I liked this better than the first in the series, but it's still not in love territory for me. I think it's more to do with it just not being my usualI liked this better than the first in the series, but it's still not in love territory for me. I think it's more to do with it just not being my usual shtick.
That said -
The biggest plus for me was I liked the case better this time. In Cuckoo's Calling, I wasn't really ever invested in the case, but I found this one more interesting and felt bad for poor Leonora and Orlando. It helped, I think, to have that extra human element that was somehow missing from the first case.
And I appreciate going through some of the drudgery. This doesn't overly glorify investigation work, and you don't have the Doyle thing where most of the work happens off-screen and then we're just meant to be wowed by the reveal.
That said, there's one thing all these sorts of books seem to do which bugs me, which is they start playing coy at the end.
What I mean is you watch every step of the investigation unfold, through interviews and surveillance bits and getting thoughts and clues as it goes along... but then once the detective thinks he's solved it, suddenly we get the whole "and he told Robin what he thought, but she seemed skeptical" and the whole "You know what you have to do, right?" after they've talked about the plan off-page.
It's all so that the reveal can be held back for the most dramatic moment, but it always feel like a sort of cheat to me. Well, it is a cheat, and, as I said, it's a common tactic with these sorts of stories, both in books and TV/movies - and it always kinda bugs me.
Just a personal thing, I guess...
I did find the reveal interesting, and I can't say that I guessed the whodunit (though I might have if some things weren't withheld, but ah well... I guess we'll never know).
Overall I think Rowling does a good job of balancing the personal stories of Strike and Robin with the larger story of the case.
The case was also interestingly meta, dealing with authors and the publishing industry, with lots of remarks about how everyone thinks they can write and everyone has this hankering to see their name in print, and about the backstabbing and politics of the industry. The victim of the story was an author who wrote a book lambasting his compatriots, and you have to wonder how much of this is based on Rowling's personal experiences...
That said - I do feel like it was a bit long in the tooth and could've been tightened up a bit more. Some draggy parts of sort of on purpose, as the clues are thin and the case is going nowhere... but there was a bit too much repetition, on both sides of the story, and some parts could've definitely been cut down some.
Not a bad story, overall, and I did like it a bit more than the first in the series, but I'm still hoping to be really wowed someday....more
I seem to keep pushing off writing this review, because I'm not sure I really know what to say. Overall, I just wish I liked it more than I did. I likI seem to keep pushing off writing this review, because I'm not sure I really know what to say. Overall, I just wish I liked it more than I did. I liked the ideas of the story - which reminded me heavily of the MAtthew Swift series by Kate Griffin. (I had some issues with that story, too, mainly it felt overwritten, but reading this made me want to get back to that series.)
In some ways, this book (these books?) excapsulate what, to me, urban fantasy should be - or, at least, what it can be - a story in which the urban landscape is, itself, alive and plays a crucial role in the magic of the story.
But I had two issues with this story:
1) I never really connected with the main characters. My two favorite characters were Pen and the homeless Russian guy, whose name I can't remember (but I'm terrible with names, so that's on me).
I found both Filius and Beth kind of annoying, and Beth was borderling Mary Sue for me because everything she touched was gold. I mean, she's new to this world, and Fil kept telling her to hang back and let him talk, but then he would mess everything up and she would swoop in and save the day, and it just got really repetitive and annoying. It kind of got the point where it was like, "Fil, we don't even need you here, man."
And this number 2 was a doozy.
I'm not generally someone obsessed with worldbuilding. I like YA stories because a lot of times it just gives you enough worldbuilding to make sense of the world the story takes place in, but the focus is on the plot and the characters, and not necessarily on the world. I'm cool with that.
But I still like the world to make sense, and I couldn't get through more than a few pages in this story where I didn't go, "Wait, what? That doesn't make any sense? I mean... why? What now?"
Mostly this deals with Reach, the bad guy of the story. (view spoiler)[We're told he's the bad guy because he represents greed and urban overreach and sprawl, I guess, and the destruction of the old and building of the new. But as another (spoiler marked) review points out, it reads a lot like "urban renewal is bad". Like everything old is good, and everything new is bad... and I'm not sure this is the message the book was going for, but that's definitely how it read to me at time.
The land that Reach builds on it dead, as opposed to the livind land of the Old City of MAter whateverhernameis - but why? That's never explained other than "the new is built on the bones of the old" or something.
But, guess what? The old was new once, too. The old that's being built on by Reach? It was built over other shit - so why is it good?
And Reach is described as being destructive, but the way Mater Londongoddess defeated Reach back in the past was through the freaking Great Fire of London, which is... oh, I don't know, pretty goddamned destructive?!?
Also, one of the allies of the "good" people is the Chemical Synod, who basically seemed to be industrial pollution... so, again... It's like who the hell are the good people?
And it wouldn't be bad if it was shades of grey and that was sort of the point of the story, but it's not because even after we find out stuff about Reach which makes him not so bad, he still has to be stopped at all costs...
Just... the world building didn't make a lot of sense, and things weren't really properly explained and it seems like things weren't really thought out very well, and I tried to let it go and just get into the story, but since I had the other problem of not really gelling with the characters and whatnot, I couldn't stop thinking about how much goddamned sense it didn't make.
2 stars because I didn't hate it, despite the above, and I didn like some aspects of the story. I liked the *idea* of the story and characters like Gliterglas and if it was more thought through and better developed, it could've been a really good story.
Oh, and the ending was pretty cool, so there is that.
Now I'm debating about whether I want to continue the story. The next book seems to focus on Pen, who, as I said, was one of the better characters in the story. And it also focuses on the Mirror World, which is touched on but not really developed in this story, so it could be interesting. I don't know...
I picked this up on a whim at the library 'cause the cover and tital caught my eye, but I'm not at all familiar with the gameworld that the story i2.5
I picked this up on a whim at the library 'cause the cover and tital caught my eye, but I'm not at all familiar with the gameworld that the story is based in.
It was an ok story and seems a decent intro to the game and zones therein, but didn't have much meat to the story. I originally gave it 3 stars, being in a charitable mood at the time - since it is a novella so the length kind of calls for abbreviation; however, since it left no real impression the next day, I decided to bump it down to 2. ...more
I enjoyed the first book of this series, despite it's flaws, mostly because I liked the characters - even if they were sketched a bit thin. I was hopiI enjoyed the first book of this series, despite it's flaws, mostly because I liked the characters - even if they were sketched a bit thin. I was hoping that this second book would develop them a bit more but, instead, it's the character stuff - especially the relationship between Mal and Coby - which mostly knocked this down to a 2-star.
That's not the only issue. There's also the fact that it's kinda slow to get started, and there seems to be a lot going on, especially in the middle, that I'm not sure really needs to be there. Like, (view spoiler)[Coby and Co getting waylaid by the skraling dude makes sense and is important, because it's relevant to the story - but I'm not sure how the long belabored bits with Mal and Ned on their boat and fending off pirates actually adds anything to the story? (hide spoiler)]
I'm also not exactly impressed with Mal's spying ability. I mean, he's sent to Venice to find out what he can about a possible agreement between Venice and some skralings - but his entire plan seems to be to find a way to talk to Kiiren. He does kind of fall into other connections - rather quickly and easily, and I guess it's just lucky that he's a young and strapping dude (?) - but, I don't know, he just never seems to have to work for anything. Even when things go bad and (view spoiler)[he's captured and being tortured, (hide spoiler)] things get quickly handled and we move along.
I think, maybe, part of it is the whole "telling vs showing" chestnut. We're told how Mal feels, and that he has nightmares, and this that and the other thing - but I don't feel like we're ever really immersed in his situation.
And that goes for everyone, really.
As to Ned - I thought it might be interesting (though annoying) to see Mal and Ned on an adventure and Coby and Parrish stuck with Sandy - but while Gabriel sort of shone through, I didn't feel like Ned contributed much to the story.
I sort of feel like him and Coby are in similar positions - a lot of their story is about their feelings for Mal, and their feelings about themselves, but a) these things aren't really developed/handled very well and b) they don't often add much of substance to the larger story (though I will say Coby seems to fair better in this last regard than poor Ned).
And, finally, there's the relationship with Coby and Mal. As I said, for much of the story they're apart and missing each other - but I felt like, once again, almost all of Coby's thought and feelings are about a) Mal and b) whether to give up her guise and wear female clothing. (There's this whole thing about how once she goes respectable and dresses like a girl apparently she can never disguise herself as a boy again.)
(Oh, I will say - in the pro column - they dealt with the issue of her monthlies a lot better this time, by (view spoiler)[having a skraling contraceptive method which basically halts your monthly. I can buy that, and I'm just glad they didn't continue the whole 'really late bloomer' thing. (hide spoiler)]
But, anyway, my real issues start once the two parties converge - and I can't really get into it without ranting and getting spoilery, so you've been warned:
(view spoiler)[Ok, so Mal, because he's been denied by Coby for the past year and some (which, btw, totally not believable, but whatever), and during the course of his "investigations", ends up sleeping with the courtesan chick, who's also a guiser and teaches him some magic guisery stuff.
He feels bad about betraying Coby and all - but he keeps doing it, rationalizing it, at least in part, that needs must as part of the job and all.
But then Coby finds out about this, and is jealous, of course, but is all like "well, it's no less than I deserve for pushing him away for a year", and I'm a bit irritated by this, but she's young and naive and stupid so I let it go... but then, like, a week or two later he's proposing to her and they get married and she's just like "Ok!"
I mean - so there's jealousy, but no real feelings of betrayal, at least none deep enough to have to be healed? I mean, FFS, even if you rationalize it to yourself that, well, you weren't actually betrothed or together or anything, and whatever other reasons you give - emotions don't fucking work that way. (hide spoiler)]
I just... ugh... This whole thing just pissed me off so much. Nothing about their interactions and everything that happens between them at the end had a shred of emotional resonance.
So, yeah - until that last bit I probably would've still rated the book 2.5 stars for slowness and general "what's the point of this plot" stuff, but I would've bumped it up to three for enjoyable readability. But that last part just left me so flabbergasted with WTFness that I had to bump it down.
That said - I'm still gonna read the last book in the trilogy, but I'm gonna pray real hard beforehand that I don't end up wanting to burn the whole set by the end.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I know that this series got cancelled and so it's not entirely the creators' fault that this last installment is rushed and crammed full of stuff,2.5
I know that this series got cancelled and so it's not entirely the creators' fault that this last installment is rushed and crammed full of stuff, after the rather slow (and at times plodding) build of the first three books.
But even though the book had to be jam-packed due to time constraints, as it were, this doesn't really excuse the fact that Gwen was barely part of the first half of the book, then she finally makes a decision, only to be trained in something which would normally take a lot of time and energy, but she manages in a few rushed hours.
And, yes, I know this is often a staple of these kinds of fish-out-of-water-hero books anyway, but in this book it was extra ridiculous, and the least the authors could've done was stretch the time span out a bit. Have Gwen more active at the start of the book, for instance. Or skip a couple of days/weeks within pages. I mean, I know they couldn't draw out the story, but, hell, do a freaking montage if you have to - but don't make your hero go from zero to sixty in under a minute and expect everyone to just go with it because, well, cancellation.
In one chapter we have Gwen stumble across Horatio and go "Horatio! When did you dye your hair green?" and Horatio give an explanation... only for the next chapter to have Gwen stumble across Hortatio and go "Horatio! I didn't know you were here? When did you dye your hair green?"
It was, like, 10 pages apart, give or take, and literally almost the same interaction.
And, no, it wasn't one of those things where it was the same event told from different perspectives or something - 'cause the first time someone was alive and the next time that someone was dead, so...
And, for the finale, I get the whole round-up thing. It happens. And I can buy (view spoiler)[Gwen running into her brother - I mean, he was dating Scott, afterall - but to also run into her parents, especially after her brother just said they were in Seattle, or something. (hide spoiler)] Yeah, sorry - that was one chance encounter too many. It was also entirely unnecessary as it didn't really add anything to the story at all.
Also, it would've been nice if the big climactic battle was more than a few random side encounters, and Gwen spending pages dithering about aforementioned decision. (And, honeslty, why would she ever (view spoiler)[trust Amon at all in the first place? (hide spoiler)])
Overall, it was an okay little series, though I still wish it was actually the detective-type story I was lead to believe it would be instead of going the weird (view spoiler)[Lovecraftian (hide spoiler)] angle... and while I forgive some of the rushiness of the last book for reasons outside of creative control, I still think it could've been better paced and less cheesy, even within the "omg, last book - must finish story!" constraints.
Better than the last book, this one moves the plot forward more, and ntroduces us to the Dead Presidents - monster government agents. So far, they'2.5
Better than the last book, this one moves the plot forward more, and ntroduces us to the Dead Presidents - monster government agents. So far, they're kinda the most interesting thing about the series.
Once again, we're kinda ix-nay on the etectiving-day - it's really more an action/horror/romp kinda thing. Which is fine - but I wish they didn't bill it as a mystery/detective story.
Um - let's see. Gramps went up a bit in my estimation, but Ellie went down. I mean, (view spoiler)[obviously corpse-looking dude running around naked and barely able to form words, and she's like "did the zombies scare you witless?" (hide spoiler)] Herpa derp.
Speaking of derping:
(view spoiler)[1) People go missing for days, and Gwen's all oblivious and 2) people go missing for days and have no obvious side-effects from, ya know, not eating or having water or anything? (hide spoiler)]
I hadn't mentioned much about the art in the past books, aside from the weird preponderance of unnecessary nudity in the first book. One thing I forgot to mention was that people are seriously stupid if they don't get a monster vibe from these people. I mean, Gwen looks jaundiced with her yellow eyes and reddish pupils, and the vamp chicks all have weird eyes and constantly protruding fangs. And Galatea even has Bride of Frankenstein hair.
I guess it's mostly for our benefit - but the art is kinda silly.
I bumped the 2.5 to 3-stars for some quick, mindless entertainment, but I'm not sure I'd really recommend this series.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I received this book for free through the Goodreads' First Reads program.
Climate change has hit our world badly, sending things into chaos and peopleI received this book for free through the Goodreads' First Reads program.
Climate change has hit our world badly, sending things into chaos and people into panic, so the government, teeming up with corporations, steps in and makes Bubble Cities. You can live InBubble or OutBubble, but once you make your choice come Declaration Day, there are no take backs.
Such is the world that 12-year-old Maggie, aka Ford Falcon, lives in with her family and nearby friends, Toad and Arlinda. Today they scrape out a life, growing some food, but mostly looking for scrap in the nearby trash heaps which they take to town to trade for what they need.
But they also have to contend with Grey Devils and solar bears, and I don't want to go into what they are too much because, well, some of the most interesting thing about this story is the world building, so I wouldn't want to give too much away.
Ford is a strong and feisty character. Only 12, but often comes across as much older because of the world and situation in which she lives. It is she who goes into town with Toad in their armoured, ox-drawn cart, fighting off the Grey Devils with Toad and Toby, another neighbor, and she who does the trading for her family.
And it is she who has to figure things out when her parents go missing and everything falls apart...
Overall, I enjoyed this story a fair bit. The first half of the story is mostly day-in-the-life type stuff, setting up the world and the characters - and they are interesting characters, though Toad has this weird way of talking he calls spoonerism which go wearisome.
Things did start dragging here or there, but whenever I started wishing something would happen, it did, so cheers on the pacing.
My biggest issue is actually with the ending. The author does that whole coy thing at the end where instead of telling you everything, he purposely holds back information to make the big showdown more interesting.
I kinda always get a bit irked when authors do this, especially when we see every freaking stray thought Ford has beforehand, but, mostly, in this case, it was annoying because there ended up being a lot of exposition during the big showdown.
Yes, that's right. The big standoff between Maggie and her family and the bad guys ended up being lots of info-dumps from dear old dad.
I understand why the author/dad had to hold back some information, but having lots of exposition in climax, especially in a book which has been pretty action-adventurey, is just really unsatisfying.
Also, there are some threads left dangling for a possible continuation of the series, but I'm not sure how invested I am in these characters. While I did enjoy the story, overall, I'm not sure I'm committed to continuing with it if more do come out. I guess we'll see....more
In the continuing tradition of this being a sort of 'choose your own adventure love interest', we once again visit the Country of Hearts in a versionIn the continuing tradition of this being a sort of 'choose your own adventure love interest', we once again visit the Country of Hearts in a version where Alice ends up with Blood - but on a different course than the original series.
I have to say I like it better than the Country of Hearts ending. This seemed less forced and made a bit more sense. And I do sort of like Alice with Blood - but I still prefer Boris.
Overall, this is a fun, quick little duology that focuses on Wonderland's own Mafia family, but it doesn't add that much new or different from the original series, and actually retreads a lot of the same ground, like discovering that (view spoiler)[Vivaldi is Blood's sister (hide spoiler)].
In a way, I would've preferred this story to have been incorporated in the original 6 books instead of being a separate venue.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Right off one of the issues I had with this book was the modern writing and dialogue which comes off as both too modern and also wooden. I had this2.5
Right off one of the issues I had with this book was the modern writing and dialogue which comes off as both too modern and also wooden. I had this same issue with Winters' In the Shadow of Blackbirds, but it bothered me a bit more in this story because this story seems set earlier and so it was even a bit more jarring.
I will say, though, that the modern style bothered me less as the story progressed, but the dialogue was often whincingly bad throughout.
My other issue is that while I fully support the themes of the story - women's rights and agency, mostly - I found the book a bit anvilicious and on-the-nose. I suppose you could argue that it was purposely on-the-nose since Olivia's hypnosis makes her "see the world as it really is", but the symbolism was just way too heavy-handed. (It's likely to make supporters a bit ra-ra, but would never serve to make converts. Of course, I'm not saying that's the point of the book, but it became a bit much, even just as narrative.)
Lastly, the characters were pretty thin, especially the villains - who also often had the most cringe-worthy dialogue. One almost expected them to start twirling their moustahces.
And I was conflicted about Henry. I wanted to sympathize with him, but kept running into the wall of what he was doing to acheive his goals - admirable as they may be. (view spoiler)[And I seriously wondered why Olivia didn't think of the money sooner, when he said the only reason he had to keep her under hypnosis was the money from her father. (hide spoiler)]
That said - much like 'Blackbirds', despite it's flaws, I did get wrapped up into the story as it was going. Winters is one of those authors, for me, who has myriad flaws, and yet whose stories kind of win me over anyway - thus the 2.5. It's a bit better than ok, but I was a bit disappointed, in the end, that it wasn't better.
I did like, however, that (view spoiler)[Olivia went off to New York to find her mother and didn't run off with Henry and his sister. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more