Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Throwback Review: Green Heart

Another Throwback Review - this time from back in 2012! Enjoy!

Green Heart is the combination of two YA novels Green Angel and Green Witch by Alice Hoffman.

The day it happened, fifteen-year-old Green was angry and refused to speak to her family as they left. She had wanted to go with them to the city, but they needed her to stay home.

Her father, mother, and sister all died in the terrible disaster – leaving Green all alone, and plagued by the memory of her last moments with them.

She struggles to survive in a world turned topsy-turvy, a place where nothing wants to grow among the ashes. Green becomes one with the thorny, lifeless realm of her garden – but finds she must allow herself to open back up to life, to possibility… to magic.

Even though all she can see is pain.

Green Heart was a majestic read!

I read The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman years ago and was dumbfounded by it – so I had high expectations, and, my, were they reached!

The haunting, mournful, poetic sentences create an almost ethereal, atmospheric tone – a poem that goes on and on with grace and elegance.

As I read the Green Heart, or I should probably say absorbed, I hoped for a happy end, for healing, but I knew that anything Alice Hoffman created would be more complicated than that, more real.

Green Heart is a novel of lovely, wistful, staggering simplicity of words that brings a quiet power to this otherworldly tale. This is especially true when it comes to the allure and hypnotic pull of nature and animals (Animal lover, here!). There’s a sense of magic, of wonder, of hurt and hope intertwined.

Both Green Angel and Green Witch are beautiful, the sequel taking us deeper into a surprisingly revealing and exquisite story that is tonally the same.

If you’re a bit sick of reading about the apocalypse, various dystopias, that really just kind of depress you (I know that I have started to be), Green Heart is a refreshing read.

Here we have a book that is touching, transcends genres, and brings lightness to the dark.

If you haven’t already, you should definitely read Green Heart!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Throwback Review: Love and Other Perishable Items

A contemporary YA Throwback Review for you ravenous bibliophiles, this time. Originally posted back in February 2013!

Love and Other Perishable Items is a YA contemporary fiction novel by Australian author Laura Buzo.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day – and to celebrate I bring to you a story about first love. Not the mushy romance novel kind (not that there’s anything wrong with that) or the paranormal kind (not that there’s anything wrong with that either) but the regular, difficult, real-life kind.

It didn’t take long for Amelia to fall for Chris, her trainer at the supermarket in which she works. His easy way of talking, his friendliness, humor, and charisma has done her in.

This is a problem because Chris is twenty-one, a university student hungry to become an independent man. And Amelia? Fifteen.

Having always had a good head on her shoulders, Amelia knows it won’t go anywhere. Sure, it’s like a knife to the heart every time she sees him flirting with a girl his age – but she’ll take the moments of conversation, sharing opinions and personal moments with him at the checkout as they work.

But it’s those long conversations that buzz with wit and candor that start Amelia to wonder, eventually, if her crush really is one-sided… or if there is a chance that despite her age, Chris might like her back.

And even if he does… then what?

Love and Other Perishable Items is superb. I read the whole book in one sitting. I couldn’t stop. I was riveted, glued, and dumbfounded by the tender authenticity and genuineness.

From the get-go, Chris is immediately engaging, likable, fun, and cheery – the kind of guy you’d want to be around. He is able to talk – something that can be difficult to find in guys, and it’s one of the main reasons Amelia falls for him.

The tingly, nervous, excited, slightly obsessive feeling of a crush is evident and honest here. Any one of us who has felt it will recognize it easily. Laura Buzo writes extremely well – extremely.

Amelia is believable, feels like a legitimate fifteen-year-old with a brain. She’s not a bundle of gushy girl romantic fantasies, but can carry of intelligent exchanges, has views, and holds her own among the anguish of unrequited love.

Love and Other Perishable Items switches to Chris’ viewpoint occasionally, through his journal, and it is enlightening and cool. It’s a chance to see his darkness, the underground of his personality that is revealing, disheartening, but realistic. I loved that we got to see her perception of him, his personal hidden side, and then the two combined eventually as a whole human nature. Incredible.

This book isn’t sunshine and rainbows – it’s painful, heartbreaking and sad at times. It’s truly raw and presents unaffected, flawed people and the ache that is sometimes life. But – wow! I was stunned, as you can tell. There’s joy here too – and hope.

Love and Other Perishable Items is… special. I think you’ll think so, too.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Throwback Review: The Game of Triumphs

Another Throwback Review, this time from February 2012. Take a looksie:

The Game of Triumphs is a YA urban fantasy by Laura Powell.

Fifteen-year-old Cat is on her way home, doing her best to avoid human contact as always, when she can’t help but notice a man being chased – a man that asks for her help. But Cat sees the gleam of excitement in his eyes, along with the fear, and figures he’s just a weirdo.

Yet something about it all sparks her curiosity, and Cat can’t seem to help pursuing the situation. Doing so brings her to an extravagant party that introduces her to the Game of Triumphs. It’s a centuries-old game played between modern-day London and an alternate, unexplainable reality called the Arcanum where game players embark on challenges having to do with the tarot cards they are dealt, or the card they are trying to win. It’s all a bit confusing to Cat at first, but the intrigue is undeniable.

Not long after becoming involved in this enigmatic game, though, Cat finds out just how dangerous and potent the information you can learn in Arcanum can be. Despite others’ single-focus goal to win and gain the power and glory of their Triumph, Cat begins to uncover secrets from her own past that alarm her – including a possible link to the Game of Triumphs from when she was very young.

Determined to learn more, Cat is drawn into the addictive gameplay – and it’s not something you can just walk away from…

My synopsis may be a little befuddling, and I apologize for that. The specifics of the actual game are a little confusing and would take a while to explain – so I’m not. The author does it far better than I could!

The Game of Triumphs has a brilliant, truly enthralling start with a creepy tarot card. It has a plot that feels fresh and new from the get-go, which is fantastic for us bibliophiles that read so much that sometimes plots tend to blur. Not here!

Laura Powell is not shy about throwing us into the story. We’re right in the thick of it from the beginning, though she kindly offers up a tad of exposition to let us a learn a bit more about Cat and her eccentric relationship with her Aunt Bel, who has been her guardian since her parents’ death when she was a child. Its’ sparse but illuminating initial detail provides us some background and explains Cat’s different, likable, maybe slightly standoffish personality.

As she gets more involved in the Game of Triumphs I was just as confused as Cat was about how the game is played. I hoped it would eventually make sense – I was captivated by it. And, happily, Laura Powell expertly lets us learn by little explanation and lots of observation without bombarding us with rules and details in one fell swoop.

The Game of Triumphs is kind of psychedelic, in a good, intoxicating, stimulating way! Mysteries and questions abound and my curiosity always mirrored Cat’s. Startling revelations, done in a hypnotic, dream-like way bring about a new level of meaning and history to the game.

Let me put it this way, since I’m not so sure I’ve made it clear yet: The Game of Triumphs is very cool, very original, and very alluring.

And I will be waiting to read the sequel the day it comes out!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Interview with the Vampire



Interview with the Vampire is the first book in Anne Rice’s adult horror fantasy Vampire Chronicles series.

When a young reporter gets a chance to interview with the enigmatic, pale man that claims to be a vampire, he takes it. Such begins the long, harrowing tale of Louis, his maker Lestat and his “child” Claudia.

Sweeping from pre-civil war Louisiana to the mists of Europe, Louis weaves his life story for the reporter from the tragic, defining moments before his transition and those bloody, unsettling moments immediately following his meeting with the vampire Lestat – and beyond.

Anyone who has seen the film starring Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and a young Kirsten Dunst may know many details of the turns the novel will take – as it is a fairly strong adaptation, likely due to the fact that Anne Rice herself penned it. However, here we have the original book form where Rice lends that miserable, contemplative, gloomy voice of Louis who is a reluctant vampire, to put it lightly.

Desperately trying to hang on to his humanity, Louis is a conflicted character who is torn between caring for, and being dependent on, his relationships with Lestat and Claudia, while also being horrified by their easy killing and lack of conscience. He is, quite simply, not built to be a vampire but doomed to its fate.

Without providing further plot details, I will say that Interview with the Vampire had gorgeous descriptions and an eloquent, poetic language that was both very enveloping and also, at times, probably more than necessary. I won’t deny occasionally skimming some of the more longwinded narration describing the countryside or what have you.

However, the prose was affective in creating an absorbing atmosphere, a distinct first-person voice and some occasionally powerful emotional punches – from strangely, almost involuntarily, erotic to heartbreaking, tormenting sorrow.

Though Louis’s journey through vampirism was hypnotic, and its eventual conclusion titillated me on a pure character development level, I have been assured by a friend that the next books in the Vampire Chronicles series are far more satisfying. It sounds as though Lestat becomes much more in the spotlight and creates a vibe a little less depressive and a little more fun.

Either way, though, Interview with the Vampire was definitely worth the read and was a great experience. I would strongly recommend bibliophiles with an enjoyment of gothic stories to check it out! I look forward to diving into more novels in the series as soon as I am able.