Attend the song of Deathface Ginny, and how she come to be A wraith of rage for men who'd cage and harm what should be free It all began when the Mason man took Beauty for his bride He quick turned a fool and made her a jewel In the crown of his glittering pride He'd loved that gal since they were kids, a Beauty for more than her skin, But he crushed that joy, when he made her a toy To tease before covetous men Overcome with the fear that he'd lose her, he built a prison of stone She said, "I'll die from despair if you put me in there!" ...If only he'd listened, if only he'd known. With no one else to talk to, Beauty prayed to the cold God that made her "If I can't see the sky then let me die. "And she begged for Death to come take her He ought to have sent a reaper, but when he heard her sad song from above He went himself for the girl And the end of the world began when Death fell in love He stayed too long in that tower, and his heart grew desperate and wild 'Til he gave what she asked and Death wept as she passed For Beauty left Death with a child. The sun set and the moon rose, one end and one beginning He freed Beauty's soul But he kept the child whole and Death named his baby girl Ginny He raised her a reaper of vengeance, a hunter of men who have sinned If you done been wronged, say her name, sing this song Sound the bell's knell that calls her from hell... Ginny rides for you on the wind, my child... Death rides on the wind!
So begins Pretty Deadly, and it sums up the story of several of its characters.
I LOVED the concept, I LOVED the artwork, I LOVED the colours... but the narrative didn't quite rise to everything it promised. For one thing, it was too disjointed. It needed to be disjointed for this tale to work and to give it that dreamy feel, but it meandered too much... I can't imagine how aggravating it must have been for those reading issue by issue, I was a little lost even with the whole first volume providing answers to my questions.
The concept is gorgeous, and the artwork and colours are absolutely amazing, look:
But, as I said, it didn't quite work for me. It took too many detours which, admittedly, were explained by the end, but made for a very frustrating reading experience until I got to those answers.
Mind you, the artwork alone makes this worth reading, but it still left me with the sense of something unfulfilled...
Still, that may just be me, so make sure to check it out! (less)
ARC provided by Season Publishing through Netgalley
Phoebe is trapped in a loveless engagement - that is, until Sheldrake, her intended, breaks it o...more
ARC provided by Season Publishing through Netgalley
Phoebe is trapped in a loveless engagement - that is, until Sheldrake, her intended, breaks it off with her with vague allusions to a plot which will force him to leave the country.
Phoebe is relieved to be rid of Sheldrake, but suspicious when the Prime Minister is murdered concurrently with her former betrothed's departure.
James, the Duke of Wittaker, has taken leave from spying for King and Country. He's tired of playing the fop, the rake. But the Prime Minister's assassination sends him back to his old haunts.
I had a bit of trouble getting into this book. It's slow to start, and the mystery - though I loved the way Diener mixed historical fact with fiction - was a bit dull. But around 24% things start to pick up so if, like me, you're having trouble getting into this book, stick with it, it gets better!
Some things didn't work very well, James is never exactly subtle when trying to obtain info as a spy, nor is he a particularly good interrogator when he interviews Bellingham. Maybe I'm spoiled by C.S. Harris' Sebastian St. Cyr novels, but James just wasn't clever enough for this kind of mystery.
Phoebe, apart from a moment early on when she decides to go see the prime minister's murderer, unchaperoned, not occurring to her that she wouldn't be allowed in, is a very practical and sensible character.
The romance was the best part of the book, but wasn't a big part of it, and that was a pity. James spent his life pretending he was someone he was not, and Phoebe spent her life hiding her personality to be the demure lady society wanted her to be. So it was lovely that they both really saw each other, and liked what they saw.
But it's a nice historical romance with some mystery to spice it, so give it a try! (less)
ARC provided by St. Martin's Press through Netgalley
I suppose we're all familiar, if not with Cyrano de Bergerac's actual life (which is very enter...more
ARC provided by St. Martin's Press through Netgalley
I suppose we're all familiar, if not with Cyrano de Bergerac's actual life (which is very entertaining, since he was actually gay, and involved in love affairs with other gentlemen authors, and when these ended badly they published works vilifying the other, there were death threats, daring escapes, and all the entertaining things which populated the lives of libertines), then with Edmond Rostand's play about his love for Roxane and how he wooed her on behalf of the handsome Neuvillette.
The Unexpected Duchess starts with a twist to the Cyrano the Bergerac play: Lucy is determined that her friend Cassandra won't have to marry the Duke of Claringdon. Not only because Cass in being pressured by her mother to accept his attentions, but also because she's in love with another gentleman - the gentleman, in fact, who believing he wouldn't survive the battle, made Derek promise to marry Cass.
I liked Lucy from the very start. Her motto is: "Be bold!" And she's a very good friend. You can never go wrong if you write ladies being supportive of their lady friends, believing in them, wanting the best for them. I don't understand why this is so rarely portrayed in books... Lucy, Cass, and Jane each have different strengths and, as Lucy points out:
“We all must help one another. Help one another to get what we want. We’ll each do the thing the others cannot do and assist one another.”
Lady friendships!! Yes!!!
Not only that but the blurb isn't lying: Lucy does have a sharp tongue. She's very witty and a delight to read from the very first page:
(...) the lady had a rapier for a tongue. She jabbed with nouns, riposted with verbs. And she delivered adjectives with a particular flourish. By all accounts, she was a master. One who could rip an overzealous beau to shreds in mere seconds.
So when Cass meets the duke in the garden, Lucy is behind a hedgerow telling her exactly how to turn him off from the prospect of marrying her... until she's found.
Derek and Lucy's confrontations are very amusing. Neither of them backs down from the challenge.
Lucy is just delightful - she's very, very clear on the importance of consent:
“Mean? Mean? Cass, the man is trying to court you and refuses to take no for an answer and you’re worried about being mean?”
I'm so, so glad consent isn't being treated lightly!
Sadly, the drama in this book dragged for too long. I like my HR to be either realistic (in which case it has free reign to bring out the drama), or light-hearted (in which case I'm reading to be amused). But a light-hearted HR with drama that just drags and drags... and then seems resolved, but wait no, but then again yes, but no again... and so on, and on... It became silly, and tedious - this book has nearly 400 pages, and it would have been better served by cutting about 200 pages of needless drama, more fitting of a soap-opera than a well-researched (and it was!) HR.
I suppose the next book will be about Cass and her beloved Julian - I find Cass sweet, but so shy... and Julian... I didn't much care for him, I don't really find it appropriate to make your friends promise you on your deathbed to marry someone they've never met. Surely a nice person would make a friend promise to try and be happy, to enjoy the life you wouldn't be able to enjoy...
I still am going to read it, because Bowman got me hooked, and I must admit I really am looking forward to Jane and Garrett's book - that is... I hope they'll have one! So, with one single book, I'm convinced to read the whole series, for all my complaining, and knowing how hard I am to please, this is definitely a book worth reading. (less)
Of course I, like most people of my generation, was addicted to Cartoon Network, so I followed Samurai...more
ARC provided by IDW Comics through Netgalley
Of course I, like most people of my generation, was addicted to Cartoon Network, so I followed Samurai Jack's adventures, and even subscribed to the theory that Samurai Jack was set in the dystopian future of Powerpuff Girls' Townsville.
above: things that ruin your childhood, part the trillionth
For those unfamiliar with the story, Samurai Jack is stranded in a post-apocalyptic future ruled by the demon wizard Aku. His quest is to go back to his own time, defeat the demon wizard Aku, and thus prevent the terrible future he has witnessed.
In this volume, which comprises 5 issues, Jack starts searching for the Threads of Time, which are the shreds of the Ropes of Eons, used by the gods to mark the passage of time when the universe was formed, and torn by the demon wizard Aku once he mastered the sorcery of time travel. If Jack can find a single strand of the Threads of Time, it'll lead him to the others and then send him back to his own time.
Will Jack finally be able to defeat the demon wizard Aku?
I really enjoyed the premise, it's original and the writing captures the tone of the show, right down to its most humorous aspects.
The artwork was pretty good, faithful to the show's distinctive style, especially when it came to action scenes.
As always, my only complaint is to do with IDW Publishing's poor quality of the ARC, but since the lettering and artwork in this volume were quite bold, it wasn't as difficult to read as previous ARCs from that publisher.
A must read for all fans of Samurai Jack who, like me, were left hanging when the show was cancelled! (less)
"Calling it the End of the World was a conceit. The World kept ticking on just fine, it was humanity that took the hit. Seven months from top of the food chain to endangered species."
After losing communication with other human settlements following a plague that wiped out most of humanity, Asa, the settlement's doctor, decides to set out with a tracker and a hunter to find out what befell the other humans.
At the same time, Asa's granddaughter Prosper and her best friend Angus also set out, trying to make head or tail of an unusual problem that afflicts Angus. Unfortunately, both groups find themselves hunted by the Hinterkind.
A group of the Hinterkind, the Sidhe, wishes to capture the remaining humans, whether to keep their numbers in check or to be rid of them all once and for all is still being debated. Other races of the Hinterkind, like ogres and skinlings, find it hard to restrain themselves from feasting upon human flesh long enough to collect the bounty offered for them by the Sidhe...
But, in the end, could the biggest threat come from the patchwork of people that's left of humanity?
I really liked Prosper and Angus. Their friendship felt real and I really grew to care for what happened for them.
I also loved almost everything the Sidhe Queen said!
The others... were a bit too morally ambiguous for anyone to really cheer them on, but still entertaining to read.
If you like action-packed dystopias, with a sprinkling of fairytales gone wrong on top, give this a chance! (less)
ARC provided by Candlewick Press through Netgalley
“The forests are full of tales unheard, if only humans would pause their busyness to listen.”
The inhabitants of the Larsen Farm are getting ready for Christmas: lighted candles hang from the tree's boughs, nisse figurines line the mantle, and the house is filled with the scent of kringle, wood smoke, and the duck roasting in the oven.
...Until a phone call whisks Bettina's parents away, leaving her in charge of the farm, her baby sister Pia... and the forgotten nisse living in the barn.
Nisse are little creatures with a red pointy cap and a tendency for mischief if not appeased with a bowl of porridge on Christmas Eve. What with all the confusion of Bettina's parents leaving and her being left in charge, this Christmas Eve the Larsen Farm's nisse, Klakke, was left porridgeless.
This was already a rough Christmas for Bettina, being the first without her grandfather, leaving her disillusioned and struggling to get into the Christmas spirit. The last thing she needs is a mischievous nisse causing trouble!
As soon as Bettina awakes the next day she sees everything outside covered in winterfrost, which her grandfather had assured her was a magical doorway into another world.
But in the midst of this Christmas wonderland a disgruntled Klakke steals Pia into the forest, and Bettina must get her little sister back! Bettina is a delightful protagonist. She doesn't lose time in self-pity when faced with setbacks. She takes responsibility seriously and, when faced with adversity, she sets to work to solve her problems.
This is very much a book that plays with the trope of adult fear. Any child reading this is bound to be entertained without so much as a spectre of a worry. Any adult will be horrified by the idea of a twelve year old abandoned by her parents on a farm, in charge of her baby sister, and the farm animals, ALL BY HERSELF.
But it's such a delightful book! It really brings to life the magic of Christmas! Any child is bound to love it, and since its publication is scheduled for September it's sure to make a lovely Christmas gift! (less)
Grace is an event planner who is busy making sure a Regency themed New Year's Ev...more
Actual rating: 1.5 stars
ARC provided by Carina UK through Netgalley
Grace is an event planner who is busy making sure a Regency themed New Year's Eve ball is a success. But at the stroke of midnight she finds herself in the actual Regency Era, skirts over her head. Jasper Mossman, the Earl of Bingham, comes to her rescue, and Grace decides to whisk him away for a quick make-out. Which is very much frowned upon during the time period in question, so now Jasper insists they must be married.
This started off on a weird note. Grabbing a complete stranger at an event you're responsible for - effectively during your working hours - and making out with him without so much as a "Hey, you!" is not frowned upon just during the Regency period...
What was this woman thinking?
I guess she wasn't, because she was completely taken by his looks:
"My God, he looked like Ryan Gosling in ‘The Notebook’."
What? Scruffy, blond, and sickly?
"He was the epitome of tall, dark and handsome."
So... I guess not?
When it comes to the narrative, this book is a mess from the start. It's third person limited, but jumps without warning from character to character. We start out with Grace's point of view, then we jump to Anne's (Jasper's jilted fiancée), then to Jasper, to Grace again, to Jasper, and then to a Mrs Hillary Barrett - all within the first 13 pages! I mean... what is the author doing?
And Jasper thinks she is related to his business rival... Why is an Earl involved in trade? They wouldn't even dream of sullying their name with anything of the sort during the Regency! They had a man of business to deal with anything to do with money.
Many things happen for nonsensical plot-convenient reasons, for instance, Lord Lancaster, after some ridiculous back and forth arguments, believes Grace to be his American granddaughter by a conveniently absent son... and as it turns out, he is actually her great-great-grandfather. Anne's brother is indebted and was counting on his sister's marriage to Jasper to provide him with some funds. So, after Jasper and Grace's engagement is announced he eerily tells his sister - who is fully aware of his character - to befriend her ex-fiancé's new fiancée and concludes with the sinister: "you just do your part and I’ll do mine." Anne, who until now seemed like a sensible woman, just goes along with it because "she would love to have another friend"... Anne's brother, by the way, is an absurd villain, to the point where he actually laughs maniacally at his own devious plots.
And I really disliked the casual ableist slur from Grace:
“That is retarded.” “Retarded? I hardly think that’s an appropriate word.”
Girl, when even a man from the Regency era thinks that is wrong... But if you're from 2014 you should know not to say the r-word.
There was some talk of love, to me all there seemed to be was lust, especially when this exchange between the "lovebirds" came about:
“Don’t worry, I won’t let you go,” he whispered as his arms tightened around her body, supporting her weight as he bent her backwards for better access to her breasts. His words sent ice through her veins and she pushed away from him and stumbled out of his arms. She wasn’t thinking clearly, how could she with blood rushing in her ears? “I don’t belong to you.” She needed to distance herself from him. “What are you talking about, Grace? All I said was I wasn’t going to let you fall. I would hate to see you hit your pretty little head and maybe knock some sense into it.”
Wow. Romantic. And on that note, I must say I didn't find anything particularly hot about their sexual encounters, so...
Though, I have to admit there were a few moments that made me laugh, such as:
"Both his heart and his penis leapt with hope."
And Grace singing Carly Simon's You're So Vain at a musical recital.
But this really needed to be better researched, and the plot needed to be properly developed, without so many convenient occurrences and silly misunderstandings to add drama. Conclusion: an interesting premise but a poor execution. (less)
The book starts with Kate brimming with excitement over finally getting to visit Blackmoore. Her el...more
ARC provided by Shadow Mountain through Netgalley
The book starts with Kate brimming with excitement over finally getting to visit Blackmoore. Her elation is interrupted by her sister's loud sobbing because the gentleman for whom she had a crush is leaving forever. But it serves to show the reader, right from the start, what sort of character Kate is:
"if you refuse to see reason, then I refuse to comfort you."
I don't care if it was a silly infatuation, if your sister is sad enough to be crying, how about you save the lecture for later and comfort her? This isn't being a strong female character. Strong female characters are there for other women. This is being an asshole.
"another sobbing wail came from the hall. I tipped my head back and yelled out over the noise, “Mozart is not meant to be played this way! It is an insult to his musical genius!”
Really? I'm hating Kate already and I'm only 2% into this book...
Do you know how in some books we get those weird descriptions like, "His eyes were the colour of agates, and his burning passion made them sparkle and shimmer, like sizzling drops of ichor on an incandescently sharp blade."
I never thought it could get more ridiculous than this until I read Blackmoore, where what could have been a quick description of Kate's mother's eyes (they were brown) turns into a ~deep~ retelling of a ~traumatic~ event in Kate's childhood, that serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever:
"I stared at her eyes. They were the same color as an old, rusted trap I had found in the woods when I was seven. A rabbit had been gripped in its iron teeth. The little thing was no longer struggling when I found it, but it still breathed, and it saw me. Its eyes moved when I bent over it. I tried frantically to free the animal, but the rusted old metal would not yield to my prying fingers. In desperation, I had finally run to Delafield Manor and dragged Henry back through the woods. He looked at the rabbit. He shook his head. He picked up a large rock and told me to turn away and cover my ears. I cried, but I did as he said. A few moments later, his hand was on my shoulder, and I opened my eyes and lowered my hands. He said that the rabbit was no longer suffering. He said that was the best we could do for the poor thing. I supposed Henry got rid of the trap later. I never saw it again, even though I spent nearly every day in the woods. But I could not forget the look of it. I could not forget the large teeth and the rusted color and the tenacity of its grip. In this moment, I saw the same cold tenacity in my mother’s eyes."
Despite berating her little sister for a lack of practicality when it comes to emotions, Kate is seriously unhinged. Everything, and I really do mean everything, is a drama for her.
We find out that Kate has been insisting that her friend Sylvia invite her to Blackmoore, even though every year Sylvia's mother refuses it. A normal person would have taken the hint after the first refusal, but Kate insists on interrogating her friend as to why, exactly, she is not welcome.
Kate seems seriously deranged regarding Blackmoore. To the point where even her friend Sylvia and her friend's brother Henry find her actions weird.
“Kitty is longing to see Blackmoore. Again.” Sylvia spoke with an air of forced patience, which made me sit up straight and drop my hands. “You do not understand. Neither of you,” I looked from her to Henry and back again. Both watched me as if I were slightly mad. “You have always been able to go there, and I never have.”
Can you imagine this conversation with one of your friends?
Creepy Friend: CAN I GO WITH YOU TO YOUR HOUSE. You: I'm sorry, no. I've asked mother several times and she always refuses. Creepy Friend: BUT I NEED TO SEE YOUR HOUSE. ALL OF IT. I NEED TO BE IN IT. You: ...listen, it's just a house... Creepy Friend: YOU ARE NOT CAPABLE OF UNDERSTANDING ME. YOU GET TO GO TO YOUR HOUSE AND I DON'T. I. NEED. TO. BE. INSIDE. YOUR. HOUSE.
I guess Kate is also some kind of proto-furry, a Victorian furry? Because she constantly refers to herself in avian terms. Everything is a "cage" to her. She feels connected to wild birds. She needs to hear birds. Oh look, sea birds! She "felt like a bird who had wandered into some strange flock". She stands vigil over a birdcage. Henry starts addressing her as "little bird". She has an over-dramatic meltdown over a bird cage. I swear!
"I slid off the piano bench and walked numbly to the birdcage. Kneeling before the cage, I gazed at the dark, silent bird. I touched the gilded iron bars, softly, then ran my fingers up and down their length. My heart was breaking. There was no mending of this crack. It ran too deep. My fingers curled around the iron bars of the cage, and I felt how this cage was as strong as it was decorative. And suddenly I hated it. I hated everything about the cage, and everything about the cage of my own life. I rattled the bars, without thinking, my rage rising within me."
There was an actual frightened bird inside that birdcage, just so you know. And no, I'm not missing the anvil-like metaphor between Kate's life and a birdcage. Especially since, even after that cited excerpt, the author feels the need for this:
“I feel caged. Always. I feel like I am this bird, trapped and stifled and caged, and I keep looking for a way to escape, but I am barred at every turn.”
Why all this?
This is just... talking down to your readers, aka insultingly bad writing.
Kate doesn't just obsess over birds, and delusions of possessing Blackmoore. There is also India. India where she can be free. India where she could go with her aunt Charlotte. ...India where colonialism is ravaging an entire country and stealing all its riches from the native inhabitants leaving deep post-colonial scars felt even today. You know... the stuff dreams are made of.
This is being shelved as "clean romance", personally, I find vilifying and slut shaming your own mother and sister to be more reprehensible than a more heated scene... I find portraying every female character that is not the protagonist as a scatter-brained, untrustworthy flirt, to be more damaging than a roll in the hay. But that's just me...
I also didn't find it helpful that we're given hints of past events throughout the book, to add mystery, I suppose. But given that in a Gothic novel the heroine is kept in the dark (and we along with her), but in this one she's in on the secrets all along - she's just not telling us... - it was frustrating!
This book just felt like someone grabbed a histrionic protagonist from a YA from the 21st century and dropped her in the nineteenth century - expecting us to sympathise with her. I'll be the first to sympathise with the plight of women with so few choices as the ones in Kate's position, so how horrible a character was she that I couldn't care at all, and spent the whole book checking how long I still had to read before I reached the end? (less)
ARC provided by Curiosity Quills Press through Netgalley
While people on the surface aren't allowed - or have to possess immense power or wealth to b...more
ARC provided by Curiosity Quills Press through Netgalley
While people on the surface aren't allowed - or have to possess immense power or wealth to be allowed - to have children, in the Basement, the genomes of the world's brightest are collected and used to create improved clones. They start with the omega, and perfect the following copies until they get the perfect child.
The world above isn't aware of what's going on in the Basement, where these children, genetically engineered to lack aggression, sexual needs, and several other "undesired" traits, start working in the fields they were created for as soon as they turn ten.
Cipher, considered a failed experiment, goes through her day-to-day life longing for the world above, but somewhat content in her work in engineering.
That is, until a live feed is broadcast revealing their existence and preceding the detonation of several bombs which destroy the entire Basement, killing everyone in it... except for Cipher.
Now she has to survive the world above, the media's interest in her, and the web of intrigue that surrounds her very existence.
I liked Cipher. She's not whiny, she gets things done. She's upset over the ostracism she faces in the Basement on account of being considered imperfect, a failed first experiment. But she delights in her work and foregoes making an effort to fit in - she knows they'd never accept her anyway, she might as well be herself.
There are some inconsistencies with the world building, especially in the Basement.
Cipher tells us that:
"That smell of talc and formula always made me feel strange and sad, because I knew that no one would pick up or gentle those babies until they were old enough to sit up on their own."
This seems... counter-productive. Babies need human contact to develop properly, if they don't get it they can display failure to thrive, or develop issues later. It makes no sense to genetically engineer perfect children and then not provide them with proper care.
Her foster-father explains that the Basement's inhabitants "don’t have the hormones that make them want to have children of their own."
...that's dangerous. The endocrine system is complex, androgens, estrogens, and their effects, have other functions besides the ones related to sexuality.
Then, of course, there is Victorious, or Tor, also created in the Basement, but his skills (he was made from the donations of a brilliant military strategist and the fittest soldier) could only be properly tested in the world above, so his mother managed to adopt him. For someone who's the son of the most brilliant military strategist, it's jarring that he's the only character in this book I could actually label as being tstl. Yes, even with the explanation to some of his more ooc actions.
I also though Tor was 40-something by his description:
"warm eyes, which had smile-lines fanning out from the sides" "His mouth, I noted for no particular reason, was a little too wide, with deep grooves on either side."
But, as it turns out, he's 18?! Supposedly to make him closer in age to 16 year old Cipher, but still... what an odd description for an 18 year old...
He's brought in to the hospital in which Cipher is recovering, being the only other person with a similar life experience. Now, Cipher had preciously told us that there were a "thousand people in the Basement, and [she] knew every one of them". This isn't far-fetched, that's the average number of students at a high school, and one can generally know everyone at least by sight, and that's without even living with them 24/7, since birth. But she doesn't know Tor at all?
"“You don’t remember me, do you?” His smile faded, just a little."
Cipher seems unconcerned with this... I don't know. I wouldn't be. I found him a bit creepy, to be honest, always calling her "love" (even after she specifically told him not to call her that!) and mentioning he'd been watching her while he was in the Basement, and never forgot her, and worried about her...
However, when he tells her, "You shouldn’t trust me", Cipher refreshingly goes against YA clichés and does just that.
"Tor was a killer, bred, born, and trained. I wouldn’t allow myself to mistake his way of holding himself for gentleness."
She doesn't trust him. She doesn't trust anyone.
She also doesn't just move on from the loss she suffered. Too often we see YA protagonists losing their parents (the missing parent trope at work!) and just moving on because they have this wonderful new ~dreamy~ boy or girl to obsess over. Cipher's losses weigh on her. She may not have been close to most of the people in the Basement other than a few - but they were all the people she'd met in her entire life. It was realistic, and a welcome change to see her grieve for them.
There was a bit too much tell instead of show - Cipher's rants and monologues, for instance. But, on the whole, it was pretty good, solid writing - not so much the pacing: midway through the story it started to lag a bit.
I loved Bowen and Oona - especially Oona! There were time lapses in the book and I think they did the story a disservice. The slow growth of the relationships portrayed should have been shown instead of just saying "it's been x time and now we're close".
There is a sort of love triangle in this book, I personally didn't even really see it as such, because I never considered any of them to be proper love interests, so I just ignored that bit. If you hate love triangles (and who doesn't?!), don't let that keep you from reading this book.
All in all, it was an entertaining dystopia, even if it lacked a bit of urgency to it. If you're in the mood for a YA dystopia with clever protagonists and without the romantic clichés, give this book a chance! (less)
Kyra is a thief trying to make ends meet when she's taken into the Assassi...more
actual rating: 2.5 stars
ARC provided by Disney-Hyperion through Netgalley
Kyra is a thief trying to make ends meet when she's taken into the Assassins Guild. There she hones her skills and learns a few new tricks. Tristam is close to his knighthood when barbarians riding demon cats attack and kill his best friend. This makes Tristam choose a path which will allow him to seek justice for his fallen friend.
I was really, REALLY excited for this book, but that excitement died down within the very first chapter. Now, don't get me wrong, there is nothing bad about this book. There is nothing particularly good about it, either, and that's the problem.
I didn't dislike Kyra, but I didn't like her, either. She was just... there. She starts off badly right on the first chapter - the head of the Assassins Guild blatantly hires her to test her skills, and she can't even figure this out. A 17 year old girl who spent most of her life fending for herself on the streets... lacks the street-smarts to see this? I wanted her to be cleverer! Mind you, perhaps I am a bit spoiled by Megan Whalen Turner's Eugenides, but Kyra never really shined... She was a good thief because she'd trained herself to physically be so, out of necessity. There is very little of her outsmarting anyone else.
And there's the sense that there was a bit of chickening out in this book: Kyra joins the Assassins Guild. I expected her to learn how to become an assassin? But she can't even bring herself to watch someone take a beating, and spends her time drawing maps and harbouring vague concerns over the morality of her employers. When she kills, she's horrified at what she's done.
"There were steps she wasn’t willing to take. The kill had been an accident. She wasn’t an assassin, and she wouldn’t kill a Council member. She couldn’t."
Then why did she join the Assassins Guild?! How stupid is this girl?! Obviously, I'm not advocating murder as a viable professional choice for young ladies, but why have one of your protagonists join an Assassins Guild if this isn't used in her training and growth as a character? To sound cool?
Tristam isn't any more interesting. I guess, perhaps, he is even less: at least Kyra has a few protégés and some kind of life outside of her work...
Tristam's story starts with the usual Friendly Target trope - you know, his best friend dies so Tristam can have a purpose in the plot.
He wanted to patrol roads (I didn't really get the concept of knighthood in this book? Wouldn't patrolling roads be a task for a guard?) but his friend's tragic (and inevitable) death makes him pledge his service to Sir Malikel - probably the only interesting character in the book: a foreigner whose cunning and skill elevated him to the role of Minister of Defense. Tristam expects to fight the barbarians who "kind of" killed his friend. I say "kind of" because let's be honest: it was mostly his friend's own incompetence that got him killed. Instead we're treated to Tristam building aqueducts and supervising evictions of shopkeepers who can't keep their business afloat with all the raids depriving them of their stock.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, the barbarian invaders raiding farms and cities attack with demon cats. As if there are any other kind.
There needed to be more of a marker to signify a change of point of view. We go on for 5 chapters told from Kyra's point of view, and then the 6th is told from Tristam's with no warning whatsoever. I mean, after a few chapters I noticed Kyra's chapters started with a:
And Tristam's chapters started with a:
But these are somewhat obscured by the initial at the beginning of the chapter. Wouldn't it be easier for the reader to just have the name of the character from whose point of view we're reading stated at the beginning of each chapter? Just my opinion...
This book is aimed at readers 12 and up, so it's YA, I guess? But I've read plenty of Middle Grade books more complex and advanced than this...
I'm sorry to say this, but I found this book incredibly boring and extremely simplistic. Take this with a grain of salt, though. What doesn't work for me, may very well work for others... (less)
Whenever steampunk comes up I think "Meljean Brook". I don't even know if she was the first author I've r...more
ARC provided by InterMix through Netgalley
Whenever steampunk comes up I think "Meljean Brook". I don't even know if she was the first author I've read of the genre, but she is hands-down the best.
I thought I'd read all Iron Seas' books - so when I started this book, which features Zenobia Fox, Archimedes Fox's sister, I was like... "what."
Can you believe I spent ages lusting after Heart of Steel, bought the ebook, and then forgot about it and convinced myself I had been waiting for Riveted (which is the 3rd book! THIRD! in the series!)?!
My stupidity, thankfully, did not hinder the reading of The Kraken King Part 1: The Kraken King and the Scribbling Spinster (which is a title that's too long, and quite frankly too awesome to write every time), which can be read without any knowledge of the rest of the Iron Seas' series.
Meljean Brook has a super helpful guide about the world she created, anyway, in case of any confusion. Including a map which contains the best copyright notice I've ever read:
(c) Meljean Brook Do not reproduce this map, please. It's too ugly.
The story starts with Zenobia, travelling to Australia under the assumed name Geraldine Inkslinger, with her friend Helene. Their ship is attacked and they are rescued by Ariq, the Kraken King, one of the most powerful men in the Horde rebellion.
Things start off well between Zenobia and Ariq - it's not insta-love, but it's insta-lust, and if there is one thing Brook writes well... it's lust. In just a few lines during their first meeting she has me hoping they'll be together forever. But, of course, misunderstandings arise soon enough...
This is only Part 1, so it's much too short, ending right when I was completely hooked.
And to think I'll have to wait until April 22 to read Part 2! I don't know how I'm going to wait... well, by finally reading Heart of Steel, for one!(less)
Ethan Brundy, an illegitimate orphan, rose to wealth from...more
Book provided by the author through Netgalley
A sweet and simple Regency romance.
Ethan Brundy, an illegitimate orphan, rose to wealth from his impoverished past in the workhouse. As soon as he sees Lady Helen at the theatre he vows she'll be his wife. Lady Helen is on her third season, having scared all her suitors with her sharp tongue and, as fate would have it, her father's gaming debts make it crucial that she should be advantageously married. Which is how, against her will, she ends up married to Mr Brundy.
I didn't much care for the love story from Mr Brundy's side. We accompany Lady Helen as she overcomes her prejudices and proud demeanour, and discovers what a kind and generous man her husband truly is, despite his less than reputable origins. She grows as a character as she grows to love him. Mr Brundy, however, sees her at the theatre one night and finds her beautiful so he wants her for a wife. Never mind her personality or who she is. He basically wants her because of the way she looks. And for a workhouse orphan who was himself bought, he shows no compunction when it comes to buying himself a wife...
Still, it was a particularly unaffected, drama-free Regency romance, a quick and entertaining read without the usual trappings of tormented secrets, drawn-out drama, and misunderstandings.
So if you're looking for a light historical romance give this one a chance! (less)
ARC provided by Bell Bridge Books through Netgalley
DNF @ 20%
I’m sorry but this book… this book should come with trigger warnings, I can’t even begin...more
ARC provided by Bell Bridge Books through Netgalley
DNF @ 20%
I’m sorry but this book… this book should come with trigger warnings, I can’t even begin to list them, I don’t know.
I requested this because I wanted to read a romantic space-opera, not this semi-incestuous… thing!
Bear in mind that I love romantic space-operas, so I’m biased enough to let a lot of things slide, but this book just pushed it WAY too far.
I know I’m not at my most coherent, but this really was NOT my cup of tea, to say the least.
Vadyn, a warlord from an alien species, lost his mate. Being mind-linked, this devastating loss spelled certain death for him. Elizabeth, however, couldn’t let him die. She rushed to save him and mind-linked with him, even though she was married to Logan, and could never truly be mated to Vadyn.
Even so, being mind-linked, they shared everything. And I mean everything. Their love for Logan. Elizabeth and Logan’s nights of passion. The conception of Logan and Elizabeth’s children, Sean and Cayla. The pains of their childbirth. Vadyn was there for all, felt it all as if it were happening to him. He helped raise the children as a sort of foster uncle.
Which is why it’s so unacceptably disgusting that the romance in this book is between Cayla and him!
Why? Why would you have the romance be between a girl who just reached maturity and her “uncle” who helped raise her? Why couldn’t this be between two similarly aged people without a semi-incestuous background?
Vadyn “shared everything with [Elizabeth], even the birthing pains of both her children, Sean and Cayla, so long ago." …So now he wants to have sex with the baby he felt being born? The baby whose very conception he "witnessed"?!
Elizabeth and Logan are ambushed and murdered. I say murdered but Elizabeth spent over 10 pages slowly dying and monologuing the reader about how important her husband was to her, which is nice… if she didn’t make it clear that she cared more about him that she cared about her own children:
"She would kill anyone or anything that hurt her loved ones. And Logan was the greatest of those."
As she dies she wants to say goodbye to her daughter but she can feel her husband dying and “His importance came first."
WHAT?! Was this written in the 50’s?!
And then, to “save” Vadyn from dying along with her parents, Cayla seduces him and mind-links herself to him… like, right next to her parents’ corpses. They’re making out, naked, by her parents’ corpses. You think I’m blowing this out of proportion?
"Bodies intertwined, they rolled in mental and sexual frenzy on the bloodied sand."
He then had the presence of mind to slide them a little ways away to take her virginity. How thoughtful!
And as foreplay, “he exposed all his stored private memories of her mother and father. (…) even their lovemaking scenes.”
Like… I have no words.
Just because you say things like:
"All this time, she thought he knew her only as the child he had helped to raise. But that was a lie."
“She loved him. Not as the doting foster uncle but as a mate.”
ARC provided by Sourcebooks Fire through Netgalley
TW: murder, mentions of rape
I don't own a TV. Yeah, I know you're expecting me to go down the usu...more
ARC provided by Sourcebooks Fire through Netgalley
TW: murder, mentions of rape
I don't own a TV. Yeah, I know you're expecting me to go down the usual pretentious, "I don't own a TV, because books are the superior form of blah blah blah" but the truth is I don't own one because I am so crazy that after I watched The Ring I had to get rid of my TV. There will be NO creepy kids climbing out of a well and into my house!
So when I got approved for this ARC I went, "Oh no, Isa. What have you done?"
I decided to be a big girl and just read it. Here's how The Girl From the Well starts:
"I am where dead children go."
above: an accurate representation of my reaction
I bravely read on and it gets worse. And by worse, I mean better, creepier, scarier, and I couldn't phone my mum because it was past 1 a.m., even though after every paragraph I was whispering, "I want my mother."
But onto the plot!
This is a book inspired by the Japanese ghost story Banchō Sarayashiki. Okiku, in her own words, "an unavenged spirit, a nothing-more", hunts down murderers of children.
The story starts with one such "man" (if we can even call him that), living unconcerned by the weight of the dead he carries. Literally. The girl he murdered, bloated and decaying, has her "thin bony arms clasped about his neck, (...) her legs balanced against the small of his back."
He cannot see the girl he murdered, nor can he see the dead girl who has come for him that night. But both girls can see each other and, in silent understanding, they both know that the man will soon see no one ever again.
Okiku exists in a dreamless, wandering state, she observes life, she counts things. Just as she has for hundreds of years... Until a tattooed boy crosses her path. A boy with something "strange and malevolent hiding inside him".
Though Okiku is mostly a non-entity, it was very easy to sympathise with her. Tarquin/Tark (what an unfortunate name, hopefully there is no Lucretia around) was a bit slower to become likable but, once everything he went through is known, you can't help but feel for him. Tark's cousin, Callie, was the one looking for all the answers to the mystery that haunts her family, she was very easy to like. My favourite character, however, has to be Sandra, the little girl who could see the spirits, and was probably creepier than all of them put together...
There is an abundance of creepy children in this book, both dead and living - personally that's the horror element that gets to me the most. Followed by creepy dolls - which also make an appearance - and unrestful spirits trailing the living. There are many common horror elements in this book: evil spirits, insane asylums, creepy dolls, murderers, creepy children - but the writing is so skilful none of these read as clichés.
The writing is beautiful. Descriptive in a poetic way, which just makes everything even creepier. It achieves the perfect balance of saying just enough by meandering through a series of highly sensorial observations, and then leaving terrible things implied and unsaid, which is extremely unsettling and the best approach when it comes to this genre.
I think this is Rin Chupeco's first book? If so... I don't even know how to properly praise her, but she has to be one of the most talented writers to be published recently, and I wish her all the success in the world.
Seriously, anyone who follows my reviews knows I'm tremendously difficult to please, but Chupeco's writing - be it characterization, dialogue, pacing, plot - is amazing. May this book be the first of many more!
I'd also like to personally blame Rin Chupeco for making sure I'll never set foot in my attic again. (less)