Abandon - Meg Cabot This review can also be found on my blog.

I haven’t read much by Meg Cabot, except the first few Princess Diaries book, but I always hear a lot about how great and fun her writing style is. She’s certainly written a LOT of books, and they always seem to get a LOT of attention, so I thought I’d try out one of her books. After having read Abandon, I can say that yes, her writing style is very entertaining to read. However, there were some things about the book that really irked me.

Abandon is a retelling of the story of Persephone from Greek mythological fame. In this book, Pierce (couldn’t help but think of Pierce from Community every time I saw her name) is a 15-year-old girl who, during a near-death experience, finds herself in the Underworld. Here she meets John, who is supposed to be the Hades of the novel. John attempts to keep Pierce in the Underworld with him, but she manages to escape (thus, coming back to life in the real world). John then manages to reappear in Pierce’s life whenever she is in trouble, and apparently they are in love or something.

I was really excited when I picked up this book at the library and saw that it was a retelling of the story of Persephone and Hades. However, Abandon never really seemed to pick up for me. The main character, Pierce, is kind of a whiny little thing, who has a rich daddy who seems to be able to solve most of her problems with money. John is the typical bad-boy-loner type character, who claims he fell in love with Pierce because she asked him how he was feeling one time. All of the rest of the minor characters in the book fill some sort of stereotypical role, and none of them are very interesting in the least bit.

Now, this is the first book in the trilogy, so maybe Cabot hasn’t gotten around to developing her characters as much as she could have. But I felt a lot of the book was spent with Pierce trying to be elusive about her past and moping, and not enough time with letting us get to know the people around her.

As I kind of hinted at already, I really didn’t buy the romance between Pierce and John. The only reasons I can see for Pierce to have a romantic inclination towards John is because he is supposedly very attractive and he gave her a very expensive diamond necklace. He also saved her life a couple of times, but Pierce seems more annoyed by that fact than anything else. John has an undying devotion towards Pierce, but for someone who is looking for a partner for ETERNITY, his decision seems like a rather rash one. He fell off his horse, she asked him if he was OK, true love? Mmm, no thanks.

I think the only reason I even made it through this book was because I do really enjoy Meg Cabot’s writing style. She made reading from the point of view of a whiny teenage girl a little more bearable because I wanted to know what was going to happen next. If there’s one thing that Meg Cabot can do fantastically well, it’s sucking in her audience.

I’d say if you were a fan of the Twilight series, or anything like that, you might enjoy this book. I, unfortunately, found it to be a bit lacking, and I don’t think I will attempt to finish the series.

Vivaldi's Virgins: A Novel

Vivaldi's Virgins - Barbara Quick Vivaldi’s Virgins is told from two view points. The first are the letters that Anna Maria is writing to her mother. These letters are written within the span of one year, when Anna is 14. The rest of the book is told from the view point of Anna Maria as a 40 year old woman, filling in the gaps that the younger Anna’s letters leave blank. I really enjoy this method of story telling, because not only do we get the passion-filled words and ideals of the younger Anna, we also get to see how her choices affected her at an older age. Anna Maria is obviously not happy with a lot of the deeds she committed in her youth, and I think it helped flesh out her character a lot, making her seem like an actually real person. Not that I wouldn’t have felt emotionally attached to Anna Maria’s character without the older voice of reason, but I felt it just added an entirely new layer, and I really appreciated that.

Another thing that I felt was fantastic about this book was the style in which it was written. The entire book is so focused on music and Anna’s love for music that it comes through in the writing style. It was so lyrical.

“The sky on a clear night is a living, pulsating thing. The stars are like musical notes turned to light, and, like notes, they shimmer and swell and fade and fall. The painters have never captured it — but they never will until some painter teaches his colors to dance.”

There were some really beautiful passages in the book. I wish I could pull out all my favorites and share them with you, but that would just end up with me typing most of the book out for you (which I don’t think would be practical or very legal). I’ll share just one more, from a scene in which Anna is getting into trouble once again:

“I know now that ill luck was as much a part of la Befana’s evil mien as the bitterness she harbored in her soul. Tooth decay, smallpox, and time itself had long ago robbed her of the sweet looks that excuse the small cruelties of the fair.
Is there such a thing as evil, plain as simple? She was the closest to it I have ever known. But, even in her, evil was a complicated thing, made of many layers and wearing many masks. Beneath it all there was a wounded thing, more animal than human. The crime was that such a person was allowed to be a teacher here — to have so many tender young souls in her power.”

Not only does Barbara Quick write some really beautiful prose, but she also provides very realistic relationships between all the female characters. As teenaged girls living together, shut off from the rest of the world, cattiness is inevitable! Not everyone got along. Some of the girls were conniving. Others were just plain outcasts. It all felt very genuine. One of my favorite quotes from the book has to do with this topic: “Whoever says that girls are kind has never lived among them.”

All in all, this was such an enjoyable read for me. There were a few moments in the story where I could definitely guess what was coming, and other times I was pleasantly surprised. This was such a fun book! I will be sure to check out some of her other work.


Hexwood - Diana Wynne Jones I had never heard of Hexwood before I picked it up at the library a couple of days ago, but I’m glad I grabbed it off the shelf. This book really has a little bit of everything in it: time travel, mythology, alternate realities, mind reading, magic, knights, kings and queens, adventures, etc., etc. It’s really hard to place it in any one genre at all. And it’s really hard to talk about the book without feeling like I’m giving too much away, but I’ll do my best.

As I was reading this book – I’m not going to lie – there were a lot of times when I was starting to feel really frustrated. Before I quite understood what Jones was trying to do with the story, I was feeling very, very confused by the way the story bounced around. The idea of time travel isn’t really spoken about at first, and so Jones just kind of throws you into one random scene followed by another, not really explaining what she is doing. I was so lost! I can’t even tell you, haha. However, if you just stick with it, it’s really worth finding out how everything ties together in the end. I felt like the techniques that Jones used were very daring, especially for a YA novel, but she definitely managed to pull it off. I was impressed. It reminded me a lot of Vonnegut’s technique in Slaughterhouse Five.

I think to fully appreciate everything that happened in this book, I will have to go back and reread it. There are so many twists and turns in the plot. And not everyone is who they appear to be! I really wish I could say more in this review without ruining everything for someone who may want to read the book in the future. It’s so hard to discuss anything without revealing too many of the surprises.

Long story short, the book is worth the headache you might get in the first half, trying to understand what’s going on. I almost had to take each scene as like its own short story, trying to force myself to pay attention to the scenes rather than where the novel as a whole was trying to take me.

American Gods

American Gods - Neil Gaiman The story follows the character of Shadow, a man who has spent the last three years of his life in jail. On his last day behind bars, Shadow is told by the warden that his wife has passed away. Feeling lost and confused, when he is confronted by the strange Mr. Wednesday with a job offer, Shadow accepts (though it takes some persuading). However, Shadow has no idea that he is going to become involved in the lives of the gods. He and Mr. Wednesday travel around the US, trying to persuade the old gods (such as The Morrigan, Easter, etc.) to join their battle against the new gods (technology, gold, drugs, etc.).

I really enjoyed how the gods were depicted in the novel. The old gods were brought to the US, traveling in the minds and hearts of those the worshiped them. However, sooner or later, their beliefs in the old gods waned and the gods lost their power or disappeared altogether. These old gods get by on whatever the can: becoming con-men, resorting to stealing and prostitution, and things of that nature. America is again and again referred to as a land that "has no time for gods," and Gaiman does an amazing job personifying this idea for his readers. Although the old gods are battling the new gods, there is evidence that these new gods are beginning to lose their power and influence (such as robber barons). The old gods are battling against progress, but all of the gods are battling for some sort of belief or faith from the common man.

Gaiman lends a rather eerie tone to his writing. There is no shortage of ominous passages, gory scenes, or cryptic metaphors. There are some absolutely beautiful and haunting moments in the book, passages that I would go back and reread over and over. I've found that this is a common trait throughout all of his books, even in his YA novels such as Stardust. Here's an example from American Gods, that I think sums it up pretty well:

"The man he was following took his long stick, which Shadow realized now, as it moved, was actually a spear, and he slashed at the dog's stomach with it, in one knifelike cut downward. Steaming entrails tumbled onto the snow. 'I dedicate this death to Odin,' said the man, formally.'
'It is only a gesture,' he said, turning back to Shadow. 'But gestures mean everything. The death of one dog symbolizes the death of all dogs. Nine men they gave to me, but they stood for all the men, all the blood, all the power. It just wasn't enough. One day, the blood stopped flowing. Belief without blood only takes us so far. The blood must flow.'"

Apart from the writing style and the idea behind the book, I really enjoyed the characters Gaiman brought to life, and the little details that didn't seem to matter at first but would come back in a big way. Scenes that I thought were nothing but a break in the actual story came back in a surprising way in the end. By far, I think this is my favorite Gaiman book of the bunch.

I did read The Anansi Boys before I picked up American Gods, but I don't think it really ruined anything for me in the least bit. I don't think Anansi Boys is really meant to be a sequal, as there is a different tone to the story altogether. There is nothing at all about the fading powers of the gods, if I remember correctly. American Gods is much darker than Anansi Boys in that way.