Margaret Wild's writing is really lovely and poetic, and the opening of The Vanishing Moment is strong. However, the third person point of view lacks Margaret Wild's writing is really lovely and poetic, and the opening of The Vanishing Moment is strong. However, the third person point of view lacks immediacy and ultimately the "twist" felt too awkwardly juxtaposed with the realistic beginning. Intriguing concept but it felt like this novel was trying to be too many things at once, and ultimately did none of them completely successfully. ...more
Despite a genuinely creepy and intriguing premise, I found the execution of Cry Blue Murder somewhat wanting.
The story opens with the abduction of HaDespite a genuinely creepy and intriguing premise, I found the execution of Cry Blue Murder somewhat wanting.
The story opens with the abduction of Hallie Knight, a school girl from Melbourne’s south-east suburbs, and the subsequent investigation into a possible link with two previous murders. Someone - dubbed the Cocoon Killer - is kidnapping girls in their early teens, poisoning them and leaving their naked bodies wrapped in shrouds of handwoven fabric and hair. Rocked by the tragedies, and as the cases remain unsolved, the community responds with understandable fear. Suddenly, their suburban streets are no longer safe.
Cry Blue Murder is related entirely through documents: emails exchanged between the two main characters, spliced with statements, interview transcripts and newspaper articles. The two girls, Celia and Alice, meet on a facebook page for then missing Hallie Knight, and quickly strike up a regular correspondence. Both feel somewhat isolated in their situations – Celia at a new school and Alice banished to a boarding school after a family tragedy – and find comfort in their budding friendship. It’s also a medium for the girls to express their anxiety over the ongoing Cocoon Killer case, and communicate how it’s impacting their lives.
With some reshuffling in order to tell the story in a logical and suspenseful manner, Kane and Roberts have attempted to replicate the kind of material that might be found in a Barrister’s brief – organising records of the police investigation to gradually reveal clues. And while the format works exceptionally well for a maximum impact reveal, it unfortunately makes the beginning feel somewhat flaccid and slow. I had expected to be immediately plunged into a chilling story, close to the detail of the mystery. In reality, the first half of the novel is more about the girls themselves and the way their friendship develops. In hindsight, it’s the right choice for the story, but it did take me a while to warm up to the pace.
The thing is though, I called the killer early. It’s possible that that was meant to happen, to augment the unsettling tone of the book; I can’t say for sure. By the final pages, I was less shocked by the reveal than by the abruptness of the ending. The authors leave readers with little explanation of the killer’s motivations, just a few breadcrumb hints threaded through the plot.
Cry Blue Murder is a quick read, and both Kane and Roberts have a good grasp of their characters’ voices (even if a couple of the cultural references and instances of slang felt somewhat dated given the ages of the girls.) The emails are conversational and expressive, while still conveying detail about their lives and fleshing out the secondary characters, including family members. That said, I never felt particularly engaged by either Celia or Alice, and perhaps this was the problem. For much of the novel, my lack of interest in them resulted in diluting much of what should have been a creepy, unsettling atmosphere.
That said, the concept really is clever, and I suspect other readers won’t have the issues with the execution that I did. If you’re looking for an inventive YA mystery, definitely give it a go. ...more
I don’t know about you, but for me, every iteration of the “Next Big Thing in YA” hoopla now comes with attendant alarm bells.
I am wary of hy4.5 stars
I don’t know about you, but for me, every iteration of the “Next Big Thing in YA” hoopla now comes with attendant alarm bells.
I am wary of hype; worn weary by hyperbolic accolades and extravagant marketing campaigns that vary from the invasively viral to the downright obnoxious. It all starts to seem like a lot of unabashed snapping at the heels of the Previous Big Thing in YA – (whether it’s warranted or not) – a desperate attempt to replicate its success, or at the very least to sop up the remaining interest in the latest trend. Call me cynical – (you’d be right) – but I am suspicious of hype. So much of it seems manufactured now, the product of heavily orchestrated, militant marketing strategy; rather than a groundswell of genuine grassroots enthusiasm among readers.
But I will concede defeat to The 5th Wave.
There was an obvious marketing push – though arguably it was clever and far less offensive than other campaigns clogging up the blogosphere – but it has also been accompanied by critical acclaim and strong reader reaction.
Then there’s the fact that I read The 5th Wave and I thought it was pretty darn brilliant.
I still don’t like applying sweeping statements of annexation to books, like YA is ground to be conquered and previous successful books are targets to be taken out. I don’t think this book is necessarily The Next Anything. But I do think that it’s an intelligent and gripping apocalyptic/sci-fi novel and Rick Yancey deserves ALL the high fives.
Alien invasion stories are nothing new. This is well-trodden ground since War of the Worlds; even Stephenie Meyer had a crack. The trope speaks to a very primal instinct for survival, as well as serving effectively as allegory for the human condition, or metaphor for political manoeuvring and current events. We read alien invasion stories not necessarily because we believe in the possibility of extra-terrestrial hostilities, but because it sets up a scenario that speaks to our fundamental urge to examine and define our own existence.
In The 5th Wave, Yancey uses the premise of an alien onslaught on Earth to develop the themes of humanity, survival in the face of desolation, and “otherness”. ‘Humanity’ is a word that appears frequently throughout the novel in various contexts and on different scales, but the question overarching the book drills down to a very personal level. What does it mean to say that a person has humanity? Can it be lost? And can it be gained?
The framework of The 5th Wave, using primary first-person narrators interspersed with secondary, third-person points of view, provides readers with a wider lens through which to examine Yancey’s concept of invasion. The novel written firmly in only Cassie’s perspective would still have made for an entertaining story, (more on Cassie soon), but the narrower angle would have somewhat stifled the true brilliance of The 5th Wave, which lies in solving the jigsaw of the plot. Like all puzzles, some pieces are more easily connected than others: astute readers will anticipate certain twists. But it’s the way the segments of the novel snap together that keep it compelling: the constant hypothesising that accompanies the reading, the uncertainty of whether you’re right or not, the dread that your suspicions are correct.
In Cassie, Yancey captures the essence of The 5th Wave: the sense of utter isolation and dread balanced with the tenacity of hope. Cassie is rendered in shades of snark, fear and determination. There’s an immediacy and authenticity to her voice that keep her story engaging, even when chunks of it are delivered via flashblacks. She’s an accessible character, without any of the strength of her personality having to be diluted or her flaws glossed over.
Yancey uses moral ambiguity to excellent effect in all of his main characters: Cassie, Evan, Zombie, Ringer. The question of whether they are “good” or “bad”, and whether or not these are mutually exclusive concepts as far as the characters’ actions and motivations are concerned, maintains tension in the story. By challenging readers’ perception of the characters, we get to the crux of the novel, that is – what is humanity? What does it mean to be human?
Interestingly, while the story could be perceived by some as taking, or even perpetuating, a problematic and imperialistic stance on the idea of the “other”, one that’s steeped in discriminatory doctrine – I’m not convinced that this is the case. I think there are enough clues in this novel to expect a deeper exploration of the issue of “othering” in subsequent instalments. Since the characters themselves display ethical gradation, I would be surprised if Yancy left the idea of “us” and “them” in such oversimplified terms. Rather, I think he’s only just scratched the surface of what’s going to be examined in this series.
As to the titular fifth wave, and what it comprises of, I think Yancey’s concept is frighteningly plausible. Not plausible in terms of an extra-terrestrial invasion, but in terms of tactics employed (trying very hard to avoid spoilers here). Sadly, we have more than enough historical and current evidence of indoctrination (view spoiler)[and use of child soldiers (hide spoiler)] in conflicts around the world, including genocides and so-called ethnic cleansing. There is no shortage of examples of systematic desensitisation and exploitation(view spoiler)[ of children (hide spoiler)] as a tool of hostilities. In this sense, The 5th Wave is a complex, thought-provoking novel; a high-concept premise layered with relevance to our current reality.
Of course, The 5th Wave asks for a certain amount of suspension of belief from the reader, particularly in the climactic action scenes and some of the more convenient plot developments. I’m more than willing to do this for a good story, and for characters I’m invested in. Mileage will vary as to how much you buy into to the denouement and the choices that lead the characters there; I found it no hindrance at all, so entrenched was I in the characters’ predicaments.
So, consider me a fan. I don’t know what Rick Yancey has in store for us in the follow-up, but I am so on board for it.
An advance reader copy of The 5th Wave was provided by Penguin Books Australia via Netgalley.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca is one of my all-time favourite books, and the elements I feel that made it such a powerful bThis one did not work for me.
Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca is one of my all-time favourite books, and the elements I feel that made it such a powerful book are wholly missing from Harbison’s adaptation. While Rebecca’s lingering presence was chillingly palpable in DuMaurier’s novel, her New Girl counterpart – Becca – has all the menace of a Bratz doll. (Creepy, but not in the way you’d think). Similarly, the supporting character fall flat in this retelling: Max is entirely forgettable and doesn’t produce any of the conflict in the reader as does Maxim de Winter, and Dana Veers is a cartoonishly hysterical Mrs Danvers.
Essentially, while the basic plot of New Girl is transplanted into a modern North American setting, none of weight and resonance of Rebecca has been retained. What should be disturbing is merely histrionic, mean girl shenanigans and cheap thrills by means of a lot of sex and drinking. And no, it’s not the beer pong and casual hook ups I find offensive – I really don’t – it’s the fact that the author seems to have attempted to soften up the original story into a sort of Rebecca-for-The-Gossip-Girl-Generation, which if I find kind of insulting.
The protagonist is much more assertive and forthright than her predecessor, which results in she (New Girl)(view spoiler)[her name is revealed at the end of the book, unlike in Rebecca(hide spoiler)] and Becca wrestling for the narrative so we get two insipid characters as opposed to two points of stark polarity. Also, giving Becca a voice actually results in undermining much of the power she wielded in Rebecca. Rather than being a largely unknown quantity, Becca’s threat is almost instantly rendered ineffectual by the attempt to “explain” her, and why she acts the way she does. Perhaps it was Harbison’s intention to point out that Becca is not an entirely unsympathetic character, to reveal the reason for her manipulative and messed up behaviour – but it isn’t handled particularly well, especially considering the heavy content of her backstory. (view spoiler)[Rape treated as a mere plot device really bothers me. (hide spoiler)]
Further, in what seems to be an effort to make Max a more appealing love interest, (and spoiler warning here but sorry I’m not sorry) (view spoiler)[Harbison chooses not to have him carry out Maxim’s heinous actions. It’s okay to like him! He’s not a murderer! Unless he bores you to death, which is entirely possible. (hide spoiler)]
Is it unnecessarily harsh to measure New Girl by holding it up against Rebecca? Should I be weighing it on its own merits? I still don’t believe my opinion would alter very much. Harbison’s writing is accessible and fluid, but the story itself is let down by the characters. Even if I didn’t know Becca was Rebecca and New Girl was the new Mrs de Winter, I’d find it difficult to feel particularly invested in their melodramatic and petty story.
There’s a lot to work with in the novel, there are several complex themes here, but none of them are given adequately considered treatment and are left basically unexplored. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I’m not sure whether Lucid is extremely clever or just frustrating, but I’m leaning towards the decision that it’s a little from Column A, a little fr I’m not sure whether Lucid is extremely clever or just frustrating, but I’m leaning towards the decision that it’s a little from Column A, a little from Column B.
Sloane and Maggie dream they are each other. They live completely different lives: one a straight-A student in a small town, the other an actress in New York. Each girl believes that they are real, and the other is a dream. Except, of course, that thought is shadowed by the fear that they are in fact the dream, and they could disappear at any time.
Lucid spends some time establishing the two separate worlds of each girl, exploring the differences in their characters and day-to-day lives. Their realties are seemingly unconnected, yet each is fully cognizant of the other. They know each other’s families. They know each other’s secrets. They essentially live each other’s lives when they fall asleep. And with the exception of Maggie’s psychologist, no one knows that they inhabit a double reality, or that they both fear they are not real.
That is, until the fabric between their worlds begins to perforate, and parts of their lives start to bleed into the others’.
Although this is a premise I found intriguing, Lucid took some time for me to feel immersed in. I wanted to be fully engaged by this story, but some quality of the storytelling was almost repellent at first. The worlds felt slightly unreal to me (though in hindsight, perhaps this was a deliberate choice), and neither girl was initially very compelling. Lucid seemed more concerned with telling the reader how different Sloane and Maggie were, as opposed to creating characters that were interesting in their own right. It wasn’t until a considerable way through the book that I actually started to feel some investment in what was happening to them, which coincided with the plot gaining momentum.
While on the face of it Maggie and Sloane lead vastly different lives, there are subtle parallels in their stories and markers in their personalities. These small hints, and trying line them up with their counterpoints, are what keep the novel intriguing, more so than the actual events taking place in their respective lives.
Much of Lucid revolves around romantic drama. And while this makes sense to me now, it did occasionally feel tedious and drawn out while reading. Both girls meet new potential love interests, and there are other possible candidates for their affections existing in their lives. These entanglements are accompanied by a lot of internal rumination and complicated emotions, so a large portion of the book is concerned with working through these issues and “falling in love”.
In keeping with the continuous background questioning of ‘real or not real’, some of the characters feel more organic to the story, while others seem like anomalies. There’s a slight quality of wish-fulfilment to these characters and certain events that unfold, which are used almost as red-herrings, so that neither world feels consistently “real” or “unreal”. Again, it’s a tactic that makes sense in retrospect, though at the time seemed lifted directly from the Paranormal Romance Guide to Tropes. (Probably another reason I was initially resistant to the book).
Where Lucid really strengthens though, is in the convergence of the worlds. The pace lifts rapidly, and the writing nails the disturbing sense of unravelling and descent into chaos. Here, the book becomes hard to put down, as it become increasingly confusing while moving inexorably toward a conclusion.
However, it’s not an ending that will satisfy all readers. A few answers are provided, from which readers can draw their own conclusions (pun totally intended). Ultimately, much is left unconfirmed, several threads left hanging. This is both appropriate, and annoying, depending on your level of investment in the characters.
That said, by leaving readers free to fill in some of the blanks, Lucid makes a more lasting impression and almost guarantees readers will continue to puzzle over its unravelling long after the final page.
* * * * * Loved the concept, but I'm a bit ambivalent on the execution.
(Just to clarify, this is a good three stars, not a reluctant 3 stars, so maybe 3.5 is more accurate. Or 4. I don’t know, I can’t decide.)
Rage Within(Just to clarify, this is a good three stars, not a reluctant 3 stars, so maybe 3.5 is more accurate. Or 4. I don’t know, I can’t decide.)
Rage Within opens three months after the earthquakes, with Aries, Michael, Mason and Clementine hiding out in Vancouver with a group of survivors. The Baggers are becoming organised, their homicidal rampage now punctuated with hunting down and rounding up the uninfected. Nobody is safe – whether it’s from the Baggers, or the threat of their own darkness inside.
This time around Roberts delves deeper into the group dynamics, the tenuous balance of trust and fear that exists amongst the survivors. In a world overwhelmed by evil, the danger of betrayal looms large. Each of the characters have reason to question each other, while at the same time having to rely on them for survival. Throughout Rage Within, this fragile combination of reliance and distrust is challenged, along with the system of order and relationships that have emerged in the group. Michael’s actions in Dark Inside cause him to doubt his ability to protect others. Aries questions her role as a leader. Clementine is consumed by her vow to find her brother. And Mason knows there’s something different about him..
Like Dark Inside this is a brutal, action-based novel – but Roberts has built on the charactisation in the first book, further developing each member of the core group. In this respect I found it a better book than the first. The situations and choices the characters face in the sequel are more complex, the ramifications more severe, and their actions occasionally less sympathetic. While Dark Inside introduced the characters and set up their individual journeys, Rage Within is concerned with their interactions as a unit, and how their internal conflicts not only parallel the violence that surrounds them, but threaten their relative security. A question that underpins the novel is whether the biggest danger to the group is from within.
Roberts’ characters feel more fleshed out in Rage Within. Even though it’s also written in multiple points of view, the sequel has the added advantage of allowing the reader to see each character through the eyes of the others. Being able to observe from different angles allows a fuller picture of each character to emerge, particularly in how they relate to each other. I appreciated how Roberts chose to write Clementine and Aries – highlighting their individual strengths as well as their friendship. They’re both great female characters: tough, relatable and not stereotypical. (I love that Clementine is a cheerleader and yet she never reads like a trope.) Of the central four, I thought Michael was the least developed. Or rather, that his story felt the least compelling to me. (Which is probably a horrible thing to say considering what’s going on in the poor guy’s head.) On the other hand, Mason’s dilemma feels the most vital to this story. It’s his internal conflict that provides much of the unease that fuels the story.
As in the first book, the plot of Rage Within is tense and fast-paced. Granted, I did see some of the climactic events coming (view spoiler)[e.g. Daniel (hide spoiler)], but these had been fairly heavily foreshadowed so I’m not sure they were supposed to be a huge surprise. That said, Roberts did throw some curveballs at the end that I was unprepared for, keeping this series wide open in terms of where it’s heading.
While the premise of this series requires some suspension of belief, I think Roberts uses her concept more successfully than some other apocalyptic YA of late. The idea of the earth routinely purging itself by unleashing evil and causing human civiliation to cannibalise might sound too out there, but Robert’s balances the obvious horror with a more subtle form. In a violent, self-destructing world, she zeros in on very real and human fears, which makes this series all the more powerful. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Once again, Text has crushed it with the gorgeous (and relevant) cover art - though you may have to take my word for it that it’s much more l3.5 stars
Once again, Text has crushed it with the gorgeous (and relevant) cover art - though you may have to take my word for it that it’s much more lovely in person than in a Goodreads thumbnail.
The Pretty family are bank robbers, in the old-fashioned balaclava-wearing, gun-toting, vault-emptying style of heists. They move from town to town, never staying long in one place, lead by the Pretty matriarch: the mercurial and restless Sophia. Nina and her younger brother Tom were born into a life of crime and duplicity, but Nina is counting the days until she can legally flee the nest and live on her own terms. Nina is increasingly uncomfortable with her mother’s twisted moral code masquerading as Robin Hood style philanthropy, yet she’s also aware that she’s complicit in Sophia’s criminal agenda. The whole family is. And family, according to Sophia, is everything.
Bowe takes an attention-grabbing concept (bank robbing family and their life on the road) and anchors it firmly in a deconstruction of dysfunctional families. The story switches back and forth between Nina and Spencer, both of whom are dealing with complicated home lives. Nina, craving the normalcy of life off the lam, and Spencer, navigating the emotional fallout of a family tragedy, both feel like outsiders in their own way. Nina has never been able to build real friendships; Spencer is awkward and a bit of a loner, besides his best friend Bridie. When their paths cross, Bowe sets in motion a chain of events that – we know from the prologue – will end in disaster.
Bowe uses third person omniscient narration, and as such it’s her authorial voice that comes across most clearly. All This Could End is quirky, dryly humorous and a little bit tongue-in-cheek without belittling the concerns of her teenage characters. Because where Bowe excels is in writing authentic, believable characters attempting to navigate their transition into the adult world. The on-the-cusp sensation of adolescence is captured beautifully, with all the soul-searching and questioning of identity it entails, without waxing angsty. Nina and Spencer find in each other someone they can open up to – to an extent; Nina at least has secrets she can’t reveal.
While the two main characters develop a relationship, romance is not a substantial part of the plot. Bowe shows the burgeoning closeness between Nina and Spencer, the tentative nature of their attraction and a few endearingly awkward moments as they manoeuvre towards each other, while remaining firmly focused on what this means for Nina and the choices she will have to make.
All This Could End is fundamentally about the relationship between Nina and Sophia (and between Sophia and the family as a whole), and how it alters as Nina begins to comprehend the extent of her mother’s solipsism. Bowe handles the complexity and ambiguity of Sophia’s character well, and Nina’s confusion over whether her mother is a bad person or not is developed throughout the course of the novel. Sophia has an ability to justify her actions and obscure her selfishness that plausibly explains Nina’s difficulty in resisting her mother. While Nina initially seems somewhat passive, outwardly complying with her mother’s whims and actions, it’s clear to see how this is necessitated by Sophia’s manipulative nature. By choosing to wait it out until she’s eighteen, Nina is also picking her battles, opting for what seems to be the most failsafe method of escaping her mother’s hold.
The missing piece here is Paul, Nina’s father. While Nina, Sophia and (to a lesser extent) Tom’s motivations and actions are clear and well explored in the novel, Paul’s reasons for adopting, pursuing and raising children in a life of crime with his wife remain vague. Bowe references Paul’s love for Sophia, and makes a passing comment on his upbringing, but this never feels sufficient to substantiate his choices. Sophia’s abuse of her role as a parent goes a long way to explain her influence over her children; yet Paul’s willing participation in Sophia’s schemes is the weak link in the story. It’s hard not to ask at least once while reading the novel why he’s never resisted or questioned their lifestyle.
The pacing of the novel, while understandable in terms of the plot, is uneven and I would have liked to have seen some aspects of the story expanded on. Bowe lingers over certain scenes, then truncates periods of several months. I get this: Bowe is establishing her characters before thrusting them into the climax – but I felt some development of the story was abbreviated for the sake of the finale and extended epilogue. I might have felt more for that epilogue had I been able to spend more time with Spencer and Nina’s relationship as it progressed, and how they subsequently grew as individuals.
That said, All This Could End was a refreshing take on familiar themes. Bowe appreciates and writes knowledgeably about the experience of being a teenager, with a slightly offbeat, conversational charm, a balance of humour and sensitivity. Definitely one to watch. ...more
I’ll be blunt, shall I? I’ve read cereal boxes that were more exciting than this book.
I might have been able to chalk this up to just another case ofI’ll be blunt, shall I? I’ve read cereal boxes that were more exciting than this book.
I might have been able to chalk this up to just another case of Insta!Dystopia and moved on, but my disappointment is compounded by the fact that I’ve read Crossan’s The Weight of Water, and it’s really good. So I expected more from Breathe. And it did not deliver.
Something called The Shift has caused oxygen levels to plunge and as there are no trees, the drastically reduced population live inside a Pod city. Society is divided into a caste system, with Premiums at the top being able to afford extra oxygen to do things like exercise, dance and have sex whenever they want to. The Auxiliaries, on the other hand, are basically underlings who have their lifestyle strictly curtailed by their inability to purchase extra oxygen. Quinn is a Premium with a powerful father. Bea is his Auxiliary best friend who spends a lot of time gazing at him longingly. Alina is a member of a rebel group, creatively named The Resistance, who do incredibly subversive things like stealing cuttings and growing plants, because it turns out this worldwide oxygen famine is pretty much a BIG. CONSPIRACY.
I found the worldbuilding unconvincing. Crossan gives a very bare bones explanation for the state of the world in Breathe and it made no sense to me. I don’t think it’s a bad premise, but I do think the flimsy way it’s presented undermines reader investment in the concept. When the book’s response to any probing questions is basically: “Because THE SWITCH”, I stop being interested. Breathe raises more questions than it answers, and while it’s arguable that the premise will be expanded upon as the series progresses, I really think it was necessary in the first book. I won’t believe an earth-altering cataclysmic event unless you give me a reason to. Otherwise, it seems like lazy writing. If you’re going to take shortcuts on the worldbuilding, expect that I will poke holes in it.
The story is narrated in first person by Alina, Quinn and Bea, who unfortunately sound identical. Perhaps third person perspective might have been more successful, because first person was simply bland and confusing. Despite the differences in their circumstances, and ostensibly their personalities, there wasn’t much here to differentiate between them and make their individual motivations clear. While Quinn’s perspective includes some helpful cues like how he enjoys staring at Alina’s arse, the voices of the main characters feel interchangeable.
In contrast, the secondary characters seem almost caricature-like. The Pod Minister, whom I assume is the main antagonist, is cartoonishly exaggerated and rendered ridiculous by clunky dialogue and a contrived whiskey-drinking habit that is just bizarre. Other characters, including Quinn’s mother and Alina’s helpful neighbour, appear to exist solely as plot devices, cropping up when the story needs a helping hand.
With such patchy characterisation, it’s difficult to care about their predicament, or the relationships between the characters. Quinn, Bea and Alina brave the outside world in search of the resistance, with dwindling oxygen supplies, the threat of capture and a generous helping of unrequited love serving to for dramatic tension. But honestly? I felt apathetic about all of it. There was something so wooden and flat about this entire book, that even the action scenes felt stilted at best and comical at worst. (When someone shouted “Fight with gusto!” I actually laughed. Apparently, I’d make a poor rebel.)
Despite what might have been an interesting premise, Breathe lacked depth. The complex environmental issues are not explored in any meaningful way, and the climax and resolution felt too convenient. Even the final battle scenes are sort of skimmed over, brushed aside for a neatly wrapped ending and obligatory segue to the sequel.
I know I’ve come down hard on this book, but I expected more from it than it ultimately was. After enjoying Crossan’s verse novel, I had anticipated good things from Breathe as a character-driven, intelligent dystopia. Unfortunately, I don’t think it was either of those.
It’s not a good sign when I can’t concentrate on a story because all I can think is this:
I believe that there’s a time when most writing rules can beIt’s not a good sign when I can’t concentrate on a story because all I can think is this:
I believe that there’s a time when most writing rules can be broken, or at least bent to a certain degree, but this was not the occasion to disregard that pithy advice to “kill your darlings.” Reinhardt’s darlings are not only alive and kicking, they appear to be multiplying at an alarming rate. This book is riddled with similes. And analogies. And overworked descriptions. The writing is laboured to the point of being distracting from the actual story, a problem that might have been fixed or at least curbed with tighter editing.
By way of example:
“His voice is a midnight cannonball into a winter-frigid lake, and the chills that rush up and down my spine leave me shaky.” – Can anyone tell me what a midnight cannonball actually is?
“.. for a second Winch does nothing at all, which makes relief and sadness tango cheek to cheek in my heart.” – My feelings must have two left feet.
“My voice whips out and smacks at the lazy night air. His eyes, so dark denim blue, feel like they’re soaking up the puddle of all my crazy emotions.” - I suppose denim is pretty absorbent.
“Brenna’s laugh is the chocolate fudge, whipped cream, and double cherry on top to the sad vanilla boringness of my life.”
“He talks like he’s some blue-face-painted warrior used to commanding legions.” - I can’t even talk about that one.
“He’s the path lined with wildflowers, and I’m Red Riding Hood. I’ve been warned, but I just can’t resist the blossom and perfume that calls me over.”
“My heart is a pod of dolphins beaching themselves on the rocky shore for no apparent reason.” - There was no apparent reason for that sentence.
“My heart had been warming like a surfer’s contained bonfire, but his words are the gasoline that’s exploded it into an arsonist’s wet-dream.”
“His eyes snap at me, like your loyal dog trying to warn you there’s danger ahead, willing to bite to make you listen.”
“I take my furry foot back out of the trap and get ready to hop into some clover.” –Honestly, this one went on so long I tuned out. Something meaningful about rabbits and traps..
“I look up at her face, but she hasn’t recognised the ugly constellation for of all the dull stars I’ve thrown into her sky.” – I hate when people throw ugly stars in my sky. Bitches.
“If she wasn’t so damn beautiful, I’d say he looked like a bull I just waved a bigass red cape at.” – I wouldn’t, Winchester. (WINCHESTER.) I really wouldn’t say that if I were you.
“Brenna’s like a little kid drooling over her favourite candy in the bright store window. I’m like the dentist randomly showing up with a drill to remind her she has a mouthful of cavities.” – Because dentists often show up randomly. (Also, Brenna was such an insufferable twit in this book.)
“A lazy-afternoon sunshine glow unfurls low down between my hips and blooms up my spine, climbing fast and high as a magic beanstalk to my heart.” – Well which is it, a sunshine glow or a beanstalk? Also, growing a beanstalk in your nether regions sounds like cause for alarm to me.
“That our relationship won’t be a tug-of-war or bumper cars or a roller coaster or any other kind of fairground/theme-park analogy my brain can concoct.” – Oh come on Evan, I’m sure you can come up with another one.
“I smile at her tendency to hyperbolize when things get bad.” - Okay, now that’s just the pot calling the kettle black.
“I force the sugared-up tween hopping from foot to foot in my secret heart to cut her happy dance short.” - Nothing is more annoying than a pesky internal tween doing a jig.
Then there’s the repetition: emotional as hell, boring as hell, hot as hell, honest as hell, strong as hell, sure as hell, pissed as hell, slick as hell, scared as hell, depressing as hell, scruffy as hell, tired as hell, wounded as hell, crazy as hell, rude as hell, funny as hell, hard as hell, sexy as hell, determined as hell, tough as hell, confusing as hell, dirty as hell, fast as hell, nervous as fucking hell. Are you sensing a pattern?
While ostensibly this book has a plot (family secrets and obligations! A girl with bad boy issues!), it feels like it was written BECAUSE SEX THAT’S WHY!** And that’s fine.
I just expected more.
If you enjoy plot lines of the “I want you but we can’t be together” type, back and forth misunderstandings, and several instances of near-sex before the.. main event, then by all means, go right ahead. But I got to a point in this novel where I simply didn’t care anymore. I had no investment in the conflict and the plot, and the question of whether the characters would surmount their difficulties became completely uninteresting to me. It doesn’t help that the secondary characters all feel like plot-devices, poorly developed and popping up when necessary to prevent Winch and Evan getting into each other’s pants happily ever after. The story asks that you buy into a slightly absurd premise, (view spoiler)[that Winch always takes the fall for his drunken trainwreck of an older brother’s misdemeanours and criminal activity, by dictate of The Family (hide spoiler)], which might have worked better had it not been so thinly developed, serving more as filler in between the lengthy make out scenes.
However, those are merely my personal issues with the book and they won’t be a problem for everyone. I suspect that many will enjoy this book for precisely the reasons I didn’t. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls is less a mystery than a straight up coming-of-age story. Though the synopsis bills the novel as a suspenseful page-turMister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls is less a mystery than a straight up coming-of-age story. Though the synopsis bills the novel as a suspenseful page-turner, it’s really more of a slow-burn, character-driven exploration of how an unsolved crime impacts a community.
Downing Hahn’s novel fictionalises real events that took place in 1955, altering the specifics of the crime and people involved to create a parallel version through which to examine the subsequent fallout. The story is related primarily from the viewpoints of Nora Cunningham, a peer of the murdered girls (Cheryl and Bobbie Jo), and Buddy Novak, ex-boyfriend of Cheryl and commonly believed perpetrator of the murders. In additional to their perspectives, Downing Hahn weaves in letters and diary excerpts, fleshing out the range of perceptions and reactions to Cheryl and Bobbie Jo’s deaths.
Perhaps because this is a story anchored in the author’s own experience, there’s an authenticity to Nora’s voice and the response of the wider community. Downing Hahn depicts the fear and grief that permeate the neighbourhood, and how it at times manifests as anger or denial. A pall is cast over Elmgrove, the promise of summer freedom curtailed by anxious parents locking the doors at night and curfews enforced. Parents and peers alike eye Buddy askance, convinced of his guilt. And Nora descends into depression and a crisis of faith, unconvinced that a God who truly cared would allow her friends to be brutally murdered.
Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls explores questions of religious belief and doubt, burgeoning sexuality, and the gravity of public opinion. Convicted by the community, if not by the law, Buddy forms a tenuous connection with Nora, who is increasingly isolated as the lone believer in Buddy’s innocence. Her former friendships, in various ways, succumb to the pressure of the tragedy. Her friends want to move on, move away from the killings, while Nora cannot. Instead she finds herself progressively more effected by them, and her belief that the killer remains at large. Nora questions her faith and her future, her relationships with her parents and friends, and why Cheryl and Bobbie Jo had to die.
Largely, this is a novel about emotional journeys in the wake of tragedy.
Which, while thought-provoking and well-written, may be slightly anticlimactic for readers seeking a greater sense of closure and explanation. While reading Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls I made various assumptions about where the story might lead at various points; I was wrong on all counts. This book isn’t written to answer all the questions it raises, but merely to point out their existence.
That said, on the strength of the writing, Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls is an impressive novel. Downing Hahn captures the uncertainty and self-consciousness of adolescence, the on-the-cusp sensation of being a young adult, and the spiralling of becoming unmoored from long–held beliefs and connections. Downing Hahn points out that teenagers in the 1950s weren’t all that different from teenagers of today, in terms of the emotional, social and physical turmoil they face. This lends Nora, Buddy, Ellie – even Cheryl and Bobbie Jo – an immediacy and relevance to a broad readership.
This is a strong novel, satisfying even without furnishing all of the answers, and is recommended for readers looking for introspective, character-driven writing. ...more
It’s been a while since I’ve found it such a struggle to finish a book. I’m not going to sugarcoat this, I wouldn’t have reach1.5 stars
It’s been a while since I’ve found it such a struggle to finish a book. I’m not going to sugarcoat this, I wouldn’t have reached the end of Defiance without resorting to pep-talks, a bit of page-skimming and outright bribery. ”You can do it! Finish this chapter and then you can eat all the chocolate in the house!”
Is anyone able to clear something up for me? Does Defiance take place in the future of our world, or an alternate world? Because if it’s ours, and Redwine is suggesting that the modern world was destroyed by fire-breathing reptiles and within fifty years surviving mankind has returned to swords and “Cursed Ones”, I have a hard time swallowing that. And it’s not even the burrowing, wingless dragons I take issue with – if you want to get all Tremors on your fictional word, by all means go ahead
2. But the thin allusion to a world of advanced technology that is completely obliterated within five decades and replaced with a system of self-styled warlords and walled cities is too flimsy for me to buy into.
Further, Baalboden – the city where our main characters reside – and possibly the greater population, has adopted a strict social system in which women are under the direct care and authority of a male Protector. They are not educated except in housekeeping and entertaining skills, are not permitted to leave their homes unchaperoned and are “Claimed” or married off in a transactional ceremony in which they have little to no agency. Okay, fine. But why? Explain it to me. Show me why the world is this way. This is a poorly built world and it felt illogical too me – there are too many holes in the reasoning, or rather, no reasoning at all.
And much of the novel is like this. Redwine has good ideas, but little follow through. Logan, the orphaned protégé of Rachel’s father, is ostensibly an apprenticed Courier. But really, he’s a sekrit “inventor”. We know this because Logan has lots of plans lying about and ink-stained fingers and does a lot of tinkering around with gears and wires. Yet there’s nothing to substantiate Logan’s alleged genius. Sure, if comes in handy when they need tracking devices and or some MacGyver-style explosions, but besides vague references to sonar and acid, it all just seems more convenient than believable. There’s an attempt to distinguish Logan’s voice as pragmatic by detailing his assessments of “best case scenarios” and “worst case scenarios” as he narrates, but this is more annoying than particularly character building.
The romance is probably the most developed element of the story, and it’s constantly in the background of the plot, yet it was also the undoing of this novel for me. The slow burn between the characters was somewhat spoiled by the way it was overwritten. “Until the distance between us can be measured in breaths” is fair enough once, say it twice and I’m just going to roll my eyes. Logan and Rachel vacillate between irritation and attraction to each other, and we’re treated to numerous scenes of catching breath and heated exchanges and lingering touches, all described in fulsome, detailed prose.
This was my biggest problem with the novel: the writing. It’s bloated with unnecessary description, phrases that are overly “pretty”. And so many “something’s”. “Something like bitterness”, “something like hope” etc are used constantly to describe the manifestation of emotion. Just say what it is! Direct statements are avoided by dancing around them with purplish musing, and the pacing of the story suffers for it. I can only describe the writing as gluggy: my brain my kept getting bogged down in Logan and Rachel’s angsting, and getting through pages began to feel like a chore.
Anyway, Rachel and Logan are separated, eventually reunited, do some travelling, make some friends with “tree people” (I’m not going to start on it here, but so much about the characterisation of Quinn and Willow made me uncomfortable), Rachel becomes a vengeful BAMF – or Redwine tries to convince us that she does – there’s some kissing, and then there’s some Pied Piper of Baalboden action
3. There a nice, big, sign-posted moment of FORESHADOWING about Logan’s past. Logan doesn’t like the way Tree Person Quinn is looking at Rachel (of course) and a shit-tonne of people die, but no doubt our intrepid couple will be back in the sequel to fight the power and wave their weapons around.
Or something like that. And good luck to them, but I’m done here.
 Tamara, ILY!  See: Blood Red Road by Moira Young  Which had the unfortunate side effect of making me dredge Sisqo’s Unleash the Dragon up from the recesses of my brain. You’re welcome. ...more
I love this book in the same way I love shouty post-hardcore music of the late 80s, wearing jumpsuits of any kind, and the smell (and when I was littl I love this book in the same way I love shouty post-hardcore music of the late 80s, wearing jumpsuits of any kind, and the smell (and when I was little, probably the taste too) of Clag. Which is to say: unashamedly, unreservedly and somewhat incongruously with my usual predilections.
I generally like my contemporary YA on the messy, introspective side, with hefty doses of realism and minimal use of “teen speak”. So colour me surprised to find this book sort of adorable, despite the presence of a mildly scoff-worthy set of circumstances and enough repetition of the words “totes” and “blates” to give me an eye-twitch.
In lieu of a review, (and because, you know, ALL THE REFERENCES) I’m just going to list 10 Things I Love About Adorkable:
1 Michael Lee
2 Dialogue that made me laugh out loud (yes, LOL, really).
3 Characters with actual chemistry that made me want to smoosh their heads together and make them kiss.
4 Characters with actual flaws who behave like actual teenagers (aside from the whole media empire thing, which is not exactly typical) and actually develop throughout the story! Huzzah!
5 Sidestepping the Manic Pixie Dream Girl stereotype by making Jeane, well, kind of horrible sometimes and not ridiculously twee despite the ball gown wearing and whatnot.
6 Irrational emotional breakdowns set off by uncooperative inanimate objects.
7 Moments of honesty and sadness tucked away like little Easter eggs. Little, emotional Easter eggs, if you will. Yeah, I choked up I’m not made of stone, ok.
8 Aside from being hilarious, it’s also smart and witty and has Things to Say without being all being all up in your face with “An Important Message For Teens”.
9 Recognition of the fact that being a dork is awesome.
10 Michael Lee. Yes I know he’s on here twice shut up it’s my list.
(Bonus points for the absence of a Breakfast Club style reveal that the ‘weird’ girl is actually (gasp) beautiful! There’s nothing like reinforcement of the idea that you need to look like everyone else in order to be considered attractive to bring on a rage-blackout in this reader..)
So in summary, how I feel about Adorkable:
(Sorry, I've been on a Summer Heights High bender this weekend and I'm only communicating in Ja'mie King gifs for the foreseeable future. Review to come.)...more