Absolutely killer (pardon the pun) prologue, a diverse cast and an intriguing twist at the end, but the middle really suffers from a plodding pace. 2.5
Absolutely killer (pardon the pun) prologue, a diverse cast and an intriguing twist at the end, but the middle really suffers from a plodding pace. By the time the climax arrived it felt like too little too late and I had a hard time summoning any interest in the fate of the characters and the "reveal".
What really didn't work for me, however, was the dialogue, which was stilted at best and dare I say "middle-aged" at worst. I didn't for a second believe that the teen characters, or even the older supporting cast, would speak like that.
The premise is a good one, but the characters were thinly developed and I never really felt engaged with Pan as a narrator.
Disappointing, because that chilling prologue really got my hopes up. ...more
So, this was good. Templeman has taken various elements and symbols from original fairytales and blended them into something intriguing and quite d3.5
So, this was good. Templeman has taken various elements and symbols from original fairytales and blended them into something intriguing and quite dark (though it's no Tender Morsels). While I initially found the writing slightly distancing, the worldbuilding, strong mystery, and well developed characters made the story compelling.
* * * * * A thousand WTFs at this horrible cover. ...more
“I found it ironic that I should be blessed with wings and yet feel so constrained, so trapped. It was because of my condition, I believe, that I not
“I found it ironic that I should be blessed with wings and yet feel so constrained, so trapped. It was because of my condition, I believe, that I noticed life's ironies a bit more often than the average person. I collected them: how love arrived when you least expected it, how someone who said he didn't want to hurt you eventually would.”
I took a long time to read The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender because I didn’t want to reach a point where I was finished with this story. I wanted to linger with it and savour each page, drawing out the experience. I wanted to taste every word, dark and luscious, and ingest it slowly, piece by piece.
Leslye Walton’s intricate weave of reality and fantasy, an alloyed world forged from the magical and the mundane, is constructed around three generations of women. The story is related by Ava Lavender, girl born with wings, but it’s a history shared and connected through family. It is a collection of their loves and sorrows, entwined and inseparable, chronicled by Ava and culminating in her embrace of all that she is. It’s a story of love denied, love unrequited, love lost, love yearned for, love freely given, love unconditional. It’s a story of family and home and shadowy places carved in hearts by pain and regret.
Walton’s use of language reminds me a little of Margo Lanagan’s: rich and distinctive, with an undercurrent of darkness that occasionally leaches through. It’s prose to be immersed in, elegant and languid. There is some distance in the voice, as this is the adult Ava recounting her childhood and the lives of her mother and grandmother, but the writing is steeped in vivid and immediate imagery and threads of foreshadowing that pull the narrative forward. The plot itself is spare, and almost meanders until the final third where urgency begins to gather in Ava’s story, but the story doesn’t feel sluggish. Rather, underpinning the gradual unfurling of Emilienne, Viviane and Ava’s interlocking stories is a sense that something lies in wait, that there will be a pivotal moment for these women, one that will mark them indelibly.
The novel explores isolation – both physical and emotional – and how we may become confined within walls of our own making, well intentioned or otherwise. How love sometimes blinds us, at other times opens our eyes. There is violence and pain, longing and desire of many forms in this story – the beautiful and grotesque, the fragile and powerful . Walton writes about the various facets of human love and how it shapes lives and alters hearts; protects us and also makes us vulnerable. It is a bittersweet triumph of being human, of living and loving and loss.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is an exquisite blend of impossibility and certainty; magical realism that is entirely convincing. Part saga, part memoir, part mythology – it is a story written in blood and feathers of what it is to love. ...more
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 my (somewhat jaded) assumption that Gated would be yet another dystomance - a hooky premise masking some generic love-triangle angst – favouraDespite my (somewhat jaded) assumption that Gated would be yet another dystomance - a hooky premise masking some generic love-triangle angst – favourable reviews convinced me to pick it up, and I’m glad I did. Although I’ll admit I gave an involuntary eye roll at first mention of Lyla’s “Intended” (here we go..), my expectations turned out to be quite far off the mark.
This is a solid contemporary novel about a teenage girl living in a sheltered community, separated from society and lead by the charismatic Pioneer. Following personal and global tragedy, the Hamilton family along with several others retreat to build an isolated community they name Mandrodoge Meadows: a place where they can live in peace and wait for the end to come. Under the guidance of Pioneer’s visions, the Community believe themselves the chosen few who will survive, and plan to wait out the apocalypse in their purpose-built underground bunker.
Despite the pairing off each of the teenagers with an Intended, a teenager of the opposite sex that they will eventually marry, and the sudden appearance of an outsider boy, this is not a romance. The focus of Gated is firmly on Lyla’s life as someone who knows little about the outside world except what Pioneer has told her, and how doubt begins to creep in and undermine Pioneer’s indoctrination.
Parker succeeds in creating an unsettling atmosphere: outwardly, the Lyla enjoys a lifestyle of simplicity and community. Yet lurking at the edges of this idealised existence are the hints of Pioneer’s control and manipulation. This is a settlement of people who, while emotionally vulnerable, have been taken in by Pioneer’s claims of divine guidance. Seeking refuge from a world that has hurt them, they are eager to believe in the promise of deliverance from evil, a chance to create their world anew.
Parker ably portrays both the appeal and the insidiousness of Pioneer’s teachings, how he has preyed on the human vulnerabilities of grief and fear to proselytise. (Interestingly, Parker uses epigraphs from the fictional Pioneer alongside quotes from Jim Jones and Charles Manson.) Raised in such an atmosphere, Lyla’s parents and friends unquestioningly accept Pioneer’s vision of the end, their role as the chosen, and along with that, Pioneer’s abuse and conditioning. At the same time, it’s clear to the reader that this is an unstable and dangerous person wielding too much power, and it makes Lyla’s journey of doubt and realisation a compelling one, as she races against time and Pioneer’s paranoia toward the truth.
That said, not all of the plot developments are entirely believable, particularly when it comes to the climax of the novel. It is undoubtedly tense and thrilling, yet it’s difficult not question some of the choices made by the characters and the way events unfold during the dramatic scenes of confrontation between the members of the Community and the outsiders. Further, some of Lyla’s emotional navigation of questioning doctrine she has essentially grown up believing feels somewhat truncated or rapid.
On the other hand, Parker’s portrayal of the Community’s responses – from Lyla’s mother’s denial to her Intended’s anger and disbelief – feel authentic. The door is left suitably open on the ending, with acknowledgment of mixed feelings and varying degrees of acceptance. The story closes on a note of beginning, rather than finality, and that feels right for this particular story and the extreme mental stress of the characters.
Gated is an engaging novel that lives up to its intriguing premise. Parker delivers a tight psychological thriller that explores control and abuse, while maintaining an adequate pace. For readers looking for a YA novel that’s actually about cults and not just about forbidden romance, Gated should not disappoint. ...more