OK, so to put in bluntly, I absolutely adored Soulless! It is a smart, funny, sometimes sexy little morsel of steampunk romance brain candy. Now, firs...moreOK, so to put in bluntly, I absolutely adored Soulless! It is a smart, funny, sometimes sexy little morsel of steampunk romance brain candy. Now, first off, when you see the word "romance" in the description, please don't jump to the conclusion that I would have: that the book is chockablock with hot, steamy naughtiness. Now, in all honesty, it does have it's share of hot, steamy naughtiness (it is part romance when all is said and done, although it really has only one outright sex scene in the entire book), but it doesn't read like every action our heroine is taking is trying to lead her to her next tryst; this is Victorian England, after all, and there are certain rules and regulations one must follow before such scandalous behavior can ensue! What we have here, really, is a smart and sexy heroine who can not only hold her own against vampires and werewolves (she kills a vampire with her parasol, after all), but who can still manage to uphold the highest of societies standards and etiquette, often at the same time.
Soulless is a clever book, and the notion of vampires, werewolves and ghosts being accepted parts of Victorian society is a unique approach to the urban fantasy. How our preternatural heroine, Alexia Tarabotti, falls into all this as someone without a soul who can negate the powers of the supernatural makes her all the more an extraordinary character. In fact, all of the characters are well polished gems and each stands out in their own distinct way.
Carriger's writing is laugh-out-loud funny in some instances and solid throughout. I found it a refreshing read and a highly promising good start for this debut author. I'm anxiously awaiting the second in the series, Changeless. (less)
**spoiler alert** Oh, Gail Carriger; I'm having a love/hate relationship with you right now. Well, maybe hate is too strong a word. I simply loved Sou...more**spoiler alert** Oh, Gail Carriger; I'm having a love/hate relationship with you right now. Well, maybe hate is too strong a word. I simply loved Soulless, but Changeless left me wanting. Wanting what, I'm not quite sure, but wanting something more. Don't get me wrong, Changeless had all the elements that made Soulless such a great read, but that's just it; it was all the same. I think the book suffered from what I call "Second Book Syndrome;" where the sophomore offering in a series still hasn't quite hit the stride of the rest of the series and is more or less riding on the coattails of the first book. I have all the faith in the world that Blameless (released in September) will make that hurdle and keep the story moving along.
We have all our favorite characters from Soulless with the introduction to a handful of new characters who may or may not have the best interests of Alexia Tarabotti at heart. Ivy Hisselpenny has a slightly larger, if not more empty-headed, role this time around (seriously, a good title for a book of her own would be Witless or Senseless). I did find that Alexia's immersion into the pack hierarchy was handled very well; I felt that her character has had some honest growth from the first book to this one in that respect.
The cliffhanger ending I didn't feel was entirely necessary, but since that seems to be the way of the literary world these days, it doesn't leave me entirely surprised. The entire element of the cliffhanger could have been left off for a couple of more books, and that's all I'm going to say on that subject.
All things considered, Changeless is still a fun read. It may not entirely hold up to Soulless as a whole, but it's a good companion and leads nicely, if not a little abruptly, into the next book. If you have already read Soulless and are wondering about Changeless, I might say to hold off until later in the year when Blameless is released, but don't let this review of Changeless dissuade you from reading Soulless. They are both clever, fun books that will leave you laughing out loud on several occasions.(less)
What a fantastic find this was! Sarah, Brad and I were out having our usual Friday night, and we stopped at one of our local bookstores, and there, si...moreWhat a fantastic find this was! Sarah, Brad and I were out having our usual Friday night, and we stopped at one of our local bookstores, and there, sitting on the shelf in the graphic novel section, was The Stuff of Legend, and one look at the cover told me this was something I needed to take home, and I'm not sorry at all that I bought it.
The writers waste no time in getting into the story, as the boy (who I think remained nameless throughout the book) is kidnapped by the Boogeyman within the first 4 pages of the story. Eight of his toys decide to rescue him, as they feel this is their duty to him. The boy's dog, Scout, accompanies them into the Dark, where the toys undergo an amazing transformation, becoming the real, 'living' counterparts to their toy selves (for instance, the boy's teddy bear Max because a fierce grizzly bear). The toys are victorious against the Boogeyman's army in their first battle, but suffer a grave loss afterward in the form of a possible traitor in their midst.
The story does move along a little quickly, but it doesn't detract from the actual storytelling at all. There is real emotion in this book. It is a dark tale, but ultimately one that has a redemptive value that I think is rarely seen in this type of story. The only unfortunate aspect of the story is that it is being published in periodical form (this is a collected edition of the first two issues of the comic books), so there is going to be some wait until the next edition is released.
The art is beautiful as well, rendered in duotone pencil illustrations and presented to look like the pages of an old scrapbook or photo album. the transformation of the toys into their new selves is impressive, and I loved how the Boogeyman is drawn. He's both beautiful and horrible, all at the same time. It is simply an overall gorgeous presentation, and I am quite delighted that I stumbled on this in the bookstore. Now, just to wait for the next volume to be released so we can find out what happens next!
A series spin-off from the events of Messiah Complex, X-Force is the group of X-Men that will cross the lines that the X-Men themselves won't cross. M...moreA series spin-off from the events of Messiah Complex, X-Force is the group of X-Men that will cross the lines that the X-Men themselves won't cross. Made up of the best trackers and killers that the X-Men have, X-Force's first mission is to take down the head of the Purifiers, a mission that proves much more difficult than they expect, especially with the unexpected return of Bastion.
A dramatically darker storyline than your normal X-Men story, this volume deserves its 'Mature' rating. The themes dealt with in this volume, including the over-the-top body count, definitely makes this a more 'adult' X-Men title. Even so, it is a decent spin off from the Messiah Complex storyline and I'm interested to see where this story goes from here.(less)
This was a great kick off to a new chapter in the X-Men story. After basing their operations out of NYC almost exclusively for decades, the X-Men are...moreThis was a great kick off to a new chapter in the X-Men story. After basing their operations out of NYC almost exclusively for decades, the X-Men are moving to the west coast after the destruction of the mansion, and are setting up shop in San Francisco. They build themselves a new home there in abandoned military outposts around the city, and open their doors to all mutants, both active and former, who seek refuge there. Magneto shows up, mysteriously re-powered, and helps the High Evolutionary collect technology from the Dreaming Celestial, to a purpose that as yet seems to be a mystery.
Greg Land and Terry Dodson's art is amazing; both artists have such a dynamic style each to their own, and their storytelling is really good. Sometimes it's hard to follow what an artist is trying to illustrate, but not with these two. They are two of the best artists working on the X-Men in a while. I'm anxious to see where Matt Fraction is going to take these characters in the future.(less)
A pretty solid introduction to the characters for new readers, and a pretty good start for the series as a whole, X-Factor is written in a film-noir s...moreA pretty solid introduction to the characters for new readers, and a pretty good start for the series as a whole, X-Factor is written in a film-noir style with an art style to match. The team, based out of District X, the former 'mutant town' until the events of House of M negated the X-gene in almost every mutant on Earth, wants to know what happened and why. And who is Layla Miller, and how/why does she she 'know stuff' and why doesn't she want X-Factor to learn the truth about the Decimation? Who is Singularity Investigations? So many questions in such a short time for a new series, and yet I was OK with that and want to go back for more.(less)
A collection of familiar fairy tales with an unusual twist: these stories are told from the point of view of the villains! As with any collection of s...moreA collection of familiar fairy tales with an unusual twist: these stories are told from the point of view of the villains! As with any collection of short stories and poems, some are better than others, some stand out, some are less than stellar, but overall, it is a solid collection. The stories consist of:
* "Wizard's Apprentice" by Delia Sherman * "An Unwelcome Guest" by Garth Nix * "Faery Tales" by Wendy Froud * "Rags and Riches" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman * "Up the Down Beanstalk: A W Remembers" by Peter S. Beagle * "The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces" by Ellen Kushner * "Puss in Boots, the Sequel" by Joseph Stanton * "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" by Holly Black * "Troll" by Jane Yolen * "Castle Othello" by Nancy Farmer * "`Skin" by Michael Cadnum * "A Delicate Architecture" by Catherynne M. Valente * "Molly" by Midori Snyder * "Observing the Formalities" by Neil Gaiman * "The Cinderella Game" by Kelly Link
I could go into specifics with each story, but I think I'll pass on that. These are written by some of the finest fantasy authors around today, and even though I may not have enjoyed some of these tales as much as others in the collection, they are all still well written and worth reading. I will say, though, that my favorite was "A Delicate Architecture" by Catherynne M. Valente. This story, telling the history of the witch from Hansel & Gretel was so thought provoking and carried such a sense of melancholy that I couldn't help but understand why the witch became the way she is. It's a hauntingly beautiful story.
Zeke wants to know the truth about his family. He's heard the stories, how his father, Leviticus Blue, built the Boneshaker, a machine that would mine...moreZeke wants to know the truth about his family. He's heard the stories, how his father, Leviticus Blue, built the Boneshaker, a machine that would mine through the ice of the Klondike to read gold for the Russians. He's heard the stories about how something went terribly wrong with the Boneshaker and how Blue lost control of it and it powered its way through the financial district of 1890s Seattle, smashing through several bank vaults before it reversed course and made its way back to the Blue mansion. He's heard the stories of how the Blight gas started to seep out, killing anyone who came into contact with it and turning them into zombies. He's heard all these stories, and doesn't want to believe them because his mother, Briar, who was there, won't tell him anything. And he's suspicious. And he plans on breaching the wall that has been built around Seattle to keep the Blight and rotters inside and finding out the truth and help rewrite his family's history. What he finds on the inside, however, may not be exactly what he is looking for.
Boneshaker is just as much a book about family and the ties that bind as it is a Steampunk extravaganza. Yes, it has the requisite dirigibles, goggles, mechanical goodness and other necessities that are obligatory in making a story Steampunk, but it is also the story of the love a mother has for her child and the lengths that she will go to to protect that child. Briar will stop at nothing to make sure that Zeke is safe, and this is what helps this book stand out in the Steampunk crowd. There's more to it than just Steampunk. And, just to make sure that her story stands out from other Steampunk stories, Cherie Priest also throws in a (un)healthy dose of zombies, just for good measure. It's also full of great characters who are each unique and engaging, and the world-building is topnotch.
Boneshaker is a great read. It's a great Steampunk novel. And it's a shame that it took me this long to finally getting around to reading it. Whether you're a fan of Steampunk or just enjoy a romping good book that is solidly written, Boneshaker is for you. Now, it's time for me to move on to Clementine and Dreadnought, the continuing stories of The Clockwork Century!(less)
In an attempt to eliminate disease and create a perfect person, science has doomed the human race. The first...more**spoiler alert** Some possible spoilers!
In an attempt to eliminate disease and create a perfect person, science has doomed the human race. The first generation of this new miracle are healthy and live normal lives. However, it's their children and all following children who are doomed. All men now die at 25, women at 20. It's a genetic virus that scientists and geneticists are scrambling to find a cure for, but in the meantime society is slowly unraveling at the seems. Orphans will try anything to find home and shelter, even selling themselves to science; girls are kidnapped and sold to polygamous marriages in order to bear children. Rhine is one such girl who is kidnapped. At sixteen, she still has 4 years left to bear children for her new husband, Linden Vaughn, before she succumbs to the virus. At first all she can think about is escaping the Vaughn mansion and fleeing home to her twin brother, Rowan. Eventually Rhine begins to think that Linden is just as much a captive in the mansion as are her other two sister wives, all prisoners of Linden's father, Housemaster Vaughn, who seems to be willing to go to any means to keep his son happy and find a cure for the virus.
The premise of the book was really good, but there just seemed to be a whole lot of nothing going on here. We're thrown very quickly into the story with Rhine being kidnapped and chosen to be a bride, and then the rest of the book takes on a significantly slower pace. I also couldn't help thinking from the very beginning that Wither was the lovechild of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games. I can't pinpoint exactly what made me think of this so early on in the book, but I couldn't help shake this thought as soon as it popped into my head.
The main part of the story deals with Rhine and her adjusting, with her two new sister wives, to their new life at the Vaughn mansion. Jenna, the oldest, at first refuses to let Linden touch her but eventually seems to soften toward him. Cecily, the youngest, is all to willing to escape her life as an orphan and fervently vies for Linden's attention and is all too willing to bear a child for him. Rhine seems to fluctuate somewhere in the middle, and Linden obviously bears the most affection for her, especially due to her resemblance to the love of his life, Rose. The problem here, I found, is that while we are given bits and pieces to the puzzle surrounding Housemaster Vaughn and his interference in everyone's lives, including his own son, there isn't a whole lot that happens that moves the story forward. Quite a bit seems to happen in the background, without much presented in the way to show it happening. For instance, the seemingly out of the blue (at least to me) love connection between Rhine and one of the household assistants, Gabriel. They only meet a handful of times and suddenly they seem to be completely infatuated with each other. AS the story progresses, their relationship is then given time to grow, but their relationship growing so close, so quickly, at the beginning of the story seemed too convenient a plot point for me.
Another problem that I had with the story was one portion of the worldbuilding, and that had to due with the orphans. It's mentioned frequently that there are numerous orphans who live on the streets, and it makes sense since the parents are dying so young. Yet, it would seem to me that if the whole idea in this world is to try to keep the human race alive, there would be contingencies in place for these orphans, to try to find a way to help them live and not let them die on the streets. Maybe I'm missing something here, but it just seemed that this entire idea seemed a little off to me.
Given the problems I had with the story, I'm still impressed with the premise behind the idea. While this first volume ended in a way that I would have been willing to accept as the type of vague ending where the reader can take their own ideas on where the characters will be going next and leave it at that, I'm also interested to see where DeStefano is going to take these characters, and to me that's what really makes for a good book. So, problems aside, DeStefano sucked me into her world and I want to know what happens next.(less)
**spoiler alert** Following in the current hot trend in YA (as a friend put it the other day, "Dystopian is the new angels is the new zombies is the n...more**spoiler alert** Following in the current hot trend in YA (as a friend put it the other day, "Dystopian is the new angels is the new zombies is the new werewolves is the new vampires..."), Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi is very much your typical dystopian YA. In an undisclosed time in the future, there is something drastically wrong with the world; the weather patterns seem to be shifting haphazardly; the government, now known as the Reestablishment, may or may not seem to have some knowledge into what's going on; there is civil unrest. Shatter Me is also your typical YA; Juliette, the protagonist, blames herself for something that may or may not have been her fault, and eventually falls for the extremely good looking Adam, who may or may not have her best interests at heart. However, there is plenty in this story that makes it NOT your typical YA.
Spoilery bits ahead!!
First off, and this is something that really can't be overlooked, is the purple prose. There's a LOT of it in this book, and at first I found it a little distracting, only because it seemed so conspicuous. However, the more I thought about the book afterward, I can't imagine how Mafi could have told this story any other way. Juliette is almost an unreliable narrator; at the beginning of the book, she has been locked up in an institution for 264 days with no contact with any other people, and there is some question right from the beginning as to her sanity. Since we're in this story from her POV, the purple prose does seem to become a little more stream of conscious, so it appears that what she's thinking may not always be the most sane thing you've ever read, which leaves the reader guessing throughout about her sanity, thereby creating the feeling of the unreliable narrator. It's a nice little circle that was either done by design or happenstance, but either way it ended up working for me in the big picture.
The other thing that seemed to stick out for me that made this seem a little more than your typical dystopian YA story is the superhero angle that is thrown in. Perhaps Juliette is really more than what she seems, and maybe there are more like her out there. It made for a nice little twist, taking what seemed like a typical dystopian tale and creating something a little more science fiction out of it.
The story opens with Juliette having been locked away for 264 days, with no contact with anyone, for a reason that we're not privy to at the start. Much to her surprise, a guy ends up being incarcerated with her, a guy that she seems to think is from her past, but she's not 100% sure. Eventually, we come to understand that she can kill with a touch, and that it doesn't seem to be something that she can control. Her ability comes to the attention of the Reestablishment, and they want to be able to use her as a weapon against the civil unrest that is broiling across the country. Adam, a member of the Reestablishment army who was planted in her cell to learn more about her, is actually there to try to protect her, and eventually the two escape, after Juliette learns that her abilities may be more than even she is aware of. From here, the game of cat and mouse is on, as Juliette and Adam try to keep one step ahead of the Reestablishment.
This isn't a perfect book. There are certain turns of phrase and words that are used just a little too frequently for my taste; how many different ways can you count when reading Shatter Me that describe Juliette's jaw dropping? I think I had lost count at something like five of them. And the word million is used too many times. The writing can sometimes almost seem a little over the top, but like I said before, by the time I finished the book, I couldn't really imagine the book written any other way. Even the inconsistencies in the writing and the flaws became part of Juliette's voice, still leaving me wondering just how a reliable narrator she is.
Then book doesn't end on a raging cliffhanger, which I'm thankful for. Not every book needs to end that way. (I'm looking at you, Suzanne Collins.) Sometimes the story can just come to a nice breaking point, waiting for the next book to pick. Mafi ends her book this way. Juliette and the other characters come to the natural ending point for this chapter in their story, and I honestly am looking forward to the next book in the series, Unravel Me. Juliette grew so much as a character throughout Shatter Me, I'm curious to see where Mafi takes her next. What I viewed as flaws in the book notwithstanding, Shatter Me is a really great story, and I think Mafi brings something fresh to the dystopian YA table.
**spoiler alert** I'm going to be right up front, there are probably going to be spoilers in this review, because I'm fairly sure I can't say a thing...more**spoiler alert** I'm going to be right up front, there are probably going to be spoilers in this review, because I'm fairly sure I can't say a thing about this book without giving something away. Just an FYI.
In a couple of weeks, Leah Clifford will be hosting her InsaniTEA Party at my local bookstore for the release of the second book in her A Touch Mortal series, A Touch Morbid, so I thought I should probably get around to reading the first book. I picked up A Touch Mortal last year when Leah was at Schuler Books promoting the book. I had had every intention of reading it then, but for those following along, a lot happened between then and now, and I didn't, plain and simple. So I picked it up the other night and pretty much read it in two sittings.
It's a fairly quick read, which honestly surprised me. It was also easy to get into. I find that I have a hard time getting into the flow of a story with some books, but Leah seemed to make hers relatively easy, and I found myself reading along, enjoying where the story was going, even when it was becoming apparent what was going to be happening to out heroine, Eden. I feel like I should be up front with about what happens, because if someone is reading this who might have a problem with the subject, maybe this will give them fair warning. Eden commits suicide. She does this fairly early on in the book, after she met the love of her life, Az, an almost Fallen angel. Az is afraid that the Fallen are going to find out about Eden, and torture her to try to get Az to complete his Fall, so he plays a hand in her committing suicide, to protect her. This is where some will need to have a little suspension of disbelief, because that doesn't really sound like a win/win situation for Eden, does it?
Anyway, I was going with the flow of the story up to the point. Eden becomes a Sider. She is more or less alive again, but her entire mortal existence has been erased from the memories of everyone she knew. She'll live forever; and she now has Touch. What is Touch, exactly? I have no idea. I don't know if the characters know what it is. I don't even know if Leah Clifford knows what it is. This is where I started to dislike the book. A lot. This key element, Touch, is never really explained, unless I missed a big chuck of the story. Eden is told she has Touch, needs to pass off Touch to mortals so that it doesn't build up in her system, and she just accepts it and carries on. No explanation. No questioning what it it. She just accepts it at face value, and the readers are forced to accept it at face value because there is never an explanation. By the time I realized how much I was frustrated by this one lacking key explanation to a key plot point, I was well over half way through the book, so I figured at this point, it was a quick read, so maybe Clifford explained it by the end. Just for those keeping track, she doesn't.
However, at some point through the last 1/3 of the book, I discovered that I was really enjoying the story, was engaged with the characters, wanted to see how things were going to end with this book, questions about Touch be damned. I had already figured out some of the twists of the story and was fairly sure I knew why things were happening the way they were. My reservations and questions about the purpose of Touch aside, I really ended up finding that I enjoyed A Touch Mortal. I'm just hoping that these questions are answered in the next book.(less)
If we could give 1/2 stars in GR, this would get a solid 2 1/2.
Well, that was fairly disappointing.
Alas, I really dislike writing reviews like this, b...moreIf we could give 1/2 stars in GR, this would get a solid 2 1/2.
Well, that was fairly disappointing.
Alas, I really dislike writing reviews like this, but it is what it is. I wanted to like Daughter of Smoke and Bone. In fact, at the start of the book, I loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I did! There are fantastic characters, fantastic world-building, fantastic story-telling, everything that I like in a book seemed to be here, so I was pretty pumped. Karou, our heroine, is smart and sassy, while Brimstone and the other Chimera are great foils for her. The mystery surrounding her past is just intriguing enough to keep my attention; the errands that Brimstone has Karou running for him just as mysterious (what are the teeth for?). The banter back and forth between Karou and her best friend, Zuzana, is laugh out loud funny in parts. Even the city around Karou, Prague, takes on a life of its own and practically becomes a character unto itself. I loved it all.
And then Akiva, the love interest, is introduced into the story, and as far as I'm concerned, this is where the book falls apart completely for me.
As soon as Akiva shows, it's off to romance-trope, purple-prose land, and it was endless. Chapters and chapters of "moonlight in his eyes, starbursts in my chest" sort of writing. For me at least, it ripped me right out of the story and made the second half of the book arduous at best. I think if the entire second half of the book had been written more like the first half, I would have been fine with it. Even if it remained the same, but was at least trimmed down a little so that it didn't go on and on for chapters of pining for Akiva...
Anyway, I can see the potential of a fantastic story here. The world-building is really strong, and I think Karou is definitely a better character without Akiva (and not to spoil too much, but given the way Daughter of Smoke and Bone ends, there is a little hope for the follow up, Days of Blood and Starlight - even though that title doesn't fill me with much confidence). However, if Days of Blood and Starlight ends up like Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I'm going to be hard-pressed to continue on with the story (I'm assuming this is a trilogy, since almost all YA fantasy is a trilogy these days).
So, there it is. A fantastic book that completely loses itself in its over-the-top love story. Laini Taylor is a great writer. Her imagery is vivid and her prose is fluid, but I just feel like the second half of the book got away from her and carried her along in its excessiveness. I'll definitely give her a try again, and more than likely it'll be with the next book in this series, but I'm hoping she can rein in the purple prose a little.
And a word on the audio production. I really think this was the saving grace for me for this book. Khristine Hvam does such a bang up job with her narration. She handles all of the characters perfectly, and she is clear and easy to understand. I really think that if I had been reading this book, I would have given up well before the end, but Hvam does such an admirable job narrating the book, I was able to stick with it. I will definitely be listening to the next book in the series as opposed to reading it, as she is narrating that one as well.(less)