Ya know, it's been way too long since I've read these children's books, but I remember this second one real well, probably because Shannon is a damn aYa know, it's been way too long since I've read these children's books, but I remember this second one real well, probably because Shannon is a damn amazing female character. SO BADASS.
These were fast, cute reads. Not books that'll blow the socks off your feet, but definitely an entertaining ride.
Snuggle Piggy is the shit. His Aunt Daisy makes him this EPIC BLANKET where his sewn on buddies COME TO LIFE and they dance the night away and do someSnuggle Piggy is the shit. His Aunt Daisy makes him this EPIC BLANKET where his sewn on buddies COME TO LIFE and they dance the night away and do some awesome things. I will always reread this, no matter how old I get.
JUST FOUND THIS AGAIN. STILL GOOD. Right up there with Goodnight, Gorilla. Best stuff....more
I’m an angry girl. I don’t read much Neil Gaiman. In fact, this is my first Neil Gaiman book...novella. Needless to sa*Spoilers here look out*
I’m an angry girl. I don’t read much Neil Gaiman. In fact, this is my first Neil Gaiman book...novella. Needless to say, I’m nowhere near impressed. It is basically the structure of Clive Barker’s The Thief of Always.
Exact Structure of Thief and Coraline: Kid is bored, goes to perfect other-worldly place, finds that the perfect place is actually really crappy, leaves, life’s changed for the worse, comes back, wants their life back from other-worldly entity, defeats other-worldly entity through trickery, escapes, defeats other-worldly entity AGAIN through trickery, realization of life’s qualities, happy day.
There are differences, but...ugh no incredibly different differences. Good job, Gaiman, Barker did it way better in 1992. Hell, there’s probably LOADS of other authors before him, but at least Barker made me get on the verge of tears about it.
Coraline focused on the story or Coraline Jones, who’s bored. Duh. She comes across a door in her house that’s bricked up, and we are bashed over the head with the fact that the door is BAD BAD BAD. And all the mice are saying, “No Coraline nooo!” And Coraline says, “Y’all are dumb.” She goes through when the brick is just kinda missing into A MAGICAL PLACE. That looks just like her house, but with button-eyed demons who want to love and cherish her foreeeeever. Omg dream come true, right?
I had quite a number of problems with this book. The first thing I was against was the way this book was written. For a children’s book, you don’t have to dumb down your writing. Maybe for five or six year-olds, but after about 3rd grade, kids can understand. If you leave the context clues, they will get it. The writing was way too simple for me, and it was too generic. “Coraline did this, she did that. She went to bed.” I couldn’t get into the characters of Mr. and Mrs. Jones because there was nothing to go off of. Same with Coraline and the other parents. I only learned a little more about Papa Jones because Coraline TOLD us about him. Gahh
It made the story itself really bland and not interesting. I wanted to be engaged in this other world, but Coraline only raved about the chicken at dinner, and nothing else. It was just “Holy shit guys chicken...” and then “Whoa hold up, button eyes got me all sorts of frightened.” WHY? And this house was surrounded by mist, and when Coraline walked through it, she’d end up right back at her house. This is screaming Mr. Hood’s Holiday House. Screaming it so hard. Angry little fangirl over here, sorry.
Coraline “Imma Follower” Jones
There was nothing pulling me in and making me care about Coraline or the supposed danger she was in. What danger? What fucking danger? I felt no danger here. In Thief of Always, I was clawing at Harvey to get away from the Holiday House and run away, find a way out. I actually, you know, cared about his well being. I couldn’t care less about Coraline. She was bored, and that’s all I got out of her character. There was nothing about her that intrigued me, make me wanna be her friend.
Again, I never felt that Coraline was in any real danger. The other mother, or beldam as the little children called her, tried to act sly and cunning, but she was just an idiot. And Coraline just did as she was told to save the day. She never thought of these escape plans or ideas herself, or did anything on her own except go into the door against the wishes of mice she’s never seen.
The only character interesting and entertaining to me was the cat. He was the voice of reason, and Coraline’s guide through this whole thing. Like, if it weren’t for this cat, Coraline would be like, “Derp what do I do noooow?” Like SHIT, girl, come on! At least she chucked the cat at the beldam by the book’s end.
Harvey had fears to deal with and Barker SHOWED THEM, where Coraline was just bored. She was just bored through this whole thing. And that made her boring.
But moving back to my main point, I’m angry that this follows a lot of Thief of Always. Now, I know Gaiman is praised for being a great author, and I’m gonna give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he had no idea how close he was to Thief.
Really. This is like the dispute between Hunger Games and Battle Royale to me. There’s no real character-to-character connections, but the souls, the mist, the other-worldly thing keeping the MC at bay forever to grant their EVERY WISH? The whole getting-my-old-life-back thing? Saving all the kids that the entity took away? Even going as far as double win through trickery? (even if it was just the beldam’s right hand)
What the hell. I swear, if Gaiman even mentioned vampire-like things or making a moral with the use of time, this book would be getting one star and no praise at all.
What can I actually praise? I don’t even know. I liked Miss Spink and Miss Forcible. They were interesting characters when they were around in the real world. In terms of world-building, the house Coraline lived it was done okay-like. I got an image in my head.
That’s really it though. I just can’t. I’m sorry. I still love the movie adaptation because the animation is grand and it is fun to watch. It also better dives into the characters, especially Papa and Mama Jones. But dear lord...
I’m sure Gaiman’s other works are original and well thought out, but this just didn’t make me happy. Merf. I wish I could get my copy of Thief of Always and read that. I’d be feeling much much better.
“The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter!” Someone tell me how and I’ll reconsider my being against that
I love fantasy. I love someone telling me in a book“The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter!” Someone tell me how and I’ll reconsider my being against that
I love fantasy. I love someone telling me in a book that there is a giant tiger-wolf-bird guarding a castle and there are no questions asked. I love it because as illogical and unlikely it would seem, no one gives a crap because, how cool would it be? You’re too busy dreaming about this massive creature, interpreting what animal is more visible in the combination, to think, “What the? Those don’t exist.” GOLD STAR FOR YOU, they don’t exist. For children’s books in particular, imagination is at its freest. You can say anything, and children will take it in and say, “Cool!” And that is why I still call myself a child at heart. If I wanted something realistic, I’d go outside. Books are an escape, they’re meant for people with imaginations.
I long for originality. Originality brings me the ultimate happiness in a series. That’s why I love The Thief of Always, why I love Eyes Like Stars, why I love this book. There are so many components that stand out and say, “Excuse me, I have some things to say, and most of them are awesome, magical, and just plain breathtaking.” So I sit myself down and take a bite.
The Unwanteds starts with a dark path of life. Anyone who is dull and intelligent lives on in the society of Quill; anyone creative and interesting goes to their death in the Great Lake of Boiling Oil. Yeah. Ohhh, dark like The Hunger Games! Every futuristic society is like this. Don’t just pin it on whatever dystopian is most popular so it can get some pick up. I hate that more than I hate bad literature. Wanna know what drew me to this book? It wasn’t that damn gimmick.
It was that brilliantly done cover. The stunning, riveting cover with the complimentary color scheme, realistic depth of perception, and compositional eye candy. Owen Richardson, Karin Paprocki, you are truly gifted people. Never stop what you’re doing. (I wanna hire you for my covers. I dunno how that can happen but I will make it happen.)
Of course the cover is just a little bit of the battle. Because I hate the “IT’S LIKE THE OTHER POPULAR STUFF” gimmick, I walked into this story with mild expectations. My only diehard expectation was getting to see the lion statue do awesome stuff (which is actually a cheetah, which irks me because the cover statue’s face anatomy is off. I’m nitpicking, sorry.) Don’t expect Hunger Games because that never shows up here. Nothing close and that is in the best of ways. Don’t expect Harry Potter either because the only thing that it has in common with The Unwanteds is that there is magic.
Shall we begin the breakdown?
Writing style. I have never read McMann’s other works, but I enjoyed her style here. It’s simple for her intended audience, and whenever she does use poetic prose or larger words, she gets them right into the context clues and any younger child would get into this no problem. No dictionaries needed. Like Heather Brewer, there is nothing truly amazing in this writing. She tells you how it is, and that’s the way it was. I did expect some great writing with more of the magical aspects of Artimé, but instead, I got more on how gloomy and boring Quill was. At least it made me love Artimé and hate everything about Quill.
McMann needs a little work in pacing. I never mentioned it much in my status updates, but the plot did start rather slowly. I mean, we got to Artimé right away, but after that, it took a while to get the ball rolling. I do forgive McMann though, because she took the time she had to build up Artimé and its magical tendencies. I applaud her because I got a hit of her originality in some aspects (all-purpose blackboards) and in others not so much (throwing two random animal species together).
Her POV was a bit confusing at times. She started with a few chapters of alternating between Aaron and Alex, but then within those chapters, she’d switch to Lani or Meghan. Interesting characters, but I can’t worry about who we’re following and would rather follow exactly where the plot is going. And that was with Alex/Aaron.
Now that I mention it, these characters were fairly simple cutouts. Alex and Aaron were twins, Alex was creative and Aaron was not. Alex was scared for his brother and missed him like any person would, Aaron was a toolbox and forgot Alex near immediately. But as near cookie cutter as these two are, they are still interesting because they interact with better, well-rounded, hilarious, and awesome characters. In Harry Potter, I never gave two shits for Harry, but I loved everyone else. That’s how I feel here.
Mr. Today is a wonderful old man. I’d mix him between Willy Wonka and a legit magician, because he is. He is so nice and loving, and whenever he does something that makes you say, “Hey waitaminute...”, he’s able to back it up with good intentions. He is brilliant and just a sweetheart.
Simber (my LOVE) is a giant winged cheetah statue. That lives. If you find that uninteresting and boring, you are pretty boring yourself. I’m sorry. Simber is a player in this story, and he comes of as very protective and commanding in a necessary way. He’s brilliant. I’m gonna get me a Simber someday. Someone tell me where to find winged cheetah statues in Harry Potter. That’s right.
Lani Haluki is the hinted love interest, and she was just precious. She was a bookworm, but McMann wrote her very well because she wasn’t bashing my head in with that stereotype. Lani is a delight. Here is an example of simple romance. Nothing huge, no LOVE here. True, it’s simply a children’s book, but YA can take notes from this. Perfect example of a slow-burning build. High-five, McMann.
ALL of these characters are a delight. The only fart I have with them all is that the minor characters are dropped by the way side, this being Jim the GIANT WINGED TORTOISE (you heard me right suckahs), and Meg’s brother, Sean.
Plot-wise, as I stated earlier, jumped, then slowed for good reason, then steadily built up with good pacing. I don’t want to say too much or I’ll spoil, but this was where McMann actually got her POV passages right on and I was able to follow the entire climax a-okay. Slowly but surely, we watched Aaron get more and more twisted, we watched Alex get more and more worried, and we saw everyone training for preparedness because nothing as perfect as Artimé lasted forever.
Now I will be very clear. I thoroughly enjoyed myself with this book, but I am not in love with it. I was not crying when something crazy ridiculous happened, but I was cheering for the characters. I cared about them, and they cared about me. There were so many clever and original aspects of Unwanteds that it would be a sin to give the book less than 4 stars.
However, there is enough stuff to set it right at 4 stars. This is not a perfect book, but I guarantee that something somewhere in this book will click your interest, whether it be giant cheetah statues, ridiculing blackboards, or painting doorways in order to get to new places.
Whoever first thought it was like Harry Potter and Hunger Games is a dunce, because if they do related somehow, it’s the littlest smidge. I’m surprised my prediction was right: this book had its own song. Not a bright, life-changing, heart-stopping song, but one worth hearing out and trying for yourself.
I most certainly recommend this book because it brings back my imagination. It has reawakened my need to write. It can collect dust on your shelf for all I care, but that cover is one I can appreciate with the utmost respect.
For all you writers out there:
If you want me to be impressed, you better be original, or I won’t even try to enjoy your story.
Edit 5: I now have a first edition thanks to a bookstore selling old books and it is in perfect condition thank you world.
Edit 4: My love for this booEdit 5: I now have a first edition thanks to a bookstore selling old books and it is in perfect condition thank you world.
Edit 4: My love for this book knows no bounds because I managed to get this hard copy of the graphic novel. Signed and hand-numbered (there were only 500 of these going out).
Edit 3: Did I just buy the ebook of this? Yes I did. Gotta be safe in case I lose the paperback copy. <3333
“The great gray beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive.”
The most fabulous opening line I’ve ever read. In all seriousness. It shows that there will be beautiful writing in future pages. It is inevitable.
I’ve praised this book for such a long time. Long enough that I forgot huge chunks of it. They started to jump at me and wonder why the hell I haven’t reread them. It made me think "Why DID I love this book?" when I was 12, in 6th grade, and hated hated hated reading? Maybe my subconscious was telling me something the day I finished The Thief of Alwaysnine years ago. Sixth grade was a magical year. My reading teacher deserves just as much praise for introducing me to this book.
I’ll say it again: Originality wins me over no matter what. Originality and I are two peas in a pod. Can’t have my love without having originality. It’s completely cool if you were to make an homage or even say that a particular character or event was influenced by something else, but if the overall idea is doing a great job at being original, high five to you. I was more than happy to see that my lil’ 6th grade self didn’t try to shadow this story to be any less than it was. My little self knew what it was talking about for once.
This story is about a ten year-old boy by the name of Harvey Swick. Harvey is bored out of his mind at home in Millsap, and wants to do something fun that’ll hopefully kill the rest of the days in February. Then along comes Rictus, a yellow-skinned sir with an obnoxious grin and an urge to take Harvey away to a fun place called Mr. Hood’s Holiday House. Harvey says, “Sure why the fuck not?” and joins Rictus through a wall of mist that leads him to said wonderland. Harvey spends a great first day, but then things start going downhill, and Harvey says, “Looks like it’s up to ME!”
Let’s break it all down now:
There is greatness in this story through the writing alone. Clive Barker, known for Hellraiser and other such horror tales, knows how to use his words. And use them to throw me the craziest defined image of the Holiday House I’ve ever witnessed in my brain. When I was 12, I didn’t care for this stuff, I was more along the lines of, “This place is cool can I have more please?”
THANKFULLY, having an urge to pursue the need to publish a series as a sort of American Dream, rereading this with the knowledge I now have just makes this story that much more impressive. Never was I so blown away with writing. Like other authors I’ve mentioned, Barker’s got a knack for pacing and how to make someone grimace by description alone. He is also a fabulous wielder of context clues, because I found words in this reread that got me going, “WHAT DOES IT MEEEEAN?” And there he was, telling me with his writing. I thank ye, Barker.
I think this short book took me so long because of the fact that I reread passages over and over again. I loved the sound of them, the images I received, and the way the plot was driven through the characters.
Another thing I want to mention before I move onto the characters is Clive Barker’s multiple talents. Barker can surely write, and he can most certainly illustrate. That’s right, he did his own illustrations. If the illustration of the wall of masks (where there is one of Hellraiser’s Pinhead) wasn’t enough to tell, I’m sure it’s written in somewhere that he did them. The illustrations drawn do a wonderful job of showing a chapter’s motives, but not enough to tell you how or why something’s happening. My all-time favorite illustration was Harvey as Barker’s version of a vampire (probably one of my favorite scenes, too):
This is just beautiful. I mean, the composition, the stance, the great contrast of the shadows, that SMIRK UNF (oh god what’s wrong with me). Also I’m burning this particular image into YOUR SOUL. Damn it’s amazing.
All the pictures have meaning in this fable. They are beautiful, horrifying, and almost tense you up for particular scenes. Perfect example of that was the illustration of Carna, before you’re even introduced to it. The description comes and you see the picture again, and you say, “NO NO NO HARVEY RUN. GET OUTTA THERE!” It made me scared for Harvey’s life.
I am heavily tempted to make my own illustrations for my series again. I had thought it once before, but I thought it’d be too much work. After Barker’s illustrations and seeing how much of a punch they made, I want to make my own.
Needless to say, I would like to point out that the pictures do not make this story. They are a nice accent, but even without them, this story would still thrive.
Let’s meet some characters. Our story goes through a single month and a few days through the life of 10 year-old Harvey Swick. It’s because of this TEN YEAR-OLD BADASS that I refuse to glance at some YA heroines that have puked their way to the spotlight. Did I mention that he’s fucking ten? Okay. Just making sure.
Harvey is a normal kid. He likes to run, likes the summertime, hates being bored, and is always up for an adventure. O ho ho good thing Rictus found ‘im! Harvey grows significantly throughout the tale of the Thief. At first, he loves being away from home, but it’s like someone always said, ‘Once you notice one bad thing, you start seeing them all.” And that’s exactly what happened. Things started getting iffy, and Harvey started sniffin’ around, like ANY MAIN CHARACTER WITH A BRAIN SHOULD.
Then he started to judge. He knew he had to get out. SO ALONG COMES WENDELL.
Wendell. Little brat Wendell. He was Harvey’s first friend and not the best at that. I didn’t mind him though, because he actually helped Harvey take initiative and become stronger, and I am a-okay with that! Wendell was a lil’ chubster, he’d sell out Harvey in a second, but when times became more terrifying, he stayed loyal to Harvey (view spoiler)[that is, until the Holiday House used its magic on him. CURSE YOU, HOOD. (hide spoiler)].
Lulu was a good example of a insta-characterized character. A few sentences from her and I immediately knew the way she was. She was simple-minded and precious, helpful and isolated. Harvey and she knew each other fast enough for Harvey to develop feelings for her. I thought this was fantastic! Lulu has an interesting arc in this book, one that I can’t elaborate on or I’ll spoil horribly and I don’t want to do that. But I grew to like her a lot, and she was the character I remembered all these years (besides Harvey).
Mrs. Griffin was nothing short of a sweetheart. She, like the other children, was a prisoner in the House of Hood. Her backstory was fabulous, short, and sweet. She was a precious woman who couldn’t cry and I never wanted anything more than to be friends with her. Harvey was so good to her, my heart melted every time they spoke to one another.
Mr. Hood was a good example of an antagonist working behind the scenes. With his lackeys in the Quartet of Horrible-Looking People (I named them myself HAW), Mr. Hood could continue to flood his magic into everything from the grass to the seasons to the food in the kitchen. He was hungry for children’s souls, and I loved the take on the vampiric ways of said hunger. Barker gave him the Vampire King title, and I just thought, “Ohhhhh that makes some sense!”
Rictus was also a good antagonist. He was the little bastard who brought Harvey to Mr. Hood in the first place. The dude could fly, but when things got more rough, he constantly tempted Harvey with sweets and gifts and enlightenment. (view spoiler)[He turned on Mr. Hood of course when the House came tumbling down. Serves him right to get his head SNAPPED OFF HIS SHOULDERS HOLY SHIT. (hide spoiler)]
The plot behind this story was very simple. Child goes to wonderland, wonderland is a haunted wasteland, child runs away, finds strength, comes back, and FIRES ZEE MISSILES. I’m only summarizing the basic skeleton of course. But because it was simple, Barker said, “I’m just gonna have a field day with this. Pardon me,” and proceeded to make this story excellent and original in his own way.
I would also like to point out that plot structure is almost visible in this novel. No seriously. Each climax is basically cut PERFECTLY. You see the start of Harvey’s suspicion, you see his conflict of having to go back to the Holiday House, and you see him be the badass that he is. You get different emotions at different points of the novel and it’s just brilliant! Barker planned this bad boy so well. It makes me giddy to be able to see it as I read it. I missed that feeling. Good books are important to have after a while of snarking.
The use of time is used wonderfully here and works as a nice motif. Time is always mentioned and it turns out to be the moral of the story. Time is something to be treasured. You can’t mope around and waste it all the live long day. You have to use it to your benefit. It's a great message to us, old people.
Overall, this book was a getaway from reality, but at the same time, Barker gave us the realism of the Holiday House’s nightmares. We are with Harvey all through his adventures. We care about him.
There is a very good reason for me to say that this is my ultimate favorite novel in the history of the world. It has all the elements I could ever want: beautiful writing, interesting and accented illustrations, wonderful characters, excellent plot, great antagonists, a not boring as fuck romance, and no need to milk out a sequel.
I think this was the first book I ever really sat down with and said, “Whoa. What a story.” This book is my kind of perfection. It may not be yours, but it is most certainly mine, and I beg you all to at least give it a shot.
I don’t care if you end up loathing it in the end; as long as you tried, I’m gonna be so happy. I will close this novel of a review with another fabulous quote. I plan to add it to the list of quotes for this book once I figure out how to do it.
"We're both thieves, Harvey Swick. I take time. You take lives. But in the end we're the same: both Thieves of Always."
WHY IN GOD'S NAME DID THIS LOVELY STORY FAIL TO HIT PRE-PRODUCTION TWICE UNDER THE FILM GODS? That's so heart-wrenching! This story is BRILLIANT and would be such a beautiful film! Oh I'm crying inside. CLIVE BARKER, you're a director! Make. This. Happen.
Edit the Second:
You know what? I'm a year and a half away from flying to L.A. and begging for animation jobs. I will make it my duty to pitch this will all my heart to Dreamworks/Illumination Entertainment so it can finally be done. And it'll BLOW EVERYONE AWAY.["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"]>["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