This was so epic. So much bigger and more complex and messy and emotional than I ever anticipated, and I really thought I was prepared. (I was so notThis was so epic. So much bigger and more complex and messy and emotional than I ever anticipated, and I really thought I was prepared. (I was so not prepared.)
Ellie Marney writes amazing action scenes, autopsy scenes, kissing scenes, and bang-on believable teen emotions and dialogue. So unfair. I'm going to sulk now.
(Further to my note on Every Breath, this one also has a lot of swearing, but less blasphemy and more of the garden variety.)...more
[NOTE: This review is based on an Advanced Reading Copy and contains no deliberate spoilers.]
From now on, any time I hear somebody claim that YA is no[NOTE: This review is based on an Advanced Reading Copy and contains no deliberate spoilers.]
From now on, any time I hear somebody claim that YA is not complex, thoughtful or literary I am going to smack them about the head and shoulders with a copy of this book.
THE ARSONIST is literary in all the best senses of the word. Smart, searching, inventive, beautifully written and characterized, funny (as in genuinely, unexpectedly witty and sometimes straight-up hilarious, especially the sections narrated by Pepper), poignant, multilayered and fascinating. It deals with big, serious themes but doesn't get bogged down by them; it believably touches on all the standard facets of adolescent life (school, friends, romance) without limiting itself; it's a gripping Cold War drama and a psychological study (or several) and a daring adventure and a murder mystery thriller all at once without any of those elements feeling shortchanged in the process. If this weren't enough, Stephanie Oakes manages the virtuoso feat of creating not one, not even two, but three distinct first-person narrators whose voices and personalities are completely different from one another, and each of whom has an equally interesting story to tell.
If that weren't enough to recommend the book, Ibrahim "Pepper" Al-Yusef has now become one of my favorite adolescent boy characters of all time. Trust me on this one. (Also, his dog is hilarious.)
I would particularly recommend this book to high school teachers looking for strong, multifaceted teen fiction with a historical component (agh, the 1980's are history now I feel so old), big themes, and lots of scope for analysis and discussion. If I had to give a "content warning" I'd advise that there's the occasional bit of crude adolescent boy-type humour, a few swear words, and a couple of graphic descriptions of violence, but none of it was pervasive or worse than many other books teens are usually given to read in high school (if anything it's probably better).
N.B. For those interested in diversity, Molly is strongly implied to be asexual; Pepper is Kuwaiti Arab and has a service dog for his epileptic seizures; and there are several sympathetic and non-stereotypical characters with mental illnesses....more
I bought this book chiefly because I like Star Wars generally and know that E.K. Johnston is an excellent writer, rather than because I know or care tI bought this book chiefly because I like Star Wars generally and know that E.K. Johnston is an excellent writer, rather than because I know or care that much about Ahsoka in particular. (It's not that I dislike her, I hasten to add; it's just that I haven't been able to get through more than one episode of Clone Wars and have yet to watch any of Rebels either, so this book is really my first exposure to Ahsoka as a character.)
For that reason, I can't say whether E.K. Johnston captures Ahsoka's character accurately or not (though knowing what a huge Star Wars fan she is and how much she loves Ahsoka, not to mention all the consultation with the Lucasfilm Story Group that went into this novel, I'm about 99.9% certain that she does). But I can say that Ahsoka is a compelling, multifaceted character: smart, determined, principled, heroic, and yet at the same time grappling with a very relatable uncertainty, disillusionment, and a reluctance to trust borne of her past experiences (which I would doubtless have appreciated much better if I'd watched any of CW, but Johnston includes brief flashbacks and reminiscences that fill in the blanks nicely).
The narrative starts quietly and at a measured pace, laying the foundation for the conflicts and challenges to come. But once the action starts, it keeps ramping up, with high stakes and big risks for everyone involved. There's enough explosions, firefights, smuggling and sabotage to keep traditional Star Wars fans happy, but also a thoughtful side to the book as Ahsoka makes new friends and allies and decides whether to trust them with her secrets, while struggling to find her new role and identity in a galaxy ruled by the Empire.
This book is also stuffed brim-full of interesting, distinct, dynamic girl characters. Not to say there aren't plenty of male characters too, both good and villainous, but Ahsoka's primary contacts and relationships are with other girls and women of varying ages, and I found that both realistic and refreshing. Also, Ahsoka is either oblivious to or uninterested in any kind of romantic or sexual relationship -- she's got much bigger concerns on her mind -- so that makes the book an ace-friendly read as well.
The point of all this is that Ahsoka is very good indeed and I think many Star Wars fans will love it. It's worth a read even if you've never met the main character before -- and if you're already an Ahsoka fan, even more so.
I just used up all my brainpower writing my review for AHSOKA, and besides that a book that's already the #1 NYT teen bestseller doesn't really need mI just used up all my brainpower writing my review for AHSOKA, and besides that a book that's already the #1 NYT teen bestseller doesn't really need my promotion. So I'll just say that this was a very satisfying (if sometimes painful) resolution to the duology, and I look forward to reading more books in Bardugo's world in future....more
How on earth did I get so invested in a series about ghosts?! I dislike ghost stories, generally speaking. Yet I loved the Real Ghostbusters cartoon aHow on earth did I get so invested in a series about ghosts?! I dislike ghost stories, generally speaking. Yet I loved the Real Ghostbusters cartoon as a kid, and this is like the Super-British Version with a bonus of super-understated and repressed teen romance, so all right then.
In fact a bit more than all right, because this is the fourth book in the series and I'm still eagerly reading...
Anyway, THIS BOOK WAS EVERYTHING I WANTED. Well, not literally everything because there are still more adventures to come and I am super excited about that, but everything I could have wanted from the series at this particular point.
I don't even know how to talk about it without a) screaming and b) all the spoilers, but this book is a game-changer in basically every sense of the word, and I couldn't be more happy about it.
I love slow-burn stories, both in terms of carefully developed relationships and in terms of the unfolding of a complex and multilayered plot, and Jonathan Stroud is nailing both aspects for me. So I am in emotional torment AND massive suspense, please continue, this is fine.
(This is the worst review ever. But those of you who've read the book will understand.)...more
[Review originally posted on LiveJournal, 2007/08/09]
I loved this book SO MUCH I can hardly find words to tell you.
An 11-year-old girl named Gratuity[Review originally posted on LiveJournal, 2007/08/09]
I loved this book SO MUCH I can hardly find words to tell you.
An 11-year-old girl named Gratuity, her cat Pig, and an utterly adorable alien who answers to "J.Lo" end up taking a road trip across the southern USA in a souped-up hovercar to find Gratuity's missing mother and incidentally maybe save the world -- this is a book full of quirky delights and unexpected depths, not to mention some pretty incisive social commentary (albeit deftly handled and never preachy). The cast is diverse without falling into stereotypes, and the writing is smart, funny and in places unexpectedly beautiful.
The moment I was done I wanted to read the book again -- preferably out loud to my middle son so I could watch him enjoy it as much as I did. Since it was first released in 2007, it's available in paperback and at 425 pages, it's a nice meaty read without ever feeling padded or stretched thin. Plus it comes with delightful illustrations (including many in comic book form) by the author, who is clearly one of these people with more talent than anyone has a right to.
[P.S. Since this is an old review it deserves an update: I read the book to my middle son and he loved it. Then I read it again a couple years later to my youngest son and he loved it as well. We went to see the movie ("Home") when it came out and all agreed that it was cute but nothing like the book, and that it really just made us want to read the book over again.]...more