With an overcrowded market full of cheap reads and cheaper storylines, young adult supernatural romances are often regarded with a wary eye. Maggie St...moreWith an overcrowded market full of cheap reads and cheaper storylines, young adult supernatural romances are often regarded with a wary eye. Maggie Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy--and her Books of Faerie--are truly an exception to every rule. Her prose is literally delicious; I smell the scents she describes, see the world as if it were before my eyes. Perhaps her talent is one of the reasons why some don't like the books--Shiver, Linger, and now Forever are all quiet, thoughtful reads. You can't just skip through a sequence, and there aren't random filler action scenes. Even the romantic bits usually serve a purpose--for the individuals as well as the couple. Grace may look at Sam and kiss him, but she's also fearing for their future.
As a devotee of Shiver and Linger, I ventured into Forever with both excitement and fear. I've read all of Maggie's books; she isn't one to give her readers a happy ending just because they want it. Nor does she spare her own feelings by ending with melodramatic sweetness. Endings are always difficult in this manner; you, as the reader, want a good ending, but you also want that happily ever after. In the same light, I, as a writer, know that it is hard to tie up a story the way it should be without hurting a character, a character that has likely become similar to a child. The ending of a series is its most integral part. It makes or breaks the entire saga. Many hated the Twilight saga before the release of Breaking Dawn. Although I won't pretend that it was amazing or well-written, I did love the first three books for what they were; however, the sappy, traitorous ending left me unable to re-read the books ever again. Maggie Stiefvater averted this sort of literary injustice in every way.
We return to our four main characters and find them broken. Forever isn't an easy read--because yes, they are hurt, and no, they don't have a lot of nice, light moments. Isabel and Cole's relationship is still tormented, and has a long way to go before one can even call it such. Sam and Grace are separated, as is the reality of their world. Forever offers resolution, yet leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Why? Because that is realistic. Because that is the way Maggie's world unfolds. She stays true to herself and her characters on every single page, through every line of dialogue. Though it's the last book, she doesn't cut straight to the action; much of it is in fact spent on character development, despite the fact that a threat looms right around the corner. This might frustrate some readers. Yet, the greatest demons for Sam and Grace, Isabel and Cole are not the small-minded townspeople or Isabel's vicious father, but something from within. They are all damaged people, and Maggie isn't going to neglect that in lieu of more physical issues ahead.
Speaking of, the parents of this series are always hotly debated. Perhaps, I suspect, because their reality hits too close to home for many older readers. The only thing the four main characters have in common--besides their friendships--is the fact that all of them have lacking parental units. Even Cole, whose past is a bit murkier than others, is clearly tormented about his father. He frequently refers to him in Forever, and despite their animosity, idolizes him in a way that is both subtle and painfully obvious. Grace's neglectful parents make their reappearance, and one is actually a bit more fleshed out--yet we, and Grace, still can't forgive them. I didn't want her to, and Maggie doesn't cop out with a sentimental reunion. Isabel's father, Tom Culpeper, remains as villainous as ever--but we do see some of his motivation. I can't imagine the pain of losing a child. But I was also surprised by how much I felt for Isabel's mother, a literal desperate housewife trying to make her own life. As for Sam--Forever actually dips into an issue even deeper than that of his murderous biological parents. I suspect that what hurts Sam even more than those memories are the secrets surrounding his foster father, Beck. Sam and Beck's relationship had me crying throughout Forever. Though he remains shrouded in mystery, Beck catches many heartstrings; we both loathe and love him, just as Sam does.
Sam, Grace, Isabel, and Cole all want different things. Maggie does not let them get what they want without sacrifices, and even then their happiness is elusive. That, perhaps, is what I loved most about Forever--besides the amazing little details and the characters that feel as real as my friends. I saw exactly how much these people cared about each other. Because they were willing to give up everything--and then I saw that, despite their terrible family lives, they had crafted a new family, and little separate relationships aside from that. Forever is not simply about Sam and Grace or Isabel and Cole. It is about all of them, and was executed as such with amazing believability. Thanks to Forever, The Wolves of Mercy Falls will always hold a special place in my heart.(less)
I am probably the most biased person to ever review any book concerning the Borgias. I think that they were a magnificent, fascinating, and amoral fam...moreI am probably the most biased person to ever review any book concerning the Borgias. I think that they were a magnificent, fascinating, and amoral family; a family capable of intense love and intense brutality. They might be my favorite historical family of all time--and believe me, I take a great interest in many, many dynasties. The two most famous Borgias, Cesare and Lucrezia, are particularly captivating, for me and the rest of the world. I can't seem to shake this fixation on two such mercurial, tragic figures. And yes, even Cesare, for all of his deplorable acts, was tragic. Perhaps he was the most tragic of them all, and this biography does an excellent job of illustrating why.
When we think Cesare Borgia, we think of evil, of incest, of Machiavelli's "The Prince". We as a society have come to despise ambition--and ambition was Cesare's principle trait. He wanted more for himself than anyone else in the world; and he genuinely believed that he was the right person to unite and rule Italy. (In that respect, he may not have been off. For all of his evils, Cesare was immensely capable.) Cesare was a walking contradiction. He was likely an atheist, yet seemed to believe almost religiously in Fortuna, and in his own ability. He was known for being cold and detached, not blinking an eye at betraying men he'd known for years, or keeping his father in the dark about extremely important events. Yet at the same time, he adored his sister above all others, and would disregard his plans to spend hours at her sickbed. He could go his whole life confident and sure of himself, and within hours dissolve into a nervous breakdown that would leave Machiavelli wondering if he'd completely misjudged him.
This man--above any other individual in his family--experienced such a Shakespearean rise and fall that it doesn't seem real. How could someone reach such meteoric heights--only to fall in even less time? How could someone the world feared die in obscurity, with only his devoted sister to truly mourn him? How could someone so feared and hated retain the loyalty of servants and those he'd harmed? Machiavelli himself was stumped by Cesare, by the irrationality of his fall--he could only chalk it up to fate.
Sarah Bradford approaches the subject of Cesare Borgia as both a historian and a storyteller, and that is why her biography is so good. She peers into the baffling pyschology of this man, of his wants and desires. She appreciates what he could have been--the greatest man in Italian history--and what he is--someone who left virtually no mark on the world. She misses no part of Valentino's life. "Cesare Borgia" is not only extremely readable but valuable to anyone wishing to study this remarkable man and his family.(less)
There are very few YA authors on the market now who "go there" as much as Libba Bray does, without losing that sort o...moreLibba Bray Libba Bray Libba Bray.
There are very few YA authors on the market now who "go there" as much as Libba Bray does, without losing that sort of spark that makes paranormal lit so fun. She doesn't lose the humor, or the teenager-ness, or the romance. She doesn't sacrifice fluff for grit. She merges the two elements into one amazing concoction, and I just love her a lot you guys.
She is also a genre-queen. She tackled satire in "Beauty Queens", heartbreaking humor and magical realism in "Going Bovine". With "The Diviners" she returns to the historical fantasy that made her famous with "A Great and Terrible Beauty", though this series is shaping up to be quite different. (They're also set in very different time frames, with "AGaTB" focusing Victorian era England and "The Diviners" set in the Roaring Twenties' America.) "The Diviners" also benefits from a bit of science fiction, though it's quite light.
Another thing? Bray once again delves into multiple perspectives with this great sort of equality and deftness, and... it's great. Evie, our main character--amazing. She's a good time girl. She drinks, she parties. She's pretty, and kind of popular. Also: she's our main character! What? You mean, a girl who's fully aware of her talents and attractiveness is the main character? She isn't down on herself all the time? WHAT????
Yes. Yes. Evie is awesome, and she knows it. She leads this pack of great supporting characters, including Ziegfield girl Theta Knight (my favorite), her piano playing dandy BFF Henry, serious Jericho Jones, thieving Sam O'Neill, mysterious Memphis John, and Mabel. Who is a socialist. And Evie's best friend.
The characters really make "The Diviners", but the story is great, too. There's a lot of laughs, and a lot of total creepiness. It's romance-lite for now, though there are hints of a love triangle (rectangle?) forming. Evie and her potential partners aren't the only ones to enjoy romance, though. A couple of supporting characters receive their day in the sun in a surprisingly touching storyline that I can't wait to see expanded.
Anyway. This is one is fabulous, and you should pick it up, and I can't recommend it more.(less)
The rumors are true: Erin Morgenstern's "The Night Circus" is not for everyone. In fact, it probably settles into the "love it or hate it" category. I...moreThe rumors are true: Erin Morgenstern's "The Night Circus" is not for everyone. In fact, it probably settles into the "love it or hate it" category. I happen to be among those who love it; but if you aren't, that is not something to be ashamed of and remains completely understandable. Some books fall into singularly "different" styles, a sort of pattern that really doesn't appeal to everyone. This is one of them.
Don't pick up this book thinking that the story is at all similar to what the jacket tells you. This, I can't criticize. Ms. Morgenstern, in all likelihood, had nothing to do with the jacket summary. "The Night Circus" is not a sprawling romance. It is not action-packed. It's methodical and imaginative. It does not lay its cards out in a straight line, particularly when it comes to the love story between its main characters. The book--like Celia and Marco's emotions--unfurls like tightly-wound ribbon. It's always there--it just might take a while to catch up to you.
Erin Morgenstern's words are kind of... edible? I don't know. This might be my inner-writer talking, but I literally wanted to eat some of the passages in this book. They were weirdly enticing, yet satisfying at the same time. Even as I sat on the edge of my seat, waiting for the story's outcome... I didn't feel like I would be disappointed. I suppose that this could amount for why I never felt like "nothing" was happening, though it is a somewhat slow, meandering read. Though our main characters don't physically meet for quite a while, I always felt like they knew each other. Somehow, I knew that when they did interact, it would be amazing. And it was. The entire book is shrouded in this veil of romance--and I refer more to the melodic darkness of the Romantics more than I do lovey-dovey stuff.
I never felt let down by this book--and even when I read something that I do end up enjoying, I come away somewhat disappointed. The problem may be my hyper-critical personality, or simple high standards. Either way, "The Night Circus" somehow managed to evade this issue.
It's true that Morgenstern's plot and characters are shrouded in this sort of enigma. It may come off as lagging or one-dimensional to some, but for once, I feel as if this might really be a matter of opinion. The array of people we meet in "The Night Circus" are mysterious and cryptic, yet alluring at the same time. Even our leads, Marco and Celia, never wish to reveal themselves outwardly--yet we know them just as they know one another. On that note, I would also like to commend Erin Morgenstern for providing us with a shifty hero and a complex heroine, neither of which are bound by an audience-surrogate moral code. Celia and Marco are purely their own creatures.
Reading "The Night Circus", for me, was somewhat like falling, or being caught in a spider's web. It's been months since a book has enthralled me in the same sort of way. Really, I'm happy to find another book to add to my "Favorites" shelf. For, though I did not at all expect this, "The Night Circus" is a favorite. It's an instant re-read, as I feel as if I will notice more with each reading. I'll miss each character... and at the same time, I'm glad that they ended where they did. At the end of the day, I'm utterly delighted.
Confession: due to the way I organize my "currently reading" shelf, I've actually only been reading We Were Liars for like... a day.
Confession: it is...moreConfession: due to the way I organize my "currently reading" shelf, I've actually only been reading We Were Liars for like... a day.
Confession: it is probably too early for me to start my "favorites-2014" shelf. I do not care. Note that We Were Liars has also been placed on my all time "favorites" shelf. There is a reason for that.
Confession: I didn't believe the people who said that you won't want to talk about the plot in your review. Now I do.
There is no way I can describe this novel, save to save that it is excellent and you should read it. It's fully deserving of the five stars I gave it; and though I really need to read more E. Lockhart (I adore her Ruby Oliver series but haven't gone much further than that) that issue will soon be resolved. We Were Liars was perfect. Though, again, I won't describe the plot (I can't) I will say that it contains:
* A rich, old-money family. * Co-dependent cousins and not-cousins who make their own sort of demented world in reaction to a terrible environment. * A romance that made me shaky. * All of the fun stuff that comes with main characters who are in the aristocracy.
I can't recommend this highly enough. It's beautiful, perfect, everything you could ask for wrapped in a truly original story.(less)