Haven't tried any recipes yet (we're thinking a tasting for the release of BioShock Infinite), but the descriptions of how to make the drinks are wort...moreHaven't tried any recipes yet (we're thinking a tasting for the release of BioShock Infinite), but the descriptions of how to make the drinks are worth reading through even while sober! Hilarious.(less)
Meg's brother Orion is missing. On a midnight rooftop escapade she runs into Charles Dickens, a family friend and fellow insomniac. They witness a fak...moreMeg's brother Orion is missing. On a midnight rooftop escapade she runs into Charles Dickens, a family friend and fellow insomniac. They witness a fake seance, which leads them to believe that Orion may be prisoner somewhere and it is up to them to find and free him. With the help of the rest of Meg's family and a sundry cast of worthy Victorian characatures, they set out on a quest to bring him home.
Quite a good book for what it is. I sense that it's well-suited to the upper-middle-grade/youngish-young-adult set (thought having always been super ahead of my age in reading level I don't necessarily have the best perspective of what that actually is). But it's well written, has a strong female protagonist, and a great family dynamic that I really enjoyed. It's true to the period without being graphic or inappropriate, and it conjures up the world and style of Dickens himself nicely for kids/teens who may not be quite ready to bite off the Great Man himself.
My quibble with the book comes from the way it conjures up Dickens; I constantly felt like it was trying so hard to be clever that it undercut the very things that it was doing so well. My two main issues were: (view spoiler)[ 1. The author very specifically sets this book after the publication of Great Expectations and before the publication of his next novel (his attempt to find inspiration for it forming some of the plot, hence, the spoiler tag). The MC, Meg, has explicitly read all of Dickens' published work. So, when Meg and Dickens start running into characters who are named after (and essentially ARE) the characters from Dickens' novels (a workhouse master named Mr. Bumble, a thug named Bill Sykes, etc.), I found it incredibly distracting that they didn't comment on it. Some of the characatures were more subtle, and alluded to Dickens' work without sharing names, and those were great. I wished that had been the convention all, the way through.
2. Early on, Dickens and Meg meet a genuine ghost, who provides Dickens with some inspiration for his next novel. He comments that "A ghost can ruin any novel, if it's a ghost simply to have a ghost. A ghost must be the ghost, must have a purpose beyond haunting." I love that statement as it applies to both craft and intent in the art of writing. And then I felt like this novel almost broke that rule, because the ghost never came up again, and nothing else supernatural happened. (hide spoiler)]
Those two mini-rants aside, I did enjoy the book, and I would gladly recommend it as a gateway to Dickens/Victorian literature for younger readers.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This is a great YA book about the seedy side of Victorian London. It's gritty, it's gross, it's got a lovely attention to period detail and accuracy,...moreThis is a great YA book about the seedy side of Victorian London. It's gritty, it's gross, it's got a lovely attention to period detail and accuracy, it's got engaging characters and a fun plot, and it's age appropriate, which I find fantastically refreshing. I mean, as an adult I'm pretty sure I know why the landlady and her daughter get dressed up at night and hang out around the opera house, but it doesn't have to be graphically explained for me to enjoy their occasional appearance in the story. This is the sort of smart, age-appropriate writing I want to see for kids, and I feel like it has equal appeal to the lads and the lassies. The fact that I'm even remembering to take the time to write this review should tell y'all how much I liked this.
(Best of all? Not a flippin' love triangle or supernatural entity in sight!)(less)
3.5 stars. Would have liked more to the Great Game plotline, because it was awesome. But it was a romance novel, so the fact that I got any plot was p...more3.5 stars. Would have liked more to the Great Game plotline, because it was awesome. But it was a romance novel, so the fact that I got any plot was pretty good.(less)
Thank you, Leanna Renee Hieber, for the following things:
A) Giving your characters normal and period acceptable names. I mean, Natalie wasn't as commo...moreThank you, Leanna Renee Hieber, for the following things:
A) Giving your characters normal and period acceptable names. I mean, Natalie wasn't as common in the late Victorian era as it is now (at least not in English speaking countries), but it was at least an existing name. Jonathan, Maggie, even Gareth - all completely normal and acceptable. I swear, if I have to read another medieval romance where the characters are named, like, Jathan and Shaniqua or something, I'm gonna shoot somebody.
B) Doing your research. I liked the way the magic, mythos, and religions were integrated. Everything was treated with respect, there was no ultimatum that only one system could exist/be true, and the way things were combined by the heroes and the villains was both interesting and clever. This leads to my biggest vote for why this book needs to be made into a film: (view spoiler)[I figured out what "soulren" or "animusren" was the moment I read it, and if drove me nuts that it took Natalie and Denbury so long to figure it out. But, I think hearing it spoken would obscure that clue longer than reading it did. (hide spoiler)] Also, I'm a huge "Lives of the Saints" junkie, so that sidebar made be happy.
C) Knowing how to write, in general. There was flow. There was proper grammar. There was plot and character development. I get hugely pissed when female characters in period pieces behave in ways that they should not be able to get away with, or have skills that they reasonably shouldn't, and Natalie definitely landed in the bucket. But, there was at least an attempt to explain how she had some of the knowledge and skill she did (drama class! reading books!), so i was able to suspend my disbelief and still enjoy it.
D) Denbury. He's too young for me, but I'll let it slide. He was fun.
Minus one star for bordering on some Mary-Sue instalove and suffering a little too much "special snowflake" syndrome for my taste, but even that was kind of established in the setup of the characters, so I can give it a pass. Gothic enough for my tatstes, but still a fun, fluffy read.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Holy crap I actually finished One of the 9000 books I'm reading. Real review later.
Update, 20 May: And now, with 100% more actual review! (And...moreHoly crap I actually finished One of the 9000 books I'm reading. Real review later.
Update, 20 May: And now, with 100% more actual review! (And rambling. Sorry.)
Backstory: I'm gonna be honest (cover your ears, Matt) - this ended up being somewhere between a 3.5 and a 4 star for me. I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt and going with 4 because...*drumroll*
I stupidly decided to read this while finishing a hefty class project and taking finals. Of my last semester of my undergrad. To be fair, I didn't have many finals, but I was running around like a maniac trying to make sure that they were, y'know, actually going to let me graduate, that sort of thing. So I really had a hard time getting into this one. But, on suspicion that that's more my fault than the book's, I'm going to give this one the higher rating until enough time as passed to give it the reread test. (Preferably sometime when I'm not overscheduled.)
Actual Review: The tale here starts with Frederick Hawthorne roaming through the East End looking for a missing whore. An old acquaintance provides a clue which suggests ties to an obscure cult, and then promptly gets murdered. After a quick visit to his witchy (literally) sister, Frederick starts tracking down everyone he can find with ties to the cult. When a mysterious artifact connected to the cult turns up, friends and enemies alike start dying left and right trying to get their hands on it, and Frederick's problems get a whole lot more complicated than one missing woman.
As mentioned before, I had a hard time getting into this one. The book starts essentially in the middle of a fight, and the first brief chapter leaves the reader asking more questions than a Jeopardy contestant. However, if you can stick it out through just a few more chapters, the larger plot begins to unfold and that's what'll hook you. That, and Frederick Hawthorne, Gentleman Bastard (TM), who somehow manages to be a surprisingly endearing and sympathetic "hero" despite gruesomely butchering an average of 2 people every 5 pages.* There's plenty of action to keep things moving, sometimes to the point that I almost want a break for some exposition. Both the story and Spencer's writing style seem to reach their strength and settle into their own around the halfway point. The central mystery is well-crafted, the history and mythos is well researched, but hands down the strongest point of the book is the characters. They are a lot of them, but they are all fleshed-out, living and breathing figures who keep Fredrick on his toes and draw the reader into their world with ease.
Thrilled as I am to finally get a full-length Frederick yarn, I am curious to know how this one holds up to readers who are NOT already familiar with Spencer's particular mythos - I know I've read many of the short stories already, which primed me for certain elements of the story, specifically regarding the background of the Hawthorne siblings. However, I suspect that having read the short stories included in Shadow Ballads is more a bonus than a prerequisite.
TL;DR: Another fun, crafty tale of the Victorian East End with Frederick & Co. Be warned, there's a lot of grit and blood to sift through on the way though, so bring a clean shirt and don't read while eating.
*I haven't actually averaged this. But it would be a hilarious idea to try. Maybe I will on my reread.(less)
The annotations in this version do occasionally seem arbitrary (some were hardly necessary, while other places could have benefited from more). Howeve...moreThe annotations in this version do occasionally seem arbitrary (some were hardly necessary, while other places could have benefited from more). However, the wealth of supplemental materials seems promising.(less)