Oh man, you guys, I think this is my favorite book that we have read for this book club. There were just so many things to love about it: themes of inner vs outer beauty, male and female power, magical realism, beautiful prose, fabulous characters. Really, I could go on and on. Do you get the point that I loved Bone Gap?!
So here we go, diving into the November discussion. This is my second last audio discussion before the baby comes! Crazy pants. Hope you guys enjoy it. Remember to leave your comments below and check back to see what other readers thought!
themes of external vs internal beauty
all the men who think Roza owes them something because she is beautiful and get upset when she doesn’t want them
Finn’s prosopagnosia and how it relates to his relationship with Petey
Isn’t that what love is, seeing things that others can’t?
how Sean respects her wishes and that automatically puts him on a different level than the other men she has encountered before
all the ways in which people leave: Didi, Hugh, Petey’s dad, Roza
Finn and Sean’s relationship
the magical realism elements were limited but pretty seamless, except for the random horse riding through weird, magical worlds, which I thought was a bit strange
the beautiful, beautiful prose that created such a rich and wonderful atmosphere and setting
That was something a little different! I really relished the murder mystery and the experience of Jo breaking out of the confines of her restrictive society. The juxtaposition of the high society life she had and the life she began to lead with Eddie was startling and really underlined how few options women had in those days. I know I’m way more grateful for the freedoms that I have now!
I totally thought it was Theakston who murdered her father. I mean, isn’t it always the butler?
The romance between Jo and Eddie was very realistically rendered. And Jo was such a typical teenage girl! “I saw him with another girl, instead of asking him about it, I’m going to get engaged to another man in a fit of pique. Whoops, that girl was his sister and now I feel like a fool.”
I loved all the gritty details of New York life in the late 19th century. Donnelly’s descriptions were so vivid, I felt like I was there.
The Tailor, though not a huge character, was certainly a convincingly drawn villain. The scenes with him made me quite anxious!
As Jo was telling her uncle about everything that she had discovered, I was quite concerned that she was going to end up in Darkbriar herself. And, lo and behold, I was right. There was no way that her uncle was going to just BELIEVE her (especially because WHOA he was the murderer). Donnelly did such a great job, too, of making me question everything up until that point: had Jo just made it up in the middle of a nervous breakdown? Why would Eddie and Oscar have said they never met her? Just to protect her, right? But maybe not!
I love that Jo did her damndest to save herself. And that, when it came time, it wasn’t Eddie or Oscar or Bram or another man who saved her when her wits and wiles proved to be not quite enough. It was Fay. And then it was Jo herself who made the decision to come forward with the truth, to tear down her entire life, and start over. Freedom. It is the best thing.
What did you guys think? Did you guys enjoy this book as much as I did? It is my favorite that we have read so far, for sure. By far!
Truth time, guys. I haven’t read the book yet this month. None of it. I don’t know what happened. I got it out from the library at the end of January, and it has been sitting by my bed for weeks, but every time I look at it, I just…pick a different book to read. I have read it before, but it was three years ago, and so I am fuzzy on the details of the plot and characters. I do remember that I loved that the book centered around a strong, complicated female friendship. I do remember that. But other than that, my brain is a big ol’ blank, so I took to the internet to provide me with some discussion questions for you.
Do you think having two narrators detracts from the story or strengthens it?
Is Julie a reliable narrator? How much of her story do you think is true?
What did you think of Anna Engel? Sympathetic? Reprehensible?
Our modern world is rife with conflicts and wars. How is Code Name Verity relevant to these present day struggles?
I hope that you enjoyed this book! And if you didn’t, I can’t wait to hear why not. As usual, discussion in the comments, and vote for next month’s book here.
This was such a sweet book, and a fun, quick read. Set in Australia (it actually took me a little while to realize this…anyone else?)! I love trying to hear accents in my head, haha.
A few quick thoughts:
150 bonus points for mentioning the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, which I think I have seen about 100 times and can probably still quote beginning to end.
I love that Sam watches horror movies with his mom. I thought their relationship was very sweet and I would have liked to have seen more of it, though I recognize that that was not really what this book was about.
Camilla was an interesting character who could have been a cliche but felt very fleshed out and real. I think all of the main characters were, actually. At first, I thought Allison was going to be kind of a cardboard cut out character, but she ended up having some depth and layers, too. I liked that Mike was gay but that it wasn’t “a thing.” He wasn’t “the gay character.” He was just a character.
What are your thoughts on what the title means? I didn’t notice any specific references to life in outer space (though I will admit that I read quite quickly and have a tendency of skipping over paragraphs that don’t look like they contain pertinent information. Yes, this does occasionally/frequently bite me in the ass). I think perhaps it is referring to the idea of becoming untethered from our normal way of thinking about things and being catapulted into a different perspective, but I don’t know. I’d love to know your theories!
I like that Sam was a writer. His obsessions were a nice framework and provided a good through-line that helped guide the book. It wasn’t just “my character will be a writer and this will have no relevance whatsoever.” The ideas of creation and creativity and genuine love for something are a major theme (Sam’s writing, Camilla’s music, Mike’s karate). It was a nice touch to have his writing tie in with his eventual realization of Camilla’s reciprocal love for him.
Housekeeping Note: I am getting rid of the forums. They aren’t being used, and I think they only serve to generate confusion as to where people should post. To solve that problem, I am going the easy route: everyone will simply post on the blog post itself. No need to create a profile, everyone can access it, and everyone’s comments will all be together. Bing bang boom. Sorry for making you create profiles for nothing. 🙁 First failed experiment, haha. Onward and upward, and onto the book discussion!
To be honest, guys, I didn’t love this book either. D: I liked the plot well enough, and I thought Celaena’s character had real potential (a young woman who is not only a bloodthirsty killer but loves books and clothes? count me in!), but the writing really dragged the whole thing down for me. It felt so forced, so … juvenile, almost. I don’t know how many more times I could have heard about her smile/grin (vicious or otherwise) before I would have just thrown the book against the wall in utter exasperation. And can I just say: I am sick to death of love triangles. They are boring.
I’m really hoping for a book I can enjoy for next month!
Anyway! I’m excited to hear what you guys thought. Did you love it? Hate it? Want to marry it? Tear it to pieces? Did it make you laugh? Cry? Swoon? Make you want to become an assassin? Here are some of my thoughts to kick it off:
I love how female-centric this story is, with Celaena, Nehemia, and Kaltain at its center. All three are complex characters with complicated agendas and desires, and that, in my opinion, is enough to make this book worthwhile, even if there wasn’t a whole lot else about it that I liked.
The whole thing with Celaena keeping her identity secret seems ludicrous to me. Did people really not know who she was? They weren’t even careful about not mentioning her real name! She sent a note to the Crown Prince and signed it Celaena Sardothien, for God’s sake. One of the guards addresses her as Miss Sardothien on her way to the masked ball. I understand that there is some tactical advantage to concealing her identity; as Chaol tells her, since the other Champions don’t know who she really is, they don’t pay any attention to her and don’t consider her a threat. Advantage. What baffles me is that Celaena can’t seem to see this. She complains about it all the time. She doesn’t strike me as a stupid girl and this isn’t exactly military genius levels of subterfuge here, so what’s the problem? Not only does she complain about it, though, she actively blows her advantage by doing things like flinging herself off of buildings to save other Champions. I don’t blame her for her altruistic impulse, but then why bother continuing to conceal her identity? The tactical advantage was kind of lost after that point. And I felt this way about many things that happened in the book: they seemed to merely serve a quick plot purpose and then cease to have any meaning at all.
I felt like there were no stakes! The competition was basically background noise that we revisited every few chapters for a page or two. Oh, I’m sorry, I thought Celaena was in a battle for her life and liberty here, or was I mistaken?! I barely cared about Celaena’s fate as it was (because we learn NOTHING about her as a person, her entire past is some shadowy secret that we only ever encounter obliquely), but with the competition seeming like such an after thought, and the murders of champions that we didn’t even know or care about anyway, and the fact that I just did not, for even one second, believe that Celaena was capable of being a deadly assassin…well. No stakes.
We are taken into a dream where this big huge thing happens (Queen Elena visits her) and yet, the full impact of that scene is lost because we have no idea who Queen Elena is until after the fact. If she had been mentioned before, even in passing, perhaps there would have been more punch to this scene, but as is, it fell completely flat because it was yet another thing that was just thrown into the story without any build up.
Anyone else think that Kaltain was the monster going around murdering Champions willy nilly? I think that would have been more interesting than the truth, which was, if you think about it, the obvious choice.
I want to know more about what happened to magic! It seems to be this really big, important thing that happened in their world, and yet we barely skim the surface of it. Why is the King of Adarlan so against magic? Why has he chosen to outlaw it? And why did him outlawing it make it magically (haha) disappear? Also, sidebar, the whole Yulemas religious ceremony sounded like a whole lot of references to magic to me, yeah? I want to know more!
Overall, I think this book had so much potential that was squandered on pointless exchanges between Celaena and two love interests that, frankly, she has zero chemistry with, and skimming over plot points that could have been huge deals! I felt like so many things were introduced and then never fully explored. The whole experience left me feeling like I’d just eaten a cookie that was only half-baked. And not in a good way.
I really hope that I like next month’s book more than I liked these first two. And I really hope that you guys enjoyed this one more than I did! I can’t wait to read your thoughts. Maybe you’ll have me revisiting my opinions. 😀
(PS. Make sure you vote on next month’s book selection here!)
I’ll admit, it took me a while to get into it. I don’t know if it was the pressure of knowing that you guys were waiting for me to be done, or that it took me so long to even start (because I forgot it at home when we went to Europe), or if I just didn’t like the book, but I really struggled! (Confession: I’m still not quuuuuuite done. But almost! I wanted to get this up for you guys sooner rather than later. Forgive me?)
One of the key things in dystopic fiction is believable world-building. Especially when something like alternative science is involved. I think Lauren Oliver did a relatively good job with this aspect of the book; the procedure made me think of a lobotomy, and I wonder if she drew inspiration from that at all. The hard part with a concept like hers, though, is that you must then account for every way that the thing you have removed touches society. For example, the whole point of music is to make us feel something. If there is outlawed music, it is because that music is designed to touch something inside of people. Why wouldn’t they simply ban music altogether then? Wouldn’t other music, even “sanitized” and approved music, be kind of like a gateway drug? For the same reason, why would they even encourage or allow friendships?
Along the same lines, it seems crazy to me that society would still be centered around a nuclear family. If, as was outright stated, people didn’t even feel love towards their children, wouldn’t it have made as much sense, or more, even, to have people procreate and then have the state raise all the children in some sort of segregated institution, where they could have everyone under surveillance and government control at all times?
Why do so many authors feel the need to assert that their main character is average? “Oh I’m so totally normal and average and nothing special and everyone is prettier than me.” Is it to make them more relatable? Because I don’t find that relatable, I mostly find it annoying. I recognize that many people feel that way (I know I have), but having it constantly shoved in my face, against much evidence to the contrary, is more frustrating than relatable.
I really liked the way she drew the beginnings of Lena’s relationship with Alex. It was like every time I’ve ever fallen in love, too, and seemed so real. It rarely if ever made me roll my eyes.
Hana was a nice foil for Lena, originally flirting with sympathizing and rebellion, but ultimately (presumably) settling for the life that was prescribed for her while Lena, who was always the one determined to follow all the rules, who was actively looking forward to being cured, ends up falling off the deep end. Nicely done.
I can’t wait to hear what you guys have to say about the book! You can participate in the discussion in the comments here, or over in the Young Adulters forum on the blog (you’ll have to sign up if you haven’t already). 🙂 Do you think you will go on to read the rest of the trilogy?
See you here in two days for the announcement of our November book selection! Have you voted yet?