents struggles simultaneously, and both can be felt in very visceral, emotional ways. There's a heartbreaking beauty to Minnow's narrative, to her life and her ordeal, a very powerful message in the person she's become after that, mistakes and all.
And then she combined with a rather obscure fairy tale called The Handless Maiden with such subtlety and skill, the story of this novel soars. Cleverly interspersed with details from the original, this book doesn't feel like other retellings. Oakes made the original story her own, adapted it and shaped it to make place for her own story, making something new and wonderful and dark instead of relying on the original to shape the story she wanted to tell. In spite of that, I think this is actually one of the best retellings I've ever read, especially a fairy tale retelling because it makes the mundane grandiose but still reveals an underlying humanity, darkness and pain. It pays its respects to the original one, but it tells its own story, presents its own message.
Minnow is an unflinchingly strong heroine, smart, resilient, ruthless, defiant and flawed. She feels so human, so realistic, it is impossible not to feel for her, not to get swept away into her story and feel every wound, physical, emotional and psychological. Her voice cuts like a knife, her strength and her pain jumping right out of the page. To say that she's a memorable main character is a terrible understatement. For her alone, I would recommend this book.
This book is suspenseful, powerful, unflinching, and a definite must-read. The story is slow, the pace unhurried, and the plot unravels slowly, but seeing the world through this girl's eyes, being inside her mind and learning, bit by bit, what led her to this point, makes it all worthwhile. I don't think I expected this book to be like this, which is probably why it took me so long to put into words the effect it had on me - and I still don't think I managed to do it well at all, or at the very least, to do justice to the impact of this novel. This book makes you think, about life, family, love, loyalty, honesty and faith, and I don't think many YA books do this these days. This book cuts through you, simple as that, and that's something I think is worth experiencing. ...more
We're not even halfway through 2014, and I'm almost certain this has been my biggest 1-star year to date. True, most of it is due to the facts that, aWe're not even halfway through 2014, and I'm almost certain this has been my biggest 1-star year to date. True, most of it is due to the facts that, a) the more I read YA, the more my standards go up and my tolerance threshold for BS and stupidity lowers, and b) the more time I spent in GR, the less afraid I am of giving out 1 stars. I don't think it's entirely up to me, though. This year has come packed with an avalanche of pretty bad YA books. This year alone, I've read offensive books like They All Fall Down, infuriating ones like Dear Killer, thoroughly disappointing ones like Suspicion, appallingly bad ones like Of Monsters and Madness and Amity, and insufferably generic ones like One Past Midnight. And then there's Conversion. Where does Conversion stand? Well, Conversion achieved the impressive feat of falling into every single one of the aforementioned categories.
This book is offensive, infuriating, thoroughly disappointing, appallingly bad and, yes, even insufferably generic because, instead of focusing on the, I don't know, maybe that super weird thing that's happening to the girls in the school that no one seems to be able to explain, we instead get to find out about the marvels of Colleen's eternal pursuit to intellectually demean everyone around her, especially her friends and love interest, as she goes about on her quest to take for herself what seems to be the only spot available at Harvard this year. And I understand where the author is coming from and that she tried to portray the stress of being a teenage girl in a highly competitive background, but it simply did not come through. Instead of driven and competitive, Colleen was insufferably immature, judgmental and petty, not competitive in an intellectual way but in the generic YA way of hating on other girls just cuz. I didn't think it was possible, but Colleen came out of nowhere and safely positioned herself in the group of the most unbelievably irritating, hateful, petty, hypocritical, judgmental, immature, childish, bratty, privileged, self-entitled and disgusting YA "heroines" I've ever had the displeasure of reading about. She almost took the crown right off of House of Night's Zoey for the worst YA "heroine" it has been my misfortune to become acquainted with.
The book is just pages and pages of Colleen describing things in the irritating and endless monotone of a 10 y/o, giving you the entire life story of every single person that crosses the door, and then criticizing and demeaning every single one of them in her head as she saw them as competition. I like a smart girl. I love reading about smart girls in YA and I wish every single author in YA portrayed each and every single one of the main characters as smart girls, not because a hot guy comes along and tells them, but because they know it, because they've worked for it and because they are proud of it. But there's a clear line between pride and entitlement, ego-centrism, selfishness, pettiness, obnoxiousness and pretentiousness, and Colleen crossed that line, set it on fire and the danced on top of it. And the worst thing is that she really isn't even smart at all. She reminds you time after time of how brilliant and clever she is, and yet the most painfully obvious things and details fly just right over her head. Moreover, she thought she was entitled to intellectual superiority rather than actually working for it, as perfectly exemplified by this scene in which the goes into a quiz without having studied, acknowledging she's going to flunk, and then ranting at the teacher when she gets a failing grade. That's not how you show someone under stress because she wants to be the best; that's how you show how much of a spoiled, entitled brat a character is.
If she hadn't already annoyed the hell out of me with her obnoxious, immature, childish and unsubtle way of telling the story, the way she saw the world from her privileged, pretentious and egocentrically superior standpoint would've done the trick because I honestly didn't care about anything in this book, never managed to put any effort into feeling anything for any other aspect because my hate was so fiercely concentrated in this awful main character.
And it's not so much that I wasn't able to like her. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't need to like a main character in order to be invested in her story, but what I do need from a main character is to be interesting and interesting Colleen was not - she wasn't even a decently written character with dimensions and personality. Even stuck in the middle of a strange series of events that no one can make head or tails about, Colleen is the most appallingly boring person in the entire planet. This girl could make the end of the world sound as mind-numbingly boring as staring at a piece of cheese until it rots. There is no suspense in this novel, no atmosphere, and it was definitely not a thrilling, deep and psychological study in the events that take place in the novel and those in the Salem Witch Trials. By far, the most interesting thing in this novel was the dual POV that takes place during the actual witch trials, but even that was overdone, dragged for far too long and tediously boring.
Each and every single character in this story is painfully generic, extremely shallow and awkwardly stereotyped. Worst of all, not a single one of them was interesting in the slightest. Everything in this novel was mind-numbingly boring, and it's not because of the slightly literary style of the novel, but because the narration focused on everything besides the truly interesting event, which was the mysterious condition of these girls, and when it did concentrate on it, it was boring, repetitive and rather pointless.
There wasn't a single aspect of this book that I enjoyed. Even if I had managed to look beyond the unbelievably boring pace and the bad writing, the sheer ridiculousness of the characters and the narration's unwillingness to focus on the truly important matters would've still made this reading experience a terrible one. It's almost like the whole thing was dumbed and watered down because it's supposed to be YA. Whatever shred of interest I may have had in the mystery of this book was brutally stripped away by the tediousness of the pace, the boring development of the story, the insufferable main character and the lack of dimension to the characters and the plot. ...more
Stray is fairy dust: a lovely, magical idea that keeps you going for a while, but is ultimately insubstantial and it never delivers what was promised,Stray is fairy dust: a lovely, magical idea that keeps you going for a while, but is ultimately insubstantial and it never delivers what was promised, no matter how hard you tried to believe in it.
The book simply did not deliver, not in plotting, characterization or even world-building. You'd expect a fantasy world rooted in the existing magic of fairy tales to have quite a lot to go on with, but the very little we know about this world was explained through quick and small info-dumps towards the beginning and then we're left to fend for ourselves in an increasingly confusing, complicated, and quite truthfully, infuriating world.
For some reason, this world is unbelievably sexist. Why? I have no idea, we are never told, and, anyway, if a reason had been actually given, I still would fail to see how it would make any kind of sense because women are the ones with power in this world. They have magic while the men don't, and yet, they are all totally cool with being treated as property, with being shamed relentlessly and to repeat prayers about how useless, stupid and inherently evil they are. No one, absolutely no one, in this entire book, not a single female character, ever wondered what the hell was up with this. Not even the main character, Aislynn, who, of course, it's a very special girl that doesn't think she's pretty or good but gets told by everyone around her that she's brave and good and perfect and beautiful and courageous for no reason I could see in this entire book. Moreover, Aislynn only decided to maybe grow a back bone and question the system, not because it had mistreated her, or because it was oppressive, intolerant, abusive and insanely misogynistic, but because she didn't want to marry this guy because she had feelings for some other guy she had talked to only a couple of times, of which about half were instances in which he mocked her or glared at her. Awesome. The book is not exactly romance heavy, but the budding romance between Aislynn and Thackery was just about the most significant and exciting thing that happened for hundreds of pages, which says enough about the novel.
I couldn't make heads or tails about the world in this novel. There are these academies across several kingdoms that train girls until they are Contained, meaning that they become the property of whoever asked for their hand. There are several kings and queens, but only one truly important one... okay. We know nothing about the kingdoms themselves, except that there's one in the West ruled by a woman and she's The Wicked Queen. Except that she's not, but then she is, but then she knows nothing of what's going on and is in no way involved in what's happening and yet, later on, there she is again getting involved and sending armies to fight. That's how confusing it all was. It was just a tangle of contradictions and half-explanations. The world-building in this novel was almost nonexistent, and not only did it hurt the novel itself, but it also hurt my enthusiasm considerably.
I struggled to stay interested in what was happening, but it's hard when you only have a vague understanding of what's going on and there seems to be nothing at stake. There's not much of an actual plot in there. Quite truthfully, not much actually happened for about 70% of the book. Then, finally, the plot started to get somewhere, but, again, we are not told much of anything. There's a chase, the need to fetch something, some confrontation, but we have no idea what's going on. Why that person is a bad guy, what they want, the point of the item they all seem to want, the strange conspiracy against one particular faction, there's nothing, no explanations, and ultimately, no sense or logic. I have no idea why I was supposed to care about any of this. The author never gave me a single reason to care, not a single reason to think that any of this was important.
The characters were fairly standard. I didn't really have an issue with any of them because of how normal and uninteresting and dull they all were. There was nothing particularly outstanding about any of them. Brigid was perhaps the most interesting of the bunch but she doesn't get any exposure aside from when Aislynn needed her. There's really no character growth in the novel. Sure, Aislynn "changes" some, but it's all for the convenience of the plot and not because you could tell that she had learned something or grown or matured in any way. By the end, Aislynn still was the same oblivious, slightly selfish and superficial girl she's always been except that now she's on the other side of whatever conflict there's supposed to be.
Stray is not a bad book. It has a really nice idea, but it feels incomplete. There was just too much missing from the book, from the plot to the characters, but especially to the world-building. It's hard to get invested in a story when you know so very little about it, when you don't know the stakes, when you have no idea what would be so bad about the antagonist achieving their goal, when you don't even have a clue as to why the antagonist is the antagonist in the first place, and it is especially hard to care about a world that's so offensive for no reason and has no one standing against it. In the end, Stray is a nice enough idea that should've worked on theory but was brushed-over and needed a lot more development and depth to work or even entertain. ...more
A tribute to your works, Poe, that's what you're reading. Don't worry, I made the exact same expression.
I've said it before and I'll say it A tribute to your works, Poe, that's what you're reading. Don't worry, I made the exact same expression.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Poe is my literary god. If a YA author decides to write a retelling based on his works, then I'm going to expect them to deliver. Poe is inimitable and I am well aware of the fact, but I expect works based on his works of genius to reach certain levels and fulfill certain expectations and I expect these retellings to do Poe justice. As you can see, this one didn't. Quite frankly, I think Of Monsters and Madness might just be the worst YA Poe retelling I've read to date. I knew what I was getting into when I started it. Verday's The Hollow, another retelling based on the works of yet another very influential American author, and I didn't exactly get along, but I was more than willing to give myself a chance with another one of her books. This one was marginally better than The Hollow, but as you can see, it didn't work out very well for me either.
I should admit that my bad rating is based entirely on the quality of the story and not my enjoyment of it. I have to give it to Verday: she knows how to make a book fly by. The chapters go by so fast, you barely know a hundred pages have gone by until you see the page numbers. It is also entertaining in the sense that you don't get bored reading it. So, kudos for that. I didn't hate the book, if you can believe that. It's a book that's hard to hate because it goes by so quickly and actually entertains, but the fact that the book is badly executed is undeniable and impossible to ignore, hence, the 1 star.
This book is, essentially, a mess Poe's most famous lines and symbols and some very influential Victorian works, thrown together in a blender and then poured into a weak and insubstantial bowl of no original design. In this book, we not only have several Poe stories and poems thrown into the mix, but we also have Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Shelley's Frankestein, and a bit of Well's The Island of Doctor Moreau. It's perfectly okay to borrow from other authors, especially highly influential authors whose works defined genres, in order to construct your story, but there's hardly any original content in this novel and basically every single plot twist and development was borrowed from another work.
And there's the problem with the Poe references. This book is not exactly a retelling, at least not of Poe. It just takes bits and pieces from his stories and poems and uses them to build a story for a romance to take place. I'm all for Poe references, but in this book, they were just poured in buckets all over the place. There was no subtlety with the references, or coherence for that matter, there were no limitations to the amounts of references that were thrown all over the place, and even worse, many of them had absolutely no purpose other than being thrown in there to remind the reader once more that this was a Poe retelling and that the author knows enough of Poe to throw in several important symbols from the stories and poems. Furthermore, the narration didn't even let the references sink in before it rushed to overkill by over-explaining them. I felt like they were talking down to me, making them extremely obvious and then explaining them because there could possibly be no way I would understand them. I wanted Poe references, heck, that's why I picked the book up, but what I didn't want was to be bombarded with them, particularly when most of them served no purpose in the story other than to show just how much Poe research had gone into the story.
Moreover, in spite of all those references, the book didn't even scratch the surface of what Poe really means. You can throw in all the ravens and the beating hearts under the floorboards and quote Annabel Lee all you like, but if you don't even explore the true meaning of Poe's works, then all those are worth nothing. Poe wrote macabre, dark things not for shock value or entertainment, and definitely not just because of his disturbed mind and tragic life, but because he believed in the darkness of the human heart, in the propensity of humanity for evil and how the soul was really a dark, twisted thing. Nowhere in this book is this idea even explored. It's brushed over with the love interest, but the author didn't commit to it and left it all hanging, excusing it and using it as a plot device. A book that tries to retell Poe's works and fails to even consider an exploration of the darkness of humanity is a book that, in my eyes, has failed.
From the very beginning, Verday effectively killed any possibility of suspense in the novel with a thoroughly unnecessary preface that's really just a scene from later in the book and, more importantly, by naming the love interest and the antagonist Allan and Edgar, respectively. Not that the novel wouldn't have been extremely predictable without that preface or without naming the characters Allan and Edgar, but in one clean swoop, she destroyed every shred of mystery and suspense the novel could've had and rendered pointless about two thirds of the novel, which is how long it takes the main character to realize what Verday reveals to us from the first page, which, needless to say, makes for some slight irritation while you are reading. So, there's no mystery in this novel, no suspense, only romance. And it is absurd.
The romance in this novel is of the instant and very cheesy variety, it might as well be microwavable mac & cheese. There's no chemistry and there are only two 5-minute conversations before they are head over heels in love and passionately declaring their love for each other. If the idea of someone named Allan Poe as a sexy, young love interest that sexily struggled throughout the novel to write "The Raven" seemed ludicrous as soon as it showed up, hearing him recite poetry to Annabel and say things like "I only find inspiration when I see your face" made it about a thousand times worse and it elicited more than a fair amount of groans from me. Allan was not even a decent romantic interest: he had the personality of a brick wall and collectively showed up in the novel for about a third of the bulk of the story. Quite honestly, I would've found far more believable a romance between Annabel and her maid, Maddy, since they spend the entire book together, doing nice things for each other, declaring their friendships and saying pretty things to each other.
That synopsis makes me wonder if whoever wrote it really read the book because there is no love triangle in this novel and she is not torn between the two guys - nor is the novel a retelling or has anything from Annabel Lee other than the name, but that's a discussion for another day. It is quite evident since his first appearance that Annabel despises Edgar and has only eyes for Allan. And, of course, there's no mystery to the murders. Verday took care of that from the very start.
Now, on to Annabel. I have to give it to Verday, she always manages to infuse some semblance of life into her female main characters through a particular set of skills and fills them with admirable drive and unwavering ambition. That is not to say, however, that they are not doormats, completely incompetent for everything else and dense whenever the plot demands it. Annabel allowed every single person to walk all over her in the story and never stood up for herself, but that's okay, because she's just so kind and caring and giving and capable. The entire book was just a chronicle of all the good deeds Annabel does for those around her. I'm not saying having a kind MC is bad, gods no, but when the entire story of the novel is basically her going back and forth doing good deeds for people, completely ignoring the main storyline and what's supposed to be the plot of the novel, then I have a problem. It isn't until almost the end that the story suddenly remembers that the plot promised some mystery and finally focuses on the murders and whatever else is going on besides Annabel's acts of kindness, her dropping her head before her asshole father and despairing about the possibility of disappointing him, and her "passionate" random meetings with Allan. That's basically the whole book.
Annabel's inner monologues were repetitive and often went off in tangents that had no relevance or foundation in the novel. Towards the end she starts wondering if she's a cold as her dad, a scene that's cocooned between two other scenes featuring her in very hysterical and extremely emotional states, thus negating every possibility that she is, in fact, as cold and calculating as her father, and yet she begins to ponder this and finishes the last chapter swearing she'll be like that from now on, which she never was in the first place and which completely goes out the window with the completely disjointed epilogue that closes the novel. I would've appreciated this sudden identity crisis a bit more if it had been done better and if The Madman's Daughter hadn't done it first about a million times better and more believably. Ultimately, Annabel was nothing but a pair of eyes from which to see Allan being wonderful and Edgar doing "bad, bad things". She might as well have been the wallpaper in the house for all that she contributed to the novel and all the emotional impact her story had. The story consistently attempted to include her in the events, but they were just shallow and forced attempts, like the antagonist threatening her into finding something for him towards the end of the novel, which ultimately served no point or purpose.
The story is full of holes and inconsistencies and the end is entirely nonsensical. It has a very abrupt ending that forcibly makes space for a sequel that it's quite obvious I'm not reading. The book is a quick and fairly entertaining read, but that doesn't eliminate the fact that it is a bad book and a poor tribute to Poe and his works. ...more
I'm not exactly a poetry reader. It's not something I'd willingly pick up to read if it's not required for a class. In 40% of the cases I n 3.5 stars
I'm not exactly a poetry reader. It's not something I'd willingly pick up to read if it's not required for a class. In 40% of the cases I need to reread in order to understand, and by the end of those rereads, in about 15% of the cases I still need someone to explain it to me, so yes, poetry is not exactly my thing, though I can enjoy it from time to time. I was still really curious about this book. Not only was it comprised of poems that retold famous fairy tales, but it also had a purpose: deconstruct, examine and mock beauty culture, among many other relevant topics for women like sexuality, love and body image.
For the most part, Poisoned Apples effectively fulfills its purpose. It offers some clever, thoughtful, insightful and thought-provoking commentary and presents several issues in a darkly-humorous, but careful and respectful way that sheds light on the absurdity and damaging idea of beauty culture. There were a couple of poems in there that really touched me and got their point across beautifully. But some others tried too hard and lost the touch of subtlety that made some others have a deep impact on me. The poems are all very easy to read and I have no doubt most people will get the meaning behind the poems immediately, but while some thrive in this way because of their poignant simplicity, others are impossible to misunderstand because of how obvious and conspicuous they are.
I am rounding my rating up to four because, in spite of some cases of extreme transparency in the poems, this book is important and had a lot of relevant and crucial things to say about beauty culture. It cleverly played with a lot of fairy tales and used them to effectively convey the message in interesting and engaging ways. It's a very fast and easy read, but it still leaves an impression behind and that, ultimately, is the point of the book. ...more
Never have I struggled so much with my feelings for a book like with The Girl From The Well. At a glance, I loved it. I loved the idea of the3.5 stars
Never have I struggled so much with my feelings for a book like with The Girl From The Well. At a glance, I loved it. I loved the idea of the story, the myth it is based on, I loved the strange, disruptive narrative and The Girl's voice and I adored the vengeance and the violence. I liked the story and how the story followed the frightening events in the lives of these two other characters, this mysterious boy with his strange tattoos and his concerned and loyal cousin. And yet, I was oddly disappointed by it all.
When I started this novel, I was under the impression that the story was going to be about the Girl from the Well, and even though the summary suggested that the main concern of the story was the boy and whatever was haunting him, I still thought the story was about her, and, at the very least, I expected her to be an active member of the narrative, even if the story was about some other guy's problem. The truth is that the Girl is actually barely in the story. She has a very important role in the novel, certainly, but for the most part, she just watches from afar, hardly ever gets involved in the events until she is needed, and might as well have been a 3rd person omniscient POV for all that she did for the narration.
I am very well aware that a vengeful ghost is not supposed to be in possession of a particularly colorful narrative voice, but throughout the novel, I couldn't help feeling like the narration was rather dry and very repetitive. That is not to say that it was not an enjoyable narration. I actually really liked it when the prose was broken and interspersed with the Girl’s impulsive and often violent thoughts, but throughout most of the novel, the narration was so passive and the Girl so non-participant in the action, that it didn’t take much to forget she was the narrator.
We get some scenes of the Girl taking vengeance and doing her job as a ghost with shocking brutality and spectacular violence, one of which is the opening chapter which is probably one of the best I've ever read, but they are scarce in the novel and are never the actual focus of the story. In fact, by the third time, the vengeance scenes started to feel like they were thrown in there to remind us that the story was supposed to be about a vengeful ghost.
This novel had a very similar atmosphere to other Japanese-inspired horror YA novels I've read, like Dreams of the Dead, and it is extremely well-researched and honors Japanese culture beautifully. The Girl From the Well excelled at setting a very disturbing and creepy mood and at capturing the mystifying atmosphere of Japanese horror, and the novel certainly featured some very unsettling and very well-written scenes. But for all its horror, the novel spends copious amounts of time in rather passive scenes of exposition.
The flow of the novel was somewhat odd. There are several, different sub-plots happening simultaneously as well as several characters being observed all the same time, and yet the narration is strangely straightforward and often passive. There is a rather abrupt break between the intense first half of the novel and the second half, which often felt like an introduction to the beauty of Japanese folklore, which is perfectly okay, but not exactly what I was looking for when I went into the novel.
A whole month after reading it, I still have no idea how to appropriately organize, explain, much less show, my feelings for this book. It's a very strange mixture of love for everything in it and disappointment at how the book developed. I don't know if it's just me, but this book never was particularly scary, though I will admit it was startling in the few occasions when Okiko was given a chance to unleash her vengeance. Chupeco certainly has a gift for creating chilling atmospheres. The characters are fine, the story is good,- even though it didn't developed in the way I expected -, and the resolution was great, but I kept waiting for a chance to use stronger adjectives like amazing and spectacular, which was what I wanted from the moment I heard of this book. I expected to love it and it just didn't happen. This is still a perfectly good novel, it just wasn't what I expected. ...more
I've made no secret of either my adoration of Poe or my continuous disappointment with YA retellings of his masterful works. I know, I know.3.5 stars
I've made no secret of either my adoration of Poe or my continuous disappointment with YA retellings of his masterful works. I know, I know. I sound like a broken record and you're all probably exhausted of me saying the same thing over and over, but, seriously, why do YA authors consistently screw up their Poe retellings? How can such inane bullshit be built upon the magnificent foundation of Poe's stories? It baffles me, honestly. And yes, maybe I am a bit pickier with Poe retellings than any other type, but I've yet to summon anything above mild indifference for one of these retellings. So far, Masque of the Red Death had been in all likelihood one of the most decent YA Poe retellings I'd read, even though I was extremely disappointed with how most of the story was ignored for the sake of the love triangle, but I had enough faith that Griffin could, at the very least, make something beautiful out of some aspect of The Fall of the House of Usher, much like she did with the world she constructed for her retelling of The Masque of the Red Death. As it turns out, my faith was not misplaced. Griffin actually managed to make the story engaging, fascinating and bizarre, while simultaneously being faithful to the original short story and breathing her own life into it. I did not expect it, but this one turned into my favorite YA Poe retelling to date.
This book is strange, almost insane, and I think that worked amazingly well with the themes of madness and paranoia from the original. Griffin took these elements and built the whole novel around them. You can feel the crushing claustrophobia as the mysterious house presses in on Madeline and bends her to its will, you can feel the growing madness born out of isolation and abandonment like a breath on your neck, and you can almost sense the paranoia seep through the page and invade you as it takes over Madeline. The atmosphere in this book is spectacular. From the events that take place to the very way the story is narrated, Griffin used all the tools at her disposal to make the house come alive to the point you can feel its very presence even stronger than most of the characters’.
But in spite of how well the narration worked with the atmosphere of the novel, it was still a bit hard to get into and a bit hard to keep track of. The narration switches constantly between Madeline’s recollections and diary entries, but even more confusing, it constantly shifts back and forth in time and are identified only by how old Madeline was at the time of the memory. I like unconventional narrative styles, and I actually enjoyed how this style played out in relation to the events, the atmosphere and its contribution to the tension in the novel, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t get exasperating once or twice.
The Fall is very different from most YA books I’ve read, not only in structure, but in the way the story developed, the themes it presented and the characterization in the story. The truth is that this book is so strange, it might even border on crazy. I definitely felt like I was going insane right alongside Madeline. While not outright horror in the traditional sense, this book is creepy in a very psychological way. It’s intense, relentless in its delivery of depravity and human darkness, and I sometimes had to put it down for a while because it felt like too much. The damage in all these characters, how the house brought out the ugliness in them and how everything seemed so hopeless, shattered and depraved, they were all executed marvelously. Overall, this novel had the effect of feeling very often like I wasn’t reading YA, like I was reading something older and darker, which worked great for this type of tale, but I don’t think this novel quite crossed the line into the type of dark imagery that identified Poe. This is a perfectly nice retelling, of course, but it never quite felt like it was living up to the original.
All the technical aspects of this novel were fantastic, but there were some bits in the story that I just couldn’t quite connect with, others that, in all honesty, bored me, and some other times when I felt like the story had been allowed to run a bit too freely. The core of the novel is the threat of the house, which I though was a genius way to honor the house from the original Poe story, but there’s a pretty important focus on the relationship between Madeline and her brother, which I actually enjoyed, and then on the whole subplot concerning the other people living in the household. I see why a subplot about doctors in the house obsessed with the family curse and sickness would help in adding a bit more padding to the bulk of the novel, but, when it came down to it, I didn’t like it all that much and, in my opinion, didn’t add much to the story. I understand the particular importance of one of them for Madeline as a character, but that subplot got repetitive very soon and lost some of its impact along the way.
Some parts of the story were vaguely explained or outright left in full obscurity, and the ending itself was left open enough to make your own assumptions about what would come next, which was simultaneously irritating and intriguing. In the end, my biggest issue with the novel is just how much the story is dragged and how that forced it into becoming somewhat repetitive.
The Fall is a much better book than I expected it to be and I feel sorry for having underestimated Griffin's capacity to retell Poe simply because her first attempt was underwhelming for me. This tale was very hard to adapt and I feel like Griffin did a commendable job at adapting it and making it her own while still honoring Poe's original. The technical aspects of the novel are fantastic, but while the content of the novel were a bit hard to get through, this was still an enjoyable reading experience for me and it restored my faith that there can be some worthwhile YA Poe retellings. ...more
My relationship with this book was a rocky one. I actually enjoyed the first half of the novel, but the second half of the book left me very2.5 stars
My relationship with this book was a rocky one. I actually enjoyed the first half of the novel, but the second half of the book left me very disappointed, a disappointment that was made even greater by a misunderstanding caused by the incomplete description of this book that was provided by the publisher. I was not aware of the nature of this book and what inspired it - (Rebecca)- simply because, apparently, nobody else was, and that left quite a mark on my impression of the novel. Having acknowledged now that my strongest negative feelings for the novel were not the book’s fault, but rather the publisher’s incomplete description, I still have to award this book a considerably low rating, because, in the end, this book was still disappointing all on its own.
After an exciting and engaging first few chapters, the book tapered off into dull, over-dramatic, familiar and clichéd YA territory, followed shortly by a vastly disappointing and underwhelming ending made up of ludicrous plot twists that had no believable foundation to stand in the novel and were there for shock value alone. Admittedly, I still had some fun reading it and I still liked the idea behind the book, but it didn't take me long to realize that the apparent brilliance of an idea can only take a mediocre execution so far, and that a concept alone should not warrant a good rating when the novel itself failed to not only meet expectations, but even satisfy. The first third of Suspicion is very easy to get through. It kicks off with paranormal mystery, intrigue, family feuding and tragedy - and that's the first chapter alone. Similar, nicely-written and even somewhat spooky scenes did show up further in the novel, but they were sporadic and far in between, so it didn't take long for the entire tone of the novel to change and become very typical P/N YA, with a perfect girl with a secret who thinks she's not perfect, lusting after another perfect and mysterious guy that doesn't seem interested in her because of the perfect image of a dead girl, and all the angst such a situation ensues.
The main plot of this novel follows closely that of Rebecca from beginning to end with only minimal variations, all of which were there to transform the story into something more YA appropriate. As far as retelling goes, this is a supremely faithful one, but this novel lacked the atmosphere and profundity that made Rebecca a classic and made me love the original so much. This book took the bones of Rebecca and assembled them admirably into a YA form, but it robbed the original of its soul. This book made it all about the romance and teenage drama instead of taking from the original the genius of the development of a childish and naïve girl into a strong and frighteningly unbendable one, the discovery of the darkness in humanity, and the exploration of a dark, twisted character with a presence stronger after death than any of the other characters that are actually alive in the story.
Contrary to what I expected of a story about a girl that's always been in love with her childhood friend, this novel features some pretty heavy insta-love, particularly on the guy's side, since even considering that his love went as far back as Imogen's has some pretty uncomfortable and even illegal connotations. And even if he had loved her since she was 10 and he was 12, the fact still remains that he hadn't seen her in almost a decade and that he had been dating her cousin the entire time. So the time that elapsed between reuniting and confessing their eternal love for each other was far too short to be categorized as anything but insta-love, and besides, there was zero chemistry between them and the dynamics in their relationship become even creepier as certain plot twists were revealed.
Sebastian is the typically mysterious and tortured but perfect and gorgeous guy that we are used to seeing in YA – honestly, there’s really absolutely nothing special about him, in spite of how hardly the author worked to show him that way. The thing is, the more the author tries to present him as this unbelievably perfect guy, the less appealing he was to me. Moreover, as the plot unfolded and things were revealed about Sebastian, his image became creepier and wrong, no matter how much the author tried to clean up his image and still present him as perfect. He did unbelievably stupid things, ridiculously cowardly ones, and justified his terrible decisions and actions with the actions of others, going as far as to claim that he did it for the good of others, and still he was continually glorified and is never made accountable for the terrible and stupid decisions he made. We are supposed to see him as this self-sacrificed, tortured, perfect guy, but really, he's just a creepy idiot.
Imogen for her part was a pretty standard YA heroine, nothing special about her either, prone to making stupid choices for the sake of the plot and often unbelievably dense to what was going on around her. Her obsession with Sebastian made her somewhat irritating, but, all in all, she was a tolerable main character. I took issues with her powers. Severely underdeveloped, based on an almost nonexistent mythology and only used as a plot device, the paranormal aspect in this novel added almost nothing to the story and was used only when convenient. Sure, the idea of the power is important for the mystery, but the powers themselves are hardly relevant to anything that happens in the novel.
There are several mysteries in this novel, from Imogen’s powers to what really happened to her cousin Lucia. The first, as I explained, was relevant to the story only in theory, and its development relied on Imogen finding the most ridiculously written articles and books for dense, long-winded scenes of exposition. The second, what happened to Lucia, differs exclusively from what happened to Rebecca in the novel of the same name only in its resolution, and it’s one of the most ridiculous, ham-handed and shameless plot twists I’ve read about. With no believable foundation in the plot of the novel and, quite honestly, no logic behind them, these plot twists were just thrown out there and left to fly on their own for the sake of shock value. They depended entirely on unrealistic and incredibly stupid behavior from some characters, a complete disregard of physics and biology, and absolute suspension of disbelief. By the end of the book I felt betrayed and insulted. To top it all off, the book features one of the most anti-climactic and nonsensical climaxes I’ve ever read about in which nothing is at risk, a character behaves in an utterly erratic and illogical way and it is all simply solved with minimal damage to anyone.
When I first finished the novel, I was only focused on what could’ve been. This book had a lot of potential and I firmly believe it was within the author’s ability to fulfill that potential, but then the book lost its spark of originality and became a mess of instant love, ludicrous plot twists and ridiculous character behavior. It's not so much that things don't make sense or that they don't connect, because they do, it's that they relied on character inconsistencies, plot holes and conveniences, which is something that had quite an impact on my impression of the novel. The ending was left open enough to force a sequel, but it is highly improbable that I'll ever read it, if it does come out, which I doubt. I know a lot of people will enjoy this book, since, as I said before, the book is very readable and enjoyable enough, but it was simply not for me. Imitation might be the highest form of flattery, but this book proved that, as hard as it may try, the imitation will always dull in comparison to the original. ...more