CATCHALL I am a huge, huge fan of Venom. Everybody knows that, because I literally Never. Shut. Up. About it. Which...more*****FINAL RATING: 4.65 STARS*****
CATCHALL I am a huge, huge fan of Venom. Everybody knows that, because I literally Never. Shut. Up. About it. Which is fine by some of you. It probably annoys others of you, but you love me anyway. It was a fantastic, wonderful book, and in my humble opinion Belladonna was even better in more ways than one. The writing has improved immensely, and I found the plot much more entertaining. The characters are also more mature and developed and overall it was a wonderful sequel that did not seem to suffer obviously from Second Book Syndrome.
THE HEROINE CASS I don't make a secret of the fact that I thought Cass was really, REALLY immature in the first book. I liked her, but part of me couldn't get past her naivety. Her behavior was also really anachronistic. To be fair, it still is, but if it wasn't we wouldn't have a story, so, you know. I get why it's necessary. Anyway, I really felt that Cass matured in this book. She's stronger, and a lot less whiny, and though she's still impulsive she's also grown up a lot and better knows how to control her feelings as well. She does take one action in particular that I didn't like at all, but sometimes that's just how it is!
THE LOVE INTERESTS LUCA I love Luca because he's sweet and protective but he also has secrets of his own. He has definitely made mistakes, and I don't like that he hid the truth before, but he's somewhat more forthcoming in this book, and yet he still has that brooding aura I adore. He's also a lot more than I realized in the first book, and his character depth really increases. He's no longer just the old fiancé, but he has a personality in his own right. FALCO At lease one person will come after me for this, but while I did love Falco at one point, I'm kind of over him now. I don't like his behavior in this book at all, and I just think that there is absolutely no excuse for it. He does some things that I find absolutely despicable. I want to keep this particular review spoiler-free, so I won't put any of those actions here, but they were awful enough to permanently turn me off of him. I suppose there is a slight chance he could redeem himself, but it's highly unlikely.
THE PLOT I liked the plot of Belladonna better than that of Venom, actually. I'm kind of an adrenaline junkie, so I loved the rush and more thriller-like feel of this book as opposed to the first one. Where Venom moved a bit slowly for my taste, this book moved quickly enough that my heart definitely pounded from anticipation more than once.
I didn't like the way some of the transitions were. I like when books move quickly, but I don't like when they gloss over things that I think should be included, like some moments that felt awkwardly short or cut out entirely. To be fair, I didn't come across a lot of these, but they existed. But this is really the only fault here, so I wanted to get it out of the way.
One thing I love a lot about this book was Cass's independence. Not just that, but the way she really exemplified and used that independence. There are other people around her who are important to her, and yet while she works with them and needs them on occasion she also isn't afraid to do some things herself. She really pulls herself together in this book and learns that she has to do what needs to be done, and that really is what moves the story along.
There was also a relatively realistic feel to it. It felt more like it could have actually happened in comparison to the first book, and I like that in historical fiction. I liked the details, too, that really helped to develop the story.
There was also a (relatively, arguably major) death that I wasn't expecting and left me feeling a bit disoriented. But I think it was a very good place for a character death, because it's super annoying when there's supposed to be a danger in a book and nobody on the "good side" dies. I'm not kidding. It's like the thing I hate the most.
THE ROMANCE There's a lot of distinguishing between different types of love in this book. Cass loves Falco, but he's gone, and so she's starting to open her heart up to Luca. I like the way she flashes back and remembers, but I appreciate even more than that the way she's not completely hung up. Without being too spoilery, I like the way Cass really matures in her romantic life and makes a choice that I truly believe is right for her, regardless of my personal feelings. The romance in this book is among my favorite, and maybe one of the best executions of a love triangle I have ever seen.
Also, that one scene where Luca is in prison. Hot. Easily my favorite scene in the entire book. Make of that what you will.
THE WRITING Fiona is one of my favorite writers for many reasons, but the greatest of these is her ability to completely transfer me into a completely different time and place. I am able to feel like I am tromping around Europe with Cass, getting into tough messes and running from the people who always seem to be one step ahead. The world-building is absolutely gorgeous, and I love the touches of Italian the book has. It gives it a little extra something special.
THE ENDING This might actually be one of my favorite endings ever, and it almost makes me wish the series was a duo logy, because I would be really happy with that as an ending. At the same time, I want more, so I guess I'm happy it's not actually the ending. But still, I am torn between my desires. Well, what I want doesn't really matter because there will be a book three anyway regardless of whether or not I would rather have one. But I digress. I especially appreciate the ending's emphasis on new beginnings, because that's a really important thing to me. I also like the way the storyline of book two wrapped up nicely while leaving enough material for book three.
WRAPUP And now for the age-old question: would I recommend this? Absolutely. Venom has my highest recommendation too, but even if you didn't want to read that, read it just so that you can read Belladonna. You might think I'm joking but I'm actually totally serious. It's that good. So good, in fact, that I'm almost hesitant to read Starling (book three) because I'm terrified it will mess up my perfect ending. (Actually, if it does, I will be annoyed for more reasons than one, because I hate it hate it hate it when characters are "sure" of a decision and then change it. I realize this can happen in real life but it still ticks me off.)
CATCHALL I don't read a whole lot of adult novels, because I just…don't. It's not like I have anything against them, I...more****FINAL RATING: 4.50 STARS****
CATCHALL I don't read a whole lot of adult novels, because I just…don't. It's not like I have anything against them, I just choose to spend most of my time reading and reviewing young adult. However, when I saw the premise of this novel I knew I wouldn't be able to resist. And there aren't quite enough words to describe how happy I am that I decided to pick this up. Not only was it a beautiful love story; it was also so much more than that. There was legit danger and a mystery to be solved, and a brave princess who never backed down.
THE HEROINE LOUISE Louise was one awesome princess. She was brave, but not foolish. Bold, sometimes too bold, but she also knew when to back down. She's lived for a long time in the shadow under the influence of her mother, and she wants nothing more than to break free. But trapped by a loveless marriage, she resigns herself for a while to the life that she'll never have. However, it's only a matter of time before she takes matters into her own hands. She's strong and independent without being polarizing, and is herself with or without a man by her side.
THE LOVE INTEREST STEPHEN Stephen is our dashing American hero, who's about as sexy as they come. Dark and tall and dangerous, he intrigues Louise from the beginning. Though his job is to keep the entire royal family safe, he cannot help but be drawn to Louise, seeing to her personal protection before all else. He's not a shallow character, either. In fact, he's pretty awesome. He certainly keeps things interesting. It's obvious that he cares deeply for Louise, and wants to protect her.
THE PLOT The plot is awesome. Although yes, this is a love story, there's so much more to it. There are people who want to free Ireland, and they've gathered into a coalition as they try to kidnap members of the royal family for hostage, planting one failed plot after the next. The first leads to Louise and her family nearly getting killed.
Stephen is launched into the investigation, as Louise offers him her own private investigation that would give her peace of heart. In an uneasy type of peace, the two work together and try to fight their growing attraction to one another as they work to protect Victoria and her children.
Everything unfolds beautifully and flawlessly. One event flows seamlessly into the next. Everything happens for a reason. Moreover, the things that happen make sense. There are a few extraneous plot lines one the side, and a few things that seem a bit obvious. However, overall it was wonderful and genuinely enjoyable.
It does I think dwell a bit too much on Louise's past. However, her past is important and it does have to be told.
So yes, I loved this! It was totally action-packed and romantic. There was ever really a good moment to put it down, because I constantly felt that I needed to know what was going to happen next.
THE ROMANCE The romance in this book developed beautifully. Louise's and Stephen's relationship really grows, and doesn't feel fake or instalovey at all. There's a ton of chemistry, and so much tension. It's seriously one of the best-written romances I've ever read. And it's not smutty, which is a plus. It's passionate and yet also sweet, which makes it feel so realistic. I loved it. Honestly, it was just…wonderful. There's not much more to say here, but that's a good thing.
THE WRITING Mary has utterly lovely writing. It alternates POV, mostly between Louise and Stephen but occasionally there's someone else, only rarely. Despite the writing style being the same, both of their voices were so distinct. Even without knowing who was narrating, I would have been able to tell just by their voices. While there's not so much description in this novel to speak of, it somehow glitters anyway. And the dialogue is so wonderfully done.
THE ENDING HEAs are one of my drugs of choice, and so of course I was immensely satisfied with this ending. It made me incredibly happy. As far as happy endings go, I'm not sure that I could have asked for more. It's perfect and adorable, and made me smile. It was definitely a bit far-fetched, but who cares? It was fun and I loved it. Totally romantic, and completely satisfying.
WRAPUP I'll definitely be reading more of Mary's works, and I can confidently recommend this one! I know most of the people who read my reviews are YA readers, but I honestly believe that even if you read solely YA you'd still enjoy this one. It's not too heavy and it's still intriguing and majorly interesting. The story completely drew me in, and the characters are awesome. I really, really loved this one!
CATCHALL It's been a long time since I've read something this gorgeous. I haven't read the book it's originally base...more*****FINAL RATING: 4.55 STARS*****
CATCHALL It's been a long time since I've read something this gorgeous. I haven't read the book it's originally based on, mostly because in general I am not much of a classics girl. Even so, it only took me a few pages to fall in love with this story. A dark and gothic tale, it stole my heart. I had a few issues with it, but I'm not sure there's anything that could keep me from loving it. It was most certainly a heavy read. And oh, god, was it addicting. I literally picked this book up and didn't set it down even once until I turned to the last page.
THE HEROINE JULIET Juliet starts off a maid, working to eke out a living. It's not the life she wanted, but she had no choice with her father believed dead and her mother passed away. She makes the best of it because she has to. At the same time, when she sees her chance to leave, to find out the truth about her father, she jumps at the chance. She's a brave girl, and there's something innately mysterious about her. She has an inner darkness that terrifies her and that she's never explored, but a part of her revels in that darkness and loves it.
THE LOVE INTERESTS MONTGOMERY Montgomery is the kind of guy that makes my heart beat just a bit faster. He can be sweet and protective, but there's still a bit of a darker side to him. He's always a bit disheveled, at home at the island where Juliet's father lives. He's not the perfect society man. He seems very calm and collected a lot of the time, but he has a temper that flares when he gets angry. He obviously cares deeply about Juliet, but that might not be enough. EDWARD If Montgomery is the type of guy who makes my heart speed up a bit, Edward is the type of guy who makes it race. No matter how much I love Montgomery, he can't hold a candle to how much I love Edward. Edward looks like a perfect gentleman on the outside. Sweet, kind, caring. Loves to read. But inside, he's a bit wilder. Primal, even. There's mysteries to him that aren't fully revealed for a while. He's a castaway, the sole survivor of a shipwreck, rescued by the crew that takes Juliet and Montgomery to the island. I just don't even have a sufficient vocabulary to describe how much I love Edward. I really don't. But I do so adore him. He's ridiculously charming. And god, that darkness is sexy.
THE PLOT I love gothic stories. That's not a secret. The dark romance in them always gets me, and I love mysteries and suspense and secrets. They're always gorgeous even when they're not perfect, and they never fail to mess with my heart. The Madman's Daughter, gorgeous, aching story that it was, was no exception.
Juliet doesn't live a very exceptional life in the beginning, not until she realizes that her father might be alive. Then she picks up and is determined to go to him and uncover the mysteries of her past. This is where the gothic part of the tale truly begins, as Juliet is forced to face her own inner darkness and realize that much of her father is in her.
It's definitely a thrilling tale. There's mystery and danger, and it's impossible to know what's going to happen next. Some things were almost laughably predictable, but there was always enough going on that I still couldn't figure everything out. I loved the little hints we get, the teasings that tell us that not everything is the was we think it is. And so much about this book surprised me. There were some things that seemed completely out of left field but then they ended up making sense.
It's a gorgeous, brill story. There's very little not to love about it. It's addicting and impossible to put down, but that's some of the best stuff about it. Everything about this book is never enough in the best way. It's like I've been living in a desert my entire life and I've suddenly been plunged in water. Lame metaphor, but yeah. That's how I feel.
This book was unbelievably good. I actually don't read that much historical fiction in general, and though I love gothic tales there actually aren't all that many of them in YA. This one was absolutely amazing, though, and totally makes up for everything. It gripped me from the very beginning and held me long after I turned the last page. It is, in a word, absolutely beautiful.
THE ROMANCE The romance would have to be my main problem with this novel. While Juliet has unique and dynamic relationships with each boy, the romance turned out to be a gigantic focus of the novel and a lot of the time threatened to overtake the rest of the plot. She spends forever trying to decide who she wants to be with and just when it seems like she's finally made a decision she starts to second-guess herself and change her mind. Needless to say, it got awfully annoying. While I love both Montgomery and Edward (although Edward MUCH more) I really just wanted her to make up her mind and choose Edward. But anyway. The romance overall was done nicely and it's detailed and not instalovey, but it still needed to not be so prominent.
THE WRITING Megan has absolutely beautiful writing. Sometimes Juliet's voice comes off as a bit immature and a bit childish, but I think that's acceptable. I also would have wanted a bit more description. What we do get is lovely, but it doesn't quite go into the level of detail that I wanted. I love the way the characters were described, however. It's like you can really picture them as people. It's also very, very flowy. Everything bleeds together just enough to tie it together but not so much that it's confusing. The pacing is also excellent.
THE ENDING WOW. Just…wow. This is definitely one of the bravest, most unique endings I've ever read. It definitely took a lot of guts. It was a gigantic twist, completely and totally unexpected, but utterly perfect. It also happened to be a major cliffhanger. It left me breathless and dying and aching and basically feeling all these random things. It was a gorgeous, heartbreaking ending that left me in tears. But again, it was perfect.
WRAPUP The Madman's Daughter is easily the best of the books I've read so far this year. The characters were memorable and the plot was incredible. This was an absolutely gorgeous gothic tale that grabs you by the neck and seriously just doesn't let go. Ever. I will most definitely be continuing this series, and am currently dying as I wait for the next book. I would recommend this to pretty much everyone in the universe, including aliens. If you love the gothic romance in particular, be sure to pick this one up!
CATCHALL I don't read a lot of historical fiction. And usually, when I do, it has magic thrown in at one point or an...more*****FINAL RATING: 4.60 STARS*****
CATCHALL I don't read a lot of historical fiction. And usually, when I do, it has magic thrown in at one point or another. As a general rule, historical fiction is not my favorite. Yet somehow, Venom defied all those odds and found its way into my heart. I just…I can't even. This book totally resonated with my and made my heart pound. It was wild and crazy and insane and fun, and I loved every single second of it. It amazed me and it thrilled me. In other words, it was sheer perfection.
THE HEROINE CASS I liked Cass. I had a hard time connecting to her, a the reason for that is mentioned below. Even so, she's an awesome heroine who is a genuinely good role model. She's courageous but not foolish, and clever but not overly so. She's strong enough to do what she needs to do most of the time but she also has a vulnerability that really made me connect truly with her.
THE LOVE INTERESTS LUCA I'm Team Luca, you guys. Luca is not boring at all. He's sweet and kind, and he doesn't have serious problems. But at the same time, it's pretty clear that he's keeping secrets, too. And he's always, always, very good to Cass, even when she's being difficult. Even more than that, he's funny; there's more than one moment where he's making Cass smile and just being there for her. FALCO Falco is definitely swoonworthy, don't get me wrong. But he seems like more of the fling type, at least to me. He's described as a rather dark character, riddled with all sorts of dangerous secrets. He's clearly the rascal type, and though I think he's hot, sure, I also don't want him to end up with Cass. Yes, he has his good points. And I do love him. But Luca is better.
THE PLOT This was probably one of the plots with the most insane plot twists that I've ever read. I would be positive that the plot was going to go in one direction, and nothing could have convinced me otherwise. And then the plot would branch off in the exact opposite way! It was shocking, really. It didn't bother me at all, either; it was too exciting to be frustrating!
The whole murder especially was totally brill. I couldn't tell what or who it was, even when the clues were right in front of me. It was definitely a hide-under-the-covers-and-shiver intense type of thing. Seriously. I don't get creeped out that easily, but when I do…
Everyone is keeping secrets. Everyone. So you just never know what to expect next. As soon as you think you have everything figured out, you don't. Prepare to be surprised in a world where nothing is as it seems.
Italy also has a special place in my heart since Italian is my second language, so I LOVED that this was set in Italy. It was completely awesome the way the setting was really involved with this book, too, not just a background.
This book drew me in with its magnificent plot and so far had refused to let me go. It's the kind of thing that's stuck with me and has been constantly on my mind. It was thrilling, beautiful, and it refuses to be ignored.
THE ROMANCE Oh, the romance. *swoons* This book is absolutely full of romance, in a wonderful way. I loved the soft and subtle chemistry between Cass and Luca. All bias aside, it seriously does remind me of what one of my aunts and my uncle has. No grand gestures or anything. Just an unspoken agreement to be there. Cass and Falco just…didn't work for me. Yes, they have some seriously sizzling chemistry. I'm not blind. But I also think that it isn't enough for a lifetime. (Even though, sadly, I think it's pretty obvious who Cass is going to end up with, alas.)
THE WRITING Fiona has some awesome writing. Really. The description is lush and gorgeous, and the banter and dialogue is always witty but knows when to be serious. One thing that did bother me: the third person made it really, really, really hard to connect to Cass. I'm not sure why, since usually I actually prefer third person to first. But for some reason, in this case, the third person didn't work for me as well as I wanted it to.
THE ENDING The ending was…wow. I mean, talk about a major cliffhanger! Not only that, but I was absolutely shocked. I could never have seen that ending coming. Nothing prepared me for it. It was wholly unexpected and yet it also made perfect sense. When I thought about it more, I realized that everything had been perfectly arranged so that the book would end in just that way. It was artful and gorgeous, and I was very, very impressed.
WRAPUP I absolutely loved this book, which is a huge compliment coming from me, the non-historical-fiction reader. Cass' world was a joy to live in, and I immersed myself completely in this wonderful world. I cannot wait to return in Belladonna and again in Forbidden to see where everything goes next and how everything is going to work itself out! This is a highly recommended book from me, so order your copy today! Prepare to be thrilled beyond your wildest dreams.
CATCHALL I actually read this book quite some time ago, but sometimes when books are this incredimazing I get all to...more*****FINAL RATING: 5.00 STARS*****
CATCHALL I actually read this book quite some time ago, but sometimes when books are this incredimazing I get all tongue-tied and literally have no idea what to say. Jesus, that sounds cliché, but clichés are clichés for a reason. I mean, seriously. So whatever. Anyway, I actually made up a word to describe this book, so obviously I loved it. (Dude, check out the rating. That rating? That is EARNED only by the most worthy books.) Essentially, this book just kind of blew my breath away. It's absolutely phenomenal. Spectacular. Marvelous. And of course, incredimazing. I could totally do this all day, but, you know, I won't. Let me get a little more in detail.
THE HEROINE YUKIKO Yukiki is our strong and badass heroine. I absolutely have a girl crush on her. Let's not lie here. I can relate to her on so many levels. She's constantly at odds with her father. She's more than a little rebellious and she's definitely courageous. She understands limits and that some things cannot be done. I like that she isn't overly impulsive, and sometimes she can do what she needs to even when she'd rather not. Also, I really liked her character arc. It's very subtle at first, but once I noticed it it wars impossible to ignore. The way she changes unfolds in layers. Yukiko also, for all her strengths, can be vulnerable just like anyone else. She gets upset and she breaks down and she needs comforting and she makes mistakes.
THE ARASHITORA BURUU Can we please just take a moment to respect Buruu's general awesomeness and badassery? Okay, great. Buruu comes onto the scene with a bang. During a thunderstorm. There's lightnings, and this nameless, mystical thunder creature suddenly appears in the sky. Though captured, he cannot be tamed. Yet as his bond with Yukiki grows, something changes in him. At first he's much more animalistic. Primal. An eye for an eye. But slowly, he begins to understand more of the world around him. He begins to understand love. And I felt very much like he could have just as easily been a human character if not for his fantasticalness. That's probably one of my favorite things about him. I have a lot of favorite things about him.
There are totally other badass characters, and even some awesometacularly horrible ones, but I'm not going to write about them right now. That certainly doesn't mean that I can't add things about them inn the future.
THE PLOT Something a lot of people don't know about me is that I'm actually half-Japanese. I don't look very Asian (I think I do at least a little) and the white last name throws people off. I also have an immense interest in Japanese history and actually wrote my extended essay for IB on the subject. 3996 words, which obviously pales in comparison to this book. Also, I'm totally not being modest here. But my randomness has a point—I'm no history buff, but I'm still knowledgable in Japanese history. And besides the fantastical and steampunkianal (I don't think that's a word…but oh well!) elements, the historical accuracy of this book is VERY impressive. I feel the need to point that out. Obviously this was well-researched, which just made it so much more enjoyable as a whole.
So, the world-building. It's set in historical, feudal Japan. That much is perfectly clear. But it's a steampunk version of Japan with fantasy elements. I mean, I honestly don't think you can get any more awesome than that. Loved the aspects of fantasy involved, and the aspects of steampunk involved, and the blending of both elements together to create something wholly unique. For example, chainsaw katanas. Chain. Saw. Katanas. That is like, epic level of epic awesomeness Level: Epic. I sound like a total fangirl right now, but at the same time I kind of am, so it works out.
I mean, I have never ever read anything even vaguely like this. It was enthralling. And it was by no means a shallow story. That's another thing about this novel. Everything about it is so very gorgeous and complex. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Secrets hide behind the simplest of exteriors, and sometimes friends can be found in unusual places. I was kept guessing until the very end. There's really no way of knowing anything for sure. Even what we see can deceive us.
Everything about this book just blew me away in a good way. It constantly surprised me. Really, I wasn't sure where this book was going to go. There were what seemed like millions of possible directions. I loved the suspense and intensity this created. It kept me eagerly reading on late at night, dying to know what was going to happen next, if someone was going to die, or just what kind of drama was going on. Yes, Jay doesn't forget to include the simpler things. He apparently doesn't overlook anything.
I mean, seriously, just everything about this plot blew me away. It almost did so literally. I just…I mean…argh, I usually do not get this tongue-tied. But I just cannot even express how fantastic this book truly was. Obviously you should just ignore my ramblings and go buy it already.
THE ROMANCE Romance played somewhat of a larger role in this novel than I expected, and it is all very complex. There's unrequited love. There's deception. There's lust. There're epic conglomerations of it all. (I spelled conglomeration correctly on the first try.) And I love the realism in that. Most of you know that I am romantic to a fault. Yet I can appreciate romance ending in disaster, too. There's something about the drama of it all that appeals to me, and I was surprised but thrilled by the direction the romance went in. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what's next.
THE WRITING I am allowed to point out what absolutely lovely writing Jay had, yes? Stormdancer uses third person POV. It's the limited form, but at different times different characters will narrate and lend us their voices. Mostly, it's Yukiki telling the story, but there are others who give us a different POV, let us see things through their eyes. I loved seeing the same problem viewed from so many different angles, and seeing the change in characters both in their owns heads and the thoughts of others. Also, the description, the world-building, the dialogue—sparkling and glittering and gorgeous. Absolutely beautiful.
THE ENDING Wow. Like, wow. There is so much of this that I didn't see coming. Betrayal, love, truth, lies…all of it comes into play. It's all important. Some of the truths revealing are devastating and changed the entire course of the novel. I never expected half of the things that happened to happened. And I expected to be thrown off, and I was still thrown off. I'm pretty sure that is the definition of brilliance. It just captured the spirit of the novel in a few pages. You could read the ending by itself and be hypnotized by its beauty. (Don't.) I was satisfied but the way this ended—but I can tell that the Lotus War has only barely begun, and I'm desperate to know what comes next.
WRAPUP If you're not convinced by this point that this book is one of the most incredimazing things that I have ever read in my life 1) you are the world's worst cynic and 2) you are a liar. I loved, loved, LOVED this book. As soon as I finished it I was tempted to turn back to the first page and read it again. If you haven't read it yet, I envy you your first reading of it. And duh, I totally recommend this book. In fact, if you haven't read it yet, go and buy it right now. Right. Now. You will thank me for this. This book just…ahhh. It made me so happy and warm and fuzzy inside. If it was legal to marry books I would totally marry this book. (Along with like a hundred others, but don't tell it that.) Kisses to this book, and I'm eagerly awaiting the sequels!
CATCHALL I went into Something Strange and Deadly expecting…well, more zombies. I mean, there were zombies, but they wer...more***FINAL RATING: 3.20 STARS***
CATCHALL I went into Something Strange and Deadly expecting…well, more zombies. I mean, there were zombies, but they weren't quite as excited as anything I was thinking I'd get. Still, I solidly enjoyed this book. It had pretty good characters, and wasn't heavy on romance. It's a fun read, lighter than I expected, with a few serious subjects thrown in to balance it.
THE HEROINE ELEANOR FITT I liked Eleanor, for all that she had a few Mary-Sue tendencies. Quite a few, actually, which I will not go into for fear of spending forever going over them. She's plucky and bold, and not afraid of disappointing the standards of her society. Also, she wants to help support her family, and the lengths she'll go to to find her brother are really very admirable.
THE LOVE INTEREST DANIEL SHERIDAN Daniel was portrayed as somewhat of a scoundrel, but a handsome and attractive scoundrel. I felt good enough about him. He was a pretty well developed character. We get to look into his past and see what's happened to make him the way he is, and how he ended up in his position. He definitely has an attitude but it's not overbearing.
THE FRIEND CLARENCE WILCOX Clarence was by far my favorite character. Not only is he sexy, if you ask me, but he seems to be a genuinely good person for all his faults. He was also way more interesting than Daniel, although Daniel was pretty interesting. I totally adored him and wished he had been in the book more. I also wish we'd gotten to learn more about him.
THE PLOT The plot was really good! It definitely kept me interested and even on the edge of my seat. I was constantly desperate to know what was going to happen next. It was suspenseful and definitely page-turning.
Unfortunately, there weren't very many zombie moments. Obviously there were some, but I went into this book expecting more to do with zombies. However, the zombies in this book were used as more of a device and a background than being a major plot of the plot. They were important, but not necessary.
Still, I loved how certain facts and such were slowly uncovered to reveal what was happening. There was one big reveal that I thought was extremely obvious, but aside from that, it wasn't overtly predictable or anything.
The plot of SS&D kept me immersed and drawn in and overall satisfied. The concept was original, and built delicately but also boldly over the history. It weaves in nicely and the politics of the story—because there are politics—aren't boring, but are actually pretty interesting to read about and the story would be the same without that aspect.
However, I was incredibly ticked off by a certain death, which made me angry and upset and in general annoyed. I suppose it did contribute to the plot, but still!
THE ROMANCE Actually, this book was light on romance, but it was definitely there. And the best part is, there's no instalove. It develops slowly and sweetly and without any urgency to rush the couple into true love forever. Instead, it is beautifully and artfully done and leaves more room for building in the future.
THE WRITING Susan's writing is beautiful. I admit that I didn't care too much for Eleanor's voice, but I tried to look past that. The descriptions of Philadelphia are gorgeous, and the banter and dialogue simply glitters. I'd almost say it couldn't have been better. There is always room for improvement, of course, but it's already spectacular!
THE ENDING I though that the way it ended was not only appropriate, but perfect. There's pain, real pain, both physical and emotional. It is not one of those too-clean endings that makes me tempted to do something drastic that I cannot be responsible for. Instead, it's a totally realistic ending and I loved it. It also leaves room for the next book without one of those cruel cliffhangers.
WRAPUP Overall, SS&D was an awesome book and I would definitely recommend it. I think that this will be a really popular book. It's a solid debut, and gives history an awesome twist. However, you won't fund much zombie action. Still, if you go into the book knowing that with an open mind, I have no doubt that you'll probably love it!
CATCHALL I didn't want to give Grave Mercy a full five stars because there are only so many of those I can give out,...more*****FINAL RATING: 5.00 STARS*****
CATCHALL I didn't want to give Grave Mercy a full five stars because there are only so many of those I can give out, lest they become meaningless. But I just cannot justify giving it any less than the full five stars that it absolutely deserves. Grave Mercy completely blew me away and left me absolutely breathless in the most amazing way possible. Everything about it was beautiful, from the characters to the plot to the gorgeous writing. (Dude, assassin nuns. Need I say more?)
THE HEROINE ISMAE RIENNE I adored Ismae. She definitely wasn't the easiest character in the world to understand at first, but that aura of mystery actually serves her well and draws you much deeper into the story. She's strong and not afraid of almost anything. She starts off blindly obedient on the outside, but on the inside it is clear where her allegiance lies and what appears to be blind obedience is actually a strong faith in her father, her god. Ismae sets her values and standards and lives by them. She knows what's what and she always tries to do what she honestly believes to be the right thing to do.
THE LOVE INTEREST GAVRIEL DUVAL So, dude, I have a total weakness for gray eyes. They are like the bane of my freaking existence. My boyfriend has gray eyes, and they are beautiful. So basically the book could have described him as "and he was a jerk who was a total loser and never did anything interesting but he had gray eyes" and I would have heard "blah blah blah…gray eyes." So, the point of that tangent was that I freely admit my total bias. I loved Gavriel. I thought he was a fantastic character. He cares so genuinely and sweetly for his younger sister and makes the hard decisions when they need to be made. He was also a complex character with multiple layers that we saw slowly peeled away.
THE MENTOR THE REVEREND MOTHER It was interesting to see her blind devotion to the ways of the convent and her dependency on the outside world for information. And yet, even with all her devotion it seems she still does not understand the true purpose of being the offspring of Mortain.
THE FRIENDS SYBELLA Sybella was a fantastic character and I absolutely cannot wait to hear more about her. She's an interesting character and her introduction is very dramatic. Knowing more about her will be extremely fun. The passing glimpses that we see of he later in the book are almost too tempting. ANNITH I'd like to hear more about Annith as well, and I assume that we will. We barely hear any of her story, and yet she's one of the most interesting characters in this book. Annith has a very distinctive voice and her story would be one well told.
THE BRETON COURT DUCHESS ANNE OF BRITTANY I underestimated Anne at first, even though I didn't comprehend just how young she was until very late in the novel. But it surprised me how intelligent she was for a person of her age. I did find this to be perhaps a little unrealistic, but anyone who has had to brow up quickly and before their time can relate, I am sure. Anne was actually a wonderful character who wasn't dull and definitely knew what she was doing. THE CHANCELLOR I am only going to say a few things because I do not want to give anything away. The chancellor was an entertaining character with more of a role in the book than originally imagined. At the beginning, it is impossible to determine just what type of role he will play. Yet as the story progresses, his role is slowly revealed. D'ALBRET Every story needs an interesting villain, and D'Albret was one. Even though I am tempted to write him off as a disgusting bastard (excuse my language), I actually find myself unable to do this. Yes, he is cruel and mean and selfish, but no one is that way without a reason. Oddly enough, I was actually interested in learning more about him by the end of the book. RAOUL DE LORNAY De Lornay was one of my favorite characters, mostly because of his devotion to Duval. Also, his name is fun to say. (Try it. In a French accent.) Ismae writes him off as aloof, and indeed he is, but near the end of the book a surprising glimpse into his true nature is revealed, and I must say, it is beautiful. His confession is sweet and heartbreaking, and I found I wished that we gotten to know more about him. THE BEAST OF WAROCH I adored Beast. He had an amazing sense of humor and was also very kind to Ismae. His friendship and connection with Duval was almost tangible and very lovely to see. I thought he was a wonderful addition and it saddened me to see where he was at the end of this book.
THE GOD MORTAIN We manage to get a glimpse of just what this god of death is like near the end of the novel, and I really love this part. He was nothing like I expected him to be, and that was a pleasant surprise. Mortain is more human than I had though to hope for, and I like his deep understanding. (On a side note, I pronounced his name as Mortmain, à la The Infernal Devices, for the majority of the book. I still do sometimes. This makes me feel stupid. *facepalm*)
THE PLOT The plot of this book is amazing.
I honestly cannot remember a single boring moment. Each moment had some sort of potent anticipation, and I was always interested in what was going to happen next. There never seemed to be a moment to relax at all. Indeed, I burned through this book in one night because I simply could not bring myself to put it down.
I mean, come on. How could you not be draw in? And I wasn't disappointed, either. They were every bit as complex as I had dared to hope for. I love when my expectations are reached.
There were twists and turns to this wonderful story, betrayals and intrigue, and questioning authority. All things I absolutely love to read about.
There's a real story behind everything that happens, and a reason, and no glossing over of important things.
The plot was also very original and didn't piggyback obviously off of other stories. It was nice to see an original concept not ruined and used in such a beautiful way.
THE ROMANCE I absolutely loved this romance, maybe because it reminds me of my own. I could just be being conceited. But that aside, it was a beautifully developed romance. It starts out slowly, with neither Ismae nor Gavriel really very comfortable with the other, or even liking each other very much. Instead of being instalove stupidity, it develops slowly, subtly, and sweetly. And when it finally bubbles to the surface it is a strong love with a real base and clearly real. I absolutely adored every moment of it, from the questioning to the unsureness to the sweetness of it all. Instead of being coined and fake, it feels genuine. I love this about it, and it is definitely one of my favorite romances. I have heard some people say that they do not like the age difference between Ismae and Gavriel, but this is not a problem for me.
THE WRITING LaFevers' writing is beautiful, and Ismae's voice is real. The description is lush and gorgeous, yet Ismae manages to sound like a normal person, not a dictionary. Indeed, some of the imagery is so vivid I can imagine what these places and people really look like. Everything is covered in the writing, no important details left out but also no inane details included. Ismae's words truly sound like thoughts. For a debut novel especially, the writing is extremely impressive. The wonderful writing made it all the more enjoyable.
THE ENDING The ending can only be described in one way: absolutely perfect. I completely adored it and could not have thought of a better ending myself. It was beautiful and put a smile on my face, but also sounded realistic enough that is was believable and not cheesy or even ridiculous. It was not so sappy as to make me feel sick but was sweet enough that I couldn't help but do a little bit of a heart-flip. To sum it all up, the ending was, as aforementioned, perfect.
WRAPUP Of course, I am absolutely reading Dark Triumph, which will feature Sybella. I cannot wait to hear more about her, and to read about the continuation of the story of Brittany besides. I also hope to see a cameo appearance or two of Ismae. Grave Mercy was absolutely fantastic and I would probably read the next book even if it was set to feature a rat. (Well, okay, no, I wouldn't, but that isn't the point.) I loved Grave Mercy, very, very much, and I am much looking forward to the next two books.
CATVHALL Oddly enough, this book touched me. I put off reading it for a long time, a really long time, but by the time I...more***FINAL RATING: 2.65 STARS***
CATVHALL Oddly enough, this book touched me. I put off reading it for a long time, a really long time, but by the time I really got around to reading it I was pleasantly surprised. It could have been better, but it could have been far worse. I really only had one major problem that kept this book from getting a higher rating, but I'll get to that later. And check out that title; it's gorgeous!
THE HERO JACK It took me a while to connect with Jack, actually, but once I did the connection was inseverable. He was a completely human character who suffered and felt real pain, and had it hard but didn't complain. It wasn't something tho be whined about, it simply was. And that was the way he treated it. He wasn't irritating, just a kid with a run of bad luck, trying to survive.
THE COMPANIONS JANE She was, to say the least, an odd character. But then, she was supposed to be. Wild, free, untamable. Jane's the type of girl who needs to move around, who needs to be free to do whatever strikes her fancy. She's admirable and brave, not ready to stand aside in the fare of danger when there's something she can do. TONY He was a plucky, brave boy who wasn't about to be left behind, and yet he comes into the story and becomes a character all in his own right, smart enough to make his own decisions and really a role model to children today, who, forgive me, are somewhat lazy. His drive to survive is intense, and he answers it.
THE VILLAINS "PRETTY BOY FLOYD" He turned out to be not so much of a villain, and I actually found myself liking him. He was very nice and was always ready to be helpful, even at his own expense. He had a good heart to him, and turned out to be very different than expected. "BAD TIGER" As a gangster name, it kind of sucks. It made me giggle every time I read it and I simply could not take it seriously. TIMMY Timmy was also ruined as a tough-guy type because I know this Timmy and so I kept picturing him and it just didn't work. I actually would have liked to hear more of Timmy's story, though, because it felt like there was something there in the background, just waiting to be discovered.
THE PLOT While it seems a bit far-fetched to me, I suppose I don't know a whole lot about gangsters and the Great Depression, so it could be that that's how things really were.
The childrens' mission fit in with the coming-of-age theme, and they really learn to embrace who they are.
The plot moves along at a rapid pace, a bit predictable but also really fun at the same time. I enjoyed the way it progressed, bumps in the road and all.
There were real challenges overcome with a little help from friends, and things to deal with, but the children ultimately come out on top, it seems. Yet somehow this is believable. Plausible, even.
ROMANCE Romance is almost a staple in coming-of-age novels. But it isn't intense, heavy romance or true love; just young love, finding its first wings. It's sweet and strikes a real chord. There's jealousy and conflicting wants and the feeling that some things might not work out, but over all that there's an underlying romance to it all, that young, sweet love forming for the first time. Lansdale captured that really well.
THE WRITING Here is my main issue, you see. Perhaps, even likely, Lansdale is actually an extremely eloquent writer. Unfortunately, for this book, he tried to use period-speak, which frankly got on my nerves and made me want to pound my head against the nearest wall. (Dude, this book took me like two and a half months to finish.) Some of it was completely dated and other parts' grammar had me positively cringing. And, oh, God, punctuation. Periods were invented for a reason.
THE ENDING I usually hate open endings, because I like to know how everything ends and don't like to make it up myself necessarily. But this one worked for me. It fit into the characters and it fit into the book, and really it couldn't have been better. The ending suited everything and made sense, but was also a clear choice for everything, and I really loved that.
WRAPUP I suppose I might read more of Lansdale's works if I run into them at the library, but I probably won't purchase them or actively seek them out. If the writing wasn't so horrific, I might have, but as it stands I unfortunately cannot. Still, though I wouldn't recommend this to everyone I'd definitely recommend it to some people.
CATCHALL This was my first read from this author but it certainly will not be my last. The beautiful love story is r...more*****FINAL RATING: 4.50 STARS*****
CATCHALL This was my first read from this author but it certainly will not be my last. The beautiful love story is romantic and everything about the book is absolutely lovely. I burned through it so quickly and I simply could not get enough. Every page left me yearning for more. This gorgeous retelling of Beauty and the Beast is marvelous.
THE HEROINE Annabel is a beautiful and complex character and I loved her from the start. And I'm not just being biased because of the whole name thing. ;) She usually makes good decisions and always seems to try to truly make the right choice, taking herself into consideration without being completely selfish. It's a trait that seems so rare in YA heroines these days and I loved seeing it here. Annabel is strong and independent and shows over and over again that she doesn't need anyone else's opinion to survive on her own. Annabel is also so brave. I admired that in her, as well as her strong faith, which is another thing sorely lacking in YA reading these days. Annabel is an incredible exemplar of female strength and I loved that both about her and about this book as a whole.
THE LOVE INTEREST Ranulf is a haunting and gorgeous character who immediately intrigued me. As the book progressed, I got to know him better and better, as opposed to hearing about the same traits over and over again or nothing at all. He continually develops throughout the novel. He has a little bit of darkness to him but buried underneath his outward appearance lies a sweet man. He has much more substance than many YA male leads. I thought he was a very well-written character. He blossoms beautifully throughout the novel. Ranulf is definitely one of the better characters in this book.
THE PLOT Ah, the plot of this novel was pretty and fairly original considering that it was a retelling. First and foremost it was a love story, but it also has themes of independence and a lot of faith. There's a lot of content in the Bible readings that take place throughout the novel. Annabel's plight also serves as an entertaining plot line for the romance to write itself on. There's no really dull points and it moves at a nice pace, not too slowly but not too quickly.
THE ROMANCE Annabel's and Ranulf's romance is sweet and believable. It is a tad underdeveloped, but overall I really liked it and felt it was much nicer done. And there's definitely no insta-love. No love triangle either, which was quite refreshing. The romance isn't gross and it's not too insubstantial. It's beautiful. It takes time to develop and doesn't factor in for a little while, so it doesn't dominate the entire book, even though most readers will realize he is the love interest.
THE ENDING I don't want to spoil anything, but I will say that I really liked it. It was fascinating and fantastically written.
THE WRITING Dickerson's writing is artful and eloquent without being ostentatious. It's pretty and not over simplistic. She writes with a practiced hand and it is clear that she is a professional writer. It does not come across as amateurish. The writing was probably one of my favorite aspects of this novel and made it very enjoyable.
WRAPUP It was a beautifully written story with strong characters and a sweet romance. I genuinely enjoyed reading it and will be picking up more novels by this author in the future.