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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Book Review: Shiver By Maggie Stiefvater

By Maggie Stiefvater
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Series: Wolves of Mercy Falls #1
Release date: August 1st, 2009
Rating: Sam is a beautiful cinnamon roll.

Shiver is a werewolf story. Grace Brisbane has always watched the wolves near her home in Mercy Falls, Minnesotta after a surviving childhood attack.  But things are about to change when the wolf who saved her turn into a boy.

Maggie Stiefvater’s writing is incredibly lyrical.  There are parts that could almost be a song or poetry. I thought that the touch with temperature at the beginning of each chapter.  It was a small touch that made the pace of the book that much more urgent.

I love Sam.  He is so earnest and pure.  Tragic male character are never wasted on me.  I am so easy. I like how Stiefvater used physical transformation as a metaphor for identity.  The more Sam changes into a werewolf the less sure of who he was he becomes.

I always have a little difficulty with Stiefvater’s heroine’s.  Grace seems cold and there is  a part of me that held back.  “I don’t think that we would be friends…” I read somewhere recently (was it twitter?) that it doesn’t matter if you don’t like a character.  The point is to understand them.  I think that that is why I still love this (and all her other books) even when I don’t like the heroines.  Through her writing you understand them.  I know how Grace thinks and why she acts the way that she does.  Grace is terrifyingly practical and very spare with her emotions. She has an inner stillness. Or maybe it seems that she is going at a different speed then the other characters.  Is that a form of control?  Grace comes across as very controlled and her thoughts and action read as overly controlled.  This all makes complete sense with the way that she was raised.

Grace’s parents are terrible.  Not a little terrible but all the way terrible.  How do they still have custody of her?  It isn’t benign neglect. This seems to part of a larger trend in YA.  Actually not really a trend because as long as there have been books written about non-adults there has been the “absent parent trope”. In a way this book lampshades that trope by making it clear how painful and damaging long term neglect can be. I still wanted to call Child Protective Services for her.

How to describe the relationship between Sam and Grace?  In some ways it was incredible instalovey.  They lock eyes when they are much younger and that is it.  If that is something that enrages you then this might not be the book for you.  I usually don’t enjoy that trope but was able to overlook it here.  On the other hand it was also very will they/won’t they.  I knew that they were going to get together but it seemed as if it took ages for it to happen.  Not in a bad way but in a holding your breath waiting for it to happen way.

Maggie Stiefvater is one of my favorite authors.  Shiver isn’t my favorite of her books but only because her Raven Boys Series (my review of The Dream Thieves) is so good that it defies reality so don’t let that stop you from reading this.

From Goodreads:

Monday, January 2, 2017

Book Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Goodreads Amazon
Series: Vicious #1 
Release date: September 24, 2013
Rating: Who's bad?

Vicious is the story of two men, Victor and Eli, their discovery of and reactions to supernatural powers, and what happens after.  Let’s get this out of the way: Victor Vale is scary. Really scary.  There is a part where another character is thinking about being on Victor’s side only because the alternative would be to be in his way and that would have been too scary to contemplate.  I think that that sums up Victor’s character very well. I would be on his side for the same reason. I would also be on his side because Eli is a nutbag who needs to be stopped at all costs. 

In many ways this is the story of the genesis of a supervillain.  What really makes this interesting is that you are never quite sure who the supervillain is.  Is is Victor?  Or Eli?  Both of them do terrible things.  One aspect that I found particularly interesting to read about was their complete lack of surprise about being capable of doing terrible things.  There was no hand wringing.  BAM.  “Why yes, I am just that cold.” 

Eli and Victor are attracted to the inner stillness that they see in one another. The mask that they both wear that no one else is noticing.  I think that in many ways they start out needing one another for ego reasons.  Someone to show off too.  I think that it is a bit like Paris and Rory in Gilmore Girls when Paris says, “She’s the only one who has ever challenged me. She’s my pace car. She’s my Bjorn Borg. Without her, I’ll get lazy. I’ll fall apart. I’ll have frosted hair and dragon-lady nails and I’ll achieve nothing! I’ll become my mother!” Yup. Totally, Victor and Eli.

I also really enjoyed the supporting characters.  Serena basically had being a manipulative collage girl as a superpower.  It was both creepy and fascinating.  It reminded me of Kilgrave in Jessica Jones except with female sexualization (that is so a word) undertones. I was more scared of her than of any other character because she has the ability to turn you against yourself.   I enjoyed Sydney, Serena’s twelve year old sister.  I wish that there had been more Mitch.  But it looks as if there is a sequel coming.  At some point.  And there is already a prequel which I will be all over as soon as I finish writing this.  MOAR NOW. 

This is the first book that I have read by VE/Victoria Schwab. It is marketed as an adult book but you can see the lines blurring here.  There is nothing that makes this particularly adult aside from the fact that the main character is an adult man.  There are some violent and disturbing situations but no more than in A Torch Against the Night

I don’t read books told from the villain’s point of view very often.  Wait.  Not the villain.  I mean, I am totally on Victor’s side which makes him the hero.  I am pretty sure that he wouldn’t kill Sydney or allowed her to be killed.  How about I say, “I don’t read books from the point of view of morally very dark gray characters very often.”? But I definitely liked it. 

If you like anti-heros or villainous main characters I definitely recommend this book to you.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Book Review: These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
Goodreads Amazon
Series: nope
Release date: October 27th 2015
I am so behind!
Rating: Iron Jawed Angel

“Why is it, she wondered now, that boys get to do things and be things and girls only get to watch?”

These Shallow Graves tells the story of Jo Montfort a rich young woman about to graduate from finishing school at the turn of the last century in New York City. Why didn’t I read this book sooner?  I am now kicking myself.  Sometimes, I am so weird about authors that I love.  I hoard their books and them have to gear myself up to read them.  It is as if I am afraid to be disappointed.  The internal hype can really let you down.

I LOVE the turn of the century setting.  It very much felt as if it was taking place in the same New York as Caleb Carr’s The Alienist which for me is a good thing.  I love Jennifer Donnelly writing.  There is such attention to detail.  She seems to be able to make the whole setting sharp and clear in the readers mind.  This is especially wonderful in historical novels.  I have never lived in turn of the century New York and aside from films and books set there I never will be able to see it.  Jennifer Donnelly writes as if she were sitting on a bench in the middle of the city in 1904.  You can see the grungy funk on the street urchins neck or be slightly overwhelmed by the opulence of the uptown mansions. 

Jo was an interesting character for me.  She was contradictory.  She is a budding journalist with some feminist ideas and yet there are many things about her life that she doesn’t question.  There is an arranged marriage in her future and she is just sliding along towards it as if there was no other choice.  “Why of course I should marry the nice, rich young man.  He is perfectly bland so of course that is what makes him awesome.”  Her growth throughout the novel is quite extraordinary.  She started off not really seeing the world that she wanted to report on.  She had some feminist ideas and wanted to shed light on the terrible things going on in the world but was blind to the injustices that surrounded her each day.  Jo learns to see in this novel. One of the best parts of this novel was Jo willingness to listen to those around her and learn.

I really liked Eddie.  He was occasionally a jerk.  However, Jo was so occasionally clueless or sheltered enough that I was okay with it.  He was overly protective of Jo in a way that was consistent with the times but also flexible enough to let her grow. I love the sparks that he and Jo set off of one another every time that they are together.

The examination of class in this novel was very well done.  No one was portrayed as a saint.  It showed that different social classes are free in different ways.  There is a whole discussion about marrying for position and prostitution that I found very interesting.

Plot wise, I found this a little predictable but I am super critical of anything even remotely mysterious if I am not shocked to the depths of my soul by it (no foreshadowing please, I pick up on that shit.) I did want the book to go on another couple of chapters because I want to know exactly how things turn out.

Who here has also read These Shallow Graves?  I have all the feeling and would like to discuss…