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A Reader of Fictions: Review: Starry Nights

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Review: Starry Nights

Starry Nights

Author: Daisy Whitney
Pages: 288
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
Read: August 25-26, 2013
Source: ARC from BEA

Description from Goodreads:
Seventeen-year-old Julien is a romantic—he loves spending his free time at the museum poring over the great works of the Impressionists. But one night, a peach falls out of a Cezanne, Degas ballerinas dance across the floor, and Julien is not hallucinating.

The art is reacting to a curse that trapped a beautiful girl, Clio, in a painting forever. Julien has a chance to free Clio and he can't help but fall in love with her. But love is a curse in its own right. And soon paintings begin to bleed and disappear. Together Julien and Clio must save the world's greatest art . . . at the expense of the greatest love they've ever known.

Like a master painter herself, Daisy Whitney brings inordinate talent and ingenuity to this romantic, suspenseful, and sophisticated new novel.A beautifully decorated package makes it a must-own in print.

First Sentence: "The padlock glistens with rain."

At first, I totally thought this was going to be one of those times where I really like a book that most of my friends did not. The early reviews were discouraging, but it was a 4 star book for the first 75 pages or so. From there, things slid downhill. My hopes were high for Starry Nights, but, sadly, a highly original, creative, beautiful concept turns into a cheesy pile of instalove. Be warned that this review does contain some spoilers.

The opening of this novel is so strong. Whitney's a talented writer, and the concept is gorgeous. At the outset, we have Julien, an artist of limited talent, whose mother runs a Parisian art gallery. He does tours and generally loves art of all forms, music, paintings, sculpture, dance, etc. At night, Julien wanders the halls and sees the art come alive. The subjects pop out of their frames, Degas' dancers performing ballets that only he can see.

The imagery of this, the idea that the paintings have lives of their own within the museum after dark, is stunning. While, yes, there are all sorts of reasons this is unlikely, it's beautiful magical realism, and done very well. At least, until it ceases being magical realism and turns into a paranormal/mythological plot.

While I wasn't a fan of this plot twist where the story went for the mythological rather than the subtle beauty of magical realism, which is one of my favorite things right now, I still admire the originality of the world building that Whitney devises. She's built a novel around the Muses, which I've not personally seen done before. On top of that, she brings in a look at the evolution of art, the way it went from being something done solely by educated men to something that can be created and appreciated by anyone. These are powerful themes, and I still think she handles her concept well. Though not quite what I wanted, her Muse mythology is fascinating and meaningful.

Where Starry Nights flops is the romance. It's a classic case of instalove, complete with the relatively flat characters so typical of this romantic "arc". Even before that, though, I have issues with the romance. She's a girl in a painting and he's a person, so their options are pretty limited, and, though I do sometimes go for weird ships, they didn't have enough of a connection for me to root for them in the face of odds where she's not even a real person. Sure, she likes to eat and he brings her food. They both like art. Wow, do they both like Breakfast at Tiffany's too? There wasn't any real verve or banter in their conversations which are largely boring, and I personally thought he and Emilie, who's in a total of three scenes, had a lot more chemistry.

This is the dog version of: "Is this a kissing book?" *groans*

Julien and Clio, the girl in the painting, fall in love pretty much immediately. In a rather classic Romeo & Juliet scenario, Julien is just out of a bad breakup. Clio, on the other hand, has been in a painting for over a hundred years in a private home, meaning that she hasn't seen ANYONE BUT HIM. He is literally the only boy she's seen in hundreds of years. Instalove is bad enough when there are options, but, when it's "I love you because you're the only person I've literally ever been capable of loving," to me that's not romance but desperation. Part of love is choosing that person over other people, not being cornered into it by circumstance.

Then, there's the ending, which is completely cheesy and convenient. The book could have at least ended in the expected heartbreaking place, but, oh no, this is paranormal romance world and there just HAS to be an HEA, even if it makes no sense. Let's nurture the concept that manicpixiedreamgirls will literally step out of our pop culture to love us. Yeah, that's healthy. Well, good luck to you, Clio and Julien. Two people with no marketable skills who got together when one was on the rebound and one had never spoken to another boy. I'm sure this will end well.

All told, I do think there is a good framework to Starry Nights, but the instalove killed it. I'm left feeling not angry, but disappointed. This could have been a thoughtful, slow-paced, magical novel, but instead went the way of paranormal romance tropes.

Rating: 2.5/5

Favorite Quote: "'All artists are a little bit insane. I was hoping that was your crazy.'"

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Blogger Nara said...

I do have to admit it does seem like the book is going to pretty cliched even when just reading the blurb (I guess it's too dramatic or something). Ugh the romance sounds so terrible. I'm really not a fan of instalove, but I can tolerate it if there's still a reasonable relationship after the initial instalove. Definitely doesn't look like that's what's happening here though. Probably going to stay away from this one.
Nice review Christina :)

August 28, 2013 at 8:57 AM  
Blogger Whitley Birks said...

"Two people with no marketable skills who got together when one was on the rebound and one had never spoken to another boy. I'm sure this will end well."

I actually kind of love it when HEAs go like that, because then I can headcanon in all the problems that they're inevitably going to have. There's no more book left to tell me otherwise!

August 28, 2013 at 9:09 AM  
Blogger GillyB said...

If Pooka and Bartok to not approve, then I do not approve. This insta-love sounds insta-bad. And with such a great premise! This one hasn't been getting the best of reviews. It might be time to relegate this one to the giveaway box.

August 28, 2013 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger Charlotte @ Gypsy Reviews said...

Ahhh instalove, my old nemesis. Ugh the romance is so off-putting and the whole "I love you because you're the only one", please no.

But a novel about art and Muse mythology? I really wish this had been better :( Sounded so promising...

August 28, 2013 at 10:53 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This book sounds like something I would hate! Great review, I'm really not a fan of this HEA Paranormal business, it's just not realistic!
-Scott Reads It

August 28, 2013 at 11:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The idea of the novel really sounds good! But, yes, it coud have been developed in a different way...
It's so great to read your blog! I can know so many novel that otherwise here in Italy I couldn't know! xoxo


August 28, 2013 at 1:49 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

I'm only a few pages into this, but I'm pretty sure it's a DNF for me. It's been a struggle even to get through a chapter...

August 28, 2013 at 4:42 PM  
Blogger Jessie said...

Perfect Anastasia gif is PERFECT.

And I agree with you that this starts strongly -- I wasn't in love, but I greatly liked the first hundredish pages. It's once the romance dried up the narrative that I got annoyed.

The characters are so flat. They have no chemistry. I don't buy that they're in love. I didn't even really notice Emilie (especially as much as you did), but I think you're right -- she would've been a better love interest.

And this: "I love you because you're the only person I've literally ever been capable of loving," is an amazing and perfect description of Clio's affections. I couldn't figure out how to word my degree of being creeped out by how their relationship came to be, but that sentence is a win.

The Muse mythology... just didn't work for me. The magical realism, as unlike as it was, felt more real than the sharp turn to Mythology Land the book took.

BARTOK! I need to rewatch this movie.

August 28, 2013 at 7:00 PM  
Blogger Ashleigh Paige said...

I tried with this, but I could smell the cheese coming from about fifty pages in and my other choice for "way to waste my summer day" was Lupin III. Lupin III always wins. Kudos for sticking with it, but it sucks you didn't end up liking it much, Christina!

Also, I really need to watch Anastasia again sometime. I saw it once or twice as a kid and loved it and I WANT MORE. The songs were so much fun and Rasputin creeped me out so much. I still randomly belt out ONCE UPON A DECEEEEEEEEEMBER when I can/remember the lyrics.

August 28, 2013 at 7:21 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

I stopped reading your review as soon as you said spoilers, but it's too bad it started good and went downhill. Giselle made me take this one from her. I will eventually read it so I don't want to spoil myself, but I will lower my expectations. Ugh! Cheesy insta-love. *rolls eyes*

August 28, 2013 at 8:21 PM  
Blogger Wendy Darling said...

Oh dear, oh dear. With a fantastical premise ("A peach falls out of a Cezanne," hah), everything else had better be in tip-top shape, especially the romance--it's a shame to hear it was not. I wasn't a huge fan of the one and only Daisy Whitney book I've read, and after seeing the lukewarm reviews come in for this one, I think I'm better off skipping this, too. Thanks for the review, Christina.

Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

August 28, 2013 at 8:59 PM  
Blogger Katie said...

Oh noes! I've been dying to read this one since I heard about it, so I'm sad it's not as good as it sounded. But maybe I'll like it more than you did? Hmm...I've got a digital galley, so I'll try to read it soon! :D

August 29, 2013 at 8:12 AM  

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