*Note, I've given this 4.5 stars out of 5, but since the half star system ain't working here, it's showing up as a four.
I have to say, Angelini defini*Note, I've given this 4.5 stars out of 5, but since the half star system ain't working here, it's showing up as a four.
I have to say, Angelini definitely took a risk with her story when you consider the amount of YA fiction that’s currently paranormal/past life/myth-based that’s hit the shelves within the last few years. But you know what? Unlike so many of the hyped titles out there, girl made it WORK.
Just as the title suggests, there is a theme of starcrossed lovers from the past in the background of this tale, but it’s not so utterly overwhelming (say it together, kids! “twilight syndrome”) that it smothers the base arc and ideas of the plot itself.
If there’s going to be romance in my story, that’s the kind of romance I like. Let it sit in the background and let it grow until it finally comes to the forefront on its own, with its own momentum, and not pushed or forced like so many of the same sub-genre type of YA books. And thankfully, luckily, Angelini does it with grace and style with ancient Greece meeting Romeo and Juliet (without the suiciding, of course – but I tend to think of this story more in terms of the 1996 film version) in a tolerable and fun way. And of course, the bloody weeping furies don’t hurt, either.
The idea of familial houses feuding mixed with Greek myths is something I hadn’t really considered before, and when I read the inital blurb when it hit goodreads I was more than a little wary about how the content would flow despite the fact that the these two themes work perfectly together when one considers all of the ancient Greek literary canon. It’s difficult to make the two place nicely together in a modern setting, but this time, from page one I was captured by Angelini’s characters and the world she built around them. Or is it the other way around – the world that built itself around her characters?
What was also refreshing was the abundance of male restraint shown by Lucas around Helen after they stopped trying to kill each other – not out of wariness in terms of paranoia (“oh god she’s going to kill me”), but in terms of not only respect, but keeping himself in check with sexual advances (“oh god the world’s going to go to hell if I give in, no seriously it will”). Can I just say that it’s really refreshing to have a sexually-positive atmosphere with these characters, all acknowledging what they want, who they want, and being frank about it? The “twilight syndrome” that’s been going around (seriously, CDC, get on top of it) has this kind of subversive sexuality that’s not even fun, but rather repressive and self-destructive to all characters involved. (I could go and make a “Bella was a sexual predator” argument here, but I’m not even going to touch that right now.) You have two characters falling for each other and very aware of their hormones, but they’re also aware of the consequences of what will happen should they give in to their baser instincts. Very rarely with paranormal YA fiction do you have the clear and explicit outlining of what will happen should characters get involved sexually. I’m not speaking of things in a physical sense (you get pregnant, etc), but more in a broader, larger, existential worldview – what will happen to the world around you, the people you love aside from your partner, etc. Aside from the “Hex Hall” series (so far) and “XVI”, that hasn’t really been bluntly addressed in mainstream YA paranormal fiction as of yet. At least, that’s how it feels to me.
It could be that I’m overanalyzing things on this one, but that’s par for the course for me. Insert a Kanye shrug here.
The way that violence, sex, myths, and life is addressed is wonderfully explicit and rare. This makes me one happy reader.
For all of these reasons (and many more), I’d say “Starcrossed” is definitely one of the best of 2011 so far in the catagory of new series. If the teasers I provided last week for Teaser Tuesday weren’t enough, just sneak into your local bookstore once it’s on the shelves and read parts of it for yourself. You won’t be sorry.
(crossposted to librarything and witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com)...more
Wow. Helen really takes a beating in this one, guys! I love how Angelini isn’t afraid to torture her characters, and the payoff is huge. Yeah, there’sWow. Helen really takes a beating in this one, guys! I love how Angelini isn’t afraid to torture her characters, and the payoff is huge. Yeah, there’s a love triangle, and I usually hate those, but Angelini really did a good job with this one, and made it work within the plot to really boost all of the sub-arcs and character journey arcs as well as the main arc. Make no mistake – “Dreamless” shows how far Angelini has come within the short span of a year, and shows how far she’s willing to go to make her stories unforgettable.
We get deeper into how the Furies seek their revenge and how the divergence of Greek and Roman myths further complicates the whole Hundred Cousins fleet that’s after Helen and the Delos family (and each other) in this book – and it makes for some fantastic worldbuilding that reinforces even more how dire the situation is, how much higher the stakes are for all of our heroes in this book. We delve deeper into the legend of Helen of Troy and “The Iliad” as we see Helen and Orion fighting together in the underworld, as well as see Helen’s mother Daphne make some surprising alliances without really truly knowing her endgame – and it all makes for a really explosive last third of the book with a really nice big payoff, setting things up nicely for the third (and hopefully not the last) book.
As I said before, I usually really am not into love triangles, but Josie worked it hard here, and made it all work so that in the end we know that Helen definitely still loves Lucas, but, as it seems to me, loves Orion more like a brother despite what happened when the Furies overtook them both. Incest being a major theme in both this series and classical Greek literature, it’s also heavily discussed in this book. So if this is your squick, be prepared for lots of talking about it and lots of self-torture on Helen’s part over her attraction to both Lucas and Orion over it. It’s fascinating how Helen tortures herself over it instead of giving into it – her blood debts with Lucas are paid, after all, and in a lot of places, it’s okay to marry your first cousin. So the question is – why doesn’t she give in? I’m curious about this, and would love to pick Angelini’s brain about it should I get the chance.
What was also great was finally including Claire and Matt more into things – this was badly needed after the ending of book one, but at the same time, even though they’re human, I feel like Claire out of the two of them wasn’t used to her full potential. Matt gets a pretty large role at the end of this book (I won’t say what or how – read it for yourself!) but it seems like Claire was neglected greatly here, and, to a certain extent, treated as if she were made of glass because she was mortal. I’m wondering why Angelini went this route, and maybe if Claire’s most at risk in the next book. Otherwise, I’m a bit puzzled as to why she was treated so gently when it’s clear that at times she was stronger than Helen when it came to a lot of things.
And the final kind of sad character arc transformation that I thought Angelini did brilliantly here – Cassandra turning into The Oracle. The way she painted the picture of this girl becoming something completely inhuman in such a short amount of time was absolutely heartbreaking, yet completely feasible in this situation. I hope she gets a larger part in book three, because she definitely deserves it. And I have the feeling she will, because of that final explosive last third of the book with Orion, Helen, and Lucas concerning the War of the End Times beginning.
I feel like everyone’s character here got sketched out a bit more fully, and a bit more rounded out. We got to see other places, and that filled out the world in the setting capacity even more. This feels like a fully functional real world now, and I can see the War coming, and it isn’t going to be pretty. I enjoyed watching the evolution of everyone and everything in this world in this book immensely and I just seriously can’t wait for book three now.
Best of all? NO MIDDLE BOOK SYNDROME. PARTY AT MY PLACE!
Final verdict? If you haven’t read the first book already, you must read it before this one. You must read it, period! This is on my best of 2012 list, and it’s just…well, at times, breathtaking. Sounds cheesy? Yeah, but it’s also the only way I can really express “all the feels” that couldn’t be held here when it comes to Angelini and her craft. “Dreamless” is out from HarperTeen in North America May 29, 2012 so be sure to pick up a copy then. Middle books of 2012 are on a roll this year, and “Dreamless” is just one more awesome book in that catagory. This is really worth the read, guys.
(posted to goodreads, librarything, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)...more
Man, this final BOOK, you guys. I'm still reeling from everything that was packed into this final installment of the "Starcrossed" trilogy4.5/5 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)...more
You guys, high/epic fantasy is having a hell of a year in YA. First "Shadow and Bone", then "Seraphina", then "Stormdancer" (more steampun4.5/5 stars.
You guys, high/epic fantasy is having a hell of a year in YA. First "Shadow and Bone", then "Seraphina", then "Stormdancer" (more steampunk/alt history than epic/high fantasy, but you know what I mean), and now "Throne of Glass"! I don't think I've seen such a great string of high/epic YA fantasy titles in one year released like this ever! "ToG" has been floating around online (through fictionpress) until Mass took it down in 2008, but I can see why it was so popular when it was a thing of the internets. Are you tired of your heroines being passive, self-loathing, and full of indecision? "Throne of Glass" is definitely something to cure what ails the weak heroine part of the YA market. While I admit that I am very, very sick of love triangles, the rest of the book more than made up for that bit of the plot. Girls, your assassin queen is here, and her name is Celaena.
What I loved most about this book? Celaena herself. While I still haven't gotten to the four prequel novellas that prepare us for the main part of this book, I adore how cocky Celaena is. She's awesome and she knows it. She's beautiful and she's not afraid to hide it. And she will take you down if you cross her. She knows she's the best and isn't afraid to show it. But at the same time, dealing with the horrors of Endovier and the things that are stalking her in the dark makes her vulnerable, and I like the way she handled that - with anger. She was strong, and she behaved, but only out of self-preservation (at least, at first, until she learned to trust certain people). Yet she gets her own story arc, so she does undergo character transformation by the end of the book - which is always important and sets up a lot left to be used for book 2.
I don't know whether I want to date her or be her, to be honest.
The worldbuilding - I could have used more of it, but I guess I'll have to read the prequels and the sequel to get the full flavor. I wish the prequels had been included in the main book as it might have given me a fuller sense of the world, but I did get one that was adequate enough to enjoy where and when I was - both externally (Endovier, the Palace, etc) and internally (the final battle against the Big Bad at the end of the book - a rare example of internal worldbuilding). The whodunnit mystery of the murders helped build the world up with the history of magic and the fae and humans and really just helped glue everything together. While I wish during the assassin trials things had been a little more geographically varied, I'm satisfied with what I got. It worked, and I'm hoping things can only get better from here.
The magic/fae element - LOVED this bit because it was so ambivalent until about halfway in. It all worked, especially with the internal worldbuilding and people from history coming into the picture. The final battle with the Big Bad was my favorite because we finally saw how much Celaena grew as a character throughout the book - she had allies, where she might have scorned them at the beginning of the book. Parts of that big fight definitely felt Whedonesque, I won't lie about that, and it was awesome.
The love triangle: the one downside to the book. Celaena falling for the prince felt very out of character, no matter how charming he was because of her past grudges against the crown. Chaol felt much more natural, and I wish Maas had stuck with him only. If anything, it felt like the triangle just kind of impeded things. HOWEVER, I do see why it was used (in terms of Celaena's character arc and her transformation by the end of the book). So I guess I can pardon this one. Plus all of the action, murder mystery, magic, and Celaena's badassery makes up for it and makes it tolerable.
Final verdict? If you're a high/epic fantasy fan or you just want a great, strong heroine, this book is definitely for you. "Throne of Glass" is a great new series, and I look forward to reading more of Celaena's capers in the future. Its place on my best of 2012 so far list is very well deserved indeed. "Throne of Glass" drops August 7, 2012 from Bloomsbury Kids USA in North America, so be sure to check it out then! Highly recommended!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, librarything, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)...more
Oh man, that ending. Sign me up for book 2. “Anna Dressed In Blood” reminds me a lot of “Supernatural” – except with a younger (only child4.5/5 stars!
Oh man, that ending. Sign me up for book 2. “Anna Dressed In Blood” reminds me a lot of “Supernatural” – except with a younger (only child) protagonist and a kick-ass antagonist and an ending that definitely won’t leave you alone. If you’re not cool with gore or scary stuff, this may not be the book for you as Blake holds nothing back in her excellent abilities in the sensory language and imagery department. However, I loved this one, and it’s definitely on my list for best of 2012 so far.
What the most wonderful thing about this book is the fact that Blake has no fear whatsoever in torturing her darlings in order to get what she wants from them – and nowhere is this more obvious than the case of poor Anna. However, even though she does torture her darlings (and frequently), she also gives them tools with the power to fight back – which is one thing that also makes this book so unique. It seemed no matter what Blake did to make the situation worse, her characters were able to deal with it in a credible (even with the fantastic and phantasmagoria as subject matter) way. Her world is very stably and tightly built, and I found no areas where I found things weak or insufficient – Blake is also really great at worldbuilding, as well as her character construction and arcs. While I did want a little more on Will (especially when it comes to the last third of the book), but over all I’m very satisfied with what I got.
As I said before, Blake’s use of sensory language and imagery was so impressive that there were points where I had to put the book down, walk away and digest (no pun intended) what was going on. I’m a fan of gore in my books, especially in YA, and Blake definitely didn’t hold back there – so I hope more YA authors also get the courage to put a bit more gore in their horror novels. But it wasn’t just the gore that was finely done – I could feel Anna’s hair, hear the drip of the blood from her dress, feel the smoky ghosts and taste the incense and oil from Cas’s mom. I love it when I can fully immerse myself in a world with no distractions and Blake definitely writes one great world from the sensory angle – definitely one of the best YA debuts in the sensory department of the last two years.
Blake also brings in the classic gothic genre angle to this concerning how she structured Anna’s story and Thunder Bay, which was also wonderful as it’s rare to find a good modern gothic genre novel. The supernatural angles are richly diverse with some I’ve never even heard of before (the cousin of Voodoo, for example) which made for an even better reading experience.
I also loved the fact that I saw nothing about this book (except for maybe the romance element – I had the feeling it might happen, and it did) coming. The twists and turns truly surprised me, and in a good way. I love it when the author can do that as very little in YA feels that surprising or original anymore, and for a debut this was really well done. I love it when the author can hit me over the head with their plot twists and make me love them even more for doing so, and Blake does this all in spades. And when I was done? I wanted to reread it again. That’s an uncommon feeling for me, and it was one I was glad to experience by the end of the book. I definitely want more of this world, stat.
Final verdict? This is a must read. It’s dark, it’s romantic, it’s gory and it definitely has something for everyone of all ages and both genders. “Anna Dressed in Blood” is out now from Tor/Macmillan in North America, and the sequel, “Girl of Nightmares” will be out in August. I know I can’t wait. This is one debut you just can’t miss!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, librarything, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)...more
Here's what makes me different from a lot of fans who liked this book - I really did NOT like the previous trilogy featuring Fennrys Wolf,4.5/5 stars.
Here's what makes me different from a lot of fans who liked this book - I really did NOT like the previous trilogy featuring Fennrys Wolf, "Wondrous Strange". I couldn't get into it, couldn't relate to it. But in "Starling", Livingston feels like a totally new writer. I didn't want to throw the book across the room, I didn't want to punch the heroine. Livingston has made leaps and bounds of progress in "Starling", and you can definitely bet that I'm reading book two.
Now, what I'm not sure of - if it really is insta-love or not between Fenn and Mason. Why? We're not given a good sense of time within this story. The storm that Fenn comes out of is the one marker in "real time" (as opposed to the Ragnarok countdown for the rest of the plot) that we get, but we don't get much other than that. But honestly, the relationship that grows between Mason and Fenn does feel natural, so I'm thinking that this stretches out over a course of weeks/months instead of just days. That would be a vote of eh, maybe to no on insta-love.
What I loved: the mythology. Livingston threw all of these different cultures and legends together in one big mixing pot and it all worked. Gosforth as a school/protection ring for all of those families from all of those mythologies really worked, and mostly because it wasn't harped upon constantly like in books like "Kiss of Frost" (which I honestly just couldn't get through because of that). There are some awesomely clandestine meetings that go on, but there are only a few of those. Mostly, you get realistic teens who mostly don't know about their heritage, just that their families have been going to the same school since its founding.
The worldbuilding, though, is where Livingston seems to have grown the most - she really tightened this one up, and made the characters weave successfully back into the world itself, which is what I've found to be a key to really good worldbuilding. And with the melting pot that is New York City/the US, it all worked. There wasn't any one point where I raised an eyebrow because it didn't seem like it would mesh. It all did.
While there are a few teeny bits of the book that drag, the ending more than makes up for them (hence the +.5 added overall to my score). I mean, damn. What an ending. While it looks like it can standalone, it also works well as the first in the series (which we know is going to be the case with this book). I love how the prophecy was constantly changing - that felt the most realistic out of all of the fantastic business of the book. As time changes, so do prophecies, and Livingston successfully adapted that. I love how we have an answer to who Mason's mother is in this new mythology as well as where she ended up without it becoming a huge mystery hidden within the book itself.
Final verdict? Even if you're not a fan of her other works, definitely give this book a chance. I'm so glad I did and I can't wait for book two. It's made my best of 2012 list, if not my favorites of 2012 list because it was just so much fun. "Starling" is out August 28 2012 from HarperTeen, so be sure to definitely check it out then!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)...more
As I said on my EYE ON INDIES post, one of the things I love most about this book is the fact that our heroine is utterly unafraid to fight for anythiAs I said on my EYE ON INDIES post, one of the things I love most about this book is the fact that our heroine is utterly unafraid to fight for anything and everything precious to her. This is so rare in YA lit these days, and I'm so sick of damsels in distress that do nothing but wait for their princes to save them. Alex becomes the prince and takes control of her destiny and I had to stop myself from standing up and cheering loudly while reading it.
Thanks to the kind folks at Spencer Hill, I've been granted permission to bring you my thoughts on "Half-Blood" a few months early, bless their hearts. Read on if you want to find out more about the world of the Hematoi, and why it's so important to YA lit today.
It needs to be said: the blurb is a bit misleading. Yeah, Alex is crushing on Aiden, but that's not all to the story. If anything, that's just a fraction of the story.
Alex is one of the few non-dystopian (though whether or not the Hematoi society is dystopian is genuinely arguable) heroines that is active in taking control of her life. Whether this be about protecting her mother and choosing to live her life on the lam because of it, or after, choosing to fight her way back into the Covenant school to become a Sentinel, or having to fight her own desires in order not to fall for Aiden, her pure-blood instructor/friend/love interest so that they both don't get destroyed by the Hematoi higher-ups for their relationship. She actively takes control every second of this story (even in the prequel "Daimon", she's an active heroine) instead of passively waiting to be rescued by Aiden/other Sentinels/her friends from the Covenant academy.
So much of YA lit, I've found, especially contemporary-set normal-life YA lit doesn't really encourage girls to take control of their lives, but instead to passively wait until they get rescued. This is one of my hugest pet peeves with YA lit today, and something that I actively seek out not to read when possible. Girls need to take control, period. I used to self-harm because I let society command what I should have been, and I wasn't, not naturally by design. I still am not today, and I still have to fight self-harm urges because of it. But because of heroines like Alex, I have to remind myself that there are worse things than being labeled "too aggressive" - waiting for the prince that never comes, the cavalry that never arrives is far worse, being left in despair is on top of all of those. The only answer, of course, is to take the reins. And the fact that this seems to be (unconsciously) encouraged in so much YA lit is absolutely infuriating.
So, if you want a heroine that's a positive role-model in that respect (regardless of her misadventures in naughtiness at the Academy - she is a teenager, after all) and something new in terms of a new look at both the vampire and Greek Myth/Gods-related mythos, I highly suggest you take a look at "Half-Blood". It's definitely a debut not to be missed.
(posted to librarything, goodreads, shelfari, and witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com)
Oh man, was this one fun. I love how Kagawa swore not to write a vampire book...and then ended up writing one. But you know what? It all w4.5/5 stars!
Oh man, was this one fun. I love how Kagawa swore not to write a vampire book...and then ended up writing one. But you know what? It all works - and very well. Teaming up our favorite bloodsuckers with a dystopian future world ravaged by a plague that has created even more monsters? Also add in a severely badass heroine and you have one of the best books of 2012 so far. There seem to be/are several books with the theme of vampires/monsters ruling over dystopian cities of humans that are coming out this year, but there can be only one queen. And the queen of them all is definitely "The Immortal Rules".
Allison as a heroine was very refreshing. She's filled with tension, fear, and regret yet at the same time, doesn't let that fear or regret stop her from getting what she wants/needs. Kagawa has created a heroine that you can't forget. Compared to Meghan from "Iron Fey", who was just as awesome, it took longer for Meghan to really grasp what was going on in her reality. Here, I feel like Kagawa really grew in her craft in the sense that there was tension in every paragraph on every page - Allison, though self-loathing, recognizes what she is and does what it takes to survive.
I love my heroines spunky, and Allison Sekemoto (a very unusual Japanese surname, by the way) is full o' spunk.
What I loved the most, I think, was the fact that this was Allison and Allison's story alone, though there was the underlying theme of the story of the future of humanity interwoven along with it. With "Iron Fey", it's not just Meghan's story, but that of her brother, Puck, and Ash all co-existing with one another. This is Allison's story, how she has become what she is, and what rules she allows herself to live by. She doesn't allow her attraction to Zeke stop her, but she does allow it to slow her down and make her think clearly about her actions when it comes to feeding The Hunger to keep her alive and sane.
The arc and sub-arc executions were a little slow to get started (which took down my enjoyment of the book just a taste, hence the .5 star lower score), but once they did, they went off like a shot and they were very easy to follow. However, it didn't mean that I was able to see exactly where they were going - there were some definitely awesome twists and turns that I did not see coming that I enjoyed immensely.
All of the characters felt very well-rounded, surprisingly so for a first book in a series. Even Kanin, whose backstory is short, still felt like a real person. Though I wanted to see more of the function of the pets and the vampires within New Covington as a city once Allison did get access to it (hopefully in the next book we'll get a better look at that), I feel like what I got in terms of worldbuilding, arc execution, and character construction. I also wanted a deeper look into the Red Lung Virus and more of what happened during the outbreak aside of what we know from Kanin and Jeb - how did it spread? Was it a bioweapon or something that just happened as a mutation, naturally (aside from the addition of the Rabids)? I definitely wanted more on the RLV, so I'm hoping that will come in future books as well (since I love me some outbreak/plague genre books).
In the end, though, Allison's journey is not just her own, but it turns into that of one of the last solitary bands of humanity (that we know of), and makes us ask the question - who is the real monster, here? The one who is willing to give her life even though she has to take it in terms of food, or the ones that just want to kill her because of what she is as a species/race/creature? It makes you think, and I love my books thinky.
Final verdict? A must-read for Kagawa fans and for anyone interested in dystopian/paranormal books with a twist. Definitely on my best of 2012 list, for sure. "The Immortal Rules" is out in North America from Harlequin Teen on April 24th, 2012, so be sure to catch it then! You can't miss this one.
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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 origina4.5/5 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.
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So, I read this series when it first came out while I was still living in Japan, and now I sorely regret not being able to bring home all4.5/5 stars!
So, I read this series when it first came out while I was still living in Japan, and now I sorely regret not being able to bring home all of those lusciously-detailed volumes (I just didn't have room in my boxes I mailed home or my suitcases!) that I'd bought and read there. This is one absolutely gorgeous series, both in terms of story and visuals - Suzumi is really, really talented with details, and no matter what she draws, I'll read (and probably buy). "VVV" is no exception to this rule. Seven Seas/Macmillan has done a great job translating this series, so I highly recommend that everyone who's been hesitant to buy the series to go ahead and buy it. If you like your monster hunters with as ass-kicking heroines with a vicious sense of fashion, you definitely NEED to read "Venus Versus Virus".
I'm really into the gothic lolita fashion trend, so I was really happy to see it start showing up in manga not soon after it started in real life, and "VVV" was one of those series that first started featuring it as a majority of their characters' wardrobes. But this series isn't all about fashion - it's mostly about monsters, and turns into a social commentary about how humans can become Viruses, both spiritually and literally, after being exposed to abusive or just plain bad situations. Suzumi does a wonderful job with her worldbuilding, and the story takes root very quickly in this very sturdily-constructed world. The rules of the world are set fairly early, until we get a shakeup in volume 2, when we find out that Viruses aren't the only threat to humanity out there. The world is well-rounded and thanks to all of Suzumi's details, feels very much like a real world where real things take place.
In terms of this omnibus edition, the only thing that's missing are the original color pages that came with both the Japanese and first-print US edition releases. After further research, I've found that other Seven Seas omnibuses have also nixed the color plates that might have been in the single-edition volumes that were first released. This is really a shame, especially in the case of "VVV" as the color plates from the original releases were some of the most visually stunning I've seen in manga in a long time. The translation is also great - though I did have some issues with some of the word choices, it mostly gets the original spirit of the story across quite well.
The characters are solid and the paranormal elements are unique, as they mix virology and demonology, and I found that mix extremely fascinating. To be able to study demons in a scientific way? I'd definitely love to do that. But Nahashi and Lucia have their own reasons for doing so - reasons only hinted at in this volume, and they're not happy reasons. My heart broke for little!Lucia and what was hinted to have happened to her during her childhood, and Sumire having no choice but to become apart of the Venus Vanguard outfit wasn't great, either. (I mean, knowing you might become a monster and start tearing apart everything in sight? Not cool.) I think a lot of of the YA crowd will strongly identify with Sumire and Lucia's lots in life, no matter how fantastic they get over the course of this series.
So, if you're looking for something new to read this summer, I highly recommend this first chunk of the "VVV" series. It's extremely fun, and I think everyone will find something they like about Sumire and Lucia's fight against evil. "Venus Versus Virus: Omnibus 1" is out now through Seven Seas/Macmillan in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance.
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**spoiler alert** So, thanks to Meghann @ Absconditas (and the author herself), I managed to get my hands on a copy of this book. I’d been wanting to**spoiler alert** So, thanks to Meghann @ Absconditas (and the author herself), I managed to get my hands on a copy of this book. I’d been wanting to read it for a few months, so I guess you could call it luck? Anyway, this is one tome of a novel, and so it took me awhile to finish it, but once I did, it was satisfying.
Time travel! Late Victorian/Edwardian times (even though this takes place in the States, but whatever) and fashions! Greek mythology! This book has it all. I did have a few issues, though (one of which being the major need for an editor), which is why I can’t give it five stars.
I do like the fact that Michel isn’t afraid to literally kill off her heroine within the first few chapters of the book — that takes balls, especially in YA lit where the female market is huge and it’s kind of taboo to kill off one’s main girl right off the bat. I loved the fact that Cordelia really had to deal with something more human than being the Empress of a non-human empire — that of amnesia, but here’s where I felt the book crawled: the repeated conversations, fights, and threats related to aforesaid amnesia.
Yeah, I suppose it’s a big deal when an entire supernatural empire is at stake (and quite possibly, the human world too), but by the last 90 pages or so I was really ready to punch all of the characters that wouldn’t stop harassing her about the fact that she wasn’t able to immediately access her ‘suppressed’ memory of her life in the past. Bethany especially really got to me, but I suppose one has to have a character like that in books (especially with YA girls and that market) — the girl you want to hate but can’t because she’s got so many issues of her own.
That said, by the last 90 pages, I just kind of wanted Cordelia to get her memory back and instead deal with the other largest conflict: that of Victor and his threat to destroy everything. When Michel did get around to having the big showdown between Cordelia, Victor, and the others, I felt like she kind of rushed the entire thing and short-changed what could have been a great last third of the book had there been some rearranging of the subarcs and plots. For example, I’m not entirely sure that the entire Gerald-related subplot was needed (aside from the need for his dead brother) as much as it was represented.
But the good thing is, yay, there’s another book on the way! And I really love Michel’s style when it comes down to everything, faults and all. So perhaps the rushing of the evil!Victor showdown will be made up for in the second book with new adventures with our cast of characters. And hopefully maybe the gods will play a larger part in the next book than they did in this one. Therefore, for the ballsy and awesome plot alone, this has made it to my best of 2011 list.I seriously cannot wait to read the next one, regardless of my issues with this first novel. Combining all of the elements that she did here was absolutely brilliant and something I haven’t seen before in the YA market. So congrats to you, Michel — you’re awesome.
That, and I hope this gets a wider release. Self-publishing only gets you so far and so large an audience. Michel is extremely talented and deserves more attention for this book, which she’d get with a bigger press. So here’s hoping she gets all of this and more and brings us more fun misadventures with the Ischeros.
(crossposted to librarything, shelfari, and witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com)...more
This trilogy, you guys. I've been keeping score since book one, and the way that Aguirre has grown in her writing for YA has grown in such measure thaThis trilogy, you guys. I've been keeping score since book one, and the way that Aguirre has grown in her writing for YA has grown in such measure that I can't even. Really. Seriously. This book is the best possible ending, and yet, the most the most painful, as I've really grown to love Deuce and the boys. In this final book in the "Razorland" trilogy, we see a major tribute paid to the US Civil War, almost re-enacted, and prairie life come back to life in a hell of a future created by humanity itself. If there's a final book in a trilogy you've got to read this year, or better yet, start, it has to be "Horde".
I feel like Aguirre really finally filled out the entire world of "Razorland" - in this future populated by "muties" and humans, both fighting to survive. It finally feels like a very real, very full, very rich world where everyone and everything, even down to the smallest detail and the smallest character, feel 3D. It's taken two books for Aguirre to do that, and though she improved greatly with book two, it's nothing close to how she's improved in all technical areas for book three. Comparing a pond to a sea, basically, is how I'd compare the technical details of books two and three. She's done a lot of research for this book on the US Civil War and has re-enacted it for us (though in which way, I won't say because that'd be a huge spoiler) in such a vivid way that there were times (especially post-battle) where I had to put the book down and breathe, because the details were so gruesome, and yet so true to what we know in the US had happened at the time of our Civil War.
Prairie/frontier life is also re-enacted with brave humans trying to create outposts (the title of the previous book really starts to have meaning in this one), trying to survive in this vicious world filled with the muties, those that we originally thought were just zombies, but in fact are something else entirely. By bringing in all of this actual historical research into this futuristic world, I feel like the worldbuilding for this series just kind of exploded (and in a good way). It felt so lush, so real, and at times, so horrific in the sensory arena of things that I knew that Aguirre had really done her job, and had done it well. We get a lot of backstory as well - what led to the creation of the muties, as well as a rough sketch of how much time has passed since that happened. I was asking for that rough sketch of time since the end of book one, and though I kind of wish we'd gotten it in book two, I'm glad we got it at all.
The characters: we finally get that nasty love triangle with Deuce, Fade, and Stalker more or less resolved for good here, though it's extremely painful to read, as I've gotten pretty attached to all of these characters and their feels (though not the love triangle itself). We also get more time with Tegan (yay!) and she really becomes part of the main cast, at last, in this final book. I love how these characters, true to life, are living in horrid conditions, but just refuse to give up. They make decisions that show that this not only is a coming of age trilogy, but also shows them willing to sacrifice everything in order for the rest of humanity to live. They really kind of become adults here, through the most brutal ways possible, but also the most satisfying ways. If humanity has been thrown back to mid 19th century technology and living conditions in this book, then the way that Aguirre carried out how she was going to execute (pardon the pun) the rest of this book was extremely appropriate when it came to the characters and how/when they were considered adults as well.
Just a warning: if you've been reading the trilogy like I have, you will cry. Maja from the Nocturnal Library said I'd cry in her shelf description on GR. And I was like "Nope. Not gonna happen, self." But I did. And it was ugly crying too, not gonna lie.
Final verdict? An absolutely amazing finish to a fun series, and one that will definitely leave a mark on you long after you've finished the final page. "Horde" is out October 29, 2013 from Macmillan Children's in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance! Definitely makes the best of 2013 list. And be sure to check back on the blog in October for a guest post from Aguirre on the blog tour!
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