One of the signs that you've stumbled across a skilled writer is that you find yourself feeling genuine affection for the characters that he or she ha...moreOne of the signs that you've stumbled across a skilled writer is that you find yourself feeling genuine affection for the characters that he or she has crafted out of thoughts and words on a page. So it was with Something Like Summer, Something Like Winter, and Something Like Autumn, and so it is again with Jay Bell's fourth book in the Seasons series, Something Like Spring.
In this book, we meet Jason Grant, a foster kid who seems to have been unlucky in just about everything in life, including love. While he doesn't share the all same struggles as Bell's earlier characters, he has certain things in common with many of them.
But Jason isn't unlucky in everything. It just so happens that when we're introduced to him, he has a caseworker connected to the universe of characters that Bell has crafted throughout the Seasons series. And while life isn't instantly better or ever perfect because of it, that little fact gives Jason a real chance to figure out what he wants out of his future, a chance he may not have had otherwise.
As much as I enjoyed reading about Jason and seeing how Bell progressed his character over the course of several years, the real treat for me was getting to read a fourth book that included my all-time favorite gay fictional character: Benjamin Bentley. I can't stress enough how much I've loved reading about Ben, his strength, his kindness, and his inherent decency. What's even better about it all is that I've been lucky enough to know people like Ben, people who make the lives of everyone around them better just by being themselves.
Though Jay Bell has run out of seasons, I hope he's serious about not running out of ideas for having Ben, Tim, Jason, and all the rest pop up in future works. You promised, Jay, and you know your readers are going to hold you to it.(less)
Flawed with a capital "F." That's how I would describe Craig and Lio, the main characters in Hannah Moskowitz's Gone, Gone, Gone. And ultimately, that...moreFlawed with a capital "F." That's how I would describe Craig and Lio, the main characters in Hannah Moskowitz's Gone, Gone, Gone. And ultimately, that's one of the things I ended up loving about them.
Craig and Lio aren't a fairy tale couple full of constant happiness and joy. They're brutally honest, and they sometimes make heartbreakingly stupid decisions that you wish you could stop them from making. And they're trauma survivors, meeting each other during a traumatic time in the DC metro area's history (the story is set in suburban Maryland), who are trying to put their lives back together while also trying to find a way to be together themselves.
And true to form, the ending of Gone, Gone, Gone isn't perfect, either. But it's exactly the type of finish you'd expect from a book filled with flawed, loveable characters.
The book took a few pages for me to get into because it's told from the first-person perspectives of the two lead characters, but once you get into the rhythm of their sometimes chaotic thoughts, the novel really starts to move, and it's over before you know it (or want it to be).(less)
This book started off so strong, creepy and menacing with some fascinating character development. Then Rice seemed to decide he wanted to do something...moreThis book started off so strong, creepy and menacing with some fascinating character development. Then Rice seemed to decide he wanted to do something "different" with The Heavens Rise, and it became a little silly toward the end. It wasn't the supernatural approach from an author who writes more in the mystery/thriller genre (his first novel, A Density of Souls, had a touch of the supernatural, after all); rather, it's what he did with that approach that left me scratching my head a bit.
What salvaged the book for me was how invested I became in several of the characters. Want to know which ones? Crack open the novel and find out.(less)
Luke Chesser gets his own book. I have to admit, I wasn't quite sure what to think about that when I found out that J.H. Trumble was getting set to pu...moreLuke Chesser gets his own book. I have to admit, I wasn't quite sure what to think about that when I found out that J.H. Trumble was getting set to publish this novel, but given how much I loved the previous book in which Luke first appeared (Don't Let Me Go) and knowing how that book ended, I knew I wouldn't be able to stay away.
Since the events of Don't Let Me Go, Luke has grown up quite a bit. He's standing up for himself, he's letting his natural leadership qualities emerge, and he's approaching relationships a bit more responsibly. That being said, he's still quite impulsive when he decides he really likes someone.
The object of his affection, Curtis Cameron, was a golden boy at the school Luke has relocated to, but he went off the rails during his freshman year of college. Now he's sort of back in town, going to school closer to home to keep him grounded and working with the school band that Luke is a part of and in which Curtis was a star. Unfortunately, his year of irresponsibility is forcing Curtis to pay a steep, serious price, one that seriously threatens to prevent him and Luke from doing what you know they really want to do: love each other.
I won't sugarcoat this book and say that it's all sunshine and lollipops. It deals with some incredibly serious subject matter, and it's truly heartbreaking at times. However, I think it's worth the emotional pull-and-tug that Trumble puts the reader through, and I imagine most people who liked Don't Let Me Go and/or Jay Bell's Seasons series will enjoy this novel, as well.
One last thing: the book cover is one of the most amazing I've seen on just about any work of fiction. It's simple and understated, but it conveys a warmth and comfort that leaped out at me as soon as I opened the box in which this book arrived.(less)
Despite knowing how this book was ultimately going to end, and despite the reservations I had about the main character going into the novel, I wanted...moreDespite knowing how this book was ultimately going to end, and despite the reservations I had about the main character going into the novel, I wanted to read Something Like Autumn anyway, given how much I adored Something Like Summer and Something Like Winter. If you haven't read those two pieces yet, I strongly encourage you to stop reading this review and crack open those books! For the rest of you, continue on...
(view spoiler)[ Like many reviewers here, I'll admit up front that I didn't really like Jace Holden in Jay Bell's first two books of the Seasons series. He felt almost cold to me in some respects, even though I understood what he was trying to do. And yes, I did feel like his presence was getting in the way of Benjamin Bentley and Tim Wyman patching up their differences and getting back together, even though I fully realized that what happened between those two was almost entirely Tim's fault. With these thoughts in mind, I opened Something Like Autumn.
And boy, am I glad I did! Bell once again does an expert job at character development, letting the reader deeply into to Jace's life, from the opening scene of calamity and despair, through redemption, first love, first true heartbreak, and more. Meeting all the people in Jace's life beyond Ben really helped me grasp who the character was as a person and let me far more fully understand what he was doing for Ben by not flying off the handle, even in the face of Ben's mistakes.
Interestingly enough, unlike the first two books in the series, this one didn't hit me right away. I think was enjoying this new perspective too much to be carried away by the emotional weight of the book until the very end. Though I'd read about Jace's death scene with Ben in Something Like Summer, experiencing it from Jace's perspective hit me like a ton of bricks, and everything he went through, from his teenage suicide attempt to his love and loss of Victor, to his incredible love for Ben, rushed in and left tears streaming down my face.
The author's note at the end didn't help on the tears front. I cried because I was sad that Jay Bell felt the need to try to take his own life as a teenager, but I was overjoyed that he did not succeed. The books he's crafted in the Seasons series so far are an amazing gift to those who choose to read them, and it would have been a terrible tragedy for this talent to have never emerged because of suicide.
It almost pains me to do so, but I have to rate an Odd Thomas novel below four stars.
Here's the reason: Dean Koontz is lousing up one of my favorite c...moreIt almost pains me to do so, but I have to rate an Odd Thomas novel below four stars.
Here's the reason: Dean Koontz is lousing up one of my favorite creations of his with long, rambling paragraphs and inner monologues that never seem to end. True, Odd has always been a very self-reflective character; after all, it's from his perspective that Koontz has told all of the Odd Thomas stories so far. The problem is that Odd's musings are starting to get in the way of the storyline.
Nowhere is this more true than in Deeply Odd. In between sometimes thin plot lines, Koontz lards this novel with diatribes about how horrible the world is, how terrible government is, and how dogs are innocent beings that only ever turn mean because of the failings of their human caretakers.
The unfortunate result is a book largely without a story. Yes, we're treated to an intriguing new character, and the action filling the last 75 pages or so almost brings the reader back to classic Koontz, but because there's so much needless filler masquerading as some ridiculous philosophizing, the reader is left with a maddeningly vague plot and the feeling that he or she doesn't know much more about where Odd Thomas is going at the end of the book than at the beginning.
I love Odd Thomas' character; I have since Book #1. But Koontz has got to get his act together and recapture that old spirit of his, or he's going to alienate Odd's fans for good.(less)
Better, I think, than its predecessor novel (Pretty Little Dead Things), Dead Bad Things takes little time to dive into and rarely lets go of the rea...moreBetter, I think, than its predecessor novel (Pretty Little Dead Things), Dead Bad Things takes little time to dive into and rarely lets go of the reader's attention.
One word of warning: this book deals with some intense and disturbing subject matter, so reader discretion is certainly advised.(less)
This one took me a while to get into, but I think that was because I had read several rather short, very direct novels in the weeks before I started P...moreThis one took me a while to get into, but I think that was because I had read several rather short, very direct novels in the weeks before I started Pretty Little Dead Things.
McMahon's book is rather odd, a little longer than it needed to be, but quite lyrical. Overall, it was well worth the time.(less)
Wow. A powerful story of one boy's horrible treatment at the hands of bullies and another boy's awakening to the suffering bullying is causing at his...moreWow. A powerful story of one boy's horrible treatment at the hands of bullies and another boy's awakening to the suffering bullying is causing at his school.(less)