Why I Read It: Once upon a time, I was obsessed with graphic novels. In 2009, I read almost exclusively gra Review originally posted on my Livejournal.
Why I Read It: Once upon a time, I was obsessed with graphic novels. In 2009, I read almost exclusively graphic novels and was one of those people who went out to my local comic book store every Wednesday and bought about a dozen issues of various titles. But then I got a long-distance boyfriend and suddenly I was buying $110 round-trip tickets to go see him every couple of weeks and I only work part-time so I had to start cutting some of my "recreational spending out". I decided to drop graphic novels and weekly issues. They're not cheap. I initially didn't drop them completely, but I slowly weaned myself off of them. Anyway, all of this is to say that I've been hankering for graphic novels lately. I don't read just super-hero stuff though -- I read pretty much anything. This was a new release and it looked super cute, so I picked it up and read it during my breaks at work.
If I had to describe Faith Hicks' Friends With Boys in one word, it would be ADORABLE. That's kind of odd to say about a book that deals with adjusting to high school and ghosts.. but there you have it.
The story follow our protag Maggie who is starting high school after being home-schooled all her life. She has three older brothers who also stopped being home-schooled once high school started, so she's not completely stranded, but watching Maggie adjust to such a completely different environment (and HIGH SCHOOL of all places, ugh) is something I'm sure almost all of can relate to. I liked especially how she made a map of the school and marks off areas like the "Make-Out Stairwell", along with where her classes take place.
The story is pretty straight-forward: Maggie is adjusting to her new school, deals with having to learn how to fit in for the first time in her life, and learns how to make friends with people who aren't her brothers. There's also a side-plot concerning a ghost that's been following Maggie around for most of her life, and how Maggie tries to help the ghost move on so she can stop haunting her and stuff.
What I liked about the plot was that it didn't tread extremely familiar territory: instead of reading a story about Maggie being made fun of and ostracized for being home-schooled, the readers are instead privy to her insight as an observer: Maggies pays close attention to the relationships around her, most notably the relationships between Alistair and his ex-bff Matthew, and Alistair and her oldest brother Daniel. Watching THOSE relationships does tread familiar territory, but in a fresh and engaging way. It's also worth mentioning that there aren't any Mean Girls in sight in this book; instead, the popular crowd is a pack of rowdy volley-ball playing jocks, led by Head Douchecanoe Matthew. Boys can be popular bitches too!!
The supernatural plot thread is never really explained or developed, though it does incite some of the action of the plot. It oddly didn't feel out of place though. It kind of gave the story some panache or something. I dunno if there was an additional deeper meaning to it, but I didn't perceive any (though I wouldn't be surprised if there actually was some metaphor for that whole thing as well.) Either way, I liked it.
Sometimes Maggie skirts the edge of being a Speshul Snowflake; having grown up with boys her whole life (she has three older brothers) she talks about how she doesn't like girlie things and she thinks that bugged her mom (who is absent in this book because she left the family.) I say she only skirts the edge because she never talks about how she's so much BETTER than other girls because she doesn't have girly interests, but she does talk about how she's "not like other girls". HOWEVER, she becomes super tight with Lucy so this book definitely passes the Bechdel test. It's just something I noticed.
The art was mostly good for me. I sometimes found Maggie looked kind of funny (like here; there's something about Maggie's upper-lip that bugged the crap out of me, and it appeared a lot in the book) but she was the only character who I felt that way about. Everyone else was looked AWESOME, and Hicks's style lends for very expressive facial expressions which I loved. The super cartoon-y style lent itself to the story really well.
Final Verdict: This was a super cute and super fun graphic novel romp. The story treads familiar territory but does so in a new way without feeling trope-y and boring. It's got a pinch of the supernatural that gives it a bit of panache without feeling tacked on. The main character was definitely easy to relate to and largely likable, but she did skirt the edge of the "Speshul Snowflake Syndrome", but thankfully mostly avoids it. The art style was a little hit-and-miss with the main character, but I thought the rest of the cast looked fantastic and I really liked Hicks's style; it really jived with the rest of the novel and I loved how cartoon-y and expressive it was. I definitely plan on seeking out more of Hicks's work. ...more
Why I Read It: Next in a series. I'm all caught up in this series now. Yay!!
I should probably start this review by clarifying that I'm not a connoiss Why I Read It: Next in a series. I'm all caught up in this series now. Yay!!
I should probably start this review by clarifying that I'm not a connoisseur of gothic fiction. I've read a few of the classics -- Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, etc. -- but I'm not super well-read in the genre. However, regardless of that, it's incredibly easy to enjoy this book.
Cass, Em, and Lydia are back in this installment of the Ashbury/Brookfield series, but they're now in their senior year which means they have to write their HSCs (which are exams that Aussie teens have to take in their senior year in order to determine what universities they're eligible to apply for [I think]). Following the epistolary format of her other novels, Moriarty tells this story through the characters' answers to their English HSC question: a memoir about first-impressions written in a gothic style.
So as I said above, even if you're not that familiar with gothic novels, you'll probably still notice some tropes of the genre present in the characters' answers, sometimes used seriously to draw you in, other times used to hilarious effect. My favourite bits were the ones written by Emily. She's a bit of an air-head sometimes and a huge drama queen, but her bits were hilarious. She over-uses the exclamation point and uses big words wrong in order to give her story an air of grandeur, or describes things as "gothically" to make it more gothic. She had me laughing out loud.
Central to this story are two new characters: Amelia and Riley. They've been a couple since they were fourteen years old and are scholarship students at Ashbury. They attract everyone's attention with their odd behaviour and how they seem to live in their own little world; a world everyone wants in on. Emily becomes especially obsessed with them and wants to know everything about them and to become their friends. This made me laugh because Emily reminded me a lot of myself; I have the unfortunate flaw of being incredibly nosy. I won't butt in other people's business, but I am insatiably curious about everything and everyone. So when I was reading about Amelia and Riley? I needed to know MORE!! I was like Emily -- I was obsessed with these two mysterious people and wanted to know what their deal was. Riley's POV is present in the stories, but he offers only tiny morsels about his and his girlfriend's past (though everything is revealed in due time) and it drove me crazy!! But kept the pages turning pretty quickly.
And you know how I'm always going on about how Moriarty balances her humour with very serious situations as well? This definitely happens in this book too. I find her other three Ashbury/Brookfield books lean more towards the humour side of the scale than the serious, but this time around, probably because of the whole gothic thing, the balance felt like it was shifted more towards the serious. This was perfectly fine though; Emily's over-the-top POV brought enough laughs with Moriarty's trademark humour and the serious bits were really compelling. Some of the big secrets at the end of the book had me gasping (how gothic of me) and going like WHOAA!! (not so gothic of me.) I'm really impressed how Moriarty juggled all these serious themes -- social/class prejudices, love, growing up, graduating, etc. -- within such a strangely formatted novel. Moriarty's books are definitely unique.
Some bits at the very end kind of threw me off. I know that this everything is supposed to be a mix of gothic/horror/ghost story (oh yeah, there's a potential ghost in this book too, did I mention that?) but I never took any of it at face-value. Everything else about this series has been strictly contemporary and set in the real world, but the ending leads us to believe that some crazy supernatural shit went down. A part of me wishes that it had been explained away rationally, but I'm sure there are going to be some people who love the supernatural twist.
Final Verdict: I loved this installment in the Ashbury/Brookfield series. I've read on Moriarty's website that this is going to be the last one for awhile (she's apparently planning on publishing a trilogy) which makes me sad, but at least she finished off with a bang, because this book was gothically delicious. Moriarty once again balances humour with heavy subject matter and does so in a totally unique way. Even if you're not a connoisseur of gothic fiction, the gothic elements in this book were so well done (and a lot of times funny) that I didn't need to be. Also worth noting is that this book may be the fourth installment in a series, but it can be read on its own (like the rest of the series) so even if you haven't read the others, don't let that stop you from picking this up. ...more
Why I Read It: I received an unsolicited finished copy of this from Random House Canada.
I had next to no idea what this book Originally reviewed here.
Why I Read It: I received an unsolicited finished copy of this from Random House Canada.
I had next to no idea what this book was actually about before I started reading it. I figured it had *something* to do with ghosts because I did know it was about a girl who died, but other than that, I knew zilch. Well, I have to say that this book defied many of my expectations.
Okay, so, we have Ashlyn who slowly figures out that she's dead and that actually has no memory of when she was alive. And for some unknown reason her 'spirit' seems to be attached to some guy named Breckon. Breckon's hurting really bad because his six year old sister has recently died and he feels like it's his fault. The narrative follows these two characters through alternately first-person POV chapters.
Right when Breckon was introduced, I was convinced that Ashlyn was going to be his dead girlfriend or something. So I was sort of pleasantly surprised to find that she wasn't, that the two of them actually had little to no connection at all. Actually, I became kind of frustrated with the novel because I wanted to know WHY Ashlyn's spirit would be connected to Breckon at all, and the novel didn't offer any answers until the very, very end.
While Ashlyn does play an important role in this story and we DO find out about her life while she was alive, this still felt more like Breckon's story. I was much more invested in his story of trying to learn to forgive himself and heal from his sister's passing than I ever was with Ashlyn's chapters, even the ones that described important and scarring events in her life. I think this can be attributed to the fact that Breckon's story is much more visceral. His emotions hit harder and the actions that he takes to try to avoid the pain are painful (he commits self-harm, which could potentially be triggering for some [it was for me]). I still liked Ashlyn's story, and I think the novel would have been lacking without her half, but I was more emotionally invested in Breckon.
Before reading Martin, I had heard of her because of her debut novel I Know It's Over which was largely well-received because of Martin's ability to write authentically from a male perspective. After reading this book and Breckon's perspective, I can see where this praise is coming from. Breckon's perspective was definitely different from Ashlyn, and though I'm hesitant to describe this difference solely on gender, there was definitely something about it that screamed "TEENAGE BOY". One scene that comes to mind is when Breckon is looking at his girlfriend in the grocery store and finds himself becoming horny (something he hasn't felt since his sister died). It felt so quintessentially GUY-like without feeling cliched and stupid and was oddly touching (haha) because it felt like Breckon was finally healing or something.
What I'm saying is, Martin can obviously write well.
The only thing that kept me from LOVING this book was that honestly, this isn't my type of story. I'm not very interested in the Lovely Bones-esque stories where we watch ghost/spirit people watch the living world after they're dead (though I grant an exception to One For Sorrow). This one was thankfully out of the box a bit and escaped some of the tropes that plague these "post-death" novels, but it's not going to be sitting on my 'favourite' shelf either.
Final Verdict: This was a "post-death" novel that escaped some of the tropes of those that came before it, and for that I was thankful. While I was more interested and invested in Brekcon's story, Ashlyn was still an integral part to the novel and raised it above the usual 'contemporary novel that deals with death' fair. Martin is a good writer and obviously has a good handled in a male POV, as well as writing emotions and actions with a visceral edge. I *felt* the sadness that these characters felt and I really wanted Breckon to just be okay. While I sing these praises though, this novel still isn't a 'favourite' for me, but that's largely due to my lack of investment in Ashlyn's story; like I said, it was integral but I wasn't as embroiled in it as Breckon's. Still though, it was a good read. ...more
**spoiler alert** I read this title for calico_reaction's September Dare. I had never heard of Barzak before, but I was immediately sucked in by the c**spoiler alert** I read this title for calico_reaction's September Dare. I had never heard of Barzak before, but I was immediately sucked in by the cover and the premise of the novel.
I have a hard time articulating how I feel about this novel. It's strange, and while I mostly mean that in a good way, it was sometimes a little discomfiting how this book breaks away from common conventions and presents something really slow-moving, but equally eerie. Was it a good book though? Most definitely. (Spoilers behind the cut!)
So this book is about poor Adam, a teenager with a dysfunctional family (and not the lighthearted, funny kind of dysfunctional, but the really depressing kind), a recently-crippled mother, and a ghost of a dead friend/acquaintance (they never became very close, but there was a lot of potential that it might have) named Jamie following him around. As Adam clings to Jamie, he slowly spirals out of control.
One of the first things that struck me about Adam was his sexual orientation and the ambiguity surrounding it. Adam describes his budding friendship with Jamie (before its nipped in the bud on account of Jamie getting murdered) and there was some definite chemistry between the two. After Jamie's death however, Adam meets a girl named Gracie and the two of them have a stab at romance. Also, a lot of the interactions between Adam and ghost-Jamie are very physically intimate. Of course, it's completely plausible that Adam is bisexual and is perfectly comfortable in his bi-sexuality, so his intimacies with both characters, despite being the opposite sex, was comfortable and never something he felt the need to question or self-reflect upon. Either way, neither romance ever felt weird or out of place; they worked, and they worked well, so kudos to Barzak for that.
As far as characters go, the whole cast is fairly well developed. Adam is of course the focus, being the first-person narrator, and he's your not-completely typical angsty teenager. While I was reading, I remember thinking a few times that Adam reminded me of Holden Caufield from The Catcher in the Rye; they both have a lot of angst and a lot of self-reflectiveness. I'd say that Adam is a little more on the apathetic side though, while Holden is a lot more pessimistic. Also, Adam has a lot more reason to be angst-y and depressed than Holden Caufield ever did. The secondary characters were well-drawn too: Gracie, from her upper-middle class family whose got her own angst and baggage; Jamie as a ghost, who in some poignant scenes you can really feel just how desperately he doesn't want to move on, and come back to life somehow; and Adam's family, who are in equal parts sympathetic (his mom, and one scene in particular with his father) and infuriating (his druggy brother and macho father). Barzak infuses a lot of life into these characters; even poor Jamie, who's ironically dead the entire time.
Now for the plot; it's hard to describe my feelings towards the plot. At times, it was riveting and haunting and mesmerizing and all kinds of other -ings, but other times it felt kind.. slow. Adam does a lot of running away and hiding from people, and while these scenes are important (they really are), I still found them to be kind of dull sometimes. Once in awhile something interesting would happen to spice things up, like Adam burning down the town ghost's house, or Adam having an encounter with some of the supernatural that come around every so often, but other than that, I was a little bored. The pay off with the ending is really great though. Barzak presents a pretty positive ending, though I wouldn't go so far as to say it's happy. It's definitely hopeful though, and watching Adam go from being at his lowest to finally going home to try again and for things to look that optimistic made me feel good inside. It was very gratifying.
There's quite a bit of supernatural stuff going on in the book too, aside from Jamie talking to/haunting Adam and Gracie. Jamie brings Adam to some place where the dead seem to inhabit, though only certain people seem able to see them, and there's one part where Adam and Gracie accidentally stumble into the place as well. The beings in this dimension are pretty chilling. There's also some supernatural "rules" of sorts that we get to see in play every once in awhile, such as Jamie taking Adam's words in order to stay alive, or Jamie burning off his memories from when he was alive in order to stay warm (he complains of being constantly cold); it's because of this burning/purging of his memories that Jamie is never able to reveal the identity of his murderer, which was a bit of a shame, but never really bothered me. Anyway, these supernatural rules/world are never explained, but this never bothered me; the "rules" were always consistent and we get to see enough of it that it never needs to be explained -- it just IS, and Barzak gives us enough that I never felt confused as to the workings of this inner world. Besides, it's the supernatural, and thus shouldn't really be explained to begin with.
I can't end this review without commenting on Barzak's writing, because guys? IT'S REALLY GOOD. It's that special kind of writing that's lyrical without going purple, angst-y without being whiny, and just a perfect amount of whimsy without being pretentious. The writing is easily one of my favorite things about this book and what kept me mostly hooked throughout the novel (even those less than riveting scenes mentioned above).
Final Verdict: This is a really strong novel that has some of the most beautiful writing I've come across in a long time and interesting plot that takes quite a different direction than I thought it would (but this is definitely not a bad thing.) While I found the plot to trod a little bit at certain points, the well-drawn characters and stellar writing more than made up for it. Also, these scenes ARE important to the novel as a whole, which also makes it easier to forgive. I also really like how Barzak handled the supernatural elements of the novel as well as the romance ones. Jamie and Adam's romance is very unconventional, but it was good. I think fans of The Lovely Bones might like this, though be aware that these stories are VERY different. Anyway, overall? A definite recommend from me, and I'll definitely be checking out Barzak's only other novel, The Love We Share Without Knowing (which also has an amazing premise, and I trust Barzak to fulfill this potential.) ...more
Why I Read It: I had spotted a few reviews praising this graphic novel, and then I noticed it had a blurb from Neil G Review originally published here.
Why I Read It: I had spotted a few reviews praising this graphic novel, and then I noticed it had a blurb from Neil Gaiman on it (!!!) so I decided to read it during my breaks at work.
Well, I can see WHY people are singing this novel's praises. It's really a solid work and I really enjoyed reading it. I enjoyed it so much in fact, that I bought myself a copy of it about a week after finishing it.
The story is multi-faceted; the story is very clearly focused on Anya, but there are different threads to her narrative: we have her coming-age-story which encompasses not only her dealing wanting to fit in and dealing with a crush, but also with her feelings of otherness because she's a Russian immigrant and her integration into American society. Along with all that, there's the more obvious thread of her dealing with her ghost-friend Emily and Emily's progression from being a friendly ghost to slowly becoming a possessive and controlling freak trying to live vicariously through Anya.
The ghost story was definitely creepy. It's not pee-your-pants scary, but there's a feeling of tension and dread surrounding the whole ordeal. It all starts out innocently enough, but the end it crescendos into "holy effff!!!" territory and I was actually concerned about Anya and her family. So yeah, the ghost story? Very well done.
Anya's story of self-discovery/coming-of-age was also handled awesomely. Anya herself is a very sympathetic character, even when she does things that are less-than-nice. She faces all kinds of things that normal teenage girls deal with (crushes, body image issues, friendships gone awry) that will make her easily relatable to teens, and she's also super funny. Honestly, the writing throughout this novel was perfect and I found myself giggling out loud quite a few times, despite the novel's later scarier tone. The balance here was perfect.
The art is found between the covers is also notable. I loved Brogsol's art style. Like Friends With Boys it's a lot more cartoony than other graphic novels I've read, but it fits the story perfectly. All the images are in black and white and have purple-y and grey splashes throughout that looks really good. The characters are super expressive as well, which is what mostly makes it look so appealing. It all reminded me of a mix between Persepolis Marjane Satrapi (because of the black and white) with the stylization of Friends With Boys.
Final Verdict: This is another graphic novel that is definitely worth checking out. It's got a creepy ghost story while wrapped in a coming-of-story/immigrant story. Anya is an awesome lead character: she's funny and completely relatable because of the issues she's dealing with. The writing overall is topnotch and is matched only by the art style which is very stylized and expressive. I hope Brogsol publishes more graphic novels in the future, as I would love to check them out. ...more
Why I Read It: Like my Bigger Than a Breadbox review, this is going to be a bit of a disclaimer. At my job, publishers will sometimes send the store ARC copies of their books in the hopes that employees will pick them up, read them and then recommend them to customers. That was the case with this book. However, this ARC had been sitting in the manager's office FOREVER (it was released in 2009 and I think I got a hold of the ARC sometime in early 2011) and they wanted to get rid of it because it had been sitting there forever. I remember I saw this book floating around the YA blogosphere when it was first released and it sounded kind of intriguing so I volunteered to take it off their hands. I'm not too sure why it took me so long to read it though. But oh well, it's been read now!
For this review, there will be spoilers, so skip to the end if you want to be spared.
This is one of those novels that follows the protagonist post-death (akin to The Lovely Bones, Elsewhere and One For Sorrow) which is a trope that's been hit-and-miss for me. I would say that this book fell somewhere in the middle. I didn't dislike it, but it wasn't exactly memorable for me either and there were some things that had me scratching my head a bit.
One of those things is the nature of the after-life that Maddie finds herself in. She's essentially in a "room" of sorts that has all kinds of items she lost throughout her life. When she touches the item, she's brought back to the time in her life when she lost the item. Maddie can then watch herself from outside herself UNLESS her spirit-body thing gets too close to her actual body -- then she's sucked in to her body and relives that moment in her life. THEN once she gets too far away from the item that she loses, she's thrown back into the after-life place. From there, Maddie can touch the item again and go back to that same instant in time and relive it again if she wishes. BUT THEN Maddie finds out that she can minutely change the course of events and make herself find the lost item. But when she does that and gets thrown back to the after-life, the item is then gone and she can no longer return to that time-frame in her life. It all felt a little convoluted to me.
What also felt convoluted was the concept of Maddie going back to different moments in her life and then finding out she was able to CHANGE events in her life. Most post-death novels of this sort usually have characters who can watch what's going on AFTER they've died. With Maddie being able to travel in the past, it almost felt like time-travel or something, which felt kind of strange. And with her being able to change the course of events (though she only ever makes minor changes) didn't feel right either -- is the life she lived before she died changed every time she makes these small changes?
The last thing that I found mildly confusing was (and this is where things spoilerific) when Maddie meets her one friend in the after-life. See, at one point Maddie is reliving a moment in her life and she realizes that someone else was there, which means it must be someone who's in the memory (since these spirits can only be at those places if they lost something there). She finds out it's a friend of hers who she had a falling out with, but they can only communicate if Maddie doesn't jump into her physical body to live that moment in her life. When they do finally talk, Maddie finds out that said friend is in her thirties. Now, what confuses me about this is that this after-life where Maddie is in is a space that doesn't follow any kind of linear time-line; it's all over the place. But if that were the case, wouldn't EVERYONE be dead then (because we all die at SOME point)?
Maybe I'm over-thinking all these points, but they were still things to struck me as I was reading. I liked the Huntley's unique approach to the after-life though.
Enough talk about the after-life aspect of the book; how does the contemporary aspect hold up? For the most part it was all right, but nothing especially memorable. There's some romance as we watch in un-chronological order Maddie's relationship with her boyfriend, but I found it to be largely tepid. I did like that the couple had to deal with real problems though, mainly the issue of the crazy ex-girlfriend. I was very empathetic to Maddie in that regard because having my boyfriend's ex-girlfriend hang off of him would annoy the crap out of me too. :) The only thing that bugged me about that though was that Huntley was obviously trying to make readers think that the ex-girlfriend had something to do with Maddie's death and the whole screamed "RED HERRING" and felt so obvious it hurt.
The "flashbacks" (for a lack of a better word) that Maddie experiences also deal with the issue of mental illness: Maddie's best friend's mother obviously suffers from SOME kind of mental illness but I'm not sure how I feel about the way it was dealt with. The mother is vilified to the extreme and I don't believe (but I could be wrong) that no one addresses that maybe someone should help this woman find the help she needs. Instead, she's presented as a villain. Now, maybe she wasn't meant to have a mental illness, but I honestly think you'd HAVE to have a mental illness to behave the way she does.
What mostly kept me reading was that I did want to find out how Maddie died. It's strongly hinted that she was murdered and I wanted to see how the thing played out. The flashbacks do provide some hints about the who, what, when, where and why but there's never anything to make it completely obvious either I would argue. Actually, the nature of Maddie's death surprised me that the author Went There.
The last thing I want to bring up is the writing. It's nothing fancy, but it gets the job done which is always a good thing. What I did have issue with though is that when Maddie re-lives moments of her life, it's written in present tense as if we're right there with Maddie right at that moment, but a lot of the time the voice didn't seem to match Maddie's age; it felt a lot more like Maddie was telling us what happened that day in an "older" voice which wasn't congruous with that moment being told in the present-tense. Then at other times, like when she relives moments when she's an infant, it's written completely in baby-talk/babble (which DOES make sense). It's also a somewhat small thing, but was still a thought that struck me while reading. :)
Final Verdict: I feel like I criticized the book a lot in this review so I do want to point out that I *did* like it. There was just some world-building issues that sort had me scratching my head and got me thinking about some things (probably got me thinking a little too much actually). But if you can just roll with the punches, this is a fairly unique take on the post-death trope. I wouldn't say it was a wholly memorable reading experience for me, but I would recommend this to people who like reading about life-after-death fiction. ...more
Why I Read It: I found this a few years ago in the bargain section at work and decided to pick it up because I had been meaning to read more de Lint (Why I Read It: I found this a few years ago in the bargain section at work and decided to pick it up because I had been meaning to read more de Lint (I had read The Blue Girl in high school). He's pretty huge when it comes to contemporary/urban fantasy and I was curious to see what else he had to offer. It didn't hurt that I later found out this was a stand-alone anyway (though I wasn't at all confused while reading The Blue Girl anyway, but I'd still rather read the Newford books in his recommended order if I can.)
I want to start off by saying that this book disappointed me. I'm disappointed because this story started out well (even though there were some things that bugged me), but then something happened near the 2/3 mark of the story that really left me cold.
So the story starts out with Grace, who we get to know a little bit before she's shot by a druggie in a convenience store hold-up. She ends up in a weird limbo that's a replica of a small part of the town she lives in and she finds out she can go back to the world of the living two times a year: Halloween and sometime in May (I forget what the particular day is called). When she takes advantage of Halloween (she died shortly before) she meets a guy named John. They connect instantly, but alas, she's kicked out of the world of the living the next day, leaving him baffled. After some snooping around though, John figures out the mystery of Grace (see what I did there?) and a bit of an unusual love story starts to unfold.
Okay, so first off, I'm going to point out the things I liked, which is named John and Grace's relationship. There was something so incredibly CUTE about it and I can't put my finger on it. It was actually borderline saccharine (some may argue it actually WAS) what with the insta-attraction which turns to love pretty quickly, and with John's borderline obsession with Grace. The guy does start liking pretty much everything Grace likes (that he knows of) such as fixing cars, and her kind of music and YEAH, that's a little much, but I dunno. I liked the two of them anyway. I also have a bit of a soft spot for long-distance relationships, being in one myself for the past two years (though Grace and John take it to a whole new level.) But anyway, there was something genuine and sincere about them together and I liked it, even if there was some weird-factor to it.
I also really liked the cursed after-life that de Lint created. It was fairly original and it was cool how we slowly find out just what the hell is actually going on with that place and why it is the way it is.
Now onto the things I wasn't so hot about. For one, I wasn't too impressed with the way Grace was characterized. By that I mean that I didn't like HOW de Lint went about presenting Grace to us. Grace goes on and on about certain aspects of her, such as her tattoo and her love of hot rods and custom cars and it goes on ad nauseum sometimes. Like OKAY, I get it, you have tattoos and people judge you because of it; ALL RIGHT you love cars, I heard ya the first time. Other than that though, we don't get too much else about Grace. She lacked depth. John felt a bit like a blank slate as well, especially since he fills the blanks with everything that is Grace, so his characterization felt a little off to me too.
Another thing that kind of irked me was the way the characters talked sometimes, especially scenes where John and his friends are conversing. There was something that felt really wooden about it.
Then there was that little event that happened near the end of the novel. SPOILERS YO.
(view spoiler)[So Grace can only see John twice a year, right? On Halloween and that day in May. The third time she goes to the land of the living to meet up with him, she finds that he's not in their meeting spot (the place where Grace died -- it's the "portal" to the world of the living for her). When she goes off to look for him on the highway, she finds out that he died in a car crash and doesn't end up in Alverson Arms. When I read that, I was SAD along with Grace. But then... but then Grace kind of gets up, brushes herself off and keeps going on her merry way. It is mentioned that she tries very deliberately to ignore John's death because she doesn't want to despair over it, but she really didn't seem nearly as sad about it as I thought she might be. I know she only got to be with the guy twice, but it still felt like they had a fairly strong connection or something. (hide spoiler)]
After that, the plot feels like it plods along, and I understand that some of the stuff that happened NEEDED to happen, but I was so let down by the event I mentioned above and how it played it that I wasn't nearly as invested as I had initially been. I also felt that regardless of that, it went on just slightly too long. It went from being a "this is a pretty fun read" to a "..meh", which is too bad because I was enjoying the first part.
Final Verdict: I had some quibbles with this book (wasn't fond of Grace's show-don't-tell characterization and the focus on only a few of her likes and dislikes [and tattoos]; found some of the dialogue to be wooden; some aspects of Grace and John's relationship was a little border-line creepy for me, on John's part), but regardless I found myself enjoying it. I liked the concept of Alverson Arms and I liked how the revelation of the curse and how the place worked was played out, and despite finding John a little creepy in his fixation on Grace (and adopting pretty much all her hobbies) I still found their relationship really endearing. Then the Thing happened near the end of the novel and it really killed the book for me. I wasn't happy with how it played out and it made the end of the novel feel longer than necessary (even though it probably really wasn't). This was disappointing, as it was initially shaping up to be a fun, enjoyable (though not life-changing) read.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more