1. Setting: Post-Katrina New Orleans. Swampy, sensual, tragic, dangerous. A complete immersion into the si...more How do I love a book? Let me count the ways.
1. Setting: Post-Katrina New Orleans. Swampy, sensual, tragic, dangerous. A complete immersion into the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of a damaged and depressed city, betrayed and forgotten, seeking its redemption.
2. Heroine: Kick-ass, ruthless, complicated, haunted. Claire DeWitt is much like the city of New Orleans itself: damaged and dangerous, tragic and seeking redemption. Neither needs nor desires your pity or understanding.
3. Language: Hard-boiled dialogue that snaps and shows its teeth, married with gorgeous turns of phrase and a robust philosophy about the very nature of solving mysteries.
The client already knows the solution to his mystery. But he doesn't want to know. He doesn't hire a detective to solve his mystery. He hires a detective to prove that his mystery can't be solved.
4. Mystery: I don't read a lot of "mysteries" where there is a genuine, bona fide puzzle to be solved. I'm not a clue junkie hoarding each item the author throws down in an effort to beat him or her to the big reveal. Here, I really felt compelled to sit up straight and pay attention. It didn't take very long before I became incredibly invested in Claire's investigation and its outcome, no mere detached observer but something akin to an actual participant.
Despite the fact that Claire's methods are anything but conventional -- bordering on mystical and clairvoyant -- the investigation remains firmly grounded in reality and logic. I adore how everything comes together in a satisfying "click" "snap" "lock" way that isn't pretty and predictable, but all the more beautiful for that very reason.
Finally, I can't do this book justice on my own so I'm going to call in the big guns. Without these two reviews I don't think I ever would have found my way to Claire. Take it away Carol and Anthony. (less)
I can gobble the Miriam Black books down as if they were piping hot, greasy cheeseburgers with a triple chocolate shake on the side. Yum! Yea...more3.5 stars
I can gobble the Miriam Black books down as if they were piping hot, greasy cheeseburgers with a triple chocolate shake on the side. Yum! Yeah, you really have to suspend disbelief, there might even be a few dubious plot holes, but goddamn, as a dark heroine with a grim gift Miriam kicks ass. She's a viper, a scrapper, a take-no-prisoners and no bullshit kind of gal, morally dubious, who is just beginning to figure out what the right thing to do is.
In this second installment, Miriam's visions get her tangled up in something much more sinister and unholy than she could ever imagine. Shacked up with Louis from Book 1 in a trailer park, Miriam feels trapped and suffocated. Her feet are getting itchy and she wants to hit the road again, to resume the shiftless (and violent) life she was living before she and Louis met.
As a favor to Louis, Miriam visits a private school for wayward girls to determine whether the hypochondriac English teacher is really dying from cancer. While on this errand Miriam learns that one of the students is going to die a horrible torturous death six years from now at the hands of a masked man with a sparrow tattoo. Miriam's inadvertent discovery puts her onto the trail of a serial killer, placing her own life in serious peril. With her usual potty mouth, rude inappropriate humor, and feisty fighting skills, Miriam makes several return visits to the private school, and with each visit uncovers more girls who will meet bloody, untimely deaths unless she can figure out a way to stop it, squarely spitting in Fate's eye once more.
I really warmed up to Miriam in this sequel. We get to see more of her vulnerable side, and get to learn more about her past, her relationship to her mother, and the tragic events that bestowed her precognitive curse on her in the first place. As a character, Louis is much more fleshed out this time too. He's still a little bit of a "big teddy bear with the heart of gold" stereotype, but he's starting to find his voice, and his motivations are starting to ring true.
I will definitely be keeping my eye out for more Miriam Black adventures. This is another Angry Robot book. Check them out. They are awesome.
Really 3.5 stars but since I enjoyed parts of it so much, I'm rounding up. What? A girl's allowed to feel generous every once in awhile. This book is...more Really 3.5 stars but since I enjoyed parts of it so much, I'm rounding up. What? A girl's allowed to feel generous every once in awhile. This book is not without its flaws, but goddamn, it has a gritty, modern noir sensibility that I just fell in love with.
Miriam Black is a damaged -- you could even argue deranged -- anti-heroine who isn't a very nice person. She's pretty fucked up actually, and she's just as likely to rob you as she is to spit in your eye. She fills her days (and nights) with booze and sex with strange men. She's a champion of letting the expletives fly. Miriam has enough personal demons and closet skeletons to fill a soccer stadium. And they hunt her. They torment her. And no matter how much she runs, or how far, they are always just at her heels nipping away. While her jagged edges and self-destructive tendencies might not make her very warm and sympathetic, I still found her to be extremely dynamic and interesting. Her choices mattered to me and I became very invested in how her story was going to end.
This is a crime novel in that there is a lot of criminal acts taking place and a lot of vivid descriptions of violence and physical trauma. Miriam's is an unusual problem -- at the touch of skin-on-skin she can foresee the time and circumstances of a person's death. Such intimate foreknowledge is a heavy burden to bear, especially since Death and Fate cannot be foiled. The only control Miriam has over these situations is to maybe be there right at the moment of your destined demise to relieve you of your money and credit cards (you don't need them anymore, right?)
She's pretty much come to accept her powerlessness. It has made her cynical, entirely dysfunctional, and dangerous. Then she meets Louis -- a hapless, widowed truck driver who only has a month left to live. His death involves torture and would be considered gruesome even by mob standards -- and this is what Miriam knows: her name is the last word that falls from his lips. The mystery becomes how do we end up at this point, and despite knowing better, will Miriam be able to cheat Death this time? Will she even try?
While Louis is merely a character sketch, the other woman in this story -- Harriet -- is one of the creepiest, most memorable characters I've read in a while. Like the best noir classics, this book too is all about the damaged women and the choices they make. It is they who drive the story, and the men are just along for the ride.
This book concludes quite solidly but there is a sequel planned that I will definitely be checking out. Miriam is pretty intense and I really want to know where her story goes next.
If you're curious about the writing at all, here are some of my favorite turns of phrase:
The Barnegat Lighthouse has 217 steps. Each is an agony. Each a troubled birth, an expelled kidney stone, a black widow's bite. The steps are corrugated steel painted in flaking yellow. They wind in a tight spiral through a channel of black brick. It is like ascending the throat of some ancient creature.
"You want to make a change...so cosmic you're unwriting death and kicking fate square in the face, then you best be prepared to pay for it." -"With blood," Miriam says. -"With blood and bile and voided bowels."
Miriam stops walking. Clouds drift in front of the sun. Somewhere out over the water, a storm brews, and rain clatters against the tides....Lightning licks at the ocean way out there under the steel sky.
WOOL began its life as a self-published short novella in July of 2011. That's hard to believe. I feel like I've been hearing about this th...more Outstanding!
WOOL began its life as a self-published short novella in July of 2011. That's hard to believe. I feel like I've been hearing about this thing for ages and ages.
So I'm late to the party, but not that late. Due to excited reader response over WOOL 1, author Hugh Howey quickly released the next four parts in the series. Then came along this Omnibus which collects Parts 1-5. There is now a 2013 edition with a great new cover that features a blurb by none other than Justin Cronin, author of The Passage.
In a few short years, Howey has given all struggling writers out there toiling away at their craft in obscurity real hope. Word of mouth among bloggers and enthusiastic readers on sites like Amazon and Goodreads has the potential to lift the curse of invisibility from self-published works so that they may find their way to audiences who will love them. Never before have the barriers between author and reader been so few, the access so direct. No longer are authors strictly dependent on big publishing houses to discover them and deem their work important enough to go to market accompanied by a sexy publicity campaign. Authors and readers are doing it for themselves, and I for one think it's a beautiful thing.
I love everything about this story -- I love the details of the world-building, I love the characters, I love the shifting points of view, I love the slow burn when you're not sure what is going on. When it became clear to me exactly what was going on I love that I wasn't disappointed. For a post-apocalyptic story trodding very familiar science fiction territory, it still feels fresh. The author definitely gives it his own spin.
I love that the stakes are so high. I love that the author is patient and in control of his narrative. That he doesn't reveal too much too soon. That he understands the relationship between tension and release. All of that to say, I love that the writing is so strong and capable (I've read too much self-published stuff where the prose is inexcusably sloppy). Howey's writing is the exact opposite of sloppy. It's polished. Its engine hums. The shoes are shiny and it's wearing a tie. It's ready to take home to mom.
Finally, I love Juliette. She's Ellen Ripley, Katniss Everdeen, and Dana Scully all rolled up into one. She's got brains and courage. Her heart is huge, her will made of iron.
There's a lot of under-developed, underwhelming dystopian fiction kicking around out there these days. WOOL leaves those attempts in its dust. It's worth your time. Trust me.
This book is dark. It is disturbing. It is ruthless in places and feels dangerous in others. Despite the fact that Pure has been released by its publi...moreThis book is dark. It is disturbing. It is ruthless in places and feels dangerous in others. Despite the fact that Pure has been released by its publisher as Adult fiction, it has been quickly embraced as YA. Though I feel as such, it should maybe come with some sort of disclaimer. Fans of popularized YA dystopias choosing Pure for the same satisfying adrenaline injection packaged in a safe, sanitized story with a sweet romantic subplot are likely going to be put off (even repulsed) over what they encounter here. Furthermore, the conscientious detail in the world-building will seem heavy-handed to readers seeking a fast-moving thrill ride. Pure does not give up its secrets easily or all at once. Not all loose ends are tied up, not all questions are answered. There’s enough juiciness and potential left over for the sequel. At least this is my hope – because I’m hooked now and want to know everything.
There is such heartrending beauty in Baggott’s vivid descriptions of Earth’s utter destruction and the devastating deformities of the survivors. I will never think of the word “fusion” the same way again. At the height of the Cold War, an entire generation of people lived with the mind-numbing fear of nuclear annihilation. It’s a fear that’s largely left us now, though I’m hard pressed to think why; the weapons still exist and there are still enough crazy mofos out there, in charge or gone rogue, to make use of them if they so choose. Even the most cursory research into the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will chill the blood and horrify the mind. This is what we are capable of doing to one another. To think that it can’t or won’t ever happen again is wishful thinking I figure of the most deluded kind. But I am grateful we've stopped crouching under desks and building bomb shelters in our spare time. That shit just ain't healthy, you know?
Pressia is a survivor of the Detonations – a global nuclear holocaust that has left her and every other survivor with a diversity of glaring malformations and “fusions”. When the blasts came, they were so strong, the light so bright, humans fused with whatever material closest to them at the time of the explosion, whether it be inanimate, human or animal. Pressia, a child at the time, held her favorite doll and now carries the mark of that day in her doll’s head hand. Such external deformities are a physical manifestation of the pain and loss carried by all survivors, whose souls have surely been burned and scarred just as severely as their bodies.
There are other survivors of the Detonations however – Pures – who have been safely harbored in the Dome. These are the select privileged, protected, their skin perfect. But the Dome has its secrets too, and while the wretches outside the Dome have been busy surviving, those inside the Dome have been watching, and waiting, with a plan of their own.
This was a convincing world to me that left me wanting to know more about everything. The characters are strong and there without coming across as overly sentimental. It takes a while to get to know them, and it takes even longer to warm up to them and start to care. I really enjoyed that slow build. In no way could Pure be labeled a shocking or controversial novel; however, there were several scenes that jolted me, and if you can surprise me in that way where I flinch or my mouth gapes open, I figure you are doing something right. This book has been called "cinematic" and it is a very visual novel (I'm also not surprised to find out that Hollywood has already come a-courting). Parts of the Dustlands and Meltlands even reminded me of Stephen King's Dark Tower landscape (and that is high praise indeed).
What more can I say? If you are looking for a meatier dystopian read with teeth then this is the book for you.(less)
Blistering, savage, dark and complex -- this sequel lives on the very hinterlands of YA fantasy -- a rare jewel of flawless intensity. It is a mature...more Blistering, savage, dark and complex -- this sequel lives on the very hinterlands of YA fantasy -- a rare jewel of flawless intensity. It is a mature read dealing with very adult themes -- war, vengeance, brutality, racism. We have seraphim and chimaera slaughtering each other for a millennium. Their hatred of each other knows no end. Their children are born into it, are raised on it, are sent out into the world willing to kill and die for it.
There is an unrelenting, gripping reality to this war that resonates with us as humans. We've seen such devastation over and over again in our own time, in our own world. Hatreds and prejudices that run so deep it fuels wars of unimaginable destruction, campaigns of genocide that unleash hell upon the earth and leave our humanity heaving and dying in the rubble.
Karou's life has become more complicated and fraught with peril than she could ever have imagined in the days before the snap of her magic wishbone when all of the hidden knowledge of her past life as Madrigal was restored to her. She is an orphan, bereft without her chimaera caregivers, who must wade into the murky and bloody waters of resurrection without the wise and benevolent presence of her beloved Brimstone. Karou has been betrayed beyond comprehension, and finds herself aligning with the beast who once sought to destroy her -- the White Wolf. If she is to avenge her family, if she is to save her kind from extinction, she will have to bend to the Wolf's will. For what choices are left to her but that one?
There is such richness to this story and in many ways it is a very different book from its predecessor. When we first get to know Karou, she is young and innocent. Her world is one of art, friendship, laughter and adventure. Her discovery is our discovery. It is gradual, gripping and mysterious. It unfolds like a magnificent flower, unlocking like the most intricate puzzle box. It is intoxicating and addictive. The sequel, like Karou herself, leaves behind all childish things. No longer innocent, no longer just a girl, Karou has become an avenger and the book itself necessarily takes a dark turn. It is much more concerned with the shedding of blood and the sundering of flesh, than romance and mystery.
Laini Taylor leaves no stone unturned and no character goes unexplored. Akiva is reunited with his Misbegotten brethren and we discover what his soldier's life is really like. At his side are the only family he has ever known -- Hazael and Liraz. Daughter of Smoke & Bone was Karou's story. Akiva remained almost an unknowable figure of intimidating beauty and inconceivable strength. This sequel becomes just as much Akiva's story as it is Karou's. We finally get to know his thoughts and fears and dreams -- "A dream dirty and bruised is better than no dream at all." Akiva cannot relinquish the hope he found with Karou. It has lit a fire within him to end the ceaseless slaughter, to forge a lasting peace, to atone for his numerous sins. And he will do this without Karou for the crevasse that separates them is vast and insurmountable.
We've moved away from the tangled streets of Prague and find ourselves camped out in a sandcastle in the Moroccan desert. When we aren't there, we are in the land of seraphim as they hunt, and slaughter, civilian chimaera by day. Despite the bleak, Shakespearean tragedy of it all, there is still humor to be found and pangs of hope still linger.
I am profoundly in love with this tale, with this world and war that Laini Taylor has created, and who she has populated it with. It has held me rapt and left me hungering for more. A genuine physical ache to know what happens next.
One world on its own is a strange enough seethe of coiling, unknowable veins of intention and chance, but two? Where two worlds mingle breath through rips in the sky, the strange becomes stranger, and many things may come to pass that few imaginations could encompass.
Dean had never quite imagined his life might end like this. Naked in a Tijuana brothel with an eighty-year-old woman dressed like Janine from Spinal Tap sizing up his junk and looking distinctly unimpressed. He really wished the room wasn't so heavily air-conditioned.
Oh my god, what a fun ride! This was such unexpected, unadulterated pleasure. I cannot stress that enough. Finally a tie-in novel that doesn’t suck donkey ass! I’ve been so disappointed with previous efforts, but like any true addict I keep coming back for more. Christa Faust is an accomplished novelist in her own right and that’s in evidence here on almost every page. The story is multi-layered and infused with Aztec lore and mythology making it totally engrossing. It’s hard to tell where established mythology ends and Faust’s imagination begins. It’s a seamless marriage (unless you happen to hold a doctorate degree in Aztec monsters and legends).
Faust sets this story mid Season 6, taking full advantage of the show’s rich story line to this point, letting no opportunity pass her by to channel inside jokes and mine emotional terrain. Her voices for Sam and Dean are spot on; I especially appreciate the fact that she is writing for soulless!Sam. Dean’s response to his baby brother sans conscience is funny and heartbreaking. Sam used to be the emotional one, the brother with the impeccable moral compass, now Dean’s soul has to fly right enough for two to make up for Sam’s emptiness. One scene that had me laughing out loud is when Dean is in danger of becoming the Aztec equivalent of a zombie.
”Sammy, you’re not going to let that happen to me are you? If it comes to that, you’ll take care of it, right?” “Of course,” Sam said. “I’ll take care of it.” “You weren’t supposed to answer that so quickly,” Dean said.“So that’s it? We just sit here and wait for me to Romero out so Dexter here can pop a cap in my rotten brain and put me out of my misery?”
Another huge win for this installment is the introduction of Xochi Cazadora (a kick-ass hybrid of Salma Hayek and Rhona Mitra). We’ve had some high octane warrior women (demon, angel and human) grace the show over the years – Xochi could hold her own up against any of them. She is AWESOME. Faust already has at her disposal an entire canon of material to use when writing for Sam and Dean, but Xochi she creates out of thin air. I would be delirious if she actually showed up in a real episode. I totally bought how Dean reacts to her and that in many ways he has met his match. Faust doesn’t cheat on their chemistry; it’s earned with good writing and character development.
The target audience for this book is definitely fans of the show, and to all of you I say READ IT!
This book is getting 5 stars from me because it provided the perfect kind of escapist, “down the rabbit hole” experience I’ve been craving. It’s aweso...moreThis book is getting 5 stars from me because it provided the perfect kind of escapist, “down the rabbit hole” experience I’ve been craving. It’s awesome adventure on an epic scale. Once I read those first few pages I just had to read a few more, and well...after that I could not put this book down -- not even maybe. Okay, so it might not be “classic literature” but it definitely qualifies as “crack literature” keeping me enthralled for hours. Real life fell away and down the rabbit hole I went. Woot! Woot! Perhaps on sober reflection 5 stars will seem a little too exuberant, but right now it feels just right.
**Edit 05/03/2012: I've since dropped to four stars, but I still stand by my original assessment that this is one whopper of adrenalized, escapist fiction of the kick-ass variety!
Blood Red Road is a credible dystopian landscape and while we are not offered a definitive explanation for how the world came to be this way, there are delectable hints along the way to keep the reader guessing. On the one hand, I was reminded of the Mad Max movies, on the other a Clint Eastwood western (Dying’s easy, it’s living that’s hard). This is a quest story, but it also has all the elements of a swashbuckling adventure too. Throw in some gladiatorial action and you feel like you’re watching an episode of Rome or Russell Crowe march into the Coliseum while the spectators bay for his blood.
We’re seeing a lot of YA novels these days featuring kick-ass heroines (Katniss Everdeen leading the charge), but there is something so compelling and magnetic about Saba – who I imagined as a hybrid of Ree from Winter’s Bone and Temple from The Reapers are the Angels. I adore her, even though there were times when I wanted to shake her and smack her upside the head. Saba doesn’t start out a hero; in fact, she’s got a lot of work to do to even come close. She’s a tough, guarded, contrary young woman with a chip on her shoulder and a bad attitude to match. She can be selfish, impulsive and cruel. Rather than a full-fledged mature heroine, Saba doesn’t always do the right thing, or even know what the right thing is to do. Her instincts are not perfect and that's what makes her human.
I love the love interest (even though I will be the first to admit the romance is fairly predictable derivative stuff - sue me, I have my weaknesses). The chemistry between Saba and Jack is fueled by quips and barbs and pheromones. The heartstone bit did a number on my gag reflex -- but Jack is the very stuff of western heroes. There is a strong supporting cast surrounding Saba and while not every character is equally fleshed out, a sense of convincing camaraderie is injected into the story ratcheting up emotions and suspense.
I thought the dialect and lack of punctuation would really bother me, but it didn’t. If anything, it makes Saba’s voice even stronger and the action soar as unfettered as Nero, Saba’s memorable pet crow. This is such a visual novel filled with spectacle that unfolds at a breakneck cinematic pace is it any wonder Ridley Scott has already optioned Blood Red Road for the big screen. Don’t wait for the movie, though. Read the book! (less)
If you've been reading any of my reviews from the last year or so, you'll know that I have a bit of a fascination with angels and angel lore. But it m...more If you've been reading any of my reviews from the last year or so, you'll know that I have a bit of a fascination with angels and angel lore. But it must be said -- I don't want gentle, fluffy, and subservient. I want swords and vengeance not harps and halos. I want The Prophecy with touches of Paradise Lost. Then there's the television series Supernatural -- which has single-handedly fanned the flames of a preexisting slow burn into a blazing obsession with all things seraphim, nephilim, angel, demon, fallen and everything in-between.
So despite many five-star rave reviews, I approached Angelfall with some reservations. First of all, it's YA that wants to flirt with the urban fantasy / paranormal romance mold. Not that there's anything wrong with that people, but as such it's terrain I personally don't break my neck to read. And I have to say, for almost 3/4 of the book, my reservations were justified.
Even though the story plunks us down right in the middle of an on-going apocalypse wrought by vengeful angels reigning terror on earth from the sky above there is too much time spent developing Penryn's and Raffe's awkward relationship -- she a young innocent girl who has seen much and fights like a warrior, he a stunningly beautiful angel that has had his glorious wings ripped from his body in a vicious attack. So the romance elements had me a bit restless. I wanted more war, more angel politics, more world-building. So many unanswered questions about the very nature of the attacks which have ostensibly brought about the end of the world.
However -- and I'm so glad I can say this -- the last 100 pages march straight into some pretty lean, mean, brutal territory. I had been kinda numbed by the average action taking place so far and then WHAM! The story goes somewhere I was not expecting at all. It draws blood in ways that made me nod in respect and appreciation. YA authors don't often go there, choosing more sanitized and safe terrain (which is understandable I guess). But Susan Ee? She goes for the jugular.
(view spoiler)[ The fact that Paige has been turned into this ravenous cannibal monster with razors for teeth made me cringe. Also, those tanks which contain these abominations "feeding" on live humans? Very nicely done. And Raffe with demon wings? I loved how they are described. I love that they come from an envious, embittered Beliel, one of the fallen languishing in Hell. I do wonder if this is meant to be theBelial simply misspelled. (hide spoiler)]
This book was definitely plodding along at the 2 - 3 star mark but I must give kudos where it's due. Ee really pulls out all the stops to get that grab you by the throat and shake the hell out of you ending. I'm intrigued enough by some of the questions and problems she raises to read the second book in the series. My hope is that the focus is more on the war than the romance. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Truer words have never been spoken. To quote from my much beloved Supernatural:
Endings are hard. Any cha
...more"It's not how you start, but how you finish."
Truer words have never been spoken. To quote from my much beloved Supernatural:
Endings are hard. Any chapped-ass monkey with a keyboard can poop out a beginning, but endings are impossible. You try to tie up every loose end, but you never can. The fans are always gonna bitch. There's always gonna be holes. And since it's the ending, it's all supposed to add up to something. I'm telling you, they're a raging pain in the ass.
Anyone who has ever fallen in love with characters enough to follow them through many pages and various books is familiar with that aching feel of needing to get to the end but never wanting it to be over. Closure to a series, that “final” book that has to come eventually gives rise to such a vast array of contradictory emotions – even when the ending delivers more than you could possibly have ever hoped for, but especially when it doesn’t. Oh the betrayal! Oh the crushing disappointment! See? It’s not how you start, but how you finish.
I began Y: The Last Man series back in April and I was a smitten kitten from the start. Oh yes, can you spell "shameless fangirl"? The premise is just simply fantastic and oh so deliciously tantalizing with possibilities. What would happen if one day without warning ALL the men on the planet just up and died, including any Y-chromosome carrying mammals … ALL that is except for the unassuming, underachieving twenty-something Yorick and his pet male Capuchin monkey Ampersand. Yes, starting this epic story would be easy ... finishing was gonna be a bitch.
Because I was able to absorb / inhale / ingest all sixty issues in a few short months I did not have to face the long, agonizing wait between issues, or the anxiety that the creator would die before finishing (a common nightmare I had about Stephen King before he finished The Dark Tower series and one that nearly came true when he was struck by a van and almost killed while out walking one day near his home in 1999).
I loved getting this story all in one rush – the momentum never slowed, I never had a chance to forget characters, or salient plot points. I was living and breathing the adventure and like any addict, I never wanted it to end. But all good things must, and this series is no exception. I feared the ending as much as I craved it. Disappointed I did not want to be ... I couldn’t face feeling robbed or cheated. After coming along for the ride this far, and thinking about little else in-between, I expected BIG. EPIC. EXTRAORDINARY. UNFORGETTABLE. Keep my expectations reasonable? Never!
I had nothing to fear I’m so drunk with happiness and relief to report. If you choose to start this series (and I HIGHLY recommend that you do), you will not be disappointed with how it finishes. Heart-pounding, heartbreaking, white-knuckling, shocking, and bruising – this is just some of what to expect.
(view spoiler)[ Agent 355’s death ranks as one of the most shocking moments in storytelling history for me; I DID NOT see that coming and was totally devastated, screaming “NOOOOOOO!” at the page. I also sobbed my eyes out when it came time to say good-bye to Ampersand. ::sniffle:: That feces throwing little fuck really grew on me. I love that we get a look into the future, to see how Dr. Mann’s work played out, what happens to Yorick’s clones, and of course, what happens to Yorick himself. His final escape and ambiguous end was much appreciated. Alas, poor Yorick!(hide spoiler)]
I’m not a graphic novel aficionado – in fact, I’m quite the newbie. I can say this series has taught me a lot about the magic and strength of the format, how it combines images and text together in a way that isn’t film or novels but some intoxicating lovechild of both. Before reading this series I assumed graphic novels by default would be heavy on action and seriously lacking in character development. Boy, is my face red. I can’t remember the last time I came to care about people (and monkey) the way I did here. I also became addicted to the snappy dialogue that's intelligent and filled with irony, humor and pop culture references. And that action? It’s there alright and just as addictive.
I will definitely re-read this series at a later date.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I wanted to read this gorgeous book again before the sequel's November release, and went with the audio version just to hear the sumptuous prose aloud...more I wanted to read this gorgeous book again before the sequel's November release, and went with the audio version just to hear the sumptuous prose aloud. Laini Taylor's epic narrative has swept me up in its arms and carried me away for a second time, despite knowing all of its secrets. I just lost my mind over this book when I read it last year, and I didn't think it would be possible to recapture that initial gush of adoration, but here it is. I'm completely ga-ga all over again.
The fabric of this story is conjured up out of the very elements themselves -- air, fire, earth, and water. And love. For love is an element. The real love story for me here is not shared between Karou and Akiva -- star-crossed lovers of mythological proportions -- but rather Karou and Brimstone. Ah, Brimstone. You are fierce and a monster in the eyes of many, but to Karou you are protector, mentor, father. You may have the head of a ram, but you have the heart of Atticus Finch. You are righteous and wise and honorable. You carry the burden of your dark magic on your broad shoulders so that your Chimera race may survive against the onslaught of the Seraphim, but deep in your soul you carry hope, for the future, for peace. For who else but the Wishmonger can truly know the power of hope over mere wishes?
This second time around I am truly dazzled by the rich world-building Taylor gives us, all wrapped in her sensuous prose. Her imagination is boundless, her ability to show remarkably vivid. (view spoiler)[The land of Elsewhere, the Chimera life and its legends and magic. Brimstone the Resurrectionist, using stolen, ill-gotten teeth to craft new bodies to hold the souls of the dead within them to live again as revenants. The Seraphim -- warrior angels of utter perfection, as beautiful as they are cruel, blinded by arrogance and a steel determination to bend the Chimera to their will. The conquered and the conquerors, the Chimera monsters and the Seraphim angels locked in a 1000 year old battle of poisonous hatred, mistrust, exploitation, humiliation. It is slavery, colonialism, invasion, conquest. It is terrorism and freedom fighter. (hide spoiler)]
And Karou. Sweet, soul-searching Karou. With your blue hair and unanswered questions. Who are you? What are you? You ache for answers, and when they arrive they rip your world to pieces and tear away all that you have come to know and love. My heart breaks for you. But I hope. I hope that all is not lost.
***Original review -- November 2011*** Once upon a time, an angel lay dying in the mist. And a devil knelt over him and smiled. ~Daughter of Smoke and Bone (2011)
So. Much. Love. for this book I don’t know even know where to begin. Let me start by saying how happy it made me, how much pleasure I soaked up from each and every page. A lot of this I'm sure has to do with my healthy obsession with Angel lore (and not the airy-fairy, sparkling emo-kind, but the towering, frightening, blood-soaked other-wordly soldiers, beautiful in their grace, terrifying in their mercilessness).
One of my favorite films is The Prophecy (1995) starring Christopher Walken (and Viggo Mortensen as Lucifer!). This movie captures exactly what is so awe-inspiring about warrior Angels:
Did you ever notice how in the Bible, whenever God needed to punish someone or ... needed a killing, he sent an Angel? Did you ever wonder what a creature like that must be like? A whole existence spent praising your God, but always with one wing dipped in blood. Would you ever really want to see an Angel?
Laini Taylor’s angels are not part of a familiar Christian tradition, but nevertheless are recognizable as creatures of iconic, staggering beauty, mystery and grace (and always with one wing dipped in blood). They are ruthless, unthinking, unfeeling, arrogant in their righteousness, cruel in their certainty.
In other words -- awesome.
In this epic fantasy of worlds colliding, magic, fire, a thousand year war, deep hatreds and monstrous creatures, Taylor weaves a spell on her reader that is truly irresistible. I was enchanted, enthralled, and totally swept up and away -- giddy, delirious, and greedy, never wanting the story to end.
There is so much emotion and pain contained in the pages, so much fear, and love and hope that it will squeeze your heart, make your pulse race and your fingers grip the book for dear life. Part of the magic is Laini Taylor’s GORGEOUS prose. If ever a book deserved to sit on a shelf entitled “prose that sings” it is this one. In one of my updates I compared Taylor’s words to precious stones or black velvet – you will want to drape yourself in them. I know I did. I can’t wait to listen to the audiobook version just so I can hear those words read aloud.
I’m floundering now, and rambling, so I will leave you with READ. THIS. BOOK. Read it!!!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I just want to get this out of the way from the beginning – Read. This. Book. The writing is so very good and for a plot that seems oh so familiar and...moreI just want to get this out of the way from the beginning – Read. This. Book. The writing is so very good and for a plot that seems oh so familiar and tired there is newness here, a freshness that just sucks you in making you forget all the other times you read about the end-of-the-world and zombies. Bick has a lot of original ideas to add to that YA zombie canon growing seemingly out of control; zombies are hot right now, there’s no doubt about that. So how do you distinguish yourself from the pack?
Bick’s success starts with her characters and when that’s your foundation you’ve already won half the battle. Alex, Tom and Ellie all in short shrift and with seemingly little effort become characters I worried about. Their safety and well-being wrapped me in perpetual anxiety. When a book can make you care for characters so much that you’re just sick to your stomach to read ahead because you just know things are only going to get so much worse, that’s good writing.
Like any zombie fare worth talking about, Ashes shows us we have much more to fear from ourselves than from the flesh-eating creatures now walking the Earth. There are some nasty humans in this book and I’m confident we haven’t seen the worst of it yet. This book will also make you pull your hair out. You can’t guess where the story is going and you start to get the feeling pretty early on that no character is truly safe.
There are a lot of original details I could gush over right now – like the dogs, the nature of “the Change” itself and the impact it’s having on one particular enclave of survivors – but I won’t. These details are best left discovered as you read. Since this is Book 1 of a projected trilogy, you have to know that things are just getting started and I love that I’m DYING to get my hands on Book 2.
Mucho thanks again to my friend May who snagged an autographed ARC for me at ALA! The only downside is now I have that much longer to wait for the sequel ... D'oh! (less)
Until I can get my thoughts together I will refer you to karen's review here (her enthusiasm is contagious) and most closely captures my initial react...moreUntil I can get my thoughts together I will refer you to karen's review here (her enthusiasm is contagious) and most closely captures my initial reaction.
It's been a week since I've finished Divergent and karen's assessment that it's "kitten in a bag fun" still holds true for me as well. What? Kittens in bags are the most fun you'll ever have. Trust me.
This book is being compared to The Hunger Games for numerous reasons, some honest, others a cheap marketing ploy to drive sales. What I can promise you is that the comparisons are not entirely disingenuous or misplaced. This is what I know for sure:
1) HG is a fearsome dystopia on the brink of revolution; Divergent is a creepy utopia on the brink of revolution
2) HG features a kick-ass heroine to inspire young women around the globe; ditto Divergent
3) HG is action-packed with pulse-pounding scenes of extreme violence; ditto Divergent
4) HG features two strong, equally convincing romantic male leads; Divergent has one, but you only need one (the love triangle thing is getting a bit overused and trite anyway, plus Four is awesome if I do say so myself)
5) HG features a group of teenagers pitted against one another in a physical battle to the death; while the stakes may not seem as high for the characters in Divergent, there is no denying the physical dangers of the training sessions and competitions. Crippling injury or murder is only ever a heartbeat away for the Divergent teens.
This is why I feel pretty confident proclaiming if you loved The Hunger Games, chances are you will really enjoy Divergent too. If that’s not enough to convince you, this book also does a great job exploring identity and choosing one’s own path. Facing your fears and accepting who you really are is a scary enough proposition for anyone. It’s a rite of passage not all of us successfully navigate. The teens in Divergent are called upon to do just that at 16, even if it means leaving behind everything familiar and safe that they have ever known.
If all else fails - remember … Kittens. In. Bags. What more do you want people???? width="300" height="340"/> (less)
This was a good book not a great book. It's a little more than predictable (again with the two love interests!!), a little less than mysterious, and o...moreThis was a good book not a great book. It's a little more than predictable (again with the two love interests!!), a little less than mysterious, and overall, I've seen the themes and action done better elsewhere: namely The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner trilogy, Rot & Ruin, Ashes and Blood Red Road (my all-star team).
Having said that, if YA dystopia is your thing than this is a must-read. The underground scenes are creepy as are "the Freaks" who hunt the subway tunnels ready to rip and tear your flesh. This is believable world-building and Deuce and Fade shine as warrior heroes. The series definitely shows promise and I will be coming back for more.
I love this series!!! The dialogue is snappy, smart, and funny, the characters are multi-dimensional with their own distinct histories and motivations...moreI love this series!!! The dialogue is snappy, smart, and funny, the characters are multi-dimensional with their own distinct histories and motivations and the action is compelling and suspenseful. Not only is this an original idea, it is executed with real finesse and with a great sense of humor.
Yorick is the perfect not-hero. He's just your regular guy, young, impulsive, mouthy, a little stunned sometimes but basically in possession of real heart and good intentions. It's not easy being the last guy on Earth, especially when your two escorts across the country are a top-notch secret agent who is secretly in love with you, and a brilliant geneticist who is secretly in love with the secret agent. Talk about a triangle worthy of the Apocalypse!
As if that weren't drama enough there are umpteen special interest groups -- political, paramilitary, rogue, cult -- that want you dead or captured to suit their specific agendas. Including your very own sister!
What I love about the writing of this series is that it stays fresh and alive and the situations -- while dramatic -- don't seem contrived. The cast of characters that come and go out of the storyline are all richly drawn no matter how brief their contribution to the story. This time around I'm particularly partial to the lovely Natalya and her broken English in America to rescue a Russian Cosmonaut.
All I can say is I can't wait to see what happens next! (less)
Post-apocalyptic fiction is a siren song to me; I will crash upon its shores any day of the week (and twice on Sunday). I love it in all of its permut...more Post-apocalyptic fiction is a siren song to me; I will crash upon its shores any day of the week (and twice on Sunday). I love it in all of its permutations and manifestations. I tolerate the dreck, and heap praise on the epic. It’s an addiction I’ve made my peace with, and a pleasure that involves zero guilt. And here’s where I’m going to quote from a review posted by Goodreads member Ceridwan. In a few beautiful sentences she is able to capture some of what is so appealing about these stories:
Much of what I love about post-apocalit is the landscapes it writes into being, all this prosperity and functionality of our modern world run to dust and a lone chimney standing up out of the ruin of nature run its course. I don't even want to speculate on why I find this appealing, because there is something self-annihilating, society-annihilating in my affections. The patchwork houses, the patchwork clothes, an anecdote about a bit of an airplane used to patch the roof that flew away because it remembered its function
YA fiction of late has found the sweet spot when it comes to the “world in the shitter” scenario. Whether it involves dystopian themes (mild or otherwise), zombies, mysterious plagues, or natural disasters, YA fiction is where it’s at right now.
This book is researched and the disaster entertained scientifically possible (some would even argue probable). The details harnessed by the author to describe his destroyed society are excruciating in their gritty realism – and all of this without the aid of zombies or unknown plagues. Impressive. The perilous journey we take with young Alex as he ventures forth into the desolate, ashen landscape to find his family is emotional, complex, and unexpectedly gruesome. There is violence, but not of the gratuitous sort. Mullin doesn’t cheat, and I felt Alex earned every scar, both the physical and the psychological.
It’s been a while since I've read a story such as this so firmly grounded in reality. Perhaps of late I've become a little too eager to suspend my disbelief, and forgive vague world-building and even vaguer reasons behind any societal collapse (okay, I admit it, I'm an easy lay in this context). The charm (and ultimate effectiveness) of this novel is that it did not ask me to roll over and suspend my disbelief once. It is filled with such unadorned gravitas, that I was a little taken aback in the beginning.
This is such a tense story, filled with moments of dread, shock, and frustration. But it is also a story that contains hope, and examines the human will to survive, because that’s what we do, that’s who we are – survivors. Darla is the perfect embodiment of a survivor – though young and frightened and besieged with loss, she still finds a way to carry on, to fight, to live. Their story captivated me, as did the convincing details of Mullin's post-apocalyptic nightmare. I want more! And look forward very much to the sequel. (less)
Pardon me while I flail about in fangirl mode, but OMFG and all that is holy, Y: The Last Man is totally a.w.e.s.o.m.e!!!! I didn’t think the graphic...morePardon me while I flail about in fangirl mode, but OMFG and all that is holy, Y: The Last Man is totally a.w.e.s.o.m.e!!!! I didn’t think the graphic novel format would ever win me over entirely, but it’s happened - I’m in love - hook, line, sinker, fully, completely. Not only is this an addictive premise taken to the extreme reaches of the most fertile imagination, it’s brimming with fully fleshed out characters who live and breathe with histories, motives, strengths and vulnerabilities. The best part? This edition only collects Issues 1-10; I still have another 50!! to look forward to.
How’s this for a premise? – last guy on Earth is not alone, literally. Yorick is a hapless, near to agoraphobic, practicing escape artist, madly in love with a young woman a hemisphere away in Australia when a sudden unexplained plague hits the planet and kills every last mammal carrying a Y chromosome. Every last mammal that is except for Yorick and his pet Capuchin monkey Ampersand. Think it would be a laff riot to be the last guy on Earth surrounded by a few billion ladies? Think again gentlemen. Welcome to your new nightmare.
Vaughan’s world-building here post-plague is incredibly detailed and believable. With all men suddenly blipped out of existence women aren’t standing around singing Kumbaya (did you really think we would?) and the world does not become a better place. Far from it. Vaughan deftly explores the harsh realities that must be faced when such a monumental, unpredictable, counter-evolutionary shift happens to humans with no warning.
The graphics are superior; each character has their own unique look and the action is propelled along not just by Vaughan’s ripping dialogue, but by Pia Guerra’s sharp interpretation of the action. I love that I get so much story delivered on such a small canvas. I could have taken days to plow through a 650 page novel and not felt as sated or panting for more, the way I felt here after indulging in a mere 250 pages of colorful, comic book cells. That’s storytelling magic. I can’t wait for more!
My deepest thanks to my graphic-novel reading friends who kept throwing this series title at me for ages – I finally get it now!!! (less)
I’m not pretending to be objective here – this series has been a guilty pleasure since The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I have a deep and abiding procli...moreI’m not pretending to be objective here – this series has been a guilty pleasure since The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I have a deep and abiding proclivity towards zombies. Beyond their meta-mystique appeal, zombies are truly f*ing terrifying. Anything driven by pure, mindless instinct to rip you apart and EAT you from the inside out, you just gotta respect.
Furthermore, zombies are usually accompanied by an apocalypse, and who doesn't bow down to a good the-world's-gone-to-shit-you-better-kiss-your-ass goodbye scenario. I do! I do! The Dark and Hollow Places is definitely the best of the trilogy. It’s darker, more intense and gruesome, and all those elements that were thrown about only partially developed in the first two books, are fully explored here. What’s more, this third book does a great job “fleshing out” the first two books actually making them stronger in hindsight. In other words, this probably could have been released as one single novel and been the better for it
Annah is the strongest, most likable protagonist we’ve seen. She’s survived unimaginable loss and horror, but still finds a way to keep fighting. Catcher makes a great romantic interest for her since he is as damaged as she. Their blossoming romance under the dire circumstances they find themselves in is a bit too melodramatic, but they’re young and facing death (or worse) at every moment so I forgave them.
What I could not forgive for one moment was how many times Carrie Ryan wrote about Catcher’s “body heat” – every time he stands next to, brushes up against, or holds Annah, there is reference to his burning furnace of a body. I get it!!!!! The boy burns hot, ain’t that nice when you’re freezing your ass off during the apocalypse! Other than that little quibble, this was a lot of fun and a quick read. If you’re into zombies at all I definitely recommend this series. (less)
The treachery of a demon is nothing compared to the betrayal of an angel.
In the dark is where she met my father.
What tops being the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn? Why being the daughter of Lucifer and Lilith of course! If I had never heard of Brenna Yovanoff and if I had not read and loved her debut novel -- The Replacement -- I still would have picked up this book based on the heroine's parentage alone. And if that didn't do it, look at that lush, gorgeous cover, like a Baroque tapestry or Hieronymus Bosch painting. That shade of red means business and is making promises to the reader before the first page is turned**.
**It was the unusual (and unforgettable) cover for The Replacement that brought Yovanoff to my attention in the first place. Whoever is doing her cover art she should at least take out to dinner, if not get them a Prius or something.
But I digress.
My deep appreciation for this fantastical, opulent fairy tale of fallen angels, demons (and their offspring) is prevented from pouring over as outright gushing by one thing and one thing only -- Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Had I not recently read that magnificent piece of writing and storytelling I would be crying this book's praises to the high heavens. Because The Space Between is exceptionally wonderful -- yet the brightness of its candle's flame cannot help but flicker and waver in the shadow of that "other" book. I usually don't like to pit books against each other; it doesn't seem fair or particularly useful. But I can't stop myself from doing it here.
Having said that, The Space Between is lovely in its darkness and secrets. Lush book covers aside, this is a well thought out and constructed narrative, rich in symbolism and mythology. Yovanoff takes the familiar (especially to those of us who suffered through Catholic school catechism classes) and paints over it so that it begins to feel new and exciting. She starts with what we all know about the Fall, the War in Heaven, Lucifer and Lilith, and then runs with it creating a vision of Hell that is as unique as it is awesome, an inspired blend of originality, the Bible, and John Milton.
Daphne is unlike any heroine I’ve met. Not easily recognizable as young or female, she thinks and behaves in a way we must discover gradually. She is not human, yet seeks out the humanity buried inside her that’s separate from the monster she knows lurks there too. Daphne’s redemption lies in her quest for her lost brother, and her protection of a broken boy. I loved the mystery here of Daphne’s earthly trials. Everything feels urgent and pregnant with danger. This is a dark story that’s dressed in despair, but that is lined with the grimness of hope too.