Man, this final BOOK, you guys. I'm still reeling from everything that was packed into this final installment of the "Starcrossed" trilogy...more4.5/5 stars!
Man, this final BOOK, you guys. I'm still reeling from everything that was packed into this final installment of the "Starcrossed" trilogy. So many questions were answered, and questions you didn't even know you had? Those get answered to. All in all, this is a fantastic ending to the trilogy, and I think that fans will be very satisfied with everything that goes down. While I did have a few little nits to pick on this one, otherwise? Loved it. If you haven't read the rest of the trilogy, what are you waiting for? "Goddess" is the final book that all trilogies want in all technical areas.
I loved that this book started more or less immediately after the final events of "Dreamless", literally picking up where the previous book left off. Everyone is bloodied and broken and the final battle is upon them. What I loved that Angelini did more or less immediately was expand the world (in a way I hadn't thought she'd be able to do in terms of how big it already was) with a backstory of the original Helen of Troy, along with other famous figures in history you'd never think were involved with the Houses (Arthur and Guinevere, for example) and giving us a very full, lush history of what really went down at Troy, the origins of Atlantis, and why the gods have such a grudge against Helen in the first place. This was masterly wrought, and spun out throughout quite a few chapters, but the chapters in between when everyone is amassing for the final battle (along with trying to figure out who the Tyrant is), so it didn't feel infodumpy. And it could have gone the way of the infodump had Angelini not used that way of alternating chapters and backstory.
The characters also get a boost - with Helen, literally - and we also get some new characters that do a great job contributing to the story without taking away from it in terms of how important they are to the larger Helen of Troy history with the gods, and how that affects everyone now. This was also very cleverly done - with seeing the original (uncensored, one might say) Helen of Troy story, it made everything that's happened in past books make a lot more sense. Without spoiling everything too much, I will say - watch for Daphne's parts, and you'll see how many questions are answered just with her and her actions alone. And while I felt like Helen's deification literally felt like things were a little over the top sometimes, Angelini balanced this out with the original history, along with the gods being the way we haven't seen them since books like "The Iliad" - angry, bloodthirsty, and really just plain not cool guys to piss off. I like that Angelini went that route in terms of how she created the gods as characters, how it wasn't like we've seen in other MG and YA series as of late, and that return to the way we were originally introduced to them in Greek literature was a pleasant surprise.
My only big one complaint - the love triangle dragged a little too long into the book. HOWEVER, I can see why Angelini did it - when certain plot pieces from the original Helen of Troy's past fall into place, it all makes sense - and thus, makes pretty much all of book 2's plot make sense, as well. As I said before, Daphne is the key, so watch for that. But I was happy to see that the love triangle did get resolved, and all of the historical pieces didn't always have those three together in romantic situations. To spoil just a bit, there was a lifetime where Helen and Hector were married, which I thought was a really nice touch. It kept things fresh, and it kept us as the audience on our toes.
My second, smaller complaint - how the final battle with Zeus went down. I felt like that was resolved just a little too easily, a little too neatly, though I will admit the way that Helen went up against him was incredibly clever, and not without loss on both sides. In that sense, no one really "won", as Helen suffered a huge loss, as did Zeus. Which was nice to see - the stakes were so high, and though it felt a little too neat for my tastes in terms of how it was resolved, it also really brought home the impact of the idea of the Tyrant, and how important this final battle really is/was to everyone involved - gods, demigods/descendents, and humans alike. No one escaped entirely unscathed, which was the right thing to do. Had everyone on Helen's side come out without a scratch, I would have been pretty angry about the ending. But since it didn't, I'm quite pleased with how things went.
Final verdict? With a lot of love, blood, violence, and history behind it, "Goddess" gets propelled to my best of 2013 list (and best series ender of 2013 list). It had everything I wanted, and I was pretty pleased with how it all went down, even with my nitpicks about it. I think other fans will be happy too, regardless of what "team" they are in terms of the love triangle. "Goddess" is out May 28, 2013 from HarperTeen in North America, so be sure to check it out then! And be sure to stop by the blog on Monday, May 27, 2013 for my stop on the blog tour with a guest post by Angelini herself.
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, librarything, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)(less)
Wow. That’s pretty much all I can say after two days of processing an amazing ending that was NINE BOOKS in the making. If “Naamah’s Blessing” doesn’t...moreWow. That’s pretty much all I can say after two days of processing an amazing ending that was NINE BOOKS in the making. If “Naamah’s Blessing” doesn’t propel the “Kushiel’s Legacy” series into epic fantasy, I don’t know what will, or even what epic fantasy even is anymore. It really amazes me how Carey managed to tie up pretty much everything from the first book in the “Kushiel” series (“Kushiel’s Dart”) up until this last book in the series, number nine. Any loose ends that readers might have picked up at the end of each trilogy was brilliantly tied together by the end of “Naamah’s Blessing”. Seriously. Guys, this is talent. Any doubts I might have had about Carey as a writer are more or less absolutely gone now.
All I can hope, though, is that this isn’t the last we’ve heard of the “Kushiel’s Legacy” world. It seems that per trilogy time in that world progressed somewhere from 100-300 years from the last book of one trilogy to the first of a next. That’s just an estimate for me, but it felt about right. I think we started somewhere in what might be the mid-to-late 15th century in Kushiel’s Dart and ended in the 18th Century (or possibly the early 19th century). But the mirrors that Carey built from her world to ours (or perhaps the reverse) were striking in detail with nothing left to the imagination in terms of a firm and solid setting.
And it was good to see all of the old characters coming back in some way or another by the end of this book. It was good to see Moirin reflecting on not only her own journey, but the journey of humanity within the “Kushiel” world, and where it might be going. How in the end, we’re all connected, regardless of color, creed, etc. It seems too grandiose when I say it now, but if you read it, you’ll surely feel it on the same epic scale I did. This is the final message of the “Kushiel” series, should it choose to end here. And I really hope it doesn’t. Not by a long shot. I’d love to see what might turn out to be America in that other world, and the other countries, the wars, and everything that comes with them. I want to see the evolution of the people of Terre d’Ange to what they might be like today. If that makes sense.
If this is the end, then it’s a good ending. If not, it’s a fantastic place for a new story to begin. I can only hope it’s the former, though, because I’m addicted to the “Kushiel” world. Definitely one of my picks under the romantic fantasy catagory for 2011.
(posted to librarything, goodreads, shelfari, and witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com)(less)
While a little slow to start, "Breath" is a fantastic end to one of my favorite YA quartet/series in the last five years - utterly origina...more4.5/5 stars!
While a little slow to start, "Breath" is a fantastic end to one of my favorite YA quartet/series in the last five years - utterly original and unforgettable. I think I can honestly say that this book is my favorite in the quartet - everything has been building to this book, and boy, was the wait worth it. If you've started your journey with "Hunger", you simply must end it with "Breath".
While a little slow to start with Xander's story grounding us as to how he's important as more than just listening to Death's life story (no pun intended), once Death starts speaking (once again wearing the guise of Kurt Cobain) - it's off to the races and it's a non-stop rocket ride until the very final page, where you'll find yourself breathless. The best part? This series feels FINISHED by the last page. Like you have closure, and though there are still a few lingering questions, Kessler lets the audience have a little imagination room, which is always appreciated.
Death's origin story brings in the many-worlds theory into effect - and mixes it with the paranormal. Where did Death come from? Is he an angel? Is he god? All of these questions are presented as possibilities as to where Death came from, and what he is. While Kessler (and Death) coyly don't really answer this one important question, it's still presented really well, and we get hints of other universes aligned with ours, where other beings like us just might be a little (okay, a lot) more advanced. We also get the origin story of how life here on earth began (and the implication of how without Death being there before, the idea of "death" or apoptosis might never have existed), along with that of the Horsemen, and how various important pieces of human history have influenced by the Death and his Horsemen. I have to hand it to Kessler - she really rewove all of what we as humans already know into something dazzlingly original. I was kind of starstruck during these origin story pieces of the book.
We also get to see all of our previous Horsemen - Missy (War), Billy (Pestilence), and Tammy (current Famine) with a cameo appearance with the original Famine we were introduced to, Lisabeth. We also get a good fix in terms of time since we last left these characters taking up their offices as Horsemen. It's been 4-5 years since we last left them, and we get to see how their lives, both as Horsemen and as semi-humans have developed, and I was so, so gratified to see that they were included. Since this is Death's book, we don't get a huge infodump on the rest of the Horsemen - just enough to go on, and how they're handling things 4-5 years into their jobs as Horsemen. We also get glimpses of the original Horsemen, and how the office as Horseman works (inheriting the knowledge of one's predecessors, etc), which I thought was pretty great. We see how they're healing, and how in some areas, they're a bit stuck - and how Death's suicidal actions bring them together long enough for them to stop bickering. The scenes involving the Horsemen and Death all together are some of my favorite of the book, if just to see everyone together again.
Just as Death's origin story further expands the world that Kessler has built over the past three books, we also get yet another new piece of this world - the Slate. I won't spoil things, but it's a place I would love to visit, even if it might be slightly depressing at times. It sounds like an incredible place, and I can see why Death would want to take refuge there - why, if anything, it's the ONLY place he can take refuge when he needs to lick his wounds. While I wanted more on the Slate and its description, what I got was enough to go on.
Finally, there is the mystery of Xander, which once again brings up the many-worlds theory/parallel timelines/universes theory (M-Theory). His secret, at the end, is a very small one, but very important. It's thrown off everything within his own life (though I won't say how), and it's helped Death get onto suicide watch in its own way. The way this was teased and teased throughout the book was great, as was the increasing tension that came with each tease of what this secret might be. With it, we also see Death's endgame - and the question - has Xander (and Death) been a reliable narrator throughout this book? If you've been reading the blog, you'll know that the unreliable narrator trope is one of my favorites, and to bring it in right at the climax is a move that authors, I find, almost never use. And it was brilliant. Furthermore - it worked in everyone's favor.
Final verdict? Definitely the best in the quartet and one of my favorites of 2013 so far, "Breath" is a great ending to a wonderful series. So let's say a fond bittersweet farewell to the "Horsemen Quartet" with "Breath", which drops tomorrow, April 16, 2013 in stores from HMH in North America. Definitely worth the read and highly recommended. Man, am I going to miss this series.
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, librarything, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com(less)
This is basically a novella, so it was a pretty quick read. It wasn’t deep, it didn’t make you think, but I don’t think its aim was to do so. Regardle...moreThis is basically a novella, so it was a pretty quick read. It wasn’t deep, it didn’t make you think, but I don’t think its aim was to do so. Regardless, this was a nice little refreshing break from the heavier material I’ve been reading lately.
While the sex part was to be expected and more than a little cliched, the time travel part was fun. I honestly wasn’t expecting anything groundbreaking going into this, so it didn’t disappoint. If you need something to read that’s full of levity (and sexy times), try out this little novella. For those purposes alone, it’s great. If you’re expecting more…well, you won’t get it.
Still, the characters were quite well developed for such a short book – I wouldn’t mind reading more of Stormy and Bacon’s adventures, to be honest. Stormy’s a feisty, fun time agent (not unlike Jack from Doctor Who/Torchwood, now that I think about it), and Bacon’s the cute bumbling sidekick who strangely, isn’t annoying like most cute bumbling sidekicks. Then again, he’s a kid, so he can be pardoned – most sidekicks in this situation are adults and therefore have no excuse.
So, yeah. I’d like to see more of Stormy. Maybe a little less sex, and no more Duke, but yeah. The adventures of Stormy Gale? I’d definitely read more of it if more were written. Hint, hint.
(crossposted to librarything, shelfari, and witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com)(less)
My initial interest came with the title for the book – not gonna lie about that. I grew up with Hole and Nirvana on the radio, so it’s a comfort area...moreMy initial interest came with the title for the book – not gonna lie about that. I grew up with Hole and Nirvana on the radio, so it’s a comfort area for me. Luckily, Randi was awesome enough to send me a copy of this for review. The synopsis got me, and I more or less read it in one sitting. Yeah, it was that good. It lets everything hang out, and for that, I must applaud Black for doing what so many authors choose to not do: tell ugly truths about young adults/teens, no matter what the time period.
This book isn’t just about Kim’s journey to healing after an awful event, but it’s about the healing of a hurt generation, a generation that found healing in music more than anything else. Going into reading this, I knew that those born during the 1990s who read this now won’t get a lot of the more obscure (and awesome) pop culture references and thanked my lucky stars that I was a Gen Y/Millennial baby. But Black writes this so well that it transcends the generational divide, the pop culture divide, and speaks to the hearts of hurt and angry girls everywhere. It certainly spoke to mine.
The early 1990s was a very scary time. I was 9 when Kurt Cobain killed himself, and I remember crying about it for days. I had a huge crush on him, and I was nine. Go figure. Reading this book was like comfort food for me, if just for the pop culture content alone. I listened to L7. I wanted to go to Lollapalooza. I wished I was older than I was at the time so I could hang out with people that would ‘get’ me. I felt alien as an Aspie in my GATE classes with the highly gifted, so I pissed off the teachers and my mother got quite a few phone calls from the school.
But luckily, my mom was loving. We had some had times, but she was nothing like Kim’s mom here. I guess you could call Kim’s mom a traditional “Tiger Mother”, the term coined by Amy Chua in her book about Tiger Mothers published earlier this year. The line between wanting the best for your child and abusing your child through that wish is razor thin, and Black really emphasizes this. It makes me wonder how much of this book is autobiographical in content.
Black writes of the Northridge Earthquake as “being a sign”. It felt that way to me too, as if the world was telling everyone to shut the fuck up and sit the fuck down and behave. No more race riots, no more wildfires, no more AIDS patient/LGBTQ bashing. Just shut up and get along with each other. Through Kim’s voice, speaking of the quake really rattled something in me, and in a good way. It’s hard to get that deep with an author of any genre, yet Black cut to the quick of me just with the mention of the quake alone. (Possibly because I still have nightmares about that late night/early morning in Brentwood where we had to flee the building after a gas leak/possible explosion.)
I have to say – I LOVED Joey. I had quite a few imaginary friends myself (and a lot of stuffed animals), but no one as awesome as him. If I could, I’d still love to have an imaginary friend like him, angel food farts and all. He was Kim’s rage, her inability to effectively express that rage and ultimately, the method in which she led herself to becoming whole (or somewhat whole) after the Kevin Incident. (Incidentally, the bit about the ads in the back of Spin and other magazines – I remember looking over those and giggling and wondering what they were on about. Up until I prank called some of the numbers in there one summer.) Just like today’s predators use the internet, back then they used magazine ads and whatnot to catch their prey. Kim, so desperate in her need for validation of a self separate from her parents and to be loved, used those ads until it all bit her in the ass. The moment she accepted what happened to her (even if it didn’t stop the flashbacks), started standing up to Tiger Mom, the need for Joey ceased. The moment she started to love herself, he exploded back into her subconscious.
Ultimately, this book is about Kim’s need to feel a sense of self outside of being a girl, outside of her Tiger Mother, outside of school and friends and what Kevin did to her. And through 1990s American pop culture, her imaginary friend, and her love for music, she gets through to the other side. The music, especially, is important. Those born during the 1990s won’t understand this, but Nirvana and Hole were a force of nature. They healed all of the broken Gen X (and early Gen Y) kids, told them they weren’t alone, that the world wasn’t as fucked up as it seemed. If you listen, even now, that message still echoes across radiowaves from nearly twenty years ago. No one from the 2000s onward has achieved what Nirvana and Hole, L7 and Nick Cave and the rest of the alt-rock movement did. At least, not yet. Kim couldn’t scream, but Courtney Love screamed for her. That’s Gen X – they couldn’t shriek, but their music could and did for them. And that very element of healing through music will always cross the generational divide.
Black, through Kim’s misadventures, tells us that it’s okay to be messed up on the outside, that it’s okay to be imperfect. And as I constantly have self-esteem issues (especially body image issues), this, for me, was a very special/important read. Many authors have tried before and failed to get to me, but Black did it easily. I’m still trying to parse out why, but perhaps it’s because Kim is “unpretty”, yet she’s smart, she’s courageous, and she doesn’t give a damn about what you think about her.
For those of you out there that have your noses up in the air because this is from an indie press that does have small copy edit mistakes involved: swallow your pride and read this book. I hope that some major publisher takes note and makes this more readily available to everyone in bookstores, though it does have free reign over the net (thank god for e-books). If you’re Gen X or Gen Y, this book will bring back memories and immediately put you in a comfort zone that no longer exists. If you were born later, this will all seem very foreign and strange to you. But disregard all of that and read it. This is what the contemporary young adult novel should be. It’s blunt, it’s graphic in parts, but it’s all truth. We need a little less Sarah Dessen (no offense to Dessen fans out there, but…) and more Randi Black in our YA lit. This is what reality looks like, and it’s not always pretty on the outside – but radiant on the inside.
(posted to goodreads, librarything, shelfari, and witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com)(less)
I went into this with medium expectations, hoping that this book would break the traditional bodice ripper romance novel mold when reading the blurb....moreI went into this with medium expectations, hoping that this book would break the traditional bodice ripper romance novel mold when reading the blurb. Sadly, I was disappointed when it almost -- ALMOST did. So close, ladies and gents! Still, it gets three stars for being a solid, well-written (even if a bit cliched) read.
I guess my disappointment lay with the construction of Serena; fledgling angel as a yoga instructor? Kind of predictable. Had she had some other job, maybe something as dangerous as a demon would choose, I would have really enjoyed her character more. With the way the stakes were being played between the angels and demons (and the fact that the angels didn't really seem to care if the lowest angels on the totem pole got thrown out as long as they got the higher job done), I kind of hoped that the main female lead would be a bit fiestier. The only time she was aggressive was...well, I'm not going to spoil it for you, but let's just say it was during one of the important sexy times within the story.
I had no problem with the male leads. They were what I expected, and more. I liked Luciana's character a lot, since she was what a she-demon was supposed to be. The bit with her snake landed her in the cliche catagory, but again, I didn't go into this with the highest of hopes. She did her job. That was good enough for me.
I think the biggest disappointment of the book was how easily Julian rolled over. I was actually pouting by the end of the book. However, Serena finally growing some balls and taking over as the kick-ass heroine more than made up for that. Even with all of the cliches that were there, I loved the fact that Serena went tooth and claw after the demons -- definitely not what we typically expect from angels. I love how she reacted when she figured out her place in the larger picture of things concerning the angels, the demons, and Julian. These two things definitely saved the book, making it a solid read.
There's no doubt, however, that Chong knows how to write, and write well. She definitely sucked me in with her diction from the first page. It's just the rest of it she needs to work on.
So if you want a naughty beach book for the summer, "Where Demons Fear to Tread" doesn't disappoint. If you want more than that, however, I suggest you look elsewhere.
(crossposted to librarything, goodreads, shelfari, and witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com)(less)
The first chapter was awesome - lots of showing, I could practically smell the ocean and vomit and everything, and it was great. After that, it kind o...moreThe first chapter was awesome - lots of showing, I could practically smell the ocean and vomit and everything, and it was great. After that, it kind of went downhill. It felt like there was a lot of stuff snatched from Torchwood and other similar scifi series, and then it went into a lot of long descriptions with telling over showing, cliches galore, and a predictable girl-meets-and-falls-for-alpha-male storyline. I just couldn't get into it, though I did try.
I guess this book just wasn't for me. It could have been better after a few more revisions, I suppose, but it greatly disappointed met that it wasn't. It felt more like a first draft rather than a finished product.
Nevertheless, I wish Ryker well on his future works, and will give him another try at another time.
(posted to librarything, shelfari, and goodreads)(less)
So, I'm having real mixed feelings about this one, guys. On the one hand, we have a really original look at time-travel (aside from genes, that was fi...moreSo, I'm having real mixed feelings about this one, guys. On the one hand, we have a really original look at time-travel (aside from genes, that was first covered with "Ruby Red" earlier this year), but on the other, we have a not-quite-constant male voice for a male character and a kind-of-idiotic name for the Big Bad (seriously, "Enemies of Time"?). Overall, though? "Tempest" is pretty awesome, and deserves a read as one of the better YA sci-fi genre books of the year.
First, let's look at the awesome: gene-splicing is always something that makes me happy, regardless if it's in regular adult or YA. I love playing with the possibilities of how time travel could be relegated to the genetic code, and what happens if we play with those genes. It feels like Cross did some research on the more recent finds in theoretical and quantum physics (Adam's character did a great job of informing the audience of real, even if twisted-for-fiction theories that are currently being investigated by CERN and other science agencies around the world) and really worked well with it in terms of both the plot and characters.
I also loved the idea of "home base" and being able to change it, as well as my personal favorite school of thought within theoretical physics: the "Many Worlds" interpretation (go to Wikipedia for more information). Anyone who can make this work within YA is pretty awesome, and Cross managed to pull this off (and it's hard to do, too). "Many Worlds" really plays in beautifully to Jackson's journey within this book, and works wonderfully with how the arc of Jackson's inner conflict. It's not just about saving Holly, but it becomes about finding out more about himself and his twin sister, as well as fighting with himself about the "Grandfather Paradox" (wiki that one as well, as Cross made A+ use of that here) with the temptation to go back in time to fix things. She used all of these theories correctly, and with well-constructed characters, arcs, and backstories, it made for a very well-rounded, finished-feeling story.
Now for the not-so-awesome: I understand that it can be really hard writing in the voice of a gender that's not your own. The few brave male writers, YA or not, who do it don't always succeed. But rarer do you see a female writer attempting a male YA voice in first person POV for the entire book. Cross got most of this right, I think, but in some parts, failed to keep it completely consistent. Which is understandable, given the circumstances. So while it wasn't so awesome sometimes getting jarred out of Jackson's gendered voice during the narrative, I still tip my hat to Cross for even attempting it. It takes balls, and she obviously has them.
But more annoyingly, I was kind of disappointed by the name she gave to the Big Bad: the Enemies of Time. Really? I know I sound like a snot here, but this was the one non-technical issue I had the biggest problem with in the book. It made it feel a little too childish, and I think that had there been maybe either more thought, more input from others, or another draft, a name change to the Big Bad might have gotten five stars and would have brought the book to a higher level, making the stakes for Jackson, Holly, Dad, and the rest even huger than they are now.
Otherwise? If you like YA that doesn't have a traditional romance to it (and thankfully, while the romance was a big part of the book, it didn't suffocate the audience) and has some well-done fun adventure, I suggest you take a spin with "Tempest" once it hits shelves in January 2012. After all, everyone needs a fun in the little wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey stuff department every once in awhile.
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com)(less)