Although it isn't obvious when you pick it up, Wings to the Kingdom is the second book in a series about Eden Moore, a twenty-something resident of ChAlthough it isn't obvious when you pick it up, Wings to the Kingdom is the second book in a series about Eden Moore, a twenty-something resident of Chattanooga, TN who has the ability to see and talk to ghosts. Eden is a reluctant medium, but when the ghosts of the soldiers who died at the battle of Chickamauga start appearing and attempting to communicate with the living, she is drawn into the mystery.
I found Wings to be a very uneven book; on one hand, in a refreshing change from most "I see dead people" stories, Eden can't simply close her eyes and contact anyone at will. Instead she compares being asked to contact a particular individual with trying to find a living person without any idea where to start looking: "...imagine...that she could be anywhere at all in the entire world. But wherever she is, there aren't any phones, and no matter how loud I shout, she won't hear me."
On the other hand, Priest leaves huge holes in the story as Eden's past is used to drive the plot but never explained, leaving a reader who hasn't read the previous book stumbling along trying to understand important characters and situations without any guidance. It's never easy to play catch up for readers who haven't read previous books, but choosing not to explain anything while still using past events as the catalyst for new situations is nothing but confusing. And because the lack of backstory isn't offset by any new clarification of Eden's character she remains two-dimensional and flat. Reading Wings will not answer such basic questions about the main character as: 'Why is she so angry all the time?', 'Does she know anyone she isn't secretly annoyed with?', and 'What does she do for a living?'. I was left with nothing but questions about Eden and very little attachment to her as a character.
And, on a picky note, Priest's characters have an annoying habit of using a "lifted nostril" to convey their feelings. Huh, what? The first time I came across the phrase I was distracted and spent several minutes trying to figure out how someone can lift a nostril, let alone do it while "dipping [their:] chin to the left". Eventually I decided it was a typo and instead of "nostril" it should have read "eyebrow". Unfortunately the phrase comes up again later in the book, indicating that Priest really expects it to convey meaning to the reader. Is it just me, or is it impossible to "lift a nostril"?
As I said, an uneven book but certainly not a bad one. I would definitely pick up another book by Cherie Priest and give her another try.
Sometimes a book comes along that seemingly has all the elements of an instant favorite, in the case of The Kingdom of Ohio the elements are: time-traSometimes a book comes along that seemingly has all the elements of an instant favorite, in the case of The Kingdom of Ohio the elements are: time-travel, Victorian-era New York City, a very sweet romance and - at least for me - footnotes. (I am strangely in love with fiction books that use footnotes. Terry Pratchett is my hero).
Nevertheless, despite the presence of some very fine footnotes and the author's ability to describe turn of the century NYC in an enjoyably tangible way, this book failed to really hit home with me. I enjoyed it, but not as much as I would have thought. I think what dropped the book from 4 to 3 stars in my view was the strictly functional nature of the "present day" storyline. While the historical time frame is fleshed out and feels real in many ways, events in the present are narrated in a very perfunctory fashion and it felt as if the historical story were a painting set in the unfinished wood frame of the present day events.
Even so, I have Matthew Flaming on my list of authors to watch and I plan to keep an eye out for his next book. ...more
Eddie LaCrosse, in keeping with "noir detective" tradition, is a cynical loner with a tragic past he'd rather forget. Also in keeping with tradition hEddie LaCrosse, in keeping with "noir detective" tradition, is a cynical loner with a tragic past he'd rather forget. Also in keeping with tradition he is forced to confront that past when an old friend asks for his help. In general, it's a promising start to a story attempting to be a Raymond Chandler-meets-Fritz Leiber mash-up; unfortunately what could have been an interesting experiment failed for me because of the exclusionary feeling of the world Bledsoe created.
Bledsoe is a male author writing as a male protagonist, which is all well and good except the world he has created only allows female charcters to exist as defined by the degree of their victimization by, and attractiveness to, men. I struggled with using that description because it is all too easily dismissed as a "feminist rant", but in a book where the female characters are two rape victims, an underage princess on the run from her abusive father, two prostitutes who have been tortured by their pimp, a burn victim who literally lives underground because of her scars, a beautiful amnesiac found naked in the forest, and a bi-sexual goddess who tritely declares "all women are goddesses" (gag!) before having sweaty sex with Eddie, there isn't much room for quibbling. None of the women have any power in their own lives or take any active role in the plot and the only normal, apparently happy woman in the book is married, has five children, and barely any dialogue. Oh, and Eddie is careful to point out that she is still sexually attractive, even after all those kids. In addition, a man guilty of two counts of attempted rape is excused as being a "good man" who is "capable of love" except when he drinks, and the victim takes personal responsibility for his violence because she made the "mistake" of giving him alcohol in the first place. And that doesn't even take into account the incredibly transparent plot setup that forces Eddie to pin a naked, imprisoned woman to a bed and "separate her legs" against her will when a brief conversation might have substituted. Yuck.
Even a single three-dimensional female character could have saved this book from being an all-male club with a "no girls allowed" sign on the door. A character to identify with would have allowed female readers to feel involved in the story but as it is I felt pushed to the side by Bledsoe's refusal to portray a woman as anything other than an accessory to a man's life.
I really hesitated about this review, because I don't think Bledsoe was trying to write a book that only appealed to male readers, but in the end, although there are some very clever moments - such as when Eddie returns to his horse to find a parking ticket tucked under the saddle - my general impression was that the entire book was written by a gifted fifteen year old boy who never had a real conversation with anyone female. ...more
So let's get the horrible marketing out of the way first. First of all, for those of you who may be under the same misunderstanding as the good folksSo let's get the horrible marketing out of the way first. First of all, for those of you who may be under the same misunderstanding as the good folks at Audible.com let me say this: The Magicians is not a children's book. I really think I should say it again, in bold this time: The Magicians is not a children's book. The cheery introduction by chanting 9 year olds that begins each section of the audible.com download ("This is audible kids!") makes as much sense as it would before an episode of HBOs The Sopranos. Violence, sex, alcohol, drugs, cruelty, depression... The Magicians has it all and more. No, it is definitely not a children's book. OK? Everyone got that? As a reader, I am extremely annoyed by bad marketing ploys like this one, since the issue of whether "The Magicians" is a good book should be considered apart from any child-appropriateness it may or may not possess, which is impossible if readers have been misled into believing they are downloading Harry Potter II: Harry Goes to Fillory for a nice family car ride.
OK, on to the book itself. To be honest, before I read one of the interviews with the author, I couldn't be certain whether Grossman was paying homage to, or writing a satire of, a great many popular fantasy stories, including The Chronicles Of Narnia, The LOTR, Harry Potter, and even Star Wars. Was he twisting popular children's fantasy stories into something completely "other" in order to show us how silly they were to begin with? Or, alternately, how applicable they still are to adult readers? The nature of his story lends itself to either interpretation.
Grossman may be following in some of the footsteps of C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling, but he also forges his own trail which can stand or fall on its own merits. Grossman has imagination to spare and the details of his magical worlds are original and enjoyable, but in my opinion the book falls, not because of the twist he has given to popular children's fantasy icons, but because his protagonist, Quentin Coldwater, is so unrelentingly annoying. We first meet Quentin at the age of seventeen, as an upper-middle-class American kid on his way to a Princeton admission interview. In very short time we become acquainted with his most obvious personal characteristics: self-pity, self-absorption, and a sense of entitlement. Now, it may very well be that those are the most obvious personal characteristics of the majority of American upper-middle-class teenagers at the age of seventeen, but that doesn't make them any less annoying to read about by those of us who are not said upper-class American teenagers. They would be annoying in real life, and they are just as - if not more - annoying in print, simply because the reader has no escape from the inside of Quentin's head. We begin the book wondering why he dislikes himself so much and end it by wondering why anyone else likes him at all. Nothing satisfies his feeling that life - his life - should be better than it is: more exciting, more fulfilling, more fair. Not admission to a secret, magical college; not acceptance by what is basically a secret magical co-ed fraternity; not passing an excruciating test - failed by most of his classmates - that makes him one of the few "true" magicians. Certainly not graduating and moving to Manhattan where he has unlimited funds to live on for an entire year and no real money worries after that. No, not even finally entering a magic kingdom and, eventually, not even finding his way home again. In fact, Quentin is at his most annoying after he has gone through his personal "redemption quest" in Fillory and returned to "the real world", where he lives a life that 99.9% of the human race can only dream about. Yet he still sulks. He self-flagellates. He beats his chest and cries "Woe! Woe is me!". It gets old.
I am willing to admit that I may dislike Quentin because he embodies that part in all of us that - especially as teenagers and young adults - believes we were meant for "better things" and that the lives our parents live couldn't possibly be enough for us. However at some point, most of us face the fact that we are human beings, pretty much just like those around us, and the universe doesn't owe us glory and success. Quentin doesn't. None of the adventures or trauma that he goes through during the course of the book changes his sense of self-pity one iota. In the end of the book, he is the same person he was at the beginning, just older. And that is what makes "The Magicians" so depressing. In the end, Quentin is Peter Pan in Manhattan, with all the trappings of an adult life and the stunted feelings of a spoiled teen. And someone should get this Peter Pan on anti-depressants, stat....more
Until I picked up Doug Dorst's Alive in Necropolis I had never even heard of Colma, CA, a real town that advertises itself as the "smallest city in SaUntil I picked up Doug Dorst's Alive in Necropolis I had never even heard of Colma, CA, a real town that advertises itself as the "smallest city in San Mateo County with over 1,600 residents and 1.5 Million souls." Yes, that's right: Colma has 1,600 living residents and sixteen cemeteries with at least 1.5 million grave sites. Some of Colma's more famous "souls" include William Randolph Hearst, Wyatt Earp, and Joshua Abraham Norton, the self proclaimed "Emperor of the United States". Doug Dorst uses this strangely unreal real location as the backdrop for a "slice of life" story about policeman Michael Mercer and some of the people in his life, including an ex-girlfriend, a fellow policeman, and a young man Mercer rescues from a prank gone horribly wrong.
This is not a traditional urban fantasy story where the fight with supernatural forces takes center stage; in fact Mercer's struggle to help the "souls" of Colma fight back against some undead bullies stays very firmly in the background. A lot of it is related after the action has taken place and the outcome already known. The true core of the book is the search by Mercer and the others for self-respect and a sense of meaning in their lives. And unlike the secondary plot involving the conflict between the ghosts, Dorst doesn't provide a tidy solution to that search that ties up the loose ends and leaves everyone better off.
Alive in Necropolis is a well written, character driven novel with a minor thread of magical realism. Unfortunately for Dorst and his potential readers, the blurbs on the book jacket make it sound like a romp into the supernatural, a la Laurell K. Hamilton's early stories. This misdirection is irritating at best and at worst it may drive away readers who might otherwise enjoy the book.
On her first day at boarding school Charlotte Makepeace is shown to the room she will be sharing with four other girls. The room has five black iron bOn her first day at boarding school Charlotte Makepeace is shown to the room she will be sharing with four other girls. The room has five black iron bedsteads, all identical except for the one Charlotte chooses, which isn't on casters like the others, but has "little wheels with ornamented spokes".
After an ordinary, if stressful, first day Charlotte falls asleep in her iron bedstead, but awakens in what seems to be a different world. Somehow in the night she has changed places with Clare Moby, a student at the same school forty years before. Sleeping in the iron bed has somehow sent her back in time. For a few weeks Charlotte and Clare trade places on a nightly basis, leaving notes for each other as they alternate spending their days in 1918 and 1958. Then a mistake in timing leaves Charlotte seemingly trapped in 1918. Will she have to live the rest of her life there? Is that, in fact, something that she's already done?
This may be a book written for children, but it is not a "childish" book. I wish I had found this book when I was a kid because I'm quite certain it would have turned into one of my favorites. ...more
Johannes Cabal is a scientist who several years ago sold his soul to Satan in exchange for the secrets of necromancy (the control of the dead). LuckilJohannes Cabal is a scientist who several years ago sold his soul to Satan in exchange for the secrets of necromancy (the control of the dead). Luckily for the reader, Cabal may be a necromancer, but he "is not one of those foolish people who take up residence in cemeteries so they can raise an army of the dead." After all, "they're more expensive than a living one, and far less use...they march ten miles and their legs fall off. Napoleon would have approved - that really is an army that marches on its stomach." Indeed, Cabal's dabblings in necromancy are a direct result of his scientific inquiries and he has no time or patience for those with a less rational turn of mind.
Unfortunately, Johannes Cabal has found that his lack of a soul is actually causing irregularities in his scientific experiments, a situation that cannot be allowed to continue. As the book opens, Cabal is on his way to Hell to get his soul back. Satan, as you might expect, proves less than accommodating and a very well written - and funny - conversation takes place between the two of them:
"Not entirely fair," repeated Satan, all trace of jovial hail-fellow-well-met gone. "Not entirely fair?" His voice became that of the inferno: a rushing, booming howl of icy evil that flew around the great cavern, as swift and cold as the Wendingo on skates. "I am Satan, also called Lucifer the Light Bearer..."
Cabal winced. What was it about devils that they always had to give you their whole family history?
"I was cast down from the presence of God himself into this dark, sulphurous pit and condemned to spend eternity here - "
"Have you tried saying 'sorry'?" interrupted Cabal.
"No, I haven't! I was sent down for a sin of pride. It rather undermines my position if I say 'sorry'!"
Eventually - as so often happens when dealing with Satan - they agree on a wager: Cabal will have the use of a Satanic carnival (although not "Cougar and Dark's Carnival..that one's been wound up") and a year to gather 100 souls for Satan. If he succeeds, he will get his own soul back.
Jonathan L. Howard has succeeded in writing a book that is incredibly funny on the surface, while also exploring larger issues, such as the nature of Evil and when it crosses the line into Good and vice versa. Where does the responsibility of the Temptor end and become the independent act of the Temptee? And if the line is crossed between Good and Evil, is it a one way street?
Several of the characters - Cabal not the least - make extreme choices based on what they are willing to do - or unwilling to do - in the name of love, and in the end the reader is left wondering what the limits of love truly are and how far they can stretch before they break or twist into something else.
A note for audiobook readers: the narrator of this one - Christopher Cazenove - is excellent. He has perfect timing, and listening to him create the voices of the characters adds another level of enjoyment to the book....more
The Warded Man is Peter V. Brett's debut fantasy novel and it is an extremely impressive one. He has created a fascinating world where various forms oThe Warded Man is Peter V. Brett's debut fantasy novel and it is an extremely impressive one. He has created a fascinating world where various forms of demons rise from the ground at night, preying on individual humans and destroying entire villages. The only way to remain safe from the demons - called "corelings" - is to remain in a warded area, where the magical symbols and signs keep out the corelings. Journeys are limited to the distance a person can travel in one day and safely return home by dusk, and as a result humanity lives mainly in isolated pockets scattered around the countryside. These villages and cities are linked mainly by the Messengers, those who dare to travel the distance between cities, carrying their "portable wards" and risking the corelings night after night. Brett does an excellent job describing the claustrophobia of the small town dwellers who live their lives between sunrise and sunset, relying on the town's warder to keep their homes and barns safe from the nightly coreling raids. He also shows us how devastating it is when the wards fail and the fragile ecosystem of the town is thrown into chaos.
Nowhere is humanity completely safe however, and even in the most securely warded areas death is a nightly possibility. As a result, humans are becoming more scarce and great importance is placed on the birth of new children. Procreation and fertility play a major part in both the religious and secular power structures, particularly in the larger cities. There are strange inconsistencies in the system however, and despite the great importance placed on having children, an unwed mother is considered shameful and the woman is shunned by her neighbors. In another strange discrepancy, the fertility of men is totally ignored and the number of children he has is irrelevant to his social standing. If a couple is infertile, the woman is suspended in a sort of limbo between Daughter and Mother, while the man suffers no ill effect to his social prestige at all. However, human systems in general are chock full of inconsistencies and contradictions, so this wasn't a major drawback while reading the book.
The only nit I have to pick with The Warded Man is the depiction of the main female character, Leesha, and in a way with all the female characters. Brett is too good a writer to turn them all into cliches, but they are - at least to my mind - obviously women written by a man and they did not ring true to me. In particular, Leesha's reactions to some of the events that happen late in the book seemed very off-base and jarred me out of the delicious trance the book had created.
All in all, the world building in The Warded Man is extremely well done and kept me reading long after I should have gone to bed.
Those who like to know these things ahead of time should be aware that The Warded Man is the first book in a planned series. ...more
A strange book that started out at four stars, slipped to three somewhere in the middle and then thudded down to two stars in the last chapters. JonatA strange book that started out at four stars, slipped to three somewhere in the middle and then thudded down to two stars in the last chapters. Jonathan Barnes has a great imagination but I had the same problems with it that I did with his earlier book, The Somnambulist: none of the characters were realistic or sympathetic and by the end the tension sort of drained away.
Still, I would pick up the next book he publishes out of curiosity....more
In a world where a person's place in society is determined by the amount of color they can see, Eddie Russett is a Red, a position reasonably high inIn a world where a person's place in society is determined by the amount of color they can see, Eddie Russett is a Red, a position reasonably high in the hierarchy of the Colortocracy, especially when compared to the down-trodden Greys. His life plans include an arranged marriage to the imperious Constance Oxblood, the creation of Red children and the management of her father's string factory. However all this changes for Eddie when he is accused of a Lack of Humility and sent to the town of East Carmine to undertake a chair census as penance.
Anyone who has read a book by Jasper Fforde knows that he loves to play with words, and The Road to High Saffron is chock-full of puns, quips, and general verbal tomfoolery. One problem with reviewing an audiobook is that it's difficult to quote from, but Fforde veterans will know what I mean. Eddie's world is a very regimented one (Ovaltine may only be drunk at bedtime, hobbies are mandatory, and for a not-very-well-understood reason no one may make any more spoons), but it is also full of hidden dangers including ball lightening, wild swans and man-eating plants. As always, Fforde tells a very funny story while commenting on the idiocies of bureaucracy and human society in general. ...more