I have always been impressed by Seanan McGuire’s world building. I remember very well how fascinating the world of the October Daye series was when II have always been impressed by Seanan McGuire’s world building. I remember very well how fascinating the world of the October Daye series was when I first read it and how it became just more and more complex and interesting with each new novel.
Sadly, the above means that, for me, Every Heart a Doorway fell short, probably because I have read the author’s other, and imho better works. Every Heart a Doorway feels like a poor man’s October Daye, with often self-centered teenagers rather than adults and less complexity in both characters and world-building. The doors that lead to other worlds, the diverse cast of characters are very reminiscent of October Daye and even the murder mystery plotline is mostly the same. Just more flat.
I enjoyed the ideas of the doorways and how everybody just wants to find that place, where you belong. And yet, Every Heart a Doorway is simply too short to explore neither the characters nor the world in detail. A ton of contemporary social issues are touched upon, but not explored further. A ton of fantasy adventure stories are alluded to, but again, never actually told. Neither are of much consequence to the plot, except to show why these teenagers don’t feel like they belong and why they behave as they do. The plot is very, very simple, because the book is too short for any suspense to build and any mystery to actually be investigated.
As for the characters, I found them mostly uninteresting and some too exaggerated. Nancy seems like a perfectly nice girl, but since she is somebody who prefers to not move (except dancing for some reason), she makes for a rather boring protagonist. The mad scientist girl and the boy who finds skeletons beautiful were too creepy for me and the control freak vampire lord sounds like a real charming gentlemen (Eleanor has good intentions, but her pedagogy is quite lacking). In general, I found the characters very whiny and many of them ungrateful towards their parents. Sure, they are teenagers, so such behavior can be excused, but I would have enjoyed some character development. Most people on earth don’t have perfect lives, but you just try to make the best of it.
In the end, Every Heart a Doorway is so short, it is basically a novella and as far as novellas go, it is a good one. Hence, in its imaginativeness and weirdness, it is also a good introduction to the work of Seanan McGuire. If you enjoy this one, you are likely to enjoy her more mature and complex works as well. For me, the world, the characters and the murder mystery plot never came together as a whole, as one story and Every Heart a Doorway pales in comparison to the October Daye series....more
Awesome cover lured me in. Everything else fell flat for me, though. There are some nice ideas, but the writing is unpolished and the plot thin. ThereAwesome cover lured me in. Everything else fell flat for me, though. There are some nice ideas, but the writing is unpolished and the plot thin. There are pirates and chases, but I never felt the suspense, because too much time is spent on the "pirates" arguing around as immature ex-lovers (they talk like bitchy teenagers) and unresolved emotional issues between them. A novella is maybe not the best format for a story that focuses on world-building and character relationships, but certainly it is very difficult to do both - adventure tale and relationship drama - in such a short text. In the present work, you get a little bit of both and therefore, neither worked for me. There was not enough time to create character depth nor to tell a thrilling story of travelling the ocean. 2 stars for nice ideas and because compelling short stories are in fact very difficult to write....more
All that glitters is not gold. The Night Circus has a beautiful cover and promising summary, but then only delivers boring instalove and almost no plotAll that glitters is not gold. The Night Circus has a beautiful cover and promising summary, but then only delivers boring instalove and almost no plot. A wonderful setting is not explored enough. The circus is described A LOT, unfortunately not very eloquently, but most of all, it is never much integrated into the plot. Nothing happens in the circus besides tents being designed. And the "challenge" is really just the background to a superficial teenie love story. They never challenge each other in any way, despite who is a better designer of circus tents. The characters were quite one-dimensional, at best mildly amusing (the twins), mostly though they were uninteresting (Celia, Marco) or downright unlikable (the magicians). I felt sorry for Isabelle, who functions only as a plot device, but actually got a more complex character than Celia and Marco combined....more
Despite the serious topic, the research that obviously went into this and the nice, easily readable writing, this book felt very cheesy to me. I admitDespite the serious topic, the research that obviously went into this and the nice, easily readable writing, this book felt very cheesy to me. I admit, that I do not enjoy romance stories very much in general, so the novel had this working against it from the start. In particular, however, I'm very skeptical when it comes to romanticization of severe illness and the tragedy of a death threat hanging over a loved one, since in reality, such strokes of fate leave little to no room for anything romantic. The book was still funny enough to be entertaining for most parts, but as the story unfolded, I found that I did not like the plot and the characters very much. Louisa is indeed rather boring and quite immature. At 26, she has apparently never really thought about anything at all. I still liked her narration, but her family is borderline abusive to her, apparently telling her since childhood how stupid she is instead of encouraging her to do something with her life, and rewarding her selfish sister for being irresponsible. The thing with her and Patrick was dragged out way too long and Louisa's youth trauma added to Will's situation was just a bit too much tragedy for one book.
Also, the ending felt very forced to me, (view spoiler)[as in "forcing the tragic ending". How can "the best 6 months of your life" still not make said life worth living? Makes no sense, unless you're aiming for tears. (hide spoiler)].
Without the cheesy and over-dramatic parts, the book would probably have been a 3-stars-read for me, but I realize that it probably would not have been nearly as successful either. As comparison, I enjoyed The Intouchables more, which deals with the same topic without the romance. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
An important topic, but the novel itself felt a bit like a rough draft and the characters, in spite of the difficult situations they went through, werAn important topic, but the novel itself felt a bit like a rough draft and the characters, in spite of the difficult situations they went through, were pretty uninteresting. Also, I didn't enjoy how things were resolved or rather not resolved in the end (view spoiler)[with Cameron effectively sacrificing himself for his siblings without getting them away from their abusive father?! And his stupid mother? I don't care about the main characters not ending up together, but what's the moral here? (hide spoiler)]
I did enjoy this book overall (not the ending). However, it was not as unique or rather “individualized” as I had hoped for.
It’s the story of KimberlyI did enjoy this book overall (not the ending). However, it was not as unique or rather “individualized” as I had hoped for.
It’s the story of Kimberly, a girl from Hong Kong, who at the age of 11 arrives in New York with her mother and before they can even settle in, they're already being exploited by their own family as sweatshop workers.
The book has a promising and intriguing start, where we get to know Kimberly, the Chinese community and the difficulties the newly arrived face. Then the focus shifts to more typical issues of the underdog struggling at school and teenage romance, which most readers are familiar with from many teenage novels set at high school. Kimberly’s amazing intelligence level felt just a bit exaggerated and while the high school drama part did not get too bad, the romance part felt forced and was pretty uninteresting.
Still, I mostly liked Kimberly and her narration. My problem was that I had expected something different from this book though. Apparently “immigrant novel“ is a genre, and from the title and the summary, I indeed wanted to read about this „world that we rarely hear about”. However, I found many parts of this book to feel like any random teenage high school romance and the main character could have been anybody from any poor family.
The book is called “Girl in Translation” and that’s what I had expected. However, there is really not much “translating” at all. It takes Kimberly some time to learn English and get used to a very different education system and that’s about it. Kimberly does not “translate herself” and does not go “back and forth between the worlds she straddles”. Kimberly behaves the same in both worlds, she is shy, polite, clever hard-working and weak at first, growing stronger and more outspoken over time. Nothing wrong with that development, but that’s just not what I’d call “translating herself”, i.e. adapting herself to behave differently according to which “world” she is in.
During the time in the sweatshop, nothing much happens. There is no plot development, just the constant exploitation. I would have liked to read more about this ugly dynamic of newly arrived immigrants being exploited by their own community. In this novel, it gets as bad as an older sister making her younger sister and her little niece work like slaves, paying them basically nothing and making them live in a potentially life-threatening apartment – and she does that for years. Note that even today in Asia, the older sibling is responsible for the younger ones, so this striking behavior could have used more complexity than the very brief explanation we get. I had hoped that at some point the lady would show some character depth or development, but she remained petty and cruel until the very end. I don’t get, why she would even help her sister come to the US, if she hated her that much.
Another part I was interested in were the particular circumstances of immigrants from Hong Kong. It’s a coincidence that this subject is actually a very current issue, as the Hong Kongese struggle to keep and fear the loss of their autonomy from the mainland. But to my disappointment, the reasons for their immigration are barely touched upon. The back-story of Kimberly’s family is explained in a few sentences here and there and is quite irrelevant to their life in the US. As said, in many parts of the novel, Kimberly could just have been anybody from anywhere. The stories of the other immigrants are not touched upon at all. For instance, I was confused about Kim's mother's lack of English knowledge, since people from Hong Kong often speak fluently, even more so the generations that grew up in British Hong Kong (on a side note, English is also not supposed to be a difficult language for Chinese-speakers, so I wondered why Kim's mother didn't learn it even a little bit over all these years). I learned more about US school life, much of which seemed as foreign to me as to Kim, than about this community.
Well, to be fair, I’m not sure this would have been a bestseller, if the above-mentioned parts had indeed been more detailed. Like this, the novel seems to have more broad of an appeal to the general audience of teenage readers.
Finally, the last chapter almost cost the book a star. It felt completely out of place. Suddenly the immigrant novel turns into a feminist novel? (view spoiler)[Supposedly nice and lovable Matt gets turned into an idiot who cannot handle an independent wife, even though that’s not at all the type of guy he was until then and her character strength even was why he was attracted to her? Kim also behaves completely irrational and out of character? Her final decision of not telling him her secret was so bad and did not fit her usual “integrity”, which we have seen constantly throughout the story. (hide spoiler)]
To sum it up, I wanted less standard teenage high school romance and more specific issues, family and otherwise, of immigrants from Hong Kong. And I’ll delete the ending from my memory as well.
PS: I did enjoy the literal translations of Chinese that popped up here and there, such as "human material". It was fun to try to recognize the terms and I remembered how some of them confused me, back when I first learnt them.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I enjoyed the writing and found the story easy to read, but two major things did not work for me, which was one too much for a novella.
Firstly, thereI enjoyed the writing and found the story easy to read, but two major things did not work for me, which was one too much for a novella.
Firstly, there is actually very little science fiction. The world-building is minimal and so is the science. I have problems with science that basically works like magic. Binti is a genius, who meditates and enters a trance, which makes her able to become a master of chemistry, to feel mathematical equations etc. She even has some kind of mysterious computer-translator-device that glows like a magical gem stone. To me, much of this sounded like very weird pseudo-science.
The second matter that put me off was in fact how contemporary and past racial issues of the human race (and from my perspective in particular those of North America), are transposed straightforwardly into a, possibly very far into the future, science-fiction setting with actual aliens. Would Binti with curly hair and clay on her skin really stand out next to jellyfish-aliens, floating fairies and little green guys with roots on their head? I had trouble believing that.
From the cover I expected a fantasy story or maybe just contemporary fiction and possibly then everything would have fit together more. The way it was written, I found myself mostly puzzled by and ostracized from Binti’s world and her supposed scientific genius....more
I read Magic Study and Fire Study one after the other, and during Fire Study I kept checking whether I hadn't mistakenly picked up Magic Study again.I read Magic Study and Fire Study one after the other, and during Fire Study I kept checking whether I hadn't mistakenly picked up Magic Study again. It seems like exactly the same plot and even the same subplots are just being repeated. Yelena is the savior of the world and has to save the day over and over again. Everybody looks to her for guidance, even though she is really just a little girl who knows almost nothing and messes up as much as she does something right. She is smart or stupid, depending on what fits the plot. There is no character development for most of the cast and Yelena actually seems to become more and more immature and self-centered, while Valek becomes the most boring guy ever. In the end, Cahil was almost funny, going from enemy to ally to traitor to ally to traitor ... I had given up on the story by then. The paper-thin antagonists are not even worth mentioning.
What I don't understand is how Magic Study and Fire Study can be the sequels to Poison Study, which was quite creative, in particular for a YA romantic fantasy, and very entertaining to read. The sequels are a boring disappointment. ...more
Das Buch haette um die Haelfte gekuerzt werden muessen. Die Handlung und auch die Charaktere sind wirklich nicht komplex genug, um eine solche LaengeDas Buch haette um die Haelfte gekuerzt werden muessen. Die Handlung und auch die Charaktere sind wirklich nicht komplex genug, um eine solche Laenge zu rechtfertigen. Daher war es immer wieder unglaublich langatmig und hat sich gezogen wie ein ausgelutschtes Kaugummi. Vor allem die extrem kitschige Liebesgeschichte mit viel zu vielen Monologen haette mit wesentlich weniger Seiten auskommen koennen.
Es ist schade, denn die sehr junge Autorin hat sich doch bemueht, die Geschichte nicht komplett 0815 zu machen. Aber gerade bei solchen Werken braucht es einen entsprechend guten Lektor. Neben den endlosen inhaltlichen Wiederholungen, gab es auch etliche stilistische und 'erzaehlperspektivische' Probleme. Aus der Grundidee haette durchaus etwas Besseres werden koennen....more