I struggle to find nicer words to describe how wonderful this was, how it made me laugh and cry and experience love and loss and friendship, but all I...moreI struggle to find nicer words to describe how wonderful this was, how it made me laugh and cry and experience love and loss and friendship, but all I manage to come up with is this:
I became emotionally invested in this book at page 109.
(view spoiler)[I honestly have no idea where to begin because there's so much to say. I actuall...moreI became emotionally invested in this book at page 109.
(view spoiler)[I honestly have no idea where to begin because there's so much to say. I actually prefer keyboard-smashing my love for this book, but I doubt my "asdjalskdadkasjl;d"s would translate well into actual thoughts.
But yes. I like this. I like this a lot--or grew to like it. Whichever.
I admit that I was a bit apprehensive at first, mostly due to it being a YA novel in 1st POV. My personal taste can be quite a snob when it comes to this combination. I'm not exactly a fan of it since sometimes, the character comes across as an obnoxious spazz monster of irrationality and/or angst. Vera, on the other hand, is surprisingly not like that at all. She comes off as, for lack of a better word, rational amidst the sadness and bitterness and other terrible feelings without having the need to yell in your ear all the time. And I think that's really nice. (I'm actually amazed at how the author handled all the issues well. Dealing with the loss of a loved one? The choice to "ignore" the Bad Things because it's the easiest thing to do? Domestic violence? Parental absence? Alcoholism? All handled well.)
After 109 pages, I finally got the hang of the fiction world again. I did mention before that the POV shifts every other chapter was lacking in the voice department, but as I progressed... well, haha. That was just me after all. I think the shifts were good. I especially enjoyed the Pagoda's chapters, and Charlie's. Without those, I probably would have hated him more. He was such a jerk--I mean, who on earth throws dog poop at their best friend? This intense anger of mine was quickly tempered by succeeding chapters of him showing much remorse, and showing how much he loved (and still loves) Vera, and I think that redeems him a little. Or a lot. (The little notes made me almost tear up, and I kind of wish that he wasn't dead. Ugh. What could and should have been, but will never ever be. Ever.)
Jenny Flick is a psychopath. o.m.g.
I also want to say that that Vera's dad is just adorable? sweet? with his constant worrying, self-help-book-hoarding, and parenting attempts. A favorite part of mine featuring the father-daughter tandem was during the doctor's visit when they were roleplaying each other and it suddenly clicked that they were skirting around the mother issue. I think that scene was clever. It was a nice way to get them to finally see what they've been avoiding all along. I loved the ending too, with them going off on a trip and being free and happy and less parsimonious (oh this word), in general.
I have more to say about this book, and I'll possibly come back at a later date to further pick it apart and point out the nice things. Again: I like this. I like this a lot. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
1. Oh, wow. Did I just find a good, interesting topic to pursue for my art history research paper? Ap...moreTwo reactions after I finished reading this book:
1. Oh, wow. Did I just find a good, interesting topic to pursue for my art history research paper? Apparently, this is one of those instances wherein procrastination yields some very nice results. Great intuition, dear self. I will go forth and do some research about her paintings now.
2. I really, really like this.
"Mesmerizing" is probably a good word to describe it. The book made me feel--from the yearning and desperation of Lavinia/Vini Fontana to become a painter in a male-dominated society, her frustrations with her father, her struggle to find a connection with her mother, and her fears of being overshadowed by her unborn baby brother, the male heir her father had always dreamed of. I find it amazing how the author brought these characters and the Renaissance period to life. I felt like I was there, myself--and this is probably one of the nicest things I could say about a book.
1. There was one part that really stuck to me, which is the scene where her father finds the anatomy book she wasn't supposed to have, and in which he finds out that she tricked him and had one of his students pass her work as his own.
"When? Why?" He is not looking at her; his eyes still scour around the room, searching, searching.
"Because it was meant for me." She is sobbing now, writhing in his grip. "It was meant for me, Papa."
Good grief. The raging and the yelling... I really felt scared for her and for her partner-in-crime, Paolo Zappi. It was also during that time that I realized how (for the lack of a better term) pretty cool Hawes' portrayal of him was. In this piece of fiction, he did, after all, nick art supplies for her (and in the actual historical sense, gave up his career to support and promote her works, which was pretty nice. The coolness was captured well.)
"You said the painting needed work, Master." Paolo is stammering, desperate. He continues to look at Vini, and that is when she realizes he is not afraid for himself, but for her.
She may do whatever she wants; he will not judge her.
2. I really wanted to smack Vini's father a few times with how he treated his wife, Antonia.
3. I also wanted to smack Antonia too for not having a backbone.
4. But hey, it sort of worked out in the end, I suppose--even if the end was such a bittersweet thing. I'm not sure what to feel about it. Part of me finds it fitting, but part of me is just so curious to know how they are going to deal with Antonia when she finally wakes up from her delusions. (But oh well. I guess that's what imagination's for.)
"Whatever his future, he is fortunate indeed to have such a mother ... and such a sister."
It's not every day that one finds a nice, good book about a witty sorceress and a witless detective chasing resurrected murderers-slash-devil-worshipp...moreIt's not every day that one finds a nice, good book about a witty sorceress and a witless detective chasing resurrected murderers-slash-devil-worshippers through the streets of recreated historical theme parks. It was a bizarre plot set in a bizarre world, and I quite liked it.
Plus, the two main characters were a delight to read about. I enjoyed rolling my eyes at the annoying little detective, Martineau, who always managed to get himself in trouble, and applauding the witch, Roberta Morgenstern, for just being... herself.
"You could have told me sooner. What made you notice?"
She felt like replying, "Your general incompetence in ordinary life," but that wouldn't have been fair.
Half the time, I didn't really know what was going on. The beginning was so slow and bland, and nothing about the characters really interested me.
It r...moreHalf the time, I didn't really know what was going on. The beginning was so slow and bland, and nothing about the characters really interested me.
It redeemed itself somewhere in the middle though. Things started to pick up and the potential murder!mystery levels escalated. At that point, I couldn't stop reading. (I especially liked the interaction between Dec and his father; I could really feel that tension between them--the suspicion, the anger, the mistrust. I think that was conveyed nicely.)
But the ending.
I have... mixed feelings about it.
In retrospect, the concept of the ending seems fine. It was good and fitting, and provided that closure the main kid and his family needed. I felt like it wasn't told nicely though. There was a lot of build-up over the chapters, and I was expecting it to end in a grandiose manner, but it just... didn't happen.
After all the searching and probing and annoying the heck out of his father, after the heated arguments and the lying, all the main character seemed to express after finding out the truth could be summed up in just two words: "Oh. Okay."
Or maybe I'm just being picky. I guess there's just this part of me that's yearning for something much more believable than that.
But overall, this family drama was... okay.
Afterthought: I'm not sure if it's just me but Dec's younger sister doesn't seem to act like her age. In my head, she feels... older.
Afterthought 2: Actually, throughout the whole book, I was half-expecting (half-hoping) that this would take a big turn to Fantasy World. I'm not sure why I was expecting monsters and magical creatures to show up and save/ruin the day.(less)
It was a hard book to get into. The beginning felt so slow, and halfway through it, I felt like dropping the story altogether. Howev...moreNot my cup of tea.
It was a hard book to get into. The beginning felt so slow, and halfway through it, I felt like dropping the story altogether. However, the thought of my growing pile of unfinished books haunted me, and I trudged along, dragging my feet through the words.
These are some things that bothered me and/or left me all "What." There are some random comments too.
1. It feels too... modern for a story during that age. Yes, there are some descriptions and references to life as it were during the Victorian era, but to me, that's all they were. References. It didn't feel authentic. It didn't really transport me to that time and place. In my head it was, "Here's a story. By the way, it's set in this period. Really."
I think that it may be partly due to the narration and language used by the main character, Gemma. I can't really be sure.
2. I may have missed some details about their boarding school and surroundings, but... I really don't get how they could just go anywhere. I don't get the distances between places. All right. Maybe this confusion is just because of me and my weirdness.
3. Kartik and Gemma. What. Can someone please tell me how that happened?
It feels like Kartik was just thrown in there to be the Dashing Love Interest Who Saves The Day Somehow. And Gemma liking/fawning over him is sudden and bizarre.
4. Speaking of Gemma and friends... good grief. How old were they? 12?
Strangely enough, the obnoxious acts of the group of "friends" salvaged the story a little bit. Annoying as they were, their Mean Girls attitudes towards one another kicked up the yay!conflict bar.
5. In retrospect, the plot wasn't that bad. It's actually pretty interesting, now that I think about it. I suppose it's just the way it was written.
6. I guess I like the ending just a teeny tiny bit. Tragic, what happened to Pippa. However, I don't really like it enough to read the rest of the other books in the series any time soon.(less)
It's honestly been quite a while since I've read a good fantasy novel--or rather, a fantasy novel that I could completely lose myself in to the point...moreIt's honestly been quite a while since I've read a good fantasy novel--or rather, a fantasy novel that I could completely lose myself in to the point that I'm willing to neglect all physiological needs and pressing requirements just to sit down and read it. It's fantastically written; every word and phrase is rich with cleverness and wit, yet at the same time, the story is communicated in such simple language that just draws one in.
I admit that the reason why I read this or discovered its existence was because of Hayao Miyazaki's movie. I adored the art and animation, and so, I wanted to read the actual source. (And that want escalated a bit when I found out that the movie took a completely different route from the original. Curiosity, really.) I found the book as enjoyable as the movie (and in retrospect, Miyazaki did well in capturing the overall feel of the book.)
tl;dr of this rambling review: It was awesome and I loved it.(less)