Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Strange Maid

The Strange Maid
(image from its page)
Tessa Gratton

(Trigger Warnings for the book: Death, alcohol)

(Gif warning for the review)
Signy Valborn climbed the New World Tree when she was seven, looking for Asgard at its top branches. It wasn't there, but the Allfather was. He promised her that if she could solve a riddle, she could join the ranks of the Valkyries. For ten years, Signy has trained to become a Valkyrie, trying to solve her riddle all the while. After running from home to live in the streets of Chicagland, she's not eager to trust Ned Unferth, who claims to know the answer. A Greater Mountain Troll, he claims, will hold the solution. Signy knows she's running out of time. She'll have to trust him.

You know, I was so proud of my summary for The Last Mango (If you're confused, read the review for the predecessor book- then you'll know why I refuse to call it by its real title.). Not sure what went wrong this time.

(image from Pintrest)

Yes, kid, this is a kissing book. There is lots of kissing. You're going to have to get used it. But, hey, there's a plot, too, so get over yourself. Here are the characters who may or may not have kissability:

Signy Valborn- KISSING RATE: HIGH- Finally, a strong female character that isn't a) basically a male character that the author decided should be female, or b) a sex object hiding under the strong female character guise. Signy was a genuinely interesting and cool character to read about. She had almost all the traits you want in a female character, without the chaser of "stage seven Other Girls syndrome" and "magically fails to do anything when Love Interest comes along". A+ main character.

Ned Unferth- KISSING RATE: Lower than Signy, but higher than, say, Sharkman- This is ~Love Interest~. You can tell just by those squiggles that I have a bone to pick. However, I actually have no reason to pick that bone other than Ned's brooding and angst. And the brooding and angst was reasonable too. So, while his character wasn't my favorite, there's no reason to actively hate him. Sad, I know.

Soren Bearstar- KISSING RATE: haha your girlfriend got turned into a goddess everybody point and laugh- I actually liked him better in this book than in the last. Is that weird? He was the MC of the last book. Anyway, he felt more sympathetic and real this time around.

Sharkman- KISSING RATE: Lower than Ned, but higher than Soren- Not important, I know, but for a secondary Love Interest, he probably should have shown up more. Or at least had a personality. Or something.

Baldur- KISSING RATE: Probably still higher than Soren- Okay, I'm only putting him down because I thought he was cool. He only showed up once.

The writing style wasn't too compelling. It wasn't really boring, but it didn't demand my attention. I felt like the narrator could have been a little less detached. However, it was good to see some real emotions from this main character, even if they felt a little bit at a distance. Perhaps third person would fit the style a bit better.

Ooh, ooh the twist near the end! I love end twists! That was pretty darn great. And it made sense, but wasn't obviously going to happen from the beginning. If there were more plot twists like that, reviews would be a happier place.

The balance of action and character development was pretty sweet. Not summer blockbustery, but also not romantic tragedy. Realistic, without one subplot beating out another. Or, well, as realistic as a fantasy book can get. You know. Anyway, veddy veddy good, Ms. Gratton, veddy veddy good.

On the romance: Let's face it, even though I have no practical reason to dislike Ned, I disliked Ned. The air of father figure/mentor and also Love Interest was unnerving. If he stuck as mentor and Sharkman became the Love Interest, I think I'd take it better.

I'm torn whether I liked this book or the last book better. The last one I liked the characters and plot better, but this one didn't have the same problems that bothered me last time.

(Let's face it, if my immune system was better, you guys wouldn't get anything.)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Say What You Will

Say What You Will
(Image from
Cammie McGovern

Trigger Warnings for the book: Death mentions, disease, alcohol use, drug mentions

Born with cerebral palsy, Amy can't walk without a walker, talk without a voice box, or even fully control her facial expressions. Plagued by obsessive-compulsive disorder, Matthew is consumed with repeated thoughts, neurotic rituals, and crippling fear. Both in desperate need of someone to help them reach out to the world, Amy and Matthew are more alike than either ever realized.

When Amy decides to hire student aides to help her in her senior year at Coral Hills High School, these two teens are thrust into each other's lives. As they begin to spend time with each other, what started as a blossoming friendship eventually grows into something neither expected.

Yes, I ripped the description off Amazon. Sue me, I hate trying to summarize contemporary books. Anyway, this book... *sigh, runs hand through hair* How to describe this book...

Let me start by saying I did not hate this book. I also didn't love it. But I can't say my opinion was neutral, either. There were a bunch of high points, but also some low points, and instead of cancelling each other out, it just dizzied my opinion on the book. So I'll section this review into two parts- positive and negative.

(I wish I could make that rainbow and sparkly, but, alas, I don't know how to do a glitter effect. Maybe another time.)

 Point One. This book was honest. I saw it compared to The Fault in Our Stars and just kinda... Well, the Fault in Our Stars isn't an honest book. It's pretty romanticized (listen as the nerdfighters gasp and plot their revenge against me). Say What You Will had an air of, "This is just how it is. There's no need to doll up the truth." Which, I've gotta say, I love. Thank you, Ms. McGovern, for giving the book the most genuine feel I've ever read.

Point Two. Stories about disabilities that aren't completely, "Look, people with disabilities! Existing! So brave!" are hard to come by. Inspiration may be nice, but there's no need to used disabled people as your pawn in the inspiration game. Another thank you to the author for not making Amy an object to gawk at. Amy (and Matthew) went way beyond the feel-good-story characters I expected.

Point Three. Not only were the characters people, they were good people! Interesting people! Honestly, if at the end of the book there was a little note that said "Surprise! There is no Cammie McGovern! This is a joint autobiography!" I might not actually be surprised. They sounded so real.

Point Four. Frrriiiieeeennnddddshhhhiiiiiipppppp. Instalove and enemies-turned-lovers are my two least favorite kinds of romance. Friendship based love is totally the best. It's realistic and warm and fuzzy without the lustity-lust-lust atmosphere I get from love at first sight, or basically anything where the Love Interest(TM)'s first description is that he/she was so hot that you'd melt looking at them.

Point Five. The romance was pretty darn great too. It didn't morph their relationship into something weird and unrecognizable. [Congratulations! It's a spoiler!] And then, when sex did come up, it wasn't an immediate take-off-your-clothes-we're-not-even-gonna-think-about-it thing. Why does that keep happening? I have no idea. But it's nice to get a break from it. [The spoiler disappeared, never to be seen again] Okay, I'm gonna have to say, it was pretty cute. There. You heard it from me, folks.


Sadly, we'd have to get to this eventually. Even with all the good stuff there was:

Negative Point One. [Wake me up... when the spoilers end] The baby. Yup. Third novel on here with a useless baby. It's not that it wasn't important to the plot, really, it's just there are so many better plot points that could have been used. I don't want another novel with the main girl getting pregnant. I don't need that. No one needs that. It's getting old, people. I'm also absolutely terrified that the book I'm reading now is going to do that. At least in this book the baby's put up for adoption. We really, really don't need another BABY. BABY ALL. ONLY BABY NOW. BABY LIFE. BABY BABY BABY. Story. [Goodbye, spoiler! We'll miss you! Write home!]

Negative Point Two. Near the end, the book went from awesome to a bit weird. Like the author wasn't sure what else to day after [Yeah, one more spoiler.] Amy went missing. [I knew your spoiler. It was a good man.] It became harder to really feel for the situation.

Negative Point Three. More of *sigh, flop onto the couch* The Other Girls. And here's the confusing part. Amy had a more mild case of The Other Girls syndrome than Matthew. She at least accepted them like people. Matthew went so far as slut shaming and acting like Amy was the only decent girl. That's, like, a stage four Other Girls case. All I can say is "no".

(If you total it up, it's two points. A mediocre book is zero points. So, uh, above average, I guess?)

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Time to Dance

A Time to Dance
(image from its goodreads page)
Padma Venkatraman

(Trigger warnings for the book- amputation, injury, blood, death)

Veda is a dance prodigy, used to applause and attention. After an accident, however, her dreams are shattered with her leg. A below-the-knee amputation has to be preformed, making Veda's once graceful movements slow and clumsy. But instead of giving up, she tenaciously chases her dream, entering beginner dance classes to relearn balance and flexibility. There she meets Govinda, a young dance teacher who believes in dance as a spiritual pursuit. With him, Veda's view of the world changes, and she finds what dancing means to her.

*Reads my summary* *Reads the book's summary* *Realizes I sound like a 6th grader when told to write about something 'in their own words'* *Laughs, but nervously*

Anyway, this book had the perfect set up to be the bane of my existence. A novel in verse (Is it poetry? Is it a novel? WHO KNOWS.), spiritual, inspirational... I mean, nearly everything I don't like was there. Yet this book was so good.

Veda was such a great character. It was amazing, seeing the world through her eyes. Despite one of the reasons I don't like novels in verse being they suck the life out of characters, she warded off the voice-vampire like a PRO. I think we need more Vedas in fiction.

The descriptions were A++. Even the kind of weird or disturbing ones, such as the phantom limb sensation or the time at the beginning of the book when Veda can't find her crutches and collapses in the bathroom. Despite accentuating that kind of thing, it made the beautiful scenes ten times more beautiful. It was great.

I kind of wish there was more just about dance at the end, because Govinda sorta took over for a bit. The dance scenes that were near the end were fab, though.

The spiritual bits, which usually just make me feel weird about myself, were actually pretty darn great to read. Instead of having a preachy tone of, "This should be you. This character is so religious. They're getting the nice afterlife. You? You're getting a second-rate death. Hah." it didn't push its boundaries as fiction. It felt more comforting than imposing. Remember, if you're going to write a book with spiritual themes, TAKE AFTER THIS BOOK.

Ah, romance. The way romance was handled never dipped into "intolerable" zones.  It always stayed tolerable or better. This sounds like a half insult. It's actually a full compliment. Her crush on Jim brought out a really realistic side. Because, like, at least half of readers out there have a crush they really regret now. You think I'm not talking to you. I am. When Govinda showed, he was perfect love interest material. He's cool. It's nice to not be stuck with 'dark and brooding lovey dovey interest winterest'. Very, very nice.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone.

(Thank Squid for the 31st, or you guys might not have gotten this)