Book Review: Dreams of Gods & Monsters

Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Date Published: April 8, 2014
Number of Pages: 613
Series

What’s It About?

After deceiving the rebel Chimaera army Karou has managed to seize control. After a shocking truce sees Akiva’s Misbegotten siblings align themselves with the remaining rebels the groups are forced to work together to stop the Seraphim emperor Jael procuring arms from Earth, not to mention preventing the apocalypse.

On the far side of Eretz the Queen of the reclusive Stelian clan sets out with a small group to find – and kill – the unknown magus stealing their power.

And on Earth as the invading angels shock and awe humanity a young scientist discovers a truth that has the ability to destroy not just the world but every and all universes.

The Story

Gods Monsters

They’d left nothing behind but thoroughly empty dishes and – this would be on for the conspiracy theorists – several long blue hairs in the shower where an angel’s hand had stroked a devil’s head, locked in a long – and so very long-awaited – embrace.

Beginning with the reaction to Jael’s army of Seraphim on Earth interspersed with flashes to Eretz and the integration of Akiva’s Misbegotten brothers and sisters with Karou’s’ Chimaera rebels the tension is intense. Palpable. The story takes off at lightening speed moving between character viewpoints – some like Karou & Akiva who we’ve come to know so well and others we’ve been dying to hear from (Liraz she has a soul! Who knew?) Taylor also introduces a knew character in the form of doctorate student Eliza Jones. At first Eliza’s story seems disruptive – every time the story shifts from Eretz and back to Earth and the discovery of the bodies in the pit you find yourself cursing the lack of Karou and Akiva. Eliza’s story though becomes more and more riveting and mysterious, so in tune with the overall story you eventually find yourself desperate for more.

The action is acute and never missing for too long – in fact the story plays out almost like a film with the perfect balance of conflict, fighting, strategizing and romance (and not just from Akiva and Karou.)

This exemplary melding of themes, genres and stories comes down to one thing – Laini Taylor is a genius. Her ability to seamlessly weave a multitude of stories together in perfect harmony is something to fawn over. Her ability to ensure that each of those stories is told to its fullest, given its dues and serves a purpose is awe inspiring. Like J.K. Rowling, Taylor planted seeds to her story’s ending at the very beginning, and like J.K. Rowling she didn’t disappoint in allowing those seeds to grow and bloom into a nearly perfect ending. This final chapter in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy was well worth the wait. Stirring, dramatic, surprising and heartfelt Taylor managed to maintain the realities of the worlds she created while leaving readers happy and, interestingly enough, salivating for more. (Is it possible? Dare one hope?)

From the impending threat of apocalyptic doom spanning two worlds, to the revelation about the vile fallen angel Razgut’s previous life, to the uncloaking of the mysterious – and supremely powerful – Stelians, to the sweet romance of humans Mik and Zuzana and the epic, heartrending, soul searing love story of Karou and Akiva not to mention the life threatening deception Karou and Ziri are trying to pull off – each story plays a role, each story connects somehow, magnificently to another and another, spinning an ending that makes for a book you can’t possibly put down.

The Writing

Let’s just take a minute to discuss the unbelievable beauty of Taylor’s prose – it is equal parts poetic, fluid and colourful without ever being over the top. It’s nearly impossible not to speed through her stories simply because her writing is so easy. Not easy in the sense that it’s “dumbed down” because it’s not (how can it be when you’re throwing out words like “cartilaginous”? Amirit?) Easy in that it flows, it’s melodic. It’s stunning.

Karou & Akiva’s Epic Love Story

I hate anyone who likens their story to Romeo and Juliet. Hate. Their story is uniquely their own. Sure they’ve got the whole star-crossed lovers deal but their strength, their determination to succeed, their inability to ever truly lose each other is something altogether different. Even when in Days of Blood & Starlight Karou’s anger blinded her (or attempted to) love for Akiva it was there, tangible, and weighing heavily on everything she did. In Dreams of Gods & Monsters Karou accepts this love, realizing that in denying it she’s weakening herself by denying her right to her own happiness. Which is incredibly profound and moving. But what truly solidifies this couple at the top echelon of YA romantic couples is that they are always willing to sacrifice their own happiness to save others and most importantly – they’re both acceptance of this fact in each other. Seriously how much more romantic can this be.

Shout Out to a Great Supporting Cast

No review of this final book would be complete without a nod to the colourful cast of characters littered throughout the series and this final chapter. Zuzana and Mik are a given as the best representations of what being colour blind really means – it’s presented simply in their easy acceptance of both the Chimaera and Seraphim, their desire to help both. Ziri and Liraz – opposites attracting so perfectly. The disfigured, ruthless Jael and the snivelling Razgut, both of whom you can’t help but love to despise and yet feel sorry for in the strangest way possible. And the even smaller players – The Shadows that Live, Virko, Nightingale et al. Each character, regardless how minute their part in the story is so wonderfully designed, so full and multi dimensional you want to know each and every one of their stories.

Dreams of Gods & Monsters the final book in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy is a grand and heroic ending – brimming with intellect, heart and romance, it offers the perfect closure to a riveting story while not fully closing the door on a world overflowing with possibility. 5/5

 

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“Katsa sat in t…

“Katsa sat in the darkness of the Sunderan forest and understood three truths. She loved Po. She wanted Po. And she could never be anyone’s but her own.”  Graceling_cover

Graceling, Kristin Cashore

The Monthly Re-Read – Days of Blood & Starlight

There’s nothing like re-reading a well loved story. In fact there’s nothing better than re-reading a book period. Sometimes it solidifies your love for a story. Sometimes it solidifies your dislike (or epic hatred if we’re going the John Steinbeck route – long story. I’ll explain it another time.) Regardless I’m a big believer in the re-read.

In anticipation of Dreams of Gods & Monsters, the final book in my serious author crush Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy I’ve re-read the previous two books. Having already done a Monthly Re-Read blog about DoS&B, it’s only fitting I write one for DoB&S.

TOP TEN REASONS TO RE-READ LAINI TAYLOR’S DAYS OF BLOOD & STARLIGHT

10. The Writing
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Laini Taylor’s writing is pure poetry. Her prose is seamlessly woven, it’s the perfect tapestry of words. Quite frankly Taylor is a brilliant storyteller. Eretz

9. Eretz  
I love the world Taylor’s created – she paints a picture of a vast, beautiful and daunting land with a history just as varied and bloodied as our own. Eretz is a land you can easily get lost in (blood thirsty angels and monsters withstanding.)

8. The Stelians
The mystery behind the renegade angels who politely refuse to engage in war with Joram, Emperor of the Seraphim (and Akiva’s father) by sending a basket of fruit is killing me! Who exactly are they? Is Akiva’s mother still alive and living with them? Just how magical are they? And, how – how could they willingly sit by and let the Seraphim and Chimaera tear each other apart for a thousand years?

7. Surprises that Come in Thuribles
Without giving anything away – lets just say with all the heartbreak this series doles out, sometimes happy surprises come in inappropriately labeled thuribles.

6. New Storylines
As much as I wanted nothing but 500 pages of Karou and Akiva there’s no denying their separation allowed for the introduction of new storylines – stories that only helped to better create for the reader the depths of misery, desperation and courage war can create. Plus it leads right to number five…

5. The Perfect Collection of Minor Characters
Zuzana & Mik, Ziri, Hazael and Liraz, even the creepy and possibly crazy Razor – Taylor has a knack for writing great characters. DoB&S is teeming with colourful, unique characters that shine brightly (whether it be for good, Haxaya, or evil, Ten.)

4. The Double Twist Ending
No spoilers don’t worry! But if you’ve read this book you know there’s a few shocks along the way but the end? I did not see that coming. Not. At. All.

3. The White Wolf
Okay I know anyone who’s read this book is sitting there thinking “what the hell?” but hear me out – a great adversary is key to uniting reader and hero. In hating Thiago and his evil, manipulative, conniving ways you can’t help but root that much more for Karou and Akiva – that they change their world and that they find their way back to each other, because screw Thiago!

2. Akiva’s Redemption
Talk about soul crushing love – not only did the man live in agony for nearly 18 years believing he lost forever the love of his life, but when he finds her alive, he still can’t have her. He then spends all of his time risking his life to help save her people. All for the sake of a woman who claims to despise him. Oh my goodness – just rip my heart from my chest as it continues to pump why don’t you?

1. Karou
She’s quite possibly the best YA heroine around. Beautiful, smart, kind, courageous, tough, fighter, lover, friend, salvation of the chimaera race – she’s kind of everything. But Taylor writes her so perfectly that every role she plays is believable, heartbreaking, uplifting and well, amazing. She’s either your fantasy best friend, or your fantasy girl-crush.

BLOOD-STARLIGHt

“A dream dirty and bruised is better than no dream at all.”

20 Days until Dreams of Gods & Monsters!

Book Review: Elusion

Author: Claudia Gabel & Cheryl Klam  
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins)  Elusion
Date Published: March 18, 2014
Number of Pages: 400
Series: Yes

What’s It About?
Imagine a machine that could virtually transport you anywhere in the world utilizing only the power of your mind. That’s Elusion. Now imagine your father is the genius creator behind the invention, that he dies unexpectedly in a plane crash. Imagine your best friend (who happens to be the heir to the tech company your father worked for) takes over the project. It becomes a smash. Only for every great thing about it there’s a rumour to counteract its success. But what if the rumours are true? What would you do? That’s the question Regan is faced with answering. 

The Review
It’s only in the last few months that I’ve made the foray into Science Fiction – and the few books I’ve read I like to refer to as Science Fiction Light. Mindee Arnett’s Avalon was the first I tackled, it was definitely enjoyable, I really dug the whole space opera vibe. So I figured Elusion would suit me just fine. I was wrong.

It’s not that there’s fundamentally anything glaringly wrong with this book. It fits into several of the niche markets that make up YA literature – romance, mystery, dystopian (or kind of dystopian, it’s hard to pin point because despite constant reference to the world – or at least America  – being in a poor environmental state there’s never any real explanation as to what caused it. One of many incongruities in the book.) It also comes equipped with a female lead, and a love triangle. These are all elements that usually land well in YA. But in the case of Elusion they all just, well, fall flat.

Let’s Break it Down
This book is long. It drags. It’s not until nearly three quarters in that the story picks up and really starts to focus on the actual mystery at hand. There’s so much filler and so much build-up, build-up that doesn’t even really set up anything. As I’ve already stated there is some illusion (no pun intended) to the world not being a very healthy place environmentally speaking. However nowhere in the 400 pages of this story does it ever explain why – why do people have to wear what basically amount to gas masks? Why is there seemingly no place on earth one could vacation without fear of death by air? An explanation would have been nice.

Not only is it lacking in explanation but it goes around and around and around. By books end you will feel like a very well exercised hamster. That is if you can manage to finish it.

Least Interesting Lead Characters…Ever
The story centers on teenager Regan – her recently deceased father is the creator of Elusion, her best friend Patrick now seemingly runs the operations of all things Elusion (which is amazing when you consider this guy’s meant to be like 18) and Josh – an ex military school apparent dream boat, loosely connected to Patrick through camp (or something, I don’t even remember.) Not one of these people is remotely interesting. I mean you’ve got a teenage whiz kid millionaire and he just comes off whiny, pathetic and a little crazy. Regan is a stick in the mud covered in a wet blanket. And Josh, good ol’ Josh is basically an excuse for strife and friction.

What’s the Story Morning Glory?
As I’m sure you’ve guessed the story is a love triangle. Patrick loves Regan, Regan has no idea, she’s also put Patrick so far in the friend zone he’s basically related to her, Josh has piqued Regan’s interest. Oh but wait, what about Patrick? Maybe she does like him? Oh no. No she doesn’t. But she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings. But she doesn’t mind kind of stringing him along. Oh now she’s confused why he’s angry and jealous that she’d take more interest in a guy she barely knows and not give her best friend of many years even the slightest chance…you see where I’m going here. I didn’t think it was possible to make a love triangle lamer than Edward, Bella and Jacob but the proof is in the proverbial pudding kids.

The worst part is – this is just side story, the real story is that Elusion, though praised by many may also be killing its users. Specifically teenage users. And people are kind of getting addicted to it.

No wait the story is that Regan’s dad’s death is kind of shady and there may be more to it than anyone’s letting on to.

Sorry, the stories about how Josh’s sister’s gone missing.

There’s a lot of threads to this book. A multitude of stories, none of which are ever properly explored. Things just kind of happen for about 300 odd pages. It’s frustrating and disappointing.

Writing why you so boring? YUNOGuyMemeFace
The overall writing is cumbersome. Too much. Too many words. Too much description of nothing. There’s not even any witty banter to assuage the readers outrageous boredom.

But the real kicker with Elusion? The ending. I won’t give it away but let me just say if you choose to invest time slogging your way through 400 pages of clutter with a little bit of mystery thrown in you want answers. You want an ending. You want to know that you have not read in vain. Unfortunately when you make it to the end you soon learn that indeed it was all for naught. This book is not a standalone. And it’s important to know that going in.

I’m always weary of books with multiple authors. I find myself wondering how two people can create a cohesive story that makes sense and still demonstrates each of their strengths and talents. When I read Beautiful Creatures I felt vindicated in those feelings. Having powered through Elusion I can’t help but feel that I’m still very much right to wonder. Reader beware. 1/5

Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Books On My Spring 2014 TBR List

toptentuesday

It’s that time again – Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, this week: Top Ten Books on My Spring 2014 TBR (to be read) list.

SideEffects

10. Side Effects May VaryJulie Murphy (March 18th, HarperCollins)
Alice finds out she’s dying of cancer, so she writes the most epic bucket list ever (with pay back a plenty included) and lives it out (revenge and all.) Then she learns she’s not actually dying. Chaos ensues.

Forget About Me

9.  (Don’t you) Forget About Me, Kate Karyus Quinn (Harper Teen, June 10)
If you’ve read Kate Karyus Quinn’s first novel Another Little Piece than you know she’s great when it comes to the whole fantasy/mystery thing. Don’t You Forget About Me revolves around a mysterious town where you never get sick and you live a long life. But there’s a price to be paid, one that comes every fourth year.

Killer

8.  Dear Killer, Katherine Ewell (Katherine Tegen Books, April 1)
(From Goodreads) …a sinister psychological thriller that explores the thin line between good and evil, and the messiness of that inevitable moment when life contradicts everything you believe. Um – hell yeah.

DreamBoy

7. Dream Boy, Madelyn Rosenberg  (Sourcebooks Fire, July 1st 2014)
Definitely a case of the be careful what you wish fors, this mystery centers on a beautiful and mysterious boy who proves that dreams really do come true. But with this dream comes a nightmare or two.

Dorothy

6. Dorothy Must Die, Danielle Page (HarperTeen, April 1)
Imagine an Oz where the sweet, girl from Kansas who liberates the people from the clutches of the Wicked Witch of the West finds a way back to that magical land only to become the dictator she once defeated.

ToTheDead

5. Love Letters to the Dead, Ava Dellaira (April 1st 2014, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
What starts off as a school assignment soon turns into an epistolary tale of first love, dysfunctional families and betrayal.

QueenofTear

4. Queen of the Tearling, Erika Johansen (Harper, July 8)
Full disclosure – I’ve already read this, but I plan to re-read in celebration of its official release in July. This book is awesome, it’s kind of Game of Thrones meets Reign meets something entirely different.

WeWereLiars

3. We Were LiarsE. Lockhart (Delacorte, May 13)
There’s tons of buzz around this YA thriller – and here’s why (from Goodreads):

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

Need I say more?

CityOfHeaven

2. City of Heavenly Fire, Cassandra Clare (Margaret K. McElderry, May 27)
The last book in Clare’s insanely addictive The Mortal Instruments series, this final chapter sees Clary, Jace and the gang face off against her sociopathic brother Sebastian and his army of evil nephilim.  How cool is that?

GodMonsters

1. Dreams of Gods and Monsters, Laini Taylor (Little, Brown & Company, April 8 )
Really is my number one shocking to anyone who reads this blog? I’m obsessed, OBSESSED with Laini Taylor’s beautiful, seductive, enthralling fantasy trilogy about love and war and everything in between. Will Karou and Akiva end up together (they’d better…) Will the Chimaera-Seraphim war finally come to an end? Will the renegade Stelian Seraphim save the day? I am equal parts excited and anxious, happy and sad – because really, when this series comes to end what will my life become?

On Lies and Lia…

“Being a practiced liar doesn’t mean you have a powerful imagination. Many good liars have NorthernLightsno imagination at all; it’s that which gives their lies such wide-eyed conviction.”

– Philip Pullman, Northern Lights

Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Favourite YA Books…at the moment

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish – I’ve been meaning to take part in it for quite some time now and it would appear today is the day for my first foray into the lovely land of weekly lists.

Picking my all time favourite anything book-wise is pretty difficult, picking my favourite YA books? Well that’s kind of a “Sophie’s Choice” for me. So I’ve decided to go with the books I keep going back to, some are relatively new reads, some not so much. But the top three are without a doubt my all time favourites. So, without further ado…

10. Graceling, Kristin Cashore 

Graceling_cover

The first in author Kristin Cashore’s sort of trilogy (more like a companion piece and a sequel) despite being first published in 2008 I first read, or rather heard it last month. (The audiobook – full cast! was my first and was awesome.) After finishing the audiobook I decided to buy a copy of the physical book and read it. Which basically solidified my love for this epic fantasy romance. Heroine Katsa is kind of everything I’d like to be.

9. The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand, Gregory Galloway

adamstrand

Galloway’s Adam Strand is an unusual kid – plagued with the constant need to commit suicide, he is constantly killing himself, only to feel utter disappointment when he comes back to life, some 39 times. Perfectly dry, perfectly macabre The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand is unlike anything else in the YA canon.

8. Hey Nostradamus, Douglas Coupland

Heynostadamas

Arguably Coupland’s best book, this is the story of a fictional school shooting in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1988. Told from multiple first person narratives it is the perfect blend of themes like religion, sex, grief and adolescence.

7. His Dark Materials, Phillip Pullman

materials compass

Many know these books as the series about two kids who set out in essence to kill god – but it’s so much more. An in depth and intelligent commentary on life, organized religion, the afterlife and science, the books though controversial are, well, epic.

6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky

perk1 perks

You can mark this as one of the first books to break my heart. Chbosky’s Charlie is painstakingly tragic and poignant as the titular “wallflower”, this coming of age story should be read with tissues in hand. Perks also happens to be one of those rare books to make a seamless transition to film. The movie adaptation starring Logan Lerman and Emma Watson is astounding, and totally worth watching.

5. The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton

outsiders1

Ponyboy. Darry. Sodapop. Greasers. Socs. Friendship. Family. Rivalry. This book has it all. Even more amazing despite originally being published in 1967 the book still holds up 47 years later.

4. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee 

mockingbird

There are so many life lessons in Mockingbird – but what makes it so good is that it never feels preachy. Each lesson serves a purpose, and really when Atticus Finch is teaching you morals it’s hard not to listen.

3. The Spectacular Now, Tim Tharp  

“Life is spectacular. Forget the dark things. Take a drink and let time wash them away to where ever time washes away to.”

“Life is spectacular. Forget the dark things. Take a drink and let time wash them away to where ever time washes away to.”


I love this book. The story of loveable ne’er-do-well and teenage lush Sutter Keely pulls you in, takes you for a ride and blows your mind with its unconventional ending.

2. Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor 

DaughterOfSmokeAndBone

This series is my current obsession, and though I dearly love Days of Blood and Starlight (the second book in the trilogy) series opener DOSAB is a book I go back to time and time again. With a love story that spans not just lifetimes but worlds, the book unfolds so beautifully and yet so unexpectedly. It’s a real gem. (28 days until Dreams of Gods and Monsters!)

1. The Fault in Our Stars, John Green The Fault in Our Stars

There’s no denying I am definitely a JG fangirl – I have often wondered where he was when I was in high school and in desperate need of characters like Margot Roth Spiegelman, Quentin Jacobson, Lindsay Lee Wells, Alaska Young, Miles Halter and most importantly Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters. Of his four books what makes TFIOS my favourite (and makes it top not only this list but the list of my favourite books) is the reality with which it is so deeply entrenched. Despite what some say, this is not an “issues” book, this is a love story. An honest, innocent, beautiful love story, one that doesn’t just draw you in but makes you invest in each character. Best of all you’ll laugh just as hard as you’ll cry.

That Awkward Moment

GodMonstersThat awkward moment when you realize buying a special edition copy of a book and then a hardcover box set that will include that book, minus the special edition part, knowing the box set won’t be available until October, and the special edition had to be ordered from the US crosses the boundaries of normal obsession into the realm of cray cray…and yet you feel no shame, rather just a perverse desire to pull a Superman and spin the world ahead eight months…

42 days. 42! Me Gusta (RAGE COMICS)

 

Book Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

maradyer

“If I were to live a thousand years, I would belong to you for all of them. If we were to live a thousand lives, I would want to make you mine in each one.”

Author: Michelle Hodkins
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date Published: September 27, 2011
Number of Pages: 466
Series: The Mara Dyer Trilogy, book #1

What’s It About?
Mara Dyer wakes up in a hospital bed only to learn that she is the only survivor of a building collapse that claimed the lives of her best friend, her boyfriend and his sister. Wracked with survivors guilt and suffering from major PTSD Mara and her family moved to Florida to start over. Only Mara can’t. In a fragile emotional state Mara constantly has visions of her dead ex-boyfriend and his sister, terrible nightmares and hallucinations. It’s not until she meets Noah Shaw that she begins to suspect she may not be quite as normal as she once believed.

***Spoilers abound beware***

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is one of those books that has a great beginning. It opens with a confession – Mara Dyer (our heroines assumed name) is a murderer. How and why is yet to be determined. Mostly because Mara herself doesn’t know these answers. But she’s on a mission to find out. The set up is perfectly executed. From the very first page you’re hooked – you need to know the circumstances, you need to know Mara’s secrets. Author Michelle Hodkin starts the suspense high and manages to maintain it throughout.

How she does this though is both invigorating and frustrating as all hell because Mara Dyer you will soon discover is not the most reliable narrator. The fact is she’s suffering from PTSD, brought on by the major bought of survivors guilt she’s suffering from. A guilt that’s so encompassing it has her seeing things that aren’t there, suffering from nightmares and all around going loopy. To help assuage her precarious emotional state Mara’s parents decide a change of scenery may help and so the family up and moves to Miami, Florida.

The move however does nothing to help Mara, in fact it only seems to aggravate her precarious situation because soon she finds herself seeing her dead boyfriend all over the place. Stressed, depressed and convinced she’s totally lost the plot Mara’s life is in a seemingly endless downward spiral.

That is until she meets Noah Shaw – of course as YA trilogy’s dictate he’s beautiful, a real dream boat, wanted by every girl in the school. He’s smart and has a cute British accent to boot. He’s also apparently the school man-whore.

Now it just so happens that I’m a sucker for a well-written male love interest (I mean I’m not opposed to a female love interest but since that’s not the case in this book we need not discuss this further.) And Noah Shaw easily captures your “aw shucks” gene and refuses to let go. From the beginning the chemistry between Mara and Noah is intense, clever, witty and everything you kind of want. As Mara and Noah’s relationship develops – in, despite all of the crazy surrounding Mara, a relatively normal way. Noah pursues Mara, and eventually wins her over by protecting her from an incredibly awful high school mean girl.

This is all set up though, apart from showing the strength of the connection between the two characters, and revealing Noah’s true nature (mainly that he’s nothing at all like everyone says) it has little to do with the real story at hand. But it does set up what will no doubt become an incredibly heart-pounding and intense love story.

The real story develops slowly, with an increasing sense of urgency and creepiness. Weird things are afoot in the life of Mara Dyer – she keeps seeing her dead ex-boyfriend, objects in her room move around, and her father just so happens to be the lawyer for a wealthy man accused of brutally murdering a young girl.

As the story progresses more is revealed about that fateful night that Mara’s life changed. Hodkin uses dreams as her medium for major revelations, and because of this fact you can never be sure if Mara’s dreams/visions are true or if her mind is trying to come to terms with a terrible accident. Mara becomes convinced that she is the cause of the building collapse, that she somehow has the ability to kill people with her thoughts and is therefore a danger to everyone around her.

But as the reader you can never really be sure if what Mara believes is true or not, and Noah is no help in this matter. He’s indulgent to the point of detriment. Quite honestly you begin to question his sanity too.

But this is the brilliance of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer – Hodkin keeps you guessing. Right until the end you can never be sure if you should believe Mara or Noah. What is reality and what is not flips back and forth, it’ll have you pulling out your hair and screaming “WHY? WHYYYYYYYY?!” But in the best way possible.

Add to this a great antagonist in Mara’s ex-possibly still alive, but probably not because a building totally collapsed on him-boyfriend Jude. Whether he’s real or simply a figment of her imagination he will give you the willies. Something about the brief flashback’s that allude to Jude, the small moments when he pops up in everyday life or when Mara suspects his existence tell you he’s an absolute skeeze. He is skin crawlingly demonic, and not knowing whether or not he’s there or not at times has you looking over your shoulder as you read. There’s nothing more delightful than a well written, creepy, scary, sociopathic foe. And in Jude you get one.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is the first book in the Mara Dyer trilogy. Author Michelle Hodkin sets up a story full of proverbial twists and turns, with a main character who’s fragility is equalled only by her thirst for the truth. Add to that a swoon-worthy love interest and the most unreliable narration you could possibly imagine, Mara Dyer is as frustrating as it is thrilling, and comes highly recommended.

Flowers in the Attic – TV Movie

Top cheese network Lifetime’s much anticipated adaptation of the salacious, incest riddled, cos-02-Flowers-in-the-Attic-book-cover-mdnmelodramatic V.C. Andrews classic Flowers in the Attic premiered last night and with it came the collective release of many a bated breath for all those who devoured the Dollanganger series under the covers, late at night, flashlight in hand. Or, if you were me, openly, in the family room while your multitude of brothers watched some sports related movie and your mother took it at face value when you told her the book was about a girl growing a garden in an attic. Regardless, it’s almost a right of passage for thirteen-year-olds the world over to get their hands on a copy and blush over its many indecencies.

So it comes as no surprise that many a person was looking forward to spending a cold Saturday night in January at home, on the couch, to watch Don Draper’s daughter (Kiernan Shipka) take the lead as Cathy Dollanganger as she stumbles into a world of child abuse and ugh, brother lovin’.

And that’s okay, I won’t lie, I was one of those people. I even had a reminder set up on the TV. I watched, I shuddered, I laughed at the terribly bad acting, I felt strange disappointment that it wasn’t as blatantly prurient as I expected. Which says a lot about where my mind was at. (This is obviously something one shouldn’t freely admit to but it’s done, and I’m obviously too lazy to hold down the delete key so the admission stays!)

According to People magazine (that triumph in journalism) Lifetime’s Flowers in the Attic is “a gripping, psychologically coherent foray into American Gothic” I would say that was reaching. I don’t think people expect much from a Lifetime TV movie apart from excessive melodrama and questionable acting.  And really that’s the beauty of Lifetime. So Flowers in the Attic found its perfect home. And offered the chance for someone to finally answer the question: What does melodrama + melodrama =? Sadly it would seem the answer is not Uber-melodrama but rather a strange struggle between putting it all out there and maintaining some element of timidity.

So let’s set it up to knock it all down shall we?

The Acting

Oh Heather Graham, oh dear, dear, dear Heather Graham – she was kind of everything I wanted Corrine to be. Just vacuous. Vacuous with seedy undertones. A lot of people said her acting was awful. I agree, but I’d like to pretend that it was intentional. That the terrible acting was just an element of the character, who spent all of her life acting a certain way to get what she wants – that effusive happiness, all that child-like joyful innocence, none of it’s real. It’s all an act. Because deep down Corrine’s just as bat shit crazy as her bible thumping mother Olivia. It’s delightful.

The Dresden Dolls: Cathy, Christopher, Cory and Carrie

I’d like to thank the writer/writers for limiting the amount of lines given to the creepy Children of the Corn twins because every time they opened their mouths I couldn’t help but think “It’s quite possible I’d have locked them in the attic too.” Obviously I wouldn’t. But sometimes the thought is enough to satisfy.

I will give praise where praise is due, it can’t be easy for two young actors like Kiernan Shipka (Sally Draper guys. Sally freaking Draper) and Mason Dye (who let’s be honest is kind of dreamy in that whole clean cut, I’m on the row team and wear sweaters tied around my shoulders Yale graduate way) to take on roles that involve sibling lustin’, I mean I think if that were me I’d have spent all of my time giggling uncomfortably. But they did it, and I say this with a limited amount of irony, with class? If that’s possible.

And then there’s Ellen Burstyn – no one plays crazy old lady quite like her. Every time she uttered “Remember, God sees everything” I expected fire and brimstone. And though in the end it’s really awesomely ridiculous that a tiny hallway leading to the attic acts as her downfall, Burstyn plays it so beautifully you almost feel bad for dear ol’ granny. And then you remember that whole crazy abusing, locking her grandchildren in a room for years, calling them abominations and devil spawn thing and then you laugh because really Flowers in the Attic is amazing.

The Story

It’s so good guys. It’s just so bad it’s good. I love it. I’m obsessed. There’s so much crazy coming from all the adults and so much temperance from the kids, it’s like a weird Freaky Friday but with incest. Which isn’t cool but you know you read the books because of it. And watched the movie to see how it was done. And in the movie it just kind of happens. Like it was inevitable and so you know there you go. It was almost offensive in how seemingly accepting Cathy and Chris are about it. And okay there are many issues with how it happens in the book (that whole Cathy blaming herself for her brother raping her thing, definitely some sort of latent anti-rational thought on V.C. Andrews part) but the movie kind of made it seem romantic? I put a question mark there because ew.

As far as adaptations go though this one really did try to maintain the integrity of the original work, which I really appreciate. It’s definitely miles ahead of the dreadful 1987 film starring the original Buffy (Kristy Swanson) and Troy’s friend from The Goonies. It’s like cheesecake, you know it’s going to go straight to your thighs but you’re all “whatever” cause it’s delicious. But then after you’ve eaten the whole thing you can’t help but feel sick at how much you enjoyed it.

So in honour of the best piece of ridiculous, gothic horror, young adult melodrama out there let’s bask in this gem from the original book, and raise a glass to V.C. Andrews and her strange, twisted, over-the-top, theatrical stories of crazy, rich white people.

“There is no hate such as that born out of love betrayed- and my brain screamed out for revenge.” And cue Petals in the Wind.