Disclaimer: I know the author of this book. She did not solicit this review or my purchase of the book. I brought my copy because (1) her telling of aDisclaimer: I know the author of this book. She did not solicit this review or my purchase of the book. I brought my copy because (1) her telling of auditioning narrators for the audio book was hilarious (2) she made me feel welcome and (3) for every author that is a douche, there are at least ten who aren’t and who deserve a readership. The only way to find those is to read.
The disclaimer doesn’t cover everything, however. This book is classified as New Adult (which for the longest time I confused with New Age), and I have been quasi avoiding books in the genre because several people whose opinions I respect really have posted some rather strong reviews about the genre. I can say that I would not have brought this book if I hadn’t heard Xio Axelrod tell the audition story (and honestly, get her to tell this story if you meet her). Largely most of the reviews I have seen about New Adult seem to involve a bad boy who should be gelded, and who is based on Twilight stalkers.
Thankfully, this is not the case with The Calum.
Lovie goes along to Scotland with her friend Jo, for Jo wants to find the living embodiment of the Calum, a hero from a romance book. (Yes, I was thinking Outlander too, and we all know how many women would want Jamie, but you know what, I like modern plumbing and voting against racist assholes). Once there (bonus point for setting the story somewhere other than Edinburgh), Jo meets the Calum (who name is Hamish because there is a rule about setting a story in Scotland and having a character with the name of Hamish or Angus). This leaves Lovie on her own, but that is fine because Lovie has meet a good shot of slow burn Scotch by the name of Duff, who is close friends with Hamish.
The plot enfolds pretty much the way you would think a romance plot should, and let’s be honest, when you read a romance, you pretty much know the standard plot. What makes a good novel, therefore, are pretty basic – writing, how twists are handled, and characterization. Xio Axelrod does pretty damn well with all of these.
The novel’s weakest point for me (and this is relative) is that the sense of place could have been stronger. While, you never lose the sense that you are in Scotland, there a few times when the reader is told of the beauty but never really shown the beauty in the terms of the description.
However, this lack is more than made up with the characters, foremost being the characters of Lovie and Jo. There is a tendency in books with women leads to have the lead be the most adult, most responsible woman in the novel. The end result of this is that the female lead comes across as a right bitch or a long suffering martyr most of the time. Xio Axelrod avoids falling into this trap, and there is a brilliant sequence when you are showed exactly why Lovie and Jo are friends. Jo is simply not an airhead blonde. It was my favorite part of the book.
Well, maybe one of them because I also really loved the portrayal of women going for what they want and not feeling guilt for it.
Lovie, too, is a wonderful character. Smart and pretty, but not super skinny. She has her issues, but has enough self awareness that she does grow as a character. The romance she develops with Duff is just as believable as she is, making it a romance that reader wants to work as opposed to one that the reader simply knows is going to work. And one of my favorite scenes involves Lovie, her hair, and Duff’s grandma.
And Duff – a romantic hero who is not doing anything illegal, who has problems that are oh so human, and who thankfully, acts like a man who deserves the woman. He may not be wearing a kilt, but wow.
You have no idea how nice it was not to read a romance book where I didn’t feel an urge to arrest the romantic lead.
And the writing – the writing is hot!
So when are the sequels coming out?
As a last word, after reading this book, I brought a copy for a friend. That is how much I liked it. ...more
This would be an excellent book to use in a class. Shepherd takes a young boy and shoDisclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.
Not really my cup of tea.
This would be an excellent book to use in a class. Shepherd takes a young boy and shows the reader the effects of totalitarian government on his life and the live of those around him. It should spark discussion among young readers. ...more
When I first saw the movie Willow, I enjoyed it. As I got older, however, my view got a little more jaded. It's true, you have some really good aspectWhen I first saw the movie Willow, I enjoyed it. As I got older, however, my view got a little more jaded. It's true, you have some really good aspects in it - Jean Marsh's acting is great, the character of Sorsha, a young Val Kilmer, a father who wants to be more than that for a bit, a female Gandalf - and the chosen one is female.
And that's the rub - for the chosen one is a baby thoughout the whole damn movie, and the ones that do the major getting rid of baddies are male. The Chosen One just looks cute (until the sequel novel which wasn't very good). Compare that to say, Luke Skywalker. Skywalker has agency. So does Harry Potter.
In many ways, it is difficult to not think of reading Willow when reading this book.
This book is in many ways what Willow could have been.
The concept is interesting -and does with questions of self duality.
And we have a girl chosen one who does things.
There are aspects that could have used more development, but they might get ironed out later.
The use of comparison between myth, legend, and the real story is really cool.
I do not think this is the type of book to be read aloud. I think the narrator did a good job, don't get me wrong. Pick was good, and if she had beenI do not think this is the type of book to be read aloud. I think the narrator did a good job, don't get me wrong. Pick was good, and if she had been bad, my rating would have been lower. It's just that in Verity, the repetition isn't as annoying because of the circumstances there. In this book, the repetition is really annoying and totally unneeded. At times, I mumbled, "yes, Rose I know. You told me that". Also, for some reason, I really didn't like Rose. She was too much a special snowflake simply because of her poetry, and her poetry I didn't like.
However, nicely researched, heart breaking in parts. Good follow up to the better Verity. It was also nice to see characters from Verity....more
Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley. (It is a read now option). Please note I DNFed because Cleo's voice made me want to smack her and throw my kindle acros Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley. (It is a read now option). Please note I DNFed because Cleo's voice made me want to smack her and throw my kindle across the room. I'm also not a teen.
Coats gets credit for using Cleopatra’s relationship or belief in Isis as well as for looking at the question of her mother. There is enough reference in the book to give credence to the belief that Coats knows her history.
However, writing Cleo using the voice of a modern teen really doesn’t work. Despite Cleo’s claims of not being a spoiled brat, this is exactly what she sounds like. Furthermore, there is no sense of place. It really could be the school across the street instead of Ancient Egypt. Furthermore, Cleo is far too modern in her language. She forgets about her mother too quickly. She also is the one everyone hates and wants. True, most the above is a given in much YA (or New Adult) work today, but if you are writing about the great Cleopatra, you don’t really have to resort to it.
I will say, however, if teens love this and it makes them want to know more about the real Cleaopatra, then that is great. ...more
I don’t know if this is the last Jennifer Strange novel, but if it is, it’s a good ending. If it’s not, it still works. Strange finds herself caught uI don’t know if this is the last Jennifer Strange novel, but if it is, it’s a good ending. If it’s not, it still works. Strange finds herself caught up in a mystery dealing with a ring, her boss, and building a bridge. And she has to decide whether or not to go on a date. This installment is still funny, and still pokes fun at the Royals. There is also a nod to end of the story reveals that had me choking on my laughter. I love the resolution and the use of Boo. ...more
**spoiler alert** I get this is a young adult book, but honestly if the main character is an assassin there should be more killing, you know more assa**spoiler alert** I get this is a young adult book, but honestly if the main character is an assassin there should be more killing, you know more assassinating.
And that’s complaint one.
Grave Mercy is an interesting idea – take an alternative medieval Brittany, add assassin nuns (or quasi nuns, they’re allowed to seduce men), and a little romance. What could go wrong?
Well, there could be less talking and more killing. Honestly, I don’t mind talking if it advances the plot but it really doesn’t seem to. And let me say here, that will this review will be largely negative, the writing is sound and I did finish it. Even though I could figure out the big reveal, I was never tempted to walk away from the book.
LaFevers gets full points for, at times, reflecting on the role of women in the medieval ages. Isme, the almost nun assassin, becomes what she is due to the role of women of the time. Several times, during the book there is an indication that Anne, the duchess who Isme is to protect, is restricted in what she does because of her gender. This is all good. It is therefore a shame that it gets undermined by the standard – girl meets boy and questions her job/employer plot that pops up. Isme does not question the convent until the man she has feelings for (and the romance is very unromantic) makes her. This gives it a feel of “women get wrong until a man tells them otherwise” to it. While there is much to be said against a culture of having one gender superior to another, the convent really isn’t a culture where women are superior to men. There are no men because that is the way the male dominated church works it, and even though the convent isn’t really the Catholic Church it does seem to be sanctioned by it in such a way. Furthermore, they nuns work with men, and the men have all the real power in the book. This is fine because it historical fantasy after all, but if you are going to focus on the evils of two societies each of which has a different superior gender, than you should make sure they are both, in fact, in that socially superior role. Isme’s change of heart seems due to lust more than anything else.
And why are the other women in the book by and large (1) evil (2) stupid (3) helpless or (4) looked down upon by Isme? We are back to the trope of only one good woman. But wait, I can hear you say, what about Isme’s finds at the convent? Well, most of the book takes place outside of the convent, so that answers that question. Isme has more interaction with men than women, including the other nun assassin who is in the area. While Duchess Anne isn’t weak, she is the woman Isme most save. It’s strange really, the other strong women are put into villain and quasi villain roles.
And I’m sorry; the power of giving herself to a man to flush out poison is just at once annoying and okay. It’s annoying because it just seems like a plot point to get the characters in bed, but to be honest; I sorta liked the inversion of a common Hawthorne theme.
I just thought there would be kicking of ass and slitting of throats. ...more
It’s actually a pretty decent collection of stories. The two central themes are of transformation and are careful what you wiFull review at Booklikes.
It’s actually a pretty decent collection of stories. The two central themes are of transformation and are careful what you wish for, you just meant get it. The problem with the use of the second theme in some books is that taken too badly it can be seen as an endorsement of “maintain the status quo and conform”.
Avi is not one of these writers. The point isn’t conforming, but acknowledging the situation, dealing with it, and moving beyond it.
True, there is one story where the focus is just on transformation. It actually is a really funny, dark and very plausible story ...more
Disclaimer: I was auto-approved for an ARC via Netgalley.
I do not know why I was auto approved for an ARC of this book. WhiCrossposted at Booklikes.
Disclaimer: I was auto-approved for an ARC via Netgalley.
I do not know why I was auto approved for an ARC of this book. While I do, occasionally, read Young Adult work, there are far more proficient readers of YA and children books than me out there. Anyway, I’m glad I did get auto approved for this book.
To me, rightly or wrongly, young adult novels with a girl on the cover equal special snowflake torn between two boys, one of whom is jerk. This is not the case in this novel. At all. Laila might be a special snowflake but that is down to politics. A book like this reminds everyone what children’s literature can and should be.
Laila, her mother, and her brother have fled to America after the murder of her father, a dictator or ruler of an unnamed Islamic kingdom somewhere else on the globe. Carlson’s plot is inspire not only by the Arab Spring but also by the states of Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. The family tries to adjust to a change in circumstances and culture.
For Laila this adjustment includes coming to terms with who her father actually was, what he may or may not have done as well as adjusting to the new American culture. For her mother, it means struggling not only finances but with something else, darker than Laila struggles to make out over the course of the book.
There isn’t a love triangle in this book. There is love and desire, panting and smooching, but there isn’t a love triangle. The book is more about a journey of self discovery and about making the current events more relevant and important to the younger generation.
What I really enjoyed about this book, besides the fact that Laila is not perfect, is flawed, and does struggle, is that she gets friends. She learns to make friends and care for friendships. Her girlfriends are not her rivals, but her friends. Additionally, there is a parallel between Laila and her family, and what happens to Emmy and hers. In many ways, Carlson not only introduces a reader to the “other” but makes it okay to ask questions to understand another culture. It is not done in a heavy handed way. The characters are so well drawn that the interactions come across as completely natural.
Perhaps, the plot involving Laila's mother and the CIA (this is hardly spoiler as it is mentioned in the book blurb) is a bit far fetch, by Carlson accounts for that by showing how Laila may or may not know her mother, the hints at what her mother may be aware of it.
Strangely, the struggle of a girl’s coming to terms of her families political past works beautifully with all the struggles that teenagers go though. This does not mean that any of them are trivialized. They are not and all are handed with tact – the only, understandable and real exception is the use of the bomb scare. It makes the story powerful and allows for the outsider (i.e. a Western) to enter into Laila's world and not feel guilty because their problems are not as bad.
The writing in general is compelling and there are some wonderful details – like Laila’s reaction upon meeting Emmy, the comparison of Cinderella stories, Bastien’s reaction to cereal. Carlson knows her subject. While marketed for children/young adults, the novel can easily be read by adults. Furthermore, it would make a great reading for any class, raising questions of morality, culture, history, perspective, and violence. Highly recommended. ...more
Disclaimer: ARC read via Netgalley in exchange for a fair review. The ARC did not have all the illustrations, so I cannot commCrossposted at Booklikes
Disclaimer: ARC read via Netgalley in exchange for a fair review. The ARC did not have all the illustrations, so I cannot comment on those.
When I was a freshman in high school, the Iliad was one of the books used in English class. I didn’t have a problem reading it because not only had I read Bullfinch and Hamilton, but also the children’s version of Troy. My first reaction was this is it, no wonder everyone else finds it boring. All the good stuff was left out.
In many ways, it is that reaction that this Osprey book about Troy battles, and seems to battle quite well. While the matter of Homer’s epic is covered quite well, the details that appear in the non-Homer work, the needed sacrifice to sail, the fate of the women, Helen’s back-story – all make an appearance here. The good bits are here.
The use of the good bit – the violent and disturbing bits that many people I would imagine, want to be left out – make the book entertaining and show that the story can still compete with the likes of Ironman and Thor, those box office behemoths. By keeping the nasty bits, the story becomes more engaging.
The prose is lively and matter of fact. It is not purple, and, more importantly, it is engaging enough to keep the attention of the reader. While it does focus on the story, told in chronological order, there is a historical reference – a look at the site of Troy as well as Greek culture. Additionally, there are boxes that contain a breakdown of who brought how many ships and which god was on which side. These boxes are nicely designed and make accessing the information quite easy. There is also a section about Hollywood versions of the story. Better yet, there is a bibliography at the end.
It is true that for the reader more familiar with the story (say, long time fan of the story), there isn’t anything really new – though the ease of access for detail might be worth the cost of book alone. The book, however, is ideal for a teen or pre-teen who expresses an interest in the story or who is not responding well to Homer. ...more
Your child has just watched the Disney cartoon of Robin Hood and wants to know more? What do you do? You get this book.
Osprey’s Robin Hood book contains a breakdown of the legend drawing not just on the famous book by Pyle but also on the ballads. The stories follow the well known tracts of Robin Hood. However, like the Troy book in the series, this book is rather deeper than first appears. First, most of the major characters in addition to Robin Hood get a close look. For instance, there is a look at the change in Much the Miller’s Son as well as Little John and Marian. There is also a look at who the Sheriff might have actually been as well as contenders for the Robin Hood figure. The Robin Hood section is most interesting because each contender is dealt with in terms of strengths and weaknesses.
The story is not sugar coated so not only is Robin as Puck here, but Robin as outlaw. It is this outlaw aspect that makes the book the most interesting for there is a look at the changing nature of the story. The section about Hollywood versions of the tale illustrates this quite well and covers up to the BBC recent series as well as the Crowe movie. The variations in the film versions are woven into an analysis of the tale, showcasing the everyman aspect that is a thesis of the critical aspect of this work.
Despite the scholarly side, the book is designed for pre-teen and teens. The writing is not condescending and is engaging. Included is a bibliography for further reading. While the book does not have anything new for the long time student of the tale, it serves as a good jumping off point.
Despite the title, there is no grand zombie versus unicorn smack down. This would have been cool. There is one group of stories about unicorns, anotheDespite the title, there is no grand zombie versus unicorn smack down. This would have been cool. There is one group of stories about unicorns, another about zombies, and the editors argue over which is better.
It is also really a young adult collection. And, therefore, I am outside of the intended audience. I am also more of a team unicorn than team zombie person.
I found three of the stories to be very good, one to be interesting and haunting, and the rest to be forgettable. A quick word about the introduction – the give and play between the two editors I found to be annoying and largely unnecessary. Perhaps if I was younger I would’ve enjoyed it more. Outside of two introductions that actually tell you something about zombie and unicorns, and then just simply are variations of “zombies are better” and “unicorns are misunderstood”.
The collection starts with “Highest Justice” by Garth Fix. It lacks the freshness, perhaps, of his more famous trilogy, but there is a charm to it. “The Purity Test” by Naomi Novak is about a unicorn that needs a heroine with brain as opposed to a cherry. It is a funny story and a good thrust to the theme of purity. It reminded of the dragon sacrifice story that appears in one of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress novels. “Children of the Revolution” by Maureen Johnson is a zombie story and pokes fun at famous people, in particular stars with a bunch of adopted children and lack of tie to reality. It’s always fun to read such things.
While the above three are the stand out stories stand out, there is also “The Care and Feeding of Baby Unicorns” by Diana Peterfrund. In terms of style, I found the story to be a little longer than it needed to be. Yet, in the plot of a killer unicorn being raised by a girl who lost family to a unicorn, there is a thoughtful look at religion and faith. Despite its length, the subject matter is handed very well, and there is no heavy handed preaching that makes its way into other stories dealing with the same ideas. It does haunt you. ...more
The frame for this collection of short stories is rather predictable. The individual tales themselves are better, though the first Uncle Montague bookThe frame for this collection of short stories is rather predictable. The individual tales themselves are better, though the first Uncle Montague book was better. I do wonder why all the short stories and the frame have male central characters. The stories channel Poe, James, and LeFanu. The book is stocked with literary references. Artwork reminds one of Gorey....more
Hands down, without a doubt the best story in the collection is "The Witch of Duva" by Leigh Bardigo. It is a completely wonderful retelling of HanselHands down, without a doubt the best story in the collection is "The Witch of Duva" by Leigh Bardigo. It is a completely wonderful retelling of Hansel and Gretel set in a Russia like fantasy world. Technically the collection is marketed as Young Adult, but this story transends ages. You should note that "Duva" and theCinder short story both appear as well in the second Fierce Reads Collection. There are also previews of novels (using the first two chapters) after most of the short stories.
As for the other stories, I enjoyed "Dress Your Marines in White" which is very dark. The rest were not bad, but didn't really suit my tastes. "Prophet" was a good story, but it also was almost too short. It showed, however, an ability to capture character. I didn't really like "Legacy Lost" (basically the style was not to my personal taste); however, bonus points for a very good ending.
**spoiler alert** 2.5 or something. Might round up eventually.
There is much too like in this book. The idea of a cyborg Cinderella is neat. The fact t**spoiler alert** 2.5 or something. Might round up eventually.
There is much too like in this book. The idea of a cyborg Cinderella is neat. The fact that Cinder is not good looking but intelligent – especially intelligent in terms of mechanics – is great and wonderful. It’s the best selling point of the book. The prince, Kai, is well drawn. The Step-mother and evil step sister are somewhat shaded. The big reveal fits the world building. The ending is a brave ending. So why two stars? Well, it has to do with the character of Cinder herself. I just don’t buy the character. Her status as a cyborg seems to be both common knowledge and secret. Which is it? I can understand how the prince wouldn’t know, but only one person at the market does? If the prince is so smart and intelligent, how does wearing a simply glove disguise the metal when he touches her hand? But these are nit-picking remarks. My main issue is with Cinder’s relationship with Peony, her stepsister, whom Cinder loves – in fact, Peony seems to be the only person Cinder loves in book. Except, she doesn’t really seem to love Peony. The reader is told time and time again how Cinder feels about Peony. Told, mind you, not shown. When it comes time to show, Peony comes as an afterthought to Cinder’s mind. You might a cure to the plague that is killing your beloved sibling. Wouldn’t her cure be foremost in your mind? It’s more like Peony is there to show the reader that Cinder is human despite having metal. In fact, Cinder seems more upset at the destruction of her android then the death of her stepsister. I’m not faulting the grief at the loss of Iko, and it was a well written scene. But it is far more powerfully written than the grief at Peony. Additionally, the stepmother and step sister are implied to be at fault for not visiting Peony, yet they couldn’t visit (nor did Cinder try to get them in). This wouldn’t be a problem, except the book is told in third person, not first. The other problem I had is also tied to Peony. Peony is only good woman, girl, besides Cinder. And Peony disappears even before she dies. Ever other women – the majority of whom are older – are bad in somewhere or another. Even Cinder’s biological mother is not someone you would want as a parent. Why couldn’t the doctor be a woman or Kai’s councilor? I get that young adult books geared towards young girls do this for a reason – most likely tied to the feelings of a teenage girl (there is a psych paper here). But teenage girls have friends, friends who are girls. I think of Ash or most of the works of McKinley where even if the heroine is at odds with other women, she still has female friends. No offense, Iko doesn’t cut it.
So that’s my problems with this book. Still, it’s worth giving to a young adult reader and a cut above many books with the standard pretty heroine who has every one lusting after her ...more