I came here to keep in touch with all my friends who left GR after the censorship debacle. I read a little of every genre. I co-blog at Musings of a Bibliomaniac.
So the parent gives and gives and gives to keep the child happy and expects nothing in return, not even a thank you.
That might be true. But I don't see why children need to know that. I mean, I don't want my future kids to read this and conclude that Mommy will happily give away her fruits and leaves and branches and want nothing in return - even if that is true.
And that ending was a missed opportunity. The boy-who-is-now-an-old-man should have done something to rectify his mistakes. How about plant a new tree, huh?
And why is the tree female? Why "she" and not "it"? Why is it always the woman who sacrifices herself for someone else's sake?
I'm so offended >_<
Why did you get over so soon?? Why did you get over at all?? :(
I could have spent many more hours exploring those underground tunnels in the company of those wonderful people, and reveling in the amazing things that some of them - especially marquis de Carabas - had to say.
I could have spent many more days reading and re-reading those delightfully formed sentences, laughing at the intelligent absurdity of it even when not-so-scary villains were doing not-so-pretty things.
I could have spent many more rainy Sundays cooped up in my room and dreaming about rat-speakers and angels, midnight markets and doors, the London Above and the London Below.
But no matter how much I tried to prolong it (and trust me, I did), the inevitable happened.I made it past the last page.
And I miss you. So very much :'(
Why are you a standalone, book? Why don't you have a sequel?
I loved you before I even started - maybe the words 'Neil Gaiman' on your cover had something to do with that?? Three chapters later and I was unimpressed with your protagonist. Richard Mayhew was such a... such a... damsel in distress - except he wasn't a damsel (Come to think of it, what is the opposite of damsel???) Anyway, I mentally pegged you as a 4-star then but somewhere in those dank tunnels, you charmed me, book. You made me fall in love with you. You won me over with your ready wit and imagination and your lovely, lovely sense of humor.
Thank you for coming into my life even if it was for a brief while. Thank you for taking me to that wonderful world. Maybe I'll fall through the cracks and go there someday. Or maybe I'll just revisit it in my dreams - safer that way.
Love you. Miss you.
Your slightly insane reader,
P.s. Please tell Neil Gaiman to never, ever stop writing.
I'd never heard of F. G. Cottam when I stumbled upon this book on NG. My decision to hit request was driven by an intense case of cover-cum-title love, and the fact that this was due for release on my birthday (yes, I can be shallow like that sometimes). But if all his books are this wonderfully creepy, then I sure have a lot of reading to do in the near future.
The Memory of Trees is an immaculately crafted piece of horror driven by the age-old formula of dread. It's the kind of book that makes you intensely uneasy for no clear reason and then takes advantage by amplifying that anxiety with every other chapter, like that feeling you sometimes get of being watched but when you turn there's no one there. The build-up is so intense that even though you have no idea where it's going, you dread reaching there anyway.
Billionaire Saul Abercrombie hires Tom Curtis a.k.a the "Tree Man" to restore his vast sea-side estate to it's ancient verdant glory. But the land harbors dark secrets, hidden in myths and Arthurian legends, and it may be too late before Curtis realizes that some forests aren't supposed to exist.
The best, or in this case, creepiest aspect of the book is the setting. There is something very wrong about Abercrombie's land and Cottam captures that vile atmosphere brilliantly. The ancient desolate church with it's single large montage depicting a legendary hero, the cairn of stones where the wind shrieks and whistles as it passes, the undiscovered cave that folklore claims is the abode of ancient monsters, and most of all, the thorn bush, oh Lord, THAT THORN BUSH - I'm expecting them all to feature in my nightmares.
Cottam's writing is fantastic. It's lush and descriptive with minimum dialogue.
"There was something unlovely about the acreage Abercrombie owned, a baleful quality beyond its vastness. It was a place where things seemed to lurk and hide and to have qualities other than those they ought rightfully to possess."
Just what I was saying earlier but in Cottam's lovely words.
Things don't start happening right away, of course. There are many characters and back-stories to get through in the first few chapters so I can't guarantee you'll be hooked from page 1 even though I was. I never felt bored, I never felt the mood or pace falter. This book definitely has five-star potential and I'm only holding out on the rating because this is my first (and surely not last) Cottam book.
The Memory of Trees is one of the creepiest books I've read in recent times. I'm not a girl who's easy to scare but I would be lying if I said I didn't have goosebumps on my arms at a certain point while reading. I live on the fourth floor and there are many trees around my apartment. No willows or yews, thank God, but there are some palm trees that are waving their feathery fingers at me right now and creeping me out.
Just for tonight, I'll sleep with the window shut tight and the curtains drawn.
*With thanks to Netgalley for the free digital copy*
Made it to 48%, which is crazy, because I feel like I've been reading this for ages :/
The Troop is not a bad book. And I'm sure it gets better in the second half. But I just can't get into it right now and forcing myself to read it when I'm in no mood to appreciate it seems very unfair. So putting this on hold for now but I'll get back to it someday.
My thoughts on this so far:
It's well-written but very predictable. Knowing that these boys will soon go Lord of the Flies on each other is perhaps what is keeping me from caring about them. Some parts were disgusting, like one very detailed account of blatant animal abuse, but overall, nothing has genuinely spooked me.
Buddy read with Jenny and Khanh. They weren't impressed either.
When the Book fell Flat (and I was not in love) - A Review
I'm not someone who doles out one-star ratings so easily. I feel particularly bad in this case since the book is a debut that's yet to be released. But this was just... not good. NOTHING about this book worked for me. Not one tiny thing. The only reason I kept turning the pages was because I felt obligated, having got this through NetGalley and all.
When the World was Flat is not science fiction. It's a romance that tries to masquerade as sci-fi and fails miserably. Worse, it's the same old stereotypical high-school romance, where the girl senses an instant connection with the new mysterious boy in town and the next thing you know, words like "soulmates" and "forever" are being thrown around.
The MC, Lillie, is yet another clone of the lovesick YA heroine with an absent mother and nightmares and low self-esteem and blah blah. She's also a terribly annoying narrator. Lillie constantly disses everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, except Tom. She defines the people around her using one-word-labels - Jo is "the tomboy", Sylv is, as Lillie constantly implies, "the slut" (SO. MUCH. SLUT. SHAMING. MY. GOD.), her mother is "the hippie", Melissa is "the meanie" - and everything that these characters do or say is bound by their labels, so they all come across as painfully one-dimensional. All I know about Lillie's mother, for example, is that she makes terrible chamomile tea because such denigrating facts are all that Lillie focuses on.
And of course, Lillie is spectacularly dumb.
"When we die, we simply slide into another dimension."
"What if you have a heart-attack?"
"I would slide."
"What if you are hit by a truck?"
"I would slide."
WTF, Lillie??!! Don't you have one functioning neuron in your brain?
Tom is no better. He's the new boy in town who never smiles, keeps to himself, seems "bothered" while talking to Lillie, drives expensive cars, lives outside town in a sprawling mansion.... sound familiar? He also has remarkable "glacial" eyes that bore into Lillie so deep that she constantly uses her hair "as a curtain" to hide her flushing face. At least, Tom doesn't glitter in the sunlight, but that doesn't stop Lillie from comparing him to a "brilliantly cut diamond". *facepalm*
The plot, though ambitious, is a shoddily executed mess. If you are going to meddle with string theory and parallel dimensions in a standalone, you cannot waste the first 60% of the book in meaningless cringe-worthy insta-love. A major bulk of the "science", if you can call it that, is explained during a dinner conversation between Lillie and Tom. It's rushed, it's underwhelming, it's boring, it's a big pile of BS.
And now, my least favorite aspect of this book - the writing.
Bad writing grates on my nerves. It's my biggest dealbreaker. Lush descriptions and metaphors are all great but not necessary; I don't mind simplistic prose in YA. But if every other sentence makes me pause and cringe internally, chances are the book will end up on my 1-star list, plot be damned.
Here's my take on Ingrid Jonach's writing: HER SIMILES ARE TERRIBLE. JUVENILE AND UNNECESSARY AND TERRIBLE. I HATE THEM.
I know you're not supposed to quote from an uncorrected proof but I'm going to because I want to know if I'm the only one who finds these sentences stupid:
"The words stuck in my mind like corn in my teeth."
"...leaving me as stunned as a mounted deer head."
"...but he was as disconnected as an unplugged TV."
"...adrenaline rushing through my body like a flash flood in a storm water drain."
"My stomach was like a front loader on a spin cycle."
"I hissed, the sound like the seal being broken on a soda can."
"The realization left a taste in my mouth like tea laced with arsenic."
"The skin on my forehead crawled like it was covered in cockroaches."
Why why WHY spoil perfectly meaningful sentences with such... ridiculous comparisons?? Corn stuck in teeth??! Cockroaches??! Tea with arsenic??! What does that even taste like? Won't you have to, like, kill yourself, to find out?
By the way, the lines above are a tiny selection. I have 57 highlights in my arc copy, all of the bad kind.
The only part of this book that did not annoy me was the ending, not because I cared, but because it was over. Finally over.
*With thanks to Netgalley for the free digital copy*
Though structured and paced like a thriller, what this book really is, is a finely sketched portrait of pain. And I don't mean the passive kind, where you feel for characters because they have tragic back-stories. No, this pain is personal; it's deeper, more penetrating and quietly horrifying. When the finale played out, I swear my heart skipped a beat because I was so shocked, and then it just broke.
The Boy Who Could See Demons was a book I requested on a whim. I had no major expectations going in, which is probably why I'm so impressed with it. It's gratifying to read something totally un-hyped and then get to say "Wow, that was good!" And this was really good. Not the best psychological thriller I've ever read but very gripping and memorable. It kept me guessing throughout and just when I thought I knew the answers, I realized I was asking the wrong questions.
The narration alternates between Anya, the psychiatrist, and Alex, the patient, who claims his best friend Ruen is a demon only he can see. The strength of this book lies in the characterization. Not only are Alex and Anya's individual voices very genuine and well-done, even the secondary characters like Alex's depressed mom Cindy, his social worker Michael, and even his demon friend Ruen, are finely etched. This is a very easy book to read because the writing is straightforward and simple, maybe a little too simple at times.
There is a big twist at the end. I did not see it coming but what's really amazing is how, looking back, I cannot imagine it playing out any other way.
The Boy Who Could See Demons is a dark, disturbing exploration of a traumatized human mind. It's disconcerting to think that something associated with rational thought and reason can make you see and believe in things that defy logic. Echoing the lines Anya comes across in Milton's Paradise Lost:
"The mind is its own place, and in itself,
Can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n."
*With thanks to Netgalley for the free digital copy*
Is it just me or does All Our Yesterdays have a distinctly cinematic flavor? I feel like I've just sat through a fast-paced movie about time travel and two people on the run trying to save the world. I'm not sure if that's a good thing but it kept me interested and intrigued till the very end, which is more than I can say about most YA books. And considering this is a debut, I'd say that's an impressive accomplishment.
Em and Finn escape from a prison cell and travel 4 years back in time to prevent the world from becoming what it has due to the misuse of time travel. This is their 14th attempt to save the world, and their plan this time is to kill the "doctor" who invented the time machine. But the doctor in the future is their best friend in the past. So Em and Finn are actually on a mission to kill someone they both once loved, and in some small measure, still do.
The things that stand out in All Our Yesterdays are pacing, characters and plot, in that order.
The chapters are alternately narrated by Em, who has come from the future, and Marina, who is the younger version of Em in the present time zone. Em knows everything that Marina is yet to find out so by constantly switching from one to another, Terrill not only manages to reveal the story one piece at a time but also builds up a mad sense of urgency. I was never bored while reading and even when the romance bits were underway, the pace did not dwindle.
Having the future and present versions of the same character in the same frame carries the risk of creating a disconnect between them. But Terrill's protagonists are just so well-etched. As different as Marina is from Em, I could tell they were both the same person with individual perspectives warped by time. This also applies to Finn, who, irrespective of time-zones, is a complete sweetheart.
The only character I had issues with is James a.k.a the doctor. While the James we meet is a complicated young boy, he's also drastically different from the future version, who only appears toward the end. I'm not convinced someone can change so much in 4 years.
The plot is pretty ambitious for YA and a little far-fetched (for starters, you must assume that all security personnel are stupid enough to be continuously outsmarted by a bunch of teenagers) but I liked it. Time travel is not used as a mere plot gimmick in the story, it is the story. Even though there is a fair bit of romance, it does not out-weigh the sci-fi element.
However, the plot focuses only on the present and the future. What happens in between is not explained. Just like I don't see how James could possibly become the doctor, I don't get how the world could possibly change so much in 4 measly years.
There are many brain-bending paradoxes about time that I'm sure must have holes but I'm too intimidated to try and explore them. It took me some effort just to understand the ending. The thing with time-travel is that it's hypothetical. We don't know how it works. How do you fault the kind of logic that doesn't exist?
Overall, All Our Yesterdays was an exciting read and one of the better YA sci-fi offerings this year. It definitely works as a standalone, so I don't see the need for a sequel.
3.5 well-earned stars for an impressive debut.
*With thanks to Netgalley for the free digital copy*
Tiger Lily has all the elements of a good book. Lovely writing, fascinating characters, a place as wild and beautiful as Neverland, a tragic tale of first love. Yet, it lacks the one thing that is so crucial to making a book work, especially a love-story. It lacks passion.
This book was painfully lacklustre. It did not evoke any strong emotions in me. Even the parts that were supposed to be gut-wrenching barely made me bat an eyelid. I kept waiting for something to tug at my heart but the closest I came to feeling sad was when <spoiler>Philip cut off Tik-Tok's hair</spoiler>. In fact, Tik-Tok's story was the only part I found memorable.
How did such a sad story fall so flat?? I think it was the narration. I found Tinkerbell's voice completely devoid of inflections. She says Tiger Lily and Peter Pan are in love but I did not find it romantic. She says this is a sad story (and it is) but I did not feel it. She says the lost boys are terrified of the pirates but I don't see why, because the pirates in question come across as hapless drunk idiots. She says the forest is a dangerous place but again, nothing dangerous ever seems to happen.
I'm also not sure what Tinkerbell does, exactly. Can she read minds? Gauge emotions? Sift through memories? Sometimes, she seems to do all three. Sometimes, the conversations she narrates go like he-said-she-said-he-knit-his-brows-she-kept-her-gaze-level, which makes these exchanges so stilted.
I did not know when I started that this was a re-telling. I assumed Tiger Lily would be like a prequel to Peter Pan, that it would not change the original story in any major way so both could co-exist. But that's not the case. Not only does it completely change the original, it adds a twist that pretty much kills the charm of Peter Pan. I'm really miffed about that because Peter Pan was one of my favorites growing up.
Overall, I'm just disappointed. I really believed this was going to be something spectacular and even when the pace was off, I kept turning the pages hoping the next chapter would blow me away. I was so confused when I read the last page and realized I was nowhere close to crying. But it makes sense now. When I was never convinced by the romance in the first place, how could I possibly be moved by it's tragic conclusion?
I'd recommend re-reading Peter Pan.
I'm giving Tampa such a low rating not because it was disgusting but because it was so disappointing. Believe it or not, I liked the idea of this book. It was the way the plot played out that irked me and in the end, I'm afraid it did not have the intended effect on me.
Tampa started off brilliantly. I had my doubts, having read countless reviews that called it vulgar but 10 pages in and I was *gasp* liking it. Yes it was vulgar but it was also witty, brazen, horrifying and compelling. Juggling shock and humor is not easy, especially with a topic like pedophilia but Nutting had it all in control. I kept bursting into involuntary giggles and had to guiltily chastise myself for laughing at something as outrageous as this.
What struck me most about that first half was the underlying confidence in the writing. It was re-assuring, like Nutting had her eyes set on the destination and all I had to do was follow her lead.
But then we lost our way.
And by the time we found the right one, it was too late. I was exhausted and did not care.
So our narrator is Celeste Price - 26, blond, beautiful and a pedophile. She takes up a teaching job in a middle-school at Tampa with the sole purpose of preying on "suitable" students to satisfy her sexual urges. She zeroes in on 14-year-old Jack Patrick and successfully seduces him, leading to an affair. Nutting does not hold back; we are privy to Celeste's every sexual encounter and darkest desire.
As unpleasant as it is to read, I feel the lewd, lascivious tone is warranted. We are inside Celeste's head and Celeste is vulgar, so why shouldn't the book be? What bothered me was how I kept forgetting that Jack was 14, a child. A major chunk of the second half felt like a teacher-student erotica, but not necessarily a child-adult affair, so the sex-scenes weren't horrifyingly erotic like they should have been; they were just plain erotic. And once Jack's father was dragged into the whole mess... it was a complete nosedive. The satire no longer worked and the shock-factor was so overused that I'd stopped reacting to the many blowjob scenes.
Eventually, Tampa does reach where it's supposed to, but in a very rushed, unpolished manner. It makes some interesting points about how society views female sex-offenders and how beautiful people can get away with almost anything but these points were mere observations I made, they did not really hit me. Maybe because there's not much foundation there to lend emphasis to these points. The trial is merely skimmed over - fast-forward to verdict. That last scene should have outraged me, I know, but I didn't feel it. I was just shaking my head in disappointment.
In fact, I think I've gained more insight from Nutting's interviews than from the book.
Many have lauded the characterization of Celeste but I disagree. I found her remarkably uncomplicated. Everything in Celeste's universe revolves around her desire to be with 14-year-old kids and it's shocking in the beginning but once you get used to the idea, you can predict her every reaction. So when Celeste is in jail and she's worried about not having access to face-creams, I was not surprised at all. She has a one-track mind, how is that sophisticated?
Also, I have trouble thinking of Celeste as a person. If I read a book about a monster, I expect to feel for a moment, no matter how fleeting, some kind of positive emotion for the monster. Pity, or sympathy, or just a basic understanding maybe? But there is nothing redeemable about Celeste. She could, for all the difference it makes, be a robot that is programmed to track down prepubescent boys and who must have sex with them to recharge its batteries. The only thing I felt for Celeste was varying degrees of disgust and well, I don't need a book to tell me that pedophiles are disgusting.
Even the other characters, not one of them sparked any kind of emotional reaction in me. I was either disgusted by them or felt nothing for them.
Overall, Tampa is not a bad book. It's a brave attempt on Nutting's part and I appreciate the idea but despite the very high shock-value, I found the book mundane and unmemorable.
I've not given up on Nutting however. I'm impressed with her writing and guts, so I will watch out for her next book.
*With thanks to Netgalley for the free digital copy*
It's been two hours since I finished reading. I'm disoriented and emotionally drained, and turns out, home alone on a Sunday. I think my parents told me they were going somewhere but I honestly cannot remember where that somewhere is; I was just that deeply obsessed with reading this book.
In The Woods is too layered to be labelled as a crime-thriller or a mystery. It is not just a guessing-game of who did what to whom. It is an exploration of what this guessing-game does to the people involved, from the ones left behind to deal with the ramifications to the ones responsible for doling out justice - and what better way to do that than tell the story through the eyes of a man who plays both roles at the same time.
In the Woods is a very unusual book. It has this lovely subdued quality to it, which I absolutely loved. It was everything I did not expect - unhurried, reflective, gorgeously written. There are two crimes involved but Tana French does not sensationalize either one. What she does instead, is create complex, real characters and build the dynamics between them. She makes you care about the players and not the game, so even when the whole thing wraps up and the verdict is out, you don't stop caring. You don't forget.
There is a big question-mark at the end that I'm sure will frustrate a lot of readers but I liked that note of incompleteness. I'd rather be left with a question that has room for hope than be left with an answer that is definite and ugly.
This book is not a high-action nail-biter. It is quiet and sad, but I can guarantee that it will linger in your memory way past the last page. Added bonus: The writing is just wow.
(The only reason I did not round it off to 5 is because I've been told the series gets better and I wanted to leave some upgrade room)
Wanna know the first thing I thought of when I read the blurb of Parasite?? Monsters Inside Me!! That frightening, super-gruesome documentary that can kill your appetite or make you throw up, depending on when you watch it, if at all. And tapeworms!! I remember there was an episode where this girl went blind because tapeworms had eaten away her retina. Gross, I know, but it's real, people!
I mention this because it may have something to do with why this book fell flat. I was, quite simply, disillusioned. I went in expecting some freaky horror-show about parasitic tapeworms and while the idea was right there, the horror was not. Hardly one or two scenes stood out for their creepiness. The rest was bland and so much tamer than what Animal Planet had me expecting.
Parasite envisions a future where people can opt for genetically engineered tapeworm implants to oversee their health and thus do away with manual medication. SymboGen is the corporate giant behind these revolutionary tapeworms and when a nearly-dead Sally wakes up from a coma, SymboGen claims the tapeworm implant saved her life. Sally, however, is a slate wiped clean. She remembers nothing. Six years later, Sally is still struggling to fit in with a family she doesn't remember, even as she's unwittingly becoming the poster-child for SymboGen.
The first 40 percent of this book is all talk and no action. Okay, there's some action but that is like a tiny island in a sea of dialogue. Mostly, we get to follow Sally around and hear her talk. Sally talking to her father. Sally talking to her boyfriend. Sally talking to the staff at SymboGen. Sally talking to the co-founder of SymboGen. A lot of these conversations are meaningless jibber-jabber. They are also very boring, since Sally is not particularly witty.
There's a big brain-bending revelation around the 50% mark, which is where the book truly shines. There's another big revelation that you can logically infer from the first one, even if you are no genius. Except, it takes Sally the rest of the book to arrive at that conclusion. Yeah, she's not particularly bright either.
Actually, I'm not sure what to say about Sally. I'm just going to quote what one of the other, more interesting characters had to say about her:
"She's annoying, she's whiny, she has the learning curve of lichen."
Yeah, that sums it up. Except I feel guilty because the poor girl has amnesia.
Also, many events in this book are hinged on happy coincidences. Sally's sister is a scientist, so is her father and so is her boyfriend. There are other things too, that I cannot delve into without giving away spoilers.
VERDICT: Parasite could have been shorter and scarier. A great idea like that should have resulted in a great book, but the extraneous stuff got in the way. Overall, Parasite was just okay. And it definitely did not scare me.
If you are looking for parasites of the scary kind, watch the Animal Planet documentary. Provided you can stomach it, of course.
*With thanks to Netgalley for a free digital copy*
What a cop-out. It felt like James Dashner had no idea what to do with the plot so he just moved in circles and sprung one ridiculous twist after another. No answers, no explanations and an ending that's more of a joke.
Somewhere around the 90% mark, I realized that it was actually Guatemala and the Lobsterfest that I was interested in, not Bria Sandoval's personal drama, so I just skimmed through the last part in 5 minutes.
Still, this was a lovely break from the standard YA fare and I absolutely loved Ms. Hubbard's illustrations - especially the butterfly girl she's put up in her review. That would have made a lovely cover. The girl-blowing-on-petals thing seems weird.
"All monsters are scared.
That's why they're monsters."
48 hours ago, when I read the last page for the first time, I had this strange, sad feeling. Like I had come to the end of something beautiful without really comprehending the beauty of it until the last minute.Which is why it took me a re-read to realize how brilliant this book is.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is childhood in 181 pages.
Short. Sweet. Magical. Scary. Real.
There is a reason this book is labelled as "adult" and it has nothing to do with sexual content or violence or gore. To be an adult by age is meaningless because, to truly appreciate this book, you must be an adult by experience. You must be adult enough to miss childhood.
Me, I'm not there yet. I don't miss being a child because I remember being a child. I can still see it when I turn back.
So right now, no. This is not my favorite Gaiman book.
But in 20-odd years, it probably will be.
Because The Ocean at the End of the Lane is one of those books.
It can only grow in appeal the older you get.
"And did I pass?"
The face of the old woman on my right was unreadable in the gathering dusk.
On my left the younger woman said,
"You don't pass or fail at being a person, dear."