Why I Read It:Anna Dressed in Blood was far from being a favourite of mine, but I enjoyed it enough to pick up the ARC Review originally posted here.
Why I Read It:Anna Dressed in Blood was far from being a favourite of mine, but I enjoyed it enough to pick up the ARC of the sequel I had received from a manager at work. This review will have inevitable spoilers for Anna Dressed in Blood, though none for Girl of Nightmares.
Some of the few less-than stellar reviews I saw for Anna Dressed in Blood came back for second offerings with Girl of Nightmares and ended up LOVING it. I was really hoping that I would experience this as well, but alas, it was not meant to be. I still liked this book well enough, but I'll never love this series with the same fervor as everyone else.
First off, to be at all invested in the story in this second book, you have to be invested in the doomed romance of Anna and Cas. If you read my review for Anna Dressed in Blood, you'll already know that I wasn't. I liked both characters just fine on their own, but together? I couldn't see it. With that said, this entire book is about Cas finding out if Anna is okay since sacrificing herself to save the others from the Obeahman, and then subsequently attempting to rescue her from whatever dimension she's been sent to. I was all for saving Anna; I liked Anna! But reading about Cas's near obsessiveness with discovering how to help her didn't illicit much sympathy. Sure, I felt bad because I felt bad for ANNA, but I didn't feel bad for the heartache that Cas was experiencing.
The origins of that knife that Cas carries around everywhere is explained more, but I seriously found the whole Order thingie weird and didn't make much sense to me. For one, Cas has always seemed to be working solo. Yeah, he's got his British father figure helping him out all the time, but he was definitely never under the direction of some higher-ups or anything. Yet, when Cas eventually goes to Britain seeking answers, it's discovered that the Order is in fact hoping to "replace" him. Uh, what? Why would they even need to replace him? Why not just send in his replacement (some girl who's name I can't remember) out in the field and get her killing some ghosts in the UK? Why can there only be one? I know it had something to do with him owning the knife and it being imbued with the blood of his ancestors or something, but I honestly found the explanations so muddled and riddled with holes that I can't make heads or tails of it anymore.
But again, despite having these rather large complaints, I can't say that I didn't enjoy this book at all, because I did. They're fun, they're mindless, and they're a great way to pass the time when you want something a little different. Cas also continued to be a great narrator; despite having made friends and settled down a little, he's still Cas. His awkwardness in certain situations was amusing, but you can tell that he really does care about his friends, even when he doesn't show it in the same ways as other people might.
Final Verdict: Me and this duology are obviously just not a very good match. I like them okay but I doubt I'll be pressing them into the hands of others. While Cas was still a great narrator in this installment, I just wasn't invested enough in the relationship he established with Anna in the previous book to care about this storyline as much I maybe should have. Also, there were some world-building issues and inconsistencies in internal logic that threw me off. They're still fun books, but they ultimately ended up being a mildly fun distraction for me and not much more....more
Back in August, I read the first installment in this series and really enjoyed it. It had a crazy ending that really blew my mind and I knew I needed to keep on with the series to see what Grant would do with her characters.
Largely, this title didn't disappoint, but I did have one major issue with it, which is too bad, because it's sort of an integral part of the novel. Anyway, if you haven't read the first book in this series, for the love of god, DON'T READ THIS REVIEW. You will spoil a major surprise in Feed and really hamper the reading experience. So seriously, only read this review if you got Feed under your belt.
All right, so that big issue I had with the book that I just mentioned? I hate to say it, but I have to get it out, I really, really, didn't like Shaun's narration in this book. This really saddened me, because I really liked Shaun in Feed -- he was a fun loving guy who had a really close and kind of sweet (but kind of creepy) relationship with his sister. Jumping in Deadline, I knew there would be a huge focus on George's death because of said relationship, but holy man did Grant drive that point home through Shaun. I think part of the problem was that I forgot Shaun started hearing George's voice in his head at the end of Feed. If I had remembered that, I might not have been so jarred by him hearing her now. I also had a hard time wrapping my mind around how lucid Shaun was, yet still able to have these "conversations" with George. Just... so weird. I knew they were close, but holy cow.
Another thing really bugged with Shaun's narration is the repetition. There was a bit of a formula: Shaun would hear George in his head and talk to her/himself out loud. Someone would hear him, look at him funny, and he would shrug and tell them George was talking to him. He would then think to himself something along the lines of: "they weren't used to their boss hearing his dead sister's voice in his head" or "they were new to the crew, so them seeing someone talk to their dead sister was probably something they weren't very used to". There were just too many instances of this for me. Also, Shaun thinks and threatens people constantly with punching them in the face (male and female) one too many times. And lots of repetition about him drinking Coke despite hating the stuff because that's what George drank.
But aside from Shaun (which is too bad because he's kind of the central figure and focus of the novel)? This book was really damn good. The plot, like its predecessor, was intense and full of twists and turns and because of George's death in the first book, there's a lot of tension: you don't know whose safe. And yes, someone fairly pivotal dies in this installment.
There was also a bunch of twists and turns and revelations and so much STUFF going on. There was rarely a lull in the pace which kept the pages turning. I mean, you find out some crazy stuff in this book, such as an explanation for George's form of Kellis-Amberley and why it was in her eyes, more crazy government corruption, that George could have possible LIVED.. so much crazy stuff going on.
I was also happy to see some enlightening on Shaun and George's relationship. It's still never said explicitly what the nature of their relationship is, BUT, Shaun makes a slip in the bedroom with a lady and says George's name before rolling over to go to sleep after some sexy times. HOLY SHIT! So yeah, it's pretty much a dead giveaway that the two of them slept together. It took me awhile to sort out how I felt about that. On the one hand, they weren't related by blood and they had really shitty parents and only had themselves to count on for most of their lives. On the other hand, I still found it really creepy. I don't think I found it creepy because they were raised as siblings though.. the more I think about it, the more I think I would have been creeped out reading about a relationship like that whether the characters had been raised together as siblings or not. They are just way too co-dependent on each other and I find something unsettling in that, despite my earlier points. So.. I don't know. It'll be interesting to see how things play out between them in the next installment of the book.
SPEAKING OF THAT! That epilogue!! HOLY WHOA. Unfortunately for me I was stupid and went a read a spoiler-y review (that warned me that it had spoilers, but I read it anyway... stupid stupid stupid) and knew that there was some kind of George clone. It was still kinda crazy reading that epilogue though. Makes me REALLY curious what's going to happen in the last installment.
Final Verdict: I really liked the plot in this installment of the Newsflesh trilogy. It was full of action, twists and turns and a lot of tension because no one felt safe. It's too bad I couldn't like the narrator (Shaun) in this book as much as I liked George (who I liked quite a bit, despite her being a pretty cool and prickly person). There was just too much repetition (of many things, which I will not name because of spoilers) and it drove me kind of bonkers. Other than that though? I enjoyed this book very much and can't wait for Blackout to come out. ...more
Why I Read It: I've been seeing a ton of glowing reviews for this all over the web. It helped that the cover caught m Review originally published here.
Why I Read It: I've been seeing a ton of glowing reviews for this all over the web. It helped that the cover caught my eye as well. Also, I don't think Horror is done very often in YA, so I was curious. Luckily, one of my managers at work got a finished copy of this and an ARC of the sequel, Girl of Nightmares, and wasn't interested in reading it, so she passed them on to me! There are some minor spoilers ahead (sort of).
I'm not too sure how to review Anna because my reaction to the book was quite different from (what feels like) everyone else. I liked it okay, but I hardly loved it.
But let's start with the good: Thesseus Cassio, Cas for short, is a good narrator. I think Blake nailed the male voice decently, and while Cas isn't exactly likable, it's not agonizing being stuck in his POV either. He starts off as a bit of a stuck-up jackass, but over the course of the novel he warms up to a few people who he learns to call friends, and that was endearing. His wry manner of speaking, while not laugh-out-loud funny, are genuinely amusing.
Where I started to trip up was where the titular Anna Dressed in Blood is concerned. At first, Anna is terrifying. She eviscerates a teenager for stepping into her haunted house! There are blood and guts everywhere! OMG. But then for some reason she doesn't attack Cas?? She is completely normal around Cas. Why is this?? I don't recall it ever being explained. Then we're explained why he eviscerates people for stepping into her house, and while some people found that story incredibly sad, I had a hard time getting behind it. Why was Anna's mom so crazy?? Seriously, who would do something like that to their daughter? I want more motivation than "My daughter was going to a dance in a pretty dress! THAT WHORE!!"
Then the romance. This is where things get mildly spoilery, but it's revealed so soon in the story that I wouldn't say it's THAT spoilery. I put spoiler tags, just in case. (view spoiler)[But anyway, Cas develops a bit of a crush on Anna. Why do you ask? I... seriously don't know. He WATCHES her while she rips a guy in half, and yeah, Anna doesn't have control over it, but that should seriously mess someone up, even someone as hardened as Cas. And the things he finds attractive about her were strange.. like her bottomless pit of eyes, or the dark creepy veins that would appear on her skin when she was going Bad. I don't see how this is sexy, but Cas is an odd type I guess. Anyway, my point is that I couldn't get behind the romance, even though I liked both the characters individually. (hide spoiler)]
I found the reveal of the villain at the end of the story confusing as well. It's been almost two weeks since I finished the book, which is partly to blame, but even while reading I kept thinking: "Did I miss something?" The origin of Cas's Ghost Killing Knife Thingie was also confusing (it's explained more in the second book, but it didn't clear that much up for me, but that's for another review.)
However, despite all these qualms and complains, this book is still fun. I still liked it, even while I was picking it apart. I was still a little bummed out I couldn't love it as unconditionally as many others have appeared though. Ah well!
Final Verdict: This was a case of "like" instead of "love". Cas is an enjoyable narrator, even if he isn't wholly likable, and his personal arc was fun to read. Where I had problems with the story was the lack of explanation for Anna's curse not working when it came to Cas, and the relationship between Anna and Cas (which I just couldn't get behind.) The story itself was fun enough for me to look beyond all these complaints, but they're still present regardless. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I picked this book up at work near the end of October in order to get my in the Halloween mood. It's a really short book, so I just read it on my breaks at work. I consider myself a Gaiman fan, even though I was pretty ambivalent about American Gods (not to say it's bad -- it just didn't resonate with me.) :) I am however in love with his Sandman graphic novel series and this title seemed to be a little more in that vein, but for a younger audience.
GUYS, this novel is so so creepy. I unfortunately didn't get to finish it before Halloween, but I really enjoyed it regardless. It's such a perfect fall read.
One of my favorite things about Gaiman is that even when his stories don't resonate with me (like American Gods) I love love love his writing to pieces. This man is a freakin' wordsmith and I gobble up his prose like candy. Coraline is no exception -- it's got a fairy-tale kind of cadence to it which lends itself perfectly to the story and the target audience. It's also got that sinister layer underneath it, which adds to the creep factor, and there is much creepiness to be had here people.
What's also great about this book is how it actually relates to the childhood experience. I know this isn't the case for everyone, but most people at some point in their childhood feel lonely, though it's not always because of parental neglect like with Coraline's parents. Neglect might be a bit harsh, but they did seem largely disinterested in her. But maybe it came off that way because this story was from Coraline's POV (though it was 3rd person narration.) Anyway, I digress. My point is that Gaiman really captured that feeling of being a lonely kid. He also captured the spirit of a child -- the restlessness, and the constant need to cure boredom that Coraline feels which leads her to the Other world behind the door.
So yeah... the Other world. HOLY HELL. Other Mother is seriously one of the creepiest beings ever. It didn't help that I had already seen the movie before reading the book, so I had the perfect image of Other Mother in all her creepy stop-motion glory firmly emblazoned in my mind. The image from David McKeenan definitely didn't help either. Speaking of the pictures, they were absolutely perfect for this story. Like that picture with the Other Mother's decapitated hand? GUHH!!
Final Verdict: This is a really fun otherworldly adventure story that I can see kids gobbling up. Not only is it good fun, but it's got some awesome writing behind it too (I never expect less from the awesome Mr. Gaiman) and it is CREEPY!! Maybe some kids will be turned off by this, but I loved it, and thought it was extremely well done. When a children's book can creep out an adult? That is a difficult balancing act and Gaiman succeeded. There are also awesome pictures throughout the book which complement the creepy tone perfectly. Totally recommended if you're a fan of Gaiman and/or creepy stuffs. Recommended to any small children you may know as well (unless they are sensitive to scary stuff. Then it might not be such a good idea.)...more
I've heard a lot about this book. The general consensus is that this novel is essential zombie fiction, and that it's really, really good. I'm also very familiar with Brook's other book, The Zombie Survival Guide, which is also very successful. Despite all this, I tried to keep my expectations low to avoid disappointment. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about.
The structure of the novel is not what I expected it to be: it's a bunch of stories, all fairly short, and almost all told by different people and their experiences with the zombies. We follow one character (who remains nameless), who interviews all these people. We never get to know the interviewer though; he's there solely to be a medium between us and his interviewees.
This structure made the novel read like a documentary. It was kind of scary how... realistic this book felt while still talking about something as unreal as zombies. A lot of what transgresses in this story are things that seem like they could very well happen if were to ever have a zombie apocalypse. I was a little (pleasantly) surprised at the grittiness and rawness of it all actually. Brook's Zombie Survival Guide is in the humor section of most book stores, so I was semi-expecting this book to be more in that vein, but it's really not. It's frikken dark, and mostly depressing (though it's not ALL depressing. There is a lot of hope and feel-good-ish moments to be found here.)
The stories and the characters are all extremely varied, from just normal civilians trying to survive, to CIA agents and other higher ups, to people of the military, and many more. This variety presented all kinds of different angles to the war, which only added to the realism that permeated it. I was really glad that we didn't just read about people from the USA, or just North America even. We get to read different account from people all over the world.
This structure really worked for me. It was nice to read about people's experiences from the war after the fact, instead of reading about people trying to survive. That's something that's been done to death. It was also nice getting all the different stories, instead of just following one group of people trying to survive, which has also been done to death.
Brooks also managed to keep all the many voices in his novel fairly distinct from one another. I mean, I obviously don't remember every story, or every interviewee, but they all felt like different people. This, of course, was very appreciated.
The only problem I had with the novel lies with me. While all the stories are told by completely different people, you do have to pay attention to certain terms, events, and remember the names of some important people, because other stories make references to them (which makes perfect sense of course.) I read this while traveling on a bus at night, and as such, probably wasn't paying as much attention as I should've been, so when these terms and names came up in later stories, I wasn't exactly *confused*, because I knew I HAD read them, I just couldn't remember their significance. Again, my fault, but something to keep in mind when reading.
Final Verdict: This is a solid book. The structure of having a bunch of different stories told from all kinds of people in the aftermath of the zombie war really worked for me, as it presented all kinds of different angles and views of it, and showed all kinds of roles people played within the war. The many voices of all these characters managed to stay distinct, and each story felt like it was covering something different; I never felt like I was retreading the same path. The stories themselves had their ups and downs of course, but the overall quality was consistently good. The style of the novel gave it a distinct "documentary" feel, which I found refreshing after watching/reading/knowing about so much zombie stories about watching a group of people survive the onslaught. I think this is a must-read for any fans of zombie fiction, and for those who aren't, or who are newbies to the genre (like myself), this is a great place to start. ...more
Why Did I Read It: I've been semi-interested in American Vampire since it made its debut 2ish years ago. I never read the individual issues mind you, but it was still something that caught my eye. In the summer of 2010, I was out and about with some friends in Toronto and we were browsing a BMV (a chain discount book store in Toronto) and I found this baby in hardcover for $9.99. I seriously couldn't pass up such an awesome deal, so I picked it up on the spot and then let it languish in my TBR. I picked it up in November because I needed something quick, and very few books read quicker than graphic novels, so it was perfect.
As you can probably see, this volume was written by both Scott Snyder and Stephen King. Each penned their own stories that are related to each other through a single character. For the most part (and this seems to be the general consensus among many readers) I was more engaged with Snyder's story, about a young lady named Pearl trying to make it big in acting, but her chances are ruined when she's turned into a vampire against her will. King's was about an old novelist who wrote a book chronicling his discovery that vampires actually exist. His stories were originally penned as fiction, but his story centers around him telling his readers at a reading that they are in fact true.
I've been trying to put my finger on WHY I liked Snyder's story more, but I'm having trouble doing so. I guess part of the reason her story is more engaging is that it's more tragic? And she's still a strong character, despite being thrown into this really shitty situation. I was a little thrown off by the betrayal from her best friend because they really did seem so close, yet she seems to throw her under the bus without a second thought. Now, I did *like* King's story, don't get me wrong. My interest is always peaked when stories are told from some outsider looking in, but I was kind of confused at how the author character knew some of the events that transpired (such as that police/sheriff guy sleeping with his friend's daughter -- you'd think that's something that would be kept on the down-low, you know?)
I guess since I'm talking about a graphic novel I should talk about the art. For the most part I liked it, though it was nothing that blew my mind. I liked the color palette that was used throughout (lots of reds and blacks and whites). I think my favourite thing though was how the American vampires were drawn. Those things were *terrifying* and legitimately scary (and kinda cool, but in a freaky way) looking.
Final Judgment: I largely liked both stories contained in this volume, but I would definitely choose Snyder's over King's, though I couldn't tell you exactly why -- there was just something more engaging about about Snyder's that pulled me in, probably because of Pearl (who I thought was a pretty good character.) The art was mostly above-average, though I didn't love any of it. I did really like Albuquerque's rendition of the American vampires though; I thought they looked really cool, if not super freaky. I don't think I'll be buying the rest of the series, hardcover or otherwise, but I do want to keep reading and see where the story goes. ...more
**spoiler alert** I've been wanting to read this title for awhile. I had read good reviews for it all over the interwebs, and it just sounded like a g**spoiler alert** I've been wanting to read this title for awhile. I had read good reviews for it all over the interwebs, and it just sounded like a good read, blending two pretty cool things: zombies and blogging. So, a good friend of mine from school lent it to me (back in like friggin' January or something) and I decided to *finally* get to it, seeing as school is starting up soon and I'm going to have to return it.
GUYS, why did I wait so long to read this? Seriously, it's all kinds of awesome. This review might be a bit more of a gushfest than anything, and there WILL be spoilers. Read on with caution, or just skip to the end.
The first thing I want to talk about is the plot of the novel. It's the year 2034 and it's been 20 years since the appearance of zombies. In this post-apoc world, where zombies run free, blogging has become the main and most reliable source of news, since bloggers were the first to inform people of the zombie uprising, while tv news and the newspapers tried to cover it up, or didn't believe it until it was too late. I really loved the world that Grant developed here. It's not anything entirely ground-breaking, but it was all very believable, and I liked that the news and the media (especially on the internet) have come to the forefront of people's lives. I mean, the news has always been a part of our lives, but in this zombie infested world, it's especially important. I also really liked the back-story of what caused the zombie-uprising. It's all kind of tragic ("Guys!! We found the cure for CANCER!!! ....but it turns people into soulless flesh-eating ghouls...") and also (strangely) believable.
But I haven't really gotten to the plot like I said I would. The plot of this novel follows three young adults, George (or Georgia -- named after George Romero), her adoptive brother Shaun (named after Shaun of the Dead I guess?) and their friend Buffy (nicknamed after the ass-kicking blondie from 90s tv show) as they follow a presidential candidate and document his trip across the United States. However, the trio inadvertently find themselves embroiled in a conspiracy to get rid of said candidate and to also bring about a revolution of fear.
One of my favorite things about the plot was that it didn't need the zombies to bring about action or to move things forward. They were there, and they were obviously a very real threat, but it was actually the disease/vaccine (which I can't remember the name of, unsurprisingly [knowing me]) that causes people to transform into zombies, which is mostly in the hands of humans. Actually, funny enough, it's the humans who are the real threat throughout the entire novel, even more so than the zombies. It was an interesting twist, and one I was happy for. I like zombie stories well enough, but I'm always happy when I come across a zombie story that isn't solely about survival, or about staying safe from the zombies. This IS a story about survival, but like I said, it's from the threat of people, and not the zombies themselves.
The plot itself is really engrossing. This book is 600 pages long, but I read it in two days. I probably could have done it in one, but I had things to do that kept me away from this book, which felt very unfortunate at the time, because I had a hard time tearing myself away. Part of the reason it's so engrossing is a) the world-building (which I've already mentioned before) and learning about why zombies came about, the different bloggers etc. etc.; b) the characters (which I'll get to in a moment) who are so easy to root for; I loved watching George and her team succeed, and c) THE DANGER!! This novel is fraught with peril (I feel so cheesy saying that) and lots of people DIE (characters minor and major) which brought about a lot of tension because you actually feel like *anything* can happen. And lots of things happen. A LOT.
Next thing I want to talk about is the characters. They were great. Georgia, our main character, is a truth-seeking "Newsie" (a blogger who reports solely on the news) and will dole out the truth at ANY cost. At first, I found George's obsession with the truth ... unnatural? I'm not too sure, but it's definitely unusual to meet someone who's AS honest as George is. Almost too good to be true, you know? But when you take in to consideration that George and Shaun were adopted by people who are using them solely to boost their own ratings, George's motivations for being honest to the point of bluntness is a helluva lot more understandable. She was a frosty lady (with a sensitive side, especially where Shaun is concerned), but I admired her character a lot.
Next we have Shaun, an Irwin (a blogger who goes out of his way to have zombie encounters so that he can videotape them and put them on the web for viewers) who's also quite earnest and frank like his sister, but in a much more warm and fuzzy way. George and Shaun share a very, very close bond, which is no wonder considering the world they live in and the family they grew up with. I found their relationship a little unnerving at first, and I think part of that was because I could never really discern if their bond was unvoiced romance, or if it was solely familial and platonic love. I think it was the latter to be honest, though I had my doubts at first. Either way, despite finding their closeness a little unnerving at first, I became a lot more comfortable with it and ended up finding it very touching. Shaun himself is a funny character and very friendly, which makes him easy to like.
Lastly on the roster of main characters is Buffy, a religious young woman who's a little on the ditzy side and obsessed with computers and electronics. Despite being the techie of the group, Buffy is the most creative of the three, as she's a "Fictional", a blogger who writes serial stories and poetry. Buffy broke my heart a little bit. It's discovered halfway through the novel that she actually betrayed Shaun and Georgia and Ryman (the presidential candidate) and this results in the death of Ryman's oldest daughter, as well as Buffy's. Despite knowing she betrayed everyone, I couldn't bring myself to be MAD at her. She really thought what she was doing was for the greater good, and she seemed genuinely sorry for all the harm she brought everyone. That still shouldn't excuse her, and I definitely don't condone her actions, but GOD, but couldn't I be MAD at her? And I was still SAD when she died!! So yeah, I liked Buffy, even though she was a catalyst for a lot of the events that unfolded.
Of course, there are a cast of minor characters who quite well developed as well, such as the presidential candidate Peter Ryman. I really thought that dude would end up to be some kind of bad guy because he was just so dang NICE. Like George, I found his niceness just too good to be true, but it ended up being genuine, and I was happy for it. The world needs nice people, and Ryman definitely wasn't perfect (though he was pretty close.)
The last thing I want to cover that I really liked about this novel was the gutsy stuff that Grant did. She talks about touchy subjects in this book, such as religion and animal rights (though the context of these animal rights is quite a bit different than they would be in our world), but she does so in such a way that she doesn't shy away from extreme opinions, but she doesn't paint one opinion as bad and the other good. The other BIG thing that Grant did was have not one, but TWO main characters DIE. As I mentioned above, Buffy bites the dust. I was surprised by this development, but not completely floored, because well, shit happens. (I've also read three books from The Song of Ice and Fire series in which major characters die left and right, so I think I've become a little desensitized.) But then, near the end of the novel, GEORGE DIES. *sobs* The novel is told completely from George's first-person POV, so I expected her to live. Even when she got the injection of the zombie virus right in her veins, I expected (and prayed) that some kind of miraculous event would happen to save her, because guys, SHE'S THE MAIN CHARACTER. But no. She dies, and the last few chapters are told from Shaun's first-person POV. So yeah, huge kudos to Grant for doing something so incredibly gutsy and making it *work* (even if it did break my heart -- I liked George quite a bit and it's sad that she died to bring people the truth. She *literally* told the truth at ANY cost; the ultimate cost.)
Final Verdict: So if you haven't guessed, I kind of really liked this book. The pacing was great, the world-building was original, even if the zombies are you classic flesh-eating walking undead, and the characters were really well realized and ones I admired and rooted for (even when they did kind of shitty things.) This is the kind of book that's great for people who aren't crazy about zombies, because as much as zombies are an important aspect of the novel, they aren't the dominant force of it. Hell, they're not even the real threat in this book; it's the humans who are, and I think that was a really interesting and subtle twist on Grant's part, and I loved it. Grant pulls some gutsy stuff off in this book too, which really paid off, even if it broke my heart sometimes. This may be a 600+ page book, but it reads really quickly, because it's really engrossing, and has a plot that's full of danger and the unexpected. I can't wait to get my hands on the sequel, Deadline, because I'm really interested to see what direction this story takes. ...more
Why I Read It: This book was first put on my radar when this review popped up two years ago. Yes, there was some major B Review originally posted here.
Why I Read It: This book was first put on my radar when this review popped up two years ago. Yes, there was some major Bad Author Behaviour going on in the comments, but it was mostly ANOTHER author, not Andrew Smith who was being Not Cool. Anyway, Erika, the reviewer, wasn't crazy about the book, but I thought it sounded kind of intriguing. Then my brother went and bought it, so I figured I may as well read it. Spoilers ahead, so read with caution!
This book was... strange. And unfortunately, not really in the good way. It had a lot of potential, but I didn't feel like Smith went the extra mile to actually make this novel great (but of course this is a personal opinion -- your mileage may vary.)
The beginning of the novel felt promising. I liked Jack's voice and there was obvious creepy feeling permeating the text. But then it kind of went downhill when Jack gets kidnapped. All of sudden, it felt like Smith was trying to pile all these "heavy issues" into too small a page-count, which made it feel bloated and contrived. In the first fifty-pages alone, readers are subjected to the following:
1. Teens swearing, drinking, and doing drugs 2. Jack witnessing his best friend Connor having sex (reverse cowgirl style no less) and is invited to join in. 3. Jack being kidnapped. 4. Jack being sexually molested.
Now, I don't have a problem with any of these things being present in the text. Teenagers swear, and have sex, and threesomes, and get kidnapped, and get sexually molested (sadly). But in the first fifty pages? At that point it started to feel gratuitous. And then, in the next couple of dozen of pages, Jack and Connor KILL Jack's kidnapper (by accident). It was a bizarre reading experience.
For the rest of the novel, Jack and Connor are in England and that's when the fantasy aspects of the novel come in. Jack is given these magical glasses from a random guy who follows him around for awhile, and when he puts them on, he's brought to a world that's some weird post-apocalyptic version of Earth called Marbury. He's already with a group of people who all know who he is (including weird stalker dude, who is dead in Marbury, so he isn't brought there when he puts the glasses on), and Jack has lived a whole other life in Marbury. So when he first enters Marbury, it's basically in media res, meaning neither he, nor the reader, have any idea what's happened before hand. Jack takes in stride, but it left me frustrated.
The whole idea of Marbury frustrated me actually. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't need everything explained to me (I've read and enjoyed Elizabeth Bear for crying out loud), but sometimes some things just need SOME kind of explanation or development for me to care. Marbury was one them. At first I thought that Marbury was maybe just a way to represent Jack coping with his trauma at having been kidnapped and molested; in the real world, he feels he has no control and that's he powerless, but in Marbury people depend on him and he takes of others. His addiction to Marbury could've been some kind of metaphor to addiction, which is an avenue a lot of people take when dealing with trauma. But there are too many things that happen in the text that undermine this less-than-literal reading of the text; characters perceive things as Jack perceives them, eliminating the theory that most of what he's experiencing is a delusion or only in his head. This actually lessened the reading experience for me. I was kind of hoping for something like the movie Pan's Labyrinth, which I thought toed the line between fantasy and reality perfectly, but alas, it didn't.
The love angle in the book was quite laughable. Nikki is a girl that Jack meets while in England and after knowing her for less than two weeks, the two are avowing their love for each other. Gag gag gag. Connor also meets Nikkie's friend Rachel and they are avowing (though to a lesser extent than Jack and Nikki) their love for each other. Gag gag gag. Also, I was annoyed at the scene where Nikki basically breaks up with Jack because he's cray cray and all he has to do is beg and give her the puppy the eyes and she jumps right back into bed with him. *sigh* Essentially, the females in this book are throwaway characters and were boriiinnngg.
Another thing that grated on me was the writing. Like I said before, I thought that Jack's voice (he's the first-person narrator) was pretty good, but then it devolves into annoying repetition. I swear to God, if I had to read "Fuck off, Jack." one more time I was going to throw my book across the room. I understand that the repetition was to emphasize Jack's trauma and self-blame, but it loses its impact when it's used so often.
The last thing I want to mention (which was a huge point of contention in the review I linked above), is how the issue of homosexuality was treated. I don't want to elaborate too much because I can't provide any examples from the text (I don't have the book with me because I'm out of town as I write this), but I'll leave it at this: it made me uncomfortable. I understand that teenage boys talk and behave like this, but the text doesn't really seem to challenge these perceptions directly or indirectly. I am NOT saying that Andrew Smith is homophobic; I am just stating how these depictions of homosexuality and how it was dealt with made ME feel. I'll probably revise this bit of this review at a later date with specific examples of what made me uncomfortable.
Final Verdict: This book was promising, but for me, it didn't deliver. I appreciate that the book tackled difficult subjects, but it tackled SO MANY in so little page-time that it felt too jam-packed for me and lessened the impact it could have had. The fantasy elements of the novel felt underdeveloped to me, and what could have been a cool story that blurred the line between fantasy and reality, was reduced to just messed-up fantasy that ended feeling more shallow and boring to me (not to mention that I had idea why some elements were thrown in, such as the ghost that followed Jack around). The narrative voice felt like it captured the teen boy experience really well, but it became very repetitive and annoying after awhile. The female characters were all throwaways, which was disappointing to say the least, and the love angle of the story severely lacking. All in all, it was a disappointing read for me, and I doubt I'll be checking out the sequel. ...more
Why I Read It: I actually had no intention of reading this. It was a book my brother bought a few months ago after I got him on a reading kick (he was a MAJOR reluctant reader until I suggested he read Big Brother by Cory Doctorow about a year ago). He brought this book with him when we vacationed with our family to the Dominican Republic. When my Kobo died, I went to him frantic that I had nothing to read, and since he was still working on another book he brought with him, he let me borrow it.
So as you can probably assume, I had no expectations when jumping into this book. I just knew it was about grave-robbing and that's really about it. I'm glad to report that I was pleasantly surprised while reading this, even if I had some problems with the book.
The beginning of the novel is probably its strongest part. Reading about Joey's loss was heart-wrenching. He was obviously really close to his mother, because of her fear of the outside (which at first appears to just be agoraphobia, but is later revealed to be because of something else entirely), so when he's describing her funeral, the fall-out of her death, I felt so bad for him. Then to read about him ending up with his absent father was even worse -- the state of his father's home, how he's never around so that Joey can do simple things like EAT and do laundry.. Then he's treatment at school; this was probably the worst part for me. Like most kids, I was picked on at school (mostly in grades 7 and 8 though -- high-school was merciful), and THAT was hard. I can't even imagine how Joey felt being a social outcast at his new school, being a big red target for bullying. Essentially, the beginning of the novel was incredibly depressing, and while it made me slightly uncomfortable in just HOW depressing it was, it felt like the most well-written part of the novel.
The first part of the novel also chronicles Joey's discovery of his father's "real" job, which is of course the grave robbing. Kraus does a good job of making Joey feel so completely ostracized that he would run to his father, even if he is a horrible parental figure, but I was still skeptical about Joey's reaction when he founds out about his father's job. He is so oddly okay with it... and I get that he was looking for acceptance, looking for it wherever he possible could, but I still find it hard to believe that someone would swallow it and handle it as well as Joey did. It just didn't really compute for me.
Speaking of the grave-robbing, I have to applaud Kraus for knowing how to write gruesome stuff. His description of the corpses Joey and his father dug up was FREAKIN' GROSS, but really, that's the point. It's also obvious that Kraus did his research when it comes to burial practices, as well as body decomposition and grave robbing itself. As for the overall writing of the novel, it was actually really good. Joey's a smart kid, so his precocious style of narrating (the story is told in the first person) fit him well, and it allowed for some "poetic" writing that didn't feel out of place. It also really amped the atmosphere.
One of my biggest complaints with this novel is the pacing. At almost 450 pages, this book is fairly long. While the beginning was really gripping in its depressing-ness, the second half of the novel started to lose steam. It was still good, but it was losing momentum. By the end of the book though, I was really anxious for it to be done -- it just felt too long and dragged out.
There was also something else missing from the novel. I think Thea from the Book Smugglers had it right when she said that the novel lacked depth in some regards. Kraus could have really explored the moral implications of grave robbing, or of what Joey did at the end of the second part of the novel to get revenge upon the people at his school who made his life hell. But he never really, never at any depth anyway, which is too bad.
Final Judgment: This novel actually took me by surprise. I had no intention of reading it, but in a moment of desperateness I picked it up. The beginning of the novel had me a little chocked up at just how SAD it was, which was followed by the gruesomeness of being a grave-robber. These were some of the best written parts of the novel, and while it doesn't exactly give me the warm and fuzzies, it was gripping. The pacing of the novel after that first part though felt like it lagged quite a bit, which did not work in the book's favour at all. Still though, the writing was really solid, the main character was easy to sympathize with. I just wish that Kraus had explored some of the controversial topics in this book with a little more depth. I would recommend this with reservations -- it's got a slow pace and if you're easily grossed out this may not be your cup of tea....more
Why I Read It: This was the March selection for Calico Reaction's Theme Park book club! Even before this was selected it had been on my radar; the booWhy I Read It: This was the March selection for Calico Reaction's Theme Park book club! Even before this was selected it had been on my radar; the book club just gave me an excuse to read it sooner rather than later.
I first off want to apologize for the mess that this review will probably be. I'm ridiculously behind on reviewing books I've read because I've been so busy with school, so it's actually been a couple of weeks since I finished reading this. Therefore, there's a lot that's fuzzy in my mind. But anyway, onward!
As far as general impressions go, I really liked this book. It wasn't without its flaws, but when I recall the reading experience, it was enjoyable. To simplify things a bit, I'm going to list the PROS and CONS.
PROS - This book truly is creepy. And it's not creepy solely because it's gory (because it's really gory). It's creepy because the monsters that are featured in this book, the Anthropophagi, are described in such detail. Dr. Warthrop insane scientific analyses of these monsters really brought them to life and made it seem like these monsters could be REAL. You'd think that describing the monsters in such cold detail would dampen the creep factor since it takes out all the imagination, but Yancey somehow pulled it off.
- Will Henry really is a likable protagonist. The kid's had a ROUGH time to say the least, and it doesn't look like it's getting any better while he's under Warthrop's care. It made it easy to sympathize with him.
- Jack Kearns! No, he is by no means a likable character (dude is sooo evil and messed up), but he brought some welcome humour -- albeit very dark and largely inappropriate humour -- and the little tease given about his character (which I won't reveal due to spoilers) was absolutely genius and I loved it.
- The writing really was fantastic (even if I had some issues with, which I'll get into in a bit.) The style of the prose, while long-winded at times, felt perfect for the time, setting, and mood of this novel.
CONS - This novel felt unnecessarily long at times. Like, really long. A particular example that comes to mind is when Warthrop and William went to visit that guy in the insane asylum and he told them about bringing the Anthropophagi over from Europe on a ship and how pretty everyone gotten eaten. That scene was just kept going onnnn and oonnn to the point where I began doing some major skimming, and I almost NEVER skim.
- The journal conceit rang as inauthentic to me. How the hell does someone recall events in such detail? Or conversations? I love me an unreliable narrator, but not a whole lot about Will Henry's narration felt unreliable. It made sense to have the story told from Will's point of view, and it made sense to have it told from a much older Will Henry so that the verboseness of his prose didn't ring false, but I'm still not sure about the journal format.
THE IN-BETWEEN - The one thing I'm kind of on the fence about is Will Henry's relationship to Dr. Warthrop. At the beginning of the novel, Warthrop's treatment of Will Henry is borderline abuse, and while it made sense with Warthrop's character, it made me really mad (which I imagine was the point.) Near the end of the novel however, Warthrop reveals his softer side and becomes more verbal in acknowledging how much Will Henry really means to him. Will Henry in turn demonstrates a fierce loyalty to his guardian, despite the ill-treatment he's received. A part of me loved the development of their relationship, but another part of me felt angry that Will Henry could so readily forgive and vouch for a man who's treated him so poorly. I am anxious to see how it develops in the next novel though (which I already own and plan on reading.)
Final Verdict: Despite my misgivings, I really did enjoy this book. The creep-factor was there, and it wasn't just because of the copious amounts of gore (warning: if you have a weak stomach you should probably stay away from this book). The main character was easy to sympathize with, even if I had some uneasiness about his relationship with his mentor and guardian. I'm still skeptical about the journal format of the novel, but I can't discount that this is a very well-written novel despite that (even though it felt unnecessarily long at times); the style was perfect for the setting and mood. A definite recommend from me....more
Why I Read It: I really enjoy most of Gaiman's work. I love love LOVE his Sandman graphic novel series, but then I was on the Originally reviewed here.
Why I Read It: I really enjoy most of Gaiman's work. I love love LOVE his Sandman graphic novel series, but then I was on the fence about American Gods (which is odd, because it seems to me to be one of his most beloved works.) Anyway, this book has quite a few accolades, one of them being the Newberry, which is kind of like the Oscar of middle grade novels, so my curiosity was piqued. Then my brother bought the book about a year ago and I finally decided to pick it up now.
So, I have to say that the format of this novel kind of threw me off. I didn't know it was a bunch of short stories strewn together to form one large narrative arc. This threw for a loop (which it shouldn't have really, considering that's how Sandman worked), but it didn't deter my enjoyment of the novel as a whole. However, as is the case with any short story collection, some stories (so in this case, chapters) charmed me more than others.
For example, I absolutely loved the chapter about the Danse Macabre. That chapter was just.. I don't even know. I can't put it into words because it encapsulates all the magic that Gaiman is capable of and is what I love about him.
But if I'm going to be perfectly honest, this is probably the only chapter that made me feel that way. I liked most of the other ones well enough, but none of them grabbed me like that one did. While the Danse Macabre is still perfectly clear in my mind, the rest of the chapters are kind of muddled. And it's not that any of them were BAD. It's just that I loved that one chapter so much that everything else kind of paled in comparison. I'll try to talk about other elements of the novel that I liked and didn't like though, instead of focusing this review on comparing the entire book to a single chapter.
I loved the atmosphere of the novel. It's pretty obvious that Gaiman is trying to invoke Kipling in this novel, but instead of having Mowgli be raised by animals in the jungle, we have Nobody Owens being raised by ghosts in the graveyard. Gaiman somehow managed to make the graveyard be the creepy, dank, ominous place that most of us conceive it as, but also made it feel comforting and homey, like it feels for Bod. It was a strange combination, but it worked for me. It lead to the most head-on tackling of death that I've ever seen in a middle grade novel (though very close to Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, but she goes about it in a completely different manner.)
I have to say though, that the tone of the novel never FELT very middle grade. I honestly think this could have been published as a novella and shelved in the "adult" section of any book store and it would be seen as such. My memory is a little fuzzy, but the writing style IS simple enough for younger kids to read, but I don't think that age group would grasp the subtleties that the text offers. But I guess that's the best kind of kid's book, right? The ones that can be enjoyed by adults too, and have different readings when you re-read them at different ages? I'm still really curious how 9-12 year olds would react to this book.
Something that niggled at me though was the nature of man who killed Bod's real family. I don't want to talk about it too much because then we'll be entering spoiler territory, but there was something about it that kind of let me down. It was all very Gaiman-esque, but it didn't all tie together for me quite like I hoped it would. Again, this doesn't make it a BAD novel, but still something I think that's worth mentioning.
Oh, and one last remark: there are gorgeous black and white illustrations in this book by Dave McKean and they are AWESOME. I don't love everything McKean does (though I love MOST of it) but this is definitely good stuff. It's all super eerie and creepy and sets the mood for the chapters perfectly.
Final Verdict: While I was thrown off by the format of this novel (the overall story arc is broken down into short stories), I still found myself enjoying it quite a bit. However, due to this structure I found myself more enamoured with some chapters quite a bit more than others (one in particular really stood out). That chapter set the bar too high though, so that's not to say that the other chapters were BAD; Gaiman handled the setting of the graveyard wonderfully and I loved the atmosphere and mood of the whole thing. I'm a little bit on the fence about what age group this book is marketed to, but it doesn't really change how I feel about it one way or the other anyway. There was something about the ending that left a little be desired from me, but other than that, I thought this was a solid Gaiman novel. (It's still not as good as Sandman though. :) )...more
Why I Read It: Back in 2009 I read and really enjoyed another Connolly novel: The Book of Lost Things. So when this titl Review originally posted here.
Why I Read It: Back in 2009 I read and really enjoyed another Connolly novel: The Book of Lost Things. So when this title showed up in the Bargain section at work I was all over it. It languished on the TBR forever, but I've been trying to work through and finally decided to pick it up.
This review is going to be short because I'm going to be brutally honest here: I did not like this book. AT ALL. I wish I had put it down at the 100 page mark and moved on to something better. But I loved The Book of Lost Things so much... I wanted to love THIS book so much!! But it let me down.
Why did this book not work for me? Well, it was clearly trying to be a humour book. It reads a lot like (and is often compared to) Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's collaboration Good Omens (but not nearly as good). But the problem is that I didn't think it was funny. I can't put my finger on WHY it wasn't funny though. It tried to go for this kind of.. I dunno, absurd sort of humour, but it all came off as trying too hard and never even coaxed a chuckle out of me.
SO, because I didn't think it was funny (at all) everything was very, very dull. Samuel was your typical precocious child but had nothing else going for him; his parents were hardly present, as were his friends, and then the rest of the cast is comprised of snippets we get of different neighbours and loosely related characters who are dealing with the leakage of demons. Their little asides were also obviously supposed to be humorous, but just felt distracting to me; it seemed like they were cushioning to fatten the book a bit.
The book is peppered with footnotes (also like Good Omens) and while those also fell flat on the humour front, I *did* learn a lot of fun little bits about physics and stuff. So there is that.
But honestly? There isn't much else.
Final Verdict: I am so sad to say that I did not like this book at all and honestly wished I had just DNFed it. I really enjoyed The Book of Lost Things by Donnolly so I really *wanted* to like this book, but it just didn't work out, mostly because the humour fell flat for me. Humour is a slippery and subjective thing though, so if the premise intrigues you, give it a go -- hopefully you'll have a better experience than me. Needless to say I won't be checking out the sequel The Infernals....more