Book Review: “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” by Emily M. Danforth

I love the way that the model is posed in this shot. I’ve often been in a similar position during haying season– it allows you a “world view” of the hayfields that is just awesome.

Title: The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Author: Emily M. Danforth

Maturity Level: Upper YA. There are a few marginally explicit sex scenes and a lot of difficult concepts.

You May Like This Book if: you enjoy YA that’s written in a more adult/literary style;  you remember what it was like to be a teenager; you have an interest in LGBT issues.

You May NOT Like This Book if: you don’t enjoy literary fiction.

Cameron Post is your average teenage girl, devoted to swimming and old movies. But on the day her parents die in a sudden and violent accident, Cameron is busy shattering the status quo of her tiny-town-in-Montana life in a big way: kissing Irene Klauson in a hay loft. Suddenly and orphan, Cameron moves in with her super-conservative Aunt Ruth and tries to forget all about that day, hiding her sexuality in an attempt to blend in. Until Coley Taylor comes swooping in, that is, and Cameron can no longer hide.

This book was beautiful in so many ways. It was poignant and heartbreaking, with just enough humor mixed in to lighten the darkness. The whole “de-gaying facility” subplot was handled very well, with some really obvious research and care given to its portrayal. There is not a character in this book who is not wonderfully flawed and yet totally relatable, and the world is also drawn in such a way that you have no doubt where you are.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It has such a lovely feel to it, and I appreciate Danforth’s concise but lyrical prose. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more of Danforth’s work in the future!

Pros

  • Attention to detail. Danforth has dropped us right into the 90’s-era Bible Belt culture without being preachy.
  • The leisurely pace. Rather than being draggy, it was a joy to read and savor.
  • Cameron and I could be friends in real life. She was likable without being perfect, and I ached for her loneliness and confusion, celebrated with her when she had her breakthrough, and generally identified with her despite our differences.
  • The Promise kids and the research that Danforth obviously did into these sorts of facilities.
  • Adam and the wonderful portrayal of the winkte concept.

Cons

  • Slightly slow-moving, and definitely written in a style more suited to adult literary than YA—but I can’t say I didn’t like it!

Favorite Scene (s):

  • Pg 311-394. The whole end bit ran the gamut from arresting to terrifying to beautiful, a raucous roller-coaster ride of emotion that left me stunned by its ferocity. Very well done.

Favorite Line (s):

  • “There was more than just one world beyond ours; there were hundreds and hundreds of them, and at 99 cents apiece, I could rent them all.” ~Pg 40
  • “It felt really good to do something that made no sense at all.”~ pg 71

Star Rating on Goodreads: 5 stars out of 5.

Final Grade:  A+. Transformative, sad, and poignant.

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Book Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (The Infernal Devices, #1)

Title: Clockwork Angel

Author: Cassandra Clare

Available In: eBook for Kindle, eBook for Nook, Paperback, Hardcover, Audio CD

Warnings: PG-13 for violence, sexual content, and Magnus Bane’s existence.

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS AND STRONG, HONEST OPINIONS. ALSO, DECLARATIONS OF LOVE FOR CERTAIN CHARACTERS.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

When I first picked up Clockwork Angel, I had not yet realized that this book was a prequel to The Mortal Instruments series. I’m kind of glad I didn’t; since I’ve only read City of Bones, my inclination would have been to put the book down and read the rest of TMI first. I kept going, however, and was pleased to discover that my very basic working knowledge of the world of Shadowhunters and Downworlders was enough to carry me through this book.

The story opens with our heroine, Tessa, sailing from the familiar streets of New York City to the unfamiliar atmosphere of London Town at the behest of her brother Nathaniel and in the wake of her beloved aunt’s death. Tessa’s already nervous enough about leaving the city that has been her home, and when she is met at the docks by a sinister pair of women who claim to be acting on Nathaniel’s behalf, she is understandably perturbed. She goes along with it, however, thinking that surely Nathaniel knows best. It turns out, however, that the Dark Sisters are interested in her for their own reasons– particularly, her strange power to Change into others at will.

And when Tessa meets Will Herondale, a young Shadowhunter, she discovers that the Dark Sisters aren’t the only ones intrigued by her…

Overall, I really thought this book was much better than City of Bones. I liked Tessa more as a main character than I liked Clary—mainly because there is no reason for Clary to be as passive as she is given that she’s a modern gal. Tessa, on the other hand, is very much a classical Gothic heroine, bound by society’s expectations but determined to fight back, and towards the end of the book, she really has started to grow a backbone of steel. I am also completely in love with Jem, and the love triangle that Clare has set up is delicious. Throw in the lovingly researched alt-London setting and the demon-killing badassery that characterized TMI and we have a real winner here. I’m definitely looking forward to Clockwork Prince.

Pros

  • The clockwork angel pendant is such a lovely concept.
  • Henry. I adore mad scientists, and Henry’s ineptitude makes me snicker.
  • The fact that Tessa is a book lover. Rock on, bookworm girl. Unfortunately, the real world is not like the novels, which sucks.
  • JEM. ❤ I just cannot get over how much I love this guy. He’s just so sweet, and brave, and so DEAD at some point in the future. I always go for the doomed ones.
  • Sophie. I love her as a  character, and should Will/Tessa become a thing, I would love it if Clare threw in some Jem/Sophie—if it weren’t for the fact that Jem is so DEAD.
  • Jessamine’s killer parasol,  which is badass.
  • Henry/Charlotte. They are just so cute together, regardless of what people say about the reasons for their marriage. I do think they truly love one another, under all that—at least they’re happy.
  • The Institute’s family dynamic. I loved reading the bits where the “children” were spying on the Enclave meeting and Jessamine and Will’s brother-sister bickering.
  • Magnus Bane. Who needs no explanation. All I can say is, the Victorian era suits him. AND CHURCH! ❤
  • Jessamine clonking Nate. I was cheering for her. Out loud.
  • Tessa’s London is lovingly researched and beautifully portrayed. It’s a world I would love to take a holiday in, and I applaud Clare for her efforts to make it as historically accurate as possible while still adding enough twists to make it just a little bit steampunk.

Cons

  • Tessa’s kind of passive in the early parts of the book, almost in a bodice-ripper heroine sort of way, which always makes me cringe a bit. She gets better as the book goes on, though, so I’m hoping to see her gain even more awesomeness in book 2.
  • Occasionally, the exposition in this book is rather unwieldy, with long portions of dialogue that are nothing more than one character telling another how the world works.
  • Some descriptive words are used repetitively, i.e. Jem’s silvery eyes.
  • The prose could be made a little tighter and neater, by cutting unnecessary descriptors and sentences, especially when they do nothing but reiterate what a character has just said/done.

Star Rating on Goodreads: 4 stars out of 5.

Final Grade: A. Would reread, will definitely read other books in series.

(My review of Clockwork Prince is now live! Click to read….)

REVIEW: Oleander House by Ally Blue

Title: Oleander House

Author: Ally Blue

Warnings: NC-17. Strongly graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Disturbing imagery, particularly in Sam’s dreams.

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS AND STRONG OPINIONS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Let me just preface this review by saying that I really did WANT to like this book. It had, from a quick glance at the cover copy and the first couple of pages, all the things that I truly enjoy seeing in a romance/horror novel. It had a paranormal investigative element. It had a lovely, nicely drawn Southern setting that made me want to go live in a rambling old house and hunt ghost. Sam and Bo had palpable chemistry and enough UST to cause a small earthquake, and the secondary characters were just as intriguingly quirky as the main characters. There was some overly clunky exposition, mostly concerning Sam’s past, but I was willing to overlook that for a good ghost story with some sexy boys full of angst and sexual tension.

Then, around page 82, my interest started seriously flagging. Sam’s primary character trait at this point was his unrequited love/lust for Bo, which would have been fine had there not also been several pointless scenes where it seemed like all of the characters had long, meaningless discussions that seemed like they were merely there to take up space. Sam had a lot of dreams, which were primarily about sex and ghosts. Near the middle, though, both plots started picking up  pace again, so I assumed that this little lull had been just a one-off,  and that the rest of the book would live up to my expectation of it.

It did.

Right up to the last twenty or so pages. Which basically took the entire book and tossed it down the drain. Which is where the incredibly stupid antagonist and the ridiculously easy fix should have ended up. I was going to give this book 3 stars until I got to the end, for being an enjoyable and sizzling distraction!read at work, but that ending dragged it right down, despite the fact that Bo and Sam were almost kind of together by the end and appear to be headed toward a HFN ending if not an HEA. For the sake of that, I will read the next book in the series, but I can only hope that Miss Blue becomes more adept at bringing her stories to a satisfying conclusion.

Pros

  • There is a ton of angsty romance, which is awesome if you’re into that sort of thing.
  • I love the Southern mansion setting, especially with the paranormal investigative edge.
  • There is one scene on page 104 where I literally punched the air on Sam’s behalf (at work, no less!), when he confronts Bo and basically tells him to either shut up and kiss him already or back off. In that single instant, Sam grew a backbone and I loved it.
  • I loved Cecile as a psychic. 

Cons

  • The prose is often peppered with bad, clunky exposition, particularly in the beginning.
  • Sam is often characterized solely by his desire to jump Bo’s bones.
  • Many scenes have no real point and seem like they are mostly intended as filler.
  • The ending was terrible. I mean, seriously. Aliens? That, despite being terrifying, ancient creatures that otherwise have been completely invincible, can merely be pushed away by the power of Sam’s mind? I don’t think so. It seemed like the author realized how ridiculous this was and quickly threw out a happy ending for the romance, but a little bit of boykissing does not make up for such a terrible example of deus ex machina.

Stars: 2.5 out of 5.

Final Grade: C. Will probably not reread. Other books in series will be low priority.