Doomsday Book by Connie Willis has been languishing unread on my shelves for several years. Since Connie Willis is basically one of the canon authorsDoomsday Book by Connie Willis has been languishing unread on my shelves for several years. Since Connie Willis is basically one of the canon authors of science fiction/fantasy these days, I figured I should finally pick it up and be one of the cool kids. Good decision? DEFINITELY! This book is seriously engrossing, you guys. Complex, engaging, tragic…we are given a lot of characters to follow, and not a lot of hope that they will make it to the end of the story unscathed.
The synopsis is awesome, you guys: TIME TRAVEL! When Doomsday Book starts, it is basically – welcome to the future. Time travel is a thing, but only for scholarly purposes. Everyone isn’t popping back and forth between centuries all willy-nilly, a lot of time and research goes into each drop. Time periods are rated on how dangerous they are, and a lot of them are banned. Like, the medieval centuries for instance. However, a series of circumstances has occurred in which Kivrin, a medieval scholar, is being allowed to travel back to 1320s England. Plenty of time to learn stuff while still avoiding the black plague by a couple of decades.
Her tutor, Mr. Dunworthy is totally against this scheme, panicked about all the things that could go wrong. But alas, it is hasta la vista to Kivrin within a few pages. Within an hour, the tech in charge of the drop collapses from a mystery illness. WTF? Shouldn’t that be something Kivrin has to deal with, not everyone safely ensconced in the late 21st century?
So anyway, longest synopsis ever in a review, sorry. But I just love the plot so much! As the story progresses, we jump back and forth between the past and the future and see how what turns out to be two pretty parallel story lines converge.
So, most of the negative reviews I’ve seen bash Doomsday Book because there are no cell phones in the future. Um, hello – this was written in 1992 before they became a permanent attachment to our bodies. How can you fault the book for that? Like, “*shakes fist* That bitch Connie Willis didn’t really know what the future would look like! How dare she! IMPOSTOR!” Puh-leaze. I find it kinda amusing that about 83% of Dunsworthy’s time is spent panicked and tied to a land line, trying to reach people.
As for the past? Sigh, it made me happy (despite being horribly depressing). The era is one of my favorites, and I kept having these hilarious “wow, so THIS is what it was really like! oh wait *headdesk* FICTION, ALLISON! THIS IS FICTION!” moments. Also, there is one character in particular – Father Roche – that fascinated me. I wish we’d learned more about him, but he remained an enigma for the most part. (If this had been a book with different priorities, he and Kivrin would have totally hooked up.)
Basically, if your list of must-read book buzz words contains medieval, time travel, epidemic or future-with-only-land-line-telephones (hey, it could happen), Doomsday Book is one you need to pick up. It is so consuming – I always felt transported when I read it. The only downside is the large cast of characters, which keeps you from being able to really get to know anyone super well. I never really felt 100% invested in any of them. It was about being glued to the pages for the plot on this one, for sure. (A forgivable offense in this case since the plot is SO AWESOME.)
To Sum it Up:
-Academic time travel you guys – this needs to be a thing! Kivrin’s jaunt to 1320s England definitely held my interest.
-I really hope a horrible outbreak of the influenza isn’t really what we have to look forward to in the future…but it makes for great reading! I kept hoping all the annoying characters would die.
-The only downside to this FABULOUS read is the fact that the huge cast of characters keeps us from really delving in to anyone in detail, but all is forgiven since the plot is made of so much awesome....more
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller gives us the story of the Trojan War from a different perspective. We are used to thinking about Achilles theThe Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller gives us the story of the Trojan War from a different perspective. We are used to thinking about Achilles the warrior, Achilles the brave, Achilles-the-man-with-no-weakness. Well, how about tempering that with Achilles the thoughtful, Achilles the true, Achilles the lover?
Not that Madeline Miller doesn’t still give us plenty of wartime and fighting: because she does. The second half of the book is set during the Trojan War. But the first half – oh the first half. It is something completely different.
I picked up The Song of Achilles after reading a rave review at The Book Smugglers. No way could I pass it up after seeing that. I was immediately intrigued at the thought of a love story between Achilles and Patroclus. (If you’ve read The Iliad, you know how much sense it would make if they really had been together.) And then, once I started reading, I was thrilled to see that it was even better than I expected.
After an accident, Patroclus is exiled from his home (where he was constantly bullied by his father for being perceived as weak) and goes to stay at the court of Achilles’ father. Achilles unexpectedly sort of adopts him as a best friend, and from then on they do everything together. Since we’re talking about two growing, hormonal boys – everything eventually grows to include romantic and sexual explorations.
The character development in The Song of Achilles is out of this world. I bow down to Madeline Miller. She did a phenomenal job at getting us from Patroclus and Achilles’ initial meeting, to how they became friends and then how they grew into so much more. Patroclus makes an excellent narrator.
Seeing Achilles through his eyes is seeing him in a way you never have before. He isn’t just the warrior-God we’ve all heard stories about. He can be sensitive, kind, thoughtful and extremely loving. Seeing him this way makes him a so much more well-rounded person than I’ve considered him in the past. I couldn’t have enjoyed reading The Song of Achilles more if I tried.
If you’re interested in mythology, war or just a great love story – pick this up and prepare to be amazed. Madeline Miller came up with a brilliant concept and executed the heck out of it. It is not to be missed....more
A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink is a very well-plotted historical paranormal novel. Really: I was impressed with the plot. Unfortunately – theA Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink is a very well-plotted historical paranormal novel. Really: I was impressed with the plot. Unfortunately – the characters? Not so much.
So, Helen Cartwright’s world is turned upside down when her parents are brutally killed and her house burned down. Her mother managed to hide her right before losing her life, so Helen takes refuge with two mysterious brothers she’d never met previously. When she discovers that her family’s deaths are part of a larger plot involving the balance of good and evil – she realizes she has been training for this her entire life.
Of course, that still doesn’t mean she is ready.
So – like I said, the plot is very well done. It is intricate, balanced and well thought out. If you like angel novels, A Temptation of Angels is definitely a book that should go on your to-read list.
Unfortunately, the plot is basically this book’s only strength. The characters and setting both leave something to be desired.
Since everything is revolving around the danger these characters are in, I feel like they weren’t developed properly. Everything they did fed into the plot, which left the characterization really weak.
Also, Helen was so stubborn about being involved in everything, even when it meant resources had to be used worrying about her instead of furthering the mission. I feel like there is a fine line between strength and stupidity that Helen might have been on the wrong side of. I feel weird saying that since I’m all about tough female characters, but Helen just rubbed me the wrong way all-around.
Also, I felt like the historical setting was incidental. It just as easily could have been set in the present-day (or heck, the future) without any important changes to the story. That was a huge disappointment for me, because historical fantasy is one of my favorite genres. I wish Michelle Zink had weaved in more historical detail.
So, I would mainly recommend A Temptation of Angels for readers who prefer plot driven novels over stories with more character development. Since I didn’t connect with Helen, this is probably not a series I’ll be continuing...more
The ways in which Lev AC Rosen plays with gender and sexuality in All Men of Genius is astoundingly brilliant. Seriously. The fact that Twelfth NightThe ways in which Lev AC Rosen plays with gender and sexuality in All Men of Genius is astoundingly brilliant. Seriously. The fact that Twelfth Night and The Importance of Being Earnest interpretations are wrapped up in it makes things even better. Basically, what I’m saying is that I want some of the kool aid to which Lev AC Rosen obviously has access.
One of the first things I plan on doing now that I’ve read All Men of Genius is to reread The Importance of Being Earnest. I don’t think I’ve read it since high school, and remember very little. Twelfth Night is my favorite Shakespearean play, so I had no trouble eating up all those references. But the Oscar Wilde pieces? Much less so. But, I loved All Men of Genius so much that I want to be able to love it even more! The Importance of Being Earnest here I come.
Steampunk. Classical retellings. Victorian London. Cool scientific stuff. Gender role reversals. Plays on sexuality, feminism and homosexuality. That is quite a list, y’all. Lev AC Rosen nails all of it. Violet, a scientific whiz, wants to go to the prestigious Illyria College of science. Too bad it’s all all boys institution, right? Good thing she has a rather devious twin brother willing to let her take on his identity! (Are y’all feeling the Twelfth Nighty goodness?)
What follows is a delightful ImportanceofBeingEarnestian comedy of errors worthy of a Shakespearean play. (I’m ridiculously proud of that sentence.) People fall in love with people who fall in love with people (even if it is a man instead of a woman…or so they think) who are in love with the same people who…well. Really, just pick up All Men of Genius and see for yourself.
Seriously. I had so much fun while reading All Men of Genius! I couldn’t put it down…Violet is such a fantastic character. I’d follow her anywhere. I’ll also follow Lev AC Rosen anywhere. I’m so excited to see what he comes up with next.
I highly recommend this for fans of fantasy and classic retellings. You don’t want to miss it – promise....more
A Matter of Magic by Patricia C. Wrede is actually a duology; it contains Mairelon the Magician and Magician’s Ward. It has been on my radar for quiteA Matter of Magic by Patricia C. Wrede is actually a duology; it contains Mairelon the Magician and Magician’s Ward. It has been on my radar for quite awhile now because I love the historical fantasy genre. Since I’m currently trying to get some reading done on my Fill in the Gaps challenge, I decided to finally pick it up!
You guys, if I had known how much I was going to love A Matter of Magic, I’d have picked it up ages ago! I had so much fun while reading it! Other than Sorcery & Celia, I haven’t read anything else by Patricia C. Wrede. If all her books are this enchanting, that will be changing very quickly. The characters and plot both held me riveted.
Kim grew up on the streets, disguised as a boy for safety. When she is caught poking around where she doesn’t belong, she ends up assistant to a magician. Mairelon ends up dragging her into a web of intrigue involving lost magical artifacts. Then, in the second half of A Matter of Magic, Kim is living as his ward when further intrigues develop.
Hilarious, witty, captivating…I was left completely and utterly charmed. Some of the hi-jinx that Mairelon and Kim find themselves in had me shaking my head and snorting with laughter. The personalities of both left me with similar reactions even when the situations weren't meant to be especially funny.
A Matter of Magic reminded me why it is best not to get caught up in only reading current young adult fantasy. It lacks the qualities of books that are a little older. When all you read is too focused on romance and elaborate supernatural situations – you can end up missing out! (Not that this book doesn't have a cute romance sub-plot…I’m not hating on anything, I love modern YA fantasy too!) Diversity my friends, diversity.
The simplicity of Patricia C. Wrede’s story is so beguiling, y’all. I really can’t recommend reading this enough!...more
Firelight by Kirsten Callihan was a surprise! I started it, intending to just read a few pages. The chapters were nice and short so I kept thinking “jFirelight by Kirsten Callihan was a surprise! I started it, intending to just read a few pages. The chapters were nice and short so I kept thinking “just one more…” and ended up reading the entire thing! This is Beauty and the Beast unlike you have ever imagined.
The first word that comes to mind to describe Firelight is enticing. Definitely a book to remember. (Plus, a blurb from Diana Gabaldon!) Take Beauty and the Beat, throw in some Phantom of the Opera and a hit of Satanic evil and we have got ourselves a story!
I was in love with both the main characters by the end of the prologue of Firelight. Their first intense and mysterious encounter was definitely enough to make me want to keep reading. Kristen Callihan excels at giving readers little bits of information at a time – just enough to entrance.
Both Archer and Miranda kept me fully intrigued from beginning to end. Kristen also has that special power that only great writers have – being able to organize words in such a way that the tone is heavy enough to feel.
I really appreciate the balance of genres as well. The historical, mysterious, paranormal and romance are all important to the plot and characters. You guys won’t believe the way Firelight unfolds, seriously. I was over halfway into the book before I figured out what it was even really about.
I already mentioned Kristen Callihan giving little bits of information at a time, but that is understating it. The way the mystery and suspense builds? So masterfully done. Are we sure this is a debut author?
(My awe at how fantastically Firelight builds on itself is why I’m not mentioning any specifics whatsoever in my review.)
And as for the romance – oh yeah. There is romance. The first kiss between Archer and Miranda is one of the hottest everrrr. And the sexytimes? On fire. (ha! A pun. Read the book and prepare to laugh at my astounding wit.)
Anyway, the sequel, Moonglow (which features Miranda’s sister), will also be released in 2012. You better believe I’ll be putting my hot little hands on it at the earliest possible moment. This is a series I will unquestionably be following. It might only be January – but I have a strong feeling Firelight will be appearing on my Best of 2012 list.
Firelight is such a darkly atmospheric read, you guys. I cannot recommend it highly enough to fans of historical fiction and/or paranormals and/or urban fantasy and/or romance of any kind. Basically, Kristen Callihan has included something for everyone!...more
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers really brings something a lot to the fantasy genre, y’all. The plot had a lot of originality and intrigue. The characterGrave Mercy by Robin LaFevers really brings something a lot to the fantasy genre, y’all. The plot had a lot of originality and intrigue. The characters were well fleshed out. The setting had nice complexity. I ended up being pretty impressed by this one!
Ismae ends up being a handmaiden for the god of Death. That very fact – along with being raised in an old remote nunnery – added a big Gothic-y creepy factor that I loved. She is basically trained to be an assassin, working to fulfill Death’s wishes. How awesome is that? I fully admit to lovingassassin stories.I refuse to delve too far into the plot in my review, because the whole mysterious assassin thing is best left for you to discover on your own. I’ll just hit the highlights. When she ends up on a more long-term assignment and her emotions get tangled up with duty, the job doesn’t seem as easy as Ismae always thought. She ends up at high court in Brittany, and trying to navigate court politics and figure out what is going on under the surface becomes her personal mission. Too bad what she is discovering doesn’t seem to line up with what Death is asking her to do…
Seriously – the way Ismae acted sometimes throughout Grave Mercy made me want to scream. While I appreciate and respect a certain level of prickliness and self-awareness, there can be a fine line between stubbornness and idiocy. Wanting to think for yourself and not trust easily is one thing, being insufferably obstinate to the point that you become somewhat blind to reality is another. Seriously, this book had me completely frustrated at times. When characters blindly follow what they are taught, it always makes me think of jihadists. Not exactly a good impression there. (Although, come to think about it, I guess Ismae is a religious extremist in a way.)
You guys, despite my frustrations with Ismae, I still absolutely loved Grave Mercy! Besides, Ismae is able to come into herself throughout the story. It isn’t really her fault that she was taught the things she was. Despite wanting to beat my head against the wall at times, I actually think Robin LaFevers did do a really great job with her character arc.
One of the best things about Grave Mercy is that it stands alone! It is the first book of a trilogy, but each book will have different main characters. They will be connected – and I will be thrilled to revisit the world that Robin LaFevers has built. But, I will be returning because I want to, not because I have to continue an unfinished story line....more
Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen is the newest Robin Hood retelling. Y’all, I love the story of Robin Hood and I was extremely excited to pick this book up. IScarlet by A.C. Gaughen is the newest Robin Hood retelling. Y’all, I love the story of Robin Hood and I was extremely excited to pick this book up. I am happy to tell you that Scarlet more than lived up to my expectations! It has a comfortable spot on the list of best fantasy books I’ve ever read.
In Scarlet, the main character is a well known Robin Hood character re-imagined as a girl. She is fierce and loyal – such a fantastic character. But she definitely has some skeletons in her closet that are about to come back and bite her – and her friends – big time. When the sheriff hires someone to come in and catch the folks behind all the stealing going on – things get complicated fast. What will Scarlet, Robin Hood and the rest of their gang do?
Scarlet is prickly, grouchy and extremely touchy. She doesn’t trust easily and has a hair trigger temper. She lies as easily as she breathes. I love the fact that she isn’t a run of the mill heroine. She will not be what you expect, and it is a wonderful surprise to discover all the ins and outs of her personality. Oh man do I love her!
I also love how she and Robin interact – the romance here is a slow burn. Extremely satisfying when it comes to a head. You will not be disappointed – promise.
Basically everything is well written – from the plot intricacies to the characterization of everyone involved. A.C. Gaughen definitely impressed me you guys! None of the characters are perfect (including Robin) and nothing is as easy as it seems. The plot twists have plot twists and some of them are difficult to read – you’ll be wanting to cover your eyes before the story is done!
I seriously cannot recommend Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen enough. I will definitely be getting a copy to add to my shelves when it is released in February!...more
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater wasn’t a book I was initially interested in. I was not a fan of the Shiver series, so I figured I’d just be pasThe Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater wasn’t a book I was initially interested in. I was not a fan of the Shiver series, so I figured I’d just be passing this one by as well. Then I saw Melissa at i swim for ocean’s review saying that she wasn’t a Shiver fan either – but loved this book. I thought hmm. Then Holly at Book Harbinger and Angie at Angieville both gave it rave reviews which pretty much guaranteed that I’d be reading it. So – was it worth picking up? Well...
YES! Thank goodness I have such great taste in blogging friends, right? Without them I’d have passed this one by. And I’d have been missing out on a lot.
The island becomes a living breathing thing – perhaps the strongest of the characters. I felt pulled into the magic of the capall uisce, the deadly horses from the sea. They were always both terrifying and mesmerizing, which is, I imagine, exactly how the characters in the book felt about them as well. It was the island that made the entire book feel real. Because I was so immersed into this place, Sean, Puck and everyone around them became real as well. I tasted the November cakes (I really really want one for real y’all, I may have to make that happen. Angie posted the recipe.), I both felt the punishing winds and tasted the salt they carried with them…reading this book was a very sensory experience.
Also – while there are no sexytimes, there was amazing breathless tension. The progression of Sean & Puck’s relationship was very slow and subtle, a definite rarity these days. They rode a horse together and I think it was one of the sexiest scenes I’ve ever read. No romantic physical contact whatsoever and still – wowza. When an author can bring you so fully into a world and connect you in such a real way to the people inside it, it is definitely time to be impressed. Maggie Stiefvater has definitely impressed me in a big way.
The relationship between Sean and his horse, Corr, was also brilliantly handled. Incredibly complex and layered. Getting through all the tangled emotions in the book made that ending incredibly stirring. I will be incredibly sad to leave Sean, Puck and Corr behind. (In fact, I’m writing this review about five days after finishing the book and I am still feeling the loss.)
Whether or not you’ve loved Maggie Steifvater’s books in the past doesn’t matter you guys, trust me. Don’t pass on the chance to experience this one! It now has a nice comfortable spot on my all-time favorites list....more
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is a celebration of magic. From the splendor to the ornamental to the oddities, magic is showcased in various wayThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is a celebration of magic. From the splendor to the ornamental to the oddities, magic is showcased in various ways throughout the novel. The characters and plot both take second place to the illusions and the mystical. Every layer that unfolds is as bewitching and alluring as the next.
The only thing that could be better than a book so filled with elegantly rendered magic is one where that magic is also shrouded in mystery. From the very beginning, every single illusion, no matter how innocent, has a whisper of tension and menace behind it. Even though every piece of magic seemed to portend a future danger, it was still impossible not to get caught up into the enchantment even while not knowing where they were ultimately trying to lead. In fact, forget about not knowing what was going to happen - there were a lot of times I didn't know what was happening as I was reading!
As I mentioned before, everything takes a second stage to the magic. The plot was meandering and detailed...definitely not a book for those of you who seek constant action and a cohesive plot structure. This is a book to be savored and explored. It also isn't a book where the characters feel like family or like people you can relate to on some deeper level. It is one where the characters feel like what they are: novelties. Circus performers. Magicians. Illusionists. The very nature of the book is not one that allows the reader to see past the mysterious. So, this might not be a book for everyone. But, if none of that scares you away - you have got to read this!
I really don't say any of that to try to scare you off the book - I loved everything about it! Normally I'd be less than impressed with a book where I don't feel like I get to know the characters better, but this book is the exception. I adored all the characters, mysterious natures and all. The characters all fit in with the intensity of the novel, and I don't think it could have been written any other way. The feelings and emotions (especially in regards to Marco and Celia) were all there for me - vivid and real.
Speaking of vivid - this book will make all your senses come alive. I could picture all of it so easily: an ice garden, a room made up of clouds, a labyrinth. I wanted to taste all the food - from the mulled cider to the cinnamon twists covered in icing. The writing was gorgeous, it made anything seem possible.
So, I definitely recommend picking up this novel if you're a fan of fantasy. Next time I find myself at a circus...I'll make sure to be wearing black clothes with a dash of red somewhere. You know...to mark myself as one of the ones in the know....more
The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook is one of the best steampunk fantasy novels I’ve read to date. While some of the characters took awhile to grow on me (The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook is one of the best steampunk fantasy novels I’ve read to date. While some of the characters took awhile to grow on me (and they all eventually did), the plot was very original and captivated me from the beginning.
Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth hears that a body has been discovered on The Iron Duke’s property. Rhys, the duke, is credited with ending the dictatorial Horde’s control over England. Mina knows dealing with a crime involving the national hero could get complicated. Considering that as soon as they meet, he becomes obsessed with possessing her – complicated is pretty good word for it. Mina’s birth was a result of a Horde raping of her mother – so her existence is taboo and dangerous enough without adding a newsworthy romance into the mix. She tries to avoid attracting Rhys further – but what is she supposed to do if she finds herself attracted right back? As they both become further involved with the mystery that started with the dead body, they also become increasingly involved with each other.
Let me tell y’all, this plot is pretty much go-go-go. Non-stop action and suspense surrounded by a cast of incredibly varied and original characters equals one heck of a great book. I couldn’t get enough of any of it! From the very beginning I loved Mina – she was a little prickly, but she had very good reason to be. I really enjoyed the way she interacted with the people around her. She was also really daring – she pulls off some pretty incredible stunts that had me holding my breath.
As for Rhys: he originally grated on my nerves. I didn’t like the way he initially viewed Mina as something to possess, or his sky-high sense of entitlement. However, he is one of the characters you just have to be patient with…once Meljean Brook lets us get to know him a little better he quickly got into my good graces.
This book really does have a little bit of everything and I enjoyed all of it – from the mystery to the steampunk to the romance. I will definitely be following this series, this isn’t a world you’ll want to leave behind!...more
Historical fantasy is one of my favorite genres and one I don't read nearly often enough. It has been hard, in the past, to find well-written works thHistorical fantasy is one of my favorite genres and one I don't read nearly often enough. It has been hard, in the past, to find well-written works that fit the category...slowly but surely, that seems to be changing. Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey definitely fit the bill.
Violet lives in the late 19th century with her mother and a couple of servants (including the delectable Colin). Her mom is basically a crook - she goes around pretending to be a medium and drags Violet and Colin into her schemes. They have to help her put on the "show" that convinces people she is legit. When they are invited to a house party with upper crust guests, Violet's mother is thrilled - thinking that it'll open the door to a lot of other work. Unfortunately - the work starts a little early for Violet. Is that a real ghost following her around for once?
I loved the plot of this novel - Violet's path to discovering the identity of the ghost followed by trying to help her find peace leads to a lot of interesting discoveries about herself and the people around her. It also leads to some legit creepy scenes - she has both other ghosts and living people on her trail. She doesn't go it alone though, her good friend Elizabeth is an eager participant in the adventures. Also, she can always count on Colin to do his best to keep her safe.
Colin is one awesome dude, of the patiently-waiting-in-the-wings-he-has-wanted-her-forever variety. He watches while Violet's mom tries to make her marry for money...then decides he isn't gonna stand for any of that. Their developing romance from what was obviously a life-long friendship was very satisfying; I loved them together!
So, the combination of historical details, paranormal creepiness, romance and family drama made for one heck of a great read. I definitely recommend picking this up! ...more