Book Review: Nora & Kettle

I had seen some blogging friends express interest in Nora & Kettle, but when the e-book was on sale and I contemplated buying it, I checked Goodreads and noticed none of them had actually read it. The reviews from others on GR really piqued my interest though, so I bought it and read it not too long after. And I’m glad I did.

gr-nora&kettle

The pacing of the story is very slow, but the writing is beautiful. It also weaves in some elements from Peter Pan, though it is definitely not a retelling or an adaptation.

In the beginning we meet Nora, a girl who, to the outside world, seems to have a good life, but she’s harboring the secret of her father’s abuse. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to mention the inciting incident, as it happens so quickly, but her mother dies in a freak accident, and suddenly Nora is even more terrified because this means she has to endure her father and shield her sister from him alone.

Meanwhile, Kettle is a poor homeless boy doing his best to take care of other poor homeless kids alongside his friend and “brother” Kin. He takes his life in stride but is haunted by the past he barely remembers – the family who might not have wanted him, his childhood in internment camps, his mysterious mixed heritage. And he deals with the overwhelming burden of trying to provide for himself and others at the young age of 17 and no place to call home.

For more than half of the novel, we go back and forth between these two’s individual lives, with them skimming each others’ paths, but not properly meeting for a while. It’s very drawn-out and not a lot happens, and yet I was invested in these characters. I cared for them and wanted to know what would happen to them and how they would finally meet up.

When Nora and Kettle are finally involved in each others’ lives, it’s interesting to see how they compare and contrast to one another. I will say, however, that this portion of the story was more rushed and didn’t feel fully developed. Nora and Kettle grow interested in each other quickly, which is fine, but it felt more vague than sure, and then suddenly towards the end it seems to get very serious very quickly. However, the climax was really compelling and I think it played out perfectly. I just wanted maybe one more chapter afterwards for more of a final resolution.

Overall, it’s a beautiful story, and I would love to read more about these characters. I know so little about the Japanese internment camps and while this didn’t teach me much more, it did humanize those events for me through Kettle and Kin.

Rating: 4 stars

Trigger warning: domestic violence/abuse

Content advisory: Domestic violence described but not too graphically, some language.

Have you read Nora & Kettle? What did you think? 

Advertisements

Am I Not Merciful? (Illuminae Review)

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Young Adult Science Fiction

Find on Goodreads

gr-illuminae

Baa baa black sheep… OK, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike this book. But wow, I don’t really understand the hype. I mean, yes, it’s a very unique book which gives it novelty and yes, there are some crazy plot twists I did not see coming. However, these two things do not a story make. So let me dissect this a bit…

The Characters

The number one thing that will make or break a story for me is the characters. So the characters in Illuminae were… OK? The main characters are Kady Grant and Ezra Mason, and you get a semi-decent feel for them. This book is told through documents, IM chats, interview transcripts, etc., so you definitely get a very good feel for how they talk, and thanks to Kady’s diary entries, a little of how they feel. However, I just never connected with them at all. I only kinda/sorta liked Kady and I barely tolerated Ezra. He could be kind of sweet but he was also kind of crude, especially when talking to McNulty (who I didn’t like AT ALL). And speaking of secondary characters like McNulty, I cared 0% about any of them.

*MILD spoilers in this paragraph* The most interesting character in this whole book is the AI, AIDEN, because he’s complex and we get a lot of his perspective in the latter part of the book. But as one who’s seen a few too many Star Trek episodes where Captain Kirk literally talked a computer to death, I wasn’t sure about him. First off, no, he does not get talked to death (I really thought Kady was going to do this), but he was definitely extremely affected by humans. Way more than made sense to me. Now, I have seen a lot of other Star Trek episodes where I liked this sort of thing, particularly if we’re looking at Data in The Next Generation, but I didn’t feel this really worked. Especially when I started to get the vibe that AIDEN might be kind of into Kady romantically even though he claims he can’t feel that way? Eh. (In fact, it feels like all the guys who know Kady seem to freaking love her for reasons unknown to me.)

totally-illogical

The Pacing

Another big thing for me is pacing, and the pacing in this book was very strange for me. It started off pretty good, the novelty of the story format kept me hooked plus we pick up right after a big event happens. Then after a little while I got bored as there is just a lot of talking about things but nothing actually happening, and I was a little confused about everything transpiring anyway, but wasn’t interested enough to go back and figure things out. Then about the halfway mark things got crazy and intense and good, so I was again into it. But then it kind of slacked off a little again, which theoretically is fine because breaks are nice, but I got bored of Kady and AIDEN and all that. Then the very end was pretty good but not super strong. There are enough reveals and action elements to keep the story flowing, but at the end I definitely didn’t understand why we needed 599 pages for this story.

The Format/The Voice

So overall I appreciated the formatting of the book, and it was particularly effective when we had the pages that showed outer space and the text was sparse and it felt very appropriate. However, there were a lot of transcripts and things of that nature included and all of them had the same exact voice. They were all sarcastic, unprofessional, etc. and did not make sense to me in the context of what they were supposed to be. It made a little more sense in the end (I’ll elaborate more on that when I get to spoilers) but it really threw me out of the book multiple times. You would think with two authors it would be easier for everything and everyone in the book not sound so much the same.

There were some other added elements that were interesting, like an ad for a TV show, a PSA, etc. that added context to the world that I appreciated, and weren’t as tainted by the overall voice thankfully.

The Ending (This Portion Contains *Spoilers*)

So in the end, if I understood correctly, Kady collected these documents and sent them to Leanne, so presumably a lot of the commentary was her own, which would explain the voice issue I had. At least, sort of, because I feel some of those documents should not have been tainted by her own tone. And Kady is starting *something* to fight against Leanne, the true big bad, who is behind *something* that is… uh… bad. Probably the initial attacks and stuff. This was all very fuzzy for me. I don’t understand why anything in the story happened, happened. Why were there attacks? Why was there a mutating plague? (And why do all sci-fi plagues result in people acting like zombies?) Are there going to be repressions of that in the future (other than, obviously, the detrimental death toll)? Why was the Lincoln chasing after the other ships? Why is everything that is happening such a freaking big deal other than, once again, the obvious death tolls? (And unrelated but another question I had of this book: What’s happening on Earth?)

bashir-questions

Basically, I felt like this was all one giant set-up for something bigger coming down the road, but after this book I can’t help but wonder if it will actually result in a satisfactory pay-off. I had issues with some of the plotting and the ending of These Broken Stars as well, another book co-authored by Amie Kaufman. I like some of the sci-fi ideas she presents, but they end up playing out in ways that feel kind of hollow to me. For me, I want my sci-fi to explore the nature of humanity and confront big questions, but this is more weird conspiracies from big corporations who plot terrible, universal destruction, and I don’t feel much from the people or don’t feel myself (or the characters) grappling with big, societal issues.

pewpew

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, this book is a low 4 star read for me, probably more like 3.75 stars if I was going to get very particular. It had some good elements to it, but it didn’t quite live up to all I wanted it to be. Will I continue the series? Eh, maybe. I’ll probably wait until it’s finished to see if it sounds like the pay-off is truly worth it. As it stands right now, I’m not dying to know what happened next, even if the ending wasn’t completely satisfactory on its own.

Content advisory: Moderate language – strong language is marked out for document censorship but milder language and taking God’s name in vain (g–d—, etc) is not. Some violence, though not extremely graphic. Some sexual discussion that is more implied and innuendo rather than graphic, but could be crude. 

So what are your thoughts on Illuminae? Do you feel I missed the point? 

“I Did Love You Once”: Thoughts on Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson

Don’t Touch is a quiet book in the world of YA. I didn’t hear a lot about it before asking for it for my birthday, but I’m pretty sure my interest in it was piqued largely thanks to Kayla. It focuses on Caddie, whose parents have recently separated and is subsequently dealing with extreme anxiety, which is fed by a rule or mantra she has created for herself: don’t touch. Caddie feels that if she touches someone, or them her, skin to skin, she will be responsible for her parents’ divorce. As someone has never experienced anything like this, it was interesting to get inside her mind see her thought process.

dont-touch

The book felt very genuine, from Caddie’s anxiety to her friendships and her experience as a new student at a performing arts high school (in Birmingham, Alabama! Bonus points for the Southern setting!). She reconnects with her old friend Mandy, but for me, the highlight was definitely her friendship with Peter, who she adores, but a potential relationship between them is very much complicated by don’t touch. (Bonus points for Peter being such a nice guy! I loved it!)

Part of the plot involves Caddie playing Ophelia in her school’s production in Hamlet, and I promise you I read this book in high school, but all I remember is, “To be or not to be,” and not liking it at all. Talk of the play in the book almost made me want to revisit it and see if I could appreciate it more this time around. But the key word is almost, because in the end I decided I was fine without ever reading it again.

This book felt like a 4.5 star book most of the time; I was really enjoying it but it wasn’t quite 5-star read for me, but the ending almost lowered my rating to a 4. I don’t want to say too much to spoil it, but one aspect doesn’t really wrap up at all, but that felt realistic and appropriate for the story. The other aspect I think wrapped up a little too nicely. I understood that she had struggled a ton already, but it seemed some things happened a little too quickly, but I have no expertise on the matter, so maybe it could be that way. Also, the ending didn’t really drag after the climax, but I feel like there was maybe a little more to it than necessary. I would have preferred something a little more open-ended.

dont-touch-quote

Overall, I would definitely recommend it for a realistic look at mental illness, interesting friendship dynamics, and a sweet romance.

Content advisory: Some mild to moderate language. Some talk of sex, nothing real descriptive.

Have you read Don’t Touch? What are your thoughts? What was a book that, for you, did a good job of portraying mental illness?

“So I Write it to the Sky”: The Wrath and The Dawn

It’s always a little intimidating going into a book with so much hype. And honestly, The Wrath and the Dawn started off slow for me. You are dumped into a whole new world with no background information or explanation as to what is happening or who any of the characters are. I spent probably the first 25% of the book trying to keep everyone straight and trying to figure out why I should care about any of them. I felt disconnected from all of them, but since I was reading this for book club, there was so much hype, and I wasn’t completely bored or uninterested, I kept reading. Thankfully, it really picked up for me.

gr-thewrath&thedawn

Possibly because of this disconnection at the beginning, I didn’t believe in Shahrzad’s growing attraction towards Khalid at first. She hated him and she never really said anything positive about his looks (not negative either, but she didn’t seem to be drooling over him), so I didn’t understand why her heart would flutter around him early on in the story. Does she feel connected to him because of their marriage? Is there something else about him that evokes this in her, maybe even nervousness or fear? I would have liked to have gotten some more insight into Shahrzad’s thoughts, but we’re provided with very little. This disconnect in the beginning and how it affected my view of the characters is my definitely biggest complaint of the book.

However, as the story developed and I grew to understand the characters more through their words and actions, I did find myself caring more and more. And on the night when Shahrzad learns the truth about why Khalid does what he does, I was definitely a lot more on board with them as a couple and with the story as a whole.

wrathdawn-quote

The ending left me with a lot of questions, but I know most of them are definitely going to be brought up in the next book (since they’re mentioned in the synopsis), but one thing I really want to know is why Khalid sought Shahrzad out that first night, but never did with any of the other women. Because without him having done that, the rest of the story would never have happened. I really hope this comes up again, and wonder if this is somehow connected with her abilities she seems to have. Speaking of which, the element of magic and abilities was brought up later in the book than I personally felt it should have been. I wish we could have learned that about her earlier, as it seems to be an important part of her character.

The writing overall in this book was beautiful. It was written very cinematically; I could picture each scene in my mind with all the rich description given of setting, clothing, food, etc. There were multiple senses being evoked in each scene, yet I never felt it bogged down the pacing of the story, and that is masterful writing in my opinion.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and definitely plan to continue the series!

4stars2

What are your thoughts on The Wrath and the Dawn? Was it slow for you at first too or did you fall in love right away? 

Review: Mistborn

How to sum up Mistborn…

totally-wicked

5stars2The end.

Wait, did you want more than that? You want to know my thoughts on the plots, the characters, the world, be convinced that you should read this? Fine. I’ll oblige.

gr-mistbornHere’s what you need to know up front: This is 600+ pages of fantasy goodness. This is not for everyone, but if that doesn’t intimidate you, or at least you’re open to the idea, then this book probably is for you. One of my first inclinations of the book after I had started reading was that the story is a bit of a slow burn. Let me emphasize: it’s not a slow, drawn-out beginning with massive info dump and waiting for the story to begin. But the story takes its time to develop. The characters take time to develop. That’s part of what makes this story so worthwhile, because in the end it will impact you in ways a lesser developed story just could not have done. It’s all completely worth it and it’s never boring, even when things are moving slower. I never felt that Sanderson was just feeding me unnecessary filler.

The book focuses mainly on Kelsier and Vin, both born as skaa (slaves, essentially), both gifted, but otherwise pretty different. Vin is a 16 year old girl; Kelsier is a 30-something year old man. Kelsier has spent much of his adult life leading people; Vin just tries to scrape by unnoticed and unharmed. Kelsier has developed his abilities; Vin is only vaguely aware of hers. But when the two meet, Kelsier recruits Vin and takes her under his wing, and though she believes he intends to use her for whatever purpose he has and then dispose her, she slowly learns to trust him and his friends as they work and train together.

After a while, we also get introduced to my favorite character ELEND! It seems I have a thing for young noblemen who are a little defiant (Prince Kai in The Lunar Chronicles, Kiggs in Seraphina, Nikkolai in the Grisha trilogy…), but seriously, he brings books to balls and reads them there! What is not to love about that? And his interactions with Vin are gold. In fact, my only complaint for this book is that I think the development between Elend and Vin ended up being a little rushed (which feels crazy to say about this book); they seem to go from flirtatious banter to relationship suddenly. Not that it was too soon, but there is no explanation that I recall about them talking outside the balls, so I don’t when they established things because suddenly it was like bam, they’re a couple. I just wanted more of those interactions, dang it. But hopefully there will be more in the next two books.

This book is hard to explain because it is a fantasy with an intricate world and magic system, and the plot has a little bit of everything going for it: action, adventure, drama, comedy, romance… But seriously, it was all good. It’s character-driven but the plot is great too. And while the ending for this book was satisfying and does not leave you on a cliff-edge, I am certainly anticipating more. (But Nikki did warn me that I will need to read books two and three back-to-back, so that has been noted!)

By the way, just as a warning, not everything in the ending is happy. But the ending is still good and worth it, I promise. There are feels of all kinds in this book.

So basically, if any of this sounds appealing to you at all, you should read it. I think you’ll love it. I know I’m glad I gave it a shot. And I’m happy to give my first read of 2015 5 stars!

If you’re a Mistborn fan, feel free to gush in the comments! 

Content advisory: Mild language, moderate violence