It Ends With Us

It is safe to say that I was not prepared for what Colleen Hoover would give me when I picked up this book.

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It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
Published by Atria Books on August 2nd, 2016
Genres: Romance, Heartbreak, Motherhood, Identity, Friends, Trauma
Pages: 384
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barns&Noble

Final Review:  3.5 out of 5 ★★★☆☆


I am having a tough time rating this. On the one hand, I enjoyed it. Definitely worth the 4 stars, but I wasn’t IN LOVE WITH IT. But on the other hand, there were some definite over-cliched troupes involved and while I bawled (I’ll get to that later), I wasn’t fully satisfied. So maybe I’d actually rate this 3.75 out of 5? Can I do that?

Anyway, I do think Hoover was successful in some things. For starters, this is the first book that has made me cry–and I’m talking ugly cry, sobbing, maybe going to throw up it hurts so much type of crying–in a long ass time. I was thoroughly upset pretty much at the halfway point through the rest. So clearly, Hoover is excellent at building characters that you just cannot help but feel something for. I wasn’t even aware that I had latched on to Lily and was feeling personally victimized for her until it was already happening. In fact, I was worried I wouldn’t feel anything because it had been a while since I read a Nicolas Sparks-esque book and I thought there wouldn’t be much depth. Boy, was I wrong.

Lily is both a flat and a deep character at the same time. What I mean by this is she is exactly what you would expect of a woman in this type of novel; she is charming but also broken; she is working on making her own life better while running away from demons of her past. Her background is pretty self-explanatory and to be expected, and while I accept and agree with this, there is still something about her I can’t put my finger on that marks her as special. You really are rooting for her to win because maybe you see a little bit of yourself in her, perhaps not her whole story, but just a large-enough snippet that you feel yourself going through similar emotions and tribulations.

This is also what Hoover is successful at making her characters, setting, plot all seem real. For some reason, and I’ve only read a few, the Nicolas Sparks books seem to have a slight air of ridiculousness, not necessarily in a bad way, but in order to captivate the reader, there are a lot of poetic justices being made. I was expected some of the same in Hoover’s writing, and while some of it is there, for the most part, I felt like Lily could be my friend or next door neighbor, and I was almost witnessing her pain as a present bystander. Some of her development is a little silly: Lily Bloom being her full name is just too much, the fact that her first employee is not only a bored millionaire house-wife but also Ryle’s sister. These things are definitely over-the-top and fringing on ridiculous coincidences that I cannot actually see happening. But other than that, her life is touching: she is more caring than her parents combined, she is a child of an abusive home, she also finds herself in a similar situation to her mother–these things could and do happen.

Now for some spoilers so if you want to remain innocent, avert your eyes.

I think what is stopping me from giving this book a full 5 (or even a full 4 stars if we’re going with the 3.75 stars) is two things. The first: Lily’s pregnancy.

What can I say about this? First, I didn’t see it coming so bravo Hoover on that, but once it happened I realized “duh, of course this would happen. This is that type of book.” Which is fine! But I think that for a book that so far had been so empowering (standing up for yourself, the honest struggles of a physically abusive relationship, etc.) could have gone one step further and Lily could have had an abortion. She didn’t even think about it. When she finds out she’s pregnant with Ryle’s baby, she has already forced him out of her home for abusing her (go Lily!) and yet, it being near the end of 2016 when this book comes out, I would have thought–or at least liked to see–Lily have the serious conversation with herself about motherhood. I think even just discussing the option of an abortion already shows her being even more empowering–even if she decides against it. She finally gets her shit together enough to kick Ryle out, but there is no question about having his baby? She just accepts fate? That doesn’t seem so empowering anymore. Of course, I don’t know anything about Hoover and whether or not she is pro-choice, but I am and I want to see more of that displayed in these female-empowered books. If she really wants her readers–young women like myself who could or have been going through the same situations–present them with all the same options. Even if your character does not opt for the surgery, at least have her mention it as an idea. She lives in Boston! It’s not Utah.

Secondly, I wasn’t satisfied guys. Maybe that’s the point; as the onlooker I want Lily and Atlas to end up together and *spoiler* they kind of do. I’m saying “kind of” here because we don’t really know since the novel ends soon after they are reunited–again–after the birth of Lily and Ryle’s kid, but it all seems… rushed. After Lily has dropped over her child with Ryle, she runs back to meet Atlas who she has just passed on the street a second prior. They chat for a few seconds and then dive right into the tough questions (Does Atlas donate to charity and want kids?) and then they’re off. They finally get together and are awarded barely a page? I would have loved to see what happened in the epilogue happen in the last chapter, and then have the epilogue be a time jump to when we could actually see Atlas and Lily finally together, maybe they have a child together already and Ryle is happy and their daughter is happy. I get that this is probably for effect: it would be unlike her (at least to my understanding since this is the first book I’ve read by her) to tie everything up cleanly and nicely at the end. But can’t a girl dream?

“In the future…if by some miracle you ever find yourself in the position to fall in love again… fall in love with me.” (Atlas to Lily, 309)

Overall, if you are a fan of a book that makes you sob and want to throw it but that could also easily be read in a day, then go ahead and grab the tissues. I do have another Hoover book on my list, Without Merit, but I don’t think it’s going to be one I pick up right away. I need to wait these emotions out for a second.

 

Hunting Prince Dracula

I know I’m kind of late in the game, seeing as Escaping from Houdini is coming out this year (September, guys!), but I’m obsessed. I loved Stalking Jack the Ripper and this sequel is no exception.

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Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco
Published by Jimmy Patterson on September 19th, 2017
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, Science, Death, Feministic, Thriller
Pages: 448
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barns&Noble

Final Review:  5 out of 5 ★★★★★


It’s strange, though, how weird and difficult it is to write a review for a sequel. I loved the first one, and I loved the second one, and I’m probably totally going to love the third too! So to not just rant about nothing, this “review” will probably be short and I’m going to discuss what I think makes Maniscalco’s stories so successful.

I’m hoping that since you’re here, you’ve either read the first one, or you’re lost. Either way, I will need to discuss some potential spoilers of the first novel. Audrey Rose and Thomas have successfully cracked the Jack the Ripper case, though it wounded Audrey Rose more than she is willing to admit, seeing as her brother was the serial murderer. Audrey Rose’s life has already been difficult: her father’s health is failing, her mother has already passed, and she’s too much of a modern woman for her time since Audrey Rose would rather be elbows deep in a cadaver than a tea party. When the first novel comes to a close, Audrey Rose and Thomas are invited to attend a prestigious science academy in Romania and here we begin the sequel.

First, how is Maniscalco’s writing so dreamy when talking about such macabre topics? I don’t really have an answer for this, or even a direct quote I’m thinking of, but just overall Maniscalco is extremely triumphant in this accomplishment. These two stories, Hunting Prince Dracula in particular since it is fresher in my mind, are a perfect combination of horror, thriller, romance, cheekiness, and excitement. They feature gruesomely beautiful scenes (I’m picturing here the ending which is way too important for me to spoil) filled with blood and gore, and yet Audrey Rose still shines. I want to stress that these scenes are perfectly balanced–they are not too creepy that suddenly this book is an actual horror tale, nor are they too bland that the reader does not get a full picture in their mind’s eye.

If romance wasn’t a distraction we could ill afford, I’d live in the rush of this moment for all eternity. (346)

Moving right along to probably the best part of the book, and it overlaps with the writing, is Thomas and Audrey Rose’s relationship. *Insert swoon here*. I cannot handle them; they are too cute. The best part is that Maniscalco does not sacrifice their love for the story. Generally, when two people finally get together at the end of the first book, something always happens to them in the sequel: someone leaves unexpectedly, they break up horribly, someone else is involved, etc. So I was expecting the same to happen between Thomas and Audrey Rose, but *slight spoiler I guess?* it doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, there are some tumultuous times between the two, but this only shows their relationship as more real and the slow process it takes to open up and trust another person with your secrets and life.

His eyes fluttered shut, and the desire I’d seen in them was enough to undo me right there. I lifted my face, allowing the slightest, briefest contact between our lips. It was nothing more than a shadow of a kiss, but it ignited a fire throughout my body. (345)

I mean, seeerrrriiouuussllly, Maniscalco. It’s just not fair! We’re three-fourths of the way done with the book and here we finally have Thomas and Audrey Rose ALMOST, BARELY kissing. Don’t worry Audrey Rose, you two ignite a fire throughout my body too. Maniscalco has perfected here the patience one needs to sustain a true romance throughout a series. Unlike a novel where the main focus is romance and the two characters immediately date or begin other nefarious activities right in the second chapter, Maniscalco makes us wait, just as she is making Thomas wait for Audrey Rose. This series is definitely about their relationship, but it is not what it is solely about. In fact, even throughout their travels and secret meetings to almost kiss in the hallway, Maniscalco is still writing a feminist text. Audrey Rose should not be about to kiss Thomas secretly in the hallway, she shouldn’t even be at this academy, let alone in Romania. If it were up to society, she would be needle-pointing and hosting parties or, better yet, already married off. And while the setting is two hundred years earlier, the message still rings true as women in our 2018 still battle a patriarchal dominance. We are supposed to be doing things, according to society, and, like Audrey Rose, we are pushing against them constantly. And her relationship with Thomas is no exception; just because she has found (and I’d like to hope) the man of her dreams, does not mean she is giving up on her other ones, nor would Thomas let her:

“You are yours to give.” (422)

Overall? I loved this. Why wouldn’t I? Maniscalco is an excellent reminder and example of YA that actually gives something back to the reader, other than a wondrous experience. If you enjoyed Stalking Jack the Ripper, or even just kind of enjoyed it, definitely give this sequel a chance. I know that I am going to preorder Escaping from Houdini right now.

The Wrath & the Dawn

These last reviews I’ve posted have been read in chronological order (I started with The Cruel Prince, went to Everless, and finished with The Wrath & the Dawn) and have increased in likability too.

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The Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
Published by Speak on (reprint edition) April 5th, 2016
Genres: Romance, Power, Identity, Family, Royalty, Supernatural, Feministic
Pages: 432
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review:  4.5 out of 5 ★★★★☆


I hesitate to just go ahead and give this book five out of five and I’m not really sure where the hesitation comes from. To put it plainly, I enjoyed this book much more than certain others I’ve read lately, so wouldn’t this warrant a full five stars? I’ll begin by categorizing this book–or at least attempting to.

It would be hard to say that this book is YA. It’s not not YA, but it’s also not really YA. I’ll explain. The romance aspects of it seem a little cheeky and young-ish (in the sense that sex scenes aren’t drawn out, there aren’t any blatant “adult” topics, etc.), but then at the same time, it just doesn’t seem to fit that category for me. There aren’t really any super supernatural aspects that would make me think of the common fantastical YA, but I suppose, regardless of plot, the content does sort of remind me of Sara J. Maas’ work (yet again! Why do I compare everything to her? Ugh I love you, Sara) so perhaps, after all, it does fit in a YA shelf.

The best part of this book, while obvious, is the protagonist. I know this sounds simple, but really sometimes I hate the protagonist and wish he/she were written differently. But Shahrzad (or Shazi) is exceptional.

“It’s never been a question of who is going to let me behave a certain way; it’s alwasy been a question of who is going to stop me” (page 99).

She reminds me of an Asian rendition of Juliet, of course in the way that I read Juliet. She is super strong-willed, somewhat loyal to her family, but more so loyal to herself, and ultimately is determined. Shazi has volunteered to marry the boy-king who murders his new bride every sunrise. Why would she set out for a suicide mission? Because her best friend was chosen to become a bride and then was subsequently murdered the next morning and Shazi is out for revenge. Of course, nothing in the romance world is ever that easy and what if Shazi begins to develop feelings for the boy-king, Khalid? He spares her for many mornings in a row and their relationship deepens and blooms. But if Shazi is supposed to be a flower, she is a rose with many thorns. She does not take kindly to be treated traditionally and is openly “disobedient” towards her patriarch. She shoots bow and arrow, walks through the palace where she isn’t welcomed, and makes her presence known. She is a full affront to the traditional wifely duties and I love her for it. I want to be her when I grow up.

What some people might not like is (SPOILERS!) she does fall in love with Khalid. Can this really be a feministic text if the women falls for the man? OF COURSE! Sometimes, I believe that we forget that women can be both: Strong and dissident, but also in love. Those two don’t need to be separate and just because she develops feeling for Khalid, does not mean her strong and overbearing personality disappears, in fact, this is probably why Khalid loves her right back. She is the holder of their relationship, whether Khalid believes it or not.

Furthermore, the text discusses love in such different matters than I’ve generally seen in YA. By submitting herself to the will and marriage to Khalid, Shazi leaves behind her family and childhood friend, Tariq, who loves her deeply as well (Shazi is so great, she has two awesome dudes vying for her time). But besides that, Tariq and Shazi have to deal with the different version of love that arises:

“It is not a difficult question. It is a very simple one. The difficulty lies in the answer. Why do you love her?” (page 295).

The way I love my current boyfriend is not the same as how I loved my past boyfriend or the one before that. It’s not the same as I love my best friend or the hot dude on my favorite basketball team. And instead of simplifying love into one umbrella category (romance at its finest), Ahdieh forces us to look at love at different angles and question our own definitions of love and I think that this is something special that sets this book apart.

Overall? If you want a feisty, female protagonist but also a heartfelt romance, The Wrath & the Dawn is definitely for you. I will be picking up the sequel at some point, once I finish more of my TBR pile.

Everless

This a book that, though it took me a while to actually pick up, I preordered and was gracefully reminded of its existence when Amazon sent it to me.

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Everless by Sara Holland
Published by HarperTeen on January 2nd, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Family, Identity,  Romance, Power
Pages: 368
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review:  4 out of 5 ★★★★☆


I am on the fence with Everless. Much like when I read The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, every new YA fantasy novel to come into my possession is going to be compared to Sara J Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series because I am utterly mystified by her stories. This is definitely not a good trait to have, but we love what we love when it comes to books, don’t we? Of course, I understand that Everless is both everything and nothing like A Court of Thorns and Roses or The Cruel Prince or Six of Crows or A Darker Shade of Magic–all of these books, while in the same genre, are special and exciting in their own way and Everless is no exception. To begin, I can confidently say that I enjoyed it more than The Cruel Prince so I don’t think there is going to be as scathing of a review here as there was there.

The most amazing part of this story, and it seems so simple, is the storyEverless is incredibly original and I can’t get over that. With the sheer amount of “medieval fantasy” (i.e. not common day, villages, tariffs, serfdom, etc.) hitting the shelves each season, it is wonderful to see a book that is completely original in its making. Jules (which is the name of my cat, funny enough) is a young adult, struggling to make ends meet for her and her aging father. Aging perhaps isn’t the right word because instead of aging naturally, this world deals in time, which is taken from one’s blood. Jules’ father owes many debts and they simply do not make enough, so he has to pay the monthly taxes to Everless, the kingdom and royal family overseeing their village, via his blood/time. Jules actually grew up at Everless since her father used to be employed by the family, but as events unfold in the story, you see why Jules and her father had to quickly remove themselves from the castle and assume a life of poverty. And this is what I find so fascinating; there are certainly stories that discuss one’s life expectancy, but generally, those are cyber-punk, dystopian stories, not medieval fantasy.

So if I loved the story so much, why didn’t I rate Everless a full 5 stars? Well, a few reasons. The first is that the story is a little hard to grasp. Now this sounds ridiculous because it’s a fantasy novel that has people wagering their time via their blood–nothing about this is real. And yet, to me, there has to be something that can be grasped and that shows similarities between the book’s world and the real world in order to make the connection with the reader. If it’s not easily connected, then I feel like I’m having to work really hard to make the story understandable. Without disclosing too much information, when Jules learns of her true identity, which includes a convoluted–but interesting nonetheless–story, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of description for what is really going on. She has the normal scene where she struggles to accept it, but then she does and we move forward. Perhaps there will be more explanation and set up for her true identity in the sequel, which I am most likely going to read.

Another thought hits me with brute force: maybe I am a mystery–a secret–that needs unraveling, too. (215)

I also found not having a love interest as a risky move; I both appreciated it and shrugged at it. Jules is not at Everless to marry one of the princes–yes, the relationships they had as children are mentioned and important, but throughout the majority of the book there are no stolen kisses, longing sighs, or broken hearts. Jules is there for her father and her father alone. He is ill from lending too much of his time and she’s worried he doesn’t have much left, so she gets a job at Everless which will pay handsomely to be a servant. Sure, once she’s discovered as the Jules from Prince Roan and Prince Liam’s childhood, things get complicated, but a romantic relationship is not what drives this book. And this is refreshing! I’m pretty sure having a love interest is the cornerstone of a YA novel! Don’t get me wrong, there is tension between Roan and Jules and slightly between Liam and Jules, but it is about a chapter? Maybe? Even though I think this is a good thing, I also think this is a…”meh” thing. Let’s be real for a moment: the swirling, intoxicating, whirlwind of fantasy love is addicting and I am here for it. So while I loved that Holland chose to not include this, I was also looking for this in a story. I crave a relationship that will make me blush and sigh along with the protagonist so I did feel as if that was missing from this story.

Overall? I enjoyed it. Am I in love with it? No. Will I be reading the sequel? Most likely. If you’re interested in a medieval fantasy novel that’s a little different from everything else on the market, I would definitely recommend. If you’re looking for another Rhysand and Feyre, look elsewhere. I am left wanting to know more about Liam though…

The Cruel Prince

As you’ll see if you simply scroll down, I did not love this book, and I really wanted to love this book. I picked it up at the Astoria Bookshop at the beginning of the year, close to after it was released, and was ecstatic to grab the last available copy at the store–they were running it for their February Teen Book Club and I thought, well everyone is already talking about this, let me snag it. And I was left wanting a lot more in a book that is highly rated and reviewed on multiple sites.

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The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Published by Little Brown Books on January 2nd, 2018
Genres: YA, Fantasy, Royalty, Power, Identity, Family, Romance
Pages: 384
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review: 3 out of 5 ★★★☆☆


 

I think we should get all the things I disliked out of the way first, that way I can end on a good note.

First of all, and this is something that bothers me in any book that does it, not just The Cruel Prince, but I am absolutely irritated by any book that participates in any form of branding. The sisters, Vivienne, Taryn, and Jude, grew up in our, mortal world, even though Vivienne is half fae, so at the beginning of the novel, the scene is set that the sisters at a young age are sitting in their regular, mortal home doing regular mortal things that you and I would do. This is fine! There are plenty, plenty of YA and other books I read that are set in the real world and don’t include any supernatural elements. Of course, these books are going to have their protagonists doing “real world things” like watching TV and using the microwave, but the instance an author attaches the specific brand to these items, I turn away. For example, when the sisters sneak back into the mortal world and go to the mall, they go into actual, brand name stores like Target or Sephora. They wear Converses and have iPhones. And to me, this is all unnecessary. I am an early modern scholar and one thing that fascinates me is that more than 400 years later, we’re still reading these books, plays, poems, etc. and unfortunately for Black, by adding the Apple Store as a place of interest, she instantly dates herself–The Cruel Prince will not outlast this generation. Is this even her goal? Probably not and that’s fine! But if any writer wants to be the next JK Rowling, they should probably not include brands that potentially won’t be around in the future.

Furthermore, books are my escape, as I know they are for many people, and by having the girls shopping at Target, Black pulls me out of the story, reminding me of the shopping I need to do at my Target, instead of keeping me sucked in. I am reminded that my mortal world is not glamorous. All of this, I believe, can be achieved without the use of brands. The brands don’t actually do anything except noting to the reader that “Look! These girls also shop at Sephora! Gosh, they’re just like me!” One could simply say that the girls went and bought makeup at a high-end store–then my mind can conjure the image of a Sephora, without having the black and white stripes, annoying and sometimes terrible sales-people, unruly and dirty testers, and screaming kids blaring in my head. I wonder when authors do this if they are hoping for a pay cut from such stores just for mentioning them.

Secondly, Black switches writing styles often. I have read a lot. A lot, a lot. I have read every genre under the sun and will continue to do so. I already have one degree in reading and will soon have one more. My point is that I understand writing styles–I’ve literally had to be trained in it to pass classes before. And there are tons of writers that break these stylistic rules (Thinking of James Joyce or Tristam Shandy by Laurence Sterne are studied because they do break all stylistic rules), but those authors are doing it for a reason and do it, dare I say, well. Black does not. I am thinking specifically of Chapter 6, which is roughly three pages of Jude (the protagonist) stating that she has begun the story (I assume of her life?) incorrectly and then promptly lists three things that she wants the reader to know and understand before continuing forward. A bold move for sure. Black has Jude break the fourth wall (which, she was already doing by using brands but I digress…) and this is an interesting turn of events. I can work with this, I don’t mind a good fourth wall break in a YA, in fact, it’s refreshing. But what Black doesn’t do is continue this method. Jude never once points out to the reader that she’s actually telling a story rather than living one that we’re looking over like some omniscient presence. She doesn’t break the wall again and this makes Chapter 6 all but useless. The point of mentioning Joyce and Sterne is that the entirety of Ulysses or Tristam Shandy is one style breaker after the next, not just one chapter.

Okay, enough with the bad stuff, some people really loved The Cruel Prince and I will now try to convey the things that I did enjoy. I did somewhat like the characters; I saw a lot of promise in Jude and in fact, I thought there would be more twists and turns to her story than there was. I thought that the harshness of Carden’s gang was a little over the top for soon-to-be adults–it sounded more like ridiculous fourteen-year-old stunts than that of seventeen, eighteen-year-olds, but Jude standing up against Valerian (if you’ve read, then you know what I’m referring to) was a good twist and left me wanting more of that. The ending itself, and while I try to not spoil anything, is great. The ease it took to guess what was going to happen throughout the book did not prepare me for the ending and I was pleasantly surprised. Furthermore, the actual description of the secondary characters and the setting is outstanding. It is very descriptive and different from the other faerie realm stories I’ve read in the sense that the descriptions were very Grimm’s Tales-esque, meaning the faeries weren’t just handsome and airy, some were goblins and trolls, with crooked noses and beat-up faces.

Overall? I haven’t decided if I’m going to be purchasing the sequel if that gives you any indication of where I’m at. Pretty much any faerie world book I read, I always compare to Sara J Maas’ A Court of Thornes and Roses series. Is this bad? Probably, but those books are some of my favorites and while Black does interesting things with the faeries that Maas doesn’t do, she really misses the mark on keeping me invested in a contemporary yet fantastical YA.

If you really enjoyed The Cruel Prince, let me know why in the comments down below! I’m more than happy to revisit the pieces I may have overlooked.

Dangerous Lies

The Hush, Hush saga is probably one of my favorite series to ever be in books. I specifically remember the scene in the first book, Hush, Hush, when Patch comes over to Nora’s house and he lifts her onto the kitchen counter, and it’s all dark in the kitchen, and Nora turns Patch’s blue baseball cap around so she can get closer to his face and THEY DON’T EVEN KISS. But the build-up of that scene is so incredible that I can literally remember it and get flustered all over again just thinking about it. This series is the only books I have read by Fitzpatrick, so I was excited to read a different story by her.

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Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on November 10th, 2015
Genres: YA, Thriller, Family, Friendship, Romance, Fear, Identity
Pages: 400
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review: 3 out of 5 ★★★☆☆


So clearly, as you can see above, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this book and I truly wish I liked it more. While reading, I went back and forth between rating it a 3 or a 4 out of 5 stars; some scenes were definitely worthy of a 4 or even 5, but then other pieces of the book fell short. So I came to the 3 out of 5 because it’s just…average. The book itself isn’t bad, but it isn’t outstanding either.

I’ll start with what I didn’t enjoy first, get the hard stuff out of the way. I found some similar issues between Dangerous Lies and my recent review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, the main one being they both produced random information about the character at random times as if they didn’t have anything else to write about. For example, in Dangerous Lies, I am over 100 pages into the novel and I am just now learning that Stella was a successful basketball player on her high school team and that, upon going into witness protection, she clearly had to drop her basketball scholarships to collegiate programs and now is fearing she might never play basketball again. The only time basketball comes up again in the book is once more. To me, this is unnecessary information, seemingly added after the fact during drafts number four or five. Let’s make Stella more personable–she should play basketball! But then never talk about it again! The scene is set up because Stella is going to play informal softball with friends, which is fine enough, and she is suddenly hit with a wave of soberness as she realizes she left basketball behind in her previous life. It is just all so random to me.

Dangerous Lies also relies heavily on classic YA tropes, to the point that they don’t really add anything to the story and they’re really not that well executed. Case and point: Stella and Chet. I wanted to like Chet so badly, but to me, he’s no Patch and he’s really just…meh. I don’t not like him, the kissing and intimate scenes between Stella and Chet are Fitzpatrick’s expertise and are reminiscent of Hush, Hush (has she ever considered writing erotica? Because I think she’d be great at it). But Chet is just so cookie-cutter YA. He’s got a troubled past, lacking in a family, trying to make up for past wrongs, possibly a “bad boy” and he never redeems himself past these tropes. Perhaps Patch is portrayed the same way, but what’s different in the Hush, Hush saga is that there is the underlying current of the supernatural, which allows for some tropes to slip through the cracks. Fantasy sets up the novel to be looked at in a different light–we can’t apply the same thoughts when reading something based in reality to something that isn’t. Our expectations are different. With Dangerous Lies, Chet is just a classic example of mystery turned love interest.

That slow, liquid heat swirled faster in my belly. I felt dizzy, unsteady. I could come back from it now, I thought. It wasn’t too late. I could step outside and clear my head (258).

Moving on to the brighter stuff, truly the character I think I like the most, which might surprise most of you, is Stella herself. I was set up to not like her, not just from Fitzgerald, but from the fact that when I figured out I wasn’t the biggest fan of the book, generally it’s because of the main character. However, Stella (or Estella) is an actual good example of a character changing throughout the process of the book. Perhaps I like her because I find myself connecting more with her issues: drugs, mother troubles, identity. She gets placed in an excruciatingly rural area similar to my displacement upon my move to rural PA, and had to find a way to adjust from a city life to a farmer’s girl. She found things she liked in that tiny town and became determined to move on from her previous life, but of course, that isn’t how the plot continues.

Stella is the only character I see achieve any growth. Chet and Carmina, while great characters, I pretty much had them pegged from the get-go. Stella, on the other hand, still had some surprises up her sleeves, especially in scenes with her mother.

I didn’t want her to have this power over me…And then I’d come to Thunder Basin. The tide had receded. This summer had been a secret treasure. A guilty, selfish, gratifying escape. I’d been a fool to think it would last (343).

Would I recommend Dangerous Lies? Sure. It’s a fun, easy read that will keep you engaged. It is certainly not the worst book I have ever read by a long shot, it just did not live up to the Hush, Hush standard I had placed on it, which is, of course, not fair of me, but hey, I’m only human! And I think about Patch perhaps too much…

Kill Shakespeare, Vol 1: A Sea of Troubles

During an off day, my boyfriend and I went to The Strand in NYC and I didn’t pick anything up–which is definitely odd for me as an avid book lover and writer of this blog, but I just wasn’t feeling commotion. After The Strand, we walked next door to Forbidden Planet, a huge comic book store right next door to The Strand. Normally, I’m not a comic book person–no particular reason, just that it isn’t my favorite way of reading, but my boyfriend loves comic books so we stopped in. Once again, nothing wasn’t striking my fancy, but right when we were about to leave, he pulled this comic out and I knew I had to buy this.

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Kill Shakespeare Book 1 by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col, illustrated by Andy Belanger
Published by IDW Publishing; 59143rd edition on November 9th, 2010
Genres: Shakespeare, Comic Book, Historical Fiction, Literature
Pages: 148
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review: 4 out of 5 ★★★★☆


So there isn’t much to say about this book in a literary sense, other than it being fun, which is pretty much enough for me. To start, I’ll just preface that the storyline is definitely incorrect in Shakespearean terms, but, once again, that doesn’t matter at all to have a fun story. Imagine if all of Shakespeare’s plays were within the same realm, and had happened at the same time (which is impossible since all the kings couldn’t have been king at the same time). We begin with Hamlet whose story begins at the end of his play, meaning his father is dead and he has killed Polonius but still does not know who murdered his father. He leaves Denmark upset and brooding–much the Hamlet way–and when he arrives in England, he is intercepted by King Richard III who calls Hamlet The Shadow King. Richard has proposed that he will resurrect Hamlet’s father from the dead (with the help of the three witches we see in the beginning of Macbeth), if Hamlet succeeds over the supposed wizard, William Shakespeare, whose power lies in his magical quill that Hamlet must steal so Richard can wield that power. Yes, the actual Will Shakespeare is a character in this story and there are two sets of people: those who believe he is their god and claim his name is holy, and those who want his power.

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So far, in Book 1, our heroes are Juliet, who lead the revolution against Richard and his men with the help of Othello, and Hamlet alongside Falstaff. The villains are obviously Richard III as well as Lady Macbeth and Iago. These characters are pitted against each other in the battle of control. The story is not set in modern day, which I prefer because then the style of speech is more accurate, such as how Juliet is suspicious of Hamlet truly being the Shadow King, she says: “He will cut a finer figure than what you have brought to us,” which is obviously a fancier way of saying, this can not possibly be the true Shadow King of myths. Furthermore, even though the timeline is impossible, the creators do try to stay true to each character’s strengths and weakness–in a traditional sense that is. For example, when Richard III and Lady Macbeth are conspiring, Richard’s man warns: “I hope thou doth not trust that one too closely. Her teeth are sharp in her mouth.” I would perhaps read Lady Macbeth slightly different, but as a standard reading, she is pretty spot on. Falstaff is a womanizer and plumpy drunk, Juliet is strong-willed and headstrong, Iago is cunning, and Richard III is crippled and an egomaniac.

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The art style, an obvious component of any comic book, is pretty standard. I would have liked to see some more whimsical illustrations, which is much more my cup of tea when it comes to comics, but the classic style allows for the focus to be on everything happening–words included–not just the art. There are also odd instances when instead of reading frame-by-frame down the page and then onto the next, you read across both pages and then down, across both pages, and down again. This threw me off multiple times and I found myself reading information that wasn’t chronological. Maybe this is a more common thing than I thought, but every comic I’ve read previous hasn’t done that, so be prepared. Regardless of the sometimes confusing layout, my next point is on the hilarious puns, which totally make up for it. For some people, the Shakespeare imagery might be lost, but for me, someone who has been reading and studying the Bard’s works for over five years now, this stuff kills. The characters say things like “Then be true to thine own self” (originally said in Hamlet by Polonius) and “Call it what you will” (the extended part of Twelfth Night‘s title). I’m not going to list every instance, but you get the idea.

Overall, this comic is a good time. The first volume is a lot of setting up so I’m not really sure what happens or is going to happen in the volumes to come, but I can update this post once I read more. If you’re a literary nerd like me and enjoy seeing Shakespeare’s characters outside of their original works, then definitely give this work a go.

Shakespeare the myth? Or Shakespeare the false hope?

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