The YA love child of Game of Thrones and Tamora Pierce's Alanna. Princess Kelsea Glynn has been hidden away since infancy, waiting for the day she wilThe YA love child of Game of Thrones and Tamora Pierce's Alanna. Princess Kelsea Glynn has been hidden away since infancy, waiting for the day she will begin her reign as Queen of the Tearling. Meanwhile, her uncle serves as Regent, who, when he's not sacrificing the kingdom and its people to the neighboring state of Mortmense and it's evil Red Queen, is sending assassins to hunt Kelsea down. Now that she's 19, the Queen's Guard, all of whom swore loyalty to her dead mother (though none seem to have liked her very much) have come to escort her her castle and begin her rule.
I generally like this one. Kelsea is ridiculously naive, though it's explained by the fact that growing up, her guardians refused to tell her anything important about her kingdom or her parents. They've taught her what they think a ruler needs to know, but left out key parts that will help her rule *this* kingdom. The reasons why are eventually explained, but to a certain degree it felt like the real reason was "because this will make the story more interesting."
The one quirky bit is the setting. At first it seems like standard midieval-ish fantasy novel, but there are occasional references to the Americans and the British as the settlers of these worlds, and a "Great Crossing," and you eventually learn that this is set in some distant future when people fled those countries for a "New World." Where this world is isn't clear - the map at the front looks like the Iberian peninsula, but obviously, that's not new. There's references to terrible seas where boats were lost during the Crossing (conveniently containing all the doctors and technology) so maybe it's a global warming/rising seas thing? Maybe it will be explained in the sequel? It's not particularly relevant to the story, but it's interesting in passing. It also doesn't explain the magic - oh did I mention the magic stones, and the Red Queen's visions, and the fact that she stays miraculously young for hundreds of years?
This review sounds like I didn't like the book, but I did - it's basically everything I liked about Game of Thrones-type fantasy with dramatically less violence and rape. There's still lots of that, but not to the point where I start to worry about any pets George R. R. Martin has. ...more
A cute, cozy mystery, set in the theater world. Ivy Meadows (real name, Olive Ziegwart) has been cast as a wThis is a review of an ARC from NetGalley.
A cute, cozy mystery, set in the theater world. Ivy Meadows (real name, Olive Ziegwart) has been cast as a witch in a Phoenix, Arizona local theater production of Macbeth. This is Ivy's big break, but before she can relax and enjoy it, an old friend in the cast turns up dead. While everyone thinks the actor drank himself to death Ivy suspects murder, and her suspicions get more intense after her private investigator uncle also runs into trouble. Complicating matters is her on-and-off again relationship with the play's lead, who may or may not be involved.
The story was cute, and the theater setting was fun to read about. The plot doesn't entirely hold up - Ivy keeps suspecting people for no obvious reason, and the eventual murderer seems to have been drawn out of a hat. A subplot about Ivy's mentally disabled younger brother is interesting, but it comes too late, into the story, so it feels dragged in out of nowhere.
This could settle down to be a nice, light, diverting series, so we'll see how the second one goes!
This is a review of an ARC from NetGalley 3.5 stars
Time’s Edge is the second book in Rysa Walker’s Chronos Files series. It’s definitely NOT a stand-aThis is a review of an ARC from NetGalley 3.5 stars
Time’s Edge is the second book in Rysa Walker’s Chronos Files series. It’s definitely NOT a stand-alone novel, those who have not read the first book in the series (Time Bound) will be very confused. The story is thus: Kate may look like an ordinary DC teen, who lives with her father and grandmother, but she’s really part of a family of time-travelers. In the future, the Chronos organization uses time-travel to send historians into the past to study and research. But one of those historians, Kate’s grandfather Saul (yes, grandfather. Time travel, remember?), has turned evil, destroying the Chronos facility and using time travel to create a powerful cult with himself and Kate’s aunt Prudence as its leaders, and planning for a future world-wide “culling,” that only he and his followers will survive.
The first novel dealt with Kate learning about Chronos and her place in this time-travel set-up. In TIme’s Edge, Kate is fully on board fighting Saul and his followers, the Cyrists. She’s tasked with hopping back in time to the 24 historians who were stranded when Saul destroyed the home base, breaking the news to them that they are stuck in whatever past they were researching, and getting their time travel keys before Saul and the Cyrists can get ahold of them.
Kate’s also dealing with the emotional fallout from some time shifts, as the Cyrist cult changes the past to give themselves more power. While Kate and other travelers can remember these changes, they don’t always know the new bits of history. Sometimes that means Kate has to study extra hard in school (because the way she remembers history is not the way her teacher does). But other times it means friends and loved ones suddenly don’t know who you are. This comes through in Kate’s relationships with two boys - Trey, her boyfriend from a changed past who no longer remembers what they meant to each other, and Kiernan, former Cyrist who has turned on the cult, and can also use the Chronos keys. In his past, Kate was much more than a fellow Cyrist-fighter, and Kate is torn between the boy she loves who can’t remember her, and a boy who loves her that she can’t remember.
While the jumps and twists in time can be confusing, the novel is fast-paced and keeps you interested, even if I confess I wasn’t always exactly sure how the time-travel bits were working. The jumps to the past allow Walker to include historical details and research that make it more grounded - it’s sci-fi, but it’s taking place in a real world, with characters who (in some cases) actually lived. Walker has done her homework, the jumps to the past include real people and places, and her attention to detail makes it come alive. In this case, Kate’s in 1930s Georgia, as the Cyrists try to take over a small church and test out their culling plan. (Although a plot about the future historians running into a real-world lynching did seem to be a major plot hole - these people pay extreme attention to detail, down to prohibiting travelers from bringing a toothbrush back in time, but no one foresaw any problems with a biracial married couple with Northern accents blending into rural Georgia in 1938?)
That aside, the book was a page-turner. While there’s not a lot of character development, Walker’s ability to move the plot along has me waiting eagerly for the next installment. ...more
This one just did not do it for me. The story centers on Roberta, a high school sophomore on her first day aThis is a review of an ARC from NetGalley.
This one just did not do it for me. The story centers on Roberta, a high school sophomore on her first day at Meadowbrook Academy, a fancy private school in the New Jersey suburbs. Roberta’s parents have sent her there because they’re worried she’s “throwing her life away” at West Orange High, cutting classes, drinking, and hanging out wit, well, not a bad crowd, because having only one friend can hardly be called a crowd. Roberta has had it tough, after years of being teased for being overweight, she lost weight only to find that the bullying just kept right on.
You can’t fault the book for lack of plot. Roberta’s first day at Meadowbrook is filled with it: new best friends, a crush, a hookup, a breakup, cutting classes, detention, a fight in the cafeteria, learning classmates’ dark secrets, learning teachers’ dark secrets (and seeing the headmaster’s genitals), a rafting trip, and police intervention. Yes, her first day. I think the idea was that a new school can change your life, but this was just ridiculous and over the top. There’s no reason all of this couldn’t have happened over a semester or a few months. I just kept going “wait, this is still the SAME DAY?”
I did fault the book for the writing. It’s just not very polished, and there are too many cases where Maccie explicitly tells you exactly what the characters are feeling or what lessons they are learning. For instance, we’ve been told that Roberta’s older brother Anthony is very smart, and is the first in their family to go to college (albeit community college, because he still needs to work). When he’s dropping her off at her fancy school, he yells, frustrated that she’s blowing off an opportunity he never got.
“I slowly back up in my seat. I hadn’t even thought about Anthony’s feelings. I was too busy thinking of my own. My chest filled with shame.”
Oof. It’s just so heavy-handed. Maccie was a television writer and much of the writing feels like it’s actually character notes for an actor who will have to portray this silently. There’s also an extremely awkward bit at the end where a character gets a chapter length monologue to reveal one of those deep,dark secrets but with language that sounds not like a person telling a story, but a writer describing a scene. To the point it took me out of the story entirely while I wondered where her editor went.
A major quibble I did have - I chose this book in part because of the positive press I saw about it, including a blurb from Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower). Apparently Maccie and Chbosky are married. That’s not spelled out on her web site or in any of the other publicity for the book that I could find, although Chbosky’s quote is displayed a lot. I’m not saying he doesn’t appreciate the book as a writer, but I felt like that needed to be disclosed a little more obviously. ...more
OK, seriously? Love. Noggin starts out with a crazy sci-fi premise: Travis Coates, a 16-year-old boy dying of cancer, has his head cut off and frozenOK, seriously? Love. Noggin starts out with a crazy sci-fi premise: Travis Coates, a 16-year-old boy dying of cancer, has his head cut off and frozen in the hopes that one day, they’ll be a cure. Most people think this was just his way out of, but it actually happens, and Travis comes back – his head attached to a new (taller and stronger!) body.
While for Travis, it’s only been a long nap since he last saw his friends and family, for them it’s been five years, and they have to adjust from mourning Travis to celebrating the “miracle.” And while Travis’ birth certificate might say he’s 21, he’s still a high school student, only now he doesn’t know anyone in his class. Some things haven’t changed – he has to retake his math class for one. But other things will never be the same. His father is never home, working crazy hours that may be a cover for something else. His best friend, who shared his deepest secret when he thought Travis was dying, is now wishing that secret had stayed dead. And his girlfriend Cate, whom Travis truly loved, has fallen in love – and gotten engaged – to someone new.
While the premise is pure science fiction, this story is really about a regular boy in a regular high school, and how he copes with love and loss. It’s authentic and funny and made me cry, and I’m eagerly waiting to see what Whaley comes up with next. ...more
It's 1867, and Verity Boone is leaving her home in busy Worcester, MA to go live with her father in rural Catawissa, Penn., where she will marry Nate,It's 1867, and Verity Boone is leaving her home in busy Worcester, MA to go live with her father in rural Catawissa, Penn., where she will marry Nate, a neighboring farmer who won her heart through his letters and gifts of poetry. But when she arrives in the country, she doesn't find the romantic reunion she was expecting. Her father is distant and busy with farm work, and Nate is nothing like his letters - which he reveals were written based on the advice and suggestions from his sisters, and more interested in her father's farm than her. Worse, she finds herself the subject of town gossip and rumors. Some of it is based on jealousy - Nate was one of the few eligible men left after the destruction of the Civil War - but other nasty rumors reach her about her late mother and her family's mysterious past.
Then, as Verity walks through a local churchyard, she discovers the graves of her mother and aunt, buried outside the cemetery walls, and enclosed in iron cages. As Verity tries to discover the stories of her mother's life and death, and find the reason for the cages, she unearths more than she expected, with tales of witchcraft, strange deaths, and stolen Army gold. She also finds herself in a love triangle as she tries to deal with her complicated feelings about the semi-arranged marriage that she agreed to.
Salerni creates honest, relatable characters, especially Verity, a strong-willed girl with progressive ideas, who is not afraid to stand up for herself and for what she believes. And just as in life, most of the characters are more complicated than they appear at first, including Nate. A spooky, don't-put-it-down thriller. ...more