July 21st, 2016

The Glittering Court

by Richelle Mead

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From the publisher:

A dazzling, romantic new fantasy series set in a mix of Elizabethan and frontier worlds from Richelle Mead, #1 internationally bestselling author of Vampire Academy.

Big and sweeping, spanning the refined palaces of Osfrid to the gold dust and untamed forests of Adoria, The Glittering Courttells the story of Adelaide, an Osfridian countess who poses as her servant to escape an arranged marriage and start a new life in Adoria, the New World. But to do that, she must join the Glittering Court.

Both a school and a business venture, the Glittering Court is designed to transform impoverished girls into upper-class ladies capable of arranging powerful and wealthy marriages in the New World. Adelaide naturally excels in her training and even makes a few friends: the fiery former laundress Tamsin and the beautiful Sirminican refugee Mira. She manages to keep her true identity hidden from all but one: the intriguing Cedric Thorn, son of the wealthy proprietor of the Glittering Court.

When Adelaide discovers that Cedric is hiding a dangerous secret of his own, together, they hatch a scheme to make the best of Adelaide’s deception. Complications soon arise—first, as they cross the treacherous seas from Osfrid to Adoria, and later, when Adelaide catches the attention of a powerful governor.

But no complication will prove quite as daunting as the potent attraction simmering between Adelaide and Cedric. An attraction that, if acted on, would scandalize the Glittering Court and make them both outcasts in wild, vastly uncharted lands. . . .

Unwilling to marry an itchy cousin to save her family from mounting debt, the young Countess of Rothford decides to run away and join the Glittering Court. This ladies’ finishing school is designed to pass off common girls as ‘New Nobility’, in order to sell them  as wives to men in the New World. Now, from  a purely objective standpoint, the rationale behind Adelaide’s decision is perfectly sapient. Embracing one’s deep-seated sense of adventure by abdicating one arranged marriage to barrel into another, all the while flying the proverbial familial coop and abandoning exactly one (1) bereft grandma, is what we all would do in such a situation, I’m sure. And you haven’t even heard the best part! In her reckless abandon of cousin Lionel, Adelaide surrenders all pretenses of modern decorum and trades a tactfully (although questionably) arranged marriage for something much baser: glorified human trafficking.

Which brings me to my next point: the world inaugurated by Mead in this startling series debut spins on an axis of misogyny and prejudice. Not only is the society portrayed in The Glittering Court imbued with sexism and other such crimes against humanity, but its plot is built on these elements, and could not exist without them. Mead has spun a tale so deeply entrenched in the degradation of women that her protagonist would fail to have a story in its absence. Unfortunately, this is not a matter of dowries or gold diggers or even star-crossed love between castes; this is about an organized, lawful business whose primary mission is the sale of women.

Adelaide, naturally, is rescued from this harrowing enmity only by true love’s kiss. Oblivious to the inequity surrounding her, she chooses instead to invest the entirety of her energy and attention into the spray tan love for which YA is so notorious. And thank God for that, because what ever would she do without a big, strong man to save her? (Never mind a tall, dark, and handsome one!) By accepting the incredible misogyny widespread throughout her culture without so much as lifting a finger– or raising a voice, or shaping a thought– against it, it seems obvious to me that Adelaide condones it. It is my pressing belief that this is a you’re-either-for-us-or-against-us situation. And it seems that our darling Adelaide, dear readers, too preoccupied with the sweep of her hair and the hue of her gowns, is against us.

I’m not wholly sure of the terminology, but I’ve heard The Glittering Court addressed as a half-fantasy; part Victorian England, part Belle Époque France, and part colonial America, with none of the magic to see it all through. Mead showers her plot in various elements and values stemming from each of these eras with no apparent common thread to tie them together, and nothing of value to add to them. Needless to say, the world building fails. The geography is preliminary at best, the social hierarchy is grandly detailed and yet still ostensibly boring, and the theocracy borders perfunctory. If you’re going to blame a dystopia on a constitutional lack of laïcité, please feel free to give the religion in question some substance.

Additionally, Mead tempts us to read on by dangling promises of deep, dark secrets to come from each of her secondary characters like apples in front of a horse. For instance, no one knows what Tamsin has at stake, Mira is withholding the basis for her nightly jaunts, and Cedric is harboring a secret that may very well cost him his head. In the end, we never do discover the nature of Tamsin’s collateral; Mira’s enigma is easy enough to piece together, if seemingly extraneous; and Cedric’s big secret is honestly just trite. There’s no way around it– I couldn’t imagine a bigger anticlimax in that regard if tried.

I’m told that the reason we learn so little about Tamsin and Mira in this installment is that The Glittering Court is slated as a companion series; these ladies will feature as protagonists in their own novels. I couldn’t tell you for sure, though. I certainly don’t plan on reading them.

I will say this: The Glittering Court is a fast-paced read and a lovely romance. Although these features in no way compensate for its faults, they did provide me with much needed satisfaction and regalement.

Recommended for all those unwilling to rage against the machine. 1.4/5 stars.

 

I’ll keep you posted,

July 16th, 2016

The Heiresses

by Sara Shepard

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From the publisher:

You know the Saybrooks. Everyone does. Perhaps you’ve read a profile of them in People or have seen their pictures in the society pages of Vogue. Perhaps while walking along that choice block on Fifth Avenue, you’ve been tempted to enter the ornate limestone building with their family name etched into the pediment above the door.

The only thing more flawless than a Saybrook’s diamond solitaire is the family behind the jewelry empire. Beauties, entrepreneurs, debutantes, and style mavens, they are the epitome of New York City’s high society. But being a Saybrook comes at a price—they are heirs not only to a dizzying fortune but also to a decades-old family curse.

Tragedy strikes the prominent family yet again when thirty-four-year-old Poppy, the most exquisite Saybrook of them all, flings herself from the window of her TriBeCa office. Everyone is shocked that a woman who had it all would end her own life. Then her cousins receive an ominous threat: one heiress down, four to go.

Was it suicide… or murder? In the aftermath of the tragedy, the remaining heiresses—Corinne, the perfectionist; Rowan, the workaholic; Aster, the hedonist; and Natasha, the enigma—wrestle with feelings of sadness, guilt, and, most of all, fear. Now they must uncover the truth about their family before they lose the only thing money can’t buy: their lives.

The Heiresses is a whip-smart mystery that simmers with the wicked sense of humor and intrigue that made Sara Shepard’s number one New York Times bestselling Pretty Little Liars series a must-read, must-watch phenomenon.

Where life’s luxuries are concerned, the Saybrooks have got it covered. Fathomless wealth, widespread fame, upper crust privilege, and the freedom to sleep with whomever they please despite ongoing relationships and claimed monogamy—a freedom they exercise quite regularly, believe me—are but a few of the extravagances available to those of their standing. Nevertheless, no family exists without any skeletons in their respective closets, and the Saybrooks’ misfortunes are necessarily proportional to their stratospheric rank. Suicide, murder, and other such tragically fatal accidents are but the tip of the iceberg where their increasingly vast familial strife is concerned. In this series debut, Sara Shepard describes life as seen by the Saybrook heiresses, that is to say the discord involved in family business at the highest tier, the multitude of trials faced by America’s contemporary nobility, and the vexatious penchant of the truth to out in the end.

My most lasting impression of The Heiresses is the resemblance it bears to another tale of an affluent blonde dynasty: that of E. Lockheart’s We Were Liars. Indeed, both the Saybrooks and the Sinclairs exist as royalty in their own respective kingdoms, deal in dirty secrets and trade infinite sums of money for the maintenance of flawless airs, and receive their due comeuppance in good time. After all, this world is about give and take— you can’t have everything without the consequent collateral damage. Regardless of all of the riches and connections in the world, justice must be served. Yes, perhaps the only true discrepancy between Lockheart’s and Shepard’s pair of blue blooded clans lies in the age of the culpable band of cousins; the Saybrooks are roughly a decade or so older than their Sinclair counterparts at the time the action takes place, if not a decade wiser.

Now, then, may be my cue to confess that I’ve always held a certain partiality towards family epics. There’s something about the politics, the entanglements, the repercussions of the genre that I can’t help but adore. To me family productions are almost akin to those delectable dramas set in small towns— except they’re improved for all of their added closeness.

As for the writing, The Heiresses is more in the vein of the beach read than the classic murder mystery. It doesn’t weigh you down like standard crime fiction, coming across not as thrilling and sinister, but rather as light and fluffy with a dash of homicidal intrigue. Accordingly, when the irresistible call of moonlight reading keeps you up until the dawn, it will just as likely be due to your yearning to follow the heiresses’ romantic attachments than their excavation of psycho killer clues.

I will even go so far as to say that that The Heiresses is rather poorly written. The characters frequently come across as wooden and unfeeling; the cousins’ actions blatantly contradict their avowed love for one another; the plot runs rampant with deus ex machinas and twists that ostensibly emerge out of nowhere. I have to say that I expected more from the so widely extoled Sara Shepard; but then again, at least through this novel she has taught us that far-flung fame is sometimes only a veneer.

The Heiresses is the novel for you if you are in emergent want of mental suspension, if you have time to burn, or if you’re actively looking to one-up your collection of dog-eared gossip magazines. 2.7/5 stars.

 

I’ll keep you posted,

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From the publisher:

In a futuristic world nearly destroyed by religious extremists, Justin March lives in exile after failing in his job as an investigator of religious groups and supernatural claims. But Justin is given a second chance when Mae Koskinen comes to bring him back to the Republic of United North America (RUNA). Raised in an aristocratic caste, Mae is now a member of the military’s most elite and terrifying tier, a soldier with enhanced reflexes and skills.

When Justin and Mae are assigned to work together to solve a string of ritualistic murders, they soon realize that their discoveries have exposed them to terrible danger. As their investigation races forward, unknown enemies and powers greater than they can imagine are gathering in the shadows, ready to reclaim the world in which humans are merely game pieces on their board.

Gameboard of the Gods, the first installment of Richelle Mead’s Age of X series, will have all the elements that have made her YA Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series such megasuccesses: sexy, irresistible characters; romantic and mythological intrigue; and relentless action and suspense.

 

I siphoned this hardcover out of the Bargain Books shelf of my local bookstore under the false impression that it constituted yet another classic YA novel, courtesy of Richelle Mead: witty, kickass, and unputdownable. Ultimately it delivered on each of those promises, save for the young adult factor. For this reason, I debated reviewing Gameboard of the Gods; my website is named What YA Reading, after all. Finally I determined that, as I am now a legal adult in the province of my residence, this adult book was worth mentioning. Furthermore, as I plan to remain a lawful adult for the near future, at least, this may not be the last “older” novel you see on this blog. You’ve been warned.

As far as adult novels go, Gameboard of the Gods was a pretty prodigious prototype to start off with. The characters, for example, were well fleshed out and charming in each of their own particular ways. Mae, the female lead, was altogether kickass and chiefly likeable, despite sometimes coming across as callous and aloof. We can, of course, consistently rely on Richelle Mead to write us strong (if shrewd) heroines. Nevertheless, Mae failed to hold a candle to Justin in terms of development. Nostalgic, torn, and clever, for me Justin is the only character who truly came alive off the page. Tessa especially seemed predominantly robotic to me, a cardboard cutout of a wide-eyed refugee, with no true personality to call her own.

The romance between Mae and Justin was a concrete reminder that Richelle Mead is a YA writer at heart. Although there was no widely scorned love triangle– and thank the gods for that– the romantic framework between them was too classically unexceptional, too over the top to be true. Unfortunately, this cheapened the novel as a whole for me.

I must mention that the world building here is largely absent. That is to say that from page one, we readers are deposited into the depths of the RUNA’s utopian society without explanation or excuse. Culturally relevant vocabulary is lobbed as us– servitor, praetorian, Caine, Mephistopheles–  so that we are left guessing until we are able to piece tidings together and fathom their definitions for ourselves. It is not until halfway through the novel that we get any kind of real background. That being said, I honestly did not mind this at all. To the contrary, I quite enjoyed it; it was refreshing to not have your facts handed to you on a silver spoon for once– to be launched into the midst of the action without flowery descriptions or bombastic annals to weigh you down. But that’s me: I like being thrown into the thick of things and figuring them out as I go along. Thus I would only recommend Gameboard of the Gods to you if you’re able to cope with a sink or swim type ballgame. For your sake, I hope you float.

Recommended for fans of female gunslingers, stock romances,  and urban mythology. This is not a life-changing book that you will remember until your eternal repose; it is but a middling action/adventure. But it is still probably worth your time. 3.2/5 stars.

 

I’ll keep you posted,

July 8th, 2016

Lady Midnight

by Cassandra Clare

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From the publisher:

In a kingdom by the sea…

In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight demons, parabatai is a sacred word.

parabatai is your partner in battle. A parabatai is your best friend. Parabatai can be everything to each other—but they can never fall in love.

Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter, and the best in her generation. She lives for battle. Shoulder to shoulder with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of Los Angeles, where vampires party on the Sunset Strip, and faeries—the most powerful of supernatural creatures—teeter on the edge of open war with Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were when she was a child, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge—and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark, and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks…and before the murderer targets them.

Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. And each clue she unravels uncovers more secrets. What has Julian been hiding from her all these years? Why does Shadowhunter Law forbid parabatai to fall in love? Who really killed her parents—and can she bear to know the truth?

The darkly magical world of Shadowhunters has captured the imaginations of millions of readers across the globe. Join the adventure in Lady Midnight, the long-awaited first volume of a new trilogy from Cassandra Clare.

 

She’s back: architect of cult classic City of Bones, mastermind behind period fantasy The Infernal Devices, begetter of thousands of fangirls across the continent. Cassandra Clare, ladies and gentlemen. The New York Times bestseller, the ingenious redhead, the one and only.

She’s back, and she’s brought with her her customary assortment of lineaments and hallmarks: the alluring forbidden romance; the intoxicating Shadow World; the avenging and implacable soldier; the brooding, sensitive artist. These habitual Clarean elements may seem timeworn and hackneyed in their retrograde, but fear not, dear readers! Clare manages to lovingly shine out their tarnish and put them to good use once again. These traditional cornerstones of her novels return to the battlefield in Lady Midnight like seasoned veterans to the enduring war, choosing to be refined instead of antiquated, timeless instead of past their prime.

Yes, you might say that Cassie Clare is the Sisyphus of modern YA: doomed to write the same story over and over again, only to watch it bowl down the mountainside every single time. At this point, I can safely assume that you’ve picked up The Mortal Instruments (if you stopped reading after the original trilogy, as did I, so much the better) as well as The Infernal Devices. If you’re still here, it’s because you know that sometimes you can’t avert your eyes from the crash.

Why? Two words: entertainment value. It’s predictable, fabricated, and at times written objectionably and ostentatiously. It’s teeming with selfless young love and soulful descriptions of blue-green eyes. Every other chapter could have been titled “Teamwork Will Ultimately Defeat Evil, with a Side of Gothic Intrigue.” But there’s something about it– adventure; mystery;  maybe even an element of nostalgia for earlier days, when life was simpler and Shadowhunters less commonplace — that keeps you coming back for more. And at approximately 698 pages, at least with this kind of whopper you know you’re getting your money’s worth.

In my opinion, the book’s biggest selling point were the cameos played by Clare’s previous characters. As of yet, I’m not invested enough in Lady Midnight‘s protagonists to have read this novel solely for their sake. All in all, Emma was great, Julian was expected, Christina was winsome, and Mark was a pleasant surprise. Once again, my applause goes to the author for opening the door to characters of various sexualities. On the other hand, the Blackthorn siblings were a disappointment: leave it to Clare to write an army of identical, perfect children, given the chance. After the first few hundred pages, they all melded together sufficiently enough in my mind that had they not possessed such totally unique names, they would have amalgamated into one very large impeccably-behaved toddler. Adorable, but proof that Clare has not spent enough time with real children to obey that ancient law, Write what you know.

Would I recommend this to you had you not previously devoted yourself to Clare’s antecedent series? Absolutely not. Will I be reading the sequel? In its entirety. 3/5 stars.

 

I’ll keep you posted,

July 4th, 2016

Summer Reads

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Dear readers,

The thing about freshman year at university, to put it simply, is that everything is new. New people, new standards, new adventures, new lifestyle. New hobbies and expectations that absorb hour after hour of your time, until before you know it your blog is on an unannounced hiatus without your permission or consent. Yes: the truth is, the novel is sometimes so engrossing, so overwhelming, so monopolizing of this world’s only true currency– time– that everything truly important pales and slips away. In my case, what evaporated amidst the heady air of friends and studies were novels themselves.

I am writing to you because that poppycock ends today. As of this moment, I am committing to make time for all of the things that matter most in this world. After all, I am still the girl who fell in love with books at age thirteen and never looked back.

The issue with novels is that they’re not gratuities; they’re investments. One expends valuable time and ample money on a perennial literary habit, with no guarantee of continuous customer satisfaction. True good reads are rarities; the mundane pervades, and reading time wasted on second-rate writing is time never regained, albeit an occupational hazard.

Despite this interminable gamble, I find it unimaginable that a bookworm, once a bookworm, could ever be anything else. The effect created by a good book is simply too potent: it isn’t encountered often, but it is always unforgettable. As all readers know, a good book is not only a story but an escape. It isn’t everyday one is transported to another world merely by reading letters on a page.

You may know that, as an undergraduate student, I concluded my first year’s final exams in late April. Unfortunately, this means that July heralds the halfway mark of my summer vacation. That being said, I plan to devote the next two months– in my time off the clock from my summer job, of course– to reading as many books as physically possible. From here on out, I also plan to give you my two cents on every last one of them. Hopefully, I can contribute to ensuring that you experience only the best reads.

 

I’ll keep you posted,

August 29th, 2015

Go Set a Watchman

by Harper Lee

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From the publisher:

Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch– “Scout”– returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns the disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town, and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition of the illusions of the past– a journey that can only be guided by one’s own conscience.

Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humour, and effortless precision– a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context, and new meaning to an American classic.

 

This review contains spoilers regarding Go Set a Watchman‘s plot.

HarperCollins attests that Go Set a Watchman “not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context, and new meaning to an American classic.” This, at least the latter part, may be more true than the publishing house had ever intended: Go Set a Watchman does in fact lend new meaning to Lee’s first novel, but perhaps in a different way than what anyone had ever hoped.

It is evident that Go Set a Watchman was never meant to be published, at least not as a companion to To Kill a Mockingbird: there are several instances of overlapping text, in the first few chapters especially; Go Set a Watchman is written in third person omniscient, whereas To Kill a Mockingbird is written in first; considerable discrepancies between the books’ plots will leave readers disoriented and dejected. This makes sense, if we believe that Go Set a Watchman was actually a first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, and according to Lee’s first publisher, not a very good one.

As a novel, there is no question that it fails. Its characters are difficult to grasp; its setting and society both flat; its plot tenuous and uncompelling, a sluggish series of events propelled forward only by the context that is the sole reason for its publication. For without To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman would be of no consequence to us– it would be nothing. And it is for precisely this fierce, unflappable love for what used to be Harper Lee’s one and only American classic that we are forced to read on, resolute and flinching.

The truth is that we will never know what Lee intended for Scout Finch and her family: Go Set a Watchman is but a rough daft of their future, hopefully one Lee discarded after having written To Kill a Mockingbird and fully developed the cast of characters it brought to life. As I said, it is clear that the novel was never intended to be published– from this we may glean what we will: idealistically, that it reveals philosophies and peripeteia that she later abandoned herself, and that we were never meant to know.

Be that as it may, as I see it, Go Set a Watchman in no way tarnishes the fundamental characteristics that allowed To Kill a Mockingbird to break through to the heart of America, and there to build itself a home. The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was, is, and shall forever remain the richly-worded rebel that so boldly challenged  prejudice and ignorance through one young girl’s voice. To Kill a Mockingbird, easily securing the love of readers of all ages, is what it always was: an outcry against the destruction of innocence, in whatever form it may come, so loud that it is still heard today.

This, this denouncement precisely, is what makes Go Set a Watchman so difficult to comprehend. For around what does its plot revolve, if not the ultimate destruction of Jean Louise Finch’s innocence? For those who thought To Kill a Mockingbird was Scout’s paramount coming of age story, prepare to be jolted. Go Set a Watchman invites readers into the bleak angst-ridden years of Jean Louise’s adolescence, to her cynical but free life in New York, to her stifling return home: “Hell was and would always be as far as she was concerned, a lake of fire exactly the size of Maycomb, Alabama.” (Lee, p.61) Harper Lee now teaches us that the destruction of innocence, although never pretty, is sometimes a necessary evil. Necessary so that the last fragment of the child that was Scout Finch may finally die, and a young woman take her place.

Unfortunately, in order for this to occur, America’s immortalized incarnation of upstanding morals, manners, and Samaritanism, Atticus Finch, so too had to shatter. And so it goes– he who “is a gentleman, in his heart he is a gentleman” (Lee, p. 113)  imploded in on himself, becoming the very antithesis of what we always believed he stood for: a segregationist, a pessimist, and a coward. As Atticus once reminded us, there should be “Equal rights for all, special privileges for none”– but it appears, as would announce George Orwell, probably with some degree of humour, that some of us were created more equal than others. Was Atticus merely acting the way he was for Scout’s benefit– putting on a show in order to lead to her maturity? Or did his actions in Go Set a Watchman ring true? Even if his intentions were based solely on his daughter’s wellbeing, does that even matter? Whatever his motive was, the outcome was the same. Whatever his motive was, we’ll never really know.

Personally, what I had the most trouble understanding was Go Set a Watchman‘s ending. It always seemed to me that Jean Louise’s censuring of her father’s actions and assertions was all well and good, but empty next to her claim that “Uncle Jack, I don’t especially want to run out and marry a Negro or something.” (Lee, p. 270) I firmly believed that this statement fundamentally detracted from Jean Louise’s credibility as an unprejudiced woman and as a desegregationist, that it undermined her argument that the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the Brown v. Board of Education case, although controversial, was inherently right. I discussed this issue at length with a friend, who fortunately provided more insight on the matter. She reminded me of something Scout had thought way back in Go Set a Watchman‘s first chapter: “Love who you will but marry your own kind was dictum amounting to instinct within her.” (Lee, p. 9) Regardless of constitutional equality, cultural differences in 1950s Alabama, as well as Jean Louise’s own mindset, ensured that any African American man would not be of her own kind.

I’m not going to provide a rating for this book. Instead I can only say, don’t read it. If you have any love for To Kill a Mockingbird at all, it’s simply not worth the betrayal. I stand by my belief that Go Set a Watchman should never have been published, and can only express profound reproach towards Lee’s attorney. This is my advice: Hold fast to everything To Kill a Mockingbird has ever signified, everything for which Scout Finch and her family have ever stood, and don’t let go. Choose to remember  ”A memory of the three of them, Atticus, Jem, and her, when things were uncomplicated and people did not lie.” (Lee, p. 241)

 

Comments are welcome.

 

I’ll keep you posted,

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2 girls + 3 guys + 1 house – parents = 10 things April and her friends did that they (definitely, maybe, probably) shouldn’t have.

If given the opportunity, what sixteen-year-old wouldn’t jump at the chance to move in with a friend and live parent-free? Although maybe “opportunity” isn’t the right word, since April had to tell her dad a tiny little untruth to make it happen (see #1: “Lied to Our Parents”). But she and her housemate Vi are totally responsible and able to take care of themselves. How they ended up “Skipping School” (#3), “Throwing a Crazy Party” (#8), “Buying a Hot Tub” (#4), and, um, “Harboring a Fugitive” (#7) at all is kind of a mystery to them.

In this hilarious and bittersweet tale, Sarah Mlynowski mines the heart and mind of a girl on her own for the first time. To get through the year, April will have to juggle a love triangle, learn to do her own laundry, and accept that her carefully constructed world just might be falling apart . . . one thing-she-shouldn’t-have-done at a time.

 

I have recently discovered the ebullient brilliance of euphemisms. For example:

Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn’t Have) was not the best novel I’ve read.

For instance, it was not a coming-of-age story of a young woman facing life’s many challenges head on.

It won’t be winning any national merit awards any time soon, nor will it emerge as a classic to which to refer for years to come.

Regardless, I didn’t dislike Ten Things. Now and then everyone needs a break from required reading and a journey into the mindless world of entertainment fiction.

So it was written on the more fictitious side of contemporary fiction– I say this only because I am completely incognizant of parents who would let a sixteen-year-old move in permanently with friends, but correct me if I’m wrong– so what? It was fun. It was fluffy. It was exactly what I needed on a 9 hour road trip involving more drive-throughs than can be counted on both hands.

Many people are upset about this novel’s message about sex. Let me assure you: Ten Things is not anti-sex. Its ending was not archaic, unprogressive, or pro-abstinence. Its ending was just that– an ending. A twist. A dramatic turn of events not meant to be taken exorbitantly seriously. So I suggest we all take a step back, stop interpreting it as divine retribution, and take a moment to appreciate Mlynowski’s altogether modern point of view.

Mlynowski’s characters are realistic, although mediocre. Every reader’s inner wild child is secretly delighted by April’s reckless and rebellious tomfoolery, and many situations she encounters solicit at least muffled chuckling, if not uproarious laughter. She is not the most likeable character, or the most enlightened, but she gets the job done.

That being said, as mentioned previously, the novel’s plot borders the realm of fantasy. In no way could it ever occur in reality, and in no way is it representative of typical adolescent life. Do not expect to be able to relate to the majority of the challenges April faces, and do not expect to be astounded by Mlynowski’s interpretation of what it means to be a teenager. 10 Things revolves around actions without consequences and very little regret. Accordingly, character development is in short supply.

All things considered, there is one thing I did (and probably shouldn’t have) : read this book. Oh, well. Time one enjoys wasting is not wasted, n’est-ce pas? Recommended for all those seeking academic ataraxia, compelling chapter titles, and a disillusioned reality. 2.3/5 stars.

 

I’ll keep you posted,

 

November 24th, 2014

We Were Liars

by E. Lockhart

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[Twitter]

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

 

The Sinclairs have it all: old money, social standing, and a kingdom of dimpled children whose blond heads have never known the sufferings of the real world. But with great financial power come great responsibility, and this family’s epic would not be complete without tight-lipped family politics, carefully kept secrets, and scandal upon scandal covered up with untruth upon untruth.

I admire the audacity obvious in Lockhart’s portrayal of her characters. As she told me previously (my interview with her and Sarah Mlynowski is to come), she chose to write them riddled with as many flaws as any real human being, and there’s something courageous in that. It takes guts—especially in a teenage novel—to write such an imperfect love interest, such an unlikable romantic lead, and yet still manage to convey the absolute strength of first love.

The realism with which E. Lockhart painted her characters and the relationships between them was paralleled only by the distortion wrought by their lies.  As you may have guessed, the novel’s title was aptly chosen. That being said, I found the narrator’s unreliability deliciously appealing. The uncertainty associated with not knowing whether or not I was being lied to by a novel’s main character—the only character a reader can trust in the blind faith of first person narration—was unfamiliarly rocky ground for me, and I loved it. If E. Lockhart’s goal was to shake things up in the world of YA literature, she succeeded in more ways than one.

I was of course, as simultaneously curious and horrified to uncover the summer’s truth as our protagonist. And now– I know what she did last summer, and I am aghast. I think I may have cried. The novel’s twists and turns, especially towards the end, have not yet ceased to unnerve me. They were beautifully written, wonderfully executed, and staggeringly dark.

All in all: 4.7/5 stars. This book had me hooked from cover to cover, and I adored it. Do not be fooled by its summer setting– it is many things, but a beach read is not one of them. It will far exceed your expectations.

 

But then again, I could be lying.

 

I’ll keep you posted,

A few things you should know about life in Canada’s capital:

1- The rumours are true. It is freezing. I am currently curled up in a very large, very down blanket extolling the fact that it snowed today.

2- As you may have guessed, it isn’t exactly the country’s literary metropolis. (I’m not entirely sure what the country’s literary metropolis is, but Ottawa is very far from it indeed.)

3- That being said, every fall Ottawa’s Public Library organizes an annual Teen Author Fest. In other words: it makes all my of dreams come true.

This year’s affair features the likes of grand YA figures such as Laurie Halse Anderson (author of Speak as well as The Impossible Knife of Memory), Sarah Mlynowski (author of Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn’t Have)) and E. Lockhart (author of When We Were Liars).

In my barely contained excitement regarding this month’s upcoming events, it struck me that I forgot to post the photos of last year’s confabulation with the one and only Lemony Snicket, author of A Series of Unfortunate Events.

So without further ado, here they are:

 

Photo #1

(In which we chat about his books, how much I loved them as a kid, and also about how I am the only person in attendance aged over 12)

 

Photo #2

(In which Lemony Snicket is as eccentric as his author bios claim him to be, and I smile and nod like that’s completely normal)

 

Photo #3

(In which Lemony Snicket makes obnoxious jokes and I laugh anyway because, obnoxious or not, he’s actually really funny)

 

So there you have it. More photos are to come! Stay tuned.

 

I’ll keep you posted,

Ana's Rating


Readers Rating

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[Twitter]

James Patterson returns to the genre that made him famous with a thrilling teen detective series about the mysterious and magnificently wealthy Angel family… and the dark secrets they’re keeping from one another.

On the night Malcolm and Maud Angel are murdered, Tandy Angel knows just three things: She was the last person to see her parents alive. The police have no suspects besides Tandy and her three siblings. She can’t trust anyone -— maybe not even herself.

Having grown up under Malcolm and Maud’s intense perfectionist demands, no child comes away undamaged. Tandy decides that she will have to clear the family name, but digging deeper into her powerful parents’ affairs is a dangerous — and revealing — game. Who knows what the Angels are truly capable of?

 

First confession: I had never read James Patterson before this past weekend. And as far as first tastes of any author go, Confessions of a Murder Suspect wasn’t half bad. It’s obvious why James Patterson is so well known within the genre of murder mystery: to put things simply, he’s good at it.

Second confession: he’s good at it, but not unimpeachable. Patterson lacked a few key elements necessary to transform this novel into something memorable– namely, a satisfactory ending. Confessions of a Murder Suspect was all build-up, no finale.  Needless to say the anticlimax did not suit my tastes.

Neither, for that matter, did the style in which it was written. Confessions of a Murder Suspect as a whole is addressed to the reader, and in fact its narrator, Tandy Angel, addresses the reader directly on multiple occasions. Although I understand why Patterson attempts to write in this fashion– the title is, after all, Confessions of a Murder Suspect– I second the opinion of many when I assert that the overall result was indubitably fake and over-the-top.

That being said, over-the-top is the Angel family’s specialty. Each of its members is an unparalleled athlete, a prodigy, or a genius. Each of its members has skeletons buried deep inside their closets and secrets they themselves have yet to acknowledge. And each of its (remaining) members could indeed be guilty of the murder of Maud and Malcolm Angel: the two parents who started it all.

Tandy Angel has tasked herself with identifying the murderer, even if it turns out to be one of her siblings, and even if it turns out to be herself.

Third confession: I read Confessions of a Murder Suspect within a day. I couldn’t help myself; for the life of me, I couldn’t drag myself away. I had to keep turning pages. This novel is many things, but slow-paced is not one of them. It may be less than realistic, but it is highly addictive.

I keep wishing that Patterson had chosen to write this book as a standalone, as opposed to the beginning of a series. The concept was decent and the mystery was intriguing, but frankly I doubt that I’ll bother the pick up the sequel. For that reason, it would have been nice to have  some of its loose ends tied up.

Final confession: 2.9/5 stars. Recommended to those who enjoy fast-paced cop shows, vapid entertainment, and dysfunctional family scandals.

 

I’ll keep you posted,

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