On the one hand, this is a lovely book. On the other, it is very conscious of itself as fiction in a way that could be off-putting to readers. I am faOn the one hand, this is a lovely book. On the other, it is very conscious of itself as fiction in a way that could be off-putting to readers. I am familiar with the fairy tale that Howard is working with in this text, and I can say that I did enjoy this version of it. However, the artfulness of this book will not appeal to everyone....more
I liked this conclusion to Thomas' retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story a great deal. In the first book, A Wicked Thing, Aurora is awoken to find thI liked this conclusion to Thomas' retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story a great deal. In the first book, A Wicked Thing, Aurora is awoken to find that the world had changed. Unlike the "traditional" story, where her family and people sleep as well, in this story, they all kept living their lives--and died--while she slept.
I don't want to bring spoilers into this review, so I will simply say this: Thomas' Aurora continues to struggle with the forces that seek to control her and continues to try to find a path for herself into the future, even though she was not of this time. Thomas does an excellent job developing Aurora and her struggles, and the story is infinitely more real than "happily ever after."
That said, this book is not without flaws. I was frustrated by how few characters other than Aurora are developed in any real detail. While I'm not sure that I would have liked to see this story "stretched out," I would have still liked a slower pace that allowed for more development....more
Hmm. This is neither a good Lackey or a bad Lackey--it's rather something of a middling Lackey. If I'd been moved to like any of the characters any moHmm. This is neither a good Lackey or a bad Lackey--it's rather something of a middling Lackey. If I'd been moved to like any of the characters any more, it might have been good, as the world of Brighton was rather well developed. But Katie is boring, and her love interest is also uninteresting.
Further, this one has gigantic plot holes. Just why did Katie marry her abusive husband? She states that she was in something of a daze after her parents' deaths (which are never well explained, either). Her husband, Dick, seems to have the ability to make people like him (despite the evidence of their own eyes that he lives up to his name), but that ability is never really addressed either.
The most engaging part of the this book--the theater--had the least influence on the plot, oddly enough. So, it's a middling Lackey--not bad enough to inspire rage and not good enough to reread....more
I found this to be a good, refreshing entry in Lackey's long-running Elemental Masters series. Like all of Lackey's books, this series is "hit or missI found this to be a good, refreshing entry in Lackey's long-running Elemental Masters series. Like all of Lackey's books, this series is "hit or miss." I can't quite decide yet if this book was a strong "hit" for me, but it felt a little too slow. It takes a long while for the major plot to get started, but all of the character building that comes before it is also necessary. I honestly didn't know where the novel was going to go in several places. Since Lackey is occasionally terribly predictable, that helped to elevate this novel among her other works.
I am going to have to think about this book carefully and mull it over before I can give it a full review.
One of the things that I liked most about this book was rather subtle: the attention to travel details. As anyone who has read Dracula knows, the characters pay constant attention to the train schedule, to the path they will take, and the difficulty of getting where they need to go. If I didn't know what Lackey was doing by focusing on the travel details so extensively, I might have found it annoying. Since I did know, I found it charming....more
I read this book in one sitting, so I can honestly say that I did like it. Unlike Cinder, it has a forward moving plot--the journey to find & saveI read this book in one sitting, so I can honestly say that I did like it. Unlike Cinder, it has a forward moving plot--the journey to find & save Grandma. However, also unlike Cinder, it has a bad case of insta-love. I liked both Scarlet and Wolf, and I'm rooting for them....more
My friend The Holy Terror posted excellent criticisms of the book, and I think she's spot-on. However, I enjoyOK. I liked it. Can we leave it at that?
My friend The Holy Terror posted excellent criticisms of the book, and I think she's spot-on. However, I enjoyed the book. While it was wildly improbable, it was improbable in the same way as Shakespeare. Just as no one can identify the masquerading characters in Twelfth Night and As You Like It, no one sees through the disguises in this book. So long as you go with the flow and simple accept the book for what it is, I think it's relatively fun. I don't like it quite as much as I do her later books, though....more
I really like this series so far, and I'm going to have to write a much longer review of it after I read the final book this fall.
Right now, I'm stillI really like this series so far, and I'm going to have to write a much longer review of it after I read the final book this fall.
Right now, I'm still laughing over reading the first two chapters of the next book (included at the end of this one), where Callie uses the MLA (the Modern Language Association itself, not their style guide) as a threat against another character. ...more
This wound up being far better than I expected, although I reserve the right to adjust my rating later. Right now, having just finished the book, I caThis wound up being far better than I expected, although I reserve the right to adjust my rating later. Right now, having just finished the book, I can say that I really enjoyed it. ...more
This novel was a delightful way to cleanse my palette after the horror that was the The Hollow trilogy.
I won't give it a long review. All I can reallyThis novel was a delightful way to cleanse my palette after the horror that was the The Hollow trilogy.
I won't give it a long review. All I can really say is that it questions what it means to serve and the nature of romance. Far from the instalove of so many young adult novels, this is a romance based on conversation, on ties built over time. I truly enjoyed it....more
A long time ago, in the year 2000, I graduated with a Master of Arts in English. Despite the fact that there was no formal path for this at my universA long time ago, in the year 2000, I graduated with a Master of Arts in English. Despite the fact that there was no formal path for this at my university, I focused my studies on fairy tales--specifically, the literary fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, Hans Christian Andersen, and others. My interest in fairy tales coincided with a boom in scholarship about them. Jack Zipes, Maria Tatar, Ruth Bottigheimer, Donald Haase, and more were establishing that fairy tales were an appropriate area to study and that the tales were far more complicated than we remembered. They also examined the ways in which fairy tales have been reused, revised, and repurposed by modern artists. Zipes, in particular, studied the cultural work of Disney and didn't like what he saw.
After having devoted about three years of my life to studying fairy tales, I decided to pursue a more standard path of study and did my doctoral work on nineteenth-century British literature. However, since I can't stand to be too mainstream, I at least focused on the Gothic as a subgenre.
In the years since then, I've kept my eyes out for fairy tale retellings. I'm still fascinated by the short tales and the hold they exercise over our cultural imagination. I was delighted to find Sarah Cross's Kill Me Softly, and even more excited when I received an advance reader's copy of the book from Netgalley.
After reading this book, I set down my nook and simply said "yes." Finally, here, an author has explored fairy tales in a way that gets to the darkness at their root while still creating a new and interesting mythology of her own. Finally. Yes.
The book opens with a startlingly apt quotation from Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire. "I don't want realism. I want magic!" Blanche DuBois states, and that sentiment shapes this novel.
Mira has lived her entire life in the care of her godmothers. They're lovely, kind, and caring women, and they took in Mira as an infant after her parents died in a fire at her christening. Now that she's nearly sixteen, Mira is horrified to betray them, but she also feels that needs to do something that's been nagging at her for years. She needs to return to the town of her birth, Beau Rivage, and visit her parents' graves. Since this means running away from home, Mira is willing to do that. She's planned her escape well by creating a false trail leading to a make-believe online boyfriend. But she's never managed to plan what to do once she arrives in Beau Rivage, and that realization hits her shortly after her arrival in the city.
Mira finds herself alone in a casino cafe called Wish, and it's here that her plan starts going awry. She meets another teen, a young man with blue hair, who calls himself Blue. He tries to get her to leave the casino (which is called Dream), claiming to be the son of the owner. Blue wants her to leave before she can meet his brother . . . and he fails. Mira does meet his brother, Felix, and falls for him. Hard. Felix comps her a room at Dream, and he vows to help her find the graves.
Dismayed to find that she hasn't left, and horrified that she's met Felix, Blue attaches himself to Mira as well. The two brothers don't share their time with her; instead, she seems to drift between them a bit like a pinball. Quickly, Mira becomes aware that Blue's friends are odd. They share inside jokes that disturb Mira, and none of them are really happy. Viv has a wicked stepmother (sorry, normal stepmother, Freddie explains) and an obsessive gardener with a crush on her. The apple logo on her laptop is covered by tape. Small animals and birds cluster around Freddie, who is helpless to push them away. Still, Mira isn't freaked out too much until Viv's mirror tells the girl that she's gorgeous, which is something she clearly doesn't want to hear. They talk of curses, and stop when they realize Mira is listening.
As the cover copy makes clear, fairy tales are real in Beau Rivage. Mira is shocked to learn that, just like Blue and his friends, she too has a role to play. And fairy tales are not pleasant stories at all.
Cross is an elegant writer, and she deftly explores the menace and beauty that attracts readers to these tales. However, she's not content to let them rest with the "happy ever after" versions that we've come to know in the last 100 years of children's stories. Instead, she looks back to the tales when Cinderella's sisters cut off parts of their feet in order to fit into the slipper (and the prince didn't notice until birds told him that blood was spurting out of the shoe!). She's clearly read the darkly wonderful collection of tales by Angela Carter called The Bloody Chamber. The first line of one of the stories in that book, "The Tyger's Bride," is wonderfully evocative of the entire book's tone: "My father lost me to the beast at cards."
Thrust by her own stubbornness and desire into a world that both confuses and attracts her, Mira must learn to navigate the rules in order to survive. She must decide which brother to trust, which tales are true, and she must learn how to shape her own fate. Otherwise, she may just become a character in someone else's story, and she won't like how that one ends at all....more
I won this book through the Goodreads First Reads giveaways.
Technically, I won the book on November 1st, but through a series of odd events (delayed sI won this book through the Goodreads First Reads giveaways.
Technically, I won the book on November 1st, but through a series of odd events (delayed shipping and a package that was likely misdelivered), I did not receive my copy until April. However, the people at Goodreads and at Scholastic were remarkably helpful and made certain that I did eventually get my copy.
Considering how much trouble it was to ship this book to me, I really wish that I had been able to give it five stars, but it never hit five star territory for me.
The book has a wonderful concept, but I found it distinctly lacking in pacing. Unlike Stiefvater's previous books, I did not gobble this book down in one sitting. Instead, when I was about 150 pages in, I set the book aside and read other books before continuing and finishing this one. As much as I liked Sean and Puck, I did find myself drawn into their story very deeply in the beginning. Once the book hit the halfway point, though, it sped up and held me enthralled to the end.
Some of my goodreads friends have claimed that this a book for Horse Lovers. I'm not sure about that. As Stiefvater makes clear, water horses are very different from horses, from their carnivorous eating to the way in which they do not bond with their riders. Instead of being a book for Horse Lovers, then, I would say that is a book for people that love setting.
In my real life, I work in Detroit. That city is a special place. It's scrappy. By that I mean that Detroit has seen so many tragedies, from big events like the collapse of the auto industry and the rights of 1967 to the individual tragedies like the violent deaths of so many young people. Local politicians are sometimes flagrantly corrupt (see Kwame Kilpatrick) and every time the future looks bright for the city, something happens to knock it down again. But the residents of the city have not given up. They fight back against crime. One such group is called the Detroit 300--they pick a specific crime and search (sometimes even door-to-door) for information and for the assailant. And they get results. As bad as things are, people continue to fight. Once you fall in love with Detroit, you understand. It's not just a place; it's a city that refuses to give in. It's stubbornness. It's a refusal to accept a reality wherein Detroit falls permanently.
Stiefvater gets that, gets what it means to love something that it so so unstable and always on the edge of ruin. The Scorpio Races is not about Detroit. It's setting is an island in the Scorpio Sea, apparently off the coast of an Ireland-like country. Its industry is located in two primary groups: fishing and horses. Even in the water, you can't avoid horses. Since the water horses live in the sea surrounding the island, fisherman are especially at risk of death. On the island, some work with captured water horses (which can survive on land, even though they continue to seek a return to the sea). They use magic to restrain the creatures, to prevent them from lashing out and killing. They race the water horses once a year and try to breed them with familiar land horses--although they never know if the water horse will see the mare as a love interest or dinner. Outside of fishing and horses, life is difficult. There are few jobs, and creating a future for oneself is not easy. Still, those that stay on the island do so because they love it.
Puck and Sean are at that liminal moment in their young lives when they have to decide what they want to fight for. Puck's brother is leaving the island, but she loves it so much that she cannot imagine a future away from it. That realization forces her to recognize that she must then find a way to carve a life for herself on the island. Winning the Scorpio Races will help her to gain control over her path.
Sean, on the other hand, is a few years older than Puck. Like Puck, he's an orphan, but unlike her, he has a job. He works for Malvern, the richest man on the island. Throughout the year, he runs Malvern's stable, but as the races approach, he trains the water horse, Corr, that killed his own father. For the past six years, he's ridden Corr in the races. For the past four years, he's won. And since Malvern owns Corr and gets 90% of the winnings from the race, Sean is unable to leave this life.
Puck and Sean are trapped by their love of the island, and when they finally meet, they recognize that within each other. It brings them together and gives them something to fight for.
But will it be enough, when both must win the Race, and only one can?...more