Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Fall - Bethany Griffin

Title: The Fall
Author: Bethany Griffin
Published: October 2014
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Pages: 420
Bought: Waterstones £12.99
Rating: four and a half stars
She has spent her life fighting fate, and she thought she was succeeding. Until she woke up in a coffin.
Ushers die young. Ushers are cursed. Ushers can never leave their house, a house that haunts and is haunted, a house that almost seems to have a mind of its own. Madeline’s life—revealed through short bursts of memory—has hinged around her desperate plan to escape, to save herself and her brother. Her only chance lies in destroying the house.
In the end, can Madeline keep her own sanity and bring the house down? 
*Synopsis from Goodreads*

This book had exactly the kind of vibe I like, I thought it was pretty damn good. Bethany Griffin was brilliant at creating that creepy, I'm-feeling-slightly-uneasy tone that continued right until the end. And it's a decent length, as well, so kudos.

If you're reading this book expecting some sort of happy resolution you'll get neither happy nor resolution. But you will get a very strong image of the terrifying Usher house and all its creepy, sentient glory. A house where nothing is new long and everything dies young. A house that has chosen Madeline Usher as its heir, and also tries to kill her a few times. 

It was pretty haunting, I mean Madeline is very alone and apart from the rest of humanity. Her one saving grace, her brother Roderick, doesn't believe her at all despite some very blatant evidence. And let's face it, the whole dog thing had me in tears. There should be a rule about using animals in books. 

Basically all family relations and otherwise are twisted as hell. I have got to say, Dr. Winston sufficiently weirded me out, he was quite simply vile. Madeline doesn't really ever catch a break, and some of the themes are pretty horrific and disturbing. No wonder I found this in the horror section, not the YA secion

But then again she's not a conventional YA heroine. She's really dark at times, and I thought that she had good character development, because you could tell that the house, her Usher lineage, was warping her over time. Luckily, she had determination on her side, and she was only naive to the extent that someone in her position would be. I also liked the variation created between the chapters in Madeline's age and the background story of Lisbeth. 

The story does leave bits and parts unexplained, and up to the reader (the whole mad-man in the attic thing -though I could have a pretty good guess at that one- and her father's disappearance). I kind of liked it, it didn't feel like it was trying too hard to make everything suddenly fall into place,  I don't think that would've suited the story's atmosphere at all. 

My one niggling thing is that sometimes I felt like the story wasn't really getting anywhere. Sure the description and detail invested in the house kept me running on tension, but it all really only kicked off at the end. We were led on trails and then abruptly swerved off them again, especially with the whole goblet thing (how did Madeline know it had nothing to do with that anyway? - she got the resolution out of thin air, I swear). 

But, overall I really, really enjoyed this book. The writing style was very attractive to me and the concept very creepy. I've never read Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher, the book this is based off of, but I think I will now just to see how it ties in with this story. 

Quote: "Sitting here I can feel the majesty of the house. It is so old. Looming over and around me. How can I stand up to it all alone?" 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

"Waiting on" Wednesday: Beastkeeper - Cat Hellisen!

Meme hosted by Breaking the Spine 

Publication date: 3rd February 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Sarah has always been on the move. Her mother hates the cold, so every few months her parents pack their bags and drag her off after the sun. She’s grown up lonely and longing for magic. She doesn’t know that it’s magic her parents are running from. 

When Sarah’s mother walks out on their family, all the strange old magic they have tried to hide from comes rising into their mundane world. Her father begins to change into something wild and beastly, but before his transformation is complete, he takes Sarah to her grandparents—people she has never met, didn’t even know were still alive. 

Deep in the forest, in a crumbling ruin of a castle, Sarah begins to untangle the layers of curses affecting her family bloodlines, until she discovers that the curse has carried over to her, too. The day she falls in love for the first time, Sarah will transform into a beast . . . unless she can figure out a way to break the curse forever. 

It's definitely the cover that's attracted me to this one, but the story sounds creepy and fairytale-esque (which I love, love, love). Got a feeling this'll be one to wait for. :)

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll!

I love second-hand books, especially pretty second-hand, hardback books. This one was just what I needed to beat me out of my mid-term blues. 

So I thought I'd show you this one, because it's b-e-a-utiful. I got it from Oxfam for only £1.99, which is awesome, savvy spending. 

I think it was fate, because recently everything is Alice in Wonderland, and by everything I mean the Fenwick's shop window and Chatsworth House. Unfortunately couldn't get a picture of the shop window, it was swarming with people that are probably more appropriately aged for Alice in Wonderland than me. 

Ah well, though, it's an enchanting book that came with some lovely pictures, and I have a young heart. 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Invisibility - Andrea Cremer & David Levithan

Title: Invisibility 
Author: Andrea Cremer and David Levithan
Published: May 2013
Publisher: Philomel
Pages: 358
Rating three and a half stars
Bought from Waterstones for £7.99

Stephen has been invisible for practically his whole life — because of a curse his grandfather, a powerful cursecaster, bestowed on Stephen’s mother before Stephen was born. So when Elizabeth moves to Stephen’s NYC apartment building from Minnesota, no one is more surprised than he is that she can see him. A budding romance ensues, and when Stephen confides in Elizabeth about his predicament, the two of them decide to dive headfirst into the secret world of cursecasters and spellseekers to figure out a way to break the curse. But things don’t go as planned, especially when Stephen’s grandfather arrives in town, taking his anger out on everyone he sees. In the end, Elizabeth and Stephen must decide how big of a sacrifice they’re willing to make for Stephen to become visible — because the answer could mean the difference between life and death. At least for Elizabeth. 
*Synopsis from Goodreads*
So it's been a while since I read a book for the sake of a bit of romance, but I was in love with the synopsis. I mean someone born invisible? - Yes please. 
I got off to a definite good start with this book, the characters were gorgeously written. Stephen was such a good character, I could tell how much the strain of his curse and the loss of his mum was eating at him, but how resilient, if not at a bit of a stand still, he was. The fact he hadn't changed anything in apartment since his mum really got to me. 
Elizabeth was a great character, and the meeting between Stephen and her was so good. She was insecure yet capable. She was understandably defensive and I liked her strength, of character and will. I felt like I really knew her backstory, which you sometimes don't get in books. Plus her brother Laurie was a top class character, who's own story touched upon something very real in today's society: homophobia and bullying. Forget curses and spells. 
The writing style was well up my street, with minor differences between the characters, obviously. It still all blended together. It was simple, easy to read, but down right inspiring in its imagery and meaning. Of course at points it's funny. 
And the romance, the whole reason I picked up the novel, was good. It wasn't THE most amazing romantic piece of work I've ever read but, but, BUT there was a something about it that I did like a lot. There wasn't any sort of, dare I say it, bullshit about this relationship. They both accepted that they liked each other after spending a lot of time together, they weren't meaninglessly oblivious to that very obvious fact. They worked together well, they acted like a real life couple, if not a little quick to the 'hopelessly in love' stage - but I guess new found witch powers and an invisible boyfriend will do that for you. 
My one little meh of the book unfortunately had quite a big impact on my rating. I pinpointed the moment I became unenthusiastic about the plot. Firstly, I was enjoying the mystery surrounding Stephen's condition and I was preparing myself for some thing a-maz-ing to be the answer to this problem. I was disappointed, as soon as they met Millie. It just seemed all very cliché  to me. I felt like we'd skipped what I wanted to be the problem and was on the way to a happy ending straight away. 
I wasn't shocked, surprised, or amazed by the 'spellseeker' and 'cursecaster' thing. But that's just my personal opinion. I wasn't overwhelmed by Millie, and Elizabeth got a little annoying at some points. It did pick up towards the end, Maxwell was a very good villain and his curses on New York were pretty interesting to read: a touch of real horror to the novel. I loved the ending, some of it quite unexpected but appreciated. It resolved the novel without resolving everything. 
Favourite quote: "I want one person to see me. Out of these hundreds. Out of these thousands."